Could dairy protect against diabetes and hypertension?

A study including almost 150,000 participants has found that a higher intake of dairy products, particularly whole fat varieties, is linked with a lower risk of high blood pressure and diabetes.


New research suggests that consuming more full fat dairy may protect against diabetes and hypertension.

Rates of type 2 diabetes and hypertension, or high blood pressure, are rising in the United States.

As it stands, experts estimate that about 34 million people in the U.S. have diabetes, and almost half of the adult population have hypertension. Rates are also increasing elsewhere in the world, particularly elsewhere in the West.

Consequently, healthcare professionals are invested in understanding how to prevent these diseases. Because an unhealthful diet is a significant risk factor for both issues, adjusting the diet seems to be a promising approach.

Dairy products are of particular interest, following research indicating that dairy consumption is associated with lower blood pressure. Studies have also shown that eating more dairy is linked with a lower risk of diabetes.

However, most of this research has only included participants in Europe and North America, which has limited the generalizability of the findings.

Now, a large international study of data from almost 150,000 people has concluded that a higher intake of dairy, especially whole fat varieties, is associated with a lower risk of diabetes and high blood pressure.

The study also concluded that increased whole fat dairy consumption was associated with lower rates of metabolic syndrome — a cluster of symptoms that increase the risk of heart disease.

The findings are published in the journal BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care.

International scope

The investigation included data from 147,812 people from 21 countries, spanning Asia, North and South America, Africa, and Europe. The participants ranged in age from 35 to 70.

The researchers learned about the participants’ food intake over a year using questionnaires. On these, participants recorded the number of times that they had consumed specific items from a list, with an average follow-up of 9 years.

Among the dairy products on the list were milk, yogurt, cheese, and dishes prepared with dairy.

The researchers did not incorporate butter and cream intake data into the overall analysis, as these were not common in many of the participants’ areas. However, the team did assess associations between the intake and health outcomes separately.

Dairy products were classified either as whole fat, such as whole milk, or low fat, such as skim milk.

The researchers also considered information about each participant’s medical history, prescriptions, education, blood pressure, waist circumference, and levels of glucose and fat in the blood.

The latter measurements are important in determining whether a person has metabolic syndrome or type 2 diabetes.

At least 2 daily servings

The results of the study showed that, on average, people ate 179 grams of dairy each day. This is slightly less than a glass of milk or a cup of yogurt per day, each of which measures 244 grams.

People in Europe and North and South America, on average, ate more dairy than those in Asia and Africa. People in Europe and North America also tended to eat more low fat dairy products, whereas those in other regions consumed more whole fat varieties.

When analyzing the associations, the researchers found that having at least 2 servings of dairy per day was associated with a 24% lower risk of metabolic syndrome, compared with having no dairy at all.

Having at least 2 servings of whole fat dairy, meanwhile, was associated with a 28% lower risk of metabolic syndrome. Consuming only low-fat dairy was not associated with a reduction in metabolic syndrome risk.

While butter intake was also associated with a lower risk of metabolic syndrome, consumption was very low, on average 3 grams per day, and the available data were limited.

Low fat is not always more healthful

Having at least 2 servings per day of any dairy product was also associated with an 11–12% lower risk of having both diabetes and high blood pressure. The association was stronger in those who consumed whole fat dairy.

Summarizing the findings, study co-author Andrew Mente, Ph.D., a principal investigator at the Population Health Research Institute, in Hamilton, Ontario, said:

Higher intake of dairy foods, such as milk, yogurt, and cheese, especially whole fat dairy rather than low fat dairy, is associated with a lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome and with a lower risk of developing hypertension and diabetes.”

The findings may seem counterintuitive, as many people tend to think of whole fat products as less healthful than reduced fat alternatives. The authors hope to dispel this myth.

“Dairy foods and dairy fat provide high-quality protein and a wide range of essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, magnesium, potassium, zinc, phosphorus, and vitamins A, B-12, and riboflavin,” Mente explains.

Although it is not yet clear how dairy might protect against the health issues in question, the researchers hope to confirm their findings in large, long-term trials.

If their conclusions are confirmed, the researchers say, increasing the consumption of dairy could prove to be a “feasible and low-cost approach” to reducing rates of metabolic syndrome, high blood pressure, and diabetes worldwide.

Bonus Content

We have created a Youtube channel exclusively for Diabetes Tips.

Here is the first video on the top 10 fruits that are safe-to-eat for Diabetes control

Can Pumpkin Seed Oil Help Treat Acne?

Pumpkin seed oil is a carrier oil with antioxidant, antimicrobial, and anti-inflammatory properties.

While it has multiple health benefits, pumpkin seed oil hasn’t been widely studied for the treatment of acne. Here’s what the research shows, and what several dermatologists have to say about its use for skin care.

What is pumpkin seed oil?

Pumpkin seed oil is dark green or amber and has a nutty scent. It’s derived from the hulled seeds of pumpkins (Cucurbita pepo), often via cold pressing.

The oil contains multiple nutrients which provide benefits for health and for skin. These include:

  • linoleic acid (omega-6 fatty acid)
  • linolenic acid (omega-3 fatty acid)
  • tocopherols (vitamin E)
  • sterols
  • vitamin C
  • carotenoids (antioxidants)
  • zinc
  • magnesium
  • potassium

Pumpkin seed oil can be used for food preparation and topically for skin care. It’s also available as a nutritional supplement and as an ingredient in skin care products.

 

Can you use pumpkin seed oil to treat acne?

Pumpkin seed oil can be used as a topical, spot treatment to reduce the inflammation associated with acne.

One small study showed a significant difference in the amount and severity of pimples, pustules, and blackheads among participants who used pumpkin seed oil on their skin over the course of 1 to 3 months.

Some dermatologists embrace the use of pumpkin seed oil for acne. “Pumpkin seed oil is considered a good oil to use for acne prone skin. It contains a plethora of unsaturated fatty acids which can soothe inflammation and acne-prone skin,” says plastic surgeon and anti-aging expert, Dr. Anthony Youn.

