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Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Massive Study Yields Exciting Findings about Gut Health and the Microbiome

Gut health could be the biggest trend in the health field right now. Everywhere I turn people are discussing the importance of their gut health and how it is linked to their overall health, as well as the benefits of probiotics. And, for good reason: a growing body of research shows that what happens in our gut expands well beyond the gut.

Now new research shows that the health of your gut is significantly influenced by what you eat. A new study assessed 15096 fecal samples provided by 11336 people, published in the journal of the American Society for Microbiology, found some exciting facts about gut health and the microbiome, which is the total of all the microbes in a living being.

We each have a microbiome and no two microbiomes are alike, although there can be some similarities between them. The microbiome is a sort of microbial fingerprint. And, thanks to the new research, we have greater insight into the effect of diet on our microbiome. Here are some of the findings from this exciting study:

1) Plant-based diets produce the most diverse microbiomes. Diverse microbiomes seem to confer health benefits. Consider people who struggle to lose weight: earlier research in the journal Beneficial Microbes shows that they tend to have less diverse strains of beneficial bacteria and a lower ratio of beneficial microbes to harmful ones.

2) Eating more than 30 types of plant foods weekly yields the most diverse microbiome. In other words, it’s important to eat a plant-based diet but also one that has tremendous diversity. So, expand your horizons when it comes to trying new vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds and grains. Your microbiome will thank you. And, who knows? You might even discover a new favorite food.

3) There is a lower incidence of bacterial resistance in those who eat the greatest variety of plant foods weekly. This is great news since more and more varieties of harmful bacteria like E. coli and MRSA are, not only becoming more prevalent, they are also becoming resistant to the typical drug treatment: antibiotics. This is an astounding discovery on its own. We tend to assume that all of a certain variety of bacteria have the same level of potency against humans, but the research shows that people who eat a large variety of plant-based foods are less likely to be host to these disease-causing, resistant bacteria. People who ate more than 30 types of plant foods weekly had less resistance to antibiotics.

4) The gut bacteria of people suffering from mental health issues, including: post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), schizophrenia, depression or bipolar disorder were more similar to others suffering from mental disorders than to those who do not suffer from mental disorders. While the scientists conducting the study did not draw any conclusions, there may be a possible connection between gut health and mental health. Certainly other research suggests that is indeed the case. Research in the Journal of Physiological Anthropology found a link between gut bacteria and increased activity in brain pathways that improve brain health and reduce depression risk.

microbiome

How can you reap the benefits of this exciting research?

There are endless ways to boost the variety of plant-based foods you consume, but the following ones should help you get started:

  1.    Start by replacing meat in your diet with plant-based options. Start with Meatless Mondays but don’t hesitate to go meatless the rest of the week as well
  2.    The next time you pass by that odd-looking fruit or vegetable in the produce section of your grocery store, add it to your cart. It’s easy enough to find recipes for lesser-known foods using a quick Internet search. And, most importantly, add the food to your diet.
  3.    Instead of just snacking on almonds or another nut, branch out to try Brazil nuts, cashews, hazelnuts, pecans, pistachios, etc. Choose raw, unsalted varieties.
  4.    Rather than just add a can of kidney beans to your soup, stew, or chili, opt for bean varieties you are less familiar with. That could include: chickpeas, lentils, pinto beans, Romano beans, black beans, navy beans, etc.
  5.    The next time a snack attack strikes, choose a piece of fruit or a bowl of mixed berries.
  6.    When you have a craving for salty foods, choose traditionally-fermented pickles, pickled green beans, pickled beets or other foods with live cultures. Not only will you be getting a wider variety and a greater quantity of plant-based foods, you’ll also help expand the beneficial microbes you consume. Be sure to choose pickled foods that state “live cultures” or “unpasteurized” on the label.

