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Diet And Depression

We know that eating a Mediterranean diet can help reduce your risk of heart disease and stroke, and new evidence published this month suggests that it also may protect against depression. Researchers from the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria studied more than 15,000 people who were following the recommendations of a Mediterranean-like diet for more than 8 years. None of the participants were depressed when they joined the study, and they were asked to score their adherence to the diets by rating meats and sweets negatively and nuts, fruits and vegetables positively. The researchers reported that the higher the score, the greater the adherence to a healthy diet. Over 8.5 years, 1,550 of the participants reported that they had been diagnosed with depression or had used antidepressant drugs. The researchers concluded that the greatest reduction in the risk of depression was linked to a diet called the “Alternative Healthy Eating Index-2010”, which is similar to the Mediterranean Diet in that in emphasizes foods providing omega-3 fatty acids, vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts and a moderate alcohol intake. They wrote that even a moderate adherence to the diets was associated with a reduced risk of depression and that there was no additional benefit to high or very high adherence. The researchers said further studies are needed to identify what nutrients are protective, and which might contribute to depression.

My take: This is an interesting study, which supports the view that an anti-inflammatory diet may counter whole body inflammation, a possible contributor to psychological disorders, especially depression. While I don't think that inflammation is the only factor leading to depression, much of the reported rise in the rates of depression may be due to inflammation fostered by increased consumption of highly processed foods, including quick-digesting carbohydrate foods.  An anti-inflammatory diet, which is modeled on the Mediterranean diet with Asian influences, promotes foods that can help control inflammation, as well as the micronutrients and phytonutrients to protect your body (and mind) from inflammation's damaging effects. 

Want to Drop the Pounds? Try these Snacks!

If you like to snack but want to manage your weight, consider these suggestions. Each is a healthy option that will tide you over until your next meal!

Eating small, healthful meals throughout the day not only helps keep blood sugar levels stable and energy levels high, but can also help prevent overeating and promote a healthy weight. Start by making your main meals smaller in size and stocking up on healthy, satisfying snack items to round out your day. Good choices include:

1. Fresh or lightly steamed veggies
2. Hummus with crudites
3. Seasonal fruit with a little organic, whole-fat plain yogurt and freshly ground flaxseed
4. A small piece of cheese or smoked salmon

These healthy snacks also have the added benefit of being part of the anti-inflammatory diet that I recommend, and may help reduce the incidence of inflammation-related diseases.

3 Reasons to Eat Soy

Whole soy foods can protect against disease, provide nutritional benefits, and taste great in a variety of dishes! Learn what makes soy so healthful, and ways to use this versatile food.

One of the healthiest changes you can make to your diet is to incorporate whole soy foods on a regular basis. Soy:

  1. Is rich in protein, iron and compounds called isoflavones, which seem to protect against hormone-driven cancers such as prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women.
  2. Helps protect your heart.
  3. May help protect against lung cancer.

I recommend one to two daily servings of soy in relatively whole and unrefined forms such as a half-cup of tofu, tempeh, green soybeans (edamame) or roasted soy nuts. You can also easily swap meat for tofu in dishes - baked tofu works well as a meat replacement in fajitas, stir fries and casseroles.

Get your soy with this tasty Tofu and Vegetable Stir Fry recipe!

Want to Spring Clean Your Diet?

You spring clean your home – why not do the same to your diet? These four simple steps can make a difference in how you feel, your energy levels, and your sleep habits. Give them a try!

Why not make this season the one in which you optimize what you eat? Try these simple suggestions:

  1. Cut out trans fats. Avoid margarine, vegetable shortening and anything that contains hydrogenated oils. Instead, use heart-healthy extra virgin olive oil.
  2. Eat "true whole grains" - that is, grains that are intact or broken into large pieces rather than ground into flour - instead of refined grains. You will feel fuller, in part because of the higher fiber content whole grains provide.
  3. Load up on fresh fruits and vegetables. Make a colorful salad - with red and yellow peppers, dark leafy greens, ripe tomatoes - part of one meal every day. And add a fresh fruit salad as a delicious and healthful alternative to unhealthy desserts.
  4. Take in fewer calories. A simple way to do this is to skip the fast food and prepackaged snacks - instead have veggies and hummus, almond butter and an apple, or a homemade sandwich with organic proteins and fresh vegetables.


Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging has more healthy eating tips - start your 14-day free trial now and save 30% when you join!

Want to Clean Up Your Diet?

If you want to start eating and drinking foods and beverages that make you feel good inside and out, start by eliminating drinks that contain this drug from your diet.

Caffeine is an addictive drug that four out of five American adults use every day, whether it be in coffee, soft drinks, tea or another form. If you feel you may be addicted to caffeine and wish to give it up, try the following:

  1. Start by choosing a period of time when you have relatively few obligations, such as a long weekend.
  2. Commit to trying three caffeine-free days, and see how you feel afterwards.
  3. Prepare to experience tiredness, irritability and a very bad headache, especially after avoiding caffeine for 24 hours. Diminish the discomfort by keeping yourself busy: take walks, spend time in the garden, or do other light, soothing activities.
  4. Avoid anything that may aggravate a headache, such as prolonged TV watching or reading in low light. These side effects will eventually diminish - and are worth it in the long run.

Or, consider weaning yourself off caffeine by gradually reducing your intake. Substitute green tea or decaffeinated coffee for caffeinated coffee, and drink water or fruit juice mixed with sparkling water in lieu of cola. Breathing exercises, physical exercise and a diet that incorporates plenty of fruits and vegetables may also help reduce the severity of side effects.

4 Snacks To Avoid

Snacking isn’t necessarily bad, but these four snacks in particular won’t move you closer to your health goals.

If you want to snack better, it's not difficult - choosing fresh, whole fruits and vegetables is a good start, as is following my Anti-Inflammatory Diet suggestions. When you do want a snack, avoid these four nutritional black holes:

  1. Doughnuts. High in sugar, trans fats, calories and refined flour, doughnuts are not only bad for your waistline, but bad for your energy levels as well. The high sugar content is likely to end in a midday crash. If you crave a doughnut, try a piece of whole-grain bread with some jam and nut butter instead.
  2. Soft Drinks. There just isn't anything nutritious about soda, whether it's diet or regular. Instead of a soda, try some sparkling water with a bit of fruit juice - you'll get the carbonation without all the insulin spikes or metabolic disruption of soda.
  3. French Fries. Actually anything deep-fried - from chicken to potatoes to onions to cheese - should be avoided. Deep-fried foods contain altered fats that are detrimental to the body. If you want finger foods, opt for carrot and celery sticks with a tasty dip or bake your own cut sweet potatoes.
  4. Instant Soup. Very high in sodium, instant soup generally offers little health benefit in proportion to its sodium count. Total daily intake of sodium should not exceed 2,300 mg (individuals with hypertension, of African-American descent, and middle-aged and older adults should limit intake to 1,500 mg of sodium per day) and one serving of instant soup contains around 500 mg; some kinds of Ramen-style soup are even worse, offering up to 800 mg. A better option is low-sodium vegetable broth with whole wheat- and buckwheat-based noodles such as Japanese soba or udon.

Meal Planning: Healthy Snacks

 Sometimes, healthful snacks don’t make it onto the grocery list, and we end up with unhealthy, processed foods to tide us over between meals. This week, add these four foods to your grocery list for a more nutritious midday break!

Snacking during the day can be a healthy habit, as it can help to keep blood sugar and energy levels steady. However, what you choose for midday edibles is important - use the four suggestions below for some healthy snack ideas.

  1. Berries. They are sweet, easy to pop into your mouth, and a much healthier choice than a candy bar. Try raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and blackberries: all are anti-inflammatory, rich in flavonoids and carotenoids, and offer immune-boosting antioxidant activity. Choose organic when possible.
  2. Crudités. The fiber in veggies will help fill you up, and they provide a nice, satisfying crunch. Choose a wide range of colors (broccoli, cauliflower and carrots are good choices) and serve with hummus or organic, unsweetened yogurt - add some fresh herbs and seasonings for flavor.
  3. Nuts. When eaten sparingly, raw or lightly roasted nuts are a terrific snack. Walnuts are one of my favorites, as they are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Almonds and roasted soy nuts are also good choices. Nuts can be high in calories and fat (even if it's the healthy monounsaturated kind), so don't overindulge.
  4. Dark chocolate. An ounce of dark chocolate now and then will satisfy a sweet tooth while providing antioxidant polyphenols. Choose high-quality dark chocolate with at least 70 percent pure cocoa, and enjoy the rich flavor.

Don’t miss tomorrow’s tip when we cover snacks not to buy!


4 Reasons to Eat Garlic

A kitchen staple, garlic offers more than taste to your meals – it has health benefits as well. Find out what garlic can do for you, and why chopping it and letting it sit for 10 minutes before using it is a kitchen must.

Garlic is more than a culinary mainstay that can add flavor to meals; it is a natural, traditional medicine that has antiviral, antibacterial and antifungal properties. Research indicates regular consumption of garlic may:

  1. Alter how cholesterol is metabolized in the body, making it less likely to oxidize.
  2. Lower blood pressure and decreasing clot formation, thus reducing the risk of stroke and heart attack.
  3. Combat respiratory infections such as common colds and sore throats.
  4. Reduce fungal or yeast infections.

Eating raw garlic (chopped or mashed) releases the herb's full potential. That’s because the active component, allicin, forms only on contact with air. I suggest chopping garlic and letting it sit for 10 minutes to get the full health-giving potential. Garlic loses its antibiotic properties when you cook or dry it, and commercial garlic capsules do not preserve the full activity of the fresh bulb.

You can make raw garlic more palatable by chopping it fine, mixing it with food and eating it with a meal, or cut a clove into chunks and swallow them whole like pills.

Try these appetizers featuring garlic:

Fruits and Vegetables for Your Head

The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the higher the odds that you'll be as healthy mentally as you are physically. This conclusion comes from research at Britain's University of Warwick, which showed that good mental health was consistently linked to fruit and vegetable consumption among both men and women. Analyzing data from nearly 14,000 adults who participated in the Health Survey for England, the investigators found that 33.5 percent of those identified as having a high level of mental well-being ate five or more fruit and vegetables daily, compared to 6.8 percent of the mentally fit who ate less than one serving daily. The researchers explained that remarkable mental well-being is not merely the absence of mental health problems - it is strongly linked to optimism, happiness, high self-esteem, resilience and good relationships. Smoking, obesity, and alcohol consumption were all lifestyle factors linked to low mental well-being, a condition associated with mental health problems.

My take: The suggestion that we can influence our mental fitness through diet is good news. In 2012, University of Warwick researchers reported that eating seven servings of fruit and vegetables per day was associated with increased mental health and happiness. My anti-inflammatory diet calls for eating four to five servings of vegetables and three to four servings of fruit per day to reduce inflammation in the body. It is becoming increasingly clear that chronic inflammation is the root cause of many serious physical and mental illnesses - including heart disease, many cancers, and Alzheimer's disease. Stress, lack of exercise, genetic predisposition, and exposure to toxins (such as secondhand tobacco smoke) can all contribute to such chronic inflammation, but dietary choices play a big role as well. The more fruits and vegetables you eat, the healthier - and, perhaps, happier - you're likely to be.

Real Food: The Best Diet (Video)

What's gone wrong with the American diet, and how can we make it right?

In this groundbreaking talk, Andrew Weil, M.D. illuminates the worst trends in American nutrition, and the toll they are taking on our health. The solution? His Anti-Inflammatory Diet, a way of selecting and preparing real food based on scientific knowledge of how it can help your body maintain optimum health. Along with lowering inflammation, this diet will provide steady energy and ample vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids dietary fiber, and protective phytonutrients.

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