Category Archives: cholesterol

Another super benefit from a favorite superfood: avocado may improve cholesterol levels for the overweight and obese

Avocado on whiteAvocado is often referred to as a superfood. Packed with nutrition, avocados provide the healthy fats our bodies need as well as a long list of beneficial vitamins and minerals. They also add great taste and texture to a variety of dishes and are quite flavorful all by themselves. Avocados already put the “super” into “superfoods” … but today it got even better.

Eating one avocado a day as part of a heart healthy, cholesterol-lowering moderate-fat diet can help improve bad cholesterol levels in overweight and obese individuals, according to new research published in theJournal of the American Heart Association.

Researchers evaluated the effect avocados had on traditional and novel cardiovascular risk factors by replacing saturated fatty acids from an average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids from avocados.

Forty-five healthy, overweight or obese patients between the ages of 21 and 70 were put on three different cholesterol-lowering diets. Participants consumed an average American diet (consisting of 34 percent of calories from fat, 51 percent carbohydrates, and 16 percent protein) for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol lowering diets: lower fat diet without avocado, moderate-fat diet without avocado, and moderate-fat diet with one avocado per day. The two moderate fat diets both provided 34 percent of calories as fat (17 percent of calories from monounsaturated fatty acids/MUFAs), whereas the lower fat diet provided 24 percent of calories as fat (11 percent from MUFAs). Each participant consumed each of the three test diet for five weeks. Participants were randomly sequenced through each of the three diets.

Researchers found:
Compared to the baseline average American diet, low-density lipoprotein (LDL) — the so called ‘bad cholesterol’ — was 13.5 mg/dL lower after consuming the moderate fat diet that included an avocado. LDL was also lower on the moderate fat diet without the avocado (8.3 mg/dL lower) and the lower fat diet (7.4 mg/dL lower), though the results were not as striking as the avocado diet.

Several additional blood measurements were also more favorable after the avocado diet versus the other two cholesterol-lowering diets as well: total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, non-HDL cholesterol, and others.

These measurements are all considered to be cardio-metabolic risk factors in ways that are independent of the heart-healthy fatty acid effects, said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D., R.D., senior study author and Chair of the American Heart Association’s Nutrition Committee and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University, in University Park, Pennsylvania.

“This was a controlled feeding study, but that is not the real-world — so it is a proof-of-concept investigation. We need to focus on getting people to eat a heart-healthy diet that includes avocados and other nutrient-rich food sources of better fats,” Kris-Etherton said.

“In the United States avocados are not a mainstream food yet, and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year. Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avocados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole.”

For the study researchers used Hass avocados, the ones with bumpy green skin. In addition to MUFAs, avocados also provided other bioactive components that could have contributed to the findings such as fiber, phytosterols, and other compounds.

According to researchers, many heart-healthy diets recommend replacing saturated fatty acids with MUFAs or polyunsaturated fatty acids to reduce the risk of heart disease. This is because saturated fats can increase bad cholesterol levels and raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

The Mediterranean diet, includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and foods rich in monounsaturated fatty acids–like extra-virgin olive oil and nuts. Like avocados, some research indicates that these not only contain better fats but also certain micronutrients and bioactive components that may play an important role in reducing risk of heart disease. loves avocados. There is always a new way to add them to your diet. Mashed avocado is a great replacement for mayonnaise in tuna and chicken salad. Avocado vinaigrette is a wonderful – and easy to prepare – salad dressing. Sliced avocado is a great addition to sandwiches. You can mix avocado into mashed potatoes or cauliflower. We could go on. And so can you … These impressive new findings give us even more motivation to continue to incorporate this incredibly flavorful superfood into our healthy lifestyle!

AMA now classifies obesity as a disease in the U.S. listened intently, along with the rest of the country today, as we learned that the American Medical Association formally voted to classify obesity a disease requiring a range of medical interventions in the United States.

