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Could More Whole Grains Help You Live Longer?

Three servings a day lessens risk of dying from heart disease and cancer, study suggests

By Kathleen Doheny     HealthDay Reporter

MONDAY, June 13, 2016 (HealthDay News) – Health experts have long urged people to swap their processed white grains for the whole-grain variety, and new research suggests that advice might help you live longer.

Researchers found that people who ate three or more servings of whole grains a day had a 20 percent reduced risk of premature death during the study period, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains.

“The higher the whole grain intake, the lower the death rate, especially deaths from cardiovascular disease,” said study author Dr. Qi Sun. He is an assistant professor of nutrition at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston.

Whole grains are so named because they contain the entire grain kernel, including bran (outer husk), germ (nutrient-rich core) and endosperm (middle layer). Whole-grain foods include whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, brown rice and whole cornmeal.

When grains are refined, they have been milled and that process removes the bran and the germ, as well as fiber, iron and many of the B vitamins. White breads, white rice and white flour are all refined grains, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).

Sun and his colleagues reviewed the findings of 12 published studies as well as data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES). The studies included nearly 800,000 men and women. The study populations were from the United States, the United Kingdom and Scandinavian countries. The studies covered 1971 to 2010. Over the study periods, there were almost 98,000 deaths recorded.

The study couldn’t show a direct cause-and-effect relationship. But the review suggests that the risk of dying prematurely from heart disease and stroke dropped approximately 25 percent when people had three servings of whole grains (48 grams total) daily, compared to those who ate fewer or no servings of whole grains. The risk of death from cancer appeared to decrease about 15 percent, the study authors said.

whole-grains-explained

Sun said many possibilities can help explain why whole-grain consumption seemed to affect death risk. Whole grains are high in fiber, so they can help regulate blood sugar and improve blood cholesterol levels, which can lower the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Fiber also makes you feel full longer, so you may eat fewer calories, maintain a healthy weight, and lower heart disease risk, he added.

Based on the study findings, Sun said that low-carbohydrate diets that neglect the health benefits of whole grains “should be adopted with caution,” due to a possible higher risk of heart disease.

To get 48 grams of whole grains, Sun said, people could eat three slices of whole-grain bread, for instance.

One registered dietitian agreed with the findings.

“The outcomes of this study provide support to the dietary guidelines recommendation to include three servings of whole grains in our daily diet,” said Connie Diekman, director of university nutrition at Washington University in St. Louis. “Contrary to many popular diets, this study supports the health benefits of whole grains as opposed to a popular perception that grains are the cause of obesity.”

So how can you be sure the foods you’re eating actually are whole-grain? Foods that list “whole” before the first ingredient on the ingredient list are whole-grain foods, the USDA says.

Some foods are also naturally whole grains, such as oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice, rolled oats, bulgur, wild rice and popcorn. The USDA says you can’t judge whether a food is whole-grain from its color. And, the agency notes that certain claims, such as 100 percent wheat, on packaging don’t necessarily mean a product is made with whole grains. Check the ingredient list to be sure.

Whole-Grain

The study was published June 13 in Circulation.


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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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A Seismic Shift in How People Eat

By HANS TAPARIA and PAMELA KOCH      NOV. 6, 2015

IT’S easy to make fun of people in big cities for their obsession with gluten, or chia seeds, or cleanses.

But urbanites are not the only ones turning away from the products created by big food companies. Eating habits are changing across the country and food companies are struggling to keep up.

General Mills will drop all artificial colors and flavors from its cereals. Perdue, Tyson and Foster Farm have begun to limit the use of antibiotics in their chicken. Kraft declared it was dropping artificial dyes from its macaroni and cheese. Hershey’s will begin to move away from ingredients such as the emulsifier polyglycerol polyricinoleate to “simple and easy-to-understand ingredients” like “fresh milk from local farms, roasted California almonds, cocoa beans and sugar.”

Those announcements reflect a new reality: Consumers are walking away from America’s most iconic food brands. Big food manufacturers are reacting by cleaning up their ingredient labels, acquiring healthier brands and coming out with a prodigious array of new products. Last year, General Mills purchased the organic pasta maker Annie’s Homegrown for $820 million — a price that was over four times the company’s revenues, likening it to valuations more often seen in Silicon Valley. The company also introduced more than 200 new products, ranging from Cheerios Protein to Betty Crocker gluten-free cookie mix, to capitalize on the latest consumer fads.

Food companies are moving in the right direction, but it won’t be enough to save them. If they are to survive changes in eating habits, they need a fundamental shift in their approach.

The food movement over the past couple of decades has substantially altered consumer behavior and reshaped the competitive landscape. Chains like Sweetgreen, a salad purveyor, are grabbing market share from traditional fast food companies. Brands such as Amy’s Kitchen, with its organic products, and Kind bars are taking some of the space on shelves once consumed by Nestlé’s Lean Cuisine and Mars.

For the large established food companies, this is having disastrous consequences. Per capita soda sales are down 25 percent since 1998, mostly replaced by water. Orange juice, a drink once seen as an important part of a healthy breakfast, has seen per capita consumption drop 45 percent in the same period. It is now more correctly considered a serious carrier of free sugar, stripped of its natural fibers. Sales of packaged cereals, also heavily sugar-laden, are down over 25 percent since 2000, with yogurt and granola taking their place. Frozen dinner sales are down nearly 12 percent from 2007 to 2013. Sales per outlet at McDonald’s have been on a downward spiral for nearly three years, with no end in sight.

