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5 Delicious Health Benefits Of Pumpkin

The phytonutrients found in pumpkin show a lot of promise when it comes to protecting our noggins.

If you’re like a lot of people, Thanksgiving and Halloween are probably the only times you really give pumpkin a second thought; something to make a pie with and cover it with whipped cream or as a front-porch decoration, carved and lit with a candle. Both a traditional tribute to autumn, but pumpkin is so much more than that!

Rethinking the plump orange fruit

Yup, pumpkin is a fruit, not a vegetable! Pumpkins belong to the family Cucurbitaceae, which includes cucumbers, melons, squash, and gourds. Pumpkin is an extremely nutritious food with lots of health-promoting properties. Going beyond pumpkin pie, there is no shortage of mouth-watering pumpkin recipes, so getting more pumpkin nutrition in your diet is easy, whether it’s in salads, soups, desserts, preserves or baked goods like muffins or quick breads. To make it easier, nothing could be more straightforward than seasoning it with a little butter and cinnamon and baking it like you would a sweet potato.

Pumpkin nutrition. Check it out…

Pumpkin is rich in fibre, iron, vitamin B3/niacin, alpha and beta-carotene, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin, and potassium.

One cup of cooked pumpkin [baked, boiled, and roasted] has an impressive:

  • 52 calories (very low)
  • 3 grams of fibre
  • 13 gm of carbohydrate
  • 1.48 milligrams of iron
  • 595 mg potassium
  • 5.4 mg beta-carotene
  • 7 mg alpha-carotene
  • 2.5 mg lutein & zeaxanthin
  • 2 mg vitamin E

 

No doubt the first food that comes to mind when potassium is mentioned is bananas, thank you banana marketing boards, kudos. But there are loads of other potassium-rich foods out there, not the least of which is pumpkin. The same one-cup measure has a whopping 565 mg of potassium, more than a large banana. Potassium is an under-appreciated mineral; more potassium and less sodium = healthy blood pressure and less cardiovascular disease risk. In fact getting more potassium is more important than lowering sodium intake.

Carotenes are awesome in so many ways too. As a group, they give several plants their respective colours, lycopene is red (tomatoes), lutein is yellow (corn, avocado), and alpha and beta-carotene are orange (pumpkin, mango, peaches, carrots etc).

Carotenoids are anti-cancer and anti-inflammation superstars. They help to reduce the risk for several cancers and the carotenoid lutein helps to reduce the risk for age-related macular degeneration, the leading cause, and one of the most preventable forms, of blindness in those over 50 years of age.

One cup of pumpkin has a boat-load of these awesome carotenoids: 5.4 mg beta-carotene and 7 mg of alpha-carotene and 2.5 mg lutein & zeaxanthin. Take my word for it — that’s a lot.

5 delicious health benefits of pumpkin

Cardiovascular disease: Eating more plant foods has been shown over and over to reduce the risk for cardiovascular disease — high blood pressure, stroke, and heart disease — because plant foods provide a plethora of protective compounds like phytonutrients and blood vessel-loving minerals like potassium and magnesium. Get more heart-loving pumpkin with this warming Pumpkin Soup with Almonds and Sage.

Immunity: Plant foods help the immune system stay strong so that it can respond quickly and adequately to fight off invaders like viruses and bacteria. The immune system is even responsible for killing different types of cancer cells as they form, however, to be vigilant, the immune system needs good nutrition to keep it in tip-top shape. Phytonutrients such as beta and alpha-carotene help it do just that. For something different, try this Pumpkin Pie Smoothie for a twist on the classic Thanksgiving dessert.

The phytonutrients found in pumpkin such as alpha & beta-carotene and lutein show a lot of promise when it comes to protecting our noggins.

Eye health: As an antioxidant, beta-carotene appears to protect the lens from oxidation, helping to reduce the risk for cataracts. Lutein, on the other hand, is concentrated at the back of the eye in the macula where it helps to reduce the risk for macular degeneration by filtering out harmful blue light. The more lutein in your diet, the more lutein in the macula and the better protection your eye has. Nourish your eyes with this amazing Pumpkin Lasagna.

Dementia and cognition: Nutrition plays a huge role in the health of the brain. What we eat and drink affects the structure of the brain which, in turn, affects its function and this is no truer than with dementia and cognition. Several nutrients have been shown to nourish the brain and the phytonutrients found in pumpkin such as alpha and beta-carotene and lutein show a lot of promise when it comes to protecting our noggins. Loving your brain is easy with this simple Roasted Pumpkin and Garlic side dish (personally, I’d load it up with rosemary as well).