More than 35 percent of U.S. adults and 17 percent of children and teenagers are now recognized as having the disease of obesity. While the move is certainly stirring up some controversy for a variety of reasons, the intent of the AMA seems to be directed at giving doctors a broader range of options for treatment. Without this status, doctors treating obesity must instead approach it as a lifestyle condition requiring modification. Because the AMA is committed to improving outcomes, and because obesity is so commonly linked to cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes, this new classification is something they feel will help to arm the medical community more effectively as they tackle the epidemic.

Obesity is technically defined as a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or higher. Normal weight is defined by a BMI of between 18.5 and 24.9. More than one in three adults in our country carries a BMI over 30.

As the community is aware, there are growing bodies of research that link serious disease to this all-too-common condition. Increased risk for heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, stroke, liver disease, sleep apnea, breathing problems, osteoarthritis, infertility and multiple types of cancer including breast, pancreas, kidney, and colon, have all been associated with the expanding obesity problem.

It is also hoped that the new classification of obesity as a disease can also help more Americans realize that unhealthy food choices combined with lack of exercise is a real threat to their health. A recent survey showed that although 70% of the population understands that obesity is linked with heart disease and diabetes, only 7 percent realized that obesity is associated with cancer. Only another 5 percent knew that both asthma and sleep apnea could be helped with weight reduction.

Classifying obesity as an actual disease may also impact new laws and insurance practices. Lap-band procedures and gastric bypass surgeries aren’t always covered by insurers. The reclassification may help to change that. In addition, patients may become more comfortable with their doctor prescribing treatment for the disease of obesity. As an actual disease treatment may not be considered offensive or embarrassing, leaving the patient feeling poorly about unhealthy lifestyle choices.

While the new classification seems to be stirring up many emotions across the internet, can’t help but feel encouraged that this major move by the AMA can help doctors treat obesity before its effects set in. It could be especially beneficial in combating childhood obesity and giving the youngest in our population a better opportunity to live a life free from the multitude of problems linked with the epidemic. This may prove to be an incredibly valuable step towards eradicating a problem plaguing not only the United States, but the population of the rest of the word as well.

News for diabetics … a link between legumes and blood sugar found some good news for diabetics today that might not simply help them control their blood sugar levels, but might also lessen their risk of heart attacks and stroke.
A study released this week found that daily consumption of legumes can result in a reduction of blood sugar, blood pressure and cholesterol. Beans and lentils can help type 2 diabetics with all of this.

The research showed that when a diet including one cup of legumes daily had a better affect than a diet rich in whole grains. Participants were placed on a diet that included this one cup serving each day for three months. It was estimated that their ten-year risk of cardiovascular disease fell a little over 1% at the end of that period.

The 121 participants in the study all had diabetes.  They were split into groups.  One group increased their consumption of legumes by at least a cup per day.  The others followed a diet which included an increase in whole grain products designed to increase their fiber consumption.

At the end of the study period, those people on the “bean diet” experienced a larger drop in their hemoglobin A l c levels than those on the whole-grain diet.  It is important to note that health regulators in the U.S. do consumer a change of .3 or .4% to be “therapeutically relevant.”

In addition, those on the whole-grain diet did not experience a reduction in their blood pressure levels, while those consuming increased amounts of legumes saw a definite difference.

Legumes are a healthy source of protein.  There are so many varieties and so many different ways to include them in your diet. encourages our community to share this important information with the diabetics in your life, and, perhaps try it yourself, even if you aren’t diabetic.  While further study needs to be done, it certainly couldn’t hurt to include more legumes in your meals!

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Maybe it’s not just an old adage after all — an apple a day … found some very positive information today to share with our community. We find so much bad news out there, that we’re always happy to call your attention to positive, natural manners to improve your health and well being.

It appears that researchers may have actually proven the old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” … or more specifically the cardiologist. A new study focusing on healthy people in middle age has shown that in four short weeks, just one apple each day lowered the levels of a the “bad cholesterol (LDL) that is linked to arterial disease by 40%. That’s not a drop in the bucket.

