The widespread panic and uncertainty being caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic means sleep isn’t coming easy for many people right now. But good quality sleep is the bedrock of our lives, consuming about a third of our total time on this planet and dramatically influencing the other two-thirds. That’s why it’s so important that we all get enough good quality sleep on a regular basis. With that in mind, here are five tangible tips to promote better sleep at this difficult time: 1. Get into a routine By getting in sync with your body’s natural sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, you can significantly boost your chances of getting a good night’s sleep. If you get into a routine of sleeping and waking at the same times each day, you’ll feel more refreshed and energized than if you follow random patterns. 2. Exercise more In addition to the physical and mental health benefits, regular exercise also helps you sleep better. And while cardiovascular exercise, strength training and yoga are all great for helping you sleep – especially if you do them during the day and not just before bed. 3. Watch your diet For the best sleep, try and eat a balanced diet that contains vegetables, fresh fruits, whole grains, and low-fat proteins that are rich in B vitamins - like fish, poultry, meat, eggs, and dairy. 4. Consume less alcohol While some people rely on alcohol to help them fall asleep, studies show that alcohol does not improve sleep. In fact, it reduces rapid eye movement (REM) sleep, which is thought to be the most restorative kind. 5. Limit gadget use at night Blue light from TVs, smartphones, tablets and other gadgets plays havoc with your circadian rhythm and, as a result, the release of the sleep-inducing hormone melatonin is suppressed. For the best night’s sleep, limit your use of gadgets and other visual devices to around one to two hours before bed.
The Mediterranean diet, which features plenty of vegetables, fruits, herbs, nuts, beans and whole grains, has long been lauded for its heart health benefits. But now a new study shows that it could also improve brain function in elderly people, even when only eaten for a year. According to the research published in the BMJ, following a Mediterranean diet for just 12 months can inhibit production of inflammatory chemicals in elderly individuals that can lead to loss of cognitive function, as well as prevent the development of chronic diseases such as diabetes, cancer and atherosclerosis. For the study, 612 elderly people from France, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the United Kingdom has their gut microbiome analysed. Then, 323 of them were put on a special diet, based on Mediterranean principles, for one year, while the rest were asked to eat as they normally would. After 12 months, all of the study participants had their gut microbiome re-analysed. Those who had followed the Mediterranean diet saw beneficial changes to the microbiome in their digestive system. The rate at which bacterial diversity was lost slowed and the production of potentially harmful inflammatory markers was reduced. Furthermore, there was also a growth of beneficial bacteria linked to improved memory and brain function. So-called “keystone” species, critical for a stable “gut ecosystem”, were also boosted, helping to slow signs of frailty, such as walking speed and hand grip strength. “Our findings support the feasibility of changing the habitual diet to modulate the gut microbiota which in turn has the potential to promote healthier aging,” the study authors said.
New research suggests that some people have an inherent dislike of certain vegetables. According to the study by Dr Jennifer Smith and colleagues from the University of Kentucky School of Medicine, inheriting two copies of the unpleasant taste gene provides a "ruin-your-day level of bitterness" to foods such as broccoli and sprouts. The research could explain why some people find it really difficult to include certain vegetables in their diets. The team’s findings could also provide some explanation as to why beer, coffee and dark chocolate taste unpleasant to some people. Everyone inherits two copies of a taste gene called TAS2R38, which basically allows us to taste bitterness. However, people can inherit different variants. People who inherit a variant called AVI aren't sensitive at all to bitter tastes. Those who inherit one copy of AVI and another called PAV do experience bitter tastes, but not to extremes. That super-sensitivity for bitter foods is found in people who inherit two copies of the PAV variant - often called "super-tasters". Of the 175 people studied, those with two copies of the bitter taste PAV gene variant ate only small amounts of leafy green vegetables. Speaking to medics at a meeting of the American Heart Association, Dr Smith said: “You have to consider how things taste if you really want your patient to follow nutrition guidelines”.
