May 1, 2012

It’s Springtime. Load Up On Fresh Veggies!

It’s Springtime. A time of renewal and growth. What better time to focus on the one, absolutely tried-and-true diet habit that could save your life – eating more colorful produce!

Are you tired of hearing about everything you can’t eat? I am here to tell you about something you can eat to your heart’s content – fruits and vegetables. From a crunchy apple, a ripe tomato, and a crisp spinach salad to a juicy orange, a sweet plum, or a creamy yam, all fruits and vegetables are good for us. Thousands of studies spanning decades of research consistently and repeatedly show that people who eat diets rich in vegetables and fruit significantly lower their risks for most age-related diseases, from heart disease and diabetes to hypertension, cancer, and cataracts. Heaping the plate with produce also helps side-step stroke, reduces symptoms of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, builds bones resistant to osteoporosis, prevents urinary tract infections and cataracts, lowers the risk for diabetes and high blood pressure, and boosts the immune system.

Then there’s the longevity factor. According to a study from the University of Naples in Italy, people who live more than a century also live the healthiest. Their secret? You guessed it, they eat the most fruits and vegetables. Hey, if I can’t get you on health, maybe I can convince your vanity – men and women who ate “healthy” diets rich in fruits and vegetables had the greatest success at weight management.

Not convinced? Then maybe a Nutrition 101 course on veggies will help. We’re talking about Mother Nature’s perfect foods. Fruits and vegetables are the best dietary sources of antioxidants, such as vitamin C and beta carotene. Antioxidants block highly-reactive oxygen fragments called free radicals that otherwise damage the genetic code, cell membranes, and proteins, leading to aging, heart disease, cancer, and all the other diseases that antioxidants protect against. Produce also is a major contributor of fiber, which lowers your risk for heart disease, diabetes, and breast cancer and helps satisfy you on few calories.

Even if you took supplements and ate bran cereal, you couldn’t make up for a lack of produce, since fruits and vegetables contain 100s of thousands of phytochemicals – from sulforaphane in broccoli, flavonoids in grapes, and ellagic acid in apples to lycopene in watermelon, indoles in cauliflower, and d-limonene in citrus – that boost defenses against most diseases. Most of these phytochemicals are antioxidants. For example, phytochemicals called polyphenols in grapes lower the risk for heart disease and stroke by preventing blood clots. Monoterpenes in oranges reduce cancer risk by triggering enzymes that breakdown cancer-causing substances. In latter stages of cancer, monoterpenes cause cancer cells to commit suicide, a type of cell death called apoptosis. Lycopene in watermelon is a potent antioxidant that mops up free radicals associated with cancer and heart disease.

Many phytochemicals are in the pigments of fruits or vegetables. The intense reds and blues in berries come from anthocyanins, potent antioxidants that mop up free radicals. The red or yellow-orange hues in mangos or tomatoes come from more the 600 different antioxidants called carotenoids, of which beta carotene, lycopene, and lutein are best known. The deeper the color, the higher the level of antioxidants.

So welcome Spring with a commitment to eat more colorful veggies. Your body will thank you a thousand-fold for the kindness!

 Photo Credit: jalb

Just Do This Today

1) Bring it: Always bring produce with you. Stuff your purse, briefcase, backpack, gym bag, or diaper bag with apples, oranges, bananas, and boxes of raisins so you aren’t caught short with the only option being a candy bar.

2) Double it: Turn one serving into two by doubling the amount you serve. Turn a fruit salad into two or more servings by adding an additional fruit.

Sweet Summer Rainbow Fruit Salad3) Hide it: Disguise fruits by stirring prunes, berries, or pear chunks into muffins, or by sprinkling diced dates, figs, or cranberries over hot or cold cereal or into rice dishes.

4) Cross dress it: Please your appetite chemicals by disguising fruit as dessert, i.e., dunk strawberries in chocolate syrup, sprinkle crystalline ginger over mandarin oranges, or mix kiwi into strawberry-kiwi yogurt.

5) Two-fer it: Include two fruits and/or vegetables at every meal and at last one at every snack.

