Wednesday, August 31, 2011

More Dairy and Protein, Fewer Carbs Can Blast Belly Fat

There's no secret formula for a diet that melts away fat while keeping you lean, trim and healthy. Or is there? We know that diet higher in carbohydrates are associated with weight gain and higher rates of chronic diseases like diabetes, so one might intuitively scale back on those just a bit for better health. In their place, if we consume more lean protein and low-fat dairy products, new research published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests that we should start to see our belly fat melt away and experience better health. Sounds like it's worth a try!

According to researchers at McMaster University, higher intakes of calcium and protein in our diets may help us achieve overall weight loss and ultimately burns more abdominal fat. The study participants were obese premenopausal women. In the study, they exercised every day, including aerobic (cardio) exercise and circuit weight training to strengthen their muscles.

On this routine, the group that consumed a low-protein diet lost muscle, the medium-protein group did not lose any, and the high-protein group gained over a pound of muscle. However, despite having gained there, which is actually very healthy, they lost twice as much belly fat as the low-protein group over four months.

Of all the types of fat and places we can store them, excess fat around our midsections is the most dangerous. This is because it is an indication of greater fat stores under the skin and muscle, actually surrounding our organs and increasing our risk of type 2 diabetes as well as other chronic diseases.

The good news is that overall weight loss (fat loss) of just 5% can reduce abdominal fat by 30%! That means that if you currently weigh 150 lbs, losing 7.5 lbs of fat over 6 months or a year can dramatically decrease your risk of illness. Now where's that Greek Yogurt?

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Can Getting Married Make You Fat?

Sadly, according to new research, the answer is yes! That is, if you're a woman (for men, divorce seems to do the trick). Now, this finding isn't a fact set in stone, it is just a trend, but it seems that once all is said and done and the party's over, women start to pack on the pounds at a steady pace.

Now, before you go swearing off marriage, you should know that it's not just weddings that cause this little problem - it seems the culprit is the sheer situation of living together. Don't freak out though - there are things you can do to nip this trend in the bud and keep your rockin' pre-cohabitating bod as long as possible!

Researchers found that after couples tie the knot and move in together, there is a tendency for women to gain a steady amount of weight per year. That figure was clocked in as an average of 6-8 lbs over two years. In most cases, the amount of weight gain was not regarded as a serious health threat, but it may be for some women, particularly if the trend continues.

Among the reasons the researchers cited for the pattern that they observed is the fact that women tend to have a larger responsibility around the house than their husbands, meaning they have less time to exercise or be generally physically active. Other reasons include eating more foods with a higher sugar and fat content as well as eating similarly sized meals. On the flip side, those lucky men tend to get healthier when they share their lives and homes with the person they love. Now, that's not fair!

When you boil it down to the basics, the majority of our weight is determined by what we eat rather than how much we exercise. We know that for the same height and weight, men burn more calories per day than women because they have a higher amount of lean body weight versus fat, meaning that those men can afford to consume extra calories. Women and men are just built differently!

That said, it is clear that a couple's meals should not look identical! Unfortunately, what tends to happen after couples move in together is that their plates look like mirror images of one another. That means that even if the food is healthy, women start to gain weight while men simply reap the benefits of sound nutrition!

Couples need to pay extra attention to their meals and snacks and make efforts to properly portion their food to avoid overdoing it. For example, men tend to make fewer healthy snack choices than women, which often introduces new snacks and foods into the home that women didn't have on hand as readily when they lived alone. Having formerly 'forbidden' foods in the cupboard and watching someone happily snack on them guilt-free can really do a number on your willpower! Plus, it is much easier to start mimicking your man's eating patterns when you're around each other so much.

Also, couples should be careful to avoid making eating or snacking a way to spend time together as a recreational activity. Guys do it when they're together watching the game with a couple of beers, but popcorn, pizza or chips while lounging on the couch can be disastrous to your waistline!

On the whole, if you're warned and as prepared as possible for the weighty consequences of moving in with your partner, you'll probably do just fine. Adjusting to a different-looking fridge and pantry can be difficult and can most certainly test your willpower, but you can do it with enough determination! Stick to your guns and steer clear of the cookie jar!

Too Much Salt May Damage Your Brain

We know that we shouldn't consume too much salt each day. That much has been made crystal clear to us over the course of the past few years, but the idea is still highly confusing to many. The main reason that is cited for slashing our sodium intakes is to manage or lower our blood pressure to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke. As it turns out, that's not the only reason why we should watch how much sodium we eat, according to a new report published in in the journal Neurobiology of Aging.

