Almonds for Heart Health

almonds 1Like other nuts, almonds are on a roll for health, and this delicious food just landed another scientific triumph. For this new study, scientists had a group of young to middle age men consume a handful of almonds as a snack everyday for one month. A control group of study subjects consumed their regular diets without adding any almonds. At the end of one-month study, those consuming the daily almonds had higher blood levels of antioxidants, better blood vessel function, and lower blood pressure– validating that almonds improve blood vessel function. (Free Radical Research, 2014;48 (5))

Almonds are home to seven separate nutritional attributes known to be especially beneficial for heart health. Scientists believe it is this unique “matrix” of heart-healthy compounds that make them such a sensational food for cardiovascular protection. Click here to see the other superstar foods for heart health.

How to Get Optimal Levels of Calcium from Food

Current recommended daily calcium intakes for adults are:

1000 mg for males and females < 51

1200 mg for females 51+

 soy milk box

If you consume three daily servings of a calcium-rich food (see below) and make a point to regularly consume green vegetables like collards, kale, turnip greens, broccoli, and cabbage you should achieve optimal intakes.

Calcium-rich Foods:

8 ounces low fat or non-fat yogurt (plain best)

1.5 ounces cheese (part skim or 2% milk best)

6 ounces calcium-fortified orange juice ( avoid if weight or diabetes and issue)

8 ounces skim or 1% milk

8 ounces calcium fortified soy milk

3 ounces sardines with bones

½ cup tofu made with calcium sulfate

3 ounces canned salmon with bones

1 serving calcium-fortified cereal (those providing 30% or more of daily value/serving)

Vitamin D for Life

pill on forkAlthough controversy still exists in terms of optimal supplemental dosages of vitamin D, the evidence is now clear that having low blood levels of this all-important nutrient is associated with a higher risk of premature death. In a large scale new analysis that pooled the data from 32 formerly published studies, researchers found a clear and consistent link between higher death risk and lower blood levels of vitamin D. The analysis included over half a million adults with an average age of 55. Study participants with lower blood levels of vitamin D were twice as likely to die prematurely vs. those with higher levels. Even more alarming, about half of the study subjects who showed a greater death risk had blood levels of vitamin D around 30 ng/ml. This is considered the “low” end of normal by current standards, and about two thirds of American adults have levels below this.

Vitamin D plays an instrumental role in all aspects of human health, particularly heart health, brain health, bone health, immune health, and modulating the body’s inflammation status. I think it is best for everyone age 50 and older, and anyone of any age who has any type of chronic disease, including mental illness to get their vitamin D level checked yearly. Click here to see my best advice for maintaining normal vitamin D levels.

American Journal of Public Health, 2014 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302034

Superstar Foods 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).

 

 

Sweet Potatoes Trounce White Potatoes

When it comes to nutritional value and eating for better health, sweet potatoes trounce white potatoes. Whether your goals are improved weight control, heart health, cancer protection, or anti-aging, sweet potatoes are a far superior tuber. Here are 5 great reasons to choose sweet potatoes over white potatoes.

baked sweet potato meal

LOSE A LITTLE TO GAIN A LOT

If you want to improve your shuteye and brighten your spirits, losing a little weight may do the trick. In an uplifting new report presented at a recent scientific meeting, researchers found that losing as little as 5% of existing body weight was enough to improve sleep quality and mood in overweight study subjects. For the study, scientists assigned 390 obese adults to one of three different weight loss interventions, and followed them over a 24-month period. One group received printed materials, while the other two received lifestyle counseling or counseling with weight loss medications or meal replacements. Regardless of how the weight loss was achieved, those who lost 5% or more of their starting weight gained an average of 21.6 minutes of sleep a night and reported less symptoms of depression relative to those who lost < 5%.  (Meeting of the International Society of Endocrinology, Chicago June 2014)

Previous studies have shown that modest weight loss also works wonders for cutting the risk of heart disease, diabetes, and arthritis, while significantly improving functionality and overall quality of life so be encouraged if weight is an issue for you. Here are 21 things that I know can help you lose weight.

Why You Should Always Choose Brown Rice Over White Rice

Brown rice is a classic example of a physically intact whole grain and a far superior choice than white rice.  Unlike its refined white counterpart, brown rice contains the full package of wholesome nutrition Mother Nature intended for us, and will not spike up your blood sugar level.  The refining process that turns brown rice into white rice decimates its nutritional value – stripping out 67% of its vitamin B3, 90% of its vitamin B6, 80% of its vitamin B1, half of most of its minerals, and all of its fiber, healthy fats, and phytochemicals.  By law, some of these nutrients have to be added back, but at least 11 are not added back at all.  You and your family deserve the best, so always choose brown rice and leave the white rice on the grocery shelf.  Par-boiled and converted (Uncle Ben’s) versions of brown rice cook more quickly and have a texture and color similar to white.  Try them if you are feeling a bit reluctant to make the switch.

Brown Rice

8 Great Reasons to Exercise First Thing in the Morning

  1. runningIt begins the day on a positive “healthy” note that can set the tone for the rest of the day.
  1. It provides an opportunity to tackle and fully complete an activity critical for your health that allows you to begin the day with an immediate sense of accomplishment and empowerment.
  1. It increases the chances that you will choose a healthier breakfast. Afterall who wants to negate the benefits of a morning exercise routine by following it up with a donut or pastry?
  1. It provides an immediate boost in mood and cheerfulness that studies show can last up to 12 hours. (Stand outside the doorway of a gym and watch all the smiling faces upon exit.)
  1. It primes the brain for learning and enhances focus in the first 1 to 2 hours post-exercise. (Always plan your most cognitively challenging daily activities in the period just after exercise.)
  1. It enhances your sleep. Studies show that regular morning exercise improves sleep patterns. In contrast, late afternoon and evening exercise can interfere with sleep onset.
  1. Because there are significantly less “competing” events or activities in the earliest parts of the day, morning exercise is easier to build in as a consistent, daily habit. Studies show that early morning exercisers have the best long-term success in maintaining fitness.
  1. It provides a transient increase (up to 5 hours) in metabolic rate that can help you burn off some of your breakfast and lunch calories.

Awesome News for Almonds

almonds smallIf you love almonds like I do, you will be delighted to learn that this wonder of a superstar food provides significantly less calories than previously thought. In a study specifically designed to accurately measure the actual number of “digested and absorbed” calories provided by almonds – scientists found the calorie counts were in reality 20% less than standardly reported. The explanation lies in almond’s natural cellular structure. The fat in almonds is encapsulated in fiber, which impedes its digestibility and absorption. So some of almond’s fat (and thus calories) just passes straight through the GI tract!

The investigators noted that other nuts may have the same feature, but studies have not been conducted to be certain. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition online 2012.doi:10.3945/ajcn112.035782)

Relative to other tree nuts, almonds can also boast several other sparking attributes including more protein, fiber, vitamin E, calcium, riboflavin, and niacin. So go nuts and enjoy even more almonds.

The Top 4 Things to Lower Your Cancer Risk

One of the most spectacular scientific advancements of the past two decades has been the realization that we have enormous personal power and control over whether or not we will develop chronic disease.  Thankfully, cancer is no exception.  Based on the latest evidence, about 60% of all cancers could be prevented through diet and healthy lifestyles. Here are the four most effective ways to lower your cancer risk.