Date: May 1, 2019
- Source: Penn State
When combined with a diet low in saturated fats, eating walnuts may help lower blood pressure in people at risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new study.
When combined with a diet low in saturated fats, eating walnuts may help lower blood pressure in people at risk for cardiovascular disease, according to a new Penn State study.
In a randomized, controlled trial, researchers examined the effects of replacing some of the saturated fats in participants’ diets with walnuts. They found that when participants ate whole walnuts daily in combination with lower overall amounts of saturated fat, they had lower central blood pressure.
According to the researchers, central pressure is the pressure that is exerted on organs like the heart. This measure, like blood pressure measured in the arm the traditional way, provides information about a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease (CVD).
Penny Kris-Etherton, Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Penn State, said the study suggests that because walnuts lowered central pressure, their risk of CVD may have also decreased.
“When participants ate whole walnuts, they saw greater benefits than when they consumed a diet with a similar fatty acid profile as walnuts without eating the nut itself,” Kris-Etherton said. “So it seems like there’s a little something extra in walnuts that are beneficial — maybe their bioactive compounds, maybe the fiber, maybe something else — that you don’t get in the fatty acids alone.”
Alyssa Tindall, recent student in Dr. Kris-Etherton’s lab and a new Ph.D. graduate in nutrition, said the study was one of the first to try to uncover which parts of the walnuts help support heart health.
“Walnuts contain alpha-linolenic acid — ALA — a plant-based omega-3 that may positively affect blood pressure,” Tindall said. “We wanted to see if ALA was the major contributor to these heart-healthy benefits, or if it was other bioactive component of walnuts, like polyphenols. We designed the study to test if these components had additive benefits.”
For the study, the researchers recruited 45 participants with overweight or obesity who were between the ages of 30 and 65. Before the study began, participants were placed on a “run-in” diet for two weeks.
“Putting everyone on the same diet for two weeks prior to the start of the study helped put everyone on the same starting plane,” Tindall said. “The run-in diet included 12 percent of their calories from saturated fat, which mimics an average American diet. This way, when the participants started on the study diets, we knew for sure that the walnuts or other oils replaced saturated fats.”
After the run-in diet, the participants were randomly assigned to one of three study diets, all of which included less saturated fat than the run-in diet. The diets included one that incorporated whole walnuts, one that included the same amount of ALA and polyunsaturated fatty acids without walnuts, and one that partially substituted oleic acid (another fatty acid) for the same amount of ALA found in walnuts, without any walnuts.
All three diets substituted walnuts or vegetable oils for five percent of the saturated fat content of the run-in diet, and all participants followed each diet for six weeks, with a break between diet periods.
Following each diet period, the researchers assessed the participants for several cardiovascular risk factors including central systolic and diastolic blood pressure, brachial pressure, cholesterol, and arterial stiffness.
The researchers found that while all treatment diets had a positive effect on cardiovascular outcomes, the diet with whole walnuts provided the greatest benefits, including lower central diastolic blood pressure. In contrast to brachial pressure — which is the pressure moving away from your heart and measured with an arm cuff in the doctor’s office — central pressure is the pressure moving toward your heart.
Tindall said that the results — recently published in the Journal of the American Heart Association — underline the importance of replacing saturated fat with healthier alternatives.
“An average American diet has about 12 percent calories from saturated fat, and all our treatment diets all had about seven percent, using walnuts or vegetable oils as a replacement,” Tindall said. “So, seeing the positive benefits from all three diets sends a message that regardless of whether you replace saturated fats with unsaturated fats from walnuts or vegetable oils, you should see cardiovascular benefits.”
Kris-Etherton added that the study supports including walnuts as part of a heart-healthy diet.
“Instead of reaching for fatty red meat or full-fat dairy products for a snack, consider having some skim milk and walnuts,” Kris-Etherton said. “I think it boils down to how we can get the most out of the food we’re eating, specifically, ‘how to get a little more bang out of your food buck.’ In that respect, walnuts are a good substitute for saturated fat.”
By Kimberly Holland
All the ways you tank your ‘taters’
Baked potatoes sit atop the mountain of comfort foods. With a fluffy, melt-in-your-mouth interior and a crispy, salty skin, a perfect baked potato is a thing of beauty.
But for many people, the dream of the ideal oven-baked potato sits just out of reach. What should seem easy — baking a potato in a hot oven — can, and often does, return mixed results: gummy centers, slightly charred skins, or slippery, soggy skins.
No one will say they’re not edible, but could they be better? Yes. And if the steps to make them better are remarkably easy, there’s no reason to suffer sad, shriveled baked potatoes anymore.
Read on to see if you’re committing the 7 deadly sins against baked potatoes, and learn simple tips you can follow to make your next batch of oven-baked potatoes perfect.
1. You don’t dry the potato well.
You should certainly rinse the potatoes — we prefer russets — to remove any dirt and debris. You can even give them a quick scrub with a vegetable brush. But you need to dry the spuds well after the bath. Excess moisture on the skin can seep into the potato during baking and cause soggy skins.
Do be sure to prick a few holes into the skin, too. While the potato is unlikely to explode in the oven, no one is here to take risks with dinner. Err on the side of caution.
2. You wrap the potato in foil.
Don’t be ashamed if you do this — many cooks believe it to be the key to the perfect baked potato. But turns out you’re ruining the skin if you do this.
The ideal baked potato skin relies on a certain amount of dehydration and rehydration — we’ll get to that. If you bake in foil, all the moisture from the potato just circles back into the potato skin, which can leave you with a sad state of skin.
No, once you’ve washed and dried the potatoes, leave them be. No wrapping.
3. You don’t use a wire rack under the potatoes.
Potatoes need to cook all the way through, and the best way for that to happen is to make sure the hot air can get to the potato from all sides. If a potato bakes with one side touching a sheet pan, you’ll get a hard spot and possibly uneven cooking.
Place a thin wire rack inside a rimmed baking sheet. Line up your spuds, side by side, and place the pan into the oven. Make sure there’s a little room between each potato before closing the oven door.
4. The oven is too hot.
Low and slow—that’s the mantra of the Perfect Baked Potato. If you’ve got the time to spare, cook the potatoes at 300°F for 90 minutes. If you need to speed that up, bump it to 450°F for 45 minutes. (Note: Your baking time will vary depending on the size of your potato and how hot your oven runs.)
But don’t go hotter than that. There’s no victory in cooking potatoes at a temp greater than 450°F. They might be done a bit faster, but the high heat temp will leave you with overly browned skins that might even char in spots. And since the whole point of a perfectly baked potato is to have skins as delicious as the fluffy interior, there’s no charring allowed.
5. You don’t take the potatoes’ temperature.
You know when meat is perfectly cooked by measuring the internal temperature; the same is true for baked potatoes. Use a probe thermometer to measure the temp of your potatoes. You’re aiming for a temp in the sweet spot between 205°F and 212°F. Below that, the texture may still be too dense, and above that, it may become a gummy mess.
6. You baste first, not last.
Skip rubbing your potatoes in oil and salt until the end of the cooking time. That’s when they’ll deliver the most texture and flavor benefit for the spuds. If you oil them up early, the skins may not turn crispy. The salt, too, can run off the potatoes in the heat.
Instead, do a quick oil baste after the potatoes reach 205°F: Remove the pan from the oven. Brush with olive oil (or bacon grease if you have it) and a hefty sprinkle of kosher salt.
Return the pan to the oven for 10 minutes — the temperatures of the potatoes won’t climb more than 2 or 3 degrees in that time. The oil will crisp up the skins that were dehydrated during the long bake, and the salt will add delectable flavor.
7. You let the potatoes cool before cutting.
Unlike meat, potatoes don’t get better by resting. They need to be sliced open immediately. If you don’t, they will retain water from the still-steaming center and turn dense and gummy.
Quickly jab a serrated knife through each potato as soon as the pan has cleared the oven. Give them a gentle squeeze (with a hot-temp glove or towel) to create a vent.
Then you can gather all your fixings and call the family to the table. The potatoes will have cooled just enough by the time everyone gathers around to enjoy dinner — and marvel at your perfectly baked potatoes.
About Kimberly Holland
Kimberly’s favorite hobby is grocery shopping. Her second favorite hobby is realizing she already had two of the foods she just bought. Will bake. Won’t grill. Can caramel. Find her at khollandcooks on Instagram and on Allrecipes.
6 ripe tomatoes OR large can of diced tomatoes
4 large red bell peppers, seeded
2 large green bell pepper, seeded
2 cucumbers, peeled and seeded
3 celery, strings removed
1 small clove garlic
1 small red onion
3 tablespoons olive oil
Juice of 2 limes, or to taste
4 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Tabasco sauce, to taste
2 tablespoons freshly grated horseradish, or to taste
1/2 pound jumbo lump crab meat, picked over for shells and cartilage
1/2 pound medium shrimp, cleaned and shelled
4 slices bacon, cooked crisp
Blanch tomatoes, remove skins, squeeze out seeds and dice. Or use canned tomatoes.
Cut vegetables, garlic, and onion into large chunks, and puree in batches in a blender or food processor, adding some of the olive oil to each batch.
Strain through a sieve into a large bowl to remove skins and seeds.
Bake bacon in oven on parchment paper, crumble for garnish.
Boil shrimp until pink, drain, cool.
Add lime juice, Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper.
Place soup in bowl, add crab, shrimp and top with bacon.
I made this last week for the clients and I am now SO addicted! I always have a batch of some kind of Cole Slaw as it is a great salad and prebiotic. Actually I should say I always have Pressed Salad. I prep my veggies and then put them in a salad press for 5 or 6 hours. It removes a good bit of the moisture and allows the dressing to not get watered down.
- 3 cups cabbage, sliced thin
- 2 cups red cabbage, sliced thin
- 1 ripe mango, diced
- 1 medium Spanish onion, diced very small
- 1 jalapeño, seeds removed, finely chopped
- 1 cup carrot, shredded
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
- 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 2 tablespoons lime juice
- 1 Tablespoon cumin
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 4 tablespoons fresh mayo
- 1 teaspoons Caribbean hot sauce
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
- Using a food processor slice the cabbages very thin. Grate carrot and dice onions. Place in salad press. Or place food in colander and cover with a plate, then add weights. (I use about 4 iron skillets and a Dutch oven because I make it in large amounts!) With either method salt the veggies to help pull liquid out of the veggies.
- In a medium bowl, whisk together mustard, honey, lime juice, mayo, spices and hot sauce until combined.
- In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, mango, jalapeño, carrot, garlic and then drizzle mustard dressing on top.
- When ready to serve, add cilantro and toss everything together.
- Serve and enjoy!
By Jason Wachob
We all want to optimize our time on this planet and live the healthiest, longest lives possible. Joel Dudley, Ph.D., and Chris Mason, Ph.D., the founders of Onegevity, an AI-driven health care service, are committed to empowering people to better understand and take charge of their health through data-driven and customized solutions.
Dudley and Mason joined me on the mbg podcast to talk about what they believe doctors should be testing for, what we should be doing daily for our microbiome, and why prevention is critical for the future of health care.
A big topic here at mbg is longevity, and with advancements in genetic, microbiome, and blood testing, we know more than ever before. In this episode, we delve deeper into all that, but here, they offer four things we can all be doing right now, today:
1. Present your body with new challenges.
A simple, cost-effective way to try to reverse the effects of aging is to present your body with new challenges. “Maintaining your body’s ability to respond dynamically to the environment is important,” explained Dudley. This could be why things like HIIT and cold exposure are linked with greater longevity. It boils down to flexing your body’s ability to respond to challenges that will, in turn, build resilience.
2. Get quality sleep.
When asked about one of the key factors in living a long life, Mason responded that sleep is crucial. As for how much? He says somewhere from six to eight hours is optimal and reminds us that some essential processes occur only during sleep. We discussed the new research on the glymphatic system that connects the brain with our immune system, and he suggested that sleep may be the only time the body can drain unwanted things out of our brains.
3. Move, move, and move.
The scientists point out that while certain diseases such as Huntington’s disease and cystic fibrosis are genetic and may be difficult to prevent, through lifestyle changes such as exercise, a good diet, and a healthy microbiome, we may be able to move the needle on things like cardiovascular risk, longevity, and cognitive clarity. Dudley says while intense exercise such as HIIT may improve longevity, taking time each day to walk is a great option. It’s less about what exactly you’re doing and more about getting out and moving in some way.
4. Get baseline testing.
Mason and Dudley recommend getting testing (genetic, microbiome, blood work) done so you can have a baseline of what things look like now, so down the line you and your provider have something to compare to. Whether you have health issues or not, having more information pieced together can help create a picture of what’s going on inside you and may mean more effective care.
Whether it’s longevity or cardiovascular, gut, or immune health, it’s important to remember that every part of our health story is connected. Mason and Dudley explain that it takes the whole picture to understand what’s going on inside, and they have us excited about what the future of health looks like.
I feel kinda bad for cucumbers. Thanks to the world’s obsession with its famous cousin, the versatile zucchini, people are zoodling their lives away without even giving the cuke a fair shake. Well, sorry zucchinis, but cucumbers have some impressive qualities, too. And one of them is their ability to make you want to ditch the kale for a salad that’s crunchy, satisfying, and super-hydrating.
Cucumbers are typically used as a salad topping, but there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be the star of the show. A large cucumber contains 2 grams of protein, 2 grams of fiber, and a solid amount of vitamin C and vitamin K, magnesium, and potassium, which is known to help with bloating (something kale commonly causes). On top of that, since cucumbers are 96 percent water, eating them makes it easy to stay hydrated.
To take full advantage of the many benefits of cucumbers, create some hearty salads you can devour all season long.
The 5 best healthy cucumber salads
If you like a little spice in your life, this cucumber salad featuring finely-diced jalapeños is a winner. Combined with zesty lime, your taste buds are in for a treat.
Give your cucumbers a Thai twist with this quickie salad that’s loaded with red onion, lemon juice, cayenne powder, and chopped peanuts.
To satisfy both your sweet and spicy cravings, whip up this cucumber salad that contains ingredients like rice vinegar, red pepper flakes, and diced red onion.
For the ultimate hydrating cucumber salad, add in some other refreshing veggies too: cherry tomatoes, radishes, and red bell pepper.
This cucumber salad ups the flavor with wakame, a type of seaweed that brings on plenty of health benefits. It’s been shown to help fight off cancer, decrease your risk of heart disease, and provide mental health-boosting omega-3 fatty acids.
Another point is that it is not as effective to add PROBIOTICS as it is to think in terms of introducing PRE-Biotics. Think raw foods before a meal, such as a salad. Every culture throughout time had serves a salad before or after a meal. My whole life I have always eaten a banana about 20 minutes or so before each meal. I eat a lot of salads, and for breakfast I always have lemon or lime water when I wake up and then have a banana before I enjoy a cup of coffee. I also do that southern thing of having sliced tomatoes with almost every meal, even breakfast.
Billed as a “healthy” drink, the fermented tea could be worse than soda for your oral health
For many new age-y health enthusiasts, probiotic drinks like kombuchaare an intrinsic part of a healthy lifestyle.
Kombucha, which is a fermented sweetened tea made of a symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast (SCOBY) that grow inside a semi-permeable membrane, is said to aid digestion, boost immunity, reduce inflammation, increase energy, and even alleviate anxiety and depression, among other (oft-dubious) claims. Since its rise in popularity over the last ten years, kombucha can be found on the shelves of nearly every grocery store, especially health food stores like Whole Foods. The kombucha market around the world is expected to reach $5.45 billion by 2025.
However, the rise in this drink among the health conscious has come with a price: your teeth. Some dentists are noticing a rise in eroded enamel coinciding with kombucha’s popularity, questioning its so-called miraculous impact.
“Kombucha is nearly as acidic as a pop and energy drinks,” Dr. Bobby J. Grossi, an author, motivational speaker and founder of the Grossi Institute for Dental Assisting, told Salon. “Acidic drinks mess with the PH level of the saliva which ideally should be 7 or 7.3, when the saliva level becomes more acidic it becomes a breeding ground for bacteria which can take over the mouth.”
This bacteria, Grossi said, causes erosion of the enamel, plaque accumulation which can lead to both gum disease or tooth decay. Grossi added sugary drinks weaken your teeth.
The acid in kombucha is crucial for the bacteria’s survival, which makes this a challenging issue for manufacturers to solve. Dr. Greg Grobmyer of AuthorityDental.org, who has a DDS from the University of Tennessee Health Science Center, told Salon it is nearly as acidic as soda, too. “It is not uncommon to see ‘pitting’ in the enamel of someone who drinks a lot of kombucha,” he told Salon.
Pitting occurs on the surface of a tooth and usually leads to decay.
“We suggest rinsing your mouth with water after drinking kombucha to wash away the acidic compounds it may leave behind and not eating or brushing for at least 30 minutes afterwards, allowing your tooth enamel to remineralize and reharden,” Grobmyer said.
When asked if it is better or worse, Grossi said he does not believe it’s either-or between kombucha and soda.
“Both drinks are very acidic and have a lot of sugar in them,” Grossi said. “I am a firm believer that water and milk are the drinks of choice.”
“I also recommend always drinking water with a fresh lemon in it to help create a more alkaline environment, not only in your mouth but in your bloodstream,” Grossi said.
Overall, it seems the jury is still out when it comes to kombucha’s purported health benefits.
While studies do show that probiotic foods are good for your digestion and gut health, other studies have called into question kombucha’s healthfulness. A 2014 academic journal article, published in Comprehensive Reviews in Food Science and Food Safety, states: “Most of [kombucha’s] benefits were studied in experimental models only, and there is a lack of scientific evidence based on human models.”
Given that dentists constitute the front lines of our oral health, it might be wise to heed their observations.
Nicole Karlis is a news writer at Salon. She covers health, science, tech and gender politics. Tweet her @nicolekarlis.