The Ideal Diet for Lower Blood Pressure

High blood pressure (aka hypertension) affects 1 in 3 Americans. Medication can help control it, but as with most chronic health conditions, having healthy habits is also important.

“You should always work with your doctor, but lifestyle can play a huge role in managing hypertension at every age,” says Holly Nicastro, Ph.D., M.P.H., program director in the division of cardiovascular sciences at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. That includes not smoking, controlling stress, exercising, and eating the right kinds of foods. In fact, a healthy diet is one of the most powerful tools for lowering your numbers—and may reduce the need for medication.

The DASH Diet

The effect of diet on hypertension has been extensively studied.

“There are many different diets with purported benefits for high blood pressure, but DASH has the strongest base of evidence,” says Stephen Juraschek, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor at the Harvard Medical School who focuses on cardiovascular disease.

DASH, which stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, includes fruits and vegetables (8 to 10 servings a day), whole grains, beans, nuts, low-fat dairy, lean meat (such as poultry and seafood), and healthy fats. It limits red meat, added sugars, and unhealthy fats.

Research published in 2017 in the journal Hypertension found that people who followed DASH saw their blood pressure drop by more than 4 points systolic and 1 point diastolic within a week.

Not only is DASH high in blood-pressure-lowering potassium, magnesium, and fiber but it also supplies plant compounds that may have a direct effect on blood vessels.

Exercise Your Way to Lower Numbers

Diet isn’t the only nondrug strategy for lowering your numbers. A 2017 review of 53 studies involving older adults, in the Journal of the American Society of Hypertension, found that both aerobic exercise and strength training lowered blood pressure by 5 systolic and 3 diastolic points. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends 30 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise (a level where you can maintain a conversation) on most days and targeting your entire body with weights at least twice a week.

A type of training called isometrics has shown the potential for reduc­ing blood pressure. Traditional strength training involves lifting and lowering weights or otherwise moving your joints during a routine. With iso­metrics, you maintain one posi­tion with the muscles contracted—think planks, wall sits, and holding weights in each hand out to your sides. (Isometrics builds muscle but not as effective as strength training does.)

Read the full article at Consumer Reports

A Diet That Is Healthy For You And For The Planet

Here’s a statistic that sticks in the throat: since the advent of agriculture, only 7,000 plant species out of a known 250,000 have been used by humans as food, according to UN biodiversity experts. Today, just 12 crops and five animal species make up 75 percent of global calorie intake.

This is just one factor driving a new movement: sustainable healthy eating. It is a new aspiration in dietary circles for two reasons: unhealthy diets put more people at risk from death and disease than unsafe sex, alcohol, drug and tobacco use combined; and global food production is the biggest single driver of environmental degradation.

“Taken together, the outcome is dire,” noted a 2019 report by the EAT-Lancet Commission, an influential collective of 37 scientists from 16 countries, tasked with examining how the world should feed itself in the future. “A radical transformation of the global food system is urgently needed.”

That is why scientists and policymakers are pressing people to make the “Great Food Transformation” to diets that are both nutritious and which preserve the environment sufficiently to feed future generations.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization defines sustainable diets as those “with low environmental impacts which contribute to food and nutrition security and to a healthy life for present and future generations . . . protective and respectful of biodiversity and ecosystems, culturally acceptable, accessible, economically fair and affordable; nutritionally adequate . . . while optimizing natural and human resources.”

The reference to affordability is key: healthy diets, with the requisite five a day of fruit and veg, can be costly, but the local and seasonal fare is cheaper. The EAT-Lancet Commission scientists spent two years devising the “planetary health diet” and dished up their findings in January.

Apportioning food groups on a daily basis, nuts and legumes far outweigh chicken or fish. A daily glass of milk covers dairy requirements. Interestingly, it is an omnivorous — rather than a vegetarian or vegan — diet.

Corinna Hawkes, director of the Centre for Food Policy at the City University of London, is a commission member. “The healthy diet was based on scientific principles, not sustainability criteria,” she says.

Continue reading at Financial Times

What Is the Snake Diet, and Is It Safe?

People seeking quick fixes to achieve weight loss might be tempted by the Snake Diet.

It promotes prolonged fasts interrupted by a solitary meal. Like most fad diets, it promises quick and drastic results.

This article tells you everything you need to know about the Snake Diet, including its safety and whether it works for weight loss.

What is the Snake Diet?

The Snake Diet promotes itself not as a restrictive diet but rather a lifestyle centered around prolonged fasting.

Founded on the belief that humans historically endured periods of famine, it argues that the human body can sustain itself on just one meal a few times a week.

It was invented by Cole Robinson, who calls himself a fasting coach but has no qualifications or background in medicine, biology, or nutrition.

The diet involves an initial fast of 48 hours — or as long as possible — supplemented with Snake Juice, an electrolyte beverage. After this period, there’s a feeding window of 1–2 hours before the next fast begins.

