Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness

1 Comment

Organic Food Provides Significant Environmental Benefits To Plant-Rich Diets

The study of more than 34,000 people is the first to investigate the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems

A study of the diets of 34,000 people confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. This is the first-ever study to look at the environmental impacts of both food choices and farm production systems.

A major new study confirms that a diet high in fruit and vegetables is better for the planet than one high in animal products. The study also finds that organic food provides significant, additional climate benefits for plant-based diets, but not for diets with only moderate contribution from plant products. Published today in open access journal Frontiers in Nutrition, this is the first study to investigate the environmental impacts of both dietary patterns and farm production systems. It is also the first to investigate the environmental impact of organic food consumption using observed diets rather than models.

Many organizations, including the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, advocate the urgent adoption of more sustainable diets at a global level. Such diets include reduced consumption of animal products, which have a higher environmental impact than plant-based products. This is mainly due to the high energy requirements of livestock farming as well as the very large contribution of livestock to greenhouse gas emissions. Intensive livestock production is also responsible for significant biodiversity loss due to conversion of natural habitats to grass and feed crops.

The method of food production may also influence sustainable diets. Organic agriculture is generally considered more environmentally friendly than other modern production techniques. However, while many studies have investigated environmentally sustainable diets, these have rarely considered both dietary choices and the production method of the foods consumed.

“We wanted to provide a more comprehensive picture of how different diets impact the environment,” says Louise Seconda from the French Agence De L’Environnement Et De La Maitrise De L’Energie and the Nutritional Epidemiology Research Unit one of the article’s authors. “In particular, it is of considerable interest to consider the impacts of both plant-based foods and organic foods.”

To do this, researchers obtained information on food intake and organic food consumption from more than 34,000 French adults. They used what’s called a ‘provegetarian’ score to determine preferences for plant-based or animal-based food products. The researchers also conducted production life cycle environmental impact assessments at the farm level against three environmental indicators: greenhouse gas emissions, cumulative energy demand and land occupation.

“Combining consumption and farm production data we found that across the board, diet-related environmental impacts were reduced with a plant-based diet — particularly greenhouse gas emissions,” says Louise Seconda. “The consumption of organic food added even more environmental benefits for a plant-based diet. In contrast, consumption of organic food did not add significant benefits to diets with high contribution from animal products and only moderate contribution from plant products.”

However the researchers caution that the environmental effects of production systems are not uniform and can be impacted by climate, soil types and farm management.

“We didn’t look at other indicators such as pesticide use, leaching and soil quality which are relevant to the environmental impacts of productions systems,” says Louise Seconda. “Therefore future studies could also consider these as well as supply chain and distribution impacts of food production.”

The authors also say it will be important to conduct further studies to confirm these results and to expand our understanding of how the entire food production lifecycle impacts sustainability.

Journal Reference:
Camille Lacour, Louise Seconda, Benjamin Allès, Serge Hercberg, Brigitte Langevin, Philippe Pointereau, Denis Lairon, Julia Baudry, Emmanuelle Kesse-Guyot. Environmental Impacts of Plant-Based Diets: How Does Organic Food Consumption Contribute to Environmental Sustainability? Frontiers in Nutrition, 2018; 5 DOI: 10.3389/fnut.2018.00008


1 Comment

How to Stay Hydrated When You Don’t Like Water

If a tall, cold glass of water is not really your thing, hitting your daily water needs can seem out of reach. Here are some healthy ways to stay hydrated, even if you don’t like plain old water.

Whenever I write about staying hydrated, I hear from folks who just don’t like water. And honestly, plain water is not my favorite thing either. If I’m very thirsty, I crave a glass of water, but it’s hard to get jazzed about water on a regular day.

The trick with drinking more fluids is that you don’t want to add a bunch of sugary drinks, like soda and juice, to your daily routine. Drinking your calories is bad news for maintaining a healthy body weight, and excess sugar is linked to chronic disease and even depression.

The good news is that there are ways to stay hydrated without drinking glass after glass of plain water or resorting to sugary drinks. These are some of my favorite healthy, hydrating tricks.

1. Eat your water
At a recent nutrition conference I attended, one of the doctors said that if you eat a lot of fruit and veggies, you don’t end up needing to drink as much, because you’re actually eating your water. A 2013 study found that eating more fruits and vegetables can make you significantly more hydrated without upping the water you’re drinking at all.

Choose fruits and veggies with high water content, like melons, strawberries, lettuce, celery and cabbage. Check out this chart, which breaks out food and drink by their percentage of water content.

2. Pass the bubbles
No, a mimosa is not a healthy, hydrating drink, but sparkling water can help you hit your water mark. Soda water or seltzer sometimes get a bad rep, but most experts agree that they’re just as hydrating as water.

The biggest myth about carbonated water is that it leaches calcium from your bones. This is not true. Drinking lots of soda is linked to lower bone density, but the bubbles are not to blame. Excessive sugar consumption (like from drinking lots of sweet sodas), on the other hand, does have links to osteoporosis. Maybe this is where that myth got started.

3. Flavored water
Skip the artificially sweetened, colored and flavored drink packets, and flavor your own water at home. To make your own flavored water, just squeeze in some fresh lemon or lime juice or float cut fruit or herbs in your glass. It’s visually appealing and a lot healthier than a super sweet soda or artificially flavored drink. Plus, you end up with a little snack at the bottom of your glass!

I like to use this trick with flat or sparkling water, so try each and see which one you like best! Try some of my Fruity Fizz combos to get you started. Pro tip: frozen fruit pieces actually work best here, because they release more flavor as they thaw.

4. Tea up
Whether you drink it hot or iced, unsweet tea gives you a nice flavor boost with no added sugars. Different teas each come with their own health benefits, so you get a healthy double whammy when you choose unsweetened teas.

If you’re a sweet tea or soda drinker now, going straight to unsweet tea is not going to be pleasant. I’d recommend making a gradual switch so your palate has time to adapt. Start with 3/4 the amount of sugar for a week, then go to 1/2 the amount, then 1/4. From there, you should be able to cut out the sugar without missing it too much. It will be an adjustment, but it’s so worth it for your health!

5. Ditch the juice (mostly)
The tips above are for drinks to add to your daily routine, but I think that juice deserves its own mention, because it gets a lot more healthy cred than I feel it deserves. Drinking more sweet juices is not doing your body any favors. Sweet juices like apple, orange and grapefruit are basically uncarbonated soda. Even juices without added sugars contain high levels of fructose without any of the fiber that makes fruit healthy.

There are some exceptions when it comes to juices. Not all juice is high in sugar. Lemon, lime, unsweetened cranberry and most vegetable juices are not going to add a lot of sugar to your diet. A splash of unsweetened cranberry in water or seltzer is one of my favorite everyday drinks, and it’s very low in sugar. If you’re not sure whether the juice you’re drinking is high in sugar, look at the nutrition label. Many popular juices contain as much sugar as soda. Apple juice, for example, has 24 grams of sugar per eight ounce serving. Eight ounces of Coca Cola contains 26 grams.

by Becky Striepe
source: www.care2.com

Leave a comment

This ‘Superfruit’ Improves Memory and Cognitive Function

Eating blueberries could help improve memory and cognitive function, a new study finds.

Researchers recruited 47 older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Some of them had the equivalent of a cup of blueberries in powder form each day for 16 weeks.

Others had a placebo powder.

Professor Robert Krikorian, who led the research, explained the results:

“There was improvement in cognitive performance and brain function in those who had the blueberry powder compared with those who took the placebo.
The blueberry group demonstrated improved memory and improved access to words and concepts.
Our new findings corroborate those of previous animal studies and preliminary human studies, adding further support to the notion that blueberries can have a real benefit in improving memory and cognitive function in some older adults.”

A second study examined older people who thought their memories might be declining, but who did not have a diagnosis.

They were split into four groups with comparison groups for fish oil and various other combinations.

Professor Krikorian said:

“The results were not as robust as with the first study.
Cognition was somewhat better for those with powder or fish oil separately, but there was little improvement with memory.”

It could be that the blueberries are better for people with some impairments and not so effective for those who are more healthy, Professor Krikorian said.

The study was presented at the at the 251st National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS).

MARCH 15, 2016
source: PsyBlog

Leave a comment

Depression: This Tiny Change to Diet Has Protective Effect

This small change to your diet could be enough to reduce the risk of depression.

A Mediterranean diet including fruits, vegetables and legumes can prevent depression, a large new study finds.

People only had to make relatively small changes to see the benefits.

The scientist think that depression could be partly down to a lack of essential nutrients.

The study included 15,093 people who were followed over 10 years.

People who reported eating more nuts, fruits and vegetables were considered to be following the Mediterranean diet more closely.

Those who ate more meats and sweets were considered to be moving away from the healthy diet.

The benefits of the diet are likely related to higher levels of omega 3 and other essential nutrients.

Dr Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, who led the research, said:

“We wanted to understand what role nutrition plays in mental health, as we believe certain dietary patterns could protect our minds.
These diets are all associated with physical health benefits and now we find that they could have a positive effect on our mental health.
The protective role is ascribed to their nutritional properties, where nuts, legumes, fruits and vegetables (sources of omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins and minerals) could reduce the risk of depression.”

Relatively small dietary changes were enough to reduce depression risk, Dr Sanchez-Villegas explained:

“A threshold effect may exist.
The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet.
Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression.
However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.
So, once the threshold is achieved, the reduced risk plateaus even if participants were stricter with their diets and eating more healthily.
This dose-response pattern is compatible with the hypothesis that suboptimal intake of some nutrients (mainly located in low adherence levels) may represent a risk factor for future depression.”

The research was published in the journal BMC Medicine (Sánchez-Villegas et al., 2015).
source: PsyBlog

Leave a comment

3 Tasty Foods That Protect The Brain From Ageing

Some foods can keep your brain young.

Blackberries, blueberries and strawberries all reduce cognitive decline related to age, research finds.

All three fruits contain high levels of flavonoids.

Flavonoids are powerful antioxidants that can also help reduce inflammation in the brain and body.

The research was carried out on data from 121,700 women, who were followed up over decades.

Dr Elizabeth Devore, the study’s first author, said:

“As the U.S. population ages, understanding the health issues facing this group becomes increasingly important.
Our study examined whether greater intake of berries could slow rates of cognitive decline.”

The results showed that high berry intake was linked to a delay in cognitive ageing equivalent to 2.5 years.

In other words: berries made their brains work as though they were 2.5 years younger.

Dr Devore said:

“We provide the first epidemiologic evidence that berries may slow progression of cognitive decline in elderly women.
Our findings have significant public health implications as increasing berry intake is a fairly simple dietary modification to test cognition protection in older adults.”

Berries are also one of the central components in the ‘MIND’ diet, which is linked to a reduced risk of Alzheimer’s disease.

Blueberries in particular seem to have a powerful effect on the brain.

One recent study looked at the effects of concentrated blueberry juice:

“Concentrated blueberry juice improves cognitive function in older people, new research finds.
Those who drank the juice also had better blood flow and activation in their brains as well as improvements to working memory.
The boost to brain power is likely down to the flavonoids in blueberries.”

Strawberries also have other research backing up their protective effects, as do walnuts.

The study was published in the journal Annals of Neurology (Devore et al., 2012).

source: PsyBlog

Leave a comment

Five Foods That May Increase Your IQ

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

Fish and Omega-3 Sources

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

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

Fruits and Vegetables

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

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

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

Iron-Rich Foods

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

Other Protein-Rich Foods

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

Get Plenty of B Vitamins and Choline

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

by JESSICA BRUSO       Jun 17, 2015

Leave a comment

Targeting Gut Bacteria May Be The Key To Preventing Alzheimer’s

Diet could be a powerful mode of prevention.

A new study suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

Mounting research continues to show the links between the health of the gut and that of the brain. Now, a new study from Lund University in Sweden finds that unhealthy intestinal flora can accelerate the development of Alzheimer’s disease.

The report, published Feb. 8 in the journal Scientific Reports, demonstrates that mice with Alzheimer’s have a different gut bacterial profile than those that do not have the disease.

The gut microbiome is highly responsive to dietary and lifestyle factors. This suggests that a gut-healthy diet may play a powerful role in preventing one of the most feared diseases in America.

“Alzheimer’s is a preventable disease and in the near future we will likely be able to give advice on what to eat to prevent it,” study author Dr. Frida Fak Hållenius, associate professor at the university’s Food for Health Science Centre, told The Huffington Post. “Take care of your gut bacteria, by eating lots of whole-grains, fruits and vegetables.”

In the new study, Hållenius and her colleagues revealed a direct causal association between gut bacteria and signs of Alzheimer’s in mice. When a group of bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of rodents with Alzheimer’s, they developed brain plaques indicative of Alzheimer’s. When the bacteria-free mice were colonized with the bacteria of the healthy rodents, however, they developed significantly fewer brain plaques.

Beta-amyloid plaques between nerve cells in the brain are a central marker of the disease. These sticky protein clumps accumulate between the brain’s neurons, disrupting signals and contributing to the gradual killing off of nerve cells.

“We don’t yet know how bacteria can affect brain pathology, we are currently investigating this,” Hållenius said. “We think that bacteria may affect regulatory T-cells in the gut, which can control inflammatory processes both locally in the gut and systemically ― including the brain.”

The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated.

The gut microbiome is intimately connected with the immune system, since many of the body’s immune cells are found in this area of the stomach, Hållenius added.

Anything that happens in the digestive tract can affect the immune system, she explained. “By changing the gut microbiota composition, you affect the immune system of the host to a large extent.”

The findings suggest that Alzheimer’s may be more more preventable than health experts previously thought. The composition of bacteria in the gut is determined by a mix of genetics and lifestyle factors. Diet, exercise, stress and toxin exposure all play a huge role in the gut’s bacterial makeup.

Now, the researchers can begin investigating ways to prevent the disease and delay its onset by targeting gut bacteria early on. And in the meantime, anyone can adopt a plant-based, whole foods diet and probiotic supplementation as a way to improve the health of their microbiome.

“The diet shapes the microbial community in the gut to a large extent, so dietary strategies will be important in prevention of Alzheimer’s,” Hållenius said. “We are currently working on food design that will modulate the gut microbiota towards a healthier state.”

The study is far from the first to show a connection between gut bacteria and Alzheimer’s. In a 2014 paper published in the journal Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, researchers listed 10 different ways that the microbiome may contribute to the development of Alzheimer’s disease, including fungal and bacterial infections in the intestinal tract and increased permeability of the blood-brain barrier.

“The contributions of microbes to multiple aspects of human physiology and neurobiology in health and disease have up until now not been fully appreciated,” that study’s authors wrote.

By Carolyn Gregoire      Feb 21, 2017