Vegetarian and Vegan Diets Explained

The simplest definition of vegetarianism is a diet free of meat, fish, and fowl flesh. But eating habits of vegetarians cover a wide spectrum. At one end are lacto-ovo vegetarians, who avoid animal flesh but eat eggs and milk products. At the other end are vegans, who forgo eating (and often wearing) all animal-based products, including honey. Raw foodists are vegans who eat mainly raw fruits, vegetables, legumes, sprouts, and nuts.

There are also pescatarians, who eat fish and seafood; and lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy products but not eggs. Fruitarians follow a diet that includes fruits, nuts, seeds, and other plant food. Those who follow a macrobiotic diet eat mostly grains but can also eat fish. They don’t necessarily identify as vegetarians.

Flexitarians refer to vegetarians who occasionally eat meat and fish.

Reasons for Becoming a Vegetarian

Many adherents of vegetarianism and veganism – former Beatle Paul McCartney and actor Alec Baldwin are two celebrities who happily promote the cause — regard a flesh-free diet not only as more healthful, but as a more ethical way to live. They point to the cruel practices and the high environmental cost of raising animals for food as reasons for excluding meat from the diet.
Most Americans, however, continue to eat some form of meat or fish. Ten percent of people consider themselves to be vegetarians, according to a 2013 Gallup poll.

Vegetarianism and Health
Most doctors and nutritionists agree that a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be a boon to health. There’s also research suggesting that reducing or eliminating red meat from the diet may cut your risk of heart disease.

Research also has shown that a vegan or vegetarian diet may lower your risk of getting type 2 diabetes. And a 2011 study found that vegetarians had lower triglycerides, glucose levels, blood pressure, and body mass index (BMI).

Does Being a Vegetarian Lower Cancer Risk?
It’s difficult to say whether being a vegetarian or a vegan lowers cancer risk. This is mainly because of the diversity within the vegetarian population.

Many studies of the cancer-vegetarian relationship conclude that diets rich in fiber, vitamins, minerals, isoflavones (found in soybeans, chickpeas, peanuts, and more), and carotenoids (found in carrots, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, tomatoes, red peppers, and more), seem to protect against disease, including cancer, when part of a health-conscious lifestyle.

An 11-year study in Germany examined colon cancer among 1,900 vegetarians. Researchers noted fewer deaths from cancers of the stomach, colon, and lung in study participants than in the general population — particularly among those who practiced some form of vegetarianism for at least 20 years. They suggested, however, that other factors, like body weight and amount of exercise, likely affected mortality rates in the vegetarians they studied.

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8 weeks on fruit- and vegetable-rich diets tied to better heart health

A new study has looked at the links between markers of heart health and three types of diet: the DASH diet, a different fruit- and vegetable-rich diet, and a typical Western diet. Its conclusion? Diets that include lots of fruit and vegetables are associated with better heart health.
A new observational analysis recently published in the Annals of Internal Medicine adds to evidence that diets rich in fruits and vegetables may help protect cardiovascular health.

The analysis draws on data from the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) trial, which assessed the effects of a specially designed diet on blood pressure, in comparison with other types of diets.

This DASH diet was developed by specialists in nutrition who were affiliated with the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

On the whole, the DASH diet favors the intake of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, nuts, and beans over that of red meats and fatty, sugary, or salty foods.

Studying the effects of diet on heart health
For the current analysis, the researchers — including the study’s lead author, Dr. Stephen Juraschek, of the Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, in Boston, MA — compared the effects of three types of diet on markers of heart health. The diets trialed were the DASH diet, a different diet rich in fruits and vegetables, and “a typical American diet.”

The latter reflected levels of nutrient consumption reported by the average U.S. adult, while the diet rich in fruits and vegetables was, in many ways, similar, but it contained more natural fiber and included fewer snacks and sweets.

Researchers looked at data from three randomly assigned groups of participants from the DASH trials. The total number of participants in the present analysis was 326, and each had followed one of the three diets mentioned above for a period of 8 weeks.

The investigators assessed the levels of three biomarkers related to heart health in samples of serum, a component of blood, collected from the participants.

The participants’ mean age was 45.2 years, and none had preexisting cardiovascular conditions.

The serum samples had been collected, first, after a 12-hour fast before the participants had started on their respective diets and, later, at the end of the 8-week study period.

