Month: January 2017
In January many of my clients are focused on shedding holiday pounds. But others see the New Year as a chance to establish healthy (and sustainable) eating habits for reasons other than weight loss. These folks are driven by goals like more energy, stronger immunity, improved strength and endurance, and better digestive health, sleep, or mood. Some are even driven by the beauty benefits of a clean diet, such as smoother skin and glossy hair.
I've found that people with these types of quality-of-life motivations are more likely to stay on track throughout the year, even if they don’t see a steady drop on the scale. If you are in a similar boat, I recommend the four simple resolutions below, to help making eating healthy your new normal in the months ahead.
Stock up on ingredients for quick, balanced meals
When hunger strikes, if you don’t have a healthy option on hand, it’s all too easy to gorge on anything that’s readily available. Many clients tell me they wind up eating things like their kids’ mac and cheese or pizza, when they haven’t planned their meals in advance.
While prepping healthy options may seem like a pain, you can actually make the process pretty simple by choosing a few go-to meals, and stocking up on their ingredients. For example, always keep a container of leafy greens in the fridge as the base of a meal. You can top it with canned wild salmon (seasoned with Dijon, balsamic vinegar, and Italian seasoning), a few hard-boiled eggs, a scoop of lentils, or a handful of pre-cooked frozen shrimp (thawed by rinsing under cold water).
Add a healthy fat, like avocado, or a jarred option, like olive tapenade or an EVOO-based pesto. For a good carb, toss in fruit (like a sliced apple, pear, or thawed frozen berries), a small scoop of pulses (canned chickpeas or lentils), or a whole grain like pre-cooked quinoa. You can also leave the starch out of the dish and munch on popcorn afterward instead.
These meals made from clever shortcuts can be prepared in minutes. And when you have the components on hand, it’s much easier to resist a less healthy option.
Identify healthy take-out options
We all have days when we just cannot carve out time to put together even a quick meal. But if you’re going to order in, it doesn’t have to be pad Thai or a mega burrito. Instead, choose three solid options in advance, and alternate.
One good choice is a taco salad (without the fried shell) topped with grilled veggies, and either chicken, seafood, or black beans for protein; plus salsa or pico de gallo and guacamole as your dressing.
Another healthy choice is sashimi, paired with seaweed salad or a side salad with ginger dressing, and sides of brown rice and avocado. And you can't go wrong with a Mediterranean platter (skip the free pita) of salad dressed with tahini or EVOO vinaigrette, lentil soup or kabobs of chicken or seafood, and a side of hummus. Scope out where you can find these meals in your delivery zone now, so you’ll know who to call on your next crazy-busy day.
Adopt a strategy for sweets and booze
The two things that most often derail my clients from a healthy eating routine are drinking alcohol and unplanned sweet or savory splurges (like a cupcake or potato chips). I don’t believe it’s realistic to never have these extras. However, I think the best approach is to determine how and when you’ll include them in your diet in advance.
For example, some of my clients eat clean, healthy meals Monday through Friday, then indulge on weekends. Others choose two days during the week when they’re going to indulge, based on their social plans.
Regardless of which approach works for you, having a concrete plan makes it a lot easier to pass up temptations. In other words, if you know you’re going to dinner Thursday night and will be splitting molten lava cake with a friend, you’ll be less tempted by M&Ms at the office.
Take five minutes a day to meditate
Now, you may be wondering what meditation has to do with healthy eating. The answer is everything.
When I take many of my clients through guided mediation, followed by instruction on mindful eating, the impact is immediate. When you clear your head, and stay present in the here and now, eating becomes a much different experience.
Spending just five short minutes a day meditating can help you better tune in to your body's hunger and fullness signals; eat with more awareness, at a slower pace; and lead you to make more thoughtful decisions about food. This change alone has the power to end patterns of under or overeating, and help you naturally eat in a way that optimizes wellness.
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.
You drop it like a squat and sprint on the bike at their command, but it’s rare to see what some of the most in-demand trainers eat to fuel their class-packed days. While some meals are what you’d expect — hearty salads and gluten-free sandwich wraps — they also like to indulge in a chocolate chip cookie once in a while. And with busy, often unpredictable schedules, sometimes they don’t have time to meal prep. Yup, they’re just like the rest of us. We asked seven top spin instructors, CrossFit coaches and other fitness pros to name their favorite healthy dish when dining out. So when you’re out on the go, you can mangia for bigger, stronger muscles, too.
What 7 Fitness Trainers Eat When Dining Out
Photo: Courtesy of Lauren Cardarelli
1. Lauren Cardarelli (@laurcardarelli)
Certified Barre, Yoga, HIIT and Cycling Teacher, Lululemon Ambassador
Restaurant: Green Life in Mamaroneck, New York
Order: Sweet Chick Wrap
“Confession: For years, I’ve fallen victim to the juice cleanses, low-fat, low-carb — OK, low-everything — diets. My understanding of how to properly fuel for energy, muscle recovery and real results completely shifted when I discovered Green Life. Whether you’re Paleo, gluten-free or vegan, their menu provides nutritious options that don’t sacrifice flavor. I love to grab the Sweet Chick Wrap after my morning workout. It has a great combination of carbs (whole-wheat wrap and sweet potato), protein (grilled chicken) and fiber (spinach) and gives me the boost I need to thrive all day. Since I started eating at Green Life often, I have cut back to drinking only two cups of coffee a day (I used to have at least double that) because I’m so energized by the wholesome ingredients!”
Photo Courtesy of Jenny Gaither
2. Jenny Gaither (@jennygaither)
Founder/CEO of Movemeant Foundation, Senior SoulCycle Instructor
Restaurant: Jane in San Francisco, California
Order: Gluten-Free/Vegan Granola
“Jane is a health nut’s dream! They offer a variety of delicious, good-for-you breakfast and lunch options along with gluten-free and dairy-free house-made baked goods. Everything on the menu is fresh, organic, and made with real whole foods. Not to mention, the coffee is next level. As someone who believes in balance, this is the spot I go to when I want to indulge in a chocolate chip cookie or a slice of banana bread because if it’s made with real ingredients then there’s no guilt.”
Photo Courtesy of J.D. Alex
3. J.D. Alex (@jddmialex)
Sports Performance Coach, Level 2 CrossFit Coach at Oregon CrossFit, Competitive Athlete
Restaurant: CHOW in Bend, Oregon
“When eating out, I think it’s important to eat at a place that cares where their food is from. I want to know what I am putting in my body and want to fuel it, not just fill it. CHOW uses locally-sourced food and has an emphasis on sustainability. My favorite order is called the Vinny, which includes poached eggs, ham, gluten-free toast and homemade hollandaise.”
Photo Courtesy of Mike Donovanik
4. Mike Donavanik (@mikedfitness)
Celebrity trainer at Crunch Gym, Equinox and Barry’s Bootcamp; YouTube Fitness Guru
Restaurant: Murakami Sushi in Los Angeles, California
Order: Sushi Bowl
“This dish is a perfect mix of carbohydrates and protein. Murakami is known for sushi bowls, and this one has all the fixings! Obviously, fish is packed with nutrients and vitamins. Underneath the layers of sashimi lies a bed of sushi rice. If you’re watching your carbohydrate intake, Murakami also offers the same order on a bed of greens. It’s colorful and nutritious, and the flavor is unbelievable.”
Photo Courtesy of Krista Stryker
5. Krista Stryker (@12minuteathlete)
Founder, 12 Minute Athlete
Restaurant: Laughing Planet Cafe in Portland, Oregon
Order: Harvest Bowl
“Laughing Planet’s Harvest Bowl is pretty much my ideal meal. It’s packed with quinoa, black beans, yams, sautéed kale, broccoli, tempeh, avocado, cilantro-lime slaw and pumpkin seeds (phew!). The best part is that it comes with a side of cilantro green sauce. It has a ton of flavor and is filling and nutritious.”
Photo Courtesy of Jennipher Walters
6. Jennipher Walters (@fitbottomedgirl)
Personal Trainer and Co-Founder Fit Bottomed Girls
Restaurant: The Mixx in Kansas City, Missouri
Order: Tuna Nicoise Salad
“When I make salads at home, I tend to get in a bit of a rut and choose ingredients that are quick to chop and prep. So when I go out, I like to order salads that have all kinds of different delicious and healthful ingredients. This Tuna Nicoise is my favorite. It’s made with seared tuna, roasted potatoes, haricots verts, hard-boiled eggs, tomatoes and olives over greens with a tarragon-shallot vinaigrette. I mean, this is basically like going to France for a meal — with lots of protein, healthy fats, carbs and veggies!”
Photo Courtesy of Jess Hu
7. Jess Hu (@hungry_panda)
Personal trainer at Fitness SF
Restaurant: Blue Barn Gourmet in San Francisco, California
Order: U-Pick Salad
“I love any salad place where you can put together your own salad. Blue Barn is amazing because they partner with local producers and also carry a variety of fresh seasonal ingredients. I get to choose all my favorites — and always add extra protein!”
Deprivation? Restriction? Cravings? Not here. Say so long to typical diet drudgery with these RD-approved tricks. (Finally, some fresh weight-loss advice you'll actually enjoy following!)
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
To the age-old question “Is coffee bad for you?”, researchers are in more agreement than ever that the answer is a resounding “no.” A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine found that older people with low levels of inflammation — which drives many, if not most, major diseases — had something surprising in common: they were all caffeine drinkers.
“The more caffeine people consumed, the more protected they were against a chronic state of inflammation,” says study author David Furman, consulting associate professor at the Institute for Immunity, Transplantation and Infection at Stanford University. “There was no boundary, apparently.”
In the study, Furman and his colleagues analyzed blood samples from 100 young and old people. The older people tended to have more activity in several inflammation-related genes compared with the younger group — no surprise, since as people get older, inflammation throughout the body tends to rise. Chronic diseases of aging, like diabetes, hypertension, heart problems, cancer, joint disorders and Alzheimer’s, are all believed to have inflammation in common. “Most of the diseases of aging are not really diseases of aging, per se, but rather diseases of inflammation,” Furman says. The more active these genes were, the more likely the person was to have high blood pressure and atherosclerosis.
What’s more, even among older people, those with lower levels of these factors were more protected against inflammation — and they had something else in common too. They all drank caffeine regularly. People who drank more than five cups of coffee a day showed extremely low levels of activity in the inflammatory gene pathway. Caffeine inhibits this circuit and turns the inflammatory pathway off, the researchers say.
The goal isn’t to make every trace of inflammation disappear, the scientists stress. In fact, inflammation is an important function of the immune system, which uses it to fight off infections and remove potentially toxic compounds. But with aging, the process isn’t regulated as well as it is in a younger body. “Clearly in aging something is breaking down, and we become less effective at managing this inflammation,” says Mark Davis, director of the Stanford institute. “But now in this paper, we identify a particular pathway that was not associated with inflammation before. We are able to point, with a much higher resolution picture, at aging and the things that should be markers for inflammation.”
The key will be to figure out when the inflammatory response starts to spiral out of control. In an upcoming study, Furman and others will soon investigate the immune systems of 1,000 people; he hopes to use that information to develop a reference range of immune-system components to tell people whether their levels are normal, or if they’re at higher risk for developing chronic conditions driven by inflammation.
In the meantime, following the example of caffeine-drinking adults with lower levels of inflammation — by having a cup of joe or two — might be a good idea.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Turmeric, the bright yellow spice often used in curries, mustards and golden milk lattes, has gained quite a reputation as a superfood. It’s been touted for its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, and hailed as a natural defense against cancer and Alzheimer’s disease.
That reputation, however, may have just gone down a notch: A new review of scientific literature on curcumin, the most well-known chemical in turmeric, suggests that the compound has limited, if any, actual health benefits.
There may still be reason to include the “golden spice” in your diet, say the authors of the new review, published in the Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. But as far as current evidence shows, its most famous compound doesn’t live up to its hype.
Ground turmeric root has been used in Indian and Chinese cooking (and traditional medicine) for centuries. But when the reviewers looked at several recent clinical trials and epidemiological studies on curcumin, they noticed that research findings often weren’t translated correctly in the media.
“Once something enters the popular press, it can be blown out of proportion,” says co-author Michael Walters, research associate professor at the University of Minnesota’s Institute for Therapeutics Discovery and Development. “These studies have become a part of folklore, and their actual results don’t really measure up to what they’re quoted as.”
One big problem, the new report notes, is that curcumin is not easily absorbed by the body. And despite the thousands of research papers published on turmeric, the reviewers were unable to find any double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trials (the gold-standard of medical research) to support its myriad health claims.
Many studies also involved conflicts of interest, Walters says—like researchers who owned supplement companies and could benefit from sales of curcumin extract. Overall, the research casts doubt on curcumin’s usefulness as a stand-alone supplement and its potential for future drug discoveries.
But don’t count out turmeric just yet, says registered dietitian Wendy Bazilian, who was not involved in the new research. She says it’s true that curcumin is no cure-all—“just like no other single nutrient isolated and extracted from a food, or for that matter, any one food itself.” But based on research in both animals and humans, she adds, “there’s no question that there are some health properties associated with the spice.”
Curcumin may not be a miracle ingredient, but Bazilian points out that compounds combined in food can often have synergistic effects. “That’s good news and worth ongoing consideration,” she says. “Because frankly, you wouldn’t eat turmeric as a meal alone.”
If nothing else, Bazilian adds, cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to make healthy food taste better—without excess salt, sugar, or fat.
Registered dietitian Cynthia Sass says she’ll also continue recommending turmeric to her clients. Curcumin’s absorption problem has been known for some time, she says, but it doesn’t rule out the spice’s health benefits. “One practical tip is to pair turmeric with black pepper,” says Sass. “A natural substance in the latter spice helps boost turmeric’s absorption from the digestive system into the bloodstream.”
And while she’d like to see double-blind studies on curcumin in the future, she says the compound still holds a lot of promise. Just don’t overdo it: high quantities have been linked to acid reflux, low blood sugar, and other unwanted side effects.
Walters and his co-authors agree that people shouldn’t stop eating turmeric, and that research on the spice should continue. In fact, they suggest that future studies should take a more holistic approach—looking at turmeric as a whole spice, or a component of entire meals—to account for all of its potential compounds.
“Turmeric is certainly not going to hurt you, and there may be something else in there that’s biologically active,” he says. “All we know right now is that curcumin itself is not the panacea that people think it is.”
When Venus Williams was diagnosed with Sjögren's syndrome in 2011, her tennis career almost came to a grinding halt. After a rough season of injuries and match withdrawals, she announced that she was suffering from the fairly common autoimmune disease that causes dry eye and dry mouth, as well as crushing joint pain and fatigue. The condition severely hindered athletic performance, ultimately causing her to withdraw from the 2011 U.S. Open in the second round. But after taking time off, Williams was able to step back onto the court with newfound strength, thanks to proper treatment—and a drastic diet change. She began following a raw vegan diet, which typically involves eliminating all animal products and foods cooked above 118 degrees Fahrenheit.
In an interview with Health at an event for Silk soy milk, Williams spoke about the switch to a raw diet, her best nutrition tips, and how she keeps herself motivated to eat well.
Why did you begin a plant-based diet?
I started for health reasons. I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease, and I wanted to maintain my performance on the court. Once I started I fell in love with the concept of fueling your body in the best way possible. Not only does it help me on the court, but I feel like I’m doing the right thing for me.
How did that affect your playing?
I literally couldn’t play tennis anymore, so it really changed my life. Because it was starting to take away what I loved, I had to make some changes, I had to change my life. Thankfully, I was able to find something that helped me get back to doing what I loved.
Do you have any specific ways that the new diet has made a difference in your game? Has it changed your game at all or has it just allowed you to continue to play?
It definitely changed my whole life. It changed the pace that I live at. It changed everything. There are definitely challenges, though, but it’s about how you face them and how you come on top so you can live in a way that is acceptable to you. So, it has been wonderful to still do what I love. And even though I still have issues, it doesn’t mean they’re going to stop me.
Do you have any tips for people who are looking to make a diet change? What’s right for them, what resources are available?
I always tell people that you have to enjoy what you’re eating. If you’re eating a plant-based diet or a mixture of one, make sure you’re eating something you like. Find a restaurant, recipes, or join a community—that way you can learn and enjoy your food. If you can’t enjoy your eating, I don’t know how fun life would be!
Do you have any favorite recipes that you like? Do you cook a lot for yourself?
I go in spurts, because sometimes I’m like, “I’ve got to cook!” and other times I’m like, “Who’s going to feed me?” So I have different levels. One of my favorite recipes is celery-root soup. I get celery root, tomato, and some Silk almond milk as a base to thicken it a little bit, and then maybe I’ll add pan-fried garlic on top, maybe some truffle oil—whatever I have at the time, I’ll throw it in. It makes for some interesting dishes!
Why is it important to you to eat well and what do you want young women to know about their bodies and fueling and eating well?
There’s something about when you’re eating healthy food, it makes you feel proud and it makes you feel like you’re doing the right thing. When you eat unhealthy, there’s a certain guilt about it…you just know it’s going to catch up. So, I love that feeling of when I’m eating healthy.
But, it doesn’t mean you have to be perfect because you do have to have a little fun. But when you’re doing the right things, and you’re eating plants, and you’re eating live foods, it helps you in your life. I think you feel more energized and you feel more positive.
What are your favorite cheat meals?
Well, honestly I have go-to things. I do love sweet things, so I’ve tried to find things that I love that are sweet but are still healthy. So, for me, sometimes it’ll be a juice or a sweet smoothie. There’s a smoothie that I have called ‘orange creamsicle’, so I’ll put in Silk milk, oranges, a little banana, vanilla flavoring, and sometimes a little coconut oil—it just depends, again, on what I have. The best thing about the orange creamsicle is that it tastes like you’re having an ice cream, so it makes me really happy but it’s still really healthy. There are different ways to ease your itch when you want junk food.
Do you have any tips for people who have trouble staying motivated to eat well?
Don’t let yourself get too hungry. Because when you’re too hungry you can’t think straight, and you make bad decisions and then suddenly you wake up and you think, “what have you done?!”
Also, set a goal for yourself. It can be something like 30 days without fried food. There’s something about having a goal and working towards it that makes you feel good. You can also get apps on your phone that help track for you, and just seeing those numbers makes you feel like, “Yeah, I’m doing it!”
And always have a replacement food that tastes good. So you like chips? Find a kale chip or bake your own chips that are healthy. Just find a replacement so you don’t feel like you’re missing out.
If you could give women one piece of advice on wellness, what would that be?
I would call it the 90/10, 80/20, or 70/30 rule—whatever works for you. Be good most of the time, and sometimes just don’t go to the gym, or have that bag of chips. But if you’re being healthy most of the time, then that helps to keep a balance so you can meet your goals, whatever those are.
Pinterest and Instagram are full of recipes that use snow—think snow cones, slushy cocktails, and DIY ice cream. And while frozen margaritas sure sound like an ideal way to make the best of a blizzard, is it even safe to consume those freshly fallen flakes?
The scientific answer: Maybe.
Snowflakes are born high up in the atmosphere when water vapor condenses and forms ice crystals around microscopic dust or pollen. By the time the flakes hit the ground, they've absorbed lots of other droplets and accumulated many more crystals—and what they contain is pretty disgusting. “Most atmospheric water and precipitation contains traces of gaseous and particulate contaminants,” explains Parisa A. Ariya, PhD, chair of the department of atmospheric and oceanic sciences at McGill University. Ariya coauthored a recent study that found snow absorbs toxic organic compounds in vehicle exhaust.
As gross as all that seems, it’s important to consider how much contamination we’re actually talking about—and how much is too much.
“It is well known amongst snow chemists that fresh Arctic snow goes very well with 15-year-old single malt whisky,” joked John Pomeroy, PhD, a water-resource and climate-change researcher at the University of Saskatchewan, in an interview with NPR last year.
In other words, if you don't live in an urban area with pollution and a lot of vehicle traffic, then eating snow is probably fine, says Ariya. “I give snow to my children in remote Canadian sites even just outside the city," she explains. "You should recognize that there is dilution of pollution from the emission source.”
Even if you live in a less-populated area, you still need to be careful about the snow you scoop up. We all know to steer clear of (cough) yellow snow; you should also avoid pink or “watermelon” snow as well. It owes its rosy hue to algae that live in melting snow, and those algae can have a laxative effect. Additionally, skip windblown (or “driven”) snow, which mixes with dirt and other ground-level contaminants. Plowed snow is another "don't"—it often contains sand and chemicals picked up from the road.
Long story short: In some cases, you’re better off using a shaved-ice machine to make dessert or your next cocktail. Don’t worry: Your Instagram followers will love those treats, too.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
The survey results, published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, reveal that in 1999, less than 9% of kids consumed low-calorie sweeteners, which are common in diet sodas and low-calorie and low-fat processed foods. That number rose to about 25% in 2012, and even children as young as two are consuming them, the study finds.
The report looked at data from close to 17,000 men, women and children who participated in the National Health and Nutrition Evaluation Survey from 2009 to 2012. The researchers compared that data to other survey findings from 1999-2008.
Sugar substitutes are getting more popular among adults, too. Forty-four percent of adults and 20% of children in the survey reported consuming low-calorie sweeteners more than once a day; 17% of adults consumed an artificially sweetened food or beverage three times a day or more.
Artificial sweeteners remain a debated health topic, but growing evidence suggests that fake sugar isn’t a worry-free food. Sugar substitutes promise fewer calories, but they’ve recently been linked to obesity and diabetes. The new study found that the likelihood that a person consumed low-calorie sweeteners rose with body mass index; close to 20% of adults with obesity consumed these sweeteners three times a day or more, compared to 13% of normal-weight adults. A 2016 study also found that pregnant women who consumed more artificial sweeteners in beverages were twice as likely to have children that were overweight or obese at one year, compared to women who consumed less.
Some research even suggests that people tend to gain weight when they regularly use these sweeteners, and though the reason why isn’t yet clear, it’s possible that the sweeteners trigger a craving for more food, according to some experts. When people eat sweet food, the thinking goes, the brain’s receptors are activated and the body prepares for calories by releasing insulin, which breaks down sugar. But if there’s a lack of sugar or calories to metabolize, the body may stay in craving mode, potentially causing people to eat more.
More research is needed into the health effects of artificial sweeteners, and more is sure to come. For now, study author Allison Sylvetsky, assistant professor of exercise and nutrition sciences at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health, endorses an easy fix: to “drink water instead of soda” and to “sweeten a serving of plain yogurt with a little fruit.”
If you’re looking for reasons to eat less red meat, you’ve already got quite a few: It can be high in cholesterol and saturated fat, and eating a lot of it has been linked to an increased risk of several chronic health conditions.
Now, two new studies provide even more motivation for cutting back on burgers and steaks. The first suggests that red meat may raise the risk for diverticulitis, a common inflammatory bowel condition. The second found a link between high levels of grilled, smoked, and barbecued meat and higher rates of early death among breast cancer survivors.
Both reports reference the potential dangers of cooking meats at high temperatures, which has been shown to produce inflammatory and carcinogenic compounds. Meat cooked at high temperatures has previously been linked to increased risk of cancer and, more recently, diabetes.
The newest study, published today in the journal Gut, looked at the potential impact of red meat, poultry, and fish intake on a person’s chances of developing diverticulitis, a condition in which small pockets in the intestinal lining become inflamed. Diverticulitis accounts for more than 200,000 hospital admissions every year, and new cases are on the rise among young people.
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Researchers analyzed health and dietary records of nearly 46,500 men taking part in a 26-year nationwide study. During that time, 764 men developed the dangerous inflammatory condition.
After adjusting for factors such as smoking, exercise, medication use, and fiber intake, they found that those who ate the most red meat had a 58% increased risk of developing diverticulitis compared with those who ate the least. Each daily serving of red meat was associated with an 18% increased risk, although that risk peaked at six servings a week.
Lead author Andrew Chan, MD, program director of the Gastrointestinal Training Program at Massachusetts General Hospital, says more research is needed to determine exactly how red meat is linked to diverticulitis. But studies suggest that high consumption alters the balance of bacteria in the gut, he says, which could affect the body’s immune response and vulnerability to inflammation.
And while processed meat often gets a particularly bad rap, the association in this study was actually strongest with the unprocessed variety. That may be because unprocessed meats are generally cooked at higher temperatures than processed ones are, which may be particularly harmful to the gut microbiome.
The researchers also determined that substituting one daily portion of red meat with fish or poultry could lower diverticulitis risk by 20%. “It’s easy to tell people to limit red meat, but it’s nice to be able to tell them what to eat instead,” Dr. Chan told Health. “So we evaluated other sources of animal protein, and found that these did not have an increased risk.”
The researchers did not include vegetarian protein sources, such as beans and tofu, in their study. “But we expect that those are also things that wouldn’t be associated with increased risk, either,” says Dr. Chan.
The second study, published last week in JNCI: Journal of the National Cancer Institute, tracked more than 1,500 breast cancer survivors for about 18 years. During that time, about 600 of the women died.
The researchers found that women who ate the most grilled, barbecued, and smoked meats before their diagnosis had a 23% increased risk of death from any cause, compared to those who ate the least. And compared with women who cut back on these foods following their diagnosis, those who continued to consume high amounts had a 31% increased risk of death. These results were also adjusted for potential influencing factors, including body mass index, exercise, and alcohol intake.
When the findings were broken down by type of meat, they suggested that smoked poultry or fish may not be associated with the same increased risks—and, in fact, may even be protective. These results were not statistically meaningful, though, and the researchers didn’t find the same protective effects for grilled or barbecued poultry or fish.
Both studies were observational—meaning they tracked a certain group of people over time and relied on self-reported information—so the researchers were unable to form any conclusions about cause-and-effect. They do provide fodder for researchers digging deeper into the connections between meat and disease risk, as well as for consumers thinking about making more meatless choices.
“Red meat has been associated with other health effects—for example, a higher risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer,” said Chan. “It’s important to think about all the potential benefits of a given diet, and this provides an additional rationale to think about limiting red meat.”
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
Not all carbs are created equal—and thank goodness for that. New research suggests that a certain kind of carbohydrate called resistant starch may improve health by keeping you full, checking blood sugar and supporting the gut.
Resistant starch, a special type of fiber found in potatoes, bananas, chickpeas, grains and other foods, is the focus of a new study in the journal Nutrition Bulletin. Researchers from the British Nutrition Foundation and University College Dublin, in Ireland, analyzed everything published research has shown about the health benefits of resistant starch, and found more than a few reasons to fill up.
Eating resistant starch may support gut health and increase feeling of fullness, according to the studies reviewed. There’s also some evidence that eating resistant starch can counteract the negative health effects of eating a lot of red meat on colorectal cancer risk, though the study authors say more research is needed to understand these potential health claims.
The reason resistant starch seems to be so uniquely healthy is likely because of the way it’s digested. The starch bypasses the small intestine, the site of digestion for most food, and is instead metabolized in the colon. It’s then fermented and becomes short-chain fatty acids that provide energy. Short-chain fatty acids, which can act as gut-healthy prebiotics, have been linked to a lower risk of inflammation-related diseases like diabetes and heart disease.
In one small study of 10 people reviewed in the new report, healthy adults ate crackers containing about 30 grams of a type of resistant starch for about three weeks, and a couple weeks later they ate crackers without the starch. The study authors found that even during the short study period, eating crackers with resistant starch increased healthy gut bacteria and lowered the levels of less healthy types.
“Resistant starch appears to aid blood glucose control and may confer other health benefits,” says study author Stacey Lockyer, a nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation. “This is an exciting area for future research. Overall, regular consumption of a variety of fiber-rich foods is important.”
The new findings don’t offer an excuse to overload on carbohydrates like white bread and pasta, though they also contain some resistant starch. “Wholegrain varieties of foods tend to contain higher amounts of resistant starch—and other fiber types—than ‘white’ versions of these foods,” says Lockyer. “We know that adequate intake of dietary fiber overall is important for achieving a healthy, balanced diet and reduces the risk of developing a range of chronic diseases including colon cancer, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.”