Tag Archives: Healthy Diets

Anti-Aging Benefits of Mediterranean Diet

Jonathan Swift said, “Everybody wants to live forever, but nobody wants to grow old.”  Wouldn’t it be nice if we could stay healthy and young and live as long as possible? Because that is a deep down desire of the majority, many people are always on a quest to slow down the aging process.

So, our question for today is:

What are the Anti-Aging Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet?

First, we must acknowledge that no diet in the world can halt or slow the aging process. Aging is inevitable and food is not the elixir of life – although the type of food you choose can lengthen or shorten your life.

What has been proven by numerous studies is that the Mediterranean diet lessens your risks of getting certain diseases. It also offers a range of health benefits that will allow you to age in a healthy way. When you whole-heartedly adopt the Mediterranean way of eating, you will reduce your risk of health problems such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, stroke, heart diseases, etc.

That alone can be classified as anti-aging. Old age is often associated with health problems. If you can grow old and maintain your health, that would be a fine way to live. The Mediterranean diet can help you do that.

Typical Junk-Food Diets are the American Way

Unfortunately, the standard diet for most Americans is filled with junk food, sugary sodas, fast foods and processed, additive-filled food, etc. – basically empty calories.

Obesity is an epidemic. People eat whatever is the most convenient with little regard for their health. This is very upsetting and dangerous for the population as a whole.

There is a wide assumption that healthy food is not delicious. People believe that to eat healthy they must live on a steady diet of raw carrots and steamed chicken breasts. As a result, they choose not to do so. They would much rather have a fast-food burger and cheese fries – it’s easier and tastier.

What they don’t know is that the Mediterranean Diet is filled with DELICIOUS AND HEALTHY food, which is why people in the Mediterranean Region often live healthier and longer lives than Americans.

Why the Med-Diet Is Better for Your Health

The foundation of the Med-Diet is fresh vegetables. In the US, vegetables are typically an afterthought, with unhealthy choices like French-fried potatoes classified as vegetables.

When you make vegetables the center of your meals, you will get your daily dose of antioxidants to fight the free radicals in your body; plus give your body necessary nutrients and keep your skin healthy and supple.

Fruit is another important part of the Med-diet. They are filled with nutrients and rich in fiber, which slows down digestion so you do not get hungry as quickly. The fruit also prevents sugar cravings.

Refined sugar is at the root of many health problems, plus it causes your body to age more quickly. Just reducing your sugar intake will benefit you immensely, including making you less likely to get Type 2 Diabetes.

The diet is also rich in fish and nuts – both excellent sources of protein and healthy omega-6 fatty acids, which protect your from losing lean muscle and developing osteoporosis.

Mediterranean Diet
Image by karandaev

A glass of red wine after dinner that is suggested in the diet (a common practice in the Mediterranean) has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease. A limited amount of red wine can be beneficial to your health – unlike beer, vodka or bourbon.

The Mediterranean diet will definitely benefit your health tremendously, when you adopt it as a way of life. As long as you exercise regularly and eat in moderation, you are more likely to live a long and healthy life – and age with style and grace.

If you have not already made the decision to try this new way of eating that definitely includes some anti-aging benefits, I encourage you to do so ASAP!

 

Mediterranean Diet and Eating Gluten-Free

Eating Gluten-Free

Eating Gluten-Free
Image by Zerbor

Over the past few years the word gluten has become a common household world. Gluten-free foods have become a big business for the food manufacturers, and celiac disease is well-known, although not well-understood.

When it comes to the use of gluten-free foods, there are two camps regarding who should or should not eat them. One group says it is unhealthy to maintain a gluten-free diet if you are not suffering from celiac disease. The other group says that a gluten-free diet is good for everyone.

My goal is not to convince you one way or the other. If you have been diagnosed with celiac disease, then avoiding gluten in your diet is absolutely necessary. If your body handles gluten with no problem, you can make the choice whether you want to go gluten-free, or not.

It is a fact that some people cannot tolerate gluten and when they indulge, they suffer with upset stomachs, sinusitis, headaches, leaky gut syndrome, and other health issues.

If you are struggling with undefined health issues, you could eliminate gluten from your diet for two to three months to see if you feel better. If you do, you will have narrowed down your problem and can continue with a gluten-free diet for better health.

Mediterranean Diet and Eating Gluten Free

One thing I love about the Mediterranean Diet is its flexibility. It can be gluten-free if you choose. It is very different from other diets like the Atkins Diet or Paleo Diet, which are very rigid in what you can and cannot eat.

As I have said in previous posts, the Mediterranean Diet is more of an eating plan with a variety of choices than a “diet.”  Also, the majority of foods recommended are natural and do not contain gluten.

According to the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center,

Fresh, unprocessed fruits, vegetables, dairy products meat/meat alternatives are gluten-free. Other gluten-free components of the Mediterranean diet include nuts, wine without preservatives or added dye and fresh, frozen, dried or canned vegetables and fruits without thickening agents. Aged hard cheeses like cheddar, Swiss, Edam and Parmesan are gluten-free. Yogurt, olive and canola oil are also gluten-free.

There are other foods such as pasta, bread, couscous, barley, etc. that contain gluten and should be avoided if you are on a gluten-free diet.

The Celiac Sprue Association recommends a number of grains and starches to replace those derived from wheat, rye or barley.

People on the Mediterranean Diet who are gluten-sensitive can safely eat white or brown rice flour, potato, tapioca, arrowroot, corn meal, corn flour, soy flour, flax, wild rice, quinoa, millet, hominy and flours that are labeled 100 percent gluten-free. When purchasing a new product, it’s important to read the label carefully to make sure gluten was not added during the manufacturing process.

No Hard, Fast Rules

There are no hard and fast rules with the Mediterranean diet even for gluten-free diets. The process is fairly simple. Avoid all processed foods and purchase gluten-free Mediterranean foods by educating yourself and carefully reading labels.

If you are prone to food allergies of any kind, consult your doctor to ensure that the foods you are consuming are suitable for you. For example, some people may be allergic to shell fish or seafood which is a part of the Mediterranean diet.

If that is the case, it is a simple fix – use poultry instead. If you buy certified organic chickens without hormones and antibiotics, you are still consuming a natural, healthy food.

Chicken nuggets are NOT good for you! They are artificial and detrimental to your health. REMEMBER – always stay as close to nature as possible.

Gluten-Free vs Grain-Free

Important note: Gluten-free and grain-free are not the same thing. You can consume grains and still be on a gluten-free diet.

Cynthia Harriman, Oldways’ Director of Food and Nutrition Strategies and Manager of the Whole Grains Council, understands that the whole grain aspect of this healthy diet can be difficult for those with Celiac and gluten sensitivity. She explains, “Grains such as brown rice, millet and corn are gluten free and are whole grain. They’re at their healthiest if not overly processed.”

To Summarize

The Mediterranean diet can be gluten-free if you choose. Do your research so you fully understand what you can and cannot eat in order to be gluten-free. After that, it is easy. Purchase the right foods and begin cooking all the wonderfully tasty Mediterranean dishes that you can make using natural, delicious ingredients. Enjoy!

Finding a Weight Loss Program Takes Time

Finding a weight loss program that works takes time. Chances are that if you have been struggling with extra weight for months or years, I am fairly certain you have tried numerous diet plans and weight loss methods.

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Image by doomu

You have probably invested a fair amount of money, plus lots of time and energy that would have been worthwhile if you had gotten the results you wanted. Maybe you have even seen results from time to time, but nothing seems to hold.

If you are reading this, you are probably still looking for an answer to the question:  How can I lose the pounds and keep them off?

Below are a few things to keep in mind as you continue searching:

We have touched on this already, but I am going to repeat it.  The basic rule of losing weight is that you must burn more calories that you need. Excess calories are stored in your body as fat. Unfortunately, it is not as simple as it sounds (as we all know).

Every Body Is Different

Every person’s body and physiological makeup are different and finding a weight loss method that is a good fit for your body can be challenging. Doesn’t it make sense that if there were one perfect weight loss method that worked for everyone, the number of overweight and obese people would shrink dramatically.

Obviously, that is not the case – in fact, obesity is on the rise – moving toward to epidemic proportions.  So, if you really want to lose weight, you will have to continue with the trial and error method of finding something that works for you.

My good message today is that you can increase your chances of finding the best solution by doing two things:  1) Determine what type of eater you are. In other words what foods do you like (or don’t like) and can (or cannot) eat. 2) Be realistic.

Choose a Diet that Fits

Let’s say you rarely eat meat – it’s OK, but far from your favorite. Once or twice a week is more than enough for you.  But, your friend lost a lot of weight on a high-protein diet and you are considering doing the same.  Does that really make sense? How long do you think you would be able to sustain that kind of diet?

Another scenario . . . you have a health condition that limits what you can and cannot eat.  Look for diets that correspond with those requirements. If you see that the primary foods for a particular diet are on your “do not eat” list, discard it immediately as a possibility.

Do not try to bend your lifestyle to fit a diet just because clever marketing convinces you that “this is the diet” for you.  Unless you actually put yourself realistically into the picture of how the diet will play out, you will be setting yourself up for failure.  Any diet or weight loss method you decide to try, must fit your personal needs.  When it does, the chances of success increase dramatically.

