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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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5 foods to keep you feeling full

As a nutritionist specializing in portion control and weight loss, I know from my clients that the worst part about trying to lose weight is feeling deprived and being hungry. When you are hungry, you tend to overeat, and often on the wrong foods.

And no, you do not have to eat skimpy portions to lose weight. You want to learn to eat the right foods which contain nutrients that will help you feel full.

I have never been a fan of rigid diets, and over the years, have recognized the importance of developing healthy habits you can sustain. One such habit is choosing “go to” foods that you enjoy and that also make you feel full. Foods which contain fiber and protein tend to keep your hunger at bay, which is ideal when trying losing weight.

Here are some of my top picks which will help keep you feeling full.  You won’t even know you are trying to lose weight.

chickpeas

 

1. Oatmeal

Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal is a great way to keep from feeling hungry an hour after eating. Oatmeal contains a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber which is not only good for your heart, but it also may also keep your hunger pangs away.

Research comparing the effects of oatmeal and corn flakes on feelings of fullness and hunger found that overweight subjects reported feeling more satisfied after consuming oatmeal than corn flakes. And they also ate less at lunch.

Add water, fat-free milk, vanilla-flavored soy milk, or almond milk to your favorite brand of oatmeal and you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

2. Chickpeas

The United Nations (UN) declared 2016 the International Year of Pulses (IYP).  Pulses are comprised of dry peas, beans, lentils, and legumes and are protein-packed and high fiber vegetables, a terrific combination of nutrients to help you feel full and even help with weight loss.  A nutritious protein alternative for vegetarians, pulses (including chickpeas), contain the nutrients iron, folate, magnesium and potassium.

Try incorporating chickpeas and other pulses into your diet, if you don’t already. You can enjoy a hearty soup made with chickpeas, hummus, or a chickpea salad. Ready to incorporate more pulses into your diet? I invite you to visit pulsepledge.com for recipes, meal plans and other resources.

3. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great food to include in your diet. It is high in protein keeping you feeling full and a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It also makes for a great snack, as it is portable. Just one caveat: Stick to flavors that are not loaded with added sugar. My suggestion: Stick to the plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, flax seeds, and a drizzle of honey if necessary.

4. Mixed nuts

Need a healthy late-afternoon snack? Grab a handful of nuts. The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less throughout the day. Studies show that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control for total calories. As an added benefit, nut eaters may have a lower incidence of diabetes when compared to those who rarely eat nuts.

5. Quinoa

Quinoa makes for satisfying addition to a meal. This ancient grain contains a variety of vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E as well as protein and fiber, a winning combination to helping you feel full.

And no, quinoa is not high in calories. A ½ cup of cooked quinoa contains approximately 100 calories. And next time you can’t decide what to eat for dinner, enjoy a healthy portion of quinoa (around ½ cup-1 cup cooked) with grilled salmon or tofu along with your favorite assortment of sautéed vegetables.

 

This post was sponsored by USA Pulses & Pulse Canada. 

 

 

 

 

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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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9 Foods This Nutritionist Stocks in Her Kitchen

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, 9 foods this nutritionist stocks in her kitchen.

You can also read it HERE.

The people we surround ourselves with help to contribute to our happiness. In food speak, the foods we surround ourselves with, help keep us healthy.

As a nutritionist, I have seen first hand that our environment plays a huge factor guiding our food choices. If our “default” environment is filled with large portions of junk food, it becomes increasingly difficult to make healthy food choices. If, on the other hand, we keep healthy foods handy, we are more likely to make more nutritious food choices.

While everyone — including me — loves to indulge on occasion, eating well at least 80 percent of the time is the key to staying healthy. And surrounding ourselves with nutritious foods certainly helps us to make healthy food choices.

Here are nine healthy foods I try stock in my kitchen regularly.

1. Greek yogurt

I make sure to keep Greek yogurt in my refrigerator at all times. It tastes great and contains protein which helps keep me full along with the mineral calcium necessary for bone health. Greek yogurt is a great snack and the sky is the limit as far as nutrition goes; adding ground flax or chia seeds, nuts, and your favorite fruit adds a huge nutrition boost. Greek yogurt is also rich in good bacteria called probiotics known to have a multitude of health benefits, among them aiding in digestion.

2. Almonds

Almonds are packed with nutrients and are a filling and flavorful snack. They contain protein, vitamin E, heart-healthy fats, along with the minerals calcium and magnesium. I try to pack a one ounce serving — 23 nuts to be exact — in a small tin or baggie to take along with me if I will be out all day.

Almonds are also very versatile and make for a delicious addition to both fruit salads and green salads. I also love sprinkling slivered almonds into my morning oatmeal or yogurt.

And you have no reason to avoid eating nuts if you are watching your weight. Even though they are high in fat, research found that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control total calories. One caveat: include a handful of nuts instead of chips (the key word being “instead of.”)

3. Oatmeal

Not only does oatmeal taste delicious, it is also filling, chock full of fiber, and lower in calories and sugar than many breakfast cereals. Oatmeal contains soluble fiber which has been shown to reduce cholesterol level, making it a great choice to prevent heart disease. Oatmeal also contains magnesium and potassium, two minerals also good for your heart.

4. Apples

I love eating apples especially in the Fall season in New York. Apples are high in fiber, antioxidants, low in calories, and an apple a day may even keep your prescription medication away. I enjoy an apple (Fuji is my favorite) as a snack most days and also love making baked apples to enjoy while home. I suggest buying organic apples and eating the entire apple along with the skin.

5. Blueberries

These tiny blue-colored berries are among my favorite fruits. Not only do they taste great, they are relatively low in calories and pack in nutrients including vitamin C, manganese, and fiber ( 4 gram of fiber per 1 cup serving). I often eat them by the handful or throw them into yogurt, smoothies, or salads. Frozen blueberies also taste great after nuking them in the microwave for a minute or so.

6. Peanut butter

I must confess that I love peanut butter and find it hard to stick with just a tablespoon or two even though I have spent a good part of my life studying portion control. If you can get a handle on your portion (2 tablespoons look like a walnut in a shell), peanut butter makes for a great snack or even a quickie mini-meal for kids and grown ups (remember peanut butter on whole wheat bread with sliced bananas). Peanut butter is rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat, and contains protein which helps you to feel full.

7. Broccoli

I am a huge fan of eating a diet high in vegetables and fruit not just because they are healthy and relatively low in calories but because they taste great. Broccoli is one of my favorite vegetables and is a true nutrition powerhouse. A cruciferous vegetable from the Brassica family, broccoli is high in the antioxidant vitamins A and C, the mineral calcium, fiber, and is also rich in sulforaphane, a health-promoting compound that can help ward off cancer. While I prefer fresh broccoli, I always keep a bag of frozen broccoli on hand for a rainy day. Sautee broccoli with a drizzle of olive oil and you are good to go.

8. Olive oil

While olive oil is high in fat and calories, and should be used sparingly (1-2 tablespoons as a serving on a salad), it is rich in monounsaturated fat and contains many health benefits, among them controlling cholesterol and regulating blood sugar levels. I always keep a bottle of extra virgin olive oil handy — in a cool dry place — to toss on salads, drizzle on fish, and add zest and flavor to my favorite vegetables.

9. Avocados

Avocados taste great and add zest to a meal. They are also rich in healthy nutrients — including heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E and potassium — while also keeping your hunger at bay. I love to add avocado to a salad or spread it on whole grain crackers as a late-afternoon snack.

We would love to hear which healthy foods you stock in your kitchen.

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

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12 healthy swaps in time for summer

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post, 12 healthy swaps in time for summer.

You can also read it HERE.

Summer is right around the corner, marking a time of barbecues, outdoor eating and gatherings with family and friends. It is also means going to the beach and wearing (while also feeling comfortable in) your favorite bathing suit.

