These Are The Most Popular Healthy Foods of 2017

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This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com. 

Every year, certain ingredients and dishes emerge as trendy “must-haves”—even if it’s something we’ve been eating for centuries. Just a few years ago, for example, no one had even heard of quinoa (which has been around for at least 5,000 years), and now not a day goes by when we don’t see it on a menu.

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These foods and popular ingredients aren’t just being whipped up by chefs or served in popular restaurants. They’ve become mainstream amongst home cooks across America, and thousands of eaters are also ordering them through delivery services. UberEATS has seen a surge in fresh, nutritious delivery orders (so long, pizza and burgers), so they compiled a list of the top 20 healthy food trends for 2017. The data is based on UberEATS order patterns so far this year.

RELATED: 9 Healthy Kitchen Staples That Cost Under $1 Per Serving

Unsurprisingly, avocado is at the top of the list—it seems this trend is here to stay. According to their data, the fruit is the most popular healthy food in more than 16 cities across the country. Kale has dropped to number 8 on the list, making way for poke (a Hawaiian raw fish salad), edamame, radishes, and pickles. Bulgur and brown rice have replaced quinoa as the resident grains/seeds in the top 20.

The fact that tofu rounds out the top 10 is a nod to people re-thinking the amount of meat they consume—and how it appears on their plates. More and more, in home kitchens, restaurants, and new cookbooks, we’re seeing veggies take center stage with meat as a side, or a garnish. Check out the full list below, and use it as an opportunity to try out some new healthy ingredients this year.

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  1. Avocado
  2. Poke
  3. Edamame
  4. Radish
  5. Pickles
  6. Cucumber
  7. Celery
  8. Kale
  9. Pho
  10. Tofu
  11. Carrots
  12. Broccoli
  13. Asparagus
  14. Bulgur
  15. Chickpea
  16. Cabbage
  17. Coconut
  18. Brown Rice
  19. Bok Choy
  20. Bone Broth

Source: Nutrition

Alcohol Is Good for Your Heart—Most of the Time

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This article originally appeared on Time.com. 

Alcohol, in moderation, has a reputation for being healthy for the heart. Drinking about a glass of wine for women per day, and two glasses for men, is linked to a lower risk of heart attack, stroke and death from heart disease. (Drinking too much, of course, negates these benefits and increases the risk of heart problems.)

Now, a new study of nearly two million people published in The BMJ adds more evidence that moderate amounts of alcohol appear to be healthy for most heart conditions—but not all of them.

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The researchers analyzed the link between alcohol consumption and 12 different heart ailments in a large group of U.K. adults. None of the people in the study had cardiovascular disease when the study started.

People who did not drink had an increased risk for eight of the heart ailments, ranging from 12% to 56%, compared to people who drank in moderation. These eight conditions include the most common heart events, such as heart attack, stroke and sudden heart-related death. Non-drinkers had a 33% higher risk of unstable angina—a condition in which the heart doesn’t get enough blood flow—and a 56% higher risk of dying unexpectedly from heart disease, compared to people who drank a glass or two of alcohol a day.

RELATED: How Alcohol Affects Your Body

But alcohol does not seem to provide protection against four less common heart problems: certain types of milder strokes, which result from brief periods when blood flow to parts of the brain are blocked, and cases of bleeding in the brain.

The study’s findings are particularly interesting because the researchers separated drinkers into categories that are typically lumped together in these kinds of studies. “Non-drinkers” often include people who have never drank, as well as those who quit drinking (who may have been heavy drinkers in the past, and so may have a higher risk of heart problems). This may have inflated the risk of non-drinkers; in some cases, grouping people this way might make drinking alcohol look better for the heart than it actually is.

It’s not clear from the current study why alcohol lowers the risk of some heart conditions and not others. But Steven Bell, a genetic epidemiologist at University of Cambridge and the study’s lead author, says that another study designed to answer that question is currently underway. “We are unpacking how different risk factors are associated with each different disease,” he says. Future studies will also tease apart whether different types of alcohol—wine versus beer or spirits, for example—have varying effects on the risk of heart disease.

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In the meantime, Bell says that the results should reassure people who drink a few glasses of alcohol each week. But it shouldn’t compel people who don’t currently drink to pick up the habit in order to stave off heart disease. Because alcohol carries a risk of liver disease, there are safer ways to lower risk, he says, such as quitting smoking, exercising regularly and eating a healthy diet.