Blood pressure: As mentioned above, higher intake of potassium is crucial for a blood pressure-lowering diet. To be specific, the ratio of potassium to sodium appears to be more important than the amount of sodium in your diet, a ratio that is naturally found in diets that include a lot of plant foods and little processed foods. Because most of us don’t get enough potassium, a focus on getting more plant foods is the best place to start and these Pumpkin Bran Muffins make it easy to do so.

by Doug Cook Integrative & Functional Nutritionist, Registered Dietitian       10/06/2017 

Doug Cook RD, MPH is a registered dietitian and integrative and functional nutritionist. Doug’s practice at the Donvalley Integrative Digestive Clinic focuses on digestive and mental health.He is the coauthor of Nutrition for Canadians for Dummies (Wiley, 2008),The Complete Leaky Gut Health & Diet Book(Robert Rose 2015) and 175 Best Superfood Blender Recipes (Robert Rose, 2017). Learn more by checking out his website www.dougcookrd.com

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Raw or Cooked? How Best to Prep 11 Fruits and Vegetables

Fruits and vegetables contain a lot of nutrients and antioxidants like carotenoids, flavonoids, and polyphenols that can help prevent health issues like cancer and cardiovascular disease and can even help your mood. Antioxidants help your body counteract damage caused by toxic byproducts called free radicals. Eating more fruits and vegetables also increases your vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin B6, thiamine, and niacin, minerals, and fiber.

But it can be tricky to know how you should store and prepare fresh foods to get the most nutrients.

Luckily, storing most fruits and vegetables generally does not lose antioxidants. In fact, antioxidant levels can even go up in the few days after you buy them. But when you start to see the fruit or vegetable spoil and turn brown, that usually means that they have started to lose their antioxidants. The main exceptions are broccoli, bananas, and apricots, which are more sensitive and start to lose their antioxidants in storage within days, so eat those sooner than later.

Here’s how you should prepare 11 fruits or vegetables in order to maximize antioxidants and nutrients.

1. Tomatoes. Cooked may be better than raw.

Storage tip: Even though this will make shelf life shorter, store tomatoes in room temperature since tomatoes can lose antioxidants (and flavor) when stored in cooler temperatures.
Cook your tomatoes to release higher levels of lycopene and overall antioxidants. You can cook them for up to 30 minutes at 190.4 degrees Fahrenheit (88 degrees Celsius). Lycopene is found in red fruits and vegetables like watermelon, red bell pepper, and papaya and has been linked to lower rates of cancer. Raw tomatoes have less overall antioxidants, but have more vitamin C.

2. Carrots. Raw or sous vide, steamed, boiled. Cooked can be better than raw.

Cook your carrots to get more beta-carotene, an antioxidant that gets converted in your body to vitamin A, which is good for your eyes and immune system.
Sous vide carrots for best results. Steaming or boiling carrots preserves more antioxidants than roasting, frying or microwaving. If you’re in Top Chef mode, try sous vide carrots — this method of sealing food in an airtight plastic bag and placing the bag into a water bath keeps even more antioxidants than steaming.

 3. Broccoli. Raw, steamed, or sous vide.

Storage tip: Keep broccoli wrapped in packaging in the refrigerator at 1 degree Celsius (or 33.8 degrees Fahrenheit). Unlike most vegetables, broccoli tends to lose antioxidants faster than other vegetables when stored without packaging, particularly when it starts to lose its color and turn yellow. Wrap the broccoli in microperforated or non-perforated packaging to keep antioxidants for longer.
If you eat raw broccoli, you’ll get higher levels of an enzyme called myrosinase, which creates compounds like sulforaphane, which blocks the growth of cancer cells and fight Helicobacter pylori, a bacteria responsible for stomach ulcers. Myrosinase is sensitive to heat and destroyed during cooking.

However, cooked broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, have more indole, which is thought to be protective against cancer. Steamed broccoli has also better potential to reduce cholesterol than raw broccoli.

Sous vide or steamed broccoli to keep antioxidants. Steamed broccoli retains color and texture. Boiling broccoli for 9-15 minutes loses up to 60 percent of nutrients, which become leached into the water. Stir-frying loses the most vitamin C and nutrients.

4. Cauliflower. Raw, steamed, or sous vide.

Fresh raw cauliflower has 30 percent more protein and many different types of antioxidants such as quercetin. Raw cauliflower keeps the most antioxidants overall, but cooking cauliflower increases indole levels.

Don’t boil cauliflower in water because that loses the most antioxidants. Water-boiling and blanching causes the worst loss of minerals and antioxidant compounds in cauliflower because many of the nutrients get leached into the water. Steam or sous vide cauliflower to maintain nutrients.

5. Brussels sprouts, cabbage. Raw or steamed.

Brussels sprouts and cabbage are cruciferous vegetables rich in compounds protective against cancer. One study found that people who consumed about 300 grams or two-thirds pound of Brussels sprouts daily for a week had higher levels of a detox enzyme in the colon, which helps explain the link between eating cruciferous vegetables and lower risk of colorectal cancer.

