How to season food without salt

No one wants to tuck into a meal that’s bland and lacking flavor, but smothering it in salt isn’t the answer. Many of us exceed the daily recommendation for sodium without even realizing, which could lead to hypertension, raising the risk of strokes, kidney failure and cardiovascular disease.

Various studies have found links between high sodium intake and obesity in kids, while others discovered reducing salt and increasing fruits and vegetables reduce the risk of health issues later in life.

If you have children to look out for, or need to cut back on salt yourself, read on for alternatives, courtesy of registered dietitian and nutritionist Jennifer Glockner.

Go for whole foods

Processed meals are known to be bad for us, with 70 per cent of salt in our diet added during processing. Jennifer suggests small swaps to lower our sodium intake, such as replacing deli and cured meats with fresh chicken, fish or turkey in sandwiches or salads. Be careful about which cheese and bread you use too, and read packets when you can to keep on track.

The same goes for vegetables and beans; when they’re canned sodium is used to preserve them, so give them a thorough rinse before use. Alternatively, buy fresh or frozen versions as these won’t make a dent in your salt intake.

Use vegetables to enhance

Following the veg route again, why not use strong-flavored foods like onion, garlic or celery to give your dish that extra oomph rather than reaching for the salt shaker. This also lowers the fat content of meals, as does swapping meats for mushrooms to keep things bulky but healthier.

Or for a fresh zing, squeeze a lemon or lime into your dish to create a citrus twist, perfect for poultry or fish.

Swap salt for spices

This is often recommended and Jennifer has reminded us how much this small move can improve our overall health. Herbs and spices instead of salt not only lower the problems associated with high sodium levels, but it also boosts the body’s antioxidants. This will prevent disease and keep you in good form, similar to the benefits of fruit and veg.

Previous studies have found that clove, oregano, and caraway boast the highest levels of antioxidant and phenolic properties, so adding these to your food could really work wonders.

There’s so many options with spices, therefore you won’t ever struggle to find one that fits your cuisine. Ginger for Asian influence, cumin for Indian and Middle Eastern meals and paprika for smokiness are just some of the examples you can enjoy.

Breast cancer can be more aggressive in obese women

Breast cancer is more common and aggressive in obese people, researchers claim.

While prior studies have drawn the link, experts haven’t been able to pinpoint why overweight women are more prone to the disease.

Now, an international team of researchers believe their findings can shed more light on the association.

Researchers from the University of Miami in the U.S. and Granada’s University Hospital Center found that fat around a tumor (peritumoral fat) allows the expansion and invasion of cancer stem cells (CSCs) which are responsible of the onset and growth of the tumor.

They also claimed that obesity-related fat causes local inflammation and prevents adipocytes, the cells forming that fat, from maturing.

Cancer stem cells are found in tumors in small quantities, and they are responsible for the metastasis or spreading in parts of the body far from the original tumor.

Conventional chemotherapy and radiotherapy treatments are not capable of eliminating these cells.

As a result, it is common that, after the first response to treatment, many cancer patients suffer a relapse, the researchers said.

Accordingly, they warn that the consequences of the obesity epidemic on cancer morbidity and mortality are very serious.

In fact, it is estimated that, nowadays, up to 20 per cent of cancer-related deaths may be attributable to obesity.

The researchers added that obese women have a greater risk of suffering breast cancer after going through the menopause.

And, the disease progresses much faster in those women – regardless of their age.

However, the researchers admit that the mechanisms by which obesity contributes to the development and progression of cancer are not absolutely yet clear.

The findings were first published in the journal Cancer Research.

Daily cup of tea may help heart health

Drinking just one cup of tea per day may lower your risk of strokes and heart disease, a new study claims.

Researchers at The John Hopkins Hospital in the US found that people who drank a cup of tea each day were 35 per cent less likely to have a heart attack or any other major cardiovascular event, when compared to non-tea drinkers.

Findings also showed that tea drinkers were less likely to have calcium build-up in the heart’s coronary arteries. Calcium deposits have been linked to serious conditions, such as heart disease and stroke, researchers said.

“We found that moderate tea drinkers had a decreased progression of coronary artery calcium and a decreased incidence of cardiovascular events,” explained researcher Dr Elliott Miller.

Researchers looked at data from more than 6,000 men and women enrolled in an ongoing study that began in 2000. At the beginning of the study all volunteers were free of heart disease. The records of the male and female participants were tracked over 11 years to see who had a heart attack, stroke, or chest pain, or had died from other types of heart disease.

Calcium deposits in the blood vessels were also measured over five years by comparing earlier Computerized Tomography scans (CT scan) to later ones.

However, researchers couldn’t say if drinking more than three cups of tea a day would lead to even better heart health because very few participants drank more than four cups of tea daily.

The men and women surveyed drank either black or green tea. But the findings weren’t separated by tea type.

