June 17, 2004 — Blueberries may be the poster children for antioxidant abundance, but a new study suggests the humble bean may be a more deserving candidate.
The largest and most advanced analysis of the antioxidant content of common foods to date shows that disease-fighting antioxidants may be found in unexpected fruits and vegetables, such as beans, artichokes, and even the much-maligned Russet potato.
Researchers found that small red beans contain more disease-fighting antioxidants than both wild and cultivated blueberries, which have been heralded in recent years for their high antioxidant content. In fact, three of the top five antioxidant-rich foods studied were beans.ADVERTISEMENT
The study also shows that nuts and spices, such as ground cloves, cinnamon, and oregano, are rich in antioxidants, although they are generally consumed in much smaller amounts than fruits and vegetables.
Antioxidants are believed to help prevent and repair oxidative stress, a process that damages cells within the body and has been linked to the development of cancer, heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and .
Ranking Antioxidant-Rich Foods
The study, which appears in the June 9 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, used updated technology to assess the antioxidant content of more than 100 foods, including fruits, vegetables, cereals, breads, nuts, and spices.
Each food was analyzed for antioxidant concentration and ranked according to antioxidant capacity per serving size. But researchers note that the total antioxidant capacity of a food does not necessarily reflect their potential health benefit.
“A big factor in all of this is what happens in the digestion and absorption process,” says Researcher Ronald Prior, PhD, a chemist and nutritionist with the USDA’s Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center in Little Rock, Ark. “With some of these compounds, it appears that even though they have a high antioxidant capacity, they may not be absorbed.”
Cranberries, blueberries, and blackberries were ranked highest among the fruits studied. Beans, artichokes, and Russet potatoes were tops among the vegetables.
Pecans, walnuts, and hazelnuts were the winners in the nut category, and ground cloves, cinnamon, and oregano were the top three antioxidant-rich spices.
Here’s the list of the top 20 food sources of antioxidants, based on their total antioxidant capacity per serving size:
Researchers also found that cooking method also had a significant effect on the antioxidant content of the foods tested, but those effects were not consistent.
For example, cooked Russet and red potatoes had much lower antioxidant levels than those found in raw potatoes. Boiling also decreased antioxidant levels in carrots, but cooking tomatoes increased their antioxidant content.
Putting Antioxidants in Perspective
Registered dietitian David Grotto says he was amazed to see that unexpected foods, such as beans, potatoes, and artichokes, were so highly ranked by the study.
“With the onslaught of ‘no carbs’ going on out there, it’s nice that we can show that the potato brings more to the table than just carbohydrates,” says Grotto, who is director of nutrition at Block Center for Integrative Cancer Care in Evanston, Ill.
“The message here is diverse diet is still optimal,” Grotto tells WebMD. “You don’t want to be on the all-red-bean diet because it may have the unique set of antioxidants that are attributed to beans, but it may not have many of the antioxidants that you would find in a wild blueberry.”
Nor does it mean that you should limit your diet to only the foods that made the study’s top 20 list or start popping antioxidant supplements.
“What we’re discovering is that we only know about a thimbleful of all the antioxidants that are probably within foods,” says Grotto, who is also a spokesman for the American Dietetic Association. “What’s unique about eating foods vs. supplements is that there is always more bang for the buck in eating the foods, and you get a lot of those compounds that we really don’t fully understand the benefits of yet.”
Grotto recommends the following tips to incorporate more antioxidant-rich foods into your diet:
Make bean cubes. Process leftover beans with a little vegetable broth in a food processor until it forms a thin paste. Pour into ice cube trays, and then use the frozen cubes to thicken soups and sauces.
Substitute beans for meats. Most recipes that call for ground or cubed meats, such as stews and casseroles, also work with beans like lentils, chickpeas, or black beans in the starring role.
Be berry sneaky. Toss a handful of berries on your breakfast cereal or blend them into fruit smoothies for a healthy breakfast or snack.
But don’t despair if your favorite food didn’t make the list. Antioxidants are only one piece of the healthy eating puzzle.
“Some of those foods that are low in antioxidants may have other positive benefits, such as fiber, minerals, and other nutrients that are important,” says Prior.
The U.S. food system makes junk food plentiful and cheap. Eating a diet based on whole foods like fresh fruit and vegetables can promote health – but can also strain a tight grocery budget. Food leaders are looking for ways to improve how Americans eat.
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
The data are stark: the typical American diet is shortening the lives of many Americans. Diet-related deaths outrank deaths from smoking, and about half of U.S. deaths from heart disease – nearly 900 deaths a day – are linked to poor diet. The pandemic highlighted the problem, with much worse outcomes for people with obesity and other diet-related diseases.
“We’re really in a nutrition crisis in this country.” says Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University
“The 1969 conference was transformative,” Mozaffarian says. The programs it ushered in, like the WIC program, have helped feed millions of low-income families.
But this hasn’t been enough to solve the dual problems of food insecurity and diet-related disease. Food policy leaders say it’s time to think anew and build on what we’ve learned. The U.S. can’t “fix” hunger by just feeding people cheap, high-calorie, processed foods – the food that’s so abundant in our food supply, they say. Instead, it’s got to find ways to nourish people with healthy, nutrient-dense foods.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and thinking about food more broadly and how we can fix this crisis,” Mozaffarian told NPR. He’s co-chair of an independent task force that includes doctors, chefs, food policy and business experts, as well as farming and health advocates, who are helping form the agenda at upcoming the White House conference.
