Our Better Health

Diet, Health, Fitness, Lifestyle & Wellness


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I Changed My Fuel And It Changed My Health’s Trajectory

All calories are not equal. Yet we continue to count them in hopes of managing weight and health. Correcting this flawed thinking will forever change your relationship with food, calories and your weight. Changing your fuel just may change your health trajectory.

Consider the significance of changing the fuel you use in your body. It could make the difference between getting promoted, being injury and illness free, lean and healthy, and even finding romance (or not). It can, and I am living proof. When I began to think of calories as more than just a number, I lost 84 pounds, reclaimed my health and looked years younger. When I only counted calories, not considering their source, I was obese and unwell.

Many know the value of this truth about calories. Professional athletes serve as ideal evidence for this argument. The difference between first and last place is often seconds of strength, endurance and power. Having the correct balance of healthy fuel in the body can change a non-medalling effort to a gold medal day. The rituals of professional athletes on competition day extend beyond wearing lucky underwear to consuming the exact meal at the perfect time to fuel their success.

Still not sure?

Think about your own body. When we ingest junk food full of empty calories and quick-burning sugar, we get an immediate high followed by a sweat-soaked crash that sends us looking for a comfy place. Productivity grinds to a halt, our focus and attention is compromised and our body is unable to regulate blood sugar, spiraling us on a roller coaster of sugar cravings and crashes. Weight gain is often the result.

Now think about your body on a good day. A day where you started with a nourishing breakfast loaded with protein, fibre, good fat and healthy carbohydrates – maybe it was a vegetable omelet with a side of salsa and avocado, and a glass of water. Your breakfast is followed by a healthy snack before lunch, a well-balanced lunch and a clean snack mid-afternoon, and then a small but nutritious dinner. Your day was productive, your focus outstanding, you were accomplished and others noticed. You were mentally fit, but your body felt different, too. Energized, supported and able to meet your physical and mental needs for the day, your body reigned supreme.

Follow these five simple nutritional tips that will change your day from mediocre to outstanding.

1. Eat 6 small meals daily.

Our body runs best when it can not only predict its next meal, but receive nutritious support. Every meal should be comprised of quality foods that represent protein, good fat and nutritious carbs. I find that my own body works best on complex carbohydrates like leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts and seeds – I encourage you to try it out for yourself.

2. Always include good fats in each meal/snack.

Every cell in the body, including the brain, is made of fat, yet we often avoid fat because we think it will make us fat. Fat however, is critical in keeping the body healthy. Without sufficient fat, the metabolic rate slows, the brain begins to shrink and our ability to repair the body is jeopardized. Good fats are easy to consume once we know what they are. These include healthy oils such as olive and coconut oil, nuts and seeds, and nutritious fruit such as avocados. Including a handful of almonds with your meal or snack, allows you to get protein, healthy fat, fibre and complex carbohydrates in one place.

probiotics yogurt

 

3. Eat breakfast daily.

A nutritious breakfast is not coffee paired with pastry made from processed flour and sugar. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it sets the tone for the entire day. Would you drive to work without gas or leave the house without shoes? The answer to both of those questions is likely no. I ask then, why would you make your body starve for nutrition first thing in the morning and ask it to do work, be productive and help you achieve success? Easy breakfast ideas can include smoothies or leftovers from the night before. It doesn’t have to be fancy, it has to be fuel.

4. Drink two to three litres of water daily.

Water is the number one deficiency in the world – we are constantly losing water not only from the obvious things like sweat, but also from the not so obvious: stress, processed foods, sugar, juices, caffeine, and all the work our brains are doing to keep us moving each day. The most abundant, accessible nutrient in North America is the one that we often forget about but is critical to our success. A dehydrated plant doesn’t grow and repair, and neither does a dehydrated body.

5. BYOS – Bring Your Own Snacks.

I get you, hunger sets in and the choices around you aren’t ideal so you reach for whatever seems to be the healthiest and hope for the best. Instead of hoping, change your trajectory and your outcome by packing your own snacks. My cooler/lunch bag contains portable items I can rely on to give me excellent fuel – hard-boiled eggs, hummus and cut veggies, or sliced apples and almond butter. Some people like to make a large lunch and break it into two portions, one for lunch and the other for an afternoon snack. Find a system that works for you and start today.

Lastly, because I know that these tips are going to make you feel fantastic, I want you to do something before you start. Take a pen and a paper (or take out your mobile phone) and write down how you feel today, what you ate, what your sleep was like, how you feel about your body, how you fit into your clothes, how productive you were at work and what your vision for the future is. Then follow these tips for three weeks and revisit what you wrote.

07/19/2016        Tosca Reno        NYT Best selling author, founder Eat Clean revolution and motivational speaker.
 
Follow Tosca Reno on Twitter: www.twitter.com/toscareno


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Top Cancer Fighting Foods

‘Let Food Be Thy Medicine’!  Use Food to Aid in Your Cancer Fight!

Health Science & Tech   Apr 2, 2016

The moment you receive a cancer diagnosis, your doctor will probably go through a list of your treatment options and what he or she will do in your particular case.  Many people have similar conversations with family, friends, and co-workers about the future and what help you’ll need in your personal and professional life.

Now an important question.  What can you do to help yourself?

It may be tempting, even easy, to give up control of your life until you’re better.  That’s a mistake.  This is your disease now.  It’s your body, your choice and your responsibility.  Let the experts do their job (and ask lots of questions) but remember to keep actively working toward your own recovery.

Chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery deplete your mind, body, and spirit.  Any person who has dealt with cancer personally or in regards to someone they love can attest to the turmoil the disease causes in so many areas.  It is easy to become lost in feelings of helplessness and worry.

Diet is a simple yet crucial aspect of your life that you can control.  It’s critical to pay close attention to the food you consume during treatment.

Enlist Food in the Cancer Fight

Internally you’re waging a war and you need to feed yourself foods that support your fight that might even boost the effectiveness of standard cancer therapies.

Many doctors turn up their collective noses at the use of superfoods during treatment and recovery.  They may attempt to mock your questions and some may threaten that healthy, whole foods are detrimental to cancer drug efficacy.

Cancer-fighting foods contain a wealth of powerful antioxidants.  They fight free radicals in your system, slowing and even stopping molecules that cause cellular damage.  Since cancer is the result of damaged or mutated cells, it makes sense that you don’t need more!

Oncologists imply that antioxidants interfere with the drugs administered during chemotherapy and/or radiation treatments by neutralizing them.  However, patients undergoing these treatments are commonly prescribed amifostine and dexrazoxane – both incredibly powerful antioxidants.

This represents the primary division between the “traditionalists” who wish to stick with business as usual from those seeking to “compliment” cancer treatments by boosting your body’s ability to help itself.

In studies begun in the 1970s, patients consumed antioxidant-rich foods during their cancer treatments while researchers logged the results.  The outcome proved – as it has time and time again – that antioxidants do not interfere with drug therapy effectiveness.  In fact, in many cases, these cancer-fighting foods enhance the power of the drugs for better results for the patient!

Follow up studies found that the patients who maintained these healthier eating regimens after treatment had higher survival rates.  Though the American Cancer Society corroborated these findings, they continue to downplay the importance of food in aiding the fight.

Obviously, choosing a healthy diet is a good idea for everyone.  It is especially critical for cancer patients.  If chemotherapy, radiation, or surgery are part of your treatment protocol, your body will be fighting the disease as well as the results of the treatment.

Your body needs all the help it can get!  Patients will feel proactive in their own case, try new foods and recipes, and give their bodies a little something extra during their treatment.  One of the biggest issues after cancer therapy is that your immune system is ravaged.  It can take years to rebuild it and for some, it may never return to pre-cancer strength.

Food is such a simple addition.  It does help protect you from many of the side effects and might protect some of your cells from destruction by chemo or radiation.  Here at The Truth About Cancer, we talk a lot about using food to ease symptoms, protect your healthy cells, and even give your body antibodies to prevent cancer in the first place.

letthyfood

Five Cancer-Fighting Foods

Fatty Fish

Fish oils contain long chain omega-3 fatty acids.  These healthy fats are a potent anti-inflammatory and protect the body from negative hormones produced during treatment that inflame and irritate.  Oily fish like mackerel, wild salmon, tuna, sardines, and herring also contain vitamins A and D – known to be forceful fighters in the battle against cancer.

Nuts and Seeds

Nuts like walnuts, Brazil nuts and almonds contain selenium, a strong anti-cancer compound.  Pumpkin and sunflower seeds are packed with zinc and vitamin E.  The vitamin E provides your immune system with a huge boost and zinc aids in the absorption of vitamin C.

Red and Yellow Peppers

Red and yellow peppers are packed with vitamin C.  This influential antioxidant strengthens your immune system and neutralizes toxins.  Peppers contain even more vitamin C than is commonly found in oranges.  They also contain carotenoids that convert to vitamin A.  Other sources of these are carrots, sweet potatoes, and dried apricots.

Mushrooms

Chinese medicine has used medicinal mushrooms for hundreds of years as blood purifiers, immune system balancers, and to aid in the performance of internal organs.  Shiitake, Miatake, Portobello and even button mushrooms all contain natural medicines.  They’ve been shown to reduce some of the worst side effects of treatment such as hair loss and nausea.  They boost immunity, increase survival rates, and studies reported that they shrank certain cancerous tumors by as much as 70%.

Purple Foods

No one talks about purple foods and we should!  Purple eggplant, dark purple grapes, beets, blueberries, plums, and cherries all contain massive amounts of anthocyanins.  Anthocyanins have been proven in countless studies to kill cancer cells.  Other benefits include supporting internal organs and boosting immunity.  Recent studies show anthocyanins compounds are easily absorbed by the body and immediately begin defending the body against diseases that result from poor diet and negative lifestyle habits.

More Thoughts to Remember

  • Drink a cup or two of fresh brewed green tea per day (hot or iced)
  • Use good oils and fats such as butter, coconut oil, flaxseed oil, and extra-virgin olive oil
  • Limit refined sugar, grains, and flour
  • Buy organic where you can
  • Increase your consumption of probiotic foods
  • Search for more fantastic information about the cancer-fighting foods that might already be in your kitchen!

A healthy diet might seem hard to accomplish but you’ll be shocked how quickly you feel the effects on your entire body.  Enlist friends or family for suggestions on recipes or menus.  If you have a friend who loves to cook, ask for help with meals that can be made ahead of time and stock your freezer for days when you have no energy.

No matter how tempting or easy, do everything you can to stick with your new healthier, cancer-fighting food nutrition plan.

There is a Better Way

No one wants cancer and if you get it once, you never want to go through the emotional, financial, and physical trauma again.  All over the world, incredible advances are being made in the fight against cancer.  It’s strange that they don’t make big news in the United States while the rest of the world is fascinated by them.

