Month: June 2017

Is French Yogurt the New Greek?

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You've heard all about the health benefits of Greek yogurt. And maybe you’ve tried (even thicker) Icelandic yogurt, also known as skyr. But did you know there's such a thing as French yogurt?

Yoplait has announced it will launch a line of French-style yogurts, called Oui, in July. So how is French yogurt different from Greek and Icelandic—and which is the healthiest yogurt of them all?

According to General Mills, the Oui yogurt recipe is based on the way yogurt was made in French farmhouses more than a century ago. While most commercial yogurt is cultured in large batches and then poured into individual cups, Oui yogurt is cultured in individual (and recyclable or reusable) glass pots. If you’ve been to France you’ve likely seen this type of yogurt in stores. And if you’re a big fan of yogurt, you may have come across instructions on how to make your own on sites like Chowhound.

The ingredients are nice and simple: just whole milk, yogurt cultures, cane sugar, and fruit. And the plain variety contains only the first two ingredients. So in other words, Oui yogurt lacks the additives found in traditional Yoplait yogurts, such as gelatin, modified corn starch, preservatives, and artificial sweetener. 

Each jar of the plain variety of Oui plain contains 130 calories, 8 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrate, 5 grams of protein, 4% of the Daily Value (DV) for vitamin A, and 15% of the DV for calcium. The flavored varieties are a bit higher in calories and carbs. Blueberry, for example has 160 calories and 19 grams of carbohydrates.

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

So should you switch from Greek or skyr to French?

Oui is lower in protein than both Greek and Icelandic yogurts made with similar simple ingredients. For example, a single-serve container of Stonyfield's plain whole milk Greek yogurt packs 14 grams of protein—that's 9 more grams than Oui! And a single-serve container of Siggi's whole milk blueberry skyr delivers 12 grams of protein.

What's more, Oui yogurt isn't organic or grass-fed. Organic milk provides a greater amount of iodine and certain vitamins and antioxidants, according to researchers from Newcastle University in the UK. And milk from grass-fed cows contains more anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, as well as another beneficial fat called CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), which is thought to boost immunity, lower inflammation, protect the heart, and even help with weight loss.

The bottom line is that I will advise my clients to stick with organic, grass-fed Greek yogurt or skyr. While the adorable Oui jars may be tempting, here's an expert tip: You can buy French yogurt glasses on Etsy, and fill them with anything you like.

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

Source: Nutrition

15 Foods That Help You Stay Hydrated

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These high-water-content foods are refreshing, filled with nutrients, and naturally low in calories.
Source: Nutrition

3 Healthy Excuses to Add More Pineapple to Your Life

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Pineapple is one of my absolute favorite fruits, and I know I'm not the only one who loves the tropical treat. There's no question it's refreshing and delicious. But pineapple also packs some pretty powerful health benefits. Here are three healthy excuses to add more of the nutritious fruit to your diet, along with a few of my favorite ways to enjoy it.

It's loaded with vitamin C

One cup of pineapple provides more than 100% of your recommended daily amount of vitamin C. And while you're probably well aware that this nutrient helps support immunity, it does so much more. Vitamin C is involved in the growth and repair of tissues throughout the body. Plus it acts as an antioxidant, protecting cells against premature aging and illnesses such as cancer and heart disease. The vitamin may also have an effect on your waistline: One study found that exercisers who weren't getting enough vitamin C burned about 25% fewer calories during their workouts. And too little vitamin C in the bloodstream has been linked to higher body fat and waist size. 

RELATED: 12 Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges

It supports healthy skin

Pineapple is rich in manganese. (Just one cup contains more than 75% of the amount recommended for one day). This mineral, along with vitamin C, is required for building collagen—a structural component of skin that prevents sagging and wrinkles.

Manganese also functions as an antioxidant that protects skin cells from damage against UV light, making pineapple especially crucial in the summertime.

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It promotes healthy digestion

If you’ve ever tried to add fresh pineapple to a gelatin dessert you know that it just won’t work. That’s because pineapples contain an enzyme called bromelain, which breaks down the gelatin into its amino acid building blocks, preventing it from becoming or staying solid. For the same reason, pineapple is often used in marinades, to help tenderize meat. And the enzyme doesn't just affect cooking—if you eat pineapple along with a meal, bromelain may help you digest proteins, potentially reducing bloating, indigestion, and sluggishness. The dietary fiber in pineapple also helps maintain bowel regularity, and prevent constipation.

Easy ways to eat more pineapple

While fresh pineapple is amazing as is, you can also try incorporating it into recipes. Here are a few of my favorite ways to add the fruit to smoothies, cookouts, cocktails, and more.

  • Whip pineapple into a smoothie with coconut milk, coconut butter, pea protein powder, half of a yellow bell pepper, and a bit of fresh ginger root.
  • Add fresh pineapple to slaw. Whisk together a tablespoon of raw apple cider vinegar, a tablespoon of juice from fresh pineapple, a teaspoon of honey, half a teaspoon each of fresh grated ginger and minced garlic, and a dash of black pepper and sea salt. Toss with a half cup each of shredded cabbage and pineapple chunks. Chill and serve as a side dish or topping for fish or black beans.
  • Grill up slices of fresh pineapple at your next cookout.
  • For a healthier version of a frozen umbrella drink, whip together a cup of fresh pineapple, a handful of ice, and a quarter cup each of unsweetened coconut milk and frozen banana slices, and then stir in an ounce of rum.

Not sure how to cut up a fresh pineapple? Check out my Instagram slideshow below.

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

Source: Nutrition

Will Activated Charcoal Actually Detox My Body?

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Throughout my career I've seen dozens of supplements come and go in terms of trendiness, from herbs and amino acids to antioxidants and extracts. Recently, activated charcoal has been having a moment as a must-try natural remedy.

Early on in my career I worked in a hospital, as well as a substance abuse rehabilitation center, so I am familiar with the medicinal use of activated charcoal. Similar to common charcoal for your grill, activated charcoal is typically made from peat, coal, wood, or coconut shells, treated in a way that makes it very porous, or "activated." It's used commonly in emergency rooms to treat poisoning and drug overdoses due to its ability to trap chemicals and prevent them from being absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract into the blood.

Apparently some health enthusiasts theorized that if activated charcoal can soak up dangerous substances, it should be used routinely, as a way to cleanse the body of other toxins we're exposed to (such as pesticides and chemicals in food packaging). And a trend was born.

Activated charcoal has been making an appearance in a number of bottled beverages, like charcoal water, lemonade and other pressed juices. There are also a myriad of activated charcoal supplements you can buy online, promising to help with gas, and some people are even using it to whiten their teeth. Unfortunately, though, it's not that simple (nor totally harmless). Here are three things you should know about the fad.

RELATED: I Tried a 'Mind Cleanse' and It Was Just the Emotional Detox I Needed

Activated charcoal can bind to beneficial substances too

Activated charcoal doesn't distinguish between wanted and unwanted substances. That means it can also bind to nutrients, including vitamin C and B vitamins, as well as other dietary supplements, and prescription medications, preventing them from getting into your bloodstream.

In other words drinking it in juice, for example, may actually make the produce you're gulping less healthy in some ways, not more. The most important thing to remember about anything claiming a "detoxifying" benefit is that your body is equipped with a liver, kidneys, lungs, and digestive system, which work around the clock to perform "detoxing" functions. If you want to help them out, the best things you can do are to drink plenty of water, eat foods that naturally enhance your body's ability to "detox," such as beets, ginger, turmeric, and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale), and avoid artificial additives and processed foods.

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Activated charcoal can actually cause digestive distress

The use of activated charcoal to help with gas isn't well studied and the research is conflicting, but it has also been known to cause nausea and vomiting. It can also trigger constipation, slow the movement of food or waste through the digestive system, or even lead to a serious intestinal blockage. And one 2014 report from George Washington University suspects that activated charcoal may have caused colitis (inflammation in the colon) in one patient who repeatedly used it to detoxify his body on his own. In other words, it's unclear how it will affect you individually.

RELATED: 20 Best Foods for Fiber

There is no known safe dosage

Because activated charcoal is not routinely used preventatively, studies haven't been conducted about its long-term effectiveness, or safety, much less an optimal amount to take. So while it may seem beneficial and benign, you could be harming your health in ways we don't yet understand. Bottom line: activated charcoal has been used as medicine for years in emergencies. And some physicians may recommend it to reduce the side effects of chemotherapy or long-term dialysis. However, more research is needed in both of these areas, and in my opinion it's too early to embrace as a home remedy or everyday wellness strategy.

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

Source: Nutrition

Do These 8 ‘Miracle’ Foods Really Live Up to the Hype?

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Certain so-called superfoods seem to be everywhere. They're said to ward off cancer, help with weight loss, extend your life, even whiten your teeth. But do these "miracle" foods really live up to all the hype? To find out, we interviewed experts and pored over research. Here's what we learned about apple cider vinegar, avocados, red wine, and more.

Coconut oil

The hype: Almost three-quarters of people in a recent survey said they thought coconut oil was healthy. No doubt that’s because of claims that it protects against heart disease (because it boosts HDL or “good” cholesterol), arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and diabetes; while also helping you lose weight, thanks to a particular kind of fat that your body may metabolize differently than others.

The reality: The American Heart Association (AHA) issued a recent statement that flat out recommended against using coconut oil. Why? A high level (82%) of really-bad-for-you saturated fat. Multiple studies confirm that coconut oil actually raises “bad” LDL cholesterol.

The bottom line: The AHA statement pretty much said it all. If you do go for coconut oil (we know it tastes good), practice extreme moderation. “One tablespoon a day provides nearly the recommended limit of saturated fat for the entire day for most adults,” cautions Malina Malkani, a registered dietitian nutritionist and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

RELATED: 10 Surprising Beauty Uses for Coconut Oil

Chocolate

The hype: Chocolate supposedly staves off heart disease thanks to copious amounts of flavonoid antioxidants. It may also cut the odds of a stroke and improve memory and attention as we age.

The reality: Chocolate may protect against heart disease, stroke, and diabetes—but only dark, purer forms of chocolate. Once it’s been processed into prettily packaged treats beckoning from store shelves, it’s basically just sugar and fat.

The bottom line: A little of the right kind of chocolate may help reduce blood pressure, but a lot of any kind of chocolate will backfire. “The darker the chocolate the better,” says Malkani. Look for a cocoa content of 70% or more. And stick to one or two squares a day at most.

Butter

The hype: Butter is back! Unjustly vilified for so many years, the stuff is actually good for you.

The reality: A lot of the hype stemmed from one 2014 study which found that eating less saturated fat may not cut your risk for heart disease. But that’s a whole lot different than saying eating saturated fat is good for your health.

The bottom line: Don’t become a daily disciple of Julia Child’s high-fat recipes just yet. The current science still tells us to replace saturated and trans fats with unsaturated fats (think olive oil). If butter has a role, it may be to up your intake of indisputably healthy foods: “If used mindfully and sparingly, it can enhance the flavor of vegetables you might otherwise not enjoy,” says Malkani.

Avocado

The hype: Avocado, the poster child for “good” fats for decades, is rumored to reduce the risk of a host of health ills—obesity, diabetes, heart disease and others—and help you live longer too.

The reality: The fruit’s long-standing reputation may be well-deserved. “There is a large body of evidence that an avocado-rich diet high in monounsaturated fats helps lower LDL or bad cholesterol and raise HDL,” says Malkani. It may also ease pain from osteoarthritis.

The bottom line: Avocado every day may help keep the doctor away. But f you’re trying to lose weight, remember that one serving is actually only one-third of one fruit, says Malkani. Now-trending avocado oil is another matter, warns dietician Sandra Arevalo, director of nutrition services and community outreach at Montefiore Health System's Community Pediatrics in New York City. "The put a lot of additives in [avocado oil] so we have to be careful."

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Red wine

The hype: Red wine may be the one thing standing between you and heart disease and diabetes.

The reality: This may not be just wishful thinking. Studies going back decades have found a lower risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes among people who drank moderate amounts of red wine compared to those who didn’t drink at all. But overdo it on the vino and you could end up with heart disease, liver disease, and cancer. A 2017 report found that even very small amounts of alcohol may increase the risk for breast cancer.

The bottom line: There’s a fine balance. “[Red wine] is good in moderation,” says Arevalo. The AHA recommends women consume just one alcoholic drink a day (that's 4 ounces of red wine), and that men stick to two.

Apple cider vinegar

The hype: The grapevine claims apple cider vinegar can whiten your teeth, lower blood sugar, fight infection, keep heart disease and cancer at bay, and oh so much more

The reality: Apple cider vinegar may lower blood sugar and help you feel full, but so do other kinds of vinegar. The same with losing weight. It’s not clear if apple cider vinegar has any use against cancer and heart disease. And it looks like it doesn’t help heal wounds. As for your teeth, not only will vinegar not lead to pearly whites, it can also erode enamel.

The bottom line: Apple cider vinegar is a good addition to salads, but don't consider it a potential panacea for health woes.

Coffee

The hype: Where do we even start? The supposed health benefits of coffee include lowering your risk of type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and heart disease while generally helping you live longer. It may treat Parkinson’s and keep your memory sharp.

The reality: Many of these benefits may be real. Caffeine has been shown to improve movement in Parkinson’s patients, while both caffeinated and decaf coffee may lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. Java is also linked with a reduced risk of several types of cancer including colon and prostate (but an increased risk of lung cancer).

The bottom line: The evidence applies to black coffee, not coffee laden with cream, sugar and syrup. Most studies show the benefits of caffeine come from about 400 milligrams—the amount on three to five 8-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee, say Malkani. If you are hypertensive, talk to your doctor, as caffeine can cause short-term blood pressure spikes. But if you don’t drink coffee now, experts says it's not worth starting the habit. (Same goes for wine.)

RELATED: 18 Superfoods for Your Heart

Lemon water

The hype: Water garnished with a little lemon is reputed to help digestion, speed weight loss, keep you hydrated, and prevent kidney stones.

The reality: The benefit of lemon water probably stems from the water part, not the lemon part, even though lemon has vitamin C. Water is good for you, and most of us don’t get enough.

The bottom line: Drink lots of water every day, with or without lemon. “I don’t think it’s a superfood. It’s just a wonderful way to vary the flavor of water,” says dietician Sharon Zarabi, director of the bariatric program at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “For those who have trouble taking in 6 to 8 cups a day, lemon might make it a little bit more refreshing.”

Source: Nutrition

Fresh-Water Fish Contain Biotoxins—Here's the Best Way to Ged Rid of Them

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This article originally appeared on Food + Wine. 

We're taught that steaming vegetables, fish, and everything in between is healthier than, say, dumping broccoli florets into a boiling water bath and letting all those good vitamins—fiber, B6, and potassium, to name a few—seep out into the H2O. And new research suggests that when it comes to fish, this couldn't be more true: streaming tilapia and other filets keeps dangerous toxins from entering your body.

Researchers from the University of Seville took a look at whether steaming fish or boiling fish filets could better reduce cylindrospermopsin, a cyanotoxin found in some of the most eaten freshwater fish, such as tilapia. They found that while boiling fish does reduce the toxin—by about 18 percent, in fact—steaming the filets reduced it even more, to a rate of about 26 percent. What's more, biotoxins also pass into the steaming water and avoid our bodies almost entirely—which is a very good thing.

Cylindrospermopsin impacts animals' organs, including the liver, kidneys, heart, intestines, lungs, and brain. In humans, cylindrospermopsin can be drank, ingested, or aspirated—and symptoms include headaches, diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, dehydration, fatigue, dry eyes, and even kidney damage. According to the researchers, the cyanotoxin is transferred to food from water that contains it, so it can be found in everything from plant-based foods to cereals, fish, and shellfish.

"It is fundamental to continue investing research resources in this area, as the real exposure [of cylindrospermopsin] to consumers is not known, and therefore the risk is also unknown," the researchers wrote in their study, published in Food Control.

Until then, if you don't want to take the risk of ingesting any more of this cyanotoxin than necessary, the report suggests you steam your fish for at least two minutes. And be sure to throw out any steam water you use in your cooking—think: don't use it for stocks, or to make a sauce—as it will have absorbed the toxin itself. The researchers say their next steps will be to test the results of other common cooking methods like grilling and microwaving in the future.

Source: Nutrition