Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

Acai Berries: Really a Super-Food?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

Acai berries seem to be everywhere these days.

Ads claim they do everything from helping you lose weight to softening your hair and increasing your sex drive.

They’re used in plenty of food products and dietary supplements.

But is acai really a super-fruit?

Health magazine Senior Food & Nutrition Editor Frances Largeman-Roth gave “Early Show” viewers the lowdown, and shared some recipes using it.

Acai, she observed, is all over. It’s not only in food and health products, it’s also hit the beauty aisle (in conditioners) and perhaps even your local bar (in acai-blueberry vodka)!

Basically, the products claim to help increase sex drive, flatten your belly, cleanse your colon, soften your hair, etc. Those claims may or may not be true.

But what’s undeniable is that acai is a fabulous source of antioxidants. The trick is adding it into your diet in a way that doesn’t also contribute tons of extra calories.

Acai is a small, round, black-purple berry about an inch wide. It’s from Central and South America and is mainly grown in Brazil. It comes from the wild palm berry, and only two crops of the fruit are produced each year. It has a single, large seed. The outer-layer of the ripe fruits is a deep purple color, or green, depending on the type of açaí and its maturity.

Although açaí is touted in some weight loss products, few studies have tested its benefits, if any, in promoting weight loss.

This fruit has always been consumed in Brazil. People there believe acai has health benefits — in particular, that it gives them energy (energy that could help lead to reducing appetites and perhaps increasing sex drives.) But that might be because acai is traditionally mixed with guarana (a natural caffeine source). That’s probably why they associate it with instant energy.

For now, plenty of research supports eating a diet rich in antioxidants. There’s no doubt that berries and other fruits are a key part of any healthy diet promoting weight loss. The jury’s still out on whether there is something special about acai’s ability to shed excess pounds.

Some studies show that açaí fruit pulp has a very high antioxidant capacity with even more
antioxidant content than the cranberry, raspberry, blackberry, strawberry, or blueberry. Acai is rich in antioxidants and healthy fats. Because of its extensive vitamins, amino acids, minerals, and other properties, açaí is said to be one of one the most nutritionally-dense berries on the planet.

Acai also fights free radical damage (which is what makes us age.) Eating a diet rich in antioxidants may interfere with aging and the disease process by neutralizing free radicals.

By lessening the destructive power of free radicals, antioxidants may help reduce the risk of some diseases, such as heart disease and cancer.

Acai has a very rich, very intense. It’s sort of a mix between blueberry and dark chocolate.

It’s very perishable. Once ripened on the tree, it’s harvested and processed. The closest experience to eating it fresh is tasting frozen acai pulp. Look for it at natural food stores. It comes in little packets.

You can also find a freeze-dried version in powder. It’s available at your local health food store.

Products (food, beverages and cosmetics) made with açaí can be pricey; so don’t feel like you have to load your cart with EVERYTHING açaí! A better bet: Sample it, taste it, and make sure it works with your skin regimen, then add the pulp, powder, and juice into a healthy, balanced diet or beauty routine.

But beware: Just because it has acai, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Cereal, maybe protein bars, and store-bought smoothies can be really high in sugar and calories. And don’t throw out the blueberry and pomegranates!

You can use acai powder in anything from muffins to waffles to smoothies. The juice can be whisked into salad dressing.


Sunrise Smoothie Parfait

1/2 cup frozen unsweetened blueberries, preferably wild
2 tablespoons frozen açaí pulp
1/2 tablespoon light agave nectar
1 1/2 tablespoons cold water
1/2 cup cubed peeled ripe mango
1/4 cup ice
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon toasted wheat germ
1/2 cup frozen unsweetened pineapple cubes (such as Dole)
1/4 cup coconut water
2 tablespoons flaked unsweetened coconut

1. Purée first 4 ingredients in a blender until smooth. Pour into a chilled glass.
2. Rinse blender, and purée mango with ice, lime juice, and wheat germ until smooth. Spoon over the blueberry mixture.
3. Rinse blender again; purée pineapple with remaining ingredients until smooth. Spoon into glass over mango mixture; serve.

Oatmeal Pancakes with Wild Blueberry Sauce

Makes about 12 pancakes

1 1/2 cups rolled oats
1 cup 1% low-fat buttermilk
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons açaí powder
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 large eggs
2 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups 1% low-fat milk
Cooking spray
2 cups frozen wild blueberries, thawed
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Soak oats in buttermilk in a small bowl for 15 minutes.
2. Combine all-purpose flour, whole-wheat flour, 1/4 cup sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and açaí powder in a medium bowl.
3. Whisk eggs together with egg whites in a small bowl, and stir in milk.
4. Add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, and stir.
5. Heat a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, and coat with cooking spray.
6. Pour about 1/2 cup batter per pancake onto hot skillet, and cook 2 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked.
7. Flip and cook 2 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned.
8. Transfer to a plate; keep warm.
9. Cook remaining batter in batches.
10. Meanwhile, combine blueberries, 1/4 cup sugar, and lemon juice in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat until berries pop. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon. Spoon blueberry sauce over pancakes; serve.

Salad Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons acai juice (or juice blend)
1 teaspoon agave nectar or honey (I have some in the office)
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon olive oil (can increase if needed)

1. Whisk together in a bowl. Drizzle over fresh spinach or your choice of mixed greens. From cbsnews.

Some Diet Supplements poses a great threat to health

Wednesday, August 4th, 2010

Researchers linked diet supplements with various diseases such as cancer, coma, kidney, liver damage, heart problems and death.

People usually take pills and powders as a part of their diet and exercise regimen or for sexual enhancement.

The research group of Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database identified 12 ingredients in these diet supplements, which are aconite, bitter orange, chaparral, colloidal silver, coltsfoot, comfrey, country mallow, germanium, greater celandine, kava, lobelia, and yohimbe.

It has been reported that some of the ingredients have already warned by FDA.

But, it is disbelief of consumers that supplements are not harmful and therefore consume the pills to increase performance in the bedroom, slimming down or boost their athletic ability.

The situation became worse as FDA did not inspect Chinese factories raw material for supplements originate.

Different ingredients are responsible for different diseases:

Aconite used for joint pain and inflammation, but, it is linked with heart rhythm disorders, respiratory system paralysis, and death.

Comfrey, used for cough, heavy menstrual periods, chest pain, and cancer, but it is linked to liver damage and cancer.

Similarly other ingredients have an adverse affect and it has been advised that consumers should consult their doctors before taking any supplements. From frenchtribune.

The Salt Hiding in Your Diet

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

Nearly 90% of adults consume more salt than U.S. dietary guidelines recommend. Now, federal officials are considering making those guidelines even tougher to follow.

Eating too much sodium, a key component of salt, can contribute to high blood pressure, a major risk for most people as they age because it can lead to heart disease and other health problems. But cutting sodium from the diet is difficult, mainly because people often don’t know it’s there. More than three-quarters of the sodium people consume comes from processed and restaurant foods. And much of the sodium we eat is in foods that don’t necessarily taste salty, like packaged bread and chicken dishes.

Salt is the latest front in the battle to get Americans to eat a healthier diet. Previous efforts have focused on cutting down on sugar, to fight obesity, and reducing fat, for a healthier heart. After four decades of unsuccessfully nudging Americans to cut salt in their diets only to see them eat more of it, government officials are intensifying their efforts.

An advisory committee working on new U.S. Dietary Guidelines, due to be released later this year by the federal government, recently recommended that all adults restrict their intake of sodium to no more than 1,500 milligrams a day, equivalent to about two-thirds of a teaspoon of table salt, down from a current limit of 2,300 mgs for some people. For many, that wouldn’t represent a change. The dietary guidelines, which are updated every five years, currently suggest a limit of 1,500 mgs for people with hypertension, anyone over 40 years old and African-Americans, who are at greater risk for high blood pressure—a group that represents about 70% of all adults.
Today, adults consume more than 3,400 mgs of sodium on average, not including salt they use in cooking or sprinkle on food from a shaker, more than twice the amount recommended for most people, according to a recent survey by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Middle-aged men are eating on average about 54% more salt today than in the early 1970s; for women, consumption has jumped 67% in that time.

The best way to reduce salt is to cut back on processed and restaurant foods, eat fresh produce, and reduce portion sizes. Nutritionists recommend eating whole grains instead of bread—a single slice of packaged bread can contain 150 mgs to 200 mgs or more of sodium. Cut back gradually, so your palate adjusts to a less salty taste.

When you do buy processed foods, look for items with less than 300 mg of sodium per serving, or no more than one milligram of sodium per calorie of food, advises the Harvard School of Public Health, which has on its website 25 sodium-reduction strategies developed with the Culinary Institute of America.

Many consumers have focused in recent years on cutting back on fat and may not have noticed that foods they think are healthier may have lots of sodium. Two tablespoons of Kraft Free Zesty Italian dressing, for example, have just 15 calories, but 480 mg of sodium. The regular Zesty Italian dressing has 60 calories and 310 mg of sodium. A Kraft spokeswoman said the differences are due to varying recipes and consumer taste preferences, and noted that the company plans to reduce sodium in more than 20 of its salad dressings by the end of 2010.

Sodium levels can also vary widely among brands, so check labels carefully. Many chefs prefer to cook with kosher or sea salt, but the sodium in these products differs little from table salt, scientists say.

Cutting sodium from the food supply is a thorny problem for food manufacturers. Sodium is an inexpensive ingredient that not only enhances flavors, but keeps packaged foods fresh longer, makes dough less sticky and keeps cheeses firmer.

But amid government pressure and consumer concern, several food companies are lowering sodium in their products. Some are gradually taking salt out—slowly enough so consumers don’t notice—or are launching new product lines that tout a reduced sodium content. Some companies are trying new technologies such as grinding salt into small particles that contact the tongue in more places. PepsiCo Inc. is developing a new salt with crystals shaped and sized in a way that reduces the amount of sodium consumers will ingest when they munch its chips.

Bodies need some sodium to function properly, including maintaining the right balance of fluids, and excess sodium is usually kept in check by the kidneys. But if the kidneys can’t eliminate enough sodium, the buildup of sodium can lead to an increase in blood volume, which in turn increases pressure in the arteries. High blood pressure, or hypertension, can lead to heart disease, stroke, kidney disease and other problems.

The Salt Institute, which represents the salt industry, opposes more restrictive guidelines on sodium in diets. It says larger studies are needed and that too little sodium can harm health. “The recommendations made really hold a lot of risk for consumers,” said Morton Satin, vice president of science and research.
But most medical experts say nationwide dietary guidelines are warranted given the body of research demonstrating the risks of high-sodium diets. U.S. adults who reach age 50 have a 90% chance of developing hypertension, said Lawrence Appel, a professor of medicine at Johns Hopkins University and a member of an Institute of Medicine committee that has recommended that the government set mandatory standards for the amount of sodium in foods. “We’re dealing with huge public-health problems here,” he said.

The American Heart Association says it endorses a 1,500-mg sodium limit for all adults.

But just telling people to eat less salt may not be enough. The Food and Drug Administration is reviewing whether to regulate the amount of sodium allowed in foods, following a recommendation in April from the Institute of Medicine, an arm of the National Academy of Sciences that influences health policy. The FDA hasn’t made any final decisions on this, an agency spokeswoman said in an email.
The New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene has signed 16 companies, including Kraft Foods Inc., H.J. Heinz Co., Starbucks Corp. and sandwich chain Subway onto a voluntary salt-reduction initiative it is leading with other cities, states, and health organizations. The goal is to lower people’s salt intake by 20% by 2014.

“This is not about individual decisions. It’s about the foods we buy,” said Sonia Angell, director of the New York City health department’s cardiovascular disease prevention and control program. “It became clear we would have to address the food supply.” From wsj.