Category Archives: antioxidant

Could the Meditterranean diet provide longer life?

healthy fats, mediterranean diet, diet, health, fat, unsaturatedThe Greek-style diet has long been touted as one that is full of heart healthy benefits. These benefits are thought to stem from the vast array of healthy fats from plant-based sources and limiting of saturated fats from red meats as well as the rich source of fruits and vegetables in this Mediterranean regimen. However, the health benefits may extend much further than initially realized. A recent study shows that the Mediterranean diet may help to lengthen life of older adults.

What is the Mediterranean diet?

The Mediterranean diet is a heart healthy eating regimen that has been linked with such benefits as low LDL cholesterol and improved overall heart health. These benefits are suggested to be from the emphasis of fruit and vegetable intake on this regimen as well as the following diet guidelines.

  • Consuming plenty of fiber-rich legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains.
  • Limiting salt intake, and instead using herbs and spices to flavor food.
  • Only eating red meat a few times a month, and instead loading up on lean proteins, fatty fish, and plant-based protein and fat sources.
  • Eating fish or poultry like chicken or turkey at least twice a week.
  • Focusing on whole grains versus refined grains and cutting out trans fats from the diet.
  • Drinking antioxidant-rich beverages like grape juice or wine, about five ounces a day (optional).
  • Staying active most days of the week.

Health benefits of the Greek-style diet 

The heart health benefits of the Greek-style diet are the most well-known. However research shows that health benefits of this eating regimen may extend beyond heart health. Other health benefits that come as a result of the Greek-style diet include:

  • improved digestive health
  • enhanced cognitive function
  • lower risk of certain cancers
  • improved blood glucose levels

Mediterranean diet and longer life

A recent meta-analysis study in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of a Mediterranean-style diet on length of life in older adults. This long term study observed data of over 5000 people aged 65 years or older. These individuals were observed for around 8 years or more on average. Study results show that those who followed a Mediterranean-style diet had prolonged survival as compared to those who did not follow such a diet. Researchers suggest that the Mediterranean-style eating regimen could be beneficial to older adults to help reduce chronic disease risk factors, and in turn potentially lengthen their life.

Other ways to improve health

Besides eating a diet full of health fats, there are also other lifestyle changes that could lengthen your life.

  • Get plenty of sleep: Sleep can impact blood pressure regulation and hormone regulation, to name a few. Therefore, be sure to get at least 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.  If you have trouble sleeping, try such strategies as blackout curtains, limiting screen time at night, or natural supplements like Somnova. Somnova by Vita Sciences contains melatonin, which is a non-habit forming supplement that can help promote better sleep.
  • Drink enough water every day: Staying hydrated is an important part of any healthy lifestyle. Check your urine daily to make sure you are staying hydrated. If your urine is darker than lemonade, then it is time to drink more water. A good rule of thumb to follow is about half of your body weight (in lbs.) in ounces per day of fluid. For example, someone who is 200 pounds, should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of fluid each day. Fluid can be any unsweetened beverage like water, low calorie drinks, flavored water, tea, or decaf coffee, to name a few.
  • Take heart healthy supplements to fill in the nutritional gaps: If you don’t think you are getting enough healthy fats from your diet, then add in a supplement. One such supplement is fish oil, which has been shown to support healthy cholesterol levels. The fish oil from Vita Sciences in particular is a pure, burpless brand with 1000 milligrams of EPA and DHA shown to support brain, heart, and immune health.
  • Reduce stress: It will be important to keep your stress levels low for optimal health. This is because not only can stress affect blood pressure, but it can also lead to emotional eating and poor sleep, which can affect overall health. Therefore, talk to a friend, family member, or professional for stress management strategies. Also, engage in meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, or other relaxing activities like walking to help manage stress.

-written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

References:

Bonaccio, M., Di Castelnuovo, A., Costanzo, S., Gialluisi, A., Persichillo, M., Cerletti, C., . . . Iacoviello, L. (n.d.). Mediterranean diet and mortality in the elderly: A prospective cohort study and a meta-analysis. British Journal of Nutrition, 1-14. doi:10.1017/S0007114518002179

Mayo Clinic (November 3, 2017) “Mediterranean diet: a heart-healthy eating plan.” https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/mediterranean-diet/art-20047801

National Sleep Foundation (accessed September 12, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?” https://sleepfoundation.org/how-sleep-works/how-much-sleep-do-we-really-need

Romagnolo, D. F., & Selmin, O. I. (2017). Mediterranean Diet and Prevention of Chronic Diseases. Nutrition Today52(5), 208–222. http://doi.org/10.1097/NT.0000000000000228

 


  • Could chocolate be heart healthy?

    chocolate, cacao, antioxidant, heart healthCould it be?  Could the delicious sweetness of chocolate actually be good for you? The answer is yes, but in moderation.  Chock full of antioxidants, this delicious treat may be able to help you combat heart disease.  A recent study has shown that moderate consumption of chocolate can reduce risk of heart disease.

