If you don’t have your health, everything is ruined

Dear readers: In a recent interview for Esquire, titled “What I’ve Learned”, Woody Allen says an interesting and important thing he’d learned from his dad: “My dad didn’t even teach me how to shave — I learned that from a cabdriver. But the biggest lesson he imparted is that if you don’t have your health, you have nothing. No matter how great things are going for you, if you have a toothache, if you have a sore throat, if you’re nauseated, or, God forbid, you have some serious thing wrong with you — everything is ruined..

Image credit: www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com

Image credit: www.kalisthenixfitnessblog.com

Inspired by Mr. Allen’s lesson from his father, and in relation to my recent post in which I wrote about some cool health benefits of Butternut Squash that even made it to the list of those healthful foods that can heal your tired legs, I’ve decided to share with you one simple recipe for a quick, healthy and easy way to make a very tasty Squash.

Here’s how to do it: Continue reading

Tired legs? Try these 5 dietary tweaks to help your tired legs

Legs could be windows into health - if they're tired, you need a recharge

Legs could be windows into health – if they’re tired, you need a recharge

Dear Dr. Mo: My legs feel tired relatively often and I’d like to know if there is something I can do about it? Should I be worried?

Dear reader: The feeling of tiredness in legs is a relatively common complaint and the reasons for this feeling could be different. If the feeling is more than just tiredness and it extends into pain and cramps, swelling, numbness and other more severe symptoms, you should see your doctor immediately as these could signal a more serious underlying condition.

That said, check out my earlier post on the Tired legs in the morning and the possible causes as well as several things you can do about it.

Use a healthy diet in your favour to get rid of tiredness in your legs and in some instances even pain (but like I said, for pain, always see your doctor first and discuss your options, including your diet).

Include foods that are rich in calcium, fiber, proteins and vitamin E in your diet as well as foods that will clean up your blood vessels  and regulate your blood pressure. These ingredients will maintain your health and specifically improve the strength and fitness of your legs.

What exactly do I mean? Here are 5 important points that you can use in your diet to improve the health of your legs and reduce the feeling of tiredness:

1. Try these 4 foods to keep you blood vessels clean from cholesterol plaques – healthy blood vessels also mean good blood supply to your legs, and well fed legs are fit and recover quickly from walking, running, jumping or just simply standing.

2. For blood pressure regulation try Beets, which can help to regulate mild hypertension (high normal and even stage 1)

3. Eat weekly some Butternut Squash and spinach for a healthy dose of fiber, vitamins A, E, C and B

And fiber is a necessity in any healthy diet, for good digestion and a healthy weight.  Continue reading

6 amazing health benefits of Butternut Squash

"The apple of Gods" according to American natives

“The apple of Gods” according to American natives

Dear readers: I’d like to share with you 6 amazing health benefits of Butternut Squash, my latest discovery on my quest for delicious healthy foods. It didn’t seem appealing or eye catching and I remember my grandpa used to dry it up to make a ladle out of it but I’ve never tried it until recently. So, here is my list:

Benefit 1 – Vitamin A and Beta carotene:

Squash is literally loaded with vitamin A – 1 cup of cooked squash has over 400% of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) – Vitamin A is important for our vision, bone health, cell function, reproduction and the immune system. ~One note here: Vitamin A is not water soluble, which means that its excess it is not easily removed from our body so do not overindulge in this treat – perhaps not more than once a week.

The squash’s orange color means it is high in beta carotene, an antioxidant relevant for vision health and possible reduction of breast cancer risk.

Benefit 2 – Fiber:

Squash is a very good source of fiber – one cup of cooked or baked squash has almost 7 g of fiber! Fiber is important for healthy digestion, cholesterol regulation and weight management.

Benefit 3 – Potassium:

It has more potassium than a banana with over 550 mg and potassium is important for the heart health and it participates in fluid and mineral regulation. Continue reading

Breakfast for champions

How you start your day matters most

How you start your day matters most

Dear readers: I’ve written about the importance of our first meal in the morning – whether you are on a special diet or just want to eat healthy, never skip this morning meal!

In my recent posts on Avocados and Eggs, I’ve discussed their powerful health benefits. In combination, they can truly constitute a breakfast to power you up for the day.
This is exactly what I’ve had this morning as you can see in the photo.

The bread in the picture is 12 grain and getting your morning dose of fiber is one of the things that will set the tone in your digestive system for a smooth and efficient function, a foundation of a healthy day. Continue reading

5 easy ways to improve digestion

Dear Dr. Mo: My digestion has not been so good lately. What are some natural ways to try and improve it?

Indigestion could be corrected with a healthy diet

Indigestion could be corrected with a healthy diet

Dear reader: When digestion is not working properly, our entire health my become affected and sometimes indigestion could signal an underlying issue that needs to be investigated by a physician. But, before you go to your doctor, here are 5 easy ways to try and improve your digestion:

1. Fluids

First and foremost, the most essential and simplest thing we can do is stay well hydrated throughout the day. Water is used to create digestive juices, it dissolves soluble fiber and enables it to do its magic, it helps solid food move smoother and get digested quicker and it flushes out unwanted digestion products. Just be careful with the choice of fluids if that’s not water. Pop is not healthy at all and can trigger heartburn.

Too much coffee (I’d say 5 and more cups) becomes a powerful diuretic, which dehydrates you.

2. Beans

Rich in soluble fiber (1 serving contains 12 to 19 grams of it) and low in fat, this food will help your digestion even if at first it may seem to give you more gas and cramps – after some relatively short time, your digestion will adapt and this side effect should decrease and go away. Our daily dose of fiber should be 25 – 35 grams and beans are one great way to get much of that dose.

3. Yogourt

This food contains important probiotics that help digestion – how do they do it? Probiotics are friendly bacteria that naturally augment and support the functioning of our digestive system, keep bad bacteria at bay and interact with other functions in our body like the immune system and even our brain.

Probiotics can help ease the post-antibiotic diarrhea, and even some very serious conditions like Chron’s disease, irritable bowel syndrome and a very serious variant of colitis, caused by the Clostridium difficile bacteria. Continue reading

Beans – fiber and protein rich powerhouse of health

Beans, Beans, glorious Beans

Beans, Beans, glorious Beans

Dear Dr. Mo: Are beans really any good to eat? All I know is that they give me gas and cramps, but I’ve heard they might be really healthy so, are they?

Dear reader: Beans are one of the fiber-richest foods out there, especially when it comes to cholesterol lowering soluble fiber. Eating a cup beans, any beans really, a day can lower your total cholesterol levels by as much as 10% and that’s significant.

Soluble fiber dissolves in water and binds cholesterol preventing its re-absorption in the body.

In fact, beans are so nutritious and healthy that the latest dietary guidelines recommend a triple of our current suggested intake, from 1 to 3 cups per week, and like I told you, a cup a day would be the best way to go.

Beans are a good meat protein substitute but they are even more than just a simple substitute. Beans have similar calorie count as meat and their water and fiber content will make you feel fuller for longer, which helps in weight management and weight loss and will allow you to cut total daily calories in your diet without starving yourself or skipping any meals. Meat however, contains zero fiber!

How much fiber?

One cup of cooked beans contains about 12 grams of fiber, which is almost half the recommended dose of 25 grams (women) to 35 grams (men) on average.  Continue reading

8 great health benefits of Green Tea

What a healthy tea!

What a healthy tea!

Dear Dr. Mo: What are the true health benefits of green tea, are these benefits real and should I start drinking it? 

Dear reader: Green tea is one of those foods that potentially has enormous health benefits but for most of them, more research is needed to really ascertain the extent of it for human health outside the lab. For starters, let me mention the 8 great health benefits of green tea that scientists are seriously looking into and I also suggest you read my earlier post which goes into more depth on green tea, its functions and proper preparation.

1. Cholesterol regulation

There’s a group of chemicals in green tea called catechins responsible for a lot of claimed benefits and researchers believe these catechins help prevent the absorption of cholesterol all together but at the same time they increase the absorption of high-density HDL cholesterol, which is the good one.

2. Weight management

Green tea speeds up digestion and slows down fat absorption while increasing the energy expenditure so these properties can help you lose weight when consumed as part of a healthy diet.

3. Good for the bones

Green tea is said to improve bone mineral density thus lowering your fracture risk – this is because green tea contains a group of chemicals that stimulates the formation of bone and helps slow their breakdown although more research is needed to corroborate this claim outside the lab.

4. Oral health booster

Catechins again – think about the green tea as a natural mouth wash, like Listerine, only better. Drinking green tea regularly can contribute to a healthier mouth because catechins can help kill bacteria in your mouth.

5. Keeps some cancers at bay

Studies show that green tea benefits include protection against certain cancers, not all of them but the fact is that we just don’t know yet about the full potential of green tea’s compounds. What we do know is that the data are the most substantial for bladder, ovarian and esophageal cancers. It mostly does this by starving cancer cells to death.

6. Helps prevent Type 2 Diabetes

And not only that but it helps prevent its prelude – the Metabolic syndrome a.k.a. the Syndrome X. Studies show that one cup a day isn’t going to cut it – you need up to 6 or more every day to lower your risks for these ailments – but, why not, it’s good for you so give it a go. Continue reading

Your lifestyle can protect your brain – small lifestyle changes largely reduce stroke risk

Image Credit: American Heart Association

Image Credit: American Heart Association

Dear Dr. Mo: Someone I know has just had a stroke. What can I do to reduce my risks of stroke? I’m middle aged and generally in good health.

Dear reader: What we have long suspected, the latest study published in the American Heart Association journal Stroke confirms: By making small changes in our lifestyle, we could reduce our risk of having a stroke by up to 48%, depending on our general health status – the better our overall health, the larger the reduction in stroke risk!

Researchers in the study assessed stroke risk by using the American Heart Association’s  Life’s Simple 7 health factors: 

  1. Be active
  2. Control cholesterol
  3. Eat a healthy diet
  4. Manage blood pressure
  5. Maintain a healthy weight
  6. Control blood sugar and
  7. Don’t smoke

Continue reading

The Egg myth debunked – eggs won’t kill you after all

Eggs are fine and in fact, very good for you

Eggs are fine and in fact, very good for you

Dear Dr. Mo: Should I or shouldn’t I eat eggs and are they healthy in any way? People keep saying eggs are full of cholesterol and should be avoided but, is this true?

Dear reader: Contrary to a wide-spread belief (or myth), eggs are very healthy food and a healthy individual can and should eat them on a regular basis. If a person loves eggs vey much and eats too many of them, this can increase cholesterol levels and associated risks for heart disease but if you stick to 4 whole eggs or fewer a week, evidence suggest that any risks you may have will not increase.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), which had revised its dietary guidelines back in 2000 to “allow” healthy adults to consume eggs once again, you may eat one egg every day – so 7 eggs a week, which is even more than I’d recommend. However, the AHA still advises a total daily cholesterol limit to stay at 300 mg. One average egg contains anywhere from 180 to 220 mg of cholesterol so you’ll have to take that into account and read the food labels carefully to balance your daily cholesterol intake. This advice goes for everyone age 2 and older. Continue reading

5 very good reasons to love Zucchini

Green powerhouse

Green powerhouse

Dear Dr. Mo: My wife loves zucchini. I am not a big fan but she insists that zucchinis are healthy without stating any specific health benefit. Are zucchini really that healthy? 

Dear reader: Zucchini are indeed very good for your health. They help you control and manage your weight and its vitamins and minerals boost your immune system, health of your heart, skin, eyes and lungs.

One cup of boiled zucchini (according to the USDA), contains as little as 27 calories but it also has 2 g of fiber, which is pretty good!

Here are 5 very specific health benefits and good reasons to have zucchini in your diet (give this list to your wife so that she can have some concrete facts the next time she intuitively advocates for this healthy veggie): Continue reading

The great health benefits of spinach and why Popeye the Sailor was wrong

Popeye was wrong, well, sort of..

Popeye was wrong, well, sort of..

Dear readers: Spinach is one of those foods we should always have in mind when we’re planning a healthy meal – it’s just that good! In fact it is one of the healthiest leafy greens around – and it’s actually not so much for its iron content although that’s likely to be your first association.

Popeye the Sailor has been eating tones of it for decades but what works for him is not really what works for the rest of us, at least when iron is concerned.

Spinach has a high nutritional value and that’s beyond any doubt. It is very rich in antioxidants, it is a rich source of vitamin A (particularly high in lutein, which is very good for the eyes), vitamin C, E, K, B and magnesium.

Spinach is also a rich source of Folate, which is an essential ingredient for our cells and is especially important for pregnant women and those trying to conceive. However, boiling it can more than halve the Folate content while microwaving it doesn’t seem to have such an effect.

Folate aside, boiling spinach actually increases its nutritional value several times as it helps our body use the nutrients more effectively.

A compound in spinach called oxalate prevents iron and calcium from being absorbed into our body. In case of calcium, even though spinach has a high calcium content, its absorption is decreased by oxalate to only around 5% so don’t count on it too much.