Family meal

To survive, the food industry will need more than its current bag of tricks. There is a consumer shift at play that calls into question the reason packaged foods exist. There was a time when consumers used to walk through every aisle of the grocery store, but today much of their time is being spent in the perimeter of the store with its vast collection of fresh products — raw produce, meats, bakery items and fresh prepared foods. Sales of fresh prepared foods have grown nearly 30 percent since 2009, while sales of center-of-store packaged goods have started to fall. Sales of raw fruits and vegetables are also growing — among children and young adults, per capita consumption of vegetables is up 10 percent over the past five years.

The outlook for the center of the store is so glum that industry insiders have begun to refer to that space as the morgue. For consumers today, packaged goods conjure up the image of foods stripped of their nutrition and loaded with sugar. Also, decades of deceptive marketing, corporate-sponsored research and government lobbying have left large food companies with brands that are fast becoming liabilities. According to one recent survey, 42 percent of millennial consumers, ages 20 to 37, don’t trust large food companies, compared with 18 percent of non-millennial consumers who feel that way.

Food companies can’t merely tinker. Nor will acquisition-driven strategies prove sufficient, because most acquisitions are too small to shift fortunes quickly. Acquired brands such as Annie’s Homegrown, Happy Baby and Honest Tea account for 1 percent or less of their buyers’ revenues. Moreover, these brands, along with their missions and culture, tend to get quickly lost in the sales and marketing machine of big food companies. It is easy for them to get orphaned.

For legacy food companies to have any hope of survival, they will have to make bold changes in their core product offerings. Companies will have to drastically cut sugar; process less; go local and organic; use more fruits, vegetables and other whole foods; and develop fresh offerings. General Mills needs to do more than just drop the artificial ingredients from Trix. It needs to drop the sugar substantially, move to 100 percent whole grains, and increase ingredient diversity by expanding to other grains besides corn.

Instead of throwing good money after bad for its lagging frozen products, Nestlé, which is investing in a new $50 million frozen research and development facility, should introduce a range of healthy, fresh prepared meals for deli counters across the country.

McDonalds needs to do more than use antibiotic-free chicken. The back of the house for its 36,000 restaurants currently looks like a mini-factory serving fried frozen patties and french fries. It needs to look more like a kitchen serving freshly prepared meals with locally sourced vegetables and grains — and it still needs to taste great and be affordable.

These changes would require a complete overhaul of their supply chains, major organizational restructuring and billions of dollars of investment, but these corporations have the resources. It may be their last chance.

Hans Taparia, an assistant professor at the New York University Stern School of Business, co-founded and partially owns an organic food business. Pamela Koch is executive director of the Laurie M. Tisch Center for Food, Education, and Policy at Teachers College, Columbia University.

A version of this op-ed appears in print on November 8, 2015, on page SR4 of the New York edition with the headline: Real Food Challenges the Food Industry.


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The Best Foods to Fight Fatigue

Exhaustion isn’t a good look on anyone, but it’s all too easy to burn the candle at both ends in the always-connected world we live in. And when that energy slump hits, you need help. But that doesn’t mean downing a dozen cups of coffee or reaching into the candy bowl.

Sugar and caffeine will give you a quick rush, but that’s often followed by a crash. So if you’re searching for sustained energy, look for food with complex carbs, protein, and fiber. We put together this cheat sheet of things to eat and drink to beat fatigue—and a few foods that sabotage your efforts to get pumped up.

The Best Foods

1. Water
The next time you’re feeling drained, try guzzling good old H2O. Dehydration may actually be at the root of your fatigue. It can lead to headaches, ruin your concentration, and put you in a sour a mood. So hit the watercooler stat.

2. Chia Seeds
Talk about something small but mighty. Chia seeds help with hydration by absorbing 10 times their weight in water. Plus, they have the right ratio of protein, fats, and fiber to give you an energy boost without a crash.

3. Bananas
Consider this the green light to go bananas when you’re running low on fuel. In one study, researchers discovered that eating bananas worked as well as sports drinks at keeping cyclists fueled. The potassium-packed fruit also includes a bunch of good-for-you nutrients (like fiber and vitamin B6) that you won’t find in a bottle of Gatorade.

4. Quinoa
With all its protein, fiber, and iron, quinoa is the perfect thing to reach for when you’re looking to recharge. And if you need an on-the-go upper, whip up these quinoa muffin bites and grab ‘em before hitting the road.

5. Green Tea
By now, it’s no secret that green tea has a slew of health benefits. You can add putting some pep back in your step to the long list. The combination of caffeine and L-theanine give you energy without the jitters. Bonus: Research suggests that green tea boosts brainpower as well, which may come in handy when you’re down to the wire at work. Take the time to brew the tea yourself because store-bought varieties often have lots of added sugar.

6. Oatmeal
The cozy breakfast food—though, let’s be honest, you can enjoy it any time of the day—will keep energy levels up. That’s because it’s high in fiber and comes with a decent dose protein. Plus, oatmeal has a low glycemic load, a fancy scientific way of saying it stabilizes blood sugar levels. (Just make sure to steer clear of instant oatmeal packets, which can be packed with sugar and salt.) Oatmeal is also super versatile—just take a look at these 30 delicious recipes to keep food boredom at bay.

oats

7. Almonds
Certain kinds of fat are friends, not foes, particularly when you’re talking about replenishing your energy. And almonds are packed with healthy monosaturated fats that are just what your body needs for a pick-me-up.

8. Beans
Beans keep you going thanks to a stellar trio of carbs, protein, and fiber. The protein fills you up, the carbs provide energy, and the fiber helps regulate blood sugar. Black beans in particular are your BFFs when it comes to an energy boost—try this black bean soup recipe next time your tank needs refilling.

