Articles on healthy diet

The Myth - Healthy Diet?

Dr. Raviraj Francis, Physiotherapist
Indians have huge vitamin deficiency figures compared to Global standards.Various food myths are to be blamed for this.As a clinical Physiotherapist and Nutritional expert I suggest some facts that need to be addressed: 1) Indians are more stressed and give less importance to physical exercise compared to their global counterparts.2) Eating at proper times should be strictly adhered to (5 small meals if on a diet or 3 proper healthy meals).3) Eating healthy should be the mantra, for eg: filling yourself with snacks like samosa, vada, shev, chakli instead of proper wholesome food.4) The myth that non-veg food gives you more strength or veg food will never give you heart disease is all a propaganda by various people. Speaking scientifically vegetarian people can have more strength than a person who consumes meat, also a vegetarian may die of cardiac diseases as compared to a person who consumes red meat daily.5) However certain facts have to be taken into consideration like B12 (nerve function) is found in meat and Iron is found in high quantity in green leafy vegetables. However, if your religion or culture doesn't permit meat then there are supplements which are available in the market.6) Just remember no amount of supplement or fancy food will give you the amount of vital vitamins which a wholesome food gives you.7) Last but not the least 'eat smart' - a boiled potato will give you the same nutrients minus the cholesterol that comes from a fried potato. Bon appetit!

Is Raw Food Diet Healthy?

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
People are constantly experimenting with food to lose weight. Some eat maple syrup all day while some eat raw or uncooked foods to get that size zero. Most fad diets are unhealthy. But sometimes even the more healthy seeming diets like the raw food diet may not be totally healthy. Let us tell you why eating raw food can or cannot be all that good for you.Raw diet consists mainly of uncooked, unprocessed plant foods. Raw food is low in calorie and usually sourced naturally. Eating a raw diet full of fruits and vegetables has its advantages of getting plenty of vitamins and minerals but there are a lot of missing nutrients in this diet that can lead to severe deficiencies.Vitamin B12 is the most common deficiency found in people that eat this diet. This nutrient is naturally available in animal sources and is critical to nerve and red blood cell development. Deficiencies can lead to anemia and neurological impairment.This diet doesn't have enough protein. According to ICMR minimum of 20-25% of adults daily calories should come from protein. Protein is a major component of all cells, including muscle and bone. It is needed for growth, development and immunity to fight off infections and protect the body.This diet might help you lose weight because how much raw food can you actually eat. Besides unhealthy weight loss it also makes your immune system vulnerable putting you at higher risk of falling sick or catching infection. Raw food diet lacks lycopene, usually found in cooked tomatoes, which are responsible for plasma lycopene levels, which are thought to play a role in disease prevention.Overcooking and heating is known to destroy nutrition in food. But did you know that cooking vegetables and beans actually enhances digestibility and absorption of many beneficial and nutritious compounds in the body? Cooking also helps destroy some of the harmful enzymes that interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the body.Recent studies confirm that the body absorbs much more of the beneficial anti-cancer compounds (carotenoids and phytochemicals - especially lutein and lycopene) from cooked vegetables compared with raw. Scientists speculate that the increase in absorption of antioxidants after cooking may be attributed to the destruction of the cell matrix (connective bands) to which the valuable compounds is bound.Eating raw food is good for health and is an important feature of a healthy diet. But that does not mean that one’s entire diet has to be raw to be in excellent health or lose weight. There are healthier ways to lose weight like eating a balanced diet and exercising. Our body requires all nutrients for optimum health.

