Fall 2007: To Your Health

In this Issue:

  • A Daily Dose of Pistachio Nuts May Lower Cholesterol
  • Can Increased Consumption of Flaxseed Delay Prostate Cancer Growth?
  • The Link Between Tea and Ovarian Cancer
  • A Diet Deficient in Dairy May Influence Diabetes Risk
  • Risk of Pancreatic Cancer Possible Among Soda Drinkers
  • ‘Tis the Season for…Turkey!
  • Feature Food of the Month: Chili Peppers
  • Healthy Recipe: Cherry Chili Pepper Salad

A Daily Dose of Pistachio Nuts May Lower Cholesterol

According to the Journal of The American College of Nutrition, eating pistachios may help protect against cardiovascular disease and high cholesterol. Increased levels of blood lipids are a risk factor for developing heart disease and stroke. Cholesterol travels through the blood in protein groups called lipoproteins. The three types of lipoproteins found in the blood include high-density lipoprotein cholesterol (HDL), low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL) and very-low density lipoprotein cholesterol (VLDL). A normal cholesterol level should not exceed 200 mg/dl; LDL should be less than 100mg/dL and HDL greater than 60mg/dL.

In a recent study, 15 individuals with moderately high blood cholesterol (greater than 210 mg/dL) were given a diet where 15% of the calories came from pistachio nuts (2-3 oz/day). These participants were told to substitute pistachio nuts for high fat snacks they would have otherwise included in their normal diet. Those who did not indulge in high-fat snacks consumed the pistachios as calories from fat. Significant reductions were seen in cholesterol/HDL ratio and LDL levels, and a significant increase was seen in HDL. Contrary to popular belief, pistachios did not cause weight gain in the subjects of this study. In addition, there was no change in blood pressure and body mass index.

The majority of the fat (~90%) in pistachios are the “good” fats; 55% monounsaturated and 32% polyunsaturated. These fats help lower blood cholesterol levels and the risk of heart disease when replacing saturated fats in the diet. Pistachios also offer a high level of phytosterols, as well as a great source of fiber, which aids in reducing cholesterol absorption from the diet. They are also rich in nutrients, such as thiamin, copper, manganese, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B6. While pistachio consumption did not cause weight gain in the study noted in this article, moderation is key. One ounce of pistachio nuts contains 160 calories and 13 grams of fat.

Reference: Sheridan M, et al. Pistachio Nut Consumption and Serum Lipid Levels. Journal of the American College of Nutrition, Vol 26, No. 2, 141-148, 2007.

Click here for helpful nutrition tips for lowering cholesterol.

Can Increased Consumption of Flaxseeds Delay Prostate Cancer Growth?

Flaxseed is the seed of the flax plant, a flowering type of plant that is grown for the specific purpose of its seeds. It is also commonly called linseed. Flaxseed is the richest known source of omega-3 fatty acids and is thought to prevent many types of cancer including breast cancer, colon cancer, prostate cancer and pancreatic cancer. Flaxseed is also high in fiber and phytochemicals called lignans.

In a recent study at Duke University, 161 men who were scheduled for radical prostatectomy surgery were divided into 4 groups: flaxseed supplementation only, a low fat diet (?20% calories from fat) only, flaxseed plus a low-fat diet, and a control group. The patients followed this diet routine 7 days a week for 3 weeks prior to surgery. Flaxseed plus the low-fat diet was shown to have a lower tumor proliferation rate than the low- fat diet alone or the control group. There was no difference between the flaxseed only group and the group with the combination of a low-fat diet plus flaxseed.

While this sounds promising, more research is needed to validate these findings to determine if the effects were related to the lignan present in the flaxseed, or to reduced fat in the diet.

Reference: Study sponsored by the National Institutes of Health

For suggestions on ways to add flaxseed to your diet, visit our special web section. 

The Link Between Tea and Ovarian Cancer

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. 

The American Cancer Society estimates that in 2007, there will be 22,430 new cases of ovarian cancer and 15,280 women will die from ovarian cancer. Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer among women, excluding skin cancer. An estimated one woman in 67 will develop ovarian cancer during her lifetime.

Ovarian cancer is a disease in which malignant or cancerous cells are found in the ovaries. There are many types of tumors that can start in the ovaries. Some are benign, or non-cancerous, and the patient can be cured by surgically removing one ovary or the part of the ovary containing the tumor. Others are malignant or cancerous and can spread to other parts of the body.  The treatment options and the outcome for the patient depend on the type of ovarian cancer and how far it has spread before it is diagnosed.

In a study by the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine, middle aged women who drank two or more cups of green or black tea every day were found to reduce their risk for invasive epithelial ovarian cancer by almost half.