9. Whole-Wheat Bread
Your body needs carbs for energy, but not all carbs are created equal. Whole-wheat bread is great for a long-lasting energy kick. It’s is a complex carb, meaning it raises your blood sugar gradually instead of hiking it up at turbo-speed.

Foods to Avoid

1. Honey
Sure, honey has some serious health benefits, but it’s not something you should be reaching for if you’re looking for sustained energy. Adding a few teaspoons to your tea or yogurt will give a quick rush of energy that spikes your blood sugar, which means a crash can follow.

2. Energy Drinks
If you’re looking for a pick-me-up, don’t reach for a Red Bull. Research suggests energy drinks may do little to curb sleepiness. The combination of caffeine and sugar puts your body through the ringer and may just leave you feeling dehydrated and fatigued.

3. White Bread
While complex carbs keep your energy levels in a steady state, simple carbs, like white bread, can take your blood sugar on a rollercoaster ride. Not what you want when you’re keeping a busy schedule.

4. Candy
There’s a reason you’re always hearing about sugar crashes. As anyone who’s made their way through their Halloween loot can attest, an energy low inevitably follows. While sweets may give you a quick hit of energy, it’s only a matter of time before you once again find yourself dragging. After all, candy’s made up of simple carbs and sugar (which spikes blood sugar only to let it drop way back down). How sweet it isn’t.

5. Junk food
It’s a cruel fact of life that the most accessible, easy-to-grab, and oh-so delicious foods wreck havoc on energy levels. Research has found that diets high in processed food tend to lead to weight gain and a more sedentary lifestyle. Talk about a lose-lose situation.

Alexandra Duron            Greatist

source: www.msn.com


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Eat This To Concentrate Better

Brain Foods That Help You Concentrate

Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on October 11, 2013

Ginseng, Fish, Berries, or Caffeine?

Listen to the buzz about foods and dietary supplements, and you’ll believe they can do everything from sharpen focus to enhance memory, attention span, and brain function.

But do they really work? There’s no denying that as we age, our body ages right along with us. The good news is that you can improve your chances of maintaining a healthy brain if you add “smart” foods and drinks to your diet.

Caffeine Can Make You More Alert

There’s no magic bullet to boost IQ or make you smarter — but certain substances, like caffeine, can energize you and help you concentrate. Found in coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and some medications, caffeine gives you that unmistakable wake-up buzz, though the effects are short-term. And more is often less: Overdo it on caffeine and it can make you jittery and uncomfortable.

Sugar Can Enhance Alertness

Sugar is your brain’s preferred fuel source — not table sugar, but glucose, which your body processes from the sugars and carbs you eat. That’s why a glass of something sweet to drink can offer a short-term boost to memory, thinking, and mental ability.

Have too much, though, and memory can be impaired — along with the rest of you. Go easy on the sugar so it can enhance memory without packing on the pounds.

Eat Breakfast to Fuel Your Brain

Tempted to skip breakfast? Studies have found that eating breakfast may improve short-term memory and attention. Students who eat it tend to perform better than those who don’t. Foods at the top of researchers’ brain-fuel list include high-fiber whole grains, dairy, and fruits. Just don’t overeat; researchers also found high-calorie breakfasts appear to hinder concentration.

Fish Really is Brain Food

A protein source linked to a great brain boost is fish — rich in omega-3 fatty acids that are key for brain health. These healthy fats have amazing brain power: A diet with higher levels of them has been linked to lower dementia and stroke risks and slower mental decline; plus, they may play a vital role in enhancing memory, especially as we get older.

For brain and heart health, eat two servings of fish weekly.

Add a Daily Dose of Nuts and Chocolate

Nuts and seeds are good sources of the antioxidant vitamin E, which is linked to less cognitive decline as you age. Dark chocolate also has other powerful antioxidant properties, and it contains natural stimulants like caffeine, which can enhance focus.

Enjoy up to an ounce a day of nuts and dark chocolate to get all the benefits you need without excess calories, fat, or sugar.

Walnuts

Add Avocados and Whole Grains

Every organ in the body depends on blood flow, especially the heart and brain. A diet high in whole grains and fruits like avocados can cut the risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol. This reduces your risk of plaque buildup and enhances blood flow, offering a simple, tasty way to fire up brain cells.

Whole grains, like popcorn and whole wheat, also contribute dietary fiber and vitamin E. Though avocados have fat, it’s the good-for-you, monounsaturated fat that helps with healthy blood flow.

Blueberries Are Super Nutritious

Research in animals shows that blueberries may help protect the brain from the damage caused by free radicals and may reduce the effects of age-related conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Studies also show that diets rich in blueberries improved both the learning and muscle function of aging rats, making them mentally equal to much younger rats.

Benefits of a Healthy Diet

It may sound trite but it’s true: If your diet lacks essential nutrients, it can hurt your ability to concentrate. Eating too much or too little can also interfere with your focus. A heavy meal may make you feel tired, while too few calories can result in distracting hunger pangs.

Benefit your brain: Strive for a well-balanced diet full of a wide variety of healthy foods.

Vitamins, Minerals, and Supplements?

Store shelves groan with supplements claiming to boost health. Although many of the reports on the brain-boosting power of supplements like vitamins B, C, E, beta-carotene, and magnesium are promising, a supplement is only useful to people whose diets are lacking in that specific nutrient.

Researchers are cautiously optimistic about ginseng, ginkgo, and vitamin, mineral, and herb combinations and their impact on the brain.

Check with your doctor.

Get Ready for a Big Day

Want to power up your ability to concentrate? Start with a meal of 100% fruit juice, a whole-grain bagel with salmon, and a cup of coffee. In addition to eating a well-balanced meal, experts also offer this advice:

  • Get a good night’s sleep.
  • Stay hydrated.
  • Exercise to help sharpen thinking.
  • Meditate to clear thinking and relax.