Fruit and vegetable intake may be key
The serum biomarkers that the team assessed were: high-sensitivity cardiac troponin I, N-terminal pro–B-type natriuretic peptide, and high-sensitivity C-reactive protein.

Troponin helps regulate the contractions of the heart muscle, and overly high levels of this protein can indicate heart damage.

High levels of C-reactive protein in the bloodstream can indicate inflammation, while very high levels of pro–B-type natriuretic peptide are a marker of heart failure.

After assessing the serum samples taken before and after the 8-week dietary interventions, the team found that people who had followed either the DASH diet or the other fruit- and vegetable-rich diet consistently had significantly lower concentrations of two biomarkers — troponin and pro–B-type natriuretic peptide — than their peers who had followed the typical American diet.

This, the investigators suggest, indicates better heart health in those groups. Levels of the two biomarkers did not differ among the people who had followed either of the plant-rich diets.

C-reactive protein levels — which can indicate the presence of inflammation — were not affected by any of the three diets.

While it is unclear which aspects of the DASH and the other plant-rich diets may have benefited heart health, the study authors do have a hypothesis. They write: Nevertheless, they caution, “Further research is needed to confirm whether similar diets can improve cardiac function in adults with established heart failure.”

Is Wheatgrass Good for You?

Wheatgrass juice may look like what you’d get if you put your lawn trimmings in a blender. But fans say it can strengthen the immune system, detoxify the body, and ward off disease. Folk medicine practitioners once used wheatgrass for everything from treating constipation to easing the pain of rheumatism.

What Is Wheatgrass?
Wheatgrass is the young grass of the wheat plant, Triticum aestivum. It grows in temperate regions throughout Europe and the United States and can live indoors or outdoors. Many people grow their own wheatgrass by putting wheat seeds in water and then harvesting the leaves.

Wheatgrass is a natural source of vitamins and minerals (a few of which are antioxidants) including:

Vitamins A, E, C, K and B6
Calcium
Selenium
Magnesium
Iron

How Is Wheatgrass Used by Fans?
The leaves are tough to digest, so they’re usually crushed and squeezed to make juice. Wheatgrass leaves also can be dried and made into tablets or capsules. Some people mix wheatgrass with water and use it as an enema to cleanse the digestive system. Others eat raw wheatgrass because they believe that cooking foods destroys the natural enzymes that provide the real health kick.

Can Wheatgrass Treat What Ails You?
Wheatgrass believers use it to try and combat a number of everyday health conditions, including colds, coughs, fevers, digestive problems, and skin conditions. Wheatgrass also has been used to potentially prevent and treat more serious conditions, from cancer to AIDS. Those who swear by it say that the potent ingredient in wheatgrass is chlorophyll, the pigment that gives plants their green color. They say chlorophyll acts like hemoglobin (the protein in red blood cells that transports oxygen) and increases oxygen levels in the body. Any green plant food you have eaten over the years, such as spinach, parsley, arugula, has also been contributing chlorophyll.

Does Wheatgrass Live Up to the Claims?
Despite all the health claims, there is very little, if any, evidence that wheatgrass actually works to detoxify or prevent or cure disease. Most of what little research has been conducted focuses on the effects of wheatgrass on the digestive system. Here’s what some of those studies have found wheatgrass may do:

Improve symptoms of ulcerative colitis. A 2002 study by researchers in Israel showed that treatment with wheatgrass juice eased the symptoms of ulcerative colitis — inflammation of the colon. More research needs to be done, but it does point to possible benefits from wheatgrass.

Reduce chemotherapy side effects. Although there isn’t any scientific evidence that wheatgrass can shrink tumors or increase survival in cancer patients, a preliminary study of 60 women with breast cancer did find that wheatgrass reduced some of the harmful effects of chemotherapy without altering the effectiveness of the treatment.

What Are the Risks of Wheatgrass?
Although wheatgrass is considered safe, some people have reported side effects after using it, especially in high doses. They have ranged from mild (headaches and nausea) to more serious allergic reactions (hives and swelling of the throat). Because most people eat wheatgrass raw, there is also the rare chance that it can be contaminated with bacteria or other organisms from the soil.

Should I Use Wheatgrass?
There isn’t really any harm in trying a small amount of wheatgrass from a reputable company. Children, pregnant or nursing women, and anyone who has compromised immunity should avoid it because of the potential for bacteria.