Investigators looked at 61,057 women, ages 40-76, over a period of 15 years. Most of the women reported that they drank approximately .8 cups of black tea daily. Throughout the study, 301 women developed invasive epithelial ovarian cancer, approximately a half percent over the span of 15 years. Compared with women who rarely or never drank tea, those who drank less than one cup but more than none, slightly reduced their risk. Those who drank a full cup per day saw a greater decrease in risk, while women who consumed two or more cups of tea daily had a significantly reduced risk (46%) of ovarian cancer. Each additional cup of tea over two lowered the risk by another 18%.

The components in tea have been studied as chemopreventative agents which inhibit, delay or reverse the disease process of cancer. These antioxidant polyphenols, including catechins, theaflavins, thearubigins and flavonols are present in both green and black teas and have been shown to inhibit the development of cancer. While the women in this study who were regular tea drinkers also ate more fruits, vegetables, were slim and health conscious, the findings of this study add to the growing evidence that supports the potential of tea to be cancer protective.


1. American Cancer Society

2.  Larsson S. et al.  Tea Consumption and Ovarian Cancer Risk in a Population Based Cohort.  Archive of Internal Medicine, 165; 2683-2686, 2005.

Click here for tips on cooking with tea.

A Diet Deficient in Dairy May Influence Diabetes Risk

Most Americans do not receive the recommended amounts of calcium and vitamin D to keep their bones healthy…but now it may be more than just their bones that are at risk! New research by Tufts New England Medical Center has found that including more calcium and vitamin D in your diet could help decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes by nearly 15 percent. Researchers found that these lower risks were noted in individuals with the highest dairy intake (approximately 3-5 servings/day) compared to those receiving less than 1 ½ servings each day. Chronically low levels of vitamin D were linked to as high as 46 percent greater risk of type 2 diabetes. Increasing vitamin D alone had little effect but by combining vitamin D and calcium, for example in milk, researchers found the best likelihood to help in preventing diabetes, specifically among those at highest risk for the disease.

It appears that vitamin D and calcium may affect insulin production or the way the body uses insulin. More research needs to be done to understand the mechanism, but in the meantime, increasing vitamin D and calcium in your diet through the addition of milk may be beneficial in influencing insulin response.

Reference: Pittas AG et al. The Role of Vitamin D and Calcium in Type 2 Diabetes. A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism. Vol. 92:2017-2029, 2007

Visit our special web section for your recommended calcium and vitamin D intakes and for a list of calcium and vitamin D-rich food sources.

Risk of Pancreatic Cancer Possible Among Soda Drinkers

November is Pancreatic Cancer Awareness Month. 

The pancreas is a small organ located under the stomach and within the abdomen. Its role is for digestion of food and helping maintain the body’s sugar level.

Pancreatic cancer generally begins as a tumor which may begin to grow in an uncontrollable manner. More than 30,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. The risk of being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer increases with age and over half of those diagnosed lose their battle with the diagnosis. It is also the fourth leading cause of death in men and women.

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the consumption of sugar and sugar- sweetened foods in correlation to the risk of pancreatic cancer. A total of 77,797 men and women, ages 45 to 83 with no previous diagnosis of cancer or diabetes were followed throughout an eight year period. Throughout the eight years, dietary questionnaires were completed in order to analyze the use of high sugar foods in the diet, such as fruit soups, stewed fruit, soft drinks and candy. The researchers calculated sugar consumption using standard serving sizes such as one teaspoon or one lump of sugar (approximately 5-7 grams) and one glass of soda (approximately 250-300 grams). The individuals who reported eating more high sugar foods were significantly more likely to develop cancer of the pancreas. Participants who reported drinking five or more soft drinks per day had nearly a twofold risk for cancer of the pancreas. Any significant elevated risk for pancreatic cancer was found in people who consumed at least two servings of soda daily. In addition, those individuals who used added extra sugar to their diet increased their risk for pancreatic cancer by 50%. Thus the consumption of added sugar, soft drinks, and sweetened fruit soups or stewed fruit was positively associated with the risk of pancreatic cancer. There were 131 incident cases of pancreatic cancer were reported during the 7.2 year follow-up.

According to the researchers, the increased risk may be related to the sugars effect on insulin and glucose metabolism. These high sugar soft drinks and foods contain large amounts of absorbable sugars, which causes a quick increase in blood glucose and insulin concentrations which may lead to a state of hyperinsulinemia (elevated blood levels of insulin). Hyperinsulinemia has been shown to increase blood flow and cell division within the pancreas, which exposes pancreatic cells to extremely high insulin concentrations.

It must be noted that there is a major limitation to this study related to the composition of soft drinks. The study did not differentiate between regular sugar-sweetened drinks and artificially sweetened drinks. In addition, the study relied on the self-reported questionnaires which may not be accurate. Further studies are needed before any conclusions are drawn. However, it is a good idea to limit or avoid high sugar containing beverages and added sugars as a way to avoid empty calories and to maintain a healthy weight.

Reference: Larsson SC et al. Consumption of Sugar and Sugar-Sweetened Foods and the Risk of Pancreatic Cancer in a Prospective Study. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 84:1171-1176, 2006.

Click here to learn how to lower your risk of pancreatic cancer.

‘Tis the Season for…Turkey!

While Thanksgiving is a time to enjoy a feast with family and friends, it can also be a time where many people experience guilt…especially after eating that extra slice of apple pie, or piling on some extra mashed potatoes. Turkey, however, is one holiday food that you can feel good about eating. Unlike ham or pork chops, turkey is a lean cut of meat. A 3 ounce cut of white meat typically has about 26 grams of protein, 1 gram of fat and 0 grams of saturated fat. That’s 8% more protein as compared to the same size serving of trimmed top loin beefsteak!

Turkey also contains the amino acid arginine, which helps the body dispose of ammonia (a toxic substance). Arginine also helps the body make compounds such as nitric acid which is a substance that relaxes and opens arteries. Turkey is also a good source of vitamin B, B1, B6, zinc and potassium. These vitamins are important in keeping cholesterol down, strengthening the immune system, and aiding in the body’s healing processes.

Thanksgiving Basics: Storing Turkey

Follow these proper storing procedures to maintain the best quality of the turkey, as well as to ensure food safety:

Storing Raw Turkey

Upon returning home from the grocery store, place the turkey in its original wrapper into the refrigerator. If the turkey is frozen and you will not need to thaw any time soon, store it in the freezer.

Type of Turkey Refrigerated:
0°F or below
Whole Turkey 1 – 2 days 12 months
Turkey Breasts 1 – 2 days 3 months

Storing Leftover Turkey

Leftover turkey should be carved from the bone and any stuffing should be removed. Leftovers should be stored in air-tight containers and either refrigerated or frozen within 2 hours of cooking. When reheating turkey, it’s important to make sure that a temperature of 165°F is reached to ensure food safety. Turkey gravy should be used within 1-2 days and be sure to bring to a boil before serving leftovers.

Type of Turkey Refrigerated:
Freezer:   0°F or below
Leftover Turkey 3 – 4 days 3 – 4 months

Reference: National Turkey Federation

Click here for more turkey basics!

Feature Food of the Month: Chili Peppers

Hot peppers (chilies) are often used to spice up dishes, and they are especially popular in ethnic cuisine. Chili peppers are rich in vitamin C, vitamin A, & most B vitamins—especially vitamin B6.

When selecting chilies, look for firm, glossy chilies with taut, unwrinkled skin and fresh green stems. Dried hot peppers should be glossy yet unbroken. The most important thing to remember when preparing the peppers is not to touch your eyes, nose or mouth after handling since it can be extremely painful and irritating to the skin. If possible, wear thin rubber gloves while preparing chili peppers. Wash hands thoroughly with soap and water when done working with chilies. If the bite is too strong when you eat a chili, chew on bread or another starchy food; water only makes the bite worse as it spreads it. To decrease the heat intensity of chilies, wash them, cut them open and remove the seeds and veins. Also, soaking cut up chilies in salt water for at least an hour will help cool them off.

To add a mild pepper flavor to your dish, poke holes in the chili of your choice with a toothpick (or cut slits in it) and add it to a food that is already cooking. When cooking is complete, remove the chili from the dish.

A Few Quick Serving Ideas:

  • The next time you make healthy sautéed vegetables, add some chili peppers to turn up the spice volume.
  • Add chili peppers to your favorite corn bread recipe to give it an extra spark.
  • Add minced chili peppers to yogurt and use as a condiment or dip.
  • Add jalapenos to your favorite tuna salad recipe.
  • If your curry dishes need a little extra zip, try adding some chili peppers.

Did You Know….

  • 1 out of every 4 people on the planet eat chilies every day, making it the second most common spice in the world.
  • Chilies are known to reduce harmful bacteria on foods, and can thus make your foods safer to eat.
  • 1 ounce of a green chili pepper has more vitamin C than citrus fruits (a red chili pepper has slightly less vitamin C when compared to a green chili)

Healthy Recipe – Cherry Chili Pepper Salad


1¼ cup fresh sweet cherries, pitted

1 cup each thinly sliced sweet yellow and green peppers

¼ cup thinly sliced mild chili pepper

2 Tbsp finely chopped onion

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar

½ Tbsp olive oil

2 tsp sugar

1 Tbsp pickled ginger strips, optional

Instructions:   Toss together all ingredients except greens; refrigerate 1 hour or longer. Serve on mixed greens.

Yield = 6 servings

Serving Size = 1 cup

Exchanges: 1 Fruit

Nutrition Facts:

Calories = 57

Total Fat = 1 gram

Saturated Fat = 0 grams

Cholesterol = 0 grams

Carbohydrate = 11 grams

Protein = 1 gram

Sodium = 7 mg (without added salt)

Dietary fiber = 2 grams

For more healthy recipes, click here

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