All types of apples are standout fruits for weight control, but green apples (Granny Smith varieties) may turn out to be the cream of the crop. Scientists have known that apples in general are home to an abundance of non-digestible plant fibers that “feed” the good bacteria in our guts. This is notable because having an abundance of “good” bacteria in our GI tracts is fundamental to metabolic health and weight control. Meaning, there is now compelling evidence that an unhealthy microbiome (a GI tract dominated by ”bad” bacteria) can translate to weight gain and ultimately obesity. In contrast, having an abundance of “good” bacteria in the gut is protective against metabolic dysfunction and obesity.
Knowing that apples are uniquely high in fibers favored by beneficial bacteria, scientist conducted a series of lab experiments in obese mice testing which varieties of apples were most effective in transforming their gut bacteria from the “bad” obesity-associated types to the “good” lean types. And it turns out that the tart and tangy Granny Smith apples came out on top. For further inducement to go green with your apples, Granny Smith varieties also shine for their stellar antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power. Here are the other key strategies for boosting the good bacteria in your gut. (FoodChemistry, 2014; 161:208)
Thankfully, an enormous body of solid science supports that there are a variety of eating styles from vegan to Mediterranean to omnivorous that can lead to optimal health. That is, if the following two ESSENTIAL features are regularly adhered to:
Eating unprocessed or minimally processed real foods that are as close as possible to their natural state.
Eating predominately plant-based foods.
When it comes to health promotion and disease prevention, if any “expert” touts one and only one type of diet as “the best,” they are ideologues that are not espousing what the scientific facts convey—so beware!
Caution! Artificial sweeteners may raise the risk of metabolic diseases like type 2 diabetes. In a new study published in the prestigious journal, Nature, researchers found that feeding lab mice three commonly used non-caloric sweeteners (saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose), relative to feeding them sugar water or plain water, lead to dramatic alterations of their intestinal bacteria and glucose intolerance. (Glucose intolerance is the precursor to type 2 diabetes). As part of this series of studies, the researchers also conducted a similar experiment in a small group of human subjects. The results were comparable. In a significant number of the human subjects, consuming the artificial sweeteners lead to alterations in their intestinal bacteria along with some degree of glucose intolerance.
Although further human studies are certainly needed to confirm these findings, it raises a big red flag. We now know that intestinal bacteria play a huge role in how the foods we eat affect us, and studies thus far have not been conducted to specifically evaluate how non-caloric sweeteners may alter the human micobiome. Furthermore, there is virtually no evidence proving that sugar substitutes help us with long-term weight control. They also exploit our taste bud’s highly entrenched love for sweets, so I have always discouraged their habitual use. This study certainly adds to my reservations. (Nature, doi:10.1038/nature13793)
Think that putting on a few pounds is harmless – think again. In a sobering new study presented at a recent scientific meeting, researchers demonstrated that gaining as little as five pounds is enough to drive up blood pressure, particularly if the weight is gained in the belly. For this eight-week study, scientists had 16 healthy, non-obese study subjects purposely eat an extra 400 to 1,000 calories a day with the goal to increase their starting weight by 5 percent. The study subjects had their blood pressure continuously monitored for a 24-hour period just prior to the study and at the end of its completion. Results revealed that those who gained weight (even as little as five pounds) increased their systolic blood pressure an average of 4 points, with the greatest blood pressure increases seen in those who gained their weight in the abdominal area. (American Heart Associations High Blood Pressure Research Scientific Sessions 2014)
This study underscores the menace that seems to inevitably arise when even a little fat makes its way into the belly. Knowing that belly fats cells are relentless in their production of damaging, proinflammatory molecules, these results are not surprising. On the flipside there is some very positive news – past studies have shown that losing even a little belly fat can have profound benefits for your blood pressure and your overall health. Click here to get my best advice for busting belly fat.
Consuming optimal amounts of omega 3 fats relative to omega 6 fats is vitally important for brain health. And because brain health is EVERYTHING – I urge you to take advantage of the advice that follows to keep these two fats in a healthy balance. Tragically, the average American consumes about 20 times more omega 6 fats than omega 3 fats. The ideal ratio is felt to be closer to 2:1 (twice as much omega 6 relative to omega 3)
Consume More Omega 3 Fats
Strive to eat oily fish at least three times a week. (Salmon, especially wild salmon is best.) There is no more effective way to reach optimal intakes of omega 3 fats than eating oily fish!