In a new report, they’ve proposed a wide-ranging set of recommendations to end hunger, advance nutrition and improve health. Here are seven big ideas they’re excited about.
Nutrition advocates say SNAP and WIC benefits, which give low-income families money for groceries, could be designed to incentivize buying more fresh produce.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
1. Treat food as medicine
There’s a growing movement to integrate food and nutrition into health care, by providing healthy meals and groceries to patients to help prevent or manage diet-related illness.The task force wants to see this kind of work expand.
“We should pay for food-based interventions that are effective,” Mozaffarian says.
“Produce prescription programs help improve diet quality and food security,” says task force member Dr. Hilary Seligman, a food insecurity expert and professor of medicine at University of California, San Francisco, noting that they can help with diet-related diseases like high blood pressure and diabetes.
Another idea is to offer medically tailored meals aimed at helping people who are already sick reverse chronic disease. Currently the federal government is running pilot programs that let Medicaid or Medicare pay for the meals in several states.
2. Focus on quality of calories, not just quantity
The U.S. food supply is awash in cheap calories. And when you’re on a tight budget or relying on benefits like SNAP (food stamps), processed foods like chips and soda can set you back less than fresh produce. Of course, eating processed foods also contributes to cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes and other chronic illnesses, warns Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association.
Brown says federal food assistance programs have helped to address hunger. “However, many U.S. food policies and programs focus on improving access to sufficient quantities of food,” she says. Instead, it’s time to modernize these policies and focus on the quality of food, “so people have access to enough nutritious food.”
The task force wants to see food programs redesigned to nudge people towards healthier options. The report points to the GusNIP nutrition incentive program – which, in select communities – gives SNAP participants more money to buy fruit and vegetables. It’s a similar concept to the Double Bucks program which doubles the value of SNAP benefits when used to buy produce at farmers markets and other venues.
“It is important to scale up these efforts to ensure that everyone has access to healthy food options,” says task force member Angela Odoms-Young, a nutrition professor at Cornell University.
The task force recommends that Congress establish a nationwide produce incentive program for all SNAP participants. “These types of programs can help promote equity,” Odoms-Young says, noting that people of color disproportionately suffer from chronic illnesses.
To nudge people to eat more fruits and vegetables, one idea is to expand access to programs that give SNAP beneficiaries more money when they buy produce at places like farmer’s markets.
Boston Globe/Boston Globe via Getty Images
3. Expand access to dietary and lifestyle counseling
The Affordable Care Act mandates that diet counseling be covered by insurers as a preventive care benefit for those at higher risk of chronic disease. The exact details of who is eligible for which services are left up to an advisory group of doctors and health care providers, as well as insurers, and many patients who would benefit may not have access to this service.
“The vast majority of Americans should be getting preventative behavioral lifestyle treatment,” Mozaffarian says. Too often, he says, doctors prescribe drugs for conditions before recommending or trying lifestyle changes. “Doctors go right to the drug,” he says. “I think that’s a big problem.”
The task force recommends that Congress expand Medicare and Medicaid coverage for medical nutrition therapy to people with high blood pressure, prediabetes, celiac disease, HIV/AIDS, cancer and other diet-related conditions. It also calls for expanded coverage of cooking classes and nutrition assistance, as well as coverage of the Diabetes Prevention Program, delivered by telehealth. This behavior-change program has been shown to be more effective than medicine in reducing the onset of Type 2 diabetes among people at high risk.
4. Support food entrepreneurs
People who start food businesses can help nourish their communities and create jobs. The task force calls on the federal government to pass policies that boost new healthy food enterprises, including providing new loans and grants to food and nutrition-related companies centered on health, equity, and sustainability. The idea is to focus especially on businesses owned by people of color and other marginalized groups.
“We don’t need more businesses creating diabetes and obesity,” says Tambra Raye Stevenson, who runs Wanda, a non-profit group that aims to build a pipeline and platform for a million Black women and girls to become local food leaders. “We need entrepreneurs that provide teaching kitchens, community gardens, healthy food retails, wellness studios, nutrition services, healthy consumer products, and urban agricultural centers,” she says.
She points to food entrepreneurs like Amanda Stephenson who opened a specialty food market in an underserved neighborhood in Washington, DC, Fresh Food Factory, and Mary Blackford of Market 7 who is planning a food hall that features Black-owned food and lifestyle businesses. “They are our food she-roes making a positive impact and providing healthy food access for our children and other women,” says Stevenson.
In the lead up to next month’s White House conference, groups like Food Tank, a food think tank, have organized listening sessions with food researchers and entrepreneurs. “For food to be more accessible and affordable, we need entrepreneurs that use science and technology,” says Danielle Nierenberg of Food Tank. She points to innovators like Journey Foods which is helping entrepreneurs bring nutritious foods and snacks to market.
5. Increase the number of new farmers growing healthy foods using regenerative farming techniques
If all Americans began to eat the recommended amounts of fruits and vegetables each day, there would be shortages. That’s because corn and soybeans are grown on most cropland in the U.S.. Now, there’s growing recognition of the need for more specialty crops – including fruits, vegetables, and nuts.
