Nutrition Blog

What This Mom Learned About Food Culture in America After Her Baby Stopped Eating

 

Virginia-Sole Smith’s new book asks the question, “What does it mean to learn to eat, in a world that’s telling us not to eat?”

Studies Say Vitamins, Selenium Won't Prevent Prostate Cancer

 


Istockphoto

 

 

By Anne Harding


TUESDAY, Dec. 9, 2008 (Health.com) — Men who want to reduce their prostate cancer risk shouldn't bother popping antioxidant vitamins and supplements, according to two of the largest trials ever conducted on vitamins and cancer prevention. The studies published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association show that vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium won't ward off prostate cancer—or other types of the disease—in men.

In one study, 35,533 cancer-free men in their 50s or older took selenium and vitamin E alone or in combination. Several years later, they had the same risk of developing the disease as men who took a placebo. In a second study of 14,641 men—some of whom may have had early-stage prostate cancer—a combination of vitamin E and vitamin C didn’t prevent prostate cancer, or any other type of cancer.

“It looks like these particular antioxidants are not effective,” says Howard Soule, PhD, chief scientific officer of the Prostate Cancer Foundation in Santa Monica, Calif., who was not involved in either study.

According to the American Cancer Society, 1 in 6 men will get prostate cancer in his lifetime, and 1 in 35 will die of the disease. The ACS estimates that 28,660 U.S. men will die of prostate cancer in 2008, accounting for roughly 10% of all cancer-related deaths in men.

Next: Why vitamins seemed promising for prostate cancer prevention

Vitamins seemed promising in the 1990s, after one study found that men who took selenium supplements had a 65% lower risk of prostate cancer, and another found that vitamin E cut risk by 35%. But those findings were from trials that had not been specifically designed to look at prostate cancer, or they looked at men in the population who just happened to be taking vitamins for other reasons.

So researchers launched the two new studies: the Selenium and Vitamin E Cancer Prevention Trial, aka SELECT, led by Scott M. Lippman, MD, of the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, in Houston, and Eric A. Klein, MD, of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine; and the Physicians’ Health Study II Randomized Controlled Trial (of vitamins C and E), led by J. Michael Gaziano, MD, of Brigham and Women's Hospital and VA Boston Healthcare System.

The Physicians’ Health Study followed participants for 10 years, while SELECT—the largest clinical trial ever run of chemoprevention for cancer—was halted early when the researchers found no benefit for the supplements.

Durado Brooks, MD, director of prostate cancer for the American Cancer Society, called the findings “disappointing,” noting that for many years men have been taking the vitamins in the hopes that they would be preventive.

“There was a lot of hope in the community that vitamin E, selenium, something was going to pan out,” says Dr. Durado, who was not involved in either study. “Right now, we don’t have any agents that we can point to and say that these agents can clearly and unambiguously and safely decrease your risk of developing prostate cancer.”

Although some experts might argue that supplements could be effective in different doses or combinations than those used in the study, "it’s doubtful that the results would be any different," says SELECT study author Dr. Klein.

Next: Should you stop taking supplements?

Neither study showed harm from taking the supplements, notes Dr. Gaziano, who participated in both studies. But this doesn’t mean people should keep doing so, he warns.

“I think that the potential downside of taking something that’s not proven to be effective is that there are only so many things that we can get our patients to do,” Dr. Gaziano says. “If we think we’re getting the benefit from the pill, we may be less inclined to do the other things that may be more difficult but we know are going to be more beneficial.”

And what are those beneficial things? Dr. Klein notes that in the Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial, the drug finasteride reduced a man’s chances of developing prostate cancer by 25%.

The drug tested in that trial is the same medication in the anti-baldness drug Propecia, but at a higher dose. Dr. Klein suggests that men concerned about their prostate cancer risk talk to their doctor about taking finasteride.

There is also some evidence—though no firm proof—that exercising, quitting smoking, maintaining a healthy weight, and eating less fat could help prevent prostate cancer or slow the progression of the disease. Following a Mediterranean-style diet, which includes plenty of fruits and vegetables, healthy oils from fish and nuts, and moderate amounts of alcohol, may also be beneficial, Dr. Gaziano says.

Even pomegranate juice and broccoli may help, and they can’t hurt, advises Soule: “A lot of things that appear to have a scientific rationale for chemoprevention may also make you healthy."

 

American Heart Association Recommends Daily Limit on Added Sugar

 

(ISTOCKPHOTO)

 

By Shahreen Abedin


MONDAY, Aug. 24, 2009 (Health.com) — If you’re like most Americans, you will consume 22 teaspoons, or 355 calories, of added sugar today. Now, the American Heart Association (AHA) would like you to cut back dramatically.

