Is it true that a chocolate a day will keep the doctor away? That’s what many chocolate companies would like you to believe in their Valentine’s Day advertisements. While it looks like cocoa has many health benefits, the chocolates you buy from your local stores may impart little of those benefits.
A Rich History
The cacao bean, grown mainly in Latin America, Africa and Asia, is loaded with beneficial compounds. In fact, its early uses, dating back 3,000 years were mainly medicinal. They have ranged from curing fatigue, angina, constipation, dental problems (tartar removal), dysentery, gout, an “overheated” heart, skin eruptions, fevers, and seizures. One doctor in the 1500s found it made people “extraordinarily fat” if used frequently and so it was prescribed for the thin and weak, according to an article in The Journal of Nutrition. It has been highly prized for centuries, which is reflected in its scientific name, Theobroma cacao, meaning “Food of the Gods.”
Eurpoeans discovered cocoa in the 1500s and over the next few centuries, chocolate, which we know and love so well was born. In this century, chocolate (processed cocoa with added fat, milk and sugar) has been enjoyed for its melt-in-your mouth texture and flavor, with its health giving properties largely forgotten by the civilized world, until recently.
In 1997, Harvard professor Norman K. Hollenberg published a landmark epidemiological study focused on cocoa. He found that high blood pressure was a rarity among Panama’s Kuna Indians who also didn’t experience the typical age-related increases. He at first attributed it to genetic protection. But, when the Kunas migrated to Panama City, their blood pressure increased, pointing to an environmental cause. Upon examination, Hollenberg found the Kunas drank large amounts of indigenous, unprocessed cocoa. Subsequent experiments conducted by Hollenberg and others, have found that cocoa, if high in flavanols, the beneficial plant compounds scientists believe impart most of cocoa’s benefits, relaxes the blood vessels, an important protection against hypertension and heart disease.
The Growth of Chocolate Research
Since Hollenberg’s findings, cocoa research has intensified, mainly due to the largess of companies like Mars, Inc, most famous for Milky Ways and M&Ms. What’s striking is that candy companies, such as Mars and Nestle’s, have hired respected nutrition scientists and have been largely responsible for the advancement of cocoa research. Mars has collaborated with such institutions as Harvard, the University of California at Davis, and even the United States Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service. Through their research and others, many interesting discoveries about cocoa’s health benefits have been made.
The flavanols in cocoa help maintain a healthy vascular system, relax blood vessels, they reduce blood clotting – an aspirin-like affect –reduce oxidative damage, and improve blood flow. A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found cocoa also reduces inflammation. All of which reduces heart disease risk.
There have been some suggestion that flavanols can be used to treat vascular diseases like dementia, pre-eclampsia in pregnant women, and anything related to blood flow. Emerging research is looking into cancer as well.
But what about that chocolate bar in your vending machine? Are there any health benefits there? The answer: probably not much.
Most research about chocolate’s health benefits have used unsweetened cocoa or specially formulated high-flavanol chocolate. Unfortunately, these compounds are rarely in the chocolate we eat in 21st century America. Flavanols impart a bitter taste so they’ve been removed from most popular products to improve their flavor.
Most of the flavanols are in the cocoa beans and the level decreases with each processing step when it goes from the bean, to the cocoa powder and ultimately a finished chocolate product.
Since flavanols and their health benefits are a new discovery, chocolate companies are just beginning to see if there are ways to keep flavanols consistently high, but still have a tasty, popular product.
Katherine’s Chocolate-for-Health Tips
You’ll get more flavanols, and therefore health benefits, with less processing. The first choice is cocoa, which isn’t Dutch processed – as when cocoa is “Dutch processed with alkali” the flavanols are reduced. Look for chocolate which has the highest percentage of cocoa as possible and to save calories, look for chocolate with lower fat and sugar levels. In general, cocoa is your best first choice. Second choice is a semisweet or bittersweet chocolate with a high cocoa percentage. Some chocolates go as high as 85% cocoa, but legally can be as low as 35%. I recommend no more than an ounce a day, which may be about 110 – 150 calories, depending on the chocolate. Any more than that and you’re probably going to take in too many calories for weight control.
Type of Chocolate Mg Flavonols Calories
1.3 oz Dark Chocolate Bars, Average*: 82 mg 187
1.3 oz Milk Chocolate Bars, Average*: 42 mg 198
1 TBSP Unsweetened Cocoa Powder, Average*: 75 mg 12
*USDA’s Nutrient Data Laboratory
Use this incredible chocolate fondue recipe for berries, sliced pears, bananas, apples, pears, candied orange peels, and dried such as mangos, or any favorite fruit!
Katherine’s Hot Cocoa:
1 tsp or 1 Tbsp unsweetened cocoa, to taste
1 tsp or 1 Tbsp honey
1 cup Skim Milk or 1% Milk or Soy Milk
Heat in microwave for 2 – 3 minutes and stir to blend the chocolate.
Using 1 teaspoon of cocoa and sugar, contains approximately 25 mg flavanols and 115 calories (zero saturated fat), depending on the milk used.
Using 1 Tablespoon of cocoa and sugar, contains approximately 75 mg flavanols and 153 calories
Are you interested in chocolate’s health benefits? How much chocolate do you eat? Let me know in my “comments” section below…
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Are you a weather weenie? STOP! That may cause you to gain weight – and feel depressed for lack of sunshine – every winter. Too bad because you don’t have to. With the right clothing (and attitude) you can go outside and play in below freezing temperatures and feel as snug-as-a-bug-in-a -rug. Of course, as a Swede, I learned these tricks of the north long ago. My secret? If the weather is in the twenties or above, well-chosen layers, layers and more layers. Here’s what I mean:
Top and Bottom Layer 1: Tank top and leggings. These are from The Four Seasons Health Club, where I hold lectures and consult.
