Kiwi Fruit: The Chinese Gooseberry

Kiwi Fruit
Kiwi Fruit

The kiwi or kiwifruit is one of nature’s perfect foods: low in calories and an excellent source of antioxidants, and people are attracted to it because of its brilliant green color and exotic taste.  While many fruits offer one or two nutrients in their profile, kiwi offers an unusual array of health-promoting substances.

Kiwi is native to China.  Cultivation spread from China in the early 20th century to New Zealand, where the first commercial plantings occurred.  It is now a commercial crop in several countries, such as Italy, New Zealand, France, Greece, and Chile.

Kiwi Fast Facts

  • Extremely rich in vitamin C.
  • Contains folate, potassium, fiber, and various antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols.
  • Is an unusual source of vitamin E because most sources of this important vitamin, like nuts and oils, are high in both fat and calories.  However kiwi offers its rich nutritional bounty for only about 93 calories per two kiwis.

Reasons to Eat Kiwis

1. Vitamin C

A kiwi contains a rich bounty of vitamin C (70 mg for one kiwi).  That is more than an equivalent amount of orange.  Vitamin C is proven to boost the immune system and fight the effects of stress and aging.  It is no wonder that a high consumption of foods containing this vitamin is associated with reduced risk of cancer and cardiovascular disease.

2. Fiber

Two kiwis contain 5 g of fiber, which helps maintain heart health, regular digestion, and lower cholesterol.

3. Potassium

A kiwi contains 237 mg of potassium.  Potassium helps lower blood pressure, maintain fluid and electrolyte balance, and  release energy during exercise.  The potassium in kiwifruit also counteracts the effects of sodium and is a vasodilator, relaxing the blood vessels throughout the body.

4. Antioxidants

Kiwis are an excellent source of antioxidants like carotenoids and polyphenols which are important in reducing your risk of cancer, heart disease, and stroke.

5. Low Glycemic Index

Kiwis have a glycemic index of 52, which is relatively low.  This means that kiwis should not cause major blood sugar spikes.

6. Magnesium

A kiwi  contains 13 mg of magnesium, which improves nerve and muscle function while boosting your energy level.  Magnesium is also important in lowering blood pressure.

7. Lutein

Kiwis contain the phytochemical lutein, which works to prevent age-related blindness and protects the eyes from various kinds of damage.

8. Folate

A kiwi has 20 micrograms of folate.  That is nearly 10% of the recommended daily allowance.  Therefore kiwis are a good way to protect the health of mother and baby during pregnancy.

9. Vitamin K

Kiwi’s substantial supply of vitamin K (31 micrograms in one kiwi) is needed in your body for healthy arteries.  Vitamin K is also needed to use calcium to make bones.  Studies suggest that diets high in Vitamin K can improve bone health and reduce risk of bone-related injuries and diseases like osteoporosis.

10. Vitamin E

Kiwis are one of just a handful of fat-free foods that contain vitamin E, which boost immunity, lower cholesterol, and fight free radicals.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Conventionally grown kiwis are low in pesticides: Kiwis are one of the fruits with low pesticide residue.  They are included in the list of commonly eaten fruits and vegetables known as the “clean 15.”  Therefore it is not necessary to buy organically grown varieties.  Also, always wash fruit before eating.
  • Eat fresh and in salads: Kiwis are great eaten fresh or tossed into green salads.
  • Use as a topping: Kiwis can be added to oatmeal, cereal and yogurt.
  • Cook them: Kiwis can be used in baked foods like cobblers and fruit tarts.
  • Chutney: Mix sliced kiwis and other fruits (like orange and pineapple) to make chutney, which can be served as an accompaniment to fish or chicken.
  • A balanced diet is best: While kiwis are healthy, it is best to include other fruits to meet your daily fruit quota.  So in addition to kiwis, also eat the colors of the rainbow (blue, purple, red, yellow, green, orange) for better total health.

Why Blueberries Are So Amazing


Blueberries are a very popular and tasty fruit.  Although blueberries are native to North America, they are grown commercially in the Americas and Europe.  They are low in calories and incredibly healthy.  Often referred to as a superfood, blueberries are an excellent source of several vitamins, minerals, beneficial plant compounds, and antioxidants.

Blueberries have a pleasant, sweet taste and are available fresh, frozen, juiced, and dried.  They can be used in a variety of baked goods, jams, jellies, and for flavorings.

The two most common varieties of blueberries are highbush and lowbush blueberries.  Highbush blueberries are also called cultivated blueberries and are the most commonly grown species in the US.  They are cultivated on farms where they grow on bushes that usually peak around 6 feet high.  The blueberries are harvested by hand and also by machine.

Lowbush blueberries are also called wild blueberries.  They are not cultivated, but grow in the harsh northern climate of Maine and Canada.  The harsh climate, and what it takes to survive in it, gives wild blueberries a higher level of antioxidants than cultivated blueberries.

Blueberries range in color from blue to purple.

