Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Avocados; the "Alligator Pear"

There are nearly 500 varieties of avocados, but the most common is the Hass, and it's available year 'round. Once shunned for it's high fat and calorie content, the avocado is proving it's nutritional value. The monounsaturated fat found in avocados may help lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides, benefit weight loss, and when used as a partial replacement for carbohydrates, can help maintain glycemic control for those with type II diabetes.
Along with folate, potassium, vit. C, E, K, and fiber, avocados also contain phytonutrients. Several carotenoids are found in avocados, including carotene, zeaxanthin, and lutein. Lutein may lower the risk of age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness among Americans aged 60 and older.
Avocados can be used as a substitue for butter or mayonnaise; two tablespoons contain5 grams of fat compared to the 23 grams in butter and 9 grams in mayo. (50 calories vs. 204 calories in butter and 109 calories in mayo).
Pick avocados that are firm, heavy for their size and without bruises or soft spots. The skin turns nearly black when ripe. Store ripe, uncut avocados in the refrigerator up to 3 days. Cut fruit need to be wrapped or covered tightly and sprinkled with lemon juice to avoid oxidation (browning). To freeze, puree or mash the flesh with lemon juice (one Tbsp. for 2 avocados) and place in a sealable, air-tight freezer bag. Freeze for up to 5 months. Once thawed, they last up to 3 days.
To peel, cut a ripe, washed avocado around the seed. Twist to separate the halves and scoop out the seed with a spoon, and then scoop out the flesh.
If you have only used avocados for guacamole, try it diced in salads, wrap sandwiches, and salsas or sliced in omelets. Spread it mashed on sandwiches or burgers. In Brazil, it is added to ice cream!

Spicy Avocado Spread
1 ripe, medium avocado
2/3 cup canned, white or cannellini beans
2 generous sprigs of cilantro
1& 1/2 Tbsp. lime juice
1/2 chopped jalapeno, seeds removed
1/2 tsp. green Tabasco sauce
1/4 tsp. salt

Rinse and drain beans. In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until smooth and creamy. Use as a spread for sandwiches or as a dip for vegetables or crackers.
Serves 6. Serving size: 3-4 Tbsp. Calories: 80. Total fat: 5 g. Sat. fat: .5 g. Cholesterol: 0 mg. Sodium: 105 mg. Carb: 8 g. Fiber: 4 g. Sugar: 0 g. Protein: 2 g.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Yogurt and Probiotics; Overrated?

Yogurt is made by adding two probiotic bacteria to milk. The bacteria break down the milk's sugar (lactose) into lactic acid, which makes the yogurt more digestible for people with lactose intolerance. Many believe that the bugs also replenish your gut with healthy bacteria after you take antibiotics, but the evidence is scant. To establish a good crop of probiotics in the gut, the bacteria have to first survive the strong acids of the stomach and the bile salts of the small intestine. Pre-biotics are non-digestible food ingredients (found in insoluble fiber) that act as "food" for the probiotics.
The effects of probiotics are "strain specific;" there are dozens of strains and they can differ in what they do even within the same species. Only a small number have any proven benefits. Unfortunately, companies do not have to disclose which strains they put into their products.
As of yet, there is no evidence that yogurt, teas, or any "clinically proven" probiotic product will relieve irregularity or irritable bowel syndrome, cure autism, prevent a yeast infection or a cold, stop gas or bloating, prevent a UTI, or help you feel slimmer and more energetic.
Yogurt IS an excellent source of calcium and a great low fat snack, however. Just don't expect it to change your life.
~ CSPI, 2010

