Eating for a Healthy Heart

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 26, 2015

Whole grains are a key part of a heart-healthy diet.

February is American Heart Month, and today’s blog post from the Nutrition and Wellness Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) highlights the heart-healthy foods you should eat regularly. Aside from eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, your diet should include:


The Science:

Scores of studies show that eating nuts reduces the risk of coronary heart disease. Packed with nutrients, nuts may help by lowering unhealthy cholesterol levels, improving dilation of blood vessels, and combating elevated blood pressure.

What You Should Do:
  • Snack on ¼ cup or a handful of nuts each day.
  • Add them to salads, stir-fries, cereal, yogurt, and side dishes.
  • Aim for lightly salted or unsalted types to limit added sodium.

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New Evidence that a Mediterranean Diet May Lead to a Longer Life

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital January 8, 2015

Researchers have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) have found that sticking to a Mediterranean diet may lead to a longer life.

The findings are based on the study of telomeres, the repetitive DNA sequences at the ends of chromosomes. These chromosome tips get shorter every time a cell divides, and their length is a reliable biomarker (biological indicator) of aging in humans. Shorter telomeres have been associated with an increased risk of aging-related diseases (particularly cardiovascular diseases) and a decrease in life expectancy, while longer telomeres, correspondingly, have been linked with longevity.

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Eating after Bariatric Surgery

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 24, 2014

After bariatric surgery, you’ll be introduced to a diet that features gradual changes in food textures.

You’ll have to start eating differently after having weight loss surgery, but that doesn’t mean you’ll have to give up all your favorite foods. Let’s start by talking about how things will be different.

Your stomach acts as a holding tank for food and beverages and as a strong muscle that grinds and churns your food, helping with digestion. Depending on the procedure, weight loss surgery either removes a large portion of your stomach or significantly restricts access to your stomach. And, as you can imagine, reducing the capacity of your stomach makes it much harder for it to do its job.

To help your stomach adapt to this increased workload, you’ll be introduced to a staged diet that features gradual changes in food textures. You’ll drink protein shakes for two weeks and then slowly advance to soft foods for four weeks. With time, you should be able to tolerate a variety of textures, as long as you eat slowly and chew carefully. For more information on the post-operative (and pre-operative) diet, see the Nutrition Resources section of our Center for Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery site.

Surgery + You = Weight Loss

Weight loss surgery alone doesn’t ensure that you’ll lose weight and keep it off. You also will need to change the way you eat for the rest of your life in order to be successful. This means reducing your calorie intake by eating small portions and avoiding calorie-packed foods and beverages. Fortunately, your modified stomach is a built-in portion control tool, so all you have to do is put healthy foods on your plate and stop when your stomach is full.

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Is a Vegetarian or Vegan Diet for You?

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital June 5, 2014

There are various health advantages associated with a vegetarian diet .

If you’re thinking about abandoning red meat and poultry in favor of a predominantly plant-based diet, it’s important to know what the nutritional benefits are of vegetarian and vegan diets.

“There’s certainly some research on the benefits of the vegetarian diet,” says Kathy McManus, Director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She ticks off the various advantages associated with this way of eating – lower body mass index and blood pressure, and reduced risks for heart disease, diabetes, and cancer.

If you’re thinking about going vegetarian or vegan, but are worried about making a big change in how you eat, know that there are many different layers to this way of eating. The most common approaches are these:

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Proposed Changes in Food Nutrition Labels

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital May 22, 2014

For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration is formally proposing changes to nutrition labels on food packages.

For the first time in 20 years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is formally proposing changes to nutrition labels on food packages. This should help us all make more informed and, hopefully, better nutrition decisions – ultimately having a positive impact on weight management and other aspects of our health. Notable among these proposed changes are:

  • Bigger and Bolder Labels that Emphasize Calories and Serving Size

There will be an emphasis on ensuring that listed portion sizes reflect what is actually being consumed, rather than the amount that should be consumed. For instance, a 20-ounce bottle of soda or juice, typically finished in a single sitting, would be labeled as one serving, rather than the 2.5 servings typically listed now. In general, servings per container of any packaged item also will be highlighted on the label.

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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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Smart Snacking for the Athlete

Posted by Brigham and Women's Hospital February 19, 2014

It's important to eat and drink enough before, during, and after your workouts.

Today’s post was contributed by Registered Dietitian Kate Sweeney, manager of the Nutrition Consultation Service at Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH) and a key member of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at BWH. Kate is an accomplished triathlete and is ranked among the top 18 female triathletes, ages 30-34, in the country.

Whether you are training for a marathon or just working on improving your fitness level, making sure you eat and drink enough before, during, and after your workouts is an important part of optimal sports nutrition. If you’re under-fueled for training, you may experience hunger in the middle of your workout or feel sluggish. You also may feel that you’re working hard but not seeing improvement in your strength or endurance.

To be adequately fueled for each workout session, snacking between meals and eating during training is often required. Being consistent with your nutrition before, during, and after training sessions also is key to training and success on athletic event days.

Here are some guidelines:

Pre-Workout Nutrition

Pre-workout snacks provide energy, add to glycogen stores, and decrease risk for low blood glucose levels. If you are planning a workout lasting one hour or more, or your workout is of high intensity, a smaller meal of 50 grams carbohydrate two to three hours before, or a snack of 15-25 grams carbohydrate one hour before can be consumed.

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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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