How to follow the Snake Diet

Though the Snake Diet may superficially resemble intermittent fasting, it’s much more extreme, even reframing a standard meal pattern — breakfast, lunch, and dinner — as a supplementary food.

Robinson sets several rules for the diet on his website but continually revises them via his YouTube channel. What results is a scattered set of guidelines.

Robinson also makes sweeping calorie recommends, claiming that a newcomer to the diet needs no more than 3,500 calories per week.

For context, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends 1,600–2,400 daily calories for women and 2,000–3,000 for men — roughly 11,200–16,800 and 14,000–21,000 calories per week, respectively.

That’s significantly more than Robinson suggests, meaning that people on the Snake Diet run the risk of severe calorie deprivation.

Once you reach your goal weight, Robinson recommends 8,500 calories per week (distributed across 5 meals) for active women and 20,000 calories per week (across 3 total eating days) for active men.

Read the full article at Healthline

Can a Climate Conscious Diet Include Meat or Dairy?

Two new studies are making the case that people in high-income countries need to cut back on livestock-based foods, but they’re also suggesting that one-size-fits-all recommendations won’t work in all cases.

Though each advocates a major transformation in how the world eats and produces food in order to slow climate change—including a shift toward plant-based diets—they also say that consuming meat and dairy products in certain parts of the world, by certain populations, is critical for meeting nutritional goals.

One report explores the economic case for changing current food production and consumption habits, estimating that they cause about $12 trillion a year in damage to the environment, human health and development. If countries invested just half of 1 percent of global GDP in carbon-friendly agriculture, food waste reduction, reforestation and prescribing more plant-focused diets, among other measures, the world could sustainably feed itself and reduce the climate-related damage, the authors found.

In a second report, published Tuesday in the journal Global Environmental Change, researchers at Johns Hopkins University found that modest shifts toward plant-based diets globally could cancel out the increase in greenhouse gas emissions from helping undernourished populations get adequate nutrition, including protein. The number of malnourished people in the world—roughly 820 million—remains stubbornly high.

Their study took nine different plant-focused diets and determined what the carbon impacts of each would be for 140 different countries around the world. The idea, Nachman explained, was to help policymakers in those countries understand how potential dietary shifts might impact nutritional needs and their carbon footprints.

The study comes in the wake of a series of reports, including one from the United Nations, calling for a global shift toward plant-based diets. During the negotiations on that report’s language, some developing countries argued that it was unfair to call for a broad, global reduction in meat consumption when some populations still lack enough protein.

Continue reading at Inside Climate News

Can Your Diet Save The Planet?

Climate change and its impact on our food system is a complicated issue, but here are a few things at the crux of it. Extreme weather can delay the planting of certain crops, thereby shortening the time during which food is grown. Weather patterns can also make pests more difficult to control, and therefore, they destroy more of the food that’s grown. The nutrition quality of food is also at stake, meaning that certain crops may supply reduced amounts of vitamins and minerals.

If the idea of leaving our planet and future generations better off isn’t enough to sway you to make some dietary changes, here are some planet-friendly eating practices that will leave you better off, too.

Rely on more plants for protein

Pulses — the term for plant-based proteins, like beans, lentils, and peas — are an incredibly sustainable source of protein. They require less nitrogen fertilizer compared to other crops, and therefore, have a lower carbon footprint. They also require less water to grow, and many types of pulses can grow in dry environments.

They’re not just good for the planet — they’re good for your body, too. Studies suggest that when people replace some of the meat on their menus for these plant-based powerhouses, it has a positive impact on longevity, reduces the risk of diabetes and heart diseases, promotes a healthier weight, and may cause a healthy shift in your gut bacteria.

Eat less meat

You knew this was coming! Both this report and one released earlier this year, the EAT-Lancet Commission on Food, Planet, Health, suggest that cutting way down on meat consumption is better for the planet (not to mention your own health). No one’s suggesting you become a vegan or vegetarian (though that can be beneficial), but you can make a dramatic impact by beginning to scale back. Beef and lamb are associated with particularly high carbon emissions, so maybe begin your journey there.

The truth is, while you need protein and the nutrients found in beef and other animal products, you don’t need to get them from those foods, and in fact, we’re collectively better off getting them from plant-based sources. Instead of eating an animal-based protein at each meal, try one plant-based protein meal a day or perhaps, try a meatless day each week — maybe on a Monday when you’re more likely to be in tune with your health. In addition to foods from the pulse family, incorporate single-ingredient whole grains (like quinoa, oats, and brown rice) as well as nuts and seeds into menus. The USDA offers many suggestions for mixing up your protein options with more plants.

Continue reading at NBC News

Can You Really Lose Weight on the Coffee Diet?

If you still think that coffee is bad for you—that it’ll hurt your heart, give you diabetes, and beat up your grandma—it’s time to update your thinking.

Yes, many scientists in the 1970s and 1980s feared that coffee could cause health problems, but that was before the research community came to a deeper, richer understanding about antioxidants—compounds that can prevent or delay cell damage.

Brewed black coffee is chock full of antioxidants, and its studied benefits go far beyond disease prevention. Coffee may enhance awareness, prevent kidney stones, improve memory, turbocharge your workout, boost your mood, and even block gum inflammation and thereby decrease your risk of tooth loss.

Okay, but does the Coffee Diet actually work?

First off, when it comes to diets, “work” is a tricky word.

Maybe your friend goes on the Coffee Diet and they lose 20 pounds and they feel amazing and they won’t shut up about the plan.

But though the Coffee Diet has worked for your friend and Dr. Bob, their experiences are anecdotal. In order for a diet to “work,” scientists have to conduct double-blind placebo-controlled dietary intervention studies, which is a phrase that is almost guaranteed to put you to sleep, but it’s the only type of study science has to determine the effectiveness of a diet plan.

And, guess what? Most diets fail those dietary intervention studies or are so new that they don’t have any scientific research behind them.

Get this: A 2017 study reviewed the results of 25 weight loss programs and found that “commercial weight-loss programs frequently fail to produce modest but clinically meaningful weight loss with high rates of attrition suggesting that many consumers find dietary changes required by these programs unsustainable.”

Drinking three cups of coffee daily isn’t a chore, but sticking to a calorie limit of 1,500? Now that’s difficult, especially considering that the USDA currently recommends double that for the average active 19 to 35-year-old male (it’s 2,800 calories for men ages 36 to 55).

Read more on Men’s Health

Korean Weight Loss Diet Review: Does the K-Pop Diet Work?

The Korean Weight Loss Diet, also known as the K-pop Diet, is a whole-foods-based diet inspired by traditional Korean cuisine and popular among Easterners and Westerners alike.

It’s promoted as an effective way to lose weight and look like the stars of K-pop, a popular music genre originating from South Korea.

What is the Korean Weight Loss Diet?

The Korean Weight Loss Diet is inspired by traditional Korean cuisine.

It primarily relies on the whole, minimally-processed foods and minimizes the intake of processed, fat-rich, or sugary foods.

The diet promises to help you lose weight and keep it off by modifying your diet and exercise habits, all without giving up your favorite foods. It also pledges to help clear up your skin and optimize your long-term health.

In addition to its focus on nutrition, the Korean Weight Loss Diet puts an equally strong emphasis on exercise and even provides specific K-pop workouts.

How to follow the Korean Weight Loss Diet

The Korean Weight Loss Diet is based around an eating pattern that mostly comprises traditional Korean meals.

It promotes eating whole, minimally-processed foods while limiting your intake of overly processed ones. It also recommends avoiding foods containing wheat, dairy, refined sugars, and excess fat.

Can it help you lose weight?

The Korean Weight Loss Diet likely aids weight loss for several reasons.

First, traditional Korean meals are naturally rich in vegetables, which contain a lot of fiber. Fiber-rich diets can help you lose weight by reducing hunger and cravings while promoting feelings of fullness.

Additionally, this diet limits snacking, fatty foods, and those containing added sugars, wheat, or dairy, further reducing your overall calorie intake. It also encourages regular exercise, which helps boost the number of calories you burn.

Finally, you’re encouraged to reduce your portion sizes by gradually eating less until you find the quantity of food that allows you to lose weight while still feeling full and satisfied.

Read the full article at Healthline

Plant-Based Diets Good For The Heart? Here Is More Evidence

Plants may be good for your heart. Not political plants, which can be bad if you are the victim of such a scheme, but fruits and vegetables in your diet. An analysis just published in the Journal of the American Heart Association did “produce” more evidence that plant-based diets are associated with a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease.

Lettuce takes a closer look at this latest analysis conducted by a team that included Hyunju Kim, Laura E. Caulfield, Vanessa Garcia‐Larsen, Josef Coresh, and Casey M. Rebholz from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) and Lyn M. Steffen from the University of Minnesota School of Public Health. They analyzed a salad of data on 12,168 men and women who had participated in the Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities (ARIC) study. Each study participant had been in the 45 to 64 years age range when first enrolled in the study (1987-1989) and was from one of four US communities: Washington County, MD, Forsyth County, NC, Minneapolis, MN, or Jackson, MS. The participants had multiple follow-up visits after being enrolled and were followed as late as 2017.

Since the ARIC study had not specifically asked if participants had followed a “plant‐based diet,” the research team led by Rebholz, an Assistant Professor of Epidemiology at the JHSPH, used the answers from the food and beverage frequency questionnaire to calculate several different measures of plant-based diets. These measures included the overall plant‐based diet index (PDI), the healthy plant‐based diet index (hPDI), the less healthy (unhealthy) plant‐based diet index (uPDI), and the pro-vegetarian diet index.

