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Healthy Eating May Save Your Sight

The right diet can help protect against diseases that affect sight, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 55. Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research have found that the combination of a low-glycemic diet combined with vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain quality of life and reduce health care costs due to sight-robbing eye diseases. The study examined dietary intake and other data from more than 4,000 men and women age 55 to 80, who had taken part in the long-term Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The researchers ranked intake of several nutrients and then calculated a score designed to assess their combined effect on the risk of AMD.

My take? I’ve long advocated eating low on the glycemic index and have recommended increasing consumption of vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zinc to support vision health. I recommend these nutrients and lifestyle changes to address AMD.

View the larger, expanded version of my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid; alternatively, read more about the specific components of the anti-inflammatory diet.


Video: Setting Limits on Personal Technology

If you read this blog, odds are that you're fairly technologically savvy; but with that savviness comes the potential for overuse. I believe it's vital for mental and physical health to set limits. Here is how I do, and don't, use these devices:

Why don't you use your extra free time to dig around in the garden or whip up some tasty anti-inflammatory fare?


What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the anxiety disorders, and is a potentially crippling and chronic condition. Those who suffer from OCD are caught in a cycle of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that interfere with even simple, everyday tasks. Although they often realize the behaviors are senseless, the compulsion to perform them remains extremely difficult to defeat. Although OCD symptoms typically begin during the teenage years or early adulthood, some children develop the illness at earlier ages, including the preschool years. In addition to seeking appropriate psychological and psychiatric counseling, I recommend that people diagnosed with OCD consider taking fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids have been shown to be effective in a wide range of psychological conditions.

Learn more about the symptoms and causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders.


Berry Good Brain

Here's another reason to include blueberries, strawberries and walnuts in your diet: the polyphenols these foods contain appear to be good for the brain. In fact, these micronutrients seem to reverse an age-related decline in the process by which brain cells remove and recycle biochemical debris that could interfere with brain function. Investigators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston found that the polyphenols in these berries seem to help maintain the process by which specialized brain cells do their "housekeeping." Researcher Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., noted the study provides further evidence of the benefits of eating foods rich in polyphenols. In addition to berries and nuts, fruits and vegetables with deep red, orange or blue colors also pack an antioxidant punch. Dr. Poulose emphasized the importance of consuming the whole fruit and noted that frozen berries, available year round, are also good sources of polyphenols.

Did you know that blueberries and strawberries are two of the 10 most antioxidant-rich fruits?


Cool Images Can Ease Hot Flashes

The mental image of a cool mountain spring, a waterfall, rain shower or a snowy day combined with hypnotic relaxation therapy may help relieve hot flashes. A Baylor University study demonstrated that mentally constructing scenes with low temperatures reduced hot flashes dramatically among a group of breast cancer survivors. An earlier Baylor study found that using hypnotic relaxation therapy reduced hot flashes by 68 percent. The most recent study suggested that "cool" mental images the women participants generated themselves prior to their hypnotherapy sessions proved effective. The most common themes were associated with water, wind, snow, trees, cool air or mountains "The finding may indicate that areas of the brain activated by imagery may be identical to those activated by actual perceived events," said study leader Gary Elkins, Ph.D., professor of psychology and neuroscience at Baylor. The study was published in the July 2010 issue of the International Journal of Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis.

My take? Hot flashes can make life miserable for some menopausal women. While the most reliable treatment to address symptoms is estrogen replacement, the therapy carries significant risks, and is not appropriate for everyone. Hypnosis is a powerful mind/body tool that doesn’t present the risks of drug treatment. Among other benefits, it has been proven effective in warming cold hands and feet in patients with Raynaud's disease, so I'm not surprised to learn that it can also help relieve hot flashes in combination with cool imagery.

Learn about other natural ways - ranging from lifestyle changes to nutrition and supplement tips - to help you deal with menopause symptoms.


Tofu and Beet Greens

Fresh beets are a wonderful bargain because you get two vegetable dishes out of one plant. The beet greens, which many people foolishly throw away, are an excellent source of vitamins and minerals and are a delicious vegetable in their own right.

Food as Medicine: Beet greens, similar in taste and texture to Swiss chard, offer abundant vitamins and minerals, and carotenoids such as beta-carotene and lutein.


1 pound firm tofu
2 pound beet greens
1 tablespoon expeller-pressed canola oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, mashed
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce or teriyaki sauce (or to taste)
2 cups cooked rice


1. Drain the tofu; slice it 1/2-inch thick and place the slices on a dish towel or several layers of paper towel. Cover with another cloth or layer of paper towels and place a cutting board on top, weighted with a few heavy cans or a pot of water. Press the tofu slices for 1 hour, then cut into 1/2-inch cubes. You can also use baked, pressed tofu, in which case you just need to cut it into cubes. 

2. Wash the beet greens thoroughly, drain, remove stems and shred.

3. Heat the canola oil in a skillet and add the onion. Sauté over medium-high heat until onion is translucent, then add the tofu and continue cooking until tofu begins to color.

4. Add the beet greens and garlic. Stir-fry until greens are cooked, about 5 minutes.

A plant-based main dish like this one is an easy and delicious way to eat less animal protein - a step that I recommend for optimum health.


Leafy Green Vegetables and Diabetes Risk

An extra serving a day of leafy green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach and cabbage could cut your risk of type 2 diabetes. This finding comes from a British review of six studies, which included more than 200,000 people between the ages of 30 and 74 in the U.S., China and Finland. The researchers found that while consuming leafy green vegetables doesn’t prevent diabetes, people who eat more of these foods appear to have about a 14 percent lower chance of developing diabetes. The investigators saw no reduced risk with a higher intake of vegetables in general or a combination of fruits and vegetables. They're not recommending that eating leafy green vegetables alone is all you have to do to reduce your risk of diabetes, but the findings are a reminder that diet can be as useful as drugs for cutting the risk of chronic diseases, including type 2 diabetes. The study was published in the August 18, 2010 issue of the British Medical Journal.

Keep an eye out for tomorrow's post, which will include a recipe featuring a generally unappreciated leafy green that I absolutely love: beet greens.


Hot Pepper for High Blood Pressure

Capsaicin, the compound that adds the spicy zing to hot peppers, seems to have some benefit in blood pressure control. Chinese researchers have reported that long term consumption of capsaicin as part of the normal diet of rats bred to have high blood pressure helps relax blood vessels so that pressure falls. The capsaicin sets off a process that increases production of nitric oxide, a molecule known to protect blood vessels against inflammation and dysfunction. Earlier studies showed that short-term exposure to capsaicin produced conflicting results in the hypertensive rats; this is the first one to look at the effects of treatment long term. Although follow up studies will be needed to see whether capsaicin works as well in humans, the author of the study noted that in southwestern China where hot and spicy food is widely consumed, the incidence of high blood pressure is significantly lower than it is elsewhere in China. The study was published in the August issue of Cell Metabolism.

How about celebrating the end of summer with some healthy chili and cornbread? Both spicy recipes contain capsaicin, which, in addition to possibly regulating blood pressure, is a known anti-inflammatory agent. Keep a glass of water nearby!