Eat “Powerhouse Vegetables” to Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

A study published by the Centers for Disease Control conducted laboratory tests on the nutritional density of 47 commonly eaten fruits and vegetables, concluding that 41 meet the criteria to be considered Power House Vegetables (PHV).

Fruit and Vegetable Ranking

  1. Cruciferous Greens:  Greens in the cruciferous family of plants such as kale, watercress, Chinese cabbage, collard green, arugula possess the highest density of all vegetables in the average diet.
  2. Green Leafy Vegetables: Non-cruciferous greens, such as chard, beet green, spinach, chicory, and leaf lettuce rank slightly below cruciferous greens.  These two groups occupy the top 50% of nutrient density
  3. Yellow/Orange Vegetables:  Vegetables such as carrot, tomato, winter squash, and sweet potato occupy the top of the lower 50% of nutrient density.
  4. Allium: Scallions and leaks.
  5. Citrus: Lemon, orange, lime, and grapefruit.
  6. Berries: Strawberries and blackberries.

These groups fruits and vegetables all meet the minimum nutrient density to qualify as “Powerhouse Vegetables.”  Regular consumption of these foods has been positively correlated with the prevention of Chronic diseases, as well as possessing anti-cancer qualities. Raspberry, tangerine, cranberry, garlic, onion, and blueberries are the only vegetables that do not meet the minimum nutrient density of the study.

Top 10 Vegetables

  1. Watercress
  2. Chinese Cabbage
  3. Chard
  4. Beach Greens
  5. Spinach
  6. Chicory
  7. Leaf Lettuce
  8. Parsley
  9. Romaine Lettuce
  10. Collard Greens

Addendums

  • It is important to note that nutrient density does not directly correlate to nutritional value.  For instance, Kale, while not in the top ten for nutrient density, is rich in Vitamin K, a rare vitamin that aids in blood coagulation and healing.  The allium group, while in the bottom 50% for nutrient density, have been positively correlated with cancer prevention (CDC).  This list is not definitive and eating a variety of foods is the best course of action.

Resources

Study

  • Large Scale Laboratory Tests: 47 Fruits and Vegetables were compared, scored on a scale of 1 to 100 for overall nutrient Density

Eat Probiotics to Increase Immune Response and Overall Health

o-GUT-BACTERIA-facebook

Photo Credit: The Huffington Post

Several recent studies into the effects of microorganism consumption have shown that the intake of live probiotic substances can have a positive effect on a myriad of systems within the body.  Improved immune system response, digestion, and prevention of chronic diseases can be greatly improved by eating fermented foods.

Probiotic Benefits

  1. Immune System Response: Key immune system signal responses have been found to be regulated by healthy gut bacteria.
  2. Digestive Aid: Probiotics have long been known to aid in digestive health, not only breaking down food more efficiently, but possibly helping the body break down complex polysaccharides that the body otherwise cannot process.
  3. Treatment of Diarrhea: Symptomatic of infectious diseases and antibiotic treatments, probiotics help to improve or halt diarrhea, especially helpful in children and the elderly amongst whom the condition can be fatal.
  4. Prevention of Common Infectious Disease: Through a combination of immune response, enhanced barrier protection, and the production of anti-pathogenic substances, gut bacteria are shown to reduce risk of pathogenic disease.
  5. Prevention of Colorectal Cancer: Causality remains to be proven, but evidence points in the direction that lower intestinal cancers can be staved off by a healthy micro-biome.  Individual cell health as well as mitigation of carcinogens can be achieved through probiotic consumption.
  6. Prevention of Allergies: An increased risk of children born with allergies has been linked to aberrant gut bacteria.  Probiotics can also halt the progression from allergic reactions to asthma in infants.
  7. Treatment of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: While studies are still in infancy, there has been a recent correlation between the prevent low gut flora and IBS.  It is of particular note that IBS is almost exclusive to industrialized nations where fewer fermented foods are eaten and more antibiotics are used.
  8. Treatment of Necrotising enterocolitis: An intestinal disorder common in infants, the 30% mortality rate is greatly reduced by the introduction of probiotics, which protect the infants guts.
  9. Obesity Prevention: Again causality has not been proven, but one major factor in obese persons is an increase in aberrant gut bacteria.  Whether aberrant gut bacteria is the result of poor diet or if obesity is in part caused by an unhealthy micro-biome is yet to be concluded.

Suggestions for Increasing Probiotic Intake

  1. Eat Fermented Foods: Fermentation is the process in which microorganisms form a culture based on the nutrients in common foods.  The result is a living food product that enhances the flavor and nutrients of the original substance.  Common fermented foods are:
    • Yogurt: Yogurt is the result of yeast metabolization in milk.  It is important to eat sugar free yogurt, as refined sugars in the processed varieties benefit aberrant gut bacteria, negating the effects of the yeast.
    • Sauerkraut:  Many commercially available Sauerkrauts use vinegar to compensate for lack of fermentation, but real sauerkraut is nothing more than cabbage, salt, and water that is allowed to culture.
    • Tempeh: Tempeh is fermented soy, far superior in nutritional content than its over processed cousin tofu.  A recent popularity of tempeh means that it can be found at most supermarkets and health-food kitchens.
    • Kefir: Perhaps one of the most probiotic rich foods on the planet, kefir is a dairy product similar to yogurt.  Unlike yogurt, kefir contains a massive quantity of different yeasts and bacteria that form a symbiotic relationship with one another.  Kefir is completely lactose free, as the bacteria convert it all into lactic acid, making this drink safe for lactose-intolerant individuals.  The word kefir translate to “feel good,” an ancient yet anecdotal support of the idea that gut bacteria can impact mood.
    • Kombucha: A fermented tea, this drink can be found on store shelves very commonly since its boom in popularity.
  2. Take Probiotic Supplements: While more expensive than fermented foods, probiotic supplements contain a wide variety of bacteria.  Unlike vitamin supplements, probiotic pills produce real results.

Resources

  • An encompassing study published by the British Medical Journal.
  • A diarrhea focused study published by Journal of Clinical Gastroenterology.
  • A study on probiotics and metabolism published by BMC Bioinformatics.
  • A study on probiotics and intestinal mucosa published by Nature.
  • An overview of fermented foods from Eating Well.

Choose Proper Sunscreen to Ensure Skin Health

Giant_prominence_on_the_sun_erupted

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

The Environmental Working Group has reported that certain ingredients in popular sunscreens have a detrimental effect to over all skin health.  In order to protect your skin from harmful UV rays while avoiding negative chemicals, follow the EWG’s simple guidelines for choosing sunscreens.

Things to Avoid

  1. Spray-on Sunscreens: Aerosolized sunscreens increase risk of inhalation.
  2. High-SPF’s:  Sun Protection Factor (SPF) protects only against burn-inducing UVB rays.  High SPF sunscreens do not protect any better against sun damage over long periods of time than their low SPF counterparts yet lull consumers into believing they can remain longer in the sun.  There is no consensus that SPF is an accurate indicator of sunscreen protection
  3. Oxybenzone: Oxybenzone has a similar effect to BPA on the body, seeping into the blood stream and blocking hormone receptors.
  4. Retinyl Palmitate: A form of Vitamin A commonly used in night creams, this chemical reacts negatively to sun exposure, increasing tumor risk.
  5. Bug Repellents:  Dosage of sunscreen and insect repellent vary, causing too much repellent to be administered.  Furthermore, increased skin absorption of the repellent is possible when mixed with sunscreen.
  6. Towelletes and Powders: There is no evidence that these methods even work.  Inhalation of powders is possible.
  7. Tanning Oils: By magnifying the sun’s rays, tanning oils greatly increase the risk for skin cancer.

Recommended Sunscreens

  • Purple Prairie Botanicals Sun Stick, Unscented, SPF 30: This sunscreen presents a low risk to skin health while also providing ample protection from UVA rays.
  • Kiss My Face Hot Spots Sunscreen, SPF 30: Slightly less healthy for skin, this sunscreen is still within limits of safety.

Resources

  • The Environmental Working Group’s 2014 report on sunscreen.
  • SPF study published in the journal Photochemistry and Photobiology.

Take a 20 Second Break from your Screen Every 20 Minutes to avoid Eye Strain

Eye_iris

 

Photo Credit: Wikipedia.org

A report on eye strain from the Mayo Clinic recommends following the 20-20-20 rule: for every 20-minutes looking at a computer screen, spend 20-seconds looking at an object or scenery that is at least 20 feet away.  This comes following a study from the American Academy of Optometry concluding that just 2-hours of uninterrupted computer use can lead to serious adverse side effects, such as “eye-related pain and tiredness, blurred vision, itchiness, gritty eyes, photophobia, dry eyes, and tearing eyes.”

Mayo Clinic’s Suggestions for Eye Strain Prevention

  1. 20-20-20 Rule:  This rule is easy to remember and easy to follow, but Mayo also recommends trying to add a 3-minute break every hour or so to stand and walk around or lean back and close your eyes for at least 30-seconds.
  2. Frequent Blinking: Dry-eyes are a major contributor to eye strain and pain.  Mindful blinking is an easy solution   Mayo also recommends over the counter artificial tears.
  3. Regulate your Working Environment: Avoid smoke, lower your thermostat, and humidify your space.
  4. Message Eye-lids and Facial Muscles Twice Daily: Gently rub your eyes, temple, brow, and upper cheek for about 10 seconds each.  This not only relaxes your eye muscles, but also induces tear production, further aiding in dryness prevention.
  5. Find a Good Typeface: This suggestion is from the Huffington Post and recommends finding a font lacking in serif tails with good spacing in between letters, such as Veranda or Arial.
  6. Purchase Proper Eye-Wear: If you wear corrective glasses or contact lenses, ask your optometrist about screen specific versions of your preferred eye-wear.  If you do not need correction, then you can purchase non-corrective protective glasses that block out the more harmful wavelengths emitted by computer screens.

