Month: December 2016

What Is Spirulina?

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You probably never thought you would be adding algae powder from tropical lakes to your smoothies, but spirulina is becoming quite the popular addition for many health-focused eaters. Even though this superfood is in the spotlight right now because of its nutrients, bright green color, and bounty of healthy benefits, spirulina has been a superfood long before 21st-century nutritionists began adding it to their smoothie bowls.

Spirulina is quite possibly one of the oldest life forms on Earth. The first people to ever use this algae as a food source is unclear, but Aztecs and African natives may have consumed the algae in their daily diet many centuries ago.

Fast forward to today, we understand why spirulina is here to stay. Our assistant nutrition editor, Jamie Vespa, MS, RD, breaks down why this superfood clearly has staying power and is gaining momentum in superfood circles:

Dried spirulina contains about 60 to 70 percent protein. It’s actually considered one of the few plant-based sources of “complete protein,” meaning it contains all essential amino acids your body needs but can't produce on its own. It’s also a good source of calcium, iron, magnesium, and vitamins A, E, and K. Spirulina may be more beneficial for vegans or vegetarians that lack adequate iron in their diet. Touted as a “superfood," health claims surrounding the blue-green algae include its ability to boost immunity, fight allergies, and reduce fatigue.

With its high nutrient density, the benefits of spirulina reach far and wide. We love it in our smoothies in the morning because research suggestions the powder may boost energy, reduce fatigue, and naturally suppress appetite. Great benefits, right? That's why we say it's time to say goodbye to coffee and hello to spirulina smoothies.

Like other superfoods, spirulina may strengthen the immune system, help with digestion, balance the body's pH, and reduce inflammation. Small studies support these claims, but more research is needed to know if these claims are true.

Spirulina is available as tablets or powders. We prefer the algae in its powdered form because it's easy to add to recipes, such as our Best Green Smoothies. However, "spirulina can get a bit pricey, and it's always important to remember the lack of quality control in the supplement industry. As such, do your research to find a quality product that has been third-party tested and is certified free of contamination," Vespa explains.

Source: Nutrition

The Real Paleo Diet Included More Plants Than We Thought

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What would a caveman eat? That's the basic premise behind the Paleo diet, a nutritional regimen centered on the same foods that sustained our hunter-gatherer ancestors. The trouble is, we don't know exactly what those foods were.

But archeologists at a site in the northern Jordan Valley in Israel have uncovered new and surprising clues about the real Paleo diet: It turns out ancient humans feasted on a wide variety of plants along with their fish and meat. 

The researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and Bar Ilan University identified 55 edible plant species that the camp's inhabitants would have eaten 780,000 years ago, including veggies, fruits, nuts, and seeds. Some you’d even recognize, like water chestnuts and acorns.

“Our knowledge of the diet of early hominins derives mainly from animal skeletal remains found in archeological sites, leading to a bias toward a protein-based diet,” the authors wrote in the study, which was published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. They concluded that their findings "change previous notions of Paleo diet."

RELATED: Everything You Need to Know About the Paleo Diet

What's more, our ancestors were by no means picky eaters. They had a varied diet, the authors point out, and ate in-season, which may have allowed them to hunker down in one place and find food all year long.

The researchers also found evidence that these early humans cooked their food to make it safe to eat, and more palatable: "The use of fire is very important because a lot of the plants are toxic or inedible. Using fire, like roasting nuts and roots for example, allows the use of various parts of the plant,” said author Naama Goren-Inbar, a professor at the Institute of Archeology at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, in a press release.

RELATED: Best Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Sources

So would a caveman eat mostly meat, or mostly plants?

The answer to that question is still unknown. "There probably was no single balance between meat and plant," Peter Ungar, PhD, chair of anthropology at the University of Arkansas, said in an interview with the New Scientist. "Human evolution is a work in progress, and diets likely varied along a continuum in both time and space."



Source: Nutrition

Should You Trust the New Research About Sugar?

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The link between sugar and chronic diseases like obesity and type 2 diabetes is well established, but even though many public health groups recommend limiting sugar intake, they differ widely on the recommended daily limits.

The most recent U.S. dietary guidelines recommend Americans get less than 10% of their daily calories from added sugars—which is roughly the equivalent of a 16-ounce soda. The World Health Organization has issued similar guidelines, while other groups say 25% of total calories should be the cap.

Complicating things is a new study published Monday in the Annals of Internal Medicine, where researchers looked at the evidence used to support daily sugar limits of less than 10% of a person’s total calories. Ultimately, they concluded that those public health recommendations were based on low-quality science.