Source: Nutrition

Eating at Night Can Make You Gain Weight, But What If You're Actually Hungry?

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You're just about to crawl into bed…and hunger strikes. You know late-night snacks aren't great for your waistline, or your slumber. So should you try to ignore the craving—or eat something small? And if so, what should you have? Here’s my advice about what to do, and how to ward off pre-bedtime hunger in the first place.

First, figure out if you're actually hungry

The first step is to determine if you’re truly in need of nourishment, or experiencing a false hunger triggered by habit, anxiety, or the desire for a reward. To do that, check in with your body: Do you have physical signs of hunger, like a growling tummy? When did you last eat, and what did you have?

For most people, a well-balanced meal (such as a generous amount of veggies plus lean protein, healthy fat, and a bit of carbs) should leave you feeling full for about four hours. So if you ate a healthy dinner less than four hours ago, and you don’t have any physical symptoms of hunger, blame “mind hunger.”

If your craving is driven by habit (for example, maybe you always pair snacking with watching Netflix before bed), mix up your routine. Do something else with your hands as you veg out in front of the TV. Try doodling, playing with a Rubik’s Cube, or doing anything else that keeps you occupied.

If your hunger is triggered by emotions (like stress, or anger), choose another way to self-soothe. Listen to a five-minute guided meditation. Or see if writing in a journal will do the trick.

Eating when you aren’t physically hungry is like putting on a sweater when you’re not cold: It’s not helpful, and can just make you more uncomfortable. On the flip side, getting to the root of what’s steering you to the kitchen can help improve your mental well being, and break the pattern of distracting yourself with food.

RELATED: Best and Worst Foods for Sleep

Snack smarter

Let's say you establish that you really are physically hungry. Now try to assess how hungry you feel. Do you just need a few bites to take the edge off? If so, have a quarter cup of nuts or seeds (a serving about the size of a golf ball). The protein, good fat, and fiber they contain will fill you up, but not leave you feeling stuffed and sluggish. What's more, as much as 30% of the calories in nuts aren’t digestible, which means the calorie count may be a third less than what the label states. And that's ideal since you're about to be sedentary for about seven to eight hours.

If you think you’re too hungry for just nuts, have some fruit too. Kiwis are a good choice, since they’ve been shown to help with sleep. A study published in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that men and women who ate two kiwis one hour before bed fell asleep more than 35% faster, slept more soundly, and experienced a 13.4% increase in total sleep time, compared to before the kiwi intervention.

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Rethink your dinner

If you’re so hungry that nuts, seeds, and fresh fruit won’t cut it, you may want to reexamine the composition and timing of your dinner meal. I’ve had clients who weren't eating enough at dinner and then had trouble falling asleep. Or they'd wake up in the middle of the night to binge. That's because a low-calorie soup, salad, or diet frozen dinner at 7:00 pm just isn’t going to keep you sated until a 10 or 11 o'clock bedtime.

For a healthy and satisfying dinner, make veggies the bulk of your meal. The ideal amount is at least two cups in their raw state (about the size of two baseballs). Add protein from seafood, poultry, eggs, or pulses; and a good fat like avocado or EVOO. Top it all off with a small portion of whole food carbs like spaghetti squash, quinoa, or sweet potato.

Bonus: This type of balanced meal will also help you catch higher-quality Zs. Recent research suggests that eating too little fiber and too much sugar and saturated fat (the kind found in fatty meat and dairy products) can disturb sleep, while higher fiber meals lead to deeper slumber.

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

Source: Nutrition

How Much Caffeine Is Too Much?

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The current recommendation for people in good health is up to 400 milligrams of caffeine a day. That’s roughly the amount in four eight-ounce cups of brewed coffee. Drinking that much coffee may even bring health perks, including reduced risks of heart disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes—though we don’t know whether that’s due to the caffeine or to antioxidants or other health-promoting substances in java. (In other words, don’t expect the same benefits from caffeinated sodas or energy shots.)

