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Good News About Organic Fruits and Vegetables

Aside from the fact that they enable you to avoid pesticides used on conventionally grown produce, a new review has found that organic fruits and vegetables often provide higher levels of health-protective antioxidants. While the authors haven’t claimed that organic fruits and vegetables are necessarily better for your health than conventionally grown produce, they did point out the antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases in previous studies. This contradicts the results of earlier reports that found no nutritional advantage to organic fruits and vegetables. The new investigation is a statistical “meta-analysis” of the findings from 343 previously published studies. It concluded that overall, organic crops contained 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops and that levels of flavanones (a nutrient abundant in citrus fruits) were 69 percent higher in organic produce. Surprisingly, the review also found that organically grown foods, particularly grains, were lower in cadmium, a toxic metal that sometimes contaminates conventional fertilizers.

My take? While this review's authors made no claims for the health benefits of organic foods, their conclusions illuminate the potential differences between organic and conventionally grown fruits and vegetables. We haven’t had many studies that directly compared organic and conventionally grown foods and found that that one is better than the other. We know there is evidence of pesticide residues in 71 to 90 percent of conventionally produced foods, however, compared to 13 to 23 percent of organically grown foods, and pesticides are definitely not good for you.

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Carlo Leifert et al, “Higher antioxidant and lower cadmium concentrations and lower incidence of pesticide residues in organically grown crops: a systematic literature review and meta-analyses.” British Journal of Nutrition, June 2014 26:1-18. [Epub ahead of print]

10 Foods for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels, Part 2

We continue our look at foods that can help keep your blood sugar levels optimized with five more to add to your diet. Find out what to put on your next grocery list!

Tuesday's post covered five foods for healthy blood sugar levels, from green leafy veggies to onions. Today we look at five more - add these foods to your diet, as they may help lower blood sugar levels.

  1. Maitake mushrooms. One of Dr. Weil’s favorites, maitake not only contain compounds that enhance immune function, but in one study people with type 2 diabetes were given maitake along with diabetes medication, and the result was lower blood sugar readings. Cook some up and serve them as a side dish!
  2. Underground vegetables. Also known as “tubers,” veggies such as leeks, potatoes and yams have been shown in studies to lower or return to normal high blood sugar levels.
  3. Brewer’s yeast. Rich in essential amino acids and B vitamins, brewer’s yeast may also lower blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, and may improve glucose tolerance, increase insulin sensitivity, and lower cholesterol as well. Shake some on your next batch of popped corn!
  4. Prickly pear. The green pads of this plant are called nopal, and is more than a staple in Mexican cuisine – it is very low on the glycemic index and may have blood-sugar-lowering effects. Look for it at specialty or ethnic grocers.
  5. Bitter melon. When cooked and added to other dishes, bitter melon will impart a unique flavor that may help glucose tolerance of people with type 2 diabetes, and help keep blood sugar levels in the normal range.

10 Foods for Healthy Blood Sugar Levels, Part 1

Want to help keep your blood sugar levels steady? Look to your diet – certain foods may lower blood sugar or stabilize it at healthy levels. These may be especially helpful for people with diabetes. What works best?

To keep blood sugar levels stable, regular exercise is helpful – but a healthy diet is a must. Add these foods to your diet, as they may help lower blood sugar levels.

  1. Green, leafy vegetables. Broccoli, spinach, and kale are good sources of fiber – which helps regulate blood sugar levels - and are high in vitamins A, C, and K as well. Plus, some studies have shown that eating vegetables can help prevent diabetes, so aim for four to five servings per day.
  2. Beans and legumes. Beans of almost any variety as well as lentils are rich in folic acid, magnesium, potassium and soluble fiber – and are low-glycemic-load foods. Make sure you get one to two servings per day.
  3. Cabbage. A very low-glycemic index food (near zero!), cabbage is high in fiber, low in calories, inexpensive and versatile. It’s especially useful for stabilizing blood-sugar levels because it converts to sugar very slowly in the body. Try eating more slaw, sauerkraut or kimchi.
  4. Okra. This southern staple is high in soluble fiber - which slows down the digestion of carbohydrates and can help stabilize blood sugar – and is also a low glycemic-index food. Try adding it to your next pot of soup.
  5. Onions. This kitchen staple is more than a tasty addition to many dishes – onions offer blood-sugar lowering effects.

Don’t miss Thursday’s tip when we cover five more foods that are beneficial to healthy blood sugar levels!

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.

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.