Similar goes for iron – oxalate both reduces the absorption and flushes it out of our intestines. Boiling is a good way to get rid of some oxalate content and for this purpose you should boil it for at least 2 minutes. Another way is to eat a vitamin C rich food together with spinach to help deactivate oxalate. Continue reading

4 super foods to clean up your pipes

Awful but healthy

Awful but healthy

Dear readers, our modern diets are plagued with unhealthful food choices. Many people are struggling with excess weight and our arteries are taking the toll over the years – they begin to accumulate plaque. Plaque buildup increases the chances for heart disease, heart attack and/or stroke.

This basically means accelerated death. Or debilitation. Then death.

We can use a healthy diet to keep our arteries in good shape and preserve their fitness into the old age.

The following 4 foods are very powerful arterial cleansers – I cannot say which of the first three I hate more but these are my top 3 foods I’ll never ever eat even if it kills me. The 4th food is actually pretty cool.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t eat them and in fact, you’ll benefit greatly if you introduced all 4 to your daily diet. Here’s why: Continue reading

Fiber and health

Add fiber-rich foods to your daily diet

Dear Dr. Mo: I am looking to improve my diet and fiber comes highly recommended as something to eat daily. What is it and where to get it from? How much is enough?

Dear reader: The reason fiber is highly recommended as a part of any healthy diet is simple – it is really good for you.

Previously, it was thought that fiber was a significant factor in preventing colon cancer but as it turns out, most of the evidence show that fiber has no such effect in prevention of this disease.

Still, fiber has many other good effects, for which it is considered a must-have in our everyday diets.

So, what does fiber do for us?

Fiber helps prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes (by improving insulin resistance), constipation and diverticulitis (an intestinal problem). It helps to regulate cholesterol levels by slightly reducing the “bad” LDL cholesterol. And last, but certainly not the least of good effects is the increase of the bulk of foods making us feel fuller for longer – that’s another way fiber helps us in avoiding overeating and being overweight.

What is fiber and where to get it from?

Fiber is an indigestible carbohydrate form found in plant foods.There are two types of fiber: Soluble and Insoluble Continue reading

Natural ways to manage mild hypertension – eat Beetroot!

Natural remedy for elevated blood pressure

Natural remedy for elevated blood pressure

Dear Dr. Mo: My blood pressure has recently been slightly elevated. Are there some ways to control it with a healthy diet before I turn to meds?

Dear reader: The so called ‘high normal’ blood pressure (130-139/85-89 mmHg) and even sometimes Stage I hypertension (140-159/90-99 mmHg) can actually be alleviated and managed with mostly life-style changes like salt restriction, proper hydration, quitting smoking, exercise and of course diet adjustments. I am not suggesting you shouldn’t take the meds prescribed by your doctor – do take them by all means as these are usually necessary to act as short-term blood pressure regulators. (In some cases, meds are constantly required). Continue reading

What is Diet Anxiety and what can we do about it?

(Diet) Anxiety may overshadow but can be recon with

(Diet) Anxiety may overshadow but can be recon with

Dear Dr. Mo: Whenever I think of starting a diet, I begin to feel strong anxiety and I fear that I will fail – so I keep putting it off. I’m not having hopes of becoming any super-model looking person but I still cannot bring myself to start my diet. What’s happening to me? 

Dear reader: Losing weight can sometimes become an overwhelming pressure, imposed on us more from the outside than coming really from the inside.

True, we do want to look fit and feel good about our body because this is good for our health but it is the nature of our modern society, which favours skinny looking, (almost) anorexic appearance augmented further by computer programs to unrealistic shapes, that pressures us to achieve the unachievable – and to ultimately, fail.

Humans are the only animal capable of thinking about and more importantly, imagining the future and this unique feature we owe to our frontal part of the brain, the one whose level of development and complexity is so uniquely human. This ability is also responsible for anxiety.

Anxiety is the product of our fear of future and because we are able to imagine our futures, this can cause us to be frightened – to feel anxiety.

One thing that’s very well known to psychologists (but not to most other people) is how bad we are at imagining our futures: the more distant an event is in time the fuzzier it will look in our mind’s eye and the more it will be painted by our present thoughts and feelings (we are thus unable to escape the present – this is called ‘presentism’). The problem is that we won’t know this and will think that the way we imagined it is exactly the way it will happen – and alas, it won’t. Continue reading