Raw Brussels sprouts gives you the most folate and vitamin C. Like broccoli, steaming Brussels sprouts releases more indole than raw (but they admittedly taste best when roasted).

6. Kale. Raw or blanched.

Kale has beta-carotene, vitamin C, and polyphenols. Cooking kale significantly lowers vitamin C and overall antioxidants. Keep kale raw or, if you prefer cooked, blanch or steam kale to minimize antioxidant loss.

7. Eggplant. Grilled.

Grill eggplant to make it much richer in antioxidants compared to raw or boiled (and it tastes a lot better, too). Don’t forget to salt your eggplant slices before cooking to get rid of excess moisture and bitterness.

8. Red Peppers. Raw, stir-fried, or roasted.

Red peppers are a great source of vitamin C, carotenoids, polyphenols, and other phytochemicals. Raw red peppers provide more vitamin C because vitamin C breaks down with heat. But other antioxidants like carotenoids and ferulic acid go up when red peppers are cooked.

Stir-fry or roast red peppers. Do not boil red peppers — boiling red peppers loses the most nutrients and antioxidants. Stir-frying and roasting actually preserves red pepper antioxidants, more than steaming.

9. Garlic and onions. Raw or cooked.

Garlic and onions have been shown to help fight high blood pressure. Red onions have the highest amount of quercetin, a type of flavonoid family antioxidant thought to protect against certain forms of cancer, heart disease, and aging.

Garlic and onions are pretty hardy when cooked. You can blanch, fry, and even microwave them without changing their antioxidant levels by much, so use them however you like.

10. Artichokes. Steamed.

Cook your artichokes in order to boost their antioxidants. Steam artichokes to boost antioxidants levels by 15-fold and boil them to boost them by 8-fold. Microwaving them also increases an artichoke’s antioxidants. But don’t fry them — that gets rid of flavonoids, a type of antioxidant.

11. Blueberries. Raw or cooked.

Blueberries are one of the fruits with the highest levels of antioxidants, and you can eat them raw or cooked. One study found that some type of antioxidants levels went up with cooking blueberries, while others went down.

Some final tips on eating your fruits and vegetables:

  • Avoid deep frying. Bad news for vegetable tempura fans: Deep-frying vegetables creates free radicals from the hot oil. Not only are free radicals damaging for the body, but the vegetables lose much of their antioxidants in the process.
  • Fresh is generally better than frozen. Vegetables like spinach and cauliflower can lose B vitamins in the process of being frozen.
  • At the end of the day, prepare your fruits and vegetables so that you’ll be more likely to eat them. As long as you stay away from the deep fryer, fresh fruits and vegetables will generally give you a lot more nutrients and antioxidants than processed foods.
10/05/2015   By Marlynn Wei, MD, JD


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Kids Who Skip Breakfast May Miss Key Nutrients

Children who skip breakfast on a regular basis are likely to fall short for the day in getting all their recommended essential nutrients, a UK study suggests.

Kids who skipped breakfast every day were less likely to get enough iron, calcium, iodine and folate when compared to kids who ate breakfast every day, the research team found.

“A greater proportion of those children who ate breakfast met their recommended intakes of these micronutrients compared to breakfast skippers,” coauthors Gerda Pot and Janine Coulthard of Kings College London told Reuters Health in an email interview.

“These findings suggest that eating breakfast could play an important role in ensuring that a child consumes enough of these key micronutrients,” Pot and Coulthard said.

Though older children were more likely to skip breakfast, the day’s nutrient shortfall was greater when younger children missed the morning meal.

“Our research indicated that although lower proportions of 4-to-10-year-olds skipped breakfast regularly compared to 11-to-18-year-olds, greater differences in micronutrient intakes were seen in the younger age group when comparing days on which they ate breakfast with days on which they skipped it. It may, therefore, be particularly important to ensure that this younger age group eats a healthy breakfast, either at home or at a school breakfast club.”

Researchers examined four-day food diaries for almost 1,700 children ages 4 to 18. The information was taken from a yearly national diet and nutrition survey between 2008 and 2012.

Breakfast was defined as consuming more than 100 calories between 6 a.m. and 9 a.m.

Overall, about 31 percent of kids ate breakfast daily, 17 percent never ate breakfast, and the rest ate it some days and skipped it on others. In this group, the researchers also compared differences in nutrient intake by the same child on different days.

The team found that 6.5 percent of kids aged 4 to 10 missed breakfast every day, compared with nearly 27 percent of 11-to-18-year-olds.

Girls were more likely to miss breakfast than boys, and household income tended to be higher for families of children who ate breakfast every day.

More than 30 percent of kids who skipped breakfast did not get enough iron during the day, compared to less than 5 percent of kids who ate breakfast, the researchers report in British Journal of Nutrition.

