Nutrients for a Sharp Memory

Research supports a variety of nutrients and food components that protect cognitive function.

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Nearly everyone has walked into a room and forgotten what he or she went in there for, or has had trouble recalling an obvious word, and worried that his or her brain may not be as sharp as it once was. “My private clients, both young and old, express concern about preserving their memory,” says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I believe many underestimate the power of dietary choices in supporting brain health.” The brain, like the cardiovascular system, depends on good blood flow for optimal functioning. Heart-healthy lifestyle choices such as regular physical activity and a healthful dietary pattern are, therefore, good ways to keep the brain healthy and the memory sharp. “What’s good for the heart is good for the head,” McDaniel says. The heart-healthy Mediterranean-style eating pattern, for example, is linked to better cognitive function, memory, and alertness in numerous studies. The MIND diet, a variation of the Mediterranean diet that specifically targets brain health, adds an emphasis on certain foods such as green leafy vegetables and berries that have been linked (or contain components that in studies have been linked) with brain benefits, but what are some particular nutrients or food components that stand out for their brain-boosting powers? Research is inconclusive to date, but there is a few promising nutrients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 family of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play several important roles in brain structure and function, and there’s clinical evidence suggesting that dietary deficiency in these PUFAs can have adverse cognitive effects. In addition, “There’s solid evidence from observational studies linking omega-3 fatty acid intake to cognitive benefits,” says Ondine van de Rest, MSc, PhD, an assistant professor in the division of human nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands who’s done extensive work on nutrition and cognition. Numerous epidemiologic studies have found that high intake of PUFA-rich fish is associated with positive cognitive function and inversely associated with development and progression of dementia. In one study, elderly subjects who consumed fish or seafood even once per week exhibited a significantly lower risk of developing dementia in the seven-year follow-up period.

The long-chain omega-3 DHA, found in fish, shellfish, algae and especially prevalent in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, menhaden, and sardines, is especially important to brain function. Since the body doesn’t make DHA efficiently, humans are dependent on dietary sources, and it appears the typical Western diet is falling short. According to one study, less than one-half of women consume the recommended dietary allowance. Despite these promising correlations, cause and effect has yet to be definitively demonstrated. “So far it has been hard to replicate these epidemiologic results in randomized controlled intervention studies, which are needed to establish a causal relationship,” van de Rest says. “Intervention studies to date show modest results, if any, and only in specific groups of mild cognitively impaired individuals, not in those who are still cognitively healthy.”

Research methodology may play a role in this discrepancy. “Some clinical studies that found no beneficial effects from omega-3 supplementation let participants in the control group eat up to three fish meals a week,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Helping Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia. “The amount of omega-3s in the fish would be enough to nullify any difference between the groups.” When it comes to brain health, avoiding saturated and trans fat may be as important as consuming polyunsaturated omega-3 fats. According to a 2014 review, laboratory, animal, and prospective epidemiologic studies support the hypothesis that high intake of saturated or trans fatty acids increases the risk of dementia. Additionally, the Chicago Health and Aging Project found that the people in the upper quintile for saturated fat consumption had a two-fold increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with those in the lowest quintile. Not all studies are in agreement, but Moon again points to methodology as a likely confounding factor. “When you’ve got good methodology and control for the type of fat, the relationship between saturated fat and cognitive decline is clear,” Moon says. “They rise together.”

Lutein

Lutein is another nutrient found to aid in brain health and preserve memory. This nutrient is a yellow-pigmented carotenoid found in egg yolk, avocado, and dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, an antioxidant researcher with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, has been involved in extensive research on lutein. “Lutein is selectively taken up into the macula of the retina, where it’s believed to be important for eye health,” Johnson says. “To get to the retina, it needs to cross the blood-brain barrier.” Research by Johnson and her colleagues found that lutein is the major carotenoid in the brain, and that brain tissue levels of lutein are related to cognition, including memory.

In a small, double-blinded placebo-controlled randomized trial, researchers gave supplements containing 10 mg lutein plus 2 mg zeaxanthin (another carotenoid found in the retina) per day to healthy older adults for 12 months and found improved cognitive function in the study population compared with the placebo group. “That’s the amount of lutein found in about 2 oz of cooked spinach,” Johnson says. “Unfortunately, the average American consumes only around 1 to 2 mg of lutein per day.” Notably, one study showed that even greater improvements in cognitive function were found when lutein was paired with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. “No nutrient works in isolation,” Johnson says. “This study demonstrates that lutein and DHA are working together, and that’s how food works. When we promote better food selection, we promote better health.”

