Reports on the latest scientific research can be confusing. Here are some ways you can use the information that’s come out recently regarding science and nutrition.
The report: Fruits, veggies, legumes and nuts, with few processed meats, decrease your chances of depression.
According to research published in the journal BMC Medicine, consuming a diet that is made up mostly of fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts, and is low in processed meats (a Mediterranean diet) helps to fend off depression. Foods such as processed meats and sweets increased depression onset.
Almudena Sanchez-Villegas, the study researcher, says, “A threshold effect may exist. The noticeable difference occurs when participants start to follow a healthier diet. Even a moderate adherence to these healthy dietary patterns was associated with an important reduction in the risk of developing depression. However, we saw no extra benefit when participants showed high or very high adherence to the diets.”
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How to use and apply: This one is pretty simple. Eat a lot of veggies, fruits, nuts and legumes (beans, lentils, etc...). Skip processed meats and sweets.
The report: Going to bed late could mean weight gain for teens.
A study from researchers at the University of California, Berkeley and appearing in the journal Sleep, found that teenagers who go to bed late on weeknights are more likely to gain weight than their peers who go to sleep earlier. Interestingly, the researchers found that weight increased regardless of the amount of exercise, screen time and the number of hours they slept.
How to use and apply: Make sure to get to bed early. Also, try and set up your environment for sleep success. Make sure the temperature is correct and you have the proper bedding. Have a regular bedtime.
Don’t stay in bed too long. Get rid of the TV, computer, and smartphone in the bedroom and don’t them use before you go to bed. Make sure you exercise during the day. And make your sleep environment quiet — aesthetically and in terms of noise. Get a sound machine.
The report: Take a walk around your office for better vascular health.
Researchers from the University of Missouri School of Medicine have found that “when a person sits for six straight hours, vascular function [proper blood flow] is impaired — but by walking for just 10 minutes after a prolonged period of sitting, vascular health can be restored.”
How to use and apply:
▪ Walking meetings: Instead of sitting around a table and possibly eating unhealthy foods, whenever possible hold your meetings while you walk. Or, if you can’t convince your colleagues to do that, try walking to your out-of-office meetings.
▪ Use your head: If you talk on the phone, obtain a headset (if your phone is corded) and stand, or better yet pace, during calls if you have the room and won’t disturb your co-workers.
▪ Old school: Walk to a co-worker’s desk instead of e-mailing or calling him or her.
The report: Is butter back? Harvard researchers say no.
Did you replace doughnuts, candy, pasta and other high carb foods with eggs, meat, butter and cheese in order to lose weight and improve your heart health? According to researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, “In terms of heart disease risk, saturated fat and refined carbohydrates appear to be similarly unhealthful.”
And “those who replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats (found in vegetable oils and nuts) or whole grains lower their heart disease risk.” According to this research, refined carbs are just as unhealthy as foods high in saturated fats.
How to use and apply: From the researchers: “…individuals should not replace saturated fat with refined carbs or vice versa. Dietary recommendations to reduce saturated fats should specify their replacement with unsaturated fats or with healthy carbohydrates, such as whole grains.”
There has been much in the news stating that saturated fat is not unhealthy — it’s confusing. My advice is to limit foods high in saturated fats (full fat dairy, meats, butter, etc…) and replace them with unsaturated fats until there is more definitive research. According to the American Heart Association, polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats (the two types of unsaturated fats) are found mainly in fish (such as salmon, trout and herring), avocados, olives, walnuts and liquid vegetable oils such as soybean, corn, safflower, canola, olive and sunflower.
Also, avoid refined carbs such as candies, cakes, doughnuts, pasta, rice, etc.
The report: Large portions and larger tableware increase eating and drinking.
According to a review of the research (a compilation of multiple studies) conducted by the University of Cambridge and published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, “people consistently consume more food and drink when offered larger-sized portions, packages or tableware than when offered smaller-sized versions, suggesting that, if sustained reductions in exposure to large sizes could be achieved across the whole diet, this could reduce average daily energy consumed from food by 12 percent to 16 percent among adults in the UK (equivalent of up to 279 kcals per day) or by 22 percent to 29 percent among U.S. adults (equivalent of up to 527 kcals per day).”
How to use and apply: Serve your food using much smaller plates, glasses and silverware. Also, keep junk foods out of your house — they’re too tempting. Other research shows that if you have those foods around, you’re likely to eat them. Do a house cleaning and dump all the junk food you find.
And don’t be a diet hero: Avoid cues that tempt you. If you drive by Dunkin’ Donuts on the way to work and can’t resist stopping for a box of doughnuts, change your route. Also, don’t head to the supermarket when you’re starving — eat a snack beforehand.
The report: Social media groups (online peer networks) can get you to exercise more.
According to a study conducted by researchers at the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, creating online health buddies within social networks helps you to exercise more.
The study had participants regularly update one another’s fitness achievements. The participants could monitor one another’s progress on a website, and when one signed up for a weightlifting or yoga class, for example, the others were notified by email.
As the weeks of the study went by, the motivating effects increased, producing a substantial growth in enrollment levels among people in peer networks.
How to use and apply: Create a private social media page with your friends and report all types of exercise behavior. You can use any type of social media, including Instagram.
There are also several groups already on Facebook, Twitter, etc. that let you exercise with others and report behaviors. Do an online search and you will find them.
Charles Platkin is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.