Others are less enthusiastic, but confident that pumpkin seed oil won’t produce any adverse effects on skin.

According to board certified dermatologist, Erum Ilyas, MD, MBE, FAAD: Pumpkin seed oil does not appear to prevent oil or sebum from building up. It also does not appear to work to break apart skin cells for exfoliation. However, it may help reduce redness or inflammation that comes from acne, to make it appear less inflamed.

Pumpkin seed oil will not likely make acne worse, so it’s reasonable to try if you find that you are frustrated by redness or the skin sensitivity that comes from either acne, or the traditional products we use to treat acne.”

How can pumpkin seed oil benefit the skin?

Pumpkin seed oil’s use for skin conditions such as acne and photoaging haven’t been studied extensively. However, there’s some research indicating that its components can be beneficial.

Supports wound healing

An animal studyTrusted Source indicated found that the tocopherols, linoleic acid, and sterols in pumpkin seed oil supported wound healing.

Supports production of collagen

Pumpkin seed oil’s vitamin C content supports the production of collagen, which helps skin retain elasticity and firmness.

Reduces free radicals and balances oil in the skin

“The components of pumpkin seed oil translate into a wide range of benefits for skin,” says dermatologist Dr. Peterson Pierre.

“Vitamin C and vitamin E are potent antioxidants which help protect skin against environmental stressors by reducing free radicals. The essential fatty acids penetrate the skin to maintain and increase moisture levels, without leaving a greasy residue. Combined with the antioxidant properties, they help maintain a youthful appearance.

“These acids also help balance oil in the skin, providing moisture where it’s lacking and controlling oil where it’s abundant. Zinc and selenium also help in this regard. Furthermore, zinc along with vitamin C protect and help in the production collagen and elastin fibers which enhances tone and tightness,” he adds.

Did you know?

There are several varieties of pumpkin which may be used to make pumpkin seed oil. One of the most common types is the Styrian pumpkin, which grows in certain parts of Eastern Europe.

Styrian pumpkin is an oilseed pumpkin which produces a nutrient-dense oil. It can take as many as 30 pumpkins to make a liter of oil.

Pumpkin seed product recommendations

You can use pumpkin seed oil directly on your skin as a spot treatment for acne. Since it’s a carrier oil, there’s no need to dilute it. There are also several products which contain pumpkin seed oil that can be beneficial for skin conditions.

Price range guide:

$less than $25
$$over $25

US Organic Pumpkin Seed Oil

This brand of cold-pressed, organic pumpkin seed oil is manufactured domestically in a USDA-certified organic facility. Unlike some other brands, it’s not diluted with fillers or alcohol.

You can purchase US Organic Pumpkin Seed Oil in multiple sizes. It can be used as a spot treatment for acne or as an allover body moisturizer.

Price: $

Buy: Find US Organic Pumpkin Seed Oil in Amazon

MyChelle Dermaceuticals Pumpkin Renew Cream

This facial moisturizer is perfect for normal and dry skin. In addition to pumpkin seed oil, it contains naturally sourced, organic shea butter. It’s phthalate free and contains no artificial colors or fragrance. It has a very creamy consistency, and absorbs quickly.

Price: $

Buy: Shop for MyChelle Pumpkin Renew Cream in Amazon

ARCONA Pumpkin Lotion 10%

This natural, exfoliating body lotion contains pumpkin extracts and glycolic acid. It’s designed to reduce the effects of photoaging and sun damage.

Users say the pumpkin scent is delightful, and that it’s effective for fading brown spots. It also contains cinnamon leaf oil and clove leaf oil.

Price: $$

Buy: Shop for ARCONA Pumpkin Lotion in Amazon

Shea Moisture 100% Premium Pumpkin Seed Oil

This fair-trade brand of pumpkin seed oil can be used anywhere on the face, hair, or body. It’s an excellent choice for sensitive skin, dry skin, or acne-prone skin.

Price: $

Buy: Find Shea Moisture Pumpkin Seed Oil in Amazon

Key takeaways

Pumpkin seed oil is packed with beneficial components for skin. Even so, it hasn’t been researched extensively for its use as an acne treatment.

Users find it mild for all skin types and beneficial for reducing breakouts and inflammation.

The 7 Most Inspiring Books About Weight Loss

woman exercising indoors
a woman reading a book

Losing weight can be a roller coaster of emotions. There are days when your pants fit a little looser and you feel like celebrating, and then others when you feel defeated after you step on the scale and see the number hasn’t budged.

“Losing weight is hard, plain and simple,” says Amy Cirbus, a licensed therapist at Talkspace who is based in the New York City area. “The elation of success, when we reach a point we’re proud of achieving, is a powerful high. The sting of disappointment, shame, anger, and doubt creep in when expectations aren’t met.”

Generally, this comes when life gets in the way of your best-laid weight loss plans. Cirbus says things can start out great — you establish an eating and exercise plan and commit to letting go of problematic old habits in favor of forming positive new ones. And then something happens that throws you off course — maybe you can’t resist a slice of cake at a friend’s birthday party, or work interferes with your gym time. “We’re left to work through the disappointment and frustrations of falling off the wagon in order to get back on,” Cirbus says. “It becomes a mental game as much as a physical one.”

It’s completely normal to take these setbacks personally. “When we cheat on a diet, we mistake the behavior with the person and absorb the failure,” Cirbus says. “The day we decided to eat all the cake at the party becomes a hangover of sugar and regret, and can make us feel horrible about ourselves.”

It helps to know that setbacks are part of the process. “Losing weight is a marathon, not a sprint,” Cirbus says. She says to picture your weight loss journey as a graph, where the individual day may not have been so great, but overall your progress is trending in the right direction.

If you need help along the way, pick up one of these seven inspiring books that depict what the weight loss journey is really like.

1. Heavy: An American Memoir, by Kiese Laymon

Heavy: An American Memoir by Kiese Laymon

In this powerful memoir, which earned a lot of buzz in 2018, Kiese Laymon tells his story of growing up in Mississippi and how he learned to lean on food to cope with life. The book deals with more than just weight issues — it chronicles Laymon’s complicated relationship with his mother, his history with sexual violence and gambling, and the difficulties he’s experienced being black in America.