The study was conducted at Ohio State University. The researchers noted that when LDL cholesterol oxidizes the form it takes begins arterial disease. They found a remarkable result. With the consumption of one apple each day for the four week period, it seemed to prevent LDL oxidation. The researchers had previously studied the effects of other antioxidants on lowering LDL and found that, in fact, apples were much more effective.

The study included non-smokers between 40 and 60 years of age who ate apples less than twice per month and were not taking polyphenol supplements. 16 ate a large apple (either Red or Golden Delicious), 17 took polyphenol supplements (this is the antioxidant found in apples) and 18 took a placebo. The polyphenol supplement contained the same amount of the antioxidant found in one large apple.

While the group taking the supplements did in fact experience a considerable and positive effect, it was not as significant as those consuming the whole fruit. Researchers are unsure if this occurred because there are other properties of the apple that play a role, or if the polyphenol is absorbed better by the body when consumed in the actual food.

In addition to the apple’s positive effect on LDL cholesterol, it was also discovered that it might also affect saliva. There’s research to be done on this as it may hold positive implications for our dental health as well.

This is a summary of the information. To read more, go to: is always happy to call your attention to healthy, natural ways we can improve our health and well being. While the information in the new research will certainly need further study, we know one apple every day is a simple – and tasty — addition to our diets.

The changing faces of the foods we eat is constantly fascinated by the changing lenses through which particular foods are viewed. Do you remember back in the 90’s when the “no-fat” craze had us turning to completely fat-free products, thinking they were good for us. Did anyone, during that time, stop to think what was replacing the fats in fat-free cheeses or fat-free mayonnaise? Caffeine was frowned upon. And chocolate was really just candy.

It’s amazing what a difference a decade can make! Let’s take a look at a few foods whose bad reputations have turned around.

Just a few decades ago, eating whole eggs was considered one of the unhealthiest things you could do. Products like Egg Beaters, and other egg substitutes came to the rescue for egg lovers everywhere. You could order egg white omelets at the diner; you would mix up a turkey meatloaf with egg whites and discard the yolks and angel food cake had a resurgence of popularity because whole eggs were just bad for you. The confusion over eggs stems from their cholesterol content. One large egg contains 213 mg of cholesterol, accounting for two-thirds of the recommended daily limit. When scientists learned that high blood cholesterol was associated with heart disease, foods high in cholesterol logically became suspect. But after 25 years of study, it has become evident that cholesterol in food is not the culprit — saturated fat has a much bigger effect on blood cholesterol. And one egg contains about 1.6 grams of saturated fat. In 2000, the American Heart Association (AHA) revised its dietary guidelines and gave healthy adults the green light to enjoy eggs once again. The AHA’s guidelines now allow an egg a day for healthy adults while still advising a total daily cholesterol limit of 300 mg.

Twenty years ago, caffeine was questionable. Is it good for you? Is it bad for you? Coffee houses were becoming increasingly popular and offering up brews of varying caffeination all over. The trend was to try to avoid it. But not so much today. Recently a new study found that coffee may be linked to the prevention of basal cell carcinoma. And it was linked to the caffeine directly, as those drinking decaf coffee did not experience the same decrease in risk as those drinking caffeinated coffee.

While it will never be true that chocolate can be included in any of the major food groups, it’s becoming widely recognized as having important health effects for those who consume it. A few months ago, research out of Great Britain reviewed seven different studies done on the health benefits of chocolate. For heart health, the studies revealed significant benefits for chocolate. It possesses antioxidant, antihypertensive, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherogenic and anti-thrombotic effects. It’s certainly not advisable to overdo, but a little chocolate is actually good for you.

Things are always changing. We’re always learning more. And sciences are always advancing. The foods we eat can’t be left out of those statements. So will always try to bring out the latest information as things continue to change.

What exactly is in the McDonald’s Deluxe Breakfast?