    Where does chocolate come from?

    Chocolate has been enjoyed for thousands of years as far back as the ancient Mayan and Aztec civilizations. They revered this delicious treat as the “food of the gods” and Central American Mayan Indians drank a spicy drink made from roasted cacao beans. Chocolate was enjoyed exclusively in this liquid form until Victorian times when it was devised as a solid food treat.

    The basic form of solid chocolate is made from cocoa, cocoa butter from the cocoa bean, and sometimes up to 5-percent vegetable fat. More processed and lesser quality products will usually contain more fat and sugar and less cacao.

    Chocolate and heart health

    A recent meta-analysis study looked at 23 studies with over 400,000 adults, with 35,000 cases of heart disease.  Study results show that eating chocolate in moderation may actually reduce heart disease risk. When talking about moderate consumption of chocolate, this study defines it as 100 grams of chocolate per week. This is equal to about 2 standard chocolate bars.  When chocolate consumption exceeded 100 grams per week, chronic disease risk such as stroke risk and heart disease risk started to increase.

    When choosing to consume chocolate as part of a heart healthy diet, be sure to look at the ingredients label.  Try to choose chocolate foods that are lower in sugar and higher in cacao. This is because added fat and sugar can make chocolate higher in calories with no real added nutrient benefit.

    A higher cacao content can increase the concentration of antioxidants in chocolate. Cacao beans contains antioxidants known as flavonoids that are also found in various fruits and vegetables. These antioxidants can help improve blood pressure as well as improve blood flow to the heart. This in turn can help reduce risk of heart disease and related chronic diseases. Therefore, lean towards higher cacao percentage (around 70-percent or higher) and lower sugar content for the most health benefit.

    Other heart healthy tips

    Besides eating chocolate for heart health reduction, which is perhaps the most delicious medicine ever, there are other steps you can take to reduce your risk.

    • Eat plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables every day. This is because fruits and vegetables contain a slew of different antioxidants that can lower oxidative stress in the body’s cells. when you reduce the oxidative stress in the body, then you lower the risk of cell damage. When less cells are damaged, you can lower your chronic disease risk. Therefore, you should try to get at least 2 cups each of fruits and vegetables each day (or more!) for optimal health benefit.  Also, add in more fruits and vegetables for in-between meal snacks instead of sweets to help increase your total fiber and nutrient intake daily.
    • Stay active every day. This doesn’t mean you have to train for a marathon or attend boot camp classes. Just try to get your muscles moving every day by taking walks, going outside and gardening, or visiting your local community center for aerobic or dance classes each week.  A healthy level of activity would be to get at least 30 minutes each day of moderate activity for at least 5 days a week. You can do this exercise in shorter segments. Five minutes here and ten minutes there all counts towards this 30 minutes. And moderate activity is any exercise that increases your rate of breathing a bit and where you can carry a conversation, but can’t sing.
    • Take a heart healthy supplement each day. Sometimes the food you eat does not provide all the nutrients you need to stay your healthiest. In some cases, you may have vitamin deficiencies such as vitamin D or B12 deficiency that could affect your overall health status and well-being. That is why a multivitamin may be the right choice for you to help fill in the nutrition gaps. An example of a great multivitamin is Zestia by Vita Sciences. Zestia provides a comprehensive formula of 45 fruits and vegetables, a daily dose of a variety of essential vitamins and nutrients, as well as probiotics.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    References:

    Cadbury (accessed August 15, 2018) “What is chocolate?”

    Ren, Y., et al (2018) “Moderate consumption of chocolate may reduce CVD risk.” 


  • Could it be that men have weight loss faster than women?

    Sometimes it may seem that over the same period of time, on the same diet and exercise regimen, that men lose weight quicker than women.  Some say that men have more muscle mass, so their metabolism is higher.  Others say that it has to do with hormones. So, what is the real reason behind this phenomenon, and is it even a real phenomenon?  A recent study found that men with prediabetes lost significantly more weight over eight weeks than women with prediabetes.  Let’s explore why this may be.

    What is prediabetes?

    Those with prediabetes have a higher than normal blood glucose level. However, they are not at the point where their blood glucose status qualifies as diabetes.  A diagnosis like this might be scary, but it can be a good thing.  When you are given a diagnosis of prediabetes, there is a chance to reverse your risk of diabetes by changing lifestyle factors.  With the guidance of a qualified health professional, you can tweak your diet and increase your physical activity to help you lose weight and lower your blood glucose levels.

    In most cases, after such a diagnosis, you will be asked to come back for a retest of your blood glucose labs in 3 to 6 months to make sure everything is moving in the right direction. Some doctors may put you on medications such as metformin to help with this if diet and exercise alone is not helping.

