Five “Healthy Eating” Foods for 2010
See Katherine’s CNN interview
You thought green tea was healthy! (and it is – it reduces cancer and heart disease risks and boosts the immune system). But wait until you hear the latest news: it actually helps reduce BELLY FAT! Scientists have known for decades that habitual tea drinkers were leaner than non-tea-drinkers. But now, more clinical studies hove proven it may be true. Here’s the theory of how it works: Tea catechins (highest in green tea) prevent norepinephrine from breaking down. Norepinephrine plays important roles in metabolism and fat breakdown. The caffeine in green tea also plays a role in fat breakdown and metabolism and magnifies the affect of the catechins.
Why is belly fat more affected that other body fat? We know that belly fat has increased metabolic activity than other fat – which is why it plays such a negative role in health. When you have too much of it – when a man’s waist (measured at the belly button level) is larger than 40” and a woman’s waist is larger than 35” – it is a serious risk factor for the metabolic syndrome, that constellation of diseases: heart disease, hypertension, high cholesterol and diabetes, which is so deadly. But, the metabolic activity of belly fat means it is more susceptible to the positive effects of tea catechins and caffeine… YAY!
This increases your metabolism to the tune of about 50 – 100 extra calories burned per day (that may seem small, but could amount to 5 – 10 pounds lost – or kept off per year). But you have to drink three to six servings per day to achieve these results, according to the studies. I don’t know about you, but this sounds like a no-brainer!
The concept of wine as a health food has been intensively researched since the “French Paradox” was first described by French researcher Serge Renaud in the early 1990s. Renaud found that while the French ate the same fatty diet as Americans, they suffered only half the heart disease rates. He attributed that “paradox” to daily low dose wine drinking. His observation made sense since the Framingham study, a long term study established in 1948 which follows peoples’ diet and health, found a link between moderate alcoholic beverage intake and reduced death from coronary heart disease.
Since then, other large epidemiological studies have confirmed a link between moderate alcoholic beverage intake and reduction in heart disease, as compared to no alcohol or high alcohol intakes.
But wine has special properties over and above mere alcohol, mainly because of all of the healthy compounds in the grape. And red wine has ten times the benefits as white wine because 80% of the antioxidants in the grape are in the skin and seeds. Red wine is mashed with the skin and the seeds while white wine is made skin- and seed-less. Wine reduces blood clotting, raises HDL (good) cholesterol, reduces risk of heart disease, diabetes and many cancers. But be sure you consume moderately, consistently and with meals. Women – no more than five ounces per day and Men – no more than ten ounces per day. Read more about the health properties of wine!
Americans don’t each much rye, especially WHOLE rye. But I’d like to change that! My scandinavian folks have known about all the healthy benefits of rye for centuries. Now studies have proven it reduces heart disease risk because it lowers LDL cholesterol – and maybe for other reasons, too.
In the world of nutrition there seems to be no shortage of complexity and confusion. But I’ve found that simple and straightforward solutions are often strikingly successful. In no area is this more true than the remarkable power of whole grains.
While it’s true that whole grains are valuable for their fiber content, their benefits are much more vast. Whole grains play a profound role in health. A growing body of research shows whole grains- wheat, oats, rice, rye and corn, for example may help keep body weight down and prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.
A whole grain has three parts: bran, germ and endosperm. The bran and germ contain fiber, Vitamin E, B vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin and pantothenic acid) minerals (calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, sodium, selenium and iron), protein, essential oils, antioxidants and phytochemicals (plant substances that may protect health). The endosperm contains mostly starch with a little protein and very few nutrients. When a grain is refined, turning whole wheat flour into white flour or brown rice into white rice, only the nutrient-poor endosperm is left. The riches found in the bran and germ are lost.
Food manufacturers and producers attempt to make up for the loss in nutrients by enriching refined grains (those found in breads, pasta, rice and cereals, for instance) with some essential nutrients, such as B vitamins and iron. But overwhelming scientific evidence has found major health differences in people who eat more whole grains compared to people who eat refined grains, proving enrichment doesn’t make up for the difference:
* Whole-grain intake is strongly correlated with reduced cardiovascular disease. This is partly explained by the soluble fiber in certain grains (oats, RYE and barley have the highest levels), which is associated with cholesterol lowering. But other substances in grains, such as antioxidants like Vitamin E, also play a role.
* Many studies have shown a strong link between whole-grain intake and reduced incidence of type II diabetes. This may be partly because the fiber in whole grains slows down stomach emptying, causing a lower rise in blood glucose and insulin. Also, whole grains contain nutrients such as Vitamin E and magnesium, which may help improve insulin sensitivity. Whole rye bread, in particular, has a low glycemic index, which means it causes a lower rise in blood glucose after eating it than even whole wheat bread – and so is ideal for people with diabetes.
But looking for whole-grain rye in your supermarket can be challenging. Be sure the first ingredient on the nutrition label of your crackers or bread is “whole” rye.
Salmon is well known for its high omega-3-fatty-acid content, important for brain and heart functioning as well as reducing inflammation and its related diseases (learn more about omega-3-fatty acids).
But what you may not have know is that salmon is one of the few food sources of vitamin D. Vitamin D is the only nutrient we get from the sun – in fact we’re dependent on the sun to get enough. But since our lifestyles have changed and we’re indoors so much, or we use sunscreen, vitamin D deficiency has become rampant. This new lifestyle and its consequences has taught researchers that vitamin D is much more important than we ever imagined.
We’ve known for decades that vitamin D is necessary for calcium deposition in the bones and healthy bone mass. But, recently researchers have connected vitamin D deficiency with heart disease, hypertension, insulin-dependent diabetes, many cancers and even multiple sclerosis.
This is why for the past few years, I’ve asked all of my clients to get their vitamin D blood levels checked at their doctor’s office. It could save your life!
But in the meantime, eat your salmon! The American Heart Association recommends all adults eat a variety of fish, particularly oily fish, at least twice weekly.. that would include salmon, herring, sardines and anchovies.
Soy has been around for centuries. It was first domesticated as a Chinese crop during the Chou Dynasty (11th to 7th Century BC). Soy is a complex food filled with hundreds of beneficial nutrients. How it affects your body may depend on your genetics, your age, or your gender. It may also depend on your diet. For instance, if you replace a high animal fat/saturated fat/cholesterol diet with soy, the benefits could be huge simply because of the contrast, as soy contains very little saturated fat, mostly healthy polyunsaturated fat and no cholesterol. On it’s own, however, SOY:
* Is the only plant source of complete, high-quality protein containing all of the essential amino acids, comparable to animal protein.
* Is one of the best plant sources of iron – and it’s absorbed well by the body. A key to absorption is the presence of Vitamin C, high in fruits and vegetables.
* Contains healthy fats and no cholesterol. Replacing high fat meats and dairy products with soy is a way to keep your protein intake high, but reduce artery-clogging saturated fat and cholesterol.
* Reduces LDL (bad) cholesterol. For each 1% decrease in blood cholesterol, a 2% drop in heart disease risk is expected, according to the National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board.
Beyond those health benefits, medical studies are underway to determine if links exist between consuming SOY and:
* Reducing breast cancer risk. Breast cancer is low in Asian countries where soy is eaten in abundance. Epidemiological studies, the kind which follow populations over time measuring their diet and health, have found that women in China who have eaten soy over a longer period in their lives – since childhood as opposed to introduced in adulthood – have a reduced risk for breast cancer.
* Preventing prostate cancer. The incidence of prostate cancer in soy-heavy Asian countries is low. Results from epidemiological studies are mixed. A controlled study of men who included soy in a healthy diet found they significantly reversed their prostate cancer risk to the point where they were able to forego treatment, compared to men following a standard diet.
* Relieving menopausal symptoms. It has been theorized that the soy isoflavones – very weak estrogen-like compounds in soy – may reduce hot flashes and osteoporosis. A limited amount of human studies have been inconclusive, though some individuals report positive effects.
If soy is eaten since childhood, it may have a stronger effect because of how the soy isoflavones affect hormone levels. Scientists believe hormone levels may affect cancer risk. Whether it is proved to be a cure-all or not, whole soy foods, such as soy beans, edamame, tofu, tempeh, soy milk and soy protein – as opposed to isolated soy supplements such as the isoflavones such as genestein and daidzein (some animal studies have found negative affects of the pure isoflavones) – make a healthy addition to any diet.
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