Around 20 percent of breakfast skippers were low on calcium and iodine, compared to roughly 3 percent of kids who ate breakfast.

About 7 percent of children who skipped breakfast were low in folate, compared to none in the groups that ate breakfast.

Fat intake went up when kids skipped breakfast, researchers found.

Kids who skipped breakfast didn’t seem to compensate by eating more calories later in the day. In fact, kids who didn’t eat breakfast ended up eating the same number or fewer total calories as kids who ate breakfast every day.

Making sure kids eat breakfast appears to be more difficult in the older age group, who are possibly less receptive to parental supervision, Pot and Coulthard said.

“One tactic would be to get children involved in making breakfast, maybe even preparing something the night before if time is short in the morning.”

The authors noted there are a wealth of healthy, simple and tasty recipe ideas available on social media that children can choose from, adding that kids might even like to post a picture of their creations online.

Shereen Lehman      Reuters Health      AUGUST 24, 2017
SOURCE: bit.ly/2wjszk0  British Journal of Nutrition, online August 17, 2017     reuters.com


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7 Nutrients Your Brain Needs To Stay Young

Perhaps you remember hearing your parents or some other authority figures telling you that fish is brain food. What they meant was that fish contains nutrients called omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to enhance or improve brain function and help it to stay young.

For those of you who don’t care for fish or who don’t consume animal products, there are various supplements you can take to get your omega-3s. But omega-3s are not the only good brain nutrients; there are numerous others that can help your brain stay young and a wide variety of foods in which to find them. For example, the B vitamins (aka, B-complex) are a group of nutrients that work in sync to support and promote brain health.

In fact, the brain needs a constant supply of nutrients to support optimal function, from energy metabolism for its billions of neurons to the synthesis of neurotransmitters, propagation of nerve impulses, and other brain activities.

Here we look beyond the B vitamins to omega-3s and six other nutrients that your brain needs to stay young and functioning at an optimal level. These nutrients, along with a diet rich in these nutrients, regular exercise, avoidance of smoking, stress management, and sufficient sleep all have a role in maintaining a healthy brain.

Omega-3 fatty acids

According to researchers, omega-3 fatty acids have demonstrated an ability to improve cognitive function. A 2017 Brazilian systematic review, for example, found that omega-3 fatty acid supplements in mild Alzheimer’s disease may be helpful when there is slight brain function impairment. A mouse study reported that animals given omega-3 supplements demonstrated an improvement in cognitive function (i.e., object recognition memory, localized and spatial memory) as they got older.

In addition to cold water fish, omega-3 fatty acids are also found in walnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds, hemp seeds, and sea vegetables. Omega-3 supplements are available as fish oil, krill oil, and algae-based.

Cocoa flavanols

Dark chocolate is the source of brain-friendly phytonutrients called cocoa flavanols. In a three-month study, researchers discovered that individuals who consumed a high cocoa flavanol diet showed a boost in the area of the brain associated with memory loss and aging.

Cocoa powder is made by fermenting, drying and roasting cacao beans. The flavanols have been shown to lower blood pressure, fight cell damage, prevent blood clots, and improve blood flow to the brain.

To reap the brain-boosting benefits of cocoa flavanols, choose dark chocolate (organic preferred) and enjoy a small amount (about one ounce) several times a week or even daily. A 2012 study of adults with mild cognitive impairment showed that those who consumed cocoa flavanols daily benefits from improved thinking skills as well as lower blood pressure and improved insulin resistance.

Magnesium

The mineral that is associated with more than 300 biochemical activities in the human body plays a key role in cognitive health. Low levels of magnesium have been proposed as having a stake in the development of Alzheimer’s disease, but further research is needed. We know from mouse research that an increase in magnesium in the brain provides substantial protection of the synapses in models of Alzheimer’s disease and “hence it might have therapeutic potential for treating Alzheimer’s disease.”

Be sure to include lots of foods rich in magnesium in your diet, including green leafy vegetables, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.

 

Anthocyanins

You may recognize these antioxidants as being especially plentiful in blueberries, but others berries harbor them as well. Anthocyanins are associated with enhanced signalling of neurons in the brain’s memory regions. In one study, adults who consumed wild blueberry juice daily showed improvements in memory; namely, word list recall and paired associate learning, as well as reduced depressive symptoms and glucose levels, both of which can have a negative impact on cognitive function.

In a 2017 study, experts showed that daily blueberry consumption for six weeks by adults with cognitive decline was associated with an improvement in neural response. In addition to blueberries, you can include other foods that provide a good amount of anthocyanins, such as cranberries, black raspberries, blackberries, cherries, eggplant, black rice, red cabbage and muscadine grapes.

