A recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine has published a set of guidelines to follow for the optimal heart-healthy lifestyle. These guidelines come from two sponsoring organizations – the American College of Cardiology and the American Heart Association – and are based on the connection between diet, nutrition, exercise and cardiovascular disease.
“The findings, as published on http://www.jwatch.org/na32827/2013/11/12/guidelines-heart-healthy-lifestyle?query=topic_nutrition are as follows:
The authors recommend consumption of a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, and whole grains and incorporating low-fat dairy products. Recommended protein sources include fish, legumes, and poultry; recommended sources of fats include vegetable oils and nuts.
They identify three plans that exemplify this dietary pattern: DASH, the USDA Food Pattern, and the AHA Diet.
Additional recommendations for lowering LDL include a dietary pattern that derives 5% to 6% of calories from saturated fat and a reduction in the percentage of calories from trans fats.
Additional recommendations for lowering BP include restriction of sodium intake to no more than 2400 mg per day â and, if possible, to 1500 mg per day. Evidence exists that reduction in sodium intake of approximately 1000 mg per day reduces CVD events by approximately 30%.
The DASH dietary pattern has been shown to be beneficial for reducing BP in a wide range of subgroups, including women and men; African-American and nonâAfrican-American adults; older and younger adults; and hypertensive and nonhypertensive individuals.
Recommendations for physical activity to reduce LDL, non-HDL cholesterol, and BP include three to four sessions of moderate-to-vigorousâintensity aerobic activity per week, lasting an average of 40 minutes per session.”
Here are some seasonal and healthy holiday foods to consider when planning your upcoming parties and family get-togethers!
Raisins: Cholesterol and fat free, rich in fiber, anti-oxidants, potassium, calcium and B Vitamins, raisins are a satisfying alternative to holiday candy. Try them on their own or with a little dark chocolate.
Pumpkins: Okay, we know that your holiday dose of pumpkin will probably come served in a pie and along with plenty of butter, eggs and cream. However, there is enough nutrition in pumpkin to make it worth mentioning here. Pumpkins are an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, selenium and iron and even your standard pumpkin pie is better for you than just about any other pie or sugary dessert youâre likely to encounter this season. Try making your pie with fat-free half and half and some trans-fat free lite margarine or try it mashed like potatoes for a yummy side.
Cranberries: This tart cousin of the blueberry is so nutritious you might want to consider eating it all year round. Cranberries are full of antioxidants, Vitamins C and K, improve blood vessel function and improve the cholesterol profile (HDL versus LDL). There is also some promising research that shows cranberries act as a probiotic and prevent the formation of tumors.
Sweet Potatoes: This homely little root is also one of natureâs most nutritious vegetables. The sweet potato is an excellent source of Vitamins A, C, B6, potassium, copper and iron. We mash ours with a little fat-free half and half, some trans-fat free lite margarine and little brown sugar for a delicious and healthy holiday dish!
Nuts: Rich in Omega fatty acids and high in fiber, nuts like Walnuts, Almonds and Pecans make a great snack for the holidays and are a healthy alternative to sweets. I encourage you to serve a bowl of nuts in the shell, along with a nutcracker, at your holiday party. In the shell means unprocessed plus, itâs a fun way to snack and the time spent getting the nuts out of the shell means less time spent filling up on snacks. Studies show that eating nuts regularly reduces the risks of many diseases like diabetes, coronary disease and dementia.
Red Wine: Who said healthy couldnât be fun? Nothing says festive like a glass of good cheer and if you choose to imbibe over the holidays why not make it a glass of red wine? Red wine is a heart healthy alternative to other cocktails, rich in flavonoids and antioxidants, red wine improves the cholesterol profile (HDL versus LDL) and prevents plaque formation in arteries. Youâll want to limit your consumption however, drinking more than two servings a day seems to reverse any health benefits you might have otherwise received.
Wild Rice: On its own, or served as part of a rice medley, wild rice is actually a marsh grass that is native to North America. Wild rice is higher in protein than most other grains, is a good source of fiber and is high in Vitamins B3, folate potassium, magnesium and calcium.