To enjoy the summer season and social gatherings that go along with it, it is important to make healthy food and lifestyle choices. It is no surprise that as a practicing nutritionist, this is one of my busiest seasons.

Here are several healthy — and simple — swaps to make this time a healthy season. Try to incorporate at least one swap per day and you will be on your way to a healthier summer.

1. Wake up practicing gratitude instead of complaining.

Be grateful for the good things in your life, instead of the bad things. While we can all finds things in our lives that could be better, things could also be a lot worse. Starting your day with a grateful heart opens us up to receive all of the miracles that life has to offer.

2. Start your day with a bowl of oatmeal instead of a bowl of granola.

Not only is oatmeal filling and contain fiber, it’s also lower in calories and sugar, when compared to granola. While a half cup serving of oats contains just 1 gram of sugar, many varieties of granola contain upward of 10 grams of sugar.

Oatmeal is a good source of soluble fiber, shown to reduce cholesterol levels. The type of fiber in oatmeal, beta glucans, may be particularly beneficial for heart health and also for weight control. Oatmeal also contains minerals, including magnesium and potassium, which promote heart health.

3. Top your oatmeal with fresh blackberries instead of sugar.

Blackberries taste sweet and are high in antioxidants and fiber while adding bulk to your portion of oatmeal. Sugar, on the other hand, is nothing more than empty calories

4. Drink sparkling water instead of soda.

Soda contains pure sugar, is liquid candy and a waste of calories. Swapping soda for sparkling water can save you hundreds of calories. For flavor, add a splash of lemon, lime or cucumber or throw in a few fruit flavored ice cubes (pour your favorite juice into an ice cube tray and freeze).

5. Eat a salad made with kale instead of iceberg lettuce.

In general, the darker the green, the more nutrients it contains. While iceberg lettuce is mostly water, kale is richer in nutrients and antioxidants such as folate, fiber, and vitamins A and C.

6. Top your salad with grilled salmon instead of steak.

Salmon contains heart healthy omega-3 fatty acids known to prevent blood clots and promote heart health. Red meat, including steak, on the other hand, is high in saturated fat.

7. Toss cherry tomatoes instead of croutons into your salad.

Adding tomatoes to your salad will boost your intake of antioxidants such as lycopene and vitamin C without contributing too many calories. Croutons, on the other hand, contain few nutrients and are mostly empty calories.

8. Take the stairs instead of the elevator.

Engaging in unstructured exercise such as taking the stairs or parking your car a few blocks away from where you are going is a great way to rev up your metabolism. Taking the stairs is also a great way to boost lean body mass.

9. Snack on peanuts instead of chips.

Hungry for a snack? Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet is a great way to boost your intake of healthy unsaturated fats which may benefit the brain as well as the skin. Peanuts are also rich in the antioxidant vitamin E. And even better, eating peanuts may protect against major causes of death.

10. Eat ‘spaghetti’ primavera made with spaghetti squash instead of white pasta.

Not only will you save lots of calories by swapping pasta for spaghetti squash, the squash will also give you a healthy helping of folate, vitamin C, fiber and magnesium. And even better, you can enjoy a generous portion without having to worry about gaining weight.

11. Enjoy fresh corn on the cob instead of mashed potatoes.

It’s great to take advantage of produce in season. Corn on the cob is fresh and sweet while also containing a healthy dose of fiber. It is also portion controlled so it is hard to overdo it as you would mashed potatoes.

12. Swap your salt for a dash of turmeric.

Cooking with herbs and spices is a great way to reduce the amount of salt you ingest.Turmeric, in particular, not only adds a zesty flavor but it also contains anti inflammatory properties which may promote health.

Wishing you a wonderful summer. We would love to hear your favorite summer swaps.

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

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Healthy foods to keep your hunger pangs away

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post.

You can also read it HERE.

