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The Truth About These Supposedly “Healthy” Foods

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When we go to a supermarket or a food junction, it is almost impossible to resist grabbing a snack. On a surface level, some common snacks and drinks seem to boast a multitude of health benefits or do not seem inherently unhealthy. However, upon closer analysis, there is more to these foods than meets the eye.

Here is a reference for different dietetic intakes assuming your diet is the standard 2,000 calories per day:

Max Sugar Intake (g) Max Fat Intake (g)
Men 37.5 44-78
Women 25 44-78

Acai Bowls

Photo by Jason Leung on Unsplash

“It has fruit so that means it’s healthy, right?”

For a long time, acai has been proclaimed as a superfood and was deemed to be the secret to weight loss. However, researchers from the NIH have stated that “no independent studies have been published in peer-reviewed journals that substantiate claims that acai supplements alone promote rapid weight loss.”

While acai berries do have anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory properties, the ingredients in the acai bowl itself have an extremely high sugar content, ranging from 21-62 grams of sugar. The acai fruit itself is healthy; however, the toppings that contribute to this sugar spike include granola, chocolate chip, and honey.

Most of the acai at health food shops put added sugar into the acai mixture. Despite these drawbacks, it is still possible to enjoy the bowl but a few changes are necessary.

Health Tip: Try to omit those sugary toppings, and as a substitute, add grapes, apples or pears to make the bowl sweeter. Also, if you can find unsweetened acai, you can blend it with a banana to retain that sweet taste. If you are craving a more savory taste, you can mix the acai with greek yogurt or peanut butter, which contain healthy fats.

Boba Milk Tea

Photo by Rosalind Chang on Unsplash

Boba is a common drink that is loved amongst millennials, and at first glance, the drink may not be perceived as unhealthy. However, boba is “boiled and saturated with sugar” and each ball has about 5-14 calories, meaning that “100 extra calories are added to an already calorically dense drink.”

Nutrition wise, boba does not contain any minerals or vitamins, so it is essentially empty calories. The sugar levels are extremely high, as one cup of boba can amount to 50 grams of sugar. Toppings such as jelly and pudding also contribute to high fat and sugar content.

Health Tip: Everyday boba consumption is not recommended; however, you can adjust the sweetness by adding less syrup, dilute the drink with more ice, and ask for less boba.

Protein Bars

https://www.flickr.com/photos/rstinnett/7703353570

The act of digging into a chocolate, gooey protein can seem quite scrumptious. Don’t be fooled though; these protein bars are packed with additives such as high fructose corn syrup and saturated fats. The bar Nutrimo contains 9.99 grams of saturated fat, which is equivalent to the amount of saturated fats in a big mac. Power Bar has around 27 grams of sugar as does two snack packs of Oreos.

Health Tip: A better alternative to these bars are oatmeal or flax seed bars that have natural sugars such as fruit sugar or honey.

Overall, the key is to consume these drinks and snacks in moderation and make adjustments that make the food just as delectable as before, while keeping it healthy.

Fitness/ Diet

7 Anti-Inflammatory Foods

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Inflammation refers to your body’s method of protecting itself against things that harm it, including infections, injuries, and toxins. One way to treat inflammation could be a prescription for pain medication. Another way to combat inflammation can come from your local grocery store. Here are seven food items you can find at your local grocery store to help fight your body’s inflammation.

1. Broccoli 

Broccoli is a cruciferous vegetable that is low-calorie and rich in folate, vitamins C, E, and K, and fiber, along with cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and kale. Research has shown that consuming the right amount of cruciferous vegetables can decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. The vegetable’s high amount of antioxidants is related to its anti-inflammatory effects. Broccoli is high in sulforaphane, an antioxidant that combats inflammation by reducing your levels of cytokines and NF-kB, which leads to inflammation

2. Avocados

Avocados are loaded with potassium, magnesium, fiber, and heart-healthy monounsaturated fats. This superfood also contains carotenoids and tocopherols that helps lower the risk of cancer. One study found when people ate a slice of avocado with a hamburger, and they had lower levels of the inflammatory markers NF-kB and IL-6. Other participants who ate the burger without avocado had higher levels of the inflammatory markers. 

3. Green Tea

Green tea is one of the healthiest drinks you can find on the market. This tea reduces your risk of heart disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, obesity, and other medical conditions. Most of its health benefits derive from its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory agents, including the substance epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). EGCG helps to reduce inflammation by decreasing pro-inflammatory cytokine production and damage to the fatty acids in your cells 

4. Peppers

Bell peppers are not just known for their delicious flavor but are loaded with vitamin c along with chili peppers. Both peppers contain antioxidants that have substantial anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Bell peppers contain the antioxidant quercetin, which may reduce one marker of oxidative damage in people with sarcoidosis, an inflammatory disease Chili peppers have sinapic acid and ferulic acid, which can lead to healthier aging and reduce inflammation.

5. Turmeric

Turmeric is a spice with a rich, earthy flavor that has a bitter taste and is often used to season or color curry powders, mustards, etc. The flavorful spice has received a considerable amount of attention for its content of curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory nutrient. Turmeric lowers inflammation associated with arthritis, diabetes, and other diseases.

6. Cherries

Sweet and sour cherries are packed with antioxidants, such as anthocyanins and catechins, that help fight inflammation. Although the effects of tart cherries have been studied more, sweet cherries also provide health benefits. In one study, participants who ate 280 grams of cherries per day for 1 month, had lower levels of the inflammatory marker CRP and remained low for 28 days after they stopped consuming cherries 

7. Dark chocolate and cocoa

Dark chocolate is supplied with antioxidants that reduce inflammation and can decrease the risk of disease and lead to healthier aging. Flavanol-rich cocoa is responsible for chocolate’s anti-inflammatory effects and keeps the endothelial cells that line your arteries healthy. Be sure to choose dark chocolate that has at least 70% cocoa; the higher the percentage of cocoa, the better to obtain these anti-inflammatory benefits.

