Fall 2006: To Your Health

In this Issue:

  • Lower Your Cholesterol Level NOW!
  • Drink Up…Green Tea for Good Health
  • Growing Old Gracefully
  • Increased Vitamin D Intake May Help Prevent Breast Cancer
  • Helpful Hints for a Healthier Family
  • Decreasing Diabetes Related Complications
  • Enjoy a Nutritious Thanksgiving this Year
  • Feature Food of the Month: Papaya
  • Healthy Recipe: Papaya, Jicama, and Avocado Salad

Lower Your Cholesterol NOW!

September is National Cholesterol Education Month: Celebrate with Soy

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in America. One way to reduce the risk of heart disease is to maintain healthy blood cholesterol levels. In 1985, the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute deemed September as National Cholesterol Education Month. Since then, September has become a time to learn about the importance of keeping your cholesterol at a healthy level.
Cholesterol is a waxy fat-like substance that is present in all cells of the body. The body makes all of the cholesterol it needs to make hormones, Vitamin D, and other substances within your body. Cholesterol is also present in many foods that you eat. Optimal total blood cholesterol levels should be below 200 mg/dl.
Cholesterol travels through your body via lipoproteins (packages containing fat on the inside and proteins on the outside). There are two kinds of lipoproteins which need to be maintained at their proper levels.

  • Low Density Lipoprotein (LDL) is referred to as the “bad cholesterol”. High LDL levels can cause cholesterol to build up in the arteries, increasing one’s risk of heart disease. LDL levels should be less than 100mg/dl.
  • High Density Lipoprotein (HDL) is known as the “good cholesterol”. This is because HDL helps to remove cholesterol from the body by transporting it to the liver. The liver then removes the cholesterol from your body. One should aim for HDL levels greater than 40mg/dl for men and 50 mg/dl for women.

How can an individual achieve these goals?

  • Eat plenty of fiber. Whole grain foods, fruits, and vegetables are all high in fiber and will help you lower your LDL.
  • Eat less fat.
    •  Try baking, roasting, broiling, or grilling your food rather than frying.
    •  Look for fat-free and low-fat dairy products.
    •  Use cooking sprays or non-fat/low-fat tub margarine rather than stick margarine
  • or butter.
  • Reduce your portion sizes.  Red meat should be eaten in 3 oz portions no more than 2
  • times a week.
  • Increase physical activity. It always helps to stay active. Exercising not only helps to get rid of those extra pounds, it also helps lower total cholesterol and LDL levels and increase HDL. Rigorous activity isn’t the only way to be active. Even something as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator can be helpful.
  • Incorporate soy into your meal plan.  Adding soy to your meal plan is another method of lowering your cholesterol levels. Soy is a bean which is found in foods such as soy milk and tofu. It is sometimes added to breads and cereals, and is often used as an alternative to meat. Foods containing soy will provide you with protein, fiber, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids, helping you to reduce your risk of heart disease.

The soybean contains nutritionally relevant amounts of isoflavones, a class of chemical compounds that may possess both hormonal and non-hormonal properties possibly relevant to protection against cardiovascular heart disease, in relation to blood vessel health. Several studies have shown these effects, however further research is required.

Studies on the benefits of soy in lowering cholesterol date back to 1967. Since then, more studies have been done and the topic has become controversial. The cholesterol-lowering effects of soy protein do not appear to be as large as initially proposed, but the reductions are still clinically relevant. Soy protein and possibly isoflavones appear to have multiple coronary benefits that together, may be very significant in protection against cardiovascular heart disease. In addition, full-fat soy foods are a good source of omega 3 fatty acids and alpha-linoleic acids, which are known to have coronary benefits. Therefore, despite the lower estimates of cholesterol lowering effects of soy foods, there are many other reasons for including soy foods in your diet.