Dark Chocolate: Not just tasty, dark chocolate seems to have some heart healthy benefits. Dark chocolate is rich in antioxidants (containing eight times as many as found in strawberries) and flavonoids that seem to lower blood pressure and improve the cholesterol profile (HDL versus LDL). It also contains Oleic Acid a healthy monounsaturated fat that is also found in olive oil. And letâs face it, for most of us, eating dark chocolate makes us feel good which is probably due to the serotonin that it contains.
Itâs even better for you when paired with other heart healthy treats like walnuts, almonds and raisins. If youâre looking for a sweet treat at the holidays, choose dark chocolate.
Leafy Greens: For many cultures greens like Mustard, Kale, Spinach or Collards are a traditional New Yearâs dish as well as a nutritional powerhouse, often eaten along with black-eyed peas to bring luck and prosperity in the coming year. Try your leafy greens steamed, tossed in a salad, pan wilted or as an ingredient for dips. No matter how you prepare them, itâs tough to beat the nutritional punch that leafy greens deliver. Pound for pound they are quite possibly the most nutrient rich of any food and all are rich in Calcium, Iron and potassium as well as Vitamins K, C and E and oxolates.
Broccoli: Almost ubiquitous at holiday gatherings, whether itâs on a veggie tray or served as a side dish, load up on broccoli which is chock full of potent, cancer-fighting compounds as well as being rich in Vitamins A, C, K and folate. Hereâs one side, or snack, you can feel good about when youâre going back for seconds!
Close your eyes and visualize all of the colors of the rainbow. Now think of the various colors of your dinner meal. What hues are represented? Here in California, we are fortunate to have access to the best of natureâs bounty all year around, so our choices are nearly limitless. So much variety, so little simple information â sigh âŚ
I propose making the choice based on synergy. The concept of synergy is simple, as some things work better in tandem. You can call them âpower couplesâ; itâs about nutrients working in concert to produce a health benefit that is far greater than the sum of its parts.â
As research progresses in the field of food synergy, more and more examples of this type of association between nutrients have been identified, and research is looking for additional dietary patterns all the time, rather than just investigating one variable.
How does it work? There are a number of ways â including simple concepts, like vitamin C increasing the absorption of iron, turning red foods, like peppers and quinoa, or strawberries and spinach, into power couples. Inulin, a type of carbohydrate found in bananas and other foods, serves as nourishment for beneficial bacteria, such as yogurtâs Bifidus, which aids in digestion and boosts immunity.
For this reason, eating a range of foods (of various colors), is as important as eating the right foods, because there are, undoubtedly, hundreds of food synergies that are still undiscovered. Foods come in packages of nutrients, not just as single sources, so the benefits of the Mediterranean-style diet, for example, which includes many healthful patterns of eating, is a perfect example of food synergy on a grander scale. Recent studies have concluded that because it emphasizes olives and olive oil (highly monounsaturated fats), plant foods, whole grains, legumes and fish, following this diet may reduce the prevalence of both metabolic syndrome, and the cardiovascular risk that goes along with it.
Along with the specific âpower couplesâ listed below, here are some additional benefits that have been uncovered in recent research:
vitamin C and the plant estrogens found in soy, legumes and some fruits and vegetables, work together to inhibit the oxidation of LDL “bad” cholesterol.
Quercetin, (citrus fruits, apples, onions, parsley, tea, and red wine) and catechins (also found mainly in apples, green tea, purple grapes, and grape juice) worked together to help stop platelet clumping. Platelets are a component in blood that plays an important role in forming clots. Platelets’ clumping together is one of several steps in blood clotting that can lead to a heart attack.
Eating a little “good fat” along with your vegetables helps your body absorb their protective phytochemicals, like lycopene from tomatoes and lutein from dark-green vegetables. A recent study measured how well phytochemicals were absorbed after people ate a lettuce, carrot, and spinach salad with or without 2 1/2 tablespoons of avocado. The avocado-eating group absorbed 8.3 times more alpha-carotene and 13.6 times more beta-carotene (both of which help protect against cancer and heart disease), and 4.3 times more lutein (which helps with eye health) than those who did not eat avocados, according to Elaine Magee, MPH, RD.
Artichoke Dip Recipe!
Why itâs good for the heart: Contains garlic. This aphrodisiac plays hard to get, but the heart is worth it! Known to improve blood circulation, good for the heart, and other parts of the body!
8 oz. can of Artichoke hearts, drained
8 oz. pkg. of fat free Cream Cheese
Âź Cup fat free Mayonnaise
Âź Cup fat free Parmesan Cheese, grated
Â˝ Cup fat free Ricotta Cheese
Â˝ Cup fat free Sour Cream
1/8 tsp. NutriFit Calypso Salt Free Spice Blend
2 Tbsp. Onion, grated
1 whole, Bread Round for presentation
1. Preheat the oven to 350Â° F.
2. Drain the artichoke hearts, discarding the liquid. In the work bowl of a food processor, coarsely chop the artichoke hearts. Add the onion (if desired), process with 3 more short bursts. Add the remaining ingredients, process with short bursts just until blended, being careful not to over-process.
3. Hollow out the center of the bread, reserving the core for bread crumbs or another use. Fill center of bread with dip, and bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes, or until dip is hot.
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We all have New Years Resolutions and for many, those resolutions revolve around health. Here are a few simple tips to start the New Year the right way.
1. Give just one food “sin” that you know you can live without. It is probably easier than you think to cut out just one junk food from your daily diet.
2. Adopting an activity that promotes fitness – preferably something that can be done with someone else. Take the dog out on a walk, try a fun class with some of your friends or simply devote one evening a week to a walk with your loved one.
3. Sleeping an additional hour daily. Or even once or twice per week. You’ll be surprised to see an immediate effect on your energy and stress levels.
Poor posture, sedentary practices and muscle imbalances are generally thought to be precursors of low back pain, and itâs estimated that up to 80% of adults have experienced some level of back discomfort. And, itâs not limited to adults â statistics say that between 17% and 50% of all children and teens have experienced back-related problems (The Montreal Gazette, August 2010).
What causes âbadâ posture? Here are some common culprits:
Slouching, or hunching your back over
Holding your head and neck forward and/or down
Arching your lower back too much
Commonly carrying a heavy purse, briefcase or backpack on one side of your body
Sitting on a wallet in your rear pants pocket
Holding a phone receiver between your neck and shoulder
Slumping forward while seated
And while today most of us do not think of a mild slouch as a health risk, in the early 1920âs and 30âs, we were much more concerned about bad posture, particularly among our youth. In fact, the While House Conference on Child Health of 1932 reported that over 80% of American children had bad posture. The problem did not end as one grew older, for 75% of our population had bad posture at the time.
So what are the benefits of standing straight and tall? Enthusiasts claim that the correct posture can instantly make you look 10 pounds lighter! Additionally, sitting or standing upright is the key to looking confident and displaying that confidence to others. With the correct posture you can look taller and at ease with who you are. One easy way to improve your posture is to sit less and move around more. When you sit, the muscles that support your body, like the spinal muscles and abdominals, do not work very much. The more you sit, the weaker they become.
The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) defines good posture as, âthe state of muscular and skeletal balance which protects the supporting structures of the body against injury or progressive deformity irrespective of the attitude in which these structures are working or resting.â To really address posture, youâll need to take inventory of any muscle imbalances that you may have (these are commonly associated with poor posture). A common example might be tight chest muscles, which can lead to weak back muscles and rounded shoulders.
There are many muscles involved in posture. Here are some of the most effective exercises for strengthening the muscle groups that aid in posture (front and back): the rhomboids, rear deltoids, latissimus dorsi, pectoralis minor and major.
Butterflies: Lie face down on a mat with your head turned to one side (ear to the mat). Reach your arms out to the sides and raise them to up so that your body forms a âYâ shape. With fingers and arms fully extended, lift your arms up off the floor, pinching your shoulder blades together as you lift. Lift and lower (like a butterflyâs wings) 20-30 times, then turn your head to the other side and repeat.