3-mcdonalds-deluxe-breakfast realizes that millions of people start out their mornings reading from the breakfast menu at a local McDonald’s. Their daily options range from oatmeal to english muffins, to sausage and egg McMuffins, to pancakes, and more. However, some may have difficulties choosing exactly which item they want, and these may be the consumers that opt for the “deluxe” breakfast; a little bit of it all.
Scrambled Eggs: They’re yellow, fluffy, warm, and even appealing to some. However, McDonald’s scrambled eggs may be the most disturbing item found on their large menu. Filled with controversial ingredients which includes sodium benzoate, artificial colors, and partially hydrogenated oils, these scrambled eggs are far from ideal to start off the day. Although eggs have been shown to increase HDL cholesterol (to reduce risk of cardiovascular disease), these eggs are loaded with trans fats from partially hydrogenated oils which promote the bad LDL cholesterol.
Sausage Patties: McDonald’s loves to include their famous breakfast sausage into many of their entrees. The good news, it actually contains pork; the bad news, it includes about 12 other things that could be harmful to your health. BHA and BHT are harmful additives, and The Department of Health and Human Services says BHA is “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Even though BHT has been found to be less harmful, some animal studies have shown it has been linked to cancers. Yet the FDA deems it as generally safe for consumption. These patties also contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), caramel color (which also has been linked to cancer), and corn syrup solids. Many would refer to these sausage patties as “cancer patties.”
Biscuit: Many normally prepare biscuits at home using a handful of ingredients. At McDonald’s biscuits are made with about 50 ingredients to preserve their freshness while sitting around in the restaurant during breakfast hours. Some of these ingredients include sodium aluminum phosphate, modified cellulose, partially hydrogenated oils, liquid margarine, sodium benzoate, and natural flavors. It’s a good sign that a food may not be a real food when you can’t pronounce or understand 99% of the ingredients.
Hash browns: You can’t have a “deluxe” breakfast without some hash browns. In this case, it’s a thin potato patty which often leaves your fingers feeling slick with grease. They come in thin paper sleeves and don’t exactly taste like potatoes, but it says they are, so I guess it is then? While they do obviously contain potato, they’re also filled with preservatives, sodium, and fat which you can feel lining your arteries as you continue to digest. And lest we forget, these potato patties include TBHQ. Although deemed safe by the FDA, certain studies have shown that high doses of TBHQ are not only carcinogenic, but may also cause damage to DNA and promote growth of tumors.
Hot Cakes: Or what we may commonly refer to as “pancakes,” McDonald’s hot cakes are the centerpiece of their deluxe meal. However, they’re not made by pan. In fact, they’re often microwaved at these restaurants after they receive large frozen shipments of these hot cakes from manufacturing centers. How they’re made, we’re not quite sure, but we do know what’s in them. High fructose corn syrup, artificial colors, TBHQ, and a load of preservatives grace the ingredients list, among other things. Of course we can’t forget, the fountain of syrup that comes along the side.

The damage of the deluxe meal:

The Buzz on Trans-Fat

glacial_freeze mission is to educate consumers on making more educated and well-thought food choices. We’ve gotten many questions in the past regarding the controversy with trans-fat. We’re going to explain the background on trans-fats with tips on how to avoid them too!
Gerber Graduates
First, you have to be able to recognize trans-fat ingredients on a food label, because even though a product may lists 0g trans-fat, this may not be the case. Foods with less than 0.5g of trans fats per serving are considered by the government to be trans-fat free. However, if you eat peanut butter for instance, which normally contains a small amount of trans fat to reduce separation; chances are many won’t be eating just 1 serving. Therefore, you’ll be consuming more than just 0.5g, and this is not healthy.
Partially Hydrogenated vs. Fully Hydrogenated

Fast food burgers, popcorn, pretzels, some sodas, breakfast cereals, and thousands of other products contain one common ingredient, partially hydrogenated oil. At first sight some may think, “well it’s only partially hydrogenated, so it can’t be that bad.” However partially hydrogenated oils are far worse than fully hydrogenated oils, because they are the culprits which contain trans-fatty acids.

When hydrogen is added to an oil (whether it be vegetable, canola, soy, etc.) the process is referred to as hydrogenation. This process changes the physical properties of the fat, often turning the product into a more semi-solid composition, such as margarine. This increases the melting point in frying foods, extends shelf-life, and produces a more appealing texture in baked goods.
Fully hydrogenated oils have little to no remaining trans fat after the hydrogenation process. The consistency of this fat is more solid, even at room temperature. It’s physical properties make it too difficult for some to use during baking and frying methods, so it may be hard to find unlike partially hydrogenated fats. Also, this fully hydrogenated oil contains more saturated fat, often stearic acid which is normally converted in the body to oleic acid, a monounsaturated fat. This makes fully hydrogenated oils less harmful than that of partially hydrogenated.

And just to be extra clear, if a label reads “hydrogenated oil,” this doesn’t it’s necessarily free of trans-fat. These fats are used interchangeable, so make good decisions and be careful to scan ingredient lists for these fats!

Are you Happier with the “New” Happy Meal?

gty_mcdonalds_hiring_day_jrs_110407_wg would like to report that McDonald’s president, Jan Fields, announced today that the major fast-food franchise will now be serving healthier happy meals for their younger customers.

Regardless of criticism, this is quite a big deal for many of the advocates of child nutrition. McDonald’s has been seen as a major antagonist against the fight to end childhood obesity for many years now. McDonald’s previous happy meal combinations ranged anywhere from 500-700 calories per serving, with sodium numbers going through the roof. The new happy meal will be approximately 470 calories, compared to the previous 570 calorie option. Also, saturated fat will now be reduced from 20 to 14 grams, which is still pretty high, but a good start. However, we assume these happy meals will still contain a decent amount of sugar. We’re not quite sure of the exact number yet, but the previous happy meal contained about 89 grams of sugar (or 22 teaspoons).

So what exactly are they changing? The soda is gone. Instead of kids getting a Coke or Sprite, they’ll be receiving low-fat milk. Also, apple dippers (slices) will be served, IN ADDITION to a smaller serving of french fries. The caramel dipping sauce normally associated with their apple slices will not be included. Also, parents may choose to scrap the fries all together and get 2 bags of apple dippers instead, which we’re sure some are likely to do.

We have not come across any information pertaining to a change in the chicken nuggets, or burgers. We assume these famous staples will remain untouched during this happy meal makeover.

We’re excited to hear the reactions and feedback from our followers on this announcement as to whether or not you feel this is just a ploy for press, or a step in the right direction for fast-food.

The 5 Saltiest Meals of 2011

Imagine pouring one and a half teaspoons of salt directly into your mouth. Can you taste it? Blah, blech! You’d shed an ocean of tears trying to choke down those tongue-tingling crystals.

Yet, if you’re a typical American, you eat that much salt every single day. And that’s one primary reason why 50 percent of us are considered at risk for high blood pressure.

I know, that sounds impossible—you seldom if ever reach for the salt shaker, right? Well, you don’t have to: Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show that most of us consume about 3,400 mg of sodium a day, but only 5 percent of it comes from home cooking. Some occurs in foods naturally, but the overwhelming majority of the sodium you eat—77 percent—comes foods sold in supermarkets and restaurants. Heart disease is the number-one killer of Americans, and sodium is one of the primary culprits.

We should be eating no more than 2,300 mg a day, and less—about 1,500 mg—if we’re at risk for high blood pressure. And yet, while researching my latest book, The Eat This, Not That! No-Diet Diet, I uncovered countless restaurant meals with one, two, even three days’ worth of salt in them. Think I’m exaggerating? Take a peek at the saltiest dishes coming from America’s kitchens.