So does that imply that sugar should get carte blanche in the American diet?

Not exactly, say the researchers. “Although our findings question the recommendations from guidelines produced by leading authorities, the findings should not be used to justify high or increased consumption of nutrient-poor, energy-dense foods and beverages like candy and sugar-sweetened beverages,” said Bradley Johnston, principal investigator of the review, in a statement.

Still, some researchers expressed concern about the trustworthiness of the new findings since the research was funded by the North American branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ISLI), a trade group whose board is made up of scientists as well as representatives for major food and beverage companies. ISLI members include Coca-Cola Company, The Hershey Company, Dupont, Mars, Inc., Monster Energy Company, Nestlé USA, PepsiCo and more. (You can see the organization’s membership list here.)

“Our concerns about the funding source and methods of the current review preclude us from accepting its conclusion that recommendations to limit added sugar consumption to less than 10% of calories are not trustworthy,” writes Dr. Dean Schillinger, a professor of medicine at the University of California San Francisco (UCSF) in a corresponding editorial in the same journal. “Policymakers, when confronted with claims that sugar guidelines are based on ‘junk science,’ should consider whether ‘junk food’ was the [funding] source.”

The authors of the new study say they conducted the study without input from the International Life Sciences Institute. “However, given our funding source, our study team has a financial conflict of interest and readers should consider our results carefully,” the authors wrote in their conclusion.

A separate Nov. 2016 study, lead by Schillinger, found that industry-funded studies are significantly less likely to connect sugar or sugary beverages to bad health outcomes than studies funded by independent researchers. It was the latest in a series of recent reports about the connection between the sugar industry and researchers.

A Sept. 2016 report by Dr. Cristin Kearns, a dentist turned investigative researcher at UCSF, found that the sugar industry sponsored research that blamed fat for heart disease rather than sugar. Another report by Kearns found that sugar industry advocacy groups influenced federal cavity prevention recommendations through strategies like getting sugar experts on federal panels concerning tooth decay.

Today, the food industry funds a lot of health research. As one example, a recent study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine reported that between 2011 to 2015, more than 95 national health organizations accepted money from Coca-Cola or PepsiCo or both.

When asked why they chose to publish the new industry-funded study, the editors of the Annals of Internal Medicine sent this statement by email:

“Annals decided to publish the paper because the topic of sugar consumption is one that is of great interest to Annalsreaders and their patients. The fact that recommendations differ substantially is confusing for clinicians, their patients, and the public in general…

Despite what the editorial implies, the authors of the study do not conclude that intake of any amount of sugar is healthy. Rather, the authors conclude—and provide evidence to support this conclusion—that guidelines about sugar consumption are based on weak evidence and we need better research on this topic.”

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Source: Nutrition

The Ketogenic Diet Might Be the Next Big Weight Loss Trend, But Should You Try It?

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Google has released the top search terms of 2016, and when it comes to weight loss, it turns out folks were especially drawn to the ketogenic diet this year. It was one of the 10 most-searched diets this year, landing halfway down the list (just a few notches below the taco cleanse!). But if you weren't among the keto-curious in the last 12 months, you're probably wondering now, Is this something I should try? (And what does ketogenic mean again?) Read on for a quick primer on the plan, and my bottom-line advice.

What is the ketogenic diet?

In a nutshell, it's a high-fat, low- to moderate-protein, low-carb eating plan. On a ketogenic diet, roughly 75% to 90% of daily calories come from fat; 6% to 20% come from protein; and 2% to 5% come from carbohydrates.

It was originally devised as a tool for controlling epileptic seizures (though doctors aren't exactly sure how it works) before there were drugs to treat seizures. In the past few decades, it has reemerged as patients and parents seek alternatives to pharmaceuticals.

But the ketogenic diet has also been adopted as a weight loss plan. The goal of the diet is to achieve ketosis, a state in which the body is using fat as its primary fuel, rather than carbs. After three to four days on a ketogenic diet, back-up stores of carbohydrates, called glycogen, become depleted and ketosis kicks in, triggering some weight loss and the appearance of a leaner physique.

But in terms of dropping pounds, the primary advantage of a ketogenic diet is that it doesn't leave you hungry, since it involves eating a good deal of satiating fats, and the state of ketosis has bee shown to reduce appetite.

RELATED: Here's How 15 Real Women Lost 50+ Pounds

What does the research say?

A recent Spanish study tracked 20 obese volunteers who followed a low-cal ketogenic diet (about 800 to 1500 calories daily) and a supervised exercise program. Over four months, the subjects lost an average of 40 pounds, including a significant amount of belly fat, while preserving their muscle mass and strength. Another study, published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that in obese men, a high-protein ketogenic diet reduced hunger and food intake more than a high-protein, medium-carb non-ketogenic diet did.

A 2013 meta-analysis of 13 studies published in the British Journal of Nutrition looked at the effects of the diet on long-term weight control and cardiovascular health. The research showed that adults on a low-cal ketogenic diet (with no more than 50 grams of carbs per day) lost more weight and experienced better changes in blood pressure, triglycerides, and “good” HDL cholesterol than people who followed a conventional low-fat diet (with less than 30% of calories from fat). 

But a small 2006 study that compared a ketogenic diet to a moderately low-carb non-ketogenic diet (with 40% of calories from carbs) found no differences in weight loss, or hunger. And the study participants on the non-ketogentic diet had better moods, more energy, and lower levels of inflammatory markers. "The use of ketogenic diets for weight loss is not warranted," the study authors concluded.

RELATED: The 50 Best Weight Loss Foods of All Time

What is it really like?

With only 50 grams of carbs to "spend" per day, your food options are very limited. Breakfast might be whole eggs with low-carb veggies and avocado, for example. Lunch could be a salad generously dressed with EVOO and balsamic vinegar, and topped with chicken. A typical snack is nuts or seeds. And dinner might be salmon with veggies sautéed in coconut oil.

I’ve had clients eat this way, lose weight quickly, and feel fantastic—at first. But all of my clients who follow a ketogenic plan eventually break down and eat potatoes, fruit, or dessert (or drink several glasses of wine).

I’ve also seen ultra-low-carb diets trigger a serious change in people’s moods. Recently a client told me that he morphed from a happy-go-lucky guy into a total grump, and his family begged him to abandon the diet. Another woman whose husband tried the plan told me that he became intensely irritable and had trouble sleeping; but that those side effects subsided after he added back fruit, pulses, whole grains, and starchy vegetables to his diet.

When I experimented with the ketogenic diet, I felt incredibly cranky as well, and obsessed about foods I wasn't supposed to eat—like black beans, bananas, and sweet potatoes. That never happens when I have them in moderation. I also didn’t feel good about the fact that cutting those foods meant missing out on the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and prebiotics they provide.

RELATED: The 13 Biggest Nutrition Discoveries of 2016

The bottom line

Let's face it: In order for a weight loss approach to work, it has to have "stick-with-it-ness," and make you feel well, physically and emotionally. Otherwise you're miserable and risk gaining back any weight you lose (and possibly more).

In terms of safety, the biggest risk associated with a ketogenic diet is the potential for ketoacidosis, which occurs when ketosis goes too far. When you eat fats (like avocados and olive oil), they're broken down into fatty acids and ketones; if excess ketones build up in the body, your blood becomes acidic. Severe ketoacidosis can lead to coma, or even death; and acidosis in general can trigger bad breath, headaches, dizziness, muscle cramps, and constipation.

You can test your ketone levels using urine strips, to make sure they don't creep too high. But my advice is to only adopt a ketogenic diet under the supervision of a physician or dietitian. If you attempt it on your own, I suggest modifying the diet to allow more carbs—especially the ones you know you can’t live without. In my experience, moderation is generally the key to shedding pounds for good, optimizing health, and living a balanced, enjoyable life.

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

Source: Nutrition

You Probably Shouldn't Try Any of Google's Top-Searched Diets for 2016 

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When I saw Google’s Year in Search 2016, I have to admit I did a double take. When I think back on the nutrition and weight loss questions I’ve received from my clients over the past year, I anticipated seeing terms like gluten-free, vegan, anti-inflammatory, or even Mediterranean on the list of the diets that saw the biggest increase in search interest. Instead, they're overall what I think of as “extreme” approaches. Here’s the list, along with a brief description of each, followed by my take on why these took the top spots, and what to consider if you’re thinking of adopting a diet come January.  

1. GOLO Diet

Designed to reverse insulin resistance, this plan involves purchasing patented supplements, and following a meal plan and specific exercise program. According to the GOLO website a study of the plan resulted in participants losing 20.6 pounds in 90 days.     

2. Taco Diet

The taco diet is actually called a taco cleanse by its four creators, who refer to themselves as “taco scientists.” The Austin, Texas-based group created the plan after eating nothing but vegan tacos for 30 days. While they don’t promise weight loss, they claim the approach “rewards your body with what it craves–tacos” as opposed to strict cleanses that leave you feeling cranky and hungry. 

RELATED: 4 Tips for Doing a Whole-Food Cleanse

3. Military Diet Substitutes

The three-day military diet allows you to eat as much as you want of just 18 foods, which include broccoli, tuna, and hardboiled eggs, but also vanilla ice cream, and hot dogs. The substitutes refer to foods that can be swapped for those on the original list. For example, in place of hardboiled eggs, chicken, bacon, and nuts or seeds are allowed. A typical lunch is a half-cup of tuna, a slice of toast, and coffee or tea. An exercise plan is also included. 

4. Atkins 40

Atkins 40 is a version of the Atkins Diet that starts with 40 grams of “net carbohydrates a day,” which means carbs not including fiber and/or sugar alcohols, which aren’t fully digested. It also allows three 4- to 6-ounce servings of protein, two to four servings of fat each day, and encourages eating six to eight servings of veggies.

5. Ketogenic Diet Foods

The ketogenic diet is an ultra-low-carb, high-fat, moderate protein diet. On a ketogenic plan, roughly 75 to 90% of daily calories come from fat, with 6 to 20% from protein, and just 2 to 5% from carbohydrates. While researchers don’t know exactly how it works, a ketogenic diet was first developed to help control epileptic seizures. It is now being adopted as a weight loss approach.

RELATED: This Is How Much Protein You Really Need to Eat in a Day

6. Dissociated Diet

The main premise of this diet is based on not mixing certain food groups. Essentially each day is dedicated to only one type of food, which you eat at every meal. For example, Monday may be exclusively fish, Tuesday exclusively fruit, Wednesday nothing but eggs…

7. The Wild Diet

This plan focuses on avoiding processed foods, eating whole, natural foods, and allows high fat animal proteins, like beef and bacon. It claims to help people shed up to 20 pounds in 40 days. 

8. Pizza Diet

When you search Google for "pizza diet," a few different things pop up. Essentially, various people have eaten either nothing but pizza, or have eaten pizza daily and dropped considerable pounds. Typically the pizzas are portion-controlled, and topped with veggies, and the plans forbid alcohol, sweets, and processed foods.

RELATED: 14 Ways to Cut Portions Without Feeling Hungry

9. Dukan Diet Results

Dukan is a four-stage plan. Phase one allows unlimited amounts of various animal proteins, along with water, and oat bran for fiber. Phase two adds veggies, and the third and fourth phases include some very specific rules about how and what to eat (too many to mention here). The plan also addresses exercise and cheat meals.    

10. Mono Diet

Like the Dissociated Diet, this approach includes only one (hence the "mono") food at a time. The difference is you don‘t have to switch to another food after one day, so you might eat something like potatoes, and nothing but potatoes for two weeks.  

My take on 2016's top-searched diets

As you can see from the descriptions, each plan is pretty radical, some more so than others. And that’s exactly why I think they ranked highest in search. In my experience, when someone feels motivated to seek out a diet, they’re looking for either a quick fix, or an ultra-simple approach they can learn fast, and implement easily.

If you find yourself in that boat after the holidays, here’s my advice. If you’re a person who needs to see fast results in order to transition to a balanced, long-term healthy eating plan, then a short jumpstart may be right for you. But listen to your instincts. Before you commit, think through each possible approach. If your gut (no pun intended) tells you you’re going to feel miserable, physically, emotionally, or socially, don’t do it. Tactics that backfire are a waste of time, and they can lead to regaining all or more of any weight you lose. And remember, simply cutting out all the surplus treats and getting back to clean eating may be all it takes to help your too-tight jeans loosen up again—no extremes necessary.     

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

The 13 Biggest Nutrition Discoveries of 2016

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Science taught us a lot about what's healthy and what's not this year. Read on for the most important foodie findings of 2016. 
Source: Nutrition

Eat This Type of Protein at Breakfast to Stay Full for Longer

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You’ve probably heard that protein is the key to a satisfying meal. And when you think of the nutrient, your go-to is probably some type of meat. But a new study suggests that veggie-based proteins—specifically, beans and peas—may actually fill you up and keep you satisfied longer than animal protein. 

Plant-based choices are not only better for the planet, the researchers say, but may also help people lose weight.

Vegans, vegetarians, and anybody else looking to eat less meat have long known that legumes (such as beans and peas) are a valuable protein source. Until now, though, little has been known about how they stack up against animal products when it comes to satiating hunger.

So researchers from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark recruited 43 young men and served them each three different breakfasts over the course of several weeks. Each breakfast was about 800 calories, and included a burger-type patty: one high-protein patty made with veal and pork, one high-protein patty made with fava beans and split peas, and one lower-protein patty made with fava beans, split peas, and potato.

RELATED: 14 Best Vegan and Vegetarian Protein Source

In the hours after eating each meal, participants were asked several times how satisfied (and how hungry) they felt. About three hours after breakfast, they were served lunch and instructed to eat as much as they wanted.

As expected, the researchers found that protein content did matter in terms of how hungry people were at lunch. On days when participants ate the high-protein legume patty, they ate 13% fewer calories at lunch than on days they had the lower-protein patty.

But somewhat surprisingly, the type of protein mattered too. Even though both high-protein patties had the same amount of protein (about 25% of total calories), participants still ate 12% fewer lunch calories when they had legumes for breakfast, versus meat.

And the meals made with beans and peas helped people feel satiated, as well, even in the case of the lower-protein meal. People rated the lower-protein legume patty (with an amount of protein equal to 9% of total calories) just as satiating—and as tasty—as the meat patty.

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So what’s the secret? Higher fiber content in the legume patties “probably contributed to the increased feelings of satiety,” said head researcher Anne Raben, PhD, professor of nutrition, exercise, and food science at the University of Copenhagen, in a press release.

"It is somewhat contrary to the widespread belief that one ought to consume a large amount of protein because it increases satiety more,” Raben said. “Now, something suggests that one can eat a fiber-rich meal, with less protein, and achieve the same sensation of fullness.”

This isn’t the first study to suggest that legumes can help people consume fewer calories overall; a study published in March found that eating more beans, peas, chickpeas, and lentils helped people lose weight, even without making any special effort to avoid other foods.

Cynthia Sass, RD, Health’s contributing nutrition editor, agrees that these foods’ protein and fiber combo satisfies, delays the return of hunger, and “leaves you feeling full but not weighted down or sluggish.”

Sass was not involved in the new study, but she's a strong advocate for eating more pulses (part of the legume family and the umbrella term for beans, lentils, and peas, including chickpeas and split peas). She’s also author of the book Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Pulses—the New Superfood.

RELATED: 10 Protein-Packed Pulse Recipes That Satisfy

In addition to their satiety-boosting benefits, legumes and other pulses are also rich sources of vitamins and minerals, Sass says, and they’re prebiotics—“food” for beneficial bacteria in the gut. Research has also shown that pulses can boost calorie and fat burning, help reduce belly fat, and protect against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer.

“Pulses are also affordable, readily available, naturally gluten-free, not a common allergen, and they're incredibly versatile,” says Sass. “I use pulses in both savory and sweet dishes, from stir-frys to smoothies, and I bake with pulse flours.”

Sass recommends incorporating a half cup of pulses into your diet every day, either in place of or in addition to animal protein. (If you’re pairing them, use less meat than you normally would.) Think black bean and veggie omelets, tuna salad with white beans, or chicken cacciatore with lentils. 

More good news about beans and peas? You can buy them canned, frozen and pre-cooked, or steamed and vacuum-sealed for quick and easy preparation, says Sass.

Additional research is needed to definitively prove if and exactly how pulses and other legumes help prevent obesity. But based on existing research, Raben said, “it appears as if vegetable-based meals—particularly those based on beans and peas—both can serve as a long-term basis for weight loss and as a sustainable eating habit.”

Source: Nutrition

Soup Could Be the Secret To Slimming Down (No Cleanse Required)

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By now, you've likely heard of juicing. But what about “souping"? Essentially, instead of downing green juice all day long, this cleanse involves sipping on soup. In my opinion, souping is a better option than stricter cleanses. That said, you certainly don’t need to limit your entire diet to liquid meals in order to take advantage of soup’s health and weight loss benefits. Here, why and how to incorporate some healthful soup into your diet.

A study published in the journal Appetite found that when people ate a low-calorie soup (about 130 calories for women and 170 for men) before lunch, they naturally consumed about 20% fewer calories overall—but didn’t feel less full. And no, not just any appetizer will do. Other research has shown that compared to solid foods like cheese, crackers, and cantaloupe, soup does a better job at curbing subsequent eating. 

RELATED: How to Build a Healthy Meal That Actually Keeps You Full

Why soup? Scientists say texture is key. Although liquids empty from the stomach faster than solids, thicker liquids like soup are different. They actually tend to cause the stomach to expand a bit more, and remain in the stomach longer, so you feel more full, for a longer length of time. And while some research suggests that form doesn’t matter, one study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that smooth soup (think: butternut squash) worked even better than a chunky version (such as chicken noodle) when it came to slowing stomach emptying and boosting satiety. Plus, unlike smoothies, which can be sucked through a straw in mere minutes, soups are generally sipped at a more leisurely pace. And additional research shows that slower eating helps you feel more satisfied and consume fewer calories, often without even trying.

To test out the hunger-busting powers of soup for yourself, try swapping your usual lunch for one of these liquid meals or have a cup before chowing down on a sandwich or salad. And to make sure you don't inhale your soup, put your spoon down between slurps and try to eat mindfully without distractions from your phone, laptop, or TV.

RELATED: 14 Foods Healthy Eaters Were Obsessed with in 2016

Many of my clients are shocked at just how well the simple strategy of eating soup before or as a meal works. And consider this: For the average American, eating one fifth fewer calories than usual per day is enough to generate a loss of a whopping 50 pounds or more over a year’s time. Even if you're not concerned about losing that much weight, this trick can also be a successful way to break a plateau or shed stubborn pounds. Plus, including soup in your diet is an easy way to add more veggies and antioxidant rich seasonings. Win-win!

That said, if you're looking to shape up, not all soups are created equal. To find the healthiest pre-made options, start by steering clear of highly-processed versions filled with artificial additives and preservatives. Instead look for “clean” pre-made soups with ingredient lists that read like a recipe you could have made in your own kitchen. And even though they may be delicious, try to avoid types made with heavy cream and cheese, like broccoli cheddar and creamed potato.

RELATED: How to Buy Healthy Food Without Looking at the Nutrition Label

Or for a guaranteed-healthy soup, you can make a simple one yourself. My go-to is what I call "halfway homemade." To make it, start by warming minced onion and garlic in extra virgin olive oil or extra virgin coconut oil in a small saucepan over medium heat until the onions are translucent. Next, add low-sodium organic vegetable broth along with veggies (try broccoli or cauliflower, celery, kale, and tomatoes). Stir in herbs and spices, such as Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper. Or try out a combo of turmeric, cumin, cinnamon, and coriander. Bring the mixture to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes. Enjoy as is or purée, then serve before a balanced meal that includes more veggies; a lean protein such as fish, poultry, or pulses; good-for-you fats, like avocado, nuts, or seeds; and a small portion of healthy carbs, like quinoa, sweet potato, or squash.

Just remember that downing a bowl of soup and then eating pizza, pad Thai, or ice cream probably isn’t going to magically shrink your shape. So if you become a super souper, keep the big picture in mind and be savvy about how you splurge. Bottom line: soup works, if you work with 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

Eating a Handful of Nuts May Prevent Major Diseases

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Nuts, full of good fats and fiber, are health food for the heart. A number of studies show that they can lower risk of heart disease.

But do nuts also help people avoid other diseases, like cancer and diabetes? An international group of researchers, publishing in the journal BMC Medicine, analyzed 29 studies about nuts and health outcomes to find out. In their review, which included data on more than 800,000 people, they found dramatic body-wide benefits for eating nuts.

People who ate about about a handful (20g) of any type of nuts—tree nuts, like hazelnuts, walnuts, pecans and almonds, and peanuts, which are legumes—a day had nearly 30% lower heart disease rates compared to people who didn’t eat nuts, a conclusion previous data supported. But they also had a 15% lower risk of cancer and a 22% lower risk of dying prematurely of any cause. People who ate nuts regularly also cut their risk of dying from respiratory illnesses by nearly half, and they reduced their risk of diabetes by nearly 40%.

The results remained consistent across the wide range of populations in different geographical areas that were included. Men and women both saw benefits, and the type of nuts consumed also didn’t seem to make much difference; nut-eaters of all kinds consistently showed lower rates of many major diseases.

Nuts may be having these effects through their abundance of fiber, nutrients and antioxidants; while they are high in calories and fat, they contain mostly healthier fats, which can lower risk of heart disease. Their high fiber and protein content may also help reduce extra weight gain by curbing overeating. They’re also packed with antioxidants, which can fight the damage to cells that can trigger cancer.

The findings support the notion that nuts are a worthy addition to the diet, but the benefits had a threshold, however. People eating more than 20 daily grams of nuts didn’t seem to show additional reduction in their risk of developing conditions like heart disease or cancer or the other health outcomes—so as with everything in nutrition, nuts are best in moderation.


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Source: Nutrition