Resources

 

Eat Low Carbs, Full Fat

glass-of-milk

Photo Credit: blogspot

A study published by the Annals of Internal Medicine has concluded that, contrary to popular opinion, low fat diets are actually detrimental to weight loss and cardiovascular health.  The study, being the first long term-analysis of carbohydrate and fat intake, found that a low carbohydrate-high fat diet produces greater weight management and superior cardiovascular health.  In high fat diets, fat mass and triglyceride levels went down, while HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) levels went up when compared to low-fat or no fat diets.

What to Eat

  1. Full-Fat Foods: The study shows that fat, even saturated fat, when combined with a low-carbohydrate diet, actually helps with weight loss.
  2. Eat More Protein: While red meat has been shown to increase LDL Cholesterol levels, proteins such as chicken, fish, beans, and eggs result in lower LDL levels.  The participants were not restricted on red meat intake and in regulated amounts there was no significant negative impact from red meat consumption.
  3. Vegetables: All participants in the study, regardless of their diet, were encouraged to eat vegetables to compliment their diets.  For years, studies have confirmed that a high vegetable diet is healthful and the results of this study in no way contradicted other findings, however proteins and fats are still necessary aspects of a healthy diet.

What to Avoid

  1. Carbohydrates: Processed carbohydrates, such as granola, cereals, and rice, are correlated with higher LDL cholesterol levels and an increase in body fat.  Regardless of calorie intake, participants in the study who adopted a high-carb diet had trouble managing weight and showed a decrease in over-all cardiovascular health.
  2. Low-Fat and Zero-Fat Foods: While the exact mechanisms have not yet been identified, new studies are confirming that foods altered to contain less fat are detrimental to weight loss and cardiovascular health.  Full-fat dairy products, in particular, are much healthier than their low-fat counterparts.

Resources

Study

  • Good Sample Size: 148 men and women, split into groups of 60 and 59, adopted a low-fat high-carb diet or a low-carb full fat diet respectively.  The participants had no history of cardiovascular disease or diabetes.
  • 12 Month Clinical Study:  Researches gathered data on weight, cardiovascular risk factors and dietary composition at 0, 3, 6, and 12 months.

 

Do Better In Stressful Situations By Power Posing

Power Pose Featured Pic

 

Photo Credit: Amy Cuddy, TED

A Harvard Business study has linked the adoption of physically powerful stances to an increase in “feelings of power.”  Holding a pose, such as the “V for Victory” pose, for at least two minutes both increases testosterone and decreases cortisol, the stress hormone.

Suggestions for Feeling More Powerful

  1. Prepare for Stressful events by Power Posing: Prior to engaging in stress inducing activities such as job interviews or presentations, adopt a physically powerful stance that “opens up” your body for two minutes.  By standing in poses such as the V for Victory or The Wonder Woman, you will feel more “in charge” and increase your tolerance to risk.
  2. Avoid Low Power Body Language:  Body positions that shrink the physical form or collapse the body inward are correlated with increased cortisol and decreased testosterone.  These poses have the opposite effect of power posing and substantially increase feelings of anxiety and lack of power.
  3. Adopt Powerful Stances in Human Interactions: According to Amy Cuddy, the author of the study and a social phsycologist at Harvard Bussiness School, says that humans “compliment the other’s non-verbals” when we interact.  Adopting a powerful, open stance will control the position of power in conversations.
  4. “Fake It Until you Become It”: Since you are more powerful when pretending to be powerful, behavior can be modified in a number of ways by simply pretending that we already are what we want to be.  For instance, in a professional environment, all it takes is outwardly promoting that you are capable and you will begin to adapt to the situation.  Amy Cuddy’s moving story anecdotally supports the evidence published by her and her Harvard colleagues.

Resources

Study

  • Social Experiment: Participants either adopted a physically powerful stance or a physically week stance for two minutes, during which time they viewed photos of people in power positions and were asked to form opinions of those in the images.  The students wrote speeches pitching themselves for their dream job.  After spending another two minutes in a stance, participants gave their speeches to mock interviewers.  Their performances were filmed.  (Harvard University)
  • Evaluation: Four trained, independent (hypothesis and condition-blind) coders watched the videos and rated the participants on two dependent and two “potential[ly] mediating variables,”  all on a 1 to 7 scale.  The dependent questions were “overall performance” and “hireability.”  The questions intended to mediate were “speech quality” and “presentation quality (captivating, confident, enthusiastic, awkward (reversed score)…).”  (Harvard University)
  • Moderate Sample Size, Single University: Sixty-six Students from Columbia University participated in the study.  (Harvard University)

Eat At Least a Handful of Nuts a Day

Mixed nuts

Photo Credit: thecheapinvestor.com

A study conducted by Harvard University shows that eating one handful of nuts per day is positively correlated with longer lifespan in both men and woman.  Furthermore, daily consumption of nuts reduces the risk of major chronic diseases, such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.


