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What is the Mediterranean diet?
The Mediterranean diet emphasizes eating foods like fish, fruits, vegetables, beans, high-fiber breads and whole grains, nuts, and olive oil. Meat, cheese, and sweets are very limited. The recommended foods are rich with monounsaturated fats, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids.
The Mediterranean diet is like other heart–healthy diets in that it recommends eating plenty of fruits, vegetables, and high-fiber grains. But in the Mediterranean diet, an average of 35% to 40% of calories can come from fat. Most other heart-healthy guidelines recommend getting less than 35% of your calories from fat. The fats allowed in the Mediterranean diet are mainly from unsaturated oils such as fish oils, olive oil, and certain nut or seed oils (such as canola, soybean, orflaxseed oil) and from nuts (walnuts, hazelnuts, and almonds). These types of oils may have a protective effect on the heart.
What are the benefits?
A Mediterranean-style diet may help lower your risk for certain diseases, improve your mood, and boost your energy levels. It may also help keep your heart and brain healthy.
The benefits of a Mediterranean-style diet reinforce the benefits of eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, fish, high-fiber breads, whole grains, and healthy fats.
For your heart and body, a Mediterranean-style diet may:
- Prevent heart disease.
- Lower the risk of a heart attack.
- Lower cholesterol.
- Prevent type 2 diabetes.
- Prevent metabolic syndrome.
For your brain, a Mediterranean-style diet might help prevent:
How can you make the Mediterranean diet part of your eating plan?
There are some simple things you can do to eat more of the healthy foods that make up the Mediterranean diet. First, check out what’s on the menu. Then see what Mediterranean-type foods you can add to your eating plan.
On the menu
The traditional Mediterranean diet calls for:
- Eating a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, such as grapes, blueberries, tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, figs, olives, spinach, eggplant, beans, lentils, and chickpeas.
- Eating a variety of whole-grain foods each day, such as oats, brown rice, and whole wheat bread, pasta, and couscous.
- Choosing healthy (unsaturated) fats, such as nuts, olive oil, and certain nut or seed oils like canola, soybean, and flaxseed. About 35% to 40% of daily calories can come from fat, mainly from unsaturated fats.
- Limiting unhealthy (saturated) fats, such as butter, palm oil, andcoconut oil. And limit fats found in animal products, such as meat and dairy products made with whole milk.
- Eating mostly vegetarian meals that include whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables.
- Eating fish at least 2 times a week, such as tuna, salmon, mackerel, lake trout, herring, or sardines.
- Eating moderate amounts of low-fat dairy products each day or weekly, such as milk, cheese, or yogurt.
- Eating moderate amounts of poultry and eggs every 2 days or weekly.
- Limiting red meat to only a few times a month in very small amounts. For example, a serving of meat is 3 ounces. This is about the size of a deck of cards.
- Limiting sweets and desserts to only a few times a week. This includes sugar-sweetened drinks like soda.
The Mediterranean diet may also include red wine with your meal-1 glass each day for women and up to 2 glasses a day for men.
Tips for changing your diet
Here are some things you can do to switch from a traditional Western-style diet to a more Mediterranean way of eating.
- Dip bread in a mix of olive oil and fresh herbs instead of using butter.
- Add avocado slices to your sandwich instead of bacon.
- Have fish for lunch or dinner instead of red meat. Brush it with olive oil, and broil or grill it.
- Sprinkle your salad with seeds or nuts instead of cheese.
- Cook with olive or canola oil instead of butter or oils that are high in saturated fat.
- Choose whole-grain bread, pasta, rice, and flour instead of foods made with white flour.
- Add ground flaxseed to cereal, low-fat yogurt, and soups.
- Cut back on meat in meals. Instead of having pasta with meat sauce, try pasta tossed with olive oil and topped with pine nuts and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
- Switch from 2% milk or whole milk to 1% or fat-free milk.
- Dip raw vegetables in a vinaigrette dressing or hummus instead of dips made from mayonnaise or sour cream.
- Have a piece of fruit for dessert instead of a piece of cake. Try baked apples, or have some dried fruit.
- Use herbs and spices instead of salt to add flavor to foods.
A dietitian can help you make these and other changes to your diet. You can find information about the Mediterranean diet, recipes, and sample menus online and in cookbooks or videos.
The Mediterranean diet isn’t just about eating healthy foods. It’s also about being active. So try to get at least 2½ hours of moderate aerobic activity a week. It’s fine to do blocks of 10 minutes or more throughout your day and week.
Choose exercises that make your heart beat faster and make you breathe harder. For example, go for a swim or a brisk walk or bike ride. You can also get some aerobic activity in your daily routine. Vacuuming, housework, gardening, and yard work can all be aerobic.
Originally appeared on Webmd.com
If you’ve ever taken ginger ale for an upset tummy, you understand the health benefits of ginger. Going back more than 2,000 years in China, the herb has been used to treat nausea, upset stomach and help with digestion and diarrhea.
Used in stir-fries and Asian cooking, the spicy, pungent underground rhizome of the ginger plant is firm with a striated texture. It may be yellow, white or red, depending on the variety, and is covered with a thin or thick brownish skin, depending on whether the plant was harvested mature or young.
What’s ginger good for?
As it turns out, plenty. A 2009 study found ginger supplements when taken alongside anti-vomiting medicine reduced chemotherapy-induced nausea in patients by 40 percent.
“Therapeutically, it’s also used for poor circulation and lower back pain. On an emotional level, it can act as a catalyst if you are procrastinating and lack the drive to take action,” says Laurie Steelsmith, a licensed naturopathic doctor and author of “Natural Choices for Women’s Health.”
Studies have shown it can also ease muscle pain, eliminate inflammation, help with painful menstruation and migraines, and may even slow or kill ovarian and colon cancer cells. Here are some other health benefits of ginger:
Nausea and motion sickness: Ginger is well known for its ability to ease nausea, and it’s helpful for motion and sea sickness. Women suffering from morning sickness were given beverages with ginger during the first trimester of pregnancy, and when compared with women given a placebo, ginger alleviated the nausea in a large majority of the cases.
Diabetes complications: Studies show ginger may reduce urine protein levels, decrease water intake and urine output, and reverse proteinuria, which is kidney damage caused by too much protein in the urine. Ginger may also protect nerves in diabetics and lower blood fat levels. “Ginger can help increase circulation, thin blood, and lower both blood pressure and cholesterol,” says author Steelsmith.
Arthritis: A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study published in the journal Osteoarthritis Cartilage found patients with painful arthritis in the knee who were given ginger vs. a placebo experienced significantly less pain and loss of movement compared to those taking the placebo.
Cold and flu: Chinese medicine practitioners commonly prescribe ginger to treat symptoms of colds and flu. The root acts as an antihistamine and decongestant, two cold-easing effects that can help with symptoms.
A dose of ginger
Ginger is susceptible to heat and oxygen, so handle carefully when using this herb and store in a cool, dry place or the crisper bin of the refrigerator for two to three weeks.
To make a tea, shave the skin from a piece of fresh ginger, cut off a 2-inch chunk and slice it into 2 cups of water to simmer covered for 20 minutes. Remove the slices and pour into a mug and add honey and a squeeze of lemon. Eat the slices after drinking the tea. Drink up to three cups of tea per day, before meals.
Ginger capsules or powder are also available. Take at least 2,000 milligrams three times or more per day with or without food.
Do not take ginger with blood thinners without first consulting your health care provider. Ginger may also lower blood sugar and interact with blood pressure altering medications, so speak with your physician prior to using ginger if you take any medications.
The avocado is a rather unique type of fruit.
Most fruit consists primarily of carbohydrate, while avocado is high in healthy fats.
Numerous studies show that it has powerful beneficial effects on health.
Here are 12 health benefits of avocado, that are supported by scientific research.
1. Avocado is Incredibly Nutritious
This fruit is prized for its high nutrient value and is added to all sorts of dishes due to its good flavor and rich texture. It is the main ingredient inguacamole.
These days, the avocado has become an incredibly popular food among health conscious individuals. It is often referred to as a superfood… which is not surprising given its health properties (2).
There are many kinds of avocados, and the shape (from pear-shaped to round) and color (from green to black) can vary between them. They can also weigh anywhere from 8 ounces (220 grams) to 3 pounds (1.4 kg).
The most popular type is called Hass avocado.
It is often called “alligator pear,” which is very descriptive because it tends to be shaped like a pear and have green, bumpy skin… like an alligator.
The yellow-green flesh inside the fruit is eaten, but the skin and seed are discarded.
Avocados are very nutritious and contain a wide variety of nutrients, including 20 different vitamins and minerals.
Here are some of the most abundant nutrients, in a single 3.5 ounce (100 gram) serving (3):
- Vitamin K: 26% of the RDA.
- Folate: 20% of the RDA.
- Vitamin C: 17% of the RDA.
- Potassium: 14% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B5: 14% of the RDA.
- Vitamin B6: 13% of the RDA.
- Vitamin E: 10% of the RDA.
- Then it contains small amounts of Magnesium, Manganese, Copper, Iron, Zinc, Phosphorous, Vitamin A, B1 (Thiamine), B2 (Riboflavin) and B3 (Niacin).
This is coming with 160 calories, 2 grams of protein and 15 grams of healthy fats. Although it contains 9 grams of carbs, 7 of those are fiber so there are only 2 “net” carbs, making this a low-carb friendly plant food.
Avocados do not contain any cholesterol or sodium, and are low in saturated fat. I personally don’t think that matters, but this is one of the reasons they are favored by many “old school” experts who still believe these things are inherently harmful.
Bottom Line: Avocado is a green, pear-shaped fruit often called an “alligator pear.” It is loaded with healthy fats, fiber and various important nutrients.
2. They Contain More Potassium Than Bananas
This nutrient helps maintain electrical gradients in the body’s cells and serves various important functions.
Avocados are actually very high in potassium… with a 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving containing 14% of the RDA, compared to 10% in bananas, which are a typical high potassium food (5).
Several studies show that having a high potassium intake is linked to reduced blood pressure, a major risk factor for heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure (6).
Bottom Line: Potassium is an important mineral that most people don’t get enough of. Avocados are very high in potassium, which should support healthy blood pressure levels.
3. Avocado is Loaded With Heart-Healthy Monounsaturated Fatty Acids
Again, avocado is a high fat food.
In fact, 77% of the calories in it are from fat, making it one of the fattiest plant foods in existence.
But they don’t just contain any fat… the majority of the fat in avocado is oleic acid.
This is a monounsaturated fatty acid that is also the major component in olive oil and believed to be responsible for some of its beneficial effects.
Bottom Line: Avocados and avocado oil are high in monounsaturated oleic acid, a “heart healthy” fatty acid that is believed to be one of the main reasons for the health benefits of olive oil.
4. Avocados Are Loaded With Fiber
Fiber is another nutrient found in relatively large amounts in avocado.
A distinction is often made between soluble and insoluble fiber.
Soluble fiber is known to be able to feed the friendly gut bacteria in the intestine, which are very important for the optimal function of our bodies (14).
A 100 gram (3.5 ounce) serving of avocado contains 7 grams of fiber, which is 27% of the recommended daily amount.
About 25% of the fiber in avocado is soluble, while 75% is insoluble (15).
Bottom Line: Avocados tend to be high in fiber, about 7% by weight, which is very high compared to most other foods. Fiber can have various important benefits for weight loss and metabolic health.
5. Eating Avocados Can Lower Cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels
Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the world (16).
It is known that several blood markers are linked to an increased risk.
This includes cholesterol, triglycerides, inflammatory markers, blood pressure and various others.
The effects of avocado on some of these risk factors has been studied in 8 human controlled trials.
These are studies where people are split into groups… one group is instructed to eat avocados, while the other is not. Then researchers see what happens to their blood markers over time.
- Reduce total cholesterol levels significantly.
- Reduce blood triglycerides by up to 20%.
- Lower LDL cholesterol by up to 22%.
- Increase HDL (the “good”) cholesterol by up to 11%.
One of the studies showed that including avocado in a low-fat vegetarian diet led to improvements in the cholesterol profile (24).
Unfortunately, all of the human studies were small (13-37 subjects) and short-term (1-4 weeks), but the results were impressive nonetheless.
Bottom Line: Numerous studies have shown that eating avocado can improve heart disease risk factors like Total, LDL and HDL cholesterol, as well as blood triglycerides.
6. People Who Eat Avocados Tend to be Healthier
One study looked at the dietary habits and health of people who eat avocados.
They analyzed data from 17,567 participants in the NHANES survey in the U.S.
Avocado consumers were found to be much healthier than people who didn’t eat avocados.
People who ate avocados regularly also weighed less, had a lower BMI and significantly less belly fat. They also had more HDL (the “good”) cholesterol.
However… correlation does not imply causation and there is no guarantee that the avocados caused these people to be in better health.
Therefore I don’t think this particular study carries much weight.
Bottom Line: One dietary survey found that people who ate avocados had a much higher nutrient intake and had a lower risk of metabolic syndrome.
7. The Fat in Them Can Help You Absorb Nutrients From Plant Foods
When it comes to nutrients, the total amount of them is not the only thing that matters.
We also need to be able to absorb them… move them from the digestive tract and into the body, where they can be used.
Some nutrients are “fat soluble,” meaning that they need to be combined with fat in order to be utilized.
This includes vitamins A, D, E and K… along with antioxidants likecarotenoids.
One study showed that adding avocado or avocado oil to either salad or salsa can increase antioxidant absorption by 2.6 to 15-fold (26).
So… not only is avocado highly nutritious, it can dramatically increase the nutrient value of other plant foods that you are eating.
This is an excellent reason to always include a healthy fat source when you eat veggies. Without it, a lot of the beneficial plant nutrients will go to waste.
Bottom Line: Studies have shown that eating avocado or avocado oil with veggies can dramatically increase the amount of antioxidants you take in.
8. Avocados Are Loaded With Powerful Antioxidants That Can Protect The Eyes
Not only do avocados increase antioxidant absorption from other foods, they are also high in antioxidants themselves.
Therefore, eating avocados should have benefits for eye health over the long term.
Bottom Line: Avocados are high in antioxidants, including Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These nutrients are very important for eye health and lower the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.
9. Avocado May Help Prevent Cancer
There is limited evidence that avocado may be beneficial in preventing cancer.
One study showed that it may help reduce side effects of chemotherapy in human lymphocytes (31).
Avocado extract has also been shown to inhibit the growth of prostate cancer cells (32).
However, keep in mind that these studies were done in isolated cells and don’t really prove anything about what happens in a living, breathing human.
Bottom Line: Some studies in isolated cells have shown that nutrients in avocados may have benefits in preventing prostate cancer, and lowering side effects of chemotherapy in some cells.
10. Avocado Extract May Help Relieve Symptoms of Arthritis
Arthritis is a common problem in Western countries. There are many types of arthritis, and these are often chronic problems that people have for the rest of their lives.
Whether avocados themselves can have this effect, and not just the extract, remains to be seen.
Bottom Line: Studies have shown that an extract from avocado and soybean oils can significantly reduce symptoms of osteoarthritis.
11. Eating Avocado May Help You Lose Weight
There is some evidence that avocados are a weight loss friendly food.
In one study, people were split into groups. One group was instructed to eat a meal that contained avocado, the other a similar meal without avocado.
Then they were asked a series of questions related to hunger and satiety.
The people eating the avocado felt 23% more satisfied and had a 28% lower desire to eat over the next 5 hours (35).
If this holds true in the long-term, then including avocados in your diet could help you naturally eat fewer calories and have an easier time sticking to a healthy diet.
12. Avocado is Delicious and Easy to Incorporate in The Diet
Not only are avocados healthy, they’re also incredibly delicious and go with all sorts of foods.
You can add them to salads and various sorts of recipes, or you can simply scoop them out with a spoon and eat them plain.