At the moment Dr Miller is unclear on why the tea might help. Previous research has suggested that ‘flavonoids’ – a type of antioxidant found in tea – may be responsible and have a protective effect on the heart.

He also cautioned that it’s premature to give advice about tea and heart health based on the study results.

“It’s too early to say drinking tea will help you have less cardiovascular events, like heart attack and stroke. But it does suggest there could be a protective nature of tea, or that tea drinkers in general are healthier individuals,” he said.

Bright foods ‘can cut breast cancer risk’

We already know they help you see in the dark, but now carrots have another string to add to their bow; scientists claim they could cut the risk of women developing some breast cancers by 60 per cent.

It’s long been known that eating a diet rich in beta-carotene, the chemical which makes vegetables like carrots, spinach and red peppers so brightly colored, is good for health. It’s been linked to helping guard against heart disease and cancer, but a new study suggests it’s particularly beneficial when it comes to breast cancer.

The research was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and took in 1,500 women with tumors in their breasts and 1,500 without. All were asked about the diets, as the team were trying to find a link between plant chemicals and cancer risk.

Blood tests allowed the group to investigate the amount of beta-carotene in the women’s bodies, alongside other things which are derived from plants like vitamin C.

It was discovered that those whose meals tended to be crammed with beta-carotene rich foods were 40 to 60 per cent less likely to develop estrogen receptor negative breast cancers. One in three women with breast cancer have this type of tumor.

However, the level of the chemical didn’t have an impact on estrogen receptor positive tumors, which the bulk of breast cancer cases are.

Other plant chemicals didn’t have much of an effect either way, with one expert keen to point out that no food should be viewed as a magical cancer cure.

“We’ve long known that a healthy diet – carrots included – can help to lower your risk of breast cancer because it helps to maintain a healthy weight,” Dr Richard Berks, senior research communications officer at charity Breast Cancer Now, said.

“While it’s really important to eat vegetables as part of a balanced diet, there is unfortunately no such thing as a superfood when it comes to breast cancer risk.”

Beta-carotene is transformed into vitamin A in the body, which helps keep a host of processes healthy, such as vision and the immune system.

Mothers over 40 ‘more likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke’

A fresh study claims that new mothers over the age of 40 are more likely to have a heart attack or stroke later in life.

Scientists at the University of Minnesota in America looked at more than 72,000 women to compile their new research, with 3,300 of those falling pregnant at a more mature age. The research was conducted on the women over a period of 12 years during the latter stages of their lives as part of the US Women’s Health Initiative Study.

They found that the women who had given birth after turning 40 were 70 per cent more likely to die of a cardiovascular disease in later life. They were also found to be twice as likely to suffer a haemorrhagic stroke, caused by a brain bleed, and a fifth more likely to have a heart attack.

In addition, their risk of suffering from an ischaemic stroke (caused by a blood clot) was increased by a staggering 60 per cent.

The results were presented on Wednesday (17Feb16) at the American Stroke Association Meeting in Los Angeles.

“We already knew that older women were more likely than younger women to experience health problems during their pregnancy,” Professor Adnan Qureshi, lead researcher and director of the Zeenat Qureshi Stroke Institute in Minnesota, said at the meeting.

“Now, we know that the consequences of that later pregnancy stretch years into the future. Women with a late pregnancy need to be aware of their increased risk and take steps to improve their cardiovascular health.

“Their doctors also need to remain vigilant years later in monitoring these women’s risk factors through physical examination and, perhaps, more tests and earlier interventions to prevent stroke and other cardiovascular events.

What you need to know about skin peels

Have you ever been tempted to have a face peel? Many women are, mostly because the procedure promises smooth skin which looks young and fresh. It’s certainly true that the peels have moved on a lot in recent years, but they should still be approached with caution. According to skincare expert Dr Marko Lens, the main area for concern is when people become too dependent on the procedure.

“Go to the US and you see the American ladies with thin skin. Why? Because they have peeled and over peeled and over peeled,” he told Cover Media. “The reason why (their skin looks bad is) because the skin barrier function was never repaired.”

What’s crucial to understand here is the role vitamin D has within the skin. This vitamin is responsible for the normal cell cycle of the epidermis; it fortifies the skin barrier function, meaning the skin is able to protect itself from environmental aggressors and microbes. Put simply: a weak skin barrier means sensitive, unhealthy looking skin.

Aggressive washing and over applying products can harm the skin’s barrier function, so imagine the effect a peel has. Obviously caring for the face after such a process will eventually allow it to be repaired, but if you constantly opt for severe peels your skin never has time to recover.

“If you check the levels of (these women’s) vitamin D they will all be depleted and they all have more chance of getting skin cancer, because by destroying the lipid barrier they are more sensitive to the sun damage,” Marko explained.

