Monthly Archives: April 2019

Could eating breakfast could lower your heart disease risk?

breakfast, egg, vegetable, whole grain, fruit, milk, heart healthYou may have heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. However, is this really true or just an old wives’ tale?  Recent research does show that a high-quality breakfast can improve health-related quality of life. However along with this finding, a new study shows that eating this meal could lower your heart disease risk. Let’s learn a little more about the importance of your morning meal for overall health and how you can make it healthier.

Breakfast and quality of life

In a study of adolescents, those who consumed a poor quality breakfast had higher levels of stress and depression than those who skipped or had a high quality morning meal.  Those who consumed a high quality breakfast had the lowest levels of stress and depression. Therefore, it’s not just about whether you eat breakfast or not, but if you eat a high quality meal.

Another study looked more closely at the quality of breakfast that can bring about health benefits. This study found that a high-quality morning meal will be balanced with protein, fiber, and vitamins and nutrients like vitamins A, C, and D as well as calcium and iron.

Breakfast and heart health 

Not only may breakfast improve quality of life, but it could also extend your life. This is because a recent study found that eating breakfast could lower your risk of heart disease. This study looked at a sample of health data from over 6000 adults aged 40 to 75 years old over 17 to 23 years. Study results show that skipping your morning meal was linked with an increased risk of death from heart disease.

As previous studies have found though, this doesn’t mean that eating doughnuts and pastries with sugary coffee drinks each morning is healthy. Therefore, to make the most of your morning meal and have it benefit health, make it balanced.

How to create a healthy breakfast

Breakfast is not just good for heart health and mental health, but can also lower risk of chronic disease like diabetes. Because of its many potential health benefits, be sure to make your morning meal its best by using the following tips.

  • Start with a healthy protein. Cook up a few eggs, turkey bacon, and/or low sodium Canadian bacon for heart healthy proteins. And if you follow a meatless diet, then enjoy scrambled soft tofu with or without some black beans. Another meatless breakfast option is protein-rich Greek yogurt or oatmeal with chopped walnuts.
  • Add in gut-friendly fiber. Once you’ve chosen your protein base, add in some antioxidant and fiber-rich foods like fruits and vegetables. Throw some spinach in your omelette or top your oatmeal or yogurt with berries or sliced apples.  Other ideas include blending your yogurt with fruit for a drinkable balanced breakfast or sprinkling some chia seeds on your oatmeal, yogurt, or avocado toast.
  • Don’t forget healthy fats. Sliced avocado with eggs or spread on toast, or using olive oil to cook your eggs can add healthy fats to your morning meal. Other healthy fats you can add include nuts, seeds, and salmon (like smoked salmon on toast or a whole grain bagel).
  • Limit sugar intake. It can be tempting to enjoy a doughnut on the way to work or from the break room. Also, it can be just as easy to grab a whipped cream topped coffee drink to start your day. However, a sugary start can lead to unhealthy eating habits throughout the day. Therefore, stick to low sugar options. If you crave sugar in the morning, try instead a Greek yogurt with a drizzle of honey or a delicious low sugar protein shake flavored with peanut butter, vanilla, or cocoa to help satisfy your sweet tooth.
  • Don’t drink your calories. Instead of sugary coffee drinks, stick to sugar-free options like coffee with sugar-free creamer and/or sweetener. Other low-calorie breakfast drinks include hot or iced tea with low-calorie sweetener, lemon or cucumber-infused water, unsweetened almond milk, or just plain water.

And just to be sure you consume your daily dose of nutrients, a supplement for heart health may also help. Circova by Vita Sciences contains natural ingredients like niacin, L-arginine, and hawthorne to help improve blood flow and blood pressure. Improvements like these can help lower heart health risk, along with a healthy diet of course.

References:

Ferrer-Cascales R, Sánchez-SanSegundo M, Ruiz-Robledillo N, Albaladejo-Blázquez N, Laguna-Pérez A, Zaragoza-Martí A. (August 2018) “Eat or Skip Breakfast? The Important Role of Breakfast Quality for Health-Related Quality of Life, Stress and Depression in Spanish Adolescents.”  Int J Environ Res Public Health. 15(8):1781.