1. WORST PASTA: Ruby Tuesday Mediterranean Shrimp Pasta
3,933 mg sodium
1,086 calories
63 g fat

Sodium Equivalent: 11 Large Orders of McDonald’s French Fries

Somebody needs to tell Ruby Tuesday that to make “Mediterranean” pasta, you don’t need to actually boil the noodles in Mediterranean seawater. Ruby Tuesday makes only one pasta dish with fewer than 2,000 mg of sodium (almost an entire day’s worth!), and it has only two pasta dishes with fewer than 3,000 mg. The other four pasta dishes on the menu each have more than 3,000 mg.

2. WORST BREAKFAST:IHOP Thick-Cut Bone-In Ham & Eggs
4,310 mg sodium
1,170 calories
61 g fat (19 g saturated)
Sodium Equivalent: 37 servings of Planter’s Cocktail Peanuts (that’s more than three 12-oz cans!)

IHOP is another chain known for egregious sodium levels. Even foods that sound relatively sodium-free are swimming in the stuff. Take an order of Buttermilk Pancakes. One order—5 pancakes—has 2,640 mg sodium. Things turn especially ugly when you start adding meat to the plate. You’d be wise to avoid any dish with steak or ham, which consistently contribute to a total of more than 2,000 mg per dish.

3. WORST “HEALTHY” ENTREE: Applebee’s Weight Watchers Chipotle Lime Chicken
4,990 mg sodium
490 calories
12 g fat (2 g saturated)
Sodium Equivalent: 31 servings of Ruffles (that’s more than two “Family Size” bags!)

Avoiding salt at Applebee’s is nearly impossible. Not even the “healthy” selections pass muster. The six items on the Under 550 Calories menu average 2,341 mg of sodium per entree. The five items on the Weight Watchers menu average 2,448 mg. Even the side dishes are dangerous. A side of Loaded Mashed Potatoes will cost you 1,340 mg, and a side of Broccoli Cheddar Soup will cost you 1,690. If you order anything off this menu, you’d be wise to stick to sodium-free foods for the rest of the day.

4. SALTIEST APPETIZER: Applebee’s Appetizer Sampler
6,830 mg sodium
2,590 calories
173 g fat (54 g saturated)
Sodium Equivalent: 370 Funyuns (that’s more than four bags of ‘em!)

Restaurant appetizer samplers are notoriously riddled with sodium, but Applebee’s is a full-blown tour de force of heart-stopping potential. Piled onto this plate are a bacon and cheese quesadilla, fried cheese sticks, spinach and artichoke dip and chips, and boneless buffalo wings. Just one of those things is bad enough, but add all four and you have three days’ worth of sodium and more than an entire day of calories—in just one appetizer!

5. SALTIEST CHINESE: P.F. Chang’s Double Pan-Fried Noodles with Pork
7,900 mg sodium
1,652 calories
84 g fat (12 g saturated)
Sodium Equivalent: 263 Triscuit crackers (that’s 4.3 boxes!)

PF Changs’ menu is probably the saltiest in America; even a bowl of Hot and Sour Soup has 5,000 mg. For that half of the population that’s supposed to max out at 1,500 mg daily sodium, the Double Pan-Fried Noodles with Pork harbors more than five times the limit. Even for those in the higher tier, it still represents three-and-a-half days worth of sodium consumption. If you end up at Chang’s, let the Steamed Buddha Bowl be your safety plate. But remember: It’s got to be steamed. Order it stir-fried and the same dish suddenly leaps to 2,740 mg sodium. Yikes.

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McDonald’s Salads-More Fat than a Big Mac??

McDonald’s and plenty of other fast food chains are all jumping on the “healthy” food bandwagon. But don’t let the marketing schemes fool you. Take McDonald’s for example,(they are the most widely known with some of the best marketing) we showed you how their Perfect Oatmeal wasn’t so perfect and now let’s take a look at how their salads aren’t any better.

McDonald’s isn’t the only fast food restaurant creating salad disasters. Burger King’s Chicken Caesar Salad has more fat and calories than a BK Double Hamburger. Wendy’s Taco Supreme Salad is very high in saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium.