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Blog posts tagged with 'cholesterol'

The Missing Part to a Balanced Diet

Fruits and VegetablesAre You Eating Enough Fruits and Veggies?

As adults, it’s time to take responsibility – and realize that our parents may have been onto something when they said to finish our greens. Unfortunately, too many have us haven’t taken that advice to heart. Recent studies have shown that only 1 in 10 Americans meet the federal fruit and vegetable recommendations. You usually need 1½ to 2 cups per day for fruit and 2 to 3 cups for vegetables. Yet only 9% of adults eat enough vegetables, and 12% even get enough fruit. If you’re one of those adults skipping past the salad bar, it’s time to take action.

The Missing Part to a Balanced Diet

There’s a reason you should care about fruits and vegetables. Many important vitamins and minerals are in these food types more than others. Potassium, vitamin C, vitamin A and folate are just some of the more common nutrients that you can mainly get from plant-based food, and are beneficial to the body. For example, potassium can help maintain blood pressure. Folate builds up the red blood cells while helps stave off birth defects in pregnant women. Vitamin A promotes healthier eyes and skin, vitamin E protects from free-radicals, and vitamin C supports healthier gums and helps the body absorb iron. 

One other vital nutrient is fiber, and you get plenty of that from fruits and vegetables. Fiber is perfect for weight management, as it helps you feel full faster, while also lowering your blood cholesterol. It is also important for a healthy digestive system for regular bowel movements. Fruits and vegetables are also quite low in fat, sodium and calories, another great use for weight management.

But perhaps one of the most important aspects of this food group is their richness in phytonutrients – which are certain extracts that are only available in fruits and vegetables. 

Getting Your Share of PhytonutrientsFruits and Vegetables

Phytonutrients are known as the protective effects on fruits and vegetables, and many have shown their worth in helping ward off health complications in our own bodies. These phytonutrients are what gives fruits and vegetables their taste, scent and color. As many work like antioxidants, fruits and vegetables can very well protect your body from free-radicals and keep your cells healthy. Some examples of phytonutrients are:

Carotenoids: Present in carrots, broccoli and spinach, carotenoids are antioxidants that give these foods their bright colors. This phytonutrient is a boon to the immune system, while also showing positive impact for good eye health. 

Capsaicin: Peppers are rich in this nutrient and have shown benefits in reducing clotting for better heart health.

Curcumin: A phytonutrient that is rich in the turmeric spice. It is an anti-inflammatory agent, as well as antioxidant, that is commonly used in joint health.



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Easily Accessible Mediterranean Diet Can Impact Your Health

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Easily Accessible Mediterranean Diet Can Impact Your HealthMetabolic syndrome is defined in the medical community as having three or more risk-related factors that can contribute to a variety of heart and blood sugar concerns. Some risk factors include obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and high glucose levels. Due to many elements such as a lack of exercise, poor diet, and genetics it is estimated that as many as 34% of adults in the US may have metabolic syndrome. However, what if there was a particular diet that could reverse the progression of these risk factors? A recent study in Spain sought to find the answer.

A Dive Into the Mediterranean

Prior studies on the Mediterranean diet have confirmed its positive benefits to cholesterol health and blood pressure, but researchers wanted to see how great an impact this diet could have on people already at risk with metabolic syndrome. The team of researchers analyzed adults, both men and women, ages 55–80 who were at risk for cardiovascular concerns. A total of 64% of the adults assessed for the study qualified as having metabolic syndrome. The subjects were then put onto one of three diets: a Mediterranean diet supplemented with nuts, a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil, or a regular low-fat diet.

Following up after almost five years, the results showed that the patients who adhered to both types of Mediterranean diets saw a decrease in blood glucose levels as well as abdominal obesity. A total of 28.2% of the men and women who followed the Mediterranean diets also no longer met the criteria to be diagnosed with metabolic syndrome at the end of the study period.

Add the Olive Oil and the Legumes

The Mediterranean diet eschews butters, trans fats, saturated fats, and unhealthy oils in favor of olive oils, omega fatty acids, and unsaturated fats. As one would expect, it also centers around a reduction in meat intake, replacing it with seafood—especially fish that are high in omegas such as salmon and tuna—at least twice a week. However, poultry, eggs, and dairy can also be consumed for meat and protein requirements. The Mediterranean diet also covers other nutrition groups by calling for high fruit and vegetable consumption.

For some people, the tricky part of the Mediterranean diet is getting the good fat content. Luckily, you can satisfy this part in a variety of ways. Apart from olive oil there are a number of foods that provide good fats including avocados, whole grains, nuts, and other various legumes.

An Easier Path Than You Think

Some may think that switching to a Mediterranean diet means having to use exotic ingredients for their meals that are both expensive and restrictive. Many of the foods required to follow this diet, however, are readily available in your grocery store—all you need to do is make a few crucial, yet simple, substitutions which will allow you to enjoy many tasty, healthy meals. And because there are actually many foods containing the good fats and nutrients required, the Mediterranean allows for plenty of variety and experimentation. Evidence continues to mount about the benefits of the Mediterranean diet, so while many can get sucked into fad and crash diets, the Mediterranean diet can be a nutritious and fulfilling option out there to help support not only a healthy heart, but greater well-being.

