Tag: healthy life tips

Is Greek yogurt really healthier?

Is Greek yogurt really healthier?

There are two reasons nutritionists love the trendy breakfast food even more than regular yogurt.

Move over, regular yogurt. Going Greek is in, and this exotic option has elbowed its way onto refrigerator shelves everywhere. Most give a big thumbs up to its taste—tangier and less sweet, as well as creamier—but is it healthier than its conventional counterpart?

First, to be clear: Both Greek and regular yogurt, in their plain, nonfat or low-fat forms, can be part of a healthful diet. They’re low in calories and packed with calcium and live bacterial cultures. But our Mediterranean friend—which is strained extensively to remove much of the liquid whey, lactose, and sugar, giving it its thick consistency—does have an undeniable edge. In roughly the same amount of calories, it can pack up to double the protein, while cutting sugar content by half.

Those are “two things dietitians love,” says Dawn Jackson Blatner, a registered dietitian and author of The Flexitarian Diet. “For someone who wants the creamier texture, a little bit of a protein edge, and a sugar decrease, going Greek is definitely not all hype.” And it’s really got a following: In the past five years, Greek yogurt sales nationwide have skyrocketed, likely because it satisfies consumers’ needs for health, convenience, and taste, according to Nielsen, a global marketing and advertising research company.

Here’s a closer look at how the two stack up nutrition-wise.

Protein

Greek yogurt is high in protein, which helps promote fullness. A typical 6-ounce serving contains 15 to 20 grams, the amount in 2 to 3 ounces of lean meat. That makes it particularly appealing to vegetarians, who sometimes struggle to get enough of the nutrient. An identical serving of regular yogurt, on the other hand, provides just 9 grams, meaning you may feel hunger pangs sooner.

Carbohydrates

Going Greek is a smart choice for low-carb dieters. It contains roughly half the carbs as the regular kind—5 to 8 grams per serving compared with 13 to 17. Plus, the straining process removes some of the milk sugar, lactose, making Greek yogurt less likely to upset the lactose-intolerant. Remember, however, that “both types of yogurt can contain high amounts of carbs if they’re sweetened with sugar or another sweetening agent,” says Kari Hartel, a Missouri-based registered dietitian. “No matter which type you choose, opt for yogurt with less added sugar.”

Fat

Be wary of Greek yogurt’s fat content. In just 7 ounces, Fage’s full-fat Greek yogurt packs 16 grams of saturated fat—or 80 percent of your total daily allowance if you’re on a 2,000-calorie diet. (That’s more than in three Snickers bars.) Dannon’s regular full-fat yogurt has 5 grams of saturated fat in an 8-ounce serving. Saturated fat raises total and “bad” LDL cholesterol levels, increasing the risk for heart disease. Read nutrition labels carefully. If you’re going Greek, stick to low-fat and fat-free versions.

Sodium

A serving of Greek yogurt averages 50 milligrams of sodium—about half the amount in most brands of the regular kind. (Low-sodium versions of regular yogurt are available.) Too much salt can boost blood pressure and increase the risk of other heart problems. The federal government’s 2010 Dietary Guidelines urge Americans to cap sodium at 2,300 milligrams a day, or 1,500 milligrams if they’re older than 50, African-American, or have hypertension, diabetes, or chronic kidney disease.

Calcium

Regular yogurt provides 30 percent of the federal government’s recommended daily amount. Greek yogurt loses some of its calcium through the straining process, but still packs a wallop. A 6-ounce cup typically supplies about 20 percent of the daily recommendation. If you’re still worried about calcium intake, load up on milk, seeds, and almonds, says Sarah Krieger, a registered dietician and spokeswoman for the American Dietetic Association.Still undecided on which team to join? Compare the labels of Dannon’s regular and Greek varieties. (Other popular brands of Greek yogurt include Chobani, and Stonyfield Farm’s Oikos.)

