A new comprehensive study of whole grains and fiber is highlighting their role in preventing chronic disease. The article published in The Lancet compiled information from over 240 high-quality studies to reveal the big-picture message that high fiber intake can make a massive impact on your long term health:
- People who consumed the most fiber had 15-30% lower odds of developing Type 2 Diabetes, colorectal cancer, or cardiovascular disease compared to those who ate very little fiber
- High fiber intake was also tied to lower body weights, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure, which are all risk factors for cardiovascular disease (as well as components of metabolic syndrome)
- Consuming 25-29 grams of fiber daily seems to be the target range for protective effects
- High intake of whole grains had similar findings: the more you eat, the lower your risk of developing these chronic diseases
- The study did look into high or low glycemic index but little to no relationship between glycemic score and risk reduction
Carbohydrates tend to get such a bad rep when people talk about healthy diets, but it’s what we do to carbohydrates in our our food system that causes an issue: we overprocess everything. With carbohydrates, the food industry strips away a lot of the fiber and nutrients that inherently make carbohydrates nutritious; we strip grains down to make white flour, press the sweet juice out of fruit and discard the rest, and add refined sugars to everything.
This study proves that actively choosing whole grain, high-fiber foods is worth the effort, though! On a physiological level, this makes sense to me as a nutrition scientist. Complex carbohydrates and fibers in your food serve a lot of purposes that add up to health benefits:
- Add bulk to your food so you eat large volumes but fewer calories
- Slow down digestive transit time to keep you full longer
- Breakdown and get absorbed more slowly, leading to less dramatic blood sugar spikes
- Bind to cholesterol in your gastrointestinal tract and eliminate it
- May resist breakdown altogether and wind up feeding the good bacteria in your colon
Here are the swaps you need to know to follow a higher fiber diet:
- Eat More Vegetables: Broccoli, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, spinach, artichokes, sweet potatoes, collard greens, beets, carrots, zucchini, radishes, squash, tomatoes, parsnips, celery, onions, peppers…
- Eat More Whole Fruits: Berries, apples, pears, oranges, plums, dried figs, apricots, peaches, pineapple, kiwi, bananas, avocado (technically a fruit!)
- Eat More Legumes and Beans: Green peas, chickpeas, pinto beans, black beans, lentils, lima beans, kidney beans, fava beans, soybeans
- Eat More Nuts and Seeds: Walnuts, pistachios, almonds, pecans, chia seeds, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds
- Eat More Whole Grains: Oats, brown rice, quinoa, barley, corn, farro, whole grain cereals, whole grain crackers, whole grain breads, whole grain pastas (note- for any processed whole grain products, look for 100% whole grains at the top of the ingredient list)
- Eat Fewer Processed Carbohydrates: Fruit juices, candies, chips, snacks and foods made from refined white flour, sugary drinks
Adding fiber to your daily meal plan is a fantastic way to improve not only the overall quality of your diet but also control your blood sugar response to carbohydrates, which is a must-do for anyone with diabetes, insulin resistance, PCOS, or metabolic syndrome. The USDA recommends that adult women aim for about 25 grams of fiber daily (21 once over age 50) and that men consume 38 grams daily (30 grams over age 50). If you focus on swapping out refined carbohydrates for the more complex, high-fiber choices listed above, you can hit that target day after day.
A new article in the journal Ophthalmology examined the diets and health outcomes of almost 5,000 participants who recorded their eating habits and wellness outcomes over several years. After analyzing the group’s food frequency questionnaires (which help paint a picture of what foods people tend to eat frequently or avoid), the researchers found that those following a Mediterranean-style diet had a 41% lower chance of developing macular degeneration.
The most interesting finding that that no single element of the Mediterranean diet correlated strongly to risk of macular degeneration, which implies that the protection came from the diet as a whole rather than any one portion. The Mediterranean diet is rich in fruits and vegetables, high in fiber with whole grains and legume consumption, and full of healthy unsaturated fats from plant oils, nuts, and fatty fish, while meat can be consumed in small amounts. These elements combine to help fuel your body and protect you from cellular damage. Adhering to this diet has been linked to cardiovascular health and lower risk of cancer, as well. To learn more about the components of a Mediterranean diet, check out these sources:
Bonus reading: Visit this summary from The Olive Oil Times to see The Peoples Plate featured as a nutrition professional commentator on the study’s findings!
A new study found in Frontiers in Endocrinology links early morning behavior with lower BMI and lower risk of Type II DM.
Participants with pre-diabetes were given a score on something called the Composite Scale of Morningness, which was a number representing how early the like to wake up, go to sleep, and go about their day (physical and mental activity). ‘Morningness,’ or the tendency to do everything earlier than most, was linked to lower BMI, as was longer sleep duration. The findings were strongest for those 60 and older.
Would you shift your schedule for health benefits?
To read the original article, visit the text online here.
A new study published in The Lancet addresses one of the most pressing questions in the history of human nutrition: Are carbs okay to eat, and if so, how much can I have?!
Carbohydrates get a bad name in popular nutrition media, partly because so many of our favorite junk foods are high in processed grains and refined sugars (ice cream, cookies, white bread, donuts, chocolate, chips…) along with the inherent nature of carbohydrates to be relatively fast-fuel for our bodies — though they’re often turned to fat because we simply don’t burn them as fast as we eat them. On the other hand, whole grains, fresh fruit, corn, peas, milk, and yogurt are all wonderful foods that are also packed with carbs. This brings us back to our burning question: can I eat carbs or not?
The study published this month explored longevity for people following low-carb or high-carb diets in comparison to moderate-carb diets where about 50-55% of calories come from carbohydrate. For a frame of reference, the currently recommended carbohydrate intake range is 45-65%, so the moderate levels falls nicely in line with this. Those who did follow the moderate-carb diets had the lowest risk of mortality compared to those who ate <40% or >70% of their calories from carbs.
This study hit all of the golden points for quality research: there was a large pool of participants (over 15,000 adults) who were followed for a long period of time (median of 25 years). Most importantly, the researchers dove a bit deeper into why a low-carb diet may be just as dangerous as a high-carb one. When people cut out carbohydrates, something else must take its place so protein and/or fat intake increases to make up the difference. These can either come from animal sources (meat, dairy) or plant sources (nuts, seeds, whole grains). The researchers explored these two options and found that those who eat more animal-sourced protein and fats have higher mortality risks than those who choose plant-based proteins and fats instead, indicating that a plant-based diet may have protective factors.
The original article has been published as Open Access, meaning that anyone can read it – so check it out here!
Many people try to lose weight to feel a bit better, move more easily, and maybe fit into that smaller pair of pants– but did you know that extra weight is also tied to about 20% of all cancers?
Because it’s difficult to control lifestyle factors at a major level, most studies linking weight to cancer are Observational in nature– meaning that we can look at what is happening in a population without actually controlling any variables. This data can be less reliable but, when many studies are viewed as a group, can indicate strong relationships. A study from The British Medical Journal evaluated over 200 observational studies and found a link between obesity, waist circumference, and weight gain and several cancers, with the strongest evidence linking obesity to esophageal, pancreatic, liver/gallbladder, colorectal, and kidney cancers — all related to the GI tract– as well as bone marrow and endometrial cancers.
The mechanism underlying the causation is unknown, though National Cancer Institute believes that a few key factors may contribute to the relationship:
- Inflammation: Obesity is generally accompanied by chronic inflammation, which is repeatedly linked to cellular dysfunction and cancer development.
- Hormones: Fat cells tend to excrete more estrogen than other cells, which may increase risks of hormone-sensitive cancers like breast or ovarian.
- Insulin: High body weight generally leads to higher insulin levels in the body, which may increase risk of colon, cancer, and endometrial cancers.
According to the American Cancer Society, the best advice for a cancer-free life is to stay lean without being underweight, meaning that a BMI between 18.5 and 25 (which is considered ‘normal’) is a good reference range. Even losing a small percentage of body weight can help lower health-related risks.
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Coffee drinkers, rejoice! A new study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine linked coffee consumption with longer lifespan, confirming what we coffee-lovers had always known to be true: those beans are magic.
The study followed more than 185,000 adults for up to 20 years and found that coffee drinkers were less likely die than their non-caffeinated counterparts, and these findings held true for several ethnic subgroups (white, Latino, Japanese American, and African American). Those who drank one cup per day were 12% less likely to have died during the study period, while those who drank more were actually 18% less likely- indicating that the coffee may have strong protective health effects.
A similar study also published this month examined this possible connection in over 520,000 Europeans. The researchers also found that participants who drank the most coffee were 7-12% less likely to die during the study, as well as decreased risk of death specifically from circulatory diseases and stroke among the women in the study (though there was also a connection between coffee consumption and ovarian cancer mortality).
The overall verdict: Whether it’s the caffeine, the polyphenols, or the sheer joy that comes from sipping your favorite brew, it appears that enjoying your daily coffee may help add a few more years to your life.