Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

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4 Foods That Can Improve Your Metabolism

A magic bullet solution does not exist, but there are some things that can encourage your body to burn a few extra calories.

Don’t listen to the Internet. There’s no such thing as a miracle calorie-burning food that will allow you to vegetate on the couch while melting off the pounds. If there were, gyms would go out of business instantly. According to registered dietitian Ellie Krieger, however, there are a few things that can help one’s metabolism work more efficiently, though this should not be considered a replacement for hard sweaty work.

In an article for the Washington Post, Krieger sifted through the “overhyped, over-extrapolated half-truths” that dominate millions of articles and podcasts to identify those items that might actually have metabolic value. She ended up with four – green tea, cayenne pepper, protein, and whole grains – but benefiting from them isn’t as simple as chowing down.

Green tea gets a lot of well-deserved attention, for it contains polyphenols (specifically, one called epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG) and caffeine that increase the calories and fat your body burns. Studies show that a minimum of 250 milligrams of EGCG must be consumed in order for it to work. This translates to three cups daily of the highest-quality green tea, which isn’t too difficult for tea-lovers. Just be sure to buy the good stuff.

Cayenne pepper is a tough one because studies recommend consuming 10 grams a day; this works out to nearly 2 tablespoons. As anyone who’s eaten cayenne pepper knows, it’s nearly impossible to ingest that much, even if it’s spread out over three meals. But a small amount can help a bit, too:

“A 2011 Purdue University study looked at more palatable quantities of cayenne and found that even about half a teaspoon in one meal worked to increase energy expenditure, but only by 10 calories, which, incidentally, is the number of calories in one peanut.”

Protein is notable for automatically burning 20 to 30 percent of its own calories through the process of digestion. Krieger compares this to fat (0 to 3 percent) and carbohydrates (5 to 10 percent), though these are still crucial components of a well-rounded diet and should not be neglected in favor of excess protein.

Whole grains are similar to protein in that their digestion burns more calories than when you eat refined carbohydrates. Plus, you get the added benefit of fiber, which is sadly lacking in the typical American diet and is desperately needed for healthy guts.

Katherine Martinko     @feistyredhair       Living / Health       May 24, 2017

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Could More Whole Grains Help You Live Longer?

Three servings a day lessens risk of dying from heart disease and cancer, study suggests

By Kathleen Doheny     HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) – Health experts have long urged people to swap their processed white grains for the whole-grain variety, and new research suggests that advice might help you live longer.

Researchers found that people who ate three or more servings of whole grains a day had a 20 percent reduced risk of premature death during the study period, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains.

“The higher the whole grain intake, the lower the death rate, especially deaths from cardiovascular disease,” said study author Dr. Qi Sun. He is an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Whole grains are so named because they contain the entire grain kernel, including bran (outer husk), germ (nutrient-rich core) and endosperm (middle layer). Whole-grain foods include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice and whole cornmeal.

When grains are refined, they have been milled and that process removes the bran and the germ, as well as fiber, iron and many of the B vitamins. White breads, white rice and white flour are all refined grains, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sun and his colleagues reviewed the findings of 12 published studies as well as data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The studies included nearly 800,000 men and women. The study populations were from the United States, the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries. The studies covered 1971 to 2010. Over the study periods, there were almost 98,000 deaths recorded.

The study couldn’t show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. But the review suggests that the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and stroke dropped approximately 25 percent when people had three servings of whole grains (48 grams total) daily, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains. The risk of death from cancer appeared to decrease about 15 percent, the study authors said.


Sun said many possibilities can help explain why whole-grain consumption seemed to affect death risk. Whole grains are high in fiber, so they can help regulate blood sugar and improve blood cholesterol levels, which can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber also makes you feel full longer, so you may eat fewer calories, maintain a healthy weight, and lower heart disease risk, he added.

Based on the study findings, Sun said that low-carbohydrate diets that neglect the health benefits of whole grains “should be adopted with caution,” due to a possible higher risk of heart disease.

To get 48 grams of whole grains, Sun said, people could eat three slices of whole-grain bread, for instance.

One registered dietitian agreed with the findings.

“The outcomes of this study provide support to the dietary guidelines recommendation to include three servings of whole grains in our daily diet,” said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. “Contrary to many popular diets, this study supports the health benefits of whole grains as opposed to a popular perception that grains are the cause of obesity.”

So how can you be sure the foods you’re eating actually are whole-grain? Foods that list “whole” before the first ingredient on the ingredient list are whole-grain foods, the USDA says.

Some foods are also naturally whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats, bulgur, wild rice and popcorn. The USDA says you can’t judge whether a food is whole-grain from its color. And, the agency notes that certain claims, such as 100 percent wheat, on packaging don’t necessarily mean a product is made with whole grains. Check the ingredient list to be sure.


The study was published June 13 in Circulation.

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More Whole Grains May Boost Life Span

But study found you’ll need to eat a lot to gain most benefit

By Randy Dotinga     HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) – In more good news for those who fill up on bran cereal and quinoa, a new study suggests that older people who eat a lot of whole grains may live longer than those who hardly ever eat them.

Even the obese and sedentary appear to gain a benefit, the researchers added.

People should “eat more whole grains and reduce intake of refined carbohydrates,” said study co-author Dr. Lu Qi, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Qi added that eating more grains may even help people lose weight: “There is no evidence that [a diet rich in] whole grain increases calorie intake, and it may lower it,” he said.

The finding does have limitations – almost all participants were white, for example – and it doesn’t directly prove that eating lots of whole grains caused people to live longer.

In the study, researchers looked at whole fiber – the whole seed of grain that’s used in grain products like bread and cereal.

The researchers tracked almost 370,000 people in the United States from the mid-1990s, when they took surveys, through the year 2009. They were all members of AARP and aged 50 to 71. The study excluded tens of thousands of people with conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, meaning that the results don’t apply to older people as a whole.

After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn’t be thrown off by high or low numbers of certain types of people, the researchers found that those who ate the most fiber were 17 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who ate the least. However, the risk of death during the study was low overall: About 12 percent (just over 46,000) of the people died during the study period.

Those who ate the most fiber were more likely to be educated, less likely to be obese and less likely to smoke than those who ate the least, the study found. They also ate much less red meat, on average. But the life span benefit held up even when researchers adjusted their statistics to eliminate the impact of factors such as obesity and poorer health.

Flax Seed: The Low Carb Whole Grain

The researchers also found signs that whole grains lowered the risk of premature death from lung disease and diabetes. More consumption of the cereal fiber inside whole grains, meanwhile, translated to fewer deaths and lower levels of cancer and diabetes.

How much whole grain might a person need to reap this benefit? A lot. The researchers defined heavy eaters of whole grains – those with the greatest life span benefits – as those who ate 34 grams of whole grains for every 1,000 calories they consumed per day. For a person on a 2,500-calorie diet, that’s 85 grams: the equivalent of five slices of whole wheat bread or 5 cups of whole-grain breakfast cereal.

Those defined as eating the least whole grain consumed about 4 grams per 1,000 calories per day, or 10 grams for a person on a 2,500-calorie diet. That’s fewer grams than are in half a cup of oatmeal (16 grams).

One expert noted that switching over to whole grains could make a big difference.

“National survey data indicate that the current average intake of dietary fiber is only 16 grams, so increasing dietary fiber intake to the recommended more than 30 grams a day could significantly impact public health,” said Dr. Yunsheng Ma, an associate professor in the division of preventive and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.

“Foods high in fiber are predominantly protective foods high in micronutrient density, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes,” Ma added. “There is no upper limit that has been set for dietary fiber intake per day.”

Ma, who’s familiar with the new research, wrote a study published earlier this year that linked fiber consumption to lower weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Why might whole grains be so good for a person’s health? Study co-author Qi said they may work by lowering three things: food intake overall, levels of “bad” cholesterol, and inflammation.

The study is published in the March 24 edition of BMC Medicine.

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Extra fiber tied to lower risk of stroke

By Kathryn Doyle   NEW YORK   Fri Apr 19, 2013

(Reuters Health) – People who get more fiber in their diet are less likely to have a stroke than those who skimp on the nutrient, according to a new review of existing research.

“A few people in the past have looked at the relationship between fiber and cardiovascular disease, which includes coronary heart disease and stroke,” senior author Victoria Burley told Reuters Health.

But this is the first time all the available results from long-term studies have been pulled together into one analysis, said Burley, a senior lecturer in nutritional epidemiology at the University of Leeds in the UK.

Burley and her coauthors pooled the results of eight studies conducted since 1990 that included close to 500,000 participants. Those people reported on their dietary fiber consumption and were followed for anywhere from eight to 19 years.

The researchers found the risk of suffering a first stroke fell by 7 percent for every 7-gram increase in dietary fiber people reported each day – so that those who ate the most fiber had the lowest chance of stroke, according to findings published in the journal Stroke.

The average U.S. woman gets 13 grams of fiber per day, and the average man gets 17 grams – well below the Institute of Medicine recommendation of 24 and 35 grams, respectively.

An extra 7 grams could come from two slices of whole wheat bread and a serving of fruit, for example, Burley said. But even less than that – just 2 or 3 extra grams per day – might affect stroke risk.


Americans suffer almost 800,000 strokes annually, and strokes cause one out of every 18 U.S. deaths, or 130,000 per year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Most happen when a clot blocks blood flow in a brain vessel.

“Stroke is a very common and chronic disease in our society because the risk factors are growing,” Dr. Dean Sherzai, a neurologist at Loma Linda University in California, told Reuters Health.

The new results are important because at the moment there are limited treatments and preventive measures available for stroke, but diet changes such as adding more fiber are relatively easy, said Sherzai, who was not involved in the study.

The report didn’t look at the effects of different types of fiber on people of specific ages – so it’s possible some may glean more benefit from eating extra fiber than others, he added.

The findings don’t prove fiber directly prevents strokes. Researchers also don’t know why fiber would be linked to a lower risk, although they have some ideas.

“There could be all sorts of things going on,” Burley said.

Foods high in fiber tend to be low-calorie and help people maintain a healthy weight, which reduces stroke risk, she said. Fibrous foods also have vitamins, minerals and antioxidants including polyphenols and flavonoids, which make blood vessels more elastic.

The findings should serve as more encouragement for people to get their daily recommended fiber, Burley said. She’d like to see fiber back on the agenda – since it sometimes falls to the wayside in low-carbohydrate or gluten-free diets.

“Sometimes things like this just aren’t deemed sexy enough,” Sherzai said. 

SOURCE: bit.ly/10Rbepb Stroke, online March 28, 2013.

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How to get healthy: 20 simple changes

By Kat Tancock

Make these twenty small changes to your routine to get healthy the easier way.

You’re already making healthy choices every day: You never leave home without eating breakfast, you’re diligent about getting eight glasses of water a day and you’ve perfected your flossing technique. But for every good habit you have, a tiny upgrade can reap huge benefits. “Small tweaks can take your health and wellness to that next level,” says Michelle MacLean, a holistic health coach in Halifax who helps people set and reach their health goals. Here are some simple suggestions to get you there.

1. If you’re already unwinding with an evening bath, why not try turning off the lights and lighting some candles to get your brain ready for sleep. “Light is stimulating,” says Danielle Mika Nagel, director of studio development for the Chopra Yoga Centers in Toronto and Vancouver. “Before bed we want to go into winding-down mode.”

2. If you’re already setting your alarm for an early awakening, why not try a gentle alarm, such as the Philips Wake-up Light (from $120, philips.ca). It gets gradually brighter for 30 minutes before the time you set, so you can avoid the stress of an abrupt wake-up. 