    Men weight loss faster than women?

    weight loss, weight, health, scaleA recent study of 2000 overweight men and women with prediabetes looked at the effects of a low-calorie diet. After eight weeks, the men in the study lost significantly more weight than women and had larger reductions in their metabolic score, which is a marker for diabetes.  In addition, the men had greater loss of fat mass and lower heart rate after eight weeks on the diet. However, women did have the upper hand on some health markers. In fact, women had a larger reduction in hip circumference, lean body mass, and pulse pressure than men.

    Researchers suggest that it is clear that men benefited more from this low calorie diet than women. However, longer term studies will need to be done to figure out exactly why. Theories suggest that women may have a harder time losing weight since they store fat more easily than men.  Also, women have less muscle mass than men, which can affect metabolism. Finally, women are more prone than men to yo-yo dieting, which can negatively affect long-term weight loss success.

    Strategies for weight loss 

    Just because the weight loss odds seem to be against women, that does not mean that successful long-term weight loss is impossible. Follow the strategies to help you lose weight, no matter your gender.

    • Eat enough fiber each day. Only one in ten Americans eat the minimum recommended amount of fruits and vegetables daily. This low fiber intake can impact digestive health, heart health, and overall quality of the diet. Fruits and veggies also contain antioxidants that can help lower risk of chronic diseases like diabetes and heart disease by reducing oxidative stress and related cell damage. Therefore, be sure to get plenty of veggies and fruits in your meals and snacks. You can add spinach or tomatoes to your eggs for breakfast, or throw in fruit and veggies into a morning smoothie. For meals, grab some frozen veggies that you can steam in less than 10-15 minutes, depending on the veggie.  For snacks, crunch on some baby carrots and apple slices, or enjoy some berries or grapes.
    • Move more each day.  Many of us have jobs that require sitting for most of the day. Therefore, make it a point to take the stairs, take a walk during lunch if you can, and/or make time in the evening to take a walk after dinner or take an aerobics class at your local community center. Every step will help you burn more calories, keep your heart strong, and help you lose weight.
    • Try a supplement regimen. Low vitamin D, B12, or iron can affect your health status, and in turn impact energy levels and weight loss.  You should have your labs tested to see if you may have a nutrient deficiency.  Also, if you have prediabetes, a supplement like Glucarex may help as well. Glucarex by Vita Sciences contains chromium, alpha lipoic acid, and cinnamon, which can support healthy weight loss metabolism, and blood glucose levels.
    • Surround yourself with support. Long-term weight loss success is often seen in those with social support systems in place. Whether you engage your family in more healthy meals, have family walks, have a weight loss buddy at work, or join a support group, support can make the difficult act of losing weight a little easier. Not only that, but support can help you stay accountable and on track with your goals. Also, having a qualified healthcare team of doctors and dietitians can help you stay on the right path to health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    References:

    Asian News International (August 8, 2018) “Low calorie diet, men tend to lose more weight than women.” 

    Centers for Disease Control (November 16, 2017) “Only 1 in 10 Adults Get Enough Fruits or Vegetables.”

    Joslin Diabetes Center (accessed August 8, 2018) “Diet Strategies for Women with Diabetes: Why Some Work and Some Don’t.”

    Mayo Clinic (August 2, 2017) “Prediabetes.” 

     

     


  • Could breastfeeding and probiotics help infant gut health?

    breastfeeding, world breastfeeding week, healthProbiotics are getting more press each and every day for their health benefits. From skin health, improving bone health, and of course, enhancing gut health, the possibilities seem endless. In fact, a recent study shows that combining a probiotic with breastfeeding in the first year of life can have improvements in the gut health of infants.

    Basics of probiotics

    Probiotics are simply any bacteria, fungi, or other living organism that has the potential to improve health to the host. The health of the body depends on a balance of different bacteria in the gut.  An imbalance could lead to health problems such as gas, bloating, constipation, and other gut health issues.  You can maintain a good balance of probiotics in the gut by consuming a diverse probiotic supplement every day. You can find good bacteria in fermented foods like yogurt, sauerkraut, or kimchi as well.

    To feed such probiotics, it is important to consume plenty of fruits, vegetables, and healthy whole grains like oats or wheat bran.  Prebiotic foods like these are important to maintain healthy levels of good bacteria.  Together, probiotics and prebiotics can improve the health of the gut, immune system, and in turn overall health.

    Breastfeeding and probiotics

    A certain type of bacteria, known as Bifidobacterium infantis, is found naturally in the gut of infants upon birth.  This bacterium helps to keep the gut healthy. It is usually in lower concentrations in the gut of babies from developed countries. This bacterium is nourished by breast milk from the infant’s mother, acting in the same way a typical prebiotic food would to a probiotic strain.

