Archive for February 2015

Seven a day- new healthy eating guidelines

A recent study has suggested that we should significantly increase the amount of fruit and vegetables we eat from five a day to at least seven.

Seven a day- new healthy eating guidelinesWe have known for a long time that eating more fruit and vegetables is likely to be good for us, and the famous five a day campaign was always intended as a recommendation aimed at promoting the minimum we should eat, rather than a maximum.

What this study adds to things we had previously known is that eating vegetables is better for us than eating fruit (probably because fruit has far more sugar in it) and that eating tinned fruit seems to be positively bad for us (again, probably because it is often in a syrup).

On the basis of this study, you should aim to eat at least four portions of vegetables a day and around three portions of fruit. Importantly, you should eat them, not drink them. The study found no real benefit from drinking fruit juice.

So how do you reach your seven-a-day? If you’re feeling continental, you might start the day with an omelette containing a decent handful of spinach. The protein in the eggs will keep you full for longer and spinach is rich in folate and betaine – vitamins that help regulate homocysteine (high levels of which are associated with heart disease).

Alternatively you could add a handful of strawberries or blueberries to your cereal, or wolf down an orange

For lunch and your evening meal you are going to be eating vegetables, with fruit as a dessert. But which vegetables? Again, the recommendations are that you add as much colour as possible to your diet. The different colours of different plants represent some of the thousands of different bioactive compounds, known as phytochemicals, which keep plants alive and healthy.

Eat them raw or lightly steamed rather than boiled to death.

So-called “leafy greens”, which include spinach, chard, lettuce and kale, are a good source of minerals like magnesium, manganese and potassium.

Cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli and other members of the brassicas family contain sulphur and organosulphur compounds. Sulphur is essential for the production of glutathione, an important antioxidant, as well as amino acids like methionine and taurine.

Fruit and vegetables with yellow or orange in them are rich in carotenoids. Foods rich in carotenoids include, not surprisingly, carrots. The type of carotenoid you find in carrots can be converted to retinol, an active form of vitamin A. As vitamin A is important for healthy eyesight, this may explain why carrots are supposed to help you see in the dark. Vitamin A also plays an important role in bone growth and regulating our immune system. As well as carrots you will also find carotenoids in melons, tomatoes, peppers and squash.

Another class of carotenoids that produces the colour red are called the lycopenes. You’ll find lots of lycopene in rich, red tomatoes. Oddly enough cooking tomatoes actually boosts the levels of lycopene. The reason is that heat helps break down the plant’s thick cell walls, making the nutrient more available.

Blue and purple foods get their colouring from a group of flavonoids called anthocyanins. You’ll find decent levels of these particular flavonoids in blackberries, blueberries, purple carrots and red cabbage. There is some evidence that anthocyanin – rich blueberries may improve memory and cognitive function in people as they get older. White

Examples include garlic, white onions, shallots and leeks. These are rich in alliums and allyl sulphur compounds. Although there is no compelling proof that garlic will ward off vampires, it does appear to be quite good at killing microorganisms.

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Fasting may increase life span

Extreme fasting and calorie counting boosts lifespan in monkeys, according to new published research.

Fasting may increase life spanUntil now, the rationale for following an ultra-low calorie diet to ward off ageing has been based on experiments in worms and mice but now studies reported in Nature Communications found that primates also benefited from the regime.

Advocates of the Calorie Restriction (CR) diet claim that by severely restricting the number of calories they consume they will live longer, perhaps into their hundreds.

They cite a wealth of scientific evidence dating back more than 75 years.

Much of the research is based on experiments in animals such as mice and worms, with primate studies giving conflicting results. Now, a US team has published new evidence showing CR also shows benefits in primates.

“CR works to delay ageing in primate species,” Dr Rozalyn Anderson of the department of medicine at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, told BBC News. “Our study data is consistent with that.”

The study found CR boosted survival in a group of rhesus monkeys studied over the course of decades.

And she said conflicting findings, from a previous study at a different institute, might be due to flaws in the control group. But she said CR was a research tool not a lifestyle recommendation.

“The concept is to delve into the biology of ageing and try to understand what’s the basis for increased risk for diseases as you get older and with advanced age,” she said. “It would be very difficult to implement CR in a long term way in humans.”

A US study is currently looking at whether healthy humans live longer on less food.

The participants restrict calories by 25% over several years, existing mainly on a diet of vegetables, fruits (especially apples), and soups.

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Sugar worse than salt claim health experts

Health experts claim avoiding sugar could be more important than avoiding salt when it comes to your healthy heart.

Sugar worse than salt claim health expertsScientists have clashed over claims that sugar may be worse for blood pressure and heart health than salt.

US experts say people need to place a greater focus on cutting sugar intake and suggest the benefits of lowering salt levels are “debatable.” Their arguments are published in the journal Open Heart.

But other researchers have said the claims are “disingenuous” and “scientifically unnecessary”. They maintain both need to be reduced.

Researchers from St Luke’s Mid America Heart Institute, and Montefiore Medical Centre in the USA reviewed a selection of evidence from basic science experiments, animal studies and human research.

They came to the conclusion that sugar – particularly fructose – may play a stronger role in high blood pressure and other cardiac conditions than salt.

And they say lowering salt consumption under certain levels may do more harm than good as the research team suggests attempts to reduce salt in processed food may drive people to eat more.

The US experts focus on a particular type of sugar – added fructose – often found in processed foods and sugary beverages.

But they say naturally occurring sugars in whole foods, for example those in fruit and vegetables, are not a cause for concern.

Data from the National Diet and Nutrition Survey in England suggests most adults and children eat more sugar than recommended.

The World Health Organization recommends sugars should make up less than 10% of total energy intake per day – this works out at about a maximum of 50g (1.7oz) of sugar for the average adult.

But the global health body recently acknowledged that halving this, to 5% of total energy intake per day, would have additional benefits.

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