3. If you’re already chugging water first thing in the morning, why not try adding a squeeze of fresh lemon to your glass of H2O. “Lemon is cleansing and refreshing for the breath,” says Nagel. It also provides a shot of vitamin C and aids digestion. 

4. If you’re already waking up with a big stretch, why not try warming up your body by moving your spine in six directions, suggests Nagel. Move your spine forward, backward and side to side, and twist your body to the left and right.

5. If you’re already moisturizing after you shower, why not try using a body oil to give yourself a stress-busting massage as well, suggests Nagel, who uses jojoba oil to stroke her shoulders, knees and other joints.

6. If you’re already enjoying a healthy morning snack while catching up on your emails, why not try closing your email to snack mindfully instead. This will boost satiety and prevent overeating. If you’re distracted when you munch, you are not as aware of how much you’re eating, says Nagel.

7. If you’re already eating salad a few times a week, why not try having a big bowl of raw or cooked greens (think kale, chard, collards or bok choy) on the days you don’t have salad. “They’re packed with vitamins and minerals, and they build bone strength,” says MacLean. 

8. If you’re already eating fish every week, why not try boosting your intake of healthy omega-3s by eating sardines weekly too. They’re canned so you can keep them on hand at all times, says MacLean, 
who recommends Raincoast Trading’s range of wild Pacific sardines. 

9. If you’re already doing yoga once or twice a week, why not try subbing in Pilates a few times a month to boost your core strength and keep your body and mind from plateauing. “When a workout becomes monotonous and predictable, your chances of sticking with it are far lower,” says Brent Bishop, a personal trainer in Toronto.

10. If you’re already reaching for the five-pounders in your favourite weights class, why not try lifting heavier weights. Choose a size that is heavy enough to challenge you for about the last two of 15 reps while keeping good form. Your muscles have a good memory. Surprise them with new challenges to avoid plateauing, says Bishop. 

11. If you’re already doing Meatless Mondays to help lower your fat intake, why not try doubling your recipes so you have meatless leftovers for lunch the next day or a quick meal later in the week. 

12. If you’re already repeating your favourite 20-minute walking route every day after dinner, why not try increasing your endurance and calorie burn by doubling the distance once or twice a week.

13. If you’re already drinking a soothing cup of black tea for your afternoon pick-me-up, why not try snacking on a handful of heart-healthy almonds as well for energy that will last.

14. If you’re already making muffins for breakfast, why not try upgrading to a recipe with more fruit and fibre, and less sugar. 

15. If you’re already eating yogurt a few times a week, why not try taking a probiotic such as Align ($40, aligngi.com) every day to boost your healthy bacteria levels.

16. If you’re already choosing whole wheat over white flour, why not try eating a wider variety of whole grains, such as quinoa, brown rice and millet, a few times a week to increase the variety of nutrients in your diet.

17. If you’re already hitting the sack by 11 p.m., why not try making bedtime 10:30 p.m. or even earlier. “The hours before midnight are when you get your deepest sleep,” says Nagel. Plus, getting enough shut-eye is linked to fewer colds and a lower calorie intake.

18. If you’re already enjoying a lunchtime walk around the block, why not try inviting a coworker to join you so you can enjoy a social boost at the same time. 

19. If you’re already shutting off screens an hour before bedtime,why not try improving sleep by thinking about your day, suggests Nagel. “Fast-forward your day from morning to bedtime. Shift into that witnessing mode of awareness and let all the events go.”

20. If you’re already hitting the treadmill religiously for your regular workout, why not try investing in a heart-rate monitor to get you out of your comfort zone. “If you have an external device that’s telling you you’re comfortable, guess what? You’ve got to pick it up a little bit,” says Bishop. 

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7 Ways to De-Stress and Slim Down

Think back to the last time you felt pressure from your work, family, or friends — did you have the urge to reach for a candy bar? If the answer is yes, you’re not alone. Stress is one of the major causes of eating poorly and eating excessively, so it’s no surprise that stress can lead to extra pounds around your waist. And it’s a red flag for risk factors associated with inflammation, heart disease, and diabetes. Finding ways to manage your stress is essential to healthy weight loss. Follow these 7 tips to recognize and manage your stress:

Eat Whole Grains 
Whole grains, a Sonoma Diet Power Food, promote the production of serotonin, a feel-good brain messenger chemical. The magnesium abundant in whole grains and almonds (another Power Food) promotes muscle relaxation. Emphasizing B vitamins from whole grains, vegetables, and other foods on the Top Twelve Sonoma Power Foods list is also very important for repairing the negative effects of stress. 

Choose Healthy Fats 
Since the brain is approximately 60 percent fat, the type of fats in your diet can make a difference in brain function. Research shows that omega-3 fatty acids can act as an antidepressant because they boost serotonin production. Serotonin improves communication between brain cells and can help prevent or fight depression. Salmon, walnuts, and flaxseed are rich sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Olives, olive oil, avocados, nuts, and canola oil are also packed with healthy monounsaturated fats. Limit your intake of saturated fat from animal fats and tropical oils, and eliminate trans-fatty acids, found in the partially hydrogenated oils used in processed foods.

Stop “Dieting” Diets that restrict carbs and dietary fats actually increase stress, anxiety, insomnia, and depression — not to mention set you up for failure. The correct approach to healthy eating is to choose a diet you can live with, one composed of healthy fats, lots of fruits and vegetables, and a daily intake of whole grains. The only way to feel full and satisfied is to provide your body with all the nutrients it needs.

Get Some Sleep 
Stressful situations can often lead to a lack of sleep — which can be especially dangerous for a dieter. Lack of sleep throws off the body’s chemistry and can increase cravings for carbohydrates, sweets, and fats. Plus, sleeping less than 5 hours a night not only produces inflammatory compounds linked to heart disease but also hinders your weight-loss efforts. Two hormones, cortisol and ghrelin, are the main culprits — sleep deprivation can cause an increase in ghrelin, the hormone responsible for stimulating appetite, and a decrease in cortisol, the hormone that signals the brain that you are full. The result is an inability to control your appetite — a situation that can lead to a diet disaster. So get some rest!

Vary Your Exercise 
Varying the type exercise you do — alternating from a high-intensity workout to one of a more meditative style, like yoga — can be restorative, relaxing, and essential for boosting your immune function and general outlook on life. It’s important to switch up an exercise routine to stave off boredom and keep challenging your body. Exercise also improves brain chemistry, increasing the level of feel-good endorphins, dopamine, and serotonin. So the next time you feel overwhelmed by stress, take a break and get active. You’ll notice the difference!

Breathing slowly, deeply, and deliberately is a very simple and easy way to cope with everyday stress and exhausting schedules. Take a few moments to stop and breathe when stress rears its head. You’ll be able to relax your muscles and focus your mind, readying yourself for whatever obstacles lie ahead.

Recognize the Symptoms of Stress 
There are two kinds of stress: acute (intense but short lived) and chronic, or ongoing. It’s the chronic type of stress that causes health problems. We commonly suppress feelings of exhaustion, stress, and anxiety to the point that we can’t even recognize the symptoms anymore. This is when we get into trouble with weight gain and more serious health conditions. Pay attention to stress symptoms — for example, an increase in blood pressure, insomnia, body aches, feelings of anxiety or depression, or a general feeling of being overwhelmed.


19 Healthy Snacks for Kids

Your kids are going to snack. Here’s how to make it healthier:

By Elizabeth M. Ward, MS, RD
WebMD Feature      Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD

Kids are snacking more than ever, and as a parent, you’ve got the power to make those snacks helpful.

Yes, they’re getting extra calories from snacks. And yes, snacks are often too sugary.

Still, some snacking can be good for children — within limits.

“Kids, especially younger ones, have erratic eating habits, and healthy snacks can fill in nutrition gaps,” says Maryann Jacobsen, RD.

Snacking can help kids keep their energy up, make up for skimpy or skipped breakfasts, and provide fuel before after-school sports or other activities.

Think of snacks as mini meals

Most of the time, feed your child the same types of foods you would at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, including low-fat dairy and other lean protein sources, such as eggs, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables.

Good snacks provide carbohydrates, protein, fiber, and some healthy fat. Generally speaking, foods rich in protein or fiber help kids stay fuller for longer, and they’re packed with the nutrients kids need to thrive.  

There’s debate about how many calories a child’s snack should provide, but it makes sense to aim for about 100 calories for smaller children, to upwards of 300 calories for active teenagers. Let your child’s hunger rule what he or she eats.

19 Simple, Do-It-Yourself Snacks

Making your own snacks to have at home or take with you is usually your best, most budget-friendly choice. Try these:

  1. A small amount of guacamole or low-fat bean dip, and baked snack chips or toasted whole wheat pita bread, broken into chips
  2. Low-fat microwave popcorn tossed with Parmesan cheese
  3. Trail mix ingredients: 1/4 cup each: whole-grain cereal, raisins or dried cranberries, and 2 tablespoons each: sunflower seeds or chopped nuts
  4. Low-fat ice cream or frozen yogurt topped with fresh fruit
  5. Snack size (8 ounce) box of low-fat plain or chocolate milk and whole wheat pretzels
  6. Whole-grain crackers, string cheese, and mango slices
  7. Cooked or raw vegetables with low-fat ranch dressing, and a hard-boiled egg
  8. Instant oatmeal made with milk in the microwave with 1 teaspoon cocoa powder stirred in and topped with sliced raspberries or strawberries
  9. Whole-wheat pretzels with peanut butter, almond butter, or sunflower seed butter
  10. Cherry chocolate smoothie: Combine 1 cup low-fat milk, 1/2 cup vanilla low-fat yogurt, 1/2 cup frozen or fresh pitted cherries, and 2 tablespoons dark chocolate chips in a blender or food processor and mix until smooth
  11. Bowl of whole-grain cereal and low-fat milk
  12. Edamame
  13. Small container of low-fat Greek yogurt
  14. Mini bagel spread with low-fat cream cheese and strawberry jam, and low-fat milk
  15. Hummus and whole wheat pita chips
  16. Half a sandwich and glass of orange juice fortified with calcium and vitamin D
  17. Slice of pizza
  18. Hard-boiled egg and whole-grain roll
  19. Pistachios in the shell and glass of chocolate milk

Be a Choosy Snacker

What if other people offer your child less-than-nutritious foods?

“Teach kids to honor their hunger, and that they don’t always have to eat what’s offered to them,” says Jacobsen, who’s a mother of two.

Also, be a snack role model. What do your kids see you snacking on? As kids get older, they generally follow your lead, so choose your own snacks wisely.

source: webmd.com

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Vitamin-packed foods help you fight disease

BARBARA QUINN            The Monterey County Herald

“A vitamin is a substance that makes you ill, if you don’t eat it,” said Albert Szent-Gyorgyi, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 1937.

He understood what we now know: Deficiencies of vitamins and other vital nutrients can cause us to fall prey to illness.

So do our food choices really influence how susceptible we are to sickness? You bet your sweet pepper they do.

Specific nutrients in foods have been shown to enhance the body’s ability to keep us well. Here are some tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and other nutrition experts:

=> Protein: It’s what immune cells are made of. Sources of immune-building protein include lean beef, pork and poultry, fish, eggs, beans and soy-based foods.

=> Vitamin A: Ever wonder why moms used to dose their darlings with cod liver oil to keep them healthy? Among other components, cod liver oil is a good source of vitamin A — a nutrient that helps maintain the cells that line our intestines and lungs. These “mucosal” cells are the sentries that guard our body from foreign invaders.

Carrots, kale, spinach, sweet potatoes and red bell peppers are good sources of vitamin A (or beta-carotene which safely converts to vitamin A in the body.)

=> Vitamin C: Although scientists still don’t understand the exact way that vitamin C works to boost immune function, we do know this essential vitamin plays an important role in healing wounds and strengthening our resistance to disease. Vitamin C also helps form antibodies that fight off infection.

Since this essential nutrient is easily destroyed by air, heat and prolonged storage, we are smart to eat at least one high vitamin C food each day.

Sources include oranges, grapefruit, strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, kiwifruit, broccoli and Brussels sprouts.

=> Zinc: Like an army that relies on a continual renewal of supplies and soldiers, our immune system relies on zinc to consistently renew disease-fighting cells. And since zinc in food is bound to protein, it makes sense that good sources include oysters, beef, pork, and liver as well as whole grains, beans, nuts and seeds.

Interestingly, zinc has been called “the essential toxin” because — although it is required for optimal health — excessive intake can actually impair immune function.

=> Vitamin E: Given its antioxidant ability to neutralize free radicals, vitamin E keeps the machinery of the immune system functioning at capacity. Good sources include nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Wheat germ is an especially good source of vitamin E.

What about supplements of vitamins and minerals? If we don’t happen to eat a varied diet for any reason, we could be missing out on essential vitamins and trace minerals that could compromise our ability to ward off sickness, say nutrition experts.

Whether or not to take a daily vitamin and mineral supplement is a discussion worth having with your health provider.

Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator at the Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula.
Email her at bquinn@chomp.org.

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8 Reasons Why Brown Rice Is Healthier Than White Rice

Published on October 13, 2010   by Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND

The next time you reach for the white rice, you may want to reconsider. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently conducted a study that confirms brown rice as the hands-down healthier choice for your dinner grain.

The Health Differences
Brown rice is essentially what almost all forms of white rice looks like before it has been put through a refining process. To process rice into the sparkling white pieces we buy in stores, first the out-side hull and bran is removed. This makes rice lighter and faster to cook.

Rice that has been stripped of its natural wholeness has been stripped of its fiber, proteins, thiamine, calcium, magnesium and potassium. It is commonly known how important fiber is for digestive health and maintaining a healthy weight.

Have you noticed white rice is usually labeled as “enriched?” White rice is usually full of unnatural fortifications and additives. These fortifications are used because the stripping process removes most of the iron, vitamins, zinc and magnesium from the rice. In fact, white rice is so devoid of nutrients that it does not offer the minimum nutritional requirements of the FDA. For this reason, white rice must be chemically altered with vitamins and iron just so that it can be sold in supermarkets.

This is one of the main reasons why brown rice is much higher in minerals and vitamins. Nutritionally, there is no comparison between these two forms of rice.

1. Brown Rice is Rich in Selenium
Extremely high in selenium, an important trace mineral known to drastically reduce our chances of developing certain forms of cancer, as well as heart disease, inflammatory conditions and rheumatoid arthritis.

2. Brown Rice is Very High in Manganese
One cup of brown rice provides over 80% of our daily manganese requirements. This mineral helps the human body create the important fatty acids that make healthy forms of cholesterol. It is also beneficial to the health of our nervous and reproductive systems.

3. Brown Rice Holds Naturally Occurring Oils
These heart-healthy oils are naturally found in brown rice and can help the body reduce LDL forms of cholesterol.

4. Brown Rice Promotes Weight Loss
Because of its fiber-richness and ability to keep healthy bowel function, brown rice “keeps things moving” in a way that promotes weight-loss and metabolic function. After one bowl of brown rice, you’ll feel more full despite eating a smaller amount of food.

5. Brown Rice is a Whole Grain
Unlike white rice, brown rice has not lost its wholeness. Studies show that six servings of whole grains weekly can lower the creation of arterial plaque build-up and reduce chances of developing heart disease and high cholesterol.

6. Brown Rice is an Antioxidant
Most people associate antioxidants with blueberries and green tea, but many are unaware that brown rice is also a source of antioxidants.

7. Brown Rice is Very High in Fiber
Studies have correlated the high use of whole grains like brown rice with lowered levels of colon cancer. This may be related to its high fiber content. Studies show that fiber actually attaches to cancer-causing substances and toxins, helping to eliminate them from the body, and keeping them from attaching to the cells in our colon. Brown rice also contains the necessary components to stabilize digestion, prevent/relieve constipation and promote proper elimination/bowel function.

8. Brown Rice is a Slow-Release Sugar
Unlike stripped rice, brown rice can help keep blood sugar stabilized as it releases sugars slowly and in a sustained fashion. This makes it a better option for diabetics, as compared to white rice. While studies in Asia have shown a link between the consumption of white rice and risk of type 2 diabetes, new research shows that individuals who eat at least two servings of brown rice weekly can reduce their chances of developing diabetes 2 by up to 11 percent.

I personally recommend using organic wild brown rice as the best option. But, even if you don’t buy organic, just making the switch from white rice to brown rice is a great first step to a healthy diet.

-Dr. G.

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Flax Seed: The Low Carb Whole Grain

Nutrition, Health Benefits of Flax Seed

By Laura Dolson, About.com Guide  November 16, 2010 

It may be tiny, but it’s mighty: The flax seed carries one of the biggest nutrient payloads on the planet. And while it’s not technically a grain, it has a similar vitamin and mineral profile to grains, while the amount offiber, antioxidants, and Omega-3 fatty acids in flax leaves grains in the dust. 

Additionally, flax seed is very low in carbohydrates, making it ideal for people who limit their intake of starches and sugars. And its combination of healthy fat and high fiber content make it a great food for weight loss and maintenance – many dieters have found that flax seed has been a key to keeping them feeling satisfied. 

Flax Seed Nutrition 

Yes, flax seed is high in most of the B vitamins, magnesium, and manganese, but this little seed is just getting started. There are three additional nutrient groups which flax seed has in abundance, and each has many benefits.

Flax Seed is Rich in Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Omega-3 fatty acids are a key force againstinflammation in our bodies. Mounting evidence shows that inflammation plays a part in many chronic diseases including heart disease, arthritis, asthma, diabetes, and even some cancers. This inflammation is enhanced by having too little Omega-3 intake (such as in fish, flax, and walnuts), especially in relation to Omega-6 fatty acid intake (in oils such as soy and corn oil). In the quest to equalize the ratio of these two kinds of oils, flax seed can be a real help. 

Most of the oil in flax seeds is alpha linolenic acid (ALA). ALA is an Omega-3 that is a precursor to the fatty acids found in salmon and other fatty cold-water fish (called EPA and DHA). Because not everyone is able to easily convert ALA into EPA and (especially) DHA, it is best not to rely solely on flax for your Omega-3 intake. However, ALA also has good effects of its own, and definitely helps in the Omega 3/6 balance.  

Flax Seed is High in Fiber: You’d be hard-pressed to find a food higher in fiber – both soluble andinsoluble – than flax. This fiber is probably mainly responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effects of flax. Fiber in the diet also helps stabilize blood sugar, and, of course, promotes proper functioning of the intestines. 

Flax Seed is High in Phytochemicals: Flax seed is high in phytochemicals, including many antioxidants. It is perhaps our best source of lignans, which convert in our intestines to substances that tend to balance female hormones. There is evidence that lignans may promote fertility, reduce peri-menopausal symptoms, and possibly help prevent breast cancer. In addition, lignans may help prevent Type 2 diabetes.

Note that a) flax seeds need to be ground to make the nutrients available (otherwise they just “pass through”) and b) flax seed oil alone contains neither the fiber nor the phytochemicals of whole flax seed meal.

source: about.com