Reasons to Eat Blueberries

1. Blueberries are nutritious

A half-cup serving of blueberries contains 2 grams of dietary fiber and 25 percent of the recommended daily value of vitamin C, and only 40 calories.  Much of the power of blueberries lies in their colors.  The deep blue hue comes from anthocyanins, antioxidants that could help protect the body from cardiovascular disease and cancer, as well as increase immune function.

2. Blueberries keep your brain sharp

A 2012 study by Harvard researchers found that a high intake of blueberries and strawberries, over time, could delay memory decline in older women by two and a half years.  The researchers observed a modest reduction in memory decline among women who consumed two half-cup servings or more of blueberries and strawberries a week.

3. Blueberries fight cancer

Research done by Rutgers University show that Pterostilbene, a major component of blueberries, protects against colon cancer.  Blueberry extract has also been found to inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells and decrease enzymes associated with cancer spreading.

4. Blueberries lower blood pressure

Blueberries are an excellent source of anthocyanins which seem to lower blood pressure and make blood vessels dilate.  A 2011 study showed that eating just one cup of blueberries or strawberries a week can lower your risk of developing high blood pressure.  Over 100,00 men and women participated in the 14-year study.  The researchers found that those who consumed the most anthocyanins from blueberries and strawberries  had an 8% reduction in their risk of developing high blood pressure.  They concluded that the anthocyanins lower blood pressure by dilating the blood vessels.

5. Blueberries protect the heart

A study published in 2013 by Harvard School of Public Health showed that women who consumed three servings a week of blueberries or strawberries were 34% less likely to suffer a heart attack than women who ate the least of these fruits.  Although the 18-year study focused on young and middle-age women, the findings likely apply to everyone, including men.

6. Blueberries aid weight loss

Blueberries are a juicy fruit, which means they contain mostly water.  Juicy fruits are great for weight loss or weight maintenance, because they fill you up quickly with their high water content and minimal calories.

7. Blueberries improve blood sugar

Blueberries have a glycemic index of 53, which is relatively low.  This means that blueberries should not cause major blood sugar spikes.

8. Blueberries protect against Parkinson’s Disease

A 2011 study by the Harvard School of Public Health concluded that men and women who regularly eat berries may reduce their risk of developing Parkinson’s disease.  The researchers believe that the high flavonoid content in berries help ward off the disease.  Study participants who consumed the most flavonoids were 40% less likely to develop Parkinson’s.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Buy organic when possible: Because blueberries are vulnerable to worms and other insects, the conventionally grown varieties are heavily sprayed with pesticides.  Therefore it is best to buy organically grown varieties.  Also, always wash fruit before eating.
  • Eat fresh and in salads: Blueberries are great eaten fresh or tossed into green salads.
  • Use as a topping: Blueberries can be added to oatmeal, cereal and yogurt.  To prolong the shelf life, it is best to keep them refrigerated.
  • Cook them: Blueberries can be baked for added sweetness and nutrition.  They can also be made into jam and jelly.
  • Freeze them: You can buy frozen blueberries, or you can freeze fresh ones yourself.  During the summer months when blueberries are plentiful, you can buy them in large quantities on sale and freeze them.  Just wash and dry the berries, lay them on a pan and freeze until they are solid.  Package the frozen berries in freezer-safe storage bags, so they are ready for the winter months.
  • Try other berries: If you don’t like blueberries or can’t find them, other berries like strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are a tasty alternative.
  • A balanced diet is best: While blueberries are healthy, it is best to include other fruits to meet your daily fruit quota.  So in addition to blueberries and other berries, also eat the colors of the rainbow (blue, purple, red, yellow, green, orange) for better total health.

Spotlight on Apples


An apple a day is perhaps one of the most delicious prescriptions ever made.  An apple contains a dose of pectin, the soluble fiber that thickens jellies and helps lower artery-damaging LDL (bad) cholesterol.  Apples also contain a mix of antioxidants.  Flavonoids, such as quercetin, prevent LDL cholesterol from being oxidized to a more dangerous form.

Apples have skin that’s loaded with nutrients.  For instance, the peel has six times the antioxidant power of the flesh.  Also, about two-thirds of an apple’s fiber is found in the peel.  Apples come in naturally gorgeous shades of green, golden yellow, red-orange and deep crimson

Some Key Scientific Studies

Some important scientific studies that reveal apples’ benefits are:

U.S. Study (2011): Florida State University researchers evaluated the long-term cardio-protective effects of daily consumption of apple in postmenopausal women.  They randomly assigned 160 women ages 45-65 to one of two dietary intervention groups: One ate dried apples (75 g/day for 1 year), and the other ate dried prunes everyday for a year.  Blood samples were taken at 3, 6, and 12 months.  Within 6 months, the apple-eating women experienced a 23% reduction in LDL (bad) cholesterol.  Another advantage is that the extra 240 calories a day did not lead to weight gain in the women.  In fact the women lost on, average, 3.3. lbs.

Dutch Study (2011): Researchers studied the diets of over 20,000 adults, with an average age of 41.  At the start of the study, all participants were free of cardiovascular disease.  Researchers examined the links between fruits and vegetable color group consumption and 10-year stroke incidence.  Fruits and vegetables were classified into four groups: Green (dark leafy vegetables, cabbages), Orange/Yellow (mostly citrus fruits), Red/Purple (mostly red vegetables), and White (mostly apples and pears).  During the 10-year study, 233 strokes were documented, and only white fruits and vegetables were linked to lower incidence of stroke.  In fact the risk of stroke incidence was 52 percent lower for people with a high intake of white fruits and vegetables compared to those with low intake.