Lycopene - a natural pigment that gives red fruits and vegetables their colour - is an antioxidant that protects against cell damage, and tomatoes contain plenty of it. In fact, it is estimated that tomatoes account for 80% of the lycopene in the US diet. Now, a new study suggests Lycopene may also help boost sperm quality. According to the research by a team at the University of Sheffield, healthy men who consumed the equivalent of two tablespoons of concentrated tomato puree each day were found to have better quality sperm. During the 12-week trial, 60 men were randomly selected to take 14mg of lactolycopene supplement each day. The reason a supplement was used is because the participants would have had to eat 2kg of tomatoes each day to obtain an equivalent dose of lycopene. The participants’ sperm was tested before, during and after the trial. While there was no difference in sperm concentration, the men who had been taking the lycopene had healthier and faster sperm. Encouraged by the results, the researchers now want to expand the trial to include more men and see if the findings are the same. Lycopene has also been previously linked to other health benefits, including a lowered risk of heart disease and certain cancers.
Drinking red wine (in moderation) could be good for your gut, according to researchers from the UK. The team from King’s College London says red wine contains compounds that help increase the number of different types of bacteria that live in the gut. The micronutrients, known as polyphenols, are more abundant in red wine vs. beer, cider and white wine, and act as fuel for microbes living inside the bowel. Polyphenols are found in many fruits and vegetables, including the grapes used to make red wine. The researchers say even just one glass of red wine a fortnight can make a difference, but warn that their findings should not be used as an excuse to binge drink. Publishing its research in the journal Gastroenterology, the team said the “friendly” bugs in our gut help keep us healthy. Even small changes in our gut microbiota – the community of bugs that live there – can make us more susceptible to conditions like obesity, heart disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome. The gut microbiota of people who drink red wine was found to be more diverse than that of those who do not drink wine. Furthermore, the more wed wine consumed, the greater the levels of diversity – although it’s important to note that nobody involved in the trial was a heavy drinker. Speaking about the findings of their research, Dr Caroline Le Roy said: “If you must choose one alcoholic drink today, red wine is the one to pick as it seems to potentially exert a beneficial effect on you and your gut microbes, which in turn may also help weight and risk of heart disease.”
People with type-2 diabetes get no benefit from taking omega-3 fish oil supplements, a new study has found. According to researchers from the University of East Anglia, while omega-3 supplements are not harmful for people with type-2 diabetes (this has been a concern previously), they don’t provide any benefit either. This contradicts a common belief that omega-3 can protect against diabetes and even reverse the condition. The study, which involved 58,000 participants, found that people who consumed more omega-3 had the same risk of developing diabetes as individuals who did not. Furthermore, taking omega-3 fish oil did not influence levels of blood glucose, insulin and glycated haemoglobin - all measures of how the body handles sugar. ‘Better to eat fish’ Douglas Twenefour, deputy head of care at Diabetes UK, said: “Eating a healthy, varied diet is incredibly important, and we know that certain foods - including fruits, vegetables, wholegrains, yoghurt and cheese - can help to lower your risk of type 2 diabetes. “While omega-3 fatty acids are crucial for our overall health, it's generally better for people with type 2 diabetes to get their intake by eating at least two portions of oily fish a week, than by taking supplements." The advice from Dr Lee Hooper, who led the research, is to forego the expensive omega-3 supplements and instead buy oily fish and/or spend your money on physical activity, which will have more of a positive impact when it comes to type-2 diabetes.
It’s widely accepted that eating more fruits and vegetables is beneficial to a person’s health. But now a new study has firmly and scientifically concluded that eating foods that are rich in flavonoids (like fruits and vegetables) could stave off disease and extend life. According to research by a group of scientists from Edith Cowan University, Australia, people who eat 500mg of flavonoids every day have the lowest risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease-related deaths. So how much do you need to eat to reap these benefits? Well, the scientists say it is important to get the flavonoids from a variety of sources. They say someone can achieve the 500mg of total flavonoids by consuming one cup of tea, one apple, one orange, 100g of blueberries and 100g of broccoli. Interestingly, the study of more than 50,000 adults found that the benefits of consuming 500mg of flavonoids daily were most pronounced in people who smoke and drink more than two alcoholic beverages every day. However, the scientists were quick to point out that consuming flavonoids does not enough to undo the harmful effects of smoking and high alcohol consumption. The study also found that consuming more than 500mg of flavonoids daily was not associated with any additional benefits. The paper appears in the journal Natural Communications.