The task force recommends that Congress create a Farmer Corps to support new farmers, building on the Beginning Farmers and Ranchers Development Program. The idea is to provide new farmers with paid internships and apprenticeships to learn about sustainable farming, and funding to cover a living wage and housing. It also is pushing for loans to go to farmers growing with sustainable practices.
Growing the same crop, season after season, as many farmers do, can make lands less productive over time, and deplete nutrients from the soil.”The unfortunate reality is that today we subsidize conventional practices that degrade the soil,”says David Montgomery, a professor at the University of Washington and the author of What Your Food Atewho attended a listening session.
“What we need to sustain agriculture is to incentivize restoring healthy soils and train more farmers to be successful doing that,” he says.
6. Make school meals free for all students
School meals have been a fixture in U.S. schools ever since President Harry Truman signed the National School Lunch Act back in 1946. For decades, the federal government has reimbursed schools for meals they serve, and low-income students can qualify for free or reduced priced meals. Research has shown that low-income children who participate have better health.
Yet, many families who are eligible for free or reduced-priced meals may not receive them, sometimes due to the paperwork, bureaucracy or stigma of participating or enrolling. Amid the pandemic, school meals have been offered for free to all students. Now, the task force says this should be a permanent change.
“Without access to free meals at school, many children go without food at all during the day, and many more do not have access to the nutritious foods they need to thrive,’ says Seligman, of UC, San Francisco. She notes that school meals help not only with kids’ nutrition, but they also reduce absenteeism and improve academic outcomes.
7. Establish a federal ‘food czar’
In order to turn ideas like these into action, the task force recommends the creation of a new role in the federal government, a national director of food and nutrition, a food czar figure, if you will. The new director would help streamline and coordinate the many disparate efforts already underway. The U.S. government spends more than $150 billion each year on food and nutrition related programs, and the health care system also spends billions on treatment of diet related diseases.
“This spending is fragmented across 200 separate actions and 21 different departments and agencies without harmonization or synergy,” the task force concludes. Now, they conclude, it’s time for a new approach.
There’s no denying that public interest in health and nutrition has grown considerably. But many are still unsure what makes up a whole food, plant-based diet (WFPB). Are you one of them? Do you ever feel steeped in competing information on topics like these? Well, you certainly aren’t alone.
A WFPB diet doesn’t include any meat, poultry, fish, dairy, or eggs. It’s not, however, the same as a vegan diet, which is defined only by what it eliminates. A WFPB diet is defined also by what it emphasizes: a large variety of whole foods.
The term “whole” in WFPB describes foods that are minimally processed. This includes as many whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and legumes as you want. It also includes, in moderation: nuts, seeds, avocados, natural sweeteners, and certain soy or wheat products that don’t contain added fat (e.g., tofu).
The term “whole” in WFPB describes foods that are minimally processed.
Heavily processed foods, on the other hand, are not included in a WFPB diet. This means avoiding highly refined grain products (e.g., white rice, white flour), foods containing added sugars or artificial sweeteners (e.g., confectioners sugar, high fructose corn syrup), and foods containing added fat. Yes, even olive oil.
And that’s it, in less than 10 sentences. You need little else.
You don’t need a calculator to count calories or carbs. There’s no need to avoid cooked foods. Convenience isn’t your enemy. You’re allowed frozen fruits and vegetables, as well as their canned counterparts (just make sure to find low-sodium options). Blandness is not a prerequisite. You’re encouraged to experiment with as many spices as you’d like. And finally, contrary to popular belief, a WFPB diet won’t break your budget. Many of your trusty staples (think beans and potatoes) are among the most affordable foods in the grocery store. This diet doesn’t require specialty items hidden in the health food section. It requires no pails of agave or carts of cashews.
Many eventually give up the “diet” label, in favor of “lifestyle.” Perhaps that’s because our popular notion of dieting has become so warped and confusing. It implies a struggle, frames each meal as a challenge to overcome. A WFPB lifestyle is different. It’s not a short-term punishment charged by guilt. It’s simply a return to whole foods, rich flavors, and natural health.
Go for green, use caution with orange and stay away from red.
Cognitive decline is linked to ultraprocessed food, a study finds. Ultraprocessed foods typically include flavourings, colourings, emulsifiers and other cosmetic additives. (Cesar Carroll/EyeEm/Adobe Stock/CNN)
Eating ultraprocessed foods for more than 20% of your daily calorie intake every daycould set you on the road to cognitive decline, a new study revealed.
We all know eating ultraprocessed foods that make our lives easier — such as prepackaged soups, sauces, frozen pizza and ready-to-eat meals — isn’t good for our health. Nor is gobbling up all the pleasure foods that we love so much: hot dogs, sausages, burgers, french fries, sodas, cookies, cakes, candies, doughnuts and ice cream, to name just a few.
Now, a new study has revealed eating more ultraprocessed foods may contribute to overall cognitive decline, including the areas of the brain involved in executive functioning — the ability to process information and make decisions.
In fact, men and women who ate the most ultraprocessed foods had a 28% faster rate of global cognitive decline and a 25% faster rate of executive function decline compared with people who ate the least amount of overly processed food, the study found.