Reasons to Eat Apples

  1. Apples are nutritious.  Apples contain vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  One medium apple contains about 72 calories and has about 3 g of soluble fiber in the form of pectin.  An apple counts as one cup of fruit towards your daily fruit quota (around 2 cups on a 2,000-calorie diet).
  2. Apples can help prevent high blood pressure.  Apples contain potassium which helps our arteries dilate, lowering blood pressure.  Also quercetin, an antioxidant in apples, works with the cells in the inner lining (endothelium) of our arteries to make them dilate which lowers blood pressure.
  3. Apples lower cholesterol.  Apples contain pectin (about 3 g per medium apple), a soluble fiber, that binds with cholesterol in our gut and prevents it from being absorbed into our bloodstream.  This reduces risk of atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
  4. Apples protect against colon cancer.  According to research from Germany, the fiber in apples ferments in the colon and produces chemicals that fight the formation of cancer cells.
  5. Apples provide bone protection.  Researchers believe that a flavonoid called phloridzin, found only in apples, may protect post-menopausal women from osteoporosis and also increase bone density.  Apple also contain boron which strengthens bones.
  6. Apples may help stave off Alzheimer’s disease.  Apples contain quercetin, a powerful antioxidant that protects brain cells from degeneration in rats and may do the same in humans.
  7. Apples may lower cardiovascular disease risk.  Apples help prevent the oxidation of cholesterol in our arteries thus reducing atherosclerosis.  This reduction in hardening of the arteries lowers our risk of cardiovascular disease.
  8. Apples decrease diabetes risk.  From a 2012 study, apples, as well as pears and blueberries, were linked to a lower risk of type II diabetes.  Researchers attribute the benefit to a class of antioxidants, anthocyanins, that give fruits and vegetables their purple, blue and red colors.
  9. Apples help in weight loss.  Flavonoid-rich fruits like apples have been linked by Harvard scientists to lower weight gain over many years.  The class of flavonoids called anthocyanins have been linked to the most weight control.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Buy organic when possible: Because apples are vulnerable to worms and other insects, the conventionally grown varieties are heavily sprayed with pesticides.  Therefore it is best to buy organically grown varieties.  Also, always wash fruit before eating.
  • Eat the peel: Apples are bursting with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants.  It turns out that most of these nutrients are in the peel.
  • Eat fresh and in salads: Apples are great eaten fresh or cut up into slices and tossed with field greens, toasted pecans and a light vinaigrette in a delicious salad.  Also try apple slices on your favorite sandwich.
  • Cook them: Apples can be cooked in a myriad of ways – baked into pies, crisps, and tarts; added to poultry stuffing; and made into jelly, apple butter, and sauce.
  • Try pears: If you don’t like apples or can’t find them, pears are a tasty alternative.
  • A balanced diet is best: While apples are healthy, it is best to include other fruits to meet your daily fruit quota.  So in addition to apples, also eat the colors of the rainbow (blue, purple, red, yellow, green, orange) for better total health.

Health Benefits of Green Tea

Green tea
Green Tea

Tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water.  There are three main types of tea, green, black, and oolong.  Scientific studies suggest that green tea in particular has many health benefits.  Researchers believe the antioxidants, which are mostly polyphenols, in the tea leaves are responsible for the health benefits.

Green, black, and oolong teas are all derived from the leaves of the Camellia synensis plant.  This plant grows throughout Asia, parts of the Middle East, and Africa.  Green tea is prepared from unfermented leaves.  The leaves of oolong tea are partially fermented, and the leaves of black tea are fully fermented.  The more the leaves are fermented, the lower the polyphenol content and the higher the caffeine content.  Green tea has the highest polyphenol content, while black tea has 2 to 3 times the caffeine content of green tea.  Therefore green teas have the most nutritional benefits, followed by oolong and black teas.  You may have heard of white tea, which is simply the unfermented young leaves and buds of the Camellia synensis plant.

Reasons to Drink Green Tea

The health benefits of drinking green tea:

  1. Green tea is rich in antioxidants: The antioxidants found in green tea are mainly polyphenols.  A particular polyphenol, EGCG has been studied extensively, can powerfully destroy free radicals (metabolic byproducts that are chemically reactive and that can damage cells).  In research published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the polyphenols found in green tea are reported to be 6 times stronger than those found in black tea.
  2. Green tea lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol:  Research shows that green tea lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol and raises HDL (good) cholesterol in people.  One large-scale study found that men who drink green tea have lower total cholesterol than those who do not drink green tea.
  3. Green tea fights atherosclerosis: Large scale studies suggest the polyphenols in green tea help prevent atherosclerosis, the plaque buildup in your arteries.  The researchers believe that green tea fights atherosclerosis by lowering cholesterol and triglycerides.  Studies show that black tea has similar effects.  In fact they  estimate the rate of heart attacks decrease by 11 percent with consumption of three cups of tea daily.
  4. Green tea lowers risk of high blood pressure: A study published in 2004 reported that regular consumption of green and oolong tea reduced risk of developing hypertension.  Another study published in 2012 reported that regular long-term consumption of black tea lowered blood pressure.
  5. Green tea lowers cardiovascular disease risk: In a large-scale study, drinking three cups of green tea or black tea is associated with a 20 percent reduction in stroke risk.
  6. Green tea lowers cancer risk: Risk of cancer of the GI tract has been shown to be 17 percent lower in women who drink at least 3 cups of green tea a week.  There have also been lower risks associated with green tea consumption of the following cancers:  bladder, breast, ovarian, lung, pancreatic, prostate, and skin.
  7. Green tea strengthens your bones: The Harvard School of Public Health states that the tea polyphenols are thought to strengthen bones and protect against fractures.  Also a study published in Nutrition Research found the bioactive components of green tea may help decrease the risk of fractures by improving bone mineral density.
  8. Green tea helps protect your vision: A 2010 study reported that the components in green tea positively affected the tissues of the eyes, particularly the tissues of the retina.
  9. Green tea improves memory and cognitive function: Some of the compounds found in green tea boost certain brain tasks associated with working memory.  Working memory is the brain function that keeps in mind and manipulates multiple pieces of information simultaneously, helping you to plan ahead, organize information, solve problems and retrieve information, such as names.
  10. Green tea calms and relaxes you: L-theanine is the standout ingredient in green tea that has been studied for its calming effects on the nervous system.  A study published in Trends in Food Science & Technology found that green tea produces relaxing effects without drowsiness after just 40 minutes of ingestion.

Putting it into Practice

  • Brew it yourself: For the biggest benefit, definitely brew it yourself.  Bottled tea has significantly fewer polyphenols than home-steeped tea, plus added sugar that add unwanted calories.  You can serve it hot, or make a pitcher of home-brewed iced tea during the warmer months.
  • Watch the additives: It is not a good idea to resort to additives to make tea more palatable.  Be careful not to add spoonfuls of sugar to make tea go down easier.  The health benefits were observed for tea with little or no additives.  So maybe try a little honey or lemon to taste without compromising the purity of your tea, but stop there.
  • Daily dosage: The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends two to three cups of green tea per day.  This provides about 240 to 320 mg of polyphenols.
  • Try a healthy alternative: If you just can’t stomach green tea, you may want to try a healthy alternative – coffee.  Coffee is a perfectly reasonable and possibly equally healthful alternative.  Click here to read my article on coffee.
  • Caution if you are pregnant: Because of its caffeine level, green tea can be unsafe for pregnant women and their babies.  Always consult your doctor about consuming caffeinated beverages while pregnant.
  • Problem with iron: Drinking green tea may cause your body to absorb less iron, so it is best not to drink green tea with an iron-rich meal.  Rather drink green tea between meals.  Consult your doctor if you are anemic.

Go Nuts – for Walnuts!

Walnuts closeup
Walnuts closeup

If you’ve been avoiding nuts because they are high in calories, stop now!  People who eat nuts in moderation (up to two ounces a day) can enjoy a variety of health benefits.  Walnuts are tree nuts, and they are the top dog of the nut world: they contain twice as many phytochemicals as their competitors.  Walnuts are the edible seeds of any tree of the genus, Juglans.  There are three main species of walnuts, the English walnut, black walnut, and white walnut.  The English walnut is the most widely consumed type of walnut in the United States.  Walnuts are a rich source of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids, folic acid, zinc, vitamin E and protein.

Reasons to Eat Walnuts

The health benefits of eating walnuts in moderation (one-to-two ounces a day):

  1. Walnuts are rich in antioxidants: Walnuts are the most antioxidant-rich nuts of all the nuts, including tree nuts and peanuts.
  2. Walnuts lower LDL (bad) cholesterol:  Walnuts contain a large percentage of unsaturated fats, particularly polyunsaturated fats.  They are also a rich source of the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.  ALA has been shown to lower LDL cholesterol and triglycerides.  A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reviewed the heart-health benefits of walnuts on 365 participants, who were monitored during control diets and diets supplemented with walnuts.  Results showed walnuts cause a significantly greater decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.
  3. Walnuts lower blood pressure: Walnuts contain the compound arginine which is converted to nitric oxide in the body.  This causes your constricted blood vessels to dilate easing blood flow.
  4. Walnuts lower cardiovascular disease risk: Several recent studies have linked higher intake of ALA to a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.  One quarter-cup of walnuts provides all the ALA you need in a day.
  5. Walnuts strengthen your bones:  The ALA in walnuts is also good for your skeleton as they strengthen your bones.  In a study by researchers at Penn State University, 23 participants were fed four different diets over 6-week periods.  One of the diets was a high-ALA diet.  This high-ALA diet resulted in significantly less bone breakdown than the other diets.
  6. Walnuts lower type 2 diabetes risk: Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health say that women who reported eating one ounce of walnuts at least five times a week reduced their risk of type 2 diabetes by 30 percent compared to those who rarely or never ate walnuts.
  7. Walnuts lower cancer risk: A 2010 scientific study by the University of Portugal concluded that the phenolic compounds and antioxidants in walnuts controlled the growth of human cancer cells.  Also the type of vitamin E found in abundance in walnuts has been shown to fight breast, prostate, and lung cancer.
  8. Walnuts lower mortality (premature death) risk: A nuts-and-longevity study published in 2013 in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine involving 118,000 healthy volunteers found that people who ate one ounce (about a handful) of nuts (including walnuts) daily had a 20 percent lower death rate during the three-decade long study compared to participants who did not eat nuts.
  9. Walnuts help reduce stress: Recent scientific research shows that walnuts reduce blood pressure responses to stress in the laboratory.  The stressful situations include plunging your feet into an ice bath or delivering a speech in front of your peers.  Those who eat walnuts have lower blood pressure, both in response to that stress or when not under stress.  Since walnut oil and flax oil produced similar results, the researchers believe the benefits may be due to the omega-3 fatty acid ALA.
  10. Walnuts improve memory and concentration: A 2012 Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease report found that eating walnuts as part of a Mediterranean diet was associated with better memory and brain function.  The report states that the antioxidants in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline and even reduce the risk of neurodegenerative diseases, including Alzheimer’s.

Putting it into Practice

  • Moderate consumption: Because walnuts are high in calories, limit yourself to one to two ounces of nuts a day.
  • Use as a salad topping: You can add walnuts to salads instead of croutons and bacon bits.
  • Use on cereals: Add walnuts to oatmeal or any cereal.
  • Use in side dishes: Sprinkle chopped walnuts on sautéed vegetables.  Or stir them into cooked whole grains or chicken salad.
  • Try walnut butter: If eating walnuts by the handful is not your idea of a fun snack, then try making walnut butter.  You could stir it into smoothies, plain yogurt, or oatmeal.  You can also spread it on whole grain bread.
  • Home made trail mix: You can prepare a home made trail mix using walnuts, dried fruit (like cherries or raisins), 70 percent dark chocolate chips, and 100 percent whole grain pretzels.
  • Replace unhealthy snacks: Eat walnuts and other nuts instead of chips and less healthy snacks so that your daily caloric intake is not increased.
  • Store properly: Since walnuts are high in fat, they are prone to go rancid and spoil.  So store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

Top 5 Health Benefits of the Mediterranean Diet

Fresh asparagus with radishes and fennel
Fresh asparagus with radishes and fennel

Although the Mediterranean diet reflects the ways of eating that is traditional in the countries that surround the Mediterranean, you can bring the remarkable health benefits and affordable style of eating to your own kitchen.  Your local supermarket has all the fresh and flavorful ingredients needed to follow this healthy way of eating.  The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating mainly unprocessed plant-based foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, and seeds.
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil.
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor foods.
  • Limiting red meat to a few times a month.
  • Eating fish and poultry at least three times per week.
  • Low consumption of dairy products.
  • Drinking red wine in moderation (optional).
  • Avoiding saturated and trans fats.

The Health Benefits

Scientists have studied the eating patterns of the Mediterranean diet for over 50 years.  To date, there is a large body of scientific evidence supporting the healthfulness of the traditional Mediterranean diet.  Here are the top 5 health benefits:

  1. Increased lifespan.  A convincing scientific study published in 2013 showed that a Mediterranean-style diet warded off premature death in addition to cardiovascular disease.  Researchers looked at the dietary habits of over 10,000 women in their 50s and 60s.   The study found that women who ate a Mediterranean diet in midlife were about 40% more likely to live into their 70s without chronic illness and with less physical and mental problems than those who ate unhealthy diets.  The healthiest women were those who ate more plant foods, whole grains and fish; ate less red and processed meats; and had limited alcohol intake.  While you probably get the most benefit by eating this way earlier in life, this study shows that starting the Mediterranean diet as late as in your 50s and 60s results in significant benefits.
  2. Decreased cardiovascular disease risk.  The Mediterranean diet has been linked to better cardiovascular health through many scientific studies.  The benefits include lower risk for people who have been diagnosed with heart disease.  A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in 2012 shows that a Mediterranean-style diet can help prevent future cardiac events (like chest pains and heart attacks) in people with heart disease.  People who ate the most vegetables, salads, and nuts lowered the risk of repeat heart trouble the most compared to those who ate the least of these heart-healthy foods.
  3. Decreased diabetes risk.  Intake of processed foods filled with fat, sugar, and refined grains has been linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes.  Because the Mediterranean diet emphasizes whole unprocessed foods, risk of type 2 diabetes is reduced.  In 2014, researchers in Vienna, Austria reviewed data of over 122,000 adults to investigate the association between the Mediterranean diet and diabetes risk.  After analyzing data between 2007 and 20014, the scientists found that greater adherence to a Mediterranean diet is associated with a 19% reduction in the risk of type 2 diabetes.
  4. Reduced age-related cognitive decline.  Turns out that the nutrient-rich Mediterranean diet keeps your brain intact.  A study conducted by the American Academy of Neurology shows that the Mediterranean diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, fish, and good fats like olive oil, is linked with better brain health and fewer age-related thinking problems.  In another study published in 2013, researchers in the UK looked at the possible relationship between the Mediterranean diet, cognitive function, and dementia.  They found that a greater adherence to the Mediterranean diet is associated with slower mental decline and decreased risk of Alzheimer’s disease.
  5. Reduced risk of colon cancer.  A huge study published in 2012 involving nearly 2 million people showed that increasing  your intake of high-fiber whole grains reduces the risk of colorectal cancer.  According to the study, eating 3.25 ounces of whole grains per day was associated with a 20% lower risk.  Fiber helps improve digestion and absorption of nutrients, and it helps control appetite by keeping you full for a longer period of time.  Men over 50 should get at least 30 grams of fiber, while men 50 years old and younger should get at least 38 grams.  Women over 50 should get at least 21 grams of fiber, while women 50 years old and younger should get at least 25 grams.

The vast body of scientific evidence shows the Mediterranean diet has many health benefits, and many health experts are hoping you’ll be inspired to start the journey to better health Mediterranean-style.  The Mediterranean diet is affordable and one your whole family can follow for good health.

Hang Out In The Garden Of Eatin’

Healthy Berries
Healthy Berries at the Market

Fruits and vegetables are an important part of a healthy diet.  They contain an array of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.  They are also low in calories and high in fiber.  A diet rich in fruits and vegetables can

  • decrease the chances of having a heart attack or stroke;
  • lower blood pressure;
  • help you avoid constipation and diverticulitis;
  • guard against two common aging-related eye disease: cataract, the clouding of the eye’s lens, and macular degeneration, the major cause of vision loss afflicting people over sixty-five;
  • delay or prevent memory loss and a decline in thinking skills;
  • help you feel full with fewer calories and so control your weight and waistline; and
  • add variety to your diet and enliven your palate.

Family Nutrition

Fruits and vegetables can be classified by “family.”  These plant families you usually find at the market include the following:

  • The crucifer family: Includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, collard greens, kale, mustard greens, radishes, turnips, and watercress.  They contain chemicals that may protect against some cancers.
  • The melon/squash family: Includes cucumbers, zucchini, pumpkin, acorn and butternut squashes, cantaloupes, and honeydew melons.
  • The legume family: Includes alfalfa sprouts, beans, peas, and soybeans.  They contain substances that may protect against heart disease and cancer.
  • The lily family: Includes asparagus, chives, garlic, leeks, onions, and shallots.  They contain sulfur-containing compounds that may fight cancer.
  • The citrus family: Includes grapefruits, lemons, limes, oranges, and tangerines.  Citrus fruits are high in vitamin C.
  • The solanum family: Includes eggplant, peppers, potatoes, and tomatoes.  Tomatoes contain the powerful antioxidant lycopene, which may protect against prostate and other cancers.
  • The umbel family: Includes carrots, celery, parsley, and parsnips.  Carrots are an excellent source of beta-carotene, which the body uses to make vitamin A.  Beta-carotene and other related compounds called carotenoids help prevent cancers, heart disease, and memory loss.

No single fruit or vegetable contains all the substances you need, therefore it is a good idea to get a few servings a week from each of these major groups.  It’s also a good idea to eat for color variety to ensure you get a variety of beneficial phytonutrients.  Include the bold colors of ripe red tomatoes, crisp orange carrots, creamy yellow squash, emerald-green spinach, juicy blueberries, indigo plums, violet eggplants, and all shades in between.  You should also eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Aim high.  Use 5 servings a day as a minimum goal and aim for more.  A serving of fruits and vegetables is 1/2 cup except raw leafy greens, which is 1 cup.
  • Eat for variety and for color.  On most days try to eat from the following fruit and vegetable groups: dark green leafy vegetables, yellow or orange fruits and vegetables, red fruits and vegetables, legumes, and citrus fruits.
  • Cook your tomatoes.  Try tomatoes, processed tomatoes, or tomato products cooked in oil on most days.   Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, a powerful, fat-soluble antioxidant that has been linked to lower rates of a variety of cancers.  Because lycopene is tightly bound within cell walls, your body has a hard time extracting it from raw tomatoes.  Cooking breaks down the cell walls, and the oil dissolves lycopene so that it can enter the bloodstream.
  • Fresh is better.  Eat several servings of fresh, uncooked fruits and vegetables each week because cooking destroys some important phytonutrients (like vitamin C and folic acid).  Frozen fruits and vegetables are nearly as good as fresh ones and may be better than “fresh” fruits and vegetables that have been stored for weeks under conditions that prevent ripening.  Canned fruits and vegetables are also fine, though many come loaded with salt and added sugar.


Go With The (Whole) Grains

Whole Grain Bread
Whole Grain Bread

Grains are seeds of grasses cultivated for food.  They basically come in two varieties – whole grains and refined grains.  Whole grains are intact seeds with their bran, germ, and endosperm.  Click here to see a whole grain.  The bran is the outer layer of the seed and contains mostly fiber.  The endosperm is the largest part of the seed and contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals.  The germ is the part of the seed from which a new plant sprouts and is a concentrated source of nutrients.   Examples of whole grains (and foods made from them) are wheat berries, whole wheat bread, rolled oats, steel-cut oats, brown rice, buckwheat, quinoa, bulgur, millet, barley, cornmeal, and rye.

Refined grains, on the other hand, usually have their bran and germ removed in the milling process leaving only the endosperm.  This is done to give the grain a finer texture and a longer shelf-life.  Examples of refined grains are white rice, white flour, de-germed cornmeal, and white bread.  Most refined grains are enriched, which means certain B vitamins and iron are added back after milling.  However fiber is not added back to enriched grains.  Whole grains are healthier choices than refined grains.

Why Are Whole Grains Healthier?

  • Whole grains are healthier because they contain more fiber than refined grains.  High fiber diets are associated with lower cholesterol levels and a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • The fiber in whole grains also helps prevent constipation and diverticular disease (diverticulosis).
  • Whole grains contain more nutrients than refined grains.  Some or these nutrients are magnesium, selenium, iron, vitamin E, and some B vitamins (riboflavin, folate, thiamin, niacin).  These nutrients are important in many biological functions like metabolism, a healthy nervous system, a healthy immune system, carrying oxygen in the blood, helping the body form red blood cells, and building bones.
  • The body also digests whole grains slower than refined grains preventing blood sugar and insulin levels from rising and falling too quickly.  This better control of blood sugar and insulin can delay hunger and prevent the development of type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A Word of Caution

If you are a woman who is pregnant or could become pregnant, you need to make sure you get enough folic acid.  Folic acid is a B vitamin that is important in preventing certain types of birth defects.  You can get folic acid from taking a multivitamin pill everyday and also from using enriched grains that have been fortified with folic acid.  You should talk to your doctor about how much folic acid you need, and how you should get it.

Tips To Help You Eat Whole Grains

  • Eat whole grains for breakfast.  Start the day with a bowl of whole-grain cereal.  If you like hot cereals, try old-fashioned or steel-cut oats.  You can also cook whole grains to make a hot breakfast cereal or porridge.  If you prefer cold cereal, look at the ingredients list to make sure the first ingredient is a whole grain.  Shredded wheat is a good whole grain cereal.
  • Try whole-grain breads.  Choose breads made from whole grains instead of from refined grains.  Check the label to make sure the first ingredient has the word “whole.”  Breads are often high in sodium so do not eat too much.
  • Try whole-grain bagels.  Instead of plain bagels, try whole-grain bagels.
  • Try brown rice.  Cook up some brown rice instead of white rice to accompany a meal.  You could also cook other whole grains like bulgur, quinoa, buckwheat, millet, or hulled barley as tasty side dishes.
  • Try whole-wheat pasta.  Whole wheat pasta can be a delicious alternative to plain pasta.
  • Try whole grains in soups.  Feature whole grains like wild rice and barley in soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.
  • Snack on popcorn.  Popcorn is a whole grain and is a healthy snack when made with little or no  added salt or butter.
  • Bake with whole-wheat flour.  If you bake, try whole-wheat flour instead of white flour.

Eating a variety of whole grains ensures you get more nutrients and also makes your meals and snacks more interesting.

Say Yes To Healthy Fats

Oatmeal with Chia Seeds, Banana, and Walnuts
Oatmeal with Chia Seeds, Banana, and Walnuts

The fat in your diet (dietary fat) is needed for your body to function properly.  Certain vitamins (A, D, E, and K) and nutrients (like carotenoids) are fat-soluble, which means they need to be consumed with fat to enter your bloodstream.  It is recommended to consume some fat at each meal to ensure the absorption of these vitamins and nutrients.  There are four main types of dietary fat: saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and trans fats.

The Bad Fats

Saturated fat:  These fats are abundant in meat and animal fat, dairy products, and in tropical oils like palm and coconut oil.  They are solid at room temperature.  Too much saturated fat increses both your blood cholesterol and atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in your arteries).  It is best to limit saturated fat intake to 7% of calories.  That amounts to about 16 grams on a 2,000 calorie diet.

Trans fat: These fats are solidified vegetable oils created to increase shelf life.  They are present in deep-fried fast foods, commercial baked goods.  Trans fats increase LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides and lower HDL (good) cholesterol.  It is best to avoid trans fats, and you can spot them in food labels and ingredient lists.  Just look for the term “hydrogenated,” or “partially hydrogenated.”

The Healthy Fats

Monounsaturated fat: These fats are liquid at room temperature and are basically oils.  Excellent sources are olive oil, peanut oil, canola oil, avocados and most nuts.  These fats improve your blood cholesterol levels by lowering bad cholesterol and raising good cholesterol.  The Mediterranean diet is rich in monounsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fat: These fats are also liquid at room temperature.  Your body does not make these fats, so it is important to get these essential fats from your diet.  Good sources are corn oil, soybean oil, seeds, nuts, whole grains, and fatty fish like salmon, herring, and sardines.  Polyunsaturated fats improve blood cholesterol levels, and they can be subdivided into the omega-3 and omega-6 groups.  Omega-3 fats need special attention because they are especially beneficial and are not prevalent in most Western diets.  Therefore we need to make sure we consume enough of them.  There are three main types of omega-3 fats in our diet.  They are ALA, EPA, and DHA.  ALA is the main omega-3 fatty acid in most Western diets.  It is found mostly in nuts, vegetable oils, and leafy vegetables.  Both EPA and DHA are found mostly in fish and are often called marine omega-3s.  Your body uses ALA mainly for energy and can convert this omega-3 fat into EPA and DHA.  Omega-3 fats make up part of our cells, and they are important in how our hormones are made.  There is also strong scientific evidence that omega-3 fatty acids are especially important in protecting us from cardiovascular disease.

Selecting Healthy Fats

  • Avoid trans fats as much as possible and limit your intake of saturated fats.
  • Instead of trans fats and saturated fats, consume unsaturated fats.

Putting It Into Practice

  • Limit the amount of full-fat dairy products you eat.
  • Instead of red meat, choose nuts, seeds, poultry, and fish.
  • Use liquid vegetable oils, like extra virgin olive oil, in cooking and at the table.
  • Eat at least one source of omega-3 fatty acids everyday.  Good examples are fish (salmon, sardines, herring), walnuts, canola oil, chia seeds, ground flaxseeds or flaxseed oil.

The Importance of Daily Exercise and Weight Control

Your weight is important in staying healthy.  If your weight is in the “healthy” range, keep it there.  If you are overweight, avoid gaining weight and lose some if you can.  Daily exercise is important in losing weight, so it is no surprise that daily exercise and weight control are at the base of the Healthy Eating Pyramid shown below.

Copyright © 2008. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health,, and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, by Walter C. Willett, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett (2005), Free Press/Simon & Schuster Inc.
Copyright © 2008. For more information about The Healthy Eating Pyramid, please see The Nutrition Source, Department of Nutrition, Harvard School of Public Health,, and Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy, by Walter C. Willett, M.D., and Patrick J. Skerrett (2005), Free Press/Simon & Schuster Inc.


Since taller people tend to weigh more than shorter people, the body mass index (BMI) was developed as a measure of weight adjusted for height.  There are a number of online BMI calculators.  You can click here to see a BMI chart.  Scientific studies have shown that BMIs above 25 increase the risk of dying early, mainly from heart disease and cancer.  There is widespread agreement that BMIs between 25 and 30 should be considered overweight, and over 30 obese.  A healthy BMI is between 18.5 and 25.


If your BMI is below 25, you want to keep it there.  Try to avoid gaining weight even if you could add some pounds and still stay within the healthy BMI range.  If your BMI is above 25, you want to prevent it from getting any larger, and if possible, you want to lower it.


Some studies support the idea that healthy eating, in moderation, should be good for not only long term health, but also for losing and maintaining weight.  One such scientific research study was conducted by Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital on 101 overweight volunteers.  The study has proven that people following a moderate-fat diet based on the Healthy Eating Pyramid  lost more weight (and kept it off) than people following a low-fat diet.  After six months, both groups had similar weight loss.  However at 18 months, people on the low-fat diet had regained most of their weight.  On the contrary, those following the moderate-fat diet based on the Healthy Eating Pyramid kept off the pounds they lost.  They reported being satisfied with the variety and flavors of their new way of eating and did not feel deprived.


Weight control  can be a challenge especially since it is so easy to gain weight.  We are also bombarded by food commercials and eating occasions which tempt us to indulge.  This three-pronged strategy may help in losing weight and keeping it off:

  1. Get physically active:  If you are already, try to increase the level of your activity.  Daily physical activity has many health benefits.  It helps you lose weight, prevents many diseases like cancer and heart disease, lowers anxiety, improves your mood, and aids in living a long life.  It also burns calories and maintains muscle.  Walking is an effective activity (aim for 30 minutes or more daily).
  2. Find an eating program that works for you:  The Healthy Eating Pyramid is a good start.  It can help you choose the right foods to improve your health.  Diets low in refined grains are best.  Replace them with whole grains, vegetables, and fruits.  Limit saturated fats and avoid trans fats in favor of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats to improve your cholesterol levels and allow your arteries to work more effectively.  Replace red and processed meat with beans, nuts, poultry, and fish to reduce risk of cancers, diabetes, and heart disease.  A Mediterranean-style diet is one good option.  It is flexible as you can include cuisines from around the world as well as your own creations.  This style of diet has tremendous variety and pleasure to last a lifetime.  Most of all, the diet you choose has to work for you, just make sure that it includes healthy fats and protein and physical activity.
  3. Avoid overeating:  To keep your caloric intake at a reasonable level, it is important to not overeat.  Some suggestions: 1) Practice stopping before you are full. 2) Be selective about what you eat. 3) Beware of desserts. 4) Eat slowly and pay attention to your food when you eat. 5) Drink a glass of water before each meal. 6) Keep track of the calories in your food.

Remember that weight loss is a marathon, not a sprint.  You want to lose weight and keep it off.  Following the Healthy Eating Pyramid will help, and you will also lower your risk of many diseases like cancers, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.