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4 Frozen Foods for a Budget

Being on a budget doesn’t mean you have to eat unhealthy foods. The freezer section is a great place to find whole foods rich in nutrients that won’t break the bank. Grab these four on your next grocery trip!

If you are grocery shopping on a tight budget, spend some extra time in the frozen food section. While fresh foods are generally a better choice, frozen foods can fit the bill when fresh produce is not available or is cost prohibitive. Some healthy, budget friendly options include:

 

  1. Berries: frozen berries such as raspberries, blackberries and blueberries are perfect for adding to smoothies, while offering up antioxidants and fiber.
  2. Edamame: a good source of isoflavones, frozen edamame is often easier to find than fresh.
  3. Seafood: wild Alaskan salmon and black cod are sustainable seafood options that may be more cost-effective frozen than fresh.
  4. Vegetables: look for frozen spinach, kale and other dark, leafy greens that have no added ingredients.

 

When buying frozen, choose organic produce when possible. The price of frozen organic foods is often lower than that of fresh organics. If you cannot buy all organic, follow the "Clean 15" from the Environmental Working Group for a priority list. These are the 15 non-organic product items that contain the least pesticide residues. Also, be sure to read labels - avoid frozen meals (including the ones that are labeled "healthy" or "natural") as they often contain inferior ingredients such as trans-fats and high sodium content.

4 Foods to Boost Your Metabolism

If your metabolism is slowing down, don’t fret: your diet and lifestyle can have a big impact on keeping your weight at an ideal level. See what Dr. Weil suggests for boosting your metabolism. 

As we age, our metabolism slows down, which can lead to weight gain. But small dietary adjustments can help minimize unwanted pounds in our middle years. Try these suggestions:

Choose healthy carbohydrates. Replace refined, high-glycemic index carbs with unrefined, low-glycemic choices such as sprouted grain breads or beans and lentils. The latter do not cause the spikes in blood glucose levels that encourage the storage of fat.

Use spices. Capsaicin (the compound that gives chili peppers their bite), black pepper and ginger all boost the generation of heat in the body, leading to more calories burned.

Drink green tea. The main antioxidant polyphenol in green tea, known as epigallocatechin gallate or EGCG, stimulates the body to help burn calories. Dr. Weil recommends drinking a few cups of quality green tea every day.

Get hungry. Many people believe that eating five or six small meals daily boosts metabolism, but recent research indicates that's probably false. To increase fat metabolism, allow yourself to be slightly hungry now and then. The best way may be to eat two or three modest meals daily, with no snacks. Eat until you are satisfied and no longer hungry, not necessarily until you clean your plate.

In addition, regular physical exercise - with some sessions being as intense as your body allows, like interval sprinting in the yard or on a bike – is another way to keep your metabolism functioning properly.

Meal Planning: Foods for Healthful Cooking Methods

For healthful meals, you need the right ingredients, but it does not stop there – the preparation methods factor in as well. Find out the four cooking methods Dr. Weil suggests, and the foods best suited for each!

These four cooking methods will help optimize the nutrients in your foods - and in some instances may help prevent unhealthy consequences. Use the following tips to maximize the nutritional benefits of foods, and use the food suggestions for your grocery list.

  1. Use marinades. Marinating meats (particularly chicken) may reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs) when grilling, which evidence shows may be carcinogenic. Garlic, rosemary, ginger and turmeric are all healthful spices to include in marinades – add them to your grocery list!
  2. Use a slow cooker. What you put in - fresh vegetables, lean proteins - is a big part of what makes a healthful meal, but the lower temperatures slow cookers use may help preserve nutrients that are otherwise lost when food is cooked rapidly at high heat. Dried beans lend themselves well to slow cookers – buy some for a vegetarian chili!
  3. When grilling, pre-cook meats on the stove or in the oven, and finish them off on the grill. Less time on the grill means fewer carcinogens in your meats. Try this with fish such as wild Alaskan salmon or black cod (also called sablefish).

Good News About a Vegetarian Diet

In addition to its other health benefits, you might be able to lower your blood pressure a bit by following a vegetarian diet. That news follows an analysis of 39 studies by Japanese researchers looking at blood pressure measurements of vegetarians v. meat eaters. Overall, blood pressure among the vegetarians was “significantly lower” than that of those who eat meat. Investigators reported that the difference between people on vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets averaged five to seven millimeters of mercury - usually rendered as mm/Hg - for systolic blood pressure (the top number) and two to five mm/Hg for the diastolic (bottom) number. The researchers concluded that even these modest drops in blood pressure could reduce the risk of heart attack by nine percent and the risk of stroke by 14 percent if sustained over time. The Japanese study team noted that no differences were seen between the various sub-types of vegetarian diets – whether vegan or diets that allowed dairy products and eggs or even those that also allow fish. The study didn’t identify specific foods or nutrients in the diets that could be responsible for the lower blood pressure seen, but noted that vegetarian diets in general tend to be lower in sodium and higher in potassium and plant proteins.

My take? I’m not surprised that this review found that a vegetarian diet seems to help reduce high blood pressure. The DASH diet, which I recommend for people with hypertension, is heavy on vegetables and fruit and very light on meat. To help keep blood pressure in the normal range I suggest eating eight to 10 servings of vegetables and fruit per day, and limiting animal protein. For those who are salt sensitive or have a family history of hypertension, cutting salt consumption to about one teaspoon a day may help control your blood pressure. Incorporating garlic in your diet may be beneficial as well, since it has a modest effect on blood pressure, potentially helping to relax blood vessels. I also suggest consuming four to five servings of nuts, seeds and dry beans per week (the equivalent to two tablespoons of nuts or seeds, or 1/2 cup cooked dried beans). Include at least three servings of fish a week, emphasizing cold-water fish such as wild Alaskan salmon and sardines, which are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Consider fish-oil supplements if you cannot get enough omega-3-rich foods. I also suggest taking calcium and magnesium since inadequate intake of both has been associated with high blood pressure. Women should get between 1,000 and 1,200 mg of calcium a day from all sources, while men need no more than 500-600 mg daily from all sources and probably do not need to supplement. In addition, take vitamin C, which has been shown to lower blood pressure in people with mild to moderate hypertension.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

Sources:
Yoko Yokoyama et al, “Vegetarian Diets and Blood Pressure: A Meta-analysis,” JAMA Internal Medicine, doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.14547

What Is Your Main Source of Sugar? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed sugar in the diet and what too much sugar can do to our health: Is Sugar a Killer? Check out the article and let us know what the main source of sugar is in your diet.

Add These Produce Selections to Your Diet!

Small steps can go a long way when trying to implement healthy changes to your lifestyle. Begin introducing more produce to your diet, and you will soon feel the difference, head to toe.

Start by eating vegetable-based meals. A wide variety of vegetables in your diet can provide you with the protective phytonutrients that help modulate and enhance immune function, reduce chronic/unhealthy inflammation, maintain the body's healing system, boost antioxidant defenses, and more. Plus, they are good sources of fiber, which helps to keep your digestive system running smoothly. Vegetable soups, casseroles, salads, chilis, sandwiches, stews, kabobs, pasta sauces - the list of veggie-friendly meals goes on and on. Opt for organic produce and eat a variety of colors.

Next, add a serving of fruit or two to your day. For the same reasons you should eat more vegetables, you should eat more whole fruits. Start the day with some fresh fruit salad or add berries to your steal-cut oatmeal; eat a piece of fruit with your lunch; or make your desserts primarily fruit-based. Choose ones that are organic and eat a wide variety, including as many colors as you can. However, keep in mind that fruits and vegetables are not equal. Vegetables are generally higher in nutrients and lower in sugars than are fruits, and should form the bulk of your produce consumption.

Can You Afford a Healthy Diet?

For most of us, the answer to that question is “probably” even though the popular perception is that healthy eating is much more expensive than the cost of typical, and often unhealthy diets. A new report from the Harvard School of Public Health found that the additional cost to assure prudent nutrition is surprisingly low. The researchers looked into the actual costs of a healthy diet compared to what you would pay for the unhealthy ones so prevalent in our society. They analyzed 27 studies from 10 higher income countries to determine the costs of individual foods and then compared prices for healthier vs. unhealthy diets. The Harvard team calculated the differences in price per serving and per 200 calories for certain foods as well as the cost of 2,000 calorie daily diets, both healthy and unhealthy. They even assessed the costs per calorie of foods in both diets. Bottom line: the cost of pursuing a healthy diet amounts to only $1.50 per day more than the cost of consuming an unhealthy one. Here are some details: healthier choices for meat and other protein foods cost only 29 cents more per serving than the unhealthy ones, the cost of healthy snacks was only 12 cents more and the price differential for fats and oils was only two cents more for healthy products.

My take? This analysis goes a long way towards refuting the myth that healthy eating is much more expensive that the unhealthy western diet, and shows that the cost per person is likely less than that of a designer drink at Starbucks. However, the Harvard team did not include the additional cost per day of an organic diet, which I recommend, or the time requirements of healthy preparation methods. When organically grown fruits and vegetables don't fit your food budget, I suggest avoiding the ones that are most heavily contaminated by pesticides and other chemicals, and stick to those that are least likely to be contaminated. You can get that information at www.ewg.org, the website of the Environmental Working Group. I also suggest comparing the cost of organic fruits and vegetables to other types of food, as the Harvard team did. You may find that the cost per serving is quite reasonable compared to that of some snack foods and some prepared foods. And, they're much better for you.

Eating Anti-Inflammatory Made Simple
Take the guesswork out of a healthful diet with Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging. Our shopping and eating guides, over 300 recipes, tips and videos follow Dr. Weil's recommended anti-inflammatory principles for promoting better health, from head to toe. See what it's about - start your free trial today and save 30% when you join!

Source:
Mayuree Rao et al, “Do healthier foods and diet patterns cost more than less healthy options? A systematic review and meta-analysis”, BMJ Open. 2013 Dec 5;3(12):e004277. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2013-004277.

Importance of Macronutrients (Video)

We need all three classes of macronutrients - carbohydrates, proteins, and fats - to be truly healthy, and we need them in the proper balance, as Dr. Weil explains.

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Protein Pointers (Video)

You can never have enough protein - or so most Americans believe. Dr. Weil responds to our culture's protein obsession by reminding us that too much protein is as unhealthy as too little.

Want new videos from Dr. Weil? Subscribe to his YouTube channel for weekly videos!

What’s Your Favorite Vegetarian Protein? (Poll)

A recent Q&A discussed various types of vegetable protein you can include in your diet: Which Vegetable Protein Is Best? Check out the article and let us know which vegetarian protein you enjoy most!