    A study of mothers and breastfed infants looked at the effect of Bifidobacterium infantis supplements on infant’s gut health.  One group of mothers and babies received the supplement with lactation support from day 7 to 21 after birth.  Meanwhile, the other group received only lactation support.  Study results show that those given the probiotic had positive changes in the make-up of the infant feces for up to a year after treatment. During this year, the “good” bacteria crowded out “bad” bacteria linked with asthma, allergies, and other immune-related diseases. This study suggests that this probiotic, upon further study, could help prevent immune-related diseases in babies from developed countries.

    Which probiotic should I take?

    There are so many types of probiotics on the market today. This can make it confusing to know which one to choose. Every probiotic strain has its unique benefits, so you may want to do your research before choosing one.  A qualified alternative healthcare provider, such as a naturopath, may be able to assist you in making your choice.

    Regardless of which strains you choose, a diverse group of strains is recommended.  Diversity of bacteria is important to help your gut create a balanced population.  Also,  a capsule or other medium will allow optimal survival of the bacteria as it travels to your gut.  One example of a high quality probiotic is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences.  This probiotic contains 30 billion colony forming units of bacteria and 10 different strains.  Furthermore, Biovia 30 can help boost the immune system and improve digestive health with regular use.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    References:

    Healthline (accessed July 31, 2018) “The 19 Best Prebiotic Foods You Should Eat.”

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.” FEMS Microbiology Letters, 334(2012): 1-15.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed May 17, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

    Science Daily (June 9, 2018) “Bifidobacteria supplement colonizes gut of breastfed infants.”


  • Could turmeric help prevent glaucoma?

    Tunnel vision is usually used to describe someone with a narrow point of view. Taken literally however, it can describe the type of vision that results with untreated glaucoma.  With eye injury prevention month coming to a close next week, it seemed right to talk about ways to prevent glaucoma. This is because those with eye injury are at a higher risk of developing this condition.  A recent study has found that turmeric, a natural spice, may be the golden ticket to potentially prevent glaucoma and preserve eye health.

    glaucoma, eye, vision, healthWhat is glaucoma?

    Glaucoma is not just one eye condition. However, it is a group of eye diseases that damage the optic nerve and can cause vision loss and blindness. Research suggests that eye pressure is a major cause of the vision loss caused by glaucoma.

    Another risk factor of optic nerve damage, and in turn, glaucoma, is high blood pressure. Even though it may seem unrelated to eat healthy to keep your eye healthy, there are blood vessels in your eye that get their blood flow from the heart. When high blood pressure constricts blood flow, it can cause pressure in the eye. In turn, this can cause vision issues.

    Turmeric and glaucoma prevention

    When you consider the heart health component of vision health, then turmeric as a preventive treatment makes sense. This is because turmeric is a natural anti-inflammatory agent.  Since heart health issues stem from increased inflammation, then turmeric may very well benefit such conditions.

    Turmeric is a root plant grown throughout Asia and Central America. It is an important part of ayurvedic medicine as a treatment for inflammatory-related conditions like pain, fatigue, arthritis, and breathing problems.  Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric due to its antioxidant properties which help prevent cell damage that can lead to chronic disease.  Although it is consumed as a spice in foods, turmeric can also be consumed in tablets, capsules, tea, or extracts.

    A recent study shows that eye drops containing curcumin may help treat or prevent glaucoma. A rat study found that twice-daily use of the curcumin drops for three weeks helped reduce retinal ganglion cell loss.  In other words, the eye drops helped preserve the cells in charge of delivering visual information from the eye to the brain.  This study suggests that curcumin eye drops may be a treatment or preventive treatment for those at risk for glaucoma upon further study.

    How to help eye health

    Besides curcumin, there are things you can do today to help improve eye health.

    • Eat right by consuming lots of antioxidant rich fruits and vegetables every day.  This will help reduce inflammation in the body and in turn keep your eyes healthy.
    • Keep your weight in a healthy range since obesity can increase risk of diabetes, which can in turn increase risk of vision loss.
    • Protect your eyes with sunglasses or other eyewear like goggles or safety glasses. This is because you can prevent eye injury from sports or work accidents if your eyes are protected. Also, shielding your eyes from the UV rays of the sun can reduce eye damage.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start since it can constrict blood vessels. This can in turn negatively affect blood vessel health of the eye and increase risk of eye diseases.
    • Reduce screen time each day since looking at a computer, television, or phone screen too much without taking a break can put strain on the eyes. Therefore, experts suggest taking a break from the screen every 20 minutes by looking 20 feet in front of you for 20 seconds.
    • Take a eye health supplement daily like Ocutain by Vita Sciences. Ocutain contains antioxidants such as lutein and beta carotene that can benefit vision health.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    References:

    Boyd, K. (April 13, 2018) “Who is at risk for glaucoma?” American Academy of Ophthalmology Online.

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed July 24, 2018) “Turmeric.”

    National Eye Institute (September 2015) “Facts About Glaucoma.”

    National Eye Institute (accessed July 24, 2018) “Eye Health Tips.”

