Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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Boost Bacteria to Bolster Your Brain

How can boosting bacteria in your body improve your brain health? Called the “second brain” by leading scientists, a healthy balance of flora in the gut helps to determine whether you’ll have a great memory and a strong resistance to brain disease.

And what happens in the gut plays a significant role in your brain health.  Restoring beneficial bacteria and some healthy yeasts in your intestines (yes, some yeasts are beneficial, just not the ones that cause yeast infections) can go a long way toward protecting your mental faculties and preventing brain diseases altogether.

Frequently when I tell people about this connection between intestinal and brain health—what is known as the gut-brain axis, they tell me that they are covered because they eat yogurt on a regular basis.  While yogurt may (or may not) help boost intestinal flora depending on whether it contains any live cultures at all, we need to give our guts a lot more than yogurt to help us establish a strong and healthy brain for life.

Let’s explore some of the exciting research into the link between beneficial microbes in our gut and our overall brain health.

Some probiotics actually function as antioxidants within the body, which can not only reduce the effects of free radical damage and aging, it is especially good news in the prevention and treatment of brain diseases.

That’s because the brain is vulnerable to free radical damage. Additionally, research at the University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA) found that consuming certain strains of probiotics could actually produce many brain health benefits, including improved sensory and emotional processing.

Since the brain plays a significant role in whether we suffer from mental health conditions like anxiety and depression, probiotics may also be helpful in addressing these serious health concerns. In animal studies conducted by the Department of Medicine at McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada, and published in the medical journal Gastroenterology, the probiotic Bifidobacterium longum eliminated anxiety and normalized behavior.  It appeared to work by reducing the excitability of the nerves in the gut that connect through the vagus nerve to the central nervous system, and in doing so, eliminated anxiety.

Hungarian researchers found that intestinal inflammation is one of the key factors involved in depression and that treating the inflammation with probiotics (along with B complex vitamins, vitamin D, and omega 3 fatty acids) reduced depressive symptoms.

Additional French research demonstrates the power of boosting specific strains of probiotics to boost mood and psychological health.  They found that healthy study participants experienced reduced psychological stress, depression, anxiety, and anger and hostility, as well as improved problem-solving skills when taking the Lactobacillus helveticus and Bifidobacterium longum for 30 days.

While you can still enjoy yogurt if you are already doing so, please keep in mind that the above strains are not typically found in yogurt.  I’m not aware of any yogurt that contains the best brain-boosting strains.

Take a probiotic supplement containing proven strains of brain-boosting probiotics such as  Lactobacillus plantarum, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus helveticus on a daily basis.  Store your probiotics in the refrigerator, and take them on an empty stomach. First thing in the morning with a large glass of water tends to work well for most people.

Additionally, kimchi—the national dish of Korea which is typically a fermented mixture of cabbage, chilis, and garlic—frequently contains a much more diverse group of beneficial microbes than yogurt, making it an excellent choice as a brain boosting food. Some types contain fish sauce so if you’re vegan be sure to choose a fish sauce-free option. It is delicious on sandwiches, over brown rice, or as a side-dish to many foods.  Be sure to choose kimchi that hasn’t been pasteurized to ensure the cultures are still intact.

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook           October 5, 2017
source: www.care2.com
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The Hidden Food Ingredient Linked to Pain and Inflammation

There’s a food additive so ubiquitous in the food industry it is found in most packaged foods, restaurant sauces and even many foods that have been “certified organic.” That ingredient is carrageenan. While the additive starts out harmless enough (it comes from the seaweed known as Irish moss) it is then processed to extract the ingredient known as carrageenan, which acts as a thickener or emulsifier for many prepared foods.

Like most people, I originally thought that carrageenan was a harmless extract from seaweed, so I didn’t give it much consideration. Then I heard that researchers were giving animals carrageenan to induce pain and inflammation as a way to prepare the animals for scientific studies exploring anti-pain drugs. That was the first I’d heard of carrageenan being used for harm. So I began to investigate.

