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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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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Do Carotenoids Lower Breast Cancer Risk? Behind the Headlines

If you think of eating more vegetables and fruits primarily in relationship to weight management, a new study adds more reason to re-think that, suggesting potential to reduce risk of breast cancer.

Can healthy eating help breast cancer prevention?

Breast Cancer:
Do carotenoid-rich foods help reduce risk?

Looking at blood levels of carotenoids – beta-carotene plus several related compounds that collectively are known to be markers of vegetable consumption – this new study adds a fresh perspective on short-term and long-term links to breast cancer risk.

The take-home message here is not necessarily what it seems, however. So let’s look beyond the headline about this link to see what this study adds as you seek doable ways to reduce your risk of cancer and promote overall health and wellbeing.

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News on Healthy Eating & Semi-Vegetarian Diets

Is a plant-based diet the same thing as a vegetarian diet?

Study links pro-vegetarian diet with fewer heart disease deaths

Plant-based diets come in many forms

You’ve undoubtedly heard the term “plant-based diet” used in describing eating habits linked to heart health, cancer prevention and more. Some sources use the term to indicate a vegetarian diet. Yet not all the studies and recommendations about plant-based diets are actually referring to vegetarian eating.

At a recent heart health conference I attended, plant-based diets in their broader sense were the subject of several presentations, including one that received a lot of interest from media reaching health professionals and the public.

Let’s look at this study, which you may see reported somewhat differently by various sources, and see how it fits in the big picture of overall research on healthy eating patterns.

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