Why You Need Plenty of Potassium

Sally Wadyka wrote . . . . . . .

When it comes to ­dietary strategies to control blood pressure, sodium gets all the atten­tion. But too little potassium could be just as important as too much salt.

“When you get enough potassium, it helps your body excrete sodium,” says Angie ­Murad, R.D., a nutritionist at the Mayo Clinic Healthy Living Program. “That eases tension in the blood vessel walls, which can help lower blood pressure.”

The mineral also helps blood vessels ­relax inde­pen­dent of the role it plays in sodium balance.

How Much Potassium Do You Need?

The recommended daily dose of potassium is 4,700 mg. But according to a study in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, less than 2 percent of Americans consume that much. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee highlighted the lack of potassium in our diets by designating it a “shortfall nutrient.”

So should you take potassium supplements? Not unless your doctor tells you to. A very high intake of the mineral—which is easier to get with supplements than with food—may limit the kidney’s ability to eliminate potassium, and that can lead to abnormal heart rhythms. The elderly as well as people with kidney disease or type 2 diabetes, and those who take certain medications (such as ACE inhibitors, beta blockers, and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories) are most at risk. In addition, the type of potassium found in supplements is actually a different form than the kind that naturally occurs in food and may not provide the same benefits.

To help make consumers more aware of their potassium intake, the Food and Drug Administration will require potassium to be listed on Nutrition Facts labels once the new version of the labelgoes into effect. (The FDA recently extended the compliance date but has not set a new date.) Having at least eight servings of fruits and vegetables daily is ideal.

“But if you just ­focus on eating fruits and vegetables with every meal and snacks, you will easily get enough,” ­Murad says.

Below is a list of 22 foods (in descending order of their potassium level) that will help you boost your potassium intake. For more potassium-rich foods, search the USDA’s nutrients list.

Where to Find Potassium

Swiss chard, 1 cup cooked: 961 mg

Acorn squash, 1 cup cubed: 896 mg

Spinach, 1 cup cooked: 839 mg

Baked potato, 1 small w/skin: 738 mg

Lentils, 1 cup cooked: 731 mg

Tempeh, 1 cup: 684 mg

Salmon, 5 ounces: 676 mg

White beans, ½ cup: 502 mg

Yogurt low-fat plain, 1 cup: 531 mg

Sun-dried tomatoes, ¼ cup: 463 mg

Cantaloupe, 1 cup cubed: 427 mg

Banana, 1 medium: 422 mg

Carrots, 1 cup cooked: 367 mg

Crushed canned tomato, ½ cup: 355 mg

Sweet potato, 1 medium w/o skin: 347 mg

Avocado, ½: 345 mg

Raisins, 1 small box (1.5 oz): 322 mg

Quinoa, 1 cup cooked: 318 mg

Pistachios, ¼ cup kernels: 310 mg

Prunes, 4 whole pitted: 278 mg

Oranges, 1 cup slices: 274 mg

Apricots, dried, 6 halves: 244 mg

Source: Consumer Report

Is Sugar From Fruit The Same As Sugar From Candy?

Natalie Jacewicz wrote . . . . . . .

If vegetables are the monarchs of nutritious eating, fruits have always been part of the royal court — not quite as important, but still worthy of respect. But now that nutrition guidelines are cracking down on sugar, some people are questioning fruits’ estimable role in a healthy diet.

One need only go to Twitter to see the confusion. “Pilates instructor started talkin about how fruit has so much sugar and a banana has the same as a Snickers bar,” reads one tweet. Other users come to fruit’s rescue: “Fruit sugar and sugar in processed foods is not the same thing,” one user explains.

Sugar in fruit and added sugar are not the same thing, says Lauri Wright, a nutritionist, public health specialist and spokeswoman for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

“There’s so much confusion,” Wright says. “I think this comes from the idea we’ve had for some time now that all carbs are bad, and that’s not the case. Carbs are required for energy.”

