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Think nothing can take the place of a juicy, perfectly cooked burger? Try a plate of fried grasshoppers.
Okay, so they won't exactly taste the same—and it may be tough to even stomach the thought of munching on bugs. But experts say that nutritionally speaking, they’re a good substitute for beef, and may be a valuable food source of the future.
The idea of eating insects isn’t new. They’ve long been included in traditional diets of cultures around the world, and a 2013 report from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations noted that more than 1,900 insect species have been documented as food sources globally.
Americans aren’t so keen on consuming the critters, but bugs have crept into some Western food products in recent years. Cricket flour, for example, has become a popular ingredient in the high-protein, low-carb Paleo diet. (One tester's verdict on crickets in chocolate chip cookies? Tastes like walnuts!)
Insects have also been touted as a more sustainable alternative to eating meat and fish, especially as the global population grows. The process of raising and transporting animals as food sources—whether it’s cattle, pork, chicken, or farmed fish—produces greenhouse gases, uses water and other resources, and contributes to pollution.
There are surely more insects on Earth than there are fish in the sea or livestock on land. And it’s well known that insects are high in protein, but until now, their use as a good source of other nutrients has been unknown.
So researchers from Kings College London and Ningbo University in China set out to measure the nutrient content of various insects, to see if they really could contribute to a well-rounded meal, and measure up to Western staples like beef. The results were published this week in the Journal of Agriculture and Food Chemistry.
The study authors were particularly concerned with iron concentration in insects, since iron is an important nutrient that’s often lacking in vegetarian diets. Not absorbing enough iron from food or supplements can lead to anemia, cognitive problems, weakened immunity, pregnancy complications, and other health issues.
Using a lab model to mimic human digestion, the researchers analyzed the mineral content of grasshoppers, crickets, mealworms, and buffalo worms (oy)—along with a sample of sirloin beef—and estimated how much of each nutrient would likely be absorbed if eaten.
The insects had varying levels of different nutrients. Crickets, for example, had the highest levels of iron, calcium, and manganese. And, in fact, iron solubility (a characteristic that allows a mineral to be taken up and used by the body) was significantly higher in the insect samples than in the beef.
Grasshoppers, crickets, and mealworms also had higher concentrations of chemically available calcium, copper, zinc, and magnesium, when compared to the sirloin.
The results support the idea that eating bugs could potentially help meet the nutritional needs of the world’s growing population, the researchers concluded. “Commonly consumed insect species could be excellent sources of bioavailable iron,” they wrote, “and could provide the platform for an alternative strategy for increased mineral intake in the diet of humans.”
We’re still not 100% sold—but we’ve likely got some time to get used to the idea of bug-burgers as the next big thing. And as one brave volunteer in our cricket-flour protein bar taste test put it, is it really more gross than eating, say, a hot dog?
When you look at it that way, a little creepy-crawler crunch doesn’t seem so bad.
The quest for the Fountain of Youth is getting a boost from an international team of researchers who may have stumbled upon a compound that appears to make cells act younger than they are—at least in mice.
In a paper published in Cell Metabolism, researchers led by the Washington University School of Medicine reported that they found an agent that can balance out what happens in aging cells to essentially make them behave as they would in a younger mouse. That substance, as it turns out, is also found in a number of natural foods, including broccoli, cucumbers, cabbage and edamame.
The compound, called nicotinamide mononucleotide (NMN), is involved in producing another compound that is critical for energy metabolism. When they gave normal aging mice infusions of NMN, they made more of that energy-fueling compound and some of the biological problems associated with aging went away. The NMN-treated animals did not gain as much weight, they were able to convert food into energy more efficiently, their blood sugar was better—even their eyesight improved. The mice receiving NMN were also able to prevent some of the genetic changes associated with aging.
Most lab mice live just several years, so the researchers started the NMN treatments at five months, and continued them for a year. The study did not track whether the mice actually live longer, but with lower rates of age-related disease, that’s the assumption.
So can you load up on broccoli or cabbage and extend your life? “If you do the math, I wouldn’t say it’s impossible entirely but probably very difficult to get the whole amount [you need] simply from natural foods,” says Dr. Shin-Ichiro Imai, professor of developmental biology and medicine at Washington University and senior author of the paper.
The results are encouraging enough that part of the team, based at Keio University in Tokyo, is launching an early study on people — using supplements of NMN in pill form. “It’s clear that in humans and in rodents, we lose energy with age,” says Imai. “We are losing the enzyme NMN. But if we can bypass that process by adding NMN, we can make energy again. These results provide a very important foundation for the human studies.”
The findings are also in line with other anti-aging compounds that have shown promise in animal studies, including things like the diabetes drug metformin, rapamycin and sirtuins, all of which are also involved in energy-making process. “All of these pathways cross-talk with each other,” says Imai. “We don’t know the precise details of how, but they are communicating with each other.”
The hope is that the human studies will add provide even more information about how to keep cells young — and maybe halt, or at least hold off, the diseases that typically creep in as cells get older and lose their function.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
When you work at EatingWell, people expect pretty big things from you on Thanksgiving—whether you’re hosting or contributing. And even though the pressure’s on, we all know we can impress our friends and family with our favorite EatingWell recipes. I asked the other editors what their go-tos are and now I definitely have some new recipes to try this year. Here’s hoping some of these recipes claim a spot on your table too.
Vitamin E has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that help keep our immune and circulatory systems running smoothly—but, unfortunately, 90 percent of Americans don’t get the recommended 15 milligrams a day. Now, a new study suggests a tasty way to get more E into your day: The next time you enjoy a colorful salad, put an egg on it.
A few eggs, that is: Purdue University researchers found that when study volunteers ate salads with three cooked eggs, they absorbed 4.5 to 7.5 times more Vitamin E from the accompanying vegetables than when they ate egg-free greens.
Vitamin E is fat-soluble, which means it is absorbed by the body along with dietary fats, like oils, seeds, and nuts. It’s present in vegetables, but the body can’t absorb it well—or put it to good use—if those veggies are eaten alone.
A little olive oil or an oil-based salad dressing can helpboost antioxidant absorption from vegetables, previous studies have shown. Research also suggests that Vitamin E supplements are also better absorbed when taken with a fatty food or drink.
Now this study suggests another way get more Vitamin E out of salad greens and other raw vegetables. Plus, say the researchers, eggs themselves are rich in beneficial nutrients such as amino acids, unsaturated fatty acids, and B vitamins.
"This study is novel because we measured the absorption of Vitamin E from real foods, rather than supplements, which contain mega-dose amounts of Vitamin E," said Jung Eun Kim, PhD, a researcher in Purdue's nutrition science department, in a press release. The findings also highlight how one food can improve the nutritional value of another when they’re consumed together, the authors say.
The study, which was supported by the American Egg Board and the National Institutes of Health, involved 16 male volunteers who were fed three raw-vegetable salads, each a week apart. One contained no eggs, one an egg and a half, and one three eggs. Each salad was also served with 3 grams of canola oil.
Researchers analyzed blood samples from the volunteers after each salad was consumed, and found that absorption of two forms of Vitamin E—alpha tocopherol and gamma tocopherol—was 7.5 and 4.5 times greater, respectively, in those who ate three eggs compared to those who ate none. (That's not counting the small amount of Vitamin E found in eggs themselves.) There was no statistically significant absorption improvement for those who ate the smaller egg portion, suggesting that three whole eggs may be needed in order to truly reap such benefits.
The study was published this week in the Journal of Nutrition. In 2015, the same research team conducted a similar study that found that carotenoids—another family of fat-soluble vitamins—were also better absorbed when salad was eaten with eggs. Scrambled eggs were used in both studies, but the researchers say hard-boiled or any other cooked preparation will do.
Speaking of eggs, the “incredible edible” used to have quite a bad rap as a food high in dietary cholesterol. But recent research has found that cholesterol from food doesn’t necessarily raise levels in the body or contribute to cardiovascular disease. Today, most nutrition experts agree that eating eggs in moderation is safe and healthy for many people, yolks and all.
"For healthy people who do not have high cholesterol and are not at risk for heart disease, having more than one whole egg per day is probably fine," says Cynthia Sass, RD, author of Slim Down Now. However, Sass still recommends getting most of your daily fat from plant-based sources high in monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs), such as avocados, nuts, seeds, and extra-virgin olive oil.
Egg yolks contain about 3 grams of protein and 4 to 5 grams of fat each, while egg whites contain about 3 1/2 grams of protein and no fat. "To reap the benefits of the yolk, while still boosting your total protein intake and making room for healthy plant-based fats, I generally recommend combining one whole egg with three whites, whether it's in a salad or an omelet, and adding a MUFA-rich fat source, like avocado, or EVOO," Sass told RealSimple.com.
"One takeaway is not to skimp on fat in meals with veggies," she adds, "whether it comes from whole eggs, or a combination of whole egg and healthy plant-based fat." Those plant-based sources should also boost the absorption of antioxidants and other fat-soluble nutrients, she points out (and many of them are good sources of Vitamin E themselves), so it's a win-win.
This article originally appeared on RealSimple.com.
Whether or not you're obsessed with trying the latest uber-healthy food trends, you've probably heard the buzz about maca. This pungent root veggie, cultivated in the Andes Mountains of Peru (and sometimes referred to as Peruvian ginseng), has been used traditionally for its nutritional and presumed medicinal qualities for thousands of years. Now, maca is popping up on supermarket shelves, and in energy bars, supplements, and smoothies. But before you add it to your diet, here are four things to keep in mind:
Maca is thought to have many perks
It's been heralded as a "superfood" because it contains key nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, and fiber. It's also long been believed to improve fertility, boost libido, sharpen mental focus and memory, enhance endurance, reduce the symptoms of menopause, and more. But there is limited research available to back up these claims. One recent Korean review of previous research found that maca improved sperm motility and semen quality in infertile men. And a very small study on postmenopausal women suggested that maca may enhance sexual desire.
There are some safety concerns
Maca is taken as a natural treatment for hormone imbalances. But the fact that it may affect hormones could be a concern for some women. Many health professionals, including myself, advise women with hormone-sensitive conditions such as uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and certain cancers to avoid maca. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding are also encouraged to steer clear of the root.
And though maca isn't labeled as a stimulant, many of my clients suspect that it triggered side effects like insomnia, racing heart rate, and stomach aches. If you’re generally sensitive to stimulants like coffee, or you have irritable bowl syndrome (IBS) or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), pay attention to your body's response should you decide to give maca a try.
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It comes in powdered form
You may be able to find fresh maca at a market in Peru, but not in the United States. Exporting the root whole is illegal. You'll find it here as a powder, in capsules, or in products like Amrita’s Chocolate Maca bar or Navitas’ Maca Maple Cashews.
It’s simple to add maca to your diet
You can stir it into a pressed juice, whip it into a smoothie, or fold it into oatmeal, Greek yogurt, or pancake mix. It has a nutty flavor with a hint of butterscotch. And since there's more than one type, you can change things up by alternating the black, red, yellow, and blended varieties. Red maca, for example, is supposed to have the mildest flavor and provide the most health perks.
Just remember, a little goes a long way. So you might want to start with just a quarter to half a teaspoon. But even if maca becomes a part of your daily routine, I generally advise my clients to have no more than one teaspoon per day. And if it doesn't agree with you, don't sweat it. There are plenty of ways to upgrade your meals with other superfood add-ins.
Cynthia Sass is a nutritionist and registered dietitian with master’s degrees in both nutrition science and public health. Frequently seen on national TV, she’s Health’s contributing nutrition editor, and privately counsels clients in New York, Los Angeles, and long distance. Cynthia is currently the sports nutrition consultant to the New York Yankees, previously consulted for three other professional sports teams, and is board certified as a specialist in sports dietetics. Sass is a three-time New York Times best-selling author, and her newest book is Slim Down Now: Shed Pounds and Inches with Real Food, Real Fast. Connect with her on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.
Scan the “healthy” section of a brunch menu and there you’ll find it: the world’s saddest order, the egg white omelet. This time will be different, you think, these things aren’t so bad, but then you stare down at the flat, pale pancake of liquid protein and think to yourself: Why do I do this to myself?
You do it because you were told to. We all were. Until just recently, experts warned that dietary cholesterol causes spikes in blood cholesterol, which in turn clogs arteries and hurts the heart. Cholesterol is found in the yellows, not the whites, so down the drain went the yolks.
Left behind are a wobbly mix of water, protein, some vitamins and little else. These whites are also sold in one-ingredient cartons, pasteurized so they can be eaten raw. (That’s not the case for shell egg substitutes, like Egg Beaters Original, which come with egg whites but cut out cholesterol by mimicking the yolk with natural flavor and color, vegetable gums, maltodextrin and many other added ingredients.)
But there’s good reason not to fear the yolks. Scientific research has vindicated dietary cholesterol, finding that eating cholesterol has no real impact on cholesterol metabolism. That is, eating foods high in cholesterol does not mean you’ll develop high cholesterol. Some evidence suggests that eggs might even be beneficial for cholesterol by raising levels of HDL cholesterol, the “good” cholesterol that’s linked to a lower risk of heart disease.
Egg yolks contain a vibrant mix of saturated and unsaturated fat—another nutrient that, when it comes from a healthy whole food source, is unfairly slandered. Yolks have a good helping of vitamin E, one of the nutrients Americans eat too little of. But the real case for egg yolks can be made by their abundance of carotenoids, nutrients in plants and animal fats that give things like egg yolks (and even autumn leaves) their yellow color. Egg yolks are rich in the carotenoids lutein and zeaxanthin, which help eye health and protect against inflammation.
Sure, you can find carotenoids in more virtuous places, like fruits and vegetables. But egg yolks have an edge. Carotenoids need to be eaten with fat in order for the body to more fully absorb them, and a whole egg is the total package. Eat them, and you’ll get more of these nutrients—not just from the eggs, but from the stuff you eat it with, too. Two large eggs provide 143 calories, 13 grams of protein and almost 10 grams of fat.
A study last year found that when people ate eggs on a raw vegetable salad, their bodies absorbed about 9 times the carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin from the eggs and alpha carotene, beta carotene and lycopene from the veggies. A new one from the same authors found the same effect on vitamin E absorption as well.
Americans are notoriously bad at eating vegetables; a full 87% of them eat less than the recommended amount. If they can wring more nutrients from those they do eat by adding an egg, yolks could do a lot of good, says Purdue University nutrition researcher and study author Jung Eun Kim. “There’s no fat in egg white, so you are not going to observe the same effect.”
So next time you crack open an egg, don’t let the fatty, cholesterol-choked yolk slip away. Mix it in for good texture—and even better health.
This article originally appeared on Time.com.
If your Instagram feed is anything like mine then it’s pretty saturated with food photos (with some cute babies, wedding pics and celebs thrown in). Those yummy snaps of kale salads, overflowing smoothie bowls or gooey chocolate brownies are more than just eye candy—they may actually change your diet choices, inspiring you to eat better (or worse). Now, new research is coming out showing some pretty good reasons to up to your Instagram game.
Avocados are not only delicious, they’re super satisfying and help keep your body healthy too. Just in case you need even more encouragement to eat your avocados (c’mon guacamole isn’t reason enough?) here are 4 healthy reasons avocados are so good for you.
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