Fruits and Veggies Beat Tanning for a Sexy Glow

fork with fruits veggiesWe already know that fruits and veggies can help us look, feel, and stay younger, and now, thanks to some nifty new science, we can also add sexier to that fabulous list. In a first-of-its-type experiment, scientists set out to evaluate how skin coloration impacts the perception of “facial attractiveness” as well as mate selection. For this study, scientists conducted a series of experiments pitting high carotenoid skin coloration, which comes from eating fruits and vegetables high in carotenoid pigments, against facial coloration from tanning (also known as melanisation). 120 study subjects were shown a series of 24 side-by-side, identical, digital images of various composite faces donning either the high carotenoid or the high melanin coloration. With each pair, study subjects were asked to select which of the pair was “most appealing”. Faces bearing the carotenoid “veggie glow” were the resounding top choice beating out the suntan coloration by over 3:1.

The researchers noted that this novel study breaks new ground as the first to show the relevance of skin coloration in perceptions of attractiveness. They postulate that their observations likely stem from a hard-wired instinct to be naturally drawn to healthier, fruit and veggie-eating mates who would thus be more likely to survive and thrive, and ultimately offer the greatest opportunities for producing healthy progeny. ( The Quarterly Journal of Experimental Psychology, 2014; 1 DOI: 10.1080/17470218.2014.944194)

 

Quick Tip

 

To Control Your Alcohol Intake– Always Use a “Rule of Thumb

Too much alcohol is bad for your health and your waistline. To control your intake, always use a “rule of thumb” when you pour.  Studies show that people who make it a habit to pour a half glass of wine or use the “two fingers from the top” rule pour and consume less than those who pour without any predetermined visual limit.

Raising Your HDL (good) Cholesterol Levels

A healthy HDL level (>50) is associated with less risk of heart attack, stroke, Alzheimer’s and colon cancer. Follow these simple strategies to raise your HDL (good) cholesterol level. (Mine is 93!)

Happy Heart

  • Lose weight if overweight.
  • Engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity (brisk walking) most days of the week. (Talk to your healthcare provider first if you have any cardiovascular risk factors)
  • Stop using tobacco products.
  • Include alcohol in moderation — 1 drink a day. Red wine best. (Talk to your healthcare provider before drinking alcohol to see if it is safe for you.)
  • Strictly avoid trans fats (processed and fast foods that contain partially hydrogenated oil, shortening and stick margarine).
  • Restrict the “Great White Hazards” — white flour products, white rice, white potatoes, sugars/sweet.
  • Regularly consume foods that are known to raise your HDL: whole soy foods, green tea, shitake mushrooms, chili peppers, onions, garlic, oily fish, olive oil, avocado, nuts, seeds, whole grains and beans.

Fight Stress and Aging with Healthy Living

Want to defend your body against the ravages of stress and at the same time slow down your aging? Then get healthy! In a totally uplifting and encouraging new report, scientists found that adhering to the “three pillars” of healthy living – staying physically active, getting adequate sleep, and eating right – was a powerful antidote at the cellular level for life’s greatest stressors (job loss, death of loved ones, etc.) and tied to longer telomeres. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes felt to be the most reliable indicator of aging at the cellular level. The longer your telomeres, the more “life” your cells have (i.e. the younger your cells are) and vice-a versa. Shorter telomeres go hand in hand with aging and age-related chronic diseases like heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

For this study scientists followed 239 older women for one year. Over the one-year study period, the women provided periodic updates of the diets, activity levels, sleep, and major life stressors. Study subjects who did not regularly adhere to the three pillars of healthy living experienced significantly greater shortening of their telomeres (greater cellular aging) after major stressful events. In sharp contrast, woman who ate well, got good sleep, and remained active did not experience shortening of their telomeres when exposed to the same levels of stress. The scientist commented that this study is one of the first to show how lifestyle changes may favorably affect our cells at the genetic level – safeguarding the body against the litany of diseases attributed to excessive stress. I have no doubt that healthy living is the universal life preserver! (Molecular Psychiatry, July 2014)

6 Canned Foods That Are Great for You

Canned foods are economical and convenient. Here are 6 that are exploding with health-value.

canned tomatoes1

  • All varieties of tomato products (look for BPA-free brands for best results)
  • 100% pumpkin (great for baking and adding to yogurt and oatmeal)
  • Unsweetened blueberries (for “healthy” cobblers, muffins, and pancakes)
  • Artichoke hearts
  • All varieties of beans
  • Salmon – wild sockeye best

 

 

Beans Score for Appetite Control

Appetite control is the Holy Grail for weight control and beans prove to be a winning food for keeping hunger at bay. In a systematic review of all available clinical trials, scientists concluded that people felt about 31% fuller after eating an average of 160 grams of beans (a bit more than ¾ a cup) relative to a bean-free control diet. These results are not surprising given that beans are home to a number of hunger-quieting features including:

  • More fiber than any other food group. (Fiber fills us up for zero calories, in addition to fighting fat through several additional pathways.)
  • Lots of lean protein. (Protein is Mother Nature’s diet pill – keeping hunger at bay longer than any other nutrient.)
  • A big dose of difficult-to-digest, “low-glycemic” carbohydrate. (Low-glycemic carbs safeguard against sudden drops in blood sugar that incite hunger.) (1)
Beans can also be celebrated for their megawatt nutritional firepower. They are exploding with key nutrients. Strive to include them in your diet daily. Here are some tips to help you succeed.

The Nut to Always Have on Hand

walnutsAll varieties of nuts are off-the-charts great for you, but walnuts deserve especially enthusiastic praise. In fact, this remarkable nut is so special it is always available in my kitchen. Here are 6 compelling reasons to join me in including walnuts in your diet regularly:

1.Walnuts are one of the few foods and the only nut that provide a large dose of plant-based omega-3 fats.

2. Walnuts are uniquely high in a special form of vitamin E, gamma-tocopherol, revered for its heart health prowess.

3. All nuts provide robust, disease-protective anti-inflammatory power, but walnuts come out on top.

4. As nuts go, walnuts are home to the highest quality and highest concentrations of beneficial plant antioxidants, including some exceedingly rare and highly prized ones like juglone. Walnut’s supply of juglone is thought to explain the connection between walnut consumption and a lower risk of prostate and breast cancer.

5. Because of their highly unique “heart-healthy” and “brain-healthy” profile of nutrients (think lots of omega-3 fats, vitamin E, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant compounds, etc.), walnuts offer exceptional cardiovascular protection and brain-boosting power. I like to think of them as cardiac “miracle pills”. And of course there is a reason why they look like miniature brains!

6. Walnuts have also been linked to protection from type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, dementia, macular degeneration, and even stress.

 
Enjoy them raw or roasted. Throw some into your morning oatmeal, cereal or yogurt. Add them to your salad, rice, chicken, and quinoa dishes. Or enjoy a handful as your mid-afternoon snack. For the best value, buy them in bulk from the produce section of the grocer or from a wholesale grocer like Costco. Store them in the freezer or refrigerator to preserve their nutritional quality. And most importantly, eat more walnuts!

 

Quick Tip

Kale is arguably the healthiest food on the planet and kale salads are delectable if you know how to properly prepare them.  The “magic step” is vigorously massaging the chopped kale leaves in your hands after you have poured on your vinaigrette of choice and before you add any additional ingredients (about 2 minutes). This all-important “kale massage” softens and tenderizes the kale leaves.  Here are two of my favorite recipes: Sesame Kale Salad with Avocado and Dr. Ann’s Cure-All Kale Salad.

Big News for Vitamin D and Brain Health

brainIn the most robust study of its kind to date, researchers found a very strong link between low vitamin D levels and a greater risk of dementia. For the study researchers measured the blood vitamin D levels in 1,658 people over the age of 65 and then followed their cognitive function over the next 5.6 years. At the beginning of the study, all of the study subjects had normal cognitive function. At the end of the study, 171 subjects had developed dementia and 102 had developed Alzheimer’s disease. Those with low levels of vitamin D at the beginning of the study were 53% more likely to get dementia, while those who were the most deficient exhibited a whopping 125% higher risk. For Alzheimer’s disease there were very strong links too. Those with lower levels had a 70% higher risk and those most deficient had a 125% higher risk.

The researchers noted that while they anticipated a significant link, the association between low vitamin D and the subsequent development of dementia was twice as strong as they anticipated. (Neurology, online, DOI: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000000755)

While further studies are needed to confirm a true cause and effect relationship, it is clearly prudent to be sure your vitamin D levels remain in the normal range and to educate yourself on the most effective strategies for maintaining healthy levels. Click here for my best advice.

Top Picks for Appetite Control

  • Healthy animal proteins – fish, shell fish, skinless poultry, omega-3 eggs, low-fat dairy products (especially plain Greek yogurt).
  • Plant proteins – whole soy foods, nuts, seeds, and beans (especially beans!).
  • Non-starchy veggies – cabbage, kale, broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, collards, carrots, onions, leeks, tomatoes, asparagus, spinach, dark lettuces, bell peppers, avocados.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Non-tropical fruits – berries, cherries, plums, apples, pears, grapes, kiwi, peaches, and melon.
  • Physically in-tact whole grains – oats, brown rice, barley, bulgur, quinoa and kasha.
  • High fiber cereals – choose those with at least 5 grams of fiber per serving (avoid those with >10 grams of sugar).