7 Signs You’re Not Eating Enough Calories

Reducing calories is a key part of almost any weight-loss plan. But it’s possible to go too far with cutting calories, and that won’t help you! Here are some warning signs that you’re not eating enough calories.

You’re Exhausted
Calories = energy. When you fall short, you’re more likely to feel wiped out. If you’re feeling tired much earlier than normal, or if you’re having trouble getting out of bed even after eight solid hours of sleep, take a look at what you’re putting on your plate during the day. If it’s extra tough to drag yourself through your day-to-day activities, that’s another indicator you’re not meeting your basic needs. (Find out some other reasons you might be tired.)

Your Workouts Are Suffering
Having fuel in the tank is essential for powering through your workouts. If you notice that you’re losing steam quickly or if you’re struggling to lift weights that would normally be no sweat, look at what you’re putting in your mouth before and after you hit the gym. Consuming some carbs pre-workout and replenishing afterwards with a combo of protein and carbs will support recovery. That will allow your body to repair itself and build muscle to help you see the results you long for. (Learn how to recover from a tough workout.)

You Can’t Focus
When you’re low on calories (and energy), your mind may feel foggy. If that 80-calorie, fat-free yogurt barely gets you through the morning meeting, add some nuts for staying power. Or swap in a breakfast that provides a balance of protein, complex carbs, and fat. An egg on whole-grain toast or even a piece of fruit with some almond butter will give you a leg up. It’s called “brain food” for a reason.

You’re Always Hangry
If you’re consistently hungry and irritable, it may be a sign that you’re just not eating enough. Take a look to see if perhaps you could try slightly more substantial meals and snacks. Aim for a balance of protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats within your calorie needs to provide stable energy.

Your Period Is Off—or MIA
Restricting calories too much can lead to changes in hormone levels, which can cause your menstrual cycle to go out of whack or take a hiatus. Adequate nutrition is important for normal hormone function, so a missed period when you’re not pregnant or a sudden change if you’re super-regular is a loud and clear signal that something is not right. Check in with your doctor. (Read some answers to other period questions.)

The Scale Isn’t Budging
A sudden drop in calories can trick your body into thinking you’re lost in the wilderness instead of just trying to fit into a bridesmaid’s dress. So it goes into “starvation mode,” clinging to every calorie it can. This makes it harder to lose weight over time because it slows down your metabolism. If you’re not losing weight on, say, 1,400 calories per day, try 1,600 calories for a couple weeks and reevaluate. (Find out 6 reasons you aren’t losing weight.)

You Just Can’t Stick to the Plan
If your low-calorie diet plan feels impossible to stick to, it may not be just a matter of willpower. It might be that it’s not the right plan for you. Even a small increase in calories may feel more sustainable. Ideally, the diet that helps you reach your goal should look pretty similar to the one that will help you maintain that success over time. When you enjoy what you eat and feel energized and satisfied, you’re more likely to stick with an overall healthy diet that supports your long-term health goals.

MS: Dietary interventions may ‘calm down the immune system’

A study in mice has shown that a change in diet may slow diseases that involve the activation of the immune system, such as multiple sclerosis (MS). Could the findings lead to improved treatments in humans?
In the United States, nearly 1 million people over the age of 18 are living with a diagnosis of MS, according to estimates.

MS is the most common of the inflammatory disorders with an autoimmune component, which refers to the immune system attacking and damaging healthy tissue.

In MS, the immune system attacks the myelin sheaths that protect the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting nerves’ messages to and from the brain.

The result can involve muscle weakness, numbness, trouble with balance and coordination, and cognitive decline, all of which get worse over time.

Doctors most frequently diagnose MS in young adults, although the diagnosis can be made at any age.

At present, no medical treatment can prevent or slow MS without greatly increasing the risk of infection or cancer. But what if dietary changes could delay the disease’s onset and progression in high risk individuals?

10 Healthy Pizza Recipes


Forget the delivery dude. These easy pizza recipes ditch the grease and amp up the flavor with good-for-you ingredients, making them perfect for your next get-together.

Maple-Walnut Pizza with Chicken Sausage

When you need to satisfy that sausage craving, opt for the chicken variety over pork to cut calories and fat. And make sure your cheese doesn’t have less than 33 percent fat to avoid a rubbery texture and get that oh-so-gooey one.

Makes: 6 servings
Prep: 15 mins
Total Time: 35 mins

Chickpea Pizza with Sausage and Peppers

For a Mediterranean twist, opt for chickpea flour. Unlike the wheat kind, it’s gluten-free and packed with protein. Plus it makes a crispy crust, so it’s way easier to prep than regular pizza dough.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 30 mins
Total Time: 45 mins

Strawberry-Bacon Pizza

Because who are we to deny you bacon? Pair it with fresh strawberries for a sweet-and-savory combo you’ll fall for fast.

Makes: 4 servings
Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 30 mins

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10 Healthy Grilled Cheese Recipes That Will Make Your Mouth Water

These gooey, melty, healthy grilled cheese sandwiches need no introduction, so we’ll just say, make ’em. All of them. They’re good for you!

More Cheese, Please

craving comfort food? We give you full permission to dive right in to these 10 delicious, gooey, cheesy sandwiches. With fresh fruits and veggies tucked inside, these healthy grilled cheese recipes prove that kid-friendly favorites can be totally appropriate for adults, too. And don’t skimp on the triple creme—the latest science says full-fat cheese is totally fine.

Sweet Potato and Kale Grilled Cheese

The name alone tells you this stacked sandwich is healthy. And the taste proves it’s delicious too. The healthy grilled cheese sandwich only gets better when you add caramelized onions and fresh herbs to the pile. It’ll be your new go-to hand-held dinner.
(Related:10 Healthy Sandwich Recipes Under 300 Calories)

Balsamic Blueberry Grilled Cheese

This gooey sandwich is almost too pretty to eat—almost. Frozen blueberries are reduced along with sugar and vinegar to create a jam-like spread. This healthy grilled cheese might warrant a bib to prevent stains, but it is *totally* worth it. (BTW, frozen fruits are one of the Packaged foods that are Surprisingly healty.)Get your greens via a generous handful of baby spinach or arugula for a bite that’s bursting with flavor.

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The Best Foods to Eat for a Healthy Gut

If you haven’t given a second thought (or even a first thought) to your gut bacteria (a.k.a. microbiota), the time is now. Your gut plays an important role in immunity, and the bacteria it houses are the stars of the show. The foods you eat can change the makeup of your gut bacteria very quickly after you eat them—for better or for worse. Colorful fruits and vegetables and other plant-based foods help the ‘good’ bacteria flourish. A recent study from the University of Connecticut found that male mice who ate the human equivalent of 1 ounce of walnuts per day were able to create more diverse gut bacteria. The researchers say they believe there’s a connection to these changes in gut bacteria and a reduced risk of colon cancer also noticed in these male mice. ” Lead study author, Daniel Rosenberg told UConn Today that “this study shows that walnuts may also act as a probiotic to make the colon healthy, which in turn offers protection against colon tumors.”

The vitamin E and omega-3 to omega-6 fats found in walnuts may have played a role in these results, but these little nuts aren’t the only food that keeps your gut healthy. Choosing foods that fall into one of two categories—prebiotics or probiotics—is the secret to maintaining a healthy balance of good bacteria. Here are some delicious ways to get a good dose of both.

Prebiotic Foods

Prebiotics are non-digestible parts of your food that gut bacteria actually uses as a kind of fertilizer or fuel. Learn more about prebiotics and how they are different than probiotics.

Onions: Caramelize some in-season spring onions and put on some grilled chicken or a lean steak. You can also pickle them to add to tacos or a salad.
Asparagus: Whether you enjoy asparagus grilled, steamed, or in a chilled soup, this versatile veggie will help get that good bacteria growing.
Whole wheat foods: Fiber is the preferred fuel for beneficial gut bacteria, so choose whole wheat bread as a base for avocado toast.

Probiotic Foods

Probiotics contain the good bacteria to help create a healthy and balanced gut and digestive system. (Did you know that Your Gut Bacteria Can Help You Drop Pounds?)

Yogurt: Whether you prefer your yogurt plain Greek-style or loaded with fresh fruit in a parfait, choose varieties that contain ‘live active cultures’ on the label for the most benefits.
Kimchi: This staple of Korean cuisine does more than add a kick to fried rice or lettuce wraps. The tangy acidic flavor is evidence of bacteria hard at work.
Kefir: Those shot-sized bottles of kefir in the dairy aisle have big benefits for gut health. They contain live bacteria cultures and beneficial yeast that makes your gut happy.

3 Nutrition Lessons to Steal from Olympians While Training

Imagine that your day job consisted of running, swimming, or gymnastics; followed by strength training and prepping for competition. It sounds exhausting, but it’s a typical day for the Olympic athletes in Rio. There’s also another element to the Olympic athlete’s training: a ceaseless hunger. Most Olympic athletes need to consume a tremendous number of calories (some eat up to 8,000 per day) to fuel for their daily workouts and maintain strength. But eating whatever, whenever isn’t the solution. Food is more about fuel and nutrition than anything else. So what exactly do Olympians eat, and what can you steal from their diet plans?

Calories Matter

It’s impossible to pinpoint the exact diet of an Olympian. They all have different needs based on size, sport, and training. But Olympic athletes need to be mindful about making healthy food choices. Just because they can eat thousands of calories of McDonald’s doesn’t mean that they should. Jason Machowsky, R.D., C.S.S.D., a sports dietitian who works with many athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery, says one of the most important aspects of fueling the Olympic athlete is to “create a plan that allows you to get in the right fuel each day based on the day’s demands, which involves eating foods for good health and immunity plus performance nutrition.” Elite competitors are putting enormous strain on their bodies and immune systems, which means eating enough vitamins and minerals is even more important. A sick athlete is a benched athlete!

Make it work for you:

Choose healthy foods to get the most gains from your workout and overall health. The healthier you are, the better you will feel, and the more your body will respond to your hard work.
Fueling properly for a workout will only make you feel better during the workout. Olympians may eat a mound of pasta before an intense gym session, but mere mortals can grab a piece of fruit or a handful of crackers.
All About Those Carbs
Carbohydrates are a huge part of fueling the Olympic athlete, making up 55 to 65 percent of the diet. For those athletes who don’t want to count their calories or carbohydrates? Dietitians who work with the U.S. team have created a simple plate system. On easy training days, athletes should build an “easy plate”: 1/2 vegetables, 1/4 grains, and 1/4 protein. On moderate days, the grains increase to 1/3 of the plate; on hard days, the grains should be half the plate. This system allows athletes to get adequate carbs to fuel their workouts while still eating a balanced diet.

Make it work for you:

On most days, we can follow the “easy plate,” which is what the USDA has been recommending for years.
Recovery Matters
Kristi Spence, R.D., C.S.S.D., a dietitian who competed in the Olympic Trials for the marathon in 2008, says that when training, she always paid close attention to her recovery meal. “I think recovery nutrition is crucial, and I would make sure that I consumed something with carbohydrate and protein as soon as I could after intense training. I would often make chocolate milk smoothies—chocolate milk with frozen strawberries or frozen bananas—to enjoy after training. The flavor was terrific and I knew that the milk was delivering exactly what I needed.”

Make it work for you:

Recovery is the key to feeling good enough to work out again the next day. After an intense workout, your muscles need a mixture of carbs and protein. Chocolate milk is one of the best way to refuel.
For any competitive athletes, don’t try anything new on race day. Your stomach won’t be happy with you.

Diet Tips for Breast Cancer

The Big Picture

What you eat affects your weight, and obesity raises your odds for breast cancer. If you’ve already had the disease, extra pounds can also make it more likely to return. If you choose a healthy diet — one rich in vegetables, whole grains, chicken, and fish — you may boost your chances of living longer after breast cancer. Researchers aren’t sure exactly why that’s true, but the long-term benefits aren’t in doubt.

Is Soy Safe?

Soy-based foods — such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame — have chemicals called phytoestrogens, which are similar to estrogen. That once raised fears that they spelled trouble for women with breast cancer that uses estrogen as fuel to grow. But the latest studies show soy doesn’t raise cancer risk — it may even lower the odds the disease will return. Be wary of soy supplements, though. Scientists haven’t studied their effects as much.

Should You Skip Sugar?

The idea that sweets “feed cancer” has been around for a long time. The truth is more complicated. A spoonful to take the edge off your coffee will not directly make cancer cells grow faster. But it’s still wise to keep an eye on how much you add to your diet. A lot of sugar on a regular basis can lead to obesity and other conditions that make cancer more likely.

Eat More Produce

If you eat more plant-based foods, you may lower your chances of getting breast cancer. Researchers say this strategy especially may help protect against the most aggressive types of tumors. Fruits and vegetables are also an important part of a diet that will help you control your weight, which is key for keeping breast cancer from coming back.

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