Spuds don’t generally get a ton of love in the vegetable department, but researchers in nutrition science want you to know that you definitely shouldn’t avoid them. In fact, eating potatoes is just as important as filling up on the other, more colorful veggies, according to a new supplement published in the journal Advances in Nutrition.
Researchers gathered at Purdue University to bust the myth that white veggies—potatoes in particular—aren’t as nutritious as colored ones. While potatoes get a bad rap for being starchy, they’re also filled with vital nutrients, says supplement coauthor Connie Weaver, PhD, head of the department of nutrition science at Purdue University. One medium baked potato provides 11 percent of your recommended daily fiber intake and 12 percent of your recommended daily magnesium intake. What’s more, spuds are the highest dietary source of potassium (take that, bananas!).
It’s not that you have to replace other vegetables with potatoes, says Weaver. But since people in the U.S. generally don’t get enough fiber, potassium, and magnesium, according to the National Institutes of Health, you don’t want to nix them from your diet, either.
The bottom line: when it comes to which veggies you eat, it’s not one versus the other, says Bonnie Taub-Dix, MA, RD, CDN, author of Read It Before You Eat It and nutrition expert in New York.
“The important thing to emphasize is variety,” she says. “One fruit or vegetable doesn’t give us everything that we need—it’s the blend of colors that count, and that includes potatoes.”
For some healthy ways to incorporate potatoes into your diet, try these tasty recipes:
Sure, you belong to a gym. But do you use it enough? If you’re like most women, the answer is no: Fewer than 20 percent of American women meet the government’s exercise recommendations, according to data from the 2011 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System survey that was just released by the Centers For Disease Control.
Surveyors asked 453,721 participants from a nationally-representative sample about the frequency, intensity, and duration of the aerobic and muscle-strengthening activities they’d spent the most time doing in the past week or month. The results: A measly 17.9 percent of women met the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s physical activity guidelines, which call for two strength-training sessions per week, plus 75 to 150 minutes of high- to moderate-intensity aerobic activity. The men did better—but not by much: About 23 percent of them moved enough.
The thing is, it’s not tough to meet the government’s exercise guidelines—especially because you can (and should) break them up throughout the week into sessions that can be as short as 10 minutes each. And it’s time well spent: Physical activity has been linked to benefits you can’t put a price tag on—like a longer life and lower risk of weight gain and disease, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Service’s 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines.
Convinced to move more? Good. Now get your sweat on with these workouts:
Perform any of these high-intensity routines for at least 25 minutes three times a week to meet the government’s guidelines.
Perform any of these workouts at least twice each week to meet the government’s guidelines.
It’s a no-brainer that you want to eat well when you’ve got a bun in the oven, but you may not realize how important certain nutrients are: A mild iodine deficiency during pregnancy could have a long-term effect on your child’s brain development, according to a new study published in The Endocrine Society’s Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.
Researchers at the Menzies Research Institute at the University of Tasmania in Australia looked at the iodine content in the systems of women who attended prenatal clinics. Then, nine years later, the researchers compared this information against the participants’ children’s standardized test scores. Seventy-one percent of mothers were found to have insufficient iodine levels—less than 150 micrograms per liter. On standardized tests, their children scored 10 percent lower in spelling, 7.6 percent lower in grammar, and 5.7 percent lower in English literacy.
Iodine, which the thyroid uses to make thyroid hormone, is important for a baby’s neurodevelopment, says Elizabeth Pearce, MD, associate professor at Boston University School of Medicine, who is unrelated to the study. A severe deficiency in iodine (anything less than 20 micrograms per day) can lead to a number of different neurologic abnormalities, including—in severe cases—intellectual disability, she says. On the other hand, overdosing on iodine might result in hypothyroidism—for both you and your baby. That’s why it’s mission critical for pregnant women to get the recommended amount: 220 micrograms per day if you’re pregnant, and 290 micrograms per day if you’re breastfeeding.
Hitting this sweet spot while you’re pregnant can be tricky. Since iodine isn’t labeled on food packaging, it can be difficult to know exactly how much you’re getting in your diet.
The easiest, most foolproof way to boost your iodine intake? Taking a prenatal multivitamin. Look for one that contains 150 micrograms of iodine, suggests Pearce. You may also want to consider checking the salt you use while cooking to make sure you’re grabbing the iodized version (although you don’t need to actively up your salt intake, says Pearce). Another food source that contains the nutrient: cow’s milk. Some of the iodine that the cows consume in their feeds transfers to the milk, and the dairy industry also uses iodine-containing cleansers to wash off milk equipment, which increases milk’s iodine content.
Vitamin E content probably isn’t first thing you check out on a nutrition label, but make sure to give it a once-over. Vitamin E can help prevent obesity-related illnesses and boost your heart health, according to two studies presented at the Experimental Biology 2013 meeting between April 20-24.
The first study, conducted by researchers at Case Western Reserve University of Medicine, suggests that vitamin E may help relieve symptoms of nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH), an obesity-linked condition that can lead to liver failure or even cancer.
In another study conducted by Ohio State University, researchers tested the effects of vitamin E on the blood vessels of ex-smokers. They found that participants who took a vitamin E supplement saw a 4.3 percent improvement in vascular function, compared to the placebo group’s 2.8 percent. Overall, the study showed that adding vitamin E to ex-smokers’ diets led to a 19 percent drop in cardiovascular disease.
The Office of Dietary Supplements recommends that adults consume up to 15 milligrams of vitamin E per day. In addition to these recent findings, vitamin E has been shown to offer some protection against heart disease, cancer, and Alzheimer’s disease.
Want to up your intake? Don’t reach for a pill—if you get the wrong kind of supplement, it’ll be half as effective as eating vitamin E in its natural form. Instead, make one (or more) of these vitamin E-rich meals:
Almond Horchata (14.4 mg per serving)
Grilled Almond Butter and Berry Sandwiches (8.7 mg per serving)
Almond Egg Custard (6.8 mg per serving)
Roasted Sweet-Potato Salad (5.2 mg per serving)
Pork Braised in Kiwi-Coconut Sauce with White Beans (5.2 mg per serving)
Light Spinach Roll-Ups (5 mg per serving)
Southwestern Chicken Salad with Crispy Tortilla Chips (4.3 mg per serving)
When sunshine is scarce, vitamin D can be pretty hard to come by–it’s why most doctors recommend supplements. But even if you follow your doctor’s orders, you might be taking the wrong dose: some supplement manufacturers significantly under- or overestimate the potency of their pills, according to new research published in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine.
Researchers in Portland, Oregon tested 55 bottles of OTC vitamin D from a dozen different brands. The results: some pills contained just 9 percent of the amount promised on the label. Meanwhile, other brands had almost 1.5 times the designated dose, and pill potency even varied among different pills in the same bottle.
Most people expect a product’s label to precisely reflect the contents. But it’s actually fairly standard for supplement contents to fluctuate a little within a safe range—plus or minus about ten percent. However, this new study reveals that vitamin amounts vary much more than once thought. Such high variation could be a sign of sloppy manufacturing and potential danger, says study author Erin LeBlanc, M.D., an epidemiologist and board-certified endocrinologist.
Don’t freak out about potential overdose, though. “The real concern is not getting the full amount you think you’re getting—especially because you might not notice,” says LeBlanc. After all, skimping on vitamin D heightens your risk of depression, heart disease, pregnancy problems, birth defects, skin cancer, and multiple sclerosis.
If you’ve had low levels of D in the past and feel weak or confused, see your doctor pronto. And if you feel fine, but still want to get the vitamin D dose you’re paying for? Stick to supplements with a U.S. Pharmacopeial Verified Mark, which are more likely to contain what’s promised on the label, says LeBlanc. To find out whether the bottle you have contains what it claims to, check here.
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You know you need calcium for strong bones. But a new study suggests that skimping on this vital mineral could increase your risk of developing hyperparathyroidism (PHPT), a hormone condition that can suck the calcium from your bones and elsewhere if left untreated.
In the 22-year-long Nurses’ Health Study I, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School examined the calcium intake of 58,354 women between the ages of 39 and 66 who completed food frequency questionnaires every four years. What they found was that women who consumed the most calcium through food and supplements had a 44% reduced risk of developing PHPT, which is marked by an uncontrolled release of the parathyroid hormone.
In healthy bodies, the parathyroid hormone is gradually released when calcium levels are low; it takes calcium from the bones, bladder, or elsewhere and distributes it into the bloodstream to keep calcium levels within a certain range for homeostasis, explains lead study author Julie Paik, M.D., instructor and attending physician of the Brigham and Women’s Hospital at Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. PHPT occurs when benign tumors on the parathyroid gland open the parathyroid hormone floodgates, causing symptoms such as fragile, sometimes painful bones, kidney stones, nausea, fatigue, and depression.
“We don’t know what causes these tumors, but we do know that the gland is regulated by calcium levels, and that when there are low calcium levels in the blood over a long period of time, the mutation occurs and the tumor occurs,” says Paik.
While PHPT only effects about one in 800 people, and is most common among post-menopausal women, it’s smart to begin prevention efforts now—particularly because surgery is required to treat PHPT. Your best bet is to get enough calcium through diet and supplements.
While the government recommends that women between the ages of 19 and 50 consume 1,000 mg of calcium a day, women in the study who supplemented their diets with half as much had a 59% lower risk of developing PHPT than those who took none. Because each individual’s needs are different, it’s best to talk to your physician about how much calcium you need. And in the meantime? One-thousand milligrams a day isn’t a hard goal to hit: just eat an 8-ounce low-fat yogurt (415mg) for breakfast, toss your lunch salad with 1.5 ounces of shredded cheddar cheese (307 mg), and wash down dinner with an 8-ounce glass of skim milk (299 mg).
Not down with eating dairy? Don’t sweat it. While milk, yogurt, and cheese are naturally rich in the mineral, loads of calcium can also be found in foods such as sardines (325 mg in 3 oz) and salmon (131 mg in 3 oz), plus tofu (253 mg in ½ cup) and some dark-green leafy vegetable such as kale (94 mg in 1 cup). Moreover, calcium is added to foods such as fortified OJ (375 mg in 6 oz), and some breakfast cereals (up to 1000 mg in just 1 cup!), many milk alternatives–just check the label–and these surprising foods rich in calcium, too. You can also talk to your physician about whether supplements are right for you.