Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


1 Comment

The Numbers That Matter Most for Staying Healthy

Health often seems like a numbers game. What’s your blood-sugar level? How many calories are you eating? And are you getting the right percentage of macros (or macronutrients)? The problem is that sometimes we track, count and obsess over numbers that don’t matter very much for our overall health. Or worse, we ignore numbers that do matter.

I was curious about which numbers my fellow dietitians consider the most important. I sought feedback from 20 experts who work in either hospitals or private practice. Here are the data that have the most clinical importance, and the ones they tell their patients to ignore.

The numbers that matter most:

Half your plate. Instead of counting every calorie, dietitians recommend that clients simplify food decisions by using a plate model, where you choose the right proportions of each food. That means filling half your plate with vegetables and some fruit; one quarter with protein-rich foods such as fish, poultry or beans; and the final quarter with whole grains such as quinoa or brown rice. The Healthy Eating Plate from Harvard University is a great example of a plate model.

25 to 35 grams. That’s how much fibre a day we need for optimal health, but most Americans get just 16 grams per day. Getting enough fibre helps lower cholesterol and blood sugar levels, prevents certain cancers, eases constipation and keeps you feeling full for longer, which is helpful for weight management. Get more fibre from vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains (or just follow the healthy-plate model, mentioned above).

7 to 8 hours. Are you getting that much sleep every night? Lack of sleep has short-term consequences, such as poor judgment, increased risk of accidents, bad moods and less ability to retain information. Poor sleep over the long term has been linked to an increased risk of obesity, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. So, turn off the TV, power down your devices and get the rest your body needs.

150 minutes. That’s the recommendation for how much physical activity (equivalent to 2.5 hours) you should get each week, preferably spread through the week in increments of at least 10 minutes. This level of activity helps combat heart disease, stroke, Type 2 diabetes, obesity, dementia and cancer.

100 mg/dl. Your doctor can test your fasting plasma glucose level to check for Type 2 diabetes (a normal reading is less than 100 mg/dl). Often called a “lifestyle” disease, Type 2 diabetes is largely preventable by eating well and getting enough exercise. If you have diabetes, lifestyle changes can actually help you reverse the diagnosis — but first you need to know your number. A diagnosis of prediabetes is 100 to 125 mg/dl., and a diagnosis of diabetes is 126 mg/dl. or higher.

120/80 mmHg. High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it often has no obvious symptoms. Left untreated, high blood pressure is a risk factor for having a heart attack or a stroke. That’s why you need to get your blood pressure checked and know whether you are at risk. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg (millimetres of mercury) or less. Elevated blood pressure is 121 to 129 over 80. High blood pressure is 130 to 139 over 80 to 89.

fat skinny health

The numbers that don’t matter very much:

Size 8. Too many people have a diet goal to be a specific size, but the numbers on clothes are inconsistent and arbitrary. A size 4 at one store may fit like a size 8 at a different store, which makes shopping frustrating — and makes your pant or shirt size a very poor measure of your health. If you don’t like the number on your pants, cut the label out. Focus on how you feel, not the number on the clothing tag.

50 years old. Or 86. Or 31, 75 or 27. Age is just a number. You are never too young to need to take care of yourself, or too old to start an exercise program or change what you eat. A healthy lifestyle is important at every age.

1,800 calories. Or whatever number you choose. You don’t need to count every calorie you eat — it’s tedious, often flawed, and it doesn’t help you choose nutrient-dense foods. If you had the choice between 100 calories of broccoli or fries, you’d probably choose the fries, right? But that wouldn’t provide much nourishment and oversimplifies eating into one silly number. If you are a lifelong calorie counter, there’s no need to give it up, but remember that it’s not the most vital number for your overall health.

40-30-30. Or any other ratio of macronutrients, the umbrella term for carbs, protein and fat. Keeping track of macros is a popular diet, and if it works for you, fantastic! But some dietitians warn that it’s difficult to know the precise macro content of every food you eat, which leads to obsessive use of food diaries and macro-counting apps. This promotes a dieting mentality, rather the concept of enjoying food from a balanced plate. There’s nothing magical about counting macros. It’s just a diet.