Calculating several different indices helped get a better sense of how healthy the plants being consumed were. After all, not all plant-based foods are healthy. French fries and ketchup ain’t quite the same thing as kale. For each of these indices, a lower score meant more animal-based food in the diet. A higher score meant that the person consumed more plants.

Furthermore, the analysis couldn’t separate out everything else that the participants may have been doing to affect their cardiovascular risk. For example, people who eat more plant-based diets could also be paying closer attention to their health and the healthiness of their diets in general such as consuming less salt, added sugar, and processed foods. It may be a stereotype, but the all-buffalo wing diet guy may not be the most likely person to watch his sodium intake or the amount of time that he spends on the couch.

Read more at Forbes

Can ‘Hormone Diets’ Help You Lose Weight Fast?

Search for “hormone diet” and there are more than 30 recent diet books on the topic. The authors allege that the reason people over 35 struggle to lose weight doesn’t have to do with eating too much or not exercising enough. They say it’s your hormones working against you.

According to these books, you can “trick your metabolism” and “feed your thyroid”. They claim that all you need to do is eat the right foods and take the right supplements, and you’ll unlock the secret to lasting weight loss.

But is there any evidence these diets work?

The 20/30 Fast Track Hormone Weight Loss Plan isn’t a book; it’s a pricey program. It’s sold at weight-loss centers across the United States and Canada and is led by “wellness experts” who take the company’s private training but have no other credentials.

This program claims to promote rapid weight loss – 20 pounds (9kg) in 30 days – by affecting seven different hormones that make it “impossible for you to lose weight”, such as insulin, which moves sugar from your blood into your cells; cortisol, the “stress hormone”; sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen; and thyroid hormones.

The diet bans the usual suspects: sugar and sweetened foods and beverages, along with all grains, potatoes, and sweet potatoes, beans and lentils, milk, and most fruit. This program also requires the purchase of “homeopathic drops” that come with no evidence supporting their efficacy or safety.

Why is the hormone story such a complicated one? Hormones are chemical messengers that coordinate or control processes throughout your body. There are at least 60 different hormones in humans, and we’re only beginning to understand how what we eat affects them.

Suneil Koliwad is an associate professor of endocrinology in the University of California at San Francisco Diabetes Center. “It’s premature at this point to think anyone knows exactly what components of the diet are needed to manipulate a variety of hormones across the board in specific ways,” he says. “Those studies haven’t been done yet.”

So diets that claim to help you “hack your hormones” for weight loss don’t have the evidence to back it up.

Plus, a healthy rate of weight loss, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, is one to two pounds per week, which would be four to eight pounds per month. Diets that promise faster weight loss aren’t promoting healthy, sustainable changes and often lead to weight regain. Also, yo-yo dieting is hard on your heart – and self-esteem.

Continue reading at Financial Review

Can the Coffee Diet Really Help With Weight Loss—and Is It Safe?

Now, coffee has become the central component of a weight loss plan some refer to as “the coffee diet.”

What is the coffee diet, exactly?

The plan, based on the 2017 book The Coffee Lover’s Diet by medical doctor Bob Arnot, involves drinking a minimum of three cups of light roast coffee daily, due to its higher polyphenol antioxidant content. (Coffee polyphenols are linked to a reduced risk of a number of diseases, including type 2 diabetes and certain cancers.) In fact, you can have as much coffee as you’d like, either decaf or regular, as long as you hit the three-cup minimum.

Dr. Arnot includes a good deal of research in the book about coffee’s ability to curb appetite, reduce fat absorption, boost metabolism, improve circulation, and burn fat. (Some of the benefits Dr. Arnot promotes are linked to caffeine, while others are true for regular or decaf coffee.) He advises skipping the sugar, cream, and milk, however, especially since the latter reduces polyphenol absorption.

Can the coffee diet promote weight loss?

So is coffee really the solution to shedding pounds and keeping them off? Due to the aforementioned benefits, which are research-backed, it may help. Yet keep in mind a few important points.

First, sipping java throughout the day without regard to the rest of your diet will probably not yield results. Simply displacing healthy meals and snacks with black coffee can become a form of restriction that deprives your body of nutrients, plus zaps your mental and physical energy. In other words, it’s not just the coffee itself but the balance of your overall eating pattern that’s key to weight loss.

Bottom line: Coffee is good for you, especially without the add-ins. But it’s not a magic bullet, and too much can lead to unwanted side effects. If you’re a coffee-lover, enjoy it in a healthy balance. But if you’re trying to lose weight, remain focused on the bigger picture. Eating clean, being active, getting enough sleep, and managing stress are still the pillars of healthy, sustainable weight loss.