Ever wonder why certain fruits and vegetables are so vibrant? The red to blue-violet hues come from protective plant compounds called anthocyanins.
Along with providing color, anthocyanins may help protect your heart.
They are found in:
Anthocyanins may decrease blood pressure and increase flexibility of artery walls. They have also been associated with reducing inflammation in the body, which may decrease risk of chronic diseases like heart disease. Anthocyanin-rich foods might also defend against heart attacks by protecting the lining of heart and blood vessels.
But having strawberries solely on Valentine’s Day isn’t going to cut it.
Research suggests consuming at least ½ cup of anthocyanin-containing foods daily may have benefits. As for those berries? They may be particularly good for your heart – eating them more than 3 times per week may reduce risk of a heart attack.
Need inspiration? Try this quinoa breakfast bowl with strawberries.
Bhagwat H, Haytowitz D, Holden J. USDA database for the flavonoid content of selected foods. USDA Agriculture Research Service. 2013.
Cassidy A, Mukamal K, Liu L, Franz M, Eliassen A, and Rimm E. High anthocyanin intake is associated with a reduced risk of myocardial infarction in young and middle-aged women. Circulation. 2013;127(2): 188-196.
Cassidy A, Rogers G, Peterson J, Dwyer J, Lin H, et al. Higher dietary anthocyanin and flavonol intakes are associated with anti-inflammatory effects in a population of US adults. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2015; 102(1): 172-181.
Hassellund S, Flaa A, Kjeldsen S, Selijeflot I, Karlsen A, Erlund I, and Rostrup M. Effects of anthocyanins on cardiovascular risk factors and inflammation in pre-hypertensive men: a double-blind randomized placebo-controlled crossover study. Journal of Human Hypertension. 2013; 27: 100-106.
Jennings A, Welch A, Fairweather-Tait S, Minihane A, Chowiencyzk P, et al. Higher anthocyanin intake is associated with lower arterial stiffness and central blood pressure in women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2012; 96(4): 781-788.
By Alyssa Tisdale, MGH Dietetic Intern
Big changes are coming to food labels starting January 2020. We’ve got tips to help break it all down.
REALITY CHECK FOR PORTIONS
FORGET "CALORIES FROM FAT"
ADDED VERSUS NATURAL SUGAR
Label Reading Tip: check the Percent Daily Value (DV) – foods with more than 20% DV are considered high in that nutrient.
2015 – 2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and U.S. Department of Agriculture. 8th Edition. 2015..
Briggs MA, Petersen KS, Kris-Etherton PM. Saturated Fatty Acids and Cardiovascular Disease: Replacements for Saturated Fat to Reduce Cardiovascular Risk. Healthcare (Basel). 2017;5(2):29.
Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. FDA. 2019.
Health Facts: Know Your Fats. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Toolkit for Health Professionals. 2008.
Mayne, S. Statement on New Guidance for the Declaration of Added Sugars on Food Labels for Single-Ingredient Sugars and Syrups and Certain Cranberry Products. FDA. 2019.
By Jennie Dockser, MGH Dietetic Intern
During the holidays, we are often exposed to situations that can influence how much we eat. Instead of fearing weight gain, focus on strategies that allow for the enjoyment of festive foods.
Tips to try this season:
Try this sweet potato pancake recipe – it is an excellent source of vitamin A, which supports immune function to help keep you healthy during the holidays.
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; 2085136.
Huang Z, Liu Y, Qi G, Brand D, Zheng SG. Role of Vitamin A in the Immune System. J Clin Med. 2018;7(9): 258.
Niacin Facts Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health. Last Updated July 2019. Accessed October 2019.
Regularly eating cruciferous vegetables, like broccoli, may be associated with a lower risk of cancer. Studies also show that consuming cruciferous vegetables may help improve cancer survival and reduce risk of early death from chronic diseases, like heart disease.
Other cruciferous vegetables include:
Cruciferous vegetables contain sulfur compounds that promote detoxification pathways in the liver and help eliminate toxins and waste. Research has shown these compounds may help attack cancer cells and could protect the heart by reducing inflammation.
Cruciferous vegetables, like most fruits and vegetables, are also rich disease-fighting plant compounds like antioxidants. Eat cruciferous vegetables often. Some research correlates consuming about 4 to 6 ounces per day with benefits. (This would be the equivalent of eating at least a cup daily.)