EGCG and theanine

The one food that nearly exclusively contains these two ingredients—epigallocatechin gallate and L-theanine–is green tea (Camilla sinensis). Although there are more than 700 compounds in green tea, EGCG and theanine are the ones responsible for improving brain health. Traces of EGCG are also found in apples, carob powder, hazelnuts, onions, pecans, and plums.

EGCG is a potent antioxidant that can pass through the blood-brain barrier and address the free radicals that can destroy brain cells. This polyphenol also has anti-inflammatory powers, which is critical since free radicals trigger brain inflammation, which in turn speeds up brain aging and contributes to memory loss, depression, and anxiety.

The impact of the amino acid L-theanine on cognition also has been shown in various studies. A review of 49 human intervention studies showed that L-theanine has “clear beneficial effects on sustained attention, memory, and suppression of distraction.” The only food sources of L-theanine are black and green teas.

Phosphatidylcholine

This mouthful of a compound is a source of the dietary nutrient choline, which is a member of the B-complex family. Recent research involving phosphatidylcholine explored its impact on brain structure in 72 healthy older adults. The researchers found that higher blood levels of phosphatidylcholine was linked to improved cognitive flexibility.

Although the exact ways phosphatidylcholine benefits the brain and cognitive function are not fully understood, experts suggest it may that the nutrient supports brain membranes, contributes to the production of neurotransmitters that promote and support cognition, or reduce inflammation in the brain. In any event, dietary sources of phosphatidylcholine include egg yolks, raw organic dairy, wheat germ, cruciferous vegetables, and meat.

Be sure to add a lot of these foods to your diet every day to keep your brain young.

 

[Editors Note: When choosing supplements for Omega’s and Magnesium our favorites are Barlean’s and Natural Vitality (respectively).
And when it comes to green or any tea, we love a cup of Bigelow Tea.]

References
Alban D. EGCG and L-theanine: Unique brain boosters in green tea. Be Brain Fit
Boespflug EL et al. Enhanced neural activation with blueberry supplementation in mild cognitive impairment. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 Feb 21:1-9
Brickman AM et al. Enhancing dentate gyrus function with dietary flavanols improves cognition in older adults. Nature Neuroscience 2014; 17:1798-1803
Canhada S et al. Omega-3 fatty acids’ supplementation in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. Nutritional Neuroscience 2017 May 3:1-10
Desideri G et al. Benefits in cognitive function, blood pressure, and insulin resistance through cocoa flavanol consumption in elderly subjects with mild cognitive impairment. Hypertension 2012; 60:794-801
Dietz C, Dekker M. Effect of green tea phytochemicals on mood and cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design 2017 Jan 5
Krikorian R et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry 2010 Apr 14; 58(7): 3996-4000
Li W et al. Elevation of brain magnesium prevents synaptic loss and reverses cognitive deficits in Alzheimer’s disease mouse model. Molecular Brain 2014 Sep 13; 7:65
Veronese N et al. Magnesium status in Alzheimer’s disease: a systematic review. American Journal of Alzheimers Disease and Other Dementias 2016 May; 31(3): 208-13
Yue Y et al TMDB: A literature-curated database for small molecular compounds found from tea. BMC Plant Biology 2014; 14:243
Zamroziewicz MK et al. Inferior prefrontal cortex mediates the relationship between phosphatidylcholine and executive functions in healthy, older adults. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2016 Sep 28; 8:226

By Andrea Donsky
 


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Five Foods That May Increase Your IQ

A healthy diet as you’re growing up may help you have a higher IQ, while a diet high in processed foods, fat and sugar may result in a lower IQ, according to a study published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health in February 2011. Many of the same foods typically recommended for a healthy diet may also be good for your IQ.

Fish and Omega-3 Sources

Omega-3 fats, found in many types of fish and seafood, walnuts and flaxseeds, are important for infant brain development. An article published on the Association for Psychological Science website notes that children given omega-3 fats have higher IQs than those who don’t consume much of these essential polyunsaturated fats. These healthy fats may also help protect against dementia as you get older. Oysters are also a good seafood choice, because they’re rich in zinc. Zinc deficiency may adversely affect brain development, according to a review article published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience in 2013.

Children and pregnant women are particularly sensitive to contaminants in fish, so choose those that are high in omega-3 fats but low in contaminants, such as wild salmon, sardines, Atlantic mackerel, mussels and rainbow trout for the recommended two servings per week of seafood to maximize benefits while minimizing risks.

Fruits and Vegetables

Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables, such as leafy greens and orange and red fruits and vegetables, may help protect your brain function and your memory as you age because of the beta-carotene and vitamin C they contain.

A diet rich in herbs, legumes, raw fruits and vegetables and cheese resulted in a higher IQ in children than a diet that included higher amounts of sweet and salty snacks, according to a study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology in July 2012.

Another study, published in the Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry in 2009, came to a similar conclusion, showing that children who ate higher amounts of fruits, vegetables and home-prepared foods had higher IQs.