    Science Daily (July 24, 2018) “Turmeric-derived eye drops could treat glaucoma: study.”

     

     

     

     

     

     


  • Could exercise reduce inflammation in the body?

    exercise, inflammation, health, obesityWhether you walk, run, swim, cycle, or dance, exercise is a great way to keep your heart in tip top shape.  Exercise is also recommended for weight loss, controlling blood glucose levels, and even for helping reduce stress by releasing endorphins.  Recent research has shown that exercise may also be good for reducing inflammation in the body, and in turn reducing your risk for many chronic diseases.

    Inflammation and oxidative stress

    Inflammation is the body’s response to injury or infection that results in redness, swelling, and painful. It is part of the body’s immune response to such foreign bodies or substances. Inflammation can lead to oxidative stress, which can damage cells and in turn increase risk of chronic disease states.

    Exercise and Inflammation

    A recent study in the Journal of Physiology looked at the impact of exercise on the health of obese individuals.  Inflammation has been linked to many obesity-related conditions such as diabetes and heart disease. Therefore, exercise therapy to reduce weight and improve heart health may reduce such inflammation.

    A group of young, obese adults participated in a six-week exercise program that involved three 60-minute bicycling or treadmill-running sessions each week. Blood samples taken at the start and end of the study. These samples reveal that the exercise regimen produced a decline in stem cells that create the blood cells responsible for inflammation.  This study shows promise that exercise may help obese individuals to reduce risk of chronic disease as well as others with inflammatory disease status. However, further study of the effects of blood changes on energy consumption, fat storage, and other inflammatory conditions is warranted.

    Other ways to decrease inflammation

    Besides exercise, inflammation can be reduced in the body in various ways. Oxidative stress, which is linked to inflammation, can be reduced by diet changes and improvements in gut health as well. Here are some ways you can reduce inflammation through your daily intake.

    • Plant-based diets have shown to decrease inflammation. A 2016 study found that a plant-based diet can help reduce levels of the inflammatory marker C-reactive protein in the body.  Research suggests that plant-based foods such as fruits, vegetables, and nuts contain antioxidants that help reduce oxidative stress in the body.  Therefore, be sure to add in plant-based foods in your diet at each meal to help reduce inflammation in the body.
    • Stay as natural as possible in your diet. Try to consume mostly whole plant-based foods versus processed foods so you can get the full antioxidant benefit.  In addition, additives and preservatives in processed foods may increase oxidative stress in the body.
    • Quit smoking or don’t start. Smoking of any kind can introduce chemicals into the body that can cause oxidative stress. Not to mention that smoking can increase blood pressure and heart disease risk by constricting blood vessels.
    • Reduce pollutant and other stress exposure. Staying out in the sun for too long without protective clothing or mineral-based sunscreen can increase oxidative damage to cells.  Also, exposure to pollutants such as car exhaust, industrial smoke, and other chemical-based substances can increase oxidative stress. Therefore, try to reduce your exposure to such things to decrease inflammation in the body.
    • Probiotics may help decrease inflammation. More and more research shows that taking probiotics daily can help reduce oxidative stress in the body. Different probiotic strains can have different impacts on health. However, many probiotic strains have proven to possess ant-inflammatory qualities. Inflammatory conditions like acne and eczema, inflammatory bowel disease, and high cholesterol can improve with probiotic use. An example of a probiotic with a diverse array of strains is Biovia 30 by Vita Sciences which contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFU) to help promote digestive health. Therefore, consider adding a probiotic to your daily routine to help improve your overall health inside and out.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Biswas, S.K. (2016) “Does the Interdependence between Oxidative Stress and Inflammation Explain the Antioxidant Paradox?” Hindawi Publishing Corporation, Volume 2016, Article ID 5698931, 9pp.

    Bjorklund, MD, G. and Chirumbolo, Ph.D., S. (January 2017) “Role of oxidative stress and antioxidants in daily nutrition and human health.”

    Eichelmann, F., Schwingshackl, L., Fedirko, V., and Aleksandrova, K. (November 2016) “Effect of plant-based diets on obesity-related inflammatory profiles: a systematic review and meta-analysis of intervention trials.” Obesity Reviews, 17(11): 1067-1079.

    Nagpal, R., et al. (2012) “Probiotics, their health benefits and applications for developing healthier foods: a review.”

    National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (accessed June 26, 2018) “Probiotics: In Depth.”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Health.”

    Preidt, R. (June 20, 2018) “Exercise May Ease Inflammation Tied to Obesity.” HealthDay.


  • The Top 5 Ways to Lower Your Heart Disease Risk

    heart disease, heart health, fruits, vegetablesHeart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. It accounts for one in four deaths each year. However, yo can prevent heart disease by changing some lifestyle factors to lower your risk. Risk factors of heart disease include poor diet, physical inactivity, being overweight or obese, being a smoker, and having diabetes. Fortunately, by working to change a few things in your daily routine, you can lower your risk of heart disease. Here are the top five things you can do today to lower your risk of heart disease.