Top Layer 2: Add a short-sleeved t-shirt. This cotton t-shirt is from the Four Seasons Health Club.
Top Layer 3: Cotton turtleneck from The Gap.
Top Layer 4: A thick, warm hoodie from Athleta, Georgetown.
Bottom Layer 2 atop the leggings: Insulated leggings for men and women from Sportobin.com. These leggings are so soft and warm, you can stop here to protect your bottom half, no matter how cold.
In single digit weather, Top Layer 4: I wear a ski jacket atop the turtleneck and stop there! But in the twenties or above, if you are active walking or exercising, the layers are best, and the ski jacket will make you feel too hot, believe it or not.
Top Layer 5: Cashmere headband from Betsy Fisher, to cover my ears, and a wool scarf and mittens from The Gap. The addition of the Swedish hand-knit wool sweater is for when the weather is in the twenties and low thirties.
Essential: The right shoes for snow, ice and rain: Mephisto insulated, water-proof walking boots from Comfort One Shoe Store, Georgetown. Now I’m ready for my daily 3-mile walk from Georgetown to the Memorial Bridge and back. Gotta keep that body fat down!
Final Layer: A soft, warm robe in front of a roaring fire. This one from the Four Seasons Health Club. Ahhhhhhhh…
Baby, it’s cold outside! But with the right clothing you can go outside and enjoy!
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Want thinner thighs by applying an almond-scented cream? How about eating all you want, yet losing weight by adding a powder to your food? Safe pills which cause weight loss?
Sounds good to me, too! But…
The weight loss industry is exploding with consumers spending $66 billion on weight loss products. Taking advantage of America’s obesity epidemic with false promises and lose-weight-quick schemes, supplement companies are raking in the dollars. I mean, who doesn’t want to lose weight with no effort? Watch my CNN interview on The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer for the whole story…
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Living at a spa to lose 3 pounds in a week impractical? Okay, create a “Home Health Spa” by doing the following:
1. Minesweep for Calorie Bombs – Banish any “risky,” fattening or unhealthy foods from the house,
2. Control Your Environment - Stock your home (and office) with delicious, healthy foods, such as the batch recipes from Diet Simple, and Diet Simple Farm to Table, and piles of clean, chopped, ready-to-grab fruit and veggie dishes and snacks, with delicious dips
3. Hit the Ground Running - Start Every Day with Physical Activity. Don’t even think about it! Before checking email, taking phone calls, or applying make-up (I know – I’m horrible!), get out the door for a walk, jump on your home treadmill, go to bootcamp or to the gym. Diet Simple gives you creative ways to increase your physical activity or email Katherine if you need personalized coaching.
4. Eat Breakfast Every Morning – Preferably at home, so you’re not tempted by the bagel-the-size-of-your-head at the office. Skimping on breakfast usually backfires and causes over-eating later. Diet Simple is filled with enticing breakfast ideas … or email Katherine to help you discover that perfect breakfast which will help you control your appetite every day.
5. Eat Light at Night – Soup is ideal for feeling satisfied with fewer calories so you don’t go to bed feeling too full. Wake up hungry for a good breakfast in the morning, Diet Simple and Diet Simple Farm to Table are filled with delicious soup ideas…
6. Eat plenty of yogurt - a Harvard study found people who ate yogurt regularly had lower body weights. A more recent study showed when the bacteria in your gastrointestinal tract improves – which is caused by the probiotics in yogurt – it may help you lose weight. I actually have clients who lose weight more quickly and effectively when they include daily yogurt in their diet,
7. Sleep at least 7 to 8 Hours – Sleep disturbances are correlated with weight problems,
8. It Takes A Village - Spend your time with like-minded people and avoid people who will sabotage your goals. This is an important feature of being at a spa which makes it so easy. If your spouse or friends are not on board, it will be difficult to stick with any plan. In Diet Simple, Katherine gives you ideas for handling the people in your life. Or, email Katherine for Personalized Coaching.
The Battle of the Bulge is Won at the Margins. Sweeping Dietary Overhauls are Impractical and Don’t Work Over Time!
Katherine’s Detox Diet to Lose Weight Fast
1. Eat your large, balanced – delicious – breakfast you’ll enjoy (examples in Diet Simple) comprising at least 1/3 of your day’s calories
3. At Lunch and Dinner, eat only lean proteins, fruits and veggies (Yogurt, fruits and veggies are UNLIMITED) until you lose your desired weight!
4. You must build up to at least 12,000 steps per day average, or email Katherine to find creative ways to burn those calories!
This may not be considered a genuine “detoxifying cleanse” but that’s good! It contains real food you can actually chew…Delicious, satisfying, loaded with nutrients and naturally fiber-rich, for natural “cleansing!”
Email Katherine for Your Personalized Detox Diet Plan. Custom-Designing Your Diet Makes Everything Easier and More Enjoyable!
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Holidays are a time for celebrating life and for bringing families together. They also mean many opportunities for socializing, over-eating and drinking. Remember, the “holidays” are only 3 days, not every day between Thanksgiving and New Years! And, isn’t looking and feeling your best your priority? How about the praises from friends and family you haven’t seen since last year? Or even your doctor, who is thrilled with your improved health and blood test results…
Overcoming the 6 Saboteurs with Katherine’s 6 Slimming Strategies for Surviving the Holidays Without the Bloat
1. Variety: It is the single most important factor determining how much you eat. Variety? Think about it: You’re at a party where there are seven types of cookies on the table. How many will you have? One of each? Maybe a few more of your favorite? What if there were only one type of cookie? You’d have one, maybe two at the most. When there are three pies on the holiday table – pumpkin, apple and pecan, won’t you have a slice of each? What if there were only one type of pie, say, apple? Wouldn’t you just have one slice?