Please note: It is NOT advisable for women who have or have previously had breast cancer to consume soy. Many doctors are concerned that the weak estrogen effect of the phytoestrogens in soy might increase the risk of recurrence of breast cancer. More research is needed.

For tips on easy ways to incorporate soy into your menu, please visit our special web section.

Click here for information on recommended amount of soy intake.

Maine Cardiovascular Health Council
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Diseases and Conditions Index
United Soybean Board, The Soy Connection, Summer 2005 Issue

Drink Up…Green Tea for Good Health

Asia and Japan have the lowest incidences of heart disease and lung cancer despite the high use of tobacco and cigarette smoking.

According to a recent article by the American College of Surgeons, the explanation for this paradox is that while Asians do smoke a lot of cigarettes, they also drink a lot of green tea. When enough is consumed, green tea has proven to lower total cholesterol, LDL and triglycerides and increase HDL levels. In a study involving 8,552 Japanese men and women, a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and cancer was found when 10 cups of green tea were consumed everyday; this is compared to those who drank less than 3 cups a day.

The cardiovascular benefits are seen specifically in green tea rather than black tea. When the populations of countries drinking primarily black tea (Ireland and the United Kingdom) were studied these benefits were not discovered. The black tea was not found to have any significance in cardiovascular disease or lung cancer prevention. In countries such as Japan and Korea on the other hand, where green tea is primarily consumed, a decrease in these risks was found.

So what is it about green tea?

Green tea contains a high concentration of polyphenolic flavonoids (antioxidants). The flavonoids help to decrease the oxidation of LDL thereby lowering cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease. All teas contain compounds called catechins. Catechins give teas their disease preventing qualities. The higher the concentration level of catechins found in a tea, the stronger its beneficial effects. Green tea has the highest concentration of catechins of the three main types of teas (green, black and oolong) thereby making it the most powerful when it comes to preventing heart disease, lowering cholesterol, and delaying the onset of cancer.

Although green tea is generally considered safe and has important benefits, this drink is not for everyone. Green tea contains caffeine which when consumed in large quantities can cause nausea, trouble sleeping, or frequent urination. Caffeine acts as a stimulant, therefore, those who have a history of irregular heartbeats or anxiety attacks should minimize their consumption of green tea. Since caffeine can pass through in breast milk, women who are pregnant or nursing should minimize their drinking of the tea as well.

As previously mentioned, green tea contains catechins. Catechins may decrease platelet aggregation. Therefore, those taking drugs that affect platelet aggregation, such as aspirin or Coumadin, and those with either genetic or acquired bleeding tendencies, should use caution when using green tea. Always check with you physician or pharmacist to see if there are any contraindications for you.

Here’s a tasty recipe that incorporates the benefits of both soy and green tea:

Iced Green Tea

1 bag green tea
1 ounce soy milk, or milk if you don’t care for soy
1 ounce apple juice
8 ounces water
Bring the water to a boil, and then pour the water over the green tea bag. Let brew for three minutes. Pour the brewed tea into a container for the fridge. Add the soymilk and apple juice. Refrigerate for an hour and serve.   Makes 1 serving.

Sumpio, Bauer E. “Green Tea, the ‘Asian Paradox’, and Cardiovascular Disease.”

Growing Old Gracefully

September is recognized as Healthy Aging Month

Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important for everyone, no matter what age. There are four elements the body naturally loses through the normal aging process, which can be prevented or at least delayed. They are flexibility, strength, endurance and balance. As you grow older, there are simple things you can do to prevent or delay these natural effects and age gracefully and healthfully.

Exercise: A regular exercise program that incorporates both aerobic and anaerobic components can help maintain strength, flexibility, endurance and balance. The aerobic portion of your program taxes your heart by making you breathe harder. Weight training taxes your muscles and is considered anaerobic.
Some examples of exercises include: walking, swimming, yoga, treadmill, elliptical trainer, and aerobic video tapes. Change your routine periodically to prevent boredom. Most importantly, choose a form of exercise you enjoy doing and try to do it at least 3 times a week for 30 minutes at a time.

If you find it difficult to fit exercise into your busy schedule, try parking a little further from your office or from the grocery store and power walk to your destination. If you live close enough, leave the car at home and walk.

If some encouragement is what you need, get a friend to exercise with you. Exercising is more fun when you have company.

Drink lots of water: Would you like to maintain good body tissue as you age? The answer is to drink plenty of water. Your muscles, nerves, tendons, skin and internal organs all need water to remain supple and function properly. The bladder and bowel also typically develop problems as you age, and drinking enough water can prevent or delay this effect as well.

Some additional ideas for keeping your mind and body active include:

  • Volunteer: There are many charity organizations looking for volunteers. By becoming a volunteer you can help others and yourself at the same time.
  • Family and friends: Call, write or email a family or close friend each day.
  • Exercise your mind: Develop a new hobby, read or work on puzzles to keep your mind sharp.


Increased Vitamin D Intake May Help Prevent Breast Cancer

In a recent study done by a group of California scientists, Vitamin D was found to do more than support bone health; it may also be helpful in reducing the risk of breast cancer. 1760 women were followed in this study. Researchers found that with increasing blood levels of Vitamin D, risk of breast cancer fell steadily. The highest blood levels of Vitamin D correlated with a 50% reduced risk of breast cancer, compared with the lowest amounts. In order to reach that highest level, one would need several times the current recommended Vitamin D intake, which is 400 international units (IU) per day for women 50-70 years old.

Vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is exposed to the sun. Some may be concerned about getting too much sun exposure because of the risk of skin cancer; however, it is possible to get adequate Vitamin D from just 10 to 15 minutes of sun a couple of times a week on the face, arms and hands. Sunscreen blocks the rays necessary to activate Vitamin D in the skin, so vitamin supplementation is suggested to get the optimal level of Vitamin D needed to see this benefit.

Standard multivitamins supply 400 IU of Vitamin D. You can get an additional 400 IU by taking a calcium supplement that contains Vitamin D. It is important to keep in mind all possible sources of Vitamin D when calculating your daily intake. Too much can cause a build up of calcium in tissues. The tolerable intake level (UL) or recommended upper limit of Vitamin D is 2,000 IU per day. A daily intake above the UL increases the risk of adverse effects and is not advised. Most nutrition experts have begun to recommend adults get 800-1000 IU of Vitamin D per day.

It is still premature to advise higher intakes of Vitamin D to prevent breast cancer based on just a few studies. Well-designed peer-reviewed clinical trials need to be conducted to determine if an increased intake of Vitamin D is protective against breast and other types of cancers.

For a list of sources of Vitamin D, please visit our special web section.

Harvard Women’s Health Watch, Harvard Health Publications, June 2006

Helpful Hints for a Healthier Family

As vacations come to an end and school begins, it is easy for families to get caught up in their schedules and, without realizing it, become less active and choose unhealthy foods. Here are some tips to keep your family on the path of good health:

Keep a food and activity log: At the beginning of each week post a log for family members to record their daily food intake and activity levels. After each week review the log and see what changes can be implemented to help your family become healthier.

Set goals: Make a list of specific goals for you and your family to aim for. For example, aim to walk after dinner 3 times a week, or include 1 new kind of fruit or vegetable into your diet each week.

Use positive reinforcement: When goals are successfully completed, reward your family. Choose a fun activity for everyone to do together, maybe a family baseball game or a few rounds of bowling.

Eat meals as a family: With everyone’s busy schedules this may be difficult but make an effort to have at least one dinner together each week. When there is one meal prepared for the entire family to eat together, rather than everyone eating different things at different times, everyone will feel more satiated and there will be less snacking between meals.

Eat meals only in eating areas: Always eat your meals in areas designated for eating such as the kitchen or dining room. Avoid eating in front of the television, computer, or while reading. This rule will not only help keep your house clean, but you will also find yourself concentrating more on your food, stopping when you are full, and eating less. You will be able to pay more attention to your hunger cues.

Don’t single out heavier children: Causing one child to feel more restricted than his siblings will not help him with his weight/health problem. Healthy living is important for every member of the family and should be worked on as a family.

American Dietetic Association, Healthy Habits for Healthy Kids
Decreasing Diabetes Related Complications

November is American Diabetes Month

The number of people with diabetes is growing. In the year 2000, an estimated 4.4% of the U.S. population had diabetes. In 2002, that number jumped to 6.3%. It is estimated that by 2050, nearly 10% of the U.S. population will be diagnosed with diabetes.

Diabetes is a lifelong condition. With good glucose control, you can decrease the incidence and risk of complications caused by uncontrolled diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes can lead to complications such as cardiovascular disease (heart attack or stroke), diabetic retinopathy (eye disease), diabetic nephropathy (kidney disease) and peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage).

Cardiovascular disease is the reported cause of death in up to 65% of people with diabetes. A recent study reported in The New England Journal of Medicine found intensive glucose control to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. The study included 1441 type 1 diabetes patients. Half of the participants underwent intensive diabetes care, while the other half received conventional care. The more intense care included three or more daily injections of insulin or treatment with an insulin pump. Dosages were based on at least four glucose self-monitoring measurements throughout the day. The study took place over a period of 17 years and researchers concluded that participants who received intensive treatment reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 42% and the risk of heart attack, stroke, or cardiovascular related death by 57%.

In another study, Finland researchers have determined that the combination of type 2 diabetes and hypertension increases the risk of stroke. Investigators studied 49,582 participants, 25-74 years old, with no history of stroke or coronary heart disease. Through the use of questionnaires, researchers discovered that both high blood pressure and diabetes raise the chance of stroke, but when high blood pressure and diabetes are combined, the risk increases in severity. People with both high blood pressure and diabetes are 4.5 times more likely to have a stroke, and are 9 times more likely to die from it than those without either disease.

To review the main risk factors for diabetes complications and to learn how to decrease your risk, please visit our special web section.

BRG Dietetics & Nutrition, P.C. offers customized diabetes meal planning. Click here to review the services offered and to get your glucose levels within target range NOW.

American Diabetes Association
N Engl J Med 353:2643-2653, 2005
Stroke 36:2538-2543, 2005
American Association of Diabetes Educators, Diabetes Health Monitor, July/August 2005, Vol. 10, No. 4.

Enjoy a Nutritious Thanksgiving this Year

Many people think of the holidays as a difficult time to keep their weight down. However, with some thought ahead of time, you can turn your traditional favorites into healthy choices. Here are some things to take into consideration when planning your menu this year.

Choose orange and yellow colored fruits and veggies: The orange coloring found in pumpkins, carrots, and sweet potatoes means that these fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants and Vitamin A. Vitamin A has proven to improve night vision and help strengthen the immune system.

Start with a salad: Salad is a great way to start any meal. It will fill you up early in the meal, making it easier to choose appropriate portion sizes later. Be sure to include green leafy vegetables such as, spinach, collards, kale, mustard greens, and turnip greens.
Dark green veggies are high in fiber, serve as antioxidants, and may help to prevent blindness as you get older. Other vegetables such as turnips, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, and cauliflower are packed with Vitamin C, folic acid, and fiber.

Protein pointers: The obvious choice for a protein source at your Thanksgiving meal is turkey. Turkey can be very healthy, especially if you remove the skin and choose white meat over dark, but for the vegetarians at the meal, try offering a soy option. Even if there are no vegetarians at your table, a good soy dish will be appreciated; soy helps to lower cholesterol and has many other nutritional benefits.
If you’re opting for the turkey over the soy, hold off on the gravy. Turkey is good for you but when you add too much gravy it can become very high in calories and fat. Try using fat-free gravy and place it on the side of your plate so you can dip the turkey into it rather than pouring the gravy right over your turkey. This will help you eat less gravy while still enjoying the flavor.

Berry benefits: Berries are a great choice for dessert. Berries supply our bodies with iron, fiber, potassium, calcium, and magnesium, all of which help us to stay healthy. Pectin is a dietary fiber in berries which may support the digestive system.
The antioxidants found in berries will reduce free radicals in your body. Free radicals have been proven to speed up the aging process of the body. The antioxidants may also aid in maintaining normal cholesterol levels and healthy coronary artery function.

Keep dessert light: Think about substituting some of the high-fat ingredients in your pumpkin pie recipe for lighter ones (for example use egg substitute instead of whole eggs and forgo the crust.) Always have a colorful fruit bowl or platter for those who do not want pie.

Consider your portion sizes: You can still enjoy your traditional Thanksgiving recipes but just think smaller. Choose smaller portions of your favorite foods and eat in moderation!

Recipes to Remember:

Heart Healthy Can Be Delicious Cookbook

Looking for healthy Thanksgiving recipes?

This heart-healthy cookbook is good for all diets. It contains 200 recipes your heart will love along with nutritional analysis and diabetic exchanges.

For free healthy recipes, click here.

This cookbook is ideal for those counting carbs, calories, fat or food groups.

Click here for more information!

Feature Food of the Month – Papaya

Originating in Central America, this tropical fruit is grown year-round and has become increasingly popular over the years. Today it is produced in the United States, Mexico, and Puerto Rico. The fruit is pear-shaped with an orange colored skin. Inside you will find black seeds surrounded by a gelatinous like substance.

Papaya is packed with disease preventing vitamins and other nutrients, including: Vitamins A, B, and C, carotenes, and flavonoids. One medium papaya has approximately 118 calories, 189 mg Vitamin C, 863 IU Vitamin A, and 5.5 gm fiber. Minerals such as potassium, magnesium, and fiber are also found in this fruit. These vitamins and minerals are helpful in fighting heart disease, cancer, macular degeneration, arthritis, and emphysema. Also found in papaya is papain, an enzyme which is helpful in digesting proteins.

When purchasing papaya to eat within a day of purchase, look for those which are reddish-orange in color and slightly soft. If you don’t plan on using the papayas for a few days, look for those that have patches of yellow and leave them at room temperature to ripen. To speed up the ripening process, you can put them in a paper bag with a banana. Once the papayas are ripe they should be stored in the refrigerator and eaten within one or two days.

Papaya can be prepared in several ways. It can be added to a fruit salad, made into salsa, turned into a fruit soup, or used in a recipe. However, the easiest way to eat it is like a melon. To do this, wash it, cut it lengthwise, remove the seeds, and eat it with a spoon. For added flavor, you can squeeze lemon or lime juice on top.

Healthy Recipe – Papaya, Jicama, and Avocado Salad


¼ c. fresh lime juice
1 1/2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
1 small avocado, peeled and pitted
1 papaya (about 1 ½ pounds), peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 medium (about 1 pound) jicama, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
¼ c. fresh cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped


In a small bowl, whisk together the lime juice, olive oil, and the pepper; set aside. Cut the avocado into ½-inch cubes. In a medium bowl, combine the papaya, jicama, and the avocado. Add the lime vinaigrette, and toss well to combine. Add the cilantro, season with pepper, and toss to combine. Serve.

Yield: 6 servings
Serving Size: 1/6 of the recipe
Exchange: 1 Fruit, 1 ½ Vegetables, 1 ½ Fats

Nutrition Facts:
Calories = 167
Total Fat = 9 gramsSaturated Fat = 1.5 grams
Cholesterol = 0 milligrams
Protein = 2 grams
Carbohydrate = 23 grams
Sodium = 9 milligrams
Dietary Fiber = 9 grams

For more healthy recipes, click here.


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