According to researchers from the University of Toronto's Baycrest Center for Geriatric Care, a sedentary lifestyle coupled with high sodium intakes not only ups our risk for heart disease and stroke, but it increases our risk of dementia.

Over the course of 3 years, the researchers examined the diets of 1,262 healthy, elderly men and women and found that those with the highest sodium intakes and lowest levels of physical activity had the poorest results on tests of cognitive performance. High sodium intake was defined as 3,091 mg per day and over. Low sodium intake was defined as intakes below and up to 2,263 mg per day. The current healthiest recommendation in Canada is to stick below 1,500 mg per day and more ideally 1,200 mg per day.

While physical activity is a key factor in maintaining good health and lowering one's risk of heart disease and stroke, sedentary individuals in this study who cut back on their sodium intakes or followed low-sodium diets did not experience the same cognitive decline as their high-sodium intake counterparts.

Using less salt is not necessarily the solution, despite the fact that most people think it is. The real culprits of high-sodium foods tend to be those that are canned, cured or otherwise processed and packaged. If people don't know how to read nutrition labels or what numbers to look for, they may fall into a salty trap without even knowing it! Seeing as how we have a high population of aging individuals here in Canada, it is imperative that we help them make healthy choices and cut back on their sodium intakes wherever possible.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nix Bad Cholesterol Naturally With the Right Foods

High cholesterol really is a bugger but there are a bunch of things we can do to keep our numbers in check. Among them are boosting our physical activity levels, quitting smoking, eating lots of soluble fibre, and maintaining a healthy weight.

However, at the top of that list of advice, we usually find that we should cut back on saturated fats and eat more healthy fats in their place. So if we're just getting started, which box do we tick off first? According to experts, the answer is to modify our diets towards one that is plant-based rather than placing so much focus on saturated fats.

A plant-based diet, you might imagine, contains lots of fruits and veggies. No surprises there. What you may overlook is that you're also meant to include plenty of whole grains, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds, and obviously avoid (or if you're just starting, limit) meat consumption.

As you can see, simply eating what the earth gives us in this way ticks off plenty of the above noted points for lowering cholesterol. Not only are we cutting back on saturated fats, we're also including plenty of fibre, particularly soluble fibre, as well as healthy fats like omega-3s from the whole grains, nuts and seeds.

An added bonus is that it is easier to slim down and shed those excess pounds by eating this way, since people tend to feel full and more satisfied for longer, thanks to the high water, fibre and protein content of the foods combined with good amounts of those healthy fats. Not bad for one relatively simple change!

In addition, to make things even easier and to have a bigger impact on slashing those cholesterol figures, experts swear by the benefits of new cholesterol-lowering foods. For example, we now have cholesterol-lowering yogurts and margarines made with plant sterols on the market that significantly lower LDL, or bad cholesterol figures, in clinical trials.

In new research, adding foods like those enhanced ones, plus nuts, soy products, foods with soluble fibre like psyllium husk, chia seeds, eggplant, okra and cereal grains like oats and barley can lower one's LDL cholesterol by upwards of 14% after 24 weeks! That drop is as significant as taking commonly prescribed statin medications.

While medication is an important and valuable option for people with high cholesterol, we know that changing one's diet can be just as powerful in many cases. People should not stop taking their medication unless they have spoken with their physician and their cholesterol levels are within a reasonable range with dietary changes alone.

Give it a try, even if your cholesterol levels are good, and watch your health improve in so many ways!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Children's Book 'Maggie Goes On a Diet' Raises Eyebrows

Few words in the English language get as confused, overused and generally abused as the word 'Diet'. The literal meaning of this 'evil' four letter word is simply whatever a person eats, or according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, "habitual nourishment" or "the kind and amount of food prescribed for a person or animal for a special reason", for example, if they are ill. However, they obviously didn't forget that 'other' meaning of the word that nearly the whole world perceives it as, which is 'a regimen of eating and drinking sparingly so as to reduce one's weight'. So then, what kind of a diet is Maggie, a 14-year old overweight girl, "going on" in a new controversial children's book?

I know we're not supposed to judge books by their covers, but when it comes to children, I think that's where the major draw lies. The front cover of this particular book depicts an overweight little girl scoping out her reflection in the mirror while holding a dress in a much smaller size than her own against her full-figured body. Her reflection, a much thinner version of herself, smiles back at her. This image brings about uneasy feelings as it is reminiscent of the way that people with body dysmorphia or an eating disorder view themselves, only the reflection and the girl change places. The cover alone is enough to stir the pot on this controversial issue, never mind the actual content of the book!

