Smart Bytes®

Feeling nutrition info overload? I will help you sort through to find what’s important to you. Read more. . .

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How to Get a Handle on Healthy Habits: Tips from Research

“Ultimately, people do not decide their future. They decide their habits, and their habits decide their future.” So says John C. Maxwell in The 15 Invaluable Laws of Growth: Live Them and Reach Your Potential, a book I’m on my third time through as an audio book to accompany me on walks.

Ah, you say, but where do those habits come from? Do health-promoting habits seem hard to establish and easy to lose, while it’s amazingly easy to fall back into unhealthy habits?

Here, in Part 1 of a series, Rebecca Krukowski, PhD, provides perspective on how “self-monitoring” can play a role in creating healthy habits. Dr. Krukowski is a clinical psychologist and Assistant Professor in the Department of Preventive Medicine at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center in Memphis, where she conducts research on behavior-change interventions for weight loss.


Following the video, read on for practical take-home tips on different options for using self-monitoring to help you create habits to lose weight or achieve other health goals – or to avoid the all-too-easy path back to unhealthy habits in the months ahead.


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Mediterranean Diet, Olive Oil & Breast Cancer Risk

Can a Mediterranean-style diet reduce your risk of breast cancer? Olive oil is key to plant-focused Mediterranean diet

Exciting headlines from the PREDIMED study proclaim potential for major reductions in breast cancer risk, with olive oil seemingly a key factor. Yet other studies portray less clear-cut protection. Therefore, it’s important to step back and look at what differing results among these studies might mean as women seek to find doable choices that could play a role in reducing breast cancer risk.

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Cutting Sodium: Doable Eating Habit Tweaks

Reducing the hefty sodium load that’s part of many people’s eating today can seem a confusing and daunting challenge. Average U.S. sodium intake at 3592 milligrams (mg) per day – not counting any salt added at the table — is well beyond the recommended cap of 2300-2400 mg. Reaching the target the American Heart Association identifies as “ideal” (no more than 1500 mg daily) would require major changes in all aspects of eating choices and preparation.

Salty 6 - good targets for cutting sodium

42% of U.S. sodium intake comes from the AHA “Salty 6” (NHANES 2009-2010)

However, reducing sodium is not an all-or-nothing proposition.

Instead of focusing on a target that may feel out of reach, try finding a few doable tweaks in your usual choices. Just a few swaps can add up to reduce your current daily totals by 1000 mg a day. That’s a goal that research supports to make a difference in your health. Given the high sodium levels in many foods today, the tweaks may not be as hard to accumulate as you think.

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Healthy Eating Tweaks for Lower Blood Pressure

Among people with high blood pressure, only about half have their blood pressure under good control.  Whether you have high blood pressure and hope to improve control to reduce the toll it takes on your health, or hope to delay or avoid development of high blood pressure, the good news is that changes in your eating habits can help.

Even better news: if you’re not up for a major overhaul of your diet, research has identified ways in which we can “tweak” eating habits with relatively small changes that can add up to make a difference for a healthier blood pressure and improve overall health at the same time. Tweaks that cut sodium are part of this, but let’s make sure we consider the big picture of how eating habits affect blood pressure.

What’s the big deal? According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), high blood pressure makes you four times more likely to die from a stroke, and three times more likely to die from heart disease.

In the United States, about 1 in 3 adults – or about 2 in 3 age 60 and older — has high blood pressure. Another 1 in 3 has prehypertension, above-normal blood pressure between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg, not high enough to classify as hypertension, but now recognized as high enough to increase risk of heart disease and stroke. Your blood pressure can be high for years without causing any symptoms, even though it is damaging your heart, blood vessels and kidneys.

Let’s consider three places you can look for ways you might tweak your current eating habits for healthy blood pressure….

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Eating Choices to Lower Cancer Risk – Q&A

Does it seem the more you read and hear about healthy eating for cancer prevention, the more questions you have?Eating Choices to Reduce Cancer Risk – Questions Answered

Over the past month and a half, I’ve traveled across the country, giving five presentations on what’s current about diet and cancer prevention. Whether I was speaking to graduate students, dietitian nutritionists and other health professionals, or the public, people who are trying to stay on top of nutrition information find it challenging.

On the premise that a question posed by one person is usually a question for many others, today’s Smart Bytes® is dedicated to addressing some very good questions I’ve been asked during recent presentations.

You don’t have to be at one of my presentations to pose a question: you are welcome to reach me right here with questions you’d like addressed any time. For now, read on….how many of these questions have puzzled you, too?

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