Superfood Series: Part 5

6 Reason why Walnuts are Superfood All-stars:

  1.  Heart Health.  Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation and preserve endothelial cell function that is associated with heart disease.  These heart healthy fats have a unique chemical structure that aides in unclogging arteries the same way drain cleaner unclogs your kitchen sink pipes.  Walnuts also contain a unique combination of fiber and unsaturated fats which can also help lower cholesterol (and reduce insulin resistance which often leads to diabetes). 
  2. Weight controlResearch indicates that diets containing walnuts are more supportive of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.  Even though walnuts are relatively high in fat and calories for size, when eaten in moderation they can help suppress appetite in between meals and provide high amounts of satiety (the feeling of being satisfied or full).  This is because walnuts have a good amount of protein and fiber (1-.25 cup serving contains 5g protein and 3 g fiber), both of which contribute to the feeling of fullness.  There are many ways to include walnuts into your diet.  Try eating a handful or throw them into your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. 
  3. Brain Health.  Back to the Omega -3s, there is a link between Omega-3 consumption and the ability to fight depression and cognitive degeneration.  Research shows that people who ate walnuts as part of a Mediterranean style diet were associated with better memory and brain function.  A review of the literature postulates that antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline. 
  4. Slows Cancer Tumor Growth.  Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in walnuts are arguably the two most important factors that can have an effect on the development of cancer.  Antioxidants help prevent cancer by repairing damaged cells.  Research has revealed that walnuts have the ability to help prevent, fight, and slow growth of certain cancerous tumors (i.e. prostate, gastrointestinal, and breast cancer). 
  5. Sleep.  Walnuts have the ability to raise melatonin levels by a whopping three times.  Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  It plays a role in sleep regulation by controlling the sleep wake cycle, helping you to feel sleepy at night.  Bonus?  Melatonin in walnuts is in bio-available form, which means it is easier to absorb than other supplemental sources of melatonin. 
  6. Metabolism booster.  Thecombination of protein and essential fatty acids found in walnuts can help boost metabolism.Walnuts also contain16% of the daily recommend amount of magnesium-which is needed for protein synthesis.  Magnesium functions as an electrolyte, which means that it is used to communicate between nerves and muscles. When muscles have adequate magnesium, they are able to function properly and continue to support a healthy metabolism. To sum it up, walnuts can help your body to function and continue to grow stronger and build muscle as you exercise.

*For full health benefits, make sure to eat the raw version of walnuts and stay away from anything that is coated in sugar or salt like candied walnuts.

Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99; http://www.naturalnews.com/040837_walnuts_healthy_nuts_brain_food.html; http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/nuts-and-health-how-walnuts-can-improve-your-memory; http://www.today.com/id/23547010/ns/today-today_health/t/ways-boost-your-metabolism/#.U_SzxMVdW0I; http://news.psu.edu/story/276393/2013/05/08/research/whole-walnuts-and-their-extracted-oil-can-reduce-cardiovascularhttps://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/walnuts-slow-prostate-cancer-growth; http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/9/1757S.full; http://theearthdiet.blogspot.com/2011/05/eating-for-blood-type-o.html  

Superfood Series: Part 4

Chia Seeds:  Small, but Mighty

What’s not to love about chia seeds? They are unprocessed, whole grain, and chock-full of nutrients.  Chia seeds are jam-packed with protein, fiber, and minerals. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a look at their overall nutritional content. 

 

 

 

Healthy Weight.  Chia seeds are not the magic solution for weight loss that some companies would like you to believe, but their high fiber and protein content make them a viable addition to any healthy weight loss or maintenance plan. Thanks to their high fiber content, chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight.  Their gel like presence in your stomach will help you feel fuller, longer and reduce the chance of over-eating. Additionally, chia seeds contain high quality protein that consists of all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids that cannot be synthesized on their own and must be obtained through food) that will keep hunger at bay and energy levels consistent. 

Healthy Heart.  Chia seeds are a great source of heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  They are a particularly good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. PUFAs can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly type II diabetes. 

Digestion.  Fiber aids in digestion and chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber.  At 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), they are 40% fiber by weight.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans. 

Strong bones.  Chia seeds are high in many critical bone nutrients and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These three minerals account for 98% of the body’s mineral content by weight.  Although, deficiencies in phosphorus and magnesium are rare in the typical American diet, calcium deficiency is more common.  As we age, calcium absorption and retention decreases in our bones.  Including chia seeds in your diet may help offset this natural loss in calcium. 

Antioxidants have been shown to help fight off everything from heart disease to cancer.  Some of the most abundant antioxidants in chia seeds (quercetin, kaempferol,  myricetin, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid) are associated with health benefits such as boosted energy, endurance, and fitness of the brain and muscles; protection against chronic disease such as lung cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes;  and inflammation prevention.      

Athletic performance.  Folklore says that Aztecs and Mayans carb-loaded with chia seeds before an athletic event, much in the same way we do with sport drinks before a sporting event. We’re thinking they were on to something.  In one study, researchers compared athletic performance of athletes who drank Gatorade to athletes who drank a mixture of half-Gatorade and half-chia seeds.  The results indicated no difference in performance between the two groups, suggesting that chia seeds may serve as a possible healthy alternative to highly processed, sugar-laden sport drinks. Furthermore, the high calcium and magnesium content in chia seeds makes them a good source of electrolytes which helps prevent hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise.