In the book, kids at Maggie's school call her "fatty" and "chubby" so she decides to change the way she eats for the better. No starvation or crash dieting, just sensible eating. She cuts out junk and has a small treat here and there. She also starts getting much more physically active and joins the school's soccer team. That's an awful lot of changes and new responsibilities for a 14-year old to handle! Wait - where are Maggie's parents or her physician and what is their involvement or opinion of this?

Ultimately, Maggie succeeds in her weight loss goal, making her happier. No surprises there. But also, as a happy side-effect of her weight loss, Maggie gets popular at school. Great! What kind of a message is this sending to young girls?

Critics of the book as well as users have commented that this book promotes self-loathing and anorexia, particularly since the books are targeted at kids aged 4-12, depending on the bookstore. The author of the book, Paul M. Kramer, who by the way has no expertise whatsoever in children's nutrition or health, defended his creation by saying that he's not advocating to kids to go on a diet, and that this book is not about going on a diet. However, after having said that, he admitted that yes, as the title of the book suggests, Maggie did indeed go on a diet.

The truth of the matter is that no young girl should even know what the conventional sense of the word 'diet' means. So long as she follows a healthy diet and stays physically active, her weight will work itself out naturally. Kids have a lot of growing to do, and limiting their diets in any way is just asking for future health problems, either physically or psychologically, or both, in the case of eating disorders.

Sadly and unfortunately, parents tend to pass down their eating habits and food issues to their children. It's hard to hide one's relationship with food! I think we all know parents who are diet-obsessed, whose children end up the same way. It is important to realize the consequences of such behaviours and modify them as much as possible for the sake of the health of our future generations.

If a child truly does have a weight problem that poses risks to their health, this should be discussed with their physician and parents and a plan should be constructed to get the child to a healthy weight without putting them 'on a diet'. So while it may have worked for Maggie at 14, who knows how she ended up and what her relationship with food was at 16, 18 or 25!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Can Wine Whittle Your Waist?

One of the biggest weight gain traps that many people fall into is enjoying too many cocktails or beers too often. Packing roughly 100-200 calories per standard drink (1.5oz 40% alcohol (spirits), 5oz of 12% alcohol (wine) or 12 oz of 5% alcohol (beer)), it's no surprise that the calories, and consequently, the extra weight can sneak up on you in no time. However, according to new research, enjoying a little bit of wine each day may actually help you win the battle of the bulge rather than making it worse.

The first thing that most people are told they have to cut out when on a diet is alcohol. The reason for this is that in order to lose weight, calories need to be cut back and we are consequently left with a limited number of calories with which to work. We need to squeeze in breakfast, lunch, dinner and 3 snacks to get all of the nutrients we need and in order to keep our metabolisms burning through those calories efficiently and that can be a tall order when there aren't too many calories to spare. So you can see that an extra 150-odd liquid calories with no nutritional value per drink just don't fit into the equation.

Surprisingly, according to new research, we might have gotten the story a little bit wrong when it comes to booze and weight loss, but researchers still aren't totally sure. It turns out that among alcohols, wine seems to improve weight loss results while spirits tend to be the culprits when it comes to weight gain.

However, this doesn't mean that one can now drink unlimited amounts of wine and be just fine. Most of the research that has been conducted on this topic has looked into heavy drinking which has been associated with weight gain. Less is known about the effects of drinking just a little bit of alcohol each day on our weight. When it comes to moderate drinking, one to two 5 oz glasses of wine each day has actually been associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, which increases the risk of type 2 diabetes.

So if you thought you couldn't have any alcohol at all while losing weight, your fears might now be put to rest. But be careful - more research is needed on this topic and we know that those empty calories are still there, any way you slice it. Plus, anyone who has had a drink or two knows that alcohol makes us hungrier and lowers our inhibitions, making eating nachos at midnight (with extra guacamole) seem like a sensible idea. If this sounds like you, then perhaps alcohol may directly and indirectly sabotage your goals! Be sensible and you should be in good shape!

Move Over Milk, Eat Prunes for a Strong Skeleton

Prunes seem to have a bad reputation among young people. It's unfortunate, but they often bring to mind our grandparents' tried and tested remedy for constipation, making them a less popular snack choice for everyday noshing. But if you want to have a super-strong skeleton that is less prone to fractures and osteoporosis, it's a good idea to have a handful of the wrinkly fruits every day, according to researchers.

With an onslaught of commercials reminding us to drink milk or consume other dairy products to keep our bones strong, it may not readily be apparent that there are other foods that may be similarly effective. While they do exist, you'd be hard pressed to find a substitute that is as high in calcium, magnesium and phosphorous, or is as good at depositing those minerals into your bones as dairy products, it turns out that prunes are really great at tackling the opposite problem.