By adding just a handful of nuts to their daily diet, men could improve their sexual function, a study suggests. The 14-week trial, which involved 83 men split into two groups, found that adding 60 grams of almonds, hazelnuts and walnuts to a Western-style diet benefitted sexual function. Reporting their findings in the journal Nutrients, the authors of the study said the group of men who ate the extra nuts each day showed significant increases in two measures of erectile and sexual function: orgasmic function and sexual desire. A previous analysis of the trial data in 2018 yielded signs that eating more nuts also improves sperm quality. “Including nuts in a regular diet significantly improved auto-reported orgasmic function and sexual desire,” the Spanish researchers concluded. They are now calling for further, large-scale studies to determine the effect of eating nuts on sexual function – especially as separate research found that consuming pistachios helped improve erectile function. The theory is that pistachios, like many other nuts, contain antioxidants and arginine, a powerful compound that increases vasodilatation. So, if you are not easily able to follow a Mediterranean diet, rich in fruit, vegetables and nuts, you could still reap some of the sexual function rewards by adding just a handful of nuts to your daily diet.
Children whose parents divorce are more likely to get fat than their peers whose parents stay together, new research has revealed. According to the study by researchers from the London School of Economics and Political Science, children whose parents divorce before they are six are particularly impacted. For the study, the researchers analysed data collected by the UK Millennium Cohort Study on 7,574 children born between 2000 and 2002. Of the children involved, 1,573 (around one in five) had witnessed their parents divorce by the time they were 11. These kids gained more weight in the 24-month period following their parents’ divorce than their peers whose parents remained together. Furthermore, the kids whose parents had divorced were also more likely to become overweight or obese within 36 months of their parents separating. The authors of the paper say their findings underline how much of an impact a divorce can have on children and that parental separation is “a process with potentially long-lasting consequences”. As a result, the authors are calling for more health help and support to be given to families going through a break-up. The paper also offers some reasons why children put on weight following a divorce, namely: There’s often less money in separated households for fresh fruit and vegetables Parents having to work longer hours, so there’s less time to prepare nutritious food There’s often less money for extra-curricular activities, including sport Parents with less time and energy to promote healthy eating habits in their children Emotional problems leading to parents overfeeding their children and kids eating too much sugary and fatty food
Many people do not get all the nutrients they need from food and so take supplements to compensate. It’s something that’s worth an absolute fortune to the companies that produce them, with people spending around $30 billion per year on supplements in the United States alone. But new research shows that nutrients from supplements are not as good as those from food and that the latter is linked to a lower risk of all-cause mortality and cancer. According to the research paper, published recently in the Annals of Internal Medicine, many people would be much better off spending money on fruit and vegetables instead of supplements. By analysing data from 27,725 participants in the Centers for Disease Control’s National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), researchers from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University in Medford, MA, found that supplements do not afford the same benefits as eating different foods. For example, getting enough vitamin K from leafy greens and magnesium from legumes, nuts and whole grains was associated with a lower mortality rate. However, consuming 1,000 milligrams a day of calcium in supplement form was associated with a higher cancer risk, while getting excess calcium from food wasn’t. Speaking about the findings of the research, Fang Fang Zhang of Tufts University and study senior author, said: “Our results support the idea that, while supplement use contributes to an increased level of total nutrient intake, there are beneficial associations with nutrients from foods that aren’t seen with supplements.” In other words, while supplements can help people who cannot get certain nutrients from foods due to allergies, they are not a silver bullet for health.
Our daily diets are bigger killers than smoking and account for one in five deaths around the world. In other words, the food you eat could be sending you to an early grave. But which diets are the worst? Well, according to an influential study in The Lancet, salt – whether it be in bread, processed meals or soy sauce – shortens the most lives. The Global Burden of Disease Study used estimates of different countries’ eating habits to determine which diets were shortening the most lives. Here are the three most dangerous diets: Too much salt - three million deaths Too few whole grains - three million deaths Too little fruit - two million deaths Low levels of seeds, nuts, vegetables, fibre and omega-3 from seafood were the other major killers. Speaking to the BBC, Prof Christopher Murray, the director of the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington, said: “We find that diet is one of the dominant drivers of health around the world, it's really quite profound.” Salt is such a big problem because it significantly increases a person’s blood pressure, which in turn increases their chances of heart attacks and strokes. Around 10 million out of the 11 million diet-related deaths were because of cardiovascular disease, highlighting why diets containing too much salt are such a problem.