There are lots of kinds of sugar. Fruits have fructose, glucose and a combination of the two called “sucrose,” or “table sugar.” But the sugars in fruit are packed less densely than in a candy bar, according to Elvira Isganaitis, a pediatric endocrinologist at Joslin Diabetes Center and a Harvard Medical School instructor. This difference is important for people with diabetes, a disorder which interferes with regulating sugar in the blood. When people eat something sweet, they usually have a spike in blood sugar levels. Then the spike plateaus and the amount of sugar in the blood eventually drops back to normal. Fruits generally cause a lower spike than sweets, Isganaitis says, making it less dangerous for people with diabetes monitoring their sugar levels.

But even for people without diabetes, sugar in fruit is a healthier option than sugar from other sources, according to nutritionist Wright. A can of soda, for example, has about 40 grams of sugar. “And what else are you getting with that?” Wright asks. “You’re getting no protein, no minerals and no fiber. You get nothing but the sugar and the calories.”

A serving of fruit, by contrast, usually contains no more than 20 grams of sugar, has fiber and has nutrients like vitamin C. As Wright puts it: “You’re getting a lot of bang for your buck.” And fiber and lower sugar amounts can also decrease sugar spikes in blood levels.

That doesn’t mean there aren’t possible pitfalls for fruit freaks. Dried fruits, Wright says, tend to pack more sugar into a bite because they’re so concentrated. She advises people with diabetes in particular to consume dried favorites with caution.

Both Wright and Isganaitis also warn that smoothies can commit sugar sabotage. That goes for juices, too. “I have a little bit of a bee in my bonnet about fruit juices, because they really masquerade as a health food,” says Isganaitis, “but you can get a whopping dose of glucose [and calories].” She advises that people eat whole foods, including fruits, and steer clear of processed foods, especially those sweetened with high-fructose corn syrup, concentrated apple juice, or the like.

Similarly, Wright advises smoothie lovers make smoothies at home and throw in some vegetables.

Wright says she hopes people with diabetes in particular are not frightened off fruit by warnings about added sugar in other types of food. As for herself, Wright frequently eats fruit at her home in Florida: “I live in the Sunshine State, and you may think my favorite is oranges, but actually, we have wonderful blueberries.”

Source: npr

What’s More Nutritious, Orange Juice Or An Orange?

Maria Godoy wrote . . . . . .

We all could probably eat more fruits and vegetables. But if forced to choose between whole fruit or a glass of juice, which one seems more healthful?

The general advice is to opt for the fruit, since juices are stripped of the fiber – which most us don’t get enough of — in whole fruit. And let’s face it: Most juice contains a lot of sugar, which most of us consume too much of.

So our interest was piqued when we spotted a study suggesting that, when it comes to oranges, juice might actually unlock more carotenoids and flavonoids – both beneficial phytonutrients — than an equivalent amount of fruit.

To figure that out, German and Saudi researchers started with a big batch of fresh navel oranges. They analyzed the fruit in three forms: peeled segments, a mashed-up puree and as juice, both fresh-squeezed and pasteurized. They found that levels of vitamin C and carotenoids were basically the same in the juice and the unprocessed fruit, while levels of flavonoids were significantly lower.

But then the scientists threw their orange test foods into in a test tube model designed to mimic digestion, and that’s when things got interesting: Much more of the carotenoids and flavonoids were released from the orange juice than from the fruit slices or mush. The differences were striking: Carotenoid release went up from nearly 11 percent in the fruit to 28 percent in the fresh juice, and up to 39.5 percent in the pasteurized juice. Meanwhile, flavonoids were boosted nearly five-fold in juice compared to fruit.

The findings, which appear in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, are scientifically intriguing. For example, the researchers suspect heat may have something to do with the extra carotenoids released in pasteurized juice.

But that’s no excuse to quit peeling oranges and gulp down a glass of OJ instead.

For starters, the study used a test tube model to mimic digestion, so it doesn’t tell us anything about how well these nutrients could be absorbed in the human body, notes Jeffrey Blumberg, who directs the Antioxidant Research Laboratory at Tufts University.

That said, the new study “is in line with other studies that have found that nutrients in some fruits and vegetables are more bioavailable when the produce is chopped, mashed, juiced or prepared with oils,” Blumberg notes in an email to The Salt.

Indeed, there’s a whole avenue of research that is challenging our understanding of how to unleash the nutrition fixed inside fruits and veggies. For instance, as we’ve reported, we get more beta-carotene from tomatoes when we add a little fat like olive oil, and gently cooking carrots can coax them to release more nutrients. And while cooking broccoli for too long can destroy its antioxidants, chopping it is ideal.

But fruit juice is a different story — especially if you’re buying a typical jug at the store, instead of making it yourself (like they did in the study).

As Wendy White, a professor of food science and nutrition at Iowa State University, notes, drinking fruit juice spikes blood sugar levels more and faster than eating whole fruit, and one Harvard study linked regular juice consumption to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Those downsides of juice far outweigh any boost in carotenoids, says White.

What’s more, store-bought fruit juice has, on average, only a bit less concentrated fructose than sodas. Some researchers believe that fructose is a riskier form of sugar than glucose because it increases the risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and liver disease. And the liquid sugar in juice, White says, leaves your stomach a lot more quickly than a whole orange does, so “juice is less filling.”

There’s also a question of calories: An 8-ounce glass of juice has roughly the same amount of energy as two oranges.

But “the calories you drink somehow don’t register,” says Maret Traber, a professor and researcher at the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University.

We tend to gulp juice down mindlessly, she says. By contrast, “if you eat an orange, you spend the time peeling it, you get the orange smell on your hands. There’s that whole experience of eating an orange. If you have the same amount of juice — that little half-cup — you suck it down, and you didn’t even notice you ate it.”

That said, if you are drinking OJ, choose the kind with pulp, Traber says. That way at least you’re getting some fiber.

Source: npr

7 Health Benefits of Dark Chocolate

1. LOWER BODY MASS INDEX

The frequent consumption of small quantities of dark chocolate is linked to lower BMI, according to a study published in the Journal of Internal Medicine. Chocolate consumption frequency (via a questionnaire) and BMI (weight divided by height in meters squared) were analyzed among 1,018 men and women aged 20 to 85. Mood, activity per 7-day period, fruit and vegetable intake and saturated fat intake were considered and factored into the researchers analysis as well. All in all, the correlation between chocolate consumption and low BMI upheld. The mean age of subjects was 57, of which 68 percent were male, with a BMI of 28 who ate dark chocolate two times per week and exercised about 3.5 times per week.

2. BOOST BRAIN POWER

Have a big meeting, test or dinner with the in-laws? Eating dark chocolate can give your brain a short-term boost—increasing your alertness—for two to three hours, a University of Nottingham study found. Flavanols, one of dark chocolate’s key components, dilates blood vessels, allowing more oxygen and blood to reach key areas of the brain, which can help you soldier against fatigue and the effects of aging. The study participants consumed a flavanol-rich cocoa drink, but you can eat dark chocolate by itself—or any foods high in flavanols like red wine, green tea and blueberries.

3. IMPROVE EYESIGHT

Forget carrots—dark chocolate can improve your eyesight too, according to research published in the journal Physiology & Behavior. The researchers found that participants who consumed dark chocolate with 720 mg of cocoa flavanols experienced enhanced visual performance—like detecting motion and reading low contrast letters—likely due to the increased blood flow to the retina and brain.

4. REDUCE INFLAMMATION

After you scarf dark chocolate down, “good” microbes in your gut feast on it, fermenting it into anti-inflammatory compounds that are good for your heart, according to research presented at the 2014 American Chemical Society meeting. Antioxidants and fiber present in cocoa powder aren’t fully digested until they reach the colon where the compounds are absorbed into the body, lessening inflammation within cardiovascular tissue and reducing long-term risk of stroke.

5. PROTECT YOUR SKIN

Aside from sunscreen, you may want to chow down on dark chocolate every day to protect your skin against harmful UV rays, according to research from the Journal of Cosmetic Dermatology. But not just any old dark chocolate—it needs to be specially produced with preserved high flavanol levels (manufacturing processes destroy the integrity of flavanols).

6. LOWER BLOOD PRESSURE

If you have slightly elevated blood pressure, a bite of dark chocolate a day can improve blood flow and bring blood pressure levels down, according to research from the Journal of the American Medical Association. Cocoa polyphenols helped drop the prevalence of hypertension from 86 percent to 68 percent in participants (44 total) aged 56 through 73 who consumed about 6 grams of dark chocolate (containing 30 mg of polyphenols) per day for 18 weeks.

7. RAISE GOOD CHOLESTEROL (HDL)

Polyphenols in cocoa powder and dark chocolate can favorably—though modestly—reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by lowering bad cholesterol (LDL) and raising the antioxidant capacity of good cholesterol (HDL), according to research published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: msn

Coconut Water: Is It What It’s Cracked Up to Be?

If you’ve read about coconut water — the liquid from an immature (green) coconut — online or in the media, you’d think it was a miracle beverage that could cure you of everything from heart disease to obesity. Here are some popular claims seen in the media and a registered dietitian nutritionist’s take on these claims.

Myth or fact? Coconut water is an ideal post-exercise drink.

The verdict: Myth. You may see gym-goers guzzling coconut water on the treadmill because it contains electrolytes, which you lose when you sweat. But for the average light-to-moderate exerciser, “If you’re consuming enough fluids and eating healthfully the rest of the day, having coconut water after a workout is not going to significantly benefit you any more than hydrating with water,” says Marjorie Nolan Cohn, RDN, who is a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Unflavored coconut water is low in sugar and calories and is not the perfect sports drink. Sports drinks are meant to replace fluids, supply energy and replace sodium and potassium lost through perspiration.

Myth or fact? Coconut water hydrates you better than H2O.

The verdict: Myth. There is no scientific proof that coconut water is more hydrating than regular water, says Nolan Cohn. “There also is a great amount of variability with coconut water electrolyte, vitamin, mineral and sugar content from brand to brand, so you never really know what you are getting,” she says.

Myth or fact? Coconut water has anti-aging properties.

The verdict: Myth. Being well-hydrated does help you look and feel better, says Nolan Cohn, but water works just as well for this. And, as to the online claim that coconut water “significantly increases plant cell proliferation without increasing the number of undesirable mutations” and, therefore, protects your cells — there’s been no research to show that this plant-specific action makes any difference in an actual human being.

Myth or fact? Coconut water is healthier than fruit juice.

The verdict: Fact. Coconut water generally has fewer calories and added sugar than fruit juice, says Nolan Cohn. However, buyer beware as labels can be deceiving. “Be sure to check the calories and sugar content per serving of your coconut water,” she says. “Often, the bottle you buy contains two or more servings which means you’re doubling the calories.”

Myth or fact? Coconut water helps prevent stroke and heart attack.

The verdict: Myth. You may have seen coconut water touted as a heart-healthy beverage. The potassium in coconut water helps counteract the blood pressure-boosting effects of sodium, so, in theory, drinking coconut water could help prevent heart disease. Potassium is an important nutrient, Nolan Cohn points out, but potassium from food sources also has other vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytochemicals that promote a healthy body. “It’s important to make sure your primary source of dietary potassium is from a variety of foods, and not just coconut water.”

Myth or fact? Coconut water speeds your metabolism.

The verdict: Myth. When we’re dehydrated, our metabolism slows down, says Nolan Cohn, so anything you drink will help keep your metabolism speeding along. And anything you eat or drink will give a temporary boost to your metabolism because your body has to digest the food. “Increasing a person’s metabolism is complicated and requires many different nutrition and lifestyle variables such as sleep, overall hydration, meal timing, exercise and food choices,” she says. “Any one food or nutrient will not increase metabolic rate without the support of a healthy lifestyle.”

Source: Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics