The Mediterranean Diet and Heart Health

Wednesday, February 11, 2015 10:54 AM comments (0)

Med DietHeart disease remains the leading cause of death in the U.S. for both men and women. Genetics, tobacco use, family history, obesity, an increasingly sedentary lifestyle, stress and diet all contribute to this alarming statistic. Some heart-healthy changes are easier to make than others, but finding a balanced diet that appeals to the entire family, while also possibly lowering your risk for heart disease, might be easier and more enjoyable than you think.

Many studies have shown that the rates of heart disease as well as certain types of cancer, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease were lower for those living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea. In fact, researchers have been able to determine that diet played a significant role in keeping the community healthy and living longer. The fundamental components of that diet are known as the Mediterranean diet plan.

Philip Krause, MD, Interventional Cardiologist at NorthShore, discusses the benefits of a Mediterranean diet plan and what makes it so great for your heart:

Focuses on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. On a typical American plate, meat is the star. On a Mediterranean diet plate, meat plays second fiddle to fresh fruit, vegetables, beans and whole grains. When the focus on the meal shifts toward fresh fruits and vegetables, the result is a diet rich in vitamins, antioxidants and fiber.

Puts the salt shaker away. Excessive salt consumption can raise your blood pressure, which may damage the arteries leading to your heart. And there’s no doubt about it: Americans consume too much salt. The Mediterranean diet diversifies the spice rack, favoring spices and herbs over salt.

Cuts down on red meat. Red meat is sidelined in favor of proteins that contain healthy fats like fish, poultry and nuts. Fish is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can be a very beneficial part of your heart healthy diet plan. 

Makes olive oil the main source of fat. Just say no to butter. Olive oil is a monounsaturated fat and this type of fat may help bring high cholesterol levels in the right direction. It also may help regulate insulin levels in those suffering from type 2 diabetes.  

Allows for a glass of red wine. This is a great perk for the older adherents of the Mediterranean diet. When consumed in moderation (one four-ounce serving per day), red wine can be beneficial to your heart health by reducing LDL cholesterol levels and increasing HDL cholesterol levels. 

Limits portion sizes and cuts the carbs. Just because the Mediterranean diet plan is healthy doesn’t mean recommended foods can be consumed in unlimited quantities. Watch your portion sizes as you would with any diet or dish. If both weight loss and heart health are goals, limiting portion sizes along with carbohydrate intake—reducing the consumption of bread, potatoes, rice by 50%—can markedly assist in weight loss.

#NSHearts the Mediterranean diet! Do you? What are your favorite heart-healthy recipes? 

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Celebrate a Happy and Healthier New Year: Make a Big Impact with Achievable New Year's Resolutions

Tuesday, December 30, 2014 2:26 PM comments (0)

Make the commitment to improve your health one small step at a time. Big changes can be hard to maintain but small incremental improvements can make a big impact on your overall health.  

Celebrate a healthy New Year throughout the year with the help of these four simple New Year’s resolutions from NorthShore University HealthSystem.

resolution infographi

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Fresh Recipe: Warm Spinach and Artichoke Dip

Tuesday, November 25, 2014 3:41 PM comments (0)

thanksgivingDon’t let your Thanksgiving favorites leave you feeling guilty the next day. Start things off right with veggie-packed appetizers that are sure to please even holiday food traditionalists. 

Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Adult Endocrinology Group, shares one of her favorite Thanksgiving starters:  

Recipe makes 6 servings
Serving size 2/3 cup

Ingredients: 
2 cans artichoke hearts, rinsed and drained (16 oz.)
1/2 cup reduced fat mayonnaise (4 oz.)
2/3 cup cooked spinach or frozen spinach that has been thawed (4 oz.)
2/3 cup white extra sharp cheddar cheese, shredded (3 oz.)