REFERENCES:
Morris, M. Archives of Neurology, Oct. 10, 2005 online edition; vol 62. News release, American Medical Association.
Noralyn L. Wilson, RD, a spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
Gordon Winocur, PhD, senior scientist for the Rotman Research Institute in Toronto.
Paul E. Gold, professor of psychology and psychiatry, neuroscience program, University of Illinois.
Steven Pratt, MD, author, Superfoods RX: Fourteen Foods Proven to Change Your Life.
Rampersaud, G. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, May 2005; vol 105(5): pp 743-760.
Mathematica Policy Research: “Universal-Free School Breakfast Program Evaluation Design Project – Review of Literature on Breakfast and Learning.”
Michaud, C. Journal of Adolescent Health, January 1991; vol 12(1): pp 53-57.
Ann Kulze, MD, author, Dr. Ann’s 10-Step Diet: A Simple Plan for Permanent Weight Loss and Lifelong Vitality.
University of California Berkeley Guide to Dietary Supplements.


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Healthy Breakfast: Quick, Flexible Options

These healthy out-of-the-box options will fuel you up without slowing you down.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

It might be the last thing on your morning to-do list, or worse, it might not be on your list at all. But a healthy breakfast refuels your body, jump-starts your day and may even benefit your overall health. So don’t skip this meal — it may be more important than you think.

These quick and flexible options give you plenty of ways to put breakfast back on your daily menu.

The benefits of a healthy breakfast

Breakfast gives you a chance to start each day with a healthy and nutritious meal.

Adults who report regularly eating a healthy breakfast are more likely to:

  • Eat more vitamins and minerals
  • Control their weight
  • Eat less fat and cholesterol

Children who regularly eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to:

  • Meet daily nutrient requirements
  • Be at a healthy body weight
  • Have better concentration and be more alert
  • Miss fewer days of school

The basics of a healthy breakfast

What exactly counts as a healthy breakfast? Here’s what forms the core of a healthy breakfast:

  • Whole grains. Examples include whole-grain rolls, bagels, hot or cold whole-grain cereals, low-fat bran muffins, crackers, and Melba toast.
  • Lean protein. Examples include peanut butter, lean meat, poultry or fish, and hard-boiled eggs.
  • Low-fat dairy. Examples include milk, plain or lower sugar yogurts, and low-fat cheeses, such as cottage and natural cheeses.
  • Fruits and vegetables. Examples include fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, 100 percent juice drinks without added sugar, and fruit and vegetable smoothies. Choose low-sodium versions of beverages, though.

Together, these food groups provide complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and a small amount of fat — a combination that packs health benefits and helps you feel full for hours.

Find options from these core groups that suit your tastes and preferences. And try to choose one or two options from each category to round out a healthy breakfast.

Breakfast

 

What to look for in dry cereals

Cereal may be your go-to item for breakfast, whether you grab a handful to eat dry while on the run, or you have time to sit down for a bowl with milk and fruit. But not all cereals are created equal. Read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list before you buy cereal. And remember that not all cereals have the same serving size. A serving of one cereal might be 1/2 cup, while another may be 1 cup.

Key items to consider when choosing cereal are:

  • Fiber. Choose cereals with at least 3 grams of fiber in each serving, but if possible, aim for 5 grams a serving or more.
  • Sugar. After you find fiber-rich cereals that you like, look for the one with the lowest amount of sugar. Focus on cereals marketed to adults. They’re usually lower in sugar than cereals aimed at children. To find out how much sugar a cereal contains, check the Nutrition Facts label. It’s also important to check the ingredient list. Avoid cereals that list sugar at or near the top of the ingredient list, or that list multiple types of added sugar, such as high-fructose corn syrup, honey, brown sugar and dextrose.
  • Calories. If you’re counting calories, choose cereals lower in calories, ideally less than 160 calories a serving.

Remember to top off your bowl of cereal with some sliced fruit and low-fat or skim milk. Or if you’re on the go, take along a piece of fruit, a container of milk or some yogurt.

A word about cereal bars

Cereal bars may be a good breakfast option. Just be sure to look for those that meet the same guidelines as dry cereal. Also, don’t forget some fruit and low-fat milk or yogurt to round things out. Even fruit or yogurt cereal bars won’t satisfy all your nutrition requirements for breakfast.

Quick and flexible breakfast options

You have plenty of ways to get in a healthy breakfast each day, and it doesn’t always have to be a traditional breakfast menu.

Here are some examples of healthy breakfast options:

  • Cooked oatmeal topped with almonds or dried cranberries
  • A whole-wheat pita stuffed with hard-boiled eggs
  • Leftover vegetable pizza
  • A tortilla filled with vegetables, salsa and low-fat shredded cheese
  • A smoothie of fruits, plain yogurt and a spoonful of wheat germ
  • Whole-wheat crackers with low-fat cheese or peanut butter
  • A whole-wheat sandwich with lean meat and low-fat cheese, lettuce, tomato, cucumber and sweet peppers
  • Multigrain pancakes with fruit and yogurt
  • A whole-grain waffle with peanut butter
  • Egg omelet with vegetables (use more egg whites than yolk)

Fitting in a healthy breakfast

Try these tips for fitting in breakfast on a tight schedule:

  • Cook ahead. Make breakfast the night before. Just reheat as necessary in the morning.
  • Set the stage. Figure out what you’ll eat for breakfast the night before. Then, set out dry ingredients and any bowls, equipment or pans. They’ll be ready for use in the morning.
  • Pack it up. Make a to-go breakfast the night before. In the morning, you can grab it and go.

If you skip breakfast because you want to save calories, reconsider that plan. Chances are you’ll be ravenous by lunchtime. That may lead you to overeat or choose fast but unhealthy options — perhaps doughnuts or cookies a co-worker brings to the office.

Your morning meal doesn’t have to mean loading up on sugar and fats, and it doesn’t have to be time-consuming to be healthy. Keep the breakfast basics in mind and set yourself up for healthier eating all day long.


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More Whole Grains May Boost Life Span

But study found you’ll need to eat a lot to gain most benefit

By Randy Dotinga     HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, March 24, 2015 (HealthDay News) – In more good news for those who fill up on bran cereal and quinoa, a new study suggests that older people who eat a lot of whole grains may live longer than those who hardly ever eat them.

Even the obese and sedentary appear to gain a benefit, the researchers added.

People should “eat more whole grains and reduce intake of refined carbohydrates,” said study co-author Dr. Lu Qi, an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

Qi added that eating more grains may even help people lose weight: “There is no evidence that [a diet rich in] whole grain increases calorie intake, and it may lower it,” he said.

The finding does have limitations – almost all participants were white, for example – and it doesn’t directly prove that eating lots of whole grains caused people to live longer.

In the study, researchers looked at whole fiber – the whole seed of grain that’s used in grain products like bread and cereal.

The researchers tracked almost 370,000 people in the United States from the mid-1990s, when they took surveys, through the year 2009. They were all members of AARP and aged 50 to 71. The study excluded tens of thousands of people with conditions such as cancer, heart disease and stroke, meaning that the results don’t apply to older people as a whole.

After adjusting their statistics so they wouldn’t be thrown off by high or low numbers of certain types of people, the researchers found that those who ate the most fiber were 17 percent less likely to die during the study period than those who ate the least. However, the risk of death during the study was low overall: About 12 percent (just over 46,000) of the people died during the study period.

Those who ate the most fiber were more likely to be educated, less likely to be obese and less likely to smoke than those who ate the least, the study found. They also ate much less red meat, on average. But the life span benefit held up even when researchers adjusted their statistics to eliminate the impact of factors such as obesity and poorer health.

Flax Seed: The Low Carb Whole Grain

The researchers also found signs that whole grains lowered the risk of premature death from lung disease and diabetes. More consumption of the cereal fiber inside whole grains, meanwhile, translated to fewer deaths and lower levels of cancer and diabetes.

How much whole grain might a person need to reap this benefit? A lot. The researchers defined heavy eaters of whole grains – those with the greatest life span benefits – as those who ate 34 grams of whole grains for every 1,000 calories they consumed per day. For a person on a 2,500-calorie diet, that’s 85 grams: the equivalent of five slices of whole wheat bread or 5 cups of whole-grain breakfast cereal.

Those defined as eating the least whole grain consumed about 4 grams per 1,000 calories per day, or 10 grams for a person on a 2,500-calorie diet. That’s fewer grams than are in half a cup of oatmeal (16 grams).

One expert noted that switching over to whole grains could make a big difference.

“National survey data indicate that the current average intake of dietary fiber is only 16 grams, so increasing dietary fiber intake to the recommended more than 30 grams a day could significantly impact public health,” said Dr. Yunsheng Ma, an associate professor in the division of preventive and behavioral medicine at the University of Massachusetts Medical School in Worcester, Mass.

“Foods high in fiber are predominantly protective foods high in micronutrient density, such as fruit, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and legumes,” Ma added. “There is no upper limit that has been set for dietary fiber intake per day.”

Ma, who’s familiar with the new research, wrote a study published earlier this year that linked fiber consumption to lower weight, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Why might whole grains be so good for a person’s health? Study co-author Qi said they may work by lowering three things: food intake overall, levels of “bad” cholesterol, and inflammation.

The study is published in the March 24 edition of BMC Medicine.


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10 Foods That Promote Brain Health

by Brandi, selected from Diets in Review

Who doesn’t want to become smarter? Who wants to look better or feel healthier? Many recent studies have shown how certain nutrients can positively affect the brain, specifically in areas of the brain related to cognitive processing or feelings and emotions. Generally speaking, you want to follow a healthy diet for your brain that will lead to strong blood flow, maintenance of mental sharpness and reduce the risk of heart disease and neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

We know that foods play a great role in our brain, as concluded in several studies led by a phenomenal neuroscientist at UCLA, Gomez Pinilla.

According to one study, the super fats your brain needs most are omega-3 fatty acids. Your brain converts them into DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which enhances neuronal communication and promotes neuronal growth.

Food and nutrients represent fuel to our bodies the same way that when we use our car we need to fill the gas tank. Unfortunately, we generally take better care of our cars than our bodies. Why is that? We are hearing frequently that consuming the right nutrients can help our health, aging process, and more efficient brain-body functioning.

With that said, I want to share with you ten foods you must keep in your diet to maintain brain health:

1. Apples: Eating an apple a day protects the brain from oxidative damage that causes neurodegenerative diseases such Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. This magical nutrient that acts as protection is quercetin, which is a phytonutrient.

2. Asparagus: Asparagus is rich in folic acid, which is essential for the metabolism of the long chain fatty acids in your brain.

3. Lean Beef: Lean beef is rich in vitamin B12, iron and zinc. These vitamins and minerals have been shown to maintain a healthy neural tissue.

blueberries

4. Blueberries and strawberries: Studies show that people who eat berries improve their memory and their motor skills. In addition, their antioxidant properties can protect your brain from the oxidative process.

5. Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate offers incredible concentration powers. It is a very powerful antioxidant containing natural stimulants that increase the production of feel-good endorphins. Trick: you need to find dark chocolate with less than 10 grams of sugar per serving for optimal benefits.