Click to check the price in Amazon

2. The Elephant in the Room, by Tommy Tomlinson

The Elephant in the Room by Tommy Tomlinson

When the journalist Tommy Tomlinson was approaching his 50th birthday, he weighed 460 pounds (lb) and was at risk for the negative health issues that come with being overweight, including type 2 diabetes and heart disease. He explains that the weight didn’t creep up on him. In this vividly written memoir, Tomlinson details his lifelong battle with his weight, which he partially attributes to being born into a family that loves Southern food and considers rich fare a luxury. He also describes what it’s like to go through life every day as an obese man (researching restaurant seating in advance and fearing tumbles on the subway, for instance) and how he’s attempted to move the needle by counting his calorie intake with a food journal.

Click to check the price in Amazon

 

3. Walking With Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life, by Eric O’Grey with Mark Dagostino

Walking With Peety: The Dog Who Saved My Life by Eric O'Grey with Mark Dagostino

Picture this: Eric O’Grey is 150 lb overweight and dealing with type 2 diabetes and depression. He goes to see a new doctor who leaves him with an unconventional prescription: a shelter dog, Peety, who’s also overweight. This uplifting read tells the story of how the pair became friends and turned their lives around together. Both of them lost weight (150 lb for O’Grey, which was enough to put type 2 diabetes in remission), and O’Grey regained control of his life and found love and happiness.

Click to check the price in Amazon

4. It Was Me All Along, by Andie Mitchell

It Was Me All Along by Andie Mitchell

This New York Times bestseller tells the story of a young girl from Boston who found comfort in sweets and junk food. Andie Mitchell’s awakening came when she stepped on the scale at age 20 and was shocked by the number she saw. The story that ensues is partially about weight loss (she ends up losing about half of her body weight by seeking balance and eating in moderation) and also about self-acceptance and how Mitchell learns to love herself.

5. Always Too Much and Never Enough: A Memoir, by Jasmin Singer

Always Too Much and Never Enough: A Memoir by Jasmin Singer

Jasmin Singer is an animal rights advocate who adopted a vegan diet, which she learned did not automatically make her thin. In her poignant memoir, Singer touches on how she successfully lost 100 pounds (cutting out processed foods and incorporating juice fasts are two tactics that helped), the ways in which heavy people are brought down by society, and how unpacking her destructive relationship with food helped her rebuild her self-esteem.

Click to check the price in Amazon

6. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body, by Roxane Gay

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

In this popular memoir from the celebrated New York Times bestselling author Roxane Gay, the writer dives into her past and reveals how the violence she experienced as a 12-year-old girl made her rely on food as a way to protect her body. Gay details how the societal shame of being overweight has infiltrated aspects of her life as a 6-foot-3 bisexual adult with obesity. The story will pull you in with its wonderful writing, and while Gay herself doesn’t view her story as inspiring, it may push you to rethink your relationship with food and your own body and how necessary it is to do the work to make sure that relationship is a positive one.

7. The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl, by Shauna Reid

The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl by Shauna Reid

Looking for a lighthearted and hilarious read? This one is for you. Scotland-based Shauna Reid started a blog — The Amazing Adventures of Dietgirl — to document her journey from a 351-lb 23-year-old to a slimmed-down version of herself half that size. The book weaves in other plotlines, including Reid’s travels, work issues, and dating life, as it tells the story of how she overcame obstacles in a way many readers looking to lose weight will find relatable.

Click to check the price in Amazon

6 Awesome Ingredients to Add to Your Smoothie

The Top 6 Ingredients to Add to Your Smoothie

Smoothies can serve as a cool, creamy, delicious meal-in-a-glass. But when you whip up your favorite smoothie, is it going to nourish you or merely satisfy your taste buds? And what will it do to that number on the scale? Here are six ingredients our dietitians believe will help you create the most nutritious, filling smoothies ever:

1. Dark, leafy greens

Spinach and kale are great staples for smoothies. But don’t be afraid to branch out and try beet roots, celery (with leaves) or other dark, leafy greens.

Greens are low in sugars and calories, and provide more iron and protein than fruit. They’re also bursting with fiber, folate, and phytonutrients like carotenoids, saponins and flavonoids.

“A smoothie that is all fruit is an unbalanced mini-meal,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD. “Grab a big handful of greens, rinse, and add to your smoothie to ensure you’re not missing out on key nutrients.”

All veggies help support a healthy weight, keep bowel movements regular, fight inflammation and decrease the risk of chronic disease. But research shows the vast majority of Americans struggle to eat the recommended three to five servings a day.

“If you have a difficult time eating vegetables, smoothies are a great way to increase your intake. Add as many dark, leafy greens as you like!” says April Verdi, RD, LD.

2. Cruciferous veggies

Shredded cabbage, bok choy (and leafy green kale, as well) are part of the special cruciferous family of vegetables.

“Cruciferous vegetables are my favorite ingredients to add to a smoothie. These nutrient-rich gems contain glucosinolates, an anti-inflammatory phytonutrient,” says Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD.

Researchers are exploring cruciferous vegetables because studies have linked glucosinolates to a lower risk of certain cancers. And one study linked broccoli intake to increased survival in bladder cancer.

Whatever vegetable you choose, “smoothies are an incredibly easy vehicle for increasing your overall consumption, because you can’t taste the veggies!” she says.

3. Nuts, nut butters and seeds

Veggies are vital in a smoothie, but protein will stabilize your blood sugars and keep you feeling full.

Peanut butter, other nut butters, nuts and seeds provide protein — and they also provide heart-healthy fat.

“Most smoothies provide carbohydrate and protein but lack fat,” notes Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD. “The extra bit of fat in nuts, nut butters and seeds helps to slow your digestion.”

Choose natural peanut or almond butter (all peanuts or almonds, no fillers), or add walnut halves to boost your omega-3 intake.

Ground flaxseed is another great option. “It’s a source of omega-3 fat and provides extra protein and fiber,” says Ms. Patton. Two tablespoons contain 60 calories, 4.5 grams of unsaturated fat, 3 grams of protein and 4 grams of fiber.