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  
  • Place 1/2 of the artichoke hearts and the mayonnaise in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  • Chop the remaining artichoke hearts and the spinach into small pieces.
  • Fold the chopped spinach and artichoke hearts into the pureed artichoke and mayonnaise mixture.
  • Mix 1/2 of the shredded cheese into the dip.
  • Transfer dip into an oven safe 9-inch glass pie plate.
  • Sprinkle the top of the dip with the remaining cheese.
  • Bake for approximately 20 minutes or until the top of the dip is golden brown.
  • Serve dip warm with high fiber crackers and/or raw vegetables.

Nutrition Information (per 2/3c serving):

Calories: 149
Total Fat: 10
Total Carbohydrate: 8
Fiber: 2
Protein: 6

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Breaking Down the Carbohydrate: Good Carbs, Bad Carbs and Everything in Between [Infographic]

Wednesday, November 12, 2014 10:55 AM comments (0)

Don't just cut carbs! They are the primary source of energy for the human body, which means you can't do without them! When it comes to healthy diet that includes carbs, it's important to think in terms of quality over quantity.

The experts at NorthShore University HealthSystem break down the carbohydrate--the good, the bad and the necessary--in our latest infographic. Click on the image below to view our full infographic on the importance of the carbohydrate in your diet.

carb infographic

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Fresh Recipe: Hearty Pumpkin Soup

Friday, October 31, 2014 9:00 AM comments (0)

pumpkin soupPumpkins aren’t just for decoration. They can and should be eaten too! Pumpkins are high in fiber and vitamin A, which can protect your vision, and full of flavor but still low in calories. So, when you head to the store or patch to grab one or two to meet your Halloween needs, don’t forget to snatch up one more for a healthy, tummy-warming fall recipe. 

Nothing says, "It's autumn!" quite like a warm, hearty bowl of soup. Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator, Adult Endocrinology Group, shares her favorite recipe for pumpkin soup:

Recipe makes 4 servings
Serving size 1 cup

Ingredients:

  • 1 small pumpkin (pick a pumpkin that will yield 3 cups or 15 oz. of baked pumpkin “flesh”)*
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 1 large onion (9.4 oz.)
  • 1 medium red pepper (4.8 oz.)
  • 1 large carrot (4.8 oz.)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth (32 oz.)
  • 1/3 cup natural honey peanut butter
  • Salt and pepper to taste 
  • Roasted pumpkin seeds (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Remove the stem of the pumpkin, cut in half and remove the pulp and seeds.  
  3. Cut pumpkin into uniform pieces and bake for approximately 1 hour or until fork tender.
  4. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin from the pumpkin “flesh.” Set aside approximately 3 cups.
  5. Heat the oil in a large pot and cook the onion, pepper and carrot for about 5 minutes. 
  6. Add the pumpkin and broth to the pot and simmer for 5 more minutes.
  7. Puree the soup using an immersion blender.
  8. Add the peanut butter to the soup and stir until well incorporated.
  9. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  10. Garnish with roasted pumpkin seeds, if desired, and serve warm. 

*Store bought 100% pumpkin puree can be substituted if fresh pumpkin is unavailable.  If using pre-made pumpkin puree skip to step five on the instructions.

Nutrition Information (per serving): 
Calories: 266
Fat: 13g
Carbohydrate: 30g
Fiber: 7g
Protein: 7g

Do you have a healthy, yet delicious pumpkin recipe you traditionally make this time of year? 

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Meet Your Protein Needs Without Meat

Monday, September 29, 2014 11:33 AM comments (0)

Protein is an essential element of a healthy, well-balanced diet. In fact, protein makes up a large part of all your body’s cells, which is why it is so important that you get enough each day. And that’s especially true for those following a vegetarian, nearly vegetarian or vegan diet who don’t get their daily requirement from protein-rich sources like meat. The good news is that reaching your daily protein needs doesn’t mean having to include more meat or even any meat all.Vegetarian-Protein

Just how much protein do you need on a daily basis? Women need approximately 46 grams and men 56 grams of protein each day. Pregnant women and breastfeeding mothers need to add additional protein to their diets. On average, it is recommended that they get 70 grams each day. Athletes and active individuals also require more protein based on the length, frequency and intensity of their workouts, which could mean increasing their protein intake by 50% more than a non-active man or woman.