For the first time, the group has issued guidelines that say most women should consume no more then 6 teaspoons (about 100 calories or 25 grams) of added sugar daily, and most men no more than 9 teaspoons (about 150 calories or 37.5 grams).

But here’s the tricky part: Added sugar not only includes the white table sugar you might spoon into a cup of coffee or a bowl of cereal, but also sugar added to food and drinks before you even purchase them. Added sugar is commonly found in soft drinks, candy, cakes, and cookies (though it lurks in many types of food, including some yogurts and even granola.)

Some of the most common added sugars are corn sweetener, corn syrup, dextrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, honey, maltose, malt syrup, molasses, sucrose, and syrup. In contrast, the most common naturally occurring sugars are fructose and lactose, found in fruit and dairy products, respectively.

 

 


The new guidelines were published Monday in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The primary pitfalls of added sugars, according to lead author Rachel Johnson, are that they deliver empty calories and they tend to replace other nutrient-rich foods in our diet. “Because most of us lead a fairly sedentary lifestyle, the food we do eat needs to be packed with nutrients,” says Johnson, who is a registered dietitian and a professor of nutrition at the University of Vermont, in Burlington.

Next page: How to tell if food has added sugar

One of the specific challenges of limiting added sugars is simply recognizing them. Food manufacturers don’t have to list the amount of added sugar on products, says Johnson. Instead, added sugars are lumped in with naturally occurring sources, and usually listed together as “total sugars.”

Johnson suggests identifying which sugary foods your family consumes most often, and investigating their specific sugar contents, either by finding the product’s website online, or by consulting the USDA’s food composition database.

Although added sugar is not directly linked to heart disease, it is associated with risk factors such as overweight and obesity, high blood pressure, high levels of triglycerides, and high levels of C-reactive protein, which has been linked to oxidative stress and inflammation, says Linda Van Horn, a registered dietitian and chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee.

In contrast, foods with naturally occurring sugars deliver nutrients while still satisfying our craving for sweetness. For example, fruits have essential vitamins and minerals as well as protective agents known as phytonutrients, such as carotenoids and polyphenols; dairy products contain calcium, protein, vitamin D, and more.

 

 


In the past, there have been few formal guidelines on how much added sugar is too much. The American Heart Association only went so far as to recommend that people “limit added sugars” or consume them “in moderation.” The USDA says that based on an average adult 2000-calorie diet, 10 teaspoons of added sugar, or about 40 grams, is the maximum.

So how do you cut down on added sugars? The number-one strategy is to eliminate or at least reduce the biggest source of extra sugar in our diets: soft drinks and other sugar-sweetened beverages. For example, one can of soda delivers 130 calories and 8 teaspoons of added sugar.

Sodas containing artificial sweeteners can be used as a “transition beverage” to help reduce the number of sugary drinks consumed, recommends Johnson. Even better alternatives for soda are water, unsweetened iced tea, and low-fat milk, she suggests.

Another tactic: Limit processed foods, and opt for as many fresh, whole, unpackaged, and unprocessed foods as you can, such as fruits, veggies, grains, nuts, and seeds.

Next page: Avoiding heavily refined food may help

Elisa Zied, a registered dietitian and American Dietetic Association spokesperson, says staying away from heavily refined foods means “you’ll not only save yourself from too much sugar, but you’ll also reduce the risk of overloading on sodium and fat and calories in general.”

You can “save up” your added sugar calories and use them to enhance the flavor of healthy foods, says Zied. For example, reserve your extra sugar for nutrient-rich choices such as fruit-flavored yogurt, chocolate milk, or frosted whole-grain wheat cereal.

 

 


According to the AHA, the limits they recommend for men and women are a rough estimate. They say a person’s daily intake of added sugars should not exceed half of the daily allotment of discretionary calories, which are those calories left over after consuming foods recommended for a healthy diet, such as fruit, vegetables, low-fat dairy foods, high-fiber whole grains, and lean fish and meats.

You can calculate your own daily dose of discretionary calories on the USDA’s website, using several factors including age, sex, weight, height, and level of physical activity. Parents wondering about the right amount of added sugars for their children can also use the same website to figure it out.

In addition to sugary sodas, fruit juices and fruit drinks are common sugar traps for kids, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). Not only do they provide fewer nutritional benefits than whole fruits, but sugary beverages are also associated with malnutrition, tooth decay, and stomach problems such as diarrhea and gassiness in some children, says the AAP.

Parents should choose 100% fruit juices and stay away from fruit drinks altogether, according to their guidelines. Kids ages 1 to 6 should not have more than 4 to 6 ounces of fruit juice a day; the older kids’ limit is between 8 to 12 ounces; babies under 6 months should not drink juice at all.

