Heart Healthy Foods You May Have Missed

Some Heart Healthy Foods You May Have Missed

LOOK FOR THESE HEART HEALTHY FOODS THAT DON’T GET THE ATTENTION THEY DESERVE

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

When looking for foods that can improve your heart health, many of the ones most often recommended are either expensive, not easy to find, or are foods you don’t like. That doesn’t mean you have no chance of lowering your risk factors for heart disease through diet. The same attributes in those commonly named “heart-healthy” foods are found in many other more palatable options.

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Sardines – Salmon gets all the attention when it comes to fatty fish, but sardines are one of the most concentrated sources of the omega-3 fats DHA and EPA you can get, and at a much lower price all year round. The oils in fatty fish help lower triglycerides in the blood and reduce blood pressure and irregular heart rhythms. A 3-ounce serving eaten twice a week is all you need.

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Black beans – Oatmeal is recognized as being good for your heart, but dry beans, like black beans, have the same benefits and are far more versatile in the diet. Beans are a good source of soluble fiber, which binds cholesterol and keeps it from being absorbed. They are also rich in phytonutrients, like flavonoids, that can inhibit the clumping of platelets in the blood. Eating ½ cup a day can make a difference.

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Raisins –Like blueberries, raisins are rich in antioxidants that help reduce cardiovascular risk factors, such as blood pressure, total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol, and markers for inflammation. Unlike blueberries, raisins are convenient to have on hand no matter what the season. Enjoy ¼ cup as a fruit serving daily.

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Popcorn – Whole grains don’t just in the form of breads and cereals. Popcorn is a whole grain and a good source of polyphenols, a naturally occurring antioxidant, that improves heart health. It’s very budget friendly and a satisfying snack as long as it’s prepared without excess salt and oil.

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Milk– Most often associated with calcium, milk is also high in potassium which is maintain the fluid balance in the body and help the kidneys eliminate excess sodium. With as much potassium as a medium banana, every 8 ounce glass of fat free milk you drink is a great way to keep your heart strong.

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Plant Stanols and Sterols – These compounds are found in very small amounts in fruits, vegetables, and grains. They help block the absorption of cholesterol, but there is not enough of them in foods to get the 2 grams a day needed for cholesterol-lowering benefits. Daily use of foods fortified with stanols and sterols, such as Minute Maid Heart Wise Orange juice and Benecol spread, is an valuable way to supplement a heart-healthy diet.

Milk and milk products provide an overlooked source of protein

Milk is a Great Source of Protein, Too!

MILK AND MILK PRODUCTS ARE KNOWN FOR THEIR CALCIUM, BUT ARE ALSO A GOOD SOURCE OF PROTEIN AND OTHER NUTRIENTS

This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Most people know that milk is a great source of calcium. Unfortunately the connection between milk and calcium has been so well taught, many people don’t know about the other important nutrients found in milk and milk products. Protein is one of them.

In my work with vegetarians, finicky eaters, and others who struggle to plan nutritionally balanced diets, the question of how to get good sources of protein always comes up. When I point out the protein content of milk, yogurt, and cheese, they are always surprised those foods can supply protein and calcium at the same time.

The truth is, most foods provide an array of different nutrients. But in an effort to make menu planning easier, nutrition educators have grouped foods according to the key nutrients they contain. For example, milk became known for its calcium, orange juice for its vitamin C, and meat for its protein. That strategy obviously had some drawbacks when it came to learning about the other nutrients those foods contain.

So for those who need more protein in their diets and are not able to get it all from meat and meat substitutes, such as beans, nuts and soy products, milk is your go-to source. Milk is also a good source of Vitamins A, B2, B12, and D and a good source of the minerals magnesium, phosphorus, and potassium in addition to calcium.

Ways to Add Milk Products into Your Meals

A big advantage in using milk products to bulk up your protein intake is how easily they can be combined with other foods without taxing your appetite. For just a few ideas, you can add powdered milk to fluid milk, use evaporated milk to make “creamed” soups, blend strained yogurt into mashed potatoes, melt cheese onto your vegetables, stir ricotta cheese into pasta before adding sauce, or whip cottage cheese to use as a base for a cream sauce.

Protein Content of Milk Products

1 cup portion used for easy comparison

grams protein

28 Cheese, shredded: American, Cheddar, Mozzarella

28 Cottage Cheese: low fat or full fat

28 Ricotta Cheese: part skim or full fat

24 Powdered Milk, instant: fat free

22 Greek (strained) Yogurt, plain: fat free or reduced fat

19 Evaporated Milk, canned: fat free or reduced fat

14 Yogurt, plain: fat free or low fat

11 Milk Plus: fat free

8 Fluid Milk: fat fee, low fat, reduced fat and whole

Woman with kidney stones standing with hands on her back

Does Calcium Cause Kidney Stones?

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.

RESEARCH SHOWS CONNECTION BETWEEN DIETARY CALCIUM AND KIDNEY STONES IS BENEFICIAL, DOES NOT CAUSE KIDNEY STONES

The one thing everyone agrees with when discussing kidney stones is how painful they are. Having had them twice in my life I can confirm all reports about how excruciating they are. Childbirth was easier.

