Chia seeds have a long history in Aztec and Mayan culture, touted for their ability to provide nutrition and sustainable energy. Quite fittingly, “chia ” is the Mayan word for “strength.”
Chia seeds are a versatile, nutrient-packed seed rich in fiber and a heart-healthy plant-based omega-3 fat called alpha-linolenic acid or ALA. They also are a source of minerals like magnesium and calcium, two nutrients necessary for strong bones.
Chia seeds may help lower blood sugar and reduce heart disease risk factors. One study showed individuals with diabetes who ate about 3 tablespoons of chia seeds daily for 6 months lost more weight than those who didn’t. Other studies have linked chia seeds with a reduction in blood pressure.
Want to include more chia seeds into your diet? You can start by:
Ho H, Lee AS, Jovanovski E, Jenkins AL, Desouza R, Vuksan V. Effect of whole and ground Salba seeds (Salvia Hispanica L.) on postprandial glycemia in healthy volunteers: a randomized controlled, dose-response trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2013; 67(7): 786-8.
Toscano LT, da Silva CS, Toscano LT, de Almeida AE, Santos Ada C, Silva AS. Chia flour supplementation reduces blood pressure in hypertensive subjects. Plant Foods Hum Nutr. 2014 Dec; 69(4):392-8.
Vuksan V, Choleva L, Jovanovski E, Jenkins AL, Au-Yeung F, Dias AG, Ho HV, Zurbau A, Duvnjak L. Comparison of flax (Linum usitatissimum) and Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) seeds on postprandial glycemia and satiety in healthy individuals: a randomized, controlled, crossover study. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2017;71(2):234-238.
Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Brissette C, Choleva L, Jovanovski E, Gibbs AL, Bazinet RP, Au-Yeung F, Zurbau A, Ho HV, Duvnjak L, Sievenpiper JL, Josse RG, Hanna A. Salba-chia (Salvia hispanica L.) in the treatment of overweight and obese patients with type 2 diabetes: A double-blind randomized controlled trial. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2017; 27(2):138-146.
Vuksan V, Jenkins AL, Dias AG, Lee AS, Jovanovski E, Rogovik AL, Hanna A. Reduction in postprandial glucose excursion and prolongation of satiety: possible explanation of the long-term effects of whole grain Salba (Salvia Hispanica L.). Eur J Clin Nutr. 2010; 64(4):436-8.
Vuksan V, Whitham D, Sievenpiper JL, Jenkins AL, Rogovik AL, Bazinet RP, Vidgen E, Hanna A. Supplementation of conventional therapy with the novel grain Salba (Salvia hispanica L.) improves major and emerging cardiovascular risk factors in type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized controlled trial. Diabetes Care. 2007; 30(11): 2804-10.
By Sydney Duong, Dietetic Intern
Japanese matcha is a type of finely powdered green tea made from dried tea leaves. With its vibrant green color and vegetal taste, matcha may offer a variety of health benefits.
Matcha typically contains both L-theanine and caffeine. While caffeine can enhance alertness, in certain people it can also make it more difficult to feel calm. L-theanine may help to reduce this effect.
New to matcha?
Mix 1 teaspoon of the powder with 1 to 2 tablespoons of warm water to form a paste. Add it to a cup of hot liquid, like water or warmed milk (or try a plant milk, like oatmilk). Flavor this drink as you would a cup of tea. Or add the paste to your morning smoothie.
Dietz C, Dekker M, Piqueras-Fiszman B. An Intervention Study on the Effect of Matcha Tea, in Drink and Snack Bar Formats, on Mood and Cognitive Performance. Food Research International. 2017; 99:72-83.
Dietz, C and M Dekker. Effect of Green Tea Phytochemicals on Mood and Cognition. Current Pharmaceutical Design. 2017; 23(19): 2876-2905.
Dodd FL, Kennedy DO, Riby LM, Haskell-Ramsay CF. A Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Evaluating the Effects of Caffeine and L-theanine Both Alone and in Combination on Cerebral Blood Flow, Cognition and Mood. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2015; 232(14):2563-2576.
Farooq S, and A Sehgal. Antioxidant Activity of Different Forms of Green Tea: Loose Leaf, Bagged and Matcha. Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science Journal. 2018;6(1):35-40. doi:10.12944/crnfsj.6.1.04
Giles, G et al. Caffeine and Theanine Exert Opposite Effects on Attention Under Emotional Arousal. Canadian Journal of Physiological Pharmacology. 2017; 95:93-100.
Jakubczyk K, Kochman J, Kwiatkowska A, et al. Antioxidant Properties and Nutritional Composition of Matcha Green Tea. Foods. 2020; 9(4):483.
Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja LR, Ohira H. l-Theanine Reduces Psychological and Physiological Stress Responses. Biological Psychology. 2007; 74(1):39-45.
Komes D, Horžić D, Belščak A, Ganić KK, Vulić I. Green Tea Preparation and its Influence on the Content of Bioactive Compounds. Food Research International. 2010; 43(1):167-176.