 

 



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9 Fruits You Can Actually Eat on the Keto Diet

 

These lower-carb picks are still on the menu.

The Health Benefits of Turkey

 

Your Thanksgiving bird provides a lot more than just protein.

Your Thanksgiving Feast Might Be Better for You Than You Think

 

Turkey, cranberry sauce, and other classic dishes (even pumpkin pie!) are packed with nutrients.

5 Myths and Facts About Holiday Weight Gain

 

With a few weeks until New Year’s Day, it’s still prime indulging season, the time of year when you may feel tempted to give into lots of treats, and worry about the consequences in January. But are some of the things you believe about holiday weight gain actually old wives tales? Here are five falsehoods and truths about how the holidays really affect your weight.

For Healthy Eyes, Think Broccoli and Kale, Not Carrots

 

I was asked to appear on television this week to talk about foods you can eat to help save your sight.  It’s something I'm very interested in, as I come from a family with a strong history of cataracts and eye disorders and have worn contacts since I can remember. In fact, I blogged about this a few months ago, after getting some good advice from my opthamologist. Now I'd like to revisit the topic, with a few more specific recommendations.

No. 1 threat to our vision: AMD
As we age, the chances that we will suffer from an eye disorder increase significantly. By age 65, one in three adults will have a vision-impairing condition, and by age 80 that percentage rises to half of us. Many conditions are preventable and can be treated, but others lead to blindness.

Age-related macular degeneration (AMD) is the leading cause of blindness among Americans over age 55. AMD is the breakdown of the macula—the small area in the retina at the back of the eye. It’s estimated that by age 75, some 30% will be afflicted with AMD. Oxidative damage—from sunlight, smoking, or everyday contaminants in the environment—are thought to stimulate the disease, which is why antioxidants are part of the preventive solution.

Research over the past few decades shows that eye health is linked to diet and lifestyle. Being overweight, smoking, having diabetes, eating a high-fat diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and low fruit and vegetable intake all increase the risk of eye diseases.

So what should we eat?
While we all learned that carrots are important for our eyes, there’s actually more evidence that other veggies have even bigger impacts on our peepers: Specifically, green- and yellow-hued foods have been shown to be more effective at reducing risk for macular degeneration and cataracts than orange ones.

Why does color matter? Because green and yellow fruits and vegetables are packed with lutein and zeaxanthin, two nutrients that seem to protect the retina against oxidative damage and decrease risk for AMD. (The mineral zinc, and other antioxidants, such as beta carotene, have also been shown in some studies to provide protection against AMD.)

Some of the most absorbent forms of lutein and zeaxanthin are found in foods containing fats, such as egg yolks, pistachios, and avocados. Corn, spinach, squash, collard greens, kale, tomato products, and lettuces are also good sources.

While there is no current recommended intake for lutein+zeaxanthin (they're often grouped together in nutrient labels), eating the recommended five to eight servings of fruits and veggies a day will help ensure that you get enough. If you have a strong family history of eye diseases, talk to your ophthalmologist about whether you should also consider a dietary supplement with these important nutrients. Read my previous post for more healthy vision tips, and use this chart to start making eye-friendly choices today.

























































 

Food Micrograms, Lutein and Zeaxanthin per serving
Avocado, 1 ounce 77
Egg, 1 large 166
Pistachios, 1 ounce 342
Green beans, 1 cup 595
Green leaf lettuce, 1 cup 969
Romaine lettuce, 1 cup 1,295
Brussels sprouts, 1 cup 2,015
Broccoli, 1 cup 2,015
Corn, 1 cup 2,429
Summer squash, 1 cup 4,048
Collard greens, 1 cup 14,619
Kale, 1 cup 23,720
Spinach, 1 cup 29,811


(Chart based on numbers from the USDA National Nutrient Database.)

By Julie Upton, RD

Taste-Testing Truvia, the Newest Zero-Calorie Sweetener

 

It’s not often that the Food and Drug Administration gives the OK to a new sugar substitute; over the past several decades, only five have been granted the “generally recognized as safe” status, including aspartame (Equal, NutraSweet), sucralose (Splenda), and saccharin (Sweet'N Low).

A new proposal, however, has been submitted for the first all-natural sugar replacement to be approved as a food additive in the United States. Coca-Cola and Cargill have teamed up to create Truvia (pronounced tru-VEE-a), a zero-calorie sweetener made from leaves of the stevia plant. If the FDA clears it, as expected, you'll begin to see new products containing the Truvia logo—and flavor—beginning this fall. Thanks to a regulatory loophole (keep reading), you can even order it now online at Truvia.com.

