Monday, March 20, 2017

Blood Oranges in Season

Deep red and purple hues fill the flesh of the blood orange, a delicious fruit available through winter and spring. According to the National Gardening Association a cooler climate plays a role in the formation of the deep red color, as does the presence of anthocyanin.

Anthocyanin is an antioxidant found in several fruits but not often seen in citrus. Studies have shown anthocyanin may reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer growth, and reduce free radical damage. Blood oranges contain much higher amounts of anthocyanin than navel oranges, making it a great disease fighting fruit.

Blood oranges are primarily grown in Italy, although their origin is likely from China or southern Mediterranean. The cool temperatures at night during the fall and winter allow the anthocyanin to develop and give the blood orange its distinct color. It tastes less acidic compared to other oranges, and often has a subtle taste of berries.

One blood orange has about 70 calories and is a high source of vitamin C, delivering over 100% of daily recommended allowance. Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant in the body while repairing tissue and building collagen. Blood oranges are rich in folate which is needed for healthy red blood cells. Adequate intake is also associated with lowering cancer and heart disease risk. Vitamin A is also found in high amounts, this fat soluble vitamin is important for vision, the immune system, and healthy skin.

Blood oranges can be enjoyed in many different ways. Try adding segments into a arugula and fennel salad drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. Or perhaps reduce the juice into a glaze to spread over roasted turkey or scallops. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Cardio or Weights Better for Weight Loss?

Exercise does a great job lowering bad cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and improving insulin sensitivity. It can also help you get in shape, but which type is best for weight loss?

Researchers at Duke University followed overweight and sedentary participants for 8 months. Participants exercised with aerobics, strength training, or a combination of the two. At the end of the study the cardio group lost the most weight.

The strength training group gained weight from increased muscle mass but did not lose even 1 pound of fat mass despite exercising 47 minutes more each week.

The group that combined cardio and strength training lost some weight, had the best improvements in body composition by losing the most fat, and increased muscle mass.

Cardio burns more calories per minute compared to strength training so it is beneficial for reducing weight. Strength training is important too though, especially for maintaining lean muscle mass (which impacts metabolic rate), improving bone mineral density, and proper body mechanics for daily activities.

For the best benefit start with a warm-up and then move into strength training followed by cardio. The American Council on Exercise found this can drive heart rate higher during the cardio session which helps burn more calories.

It is recommended to do cardio exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days per week, although 60 minutes is best for weight management. Strength training should be at least two or more times per week with all major muscle groups being worked to volitional fatigue. Brisk walking counts as cardio, but greater benefit is seen with more vigorous activity.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Which Health Fads Are Not Worth the Hype

Juicing promises to deliver concentrated vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants which might be “locked away” in the fiber of whole fruits and vegetables. While a tall glass of juice might taste great, this fad is busted. Juice is concentrated in sugar and calories. It does not fill you up because the fiber is left behind. People who drink juice regularly have a 21% increased risk of type 2 diabetes compared to people eating whole fruits. Instead drink a protein smoothie with a small amount of whole fruit blended in. This retains the fiber and the protein slows down digestion.

Gluten-free diets truly help people allergic to gluten, and while  gluten sensitivities are pretty rare they do exist. A gluten-free diet is restrictive which helps people cut out lots of calories and junk food, but packaged gluten-free foods are not all they are cracked up to be. Most are refined grains, stripped of their nutrients. Gluten-free products are often higher in calories, sodium, fat, and sugar to make up for flavor differences compared to conventional products. Increased exposure to arsenic from rice-based products is also a concern. There is nothing wrong with eating fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and dairy which are all naturally gluten-free; use caution with processed foods though.

Coconut oil claims to increase metabolism, boost weight loss, and improve cholesterol. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but due to its medium-chain triglyceride structure it does not appear to have a significant effect on cholesterol like other high saturated fat foods such as butter and red meat. Instead coconut oil is rapidly delivered to the liver. Over-consumption can lead to stress on your liver and may contribute to fatty liver disease. Stick with olive oil which has well documented heart health benefits.

Paleo diet also known as the caveman diet bases nutrition on the foods available during the Paleolithic Era. You get to eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. You must avoid grains, sugar, dairy, beans, alcohol, salt, and all processed foods. While eating clean and giving up junk food is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle, Paleo ranked one of the worst diets by U.S. News and World Report. Experts found the diet was too high in saturated fat, which triggers inflammation as well as increases cardiovascular risk, insufficient in essential nutrients such as calcium, and long term adherence is low due to it being very restrictive.

Fads come and go but solid research can help guide us in the right direction. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Enjoy the benefits of minimally processed foods and remember to enjoy all things in moderation.

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cheers to Good Health

Aging is a state of mind, and protecting our mind starts with the food and drinks we consume every day. One of the most powerful ways we can enhance memory, mental alertness, and slow brain aging is by drinking green tea regularly.

With over 4,000 years of use, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. There are three main types of tea: green, black, and oolong. The difference is in how the teas are processed. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves helping to retain the highest amount of
antioxidants to protect against chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Tea also contains catechins which makes blood less sticky helping to further reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Catechins can also reduce free radical damage and some studies show it may help prevent breast, prostate, and GI tract related cancers.

Green tea has the highest catechin content, about 375 mg per cup, followed by black tea with about 210 mg per cup. Decaffeinated green and black teas appear to have the same benefits as regular.

Studies have also shown people who drink at least one cup of tea daily have higher bone mineral density helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There are many properties in tea which could contribute to strong bones; fluoride being the best known can also help prevent cavities as well. Too much fluoride can be a problem, so it is best to limit tea to 4 cups or less daily.

Adding milk to tea blocks the absorption of catechins so this should be avoided. Sugar and alternative sweeteners do not appear to effect catechin absorption, although consuming these in moderation is best.

Studies show tea is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against many diseases and enhance mental function. Enjoy green tea regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle.

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.