Below 25. The body mass index (BMI) is a clinical tool that groups people in categories of normal weight, overweight or obese depending on their height and weight. But BMI doesn’t take age, gender or bone structure into account, and athletes are often classified as overweight because BMI doesn’t distinguish between muscle and fat! So, don’t rely on this number as your primary measure of health.

By CARA ROSENBLOOM       The Washington Post       Thu., July 5, 2018
 
Advertisements


Leave a comment

The Healthiest Way to Cook Mushrooms Is Totally Surprising

Scientists have revealed the best way to cook mushrooms — and it’s not in a frying pan.
Mushrooms are healthy because of the significant amount of dietary fiber, protein, amino acids, vitamins (including B1, B2, B12, C, D and E) and trace minerals that they contain, as well as the fact that they’re low in fat and calories.

But, according to researchers from the Mushroom Technological Research Center of La Rioja in Spain, mushrooms’ composition, antioxidant capacity and nutritional content can be negatively affected by the cooking process.

For the study, which was published in the International Journal of Food Sciences, the team evaluated the influence of boiling, microwaving, grilling and frying white button, shiitake, oyster and king oyster mushrooms. After cooking the four types of mushrooms, which were chosen because they are the most widely consumed species of mushroom worldwide, the samples were freeze-dried and analyzed, with the results compared to raw versions.

The researchers concluded that the best way to cook mushrooms while still preserving their nutritional properties is to grill or microwave them, as the fried and boiled mushrooms showed significantly less antioxidant activity. The fried mushrooms in particular revealed a severe loss in protein and carbohydrate content, but an increase in fat.”Frying and boiling treatments produced more severe losses in proteins and antioxidants compounds, probably due to the leaching of soluble substances in the water or in the oil, which may significantly influence the nutritional value of the final product,” said Irene Roncero, one of the study’s authors, in a statement.

Kate Samuelson     May 22, 2017     TIME Health
 
source: time.com


Leave a comment

Pears: Health Benefits and Nutritional Information

Pears are a mild, sweet fruit with a fibrous center. They are rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids and dietary fiber and pack all of these nutrients in a fat-free, cholesterol-free, 100-calorie package.

Consuming pears may help with weight loss and reduce the risk of developing cancer, hypertension, diabetes, and heart disease, if eaten as part of an overall healthy diet.

This Medical News Today Knowledge Center feature is part of a collection of articles on the health benefits of popular foods. It provides a nutritional breakdown of the pear and an in-depth look at its possible health benefits, how to incorporate more pears into your diet and any potential health risks of consuming pears.

Possible health benefits of consuming pears

Consuming fruits and vegetables of all kinds has long been associated with a reduced risk of a number of health conditions.

Many studies have suggested that increasing consumption of plant foods like pears decreases the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality while promoting a healthy complexion, increased energy, and a lower weight.

Fiber

Pears are rich in important antioxidants, flavonoids, and dietary fiber.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the National Institute of Medicine has developed an AI (Adequate Intake) guideline for fiber.

They recommend that men under the age of 50 consume 38 grams per day and women under the age of 50 consume 25 grams per day.

For adults over 50 years age, the recommendation for men is 30 grams per day and for women is 21 grams per day.

Many people in America do not get even 50 percent of their daily recommendation.

The National Institute of Medicine based its recommendation on a review of the findings from several large studies. They found that diets with 14 grams of fiber for every 1,000 calories were associated with significant reductions in the risk of both coronary heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

The easiest way to increase fiber intake is to increase the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Just one medium-sized pear provides 6 grams of fiber, about 24 percent of the daily need for a woman under 50.

Treating diverticulosis

Diverticulitis is when bulging sacs in the lining of the large intestine become infected or inflamed. High fiber diets have been shown to decrease the frequency of flare-ups of diverticulitis by absorbing water in the colon and making bowel movements easier to pass. Eating a healthful diet including plenty of fruit, vegetables, and fiber can reduce pressure and inflammation in the colon.