Truvia (also known as rebiana) is made by taking the best leaves of the stevia plant, drying and soaking them, and then isolating the active compound. The stevia plant, which grows naturally in South America, has been used as a sugar substitute since the early 1900s and has recently been sold commercially in several countries. Since stevia products have not been approved as food additives in the United States, they have not been incorporated into any processed foods and can only be sold as dietary supplements, which aren't regulated by the FDA. In grocery stores they're often found in the vitamin aisle.

For me, this is big news: I have a well-known love affair with Splenda and I have tried just about every sugar substitute on the market. My previous experience with stevia-based sweeteners was, um, less than sweet. I found that they had an off flavor and didn't dissolve in my tea the way sugar does. They certainly didn't have the clean, enjoyable taste of sugar or Splenda. So I was eager to try out Truvia to see if it really is new and improved.

After I stirred one packet of Truvia tabletop sweetener into my tea (as I would Splenda), I was pleasantly surprised at how clean and sweet my drink tasted. It wasn't the Splenda flavor I'm used to, but it also didn’t have much of a distinguishable aftertaste—a problem I've had with pretty much every other sweetener I've tried. I'm betting the slight aftertaste I did detect is due to erythritol, a naturally occurring sugar alcohol.

Here’s what other two other Health.com staffers had to say about the Truvia samples we recently tried:

 

It has a texture similar to sugar, and has a similar sweetness. It’s not harshly or chemically sweet, though it has a bit of bitterness and a fairly strong vanilla-like aftertaste, and you’re left with a vague, lingering sensation of having tasted something sweet that wasn’t quite sugar.
—Scott Mowbray, editorial director

 

 

It was less sweet than Splenda, but still had a not-real-sugar taste. It practically dissolved in my mouth—very light.
—Mara Betsch, editorial assistant


Not so sweet news
The bitter news about sugar substitutes is that they aren’t a guarantee for weight loss. Some people who use them may unconsciously eat and drink more just because they are sweetened with sugar subs, and sugar subs don’t help break a sweet tooth. Also, preliminary animal studies suggest that when the taste of sweetener isn't supplying the body with calories, sweeteners may trip up our body’s internal mechanisms to control hunger and satiety.

Bottom line
If you have an insatiable sweet tooth, better to satisfy it with fresh and dried fruit before using intense sugar substitutes—natural or unnatural ones. If you drink soda, switching to calorie-free is a great option, and if you normally add one to two teaspoons of sugar to your coffee or tea, a switch to a sugar sub is ideal. If you want a different sugar substitute, go ahead and give Truvia a try.

By Julie Upton, RD

 

 

(PHOTO: TRUVIA.COM)

 

For Blood-Pressure Concerns, Slash Salt and Pump Up Potassium

 

I like to think of high blood pressure as the Rodney Dangerfield of heart conditions: Regardless of how dangerous it really is, it gets no respect. More than one in three adults has high blood pressure (and at some point in our lives, 9 out of 10 of us will have it), but Americans just don't seem too concerned.

Maybe that's because a large proportion of those with the diseaseâ⁈”and yes, it is a diseaseâ⁈”don't even know they have it. A heart attack, if they're lucky enough to survive it, will scare people silly, clean up their diets, and reform their lifestyles. But for some reason, high blood pressure remains a sneaky, silent killer.

Take charge now, before it's too late
High blood pressure, aka hypertension, needs to be taken seriously. As we age, our pressure naturally creeps upâ⁈”so keeping it as low as possible while you're young and able is key. Why's that? "High blood pressure is linked to 62% of strokes and 50% of all cardiovascular events," notes Frank Sachs, MD, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard School of Public Health. "The lower your blood pressure, the lower your risk for coronary heart disease and stroke."

The good news, however, is that for most of us, our blood pressure is directly linked to our weight, eating habits, and level of exerciseâ⁈”and these are all things we have the power to change. Losing weight is still considered the most effective way to lower blood pressure, but you should also pay attention to two nutrients in your diet that directly impact your levels.

Sodium and potassium are key
A new review written by the Vanderbilt University Hypertension Institute shows that an optimal ratio of potassium to sodium may help millions of Americans reduce their risk of hypertension. The best-case scenario for potassium and sodium is suggested to be about a 5:1 ratio, but because our current eating habits are so out of whack (we eat twice the sodium and only half the potassium we need), the researchers say that boosting potassium and reducing sodium by any amount can help.

"Our review showed that an increase in potassium with a decrease in sodium is probably the most important dietary choice (after weight loss) that should be implemented to reduce cardiovascular disease," says lead author Mark Houston, MD, director of the Hypertension Institute at Saint Thomas Hospital and associate clinical professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

The recommended potassium intake is 4,700 mg/day, but national surveys show that 95% of Americans don't come anywhere near this amount. And while the American Heart Association recommends no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day (our body really only needs about 1,500), our intake is double or triple that due primarily to our love of salt, fast food, and processed, packaged foods.



Pressure points
What can you do to better mind your minerals? Use the tips below to boost your potassium, lower your sodium, and ease the tension deep within your arteries.

 


  • Strive to eat fruits and veggies at all your meals and snacksâ⁈”and aim for at least eight servings a day of these potassium-packed foods. Use fruits and vegetables (fresh, dried, or juice) when cooking and baking to boost potassium further.


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  • Enjoy beans, nuts, and seeds; fat-free and low-fat dairy products; and other potassium-rich foods and beverages that provide at least 10% of the Daily Value per serving.


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  • Use low-sodium or sodium-reduced soups, snacks, tomato products, and other processed packaged foods whenever possible. Choose products that contain less than 10-15% of the Daily Value for sodium whenever possible.


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  • Limit fast food and ask for lower-sodium options when eating out. Always have a side salad or veggie side dish to help neutralize the sodium with potassium.


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  • Use herbs and spices, lemon, and other sodium-free options to flavor your foods in place of table salt.


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High-potassium, low-sodium options
The study authors suggest getting more of the following foods and drinks; all contain less than 50 mg of sodium per serving.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Food/beverage Serving size Potassium (mg)
Baked potato with skin 1 medium 926
Nonfat plain yogurt 1 cup 650
Avocado ½ medium 604
Watermelon 1 slice 600
Banana 1 medium 570
Potato 1 medium 504
Tropicana Healthy Heart Orange Juice 1 cup 450
Mushrooms 4 large 415
Nonfat Milk 1 cup 410
Kellogg's Smart Start Cereal 1 ounce 380
Sweet potato 1 small 367
Promise SuperShots One 3-ounce bottle 350
Quaker Take Heart Instant Oatmeal 1 packet 350
Orange 1 medium 311
Sun-Maid Raisins ¼ cup 310
Silk Soymilk 1 cup 300
Dried plums 4-5 dried plums 290
Broccoli 1 stalk 265
Cantaloupe ¼ medium 250
Peach 1 medium 200


Chart adapted from Clinical Management of Hypertension (Professional Communications, 2008).

By Julie Upton, RD

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO/HEALTH)

 

Peeper Keepers Food: What I'm Eating to Keep My Vision Clear

 

I had an appointment with my ophthalmologist last week to have my annual exam and be fitted for new lenses. Unlike all my friends who have had LASIK surgery, I'm too nervous to go "under the laser"; I'll take my annoying glasses and contacts, thank you.

Some of my friends are on their LASIK touch-ups or now have to wear glasses again as their vision has worsened over the years, and many have asked me if there is anything they can do with their diet to help maintain their vision.

I myself wanted to know whether typing on my computer in the dark would really ruin my eyes (it won't) or if my diet and lifestyle could actually help save my sight as I age (it can). I posed this question to my ophthalmologist, and here's what she suggested:

Keep Your Arteries Clean
The eyes contain many tiny blood vessels, and they require good blood flow to keep the tissue nourished. If your arteries are in poor condition due to high blood pressure, or atherosclerosis, your eyesight may eventually suffer from the lack of oxygen and nutrients being delivered to the eyes via the blood. A plant-based diet that includes plenty of fruits, veggies, and slowly digested whole grains is best.

Focus on Lutein and Zeaxanthin
The macula of the eye is concentrated with two carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin. These phytonutrients are found in dark, leafy greens, broccoli, egg yolks, tomatoes, avocados, and pistachios. Lutein and zeaxanthin are thought to act like a sunscreen for your eyes. Research shows that individuals who have the most lutein and zeaxanthin reduce their risk for age-related macular degeneration (AMD) by as much as 35%. AMD is the leading cause of blindness among older Americans.

Get More Omega-3s
Eating fish or foods supplemented with DHA and EPA long-chain omega-3 polyunsaturated fats have been shown to also reduce the risk of AMD. A meta-analysis study published in the June issue of Archives of Opthalmology reported that high dietary intakes of omega-3 fatty acids resulted in a 38% reduction in the risk for AMD. I like many of the new products that are infused with DHA and EPA, the two most effective omega-3s, including the Horizon dairy products, Silk soy milk, Tropicana OJ, and even Crisco's new Puritan Canola oil with DHA.

