Super-SIZE Your Day: Health

Which kind of nuts should we eat and how much?

Most nuts are going to be healthy. Almost all nuts are going to be high in your polyunsaturated and your monounsaturated fats, which are your healthy types of fats. They’re going to be very low in your saturated fats. Walnuts are the highest amount of omega-3 fatty acids. So if you’re looking to add more omega-3s, an ounce of walnuts adds 2.5 grams of omega-3 fatty acids. However, when adding nuts into part of your diet, make sure you’re not adding a lot. A handful of nuts is about an ounce, which translates to about 170 or 180 calories. So if you have several handfuls of nuts through the day, that can add up to several hundred calories through the day. And if you’re not cutting out other calories, you’ll end up gaining weight.

Do nuts help lower your cholesterol?

Well the walnuts, which are high in the omega-3s, can help to lower our triglyceride levels. And all of these, because they’re adding the healthier fats, can help to lower our LDL cholesterol levels without affecting our HDL — or good cholesterol levels.

What are some easy ways to add nuts into your diet?

You can throw them in your yogurt. You can add chopped walnuts to your oatmeal. You can just grab a handful of them as a snack. They even sell nuts in small little envelopes or little single serving packages that you can take with you to work.

What about blueberries? What do they do for you, and how can you add them?

Blueberries, of course, are one of the most nutritious fruits. They are a very good source of antioxidants. About half a cup is going to be a serving. So try to add at least a cup a day. You can add blueberries to smoothies. You can add it to your cereal. You can even do dried blueberries in your salad. Frozen blueberries are an easy way to keep them on hand all year round. You don’t have to worry about them being in season or not. And when you buy blueberries frozen, they’re also going to be a lot more cost effective. They’re not as expensive as fresh blueberries can be.

People think of orange juice as being so healthy. Is that true?

There are some orange juices that have the same kind of compound like what’s in Benecol, which is what helps to lower cholesterol. Just regular orange juice doesn’t have that. The amount of juice that you’ll have to drink, whether it’s orange juice or grape juice, to lower your cholesterol is going to be at least several cups a day, and that has a lot of sugar. So, if you’re also trying to watch your weight or you’re trying to lose weight, you might be taking on 200, 300 or 400 calories through fruit juices, and you’re not getting any fiber at all. You’re getting just sugar. So it’s a lot better to go with a whole fruit as opposed to the fruit juice.

What about soy protein? How would somebody add that?

Twenty-five grams of soy protein has been shown to be as affective as medications in lowering your LDL, or your bad cholesterol levels. But getting 25 grams of soy protein is going to be a lot if you’re going with just tofu, soymilk and soy nuts. You’re going to be eating it or drinking it all day long. So the best bet if you’re trying to use soy to lower your LDL cholesterol would be something like a protein powder. Stir it into milk or soymilk. Some people even like it in a juice. And making a smoothie, adding fresh fruits, you can even add things like flax seed, any type of vanilla extract, anything like that for flavor.

So they don’t taste very good?

Some people love them, and other people think it’s horrible. With some stores, if you keep the receipt, you can bring it back after you’ve tasted it.

Now let’s talk about my favorite, chocolate. What benefits does it have?

Chocolate was shown to lower blood pressure in several studies recently. But in the studies, the subjects are taking in three ounces of chocolate a day, which is basically eating this entire chocolate bar a day to help lower their blood pressure. So if you did do that, you would certainly want to cut back other calories. Most realistically, people are going to have a square or two of dark chocolate at a time, which might not have such a significant impact on blood pressure as it does in the clinical studies. Chocolate can also help to lower your LDL cholesterol levels, and it can also help to raise your HDL cholesterol.

Chocolate causes the release of serotonin, and serotonin is what produces that calming, relaxing effect. So it actually is true that chocolate can have that soothing effect on our bodies. Other studies have shown that it can actually decrease chronic stress in people as well.

When you’re looking for chocolate, you want to be sure you go for the dark chocolate. You want to be sure that it’s at least 70-percent cocoa. That’s where you’re going to get your nutritional benefit. Adding just regular milk chocolate or white chocolate isn’t going to give you the same benefit.

We found a study showing people who ate breakfast live longer. What is your thought on this?

Well, every time you eat, you’re going to increase your metabolism. So that’s going to start at breakfast. If you skip breakfast, your body’s not actually burning as many calories as it could during the rest of the day. So just by eating breakfast, you’re getting your body to burn more calories throughout the rest of your day. You want to be sure, though, that with your breakfast you reach for something that’s whole grain to give you plenty of fiber, but also balancing it out with a little bit of protein and some fat which is going to keep you feeling fuller for longer.

An easy breakfast is high-fiber waffles topped with peanut butter or whole grain waffles topped with peanut butter. Scrambling an egg, wrap it in a whole-wheat tortilla, add a little bit of salsa and little bit of cheese. Something like even McDonald’s Egg McMuffin is a lower fat version. You’re not getting the whole grains, but it is still low in fat and is a good source of protein, and it’s easy if you’re on the run. Something as easy as cheese toast could be breakfast, if it’s a slice of cheese on your whole grain toast, out the door.

How many ounces or grams of protein would you want?

It’d be different for everyone. If a woman is also having a glass of milk in the morning, I may have her do a whole-grain waffle topped with peanut butter and a glass of milk. Whereas a guy, a larger man, I may have him do two waffles with the peanut butter and a glass of milk. So it’s going to vary person to person, and also what the rest of their day is like, how soon they’re planning on having a snack, and how hungry they’re getting.

Tell me why laughter is helpful. How does it help the body?

So many people are so tense. They don’t really let themselves be happy. They don’t let themselves relax and enjoy life. Everything is serious. Everything’s an issue or a problem. So just finding humor in all the little things that maybe aren’t like hysterically hilariously funny but they’re still funny enough. Just letting yourself laugh out loud can be a huge stress relief.

Tell me what you think about social drinking and how it’s helpful.

Simply having a drink with friends also has health benefits just from the socialization and relaxation and spending the time with friends enjoying cocktails. Separate from the actual alcohol you’re consuming, the act of doing that does have health benefits. We all know that red wine is healthy and can have health benefits as far as minimizing the risk of cardiovascular disease. The same benefit has been shown with all types of alcohol.

How much alcohol?

Kimball: What’s considered moderate alcohol is one drink a day for women and two for men. And a drink is considered 12 ounces of beer, four ounces of wine or an ounce of hard alcohol.

How easy would it be for somebody who’s never done any of this stuff to add it to their life?

Kimball: I think it’s pretty easy, especially if you try not to put a lot of pressure on yourself. So if you think, ‘Oh my gosh! I have to go to the grocery every other day to get a pint of fresh blueberries,’ that’s hard. That’s not going too really work. You can’t stock up on them at once because they’ll go bad. So instead of thinking you always have to have fresh, say you’ll get frozen blueberries. That’s easy. Making a shake can be a little tougher for someone. But if you look at it as, OK let me get my soy protein and I’ll throw some frozen blueberries in there and that’s my breakfast, done. You’ve got all three of those in one step. So if you’ve got walnuts, buy them already chopped so that you can just grab a handful and a throw them into your oatmeal. If your favorite is almonds, keep a box of those or a bag of those at work. You can grab a handful of those as your snack.

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