Nutrition and Fitness Matters – Healthy snacks: Berries and Nuts!

Berry, berry good!

What do you call a food that tastes good, and does you good as well? One happy answer: berries.

Blueberries. Strawberries. If you eat enough of them, according to a study in Circulation, the Journal of the American Heart Association. This was part of the Nurses’ Health Study which looked at the dietary habits and lifestyle factors of 90,000 women between 25 and 42.

Those who ate 3 to 4 servings a week of blueberries and/or strawberries cut their heart attack risk by 32 per cent, compared to those who ate them only once a month, or not at all.

The ingredient that gives berries their beneficial effects also gives them their vibrant colors: it’s an antioxidant called anthocyanin. It’s also found in blackberries, eggplant, grapes, and other brightly colored fruits and vegetables.

It works for you by dilating blood vessels, keeping them open, and by warding off plaque on artery walls, thus aiding blood flow. These characteristics are why new dietary guidelines from the USDA urge us to fill half our plate with colorful fruits and vegetables.
A serving of berries is one cup. For blueberries, a cup has 85 calories. A cup of strawberries has just 50. While this study focused on women, men can profit from blueberries and strawberries as well. Berries don’t play favorites.

Nuts to you!

Need to lower your cholesterol and stabilize your blood sugar? Eat some nuts. I’m serious.

Data from 25 studies says eating nuts lowers blood fats: total cholesterol; LDL, the bad cholesterol; and triglycerides in those with high levels of them. The FDA had already issued a qualified health claim: Scientific evidence suggests eating one and a half ounces of most nuts each day may reduce heart disease risk. That’s a quarter cup, about 250 calories. This newer study found that for lowering cholesterol, for most people, more nuts are better. Those who ate 2.4 ounces – a third of a cup – saw the most improvement: a 5 to 10 per cent drop in blood fats.

There is a caveat: the nut related cholesterol drop was not seen in obese people, only thin or normal weight individuals. For diabetics, there’s more good news: eating nuts instead of carbs can help lower blood sugar. It seems most any nut will do: almonds … hazelnuts … pistachios … walnuts … pecans … even peanuts, are all good for you – even if peanuts are legumes.

Nuts are a good source of vitamins, fiber, and healthy mono-unsaturated fats. They’re packed with nutrients, buts high in calories. Don’t overdo. Stick with plain nuts, not chocolate or sugar coated. And unsalted ones are best.