Dr. Joanne Tobacman has conducted many studies on the effects of carrageenan consumption, including one in the Journal of Diabetes Research. After eating carrageenan for only six days, animals fed carrageenan developed glucose intolerance, an umbrella term used to describe impaired metabolism involving excessively high blood sugar levels. Dr. Tobacman found that the food additive caused blood sugar levels to skyrocket, indicating that it may lead to the development of diabetes. She indicates that carrageenan used in animals’ diets so commonly cause diabetes that the additive could be used for mouse models of the study of diabetes.

She also found that carrageenan causes intestinal and systemic inflammation in animal studies. Considering that inflammation is a well-established factor in most chronic disease, including: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, arthritis, pain disorders and many others, any food additive in common use is a serious concern. Dr. Tobacman also indicates that the amount of carrageenan found in most peoples’ diets is sufficient to cause inflammation.

 

Sources of Carrageenan

Carrageenan is found in common foods, including:

  • infant formula
  • ice cream
  • cream
  • butter
  • soy milk
  • almond milk
  • rice milk
  • cottage cheese
  • sour cream
  • yogurt
  • coffee creamers
  • vegan cheese alternatives
  • egg nog
  • protein supplements
  • aloe vera gel
  • deli meats
  • juices
  • puddings
  • pizzas
  • chocolate bars
  • coffee beverages
  • many packaged foods

Additionally, some supplements, particularly those involving gel caps, commonly contain carrageenan. And, most grocery store rotisserie chickens typically contain the additive.

The Cornucopia Institute has compiled a comprehensive list of organic foods that contain carrageenan, since the ingredient is legally allowed in foods bearing the label “organic” or “certified organic.”

 
a Care2 favorite by Michelle Schoffro Cook      About Michelle
Follow Michelle at
@mschoffrocook
source: www.care2.com


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The Case For Drinking Coffee Is Stronger Than Ever

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

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

Is coffee bad for you?

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

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

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

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

Is coffee good for you?

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

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

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

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

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

How much coffee is safe?

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

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


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Those Burgers Aren’t JUST Making Us Fat—They’re Messing With Our Immune Systems, Too

New research reveals that high-fat diets can impair memory and make our immune systems attack our own bodies.

A junk food diet is clearly not healthy. Burgers widen our waistlines, raise our cholesterol levels and tighten our arteries. But scientists now think that even before it shows up as additional pounds on the scale, junk food is changing our bodies in other, surprising ways. It’s actually a form of malnutrition that could be making our immune systems attack our own bodies.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Immunology, scientists at Australia’s University of New South Wales investigated a typical western diet—one that’s high in saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids. Specifically, they looked at the diet’s impact on immune cells called T lymphocytes, or T cells.

The researchers fed mice a high-fat diet for nine weeks to see what effect it would have on the T cells before the mice gained weight. The results surprised study leader Abigail Pollock. “Despite our hypothesis that the T cell response and capacity to eliminate invading pathogens would be weakened we actually saw the opposite: the percentage of overactive T cells increased,” she explained.

This might sound great, but having more T cells doesn’t necessarily mean your immune system is stronger. In fact, when the immune system goes into overdrive, it attacks healthy parts of the body, resulting in autoimmune diseases like type 1 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease.

Cell membranes—the bags that hold cells together—are made up of layers of fatty lipid molecules. Looking closely at the T cells, the scientists found that having extra fats in the diet actually changed the amount of lipid molecules in the cell membrane, which in turn, said Pollock, “changes the structure of the cell, altering the responsiveness of the T cells and changing the immune response.”

Altering immunity

The team had shown previously that altering the lipid content of T cell membranes affects how they signal and activate each other, but this is the first time the effect has been shown in a living animal. More research is needed, they say, to figure out exactly what’s happening and determine which fats we could avoid to make sure our immune systems don’t go into overdrive.

Indeed, this is not the first study to show that a high-fat diet impacts the immune system; almost 20 years ago, scientists at the University of Oxford in the U.K. studied rats on diets rich in different fats. They found that the lymphocytes of rats fed a high-fat diet rich in palmitic acid grew more, whereas natural killer cells—another type of immune cell—of rats on a high-fat diet rich in stearic acid grew much less.

More recently, scientists at the University of Ulsan in South Korea compared obese mice on a high-fat diet and non-obese mice on a normal diet, and found that the obese mice had significantly lower levels of immune cells, including T cells, in their lymph nodes, where the immune cells wait until they are needed by the body. The lymph nodes near the intestine were much lighter in the obese mice and contained far fewer T cells than those of the control mice.

The scientists concluded that the accumulation of fat around the organs—visceral fat—due to a high-fat diet causes cells in the lymph nodes to self-destruct: “Dietary fat-induced visceral obesity may be crucial for obesity-related immune dysfunction,” they explained.

A high-fat diet won’t only affect your immune system; it could also impair your memory—and that of your kids. When they fed pregnant mice a diet high in lard, scientists at Capital Medical University in China found that the fat in their offspring’s brain was altered. The authors explain in their study: “Our research demonstrated that long-term high lard diet […] changed the brain fatty acids composition and damaged the memory and learning ability of mice.”

What’s in your burger and fries?

A junk food diet is rich in fat, but there are all sorts of other harmful things lurking in there too. Firstly, junk food is highly palatable—it tastes good. This makes us eat more and more, which is an even bigger problem because it’s also very high in calories. A small cheeseburger is 300 calories, the same as a whole (nutritious) meal. And you would rarely just eat a cheeseburger; adding fries (230 calories) and a soda (170 calories) takes the total to a whopping 700.

An excessive calorie intake leads to obesity, which has an impact on the immune system. Norwegian researchers found that being overweight led to inflammation—a sign of an overactive immune response. They studied this on a molecular level, to establish a link between metabolism, inflammation, heart attack and stroke. Their theory is that overeating provides our cells with too much energy and the tiny cellular engines—mitochondria—can stall.

“We believe that long-term stress on the mitochondria may cause metaflammation,” explained Dr. Arne Yndestad of Oslo University Hospital. “A metaflammation is a low-grade chronic inflammation over many years, and unfortunately it’s a condition that’s difficult to detect.”

There’s more. According to World Action on Salt and Health (WASH) we eat on average 8.1 grams of salt a day—about a third more than the recommended 6 grams. Junk food is high in salt; a junk food meal can tip you over the limit of your daily intake.

What’s the problem? Salt is implicated in making our immune systems go haywire. In three separate studies published in Nature, scientists showed that high salt intake increase production of T cells, taking them to harmful levels. One of the studies showed that feeding mice with multiple sclerosis a high salt diet made their disease progress faster.

One of the researchers, Dr. Vijay Kuchroo of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Massachusetts, points out that the evidence is not yet definitive, but “is building a very interesting hypothesis [that] salt may be one of the environmental triggers of autoimmunity” and that it’s not yet possible to predict the effect salt has on autoimmunity and the development of diseases like type 1 diabetes.

 

Not-so-happy meals

As if that wasn’t bad enough, it’s a bleak picture for kids too. In 2015, WASH carried out an international study on the salt content of children’s meals, concluding that 8 out of 10 meals had more than 1 gram of salt per serving, tipping the maximum recommended serving per meal.

“The more salt you eat as a child, the more likely you are to have serious health issues in later life,” said Prof. Graham MacGregor, WASH chairman and professor of cardiovascular medicine at Queen Mary University of London. “This can include high blood pressure, increased risk of stroke, heart disease, osteoporosis and kidney disease. That is why it is vitally important that children do not get used to the taste of salt.”

Unfortunately, our kids might be at a disadvantage from the outset: the gut bacteria they inherit can have an impact on their immune health. Babies get their gut bacteria—their microbiota—from their mothers at birth and this continues to be shaped through breastfeeding. The microbiota is known to have an impact on our immunity; Spanish researchers found that children with type 1 diabetes had different gut bacteria compared to healthy children.

In his review “Fast food fever: reviewing the impacts of the Western diet on immunity,” Dr. Ian Myles of the National Institutes of Health gives an overview of what we know about the effects of a western diet on the immune system. The bacteria found in children’s intestines can have a surprisingly big impact, he says. “Our bodies are a kind of mini-ecosystem, and anything that disturbs our bacteria can alter our health in profound ways,” he said in an interview with Time.