Nearly every food contains some amount of protein but there are plenty of protein-rich, vegetarian-friendly options out there too. It might surprise you just how much protein there is in some of these healthy, meatless foods.

Jennifer Panicko, RD, LDN at NorthShore, shares some of the best veggie-friendly options to maximize daily protein intake:

  • Lentils. These pack a serious protein punch with 18 grams of protein per cooked cup. 
  • Greek yogurt. All dairy products are good sources of protein but Greek yogurt kicks it up a notch with approximately 20 grams per 6-ounce serving.
  • Chickpeas. There are 8 grams of protein per serving of chickpeas. Chickpeas also happen to be the main ingredient in hummus. Put it on crackers or veggies for a high-protein snack.
  • Beans. This one won’t surprise you. Most beans—black, pinto, soy—are heavy hitters when it comes to protein, with approximately 7 to 10 grams per serving. They’re also lower in calories than meat-based proteins and have lots of fiber and antioxidants.
  • Fruits and vegetables. That’s right! They are great sources of protein as well. Avocados have about 5 grams of protein per serving and a cup of spinach has 5 grams too.
  • Eggs. Many vegetarians won’t eat eggs but for lacto-ovo vegetarians (consume dairy and eggs), they are a great source with 6 grams per egg.
  • Tempeh and Tofu. These whole soy alternatives are great sources of protein with 8-12 grams per 3-ounce serving.
  • Quinoa. This grain is a complete protein, meaning it has the same protein content and quality of an egg! This super grain packs 8 grams of protein in 1 cooked cup.

What are some of your favorite vegetarian protein sources?

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Fresh Recipe: Apple Muffins

Tuesday, September 16, 2014 1:40 PM comments (0)

appleFall has arrived! From pumpkin patches and apple orchards to grocery stores and food stands, delicious fall produce is everywhere. It’s just the right time to take advantage of all the new season has to offer. Let’s start with apples.

Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator, Adult Endocrinology Group, puts a healthy spin on breakfast and brunch with her recipe for apple muffins: 

Recipe makes 12 muffins
Serving Size 1 muffin

Ingredients:
1.5 cups pink lady apples, grated
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

Instructions: 

  • Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees.
  • Prepare a standard muffin pan with cooking spray.
  • In a large mixing bowl, stir the apples, sugar, oil, vanilla, and eggs until well mixed.
  • Add the remaining dry ingredients to the bowl and mix well.
  • Divide the batter evenly among the 12 muffin cups.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes.

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories: 166
Fat: 7
Carbohydrate: 23
Fiber: 2
Protein: 3

What is your favorite healthy fall recipe? 
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Four Essential Nutrients for a Healthier Lunch Box

Wednesday, August 27, 2014 4:06 PM comments (0)

lunch boxHot dogs, pizza, tater tots, chicken nuggets, ketchup and bagged chips – these high-fat, high-sodium and low-fiber foods are made available every day in some schools across the country. With over one-third of American children overweight or obese, it’s little wonder First Lady Michelle Obama has made improving standards for school lunches a focus. And improvements are happening, but packed lunches are still a great way to help your children keep calories and fat under control, as well provide the essential nutrients they need to grow and thrive. 

Kimberly Hammon, Dietitian at NorthShore, shares some healthy lunch tips for how to include essential nutrients – vitamin D, calcium, fiber and potassium – into your kid’s packed lunch:  

Vitamin D: Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to various cancers, including colon and breast, heart disease and depression. Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium to maximize bone growth and strength. 

What to pack?

  • Most milk products have vitamin D.
  • If your child isn’t a milk drinker, pack vitamin D-fortified orange juice instead.
  • Up vitamin D intake in the morning with yogurt, oatmeal or cereals.

Calcium: Calcium is an essential nutrient that helps build strong bones, but it also can help with heart rhythm, blood clotting and muscle function.

What to pack?