Vitamins

Epidemiological studies show that consumption of adequate vitamins and minerals (dietary or supplemental) are associated with lower risk of developing cognitive deficits. The B vitamins and vitamins E, C, and D specifically have been identified as playing important roles in maintaining normal brain function. Several of these vitamins, such as thiamine and vitamin E are constituents of neuronal membranes, and others, including B6, B12, and vitamin C, are implicated in tasks such as the synthesis and functioning of neurotransmitters. Members of the B vitamin family and vitamin C also are essential to energy production in the brain. The antioxidant power of vitamins C and E also may be important for reducing oxidation in the brain. Given their importance in neuronal function, these micronutrients have been studied as a way to help neurons cope with aging, with particular emphasis on vitamin E and the B vitamins.

Vitamin E

The antioxidant vitamin E is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark-colored fruits, such as blueberries and blackberries, avocados, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, and vegetable oils. “Results of the research on vitamin E and the brain have been conflicting,” Moon says, “but controlling for initial serum levels of the vitamin clears up the discrepancy. A lot of the data on supplementation did not take into account baseline blood levels. People who start at a deficit do see improvement in brain-related symptoms and cognitive ability. For those already at an adequate level, adding more isn’t going to help.”

A study published in JAMA in 2014 found that, among patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, those whose diets were supplemented with 2,000 IU per day of the vitamin E form α-tocopherol showed slower functional decline compared with the placebo group. Unfortunately, taking more than 1,000 IU of vitamin E supplements per day may be unsafe, particularly for people with CVD. Vitamin E supplementation is especially risky for those on blood thinners, and it also may increase prostate cancer risk. “There has been controversy around vitamin E supplements but never around vitamin E-rich food intake,” Moon says. Fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult to get enough vitamin E from food, and doing so may provide additional benefits. “Food sources provide a mix of all eight forms of vitamin E, while supplements have just one or two,” Moon says. “Nutrients act synergistically in the body, and although we don’t know how the different forms of vitamin E interrelate, getting all eight forms in their natural concentrations is the best bet.”

B Vitamins

Although supplementation with B vitamins has not been shown unequivocally to improve brain function or symptoms of memory loss, the important role these vitamins play in the brain raises some interesting possibilities. For example, deficiency in vitamin B12, found exclusively in animal products, is known to lead to dementialike symptoms, which can be reversed by raising B12 levels. Low levels of both B12 and folate together have been associated with a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. One possible link between these vitamins and dementia is their role in the metabolism of the amino acid homocysteine. Clinical research shows that people with cognitive impairment have significantly higher plasma levels of homocysteine, and insufficient levels of B6, B12, folate, thiamine, and riboflavin are implicated in high homocysteine levels and cognitive deficits.

Many studies on the role of B vitamins in brain health to date are inconclusive and conflicting, but numerous methodological issues come into play. “Some studies aren’t very sensitive or fail to take into account baseline levels of the vitamin,” Moon says. It may be necessary to consider how nutrients work together rather than studying them in isolation. Recent preliminary research, for example, suggests that B vitamin treatment is effective in slowing cognitive decline only when omega-3 fatty acid levels are normal. “You can’t fix something that’s not broken,” Moon says. “If someone has low vitamin status, raising those levels through diet or supplementation could be beneficial.”

Polyphenols

Many bioactive compounds found in plants have been examined for their role in brain health. The class of compounds known as polyphenols, in particular, is associated in population-based studies with better performance in cognitive abilities and lower risk of cognitive decline in older persons. Found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, juices, and some herbs, polyphenols have antioxidant properties and may have other beneficial effects in the brain, including neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory actions. Much has been written about the positive effects of berries on brain health, largely due to their high concentration of polyphenol flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins. Research on other compounds from this class of phytochemicals also is yielding promising results.

Curcumin

The polyphenolic compound curcumin lends its yellow pigment to turmeric. Preclinical studies suggest curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. “India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease,” McDaniel says. “The curcumin in their traditional curries has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the brain and reduce oxidative stress.” A large population-based study found that healthy elderly Asians who frequently consumed curcumin-rich curries scored significantly better on tests of cognitive function than those who ate curries infrequently. While a six-month, randomized placebo-controlled double-blinded clinical study of curcumin in persons with progressive cognitive decline and memory issues did not show improvements in brain function scores, another study that provided supplementation with 400 mg curcumin found both short- and long-term positive effects on memory and mood in healthy older adults. A 2017 review in the journal Neural Plasticity concludes that, while curcumin may benefit the brain and cognitive function during aging, no clinical trials to date provide conclusive evidence that long-term curcumin consumption is effective for prevention or treatment of cognitive decline with aging. The review authors point to limited bioavailability as a significant limitation in studies and interventions of this promising phytochemical.