Wear Shades
Though it's not an eating tip, it make sense to throw in some common sense advice: Eyes are very sensitive to UV radiation, so wearing large sunglasses offers eyes protection from the sun. Another benefit: You'll help stave off the lines and wrinkles that come from squinting outside.

By Julie Upton, RD

 

(PHOTO: CORBIS)

 

Back in Black: Your Favorite Foods, Only Healthier

 

When it comes to plant-based foods, deep, vibrant colors are one of the best indicators of what's healthiest. The pigments that give plants their color also provide the antioxidants that protect against heart disease, inflammation, and certain cancers. A simple swap can provide a big nutritional payoff, like choosing pink grapefruit over white, or dark greens over pale lettuce. So it may come as little surprise that black foods can pack a potent health benefit too. That's exactly the case with the midnight-hued rice, beans, tea, and berries I can't seem to get enough of lately. Here's why:

Black rice
This grain—along with the red and purple varieties—is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, and has long been consumed throughout Asia. Black rice is a 100% whole grain food just like brown rice, but it is thought to have a higher anthocyanin content due to its deeper color. A study in China found that when people's diets were supplemented with black-rice pigments,  their risk factors for cardiovascular disease decreased–including levels of C-reactive protein in their blood, an indicator of inflammation.

Black beans
These high-fiber antioxidant powerhouses pack more disease-fighting power than lighter-colored beans. New research shows that the black skins contained 24 plant compounds including 12 terpenoids and 7 flavonoids. The researchers also found that these compounds halted the growth of colon, liver, and breast cancer cells.

Black tea
It comes from the same plant as green and oolong tea, but the dark stuff has a slew of good qualities all to its own. Numerous studies have shown that drinking several cups of flavonoid-rich black tea a day may provide heart-health benefits, offer protection against neurological decline as we age, and provide anticancer properties. Plus it's got the added benefit of being calorie-free (as long as you don't drink it with milk and sugar), and its caffeine may help improve your workout.

Blackberries
These tangy treats are rich in polyphenols that have been shown to have antioxidant activity. University of Kentucky researchers isolated blackberry extract in lab studies, and found that its chemicals stopped the growth of colon-cancer cells. They may also help prevent diseases related to chronic inflammation. Don't like them on their own? Pair them with blueberries and ginger syrup in this light and fruity dessert.

Black mushrooms, potatoes, carrots, and many other specialty black crops are, well, cropping up these days. Let us know if you've seen any at your local farmers market and whether you've tried them.

By Julie Upton, RD
 

 

 

(PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO)

 

 

License to Munch: The Search for America's Best Healthy Potato Chip

 

I'm on a search-and-devour mission to find the healthiest potato chip. I don't eat chips very often, but when I do, I want them to be dietitian-approved and delicious.

Some food and nutrition experts like to joke that Americans are, in essence, half corn (due to our love affair with high-fructose corn syrup and the corn-based diet we feed livestock). If this is true, then the other half of us must be potato (due to our obsession with French fries and potato chips). We crunch $6 billion worth of potato chips each year.

A 1-ounce serving of regular fried chips contains 150 calories, 9 grams of fat, and 2.5 grams of saturated fat. Switching to a skinnier version could make a significant dent in the nation's waistline. When faced with hundreds of choices in the grocery store aisle, keep these chip tips in mind.

 


  • "Lightly salted," "low salt," and "no added salt" are cues that sodium will be in check.


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  • Flavored varieties often have the most sodium within the product line.


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  • For your heart's sake, the options with the least amount of saturated fat and a modest amount of sodium are best.


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  • For cholesterol-lowering benefits, new options are available with plant sterols, an ingredient that is proven to lower harmful LDL cholesterol by 15% or more.


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  • Munch mindfully. An ounce doesn't go that far and even the healthiest chips can sabotage your diet.


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The new chips I'm chomping weigh in at 110 to 140 calories with 2.5 to 6 grams of fat. What's more impressive is how low they are in heart-stopping saturated fat.

For example, Corazonas is the first company to add the cholesterol-lowering plant sterol to their chips. They are so darned tasty that you'd never suspect they contain anything that's heart-healthy, even though they are not as super-slim as other newbies on the market. Kettle Brand Bakes have impressively reduced the calorie and fat content, as have Lesser Evil and Pop Chips.