Healthy Diet Plan

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Our body requires food to function. What kind of food you put into your system will reflect in your health. If you are eating healthy your body will look and feel healthy. But if you are just consuming food that have poor nutrition it will make you look unhealthy, sometimes out of shape, will lead to lifestyle related diseases, overall you will not feel great about yourself.By following a healthy diet you are ensuring your body is getting adequate nourishment required for the day to day functioning of the body.Being healthy does not mean starving yourself or living on raw fruits and vegetables. Being healthy simply means being more conscious about what you expose your body to. Physical activity is also an important part of being healthy but unless you are eating a healthy diet you will not reap much benefit.Here are a few dos of a Healthy Diet:1) Carbohydrates are important as they are the basic energy source of our body. What you actually need to avoid are simple carbohydrates like maida & white bread but keep the complex carbohydrates like whole wheat, oats etc.2) Eat a variety of natural foods like seasonal vegetables and fruits. Make sure you have at least 4-5 servings of these in a day. Your body requires vitamins & antioxidants to build immunity and stay healthy.3) Have at least 8-10 glasses of water everyday.4) You should include dairy for protein, Vitamin A & D, calcium, phosphorous for bone health and better metabolism.5) Try to have foods that have high biological protein value like eggs, fish, dairy & nuts.6) Moderation is key. Eat a little bit of everything to get the maximum benefits and stick to less processed food as much as you can. While we have told you what to do lets also highlight what not to do :1) Skipping meal is old school. You might think you are cutting down on calories but you are actually depriving your body of key nutrition2) Avoiding carbohydrates from your diet will make you only feel lethargic and over a period of time it will slow down your metabolism3) Don’t over eat food just because it is labelled as healthy. Too much of anything can be bad.Eating healthy is not restricted to people who are unwell or recovering from an illness. A healthy diet should be eaten to maintain general well being o the body. It is when we stop eating healthy that we start putting on weight, falling sick , have poor energy levels & in general not feel 100 percent .Healthy is also the most used word especially when it comes to marketing a food or beverage. When a food is labelled healthy what does it actually mean .To ensure what you eat is healthy read the nutrition label on the food and understand how that food was created.

Healthy Diet for Teenagers

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
These days, due to peer pressure and the influence of glamour world, teenagers aspire to be in a skinny frame and in order to achieve that instantly, teenagers go with practices like surviving on carbonated drinks, artificial sweeteners, smoking and eating meager food.“Trying to stay thin can take you away from eating a wholesome diet, and lead to bad skin, dull looking hair and unhealthy nails”.Helpful Hints to Plan a Diet for Teenagers:Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Never forget that.This should be the main meal while planning diet for teenagers. Breakfast kick starts your body after eight hours of sleep when energy was being slowly used up. This is the longest time your body will have gone without eating, so you need to fill up the supply of energy to get you through the day. About one quarter of your body needs is found in breakfast, and that’s a substantial amount to skip out on. It has been scientifically proven that your concentration levels are much lower if you don’t eat breakfast, and it may also lead to you snacking on unhealthy food throughout the day - so leading to you becoming overweight.Fitness and Exercise RegimesThese may be fast disappearing in a teenager’s life due to the lack of physical activity opportunities in schools, as well as the type of exercise on offer not always being appropriate or enjoyed by teenagers. What to do then? Walk everywhere, ride your bike, go running with a friend in a park nearby, go to the local sports, go swimming, there are local pools in most areas, start up a team yourself with local friends i.e. football or basketball, or even a running group.Healthy optimum foods which should appear in diet for teenagers:• Fresh fruit and vegetables (between five and ten per day)• Whole meal bread – Not white bread as it contains very few nutrients• Salads to include; lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber, celery, radish, beetroot, onion, nuts• Nuts unless of course you are allergic• Dried fruits such as apricots, raisins, dried berries• Fish – salmon, sardines, mackerel• Rice• Whole-wheat pasta• Six to eight glasses of waterUnhealthy foods which should not appear in diet for teenagers:• Any fast food – bought at a fast food outlet• Fizzy drinks of any kind – bought from shops or machines• Crisps and savory snacks in packets• Processed foods such as microwave dinners• Sweets, chocolate, ice-cream• Cakes and biscuitsRight now you may be thinking that you can’t live without a packet of crisps on the way home from school or that favorite fizzy drink, but unfortunately it really is up to YOU to decide! Only you can make those changes to your diet and your energy levels. If you are serious about being healthy, then think about your nutritional intakes and your fitness levels every day. Try not to be ‘faddy’ about being healthy, just do your best, be gradual and eventually it will become second nature!