Resveratrol

A polyphenolic compound found in grapes, wine, peanuts, and some berries, resveratrol has significant free radical scavenging capabilities. Animal studies have suggested that resveratrol might be beneficial for brain health, but few clinical trials have been completed. One small-scale, randomized placebo-controlled double-blinded trial that added concord grape juice to the diets of older adults with memory decline (but not dementia) for 12 weeks found significant improvement in a measure of verbal learning. A double-blinded placebo-controlled study in which researchers gave healthy older adults 200 mg resveratrol supplements daily with 230 mg quercetin for six months found improved memory performance. As with curcumin, low bioavailability is a major drawback to resveratrol, which is readily metabolized and eliminated.

Catechins

Also known as flavan-3-ol monomers, potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory catechins constitute 30% to 42% of the solid weight of brewed green tea. They’re also found in white, oolong, black, and Pu-erh tea, which all come from the leaves of the same plant. Various epidemiologic studies (which don’t prove cause and effect) have associated long-term catechin intake with improved language and verbal memory and lower risk of cognitive impairment and decline. A small interventional study in healthy volunteers found an increase in brain activity on functional MRI scans after consumption of green tea.

For RDN’s

Fear of losing cognitive function is very real for many people. “I see some clients who are more scared of losing cognitive ability than just about any other condition,” Moon says. “It helps to let them know how easy and practical a brain-healthy diet can be. There are no special foods to buy. A plan, such as the MIND diet is flexible; it doesn’t recommend a lot of red meat or butter or hard cheeses, but there is room for them. Just eat them less often.” Moon works with clients who have favorite recipes and are looking for small ways to make them a little bit more healthful. “Use olive oil in place of butter; swap out refined grains for whole grains, or do a 50:50 mix, like adding barley or farro to a pearl couscous dish,” Moon says. Emphasizing richly colored fruits and vegetables and cooking with herbs and spices can boost vitamin and phytochemical intake. “Our goal is to recommend these dark colored fruits and vegetables since these are naturally rich in phytochemicals that reduce oxidative stress and protect the brain from inflammation,” McDaniel says. “I also tell my clients to keep their spices visible and easily accessible and to add them to food on a regular basis. Herbs and spices make foods flavorful and add beneficial phytochemicals like curcumin to the diet. I personally add a little turmeric to my morning green smoothie.”

The final word on nutrients and brain health is evolving. “It can be tempting to get caught up in research about one particular brain-boosting nutrient or food,” McDaniel says. “But it’s the consumption of a variety of brain-boosting foods, or dietary patterns, that makes a real difference. The good news is, we’re already providing dietary advice for preserving brain health when we counsel our clients on ways to promote heart health.” Moon agrees: “There’s enough research to suggest that dietary patterns like the MIND diet may be of benefit to brain health, but, regardless, we know it will be heart healthy and good for general health,” Moon says. “There’s not a lot of risk, and there’s potential for benefit.”

Adapted from: Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Indulge without bulge! Comfort foods in the right amounts and at the right times will provide what you’re looking for – comfort. Excessive amounts; however, could lead to discomfort and unnecessary weight gain. Avoid portion distortion.

Daily Inspiration 

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14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

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Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response; without it, we cannot heal. However, when it’s out of control, as in rheumatoid arthritis, it can damage the body. Additionally, it is believed to play a role in obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation. “They cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels,” says Scott Zashin, MD, clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Other foods may curb inflammation so be sure to add these items on your next grocery list.

Fatty fish

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation. Aim to eat fish several times a week, using healthy cooking methods: In a 2009 study, men who consumed the most omega-3s each day from baked or boiled fish (as opposed to fried, dried or salted) cut their risk of death from heart disease by 23 percent, compared with those who ate the least. Women had a less dramatic drop but were also protected.

Not a fan of seafood? Try a fish oil supplement. They have also shown to help lower inflammation. Also, reduce your intake of omega-6 fatty acids (found in processed foods and some vegetable oils); a healthy balance between omega-3s and omega-6s is essential.

Whole grains

Consuming most of your grains as whole grains, as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta can help keep harmful inflammation at bay. That’s because whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. One caveat: Not all products labeled “whole grain” are necessarily healthier than their refined counterparts. To be sure you’re getting the good stuff, look for foods in which the total number of carbohydrate grams per serving is fewer than 10 times the number of fiber grams.

Dark leafy greens

Vitamin E may be key in protecting the body against pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. One of the best sources of this vitamin is dark green veggies, such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and broccoli. Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also have higher concentrations of certain nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and disease-fighting flavonoids, compared to other veggies with lighter-colored leaves.

Nuts

Another source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats is nuts. Almonds are particularly rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin E, and walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts are packed with antioxidants that can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Nuts (along with fish, leafy greens and whole grains) are also a big part of the Mediterranean diet, shown in one study to reduce markers of inflammation in as little as six weeks.

Soy

Studies have suggested that isoflavones (compounds in soy that the body converts into estrogenlike chemicals) may help lower CRP and inflammation levels in women. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Inflammation found that soy isoflavones also helped reduce the negative effects of inflammation on bone and heart health in mice. Avoid heavily-processed soy whenever possible, which may not include the same benefits and is usually paired with additives and preservatives. Instead, aim to get more soy milk, tofu, and edamame (boiled soybeans) into your regular diet.

Low-fat dairy

Milk products are sometimes considered a trigger food for inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, because some people have allergies or intolerances to casein, the protein found in dairy. However, for people who can tolerate it, low-fat and nonfat milk are an important source of nutrients. Additionally, yogurt contain probiotics, which can reduce gut inflammation.

“Foods with calcium and vitamin D, such as yogurt and skim milk, are good for everyone,” says Karen H. Costenbader, MD, associate professor of medicine and rheumatoid arthritis doctor at Harvard Medical School. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, she says, “it is important to get enough calcium and vitamin D for bone strength, and possibly reduction of cancer and other health risks.”

Peppers

“Colorful vegetables are part of a healthier diet in general,” says Dr. Costenbader. “As opposed to white potatoes or corn, colorful peppers, tomatoes, squash, and leafy vegetables have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins and lower levels of starch.” Bell peppers are available in a variety of colors, while hot peppers (like chili and cayenne) are rich in capsaicin, a chemical that’s used in topical creams that reduce pain and inflammation.
Peppers, however, are nightshade vegetables, which some doctors and patients believe can exacerbate inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. “What helps one person may be harmful to another,” says Dr. Zashin. “You just need to pay attention to your diet and your symptoms, and stick with what works for you.”

Tomatoes

Tomatoes, another nightshade veggie, may also help reduce inflammation in some people. (Of course, Dr. Zashin’s advice about what works for you, individually, applies here, as well.) Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which helps reduce inflammation in the lungs and throughout the rest of the body. Cooked tomatoes provide even more lycopene than raw ones, so tomato sauce works, too. A 2013 Iranian study found that tomato juice consumption was also beneficial for reducing systemic inflammation.

Beets

This vegetable’s brilliant red color is a tip-off to its equally brilliant antioxidant properties: Beets (and beetroot juice) can not only reduce inflammation but may also protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their generous helping of fiber, folate, and powerful plant pigments called betalains.

Ginger and turmeric

These spices, common in Asian and Indian cooking, have been shown in various studies to hold anti-inflammatory properties. “While the evidence in terms of RA inflammation is not very strong, they are vegetables—and part of a healthy, vegetable-rich diet,” says Dr. Costenbader. Turmeric, the pungent, golden spice used in curry, appears to work in the body by helping to turn off NF-kappa B, a compound that’s integral to triggering the process of inflammation, research shows. Turmeric’s cousin ginger, meanwhile, may cut inflammation in the gut when taken in supplement form.

Garlic and onions

There’s good reason these pungent vegetables are considered anti-inflammatory superstars. Organosulfur compounds derived from garlic may lower the production of substances in the blood that boost inflammation. Quercetin, a flavonoid in onions, helps inhibit inflammation-causing agents at play in arthritis. For the greatest benefits, eat garlic raw, or let crushed or chopped cloves stand for 10 minutes before cooking, and opt for red or yellow onions or shallots instead of white or sweet varieties.

Olive oil

Anything that fits into a heart-healthy diet is probably also good for inflammation, and that includes healthy, plant-based fats, such as olive oil, says Dr. Zashin, author of Natural Arthritis Treatment. In fact, a 2010 Spanish study reported that the Mediterranean diet’s heart-health perks may be largely due to its use of olive oil. Oleocanthal, the source of olive oil’s distinctive aftertaste, has been shown to have similar effects as ibuprofen. A 2014 study found that higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E in olive oil, was linked to better lung function; more gamma-tocopherol, a KIND of vitamin E in corn and soybean oils, was associated with higher rates of asthma, possibly due to vitamin E’s role in inflammation.

Berries

All fruits can help fight inflammation in the body, because they’re high in fiber and antioxidants. However, berries have especially strong anti-inflammatory benefits, possibly owing to the powers of anthocyanins, the antioxidant flavonoids that give berries their rich color. Studies have demonstrated, for example, that red raspberry extract helps prevent animals from developing arthritis; that blueberries can protect against inflammatory intestinal disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, as well as lower blood pressure and heart attack risk; and that women who eat more strawberries may have lower levels of CRP.

