Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Raise Good Cholesterol

A new study published last week highlights the benefits of the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil for improving good “HDL” cholesterol especially in people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study followed 296 participants with high risk of cardiovascular disease. One group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, the second group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and the third group followed a control diet which reduced red meat, processed foods, high fat dairy products, and sweets.

All participants following the Mediterranean diet ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and moderate amounts of fish and poultry.

The control diet reduced total and bad “LDL” cholesterol levels, and while both Mediterranean diets improved HDL function, the olive oil group saw the biggest improvement.

HDL works like a sponge, patrolling arteries and collecting cholesterol to bring back to the liver for recycling or disposal. HDL provides antioxidant protection which can help lower plaque from forming in arteries. It also improves vasodilation which keeps blood vessels open and blood flowing more freely.

While the control diet did show benefit for lowering total and LDL cholesterol it had a negative impact on HDL’s anti-inflammatory capabilities. This could be less beneficial for people with high cardiovascular risk.

Research continues to show strong health benefits with the Mediterranean diet, especially when olive oil is used regularly.

Mediterranean Diet Tips

  • Eat mostly plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
  • Replace butter with olive oil and canola oil
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food
  • Limit red meat to a few times per month
  • Eat fish at least twice per week
  • Limit sweets to a few times per month
  • Get plenty of exercise

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Go Red! It is American Heart Month

Cardiovascular disease, which includes high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke is the leading cause of death throughout the world. Creating awareness saves lives, and one small heart healthy change at a time can save even more. 70% of cardiovascular disease can be prevented or delayed with the right diet and a healthy lifestyle. Start with…

Meeting with your health care team: Knowledge is power and preventative visits with your health care team helps identify risk factors before they become big problems. Visit your doctor, have your cholesterol screened, and blood pressure checked regularly.

Maintain a healthy weight: Being overweight or obese increases your risk. Start by eating smaller portions and increase your activity level. Studies show losing 10% of your body weight can significantly improve your health, lower cholesterol, lower blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, and decrease inflammation. For customized recommendations meet with a registered dietitian to design the best meal plan for you.

Increase fiber intake: Fiber can lower cholesterol naturally, men should aim for 38g and women should aim for 25g daily. Great sources are beans, berries, lentils, pears, oatmeal, apples, flaxseeds, and peas.

Exercise regularly: At least 30 minutes of moderate-intense exercise 5 days a week is recommended. This includes fast walking, hiking, water aerobics, and biking on level ground. Higher intensity exercise, such as running and biking hills, provides even greater health benefits and burns more calories.

Eat less sodium: The American Heart Association recommends most people limit their sodium to 1500 mg daily. This is about 1/2 tsp and includes “hidden” sources such as sodium in soup, bread, lunchmeat, condiments, and restaurant food.

Eat the right fat: Adopt a Mediterranean style of eating which includes a moderate amount of healthy fat (olive oil, nuts, seeds, fish, avocado, flax) while limiting unhealthy fats (cheese, bacon, sausage, red meat, butter, fried foods, desserts.)

Eat fatty fish regularly: Eating 3.5 oz of fatty fish (salmon, tuna, trout, herring, sardines, and mackerel) twice a week is associated with 30-40% reduced risk of death from cardiac events.

Don’t smoke: Smoking is the most preventable cause of premature death in our country. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease by damaging arteries, making your blood thicker, and it can increase plaque formation.

Limit alcohol: Moderate consumption may have protective benefits against cardiovascular disease, but high intake does not. Men should limit intake to one or two drinks per day and women should limit intake to one drink or less per day.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Health Benefits of Chicken Soup

It is that time of the year again; fever, cough, sore throat, chills…cold and flu season is here. Why do more people get sick in the winter? Some research shows when internal body temperature drops after exposure to cold air, the immune system can drop as well making us more susceptible to colds.