The health benefits of eating fiber have long been hailed, but how much fiber should we all be eating to prevent chronic disease and premature death? A new study reveals just that… Commissioned by the World Health Organization (WHO), the research is the culmination of a meta-analysis of observational studies and clinical trials that took place over almost 40 years. The results appear in the journal The Lancet. One of the objectives of the research was to help in the development of new guidelines for dietary fiber consumption, as well as discover which carbs protect us the most against noncommunicable diseases. So how much fiber should we be eating? Well, the research found that a daily intake of 25–29 grams of fiber is ideal. People who consumed this amount of fiber each day were 15–30 percent less likely to die prematurely from any cause and had a 16–24 percent lower incidence of stroke, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and colon cancer. The researchers also say that consuming more than 29 grams of fiber per day could lead to even more health benefits. Speaking about the findings of the study, Professor Jim Mann, of the University of Otago, in New Zealand, said: “The health benefits of fiber are supported by over 100 years of research into its chemistry, physical properties, physiology, and effects on metabolism. “Fiber-rich whole foods that require chewing and retain much of their structure in the gut increase satiety and help weight control and can favorably influence lipid and glucose levels. “The breakdown of fiber in the large bowel by the resident bacteria has additional wide-ranging effects including protection from colorectal cancer.” Fiber-rich foods include vegetables, whole grains, fruit, and pulses, such as beans, peas, lentils, and chickpeas. Are you consuming enough fiber?
The New Year is here and for many that means attempting to stick to one or a bunch of resolutions. Eating more healthily, doing more exercise and quitting smoking will be at the top of the list for many people. If one of your goals for 2019 is eating more healthily, perhaps you should consider following a Mediterranean diet. While it varies depending on where you go, a Mediterranean diet, in a nutshell, is one that incorporates all of the healthy eating habits of people who live in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, including France, Greece, Italy and Spain - so more vegetables, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, grains, cereals, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil. And less meat and dairy foods. As well as being linked with better health, including a healthier heart, a Mediterranean diet also promotes healthy brain aging, according to new research. A recent study involving 116 healthy adults aged 65–75 years, conducted by the University of Illinois at Urbana–Champaign, found that participants who ate a Mediterranean diet performed better in memory, general intelligence, and executive function tests. “Our study suggests that diet and nutrition moderate the association between network efficiency and cognitive performance,” said Aron Barbey, a psychology professor at The University of Illinois.
It’s a widely accepted fact that cruciferous vegetables, like cauliflower, cabbage, broccoli and Brussels sprouts, are good for the gut, but scientists say they have now discovered why. The work by the team from the Francis Crick Institute, a biomedical research centre in London, focussed on the way cruciferous vegetables alter the lining of the intestines. As they are digested, anti-cancer chemicals, including indole-3-carbinol, are produced. Indole-3-carbinol changes the behaviour of stem cells in the lower bowel and the study involving mice showed it protected them from cancer – even mice whose genes put them at a very high risk of developing the disease. Speaking about the findings of the study, one of the researchers, Dr Gitta Stockinger, said: “Even when the mice started developing tumours and we switched them to the appropriate diet, it halted tumour progression.” Prof Tim Key, from Cancer Research UK, said: “Further studies will help find out whether the molecules in these vegetables have the same effect in people, but in the meantime there are already plenty of good reasons to eat more vegetables.” Interestingly, Dr Stockinger added that cruciferous vegetables should not be overcooked to get the most benefit. According to the charity Bowel Cancer UK, bowel cancer is the fourth most common cancer in the UK, affecting almost 42,000 people every year.
Do you take supplements containing omega-3 fish oil in the belief they are helping to protect your heart? A new study suggests you could be wasting your money. Researchers from Cochrane analysed trials involving more than 100,000 people and discovered little proof that omega-3 supplements prevented heart disease. In fact, they say the chance of getting any benefits from such supplements is one in 1,000. However, despite this, the researchers still maintain that eating oily fish as part of a healthy diet is beneficial. Indeed, NHS guidelines state that people should try to eat two portions of fish each week, one of which, ideally, should be oily fish such as mackerel, salmon or fresh tuna. This is so they get enough “good” fats. Speaking about the findings of the research, Prof Tim Chico, a cardiologist from Sheffield University, said: “There was a period where people who had suffered a heart attack were prescribed these on the NHS. This stopped some years ago. “Such supplements come with a significant cost, so my advice to anyone buying them in the hope that they reduce the risk of heart disease, I'd advise them to spend their money on vegetables instead.” Dr Lee Hooper, from the University of East Anglia, said: “The most trustworthy studies consistently showed little or no effect of long-chain omega-3 fats on cardiovascular health.” Nevertheless, Dr Carrie Ruxton from the UK’s Health and Food Supplements Information Service said supplements containing omega-3 can still play an important role for people who don’t eat oily fish – especially as omega-3 also benefits the brain, eyes and immune function.