Suggestions on Nut Consumption

  1. Eat one good sized handful of nuts per day.  This is equivalent of about 1.5 oz (43 g).
  2. Eat a variety of nuts. Almonds, walnuts, hazelnuts, or any type of unprocessed nut or legume (peanuts, beans, lentils) decrease mortality rate in men and women of all ethnicities.
  3. Replace one snack per day with nuts.  While the nutritional content of nuts is indisputable, the results of the study indicate that merely replacing an unhealthy snack with nuts may be part of the reason for the decrease in mortality.

 

Resources


Study

  • Long Term Observational Study. 121,700 female nurses since 1978 and 51,529 male healthcare professionals since 1986 were surveyed on their daily nut consumption, and medical and lifestyle information biennially.
  • Conducted by Harvard University.  Seven doctors worked together over 30 years on this study, which was published in the prominent New England Journal of Medicine.
  • Study Reportedly Funded without Bias. “The study was paid for by the National Institutes of Health and the International Tree Nut Council Nutrition Research & Education Foundation, but the Council had no say in how the study was done or how its results were eventually reported.”. NBC News

Avoid Thermal Paper Receipts!

receipt_paper_0

 

Photo Credit: qbservices.net

A new study shows that a dangerous amount of BPA is on thermal paper receipts. And handling them transfers that BPA into your blood and tissues. And using hand sanitizer and many other creams, makeups, and water, can increase your exposure by 100 fold! That’s huge.


Some Suggestions To Reduce Your Exposure To BPA

Working with Thermal Paper Receipts (the smooth shiny kind from most stores)

  1. Try to avoid them. Get digital copies where possible, or take a picture of it.
  2. Make sure your hands are dry before signing the receipt.
  3. Don’t hold receipt for more than 10 seconds in your hand.
  4. Wear protective gloves when working with receipts.

Mayo Clinic’s Suggestions On Reducing Your Exposure

  1. Seek out BPA-free products. More and more BPA-free products have come to market. Look for products labeled as BPA-free. If a product isn’t labeled, keep in mind that some, but not all, plastics marked with recycle codes 3 or 7 may be made with BPA. (Mayo Clinic)
  2. Cut back on cans. Reduce your use of canned foods since most cans are lined with BPA-containing resin. (Mayo Clinic)
  3. Avoid heat. The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, part of the National Institutes of Health, advises against microwaving polycarbonate plastics or putting them in the dishwasher, because the plastic may break down over time and allow BPA to leach into foods. (Mayo Clinic)
  4. Use alternatives. Use glass, porcelain or stainless steel containers for hot foods and liquids instead of plastic containers. (Mayo Clinic)

Resources:

 


Study:

  • Laboratory Human Testing.  Participants in the study either touched thermal paper after using Hand Sanitizer or touched the thermal paper with dry hands, and then ate French Fries.  Researchers then had blood analyses done to determine BPA absorption levels.  (PLOS ONE).  
  • Small Sample Size.  The test group using Hand sanitizer consisted of three subjects (2 men 1 woman) and the other group consisted of four subjects (2 men and 2 women).  (PLOS ONE)

You Made Me Think!

Lists That Make Your Life Better, Based On Scientific Study Results

Do you hear plausible ideas about health? Every day? I do, too. It gets maddening, doesn’t it? You’d like to agree with your friends, but how do you know it’s true? How can you be confident? And how do you say so? It’s not easy. I think that’s because plausible claims are easy to make, but really difficult to check. That’s partially why science was developed – to figure things out methodically so the work could be checked. And science has been incredibly successful at that, but science is complex and nuanced, so communicating it in a way that people can use everyday is a real challenge.

I need the best advice science has to offer in simple lists, for people like me with ADHD. And there aren’t great sources for this kind of thing, so I started YouMadeMeThink! to make simple, easy-to-use lists that are based on solid scientific studies. And update the lists when new research comes out, so you can rest with a bit of confidence that your lists will be current.

From now on, my brain is only accepting scientifically compelling input. If you have an opinion, great, please show me the science. That’s what this site is about.

You’ll find beautiful lists of things you can do to make your life better, all based on cited scientific studies. The lists are designed so you can use them however you like: print and stick on your fridge, save to your phone for shopping, share on social media.

We love suggestions. If you have any, please let me know and we’ll consider making a list.

;-)

-Mark Smith