Changes in the seasons bring more colorful produce to the market

Fall in Love with Fall Fruits and Vegetables

This post originally appeared as a guest blog in Aspartame.org 

Even if the weather doesn’t vary much where you live, you can use the seasonal changes on the calendar to reboot your diet for better health. All it takes is expanding the colors on your plate to feature whatever is being harvested. I mark the arrival of autumn in the produce section of my grocery store by the orange-hued butternut squash, navel oranges and Fuyu persimmons that suddenly appear alongside all those huge bins of pumpkins. It’s a sure sign that summer is over!

According to the American Heart Association, eating a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables is the best way to get all of the essential nutrients you need to lower your risk for preventable diseases, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and certain types of cancer. To reach the goals outlined in the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, you should consume 1-2 cups of fruits per day and 1-3 cups of vegetables per day, based on your age and energy requirements. Reaching those goals is easier if you remember you can include all forms of fruits and vegetables – fresh, frozen, canned, dried and 100% juice.

Thanks to rapid transportation, you can find fresh seasonal produce no matter where you live. In the fall, that includes the parsnips grown in Oregon and the Key limes from Florida. Even the internationally tagged Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and Asian pears are all grown in the U.S. and are being brought to market now, so be sure to look for them in your store. For complete lists of what’s in season throughout the entire year, check Fruits and Vegetables More Matters What Fruits and Vegetables Are In Season?

Let the Holidays Lead the Way to More Produce in Your Diet

Incorporating more fall produce in your diet is easy if you think about the most popular dishes on your Thanksgiving menu. Do sweet potato casserole, cranberry sauce, and apple pie come to mind? There’s no reason to reserve them just for special occasions, and no reason to prepare them with all of the added sugars typically called for in indulgent holiday recipes. Many of your family favorites can be made using a low-calorie sweetener, like aspartame, to replace some of the sugar. You can find tried-and-true recipes on the websites for your favorite brand of low-calorie sweetener or experiment on your own.  The results should look and taste the same as the originals but will be lower in added sugars and calories, which is good for the whole family.

How to Make the Tastes of the Season Last

 Of course, pumpkin isn’t just for pie. I like to stock up on canned pumpkin puree this time of year so I can make these moist and delicious Raisin-Pumpkin Muffins in the winter months ahead. When you eat them for breakfast you can feel good about including your first serving of vegetables for the day in your first meal of the day! Other great uses for canned pumpkin are in smoothies, soups and chili. I also load my freezer with bags of fresh cranberries every fall so I can add them to quick breads when they are no longer in season and to this Cranberry Salad. It adds color and crunch to the plate thanks to the celery and walnuts. And if you haven’t tried pomegranate arils, the seed pod inside a whole pomegranate, this is the time to buy them. They also freeze well and can add some sparkle and extra vitamin C to any salad you serve.

When you go apple picking or buy a bushel of apples at a farmer’s market, making a big batch of this Baked Cinnamon Applesauce is a great way to enjoy them well into spring. Just freeze the applesauce in one-quart zip-top freezer bags and then thaw it to serve whenever you want it. Another great way to use up those apples and add more vegetables to your meals (cabbage, carrots and bell peppers) is with this Tangy Apple Slaw. In my house, a grilled cheese sandwich is the preferred side dish to  on a chilly autumn afternoon.

The leaves on the trees aren’t the only thing that change color in the fall. The fruits and vegetables on your plate should be changing color, too. Here’s to another flavorful season!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN is a registered dietitian, cultural anthropologist and scientific advisor to the Calorie Control Council, whose 30+ year career includes maintaining a busy nutrition counseling practice, teaching food and nutrition courses at the university level, and authoring 2 popular diet books and numerous articles and blogs on health and fitness. Her ability to make sense out of confusing and sometimes controversial nutrition news has made her a frequent guest on major media outlets, including CNBC, FOX News and USA Today. Her passion is communicating practical nutrition information that empowers people to make the best food decisions they can in their everyday diets. Reach her on Twitter @EverydayRD and check out her blog The Everyday RD.

 

Celebrate Men’s Health with a these tips for a healthy prostate

What Every Man Wants: A Healthy Prostate

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.

HELP THE MEN IN YOUR LIFE WITH THESE TIPS FOR A HEALTHY PROSTATE

Knowing how to maintain a healthy prostate is as important for women as it is for the men they love.  Men with an enlarged prostate gland take longer to urinate, so when out together, women have to wait twice as long at public restrooms. Once to get into the Women’s Room and again waiting for her man to come out of the Men’s Room.

