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Elderly people who eat spinach and other leafy greens stay smarter than those who do not, shows a new study. Just one to two helpings a day can give you the brain power of someone eleven years younger. Scientists believe that the natural colourings lutein, beta carotene combined with vitamin K and vitamin B9 are behind the brain-protective properties of spinach.
The researchers, from Rush University in Chicago, studied 950 people with an average age of 81. By looking at their nutrition and then performing rigorous mental tests every year for ten years, they discovered that the brains of those eating even small quantities of leafy greens on a daily basis aged more slowly. The effect was marked, showing a brain age 11 years younger than counterparts who did not eat leafy greens as much.
Dr Martha Morris who led the research said: ‘Losing one’s memory or cognitive abilities is one of the biggest fears for people as they get older.
‘Since declining cognitive ability is central to Alzheimer’s disease and dementias, increasing consumption of green leafy vegetables could offer a very simple, affordable and non-invasive way of potentially protecting your brain.
‘With baby boomers approaching old age, there is huge public demand for lifestyle behaviours that can ward off loss of memory and other cognitive abilities with age.
‘Our study provides evidence that eating green leafy vegetables and other foods rich in vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene can help to keep the brain healthy to preserve functioning.’
Along with spinach, vitamin K, lutein and beta-carotene are also found in kale, tomatoes, carrots and peppers. So even if you are not as fond of spinach as Popeye, there are other options!
It’s often the case, especially for those that work odd or late hours, that you get the hunger attack late on before you go to bed. Although this is not the best time to be eating – eating while activity levels are low means that you are much more likely to store this energy as fat – there are some steps that you can take and things you can eat that will help avoid weight gain. So here are some healthy late night snacks.
Of course the first thing to do is to try and not get hungry in the evening in the first place. When we eat our blood sugar levels rise. This energy is then either used for activity, or if you are relaxing, insulin is released, instructing the cells to store this energy; some of it in the muscles and liver, but some of it as fat. It’s better, therefore, to try and match food intake to energy levels. So try to eat earlier in the day when activity levels are higher.
Planning also helps. If you can make healthy food to have during the day (or when you are most active) this will avoid any skipping of meals and then the late night hunger attack.
The second pointer is to give yourself at least an hour before eating and going to bed. Again, this makes it less likely that you will store energy taken on as fat.
Try not too have too much sugar or refined and processed carbohydrate either. This is very easily processed by the gut into blood sugar.
The final rule is to try and keep below 300 calories. Anything more and you will be in an energy surplus-fat-storing-state.
1 – Berry yoghurt shake. A natural yoghurt (Greek has the lowest sugar content) blended with berries contains a low GI fruit, oodles of vitamins, protein and fat to fill you up less calories than crackers.
2 – Frozen blueberries with cream. Use whipping cream to keep the calories low. Low in sugar, high in nutrients, with a bit of fat and protein to boot.
3 – Humous with crudités. made from chickpeas, homous contains a bit of protein, lots of complex carbohydrate and very little sugar. Dip with vegetables or fruit like cucumber and carrot batons.
4 – Scrambled eggs. Not just for breakfast, but quick and filling anytime. Add chillies, green and red sweet peppers and even some cheese for extra interest.
5 – Low GI fruit. Avocado and coconut (ok, it’s a nut) are healthy and filling and won’t spike blood sugar. But berries and even a green apple will work too.
Not only are eggs a great source of protein, helping you to maintain lean muscle mass and tempering high blood sugar levels that may be caused by a carbohydrate-only breakfast, but they may also make you a nicer person. Having an egg for breakfast may also damage your wallet..but in a good way. This is the interesting conclusion of a new study which has found that people are far more likely to give money to charity after a triple egg omelette.
As well as containing plenty of clean protein (and not as many calories as you would think) eggs are full of amino acids and every vitamin that we need, with the exception of vitamin C. Researchers in the Netherlands now think that a particular amino acid – tryptophan, or TRP – also plays a key role in the production of serotonin, the “mood” hormone that makes people feel happy and generous.
In the research, 16 subjects were given powdered TRP in a dose equivalent to three eggs. The other 16 people in the study were given a placebo powder. All of them were given €10 as their fee for taking part and were then asked if they would be willing to donate some or all of the money to charity. Donation boxes for well-known charities including the WWF (World Wildlife Fund) and Unicef were provided for donations. At the end of the study those who had eaten the TRP gave exactly twice as much as those on the placebo.
Eggs are a great alternative to the usual processed starchy foods that are traditional at breakfast time in the western world. They are filling due to the high protein content, and you can also use them as a good way of getting some of your 5 a day greens and vegetables. An omelette with two whole eggs, some green peppers, onions and chillies (if you like that sort of thing) would have under 200 calories in it, but lots of protein, vitamins and minerals. The high protein content will also ensure that you stay fuller for longer too!
By Adam Atkinson
As we head into 2015 we may have started an exercise regime and might even be thinking about eating a bit better. In the weight loss battle food is actually the most important factor. We can huff and puff in the gym until we are quite red in the face, but if we are still on the sugary, starchy dinners then it will remain difficult to lose weight.
It is also always better to make food yourself. Yes there are lots of healthier options now in the form of lighter or calorie counted ready meals, but home made is still better. So here are our 8 best picks for the best healthy cookbooks in 2015.
1 – The clean and lean diet cookbook
Celebrity personal trainer James Duigan’s book contains lots of healthy recipes that are simultaneously filling but also lean. Protein rich lean meats will help you lose weight while not feeling like you are missing out. His recipes will also help you to lower the CRAP – Caffenie, refined sugar, alcohol and processed foods. www.bodyism.com
2 – The medicinal chef – this accessible book contains easy recipes that target areas of health that you might want to improve, from bones and joints to digestive to heart health. Each dish has a code at the top letting you know what it will benefit and this is cross-referenced in the conditions index at the back where you can find recipes to help with a particular ailment.
3 – Total Greek yoghurt cookbook
Greek yoghurt is the personal trainer’s go-to snack, with only 3g of sugar/100 and a good blend of both fats and protein. These recepies draw on author Sophie Michell’s Greek roots and all contain the best selling brand of Greek yoghurt, Fage. http://uk.fage.eu/recipes
4 – Hummus Bros
This book contains many snack recipes containing…yes…humous. It teaches you to make snacks and mains with a healthier middle eastern feel, containing less sugar and starch, but with plenty of protein, fibre and nutrients. www.hbros.co.uk/new/home.php
5 – Honestly Healthy Cleanse
This book is based on the principle that too many acidic foods are bad for us; acidic juices, meat, grains and dressings can irritate the stomach, upset the endocrine system and cause weight gain. It looks instead at recipes promoting Alkaline eating instead. http://honestlyhealthyfood.com
6 – Itsu: the cookbook
This popular Japanese restraint chain has released this book, a must have for anyone thinking of trying the 5:2 or those who come in late from work and need a healthy light dinner. All the dishes are 300 calories or less and take less than half an hour to make. www.itsu.com/cookbook/
7 – The Natural Food Kitchen
Chef Jordan Bourke’s recepies are influenced by global cooking and this book is a great all rounder; the recepies are indulgent but guilt free, using all natural ingredients and provide realistic alternatives to sugar, dairy and wheat. http://www.jordanbourke.com/#!book/c1xnk
8 – Plenty More
Chef Ottolenghi’s vegetarian recipes can be a little exotic, so you might have to do to a specialist herb shop for some of the items but once this is done, the dishes are both special, enough to impress dinner party guests and healthy! http://www.ottolenghi.co.uk
As we enter the new year here is our 2014 health and fitness review – both the good and the bad. From the uselessness of vitamin supplements to the benefits of standing up, we learned a lot in 2014.
Although generally frowned on by your GP, the fasting diet, where calories are drastically lowered for a couple of days a week, were found to have a remarkable effect on the immune system, we were told in June. In tests on both humans and mice, fasting for two days a week triggers a “regenerative switch”, making the body produce more white blood cells. These blood cells fight illnesses, so fasting could be used by the elderly or those with damaged immune systems (from chemotherapy, for example) to generate a new one. Source – The University of Southern California
Standing is a great idea if you want to have a pert bottom said a study in April by the University of Tel Aviv. When fat cells are subjected to “chronic, sustained pressure” they expand by 50%, becoming both bigger and heavier. This is what happens when we sit for prolonged periods, so try to stand and walk, even in the office, at least every 20 minutes.
Although not technically good for us, these previously “vilified” fats do not have the negative impact on health as previously thought. For nearly half a century the consensus has been that saturated fats raise the levels of bad cholesterol in the blood. The NHS still advocates reducing intake to around 25g a day. But researchers at the University of Cambridge conducted a “mega-study” covering 600,000 people in 18 countries, and found that there is no “clearly supportive evidence” to support the NHS advice. The study showed that although trans fats increased a person’s likelihood of getting heart disease, saturated fats made little difference.
