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Eat more of these foods for a healthy heart

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, “Eat more of these foods for a healthy heart.” 

You can also read it HERE.

 

Welcome to February, American Heart Month. American Heart Month is a great way to remind Americans to focus on keeping their hearts healthy. According to the American Heart Association, cardiovascular disease, including heart disease and stroke, is the leading cause of death with more than 17.3 million deaths each year and this number is expected to rise to more than 23.6 million by 2030.

As a nutritionist, I’ve seen firsthand how a heart-healthy lifestyle, including a healthy diet, can make a huge difference in improving one’s health. A heart-healthy diet consists of foods rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins (fish, legumes); and low in added sugar, salt, and saturated fats (margarine, butter, fatty meats).

This February, in honor of American Heart Month, eat your heart out with my top picks below. Your heart will be happy! And keep a focus on including more heart healthy foods all year long—not just for the month of February.

Berries

Berries, including blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries, are chock full of heart-healthy antioxidants, polyphenols and fiber, which help fight chronic disease including heart disease. They are also a good source of vitamin C which has been linked to a lower risk of stroke. And they taste great too! For an added nutrition boost, add your favorite berries to cereal, yogurt, smoothies, and salads. Your heart—and your waist—will be happy.

Cruciferous vegetables

Cruciferous vegetable, which include broccoli, kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower are members of the Brassica family and known to be rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals which have have antioxidant properties and help fight heart disease.

Broccoli, for example, is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can fight disease. Cauliflower may not be green, but it is full of heart-healthy properties; it contains antioxidants, fiber, and allicin, a component found in garlic known to reduce cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart attacks. Cruciferous vegetables taste great when roasted with a little olive oil and your favorite spices.

Salmon

Salmon and other fatty fish, including arctic char, trout and sardines, contain heart-healthy fats know as omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to lower triglycerides, reduce inflammation, and decrease the risk of plaque in the arteries. Current guidelines suggest eating fish twice a week, and for good reason. Whether eating out or eating in, choose grilled salmon instead of a steak as your protein option.

Beans and legumes

Eating small amounts of beans and legumes is good for your heart. They are high in soluble fiber which helps to lower cholesterol and heart-healthy flavonoids shown to lower your risk for heart attack and strokes. Eating just one serving of beans or legumes per day has been shown to reduce LDL or “bad cholesterol.” Beans and legumes are also high in fiber and are a terrific source of plant protein helping to keep you full—and trim, an added bonus for maintaining heart health. Top your salad with chickpeas, enjoy a lentil or split pea soup, or have a snack of hummus and veggies.

Oatmeal

Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains the minerals magnesium and potassium also good for the heart. So next time you are looking for a healthy breakfast cereal, choose the oatmeal instead of the cream of wheat. And for an added boost of nutrition, top it with berries and a tablespoon of chia seeds.

Nuts and seeds

I am a huge fan of nuts and seeds and always recommend them to my clients for heart health. Nuts contain protein, the antioxidant vitamin E, and heart-healthy fats. Sprinkle chopped walnuts and flaxseeds into your morning yogurt and enjoy a handful of almonds or an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter for a healthy afternoon snack. One handful of your favorite nuts will satisfy both your hunger—and your heart! One caveat: eat your nuts unsalted of course!

Olive oil

Olive oil, especially extra virgin, contains high levels of “heart healthy” monounsaturated fats and antioxidants to help unclog your arteries. Best to use an olive oil based dressing instead of creamy varieties such as ranch and blue cheese. However, it’s important not to over pour; aim for 1-2 tablespoons, or a shot glass worth.

Red wine

Yes, you can enjoy a glass of red wine with your grilled salmon and vegetable medley. While moderate alcohol is good for the heart and elevates good (HDL) cholesterol, red wine, in particular contains resveratrol, a compound with antioxidant properties, which can help prevent heart disease and other chronic diseases. Practice moderation, of course. Women can enjoy one drink a day while men can enjoy two drinks a day. Enjoy!

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Add These Foods to Your Diet for a Healthy Heart

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Add these foods to your diet for healthy heart.”

You can also read it HERE.