Eat Less Carbs - for Healthy Heart

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Low-carb diets have been popular for years as a way to lose weight quickly. Aside from quick weight loss, the benefits of a low-carb diet include: increased energy, reduced sweet cravings, reduced mood swings and studies are showing a reduction on cholesterol, triglycerides level in the blood. Basically meaning a healthier heart! Read more about the study below.Read below why Indians (and South Asians) specifically, should take more care of their heart health. And that the key, is keeping it low carb, not no carb! Watch your blood pressure and sugar Indians should pay heed, as Indians are 3 times more prone to heart diseases as Europeans and Americans. We previously partnered with the Go Red Sari campaign to promote for heart health among women of Indian origin.So, how low your carbohydrate intake should be is crucial-  One of the side effects of extremely low carbohydrate intake (lower than 100 g per day) is Ketosis (as seen in Ketogenic diets). Where your body will burn fat incompletely to produce a substance called ketone, which is a substitute brain fuel. This may cause light-headedness, nausea and bad breath.A good low carb diet to avoid these complications is the Glycemic Index Diet and South Beach Diet where the focus is on changing eating habits so that the majority of the foods consumed are from the low GI food group. These foods take longer to break down into glucose in the body. This does two basic things: produces a more even level of glucose throughout the day and stops cravings and hunger from occurring as much.Or The Zone Diet, which is based on nutrient ratio where carbohydrate is 40% which is lower than the usual 55-60% of total calories but not low enough to induce ketosis.More about the study Study by Krauss, Ronald, et al.  published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported the following benefits of going low-carb besides weight loss:-- Low-carb diets are helpful, even without weight loss. This is important for people who aren’t overweight, but respond to low-carb diets for health problems such as high blood pressure, glucose tolerance problems such as reactive hypoglycemia, or other risk factors for heart disease or diabetes.- Further confirmed that simply reducing carbohydrate tends to reduce weight, without any other intervention also.- Showed LDL particle size rises with low-carb diets alone. So making it more heart-friendly.

Diet for Healthy Hair Growth

Dr. Amar Deep, Homeopath
Lustrous, beautiful and healthy hair is a result of a healthy body and a healthy diet. Any nutritional deficiencies can lead to problems like dryness, brittleness, dandruff and ultimately hair loss. Cause of unhealthy hair/dandruff/hair fall: Hair fall and baldness is increasingly becoming a problem for most people who love to eat junk food, follow an unhealthy eating pattern and have a stressed lifestyle. Hair fall can also be caused by anxiety, insomnia, hair abuse or excessive use of chemicals like bleaching treatments, perming and coloring. Soft drinks, snacks like the fried, overcooked junk snacks, caffeine, alcohol, and nicotine have detrimental effects on the nutrients that enhance hair growth. Stress, tension, some medications and poor dietary habits are known to retard hair growth.Eating right, exercising, reducing stress and getting plenty of sleep, will help you maximize your hair growth potential. Also, incorporating healthy foods in your day-to-day diet will lead to a difference in hair.Include the following in your diet for healthy hairs: Carbohydrates - These are an essential source of energy and help in the growth of body tissues, hair. So, it is important to consume more of complex carbohydrates like vegetables, fruits, whole grains and brown rice rather than simple sugars and white flours. Carbohydrate rich foods are good source of B complex vitamins that are vital to healthy hair. Protein -- Protein provides strength to the shaft of the hair and reduces chances of hair fall by snapping and splitting. Inadequate protein intake over a lengthy period can cause major hair fall, which will affect its texture and quality. Foods high in protein are soy, tofu, and dairy products like milk, curd, paneer, cheese, nuts, oilseeds, beans and pulses. Essential fatty acids – This aids dry and brittle hair and improves the texture. Essential fatty acids from vegetable oils, whole grains, legumes, fresh nuts and oil seeds, spirulina, flaxseed oil and pumpkin seeds.Vitamin A Vitamin A is essential for hair growth and a healthy scalp. Beta-carotene is found in green and yellow vegetables and fruits, sweet potatoes, broccoli, apricots. Vitamin E Vitamin E increases oxygen uptake and improves circulation, thereby improving hair health and growth. Add E to your diet by consuming foods like avocados, rice bran, nuts, dark green vegetables, legumes and whole grains. Vitamin K This lesser known vitamin helps to maintain healthy hair. Food sources of Vitamin K include dairy foods, figs, asparagus, broccoli, lettuce, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, dark green leafy vegetables, oatmeal, rye, soybeans, wheat and yogurt. Vitamin B To ensure that your hair is healthy and does not split include foods rich in the different B vitamins. These include whole grains, beans, lentils, plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, especially citrus fruits and tomatoes. Biotin deficiency has been linked to hair loss. Foods high in biotin are brown rice, cracked wheat, green peas, lentils, oats, soybeans, sunflower seeds and walnuts. Deficiency of B complex vitamins can lead to greasy hair, dandruff, poor hair growth and grey hair. Vitamin C Vitamin C is important for good circulation, hair growth and hair color. If you have enough vitamin C you will have strong, supple strands of hair that do not split. Good sources of vitamin C are all citrus fruits like oranges, lime, lemon, berries, and vegetables like Brussels sprouts, cucumbers, tomato, cauliflower, green leafy vegetables and red peppers. Minerals Iron – This carries oxygen to the hair. Without enough iron, hair and its follicles are starved of oxygen. This means that the goodness in the root of your hair is much less effective along the length of the strand. You can increase your iron intake by eating dark green vegetables, whole grains, and garden cress seeds or by adding iron supplements under supervision. Potassium Banana is the best source for potassium, which is important in nutrient transfer through cell membranes.Zinc Zinc builds hair protein and thus plays a vital role in maintaining good hair condition. Zinc stimulates hair growth by improving immunity. Its deficiency often results in poor hair growth and considerable hair loss. Natural Sources of zinc are legumes, mushrooms, non-fat dry milk, spinach, whole grains, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds. Lifestyle changes that needs to be followed: 1. Along with a healthy hair diet it is important that you exercise properly as it will ensure that there is proper blood flow to your scalp and will help in the growth of hair. 2. Treat your hair delicately. Avoid unnecessary brushing, combing or handling. Use a soft, round bristles brush. 3. Have a weekly scalp massage to provide stimulation to the hair follicles. 4. Have regular trims to eliminate split ends and allow the hair to look and feel healthier. 5. Get plenty of rest and sleep to allow your body to grow hair.

