There seems to be no limit to the promises on the Internet for foods and dietary supplements that allegedly “boost” or “support” your immune function. There’s more than a grain of scientific truth in it, and the prospect of enhancing immune function with nutrition is a busy area of research—some of it by scientists at Tufts’ Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (HNRCA) and Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.
We know that nutrient deficiencies weaken the immune system and leave people vulnerable to illness. But if your nutrient intakes are adequate, can certain foods and nutritional supplements still improve immune function?
There is no definitive answer yet to this question—although there is reason for optimism. “I would not say it’s entirely an open question,” says Simin Nikbin Meydani, PhD, senior scientist and director of the Tufts’ HNRCA Nutritional Immunology Laboratory. “We do have promising evidence from animal studies and some human clinical trials that specific nutrients might be able to help strengthen an aging immune system. But we need additional research.”
Initially, when I was mostly concerned about getting my weight down, I found that serving size and portion size were key concepts. So, I started reading food labels. I recommend that practice to everyone who wants to live a healthy life starting with controlling food intake.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has updated the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods and drinks. FDA is requiring changes to the Nutrition Facts label based on updated scientific information, new nutrition research, and input from the public. This is the first major update to the label in over 20 years. The label’s refreshed design and updated information will make it easier for you to make informed food choices that contribute to lifelong healthy eating habits.
Serving Sizes Get Real
Servings per container and serving size information appear in large, bold font. Serving sizes have also been updated to better reflect the amount people typically eat and drink today. NOTE: The serving size is not a recommendation of how much to eat.
The nutrition information listed on the Nutrition Facts label is usually based on one serving of the food; however some containers may also have information displayed per package.
One package of food may contain more than one serving.
Much as we may want to eat healthy, it is unlikely that we have a diet that contains NO processed foods. The fact is that they are very convenient. Just open the package and pop it in – the oven – microwave – whatever. So, if we are going to eat them we ought to be able to decipher their labels. The following is from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Decoding the ingredients list on a food label
Being aware of specific ingredients in a food is a good general practice for everyone but may be especially useful for those with food allergies or intolerances, diabetes, or digestive diseases. In many cases, the longer the ingredients list, the more highly processed a food is. However, an ingredient that is not recognizable or has a long chemical name is not necessarily unhealthful. When scanning the Ingredients listing on a food package, consider the following:
The ingredients are listed in order of quantity by weight. This means that the food ingredient that weighs the most will be listed first, and the ingredient that weighs the least is listed last. 
Some ingredients like sugar and salt may be listed by other names. For example, alternative terms for sugar are corn syrup, high-fructose corn syrup, honey, agave nectar, cane sugar, evaporated cane juice, coconut sugar, dextrose, malt syrup, molasses, or turbinado sugar. Other terms for sodium include monosodium glutamate or disodium phosphate.
If the food is highly processed, it may contain several food additives such as artificial colors, flavors, or preservatives. Their ingredient names may be less familiar. Some preservatives promote safety of the food by preventing growth of mold and bacteria. Others help prevent spoilage or “off” flavors from developing. Examples that you may see on the label include:
Emulsifiers that prevent separation of liquids and solids—soy lecithin, monoglycerides
Thickeners to add texture—xanthan gum, pectin, carrageenan, guar gum
Colors—artificial FD&C Yellow No. 6 or natural beta-carotene to add yellow hues
Fortified foods contain vitamins and minerals that are added after processing. Either these nutrients were lost during processing, or they were added because they are lacking in the average diet. Examples include B vitamins (riboflavin, niacin, niacinamide, folate or folic acid), beta carotene, iron (ferrous sulfate), vitamin C (ascorbic acid), Vitamin D, or amino acids to boost protein content (L-tryptophan, L-lysine, L-leucine, L-methionine).
Ingredients used widely in the production of highly/ultra-processed foods such as saturated fats, added sugar, and sodium have become markers of poor diet quality due to their effect on heart disease, obesity, and high blood pressure. [6,7] It is estimated that ultra-processed foods contribute about 90% of the total calories obtained from added sugars. 
What’s the best way to prevent children from overloading on bad food choices? Flinders University in Adelaide South Australia researchers have found that promoting substitution is the answer to turn around children’s excessive consumption of nutrient-poor foods and beverages – resulting in nutritional benefits that are even better than reducing intake of these discretionary food and drink choices.
Flinders University researchers studied the impact on the energy and nutrient intakes of more than 2000 Australian 2- to 18-year-olds through simulations of three dietary strategies. Continue reading →
The information on food labels was updated recently by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). I think they did a good job on helping the consumer to better understand the nutrients in food packages.
Below is an example of the updated label.
On the left is the old format, one the right, the new. As you can see the Serving Size and Calories are now more prominently displayed. Additionally, the number of servings per container is also given. In the past many folks would read the calories without paying attention to the serving size or number of servings per container. For example, a package of potato chips might have told you innocently that there were 150 calories per serving. Not bad, you might conclude … if you weren’t aware that the package contained four servings, so, if you ate the whole bag, you were getting 600 calories.
Here are some tips offered by Rush Medical Center on reading the labels:
For the record, this has nothing to do with losing weight, but everything to do with providing your body and your brain with proper nourishment. I especially liked the final segment which points out how your brain benefits from exercise.
I am a big fan of sweet potatoes. Drum roll, please. Number one on the countdown of 10 best foods from the Center for Science in the Public Interest is Sweet Potatoes. A nutritional All-Star — one of the best vegetables you can eat. They’re loaded with carotenoids, Vitamin C, potassium, and fiber.
Harvard School of Public Health says, that sweet potatoes are typically recognized by their copper-colored skin and vibrant orange flesh, though the hundreds of varieties grown worldwide display colors such as white, cream, yellow, reddish-purple, and deep purple. Although they are often found on holiday tables covered in marshmallows or mixed with added sweeteners, there’s no need! True to their name, sweet potatoes have a naturally sweet flavor, which is further enhanced through cooking methods like roasting. They are also one of the top sources of beta-carotene—a precursor to vitamin A. Continue reading →
Each month, the office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion releases an infographic with the latest data related to a Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicator (LHI) topic. These infographics show progress toward Healthy People 2020 LHI targets — and show where there’s still work to be done.
This month’s featured LHI topic is Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Check out the infographic below, then head over to the Healthy People 2020 LHI Infographic Gallery to see infographics for other LHI topic areas.
I don’t do a lot of cooking items, but I wanted to reblog this for two reasons. I think sweet potatoes are delicious and also they are one of the under-appreciated foods. I bet you don’t eat them often enough.
Few foods are as versatile as they are nutritious, but the humble sweet potato is one exception. Whether you bake, roast, grill, saute, steam or microwave it, the orange-fleshed root vegetable delivers substantial amounts of vitamins A, C and B-6, potassium, iron and dietary fiber. Boiling sweet potatoes is not the most nutritious option because some of the vitamins are lost into the cooking water. You’ll get the most nutritional value from a sweet potato if you eat the whole thing, as its skin is a highly concentrated source of minerals and fiber. You’ll also absorb more of the vegetable’s beta-carotene – which your body converts to vitamin A – by consuming it with a small amount of fat.
In the Oven
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
Rinse the sweet potato under cool running water. Use your fingers to brush off any dirt, as…
Most people think of disease as something we “CATCH.” The flu, chicken pox, sinus infections, are a few examples. Then there are diseases that are non communicable like diabetes, obesity and cancer. Dysfunction is a term that applies to the loss of muscle, vital organs (ex. heart, liver, gastrointestinal tract, etc…) joint, tendon or ligament function. These are the basic causes of health complications we contend with that affect the quality of life we live.
Many of you probably think of disease and dysfunction as a “NORMAL” aging process. It is commonly believed that “LUCK” determines who will suffer disease and dysfunction and who will remain healthy.
It is because of this FALSE BELIEF that I write this article!
Creating disease doesn’t mean placing your head in a vat of viruses and breathing deeply. It means CREATING AN ENVIRONMENT within the BODY and MIND that is so weak…
“We need to get serious
about the critical role played by nutrition.”
– Julia Rucklidge, Clinical Psychologist
We pretty much all agree that good nutritional habits are vital to good physical health, yes? But what about mental health? Do good nutritional habits translate to a healthier mental state? On the surface, it would make sense. After all, the food that we eat contains nutrients – and these nutrients are transported throughout our entire body via our bloodstream. We already know that the brain requires nutrients to operate effectively…so, yeah, it makes sense.
But is eating right more important to mental health than prescription medicine?
Ah, this is a bit trickier. After all, pharmaceuticals are research-intensive and science-based products that have undergone extensive trial and error, often over a period of multiple years. These same products have earned the coveted “seal of approval” from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)…no easy…
Webster’s dictionary defines MEDICATION as, “a SUBSTANCE used for medical treatment, especially a medicine or drug.“
Webster’s dictionary defines FOOD as, “any nutritious SUBSTANCE that people or animals eat or drink, or that plants absorb, in order to MAINTAIN LIFE AND GROWTH.“
We have a tendency to separate the two words MEDICINE and FOOD believing they are INDEPENDENT of each other. Hippocrates (the founding FATHER OF MEDICINE) quoted, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” Hippocrates understood that food provided the body an ESSENTIAL COMPONENT necessary to maintain healthy FUNCTION. He understood the body was under constant “attack” by environmental, emotional and physical factors and needed FOOD (as Webster’s dictionary states) “to MAINTAIN LIFEAND GROWTH.” He recognized that GOOD HEALTH was the body’s NATURAL STATE of EXISTENCE. Hippocrates understood that DISEASE only manifested when the body was unable to…
As men get older, their risk of developing chronic diseases increases. Adopting healthier lifestyle habits can decrease that risk and help ensure a higher quality of life for years to come.
“Eating a well-balanced diet with a variety of foods can help men promote their overall health and reduce their risk of chronic diseases,” says Ximena Jimenez, MS, RDN, LD, a national spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy). By sharing that wisdom with male clients in a way that empowers them to take control of their health through lifestyle choices, nutrition professionals can have a major impact on their lives.
Here’s a closer look at five of the most common health conditions that affect men as they age, and how better nutrition and lifestyle changes can dramatically reduce their risk.