ADA stock photos-veggies low res

While the death rate from heart disease has dropped in recent years, it is still the leading cause of death in the U.S. According to the American Heart Association, this year, 915,000 Americans will be told they have heart failure.

February is American Heart Month, and for the good news, there is so much we can do as individuals to reduce our risk of heart disease. Eating a heart-healthy diet, reducing stress, and getting more exercise and sleep can help decrease our risk of getting this disease.

A heart-healthy diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and healthy proteins (fish, legumes) and low in added sugar, saturated fats (margarine, butter, fatty meats), and salt.

As a nutritionist counseling patients on heart-healthy eating, I like to impart positive messages, advising them on foods they CAN eat to promote health. In honor of American Heart Month, here are seven foods to add to your diet.

1. Oatmeal

Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber and contains beta-glucans, which may lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. This tasty whole grain may also help with weight control as it contains the winning combination of protein and fiber.

2. Chick peas

Chick peas are legumes also known as garbanzo beans. They contain protein, fiber, and a variety of vitamins and minerals including folate and iron. Chick peas are also good for heart health and may help reduce cholesterol levels. They can be used in many versatile ways including dips (think hummus!), stews, stir fries, and even salads.

3. Tomatoes

I am a huge fan of tomatoes–tomatoes in salads, tomato sauce, tomato soup, you name it. Tomatoes contain vitamins and minerals which are good for the heart including the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C and the mineral potassium. Tomatoes also contain fiber and are naturally low in sugar and salt. While I suggest topping your pasta with homemade tomato sauce, if you end up buying it, read labels and check the sugar and salt content.

4. Salmon

Salmon along with other fatty fish including sardines contain heart healthy fats know as omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to reduce inflammation, lower triglycerides and decrease the risk of plaque in the arteries. No wonder the American Heart Association advises eating fatty fish twice a week. Next time you go out to dinner, swap a steak for a piece of grilled wild salmon for heart health.

5. Cauliflower

Cauliflower, the new “in” vegetable these days, is a cruciferous vegetable and a member of the brassica family alongside broccoli and Brussel sprouts. It is a nutrition powerhouse, chock full of fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, and folate. It is also an excellent source of the mineral potassium which is good for the heart. And, it’s also very low in calories so you don’t have to worry about eating too much. To cut calories in your favorite side dish, instead of mashed potatoes, try making mashed cauliflower.

6. Almonds

I am a huge fan of nuts and seeds and recommend them for heart health.
Almonds contain protein, the antioxidant vitamin E, and heart-healthy fats. They are also rich in the minerals calcium and magnesium which can help lower blood pressure. Almonds are also very versatile and add great flavor and crunch to yogurt, cereal, and salads. For a great snack on the go, portion out a one-ounce serving (23 almonds) into a small baggie or tin.

7. Olive oil

Olive oil is rich in the heart-healthy monounsaturated fat and has been associated with heart health. It also contains antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols, which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Because the calories add up quickly, watch your portion and stick to 1-2 tablespoons olive oil in your favorite salad.

And, in honor of Valentine’s Day, also in February, indulge in a small piece of dark chocolate every now and then. It may even be good for your heart.

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Eat your heart out with these healthy tips.

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post, Eat your heart out with these 11 healthy tips.

You can also read it HERE.

February is American Heart month sponsored by The American Heart Association. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States; 1 in 4 deaths are caused by heart disease.

For some good news, however, heart disease can often be prevented by making healthy food and lifestyle choices. As a nutritionist, I often work with clients to help them develop a healthy diet and lifestyle to prevent heart disease.

Below are 11 simple — and healthy — tips for heart health.

1. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal.

Oatmeal not only tastes yummy but it is also good for the heart as it is rich in soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. Beta glucans, the kind fiber in oatmeal, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains magnesium and potassium, minerals which contribute to a healthy heartbeat.

2. Watch your portion by using a smaller bowl and spoon.

A simple way to practice portion control is to use smaller plates; we tend to eat less when we use smaller plates and bowls. And… use a teaspoon instead of a tablespoon — you will probably eat even less.

3. Top your oatmeal with sliced banana.

Bananas are rich in vitamins and minerals, in particular potassium, which help promote heart health. They are also relatively low in calories and high in fiber to help keep your weight at bay.

4. Include a bean soup for lunch.

Beans contain soluble fiber which help lower cholesterol. Lentil and split pea soup are great choices. They are also filling and help keep you satisfied.

5. Snack on a handful of mixed nuts.

Nuts contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats and have been shown to reduce heart deaths in the elderly. Nuts also help to control weight. The key is to snack on nuts instead of chips, and practice portion control. Aim for approximately ¼ cup or one layer of your palm.

6. Start your dinner with a colorful salad.

Starting your meal with a colorful salad is a great way to boost heart healthy nutrients in your diet. Vegetable salads are full of fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. The different colors provide different nutrients so throw in dark greens which are high in folate, tomatoes high in lycopene and yellow peppers which are full of vitamin C.

7. Dress it with olive oil.

Olive oil contains heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Best to use an olive oil based dressing over creamy varieties such as blue cheese. However, it’s important not to over pour; aim for 1-2 tablespoons, or a shot glass worth.

8. Cook dinner at home.

People who cook dinner at home tend to eat healthier and take in fewer calories. No surprise. Restaurant portions are huge and full of all sorts of hidden ingredients which are loaded with calories.

9. Enjoy grilled salmon or arctic char as your main course.

Fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids which are known to be good for the heart. Grill your fish with your favorite spices and a drizzle of olive oil.

10. Have cauliflower as a side dish.

Cauliflower is a cruciferous vegetable, a cousin to broccoli and Brussels sprouts, high in fiber and low in calories. It is an excellent, low-calorie source of potassium. One cup of chopped raw cauliflower contains 320 mg in only 27 calories

11. Enjoy a small piece of dark chocolate for dessert.

Saving the best for last, research found that people who eat dark chocolate have lower rates of heart disease than people who do not. Chocolate contains flavonols, phytochemicals which may reduce heart disease risk. However, remember that amounts count and aim for one small square.

And, finally, because no one got heart disease from a deficiency of chocolate, if you are not a chocolate lover, no need to start indulging. Finishing off your meal with fresh fruit will do just fine.

We would love to hear your favorite heart-healthy foods.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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10 Smart Food Swaps for a Healthy Heart

Below is my latest blog post for American Heart Month “10 Smart Food Swaps for a Healthy Heart.

You can also read it on Huffington Post.


February marks the 50th anniversary of American Heart Month. Heart disease is the number one killer in Americans. For the good news, however, following a heart healthy diet and lifestyle can make a big difference in helping to prevent heart disease.

The American Heart Association recommends choosing a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and to include nuts and seeds, fatty fish and heart-healthy fats. It also recommends limiting foods high in trans fats, saturated fats and sodium.

As a nutritionist counseling clients on heart health, rather than advise clients just on what foods to avoid, I like to empower them by offering healthy food choices and substitutions to make.

Below are 10 smart food swaps which can make a huge difference to the health of your heart. These are simple tweaks to your diet that can boost your nutrition and they also taste great.

1. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of cream of wheat.
Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and for weight control. Oatmeal also contains the minerals magnesium and potassium also good for the heart.

2. Top your oatmeal with blueberries instead of sugar.
Blueberries are one of the healthiest foods around, and they contribute to health, including heart health. With only 80 calories per cup and low in fat, these tasty blue gems are packed with fiber, phytochemicals, vitamin C, and an excellent source of the mineral manganese. Blueberries contain a category of phytonutrients called polyphenols which have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties and can contribute to heart health and a reduction of other chronic diseases. You can also include them in your diet all year long: they can be purchased fresh and are also available frozen throughout the year.

3. Eat a bean-based veggie burger instead of a hamburger for lunch.
Bean and legumes are a great plant based protein while also contributing to heart health. They are rich in soluble fiber, devoid of saturated fat, and fairly low in calories. Hamburgers on the other hand, are high in unhealthy saturated fats which have been shown to elevate “bad” LDL cholesterol.