6. Salmon: Salmon contains omega-3 fatty acids, which studies have shown to be essential for brain function.

7. Dried oregano: Certain spices have powerful antioxidant properties. In several studies, this powerful spice has shown to have 40 times more antioxidant properties than apples, 30 times more than potatoes, 12 times more than oranges, and 4 times more than that of blueberries or strawberries.

8. Walnuts: Walnuts are rich in protein and contain omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins E and B6 which all promote healthy neural tissue.

9. Whole grains: Whole grains deliver fiber and vitamin E that help promote cardiovascular health, which helps improve the circulation to the brain.

10. Yogurt: Yogurt and other dairy foods are filled with protein and vitamin B that are essential to improve the communication between nerve cells.

Make sure that from now on you select and plan a great menu that include these brain foods. Life is about choices and selecting the right nutrients can play a key role in your health.

Written by Michael Gonzalez-Wallace, who is the author of Super Body, Super Brain.
You can read more from him at http://www.superbodysuperbrain.com or pick up his book Super Body, Super Brain.


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Need A Natural Energy Boost? Here Are 7 Food Strategies

Kara, selected from TreeHugger     July 19, 2014

Food is fuel for our bodies, and our bodies reflect what we put into them. By learning how to eat in ways that boost energy and combat fatigue, you can do a lot to optimize your mental and physical performance throughout the day.

1. Make sure you’re getting enough iron

Iron is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States. An estimated 10 percent of women between 20 and 40 are iron-deficient. Iron is a crucial nutrient that boosts energy, combats fatigue, and enhances physical and mental endurance. Iron is responsible for transporting oxygen through people’s bodies, and without sufficient oxygen, your body will become fatigued. Women need more iron because of monthly menstruation, and small children need a lot because their bodies are growing so quickly.

Focus on making iron-rich foods a part of every meal. Kale, spinach, lentils, beans, sesame seeds, prune juice, edamame, whole grains, red meat, and molasses are good food sources of iron. Here is a longer list from the Dietitians of Canada.

2. Cut the caffeine

Many of us turn to coffee as a way to boost energy instantly but, as a stimulant, it creates an artificial sense of energy that will eventually crash, leaving you feeling more tired than ever. While I’m a big fan of my morning latte and have no intentions of giving it up, it’s a good idea not to go too crazy with the coffee addiction. Restrict your daily intake to 1 or 2 cups a day, or cut it out completely.

3. Drink plenty of water

Keeping hydrated is absolutely necessary for optimal physical performance. Try starting the day off by drinking a tall glass of water to replenish the fluids lost during the night. A glass of water does wonders to wake you up during the early afternoon slump. Avoid sugary juice and soda, as well as caffeine-laden coffee and energy drinks, and make water your go-to beverage throughout the day.

4. Don’t forget the fat

Healthy fats can provide energy. Fat helps to absorb the antioxidants in other foods that you’re eating, which in turn are important for maintaining healthy cells. Fat also makes you feel full for longer, which means you don’t have to eat as much to feel satisfied at the table. I realize this goes against the U.S. and Canadian Food Guides’ recommendations for low-fat, high-carb diets, but there is mounting empirical evidence that that kind of diet is not so good for us after all and is a leading cause for high levels of Type 2 diabetes. Seek out healthy fats, which can be found in olive oil, coconut oil, avocadoes, raw nuts and seeds, and fatty fish.

5. Eat whole grains

Whole grains slow down the digestive process and burn more slowly than refined or processed foods, providing energy over a longer period of time. You’ll also get more nutrients since the individual foods will not have lost any ‘original parts’ in the act of the processing. Choose whole grains such as steel-cut oats, millet, barley, brown rice, quinoa, whole wheat, and buckwheat.

6. Balance your food intake

“Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper.” By properly balancing your daily food intake, you will ensure optimal energy throughout the day. A hearty, energizing breakfast that includes low-glycemic carbs and healthy fats gives you the fuel to start the day. As your metabolism slows before bedtime, it’s important to eat less. Be sure to eat healthy snacks throughout the day to maintain energy, such as raw nuts, seeds, and fruit.

7. Buy fresh and local

The fresher produce is, the more nutrients it has. By buying locally, you’ll minimize the amount of time wasted between harvest and consumption, and optimize the nutritional value for your body. The produce is fresher and usually has not been subjected to irradiation (getting zapped by radiation to kill germs), wax coatings, or prolonged refrigeration.

By Rick Ligthelm, TreeHugger


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Has the Gluten Health Mystery Been Solved?

By Tom Philpott   Wed Feb. 12, 2014

Washington State University’s agriculture research and extension facility in Mount Vernon, about an hour due north along the Puget Sound from Seattle, looks at first glance like any recently built academic edifice: that is to say, boring and austere. On the outside, it’s surrounded by test plots of wheat and other grains, as well as greenhouses, shrouded in the Pacific Northwest’s classic gray skies and mist. Inside, professors and grad students shuffle through the long halls, passing quiet offices and labs.

Yet one of those labs is not like the others—or any other that I know of, for that matter. When you look down the length of the room from the back wall, you see two distinct chambers, separated by long, adjoining tables: gleaming chunks of impressive-looking machinery to the left; flour sacks, mixing bowls, a large, multileveled oven to the right. And in place of the vaguely chemical smell of most university labs, you get the rich, toasty aroma of fresh-baked bread.

