Posts Tagged ‘nutrition’

10 Surprising Superfoods

July 25, 2009

Bon Appetite magazine has come up with a somewhat surprising list of healthful superfoods, Most of them I agree with, but some I find  a bit of a stretch (bacon as a “health food” – I don’t think so)! Still it’s a list worth perusing as it contains some foods that may not be on your radar. As you know, variety is the spice of life and a part of a good insurance policy that you’re meeting all of your nutritional needs through your diet, rather than relying on supplements. I encourage you to check it out and try a superfood new to you. You may also be interested in reading my own list(s) of favorite superfoods.

Be Well, 

Carolyn

Eating to Enhance Your Immune System

December 5, 2008

In my last blog I discussed the importance of hygiene for keeping yourself healthy during the cold and flu season.  But what we eat (or don’t eat) can also affect the ability of our immune systems to fight germs. Don’t wait until you’re sick to follow an immune-supportive diet. Eat healthfully on a regular basis to provide your body with the necessary ammunition to withstand unwanted bacteria and viruses as well as more serious conditions, such as cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

Foods That Support Immune Function

If you do nothing else to boost your immune system  – EAT MORE VEGETABLES!! Vegetables have the highest nutrient-density of all foods. In other words, they have the most nutrients for the fewest calories. So what’s so great about vegetables? They are also loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients that help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, prevent cancer, heart disease and even dementia. Top vegetable choices include:  spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, pumpkin, sweet potatoes/yams, red bell peppers, garlic and onions. 

Sweet potatoes and tomatoes are two of my favorites. Not just for Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes (and yams) boost the immune system with betacarotene. Baked or mashed, … enjoy sweet potatoes year-round but hold the marshmellows – they’re naturally sweet enough. For a “dessert potato”, bake a sweet potato, drizzle it with a little extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with pumpkin pie spices. Mmmmm….nature’s ultimate comfort food! Loaded with lycopene, a phytonutrient believed to protect against cancer and heart disease, tomatoes are another versatile nutrition powerhouse. Lycopene’s absorption is enhanced when tomatoes are cooked and mixed with a healthy little fat (i.e. in the form of olive oil or avocado).

Fruit is also loaded with immune-boosting phytonutrients, but most people  have an easier time getting sufficient fruit in their diets. Plus, it’s generally higher in calories than vegetables and therefore less nutrient-dense. Outstanding fruit choices for your immune system include blueberries, strawberries, cherries, pomegranites, cherries, papaya and purple grapes. When choosing fruit or vegetables – select a variety of colors – each contains a different group of immune-boosting phytonutrients. So if your plate has all of the colors of the rainbow – you’ll obtain the most complete spectrum of nutrients available.

Another key immune-fortifying food group is cultured dairy products (yogurt, kefir, cottage cheese). An excellent source of easily-digestible calcium, plain yogurt is full of friendly, intestinal-friendly bacteria or “probiotics”, which enhance digestion and the immune system.  

Seafood is an excellent source of zinc, a key mineral for the immune system. Shellfish are particularly zinc-rich. Cold Water fish – Salmon, Cod, Halibut- are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which can reduce the inflammation in the body that may lead to chronic diseases. Vegetarian sources of omega-3s include walnuts, hazelnuts, chia seeds, flax seeds and flax oil.

Foods That Suppress Immunity:

What you eat can also negatively impact your immune system. Immune-suppressing foods include: processed foods, sugar in all forms, simple carbohydrates and foods high in fat. Eat as many whole foods as possible and drink plenty of water and green, black or white teas, which are loaded with antioxidants.

Here’s an “Immune-Boosting Smoothie” Recipe I love anytime:

1 cup plain, non-fat yogurt with live, active cultures and no added sugars

½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)

½ cup strawberries (fresh or frozen)

1 tbsp flax oil

1 tbsp honey

½ cup orange juice (optional)

Be Well,

Carolyn

 

A Few of My Favorite Things…

November 14, 2008

I’m always looking for great wellness products for myself and my clients, so when I find something that works for me – I like to share the information. One of my must-haves is Traumeel, a homeopathic anti-inflammatory tropical ointment. For acute, minor muscle aches and pains, nothing works better. I first discovered Traumeel years ago when I was racing marathons. The difference in the soreness of my legs post-race was remarkable. These days I always carry a tube in my purse or gym bag – something I was very glad of 18 months ago when I was in a bad car-accident and suffered pretty severe whiplash. Personally, I find the ointment more effective than the gel – as it’s more penetrating. Both the ointment and the gel are odorless and they won’t stain your clothing. Traumeel is available at most health food stores and Whole Foods and these days you can even find it on Amazon.com for a great price. It’s also helpful in preventing bruising if you bump yourself or take a fall. My sister was recently in the hospital and also found it effective in healing from the pain of surgery and IVs. Note:  it should never be used on broken skin. The makers of Traumeel also make Zeel – a similar product for chronic pain and inflammation – great for those with arthritis.

Here are a few more of my favorite things:

Recharge – a natural electrolyte replacement drink alternative to Gatorade for active people especially during the summer months. Try it at Whole Foods and then to buy in bulk I found this great offer viaAmazon.

Chicken of the Sea Salmon Cups – a convenient way to get your Omega 3s on the go. Great for taking with you in the car, on the airplane – or just brown bagging at the office. Available at most grocery stores in the canned tuna section.

Water Warmup Jackets – made of special stretchy, comfortable and most importantly warm neoprene fabric. These jackets are a must if you workout in an outdoor pool during the winter months. Find them atwww.waterwarmups.com and tell Sally that Carolyn sent you.

H20 Wear Swimsuits – are made of a special blend of polyester and are guaranteed to last a year. They offer traditional-style suits as well as swimsuit tanks and shorts. I’m still wearing some that I bought years ago.Check them out at www.h20wear.com.

Xyflamend– a natural anti-inflammatory supplement for those with arthritis, sports injuries or chronic pain. It contains organic herbal anti-inflammatory formula with powerful anti-oxidative agents, including Holy Basil, Turmeric and Ginger. Find it in most health food stores and Whole Foods.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Probiotics: Nature’s “Friendly” Bacteria

November 9, 2008

In addition to getting a flu shot and washing your hands frequently, you may want to add some “beneficial” bacteria to your immune system defense this winter. Yes, despite what you’d think from the huge market of antibacterial products, not all bacteria are bad.  In fact, the so-called “good bacteria” that inhabit your body help you combat viruses and infections and may even be the key to preventing certain diseases. They are also necessary for the proper digestion of food and assimilation of nutrients.

In addition to inhabiting your intestinal tract, beneficial bacteria also live in your ears and gum tissue and, researchers theororize, your appendix. Together, these bacterial colonies make up an important part of your immune system. When you’re healthy, the bacterial communities co-exist peacefully with the good bacteria, helping to keep the population growth of the bad in check. When your system is either temporarily or chronically thrown out of balance, however, (such as with “Traveler’s diarrhea”, inflammatory bowl disease, ulcers, tooth decay and periodontal disease, skin infections and/or the use of antibiotics) the healthful bacteria lose the battle to invading armies of harmful microorganisms.

The problem with antibiotic drugs is that while they destroy bacteria, they don’t discriminate between the good and bad, so they wipe out much of the bacteria colony in general (much like chemotherrapy knocks out healthy cells as well as cancer cells). Scientists believe it’s when bacterial populations get out of balance that, over time, the climate becomes ripe for chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and even Alzheimer’s. Some studies have even attributed obesity to an excess of certain intestinal microbes that increase the body’s absorption of calories. Furthermore, recent research suggests the main function of the appendix is a storage place for beneficial bacteria.  So if you’ve had appendix out – you may need to pay more attention to your intake of probiotics.

Fortunately, you can increase your population of friendly bacteria by consuming probiotics.  Defined as “live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit to the host”, probiotics can be found in cultured dairy products such as yogurt and kefir, as well as miso, tempeh, some soy beverages, and sauerkraut. However, unless you eat a lot of these foods, it’s difficult to obtain enough good bacteria, particularly if you are ill and/or taking antibiotics.

