Flaxseed Offers Numerous Health Benefits

Eating a  high-fiber diet for health is important, but don’t forget to include flax seed in your eating plan. This small, brown seed has been around for centuries, and packs quite a punch when it comes to health benefits.

Flaxseed has been grown by humans since 3000 BC. Its health benefits were well known to ancient people. Charlemagne, king of the Franks and the first Holy Roman Emperor, even passed laws requiring those under his rule to eat flaxseed.

Modern consumers are echoing what Charlemagne knew centuries ago: flax seed is good for your health and should be consumed regularly. It can be bought in its original state and used in cooking, and many products, including oatmeal, crackers and frozen waffles, contain this ingredient. Flaxseed is also being used for agricultural purposes; chickens are being fed this product as part of their diet. As a result, they are laying eggs containing a higher level of omega-3 fatty acids.

Why is flaxseed so good for your health? It contains the following:

  • Omega-3 fatty acids, which are “good” fats that help to lower triglyceride levels and increase the “good” cholesterol in the body. Consuming a tablespoon of ground flaxseed provides 1.8 grams of Omega-3s.
  • Lignans, an antioxidant and plant estrogen. It can help to lower the risk of breast cancer. Flaxseed contains a higher level of this substance than other sources, such as green tea, kale and broccoli.
  • Fiber, which helps to maintain regularity and lowers the risk of heart disease. Flaxseed is a source of soluble and insoluble fiber.

Flaxseed and Heart Disease

Making a point of eating flaxseed as part of a healthy diet that can lower the risk of heart disease. It helps by preventing hardening of the arteries and reduces the likelihood of harmful plaque attaching itself to their interior by making white blood cells less sticky. Consuming flaxseed regularly can help to lower the amount of plaque buildup by up to 75 percent.

Flaxseed Reduces Inflammation

The lignans found in flaxseed can help to reduce inflammation in the body. People living with asthma or Parkinson’s Disease may find relief from their symptoms, since eating flaxseeds can help to block pro-inflammatory agents in the body.

Flaxseed for Menopausal Women

Hot flashes are a common symptom associated with menopause. While they are not harmful, they are uncomfortable. Eating two tablespoons of ground flaxseed twice a day can reduce the number of hot flashes by half and reduce the intensity of the ones they do experience as well.

How to Include Flaxseed in Your Diet

Check labels on grain products to check for flaxseed in the ingredients. You can also buy whole or ground flaxseed from bulk food retailers or online. Flaxseed can easily be added to foods like pasta sauce, chili, stews or meatballs and you can reap the health benefits from this food very easily.

Sugar and Processed Foods Increase Heart Disease Risk

You can now add sugar to the list of ingredients that are bad for your heart. The results of a study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association indicate that people who eat a diet high in sugar and processed foods have lower levels of “good” (HDL) cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides.

The study followed a group of 6,000 people. The volunteers were divided into groups according to the amount of added sugars and sweeteners they ingested on a daily basis. The study didn’t consider natural sweeteners, such as those found in fruits and fruit juices.)

Average Level of Sugar Consumption

On average, the study participants ate the equivalent of 21 teaspoons of sugar each day. The group with the highest level of sugar consumption averaged 46 teaspoons of the sweet stuff daily, while the group with the lowest level of sugar consumption came in at an average of 3 teaspoons per day.

In cases where 10 percent of a participant’s diet came from sugar, the likelihood of having a low HDL rate was 50-300 percent higher than for people who were in the group consuming the least amount of sugar.

Increased Sugar Consumption

North American diets are becoming sweeter over time, which is not a good thing. Manufacturers are adding more sugar to their products, partly in response to demand for sweeter products. Processed foods have become more popular with consumers feeling strapped for time in response to increasing demands on their time from work and family obligations.

Foods that you may not consider “sweet” contain sugar, such as ketchup and mayonnaise. This ingredient is also added to prepared soups and spaghetti sauces, as well as baked goods.

If you want to become more aware of sugars in foods, be on the lookout for these ingredients. They are all sugars:

  • Corn syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Evaporated cane juice
  • Fructose
  • Fruit juice concentrate
  • Honey
  • Invert sugar
  • Maltodextrin
  • Molasses
  • Polydextrose
  • Sucrose

Healthy Super Bowl Snacks are Good for Your Heart

Part of the fun of attending a Super Bowl party, other than watching the game and hanging out with friends, is enjoying the food.

This event can turn into a non-stop snackfest, and unfortunately it’s very easy to go into automatic mode at one of these events and lose track of how much you’re eating.

Fun foods can be part of a heart-healthy diet, and you don’t have to feel deprived on Super Bowl Sunday. If you are hosting the party, plan to offer a variety of foods to your guests during the event, including ones that are high in fiber and low in fat.

Fresh vegetables combined with a dip made from low-fat ingredients are popular. Choose low-fat Ranch dip, salsa or hummus. Black bean dip is a good choice if you want to have a few chips or nachos.

heart healthy foods photoGuacamole is a popular Super Bowl snack item, but the avocados used to make it are high in fat. If you decide to indulge, do so in moderation.

Air-popped popcorn is another healthy choice, and you can add a small amount of salt or some grated Parmesan cheese to kick up the flavor.

If you have a choice between eating a hamburger or a turkey burger, go for the turkey. It’s lower in fat and calories. Top with some low-fat ranch dressing or salsa, lettuce tomatoes and cucumbers for a tasty sandwich. A burger made with lean ground beef can be kept on the healthy side if served on a whole-wheat bun and topped with ketchup, mustard, tomato and lettuce (hold the cheese).