RELATED: The Caffeine Overdose Symptoms You Need to Know

But keep in mind that just because it’s safe to have that much caffeine doesn’t mean everyone should. We don’t all metabolize caffeine the same way: Some people find that even a little cup of coffee or tea can make them restless. Also, if you don’t consume caffeine regularly, you may be affected by it more intensely when you do have it. Listen to your body, and if you tend to get jittery, try spacing out your caffeinated beverages.

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One more thing: If you’re a caffeine fiend, check in with yourself to make sure you’re not using a landslide of lattes to offset sleep deprivation. If you’re clocking enough sleep but still routinely feel exhausted, speak to your doctor to rule out any medical issues that can cause low energy, including a thyroid disorder.

Source: Nutrition

How Rubber Bands Can Remind You to Drink More Water

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This article originally appeared on CookingLight.com. 

"I don't really drink water," I told a friend a few weeks ago. She was baffled and immediately started listing the reasons that my lack of hydration was so awful. She went on to tell me how drinking water would make my skin more clear, it would make me feel more full so I would eat less, and of course, she told me how important it is to keep your body functioning properly.

I know all of these things already, but for some reason, water just was not a part of my routine. I drank water when I was thirsty and lived mainly on coffee throughout the day. Everything my friend said about hydration made complete sense, but I was "yes-ing" her until she would stop and we could move on to any other topic.

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Then she made a suggestion, a suggestion that made drinking water sound like a game or a challenge–a simple, way-too-easy way to track my water intake: "Put a few rubber bands around your water bottle and every time you finish a bottle you get to remove a band."

For some reason this simple act changed the way I think about drinking water. Every morning, I put 6 rubber bands on my 20-ounce water bottle, and every time I finish a bottle, I remove a rubber band and put it on my wrist.

"Victory!" I think to myself. It was such a small, insignificant challenge that I knew I could do it. I never said to myself "I MUST DRINK 120 OUNCES A DAY!" I simply started off small. One rubber band at a time. 20 ounces at a time.

RELATED: The Amount of Water You Actually Need Per Day

I've been taking this daily "rubber band challenge" for around two weeks now, and I must say I feel fantastic. I have more energy, my skin did get kind of glowy, and I have been snacking a lot less. Apparently, the rubber bands are an old trick, but the simplicity of it is what is working for me. It has also been a bit of a conversation starter around the office, I think I’ve even sold the idea to a few coworkers.

So what are you waiting for? Raid that office supply closet and get some rubber bands on your bottle!

Source: Nutrition

What Are Functional Waters, and Do They Really Work?

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Functional waters are any brand of H2O "enhanced" with special ingredients, like herbs or antioxidants, that supposedly bring health benefits. Some types make sense to drink: Water with added electrolytes may be useful if you exercise a lot and sweat heavily and need to replenish sodium and other electrolytes quickly, or if you have a diarrheal illness and are potentially losing electrolytes that way. And waters with added vitamins can give you a nutritional boost (though you absorb vitamins better when you get them through food).

RELATED: 15 Big Benefits of Water

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Be more skeptical of any brands that claim to alter the body’s pH, as well as ones that have added hydrogen to purportedly load you up with extra antioxidant power. There’s no credible science to back these claims. One 2012 lab study found that alkaline water with a pH of 8.8 neutralized pepsin, a stomach enzyme involved in breaking down food proteins and producing stomach acid, which suggests it might help soothe acid reflux—but it hasn’t been studied in people yet. For the most part, your body is designed to maintain its own pH balance naturally, and what you eat or drink doesn’t change that.

 

Health’s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine.

Source: Nutrition

Is Drinking Vinegar the Next Lemon Water? Here’s What to Know

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I have long been a fan of apple cider vinegar (ACV), an old home remedy that has some solid science behind it. Research suggests ACV may offer health benefits, such as helping to reduce blood sugar, support gut health, and potentially warding off weight gain. But recently a wave of bottled beverages starring vinegar has emerged; and the trend is predicted to keep on growing. If you've seen these drinks at the grocery store, you may be wondering: Are they worth a try?

The short answer is maybe, with a few caveats. The trouble with drinking vinegars is that's there's no standard formula, so it’s tough to know exactly how much vinegar one serving contains. What's more, many products contain fruit juice or puréed fruit, added sugar, or sweeteners like stevia. Others are formulated with probiotics, or extra ingredients like balsamic vinegar, herbs, and spices. Finally, some are ready to drink, while others are concentrated and need to be diluted (with sparkling water, for example).