What about Fad Diets?

There is a new fad diet introduced every other minute.  And . . . every single one claims to be the BEST way to lose weight.  Even with a smidgen of common sense, it should be easy to see that those claims cannot all be true.

That does not mean they are all scams. The reality is that almost every diet will work – if it is followed correctly; and if it fits the needs of the person following it.

The issue is that even if there are studies that prove the method works (positive results), it is not a guarantee that it will work for you.  Dieting and weight loss is not an exact science. There are too many variables, which make it impossible to predict which ones will work for you, and which ones will not work.

Is the Diet or Weight Loss Method a Healthy Choice?

Be sure that any method you choose to follow is based on principles of healthy eating. Extremely restricted diets are not usually a good choice.

The Magic Bullet of any Diet

You actually have to follow through.  If you begin any diet half-heartedly, cheat all the time, or try it for a few days and declare, “I gave it my best shot, and it doesn’t work” – who are you really kidding?

If you do not follow through on the diet, there is no way you can assess whether it works, or not.  No one can force you to follow through. If there were a perfect diet available that could guarantee results – it would not work for you, if you could not (or would not) follow through.

Success for any weight loss method or diet depends on your commitment to follow it precisely and stay on it for as long as it takes. Those are the two factors that always determine success or failure.

However, when you find a diet that fits your lifestyle and health needs; and you make that commitment to stay with it until you get the results you want . . .  you, and you alone can take all the credit for the successful outcome.

So, keep looking! Keep the faith and you will be able to do it.

B12 Is an Essential Nutrient

Are You Getting Enough B12

Image by Conceptw
Image by Conceptw

B12  is an essential nutrient.  Vitamin B12  deficiency can be sneaky and very harmful. Is can be slow to develop, with the symptoms appearing gradually and slowly intensifying over time or it can come on rather quickly. Either way, the results can be dangerous. If you are pregnant, the deficiency could result in your baby being born with a potentially disabling or fatal birth defect.

Early detection and treatment is important. “If left untreated, the deficiency can cause severe neurologic problems and blood diseases,” says Dr. Bruce Bistrian, chief of clinical nutrition at Harvard-affiliated Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center.

Unfortunately, doctors are seeing a rise in B12 deficiency. This is primarily because of how foods are produced and processed today and the resulting nutritional deficiencies in the average diet.

Not so many years ago, the only people who had to be concerned about a B12 deficiency were vegans because when the diet included fish, meat, and meat products in sufficient quantities, there was generally an adequate amount of the vitamin ingested.

Vitamin B12 is found in the soil in the form of microorganisms and bacteria. Animals then absorb B12 by eating “unwashed” plants and it is passed on to humans as we eat the animal meat and meat products such as milk, eggs, etc. Today, due to farming practices, even non-vegetarians are starting to suffer with B12 deficiencies.

Even for vegans, in the past it was possible to get some B12 because foods were not washed as thoroughly as they are today. As you know with the advent of pesticides we have become much more diligent in thoroughly scrubbing and washing all plant foods.

There are some people who will be B12 deficient regardless of their diet. According to Medical News Today, “B12 deficiency anemia may also be caused by a lack of intrinsic factor – pernicious anemia. The patient’s digestive system cannot absorb B12 properly.” Thankfully, that type of issue can be treated with B12 shots.

Others who are only slightly deficient because they do not eat enough foods rich in B12, such as vegans, can be treated with B12 supplements and pills.

Because of the increasing numbers of people who are faced with this deficiency, it is wise to ask your doctor to test your blood serum levels for B12. If you show a shortage and are not a vegan, you may need to get shots. If you are a vegan, your doctor may want to try supplements first. If that does not work, B12 shots may be in order if you are not willing to try eating meat or fish.

B12  is an essential nutrient and you may not be getting enough. Be proactive – have your B12 level checked – especially if you are over 50; if you take Nexium, Prevacid, Pepcid, Zantac, or metformin, if you are a strict vegan, or if you have had weight-loss surgery.

 

 

 

Cooking Healthy Stir Fry

Broccoli Shrimp Stir Fry
Image by JeffreyW

Stir fry is one of my favorite dishes. Cooking healthy stir fry requires no particular expertise – you just have to be willing to take the time to chop everything (it is worth it). It is delicious and filling – a wonderful complete meal that is perfect when you are tired and hungry. And . . . almost everyone enjoys stir fry – even the picky eaters will be happy with a colorful, tasty stir-fry for dinner. (Hint – chop everything in advance; then, all you have to do is put it together and cook. Dinner will be ready in less than 15 minutes.)

