Does ground flaxseed have more health benefits than whole flaxseed?

Most nutrition experts recommend ground over whole flaxseed because the ground form is easier to digest. Whole flaxseed may pass through your intestine undigested, which means you won’t get all the benefits.

Flaxseed’s health benefits come from the fact that it’s high in fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, as well as phytochemicals called lignans. One tablespoon (7 grams) of ground flaxseed contains 2 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids (includes the omega 3s), 2 grams of dietary fiber and 37 calories.

Flaxseed is commonly used to improve digestive health or relieve constipation. Flaxseed may also help lower total blood cholesterol and low-density lipoprotein (LDL, or “bad”) cholesterol levels, which may help reduce the risk of heart disease.

You can buy flaxseed in bulk — whole or ground — at many grocery stores and health food stores. Whole seeds can be ground at home using a coffee grinder or food processor.

Tips for including flaxseed in your diet:

  • Add a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to your hot or cold breakfast cereal.
  • Add a teaspoon of ground flaxseed to mayonnaise or mustard when making a sandwich.
  • Mix a tablespoon of ground flaxseed into an 8-ounce container of yogurt.
  • Bake ground flaxseed into cookies, muffins, breads and other baked goods.

Like other sources of fiber, flaxseed should be taken with plenty of water or other fluids. Flaxseed shouldn’t be taken at the same time as oral medications. As always, talk with your doctor before trying any dietary supplements.

By Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D.

Recipe makeovers tips for healthier dishes

Can you count your grandmother’s beloved bread pudding as a healthy recipe? Scrumptious as it may be with four cups of whole milk, one stick of butter and four eggs, you probably wouldn’t find it on a list of healthy recipes. But you don’t have to remove it from your recipe box. Just modify that bread pudding with a few simple change-ups, and you’ve got another healthy recipe for your collection — not a fat and calorie disaster.

Here are three techniques you can use to help create healthy recipes. Remember, these are just some examples. Use your imagination and experiment to find other ways to create healthy recipes — maybe you can even serve them to Grandma!

Reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt

You can often reduce the amount of fat, sugar and salt without sacrificing flavor in healthy recipes. Use these general guidelines:

    • Fat. For baked goods, use half the butter, shortening or oil and replace the other half with unsweetened applesauce, mashed banana or prune puree. You can also use commercially prepared fruit-based fat substitutes found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores.
    • Sugar. Reduce the amount of sugar by one-third to one-half. Instead, add spices such as cinnamon, cloves, allspice and nutmeg, or flavorings such as vanilla extract or almond flavoring to boost sweetness.
    • Salt. For most main dishes, salads, soups and other foods, you can reduce the salt by half or even eliminate it. You can reduce salt by half in baked goods that don’t require yeast too. For foods that require yeast, you may need to experiment: Some salt may be necessary for leavening to keep baked goods from being too dense or flat.

Ways to make new habits stick.

All of us approach the process of personal change a little differently. But anyone can take a cue from these key principles as you work to adopt new habits.

  1. Build confidence. Focus on strategies that play to your strengths and your skills. Consider how you have succeeded in the past, and build your plan from there. Past experiences — good or bad — are learning opportunities and should be seen as a useful tool in tackling new goals with optimism.
  2. Create a routine. An eating or activity schedule can create a better sense of control. Make sure your schedule is one that truly works for your life and not one you can follow only for the short term. That’s why it’s important to set realistic goals — the more successful you are, the easier it will be to stay motivated.
  3. Focus on what you’re adding to your life. Try not to fixate on what you’re giving up, whether it’s certain foods, habits or a little extra TV time. Focus on things like the delicious, healthy meals you are eating and how energized you feel after a workout. Celebrate success as you notice even the smallest positive changes in how you look and feel; it will give you the momentum you need to keep going.
  4. Make your program your own. Take a day off from exercise, or enjoy one of your favorite foods once in a while. The more you make your program work for you, the less likely you are to rebel against it. Figure out what it takes — within reason — to make your healthy lifestyle pleasurable and sustainable.

By following these principles, you can enjoy a lifetime of healthier living — and a healthy weight!

What is metabolism?

Metabolism is defined as the bodily processes needed to maintain life. But when you hear the word “metabolism” used today, it’s usually in reference to weight issues. You may hear someone say, “I can’t lose weight because I have a slow metabolism.”

