Month: October 2016
One important key to fighting obesity and other chronic diseases? Fewer omega-6 fatty acids in our diet, and more omega-3s, according to the authors of a new editorial published in the journal Open Heart.
Both types of fatty acids are essential for the body: Omega-6s—found in vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, and corn oil—play a role in brain function, growth and development, reproductive health, and promote healthy hair, skin, and bones. Omega-3s—found in fatty fish—reduce inflammation, regulate blood pressure, and are crucial for the brain and heart. They’re also tied to a lower risk of many conditions, including diabetes, irritable bowel syndrome, stroke, arthritis, asthma, and some cancers.
But it’s important to strike a balance between the two nutrients. As the authors of the editorial point out, humans beings evolved on a diet that contained equal amounts of both. Today, they report, thanks to technological advances and modern farming practices, Americans now eat sixteen times more omega-6 fatty acids than omega-3s.
That’s a problem because while omega-3s are anti-inflammatory, omega-6s tend to be pro-inflammatory. Therefore when omega-6 intake is high and omega-3 intake is low, the result is excess inflammation and boost in the production of body fat.
The drastic imbalance in the Western diet has been tied to more than just obesity. It's also been linked to diabetes, heart disease, certain cancers, depression, pain, inflammatory conditions like asthma, and autoimmune illnesses.
Fortunately, there are a few simple ways to consume more omega-3s while dialing back on omega-6s. Here are five steps you can take toward a healthier balance:
Processed foods—everything from frozen meals to canned soup, crackers, and salad dressing—may be loaded with omega-6s, due to the vegetable oils used by manufacturers. Check labels and curtail or avoid products that contain corn oil, soybean, sunflower, safflower, and cottonseed oils. The same goes for fast food, which is also typically made with those oils high in omega-6s. You can look up the ingredients in various menu items online.
Buy organic, grass-fed meat and dairy products
Research shows that foods that come from grass-fed and organically raised animals contain more omega-3s. Grass-fed beef, for example packs about 50% more omega-3s than regular beef. (For more info, check out my post all about grass-fed meat.)
Replace margarine with EVOO
Since margarine is typically made with oils high in omega-6s, I recommend ditching it. In its place, use extra virgin olive oil (which is low in omega-6s) or grass-fed butter (which is higher in omega-3s than conventional butter).
Eat more fish high in omega-3s
The best sources include salmon, sardines, rainbow trout, and mackerel. If you're not a fan of fish, consider talking to your doctor or dietitian about a fish oil supplement. He or she can help you choose a brand that provides the right amount of DHA and EPA, the types of omega-3s in fish, for your health needs.
Load up on plants
Eating more produce helps displace processed foods that may be sources of omega-6s. Plus, some plant foods contain a type of omega-3 fatty acid called ALA. It has a different chemical structure than the more beneficial DHA and EPA found in fatty fish; but a small percentage of ALA can be converted to DHA and EPA in your body. The more ALA you consume, the better.
ALA is found in nuts and seeds like walnuts, chia seeds, and flax, as well as Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, dark leafy greens, and berries.
In general, I recommend aiming for three to five servings of veggies, and two servings of fruit per day. Each serving should be about a cup (or the size of a tennis ball when raw). One way to do this is to include veggies at all three meals: Add them to your breakfast smoothie or omelet, eat a salad at lunch, and include a few servings of vegetables (steamed, sautéed, oven roasted, or grilled) at dinner. As for fruit, have a serving at breakfast, and a second serving as a mid-day snack. Also, sprinkle nuts and seeds into smoothies, oatmeal, salads, and stir fys. Better balance, achieved.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
The key to winning in the meal prep game is to have a plan and keep it simple. If the time you spend figuring out your menu, shopping, and cooking is fast and efficient, you’ll be more likely to stick with it. Choose recipes that have a handful of ingredients, cook quickly, and make large quantities. Complement meals that take more time to prepare with wash-and-go fruit, simple salads, and easy snacks like Shakeology, Greek yogurt, or hard-boiled eggs. If you’re happy with your menu, save the grocery list and recipes for future weeks week so you can skip the planning and head straight to the store.