The wide range of products makes it difficult to give the whole category a definitive thumbs up or down. But if you're interested in trying a drinking vinegar, remember that regardless of all the marketing claims, you should always read the ingredient list so you know exactly what's in the bottle. Here are a few things to scope out:

Check the type of vinegar

I came across one product that includes cane vinegar rather than ACV. An older study from 2004 suggested that cane vinegar may have cancer-fighting properties. But there’s far less research on its benefits compared to its apple cider cousin.

RELATED: These Are the Real Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar

Note the serving size

Some bottles of ready-to-sip drinking vinegar may contain two servings, which means you should drink half and save the rest for the next day. Or if you're going to drink it all, be sure to multiply the carbs, sugar, and calories by two.

Be mindful of the sugar, especially

My personal favorite beverage in this category is Bragg Organic Apple Cider Vinegar All-Natural Drink With Honey. It’s made simply—with distilled water, Bragg’s own organic apple cider vinegar, and organic honey. The vinegar flavor is strong though not overpowering. But here's the caveat: Half the bottle contains 13 grams of sugar. That's more than three teaspoons of added sugar. Drink the whole bottle and you'll hit the American Heart Association’s recommended daily maximum of six teaspoons of added sugar per day for women. (While organic honey is a better-for-you sweetener, it still counts as added sugar.)

RELATED: 5 All-Natural Sweeteners That Are (Somewhat) Healthier Than Sugar

Making it at home may be the healthiest option

If you DIY your drinking vinegar, you can control the ingredients, including the type and amount of sweetener you use. My recommended formula: two teaspoons of organic raw apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon of organic honey swirled into a cup of warm water once a day. (You can also chill it and sip it cold.)

Another way to reap the benefits of ACV is by incorporating it into a daily meal or snack. Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a smoothie, for example. Or you can whisk it with extra virgin olive oil, garlic and herbs as a dressing for greens or raw veggies; stir it into a soup like white bean and kale; or blend it with a little mustard and drizzle it over potatoes or squash.

Don't go overboard

It is possible to get too much of a good thing: High amounts of apple cider vinegar may lower potassium levels in you body. As with many beneficial foods and ingredients, moderation rather than excess is the best way to get all the perks.  

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

Source: Nutrition

3 Ways to Keep Mercury and Arsenic Out of Your Gluten-Free Diet

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You've probably seen some scary headlines recently about how a gluten-free diet may expose your body to more arsenic and mercury—toxic metals that have been linked to a higher risk of heart disease, cancer, and neurological problems.

These reports were initiated by a study conducted at the University of Illinois. Gluten-free diets tends to include a higher intake of rice as a replacement for wheat products, and since rice may accumulate arsenic and mercury from fertilizers, soil, and water, the researchers set out to investigate the potential health implications of going G-free.

For their study, they identified 73 people (ranging in age from 6 to 80) who reported eating a gluten-free diet between 2009 and 2014, and tested their blood and urine. The researchers found that on average, those people had almost twice the concentration of arsenic in their urine and 70% higher mercury levels in their blood, compared to people who were not gluten-free.

The researchers concluded that there may be unintended consequences of the diet. But it's worth pointing out that their study was relatively small. It also did not look at whether rice was the main source of the metals in people's diets. What's more, we don't know the specific risks of having the levels of arsenic and mercury detected. The amounts of arsenic and mercury in both the gluten-free and non gluten-free eaters were much lower than those associated with arsenic toxicity or mercury poisoning,    

The way I see it, this research doesn’t mean that going gluten-free will automatically increase your intake of the heavy metals. However it's an important reminder that how you eat gluten-free matters, both in terms of arsenic and mercury, and your overall nutrient intake. Here are three key ways you can optimize your health if you follow the diet.

RELATED: 6 Myths About Gluten-Free Diets You Shouldn't Believe

Eat more whole, fresh foods

You can find gluten-free versions of nearly any food these days, including bagels, bread, wraps, baked goods, and crackers. Many are made with rice flour, but what they also have in common is that they’re all highly processed. If you need to follow a gluten-free diet, yes, it’s nice to be able to eat pizza or a cookie if you really want it. But these foods should be occasional treats, not daily staples. And it’s important to note that simply being gluten-free does not make a product healthy. Many processed gluten-free foods are made with refined flour (stripped of fiber, nutrients, and antioxidants), as well as added sugar, sodium, or other unwanted additives. Make whole, fresh, and minimally-processed foods your go-tos, not gluten-free versions of packaged, multi-ingredient products. 

Vary your diet

Rice is just one of many gluten-free grains. Others include quinoa, buckwheat, millet, oats, sorghum, teff, corn, and amaranth. Pulses (the umbrella term for beans, lentils, peas, and chickpeas) are also gluten-free, as are starchy vegetables, including sweet potato, yams, fingerling potatoes, and squash. When planning meals, include a wide variety of these whole foods that are naturally gluten-free.

For example, instead of whole wheat toast at breakfast with your veggie and avocado omelet, opt for sweet potato toast, or a side of black beans. In place of a sandwich or wrap for lunch, make a salad and add a small scoop of quinoa or lentils for a healthy source of carbs. At dinner, replace pasta with spaghetti squash. And snack on roasted chickpeas or hummus with veggies rather than chips, pretzels, or crackers.  

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Consume low-mercury seafood

We don’t know the precise source of the mercury that caused the elevated levels detected in this study, but seafood can be a significant contributor in people's diets. One resource to help you figure out which seafood to avoid is the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guide to Seafood. Generally, low-mercury options include wild Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel, rainbow trout, shrimp, and clams. Varieties with moderate mercury levels include cod, crab, canned tuna, lobster, mahi mahi, and sea bass. High levels of mercury are found in shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and grouper.

As with any diet, this simple motto can help you strike a healthy balance: Keep it real, mix it up, and don’t overdo it.           

Cynthia Sass is Health’s contributing nutrition editor, a New York Times best-selling author, and consultant for the New York Yankees. See her full bio here.

Source: Nutrition

Angelina Jolie and Her Kids Eat Bugs. Here's Why That's Not a Bad Idea

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Curious about Angelina Jolie's snack preferences? We now know bugs are on the list. (Yep, you read that right.) In a segment that aired on BBC News this week, the Oscar-winning actress and her children noshed on tarantulas and scorpions while they were in Cambodia to promote her passion project First They Killed My Father.

"See the hard part where you have the teeth?" Jolie asked her 8-year-old twins, Knox and Vivienne, as she showed them how to prep the spiders for the skillet. "Take the fangs out."  

It's clear the 41-year-old mom of six is no stranger to eating bugs: "I first had them when I was first in country," she says. "Crickets, you start with crickets. Crickets and a beer and then you kind of move up to tarantulas." (Apparently her children were big fans of the starter bugs too: “They can eat a bag of crickets like a bag of chips,” Jolie said in an interview on Good Morning America Tuesday.)

While munching on insects may not be the most appetizing idea, the crunchy critters can be quite nutritious. A study published last year in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry found that insects can provide as much magnesium, iron, and other nutrients as steak.

The researchers reported that when compared to beef, crickets actually had higher iron solubility (the property that allows a mineral to be used by the body). And grasshoppers, mealworms, and crickets all had higher concentrations of chemically available magnesium, calcium, copper, and zinc than the sirloin. 

RELATED: 17 High-Protein Snacks You Can Eat on the Go

According to nutritionist Vandana Sheth, RD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, bugs can be a healthy addition to your diet. "In general, insects can be high in protein (about 60 to 70%), low in carbohydrates, and provide vitamins, minerals, and fat," she wrote in an email to Health. 

But that said, there are more than a thousand species of edible bugs, and not all of them are superfoods. "Because of the wide variety of edible insect species, their nutritional value is highly variable," Sheth explained. What's more, she added, some bugs come into contact with pesticides and other chemicals, so it's important to purchase them from reliable sources.

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If you're interested in the nutritional benefits of bugs but aren't quite ready to swallow a spider, consider trying a product made from insect flour, like cricket chips or cricket protein bars, suggests Sheth. As a judge in our cricket-flour taste test put it, when you compare ground up crickets to what's in a hot dog, they don't seem so bad.

 

Source: Nutrition

Got a Craving? Here's What Your Body Actually Wants You to Eat 

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Stop cravings in their tracks by decoding what they really mean. 
Source: Nutrition