Diabetes.  The unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber (10 out of 12 carbohydrates are from fiber) in chia seeds causes a slow and steady rise in blood sugar which is favorable for people with diabetes.  A few clinical studies have demonstrated this favorable effect.  The results of one study indicated that including 37 grams (about 2.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels.  Hint* Substituting chia seeds for bread crumbs and other high glycemic load foods can be a helpful place to start.    

Versatility.  There are many ways to eat chia seeds. In addition to their long shelf life (thanks to antioxidants), chia seeds are so versatile that you can add them to almost anything.  Eat them alone if you’re in a hurry or add them to water or milk to create a thick, gelatinous pudding.  Other people like to add them to salads, sandwiches, and soups.  Check out these other ideas if you’re curious

Resources: 

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442472548

http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds/

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3643

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518271/

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Minerals-Calcium-Phosphorus-and-Magnesium.aspx

http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/evidence/hrb-20059372

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21183832

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp

http://www.chialive.com.au/Chia-Antioxidants.html

Omega Fatty Acids

You’ve probably heard about Omega fatty acids, and that they are good for your health. What many people may not know, however, is that there are two types of Omega fatty acids and both play a role in the necessary processes of inflammation and blood clotting, but in a very different way.

What are Omega fatty acids?

Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Both of these types of unsaturated fats are healthy and essential in the diet. Both are biologically active in the body, unlike most fats which are used for energy or stored. This means that they play important roles in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, and Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. The inflammatory process is a normal and healthy function of the body, specifically when an injury occurs. The early stages of inflammation enlist the immune system to help control infection, and wound healing and tissue re-growth occur in the later stages of inflammation. It is also necessary for blood to have the ability to clot in order to prevent excessive bleeding. The problem occurs when there is excessive inflammation and clotting in the body, which can lead to heart disease, arthritis, and other serious diseases. The key is to balance the consumption of Omega-6 and Omega-3.

How much do I need?

Health experts do not endorse a daily recommended intake for Omega-6 or Omega-3, rather, the emphasis is on the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Most people consume a diet that is too high in Omega-6 fatty acids, and lacks in Omega-3s. This unbalanced ratio has a damaging effect on the body, and is one of the most negative aspects of the typical American diet. Anthropological studies show that humans evolved eating a ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 somewhere around 1:1. The typical diet today has a ratio of 16:1!

To better balance the ratio of Omega fatty acids in your diet, follow these tips:

  • Processed oils are loaded with Omega-6s, so limit or avoid them. The oils highest in Omega-6s include sunflower, corn, sesame, and peanut oil. These are typically found in highly processed or fried foods because they are inexpensive and readily available. Limiting these foods in your diet will reduce the overall amount of Omega-6 consumed.
  • Omega-3s are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies, and halibut. Other sources are beans, nuts, and spinach. Some foods are fortified or enriched with Omega-3s, such as bread, cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt. Choose canola, flaxseed, soybean and olive oils when cooking.
  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (like salmon) at least twice a week. Eating a variety of non-processed foods in place of processed or fried foods will also help to improve the ratio of fatty acid consumption in your diet.
  • If you feel that your diet lacks in Omega-3s, consider taking a Fish Oil Supplement to get these beneficial fatty acids. Supplements will vary in the amount of fatty acids they contain, so look for one with at least 600mg of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid, the primary form of fatty acid found in fish that offers health benefits). Let your doctor know if you are taking a Fish Oil Supplement.
omega

Fat is Not the Enemy

Although the “fat-free craze” of the past has long since been discouraged by health professionals as a viable part of a balanced diet, the amount of products boasting “low-fat” this, and “reduced fat” that, are more abundant than ever. But, fat isn’t the enemy; and, most importantly, all fat isn’t created equal. Some healthy fat is actually a good thing. The key to navigating the revamped “fat craze” can be found in understanding how reduced-fat foods are made and how to recognize healthy fats when you see them.

Fat Free Isn’t Always a Good Thing

What happens when all or some of the fat content is removed from a food? Usually, it doesn’t taste as good because the flavor and texture are now drastically different. To make up for this, manufacturers add sugar, salt, and/or thickeners to replace the missing fat. Now, the food has nearly the same amount of calories, a little less fat, but with more sugar, salt, and other, well, crap. If that doesn’t sound like a healthy swap, it’s because it’s not. Take into consideration a comparison between regular and reduced fat peanut butter.

                      image                                                  image

Peanut Butter

Compared to the regular peanut butter, the reduced fat peanut butter has 60% more salt and 30% more sugar in addition to a plethora of added fillers and thickeners. Even though the regular peanut butter has more fat, it is healthy fat. Regular peanut butter is the clear nutritional winner.

Think ‘Type’ of Fat, not ‘Amount’ of Fat

The good news is, healthy (unsaturated) fats like those found in olive oil, peanut butter, and avocado can and should be a part of a healthy diet. Unsaturated fats have been shown to decrease risk for cardiovascular disease as well as increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied). Just one look at the list below of foods containing healthy fats and it’s easy to see how delicious and nutritious healthy fat can be. Remember, everything in moderation!

What to Look For

Heart healthy fats such as unsaturated, monounsaturated, and/or polyunsaturated fats might not be listed on the nutrition label. One way to determine the amount of unsaturated fat is to subtract the amount of saturated fat, trans fat, and cholesterol from the total amount of fat. Try to select foods with more unsaturated fat than saturated and trans fat. Keep in mind that plant based foods are higher in these healthy fats than foods originating from animal sources.

fats_comparison_with logo