Do you know how much salt you consume on a daily basis? If you’re a fan of Chinese takeaway meals, it could be far more than you ever imagined, according to a campaign group. For their research, Action on Salt analysed more than 150 Chinese takeaway dishes from both restaurants and supermarkets. They found that most contained way too much salt – almost half the average person’s recommended daily amount of salt (6g) in some cases. When it comes to the saltiest meals, dishes like beef in black bean sauce topped the list. If a person adds a portion of egg fried rice, their salt intake could rise by as much as 5.3g in one meal. In fact, one portion of beef in black bean sauce and a side of vegetable noodles was found to contain as much salt as five Big Macs. While it’s vastly more difficult with Chinese takeaway food, Action on Salt recommends people check the nutritional information on supermarket bought food to see how much salt it contains. The campaign group says that many Chinese takeaway meals should carry health warnings because of the amount of salt they contain. Too much salt can lead to increased blood pressure, which can in turn increase a person’s risk of heart attack and stroke. Public Health England (PHE) has been encouraging the food industry to reduce the amount of salt found in food. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist for PHE, said: "A loaf of bread has 40% less than it used to. "However, some products are still too high in salt and we know this can be reduced further. "We've been very clear with the food industry on the importance of meeting the 2017 salt targets. "We'll report on their progress this year and on any necessary advice to government on the next steps." So, the next time you reach to grab your favourite Chinese takeaway meal from the supermarket, just have a quick read of the nutritional information. What you discover might just make you choose something else instead.
A study by Public Health England looking at the heart health of the nation has found that thousands of men face early death at the hands of a heart attack or stroke. In fact, according to the analysis of 1.2 million people, one in 10 British men has a heart age that’s a decade older than their actual age. Heart disease is the main cause of death among men and the second among women. Public Health England says that 7,400 people will die from heart disease or stroke this month alone. However, most of these deaths are preventable and Public Health England says that just a few small lifestyle changes can have a positive impact. One of the suggestions made was for over 50s to get their blood pressure regularly checked as high blood pressure can be an early sign of a potentially life-threatening condition. Public Health England’s head of cardiovascular disease, Jamie Waterall, urged people not to only start considering their heart health later in life. "Addressing our risk of heart disease and stroke should not be left until we are older", he said. How to improve your heart health: Give up smoking Get active Manage your weight Eat more fibre Eat five portions of fruit and vegetables per day Cut down on saturated fat Cut down on salt Drink less alcohol
Coconut oil is higher in saturated fat than butter, beef dripping and pork lard, and can increase “bad” (LDL) cholesterol. That’s the stark new warning contained in updated advice from the American Heart Association (AHA). A diet high in saturated fat can lead to clogged arteries and an increased risk of heart disease and stroke. Despite coconut oil being commonly sold as a health food and a “healthier” alternative to other saturated fats, the AHA says there are no good studies to support this. In fact, 82% of the fat found in coconut oil is saturated, which is higher than butter (63%), beef dripping (50%) and pork lard (39%). And studies show that like other saturated fats, coconut oil can increase “bad” cholesterol. The AHA says people should watch how much saturated fat they eat and replace some of it with unsaturated vegetable oils, like olive oil and sunflower oil. Dr Frank Sacks, lead author of the AHA advice, said: "We want to set the record straight on why well-conducted scientific research overwhelmingly supports limiting saturated fat in the diet to prevent diseases of the heart and blood vessels." Nevertheless, saturated fat is still an essential part of a healthy, balanced diet and shouldn’t be completely cut out, just limited. In the UK, Public Health England advises that men should eat no more than 30g of saturated fat a day and women no more than 20g a day.
People who eat browned toast, chips and potatoes could be increasing their risk of cancer, according to the UK Food Standards Agency (FSA). That's because the chemical acrylamide - which is known to be toxic to DNA and cause cancer in animals - is produced when starchy foods are roasted, fried or grilled for too long at high temperatures. For example, when bread is warmed to make toast the sugar, amino acids and water present in it combine to create colour and acrylamide. The darker the colour of the toast, the more acrylamide is present. The FSA admits that it does not know exactly how much acrylamide can be tolerated by people, but it does believe we are all eating too much of it. As a result, the FSA has launched a new campaign advising people to make some small changes to the way they prepare and cook food: Always aim for a golden yellow colour when toasting, frying, baking, or roasting starchy foods like potatoes, bread and root vegetables Store raw potatoes in a cool, dark place above 6C and not in the fridge. Carefully follow cooking instructions when heating oven chips, pizzas, roast potatoes and parsnips Make sure you eat a healthy, balanced diet which includes five portions of fruit and vegetables per day, as well as starchy carbohydrates In addition to the campaign, the FSA is also working with the food industry to reduce the amount of acrylamide found in processed food. Steve Wearne, director of policy at the FSA, said most people were not aware that acrylamide even existed. "We want our campaign to highlight the issue so that consumers know how to make the small changes that may reduce their acrylamide consumption whilst still eating plenty of starchy carbohydrates and vegetables as recommended in government healthy eating advice."
A report from the World Health Organisation (WHO) shows that the global body has added its support to countries that place a "sugar tax" on soft drinks. It's the first time the WHO has thrown its support behind taxation. Previously, it had stopped short, simply advising a lower sugar intake. Several countries, including Mexico and Hungary, already tax added sugar products, and South Africa is introducing a sugar tax next year - the only country in Africa to do so. The WHO said that incidences of obesity, diabetes and tooth decay can be lowered if people lower their consumption of "free sugars". Free sugars are all the different types of sugar people eat, except for the ones found naturally in milk and fruit. Dr Francesco Branca, nutrition director for the WHO, said that people should keep their sugar intake below 10% of their total calorie intake, and below 5% if possible. "Nutritionally, people don't need any sugar in their diet," he said. The WHO report found that raising prices by 20% or more leads to lower consumption and "improved nutrition". It also noted that government subsidies for fruit and vegetables, which inevitably lead to lower prices, can have a positive impact on the amount people consume.
A new study has found the typical "social business diet", which consists heavily of red meats, sweet drinks, processed snacks and alcohol, has a detrimental effect on a person's heart. Unfortunately, it's a sign of the times that many individuals do not have, or at least don't think they have, enough time to sit down and eat a healthy meal. Instead, many people rely on grab-and-go food items that can be eaten on the road. However, according to a team of researchers from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, eating habits such as these up the risks of atherosclerosis - a slow, but steady clogging of one's arteries. In fact, eating out, snacking on the go, and excessive alcohol consumption is more unhealthy than the so-called Western diet. "This business diet is really very bad," said Dr. Valentin Fuster, a cardiology professor from Icahn. "It hits the arteries hard, and strongly contributes to cardiovascular disease risk, the world's number one killer," he added. The American Heart Association says that cardiovascular disease accounts for more than 17 million deaths across the world each year. Atherosclerosis occurs when plaque builds up in a person's arteries, and can raise their risk of blood clots, heart attacks, heart disease and stroke. If people want to lower their risk of cardiovascular problems in the future, they should minimise their consumption of red meat, sweets and alocohol, and increase their intake of vegetables, fruits, low-fat dairy products, whole grains, fish and nuts.
Last year, we told you about the benefits to your gut of following a Mediterranean diet. Now, research published in the European Heart Journal says that a Mediterranean diet is better for people with heart disease than avoiding what's considered unhealthy in the so-called 'Western diet'. The new research shows that a Mediterranean diet, which includes large amounts of fruit, vegetables, fish and unrefined foods, can decrease the risk of stroke and heart attack in people who already have heart disease. Likewise, the study found that avoiding the unhealthy aspects of a Western diet, such as sweets, sugary drinks and deep-fried foods, also reduced a person's risk of cardiac issues. For the study, researchers from Auckland City Hospital at the University of Auckland in New Zealand analysed the dietary data of some 15,482 people with stable coronary artery disease across 39 countries globally. They found that fewer heart attacks and strokes were witnessed among those people who eat Mediterranean foods. In fact, for every 100 people eating Mediterranean foods, there were three fewer strokes, heart attacks or deaths than seen among the 100 people who consumed the least amount of healthy foods. Lead researcher Prof. Ralph Stewart said: "The research suggests we should place more emphasis on encouraging people with heart disease to eat more healthy foods, and perhaps focus less on avoiding unhealthy foods."