“Because extra fiber also helps with bowel regularity, you may want to start with a small serving of flaxseed. Then increase, as desired, up to 2 tablespoons per day,” she notes.

Because nuts, seeds and nut butters are high in calories, “be mindful of portion sizes,” cautions Ms. Verdi. “Add no more than half an ounce of nuts or seeds, or 1 tablespoon of nut butter, per serving.” For example, eight walnut halves equal half an ounce.

4. Greek yogurt and milk/ milk alternatives

Dairy products are another source of protein, which can help make your smoothie a true meal replacement that keeps you satisfied.

“Plain Greek yogurt and tofu are nice alternatives to protein powders, which often come with added flavors and sugars that you may not want or need,” says Dawn Noe, RD, LD, CDE.

Ms. Verdi recommends nonfat, plain Greek Yogurt. If you want to add liquid to your smoothie, she suggests using unflavored skim or 1% cow’s milk, or unflavored almond or soy milk.

5. Berries

Love fruit in your smoothie? Then berries are the way to go.

“Raspberries, blueberries, strawberries and other berries add a sweet and tart flavor, and their fiber helps you stay full,” says Ms. Noe.

“Berries also contain antioxidants, which research suggests may have cancer-fighting properties. And because they’re low on the glycemic index, berries won’t spike your blood sugars as quickly as other fruits do.”

Try tossing a mixture of berries into a smoothie. It’s easy to find frozen bags of mixed berries at the grocery store. “Just be sure to buy the plain fruit mixture – without added sugar,” she adds.

Frozen fruit is a nutritious replacement for ice in your smoothies, too.

6. Spirulina

This sea vegetable, in dried powder form, is a nutrient powerhouse — but it’s not for everyone.

“Spirulina offers a ton of nutrient density without packing in the calories and sugar,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD. “I recommend adding 1 to 2 tablespoons to a smoothie.”

Two tablespoons contain just 40 calories, 3.4 grams of carbohydrate and 0.5 grams of fiber, but provides 8 grams of protein because it’s so rich in amino acids.

But here are some caveats:

  • Spirulina may interact with certain medications, especially immunosuppressant drugs. If you have rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis, lupus or another autoimmune disease, spirulina is not for you.
  • Anyone with the rare disorder phenylketonuria (PKU) should also avoid spirulina because one of the many amino acids it contains is phenylalanine.
  • Finally, if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, talk to your doctor before trying this potent sea vegetable.

Now that you’re armed with a list of the best ingredients to add to a smoothie, you should be able to create nutrient-packed, quick meals that also make your taste buds happy.

5 Vitamins You May Need More of and Where To Get Them

woman finding vitamins in food

Lucky for us, unlike our ancestors we typically don’t have be as concerned about serious vitamin deficiency disorders. We’re more informed about what’s good for us. With improved distribution, we have more accessibility to healthy foods. We’ve figured out ways to add vitamins to foods if they aren’t naturally found there. And if we partake in a balanced diet, we generally get a healthier dose of the vitamins we need.

“But that still doesn’t guarantee everyone will get all the essential vitamins and minerals needed to protect against chronic health problems,” says dietitian Mira llic, RD, LD. “Certain medical conditions, economic or demographic factors that influence access to food, life stages and special diets can increase the risk for vitamin insufficiency that can compromise your health.”

Here Ilic explains vitamins with increased risk for inadequate intake, and if you’re missing them how you can add them to your diet.

Vitamin B12 (Cobalamin)

Why you need it — Vitamin B12 helps keep your nerve and blood cells healthy, and it aids in your body’s energy production and DNA. You need to be able to absorb it properly to get these benefits. As you age, you have less acid in your stomach to break down protein and release vitamin B12 from food. Also, conditions like Crohn’s disease or medications such as proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers and the diabetes drug metformin can interfere with absorption.

How to get it — People over age 50 or others at risk for having less than sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 should ask a doctor about whether they should take a supplement. But usually you can get B12 through foods such as:

  • Fish such as tuna, salmon and trout.
  • Clams.
  • Meat.
  • Poultry.
  • Eggs.
  • Milk.
  • Milk products like cheese or nonfat plain Greek yogurt.
  • Fortified soy milk.

“For vegetarians and vegans — you may be more at risk for having too little B12 in your diet,” Ilic says. “ Fortified foods can be good sources. Just make sure to avoid the sugary stuff.”

Folate and Folic Acid

Why you need it —  Folate is a general term that’s used to describe the many different forms of vitamin B9. Vitamin B9 is one of the eight B vitamins. It’s important in red blood cell formation and for healthy cell growth and function. And it’s particularly important for women to ingest folate during the first three weeks of pregnancy to prevent birth defects.

Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that is used in supplements and in fortified foods. (Fortification is the process by which vitamins and minerals are added to food.)

How to get it —  It can be difficult for some to get the daily recommended amount of folate through foods alone. “Keep in mind that many of us are still not getting enough fruits, vegetables and legumes — our best sources for folate,” Ilic says. “Increasing your daily consumption can be easier than you think, though.”

You can get more folate naturally simply by increasing your intake of these foods:

  • Leafy green vegetables.
  • Fruits — especially citrus fruits, melons and strawberries.
  • Fruit juice (Remember: The less sugar, the better).
  • Legumes such as dried beans, lentils and peas.

Because we needed extra help in getting the full amount of folate and folic acid in our diets, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) also requires that folic acid be added to enrich the following foods (if it’s fortified, it will be listed on the label).

  • Certain breads.
  • Assorted cereals.
  • Flour.
  • Corn meal.
  • Pastas.
  • Rice.
  • Other grain products (read labels to see if they include folic acid).

Vitamin D

Why you need it — Getting enough vitamin D is crucial for your body to absorb the calcium it needs for healthy bones and teeth. Vitamin D deficiency also has been linked to certain cancers and heart disease. But unlike other vitamins, our main source of vitamin D isn’t food — it’s the sun. So risk factors for low levels of vitamin D include living at high latitudes, high levels of air pollution or city smog, dense cloud covering, clothing that always covers your skin and liberal sunscreen use (although both are very important to protect skin from sun damage) and darker skin pigmentation.