Bones are in fact living things that experience a regular turnover of minerals. Minerals are deposited and also depleted and recycled back into the blood stream, depending on the nutritional state and health of our bodies. What researchers have found is that prunes can help suppress the breakdown and depletion of minerals from the skeleton, improving bone density and reducing the risk of fractures, particularly in the elderly. All it takes is about 10 prunes every day.

In the study, 55 post-menopausal women consumed 100g of prunes (about 10) every day for a year, along with calcium and vitamin D supplements. Over the course of the study, it was found that the women's bone mineral density in their forearms and spines improved significantly.

Many people wait until it is too late before they make a change to improve the condition of their bones, but if you start today, you can perhaps avoid a life-altering or potentially fatal injury in the future. Prunes can be incorporated into so many dishes and recipes - they don't need to be eaten plain on their own if that's not your favourite form. You can even make a chocolate avocado prune pudding which is way better than it sounds and much healthier than the conventional kind!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Your Cup of Joe Might Ward off Skin Cancer

It seems like we just can't find enough great reasons for drinking coffee. If you've been keeping up with the long list of pros for drinking coffee, you'd know that it contains cancer-fighting antioxidants, has been found to possibly help stave off Alzheimer disease, improve weight loss results and boost your metabolism. Now there is another pro to add to the list with new research suggesting that caffeine can protect our skin from cancer.

Melanoma, also known as known as skin cancer, is one of the most common forms of cancer in the world. If it is caught early, treatment can be simpler and more effective than with some other forms of cancer. However, skin cancer can often elude us, allowing it to become aggressive and deadly. Sunscreen is one great way to help protect ourselves from sun damage, including melanoma, but any extra form of protection, even drinking a cup of Joe each day, is helpful.

In this latest pro-caffeine study, researchers from Rutgers University and the University of Washington found that caffeine works to help prevent skin cancer by inhibiting an enzyme in the skin called ATR. In studies with mice, they found that those who were given water with caffeine added were able to kill off far more cancerous cells than their counterparts. They also developed tumors more slowly than the other mice with 69% fewer tumors on the whole. They also developed four times fewer invasive tumors.

It is still unclear as to whether or not applying caffeine to the skin can help shield cells from UV damage, so future research will have to be performed to find out. If caffeine is found work as an effective sunscreen, I'm certain that we will start seeing a lot more skin products that contain it on the market. For now, simply ingesting caffeine from coffee, tea or even chocolate may help us defend ourselves from melanoma from the inside out.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Food and Guilt: How to Deal

When it comes to food, we're a bit bizarre as a society here in North America. On one hand, we place so much emphasis on health and seek the latest and greatest advancements in nutrition and health. However, on the other hand, we are seeing more and more big, bad and grotesque meals offered in various restaurants. Not to mention the fact that we love watching people make and eat those kinds of foods, as evidenced by TV shows that glamorize them - even those on the food network!

Now, it's true that there's definitely a grey area in between those two extremes, but where do we draw the line when it comes to feeling guilty about what we eat? Guilt may be beneficial in preventing us from downing a double down sandwich or other foods with zero redeeming qualities and a slew of calories, but what about having a treat once in a while? There's got to be a way for us to allow ourselves to enjoy something indulgent once in a while without receiving dirty looks from others, and without judging ourselves equally harshly.

The real secret to maintaining a healthy weight and otherwise staying in good health is to be conscious about our food. For the most part, we should generally be aware of how many calories foods have, how they are prepared or where they come from. Now, this may seem like an awful lot of information to gather, but if you realize that people in other parts of the world do this regularly and know more about their food than we do, it doesn't seem like such a tall order.

It is important to know or be able to estimate how many calories are in the foods we eat and roughly know how many we need each day, plus we need to take care to remain active and give our bodies the healthy fuel they need. If we do this regularly, then there's no reason not to allow ourselves to enjoy different foods, whatever they may be, every once in a while. If that means we can eat a cupcake or a fast food hamburger, then so be it, but we can't feel badly about doing so if we make that choice.

Feeling badly about eating something would imply there's a problem, like we're overindulging and we know it. If that's the case, it might be time to walk away and save the treat for next time. If that's not the case, then there's no need for the guilt trip! Just savour the experience and make it worth it!

Nobody is perfect and nobody has the right to make someone else feel lousy for choosing to eat something they like. Food has more significance in our lives than simply for nutrition and sustenance; food nourishes our souls and minds too, and we must never, ever forget that.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Nosh On Walnuts to Improve Cardiovascular Health

What could be better than a tasty, crunchy, snack that keeps you feeling full, improves your cardiovascular health and can help you manage your weight all in one convenient little package? Not to mention the fact that this food is loaded with antioxidants, healthy fats including omega-3s, fibre and some protein, you would almost think that it's too good to be true. So why is it that so many people are afraid of adding nuts to their diet?

Despite being calorie dense and mostly fat, there is no reason to fear adding nuts to your diet (unless, of course, you're allergic!). Some people avoid nuts all together because they feel that they will gain weight by eating them, but unfortunately, that mind set has been shown to be ineffective when it comes to maintaining good health and even when it comes to weight loss. Instead of seeking a magic pill or powder that claims to do the same things as nuts, why not just embrace them? It seems illogical to avoid something that has been proven to be so good for you in search of a cash-grabbing man-made alternative.

Particularly when it comes to heart health, there is plenty of evidence to support the effectiveness of adding almonds, pistachios and walnuts to your diet. In the case of walnuts, recent research has found that adding just a few of them to your diet each day for two months can improve your endothelial function, which is a measure of blood vessel health. It is the ability of blood vessels to dilate and contract, which is essential for controlling blood pressure and flow and is a strong predictor of cardiovascular disease. Not surprisingly, adding nuts like walnuts to one's diet can also help lower blood pressure.

In addition, despite being calorie-dense, if individuals mindfully account for the calories added to their diets from nuts and balance energy in with energy out, weight gain is not a concern. Most people are able to maintain their body weights or even lose weight, since snacking on nuts can help keep you feeling full and satisfied throughout the day, helping to control your appetite.

So in short, give walnuts (and other nuts) a chance! Try adding either 12 walnut halves, 12 almonds or a similar amount of pistachios to your diet each day. Change things up day to day to make things interesting, be sure to account for an additional intake of 100-200 calories by balancing the remainder of your food intake accordingly, and watch your health improve like magic.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Retrain Your Tastebuds to Lose Weight

The sensations of hunger and fullness seem simple and familiar enough for most people that they don't realize what actually goes on behind the scenes in their bodies to make these feelings come about. Hunger and fullness manifest themselves thanks to a complex coordinated dance sequence between our brains, stomachs, hormones and neurotransmitters among other players, not to mention our senses.

Seeing, smelling or tasting food -- even just thinking about it -- can get the ball rolling to make us want to eat or flat out stop eating. This is why researchers have now turned to the first stage of eating - when we actually have food in our mouths - as a potential solution to weight loss and ultimately obesity.

In an attempt to 're-wire' and strengthen our ability to discriminate when we are actually hungry or full, researchers believe that people need to start paying attention to tasting their food more. In so doing, the researchers believe that people might be able to avoid eating mindlessly and packing on the pounds.

In a recent study, researchers found that people who eat lots of fatty foods regularly are less able to taste fat which throws off their ability to tell when they're full. Being able to taste and sense fat in our food actually makes us feel fuller and send signals to the brain that we are full and should stop eating.

When the researchers put participants of normal weight and those who were overweight on a low-fat diet for a month, their ability to detect the levels of fat among several desserts was heightened; they were able to tell which ones had more or less fat. Interestingly, when they were placed on a higher-fat diet for the same amount of time afterwards, the people of normal weight weren't able to discriminate the fat levels as well. However, the people who were overweight were still able to distinguish between lower and higher fat desserts just the same as when they had followed the low fat diet.

According to the researchers, being on a low-fat diet helps people who are overweight or obese 'train' their tastebuds to be able to detect fat in their food once again. This is a good thing, because the researchers added that people who are less sensitive to fat in their food are also more likely to eat more meat and high-fat dairy products, which can lead to high intakes of artery-clogging saturated fats.

The researchers put it very nicely and simply, that when we're talking about the relationship between food weight, it quite simply boils down to the response we get when we are eating. If we can get the 'right' response to our brains and stomachs, telling us that we're full when we should feel that way, we will theoretically eat more appropriate amounts of food in general. As always with research, it sounds good in theory, but in reality, plenty of other factors in life make eating and weight management just a tad more complex than just 'tasting' our food. It's a good start though!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Red, Processed Meat: Part of a Healthy Diet?

Red meat is one of those topics, in addition to being a food, that never ceases to cause plenty of controversy. Depending on who you ask and when, you'll be likely to hear a different story and a different opinion on the matter, particularly whether or not it is healthy to consume.

This week alone, two influential groups have offered two opposing opinions on the role that red meat should play in our diet, if at all. In one corner, we have researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health releasing a paper reaffirming the longstanding notion that red meat is deadly. In the other corner, we have the American Meat Institute Foundation positing that red meat is an important component in our diets and that it is perfectly healthy in moderation.

In the paper released this week in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the researchers argue that diets high in red meat are associated with a 51% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes. They went on to clarify that just one 100g serving of red meat per day raises one's risk by 19% and a 50g serving of processed red meat per day raises it by 51%. This amount of red meat in total per week exceeds the dietary recommendations of most countries, even the U.S.

Part of the reason behind the results of that study are the facts that red meat tends to be high in saturated fats and that high-calorie meat-rich diets can both lead to obesity, the main risk factor for type 2 diabetes.

However, representatives from the American Meat Institute Foundation correctly pointed out that no single food should be blamed for 'causing' diabetes or obesity, and that a body of evidence should be considered, rather than the latest 'hot' study to come out, when weighing the facts about a food's role in our diet.

In reality, both groups, pro- and anti-red meat, are supported by evidence that makes them correct to some extent. Red meat, particularly if it is lean, is a great source of protein and it is also iron-rich. Many people, especially women, struggle to consume enough protein and iron each day. Iron is an essential component of our red blood cells that carries oxygen throughout our bodies. If you're low in iron, you're going to feel tired, sluggish and short of breath for no apparent reason. Protein is essential for maintaining a strong immune system, healthy muscles and a good metabolism.

So once again, the 'correct' answer here is neither avoidance nor indulgence. If we meet somewhere half-way and follow our food guide, we will find that moderation is once again the word of the day and that a little bit of red meat goes a long way!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Spice Up Your Life to Beat Inflammation and Boost Heart Health

Certain spices aren't for the faint of heart, that's for sure. But whether you love them or hate them, the hotter or more intensely flavoured a spice may be, the better it tends to be for your health. For example, we know that cayenne pepper, among other spices, is said to improve blood circulation and reduce inflammation, but lately, there's been plenty of talk about how amazing turmeric is for our health.

According to researchers from Penn state, consuming turmeric in a high-fat meal can help lower a person's blood triglyceride response (the amount of fat that is absorbed into the bloodstream) by up to 30%. Normally, when a person eats a high-fat meal without adding any spice, much of the fat is absorbed into their bloodstream, causing their blood triglycerides to spike. If it happens too frequently, this can result in heart disease and other cardiovascular damage.

When participants in the above study consumed a meal spiked with 2 tbsp of spices, including rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, turmeric, black pepper, cloves, garlic powder and paprika - all spices that are known to contain antioxidants - their blood antioxidant levels increased by 13% while their insulin response decreased by 20%, compared to those who ate the same meal without those spices.

In addition, it has recently been found that the antioxidant in turmeric which gives it it's distinctive yellow shade, called curcumin, may be helpful in reducing painful joint inflammation such as tendinitis and arthritis. The researchers have made it clear that turmeric won't cure these conditions, but there is something about curcumin that has been shown to reduce inflammation. In the future, we may see new medications or treatments derived from turmeric that will be far more effective than simply chowing down on the spice.

In the meantime, unless they upset your stomach, there's no harm in spicing up your diet just a little and boosting the antioxidant levels in your body. They may do you more good than we currently understand.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

More Fibre Can Help Ward off Breast and other Cancers

By now, with all that we know about the benefits of fibre, there's really no excuse not to be bulking up your diet with the rough stuff. Fibre can help you manage your weight, prevent colon and other cancers, avoid nasty digestive disorders like constipation and even diarrhea, manage your cholesterol and prevent type 2 diabetes. Now, new research is suggesting that, on top of all of the other reasons to chow down on it, fibre can help fend off breast cancer.

In the new study, published online in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 10 previous studies were combined that looked at the diets and fibre consumption of nearly 700,000 women in total.

What the researchers found was that for every 10g increase in fibre consumption, the womens' risk of developing breast cancer reduced by 7%. The current daily recommendation for fibre consumption for a woman is a minimum of 25g per day, but more is good as long as you're drinking enough water to wash it down. Men should aim for 35g and above.

You can easily consume 10g of fibre by, for example, adding 2tbsp of ground flax seeds to your yogurt or breakfast, and snacking on one large pear and a handful (about 15) of almonds. You could also just as easily eat 1/2 a cup of a high-fibre cereal.

Despite knowing that we should be getting about 8-10 servings of fruits and veggies in our diets each day, which are an excellent source of fibre, a lot of people's diets tend to be meat-rich or otherwise quite beige. Even if that's the case, there is a multitude of great tasting high-fibre cereals on the market that can give you at least half of your daily recommendation for fibre in just one bowl. You can also use those cereals in place of bread crumbs and very simply shake up your meat or fish at dinner while meeting your fibre recommendations.

Getting your fibre from natural sources is the best idea because along with the fibre you get plenty of other nutrients, like healthy fats and cancer-fighting antioxidants which all work together to boost your health. Some other great sources of fibre are beans and legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains like quinoa and oats. If pasta is your thing, try switching to fibre-fortified pastas or better yet, ones made with whole grains; they taste great and they're so good for you!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Sea Buckthorn: The Latest Superfood Craze?

Every so often, a particular food that has been around for centuries makes a massive resurgence on the market thanks to it's amazing health properties. We've seen this with chia seeds, acai berries, goji berries and even humble green tea. Now, despite having been used by humans in Europe and Asia for hundreds of years (Ancient Greek scholars even wrote about it), Sea Buckthorn is making it's mark on the North American market.

Thanks in part to publicity from Dr. Oz, these small yellow to bright orange egg-shaped berries that taste similar to tart oranges are being used to produce a slew of medicinal and health products.

From it's juice to it's oil, this berry has been touted as a skin miracle, protecting it from the sun, heat, chemical and radiation burns, eczema and poorly healing wounds. It's juice is very high in protein, vitamins C and E, and organic acids. It's oil is rich in vitamin E, carotenoids, phytosterols and essential fatty acids, all of which make it perfect for the treatment of internal and topical maladies such as stomach and mouth ulcers, inflamed gums, constipation, acne and eczema. The Sea Buckthorn is also rich in calcium, iron, manganese, folic acid, beta carotene, lycopene, zeaxanthine and flavonoids.

Another point that makes Sea Buckthorn oil unique among superfoods is that it contains a rare omega-7 fatty acid that has been associated with weight loss, as it reportedly prevents the storage of fats in the body. It also contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids as well as the more common but also important omega-6 and 9 fatty acids.

Now that it is being grown in the Canadian Prairies, products from the Sea Buckthorn, also known as the Sea Berry or Siberian Pineapple, are starting to dot shelves in Saskatchewan and Winnipeg, among other places. Look out for juices, oils, jams, teas and even energy bars made from this superfood. Can't wait to try some!

Friday, August 5, 2011

'Superman' Henry Cavill's Diet Revealed

Well, this certainly is the summer for superhero films, isn't it? From Ironman to Thor to X-men to Captain America, it seems we are constantly bombarded with images of men with perfectly chiseled physiques and superhumanly large muscles. But while it might seem that the bodies of the actors who play those roles seem to suit them perfectly, as if they had always been that way, they worked unusually hard to earn those physiques. You can also bet that keeping them will pose an even greater challenge. Now, actor Henry Cavill is opening up about the diet and exercise challenges he faced in order to play the man of steel himself, Superman.

The name Superman says it all. What man wouldn't want to have a physique like the man of steel? In addition, I think most women would agree that it certainly wouldn't hurt to find a man with a body like that. The trouble is, in order to achieve a physique like that, one has to devote nearly ridiculous amounts of time to exercising, all the while paying meticulous attention to their diets. Can you say deprivation?

In his own words, Cavill said "You’ve got to eat protein first, then a little bit ofcarbs…you’ve gotta keep your hunger levels going. I’m training two and a half hours a day, pushing my body beyond its normal limits, putting on a lot of muscle mass and just making myself look like Superman.”

You may recognize Cavill from his role as Charles Brandon on the TV series The Tudors, where he already had a physique fit for wielding swords and wearing heavy medieval armor. Now, in order to look the part of Superman, Cavill is on a 5,000 calorie per day diet which is necessary to support all of the exercise and muscle building he's doing.

Cavill is thrilled to finally have gotten his big break, so we're not likely to hear him complain about his new regimen, unlike so many other actors who went through the same thing. Thor actor Chris Hemsworth put on 20 pounds by, in his own words "purely eating, eating, eating, working out and working out". He was eating insane amounts of protein, including chicken breasts and protein shakes, which he called "sickly stuff". Once he stopped all that eating, he shrunk down by a whopping 15 pounds! And if we recall, for his role in the film the A Team, Bradley Cooper confessed to making 'sandwiches' out of grapes sliced in half, filled with an almond to satisfy his cravings.

Perhaps in the world of cinema, where an actor's (or actresses) image is what earns them a living and sells products, it is "normal" to expect near perfection from them. They've got trainers, dietitians, image consultants, photoshop and most importantly time on their side to help with that. The rest of us, with regular jobs and busy lives, shouldn't be expected to look that way, and we can't hold ourselves to any lower of a standard if we don't! Being healthy and disease-free is what matters the most. Simply following a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly is all it takes for most people to look and more importantly feel good. So unless you really love chicken, leave the insanely large physiques to the actors, models and bodybuilders!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Red Wine May Help Protect Skin from Sun Damage

These days, year round, you just can't leave the house without wearing sunscreen. Cosmetics, facial moisturizers, lip balms and even hair products come armed with SPF just in case you forget. It seems that if we want to keep our skin healthy and youthful, protected from the damaging rays of the sun, sunscreen has to be our best friend. But in case you've lost all hope for an alternative, Spanish researchers have revealed that compounds found in grapes (and red wine) can help boost our skin cells' ability to fend off sun damage!

The study, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, suggests that flavinoids, antioxidants found in grapes, can help skin cells prevent forming compounds called 'reactive oxygen species (or ROSs for short), which aids in the skin's defense of sun damage. Normally, when ROSs are formed, they react with UV rays to destroy skin cells, which we more colloquially refer to as sunburn.

The study's authors say that consuming grapes or products made from them, like red wine, can help protect skin cells from damage and help reduce the number of deaths caused by solar radiation. In addition, the researchers suggest that new skin creams and other products can be fortified with grape flavinoids in addition to sunscreen to further protect skin from sun damage. Preventing sun damage isn't just about sun burns and cancer, it also helps prevent wrinkles, for those who want to keep their skin firm and fabulous well into their golden years.

We already know that drinking a glass (for women) or two (for men) of wine per day is beneficial in maintaining the health of currently healthy individuals, but now we have even more reason to do so!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Add 15 Years to Your Life with These Healthy Habits

We so often hear tips and advice with regards to health coupled with the notion that they can help you live longer. While it is thought that just about anything that is good for us can help us prolong our lives, it is unclear as to how long our lives may be extended by. For example, what if eating an apple or going to the gym every day only added a week to your life? Well, according to experts, if we adopt just a few key habits, we may in fact add up to 15 years to our lives. I'd say that's well worth the effort.

According to experts from Maastricht University in the Netherlands and their study that has been published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, women and men who exercise regularly for at least 30 min per day, don't smoke, maintain a healthy weight (BMI between 18.5-25) and follow the Mediterranean Diet may outlive their less healthy counterparts by up to 15 years or 8.5 years respectively.

In the study, women and men were assessed based on whether or not they smoked, their nutrition and exercise patterns and their body weights. It was found that the people who scored low on the measures had the same risk of death as people who were older, but scored high on the measures. What this suggests is that being healthier can help delay death by around a decade or more for both women and men.

One of the most pervasive factors on the participants' health was their diet. Those who followed the Mediterranean diet lived the longest and it was found that consuming nuts, vegetables and alcohol had the greatest effect on their life expectancies.

If you really think about it, it isn't that hard to make the necessary changes in your life that can help you live significantly longer. It is never too late to get started and every day that you live healthier is a step in the right direction and an investment into your future.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Chew More to Eat Less, Study Says

In places where food is overly abundant, people always seem to be looking for ways to eat less. It is a bizarre reality, and people will try just about anything to lose weight or stay thin. This also keeps researchers busy with potential research ideas that may ultimately help 'solve' the obesity epidemic. Today's topic of research? Seeing if chewing more can make you skinny. It's crazy but true. Stranger still is the fact that this isn't the first study to link chewing to obesity.

According to new research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, chewing your food 40 times compared to the usual 15 chews that most people take can help you consume almost 12% fewer calories on average. In previous studies, the link between the number of chews and obesity has been mixed; some studies found an association while others did not.

In the study conducted at the Harbin Medical University in China, 14 obese men and 16 men or normal weight were given a 'typical' breakfast and the number of chews they took while eating their meal were counted. In addition, their blood sugar and hormone levels were measured.

The researchers found that chewing time was associated with levels of hormones that regulate satiety and hunger. Chewing more was associated with both grehlin, a hormone that makes us want to eat more, in addition to CCK, a hormone that tells us that we are full and should stop eating. There was no connection between chewing time and insulin or blood glucose levels.

The good news was that the participants who chewed longer cut their calorie intake by an average of 12%. According to health experts, this could translate to weight loss upwards of 25 pounds in a year. On the flip side, since the study was small and only conducted on men, it's results should be taken with a grain of salt. In addition, in reality, many of the calories we consume are not from foods that are chewed; we have to account for liquid calories too.

Despite the flaws and drawbacks of this study, it remains true that eating is a complex behaviour that is regulated by a multitude of factors which ultimately translate to one's weight. If we are going to help people who are at an unhealthy weight change the way that they eat and get healthier, we have to figure out different solutions that speak to different people; not every strategy will work for everyone!