Why? Studies show our instinct for variety evolved over millions of years so that we would get enough nutrients to survive. But today, because we are exposed to a variety of fattening foods – especially at restaurants, buffets, or parties – variety is a significant factor contributing to overeating and the obesity epidemic.
Bottom Line: How can you use variety to lose weight? Serve a variety of healthy foods to yourself and your family, have them accessible, ready-to-eat. Would you prefer a bowl of sliced apples or a fruit salad with a variety of fruits? Why do we love salad bars so much? Because there is a beautiful array of colors, flavors, textures and shapes from which to choose. Diet Simple’s menu plans are filled with variety to help you stay on your plan and lose weight. Having trouble? Email Katherine for Personalized Coaching...
2. Volume…Eating more to eat less: As long as the volume of the food is high, people can feel full with fewer calories. In one study, researchers varied the amount of water in a food eaten as a first course and found subjects who ate soup before a meal consumed 26 percent fewer calories at the main course. In another study, the researchers served salads before a main course, and found people ate about 100 calories fewer at the following meal.
Why? A large food volume caused by water incorporated into the food – as in vegetables, fruits and soups – even without added calories, improves your feelings of fullness in a variety of ways. (1) It causes stomach stretching and slows stomach emptying, stimulating the nerves and hormones that signal feelings of fullness, (2) Visually seeing a large volume of food can increase your ability to feel satisfied by it, and (3) The larger a meal and the longer a meal goes on, you lose interest in completing it. Water in food keeps calories low and has the largest influence on how much you eat. These studies show eating a high-water-content, low-calorie first course enhances satiety and reduces calorie intake at the next course.
Bottom Line: If you eat a low calorie soup or salad before every meal, you could save 200 calories daily and lose 20 pounds in a year with this simple change alone. Diet Simple, and Diet Simple Farm to Table are filled with delicious soup and salad recipes you and your family will love. Having trouble? Email Katherine for Personalized Coaching..
3. Serving Size: Simply the amount of food you are served will affect how full you feel and how much you eat. When people are served varying amounts of the same food, they will feel satisfied with the smaller portion. But when served more, they eat more without realizing it, sometimes 300 to 800 more calories. If the effect persists beyond two days, those extra calories, added daily over the course of a year, would pack on 30 to 80 pounds in one year.
Why? We humans find portion size difficult to judge, and don’t adjust our intake. Also people tend to eat in units. If we’re given a bag or a portion of something, there’s a compulsion to finish it, especially if it’s a tasty, high calorie food. So, when served larger portions, we adjust our level of satiety to accommodate greater calorie intakes. Fortunately, studies have also found that the reverse is true.
Bottom Line: Control the food that is put in front of you. When good-tasting, lower-calorie foods or portion-controlled meals are available, we will eat those and feel just as satisfied. If that saves 300 calories at lunch and dinner – that’s 60 pounds lost in one year. Diet Simple, and Diet Simple Farm to Table are filled with wonderful ideas and recipes to help you stay on your program. Having trouble? Email Katherine for Personalized Coaching…
4. Food Pushers: To be fair, “food pushers,” as I call them, aren’t necessarily bad people. Your mom, your spouse, your friends-they just want to please you. They are people who think they have your best interests at heart. My clients and I have tried various tactics through the years, most of them utter failures. I’ve tried explaining that I wasn’t hungry. I even went through a phase of telling people I was allergic to this or that. That didn’t work, either. And I learned that the worst thing you can say to a food pusher is, “No thanks, I’m on a diet” or “Thanks, I’m watching it.”
Why? You might as well say, “Talk me into it!” (1) Your excuse is giving the food pusher a double signal – that you really want it but have to refuse, (2) It might also sound insulting, implying that the food isn’t good enough for your refined tastes, (3) And finally your response might make the pusher feel guilty, as if he or she should be “watching it,” too. All of these things challenge the food pusher to seduce you.
Bottom Line: I finally began to make headway when I learned the most basic rule of all: Never give excuses. I’m delighted to say that one of the foremost authorities on etiquette told me that this approach is both appropriate and wise. ”The best answer is a simple but firm ‘No thank you,’” declared Judith Martin, the syndicated columnist who writes as Miss Manners. “Once you give an excuse, you open yourself to argument.” Save at least 200 calories per day by saying “No thank you” to your food pusher and lose 20 pounds in one year! Katherine shares many ideas for handling food pushers in Diet Simple. Having trouble? Email Katherine for Personalized Coaching...
5. Sweets: are everywhere during the holidays. People have an inborn attraction to sweets. If you don’t believe it, simply watch an infant’s response to something sweet versus, say, a vegetable. There’s an automatic acceptance, even joy, after eating something sweet. On the other hand, vegetables are an acquired taste, which may take 10 – 20 tries before acceptance.
Why? This is partly explained by evolution. We’ve been eating naturally sweet foods such as breast milk and fruit for millions of years. They contain life-sustaining nutrients, and a love for those foods helped keep us alive. Also, during evolution, an attraction to scarce calorie-dense foods, such as sweets and fats, improved our chances for survival.
Bottom Line: Because we have a natural urge for sweets, include something naturally sweet at every meal, such as fruit (remember the importance of variety?). My clients who try this find their cravings for high calorie, super-sweet foods reduce. Another strategy would be to go ahead and eat a tiny sweet each day, say, 10% of your daily calories. Or, splurge once a week on a large dessert. Eat a 150 calorie treat instead of a 300 calorie treat daily and lose 15 pounds in a year! In Diet Simple, Katherine has many ideas for having your sweets and eating them too! Having trouble? Email Katherine for Personalized Coaching…
6. Physical Activity: Simply put, during the holidays you’re so busy, you may feel you have less time to exercise. This is why I and all my clients wear pedometers, a tiny device which measure your steps. We find the pedometer encourages us to walk just a little more here and there.
