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 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

What is healthy eating?

Dear Dr. Mo: How do we really define healthy eating? Where should I begin?

healthy eating means versatility in colours, shapes, sizes and tastes

healthy eating means versatility in colours, shapes, sizes and tastes

Dear reader: Healthy eating could mean different things for different people so when you hear or read that you should eat healthy, there comes a logical question – what does it mean for you?

En générale, healthy eating means choosing the right types and amounts of different food for your age, sex, activity level, health and of course, taste!

I have written extensively about food choices and types so explore my previous posts, some of which are here: Mediterranean diet, Importance of breakfast, Myths about healthy eating, Foods for a lower cholesterol, Eating healthy on the road, Fiber and health, Healthy foods etc.

So how to do it? How to eat healthy? Continue reading

Avocado, the super fruit

Dear Dr. Mo: I’ve been eating a lot of Avocados lately (not really sure whether they are fruit or vegetable) – are these any good for my health or is it just a

The only trick is to know when it's ripe enough to eat

The only trick is to know when it’s ripe enough to eat

quirky addition to a salad?

Dear reader: Avocados are very interesting and old food originating from South and Central America – they are fruit, not a vegetable.

My baby girl loves to eat them, which is great because Avocados are extremely healthy.

Personally, I will never learn to immediately tell a difference in my head between Avocados and Mangos, as for some strange reason my mind confuses these two words and no amount of mental effort will ever help; of course I always know an Avocado when I see one. 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

Eating healthy while traveling – is it possible?

Dear readers, recently I was traveling to Kazakhstan and had to take connecting flights totaling in almost 15 hours of travel time (including some 6 hours of waiting in Frankfurt for my connection to Almaty).

During this travel, I was trying to really see what would it take to maintain a healthy diet and if such a thing is at all possible.

Airports may lure you into breaking your healthy diet promise

One thing that happens is that the longer we travel, the more tired and sleep deprived we become and the more tired we are the less likely we are to make a healthy choice when it comes to food and drinks. Parts of our brain in charge of rational decisions and planning (pre-frontal cortex) become fatigued and emotional parts (like amygdala) take over, indulging to cravings for sweets, junk food and sodas. Also, fatigue changes our hormonal balance and potentially disrupts hormonal release sequence and that too can lead to altered decision making towards food and could modify our bodies’ fat-conversion processes. One thing to remember is that tired people who don’t get enough of sleep eat on average 500 extra calories a day.

Also, if you are on a weight loss diet, you have probably been consciously avoiding certain foods and drinks, willing yourself to opt for healthier options. Your will power gets depleted after repeated situations in which you have to say ‘no’ to a tasty sandwich, a salad dressing, an ice cream or a soda.

In airports, you may suffer total will depletion or what Dan Ariely in his latest book “The (Honest) Truth about Dishonesty” calls Ego Depletion where you finally succumb to temptation and buy a sandwich, breaking your dietary habit “just this once”.

So why do I say that airports are so perilous for a healthy diet?
Continue reading