Fruits and Veggies – Are You Getting Enough?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital March 6, 2014

Recent research suggests that eating more than five servings of fruits and vegetables per day would be worth your while.

It’s no secret that fruits and vegetables are good for you. But are you eating enough of them?

Fruits and vegetables contain a unique combination of nutrients and healthy compounds, such as vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants, and phytochemicals. Diets rich in these plant-based foods are associated with a reduced risk of cancer, diabetes, hypertension, stroke, heart disease, and macular degeneration; increased energy and stamina; and a bevy of other health benefits. Five servings of fruits and vegetables per day is a good start, but recent research suggests that adding a few more servings would be worth your while.

What’s the Evidence?

Below is just a sampling of recent research that supports the recommendation of eating more fruits and vegetables.

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Calorie Count – Coming Soon to Vending Machines

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2014

Calorie information soon will be posted outside vending machines.

Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, you soon will be seeing calorie information posted outside vending machines. The new law, expected to take effect later this year, applies to companies that own 20 or more vending machines and is expected to affect more than five million machines nationwide.

Hopefully, having such information readily available will help people make better decisions about their vending machine purchases. Currently, customers typically only get to see this information after purchasing an item.

Details regarding sodium, saturated fat, and sugar, however, will not need to be posted. Unfortunately, the majority of products in vending machines are often laden with these potentially unhealthy ingredients. Perhaps a better solution would be to entirely forgo vending machines and use other strategies to feed yourself during the day. These include:

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Food Allergies: When Nuts Are Not Healthy

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 14, 2014

For some people, nuts are health hazards.

Today’s post, written by Kate Sweeney, M.S.,R.D., Manager of the Nutrition Consultation Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was adapted from an article that originally appeared on Health-e-Weight for Women.

Nuts are rich in protein, fiber, folic acid, vitamin E, and healthy fats. Research studies suggest nuts may have many health benefits, making them an important part of a balanced diet. However, for some people, nuts are health hazards. In the United States, 1.5 million people are severely allergic to peanuts alone. Half the people allergic to peanuts are also allergic to tree nuts. Tree nuts are large, edible seeds of trees and include cashews, almonds, pecans, walnuts, beechnuts, and pistachios.

What Are Food Allergies?

Food allergies are the immune system’s reaction to proteins in food. Reactions can be mild to severe, in some cases causing life-threatening anaphylactic shock. These reactions are referred to as an “allergic cascade.”  First the allergic food, such as peanuts, enters the body by ingestion, inhalation, or skin contact. The body senses the protein in peanuts as a foreign invader. In response to the threat, IgE antibodies are released into the bloodstream, triggering the release of substances called histamines. Histamines cause the allergic response.

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Healthy Holidays! – Lose the Weight and Celebrate

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 19, 2013

Head for the healthy platters at your holiday parties.

The holidays are here, but don’t let it derail you from your weight management goals. It’s quite possible to enjoy festivities, food, and drink without packing on unwanted pounds. Here’s some advice from our Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health-e-Weight program team:

  • Think about what you’ll eat before the holiday meal or party. Don’t save your appetite for one particular meal or party and arrive starved.
  • Focus on vegetables. Use them for appetizers, serve salad as the first course, sneak them (carrots and celery) into a dressing, or make vegetables, in general, the predominant part of your plate.
  • Tinker with traditional recipes. Consider mashing potatoes with skim milk or buttermilk instead of whole milk. Don’t go overboard with brown sugar, marshmallows, or butter if preparing sweet potatoes. Cook stuffing on the stovetop, not in the turkey (or at least have both versions). Try providing a fruit crisp instead of a traditional pie, or elect to have no more than one pie type. Lastly, aim for a sliver rather than a slice or wedge. Read More »

Good News about Nuts and Your Health

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 18, 2013

Watch this short animation from the New England Journal of Medicine that summarizes our recent research about nuts and your health.

Today’s post, written by Kathy McManus, MS, RD, LDN, Director, Department of Nutrition and Nutrition Director, Program for Weight Management at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, was adapted from an article that originally appeared on the Health-e-Weight for Women site. 

You may be hesitant to eat nuts because they contain fat, but this idea stems from the misunderstanding that all fats are bad. Despite what you’ve heard, all fats are not created equal. Researchers and clinicians now know certain fats (trans fat and saturated fat) contribute to heart disease, while others (polyunsaturated and monounsaturated) actually reduce the risk of a heart attack when substituted for the unhealthy fats.

Although nuts contain some saturated fat, most are rich in monounsaturated fats and are packed with important nutrients. Dietary fiber, magnesium, copper, folic acid, potassium, vitamin E and protective phyto-nutrients are found in nuts, all contributors to cardiovascular health.

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Wintertime Health and Fitness

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital December 12, 2013

It's important to exercise regulary - indoors or outdoors - during the winter.

