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5 Reasons I Love Walnuts!
As a functional medicine doctor and nutritionist, I always strive to use food as medicine. Walnuts are a wonderful food packed with so many necessary nutrients that keep us healthy and prevent disease. Here are the 5 reasons I love walnuts!
1. Walnuts are full of healthy fat. Walnuts are high in monounsaturated fats and are a good source of omega 3 fats. Monounsaturated fats help decrease your risk of heart disease, stroke, and improve good cholesterol. Omega 3 fats are another good fat that most Americans do not get enough of. Omega 3 fats help decrease inflammation in the body and a diet rich in these healthy fats has been associated with a lower risk of many diseases including heart disease and dementia.
2. Walnuts can decrease food cravings. Nuts are calorie dense, so some people worry that nuts will cause weight gain. Actually, studies have shown that people who consume nuts regularly weigh less than people who rarely consume nuts. This is because the healthy fat and fiber in the nuts help us feel satisfied when we eat them and therefore suppress hunger, unlike processed and sugar-rich foods. Adding nuts to a meal makes you stay full longer.
3. Walnuts are full of fiber. Fiber is your friend! High fiber foods slow the digestion of your food, stalling the absorption of your food and therefore the resulting insulin spike. We don’t want insulin to spike too high after a meal. A high level of insulin is associated with weight gain, diabetes and inflammation in the body. Eating foods high in fiber helps to prevent this insulin spike. Fiber also feeds all of the trillions of good bacteria that line our digestive system. These good bacteria are important for our immune system, digestion, and disease prevention. Walnuts are a great way to get fiber into your diet.
4. Walnuts decrease risk of disease. Regular nut consumption is associated with a decreased risk of heart disease and diabetes and a better cholesterol profile. Because walnuts are full of healthy fats and fiber, they also prevent the insulin spike that has been associated with heart disease, dementia, cancer and diabetes. Walnuts are just as good as medicine!
5. Walnuts are yummy too! Walnuts, along with being full of magnesium, potassium, vitamin E, folate, fiber, and phytonutrients, are delicious! Add some walnuts to your meals. Get the raw, unsalted kind and keep them in your freezer for optimal freshness. I love putting them on my salad or just having them along with my shake in the morning. Here is a nice Roasted Beet Salad with Bacon, Figs and Walnuts from Dr. Mark Hyman for you to enjoy!
To Your Health,
By Elizabeth Boham MD, MS, RDN
Do your daily lifestyle choices impact whether or not you catch a cold from the sneezing person sitting next to you on the airplane? Absolutely yes! You can’t stop every infection from invading your body, but you will be amazed at how much you can do to strengthen your immune system. Here are my top five tips for building a better immune system and keeping viruses and bacteria at bay this winter.
1. Move. You might not feel up to going outside for a walk in bad weather, but movement is proven to help your immune system. Exercise has been shown to improve the activity of Natural Killer cells, which are central to your immune system function. These cells are always present, ready to attack invading infections or gobble up abnormal cells in your body. You can influence how well they work, and regular moderate exercise improves their activity. Aim for 40 to 60 minutes of exercise daily. Remember, however, that excessive exercise, such as training for a marathon or competing in an intense sporting event, actually puts stress on your immune system, reducing its efficiency. Elite athletes must take extra care in supporting their immune system.
2. Eat a whole-foods diet rich in zinc, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Malnutrition is the number-one cause of immune deficiency worldwide. You might think that malnutrition is a problem only in underdeveloped countries, but actually there are significant levels of malnutrition in the United States as well. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in calories, but often deficient in important vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are necessary for good health and a strong immune system. For my patients who frequently get infections or have a hard time getting rid of an infection, I first make sure that they are getting certain nutrients. Zinc is an important mineral for immune system functioning; good sources are animal protein, like oysters and meat, as well as some vegetable proteins, such as beans. Vitamin A is also critical for proper immune function and is found in liver, fish, cod liver oil, chicken, eggs, and dairy. Beta-carotene (found in yellow and orange vegetables) can turn into vitamin A in your body (but not everyone makes this conversion easily). Vitamin C is another important nutrient for immune function. Eating four or five cups of fruits and vegetables every day will give you plenty of Vitamin C.
3. Protect your microbiota. Every day, we are discovering more and more about our amazing microbiota. Your microbiota creates a wall of defense that prevents infections from entering your body. When these bacteria are disrupted, our risk of getting an infection skyrockets. Probiotics have been shown to strengthen the immune system; decrease the risk of intestinal infections, asthma, and eczema; and shorten the length of the common cold. So, how can we protect the trillions of good bacteria that line the surfaces of our body? First, eat a high-fiber, whole-foods diet. Fiber-rich foods (beans, legumes, nuts, and seeds) feed these good bacteria. Second, avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. Antibiotics kill off the good bacteria along with the infections they’re treating. Don’t use antibiotics for viral infections; they are ineffective and will do more harm than good.