Greek (5.3 ounces, nonfat, plain)

Calories: 80
Total fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol: 10 milligrams
Sodium: 50 milligrams
Sugar: 6 grams
Protein: 15 grams
Calcium: 15 percent on a 2,000-calorie diet

Regular (6 ounces, nonfat, plain)

Calories: 80
Total fat: 0 grams
Cholesterol 5 milligrams
Sodium: 120 milligrams
Sugar: 12 grams
Protein: 9 grams
Calcium: 30 percent on a 2,000-calorie diet.Greek (5.3 ounces, nonfat, plain)

Though most experts agree that Greek yogurt has a nutritional edge, both kinds help you lose weight by keeping you full on fewer calories. The key is sticking to plain, nonfat, or low-fat varieties. In a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Harvard researchers found that yogurt can keep help keep age-related weight gain in check. People tended to lose nearly 1 pound every four years if they added a daily serving of yogurt to their diet, probably because of the way bacterial cultures affect our intestines.

If you do opt for Greek yogurt, take advantage of its versatility. Mix it with seasonings like garlic, dill, and parsley to create a unique dip for carrots, celery sticks, or cucumber slices. Toss in some berries or high-fiber granola. You can also substitute Greek yogurt for sour cream on tacos, for example, or for the eggs and oil in baked goods. It’s an acceptable replacement for fatty ingredients like cream cheese, mayonnaise, and butter. “Its thick texture makes it an excellent swap for mayonnaise on sandwiches, or in dishes like potato salad, egg salad, pasta salad, and coleslaw,” Hartel says. “Since these are comfort foods, it makes it easier to transition to using yogurt in recipes.”

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Top ways to wake up feeling prettier

Top ways to wake up feeling prettier

Moisturizing and sleeping on a satin pillowcase will help you feel pampered when you wake up.

Before you go to bed at night try one of these simple, at-home beauty tips. You’ll wake up feeling pampered, refreshed and rejuvenated and, yes, even prettier.

Beauty Tip: Braid wet hair for nice waves. It’s an old school bedtime beauty tip for a reason. It works!

Beauty Tip: Try an overnight treatment. Use Frownies Facial Patches to reduce movement during sleep so you’re less likely to crease skin, says dermatologist Francesca Fusco, M.D.

Beauty Tip: Moisturize. Everywhere. Moisturize your elbows…your knees…your toes. Everywhere.

Beauty Tip: Protect your blowout. Flip hair upside-down, pull into a high pony and secure with a terry hair tie.

Beauty Tip: Swipe on nourishing essential oils. “When you wake up, you’ll look like you’ve had a facial,” says Chanel makeup artist Rachel Goodwin.

Beauty Tip: Wear primer over skin care products. Yes, at night! “It allows them to sink in,” says makeup artist Mally Roncal.

Beauty Tip: Change your pillowcase. Sleep on a satin pillowcase for smoother hair.

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Diet foods that make you hungrier

Diet foods that make you hungrier

An apple is a healthy snack, but if you do not eat anything else with it, you can eat too late.

Place the yogurt light, it can be done growing. As it turns out, a number of foods that are generally thought to be a great weight loss can actually stimulate the appetite. Marjorie Nolan, national spokesman for the American Dietetic Association, talks about the skinny on foods that can trigger hunger and sabotage your diet.

1. Apple

Yes, apples are great for you because they contain lots of vitamins and fiber, but only one apple is not a balanced meal. If you do not eat anything else with your apple in the afternoon, you can eat too much dinner.

Best choice: Apple Almond 5-10 or a cheese stick. Spend a few more calories to your meal you will not be ravenous later

2. Light yogurt

The explosion of sweet (often artificial) flavor causes the stomach to start producing gastric juices. With only four to six ounces of fat-free yogurt in a container and typically, the body does not have enough food to digest leaving the stomach rumbles again.

Best choice: Nolan likes lubricity and high protein content of the plain low fat yogurt Greek. Add fruit and a dash of cinnamon for flavor. If you choose non-fat variety, add one tablespoon of sunflower seeds for the crisis and the satisfaction-the fat in nuts and seeds are slow to digest for a small portion keeps you feeling full.

3. Puffed cereals with skim milk

The combo of skim milk and puffed cereals has too few calories to keep you on for a long time. Many dieters reach for puffed cereals because it seems to fill in a large bowl. However, the low fiber content makes you want to continue after lunch. Puffed cereals also has a high glycemic index, causing blood sugar drop after initial thrust of energy.