While there’s some truth to this, other factors — such as how much you eat and exercise — play a much bigger role in your weight than your metabolism does. And while it’s true that how much lean body mass you have can affect how many calories you burn at rest, its effect is limited — in part, because you can build only so much lean muscle by strength training.

Here are some other facts about metabolism.

What it is
Though the process of metabolism, your body turns the food you eat into the energy it needs. It’s a vital process for all living things, not just humans.

What can affect your metabolism

  • Some medications can affect your metabolism — either dangerously speeding it up or slowing it down.
  • Eating breakfast every day can jump-start your metabolism.
  • Weight loss — especially when it’s rapid — actually slows your metabolism because it takes less energy for your body to function at a lower weight. So, as you lose weight, you need to take in fewer calories or get more physical activity to burn more calories to keep losing pounds.
  • Age can slow your metabolism. In general, as you age, you gain fat and lose muscle. Some people also become less active. However, you can do the opposite and take on more physical activity to make up for your slower metabolism.

You can help your metabolism  and your odds of weight-loss success by changing your energy balance, or the balance between what you consume and what you burn off, through a healthy diet and regular physical activity.

Practice mindful eating

Mindful eating is an effective weight-loss strategy that encourages you to slow down and pay attention to your food, noticing each sip or bite you take. It helps focus your senses on exploring, savoring and tasting your food, and teaches you to follow hunger cues. Put mindful eating into practice with these ideas as you prepare and eat meals. It gets easier over time!

  • Practice acceptance. Be aware of critical or judgmental thoughts about food, your eating habits and your body. Concentrate on the moment. Accept your body as it is.
  • Make a conscious decision to eat. Before you eat, ask yourself, “How hungry am I right now? Am I eating out of hunger, habit, boredom or emotion?”
  • Reserve time for your meal. Don’t eat on the run. If you’re eating with others, involve them in preparing the food to make that time social.
  • Avoid distractions while eating. Eat at a table. Turn off the TV and put away your phone, work, books and magazines until you are done.
  • Appreciate your food. Start your meal by taking a moment to express your gratitude for the food in front of you.
  • Breathe. Before and during your meal, consciously take a few deep breaths.
  • Use all your senses to fully experience your food and drinks. Observe the smells, textures, sounds, colors and tastes. Ask yourself how much you’re enjoying the food and how appealing it is.
  • Choose modest portions to avoid overeating.
  • Eat small bites, and chew slowly. Appreciate that your food fills you up and makes you healthy.

Of course, there will be times that you have to rush through a meal to get to an activity or an appointment. But if you can practice mindful eating on a regular basis, it can help you reach your weight-loss goals.

Making healthy choices, dietary fats.

Your body needs some fat to function normally. But it’s wise to choose the healthier types of dietary fat and then enjoy them — in moderation.

The good and the bad
Monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats are the best choices. Look for products with little or no saturated fats, and avoid trans fats: Both increase blood-cholesterol levels and can increase your risk of heart disease. And keep in mind that all fats — the good stuff as well as the bad — are high in calories, so measuring and moderation are key.

The good:

  • Monounsaturated fats are found in olive, canola and peanut oils, as well as in avocados and most nuts.
  • Polyunsaturated fats are found in other plant-based oils, such as corn, sunflower, soybean, sesame and cottonseed oils. Omega-3 fats are polyunsaturated fats that help your cells function.

The bad:

  • Saturated fats are found in animal-based foods, such as meats, poultry, lard, egg yolks and whole-fat dairy products, including butter and cheese. They’re also in cocoa butter and coconut, palm and other tropical oils, which are used in many coffee lighteners, snack crackers, baked goods and other processed foods.
  • Trans fats — also called hydrogenated vegetable oils — are found in hardened vegetable fats, such as stick margarine and vegetable shortening. Lots of foods contain these unhealthy ingredients as well, including crackers, cookies, cakes, pies and other baked goods, as well as many candies, snack foods and french fries.

Choosing foods with the best types of dietary fat

First, focus on reducing foods high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol. Then emphasize food choices that include plenty of monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) and polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). But a word of caution — don’t go overboard even on healthy fats. All fats, including the healthy ones, are high in calories. So consume MUFA-rich and PUFA-rich foods instead of other fatty foods, not in addition to them.

Here are some tips to help you make over the fat in your diet:

  • Use the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list when selecting foods. Look for the amount of trans fat listed. By law a serving of food containing less than 0.5 grams of trans fat can be labeled as 0 grams. Therefore, it is important to also check the ingredient list rather than just the Nutrition Facts label for the terms trans fat and partially hydrogenated.
  • Prepare fish, such as salmon and mackerel, instead of meat at least twice a week to get a source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Limit sizes to 4 ounces of cooked seafood a serving, and bake or broil seafood instead of frying.
  • Use liquid vegetable oil instead of solid fats. For example, saute with olive oil instead of butter, and use canola oil when baking.
  • Use olive oil in salad dressings and marinades.
  • Use egg substitutes instead of whole eggs when possible to cut back on the cholesterol in yolks.
  • Select milk and dairy products that are low in fat.

How to track your eating habits

Research suggests that one of the best ways to change unhealthy eating habits is to first keep track of them, which makes sense considering most…

How to eat more and lose weight

Feel full on fewer calories? It might sound like another gimmick for weight loss, but it’s not. This concept is called energy density, and it’s an important weight-loss tool.

Weight loss with more food, fewer calories
Simply put, energy density is the number of calories (energy) in a specific amount of food. High energy density means that there are a lot of calories in a little food. Low energy density means there are few calories in a lot of food.

When you’re striving for weight loss, your goal is to eat low-energy-dense foods. This helps you feel fuller on fewer calories. Here’s a quick example with raisins and grapes. Raisins have a high energy density — 1 cup of raisins has about 434 calories. Grapes have a low energy density — 1 cup of grapes has about 82 calories. You may feel full after 1 cup of either fruit, but the calorie difference is astounding!

Vegetables
Most vegetables are low in calories but high in volume or weight. Many vegetables contain water, which provides weight without calories. Examples include salad greens, asparagus, green beans, broccoli and zucchini. To add more vegetables to your diet, top your pasta with sautéed vegetables instead of meat or cheese sauce. Decrease the meat portion on your plate and increase the amount of vegetables. Add vegetables to your sandwiches. Snack on raw vegetables.

Fruits
Practically all types of fruit fit into a healthy diet. But some fruits are lower calorie choices than others are. Whole fresh, frozen and canned fruits without syrup are good options. In contrast, fruit juices and dried fruits are concentrated sources of natural sugar and therefore have a high energy density — more calories — and they don’t fill you up as much. To fit more fruits into your diet, add blueberries to your cereal in the morning. Try mango or peach slices on whole-wheat toast with a little peanut butter and honey. Or toss some mandarin orange and peach slices into a salad.

Carbohydrates
Many carbohydrates are either grains or made from grains, such as cereal, rice, bread and pasta. Whole grains are the best option because they’re higher in fiber and other important nutrients. Emphasize whole grains by simply choosing whole-wheat bread, whole-wheat pasta, oatmeal, brown rice and whole-grain cereal instead of refined grains. Still, because many carbohydrates are higher in energy density, keep an eye on portion sizes.

Protein and dairy
These include food from both plant and animal sources. The healthiest lower energy-dense choices are foods that are high in protein but low in fat, such as legumes (beans, peas and lentils, which are also good sources of fiber), fish, skinless white-meat poultry, fat-free dairy products and egg whites.

Fats
While fats are high-energy-dense foods, some fats are healthier than others. Include small amounts of healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats in your diet. Nuts, seeds, and oils, such as olive, flaxseed and safflower oils, contain healthy fats.

Sweets
Like fats, sweets are typically high in energy density. Good options for sweets include those that are low in added fat and contain healthy ingredients, such as fruits, whole grains and low-fat dairy. Examples include fresh fruit topped with low-fat yogurt, a cookie made with whole-wheat flour or a scoop of low-fat ice cream. The keys to sweets are to keep the serving size small and the ingredients healthy. Even a small piece of dark chocolate can fit into a weight-loss plan.

Making energy density work for you
When you stick to the concept of energy density, you don’t have to feel hungry or deprived. By including plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables and whole grains in your diet, you can feel full on fewer calories. You may even have room in your diet for a tasty sweet on occasion. By eating larger portions of low-energy-dense foods, you squelch those hunger pains, take in fewer calories and feel better about your meal, which contributes to how satisfied you feel overall.