Chili is a popular food at Super Bowl events, since it’s warm and filling. It can be a heart-healthy choice, if you make it with ground turkey instead of ground beef. A vegetarian chili has the advantage of being a high-fiber choice that is packed full of flavor while being low in fat.

No matter where you decide to watch the action of the Game of the Year, you can choose heart-healthy foods to enjoy. Consider the options available and remember that moderation is key to enjoying good health.

California Bans Trans Fat Use in Restaurants

As of January 1, 2010, California restaurant owners are legally banned from using trans fats in their products. Bakeries are also required to comply with the legislation, but have until 2011 to stop using trans fats in their products.

Trans fats are made from vegetable oil. Hydrogen is added to this ingredient, and the resulting compound is used in shortening, as well a number of prepared foods. The new California law specifically bans artificial trans fats from being used. Butter, which contains natural trans fats, is not included on the list. If you take a look at the ingredients in cookies and crackers, you will probably see the word “hydrogenated” on the list.

Eating a diet high in trans fats (and there are some people who claim that we shouldn’t be consuming any) contributes to higher levels of bad cholesterol. Trans fats are also blamed for obesity and coronary artery disease. They can be hard to give up because foods made with trans fats taste good and once we get used to consuming them, more healthy choices don’t necessarily have the same kind of appeal.food nutrition label

When making changes in your eating habits, start off slowly. Instead of deciding you are going to go on a restrictive “diet,” think about it in terms of making permanent lifestyle changes. The fact that restaurants and bakeries in California will no longer be adding trans fats to their offering is a great step, but you also need to make good choices about the foods you eat at home.

Eating foods that are fresh or made with as few ingredients as possible is a great strategy. Get in the habit of reading labels before you put something in your shopping cart and be on the lookout for trans fats in the food you eat.

High Fiber Foods and Heart Health Go Hand in Hand

Including high fiber foods in your diet can help to lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of developing heart disease.

The two types of dietary fiber are soluble and insoluble fiber.

Soluble Fiber

For heart health, include foods containing soluble fiber in your diet. This type absorbs liquid and acts as a natural stool-softener. Another way that consuming soluble fiber helps to keep the heart healthy has to do with the way that it binds with bile acids, which are found in the intestinal tract.

Bile acids contain cholesterol, and the body absorbs a certain amount of them naturally. When a sufficient amount of soluble fiber is consumed, a higher amount of bile acids are excreted and cholesterol levels are lowered.

The following foods contain soluble fiber:

  • Apples
  • Barley
  • Beans
  • Carrots
  • Citrus fruits
  • Flax seeds
  • Oats
  • Peas

Insoluble Fiber

Insoluble fiber is the type that we think of when we are concerned about irregularity. It doesn’t dissolve in water and helps to reduce the risk of constipation. A diet containing a high amount of insoluble fiber can also help to protect against diabetes.

Here are some examples of foods with insoluble fiber:

  • Nuts
  • Vegetables
  • Wheat bran
  • Whole grains

Other Advantages of Eating a High Fiber Diet

  • Eating a diet that includes high-fiber foods can help to reduce the risk of developing hemorrhoids.
  • Fiber also helps to lower blood sugar levels, since it slows down the absorption of sugar.
  • High-fiber foods are more filling and may help a person to feel full for a longer time. This strategy may help with losing weight or maintaining a normal weight.
  • A high-fiber diet may help to reduce the risk of colorectal cancer. Adding more fiber to the diet is not intended to take the place of regular checkups and screening for individuals who are at risk for this disease.

4 Tips for Heart Healthy Eating During the Holidays

eat healthy foods pictureThe Holiday Season is a time for celebrating with friends and family. We extend good wishes to people we know and look forward to a New Year full of promise. Part of the celebration involves eating special foods that we don’t enjoy at other times of the year. With a bit of planning, you can follow a heart healthy diet at holiday gatherings.

1. Eat something before you head out.

Make a point of having a snack before you go to a holiday party. If you aren’t famished by the time you arrive, it will be easier to avoid overindulging in high-fat foods. A container of yogurt, some low-fat cheese or some hummus and whole wheat crackers are good choices.

2. Put lean cuts of meat on your plate.

Turkey is a good choice, since it is low in fat. To keep the fat content down, stick to white meat over dark.

3. Go light on sauces and dips.

Many foods that are popular during this time have heavy sauces. If you want to have gravy with your meal, use a small amount only and add some cranberries to your plate as a lower-fat alternative. Load up your plate with vegetables and enjoy their flavors and textures without masking them with a lot of dip.

4. Don’t let the dessert table be your downfall.

One of the things that we look forward to at holiday time is the assortment of goodies that are available. While it may be tempting to decide that you only live once and fill up your plate with a generous portion of everything that is being offered, resist the urge to go overboard with these sugar- and fat-laden treats.

Instead, make a conscious choice about which dessert you would most like to eat and have a small portion. Eat slowly and savor every bite. Be aware of the flavor and texture of the food.

The Holidays are a busy time, but you can still stay on track while enjoying special foods. If you follow the 4 tips for heart healthy eating during the Holidays here, you won’t have to make a New Year’s resolution to change your diet.

Cut Back on Fats for Heart Health

When it comes to heart-healthy diets, there are lots of ways that you can make better choices that will improve your health. One thing you can do is consume less saturated and trans fats in your diet. Taking this step will lower your cholesterol levels, as well as your risk of developing heart disease.

If you want to lower your fat intake, focus on solid fats first. You can reduce the amount of butter, margarine or shortening that you are using to cook with. Cut back instead of trying to give up with way of preparing food entirely. The idea is to make changes that you can adopt as permanent lifestyle changes, not do something for a short time only.

Be creative and substitute other foods for butter and margarine; for example use a cooking spray to avoid adding extra fat and calories to your meals.