Doctors recommend Mediterranean diet

With the obesity epidemic continuing to grow at an alarming rate, many health experts warn that the trend could have a significant impact on the heart health of millions of people. To avoid this situation, they often recommend a diet that is high in phytonutrients and antioxidants.

The so-called “Mediterranean diet” incorporates foods like fish, vegetables, nuts and olive oil. Study after study has shown that this type of diet provides significant support for heart health.

Tricia M. Sinek, manager of the Community Cancer Program at the Franciscan Health System in Washington, told the Tacoma News Tribune that she recommends the phytonutrient-rich Mediterranean diet to her patients because of these health benefits.

“Every state in the United States reports that 30 percent of their population is obese,” she told the news source. “Twenty years ago, not one state reported that. Obesity is going to bankrupt this country.”

Research conducted by the Agriculture Research Service has shown that carotenoids, a type of phytonutrient found in many of the vegetables associated with the Mediterranean diet, provide support against some of the conditions associated with obesity.

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Exercise helps simulate satiety

It is pretty well established that exercise is one of the most effective ways to eliminate excess pounds and improve heart health. However, physical activity may benefit these areas of health in more ways than simply burning calories.

Researchers from Campinas University in Brazil recently found that regular physical exercise stimulates and improves the sensitivity of neurons in the brain that are associated with feeling of satiety (the feeling of being full).

This process may lead fewer urges to overeat. This, in turn, could help individuals consume fewer calories and improve their heart health.

“Exercise increased the sensitivity of the most important hormones, insulin and leptin, which control appetite,” said Jose Carvalheira, who led the investigation.

Carvalheira added that the knowledge could make exercise an even more important part of treating obesity. By burning calories and helping individuals eat smaller portions, exercise may help those who are overweight significantly decrease their body mass and help them lead healthier lives.

Obesity has become one of the most prevalent health conditions in developed countries, and contributes to many chronic illness, such as heart disease and diabetes.

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Choosing nutrient-rich foods helps individuals reach nutrition goals

Many individuals have a difficult time consuming the nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day that health experts say are essential to maintaining proper nutrition. For those who cannot find the time in their day to eat that many plant foods, choosing ones with the highest concentrations of phytonutrients may be important.

For example, avocados are particularly good sources of many nutrients that can give immune health a boost and help individuals live healthier lives. Researchers from UCLA recently found that avocados contain 11 varieties of carotenoids, powerful phytonutrients that have been shown to support heart health and healthy aging.

“Avocados have a remarkable constancy of carotenoid content per gram of fat,” said David Heber. “And, [consumers] can get the most nutrients out of an avocado by peeling the fruit before slicing it in order to capture the maximum amount of carotenoids from the darker green flesh found directly under the skin.”

Aside from choosing the most nutrient-rich foods, individuals may also be able to up their nutrient intake by taking dietary supplements. These can contain many of the key phytonutrients found in avocados.

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Evidence for phytonutrients benefits grows

Many health experts are now touting the benefits of phytonutrients and their ability to support a range of health areas. These plant nutrients may not be essential to bodily functions, but they are thought to provide an important nutritional boost.

Dean Kopsell, a researcher from the University of Tennessee, is currently examining the potential health benefits of phytonutrients for the USDA. He told Natural News that plants develop these compounds as a method for protecting themselves from the damaging effects of the sun, which may account for some of their benefits to overall health.

“In plants, [phytonutrients] play a role in absorbing light outside the red and blue range and funneling it away, in essence acting as a chemical ‘sun block’ that helps protect the pant from excessive radiation,” he told the news source.

He added that this effect has given researchers cause to believe that phytonutrients may support eye health.

Additionally, nutritional scientists believe that these compounds may support heart health and modify the risk for some chronic diseases, according to the Agricultural Research Service.

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Phytonutrients shown to support heart health

More people die in the U.S. each year from heart related conditions than for any other reason. However, a new study has found that certain phytonutrients found in many plant products may support heart health.

Flavanols are found in green leafy plant foods, like spinach, and most citrus fruits. They are also present in high quantities in cocoa products like chocolate. A team of researchers from the University of California at Davis found that the phytonutrients in cocoa products are especially powerful sources of support for heart health.

Study participants were administered cocoa drinks containing either high levels of flavanols or other inactive ingredients. Researchers found that those who received the highest levels of the phytonutrients showed the greatest support for heart health by the end of the one-month trial.

“We were pleased, but not surprised, to find that when study participants consumed the flavanol-rich cocoa beverage, rather than a matched control drink with low levels of flavanols, they experienced a significant improvement in the function of the endothelium or lining of the blood vessel wall,” said Carl Keen, who led the study.

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A colorful diet is a healthy diet

Consuming a variety of colors may improve phytonutrient intake

Individuals who are struggling to maintain a healthy weight may want to consider eating a broader variety of colored fruits and vegetables, as nutritionists say this is one of the most effective ways to ensure proper phytonutrient intake.

There are many different varieties of these nutrients and they have all been shown to have different health benefits. Some help maintain strong vision while others have been shown to support heart health. The more colorful the fruit or vegetable, the more likely it is to be packed with nutrients.

Despite these benefits, many people consume few plant foods, which Joel Fuhrman, a Florida physician, told the New York Times is leading to an epidemic of poor nutrition.

“What you eat matters,” he told the news source. “It influences the quality of your life. There is more mortality and morbidity caused by obesity and poor diets than by people starving. Overnutrition has now overwhelmed malnutrition.”

Americans only average 0.2 daily servings of dark green and deep yellow vegetables which is far below most recommendations, according to the Agricultural Research Service.


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