The Optimum Diet: Fiber?

Vegetarian food vegetables, nuts and legumes.

The following article covers the role of fiber in our diet and how it contributes to health. The rise in inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis) has triggered a new interest in the role of fiber that is sadly deficient in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Could a lack of fiber be implicated?

The dictionary defines it as:

Dietary fiber(British spelling fibre) or roughage is the portion of plant-derived food that cannot be completely broken down by human digestive enzymes. It has two main components:

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The Rise in Comfort Foods

Interesting observation on what type of foods we choose when in a state of crisis – makes common sense. The focus on healthy eating for now may have to take a backseat for awhile due to the restrictions from the coronvirus invasion.

Keep safe – to keep your immune system “healthy” get plenty of sleep, eat as well as you can, stay hydrated and most of all stay away from crowds. Wash hands often and after bringing in merchandise from outside, e.g. grocery bags, disinfect your kitchen counters, handles, and knobs on appliances with antiseptic wipes, bleach solutions or disinfectant sprays. It all can help.

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The French Diet vs. the Standard American Diet (SAD)

Savor Variety with the French Cuisine

To safeguard one’s heath at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.

— Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French writer and moralist.

The French have long known that eating well is a integral part of the whole of French culture. This is reflected in their custom of a set of what is called “global” secrets from an engaging book entitled 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines by Steven Jonas, M.D. and Sandra Gordon. In addition, the French attachment to the finer foods in life has resulted in them being some of the healthiest, leanest,  and perhaps most guilt-free people in the world.

France At A Glance:

  • Moderate drinking – of course moderation is the key. Everyone knows the hazards of excess drinking. The French drink only with food – no happy hours!!!
  • Lots of fruits and vegetables
  • No snacking or dieting – this is important since the typical American eater often binges on snacks when on a very restrictive diet. Chronic dieting has been shown to increase weight gain in some people.
  • They eat large lunches and often extend and enjoy the lunch hour – no grabbing a carton of yogurt at your desk or going through the drive-thru or visiting the vending machine  like  the typical American eater.
  • They resize the supersize. “There is no such thing as a doggie bag in France, since restaurants never give you enough to put anything in it,” one says.
  • They don’t feel guilty about food. One of their reminders about food – “If you eat too much, the next day you eat less,” they say.  They weigh themselves about once a month – if that. However, scale weight can be used as a red flag when weight begins to creep upward.
  • Take the time to cook properly and use fresh, quality ingredients. You don’t need  to be Julia Child, but butter and cream are revered (in moderation, of course). Microwave ovens and can openers are not staple kitchen items.

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Nutrition News in Brief

 

Drinking Tea and Healthy Brains

Tea has been a popular beverage since antiquity dating back to the dynasty of Shen Nong (2700 BC). Drinking tea has become increasingly popular in western countries today. It is assumed that the types of tea were both black and green teas; however, this was not designated in the abstract below.

A study from the journal Aging reported that drinking tea was associated with a healthy brain.

Method: The current study compared 15 tea drinkers aged 60 and older to 21 people in the same age group who did not regularly consume tea.

The researchers gave neuropsychological tests to the participants that evaluated cognitive function and used magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to assess brain connectivity.

Results and Conclusion

The tea-drinking group had better organized brain regions and cognitive functions compared to those in the group who were not tea drinkers.

The authors stated: “Our results offer the first evidence of positive contribution of tea drinking to brain structure and suggest that drinking tea regularly has a protective effect against age-related decline in brain organization.”

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Blueberry Intake May Reduce Cardiovascular Risk

A study reported in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found a lower risk of cardiovascular disease among men and women with metabolic syndrome who consumed the equivalent of a cup of blueberries daily for six months. Metabolic syndrome is a collection of health risks, including high blood pressure, altered blood lipids, high blood glucose and a large waist circumference, that increases the chance of developing heart disease, stroke and diabetes type 2.

Method: A total of 138 individuals were randomized into groups that were given either 26 grams of powdered blueberries  (equivalent to a cup of fresh blueberries), 13 grams of powdered blueberries plus 1/2 cup of a mock blueberry placebo, or 26 grams of the placebo.

Insulin resistance, flow mediated dilatation (a measure of endothelial function), augmentation index (which measures artery stiffness), cholesterol and other factors were measured before and after the intervention. Endothelium refers to the cells that line the interior surface of blood vessels in the body as well as the lymphatic vessels

Results: The researchers observed an improvement in endothelial function and arterial stiffness in the group that received 26 grams of blueberry powder.

Conclusion: The authors stated: “The simple and attainable message to consume one cup of blueberries daily to consume one cup of blueberries daily should be given to those aiming to improve their cardiovascular health.”

 

 

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How to Boost Your Immune System

In our current environment of the coronavirus, we are told to stay healthy and take precautions such as hand washing, avoiding large crowds, cleaning surfaces, eating a healthy diet, getting enough sleep, etc. No one seems to mention that  every second of every day the body is working to protect us from armies of hostile bacteria, fungi and viruses that swarm on our skin; yet we usually remain amazingly healthy most of the time.

The body has evolved to approach these foes – if you’re  not with us – you’re against us! So the components of the immune system work together to destroy any foreign invader. To implement that stance, it relies on two built-in defense systems, the innate defense system and the adaptive defense system that act both independently and cooperatively. However, it is extremely important to support this system with a healthy lifestyle for optimum functioning and its ability to keep us well. 

Innate defenses include:

Surface barriers (skin, mucous membranes)

Internal defenses (phagocytes, natural killer cells, inflammation, antimicrobial proteins, fever

Adaptive defenses include:

Humoral immunity (B cells, plasma cells, antibodies, memory cells)

Cellular immunity (Helper T cells, cytotoxic T-cells, memory cells)

These two systems are deeply intertwined and when operating effectively, they protect us from most infectious microorganisms, cancer cells, and (unfortunately) organ transplants and grafts.

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Eat Less for a Longer Life?

Calorie restriction has been shown to extend lifespan in many animal species. Even though the following article is an animal (rat) study, it is very interesting since it goes further than most studies by examining the effects on the body cells themselves of a calorie restricted diet versus a control group with no calorie restriction.

Some people find this easier to do with the practice of intermittent fasting (or time-restricted) eating patterns. It is suggested that you consult your physician with any restrictive diet (e.g., Keto) since it is imperative we still get all the proper nutrients we need for optimum health.

An alternative could be is to consult a certified nutritionist or health coach.  Be careful who you might choose for nutrition information. Unfortunately, some practitioners in the nutrition community offer services that are highly questionable and appear to be outside the legitimate scope of evidence-based nutrition.  Even advanced degrees can be purchased from what used to be called “diploma mills”.  There are a lot of crazy schemes (mostly for weight loss) on the internet – question and check on the  credentials of any person who call themselves a “nutritionist.”  Also if a plan or a supplement sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Stephen Barrett, MD, a long-time crusader against nutrition and health fraud, recommends steering clear of:

  • Anyone who suggests  that large doses of vitamins are effective against a large number of diseases and conditions. That is simply untrue. On the contrary, mega doses can sometimes be harmful.
  • Anyone who suggests hair analysis is a basis for determining the body’s nutritional state and then recommending large numbers of dietary supplements are not reliable for this purpose.
  • Anyone who claims that a wide variety of symptoms and diseases are caused by “hidden food allergies”. There are legitimate food intolerances that are different from true allergies.
  • Anyone who uses a computer-scored “nutrient deficiency test” as the basis of prescribing dietary supplements. There are more valid ways of assessing diets.
  • All practitioners – licensed or not – who sells vitamins and minerals in their offices. Evidence-based nutritionists  do not sell supplements.
  • Practitioners who seem to favor a certain food brand or supplement. There is a lot of research that is supportive of the food industry and research on that particular brand is often biased.

Source: Quack Watch, Where  to Get Professional Nutrition Advice, Stephen Barrett, MD.

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Make 2020 A “No Dieting” Year

Research has shown us that simply the process of dieting can make us fatter. Year after year a tremendous number of people attempt to diet.  However, long-term studies of of those who diet consistently find they are more likely to end up gaining weight in the next few years than people who don’t diet.

Restrictive diets can lead to cravings, binge-eating, depression, and other eating disorders. The body has a range of weights referred to as a set-point at which it prefers to maintain in terms of body weight. When this set point is challenged by chronic dieting, you trigger the body’s natural hormonal and nervous systems mechanisms  to protect your body from perceived starvation. One of these is to lower your metabolic rate and thus conserve energy so you burn fewer calories.  The following article offers some sensible tips to avoid strict dieting and still be able to manage your weight loss or maintenance.

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