Get fruity and veg out

Everyone knows fruit and vegetables are an essential part of a daily diet, and yet even the healthiest among us often find it a chore to gobble up the goodness we need.

But there is a cheat sheet that can help you get the greens you need without really knowing it.

It can start with the best smoothie known to man for breakfast and continue with some clever ways around meal presentation – using fruit and veg as bowls and eating tools!

That smoothie, by the way, is simple and cheap – and really good for you. Simply grab a handful of kale, a chopped up banana, a peeled pear or apple and a little soy or almond milk and blend to a texture that works for you, adding less or more milk. Then pour into a see-through travel cup, so everyone can see you’re a person who cares about health – and enjoy! It tastes much better than it looks.

But don’t stop there!

Take fruit and vegetables like peppers, avocados – the world’s healthiest food, tomatoes and prepare meals using them as bowls, filled with yummy ingredients using the flesh you scoop out. No waste and what a wonderful way to lunch.

Then for dinner, pick up fresh fruit and vegetables on the way home and challenge yourself with weird and wacky recipes using the goodness in your basket.

If you’re a working mom, get the kids to help out, so they know what good food looks like and feels like. Children do like to eat what they cook, so get them involved.

And if you must cheat with a weekly pizza, dress it up with roasted brussel sprouts, broccoli or cauliflower or add a delicious salad that’s a little different from the norm using at least two fruits and two vegetables. A good salad book is a must for any self-respecting health guru. Recommended reading: The Vegetarian Guide to Diet & Salad by Dr Norman Walker, Lisa Brown’s Salad of The Week: 52 Amazing Salad Recipes For Healthy Eating & Weight Loss, and Don Orwell’s Healthy Salads.

It’s also a great idea to have a vegan week once a month, when you cut dairy and meat from your diet completely. It might seem like quite the challenge at first, but you’ll quickly enjoy the detective work as you shop for what you can eat, discovering interesting food facts as you go. Plus, you’ll quickly enjoy the energy boost and the way you feel and look.

Yogurt ‘cuts blood pressure risk

If you’re bored of cereal and have had it with porridge, it might be time to mix up your breakfast routine by adding in some yogurt. That’s because it’s been found that women who fit the dairy treat into their diets at least five times a week and much less likely to suffer from high blood pressure, with the risk dropping by a fifth.

The study was vast, using data from 240,000 nurses, who were mainly women aged between 25 and 55. This was added to information gathered from 51,000 other people in the health professions, this time who were men aged mainly 40 to 75.

The research was funded by the National Dairy Council in America, with the findings that women who ate yogurt five times or more a week had their high blood pressure risk cut by a fifth. The effect was more noticeable in women because guys don’t tend to eat as much yogurt.

On top of this, those whose diets were also full of fruit, vegetables, beans and nuts were even less likely to suffer the ailment. This group saw their threat slashed by 31 per cent, when compared to people who feasted on yogurt just once monthly.

“No one food is a magic bullet, but adding yogurt to an otherwise healthy diet seems to help reduce the long-term risk of high blood pressure in women,” Justin Buendia of Boston University School of Medicine, America, explained.

“I believe this is the largest study of its kind to date to evaluate the specific effects of yogurt on blood pressure.”

The findings were presented at an American Heart Association conference, but at the moment there are no details about why yogurt has such an impact on blood pressure.

High blood pressure is also known as hypertension and often goes untreated as people don’t realize they are sufferers. However, it is a major health concern as it can cause heart failure, kidney disease, heart attack, dementia and stroke. In the UK it affects more than one in four adults, with five million thought to be secret sufferers.

Vessels need to have some pressure in them to keep the blood pumping around your body, but if there is too much there is an increased strain on arteries and the heart.

This isn’t the first time yogurt has been lauded for its health benefits. In the past the food has been linked to lowering cholesterol, helping maintain healthy blood sugar levels and guarding against brittle bone disease osteoporosis. That said, it’s important you choose your dairy dessert carefully as some versions are crammed with fat, sugar and sweeteners.

Scientists identify harmful molecules in processed foods

Processed junk food contains dangerous bacterial molecules that can increase the risk of heart disease and diabetes, a new study has revealed.

A team of researchers at the University of Leicester discovered that junk foods, as well as seemingly healthy processed options such as ready prepared vegetables and pasta sauces, contain molecules known as pathogen-associated molecular patterns (PAMPs).

It is believed that these grow as the food is being manufactured and refrigerated before being transported to suppliers.

As an example, a fillet steak would be low in PAMPs, while minced steak mince has high levels. Similarly a whole onion is low in PAMPs, but a pack of pre-prepared chopped onions is high.

For their study, lead researcher Dr Clett Erridge and his team looked at a group of volunteers who stuck to a diet of foods low in PAMPs for an entire week.

Three major factors were noted – their white blood count was reduced, their bad cholesterol levels were reduced and they lost an average of 1.3lbs in weight.

White blood cells work to protect the body from diseases. If a high white blood count is noted, it can indicate health problems such as an infection, allergy, inflammation, allergy or another issue. When sticking to the low PAMP diet, the volunteers’ white blood counts were reduced by 11 per cent.

One of the most significant findings was that the volunteers’ levels of “bad” low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol were reduced by 18 per cent. If the group continued on the low PAMP diet, the reductions in cholesterol levels would mean their risk of suffering from coronary artery diseases in the future would drop by over 40 per cent.

Volunteers also lost weight during the week-long diet and an average of 1.5cm from their waistlines – meaning that once again their risk of type 2 diabetes dropped by more than 15 per cent.

When the scientists gave the volunteers a high PAMP diet to follow, they found these benefits were completely reversed – showing the danger of the molecules.

Dr Erridge and his team are now hoping that food manufacturers will test the levels of PAMPs throughout their manufacturing process, thereby finding out at which point the molecules enter the food, like which machines or materials could be introducing them.

Removing the PAMPs from foods could help make them healthier without adversely affecting the taste or texture, as well as the cost or ingredients of preparing the food.

The study was published in the journal Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseases.

More siblings = behavioural problems?

Growing up with siblings can teach you many lessons about sharing, looking after others and making sure you get to the biscuit tin first. But while there might be plenty of benefits to having brothers and sisters, new research now suggests people who come from a large family face problems at school.

According to a study from the University of Houston, children from big families are more likely to suffer behavioural issues and fall behind in class.

“Families face a substantial quantity-quality trade-off: increases in family size decrease parental investment, decrease childhood performance on cognitive tests and measures of social behaviour,” the research claims.

“Importantly, we find that these negative effects are not merely temporary disruptions following a birth but in fact persist throughout childhood.” The worrying thing is that the scientists think the issues could persist into early adulthood. If this is true, these early experiences could shape people for the rest of their lives.

“A lot of what happens in early childhood has lasting impacts,” co-author Dr Chinhui Juhn said.

“In many respects, this matters more than a lot of things that happen later in (a child’s) life.”

To draw their conclusions, experts looked at data from older children, investigating the time before and after their younger siblings were born.

The more children, the less ‘parental investment’, which is the time spent with individual children, the environment and the resources available, including money and books.

The study also scored mothers on the Armed Force Qualification Test, which reveals information about socioeconomic factors. Mothers with a low score are more likely to be in financial difficulty. The findings were not straightforward, as those with a mother with a median score were less affected by siblings. The study also neglected to investigate fathers.

In conclusion, it seemed that children from large families with financial difficulties suffered the most.

“If you are in a well-resourced family, some of these things don’t apply,” Dr Juhn summarized.

“When the second child comes along, there is less time and attention. But in an environment with more resources, it’s not as binding.”

5 warning signs you’ve picked the wrong diet

When it comes to dieting, the choices appear to be endless; from Atkins to 5:2, paleo to Weight Watchers, it’s easy to fall into the trap of picking one at random.

But selecting any old meal plan could prove disastrous, setting off strange reactions in your body and making it more tempting than ever to quit and reach for that bar of chocolate.

Shaun T, host of American ABC show, ‘My Diet Is Better Than Yours’, has summed up the top five warning signs your diet isn’t right for you on Shape.com.

  1. You’re not enjoying it

Eating is supposed to be fun, and while eating kale might not be as exciting as crisps, you shouldn’t be dreading mealtimes. It’s important to find a diet that is sustainable in the long term, which means including at least some foods you look forward to eating.

  1. You’re bloated

This is a sure-fire sign the food your eating doesn’t agree with you. If you’re experiencing gut-related issues like pain and bloating, start cutting out certain foods to help eliminate the ones that set you off. If the symptoms don’t subside, see a doctor.

  1. You’re tired

Food is fuel! It should keep you energised and help you get through the day, including regular exercise. It’s normal to experience some tiredness after cutting our sugar and/or caffeine, but if the sluggishness persists, you haven’t found the right diet.

  1. You’re moody/hangry

If you’re constantly hungry and/or experiencing mood swings, it could be that the food or portions aren’t quite right for you. Diets should positively impact your life, not mean you snap at everyone around you!

  1. You aren’t losing weight

If you’ve stuck to the diet properly and been working out regularly for 10 days, you should start to see results. If you haven’t lost any weight in this timeframe, you need to reassess.

The most important thing is not to feel rushed when picking a diet. You might feel the pressure is on, but it’s much more effective to find a meal plan you can stick to long term than a crash diet that will end in failure. If you need help, seek the advice of a nutritionist.