Healthy Weight Loss Diet

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
We work hard to lead a good life. Sometimes we forget a good life is not the end but a means to the end. Good life is directly linked to be healthy, both physically and mentally. Unfortunately day to day stress, not eating right, sedentary lifestyle is making you physically unhealthy which is most commonly seen as weight gain. This weight gain is shaving years off your life by making you more prone to lifestyle diseases like heart health, diabetes, etc. You can easily manage and even reverse this lifestyle condition by controlling your weight with the help of a healthy weight loss diet.Eating healthy is as simple or as complicated we make it. For starters let’s debunk the common myth attached to being healthy. Its not the chapattis or rice that is making you fat. Its the lack of routine and readiness to eat out more often than you should be that is adding to your waist line. Therefore a healthy weight loss diet should contain everything but in moderation. So before you jump of a weight loss diet band wagon here are a few things you need to know about healthy weight loss diet.1) Stop counting calories:Focusing on calories is extremely complicated and impractical. Some people can successfully control their diet by counting calories but for most of us its impossible to put a number on everything that goes in your mouth and then keep up with the math! Instead focus on the quality of food and not the quantity. Its a lot simpler.2) Exotic foods are not important:Most diets fail in the long term is because the foods suggested are not a part of your actual day to day life. For most of the ingredients you have to go out of your way and source them. You dont need fancy foods to boost your metabolism. Starting your day with something as basic as, drinking plain glass of water, can help boost metabolism.3) You Don’t need to eat every two hours:Most people on a weight loss diet are recommended to eat every two hours. But this is kind of impractical for working professionals or people with active social life. A healthy weight loss diet can consist of 3 meals with two optional snacks. Eating every two hours makes you constantly think of food. This makes it especially difficult for foodies who cant seem to get a break from thinking about food. Your day needs to have more elements other than just thinking and planning your next meal.4) Avoid Fruits for Weight loss:People avoid fruit when on a diet because of its sugar content. Fruits contain sugar, but this sugar is very different from added sugar. Sugar found in fruits does not spike your blood sugar levels like added sugar does. Besides Fruits area storehouse of nutrition & contain essential nutrients like antioxidants that are critical for good health. NO other food source contains antioxidants and othet variety of nutrients found in fruit.5) Protein is not the only nutrient that helps in weight loss:People think protein helps you lose weight. But they dont know how. Protein simply keeps you full for longer helping curb hunger. But remember if you eat more protein than your body can digest it stores all that extra protein as fat in your body. Besides protein sources also have calories. Just eating a diet high on protein will not magically shave the extra weight from your body.Completely depriving yourself of food you like will only lead to suppression, which you can only last for a short period of time. What happens when you completely stop doing what you love doing? You become obsessive about it and when the flood gates open the damage is very difficult to reverse. More over this behaviour adds a lot of mental stress to an individual. So remember moderation is the secret sauce to a healthy weight loss diet.