The worst part about trying to lose weight is feeling hungry. As a nutritionist specializing in weight loss and maintenance, I have experienced firsthand that feeling hungry often leads dieters astray and contributes to them falling off the wagon.

I have never been a fan of deprivation diets — or any diet for that matter. It is more important to develop lifelong habits you can sustain. One such habit is choosing “go to” foods that you enjoy and that also make you feel full. The key to feeling full is not eating large portions, but rather, choosing foods that contain nutrients which aid satiety. Foods high in protein, fiber, and good fats tend to keep your hunger at bay, which is what you want to aim for when trying losing weight.

Here are six nutritious — and delicious — foods that will help keep you feeling full. You won’t even know you are trying to lose weight.

1. Oatmeal

Starting your day with a bowl of oatmeal is a great way to keep from feeling hungry an hour after eating breakfast. Oatmeal contains a mix of both soluble and insoluble fiber which is not only good for your heart, but it also may also keep your hunger pangs away.

Research comparing the effects of oatmeal and corn flakes on feelings of fullness and hunger found that overweight subjects reported feeling more satisfied after consuming oatmeal than corn flakes. And they also ate less at lunch.

Add water, fat-free milk, vanilla-flavored soy milk, or almond milk to your favorite brand of oatmeal and you have a delicious and nutritious breakfast.

2. Greek yogurt

Greek yogurt is a great food to include in your diet. It is high in protein keeping you feeling full and a good source of calcium and vitamin D. It also makes for a great snack, as it is portable. Just one caveat: Stick to flavors that are not loaded with added sugar. My suggestion: Stick to the plain yogurt and add fresh fruit, flax seeds, and a drizzle of honey if necessary.

3. Avocado

Avocados taste great and add zest to a meal. They are also rich in healthy nutrients — including heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, fiber, vitamin E and potassium — while also keeping your hunger at bay. Research from Loma Linda University and sponsored by the Hass Avocado Board found that subjects who consumed one-half of a fresh avocado with lunch felt more satisfied and had less of a desire to eat after the meal.

So the next time you are deciding what to eat for lunch, add some avocado and you won’t be running to the vending machine for a late-afternoon snack.

4. Lentils

Beans and legumes contain a terrific combination of nutrients to help keep you feeling full. They are loaded with soluble fiber and protein. An excellent protein alternative for vegetarians, they are a good source of iron, magnesium, potassium, and folate. These heart-healthy nutrients may also help to reduce blood cholesterol and triglycerides.

I invite you to incorporate lentils into your diet, if you don’t already. You can enjoy lentil soup, lentil pate, or lentil salad. Toss some cooked lentils with some olive oil, chopped red peppers, scallions, and your favorite spices. This salad can be eaten as part of a meal or as a healthy and satisfying snack.

5. Almonds

Need a healthy late-afternoon snack? Grab a handful of almonds. The protein, fiber, and fat in nuts help you feel full longer, so you may actually end up eating less throughout the day. Studies show that including a serving of nuts (approximately a handful) in your diet may actually prevent weight gain and possibly even promote weight loss, as long as you control for total calories. As an added benefit, nut eatersmay have a lower incidence of diabetes when compared to those who rarely eat nuts.

6. Quinoa

Quinoa makes for a healthy and satiating addition to a meal. This ancient grain contains an array of vitamins and minerals including iron, magnesium, potassium, and vitamin E as well as protein and fiber, a winning combination to helping you feel full. A 1/2-cup serving of cooked quinoa contains 2.6 grams of fiber and 4.1 grams of protein as compared to 1/2 cup of cooked white rice which contains only 0.3 gram of fiber and 2.2 grams of protein.

And no, quinoa is not fattening. A ½ cup of cooked quinoa contains approximately 100 calories. And next time you can’t decide what to eat for dinner, enjoy a healthy portion of quinoa (around ½ cup-1 cup cooked) with grilled fish or tofu along with your favorite assortment of sautéed vegetables.

We would love to hear your favorite foods that keep your hunger pangs away.

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

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