Equipment Needed

Stir fry is traditionally made in a wok. This is the preferred choice because you can cook the food easily without having to add a lot of oil. Heat builds up evenly in a wok so that the ingredients cook quickly.  Meats sear nicely, and vegetables are cooked to perfection (not overcooked) – and everything retains nutrients to the max.

Never fear . . . even if you don’t have a wok, you can still prepare a delicious stir-fry. Use an ordinary frying pan – cast iron skillets are excellent (and not too expensive), or you can also use non-stick or hard anodized cookware as well, but, be sure they are very hot before adding the ingredients.

Use Healthy Oil

Always use healthy oils to cook your stir fry – this is critical for heart health.

Healthy cooking oils include canola, grape seed and olive oil. Canola oil has a high smoke point which is (required for high-heat cooking), a neutral flavor, and the lowest amount of saturated fats. If olive oil is your choice (as it is mine), use pure olive oil, which has a high smoke point (avoid virgin or extra-virgin for high-heat cooking). Chinese cooks normally use peanut oil, which has a pleasant nutty flavor, but not as healthy as the others mentioned.

Canola is always a good choice as it has only 7% of unhealthy saturated fats; and it is also rich in omega-6 fatty acid, linoleic acid, and has the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acid alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) than any other oil except Flaxseed oil.

WORD OF CAUTION: Use only as much oil and salt as absolutely necessary – in other words use a light hand when adding these ingredients.

Ingredients

Start with fresh vegetables, which are low in calories, have no fat, and can be eaten in abundance. You can choose almost any vegetable that appeals to you – some popular choices include: cabbage, broccoli, peas, green beans, mushrooms and peppers. They are high in fiber, fill you up, and keep you full longer.

Add Lean Protein

To make stir fry even more appealing you can add lean protein. Good choices are:  white meat chicken or turkey breast, or even ground turkey in your stir fry. Shrimp is also a popular choice. These choices keep the calorie count down and the health benefits up.  Be creative . . . experiment with different ingredients to create a finger-licking good stir fry full of healthy goodness.

Below are some good recipes to get you started.

Stir Fry with Basmati Rice

INGREDIENTS
•    1 large onion, peeled and diced
•    1 tablespoon salt
•    2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
•    1 cup brown Basmati rice
•    ½ cup diced carrots
•    1 cup boiled red beans
•    ½ cup bell pepper, cut into thin strips
•    ½ cup diced tomatoes
•    1 small bunch fresh cilantro, washed and finely chopped
•    ½ tablespoons red chili powder
•    Canola oil
•    Optional: chicken, beef, shrimp or turkey

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place 2 cups of water and a tablespoonful of salt in a large pot and bring to a boil.
  2. Add brown rice, cover, and cook until done (following directions on the package). If you prefer, cook the rice in a rice cooker.
  3. Remove from heat and set aside (with cover) as you prepare the vegetables.
  4. Crush the garlic and allow it to stand for a few minutes for production of allicin, which provides antiviral and antibacterial properties that strengthen the immune system.
  5. In a large pan or wok, heat oil and add the onions – sauté until soft.
  6. Add the crashed garlic and sauté until it turns light brown.
  7. Add cubed carrots – cook for ~3 minutes.
  8. Add tomatoes and cook for 1 minute more.
  9. Add bell peppers and toss lightly as you enjoy the delicious aroma in your kitchen.
  10. Add red powdered pepper.
  11. Reduce heat and gently stir in the cooked brown rice.
  12. Add chopped cilantro and turn off the heat.
  13. Let mixture stand for one minute and serve this delicious complete meal.

Chicken and Spaghetti Stir Fry

INGREDIENTS
•    2 boneless/skinless chicken breasts, cubed
•    1 tablespoon of healthy cooking oil (Canola & pure olive oil – both good choices)
•    1 tablespoon salt
•    1 cup boiled fresh peas (or defrosted frozen peas)
•    1 pound dry whole-grain spaghetti
•    1 ripe pineapple, cubed
•    2 small plantains, peeled and thinly sliced
•    2 large tomatoes, sliced

DIRECTIONS

  1. Cook spaghetti as directed on the package – until tender.
  2. Strain pasta, return to the pot, cover, and keep warm.
  3. Heat oil in a wok or large heavy-duty frying pan.
  4. Add chicken pieces and brown on one side – then, flip and cook 2nd side.
  5. Add tomatoes and mix well. (Juices from the tomatoes will prevent chicken from drying out and sticking to the pan.)
  6. Add plantains and cook for one minute.
  7. Add peas and diced pineapple – cook for 3 minutes.
  8. NOTE: Keep the pan covered when you are not stirring to ensure maximum absorption of flavor in the chicken.
  9. Stir in the spaghetti and mix gently.
  10. Remove from heat and serve on warmed plates.

Cook and ENJOY in good health!

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