Sunday, January 31, 2016

Walnuts for good health?

Recently the walnut industry has been advertising walnuts a lot on TV.   Eat walnuts for heart health, put walnuts on your salad.  Are walnuts good for your health?  Dr. Oz wrote a column with “walnuts: the superfood” and a posted blog post, The Wonderful Walnut.  So why does Dr. Oz and many nutritionists think walnuts are a superfood?
  1. Omega-3 fats – these fats are the “good” fats, the fat that is good for our hearts.  Walnuts are full of omega-3’s.  Studies have shown that eating walnuts actually improves heart health.  How?  By lowering the bad cholesterol, LDL and even helping to lower blood pressure.  Omega-3’s are also good for reducing inflammation.
  2.  Diabetes – eating walnuts helps lower blood sugar and reduces your risk of developing Type 2 diabetes.  (Nuts Good for Some with Diabetes).  Eating walnuts 2-3 times a week is helpful in lowering Type 2 diabetes risk. 
  3. Vitamin E, manganese, copper – all provided by walnuts
What amount of walnuts are good for your health?

All nuts are pretty high in calories because they do provide fat.  So overdoing it, is not the idea. But 2 ounces of nuts a day, including walnuts is a good health habit to adopt. 

How can you add some walnuts to your day?
  •  Sprinkle walnut chips on a salad
  •  Sprinkle 1-2 Tablespoons of chopped walnuts on some whole grain cereal.  I like to sprinkle walnuts on a bowl of oatmeal.
  • Take some walnut halves in a baggie to eat as a snack – a very healthy snack.
  • Put some on some whole grain pasta
  • Add some walnut halves to green beans mixed with olive slices and sun-dried tomatoes
  • Make your own trail mix that includes some walnuts – walnuts, dried cherries, dark chocolate chips and some 100% whole grain cereal (Wheat Chex) or 100% whole wheat pretzels.
For some healthy recipes using walnuts, go to walnuts.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Burn Those Calories

Recently a relative stated their Fitbit didn’t seem to accurately reflect how many calories they burned up during exercise.  Many calculators I have used do seem to overstate the calories burned in an activity.  Calculators that are simple relying on weight and duration may not be as accurate as calculators that require more input like gender, height and that provide a much broader array of activities.  Some activity calculators are built into apps like Lose It! and others are online stand-alone exercise calculators.  If you want to know how many calories you are burning at the gym, doing routine chores or exercising outdoors here are some calculators to try:
  1. Health StatusCalories Burned Calculator – This provides an extensive listing of exercise and common daily activities.  You enter your age, gender, height, weight, and number of minutes for the chosen activity and it estimates calories burned.  As the calculator notes, it takes 3500 calories to burn up one pound of body weight.  Focusing on burning up 250 to 500 extra calories a day would be a good goal.  But even a 100 calories a day would burn up 700 calories a week.  A 30 minute walk at 3 MPH would burn up more than 100 calories a day. 
  2. Kaiser – this is a very simple calculator to use.  Input weight, and duration of the activity and then choose the activity and exercise.  The downside is the choice of activities is limited. 
  3. WebMD – Look for the Fit-O-Meter at the top of the page.  Search for your activity such as bicycling and choose whether slow, moderate or vigorous.  Enter your weight and duration of the activity and it calculates your calories burned.  It also will add this activity to an Activity Summary – it records up to 5 activities.  Walking provided an odd selection – fishing from river bank, serving food, chasing cattle.  After scrolling through many options, I finally got to walking, slow, moderate, etc.  A little patience and “searching” is needed for this calculator.
  4. My Fitness PalCalories Burned From Exercise – very simple, and easy to use calculator.  Walking turned up walking by MPH.  Those that have a pedometer on their smartphone know at what pace you walk.  Walk your dog?  Determine how many calories you burn.  Bicycling was easy to match. OR – choose an exercise from their drop down box.  Very simple and easy to use calculator.
  5. Lose It! app  – I have this app on my Smartphone.  You can use it to track calories burned in exercise and calories eaten.  I like how it adds more calories to your day whenever you enter your exercise.  You don’t have to use this app to lose weight, you can use it to maintain or even gain weight.  You can use this online at Lose It! or download the app to your smartphone. 

It is interesting the difference in calories burned using the different calculators.  Some seem to way over estimate calories burned.  Try out a few and find one that works best for you. 
Sources:  Health Status, Kaiser, WebMD, My Fitness Pal, Lose It! app  Image Source:  Lose It!

Sunday, January 17, 2016

What is the Best Diet for Health?

What is the DASH diet and why is the DASH diet so good for your health?   As noted last week, every year for the past 6 years, US News and World Reports ranks the best diets (Best Diets 2016).  They gather a panel of diet and nutrition experts and rank 38 diets on a number of criteria.  What diet ranked the best for overall health?  The DASH diet.    
What is the DASH diet?
This diet was originally designed to help stop hypertension or high blood pressure.  They have now found it also helps prevent and control diabetes and supports a healthy heart.  Thus, it is a diet to follow for overall good health.  Diet doesn’t mean one is trying to lose weight.  Rather it is a healthier pattern of eating. 
What nutrients are emphasized in this diet?
This diet promotes potassium, calcium, protein and fiber.  Although most people know to limit sodium because sodium (salt) is linked to higher blood pressure, many people aren’t aware the diets higher in potassium help lower blood pressure.
What foods are emphasized on the DASH diet?
  • Fruits and vegetables are highlighted because they provide potassium and fiber among many other nutrients.  Usually we aim for a minimum of 5 servings a day. The DASH diet increases this to 8 and more servings a day.
  • Whole grains – a must in a healthy diet.  They not only contribute many important vitamins and minerals, they contribute fiber.  The DASH diet includes at least 6 servings of grains a day with most or all being whole grain.
  • Lean protein – most nutrition experts emphasize lean protein.  So ditch the fried foods (chicken nuggets, fried chicken) and focus leaner meats that are grilled or broiled.  Limited to 6 ounces a day, about 3 ounces at lunch and 3 ounces at dinner.
  • Low-fat dairy – for milk choose no fat, 1% or 2%.  Choose low fat yogurts.  For cheese – look for the 2% milk, lower fat cheeses like part-skim mozzarella.  At least 3 servings a day.
  • Cut back on foods high in fat like doughnuts, fried foods. 

Exercise – the DASH diet also includes recommendations for exercise, “Be moderately active for at least 2 hours and 30 minutes per week.”  DASH Diet Guidelines

Where can you get more information on the DASH diet?
The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute helped in the development of the DASH diet and they provide free guidelines, one is a 6 page guide to the DASH Diet (PDF DASH Diet Guidelines).  The Mayo Clinic provides a host of DASH Diet recipes.   

Even if you don’t want to exactly follow a DASH diet, one can always increase fruits and vegetables, focus on whole grains, eat leaner proteins and try to include a dairy food at each meal. 

Sources: Best Diets 2016 , DASH diet ,  DASH Diet recipes,      Image source:  U.S. News and World Report  (Bran flakes or shredded wheat, low-fat milk and blueberries.  

Sunday, January 10, 2016

What are the best rated diets for 2016?

Every year for the past 6 years, US News and World Reports ranks the best diets (Best Diets 2016).  They gather a panel of diet and nutrition experts and rank 38 diets on a number of criteria.  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?  The ranking for best diets is based on ratings that included safety, weight loss, sustainability, and other factors.
  1. DASH diet – The DASH diet also came in as number one last year.  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. MIND Diet – maybe you haven’t heard of this diet but it ranks 2nd as Best Diets Overall.  This diet is actually a combination of top ranking diets, the DASH diet and the Mediterranean diet.  The difference is this diet focuses on foods that promote brain health.  It highlights 10 food groups for a healthy brain.  It de-emphasizes foods that don’t promote brain health. 
  3. TLC Diet – stands for Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes and was created by the National Institutes of Health to promote hearth health.  A lot of focus is on cutting back on fats especially saturated fats, increasing fiber and limiting dietary cholesterol.
What are the Best Weight Loss Diets?
  1. Weight Watchers – ranked number one again for those interested in losing weight.  Oprah is making Weight Watchers famous as she has had success with this diet.   This program teaches you how to eat healthier and change your eating habits for permanent weight loss that lasts.  The experts like Weight Watchers because it promotes group support, encourages fruits and vegetables, allows one to have some indulgences and it promotes exercise. 
  2. HMR Program – haven’t heard of it?  Probably not, but it ranks second.  Need to use meal replacements supplemented with fruits and vegetables.  Exercise is also emphasized.  But 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.  It again ranks number 3 in terms of weight loss approaches.  It offers a good combination of a nutritious diet and exercise to lose weight.  Stay on the diet for 6 weeks and reap the benefits of improved heart health and protection against diabetes. 
  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.  The pre-packaged meals can be a costly way to shed those pounds.  But others find the pre-packaged meals helpful.
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 2016 ,  Image source:  U.S. News and World Report

Sunday, January 3, 2016

Nutrition and Health Questions - 2015

The New York Times Well Blogs, featured their most popular health questions for 2015 Most Popular Health Questions You Asked This Year.  Some of these questions and responses are highlighted below. (Q and A adapted somewhat for this blog.)
Q:  What is the Best Time to Exercise to Lose Weight?
A:  Running on empty seems to work.  Some research shows working out on a completely empty stomach stimulates the body to burn more fat and even stave off weight gain.  But for me, exercising on empty would only lead to low blood sugar and poor performance.  Even before I go for a morning walk I at least eat a banana to have some energy.
Q:  How Can I Reduce Belly Fat?
A:  Belly fat is not only of concern for appearance sake, it also can be a health risk.  The Mayo Clinic and other researches (Central Obesity) have noted those with large waists are more likely to have health problems such as cardiovascular disease than those with normal waistlines. So if you are trying to drop a few inches off your waist, focus on exercise.  Studies vary as to which exercise is best but a review of the research indicates that combining some weight lifting with aerobic exercise works best to shed those inches around your waist.  Most people think sits ups reduce belly fat but apparently that isn’t the case.  The NY Times quoted Dr. Hunter from the University of Alabama as stating, Situps do not spot reduce the waistline, Dr. Hunter says, adding, “You’re better off going for a walk.”
Q:  What is The Best Exercise to Reduce Blood Pressure?
A:   Actually studies indicate any exercise is good for lowering blood pressure, even walking.  So walk your dog, enjoy a walk at lunch, park far away from the door when you go shopping.  Find ways to get in those 10,000 steps a day.  Spreading walking, cycling or weight training throughout the day is even better for lowering blood pressure.  Why exercise?  By exercising you alter the way blood flows through your blood vessels, it flows more easily during and right after your work out or exercise.  So if you are trying to get your blood pressure under control, three 10 minute bouts of exercise (even walking) would be better than 30 minutes.  Research shows the exercise doesn’t have to be intense as walking works.  Need to talk to a co-worker?  Rather than send an e-mail, walk to their desk down the hall.  Take a few minutes at lunch to go for a walk, even if it is just 10 minutes.  Find ways to add some walking into your day.
Q:  What is the Best Grain to Eat at Breakfast?
A:  All grains at breakfast should be whole grains.  So easy to add a whole grain cereal to your breakfast with all the cereal options available.  Oatmeal is a top choice.  The less processed the oatmeal the better, but choosing oatmeal is the goal.  A student asked me what it the difference between steel cut oatmeal and regular oatmeal.  It has to do with how processed the oatmeal is.  The steel cut is less processed, takes longer to digest, and would be healthier. However, most brands of steel cut oatmeal take forever to cook and many don’t have the time.  Find an oatmeal, instant, regular or steel cut, you like and you are willing to prepare.  Cheerios is a very healthy choice and is made of oats.  Cheerios may not have quite the health benefit of oatmeal since is it more processed, but a very healthy choice.  Eat oatmeal when you can or at least a few times a week.  A bowl of oatmeal will fill you up and you will fill full longer as it takes longer to leave your stomach.  Skip the Corn Flakes, Sugar Frosted Flakes and other junk cereal.  Focus on whole grains to start your day.
If you are making some New Year’s Goals for 2016, these would be some easy ones to try: 
  1. Eat some oatmeal every week – add any kind of oatmeal and if not at breakfast, have a bowl of oatmeal for a snack.
  2. Walk more each day – park far away from door, walk at lunch or before/after dinner.  Find ways to walk more at work
  3. Focus on the 10,000 steps a day for good health – and for less belly fat and lower blood pressure.