Category Archives: health tips

Surprising comfort foods that can help shed holiday pounds


As the holiday season comes to a close and we get ready to welcome the new year, our thoughts may be turning to weight loss. All those holiday indulgences may have tipped our scales in the wrong direction! So we’re recommitting to our healthy diets as we begin the new year and planning to get rid of the excess pounds we happily put on enjoying the season. FoodFacts.com has some surprising ideas that might just help.

Have a cup of hot chocolate
No — not the cup from the fast food chain by the office. Made in your own kitchen, hot chocolate can actually help with weight loss. Cocoa is high in antioxidants which lower your cortisol levels. Cortisol is the stress hormone related to a build-up of belly fat. In a study from Cornell University, hot chocolate was found to have a concentration of antioxidants up to five times greater than black tea.

Enjoy a first course bowl of chicken soup
Adding a first course broth or vegetable-based soup before a meal can help you consume fewer calories. The water content helps fill you up, reducing your hunger before eating your main meal. A Penn State study found that eating soup prior to the main meal can reduce calorie intake by 20%.

Pot Roast equals more protein
Carefully prepared, pot roast — or any protein — is actually a weight loss tool Protein fights fat. Because your body works hard to break down protein for energy, you’re actually burning more calories as you digest it. And because it takes protein longer to leave your stomach, you’ll be fuller for longer after eating it. Studies show that people who increased their protein intake to 30% of their dietary intake consumed about 450 fewer calories each day.

Add a side of roasted carrots
Roasted carrots are full of sweet flavor. Carrots are high in water and fiber, so they’re great when you’re hungry. But when they’re roasted they actually help you burn more calories. The antioxidant content of the roasted vegetable actually contains three times the antioxidants of raw carrots.

Roast some potatoes
As it turns out, not all white foods help pack on the pounds. We’ve heard about white flour actually contributing to inflammation problems. We’ve heard that white rice is not as beneficial as brown rice. But the white potato is actually a fine source of many important nutrients. In addition, they contain a disease-fighting chemical called allicin. This anti-inflammatory chemical can contribute to weight loss. In addition, white potatoes are known to be a satisfying addition to a meal.

Enjoy a glass of red wine with your dinner
Many studies have been conducted regarding the benefits of red wine for your heart. But it does appear that there are other important benefits as well — one of which is fighting off excess weight. While there’s nothing conclusive, studies do suggest that the antioxidant resveratrol may inhibit the production of fat cells. There’s another substance occurring naturally in red wine called calcium pyruvate that appears to help fat cells burn more energy. Enjoy one glass for about 150 calories and you can help your heart and your weight.

While these may not be the first things we think of when seek to change our eating habits for weight loss, they really are better, healthier (and more flavorful) ideas. Diet products contain mountains of bad ingredients and they leave us hungry. Diet plans may work for a while, but odds are, the weight will come back. Intelligent changes to our regular diet that we actually enjoy can make a world of difference for our weight. So as you think ahead to taking off some weight in 2014, try some of these ideas. A new approach might just do the trick!

Is a healthy diet worth an extra $1.50 a day?

That’s a pretty subjective question, isn’t it? Every person asked would have a different answer, based on personal circumstances.

FoodFacts.com has always heard consumers claim that healthy diets are much more expensive than diets consisting of processed and fast foods. We’ve always held to the idea that this isn’t necessarily a true statement. Fresh, whole foods aren’t necessarily going to break the budget bank for most people. And frankly that box of Hamburger Helper with five servings probably won’t leave leftovers in your refrigerator. But if you purchased a pound of ground beef, a bag of pasta, mushrooms, carrots and sour cream and followed a few simple directions, you’ll have actual stroganoff with enough leftovers for lunch the next day.
Fresh, whole foods help us in so many ways. They help us fight the obesity crisis and provide us the necessary nutrients that keep our bodies healthy, reducing the risk of any number of diseases and conditions.

Just how much more expensive is it for us to maintain a healthy diet?