In addition to food sources of probiotics, supplements are also available in more concentrated amounts. These supplements can also be taken preventatively, for example when traveling to a foreign country. Furthermore, they help keep your intestinal tract working smoothly whether or not it’s under attack from unfriendly microorganisms such as disease-causing bacteria, yeasts, fungi or parasites. They also help you absorb nutrients from foods you eat and other supplements you take.

So as we enter the flu season, think about keeping your immune system strong by boosting your army of beneficial bacteria. Eating plenty of cultured dairy products or taking a probiotic supplement (particularly if you’ve been on a course of antibiotics), is prudent to keeping the ecology of your body balanced.

Be Well,

Carolyn

Healthy Fats: Not an Oxymoron

November 1, 2008

I was giving a nutrition workshop recently when someone in the audience asked, “what constitutes a healthy fat and why are some healthy fats considered “healthier” than others?”. When it comes to nutrition, fat gets a bad rap. Yet, some fats are essential to good health and have many important functions in your body. These healthful, so-called poly-unsaturated “essential fatty acids” (EFAs), are available in foods such as fish, nuts, seeds and oils. In comparison, saturated fats – those in animal products such as butter, lard and marbled portions of meat- are the “bad” fats that can build up in the blood, raise cholesterol and promote heart disease. Unfortunately, when people cut down on fat in their diet, they often avoid all fats, bad and good.

The “friendly” EFAs are further divided in two categories:  Omega-3 and Omega-6 fatty acids. While the Omega-3s have primarily anti-inflammatory functions and help prevent heart disease and alleviate arthritis symptoms, Omega-6s support the skin and are used to make hormones that increase inflammation (i.e. in response to an attack on your immune system), blood clotting and cell proliferation. Omega-3s are abundant in certain oily, cold water fish – such as Atlantic salmon, cod and mackerel, trout, tuna, herring and sardinesas well flax, walnut and flax oils, walnuts and hazelnuts and chia seeds. Omega-6s can be found in cereals, eggs, most vegetable oils, nuts and seeds, legumes, whole-grain breads, baked goods, dairy products, red meat and pork and margarine.

Unfortunately, most people consume far more Omega-6s than Omega-3s, which researchers theorize can lead to heart disease, arthritis,asthma and auto-immune diseases – all of which have been linked to chronic inflammation. In order to reap the health benefits of EFAs, it’s important to balance your consumption of them. While the current average ratio is around 1 to 15  (Omega-3 to Omega-6), the ideal ratio is believed to be 1 to 2. A classic example is the fish tilapia. Currently popular in the US, tilapia is typically a farm-raised white fish which is significantly higher in Omega-6 EFAs than in Omega-3s. So while fish is generally a good choice nutritionally, the fact that tilapia is much higher in Omega-6 makes it a much poorer choice when compared with cold water fish such as wild salmon or cod. 

The following health conditions may benefit from increasing your intake of EFAs.

·   skin problems, including eczema (Omega-3s & Omega-6s)

·   arthritis and fibromyalgia (Omega-3s & Omega-6s)

·   cardiovascular disease  (Omega-3s & Omega-6s)

·   overweight and obesity (Omega-3s)

·   allergies and asthma (Omega-3s & Omega-6s)

Menu Ideas: 

The following are examples of meals and snacks containing a balance of Omega3 and Omega 6 EFAs.

*   Atlantic salmon on a bed of greens sprinkled with flax oil and balsamic vinegar

*   Oatmeal mixed with soymilk, berries, wheat germ and flax seeds

*   Bowl of split pea or legume soup and  handful of 10 walnuts or hazelnuts 

Be Well,

Carolyn

Help Your Body Heal Part II: Foods That Heal

October 28, 2008

Last time we looked at facilitating the overall healing process through exercise, nutrition and sleep.  Now I want to zero in on foods that help you heal. Certain foods can foster “healing” when you’re recovering from injury or surgery, including: nutrient-dense vegetables; foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids; and mineral-rich foods for bone re-growth.

