Health & Fitness

Diet Detective: Health news you should use

Cut up vegetables such as broccoli, peppers and asparagus to store in the fridge.
Cut up vegetables such as broccoli, peppers and asparagus to store in the fridge. Getty Images/Thinkstock

Here’s the skinny on some recent health headlines and how to use the news and information.

Barley: Is it the new wonder grain?

Overview: Barley has many healthy nutrients, including manganese, selenium, fiber, copper and vitamin B1 — to name a few. It makes sense that a new review article from St. Michael’s Hospital in Toronto, which looked at 14 different studies, found that eating barley can significantly reduce levels of two types of “bad cholesterol” associated with cardiovascular risk.

Barley reduced both low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, and non-high-density lipoprotein, or non-HDL, by 7 percent. It had cholesterol lowering effects similar to those of oats. Compared to oats, barley is higher in fiber, has twice the protein and almost half the calories.

Apply the research: You can incorporate barley into existing recipes, using it as a substitute for rice. Barley can be a bit more difficult than oats to prepare and cook.

A healthy plant-based diet is linked to substantially lower risk of Type 2 diabetes

Overview: There has been a lot written about how a healthy, primarily plant-based diet can reduce risk of disease (keep in mind, this does not include French fries). However, there is now evidence to show how important a primarily plant-based diet is specifically for fending off Type 2 diabetes.

Researchers at Harvard University followed more than 200,000 male and female health professionals for more than 20 years, and found that participants who ate more healthy plant-based foods than animal-based foods also had a 20 percent reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes, when compared with low adherence to such a diet.

Even modestly lowering animal food consumption — for example, from 5-6 servings per day to about 4 servings per day — was linked with a lower incidence of diabetes.

Apply the research: Chop it up and have it ready. Cut up vegetables such as onions, broccoli, peppers and asparagus in advance. Put them in pre-portioned baggies or containers and store them in the fridge

Learn to cook great veggies. There are several databases that offer free, healthful vegetarian (and vegetable) recipes online.

▪ Allrecipes.com: Put “healthy” and “vegetarian” or “vegetables” in the search box.

▪ Myrecipes.com

▪ EatingWell.com

▪ VegetarianTimes.com

Not too many starchy veggies: They’re carbs, so they can be high in calories and not have same healthy impact as less starchy veggies. Examples include corn, peas, potatoes and sweet potatoes.

Greenmarkets and CSAs: How about joining an organic buying club or a Community-Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) program to support a local farm and get a share of the produce? Go to www.localharvest.org and put in your location to find a club in your area, or try one of the following:

▪ https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/farmersmarkets, for a list of more than 4,300 farmers markets currently operating in the United States.

▪ https://www.ams.usda.gov/local-food-directories/csas, for information about and listings of Community Supported Agriculture programs.

Just eat in moderation. What does that mean?

Overview: When you hear the phrase “eat in moderation,” does it mean one cookie or three cookies? One slice of pizza or two? A University of Georgia study suggests that the “term’s wide range of interpretations may make it an ineffective guide for losing or maintaining weight.”

Apply the research: It’s good to know how many calories you should be eating to maintain our current weight. While it may seem old school, calories are still important. So, find out your calorie level by going to http://www.cancer.org/healthy/toolsandcalculators/calculators/app/calorie-counter-calculator.

Once you find out how many calories you need in order to maintain your weight, you’ll want to decrease that number by about 250 to 500 calories per day, mostly by decreasing foods that have any added sugar and increasing your intake of healthfully prepared vegetables. Keep in mind that not all calories are created equal; nutrient density also matters. Nutrient-dense foods provide a lot of nutrition for relatively few calories.

Eating fruit while pregnant can boost your baby’s cognitive development

Overview: A study by researchers at the University of Alberta’s Faculty of Medicine & Dentistry found that mothers who consumed more fruit during pregnancy gave birth to children who performed better on developmental testing at one year of age.

Apply the research: Eat more fruit in your diet; try to add it to all your meals. The study showed that if pregnant mothers ate six or seven servings of fruit a day, on average their infants placed six or seven points higher on the scale at one year of age than the children of those who ate less fruit.

Charles Platkin, Ph.D., is a nutrition and public health advocate and founder of DietDetective.com.

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