    1. Stop smoking or don’t start. Smoking can constrict your blood vessels and make it hard for oxygen-rich blood to get to your heart. In turn, this can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of a heart attack or stroke. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the percentage of smokers in the United States is at its lowest. However, there are still about 14-percent of Americans, or about 30 million people, who are still smoking. More and more young people are vaping instead of smoking, but experts worry that this is just another way for people to get addicted to nicotine. Therefore, no matter if its a cigarette, e-cigarette, or vaping device, stop smoking for your heart health. Contact Smokefree.gov to speak to an expert to help provide advice and resources to quit.
    2. Eat a more balanced diet. I’m sure you have been told time and time again to eat more fruits and vegetables. However, the fiber-rich quality and antioxidants in such foods can help reduce oxidative stress in the body, which can lower risk of chronic disease like heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, include fruits and vegetables with every meal, in a variety of colors to provide you with a diverse array of nutrients. Also, balance out your veggies with lean proteins like chicken, fish, nuts, seeds, and/or low-fat dairy products.  Stick to mostly whole, minimally processed foods to avoid unnecessary salt, sugar, and preservatives.
    3. Be more active. Try to move more each day to keep your heart strong. Walking, gardening, swimming, biking, or aerobics are some examples of ways you can incorporate some movement in your day. Try to get at least 30 minutes of activity at least 5 days a week. You can split this exercise into small segments of 5 and 10 minutes throughout the day if you need to for any reason.
    4. Manage stress. Stress can lead to poor sleep, high blood pressure, and lack of motivation to eat healthy or exercise. Therefore, stress can have a domino effect on your entire health status if not managed properly. If you feel you are unable to manage your stress, try talking with someone. A counselor or therapist can help you figure out strategies to manage your stress. You can also try yoga, meditation, relaxation breathing, and/or acupuncture to help you manage your stress and in turn lower your heart disease risk.
    5. Visit your healthcare provider regularly. Whether you have a history or family history of heart disease or not, you should visit your doctor regularly. You should have labs done at least once a year to check your cholesterol, blood pressure, etc. This is because life can change a lot in a year, and you can find yourself stuck in unhealthy lifestyle habits without even noticing unless an abnormal or high lab finding alerts you to it. Therefore, visit your doctor regularly, and even more often if you do have a history of heart disease, diabetes, or other chronic disease.

    Take your health journey one step at a time. In addition to the steps listed, you can also try adding supplements to your routine if you feel there are any nutrient gaps in your diet.  Try a heart healthy supplement like Presura or a multivitamin like Zestia by Vita Sciences. Changing your lifestyle may not be easy. However, the improvements in your quality of life you will be rewarded with will be worth it.

     

     

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Associated Press (June 19, 2018) “Smoking Hits New Low Among U.S. Adults.” 

    American Heart Association (updated May 17, 2018) “The American Heart Association’s Diet and Lifestyle Recommendations.” 

    Centers for Disease Control (November 28, 2017) “Heart Disease Facts.” 


  • Besides tasting good, dark chocolate could help vision and memory health

    chocolate, health, dark chocolate, cocoaYet another reason to eat chocolate, as if you needed one. Besides tasting delicious, chocolate has many health benefits. Recent studies show that eating a bit of dark chocolate each day may help to improve vision, memory, and lower stress.

    About Chocolate

    Chocolate, derived from the Theobroma cacao tree, has been used as a medicinal food for thousands of years.  It can stimulate the nervous system as well as improve digestion and elimination. This is because there are healing properties of chocolate in its rich concentration of antioxidants. The antioxidants in dark chocolate, such as the cocoa polyphenols, provide anti-inflammatory and heart health effects. Therefore, research shows that chocolate, in moderation, can improve health.

    Chocolate Research

    • The Kuna Indians of Panama have been drinking chocolate for many years, around 30 ounces a day.  Likely due to this, they have some of the lowest rates of hypertension, or high blood pressure in the world, at 2.2-percent. A study at Harvard Medical School found that those people who drank two cups of hot chocolate a day may have improved blood flow to the brain. This may help improve brain function, such as memory.
    • A small study of 30 people looked at the health effects of dark versus milk chocolate. The study results show that those who ate dark chocolate versus milk chocolate had improved vision. They had small improvements in visual sharpness and large letter contrast two hours after eating the chocolate.  Researchers suggest these results may be due to improved blood flow to the retina or the brain’s cerebral cortex, or visual pathways. However, more studies should be done to confirm chocolate’s visual health potential.
    • More recent studies looked at the effects of 70-percent cacao dark chocolate on health.  These study results show that gamma frequencies were stimulated after 30 minutes and two hours. Since gamma waves are in charge of learning and memory function, chocolate may help brain health. However, more studies need to be done to confirm the cacao’s potential brain health benefits.

