3 Winter Foods You Do Not Want to Miss

Broccoli
Broccoli is bonafide nutritional megastar. This non-starchy cold weather veggie is chock full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, yet ridiculously low in calories. Even more remarkable, broccoli is home to over 150 health-promoting phytochemicals, including sulforaphane, now world famous for its anti-cancer prowess. Because I like to eat a lot, broccoli is my go-to veggie for bulking up my meals and dishes without adding hardly any calories. Strive to include 2 or more servings weekly, and note broccoli is healthiest raw or lightly steamed.

Orangesoranges
This refreshing fruit is a fabulous source of vitamin C, folate, potassium, and fiber—a sure-fire winner for heart health. In addition, this amazing food contains every known class of natural anticancer compounds making them one of nature’s most perfect “anticancer packages”. For best results, consume a piece of citrus daily.  All citrus fruits are great, but oranges are the superstars.

Kale
All green vegetables are nutritional treasures, but kale is one of the crown jewels. This leafy green is unequivocally one of the healthiest foods you can eat, providing more nutrition per calorie than any other food. Kale also tops the list of the most potent antioxidant vegetables, and of course has just a smidge of calories. When I feel the urge to “really feel” the nutritional power of food, or when I think I am coming down with something, I eat a huge bowl of kale salad. Here is my favorite quick kale salad recipe.

Yogurt for Diabetes Protection

 Greek yogurtThanks to powerful new research, my enthusiasm for consuming yogurt as part of a healthy diet just received a big boost. In the largest and most authoritative review study to date, Harvard researchers found that people who consumed yogurt daily were less likely to develop type 2 diabetes. The study combined the results of 14 previously published studies and included 459,790 study subjects. The researchers found that individuals who consumed a single daily serving of yogurt lowered their risk of type two diabetes by 18 percent.

Yogurt is home to several nutrients that are known to guard metabolic health including probiotics, magnesium, calcium, and unique fatty acids. For best results, choose low-fat or non-fat plain yogurt. Here are my favorite ways to healthfully sweeten your plain yogurt. (BMC Medicine, 2014 12 (1):215)

A Brand of Pasta I am Nuts Over

If you love your pasta and are looking for one that you can indulge in, enjoy and feel great about, I am delighted to tell you about Explore Asian brand Organic Black Bean Pasta. Believe or not, this delicious pasta is made exclusively from organic black beans and water with no additional ingredients. A single serving provides 22.5 grams of protein along with 11 grams of fiber! And knowing that black beans are otherwise teeming with nutrients, I encourage you to include this pasta ad libitum in your diet.  Perhaps the most welcome accolade of this unique brand of pasta is that unlike other gluten free pastas, it always cooks up al dente. Hooray, hooray!

Turmeric for Brain Power

Spice up your brainpower with turmeric! That is the advice to take from a new clinical trial that has found that consuming even a modest dose of this highly anti-inflammatory spice improved “working memory.” For this placebo-controlled trial, researchers fed one group of elderly subjects recently diagnosed with pre-diabetes a breakfast that contained one gram of turmeric and a control group the same breakfast, but without the added turmeric. All study subjects had their working memory tested before breakfast and for a few hours thereafter. Those fed breakfast with added turmeric had measurable and significant improvements in their working memory in the hours after consuming breakfast.

The researchers specifically conducted the study in pre-diabetics because diabetes is a known risk factor for cognitive impairment and dementia. Turmeric, along with curry spice, owes its deep yellow hues to a compound called curcumin. Curcumin is thought to be the “active ingredient” responsible for the growing evidence touting turmeric and curry for brain health. In the lab, curcumin has become a wonder compound exhibiting all sorts of fantastic feats, particularly for stifling inflammation. Knowing that inflammation is the “universal brain destructor,” it is not surprising that turmeric is rapidly emerging as a superstar spice for brain health. (Asia Pac J Clin Nutr., 2014;23 DOI: 10.6133/apjcn.2014.23.4.24)

So give it a shake or two in your rice, poultry, and bean dishes, or add it to your favorite salad dressings.

Mother Nature’s Diet Pill

Of the three basic building blocks of nutrition– protein, carbohydrates, and fat– nothing provides longer-lasting and more effective appetite control than protein.  In fact, I like to call protein nature’s diet pill!

The unique sating power of protein is thought to be due to several mechanisms working in concert including:

  • Sustaining blood glucose levels
  • More effectively driving down levels of the hunger hormone ghrelin
  • Delaying stomach emptying (which keeps food in the stomach for a longer period of time)
Whether your goals are improved weight control or losing weight– getting optimal protein in your diet is an invaluable strategy for success.  Click here to get my specific guidance for  for fully leveraging dietary protein for optimal health and weight control.

Foods for Healthy Aging

grocery bagThe health credentials of plant foods high in flavonoids just got a big boost, this time for promoting healthy aging. Researchers from the esteemed and powerful Harvard Nurse’s Health study carefully monitored the diets of 13,818 women from their late fifties through their mid-sixties. Women with the highest dietary intakes of flavonoids had the greatest odds of reaching older age in good health. Good health was defined as “no major chronic diseases or major impairments in cognitive or physical function or mental health.” The researchers noted that women with the largest dietary intakes of flavonoids increased their chances of healthy aging by about 25 percent. Flavonoids are plant compounds with potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory power– two attributes that offer broad-spectrum disease protection and anti-aging benefits. Click here to see the list of foods highest in flavonoids.

Avoiding Holiday Weight Gain

weight gainHere is my best advice for enjoying the holidays without sabotaging your waistline and your health.

 

  1. Stay away from the appetite-stimulating “Great White Hazards”. This notorious group of easily digested carb foods including white flour products, white rice, white potatoes, and sugars/sweets make you hungrier.  Holidays are already a dietary pitfall for most and these foods add insult to injury.  Choose whole grains, beans, sweet potatoes, and winter squashes as much healthier alternatives to the starchy white stuff.    Try bean salad instead of potato salad; brown rice over white rice; 100% whole grain crackers or breads over white bread; sweet potatoes or winter squash over white potatoes. And just say NO to the rolls and biscuits!
  2. Fill your tummy up first with foods that have lots of bulk but minimal calories, i.e. the “big, yet skinny” fruits and veggies.  Physical bulk (stuff) in the GI tract provides great appetite suppression.  At holiday gatherings, go straight to the fruit and veggie platter first and really indulge; use high fat/oil-based dips sparingly.  If available, make bean dips (hummus) your first choice. Eat a big tossed salad or a couple of servings of a veggie side dish before the rest of the meal. Fill at least half of your plate with fruits, veggies, and bean dishes before serving the rest of your meal.
  3. Don’t let yourself get too hungry! It takes fewer calories to prevent marked hunger than it does to deal with it once it occurs!

    Do not skip a meal earlier in the day to “save up” for the holiday feast. Eat a robust breakfast with an abundance of fiber and a nice dose of protein for better appetite control over the remainder of the day.   Have a snack an hour before you arrive at a holiday gathering.  My top snack choice would be a small handful of nuts along with a piece of fruit (apple) or fresh raw veggies (handful of carrots) dipped in hummus.

  4. Make exercise a priority! It’s a fantastic safeguard against weight gain and helps compensate for holiday indulgences.  It’s also the perfect tonic for the stress and anxiety we all experience during the holiday season (many people binge when stressed). Taking a long walk right after a large holiday meal can aid in digestion and is fantastic for alleviating the bloat and fatigue that naturally ensues after eating too much.
  5. Be prudent in satisfying your sweet tooth. Fresh fruit salad, a fruit-based dessert, or a piece of high quality dark chocolate would be my top dessert pick. If you prefer other goodies, be very mindful of your portions.
  6. Get your beauty rest! Provocative new science reveals that sleep deprivation enhances appetite and increases cravings for high risk foods like sweets, chips, breads and pasta.   Additionally, sleep deprivation zaps energy and enthusiasm for exercise. Strive for at least 7 hours of quality sleep the night prior to your holiday gatherings.
  7. Eat mindfully – give every meal, every snack and every bite your undivided attention. Eat slowly and be conscious of how delicious your food tastes – savor the whole experience. Don’t linger over the buffet table or hover over the hors d’oeuvres nibbling as you engage in conversation. Get up from the table immediately after finishing your meal to reinforce that eating has come to an end. And pre-plate everything (meals, hors d’oeuvres, dessert etc).  We tend to eat less if we can view it all before we start.

 

Enjoy the holidays and your health!

 

 

Cut Calories for a Younger Brain

brain eatsIf you are looking for yet another reason to cut back on calories, think brain health. In a first-of-its-kind laboratory evaluation, scientist determined that caloric restriction positively affected the expression of over 900 genes tied to age-related brain deterioration. For this study researchers fed lab mice prone to develop dementia a lifetime diet with 30 percent fewer calories relative to a control group of dementia prone mice. Both groups of mice had the activity of over 10,000 genes examined from their brain tissues during both midlife and late adulthood.  What the researchers observed was quite compelling. Compared to the control mice, the mice fed the lower calorie diet had almost total arrest of the gene activity involved in brain aging. And while a single lab study is certainly not enough to label cutting calories as “the real fountain of youth”, it does shed some new light on the potentially profound impact diet can have on brain health.  Given that many past studies in humans have repeatedly linked midlife weight gain and obesity to poorer brain function and dementia, I think we would all be wise and possibly even wiser, if we were more mindful of how much we ate. (Meeting of the Society for Neuroscience Washington, DC November 2014)

Easy Ways to Burn More Calories

Because even small amounts of excess body fat, especially if deposited in the belly, can boost the risk of many chronic diseases– taking steps to power up your metabolism can pay big health dividends.  Simply stated– metabolism is  the calories burned for the production of energy necessary to keep the body functioning properly.

treadmills

Whether you are trying to lose a few pounds or keep the scale steady - here are some super-easy steps for priming your fat burning machinery and revving up metabolism.

10 Foods I Strive to Eat Every Day

  1. Nuts
  2. Dark leafy greens
  3. Berries
  4. Avocados
  5. Dark chocolate
  6. Extra virgin olive oil
  7. Freshly brewed tea
  8. Beans
  9. Oily fish (mostly salmon)
  10. Tomato Pastesalmon dinner