“While in need of further study and replication, the new results are quite compelling and emphasize the critical role for proper nutrition in preserving and promoting brain health and reducing risk for brain diseases as we get older,” said Rudy Tanzi, professor of neurology at Harvard Medical Schooland director ofthe genetics and aging research unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. He was not involved in the study.
“Meanwhile, since they are convenient as a quick meal, they also replace eating food that is high in plant fiber that is important for maintaining the health and balance of the trillions of bacteria in your gut microbiome,” he added, “which is particularly important for brain health and reducing risk of age-related brain diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.”
Cognitive testing, which included immediate and delayed word recall, word recognition and verbal fluency were performed at the beginning and end of the study, and participants were asked about their diet.
“In Brazil, ultraprocessed foods make up 25% to 30% of total calorie intake. We have McDonald’s, Burger King and we eat a lot of chocolate and white bread. It’s not very different, unfortunately, from many other Western countries,” said coauthor Dr. Claudia Suemoto, an assistant professor in the division of geriatrics at the University of São Paulo Medical School.
“Fifty-eight percent of the calories consumed by United States citizens, 56.8% of the calories consumed by British citizens, and 48% of the calories consumed by Canadians come from ultraprocessed foods,” Suemoto said.
Ultraprocessed foods are defined as “industrial formulations of food substances (oils, fats, sugars, starch, and protein isolates) that contain little or no whole foods and typically include flavorings, colorings, emulsifiers, and other cosmetic additives,” according to the study.
“People who consumed more than 20% of daily calories from processed foods had a 28% faster decline in global cognition and a 25% faster decline in executive functioning compared to people who ate less than 20%,” said study coauthor Natalia Gonçalves, a researcherin the department of pathology at the University of São Paulo Medical School.
Those in the study who ate the most ultraprocessed foods were “more likely to be younger, women, White, had higher education and income, and were more likely to have never smoked, and less likely to be current alcohol consumers,” the study found.
“People need to know they should cook more and prepare their own food from scratch. I know. We say we don’t have time but it really doesn’t take that much time,” Suemoto said.
“And it’s worth it because you’re going to protect your heart and guard your brain from dementia or Alzheimer’s disease,” she added. “That’s the take-home message: Stop buying things that are superprocessed.”
Image Credit: Unsplash. This image has been modified.
Do legumes—beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils—work only to prevent disease, or can they help treat and reverse it as well?
Legumes—all kinds of beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils—are “an excellent source of many essential nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, fibers, antioxidants, and other bioactive compounds,” and not just an excellent source, but they are perhaps the single cheapest source, as you can see at 0:19 in my video Benefits of Beans for Peripheral Vascular Disease. Indeed, in terms of nutrition density per penny, the four that really pull away from the pack are pinto beans, lentils, black beans, and kidney beans.
What’s more, all of that nutritional quality may have beneficial effects on excess body weight, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress—all major cardiovascular risk factors. So, do men and women who eat more beans tend to have less heart disease? Yes, which “suggests that increasing legume intake may be an important part of a dietary approach to the primary prevention of CHD [coronary heart disease] in the general population.” But, wait. Maybe those eating more bean burritos are just eating fewer beef burritos? The researchers took that into account and controlled for the intakes of meat, fruits, and vegetables, as well as smoking and exercise habits, yet, even still, the bean eaters appeared to be protected, as you can see at 1:05 in my video.
In the study, the group in the highest category were eating legumes four or more times a week. In my Daily Dozen, I recommend people eat legumes three times a day! In Costa Rica, researchers were able to find enough people eating beans every day, so even after controlling for many of the same factors, like intake of saturated fat and cholesterol, they found that just a single daily serving of beans was associated with a 38 percent reduction in the risk of heart attack. What’s more, you may actually get to live longer, too. Researchers found bean eaters had an 8 percent lower all-cause mortality, again after adjusting for other dietary factors. You can’t control for everything, though. You can’t prove cause and effect until you put it to the test.
Randomized controlled interventional trials have found that dietary bean intake does significantly reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels. In fact, we’ve known that for more than half a century, dating back to 1962. You can see what happens at 2:11 in my videowhen you measure cholesterol levels at baseline, add beans to the diet, and then remove beans from the diet. The cholesterol content in blood serum goes down and back up.
Beans also “have a low glycemic index and saturated fat content, and are high in fiber, potassium, and plant protein, each of which independently confers BP- [blood pressure-] lowering effects. Whether there is sufficient evidence to emphasize dietary pulses [beans] alone to lower BP, however, is unclear.” Therefore, what we need is a systematic review and meta-analysis of controlled feeding trials, and we got just that. What did the researchers find? Beans do indeed lower blood pressure no matter where you start out.
Beans may be able to prevent artery disease, but what about reversing it? Can the daily consumption of beans (other than soybeans) reverse vascular impairment due to peripheral artery disease? “Peripheral artery disease (PAD) results from a decrease in blood flow to the limbs due to the presence of atherosclerotic plaque.” We know that soybeans may help, but what about other beans? Researchers had 26 individuals with peripheral artery disease consume one daily serving of a combination of beans, split peas, lentils, and chickpeas for eight weeks.
PAD is essentially diagnosed and followed with the ankle-brachial index, which is just the ratio of blood pressure at your ankle compared to your arm. Once it dips below 0.9, that means there must be some kind of clogs in the blood flow to the lower body. But, when you eat some beans, you may get a significant increase. In fact, the bump was enough to push 4 of 26 participants up into the normal range after only eight weeks eating some beans. Now, the study didn’t have a control group, but people with PAD tend to get worse, not better. “A legume-rich diet can elicit major improvements in arterial function,” concluded the researchers.
It meant a lot to me to be able to cover peripheral artery disease. If you remember my personal story, that’s one of the conditions that plagued my grandmother and one of the reasons she was confined in a wheelchair. She had been waiting to die—until she was saved by evidence-based nutrition, which inspired me to do for everyone’s family what Nathan Pritikin did for mine.
Legumes (beans, chickpeas, split peas, and lentils) are not only an excellent source of many essential nutrients, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, but they may also be the single cheapest source.
When it comes to nutrition density per penny, the stand-outs are pinto beans, lentils, black beans, and kidney beans.
Eating legumes have been shown to have beneficial effects on major cardiovascular risk factors, including excess body weight, insulin resistance, high cholesterol, inflammation, and oxidative stress, even after controlling for intakes of meat, fruits, and vegetables, and exercise and smoking habits.
My Daily Dozen recommends a minimum of three servings of legumes a day.
Researchers have found that a single daily serving of beans is associated with a 38 percent lower risk of heart attack and bean eaters have an 8 percent lower all-cause mortality, again after adjusting for other dietary factors.
Dietary bean intake significantly reduces so-called bad LDL cholesterol levels, and the low glycemic index and saturated fat content of beans, along with being high in fiber, potassium, and plant protein, each independently confers blood pressure-lowering effects.
Beans may not only be able to prevent artery disease, but reverse it, too, and researchers have concluded, “A legume-rich diet can elicit major improvements in arterial function.”
FOR MOST OF US, THERE’S REALLY NO NEED TO PACK OUR MEDICINE CABINETS WITH PILLS TO REDUCE CHOLESTEROL LEVELS.
Natural, lifestyle-based strategies have proven extraordinarily effective in reducing cholesterol quickly and permanently. Get the top 5 food and fitness tips recommended by the doctors, dietitians, exercise experts, and other faculty at the Pritikin Longevity Center. Pritikin has been helping people lower cholesterol levels since 1975.
You can reduce cholesterol quickly, and without the need for pills. Simple lifestyle strategies can be very powerful. Here are the top 5.
Did you know that for every 10% drop in your cholesterol level, your heart attack risk drops by 20% to 30%? There’s more good news: Most of us can reduce cholesterol quickly, and without the need for medications. Simple lifestyle strategies can be very powerful.
That’s what several studies on thousands following the Pritikin Program of diet and exercise have found. Within three weeks, people were able to lower their cholesterol levels on average 23%, which translates into a 46% to 69% drop in heart attack risk.1
5 Tactics To Reduce Cholesterol Quickly
Below are 5 of the key lifestyle-change tactics taught by the physicians, registered dietitians, exercise physiologists, and other faculty at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami for fast, significant lowering of cholesterol levels, particularly LDL bad cholesterol.
If you’re serious about lowering your cholesterol and taking good care of your heart, these 5 tactics are a great place to start. They’ll also help you shed excess weight, which will also improve heart health.
Focus on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans
Our typical American diet is now abbreviated as SAD (Standard American Diet) by scientists nationwide because it’s full of foods that do sad things to both hearts and waistlines. Hyperprocessed foods like potato chips and French fries. Sugar-saturated drinks. And fatty, artery-clogging meats and full-fat dairy foods like cheese.
We don’t have to become complete vegetarians to get our cholesterol levels into healthy ranges, studies on the Pritikin Program have found, but clearly, the more vegetables, fruits, potatoes, and other naturally-fiber-rich plant foods we eat, the healthier we’ll be.
Plant foods high in soluble fiber are especially beneficial in lowering total and LDL bad cholesterol levels. Good sources include beans (pinto beans, black beans, etc), yams, oats (yes, eat your oatmeal!), barley, and berries.
For simple tips on bringing more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans into your life, here is a 5-day sample healthy meal plan from the doctors and dietitians at Pritikin Longevity Center.
Eat far fewer of the following fats…
Foods with a lot of heart-damaging saturated fat include butter, meat, palm oil, coconut oil, and full-fat and low-fat dairy products, such as whole milk, low-fat milk, cheese, and cream.
If you see partially hydrogenated fat in the Ingredient List of a food label, that food has trans fats, which not only raise bad LDL cholesterol, they also lower good HDL cholesterol.
Top sources of dietary cholesterol include egg yolks, organ meats, and shellfish.
One type of fat – omega-3 fatty acids – has been shown to protect against heart disease. Excellent sources are cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, halibut, trout, herring, and sardines.
But do keep in mind that limiting fat intake, even so-called “good” fats like omega-3 fat or Mediterranean-style fats like olive oil, is a good idea because any fat is dense with calories, which means heavy consumption can easily lead to a heavy body. That’s bad news not just for our weight but our hearts because being overweight adversely affects blood cholesterol levels.