Gibney MJ, Barr SI, Bellisle F, Drewnowski A, Fagt S, Livingstone B, Masset G, Varela Moreiras G, Moreno LA, Smith J, Vieux F, Thielecke F, Hopkins S. (May 2018) “Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative.” Nutrients. 10(5):559.

Rong, S., et al. (April 2019) “Association of Skipping Breakfast With Cardiovascular and All-Cause Mortality.” 

  • Reduce carbs at breakfast to lower blood sugar

    breakfast, carbohydrate, diabetes, health, dietWhen you first wake up in the money, it may be easy to grab something quick like a donut, pastry, or a quick bowl of cereal. However, what you choose to eat for breakfast could very well set the tone for what you eat the rest of the day. In fact, research shows that if you reduce carbohydrate intake at breakfast, then you could help control your blood glucose levels. Let’s learn a little more about this study, about blood glucose levels, as well as ways you can reduce carbs at your next morning meal.

    Reducing carbs at breakfast to lower blood glucose levels

    A recent study looked at the impact of a high-fat, low carbohydrate breakfast meal on blood glucose levels over 24 hours. Study results show that post-meal, or postprandial, hyperglycemia (high blood glucose levels) were reduced with this diet as compared to standard diet (55% calories from carbohydrate, 30% calories from fat, 15% calorie from protein). Also, this higher fat, lower carbohydrate breakfast helped keep blood glucose levels more stable throughout the day than the standard diet.

    How to eat a low-carb breakfast meal

    The following low to no-carb foods can be used to build a delicious low-carb breakfast meal.

    • Eggs
    • Bacon
    • Ham
    • Turkey
    • Chicken
    • Cottage cheese
    • Low carb vegetables like peppers, onions, broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, zucchini, kale, mushrooms, and spinach
    • Cheese
    • Plain Greek yogurt
    • Low carb fruits like strawberries, blueberries, or raspberries

    Use this reference as a guide to other low-carb produce that can be added to your low carb meal.

    Other ways to lower blood glucose levels

    Besides making changes in your diet, read below for ways you can manage your blood glucose levels.

    • Stay active: Every step counts when it comes to your health. Therefore, be sure to stay active every day to help manage your blood glucose levels and keep your heart healthy. Staying active can help control blood glucose levels by making insulin more sensitive. Exercise will also help you to manage your weight and use the blood glucose you have for energy.
    • Manage stress: Stress can release hormones in the body that can raise blood glucose levels. Therefore, be sure to find ways to manage your stress levels. Walking, talking to a counselor, relaxation breathing, and yoga are some ways you can manage stress.
    • Drink plenty of water each day: The body is mostly made up of water, so its important for many processes in the body. When it comes to blood glucose, water can prevent dehydration and in turn help the body remove extra sugars from the body through your urine. Try to drink at least 8 cups of water or low to no calorie fluids per day. You may need more fluid each day depending on your height, weight, and activity level.
    • Check your blood glucose often:  If you have diabetes, then you should check your blood glucose levels often. This will help you track your progress and find areas of your diet or medication routine that may need to be tweaked. This will help you manage blood glucose levels better. Be sure to to visit your doctor at least once or twice a year to have labs checked and adjust your meds if needed.
    • Take a blood glucose control supplement: If you’re already eating a healthy diet and exercising, then the next step in lowering your blood glucose levels would be to add a blood glucose-lowering supplement if needed. Glucarex by Vita Sciences is an example of a blood glucose support supplement that could help you. Glucarex contains ingredients like chromium, alpha-lipoic acid, and cinnamon to naturally support healthy weight loss, metabolism, and blood glucose levels.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    Chang, C.R., Francois, M.E., and Little, J.P. (April 2019) “Restricting carbohydrates at breakfast is sufficient to reduce 24-hour exposure to postprandial hyperglycemia and improve glycemic variability.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

    Fletcher, J. (last reviewed January 26, 2018 by Maria Prelipcean, M.D.) “How can you lower your blood sugar levels?” Medical News Today.

    University of California, San Francisco (accessed April 17, 2019) “Diabetes Education Online: Controlling Blood Sugar.”


  • Improve your diet, extend your life

    diet, apple, healthWhen it comes to eating healthy, your primary concern may be the short-term goal of losing weight. You may want to fit into a certain piece of clothing, or be in better shape for an upcoming event. However, it’s important not to forget that eating healthy can ultimately help you to extend your life. A recent report reveals that one in five deaths globally was linked to a poor diet.

    What is a healthy diet?

    There is not one definition of a healthy way of eating. This is because everyone has different health backgrounds, allergies, intolerances, and preferences that they are dealing with. The way your body reacts to certain foods and the health goals you have can affect what foods may or may not be best for your eat for optimal health.

    For example, if you have a condition known as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), you would benefit from eating foods low in FODMAPs. This diet may exclude certain fruits and vegetables that contain certain starches that trigger digestive symptoms. Or, if you’re on a heart healthy eating regimen, you would eat some foods that are lower in sodium to stay healthy.

    So, what should I eat to be healthy?

    According to a recent report of the Global Burden of Disease study published in The Lancet, researchers looked at trends in consumption of 15 dietary factors from 1990 to 2017 in 195 countries. This report found that one in five deaths were caused by a poor diet. This type of diet increased risk of diseases like heart disease and type 2 diabetes. The type of diet that seemed to increase this risk the most included those with:

    • too low amounts of foods such as whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds
    • high levels of foods like trans fats, sugary drinks, and high levels of red and processed meats

    Therefore, researchers of this study suggest that people should consume a diet that is low in sodium and high in fiber-rich foods for optimal health. Some of these foods include whole grains, fruit, nuts and seeds, and vegetables. Also, a 2018 study review confirms this finding that a plant-based diet can help reduce inflammation in the body, induce weight loss, and improve quality of life.

    This health benefit of a plant-based diet comes from the antioxidant content of such plant-based foods. Fruit, vegetables, nuts, and seeds not only contain fiber and important nutrients like potassium and vitamin C. However, they also contain antioxidants that help reduce inflammation that can lead to chronic disease. Also, if you consume different colors of produce, you will reap the benefits of many different types of antioxidants.

    Other ways to reduce chronic disease

    Besides eating a healthy diet, there are other ways you can improve your lifestyle for better quality of life.

    • Exercise more to strengthen your heart and help you maintain a healthy weight. Staying active can also help you control your blood glucose levels.
    • Quit smoking and limit alcohol: Smoking can constrict blood vessels and increase risk of heart disease besides hurting your lungs. and as far as alcohol goes, more than one standard drink  a day for women or two standard drinks a day for men is not only harmful for the liver, but also contains empty calories that can impact weight and in turn can increase risk of inflammation and chronic disease.
    • Take a daily multivitamin: This can help fill in the nutritional gaps that your current diet may leave. For example, Vita Sciences offers the complete multivitamin Zestia. Zestia contains plenty of vitamins and nutrients as well as probiotics and digestive enzymes. This in turn helps you maintain gut health, while making sure you receive all of the nutrients you need for optimal health each day.

    written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD of LighttrackNutrition.com

    References:

    Schumann, M.Sc., D., et al. (January 2018) “Low fermentable, oligo-, di-, mono-saccharides and polyol diet in the treatment of irritable bowel syndrome: A systematic review and meta-analysis.” Nutrition, Volume 45, 24-31.

    Science Daily (April 3, 2019) “Globally, one in five deaths are associated with diet.”

    Toumpanakis A, Turnbull T, Alba-Barba I. (October 2018) “Effectiveness of plant-based diets in promoting well-being in the management of type 2 diabetes: a systematic review.” BMJ Open Diabetes Res Care,6(1).


  • Add nuts to your diet for better brain health

    Bowl of mixed nuts on rustic wooden table in natural light.

    Almonds, walnuts, peanuts, and pistachios are all delicious nutrient-dense snacks. Nuts are often mentioned as healthy snacks for heart health. Not to mention that they taste great and can be a healthy replacement to chips as a salty and crunchy snack. But did you know that they can also help your brain health? A recent study shows that eating a little bit of nuts everyday can benefit brain health.

    About nuts

    Nuts come in many varieties, but they all provide rich health benefits. These tasty plant-based treats contain many important nutrients like:

    • healthy fats like monounsaturated (MUFA)  and polyunsaturated (PUFA) fats
    • protein
    • soluble and insoluble fibers
    • vitamin E
    • vitamin K
    • folate
    • thiamine
    • minerals such as magnesium, copper, potassium, and selenium
    • antioxidants
    • phytosterols

    Because of their antioxidant content, nuts are great for reducing the amount of inflammation in the body. This in turn can help lower risk of inflammatory related conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

    In particular, eating just an ounce or two of almonds daily can reduce blood glucose levels after meal time. They can also increase satiety or fullness in those with type 2 diabetes. Also, eating an ounce or so of walnuts daily can help some people lose weight since they also help increase fullness and reduce insulin levels. Finally, research shows that eating an ounce and a half of pistachios daily can help improve lipid markers such as reducing LDL-C or “bad” cholesterol.

    Nuts and brain health

    A 2019 study looked at data from the China Health and Nutrition Survey over 22 years. Nut intake data was collected from over 4800 study participants in 1991, 1993, and during the years of cognitive function data collection in 1997, 2001, 2004, and 2006. Study results show that nut intake is associated with reduced levels of cognitive decline.

    In particular, eating more than 10 grams or more of nuts daily, which equates to about 2 teaspoons a day, may benefit brain health. In fact, the researchers report that this small amount of nuts can improve thinking, reasoning, and memory. Also, they report that this same amount of nuts can improve the brain function of older adults by about 60-percent compared to those who didn’t eat nuts.

    Interestingly enough, the same antioxidant and anti-inflammatory qualities that help improve heart health also benefits brain health. Therefore, make sure to add nuts to your daily routine to reap these awesome health benefits.

    Other ways to help brain health

    Now if you’re allergic to nuts, this talk of nuts and health benefits may be a bummer. However, that doesn’t mean that they aren’t other ways you can improve brain health. Read below for tips on keeping your brain at its healthiest.

    • Keep your brain busy: As the saying goes “Use it or lose it.” The same concept works for brain health. Just like you exercise your body to stay fit, you should not forget to do the same for your brain. Crossword puzzles, reading, drawing, painting, and even crafts can help keep your brain strong.
    • Exercise your body: Like I mentioned before, exercise for your body is important for heart health, but also for brain health too. This is because your heart pumps all-important oxygen-rich blood to the brain to keep it healthy. Every step counts, so walk, jog, bike, dance, or do whatever movement you enjoy. Your brain will thank you.
    • Improve your diet: Eating lots of fiber-rich and antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables can benefit brain health as well as overall health. This is because, just like nuts, these antioxidants reduce inflammation in the body that can increase chronic disease risk. Color your plate with a variety of fruits and vegetables each day to reap the benefits of the different antioxidants they contain that possess different healthful properties.
    • Limit alcohol intake and stop smoking: Smoking can constrict blood vessels , which means less oxygen reaches your brain. For help to quit smoking, visit Smokefree.gov for helpful resources. And as far as alcohol goes, research shows that more than two standard drinks a day can increase dementia risk. A standard drink is equal to 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine, or 1.5 ounces liquor.
    • Take a supplement for brain health:  If you don’t feel like you’re getting enough brain food in your diet, then you can add a brain health supplement like UltaMind to your daily routine. UltaMind by Vita Sciences contains innovative compounds like St. John’s Wort and Gingko biloba, to name a few that have been shown to support brain health, memory, focus, and concentration.

    References:

    de Souza, R., Schincaglia, R. M., Pimentel, G. D., & Mota, J. F. (2017). Nuts and Human Health Outcomes: A Systematic Review. Nutrients9(12), 1311. doi:10.3390/nu9121311

    Harvard Health Publishing Harvard Medical School (accessed April 4, 2019) “12 ways to keep your brain young.” https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/12-ways-to-keep-your-brain-young

    Li, Ming and Shi, Z. (February 2019) “A Prospective Association of Nut Consumption with Cognitive Function in Chinese Adults Aged 55+ – China Health and Nutrition Survey.” The Journal of Nutrition, Health, and Aging, 23(2): 211-216.

    Roche, Ph.d., B. (July 17, 2014) “10 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health.” Psychology Today, https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/iq-boot-camp/201407/10-ways-improve-your-brain-health