Friday, May 14, 2010

Diverticular Disease

Diverticular disease is believed to be caused by increased pressure in the colon. The colon weakens with age and pressure creates small pouches called diverticula. This condition is called diverticulosis. Diverticulitis occurs when undigested food becomes trapped in the pouches, causing them to become inflamed or infected.
The causes of this pressure that creates the diverticula are constipation from inadequate fiber in the diet, lack of exercise, not getting enough fluids, stress, or pregnancy.
About half of all Americans over the age of 60 have diverticular disease.
People with diverticulosis require no medications, but are advised to eat fiber-rich foods to reduce pressure in the colon and avoid a possible flare-up of the diverticulitis. Traditionally, it was advised to avoid seeds such as okra or strawberries because seeds were believed to get trapped in the pockets and cause irritation. However, evidence to support this theory is lacking.
During periods of active diverticulitis, antibiotics serve to treat the infection. A soft, low residue (low fiber) diet is prescribed until the irritation subsides.
Fiber comes in two different types, soluble, and insoluble. Soluble fiber forms a gel-like substance in water which helps maintain regularity. Good sources include oats, beans, peas, and many types of fruit. Insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water and moves through the digestive tract like small "scouring pads" that bind particles and create "bulk." Good sources include wheat bran, whole grains, and many types of vegetables.
Be sure to increase fiber intake gradually, giving your body time to adjust. Bloating or cramping can occur with too much fiber all at once. Also be sure to get plenty of fluids, as fiber absorbs fluids.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Watermelon; Simply Underrated

On a hot summer's day, who doesn't love the sweet, cool, crisp taste of watermelon? And, contrary to popular belief, watermelon is no lightweight in the nutrient department. A standard serving (about 2 cups) has 38% of a day's vitamin C, 32% of a day's vitamin A, and 7% of a day's potassium for only 85 fat free, salt free calories. You won't find 2 cups of many foods that are that easy on the waistline.
As an added bonus, watermelon is one of the "Clean 15," the fruits and vegetables with the fewest pesticide residues, according to the Environmental Working Group. That's because the thick rind keeps out bugs and pesticides. So, the next time you pass by watermelon to get to those petite plastic containers of expensive raspberries or blueberries, don't forget the filling, economical fruit that comes in it's own container.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Lower Cholesterol Protects the Prostate

Your heart isn't the only thing at risk from high LDL. A recent study took 5500 healthy men aged 55 or older for a 7 year Prostate Cancer Prevention Trial. The men with total cholesterol under 200 were found to be 60% less likely to be diagnosed with the most damaging kinds of prostate tumors than those with higher cholesterol. It's still too early to know if statin drugs can protect the prostate, but it's worth it to eat a diet that lowers LDL cholesterol. At the very least, your heart will still be protected!
~ Cancer Epidemiology, 2009

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Celiac Disease

Celiac disease is a hereditary intestinal disorder that affects about 1 in 250 people. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, and gliadin is the fraction of gluten that causes sensitivity and act as a toxin, triggering immune system responses that damage the intestinal cells which leads to the malabsorption of nutrients. Lactose intolerance is also common in those with celiac disease.
Celiac disease is now known to be a multi-system, multi-symptom autoimmune disorder. The reaction can not only trigger the gut tissue; it can also affect the neurological tissue, causing migranes, epilepsy, thyroid disease, and seizure disorders. Osteoporosis and dermatitis also result from the disease. Chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, or irritable bowel symptoms can often lead to misdiagnosis. Infertility has recently been found as a result of the undiagnosed disease, due to the hormone imbalance caused by nutritional deficiencies. Onset can occur at any age, and 90% of the people who have the disease, don't know they have it.
Aside from having to scrutinize every food label, those who eliminate gluten from their diet also eliminate certain essential nutrients which must be obtained from other sources. Iron, calcium, B-vitamins, and fiber are usually lacking in the gluten-free diet. The damaged microvilli of the intestinal tract requires time to heal in order to process nutrients.
Managing a gluten free diet can be quite overwhelming at times, yet it is essential. The diet is the treatment. Even small amounts of gluten can cause harm. Be aware also that many items one would never suspect contain gluten, such as potato chips, licorice, salad dressings, soy sauce, some soups and chocolates.
The tests that are most often used to check for celiac disease is a blood test that looks for certain antibodies, and followed by an intestinal biopsy to confirm a positive blood test. There is also a genetic marker test available as either a blood or saliva test. If the genetic markers are not present, it is highly unlikely the disease will occur.
In the U.S., the FDA's Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act mandates that companies list the top eight allergens on any product label; wheat is one of them.
For more information about a gluten free diet, visit the Canadian Celiac Association website at
~ National Foundation for Celiac Awareness