Kettlebell Row: Take a staggered stance. The KB will go next to your front foot. Drive the elbow up towards the ceiling. Keep the elbow in close to the body. Bring the kettlebell up to about even with your stomach. In all of these variations, visualizing your back muscles working while you do the exercise is very important
For all of those turkey leftovers from Thanksgiving, here is an awesome recipe for Watercress & Turkey Salad!
Watercress & Turkey Salad
Serving Size: 4 oz. Servings: 4
1 ea. pear, peeled and finely chopped
3 tbsp. apple juice
3 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tbsp. fat free sour cream
1 head butter lettuce
2 ea. pear, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 lb. turkey breast, roasted
2 cup watercress sprigs, lightly packed, rinsed and crisped
1 oz. blue cheese, crumbled
2 tsp. NutriFit French Riviera Salt Free Spice Blend*
NOTE: THE TURKEY SHOULD BE ROASTED WITH THE FRENCH RIVIERA BLEND BEFORE CUTTING INTO 1″ CUBES
1. For the dressing, place the diced pear in the work bowl of a food processor, and pulse until mashed with the apple & 2 tbsp. lemon juices, sugar (1 tsp., if desired) and sour cream. Set aside.
2. Wash and dry the lettuce, separate into leaves. Halve, stem and core but do not peel the remaining pears. Slice lengthwise, place in medium-size bowl and toss with remaining lemon juice.
3. Lie a serving platter with the lettuce leaves and arrange the pear slices over the leaves. Toss the turkey and watercress with the dressing & place on the lettuce leaves. Top with blue cheese crumbles and garnish with additional dressing.
Wow! Look at the data on heart disease and stroke. Two of the factors (lipid and glucose levels) are heavily influenced by diet as well as blood pressure (to a lesser extent). We look at all three factors when we look at our meal plans, day in and day out.
From the “New England Journal of Medicine”:
‘Successfully controlling high blood pressure, lipids, and glucose levels could potentially reduce coronary heart disease risk by half and stroke risk by three fourths in overweight patients, according to a Lancet study.
Researchers analyzed the results of nearly 100 prospective cohort studies of adults with BMIs over 20.
Over a median follow-up of 13 years, the hazard ratio for coronary heart disease was 1.27 for each 5-unit increase in BMI, and the HR for stroke was 1.18. However, after adjustment for high blood pressure, cholesterol, and glucose, the respective HRs fell to 1.15 and 1.04. The authors calculate that 46% of BMI’s excess risk for coronary heart disease and 76% of the excess risk for stroke is mediated by these three metabolic risk factors. Blood pressure was the most significant mediator of the three.
They conclude: “Reliance on control of the metabolic mediators might be only a partial and temporary response to the obesity epidemic. Rather, creative and bold strategies are needed that can curb and reverse rising adiposity.”‘
Do you envy people that seem to eat all day long, yet maintain a healthy weight? Wish you could, too? Well, read on, because grazing is definitely in your future as a healthy eater.
According to the American Heart Association, the original research on the effects of many small meals found that if you took one dayâs food intake and divided it into 17 mini meals, total blood cholesterol dropped, especially the âbadâ cholesterol. While eating 17 times a day is not practical for most people, eating five to six meals a day, instead of two or three, can have a number of health benefits. There is also some evidence that people who snack in a wise sort of way may find weight control easier.
Additionally, nibbling or snacking can be useful for diabetics because it keeps blood sugar levels more even without the big demand for insulin created by larger meals. Long periods without meals can increase impulse eating, making it more difficult to eat reasonable amounts at meal times.
Instead of Choose
Ice cream Nonfat frozen yogurt
Doughnuts Raisin bagels
Cheddar cheese/crackers String cheese & saltines
Candy Dried Fruit
Chocolate Chip Cookies Ginger Snaps
To be a successful, healthy snack eater, plan to keep some of these quick and easy 50-calorie options on hand, when youâre ready to nibble:
5 dried apricot halves
2 slices whole-grain crisp bread
2 cups air-popped popcorn
1 small apple
2 regular breadsticks
2 squares graham crackers