5 Cholesterol lowering foods – Infographic

FullSizeRenderDear Dr. Mo: What are some of the foods that could help lower my cholesterol?

Dear reader: Eating a healthy diet in general can be challenging and tailoring it to a specific health need only adds to that challenge. Before embarking on any significant change in your diet, I suggest you first speak with your doctor who could give you useful pointers, link you with a specialist and follow up on your progress.

 

To get you started, I’ve written about such foods here

To answer your question, I’ve made this useful infographic to serve as a quick reference point to what’s out there Continue reading

Stop With the Gluten-Free Already!

Dear Dr. Mo: Is gluten-free food generally a healthier option?

Dear reader: The trouble with gluten-free products is that they tend to have a health aura around them, which sometimes blinds people from seeing what they’re really eating.

There is nothing necessarily healthier about gluten-free bread or cookies or pasta or any other food you can think of. Often, if one took a closer look at the label, the product would likely be lower in protein and fiber than a non gluten-free alternative.  The catch is that the calorie counts remain the same or similar but because we may think that being gluten-free automatically means healthier food, we may eat more of it.

Many people who eat gluten-free foods say they think they’re healthier and also many believe it will help them lose weight but be cautious of this trap as you may actually be gaining weight by eating more and by eating foods with more fat, more sugar, less protein etc.

Continue reading

5 health benefits of Onions – poor breath great health

Dear Dr. Mo: What about onions and health – I avoid them because they give me bad breath but I actually love onions. Should I eat them anyways?

Great combination

Great combination

Dear reader: With their unique combination of flavonoids and sulfur-containing nutrients, the allium vegetables—such as onions—belong in a healthy diet on a regular basis.

The total polyphenol content (polyphenol Quercetin) of onion is higher than its fellow allium vegetables, garlic and leeks and other polyphenol rich plants like tomatoes, carrots, and red bell pepper. Polyphenols are natural antioxidants linked to prevention of cardiovascular diseases (by primarily helping us regulate the cholesterol levels and reducing oxidative stresses).

When onions are simmered in a soup, their Quercetin is not destroyed. It simply leaks out into the water. By simmering at low-heat, you can preserve the health benefits of onion that are associated with Quercetin.

Here are 5 quick health benefits we derive from eating onions on regular basis:

1. Onions are high in vitamin C, dietary fiber, vitamin B6, folate and manganese;

2. They help relieve symptoms such as coughs, congestion, lung tightness in asthma and respiratory infections;

3. Sulfur-containing nutrients in onions have been linked to lowering blood pressure and cholesterol levels;

4. Onions contain natural anti-clotting agents with fibrinolytic activity and platelet-clumping suppression ability. The anti-clotting effect of onions closely correlates with their sulfur content and this property is again beneficial for preventing complications in cardiovascular diseases for example; Continue reading

Health benefits of Melons

Dear Dr. Mo: I loved your posts on Squash and I have a question about Melons – I love Melons and I was wondering about possible health benefits I can incur from that fruit?

Refreshing and healthy!

Refreshing and healthy!

Dear reader: Melons are related to Squash and comparable to it in their health benefits. Let me list a few important ones:

Blood pressure control

Eating melons can help control blood pressure as they contain potassium and potassium lessens the effects sodium has in elevating blood pressure; cutting back on dietary salt is also important in maintaining a healthy blood pressure level.

Vitamins

Melon is a fine source of vitamin B6 which helps maintain our body’s metabolism and some recent data shows that this vitamin reduces inflammation, oxidative stress and helps regulate metabolic disturbances including obesity and diabetes.

Just like carrots for example, melons too owe their bright colour to vitamin A — one cup has about 40 percent of our daily needs. Vitamin A is important for vision and bone growth.

Another vitamin found in plentiful supply in Melons is vitamin C and this one is crucial for collagen formation to maintain your cartilage, bones, gums, skin etc. Vitamin C won’t do us much good when we catch a cold, just so you know, that’s a (pharmaceutical) myth. Continue reading

How “whole” are whole grains and are they always healthy?

Dear readers: Whenever I spot a link between food industry professionals and scientists, I get a queazy feeling in my stomach as their intention is almost by definition driven by profits and never by our health and well being.

Look twice

Look twice

In the 1999’s definition of “whole grain” by the American Association of Cereal Chemists (AACC) International, which is exactly that ominous kind of mixture of food industry professionals and scientists, “whole grain” can be any mixture of components of an intact grain (the bran, endosperm and germ) but the grains are allowed to be (and usually are), processed so that the parts are separated and ground before being put into foods.

To clear things up a bit – the “whole grain” is an INTACT grain – a fiber-rich coating of bran surrounding a starchy endosperm and a reproductive kernel called the germ. The fiber content is what’s synonymous with good health, good digestion, lower cholesterol, heart health etc.

When you separate these components and process them, the contents of healthy fiber and nutrients drop significantly.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration adopted (to no wonder) the AACC definition in 2006, allowing the food industry to push out their products marketed as “whole grain” that contain very little fiber and lots of sugar.

As reported by the Scientific American’s text Whole Grain Foods Not Always Healthful from July 2013:

“An individual would have to eat 10 bowls of Multi-grain Cheerios, 16 slices of whole-wheat bread, or nine cups of brown rice to get the fiber recommended for an American adult for one day. “There’s nothing wrong with eating brown rice, but you can’t expect health benefits if you’re going to be eating brown rice as your source of whole grains,” David Klurfeld the national program leader for human nutrition in the Agricultural Research Service at the U.S. Department of  Agriculture.”

When the whole grains are being processed (usually by grinding or flaking) to make them tastier and longer lasting, this also degrades their natural antioxidant content and markedly reduces the amount of fiber – remember, those are the two ingredients that make whole grains good for the heart and over-all health.

To make matters worse, the AACC International recently went on to propose a modification of its definition of “whole grain”, which is bad as it is, to allow for this nutrient loss during processing. 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

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

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

Procrastinate your way into losing weight

Dear Dr. Mo: I can’t seem to make myself really start with a weight loss program – I always come up with a reason not to. I really have to lose some weight and it is a number 1. priority but I am failing to start. What can I do? 

Never start tomorrow!

Never start tomorrow!

Dear reader: It’s like with any other activity we feel a pressing need to perform – if we have to do it, most of us will rather do anything else instead.

This neat and classic evasive tactic our minds are using to postpone something into the future is called Procrastination, and I am sure you are aware of it. Continue reading

Why is gluten-free a risky way of eating?

Dear Dr. Mo: Gluten-free food is gaining in popularity and suddenly a lot of people think gluten is bad for health – is that true and should I consider a gluten-free diet?

Dear reader: Actually no, going gluten-free for no particular reason can be a very risky business.

This is NOT a gluten-free bread - it is a multi grain

This is NOT a gluten-free bread – it is a multi grain

Why gluten-free diets can be bad for you?

Gluten-free diets exclude many whole grains and are lower in fiber content while higher in simple carbohydrate content.  Continue reading