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Monthly Archives: March 2017

Trendy Foods With Serious Health Benefits

Food, like fashion, has its trends. And when it comes to the best foods for dieting and weight loss, trends come and go — what’s cool one day is passé the next. Usually, foods come into fashion because they’re thought to be more healthful than their more mainstream counterparts (think swapping brown rice for quinoa). Here’s what you need to know about the most recent batch of trendy foods.

Agave

This sugar substitute is made from cacti, and is thought to be a healthy alternative togranulated sugar in baking. “Cup for cup, agave and table sugar are about equal in the calorie department, but because agave is about 1.5 times sweeter than table sugar, you can use less of it to reach the same sweetness,” says Rania Batayneh, MPH, a nutritionist and owner of Essential Nutrition for You, a nutrition consulting firm. Agave’s main benefit, she says, is that it scores low on the glycemic index — between 15 and 30 compared with table sugar’s 65. “This means that consumption won’t result in dangerous spikes in blood sugar that table sugar so often causes, making it a possible safe alternative for diabetics,” says Batayneh.

If you’re trying to cut calories for weight loss, agave doesn’t offer much of a benefit, Batayneh says. Instead, stick to a zero-calorie sugar substitute like stevia, or better yet, skip refined sugar foods altogether.

Nondairy Milk

For the lactose-intolerant and those wanting to avoid all animal foods, rice milk, almond milk, and soy milk are becoming increasingly popular food trends for good nutrition. “More and more people are becoming sensitive to dairy products,” says Sally Kravich, MS, a natural health expert and consultant in New York City. “I recommend almond milk and rice milk to many of my clients. For those who have a sensitive digestive system, rice milk is best. For those who are vegans and need more protein and naturally occurring calcium, I recommend almond milk. I only recommend soy milk to women who need to boost their hormones or for older men with prostate issues.”

If you’re watching your sugar intake, try an unsweetened nondairy milk, as most brands have either no sugar or less sugar than naturally occurs in dairy milk. Plus, nondairy milks are often fortified with extra calcium or vitamin D.

Almond Butter

Almond butter is another almond-based food trend that has some advantages over conventional peanut butter. “I brought up my own children on almond butter,” Kravich says. “Almond butter is preferable over peanut butter as it contains more protein and less sugar than the peanut.”

Still, it’s important to eat nut butters in moderation, as most varieties are heavy in calories and fat.

Quinoa

Nutrient-rich whole grains and their high levels of digestion-friendly fiber are an essential component of any balanced diet. A new choice on the whole grain market that’s become wildly popular is the South American grain quinoa. Prized for its versatility and high protein content, quinoa has fast become a restaurant and supermarket staple. “My favorite grain recommendations across the board are millet, quinoa, and brown rice,” Kravich says. “For those who need a higher protein grain, quinoa is my first choice.”

Chia Seeds and Teff

Chia and teff are two other whole-grain foods that Kravich recommends adding to your dieting arsenal. “Chia can be added to smoothies for added protein and easier bowel movements,” she says. “The Ethiopian grain teff is a good flour product for those who have digestive issues and cannot tolerate gluten.”

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil was once thought to be a fat to avoid, but recent research has found that its negative effects may have been overstated. “Coconut oil has received controversial attention due to the fact that, of its 15 grams of fat per serving, 13 of these are saturated fats,” Batayneh says. “The saturated fats found in coconuts, however, are medium-chain fatty acids, as opposed to the long-chain fatty acids found in meat, milk, eggs, and vegetable oils. Because of coconut’s unique form of saturated fat, it has been shown to raise metabolism and slow digestion, promoting fullness and decreasing feelings of hunger.” Coconut oil has other nutrition benefits, too. “Its lauric acid enhances the immune system and promotes health development in infants,” she adds. “It has also been shown to increase endurance and speed in cyclists, making it an ideal supplement for athletes.”

Fermented Foods

“I think fermented foods are the next big thing,” says Pamela Schoenfeld, RD, a registered dietitian in private practice in Morristown, N.J., and executive director of the Healthy Nation Coalition. “Foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, and real kosher pickles have been popular for years, but now we have kimchi, fermented beets, radishes, carrots — you name it. If these foods are not pasteurized after fermentation, they contain beneficial bacteria that promotes digestive health. These foods are not difficult to make and are a great way to preserve the bounty from the garden or farmers’ market.”

7 Life-Enhancing Reasons to Eat Fish

Fish has a reputation for being low calorie, high protein “brain food,” thanks to the long strands of polyunsaturated essential omega-3 fatty acids (popularly referred to as “omega-3s”) found in fish oil.

The human body can’t naturally produce omega-3s, but yet they’re needed for a healthy body, inside and out. Although the link between omega-3s and heart healthhas long been known, several new studies present even more evidence that fish high in fatty acids is essential for total-body wellness.

The good news is if you’re not a fish fan, most new research indicates that eating fish only once or twice a week can be enough to reap the benefits. Meanwhile, the National Institute of Health recommends that people consume at least 2 percent of their total daily calories as omega-3 fatty acids, which equals about 4 grams per day. One four-ounce piece of salmon (one of the highest natural sources of omega-3s) contains about 1.5 grams of the fatty acid. Other fish, such as tuna, sardines, and halibut, also contains high levels. If you don’t eat animal products or have trouble fitting fish into your diet, you can get your daily recommended amount of fatty acids through omega-3 DHA/fish oil supplements. Although new data from Consumer Reports suggests that more Americans are buying omega-3 supplements than ever before, the doctor-recommended way to consume the health benefits of fish is still by eating the real thing.