“It’s kind of a circle that we see that they’ve created by depleting the barrier function – probably in a couple of years people will realize that you don’t have to be harsh to your skin to realise that something is working. Technically, I never understood and will never in my practice use aggressive peels and aggressive abrasion – rollers than put holes in your skin and stuff like that. Why do you need to traumatize your skin? I understand that they think, ‘OK, a little bit of trauma will boost the collagen production’ and all this stuff. It doesn’t work that way because each time, yes, it’s logical that if you traumatize a little bit – like if you have a wound, that’s a trauma, the skin acts immediately, but there’s always an inflammation component. Whenever you activate that inflammation component you also activate the ageing process.”

This is because as we age, we lose lipids (such as fatty acids which are part of the barrier function) in our skin. Therefore, getting rid of them with a peel could result in the same outcome. “Protecting barrier function is the (most important thing),” Marko added. “That will lead to transepidermal water loss, more aged skin, more sensitive skin, skin more prone to sun damage and definitely thinner skin.”

Runny eggs OK during pregnancy

Here’s some good news for pregnant women out there, the runny egg is back on the menu. For around 30 years expectant ladies in Britain have been warned against cracking into undercooked eggs and advised to avoid hollandaise sauce, homemade mayonnaise and mousse.

However, anyone yearning for a runny boiled egg to dip your toast soldiers into will be happy to know a year-long review conducted by government approved scientists has determined that the risk of contracting salmonella from a British egg is “very low”.

Salmonella is caused by bacteria living in hens and can be very serious in pregnancy, increasing the risk of miscarriage or premature labor. In some cases it can also be fatal for toddlers or older people.

The advice now being issued is that pregnant women, toddlers and elderly people can enjoy soft yolks from eggs bearing the British Lion kitemark on the shell. It is reassuring to know that 90 per cent of the eggs produced in the UK do carry this stamp of approval.

“The Working Group is in agreement that there has been a major reduction in the microbiological risk from Salmonella in UK shell eggs from hens since the 2001 report,” states the report by the British Government’s Advisory Committee on the Microbiological Safety of Food.

“The very low risk level means that eggs produced under the Lion Code, or produced under demonstrably equivalent comprehensive schemes, can be served raw or lightly cooked to all groups in society, including those that are more vulnerable to infection, in both domestic and commercial settings, including care homes and hospitals.

“The group’s view is that this is especially the case for those eggs produced under the Lion Code Scheme, which comprises a suite of measures including: vaccination, a cool chain from farm to retail outlets, enhanced testing for Salmonella, improved farm hygiene, better rodent control, independent auditing, date stamping on the eggs and traceability.”

However, those individuals previously deemed to be at risk have been warned that eating runny eggs from cafes or restaurants should be avoided as they can’t guarantee the eggs will have the kitemark.

The British government first issued warnings about eating eggs following a salmonella scare in 1988, when everyone was told to only eat thoroughly cooked eggs. A decade later the advice was relaxed and aimed at groups deemed a greater risk, such as pregnant women, toddlers, those with long-term illnesses and elderly people.

Nutritionists have welcomed the news, explaining eggs offer a vital source of high quality protein and Vitamin D which are beneficial during pregnancy.

Work stress upping biscuit intake

Reaching for a bit of cake when you feel blue or tucking into some ice cream when you’re getting over heartbreak is nothing new, but a new survey suggests stress is causing people to turn to food in unprecedented numbers.

According to a team at market research company Mintel, as many as one in three workers feel so stressed about their job they use calorific food like doughnuts and biscuits to cope. Things are particularly bad in the 35 to 44 age bracket, with one in four feeling so worried about deadlines they dip into fatty and sugary snacks.

The study also found people tend to see food as an instant way to help with stress, so use it more regularly than exercise or instead of talking over their problems. On top of this, four in 10 fathers put their career above their family, with one in four mothers doing the same. It’s thought this is in part because of money worries and the desire to provide for children.

“Eating comfort food is the number one thing working Brits have done to tackle work stress in the past 12 months with 33 per cent of workers saying they’ve done this, followed by 30per cent who have turned to alcohol and one in seven – 15 per cent – who have smoked or vaped,” the Mintel team explained.

It seems stress is a very real problem, with 70 per cent of those spoken to admitting they’ve suffered from it.

There is hope on the horizon though, with 29 per cent of people stating exercise has helped them overcome stress. Others confided in friends and family, while seven per cent turned to a professional for help with coping.

It’s thought part of the problem are the hours people are working, which have been extended more and more over the years. Almost of half of people check or answer work email when they are out of the office too, which means they don’t have time to switch off and are also working more hours than required.

One in ten people don’t bother taking a lunch break either, with two in five doing so a couple of times a week.

“Rising work pressures are having a detrimental impact on people’s wellbeing,” senior consumer lifestyle analyst at Mintel, Ina Mitskavets, warned.

“But this presents forward-thinking companies with opportunities to come up with creative ways of encouraging employees to embrace a healthier balance, which could result in greater staff retention and loyalty.”

Some of the suggestions are that workers should be banned from checking email after hours or that companies should partner with gyms to offer low-cost membership.