4. Top your burger with lettuce and tomato instead of cheese.
Lettuce and tomato are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber and contains few calories and virtually no fat. They contain the antioxidants lycopene and vitamin C, potassium, folate and fiber.

5.  Snack on walnuts instead of chips.
Hungry for a snack? Adding walnuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids’s that can benefit the heart, brain and skin. These tasty nuts also contain the antioxidant vitamin E.

6. Start your dinner with a colorful salad instead of fried mozzarella sticks.
Starting your meal with a colorful salad is a terrific way to boost heart healthy nutrients in your diet. Salads and vegetables are high in fiber, vitamins and minerals, and low in calories. The different colors provide different nutrients so throw in romaine lettuce rich in the B vitamin folate, red cherry tomatoes rich in lycopene and carrots which are full of beta carotene.

7. Top your salad with avocado instead of croutons.
Avocados contain heart-healthy monounsaturated fat, a good fat which may contribute to heart health. Avocados are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E. Not only is this green fruit (yes, it is a fruit) good for the heart, it tastes great and adds a zest of flavor.

8. Choose olive oil instead of butter.
Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, also known as a heart-healthy fat. Diets rich in olive oil have been associated with heart health. This oil is is also rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E and polyphenols which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Next time you visit your favorite restaurant, dip your bread in olive oil instead of butter.

9. Choose grilled salmon instead of fried flounder.
We hear that fish is good for the heart. In particular, fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and sardines are chock full of heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are polyunsaturated fats that have been shown to benefit the heart as well as the brain.

10. Drink a glass of red wine instead of a soda.
Moderate amounts of alcohol (one drink for women and two for men) have been shown to contribute to heart health and may improve good HDL cholesterol levels. For an added boost, red wine in particular, contains polyphenols, including resveratrol, which have been associated with an increase in good cholesterol and a decrease in inflammation.

Let’s toast to a healthy heart. We would love to hear any heart-healthy food swaps you have made.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Berry bites: Exploring the health benefits of berries

Eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables has been correlated with a reduced risk of various chronic diseases. And for good reason: they are low in calories and rich in nutrients. Berries, in particular, are a nutrition powerhouse. Many reasons exist to put berries on your shopping list and to cook with them.

Naturally low in calories, berries contain vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C, folate, potassium, and calcium. The pigments that give berries their beautiful colors turn out to also contain polyphenols and antioxidants that are good for health. Fruits rich in phytonutrients are linked to lower rates of cardiovascular disease, strokes, and cancer in the people who eat them.

And there is more good for berry lovers. A study in Circulation found that berries may ward off heart disease in women.

Berries are also high in fiber which can aid digestion. One cup of raspberries, for instance, contains only 65 calories plus a healthy 8 grams of fiber. So feel free to fill up on them, guilt free. Pectin, one of the soluble fibers in berries, also has cholesterol lowering properties and contributes to heart health.

Berries are a terrific fruit group to include in the diet because of its high ORAC (Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity) value, a measure of antioxidant capacity. Diets high in antioxidants are beneficial and help fight chronic diseases because they protect the body from free radicals associated with aging and inflammation, among other conditions. Blackberries, strawberries, cranberries, and blueberries are among the foods that top the chart for containing the most antioxidants per serving. So feel free to enjoy these colorful jewels.

Berries—in particular, blueberries, cranberries, and mulberries—contain the polyphenol, resveratrol, associated with heart health, anticancer activity, and reduced inflammation. Berries known for their deep concentrated pigment contain the flavonoid, anthocyanins, which contain many health benefits which may help ward off diseases such as diabetes and cancer. Raspberries, strawberries, and cranberries also contain the polyphenol antioxidant, ellagic acid, which seems to have some anti-cancer properties.

Good news for berry lovers. You can get them year round without worrying about price. While fresh berries eaten immediately after harvest are the best choice in obtaining essential nutrients, frozen berries are the next best thing and allow us to indulge year round. Berries frozen right after harvest preserve most of their nutrients making them a terrific and nutritious choice. I suggest keeping a bag of frozen berries in your freezer.