What is not so clear is the connection between calcium and kidney stones.

Some new research provides much needed insight into the causes of kidney stones and what we can do to prevent the pain that goes with them.

What Are Kidney Stones?

The most common types of kidney stones are composed of either calcium oxalate or calcium phosphate. Calcium, oxalate and phosphate are all minerals that are part of a healthy diet and are normally dissolved in the urine. Under certain conditions, however, they can precipitate out of solution and form small insoluble stones that are passed through the urinary tract unnoticed.

The biggest contributor to the formation of these stones is not drinking enough fluids. The more fluids we drink the more urine we produce, and the more urine we produce the more diluted the minerals will become in our urine.

Another contributor is a high salt diet. When we have excess sodium in our bodies the kidneys must use all available fluids to dilute the sodium so it can be excreted in the urine. That increases the risk that other minerals will precipitate and form stones.

If stones do form and they become too big to pass easily, they can cause the notorious back pain. This, along with the other tell-tale signs of a kidney problem blood such as blood in the urine and pain while urinating, should send you straight to the doctor.

Does Calcium Cause Kidney Stones?

Even though too little fluid and too much sodium are the leading causes of kidney stones, it was widely believed that calcium was the problem since most kidney stones contain calcium. But studies have shown calcium is not the culprit.

People who have the most calcium in their diets are much less likely to suffer from kidney stones than those who eat very few calcium-rich foods. Here’s why.

We need calcium to remove oxalate, the other half of what makes up most kidney stones. Oxalate is found in many fruits, vegetables, nuts, grains and soy products, plus cocoa and black tea. There’s really no avoiding it and maintaining a healthy diet. But the more calcium we have in our digestive tracts, the more it can bind with oxalate and remove it from the body before it can settle in the kidneys.

If we cut back too much on calcium, oxalate can accumulate in the kidneys and create stones with the available calcium.

The key here is that it is dietary calcium that helps, such as that found in dairy products and other calcium-rich foods. Calcium supplements are not as effective and may contribute to stone formation if taken in large quantities.

What Else Can Cause Kidney Stones?

The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive Diseases and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) has an Information Clearinghouse that answers all of the questions you may have about kidney stones, and more. The key takeaways for anyone wondering what their risk might be are these:

  • Family history of hypercalciuria, a condition of high calcium levels in the urine
  • Personal history of kidney stones
  • Personal history of gout or high uric acid levels in blood or urine
  • Regular use of diuretics (medications to help the kidneys remove fluids from the body)
  • Regular use of calcium-based antacids
  • High dose calcium supplements in people who don’t have osteoporosis (more than 2000 mg/day)
  • High dose vitamin D supplements in people who are not deficient (more than 2000 I.U/day)

Check back here for my next blog about another stony issue, gall stones.

Soy is good for everyone, not just vegetarians

Soy is Good for Everyone, Not Just Vegetarians

This post was written as a guest blog for Family Goes Strong. You can read the original post here.

YOU DON’T HAVE TO BE A VEGETARIAN TO BENEFIT FROM INCLUDING MORE SOY IN YOUR DIET

Being a vegetarian isn’t the only reason to eat soy-based products. There are benefits for all of us – young or old, vegan or omnivore – to incorporating more soyfoods into our meals. The one I promote the most is that it increases the variety in our diets. That is also the tagline for National Soyfoods Month, which is celebrated in April each year.

I like to focus on variety because it’s the best way to make room on “your plate” for everything you enjoy while keeping any food from taking up more space than it should. And that helps you deal with the hard-to-grasp concept of moderation. Simply put, it means you must control the amount and frequency of everything you eat to have a balanced diet.

Yet with all the news you hear about “super foods,” it’s easy to believe you can eat all you want of some foods (you can’t), or you’d be better off limiting your diet to some top ten list (you won’t). Eating a greater variety of foods is the best bet for optimal nutrition.

So in honor of National Soyfoods Month, here are some reasons why you might want to expand the variety of your family’s diet with the addition of more soyfoods:

12 Reasons to Add Soy to Your Diet

  • Lower dietary cholesterol
  • Enjoy more meatless meals
  • Decrease risk of breast cancer in later life
  • Use instead of peanuts for those with peanut allergy
  • Replace cow’s milk for those with lactose intolerance
  • Provide choice for those with milk protein allergy
  • Reduce saturated fat in diet
  • Increase fiber in the diet
  • Ease constipation
  • Incorporate another vegetable (yes, soybeans are vegetables!)
  • Provide an alternate protein source to a vegetarian or finicky eater
  • Get another source of calcium using fortified soy milk

You can find soy-based products in every section of the grocery store, so why not add a few of these to your shopping list?

Where to Find Soyfoods in the Supermarket

Produce – fresh soybeans, tofu, tempeh, miso

Freezer – edamame, soy burgers, soy nuggets, soy crumbles

Dairy – soymilk, soy yogurt, soy cheese

Snack – soy nuts, soy chips, soy bars

Staples – canned soybeans, soy pasta, soy flour

How many different soy foods do you eat each week?