Tart cherries

Tart cherries contain the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food,” according to a 2012 presentation by Oregon Health & Science University scientists. Research has found that tart cherry juice powder can reduce the inflammation in lab rats’ blood vessels by up to 50%; in humans, it helps athletes recover faster from intense workouts and decreases post-exertion muscle pain. Experts believe that eating 1.5 cups of tart cherries or drinking 1 to 1.5 cups of tart cherry juice a day may yield similar benefits, and YES, the cherries have got to be tart, sweet ones do not seem to have the same effects.

Adapted from: Amanda MacMillan

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Tap into your dark side! Dark chocolate has been shown to have heart-healthy benefits and it can certainly boost your mood. Be mindful of portions, though, to help keep yourself feeling happy.

Daily Inspiration 
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Food allergy diagnosis by oral food challenge is safe, says study

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A new study concludes that medical procedures known as oral food challenges, which are used in clinics to test people for food allergies, are very safe and rarely cause severe reactions. A report on the study, led by researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and Texas Children’s Hospital, also in Houston, is published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Lead author Dr. Kwei Akuete, a practicing allergist and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), says, “Oral food challenges are a very important tool for anyone who wants to know if they have a food allergy.” Food allergy is a serious medical condition that arises when the body’s immune system reacts to a harmless food protein, or allergen, as if it were a disease-causing germ.

The reaction is often unpredictable and ranges in severity from person to person, as well as over time in the same person. It can range from minor abdominal pain or hives on the skin to a severe and potentially fatal condition called anaphylaxis, accompanied by low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Up to 15 million people in the United States are affected by food allergy. Research also suggests that food allergies affect around 4 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S., where prevalence among children went up by 18 percent between 1997 and 2007.

Oral food challenge

As yet, there is no cure for food allergy, so the only way to prevent reactions is to avoid the foods that cause them. In the U.S., 90 percent of severe allergic reactions are caused by eight food groups: crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance, and its symptoms can be mistaken for other medical conditions. It is therefore important that any diagnosis is confirmed by a qualified allergist who can then advise a food plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific allergies.

The new study concerns a type of noninvasive medical procedure called the oral food challenge (OFC), or feeding test. During an OFC, a board-certified allergist invites the patient to eat increasing amounts of a food very slowly and monitors them very closely for any reaction. OFCs are usually performed because other allergy tests, such as blood and skin tests, together with a careful medical history, have been inconclusive. OFCs are performed in two modes: open and blinded. In open OFCs, (more common in clinical practice) both the patient and the administrator know which food is being tested. Blinded OFCs are more common in research.

OFCs found to be safe

For their study, Dr. Akuete et al. investigated the results of 6,327 open OFCs that were carried out between 2008 and 2013 in five food allergy centers across the U.S. The majority of the OFCs were carried out in patients under the age of 18. They used a statistical method called meta-analysis to pool and analyze the data, and to determine rates of food allergy reactions and anaphylaxis. The results showed that only 14 percent of the patients that had OFCs experienced any reaction, and only about 2 percent experienced anaphylaxis.

The reactions that were not anaphylaxis only occurred on one part of the body, for example, hives on the skin. These were classed as mild to moderate reactions, and most of them were treated with antihistamines. Of the more severe reactions, the authors note, “19 OFCs resulted in patients being placed in hospital observation, and 63 were treated with epinephrine.

OFCs ‘improve quality of life’

“Food challenges improve the quality of life for people with food allergies, even if they are positive,” says senior study author Dr. Carla Davis, who is also a practicing allergist and ACAAI member. Dr. Davis explains the importance of having the test sooner rather than later, saying, “When an OFC is delayed, sometimes people unnecessarily cut certain foods out of their diet, and this has been shown to lead to increases in health costs to the patient. A delay risks problems with nutrition, especially for children.” It is important to seek an accurate diagnosis so that a clear recommendation can be made about which foods to avoid, she adds.

Adapted from:

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Pick plants! Protein derived from plant sources such as seeds, nuts, tofu and tempeh, as well as grains, can help lower cholesterol, improve your heart health and add a satiating blend of flavors to extend Meatless Monday to the rest of the week.

Daily Inspiration 

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And for one more gobble day!

 

 

Animal Fats Increase Risk for Type 2 Diabetes

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Fats specific to animal products increase the risk for type 2 diabetes, according to research presented last week at the 52nd Annual Meeting of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD). Researchers followed the consumption of various types of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in the diets of 71,334 women and tracked diabetes incidence rates. Those who consumed the most fats increased their risk for diabetes by 26 percent when compared to those who consumed the least. Specifically, omega-3 docosapentaenoic acid (DPA) and omega-6 arachidonic acid (AA), both of which are mostly found in meat, fish, and eggs, almost doubled the risk for type 2 diabetes, and, when controlling for weight, by as much as 41 and 49 percent, respectively.