For instance, did you know…

1-in-5 cancer deaths is due to obesity?

A compound found in eggplant cures most types of skin cancer without side effects?

There are two primary food additives that are responsible for brain damage and multiple types of cancer?  (MSG and aspartame)

Cancer is big business and we need to opt out of being part of its bottom line.  Experts estimate that more than half of the cancers diagnosed in the world are preventable.

Be in the half that beats the odds.

References:
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17283738
http://www.canceractive.com/cancer-active-page-link.aspx
http://www.cancer.org/treatment/survivorshipduringandaftertreatment/nutritionforpeoplewithcancer/nutritionforthepersonwithcancer/index
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1082903/


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10 Foods That Fight Depression And Anxiety

Depression and anxiety can by caused by many things ranging from genetics to lifestyle choices. Although we can’t always cure depression on our own, we can make little changes in our lives to help fight it. One of the ways we can fight depression and anxiety is by eating foods that are good for our bodies and our minds.

1. Whole Grains Lighten Up Your Mood

If you’re looking to improve your mood quickly, grab a healthy, high fiber carbohydrate like whole wheat bread, muffins or pasta. Carbohydrates promote serotonin production; serotonin is the “feel-good” hormone that improves your mood and relaxes your brain and body. Not only that, but whole grains also help maintain a steady blood sugar level, which keeps you from dropping into that terrible “hungry” feeling.

2. Dark Chocolate Fights Against Depression

Although milk chocolate might actually contribute to depression, dark chocolate can aid in your fight against it, as long as you eat it in moderation, of course. The reason it can help fight depression? It’s large amount of antioxidants, as well as it’s ability to boost endorphins and serotonin.

3. Berries Bring You Joy

These tasty, delicious little fruits are packed with antioxidants and vitamins! Blueberries, blackberries, strawberries and raspberries should be incorporated into your diet as much as possible because not only do antioxidants boost your immune system and prevent cancer, but they can play a huge role in your fight against depression, too. You can throw them on your cereal, in your yogurt or smoothies, or enjoy them all on their own!

4. Walnuts Supports Overall Brain Health

Like most nuts, walnuts are an excellent source of protein, fiber, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. What makes walnuts really stand out though, is the omega-3 fatty acids they also contain. In fact, walnuts are one of the richest plant-based sources of omega-3s, which can help lower depression and support overall brain health. So, the next time you’re feeling blue or anxious, grab a bag of walnuts to munch on.

walnuts

5. Salmon Boosts Brain Power

Speaking of omega-3s, fatty fish like salmon are also great sources of this fatty acid.Not only is fish great for boosting your brain health and fighting depression, but they are excellent for your overall health, too. Eating fish regularly can help improve circulation and reduce inflammation. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of salmon, or other fatty fish, a week.

6. Dark Leafy Greens Fight Anxiety And Depression

Dark leafy greens are probably the healthiest, most nutrient-dense food around. Spinach, kale and Swiss chard can help prevent cancer, boost your immune system and, of course, fight depression and anxiety.

7. Seeds Give You A Good Night’s Sleep

Munching on seeds to cure your crunchy cravings can help you cut down on calories. It can also help you fight depression! Flax seeds, chia seeds and hemp seeds are full of omega-3s, which we already know is great for our brains! Pumpkin seeds are also great for fighting depression because they are packed with l-tryptophan, an amino acid that is a precursor to melatonin, which we need for sleep. Pumpkin seeds also help increase serotonin levels.

8. Beans Can Lift Your Mood

We all know that beans are absolutely amazing for your overall health because they’re high in protein, iron, folate, carbohydrates and fiber, but low in cholesterol. So we all know beans are good for our heart, but did you know they’re also good for you mind, too? Beans have selenium in them, which can help lift your mood whenever you’re feeling low. Eat them mixed with rice, in a burrito or in a bean salad.

9. Avocado: Tasty Choice For Better Brain Health

This super food (and super delicious fruit) is an edible all-star because it contains tryptophan, folate and more of those brain-healthy omega-3s! However, even though it’s amazing for your health, it’s still high in fat and should be consumed moderately. To take advantage of it’s creamy tastiness, eat it thinly sliced on top of sandwiches and burgers, or in your salad.

10. Mushrooms: Superfood For Your Brain

Mushrooms are good for your mental health and here’s why: they help lower blood sugar levels, evening out your mood, and they promote healthy gut bacteria, and the gut is where 80 to 90 per cent of our body’s serotonin is manufactured. Mushrooms can be eaten a variety of ways and in a variety of dishes! Enjoy them raw in salads or throw them on your pizza, and fight depression and anxiety!


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12 Foods to Help You Focus

by: Emily Holland

Staying focused in today’s world can be a challenge. Technology presents countless distractions. The constant ping from your smartphone—alerting you to the latest social media notification or text message—can cause even the most focused individual to become scattered.

But technology isn’t solely to blame. Stress can add to the challenge. Aging can also play a role as your ability to ignore distractions can decline as you get older.

What many people may not realize is that diet can influence their ability to focus. Certain foods provide the brain with the necessary nourishment to help you concentrate. Many people are quick to turn to coffee for a cognitive boost. However, a variety of other options can enhance your ability to focus, while also providing a wealth of other health benefits.