 

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is the publisher of the free e-newsletter World’s Healthiest News, the Cultured Cook, co-founder of BestPlaceinCanada, and an international best-selling and 20-time published book author whose works include: The Cultured Cook: Delicious Fermented Foods with Probiotics to Knock Out Inflammation, Boost Gut Health, Lose Weight & Extend Your Life.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook May 31, 2018
 Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook
 
source: www.care2.com
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Small Changes To Make That Can Have a MAJOR Impact on Health

Big changes like cutting out all carbs or training for a marathon are great—but you don’t have to remake yourself to have a dramatic impact on your health. Try a few of these baby steps to get you started in the right direction.

Add a fruit or veggie to every meal

Not ready to give up a bad habit yet? Start by creating an easy good-for-you habit instead. “Less than one in three individuals gets even two servings of fruits and vegetables per day,” says Erin Palinski-Wade, RD, CDE, LDN, CPT, author of 2 Day Diabetes Diet. “By adding one serving to each meal, you can get in at least three servings per day and be ahead of the curve. A half of a banana on your breakfast cereal, a small side salad with your sandwich at lunch, and adding 1/2 cup of cooked veggies into your pasta can pack in more fiber, antioxidants, and nutrients—all which have been found to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even certain cancers.”

Work on your hips

“If you have a sedentary job, focus on some hip opening exercises to start and end your day,” suggests trainer Jonathan Hertilus, ACE, owner of BFF Bootcamp in Nutley, NJ. “For instance,” says Hertilus, “hip bridges can be done anywhere—even in bed—as soon as you wake up or right before you go to sleep.” Just a few minutes of hip exercises can do wonders to keep your back and core muscles engaged.

Lose a little weight

Setting a goal to lose 40 pounds or more to get out of the “overweight” category can be daunting. So aim for smaller, more attainable goals, which can make a big difference in your overall health. “Small steps can be very powerful,” says Jill Crandall, MD, professor of endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and an attending physician at Montefiore Health System.” For people who are at increased risk for type 2 diabetes, which includes many adults who are overweight and have a family history of diabetes, modest changes can reduce the risk of developing diabetes by over 50 percent.” Dr. Crandall suggests focusing on losing about 7 percent of your overall weight—or about 15 pounds for a 200-pound person.

Lighten your load

Cleaning out your purse or backpack could go a long way toward preventing neck, back, and shoulder pain. When you are carrying things, balance your load, and avoid backpacks or purses with more than 10 percent of your body weight,” suggests Robert Hayden, DC, PhD, a chiropractor in Griffin, Georgia.

Be careful with condiments

You might want to take a second to consider before you slather your next salad in ranch dressing. “Ketchup, barbecue sauce, mayo, and salad dressings can all be a major source of calories, sodium, fat, and added sugar,” says Palinski-Wade. “Opt for condiments on the side, rather than on your meal and read those labels!”

Skimp on the sugar—and pump up your probiotics

More and more studies show that sugar wreaks havoc on your health, including slowing your metabolism, impairing brain function, and increasing your risk of heart disease and cancer. But there are other health issues you can keep at bay with a little less sugar and a little more healthy bacteria. “Decreasing intake of sugar and processed food as well as taking probiotics can help decrease yeast infections,” says Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA, OB/GYN, director of minimally invasive gynecology at University of Illinois at Chicago.

Straighten up your sleep habits

A bad sleep posture could make for more aches and pains when you’re awake. “Most of us don’t really think much about posture while we are asleep—but really, posture while you are asleep is at least as important as when you are awake because the muscles that protect your joints are quite loose while you are asleep,” says Dr. Hayden. “I recommend sleeping in a side posture whenever possible. Make sure your pillow is firm and just high enough to keep your head level with the mattress so that your head is neither pushed up nor down. Use a body pillow to hug, throwing your upper arm and upper knee over the pillow so that the pillow supports the weight of the extremities while you are asleep. This prevents you from inducing torque into the lumbar spine and offloads the weight of the upper extremity from the structures at the base of the neck. This simple approach to rest keeps your body straight and as stress free as possible while you catch those zzzs.”