Although the exact cause of diverticular disease is still unknown, it has repeatedly been associated with a low fiber diet.

pears

 

Weight loss

Fruits and vegetables that are high in fiber help to keep you feeling fuller for longer and are also low in calories. Increased fiber intake has been shown to enhance weight loss for obese individuals.

Cardiovascular disease and cholesterol

Increased fiber intake has also been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels. A review of 67 separate controlled trials found that even a modest 10-gram per day increase in fiber intake reduced LDL (low-density lipoprotein or “bad” cholesterol) and total cholesterol.

Recent studies have shown that dietary fiber may even play a role in regulating the immune system and inflammation, consequently decreasing the risk of inflammation-related conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity.

Diabetes

A high-fiber diet is associated with a lower risk of developing diabetes and more stable blood sugar levels.

Digestion

The fiber content in pears prevents constipation and promotes regularity for a healthy digestive tract.

Detox

Regular, adequate bowel movements are crucial for the daily excretion of toxins through the bile and stool. Pears are approximately 84 percent water, which helps keep stools soft and flush the digestive system of toxins.

Nutritional breakdown of pears

According to the USDA National Nutrient Database, one medium pear (approximately 178 grams) contains:

  • 101 calories
  • 0 grams of fat
  • 27 grams of carbohydrate (including 17 grams of sugar and 6 grams of fiber)
  • 1 gram of protein

Eating one medium pear would provide 12 percent of daily vitamin C needs, as well as 10 percent of vitamin K, 6 percent of potassium and smaller amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, riboflavin, vitamin B-6, and folate.

Pears also contain carotenoids, flavonols, and anthocyanins (in red-skinned pears). In the Baltimore Longitudinal Study of Aging, pears and apples were found to be among the top contributors of flavonols in the diet.

Possible health risks of consuming pears

Fruits, like apples and pears, contain a higher amount of fructose compared with glucose; they are considered a high FODMAP food. A diet high in FODMAPs may increase gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea in people suffering from irritable bowel disorders.

FODMAP stands for “fermentable oligosaccharides, disaccharides, monosaccharides, and polyols;” these are all forms of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates. A diet low in these types of carbohydrates has been shown to decrease common symptoms for people who are FODMAPs sensitive.

It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual foods as the key to good health.

 
Written by Megan Ware RDN LD
 
Reviewed by University of Illinois-Chicago, School of Medicine Knowledge center             Tue 22 November 2016
 


Leave a comment

9 Reasons To Stop Eating Processed Foods

“There’s a lot of processed food in North America,
and I know that can make some tourists
who are used to fresh food feel sick.”
– Wolfgang Puck

Wolfgang Puck is a famous chef and restaurateur that was born in Austria. As a foreign-born food expert, Puck is knowledgeable in regards to the prolific presence of processed food that is unique to the United States and other countries. He is one among many experts that testify to the harmful nature of food that undergoes processing.

As a reference, processed food is defined as “any deliberate change in a food that occurs before it’s available for us to eat.” This rather ambiguous definition doesn’t identify what makes some (not all) processed foods harmful. Mechanical processing – the physical actions required to grow, harvest and produce foods – doesn’t alter the nature of food and isn’t harmful.

Chemical processing – altering the chemical makeup of foods through additives and other artificial substances – can indeed be harmful to one’s health. Artificial substances include sweeteners, preservatives and other elements. The inherent risk of such substances is a public safety concern in many countries, and for legitimate reasons.

HERE ARE NINE REASONS TO STOP EATING PROCESSED FOODS IMMEDIATELY:

1. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN DISPROPORTIONATE AMOUNTS OF SUGAR OR CORN SYRUP
Foods that contain sugar essentially contain empty calories. In other words, these calories provide no nutritional value. Studies have shown that these empty calories can have a harmful effect on the metabolism and cardiovascular system. The diabetes epidemic also strongly correlates with sugar consumption. Corn syrup, particularly of the high fructose variety, has been found to increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, obesity, dementia and liver failure.

2. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN TOO MANY ARTIFICIAL INGREDIENTS
Many ingredients listed on the labels of processed foods cannot be properly read. This is because these ingredients are chemicals, and most chemicals have unpronounceable names. Many additives and preservatives contribute to potentially harmful physical effects, from common fatigue to heart disease.

junk food

3. PROCESSED FOODS ARE HIGH IN REFINED CARBOHYDRATES
Refined carbohydrates are sugars and starches that have been modified (refined). The problem is that this refinement process empties the food of its nutritional value, including its fiber content.  Of course, many sugars and starches contribute to a number of adverse health conditions.

4. PROCESSED FOODS ARE USUALLY LACKING IN NUTRIENTS
The processing of food often empties the food of its nutritional value. Even though many of these foods are infused with synthetic (read: artificial) nutrients, the quality of nutrition derived from such is far superior compared to whole, unprocessed foods.

5. PROCESSED FOODS ARE LOW IN FIBER CONTENT
Fiber has many different roles to play in the development and maintenance of a healthy body. Primarily known to aid digestion, fiber also helps to: produce healthy bacteria, slow the absorption of carbohydrates, and create feelings of satiety.

6. PROCESSED FOODS HARM METABOLIC FUNCTION
Because of the chemical makeup of processed foods – absence of fiber, nutrition, satiety and sustenance – our digestive system and metabolism operate poorly. The cumulate effects result in more food consumed and less food energy expended. In other words, we eat more stuff and burn less fat and calories as a result of eating processed foods.

7. PROCESSED FOODS CONTAIN PESTICIDES
To grow and harvest GMO’s (Genetically Modified Organisms), farmers must use pesticides and herbicides to preserve the area where they are grown. Often, these pesticides and herbicides will penetrate both the soil and the crop itself. Needless to say, chemicals designed to eradicate insects and vegetation are not well-received by the human body. These chemicals have been linked to an assortment of functional and developmental problems, including cancer.

8. PROCESSED FOODS CAUSE INFLAMMATION
Various studies have shown that artificial ingredients such as processed flours, vegetable oils and refined sugars can cause or worsen cases of inflammation. Inflammation has been linked to a variety of maladies including dementia, respiratory problems and neurological disorders.

9. PROCESSED FOOD IS OFTEN HIGH IN TRANS-FAT OR VEGETABLE OIL
Hydrogenated oils such as vegetable oil often contain an excessive amount of Omega-6 fatty acids, which has been linked to inflammation and oxidation issues. Studies have demonstrated that these substances carry and increased risk of heart disease.

source: www.powerofpositivity.com    JULY 26, 2016


Leave a comment

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


1 Comment

Easily Digestible Foods

Human body is designed to complete the hardest processes with ease, but some functions are rather complicated and aren’t carried out by your body as smoothly as you may think. Your digestive system is quite complicated for instance. You will find it easy to chew and digest certain foods, such as bananas, but it will be difficult to digest other foods like sugarcane or dry fruits. Certain foods are easy for your digestive system to break down into smaller parts, and these are called easily digestible foods. Keep reading to find out more about differences about them and the reasons why they are good for you.

4 Easily Digestible Foods Categories

Whether you have a cranky digestive system or you have recently been diagnosed with a digestive disorder, it is always helpful to have some information about easily digestible foods. These foods are basically divided into four food categories as listed below.

1.  Low-Fiber Foods

Eating dietary fiber has its benefits. It helps control blood cholesterol levels and promotes regular bowel movements as well. However, if you don’t drink enough water, too much of dietary fiber may lead to constipation. Watermelon, bananas, honeydew melon, peach, white breads, dry cereals, zucchini, cucumber, tofu, fish are some of the examples of low-fiber foods.

2.  Low-Fat Foods

Saturated fat obtained from animal sources is quite dense. Your body needs lots of stomach acid as well as bile from your gallbladder to digest fat. You will face indigestion issues if you don’t produce enough stomach acid or have issues related to liver. So you should add low-fat foods to your diet. Water-packed albacore tuna, skinless chicken breast, and scrambled egg whites are some of the most common examples of low-fat foods.

3.  Steamed Vegetables

Most vegetables are rich in fiber, but steaming them until they become soft will reduce the amount of indigestible fiber in them. The good thing is that steaming will not affect the mineral and vitamin content of vegetables. You can even boil vegetables to make them more digestible, but the minerals and vitamins will leach out into the cooking water.

4.  Juicing

You can process vegetables and fruits in a juicing machine to get rid of fiber and feed your body with all the nutrients. Blended smoothies will make your vegetables and fruits even more digestible, but they may still contain fiber. Pineapple, berries, beets and carrots are some great fruits and vegetables used for juicing.

40 More Popular and Easily Digestible Foods

As what we have talked above, you can find a variety of foods that don’t put too much pressure on your digestive system.Here are some of the most popular easily digestible foods.

1.  Brown Rice

Even though it is a great source of carbohydrates and contains fiber too, brown rice is still a better choice as compared to white rice. You can eat brown rice without having to worry too much about constipation, gas and diarrhea.

2.  Bananas

Bananas are extremely beneficial for your digestive system because they contain potassium and are a good source of fiber as well. They also provide you with 17% of your daily requirement of vitamin C. Just peel it and eat to boost your digestive system.

Bananas

 

3.  Avocados

Avocados stimulate your digestive system and are quite light on your stomach. Due to its nice texture, you can chew it up easily and break it down to smaller pieces which in turn facilitate digestion. Avocados are quite beneficial because they contain potassium, health fat and moderate fiber as well.

4.  Leafy Vegetables

Leafy veggies like spinach, cabbage, etc. are extremely beneficial for your health because they help flush out toxins and any foodstuffs that your stomach cannot digest. These vegetables are also extremely helpful when you want to lose weight.

5.  Oatmeal

Enjoy oatmeal in the breakfast and you won’t have to face any digestive problems throughout the day. It has high fiber content and can lower a cholesterol level on your body. However, you may need to avoid the instant oatmeal that’s available in packets.

6.  Yogurt

Unlike other dairy products, yogurt is quite easy to digest. That’s mainly due to the presence of probiotics in yogurt. It also contains calcium and protein, and is good for your bones and overall health.

7.  Sauerkraut

This fermented cabbage is quite easy to digest and can even boost your body’s ability to digest other foods. This is because it has the lactic acid bacteria that help with digestion.

8.  Kimchi

Even though it is spicy, it still helps prevent indigestion mainly due to the fermentation process. It usually takes months to prepare Kimchi. There are even special refrigerators used to maintain proper temperature required for proper fermentation.

9.  Salmon

All varieties of fish contain omega-3 fatty acids and protein, but salmon is among the most easily digestible fish. It contains protein and omega-3s with little fat and cholesterol. Opt for baked salmon that doesn’t upset your stomach and is also delicious.

10.  Chicken Breast

Lean meat like chicken breast, lean turkey, lean pork and lean beef is always easy on your stomach. Chicken breast is rich in minerals, vitamins and proteins. The only thing to remember is that it doesn’t have any fiber, so eat it with another fiber-rich food. Don’t eat fried chickenas it may be a bit uneasy for your digestive system.

11.  Eggs

Most people face no issues eating all varieties of eggs. Egg is a rich source of protein and minerals. Chicken eggs are probably the best for digestion, but you can also get similar benefits from duck eggs. Boiled or scrambled eggs are the best for your digestive system because they don’t contain oil.


Below are 30 foods that won’t disturb your stomach.

30 More Easily Digestible Foods

  • Pulses
  • Cereals
  • Onions
  • Porridge
  • Prunes
  • Toast
  • Soda crackers
  • Gelatin
  • Peas
  • Bread
  • Wheat sprouts
  • Baked turkey
  • Broth
  • Sourdough
  • Green beans
  • Peer
  • Papaya
  • Blue berries
  • Corns
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Buckwheat
  • Nuts
  • Raspberries
  • Millet
  • Soybeans
  • Asparagus
  • Peanut butter
  • Potatoes
  • Red beets
  • Cod liver oil


5 Comments

9 Ways Eating Bananas Can Benefit Your Health

If you’re like many people, no trip to the grocery store is complete until you add a bunch of bananas to your cart.

