Food as Medicine: Avocados to Zuchinni

PBRCCathyFad diets come and go, Pennington Biomedical Research Center dietitian Cathy Carmichael told a group gathered here to learn more about nutrition, but eating healthy is all about developing a pattern you can stick with. And key to that pattern is getting nutrients from food instead of vitamins or supplements. “Stick to whole foods and not processed or refined meals,” Carmichael said.

It’s important to be informed about which foods contain certain vitamins and minerals – and also to read labels to know what trade-offs come are made when foods are altered or processed. For example, oils used in salad dressings are often a good source of Vitamin E, Carmichael said. But “low-fat” salad dressings contain almost no vitamin E, so you lose the nutrients with the fat content.

PBRCdemo2Eating patterns also have to be sustainable to help a person become healthier. For example, Carmichael pointed out that broccoli does contain calcium. But a person would need 10 cups of broccoli a day to get as much calcium as they can get from 1 cup of milk. She also noted that a bag of whole wheat pasta has the same amount of carbohydrates as a bag of regular pasta, which won’t help a person trying to watch carbs. Whole wheat pasta does have more fiber content, which will slow digestion and possibly deliver other health benefits, however.

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Other PBRC nutrition tips:

  • Blueberries and strawberries are good for brain health. And though working a crossword puzzle is good for staving off dementia, walking is even better for maintaining cognitive function.
  • Look for infused grains to get the daily recommended allowance of folic acid.
  • Most salts are fortified with iodine, which helps make thyroid hormones in the body, but it’s worth checking labels to be sure you’re getting it. Iodine is also found in seafood.
  • Iron is essential to good health, and can be found in dried fruits, red meats, dark poultry, and fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps iron to be absorbed by the body, so including Vitamin C foods (think bell peppers, kiwi, dark leafy greens, citrus fruits, tomatoes, peas, and papaya).
  • Potassium helps to regulate the heart, but most people turn only to bananas for the nutrient. Try oranges, beans, and leafy veggies also to get what you need.
  • Fish and walnuts are both sources of important Omega 3s, but fish has more of the fatty acids.
  • Antioxidants, found in many fruits and vegetables, prevent or delay cell damage – the development of cancer. A few standouts, according to NutritionAction.com? Sweet potatoes, mangoes, broccoli, garbanzo beans, watermelon, butternut squash, and leafy greens.

PBRCtrufflesPennington employees in the Metabolic Test Kitchen demonstrated a no-cook recipe for Chocolate Avocado Truffles to create a tasty yet healthy snack with wholesome ingredients and then served  samples of the sweet treats to the crowd. Click here for the recipe.

To see more recipes or learn more about ongoing nutrition studies at Pennington Biomedical Research Center, visit them at www.pbrc.edu.

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