Tag Archives: mediterranean diet

Inflammation and how to manage it

27 Sep
Acute Inflammation copy.png

Have you ever wondered if you have inflammation? Do you know what it is? Do you know about anti-inflammatory diets? I would like to share with you some medical articles and research-based information to clarify misunderstood conceptions about inflammation.

In medical terms, inflammation is the response of our immune system to common injuries, such as cuts or burns. The affected area becomes red, warm, and puffy, accompanied by an increased blood flow in the affected area, as well as production of body chemical products to cure the injury. 

However, too little inflammation that persists over time is thought to be the root of most chronic diseases such as diabetes, cardiovascular disease, nonalcoholic fatty liver disease, obesity, autoimmune disorders, and even clinical depression. Research has called this concept ‘The inflammation theory of disease,’ in which inflammation is the common underlying factor among the leading causes of death.

There are medical studies that measure too little inflammation or chronic, low-grade immune response. However, research shows that modifiable factors such as diet and behavior can activate the key to inflammatory pathways.

An anti-inflammatory diet may help control excessive oxidative stress, altered glucose, and lipid metabolism in fat (adipose) cells, muscle, and liver. Many studies have demonstrated that the Mediterranean Diet, a diet  that incorporates olive oil, fish, modest lean meat consumption, and abundant fruits and vegetables, legumes, and whole grains, shows more anti-inflammatory effects when compared to a typical American dietary pattern. 

Besides diet, exercise and avoiding stress are also important to avoid inflammation. Make time for 30 to 45 minutes of aerobic exercise and 10 to 25 minutes of weight or resistance training at least four to five times per week. It is difficult to change many of the stressful situations we encounter in life; however, we can change the way we respond to it by learning how to manage stress better.

Reducing inflammation is important, and it will improve our health and reduce the risk of chronic diseases.

Mediterranean Couscous Salad with Chickpeas

Grapes add sweetness to this easy, no-cook dish that works easily for a packed lunch to work or for dinner.

Recipe from the American Heart Association

4 Serving. Per serving: Calories 466, Protein 17g, Fiber 14g, Cost $3.03

Ingredients

1 3/4 cups water

1 cup whole-wheat couscous

2 medium cucumbers (cut into quarters)

1 1/2 cups green or purple grapes (halved)

3 green onions

15.5 oz. canned, low-sodium chickpeas (also called garbanzo beans), drained, rinsed

1/3 cup chopped, pit removed black or Kalamata olives

2 Tbsp. dried parsley OR 1/2 cup chopped, fresh parsley

1 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 Tbsp. lemon juice

4 Tbsp. reduced-fat feta cheese crumbles (divided)

Directions

Using the microwave or a teapot, bring 1 ¼ cups water to a boil. Add into a medium-sized heatproof container, along with couscous. Stir together and cover with a lid or very tightly with plastic wrap. Let couscous sit for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, peel cucumbers. Quarter each cucumber and then cut into 1-inch chunks. Add into a large bowl. If desired, halve the grapes or add them whole into the bowl. Chop the scallions, about ¼ cup, and add into the bowl.

When couscous is finished, use a fork to fluff it and then add into the bowl along with the olives, chickpeas, parsley, oil, and lemon juice. Use a large spoon or spatula to stir to combine. Serve, topping each portion with 1 tablespoon feta cheese.

Cooking Tip: When using naturally salty food like feta cheese and olives, you don’t need to add extra salt into a dish.

Keep it Healthy: Canned items, like beans and vegetables, should be drained and rinsed with water in a colander to remove some of the salt added during the canning process.

Tip: English cucumber can be substituted for 2 medium regular cucumbers—English cucumbers, however, are often more expensive so only substitute if they are on sale.

Article adapted from the article by Sarah Dimitratos “Inflammation: What Is It, and how can my diet and behavior affect it?” from the American Society for Nutrition website.

Healthy heart with a healthy diet

30 Jul

Every day I eat healthy and exercise. It makes me feel more energetic and happy! I follow the Mediterranean Diet. The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the best heart-healthy diets. It emphasizes whole fresh fruits, plenty of vegetables, healthy oils, and nuts. Recent studies found that middle age women who followed the Mediterranean Diet for 15 years t were more likely to age without having major chronic diseases, memory changes, physical impairments, and mental health issues.

