Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Five Foods That Fuel Your Brain

Five Foods That Fuel Your Brain

 

In 1/10,000 of a second, your brain can respond to input and generate an action. Although it accounts for only about 3% of your body weight, it uses 30% of the blood your heart pumps, and burns 300 calories daily.

Plus, it takes your whole brain to make sense of what’s being said. While speaking and comprehending languages is mainly a left-brain activity, language processing happens on the right side, which lets you know if the words are sarcastic or kind or the punchline of a joke.

No wonder your brain needs the right balance of foods to stay sharp. So here are five things you can eat to keep you bright.

1. Salmon and ocean trout. The omega-3s and -7s in these fish increase blood flow to the brain and help strengthen neurons’ protective coat.

2. 70% cacao dark chocolate. This kind of chocolate contains compounds that support blood flow to the brain and bolster neuron strength; plus, it promotes brain plasticity — an ability to modify neural connections, which promotes learning and memory.

3. Berries (especially blueberries) and black coffee. They contain flavonoids that improve communication between brain cells, boost learning and memory, and help reduce or delay cognitive decline.

4. Nuts and seeds, including sunflower seeds, walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts. Walnuts contain omega-3s, and almost all nuts have other polyphenols that protect brain function, reduce inflammation, and protect against Alzheimer’s.

5. Broccoli and other cruciferous veggies, like bok choy, cabbage, and cauliflower. These vegetables contain glucosinolates, which produce a chemical in the body that lowers your risk of neurodegenerative diseases.

 

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Health and Disease, Uncategorized

BPA Substitutes Are Not Safer

BPA Substitutes Are Not Safer

 

“The Substitute” is a 1996 movie thriller starring Tom Beringer as a substitute teacher who lays waste to a high school cocaine ring, disproving students’ long-held belief that a substitute is always a weaker version of a regular teacher.

The same can be said, unfortunately, of BPS, a common substitute for the known hormone disruptor BPA (bisphenol A) that’s used to line food cans, make plastics, and print cash register receipts, among other uses.

Companies dumping BPA often turn to BPS and BPF. But now BPS has been found to hinder heart function in mice within minutes of exposure — especially in females.

If you have heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or obesity, that could increase your chance of a heart attack or make one more severe, according to researchers from Canada’s University of Guelph.

So how can you dodge bisphenols?

• Avoid plastic items with the recycling numbers 3 and 7 or the letters “PC.”

• Avoid packaged and canned foods. One study found that BPA levels in urine plummeted 66% in people who skipped all packaged foods for five days. Another found that folks who had one serving of canned soup daily for five days had BPA blood levels 1,221% higher than those who didn’t eat canned soup.

• Avoid bisphenol in cosmetics and toiletries.

 

 

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Diets and Weight Loss, Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Low-Calorie Sweeteners Connected to Diabetes

Low-Calorie Sweeteners Connected to Diabetes

artificial sweeteners

Giving up sugar to rely on low-calorie sweeteners seems like a good idea for your diet. Those small packages often have 600 times the sweetness of sugar, ensuring your favorite food or beverage won’t be bland. But there’s a hidden danger connected to artificial sweeteners: Dr. Sabyasachi Sen, associate professor of medicine at George Washington University in Washington, D.C., authored a study that shows the use of low-calorie sweeteners may pre-dispose overweight individuals to diabetes.

If you are predisposed to metabolic syndrome, which includes high blood pressure, high blood sugar, unhealthy cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat — all things that lead to heart disease and strokes — then your risk of diabetes is also increased by three to five times. According to Sen, artificial sweeteners, especially in a person with metabolic syndrome, increase fat accumulation and can lead to diabetes.

Sen’s study looked at sucralose, the equivalent of three to four cans of diet soda per day, and found that transporters on the cell surface show more cell function when a person consumes artificial sweeteners. “Glucose rushes in when the gates are open,” he said. “And this causes inflammation.”

The study found that people who were already obese were the most likely to add fat cells. “If you are an athlete and normal weight, you can handle glucose,” Sen explained.

It is difficult to determine which chemical is causing the increased risk of diabetes, but Sen’s study used sucralose-based products, which are the newest on the market. He used a low-calorie, low-sweet mixture of sucralose in powder form that was diluted and added to cells. When quantities were increased, effects were even more pronounced.

In a separate experiment, biopsy samples of abdominal fat from people who said they consumed low-calorie sweeteners, primarily sucralose and a trace of aspartame and/or acesulfame potassium, were compared. The cells of the patients who were obese showed increased glucose transport compared to those who did not consume low-calorie sweeteners.

The FDA has approved five low-sugar products — saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. One low-calorie product, Stevia, has also been approved. One of the problems with artificial sweeteners is that a small portion of a low-sugar product is much more intense than sugar, and a person can begin to use it more and more or may find normally tasty foods less appealing.

So, what should you do? According to Sen, both sweetened beverages and low-sugar drinks are bad for you. “If you just drink sweetened beverages, you are taking in sugar itself, but if you drink beverages with artificial sweeteners you are taking in greater quantities of glucose. I’m not saying we should replace artificial sweeteners — that’s even worse,” Dr. Sen added. “But consider an option like fizzy water.”

In other words, weight gain and metabolic syndrome can be a vicious cycle for some. You use artificial sweeteners and become more and more reliant on these products. The more you use, the more glucose your body produces. Foods rich in natural sugars like fruit don’t taste as good.

The other problem is that people tend to think that artificial sweeteners don’t pack any extra calories and so they may over-indulge in other sweetened products.

Sen’s research took place in petri dishes in a laboratory, but the implications for people are serious. You don’t get a free pass with artificial sweeteners — even though the research model used smaller quantities of artificial sweeteners, the impact on cells was significant.

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Diets and Weight Loss, Health and Disease, Uncategorized

Are You Drinking Enough During Winter Months?

Health and Wellness Associates

Are You Drinking Enough During Winter Months?

Remembering to drink enough water is easy during the summer, when higher temperatures and outdoor activities drive the point home. But staying adequately hydrated is just as important during the winter.

Environmental humidity plays a role, said Stavros Kavouras, who directs the Hydration Science Lab at Arizona State University in Phoenix. Central heating causes drier interior environments during the winter, which can lead to increased water loss simply from breathing.

That’s not the only challenge. In cold environments, the kidneys actually excrete more urine, said Joseph C. Watso, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Institute for Exercise and Environmental Medicine in Dallas.

“It’s a small change that could potentially make a difference,” he said. “If you’re not sweating, you might forget to drink adequate water.”

Dehydration sets in when the body loses more water than it takes in.

Even minor dehydration – the level at which people begin feel thirsty – is linked to difficulty concentrating, poor memory and bad moods. And studies have shown people who chronically consume a low amount of water seem to be at higher risk of developing chronic kidney disease, kidney stones and urinary tract infections. “High urine flow seems to be protective,” Kavouras said.

News Picture: AHA News: Are You Drinking Enough During Winter Months?  Kavouras and his colleagues found mild dehydration impaired the function of cells that line blood vessels almost as much as smoking a cigarette. Dehydration also has been linked with inflammation, artery stiffness, blood pressure regulation and other factors that can raise the risk of heart disease and stroke.

Research also has linked poor hydration to diabetes. “Diabetes is a lifestyle disease that’s associated with what we eat, what we drink and how physically active we are,” Kavouras said. “Hydration seems to be part of this recipe.”

Exactly how much water people need can vary.

“Our water needs change from day to day based on factors such as environmental temperature and activity level,” Kavouras said. “If you are an Ironman athlete who trains four hours per day, your water needs are higher than somebody who is sedentary.”

In general, the federal Institute of Medicine suggests women take in 2.7 liters and men 3.7 liters of water per day. That might sound like a lot, but because food contributes about 20% of the daily water total, women should drink 8, 8-ounce glasses and men 12, 8-ounce glasses.

“It’s underappreciated that many fruits and vegetables are 90 to 95% water,” Watso said. “Eating more fruits and vegetables can certainly help you stay hydrated.” Soup, an old winter standby, also counts. “Just be sure to avoid soups with very high amounts of sodium.”

Watso recommends people keep a refillable water bottle with them and sip on it all day. “Your body can only process water at a certain rate, and if you drink too much too (quickly), the excess will be excreted,” he said.

Experts say fluid from tea and coffee – even that eggnog latte – counts toward hydration. Even soda and juices technically contribute to one’s daily fluid intake, although experts do not recommend them because of their high sugar content. Alcohol, however, doesn’t make the cut.

Kavouras advised people to pay attention to how often they use the bathroom. Adults should urinate six or seven times per day. Dark yellow or orangish urine is a sign to drink up.

“Drinking water throughout the day is one of the most effective things you can do to improve health and well-being.”

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Rx to Wellness, Uncategorized

Obesity Might Skew Blood Tests in Kids

Health and Wellness Associates

 

Obesity Might Skew Blood Tests in Kids

 

News Picture: Obesity Might Skew Blood Tests in KidsIf your child is obese, new research suggests that those extra pounds can alter the results of routine blood tests.

“We performed the first comprehensive analysis of the effect of obesity on routine blood tests in a large community population of children and found that almost 70% of the blood tests studied were affected,” said study first author Victoria Higgins, from the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto and the University of Toronto.

Higgins’ team looked at more than 1,300 healthy children and teens in and around Toronto and found that obesity affected 24 routine blood tests, including those for liver function, inflammation markers, lipids and iron.

The study was published Dec. 17 in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

“As clinical decisions are often guided by normative ranges based on a large healthy population, understanding how and which routine blood tests are affected by obesity is important to correctly interpret blood test results,” Higgins explained in a journal news release.

It’s unclear if obesity’s impact on blood tests are a sign of early disease, but doctors should be aware of these findings when interpreting several types of blood tests in children, the researchers advised.

“We hope our study results will assist pediatricians and family physicians to better assess children and adolescents with different degrees of overweight or obesity,” Higgins said.

There’s been a sharp rise in overweight and obesity among U.S. youngsters in the past three decades, and the childhood obesity rate is now about 18.5%.

— Robert Preidt

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Foods, Uncategorized

Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding

Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding

 

Every time I make bread pudding, I chastise myself for not making it more often! Maybe it’s because I don’t always have extra bread around, or perhaps it’s because I’m never quite sure if bread pudding is supposed to be for breakfast or dessert. The last time I made this fall-flavored Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding, I realized something: I don’t have to have a plan for it! It’s delicious hot out of the oven for breakfast, and the leftovers can be served for dessert later in the day.

This hearty dish is perfect for cold fall and winter days. When the days start to get shorter and the air crisps up a bit, I find myself craving sweet, rich food. That doesn’t always work out too well for my waistline, though. Luckily, with recipes like this Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding, I can have my cake and eat it, too! You see, most bread pudding recipes are loaded up with excess sugars. It takes a lot of sugar to sweeten something as savory as whole-wheat bread. But, we found a brilliant workaround. Want to know how we did it?

You might be surprised to learn that cinnamon and cardamom aren’t exactly sweet on their own. They sort-of trick our taste buds into thinking they’re a sweet spice. That’s because baking recipes almost always pair them with sugar. If you were to taste a pinch of them on their own, you’d find that they’re super pungent, slightly spicy, and a touch earthy.

But, when you combine them with something sweet, these spices really bloom. They actually help fill out our palates, allowing us to really taste any sweetness in the dish. Using these spices is part-one of our super-secret hack to make this Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding recipe more healthy. Part two: applesauce!

Instead of using a ton of processed sugar, we swapped in applesauce instead. It gives the bread pudding extra body while allowing the naturally sweet apples to shine.

Apple Cardamom Bread Pudding

Ingredients

  • 6 slices whole-wheat bread , using gluten free works too
  • 1 1/2 cups reduced-fat coconut milk (or, milk of your choice)
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup peeled, cored, and chopped apples

options:  raisins, cranberries, nuts all work well

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 325° F. Grease an 8×8 baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. Cut your bread into 1-inch cubes and place them in the prepared baking dish.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the coconut milk, eggs, applesauce, cardamom, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Beat the mixture with a whisk until everything is well combined.
  4. Fold the apples into the mixture before pouring the contents over the bread cubes. Press the cubes down into the mixture to make sure each one soaks up the liquid.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes, until the pudding is set and no longer jiggles when you shake the pan. You can also insert a knife into the middle of the pudding to make sure it comes out clean.
  6. Allow the pan to cool on a baking rack for at least 15 minutes before slicing.
  7. This pudding can be served hot or cold. Store it in the refrigerator (covered) for up to two days.

 

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Foods, Uncategorized

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Chicken

Spinach and Artichoke Stuffed Chicken

 

At a party over the holidays, someone informed me that spinach and artichoke dip is no longer “in.”

I had no idea that food, especially near-universally crowd-pleasing food, could fall so easily out of vogue.

Then again, this came from my sister, the same one who has insisted for years that no one gets acrylic nails anymore. All I can say is last time I went in for a full set, I was in line behind plenty of other ladies waiting to get plastic glued to their fingertips.

Likewise, my sister imparted this sage wisdom over none other than a spinach and artichoke dip that she herself had made. So whether or not it’s still “in,” we all still love it.

 

Ingredients

  • 6 ounce fat-free cream cheese
  • 1 (15 ounce) can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
  • 1 cup baby spinach, cooked and liquid squeezed out
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup fat-free shredded parmesan cheese
  • 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 4 (6 ounce) boneless and skinless chicken breast
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

Instructions

  1. Pre-heat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. In a mixing bowl, whip the cream cheese on high until fluffy. Add the artichokes, spinach, garlic, cheese, half the salt, and half the pepper. Mix on low speed just until combined.
  3. Carefully cut open the side of the chicken breast to create a pocket. Stuff each with the cream cheese mixture. About 3 to 4 tablespoons per chicken breast.
  4. In a large oven safe skillet, heat the olive oil. Once the oil is very hot, add the chicken carefully so the filling does not fall out. Cook each side about 1 to 2 minutes or until each side golden brown. Transfer the pan to the oven and cook for about 10 more minutes or until the chicken is cooked though.
  5. Remove from the oven and let sit for about 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

 

Yields: 4 servings | Calories: 389 | Total Fat: 12g | Saturated Fat: 4g | Trans Fat: 0g | Cholesterol: 139mg | Sodium: 806mg | Carbohydrates: 16g | Fiber: 6g | Sugar: 4g | Protein: 54g | SmartPoints (Freestyle): 4

 

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Health and Disease, Uncategorized

5 Triggers to Autoimmune Diseases

I couldn’t believe what the consultant was telling me.  He couldn’t see anything on the MRI scan that could be accounting for my pain, but as it was December he wanted to help me throug…Autoimmune diseases are increasingly common. About 50 million Americans are suffering from a least one kind.

If you have an autoimmune disease, it means that your body is basically attacking itself. Your immune system goes into overdrive and sees everything as a threat. Trying to protect you from this perceived danger, it starts fighting and attacking its own tissues and cells, mistaking them as hazards. This can lead to pain, discomfort, and all kinds of issues depending on the autoimmune condition you have.

So what are the top 5 triggers common in almost all autoimmune diseases?

 

5 Autoimmune Disease Triggers 

1. Sugar.  Processed sugar is a common offender for anyone’s health. It leads to inflammation and can trigger autoimmune symptoms. Use organic honey and eat dates, fruits, and root veggies for sweetness.

2. Quinoa.  Though it is gluten-free and a trendy protein-rich pseudo grain, in large amounts, it can actually provoke your immune system. Limit your quinoa consumption and stick to other gluten-free products instead.

3. Gluten. Gluten is a well-known offender of health. People with Celiac disease know to stay away from it, however, it is destructive to anyone with any other autoimmune condition as well. Switch to gluten-free to stay safe.

4. Dairy.  Due to molecular mimicry, casein in dairy can act like gluten in your body. It can cause your immune system to go haywire and trigger your symptoms. Switch to plant-based alternatives.

5. Milk chocolate.   It may be yummy, but all the refined sugar, dairy, unhealthy fats, and possible artificial ingredients make milk chocolate the enemy. Switch to dairy-free, extra dark chocolate, raw cacao, and carob products. If you need sweetness, fruit and root veggies are your best options.

 

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Health and Disease, Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Making Lifestyle Changes You Can Live With

                       Making Lifestyle Changes                           You Can Live With

News Picture: Making Lifestyle Changes You Can Live With

Research published in the Journal of Nutrition and Dietetics highlights two important steps for improving diet and exercise habits. The first is getting practical and personalized tips for making changes that you’ll permanently adopt. The second is developing the inner motivation needed to help make the first step stick.

The study recruited adults from a rural area in the South with limited access to a gym and other health-oriented facilities. To help them make positive changes, each had four sessions with a wellness counselor who gave recommendations tailored to their lifestyle. These included making realistic changes to the typical southern diet they normally ate, with an emphasis on how to make better fat and carb choices.

They were also given a fitness goal of 30 minutes a day, such as walking at least 7,500 steps at least five days a week, plus information on where to find farmers markets for healthier food as well as local parks and schools where they could walk.

Although researchers thought that rural participants would have a harder time making healthy changes than city dwellers, those who lived in the country lost more weight and became more active than those in healthier, more supportive environments. In fact, some became so motivated that the farther they lived from a gym, the greater the number of steps they took.

Everyone trying to lose weight can apply these findings to meet key goals. Consider a personal evaluation from a dietitian to get tips you can easily put into action and which, in turn, can boost your inner motivation. And this can be especially helpful if you live in an area with few resources.

 

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Lifestyle, Uncategorized

Just 2 Weeks On The Couch Starts To Damage Your Body

Just 2 Weeks On The Couch Starts To Damage Your Body

News Picture: Just 2 Weeks on the Couch Starts to Damage Your Body

A new study proves that the old adage “use it or lose it” is definitely true when it comes to fitness.

After just two weeks of sedentary behavior, formerly fit people had:

  • A decline in heart and lung health
  • Increased waist circumference
  • Greater body fat and liver fat
  • Higher levels of insulin resistance

“The study showed that two weeks of reduced physical activity — from approximately 10,000 steps per day down to 1,500 per day — caused changes in health markers that are associated with type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” said study author Kelly Bowden Davies. She’s a lecturer at Newcastle University and the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom.

But the good news from the study is that the body seems to quickly bounce back once you start moving again.

“It’s important to note that when people resumed their normal activity levels after this period, the negative health changes were reversed,” she said.

The researchers recruited 28 healthy, regularly active adults. Eighteen were women. The average age of the study volunteers was 32. Their average body mass index (BMI) — a rough measure of body fat based on height and weight measurements — was just over 24. A BMI under 24.9 is considered normal weight.

The study volunteers had been quite active, normally clocking about 10,000 steps daily. Bowden Davies said most of this was just from daily activity, rather than structured exercise. She said they usually participate in no more than two hours of structured exercise weekly.

The researchers asked the volunteers to cut their activity drastically. They dropped an average of just over 100 minutes a day, the researchers said.

After two weeks of couch potato life, the study volunteers underwent a battery of testing. These results were compared to findings measured when the study started.

Bowden Davies said cardiorespiratory fitness levels dropped by 4% in just two weeks.

Waist circumference rose by nearly one-third of an inch. Liver fat increased by 0.2%. Total body fat went up by 0.5%. Insulin resistance increased and triglyceride (a type of blood fat) levels went up slightly.

Fourteen days after resuming activity, these measures all bounced back, the investigators found.

“Even subtle increases in activity can have a positive effect on health. Moving more and breaking up sedentary activity is encouraged,” Bowden Davies added.

Dr. John Osborne, an American Heart Association spokesman, said this was a very interesting, and somewhat surprising, study. The findings validate advice he gives his patients. “If you can be a shark or a turtle, be a shark — always moving. This study showed you can lose the benefits of exercise very quickly, but the good news is that when they became sharks again, all the benefits came right back.”

Another expert who reviewed the study, Dr. Edmund Giegerich, chief of endocrinology and vice chairman of medicine at NewYork-Presbyterian Brooklyn Methodist Hospital in New York City, was also somewhat surprised by the magnitude of changes that happened in just two weeks.

Giegerich said the study confirms how important it is to stay active.

“Going from being sedentary to more active can help a great deal in preventing the onset of type 2 diabetes. Just try to be more active. You’ll feel better, and if you’re trying to lose weight, it can help a little. You don’t have to run a marathon. Walking is fine. Just get up and get moving,” he advised.

Both experts pointed out that the study was small, and in a larger group, the findings might be different. The study was also only done for a short period of time.

Bowden Davies, Osborne and Giegerich all suspect that if people who are at a lower fitness level stop almost all of their activity that the results might even be worse.

The study was presented Wednesday at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes meeting, in Barcelona. Findings presented at meetings are typically viewed as preliminary until they’re published in a peer-reviewed journal.

 

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