Walnuts

A 2015 study conducted by researchers at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA found a positive association between walnut consumption and cognitive functioning in adults, including the ability to concentrate. According to the findings published in the Journal of Nutrition, Health and Aging, consuming a handful of walnuts per day can lead to cognitive benefits, regardless of age. Walnuts, in comparison to other nuts, contain the highest-level of antioxidants, which help to promote brain function. They also contain alpha-linolenic acid, a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid that is important for brain health and development. Because walnuts are relatively high in fat and calories, no more than an ounce per day is recommended.

Blueberries

Blueberries are also high in antioxidants, particularly anthocyanin, which has been shown to fight inflammation and improve cognitive brain functions. Blueberries make for the perfect snack since they are low in calories, but high in nutrients such as fiber, manganese, vitamin K,  and vitamin C. When they aren’t in season, opt for dried or frozen blueberries.

Salmon

Salmon is full of omega-3 fatty acids, an essential fat that may slow cognitive decline and possibly lower the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, according to a 2005 study conducted by Rush University in Chicago. It also helps fight inflammation, which has been associated with a decrease in cognitive function.

Avocados

In addition to salmon, avocados are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids and also contain monounsaturated fats, which support brain function and healthy blood flow to the brain. Avocados are also high in vitamin E, a necessary nutrient for optimal brain health that may slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease, studies show. Like walnuts, avocados are fatty and contain a lot of calories. The recommended serving is about 1/5 of a regular-sized avocado (or 1 oz.).

Extra-Virgin Olive Oil

Extra-virgin olive oil (EVOO) is loaded with antioxidants, which have been shown in mice to improve memory and learning deficits that occur as a result of aging and disease. EVOO can also reverse damage in the brain caused by oxidative stress, an imbalance between free radicals and the body’s antioxidant defenses, according to a 2012 study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease. EVOO is great to use as a healthy alternative to processed salad dressings.

Olive oil

Pumpkin Seeds

Nutrient-rich pumpkin seeds make for a quick and easy snack while providing proper nutrition to help promote focus and concentration. High in antioxidants and omega-3s, pumpkin seeds are also a rich source of zinc, an essential mineral that promotes brain function and helps prevent neurological diseases, according to research conducted in 2001 by the University of Shizuoka in Japan.

Leafy Greens

A 2015 study by researchers at Rush University found dark, leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, and collards, might help slow cognitive decline. Over a five-year span, they examined diet and cognitive abilities in older adults. They saw a significant decrease in the rate of cognitive decline in those who consumed larger amounts of dark, leafy greens. In fact, those who had one to two daily servings were found to have the cognitive abilities of a person 11 years younger. Researchers also found that the nutrients, vitamin K and folate were most likely responsible for keeping the brain healthy and preserving functioning.

Eggs

Eggs are a good source of protein, are rich in omega-3s, and contain choline, a vital nutrient for brain development. A 2011 study published in The American Journal of Clinic Nutrition found a high-level intake of choline improved cognitive performance. Eggs also contain B12, a vitamin that keeps the brain and nervous system healthy. So beat, scramble, poach, and flip to eat those eggs and reap the rewards.

Yogurt

Yogurt contains probiotics, often referred to as the “good” bacteria that help promote digestive health, which can lead to a healthier brain. A 2013 UCLA study found that women who regularly ate yogurt exhibited improved brain function while at rest or in response to completing a task. Yogurt is also high in B12 and magnesium, two essential nutrients for brain health.

Oatmeal

Whole grains provide energy. Oatmeal—slow-cooked whole oats, not the ready-cook kind from a packet—not only makes for a healthy breakfast, it also leaves you feeling full, which is important as hunger can diminish mental focus. For maximum clarity, try a bowl of oatmeal topped with walnuts and blueberries.

Dark Chocolate

Chocolate, which is a stimulant, can provide you with an energy boost similar to a cup of coffee. A 2015 study by researchers at Northern Arizona University found participants who consumed 60 percent cacao content chocolate to be more alert and attentive. Chocolate is also high in antioxidants accounting for many of its health benefits. Just remember to choose dark chocolate over a milk chocolate candy bar filled with sugar.

Peppermint Tea

The herb peppermint may improve cognitive performance and increase alertness as well as calmness, according to a 2012 study by researchers at Northumbria University in the UK. Enjoy the health benefits by brewing a hot cup of peppermint tea or by simply smelling the herb.

Add five drops of peppermint essential oil to a warm bath or rub it lightly into your skin.

About the Author
Emily Holland
Emily is a certified Health Coach with a focus on stress and anxiety management. A combined interest in healthy living and human behavior led Emily to pursue a certification in health coaching at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition as well as a master’s degree in General Psychology. She’s a freelance writer; you can find more of her work on her website, http://www.mindfulmotives.com.


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5 Ways to Boost Your Energy with Food

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook    April 1, 2016     Follow Michelle at @mschoffrocook

The most common complaint I hear from people is that they are exhausted or have low energy. Fortunately, there are some simple ways you can give your energy a significant boost. Here are some of my favorites:

Give Your Mitochondria a Boost: Coenzyme Q10 is a naturally-occurring substance in our bodies and in some foods that is necessary to provide energy to our cells. Inside our cells there is a micro-sized energy manufacturing facility known as the mitochondria. Mitochondria depend on CoQ10, as it is also called, to boost energy for every cellular function, including brain functions. Unfortunately, this nutrient can become depleted as we age or experience health issues. Coenzyme Q10 is primarily found in legumes, nuts, fish and poultry.

