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Can Your Diet Prevent – or Cause – Cancer?

A healthy diet can help the body in its efforts to heal itself, and in some cases, particular foods can lessen the risks of serious illness. To help reduce your risk of some types of cancer, try the following:

1. Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils and all foods that might contain trans-fatty acids (such as deep-fried foods).

2. Minimize or eliminate consumption of foods with added sugar and other sweeteners including fruit juices.

3. Increase omega-3 fatty acid intake by eating more cold-water oily fish, freshly ground flaxseed and walnuts.

4. Eat plenty of fresh vegetables and fruit.

5. Use hormone-free, organically raised and grown products whenever possible. Eat shiitake, enokidake, maitake and oyster mushrooms frequently.

6. Drink green tea daily.

Nuts for Weight Loss?

Nuts may be high in fat and calories, but it turns out that they have a special property that makes them a good bet even for dieters. Find out what makes them a good choice even when you are watching your weight.

You've heard it dozens of times - nuts are good for you, but don't eat too many because they are full of fat and calories. However, research indicates that the reality is somewhat more complex - and that's good news for nut-lovers who are watching their weight. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that while a handful (about 22 kernels) of almonds contains 170 calories, only 129 calories are actually absorbed by the body. The rest are passed, because the protein and fat in them are relatively hard to digest. Even better news - after one daily handful of almonds, three percent of the calories you consume for the next 24 hours are rendered indigestible. That means if you eat 2,000 calories in a day, the almonds you ate in the morning will remove about 60 calories from that total. The effect probably applies to other kinds of nuts, although only almonds have been rigorously studied. So enjoy your nuts - their monounsaturated fat content appears to lower cardiovascular risk. And of course, they're delicious!

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.

5 Reasons to Consider Fasting

 

Intermittent fasting (IF) has its pros and cons, and is not right for everyone. But for some, it can help lower the risk of heart concerns, cancer risk and more. Learn about intermittent fasting, how to do it, and who should avoid it.

Intermittent fasting, or IF, refers to repeatedly going without solid food for longer periods than is typical on a daily breakfast-lunch-dinner schedule. Variations are endless. Some proponents skip breakfast; others dinner. Others fast all day every other day, every third day, once per week, or once per month. Fasting periods accelerate the clearing out of waste left by dead and damaged cells, a process known as autophagy. A failure of autophagy to keep up with accumulated cellular debris is believed by many scientists to be one of the major causes of the chronic diseases associated with aging.

Positive effects of IF suggested by animal and human studies include:

  1. Decreased cardiovascular disease risk.
  2. Decreased cancer risk.
  3. Lower diabetes risk (at least in animals, data on humans were less clear).
  4. Improved cognitive function.
  5. Protection against some effects of Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases.

Dr. Weil does not recommend IF for teens, nor pregnant or lactating women. Some health conditions - such as severe gastrointestinal reflux disease, or GERD - are easier to manage when food intake is more regular. But getting hungry now and then is clearly a healthy thing to do as long as overall caloric intake stays high enough to maintain a healthy weight. If you do fast, be sure to drink water or other fluids to stay hydrated.

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.

10 Vegetables You Should Have in Your Kitchen, Part 2

From onions to sweet potatoes, last week's blog post covered five veggies you should always have in your kitchen. Today I present five more to add to your grocery list!

I recommend keeping your kitchen stocked with each of these as it comes into season:

  1. Beets. The deep red color of these root vegetables comes from anthocyanins, phytonutrients that protect against damage from carcinogens and may help prevent heart disease. Beets are versatile, inexpensive, and delicious hot or cold. 
  2. Squash. With a wide variety of types, flavors, shapes, and sizes, squash is readily adaptable to any occasion - it can even be used in pie! It provides beta-carotene, potassium, and fiber, nutrients that are necessary for good overall health.
  3. Tomatoes. This red fruit (often considered a vegetable) contains lycopene, a powerful antioxidant that helps fight heart disease and possibly some types of cancer, particularly prostate cancer. Use tomatoes in everything from salads to sauces, but know that lycopene is most easily absorbed when the tomatoes are cooked and eaten with a little fat, such as extra virgin olive oil.
  4. Broccoli. This vegetable-platter classic and other cruciferous vegetables offer cancer-protective benefits. Broccoli is also a good source of vitamin K and calcium - both of which help keep bones strong. It is tasty both raw and cooked, and can be a stand out in soups, casseroles, and salads.
  5. Mushrooms. Prized for their tonic effects, mushrooms can help address a host of illnesses. Maitake mushrooms (known as "hen of the woods" for their resemblance to the fluffed tail feathers of a nesting hen) are particularly valued in Asian cooking, as they have anti-cancer, anti-viral and immune-enhancing properties, and may also reduce blood pressure and blood sugar. Shiitake, enokidake and oyster mushrooms also have immune-boosting qualities, and are easily included in many main courses.

10 Vegetables You Should Have in Your Kitchen, Part 1

Vegetables are a natural source of healthful nutrients that can help keep your body running optimally. In this two-part series, find out what vegetables I suggests you have in your kitchen.

Vegetables (and fruits) are the foundation of my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, and for good reason - fresh produce is the best source of natural nutrients that can help keep your entire body running smoothly. I recommend every healthy kitchen have the following versatile and flavorful favorites on hand:

 

  1. Onions: This classic, pungent vegetable adds depth and richness to any meal. Sulfur compounds found in most varieties of onions may be responsible for its health benefits, including the possible lowering of cholesterol and blood pressure.
  2. Garlic: This fragrant bulb contains many of the same phytonutrients as onions, as well as antibiotic and antiviral compounds. It may help boost the immune system, prevent colds, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and fight fungal infections.
  3. Spinach: This dark leafy green (and others like it, such as kale and collards) contains lutein and zeaxanthin, antioxidant carotenoids that may help prevent cataracts and macular degeneration. Spinach is also a source of calcium and folate, a B vitamin that helps to prevent birth defects. Buy organic spinach, since pesticides are commonly used on conventionally grown varieties.
  4. Cabbage: This low-cost yet highly nutritious cruciferous vegetable contains nutrients called indoles, which may protect against both breast and prostate cancer. It also provides significant amounts of fiber and vitamin C.
  5. Sweet potatoes: Rich in beta carotene, these vegetables may help boost the immune system, deliver vitamin C and folate (which may reduce the risk of heart disease and prevent certain birth defects), and are low on the glycemic index and glycemic load charts.

 

Don't miss my nex blog post for the other five of the 10 Veggies You Should Be Eating.

What Makes Lemons So Healthy?

Lemons are in-season now – learn more about why you should eat lemons, and try our tasty Lemon Olive Oil Cake recipe!

Available year-round, lemons are at their peak in May - just in time for homemade lemonade. 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.

4 Healthy Beverages

Yesterday we looked at unhealthy drinks to avoid – and today we cover four that you should add to your diet. Each offers health benefits, and tastes great too!

Yesterday we discussed four unhealthy drinks that you should minimize or avoid. Today we cover four healthy beverages - experiment to find the best ways to incorporate them into your daily routine: 

  1. Green tea. Dr. Weil's beverage of choice, green tea is a potent source of catechins - healthy antioxidants that can inhibit cancer cell activity and help boost immunity. Look for an organic and fair trade version. Replace your morning coffee with a cup of tea for a healthier wake-up, and drink iced green tea throughout the day.
  2. Cranberry juice. Cranberries are a rich source of vitamin C and contain a substance that hinders the attachment of bacteria to bladder walls, which can help prevent urinary tract infections. Instead of cranberry juice cocktail, opt for unsweetened cranberry juice concentrate and dilute with water or sparkling water. Diluted blueberry juice is a healthy choice as well.
  3. Red wine. The antioxidant activity of red wine has been linked to heart health benefits, reduced stress, and even preserving memory. If you enjoy an occasional drink, limit your intake to one to two glasses a day. If you don't drink, don't start - there are other ways to get antioxidants in your diet, including fresh whole fruits and vegetables.
  4. Pure, filtered water. Staying well hydrated is essential to optimal health and overall functioning. Sip water throughout the day, and in the warmer months, be sure to drink water before and after exercising to avoid dehydration.

 

4 Beverages to Avoid

Unless you want to add unnecessary calories and sugars to your diet, avoid these common, popular drinks.

Whether you are watching your weight or just want to eat healthier, taking a look at what you drink is key. Empty calories can lurk in all types of beverages - especially these:

1.   Coffee drinks with extras such as sugar or flavored syrup. These deliver a concentrated dose of quick-digesting carbohydrates that can lead to weight gain. A better option is a plain coffee with a little half-and-half, or, better yet, enjoy antioxidant-rich green tea instead of coffee.

2.   Frothy summer cocktails. Whether it's a margarita or a piña colada, sugary drinks pack a double dose of calories due to alcohol and sugar - some can top 800 calories in one drink! A better option is a glass of red wine (60-100 calories), a light beer (about 100 calories) or spirits with club soda and a lime.

3.   Juice and non-juice "juice drinks." These products are no better than drinking sugared water. If you want to enjoy the juice of a fruit, it’s best fresh, not bottled, and made partially or wholly from vegetables rather than entirely from fruits. If you consume fruit juice, I recommend adding purified or sparkling water to reduce the sugar content. 

4.   Soda. There just isn't anything nutritious about soda, whether it's diet or regular. If you're a soda addict, breaking the habit is among the best moves you can make for your weight and your health. Consider switching to sparkling water with a slice of citrus.

Don't miss my next post when we cover four healthy beverages.