Bottom Line: Just 2,000 steps – or one mile – more per day (only 15 to 20 minutes) will burn about 100 to 200 more calories and that saves 10 to 20 pounds in a year! In Diet Simple, Katherine gives you many creative ways to increase your physical activity – to fit your unique needs for weight loss – so you barely notice you’re exercising! Having trouble? Email Katherine for Personalized Coaching…
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Click the video above or watch on CNN
Our attraction to sweets is primal. We’ve been attracted to sweets for millions of years. During our evolution, sweet foods kept us alive: breast milk, fruit, which are also relatively concentrated calorie sources, got us through regular famines and kept us alive. We are descended from those survivors!
Sweets light up the pleasure centers of our brain, similar to addictive substances. Have you ever noticed, the more sweets you eat, the more you crave? Are you more attracted to sweets during certain times of the year?
With the holidays looming, clients are streaming in desperately worried about how to handle their sweet cravings and prevent the predictable five to ten pound weight gain over the holiday season. Watch my CNN video (above) for 4 surprising strategies to reduce sweets’ addictive hold on you. And, believe it or not, you can have your sweets and eat them too! For more detailed information on sweets and cravings, read the article on my blog, originally published in The Washington Post, with updates in my more recent articles in Livescience.com and The Huffington Post.
And please visit me for personalized coaching this holiday season… Or, invite me to give a presentation to your organization…
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Any greens will do in this versatile recipe.
1 pound Kale, cleaned and stems removed
2 pounds Spinach, cleaned and stems removed
1 Tablespoon Olive or Canola Oil
1 Large Garlic Clove, minced
2 teaspoons fresh Rosemary, chopped (or 1 tsp dry)
1 teaspoon fresh Thyme leaves, chopped (or ½ tsp dry)
1 recipe Olive Oil Bechamel Sauce (see recipe)
Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper to taste
¼ Cup Parmesan or Gruyere Cheese, freshly grated
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash the Kale and Spinach and remove the tough stems. Chop roughly. Heat the oil in a large iron skillet over medium-low heat. Add the garlic and cook until it just begins to color. Add the greens, the rosemary, and thyme to the pan, and let cook a couple of more minutes while stirring until the greens are wilted.
Stir the Bechamel sauce into the greens. Add salt and pepper. Pour into an oiled 2-quart soufflé or heat resistant glass dish and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake at 400 degrees F for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the top is just beginning to brown.
Olive Oil Bechamel Sauce
This is a classic French white sauce, but using healthy olive oil instead of butter.
Makes 2.5 cups
3 Cups 1% Milk
2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 Tablespoons Flour
Salt and Ground Pepper to taste
Pinch of grated nutmeg (optional)
Simmer the milk in a saucepan on medium-low heat. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a heavy skillet. Add a bit of flour, and when it sizzles, add the rest. Stir constantly with a wooden spoon or whisk over medium heat. Do not brown. Whisk in the hot milk. Return the mixture to the heat, stirring until the sauce thickens. Reduce to low making sure it does not burn. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg to taste.
Deep Green Leafy Vegetables have the highest antioxidant content of all vegetables. High in fiber, they are rich in minerals, B-vitamins, beta-carotene, and lutein, a compound which may help reduce the risk of age-related macular degeneration (the leading cause of preventable blindness). Absorption of carotenoids, such as lutein, in your body is increased by cooking and by the presence of fat (so cook in a little healthy olive or canola oil!).
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BRAIN MAY FLUSH OUT TOXINS DURING SLEEP
An NIH-funded study suggests sleep clears the brain of damaging molecules associated with neurodegeneration. A good night’s rest may literally clear the mind. Using mice, researchers showed for the first time that the space between brain cells may increase during sleep, allowing the brain to flush out toxins that build up during waking hours. These results suggest a new role for sleep in health and disease. The study was funded by the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), part of the NIH.
“Sleep changes the cellular structure of the brain. It appears to be a completely different state,” said Maiken Nedergaard, M.D., D.M.Sc., co-director of the Center for Translational Neuromedicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York, and a leader of the study.
For centuries, scientists and philosophers have wondered why people sleep and how it affects the brain. Only recently have scientists shown that sleep is important for storing memories. In this study, Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues unexpectedly found that sleep may be also be the period when the brain cleanses itself of toxic molecules.
Their results, published in Science, show that during sleep a plumbing system called the glymphatic system may open, letting fluid flow rapidly through the brain. Dr. Nedergaard’s lab recently discovered the glymphatic system helps control the flow of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), a clear liquid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.
”It’s as if Dr. Nedergaard and her colleagues have uncovered a network of hidden caves and these exciting results highlight the potential importance of the network in normal brain function,” said Roderick Corriveau, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS.
Initially the researchers studied the system by injecting dye into the CSF of mice and watching it flow through their brains while simultaneously monitoring electrical brain activity. The dye flowed rapidly when the mice were unconscious, either asleep or anesthetized. In contrast, the dye barely flowed when the same mice were awake.
“We were surprised by how little flow there was into the brain when the mice were awake,” said Dr. Nedergaard. ”It suggested that the space between brain cells changed greatly between conscious and unconscious states.”
To test this idea, the researchers inserted electrodes into the brain to directly measure the space between brain cells. They found that the space inside the brains increased by 60 percent when the mice were asleep or anesthetized.
“These are some dramatic changes in extracellular space,” said Charles Nicholson, Ph.D., a professor at New York University’s Langone Medical Center and an expert in measuring the dynamics of brain fluid flow and how it influences nerve cell communication.
Certain brain cells, called glia, control flow through the glymphatic system by shrinking or swelling. Noradrenaline is an arousing hormone that is also known to control cell volume. Similar to using anesthesia, treating awake mice with drugs that block noradrenaline induced unconsciousness and increased brain fluid flow and the space between cells, further supporting the link between the glymphatic system and consciousness.
Previous studies suggest that toxic molecules involved in neurodegenerative disorders accumulate in the space between brain cells. In this study, the researchers tested whether the glymphatic system controls this by injecting mice with labeled beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease, and measuring how long it lasted in their brains when they were asleep or awake. Beta-amyloid disappeared faster in mice brains when the mice were asleep, suggesting sleep normally clears toxic molecules from the brain.
“These results may have broad implications for multiple neurological disorders,” said Jim Koenig, Ph.D., a program director at NINDS. “This means the cells regulating the glymphatic system may be new targets for treating a range of disorders.”
The results may also highlight the importance of sleep.
“We need sleep. It cleans up the brain,” said Dr. Nedergaard.
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Body Fat – It’s Not Just A Matter Of Appearances
It Can Also Be Toxic
We used to think that body fat was inert. But new research has found that fat tissue produces toxic chemicals, causing inflammation, oxidation, insulin resistance, and cancer-promoting cell growth caused by an increased level of “growth factors.” These chemicals circulate through the body and correlate with many cancers (including aggressive prostate, breast, and colon cancers), heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, muscle weakness, bone loss and other disastrous conditions. Why? But, more importantly:
But, Take Heart! Even if you’re overweight, there are many things you can do to improve your odds of avoiding these diseases! Read on…
Inflammation, caused by excess body fat among other things, contributes to illnesses which are chronic, costly, and corrode our quality of life. Inflammation is a silent killer. You don’t see it or even feel it until after many years when it blossoms into full-blown diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s, arthritis, muscle weakness or bone loss.
How could inflammation contribute to so many seemingly unrelated illnesses? Inflammation is your natural defense against disease-causing pathogens and it can happen anywhere in your body. When you cut your finger and it becomes red, swollen and painful, that’s inflammation at work. It’s your body’s way of fighting infection and it’s a lifesaver. Once healing begins, inflammation ceases and the body resumes normal functioning. But that immune response – which is constantly on patrol preventing diseases throughout our body, in our blood vessels and organs – can be a double-edged sword. Sometimes, it doesn’t shut down and inflammation becomes chronic. In the blood vessels, inflammation causes fatty plaque to rupture, form blood clots and leads to heart attack or stroke.
Inflammation may also contribute to insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. And emerging research is finding that inflammation may produce genetic mutations which cause and spread cancer. It’s even a culprit in weakening muscular strength and reducing bone mass as we age. There is also evidence that in the brain, inflammation attacks nerve cells, and may contribute to dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. The cause of chronic inflammation can be genetic or environmental. Scientists have found that excess body fat, a sedentary lifestyle, eating a poor diet, smoking, and high blood pressure, all increase various inflammatory biomarkers and contribute to chronic inflammation and disease.
Your doctor may be able to measure your level of inflammation with a test measuring your blood’s “C-Reactive Protein” or CRP.
What exactly is oxidation? Oxidation, caused by excess body fat among other things, is similar to rusting. An example of oxidation is an apple slice turning brown when exposed to air (oxygen). But simply adding lemon or any citrus juice, an antioxidant, keeps the apple’s flesh fresh, and prevents the browning or oxidation from occurring. Our bodies are constantly “rusting” or experiencing oxidation. Oxidation is responsible for many of the conditions of aging including, but not limited to, heart disease, cancer, arthritis, bone loss, muscle weakness, neurological impairments affecting cognition and balance.
Oxidation is constantly occurring in your cells due to excess body fat, unhealthy diets, environmental pollutants, smoking, the sun, the heat generated through basic metabolic functioning/digestion, and other factors. It takes a large supply of antioxidant-rich foods, and regular amounts at every meal, to counter this.
High Glucose and Insulin
Excess body fat causes high glucose and insulin in your blood stream. High glucose has serious consequences for your cardiovascular system, can lead to blindness, kidney disease, impotence, and is a precurser to diabetes. High insulin levels are associated with heart attack and colon cancer, uncontrolled cell growth and their “growth factors” contributing to various cancers and other diseases.
What To Do About Body Fat?
Exercise Type: Many people believe that a hard work-out in the gym will lead to weight loss: NOT! I have so many clients who have done this for years and their fat hasn’t budged. You’ve seen them in the gym yourself: People who’ve come in year after year after year, and they’re still as overweight now as they were when they started. I know it’s frustrating. Just ask Joe, Elizabeth and Grace. They’re major athletes. Elizabeth is a champion rower, Grace is close to being a pro tennis player, and Joe “works out more intensely than men half his age!” So, what gives?
While strength training and yoga are wonderful for your body and mind, they do very little toward losing weight, no matter how hard your workout is. You need cardiovascular exercise – simply moving – to lower body fat. What do I mean by moving? Walking is ideal! Yes, simply walking. I and all my clients use pedometers to determine if we’re getting enough cardiovascular activity, or walking, daily.
My goal for weight and health maintenance is about 10,000 steps daily (average). That’s about 5 miles or 1.5 hours accumulated through the day. If you want to lose weight, usually it takes about 12,000 steps. If you’re in a hurry to lose weight, or want to get off – or lower – medications for high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, try 15,000 steps per day (average). It will transform your health and your life! Just ask Joe, Elizabeth and Grace – who have lost body fat for the first time in years – and are now true believers in simply WALKING!