Incorporating healthier options onto your plate won’t provide you with an instant cure for inflammation, but it could help reduce your flare-ups or lower your pain levels. Including anti-inflammatory foods into your diet is a more holistic way of addressing pain and inflammation, as opposed to taking medication.

Sources: 

  1. https://www.healthline.com/health/chronic-inflammation
  2. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/13-anti-inflammatory-foods#section6
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22100562
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20370896
  5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17584048
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21324570
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21324570
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18188410
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17569207
  10. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20944519
  11. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-tart-cherry-juice-benefits
  12. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16549461
  13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16877960

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Fitness/ Diet

The Rundown of the Impossible Burger

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Photo Credit: pexels.com

With the human population immensely increasing each decade, the concern of utilizing all of our resources and making the Earth uninhabitable has loomed over our heads. Fortunately, back in 2011, Impossible Foods Inc. seemingly achieved the impossible, creating a plant-based burger that mimics the color, smell, and flavor of the meat. By replacing meat with plant-based “meat,” Impossible Foods Inc. hopes to reduce the harmful effects of animal agriculture on the Earth to restore natural ecosystems. Food scientists at Impossible Foods Inc. discovered that heme is the ingredient that gives meat that “meaty” flavor that people crave. Heme, located in hemoglobin, plays a vital role in animals by allowing the bloodstream to carry oxygen throughout the body. 

 A common reason why many people switch to being vegetarian and vegan is to live a healthier lifestyle. However, are these plant-based “meats” really healthier compared to their meat counterparts? The answer is not really. One of the main ingredients in the Impossible Burger is coconut oil. Although it is perceived as a “healthy” fat, coconut oil is high in saturated fat. The American Heart Association also advises against consuming coconut oil. Upon comparing the Impossible Burger to its other burger counterparts, we see the following: 

  • Impossible burger: 240 calories with 8g of saturated fat 
  • Beef burger: 280 calories with 9g of saturated fat 
  • Veggie burgers are not meant to mimic meat: 150-160 calories with 4g of saturated fat 

 The Impossible burger has fewer calories and grams of saturated fat than the beef burger; however, it contains more sodium than its meat and veggie burger counterparts. Even though the Impossible Burger may be better for the environment, they are not necessarily nutritionally healthier for consumers. The Impossible Burger is a good alternative for people who are vegetarian to reduce the consumption of animal-based foods. However, a traditional veggie burger is a healthier choice due to its low-fat content. Overall, Impossible Foods Inc. has created a viable alternative to classic burgers, striving to achieve what seems to be impossible. 

Sources: 

  1. https://medium.com/impossible-foods/the-mission-that-motivates-us-d4d7de61665
  2. https://medium.com/impossible-foods/heme-health-the-essentials-95201e5afffa
  3. https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/09/health/plant-fake-meat-burgers-good-for-you-or-not/index.html

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Fitness/ Diet

Studies Show That Healthy Food Can Help Combat Depression

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The most common medical solutions to treat depression include antidepressants and SSRIs. However, rather than turning to medication, changing the way you eat can help you combat depression. Research has shown that a nutritious diet not only prevents depression but also treats it once it has started

Epidemiologist Felice Jacka led research that examined whether or not diet plays a role in improving mood. In a group of 67 people with depression, one group was being treated for antidepressants, another group received psychotherapy, and some individuals were treated with both. Half of the individuals were advised by a dietician regarding how to incorporate a healthy diet, while the other half was given social support. After 12 weeks, the researchers found that those that received nutritional counseling showed significantly happier moods compared to those who received social support. 

With other studies showing similar results, we have seen the genesis of nutritional psychiatry. This discipline, pioneered by Jacka, aims to demonstrate the role of diet in mental health and to develop nutrition-based strategies to combat brain disorders. Traditional medical education generally does not consist of a well-rounded insight into nutrition; therefore, fields such as nutritional psychiatry are working on adding another layer to medical curriculum because food can apply to other parts of the body. For example, this research study notes that a bad diet affects our microbiome, which consists of gut bacteria that are housed inside of our intestines. Gut bacteria essentially create molecules that affect the production of serotonin in the brain. 

You might be asking: what foods can I eat? The research points out to a Mediterranean diet composed of “olive oil, yogurt and cheese, legumes, nuts, and seafood.” Ultimately, this diet would increase good gut-bacteria and enhance our inflammatory responses. Here are some nutrients to consider: 

  • DHA: Also known as Docosahexaenoic acid, DHA helps in producing BDNF, which is brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which promotes the formation of new neurons in the brain. It is also the primary omega-3 fats in the brain. 
    • Sources of DHA: Wild salmon, oysters, mussels
  • Vitamin B6: This vitamin is crucial in serotonin production, which influences sleep and mood. Decreased serotonin is linked to depression, and a daily intake of vitamin B6 is recommended. 
    • Sources of Vitamin B6: Sweet potatoes, pistachios, chicken
  • Probiotics: These are crucial to cultivating good gut-bacteria within the microbiome.
    • Sources of Probiotics: Yogurt, kefir, kimchi
  • Prebiotics: It is essential for the gut bacteria to have prebiotics to stay alive. 
    • Sources of Prebiotics: Onions, Garlic, Oats

A proper diet may not completely eliminate medications or therapy. However, “it can act as a supplemental treatment” with no detrimental side effects unlike antidepressants, and in the long run, it acts as a source of prevention for chronic diseases. 

Source: 

  1. https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-food-that-helps-battle-depression-1522678367
  2. https://www.bbc.com/news/health-43504125

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