    Besides chocolate, a healthy balanced diet rich in antioxidant fruits and vegetables can help improve health. To further enhance these health effects, you can also take supplements. Examples of a supplement that may improve blood flow include Circova by Vita SciencesCircova contains L-arginine, niacin, and hawthorne that support improved blood flow and blood pressure. Be sure to contact your healthcare provider before you start any new supplement regimen.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Cone, A. (April 25, 2018) “Studies: Dark chocolate can lower stress and inflammation, improve memory.” UPI

    Katz, D. L., Doughty, K., & Ali, A. (2011). Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease. Antioxidants & Redox Signaling15(10), 2779–2811.

    Mental Health Daily (accessed May 1, 2018) “5 Types of Brain Waves: Gamma, Beta, Alpha, Theta, Delta.”

    Mundell, E.J. (April 26, 2018) “A Bit of Dark Chocolate Might Sweeten Your Vision.” HealthDay

    Nordqvist, J. (February 12, 2018) “Health benefits and risks of chocolate.” Medical News Today


  • Could probiotics improve gut health?

    yogurt, probiotics, fermented, gut health, fruit, fiberDo you get cramps in your side after eating certain foods? Do you feel bloated, gassy, or suffer from constipation?  If so, then you may have an imbalance in your gut bacteria.  Probiotics may be able to help you improve your digestive health.

    What are probiotics?

    Probiotics are live bacteria strains found in fermented foods or in supplement form. They help to balance levels of good as well as bad bacteria in the gut.  Examples of fermented foods and drinks include:

    • yogurt (fermented milk)
    • sauerkraut (fermented cabbage)
    • kefir (fermented cow’s milk normally consumed as a beverage)
    • kombucha (fermented black or green tea)
    • miso (paste made from fermented soybeans)
    • tempeh (fermented soybeans)

    A diverse ecosystem of bacteria in the gut may reduce inflammation in the body. In fact, animal studies show that probiotics could lower levels of inflammation in the body related to such conditions as rheumatoid arthritis and heart disease.  However, you should take probiotics on a regular basis for the most health benefit.

    If taken in a supplement form, try to get a probiotic with multiple strains of bacteria since each strain provides different benefits.  Also, those found in a refrigerated form, such as those found in health food stores, may provide a more potent formula. For example, there is a quality probiotic called Biovia 30X made by Vita Sciences. Biovia 30X  contains 30 billion colony forming units (CFUs) in 10 different strains of probiotics.

    Other ways to improve gut health

    Besides probiotics, there are other ways you can help improve your digestive health with just a few tweaks in your healthy lifestyle.

    • Avoid foods that can cause inflammation. Examples of foods to limit in your diet include red meat, high-fat dairy, fried foods, and foods high in additives.  Also, processed foods such as sausage and candy that contain advanced glycation end products (AGEs). AGEs should be limited since they can reduce the number of healthy bacteria in the gut.
    • Eat more fiber since it helps to feed the healthy bacteria. Fiber-rich foods include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains such as oats, quinoa, brown and wild rice, and bran, to name a few.
    • Live a balanced lifestyle.  Getting enough sleep, staying active, and staying hydrated is important to keep your gut happy.  Most adults should get about 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night to help regulate a healthy blood pressure and healthy blood glucose levels.  Also, exercise at least 30 minutes a day for most days of the week. This is because studies show that exercise can help enrich the growth of a diverse population of bacteria in the gut. Finally, when you add in more fiber to your diet, drinking enough water each day is important to lower risk of constipation. Aim for about half of your body weight in ounces. If you are 200 pounds, then this means you should drink about 100 ounces, or 12.5 cups of unsweetened fluid each day.
    • Manage stress.  Meditation, yoga, relaxation breathing, talking to a counselor, or just finding time each day to relax and do something you enjoy can help lower stress.  It is important to manage stress not just to sleep better, but for gut health as well.  For example, studies have shown a potential link between the brain and gut health. For example, if you get stressed or depressed, studies show that this could trigger gut health issues.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (October 2016) “Can gut bacteria improve your health?”

    Harvard Health Publishing- Harvard Medical School (accessed April 3, 2018) “The gut-brain connection.”

    Monda, V., Villano, I., Messina, A., Valenzano, A., Esposito, T., Moscatelli, F., … Messina, G. (2017). Exercise Modifies the Gut Microbiota with Positive Health Effects. Oxidative Medicine and Cellular Longevity2017, 3831972. http://doi.org/10.1155/2017/3831972

    Mayo Clinic (August 20, 2016) “How much should the average adult exercise each day?”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed April 2, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    NIH News in Health (May 2017) “Keeping Your Gut in Check: Healthy Options to Stay on Tract.”

    Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (accessed April 3, 2018) “Healthy Gut: Prebiotics and Probiotics.”