Unno K, Fujitani K, Takamori N, et al. Theanine Intake Improves the Shortened Lifespan, Cognitive Dysfunction and Behavioural Depression that are Induced by Chronic Psychosocial Stress in Mice. Free Radical Research. 2011; 45(8):966-974.
Unno K, Hara A, Nakagawa A, et al. Anti-stress Effects of Drinking Green tea with Lowered Caffeine and Enriched Theanine, Epigallocatechin and Arginine on Psychosocial Stress Induced Adrenal Hypertrophy in Mice. Phytomedicine. 2016; 23(12):1365-1374.
Weiss DJ, Anderton CR. Determination of Catechins in Matcha Green Tea by Micellar Electrokinetic Chromatography. Journal of Chromatography A. 2003; 1011(1-2):173-180.
By Heather Hu, MGH Dietetic Intern
Nuts are a fantastic source of healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals. There’s a variety out there and each type offers slightly different nutrients, so aim to eat an assortment.
A little goes a long way: 1 ounce (roughly one handful) of …
FoodData Central. USDA: Agricultural Research Service. Accessed January 2021.
Nutrition Facts Labeling Requirements. FDA. Accessed January 2021.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. Updated October 1, 2020. Accessed January 2021.
Vitamin and Mineral Supplement Fact Sheets. NIH: Office of Dietary Supplements. Accessed January 2021.
By Rebecca Joy Thompson, MGH Dietetic Intern
Fruit is full of vitamins, minerals, and heart-healthy fiber. There is concern that frozen fruit is of lower quality and not as nutritious as fresh. Worry not: studies have found frozen fruit can actually have more vitamins, like immune-supportive vitamin C.
When fruit is frozen soon after it's picked, it helps preserve nutrients. More benefits: frozen fruit can be cheaper and more convenient. It comes pre-washed, prepped, and can stay in your freezer for months.
Only about 10% of American adults eat the recommended 11/2 to 2 cups of fruit a day, so grab an extra bag of fruit next time you're in the frozen food aisle.
Start enjoying more frozen fruit by:
Boeing H, et al. Critical review: vegetables and fruit in the prevention of chronic diseases. European Journal of Nutrition. 2012; 51(6): 637-663.
Bouzari A, Holstege D, Barrett DM. Vitamin retention in eight fruits and vegetables: a comparison of refrigerated and frozen storage. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 2015; 63(3): 957-962.
Dahl WJ, Stewart ML. Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: health implications of dietary fiber. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2015; 115(11): 1861-1870.
Popova A. Comparison of vitamin C content of commercially available fresh fruits. Asian Food Science Journal. 2019; 13(2): 1-6.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015–2020 8th Edition. Accessed December 30, 2020.
By Katherine Mitchell, MGH Dietetic Intern
As COVID-19 infections continue to rise, many have turned to supplements to boost immunity. Though eating a balanced diet high in nutrients (like vitamins) can support a healthy immune system, there are many false claims that exaggerate benefits of supplementation. Here’s a summary of the evidence for common supplements associated with COVID-19:
If you are interested in taking vitamin D, aim for 400-1000 IU (international unit) daily from a USP-verified supplement. Do not take more than 4000 IU a day, unless advised by a medical professional. Taking high doses can result in elevated levels of calcium in the blood, which can cause heart and kidney problems.
If you’re interested in vitamin C, add foods such as strawberries, peppers, oranges, and broccoli to your diet.
Pregnant women should avoid using these adaptogens. Ashwagandha may cause miscarriages and there is concern astragalus could be toxic for both moms and babies.
Important things you can do to support your immune system:
Also, don't forget to follow COVID-19 prevention protocols. Taking a supplement is nowhere near as important as wearing a mask and practicing social distancing.
REFERENCES (subscription necessary to view):
Don't Rely on Natural Products and "Immune Boosters" for COVID-19 Prevention. Natural Medicines Research Collaboration. Accessed December 2020.
What to Tell Patients About Vitamin D. Natural Medicines Research Collaboration. Accessed December 2020.
Why Ashwagandha & Adaptogens Are Growing in Popularity. Natural Medicines Research Collaboration. Accessed December 2020.
By Kylie Sakaida, MS, RD, LDN
Research shows plant-based diets containing vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds, soy, and beans are beneficial for your heart and weight. But you don’t need to go vegan to reap the rewards. The key: eating plants most of the time, over time.
Making the switch to a plant-powered diet is a lifestyle. Start on a festive note with these comfort food swaps:
Creamy, slightly sweet, and a source of protein and heart-healthy omega-3 fats, soy milk makes an excellent dairy alternative. Instead of leaning on heavy cream in rich drinks, like eggnog, try swapping in soy milk. Use this recipe for inspiration or look for soynog at the grocery store.
You can find pre-baked tofu in most grocery stores to reduce prep time. Add baked tofu to these protein-packed, portion-controlled pot pies.
Say what? A fiber-containing fruit with a neutral flavor and meaty texture that shreds like pulled meat? Yup. With the right amount of moisture and seasoning, jackfruit can make for an excellent plant-based swap for shredded beef, pork, or chicken. Rinse, drain, shred and season one 20-ounce can for your next taco night or check out this recipe.
Medawar E, Huhn S, Villringer A, Veronica Witte A. The effects of plant-based diets on the body and the brain: a systematic review. Translational Psychiatry. 2019; 12;9(1): 226.
Sofi F, Macchi C, Abbate R, Gensini GF, Casini A. Mediterranean diet and health status: an updated meta-analysis and a proposal for a literature-based adherence score. Public Health Nutrition. 2014; 17(12): 769-82.
Turner-McGrievy G, Harris M. Key elements of plant-based diets associated with reduced risk of metabolic syndrome. Current Diabetes Reports. 2014;14(9):524.
Yokoyama Y, Levin SM, Barnard ND. Association between plant-based diets and plasma lipids: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Nutrition Reviews. 2017; 75(9): 683-698.
By Ayten Salahi, MS, MGH Dietetic Intern
Research has shown that, on average, adults gain 1 to 2 pounds between Thanksgiving and the start of the new year. No need to panic. Here are some tips on how to treat yourself while staying on track:
Díaz-Zavala RG, Castro-Cantú MF, Valencia ME, Álvarez-Hernández G, Haby MM, Esparza-Romero J. Effect of the Holiday Season on Weight Gain: A Narrative Review. J Obes. 2017;2017:2085136.
By Rosanne Walsh, MGH Dietetic Intern
With several new meat alternatives coming to market in recent years, tofu has taken a backseat. However, tofu remains a good source of protein and, unlike more processed meatless products, it typically contains few additives and is low in sodium.
Tofu also contains more isoflavones, plant compounds with potentially protective properties. Research shows eating tofu may lower the risk of heart disease and could help protect against breast cancer.
The amount shown to be beneficial ranges from eating it at least once a week to consuming a serving (1/5 of a block of tofu) at least 3 to 4 times per week.
Not sure how to incorporate tofu into your diet?
Bhagwhat S, Haytowitz DB, and JM Holden. USDA database for the isoflavone content of selected foods: release 2.0. USDA Nutrient Database Laboratory Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center. 2008; 1-69.
Ma L. et al. Isoflavone intake and the risk of coronary heart disease in US men and women: results from 3 prospective cohort studies. Circulation. 2020; 141(14):1127-1137.
Messina V. Tofu’s many faces. Today’s Dietitian. 2015;17(4):22-26.
Nechuta SJ. et al. Soy food intake after diagnosis of breast cancer and survival: an in-depth analysis of combined evidence from cohort studies of US and Chinese women. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 96(4):123-132.
Wu AH, Lee E, and C Vigen. Soy isoflavones and breast cancer. American Society of Clinical Oncology Education Book. 2013; 13: 102-106.
By Meredith Berman, MGH Dietetic Intern
It can be hard these days to sort diet facts from fiction. One food group that tends to be portrayed negatively in the media is dairy. Does it actually promote significant health risks?
Here's What the Research Shows:
So if you like yogurt, cheese, and milk there is little evidence to support avoiding them to reduce major disease risks.
Astrup, A. Yogurt and Dairy Product Consumption to Prevent Cardiometabolic Diseases: Epidemiologic and Experimental Studies. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2014; 99(5): 1235S-1242S.
Bhavadharini, B. et al. Association of Dairy Consumption with Metabolic Syndrome, Hypertension and Diabetes in 147, 812 Individuals from 21 Countries. British Medical Journal Open Diabetes and Research Care. 2020; 8:e00826.
Rautianinen, S. et al. Dairy Consumption in Association with Weight Change and Risk of Becoming Overweight or Obese in Middle-aged and Older Women: A Prospective Cohort Study. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2016; 103(4): 979-988.
By Lauren Sorel, MGH Dietetic Intern
Mindfulness is a commonly used term these days - it means having enhanced awareness of the present moment. It is associated with improved stress management and quality of life.
Mindful eating is mindfulness targeted at behaviors that promote eating with attention and awareness. Mindful eating is linked to a health body mass index (BMI) and can reduce distracted eating habits that lead to unnecessary food consumption.
As many people continue to work from home, incorporating mindfulness can help reduce anxiety around eating and support productivity.
Here are some tips to incorporate mindfulness into your work routine:
Durukan A and A Gul. Mindful Eating: Differences of Generations and Relationship of Mindful Eating with BMI. International Journal of Gastronomy and Food Science. 2019; 18: 100172.
Framson, C et al. Development and Validation of the Mindful Eating Questionnaire. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010; 109(8): 1439-1444.
Fung TT, Long MW, Hung P, Cheung LW. An Expanded Model for Mindful Eating for Health Promotion and Sustainability: Issues and Challenges for Dietetics Practice. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2016; 116(7): 1081-1086.
Mantzios, M and JC Wilson. Mindfulness, Eating Behaviours, and Obesity: A Review and Reflection on Current Findings. Current Obesity Reports. 2015; 4(1): 141-146.
Winkens, LH, et el. The Mindful Eating Behavior Scale: Development and Psychometric Properties in a Sample of Dutch Adults Aged 55 Years and Older. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 2018; 118(7):1277-1290.
By Cameron Allen McDonald, MGH Dietetic Intern