Posts Tagged ‘cholesterol’

Walnuts and your heart

June 5th, 2009

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Loma Linda University research just published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition a paper that compares the effects of walnuts and fatty fish in the fight against heart disease. The conclusion demonstrates that in healthy individuals, walnuts lower cholestrol more than fish; while fatty fish lower triglycerides both can reduce the overall risk of coronary heart disease.

The practical significance of the study is that eating an easy-to-incorporate amount of walnuts and fatty fish can cause meaningful decreases in blood cholesterol and triglycerides even in healthy individuals. Following the qualified health claim issued by the Food and Drug Administration, researchers found that incorporating approximately 1.5 ounces of walnuts (42 grams, a handful of whole walnuts or about three tablespoons of chopped nuts) into the daily diet lowered serum total cholesterol by 5.4% and LDL (bad) cholesterol by 9.3% compared to a control diet based on USDA recommendations.

Using American Heart Association guidelines, the researchers also found that a diet including two servings of fatty fish per week (roughly four ounces each as recommended by the AHA for individuals without heart disease) decreased triglyceride levels by 11.4%.

Additionally, it increased HDL (good) cholesterol by 4%, but also slightly increased LDL (bad) cholesterol compared to the control diet. The fish used in this study was salmon. Both plant and marine-derived omega-3 fats are cardioprotective, since they seem to be effective for lowering different risk factors, it would be prudent to include both in diet. Individuals should srive to include a plant source of omega-3 fat in their diet, like walnuts, and also a marine source of omega-3 fat. If fatty fish is not  a preferred option for marine-derived omega-3 fat, other options include microalgae oil or DHA-enriched eggs.

The deparment of nutrition has significant experience conducting tightly controlled feeding studies among varying populations. This one, conducted with a healthy population, is the fifth study testing the health and nutrition properties of walnuts.

This study differs from previous studies in that it compared a plant source and marine source, the first study to make this comparison. Subjects were randomly assigned to each of the three diet for eight weeks over  a  24-week feeding schedule. This gave the researchers a chance to compare the effect of each diet on each participant.

Food: Which one is better?

May 14th, 2009

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Brown  or white rice? Organic or non-organic? Which is the healthier choice?

Life is full of choices. Every day, we make decisions. They may be simple no-brainers (what should I wear to work today?) or life altering ones (should I quit my high-paying job and do what I love instead?).

With the growing health trend, dietery choices have become a serious issue for many people especially Asians. We show you not just what’s good for you, but what’s best.

GREEN OR BLACK TEA?

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Black tea leaves are fully fermented, while green tea leaves are not fermented at all. The antioxidant epigallocatechin galiate – EGCG – is present in green tea in its potent, natural state. During fermentation, black tea is oxidized and converted into less potent compounds. Continuing research however, seems to indicate that the antioxidants in black tea – theaflavin and thearubigens have health benefits similar to green tea.

The view: At the moment, green tea appears to have the upper hand. It contains less caffeine, minimizing the unwanted side effects of the substance, stains the teeth less and is richer in natural antioxidants.

ORGANIC OR NON-ORGANIC?

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Organic food products are processed without chemical fertilizers, insectisides, animal antibiotics or growth hormones.

The view: Both conventional and organic foods carry the same nutritional values and meet the same quality and safety standards. However, a person with sensitives to chemicals should go for organic produce.

BROWN OR WHITE RICE?

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White rice is simply brown rice that has undergone additional polishing. This polishing is detrimental to the nutritional value of rice as it removes important nutrients such as the B vitamins, vitamin E, folic acid, iron, magnesium and potassium. Brown rice also has a higher fibre content.

The view: Today, there is fortified white rice, where lost nutrients are replaced using the synthetic sources. But for all-natural goodness, brown rice is definitely much healthier.

PORK OR CHICKEN?

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The white meat of chicken is far better than any cut pork. A single chicken breast has half the calories and a quarter less fat than a slice of pork. Go for skinless, as chicken skin is rich in saturated fat.

The view: If you can’t do without pork, shop for the leanest cuts. Tenderloin is the leanest and it has only 4gm of fat.

BROWN BREAD OR WHITE BREAD?

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Brown bread comes from whole wheat or whole-meal flour, while white bread comes from refined wheat flour.

The view: Wheat flour has the bran and germ removed, causing it to lose nutrients. Most white breads are now fortified with vitamins and minerals that are chemically re-introduced into the mix. The fibre content, though, remains much lower than that of brown bread. As with rice, brown bread is better and healthier option.

BUTTER OR MARGARINE?

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Because butter comes from animal fat, it contains cholesterol and saturated fat that increase low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or ‘bad cholesterol’. On the other hand, margarine is processed through hydrogenation – a process which adds trans-fat. And, trans-fat lowers high-density lipoprotein (HDL) or good cholesterol.

The view: On your next grocery trip, pick margarine with zero trans-fat and 2gm or less of saturated fat. Your best choice is soft-tub margarine, which has the lowest saturated and trans-fat content and without the cholesterol.

WHITE MEAT OR RED MEAT?

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The issue with red meat is that many of its cuts  contain high levels of saturated fat. Chicken, turkey and fish have less saturated fat and total calories compared to pork loin, roast beef and ground meat.

The view: You don’t need to completely cut red meat from your diet. It is still one of the richest sources of iron, protein, zinc and B vitamins. Just eat red meat sparingly and try to get the leanest cuts and remove the skin together with the visible fat.


The wonder of fibre

May 14th, 2009

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Here’s a truly great addition to your diet – fibre and more of it!

Fibre has positioned itself as an invaluable component in the daily diet. Its benefits are limitless from inducing regular bowel movements to lowering cholesterol to reducing the risk for certain diseases such as cancer, obesity, heart disease and diabetes. For years, people consumed fibre by eating fruits and vegetables. Now, there are other sources of fibre available, including whole grains, which contain the entire grain kernel – bran, germ and endosperm. Examples of whole-grain foods are whole-wheat flour, cracked wheat, oatmeal, whole cornmeal and brown rice. Because many people fail to reach the dietary allowance for fibre, commercial fibre preparations are now also available in the market as supplements, including those that contain psyllium husks or oat brans.

Fibre at work

Fibre is an edible part of plants or similar sources of carbohydrates. It is resistant to digestion and absorbtion in the small intestines. It ferments in the large intestines, helping us pass stools. There are two forms of fibre – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibre dissolves in liquid to form a gel. It binds with bile acids, prolongs stomach-emptying time and increases the bulk and moisture of faeces. Soluble fibre also helps in lowering cholesterol, regulating blood sugar, managing our weight and regularizing bowel movements. Sources of soluble fibre include psyllium, oats, fruits, vegetables and legumes.

Insoluble fibre does not dissolve in liquid and passes through the digestive tract intact. It moves bulk, promotes regular bowel movement and prevents constipation. It also maintains an optimal pH (a measure of acidity or alkalinity) in the intestines to prevent the growth of cancer -promoting microbes. Whole-wheat products, corn bran and fruit and vegetable skins and roots are sources of insoluble fibre.

Call for change

Our body needs about 25gm of fibre daily. That’s a whole lot of fruits and vegetables. Unfortunately , people do not consume as much of these foods as they needed. By avoiding food traps such as fast-foods and ready to cook meals and diligently incorporating fibre in our diet, we can push ourselves away from disease and closer to good health.