10 lessons we learned about good nutrition

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At the end of 2021, we revised our food and nutrition reports to glean some advice we could bring to a new year. Here are 10 finds to remember the next time you hit the supermarket or kitchen.

In October, the American Heart Association released new dietary guidelines to improve the heart and health of Americans of all ages and circumstances. Instead of publishing a long list of “you won’t eat”, the committee focused on how people could make changes throughout their lives, taking into account each individual’s likes and dislikes as well. as ethnic and cultural practices and life circumstances. “For example, rather than urging people to avoid pasta because it’s refined carbohydrates, a more effective message might be to tell people to eat it the traditional Italian way, like a small starter serving.” , explained Jane Brody.

As people grappled with higher levels of stress, depression and anxiety during the pandemic, many turned to their favorite comfort foods: ice cream, pastries, pizza, burgers. But studies in an emerging area of ​​research known as nutritional psychiatry, which examines the relationship between diet and mental well-being, suggest that the foods high in sugar and fat that we often crave when we are We are stressed or depressed, however comforting they may seem to be the least likely to benefit our mental health. Whole foods such as vegetables, fruits, fish, eggs, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes, and fermented foods like yogurt may be a better choice.

“The idea that eating certain foods might promote brain health, in the same way that it can promote heart health, may seem like common sense,” Anahad O’Connor wrote in her research article. “But historically, nutrition research has focused largely on how the foods we eat affect our physical health, rather than our mental health.”

Coffee is loved by many, but its health benefits have often been questioned. The latest assessments this year of the health effects of coffee and caffeine were reassuring, however. Their consumption has been linked to a reduced risk of all kinds of diseases, including Parkinson’s disease, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, gallstones, depression, suicide, cirrhosis, liver cancer, melanoma and prostate cancer.

Scientists know that the billions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our intestines play an important role in health, influencing our risk of developing obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and a wide range of other conditions. . In 2021, a large international study found that the makeup of these microorganisms, collectively called our microbiomes, is largely shaped by what we eat. Researchers have learned that a diet high in nutrient-dense whole foods promotes the growth of beneficial microbes that promote good health. Eating a diet high in highly processed foods with added sugars, salt and other additives had the opposite effect, promoting gut microbes linked to worse cardiovascular and metabolic health.

Chips, ice cream, pizza and other unhealthy foods continue to dominate the American diet, although they are linked to obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes and other health issues . “They’re inexpensive and convenient, and designed to taste good. They are being marketed aggressively by the food industry, ”said O’Connor in an article on new research to determine whether these foods are not only tempting, but addictive. The notion has sparked controversy among researchers, he said. One study found that certain foods were particularly likely to elicit ‘addictive-like’ eating behaviors, such as intense cravings, loss of control and inability to cut back despite the adverse consequences and a strong desire to stop eating them. . But other experts have pointed out that these foods do not cause the altered state of mind that is characteristic of addictive substances.

Unsweetened carbonated water is a better choice than soda or fruit juice, Christina Caron reported, but it probably shouldn’t be your main source of water. Seltzer has the potential to be erosive to your teeth, experts told him, and soft drinks can contribute to gas and bloating, Ms. Caron wrote.

Unique factors such as body size, outside temperature, and how hard you breathe and sweat will determine how much water you need, an expert told Alice Callahan for her story on what it really means ” stay hydrated “. “For most healthy young people, the best way to stay hydrated is to just drink when you’re thirsty,” she learned. “Those who are older, in their 70s and 80s, may need to be more careful about drinking enough because the feeling of thirst may decrease with age.”

Yogurt, kimchi, and kombucha have long been staple foods in many parts of the world. But this year, as reported by O’Connor, scientists have discovered that these fermented foods can alter the makeup of the trillions of bacteria, viruses and fungi that inhabit our intestinal tract, collectively known as the microbiome. intestinal. They can also lead to decreased levels of body-wide inflammation, which scientists increasingly associate with a range of diseases related to aging.

Acid reflux is among the most common health problems among American adults and may have become even more common as a result of the stress and weight gain associated with the pandemic. Jane Brody covered new research that showed those who adhered to five key lifestyle characteristics – including exercise and following a Mediterranean-style diet, including fruits and vegetables, fish, poultry and whole grain – were more likely to avoid more persistent discomfort. and a potentially serious form of reflux.

A study first published in July found that flavonoids, chemicals that give plant foods their vibrant colors, can help reduce frustrating forgetfulness and mild confusion that older people often complain about as they age. . Further follow-up would be needed to determine if food may affect the risk of developing dementia, and there are also broader political issues at play, making it difficult for everyone to access fresh fruits and vegetables, Nicholas Bakalar reported. . But, experts have agreed that these are the foods you should eat for brain health.


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