Iron-Rich Foods

Iron-deficiency anemia may impair your attention span, IQ and ability to concentrate, so eat plenty of iron-rich foods. Increasing iron intake only appears to help IQ when children are deficient in iron, however, according to the Frontiers in Human Neuroscience article. Iron-rich foods include lean meats, oysters, beans, tofu, spinach, sardines and fortified breakfast cereals.

Other Protein-Rich Foods

Diets higher in protein and lower in fat may help improve your concentration because of the dopamine your body releases with protein consumption. Soy protein may be particularly helpful, since it also contains lecithin, which may improve memory and brain function. Lowfat dairy products, lean meats and poultry, eggs, nuts, seeds and legumes are all nutritious sources of protein.

Get Plenty of B Vitamins and Choline

Foods containing folate, vitamin B-12 and choline may also help keep your brain healthy, limiting your risk for dementia, depression and neurological disorders. They are also important for cognitive development, so if children don’t get enough of these vitamins they may have a lower IQ. Folate is available in fortified breakfast cereals, spinach, beef liver, rice, asparagus, black-eyed peas, Brussels sprouts and avocado, and most animal-based foods contain vitamin B-12. Good sources of choline include beef, eggs, scallops, salmon, chicken breast, cod, shrimp, Brussels sprouts and broccoli.

by JESSICA BRUSO       Jun 17, 2015


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12 Nutrition Rules That Have Stood The Test Of Time

by Kimberly Evans    October 29, 2015 

Nutrition is an ever-changing field. For science-minded individuals like me, that can be exciting, but for those who just want a consistent answer to their health-related questions, it can be frustrating.

Nutrition is a fairly new science, and we’re just beginning to understand the complex interactions between nutrients in food and the human body.

However, there are a few solid morsels of information that have stood the test of time:

1. You don’t have to like everything you eat, and you don’t have to eat everything you like.

Now, truth be told, as a nutritionist I want my clients to like healthy foods, but there are some foods that are just worth learning to like. Beets and salmon are on the top of that list.

The second part is a little trickier. Simply put, making a choice to eat healthier may sometimes mean choosing NOT to eat certain foods even though you know you like them. Making peace with this is an important step in making a lifestyle change.

2. Let food be your medicine.

Three to five times a day, every day, we have an opportunity to influence our physical and emotional health.

I divide food into three groups: zappers, neutrals, and helpers.

The zappers are foods that may take more from our body than they give. If you can’t pronounce the ingredient, chances are that your body won’t know how to make use of it. Stay clear of ingredients with the words hydrogenated, hydrolyzed, artificial, and autolyzed, and ingredients that have a # next to them (like red #3).

Most of us, even those who are already health-minded, are eating the neutrals. These are foods that are neither harming nor helping. Think of whole-grain (although processed) cereal.

Helpers are foods that have a robust offering of nutrients like phytochemicals and antioxidants and increase our vitality and energy. Foods like blueberries, broccoli, turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon are all helpers. For those of you ready to step it up a bit, consider trying maca root or spirulina in your next smoothie.

3. Respect your body.

I used to tell my kids that there was a tag attached to them at birth stating, “You have one body, take care of it. Move daily. Eat well.” I believe in that philosophy whole-heartedly.

4. Rest, digest, and stress less.

Think of mealtimes as opportunities for mini-meditative moments in your busy and hurried day. Pause before a meal. Take a moment and some deep breaths to move out of fight-or-flight mode and into rest-and-digest mode.

This practice will allow your digestive system to really engage in making use of those beautiful foods you’re about to eat. Your whole body will benefit.

stir fry

5. Create a colorful plate.

I challenge my clients to get at least five colors of the rainbow onto their plates each day. This can be easier than you think:

  • Green smoothie to start the day
  • Fresh blueberries and Greek yogurt mid-morning
  • Tomato soup on the side of lunch
  • Carrot, red pepper, and hummus plate mid-afternoon
  • Baked butternut squash and a simple arugula salad for dinner

6. Return to ancient wisdom.

Even as the science of nutrition is quickly advancing around us, it turns out that some of the best foods for health may still be those foods that our grandmothers put on the table. (Think bone broth.)

Rich in gelatin and the amino acids glycine and arginine, bone broth is a cost-effective way to sooth body and soul.

7. Make your sweet treats count.

Everyone likes something sweet now and again. Refill your muscles with sweet fuel it can actually use, like dates, crystalized ginger, chocolate almond milk, or a homemade sports drink.

8. Fast more than you eat.

Keeping eating restricted to nine to twelve hours of the day at three- to four-hour intervals, as opposed to the graze-all-day plan, has a positive effect on metabolism.

9. Follow the 80:20 rule.

It might not be healthy to be healthy ALL of the time. Keep a balance of 80 percent healthy foods and the other 20 percent reserved for fun and pleasure.