Try these ideas to increase your cruciferous vegetable intake:
Abdull Razis AF, Konsue N, and C Ioannides. Isothiocyanates and xenobiotic detoxification. Molecular Nutrition & Food Research. 2018;62(18):e1700916.
Farvid MS, Chen WY, Rosner BA, Tamimi, RM, Willett WC and AH Eliassen. Fruit and vegetable consumption and breast cancer incidence: repeated measures over 30 years of follow‐up. Int. J. Cancer. 2019;144(7):1496-1510.
Grundemann C and R Huber. Chemoprevention with isothiocyanates – from bench to bedside. 2018;414:(26-33).
Wu QJ, et al. Pre-diagnostic cruciferous vegetables intake and lung cancer survival among Chinese women. Sci Rep. 2015;5(10306).
Zhang X, et al. Cruciferous vegetable consumption is associated with a reduced risk of total and cardiovascular disease mortality. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011; 94(1): 240–246.
Opinions on whether to eat or skip breakfast can be contentious. Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day?
Skipping breakfast is associated with an increased risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular-related deaths. However, these associations may be related to overall health patterns, instead of breakfast itself.
Meal timing, quality, and size are also important to consider. A recent study found that making breakfast the largest meal of the day (compared to dinner) was associated with a decreased body mass index.
Research has also shown that having a breakfast with fiber-containing carbohydrates corresponded to less abdominal fat. The type of foods in this study tended to be nutrient-rich including whole grain cereals, nuts, and fruits.
The bottom line is that eating a supportive breakfast may offer health benefits. Chose a breakfast that contains naturally good sources of fiber and check out these options for suggestions on where to start.
Chatelan, A, Castetbon, K, Pasquier, J et al. Association between breakfast composition and abdominal obesity in the Swiss adult population eating breakfast regularly. Int J Behav Nutr Phys Act. 2018; 15(1): 115.
Deshmukh-Taskar, P., Nicklas, T., Radcliffe, J., O'Neil, C., & Liu, Y. The relationship of breakfast skipping and type of breakfast consumed with overweight/obesity, abdominal obesity, other cardiometabolic risk factors and the metabolic syndrome in young adults. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES): 1999–2006. Public Health Nutrition. 2013; 16(11): 2073-2082.
Kahleova H, Lloren JI, Mashchak A, Hill M, Fraser GE. Meal Frequency and Timing Are Associated with Changes in Body Mass Index in Adventist Health Study 2. J Nutr. 2017;147(9):1722–1728.
Rong, S, Snetselaar, L, Xu, G, Sun, Y, Liu, B, Wallace, R, Bao, W. Association of skipping breakfast with cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Journal of American College of Cardiology. 2019; 73(16): 2025-2032.
In the United States, we throw out a lot of food. It is estimated that:
Here are tips to reduce food waste so that your money goes further at the grocery store.
Plan meals ahead and shop with a list. When you only buy what you need, you are less likely to have leftover ingredients at the end of the week.
Utilize your freezer to store leftovers, meats, fruits, and vegetables
Adapt your favorite recipes to use up leftover produce by swapping in similar vegetables:
Buzby JC, Farah-Wells H, Hyman J. The Estimated Amount, Value, and Calories of Postharvest Food Losses at the Retail and Consumer Levels in the United States. United States Department of Agriculture Electronic Journal. 2014.
Conrad Z, Niles MT, Neher DA, Roy ED, Tichenor NE, Jahns L. Relationship between food waste, diet quality, and environmental sustainability. Plos One. 2018;13(4).
Venkat K. The Climate Change and Economic Impacts of Food Waste in the United States. Int J Food System Dynamics. 2011;2(4):231-446.
The humble peanut often takes a backseat to trendier nuts. However, peanuts also offer healthy fats, protein, vitamins, and minerals, typically at a lesser cost. In fact, per serving peanuts contain more protein than any other nut.
Eating nuts – including peanuts – has been linked to a reduced risk of death from heart disease.
Opt for a small handful of nuts for a snack. Instead of deli meat, try one or two tablespoons of nut butter in a sandwich. (Bored with plain old peanut butter? Try this.)
Also, save those skins. Some studies have found preserving the peanut skin (found on in-shell and Spanish peanuts) can almost double the antioxidant concentration. Try this recipe.
But what about aflatoxin? Yes, peanuts – like most nuts – are susceptible to this toxin. However, outbreaks seldom occur in the U.S. thanks to mandatory testing.
