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5 Reasons to Eat Raspberries

If you want a delicious way to add fiber and antioxidants to your diet, look no further than raspberries. One of my seasonal favorites, raspberries are an aggregate fruit, meaning that smaller sections with seeds and fruit create a larger whole. Raspberries have significant nutritional value - they:

  1. Are a good source of vitamin C and fiber.
  2. Provide folate, vitamins B2 and B3, magnesium and other essential nutrients.
  3. Contain ellagitannins, natural health-protective compounds that appear to have potent anti-cancer activity.
  4. Have considerable antioxidant activity (50% more than strawberries).
  5. Place in the top 15 of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition's best antioxidant sources.

For a quick and simple nutritional boost, top your cereal with raspberries, add some to a salad, use them in sauces and baked goods, or enjoy them on their own. Because commercial strains may be heavily sprayed with pesticides, I recommend buying only organic varieties.

To learn which other fruits and vegetables you should always buy organic, here's my video on the Environmental Working Group's Shopper's Guide.


How Bad Is Meat for Your Heart?

That may depend on the kind of meat you eat, according to a recent analysis from the Harvard School of Public Health. The investigation showed that processed meats - bacon, sausage, deli meats - seem to raise the risks of heart disease and diabetes, while unprocessed red meats including beef, pork and lamb don't. The researchers arrived at their conclusions after reviewing 20 studies that included more than 1.2 million individuals from the United States, Europe, Australia and Asia. The data revealed that each 1.8 ounce daily serving of processed meat (that translates to a slice or two of deli meat or one hot dog) was associated with a 42 percent higher risk of heart disease and a 19 percent higher risk of diabetes. No such risks were seen for unprocessed meats. The researchers suggested that the sodium and preservatives in processed meats might make the difference - these added up to four times more sodium and 50 percent more nitrate preservatives than are found in unprocessed meats. Both types of meats contained roughly the same amount of saturated fat and cholesterol.

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4 Steps to Naturally Whiter Teeth

If you are a cola, coffee, tea or red-wine drinker, you may experience discolored teeth. Actually, any food or drink capable of staining clothes or carpets - including fruit juices, blueberries, soy sauce and curry - can also stain teeth -  While the best way to get rid of persistent stains is with professional teeth cleaning, you can help prevent stains - new or recurring - with the following:

  1. Rinse your mouth with plain water after you drink or eat staining foods and beverages.
  2. Brush your teeth twice a day with a whitening toothpaste; many natural-ingredient-based toothpaste lines such as Tom's of Maine now have whitening varieties.
  3. Floss daily (stains around the edges of your teeth can occur when plaque accumulates at the gum line and absorbs color from food and drink).
  4. Sip temperate fluids through a straw, which minimizes contact with teeth.

Be cautious about over the counter teeth whitening kits, and talk with your dentist about professional options. You should be aware that any method of tooth bleaching may, over time, break down the integrity of the teeth. That can leave them more susceptible to future stains. Tooth sensitivity is a common side effect of teeth whitening but usually decreases over time.

Both red wine and green tea hold an important place in my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid, so don't let the fear of stained teeth deter you from including them in your diet.


Vitamin B6 and Lung Cancer Risk

At present, all we know is that people with high blood levels of B6 are about half as likely to develop lung cancer as those with the lowest levels, regardless of smoking history. The same goes for levels of methionine, an amino acid found in red meat, fish and beans. This new finding comes from the World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer, which looked at data from more than 500,000 Europeans recruited between 1992 and 2000. The investigators reached their conclusions by comparing 899 people in the study who developed lung cancer with 1,770 matched individuals who didn't. At this stage, all the researchers can report is that there seems to be an association between blood levels of these nutrients and lung cancer. The study didn't look at whether or not taking vitamin B6 or methionine will lower the risk. And it didn't change the fact that the best way to protect against lung cancer hasn't changed: don't smoke.


Resveratrol for Eye Health

Resveratrol, an antioxidant found in red wine and the skin of grapes, has been studied for its effects in extending longevity (at least in mice), and new research indicates that it may also help prevent and treat certain human eye diseases. Investigators at Washington University in St. Louis have reported that resveratrol stopped formation of damaging new blood vessels in the eyes (of mice), suggesting that it could be used to treat and prevent macular degeneration and diabetic retinopathy, both of which can cause vision loss. The investigators gave resveratrol to mice that developed abnormal blood vessels in the retina after laser treatment. They observed that the abnormal blood vessels began to disappear and that resveratrol apparently prevented development of new abnormal blood vessels. The investigators also found that the pathway through which resveratrol worked in their study differs from the one seen in longevity studies. If these findings hold up, resveratrol could help prevent and treat these diseases of the eye. The investigators suggested that the pathway identified might also be active in some types of cancers and cardiovascular disease. Resveratrol would have to be given in pill form – you couldn’t drink enough wine to equal the amount of resveratrol provided in the studies.

More on resveratrol and red wine.


Bugs in Your Bags

File this one under "you just can’t win": If you take reusable bags to the supermarket, you may be bringing home more than you bargained for. New research from the University of Arizona shows that more than half of 84 reusable bags collected from shoppers in Tucson, Los Angeles and the San Francisco Bay area were contaminated with potentially harmful bacteria, including e.coli, a bug found in fecal matter. The contamination occurs when liquid from raw meat or other food leaks onto the bag. The concern is that the fabric can then contaminate other food if you don’t wash the bag before its next use. The study has been criticized because it was funded by the American Chemistry Council, which represents plastics manufacturers. However, co-author Charles Gerba, a University of Arizona professor, says researchers were only interested in the possibility of cross­-contamination, not in discouraging people from using the bags. However, he recommends washing bags after each use and against storing them in the trunk of your car, a hot breeding ground for germs in the summer.

Once you bring your groceries back into your kitchen, even more opportunities for germs abound. Read my post on Simpler Steps for a Safer Kitchen.


Do You Know How to Cook Millet?

Looking for a healthy alternative to pasta? Consider millet, a grain native to Africa and a staple of the North African diet. It is also widely consumed in China and India, where it is used to make flatbreads. In North America, millet is usually found in birdseed, although farmers here do grow pearl (or pearled) millet for human consumption. Millet is a nutritious alternative to wheat products for those who are sensitive to gluten, and can be substituted in recipes for buckwheat, rice or quinoa. It is roughly equal to wheat in protein content, and also provides niacin, vitamin B6 and folic acid along with some calcium, iron, potassium, magnesium and zinc.

To cook millet, simply simmer 1/2 cup of the grain in 1 1/2 cups of liquid. If you leave it alone as it cooks, you'll get fluffy grains like rice; if you stir frequently and add a little extra liquid during cooking, you'll get a dish that resembles mashed potatoes. It takes about 25 minutes to prepare.

Try using millet in my Toasted Grain Pilaf.


What Is Laughter Yoga?

Laughter yoga is based on a simple truth that all children know: laughter makes you feel better (children laugh about 400 times a day; adults, 15 times). Developed by Madan Kataria, a family physician from India, laughter yoga is spreading across the United States and the world. Some typical exercises include:

  • Greeting laughter: Laughing while shaking hands with at least four or five people in a group.
  • Appreciation laughter: Joining the index finger with the thumb to make the universal “okay” sign to other group members while laughing simultaneously.

Laughter yoga is not really about humor (or yoga), but rather exploits the natural human tendency to laugh when others laugh - so when a group of people forces laughter, it quickly transitions to real, spontaneous laughing. I find this trend fascinating, and have no doubt that boosting the daily laughter quotient is indeed healthy, especially in adults.

More on laughter's power to relieve stress.