Excess weight is linked not just to heart disease but to a staggering list of other woes, including Type 2 diabetes, hypertension, gout, dementia, and many cancers.
Eat more plant sources of protein…
Excellent plant proteins include beans – all beans, like lentils, red beans, pinto beans, and soybeans. Rather than raising blood cholesterol levels, as animal sources of protein do, beans actually help lowercholesterol.
Beans also help reduce blood sugar and insulin levels, and may even lower cancer risk.
When choosing products made from soybeans, stick to:
(available in most grocery store freezer sections, often described as edamame)
vanilla, original, or unsweetened
(unflavored/unmarinated – found in refrigerator cases)
All the above are great choices for your cholesterol profile and overall health.
Eat fewer refined grains, such as white flour.
We’re a nation of “white food” eaters – white bread, white rice, white pasta, and white-flour foods like muffins, croissants, bagels, crackers, dried cereals, tortillas, pretzels, and chips. Yes, more than half of many Americans’ typical diets are made up of hyperprocessed refined white flour, often injected with sugar, salt, and/or fat.
That’s a real problem in part because the more white, or refined, grains we eat, the fewer whole grains we tend to take in. Research has found that eating whole grains can help lower both total and LDL cholesterol, and improve heart health.
In Harvard University’s Nurses’ Health Study, for example, women who ate two to three servings of whole-grain products (mostly bread and breakfast cereals) each day were 30% less likely to have a heart attack or die from heart disease over a 10-year period than women who ate less than one serving of whole grains per week.2
When first starting to make the switch from refined to whole grains, many people often feel a bit confused. Where to begin? What’s whole? What isn’t?
The registered dietitians at the Pritikin Longevity Center start with one very simple rule. When looking at products like breads and cereals, they recommend turning the package around and making sure the first word in the Ingredient List is “whole.” If you see the word “whole” at the top of the list, it’s a good bet that what you’re buying is in fact 100% whole grain, or close to it.
Another tip for getting more whole grains in your life comes from the chefs at Pritikin, who teach healthy cooking classes every day at the Center. “Expand your culinary horizons. There are many delicious whole-grain choices in just about every grocery store. Get beyond brown rice!” encourages Executive Chef Anthony Stewart.
“Introduce yourself to a whole new world of flavors with whole grains like whole-wheat couscous, polenta (cornmeal), quinoa, wild rice, and kasha.”
The really good news is that many whole grains are surprisingly quick and easy to prepare. Often, all you need is a pot of hot water and a little stirring actio
Regular exercise may only slightly lower your total and LDL cholesterol levels, but it often does a very good job, in combination with a healthy eating plan like Pritikin, of helping you shed excess weight, which can dramatically improve your cholesterol profile.
Just getting out for a 30-minute walk most days of the week is a great start, but for optimal health and protection from cardiovascular disease, the exercise physiologists at the Pritikin Longevity Center coach people in three key forms of exercise:
daily, a minimum of 30 minutes and optimally 60 to 90 minutes, alternating moderate-intensity days with vigorous-intensity days.
“But don’t think you have to do it all at once,” says Pritikin Fitness Director Scott Danberg, MS. “If you’re pressed for time, something like 15 minutes of brisk walking in the morning, another 15 at lunch, and another 15 after dinner is an excellent alternative.”
Concerned about vigorous exercise? Afraid it might be harmful to your heart? Before launching an exercise program, it’s always important to schedule an appointment with your physician to make sure you’re in good shape for cardiovascular workouts. At Pritikin, every guest undergoes treadmill stress testing, plus a 1-hour consultation with one of Pritikin’s board-certified physicians, before starting exercise classes.
routine two to three times weekly.
You don’t need high-tech weight machines, guests at Pritikin learn. Simple hand weights or resistance bands can provide a superb full-body workout, and in just 20 to 25 minutes.
daily to greatly enhance overall flexibility and ability to exercise more freely.
“For stretching, many of our guests really enjoy our yoga classes,” observes Scott Danberg. “Yoga is a wonderful way to wind down after cardiovascular and resistance training.”
Eating Well + Exercise
For best results with a healthy lifestyle, new research has found that plunging right in with both healthy eating and exercising is the way to go.3
The Stanford University School of Medicine study involved 200 middle-aged Americans, all sedentary and with poor eating habits. Some were told to launch new food and fitness habits at the same time. Others began dieting but waited several months before beginning to exercise. A third group started exercising but didn’t change eating habits till several months later.
All the groups received telephone coaching and were followed for one year. The winning group was the one making food and exercise changes together. The people in this group were most likely to meet U.S. guidelines for exercise (150 minutes per week) and healthy eating (5 to 9 servings of fruit and vegetables per day), and to keep calories from saturated fat at less than 10% of their total intake of calories.
If lifestyle changes aren’t enough…
Take medications, if you need to, to lower your cholesterol into healthy ranges. “Drugs like statins can be very effective,” says cardiologist and Pritikin Medical Director Ronald Scheib, MD, “but do continue in your efforts to eat well and exercise because a healthy lifestyle can give you far, far more than drugs alone.
“With a healthy living program like Pritikin, you’re not only reducing cholesterol quickly, you’re also creating changes throughout your body that can profoundly improve your overall well-being. You’re reducing blood sugar levels and blood pressure. Other heart disease risk factors like triglyceride fats are also dropping dramatically. You’re also reducing inflammatory factors that sicken arteries. You’re shedding excess weight. And, quite simply, you’re feeling better, much better. Many of our guests at Pritikin tell us, ‘I had no idea I could feel this good again.’
“Can any pill or combination of pills do all of the above? I highly doubt it. But a healthy lifestyle like Pritikin can.”
NYC’s trans-fat ban has actually started saving lives
By Danika Fears April 12, 2017 | 4:25pm | Updated
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It looks as if Nanny Bloomberg was right all along.
New York City’s ban on trans fats appears to be working out just as the former mayor had hoped, with research suggesting that people are healthier in places that forbid the heart-clogging oils.
Hospitals in New York counties with trans-fat bans saw a 6 percent drop in heart attacks and strokes three years after the laws went into effect, as compared with areas without restrictions, according to a new report in JAMA Cardiology.
That means there were 43 fewer heart attacks and strokes per 100,000 people, according to researcher Dr. Eric Brandt, a Yale University cardiology fellow.
Under the Bloomberg administration, the Big Apple in 2006 banned trans fats in restaurants, which often used the grease for french fries and other dishes.
The city’s restrictions applied to food purchased outside of stores, such as at restaurants, street vendors and bakeries.
The ban was originally scoffed at by some who feared the flavor of some foods might be ruined.
But, unlike Mike Bloomberg’s attempted crackdown on sugary drinks, the trans-fat ban was soon accepted by the public. Years later, few complain about it. In 2015 the FDA announced it would spread the trans-fat prohibition nationwide, starting in 2018.
Brandt said this is the first study to confirm public health has been improved by the ban.
“New York City was progressive and they enacted restrictions on trans fats, but no one looked to see if this made measurable changes to outcomes,” he said.
“There has been a lot of looking into whether trans fats are harmful. Here we find on a population level that when we restrict them, it benefits society by reducing heart attacks and strokes.”
Researchers conducting the study compared data on people hospitalized between 2002 and 2013 for heart attacks or strokes in counties that did restrict trans fats with data for counties that did not.
Stroke kills about 5 million people worldwide per year. It’s the leading cause of permanent disability in the U.S., and it’s a rapidly growing threat for middle-aged women in particular. But if you want to prevent yourself and those you love from getting a stroke, there’s good news…
Basic lifestyle changes can have a big impact in reducing stroke risk. In fact, according to research, stroke is 80%preventable by addressing lifestyle factors, including improving diet, stopping smoking, and getting regular exercise.
The best way to prevent stroke is by improving your diet
According to Food Revolution Summit speaker Michael Greger, MD, the best way to avoid suffering from a stroke is to eatawhole foods, plant-based diet centered around vegetables, lentils, beans, seeds, whole grains, fruits, and nuts.
But to get the full benefits, plant-strong eaters must have a regular, reliable source of B12 — meaning B12-fortified foods or supplements.
Why do plant-based diets lower the risk of stroke?
One reason why plant-based diets protect against stroke is due to thefiber found in whole plant foods. Studies find that for every 7 grams of fiber you eat per day, you get nearly a 7% drop in the risk of first-time stroke. But less than 3% of Americans meet the minimum daily recommendation for fiber.
Plant foods are also filled with antioxidants. Antioxidant-packed foods help reduce inflammation and prevent plaque buildup in the arteries, and they also improve blood flow.
In a study of more than 30,000 older women over a period of 12 years, those who ate the most antioxidant-rich foods had the lowest stroke risk. (However, choosing antioxidant supplements didn’t appear to help.)
On average, plant foods contain 64 timesmore antioxidants than animal foods. But you should always strive for a variety of fruits, veggies, herbs, and spices at every meal, so you can continuously flood your body with a wide range of antioxidants.
Specific foods to consume regularly if you want to avoid stroke
In one study, adding an ounce of nuts per day seemed to cut the risk of stroke in half.
In the U.S. alone, this could prevent 89,000 strokes per year.
According to studies led by Harvard researchers, greens turned out to be associated with the strongest protection against major chronic diseases, including a 20% reduction for strokes (and heart disease) for every additional serving.
According to population studies that followed people over time, those who ate chocolate appeared to have lower rates of stroke.
But the sugar and dairy that come with most types of chocolate aren’t linked to positive health outcomes, so dark chocolate with high cacao content is the best choice.
Citrus intake has been associated with lower stroke risk.
According to a study of 70,000 women published in the journal Stroke, women who consumed the most flavonoids from citrus fruits over a 14-year period had a 19% lower risk of stroke than women who consumed the fewest.
Eating whole grains has been found to be associated with a reduced risk of stroke. In his book How Not to Die, Dr. Greger recommends at least 3 servings of whole grains each day for stroke prevention.
Garlic is a great choice for reducing stroke risk. A human study found that regular garlic consumption resulted in a 50% reduction in rates of stroke.
High levels of lycopene, which is found in tomatoes, may be associated with a significantly reduced risk of stroke.
According to an analysis published in Neurology, which followed more than 1,000 Finnish men aged 46 to 55, those with the highest lycopene levels were 55% less likely to have a stroke.
Coffee and green tea
The results of a 13-year study of more than 80,000 Japanese adults found that those who drank at least one cup of coffee a day had a 20% reduced risk of stroke.
And those who drank 2 to 3 cups of green tea daily had a 14% reduced risk.
Eating more potassium-rich foods is associated with a significantly lower stroke risk. In one study, a 1,600 milligrams per day increase in potassium intake was associated with a 21% lower stroke risk — and this amount didn’t even bring many study participants to the minimum daily recommendations.
But less than 2% of Americans reach the daily potassium intake because most people don’t eat enough unprocessed plant foods.
Potassium is abundant in fruits and vegetables. Greens, beans, and sweet potatoes are excellent sources of potassium.
According to a meta-analysis of studies, higher magnesium intake is associated with a reduced risk of stroke.
Beans, leafy greens, and whole grains are all loaded with magnesium.
Foods to avoid if you want to avoid stroke
The standard Western diet has been found to be associated with a 58% increase in stroke risk.
Studies indicate that it is particularly important to reduce your intake of the following foods:
High cholesterol foods
Uric acid is a compound produced by your body when it breaks down certain foods. Too little uric acid is associated with stroke. People on dairy-free plant-strong diets are most likely to hit the sweet spot in terms of optimal uric acid levels for longevity, so this is one of the reasons limiting or cutting out dairy can help reduce your risk of stroke.
A meta-analysis on meat found a 10% increased risk of stroke associated with each three-and-a-half-ounce daily portion of red and processed meat. The heme iron in meat has also been found to be associated with stroke risk, while no association was found between the non-heme iron in plants and stroke.
Another factor may be the toxic pollutants, like PCBs, that can build up in animal fats. People with the highest levels of these pollutants in their bloodstream increase their odds of stroke by as much as 8 or 9 times.
Research presented at the American Stroke Association’s International Stroke Conference showed that people who drink just one diet soda a day may increase their risk of stroke by 48%.
Other lifestyle factors to help prevent stroke
Exercise is medicine, and regular exercise can help you prevent stroke. In fact, researchers at the London School, Harvard, and Stanford found that exercise worked just as well as drugs for stroke (and heart disease) treatment.
But how much exercise do you need? Most health and fitness organizations advocate walking an hour 5 days a week.
If you’re overweight, even losing 10 pounds can have a substantial impact on your stroke risk.
If you want to reduce your risk of stroke, getting the optimal amount of sleep regularly is important.
Researchers at the University of Alabama found a strong link between getting less than 6 hours of sleep and a greater incidence of stroke symptoms for people over 45.
According to scientists at Harvard University, people with sunny dispositions are far less likely to suffer from strokes or heart attacks.
Studies found a 50% reduction in cardiovascular disease for those who scored highest for optimism and vitality.
Low levels of vitamin D increase your risk of risk. According to onestudy, low levels of vitamin D doubles the risk of stroke in Caucasians. Vitamin D levels can be increased with exposure to sun, supplementation, or by eating vitamin D-fortified foods.
Strokes typically occur without any warning at all, so prevention is critical.
If you want to avoid suffering from stroke, consuming a variety of whole, plant-based foods and eating fewer animal products and processed foods, along with exercise, getting enough sleep, releasing excess weight, and staying positive can go a long way in helping you achieve this goal.
November 14, 2016 Categories: Heart News, Scientific Conferences & Meetings
Postmenopausal women who follow a high-protein diet could be at higher risk of heart failure, especially if most of their protein comes from meat.
Researchers combined dietary self-reports with biomarkers to determine actual dietary protein intake as self-reporting alone is often inaccurate.
Embargoed until 8 a.m. CT/ 9 a.m. ET, Monday, Nov. 14, 2016
NEW ORLEANS, Nov. 14, 2016 — Women over the age of 50 who follow a high-protein diet could be at higher risk for heart failure, especially if much of their protein comes from meat, according to preliminary research presented at the American Heart Association’s Scientific Sessions 2016.
Researchers evaluated the self-reported daily diets of 103,878 women between the ages of 50 and 79 years, from 1993 to 1998. A total of 1,711 women developed heart failure over the study period. The rate of heart failure for women with higher total dietary protein intake was significantly higher compared to the women who ate less protein daily or got more of their protein from vegetables.
While women who ate higher amounts of vegetable protein appeared to have less heart failure, the association was not significant when adjusted for body mass.
“Higher calibrated total dietary protein intake appears to be associated with substantially increased heart failure risk while vegetable protein intake appears to be protective, although additional studies are needed to further explore this potential association,” said Mohamad Firas Barbour, M.D., study author and internist at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Memorial Hospital of Rhode Island, in Pawtucket.
The findings were true regardless of age, race or ethnicity, level of education, or if the women had high blood pressure (2.9 percent), diabetes (8.3 percent), coronary artery disease (7.1 percent), anemia (3.4 percent), or atrial fibrillation (4.9 percent).
The subjects were all participants in the Women’s Health Initiative, an ongoing, long-term national dietary survey investigating strategies for reducing heart disease, breast and colorectal cancer, and osteoporosis.
Researchers said other studies have found a link between increased protein from meat and cardiovascular risk in women.
“Our findings should be interpreted with caution, but it appears that following a high-protein diet may increase heart failure risk,” Barbour