Keep all nut products in the fridge to extend their shelf life.
Aflatoxin Program. United States Department of Agriculture Agricultural Marketing Service. Accessed May 2019.
Arya SS, Salve AR, Chauhan S. Peanuts as a Functional Food: a Review. J Food Sci Technol. 2016;53(1):31-41.
Go Nuts (But Just a Little!). American Heart Association; 2015. Accessed April 2019.
'Going Nuts' May Help Heart Health. American Heart Association; 2015. Accessed May 2019.
Kumar P, Mahato DK, Kamle M, Mohanta TK, Kang SG. Aflatoxins: a Global Concern for Food Safety, Human Health and Their Management. Front Microbiol. 2016;7:1-9.
Sotos-Prieto M, et al. Association of Changes in Diet Quality with Total and Cause-Specific Mortality. N Engl J Med. 2017; 377:143-153.
Zheng W, Shu XO. Prospective Evaluation of the Association of Nut/Peanut Consumption with Total and Cause-specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2015;175(5):755-766.
With summer in full swing, it’s the perfect time to plan outdoor activities. Being outside can increase our production of vitamin D, a nutrient that supports strong bones and helps muscles move properly.
Other Benefits of Outdoor Activities Include:
Try These Summer Exercise Ideas:
Planning to be outdoors for more than an hour? Pack a snack that contains carbohydrates and protein for long-lasting energy.
Snacks to Help Fuel Adventures:
(Please note MGH does not endorse any specific brands or products.)
Vitamin D Fact Sheet for Health Professionals. National Institutes of Health; 2018. Accessed 2019.
With the assortment of health labels on our foods today, it is a confusing time for consumers. A common question: does organic matter?
Organic produce tests lower in pesticides, but research is mixed on whether it contains more nutrients.
The Environmental Working Group (EWG) releases a list of foods each year with the least and most pesticide residues (called the Clean Fifteen and Dirty Dozen, respectively). If you’d like to make a change, choosing organic produce from the Dirty Dozen list is the best bang for your buck.
The Dirty Dozen
The Clean Fifteen
Regardless, research shows eating enough fruits and vegetables may help lower risk of premature death from chronic illnesses, like heart disease. While it is recommended to eat 4 to 5 cups of fruits and vegetables each day, only about 10% of us get that much.
So if organic isn’t in the budget, don’t fret. A non-organic apple is better than no apple at all.
Brantsæter A et al. Organic food in the diet: exposure and health implications. Annual Review of Public Health. 2017; 38: 295-313.
Lee-Kwan S, Moore L, Blanck H, Harris D, and D Galuska. Disparities in state-specific adult fruit and vegetable consumption — United States, 2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep (CDC). 2017; 66:1241–1247.
Slavin J and B Lloyd. Health benefits of fruits and vegetables. Adv Nutr. 2012; 3(4): 506–516.
* A small amount of sweet corn and papaya in the United States is produced from genetically modified seeds. Organic versions cannot be genetically modified.
Incorporating vegetables into breakfast is not always easy, but smoothies can help kick start your day with powerhouse nutrients in a travel-friendly format.
Blended food can feel less filling, but incorporating protein, fat, and fiber into your smoothies increases fullness by slowing down digestion and adding volume.
Other strategies for promoting satiety include sipping slowly and chewing a handful of nuts (instead of adding protein and fat to your smoothie).
MAKE A BALANCED BREAKFAST BY USING THIS CHART
Here are two smoothie ideas to get you started:
1 cup frozen mixed berries + 1 cup cauliflower + ½ cup unsweetened almond milk + ½ cup plain Greek yogurt + 1 tablespoon peanut butter + 1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup blueberries + ½ banana + 1 cup spinach + ½ cup milk + 1 teaspoon grated ginger with small handful of almonds on the side (about ¼ cup)
Dhillon, J et al. The effects of increased protein intake on fullness: a meta-analysis and its limitations. J Acad Nutr Diet; 2016. 116(6): 968-983
Rogers, PJ and R Shahrokni. A comparison of the satiety effects of a fruit smoothie, its fresh fruit equivalent and other drinks. Nutrients; 2018. 10(4):431.
Slavin, JL. Position of the American Dietetic Association: health implications of dietary fiber. J Am Diet Assoc; 2008. 108(10): 1716-3.