Drink half your weight in water

We should all be drinking more water, but the old saw about eight glasses of eight ounces of water doesn’t work for everybody. The better formula? “Take your weight in pounds and divide by two, and you will get the number of ounces of water you should drink every day,” says Mitzi Dulan, RD, founder of simplyFUEL. “Start your day with a big glass of ice water. Ice cold water can boost your metabolism slightly because it takes energy for your body to get it to room temperature—drink six glasses of 16 ounces of cold water and burn an extra 100 calories per day.”

water

 

Stop the midnight snacking

“Avoid eating after 8 p.m.,” says Dulan. “Often times, late-night eating is really boredom eating. This helps your body focus on burning the fat during the night instead of trying to work to digest the food you just ate before nodding off.”

Shut off your electronics an hour before bedtime

Those last hours before bed may seem like the perfect time to catch up on some work or binge watch a little of your favorite show, but experts say that the light emanating from your screens could be disrupting your sleep. That wavelength of light disrupts melatonin production, and tricks your body into thinking it’s daylight, according to Mark Buchfuhrer, MD, medical director of the Comprehensive Sleep Center at Good Samaritan Hospital in Los Angeles. The fix? Skip the screens and tuck into a good book, do relaxed stretching, or find another way to unwind in the last hour before your bedtime.

Trade refined carbs for whole grains

“Most people eat plenty of grains, but most Americans consume only one serving of whole grains per day,” says Palinski-Wade. “By swapping out a few refined grains for whole grains, you may reduce your waist circumference and reduce the risk of heart disease and diabetes. If you use white bread for a sandwich, switch to rye. If you like rice, opt for brown rice over white rice. A simple switch can add up significantly.”

Take breaks when you’re traveling

Whether you travel by car or plane, taking frequent breaks to walk and stretch is essential. When flying by air, it can reduce your risk of developing a dangerous blood clot in your leg, called a deep vein thrombosis. “I coach our patients who are driving long-distance to get out of the vehicle periodically and walk around it a few laps,” Dr. Hayden says. “Find a bumper that is the right height to put one foot on it. Step back about two feet, square the pelvis, and lean toward the foot that is on the bumper. This has the effect of a hurdler’s stretch, and it will help stretch those gluteals on which you have been sitting as well as the quadriceps and many of the extensor muscles in the back. Always stretch both sides—if you leave one side tight, you may find yourself walking in circles!”

Cut down on the cocktails

Those studies that show red wine’s positive health benefits may encourage us to raise a few more glasses, but there are really good reasons to limit your alcohol intake, including increased risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels, and obesity. Cutting back on the booze can decrease the risk of many different kinds of cancer, including breast cancer, according to Dr. Shepherd. For women, one drink a day seems to be the healthy max, while men can have two.

Start squatting

“Everyone asks me to recommend one exercise that everyone can do to improve their overall health,” says Pat McGuinness, personal trainer at the MAX Challenge in Montclair, NJ, and regional director of programming for New York Sports Clubs. “My answer is always squats! Everyone can do them—modifications are easy—and leg muscles make up more than 60 percent of our total body composition, which means you get more bang for your buck!”

Walk for five minutes every hour at work

Studies have shown that a sedentary lifestyle can wreak havoc on your health. If you can’t get a standing desk to help you limit your time on your seat, make sure you take a five-minute walk break every hour. That can help you minimize the impact of sitting on your health, and ensure you get even more than the doctor-recommended 150 minutes of exercise per week. That can help you reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, according to Dr. Crandall.

Swap soda for fruit-spiked water

Whether it’s diet or sugar-filled, study after study shows that soda isn’t the best beverage—unless you want to gain weight, increase your risk of developing diabetes, cancer, or heart disease, and reduce your bone density. But you don’t have to sacrifice flavor if you give up your soda. “Infuse water with fruit for a tasty alternative that’s sure to impress and refresh,” says McGuinness.

BY LISA MILBRAND
source: www.rd.com


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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


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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


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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


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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


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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