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Top 10 Immune-Boosting Foods

Keeping your immune system strong and healthy
is one of the essential keys to great health.
Fortunately, doing so is easier than you think.

The immune system is a complex system of organs, cells and proteins that work together to help protect us against foreign invaders, including: viruses, bacteria, fungi and other foreign substances we may come into contact with. We rarely give it a second thought until we’re burning up with a fever or fighting some form of serious infection.

There are many ways to keep your immune system strong and healthy, including:

  • Avoid smoking and secondhand smoke
  • Don’t drink alcohol
  • Exercising regularly
  • Getting sufficient sleep
  • Reducing stress as much as possible
  • Washing hands regularly and thoroughly
  • Thoroughly cooking any meat, fish, or poultry in your diet
  • Eating a diet rich in immune-boosting fruits and vegetables

BEST IMMUNE-BOOSTING FOODS

Most fruits and vegetables, as well as other plant-based foods, boost the immune system, but some are better at it than others. Some of the best immune-boosting foods include:

Beets

Rich in the immune-boosting mineral, zinc, beets along with their leafy greens, are a great addition to your diet. Beets are also a rich source of prebiotics, the foods eaten by probiotics, or beneficial microbes, in your intestines. By eating more beets you’ll feed the healthy bacteria and other beneficial microbes that give your gut and immune health a boost. Add them to fresh juice, grate and add to salads and sandwiches, or roast and enjoy on their own.

Blueberries

Blueberries don’t just taste amazing, they are packed with nutrients known as flavonoids that give them their gorgeous color and delicious taste. Research in the journal Advances in Nutrition shows that flavonoids boost the immune system. Eat fresh blueberries on their own or atop salads or added to smoothies. Frozen blueberries that have been slightly thawed taste like blueberry sorbet and make a delicious dessert.

Blueberries

 

Citrus Fruits

Grapefruit, lemons, limes, oranges and other citrus fruit are excellent sources of immune-boosting vitamin C, making them excellent choices to include in your daily diet. Juice them or add them to salads or salad dressings, or in the case of grapefruit and oranges, eat them on their own as a quick snack.

Flaxseeds and Flaxseed Oil

Flaxseeds and flaxseed oil contain plentiful amounts of the essential fatty acids known as Omega 3s that give your immune system a boost and help to keep it functioning well on a regular basis. Add flaxseeds or oil to your smoothie or top previously-cooked vegetables with a splash of flax oil and sea salt.

Garlic

Rich in immune-boosting allicin, garlic helps to stave off colds and flu by giving our immune system a boost. Cooking reduces the potency of garlic but both cooked and raw garlic are still worth eating on a daily basis. Add some garlic to your soups, stews, chili and, of course, combined with chickpeas, lemon juice, tahini, olive oil and a touch of salt for a delicious hummus.

Kefir

A beverage similar to yogurt but thinner, kefir comes from the Turkish word “keif” which means “good feeling” probably because let’s face it: we feel better when we’re not sick. Kefir offers immune-boosting health benefits due to its many different strains of beneficial bacteria and yeasts. Make sure the one you choose contains “live cultures.”

Kimchi

The national dish of Korea, kimchi is a spicy condiment that has been found in research published in the Journal of Medicinal Food to offer immune-boosting benefits.

Pumpkin Seeds

Pumpkin seeds contain plentiful amounts of the immune-boosting fats known as Omega 3s, along with the essential immune health mineral, zinc, making them an excellent choice to include in your diet. Throw them on top of your salads, grind them and add them to flour for baking, or snack on them as is.

Walnuts

Raw, unsalted walnuts are rich sources of immune-boosting Omega 3 fatty acids. If you don’t like the taste of walnuts, I urge you to try ones that are raw, unsalted and kept in the refrigerator section of your health food store since they are typically fresher than the ones found in packages in the center aisles of the grocery store. The bitter taste most people attribute to walnuts is actually a sign they have gone rancid. Fresh walnuts have a buttery and delicious taste.

Yogurt

Yogurt and vegan yogurt contain beneficial bacteria that boost your gut health, which in turn, boost your immune system health. Make sure the yogurt you select contains “live cultures.”

 

By: Michelle Schoffro Cook            August 1, 2018

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: Be Your Own Herbalist: Essential Herbs for Health, Beauty, & Cooking.  Follow her on Twitter.

source: www.care2.com
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Walnuts May Control Your Mind To Help Lose Weight

No nut is going to control me, you may say. You are your own person. You eat what you want, when you want. But science may say otherwise about walnuts.

What is up with deez nuts? Five researchers from the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston (Olivia M. Farr Ph.D., Dario Tuccinardi M.D., Jagriti Upadhyay M.D., Sabrina M. Oussaada, and Christos S. Mantzoros M.D., D.Sc., Ph.D.) conducted a study published in Diabetes, Obesity, and Metabolism. The researchers first randomly assigned ten hospitalized patients with obesity five straight days of either a smoothie with 48 grams of walnuts or a similarly tasting and textured smoothie without walnuts. Then after one month of returning to their original diets, those who first got the walnut smoothie then got five days of the non-walnut smoothie and vice versa. One participant eventually dropped out of the study, leaving nine who completed the whole protocol.

At the beginning of the study, the researchers measured each of the study subjects’ brain activity using a functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) machine. After the 5 day smoothie diet, study subjects then underwent another fMRI to see how things had changed.

Then there was the food porn. The researchers showed the study subjects different pictures while undergoing the fMRI. Pictures included those of “highly desirable foods” (high-calorie or high-fat images, e.g., cakes, onion rings), “less desirable foods” (low-calorie or low-fat images, e.g.,, vegetables and fruits) and “non-foods” (e.g., flowers, rocks, trees). Yes, you rock and flower eaters may say that everything’s subjective, but these were the designations by the researchers. Before and after each fMRI scan, study subjects completed visual analog scales (VAS) to measure how hungry or full they felt.

The study resulted in two major findings. First, after the walnut smoothie diet, study subjects reported feeling less hungry than after the non-walnut smoothie diet. Secondly, following the five days of walnut smoothies, study subjects had differences in their brain activity (as measured by fMRI) when shown food porn. Specifically, the right insula part of the brain seemed to be more active. Parts of the insula may be responsible for satiety and inhibition. In other words, something about walnuts may be telling your brain to simmer down when shown mouth-watering food. This could be some Vulcan mind meld-like stuff: walnuts may help you control your appetite and thus help with managing your weight.

 

Of course, this is a very small study with measurements taken only over a short period of time. It also does not prove that walnuts can actually control your appetite or if any of the findings will persist over time. Effects can wear off as the brain and body get used to eating a certain type of food. More, larger, and more complex studies are needed before drawing stronger conclusions. But these results are encouraging. Note that the California Walnut Commission (CWC) did provide funding for this study. However, they were not directly involved in designing, conducting, interpreting, or reporting the results for the study.

These findings are not completely surprising. There is increasing evidence that food and their ingredients don’t simply just provide calories and nutrients to your body like emptying a dump truck into a hole (with the hole being your mouth). Food and ingredients may interact and communicate with your body in many different and mysterious ways. For example, the work of Tim Moran, Ph.D., Director of Behavioral and Biological Research for our Global Obesity Prevention Center (GOPC) and Paul R. McHugh Professor of Motivated Behaviors at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, has shown how your gastrointestinal tract and brain are communicating back and forth with each other to help regulate your hunger, cravings, and metabolism. Even though your body may seem relatively quiet (although some people’s bodies may seem louder than others), there’s a lot of discussion and maybe even arguments going on inside you. Here’s a talk from Dr. Moran for the National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine that begins to show just how complex these systems are:

How noisy your body and brain may be may vary compared to others, depending on you and all of the cues around you. For instance, a recent study published in the journal Neuroimage and led by Susan Carnell, PhD, another member of our GOPC and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, found that adolescents who are at higher obesity risk may have different brain activity patterns when presented with words representing different types of foods.

As Dr. Carnell explained, “When it comes to hunger and satiation, a calorie is not necessarily a calorie. Food with a high glycemic index, like pasta, are processed more quickly than those with a low glycemic index, like beans and nuts, so you may still feel hungry after consuming a large amount of mac and cheese.”

Thus, adding an ingredient here and there to your food, especially artificial ones, could change what your food is saying to you. For example, Alice Walton previously wrote for Forbes about how artificial sweeteners may even lead to weight gain by interfering with brain connections that usually associate the sensation of sweetness and energy intake. In other words, your brain may usually equate a certain amount of sweet food with a certain amount of calories. When this association is messed up (which is a scientific term), your brain may say something is screwed up, eat more food. That’s why the global obesity epidemic may be due in part to the content of our food having changed. Since the 1980’s more and more “manufactured” and highly processed food has entered our diets.

All of this reemphasizes how you, your surroundings, food, nutrition, health, and obesity really form very complex systems and how obesity is very complex problem. It also says that even when you are eating alone, you are not really alone. Your food is having conversations with your body and brain. You might as well say in your best Robert De Niro voice to your food, “you talkin’ to me?” The answer with walnuts is probably yes and maybe in a good way.

Bruce Y. Lee , CONTRIBUTOR       AUG 19, 2017       Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.


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7 Foods That May Help Lengthen Your Lifespan

If we want to live longer, healthier lives where our risk of suffering from major illnesses and health conditions is minimized, cleaning up our diets is a must. According to WebMD, the amount of research we now have access to is proving that there could be such a thing as a “longevity diet.”

Most people grasp the general understanding of what a healthy diet looks like. We know it’s all about fruits, vegetables, whole grains, good fats and lean sources of protein while keeping processed foods at a minimum. But are there any specific foods we should be focusing on adding to our diet that contribute to longevity?

Well, we’d have to look at the research. Here are some healthy foods that might as well be a part of a “longevity diet” based on how they’ve been shown to impact people’s health and wellbeing.

1. Walnuts

In one study, people who ate more than three servings of nuts per week — especially walnuts — had a reduced risk of dying from from cardiovascular disease or cancer when compared to those who didn’t consume nuts. More recent research also shows that walnuts may actually alter gut bacteria in a way that reduces colon tumor development from colon cancer, which is the third most prevalent cancer type in the world.

2. Seafood and Plant-Based Sources of Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids are well known for helping heart health and potentially preventing age-related cognitive decline. A 2010 study found that heart patients with an increased intake of omega-3s also possessed longer stretches of DNA called telemores, which is linked to longer lifespans. Good sources of seafood-based omega-3s (DHA and EPA) include wild Pacific salmon, anchovies, herring, mackerel, lake trout and some other types of cold water fish. A couple of your best sources of plant-based omega-3s (ALA) include flaxseed and chia seeds.

3. Coffee

There’s been a lot of research on coffee, and it seems as if the findings have been all over the place. While it may offer a lot of benefits, it may also have some drawbacks, too. At least one study that examined coffee consumption among nearly 75,000 adult women found that higher consumption of coffee (both caffeinated and decaffeinated) was linked to a lower risk of death.

bread

4. Whole Grains

Whole grains may not have much of a place in a low-carb or paleo diet, but it’s an essential part of the Mediterranean diet — a diet that has been associated with lower risks of heart disease, lower levels of bad cholesterol and an overall lower risk of death. Based on recent research, the American Heart Association says that three servings of whole grains per day can help people lower their risk of death by nearly 20 percent compared to those who eat fewer or no whole grains at all.

5. Dark Chocolate

Chocolate is healthy as long as it’s dark (ideally 70 percent or more) and consumed in moderation. Researchers have found that this sweet treat helps lower blood pressure and prevent heart disease. In a study that observed the health habits of nearly 21,000 British people for over a decade, only 12 percent of those who consumed dark chocolate died of cardiovascular disease compared to 17.4 percent of those who did not consume chocolate.

6. Blueberries

Many berries lend themselves to promoting good health, but some like blueberries (and also strawberries), are significantly powerful for being rich in chemical compounds called anthocyanins. They help lower blood pressure and promote elasticity in the blood vessels. Data taken over an 18-year period from almost 94,000 young women showed that those who ate the most berries experienced a reduced risk of suffering a heart attack by 34 percent compared to those who ate the fewest berries.

7. Leafy Greens

We all know that making vegetables a part of every meal, every day is one of the healthiest things you can do for your diet. Leafy greens may be ultra low in calories, but there’s been some research to say that they may help prevent dementia. For the study, eating habits and cognitive function of 950 older adults were tracked for about five years, with results showing that those who ate 1 to 2 daily servings of leafy greens experienced a decreased rate of cognitive decline compared to those who ate no leafy greens.

Now you know what to put on your grocery list the next time you head out to the store or to your local farmers’ market. And if you already eat some of the above mentioned “longevity” foods, then keep it up! Your future self will thank you for it.

By: Elise Moreau     July 4, 2016     Follow Elise at @elisem0reau
 


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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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A Handful of Walnuts a Day May Help Lower Cholesterol: Study

Relaxnews    Published Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Results of a study published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care showed that adding walnuts to the daily diet of those at high risk of developing diabetes lowered cholesterol and improved blood vessel cell wall function while also boosting overall quality of diet.

Researchers followed 31 women and 81 men, all varying in age between 25 and 75, and all at a high risk of developing diabetes. Participants were in two groups, with one group following a calorie-controlled diet complete with dietary advice, while the other group followed a diet with no calorie control or advice. Randomly selected participants were chosen from both groups and instructed to include 56g (2 oz) of walnuts in their diet on a daily basis, with the rest of the particpants completely avoiding walnuts for a period of 6 months.

At the end of the study participants who had been eating walnuts showed a significant decrease in both ‘bad’ and total cholesterol, as well as an improvement in blood vessel cell wall function, key for allowing oxygen and carbon dioxide to pass between the blood and body tissues. However, improved cholesterol levels were also seen in the group avoiding nuts, possibly due to the placebo effect, according to the team.

While results across both groups showed no improvement in blood pressure, blood glucose, or ‘good’ HDL cholesterol, researchers did conclude that the quality of participants’ diets improved overall in the walnut-eating group, with a healthier diet associated with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease.

walnuts
Just a handful of walnuts a day
can lower cholesterol and improve the quality of your diet.

 

Too much of a good thing?

The health benefits from walnuts can be attributed to them being a rich source of essential fatty acids as well as a good source of important vitamins and minerals such as folate and vitamin E. However like other nuts, walnuts are high in calories and experts have cautioned against eating the snack to excess so as not to increase weight. Results of this study also cautioned against excessive walnut consumption, as those that consumed nuts without any calorie control showed a significant increase in body fat. However when consumed more moderately and with calorie restriction, waist circumferance decreased.

The team suggested that further studies in more diverse groups of people were in order.
Meanwhile a study published last week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, partly funded by The International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research and Education Foundation, found that tree nuts such as walnuts may help lower the risk of cardiovascular disease. After looking at the results from 61 controlled trials, with walnuts investigated in 21 of the 61 trials, researchers concluded that consuming walnuts and tree nuts in general lowers total cholesterol, a key factor when assessing a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease.


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5 Reasons To Eat A Handful Of Walnuts A Day

By Diana Kelly And Sarah Klein      January 6, 2016

Serious snackers know there’s nothing like a good nut, and science agrees: Adding walnuts to your diet—even just a handful—has a whole host of benefits.

They can lower your cholesterol.
About a handful of walnuts, or 2 ounces, was linked to lowering total cholesterol numbers and LDL or “bad” cholesterol as well as improved blood vessel cell wall function in a recent study of 112 people between the ages of 25 and 75. The people randomized in the study to enjoy that daily snack saw improvements to their overall diets, compared with those randomized to go without walnuts. Added bonus: When they also were given a little dietary counseling, their waistlines shrank. Walnuts are loaded with monounsaturated fats, including known heart protectors omega-3 fatty acids.

They can improve your memory.
A 2012 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report found that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and brain function. The antioxidants in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and even reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

They can reduce inflammation.
You’ve likely heard of the inflammation-fighting powers of those all-mighty omega-3s. And while the most powerful of them all—docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA)—come from fish, the plant variety, alpha-linolenic acid or ALA, shouldn’t be totally written off. Walnuts are one of the richest sources of ALA, which may not carry all the health effects of its fishy compatriots but does still seem to fight inflammation. Experts think a diet higher in omega-3s may simply mean we’re not eating as many inflammation-provoking omega-6 fatty acids.

walnuts

They tackle PMS symptoms.
Just an ounce of walnuts—that’s about 14 halves, if you want to get ultra specific—contains nearly 50% of your daily recommended intake of a mineral called manganese and about 11% of your allotment for the day of magnesium. Both have been examined in preliminary research that suggests they can help temper some of your worst PMS symptoms, including mood swings, insomnia, stomach discomfort, and low back pain.

Earlier research suggests this mineral magic might be due to the way levels of both naturally fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle.

They can lower blood pressure.
In studies of how people respond to stressful situations—like plunging your foot into an ice bath or delivering a speech in front of your peers—those who eat walnuts seem to have lower blood pressure, both in response to that stress and when not under stress. Since walnut oil, as well as flax oil, produced similar results, researchers believe the perks may be due to that same ALA that reduces inflammation, this time exerting its do-good properties on BP.

The best news: Getting an additional ounce of walnuts a day happens to be crazy easy. Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, RD, author of The SuperFoodsRx Diet, likes to add chopped walnuts to her oatmeal, sprinkle them on salads, add them to a bread-crumb crust for fish or chicken, and throw walnut halves in the blender with her smoothies after soaking them in water.

More of a baked goods lover (and really, who isn’t)? Enjoying walnuts in baked items like banana bread still has health benefits and could help with critical thinking, according to research in the British Journal of Nutrition.  The study found that eating half a cup of walnuts per day (ground up in banana bread!) for 8 weeks led to an 11.2% increase in inferential reasoning skills (the ability to deduce info based on prior experiences) among college students.

To keep shelled nuts from going rancid, store them in the fridge for up to a month or in the freezer for up to a year.