  • Milk or flavored milk is a healthy addition to every meal.
  • Orange juice with added calcium is a non-dairy option.
  • Add cheese to sandwiches or include cubes or sticks. Low-fat mozzarella and Swiss have the highest amount of calcium.
  • Trail mix with raw almonds is a healthy dessert or snack. Almonds are high in protein, fiber and calcium, and promote heart health and, when consumed in moderation, can help prevent weight gain. 

Fiber: Fiber can help prevent type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol. It also helps tummies feel fuller longer. 

What to pack?

  • A sandwich with whole grain bread. Whole grains not only have lots of fiber, but protein, B vitamins and antioxidants.
  • While fiber from whole grains and fruits and veggies is still the best option, cereal bars can be a complaint-free way to get a little more fiber into your child’s diet. Make sure you check labels! Some brands don’t have enough fiber to justify the added sugar.
  • Apples have lots of fiber. Tip: to keep apple slices from going brown, sprinkle with lemon juice. Other high-fiber fruits include bananas, berries and dried fruits. 
  • High in fiber and heart-healthy fat, avocados can add flavor, creaminess and nutrients to sandwiches and wraps. 

Potassium: Potassium-rich diets promote heart and muscle function, maintain fluid balance, energize and help build strong bones. 

What to pack?

  • Dried fruit, especially dried apricots, have lots of potassium, as do bananas, nectarines and oranges.
  • Try to sneak some vegetables into sandwiches or wraps, especially spinach, which is high in potassium. 

What do you pack to provide a healthy lunch for your kids?

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Essential Guide for Your Body: Vitamins and Minerals

Tuesday, August 05, 2014 4:02 PM comments (0)

Meeting your required daily intake (RDI) of vitamins and minerals is essential to maintaining your current health and staying healthy later in life.  However, nearly the entire U.S. population is at risk for vitamin and mineral deficiency. Achieving your RDI doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, a eating a healthy, varied diet makes getting important vitamins and minerals, like vitamin A, B9, B12, C, D, E, calcium, magnesium, zinc and potassium, both simple and delicious.  

What should you be eating and why? NorthShore University HealthSystem has created an infographic that breaks down the health benefits of important vitamins and minerals, as well as includes a list of foods high in these vitamins.  Click on the image below to view our full infographic and then add these superfoods to your grocery list.

vitamins guide

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Fresh Recipe: Millet with Sage, Cranberries and Pecans

Friday, July 25, 2014 4:09 PM comments (0)

sageWhat’s growing in your herb garden this summer? Healthy, flavorful sage isn’t just for seasoning meats, though it has that reputation. The subtle flavor and distinctive scent can elevate healthy, vegetarian-friendly recipes too.  If sage is a standout among your summer crops, we have the perfect recipe for potlucks, barbeques and quick-fix dinners. 

Katrina Herrejon, Registered Dietician and Certified Diabetes Educator, Adult Endocrinology Group, puts sage front and center in a recipe that’s perfect for summer and beyond: 

Serving Size 1 cup (c)
Recipe makes 5 servings

Ingredients: 
2.5c low sodium vegetable stock
1c dry millet
1 tsp canola oil
1/2of an onion (5oz)
1/2c dried cranberries (2oz)
1/4c cranberry juice
1/8c fresh sage finely chopped  (0.1oz)
1/2c pecans roasted and chopped (1.5oz)
Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Bring vegetable stock to a boil in medium pot.
  • Add the millet to the stock; cover and reduce heat.
  • Simmer millet at medium-low heat until all the stock is absorbed (about 20 minutes).
  • Use a fork to fluff the millet and then transfer to a large bowl.
  • While the millet is cooking, heat canola oil in a small skillet.
  • Add onion to the oil; sauté until golden, and remove from heat.
  • Pour cranberry juice in a microwave safe cup and add the cranberries.
  • Microwave cranberries for 30 seconds and then let them sit so that they absorb the juice. 
  • Fold the cooked onion, the cranberries, the pecans, and the sage into the cooked millet.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.
  • Serve while warm.

Nutrition Information (per serving):
Calories: 338
Total Fat: 12
Total Carbohydrate: 51
Fiber: 10
Protein: 7

What's your favorite way to use sage?

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