 Focusing on the Prostate for Men’s Health Month

Enlarged prostate is medically known as Benign Prostatic Hyperplasia (BPH). Growth of the prostate gland is accelerated in men during adolescence and again around age 50. As the prostate gets larger it compresses the uretha (tube that carries urine from the bladder). As a result, the stream of urine gets slower and slower, and the waiting begins.

The good news is, BPH is not a sign of prostate cancer and does not increase a man’s chances of developing it. The test used to detect prostate cancer is the PSA (prostate-specific antigen) level. While an enlarged prostate can raise the PSA a few points, that reading is not the best, or sole, indicator of prostate cancer. Other tests musts be done to confirm a diagnosis.

Diet for a Healthy Prostate

If you are following a diet to reduce your risk for heart disease, the number one cause of death in the U.S. for men and women alike, you are helping to lower the risk of BPH, too. Ads promising quick results to shrink the prostate are preying on the “impatience” of those dealing with the problem. Don’t be fooled. There are no foods or herbs that can instantly make trips to the urinal shorter.

What to Do:

Maintain a healthy body weight. A large waist measurement, or “beer belly,” is associated with higher risk of BPH.

Get regular physical activity. Even if weight is normal, exercise improves the circulation and muscle mass, both important in keeping the prostate healthy.

Eat 5 or more servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Vitamin C from vegetable sources, such as bell pepper, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts, has been found to be especially beneficial.

Reduce fat intake. Choose lower fat milk and dairy products, light spreads, and lean cuts of meat and poultry for a lower fat diet.

Limit alcoholic beverages to 2 drinks a day. Studies have shown moderate drinking may inhibit risks of BPH while excess is questionable.

What to Doubt:

Saw Palmetto may or may not help due to variation in ingredients, purity and dosages. If you decide to take it be sure to tell your physician since it can affect other medications.

Zinc supplements or eating more foods high in zinc, like oysters and pumpkin seeds have not been proven effective.

Lycopene supplements or extra servings of foods high in lycopene, such as tomatoes and watermelon cannot shrink an enlarged prostate.

Vitamin D supplements unless being taken to meet daily requirements for general good health.

Beta-sitosterol supplements did not shrink the prostate or increase urinary flow in 4 studies of its effectiveness

The role of diet in reducing the risk of enlarged prostate is just one more piece of evidence that the diet that good for the heart is good for the whole body.

More evidence that healthy diet and exercise increase longevity in women

How to Predict Longevity in Women

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.

MORE EVIDENCE THAT HEALTHY DIET AND EXERCISE INCREASE LONGEVITY IN WOMEN

A new study on longevity in women adds further evidence to what seems to be a no-brainer by now: Eating fruits and vegetables and staying active extends your lifespan. Doing either one is helpful, but this research demonstrated that those who do both last the longest.

What made this investigation stand out for me is that it was just about women. Older women in fact.  Even though women in the U.S. now outlive men by at least 5 years, few studies are done exclusively on them. But all 713 subjects in this study were women between the ages of 70 and 79.

Women and Aging

The study was conducted by researchers from the University of Michigan and Johns Hopkins University and published in the May 2012 issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. It was designed to evaluate the combined benefit of a healthy diet and exercise on life expectancy since other research had shown each to have a positive impact independently of the other.

Level of activity was evaluated using a questionnaire that asked each participant the amount of time they spent doing structured exercise, household and yard chores, and leisure time activities.  That information was used to calculate the number of calories being expended by each subject.

26% were rated as ‘most active’ at the outset

21% were rated as ‘moderately active’

53% were rated as ‘inactive’ or ‘sedentary’

The quality of their diets was measured by testing the carotenoid levels in their blood. Carotenoids are compounds found in plants that serve as very good indicators of fruit and vegetable consumption.

All of the participants were then tracked for 5 years.

 Impact of Diet & Exercise After 5 Years

12% (out of the total 713) died during the 5 year follow-up

71% lower death rate among those in the ‘most active’ group compared to those in ‘sedentary’ group

46% lower death rate in women with highest carotenoid levels compared to lowest

Taken together, the women who were the most physically active and who had the highest fruit and vegetable consumption were eight times more likely to survive the five year follow-up period than the women with the lowest levels.

Those are good odds to take.

Lead researcher Dr. Emily J. Nickett from the University of Michigan School of Social Work concluded that after smoking cessation, “maintenance of a healthy diet and high levels of physical activity will become the strongest predictors of health and longevity.”

What are you doing to control your destiny?