Minimizing the Damage if You Are Overweight
Cardiovascular activity seems to be, by all accounts, the fountain of youth! It naturally clears glucose from your bloodstream and that keeps insulin levels low. It lowers blood pressure, clears fat and bad cholesterol quickly and efficiently after meals, and increases good cholesterol, thus reducing your risk for heart disease. People who are more active have less disease and live longer. Although obesity increases the risk for insulin resistance and type II diabetes, a study reported in the Annals of Internal Medicine showed that cardiovascularly fit obese people with a BMI above 27 cut their diabetes rate in half. The study showed even obese people received an independent effect from exercise.
Nutrition: Eat plenty of antioxidant-rich and ant-inflammatory foods. Eat in a way which minimizes blood sugar and insulin spikes, and cholesterol clogging your arteries.
To accomplish this, eat more…
Antioxidant-Rich and Anti-Inflammatory Foods: Plant foods such as fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains should be eaten at each meal to counteract the negative effects of oxidation and inflammation. Berries and Deep Green Leafy Vegetables have been found to have some of the highest antioxidant scores of all fruits and vegetables. But every fruit and vegetable will provide healthy anti-oxidants and health benefits. Supplement your diet with nuts, fresh olive oil, tea, and consistent, small amounts of alcohol.
Anti-inflammatory Foods, such as…
Fish: The omega 3 fatty acids, DHA and EPA, found in fish, are the compounds most consistently found to reduce inflammation. It’s been confirmed in large observational studies as well as controlled clinical intervention trials that fish and fish oil reduce heart disease by decreasing inflammation, arrhythmia, blood clotting, CRP and other inflammatory markers. High fish diets have also been found to reduce the incidence of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Marine-derived omega-3’s may also reduce cancer risk, arthritis, asthma, psoriasis, and other inflammatory diseases.
Flax Seeds and Walnuts: New research has found that the plant version of omega-3 fatty acids, ALA, found in flax seeds, walnuts, and canola oil reduce inflammation. A clinical intervention study published in the Journal of Nutrition found ALA reduces multiple cardiovascular disease risk factors, including the reduction of CRP and other inflammatory markers. The researchers also found that as CRP lowered, good (HDL) cholesterol increased, a double benefit and an added protection from heart disease.
Vitamins E and C-rich foods: A study found that supplementation with vitamins E and C reduced inflammatory markers and improved asthma, an inflammatory condition, in children. Vitamin E is high in nuts, seeds, and oils, especially wheat germ oil, sunflower seeds, and almonds. Vitamin C is high in fruits and vegetables, especially strawberries, oranges, cantaloupe, tomato juice, mangos, cauliflower, broccoli and sweet potatoes. Another study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that when people ate regular doses of vegetable soup causing high vitamin C levels in their blood, biomarkers of inflammation decreased.
Fruits and Vegetables: Food high in antioxidants play an important anti-inflammatory role since oxidation is part of the inflammatory process. Studies show people who eat diets low in antioxidants – that is, low in fruits and vegetables – have more inflammatory diseases, like heart disease, cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, dementia and Alzheimer’s.
The Mediterranean Diet: A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that people eating a Mediterranean style diet had significantly reduced CRP and other inflammatory biomarkers. They also had reduced insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes. The Mediterranean diet group ate at least nine to eleven ounces of fruit, four to six ounces of vegetables, one to two ounces of walnuts, 14 ounces of whole grains or legumes daily, and increased their consumption of olive oil. While the control group ate the same level of carbohydrates, protein and fat, they didn’t eat as much complex carbohydrates, fiber or olive oil and ate more saturated fat and cholesterol.
Vegetarian Diets: A study published in the Journal of Nutrition found that long term vegetarians had markedly lower CRP levels (and their blood vitamin C levels were higher).
Reducing refined sugar, sweets and flour will help reduce blood sugar and insulin
Red meat and processed meats are correlated with heart disease and various cancers
Additional Behaviors for Minimizing the Damage of Being Overweight
Keep calories at low but healthy levels while still feeling full (in Diet Simple you can determine your personalized calorie needs). Increase consumption of high- fiber, high-water- containing, nutrient- dense, low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Reduce consumption of nutrient-poor, calorie- dense processed and refined foods such as chips, crackers and sweets.
Overall Calorie Reduction: Calorie restriction reduces oxidation, a contributor to inflammation. Calorie restriction also reduces inflammatory markers.
Ideally, Lose Body Fat. It will reduce oxidation, inflammation, negative hormone levels, cancer-promoting growth factors and cell proliferation. Most scientists will agree that weight loss is probably the most effective way to reduce inflammation, oxidation and cancer-promoting cellular proliferation. We used to believe that body fat was inert. But new research has found that adipose tissue produces pro-inflammatory compounds which may help explain why obesity is correlated with heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases.
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Nutrition makes a difference!
by Viggy Parr with contributions by Katherine Tallmadge
When men move to the United States or adopt a more westernized diet, their prostate cancer rates increase dramatically.
Based on international comparisons of prostate cancer rates in different countries and over time, studies where researchers examine the lifestyle and health of a group in one location and compare that to the lifestyle and health of a group in a different location—have shown that Asian men, who have some of the lowest worldwide rates of prostate cancer, increase their risk of that cancer when they adopt a Western (American) diet with more animal foods. A recent study (Ahmedin et al, 2010) found that rates of prostate cancer are rising in countries with formerly low rates, such as Japan and Singapore because of westernization, including a sedentary lifestyle, diets filled with animal fats, and rising rates of obesity. These results prove that there is not necessarily a genetic protection against prostate cancer in Asian men, but rather a strong environmental factor.
I hope that the following lifestyle advice can benefit all men and help them to significantly reduce their risk of prostate cancer and help them to live a long and healthy life! (1) Learn more about PSA testing controversies..
1. Body fat: The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity each day to reduce body fat and help prevent cancer in general. This recommendation is particularly important for prostate cancer.
“Although most men will develop prostate cancer if they live long enough, the cancer often remains dormant and never impacts their health. Only a small minority of men will develop the aggressive form of prostate cancer that can be fatal,” ccording to Karen Collins, MS, RDN, a registered dietitian and nutrition advisor for the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR).
Overweight men are more at risk for aggressive prostate cancer than men of normal weight. The reasons behind this are not entirely clear; Collins suggests that the hormone changes involved in weight gain or even obesity-caused chronic low-grade inflammation could be the culprit. Inflammation is associated with many cancers for reasons that are not fully understood. Collins explains that inflammation could set off changes in cell signaling pathways that could lead to changes in cell growth and reproduction and the cell’s ability to self-destruct, ultimately leading to cancer.
- Bottom line: You don’t have to spend hours at the gym to get the cancer-preventing health benefits of exercise—a simple walk through the neighborhood can do wonders for your health. Exercise can be fun, too—try an active game of golf or badminton with friends, yoga, kayaking, paddle boarding, volleyball, swimming—any activity that gets your heart pumping is perfect!
- Body fat: 8 Steps to Determine – Are YOU dangerously overweight? Learn more about PSA testing controversies!
2. Lycopene (Red fruits such as tomatoes, watermelon, guava): Many studies have shown that lycopene-rich foods reduce the risk of prostate cancer, but the mechanism behind that reduction was not well understood until now. A recent study found that lycopene has a substantial protective effect against prostate cancer by interfering with the genes that would allow the prostate cancer cells to grow and survive. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends that men take advantage of lycopene’s cancer-preventing effects and fill their diets with foods such as tomatoes, watermelon and guava.
- Bottom line: Fill your diet with lycopene-rich foods such as tomatoes, watermelon, and red grapefruit. Remember—the cancer-fighting properties of lycopene in tomatoes are much stronger when the tomatoes are cooked, such as in marinara sauce or tomato soup.
- Source: Rafi, MM, S Kanakasabai, MD Reyes, and JJ Bright. “Lycopene modulates growth and survival associated genes in prostate cancer.” Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry 2013.
3. Selenium: The AICR recommends incorporating selenium-rich foods into your diet to help decrease your prostate cancer risk. Selenium is essential to proper immune system and thyroid functioning, and it has been shown to be anti-carcinogenic. In addition to its powerful preventive effects, selenium may also slow prostate tumor growth. One of the best sources of selenium is the Brazil nut. Besides being a great selenium reservoir, Brazil nuts are high in protein, fiber, magnesium, and phosphorus, along with vitamin E, vitamin B6, calcium, and iron, just to name a few. These nutrient powerhouses can also help lower cholesterol.
- When paired with vitamin E, selenium packs an extra punch in preventing prostate cancer. Almonds are a great source of vitamin E and have a host of other health benefits, as well.
- Bottom line: Enjoy selenium-rich foods such as brazil nuts, sunflower seeds, eggs, mushrooms, grains, and onions to help lower your risk of prostate cancer.
- Source: Yang, Jun. “Brazil nuts and associated health benefits: A review.” LWT-Food Science and Technology 42(10): 2009.
4. Cruciferous vegetables: Consumption of vegetables in the crucifer family, including broccoli, cauliflower, and cabbage has recently been linked to a decrease in prostate cancer risk. Chemicals in vegetables like broccoli can suppress the growth of prostate cancer cells and therefore prevent development of the disease.
- Source: Watson, GW, LM Beaver, DE Williams, RH Dashwood, and E Ho. “Phytochemicals from Cruciferous Vegetables, Epigenetics, and Prostate Cancer Prevention.” The American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists Journal: 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23800833
- Bottom line: Even if delicious, nutritious foods like broccoli and cauliflower don’t definitively reduce your risk of prostate cancer, they are still incredibly healthful foods with a huge variety of proven benefits. Toss some broccoli into your salad or replace the mashed potatoes with some smashed cauliflower!
5. Vegetable fats: A long-term study of men with prostate cancer found that men who ate more vegetable fats (think nuts, avocados, and nut oils) had a significantly reduced risk of dying from any cause. Simply swapping ten percent of daily carbohydrates for vegetable fats lowered the men’s risk of death by 26 percent, and swapping vegetable fats for ten percent of daily animal fat reduced the men’s risk of death by a whopping 34 percent.
- Bottom line: Instead of cooking foods in trans-fatty oils or bacon fat, use olive or peanut oil. Foods such as nuts, avocados, peanut butter, and olives are good sources of vegetable fats, as well.
- Source: Richman, Erin L., Stacey A. Kenfield, Jorge E. Chavarro, Meir J. Stampfer, Edward L. Giovannucci, Walter C. Willett, and June M. Chan. “Fat Intake After Diagnosis and Risk of Lethal Prostate Cancer and All-Cause Mortality.” JAMA Internal Medicine 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23752662
6. Animal fats: Frequent meat-eaters beware: studies have shown that diets high in animal fats can increase your risk for prostate cancer. Studies of the often vegetarian Seventh-Day Adventists show decreased rates of prostate cancer in that population compared to the national average.
- Source: Le Marchand, Loic, Laurence N. Kolonel, Lynne R. Wilkens, Beth C. Myers, and Tomio Hirohata. “Animal Fat Consumption and Prostate Cancer: A Prospective Study in Hawaii.” Epidemiology 5(3): 1994. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8038241
- Milk: A recent studyfound that whole milk, which is high in animal fat, is associated with more aggressive, fatal prostate cancer. Skim/low-fat milk was associated with less aggressive prostate cancers. Some researchers believe that the calcium in milk may be behind milk’s association with prostate cancer, while others believe that natural growth factors in milk are the true cause. Men are urged to be careful about calcium supplements—as with many types of foods, it’s necessary to find the middle ground between too much and too little calcium. Whereas excessive calcium (1200-1500+ mg/day) is associated with increased prostate cancer risk, adequate calcium consumption in general is pretty clearly associated with lower risk of colon cancer. According to Collins, “You’d hate for men to get the idea that they should totally minimize their calcium intake, since some calcium in moderate amounts doesn’t seem to increase prostate cancer risk.”
