Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Cholesterol Month – Part 2

Diet:

  • Limit saturated and trans fats.
    • Saturated and trans fats are found in fatty or fried meats such as: bacon, sausage, hotdogs, bologna, pepperoni, salami, poultry skin, fried chicken, fried pork tenderloin and fried fish.salmonheart
    • They are also found in whole milk products, high-fat cheese, ice cream, butter, cream, margarine and lard.
    • Foods made with hydrogenated oils (pizza and other packaged food items), candy bars, crackers, chips, pastries, doughnuts and muffins are additional ways these bad fats can be found in our diets.
    • Take Away Message: Try to avoid/limit red meat, fried foods, processed pastry/bakery items and dairy products made with whole milk.
  • Limit total amount of fat that you eat (good and bad) to 25%-35% of the total calories you eat.
    • Even if you’re not a calorie-counting whiz, the simplest way to accomplish this is to stick to heart-healthy fat sources such as: fish, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocados and olive oil and limit/avoid the sources of unhealthy fats.
    • A small popcorn from the movie theater contains 42 grams of fat, which would be 25% of total calories for a person following a 1500 calorie diet. Here’s an example of a healthier way to incorporate fat into the diet: Try adding ½ medium avocado (15 g) with breakfast, 1 Tbsp of peanut butter (8.5 g) with a snack and 4 oz of salmon (12 g) with dinner to create nutritious, well-balanced meals.
    • Become more familiar with reading food labels  and utilizing online resources for finding fat content of foods. A great website is www.calorieking.com for finding nutritional information on foods and menu items. This is very useful when dining out or ordering in! Pizza is a very common source of unhealthy fats in our diet. Two slices of pepperoni pizza plus garlic dipping sauce contains 37 grams of fat.
  • Increase Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
    • This recommendation goes right along with choosing healthier sources of fats in one’s diet. The benefits of omega-3 fats go well beyond heart health. They can also help with reducing inflammation and supporting eye and brain health.
    • Omega-3 fats, specifically Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are found in canola, soybean and flaxseed oil.
    • The most potent sources of omega-3 fats include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines (EPA and DHA sources).
    • Ground flaxseed and walnuts (ALA) are two wonderful ways to incorporate omega-3 fats into your diet, especially if you are not a fan of fish.
    • The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease get 1 gm of omega-3 fatty acids from a combination of EPA and DHA per day. Consult with your physician before adding a fish oil supplement into your regimen as this may have possible interactions with other medications.
  • Increase dietary fiber intake to at least 20-30 grams per day.
    • Fiber is Mother Nature’s cholesterol lowering medication. While total fiber is very important, try to include sources of soluble fiber into your daily intake.
    • Soluble fiber is found in oats, oat bran, kidney beans, broccoli, ground flaxseed, apples, bananas and potatoes with the skin. It is also added in fortified fiber products such as Fiber One and Fiber Plus cereals and snack bars.
    • Fiber is only found in plant-based foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes and whole grains. When choosing a grain (pasta, bread, cereal), make sure it is made with 100% whole wheat or whole grain. Barley, quinoa and brown rice make great choices too. Focus on filling ½ your plate with fruits and/or vegetables. Add nuts/seeds to salads, cereals or simply enjoy them by themselves.

Patients often ask me, “But Amanda, I don’t eat fried foods and I never eat red meat; why do I have high cholesterol?” In many cases, it’s not a matter of consuming too much of the bad stuff, it’s that you may not be consuming enough of the good stuff, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids and enough fiber.

Read part one of Cholesterol Month here!cholesterol colors


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Building Better Salads – Part 1

Rabbit food. This is the word my husband has coined for my side and entrée salads that I prepare for many of our lunch and dinner meals. It must be part of the guy-code manual that every male must make fun of eating salads. strawspinachsaladDespite his constant teasing, I will add that he continues to gobble up these salads every time I prepare them. (I’ll take that as a wife-win!). The key to making a great salad is to add just the right amount of ingredients to create a variety of nutrients and textures.

Salads often go hand-in-hand with health foods. However, sometimes salads can be some of the unhealthiest items on the menu. Beware of these common salad ingredient villains.

  • Breaded proteins. Protein is an important ingredient for a salad, especially if it is going to be considered as an entrée salad. Breaded and fried chicken/shrimp will increase the amount of saturated and trans fat in your salad. The good news is that most restaurants will let you substitute a grilled protein for a breaded one. Other excellent protein choices include grilled/baked flank steak, salmon, tuna, shrimp, turkey, ham, hard-boiled eggs or even beans.
  • Croutons and chow mein noodles. These items provide a nice crunch factor in our salads, but they come in next to last place for their nutritional value. Try adding sunflower seeds or heart-healthy walnuts instead to provide a healthier, crunchy substitute.
  •  Bacon and cheese. Here are two ingredients that can make a salad’s saturated fat and sodium content go through the roof. If you can’t forego both items, try to at least opt for one or the other and be mindful of portion size. A serving size of cheese is 1 oz or ¼ cup which is about the size of 2 dominos or 4 dice.

Wimpy salads (as I call them) that only include iceberg lettuce, cheese and dressing are not only nutritionally inadequate, but just plain boring to eat! Start with a dark leafy green mixture and add any combination of vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts and proteins for a more decadent salad. If you’re looking for ideas, here are few salads I commonly throw together:

Strawberry-Spinach Salad:man-salad

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Sliced strawberries
  • Feta cheese
  • Walnuts
  • Red onion
  • Grilled chicken (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

Modified Greek Salad:

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Artichoke hearts
  • Grilled onions
  • Avocado slices
  • Roasted red bell peppers
  • Feta cheese
  • Grilled chicken or flank steak (optional)
  • Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing

California Salad:

  • Spring Mix greens
  • Sweet corn kernels
  • Avocado slices
  • Fresh tomatoes
  • Red onion
  • Grilled chicken
  • Slivered almonds
  • Ranch dressing
  • Cilantro to garnish

Read on for Building Better Salads Part 2.


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Recipe: Pumpkin Oatmeal

pumpkinoatmealA great way to start off the day with a whole grain, vegetable serving and heart-healthy fiber.

Pumpkin Oatmeal

1 cup quick-cooking rolled oats
3/4 cup low-fat or fat-free milk, or as needed
1/2 cup canned pumpkin puree
1/4 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp cinnamon sugar
2 tbsp crushed walnuts (optional)

Directions:

Mix together oats and milk in a microwave-safe bowl. Cook on high for one to two minutes, stirring once. Add more milk or oats to achieve the desired consistency, and cook for another 30 seconds. Stir in pumpkin puree, pumpkin pie spice, and cinnamon sugar. Heat through, and serve. Makes two servings.

Nutritional Information Per Serving

Calories: 212. Total Fat: 4 g. Cholesterol:  5 mg. Total Carbohydrate: 37 g. Dietary Fiber: 6 g. Protein: 9 g.

For more great heart-healthy recipes visit the Springfield Clinic Health Library.


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Let’s Get the Flax Facts!

When hearing the word omega-3 fatty acids, most people think of salmon, or maybe walnuts. Today, I wanted to introduce you to another heart-healthy food that contains omega-3 fatty acids—flaxseed. I know what you’re thinking: what is flaxseed, and how do I eat it?

Flaxseed is one of many nutritional powerhouse foods, meaning it is full of healthy nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, protein and omega-3 fatty acids (specifically alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). ALA is a polyunsaturated fat that is needed in our diets. Replacing bad fats (saturated and trans-fats) with the good fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated fats) can help lower the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Flax is a source of lignans which are antioxidants that may reduce the activity of cell-damaging free radicals. One tablespoon of milled flax contains about 3 grams of fiber (both soluble and insoluble). Fiber from flax can help one feel fuller longer, help reduce cholesterol and improve colon and digestive health. Flax is also a great source of nutrients for vegetarians and a great way to obtain omega-3 fatty acids for people with fish allergies.

You can find flaxseed at your local grocery store. I have found it in the cereal aisle, next to the oatmeal or in the gluten-free section. Remember to refrigerate the flaxseed once opened.  Aim for an intake of 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed per day. The best way to buy it is “milled”. We cannot absorb all the healthy nutrients flax has to offer unless it’s in the ground/milled form. You can grind whole flax seeds on your own using a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.

Here are some ideas for adding flax into your diet. Consuming it with other foods adds a light nutty flavor to your dishes:

  • Mix flax in with your yogurt
  • Add it to breakfast cereal or oatmeal
  • Mix in with fruit smoothies
  • Sprinkle into soups/stews/sauces

Try these other flax-friendly recipes!

For kids:

  • Add to applesauce
  • Sprinkle a thin layer between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Add to beans/chili after cooking
  • Mix in with mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower) after cooking

How do you add flax into your diet?

For more ideas, recipes and information about flax please visit: www.healthyflax.com.

Eat right, move more and live life to the flax!


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Do You Have Neuroprotection?

Alas, no, it’s not acquired by dialing a 1-800 number.

Research suggests that healthy eating and active lifestyles can provide this positive benefit. My grandmother always told me to do crossword puzzles because it’s good for my brain. While I’m sad to admit that I still have never been able to fully complete one on my own, the good news is research indicates that there are other ways to keep my brain in shape.

Having a nutritionally dense diet and engaging in daily physical activity is great for brain health and can help prevent neurodegeneration (loss of cognitive functioning). To some extent, a loss of cognitive functioning occurs naturally with age; however, scientists are concluding that some forms of neurodegeneration can be prevented. Neuroprotection is the term used to describe the strategies that defend the central nervous system against degenerative disorders, like Alzheimer’s and dementia.

One review in The Lancet Neurology, 2011, estimates that almost one half of all worldwide cases of Alzheimer’s disease could be prevented. Being overweight, high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are all risk factors for cognitive degenerative disorders. What’s alarming is that these are all modifiable risk factors, meaning you can prevent them or improve outcomes from dietary and lifestyle changes.

Physical activity has long been associated with physical and emotional wellness, but research is now showing how exercise benefits our mental health. Exercise increases fuel utilization by the brain (oxygen and glucose) and promotes neuron growth and survival.  Just like our muscles, your brain needs its exercise, too!

Try adding these foods to your meals for neuroprotection:

Walnuts. Do you remember what you had for breakfast this morning, or what you wore yesterday? A study published in the Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease found that walnut consumption, as part of a Mediterranean diet, was associated with better memory scores and cognitive function. Their findings suggest that walnuts, in combination with other antioxidants found in the Mediterranean food choices, may help prevent or slow down cognitive decline.

Extra virgin olive oil (or, as Rachael Ray has coined it, “EVOO”) has also been associated with improved cognitive function. Use extra virgin olive oil to lightly coat vegetables and proteins, then grill or bake in the oven to infuse the flavors. Try making your own salad dressings using olive oil as your base.

The Impact of Blueberries.

The Impact of Blueberries.

Berries. Not only are berries a potent antioxidant source, but studies have shown that consuming berries as part of a healthy diet are linked to slower mental decline in areas of memory and focus. Blueberries, which have been nicknamed “brainberries”, can help protect the body and the brain from oxidative stress. Add berries to cereals or yogurts, or enjoy them by themselves as a healthy antioxidant-packed snack.

Spinach. This dark green vegetable contains a well-researched antioxidant, lutein. Formally, researched for its role in eye health, newer research supports the role of lutein with brain health. Harvard Medical School researchers found that women in their study who ate the most dark leafy green vegetables and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) experienced a slower rate of cognitive decline as compared to women who had the least vegetable consumption.

Ground flaxseed is another plant-based source of omega-3 fatty acids consistently found in Mediterranean diets that offers brain-boosting benefits. Sprinkle ground flaxseed on oatmeal, yogurt or applesauce, or mix in with sauces and stews.

In laboratory studies, many individual minerals, vitamins and compounds demonstrate these positive neuroprotective effects. Yet, evidence suggests that it is the synergy of all the antioxidants, phytochemicals and compounds of a total diet that work together to offer the strongest benefit. This emphasizes the importance of consuming an overall nutritionally-dense diet vs. trying to super-supplement with a specific food or nutrient.

For a healthy body and peace of mind, eat healthfully, exercise and, as Grandma recommends, do your crossword puzzles.

 

Barnes, D.E. & Yaffe, K. (2011). The projected effect of risk factor reduction on Alzheimer’s disease prevalence. The Lancet Neurology, 10(9),819-828.

Valls-Pedret, C. et al. (2012). Polyphenol-Rich Foods in the Mediterranean Diet are Associated with  Better Cognitive Function in Elderly Subjects at High Cardiovascular Risk. Journal of Alzheimer’s   Disease, 29, 773-782. http://iospress.metapress.com/content/w012188621153h61/fulltext.pdf


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Go Nutty

What is your favorite healthy food—the one you could eat every single day? Mine happens to be pistachios! Yes, those tiny green nuts in the humorous “Get Crackin’” commercials featuring celebrities like Brobee (from “Yo Gabba Gabba”), PSY, Charlie Brown and Lucy, and even the famous honey badger. I can usually find a 16 oz bag of pistachios on sale for $5.99 (regularly priced at $7.99), but, most of the time, I buy them in bulk since everyone in my household loves them.

Pistachios are known to be good for lowering the risk of heart disease. New research finds they can also increase antioxidant levels in the blood of adults with high cholesterol. (Credit: iStockphoto) - See more at: http://www.futurity.org/health-medicine/eating-pistachios-ups-antioxidant-levels/#sthash.W2L2w4Bk.dpuf

Pistachios are known to be good for lowering the risk of heart disease.  (Credit: iStockphoto)

Pistachios and other nuts make great snacks by themselves, or they can be added to yogurts and salads, crunched on top of proteins and cereal. Nuts are sources of fiber, magnesium, protein and healthy fats. Protein and fiber help increase satiety, keeping you feeling fuller longer. Walnuts are a plant-based omega-3 fatty acid source, giving people with fish allergies a great way to consume omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids are good for heart health and can help reduce inflammation. Research consistently shows that regular consumption of nuts (1 oz/day) can help reduce one’s risk for heart disease, type 2 diabetes and help control weight. Even the American Heart Association has certified almonds to display the “Heart-Check” mark for heart-healthy foods. One ounce of nuts (about ¼ cup) consists of 49 pistachios, 23 almonds, 14 walnuts or about 10 to 12 macadamia nuts.

Keep nuts handy in your gym bag, purse or car. They are an easy, convenient snack to have on-the-go, and the only preparation necessary is throwing a handful into a Ziploc bag. Need to snack on something crunchy? Grab a handful of nuts. Going on a long car ride to visit family? Pack a handful of nuts. In addition to a nutritionally dense diet and daily physical activity, consuming nuts can be part of a wholesome meal plan and healthy lifestyle.

Eat right, live well and go a little nutty!

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