This healthy heart recipe is from the Mayo Clinic web site http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/recipes/pasta-with-spinach-garbanzos-and-raisins/rcp-20049797 . It is high in fiber and protein. If you like garbanzos and spinach, you will enjoy it!

Pasta with spinach, garbanzos and raisins

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 8 ounces farfalle (bow tie) pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 can (19 ounces) garbanzos, rinsed and drained
  • 1/2 cup unsalted chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup golden raisins
  • 4 cups fresh spinach, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
  • Cracked black peppercorns, to taste

Directions

Fill a large pot 3/4 full with water and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente (tender), 10 to 12 minutes, or according to the package directions. Drain the pasta thoroughly.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and garlic over medium heat. Add the garbanzos and chicken broth. Stir until warmed through. Add the raisins and spinach. Heat just until spinach is wilted, about 3 minutes. Don’t overcook.

Divide the pasta among the plates. Top each serving with 1/6 of the sauce, 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese and peppercorns to taste. Serve immediately.

This is an easy way to remember how to follow the Mediterranean diet:

Food Groups Recommended Servings per day
Whole Grains 4-6 (one serving = 1 slice of bread, ½ cup of cook rice, pasta; 1 ounce of ready-to-eat cereal)
Non-Starchy Vegetables 4-8 (one serving = ½ cup cooked vegetables or 1 cup raw vegetables)
Fruit 2-4 (one serving = 1 cup of raw or cooked fruit; ½ cup dried fruit)
Legumes and Nuts 1-3 (one serving = 1 ounce)
Low-fat dairy (choose fat-free or low-fat yogurt, milk, ice cream, frozen yogurt, cheeses and desserts) 1-3 (one serving = 1 cup of milk, 1 cup of yogurt, 2 ounces processed cheese (American), ½ cup ricotta cheese

2 cups cottage cheese, 1 cup frozen yogurt, 1 cup calcium-fortified soymilk, 1 cup pudding made with milk

Fish or Shellfish 2-3 per week (one serving = 3.5 oz. cooked, or about ¾ cup of flaked fish). Enjoy fish baked or grilled, not fried
Poultry, if desired 1-3 per week (1 serving = 3 ounces = 1/2 of a chicken breast or a chicken leg with thigh (without skin)
Healthy Fat – Olive, Canola, Avocado 4-6 (2 Tbsp or 1 oz of avocado; 1 tsp of canola or olive oil)
Alcohol 1 serving or less for women and 2 servings or less for men (one serving of alcohol equals 5 oz. of wine, 12 oz. of beer and 1 ½ oz. of distilled liquor)

Avoiding and delaying dementia and Alzheimer’s disease

26 Sep

Last week I visited the University of Kentucky Sanders Brown Center on Aging. There, two doctors talked about the latest research on how “to feed” our brains to avoid and delay dementia and Alzheimer’s disease . Learning new skills, being physically active, having a body mass index (BMI) between 18.5 and 24.9, eating a diet rich in fruits, vegetables and Omega 3-Fatty acids, and having a social life, were few of the recommendations the doctors made.

We can’t change what is in our genes but we definitely can take care of our health. The doctors mentioned the connection between heart, blood alzheimer_brain[1]sugar, and the brain, and how one affects the others. A diet high in saturated and Trans fats seems to affect our memory.

The relationship may be mediated by a gene called apolipoprotein E, or APOE. This gene is associated with the amount of cholesterol in your blood, and people with a variation of this gene, called APOE e4 are at greater risk for Alzheimer’s disease. According to Dr. Gad Marshall, assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School, about 65% of individuals who wind up with dementia due to Alzheimer’s disease in their 60s and 70s have that gene.

The connection is a little clearer when it comes to memory loss that’s related to blood vessel damage. The buildup of cholesterol plaques in brain blood vessels can damage brain tissue, either through small blockages that cause silent strokes, or a larger, more catastrophic stroke. Either way, brain cells are deprived of the oxygen-rich blood they need to function normally, which can compromise thinking and memory.

A Mediterranean diet is great for a healthy heart. This diet carries the strongest evidence of any diet-related intervention for preserving memory. The Mediterranean diet includes: fruits and vegetables, whole-grain breads and cereals, beans and nuts, olive oil, very limited red meat, no more than four eggs per week, and moderate wine consumption (one glass a day for women).

I consider myself a very active person, who follows a Mediterranean diet. However, I have not learned a new skill in a long time. I will try to learn how to play a musical instrument. Any suggestions?