Many parents try to prevent their kids from consuming too many soft drinks and opt instead for 'healthy' smoothies and natural fruit juices. But new research published in the online journal BMJ Open, shows that many of these so-called healthy options can contain as much as 13mg/100ml of sugar, which is the equivalent of 2.5 tsps in a 3.5oz serving - roughly two-thirds of a child's recommended daily intake. In fact, the research paper goes so far as to describe the sugar levels found in some natural juices, smoothies and fruit drinks as "unacceptably high". The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends no more than 3-4 tsps of sugar per day for children and 5 tsps for teenagers. It's a similar story in the UK, where NHS guidelines state no more than 4 tsps for children (aged 4-6) and 5 tsps at age 7-1o. However, according to Yale Health, the average American consumes a whopping 22 tsps of added sugar every single day. For teenagers, this figure is even higher at 34 tsps. Is it any surprise, though, when you consider that a single can of soda contains around 10 tsps alone. The researchers from the Universities of Liverpool and London in the UK found that 40% of the 203 products they analysed contained more than 4 tsps of sugar; made up largely of "free" sugars - those added by the drink producer and not occurring naturally. However, when quizzed about his team's findings, Dr. Simon Capewell's advice was that people shouldn't reduce their fruit intake. "No. Fruit is very good for the health. Vegetables likewise. Indeed, we would recommend unlimited fruit and vegetables," he said. The team does recommend consuming fruit whole, though, and not just in juice form.
The benefits of following a Mediterranean diet have long been advocated by the people who live there, but now new research suggests that it may be true as the region’s food and drink regimen may boost levels of beneficial fatty acids. Produced by bacteria when fibre from dietary plant matter is fermented in the intestine, these so-called “short-chain fatty acids” (SCFAs) are believed to afford a number of health benefits, including a lower risk of diabetes, heart disease and inflammatory disease, according to the research which was recently published in the journal Gut. “We provide here tangible evidence of the impact of a healthy diet and a Mediterranean dietary pattern,” wrote the team headed up by Danilo Ercolini, a professor of microbiology at the University of Naples in Italy. The study, which focused on the dietary habits of 153 Italian adults, found higher levels of SCFAs in individuals who were vegans, vegetarians and those who followed a Mediterranean diet, including plenty of fibre-rich fruits, vegetables and legumes. While levels of SCFAs can vary naturally according to a person’s age and gender, the findings of the study definitely suggest that a high-fibre diet also boosts them. “The take-away message from this study is to head to your local farmers market, let the produce fill your plate and only use animal-based proteins as condiments,” said Nancy Copperman, director of public health initiatives at North Shore-LIJ Health System in Great Neck, N.Y.
If you’re a lover of spicy food then we’ve got some good news for you. A new study suggests that your favourite spicy dishes may actually help lower your risk of death from certain conditions. Published in The BMJ, the observational study found that individuals who regularly consume spicy foods were at lower risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory disease. The study focussed on 487,275 individuals in China aged between 30 and 79 who underwent regular health assessments. Between 2004 and 2008 the study participants were asked to complete a questionnaire about their general health and eating habits in regard to spicy foods, red meat, vegetables and alcohol. One of the researchers’ observations was that the individuals who consumed spicy foods three to seven days a week were 14% less likely to have died than those who didn’t. Furthermore, frequent consumption cut the risk of death from cancer, ischemic heart disease and respiratory disease, particularly among the female participants. Nita G. Forouhi, from the Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge in the UK, says that further research is definitely justified. "Should people eat spicy food? It is too early to say, but the debate and the research interest are certainly hotting up," she said. So the next time you’re tucking into a dish that’s making your mouth burn and causing sweat to run down your face, remember that it could be helping to extend your life.