Here are 13 simple meal prep recipes. Many of them make more than enough for one week, or can be easily doubled. Freeze extra portions for future weeks and you’ll be ahead of the game!
Baked Oatmeal Cups with Raisins and Walnuts
Take your oatmeal to go with these super-simple baked oatmeal cups. We topped ours with raisins and walnuts, but you can choose berries or even a little bit of peanut butter and dark chocolate. Get the recipe.
Super Green Egg Cups
Egg cups are the rock stars of meal prep. They take just minutes to put together, a few more minutes to bake –and bam! – you’ve got protein-rich breakfasts or snacks for the whole week. Get this egg cup recipe, plus two more.
Slow Cooked Steel-Cut Oats with Apples and Cinnamon
Steel cut oats are the healthiest choice for oatmeal, but they take a long time to cook and need to be watched so they don’t burn. Who has time for that every morning? Cooking them in a slow cooker is a terrific, time-saving solution. You can make enough for the whole week (or more!) in less than 10 minutes (plus cooking time). Click through to the recipe to read a clever tip for freeze extra portions.
Lunches and Dinners
Spice up your menu with this bold habanero chili recipe. Milder palates can substitute jalapeño or even red bell pepper. This vegetarian dish has 31 grams of protein and only 231 calories per serving! Get the recipe.
Curried Chicken with Couscous
This is one of the Beachbody Blog team’s favorite recipes. It’s extremely simple, and the results are absolutely delicious. Get the recipe.
Garlic Basil Shrimp with Zucchini Noodles
Zucchini noodles, or “zoodles”, deserve a place in your meal prep rotation. They’re a tasty, low-carb alternative to pasta and once they’re cooked, they keep their al dente texture for several days. Tossed with pesto and garlic shrimp (or chicken if you prefer), this will be a lunch or dinner to look forward to all week. Get the recipe.
Roasted Chicken and Butternut Squash Soup
Butternut squash and corn give naturally sweet flavor to this savory chicken soup. Using rotisserie chicken makes it ideal for meal prep, and you can use the rest of the chicken for other meals. This recipe makes 10 servings, so you’ll have extra to freeze for a future week. Get the recipe.
Roasted Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Brown Rice Pilaf
This colorful side dish packed with vegetables is hearty enough to be your main course. Get creative and top it with a sunny side up egg, or serve cold as a topping on salad greens! Get the recipe.
Everyone loves a good burger! Turkey patties are a great choice for meal prep because they can do double-duty as the protein in a salad or served with our Roast Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, and Brown Rice Pilaf recipe. Pro tip: Double this recipe and cook half for one week and freeze the uncooked patties in individual plastic bags for another week. Get the recipe.
Chicken and Black Bean Burrito Salad in a Mason Jar
There’s lots of good stuff in this perfect-for-work salad. Putting the dressing and heavier ingredients at the bottom and the lettuce at the top ensures that this salad will stay crisp until you are ready to eat it (just make sure to store the jar upright). Buying rotisserie chicken makes this a cinch to put together. If you have extra cherry tomatoes, jicama, and radishes, save them for a snack to dip in the White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus below. Get the recipe.
White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Hummus
Shake up your snack game, or make any sandwich more interesting, with our super-flavorful twist on hummus. This garlicky, roasted red pepper hummus is absolutely delicious, and you can make it in just a few minutes, no cooking required. Get the recipe.
Chocolate Matcha Energy Balls
Here’s an easy matcha recipe that makes a great little snack you can take almost anywhere. They’re not sweet, but they are satisfying. Only 56 calories each. Get the recipe.
Homemade Energy Bars
This healthy snack can be made with your choice of dried fruits, nuts, and seeds and takes less than 10 minutes to make. Get the recipe.
Think nothing can take the place of a juicy, perfectly cooked burger? Try a plate of fried grasshoppers.
Okay, so they won’t exactly taste the same—and it may be tough to even stomach the thought of munching on bugs. But experts say that nutritionally speaking, they’re a good substitute for beef, and may be a valuable food source of the future.