Dow C, Mangin M, Balkau B, et al. Fatty acid consumption and incident type 2 diabetes: evidence from the E3N cohort study. Poster presented at: the European Association for the Study of Diabetes (EASD) 52nd Annual meeting; September 14, 2016: Munich, Germany.

  • I found this research super interesting! The finding that Omega 3 could be associated with type 2 diabetes risk?? I had to do more research on this before I posted! What I came across is that clinicians do not recommend cutting this source of fat out of the diet but instead reducing and/or diminishing the intake of processed meats, which many of us already consume in excess amounts. The risk is associated with increase intake of fats.

Diabetologia. “Consumption of certain fatty acids linked to type 2 diabetes in women.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 13 September 2016. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/09/160913184945.htm>.

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Sugary drinks contain more calories than most people realize. In fact, some sugary drinks have as many calories as a whole meal. Sugary drinks include energy drinks, fruit drinks, pop, sports drinks, slushies, specialty coffee and tea drinks, and vitamin enhanced water. Most sugary drinks provide little or no nutrition, so stick to healthier beverages such as water, herbal tea, or milk or even chocolate milk (although it has added sugar, it is a nutrient-rich choice!)

Daily Inspiration 

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DASH diet: Healthy eating to lower your blood pressure

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DASH stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension. The DASH diet is a lifelong approach to healthy eating that’s designed to help treat or prevent high blood pressure (hypertension). The DASH diet encourages you to reduce the sodium in your diet and eat a variety of foods rich in nutrients that help lower blood pressure, such as potassium, calcium and magnesium.

By following the DASH diet, you may be able to reduce your blood pressure by a few points in just two weeks. Over time, your systolic blood pressure could drop by eight to 14 points, which can make a significant difference in your health risks. Because the DASH diet is a healthy way of eating, it offers health benefits besides just lowering blood pressure. The DASH diet is also in line with dietary recommendations to prevent osteoporosis, cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes.

DASH diet: Sodium levels

The DASH diet emphasizes vegetables, fruits and low-fat dairy foods — and moderate amounts of whole grains, fish, poultry and nuts. In addition to the standard DASH diet, there is also a lower sodium version of the diet. You can choose the version of the diet that meets your health needs:

  • Standard DASH diet. You can consume up to 2,300 milligrams (mg) of sodium a day.
  • Lower sodium DASH diet. You can consume up to 1,500 mg of sodium a day.

Both versions of the DASH diet aim to reduce the amount of sodium in your diet compared with what you might get in a typical American diet, which can amount to a whopping 3,400 mg of sodium a day or more. The standard DASH diet meets the recommendation from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans to keep daily sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg a day. The American Heart Association recommends 1,500 mg a day of sodium as an upper limit for all adults. If you aren’t sure what sodium level is right for you, talk to your doctor.

DASH diet: What to eat

Both versions of the DASH diet include lots of whole grains, fruits, vegetables and low-fat dairy products. The DASH diet also includes some fish, poultry and legumes, and encourages a small amount of nuts and seeds a few times a week. You can eat red meat, sweets and fats in small amounts. The DASH diet is low in saturated fat, cholesterol and total fat. Here’s a look at the recommended servings from each food group for the 2,000-calorie-a-day DASH diet.

Grains: 6 to 8 servings a day

Grains include bread, cereal, rice and pasta. Examples of one serving of grains include 1 slice whole-wheat bread, 1 ounce dry cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal, rice or pasta.

  • Focus on whole grains because they have more fiber and nutrients than do refined grains. For instance, use brown rice instead of white rice, whole-wheat pasta instead of regular pasta and whole-grain bread instead of white bread. Look for products labeled “100 percent whole grain” or “100 percent whole wheat.”
  • Grains are naturally low in fat. Keep them this way by avoiding butter, cream and cheese sauces.

Vegetables: 4 to 5 servings a day

Tomatoes, carrots, broccoli, sweet potatoes, greens and other vegetables are full of fiber, vitamins, and such minerals as potassium and magnesium. Examples of one serving include 1 cup raw leafy green vegetables or 1/2 cup cut-up raw or cooked vegetables.

  • Don’t think of vegetables only as side dishes — a hearty blend of vegetables served over brown rice or whole-wheat noodles can serve as the main dish for a meal.
  • Fresh and frozen vegetables are both good choices. When buying frozen and canned vegetables, choose those labeled as low sodium or without added salt.
  • To increase the number of servings you fit in daily, be creative. In a stir-fry, for instance, cut the amount of meat in half and double up on the vegetables.

