Dr. Dan Labriola, naturopathic doctor for the Swedish Cancer Institute, shares his insights about certain green foods that have the ability to combat cancer.
This February for Heart Health Month, let's focus on the positive.
Too often when discussing eating for heart health we focus on the things we should be decreasing (sodium, saturated fat, trans fat, added sugar) rather than focusing on the many positive things we could be adding to our diets.
So what can you add to your food intake for heart health?
We know from national surveys that the majority of Americans are not consuming recommended amounts of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, diary, seafood, and heart healthy oils. This translates to a lack of important nutrients, such as Vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and fiber.
Think of one healthful item from each category above that you could add into your diet over the month of February. Here is a list of one of my favorite foods from each category to give you some ideas.
Flip the calendar to February and just like Pavlov’s dogs, you may immediately salivate for dark chocolate, bright red roses and heart shaped everything. You may think that Valentine’s day is a romantic holiday fueled by Victoria’s Secret, florists and chocolatiers, but there is a reason for everyone to celebrate this Heart Healthy Month. For the 40 plus percent of people flying solo this season (the ones that rolled eyes at the heart encircling the 14th on the office calendar), there are reasons why you too should read on and learn of the health highlights of this ‘guilty pleasure’.
First - learning the language of chocolate and discovering the nutrients hidden in this gift from earth can empower you to look beyond the diet taboo and instead intentionally enjoy the benefits chocolate has to offer (perhaps innocently on more than one occasion per year).
Within the fruit pods of the Theobroma cacao tree lie cacao beans, the preliminary form of chocolate harboring the health benefits which transform the reputation of this guilty pleasure into an innocent delight. Cacao refers to the tropical tree (see image below) and bean, and is not to be confused with the term cocoa.
There are approximately 20-60 cacao beans per pod, which are removed from their pods, undergo fermentation and then are dried, roasted, and crushed. The resulting nibs are separated from their shells. You can purchase cacao nibs at natural foods stores (Whole Foods, PCC, Madison Market). These nibs are then ground to extract cocoa butter while producing a brown paste known as chocolate liquor during the extraction process.
When further extraction is performed, the cocoa mass that results can be ground to produce unsweetened cocoa powder. Unsweetened chocolate, the most commonly recognized form of chocolate by consumers, is made by mixing heated chocolate liquor with cocoa butter and sometimes lecithin. Bittersweet, semisweet, or simply sweet chocolate has sugar, vanilla and lecithin added.
Now that you are more fluent in the language of chocolate, you can advance to learn of the nutrients and other components in chocolate contributing to its health benefits.
Eating healthy and being physically active are important things to keep in mind during and especially after the holidays when an abundance of food is present.
Parents often have questions about their child’s weight such as: Is my child’s weight appropriate? Is there a difference between being overweight and being obese? When should we be worried about his or her weight? If I am overweight, what is the risk that my child may become overweight?
Physicians often use the term BMI (body mass index) to define the terms overweight and obese, and this provides physicians and parents with a guide to monitor weight in children. BMI can be calculated using the weight and height (weight in kilo divided by square of height in meters; this can also be calculated using the BMI calculator. A child is considered overweight if the BMI is greater than the 85th percentile and obese if greater than 95th percentile. Once a child is obese, they are at risk of developing complications like hypertension, high cholesterol levels, diabetes, etc.
Physical activity should be a significant part of everyday life of your child. Each child should aim to be active for a minimum of 30 minutes per day. They can be enrolled in an organized sports activity program like football, soccer, baseball, or swimming, or they can remain active by riding a bike, jogging and so on. Parents need to be aware if their child is playing video games for hours at a time and restrict the amount of screen time if necessary. Reduced television watching and computer use may reduce BMI and sedentary behavior.
Eating healthy plays an essential role in the well-being of every child. Studies have shown a lower prevalence of obesity in children who eat a healthy breakfast every day. Parents need to provide children with healthy food options at home so that they can develop a habit of eating healthy. It is important for children to try to eat all food groups, including grains, vegetables, fruits, dairy, and meat or fish. Fats, oils and sweets must be consumed in limited amounts. Lifestyle modification involving the whole family is a key factor in maintaining healthy weight in children.
What if my child is obese or overweight?
I’m all for a new year to spark good intentions, but the group of 100+ gym members that magically appear in January and hijack my stair climber only to stand at the top and text have proven again that the majority of these resolutions only last through February. That’s good news for my quads, but rather than brainstorm overly ambitious feats, why not establish healthy, realistic habits that everyone can carry out through next Christmas?
Let’s resolve to the BMI instead of the cover of People magazine to determine what a healthy weight is.
BMI (body mass index) calculation uses weight and height to determine one’s relative risk of disease. This number correlates with body fatness, but it’s important to remember that it is not a direction measure as it reflects both muscle and fat. (Click here to calculate your BMI.)
BMI is an inexpensive, quick and easy to-perform method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems. However, it doesn’t take into account frame size, bone density, muscle mass (highly trained athletes have high BMIs due to increase muscle mass), or body fat (women have more body fat than men, also older people have more body fat than younger).
Ideal Body Weight
So the BMI is one method for determining what your risk is at your present weight. What about if you want to know what your ideal weight range is? I recommend using this method (known as the Hamwi method):
- Men: 106lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 6lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
- Example: 5’ 10” = 149-183 pounds
- Women: 100lbs for first 60” (5 ft) and 5lbs per inch thereafter ±10%
- Example: 5’ 3” = 104-127 pounds
Like using the BMI, you have to consider the interpretive standards for this calculation also. If you consider yourself to have a small frame, then use the lower end of this range; whereas if you have a large frame then you would use the upper end of this range.
How do you achieve an ideal weight?
If we want to reach or maintain a healthy weight, consuming a healthy diet and engaging in physical activity is essential.
What is a Healthy Diet?
It took me 4+ years and an expensive degree to develop a confident answer to this question…but to save you time and money, let’s look at the straightforward responses of two of my favorite authors:
Swedish recently shot and produced a short video featuring two recipes for quick, easy and healthy Holiday drinks.