How to get it —  Many foods today are fortified with vitamin D, including orange juice, milk and breakfast cereals. Natural sources of vitamin D include fatty fishes such as:

  • Salmon.
  • Herring.
  • Tuna.
  • Sardines.
  • Mushrooms.
  • Whole eggs.

If you don’t eat fish or if these foods aren’t available to you, talk to your doctor about a vitamin D supplement.

Vitamin B6

Why you need it — Vitamin B6 is part of nearly 200 biochemical reactions in the human body, but it’s best known for its role in regulating your sleep, appetite and mood. It plays a key role in cognitive abilities and immune function and also helps you make red blood cells. Although deficiency is rare, many of us (especially the elderly) don’t get the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for vitamin B6.

How to get it — A mix of meats, whole grains, vegetables and nuts can help. Other foods rich in B6 include:

  • Baked potatoes.
  • Bananas.
  • Chicken.
  • Garbanzo beans.
  • Other fortified foods (check the label to see if it’s fortified).

Vitamin A

Why you need it — Vitamin A is important for vision, healthy skin and immunity. It is found in pre-formed vitamin A (retinol) and beta-carotene which is converted by your body into an active form of vitamin A.

How to get it — Green vegetables and orange or yellow vegetables and fruits are good sources of beta-carotene:

  • Carrots.
  • Sweet potatoes.
  • Winter squash.
  • Spinach.
  • Broccoli.

Other foods rich in pre-formed vitamin A:

  • Eggs.
  • Milk.
  • Butter.
  • Cheese.
  • Liver.

“With a healthy, balanced diet that includes adding foods that naturally contain the vitamins you’re missing, fortified foods and supplements in some cases,” llic says, “you can get your vitamin intake on track in no time.”

Top 5 Trending Diets: Which Are a Hit, Which Are a Miss?

5 Trending Diets: Which Are a Hit, Which Are a Miss?

Contributor: Brigid Titgemeier, MS, RDN, LD

So many of us jump on the latest diet bandwagon. Yet time and time again, diets fail us.

That’s because the only way to succeed with a diet is to find one that works for you, personally. Nutrition never was, and never will, be “one size fits all.”

Bear that in mind in this review of the most-searched-for diets on Google in 2016. They’re ranked from the most well-researched to the least to help you make an informed decision about trying them:

1. Atkins 40: Extensive research, a more realistic approach

The Atkins 20 is an effective weight loss plan. Studies have shown that this type of lower carbohydrate diet may improve control of type 2 diabetes, seizures and other neurological conditions.

The Atkins 40 is essentially a less restrictive version of the Atkins 20 and a ketogenic diet (explained below). The plan, advertised as an easy low-carb diet, promotes counting net carbohydrates (total carbs minus dietary fiber and sugar alcohols). It allows 40 grams of net carbohydrates per day and is intended for those with less than 40 pounds to lose.

On the Atkins 40, you choose 15 grams of net carbohydrates from high-fiber vegetables and use the remaining 25 grams for Greek yogurt, fruit, nuts, whole grains and legumes. As you get closer to your goal weight, you slowly incorporate more net carbohydrates.

The benefits of the Atkins 40 are that it encourages plenty of vegetables, nutrient-dense carbohydrates and portion control. It also allows for variety. You can choose how to use your net carbohydrates and change things up each day.

Finally, the Atkins 40 promotes balanced meals that focus on protein, fats and carbohydrates.

Unlike the other diets on this list, the benefits of lower carbohydrate diets such as the Atkins and ketogenic diets are backed by validated research studies, published in medical journals.

2. Ketogenic diet: Get a doctor’s OK, seek healthy fat sources

The ketogenic diet is a stringent nutrition plan that’s high in fat, moderate to low in protein, and very low in carbohydrate. On it, you choose different ratios of fat to protein and carbohydrate. The strictest ratio is 4:1 (90 percent fat, 8 percent protein, 2 percent carbohydrate).

You can look at any diet with less than 10 percent carbohydrates (20 to 50 grams per day) as a low-carb ketogenic diet. The idea is that restricting carbohydrates reduces insulin levels and fat accumulation.

After a few days on the diet, decreased carbohydrate reserves can no longer fuel your central nervous system, and the liver responds by producing ketone bodies from fatty acids. The process is called ketogenesis (thus the name ketogenic diet).

Not solely used for weight loss, the ketogenic diet has been around since the time of Hippocrates, when it was used to help manage epilepsy. Since then, research has suggested that ketogenic diets can reduce food cravings and may benefit people with obesity, insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

While new studies suggest that high-fat ketogenic diets may benefit people with Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease and cancer, further research is needed.

For some people, a ketogenic diet can be taxing on the liver and the kidneys, and may cause constipation. So if you’re interested in a ketogenic diet, be sure to discuss it with your doctor or a dietitian first.

Also, it’s easy to follow an unhealthy version of the ketogenic diet. Choose unhealthy fats, such as processed and factory-farmed meats, high-fat dairy products, and partially hydrogenated oils.

For optimal results, you’ll want to focus on high-quality fats, such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado oil, coconut oil, etc.

3. GOLO Diet: Many claims unsubstantiated

 The GOLO® program seeks to stabilize insulin levels and blood sugars, a concept supported by the latest research. The company claims that controlling insulin is more effective than counting calories.

For many people, insulin and blood sugar levels do in fact contribute to weight change. Eating refined carbs (like white bread and pasta) causes blood sugar levels to spike quickly, which can lead to more production of insulin. Insulin is a fat-storing hormone used to transport sugar from the bloodstream into cells.

Although the program has a good understanding of the link between insulin resistance and weight gain (especially belly fat), it does not appear to be validated by substantial research. In the claims made on the website, the company does not reference any published research studies.

GOLO is promoted as an “all-inclusive plan” but doesn’t specify which foods are consumed, and it features images of white bread and pasta in advertising.

All participants are advised to use a supplement that includes banaba leaf, berberine HCl, chromium, apple polyphenol, salacia bark extract, gardenia fruit extract, rhodiola, inositol, zinc and magnesium.

While GOLO claims that 200 independent studies substantiate the supplement’s effectiveness, most of those studies look at ingredients individually and not in combination.

4. Military Diet: Quality of calories a concern

The Military Diet is a low-calorie weight loss program. It promises a 10-pound weight loss in three days or a 30-pound loss in one month “without strenuous exercise or expensive pills.”

The plan’s primary benefits are that it eliminates added sugars and non-nutritive sweeteners (with the exception of stevia). It also recommends preparing your own foods at home instead of eating out.

The Military Diet’s three greatest limitations are that it offers very little variety. it takes a low-calorie approach. That’s proven to set you up for increased hunger and cravings; and it does not focus on the quality of your calories.

For example, while the shopping list includes nutritious staples like apples, eggs and broccoli, it also includes vanilla ice cream, saltine crackers and hot dogs. One sample breakfast includes five saltines, one slice of cheddar cheese and one small apple. That’s a very small meal that lacks nutrient density.

A sample dinner the same night includes one cup of tuna, half a banana and one cup of vanilla ice cream. These portions are very small, may not leave you satisfied after the meal, and are very limited in variety.

This is the perfect example of why the quality of your calories matters so much more than the quantity. Saltines, vanilla ice cream and hot dogs should not be part of any nutrition plan.

5. Taco Diet: Where’s the nutrition?

The taco cleanse claims that eating tacos for 30 days is “proven to change your life.” This protocol was created by vegan “taco scientists” in Austin, Texas, and recommends eating one to two tacos at every meal, adding margaritas as necessary.

The taco diet does not seem to be substantiated by research, although the website claims that studies support its health benefits.

On the taco diet, you fill tortillas with beer-battered portobellos, macaroni and cheese, and tater tots. These are far from nutritious options!

Plenty of people can lose weight on a junk food diet but that does not mean that it’s the best option for overall health. Weight loss should be a side effect of any diet or nutrition plan. Diets should focus on creating health and decreasing inflammation. This does not seem to be the cause with the Taco Diet.

Do ‘Cheat Meals’ Help or Hurt Your Diet?

You’re good about watching what you eat. But every now and then, you splurge on a meal that’s definitely not on any weight loss plan.

Are ‘cheat meals’ a good thing or a bad thing? Our dietitians share their points of view:

Con: Cheaters never win

“With ‘cheat meals,’ the only thing you’re cheating is yourself,” says Anna Taylor, MS, RD, LD, CDE.

If you hope to lose 1 pound a week and burn 2,000 calories per day, you’ll have to cut 500 calories per day. That means consuming no more than 1,500 calories per day.

A cheat meal consisting of a double cheeseburger with fries and a milkshake can set you back over 2,000 calories.

“Once you’ve added in other meals and snacks, it literally cancels out half your hard work in meeting your calorie and exercise goals all week,” she says.

Pro (with a few caveats)

Kate Patton, MEd, RD, CSSD, LD, is OK with cheat meals as a positive reward — as long as you offset the extra calories somewhere else in the day.

“You can exercise for a longer period of time or at greater intensity, for example,” she says.

Whether cheat meals help or hurt depends on the person, says Julia Zumpano, RD, LD.

“If you feel less deprived by eating that piece of cake, or burger and fries, and don’t feel you have to order one of everything off the menu, it could lead to better long-term outcomes,” she says.

But know that indulging in “forbidden” foods can make you start to crave them. “And if you have a history of overeating or bingeing, cheat meals can trigger those behaviors,” she notes.

Gonna cheat? Be smart

Kristin Kirkpatrick, MS, RD, LD, recommends being strategic if you decide to cheat. “Don’t plan a cheat meal just to go nuts on your diet,” she says.

“Allow yourself to go off your diet for a special event. If you find you don’t feel like cheating, then don’t — don’t force it.”

Also, keep those cheat meal choices fairly healthy, adds Ms. Patton:

  • Order a single cheeseburger instead of a double bacon cheeseburger.
  • Share your French fries.
  • Split a pasta primavera instead of ordering a whole fettuccine Alfredo.

How’s that diet working for you?

If you find you’ve created a pattern of cheat meals, “your diet is probably not livable,” says Ms. Taylor. Many diets are too strict.

Everything you eat needn’t be a dietitian’s daydream, she notes. Start with a foundation of fiber-rich produce, whole grains, lean proteins, low-fat dairy, and healthy fats.

Then give yourself some flexibility:

  • To maintain health, eat healthy food 80 percent of the time, and allow yourself 20 percent wiggle room (practicing portion control).
  • To improve health, eat healthy foods 90 percent of the time, and allow yourself 10 percent wiggle room.

The bottom line: Don’t use food to reward, punish or comfort yourself. Strive for a healthy relationship with food, and you’ll enjoy a healthy weight — while also enjoying your meals.

All About Dragon Fruit: 3 Health Benefits + How to Eat It

Food ruts happen. Maybe you’re in one now. Need help getting out of it?

Dragon fruit is a nutritious — not to mention vibrant — fruit that can benefit your body and your taste buds, says registered dietitian Mira Ilic, MS, RDN, LD.

Ready to get a little adventurous? Here’s how to incorporate dragon fruit into your diet.

What is dragon fruit, and what does it taste like?

Dragon fruit, also called pitaya or strawberry pear, looks like something straight out of a Dr. Seuss book: On the outside, it’s a pink oval with green scales (hence the “dragon” name). Inside, it has white flesh with tiny black seeds. The fruit’s strange appearance also gives off “psychedelic artichoke” vibes.

“It’s a tropical fruit that comes from a cactus. It’s available everywhere around the world, but it’s indigenous to Mexico and South America,” Ilic notes.

“If you like kiwi fruit and pears, then you’ll probably like dragon fruit. It’s sweet and crunchy.”

