The Paleo Diet’s Secret Ingredient

The paleo diet is relatively simple diet. But it has a secret ingredient that lowers your risk of stroke, heart disease and cancer. It may even help you quit smoking.

The secret ingredient: fruits and vegetables.

Of course, those constitute more than one ingredient. And they’re hardly secret. But if you look at what most people eat you’d be forgiven for thinking that the incredible benefits of these foods are still largely a secret.

Longevity

Consider the fact that even without acknowledging all the other benefits of eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, research shows that consuming these foods is linked to living longer. A study at the University College London shows that if you eat seven or more portions of fruit and vegetables every day, you lower your risk of death at any point in time by a whopping 42 percent.

The research, involving more than 65,000 Brits shows that seven or more daily portions of fruits and vegetables drop the risk of death by cancer by 25 percent and the chances of being felled by heart disease by 31 percent.

The study shows that every carrot, bowl of broccoli, portion of cauliflower or any other vegetable serving that you put in your mouth reduces your overall risk of death today by 16 percent. Every fruit shrinks your risk by 4 percent.

“We all know that eating fruit and vegetables is healthy, but the size of the effect is staggering,” says researcher Oyinlola Oyebode. “The clear message here is that the more fruit and vegetables you eat, the less likely you are to die at any age. Vegetables have a larger effect than fruit, but fruit still makes a real difference. If you’re happy to snack on carrots or other vegetables, then that is a great choice but if you fancy something sweeter, a banana or any fruit will also do you good.”

If you follow the paleo diet, you are eating plenty of these fruits and vegetables while forgoing processed foods, wheat products, corn products and sugary packaged foods.

That’s great for your well-being: The British researchers found that eating canned, sweetened fruit or drinking fruit juice increases your daily risk of death by 17 percent per serving.

“Most canned fruit contains high sugar levels and cheaper varieties are packed in syrup rather than fruit juice,” says Oyebode. “The negative health impacts of the sugar may well outweigh any benefits. Another possibility is that there are confounding factors that we could not control for, such as poor access to fresh groceries among people who have pre-existing health conditions, hectic lifestyles or who live in deprived areas.”

More benefits

A wide variety of other studies demonstrate the health effects of fruits and vegetables:

  • A study in China involving more than 760,000 people shows that every 200 grams of fruit you eat a day reduces your stroke risk by 32 percent. Take in 200 grams daily of vegetables and the risk drops by 11 percent.
  • For women in their 20s, according to a study at Minneapolis Heart Institute, eating about eight servings of fruits and vegetables a day reduces the chance of middle-aged heart disease by 40 percent.
  • A study at the University of Buffalo shows that smokers can triple their chances of success at giving up smoking if they stuff themselves with fruits and vegetables every day.

The consequences of the typical American diet are pretty clear: Eating the processed foods advertised everywhere you look produces the health problems that are now rampant everywhere medical researchers look. But devote yourself to paleo eating and you have a fighting chance of staying healthy and living to an enjoyable old age as ripe as a juicy apple.

Keep Toxins Out Of Your Body With The Paleo Diet

When it comes to keeping health-destroying toxins out of your body, much depends on the walls of your digestive tract. After every meal, they are tasked with letting nutrients into the bloodstream that the body needs to rejuvenate itself while making sure unwanted chemicals and pathogens are eliminated.

Unfortunately, many folks suffer from what is called “leaky gut syndrome.” That can take place when spaces between the cells of the intestinal wall become leaky, allowing foreign substances to breach the barriers meant to keep them out.

That, in turn, can lead to infections from pathogenic attack, allergic reactions to proteins that enter the blood or autoimmune problems when your immune cells attack the body instead of focusing on foreign invaders.

Wide Range Of Problems

Research into leaky gut has uncovered a surprising collection of illnesses connected with leaky gut. For example, scientists at the California Institute Technology (Caltech) have discovered that many cases of autism are connected with a malfunctioning digestive tract.

In this lab study, the researchers found that the probiotic, beneficial bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract play a key role in preventing leaky gut and possibly easing autism problems.