4. Get your eight hours. How often has this happened to you: You cut your sleep short for a few nights in a row, only to find yourself sick with a head cold. Sleep is critical for your immune system. For most of us, the goal is seven to nine hours of sleep per night. Keep your bedroom dark and cool; turn off your devices (computer, cellphones, and TV) and dim the lights an hour or two before bed, to let your body know that it’s time to get ready for sleep. This will help you get the deep, restorative sleep that is so nourishing for your immune system.
5. Give your body time to rest. This is not the same thing as getting enough sleep. Resting includes taking a break from work, giving yourself time to go outside and enjoy nature, taking a yoga class, meditating, going out with friends, or enjoying a funny show. Unfortunately, with technology, many of us are finding that we can work all of the time—resist that urge! Build rest into your schedule to help you fight infections and keep you healthy all year long.
As a child I had chronic urinary tract infections. I was treated with multiple antibiotics from the age of 5 until age 17. This chronic use of antibiotics impacted my skin and my digestive system. It may have even contributed to the breast cancer I got at age 30. Through my medical school training and further training in functional medicine, I learned the importance of avoiding antibiotics as much as possible. Recurrent use of antibiotics increases your risk of getting another infection and causes the bacteria become resistant to the antibiotics. But all too often, many people get into the cycle of continual antibiotic use. Common infections that become chronic or frequent include ear infections, sinus infections, and urinary tract infections. In the past, I found chronic urinary tract infections a difficult problem for both myself and my patients. Now I am excited when a woman comes to see me with chronic urinary tract infections, because I know that I can help her.
These are 5 important instructions I give my patients for preventing urinary tract infections:
1. Use Probiotics – We have trillions of good bacteria that line our skin, digestive system and also our genital urinary system. These good bacteria have a tremendous influence on our immune system. They are often the first line of defense that prevents unwanted bacteria or viruses from invading the body. When we kill off these good bacteria with antibiotics, we increase our risk of developing a secondary infection, sometimes in a different part of the body. For example, many times people who take an antibiotic for a sinus infection also get a urinary tract infection or vaginal yeast infection. Or they will go on to get a viral upper respiratory infection. This is all too common. When it comes to antibiotics, only take them when necessary. Also, replace the good bacteria that the antibiotics killed through fermented foods and probiotics. Multiple strains of lactobacillus probiotics taken orally or vaginally have been shown to decrease the risk of getting a bladder infection. Lactobacillus reuteri and Lactobacillus rhamnosus, taken by mouth, have been shown to colonize the vaginal tract and decrease the risk of getting urinary tract infections. Vaginally applied probiotics can prevent urinary tract infections and yeast infections.
2. Consume Cranberry – Cranberry extract prevents the bacteria that cause bladder infections from being able to bind to the bladder wall and cause an infection. I usually have people avoid cranberry juice because of the excess sugar, so cranberry extract is a great alternative. Cranberry capsules are an excellent supplement that can be used for prevention. Here are some of my favorite cranberry tablets. I often have women take 2 tablets daily for prevention of urinary tract infections and increase if they are having symptoms.
3. Add in D-mannose – D-mannose also prevents the bacteria that often cause urinary tract infections from adhering to your bladder wall and causing infections. Studies have shown that 2 grams per day works better than even antibiotics at prevention of urinary tract infections. You can get tablets that have both cranberry and d-mannose or just d-mannose as a tablet or powder.
4. Reduce Sugar – High levels of sugar in the diet can encourage the wrong bacteria and yeasts to grow in your body and increase your risk of multiple infections. Avoid added sugar in your diet. It is important to choose a whole foods diet that is low in processed foods. This will insure that you get the necessary nutrients to support your immune system and decrease your risk of many infections, including urinary tract infections.
5. Don’t Forget the Basics – Drink plenty of water, do not hold your urine, use cotton underwear, and urinate right after sexual intercourse. Whenever you urinate, the bacteria that may be in your urinary tract system are flushed out. So keeping your urine dilute and urinating frequently can help decrease your risk of getting urinary tract infections.
If you are experiencing the symptoms of urinary tract infections, burning while urinating, frequent urination, blood in your urine, fevers or back pain, make sure to see your doctor immediately and get your urine tested.
I hope these 5 tips decrease your risk of getting a urinary tract infection and break the cycle.
To Your Health,