Vegetables: Nature’s Potent Healers

Vegetables are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients – all of which are powerful healing agents. In fact, vegetables are the most nutrient-dense of all foods. In addition to the ubiquitous broccoli, spinach and carrots, there are many other winning vegetables that can help your body repair itself. Asparagus, for example, contains a unique anti-inflammatory phytochemical. The juice from asparagus is also effective in reducing the acidity of the blood and helps cleanse the tissues and muscles of waste. Peas are another powerhouse of healing help. They are great source of muscle-relaxing magnesium, which is also important for protein synthesis and bone repair. Avocados, loaded with vitamins E and B6, are also high in potassium, which helps balance your body’s electrolytes, aids muscle activity, nerve function and energy metabolism.

Celery, often viewed as a second-class citizen vegetable, in fact it offers important healing nutrients. The potassium and sodium in celery helps to regulate body fluid and stimulate urine production, making it an important help to rid the body of excess fluid. It also helps to normalize body temperature and calm the nervous system. Finally, the polyacetylene in celery provides excellent relief for all forms of inflammation.  While I’ve focused on 3 green veggies, you should consume a variety of different colors – red, orange, yellow, green and purple – as each color offers different phytonutrients.

 Omega-3 Fatty Acids: A Polyunsaturated Powerhouse

Omega-3s are powerful polyunsaturated fatty acids which have a number of wonderful functions.  They can decrease inflammation and blood clotting and can also decrease muscle-protein breakdown. Omega 3s are found in abundance in cold water fish such as salmon, mackerel, trout, Alaskan black cod, herring, sardines. Vegetarian forms include flax seeds and flax oil, extra-virgin olive oil, walnuts, hazelnuts and chia seeds. 

Bone-Repairing Foods:

If you’re recovering from a stress-fracture or broken bone, you’ll want to focus on bone-building foods. Dairy products are the richest source, but many fruits and vegetables and some nuts also contain calcium and other important minerals. Broccoli, kale, swiss chard, blackberries, raspberries, black currants, figs and almonds are all good non-dairy calcium sources. Research has shown that certain compounds in fermented (miso, tempeh) soy foods also help build bones. Soy protein contains isoflavones, compounds that scientists believe support bone development and maintenance. Vitamin D aids in the absorption of calcium in the gastrointestinal tract. Sources include sunlight, fortified milk, salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines. Vitamin K binds calcium and other minerals to the bone. Sources include kale, spinach, collard, beet and mustard greens, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Magnesium enhances the deposit of calcium into bones. Good sources include almonds, green leafy vegetables, peas, whole grains, seeds, black and white beans. Boron is a trace mineral involved in calcium metabolism. Sources include apples, pears, cherries, cabbage, legumes and nuts. Silicon is important in the growth and maintenance of bones, ligaments and tendons. Sources include asparagus, cucumbers, lettuce, olives, radishes, rice and oats.

Healing Spices

In addition to healing foods, certain spices can also aid in your recovery. Mostly known for its use in curry powder, turmeric is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. In fact studies have compared it favorably with NSAIDs such as Advil. Curry powder only contains about 20% turmeric – so it’s best to by the whole, ground spice.  It’s delicious sprinkled in soups, on salads or cooked vegetables. Ginger is another effective anti-inflammatory and it helps alleviate nausea as well. 

A Honey of a Healer

Honey is a wonderful natural, topical healing agent for minor scrapes and burns. It forms a protective, anti-bacterial barrier over the wound, while encouraging skin to regrow. It also reduces swelling and helps minimize scarring. Try honey if you scrape or scald yourself and this is one case in which you might want to literally lick your wounds!

Finally, here are some general guidelines for eating to heal:

1. Aim for variety

2. Include as much fresh food as possible.

3. Minimize your consumption of processed foods and fast food.

4. Eat an abundance of fruits and ESPECIALLY vegetables. 

5. Eat plenty of protein to facilitate tissue repair.

6. Avoid excessive consumption of salt, refined sugar, alcohol, coffee and cola which can hamper the absorption and increase the excretion of certain nutrients.

As a nutritionist, I recommend that you consume as many healing nutrients as possible from natural food sources, supplementing only when you need a therapeutic dosage. As I’ve said, certain foods mentioned above can act as powerful assistance when your body is “in the shop” for repairs. Hippocrates said it best: “Let Food Be Thy Medicine and Thy Medicine Be Thy Food” (Hippocrates 460-377 BC).

Be well,

Carolyn