Sunday, January 25, 2015

5 Fruits and Vegetables a Day for a Healthier You

Last week I wrote about the Mediterranean diet.  A major component of this diet is eating many fruits and vegetables.   A very easy way to ensure you are getting enough fruits and vegetables is to focus on eating at least 5 A DAY.  Not only are fruits and vegetables loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber they are also loaded with PHYTOCHEMICALS.   “Phyto” is from the Greek and means “plant”.  Phytochemicals are only in plant foods, are not nutrients but are ever so important to your health.   Different fruits and vegetables have different phytochemicals so varying the kind of fruits and vegetable and varying the color is important. 
Blue/Purple - helps fight aging, improves your memory and reduces cancer risk.   Choose plums, eggplant, raisins, blueberries, black olives, blackberries, purple grapes
Red – great for your heart, tomatoes and other red vegetables and fruits have lycopene – a phytochemical that is an antioxidant.  Helps lower your bad cholesterol, lowers your blood pressure and helps reduce your cancer risk.  Choose cherries, cranberries, red grapes, watermelon, tomatoes, strawberries and raspberries.  You can also get lycopene from spaghetti sauce, tomato sauce, tomato catsup, tomato soup, salsa, cocktail sauce and tomato juice. 
Orange/Yellow – great for vision.  Have trouble seeing in the dark, driving at night?  Eat some carrots.  These phytochemicals also help your immune system and reduce cancer risk.  Choose cantaloupe, mango, papaya, sweet potatoes, carrots, pumpkin, oranges, pineapple, apricots, tangerines, yellow corn, acorn squash.
Green – Also good for your vision and also reduces cancer risk.  The darker the green the better.  Say good-bye to iceberg lettuce and choose spinach, collards, kale, dark leafy greens, broccoli, limes, asparagus, green beans, green pepper, avocados, green grapes, kiwi,  cucumbers, honeydew and snow peas. 
Having a salad made with a mix of greens?  Add some sliced carrot chips, some diced green pepper, some tomato slices, some radishes, some black olives, and even some dried cranberries.  It is easy to add phytochemicals to your meals.  

Sunday, January 18, 2015

What is the Mediterranean Diet and why is a top rated diet for 2015?

As discussed in last week’s blog, the US News and World Reports ranks the best diets (Best Diets 2015).  One of the top rated diets is the Mediterranean diet.  This diet is not really a “diet” but a way of eating that is healthy overall.   So why is the Mediterranean diet so great and what is the diet?
Mediterranean diet – health benefits
  • Heart Health - This diet promotes heart health as it decreases your risk of heart disease
  • Depression – want a diet to improve your mood, this is it.
  • Dementia – want a brain healthy diet?  This is it.
  • Cancer – following the Mediterranean diet reduces your risk of cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease – the Mediterranean diet reduces one’s chances of getting Parkinson’s disease
What is the Mediterranean diet?
Focus on Fruits and Vegetables – you have heard of “5 a day”, to eat at least 5 fruits and veggies a day.  Well the Mediterranean diet steps it up  – 6 servings of fruit and vegetables a day minimum, but more is better.  Some recommend up to 10 servings a day.
Grains – focus on whole grains.  White bread can taste good but not so great for your health.  Those who are “watching their carbs” shouldn’t be watching their whole grains.  Whole grain bread is an important part of the Mediterranean diet.  Other whole grains include brown rice, buckwheat pancakes, quinoa, oats like oatmeal.  Enjoy that bowl of Cheerios or that hot bowl of oatmeal.
Nuts – Dr. Oz recommends a handful of nuts a day and nuts are important part of the Mediterranean diet.  I like the Hearth Health Nut mix but there are many mixes out there.  Look for the reduced salt varieties.  Nuts are high in calories but a handful a day is fine.
Olive Oil – this is heart healthy fat that is part of the Mediterranean diet.  The diet isn’t focused low fat but on healthier fats like olive oil.  Choose “Extra Virgin” and “virgin” olive oil as these contain more of the antioxidants that have the healthy effects.   Canola oil would also be a good choice.
Fish – the fatty fish are actually the healthier choices.  Choose mackerel, lake trout, herring sardines, albacore tuna and salmon.  Aim for fish meals at least twice a week. 
Wine – head for the red wine which has the resveratrol.  The amounts are moderate, 5 ounces a day for women and up to 10 ounces for men.
Dairy - go for low fat dairy, low fat or fat free milk, 2% fat cheeses, low fat yogurt. 
Herbs and spices – spice up your meals with herbs and spices.  Full of antioxidants but not calories.
Not sure this diet is for you?  Actually, this way of eating is healthy for most everyone.  Try parts of the diet to get started.  Buy some Extra Virgin Olive oil for cooking, for salads.   But some nuts and have a handful a day.   Buy more fresh produce and fruit and eat as a snack everyday.  Any part of this diet that you start is a start towards healthier eating and a healthier lifestyle.  

Sunday, January 11, 2015

What are the best rated diets for 2015?

Every year for the past 5 years, US News and World Reports ranks the best diets (Best Diets 2015).  They gather a panel of diet and nutrition experts and they rate various diets on areas of:
  • ease in following
  • diets ability to produce long-term and short term weight loss
  • how nutritionally complete the diet is
  •  safety of the diet      
  • if the diet has the potential to prevent diabetes, heart disease or helps manage these diseases   
        What are the Best Diets Overall?   
  1.   DASH diet – this diet was originally developed for high blood pressure and the acronym stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.  But it is also a nutritionally complete diet, very safe, helps prevent and control diabetes, supports healthy hearts.  
  2.   TLC Diet – stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes and was created by the National Institutes of Health.   
  3. Mediterranean Diet – this diet emphasized fruits and vegetables, fish, olive oil and whole grains.    This diet provides a healthy way to eat whether one wants to maintain, lose or gain weight.  
What are the Best Weight Loss Diets?
  1. Weight Watchers – ranked number one for those interested in losing weight.  This program teaches you how to eat healthier and change your eating habits for permanent weight loss that lasts. 
  2. HMR Diet – this diet requires a motivated person to keep on it. 
  3. Biggest Loser Diet – yes it is based on a popular TV show but the diet is sound, healthy and also promotes exercise.
  4. Jenny Craig – you see their commercials on TV all the time.  Many find success with this diet but others find it hard to keep the pounds off without all the pre-packaged food.  
What are the Best Diets for Healthy Eating?
  1. DASH Diet – ranked high because it is nutritionally sound and safe.
  2. TLC Diet – provides fiber, calcium but low in saturated fat which is a good thing.
  3. Mediterranean Diet – my favorite as it focuses on fruits, veggies, olive oil and whole grains.  Even enjoy a glass or two of red wine.
  4. Mayo Clinic Diet – developed by experts at the renown Mayo Clinic.  This diet helps you focus on your habits, which ones to keep and which ones to get rid of.  This diet teaches how to eat healthy for life, not just to lose a few pounds and then go “off the diet”.
We will explore these diets in more depth in future blog posts.  Take some time to visit the web site and read about the rankings and which diets are best. 

Source:  Best Diets 2015,  Image source:  U.S. News and World Report

Sunday, January 4, 2015

How to be Healthier in 2015

My nephew posted a sign on Facebook that read:  This year I will get to a Healthier place”.   It was posted at Anytime Fitness in Grand Rapids, Minnesota.   How many people want to be healthier, make New Year’s Resolutions to be healthier and then fizzle out after a few weeks or months?  My husband says the gym was packed yesterday as it usually is in January, then less in February and by May it is back to the regulars.   So what could you do to make 2015 a healthier year with goals you can keep? 
  1.  Start small – set small, specific, realistic goals
a.        NOT - “I will go to the gym more”
b.      But set goals like:
                    i.      I will go up and down the steps in my home (or at work) 5 times a day (aerobic challenge)
                   ii.      I will park well away from the door when I go shopping (increase your steps)
                   iii.      I will buy a Fitbit or pedometer and increase my steps by 1,000 over what I do now (measure your steps for 3-4 days, then set a goal of 1,000 more steps than your average
                    iv.      I will do 10 sit ups during a TV commercial every day
                    v.      I will download a 7 minute App for my phone and do the 7 minute workout 5 times a week (Scientific 7-Minute Workout 
       2.    Exercise with a friend, group
a.       Find a walking partner and set a time and day to walk – every Saturday morning
b.      Find a class at the gym – yoga, aerobics, Zumba – that fits into your schedule and go – with a friend or by yourself and make friends
c.       Find a club – bicycling club, walking club, running club – and go at least weekly
        3.  Mix it up – many people get tired of doing the same old routine.  So this year mix it up.
a.       For two months do the 7 minute challenge
b.      For two months – do the stair challenge
c.       For two months – park far away from the store’s door (warmer months may be good for this goal)
d.      For two months – try out a class at your gym or community center
e.      For two months – walk with a friend
f.        For two months – wear a pedometer

Add some exercise to your daily routine and make 2015 your healthiest year ever!  

Sources:  The Scientific 7- Minute Workout, Image Source: Anytime Fitness, Grand Rapids, MN