Bananas are inexpensive, tasty, and versatile, but the best reason to eat them is their health benefits. Read on to learn how this curvy, yellow wonder can help you stay well.

1. Tames Your Tummy
If you’ve ever had the stomach flu or food poisoning, you’ve probably been told to eat the BRAT diet during recovery. BRAT stands for bananas, rice, applesauce, and toast. Bananas are included in the acronym for good reason. They are bland enough to pass through the digestive tract easily, their potassium helps replenish lost electrolytes, and their fiber adds bulk to your stool to help calm diarrhea.

Some pregnant women report that bananas help ease morning sickness. It makes sense since bananas are high in vitamin B-6. One medium banana provides about 20 percent of your recommended daily intake. According to the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS), studies led by the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommend vitamin B-6 supplements during pregnancy to treat nausea and vomiting. Eating a few raw bananas each day may be a fresh alternative.

2. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
The potassium in bananas may help lower blood pressure. Two medium bananas provide a quarter of your daily allowance.

According to the American Heart Association, potassium helps lower blood pressure by reducing sodium’s effects on the body. They recommend that bananas and other foods containing potassium be part of an overall dietary plan to lower blood pressure. The plan should also include watching your salt, fat, and saturated fat intake.

3. Helps Lower Stroke Risk
The potassium in bananas doesn’t just impact blood pressure. If you’re a postmenopausal woman, it may reduce your stroke risk too.

According to the American Heart Association’s Rapid Journal Report, a study published in Stroke showed that postmenopausal women who eat high-potassium foods are less likely to have strokes and die from them than women who eat fewer potassium-rich foods. The study also suggests a benefit to increasing potassium in the diet before you develop high blood pressure.

4. Provides an Energy Boost
If you need an energy boost during exercise or otherwise, try eating a banana. A study published in PLoS ONE suggested that bananas are as beneficial as sports electrolyte drinks during exercise.

In fact, bananas may be superior. They deliver potassium, carbohydrates, fiber, and vitamin B-6 in an all-natural package. Sports drinks contain nutrients, but also processed sugar and artificial ingredients.

The next time you feel sluggish and need a pick-me-up, reach for a banana instead of a sports drink, soda, or other sugary beverage.

5. Good Source of Magnesium
Magnesium is a mineral that helps every organ and system in your body function normally. According to ODS, magnesium is important to protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, energy production, glucose control, and blood pressure control.

Magnesium deficiency may lead to:

  • loss of appetite
  • migraines
  • osteoporosis
  • nausea and vomiting
  • numbness and tingling
  • heart rhythm issues
  • seizures

Alcoholism, type 2 diabetes, gastrointestinal disorders, and poor diet can increase you risk of deficiency.

Two medium bananas have 16 percent of the recommended daily value. Adding bananas to your daily diet, especially if you have a health condition that depletes magnesium, may help you from becoming deficient.

6. Good Source of Manganese
Manganese isn’t a mineral you hear about often, but it’s critical to good health.

Manganese helps metabolize carbohydrates, cholesterol, and amino acids. It also plays an important role in bone development and wound healing.

Some studies suggest women with osteoporosis have lower levels of manganese than women without the condition. Manganese may also help prevent migraines, reduce the risk of pregnancy complications, and decrease the risk of death after a heart attack.

Two medium bananas have over 30 percent of your daily dietary allowance of manganese.

bananas

7. Good Source of Fiber
Most people don’t get anywhere near the recommended daily allowance of fiber, which is 38 grams daily for men 50 and under, and 25 grams for women. Fiber helps maintain bowel health and keep your bowels moving. It also helps to lower cholesterol and control blood sugar.

Fiber may help you lose weight by keeping you fuller longer. High-fiber foods like fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and oats are lower in unhealthy fats and calories than most so-called diet foods.

Two medium bananas contain 6 grams of fiber, which is about 23 percent of your daily fiber allowance. While you still have some distance to go to meet your goal, adding bananas to your diet helps get you there.

8. Helps Relieve Heartburn and Prevent Ulcers
According to research published in the Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, bananas are natural antacids and work by neutralizing acid.

They also contain a flavonoid antioxidant called leucocyanidin which helps increase the mucous membrane layer in the stomach. This may help prevent stomach ulcers from forming or worsening.

9. Healthy Skin
Don’t throw away those overripe bananas! Use them to make a nourishing face mask.

While evidence is anecdotal, the theory behind the natural beauty treatment is sound. Bananas contain vitamin C, an antioxidant necessary for collagen production and that helps limit UV damage. Bananas are also reported to help treat acne, absorb oil, and moisturize dry skin.

To make a banana mask, mash a ripe banana until a paste forms. Apply to clean skin and leave on at least 15 minutes, and then rinse thoroughly. For added moisture, add a teaspoon of honey or plain Greek yogurt. The mask is messy, so keep a towel handy.

Ways to Enjoy Bananas
If you want to enjoy the health benefits of bananas, but you don’t like eating them plain, you’re in luck. Bananas are delicious in milkshakes, smoothies, and parfaits. They are tasty solo or sliced onto whole grain pancakes, oatmeal, and your favorite cold cereals.

Try these healthy banana recipes.

Banana-Oatmeal Smoothie
This healthful treat is great for breakfast, lunch, or snack time. It combines bananas with oatmeal, almond milk, and Greek yogurt. View the recipe.

Maple-Sweetened Banana Muffins
If you’re looking for a healthier banana muffin, look no further. This recipe features mashed bananas, coconut oil, maple syrup, oats, and whole-wheat flour. View the recipe.

Grilled Banana
If you’ve never tried a grilled banana, you don’t know what you’re missing. Grilling fruit brings out its natural sweetness. This recipe tops the banana with a dash of cinnamon. View the recipe.

Chocolate-Banana Ice Cream
Simply blend two frozen bananas and 1 tablespoon cocoa powder. Sweet, creamy, and healthy!

The Takeaway
When it comes to healthy fruit, you can’t do much better than bananas.

They’re low in calories, have no fat, and are packed with essential vitamins and minerals. Since bananas are inexpensive, portable, versatile, and easily fit into any healthy eating plan, there’s no excuse not to eat them.

To reap their health benefits, simply eat them in place of a couple unhealthy foods or snacks each day.

Article resources
Basic report bananas, raw. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/2159?manu=&fgcd=
Digestive Health Team. (2014, December 24). Mom’s advice is still the best for treating diarrhea. Retrieved from http://health.clevelandclinic.org/2014/12/moms-advice-is-still-the-best-for-treating-diarrhea/
Higdon, J. (2010, March). Manganese. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/manganese
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2015, September 22). Dietary fiber: Essential for a healthy diet. Retrieved from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/fiber/art-20043983
Michels, A. J. (2011, September). Vitamin C and skin health. Retrieved from http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/micronutrients-health/skin-health/nutrient-index/vitamin-C
Nieman, D. C., Gillitt, N. D., Henson, D. A., Sha, W., Shanely, R. A., Knab, A. M., Cialdella-Kam, L., & Jin, F. (2012, May 17). Bananas as an energy source during exercise: A metabolomics approach. PLoS ONE, 7(5), e37479. Retrieved from http://www.plosone.org/article/fetchObject.action?uri=info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0037479&representation=PDF
Nutrition facts: Bananas, raw. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/fruits-and-fruit-juices/1846/2
Potassium and high blood pressure. (2014, August 4). Retrieved from http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp#.Vr5TJvIrLIU
Sampath Kumar, K.P., Bhowmik, D., Duraivel, S., & Umadevi. M. (2012). Traditional and Medicinal Uses of Banana. Journal of Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry, 1(3), 51-63. Retrieved from http://www.phytojournal.com/vol1Issue3/Issue_sept_2012/9.1.pdf
Vitamin B6 fact sheet for consumers. (2011, September 15). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-Consumer/
Vitamins B6. (2011, September 15). Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB6-HealthProfessional/

Written by Annette McDermott      Medically Reviewed by Natalie Butler, RD, LD on 25 February 2016