Good Health

Health Benefits of Tomatoes 


Given their popularity on salads, pastas and sauces today, it’s hard to believe that Americans didn’t began eating tomatoes until several hundred years ago – despite their long existence. Today, they are readily enjoyed for their flavor, simplicity and health benefits.

Health Benefits

Tomatoes are part of a healthy grocery list for numerous reasons. They are best known for their extremely high content of antioxidant, due largely to lycopene, according to World’s Healthiest Foods. Recently, researchers have found several links between lycopene – a carotenoid antioxidant – and cancer-preventing properties as well as bone health. Of all cancers, prostate cancer has been most researched in regards to tomato intake and health. A key nutrient in this red vegetable – alpha-tomatine – has been found to change metabolic activity in growing prostate cancer cells. Continued research on tomatoes and non-small cell lung cancer, pancreatic cancer and breast cancer has also pointed to improved health.


Tomatoes have also been linked to heart health, most notably that consumption has been related to decreased LDL cholesterol as well as decreased total cholesterol. Moreover, the antioxidant protection provided by tomatoes is essential for the cardiovascular system. Additionally, tomatoes are great sources of vitamins E and C, beta-carotene and fiber, and when it comes to phytonutrients, tomatoes may be one of the richest food sources. They contain everything from flavonols and flavonones to carotenoids and fatty acid derivatives, to name a few.

Wondering whether or not cooking changes the nutritional value of tomatoes?

The Tomato Variety Guide

There are hundreds of tomato varieties available, all depending on climate, growing conditions and growth habits. To simplify the never-ending list however, in terms of genetics there are two basic kinds of tomatoes: heirlooms and hybrids, according to Serious Eats. Common, conventional tomatoes that you can find at the grocery store include:

  • Roma: With few seeds, low water content and firm texture, Roma tomatoes are best for sauces and canning.
  • Beefsteak: Perfect for slicing, Beefsteak tomatoes are juicy, fragrant and best on sandwiches. Generally, they’re only good at their peak.
  • Cherry: Small, red and typically sweeter than other varieties, cherry tomatoes are best for snacking, stuffing or adding to salads and pastas.
  • Grape: Similar to cherry tomatoes, these small and oblong tomatoes are great for snacking and salads.
  • Campari: Smaller in size than normal tomatoes on the vine but bigger than cherry tomatoes, Camparis are globe-shaped and and have a rich tomato aroma.
  • Kumato: Brownish-red and maroon in color, these tomatoes from Spain are tarter than their counterparts, with a lower water content.

Heirloom, specialty, and farmer’s market tomatoes include Garden Peach, Cherokee Purple, San Marzano, Green Zebra, Yellow Pear, Sungold and Brandywine, according to the source. Less conventional than the aforementioned tomatoes, these ones are often more expensive and come in a wide variety of sizes, shapes and hues.

If tomatoes are ripe, they’re best stored at room temperature, according to Chef Anthony. Storing them on your counter or windowsill requires mindfulness and care as cuts or gashes to the tomato will attract fruit flies. If they’re reaching their peak ripeness, it’s best to refrigerate. Regardless of how you store them, tomatoes are best consumed at room temperature.

How to Eat Tomatoes

Though technically it is the fruit of the tomato plant that is consumed, they are generally considered garden vegetables, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. One of the best things about this vegetable however is its versatility. There are so many ways to enjoy them, from sweet bite-sized cherry tomatoes that serve as a great snack or salad topping to large Beefsteak tomatoes that make perfect slices for sandwiches. “They are great with other foods as well,” explained Chef Anthony. “For example, tomato and orange, tomato and watermelon, tomato and pineapple, tomato and mushrooms … just to name a few.”

Tomatoes can be roasted, grilled, sautéed or enjoyed as is.

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Quinoa Health Benefits


A multipurpose food, quinoa is a tasty and nutritional grain packed with protein and fiber that is versatile enough to be enjoyed in the form of a cereal in the morning, a soup during the day and a filling salad at lunchtime.

History of Quinoa

Within just the last few years, quinoa – pronounced KEEN-wah has made big strides in its identity and popularity in the Western world, according to the Whole Grains Council. The grain has origins that date back nearly 5,000 years to the Bolivians of Lake Titicaca. It is believed that quinoa was sacred to the Incas, who called the grain “chisaya mama”, meaning mother of all grains. Each year, according to oral history, the Incan emperor would sow the first quinoa seeds in an elaborate ceremony.


However, during the mid-1500s, a Spanish explorer nearly caused the quinoa crop to become extinct, noted the source. In an effort to ruin the culture, Francisco Pizarro destroyed the fields cultivating the crop and only a few areas of wild quinoa at high altitudes would survive. It re-emerged in the Western world in the 1970s, though it wasn’t until the past decade that it really took off as a popular health food trend. According to the WGC , in 2010 quinoa was named as the best side dish by the National Restaurant Association in its annual chef survey.


Most notable was the “International Year Of Quinoa” launched in 2013 by United Nations leaders and the Andean communities of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru. The celebration was an effort to increase awareness of the crop’s nutritional value as well as to pay tribute to the cultural merit of a grain that has been grown traditionally for thousands of years, carried from one generation to the next. Today, quinoa is enjoyed nearly across the globe.