Fruits: 4 to 5 servings a day

Many fruits need little preparation to become a healthy part of a meal or snack. Like vegetables, they’re packed with fiber, potassium and magnesium and are typically low in fat — coconuts are an exception. Examples of one serving include one medium fruit, 1/2 cup fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or 4 ounces of juice.

  • Have a piece of fruit with meals and one as a snack, then round out your day with a dessert of fresh fruits topped with a dollop of low-fat yogurt.
  • Leave on edible peels whenever possible. The peels of apples, pears and most fruits with pits add interesting texture to recipes and contain healthy nutrients and fiber.
  • Remember that citrus fruits and juices, such as grapefruit, can interact with certain medications, so check with your doctor or pharmacist to see if they’re OK for you.
  • If you choose canned fruit or juice, make sure no sugar is added.

Dairy: 2 to 3 servings a day

Milk, yogurt, cheese and other dairy products are major sources of calcium, vitamin D and protein. But the key is to make sure that you choose dairy products that are low fat or fat-free because otherwise they can be a major source of fat — and most of it is saturated. Examples of one serving include 1 cup skim or 1 percent milk, 1 cup low fat yogurt, or 1 1/2 ounces part-skim cheese.

  • Low-fat or fat-free frozen yogurt can help you boost the amount of dairy products you eat while offering a sweet treat. Add fruit for a healthy twist.
  • If you have trouble digesting dairy products, choose lactose-free products or consider taking an over-the-counter product that contains the enzyme lactase, which can reduce or prevent the symptoms of lactose intolerance.
  • Go easy on regular and even fat-free cheeses because they are typically high in sodium.

Lean meat, poultry and fish: 6 servings or fewer a day

Meat can be a rich source of protein, B vitamins, iron and zinc. Choose lean varieties and aim for no more than 6 ounces a day. Cutting back on your meat portion will allow room for more vegetables.

  • Trim away skin and fat from poultry and meat and then bake, broil, grill or roast instead of frying in fat.
  • Eat heart-healthy fish, such as salmon, herring and tuna. These types of fish are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help lower your total cholesterol.

Nuts, seeds and legumes: 4 to 5 servings a week

Almonds, sunflower seeds, kidney beans, peas, lentils and other foods in this family are good sources of magnesium, potassium and protein. They’re also full of fiber and phytochemicals, which are plant compounds that may protect against some cancers and cardiovascular disease. Serving sizes are small and are intended to be consumed only a few times a week because these foods are high in calories. Examples of one serving include 1/3 cup nuts, 2 tablespoons seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked beans or peas.

  • Nuts sometimes get a bad rap because of their fat content, but they contain healthy types of fat — monounsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids. They’re high in calories, however, so eat them in moderation. Try adding them to stir-fries, salads or cereals.
  • Soybean-based products, such as tofu and tempeh, can be a good alternative to meat because they contain all of the amino acids your body needs to make a complete protein, just like meat.

Fats and oils: 2 to 3 servings a day

Fat helps your body absorb essential vitamins and helps your body’s immune system. But too much fat increases your risk of heart disease, diabetes and obesity. The DASH diet strives for a healthy balance by limiting total fat to less than 30 percent of daily calories from fat, with a focus on the healthier monounsaturated fats. Examples of one serving include 1 teaspoon soft margarine, 1 tablespoon mayonnaise or 2 tablespoons salad dressing.

  • Saturated fat and trans fat are the main dietary culprits in increasing your risk of coronary artery disease. DASH helps keep your daily saturated fat to less than 6 percent of your total calories by limiting use of meat, butter, cheese, whole milk, cream and eggs in your diet, along with foods made from lard, solid shortenings, and palm and coconut oils.
  • Avoid trans fat, commonly found in such processed foods as crackers, baked goods and fried items.
  • Read food labels on margarine and salad dressing so that you can choose those that are lowest in saturated fat and free of trans fat.

Sweets: 5 servings or fewer a week

You don’t have to banish sweets entirely while following the DASH diet — just go easy on them. Examples of one serving include 1 tablespoon sugar, jelly or jam, 1/2 cup sorbet, or 1 cup lemonade.

  • When you eat sweets, choose those that are fat-free or low-fat, such as sorbets, fruit ices, jelly beans, hard candy, graham crackers or low-fat cookies.
  • Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal) and sucralose (Splenda) may help satisfy your sweet tooth while sparing the sugar. But remember that you still must use them sensibly. It’s OK to swap a diet cola for a regular cola, but not in place of a more nutritious beverage such as low-fat milk or even plain water.
  • Cut back on added sugar, which has no nutritional value but can pack on calories.

DASH diet: Alcohol and caffeine

Drinking too much alcohol can increase blood pressure. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that men limit alcohol to no more than two drinks a day and women to one or less. The DASH diet doesn’t address caffeine consumption. The influence of caffeine on blood pressure remains unclear. But caffeine can cause your blood pressure to rise at least temporarily. If you already have high blood pressure or if you think caffeine is affecting your blood pressure, talk to your doctor about your caffeine consumption.