Dragon fruits come in a variety of shapes and colors:

  • Pink skin with white flesh. This is the most well-known kind, but it’s the least sweet. It’s sold under the names including Alice, Cosmic Charlie and Guyute.
  • Pink skin with red or pink flesh. Bigger and sweeter than its white-fleshed cousinthis variety is sold in stores under names such as Red Jaina and Bloody Mary.
  • Pink skin with purple fleshLook for the name “American Beauty” in stores.
  • Yellow skin with white flesh. Yellow dragon fruit is the hardest to find, but it’s also the sweetest.

The benefits of eating dragon fruit

The flesh of the dragon fruit is low in calories and fat-free. It also contains plenty of:

Fiber

Dragon fruit is an excellent source of fiber, Ilic says. The daily recommendation for adults is at least 25 grams — and dragon fruit packs 7 grams in a single 1-cup serving.

“Fiber, may benefit gastrointestinal and cardiovascular health,” notes Ilic. “Fiber is also filling, which is helpful if you’re trying to lose weight. People who eat whole, fiber-rich foods are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.”

Nutrients

Dragon fruit has a ton of beneficial vitamins and minerals, including:

  • Carotenoids (may reduce cancer risk).
  • Lycopene (may improve heart health and reduce cancer risk).
  • Magnesium (important for cell function, and dragon fruit provides 18% of the recommended daily amount).
  • Iron (important for healthy blood and energy, and dragon fruit contains 8% of the recommended daily intake).
  • Vitamin C (helps your body absorb the iron and boosts immune system health).

Gut benefits

Healthy bacteria in your gut may help digestion and even reduce colon cancer risk. “Some studies appeared to show that dragon fruit promoted the growth of healthy gut bacteria,” says Ilic. “It may have a positive effect on the gut microbiome, the good bacteria in our intestines.”

How to cut and eat dragon fruit

If you can’t find dragon fruit in your local supermarket, you may have better luck in a specialty food store or Asian market.

To pick one out, Ilic recommends trusting your gut. “Follow your fruit know-how,” she says.

“It should be slightly soft when you’re testing it with your finger. If it’s overly firm, you can still bring it home and leave it on your counter to ripen.”

Peel and cut it into sections when you’re ready to eat it. Much like an avocado, you eat the flesh and discard the skin. You could also cut it in half and scoop out the flesh with a spoon or melon baller.

Dragon fruit is best eaten raw, but you can throw it on the grill like some other fruits. Enjoy it on its own or add it to:

  • Cocktails.
  • Desserts.
  • Fish, especially cod, tuna and mahimahi.
  • Salads.
  • Smoothies.

Once you cut it up, wrap it tightly and put it in your fridge,” says Ilic. “When your dragon fruit starts to get mushy and brown, throw it away.”

5 Reasons Why Juice for Kids Isn’t as Healthy as You Think

From sippy cups to foil pouches, juice has become a ubiquitous part of meals and snacks for many kids. But new guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggest that parents limit how much juice their children drink — and the smallest kids shouldn’t have any juice at all.

What the guidelines say

The AAP lays out the following rules for juice consumption:

  • For infants under 1 year, give them no juice at all, unless indicated by a doctor.
  • For toddlers ages 1-3, limit daily intake to a maximum of 4 oz.
  • For children ages 4-6, limit daily intake to between 4 and 6 oz.
  • For children ages 7 and up, limit daily intake to no more than 8 oz., and juice should make up no more than 1 cup of the recommended 2-2½ cups of fruit per day.

If your tot regularly carries around a cup of juice or consumes several boxes of juice each day, your family might need to make some adjustments. Most juice boxes and pouches contain between 6 and 7 oz. of juice — more than one each day is too much for any kid.

But I thought juice was healthy!

Juice isn’t necessarily unhealthy, but excessive juice consumption can cause a number of problems. Here are five reasons.

1. Fiber is lacking. “When you drink juice, you’re not getting the fiber that’s present in fruit,” says pediatrician Karen Vargo, MD. “Fiber helps regulate blood glucose metabolism. When you drink pure juice, your blood glucose goes way up, because there’s no fiber to counter all the sugar in the juice.”

Fiber is also important for regular bowel movements, Dr. Vargo notes.

2. Babies don’t need the extra sugar. “Juice has no nutritional benefit for babies under 1,” says Dr.Vargo. “They get everything they need from breast milk or formula.”

3. Juice crowds out better choices. For older kids, drinking juice can result in “undernutrition,” when it takes the place of other beverages, such as milk, Dr. Vargo says. This causes kids to miss out on other nutrients — vitamins and minerals they need.

4. Weight problems are a concern. Juice can also cause “overnutrition,” she says. Because it’s so calorie-dense, juice consumption can lead children to have problems with unwanted weight gain and obesity.

5. It damages teeth. Too much juice can also cause tooth decay, even when it’s watered down. This is especially true for kids who carry juice with them and drink it throughout the day — the constant stream of sugary liquid is tough on teeth.

One exception to the no-juice recommendation for babies

Dr. Vargo recommends following the AAP guidelines, but explains the one exception for babies under 1: “The only possible exception is if they’re struggling with constipation,” In that case, babies over 6 months can have up to 4 oz. of juice — but only until you resolve constipation.

Prune or pear juice are the go-to choices for constipation. They contain sorbitol which can increase the frequency of bowel movements.

On the other hand, if your child has diarrhea, avoid juice altogether.

Other advice on your child’s juice consumption

Dr. Vargo also has recommendations on how to serve juice to your children. “If toddlers are going to have juice, they need to consume it at a designated snack time. They sit down, they have their snack and they drink their juice, preferably from a big-kid cup.”

It’s also best for kids to avoid unpasteurized juice — which you might find at a farmers’ market or fruit stand. These types of juice can contain E. coli and salmonella bacteria. But, Dr. Vargo notes, squeezing your own juice at home is fine.

Although the new juice guidelines might require some adjustment, there’s no need to eliminate it entirely. “You can include juice as part of a healthy diet,” says Dr. Vargo, “but you shouldn’t use the juice to replace fresh fruit or vegetables.”

How to breathe properly for better health

This article looks at what happens inside a person’s body when they breathe.