Many parents worry that endless hours in front of computer games is addling their childrens’ brains. But a study released by Oxford University in August showed that this worry may be misplaced. Involving 5000 children aged from 10 to 15, the research showed that those who spent up to an hour a day playing were happier, more sociable and better behaved than those who did not play computer games. Even playing for up to 3 hours a day was found to have no harmful effects (apart from the obvious effect on fitness). The study concluded that the games provided cognitive and social stimulation to a much greater extent that their TV based counterparts.
These were found to be a waste of time and money by a team at the University of Johns Hopkins in the USA. In January they declared “case closed” on a long running debate as to the effectiveness of vitamin supplements. Reviewing more than 25 studies involving 500, 000 people the University concluded that over the counter supplements had no benefits for “well nourished adults” and should not be taken for health benefits or disease prevention.
Known to be bad for us in excess for a long time, the year saw further dammning evidence for drinking. A decade-long study of 7,00 people found that boozing in middle age appeared to accelerate cognitive decline. Those that drank the equivalent of 2 ½ pints a day were found to have the verbal fluency, memory and mathematical ability of a 70 year old – when they were just 60. Moderate drinkers (1 pint a day) were unaffected.
These were given the thumbs down when research in September found that sweeteners in diet drinks can fool the metabolism, causing blood sugar levels to rise and making people overweight. There was also found to a mental factor too; those an diet drinks felt that they had more leeway in other areas of their diet and so ate more sweet treats.
Fruit juices, fizzy drinks and cordials.
The sugar in fruit juices and smoothies was labelled bad in February, when a study suggested that those who get their sugars from drinks with added sugar (as opposed to natural sources) were 1/5th more likely to die of a heart attack or stroke. British children consume 40% more added sugar that the recommended maximum, and the biggest source of thus was found to be fizzy drinks, fruit juices and cordials.
By Adam Atkinson
Shocking Christmas fact: he average UK adult puts on 5lbs over Christmas and eats 7000 calories on actual Christmas day itself. That’s nearly 6 days’ worth of energy, in one sitting. Here are Diets Don’t Work’s 6 tips on how to stay slim over Christmas
Although losing weight over the festive season might not be the most realistic of goals, how about a more achievable weight maintenance program? With just a little bit of exercise (you don’t even have to get breathless…much) and some smart food choices – both in terms of timing and content – you can have your cake and eat it.
If doing all of the above may seem like a bit of an effort; it’s so easy to just switch off a Christmas. But it will be much more of an effort to try and lose 5 lbs later on down the line. Especially in depressing January.
So take these simple steps and have a happy, but weight static Christmas!
Eating a Mediterranean diet can not only prevent heart disease and lead to a longer life, but it can keep the very essence of you – your DNA- young, says a new study from the US.
The researchers from Boston followed 5000 nurses over the course of a decade and found that the mix of fresh fruit, vegetables, poultry and good fats found in olive oils protected their DNA from the usual ageing found in those eating a more western diet. Typically this includes more red meats, saturated fats and more starchy vegetables.
The vitamin and nutrient rich meteterranean foods were found to be a protective buffer against the unravelling of our DNA. The study looked at TELOMERES, tiny structures that protect the ends of our chromosomes, which store our DNA. These “caps” prevent the loss and degradation of our DNA a during cell division. Throughout the natural ageing process our cells divide and our telomeres get shorter, with structural integrity weakening. This can actually cause the cells to die. Experts believe now that telomere length is a strong indicator of cellular ageing. Coversely, short, damaged telomeres are now being linked to a range of age-related diseases, from heart disease to cancer.
In the study, those nurses who ate a Mediterranean diet had longer and healthier telomeres. The study also showed that no single food stood out as the main producer of healthier DNA, and so emphasises the need for variety and a healthy all around diet.
The British Heart Foundaion said that the results reinforced their advice that eating a balanced and healthy diet can reduce chances of heart disease. Heart disease remains the largest age-related cause of death in the UK.
By Robert Adam Atkinson
Coffee is one of the most popular drinks in the world, with a Costa or starbucks opening on every street corner it would seem. People spend time and effort trying to stay in shape bbd keeping slim by watching what they eat; often though we neglect the calories hidden in liquids that we drink so often.
That cappuccino on the way to work may well be sabotaging your weight loss. Just a single drink from Starbucks could be as much as 50% of the calorie allowance for a female trying to lose weight. Recent reports from the World cancer Research Fund says “these types of drinks as an occasional treat won’t do you much harm. But if you are having them regularly then they will increase the chances of you becoming overweight, which in turn increases your risk of developing cancer as well as other diseases such as diabetes and heart disease”.
