Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Fun Fact Friday

 

  • It’s ok and “I’m fine” are the two most common lies spoken in the world.

  • Marijuana was initially made illegal in 1937 by a man who testified the drug made white women want to be with black men.

 

  • Giving up alcohol for just one month can improve liver function, decrease blood pressure, and reduce the risk of liver disease and diabetes.

  • Research has shown that people are happiest at 7:26pm on Saturday evening.

 

~ Happy Friday!~
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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

There are few things more more ritualistic—and to many, more sacred—than a morning cup of joe. 64% of Americans drink at least one cup a day—a statistic that’s barely budged since the ’90s. Despite warnings from doctors over the years that coffee may be hard on the body, people have remained devoted to the drink.

Luckily for them, the latest science is evolving in their favor. Research is showing that coffee may have net positive effects on the body after all.

Is coffee bad for you?

For years, doctors warned people to avoid coffee because it might increase the risk of heart disease and stunt growth. They worried that people could become addicted to the energy that high amounts of caffeine provided, leading them to crave more and more coffee as they became tolerant to higher amounts of caffeine. Experts also worried that coffee had damaging effects on the digestive tract, which could lead to stomach ulcers, heartburn and other ills.

All of this concern emerged from studies done decades ago that compared coffee drinkers to non-drinkers on a number of health measures, including heart problems and mortality. Coffee drinkers, it seemed, were always worse off.

But it turns out that coffee wasn’t really to blame. Those studies didn’t always control for the many other factors that could account for poor health, such as smoking, drinking and a lack of physical activity. If people who drank a lot of coffee also happened to have some other unhealthy habits, then it’s not clear that coffee is responsible for their heart problems or higher mortality.

That understanding has led to a rehabilitated reputation for the drink. Recent research reveals that once the proper adjustments are made for confounding factors, coffee drinkers don’t seem have a higher risk for heart problems or cancer than people who don’t drink coffee. Recent studies also found no significant link between the caffeine in coffee and heart-related issues such as high cholesterol, irregular heartbeats, stroke or heart attack.

Is coffee good for you?

Studies show that people who drink coffee regularly may have an 11% lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes than non-drinkers, thanks to ingredients in coffee that can affect levels of hormones involved in metabolism.

In a large study involving tens of thousands of people, researchers found that people who drank several cups a day—anywhere from two to four cups—actually had a lower risk of stroke. Heart experts say the benefits may come from coffee’s effect on the blood vessels; by keeping vessels flexible and healthy, it may reduce the risk of atherosclerosis, which can cause heart attacks.

It’s also high in antioxidants, which are known to fight the oxidative damage that can cause cancer. That may explain why some studies have found a lower risk of liver cancer among coffee drinkers.

Coffee may even help you live longer. A recent study involving more than 208,000 men and women found that people who drank coffee regularly were less likely to die prematurely than those who didn’t drink coffee. Researchers believe that some of the chemicals in coffee may help reduce inflammation, which has been found to play a role in a number of aging-related health problems, including dementia and Alzheimer’s. Some evidence also suggests that coffee may slow down some of the metabolic processes that drive aging.

One downside is that people may become dependent on caffeine (no surprise to any regular caffeine-drinker who takes a coffee break). The symptoms—headaches, irritability and fatigue—can mimic those of people coming off of addictive drugs. Yet doctors don’t consider the dependence anywhere close to as worrisome as addictions to habit-forming drugs like opiates. While unpleasant, caffeine “withdrawal” symptoms are tolerable and tend to go away after a day or so.

How much coffee is safe?

Like so many foods and nutrients, too much coffee can cause problems, especially in the digestive tract. But studies have shown that drinking up to four 8-ounce cups of coffee per day is safe. Sticking to those boundaries shouldn’t be hard for coffee drinkers in the U.S., since most drink just a cup of java per day.Moderation is key. But sipping coffee in reasonable amounts just might be one of the healthiest things you can do.

Alice Park   May 05, 2017    TIME 
source: time.com


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Health Benefits of Stevia, The Sugar Substitute

The Stevia plant with its ‘sweet leaf’ is a sugar substitute and also incredibly good for you. Unlike sugar, it doesn’t create an insulin response and actually nourishes the pancreas, which helps regulate blood sugar. The leaf is 30 times sweeter than sugar, while extracts are 300-400 times sweeter. This is good for the sugar addict as it will give sweetness without all the negative effects of sugar.

5 SWEET BENEFITS OF STEVIA

Excellent for Diabetics

Type 2 diabetic patients who took 1 gram of stevioside (present in the plant Stevia) with a meal had an 18 percent reduction in blood sugar according to this study. A study that compared Stevia, regular sugar and aspartame, showed that Stevia lowered blood sugar and insulin levels after a meal.

Note: Artificial sweeteners often raise your blood sugar levels even more than sugar.

Reduces Risk of Pancreatic Cancer

Stevia has sterols and antioxidant compounds (kaempferol, quercetin, chlorogenic acid, caffeic acid, isoquercitrin and isosteviol) in it and studies have found that kaempferol can reduce the risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

Helps Lower Bad Cholesterol and Increase Good Cholesterol

A study in 2009 found stevia helps lower bad cholesterol and increase good cholesterol. Research also noted that the subjects had no adverse side effects from the Stevia on their health.

Breast Cancer Reduced

This 2012 study found that stevioside helped to decrease specific stress pathways that create breast cancer growth.

Great for Weight Loss

Stevia has no calories or carbohydrates.

Consuming added sugars has been shown to contribute an average of 16 percent of the total calories in the American diet. This high sugar intake has been linked to weight gain and adverse effects on blood sugar.

3 Extra Benefits:

 

  • Fights Cavities: The ‘sweet herb’ is antibacterial, and unlike sugar, it does not feed oral bacteria and is recommended by the National Center for Biotechnology Information to be helpful in preventing cavities. Stevia extracts were linked to less acidic plaque, which is good for cavity prevention.
  • Skin Care: The antibacterial properties help with acne. I have experienced a pimple disappearing soon after using stevia on it.
  • Fights Yeast Infections: Stevia does not feed candida or other yeast and is slightly antibacterial and anti-fungal.

 

Can One Be Allergic to Stevia?

The European Food Safety Committee after reviewing the Stevia literature stated that there was no cause for concern for allergic reactions to the Stevia plant. Also, the FDA declared that stevia was safe in foods and beverages.

Stevia Caution

Some Stevia extracts are so isolated that they have a bitter taste and so other artificial sweeteners have to be added.

Some commercial Stevias have been extracted solely with alcohol solvents (usually the white powder form). This alcohol solvent leaves the sweet taste of the Stevia but can take away some of the health benefits.

Highly processed “Stevia,” such as Truvia, is not real Stevia by the time it goes through refining. Chemical solvents are added during the refining process which includes acetonitrile, found to be toxic to the liver and a carcinogen.

By: Diana Herrington         April 17, 2017
Follow Diana at @DancinginLife


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The Truth About Nitrates

Have you ever wondered what nitrates are and what foods contain nitrates? Are nitrates linked to any health concerns? If you have questions about nitrates and their role in the food supply, read on to get the truth about nitrates.

What are nitrates?

Nitrates (or nitrites) are natural chemicals that are found in the soil, air and water. Nitrates are also used as a food additive to stop the growth of bacteria and to enhance the flavour and colour of foods.

Where are nitrates found?

Nitrates are naturally found in vegetables such as:

  • Beets
  • Celery
  • Lettuce
  • Radishes and
  • Spinach

These foods provide the most nitrates in our diets. However, there is no recommendation to limit vegetables that naturally contain nitrates.

Smaller amounts are found in:

  • Dairy products like cheese
  • Beef
  • Poultry and
  • Fish

Nitrates are added to these foods to make their appearance and flavour more appealing.

Generally speaking, Canadian’s average daily intake of foods that contain nitrates is within safe limits.

What about nitrates and processed meat? 

Nitrates are added to processed meat like:

  • Deli meat/cold cuts
  • Ham/Bacon
  • Sausages
  • Hot dogs/Wieners

This is done to preserve the product and prevent bacteria from growing. Nitrates also give processed meats their pink colour.

Should I avoid processed meat?

Yes. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.

deli-meat

Do organic foods have nitrates?

It depends on the food. Organic foods like vegetables and fruit typically have fewer nitrates compared to conventional foods.

However, processed organic meats do not have nitrates.  In Canada, adding nitrates to processed organic meats is not allowed. Read more about organic foods in Canada.

Tips on making nitrate-free food choices 

  • Avoid foods with ingredients like potassium nitrate or sodium nitrate.
  • Avoid foods with the words ‘cured’ or ‘smoked’ on the ingredient list. This means that the food may contain nitrates.
  • Avoid processed meat or have them once in awhile. Have a cooked ham during the holidays or an occasional hot dog in the summer.
  • Skip the bacon and sausage for breakfast and try fresh fruit or grilled vegetables with your eggs.
  • Stuck on lunch ideas? Think beyond the sandwich! Try a vegetable wrap with hummus instead of a deli sandwich.  Try other quick and easy lunch ideas for you and your kids.
  • Eat vegetarian more often. You might be surprised at how tasty it can be! Learn more about healthy vegetarian meals for you and your family.
  • Throwing a party? Avoid party sandwiches that use processed meats and instead try a variety of fresh salads with an assortment of flat breads and dips.

Bottom line 

Nitrates are naturally found in some vegetables, dairy products and meat. There is no recommendation to limit foods that naturally contain nitrates. Nitrates are also added to processed meats as a preservative. There is strong research that shows a diet high in processed meats increases the risk of colon cancer. However, it is not yet clear if this is because of the nitrates or other compounds in processed meat. To decrease your risk of colon cancer, it is a good idea to eat very little processed meats or avoid them altogether.

October 9, 2016
 

 

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Does the sodium nitrate in processed meat increase my risk of heart disease?

Answers from Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Sodium nitrate, a preservative that’s used in some processed meats, such as bacon, jerky and luncheon meats, could increase your heart disease risk.

It’s thought that sodium nitrate may damage your blood vessels, making your arteries more likely to harden and narrow, leading to heart disease. Nitrates may also affect the way your body uses sugar, making you more likely to develop diabetes.

And you already know that most processed meats are high in sodium and some are high in saturated fat, which can disrupt a heart-healthy diet.

If you eat meat, it’s best to limit processed meat and instead choose lean, fresh meat and poultry, and keep serving sizes small. For greater heart health, consider going one step further and increasing the amount of seafood in your diet.

With Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.
 


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A Gut Makeover for the New Year

If you’re making resolutions for a healthier new year, consider a gut makeover. Refashioning the community of bacteria and other microbes living in your intestinal tract, collectively known as the gut microbiome, could be a good long-term investment in your health.

Trillions of microbial cells inhabit the human body, outnumbering human cells by 10 to one according to some estimates, and growing evidence suggests that the rich array of intestinal microbiota helps us process nutrients in the foods we eat, bolsters the immune system and does all sorts of odd jobs that promote sound health. A diminished microbial ecosystem, on the other hand, is believed to have consequences that extend far beyond the intestinal tract, affecting everything from allergies and inflammation, metabolic diseases like diabetes and obesity, even mental health conditions like depression and anxiety.

Much of the composition of the microbiome is established early in life, shaped by forces like your genetics and whether you were breast-fed or bottle-fed. Microbial diversity may be further undermined by the typical high-calorie American diet, rich in sugar, meats and processed foods. But a new study in mice and people adds to evidence that suggests you can take steps to enrich your gut microbiota. Changing your diet to one containing a variety of plant-based foods, the new research suggests, may be crucial to achieving a healthier microbiome.

Altering your microbiome, however, may not be easy, and nobody knows how long it might take. That’s because the ecosystem already established in your gut determines how it absorbs and processes nutrients. So if the microbial community in your gut has been shaped by a daily diet of cheeseburgers and pepperoni pizza, for example, it won’t respond as quickly to a healthy diet as a gut shaped by vegetables and fruits that has more varied microbiota to begin with.

“The nutritional value of food is influenced in part by the microbial community that encounters that food,” said Dr. Jeffrey Gordon, the senior author of the new paper and director of the Center for Genome Science and Systems Biology at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. Nutritional components of a healthy diet have to be viewed from “the inside out,” he said, “not just the outside in.”

One of the questions the study set out to answer was how individuals with different diets respond when they try to improve their eating habits. The scientists harvested gut bacteria from humans, transplanted them into mice bred under sterile conditions, and then fed the mice either American-style or plant-based diets. The scientists then analyzed changes in the mice’s microbial communities.

Of interest, the scientists harvested the gut bacteria from people who followed sharply different diets. One group ate a fairly typical American diet, consuming about 3,000 calories a day, high in animal proteins with few fruits and vegetables. Some of their favorite foods were processed cheese, pepperoni and lunch meats.

love-your-gut

The other group consisted of people who were devotees of calorie restriction. They ate less than 1,800 calories a day and had meticulously tracked what they ate for at least two years, sticking to a mostly plant-based diet and consuming far less animal protein than the other group, a third fewer carbohydrates and only half the fat.

This calorie-restricted group, the researchers found, had a far richer and more diverse microbial community in the gut than those eating a typical American diet. They also carried several strains of “good” bacteria, known to promote health, that are unique to their plant-based diet. “Their choices as adults dramatically influenced their gut community,” said Nicholas W. Griffin of Washington University, the paper’s lead author.

The study, published in Cell Host & Microbe, is not the first to report findings suggesting dietary shifts can induce persistent changes in a gut microbial community, said Dr. David A. Relman, a professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology at Stanford University, who was not involved in the current research. He noted that other studies had found even more profound effects.

After the human microbiota was transplanted into the mice, the mice got to eat either like typical Americans or like the calorie restrictors.

Mice that had a microbiota conditioned by the typical American diet had a weaker response to the plant-based diet. Their microbial communities didn’t increase and diversify as much. “They all responded in a predictable direction, but with not as great a magnitude,” said Dr. Griffin.

Another aspect of the study suggests the company you keep may also enrich your gut microbiota — at least in mice. At first the animals were kept in separate cages. Then, when they were housed together, the microbes from the communities conditioned by plant diets made their way into the American-diet microbiome.

It’s not clear how that translates to humans: Mice eat one another’s droppings when they live together, so they easily share the bacterial wealth. Still, it’s possible humans have other ways of sharing bacteria, Dr. Griffin said. “We know from previous work and other studies that spouses who live together will develop microbial communities that are similar to each other,” he said.

Perhaps the best way to cultivate a healthier microbiome is to eat more fiber by consuming more fruit, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and nuts or seeds, said Meghan Jardine, a registered dietitian who was not involved in the current study but has published articles on promoting a healthy microbiota. (She is also affiliated with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, which recommends a plant-based diet.) She urges people to aim for 40 to 50 grams of fiber daily, well above levels recommended by most dietary guidelines.

“When you look at populations that eat real food that’s high in fiber, and more plant-based foods, you’re going to see they have a more robust microbiota, with more genetic diversity, healthier species and fewer pathogenic bacteria living in the gut,” she said.

By RONI CARYN RABIN     DEC. 29, 2016


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4 Health Benefits of Cashews

Cashews have a sweet aroma and a delicious taste. They are delightfully crunchy yet have a buttery texture.

This explains why these crescent-shaped nuts are found in so many exotic cuisines around the world. They add flavor, texture and nutrition to stir-fries, salads and curries. Cashews have become the third most consumed nut in the world.

4 Health Benefits of Cashews

1. Helps as an Anti-diabetic
Cashew extract has been found to be effective as an anti-diabetic according to a study at the University of Montreal (Canada) and the Université de Yaoundé (Cameroun). Diabetes affects almost 220 million people in the world and has been found to provoke heart and kidney problems.

2. Nutrients in Cashews Assists Memory
Cashews are particularly high in the nutrient PS (Phosphatidylserine), which studies have shown to help with memory. In fact they have the highest amount of PS of any nut.

3. Good for Hearth Health
Cashes have a lower fat content than other nuts. Almost half of the fat in cashews is the heart-healthy kind which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Cashews are high in oleic acid which is the same heart-healthy monounsaturated fat found in olive oil. Studies show that oleic acid promotes good cardiovascular health. Cashews are also cholesterol free.

Five large studies examined the relation between nut consumption (cashews included) and the risk of CHD (coronary heart disease). The results showed that nut consumption was associated with a positive reduction in CHD risk. Researchers say that this is strong scientific evidence that regular nut consumption is helpful for a healthy and balanced diet. In another study they found consuming nuts (included cashews) lessened the risk of cardiovascular disease in U.S. adults.

cashews

4. Cancer Chemoprevention With Nuts
There have been many studies highlighted in the Oxford Journals about nuts and cancer prevention. The researchers summarized by stating that an increase of nut consumption is associated with a lower cancer occurrence, and they suggest that nut consumption would be effective approach to prevent cancer.

See this chart showing the phytochemicals in certain nuts and how they help in preventing cancer.

Caution: Cashew Nut Allergy can be highly potent.
Allergic symptoms range from simple skin itching (hives) to potentially severe and even life-threatening (anaphylaxis). Other symptoms include breathing difficulty, pain abdomen, vomiting and diarrhea.

Cashew Nutrition
Cashews are lower in calories and in fat compared to most other nuts! They have more protein than most other nuts and much more phosphatidylserine, which is, as already mentioned, helpful for the memory. They are a good source of healthy fats, protein, iron and rich in B vitamins.

Nutrient Cashew Database by USDA: 1/4 cup of cashews has approximately 196 calories, 5g of protein, 2mg Iron, 750mg copper (84% DV), 89mg

Don’t Be Scared of Weight Gain!

Surprisingly, it was found that adults who include nuts into their diets do not have to limit their consumption.  This is according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. There were 31 studies about people adding nuts to their diets by replacing other foods with nuts. These people lost an average of 1.4 pounds and reduced their waist sizes by more than half an inch. It was important that they replaced other foods and did not just add a lot more nuts.

Roasting cashews creates higher levels of nutrients than eating them raw.
The antioxidants in cashews are increased as the roasting temperature increased.
So let’s enjoy eating cashews!
Grab the occasional tasty handful or add them to your meals.

By: Diana Herrington       March 12, 2016       Follow Diana at @DancinginLife


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One in Three American Adults Not Getting Enough Sleep: CDC

ATLANTA | BY RICH MCKAY

Did you get enough sleep last night? If not, you are not alone.

More than one out of three American adults do not get enough sleep, according to a study released Thursday from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“That’s a big problem” says, Dr. Nancy Collop, director of the Emory Sleep Center at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, who is familiar with the study.
“You don’t function as well, your ability to pay attention is reduced, and it can have serious, long term side effects. It can change your metabolism for the worse.”

At least seven hours of sleep is considered healthy for an adults aged 18 to 60, according to the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and the Sleep Research Society.

CDC analyzed data from a 2014 survey of 444,306 adults and found 65.2 percent of respondents reported getting that amount of sleep.

“Lifestyle changes such as going to bed at the same time each night; rising at the same time each morning; and turning off or removing televisions, computers, mobile devices from the bedroom, can help people get the healthy sleep they need,” said Dr. Wayne Giles, director of the CDC’s Division of Population Health, in a statement.

sleep

Getting less than seven hours a night is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, stroke and frequent mental distress, the study shows.

Conducted by the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, the study is the first of its kind to look at all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia.

The study found that among those most likely to get great sleep were married or have a job, with 67 percent and 65 percent respectively saying they get enough. Only 56 percent of divorced adults said they get enough sleep, and just over half of jobless adults sleep seven hours a night regularly.

Among the best sleepers were college graduates, with 72 percent reporting seven hours or more.

The study found geographical differences as well as ethnic disparities. Hawaiian residents get less sleep than those living in South Dakota, the study found. Non-Hispanic whites sleep better than non-Hispanic black residents, with 67 and 54 percent respectively.

(Editing by Karen Brooks and Cynthia Osterman)