DASH diet and weight loss

While the DASH diet is not a weight-loss program, you may indeed lose unwanted pounds because it can help guide you toward healthier food choices. The DASH diet generally includes about 2,000 calories a day. If you’re trying to lose weight, you may need to eat fewer calories. You may also need to adjust your serving goals based on your individual circumstances — something your health care team can help you decide.

Tips to cut back on sodium

The foods at the core of the DASH diet are naturally low in sodium. So just by following the DASH diet, you’re likely to reduce your sodium intake. You also reduce sodium further by:

  • Using sodium-free spices or flavorings with your food instead of salt
  • Not adding salt when cooking rice, pasta or hot cereal
  • Rinsing canned foods to remove some of the sodium
  • Buying foods labeled “no salt added,” “sodium-free,” “low sodium” or “very low sodium”

One teaspoon of table salt has 2,325 mg of sodium. When you read food labels, you may be surprised at just how much sodium some processed foods contain. Even low-fat soups, canned vegetables, ready-to-eat cereals and sliced turkey from the local deli — foods you may have considered healthy — often have lots of sodium. You may notice a difference in taste when you choose low-sodium food and beverages. If things seem too bland, gradually introduce low-sodium foods and cut back on table salt until you reach your sodium goal. That’ll give your palate time to adjust.

Using salt-free seasoning blends or herbs and spices may also ease the transition. It can take several weeks for your taste buds to get used to less salty foods.

Putting the pieces of the DASH diet together

Try these strategies to get started on the DASH diet:

  • Change gradually. If you now eat only one or two servings of fruits or vegetables a day, try to add a serving at lunch and one at dinner. Rather than switching to all whole grains, start by making one or two of your grain servings whole grains. Increasing fruits, vegetables and whole grains gradually can also help prevent bloating or diarrhea that may occur if you aren’t used to eating a diet with lots of fiber. You can also try over-the-counter products to help reduce gas from beans and vegetables.
  • Reward successes and forgive slip-ups. Reward yourself with a nonfood treat for your accomplishments — rent a movie, purchase a book or get together with a friend. Everyone slips, especially when learning something new. Remember that changing your lifestyle is a long-term process. Find out what triggered your setback and then just pick up where you left off with the DASH diet.
  • Add physical activity. To boost your blood pressure lowering efforts even more, consider increasing your physical activity in addition to following the DASH diet. Combining both the DASH diet and physical activity makes it more likely that you’ll reduce your blood pressure.
  • Get support if you need it. If you’re having trouble sticking to your diet, talk to your doctor or dietitian about it. You might get some tips that will help you stick to the DASH diet.

Remember, healthy eating isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. What’s most important is that, on average, you eat healthier foods with plenty of variety — both to keep your diet nutritious and to avoid boredom or extremes. And with the DASH diet, you can have both.

Tip of the Day

Don’t forget dairy! Foods like fat-free or low-fat milk and yogurt help to build and maintain strong bones needed for everyday activities.

Daily Inspiration 

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Moroccan Shrimp with Spinach

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes: 4 servings

Prep time: 40 minutes

Cook time: 7 minutes

Ingredients:

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon paprika

1/4 teaspoon cayenne

pinch of ground allspice

pinch of Old Bay

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 pound large shrimp, peeled and deveined

10 ounces fresh baby spinach (Kale is a great substitute!)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Directions:

  1. Mix the coriander, cumin, paprika, cayenne, allspice, and 1/8 teaspoon salt in a small bowl. Place the shrimp in a large bowl, add the spice mixture and toss to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate 30 minutes.

  2. In a large bowl, combine the spinach, oil and remaining salt. Divide spinach and shrimp evenly among four 15-by-12-inch sheets of aluminum foil. Bring the edges of each sheet together and fold tightly to seal.

  3. Heath the grill to medium high. Place packets on grill and close the cover; cook until spinach is wilted and shrimp is opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Serve immediately.

Nutrition facts per serving:

229 calories, 25 g, protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 12 g fat (2 g saturated fat), 2 g fiber

Fitness

Tip of the Day

Your buddy helps you out! Use the buddy system when trying to reach your goal weight. Friends can support each other in efforts to get healthy.

Choose My Plate

Daily Inspiration X 2

“If any brother has a wife who is not a believer and she is willing to live with him, he must not divorce her. And if a woman has a husband who is not a believer and he is willing to live with her, she must not divorce him. For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.”

~ 1 Corinthians 7:12-14

“Energy and persistence conquer all things.”

~ Benjamin Franklin