Let me know your favorite healthy potato chip and what you think about my picks below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Potato Chip Taste Texture Calories Fat Saturated fat Salt (mg.)
Corazonas Heart Healthy* Potato Chips Mediterranean Garlic & Herb Thick, hearty lengthwise slices of real potatoes in worldly flavors like Pacific Rim BBQ. Have added plant sterols to lower cholesterol. Yum. My favorite! 140 6 0.5 105
Kettle Brand Bakes Lightly Salted Potato Chips Delicate real potato slices kettle-baked to a crisp, in flavors like Hickory Honey BBQ. Best bet if you prefer thin chips. 120 3 0 115
Lesser Evil Classic Sea Salt Krinkle Sticks Technically not a chip, these potato snacks get kudos for being low in calories. Made from dehydrated potatoes, not potato slices, these snacks look more like a French fry than potato chip. Great kid's alternative to chips or fries. 110 2.5 0 310
Pop Chips All Natural Original Potato Chips These lightweight chips are made from potato flour (not potato slices) and popped using pressure and heat. A great tasting, satisfying crunch. 120 4.5 0 290


*Contains 0.4 grams plant sterols per 1-ounce serving.

By: Julie Upton

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

(PHOTO: ISTOCKPHOTO)

 

Vitamin D: Why You Need This Vitamin Now

 



GETTYIMAGES

 

By Julie Upton
From Health magazine


You may already know that vitamin D can help build strong teeth and bones, but wait until you hear what else it can do for the rest of your body. D can keep you trim, boost your mood, ward off sniffles, drastically cut your risk of cancer, and more.

“We could prevent 150,000 cases of cancer annually if we could just increase vitamin D to optimal levels,” says Cedric Garland, a doctor of public health, a leading vitamin D researcher, and a professor of family and preventive medicine at the University of California, San Diego.

 

 


That’s great news, right? Yes, except for one huge problem: A startling report found that more than a third of all women fail to get enough D for healthy bones—and more than 75% of us lack the higher amounts needed for the vitamin to do its disease-fighting best.

Downing a daily glass of milk is a smart way to get more D. But the most significant source is sunlight, and that’s where the trouble lies. Our bodies produce D with exposure to ultraviolet radiation, but as we’ve gotten smarter about dodging skin cancer—staying out of the sun and slathering ourselves with mega-SPF sunblock—our vitamin D levels have plummeted. Fortunately, there are smart and safe ways to boost your intake while you enjoy all the benefits that vitamin D can deliver.

Lower your risk of cancer
Vitamin D may substantially cut the risk of breast, colon, prostate, and ovarian cancers, according to a growing body of research. In fact, Dr. Garland found that women with D blood levels that were more than double the current national average of 25 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) had a 50% lower risk of breast cancer than those with the lowest blood levels. Scientists believe that D helps regulate genes in a way that protects healthy cells and stops the growth of cancerous ones.

There are receptors for vitamin D in virtually all of the body’s cells, and to “feed” them you need an adequate blood level of the vitamin. That depends not only on how much time you spend outside and what you eat but also on where you live. People living at higher latitudes, for example, soak up fewer UVB rays from November through March, which means they’re more likely to have low blood levels of vitamin D and a higher risk of cancer. In fact, studies have shown twice as many colon cancer deaths and 50% more breast cancer deaths in the far North compared with the sunnier South, Dr. Garland says. So how much sun is enough to lower the risk of cancer without upping your risk of skin damage?

Fight off winter weight gain
Cold weather may seem a long way off right now, but more indoor time and fewer hours of sunlight can lead to a decrease in D production for many women. Researchers think that may explain why some women bulk
up a bit
when the temps fall: Low levels of D can cause a dip in leptin, a hormone that regulates appetite. When this happens, your brain may not send the signal that you’re full and should stop eating. Overweight women are especially at risk because excess fat can absorb vitamin D, making it unavailable to the body.

Safeguard your healthy heart
Vitamin D is thought to help lower blood pressure and regulate hormones that affect blood vessels and the muscles of the heart. Studies suggest that people with the highest D levels may have up to a 50% lower risk of heart disease. And researchers from Harvard Medical School reported a 62% increased risk of heart attacks or strokes among adults with the lowest blood levels of vitamin D, compared with those who have the highest levels of D. “We’ve also noticed that deaths from cardiovascular events are highest in the winter months, when vitamin D is generally at its lowest,” Dr. Garland says.

Say good-bye to seasonal blues
Low vitamin D levels may be linked to yet another winter bummer: seasonal affective disorder, a type of depression that is more common in northern states. Researchers believe that vitamin D helps keep the brain flush with the “happy hormone,” serotonin, which plays a critical role in regulating mood.

