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Grab a handful of THESE for a balanced belly

With Memorial Day just a couple of weeks away, we’re on the verge of summer’s official arrival.

It’s an important occasion — not only to remember those who sacrificed their lives for the sake of the ol’ Red, White and Blue, but also to celebrate the next few months of sunshine that are headed our way.

But there’s another reason to rejoice at this time of year, too – and that’s for all the delicious summer produce that’s coming our way.

From bright red tomatoes and cherries… to deep purple eggplant and plums… and orange-hued peaches and nectarines, there’s about to be a rainbow of tasty options.

But according to the latest research, there’s one summer fruit in particular that really stands out — and not just because it’s the only blue thing in your basket!
I’m talking about blueberries.

A new study shows that this “super” berry can change your gut bacteria for the better, which can tamp down inflammation and slash your risk of diabetes.
In the study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers fed rats the equivalent of a “cheeseburgers and milkshakes” diet, either alone or supplemented with blueberry powder.

Now, we know that diets that fatten up rats (and men) are linked to the growth of harmful strains of gut bacteria.

But after two months, it turned out that the guts of rats that ate blueberry powder contained MORE of a certain strain of BENEFICIAL bacteria than the guts of the rats that didn’t.

The theory is that compounds that give blueberries their vibrant color, called “anthocyanins,” can directly alter your gut population.

And when the composition of the rats’ gut bacteria improved, so did the integrity of the gut lining.

The rats in the blueberry group had LESS leakage of gut toxins into their bloodstream than the rats who didn’t eat the berries.

And since “leaky” guts are known to trigger an inflammatory response by the immune system, these gut improvements may be why rats in the blueberry group also REDUCED their markers of inflammation — even while inflammation increased in the non-blueberry group.

What’s more, the positive gut changes may also explain why only the blueberry group had IMPROVED insulin resistance, since imbalances in gut bacteria can also make your cells more resistant to insulin.

Of course, blueberries’ benefits don’t end in your gut. These petite but powerful berries have also been proven to fight cancer… keep your blood vessels healthy… and even protect against cognitive decline.

And now that fresh blueberry season has arrived, it’s the perfect time to load up your cart with these sweet, juicy berries.

Blueberries are delicious by themselves, but you can also toss them into salads, add them to Greek yogurt, or blend them into smoothies.

You can also find blueberry extract in liquid, powder, or capsule form in the supplement aisle.

Just stay away from those blueberry muffins and milkshakes.

Dehydrated? Your brain could suffer

News flash: Exercise is as good for your brain as it is for your body.

In fact, study after study has shown that staying active can get blood flowing to every corner of your gray matter… beef up your brain thickness… and even ward off dementia.

It’s practically a “fountain of youth” for your cognitive function!

But before you lace up those walking shoes, be sure to visit a drinking fountain.

Because according to a new study, you can’t reap all of the cognitive benefits of exercise if you’re not gulping down enough water.

In the study, which was presented at a recent meeting of the American Physiological Society, researchers divided older folks who participated in a bicycling event on a warm day into two groups: Before the ride, participants either hydrated normally or didn’t drink enough.

Now, since we know that exercise gives your brain a boost, we’d expect that the participants’ thinking skills would be a little sharper after they crossed the finish line. And sure enough, those in the normal hydration group performed BETTER on a timed thinking skills test after the ride than they had before it.

But those in the dehydration group got no such boost. Their scores on the thinking test were pretty much the same post-ride as they were pre-ride.

Without enough water, it was as if the cognitive benefits of exercise had all but “dried up”!

Now, there’s normally a lot of water flowing through your blood. But when you don’t drink enough water AND you sweat water out during exercise, your blood thickens.

And since your heart has to work extra hard to pump thick blood through, the theory is that dehydration means that oxygen-rich blood can’t gush to every nook and cranny of your gray matter as freely.

As a result, your brain simply can’t function as well.

Now, you probably already know that you should be drinking at least eight glasses of water a day — but when you exercise, you need to be drinking even more to replace what you’ve lost.

You can lose up to FOUR GLASSES of water during a vigorous workout!

And since our “thirst perception” tends to dull with age, you can’t rely on feeling thirsty to motivate you to drink.

In fact, you may not FEEL thirsty until you’ve lost 2 to 3 percent of your body’s water… but physical and mental impairment starts when you’ve lost only 1 percent.

So, drink up, my friend!

Plain water is your best bet for hydration – not one of those sweetened or flavored “sports” waters. And stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic drinks, which WON’T hydrate you and may actually make you dehydrated faster.

You can also bulk up on foods with high water content, like watermelon, cucumbers, and celery.

For a happy brain and a healthy body, get 70% of THIS

Whether you’re a mom, a grandmom, or just celebrating the women who brought you into this world… I hope that you have a very happy Mother’s Day this coming weekend.

No matter what you call her — “Mom,” “Mother,” “Ma,” or “Mama” — she wants the best for you, no doubt about that. So, when it comes to a gift for that special mom in your life, only the best will do.

If she’s anything like my wife (or my daughter, who’s also a mother herself), some chocolate can go a long way toward showing gratitude – and it turns out that the BEST chocolate out there is the DARK stuff.

Because according to a pair of new studies, not only does dark chocolate taste good… but it can also give your brain and your immune system a powerful boost!

Researchers from Loma Linda University observed the brain activity of volunteers who’d each eaten a normal-sized dark chocolate bar containing 70 percent cacao.

In the first study, researchers detected a boost in gamma activity a half hour after the dark chocolate had been consumed. That’s a sign that the subjects’ gray matter had more power to form connections and make repairs (a.k.a. “neuroplasticity”) – and that’s a sign of a healthy, young brain.

Gamma waves are also associated with stress reduction, and what better gift could there be for your dear mom than that?!

Even better, that increased activity was still going strong after two hours had passed.

In the second study, researchers found that consuming dark chocolate with high cacao content turned on switches that activate the immune system’s T cells, which fight infection and reduce inflammation.

Of course, it’s not the sugar or the fat in those chocolate bars that carry all of those health benefits – it’s the cacao. Specifically, it’s the cacao’s antioxidant compounds, called flavonoids, that are probably what stimulate your gray matter and your immune cells.

Of course, the higher the percentage of cacao in your chocolate, the GREATER the benefits. So, whether it’s Mother’s Day or any other day you want to do something special for the mom in your life – or even yourself! — look for chocolate that’s 70 percent cacao or higher at your local health food store or in the gourmet chocolate aisle. (That “Special Dark” you can pick up at the checkout aisle only has about 45 percent cacao, which just won’t cut it.)

As I said, the higher the cacao content, the greater the benefits… up to a point, anyway. The taste is more bitter than what you may be used to, so you’d probably only use a 100 percent cacao bar for baking.

Romaine is on the chopping block… AGAIN

After the heavy comfort foods of winter, spring is a great time to lighten up.

That’s right — it’s officially salad season!

And all of those delicate lettuces and garden veggies that are sprouting up sure make for one tasty salad bowl.

But if you’re partial to romaine lettuce — the pale green variety that’s a staple of Caesar salads and bagged salad mixes — you’re going to want to listen up before you dig in.

Back in January, I told you about an outbreak of the lethal bacteria E. coli that sickened 60 folks in the U.S. and Canada, and romaine lettuce was the suspected culprit.

Well, it turns out that salad greens may be a repeat offender — because the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) just linked romaine lettuce to a NEW crop of E. coli infections that have sickened 35 people across 11 states since late March.

And just 10 days ago, the agency started telling us to stop eating romaine (at least until further notice).

More specifically, the CDC has traced the infections back to pre-chopped romaine lettuce from the Yuma, Arizona, growing region, although no specific farm or brand of lettuce has yet been identified.

Now, if you live far from Arizona, you might think that you’re in the clear.

But since grocery stores and restaurants across the U.S. source their romaine from Arizona, you’re vulnerable wherever you live.

Cases of E. coli have popped up from as far away as Washington and Idaho in the West… and Pennsylvania and New Jersey in the East!

And they haven’t been mild.

As I’ve told you before, E. coli can cause abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea so severe that you need medical attention.

To date, 22 folks have been hospitalized, and three people have even developed “hemolytic uremic syndrome,” a type of kidney failure.

And since many strains of E. coli are resistant to antibiotics, you don’t want to let these bad bugs in!

The bacteria tend to hide out in the nooks and crannies of the lettuce leaves, so washing your lettuce WON’T send them down the drain.

You could cook them off… but who cooks their salads?!

For now, the CDC recommends that everyone avoid chopped romaine sourced from Yuma.

But since it takes some detective work to figure out where your lettuce was grown, it’s best to steer clear of ALL romaine (especially the bagged, chopped variety) for the time being.

Make sure that your restaurant order doesn’t contain it… get rid of any romaine that you may have in the fridge… and check those salad blends to make sure that romaine isn’t in the mix.

When in doubt, toss it out!

On a more positive note, think of this as an opportunity to fill your salad bowl with leafy greens that are even healthier than romaine.

Darker greens — like spinach, kale, and chard — contain more nutrients than pale romaine and iceberg, so they’re a better base for your salad creations.

Plus, you can sauté those greens to kill off any and all bad bugs… even the ones we don’t know about yet.

Raid the spice rack to beat back bulge

It’s the time of year when every magazine on the newsstand tells you to start getting “beach-body” ready for summer.

Which is pretty funny — because the best way to have a “beach body” is simply to put your body on the beach!

All of the fad diets and workouts they’re trying to sell to you are ridiculous… but it’s never a bad idea to shed a few extra pounds any time of year.

We know that carrying around too much excess weight can raise your risk of heart disease, diabetes, and cancer — and those stubborn pounds can be harder to lose as you age and your metabolism slows.

But you don’t need to do a crazy “cleanse” or extreme exercise to zap that fat — because according to a new study, something sitting in your spice rack can accelerate weight loss naturally.

I’m talking about the dynamic duo of turmeric and black pepper!

As you may know, turmeric — which flavors everything from Indian curry to ballpark mustard — contains a natural anti-inflammatory called “curcumin,” while black pepper gets its peppery taste from a compound called “piperine.”

In the study, published in Nutrition & Metabolism, researchers fed obese mice a calorie-restricted diet either on its own or supplemented with curcumin, piperine, or a combination of both curcumin AND piperine.

After about five months, it turned out that the mice who received both curcumin and piperine lost MORE body fat than mice in ANY of the other groups.

That means that combining a sensible diet with this spicy twosome had a greater impact on weight loss than diet alone.

Not only that, but the spice compounds were stronger TOGETHER than they were individually!

The theory is that curcumin can speed weight loss by helping to hold blood sugar in check… reversing insulin resistance … and even reducing the formation of fat tissue by suppressing the blood vessels needed to form it .

And adding piperine to the mix can boost the effectiveness of curcumin — because piperine is known to shield curcumin from damage as it travels through your belly, making more of it available to your cells.

That’s nothing to sneeze at! (Forgive my grandpa humor, I can’t help myself sometimes.)

Plus, the benefits don’t stop there. Previous studies have shown that the turmeric-pepper combo can improve knee osteoarthritis symptoms, benefit your heart, and even protect your blood vessels from diabetic damage .

So, whether you want to slash your risk of disease… or just want to look good on the sand… try shaking these tasty spices into your meals.

As the study shows, the spices work best with a diet that promotes weight loss, and for that, you can’t beat the Paleo (a.k.a. “caveman”) diet, which eliminates the grains and sugars that can pack on pounds.

Getting some exercise can grease the wheels of weight loss, too!

Does your restaurant order come with a side of… PLASTIC?

Remember when gathering around the dinner table was the anchor of every family’s day?

I think we can safely say that ship has long since sailed. In fact, the number of Americans who regularly whip up supper at their own stoves declines year after year.

And with everything from drive-thrus to apps that let you have food delivered to your door with just a swipe or two, who could blame you for spending a little more time enjoying your meal than preparing it?

So much for “Sunday Supper.”

Now, restaurant meals can be convenient and easy for everyone to agree on. But according to a new study, whether you hit a fast-food joint or linger at a fine restaurant, eating a lot of meals out can mean that you’re also eating something that you’ll never see listed on the menu.

It turns out that restaurant meals can be loaded with high levels of toxic chemicals from plastic, called “phthalates”!

In the study, University of California researchers found that those who’d consumed the MOST meals out over the prior 24 hours had 35-percent HIGHER levels of phthalates in their urine than those who consumed the LEAST. (And note that some amount of phthalates showed up in pretty much everybody’s urine samples.)

Now, we’ve known for a while that fast food is loaded with phthalates — because those chemicals can leach right out of plastic wrappers and takeout boxes and right into your “value meal.”

And sure enough, the study shows that certain food items (like cheeseburgers and other sandwiches) only boosted phthalate levels if they were purchased from a fast-food outlet.

But the surprising finding from this study is that ANY restaurant meal — even meals from “wholesome” dining establishments like cafeterias and sit-down eateries — boosted the participants’ phthalate levels.

The theory is that foods prepared in restaurant kitchens are exposed to multiple sources of phthalates that are rare in home kitchens — including food-processing equipment and latex sanitary gloves.
The authors of the study say that the problem with their findings is that two-thirds of Americans eat at least some outside food.

But if you ask me, the really big problem — besides the “ick factor” of eating chemicals from plastic (which just isn’t appetizing) – is that phthalates are known to disrupt your hormones by mimicking estrogen.

And that can create big problems for both ladies AND gents.

Now, the best way to keep these plastic poisons out of your system is to roll up your sleeves and channel your inner Julia Child!

If you’re pressed for time, try chopping veggies and marinating meats on a Sunday so it’s easy to throw together meals throughout the week.
Use only glass containers instead of plastic to store food… and never “nuke” anything plastic in the microwave, which releases more of the chemicals.

Good news for lovers of ‘the stinking rose’

If you spent the winter hibernating inside your “lair,” eating comfort foods, and not moving around much… you may be emerging with a little extra “padding” around your middle this spring.

Aren’t we all!

Problem is, many of us still haven’t lost those extra pounds from LAST winter… and even the winter before that.

And if you’re carrying more weight than you should, things may be “heating up” right about now — and I’m not talking about the warmer spring weather.

You see, studies have shown that excess weight can ramp up INFLAMMATION in your body, putting you at greater risk of everything from heart disease to diabetes to cancer.

Of course, shedding pounds is the best way to tamp down the “flames.”

But according to a new study, there’s a natural way to ease inflammation… even if that winter weight DOESN’T melt off when the snow does.

It’s a tasty seasoning that just so happens to add a little “heat” to your favorite dishes.

I’m talking about garlic!

In a study out of the University of Florida, researchers measured the levels of inflammatory markers in the blood of about 50 obese folks and then split them into two groups: Half took aged garlic extract, and the other half took a placebo.

After six weeks, it turned out that inflammatory markers DECREASED among those who took the garlic extract, while members of the placebo group showed no change.

That means that garlic was able to help extinguish the “fire,” even though the participants had made no changes to their diet or exercise routines OR shed any pounds!

What’s more, by the end of the study, members of the garlic group also had lower LDL (“bad”) cholesterol than those in the placebo group.

And that squares with previous research that’s shown that garlic extract can reduce the buildup of plaque in your arteries.

This small but mighty bulb has also been shown to ward off colds and flu… lower your risk of osteoarthritis… and even beat back certain cancers.

Now, the study used an “aged” extract version of garlic that’s processed to be “odorless” and can be found at most health food stores.

And if you’re worried about dreaded “garlic breath,” that might be a good choice.

But there’s some debate about whether the extract is more or less effective than the fresh (a.k.a. stinky) kind.

Either way, you really can’t go wrong with cracking open a few cloves and incorporating them into your meals.

And if you’re looking to shed pounds, garlic pairs exceptionally well with Paleo-friendly dishes like leg of lamb and roasted asparagus.

Of course, Italian food is garlic heaven — but try substituting zucchini “zoodles” for pasta to “lighten up” for spring.

And if you prepare a garlicky feast for the entire family, no one will notice your dragon breath.

Could cholesterol be GOOD for your brain?

For years, mainstream docs have made cholesterol Public Enemy No. 1.

They’ve claimed that it’ll clog up your arteries… and turn your brain to mush.

And if your levels are even marginally high, most docs will want you on a statin drug (STAT!) — especially if you’re over 65.

The thing is, there’s little proof that having high cholesterol increases your risk of cardiovascular disease!

And now, a new study shows that when it comes to brain health, cholesterol may actually be “friend” rather than “foe” — because late in life, cholesterol that’s on the high side may protect you from mental decline.

In the study, published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia, researchers measured the cholesterol of close to 1,900 people at varying points in their lives, from middle age to very old age.

By the end of the study, folks in the 75 to 84 range with “above-normal” cholesterol had a 50 percent higher risk of developing dementia than peers with cholesterol in the “normal” range.

That pretty much squares with mainstream thinking.

But when the researchers looked at folks 85 to 94, something unexpected happened.

Those whose cholesterol levels were HIGHER than normal had a 32 percent LOWER risk of mental decline over the next 10 years than their peers with cholesterol in the normal range.

Now, the study’s authors were quick to caution that the results don’t prove that high cholesterol itself protected the older participants from dementia. And sure, it could be that some third factor shielded these folks from both the negative effects of high cholesterol AND cognitive decline.

But we know that your brain actually NEEDS some cholesterol to build cell membranes and nerve sheaths.

Studies have also shown that HDL (“good”) cholesterol can STOP inflammation — and that’s important because inflammation raging in your brain is at the root of degenerative brain diseases like Alzheimer’s.

So, it may be that the older you get, the more important cholesterol becomes for your gray matter!

This is yet another reason why you SHOULDN’T be popping statins to bring those lipid levels down — on top of the fact that these drugs have been linked to diabetes, kidney failure, and permanent muscle damage.

And if your LDL cholesterol is truly dangerously high, try supplementing your diet with red yeast rice to bring it down naturally.

Your best bet for maintaining a healthy ratio of HDL to LDL (“bad”) cholesterol is eating a diet that eliminates refined carbs, like the Paleo (a.k.a. “caveman”) diet. (And no, these new findings are not an excuse for you to start pumping up your cholesterol by hitting the drive-thru!)

I’ll have something else for you later today that can protect your brain against the ravages of decline. It may sound a little weird at first, but stick with me — it’ll be worth it.

Eat like a caveman to protect your liver

If you’ve been reading my eTips for a while now, you know that I often sing the praises of the Paleo (a.k.a. “caveman”) diet.

Now, the thought of eating like a caveman may sound downright silly when we’re surrounded by all of the amenities of modern life.

But have you ever heard of a caveman who struggled to maintain a healthy weight?

I think not!

That’s partly because our Paleolithic ancestors had to run around to hunt for and gather their food supply rather than hitting the drive-thru.

And there wasn’t a refined carb in sight.

Fast forward to today, when we can feast like Henry VIII while sitting on our La-Z-Boy thrones, and it’s no wonder that we’ve got skyrocketing rates of obesity, metabolic disorders, and other weight-related health complications.

But according to a new study, the so-called “caveman diet” can keep you in tip-top shape not only on the outside, but ALSO on the inside.

There’s, of course, the fat that you can see – for many of us, it’s collecting right around the middle. But if you’ve got a bulging belly on the outside, it’s quite likely that you’ve got also got fat in places you CAN’T see.

In fact, nearly a third of Americans have dangerous fatty deposits on their livers, and many aren’t even aware of it until this workhorse organ is damaged beyond repair.

But the latest finds that going low-carb can torch liver fat.

In the study out of Sweden, a small group of obese folks with high liver fat followed a low-carb, high-protein diet for two weeks.

And the researchers were SHOCKED by what they called “rapid” and “dramatic” reductions in the participants’ liver fat!

It practically melted off… and their risk factors for metabolic diseases and insulin resistance fell off a cliff, too.

What’s really interesting is that the low-carb diet reduced fat in the participants’ livers even if they didn’t shed any pounds in the short, two-week timeframe.

Now, the study didn’t explain why cutting carbs had such an impressive impact — but we know from previous studies that just a few months of eating a high-sugar diet can turn your liver from healthy to fatty.

And those “carbs”? They just turn into sugar after you eat them.

Plus, the study group also increased their protein intake — and previous studies have shown that eating plenty of protein can REDUCE fat levels in your liver.

What’s more, past studies have shown that interactions between your gut bacteria and your liver can contribute to fatty liver disease.

And in the new study, the low-carb diet changed the participants’ balance of gut bacteria for the better, which may have played a role in lessening their liver fat.

So, follow in those caveman footsteps and go Paleo! Just cut out all of those grains (even whole ones), sugars, and processed foods in favor of protein-loaded meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds, along with fresh fruits and vegetables.

And as a bonus, it’ll help you drop unwanted pounds.

Lose weight by cutting processed foods

The surprising trick to losing weight effortlessly

Whether you’ve been told to count calories, “points,” or carbs, trying to shed pounds can often feel like a numbers game.

If you want to lower your number on the scale, you’ve got to do the math about what you put in your mouth.

Right?

And on some popular diet plans, that means that you can polish off a pack of M&M’s or a super-size soda — as long as the arithmetic works out at the end of the day!

Well, I’m here to tell you that the QUALITY of the food you eat — not the QUANTITY — is the real secret to weight loss.

In a new study, Stanford University researchers assigned about 600 overweight folks to follow either low-fat or low-carb diets.

But no matter which group they joined, all of the participants took nutrition courses that trained them to choose WHOLE foods over PROCESSED foods.

In the low-fat group, that meant selecting foods like fresh fruit, steel-cut oats, and quinoa over soda, white rice, and sugary snacks.

In the low-carb group, it translated to choosing “good” fats and proteins like olive oil, salmon, avocados, nut butters, and grass-fed beef instead of trans fats and processed meats.

Both groups were allowed to eat as MUCH as they wanted — with no set carb, fat, or caloric limits — as long as they focused on eating real, minimally processed foods.

After one year, both groups lost about the same average amount of weight, and it was pretty significant: 13 pounds in the low-carb group and nearly 12 pounds in the low-fat group.

Imagine losing a DOZEN pounds without counting a single thing!

All you have to do is wean yourself off of heavily processed foods, especially those made with refined starches and added sugars.

Now, even though the low-fat and low-carb groups in the study shed roughly the same number of pounds, that doesn’t mean that the diets are equally healthy.

If you’ve been reading my eTips for a while, you know that I’m not a fan of low-fat diets — because our bodies and our brains NEED fat to function properly.

And studies consistently show that low-carb diets have the edge over low-fat diets when it comes to reversing diabetes… reducing the risk of stroke and early death… and keeping weight off over the long haul.

That’s why I recommend that my patients follow the Paleo (a.k.a. “caveman”) diet, which dispenses with ALL grains, sugars, and processed foods.

You’ll feel plenty full by eating as much fresh produce, meat, fish, eggs, dairy, nuts, and seeds as you want!

I’ll have more about processed foods for you in tomorrow’s edition of eTips. Keep an eye on your inbox.