Here are some berry bites on 5 winners:

Blackberries top the chart for containing the most antioxidants per serving so put them on your shopping list.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and may benefit heart health and brain function associated with aging. Research suggests that consuming blueberries may keep your blood pressure in check.

Cranberries contain flavonoids which may protect against inflammation and may help prevent urinary tract infections. Furthermore, the procyandins found in this berry contains antioxidant and antibacterial properties.

Raspberries contain the antioxidant quercetin which contains anti-inflammatory benefits and the phenolic compound, ellagic acid, and can help fight cancer. And even more good news: one cup contains only 65 calories and 8 grams fiber.

Strawberries are a terrific source of vitamin C; one cup of sliced strawberries contains more than a day’s worth of this antioxidant nutrient. A cup of strawberries also contains 3 grams dietary fiber and is low in calories (less than 50 calories per cup).

Berry tip: Beware of HYPE:

While the juice from the acai berry, for example, may be high in antioxidants, little evidence actually exists that it has special weight-loss or other powers, often touted on internet ads.

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Lessons from the Mediterranean diet: 10 foods to eat

Below is my latest blog post  for Huffington Post: ” What we can learn from the Mediterranean Diet: 10 healthy foods to eat.” You can also read it here.

The Mediterranean diet is a heart-healthy eating plan that has been thought to reduce the incidence of heart disease. Now a large study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on thousands of participants in Spain confirms the health benefits of this eating plan. The study found that those following the Mediterranean diet had a 30 percent reduction in the chance of having a heart attack or stroke. The study subjects were people ages 55-80 who had a high risk for cardiovascular disease.

As reported in the New York Times, “About 30 percent of heart attacks, strokes and deaths from heart disease can be prevented in people at high risk if they switch to a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, nuts, beans, fish, fruits and vegetables, and even drink wine with meals.” The study was stopped early because the results were so clear-cut that they found it not ethical to continue.

The Mediterranean diet is an eating plan that is high in fruits and vegetables, and includes whole grains, olive oil, fish, nuts, beans, and legumes. It is low in foods that are high in saturated fats — such as meat and butter — and is also low in processed foods. What I love about the Mediterranean diet is that it is not touted as a weight-loss diet, but rather as a healthy lifestyle plan and a way life.

I previously wrote about the benefits of eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables and rich in whole grains.

So how can we Americans eat more like the Greeks? We can eat more fresh fruits and vegetables, include fish instead of meat, use olive oil instead of butter, and snack on nuts instead of chips.

My clients have been asking me which foods they can include in their diet. Here are some winners.

Olive oil is rich in monounsaturated fat, a heart-healthy fat. Diets high in olive oil have been associated with heart health. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, including vitamin E, polyphenols, and beta-carotene, which protects blood vessels and other components of the heart. Drizzle olive oil on salads and steamed veggies.

Tuna is high in omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with a decrease in the risk of heart disease risk. The American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings of fish per week, in particular fatty fish. Tuna is affordable, convenient, and versatile. Throw canned tuna on a salad, make a sandwich, or toss it into whole wheat pasta, to get a dose of omega-3s.

Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables as it is chock-full of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. It is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Sautee broccoli in olive oil and enjoy it as a side dish.

Raspberries contain the antioxidant quercetin — which contains anti-inflammatory benefits — and the phenolic compound ellagic acid, and can help fight heart disease. And even more good news: One cup contains only 105 calories and eight grams of fiber. Throw some berries into your morning yogurt for added color, taste, and a healthy dose of antioxidants and fiber.

Walnuts not only taste great, but also provide a heart-healthy addition to your diet. Rich in the plant-based omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid, and antioxidants such as selenium, walnuts also provide protein, fiber, magnesium and phosphorus to the diet. Include a handful of walnuts as a snack or toss a few tablespoons into your breakfast oatmeal.

Chickpeas are a great option for plant protein and fiber. They also contain magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is delicious with crackers or veggies as an afternoon snack.

Brown rice contains fiber, B-vitamins, and a variety of minerals. It contains nearly three times the fiber of white rice. A half-cup serving of cooked brown rice contains nearly a half-day’s worth of the mineral manganese, which works with various enzymes facilitating body processes. Brown rice makes a healthy grain to include with a meal of grilled fish and vegetables.

Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, C, K, and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may prevent against certain diseases. For good news, it is available year-round, offering a readily-available source of many vitamins and minerals. A fresh spinach salad drizzled with olive oil and a handful of nuts tastes great.

Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and vitamin C and may benefit heart health. Consuming blueberries may keep your blood pressure in check. Blueberries contain anthocyanins, which may reduce the risk of heart disease in women. Snack on these tasty berries or throw a handful into your cereal.

Lentils contain soluble fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates and also offers the added benefit of being a significant source of iron. Consider beginning your lunch or dinner with a hot lentil soup.

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10 Foods to Eat for Heart Health

Below is my latest blog post on heart healthy foods for Huffington Post. You can also read it here.

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in men and women in the U.S. February is American Heart Month, and a time to raise awareness about heart disease and to educate the public on ways we can live heart-healthier lives. Here are several foods to include in your diet this month in honor of American Heart Month.

1 Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber and contains beta-glucans, which help lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels. One half-cup serving provides about 4.5 grams of protein and 5 grams of fiber.

2. Salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been associated with a reduction in heart disease risk. Salmon is also a natural source of healthy protein and vitamin D. One three-ounce serving — the size of a deck of cards — contains 17 grams of protein. The American Heart Association recommends including at least two servings of fish per week (particularly fatty fish).

3. Broccoli is chock-full of the antioxidant vitamins A and C. It is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, which also includes Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, and collards. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties.

4. Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and contain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. Regular consumption of peanuts has been associated with lower risk for coronary heart disease in people who eat them instead of other high-fat foods. Peanut consumption has been shown to improve lipid profiles in those with high cholesterol.

5. Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E.

6. Pistachios contain healthy fats, protein, and fiber. They are also rich in plant stanols; research found that substituting these jade gems for fatty meats can actually lower your LDL (bad) cholesterol.

7. Cantaloupe, a member of the melon family is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. A one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories which can certainly help with weight control.

8. Red wine, in moderation, is associated with heart health and contains a high levels of antioxidants. Polyphenols, including resveratrol, are associated with an increase in good cholesterol, a reduction in bad cholesterol, and a decrease in inflammation.

9. Olive oil is a good source of monounsaturated, heart-healthy fat. Diets rich in olive oil, such as the Mediterranean diet, have been associated with heart health. Olive oil is also rich in antioxidants, like polyphenols, vitamin E, and beta-carotene, which can help protect blood vessels and other components of the heart.

10. Tomatoes contain lycopene, an antioxidant associated with cardiovascular health. There are many different varieties of tomatoes, and they all contain important antioxidants, vitamin C, beta-carotene, and vitamin E. Tomatoes are also low in calories with one1 medium tomato has about 20 calories.

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February is heart month: a nutrition cheat sheet

In honor of heart health month, which is held the month of February, below are nutrition guidelines and tips on eating for a healthy heart.

* CHOOSE A DIET RICH IN  FRUITS, VEGETABLES, AND WHOLE GRAINS.

* CHOOSE A DIET LOW IN SATURATED FAT AND TRANS FATS: LIMIT FRIED FOODS, FATTY MEAT, BUTTER, AND MARGARINE.

* INCLUDE FOODS RICH IN OMEGA 3 FATS:  SALMON, SARDINES, WALNUTS, AND FLAXSEEDS

* CHOOSE HEART HEALTHY FATS: NUTS, OLIVE OIL, CANOLA OIL, AVOCADO.

* LIMIT INTAKE OF SODIUM: DO NOT USE SALT SHAKER; USE HERBS AND SPICES INSTEAD; AVOID PROCESSED FOODS.

Below are BEST BETS: foods to include for heart health.

GRAINS/STARCHES

Choose foods high in SOLUBLE FIBER to reduce cholesterol levels

grains: oat bran, oatmeal, barley

starchy vegetables: sweet potato, winter squash (butternut, acorn)

Choose whole grains instead of white bread products

FRUITS AND VEGETABLES

Choose FRESH fruits and vegetables—they are rich in ANTIOXIDANTS, OTHER VITAMINS/MINERALS, FIBER and low in calories

FRUITS: citrus fruits, berries, kiwi, banana, apples, pears

fruit juices such as orange and grapefruit (watch portions of juice)

VEGETABLES: broccoli, carrots, green leafy vegetables, tomatoes,

spinach, cauliflower

MEATS AND ALTERNATIVES

Choose LEAN poultry: chicken breast without skin, fresh turkey breast

Choose fresh fish: baked, broiled or grilled

cod, flounder, red snapper, filet of sole (low in fat)

salmon, tuna, sardines  (rich in heart healthy omega 3’s)

Include beans, peas (split peas, chick peas), lentils: they are high in fiber and low in fat.

Include soy products–tofu, soy milk (good source calcium)

Limit red meat as it is high in saturated fat.

DAIRY PRODUCTS

Choose lowfat milk and dairy products

Skim milk, yogurt, low fat cottage cheese, low fat ricotta

Limit high fat cheese products as they are high in saturated fat.

FATS

Choose moderate amounts of olive oil and canola oil–as they are  high in monounsaturated fat (“Good fat”).

CAUTION:  USE IN MODERATION–ALL FATS HAVE ALOT OF  CALORIES.

Include nuts and seeds in moderation.

Limit butter, coconut oil, palm oil (high in saturated fat).

Limit margarine and other partially hydrogenated products (high in trans fats).

MISC

Avoid foods high in salt and sodium: pickles, soy sauce, processed foods, salt shakers

Limit high fat cakes and pastries.  Save for a treat.

Watch portion sizes!

Exercise!!!

© 2013 Lisa R. Young, PhD, RD, CDN

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Health benefits of legumes

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post on the benefits of legumes.

You can also read it here.

Legumes — a class of vegetables including beans, peas, and lentils — are terrific to include in the diet. They are rich in and fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They are also economical and easy to store, and can be used in many dishes.

A terrific substitute for meat, legumes offer a nutrient-dense plant protein that is much lower in saturated fat and a good source of fiber and phytochemicals. No wonder they have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and lower body weights.

Even if you are a meat lover, I would still suggest incorporating legumes into your diet.

(Note: Legumes are not fattening when consumed in place of high fat-meat! I stress this because as a clinician, I have had many clients afraid to eat legumes for fear of gaining weight.)

Here are six winners that I love and recommend. They can be incorporated into a salad dish or in a soup.

  • Lentils offer the added benefit of being a significant source of iron, in addition to the benefits from the soluble fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates that all legumes offer. Lentils are also high in the B-vitamin biotin, which aids in the body’s metabolism and growth.
  • Kidney Beans are a chock full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, including potassium and the B-vitamins folate and thiamin.
  • Green Peas offer a significant source of fiber and protein. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that are essential for good eye health and have been suggested to lower rates of cataracts. Peas also pack vitamin K, which helps with bone health and blood clotting.
  • Chickpeas are a great option for plant protein and their fiber, they also contain magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is delicious with crackers or veggies as an afternoon snack.
  • Black beans, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and offer a great alternative to the saturated fat found in meat. What set black beans apart, however, are their at least eight different flavonoids, called anthocyanins, which serve as cancer-combating antioxidants in the body.
  • Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and contain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. It is no surprise that regular consumption of peanuts has been associated with lower risk for coronary heart disease in people who eat them in place of other high-fat foods.
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Benefits of fruits and veggies: Eat MORE

Below is my latest blog post for Huffington Post on the benefits of fruits and veggies.

Here is the link.

According to new data published by the NPD Group, a market research firm, most American are not consuming enough fruits and vegetables. As reported in USA Today, children and adults eat an average of slightly more than a cup of vegetables a day and a little more than a half a cup of fruit.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans advise that we eat a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables. And according to USDA’s dietary guidance system MyPlate, half of our plate should consist of fruits and veggies. For a 2,000-calorie diet, it advised that we eat two cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies each day.

Eating a diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables has been linked to improved health, and for good reason. Veggies and fruits (both fresh and frozen) are loaded with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants, which have been shown to protect against chronic diseases such as heart disease and cancer. They are also low in calories, making them a great choice for your waistline. Choosing a colorful assortment vegetables is best, as different benefits exist in the different color spectrum. The orange pigment found in carrots, pumpkin, and sweet potatoes, for example, contain the antioxidant beta-carotene. The deep red pigment found in tomatoes contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is linked with prostate health.

And for some great news, here are two food groups where you can eat a large portion and not have to worry about weight gain. (Just watch your portion of starchy veggies such as corn and potatoes.)

With so much of a focus on eating low-carbohydrate diets, as a practicing nutritionist, I often get asked by my clients, “Will I gain weight if I eat too many fruits such as watermelon?” The answer is NO! In fact, quite the contrary. They are also low in calories, making them a great choice for your waistline. And, they are good for your health.

While all fruits and vegetables are healthy, below are several pointers on some nutrition powerhouses.

Vegetables

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable, and part of the Brassica family, which also includes kale, collards, cabbage, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, turnips, and cauliflower. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties. Broccoli is a true nutrition powerhouse: It is chock full of vitamin C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and vitamin A. It is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can fight cancer.

Carrots are a good source of fiber, which helps to maintain bowel health, lower blood cholesterol, and aid in weight maintenance. The orange pigment found in carrots are due to the antioxidant beta-carotene, also found in other deep orange foods such as sweet potatoes, pumpkin, butternut squash, papaya, and cantaloupe. Beta-carotene is converted to vitamin A in the body and helps to maintain healthy eyes, support your immune system, keep your skin healthy, and protect against certain cancers.

Spinach is available year-round in grocery stores around the country, offering a readily-available source of many vitamins and minerals. Spinach contains the minerals iron and potassium, as well as vitamins A, K, C, and the B-vitamin folate. Spinach also contains phytochemicals that may boost your immune system and flavonoids, which have antioxidant properties that may be preventative against certain cancers.

Sweet Potatoes are rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene and are also full of fiber, vitamin B6, folate, vitamin C, and the mineral potassium. They are especially nutritious when eaten with the skin on, and contrary to a popular dieting myth, they are not fattening!

Beets contain healthy doses of iron, the B-vitamin folate, and fiber. Red beets offer betacyanin, a plant pigment which may protect against colon cancer.

Fruits

Cantaloupe. This member of the melon family is rich in the antioxidant beta-carotene, a plant-based vitamin A precursor that helps with eye health, among other conditions. It is also rich in the mineral potassium, which may help lower blood pressure and the risk for stroke. And, it is terrific if you are watching your waist — a one-cup serving contains a mere 50 calories.

Watermelon, which is especially terrific this time of year, offers a juicy, sweet taste and a high water content, while packing in the antioxidants lycopene, beta-carotene, and vitamin C, and the minerals potassium and magnesium.

Citrus fruits, including oranges and grapefruits, provide a significant source of vitamin C, folate, and potassium, as well as fiber. Pink grapefruits are particularly rich in the antioxidant lycopene. Eating these fruits whole yields more nutrients than drinking the juice.

Avocados are rich in heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, which may help raise levels of HDL (good cholesterol) while lowering LDL (bad cholesterol). They are also high in the antioxidant vitamin E.

Grapes. Consuming grapes may reduce the risk of blood clots, lower LDL cholesterol (the bad kind), and prevent damage to the heart’s blood vessels, aiding in the maintenance of healthy blood pressure. Antioxidants called flavonoids may even increase HDL cholesterol (the good kind). The resveratrol found in the skins of red grapes may interfere with cancer development. Eating the whole fruit instead of consuming the juice contains the added benefit of fiber.

Kiwifruit, with its brilliant green inside, is packed with vitamin C and fiber.

Healthy Tips:

It is best to eat your fruits and vegetables from whole foods. Popping a pill — such as taking a beta-carotene supplement — does not do the trick. Fresh and frozen vegetables offer a combination of many health benefits that you will not find in a pill. So, remember to chew!!

When you can, opt for local produce that’s in season. Chances are, it did not have to travel too far to get to you. Go organic when you can.

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