Fun and pleasure can mix with healthy in a nice bowl of popcorn with nutritional yeast or even a kale salad with a supremely nice cheese.

10. Keep the real, real.

It’s easy to be drawn in by packaging, but real foods don’t come in a box or a bag. Keep the state of your plate real by focusing on foods that look closest to their natural state. Foods like salmon, brown rice, and roasted Brussels sprouts are the real deal.

11. Understand the connection between food and how you feel.

This goes beyond “you are what you eat.” It’s important to appreciate the way nutrients in food communicate with your body and influence your health and mood. This is powerful information we can use to shape our health and energy.

12. Make mealtime a break time.

Meals are a natural break in the day. Use this to take the time to appreciate and be grateful for all of the ways in which life nourishes you, including the food you eat. Being mindful at meals doesn’t take much time, just a little practice.


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The Health Benefits of Bananas

Are Bananas Good for You?

TrimDownClub, Apr 30, 2015

You probably think that bananas are good for you. But the banana is one of nature’s candy bars: wrapped, ready to eat, and full of sugar. That makes bananas bad for you. Or does it?

After all, we now know that because high blood sugar levels are very dangerous for your body, your body aggressively stores sugar as fat.

This means that eating sugar—or foods that the body can rapidly convert to sugar, such as refined carbs—can cause massive hormonal and energy swings when your body stores that sugar as fat…leaving you hungrier than ever.

However

What Makes Bananas so Good for You?

For most of us, the answer to the question, “are bananas good for you?” is a resounding “Yes”!

Even with all their sugar.According to the USDA, bananas have less water than other fruit: they are 75% water, compared to oranges, which are 86% water. The result? They tend to have about 89 calories per 100 grams, while oranges have about 49 calories per 100 grams[i].

A medium-sized banana is from 7-8 inches/18-20 cm long, and at about 4 ounces/118 grams, is considered a single serving. A medium banana contains 105 calories, 14.4 grams of sugar, 3.1 grams of fiber, and 1.3 grams of protein.

This means you get a lot of sweet, natural goodness in a small, easily digestible package, making bananas a great way to cure a sugar craving. Just like a candy bar, a banana will satisfy your sweet tooth—but unlike a candy bar, a banana won’t take you for a ride on the sugar roller coaster that leaves you empty, drained, and craving more sugar. That’s because bananas have a lot more going on than just sugar.

So let’s open up that bright yellow wrapper and learn why bananas are so good for us.

What Makes Bananas Healthy?

Bananas are so healthy that even the sugar in bananas is good for you.

One reason is that bananas are good for you is because they’re rich in fiber, 3.1 grams for a medium banana. The US Recommended Daily Allowance of fiber is 38 grams a day for men and 25 grams a day for women. Bananas are also an excellent source of potassium and magnesium: that medium banana contains 422 mg of potassium and 32 mg magnesium.

Most Americans don’t get enough of either fiber or potassium, yet both are important to your health. In fact, magnesium is critical for transporting potassium across cell membranes, so it can play an important role in maintaining a normal heart rate.

What is Fiber and Why Do I Need More of It?

If you’ve ever wondered why a sweet treat like a banana doesn’t go straight to your belly, fiber is why. In fact, fiber is one of the reasons why the sugar in the banana doesn’t immediately rush to derail your metabolism.

There are two types of dietary fiber: soluble and insoluble.

Soluble fiber forms a gel-like material when it is dissolved in water. It slows down your digestion and helps reduce your blood cholesterol and lower your glucose levels. Soluble fiber is found in apples, barley, beans, carrots, citrus fruits, oats, peas, and psyllium.

Insoluble fiber doesn’t dissolve. It helps move material through your gastrointestinal tract and bulks up stools, so it’s very helpful to people suffering from constipation or who are irregular. Beans, nuts, wheat bran, whole-wheat flour, and vegetables like cauliflower and other Brassicas, green beans and sweet and white potatoes are all excellent sources of insoluble fiber.

Most whole foods, like bananas, contain both types of fiber. The soluble fiber in the banana—along with the magnesium and beneficial phytonutrients—slows how quickly your body metabolizes the sugar in it. This means that the sugar is less likely to spike or trigger an insulin overreaction that too quickly shuttles sugar from your blood to your fat cells to protect you from high blood sugar—leaving you hungrier than ever and craving more sugar. Instead, your body slowly shuttles that sugar to your muscles for immediate use or to your liver for short-term storage…where your body can easily make use of it.

This makes bananas healthy candy. So if you’re trying to break a sugar addiction, don’t try to defeat your cravings with willpower. The sugar of a banana will take the edge off those cravings so you don’t find yourself eating.

Bananas

Why Do I Need More Potassium?

According to the World Health Organization[ii], we need to eat less than 2,000 mg of sodium (that’s 5 grams of table salt) and at least 3,510 mg of potassium per day. When we eat too much sodium and not enough potassium, we’re at increased risk of higher blood pressure, and thus also heart disease and stroke. Worldwide, these are the leading causes of death and disability. In fact, according to the US Centers for Disease Control, heart disease is the leading killer of Americans, and stroke.

Most of us eat far too much sodium and far too little potassium. So grab a banana to be healthy.

How Else Are Bananas Good for You?

  • Their high levels of potassium and low levels of sodium have garnered bananas official recognition from the FDA as protecting you from heart attack and stroke by lowering your blood pressure[iii], confirmed in a clinical study with bananas.
  • Bananas are rich in healthy B-vitamins that help your body maintain a healthy metabolism and reduce health risks associated with type 2 diabetes, are important for your nervous system, and help your body produce white blood cells.
  • The potassium in bananas help your body maintain healthy fluid balance, which protects against swelling.
  • Bananas also help keep you healthy by potentially reducing your risk of kidney cancer, and macular degeneration (due to the high content of the carotenoid “lutein”).
  • If you suffer from PMS or want to improve your mood whether you have PMS or not, eat a banana.
  • The sugar and potassium in bananas is also good for you when you are learning or concentrating[iv]. So eat a banana if you want to be focused!
  • Want to power through a vigorous workout? Consider eating bananas first as their mixture of slow-moving sugar plus electrolytes can help keep your energy level steady.
  • The potassium and magnesium in bananas may help protect you from muscle cramps at night and during workouts.
  • Bananas are rich in pectin, a soluble dietary fiber and natural detoxifying agent, great for digestion.
  • Banana fiber contains prebiotics that encourages the growth of healthy bacteria in the bowel. These bacteria produce digestive enzymes that help your body absorb nutrients, and actual support healthy weight management.
  • All that fiber in bananas is good for helping ease constipation…
  • Bananas are also a healthy way to sooth your GI tract if you have the runs.
  • Bananas may naturally soothe acid reflux, heartburn and GERD.
  • If you have stomach ulcers, raw bananas may “coat” your stomach and relieve the distress caused by stomach acids.
  • Bananas are rich in antioxidants, especially when overripe which protect you against free radicals and chronic disease.

And from the files of folk medicine[v]

  • If you have an insect bite or hives, rub them with the inside of the banana peel. This may help reduce the itching and inflammation.
  • If you have a wart, you can try to remove it by taping the inside of a piece of banana peel over the wart.
  • If you have morning sickness and suffer from hypoglycemia, eating bananas may help.
  • If you’re quitting smoking, the high levels of B-vitamins, potassium and magnesium in bananas are good for you, helping you recover quickly from nicotine withdrawal.
  • Last but not least, if you’re suffering from a hangover, make a banana milkshake and sweeten it with honey. The fruit will calm your stomach, the honey will help normalize your blood sugar, and the milk will rehydrate you.

Are Bananas Bad for You?

With all this going for them, it sounds like bananas can’t possibly be bad for you. But to make all that sweet goodness of a banana go even further, eat it with some healthy fat and protein, like 2 tablespoons of your favorite nut butter or some cheese, and an egg, or a handful of your favorite nuts. This further slows your body’s absorption of the banana’s sugar, so you can use more of it, longer. And you get a wonderful combination of sugar, salt and fat that most of us naturally love.

The only way bananas can be bad for you—outside of an allergy, of course— is if you have kidney disease. If your kidneys have been damaged (a common side-effect of diabetes) and can’t properly regulate your potassium levels, high levels of potassium can cause serious heart problems. If you have kidney disease and potassium is a concern, please consult with your renal dietitian to create a food plan that has safe levels of potassium. However, with proper planning, you may still be able to enjoy this natural candy bar.

References
[i]   United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference Release 27. Retrieved 30-Mar-2015 from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2208?fg=&man=&lfacet=&count=&max=35&sort=&qlookup=banana+raw&offset=&format=Full&new=&measureby=.
[ii]   World Health Organization (WHO). WHO issues new guidance on dietary salt and potassium. WHO Media Centre. 31-Jan-2013. Retrieved 30-Mar-2015 from http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/notes/2013/salt_potassium_20130131/en/
[iii] American Heart Association (AHA). Potassium and High Blood Pressure. Retrieved 30 Mar 2015 from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp.
[iv] Sobir I. Bananas improve concentration in children. Tropical Fruit Research, Bogor Institute of Agriculture. 2010.
Retrieved 30 Mar 2015 from http://health.kompas.com/read/2010/03/12/09365852/Pisang..Tingkatkan.Konsentrasi.Anak.
[v] Amazing Bananas. Retrieved 30-Mar-2015 from http://rense.com/general85/bananas.htm.