Mounted on the outer edge of the short wall that divides the two tables, there’s an image of a human brain, with its two halves. “Aha, that symbolizes the lab,” says lab staffer Jonathan McDowell. The left side is the “analytical laboratory, where raw objective data is generated by high-tech machinery,” he says, gesturing to a contraption that measures the protein level in flour. The right side, meanwhile, is the “intuitive laboratory of the artisan baker, where hands and palate are the means of validation.” Taken together, the Bread Lab is like a “unified mind, where science and art coalescence,” he says.

McDowell is a slender, bespectacled, slightly flour-dusted young man in red trousers, black loafers, and V-necked white T-shirt, his face framed by a thick beard and mop of close-cropped dark hair. He looks like he’d fit in better onstage at an indie rock show than at an ag research center in a rural county. Yet he couldn’t be more at home. McDowell is the staff baker here at the Bread Lab, the brainchild of Washington State wheat breeder Stephen Jones, who’s also the director of the Mount Vernon research outpost. Jones believes fervently that grain breeding—the art and science of creating new varieties—has been hijacked by large seed, milling, and baking interests, giving rise to high-yielding but boring varieties geared to the mass production of crappy, and mostly white, bread.

For the last half-century or so, says Jones, wheat has been bred for industrial mills, where it is ground and separated into its three components: flour, germ, and bran. Usually, the flour gets turned into white bread, while the germ and bran—which contain all of wheat’s healthy fats and fiber, and much of the vitamins—go to other uses, including supplements and livestock feed. In most of what we now know as “whole wheat” bread, some—but not all—of the bran and germ are mixed back in.

For Jones, these are inferior products—both in nutrition and taste terms. So he has been working with farmers in the Pacific Northwest to develop wheat varieties that can be milled into flour that’s suitable for being baked directly into bread. And it falls to McDowell—who took over the role of the lab’s baker from Jones himself last year—to show the world that 100 percent whole-wheat bread isn’t just edible, but delicious.

According to Jones and McDowell, low-quality industrial white flours and fast-rising commercial yeasts, along with additives like vital wheat gluten—a wheat product added to give bread structure despite superfast rises—have generated a backlash against bread in the form of the “gluten-free” craze. While people with celiac disease genuinely can’t process the gluten in wheat, they argue, most people actually can. The problem is that most industrial bakeries only allow bread to rise for a matter of minutes—not nearly long enough to let the yeast and bacteria digest all the gluten in the flour, let alone the extra dose in the additives. The result can lead to all kinds of problems in our gut.

McDowell gets philosophical when you ask him about the rise (so to speak) of “gluten-free bread.” In a quiet corner of the lab, he ruminates on the topic. “What has been the staff of life is now perceived as the spirit of disease,” he says. “Symbolically, you can look at bread as a representation of our society through history,” he says. “If you look at gluten as what holds bread together, and you look at bread as what holds our society together, what is ‘gluten-free bread,’ then? Is it not a symbol of our times?” McDowell calls the rush away from bread as it’s commonly made now a “wake-up call” and “opportunity” for bakers to reestablish bread as a healthy, delicious staple. And he sounds genuinely undaunted by the project of doing just that.

Moreover, McDowell and Jones say, wheat that has been bred to be made into white flour doesn’t make very interesting bread—and can be downright unpalatable when people try to make it into a whole wheat loaf. That’s why 100 percent whole-wheat bread has a reputation for being good-for-you but kind of awful—cardboard-flavored and overly chewy. For that reason, even whole-foods enthusiasts like me tend to use at least half white flour when we bake.

The quixotic goals of the Bread Lab, in short, are to rescue bread from gluten-villain status, while simultaneously pushing whole wheat from the hippie margin to the delicious center of the culinary world. (Jones and McDowell aren’t alone in this of course—the food writer Mark Bittman has been experimenting with 100 percent whole wheat as well, as have others.)

I tasted McDowell’s bread at an event last fall—and again during my January trip to the Bread Lab—so I knew he could make spectacular 100 percent whole-wheat bread from a sourdough starter. My question was: Could I do it, under his tutelage, in my home kitchen? I’m a pretty rudimentary home baker. Before this experiment, I had made exactly one 100 percent whole wheat bread loaf before. It didn’t make for very good eating, but could have enjoyed a long career as a garden steppingstone. Nor had I ever successfully baked with sourdough—my one previous effort had failed to rise, and I suspected I had murdered my starter before it ever got a chance to feed on the flour I was offering it.

Before I ended my visit, McDowell insisted on gifting me a small plastic vial of his own special starter (to satisfy the liquid-suspicious Transportation Security Administration gods, he made it into a nearly solid paste by adding lots of flour). He also handed me a bag of freshly ground whole-wheat flour; and a recipe, that he scribbled out on the spot, on lined, yellow paper. I had told him that my most successful previous foray into bread baking had been with the “no-knead” recipe popularized by New York baker Jim Lahey and immortalized for all time by Bittman.

The Lahey/Bittman loaf calls for a dough leavened with a tiny amount of commercial yeast, which is left to rise overnight and then cooked in a tightly covered pot in a blazing-hot oven. McDowell adapted his recipe along those lines.

I’m happy to report that, under McDowell’s direction, I have churned out two fantastic loaves. They had a faint sourness that added a dimension of flavor without being at all shrill or dominant. In the first loaf, I had become paranoid that I had fouled up the process of waking up the sourdough starter. But the bread was delicious—nutty and moist inside with plenty of air pockets, surrounded by a thick, hearty crust—”as good as bread gets,” a bread-savvy friend visiting from Chicago declared. The second one, after I had lavishly fed and cared for the starter, was outstanding, too, but seemed a little denser than the first. Go figure. Living creatures—humans and microbiota alike—are capricious. Here’s Jonathon’s recipe—a perfect thing to try on a rainy or snowy day at home. (It takes six or seven hours, very little of it active, from start to finish, once you get the starter prepped.)

wwsourdough

Whole-Wheat Sourdough Bread

Equipment/flour note: This recipe requires a dutch oven—a heavy-duty pot with a tight-fitting lid—because these durable pots capture the steam from the dough to create the thick, blistered crusts you typically only can get from commercial baking ovens. (Dutch ovens can get quite expensive, but for bread-making purposes, my favorite is the relatively affordable cast-iron type.) Also, a cheap digital kitchen scale isn’t absolutely necessary for this recipe—McDowell kindly converted gram weights to cups and tablespoons—but will make the work go a lot more smoothly. Also, please be sure to read the whole recipe before you get started; it requires a few days of planning. As for flour, obviously everyone doesn’t have access (yet) to fresh-ground wheat that’s been carefully bred specifically for whole-grain bread. But mid-sized operations like North Carolina’s Lindley Mills and California’s Community Grains are working with farmers in their regions to produce top-quality whole wheat bread flour products, and are worth seeking out. McDowell says that some Whole Foods outlets offer Community Grains flour ground at the store—a definite win if you can get your hands on it. If you can’t find a regional product, King Arthur’s organic 100 percent whole wheat flour is available nationwide and should “give you decent results,” McDowell says.

First, make or acquire a starter:

“Most artisan bakers would be happy to give you a piece of their levain to inoculate your own starter with,” McDowell says. But he recommends trying to start one from scratch. McDowell says that homemade starters primarily utilize the yeast and bacteria present in the flour itself, but that over time, they acclimate to their particular environment. “Not every location can easily start or sustain one,” he warns, but most can. Here’s how:

3 tablespoons whole rye or wheat flour

Enough water to make what looks like a “thick pancake batter.”

Stir to mix and let it sit out, loosely covered, for 24 hours. Then take 60 grams (1/4 cup) of the starter, discarding the rest, and mix it with 60 grams of water (1/4 cup) and 60 grams (3/8 cup) of flour. Repeat this process every 12 hours for 3 to 5 days. By the time it’s obviously alive—slightly bubbly and smelling distinctly acidic—you’ll have succeeded in creating a levain. You can jump straight to step (b) in the section below with this the new starter and bake with it; or store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to bake.

Next, prepare your culture for baking:

When you’re ready to bake, start 24 hours ahead if you’re using a refrigerated starter. You’ll need to wake it up and get it ready to leaven a loaf.

a) Mix 60 grams flour (3/8 cup), 60 grams warm water (about a quarter cup), 30 grams starter (about 1/8 cup) in a small bowl. Let sit at room temperature (70 degrees F) for 12 to 14 hours.

b) Then, take 10 grams (about a tablespoon) of that starter (you can discard the rest), which will have begun to get lively, and mix it with 60 grams flour (about a half cup) and 60 grams water (about a quarter cup).

Let it sit for 12 to 14 more hours. Now you’ll have just enough lively starter for a loaf—a little more than a half cup—plus a bit left over to begin the next batch of starter.

Now, get that next batch going: Scoop out about 10 grams (1/8 cup) of the starter, and add 20 grams of flour (1 1/3 tablespoons) and 20 grams of water (1 1/3 tablespoons). Mix it, and let sit for 3 hours at room temperature, then store in the fridge, covered tightly. Keep it alive by baking every week; or feed it once a week by scooping out 10 grams (1/8 cup) of starter (discarding the rest), and mixing with 20 grams of flour (1 1/3 tablespoons) and 20 grams of water (1 1/3 tablespoons), as above.

Now, finally, make the bread:

Ingredients

580 grams (4 cups) whole wheat flour

506 grams (2¼ cups) water, at room temperature

12 grams (2½ teaspoons) salt

120 grams (½ cup) Starter

Step 1: This is known as the autolyse step. Mix the starter and water together in a large bowl or plastic bread-making tub (see video below—I used a bowl). Add the flour, and mix well. Let sit 20 to 40 minutes.

Step 2: Mix dough by hand, squeezing and folding it to develop gluten. Here’s how.

Step 3: Let it rest, covered, for 3 hours, periodically folding as above (3 to 4 times).

Step 4: Shape the dough into a round by gently folding it over on itself, leaving a smooth, round top and a seamed bottom. This is known as a boule. Let it rest, covered, 20 minutes.

Step 5: Very gently place the boule, seam side up, into a floured proofing basket for 1.5 to 2 hours. If you do not have a proofing basket, you can take a linen (or fine mesh cotton, but linen is best) cloth, rub plenty of flour into it and place it in a small mixing bowl. Make sure there is ample flour covering all surfaces that the dough will touch, and also be sure that the bowl is deep enough to really shore up the sides of the boule. (I used a bowl-shaped metal colander as my proofing bowl, lined with a well-floured cloth.) About an hour into the proof, preheat the oven to 500 degrees and put the empty Dutch oven, with cover, into the oven, so that it will become blazing hot.

Step 6: Very carefully, drop the boule into the hot Dutch oven, seam side down.

Step 7: Make a few incisions along the top membrane about ¼ inch into the dough’s surface, to help with the loaf expansion. McDowell uses a straight razor. I used a serrated (bread) knife. (I forgot to do this in my second loaf.)

Loaf Two also showed pretty good air pockets.

Step 8: Bake approximately 30 minutes , then remove the lid of the Dutch oven and bake until the boule is a deep brown—10 to 15 minutes more. (You can insert an instant-read thermometer into the loaf—when done, it will be within a few degrees of 212 degrees F).

Step 9: Let cool on a metal rack—at least one hour; 4-6 hours is optimal to let the loaf develop flavor.