Nuts are high in protein and make a delicious, satisfying snack—but did you know they can also help lower your risk of developing heart disease and diabetes? Using data collected over a five-year period through the National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys (NHANES), researchers from Louisiana State University analyzed the diets of more than 13,000 adults, specifically their daily intake of “tree nuts” including pistachios, walnuts, almonds, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and cashews. Here’s what they found:
Regular tree nut consumers—those who ate at least a quarter of an ounce of nuts daily—were less likely to develop metabolic syndrome, the term given to a group of risk factors associated with heart disease and diabetes (including obesity, high blood pressure and elevated blood sugar levels). The lower prevalence of metabolic syndrome may be linked to the fact that nut eaters also had lower levels of C-reactive protein in the blood, which signals inflammation in the body and is one of the markers doctors use to evaluate the risk of developing coronary artery disease. The same group also had higher levels of “good” cholesterol in the blood, along with lower body mass indexes.
Adding a handful of nuts to the daily diet is a simple thing we can all do to support our daily health. Certain nuts (walnuts in particular) contain beneficial Omega-3 fats that can help balance the body’s inflammation response, along with heart-healthy fiber, vitamin E, potassium and amino acids, which is why Brenda Watson recommends them as part of her Love Your Heart eating plan. Just remember to watch your portion sizes, since nuts do contain some starch—and choose raw nuts that aren’t covered in sugar and salt (which can undermine their health benefits).
As summer comes to an end, kids across the country are loading up their backpacks with fresh supplies and heading back to school—but new notebooks and No. 2 pencils aren’t the only things they need for a successful school year. Good nutritional habits go a long way toward giving kids a healthy head start. Here are five important tips for parents!
Bring Back Breakfast
A wholesome breakfast gives kids the fuel they need to start their day and stay energized, and studies show that children who eat breakfast perform better in school and are less likely to have behavioral problems. Avoid sugary cereals and heavily processed pre-packaged breakfast foods, and opt instead for fiber-rich steel-cut oats, fresh fruits that are low in sugar, and lean protein sources such as eggs, plain Greek yogurt, and turkey bacon or sausage.
Keep them Active
Kids may be more active during the summer months, but a new study from Illinois University suggests parents should make regular exercise a priority all year long. Researchers found that the brain scans of physically fit kids showed more white matter—indicating a greater capacity for learning, memory and paying attention in the classroom. Sports and after-school activities are a great way to encourage exercise, and parents can even arrange meet-ups at the park or ball field to help children get active after a long day spent sitting at their desks.
Be Smart about Brown Bagging It
With school cafeterias under pressure to provide better nutrition, many parents are opting to brown bag it. However, a new study out of Tufts University shows that packed-at-home lunches often include sugary drinks and processed snacks and not enough fiber, protein and healthy dairy products. Choose plenty of low-sugar fruits and non-starchy veggies, along with lean protein sources such as plain Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, and chicken or turkey slices. Other ideas include celery with low-sugar peanut butter, a handful of nuts, and baby carrots with hummus.
Make Sure They Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Research shows that children who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to have difficulty concentrating in the classroom. In addition, lack of sleep can contribute to mood swings, irritability and behavior problems during and after school. Most experts agree that school-age kids should get between 9 and 12 hours of sleep every night, so do your best to create (and stick to) a regular bedtime schedule to ensure they are getting a healthy amount of shut-eye.
Provide Essential Supplements
A healthy body begins with good digestion, so it’s important that children get the nutrients they need to digest their food properly and eliminate waste effectively and efficiently. Daily supplementation with fiber, probiotics and digestive enzymes can help kids get the nutritional support they need for a better digestion and overall health.‡ A daily probiotic supplement also promotes a healthy internal balance and can go a long way toward supporting healthy immune function during the school year, when children are exposed to daily challenges to their immune systems.‡