Health Benefits of Quinoa

Quinoa is one of the few plant-based foods that has all nine essential amino acids, making it quite the anomaly among its grain counterparts, according to Authority Nutrition. Gluten-free and packed with protein, it’s also high in numerous antioxidants that are beneficial for the body.


One cup of cooked quinoa generally has 39 grams of carbs, 4 grams of fat and 222 calories. Quinoa has several omega-3 fatty acids. It’s also high in iron, potassium, magnesium, B-vitamins, vitamin E and phosphorus, making it the perfect whole grain to add to your healthy eating plan.


Quinoa health benefits even go beyond vitamins and minerals: It also contains high amounts of trace nutrients including flavonoids, according to the source. Plant antioxidants found to have various beneficial effects on health, the two flavonoids in quinoa are quercetin and kaempferol, which are good for the heart, according to Chef Anthony.

How to Cook Quinoa

Depending on the variety you purchase, quinoa may have to be pre-soaked prior to cooking. The coating around quinoa seeds – intended to keep birds at bay – is naturally bitter, according to Reader’s Digest. To remove the coating, soak 1 cup of quinoa in 2 cups of water for 5 to 10 minutes, until its coating has dissolved. Then drain and rinse the quinoa so that it is ready for cooking. If it was bought packaged however, it’s likely that this step has already been done for you.


“For the best quality and flavor, toasting the quinoa before adding liquid is great,” said Chef Anthony. “It brings out that ‘nuttiness’ in it which makes it more enjoyable and satisfying.”

Then, to cook this protein-packed grain, pour it into a pot with 1 1/2 cups of water over medium-high heat. Add any additional spices if desired. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, covering with a tight pot cover. Once finished, remove from heat and let it sit covered for 5 to 10 minutes. Before serving, fluff quinoa with a fork until it’s at the desired consistency.

How to Eat Quinoa

One of the best things about this healthy grain is its versatility. With nutty, earthy and sometimes sweet flavors, it can be enjoyed as a side dish to accompany dinner, as part of breakfast or lunch and even as a tasty midday snack. It can serve as a healthier alternative to rice, used as a baking grain for more nutritious muffins and cookies or made into meatless stuffing and burgers. As part of your healthy eating plan quinoa can transform into a variety of tasty meals, protein bars and baked goods. When it comes to using quinoa in the kitchen, Chef Anthony has a few favorites.

“My favorite is adding it to my oatmeal, using it to stuff acorn squash or adding it in a white bean paella,” he said.


5 Tips For How To Keep New Year’s Resolutions

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Here are five key recommendations, distilled from recent research on human behavior, on how to keep New Year’s Resolutions for health and weight loss.

“These five recommendations can help you eat better, exercise better, and live more joyously all year long,” encourages Dr. Coral Arvon, Director of Behavioral Health and Wellness at the Pritikin Longevity Center.


TIP #1: Write your goals down… in detail. List both Health Goals and Life Goals.

“When you have a concrete plan,” explains Dr. Arvon, “you have concrete direction.”

Tack your goals to your refrigerator or other location you pass by frequently.  Seeing them every day means you won’t forget them.  Plus, it’s a lot harder to dismiss them.  They’re a commitment, in black and white, that you’ve made to yourself.

They’re also highly motivating because they’re a constant reminder, particularly the Life Goals, of the priceless rewards that await when you’ve achieved your goals.

Your Health Goals…

  • Ask yourself: “What specifically are my health goals?”
  • Do you, for example, want to reduce your cholesterol levels?
  • Drop 30 pounds?
  • Improve your quality of sleep?
  • Lower your tendency to feel anxious about each and every little thing?
  • Attempt to reduce some of your medications with healthy lifestyle habits?

List all your Health Goals by completing the statement below.  And do discuss your Health Goals with your physician because you want to make sure they are safe and achievable, and certainly, your physician may have tools/suggestions to help you along.


Your Life Goals…

To discover your Life Goals, ask yourself the following questions:

  • Why do I want to become healthier?
  • What’s most important to me?
  • Do you, for example, want to have enough energy to actually enjoy your family at the end of the day (rather than nodding off before 9 o’clock?)
  • Do you want to get back to playing your favorite sport?
  • Do you want to revitalize your romantic life?
  • Do you want to wake up every morning feeling rested, peaceful, and ready to go?
  • Do you want to spend more time playing (and keeping up with) your grandchildren?
  • Do you want to take off for long vacations to exotic destinations, and not be hampered by your health?
  • Do you want to dance at your grandchildren’s weddings?

Take a little time determining your Life Goals.  Sleep on them.  Talk to family members.  Jot some ideas down.  Fine-tune them. Most importantly, read and repeat these Life Goals to yourself daily.  They are your destination. And every day, time travel.  “Drive” yourself into the future, imagining that your Life Goals have come true.  Doing so might drive you, like nothing else, to stick with your New Year’s Resolutions.


List your Life Goals by completing the statement below.

I want to be healthy enough and energetic enough to…


Now you’re ready to begin! Congratulations! And always remember that each step toward your goals is a victory in and of itself.

TIP #2: When first starting out, keep life simple.

Keep your snacks and lunches simple. For lunch, for example, Pritikin alum Rose Christo often needs just 2 ingredients – a box of frozen spinach and a container of low-sodium Tabatchnick Soup (located in the freezer section of supermarkets).  She combines the spinach and soup, zaps them in the microwave, and voila, she has a big, steaming bowl of satisfying, low-calorie-dense, nutritious soup.

TIP #3: Emulate those who have succeeded at long-term weight loss.

Real success isn’t about being the biggest loser.  It’s about being the longest loser.  For years, scientists involved with the Registry have been gathering information on men and women (they now total more than 10,000) who have been amazingly successful at shedding weight and keeping it off. The average Registry member has lost about 66 pounds and maintained that weight loss for more than five years. Researchers wanted to know:  What makes these 10,000-plus people so successful?  What are their habits? It turns out they tend to have a lot in common.  Here are common characteristics that fuel their success:

  • Registry members exercise regularly, averaging about 60 minutes of physical activity daily, usually walking.
  • Registry members eat a healthy diet that includes more fruit, more vegetables, and more whole grains than the typical American diet.  They also eat significantly less fried food (particularly French fries), less refined grains (such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice), and less meat than most Americans.
  • The diet of Registry members is about 25% lower in calorie density than the typical American diet.
  • The Registry members’ diet is low in fat.
  • Registry members self-correct at slips before they turn into landslides.  They weigh themselves at least weekly, and many get on the scale every day.

TIP #4: Put something you value on the line.

Behavioral scientists have found that people who set aside money for forfeiture if they fail to meet weight-loss goals (realistic goals – no more than a pound or two a week) lose more weight over the course of several months than those in control groups. Money isn’t the only motivator.  Making a commitment to exercise with a friend, for example, has also proven effective.  That’s because your friendship is now on the line.  You’re much more likely to get out of bed when the alarm goes off if you know your friend is waiting for you at the gym.


TIP #5: Keep life fun.

No one signs up for pain.  Listen to your body while exercising.  When it says “enough,” it probably is.

And take time for yourself every day, even if it’s only for a few moments.

Above all, focus on the positive.  People who believe they will succeed are more likely to do so. Praise yourself, for example, for losing five pounds, but don’t punish yourself for gaining one back.  Remind yourself that every day is a new day – and an opportunity to try again.

Reducing Holiday Stress with 5 Simple Strategies

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Eat, drink and be merry – that’s what we’re supposed to do over the Holiday’s. And we’re usually awfully good (unfortunately) with the eating and drinking. It’s the “merry” we struggle with. Instead of good cheer, we’re often stressing about everything from “to do” lists to expanding bellies (all those holiday buffets can take their toll). In this article, learn how to scale down holiday stress so that you can scale up joy.

Here are 5 key holiday stresses, and how to defeat them:

Holiday Stress # 1: “I’m going to gain a lot of weight.”

What to do:

Practice mindful eating. In the hubbub of holiday shopping and other frenzied activity, it’s easy to fall into the habit of grabbing food and inhaling it while getting other things done. Oh, what a mistake that is! Because we aren’t paying attention, the calories just flood in.

So be alert. When eating, focus on your food, and your food alone. Never multi-task. Don’t eat while driving, gift wrapping, or cruising shopping malls. Always do your best, even at parties, to sit down while eating. Look at your food. Appreciate its colors and aromas. Savor each bite.

The results can be priceless. Mindful eating not only brings back pleasure, it brings back control. Because we’re aware of every bite, and celebrating each one, we’re more aware of how much we’re eating, and when to stop. We feel good at stopping because both physically and emotionally, we’re satisfied.

Holiday Stress #2: “I can’t control myself at holiday buffets.”

What to do:

Sit down to eat a hearty, healthy snack before going to the party.  All you’ll be faced with when you arrive at the party is temptation, not hunger and temptation. When you arrive, enjoy other pleasures – good company, beautiful decorations, smiling children.

You’ll also enjoy how good you’ll feel about yourself. Today, this moment, you’ve made healthy choices. That’s something to be proud of all year round.

Another tip: When you step up to the buffet, plate in hand, fill three-quarters of it with foods that are low in calorie density, like green salad (dressing on the side), fresh fruit, roasted potatoes, and hummus dip with veggie sticks. It’s a lot of food, but not a lot of calories. Call it “filler” food; you’re filling up so that there’s less room in your stomach, and less appetite, for the cheese balls and other high-calorie-dense foods.

Holiday Stress #3: “I’m going to say something I shouldn’t.”

What to do:

Cut back on the booze.

We all know family tensions can escalate during the holidays, especially if we’re living in close quarters for several days, and drinking too much.

To help keep your alcohol (and temper) in control at parties, sip your drink, don’t gulp. After one glass of alcohol, drink glasses of sparkling water with lemon or lime.

In fact, at the beginning of the party, tell the bartender, “As soon as you see me heading your way, please mix me up another club soda with lemon.” Tip well.

Drinking less alcohol also means you’re less likely to overindulge in the wrong foods.

Holiday Stress #4: “I won’t have enough time to get everything done.”

What to do:

Say “No.” (The world won’t come to an end.)

How happier and calmer we’d all be if we realized that there simply aren’t enough hours to do all we intended over the holidays.

Prioritize your “to do” list. Some things, like buying gifts for the little ones, will certainly top the list, and they’ll get done, no matter what. But stuff closer to the bottom, like shopping for new tablecloths for the dining room, can simply wait till the after-holiday sales, or don’t bother with them at all.

Get to the bottom of the list if you have time. If you don’t, don’t sweat it. Your peace and happiness is far more important than new tablecloths.

Holiday Stress #5: “There’ll be people at my party that I just can’t please.”

What to do:

Let this stress go. The reality is, it’s simply not possible to please everyone. The most important thing about your event is not who’s displeased with the appetizers, or who’s frowning because of a fussy baby.

For every one or two naysayers, there are many more who love your event, love you, and love your efforts to bring everyone together.

Relish that. Be present with the positive. Enjoy the laughter, the happy conversation, the fun, the music, the moments of love and friendship.

Let others chip in, too. Save tree decorating till everyone arrives. Welcome offers from Cousin George to help with putting the platters of food on the table. Let Aunt Ida do the dishes. When you share the work, you not only lose the worry and the feeling that everything is left up to you, you get to enjoy the sharing, the smiles that surround you.

Health Benefits of Pumpkin

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Autumn is the season of all things pumpkin, from pumpkin spiced coffee to jack-o-lanterns filling doorsteps and windows. Naturally sweet and low in calorie density, pumpkins are a healthy and nutritious vegetable to add to your well-rounded healthy eating plan. But did you know that there are also a number of health benefits to eating pumpkin? This season, don’t just use the bright orange, lush and round derivative of the squash family merely for decorative purposes, consider these delicious recipes and health benefits instead. The health benefits of pumpkins are packed into very few calories. Pumpkins are a great source of vitamins A and D, and only have about 25 calories per cup.

This festive gourd offers much more than just its appearance. Similar to all other member of the squash family, the pumpkin is filled with a number of nutritious health benefits, according to Pritikin’s Chef Anthony Stewart. “All yellow fruits and vegetables contain the sunshine vitamin, making them a great source of vitamins A and D,” Chef Anthony said. “They’re a good source of potassium and minerals as well, because these plants grow on the ground allowing them to absorb minerals from the earth.” In fact, each part of the pumpkin from its golden-yellow flesh to its seeds has nutritional value. Pumpkin seeds – which can easily be roasted in the oven for snacking – are filled with protein, vitamins and minerals and are a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. The soft, naturally sweet inner flesh of the pumpkin is rich in vitamins and minerals as well. It also boasts antioxidants and dietary fiber, without containing any cholesterol or saturated fats, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.


Pumpkin is also low in calorie density, at just about 25 calories per half cup, making it an excellent choice for those following a diet plan.

5 Health Benefits of Avocados

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Avocados, the buttery-smooth, antioxidant-rich fruit, are the perfect complement to a variety of dishes. Natural oils give the nutty-flavored favorite its rich texture, while the high protein content makes it a satisfying meat substitute. Some studies even suggest that the ingredients found in avocados help to combat certain forms of cancer.

Not only are avocados tasty, but they are also packed with healthy benefits.

  1. They protect your eyes from disease.
    Avocados have a high content (more than any other fruit) of the carotenoid lutein, which protects against cataracts and macular degeneration—a leading cause of blindness.
  2. They will lower your cholesterol.
    Avocados are high in beta-sitosterol, a natural substance that has been shown to lower blood pressure and cholesterol. In one study, 45 people saw an average drop in cholesterol of 17% after eating avocados for just one week.
  3. They help regulate and reduce blood pressure.
    Avocados are a great source of potassium, containing even more than bananas. Studies confirm that eating foods high in potassium (and low in sodium) can lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of stroke.
  4. They are a great source of vitamin E.
    Avocados are the greatest fruit source of vitamin E, an antioxidant that protects against many diseases and helps maintain overall health.
  5. They will moisturize your skin.
    Avocado butter and oil, two deep-conditioning emollients, will soften skin, eliminate dry patches, and restore your skin’s elasticity. Try some of our favorite beauty products, enriched with avocado butter and oil, at right.

6 Tips for Lowering Cholesterol Naturally

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To avoid a heart attack, research has found that a key strategy is getting LDL (bad) cholesterol way down. Striving for LDL levels of 100 and below is good, but dropping to 80 and lower may be even better.

Go ahead, binge on beans! Enjoy all kinds! Black beans. White beans. Red beans. Pinto beans. Adzuki beans. They’re all champions at actively lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol.

LDL levels of 81

Ground-breaking research published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) studied nearly 9,000 European patients. All had previously suffered heart attacks. The trial found that those who reduced their LDL levels to an average 81 with high-dose statins significantly reduced their risk of major coronary events like heart attacks and strokes at the 4.8 year follow-up compared to patients who reduced their LDL to 104 on usual-dose statin therapy.

Lower LDL Levels are better

In a JAMA editorial accompanying the study, Christopher P. Cannon, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School wrote that aggressive LDL lowering is the ideal – “lower is better.” The JAMA study’s findings echo those of another large 4,162-patient study, published in the New England Journal of Medicine. It concluded that LDL cholesterol levels of 62 were even better than levels of 95 at preventing death, heart attacks, and other cardiovascular-related problems in people with heart disease.

Drugs’ negative effects

In both studies, mega-doses of statins (a doubling and tripling of regular doses) drove LDL levels way down. But in both studies, mega-doses also caused problems. Suffering from adverse side effects like muscle pain, memory loss, and elevated liver enzymes, patients on the high doses stopped taking their medications at twice the rate of patients on regular doses. Muscle pain, also called myopathy, occurs in 2% to 11% of people treated with statins, reported investigators at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics in Madison, and although the pain usually subsides once the statin is discontinued, it can take several months to do so. Like previous studies, the Wisconsin scientists also found that the negative side effects of statins increased as dosages increased.

Medication-free alternatives

“That’s why drug-free alternatives like the Pritikin Program are so important,” advises Dr. William McCarthy, UCLA School of Public Health and member of the Pritikin Scientific Advisory Board.

“For people who cannot tolerate maximum doses of statins, or for those wanting to minimize their dependence on drugs, the Pritikin Program of diet and exercise – or a combination of low-dose statins plus the Pritikin Program – offers a much safer option for lowering LDL cholesterol to levels significantly below 100.”

Lowering cholesterol naturally

In research on more than 4,500 men and women following the Pritikin Program of diet and exercise, LDL levels plummeted 23%, and in just three weeks.

39% drop in LDL Levels

And in a study by UCLA scientists in conjunction with the nonprofit Pritikin Foundation, men and women nearly doubled their reductions in cholesterol, averaging a 39% drop, when they supplemented regular-dose statin therapy with the diet-and-exercise lifestyle of the Pritikin Program.

Is Coconut Water Good For You?

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Vitamin waters. Sports drinks. Fruit-flavored teas. “Naked” juices. And now, grocery stores nationwide are sporting entire refrigerator cases full of various brands of coconut waters. Is coconut water good for you?

Coconut water (when pure and unflavored) is a clear liquid tapped from the center of coconuts. The only sugars it has are naturally occurring, just as fruit has naturally occurring sugar.

Coconut water (when pure and unflavored) is a clear liquid tapped from the center of coconuts. The only sugars it has are naturally occurring, just as fruit has naturally occurring sugar.

Is coconut water good for you?  Well, if you’re trying to lose weight, tread carefully.

Certainly, coconut water is a far better choice than saturated-fat-rich coconut oil or coconut milk, but coconut water is liquid calories – about 45 calories per cup (8 ounces). If you do what some “experts” on the Internet and elsewhere suggest and guzzle coconut water before, during, and after your exercise workouts, the calories you burned during exercise may be cancelled out by the coconut water.

Your best bet for hydrating yourself, as always, is water. Pure, calorie-free water.

If your weight is fine and you’re engaged in intense physical activity, particularly workouts lasting more than one hour, coconut water can be used as fluid/electrolyte replacement. Just be careful that it’s pure coconut water you’re drinking, none of those chocolate, vanilla, or other flavor-added varieties popping up on supermarket shelves.

To make sure there’s no added sugar, sodium, or anything else in your coconut water, read the Ingredient List. All you want to see on the list is one ingredient – coconut water.

Check out the Nutrition Facts label, too. If you’re seeing more than 50 calories per 8-ounce serving, chances are sugar or another form of calories has been added.

Summing up:  Is coconut water good for you?

Like all calorie-containing drinks, including fruit juices, coconut water would likely not be good for you, particularly if you’re trying to shed excess weight.

9 Steps For Improving Heart Health Naturally

Article credit: Ronald J. Scheib, MD, FACC, FACP – Cardiologist and Educator at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami.

For most of us, preventing heart disease depends largely on our lifestyle, which means there’s much that’s in our power to improve our odds of living long and well. Here are 9 key steps for improving heart health naturally.

The use of medications, when appropriate, can be beneficial, but medications should be an adjunct to lifestyle improvements like healthy food. In this article are 9 steps for improving heart health naturally.

Healthy changes in the way we live, particularly diet and exercise, have been proven to:

  • Dramatically reduce heart disease risk factors
  • Stabilize plaques in the arteries so they are less likely to burst and trigger blood clots that block blood flow to the heart
  • Reverse the progression of coronary artery disease, or atherosclerosis

A heart-healthy lifestyle like the Pritikin Program can help reverse the progression of atherosclerosis.


In decades past, we physicians were trained in the diagnosis and treatment of coronary artery disease after it occurred. However, the present epidemic of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and their complications of heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and sudden death have necessitated a change of focus to prevention. Prevention is emphasized in the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology’s statement “2013 ACC/AHA Guideline on the Assessment of Cardiovascular Risk.”1

Medications Vs Lifestyle

Certainly, the use of medications like statins, when appropriate, can be beneficial, but they should be an adjunct to lifestyle improvements rather than a replacement of personal responsibility for our health.

As a cardiologist, I have prescribed medications to lower cholesterol, blood glucose, and other heart disease risk factors, particularly for patients who will not change their lifestyle or for whom this change is not enough.

But time and time again, I have seen that my patients who take steps to improve their heart health naturally – with a healthy Pritikin lifestyle – look and feel better. Their quality of life is far superior. They’re thinner, more physically fit, more energetic, and happier.

What we can achieve, in short, from natural, lifestyle-based approaches like Pritikin has no drug substitute.

Essentially, the Pritikin Program involves:

  1. An eating plan based on natural whole foods like fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nonfat dairy products, seafood, and limited lean meat
  2. Daily exercise with a three-pronged approach – cardiovascular conditioning, strength training, and flexibility
  3. Lifestyle education that focuses on practical real-world training such as cooking healthfully, as well as skills for stepping around stress and achieving optimal mental/emotional health.

Improving Heart Health Naturally

Here are 9 key steps for improving heart health naturally that my colleagues and I teach year-round at the Pritikin Longevity Center.

1 | Spend Less Time Sitting and More Time Moving

“I have two doctors, my left leg and my right,” wrote British historian and avid cross-country walker G. M. Trevelyan.

He was right. In hundreds of studies, regular exercise has been proven to have profound – and numerous – health benefits. States the Centers for Disease Control: “Regular physical activity is one of the most important things you can do for your health.”2 It can help:

  • Control weight
  • Decrease risk of heart disease
  • Improve body composition (your fat-to-muscle ratio)
  • Lower blood sugar and reduce risk of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome
  • Lower blood pressure and reduce risk of hypertension
  • Reduce risk of some cancers
  • Strengthen bones
  • Reduce stress
  • Improve sleep
  • Improve your ability to perform daily activities and prevent falls
  • Increase your chances of living longer

2 | Lose Excess Body Fat, Particularly Belly Fat

As our body weight rises, so does our risk for plaque build-up in our arteries and a heart attack.

Being overweight is linked with several major risk factors for heart disease, including high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, and bad forms of cholesterol.

What’s good for your heart is also good for losing belly fat.

Obesity also can lead to heart failure, a very serious condition in which the heart is incapable of pumping enough blood to meet the body’s needs.

Numerous studies have found that belly fat is particularly dangerous. In fact, in one recent study3, a pot belly even in people who were otherwise normal weight dramatically increased the risk of dying.

Fat in the belly doesn’t just sit there, taking up space. It pumps out chemicals like cytokines that trigger chronic inflammation throughout the body. That’s a big problem because chronic inflammation is thought to be one of the major factors linking obesity to various life-crippling diseases, including heart disease.

Fat cells in the belly also produce chemicals, including steroid hormones, which make you more likely to gain fat. Yes, it’s a vicious cycle. The more belly fat you have, the more fat-storage hormones you produce, and the harder it is to lose weight.

There are more hormonal horrors. When belly fat reaches abdominal obesity levels (a waist greater than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men), another very important fat-storage hormone called insulin is often negatively affected, creating more problems for our metabolism.

Optimal Way To Shed Fat

The optimal way to shed fat, including belly fat, and keep it off is with a healthy eating and exercise program like Pritikin.

With the Pritikin Eating Plan, you’re focusing on foods like whole fruits, vegetables, water-rich whole grains, and beans that naturally keep overall calorie intake for the day low.

With Pritikin living, you’re also stay physically active, helping create a calorie deficit.

3 | Lower Non-HDL Cholesterol

For years, we in the medical community taught that lowering LDL (often called the “bad” cholesterol) was the primary treatment target for reducing cardiovascular events. And certainly, improving LDL is still very important.

But there is now growing consensus that non-HDL cholesterol is a better predictor of cardiovascular disease risk because non-HDL contains not only LDL but other “bad” particles that contribute to the build-up of cholesterol-filled plaques in the artery wall.

Nowadays, most standard lipid panels will tell you what your non-HDL cholesterol is.

4 | Stop Smoking and Start Living

Did you know that in the U.S. alone, tobacco kills the equivalent of three jumbo jets full of people crashing every day, with no survivors.

Here is a sampling of the serious, life-threatening conditions that are the direct result of smoking:

  • Heart disease
  • Breathing problems
  • Lung cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Emphysema

Moreover, the science is strong and consistent that when you smoke, the people around you, especially children, are at risk for developing serious health problems.

5 | Lower Your Resting Blood Pressure To Below 120/80

It is vital to keep your blood pressure under control because the higher your blood pressure, the greater your risk of heart attack, stroke, congestive heart failure, kidney disease, impotence, loss of mental function, and dementia.

To lower your blood pressure, start with a heart-healthy, lifestyle-based approach like Pritikin.

Most people with high blood pressure, also called hypertension, can control their blood pressure without the need for medications by following the Pritikin Program. Those who still need pills usually require lower dosages and/or fewer pills.

Key guidelines we teach at the Pritikin health resort for lowering blood pressure naturally include:

  • Eat at least 5 servings of vegetables and 4 servings of fruits daily

A vegetable- and fruit-rich eating plan helps ensure that you’re eating plenty of foods full of stomach-filling volume, yet low in calories, enhancing your weight-loss efforts. Losing excess weight is one of the most effective ways to lower blood pressure. Eating a lot of fruits and vegetables also means you’re eating rich sources of potassium, magnesium, and calcium. Many studies have found that foods rich in these minerals help blunt some of the toxic effects of sodium.

  • Cut back on calorie-dense foods loaded with fat, sugar, and/or refined grains

Doing so will also enhance your weight-loss efforts.

  • Limit consumption of sodium to a healthy level

The physicians and other faculty at Pritikin agree with sodium guidelines established by the Institute of Medicine’s Expert Panel.4 The Institute of Medicine advises that adult Americans limit their consumption of sodium to 1,200 to 1,500 mg a day, depending on age:

People aged 19 to 49 should consume 1,500 mg or less of sodium a day
People 50 to 69 should consume 1,300 mg or less
Those 70 and older should consume 1,200 mg or less

Limiting salt intake really works, especially for those most in need. Many studies have shown that the higher blood pressure is and the more salt is restricted, the greater the fall in blood pressure.

  • Limit alcohol drinking

Excess alcohol drinking (more than 3 drinks daily) has been shown to increase the risk of hypertension.

  • Exercise daily

Daily physical activity promotes loss of excess weight, vital for controlling blood pressure. It also stimulates the body’s production of beneficial chemicals like nitric oxide that expand blood vessels and increase blood flow.

6 | Prevent or Control Diabetes

Preventing or controlling diabetes could save your heart – and life. Heart attacks occur two to four times more often in people with diabetes compared to non-diabetics. Strokes occur two to four times more often.

Other conditions, many life-crippling, caused by diabetes include blindness, kidney failure, peripheral artery disease (blockages in the major arteries that feed the legs), erectile dysfunction, diabetic neuropathy (burning pain and loss of feeling in the feet and hands), poor wound healing, gangrene, and amputations.

The sad news is that many countries worldwide are now suffering epidemic rates of type 2 diabetes because many people live in food toxic and sedentary environments.

The hopeful news is that since diabetes is largely a lifestyle-related disease, there is much we can do in the way of lifestyle changes to prevent the onset of this horrible, life-threatening disease.

Daily exercise and healthy eating, as our guests learn at Pritikin, can greatly improve blood glucose levels as well as help shed excess body fat, a major risk factor for diabetes.

Research published on people with type 2 diabetes who came to Pritikin illustrate how profoundly beneficial lifestyle changes can be. One study5 followed 243 people in the early stages of diabetes (they were not yet on medications). Within three weeks, their fasting glucose fell on average from 160 to 124.

Research6 has found, too, that the Pritikin Program can reverse in two to three weeks the clinical diagnosis of a pre-diabetic condition called the metabolic syndrome.

7 | Reduce Inflammation

Chronic inflammation in our bodies is often brought on by excess bad cholesterol and other lifestyle-related insults like high blood pressure, high blood glucose, being overweight, and smoking.

We want to quell these inflammatory “flames” because they often lead to the formation of fatty streaks throughout our arteries, which can eventually lead to plaque build-up, heart attacks, and strokes.

One key marker of chronic inflammation is high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, or hs-CRP. Your hs-CRP score measures a protein produced by the body when blood-vessel walls are inflamed.

In several studies, the Pritikin Program has been proven to lower hs-CRP in men,7 women,8 and children.9

Other markers of chronic inflammation include noxious chemicals released by both white blood cells and fat cells called inflammatory cytokines.

In research on children at the Pritikin Longevity Center, scientists at UCLA found that within two weeks, levels of inflammatory cytokines dropped markedly.10 Similar results published in several studies over the past decade have been observed in adults at Pritikin.

8 | Lower Triglyceride Levels

Triglycerides are fats in the blood. Immediately after eating a fatty meal, most triglycerides are temporarily packaged in particles called chylomicrons. If fact, blood drawn shortly after a fatty meal will appear creamy, like a strawberry milkshake. It takes hours for these fat-rich particles to be cleared from the bloodstream.

Research has found that high levels of chylomicrons nearly triple the risk of heart problems.11Scientists refer to chylomicrons as “silent but deadly” because by the time we have a fasting blood test, their dirty work is done and they’re gone, and therefore undetected by the standard fasting blood lipid test.

The Pritikin Program has been proven12 to dramatically lower triglyceride levels, on average 33%, which means Pritikin living likely lowers chylomicron levels as well.

High triglyceride levels (greater than 150) are considered an additional risk for cardiovascular disease, especially when part of a cluster of conditions called the metabolic syndrome, which includes:

  • High triglycerides
  • Belly fat (a waist circumference more than 35 inches in women and 40 inches in men)
  • Low HDL (less than 40 in men; less than 50 in women)
  • High blood pressure (130/85 or higher), and
  • Fasting blood glucose of 100 or higher.

If you have at least three of the above five criteria, you have the metabolic syndrome.

Key lifestyle actions to lower triglyceride levels are:

  • Lose excess weight
  • Eat less sugar and other highly refined and processed carbohydrates, like white breads
  • Eat more fish high in omega-3 fats
  • Drink very little alcohol
  • Exercise regularly

9 | Keep a Lid On Stress

The neighbor’s dog is barking at 3 am. The checkout line at the grocery store is 12 people deep. Your car battery just died. Your mother called with troubling news about her health.

How do you react to each of the above? Are you calm or crazy? When life’s hurdles get the best of us, it can contribute to everything from high blood pressure to irritable bowel syndrome.