“Traditional research has studied autism (ASD) as a genetic disorder and a disorder of the brain, but our work shows that gut bacteria may contribute to ASD-like symptoms in ways that were previously unappreciated,” says researcher Sarkis K. Mazmanian. “Gut physiology appears to have effects on what are currently presumed to be brain functions.”

The Caltech scientists found that, in lab animals, they could quiet many autism symptoms by improving the bacteria in the gut.

The researchers emphasize that there is still a lot of work to be done to develop effective probiotic therapies for autism. But they say that their work demonstrates one of the serious problems linked to leaky gut.

Cancer Connection

A study at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia shows that leaky gut may be connected to cancer.

These scientists found that a hormone receptor called guanylyl cyclase C (GC-C) plays a vital role in keeping the intestinal barrier intact and that when C (GC-C) is missing from the intestines, the resultant leaky gut can lead to inflammation and cancer-causing toxins to enter the bloodstream. The result: damaged DNA and potential cancer in the lung, liver and lymph nodes.

“If the intestinal barrier breaks down, it becomes a portal for stuff in the outside world to leak into the inside world,” says researcher Scott Waldman. “When these worlds collide, it can cause many diseases, like inflammation and cancer.”

Paleo Protection

A well-planned paleo diet together with probiotic supplements may be your best bet to keep free of leaky gut and the problems it causes.

When you emphasize plenty of organic fruits and vegetables on a paleo diet, you provide your probiotic bacteria with the dietary fiber it needs to stay healthy. And since the paleo diet also stresses the avoidance of grains (especially no wheat), as well as the banishment of processed food, you deprive undesirable pathogens of the simple carbohydrates they depend on.

A study at the University of Illinois shows that the dietary fiber supports a favorable increase in beneficial bacteria growing in the intestines. According to these researchers, eating plenty of fibrous fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of diabetes, colon cancer and autoimmune problems (like rheumatoid arthritis) when you support your probiotic bacteria.

“Unfortunately, people eat only about half of the 30 to 35 grams of daily fiber that is recommended. To achieve these health benefits, consumers should read nutrition labels and choose foods that have high fiber content,” says researcher Kelly Swanson.

But if you eat the paleo diet, consuming organic meats and fish along with fruits and vegetables you cook at home, you don’t have to read many food labels. Instead, you can be secure that you’re keeping your gut free from leaking.

Does The Paleo Diet Cause Cancer?

The popularity of the paleo diet attracts attacks from many experts who debunk its benefits. And now some of those same naysayers are trying to claim that eating paleo makes you more vulnerable to cancer.

Much of the controversy surrounding paleo eating centers on how much meat you should or can consume when you’re on this diet. A passel of researchers now aver that folks who eat a lot of meat on the paleo diet are increasing their chances of cancer.

The problem is this assertion — that paleo dieters eat lots of meat and that meat leads to cancer — is a significant distortion.

Part of the confusion starts with the idea that the paleo diet encourages gorging on meat.

Paleo diet perception problem

This perception probably starts with the fact that the paleo philosophy basically sees nothing wrong with downing healthy helpings of meat. But it doesn’t advocate super-sizing portions.

As a matter of fact, most paleo folks emphasize fruits and vegetables more than meat. Fruits and vegetables are where beneficial phytochemicals reside: These natural substances from vegetarian foods that help the body fight off cancer and decrease the risk of chronic illnesses like arthritis and heart disease.

Another confounding factor is that the term “meat” doesn’t refer to a homogenous group of foods. For instance, a hot dog you might buy from your local supermarket is nutritionally very different than the meat in an organic steak originating from a grass-fed cow. The hot dog is full of additives that are of questionable value to your body. The grass-fed beef contains healthier fatty acids and is much less likely to contain the pesticide and antibiotic residues that can be in hot dogs.

Questionable study

And that highlights a serious shortcoming in many of the studies that allegedly show a connection between meat consumption and cancer. The studies usually don’t differentiate among meats like hot dogs, cheap burgers from fast-food joints, organic meats, pork from pigs raised on crowded pig farms or sausage.

It is hardly credible to think that all of those different types of “meat” have the same effect on the body.

Still, a study from Harvard that lumped many of these meats together supposedly showed that red meat consumption increases a woman’s risk of breast cancer.

According to this research, every daily serving of red meat a woman consumes increases her risk of breast cancer risk by 13 percent.

The foods that the Harvard scientists considered to be red meat included: unprocessed red meat (beef, pork or lamb, and hamburger) and processed red meat (such as hot dogs, bacon and sausage). There was no allowance for the possible different effects of these types of foods.

Gut protection

So anytime you see a study that warns of the dangers of red meat, consider the terms that are being used by the researchers. I don’t doubt that eating things like hot dogs, sausage and bacon every single day of your life will limit how many days go into your life. And I wouldn’t recommend eating a hamburger at every single meal, even if those burgers were made from grass-fed organic beef.

But an occasional steak from an organic, grass-fed cow is not the danger that the media likes to trumpet.  And I don’t think many paleo eaters would disagree.

Don’t let your vegetable oil fry your health

If you eat a paleo diet, you should be using the healthiest cooking oils. Fact is, the type of vegetable oil you use in your kitchen can make the difference between health and illness. Medical researchers believe that by merely switching cooking oils, you can lower your blood pressure, improve your heart health and protect your lungs.

Consider how your vegetable oil interacts with your blood pressure. A study led by scientists at King’s College in London shows that when you use olive oil on your salad, it produces natural substances that bring your pressure down.

The researchers believe that their findings show why the Mediterranean diet, rich in olive oil, helps keep hypertension away.

Vegetables like spinach, celery, lettuce and carrots are rich in natural nitrites and nitrates (nitrogen compounds). When you consume these vegetables along with olive oil which, like nuts and avocados, is rich in unsaturated fatty acids, nitro fatty acids are created in your digestive tract.

Within the body, the nitro fatty acids inhibit an enzyme called epoxide hydrolase that would otherwise raise your blood pressure. According  to researcher Philip Eaton: “The findings of our study help to explain why previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks.”

The Vitamin E In Olive Oil Is The Best E

The type of vitamin E found in olive oil also provides significant health benefits. Experiments at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine show that the particular kind of vitamin E in olive oil is more beneficial than the E vitamins found in canola, soybean and corn oil.

Olive oil contains a form of vitamin E known as alpha-tocopherol. In contrast, those other oils are richer in gamma-tocopherol. According to the Northwestern studies, the gamma-tocopherol in canola, soy and corn can inflame your lungs and make you more susceptible to lung inflammation and asthma. The alpha-tocopherol in olive oil, in contrast, protects your lungs.

“Considering the rate of affected people we found in this study, there could be 4.5 million individuals in the U.S. with reduced lung function as a result of their high gamma-tocopherol consumption,” says researcher Joan Cook-Mills, an associate professor of medicine at Northwestern.

During the past 40 years, asthma rates in the U.S. have been climbing at a frightening pace. This increase, say the scientists, goes along with people’s increasing consumption of soy, canola and corn oils and a switch away from lard and butter.

Cook-Mills notes that countries that consume more olive oil and sunflower oil (which also contains alpha-tocopherol) have much less asthma than we suffer.

Today, in the United StateS, about one in 12 people are struggle with asthma. And the typical American’s blood level of gamma-tocopherol is about quadruple that found in citizens of Europe and Scandinavia that consume larger amounts of sunflower and olive oil.

“People in countries that consume olive and sunflower oil have the lowest rate of asthma and those that consume soybean, corn and canola oil have the highest rate of asthma,” Cook-Mills says. “When people consume alpha-tocopherol, which is rich in olive oil and sunflower oil, their lung function is better.”

Don’t Fry Your Arteries

No matter what oil you use in your kitchen, you should avoid frying foods in vegetable oils at high temperatures and never reuse oil for frying after it’s been heated to high temperatures.

Tests at the University of Minnesota show that when unsaturated vegetable oils are heated to 365 degrees F and beyond for frying and are kept there for 30 minutes or longer, they form a toxin called HNE (4-hydroxy-trans-2-nonenal) and other related dangerous substances.

“HNE is a well-known, highly toxic compound that is easily absorbed from the diet,” warns researcher A. Saari Csallany. “The toxicity arises because the compound is highly reactive with proteins, nucleic acids — DNA and RNA — and other biomolecules. HNE is formed from the oxidation of linoleic acid, and reports have related it to several diseases, including atherosclerosis, stroke, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, Huntington’s and liver diseases.”

When you reheat oil again and again, you create larger and larger amounts of HNE.

So don’t fry if you can help it. Baking food at lower temperatures is usually a better option.

The Paleo Sugar That Keeps You Slender And Diabetes-Free

Years ago, when I used to cut calories to keep my weight down, I spent long periods of my life as a miserable, cranky, deprived dieter. But nowadays, as a paleo eater and snacker, I’ve discovered a sweet treat that I can nosh on until I’m satiated and satisfied. And I never gain a pound.

My sweet indulgence is called fruit — with occasional nuts and honey.

You may read that and roll your eyes. With one hand in the cookie jar/bag of chips/candy container, you may cynically dismiss the allure of fruit.

But that’s because you’re on the dark side of the grain divide. If you come over here, where grains like wheat and corn have been banished, your taste buds will enjoy a new freedom to actually taste the hidden taste dimensions of natural food. They won’t be mired in a taste fog of cookies, cakes, bread, overly salted chips and high fructose corn syrup.

Even better: The benefits of staying off grains and eating the large amounts of fruits and vegetables that I eat are expressed in the body way beyond the taste buds.

And if you want sugar, you don’t need the problematic sweet stuff stuffed into a soft drink or a candy bar. The paleo diet can give you another kind of sugar, the kind that keeps you free of diabetes and slender.

I’m not even talking about the sugar in fruit. The kind I’m discussing is actually made by your own body. And it protects you from getting sick.

Research in France shows that sweet fruits and vegetables like cabbage contain what are called fermentable fiber. The presence of that fiber kick-starts a process in your intestines that produces sugar that gets shunted into your bloodstream, where it protects against diabetes, modulates liver function, keeps you from being hungry and helps trim your waistline.

Physiological Signals

Initially, the fermentable fiber is processed by the probiotic bacteria in the digestive tract to form the compounds propionate and butyrate. These substances lead the intestines to synthesize sugar in the form of glucose and release it into the blood between meals and at night while you are sleeping.

The glucose is sensed by nerves related to the liver and triggers signals sent to the brain. In response, your brain sets off physiological processes that prevent weight gain and protect you against diabetes.

Simultaneously, these nerve impulses put a stop to hunger, increase the calories your body burns while you are resting and tell the liver it doesn’t have to bother producing glucose.

Bonus Benefits

Along with those impressive effects, other scientists have shown fiber in your diet plays a key role in keeping the colon from becoming inflamed and cancer-ridden. (The same researchers have found that niacin, vitamin B3, also keeps colon inflammation under control.)

These studies at the Medical College of Georgia at Georgia Regents University show that when the beneficial bacteria in the gut digest fiber and produce butyrate (a short chain fatty acid) a cell receptor called Gpr109a is also activated.

Activation of Gpr109a on the surface of cells in the colon signals immune cells populating the digestive tract to decrease inflammation. That decreases the chances of developing painful conditions like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. It also limits the possible development of colorectal cancer.

“To protect your colon, you need this receptor, as well as the fiber and butyrate which activate it,” says researcher Vadivel Ganapathy.

After butyrate activates the Gpr109a receptors on what are called dendritic cells and macrophages in the colon, these immune cells start making anti-inflammatory molecules. At the same time, they communicate with T cells, central players in the immune system, to send similar kind of anti-inflammation messages.

Also helpful: Butyrate prompts the epithelial cells lining the colon to produce cytokines, cells that promote wound-healing and help shut down the intestinal inflammation that complicates ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease.

The Way You Look Tonight

But even if you never ever want to hear the word butyrate again or be told about the ins and outs of the immune cells in your intestines, you have to be impressed by the obvious health benefits of the paleo diet with its wealth of fruits and vegetables.

And while you may have already forgotten what cytokines are, once you experience the slenderific effects of the paleo diet, you’ll understand how other eating plans pale beside this healthy way of dining.

The Paleo Drink That Does A Body Great

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

While the foods I eat on the paleo diet have provided me with enormous health benefits, it’s important not to forget that what you drink with your foods is also crucially important for your body’s well-being. I have discovered that one beverage that I imbibe every day has so many remarkable health effects, I have a hard time grasping them all.

During the past 30 years, research into the physiological power of tea means it can help prevent heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Added to that, it has been shown to help you lose weight and keep your weight at a proper level.

As for your brain, tea may also support your attention span, mood and problem-solving abilities.

Tea For Too Many Pounds

Tea contains natural chemicals called polyphenols that, along with caffeine, help your body produce extra energy and oxidize fat. When scientists analyzed a series of studies on tea, they found that tea can help you burn off an extra 100 calories a day. Another review showed that adding green tea to people’s diets and making no other dietary changes helped them lose an average of about three pounds in three months.

A test of tea’s effects on using up body fat showed that it increased fat oxidation by 16 percent.

Cancer Fighters

The polyphenols in tea can also hold off certain cancers. One study showed that supplementing with 600 mg a day with green tea polyphenols called catechins, significantly slowed the growth of prostate cancer.

A long list of studies has shown that the natural substances in various types of tea perform anti-cancer duties when you drink these beverages. They take action against lung cancer, cancers of the digestive tract, skin cancer and breast cancer.

Tea’s natural chemicals perform their anti-cancer magic by being antioxidants, improving the effects of chemotherapy and inhibiting growth factor signaling (actions that would otherwise promote cancer).

A Friend Of The Heart

There is no shortage of studies that also show tea reduces blood pressure, lowers the risk of heart disease, cuts your chances of a heart attack, reduces your risk of a stroke and keeps your cardiovascular system operating normally.

In one study, black tea was found to drop blood pressure, keep fatty meals from driving you toward hypertension and kept the blood in blood vessels flowing more effectively.

“Our studies build on previous work to clearly show that drinking as little as one cup of tea per day supports healthy arterial function and blood pressure. These results suggest that on a population scale, drinking tea could help reduce significantly the incidence of stroke, heart attack and other cardiovascular diseases,” says researcher Claudio Ferri, M.D., who is with the University L’Aquila, Italy.

Better Bones

Tea even improves your bone strength. One experiment discovered that if you drink tea and you are more than 50 years old, you can reduce your chances of a hip fracture by about 30 percent. Another study showed that postmenopausal women taking a green tea extraction of 500 mg a day (about what’s found in 5 cups a day), upped their bone formation, dropped their harmful inflammation and improved their muscle strength.

Tea Fits Your Brain To AT’

If you want a better brain, studies show that tea goes to your head. A study on attention span showed that tea boosts attention and helps you focus on mentally demanding tasks. Researchers have found that tea’s amino acid theanine and caffeine help tea provide intellectual help.

All of this research confirms tea as a dependable paleo drink that helps keep your body in shape.

As noted by Jeffrey Blumberg, a nutrition professor with Tufts, “Humans have been drinking tea for some 5,000 years, dating back to the Paleolithic period. Modern research is providing the proof that there are real health benefits to gain from enjoying this ancient beverage.”

 

The Power Of Music For Health

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

There was one aspect of my childhood that was especially lucky. My parents insisted that I learn how to play a musical instrument at a young age. I think that eventually I would have played an instrument in any case. Music, in my gene pool, seems to be a genetic disease (but a good one).

Still, without my parents early prodding, I might not have started playing music as early I did. And I might not have been as disciplined in my musical endeavors if I hadn’t been trained in elementary school.

My mother had been a professional pianist and music teacher, and she just took it for granted that every kid should learn music. But I’m sure she never considered the health benefits of music.

Variety Show

For just about anyone with a computer, the expansion of the Internet has bestowed unprecedented access to a mind-blowing variety of different types of music. Browsing among selections on websites like YouTube, I sometimes think a dedicated music lover could tune into most of the music written during the past 300 years.

My personal obsession with music extends to playing a number of instruments. Maybe I don’t play any particular instrument that well; but I find that emotionally and physically, playing for a while every day on the guitar or piano just plain makes me feel better.

And research into the effects of music — listening to it and performing it — shows that the activity produces measurable health benefits.

Brain Help

When scientists at the University of Liverpool measured changes in blood flow in people’s brains after taking music lessons, they found that a single lesson, even for just half an hour, shuttles more blood into the left hemisphere of the brain. That suggests that doing music activates the part of the brain that takes part in both music and language.

The probable conclusion: Singing and playing music may improve your language skills.

According to researcher Amy Spray: “The areas of our brain that process music and language are thought to be shared and previous research has suggested that musical training can lead to the increased use of the left hemisphere of the brain.”

Exercise To Music

Other researchers have found that listening to music while you exercise can improve your brain function significantly.

In a study at Ohio State University, scientists decided to see what kind of effect exercise and music would have on patients with heart disease. As researcher Charles Emery notes, “Evidence suggests that exercise improves the cognitive performance of people with coronary artery disease. And listening to music is thought to enhance brain power. We wanted to put the two results together.”

When they had heart patients walk or run on a treadmill, the researchers found that the 33 participants in the study reported improvements in their moods and mental outlook whether they listened to music or not. But their improvement on verbal fluency tests after listening to classical music while exercising was more than double what they could do without music.

“Exercise seems to cause positive changes in the nervous system, and these changes may have a direct effect on cognitive ability,” Emery says. “Listening to music may influence cognitive function through different pathways in the brain. The combination of music and exercise may stimulate and increase cognitive arousal while helping to organize cognitive output.”

Musical Benefits

If you don’t have a lot of music in your life, now’s the time to put this activity to work to boost the health of your body and brain. Even if you just listen and you don’t play, you can benefit.

And it doesn’t hurt to sing along.

Other research indicates that:

  • Musical training keeps your brain younger as you age. A study at Northwestern showed that people who receive early musical training do better on brain tests as they grow older. This benefit persists even if you haven’t played much music since your early years.
  • Listening to your favorite music can lower your blood pressure. Research at New Westminster College in Canada shows that when heart patients listen to music they enjoy, their blood vessels relax and function more efficiently. The music produces measurable improvement in relaxation of vessel walls.
  • Listening to religious music you like can improve your mental health. When scientists from the University of Texas-San Antonio studied older adults who listen to religious music, they found that these seniors enjoy more life satisfaction and less anxiety.

Morning Music

Years ago, when I was still living with my parents, my father used to listen to a news radio station every morning. Talk about irritating. I can still hear the tinny voice on that radio speaker telling everyone within earshot to pay attention to the weather and traffic on the eights.

Nowadays, when I get ready for work in the morning, the news is about the last thing I want to hear. Instead I listen to music. And even if researchers hadn’t confirmed that music fine tunes your health, I’d still have a healthy appetite for a bounty of bouncy tunes.

Paleo Weight Loss Secret

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

Even if the paleo diet per se isn’t the best diet for weight loss, my experience shows that it can mold your approach to food so that weight is easier to take off and keep off. For one thing, if you keep only paleo foods in your house, you create a food environment that helps you avoid the kind of binge eating that endangers your waistline.

Eliminating The Junk

One of the best pieces of advice you can follow when trying to improve your diet and your health is to eliminate most of the non-paleo junk foods you have in the house. If they’re not available in your cupboard and not at hand on your counter, you face less temptation to indulge in them in weak moments.

If you’re sitting at home bored and cranky, you can face an irresistible urge to snack on the chips or other nutrition-poor food in your cupboards. The stronger the temptation, research on snacking shows, the more likely you are to eat badly.

It’s a pretty simple concept: If junk foods are not in the house, you are less likely to indulge.

Fighting Hunger

If you want to keep snacks in the house, you should keep healthy snacks (fruits, vegetables, nuts) around to keep yourself from getting too hungry.

Ironically, when you keep mostly healthy food in your house, according to researchers, it doesn’t make you long for the days of junk food. Instead, the presence of healthier items makes you feel better about your healthy choices.

Studies at the University of Leeds, in England, shows that seeing, smelling and eating healthy food can help you make better eating choices and, if you’re trying to lose weight, you’ll eat less food as well. But if you have tempting treats in the house, like cookies, cake and chips, it becomes more difficult keeping them out of your mouth.

The Leeds researchers note that the healthy foods that people associate with healthier diets, like salads and fruit, can remind you of your long-term health goals and help buttress your self-control.

In one of their studies, these scientists asked women to smell fresh oranges or smell chocolate and then write about the memories awakened by these odors.

The scientists found that women who were dieting to lose weight ate 60 percent less chocolate after smelling fresh oranges compared to when the smell of chocolate was in the air. On the other hand, people who weren’t on special diets ate about the same amount no matter what they smelled before eating.

The researchers found that merely seeing pictures of healthy food helped folks make better eating choices.

And when they performed a study of what happened when people ate healthier foods, they found that dieters didn’t binge and better resisted the temptation to eat junk foods and sweets.

As the Leeds researchers note, “When tempted by food, dieters should take a few moments to focus on the sensory properties of healthy food, such as the sight and smell of fruit or salad vegetables. Such healthy food cues can provide an instant reminder to dieters to regulate their intake.”

According to researcher Nicola Buckland: “Increasing the presence of healthy foods in places where overeating is most likely to happen, such as the fridge, kitchen cupboards and on the desk at work, may help remind dieters to limit their food intake.”

Beware The Booze

Unfortunately, alcoholic beverages represent another serious threat to healthier eating habits. Although moderate drinking is good for your health (as long as you have no more than a drink or two a few times a week), research at the University of Birmingham in the United Kingdom shows that the biggest threats to a healthy diet includes late-night food cravings, the temptation of alcohol indulgence and friends who have unhealthy food habits.

In this study of 80 people who were dieting, the researchers found that temptations to go off their diets led to binges about 50 percent of the time.

The study found that dieters are most likely to go off their diet because of an alcohol habit. Their willpower is also weakened when others are present.

So do yourself a favor. Make your home a haven for eating healthy foods. The long-term benefits are visible just behind your belt.

Your Heart Wants The Right Fat

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

Decades ago, health experts began to recommend that if you wanted to be healthy, your best bet would be to eat a low-fat diet. That advice was so wrongheaded it boggles the mind.

In fact, a low-fat diet is often a disaster for your health. What you need to do instead is eat a diet filled with healthy fats.

The Importance Of Fats

Even a brief consideration of the importance of fat in your body demonstrates why cutting back on dietary fat is almost always a bad idea. Every cell membrane you own contains fat. Your brain is mostly made of fat. If you cut back on fat and substitute carbohydrates like starch and sugars, your body suffers.

Even though the experts originally claimed that their advice to cut back on fat was part of an effort to promote better heart health, research into the effects of eating a low-fat diet shows that it endangers your cardiovascular wellness, it doesn’t protect it.

Eat Whole Foods

A study at the University of Arizona College of Medicine and Northwestern clearly shows that taking a whole diet approach to healthy eating, consuming plenty of fruits, vegetables, nuts and fish, is your best bet at improving the health of your heart.

The Arizona scientists point out that while eating a low-fat diet may lower your cholesterol, that doesn’t automatically translate into cardiac health. And when these researchers analyzed large diet and heart studies performed during the past 60 years, they found that focusing on whole foods and not reducing fat had the best results for cardiovascular wellness.

“Nearly all clinical trials in the 1960s, 70s and 80s compared usual diets to those characterized by low total fat, low saturated fat, low dietary cholesterol, and increased polyunsaturated fats,” said researcher James E. Dalen. “These diets did reduce cholesterol levels. However they did not reduce the incidence of myocardial infarction or coronary heart disease deaths.”

The researchers found that their analysis of studies dating from 1957 to the present demonstrated that a whole-food diet perspective, particularly adopting a Mediterranean-style diet, effectively stymies heart disease, even when total cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol don’t drop.

The Mediterranean-style diet is not very high in meat and saturated fat, but is higher in the monounsaturated fats found in nuts and olive oil. This way of eating also includes large amounts of vegetables, fruit, fish, legumes and whole grains.

Better Than Statins

The scientists believe that eating a good, relatively high-fat, Mediterranean diet is better for your heart than taking statins and other drugs that are supposed to protect your cardiovascular system.

“The potency of combining individual cardioprotective foods is substantial — and perhaps even stronger than many of the medications and procedures that have been the focus of modern cardiology,” says researcher Stephen Devries, who is with the Gaples Institute for Integrative Cardiology (Deerfield, IL) and Division of Cardiology, Northwestern University in Chicago. “Results from trials emphasizing dietary fat reduction were a disappointment, prompting subsequent studies incorporating a whole diet approach with a more nuanced recommendation for fat intake.”

The researchers recommend eating olive oil instead of butter or cream while eating the other elements of the Mediterranean diet.

“The last fifty years of epidemiology and clinical trials have established a clear link between diet, atherosclerosis, and cardiovascular events,” Dalen said. “Nutritional interventions have proven that a ‘whole diet’ approach with equal attention to what is consumed as well as what is excluded is more effective in preventing cardiovascular disease than low fat, low cholesterol diets.”

Problems In The ’90s

As for me, when I began to have blocked arteries in the 1990s, I tried to fight my problems with a low-fat diet, just as the experts back then recommended. Fortunately for my heart, I also decided to include fish in my meals as well as plenty of fruits, vegetables and nuts. And since I was never a big fan of processed food (for example, I can’t stand potato chips), my choice of foods probably helped my arteries somewhat.

But it wasn’t until I went on a paleo diet in 2009 that my heart health significantly improved. I stopped eating foods with gluten. I cut out soy, grains, legumes and dairy. The inflammation in my body went way down.

As long as I keep my stress under control and get enough sleep, my blood pressure now stays normal instead of being borderline high, as it had been since I was a teenager.

If only I had known how to structure my diet properly back in the 1990s…

When Food Is The Cure

This article originally appeared on Easy Health Options®.

I originally went on the paleo diet to improve my memory, which was starting to fail miserably. Within a week of changing my meals (no more grains, dairy, soy or legumes), my brain improved significantly.

And after I went on the diet, I realized that several other medical problems I had suffered for years had been linked to my old diet. That’s because the new diet made them either go away entirely or it shrunk them down to a manageable size.

My experience is not unique. Consider the story of Terry Wahls, a doctor who is a clinical professor of medicine at the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine in Iowa City, Iowa. When Wahls began developing multiple sclerosis in 2000, her condition quickly deteriorated.

Within three years, she was starting to wonder if her disease would leave her unable to walk at all.

Wahls notes: “I underwent chemotherapy in an attempt to slow the disease and began using a tilt-recline wheelchair because of weakness in my back muscles. It was clear: eventually I would become bedridden by my disease.”

But after taking the powerful drugs that conventional medicine uses to treat multiple sclerosis, Wahls decided there had to be a better way to deal with her disease.

And she was right.

Her research showed her how to create “a list of nutrients important to brain health and (I) began taking them as supplements.”

Dietary Treatment

But Wahls’ breakthrough moment came when she asked herself, “What if I redesigned my diet so that I was getting those important brain nutrients not from supplements but from the foods I ate? “

That was when she designed what she calls the Wahls Protocol, which is her version of the paleo diet: “I used what I had learned from the medical literature, Functional Medicine, and my knowledge of the Hunter-Gatherer diet — the most nutritious of any diet — to create my new food plan.”

Her new paleo diet improved her condition enough, without drugs, to allow her to return to a normal life. She says: “The results stunned my physician, my family, and me: within a year, I was able to walk through the hospital without a cane and even complete an 18-mile bicycle tour.”

10 Steps To Healing

According to Wahls, there are 10 basic steps you can start with to help heal your body and achieve optimal health:

  1. Give up gluten. Don’t eat foods made with wheat, barley or rye.
  2. Eat organic foods. These contain less of the toxins that are often found in supermarket food.
  3. Eat plenty of greens. Green vegetables are filled with nutrients that help the body stay healthy.
  4. Eat vegetables that contain sulfur compounds. These include onions, mushrooms and cabbages.
  5. Eat fruits and vegetables of many different colors. Each pigment represents a different type of antioxidant.
  6. Eat grass fed meat and fish. These contain healthier fats than conventional meats.
  7. Eat seaweed a few times a month. Seaweed contains iodine for your thyroid and other crucial nutrients.
  8. Eat organ meats a few times a month. These are unique sources of important vitamins.
  9. Meditate to control stress.
  10. Get plenty of exercise. Exercise conveys a wealth of health benefits.

Here’s Wahls’ description of her experience with her change of diet: