Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Foods that can fix your health problems

By Sarah Richards, Health.com     Fri August 30, 2013

A regular breakfast of 100% whole grain cereal with fruit and low-fat milk is great. for maintaining mood balance.

(CNN) – Can’t sleep? Got the PMS blues? Before you open your medicine cabinet, step into your kitchen.

“Real, whole, fresh food is the most powerful drug on the planet,” says the author of “The Blood Sugar Solution” cookbook, Dr. Mark Hyman. “It regulates every biological function of your body.” In fact, recent research suggests not only what to eat but when to eat it for maximum benefit. Check out the latest smart food fixes.

Problem: I’m bloated

Food fix #1: Dig in to juicy fruits and vegetables

When you’re feeling puffy, you may not want to chow down on watery produce, but consuming foods like melon, cucumber and celery is an excellent way to flush out your system, says the author of the book “Food & Mood,” dietician Elizabeth Somer.
5 foods you should never eat

“We need sodium to survive,” she explains, “but because we often eat too much of it, our bodies retain water to dilute the blood down to a sodium concentration it can handle. Eating produce with high water content helps the dilution process, so your body can excrete excess sodium and water.”

Food fix #2: Load up on enzymes

Bloating can also be a sign that your intestines are out of whack. “If you’re irregular or experience gas right after eating, papaya can help,” explains the author of the book “Food as Medicine,” Dr. Dharma Singh Khalsa. “Eating 1 cup several times a week helps rejuvenate the gastrointestinal system, thanks to papaya’s digestive enzyme papain, which breaks down protein.”

The fiber also helps push food through your intestines, improving regularity. Try a smoothie with papaya, pineapple (it also contains digestive enzymes), protein powder, ice and almond milk.

Problem: I’m on an emotional roller coaster

Food fix #1: Say yes to breakfast

“People who eat within an hour or two of waking up have a more even mood throughout the rest of the day and perform better at work,” Somer says. British researchers found that study participants who skipped their morning meal did worse on memory tests and were more tired by midday than those who had eaten.

The optimal breakfast includes a whole grain to supply glucose for your brain to run on, protein to satisfy hunger and keep your blood sugar levels steady and one or two antioxidant-rich fruits or vegetables. Somer’s suggestion: a 100% whole-grain cereal that contains at least 4 grams of fiber and no more than 5 grams of sugar, eaten with fruit and low-fat milk.

Food fix #2: Stock up on selenium

A lesser-known trace mineral, selenium – found in Brazil nuts, tuna, eggs and turkey – helps keep you on an even keel. Women whose diets are deficient in the mineral are more prone to feeling depressed.

Why? Selenium is crucial for the production of thyroid hormones, which govern metabolism and mood. You don’t need much, though: The recommended daily allowance for selenium is 55 micrograms, and you can get that amount by eating one 3-ounce can of tuna.

Problem: My skin is acting up

The food fix: Eat your onions

Battling breakouts? The antioxidants in onions and other sulfur-rich veggies tamp down the inflammation that leads to acne, says Dr. Valori Treloar, a dermatologist in Newton, Massachusetts, and co-author of the book “The Clear Skin Diet.” The sulfur in onions, leeks and scallions helps produce a detoxifying molecule called glutathione, which a 2011 study found to be lower in the skin of people who were prone to breakouts.

This antioxidant is most potent when eaten in raw or lightly cooked foods. Try adding chopped scallions to your salad or stirring diced onions into your salsa or stir-fry. Taking folate and vitamin B6 and B12 supplements may also boost glutathione levels.


Problem: I get crazy-bad jet lag

The food fix: Don’t snack on the plane

It’s no fun spending the first days of your vacation trying to acclimate. One surprising secret to avoiding the headaches, irritability and upset stomach of jet lag is to fast for several hours before arriving at your destination. That’s because when you eat influences your circadian rhythms, in much the same way that exposure to light and dark does.

Let’s say you’re headed to France. On the plane, steer clear of most food (but drink plenty of water), set your watch to Paris time and eat a high-protein breakfast at 7 a.m., no matter where you are on your trip.

“The fast depletes your body’s energy stores, so when you eat protein the next morning, you get an extra kick and help your body produce waking-up chemicals,” explains Dave Baurac, spokesperson for the Argonne National Laboratory, a research institute based in Illinois.

Problem: I’m tossing and turning

Food fix #1: Have a late-night morsel

We’ve all been told to avoid eating too close to bedtime, but applying this rule too strictly could actually contribute to sleep woes. As anyone who has tried a fast knows, hunger can make you feel edgy, and animal studies confirm this.

“You need to be relaxed to fall asleep, and having a grumbling stomach is a distraction,” explains Kelly Glazer Baron, an instructor of neurology at Northwestern University and spokesperson for the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. “It makes it hard to get to sleep and wakes you up at night.”

The trick is to tame the munchies 30 minutes to an hour before bed with a small snack that includes complex carbohydrates. “Since you metabolize sugars more slowly at night, a complex carb like whole wheat is a better choice,” Baron says. “It keeps your blood sugar levels even.” Try cheese and whole-wheat crackers or almonds and a banana.

Food fix #2: Add cherries

You can boost your snack’s snooze power by washing it down with a glass of tart cherry juice. A recent study of folks with chronic insomnia found that those who downed 8 ounces of juice made from tart Montmorency cherries (available in most grocery stores) one to two hours before bedtime stayed asleep longer than those who drank a placebo juice.

These sour powerhouses – which you can eat fresh, dried or juiced – possess anti-inflammatory properties that may stimulate the production of cytokines, a type of immune-system molecule that helps regulate sleep. Tart cherries are also high in melatonin, a hormone that signals the body to go to sleep and stay that way.

Problem: I have wicked PMS

The food fix: Keep an eye on iron

You might be more susceptible to the monthly blahs if you have low levels of iron, according to a new study. Researchers looked at the diets of 3,000 women over 10 years and found that those who consumed more than 20 milligrams of the mineral daily had about a 40 percent lower risk of PMS than those who ingested less than 10 milligrams.

You can get almost your full daily dose by eating 1 cup of an iron-fortified cereal; other great sources include white beans (4 milligrams per one-half cup) and sautéed fresh spinach (3 milligrams per one-half cup).

The beta-carotene found in carrots is one of the most potent carotenoids and protects your skin from the sun.

Problem: I’m so sensitive to the sun

The food fix: Pile on protective produce

While you still need the usual sun protection (SPF 30 sunscreen as well as a wide-brimmed hat), you may be able to bolster your skin’s own resistance to UV rays with what you eat. The details: Micronutrients called carotenoids in fruits and vegetables protect the skin against sunburn, recent science shows.

“Most topical sunscreens work by filtering out the UV component from the solar light that reaches the skin,” explains researcher Wilhelm Stahl, a professor of biochemistry at Heinrich Heine University in Düsseldorf, Germany. “But these micronutrients, if you have enough in your system, actually absorb UV light and prevent damage.”

The most potent carotenoids are the beta-carotene found in carrots, endive and spinach – and the lycopene in watermelon and tomatoes. Keep in mind that the effect isn’t instantaneous; you would need to eat a carotenoid-rich diet for at least 10 to 12 weeks in order to get the full benefit, says Stahl. Still, there is a reward for your patience: skin fortified to fend off sun damage and wrinkles.


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How Food Affects Your Moods

Can your diet help put you in a good mood (or a bad one)?
By Elaine Magee, MPH, RD
WebMD Weight Loss Clinic – Expert Column
Can your diet really help put you in a good mood? And can what you choose to eat or drink encourage bad moods or mild depression?
While certain diets or foods may not ease depression (or put you instantly in a better mood), they may help as part of an overall treatment plan. There’s more and more research indicating that, in some ways, diet may influence mood. We don’t have the whole story yet, but there are some interesting clues.
Basically the science of food’s affect on mood is based on this: Dietary changes can bring about changes in our brain structure (chemically and physiologically), which can lead to altered behavior.
How Can You Use Food to Boost Mood?
So how should you change your diet if you want to try to improve your mood? You’ll find eight suggestions below. Try to incorporate as many as possible, because regardless of their effects on mood, most of these changes offer other health benefits as well.
1. Don’t Banish Carbs — Just Choose ‘Smart’ Ones
The connection between carbohydrates and mood is all about tryptophan, a nonessential amino acid. As more tryptophan enters the brain, more serotonin is synthesized in the brain, and mood tends to improve. Serotonin, known as a mood regulator, is made naturally in the brain from tryptophan with some help from the B vitamins. Foods thought to increase serotonin levels in the brain include fish and vitamin D.
Here’s the catch, though: While tryptophan is found in almost all protein-rich foods, other amino acids are better at passing from the bloodstream into the brain. So you can actually boost your tryptophan levels by eating more carbohydrates; they seem to help eliminate the competition for tryptophan, so more of it can enter the brain. But it’s important to make smart carbohydrate choices like whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes, which also contribute important nutrients and fiber.
So what happens when you follow a very low carbohydrate diet? According to researchers from Arizona State University, a very low carbohydrate (ketogenic) diet was found to enhance fatigue and reduce the desire to exercise in overweight adults after just two weeks.
2. Get More Omega-3 Fatty Acids
In recent years, researchers have noted that omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (found in fatty fish, flaxseed, and walnuts) may help protect against depression. This makes sense physiologically, since omega-3s appear to affect neurotransmitter pathways in the brain. Past studies have suggested there may be abnormal metabolism of omega-3s in depression, although some more recent studies have suggested there may not be a strong association between omega-3s and depression. Still, there are other health benefits to eating fish a few times a week, so it’s worth a try. Shoot for two to three servings of fish per week.
3. Eat a Balanced Breakfast
Eating breakfast regularly leads to improved mood, according to some researchers — along with better memory, more energy throughout the day, and feelings of calmness. It stands to reason that skipping breakfast would do the opposite, leading to fatigue and anxiety. And what makes up a good breakfast? Lots of fiber and nutrients, some lean protein, good fats, and whole-grain carbohydrates.
4. Keep Exercising and Lose Weight (Slowly)
After looking at data from 4,641 women ages 40-65, researchers from the Center for Health Studies in Seattle found a strong link between depression and obesity, lower physical activity levels, and a higher calorie intake. Even without obesity as a factor, depression was associated with lower amounts of moderate or vigorous physical activity. In many of these women, I would suspect that depression feeds the obesity and vice versa.
Some researchers advise that, in overweight women, slow weight loss can improve mood. Fad dieting isn’t the answer, because cutting too far back on calories and carbohydrates can lead to irritability. And if you’re following a low-fat diet, be sure to include plenty of foods rich in omega-3s (like fish, ground flaxseed, higher omega-3 eggs, walnuts, and canola oil.)
5. Move to a Mediterranean Diet
The Mediterranean diet is a balanced, healthy eating pattern that includes plenty of fruits, nuts, vegetables, cereals, legumes, and fish — all of which are important sources of nutrients linked to preventing depression.
A recent Spanish study, using data from 4,211 men and 5,459 women, showed that rates of depression tended to increase in men (especially smokers) as folate intake decreased. The same occurred for women (especially among those who smoked or were physically active) but with another B-vitamin: B12. This isn’t the first study to discover an association between these two vitamins and depression.

Researchers wonder whether poor nutrient intake may lead to depression, or whether depression leads people to eat a poor diet. Folate is found in Mediterranean diet staples like legumes, nuts, many fruits, and particularly dark green vegetables. B-12 can be found in all lean and low-fat animal products, such as fish and low-fat dairy products.

6. Get Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D increases levels of serotonin in the brain but researchers are unsure of the individual differences that determine how much vitamin D is ideal (based on where you live, time of year, skin type, level of sun exposure). Researchers from the University of Toronto noticed that people who were suffering from depression, particularly those with seasonal affective disorder, tended to improve as their vitamin D levels in the body increased over the normal course of a year. Try to get about 600 international units (IU) of vitamin D a day from food if possible.
7. Select Selenium-Rich Foods
Selenium supplementation of 200 micrograms a day for seven weeks improved mild and moderate depression in 16 elderly participants, according to a small study from Texas Tech University. Previous studies have also reported an association between low selenium intakes and poorer moods.
More studies are needed, but it can’t hurt to make sure you’re eating foods that help you meet the Dietary Reference Intake for selenium (55 micrograms a day). It’s possible to ingest toxic doses of selenium, but this is unlikely if you’re getting it from foods rather than supplements.
Foods rich in selenium are foods we should be eating anyway such as:
  • Seafood (oysters, clams, sardines, crab, saltwater fish and freshwater fish)
  • Nuts and seeds (particularly Brazil nuts)
  • Lean meat (lean pork and beef, skinless chicken and turkey)
  • Whole grains (whole-grain pasta, brown rice, oatmeal, etc.)
  • Beans/legumes
  • Low-fat dairy products
8. Don’t Overdo Caffeine
In people with sensitivity, caffeine may exacerbate depression. (And if caffeine keeps you awake at night, this could certainly affect your mood the next day.) Those at risk could try limiting or eliminating caffeine for a month or so to see if it improves mood.
Published February 29, 2008.

SOURCES: Maes, M. Psychiatry Research, March 22, 1999; vol 85: pp 275-291. Appleton, K.M. Journal of Affective Disorders, Dec. 2007; vol 104: pp 217-223. Medical Journal of Australia, Nov. 6, 2000; 173 Suppl: S104-5. White A.M. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, October 2007; vol 107: pp 1792-1796. Sanchez-Villegas, A. Public Health Nutrition, 2006; vol 9: pp 1104-9. Simon, G.E. General Hospital Psychiatry, Jan-Feb 2008; vol 30: pp 32-9. Weiss, C.J. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, August 2005; vol 105: p 26.
source: medicinenet.com   WebMD


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Toronto study links breakfast with school success

‘We will do all we can to continue nutrition programs’

CBC News Posted: May 11, 2012 
A study released Friday by the Toronto District School Board, shows that giving children a nutritious breakfast each morning has a direct effect on their academic performance.
The two-year study, Feeding Our Future, followed 6,000 Toronto students. It found those who were fed properly had improved marks and better behaviour.
“This is a groundbreaking piece of research,” said Catherine Parsonage, co-chair of the Canadian Child and Youth Nutrition Program Network.
Parsonage is also the executive director of the Toronto Foundation for Student Success, the group which along with the TDSB studied how nutrition affects student behaviour and academic success.
“In our elementary schools [Education Quality and Accountability Office] tests are showing huge improvements in reading, mathematics and particularly science,” said Parsonage.
Grade 7 and 8 students who ate a healthy breakfast at school “achieved or exceeded provincial reading standards by a rate 10 per cent higher than those who did not have breakfast,” the school board said in a news release.
Edward White Chacon is one of the students who has benefited from the study.
“When I get up I have to fix my hair, pick out my outfit, sometimes I do homework so there’s no time [for breakfast],” he said.
For the past two years he’s been a big fan of the food program at Toronto’s Emery Collegiate. He says it helps him concentrate, keeps him from getting angry and it’s pumped up his marks.
“I’ve been getting in the 60s, high 60s, sometimes low 60s. But now I have a 79,” he said.
According to the study, 78 per cent of students who ate breakfast on most days were on-track for graduation compared to 61 per cent of students who ate breakfast only on a few days or not at all.
The study authors say it’s the first of its kind in Canada to provide proof that when students are hungry, it’s hard to learn.
“This is tremendous work that highlights the importance of working with our provincial and municipal partners so that all students can succeed. We will do all we can to continue nutrition programs wherever it is needed,” said TSB chair Chris Bolton in a statement released to the media.
Currently there is a patchwork of school food programs across the country. But armed with the new data lobby groups say they’ll now push for a national strategy to provide free, healthy food to all Canadian students.
source: CBC.ca