If the heart-health-boosting, waist-slimming properties weren’t reasons enough to eat more fish, here are seven more ways adding a dose of fish to your diet can improve your health.

  1. Prevent Heart Disease: A Danish study of 49,000 women that was published Monday in Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association found that women who ate little to no fish had 50 percent more heart problems than those who ate fish at least once per week. Additionally, researchers found that women who rarely ate fish had a three-fold higher disease risk than those who ate it often. Other research has found that eating fish high in omega-3s can slash blood fat levels, which can contribute to a lower heart-disease risk.
  2. Reduce Alzheimer’s Risk: Eating fish as little as once a week can help preserve gray-matter neurons — the part of the brain linked to memory and cognition —according to a new study presented last month at the Radiological Society of North America’s annual meeting. Researchers found that people who eat baked or broiled — but not fried — fish had larger brains and larger cells in the areas of the brain responsible for memory and learning. Scientists believe the larger brain volume can help lower the risk of cognitive decline and Alzheimer’s disease.
  3. Improve Skin and Hair: One of the biggest drawbacks to a low-fat diet is you often deprive your skin and hair of the healthy fat it needs, leaving it dull and dry. The omega-3s in fish are exactly the type of healthy fat to eat to keep your skin looking nourished and your hair shiny. Research has also linked fish and omega-3 consumption to treatment of skin conditions such as psoriasis.
  4. Ease Depression: Several studies have found that when taken along with prescription antidepressant medications, the omega-3s in fish are more effective at treating depression that just prescription medication alone. One study of 52 pregnant women found that taking a 300 mg capsule of omega-3s during pregnancy significantly reduced the women’s risk of postpartum depression.
  5. Boost Brain Development: The EFA omega-3 found in salmon and other nutrient-rich fish are essential nutrients for children because they contribute to brain development. Some studies have even found that omega-3 consumption can help soothe symptoms of ADHD. Experts recommend, however, that parents ask their pediatrician before introducing supplements to a child’s diet.
  6. Dose of Vitamin D: Saltwater fish is a sun-less source of vitamin D, which scientists say can help ward off disease, promote bone health, and with the help of the omega-3s in fish, ward off cognitive decline. Just one three-ounce serving of salmon contains 75 percent of your daily recommended amount of the vitamin.
  7. Stronger Sperm: A recent study of 188 men found that those who ate more fresh fish — along with other healthy foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole grains — had stronger swimmers than those who ate unhealthy diets. Researchers say that more study needs to be done, but preliminary data shows that the better the participant’s diet, the stronger the shape and mobility of the sperm he produced.

Teens Don’t Eat Enough Fruits and Veggies

The investigators analyzed data from nearly 10,800 students in grades nine through 12 who took part in the National Youth Physical Activity and Nutrition Study 2010, and found that median consumption was 1.2 times per day for both fruits and vegetables.

Median daily fruit consumption was much higher among males than females, and much higher among grade nine students than among students in grades 10 and 12.

Slightly more than one in four (28.5 percent) of the high school students ate fruit less than once a day, and 33.2 percent ate vegetables less than once a day. Only 16.8 percent of students ate fruit at least four times a day and only 11.2 percent ate vegetables at least four times a day, the study found.

Vegetable consumption was lowest among Hispanic and black students.

The researchers said their findings indicate that most high school students don’t meet the daily fruit and vegetable recommendations for teens who do less than 30 minutes of physical activity a day: 1.5 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of vegetables for females and 2 cups of fruit and 3 cups of vegetables for males.

Teens who get more physical activity need to eat even more fruits and vegetables, the researchers noted.

“The infrequent fruit and vegetable consumption by high school students highlights the need for effective strategies to increase consumption,” the researchers wrote in the report published in the Nov. 25 issue of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

Potentially promising school and community-based strategies include policy and environmental approaches such as farm-to-school initiatives, school gardens, salad bars in schools, and farmers’ markets. All of these programs seek to improve access to and availability of fruits and vegetables, the researchers explained.

Several Types of Drinking Tied to Poor Diet

Spanish researchers surveyed more than 12,000 adults aged 18 to 64 about their drinking and eating habits. They found that heavy drinking, binge drinking, a preference for hard liquor and even drinking at mealtimes were associated with poor adherence to major nutrition guidelines.

Although drinking during mealtimes is traditionally associated with good health, the researchers found that this was not true if the drinkers ate carelessly.

“Our results are of relevance because they show that drinking at mealtimes is associated with insufficient intake of healthy foods, such as fruits and vegetables, and with excessive intake of animal protein,” said study corresponding author Jose Lorenzo Valencia-Martin, a doctor at the Universidad Autonoma de Madrid, said in a journal news release.

“In Spain, alcohol is frequently drunk during meals, particularly lunch and dinner. Because of this, and the lower prevalence of abstainers, our findings apply to most adults in Spain and in other Mediterranean countries in Europe,” he added.

Valencia-Martin pointed out that heavy drinkers were likely to develop liver disease, and that many tended to favor high-energy fast foods high in trans fat. Unfortunately, a diet high in trans fats might also contribute to liver disease, he said.

Excessive drinking and an unhealthy diet are two major preventable factors that contribute to health problems in developed nations, the researchers noted.

“Drinking alcohol may reduce maintaining a healthy diet, leading to adverse metabolic effects which, in turn, add to those directly produced by alcohol,” Valencia-Martin said.

“Alcohol may indirectly contribute to several chronic diseases such as obesity, diabetes mellitus, cardiovascular disease or cancer,” he added.