Today’s post was adapted from an article written by our nutritionists in the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH). The article originally appeared on the BWH Health-e-Weight website.

No matter what the season, staying healthy requires a balance of good eating and physical activity. Winter, however, poses some unique challenges due to holiday parties, harsh conditions, and cold-weather cravings. Follow these tips for more thoughtful food choices and cold-weather exercise to stay fit and healthy this winter!

Even during the cold weather months, there are many fresh foods available in your produce section. Look for seasonal green and orange vegetables which are packed with vitamins and minerals to
help ward off winter illnesses.

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Great Gains from Whole Grains

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital September 19, 2013

In our quest to eat fewer carbohydrates, we’re missing out on the health benefits of whole grains.

September is Whole Grains Month. Today’s post, from the Brigham and Women’s Hospital Health-e-Weight program, will help you learn about this delicious and healthy food. In our quest to eat fewer carbohydrates, we’re missing out on the health benefits of whole grains. But what exactly are whole grains? What benefits can we gain from eating them, and how can we work them into our daily meals?

What Are Whole Grains?

Whole grains contain all three edible parts of a grain: the inner germ, the middle endosperm, and the outer bran covering. This makes them rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, and a multitude of disease-fighting substances. By contrast, refined grains have most of their germ and bran removed during processing, resulting in a depletion of many of these nutritious compounds.

Examples of Whole Grains:

  • Whole wheat berries, whole wheat bulgur, whole wheat couscous, and other strains of wheat, such as kamut and spelt
  • Brown rice (including quick-cooking brown rice)
  • Corn, whole cornmeal, popcorn
  • Oat groats, steel-cut oats, rolled oats (including quick-cooking and instant oatmeal)
  • Whole rye
  • Hulled barley (pot, scotch, and pearled barley often have much of their bran removed)
  • Triticale (pronounced try-ti-KAY-lee)
  • Millet
  • Teff (reported to be the world’s smallest grain and to have a sweet, malty flavor)

Buckwheat, quinoa (pronounced keen-wah), wild rice, and amaranth are not botanically true grains, but are typically associated with the grain family due to their similar composition. They also are considered whole grains and can be found at health food stores, along with other less common grains.

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Eight Tips for Eating Less

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 19, 2013

Research shows that folks who shop for food when they're hungry tend to buy higher-calorie items.

The following post was adapted from our Health-e-Weight enewsletter.

Summer is a few weeks away, and many of us are looking for ways to slim down.  The challenge is that food is everywhere, making it easy to overeat. Often hunger and taste appeal are further down the pecking order of why we eat. Much has been written and studied regarding the concept of mindless eating. Here’s a summary of tips to help us not overconsume calories.

  • Pay attention to plate/bowl and utensil sizes. Using smaller items generally results in smaller amounts.
  • Keep calorie-dense foods less visible. If it is around, you are more likely to eat. On the other hand, keep lesser-calorie items like fruits and vegetables more handy. Read More »

How to Enjoy Holiday Foods without Derailing Your Diet

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 20, 2012

Don't eat like every day is a holiday.

Thanksgiving signals the start of the holiday season. While the holidays are supposed to be a time for celebration, they are also dreaded by those of us trying to maintain or achieve a healthy weight.  However, eating more on Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, or other holidays doesn’t mean you’ll fall short of your health and fitness goals.

Eating a piece or two of pie during Thanksgiving week isn’t going to add extra weight all by itself. It takes 3500 extra calories to add a pound of fat to your body. That’s equal to about an entire nine-inch, high-fat pumpkin pie and three cups of full-fat eggnog. And that’s just for one pound! So eating more on a few days during the holiday season won’t negate your usual healthy dietary habits; however, eating like it’s a holiday for days at a time due to parties and leftovers – creating a “holi-week” – can.

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Ten Thousand Steps to a Longer, Healthier Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital November 13, 2012

A longer walk = a longer life.

We all know that exercise is good for you, but how good? While previous studies have shown the link between physical activity and a lower risk of premature death, the actual number of years of life expectancy gained from different physical activity levels has been unclear — until now.

In a new study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH), in collaboration with the National Cancer Institute, researchers examined the relationship between physical activity and mortality or life expectancy among more than 650,000 participants over a ten-year period.  The findings showed that physical activity was associated with longer life expectancies across a range of activity levels and body mass index (BMI) levels.

“We found that adding low amounts of physical activity to one’s daily routine, such as 75 minutes of brisk walking per week, was associated with increased longevity: a gain of 1.8 years of life expectancy after age 40, compared with doing no such activity,” explained Dr. I-Min Lee, an associate epidemiologist in the Department of Preventive Medicine at BWH and senior author on this study. “Physical activity above this minimal level was associated with additional gains in longevity. For example, walking briskly for at least 450 minutes a week was associated with a gain of 4.5 years. Further, physical activity was associated with greater longevity among persons in all BMI groups: those normal weight, overweight, and obese.”

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