They might also be inheriting a genetic preference for unhealthy food. Researchers at Imperial College London have identified a gene linked to cravings for high-calorie foods. They asked 45 people to look at photos of high- and low-calorie foods and rate how appealing they were, and monitored their brain activity. They found that people with a particular genetic change near a gene called FTO who preferred high calorie foods had more activity in parts of the brain linked to pleasure. This, say the researchers, means people with this genetic trait will find it harder to avoid junk food. And if it’s written in our DNA, there’s a chance we can pass it on to our kids.

Even more reason to stop bombarding them with adverts for junk food. Children’s food choices are strongly influenced by advertising, and many countries are already responding by restricting advertising to kids.

Immune-boosting alternatives

Switching off the TV is one way to cut junk food cravings and intake, and therefore protect our immune systems. And the same researchers who found the genetic variants that cause food cravings also found a dietary supplement that can stop those cravings. But there are plenty of other things that can boost our immunity.

The problem with junk food isn’t just the bad ingredients it contains; it’s also the good ingredients it doesn’t contain. You won’t find vegetables like broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage in a fast food meal, but a study by U.K. scientists revealed that these vegetables switch on immune cells in the intestines, which they say explains the link between diet and immunity.

Junk food is also low in fiber, which is known to boost immunity. According to one study, dietary fiber encourages friendly bacteria to grow in the intestine. These lactic acid bacteria can boost immunity, so eating foods that help them grow—like fiber-rich prebiotics, fermented vegetables and raw garlic—could strengthen your immune system.

Immune-boosting antioxidants are also hard to find in your hamburger (unless it’s topped with mushrooms), so eating plenty of sweet potato, elderberry and low-fat yogurt will help.

In his review on fast food fever, Dr. Myles wrote: “While today’s modern diet may provide beneficial protection from micro- and macronutrient deficiencies, our over abundance of calories and the macronutrients that compose our diet may all lead to increased inflammation, reduced control of infection, increased rates of cancer, and increased risk for allergic and auto-inflammatory disease.”

So the next time you’re tempted by a meal deal, consider cooking up some vegetables with chicken and a refreshing yogurt and berry dessert instead. Your immune system—and your memory—will thank you for it.

By Lucy Goodchild Van Hilten / AlterNet September 30, 2016
Lucy Goodchild van Hilten is a freelance writer. Read more of her work at telllucy.com.


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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


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Eat Your Way Through the Holidays with Healthy Cancer-Fighting Options

With the many winter holidays upon us, one of the great challenges is maintaining a healthy diet. Choosing healthier options helps many of us ward off extra pounds, but for those with cancer it is crucial to overall health.

If you are undergoing cancer treatment, such as chemotherapy or radiation, you need extra nutrients to help maintain your energy and keep you feeling strong. Even if your appetite has waned, you still need to make good food choices that fuel your body and help you heal.

Many traditional holiday foods can be high in unhealthy fats, refined carbohydrates, and added sugars which, when eaten in excess, can make you feel fatigued and miss out on nutrients vital for healing

Knowing what to eat and what to avoid can make the holiday season a healthy one for you. Follow the guidelines below to increase your intake of cancer-fighting nutrients, and keep you feeling your best this holiday season.

Fill one-fourth of your plate with complex carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are essential nutrients because they provide energy for body and brain. Good sources include whole grains (like oats, barley, farro, millet, and buckwheat), fruits, vegetables and beans. They also provide phytonutrients that offer cancer-fighting benefits and fiber to keep you fuller longer. Start by adding extra veggies to side dishes. Switch to whole-grain flour for baking your favorite holiday treats, try a bean dip or hummus with veggies as an appetizer, and include fresh fruits for dessert.

Choose healthy fats. Fat has been given a bad rap, but all fats are not equal. You want to avoid or limit saturated fats (the ones found in animal products like butter, cheese, and red meat) and trans-fatty acids (those that have been hydrogenated — often found in packaged foods and baked goods). Unsaturated fats are the good ones — olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado, and fatty fish.

santa

Include protein at every meal. Protein is important for healing during and after treatment. It also is essential for maintaining strength and energy.  Choose a variety of plant sources, such as nuts and nut butters, seeds, beans, legumes, and soy.  Good sources of animal proteins include grass-fed beef, free-range poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, and low-fat dairy.

