Native to the Caribbean and Central America, bananas are one of America's favorite fruits. They are rich in potassium - one banana contains 450 mg of potassium, one-fifth of the adult daily requirement - and offer a fair share of magnesium (33 mg), too. In addition, bananas help to strengthen the stomach lining and are good for soothing indigestion. Most banana bread recipes are saturated with butter and sugar. This one uses a small amount of canola oil instead - which is much better for your heart - and honey, which of course means lots of flavor. Don't use regular whole-wheat flour. It is too heavy for this recipe. Look for whole-wheat pastry flour instead.
Friday’s post focused on cancer and supplements; today we look at nutrition and its relationship to cancer. A healthy diet can help the body in its efforts to heal itself, and in some cases, particular foods can lessen the risks of serious illness.To help reduce your risk of some types of cancer, try the following:
- Avoid polyunsaturated vegetable oils, margarine, vegetable shortening, all partially hydrogenated oils, and all foods that might contain trans-fatty acids (such as deep-fried foods).
- Increase omega-3 fatty acids by eating more cold water oily fish, freshly ground flaxseeds, and walnuts.
- Reduce consumption of animal foods and try to replace them with vegetable proteins such as whole soy products.
- Use hormone-free, organically produced products whenever possible.
- Eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables.
- Eat shiitake, enokidake, maitake, and oyster mushrooms frequently.
- Drink green tea daily.
We all need essential fatty acids for optimum health, but most Americans consume far too many omega-6 fatty acids (mainly from vegetable oils), and not enough omega-3 fatty acids (found in oily fish, walnuts and freshly ground flaxseed). This imbalance can lead to an increased risk of heart disease, inflammatory conditions, cancer and other health concerns.
While eating several servings of oily fish (I prefer wild Alaskan salmon and sardines) per week is a start, you may want to consider fish oil supplements, especially if you don't enjoy fish. Available in liquid or capsule forms, fish oil is effective at helping to reduce blood pressure, is beneficial to the nervous system, and can even help alleviate mild to moderate depression. Omega-3 fatty acids may also help support the health of breast tissue by maintaining healthy breast cells, a positive note for women with a family history of breast cancer. Look for capsules or oil that are certified free of contaminants, and begin with small daily doses, building up to the recommended amount.
Don’t miss Saturday’s post when we cover cancer-protective foods.
If you enjoy hiking, camping or simply spending time outdoors in wooded areas, you should be aware of Lyme disease, an infection caused by Borrelia burgdorfer, a bacterium that is often found in deer ticks. Since deer ticks tend to be prevalent in woodlands, you should wear protective clothing such as light colored, long-sleeved shirts, and tuck your pants into your socks when hiking in these areas. Always perform a "tick check" and immediately wash your body after spending time in the woods or tall grass. In addition, keep an eye out for anything unusual on your skin, especially a rash in concentric rings, like a bull's-eye. If you have any symptoms such as rashes, fever or joint pain, consult a doctor who is knowledgeable about diagnosing and treating Lyme disease - the typical treatment is with antibiotics. Left untreated, about two-thirds of people with Lyme disease develop recurring bouts of arthritis, sometimes years after the infection.
It makes sense, but only if you choose the right kind. A study published in the January 2008 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that including whole grains in a weight-loss plan could help dieters drop belly fat. It followed 50 obese men and women for 12 weeks. As part of an otherwise nutritious diet, half the group ate grain-based foods made up of at least 51 percent whole grain (such as oatmeal, wholegrain cereal, brown rice and barley). The second group ate only refined grains, such as white bread and other foods made with white flour. After the 12-week diet, both groups had lost about the same amount of weight, an average of eight to 11 pounds, but the whole-grain group lost more belly fat, which is a risk factor for several health concerns.
To get the most out of your meals, it’s not just the ingredients you choose, but the way you prepare them that matters. Use the following tips to maximize the nutritional benefits of foods, and to help minimize the potential harm from improper cooking methods.
- Use a steamer. Steaming can retain nutrients better than other methods, such as boiling.
- Use marinades. Marinating meats (particularly chicken) may reduce the formation of heterocyclic amines (HCAs), which evidence shows may be carcinogenic. Garlic, rosemary, ginger and turmeric are all healthful spices to include in marinades.
- Use a slow cooker. What you put in - fresh vegetables, lean proteins - is a big part of what makes a healthful meal, but the lower temperatures slow cookers use may help preserve nutrients that are otherwise lost when food is cooked rapidly at high heat.
- When grilling, pre-cook meats on the stove or in the oven, and finish them off on the grill. Less time on the grill means fewer carcinogens in your meats.
Check out more Healthy Cooking Tips, including advice on portion sizes.
For women, running low on vitamin D can lead to inflammation, which in turn can negatively affect the immune system. A University of Missouri study is the first to report a correlation between increased concentrations of an inflammatory marker called serum TNF-a and vitamin D deficiency in healthy women. This investigation may shed some light on the role vitamin D plays in preventing certain diseases associated with inflammation, including cardiovascular disease.
Early summer, when cucumbers are cheap and plentiful, is the best time to make this soup. It is so easy that you’ll be making it a lot on warm afternoons or when you feel you want to eat something less than a complete meal. When I have guests for a late-evening meal, I serve this soup, along with steamed Alaskan crab legs, and mixed field greens, because it is so light. The crab legs and the salad round out the meal. You can make this soup ahead of time and chill it, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to use.