Best choice: Rolled oats or steel cut. Oatmeal is high in fiber, which makes a satisfying breakfast. Add a spoonful of brown sugar maple if you need something sweet. Cook your own plain oatmeal and adding a small amount of sweetener is much more nutritious than using pre-sweetened packets. Nolan likes to cook oats with milk or low fat stir a tablespoon of peanut butter for even more stick-to-your-ribs goodness.

4. Big green salad with vinaigrette low fat or fat-free

The meal diet typical “of a salad with low fat dressing can have a boomerang effect on appetite. It’s full of fiber and filler, but visually the low protein and fat will not satisfy for long. Stay away from fat-free sauces, which are loaded with sugar.

Best choice: Add three to six ounces of lean protein such as lean beef, chicken, or beans (the leanest choice, you should eat more) to your bowl.

5. Rice cakes

A rice cake = good, rice cakes four overindulgence =. And that’s about how it will feel really happy. Low fiber with a high glycemic index, the typical diet snacks will not leave your tank full for long.

Best choice: Spread a tablespoon of peanut butter or cream cheese on a rice cake for a more balanced food. Or choose whole grain crackers with a standard or small portion of cheese for fiber and carbohydrates and proteins.

6. Chewing Gum

A small stick of gum is a stealth saboteur. While some advocates of chewing gum that she can push snacking, Nolan disagrees. She explains that the explosion of flavor gets the gastric juices flowing. The act of chewing the digestive system turns even more, he prepares a meal. If you want an express ticket to the all-you-can-eat buffet, chomp on gum.

Best choice: We all have our days munchy, so if you just want something to keep your mouth occupied, air-filled corn or raw vegetables are a safer bet.

6. Diet Soda

Such as gum, sweetness wakes up in the digestive process constantly pay nutritional stimulates the appetite. Caffeine and carbonation can curb your hunger for a short time only to have them come roaring back with an energy crisis. If this is not enough to make you rethink your daily dose, a study by the University of Texas Health Center at San Antonio has shown that people who consumed diet soda was an increase from 70 to 500% of the abdominal fat more than ten years compared to those who do not drink diet soda.

Best choice: Drink a hot drink can slow your appetite and allow you to think about your desire. Also, sometimes signals are confused thirst with hunger, so you just need hydration. Caffeine-free herbal tea does not cause a drop in energy.

7. Low-calorie frozen meals

Light frozen meals are low in fiber and only about half the calories you need to feel full. They are also loaded with salt. If you have no other option, the search for a frozen dinner that contains 400-500 calories, 20-30 grams of protein, about 5 grams of fat, and 5-10 grams of fiber.

Best choice: If you are too busy to cook, Nolan offers a “meal assembly based.” Roasted Chicken sausages, a slice of whole grain bread, vegetables, salad bar and a piece of fruit add up to a quick, healthy dinner.

9. Fat free graham crackers and other baked goods

Nolan said that people watching their weight tend to join automatically foods labeled “fat free” on the package, assuming that it is better for food than the regular version. However, when manufacturers make fat free foods, they often have the sugar content. Check the nutrition information on the back – light versions may contain more calories.

Best choice: Regular graham. A little treat, like a graham cracker or chocolate squares quality makes things interesting and not break the bank Calorie-Wise. Nolan said that boredom is the enemy of the diet, and causes people to fall off. “You are better to eat real food and more calories and feel physically and emotionally satisfied than eating” diet “and to be hungry in an hour.”

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Are you a caffeine addict?

Are you a caffeine addict?

You may love caffeine’s feel-good effects, but overdosing can harm your health. Here’s how to tell if you’re overdoing it

You know you’re a caffeine addict when your eyes won’t open before you’ve taken your first sip of morning Joe, or if your co-workers call you “Crabby” when you skip your afternoon Diet Coke. While the best part of waking up may indeed be Folgers in your cup, being over-caffeinated may also be harmful. “Studies have found that some caffeine can improve mental acuity and performance throughout the day, but too much caffeine can negatively impact your mood, energy, and even health,” says Erin Palinski, RD, CDE, CPT, who has a private practice in New Jersey.

Enjoying a latte probably won’t hurt you, and may even have surprising health benefits such as lowering your risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Just keep in mind that—as with most delicious things in life—it is possible to have too much of a good thing.

“Some research has linked high doses of coffee to infertility and increased risk of hip fractures in older women,” says Keri M. Gans, MS, RD, CDN and author of The Small Change Diet. “If you stop drinking coffee abruptly, you may experience irritability, fatigue, headaches, and even depression.”

So how much caffeine is too much? The American Dietetic Association recommends having no more than 300 mg a day, or the amount in about two or three 8-ounce cups of coffee. Even if you’re not a java lover, you may be getting caffeine from sneaky sources unknowingly: Sports drinks, supplements, and even certain medications contain caffeine. Sneaky sources of caffeine include:

• 2 tablets Excedrin for headaches; 130 mg
• Vital Energy water; 150 mg
• 16-ounce Snapple ice tea; 42 mg
• 1 cup Ben & Jerry’s No Fat Fudge Frozen Yogurt; 85 mg
• 1 cup Dannon Coffee Yogurt; 45 mg
• Barq’s Root Beer; 22 mg
• Hershey’s chocolate bar, 12 mg
For perspective, one 8-ounce cup of coffee can have anywhere from 125 to 150 mg.

While caffeine’s effects may be different for different people, here are some common warning signs that you may have overdosed.

1. You hit an afternoon slump.

If you can’t get through the day without a Diet Coke fix, you may be hooked on the caffeine. “There is about as much caffeine in one can of Diet Coke as there is in a shot of espresso,” says David J. Clayton, MD, author of The Healthy Guide to Unhealthy Living. Having a few cans a day could leave you feeling high, and then low when you come down from the caffeine buzz.” Besides triggering major dips in energy, the acidity in soda can damage tooth enamel if sipped daily. Limit your Diet Cokes to one a day to avoid hitting a wall in the afternoon, and brush your teeth if possible after drinking soda to help reduce its enamel-eroding effects.

2. You’re peeing orange.

Urine that is dark yellow or orange is a telltale sign of dehydration. “Coffee is actually a diuretic that can lead to dehydration by increasing the amount you urinate so you lose too much body fluids,” says Amy Gross, MPH, RD, CDN and a clinical dietician at New York Presbyterian Hospital. Caffeine usually doesn’t trigger dehydration until after you’ve had about 500 mg, so you should be safe if you stick to a cup or two of coffee a day.

3. You can’t sleep.

“Caffeine takes about 45 minutes to 1 hour to get absorbed and has a very long half-life, meaning it lingers in the body for several hours and can affect your sleep cycle,” says Molly Morgan, R.D., owner of Creative Nutrition Solutions in Vestal, New York, and author of The Skinny Rules. If it takes you longer than 30 minutes to doze off at night, you might try cutting out caffeine once the clock strikes 12 p.m. to see if it helps you get more restful sleep. That applies to all caffeine-containing substances: Sipping green or Chai tea may be a sleep stealer, too, because both beverages contain caffeine. Also keep in mind that decaf coffee and decaf tea are not caffeine-free: both have about one-third the amount of caffeine as the regular kind.

4. You feel anxious.

Sweaty palms, a racing heart, restlessness, and feeling jittery are all clues that you’ve overdosed on caffeine. “Caffeine can exacerbate stress and depression because it interferes with a tranquilizing neurotransmitter chemical in the brain called adenosine,” says Palinski. Caffeine can also act as a stimulant that triggers the adrenal gland to excrete more stress hormones like adrenaline, which can increase heart rate, making you feel more anxious.

5. You have heartburn.

Acid reflux happens when the muscle at the end of the esophagus, known as the lower esophageal sphincter, allows food and stomach acid to come back up, causing a burning feeling under your chest. If this happens to you, caffeine could be a culprit. “Caffeine relaxes esophageal sphincter, which allows acid to come up in the throat,” says Gross. Try cutting out caffeine altogether to see if it soothes your throat.

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3 facts you should know about your skin

3 facts you should know about your skin

Changes in thickness, dryness, and texture can indicate thyroid or other problems.

Taking care of your skin is probably second nature by now. You know to slather on SPF each morning and scan for new and changing moles to keep your skin happy and healthy. But despite understanding how to combat wrinkles and ward off disease, there’s a fair share that you might not know about your body’s largest organ. Read on for seven interesting facts about your skin.

1. Your skin’s appearance and texture can give you clues about the rest of your health.

Sometimes, changes in your skin can signal changes in your health as a whole. For example, according to Brooke Jackson, MD, Director of the Skin Wellness Center of Chicago, “The hormones that the thyroid produces are directly responsible for the natural fats that protect the skin, as well as hair and cell growth and hair pigmentation.”

She explains that in a person with hyperthryroidism (when the thyroid overproduces thyroid hormone), the epidermis––the outer layer of skin––may thicken and skin may be soft. With hypothyroidism (when the thyroid under-produces thyroid hormone), on the other hand, symptoms include very dry skin and thickened skin on the palms and soles. Another way your skin can tip you off to health issues: Acanthosis nigricans, a condition in which skin around the neck darkens and changes in texture, is often associated with diabetes, according to D’Anne Kleinsmith, MD, dermatologist at William Beaumont Hospital in Royal Oak, MI.

2. Everyone has the same pigment in their skin that’s responsible for color.

Melanin, explains Josie Tenore, MD, SM, is a coloring pigment that is present in all people’s skin—regardless of race. “The difference in skin tone between people of different races—and between people of the same race––lies in how much of this pigment is present, and its distribution within the skin.”

More specifically, everyone—no matter how dark or pale they are––has the same number of melanocytes, which are the cells that make melanin, explains Arnold Oppenheim, MD, a board-certified dermatologist. “It’s their product, melanosomes—which contain the melanin––that differ. Some people have denser and larger ones, which make their skin darker.” Also, the denser and closer together they are, “the more protection the skin is afforded from skin cancer,” he says.

3. As we age, our skin sheds cells more slowly.

Ever wonder why children have such naturally rosy and dewy skin? While skin of all ages produces new cells which eventually move to the surface and shed off, young people’s skin does this more often, according to Dr. Tenore. “In kids, this happens every two to three weeks, which gives them that vibrant, shiny skin. But as we age, this process becomes slower. More dead cells stay on the surface, resulting in that dull, dehydrated look.”

She adds that exposure to direct sunlight slows down the sloughing off process even further because UV light decreases cellular turnover. Depending on your skin type—your dermatologist can identify yours––daily exfoliation or a topical antioxidant serum that contains retinoids, vitamins and peptides can help encourage cell turnover, according to Francesca Fusco, MD, a New York City dermatologist.

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How co-workers can make you fat

How co-workers can make you fat

Peer pressure to indulge in a homemade treat isn’t the only potential diet danger at the office.

It’s one thing to keep an eye on workplace rivals. But another type of sabotage can be much harder to spot. Shawna Biggars’s saboteur would deliver dense, creamy slices of homemade carrot cake to her desk, “wanting affirmation that he was a great cook,” she says. When she politely declined, he would press, saying, “You can’t not have cake for the rest of your life,” she says.

Finally, Ms. Biggars, a human-resources director in Wichita, Kan., “had to sit him down and say, ‘If I were an alcoholic, you wouldn’t say, ‘Just take one drink.’ ” Over 2½ years, Ms. Biggars lost 120 pounds.

Some 29% of people on diets say colleagues pressure them to eat more, make fun of their diets or order them restaurant food they know isn’t on their diets, according to a recent survey of 325 dieters by Survey Sampling International for Medi-Weightloss Clinics, a Tampa, Fla., franchiser of physician-supervised weight-loss clinics.

The approach can seem innocuous, but can result in weight gain over time. A colleague brings in home-baked cookies to celebrate a promotion, a birthday or to rally the team, and who wants to look like they don’t appreciate the work of others if they decline?

Patrice Gibson, a sales representative for a medical-supply company, often sparred with her co-worker Michelle Nunemaker while they ate lunch at their desks. As Ms. Gibson laid out small, measured portions, Ms. Nunemaker “would make fun of what I was eating,” Ms. Gibson says. She predicted failure, saying, “I know people who did that and the minute they went off it, they gained it all back,” says Ms. Gibson, of Tampa, Fla. She let the criticisms “bounce off” her.

Ms. Nunemaker says she regarded Ms. Gibson’s strictly controlled diet as unhealthy and prefers “exercise and watching what you’re eating.” While she and Ms. Gibson kept the conversation light and friendly, “I was saying serious things that I really believed,” she says.

When Ms. Gibson shed 35 pounds, Ms. Nunemaker congratulated her. But “it didn’t change my opinion,” she says. Peers’ attitudes and behavior are linked to success in weight loss, according to a study published last month in the journal Obesity. Among 3,330 participants in a team-based weight-loss competition, including many teams of co-workers, those who reported having positive influence from teammates lost a larger percentage of their body weight than others.

“Social contacts can be extremely powerful,” says Tricia Leahey, the study’s lead author. While peers’ encouragement helps, dieting failures or negative attitudes among colleagues can discourage people from sticking to their own weight-loss plans, says Dr. Leahey, an assistant professor of research on obesity at the Miriam Hospital in Providence, R.I. “It cuts both ways.”

At the annual “chili and dessert cook-off” competition Ms. Biggars helps organize at her company, co-workers asked again and again, “Why aren’t you eating?” she says. “It’s a dieter’s nightmare.”

Deep down, some co-workers may feel abandoned by a dieter who no longer joins them for big lunches or happy hour, says Chelsey Millstone, corporate dietitian for Medi-Weightloss Clinics. Some feel jealous because they aren’t losing weight. Or they see a trimmer colleague as a career threat, Ms. Millstone says. Consciously or not, these co-workers may pressure a dieter by “calling them out” with embarrassing personal questions or comments, she says.

Pushing back can cause some “very touchy” conversations, however, says Becky Hand, a registered dietitian with the weight-loss and fitness website SparkPeople, based in Cincinnati. Colleagues often think they’re showing appreciation by bringing in food or building harmony in a department, and they can get annoyed or hurt. In her work as a hospital nutritionist, Ms. Hand coaches weight-loss patients to script a response in their heads and practice in front of the mirror, saying such lines as, “I’ve had your food in the past and it’s always delicious. But I’m sorry, at this time in my life, eating those extra whatever isn’t benefiting my health.”

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Three diet mistakes that can make you fat

Three diet mistakes that can make you fat

Decadent dips ruin the benefits of healthy choices like raw veggies.

Sometimes a carrot stick is just a carrot stick. But for many of us, it’s a crunchy, bright orange vehicle for decadent dip—blue cheese, perhaps, or a nice herbed ranch. And as you dunk your sixth or seventh spear into that delicious dressing, you might tell yourself, Well, at least I’m eating a hearty serving of veggies right now. True–but you’re also consuming quite a lot of salt, fat, and calories.

Wrecking our otherwise healthy food picks along with our waistlines is often beyond our control. In his book The End of Overeating (Rodale), former FDA commissioner David Kessler, MD, explains that when you smell, see, or even think about “highly palatable” foods–ones that are high in fat, sugar, or salt–your brain can trigger the release of dopamine, the reward-seeking neurotransmitter. So in a way, you can blame the dopamine surge for forcing you to eat that glazed doughnut. The fact is, it’s possible to stop your pleasure-seeking brain from making menu decisions.

You dunk veggies into fat traps

While it may seem like a good idea to watch Parenthood with a plate of crisp crudités on the coffee table in front of you, that jar of peanut butter sitting right next to it can spell trouble. Sure, peanut butter provides healthy fat and protein, but it also has 94 calories per tablespoon–so this seemingly healthy snack can tip the scale in the wrong direction. And 2 tablespoons of creamy dressing can pack 145 calories and 15 g of fat. “Eating just one hundred calories more each day can translate to about a ten-pound weight gain over the course of a year,” says Brian Wansink, PhD, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.

The healthy move: If you’re dying to dip, mix fat-free plain Greek yogurt (it has about twice the protein of regular yogurt) with salsa or zingy seasonings such as horseradish or curry powder. Prepared hummus or black-bean dips coat raw veggies with protein, fiber, and flavor; just check the labels because fat and calories can vary among brands. Finally, beat boredom by introducing new vegetables into your rotation, such as crunchy jicama or radishes that offer a naturally peppery bite.

You go for fried sweet potatoes

Besides the beta-carotene (a disease-fighting carotenoid that our bodies convert to vitamin A) that’s responsible for their vibrant color, sweet potatoes provide vitamin C, folic acid, potassium, and fiber–all for about 100 calories in a medium potato. But when you fry these and other vegetables (hello, broccoli bites and zucchini sticks), the fat and calorie counts skyrocket. Not only that, but a study in the Journal of Food Science found that certain vegetables, like zucchini, actually lose some of their antioxidant power when fried.

The healthy move: A baked sweet potato is the worry-free choice (mash in 2 tablespoons of a creamy fat-free dressing for extra flavor); eat the skin and you’ll also get at least 4 g of fiber. If you’re just not satisfied with a baked spud, buy a bag of oven-ready frozen fries at the supermarket. Compare labels and choose ones that have no trans fat and no more than 0.5 g saturated fat per serving. See the packaged sweet potato “fries” that Prevention likes best.

You drown your food in olive oil

Extra virgin olive oil is high in “good” monounsaturated fat–the kind of fat that can help lower LDL cholesterol–but it also has about 477 calories and 54 g of fat per 1/4 cup. If you don’t measure the amount of oil you use to sauté, grill, broil, or roast, you can end up with way more than you need.

The healthy move: When grilling or broiling, use a pastry brush or nonaerosol pump to lightly glaze food with oil, says Jennifer Nelson, RD, director of clinical dietetics and nutrition at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. If you’re making a stir-fry, wipe a paper towel dipped in olive oil around the wok before adding ingredients–or better yet, use a nonstick skillet. You can also make your sautés sizzle with wine, soy sauce, chicken broth, or 100% carrot, tomato, or vegetable juice.

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Jessica Alba keeps it ‘Honest’ with eco-friendly products

Jessica Alba keeps it 'Honest' with eco-friendly products

Jessica Alba, who welcomed her second daughter Haven in 2011, said Tuesday the idea was born after she learned that toxic chemicals are in widely used, everyday products.

“I would buy what I thought was like an eco-brand and pay out the wazoo for it and then find out that it’s made with the same ingredients as any other brand, but the packaging is a little more biodegradable and you’re like ‘But I care about the product touching my kid. Is that OK?'”

She decided the best solution was to make available the kinds of products she would buy. To launch the business, she partnered with author and environmentalist Christopher Gavigan, ShoeDazzle founder Brian Lee and PriceGrabber.com executive Sean Kane.

The 30-year-old actress said the venture is “hands down” more nerve-racking than the opening of a new movie but also more gratifying. “I came up with the idea. I had to pitch it to my partners and they came on board and together we created the company from scratch,” she said. “From the packaging to the bottles to the product that’s inside, the way that the interfacing is with the website, all of that is really from me … it’s taken three years to get here.”

To make a purchase, consumers sign up on Honest.com and choose from subscription packages for products including diapers, shampoo and laundry detergent. The products are then delivered monthly to the buyer’s door.

Alba plans to expand the line based on customer feedback. “It’s important that a brand that’s meant for families actually listens to families, and it’s not just some big corporate entity making these huge decisions,” she said.

Alba recently worked to drum up support for the proposed Safe Chemicals Act, which would require products to be tested for chemicals before they are sold and would have the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency test products already on the market.

The federal legislation has been critized by the American Chemistry Council, which says the safety standards the measure proposes are “unachievable.”

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Can chewing gum make you smarter?

Can chewing gum make you smarter?

One study suggests it improves your memory by increasing blood flow to the brain.

While chewing gum may not make you look more intelligent, it actually boosts brainpower, new research shows. People have been chewing gum for about 9,000 years, with ancient Greeks, Mayans and Native Americans popping wads of tree sap or resin in their mouths to freshen their breath. This enduring habit also sharpens our wits in several surprising ways. Here’s a look at the mental benefits:

Better Mental Performance

A 2011 study published in the journal Appetite tested the effects of chewing gum—either sugar-free or sugar-added—on 159 undergraduate students. Half chomped gum before or throughout taking a battery of difficult mental tests, such as reciting lists of random numbers backwards or solving logic puzzles, and the other half (the control group) didn’t.

Those who chewed gum five minutes before the tests significantly outperformed non-chewers on five out of six of the tests, researchers from St. Lawrence University found. However, the benefits only lasted for the first 15 to 20 minutes of the test and chewing during the tests was not helpful, probably because it distracted the students. The sugar content of the gum had no impact on the test performance.

Gum + Math = Higher Grades

Teachers who ban gum in class may want to rethink their rules after checking out the intriguing results of a study at Baylor College of Medicine, involving 8th graders at a charter school.

The researchers found that students who chewed gum during math tests—and while doing their math homework—had a 3 percent rise in standardized math scores and higher final grades, compared to non-chompers. “Chewing gum is an easy tool students can use for an academic edge,” said Craig Johnson, PhD, the lead study researcher.

Revving Up Recall

Munching gum also improves memory, a British review of earlier studies found. However, the reasons for this aren’t entirely clear.

One theory is that the physical act of chewing increases blood flow to the brain, a phenomenon the St. Lawrence researchers call “mastication-induced arousal.” They speculate that munching perks up attention but, since the effect is temporary, chewing gum may be most helpful before tackling the toughest questions on a test.

Is mint gum the new coffee?

In a 2012 study, researchers at Coventry University found that chewing mint gum dramatically reduced daytime sleepiness, without the jitters brought on by coffee.

Study participants were randomly divided into three groups—with one-third of participants chewing gum, one-third “sham chewing” (making chewing motions with no actual gum in their mouth) and the rest not chewing—as they underwent a pupillographic sleepiness test (measuring the diameter of the eye’s pupils for 11 minutes while the person sits in a darkened room).

The researchers theorize that the higher alertness of the gum chewers may be due to the arousing effects of the mint flavor or increased brain activity during chewing.

Smarter, Less Stressed, and Happier

In a quirky study at Cardiff University in the UK, 133 volunteers were given demanding mental tests with and without chewing gum of randomly assigned fruit or mint flavors. To make the mental tests even more challenging, half the volunteers were forced to listen to a stress-inducing, 75-decibel noise (equivalent to standing next to a lawn mover) while trying to concentrate on the tests. The rest were tested in a quiet room.

Volunteers rated their mood before and after the testing sessions and had their heart rate monitored. Their levels of cortisol (a stress hormone that’s also a good measure of alertness) were also checked using saliva samples.

The researchers found that chewing gum was linked to greater alertness, faster reaction times on the tests, with performance actually improving as the task became harder, and enhanced attention. And here’s something else to chew on: those who munched gum were also in a better mood.

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Foods that do the weight-loss work for you

Foods that do the weight-loss work for you

Increasing your fiber intake is an easy way to encourage your body to shed nagging pounds.

Do you want to lose weight for good in the new year? Try increasing your daily fiber intake in the form of nutrient-rich high-fiber foods. Why fiber? Recent research in the Journal of Nutrition suggests eating more fiber as a way to prevent weight gain or even encourage weight loss. Over the course of the two-year study, the researchers found that boosting fiber by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories resulted in about 4 1/2 pounds of weight lost.

Try it for yourself. If you’re consuming 2,000 calories per day, aim to increase your fiber by 16 grams. Here are 7 fiber-rich foods that help do the weight-loss work for you.

1. Apples: A medium apple (3-inch diameter) contains 4 grams of fiber; a large apple (3 1/4-inch diameter) has 5. Apples also offer a bit of vitamin C and potassium.

2. Green Beans: One cup boasts 4 grams of fiber, plus a healthy dose (30% daily value) or skin-helping vitamin C.

3. Sweet Potatoes: A medium-size baked sweet potato (2 inches wide, 5 inches long…a little larger than your computer mouse), skin included, offers 5 grams of fiber-for just 103 calories. It’s also a nutrition powerhouse: providing 438% daily value of eye-healthy vitamin A (eat these foods to help you see more clearly), 37% daily value of vitamin C, plus some potassium, vitamin E, iron, magnesium and phytochemicals like beta carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

4. Raspberries: Raspberries are a great source of fiber-some of it soluble in the form of pectin, which helps lower cholesterol. One cup of raspberries has 8 grams of fiber. Raspberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C.

5. Strawberries: One cup of strawberries has a respectable 3 grams of fiber and more than a full day’s recommended dose of vitamin C-an antioxidant that helps keep skin healthy.

6. Chickpeas: Just 3/4 cup of chickpeas has a whopping 8 grams of fiber! You also get a good amount of vitamin B6 and folate, both of which play a role in forming healthy new cells.

7. Pumpkin: A cup of cooked pumpkin contains 3 grams of fiber. You also get vitamin A (245% daily value), vitamins C, E and potassium.

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