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

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

Caught a cold?

Dear Dr. Mo: What exactly is ‘common cold’ and how to recognize it – is that the same as flu? Should I be worried and what to do?

Dear reader: These days you can’t seem to escape people who sneeze, cough, have a runny nose or all of it together – in fact, you may be one of them.

Don’t worry, it’s usually nothing serious, just a mild viral infection of upper airways also known as common cold and it requires no special treatment.

Chicken soup helps in recovery

Chicken soup helps in recovery

The symptoms of common cold may bug us for up to two weeks at a time and if we can maintain our daily function, if there are no serious muscle or joint pains, no high fever or strong headaches and prolonged fatigue it’s not the flu or other serious conditions and you shouldn’t be concerned. But if symptoms persist even after two weeks or start to get worse after 7 – 10 days, visit your doctor to see what’s going on.

Over 100 viruses can cause a common cold and you may experience anything from a runny nose to sore throat, cough and sneezing to watery eyes and strong congestion. Part of the package may also be mild muscle ache and headache, slightly elevated body temperature, mild fatigue and upset fellow elevator passengers. Those unlucky enough may get all these symptoms at once. Continue reading

Chocolate & health

Dear Dr. Mo: Are there any health benefits I could possibly get by eating chocolate? I just love it so much.

Dear reader: What a sweet question (and I mean literally).
The answer is YES but let me make one clarification right from the start: when we talk about potential health benefits of chocolate, we always refer to dark chocolate, which has a high cocoa content.

Dark chocolate has health benefits

It is the Flavanols in cocoa beans that have antioxidant effects responsible for most of the benefits that come from dark chocolate consumption. Flavanols reduce cell damage implicated in heart disease and also help lower blood pressure and improve vascular function. In addition, some research has linked chocolate consumption to reduced risks of diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Eating a moderate amount of dark chocolate was associated with a lower risk of being hospitalized for heart failure.

Flavanols are thought to also reduce the levels of stress hormone Cortisol and its metabolic effects and they are being researched for their sun protecting abilities, doubling the time before which skin turns red in the sun, marking the beginning of a sun burn. Continue reading

Low-carb foods – is low-carb healthy?

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m considering a low-carb diet. I’m thinking to cut my calories in order to support my weight-loss plan. Is it a good idea and what are some low-carb foods to start with?

Dear reader:Eating a low carb diet as a way to lose weight may sound attractive but it may also backfire as such dieting could drive our body into an energy conserving mode. In this mode, the body stores more fat for a rainy day than it normally would – this is because we provide insufficient amount of calories over a longer period of time and in anticipation of yet another calorie-poor meal, our metabolic engine slows down and conserves energy more and more.

Veggies are a great source of nutrients while being low-carb.

What this actually means is that over time, eating a low carb/low calorie diet may turn out to bring more fat during intermission when ou are not on a diet and even during the diet itself. Read about counting your calories as a tool to plan your weight loss.

Still, low-carb food could be useful to control your blood sugar and to support your weight loss but only in combination with other foods with complex carbs, protein, fiber etc. What I’m saying is that a balanced diet is more efficient and certainly healthier than any extreme diet in which some nutrients are almost completely eliminated – i.e. low carb diets.

Here are a few well-known and smart low-carb choices I’d use every day in combination with other healthy foods to maintain a healthy diet and attain and maintain a healthy weight: Continue reading

Foods to lower your Cholesterol

Dear Dr. Mo: I’m worried about my cholesterol levels and I am thinking of ways to avoid foods that will keep on raising it. What to do to bring my cholesterol down?

Dear reader: Following a healthy diet usually brings up the question of which foods to avoid. The follow up thought in our heads leads us to figuring out which foods could raise our cholesterol levels and add kilograms.

Normally, you’d want to avoid too much saturated fats from meat, full fat-dairy products (cheese, high fat milk) and trans fats found in many processed foods like pastries, processed cheese like the ones in a fast-food burger, cakes, cookies, biscuits, creams, candy etc. Even your favorite chips or pretzels are packed with trans fats (these hide behind tech terms like hydrogenated plant-based fat or palm fat so don’t be fooled).

Go nuts – it will regulate your cholesterol

These foods hurt our bodies not just by raising cholesterol levels (mostly the ‘bad’ one – LDL) but by exposing our cells to un-natural compounds, which we were simply not designed to handle.

In response, our systems are stressed out and over time, chain biochemical reactions lead to cancers, heart disease, strokes, diabetes, tons of autoimmune diseases, genetic alterations etc.

The list of unhealthful foods would be far too long. Here’s a hint – those advertised the most are usually suspicious.