The best way to stop a cold is to protect yourself. Washing your hands often, especially before eating. Avoid unnecessary contact with others and use a paper towel to open bathroom doors. Cough or sneeze into your arm or shoulder instead of into the air. And most importantly stay home when you are sick.

The Pennsylvania Department of Health is reporting flu activity to be widespread in the Philadelphia area at the moment. Activity is likely to decrease as the winter progresses. If you do come down with the flu or a cold, research shows eating chicken soup is beneficial and is much more than comfort food when you are sick.

Researchers found chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. It inhibits the migration of white blood cells to mucous membrane surfaces helping to relieve congestion and decrease cold symptoms.

Chicken soup was also more effective than hot water at thinning mucus and speeding up movement through the nose. This helps limit the amount of time viruses come in contact with the lining of your nose and can decrease the length of your cold.

Chicken soup contains nutrients in a form the body can easily absorb. Vitamin A, C, magnesium, phosphorus, gelatin, and antioxidants have been known to help build a strong immune system and fight off viruses. The protein from chicken   provides amino acids which are used to build antibodies to fight infection. The carbohydrates in noodles or rice provide easy to digest energy which keeps you feeling satisfied.

Because chicken soup is mostly liquid, it prevents dehydration, especially if you are sweating from a fever. Plenty of other fluids is also recommended to help maintain hydration levels. The sodium and potassium in chicken soup can help maintain electrolyte balance. If purchasing canned soup, read the food label as some soups contain excessive amounts of sodium. These should be avoided if you are salt sensitive or suffer from high blood pressure.

Some of the brands used in studies that were found to be helpful include: Campbell’s Home Cookin’ Chicken Vegetable, Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken Noodle, Lipton Cup-o-soup Chicken Noodle, and Progresso Chicken Noodle.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Exercise is Anti-inflammatory

When the body is under chronic inflammation white blood cells can start to attack healthy  tissue and cells. Scientists believe chronic inflammation might play a role in autoimmune diseases and can increase cardiovascular disease, raise blood sugar and diabetes risk, increase bone loss, cause sleeping problems, lower mood, and can be a contributing factor in cancer development.

Anti-inflammatory foods such as fish and nuts have been recommended for years to help   reduce inflammation in the body, but new evidence shows exercise might play a big role as well.

A recent study from the University of California published in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity found one 20-minute exercise session produced an anti-inflammatory cellular response which could help lower chronic disease risk.

Participants exercised at a moderate intensity, which included fast walking, for 20-30 minutes. Researches measured blood samples before and immediately following exercise and found a 5% decrease in inflammatory production.

While vigorous exercise is very beneficial, all-out exertion can be intimidating and inappropriate for some people. This study  highlights the benefit of moderate exercise and encourages people to get outside and briskly walk to achieve benefits.

People with chronic disease should always consult their doctor before starting exercise.

Monday, January 9, 2017

Smoothie Bowls

Smoothie bowls are quickly becoming a popular breakfast trend. With a similar cold and creamy texture to ice cream, these healthier bowls contain all sorts of combinations of fruit, vegetables, nuts, nut butters, and seeds. The large surface area provides a beautiful canvas for creating delicious works of art piled high with berries, edible flowers, and all kinds of seeds.

The ingredients combinations are endless, and of course some combinations are better than others. The goal is to have a healthy balance of fiber and protein without overdoing it with the sugar. Frozen fruit provides a cold and creamy base as well as a little sweetness. Look for recipes that include a lean protein source such as protein powder or nonfat plain Greek yogurt. A small amount of liquid is usually added, such as 2-3 tbs almond milk. Finally healthy fats should garnish the top such as chia seeds, almonds, and  pomegranate arils.

Some smoothie bowls are green by adding in vegetables such as spinach and kale. Other bowls take on unique twists by adding coffee, matcha powder, and bee pollen. Toppings on a smoothie bowl are part of the experience, but remember granola, nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and coconut can add tons of calories too.

We recommend making smoothie bowls at home using recipes that list the calorie information so you can better control the ingredients. Most smoothie bowls ordered out are 600 calories or more so use caution when enjoying this delicious craze! 

