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Heart health took center stage when Lyndon B. Johnson issued Proclamation 3566 in December,1963. He declared February as American Heart Month and Congress passed a joint resolution requesting presidents each year to follow suit. In that era, more than half of deaths in the United States resulted from heart-related conditions.

In the 2017 proclamation, President Donald Trump stated “The death rate from heart disease in the United States has fallen dramatically since the 1960s . . . [yet] heart disease remains a leading cause of death. . . . During American Heart Month, we remember those who have lost their lives to heart disease and resolve to improve its prevention, detection and treatment.”

 Globally, more than 17 million deaths occur annually from heart related conditions with projected increases in future years. What is more appropriate than to think about healthy hearts on Valentine’s Day? As a day of love, it’s befitting to encourage those we love to eat healthy and to express our love to family and friends by practicing a healthy-heart lifestyle.                                     

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 If you plan to treat those you love with any type of food this Valentine’s Day, make it healthy. Increase the availability of fruits and vegetables, avoid offers of high-sugar, high-salt foods, and provide meats low in fat, especially saturated fats.

As we commemorate a day for hearts, remember to protect yours. Helping yourself and others choose healthy-heart foods can reduce the number of people likely to meet untimely deaths due to cardiovascular disease. It’s the way to honor a national treasure―you and those you love. Happy Valentine’s Day.

Best Diets for 2017

The U S News and World Report recently published their annual assessment of the best 38 diets in 9 categories. For the past seven years, a panel of experts has selected the DASH diet as the best diet overall. The Mediterranean diet came in a close second while the MIND diet ranked third. What makes these diets healthy choices, and how do they differ?

DASH DIET (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension)

The DASH diet, originally establish to reduce high blood pressure, is nutritionally sound and promotes heart health. This diet includes the following daily servings; 4-5 each of  vegetables and fruits, 6-8 grains, 2-3 dairy products, 6 or less of fish, lean meat, poultry (one ounce is considered a serving), 2-3 fats or oils.

The diet suggests 4-5 servings a week of nuts, seeds, and legumes and less than 5 servings per week of sweets. For heathy individuals, the diet recommends limiting sodium to 2,300 mg/day or less. The elderly or those with certain health issues should not exceed 1,500 mg of sodium/day.

MEDITERRANEAN DIET

The Mediterranean diet is nutritionally sound with diverse foods and flavors. It represents the typical foods eaten by those living in the region around the Mediterranean Sea. That population tends to live longer and have fewer incidents of cardiovascular disease and cancer than is common to most Americans.

This eating plan may help with weight loss, improve heart and brain health, and reduce risks of cancer and diabetes. The Mediterranean diet doesn’t recommend specific amounts of foods. However, a typical diet consists of 7-10 servings of vegetables and fruits daily, whole grains, low-fat dairy, fish (1-2 times per week) plus poultry and limited red meats. The diet avoids such foods as sausage, bacon, and other high-fat meats. This diet is  generous in nuts, and olive oil is used abundantly in place of other fats and oils.

MIND DIET (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay)

The MIND diet blends the Mediterranean and DASH diets plus specific recommended  foods. The aim of this diet is to delay memory loss and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. It is categorized into 10 brain-healthy food groups and 5 unhealthy groups. Brain-healthy foods include green leafy vegetables, other vegetables, berries (blueberries/strawberries), nuts, beans (lentils, white beans, etc.), whole grains, fish, poultry, olive oil, and wine. Foods to avoid include red meat, butter/stick margarine, cheeses, pastries/sweets, and fried/fast foods.

Researchers found that those who strictly followed this diet lowered their risk of Alzheimer’s disease up to 53 percent. Even those who moderately followed the diet seemed to lower their risk by up to 35 percent.

BENEFITS

These three diets demonstrate that foods do make a difference in our mental capacity as well as our physical health. When followed faithfully, both the DASH and Mediterranean diets may delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease. However, unlike the MIND diet which can help divert the disease with moderate following, the DASH and Mediterranean diets must be followed closely to affect memory or neurodegenerative disease. The DASH diet decreases risk of cardiovascular disease, especially as related to blood pressure. The Mediterranean has been shown to decrease risks of cancer. If memory, dementia, and Alzheimer’s are a specific concern, follow the MIND diet.

Our health is in our hands. While other factors influence wellbeing, diet is a major contributor in maintaining quality of life.

 

 

 

 

 

Before this year slips into the sunset, let’s take a quick look back at food-trends for the past year. Below are a few trends noted by culinary experts. Some of us may have lagged in these choices. If we haven’t incorporated them into our cooking, we can see what others have been up to.

Comfort Foods with an Asian Twist. Nothing like getting out of the doldrums by jazzing up everyday foods with a little zing. Within the past few years, favorite dishes showed up with touches of Korean kimchi and gochujang and Japanese dashi stock or Sriracha sauce (and no, I haven’t tried them). These products blend well with many comfort foods we’ve enjoyed through the years.

  • The New Butters. Now many butters are seasoned with favorite flavors that make a hit with bread or added into other dishes. Flavors vary from toasted sesame seed, to madeira, shiitake, lemon, and even double chocolate. Create your own unique flavors by softening butter and adding oregano, garlic, tarragon, or ginger.
  • Ubiquitous Coconut. Coconut seems to be everywhere. The meat of coconut, a long-time staple in many kitchens, now takes center front with coconut milk. Also, look for chips, spreads, and vinegar as well as coconut flour.
  • Dukah. This blend may contain nuts, black pepper, coriander, fennel, cumin, and other spices. Ingredients vary by the chef. These blends add crunch and pizzazz to many dishes.
  • Farm-raised Fish. While wild varieties had their heyday, American fish farms are more likely to have better controlled health and safety measures. As one indirectly involved with catfish farming for nearly thirty years, my husband insists on local farm-raised fish when we eat out or purchase. Others may want to take notice. Quality and taste are so much better.

The list goes on, but these foods were trending this past year and probably, will find favor in the coming year. Forecasters predict more consumption of goat meat, and in select markets, sherry is expected to become a potential trendy item for 2017. Try these new food experiences. Whatever your choices for the new year, make them healthy.

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Eating is a major focus during the busy holiday season. Many people add a few pounds to their weight from the festivities centered around food. This isn’t the time to diet, but with a few simple changes, we can spare ourselves from gaining additional pounds.

    1. Choose smaller portions. Not easy, but many times we not only add extra calories but become uncomfortably full from excess food. Gauge those portions sizes and feel better afterward.
    2. See what calorie-laden foods you can skip or resolve to eat less. Gravies and creamed dishes add lots of calories. Select unsweetened beverages. Choose red sauces over white ones for fewer calories.
    3. Choose desserts with less calories. Double crusted pies and those with whipped cream or topping have more calories. If you must have a piece of that traditional coconut cake, make it a smaller portion.
    4. Watch out for snacks of candies, nuts, party mixes and yellow cheeses. Look for veggie or fruit trays and skip the dip.

A few simple changes can keep away those dreaded extra pounds. Make the holidays a time of love and joy without those rich, fattening foods. Have a Merry Christmas and a blessed New Year.

More than 416 million adults worldwide have diabetes. About 95 percent of those have type 2 diabetes. Common symptoms include increased thirst, increased hunger, increased urination, unplanned weight loss or gain, fatigue, blurred vision, and numbness or Diabetes concept. Notepad  with diabetic diet and raw organic food. Stock Photo - 39058978tingling in the feet. Those who experience one or more of these symptoms, especially excessive weight gain, would be wise to check with their healthcare provider. Diabetes is a forerunner of multiple health problems.

Who is susceptible to this condition? Risks increase for those aged 45 and older, those who with a family history, and certain ethnic groups (African-Americans, Alaska Natives, American Indians, Asian Americans, Hispanic/Latinos, or Pacific Islander Americans). Women who have gestational diabetes or give birth to infants weighing more than nine pounds are more susceptible. Higher cholesterol levels may also increase vulnerability. While people may have no control over these factors, the most significant risks for diabetes relate to lifestyle practices—overweight/obesity and inactivity. As many as 70 percent of those with this disease could avoid it by losing weight and becoming more active. Why aren’t they?

In 1991 the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and the World Health Organization coordinated efforts to form World Diabetes Day, observed each year on November 14. The purpose is to raise awareness of this disease and its causes. The event is one of several activities of the IDF, a worldwide alliance in 160 countries dedicated to improving the lives of people with diabetes everywhere. The 2016 theme, “Eyes on Diabetes,” focuses on screening to ensure early diagnosis. As many as half of those with the disease remain undiagnosed.

This insidious disease increases risks for heart disease, stroke, kidney disease, blindness, and multiple other problems including potential nerve and blood vessel damage sometimes resulting in amputation. Those proactive in seeking appropriate treatment for this condition improve their chances for healthy living. What are the best ways to prevent or delay this disease? The answer sounds simple, but it is hard for many to achieve.

  • Make lifestyle changes
    • The most significant change for those overweight or obese is to lose weight. A 10 or 15-pound weight loss can make a big difference.
    • Choose healthy foods most of the time. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) identifies Diabetes Superfoods to assist in making wise food choices.
    • Exercise on a regular basis. Make every effort to exercise at least 30 minutes five days a week.
  • Follow healthcare providers’ guidelines for medications.
    • While many with type 2 diabetes can control blood sugar levels with changes in diet and/or weight loss, some may need medications. Usually these will be oral drugs prescribed by the healthcare provider. For a better understanding of available drugs, the ADA explains options for treatment.
    • Before taking supplements or herbal products, check with your healthcare provider.

Where to Start

Change is difficult. Most of us are creatures of habit, but habits can be altered. The following steps may make a new lifestyle easier.

  • Think through and write down a plan of action.
  • Set definite goals with a specific time frame.
  • Consider preplanning of needs such as grocery lists to assure needed foods will be available.
  • Explore possible food and exercise app trackers.
  • Consider what obstacle you may face.
  • Seek support from those who will encourage you.
  • Decide on a non-food reward when you obtain your goals.

On World Diabetes Day, be mindful of symptoms and the implications for diabetes. It’s a condition you don’t want. Remember, most type 2 diabetes is preventable or reversible. The choice is yours.

 If you thought the title referred to your opinions, think again. The more correct question should be what’s on your MIND Diet? That’s right. Although the diet has been around for a few years, we don’t hear much about it. But maybe we should.

Rush University Medical Center developed a diet to slow cognitive decline, namely Alzheimer’s disease, in older adults. The diet combined the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets and was referred to as the MIND Diet―Mediterranean–DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay.

How significant is finding a diet to thwart this leading neurodegenerative condition―Alzheimer’s disease? More than five million people over age sixty-five are affected. The MIND diet may lower the risk of this disease by more than 50 percent. Even those inconsistent in following the diet can cut their risk by 35 percent.

The MIND diet has fifteen dietary components with ten brain-healthy groups and five unhealthy-brain food groups. See how closely you follow this diet to keep your brain functioning at its peak.

Healthy foods                                                           

  • Green leafy vegetables: Six servings or more per week of foods like spinach, kale, and salad greens.
  • Other vegetables: At least one-half cup cooked or one cup raw once a day.
  • Nuts: Five servings per week. One-third cup equals a serving.
  • Berries: Three servings per week. Blueberries and strawberries are the best choices for a positive impact on the mind.
  • Beans: Three or more servings per week. These include one-half cup of cooked lentils, chickpeas, kidney beans, and similar varieties.
  • Whole grains: Three or more servings per day. Look for labels that say “100 percent whole grain.”
  • Fish: At least once per week. Salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and sardines are preferred choices.
  • Poultry: Two or more servings per week. Remove skin and bake, broil, grill, or roast. Avoid frying.
  • Olive oil: Use as the main choice for cooking oil.
  • Wine: No more than one glass a day.

Unhealthy foods       

  • Red meats: Less than four servings a week. Use lean cuts and trim fat from those you do eat.
  • Butter/margarine: Less than a tablespoon daily.
  • Cheese: One serving each week. Most cheeses are high in fat and sodium. Swiss cheese is low in both and can add more cheese servings per week.
  • Pastries and sweets: Less than five servings a week. These contain high levels of sugar, fat, and sodium.
  • Fried or fast food: Less than one serving a week.

While this diet has many beneficial qualities that may lower the risks of many health issues―hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and other maladies present as we age―there are drawbacks. Due to high levels of potassium and phosphorus, those with kidney disease should avoid this diet. Increased consumption of whole grains and other higher calorie foods may be inappropriate for those with diabetes.

For most of us, efforts to closely follow this diet may keep minds sharp and prevent Alzheimer’s disease. For this eating plan to become a part of our lifestyle, keeping a chart for several weeks helps. Below is one example.

To borrow from part of a cliché, the mind is a terrible thing to let waste away. Keep it healthier with the MIND Diet.

mind-chart-4

 

 

 

 

2016-10-06

Why does eating fewer calories to lose weight seem so difficult? An article in MedlinePlus gives ten easier ways to cut 500 calories each day. If we could do that, it could result in about fifty pounds of weight-loss in a year. As I read their suggestions, they made sense. While we may not always hit our mark, at least these ideas can give a head start without all the agony of strict dieting. Here is their modified list with my comments.

  1. Change your snacks. What do you choose as a snack? Too often we like the salty, sweet, fatty choices. But there are great healthy options out there. Consider fresh fruit, air-popped corn, or my favorite―nuts. While nuts do have more calories than some foods, in small quantities they provide many needed nutrients and a feeling of fullness.
  2. Cut one high-calorie treat. You choose. Is it the high-calorie breakfast doughnut, the tempting dessert at lunch, or fried foods? My choice was to switch from “sweet tea” to unsweetened tea. Saves a good 100 calories a day. I figured with the huge amount I drink daily, it calculated to about ten pounds a year. This leads to their next suggestion.
  3. Stop drinking your calories. It’s not easy to give up all those tasty choices. But those special coffees or sugar-laden colas can quickly add up to 400 to 500 calories a day―and leave us without adequate nutrients or the needed fiber for lasting fullness.
  4. Skip seconds. That sounds like a no-brainer, but we can all be guilty. It tastes so good, we want more. When we can’t resist, make sure we choose lower calorie foods. While we serve most meals family style, serving buffet without options for a return “all-you-can-eat” trip may help the entire family control calories.
  5. Make ingredient substitutions in favorite dishes. Using plain low-fat yogurt instead of sour cream can cut a few hundred calories. We can cut the amount of sugar in many dishes without any effect on the results.
  6. Ask for a doggie bag. My husband and I figure we get a two-for-one with many of the meals we eat out. Call for a to-go container as soon as the meal is served and put half the portions into it. Just remember to take home immediately and refrigerate.
  7. Say “no” to fried foods. That’s hard for southerners who like their fried chicken and catfish. We can save as much as 500 calories when we choose baked, broiled, or grilled. Change those French fries to a baked potato, salad, or vegetable.
  8. Build a thinner pizza. I love pizza, but it is one of those foods I have disciplined myself to skip. That’s not to say we can’t ever splurge, but keep it minimal. For those who prefer to change the topping instead of skipping altogether, omit the cheese and meat and load your pizza with lots of veggies.
  9. Eat from a plate. I can’t start a bag of popcorn―any size―without eating the entire thing. The secret? Put smaller portions on a plate or in a bowl. When it’s gone, it’s gone. The same with chips and other tempting snacks. Avoid grabbing sandwiches and bags of chips on the way to the TV. We tend to eat less when we place meals on a plate and eat in a designated area away from distractions.
  10. Avoid alcohol. While that isn’t a problem for many of us, it is for a great number of people. There is no nutritive value in alcohol. It’s all calories. Some drinks can have as many as 500 calories. For those who choose to drink, light beers or a small glass of wine will have fewer calories.

You may think of many other ways to lower the number of calories you eat. Often people have asked for me to write them a “diet.” I don’t eat the same as they do, and they probably would not follow my choices any better than they follow the many options all ready out there. It’s your diet. Make it your own. Think how you can painlessly make changes, such as my unsweetened tea. True, I did not like it at first, but now I can’t stand the sweet stuff. Give yourself time. Commit to changes that can work into your lifestyle and go for it. What do you have to lose but weight?