7 Healthy Foods That Are Bad for You

Ms. Mitalee Doshi, Dietitian/Nutritionist
1. Energy BarsWhen they tout how much fibre and protein they're packed with — or how minimal their "net carbohydrate" count is — energy bars may seem like super-healthy snacks.But before you eat one of these plastic-wrapped blocks of "nutrients"in your mouth, consider how heavily processed most of them are.The more ingredients listed on the label, the more manufactured energy bars are. Common ingredients in many energy bars are fancy names for different forms of sugar.They spike blood sugar levels and court a crash later on without providing lasting satisfaction and energy.2. Low-Fat or Fat-Free YogurtWhen a food product cuts out or reduces something we've learned is "bad" from its contents, we falsely conclude it's "better" for us.Not so great if manufacturers compensate for the tastiness lost in doing so by adding the yogurt full of sugar. Many low-fat and fat-free yogurts are so high in sugar that they might as well be considered dessert. Look for unsweetened ones especially Greek yogurts which are healthy.3. SmoothiesJust because they're jam-packed with whole fruits doesn't mean smoothies are great for our blood sugar levels or for our belt sizes. They are loaded with sugar especially if the smoothie you're buying from the store .Prefer Home made smoothies instead.4. GranolaThe  added ingredients (yes, sugars, once again)and high fat content of most brands makes the stuff  less of a healthy choice for most of our diets so have it in moderation.5. Frozen MealsMost frozen meals contain artificial additives ,preservatives added. They are made from  sub standard quality of ingredients.6. Dried FruitDried strawberries and other berries,guava,pineapple all are loaded with sugar. Raisins, apricots, prunes,dates, and figs are the only dried fruits that don't have sugar added to them during the drying process.7. Packaged Fruit JuicesThe fruits used are of substandard quality .Once cold pressed, fruit juice is rapidly pasteurized or heat treated.This heating treatment has been shown to destroy a lot of the nutritional value of the ingredients along with the naturally occurring digestive enzyme within the fruit and changes the pH from alkaline to acid. The primary purpose of this processing is to extend the fruit juice's shelf life. The additives and preservatives added to the juice may cause carcinogenic effect on our body.If you are going to buy prepackaged or processed snacks and foods choose ones that have maximum five ingredients — though ideally three or less. Lastly, be wary of lofty claims — i.e., "As much vitamin C as an orange!" "High in fibre!" — especially if these boasts are slapped onto foods you'd otherwise consider "bad for you." Always wiser to seek the purest source of a nutrient when possible.

