Thursday, November 26, 2015

Why Sweet Potatoes Are Awesome

Image: Shutterstock
With the holidays coming up, there are going to be lots of recipes to test out. While I advocate for indulging and enjoying food with friends and family, I also want to shine a spotlight on one of nature’s hardiest and most healthful creations: the sweet potato! This tasty tuber offers a lot of health benefits and is home to plenty of nutrients. It’s not pretty to look at, but the sweet potato is a healthy and delicious alternative to the ordinary russet!

They provide the good kind of carbs.
Some carbohydrates are actually good for you because your body has to work to process them. Sweet potatoes’ carbs are lower on the glycemic index so they don’t spike your blood sugar as much as regular potatoes, meaning no sugar crashes and better control for people with diabetes.

They’re high in potassium.
We need more potassium in our lives, guys. It helps the body regulate itself by promoting healthy digestion, nourishes nerves, and gives muscles the strength they need. Additionally, potassium can help offset some of the harm sodium, that ever-prevalent ingredient, does to blood pressure. “A high potassium intake is associated with a 20 percent decreased risk of dying from all causes!” says Mother Nature Network.

Sweet potatoes can fight some kinds of cancer.
Sweet potatoes, which are very high in beta carotene, can help ward off prostate and colon cancers. They contain a fat-soluble pigment the body converts into vitamin A, which can prevent the development of these cancers. Vitamin A can also help keep eyes healthy and prevent deterioration of vision.

They promote bone health.
Because sweet potatoes are also high in manganese, they help keep bones healthy and dense. Getting more manganese in a diet is especially healthy for women, as boosting daily intake can lessen the effects of PMS so that women suffer fewer cramps, mood swings, and discomfort.

Sweet potatoes have a lot of other benefits, too, but one of their most lively is the ways they’re cooked! Try this recipe for classic mashed sweet potatoes, easy maple-baked wedges, or a sweet potato and apple soup. Yum!

Monday, November 23, 2015

More Coffee Could Mean a Longer Life

Coffee is warm, delicious, and perfectly healthy to enjoy.

Happy Monday! Good news for coffee drinkers: the most recent studies suggest that drinking coffee can actually reduce the risk of premature death. Researchers collected data from 200,000 women and 50,000 men about their diets and coffee consumption, and the statistics suggest that people who drank less than three cups of coffee per day had between a 5% and 9% lower risk of dying prematurely than those who drank no coffee.

One to three cups reduced risk by 8% and three to five cups saw a 15% decrease in risk of death. Drinking coffee was linked to reduced risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, neurological disease, and even suicide—but only for people who also did not smoke.  When they began the study, researchers didn’t see an apparent connection between drinking coffee and dying prematurely. But when they only looked at participants who said that they did not smoke, that relationship became clearer, and the percentage of early-death risk was significantly lower.

Ming Ding, a doctoral student at Harvard who worked on the study, suggested that the “lower risk of mortality is consistent with our hypothesis that coffee consumption could be good for you because we have published papers showing that coffee consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.” Of course, this study likely studied coffee that was either black or taken with milk—sorry, those delicious, seasonal Starbucks lattes still aren’t good for you!

The study does point to an interesting correlation, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other factors to consider. It’s possible that people who drink more coffee lead healthy lives in other areas—more exercise, less soda, even though coffee drinkers are more likely to drink alcohol and eat red meat. But coffee’s ingredients could be helping, too: chemicals like lignans and chlorogenic acid can help reduce inflammation and control blood sugar.

So for now, it seems like drinking coffee is a good thing for your health—cheers to that!

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Foods for Bone Health Change with Age

Healthy bones are good bones!
You probably already knew that eating well, and chowing down on calcium, are not only good for bones, they’re necessary for aging comfortably. But did you know that your bones actually have different needs as you get older? A new scientific review published in the medical journal Osteoporosis International suggests that a change in diet as you age may be the best way to keep your bones strong and healthy.

The review suggests that as we get older, we need to focus on getting more and more protein, vitamin D, and calcium into our diets through the food we eat. And keeping our bones healthy doesn’t just affect us, it affects our children before they’re even born. The better the bone health of the mother, the better the bone health of her baby will be!

Most adults don’t get the amount of calcium recommended to them by national guidelines. Conditions for your bones are made worse by excessive drinking, smoking, or being very under- or overweight. So make sure you’re getting the right amount of good nutrients (dark leafy greens, cheese, tofu, and oatmeal are good sources of calcium) to prevent bone loss or the onset of osteoporosis. Calcium supplements can help, too, but if you find they upset your stomach, take them at mealtime.

As you get older, you will need to consume more things like those listed above. We want to prevent bone loss and promote good health early rather than have to work hard to try and slow the onset of problems. The review proposes dietary changes depending on where you are in life: for young people, diet should promote peak bone mass as good as it can be; for adults, the goal is to avoid premature bone loss to maintain a healthy skeleton; and for the elderly, the review outlines prevention and treatment for osteoporosis.

Now, go eat some cheese!