4 Ways to Make Your Pasta Dish Healthier

pasta

  1. Choose “multigrain”, whole wheat, brown rice, or soba (buckwheat) pastas over conventional white pasta. (I love the Barilla Plus brand of multigrain pasta. Its taste and texture is just like regular pasta– try it!)
  2. Cook it al dente (a slightly chewy texture). This will reduce its glycemic response, which is better for your arteries and your metabolism.
  3. Flavor it with a little extra virgin olive oil and lemon, or a tomato-based sauce instead of cream or cheese-based Alfredo-type sauces.
  4. Combine your pasta with a variety of vegetables and herbs to give it color and flavor, and to give YOU life!

 

Walnuts Win for Brain Health

All nuts are exceptional foods for promoting wellness and vitality, but walnuts may be the cream of the crop for brain health. In an exciting series of laboratory experiments, researchers found that fortifying the diets of lab mice with a daily dose of walnuts resulted in several significant brain-based benefits. The mice fed the human equivalent of 1 to 1.5 ounces (a generous handful) of walnuts daily exhibited the following specific neurologic improvements:  enhanced memory and learning skills, superior motor development, and reduced anxiety. Although walnuts are home to a host of brain-healthy ingredients, the researchers believe their uniquely robust supply of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds, along with their hefty load of superstar omega-3 fats are likely the key players behind their brain-boosting prowess.

I encourage you to include any type of nut you enjoy regularly in your diet, but especially walnuts. For the best value, buy them in bulk from a wholesale grocer and store them in your freezer to preserve all of their goodness. Choose a handful for your afternoon snack; throw them into your morning oatmeal, cereal, or yogurt; add them to your dinner salad- any way you can get them into your walnut-loving brain! (Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 2014, 42:4)

The 7 Golden Guidelines for Healthy Eating

Of all the things you could do to improve your health and quality of life, eating a healthy diet is right at the top of the list. In fact, I do not know of any other strategy in all of modern day health and biomedical science (except possibly exercise) that comes close to providing the dazzling health benefits that nutritional excellence can provide. Thankfully, healthy eating can be distilled down to what I call the “7 Golden Guidelines”.  Click here to see them.

Quick Tip– Healthy Fat with Veggies

To fully leverage all of the glorious goodness in your vegetables – be sure to eat them along with some form of healthy fat. Fat improves their flavor and texture, but most importantly serves as a vehicle for transporting their fat soluble phytochemicals called carotenoids, from the digestive track into the bloodstream. Carotenoids are one of the most revered attributes in veggies. They provide cancer protection, cardiovascular protection and wrinkle prevention. For goodness sake - do not miss out on all of the carotenoids in your salads by using a fat-free dressing! The healthiest fats to pair with your veggies are extra virgin olive oil, canola oil, nuts, seeds and avocados.

Soda and Cellular Aging

 

In addition to packing on the pounds, drinking soda may accelerate aging too. In an eye-opening and first-of-its-kind evaluation, scientists found that regular soda drinkers had significantly shorter telomeres than study subjects who drank soda sparingly or less. Telomeres are the protective caps on the ends of chromosomes that are considered the most accurate measure of how much life is left in a cell. In other words, the shorter your telomeres, the more aged, and typically the more disease prone your cells are and vice-a-versa. This new study compared the telomere lengths from 5,309 American adults relative to their beverage drinking habits. Regardless of age, income, race, or education, the more soda study subjects reported they drank, the shorter their telomeres. Based on the researchers telomere calculations, drinking the equivalent of 20 ounces of soda daily shortens telomeres and accelerates aging on par with being a regular smoker!

The damning scientific data against soda is formidable and continues to mount. I am personally convinced that drinking soda is the quickest and most direct dietary route to weight gain, heart disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and brain dysfunction. So Just Say No to Soda and teach your children to do the same. (American Journal of Public Health, 2014; e1 DOI: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302151)

 

Let’s Go Shopping for Cooking Oils!

olive oil spoonFat is what gives our foods flavor, and if you know exactly which oils to select, you get the best of both worlds—great tasting food that guards and protects your health too. Remember, it is the type of fat in your diet that really matters. Your goals are to bring in the make-me-healthier fats (monounsaturated and omega 3 fats) and to keep the unhealthy fats (saturated and trans fats) out.
Ground Rules

  • Make extra virgin olive oil (a monounsaturated fat) your oil of choice.
  • Select canola oil (a monounsaturated fat) for baking and for food preparations where the strong flavor of olive oil is not desired. “High heat” (check labels) varieties are best for cooking/baking.
  • Choose peanut oil, sesame oil, grape seed oil, or coconut oil for very high heat (pan-frying, stir frying, etc.).
  • Use specialty nut oils as needed in recipes—walnut oil, macadamia oil, etc.
  • Use pan/cooking sprays when you want less fat and to keep foods from sticking to pots and pans
  • Avoid the oils high in omega 6 fats (Americans consume too much of this fat)—corn oil, soybean oil (also called “vegetable oil”), safflower oil and sunflower oil.
  • Strictly avoid all shortenings like Crisco.

 

Stand Up to Sitting

Over the past few years a slew of studies has linked prolonged sitting to cardiovascular disease and premature death. Now for the first time, scientists have some concrete experimental evidence that sheds light on how sitting actually harms the heart and arteries.  For this study, scientist had a group of healthy, non-obese men sit continuously for three hours straight. During this three-hour time period, the scientists periodically measured the blood flow in the main artery of the study subjects’ legs. Measuring blood flow within an artery is a reliable indicator of how well an artery functions, medically referred to as “endothelial function”. This is of note because endothelial dysfunction or sluggish blood flow plays a primary role in how arteries become diseased and blocked.

What the researchers found was eye-popping. In as little as one hour of sitting, blood flow in the study subjects’ leg arteries diminished by 50%. In other words, even a single hour of sitting significantly impaired blood vessel function. (Knowing that the average American adult sits eight hours a day – this is alarming to say the least!)

But there was some great news too. The researchers repeated the same experiment, but had the study subjects interrupt the sitting with short five-minute (2mph) walks on the treadmill, every hour. With the addition of these short walking breaks, blood flow did not decrease and remained at pre-sitting levels throughout the three hours. The scientists concluded that the use of muscles during walking likely counteracted the adverse changes that normally occur within arteries during prolonged sitting. So if you are feeling sluggish and sitting down, get up and move a little to get your blood flowing and to protect your heart. (Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 2014; 1 DOI:10.1249/MSS.0000000000000479)

The Top 4 Ways to Lower Cancer Risk

 

  1. Strictly avoid all forms of tobacco exposure.  Tobacco use remains the single greatest cause of preventable cancer. 
  2. Maintain an optimal weight (BMI <25; waist size <32.5” for females; <36” for males) throughout your life.  Assuming you are a non-smoker, this is the single most powerful means to lower your cancer risk.  Overweight/obesity is a significant risk factor for many forms of cancer.  BMI, weight gain after age 20, and belly size are the relevant aspects here.
    • Exercise daily the rest of your life
    • Consume the right foods and avoid the wrong foods
    • Eat mindfully – become a “defensive” eater
    • Control your portions
  3. Be physically active/exercise regularly the rest of your lifeRegular physical activity reduces cancer risk through several powerful and synergistic mechanisms.
    • At least 30 minutes of moderate aerobic activity daily.
    • Optimal – 60 minutes or more of moderate activity daily or 30 minutes of vigorous physical activity (like brisk walking) daily.
    • Always check with your healthcare provider before beginning an exercise program.
  4. Get Real!  Limit consumption of energy dense, processed foods, especially fast foods, sugary beverages, and junk foods.  These foods are those most adept at causing weight gain, which significantly boosts cancer risk.

 

Protein-Rich Breakfast Curbs Cravings

Want an easy way to reduce your food cravings? Eat your breakfast and make sure it is rich in protein! In a clinical trial that set out to determine if eating breakfast could modulate food cravings, scientist have some encouraging news. Relative to skipping breakfast, study subjects who ate breakfast experienced less intense cravings for high-risk sugary and fatty foods, especially if the breakfast was higher in protein. Consistent with these findings, the scientists were able to document that when the study subjects ate breakfast, their dopamine levels significantly increased. Dopamine is the brain chemical that regulates feelings of reward and plays an important role in impulse control. It seems that when breakfast is missed, dopamine levels are lower, which predisposes to more intense yearnings for high-risk foods and impulsive eating. The researchers noted that dopamine levels rose highest in those that had a breakfast rich in protein.Additionally, higher protein breakfasts proved to be the most effective in curbing food cravings. The lead researcher noted, “Our research showed that people experience a dramatic decline in cravings for sweet foods when they eat breakfast, however, breakfasts that are high in protein also reduce cravings for savory, high-fat foods.” ( Nutrition Journal 2014, 13:80)

In my own experience, I am amazed at the difference in my hunger control over the course of the day relative to the type of breakfasts I eat. Protein is clearly the key ingredient for optimizing my appetite control.

Here are three delicious and super-healthy protein-rich breakfast options.

QUICK TIP – DR. ANN’S FUNDAMENTAL THEOREM OF FLAVOR

If you constantly reinforce to yourself how good a food is to your health and partake in it regularly– over time it tastes better and better. Try it to see for yourself!