Enjoy the other omega -3 rich foods regularly – dark leafy greens, walnuts, canola oil, flax, chia, and hemp seeds, and omega-3 eggs.
Consider high quality fish oil supplements as a safety net. I prefer the Nordic Naturals brand. (But know that eating the oily fish is even better.)
Consume Less Omega 6 Fats
Restrict your intake of processed foods that contain soybean oil and corn oil. Both are filled with omega 6 fats. Beware – they are everywhere!
Do not buy corn oil or soybean oil. Use olive oil or canola oil instead.
Avoid salad dressings and mayonnaise that are made with corn oil and soybean oil. Make your own salad dressings with olive oil and only buy canola oil-based mayonnaise.
Minimize your intake of red meats and look for grass fed beef and pork. Conventionally raised cows and pigs are fed unnatural diets of corn and soy.
I review 1000 plus studies a year related to my expertise and this one rocked me more than any I had read in a long time. In a nutshell, scientist determined that a country’s dietary intakes of omega 3 fats (the “superstar” brain-health fat) relative to omega 6 fats (the fat that directly competes in the brain with omega 3 fats) were a better predictor of the country’s academic success than the country’s wealth or per-capita spending on education! Sadly, America had amongst the lowest intakes of omega 3 fats relative to omega 6 fats of the 28 countries included in this evaluation with test scores as expected. (Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids (PLEFA), 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.plefa.2014.07.017)
I was so moved by this report and the implications it has for our country that I shot it off to my journalist/reporter daughter, Liz, who wrote it up much better than I could have. Click here to read it.
When it comes to optimal health, what you do in the kitchen matters. Here are 4 major blunders to avoid.
Do not use plastic in the storage, preparation or serving of your foods, especially hot foods. Plastics can contain potentially toxic residues like antimony, phthalates, and BPA, and heat facilitates the movement of these biochemically disruptive chemicals from the plastic into your foods.
Never heat oil up to its smoke point. When oils are heated to the point of smoking, they become oxidized. Oxidized fats are amongst the most potent food sources of damaging free radicals.
Do not boil your vegetables. Boiling vegetables diminishes their nutrients. For best results, steam, stir-steam, sauté, stir-fry, or roast them.
Never grill or fry meats unless they have been marinated, even if very briefly. Cooking animal protein, especially red meat, in high, dry heat (grilling, frying, roasting) creates toxic compounds called AGE’s and HCA’s. Even a 30 second submersion in a bottled marinade can dramatically reduce the formation of these noxious agents.
Those well-deserved darlings of the healthy fat world strike again. This time in an eye-opening new study that looked at how omega 3 fats taken in the form of a daily supplement affects kids’ behavior. For this well conducted, double blind, placebo-controlled, clinical trial (the only type of study that can prove cause and effect), researchers gave 100 kids ages 8-16 a daily juice supplement containing 1000 mg of omega 3 fats and a matched control group of 100 kids the same daily juice supplement containing a placebo. The researchers carefully questioned the kids’ caregivers (parents, sitters etc.) about all aspects of the kids’ behaviors at the beginning of the study and twice thereafter-once at 6 months (end of the trial) and again at 12 months (6 months after the trial ended). There were some notable findings. Not at 6 months, but at 12 months (again, 6 months after the trial ended) there was a 41.6% reduction in kids’ behavioral problems along with a 68.4% reduction in kids’ depression-related behaviors. Also worthy of mention was a very significant improvement in the parents’ attitudes and their anti-social behaviors.]. The scientists speculate that the parents’ behaviors improved because their kids were easier to deal with, allowing the parents to feel less stressed. (Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry doi 10.1111/jcpp.12314)
The results of this study are not at all surprising. Omega 3 fats play a profound and pervasive role in all aspects of brain function, and only 1 in 10 kids are taking in levels deemed to be optimal for brain health. I am a huge proponent of making parents aware of the foods that provide omega 3 fats and how to ultimately be sure that their kids are consuming enough of them. Click here for my advice.