They have a creamy, rich, fatty texture and blend well with various other ingredients.
A notable mention is guacamole, which is arguably the most famous use of avocados. It includes avocado along with ingredients like salt, garlic, lime and a few others depending on the recipe.
An avocado often takes some time to ripen and it should feel slightly soft when ripe. The nutrients in avocado can oxidize soon after fleshing it, but if you add lemon juice then that shouldn’t happen as quickly.
If you’re serious about adding avocado to your diet, then I highly recommend that you watch this videoabout how to pick, prepare and eat avocados.
At the end of the day, avocados are an awesome food. They’re loaded with nutrients, many of which are lacking in the modern diet.
They are weight loss friendly, heart healthy and… last but not least, taste incredible.
What more could you ask for in a food?
The holiday season is a time to celebrate with family and friends. Unfortunately, for many it also becomes a time for over-eating and weight gain. According to the National Institutes of Health, holiday eating can result in an extra pound or two every year. Over a lifetime, holiday weight gain can really add up. The holidays don’t have to mean weight gain. Focus on a healthy balance of food, activity, and fun. By implementing a few simple tips you can stay healthy through the holiday season.
Ten Tips for Healthy Holiday Eating
1. Be realistic. Don’t try to lose pounds during the holidays, instead try to maintain your current weight.
2. Plan time for exercise. Exercise helps relieve holiday stress and prevent weight gain. A moderate and daily increase in exercise can help partially offset increased holiday eating. Try 10- or 15-minute brisk walks twice a day.
3. Don’t skip meals. Before leaving for a party, eat a light snack like raw vegetables or a piece of fruit to curb your appetite. You will be less tempted to over-indulge.
4. Survey party buffets before filling your plate. Choose your favorite foods and skip your least favorite. Include vegetables and fruits to keep your plate balanced.
5. Eat until you are satisfied, not stuffed. Savor your favorite holiday treats while eating small portions. Sit down, get comfortable, and enjoy.
6. Be careful with beverages. Alcohol can lessen inhibitions and induce overeating; non-alcoholic beverages can be full of calories and sugar.
7. If you overeat at one meal go light on the next. It takes 500 calories per day (or 3,500 calories per week) above your normal/maintenance consumption to gain one pound. It is impossible to gain weight from one piece of pie!
8. Take the focus off food. Turn candy and cookie making time into non-edible projects like making wreaths, dough art decorations or a gingerbread house. Plan group activities with family and friends that aren’t all about food. Try serving a holiday meal to the community, playing games or going on a walking tour of decorated homes.
9. Bring your own healthy dish to a holiday gathering.
10. Practice Healthy Holiday Cooking. Preparing favorite dishes lower in fat and calories will help promote healthy holiday eating. Incorporate some of these simple-cooking tips in traditional holiday recipes to make them healthier.
- Gravy — Refrigerate the gravy to harden fat. Skim the fat off. This will save a whopping 56 gm of fat per cup.
- Dressing — Use a little less bread and add more onions, garlic, celery, and vegetables. Add fruits such as cranberries or apples. Moisten or flavor with low fat low sodium chicken or vegetable broth and applesauce.
- Turkey – Enjoy delicious, roasted turkey breast without the skin and save 11 grams of saturated fat per 3 oz serving.
- Green Bean Casserole — Cook fresh green beans with chucks of potatoes instead of cream soup. Top with almonds instead of fried onion rings.
- Mashed Potato — Use skim milk, chicken broth, garlic or garlic powder, and Parmesan cheese instead of whole milk and butter.
- Quick Holiday Nog — Four bananas, 1-1/2 cups skim milk or soymilk, 1-1/2 cups plain nonfat yogurt, 1/4 teaspoon rum extract, and ground nutmeg. Blend all ingredients except nutmeg. Puree until smooth. Top with nutmeg.
- Desserts — Make a crustless pumpkin pie. Substitute two egg whites for each whole egg in baked recipes. Replace heavy cream with evaporated skim milk in cheesecakes and cream pies. Top cakes with fresh fruit, fruit sauce, or a sprinkle of powdered sugar instead of fattening frosting.
Enjoy the holidays, plan a time for activity, incorporate healthy recipes into your holiday meals, and don’t restrict yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday foods. In the long run, your mind and body will thank you.
By Greta Macaire R.D.
The weather is getting cooler, but your produce choices are heating up.
These amazing superfoods are either hitting their peak in the garden or can easily be found in your local farmers market or grocery store.
They’re the perfect excuse to get cooking on cool nights!
Sweet or tart, apples are satisfying eaten raw or baked into a delicious dish. Just be sure to eat the skin—it contains hearty-healthy flavonoids. Health benefits include:
• Full of antioxidants
• 4 grams of dietary fiber per serving
Made the correct way, these veggies taste divine. They have a mild, somewhat bitter taste, so combine them with tangy or savory sauces, like balsamic vinegar. Health benefits include:
• 1/2 cup contains more than your DRI of vitamin K
• Very good source of folate
• Good source of iron
Though these veggies may resemble carrots, they have a lighter color and sweeter, almost nutty flavor. Use them to flavor rice and potatoes or puree them into soups and sauces. Health benefits include:
• Rich in potassium
• Good source of fiber
The sweet and juicy taste makes this fruit a crowd-pleaser. Cooking can really bring out their fabulous flavor, so try them baked or poached. Health benefits include:
• Good source of vitamin C and copper
• 4 grams of fiber per serving
A cross between a turnip and a cabbage, rutabagas are a popular Swedish dish. To utilize their earthy flavor, add them to casseroles, puree them with turnips and carrots to make a sweet soup, or roast them with ginger, honey, or lemon. Health benefits include:
• Good source of fiber
• Good source of vitamin C
The sweet, slightly nutty flavor of cauliflower is perfect for winter side dishes. It’s wonderful steamed, but it can also be blended to create a mashed potato-like texture or pureed into soup. Health benefits include:
• Compounds that may help to prevent cancer
• Phytonutrients may lower cholesterol” “Excellent source of vitamin C
Unlike summer squash, winter squash has a fine texture and a slightly sweet flavor. Because of its thick skin, it can be stored for months. It tastes best with other fall flavorings, like cinnamon and ginger. Health benefits include:
• Contains omega-3 fatty acids
• Excellent source of vitamin A
A type of winter squash, pumpkin can be used for much more than jack-o’-lanterns. Its sweet taste and moist texture make it ideal for pies, cakes, and even pudding! Health benefits include:
• Rich in potassium
• More than 20% of your DRI of fiber
• Good source of B vitamins
These veggies are for much more than Thanksgiving casseroles. More nutritionally dense than their white-potato counterparts, try roasting them—they’ll taste delicious, and you may maintain more vitamins than boiling. Health benefits include:
• Excellent source of vitamin A
• Good source of iron
• Anti-inflammatory benefits
Tender and mild, these root vegetables are a great alternative to radishes and cabbage. To flavor these veggies, use fennel, bread crumbs, or even brown sugar. Turnip leaves, which taste like mustard leaves, are easy to cook and dense in nutrients. Health benefits include:
• The roots are a good source of vitamin C
• Turnip leaves are an excellent source of vitamins A, K, and folate
This slightly sour fruit has gotten a lot of press as an antioxidant powerhouse. The juice provides a tangy base for marinades, and the seeds can be tossed into salads to amp up the flavor. Health benefits include:
• A UCLA study showed pomegranate juice has higher antioxidant levels than red wine
• Good source of vitamin C and folate
This Middle Eastern favorite is a sweet fruit that is perfect braised in stews, chopped up in desserts, or stuffed with cream cheese or almonds. Health benefits include:
• Low in fat
• Good source of fiber
• Good source of potassium
Use this sweet fruit to add a tropical flavor to your recipes. It’s great mixed with strawberries, cantaloupe, or oranges and can be combined with pineapple to make a tangy chutney. Health benefits include:
• More vitamin C than an orange
• Good source of potassium and copper
The signature tartness of grapefruit provides a contrast to other citrus fruit. Add it to mixed greens, combine it with avocado and shrimp, or enjoy a fresh glass of its antioxidant-rich juice. Health benefits include:
• More than 75% of your daily recommended intake (DRI) of vitamin C
• Good source of lycopene
• Contains pectin, which has been shown to lower cholesterol
The small and sweet citrus fruits are positively refreshing for fall recipes. Our favorite flavor combos include almonds, dates, and honey. Juice them with oil, vinegar, and ginger for a to-die-for dressing. Health benefits include:
• Good source of vitamin C
• Good source of beta-carotene
With childhood obesity on the rise, making sure kids eat right and get plenty of exercise is vital.
Parents and caregivers can play a big role in children’s nutrition and health, teaching kids about healthy foods, being a good role model and making sure physical activity is incorporated into each day.
August, which is Kids Eat Right Month, is a great time for families to focus on the importance of healthful eating and active lifestyles. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is encouraging families to take the following steps:
• Shop Smart. To encourage a healthy lifestyle, get your children involved in selecting the food that will appear at the breakfast, lunch or dinner table.
• Cook Healthy. Involve your child in the cutting, mixing and preparation of meals. They will learn about food and may even be enticed to try new foods they helped prepare.
• Eat Right. Sit down together as a family to enjoy a wonderful meal and the opportunity to share the day’s experiences with one another. Research indicates that those families who eat together have a stronger bond, and children have higher self-confidence and perform better in school.
• Healthy Habits. You can help kids form great, healthy habits by setting a good example. Fill half your plate with fruits and vegetables, choose lower-sodium options, and make at least half the grains your family eats whole grains. For beverages, choose water over sugary drinks, and opt for fat-free or low-fat milk.
• Get Moving. Aside from being a great way to spend time together, regular physical activity is vital to strengthen muscle and bones, promote a healthy body weight, support learning, develop social skills and build self-esteem. Kids are encouraged to be active for 60 minutes per day.
Getting kids to eat right can sometimes be a challenge, particularly if they are picky eaters. But experts say that a conversation can help.
“Talk to your children. Learn the foods they like. Teach them about the foods they need for their growing bodies. Find ways together to make sure they have the knowledge and ability to eat healthy and tasty foods at every meal,” says Angela Lemond, registered dietitian nutritionist and Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics spokesperson.
It may help to consult a registered dietitian nutritionist in your area to ensure your family is getting the nutrients it needs with a meal plan tailored to your lifestyle and busy schedule.
For more healthful eating tips, recipes, videos and to learn more about Kids Eat Right Month, visit http://www.KidsEatRight.org.
This August, reevaluate your family’s eating and exercise habits, and take steps to make positive, healthful changes.
Eat your water
by Amanda MacMillan
According to the old rule of thumb, you’re supposed to drink eight glasses of water per day (and some experts recommend even more). That can seem like a daunting task on some days, but here’s the catch: You don’t have to drink all that water. Roughly 20% of our daily H2O intake comes from solid foods, especially fruits and vegetables.
It’s still important to drink plenty of water—especially in the summertime—but you can also quench your thirst with these 15 hugely hydrating foods, all of which are at least 90% water by weight.
Water content: 91.5% water
It’s fairly obvious that watermelon is full of, well, water, but this juicy melon is also among the richest sources of lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant found in red fruits and vegetables. In fact, watermelon contains more lycopene than raw tomatoes—about 12 milligrams per wedge, versus 3 milligrams per medium-sized tomato.
Although this melon is plenty hydrating on its own, Gans loves to mix it with water in the summertime. “Keep a water pitcher in the fridge with watermelon cubes in the bottom,” she says. “It’s really refreshing, and great incentive to drink more water overall.”
Water content: 91.4% water
Iceberg lettuce may have a higher water content, but spinach is usually a better bet overall. Piling raw spinach leaves on your sandwich or salad provides nearly as much built-in hydration, with an added nutritional punch.
Spinach is rich in lutein, potassium, fiber, and brain-boosting folate, and just one cup of raw leaves contains 15% of your daily intake of vitamin E—an important antioxidant for fighting off the damaging molecules known as free radicals.
Water content: 91.4% water
This tropical fruit, also known ascarambola, comes in sweet and tart varieties and has a juicy texture similar to pineapple. Its eye-catching shape looks great in a fruit salad or as an edible garnish on the rim of a summer cocktail, and as an added bonus it’s rich in antioxidants, especially epicatechin—a heart-healthy compound also found in red wine, dark chocolate, and green tea.
One note of caution: People with kidney problems should avoid star fruit because of its high levels of oxalic acid.
Water content: 91.0%
All berries are good foods for hydration, but juicy red strawberries are easily the best of the bunch. Raspberries and blueberries both hover around 85% water, while blackberries are only slightly better at 88.2%.
“I love strawberries blended in a smoothie or mixed with plain nonfat yogurt—another hydrating food,” Gans says. Strawberries add natural sweetness to the yogurt, she adds, and the combo of carbohydrates, fiber, and protein make a great post-workout recovery snack.
Water content: 90.7%
Like its cousin cauliflower, raw broccoli adds a satisfying crunch to a salad. But its nutritional profile—lots of fiber, potassium, vitamin A, and vitamin C—is slightly more impressive. What’s more, broccoli is the only cruciferous vegetable (a category that contains cabbageand kale, in addition to cauliflower) with a significant amount of sulforaphane, a potent compound that boosts the body’s protective enzymes and flushes out cancer-causing chemicals.
Water content: 90.5%
This juicy, tangy citrus fruit can help lower cholesterol and shrink your waistline, research suggests. In one study, people who ate onegrapefruit a day lowered their bad (LDL) cholesterol by 15.5% and their triglycerides by 27%. In another, eating half a grapefruit—roughly 40 calories—before each meal helped dieters lose about three and a half pounds over 12 weeks. Researchers say that compounds in the fruit help fuel fat burn and stabilize blood sugar, therefore helping to reduce cravings.
Water content: 90.4%
A carrot’s a carrot, right? Not when it comes to water content. As it turns out, the baby-sized carrots that have become a staple in supermarkets and lunchboxes contain more water than full-size carrots (which are merely 88.3% water).
The ready-to-eat convenience factor is hard to top, as well. Snack on them right out of the bag, dip them in hummus or guacamole, or—for a bit of added crunch and bright orange color—chop them up and add them to salads or salsas.
Water content: 90.2%
This succulent melon provides a big nutritional payoff for very few calories. One six-ounce serving—about one-quarter of a melon—contains just 50 calories but delivers a full 100% of your recommended daily intake of vitamins A and C.
“I love cantaloupe as a dessert,” Gans says. “If you’ve got a sweet tooth, it will definitely satisfy.” Tired of plain old raw fruit? Blend cantaloupe with yogurt and freeze it into sherbet, or puree it with orange juice and mint to make arefreshing soup.
Water content: 92.1%
Don’t let cauliflower’s pale complexion fool you: In addition to having lots of water, these unassuming florets are packed with vitamins and phytonutrients that have been shown to help lower cholesterol and fight cancer, including breast cancer. (A 2012study of breast cancer patients by Vanderbilt University researchers found that eating cruciferous veggies like cauliflower was associated with a lower risk of dying from the disease or seeing a recurrence.)
“Break them up and add them to a salad for a satisfying crunch,” Gans suggests. “You can even skip the croutons!”
Water content: 93.9%
Bell peppers of all shades have a high water content, but green peppers lead the pack, just edging out the red and yellow varieties (which are about 92% water). And contrary to popular belief, green peppers contain just as many antioxidants as their slightly sweeter siblings.
Peppers are a great pre-dinner or late-night snack, Gans says. “We tell people to munch on veggies when they have a craving, but a lot of people get bored of carrots and celery pretty quickly,” she says. “Peppers are great to slice up when you get home from work, while you’re making or waiting for dinner.”
Water content: 94.5%
Sliced and diced tomatoes will always be a mainstay of salads, sauces, and sandwiches, but don’t forget about sweet cherry and grape varieties, which make an excellent hydrating snack, Gans says. “They’re great to just pop in your mouth, maybe with some nuts or some low-sodium cheese,” she says. “You get this great explosion of flavor when you bite into them.”
Having friends over? Skewer grape tomatoes, basil leaves, and small chunks of mozzarella on toothpicks for a quick and easy appetizer.
Water content: 95.3%
These refreshing root vegetables should be a fixture in your spring and summer salads. They provide a burst of spicy-sweet flavor—and color!—in a small package, and more importantly they’re filled with antioxidants such as catechin (also found in green tea).
A crunchy texture also makes radishes a perfect addition to healthy summer coleslaw—no mayo required. Slice them up with shredded cabbage and carrots, sliced snow peas, and chopped hazelnuts and parsley, and toss with poppy seeds, lemon juice, olive oil, salt, and pepper.
Water content: 95.4%
That urban legend about celery having negative calories isn’t quite true, but it’s pretty close. Like all foods that are high in water, celery has very few calories—just 6 calories per stalk. And its one-two punch of fiber and water helps to fill you up and curb your appetite.
This lightweight veggie isn’t short on nutrition, however. Celery contains folate and vitamins A, C, and K. And thanks in part to its high water content, celery neutralizes stomach acid and is often recommended as a natural remedy for heartburn and acid reflux.
Water content: 95.6%
Iceberg lettuce tends to get a bad rap, nutrition-wise. Health experts often recommend shunning it in favor of darker greens like spinach or romaine lettuce, which contain higher amounts of fiber and nutrients such as folate and vitamin K. It’s a different story when it comes to water content, though: Crispy iceberg has the highest of any lettuce, followed by butterhead, green leaf, and romaine varieties.
So when the temperature rises, pile iceberg onto sandwiches or use it as a bed for a healthy chicken salad. Even better: Ditch the tortillas and hamburger buns and use iceberg leaves as a wrap for tacos and burgers.
Water content: 96.7%
This summer veggie—which has the highest water content of any solid food—is perfect in salads, or sliced up and served with some hummus, says Keri Gans, RD, author of The Small Change Diet: 10 Steps to a Thinner and Healthier You and a consultant to Mindbloom, a technology company that makes life-improvement apps.
Want to pump up cucumber’s hydrating power even more? Try blending it with nonfat yogurt, mint, and ice cubes to make cucumber soup. “Soup is always hydrating, but you may not want to eat something hot in the summertime,” Gans says. “Chilled cucumber soup, on the other hand, is so refreshing and delicious any time of year.”
Minimize your asthma and allergy symptoms by learning which foods to choose, and which to avoid. You may be surprised by the choices.
Try a Cup of Tea
“Tea, especially green tea, with or without caffeine, is very good for people with allergies,” says Murray Grossan, MD, an ear, nose, and throat doctor in Los Angeles. Tea contains natural antihistamines, he says, which makes it a great addition to your diet to reduce allergy symptoms. Histamine is a chemical that your body releases during allergic reactions. He especially recommends a morning cup of hot tea just when you get up, which can help prevent morning sneezing.
Avoid Spicy Foods
Some people with seasonal allergies can enjoy a diet of spicy Thai and scorching Mexican foods during part of the year, but not when high pollen counts in the air are triggering their allergy symptoms, Dr. Grossan says. That’s because spicy foods create an “outpouring of histamine” that only bothers you when it’s added to the histamine produced by your seasonal allergies. When your allergy symptoms are acting up, skip the spicy stuff.
Consider a Mediterranean Diet
A recent study involving 174 people with asthma found that adhering to a Mediterranean diet increased a person’s chance of controlling their asthma. This diet includes lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, fish, and olive oil, with a lesser amount of meat.
Switch to Cooked Foods
During the height of allergy season, when symptoms are really bothering you, cut the fresh foods out of your diet and stick with canned and cooked foods, Grossan suggests. Raw apples or pesticides on lettuce may bother your allergies. Cooking foods, however, lessens your chances of allergy symptoms. So switching from, say, fresh apples to applesauce may help.
Add Some Wasabi
Wasabi, the pungent green paste served with sushi in Japanese restaurants, might be helpful in opening up your nose and helping you breathe better when you have allergy symptoms, Grossan says. The next time your nose is plugged up, drop into a sushi restaurant for a bit of wasabi. It might do the trick if you can tolerate it. This method isn’t guaranteed, however, as wasabi also has potential to unleash more allergy-related histamine in your system.
Eat Yogurt and Probiotics
Grossan strongly recommends that people with allergy symptoms add yogurt and other sources of probiotics to their diet. Probiotics are known as “friendly bacteria,” according to the National Institutes of Health. Typically these are listed on labels as lactobacillus or bifidobacterium and are similar to those found in people’s digestive tract. You can get probiotics from yogurt, miso, fermented milk, and dietary supplements. These can help regulate your immune system so you’ll have fewer allergy symptoms.
Go the Low-Calorie Route
Research has found an association between obesity and asthma, and the results indicate that being obese may actually worsen asthma. A recent study compiling 15 earlier studies on weight loss and asthma found that all of them observed some type of asthma improvement after subjects lost weight. So if you weigh too much and your allergy symptoms include asthma, changing your diet to control your weight may be helpful.
Stick to a Low-Salt Diet
Studies have found that eating a diet higher in salt may be associated with more severe asthma, and small studies have found that eating a low-salt diet can improve lung function, decrease symptoms, and reduce the need for medications in people with asthma. Good ways to reduce salt in your diet include eating plenty of fresh vegetables and cutting down on processed foods like frozen dinners and canned soups.
Up Your Omega-3s
Some research indicates that eating a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may be helpful for reducing asthma symptoms. In one recent study, researchers had 23 adults with asthma take an omega-3 supplement or placebo for five weeks. Those taking the omega-3s had lower levels of a marker of airway inflammation. You can get more omega-3s in your diet by eating fatty fish such as salmon, herring, sardines, mackerel, and albacore tuna.
Skip the Fast Food
Looking for yet another reason to limit your burgers and fries? A New Zealand study of more than 1,300 kids found that those who ate hamburgers occasionally or at least once a week were more likely to have asthma symptoms than kids who never ate burgers. The good news: A diet designed to reduce asthma and allergy symptoms with foods like fruits and vegetables and fish might not leave a lot of room for fast food.
There’s a food movement afoot: Eating well to look, feel, and perform our very best is hot. And as Jamie Oliver and Michelle Obama alike are showing us, this isn’t a matter of choking down foods because they’re good for you. It’s about filling your plate with delicious fare.
“Food, if it’s chosen well, can reshape our medical destinies for the better,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. It can also improve our mood, focus, energy, skin, and metabolism. Here’s how to graze your way to a supercharged you.
Good for: Mood
Walnuts are packed with tryptophan, an amino acid your body needs to create the feel-great chemical serotonin. (In fact, Spanish researchers found that walnut eaters have higher levels of this natural mood-regulator.) Another perk: “They’re digested slowly,” Dr. Katz says. “This contributes to mood stability and can help you tolerate stress.”
Good for: Mood
These spears are one of the best veggie sources of folate, a B vitamin that could help keep you out of a slump. “Folate is important for the synthesis of the neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine,” says David Mischoulon, MD, a psychiatrist at Harvard Medical School. All of these are crucial for mood.
Good for: Weight Loss
The slim-you benefit of this seasonal treat lies in a compound called allicin, which gives garlic its pungent smell. “Allicin may keep you from overeating by stimulating satiety in the brain,” says Tara Gidus, RD, a dietitian in Orlando, Florida.
Spring garlic has a milder, sweeter taste than the dried white bulbs you buy later in the season. Enjoy it diced on salad for a fat-fighting side or lunch.
Good for: Weight Loss
Beans are one of your best bets if you’re trying to drop pounds, says Joseph Colella, MD, a bariatric surgeon at Magee-Womens Hospital in Pittsburgh. “Your body has to work to break down the bean to get through the fiber,” he explains, “so you’re actually expending energy to digest it.”
Even better, Dr. Colella says, the protein in legumes activates an “I’m satisfied” message in the hunger center of your brain.
Good for: Energy
These tasty leaves are a great source of iron (especially if you don’t eat meat), which is a key component in red blood cells that fuel our muscles with oxygen for energy.
Researchers in Sweden recently identified another way in which these greens might keep you charged: Compounds found in spinach actually increase the efficiency of our mitochondria, the energy-producing factories inside our cells. That means eating a cup of cooked spinach a day may give you more lasting power on the elliptical machine (or in your daily sprint to catch the bus).
Good for: Energy
If you’ve been huffing and puffing up the stairs, try these spiky-leafed vegetables. They’re loaded with magnesium, a mineral vital for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body—including generating energy, says Forrest Nielsen, PhD, a U.S. Department of Agriculture research nutritionist. “If you’re not getting enough magnesium, your muscles have to work harder to react and you tire more quickly.”
Good for: Skin
There’s wrinkle prevention on your plate: “Salmon is rich in a fatty acid called eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a type of omega-3 that naturally helps block the release of UV-induced enzymes that diminish collagen, causing lines and sagging skin,” says Ariel Ostad, MD, a dermatologist in New York City.
Bonus: Omega-3s also regulate oil production in the skin and boost hydration, which helps keep your complexion dewy and acne-free.
Good for: Skin
They may not have the smoothest complexion themselves, but strawberries can get you one. They’re loaded with antioxidants that help your skin repair damage caused by environmental factors like pollution and UV rays. Plus, they’re packed with vitamin C (less than a cup gets you your entire 75 mg RDA)—the vitamin associated with fewer wrinkles and less dryness, per research in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Try them in a homemade facial, too. “Direct application of the antioxidants in strawberries—as well as the natural exfoliant they contain, alpha-hydroxy acid—will give you great results,” Dr. Ostad says.
Good for: Memory
Have your over-easies before you hit the Easter egg hunt. The yolks are chock-full of choline, a key nutrient for recall. “Your body needs choline to make a brain chemical called acetylcholine, crucial for storing memories,” says Steven Zeisel, MD, director of the Nutrition Research Institute at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for choline is 425 mg. There are 147 mg in a large egg; other good options are nuts and red meat.
Good for: Memory
Eat them regularly and you may reap big brain benefits. In a recent study, people with age-related memory decline who drank roughly two and a half cups of blueberry juice per day for 12 weeks (the equivalent of eating a cup of blueberries) made significant improvements on memory and learning tests compared with those who drank a placebo juice.
The secret component? A type of antioxidant called anthocyanins, says study co-author Robert Krikorian, PhD, a psychologist at the University of Cincinnati: “Anthocyanins have been shown in animal studies to increase signals among brain cells and improve their resilience, enhancing learning and memory.”