9 Whole Fruits That Protect Against Diabetes

Ms. Swati Kapoor, Dietitian/Nutritionist
Diabetes is a metabolic disease which is characterized by high blood sugar levels that result from defects in insulin secretion, or its action, or both. Diet control is an integral part of diabetes care and management. Food selection, preparation, portion size, timing of food consumption, activity adjustments has significant influence in diabetes management.Recently in one study, it is clearly mentioned that whole fruits help in lowering the diabetes symptoms. Fiber is a major content in fruits which lowers the symptoms of diabetes. Fruits are generally rich in, Pectin, which is one of the richest soluble fiber sources and is considered beneficial for people with either form of diabetes. Fiber helps slow the digestion of foods, which then controls the sudden spikes in blood glucose that may occur after a low-fiber meal.Often people suffering from diabetes avoid fruits out of fear that the sugar present in fruits could push up their blood sugar level. However, this is a false conception. Sugar present in fruits is usually in the form of fructose. Unlike other forms of sugar, like sucrose, fructose has low glycemic index. Minimal insulin is needed for the metabolism of fructose. Intake of this fruit sugar is not associated with sudden surge of the blood sugar level. Studies have shown that by reducing cholesterol and triglyceride production, fructose could protect us from diseases such as arteriosclerosis, which leads to heart diseases and stroke.So, fruits prescribed for diabetics usually have high fiber content, low sugar content and low glycemic index. Check out the fruits that are recommended for diabetes diet plan:– Apples: Apples are a good source of soluble fiber with anti-inflammatory affect that may help diabetics recover faster from infections. Pectin, a form of carbohydrate found in Apple helps control blood sugar by releasing it a little more slowly into the bloodstream. Apples also contain antioxidants, which help reduce cholesterol levels, cleanse the digestive system, and boost the immune system.Black Jamun: Jamun is known to improve blood sugar control. This fruit is 82% water and 14.5% carbohydrates. It contains no sucrose and has hypoglycemic effect that helps reduce blood and urine sugar levels. Besides the pulp, the seed of Jamun is also very beneficial in controlling diabetes. The seeds contain jambolin, which prevents the conversion of starch into sugar and controls blood sugar levels.Papaya: It is one of the very few fruits that are easily available all through the year. It is good for diabetics because of its rich content of Vitamins and essential minerals. Papaya provides fiber for the digestive system and is rich in antioxidants. The anti-oxidants present in Papaya prevent cell damage and protect your heart as well as nervous system.Watermelon: Watermelons naturally have no fat or cholesterol, are rich in vitamins & minerals making them good for diabetics’ health. Fiber present in this fruit is important for digestive health and cholesterol control. Watermelons are often avoided by people because they have high GI value. But their glycemic load is low, which prevents sugar levels to increase, thus making them good for diabetes patients.Peaches: Peaches are low in fat and are a good source of potassium, fiber, vitamins A and C. Fruits that have a glycemic index less than 55 can be safely consumed by diabetics. The GI of a peach ranges from 28-56, depending on the size.Guava: Eating guava without its skin can reduce the sugar absorption in your blood, Being rich in dietary fiber it helps ease constipation (a common diabetic complaint) and can even lower the chance of developing type two diabetes. Potassium found in guava helps regulate blood pressure. Guava contains more Vitamin C than an orange.Cherries: Enzymes found in cherry are known to boost insulin that helps control blood sugar levels. The red color found in the skin of this fruit protects the heart.Pear: Pears have a low glycemic index and are full of essential minerals like calcium, iron, magnesium, potassium, vitamins C, E, K, folate, beta-carotene, lutein, choline and retinol. They make a perfect snack and should be added to a diabetic’s daily diet.Pomegranate: Diabetic patients are at a higher risk of developing heart diseases later in life. Pomegranate contains antioxidants that help protect the inner lining of blood vessels from being damaged by free radicals and free-floating glucose.Adding fruits to your diabetes diet can actually prove highly beneficial if you eat whole fruits whenever possible. They have more fiber and are more filling than fruit juice. Also, you should avoid fruits that are canned or frozen in heavy syrups, even if you rinse off the syrup they are up to no good for your health. It is important to know the foods for diabetic in order to live a healthy life.

Everyone Should Have These 10 Super Healthy Foods in Their Diet!