The idea of eating insects isn’t new. They’ve long been included in traditional diets of cultures around the world, and a 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations noted that more than 1,900 insect species have been documented as food sources globally.
Americans aren’t so keen on consuming the critters, but bugs have crept into some Western food products in recent years. Cricket flour, for example, has become a popular ingredient in the high-protein, low-carb Paleo diet. (One tester’s verdict on crickets in chocolate chip cookies? Tastes like walnuts!)
Insects have also been touted as a more sustainable alternative to eating meat and fish, especially as the global population grows. The process of raising and transporting animals as food sources—whether it’s cattle, pork, chicken, or farmed fish—produces greenhouse gases, uses water and other resources, and contributes to pollution.
There are surely more insects on Earth than there are fish in the sea or livestock on land. And it’s well known that insects are high in protein, but until now, their use as a good source of other nutrients has been unknown.
So researchers from Kings College London and Ningbo University in China set out to measure the nutrient content of various insects, to see if they really could contribute to a well-rounded meal, and measure up to Western staples like beef. The results were published this week in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
The study authors were particularly concerned with iron concentration in insects, since iron is an important nutrient that’s often lacking in vegetarian diets. Not absorbing enough iron from food or supplements can lead to anemia, cognitive problems, weakened immunity, pregnancy complications, and other health issues.
Using a lab model to mimic human digestion, the researchers analyzed the mineral content of grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms, and buffalo worms (oy)—along with a sample of sirloin beef—and estimated how much of each nutrient would likely be absorbed if eaten.
The insects had varying levels of different nutrients. Crickets, for example, had the highest levels of iron, calcium, and manganese. And, in fact, iron solubility (a characteristic that allows a mineral to be taken up and used by the body) was significantly higher in the insect samples than in the beef.
Grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms also had higher concentrations of chemically available calcium, copper, zinc, and magnesium, when compared to the sirloin.
The results support the idea that eating bugs could potentially help meet the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population, the researchers concluded. “Commonly consumed insect species could be excellent sources of bioavailable iron,” they wrote, “and could provide the platform for an alternative strategy for increased mineral intake in the diet of humans.”
We’re still not 100% sold—but we’ve likely got some time to get used to the idea of bug-burgers as the next big thing. And as one brave volunteer in our cricket-flour protein bar taste test put it, is it really more gross than eating, say, a hot dog?
When you look at it that way, a little creepy-crawler crunch doesn’t seem so bad.
The quest for the Fountain of Youth is getting a boost from an international team of researchers who may have stumbled upon a compound that appears to make cells act younger than they are—at least in mice.
In a paper published in Cell Metabolism, researchers led by the Washington University School of Medicine reported that they found an agent that can balance out what happens in aging cells to essentially make them behave as they would in a younger mouse. That substance, as it turns out, is also found in a number of natural foods, including broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage and edamame.
The compound, called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), is involved in producing another compound that is critical for energy metabolism. When they gave normal aging mice infusions of NMN, they made more of that energy-fueling compound and some of the biological problems associated with aging went away. The NMN-treated animals did not gain as much weight, they were able to convert food into energy more efficiently, their blood sugar was better—even their eyesight improved. The mice receiving NMN were also able to prevent some of the genetic changes associated with aging.
Most lab mice live just several years, so the researchers started the NMN treatments at five months, and continued them for a year. The study did not track whether the mice actually live longer, but with lower rates of age-related disease, that’s the assumption.
So can you load up on broccoli or cabbage and extend your life? “If you do the math, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible entirely but probably very difficult to get the whole amount [you need] simply from natural foods,” says Dr. Shin-Ichiro Imai, professor of developmental biology and medicine at Washington University and senior author of the paper.
The results are encouraging enough that part of the team, based at Keio University in Tokyo, is launching an early study on people — using supplements of NMN in pill form. “It’s clear that in humans and in rodents, we lose energy with age,” says Imai. “We are losing the enzyme NMN. But if we can bypass that process by adding NMN, we can make energy again. These results provide a very important foundation for the human studies.”
The findings are also in line with other anti-aging compounds that have shown promise in animal studies, including things like the diabetes drug metformin, rapamycin and sirtuins, all of which are also involved in energy-making process. “All of these pathways cross-talk with each other,” says Imai. “We don’t know the precise details of how, but they are communicating with each other.”
The hope is that the human studies will add provide even more information about how to keep cells young — and maybe halt, or at least hold off, the diseases that typically creep in as cells get older and lose their function.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Vitamin E has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help keep our immune and circulatory systems running smoothly—but, unfortunately, 90 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended 15 milligrams a day. Now, a new study suggests a tasty way to get more E into your day: The next time you enjoy a colorful salad, put an egg on it.
A few eggs, that is: Purdue University researchers found that when study volunteers ate salads with three cooked eggs, they absorbed 4.5 to 7.5 times more Vitamin E from the accompanying vegetables than when they ate egg-free greens.
Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means it is absorbed by the body along with dietary fats, like oils, seeds, and nuts. It’s present in vegetables, but the body can’t absorb it well—or put it to good use—if those veggies are eaten alone.
A little olive oil or an oil-based salad dressing can helpboost antioxidant absorption from vegetables, previous studies have shown. Research also suggests that Vitamin E supplements are also better absorbed when taken with a fatty food or drink.
Now this study suggests another way get more Vitamin E out of salad greens and other raw vegetables. Plus, say the researchers, eggs themselves are rich in beneficial nutrients such as amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and B vitamins.
"This study is novel because we measured the absorption of Vitamin E from real foods, rather than supplements, which contain mega-dose amounts of Vitamin E," said Jung Eun Kim, PhD, a researcher in Purdue's nutrition science department, in a press release. The findings also highlight how one food can improve the nutritional value of another when they’re consumed together, the authors say.
The study, which was supported by the American Egg Board and the National Institutes of Health, involved 16 male volunteers who were fed three raw-vegetable salads, each a week apart. One contained no eggs, one an egg and a half, and one three eggs. Each salad was also served with 3 grams of canola oil.
Researchers analyzed blood samples from the volunteers after each salad was consumed, and found that absorption of two forms of Vitamin E—alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol—was 7.5 and 4.5 times greater, respectively, in those who ate three eggs compared to those who ate none. (That's not counting the small amount of Vitamin E found in eggs themselves.) There was no statistically significant absorption improvement for those who ate the smaller egg portion, suggesting that three whole eggs may be needed in order to truly reap such benefits.
The study was published this week in the Journal of Nutrition. In 2015, the same research team conducted a similar study that found that carotenoids—another family of fat-soluble vitamins—were also better absorbed when salad was eaten with eggs. Scrambled eggs were used in both studies, but the researchers say hard-boiled or any other cooked preparation will do.
Speaking of eggs, the “incredible edible” used to have quite a bad rap as a food high in dietary cholesterol. But recent research has found that cholesterol from food doesn’t necessarily raise levels in the body or contribute to cardiovascular disease. Today, most nutrition experts agree that eating eggs in moderation is safe and healthy for many people, yolks and all.
"For healthy people who do not have high cholesterol and are not at risk for heart disease, having more than one whole egg per day is probably fine," says Cynthia Sass, RD, author of Slim Down Now. However, Sass still recommends getting most of your daily fat from plant-based sources high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Egg yolks contain about 3 grams of protein and 4 to 5 grams of fat each, while egg whites contain about 3 1/2 grams of protein and no fat. "To reap the benefits of the yolk, while still boosting your total protein intake and making room for healthy plant-based fats, I generally recommend combining one whole egg with three whites, whether it's in a salad or an omelet, and adding a MUFA-rich fat source, like avocado, or EVOO," Sass told RealSimple.com.
"One takeaway is not to skimp on fat in meals with veggies," she adds, "whether it comes from whole eggs, or a combination of whole egg and healthy plant-based fat." Those plant-based sources should also boost the absorption of antioxidants and other fat-soluble nutrients, she points out (and many of them are good sources of Vitamin E themselves), so it's a win-win.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.