- Source: Song, Y, JE Chavarro, Y Cao, W Qiu, L Mucci, HD Sesso, MJ Stampfer, E Giovannucci, M Pollak, S Liu, and J Ma. “Whole milk intake is associated with prostate cancer-specific mortality among U.S. male physicians.” Journal of Nutrition 143(2): 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23256145
- Bottom line: It’s not a bad idea to reduce your meat intake. If you do eat meat, opt for leaner meats such as chicken and fish instead of fatty beef. It also wouldn’t hurt to cut back on milk or switch to skim milk.
7. Soy: Stanford researcher Dr. David Feldman has found that soy can have protective effects against prostate cancer. Genistein, a soy phytochemical, can boost calcium absorption by protecting a vitamin D-derived chemical, calcitriol, against breakdown. A study involving rats found that when placed on a high-soy diet and given supplements of calcitriol, the rats were much less likely to grow prostate tumors.
- Bottom line: This doesn’t mean that you should load up on soy and vitamin D—some of the mice in the soy-vitamin D study developed hypercalcemia, a condition that occurs when there is too much calcium in the blood. Enjoy minimally processed, nonfermented forms of soy every now and then, such as tofu and soy milk.
- Source: Studying D, Soy and Prostate Cancer. AICR Newsletter. http://www.aicr.org/publications/newsletter/2013-winter-120/studying-d-soy-and-prostate.html
- Source: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/craig-cooper/soy-and-chocolate-too-muc_b_756604.html
8. Fried foods: A new study from the University of Washington has found that regularly eating fried foods such as French fries and fried chicken could increase your prostate cancer risk. The high heats involved in deep-frying create new molecular compounds that may be carcinogenic. You don’t necessarily need to swear off doughnuts and fries forever—the study also found that men who ate fried foods one to three times a month did not have an increased risk for prostate cancer.
- Bottom line: Try to replace fried foods with fresh foods whenever possible, but if you simply have to have a doughnut or fries, limit yourself to one or two indulgences per month.
- Source: Stott-Miller, Marni, Marian L. Neuhouser, and Janet L. Stanford. “Consumption of deep-fried foods and risk of prostate cancer.” The Prostate 73(9): 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23335051
9. Omega-3 fatty acids: A recent study by Dr. Theodore Brasky and colleagues found that high blood levels of omega-3 fatty acids is associated with an increased risk of prostate cancer. However, the study suffers from several serious methodological flaws. The study did not examine any aspects of diet in the volunteers, nor did they ask if the men were taking fish oil supplements. All assessments of omega-3’s were performed by measuring omega-3 blood levels. Karen Collins of AICR cautions that the real issue is all about balance; the balance of omega-3’s and omega-6’s (another type of essential dietary fat) seems to be very important for inflammation. People who eat little to no fish and fill their diets with processed foods may have inadequate consumption of omega-3’s, whereas someone else could go too far in the other direction and throw off that delicate balance by eating a low fat diet with omega-3 supplements. There is likely a tipping point at which omega-3’s cease being helpful and start to be harmful due to the imbalance that too many omega-3’s can cause, much like calcium and milk. It’s important to recognize that although omega-3’s are important, the rest of the diet and lifestyle must also be taken into account. For example, the Inuits, the native people of Greenland, have a diet rich in fish, giving them plenty of omega-3’s. The Inuits also have incredibly low rates of prostate cancer.
- http://www.cnn.com/2013/07/12/health/salmon-cancer-time/index.html (Brasky research)
- Brasky, TM, AK Darke, X Song, CM Tangen, PJ Goodman, IM Thompson, FL Meyskens, Jr., GE Goodman, LM Minasian, HL Parnes, EA Klein, and AR Kristal. “Plasma Phospholipid Fatty Acids and Prostate Cancer Risk in the SELECT Trial.” Journal of the National Cancer Institute: 2013. http://jnci.oxfordjournals.org/content/early/2013/07/09/jnci.djt174.abstract
- Dewailly, E, G Mulvad, H Sloth Pedersen, JC Hansen, N Behrendt, and JP Hart Hansen. “Inuit are protected against prostate cancer.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention: 12(9): 2003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14504206
By eating in accordance with the most up-to-date scientific evidence, you could help reduce your risk for prostate cancer. Start by filling your diet with lycopene-containing foods like tomatoes, watermelon, and grapefruit, selenium-rich foods like brazil nuts, eggs, and mushrooms, vegetable fats like nuts and avocados, and cruciferous vegetables like broccoli and cauliflower. What you add in is just as important as what you leave out—try to cut back on red meat, whole milk, and fried foods. Top everything off with at least 30 minutes of exercise each day and you’ll be doing both yourself and your family a whole lot of good. Collins points out that “for cancer overall, we are discovering so many protective compounds in food that we should focus on variety rather than a few superstars to eat over and over again.” Take her advice and mix it up once in a while. If you follow all of the tips in this article, you’ll be taking full advantage of the most up-to-date prostate cancer prevention science and improving your overall health along the way!
Jemal, Ahmedin, Melissa M. Center, Carol DeSantis, and Elizabeth M. Ward. “Global Patterns of Cancer Incidence and Mortality Rates and Trends.” Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention 2010. http://cebp.aacrjournals.org/content/19/8/1893.long