Dr. Sayantika Sarkar, Homeopath
Whole Grains:People who eat plenty of whole grains tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don’t. This is probably because whole grains contain antioxidants, phytoestrogens and phytosterols that are protective against coronary disease.The fiber in whole grains also has its benefits: various studies link a high-fiber diet with a lower risk of heart disease. In a Harvard study of female health professionals, people who ate a high-fiber diet had a 40 percent lower risk of heart disease than those who ate a low-fiber diet.Aim to include plenty of foods that are rich in soluble fiber, which, studies show, can help lower “bad” LDL. Soluble fiber binds bile acid, a key component in fat digestion that our bodies make from cholesterol. We can’t digest fiber, so when bile acids are bound to it, they get ushered out of the body as waste. This causes the body to convert more cholesterol into bile acids, which ultimately has the effect of lowering circulating cholesterol levels. Foods high in soluble fiber include oatmeal, barley, beans, okra and eggplant, and citrus fruit, such as oranges. Raisins: Research has shown that antioxidants in raisins fight the growth of a type of bacteria that can cause inflammation and gum disease. People with gum disease—which affects up to 50 percent of American adults—are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems. So, dealing with one can help people avoid the other. Last summer, a major heart journal and a major periodontal journal simultaneously published a consensus paper that outlines the link between the two diseases: inflammation. As a result, choosing certain foods, such as raisins, may help you protect both your gums .Yogurt:Research shows yogurt may protect against gum disease. Left unchecked, gum disease may elevate a person’s risk for heart disease.Researchers from Japan analyzed dietary intakes from nearly 1,000 adults and found those who consumed the highest levels of dairy—specifically yogurt and yogurt-type drinks—had the healthiest gums. Their report, published in the Journal of Periodontology, credits probiotics (a.k.a. “good bacteria”) as one possible champion of gum health. Experts believe that probiotics may help to counter growth of the “unfriendly” bacteria in the mouth. Probiotics are live active cultures used to ferment foods, such as yogurt and kefir (fermented milk), and studies suggest that they may improve digestion and boost immunity too.Beans:Eating beans regularly is good for your heart, and you don’t need to eat a lot of them to benefit. A study published in the Journal of Nutrition suggests having just 1⁄2 cup of cooked pinto beans daily might lower cholesterol. Soluble fiber is a key reason why, says Philip Ades, M.D., author of the EatingWell for a Healthy Heart Cookbook (The Countryman Press, 2008). “Like all foods that contain a lot of soluble fiber, beans help bind cholesterol and keep it from being absorbed in the gut,” he explains. And, as the fiber is fermented, it produces changes in short-chain fatty acids that can inhibit cholesterol formation. (By-products of this same fermentation process are what cause the gas so often associated with eating beans.)Other components in beans also may be responsible for the cholesterol-lowering effect. Beans contain a variety of heart-protective chemicals, including flavonoids, compounds also found in wine, berries and chocolate, that inhibit the adhesion of platelets in the blood, which can help lower risk for heart attack and strokes.Nuts:Nuts are chock-full of vitamins, minerals, heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and low levels of saturated fats. Research suggests that people who eat nuts—walnuts, pecans, almonds, hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts and peanuts (which actually are legumes)—two to four days or more per week have a lower incidence of heart disease than people who eat them less often.Tomatoes:An excellent source of vitamin C, plus vitamin A, potassium and fiber, tomatoes are high in lycopene, which works with other vitamins and minerals to aid in disease prevention. Research suggests that the combination of nutrients in tomatoes may help prevent cardiovascular disease. Cooking may actually increase the health benefits of this lush fruit because although cooked tomatoes have less vitamin C, their lycopene is more available and antioxidant activity is undiminished by cooking.Apples:Apples were associated with a lower risk of death from both coronary heart disease and cardiovascular disease in the Iowa Women’s Health Study, which has been tracking 34,000-plus women for nearly 20 years. Finnish researchers studying dietary data collected over 28 years from 9,208 men and women found that frequent apple eaters had the lowest risk of suffering strokes compared with nonapple eaters. What explains the hearty benefits? Researchers suggest that the strong antioxidant flavonoid compounds found in apples—quercetin, epicatechin, epigallocatechin, kaempferol and other polysyllabic wonders—play a key role by preventing “bad” LDL cholesterol from oxidizing and triggering a series of events that result in the buildup of plaque in arteries, as well as inhibiting inflammation. Apples are also rich in pectin, a form of soluble fiber known to help lower cholesterol, and they provide a decent amount of vitamin C, another antioxidant.Berries:Eating just under a cup of mixed berries daily for eight weeks was associated with increased levels of “good” HDL cholesterol and lowered blood pressure, two positives when it comes to heart health, according to a study of 72 middle-age people published recently in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Included in the mix were strawberries, red raspberries and bilberries—similar to blueberries—as well as other berries more common in Finland (where the research was conducted): black currants, lingonberries and chokeberries. The diverse range of polyphenols—a broad class of health-promoting plant compounds that includes anthocyanins and ellagic acid—provided by the mix of berries is likely responsible for the observed benefits. Polyphenols may increase levels of nitric oxide, a molecule that produces a number of heart-healthy effects. One is helping to relax blood vessels, which subsequently results in lowered blood pressure.Popcorn:Popcorn delivers polyphenols—antioxidants linked to improving heart health. Gram for gram, popcorn boasts three times more polyphenols than kidney beans (the highest vegetable polyphenol source) and four times more than cranberries (the best fruit source), according to recent research out of the University of Scranton.What’s more, popcorn is a whole grain—and people who eat plenty of whole grains tend to be leaner and have a lower risk of heart disease than those who don’t.Green Tea:Some of the strongest evidence of tea’s health benefits comes from studies of heart disease. Scientists have found that those who drink 12 ounces or more of tea a day are about half as likely to have a heart attack as nontea drinkers.Scientists also reported in 2009 that Japanese men who drank a daily cup of green tea significantly lowered their risk of developing gum disease—the more tea, the lower the risk. The researchers believe antioxidants called catechins in green tea are the key. Catechins hamper the body’s inflammatory response to the bacteria that cause gum disease. People with gum disease are twice as likely to suffer from heart problems.