The link between stress and our hearts is real. Studies have shown that earthquakes and Mondays double the incidence of heart attacks, and that heart disease kills men three times as frequently in the year following a wife’s death.

Feeling stressed can also lead to behaviors that increase heart disease risk, such as smoking, skipping exercise, and skipping out to our favorite fast food joint.

Improving Heart Health Naturally | Summing Up

Lifestyle changes are the key to living a healthy, happy life.

It may be tempting to take small steps. Maybe you’re thinking of altering just one aspect of your life. But I strongly encourage you to embrace all nine steps in this article.

In doing so, you will find, as the more than 100,000 people who have attended Pritikin over the last four decades have found, that life gets appreciably better, and in so many ways. You’ll lose weight without feeling hungry, and you’ll likely feel stronger and more energetic than you’ve felt in years.

Now’s your chance. Take care of your heart. And launch a whole new life, a better life.

Diabetes and Gum Disease from

Good oral health is extremely important for individuals with diabetes.

Over the past decade, there has been a substantial amount of research conducted on the link between diabetes and gum disease, also called periodontal disease. It is the sixth-leading complication associated with diabetes. That puts it in the same classification as other serious health issues such as vision loss, kidney failure, and nerve damage.

To learn how to treat periodontal disease while dealing with diabetes, it is a good idea to learn more about the culprit itself and what you can do to help protect your teeth and gums.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you are at a greater risk of developing periodontal disease as well as at a higher risk of ending up with bone loss in the jaw and ongoing gum infections.

Information on Diabetes and Gum Disease

To learn how to treat periodontal disease while dealing with diabetes, it is a good idea to learn more about the culprit itself and what you can do to help protect your teeth and gums. Diabetes is a disease that occurs when our bodies do not produce the right amount of insulin or do not properly use insulin as they should. Insulin is a hormone naturally produced by the body to convert sugars and starches into energy. In a healthy individual, insulin helps to transport sugar from the bloodstream to our body’s cells, where it may be used for energy. In a diabetic, the body has trouble making or using insulin naturally and therefore does not get the right amount of energy that it needs. This causes blood sugar levels to remain high.

High blood sugar levels can lead to many other health complications aside from gum disease, including heart diseasekidney failure, and eye disease that can lead to vision loss. In order to protect people with diabetes from further health issues, their doctor will usually suggest a healthy diet plan that will aid in weight loss if they are overweight, exercising regularly, and taking their medication or insulin injections as prescribed.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you are at a greater risk of developing periodontal disease as well as at a higher risk of ending up with bone loss in the jaw and ongoing gum infections.

Periodontal disease, also known as gum disease, is a bacterial infection of the gums, bones, and ligaments that provide support for your teeth. If you have gum disease and it is not treated properly, you could experience tooth loss over time. The primary cause of periodontal disease is bacterial plaque. This sticky, colorless membrane forms on your teeth after you eat and produces toxins that irritate the gums and lead to infection.

The Warning Signs of Periodontal Disease

It is important to recognize the early warning signs of periodontal disease so that you can receive treatment. If left untreated, it could cause other complications to occur with diabetes, such as an increase in blood glucose levels. Some of the warning signs to look for with gum disease include:
• Consistent foul breath
• Milky white or yellowish plaque present with tender or swollen gums
• Red and swollen gums that bleed easily after brushing
• Pus located between the teeth
• Swelling or tenderness in the gum area
• Root exposure due to gums that have pulled away from the teeth

Keep Your Physician and Dentist Informed at All Times

If you are a diabetic who is showing symptoms of periodontal disease, your dentist and physician will want to work together in order to provide you with the best possible outcome for your overall health. It is important that both professionals are kept up to date on your condition so that necessary changes can be made to your medication if needed. If you have yet to develop gum disease, your dentist will still need to stay informed so that they can help you stay in control of your diabetes in order to prevent periodontal disease.

Staying On Top of Your Diabetes Will Help to Prevent Periodontal Disease

If your diabetes remains in controlv, your chances of developing periodontal disease will decrease as long as you stick to a healthy diet plan, take your insulin and other medication as directed by your physician, and see your dentist on a regular basis. Diabetes can cause other oral health issues to occur aside from gum disease, so even if your gums are in good shape, you could still develop other issues if you fail to care for your teeth. Dry mouth is a common issue among diabetics. The condition is commonly referred to as xerostomia, and it occurs when your salivary glands are unable to produce the right amount of saliva in order to keep your mouth moist. Instead the tissues of your mouth become sore and inflamed. Other mouth issues that are common with diabetes patients include fungal infections, such as thrush, and burning mouth syndrome.

It is possible to avoid periodontal disease if you are a diabetic. By taking good care of your teeth at home and doing what you can to keep your blood sugar levels where they need to be, you can ensure that your chances of developing gum disease or other complications due to diabetes will be much lower. Your doctor may suggest a  diet plan that will enhance weight loss attempts if you are overweight in an effort to help keep your blood sugar stable. Your doctor may also suggest that you brush frequently each day, floss, and visit your dentist on a regular basis for a thorough cleaning in order to keep your teeth and gums healthy.

Dr. Mylene Buttross Professional Credentials

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