  • Seven ways to improve long term weight loss and management

    weight loss, weight, health, diet, nutritionWith the summer months approaching and weather warming, weight loss may be on your mind.  With every click of the remote, there are commercials advertising weight loss plans, exercise equipment, and fat burning supplements claiming to help you manage your weight. However, a recent study has shown that regular eating versus dieting may be the answer to long term weight loss and management.

    Dieting Versus Regular Eating

    A study at the University of Helsinki looked at the factors of weight and weight change in 4900 young men and women. The study involved the participants taking surveys at age 24 and 34, and weight measurements at the time the surveys were conducted. Study results show that most people gained weight in the decade in between. The factors that affected such weight gain include:

    • dieting and irregular eating habits
    • giving birth to two or more children
    • regular intake of sweetened beverages
    • poor contentment with life
    • smoking

    The results show that those who were protected from weight gain and had weight maintenance or weight loss had similar characteristics such as:

    • physical activity in women
    • higher level of education in men
    • greater weight at the start of the study in men

    Therefore, the study suggests that eating healthy foods on a regular basis and avoiding dieting is the first step to long term weight management.

    Seven Ways to Manage Your Weight Long Term

    The findings of this recent study show that the following five ways are the cornerstone to managing your weight for the long term.

    • Eating on a regular basis such as every 3 to 4 hours can help prevent overeating. You should consume a balanced diet of fiber-rich fruits and vegetables as well as adequate lean proteins each day. Such proteins may include animal products such as eggs, poultry, fish, seafood, and lean beef. However, if you are vegetarian, you can get plenty of protein from low fat dairy, soybeans and soy based products such as tofu, nuts, and seeds. Furthermore, you should limit your intake of processed products to reduce your total daily intake of sodium and sugar.
    • Reducing intake of sugary beverages is the logical next step to help manage your weight.  This means limiting sugary colas, juices, and pretty much any processed foods with added sugars. You can find the amount of added sugar on the nutrition label of most products. Stick to water, unsweetened tea and lemonade, or other low-calories beverages for your fluid intake. You should drink about half of your body weight in pounds in fluid each day. Therefore, if you weigh 200 lbs, then you should drink about 100 ounces of low-to no calorie fluid each day, or about 12.5 cups of fluid each day.
    • Staying active is vital for managing weight. You should engage in at least 30 minutes total of moderate activity daily such as walking, gardening, light biking, or other activities that increase heart rate to a point where you can still hold a conversation, but not sing. This 30 minutes does not have to be all at once, but can be in 5 to 10 minute intervals throughout the day. Exercise is important for providing a calorie deficit to help lose weight and is also important for heart health.
    • Not smoking and limiting other unhealthy lifestyle factors such as drinking alcohol is important for managing weight since these factors affect heart health and overall health status. Smoking can narrow blood vessels and increase blood pressure. It can also sap your energy since it makes it harder for your heart to get oxygen to your body’s tissues and affects lung health. Drinking alcohol is full of unnecessary calories and if consumed in excess can affect liver health. Your liver is in charge of breaking down fat and getting toxins out of the body. If your liver will rid of toxins before anything, so if you drink too much, your liver will not have much time for fat metabolism. This can lead to fat storage and weight gain, especially in the abdominal area.
    • Managing stress can help you manage weight and gain a more positive perspective on your life. Relaxation breathing, yoga, or talking with a counselor can help you better manage stress and in turn lower your risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease and stroke.

    Two other important factors that can affect weight management are:

    • Sleep. Most adults are recommended to get 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night. Lack of sleep can increase risk of chronic conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.  Also,  lack of sleep can make it difficult to manage stress and stick to a healthy eating and exercise plan.
    • Nutrient status.  Vitamin deficiencies, such as iron, vitamin D, or B12, can impact health by reducing energy. In fact, obese patients commonly have these vitamin deficiencies before weight loss intervention.  You should get a lab test for these vitamins and nutrients at your annual doctor visit. Also, if you are low in such nutrients, you should start on a regular vitamin regimen. One supplement that may be helpful in getting your weight back on track is Kolonex by Vita Sciences. Kolonex is an advanced colon cleanser and detox supplement that contains psyllium husk and probiotics to help promote weight loss, less bloating, and more energy.

    -written by Staci Gulbin, MS, MEd, RD, LDN

    Sources:

    Centers for Disease Control (September 8, 2016) “Healthy Eating for a Healthy Weight.”

    Johns Hopkins Medicine (September 14, 2015) “Nutritional Deficiencies Common Before Weight Loss Surgery.”

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (accessed March 26, 2018) “Sleep Deprivation and Deficiency.” 

    National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (accessed by March 26, 2018) “Some Myths about Nutrition and Physical Activity.”

    National Sleep Foundation (accessed March 26, 2018) “How Much Sleep Do We Really Need?”

    Science Daily (March 23, 2018) “Searching for long-term success in weight management? Forget dieting and eat regularly.”