Photo Credit: D. Sharon Pruitt

Hot Off the Diet Press

Coffee and Cancer: Several studies report that adding a cup or two of coffee to the daily menu might help lower a woman’s risk for developing endometrial cancer. In a study from Harvard School of Public Health, women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study who drank at least four cups of coffee daily had a 25% lower risk of endometrial cancer ¿ Café?compared to those who drank less than one cup a day. The addition of sugar and cream offset any potential benefits. Researchers at the University of Massachusetts report that obese women who drink two or more cups of coffee daily have up to a 28% lower risk of cancer and a study from the Imperial College in London concludes that habitual coffee intake lowers endometrial cancer risk regardless of whether or not it is caffeinated.

The Caffeine Quiz: Answer the following questions as true or false.

1. Caffeine causes breast lumps and increases cancer risk.

2. Caffeine improves athletic performance.

3. Pregnant women shouldn’t consume any caffeine.

4. Caffeine aids in weight loss.

5. PMS symptoms worsen with caffeine consumption.

6. Caffeine is addictive.

7. Caffeine causes bone loss.

1. False 2. True, but not significantly 3. False. Some caffeine is fine and there is no link to birth defects. 4. False 5. Maybe. 6. True 7. True, but not significantly.

Photo Credit: Martin Fisch

2. Diet and Depression: People who consume nutrient-poor diets are at high risk for being depressed, according to a study from the University of Melbourne, Australia. Dietary intakes and prevalence of depressive or anxiety disorders were compared in a group of randomly-selected women. Results showed that women who consumed healthy diets rich in zinc, magnesium, and folate, were at the lowest risk for being depressed. Risk was reduced by up to 71% compared to women low in these nutrients, regardless of education, socioeconomic status, age, or other health behaviors.

3. The Weight-Loss Supplement Scam: Dr. Melinda Manore at Oregon State University blew the whistle on commercial weight loss supplements, concluding that none of them work long-term. She reports that weight-loss supplements typically fall into one of four categories depending on their proposed mechanism of action: 1) products that block the absorption of fat or carbohydrate, 2) stimulants that increase thermogenesis, 3) products that change metabolism and improve body composition, and 4) products that suppress appetite or give a sense of fullness. Dr. Manore reviewed the research on each of these categories and found that some weight-loss supplements produce modest effects (2kg), especially long-term. In the case of a weight-loss supplements containing a stimulant, such as caffeine, ephedra, synephrine, there is a likelihood of harmful effects and these products should be avoided.”

Label Lingo

Fat is no longer “all bad.” The good fats, such as the monounsaturates in olive oil and the omega-3s in salmon, lower heart disease risk. However, just because a fat is good for you, doesn’t mean it can be eaten in excess. All fats have the same calories, 9 calories per gram, which is more than twice the calories ounce for ounce found in carbs or protein. So, you still need to watch the amount.

When reading labels, choose foods that contain no more than 3 grams of fat for every 100 calories and that are very low in the “bad” fats, such as saturated and trans fats. Look for foods with 1 gram or less per 100 calories for those two fats combined. Photo Credit: Andreas Levers

Food & Mood Tip

Give your mind and body a daily workout and they will repay you with sharper thinking throughout life. People who stay mentally challenged, whether it is by working crossword puzzles or taking college courses, compensate for the changes caused by aging in the brain that lead to memory loss. Mental planning, organization, and problem solving remain strong throughout life when people turn off the television and read, play chess, learn new skills, or engage in stimulating conversations. The same goes for staying physically active. Even moderate exercise stimulates blood flow to the brain and nerve growth. Study after study shows that people who stay physically fit also stay mentally fit. Combine daily exercise and mental stimulation with a great diet and you stack the deck in favor of thinking clearly throughout life.

Photo Credit: Mike Baird

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week

Eat Your Way to Sexy, By Elizabeth SomerPeople who are most successful at weight loss are eating according to the SE xY (Sensuous, Extraordinary You) diet guidelines, which means lots of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and other authentic food. They also watch their intakes of calories and fat. They follow SE xY Diet guideline #3 (Give yourself some space) by dividing their food intakes evenly throughout the day. They create an individualized plan based on the same healthy foods they ate while dieting, they’re just a little freer with their choices. They eat my 1,2,3 breakfast, a light and low-fat lunch and dinner, and include a snack or two in their routine, so they eat when they are comfortably hungry and in control of their appetite, rather than ravenous and ready to eat anything. They also become pros at what a serving looks like.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Butternut SquashGinger Squash
This butternut squash is packed full of antioxidants, such as beta carotene, that protect delicate brain cells from damage, and is a good source of iron, which helps carry oxygen to your memory banks.

1 1 /2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into strips or cubes (approximately 4 cups raw)
2 tablespoons orange juice concentrate
3 tablespoons maple syrup
1 /2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Salt and pepper
1/3 cup crystalline ginger

1. Steam squash until tender, approximately 10 minutes.

2. Stir in orange juice, maple syrup, ginger, and nutmeg. Stir until thoroughly blended and squash is partially mashed. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. Transfer to a serving bowl and sprinkle with crystalline ginger. Serve hot. (Makes 4 half-cup servings.)

Nutritional Analysis per 1 /2 cup: 110 Calories; 1% fat (<0.5 grams); 0 grams saturated fat; 4% protein; 95% carbohydrate; 3 grams fiber.

Photo Credit: judy_and_ed

Answers to “Do You Know?” From Last Issue:

A label on olive oil says the product is “extra light.” What does this mean?
If you said that “extra light” means fewer calories, you would have assumed wrong. All that these words mean on a label of olive oil is that the flavor has been removed, along with much of the phytonutrients. Tablespoon for tablespoon, this oil has the same calories as any other vegetable oil. Extra light olive oil works well for baked goods that don’t need that lingering olivey taste, but for everything else, go for the extra virgin or at least virgin olive oil.

Experts recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 10% of total calories. If you eat 2,000 calories, what would be your saturated fat gram allowance?

Each gram of fat has 9 calories, regardless of whether it is butter, canola oil, olive oil, or lard. To calculate your limit for saturated fats from butter, hard margarine, lard, coconut oil, or palm, oil, multiply your calories (2000) by 10% to get 200 calories allowed for saturated fat. Then divide this number by 9 calories/gram and you get 22 grams total for the day. There are almost 7 grams of saturated fat in a tablespoon of butter or ounce of cheddar cheese, and up to 10 grams in every 3 ounces of steak.

Do You Know?

How many calories there are in an ounce of cholesterol?

What is the average fat content, in teaspoons, of the following yogurt toppings: 1/4 cup of Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Yogurt-covered peanuts, M & M peanuts, or M & M plain candies?

Check the next issue for the answers….

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the morning snack if you want to cut an additional 250 calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 whole wheat pita, cut in half, warmed, and filled with Eggbeaters (½ cup) scrambled with ½ cup chopped frozen spinach, 1 ounce low-fat cheese, salt and pepper to taste, and topped with 2 tablespoons salsa
Herb tea with lemon

1 slice banana bread topped with 1 tablespoon fat-free cream cheese
1 medium peach, skinned and sliced
1 glass water

Tuna salad: 2 cups Romaine lettuce, 1/4 cup thinly sliced carrots, 1/4 cup canned kidney beans, drained, 1/4 cup bean sprouts, 1 6-ounce can drained, water-packed tuna, 2 tablespoons low-calorie Italian dressing
1 medium apple
8 ounces sparkling water with lime

carrot and raisin salad
Carrot-raisin salad: 2/3 cup grated carrots, 2 tablespoons raisins, 2 tablespoons fat-free mayonnaise, ½ teaspoon lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste
3 graham crackers
1 cup nonfat milk


1 1/2 cups canned, low-fat chili
1 piece (2.5 X 2.5 X 1.5 piece) cornbread
Tossed salad: 1 cup chopped leaf lettuce, 1/4 cup canned mandarin orange slices, 2 tablespoons raspberry vinaigrette salad dressing
Sparkling water

Nutrition analysis for the day: 1,970 Calories, 23% fat (51 grams), 25% protein, 52% carbohydrates, 35 grams fiber.

Photo Credit: lasuprema