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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.


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Why You Should Eat More Grapes!

A childhood favorite, grapes should also be part of your diet once you reach adulthood – the benefits they offer are numerous. Learn more!

This tip is courtesy of Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging: Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet.  Start your 14-day free trial now and save 30% when you join!

Whether you eat the fruit, seeds or skin; drink the juice; or sip on red wine, grapes can help reduce the risk of heart disease. These bright fruits are rich in polyphenols (naturally occurring plant compounds known to have antioxidant activity and other health benefits) including resveratrol, phenolic acids, anthocyanins, and flavonoids, which help to:

  1. Slow or prevent cell damage caused by oxidation, which is an important step in deterring the development of atherosclerosis.
  2. Reduce blood clotting and abnormal heart rhythms.
  3. Lower blood pressure in patients with hypertension.

Choose the darker colored varieties of grapes for the most polyphenol benefits and opt for eating the fruit or skins rather than juice when able.

What Fruits and Vegetables Do You Always Peel? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed if peeling the skin from fruits and vegetables also removes the nutrients of the produce: Peel Away Nutrients? Check out the article and let us know what fruits and vegetables you peel the skin from before eating.

Why You Should Eat Lemons

When life gives you lemons… use them! Lemons are not only a tasty warm weather fruit, but offer health benefits as well. A citrus fruit, lemons are a good source of vitamin C, a potent antioxidant that helps to keep the immune system strong.

Lemons come in both sour (Eureka and Lisbon) and relatively sweet (Meyer) varieties. Look for a lemon that is heavy for its size, which indicates less skin and more flesh. The peel should have a finely grained texture and be fully yellow. You can use both the flesh and the peel (as a zest if the lemon is organic) in all types of dishes, so enjoy – we like them in the Lemon Olive Oil Cake recipe.

And don’t limit the lemons to cooking - lemons make an effective, natural cleaning product for your home. To clean and polish wood furniture, add two tablespoons of lemon juice to 10 drops of (real) lemon oil and a few drops of jojoba oil.

Why Peaches and Watermelon Could Be Really Good for You

Who doesn’t love a juicy fresh peach or a chilled slice of watermelon? New research suggests that both may benefit health in important ways. In a study with mice, polyphenols from peach extract proved to slow the growth and spread of breast cancer. Researchers at Texas A&M AgriLife Research gave the peach extract to mice that had been implanted with breast cancer cells. After 12 days the researchers observed less tumor growth than in control animals. In addition, there was also a paucity of the blood vessel formation that helps cancer spread and less evidence of enzymes involved in cancer spread in the mice fed high levels of the polyphenols. The investigators suggested that eating two to three peaches daily might help to slow or stop breast cancer spread in humans and might even help prevent the disease. As for watermelon, a 12-week study with 13 obese adults with high blood pressure demonstrated that a daily dose of four grams of the amino acid L-citrulline and two grams of L-arginine, both from watermelon extract, led to significantly improved blood pressure when the study subjects were under stress, as well as lowering the participants baseline blood pressures at rest.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
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Luis Cisneros-Zevallos et al, “Polyphenolics from peach (Prunus persica var. Rich Lady) inhibit tumor growth and metastasis of MDA-MB-435 breast cancer cells in vivo,” The Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry, 2014; DOI: 10.1016/j.jnutbio.2014.03.001

Arturo Figueroa et al, “Effects of Watermelon Supplementation on Aortic Hemodynamic Responses to the Cold Pressor Test in Obese Hypertensive Adults,” American Journal of Hypertension, doi: 10.1093/ajh/hpt295

How Vegetables Can Save Your Life

Eating more vegetables – and fruit – can literally lengthen your lifeEating more vegetables – and fruit – can literally lengthen your life, according to an ongoing study from Europe. Researchers from 10 countries have been following more than 450,000 people for over 13 years, during which time about 26,000 of the study participants have died. An analysis of the data shows that eating about 2.4 cups of vegetables or more daily reduced the risk of death by 10 percent and delayed that risk for 1.12 years compared to the risks of people who consumed less than nine ounces (about one cup) of vegetables and fruit daily. The researchers also reported that for every increase of about one cup in daily vegetable and fruit consumption, the mortality risk drops by six percent, and calculated that if everyone were eating the recommended 2.4 cups of vegetables and fruits daily, the mortality risk could drop by about three percent. Most of the deaths seen in the study were from cardiovascular disease. The highest (between 30 and 40 percent) reduction in the risk of death associated with fruit and vegetable consumption was observed among study participants who also drank alcohol, and a 20 percent risk reduction linked to eating fruits and vegetables was also seen for obese people. Eating a lot of raw vegetables had a big impact, too – high consumption was linked to a 16 percent reduction in the risk of death.

My take? This study’s findings are impressive, especially since the amount of fruits and vegetables that made a difference was relatively low – 2.4 cups a day is not that much. We know from earlier studies that individuals who consume five or more servings of fruits and vegetables daily have a 30 percent lower risk of heart disease or stroke than do those who eat fewer than 1.5 servings per day. Similarly, increasing intake of fruits and vegetables has been shown to reduce high blood pressure, a primary risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Earlier results from this same European study published in 2010 showed no risk reduction for cancer deaths, but the research team didn't look at the effects of specific nutrients on cancer risk. As far as that is concerned, I believe you can benefit from regular consumption of cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage, which contain a cancer-preventing compound so potent that it is being investigated as a chemotherapy agent. I also continue to recommend eating berries and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables for their protective phytonutrients and antioxidants. My anti-inflammatory diet calls for four to five servings of vegetables (cooked or raw) and three to four servings of fruit daily.

Marie-Jose Sánchez-Perez et al, “Fruit and vegetable consumption and mortality: European prospective investigation into cancer and nutrition,” American Journal of Epidemiology August 15, 2013 doi: 10.1093/aje/kwt006. Epub 2013 Apr 18

Whole Fruit for Better Health

Blueberries, grapes, and apples can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetesBlueberries, grapes, and apples can lower the risk of developing type 2 diabetes, but you'll need to eat the whole fruit - rather than drinking fruit juice - to get their benefits, according to new research from the Harvard School of Public Health. The investigation was the first to look at the influence of specific fruits on the risk of the disease. The study team looked at total fruit consumption and at the influence of eating a variety of fruits including grapes or raisins; peaches, plums, or apricots; prunes; bananas; cantaloupe; apples or pears; oranges; grapefruit; strawberries; and blueberries. They also considered consumption of orange, grapefruit and apple juices as well as other fruit juices. The data they analyzed came from more than 187,000 health care professionals participating in three long-running studies. None of the participants had any type of major chronic disease when they enrolled in the studies. The Harvard team found that the risk of developing type 2 diabetes among individuals who ate at least two weekly servings of blueberries, grapes and apples was 23 percent lower than it was in study participants who ate less than one serving of fruit per month. Those who drank one or more servings of fruit juice daily had a 21 percent increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

My take? There’s a big difference between fruit and fruit juice. Fruit juice is a concentrated sugar source that can promote insulin resistance and obesity, especially when consumed in quantity, so I’m not surprised by the new study’s findings. Interestingly, the report also showed that switching from fruit juice to whole fruit lowers the risk of type 2 diabetes by at least seven percent. Another effective strategy to lower your risk is to avoid carbohydrate foods high on the glycemic index, the measure of how rapidly the body converts them into glucose, provoking an insulin response. Reducing or eliminating your intake of alcoholic beverages will also help. The body burns calories from alcohol immediately, increasing the likelihood that those from the food you eat along with alcoholic drinks will be stored as fat.

Qi Sun and Isao Muraki et al, “Fruit consumption and risk of type 2 diabetes: results from three prospective longitudinal cohort studies,“ BMJ, online August 29, 2013