Is Butter Bad for Your Health?

Your Health

For years we’ve been told butter is bad for our health, but some substitutes may be worse. Here’s better news:

Funded Butter Study

A research team from Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy recently conducted a study on butter. It was funded by the U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute and collected data from over 600,000 people from 15 different countries. The findings suggest that butter may not be as unhealthy as we’ve been led to believe.

Study senior author Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian explains, “…butter should neither be demonized nor considered back as a route to good health.” In essence, the doctor is adding a disclaimer to the statement “butter is fine.” It doesn’t provide any real nutritional or health benefits. But, if eaten in small quantities, it doesn’t appear to create any significant rise in the risk of heart disease.

Churning the Fat

Butter is fattening. Per tablespoon, the delicious dairy-derived spread contains 100 calories, 11 grams of fat, and 7 grams of saturated fat. It’s the saturated fat that’s dangerous to heart health when eaten in abundance. There are other fats and oils that have just as many calories, but contain the “good” fats. Furthermore, butter contains a minimal amount of nutrition. But no doubt, butter is yummy.

The study found that eating butter was not associated with heart disease when consumed in small portions. However, it warned that on all other counts, butter is still a high-fat, high-calorie food.

What’s Better than Butter?

When talking health-wise as a spread, you still have a large variety of tasty options that are better than butter. Any monosaturated fat product is going to be healthier. Foods offering omega-3 fat sources are also good choices. A short list includes: flaxseed, coconut, and extra virgin olive oil, peanut and/or almond butter, salmon, and avocado.

What’s Not Better?

Unhealthier choices than butter include any product with hydrogenated or even partially hydrogenated oils. These contain trans-fats, which can ultimately be deadly. More than minimal amounts of sugar and starches can be worse for you than eating butter. High saturated fatty foods such as red meat, dark poultry meat and certain cheeses are also in the unhealthier than butter category.

Treating yourself to a teaspoon of butter on a warm roll or melting a small dollop in the pan to scramble with your egg whites is fine. Keeping the bad fats at bay (or to an extreme minimum) will not affect your overall health—especially if you eat mindfully and exercise habitually.

3 Healthy, Proven, Mood-Boosting Snacks

If you tend to lean toward low energy and/or depression, the foods you eat can either be culprits or heroes. Ingesting certain items can make you feel worse. But the good news is, there are foods and snacks that will actually help improve and boost your mood.

Moods, Hormones, Depression, and Inflammation

Sometimes we fall into phases of the dumps. Most of the time the cause is a chemical imbalance. If we’re stressed out all the time, the overload of cortisol eventually wears us down. If we’re not sleeping properly, our “body clock” falls out of rhythm and can lead to mild depression.

Probably one of the biggest culprits for causing the blues is the food we eat. If our diet is full of processed foods, wheat, refined sugars, our ability to process vitamins will be weak. If we’re malnourished, our brain responds by acting blah.

Over 80 percent of our serotonin (feel good) hormone lives in our gut. If our digestive system isn’t functioning optimally, it makes sense that our serotonin levels will be imbalanced. Then, how are we expected to feel good?

In fact, there can even be inflammation in your brain from certain foods. Reducing toxin overload will definitely pick up your spirits. Try choosing these healthy snacks and see if your mood gets the positive boost you’re seeking.

Walnuts

Grab a handful each day, and you’re sure to benefit nutritionally. These nuts contain Omega-3 and 6 fatty acids, which are neuroprotective compounds. They’re also high in antioxidants.

For women, walnuts have been found to help reduce nausea in pregnancy. But for men, in particular, these nuts have been shown to improve their mood by up to 28 percent. They also contain melatonin, which manages our circadian rhythm, helping us sleep better. Most everyone’s in a better mood after they’ve had a good night’s rest.

Hummus

This middle-eastern dip is so versatile and yummy. Its main ingredient is chickpeas, also know as garbanzo beans. Garbanzos are super high in folate, which is vitaminB9.

Studies have shown that many people who are depressed are also low in folate levels—sometimes even deficient. Perhaps that’s because low B9 levels are associated with low levels of serotonin. Garbanzo beans are higher in folate than even spinach and broccoli!

Hummus is generally a mixture of the beans with pureed sesame seeds, olive oil, garlic, and other spices. In most markets today, you can find plain hummus and also various flavors like: sun-dried tomato, sriracha, and avocado. It’s perfect for carrot, celery, or sweet potato chip dipping.

Sunflower or Pumpkin Seeds

Grab a handful of seeds for snack, and you’ll find yourself happier for a couple of reasons. First off, there’s an element of satisfaction in crunching and chewing. Secondly, these seeds (along with hemp, flax, and chia) have the good fats. They help our bodies absorb nutrients from the other healthy foods we eat.

Happy belly makes for a clearer and balanced mind. So, don’t be afraid to snack on healthy grub. In fact, embrace it—it’s worth trying if it makes you feel better. Check out Thrive for other tips on nutrition and positive living.

Omega-3s May Prevent High Blood Pressure Later in Life

Most Omega-3 fatty acid studies have been focused on those who already have high blood pressure. A new study out of Switzerland, however, reveals some interesting findings from healthy participants aged 25 to 41.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Don’t be frightened by the term fatty acid. It’s a necessary element in our diet, and our body doesn’t naturally produce it. Omega-3s, in particular, have shown to improve the functioning of our blood vessels, decrease inflammation, and strengthen heart health. It can be found in foods such as: fish (salmon, tuna, halibut), walnuts, flaxseeds, olive oil, beans, winter squash, tofu, and others.

Very high doses of omega-3s can lower blood pressure momentarily. But what about long-term, moderate use? Will that prevent high blood pressure in the future? That’s what the scientists were wondering…

The Study

Lead researcher, Dr. Mark Filipovic, studied results from 2,000 participants in the program. Men and women, aged 25 to 41, were divided into four groups. All of the people were considered healthy, did not have diabetes and were not obese. (Those conditions tend to impact blood pressure levels.)

Those with the highest levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood had the lowest systolic and lowest diastolic of all the groups. Systolic pressure is the top number of the blood pressure reading; it measures the pressure exerted against artery walls when the heart beats. Diastolic pressure, the bottom number, measures the pressure exerted when the heart rests between beats.

How an Omega-3-rich Diet Can Benefit You

The assumption, after that particular study, is that encouraging diets rich in omega-3s could be a tool in preventing high blood pressure. Filipovic expressed that, overall, if blood pressure levels were lowered—even a small amount—it would make a big difference. Fewer people might suffer strokes and heart attacks.

An alternate study, which focused on those who already have high blood pressure, noted that adding omega-3 fatty acids into their diet reduced their levels. Even less than a gram made a difference. (That’s a handful of walnuts and a half of an avocado, or a 4-ounce piece of Alaskan salmon.)

Instead of taking more supplements, it’s best to incorporate fresh foods that promote optimum health. And when it comes to your heart, you don’t want to mess around. Click here for other helpful information on good-for-your-body foods.

 

The Facts about Flaxseed

Flaxseed has been called a wonder food, the most powerful plant food, and high-fiber super food for valid reason.

So what is flaxseed?

Sometimes called linseeds, flaxseeds are golden or brown colored seeds that offer a rich source of micronutrients, dietary fiber, manganese, vitamin B1 and a super supply of omega-3 fatty acids. 1

Why is flaxseed so important?

Flaxseed contains 75-800 times more lignans than any other plant.  By definition, lignans contain both plant estrogen and antioxidant qualities, and for each tablespoon of ground flax, you will find 1.8 grams of plant based omega-3s.  Flaxseed is considered to be a medicinal food as well, and has been shown to protect against many life-threatening health conditions. While some benefits have not been “conclusively established”, preliminary studies have suggested that flaxseed may help fight heart disease, diabetes and may prevent certain cancers, colon, breast and prostate cancer. 2

What are lignans?

Lignans are a group of chemical compounds known as polyphenols.  Found in plants, lignans form building blocks of plant cell walls.  They contain phytoestrogens which help regulate the body’s estrogen production.  When we consume lignan compounds, they are converted in our intestines by good bacteria to produce a form that our body can incorporate.

What can lignans do for me?

As mentioned before, it has been shown that lignans play a role in protecting against cancer.  They are responsible for blocking enzymes that are part of hormone metabolism and interfere with spread and growth of tumor cells.  Other health benefits include lowering blood-pressure, which may be attributed to the amino acids and omega-3 fatty acids found in flaxseeds.  Consuming a daily dose of flaxseeds may also improve cholesterol levels, diabetes, obesity and heart disease. The suggested dose, according to the Flax Council of Canada, is 1 to 2 tablespoons daily.  However, in the US, more research continues. 3, 4

Which one is better?

Flaxseed comes in different forms, ground or milled and whole.  Ground flaxseeds are a better choice for digestion.  Because ground flaxseed is more easily digested, the nutrients from flaxseeds are more easily absorbed.   Typically, you will find brown or golden flaxseed in the stores, and there is little nutritional difference. In the store, you can find flaxseed among other flours and grains.

Always check labels

Be sure you are not purchasing whole flaxseed unless you prefer to mill it at home. It may take to be sure you are not purchasing whole flaxseed unless you prefer to mill it at home. It may take time to get used to a new food, so nutritionists recommend adding flaxseed into yogurt, smoothies, soup, cereal or oatmeal. Another way to incorporate flax is to mix into sauces, casseroles, and protein mixtures, as well as baked goods. 5

Once purchased, it’s important to store ground flax in the freezer, so that it does not oxidize and lose nutritional value.

While there is no magic pill or cure that will guarantee good health, we can take daily steps to prevent or improve our existing conditions. Choosing a healthy diet and incorporating flaxseed into one of your meals is a good place to start.

A great resource for information and recipes can be found at www.flax.com

 

References:

  1. http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263405.php
  2. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-flaxseed#1
  3. http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/benefits-of-flaxseed#5
  4. http://www.lignans.net/health-benefits.html

http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/expert-answers/flaxseed/faq-20058354

Look What’s Taking the Place of Vitamin Supplements

For over two decades, Americans stayed true to “taking their vitamins.” New research has shown that other types of supplements have taken their place.

Vitamin Deficiency

One of the reasons many Americans began taking vitamin supplements was because they found they were deficient in vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients. During routine exams or blood tests, certain levels of vital nutrients were revealed to be sub par.

The media, medical, and other publications raised red flags in the mid 1990’s suggesting that Americans were depleted of particular vitamins. Supplements in the form of pills became popular and have been used ever since. Studies reporting mineral deficiencies also came into the public eye. So, many folks began taking mineral supplements as well.

Welcome to Wellness

As recent reports from research and trends have shown, Americans are spending less in vitamins and more elsewhere. Big bucks are currently being spent on vitamin D (solo), probiotics, and fish oil supplements.

Echinacea, garlic, and other botanicals have been proven (and continue to be) strong immune boosters. Yet, many Americans have decided not to spend in that area, but rather in omega-3 fatty acids.

Perhaps the public is swayed by what’s most touted in the headlines?

Media Attention

Even expert scientist, Elizabeth Kantor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center in New York, agrees that supplements that gain media attention tend to sell better.

Surely, any pills that can curb the risk of heart disease (such as fish oil pills) should be taken under consideration for consumption. And if vitamin D is showing to protect cells from cancer, then why not take a pill daily?

The supplements that have come into the public eye most recently are coenzyme Q10, green tea extracts, and omega-3 fatty acids. These are the bigger sellers. Whether they are worthier than a multivitamin is still under investigation. It would seem to the optimist, that they are both valuable. But if you’re on a budget and you don’t have time to uber-research, sometimes you do as the Romans.

Drop and Cover

What’s been surprising is the drop in multivitamin purchases and use. Consumers are becoming more wary of the value of supplements—at least as far as traditional vitamins are concerned.

Perhaps people are feeling as if they are eating better. Getting nutrients from natural sources is always the better way.

But, maybe, people are taking their vitamins on an empty stomach. There is nothing enabling absorption of the nutrients from the pill. The plus is just peed out. Another concern is that other medications are counterproductive to the absorption of the supplementary nutrients.

It’s an interesting observation of health trends, for sure. But just because less money is spent annually on a particular product doesn’t make its worth less valuable.

The American public has always been fickle with nutrition, health, and diet trends. Best suggestion is to do your own research and then check your gut instincts. Oh, and don’t forget to follow your healthy heart, too.