The nutrient also seems to offer a lifetime of brain-health benefits, from aiding development in infants to keeping adults sharp in their later years. “Vitamin D receptors in the brain seem to turn on several genes that are important for normal neurological function,” says Bruce Hollis, PhD, a vitamin D researcher and professor of molecular biology at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Boost your defenses against colds and flu
Research shows that colds and the flu are worst when vitamin D levels decline, and they tend to hit hardest in countries at higher latitudes, where D levels tend to be lowest. So should we pitch out the C and hail the “sunshine vitamin” as the cure for the common cold? Experts aren’t making that claim just yet, but there’s compelling evidence that keeping your D level high may slash your chances of picking up the bug that’s going around the office. In one study, women who took 800 IU of vitamin D daily were three times less likely to develop colds or the flu—and those who popped 2,000 IU reported even fewer symptoms. Small wonder some scientists have started calling D the “antibiotic vitamin.”

Prevent autoimmune disorders
Vitamin D seems to interact in a protective way with genes that raise the risk for diseases like multiple sclerosis (MS), a debilitating nerve illness that strikes mostly young women. In one Harvard University study, researchers found a 40% lower risk of MS in women who took a daily supplement of at least 400 IU of vitamin D. In fact, some studies suggest that vitamin D may help prevent many other autoimmune disorders—including rheumatoid arthritis, type 1 diabetes, and Crohn’s disease. Even in healthy women, low levels of vitamin D may lead to increased inflammation, a negative response of the immune system.

Build stronger bones
The work that D does with calcium to keep bones healthy may be old news, but it’s no less important, especially for women. Osteoporosis and fractures due to bone weakness strike up to half of all females, according to the National Osteoporosis Foundation, and loading up on calcium-rich foods may not help much if you’re D-deficient. The nutrient helps your body absorb calcium and phosphorus, minerals that enhance bone strength. A supplement can help: A recent study found that, regardless of their calcium intake, women who added 482 to 770 IU of vitamn D slashed their risk of fractures by up to 20%.

 

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Infection Protection: Eating and Lifestyle Strategies to Prevent the Flu

 

Istockphoto

 

 


On Christmas Eve morning, I awoke to a tsunami in my stomach. For the next 15 hours, I was either in a semicomatose state of sleep or violently expelling the contents of my 30-some feet of intestinal tract. My day was bed-bathroom-couch-bathroom-bed-bathroom-bed-bathroom, ad nauseam.

When I wasn't dry heaving or overcome with cold sweats, I went over everything I had eaten the day before to see if anything seemed suspect. Nothing did, so I felt that I had contracted gastroenteritis (aka stomach flu), but I certainly could not rule out food poisoning altogether. Regardless, I was sick and wanted only to feel better.

When I eventually recovered the next day, my bout with the flu made me think that it's that time of year when many of you may suffer from a cold or flu. And for those at high risk for complications—such as anyone 65 years or older, people with chronic medical conditions (such as asthma, diabetes, or heart disease), pregnant women, and young children—the flu is much more than a nuisance; it's potentially life-threatening. While getting a flu shot is strongly recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are a few diet strategies to add to your flu prevention arsenal this season.

A healthy diet and lifestyle is known to help keep the immune system on track. Several vitamins and minerals, such as iron, zinc, and selenium, are essential for a healthy immune system. Flavonoids—found in tea, apples, and other plant-based foods—may also benefit the immune system.

Here are the steps I'm taking this cold and flu season to help protect myself:

 

 


  • Washing my hands several times a day. It's easy to spread the flu virus this way: Your hand touches something that has the influenza virus on it, and then your hand touches your face. If you are sick, stay away from others; coughing around others is a major way the virus spreads from person to person.


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  • Getting more sleep. The immune system and body repair and recover during sleep, so strive to get as much as you can.


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  • Drinking tea. Tea is among the richest sources of antioxidant flavonoids that have been shown to have positive immune response.


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  • Moderate—not exhaustive—exercise. Daily moderate activity is actually an immune booster, and can actually help clear your head if you're stuffed up with a mild cold. But working out until you're exhausted can dampen your body's defenses.


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  • Having a probiotic daily in the form of a container of nonfat or low-fat yogurt.


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Steal This Dish: Intense Hot Chocolate

 

  
Istockphoto

 


Want to serve your sweetie something rich and chocolatey for Valentine’s Day? Try this Intense Hot Chocolate recipe from Chocolat by Stéphan Lagorce (Octopus Books, 2008; $21.99).

Grate 4 ounces 70% dark chocolate; set aside. Heat 2 cups low-fat milk, 4 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, and 2½ tablespoons superfine sugar in a pan. Remove from heat. Add grated chocolate and whisk quickly for at least 2 minutes. When mixture is frothy, pour into 4 large cups and sprinkle with a little cocoa, if desired; serve immediately.

 

 



 
Frances A. Largeman-Roth, RD, is Health’s Senior Food and Nutrition Editor.

 

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