Protein is made from amino acids, which are also known as the building blocks of muscle. Therefore, the importance of protein in our diets is huge. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to build, repair or even maintain our muscles. Furthermore, following surgery, many patients often need to eat protein to help with their recoveries. It aids the healing process and boosts the reparation of muscles. But with more and more people trying to limit the amount of meat they consume and with eggs – particularly in the US – becoming increasingly expensive, obtaining protein from other sources has become very significant; especially for breakfast, as a protein hit in the morning can really set you up for the day. With that in mind, here are five protein-packed alternatives to a meaty or eggy breakfast: Spicy Bean Burrito Grab a tortilla (preferably wholegrain) and stuff it with half a cup of black beans, a quarter of a cup of diced avocado, salsa and grated cheddar cheese (optional). Approx. 15g protein. Peanut Butter Oatmeal Combine half a cup of cooked oats with one cup of dairy or soy milk. Then add two tablespoons (the big ones) of peanut butter. Approx. 21g protein. Chickpea Scramble Mash up about one cup of chickpeas and then cook them on a skillet with spinach and other seasonal vegetables you fancy, ‘scrambling’ it throughout. Approx. 15g protein. Fruit & Nut Quinoa Bowl Throw one cup of cooked quinoa into a saucepan with half a cup of dairy or soy milk and heat. Then add two tablespoons of chopped nuts, sliced banana or berries. Approx. 15g protein. White Bean & Avocado on Toast Put a quarter of a cup of avocado and half a cup of white beans into a bowl and mash. Lightly toast a slice of wholegrain bread and spread the mixture over the top. Add herbs to garnish. Approx. 14g protein. Photo credit: Blisstree
It’s a fact that France is renowned for its world-class cuisine. However, when people think about the exquisite food available in France, heart-warming winter dishes aren’t probably the first things that spring to mind. But why? After all, France boasts some of the heartiest winter fare there is and to prove it here’s five French winter dishes to tantalise your taste buds: Pot-au-feu A mouthwatering stew comprising various meats, root vegetables and marrow bones, Pot-au-feu is easily prepared but requires cooking for quite some time on a low heat. Onion soup Many people know French onion soup and that’s because it’s tasty and warms your insides on a cold winter’s day. Plus, every recipe tends to differ slightly, so you can have fun trying the different variations available. Aligot Mashed potato lovers who haven’t tried aligot are in for a real treat. It’s basically mashed potato, cream, cheese, garlic and butter all blended together to create a deliciously smooth mixture. Backoeffe Backoeffe comes from the Alsace region of France which borders Germany and is famous for rich dishes. This mutton, beef and pork stew is marinated overnight then cooked slowly to make the meat extra tender. Fondue Despite usually being associated with parties nowadays, Fondue is a staple of Alpine winters and originates from the Savoie region of France. It’s a great way to replenish lost energy after a day on the slopes. Photo Credits: Flickr, Jo Harrison
Any type of surgery, whether minimally invasive or more drastic in nature, will leave your body needing a certain period of time to recover. And during this recovery period it is important that you take good care of your wounds by changing dressings where necessary and taking any medication prescribed as part of your post-surgery care. However, many people don’t realise that the foods you eat following surgery can also have a significant effect on your recovery. Here are 5 top foods that should definitely be part of your post-surgery diet: High fibre foods Foods that are high in fibre aren’t just healthy but they also help to prevent constipation. Eat whole grain cereals, bread, fruits and vegetables to aid your recovery. Lean protein Protein is the building block of muscles and it’s therefore important to get a decent supply following surgery. Choose turkey, pork and chicken if you’re a meat eater or tofu, soy and beans if you’re not. Fresh fruit and vegetables As well as being a great source of fibre, fruit and vegetables contain key vitamins and minerals, plus immune boosting antioxidants. Consume dark green, leafy vegetables like broccoli and spinach. Low-fat dairy products Some people may advise against dairy products because of their tendency to sometimes cause constipation. This shouldn’t be an issue, however, if you’re eating lots of fibre too. The high levels of calcium and protein make dairy products great additions during your recovery period. Low-fat yogurts and cottage cheese are the order of the day. High-calorie foods That’s right, while the dieting world is telling us to consume less calories, the opposite is true following surgery. After all, your body is healing and needs all the energy it can get. A well-balanced diet is the key to a speedy recovery. And what better place to recover and eat yourself healthy than in a country famed for its cuisine like France. Photo Credit: Flickr
Christmas is a time of over-indulgence where people eat, drink and generally be merry. Of course there is nothing wrong with this but if you choose not to look after yourself this Christmas then your New Year might not get off to a very healthy start. Follow these tips to ensure you have fun but stay healthy this Christmas: Drink enough water – remaining hydrated is key to staying healthy. If you choose to drink alcohol over Christmas then keeping your water levels up is particularly important. Get enough sleep – 7-8 hours of sleep is generally the recommended amount. Even if you are enjoying the party season make sure you catch up on your sleep the next day to remain fresh and healthy. Relax – most people have some time off work over Christmas so use it to relax and de-stress so that you can return to work feeling rejuvenated and ready to take on the new year. Watch what you eat – Christmas can appear to be about sweets, chocolate and puddings but remember to eat your fair share of fruit and pile up the vegetables on your Christmas dinner so you can make sure you don’t leave your body feeling sluggish. Photo credit: Flickr