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  • Asparagus: A Stellar Vegetable to Feature at Your Holiday Table

    Wednesday, December 11, 2019
    Advice
    Asparagus: A Stellar Vegetable to Feature at Your Holiday Table
    ×

    If you're still debating which side dishes to feature on your holiday table, asparagus may be a good bet. Whether you steam the spears lightly (they're best when they're bright green and still crisp) and serve them with olive oil and a dash of salt or a salt-free spice blend; steam them and serve them with your favorite dressing for dipping; or toss them with a little olive or coconut oil and roast them until they're just tender, they're always delicious. But, beyond being tasty, they're also full of various vitamins, minerals, fibers, and other plant compounds that contribute to a balanced diet. Here's a breakdown of just a few of them:

    • Inulins. Asparagus contains inulins, which are chains of fructose sugars that are not digestible by the human intestinal enzymes; instead, they're digested by friendly colon bacteria, strengthening their colonies and improving our digestive and immune health. They also appear to help lower triglyceride levels.
    • Vitamin K. Like other green vegetables, asparagus is an excellent source of vitamin K. One cup provides all you need for one day.
    • B Vitamins. Asparagus spears are high in vitamin B1 (thiamine), and a good source of vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and vitamin B3 (niacin).
    • Antioxidants. This green veggie contains a number of antioxidants, including selenium, vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene, and zinc, all of which may help protect the heart and blood vessels.

    Source: British Journal of Nutrition

  • Does Your Diet Help or Hinder the Environment?

    Friday, December 06, 2019
    New Science
    Does Your Diet Help or Hinder the Environment?
    ×

    Following the USDA’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans is good for your health, and, according to a large study, it may also be beneficial for the planet. The findings were published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and compared the average diets of 37 middle- to high-income nations (64% of the world’s population) to their respective nationally recommended diets. Researchers gathered information about each nation’s recommended diet from national organizations responsible for dietary advice. Each nation’s actual average diet was taken from Food Balance Sheets–detailed reports on national food systems calculated by the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization. Researchers then calculated greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication (water pollution due to nutrient runoff), and land use resulting from each diet using a database of the environmental impacts of various product categories, including twelve food groups. After assessing the environmental impacts of each nation’s recommended and average diets, researchers determined that, compared with average diets:

    • Recommended diets in high-income nations were associated with 13 to 24.8% lower greenhouse gas emissions, 9.8 to 21.3% less eutrophication, and 5.7 to 17.6% less land use. Of these reductions, approximately 54% were due to reduced calorie intakes and 46% were due to differences in intakes of specific foods.
    • Recommended diets in upper middle-income nations were associated with reductions of 0.8 to 12.2% in greenhouse gas emissions, 7.7 to 19.4% in eutrophication, and 7.2 to 18.6% in land use.
    • Recommended diets in lower middle-income nations were associated with increases of 12.4 to 17% in greenhouse gas emissions, 24.5 to 31.9% in eutrophication, and 8.8 to 14.8% in land use.

    Higher animal product consumption largely explains the lower reductions–or even increases–in environmental damage associated with recommended diets of middle-income nations. Animal products account for a large proportion of all three aspects of environmental impact considered in this study: greenhouse gas emissions, eutrophication, and land use. Even with these increases, researchers found that if every nation adopted their respective recommended diet, the overall environmental impact would be positive. While large-scale dietary changes won’t happen overnight, gradually shifting our eating to align with national recommendations could help reduce our environmental footprint.

    Source: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

  • Enjoy More While Eating Less This Holiday Season

    Wednesday, December 04, 2019
    Advice
    Enjoy More While Eating Less This Holiday Season
    ×

    ‘Tis the season for feasting, and with tempting treats around every corner, many of us indulge and ignore our healthier eating patterns. Then inevitably, the season passes and January comes around, reminding us of our intentions to eat mindfully. It’s a vicious cycle, but what’s a merry-maker to do? The answers may lie in a Washington Post article that presented these tips on how to enjoy your food more, while eating less:

    • Fantasize about indulgences. Some research suggests anticipating eating something can actually help you eat less. One study found people were satisfied with eating smaller portions of indulgent foods when they imagined other similarly indulgent foods’ smell, taste, and texture beforehand—and they enjoyed the food at least as much as other people who didn’t visualize eating in advance. Another study also supported this idea, finding that people who evaluated pictures of food before eating felt more satiated and subsequently ate less. You can put this into action by imagining all the forthcoming delicacies before heading to a holiday party, or by looking at photos in a cookbook.
    • Eat nice and slow. Eating and chewing slowly—taking time to appreciate the foods’ appearance, presentation, and smell—could also help you eat less. One study found women who ate more slowly consumed an average of 66.7 calories less at a meal than women who ate faster. Another study found slow eating may trigger a greater release of gut hormones that produce feelings of fullness. Eating slowly also gives you time to check in with yourself to see if you’re full before you grab another cream puff.
    • Enjoy a tidbit and then take a break. Eating a particular food probably isn’t going to become more enjoyable as you eat more of it. In fact, research actually shows the reverse: eating larger amounts of one food is less satisfying than eating smaller amounts. So, to get the most bang for your bite, eat a small portion and then wait before having more to see if you’ve satisfied your craving.

    Source: Washington Post

  • Exercise Helps Middle-Aged Hearts

    Wednesday, November 27, 2019
    New Science
    Exercise Helps Middle-Aged Hearts
    ×

    Middle age isn’t too late to reap the rewards of exercise, according to a study in Circulation—a journal of the American Heart Association—that found heart and fitness benefits in sedentary, middle-aged adults who participated in a two-year exercise program. The study, detailed in a press release from UT Southwestern Medical Center, enrolled 61 healthy, sedentary adults, aged 48 to 58, and assigned them to either an exercise program, consisting of 30- to 60-minute supervised sessions of moderate-to-intense aerobic and strength training exercises four to five times a week, or a control program, consisting of yoga and balance training, for two years. Researchers assessed the participants’ heart health and fitness by measuring the elasticity of the left ventricle—the largest and most muscular chamber of the heart— and maximal oxygen uptake. Stiffening of heart muscle can be caused by sedentary aging and is a risk factor for heart failure. Fifty-three participants (87%) completed the study, and researchers used their data to determine that:

    • Maximal oxygen uptake increased by 18% and left ventricular stiffness decreased by 25% in the exercise group.
    • Maximal oxygen uptake decreased slightly and left ventricular stiffness did not change in the control group.

    This research suggests you may be able to reverse the effects of a sedentary lifestyle even in middle age. But researchers warn it’s crucial to get the four to five weekly sessions to see these kinds of benefits—fewer sessions didn’t yield the same results in previous research. If that seems like too much sweating, don't fear—you don’t have to get there all at once. This study’s participants started with three moderate-intensity sessions a week, adding more sessions and increasing intensity as they were able. If that still seems daunting, remember that when it comes to exercise, a little is better than none—even a 20-minute walk a few times a week could do you good.

    Source: Circulation

  • Kids Who Eat Breakfast May Perform Better in School

    Friday, November 22, 2019
    New Science
    Kids Who Eat Breakfast May Perform Better in School
    ×

    No matter your age, you’ve probably heard that a healthy breakfast is the best way to start the day. Adding credibility to that statement, a study has found that kids who eat breakfast have better academic performance as well as higher test scores. The study was published in Public Health Nutrition and included 3,055 students, ages 9 to 11. Students reported everything they ate for a period of just over 24 hours (which included two breakfasts) and indicated when they ate each food. Researchers analyzed the students’ answers for healthy foods, like fruits and vegetables, and unhealthy foods, like sweets and potato chips. Then, they compared the dietary data to the students’ test scores, taken 6 to 18 months later. After adjusting for gender and access to free school meals, the researchers found that:

    • Students who reported eating breakfast performed better academically and got higher test scores.
    • Eating unhealthy foods was not associated with academic performance, indicating that just eating breakfast was more important for performance than eating a healthy breakfast.

    This study adds to the growing body of evidence that associates healthy lifestyle choices among students with better academic performance. However, more research is needed to understand exactly how health and educational outcomes are linked, and to pinpoint the best ways we can encourage kids to keep up healthy habits.

    Source: Public Health Nutrition

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The information presented by Healthnotes is for informational purposes only. It is based on scientific studies (human, animal, or in vitro), clinical experience, or traditional usage as cited in each article. The results reported may not necessarily occur in all individuals. Self-treatment is not recommended for life-threatening conditions that require medical treatment under a doctor's care. For many of the conditions discussed, treatment with prescription or over the counter medication is also available. Consult your doctor, practitioner, and/or pharmacist for any health problem and before using any supplements or before making any changes in prescribed medications. Information expires December 2019.