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Debunking 5 Daily Nutritional Misconceptions

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Debunking 5 Daily Nutritional MisconceptionsFocusing on your health can sometimes lead you to find contradictory statements. There are many misconceptions out there when it comes to food and daily nutrition and understanding what's good and what's bad when it comes to your daily diet isn't always black and white. Separating nutrition facts from myths can allow you to know what you need to cut back on and what is okay to include in your daily efforts to eat more healthily.

Myth #1 – Microwaving Food Depletes Nutrient Content

This urban legend often gets passed down within families. The fact is many minerals and vitamins such as vitamin C are heat sensitive. This means the longer you cook foods that are rich in these nutrients, the less nutrition they have. Using the microwave to cook vegetables can be a good way to quickly steam them while retaining their nutritional value compared to boiling them in water for a longer period of time.

Myth #2 – Multigrain and Whole Grain Mean the Same Thing

One would think that the more types of grains a food has, the better. However, just because something has multiple types of grains, it doesn't mean it contains the whole part of the it. Whole grain means using every part of the grain—including the kernel, the bran, the germ, and the endosperm—which provides more nutrition than refined grains. According to the Journal of Nutrition there is consistent evidence that whole grains can play an important role in heart health, balancing blood sugar, weight management, and digestive health.

Myth #3 – Eating Eggs Raises Your Cholesterol

This misconception is common and can be boiled down to understanding that there are different types of cholesterol. The cholesterol which is found in eggs and other foods you ingest is called dietary cholesterol. This type does not greatly influence the amount of cholesterol in your bloodstream compared to the cholesterol your body makes on its own. It's the saturated and trans-fats in foods that increase your body's cholesterol production. Eggs, while containing some trans-fats, are not nearly as unhealthy as many commonly think. They contain several vitamins and minerals that your body needs each day such as vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin B12; plus the trace minerals selenium and iodine. So before you dismiss eggs from your diet, make sure you know the good things you're missing out as well. In fact, researchers from the University of Missouri recently presented research stating that eating a high-protein diet consisting of eggs early in the day can help reduce total calorie intake throughout the rest of that day, which can promote better overall weight management.

Myth #4 – White Vegetables Contain No Nutritional Value

Because of all the positives associated with brightly-colored vegetables, you can see how white-colored vegetables would be thought of being less nutritious. However, this is simply just not true. Foods such as cauliflower, turnips, potatoes, parsnips, corn, and onions all contain essential nutrients like fiber, potassium, and magnesium that are important for everyday health. Just this past year, researchers and experts at the University of Purdue formed a roundtable discussion called White Vegetables: A forgotten Source of Nutrients. The discussion helped assuage the claims that white vegetables lack the same healthy punch as multicolored varieties. In particular, many experts showed that these vegetables can be important in filling in daily nutritional gaps.

Myth #5 – Using the Salt Shaker Is a Big Factor in Raising Sodium Levels

With 9 out of 10 Americans consuming more than the recommended value of 2,300 mg of sodium daily, it's easy to blame the salt shaker for high sodium levels. However, 90% of sodium intake comes from eating processed and prepared foods. Manufacturers often use it as a preservative, so it can be found in abundance in foods that might not even taste salty. Your best bet in cutting back is to read the nutrition labels for sodium amounts. As a general guide, look for entrees with no more than 800 mg sodium and no more than 200 mg for snacks. The right knowledge is key to making healthy, informed decisions when supporting your daily nutrition needs. Before deciding to cut something from your diet for good, take the time to do some research—the truth may surprise you.

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Be Upbeat When It Comes to Heart Health

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https://www.gardavita.com/content/images/thumbs/0000217_daily-multichew-bogo-2x-bottles.jpegAll this month of February America celebrates the amazing human heart with Heart-Health Awareness Month. While heart health consistently ranks as the top health concern in the nation, new research indicates that there are more and more everyday things you can do to sway it in a more positive direction.

Yes, You Can!

The first step in any lifestyle change is having the right attitude. A study published in Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes on 600 patients found that those who took the initiative to exercise and turn their health around significantly increased their life expectancy. Another study in the American Journal of Cardiology also found that having an upbeat attitude actually protected people from heart health risks. A large part of staying positive includes reducing stress. Research published in both the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism and Archives of Internal Medicine found that stress and its associated hormones can put added pressure on your heart. So if you find yourself feeling overwhelmed, take time to unwind by engaging in relaxing activities such as reading a book, spending time with friends, or participating in physical activities.

Get Moving

Depending on various factors like age and doctor-recommended restrictions, physical activity is anything that gets you moving to burn calories. From climbing stairs to organized sports, staying active can support a healthy heart and aid circulation. At the very least, start walking; it’s fun, easy, and a sociable exercise. An article in the journal, Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology, states that walking can help normalize blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar levels.

Nutrition You Can Live By

Your diet plays an important role in supporting a healthy heart. Even simple things, such as remembering to eat a healthy breakfast, can help lower cardio health risks according to one Harvard study. Certain foods, when added to your diet, aid various aspects such as cholesterol, blood pressure, and weight management. Fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, herring, and mackerel contain omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to help lower blood pressure and triglycerides that can help maintain healthy cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association recommends eating these types of fish at least two times a week. Kidney beans or black beans can also be good sources omega-3 fatty acids as well as niacin, folate, magnesium, calcium, and soluble fiber. Even foods like yogurt and supplements containing probiotics have been studied recently for their cholesterol-lowering effects. Besides adding more nutritious foods to your diet, it’s important to cut back on the ones that push your heart health in the wrong direction. One observational study published in BMC Medicine found that cutting back on processed meat consumption to less than 20 grams per day could lower mortality rates by 3.3%. Lowering your consumption of red meat can also lower levels of amino acids that have been linked to heart concerns.

Healthy Snacking

Snacking doesn’t need to be the bane of your diet. Healthy snacks such as almonds and walnuts also contain omega-3s as well as fiber, folate, and magnesium that can boost your nutrition. Oatmeal, whole grains, and flaxseed can provide vitamins, minerals, and nutrients like magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin, calcium, and soluble fiber. Of course, a consistently healthy diet revolves around choosing lots of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis. Avoid fried foods, and foods and drinks with added sugars.

No Ifs, Ands, or “Butts” About It

Enough can’t be said on how much quitting smoking can boost heart health. But if you or someone you know needs yet another to convince them on how much their health can improve by quitting smoking, take a look at this study presented at a meeting held by the American Heart Association: It found that people who smoked fewer than 3.2 packs of cigarettes a day for 10 years could lower their heart illness risk to the same level as nonsmokers in eight years. Even heavy smokers who quit could improve their life expectancy by 35%.

The Power to Change Is in Everyone’s Hands

Some factors such as hereditary genes may be beyond your control, but by believing that you have the power to change your health and by following through with those changes, the power of positive thinking can go a long way. If the state of your heart is weighing heavily on your mind, adopt an upbeat attitude, be more active, eat healthier, and say goodbye to bad habits. Keep your heart in mind this February—and throughout your lifetime—by taking the steps towards greater well-being today!


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A Little Spice Goes a Long Way: The Surprising Benefits of Three Everyday Spices

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A Little Spice Goes a Long Way: The Surprising Benefits of Three Everyday SpicesSpices have been a part of human society for thousands of years, with evidence of their use dating as far back as 2000 BC. Throughout human history different cultures have utilized them for food preparation, preservation, and religious ceremonies; and they have even been catalysts for global exploration. Some spices were such rare commodities that they were used for trading. The little, ground pepper flakes you shake onto your meal or salad were once used as currency, and nutmeg found in recipes and snacks was once so valuable that a historian has called it “the iPhone of the 1600s.” We tend to pay less attention to the details in spices these days because they’re so commonplace, but some of these simple additives can provide a pinch of support to your health. Here are some everyday spices with some surprising benefits.

Cinnamon

It may come as a surprise that cinnamon provides anything beyond an interesting flavor—both spicy and sweet—to our foods. But this brown spice has been known to help promote healthy blood flow. The chemical responsible for these benefits—cinnamaldehyde—also possesses anti-inflammatory properties. In a 2011 study it was found that the use of cinnamon in diets can also help combat the negative effects of triglycerides found in high-fat meals.

Turmeric

Turmeric, like cinnamon was also mentioned in the same 2011 study as one of the spices that helped lessen the negative effects of meals high in fat. This orange-colored spice is commonly used in Middle Eastern and Southeast Asian cuisines. It is also known for its powerful antioxidant properties, often said to help neutralize or prevent free radical damage. Studies have also shown that turmeric can be a potent ally against joint discomfort, with one researcher commenting that “Turmeric is one of the most potent natural inflammatories available. Other studies found that the main component in turmeric, curcumin, can also support healthy skin, memory, digestion, and cholesterol levels.

Ginger

Studies have shown that Chinese cultures have benefited from the use of ginger for over 2,000 years. It has been said to relieve symptoms related to upset stomachs and nausea, as well as support daily digestion. It has also been shown to be helpful in aiding colon health by acting as an anti-inflammatory in the colon. Ginger contains antioxidant-like properties as well. A study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements states that ginger may help alleviate the instances of oxidative stress similar to vitamin E.

Make Your Spice Rack a Health Rack

Who knew these everyday spices held so much potential nutritional benefits? The best part is that they aren’t rare or expensive; they are readily available and lend themselves to a wide range of uses in meals, drinks, and desserts. It is also common to make hot teas out of these spices—try mixing cinnamon, turmeric, and ginger together to make a super-tea when you’re feeling under the weather. Some of the best sources of these ingredients can also be found in specific supplements, giving you exactly what you need in one bottle. So keep your eye on the spice isle and kick-start your health by adding some spice to your health.


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