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have placed the additional cost at $1.50 more than it would be without an emphasis on healthy eating. They reviewed 27 different studies on the cost of healthy foods vs. unhealthy foods and were able to estimate the daily cost of a healthier diet.

“Conventional wisdom has been that healthier foods cost more, but it’s never been clear if that’s actually true or exactly how much more healthier foods might cost,” said lead study author Mayuree Rao. “We found that the healthiest diets cost about $1.50 more per day, and that’s less than we might have expected.”

Rao and her team looked at studies done after 2000 that compared healthy and unhealthy version of certain foods – for example, lean beef vs. a fattier cut, and studies that compared healthy and unhealthy diet patterns, such as a diet rich in fruits and vegetables versus a diet without fresh produce.

The studies they analyzed came from 10 countries, including the United States, Canada and several European nations. The food prices were converted to international dollars and adjusted for inflation.

The researchers evaluated the prices based on a specific food’s price per serving, as well as the price per 200 calories of that food item. They evaluated the diet patterns based on the price per day (three meals’ worth) and the price per 2,000 calories – the FDA’s standard daily intake recommendation for adults. This ensured the researchers were looking at the price variations from all angles.

Some food groups showed more of a difference in price than others. Meat had the highest price difference; healthier versions cost 29 cents more per serving on average than the less healthy option. Grains, snacks and dairy, on the other hand, showed minimal price differences between healthier and unhealthier versions.

On a broader scope, the healthiest diets appear to cost consumers about $1.50 more per day than the unhealthiest diets. This means consumers who eat a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, for example, pay about $1.50 more per day than those who eat a diet made up mostly of processed foods.

While $1.50 per day is probably less than the average consumer assumes healthier food choices actually cost, that same small amount can mean different things to different people. For lower-income families, it can add up pretty quickly. And that does indicate that budgets can be a barrier to healthier eating for some segments of the population.

But there will definitely be others who will be surprised to learn that for about the price of a cup of coffee, they can grocery shop with their health in mind. Healthy eating is simpler than most people think. And a $1.50 daily investment might save a lot of money on preventable health concerns later on in life. Whatever we can do to improve our diets can go a long way towards improving our health and quality of life.

http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/05/healthy-eating-costs-you-1-50-more-a-day/?hpt=he_c1

See that frozen white slab coming out of that box???? That unappetizing icy block is the McDonald’s McRib!

Maybe we should coin a new phrase … Mc-Icky!

This year, McDonald’s has decided that it won’t be doing its usual national roll-out of the “beloved” McRib sandwich. It’s currently leaving it up to individual franchise owners to decide whether or not to include it on their menu.

We hear year after year after year how many millions of consumers are die-hard devotees of this strange and unusual “rib” sandwich. We must admit we don’t know any of these consumers personally. And we do have difficulty imagining the existence of a large army of people clamoring for this “rib that isn’t a real rib” sandwich. It is our guess that we’ll have a better read on how many devoted fans the McRib really has after the numbers of franchisees offering the sandwich at the end of 2013 is counted up. But we are guessing that the release of this photo picturing the raw, frozen McRib may have something to do with an unexpected downturn in that number.

Do you want to eat that?

We sure don’t! O.k. FoodFacts.com didn’t want to eat it before we saw that photo. That’s because we’re pretty well-versed in its contents. The ingredient list here is far from pretty:

Ingredients (78):
McRib Pork Patty (Pork, Water, Salt, Dextrose, BHA, BHT, Propyl Gallate, Citric Acid) , McRib Bun (Flour Enriched [Wheat Flour Bleached, Barley Malted Flour, Niacin, Iron Reduced, Thiamine Mononitrate (Vitamin B1), Riboflavin (Vitamin B2), Folic Acid (Vitamin aB)] , Water, Yeast, Corn Syrup High Fructose Contains 2% or less of the Following: (, Salt, Corn Meal, Wheat Gluten, Soybean(s) Oil, Soybean(s) Oil Partially Hydrogenated and/or, Ammonium Sulfate, Calcium Propionate, Calcium Sulphate (Sulfate), Cottonseed Oil, Dextrose, Dough Conditioner(s) [Sodium Stearoyl Lactylate, Datem, Ascorbic Acid, Azodicarbonamide, Mono and Diglycerides, Ethoxylated Mono-And Diglycerides, Monocalcium Phosphate, Enzyme(s), Guar Gum, Calcium Peroxide] , Barley Malted Flour, Soy Flour, Soy Lecithin, Sugar, Wheat Flour Cultured) , McRib Sauce (Water, Corn Syrup High Fructose, Tomato(es) Paste, Vinegar Distilled, Molasses, Flavor(s) Natural Smoke, Food Starch Modified, Salt, Sugar, Beet(s) Powder, Caramel Color, Garlic Powder, Onion(s) Powder, Sodium Benzoate, Soybean(s) Oil, Spice(s), Xanthan Gum, Pepper(s) Chili) , Pickle Slices (Cucumber(s), Water, Vinegar Distilled, Salt, Calcium Chloride, Alum, Potassium Sorbate, Flavor(s) Natural, Polysorbate 80, Turmeric Extractives) , Onion(s) Slivered

But now we have this pre-cooked visual to accompany this very disturbing ingredient list.

The image of this indistinguishable frozen white slab JUST HAS to turn at least some consumers off to the concept of consuming one sandwich that contains well over 70 ingredients (a whole host of them being REALLY bad), 26 grams of fat (including 50% of your RDI of saturated fat) and 980 mg of sodium.

Let’s face it, the McRib really never had anything going for it in terms of healthy eating. After the release of this image, honestly, it has even less.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/12/frozen-mcrib_n_4260461.html
http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/lifestyle/2013/11/mcdonalds-frozen-mcrib-photo-stirs-web-not-appetites/

Viewing food images may decrease consumption

FoodFacts.com is well acquainted with folks trying their best to lose weight. We’re constantly adding “diet” food products to our database. You know the ones we’re talking about. Under 400 calories. Incredibly small portion sizes. And ingredient lists a mile long with far too many controversial ingredients. Changing dietary habits and lifestyle will actually help people achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Otherwise, they’ll go back to those same diet products for years, without much significant result. Today, though, we read some very interesting information that might just help us eat less. And if you are trying to lose weight, adding this simple action to more conscious eating and healthier lifestyle habits might just be worth a try!

Researchers from Brigham Young University (BYU) and the University of Minnesota say their study, published in The Journal of Consumer Psychology, shows that looking at too many pictures of food can make it less enjoyable to eat.

“In a way, you’re becoming tired of that taste without even eating the food,” says Ryan Elder, professor at BYU and co-author of the study. “It’s sensory boredom – you’ve kind of moved on. You don’t want that taste experience anymore.”

The researchers recruited 232 participants who were asked to carry out experiments that involved viewing and rating pictures of various foods.

In one experiment, half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of sweet foods, including cake, truffles and chocolates. The other half of the participants were asked to look at 60 pictures of salty foods, including chips, pretzels and French fries.

Both groups rated each food based on how appetizing they thought it was.

All subjects were then required to eat a salty food, specifically, peanuts. They then rated how much they enjoyed eating the peanuts.

Results of the experiment showed that the participants who viewed the photos of the salty foods enjoyed the peanuts significantly less, compared with those who viewed the sweet foods, even though they had not viewed pictures of peanuts, just other salty foods.

The researchers say the reason for this is that over-exposure to images of food increases a person’s satiation.

Satiation is defined as a reduction in enjoyment as a result of repeated consumption. For example, a person enjoys the first slice of cake more than the fourth slice, as they have become tired of eating the same food.

The study authors say:

“We provide mediation evidence to show that satiation manifests because considering a food engenders spontaneous simulations of the taste of that food item, which by itself is enough to produce satiation.

These findings establish sensory simulations as an important mechanism underlying satiation, and provide behavioral evidence that simple evaluations can produce sensory-specific satiety.”

Jeff Larson, also a professor at BYU, notes that if a person wants to continue enjoying food consumption, it is best to avoid looking at too many food-related photos.

“Even I felt a little sick to my stomach during the study after looking at all the sweet pictures we had,” he says.

But he notes that their findings could be useful for those who want to avoid a particular unhealthy food. If a person wants to avoid eating chocolate, for example, he says they may want to look at more pictures of it.

However, Prof. Elder warns that there is a stipulation: “You do have to look at a decent number of pictures to get these effects. It’s not like if you look at something two or three times you’ll get that satiated effect.”

FoodFacts.com can think of a number of ways to put this information to good use in more ways than just weight loss or weight control. If someone is craving fast food, viewing repetitive images of their favorite meal might help them avoid it. Processed boxed or canned foods might be avoided in the same way. Maybe we just found a “healthy diet aid” accessible through the internet and social media. Food for thought!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/267044.php

Your healthy diet may lower your risk of pancreatic cancer

FoodFacts.com is always seeking new information that provides additional motivation for us all to stay committed to our healthy diet and lifestyle. Let’s face it, with so many processed foods and beverages surrounding us, as well as an enormous number of rather sedentary activity choices, we can all use a little extra inspiration from time to time! Today we read about a new study just published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute that gives us plenty of encouragement for staying with our personal commitment to live the healthiest lifestyle we can.

According to this new research from the Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland, people who reported dietary intake that was the most consistent with the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans had a lower risk of pancreatic cancer.

Previous studies investigating the relationship between food and nutrient intake and pancreatic cancer have yielded inconsistent results. The U.S. Government issues evidence-based dietary guidelines that provide the basis for federal nutrition policy and education activities to promote overall health for Americans. The authors evaluated how closely study participants’ diets matched the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, as measured by the Healthy Eating Index (HEI-2005), and then compared their risk of pancreatic cancer.

Researchers calculated HEI-2005 scores for 537,218 participants in the NIH-AARP Diet and Health Study (ages 50-71 years), based on responses to food frequency questionnaires. Pancreatic cancer risk was then compared between those with high and low HEI-2005 scores, accounting for the influence of other known pancreatic cancer risk factors.

Among the study participants there were 2,383 new cases of pancreatic cancer. Overall, the investigators observed a 15% lower risk of pancreatic cancer among participants with the highest HEI-2005 score compared to those with the lowest HEI-2005 score. This association was stronger among overweight or obese men compared to men of normal weight, but there was no difference for normal vs. overweight or obese women. While the authors adjusted for known risk factors such as smoking and diabetes status, they caution that other health factors not collected in the questionnaires may be associated with a more healthful diet and might explain some of the observed reduced risk. They also noted that diet is difficult to measure and the HEI-2005 was not designed specifically for the purpose of overall cancer prevention.

Researchers noted that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans are issued to promote overall health, including the maintenance of a healthy weight and disease prevention. Study findings support the hypothesis that a high-quality diet may also play a role in reducing pancreatic cancer risk. Future studies are needed to confirm these findings.

FoodFacts.com thinks that all of us who are committed to nutritional awareness and healthy habits should celebrate these findings, and others, that bring to light new benefits arising from our diligence. We encourage everyone in our community to spread the good news about the health benefits we can all repeat from that commitment!

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/08/130815172335.htm

A great new reason for women to make sure they get their five a day

FoodFacts.com is always talking about the health benefits of a balanced diet that emphasizes fresh fruits and vegetables. There are so many nutrients derived from the colorful varieties we’re lucky enough to be able to choose from! We know that getting our five servings a day of fruits and vegetables helps to reduce our risk of heart attack and stroke, in addition to diabetes, obesity, and even some types of cancer. Today we read about a new study that points to a lowered risk of bladder cancer for women who increase their fruit and vegetable consumption!

Researchers from the University of Hawaii Cancer Center reported on this new study in The Journal of Nutrition. The authors explained that fruits and vegetables have been extensively studied for their possible effects on the risk of cancer, including bladder cancer. Fruits and vegetables contain several nutrients, phytochemicals, as well as antioxidants which potentially protect from cancer.

According to the National Cancer Institute2, there are approximately 72,570 new cancer bladder cases and 15,210 deaths caused by bladder cancer annually in the United States.

Song-Yi Park, PhD., and colleagues set out to determine what effect high fruit and vegetable intake might have on invasive bladder cancer risk. The team carried out a prospective analysis involving 185,885 older adults who participated in the Multiethnic Cohort Study. The study was set up in 1993 to examine the relationship between dietary, lifestyle, genetic factors, and the risk of cancer.

The researchers gathered and analyzed data over a 12.5-year period. During that time 152 females and 429 males developed invasive bladder cancer.

After making adjustments for some variables which influence cancer risk, such as age, the scientists discovered that those with the lowest bladder cancer risk were women who ate the most fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Park and team found that:

• Women with the highest yellow-orange vegetable intake had a 52% lower risk of developing invasive bladder cancer compared to women with the lowest consumption.
• Women with the highest consumption of vitamins A, C, and E were the least likely to develop bladder cancer.
• Fruit and vegetable consumption appeared to have no effect on male bladder cancer risk.

FoodFacts.com certainly stands behind the idea that five servings of fruits and vegetables every day is a good idea for everyone. This new information, however, gives all women yet another reason to be vigilant about their fruit and vegetable consumption. Keeping your fruit and veggie choices interesting and colorful makes it easy to include them in your daily diet. And your optimal daily diet will help you enjoy good health for years to come!

http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265231.php

Strawberries and Blueberries are kind to your heart

FoodFacts.com is always thrilled to hear about how food can have positive effects on our health. For us, it’s always been about how our diet can affect our well-being. Our community members know how we feel about packaged, prepared foods and artificial, controversial ingredients. Today, we want to share with you some news about some simple fruits that might actually make a world of difference to your cardiovascular health.

Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health in the United States and the University of East Anglia, United Kingdom conducted a study among over 90,000 women between the ages 25 and 42. The women completed questionnaires about their diet every four years for 18 years.

During the study, 405 heart attacks occurred. Those women who ate the most blueberries and strawberries had a 32% reduction in their risk of heart attack compared to women who ate the berries once a month or less. This was true even for women who ate an otherwise healthy diet rich in fruit and other vegetables.

Women who ate at least three servings of blueberries and strawberries each week had fewer heart attacks than those who did not incorporate these fruits into their diets at the same levels. Blueberries and strawberries contain high levels of compounds that have cardiovascular benefits.

Dietary flavonoids are found in high levels in both blueberries and strawberries. In addition, they are contained in grapes, wine, blackberries, and eggplant. Flavonoids have acknowledged cardiovascular benefits. In addition, there is a sub-class of flavonoids – anthocyanins – that might help to dilate arteries and counter the effects of plaque build up in the vascular system.

The reason the researchers focused on blueberries and strawberries was pretty simple. These are the most often eaten berries in the United States. Because of this, the researchers acknowledged that it’s possible that other foods might produce the same effect.

FoodFacts.com has always been a proponent of the American Heart Association’s advice regarding eating a balanced diet that includes berries as part of a plan that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains. We encourage our community members to remain conscious and colorful in their food choices. We understand that variety in our diets will not only keep eating interesting, but healthy as well. A little green, a little orange, a little red, a little purple might very well go a long way for your heart – as well as your taste buds. It’s also more appealing to the eye … and we all have to see our food before we eat it. If you like what you see, you really are more likely to enjoy the meal. We don’t live in a one-dimensional world. Our plates should reflect that … taste, color, texture. Strawberries and blueberries for heart health can add a wealth of dimension to our plates.

Read more about the study here:   http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/01/130114152954.htm

7 a day is better than 5 to keep you healthy AND happy!

FoodFacts.com has reviewed research in the past that linked the consumption of junk food to a decline in the human ability to be optimistic and happy. It has been suggested that poor eating habits can actually add to depression and depressed moods. Today, however, we came across new research that links and increase in positive mental health and happiness to eating vegetables and fruits. We love the idea that our boosting our mental well being could be as simple as increasing our consumption of the foods that we already know are healthiest for our physical well being!

The University of Warwick in Great Britain conducted a study focusing on the diets of 80,000 people. They discovered that mental well being increased along with the number of servings of fruits and vegetables people consumed on a daily basis. Mental well being rose the most among those consuming seven servings each day.

While the current recommendations are to consume five servings of fruits and vegetables each day because we understand that this level of consumption protects our cardiovascular health and reduces our cancer risk, we’ve never looked at the effect of those servings – or an increase in those servings for our mental well-being.

The study focused on British citizens. It appears that currently 25% of the English population is eating one serving or no servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Only 10% are consuming seven or more. While the research doesn’t tell us that there are specific fruits and vegetables that are aiding in the mental health boost from those seven servings, they have, in fact, set a serving size that matters. One serving equals one cup. So, for instance one medium apple is one serving of fruit and two medium carrots will qualify as one serving of vegetables.

The authors of the study were somewhat surprised by their findings, mainly because mental health and well-being have not been related to diet in the past. For the most part treatment for mental health related difficulties has always been addressed medically, not nutritionally.

While we understand that nine servings per day can sound fairly daunting for many people, we know that there are some things you can do that can help increase your intake of fruits and vegetables. Here are a few ideas from your friends at FoodFacts.com.

Fruit Salad for Dessert
If your family only indulges in desserts on the weekends, you might want to reconsider that schedule. On weeknights, prepare a fresh fruit salad and not only will you be treating your family to dessert, you’ll also be getting an extra serving of fruit into their diets.

Breakfast
Especially with the colder weather coming, hot cereal brings the opportunity to get more fruit into your diet. We know that prepared flavored oatmeal isn’t always made with the best ingredients. But if you add apple slices and cinnamon to a bowl of homemade oatmeal, it will be tastier than the box products and provide extra fruit for the day.

Extra Dinner Veggies
We’ve always liked the idea of getting some vegetables into an entree that may or may not be noticeable. For instance, sliced zucchini works well in lasagna and chopped spinach can easily be mixed inside a burger. A few others might include broccoli in a side of macaroni and cheese, or cabbage in mashed potatoes. You would, of course, be serving a vegetable alongside that entree, effectively adding to vegetable consumption.

Side Salads
So you have your protein, your vegetable and (perhaps) your starch picked out for your evening meal. Serve a salad with it. Salads can be prepared in interesting manners with fruit and vegetable additions that are very appealing and add new textures and flavors AND extra fruits and vegetables to your dinner!

FoodFacts.com encourages you to read more about this new research (and to try some of our ideas as well):
http://scienceblog.com/57078/fruits-and-veggies-7-a-day-for-happiness-and-mental-health/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+scienceblogrssfeed+%28ScienceBlog.com%29#S5q6kFDK0R80JVOc.99

More bad news on obesity in America

FoodFacts.com has been following the news about our growing obesity challenges in the United States. The latest information we’ve found is certainly not a good thing.

It appears that there is a direct connection between the rise in obesity and the rise in arthritis in our population – and especially with osteoarthritis which is defined as a chronic degeneration of cartilage in joints like the knees and hips.

The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons has been looking closely at the relationship between obesity, diabetes and arthritis. They state that there is definitely a link. In the obese population in the U.S., just about one third also have arthritis. The number of hip and joint replacement surgeries have more than doubled between 2000 and 2010.

Or course, it is necessary to keep in mind that we have a large segment of the U.S. population that is aging. Baby Boomers are the largest generation on record and this is the generation that is moving into the position of the oldest generation in the U.S. So that would explain some of the increase. There is actual research, however, that equates about 20% of the increase in these surgeries to the obesity epidemic.

The good news about the research is that obesity is a factor in joint problems that we actually have control over. If we were to get the obesity problem in check, we would lower the number of replacement surgeries occurring here in America. The bad news, however, is that once the joint damage is done … it’s done. It isn’t reversible.

And if you think about it, it makes perfect sense. The heavier a person is, the more stress is placed on the bone structure. That can wear away cartilage in joints. And if a person is even mildly active that stress places additional weight on joints.

It has been found that exercise can help people with these specific problems. But they have to be careful. High-impact exercise is basically a no-go for obese folks with joint problems. It can exacerbate the problems and possibly cause injury. Biking and swimming are better options for people but those exercises must be accompanied by dietary changes.

FoodFacts.com firmly believes that the more information we have regarding the obesity problems in our country, the better equipped we will be to deal with them. It’s incredibly important that we all remain educated, not only about how this has happened to us, but what we can do to improve the life situations of so many of our citizens.

We invite you to read more: http://www.dispatch.com/content/stories/local/2012/09/30/health/growing-obesity-problem-affects-joints.html

Foods you need to pay attention to

FoodFacts.com spends a lot of time educating our community on the foods we shouldn’t be eating, or at least that we should be trying to avoid. So we thought we’d explore some of the foods we might not realize are actually good for our health. There are some surprises out there … and if the following foods aren’t surprising to you, share them with friends and family, who may not understand their benefits.

Iceberg Lettuce
Generally this is the lettuce that isn’t flying off the produce shelves these days. It’s somewhat “out of fashion” in terms of salad preparation. But we really need to start a new trend. Half a head of iceberg lettuce contains more alpha-carotene than romaine lettuce or spinach. And it’s actually pretty tasty when used in a great salad recipe. Try it with a few different vegetables julienned with the lettuce and a tangy homemade dressing. And if you still like the texture of the leafier green lettuces, you can add iceberg into your regular salad preparation. Mix it up with romaine or green leaf lettuce to add an interesting crunch to your regular salad recipes. It also adds some iron, vitamin C and vitamin A to your already nutritious salad ideas.

Sardines
Yes, we’re talking about those tiny fish that can come in a can. There are so many things you can do with sardines and so many things they can do for you! Fatty fish, like sardines, are rich in Omega 3 fatty acids. They help you build your HDL cholesterol (that’s the good kind), and they’re good for you brain. Not to mention that if you or someone you love has had a heart attack, they can actually reduce the risk of a reoccurrence that could lead to sudden death. That’s a pretty powerful little fish. They’re great with pasta or salads. You can pretty much rest assured that any food you might add chopped bacon to would be equally tasty with sardines. If you don’t have access to fresh sardines, canned will work just fine. But they do contain sodium, so make sure you adjust your recipes accordingly.

Vinegar
Turns out that in this case the old wives tales about vinegar just might hold water. Vinegar has been shown to help with cholesterol issues, fight allergies and increase stamina. But, most importantly, a study has pointed out that when people consumed two tablespoons of vinegar with a high-carb meal, their blood sugar was actually lower by 23% than when eating the meal without it. That’s a pretty good reason to make your own salad dressing with those two tablespoons and eat that with your higher carbohydrate meal.

Blueberries
FoodFacts.com loves blueberries. They’re great for breakfast. Work well as a snack and make a pretty terrific dessert! The compound anthocyanin is a flavanoid (a type of antioxidant) that blueberries contain great amounts of. Flavanoids can protect against free radicals that cause cell damage and they are great for protecting your heart. Blueberries also seem to have a positive effect on blood pressure. So, especially during these summer months when blueberries are plentiful at the farmer’s market, go ahead and enjoy them, knowing that while you’re loving the taste they bring to your dishes, they’re loving your heart health in return!

Mushrooms
If you’ve ever been in a cooking class or gone to culinary school, you’ve learned that mushrooms are a “flavor enhancer”, as in, they really don’t have flavor themselves, but tend to brighten or pick up the flavor of other foods. That sort of leads folks to believe that they are kind of useless on their own. But they really aren’t. Mushrooms are actually are source of lean protein, without the cholesterol or fat. They are also low in carbs and contain fiber. They help burn cholesterol. They’ve been shown to be effective in preventing breast and prostate cancer and they’re great for a diabetic diet.

So that’s the FoodFacts.com list of five foods that you might want to pay more attention to in your diet. While a few of them might take some cooking creativity, we think all five are definitely worth their health benefits!