Super Green Smoothie Bowl
Serves: 1
365 calories
1/8 ripe avocado
1 small ripe banana, sliced and frozen
1/2 cup frozen strawberries
1 large handful of fresh spinach
1/2 small handful of fresh kale
1/2 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tbs natural peanut butter

8-10 raspberries and blueberries
1 tsp chia seeds
1 tsp sunflower seeds
1 tsp shredded coconut

Directions: Add all smoothie ingredients to a blender and blend until creamy and smooth. Add more almond milk if needed to thin smoothie to desired consistency (it should be on the thicker side). Pour into a bowl and decorate with toppings.

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Food Trends to Watch in 2017

Happy New Year! 2017 will bring new hopes, aspirations, and opportunities for growth. The food industry is no exception with experts predicting the food trends that will emerge this year.

Sustainability is expected to increase as consumers base more food choices on where their food is coming from, how it is grown, and how it is raised. Look for more transparency with food labels, greater emphasis on locally sourced food, and cage-free or pasture-raised meats.

Global cuisine is expected to increase, particularly from regions such as the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia. Experts anticipate more exotic flavors being used in restaurants, snacks, and even condiments.

Vegetables are expected to shine in 2017 as more restaurants take a plant-based focus. You might be seeing more chickpeas, turnips, beets, and mushrooms taking center stage. Anticipate tasty options such as meatless bbq ribs, buffalo portabella mushroom burgers, and eggplant braciole.

Gut health has been a hot topic lately and experts expect gut-friendly foods to continue   rising in popularity. We may be seeing more fermented and pickled foods as well as probiotic rich yogurt, kimchi, and kefir.

With busy schedules people are looking for easy meal options. Ready-to-eat meal delivery is expected to continue thriving as more chefs are offering home delivery services. Keep watch for more cars, bikes, and even drones delivering food in the near future. In fact drones have already delivered burritos at Virginia Tech, pizza in New Zealand, and sandwiches in Nevada.

2017 is sure to create an exciting and adventurous food landscape. Get out there, try new things, and make 2017 the healthiest year yet.

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

All Good Things in Moderation

The holidays are a special time to embrace traditions, celebrate with family and friends, and indulge in treats that make the season so special. Healthy eating embraces all foods as part of a balanced diet, and encourages eating everything in moderation.

Allow yourself a little of your favorite foods as a treat. It is typically not the food that is the problem, it is the quantity of the food that you choose to consume. Take for example one chocolate chip cookie. At 150 calories per cookie eating 3-4 can easily lead to weight gain. Pies average around 350-500 calories per slice and the calories in alcohol can add up quickly as well. Learning to decrease portions can help keep your weight in check. It also helps lower your intake of saturated fat which is very important if you have a history of high cholesterol.

Cravings are suggestions to eat, but not commands to overindulge. When you feel cravings for treats try waiting 20 minutes, concentrating on something else, and leaving the area where food is. Often this will make the craving go away.

If you do choose to eat something you are craving enjoy it, but in moderation. You do not have to overeat. Take the time to truly taste and enjoy every bite of your treats. Avoid eating quickly and with distractions such as the TV or cell phone. This strategy helps us enjoy food more while consuming less.

Other strategies to help keep treats in moderation is to eat three balanced meals each day. This keeps appetite in check and prevents overeating that comes from skipping meals.

Eat until you are comfortably satisfied but not full, knowing you can enjoy more food later when you are hungry again.

Know your social calendar; during some events you may feel comfortable sticking to healthy low calorie foods and beverages knowing you plan to indulge at a different party later on.

Finally learn to say “no, thank you” politely when you have had enough. There is no shame in turning down treats especially if your health is at stake. 

Schedule an appointment with one of our dietitians to plan your 2017 goals; with insurance sessions are no cost to patients. Our office wishes you and your family a Happy Holidays and a Healthy New Year!