Eat Every 2 to 3 Hours: When we’re busy, rushed or on-the-go, it’s easy to skip meals or go long periods of time between meals—the worst thing you can do for your energy levels. To keep energy high you need to prevent blood sugar spikes and drops since the resulting cascade of hormones causes an energy roller coaster ride. You may feel fine one minute and then exhausted the next. The best and easiest way to maintain balanced blood sugar levels is to eat every two or three hours. It doesn’t need to be a lot of food; just a snack will do. But, you must be consistent.

Eat zinc-rich foods: The mineral zinc is involved in dozens of chemical reactions linked to energy creation in the body, so ensuring your diet has enough zinc is critical to experience an energy boost. Zinc is also necessary for healthy blood, bones, brain, heart, liver and muscles, so if you’re lacking this vital nutrient, you can experience a wide range of deficiency symptoms. Some signs of a zinc deficiency include: acne, brittle nails, infertility, frequent colds or flu, low sperm count or slow hair or nail growth. Zinc is also essential to prostate health. For more information check out my blog “9 Simple Ways to Drastically Reduce Your Prostate Cancer Risk.” Eat zinc-rich foods like sprouts, pumpkin seeds, onions, sunflower seeds, nuts, leafy greens, beets, carrots or peas frequently throughout the day.

pumpkin seeds

To B or Not to B: There are many vitamins found within the B-Complex, including B1, B2, niacin, pantothenic acid, B6, folic acid, B12, B13, B15, B17, choline, inositol, biotin and PABA. It’s not necessary to remember all of their names, but it is important to ensure adequate B vitamin intake to experience more energy. B vitamins are essential for energy production. And, the more stressful your life is, the more your body depletes these vital nutrients. Additionally, if you suffer from seasonal allergies, that’s an additional stressor to your body. Because B vitamins are not manufactured or stored by the body, it’s imperative to get B vitamin-rich foods every day. Some of the best food sources of these nutrients include: brown rice, root vegetables, pumpkin seeds, citrus fruits, strawberries, cantaloupe, kale, green vegetables and legumes. For an added boost, take a B complex supplement (50 or 100 mg) once or twice a day.  Keeping your gut healthy is also essential to proper nutrient absorption. To learn more about keeping your gut healthy, check out my blog “5 Reasons Why Your Gut is the Key to Great Health.”

Ensure that every meal or snack has some protein in it: While many diet programs would have you believe that protein equals meat, the reality is that meat takes a lot of energy to digest and tends to sit in the digestive tract for many hours. There are many other excellent sources of protein, including: pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, legumes like chickpeas or lentils, avocado, nuts like raw walnuts or almonds and coconut milk. The protein causes a consistent release of energy over time and helps to avoid the blood sugar energy crashes most people experience. Did you notice that pumpkin seeds and legumes keep showing up in the foods that help boost energy? When you need a quick energy boost, these foods will help supply numerous vital nutrients.  Check out “Top Vegan Sources of Protein” for more information.

Dr. Michelle Schoffro Cook, PhD, DNM is a registered nutritionist and international best-selling and 19-time published book author whose works include: 60 Seconds to Slim: Balance Your Body Chemistry to Burn Fat Fast!


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What Are the Best Nuts and Seeds?

October 19, 2015      By Dr. Mercola

If you ever find yourself hungry and at a loss for a healthy snack… a handful of raw nuts or seeds is virtually always a good choice. They’re easy to travel with (stash a small bag in your purse or desk drawer at work) and they keep well at home in your fridge (nuts and seeds go rancid easily, so storing them in the refrigerator or freezer helps).

You can feast on whichever nuts and seeds appeal to you most, although some are arguably healthier than others. First, be sure to note that peanuts are not included in this list, as they’re not nuts.

The nuts that follow are tree nuts, i.e. they grow on trees. Peanuts actually grow underground and, despite their name, are actually legumes – and not one I recommend eating.

Fortunately, there are plenty of healthy nuts and seeds to choose from, so even without peanuts you’ll have a wide variety at your disposal.

The Best Nuts and Seeds

Macadamia Nuts

Macadamia nuts have the highest fat and lowest protein and carb content of any nut, and they also happen to be one of my favorites. Raw macadamia nuts also contain high amounts of vitamin B1, magnesium, and manganese.

Just one serving of macadamia nuts net 58 percent of what you need in manganese, and 23 percent of the recommended daily value of thiamin. Moreover, about 60 percent of the fatty acid in macadamia is the monounsaturated fat oleic acid. This is about the level found in olives, which are well known for their health benefits.

Pecans

Pecans contain more than 19 vitamins and minerals, and research has shown they may help lower LDL cholesterol and promote healthy arteries.

One of my favorite treats is candied pecans in a salad. (I know they have sugar, but the trace amount that’s found in a few teaspoons of chopped pecans is not going to cause a major problem provided you’re eating a healthy whole food diet the rest of the time).

Pecans are a close second to macadamia nuts on the fat and protein scale, and they also contain anti-inflammatory magnesium, heart healthy oleic acid, phenolic antioxidants, and immune-boosting manganese.

Walnuts

One-quarter cup of walnuts provides more than 100 percent of the daily-recommended value of anti-inflammatory plant-based omega-3 fats, along with high amounts of copper, manganese, molybdenum, and biotin.

They also contain the amino acid l-arginine, which offers multiple vascular benefits to people with heart disease, or those who have increased risk for heart disease due to multiple cardiac risk factors.

Walnuts contain antioxidants that are so powerful at free-radical scavenging that researchers called them “remarkable,”1 and research has shown that walnut polyphenols may help prevent chemically-induced liver damage.2

Research even shows that two handfuls a day of walnuts may help prevent both prostate and breast cancer and may curb tumor growth.  It can also support brain health, including increasing inferential reasoning in young adults.3

The outermost layer of a shelled walnut – the whitish, flaky (or sometimes waxy) part – has a bitter flavor, but resist the urge to remove it. It’s thought that up to 90 percent of the antioxidants in walnuts are found in the skin, making it one of the healthiest parts to consume.4

Almonds

Like walnuts, one of the healthiest aspects of almonds appears to be their skins, as they are rich in antioxidants including phenols, flavonoids, and phenolic acids, which are typically associated with vegetables and fruits.

A study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry even revealed that a one-ounce serving of almonds has a similar amount of total polyphenols as a cup of steamed broccoli or green tea.5

They’re also notably beneficial for your heart health. A study in the journal Circulation found people with abnormally high level of lipids, such as cholesterol, in their blood were able to significantly reduce their risk factors for coronary heart disease by snacking on whole almonds (those who snacked on whole-wheat muffins received no such benefit).6

Do be careful not to overeat almonds, however, as they are high in protein – nearly one gram per almond.

Brazil Nuts

Brazil nuts offer many of the same benefits of other nuts – healthy fats, antioxidants, fiber, vitamins, and minerals. However, they’re most notable for being an excellent source of organic selenium, a powerful antioxidant-boosting mineral that may be beneficial for the prevention of cancer.

They also have a beneficial high fat and low protein content, behind only macadamias and pecans.

Pistachios

Pistachios are high in lutein, beta-carotene, and gamma-tocopherol (vitamin E) compared to other nuts. Eating one or two servings of pistachios a day has been shown, in fact, to increase blood levels of antioxidants and, in turn, lower oxidized LDL cholesterol in people with elevated levels.7

Past research has also shown that diets containing pistachios reduce systolic blood pressure and vascular responses to stress in adults with high cholesterol.8 They’re also useful for maintaining a healthy weight (as are most nuts).

People who ate pistachios for 24 weeks lost an average of 0.7 inches from their waists, reduced cholesterol by 15 points, improved their blood sugar, and lowered inflammation.9

Further, they’re an excellent source of monounsaturated fatty acids, which tend to “preferentially target belly fat,” according to the study’s lead researcher.10

Be aware that most pistachios are bleached, so to avoid potentially harmful residues it’s important to look for organic pistachios (see the section on organic nuts below for more details). Pistachios are also one of the higher protein nuts, so they should be eaten in moderation.

pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin Seeds

With a wide variety of nutrients ranging from magnesium and manganese to copper, protein, and zinc, pumpkin seeds are nutritional powerhouses wrapped up in a very small package.

They also contain plant compounds known as phytosterols and free-radical scavenging antioxidants, which can give your health an added boost.

Pumpkin seeds have long been valued as an important natural food for men’s health. This is in part because of their high zinc content, which is important for prostate health (where it is found in the highest concentrations in the body).

This is also because pumpkin seed extracts and oils may play a role in treating benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH, or enlarged prostate).

Animal studies even suggest that pumpkin seeds may help improve insulin regulation and help prevent diabetic complications by decreasing oxidative stress.11

Sunflower Seeds

Sunflower seeds are rich in vitamin E, copper, B vitamins, manganese, selenium, phosphorus, and magnesium. Sunflower seeds also contain one of the highest levels of phytosterols of commonly consumed nuts and seeds. Phytosterols are beneficial for your heart health and immune system, and may help lower cancer risk as well.12

Be Careful Not to Eat Too Many Nuts…

Most nuts should be eaten in moderation, but not because they’re high in fat or calories. It’s the high protein content that you need to watch out for, especially in nuts like almonds and pistachios. Most Americans consume three to five times more protein than they need, along with excessive starchy carbs and not enough healthy fats. Excess dietary protein can lead to elevated blood sugar, weight gain, kidney stress, leaching of bone minerals, and stimulation of cancer cells, and it’s easy to overdo it if you eat a few handfuls of high-protein nuts.

A more ideal protein intake is likely around one-half gram of protein per pound of lean body mass, which for most is 40 to 70 grams a day. This is why my favorite nuts are those that are lowest in protein and highest in fat, including macadamia nuts and pecans.

Nuts Can Help You Lose Weight

Adding healthy amounts of nuts to your diet can help you to maintain your ideal weight over time, contrary to the popular opinion that nuts are “fattening.” In one review of 31 trials, those whose diets included extra nuts or nuts substituted for other foods lost about 1.4 extra pounds and half an inch from their waists.13

Research presented at the 6th International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition also highlighted nuts’ role in helping to reduce your risk of obesity. As reported in The Epoch Times:14

“[Purdue University’s Professor of Foods and Nutrition Dr. Richard] Mattes claims that nuts can actually suppress both the appetite and the brain’s desire for food, which can lead people to overeat even when they’re full. Plus they’re energy-packed, which can impact the way your body adjusts your intake of calories throughout the day. Mattes suggested that a 100-calorie serving of nuts in the morning could decrease your calorie consumption by as much as 75 calories later in the day. This could be due to the filling nature of nuts, but more research is needed on this particular point.”

Why It’s Important to Choose Organic Nuts

You can’t really go wrong when choosing nuts to eat, as long as you pay attention to quality. By this I mean look for nuts that are organic and raw, not irradiated, pasteurized, or coated in sugar. You’ll also want to avoid bleached nuts, which is a common practice with pistachios, an extremely perishable, fragile crop. Once harvested, they must be processed within 24 hours or else tannins released from the nut’s hull can lead to staining on the shell. Stained pistachios can no longer be sold in-shell, and must be removed and sold as nutmeats (generally for a lower profit).

You may have seen red or green dyed pistachios on the market, and this is often done to hide such staining. Naturally pistachio shells are light beige in color, but in some areas, especially China, an even lighter, virtually white shell is thought to indicate cleanliness and freshness. To get this white shell, 90 percent of the pistachios sold in the Chinese market have been bleached, even though it is against China’s Food Safety Laws.15

Aside from the potential for bleach residues to remain on the nuts, bleaching has been shown to destroy important phytochemicals in pistachio skins, with researchers noting that the “destruction of bioactive phenolics in pistachio skins [from bleaching] may negatively impact the potential health benefits arising from pistachio consumption.”16

California pistachio shells are not bleached, however once hulled they may be soaked in a “bath” of water and antimicrobial chemicals. The most commonly used antimicrobial is hypochlorous acid (bleach).17 To avoid nuts that have been treated with antimicrobials and pesticides, choose organic varieties. Also, if you choose to purchase nuts or seeds from a bulk bin, make sure they smell fresh – not musty, spoiled, or stale, which could indicate rancidity or the presence of fungal mycotoxins.

Raw Nuts and Seeds Are Best

Roasted nuts are tasty… but roasting has been found to damage nutrients in nuts, including decreasing the availability of beneficial fatty acids and amino acids.18 A better option would be nuts that are hot-air dried at temperatures of 180 degrees F or less, which should help to minimize any potential heat-related damage. An even better option is to consume nuts raw, and soak them first for eight to 12 hours. Phytic acid, which is found in the coatings of nuts and seeds, is an “anti-nutrient” responsible for leeching vital nutrients from your body.

Soaking nuts will help to get rid of the phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors, which can interfere with the function of your own digestive and metabolic enzymes, in the nuts. To make them more palatable, you can use a dehydrator to improve the texture. Enzyme inhibitors in nuts (and seeds) help protect the nut as it grows, helping to decrease enzyme activity and prevent premature sprouting.

When nuts are soaked, the germination process begins, allowing the enzyme inhibitors to be deactivated and increasing the nutrition of the nut significantly, as well as making them much easier to digest.

One exception is with macadamia nuts (and other white nuts), which have only negligible amounts of enzyme inhibitors, so soaking is not as necessary. If you prefer to eat nuts and seeds roasted, do so yourself so you can control the roasting temperature and time. Raw pumpkin seeds, for instance, can be roasted on a low heat setting in your oven (no more than 170 degrees F or 75 degrees Celsius), sprinkled with Himalayan or other natural salt, for about 15 to 20 minutes.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to find truly raw nuts in the US. For instance, pasteurized almonds sold in North America can still be labeled “raw” even though they’ve been subjected to one of the following pasteurization methods:

  • Oil roasting, dry roasting, or blanching
  • Steam processing
  • Propylene Oxide (PPO) treatment (PPO is a highly toxic flammable chemical compound, once used as a racing fuel before it was prohibited for safety reasons)

There are generally no truly “raw” almonds sold in North America, so don’t be misled. It is possible to purchase raw almonds in the US, but it has to be done very carefully from vendors selling small quantities that have a waiver from the pasteurization requirement. The key is to find a company with the waiver.


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9  Powerful Eating Habits to Protect Your Brain From Alzheimer’s

Everything from how you cook meat to what you eat for dessert
can play a role in your brain health.

Here, how to eat to prevent dementia and Alzheimer’s.

by Kenneth S. Kosik, MD

There is no one best dietary pattern when it comes to eating for optimum brain health. Nor is there one magical food or supplement. Instead, a wide range of eating patterns—Asian eating, the MIND diet, the Mediterranean diet, vegan eating—has been shown to protect your brain. Although those eating patterns vary—for example, some include meat, others don’t; some place a heavy emphasis on fish, others suggest no fish—they all tend to have one thing in common: a preponderance of antioxidant-rich plant foods.

Plants manufacture antioxidant chemicals to protect themselves from ultra- violet light and disease. When we eat these plants—in the form of fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and grains—we consume this built-in protection, and their antioxidants can then protect our cells from disease, too. This includes disease protection for cells in the brain, and we know this, in part, thanks to beagles.

Carl Cotman, a professor of neurology at the University of California, Irvine, and other researchers have studied how kibble enriched with tomatoes, carrots, citrus, spinach, and antioxidant supplements (vitamins E and C, lipoic acid, and carnitine) affects the brains of beagles. He and his team divided the dogs into four groups. One control group ate a regular diet. A second group ate the enriched kibble that included the equivalent of six servings of fruits and vegetables. A third group ate regular kibble but were offered the canine equivalent of daily school education: an abundance of exercise, playtime with other dogs, and access to novel toys. The final group ate the enriched kibble and went to dog school.

Brain Smart eating isn’t about gorging on just blueberries or chia seeds or some other healthy food du jour. Many different foods and different dietary patterns have been shown to protect us from Alzheimer’s disease.

As the study progressed, the researchers repeatedly tested the dogs with increasingly difficult learning problems. In one, the dogs had to learn whether a treat was hidden under a black or a white block. Overall, the dogs in the combined group—the ones who played, exercised, and ate fruit-and-veggie-packed kibble—did the best on the learning tasks. No surprises there, as playtime and intellectual enrichment are just as powerful Brain Smarts as good nutrition. But even the dogs who only ate the enriched kibble and who were not offered extra playtime performed better than the dogs who only ate regular kibble. Sixty percent of them were able to continually find the hidden treat, whereas only 25 percent of the dogs who ate regular kibble could do the same.

Antioxidant-rich foods are just one important component of a Brain Smart eating pattern. In addition to antioxidants, many foods also contain substances that lower inflammation throughout the body and brain, as well as nutrients needed for cells to do their jobs.

All of these nutrients seem to work together to create good health. It’s for this reason that there is no one food or beverage to consume for good health. Brain Smart eating isn’t about gorging on just blueberries or chia seeds or some other healthy food du jour. It’s not even about just one specific eating pattern. It turns out that many different foods and different dietary patterns have been shown to protect us from Alzheimer’s disease, and this is great news for all of us. It allows us the freedom to tailor our Brain Smart food choices to our personal tastes and lifestyle. Consider embarking on one of the following Brain Smart eating patterns—or perhaps even a combination of them.

Chia

1. Fill up on fewer calories: Start your meals with veggie-packed salads or soups, or use small plates to trick your brain into thinking your meals look bigger than they actually are. Filling up on fewer calories allows you to shed pounds, which can help reverse other risks for Alzheimer’s disease, including sleep apnea, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Cutting your daily intake of calories by 30 to 50 percent also reduces your metabolic rate and therefore slows oxidation throughout the body, including the brain. It lowers blood glucose and insulin levels, too.

2. Eat at least five servings of fruit and vegetables every day. Higher vegetable consumption was associated with slower rate of cognitive decline in 3,718 people aged 65 years and older who participated in the Chicago Health and Aging Project. Study participants filled out food logs and agreed to undergo tests of their cognitive abilities periodically for six years. All of the study participants scored lower on cognitive tests at the end of the study than they did at the beginning, but those who consumed more than four daily servings of vegetables experienced a 40 percent slower decline in their abilities than people who consumed less than one daily serving.

3. Use spices liberally. Herbs and spices add flavor to food, allowing you to cut back on butter, oil, and salt. Because they come from plants, many herbs and spices also contain antioxidants and offer many healing benefits, including Alzheimer’s prevention. Several different studies show that curcumin, for example, helps to reduce the risk of cancer, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s disease. Just a quarter teaspoon of the spice twice a day has been shown to reduce fasting blood sugar up to 29 percent in people with type 2 diabetes. This is important, because type 2 diabetes can raise your risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease.

4. Marinate meat before cooking. When fat, protein, and sugar react with heat, certain harmful compounds form called advanced glycation end products (AGEs). They are found in particularly high levels in bacon, sausages, processed meats, and fried and grilled foods. The consumption of high amounts of AGEs has been shown to cause harmful changes in the brain. But there’s an easy way to slash your AGE consumption: Make your food (especially meats) as moist as possible. By boiling, braising, poaching, or marinating meat and fish before grilling or broiling, you allow moisture to permeate their flesh, dramatically reducing the AGEs.

5. Eat coldwater fish once a week. Fish that swim in cold waters tend to develop a layer of fat to keep them warm. Called omega-3 fatty acid, this type of fat has been shown to reduce inflammation throughout the body when consumed by humans. In a study of 815 people, people who consumed fish at least once a week reduced their Alzheimer’s disease risk by 60 percent compared to people who rarely or never ate fish.

6. Snack on nuts and seeds. In addition to being a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, nuts and seeds also provide a good dose of selenium and vitamin E, two other nutrients that may promote brain health. Walnuts may be a particularly potent source of edible brain protection. In addition to omega-3 fatty acids, walnuts are rich in antioxidants that have been shown to reduce Alzheimer’s disease in mice.

7. Drink several cups of tea a day. Black and green tea are rich sources of antioxidants called catechins that may fend off oxidative damage throughout the body, including the brain. Green tea is also a rich source of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), which has been shown to reduce beta-amyloid plaque and tau tangles in mice. Tea has also been shown to drop blood pressure and cholesterol levels.

8. Enjoy coffee in the morning. Caffeine consumed too late in the day may disturb your sleep. But coffee consumed in the morning and perhaps the early afternoon, depending on your personal caffeine sensitivity, may reduce risk. Coffee contains a chemical called eicosanoyl-5-hydroxytryptamide (EHT) that, in studies done on rats, has been shown to protect against Alzheimer’s disease. The caffeine itself may also be protective: Mice developed fewer tau tangles in their brains when their drinking water was infused with caffeine. In humans, Johns Hopkins researchers have shown that 200 milligrams of caffeine—the amount in one strong cup of coffee—can help us consolidate memories and more easily memorize new information.

9. End dinner with dark chocolate—not chocolate cake. Most desserts are rich in blood-sugar-spiking sugar, and recent research has linked high blood sugar levels with oxidative damage as well as an elevated production of beta-amyloid protein plaque. Chocolate, however, may be one exception. Chocolate contains antioxidant chemicals called flavonoids, protective substances also present in many brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Baby boomers who consumed chocolate-rich drinks twice a day for three months performed as well on memory tests as did people a few decades younger. In part of the same study, tests revealed that the chocolate drinks also seemed to improve blood flow to the hippocampi regions of the brain.

source: www.rd.com