Instead, and further to my previous post, I will list 8 foods (and functional foods), which strongly help to regulate your cholesterol level and have appropriate ratio of HDL (the ‘good’ one) Vs. LDL (the ‘bad’ one).
Of course, for some people, diet alone is not enough to bring cholesterol under control in which case your doctor may start you on some medication to help you reach desired levels but even in these cases, proper diet is of large significance for success and long term health. Continue reading

Fiber-rich foods – your allies in healthy weight loss

Dear Dr. Mo: I wish to lose some weight and I know fiber is important part of a good weight-loss plan. My diet so far has not been very healthy and I am trying to improve it. Which foods do you suggest as a good source of fiber?

Dear reader: Nutritional super foods, rich in fiber, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health preserving compounds are all around us. And yet, we succumb to advertising and our own cravings for sugars, greasy junk food and the simple fact that fast food is easier to acquire, it’s more readily available and in truth, it is often cheaper.

Colorful salads are a sure shot when it comes to fiber-rich food

The first step is to become aware of these things and understand that in the 21st century, eating healthy presents a real challenge and asks for will power.

The magic word in today’s healthy diet which attains and maintains a healthy weight and good shape is, planning.

I say that in any weight loss plan, a strategic goal has to be Attain and Maintain.

To Attain and Maintain, you need proper tools, one of which is dietary fiber.
Fiber absolutely has to be on your daily menu – it not only helps in weight loss by keeping you fuller for longer and by regulating your bowel movement, it helps regulate cholesterol levels and ratios in the blood, preventing both weight gain and heart disease, Type 2 diabetes etc.

To help in your planning, here are some fiber-rich (super)foods you could include in your everyday meals: Continue reading

Acai berries – fad or fact?

Dear Dr. Mo: Acai palm, its berries and Acai supplements have been advertised as being powerful in prevention of heart disease, cancer and in weight loss as well as potent beauty products. Is any of it true?

Dear reader: Acai palm is native to Central and South America. Its fruit, Acai berry is reddish/purple colored.
As many other berries, Acai berry has some good nutritional value, which is beneficial for our health.
It is rich in dietary fiber, heart-healthy fats and low in sugar.
It also has a high content of Anthocyanins, which are thought to be very powerful antioxidants.

Acai berries are rich in fiber

This anti-oxidative potential is the main reason Acai berry has been so popular.

Anthocyanins are water-soluble pigments that may appear red, purple, or blue. They give fruits and vegetables darker hues spanning from purple, red to black. These pigments have been shown to act as some sort of a “sunscreen”, protecting plant cells and plant tissues from the high-light stress.

Lab results (in vitro studies) have been very promising in showing the many health benefits of this class of flavonoids including some anti-cancerous effects, particularly in colon, prostate and esophagus cancer. Also, their protective effects have been researched in processes of aging and neurological diseases, inflammation, diabetes and bacterial infections with positive results.
Continue reading

An apple a day? You should take this advice

Dear Dr. Mo: Is there some truth in the old saying that “An apple a day keeps a doctor away”?

Dear reader:  Your question is timed well as we are now in the season of apple picking. This saying could be in principle applied to many fruits and veggies and I always recommend a balanced diet to accommodate for a variety of healthful foods to keep us healthy. Here are some of the reasons why apples are so revered for their health benefits.

Apples belong to ‘super foods’

Apples lower cholesterol – there is about 4 grams of fiber per average-sized apple. Pectin is one of those fibers, which is soluble and is thought to lower your “bad” cholesterol (LDL) by reducing the absorption of it from food and bile and stimulating the body to use the cholesterol rather than to store it.

Apple helps with constipation and diarrhea – Pectin again, increases the volume and viscosity of stool and this relieves both constipation and diarrhea symptoms. Generally, fiber in apple (as with all other fiber-rich food) is beneficial for our digestion. Continue reading

The All-Mighty Green Tea

 

Dear readers: Green tea has become one of the most widely consumed beverages on the planet, second only to water and its medicinal and health-protective properties have been known to its consumers for many centuries both externally in a paste form to treat rheumatism and internally as a ‘purifying’ soup.

One of my tea sets

I prefer Japanese teas, which are milder and more delicate than Chinese – the one in the photo is Ryokucha Midori

The Emperor Shen Nung, father of Chinese medicine and farming, wrote in his Medical Book that “tea relieves tiredness, strengthens the will, delights the soul and enlivens the sight.

Shen’s remarks had not been unfounded and modern science proves green tea’s potent medical properties.
Green tea as well as all other teas: black, white, red or dark come from a single Tea plant – Camelia Sinensis, a cultivated bush with evergreen leaves, which grows in hot and humid climates of Asia, Africa and South America. Camelia Sinensis itself originates from China, probably around the border of North Vietnam. Continue reading