Here are some of the worst culprits from just one chain, Starbucks, and just for interest, some fast food equivalents. It can help to reduce intake (or for you to make better choices) if you make a strong mental link with an unhealthy food that correlates with the energy in your latte.
1. Venti signature hot chocolate with whipped cream and whole milk – 690 calories (Supersize bigmac and fries)
2. Venti white chocolate mocha with whipped cream and skimmed milk – 624 calories (big mac with normal fries)
3. Venti iced hazelnut mocha with whipped cream and semi skimmed milk – 599 calories (supoersixe quarter pounder with cheese and fries)
4. Grande signature hot chocolate with whole milk – 556 calories (big mac)
5. Venti peppermint mocha with whipped cream, drizzle and whole milk – 555 calories (same as a Big Mac)
6. Venti strawberries and cream frappucino with whipped cream – 459 calories (double cheeseburger and fries)
There are of course lots of options for making healthier choices, with just as much caffeine in.
This strong after-meal beverage is traditionally served as a single shot of strong black coffee with no milk. It contains around 80 to 100mg of caffeine, no protein, and around five calories.
Dietitian Catherine Collins of London’s St George’s Hospital says: ‘An espresso has no nutritional value, but for those who want to lose weight it is low in calories. The high dose of caffeine should give you a good kick to last you throughout the afternoon.’
Our health rating: 3/5
Cappuccino is an espresso topped with a generous amount of steamed milk made from full or skimmed milk. It contains about six grammes of protein from milk, a small amount of sodium and 150 calories when made with whole milk and 95 calories when made with skimmed milk.
Although a cappuccino is not best for those looking to lose weight as it is quite calorific, the large amount of milk provides a good source of protein and calcium which is important for bone health and will also help to maintain lean muscle mass.
Our health rating: 4/5
A latte is made from an espresso and much more steamed milk than a cappuccino. Each contains around ten grammes of protein from milk, five grammes of fat – the equivalent to a single butter pack – and around 225 calories when made with whole milk and 135 when made with skimmed milk. Again the protein and calcium content will help offset any sugars.
Coffee and tea
No calories, provided that you don’t have any sugar. If you must have some sweetness then feel free to cheat and have a sweetener. Plant based ones are the least unhealthy, like Stevia based sweeteners.
Our health rating – 4/5
By Adam Atkinson
White meat is healthiest concludes new Harvard study. In a new BBC Horizon program to air this evening, DR Micheal Mosley investigates the health effects of eating meats, from white meats, to processed ones to red meat.
In the UK we eat an average of 70g of red meat per person, while 25% of men eat almost twice as much. Despite the bad press, red meat dies contain good things. It is a great source of iron, protein and vitamin B, all of which are vital for health. Red meat and in particular processed meats tend to be high in fat though.
In the new study, Harvard University followed tens of thousands of volunteers over many years. Professor Willet, who reported the findings, said: “We found that those who consumed higher amounts of red meat had a higher risk of total mortality, cardiovascular mortality and cancer mortality.”
Called “red meat consumption and mortality,” his study estimates that eating a small amount of red meat a day (around 85g) is associated with an increased mortality rate of 13%, while eating the same amount of processed meat led to a 20% increase. This means that if you eat that much processed meat a day, your chances of dying from disease are 20% higher than someone who does not.
White meats like chicken and turkey were found to pose no significant health dangers.
By Adam Atkinson
Several studies have reported that going organic has no discernible benefits for the health conscious. But a new report says that the benefits are actually huge, and organic food is better for you.
The report, by the British Journal of Nutrition reviewed 343 studies on the difference between organic foods versus normal mass produced foods, and concluded that organic foods and organic-based crop foods contained much higher levels of antioxidants than conventionally grown foods.
The researchers also found that the conventionally grown foods contained greater concentrations of pesticides and even the metal Cadmium, which is highly toxic. Despite rules against the use of synthetic pesticides the study found that conventionally grown foods, in particular vegetables and fruits, were four times more likely to contain pesticide residue.
The researchers were keen to point out that although the findings prove that organic trumps conventionally grown produce, the levels of toxins in normal foods, although higher than organic foods, was still relatively low; it was important, they said, that people were not put off eating vegetables altogether because of the findings, as all types of fruit and vegetables had huge benefits to health and longevity.
By Robert Adam Atkinson