Emphasize “Seasonal” Superfoods. Superfoods are the superheroes of nutrition —many are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals to help you heal and reduce inflammation, thus reducing your risk of chronic diseases and promoting cancer survivorship. Many superfoods are popular during the holidays — such as cruciferous vegetables (kale, spinach, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower), beans and legumes, citrus, sweet potatoes, nuts and mushrooms. Fresh cranberry sauce with orange and sweetened with agave or honey is an ideal choice to include in your holiday meals. Try adding antioxidant-rich pomegranate seeds to a kale salad for a festive starter, or warm up with pumpkin or butternut squash bisque. Sweet potatoes, baked or mashed, with a drizzle of pure maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon, make a healthy and delicious side dish. Green beans sautéed with mushrooms and red bell peppers, steamed broccoli with lemon zest and garlic, and roasted Brussels sprouts caramelized with balsamic vinegar are all foods to fill up on. And if you’ve saved room for dessert, top a scoop of vanilla ice cream or yogurt with blueberries or raspberries and a sprinkle of cacao nibs.  Looking for something decadent? Bake an apple with cinnamon and nutmeg, and top it with chopped almonds or walnuts and maple syrup.

Remember: it is OK to have small portions of your favorite holiday foods, but fill most of your plate with a variety of plant-based foods such as colorful fruits and vegetables, whole grains, beans, and nuts.

Make a conscious effort to focus on healthy options this holiday season that will keep you strong and help you fight cancer.

Presented by Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center
 
 
This post is a sponsored collaboration between Massachusetts General Hospital Cancer Center and Boston magazine’s advertising department.


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Stress Reduction is More Important Than Eating Well

Your stress is doing more harm than your diet is doing good. A recent study published in Nature makes the claim that stress can actually override healthy food choices. Yes, that means the chronic stress in your lifestyle has the potential to be far more damaging than that (large) piece of cake you had this weekend.

In the published study, 58 women were given a survey to determine their recent stress levels. Then, on separate days, they were given either a meal very high in saturated fat or a meal very high in plant fats (sunflower seed oil). When women were not stressed the day prior, only those who consumed the saturated fat exhibited increased inflammation markers. However, when women were stressed, both meals were associated with significantly increased inflammation markers, namely C-reactive protein. So, the study seems to suggest that the inflammatory action of chronic stress overrides the benefits of healthier dietary choices.

Whether or not you agree with the study’s assumptions (that saturated fats are unanimously unhealthy and plant-based oils are unanimously healthful), this study does make one startling point: stress has an incredibly powerful inflammatory response in our bodies. So powerful that it may actually override a healthy, anti-inflammatory diet.

stress

However, since neither of the meals consumed in the study were extravagantly ‘healthy,’ it would be interesting to see the study conducted with a meal loaded with vibrant, rainbow-colored produce in place of the plant oil meal to see if it would yield different results. It seems logical that the benefits of a sub-par, extremely high fat meal (60 grams), plant-based or not, cannot provide enough anti-inflammatory support to combat the effects of stress. However, with the potent anti-inflammatory effect of green plants, would stress still have such a devastatingly inflammatory effect? It would make an interesting study also to differentiate inflammatory saturated fats and anti-inflammatory saturated fats, rather than demonizing all saturated fats as harbingers of disease.

Regardless, it’s safe to say that no matter what your diet may be, stress management needs to be included in your lifestyle. Stress is a powerful and underestimated force in our lives. Find mindful practices such as yoga, exercise, social support, meditation and journaling to keep yourself mindful and balanced. And remember, moderation is the key with everything. Stress is an invisible danger, so we all should do our best to keep it in check.

This brings us to an interesting discussion. When you cheat on your diet and eat something ‘bad,’ and you notice the mental and physical mal-effects the next day, would you feel such unpleasant symptoms if you weren’t so stressed and guilt-ridden about eating something ‘bad’? Could a lot of the difficulties we experience in diet struggles be linked to the inflammatory and mentally-impeding effects of stress? I’d wager that stress plays a deeper role in our ailments than we have yet realized.

By: Jordyn Cormier     October 3, 2016
source: www.care2.com