It also provides some tips and exercises for improving breathing efficiency. These are suitable for people with respiratory conditions and those without them.

What happens when a person breathes?

a woman taking a deep breath as she shows how to breathe properly

Breathing, or respiration, is a complex process of air exchange that involves the following parts of the body:

  • The lungs: These are a pair of spongy organs that sit on either side of the chest. The lungs expand when a person breathes in and contract when they breathe out. Each lung is surrounded by a thin membrane called the pleura, which protects the lung and allows it to slide back and forth during breathing.
  • The diaphragm: This is a thin muscle that sits beneath the lungs and above the abdominal cavity. Its up-and-down movement helps the lungs contract and expand.
  • The intercostal muscles: These are muscles that run between the ribs. They assist breathing by helping the chest cavity expand and contract.

The lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles work together to allow a person to breathe.

To breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward. This increases the space in the chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand and fill with air.

To breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes, reducing the space in the chest cavity. This causes the lungs to deflate and let out the air.

What is the correct way to breathe?

Although breathing is a natural process, some people may be surprised to learn that there is a right and a wrong way to breathe.

The American Lung Association (ALA) provide the following advice on how to breathe correctly.

Use the nose

Breathing through the nose can slow the breath and make the lungs work more efficiently. It also facilitates the intake of nitric oxide, which helps with oxygen transportation throughout the body.

Breathing through the nose also allows the nostrils to:

  • filter toxins and allergens from the air, thereby preventing them from entering the body
  • warm air that is too cold
  • humidify air that is too dry

However, breathing through the mouth is sometimes necessary if a person is exercising or has sinus congestion.

Use the belly

The most efficient way to breathe is by bringing the air down toward the belly. As the diaphragm contracts, the belly expands to fill the lungs with air.

“Belly breathing” is efficient because it pulls the lungs downward, creating negative pressure inside the chest. This brings air into the lungs.

Tips for healthy breathing and lungs

The following tips can help support breathing and maintain lung health.

Do not overthink it

Although it is useful to know how to breathe correctly, it is important not to overthink breathing. In some people, this could lead to anxiety and shortness of breath.

People should remember that normal breathing is a carefully regulated process that does not require conscious thought.

Together, the lungs and kidneys keep the blood’s pH within a narrow range to allow the body to function properly. Receptors in the body monitor blood pH and oxygen levels. These receptors send signals to the brain, which, in turn, sends nerve impulses that tell the body how often to breathe, and how deeply.

Maintain a healthful lifestyle

People can improve their breathing by maintaining a healthful lifestyle. Try:

  • Exercising regularly: Getting regular aerobic exercise helps improve lung capacity, which is the amount of oxygen a person can take in with each breath.
  • Avoiding large meals: Eating large meals can cause abdominal bloating. When the abdomen is bloated, it can press against the diaphragm, preventing it from efficiently moving up and down. This can lead to shortness of breath. People who are prone to bloating should opt for smaller, more frequent meals.
  • Maintaining a moderate weight: Having overweight increases a person’s risk of experiencing breathing difficulties such as obstructive sleep apnea. People can reduce this risk by maintaining a moderate weight.
  • Quitting smoking: The lungs contain tiny air sacs called alveoli, which are responsible for exchanging oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and capillary blood vessels. Smoking damages the alveoli, making them less efficient.

Monitor the air quality

People can monitor the air quality in areas where they live and work. They can use this information to limit their exposure to pollutants and allergens that affect breathing.

When possible, people should avoid areas of heavy traffic and always check the air quality before they exercise outdoors.

Tips for people with respiratory conditions

People who have respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can take further precautions to protect their breathing and lung health.

For example, they can try:

  • Staying hydrated: Drinking plenty of water helps the throat and mouth add humidity to the air a person breathes in. Humid air is less likely to irritate the airways.
  • Eliminating sources of indoor air pollution: People should ensure that their living and working environments are clean, well-ventilated, and free of mold. This will help prevent irritation of the airways.
  • Using protective equipment at work: Some people may work in an environment where they have exposure to dust, chemicals, or vapors. These people should wear a mask to avoid inhaling these irritants.
  • Getting the flu shot or pneumonia vaccine: These vaccinations help protect people with respiratory conditions.
  • Trying relaxation exercises: Breathing exercises and other relaxation techniques can help a person stay calm and prevent them from hyperventilating.

Breathing exercises

Breathing exercises help slow down a person’s breathing pattern and improve lung efficiency. They are particularly beneficial for people with asthma, COPD, and other conditions that cause shortness of breath. They can also help calm a person who is feeling anxious.

However, people should try to begin practicing breathing exercises when their breathing is normal — not while they are experiencing shortness of breath.

The ALA recommend two different breathing techniques for people to try: pursed lip breathing and diaphragmatic (belly) breathing.

Ideally, people should practice both exercises for 5–10 minutes every day. Some people may need to build up to this duration gradually.

Pursed lip breathing steps

  1. Sit down in a chair and relax the neck and shoulder muscles.
  2. Breathe in slowly through the nose while keeping the mouth closed. Inhale for 2 seconds.
  3. Pucker or purse the lips, as if whistling or blowing out a candle. Exhale slowly for 4 seconds.
  4. Repeat the above steps.

Diaphragmatic breathing steps

A person can perform the following steps while lying down or sitting up straight in a chair.

  1. Place both hands on the abdomen, feeling the rise and fall of each breath.
  2. Close the mouth and take a slow breath in through the nose, while feeling the abdomen rise and inflate like a balloon.
  3. Breathe out slowly through pursed lips, as if blowing bubbles, with each expiratory breath taking about two to three times as long as each inhalation.
  4. Repeat these steps for 5–10 minutes. Keep the hands on the abdomen to help improve awareness of the correct breathing technique.

Using correct breathing techniques can help improve a person’s lung efficiency. It can also help alleviate stress and anxiety. Correct breathing is therefore beneficial for both physical and mental health.

Taking a few minutes each day to practice breathing techniques can help people form better breathing habits. It can also help people with respiratory conditions manage periods of shortness of breath.