While some might be wary about the cancer risks of searing a steak on a flaming grill, a few simple changes can lower that risk, a nutritionist advises. Cooking beef, pork, fish or poultry over high temperatures can lead to the formation of chemicals that can trigger changes in your DNA that increase the risk of cancer. “It might seem like everything fun causes cancer,” said Catherine Carpenter, a professor of clinical nutrition and a member of the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of California, Los Angeles. “But it’s fine to grill meat, you just need to be aware of what parts of it increase cancer risk, and then make lifestyle changes not only that you can live with, but that you can live with for a long time,” she said. Carpenter recommends four tips to reduce your cancer risk from grilled meats. Don’t grill meat on direct heat. Turn on the flame on part of the grill, and put the meat on the other part that doesn’t have any flame. Flip it. If the meat is exposed to direct flame, be sure to turn it over frequently to reduce your exposure to the harmful chemicals. Trim it. If portions of the meat become charred during grilling, cut them off before serving. That will also help reduce your exposure to these damaging chemicals.…  read on >

As Americans, we’re making some headway in our efforts to improve the quality of our diet, but we’re far from ideal levels. Research shows that healthier eating prevented over a million premature deaths in the 13-year period from 1999 to 2012, along with 8.6 percent fewer heart disease cases, 1.3 percent fewer cancer cases, and 12.6 percent fewer type 2 diabetes cases. An index that measures diet quality increased from 40 to over 48, but that’s still a long way from the perfect score of 110. Also, most of the improvement came from just two steps — reducing consumption of trans fat (largely because of government action to ban it) and sugar-sweetened beverages. Little progress was made in most of the key components of a healthy diet. An analysis of data from the USDA Economic Research Service by the Pew Research Center found that while we’re eating more chicken and less beef, we’re also each consuming 36 pounds of cooking oil a year — three times the amount Americans ate 50 years ago. We’re also each eating on average 23 percent more calories than we were back then. It’s no wonder obesity rates are so high. And yet it only takes small changes to make a difference. For instance, one report found that what’s needed to turn the average diet into one that can reduce…  read on >

Eating a nutritionally balanced high-quality diet may lower a cancer patient’s risk of dying by as much as 65 percent, new research suggests. The finding that total diet, rather than specific nutritional components, can affect a cancer patient’s prognosis “was particularly surprising to us,” said the study’s lead author, Ashish Deshmukh. Total diet, he explained, was one that appeared to be “balanced” and “nutrient-rich” with a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and dairy. Deshmukh is an assistant professor with the University of Florida’s College of Public Health and Health Professions. To explore the impact of nutrition on cancer, the researchers sifted through data collected between 1988 and 1994 by the Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III). Almost 34,000 people were included in the survey, which asked all participants to offer up a 24-hour diet diary. The team then used the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) “Dietary Guidelines for Americans” as a yardstick for ranking the nutritional quality of the diets used by 1,200 people who had been diagnosed with cancer. The USDA guidelines specify serving recommendations for fruits, vegetables, whole grains, proteins, dairy, saturated fat, cholesterol and sodium. In turn, all 1,200 patients were then tracked for an average of 17 years, with researchers verifying all subsequent deaths — up to 2011 — through the U.S. National Center for…  read on >

Eating fish twice a week reduces your risk of a heart attack or stroke, the American Heart Association says. The AHA recommends eating two 3.5-ounce servings of non-fried fish, or about 3/4 cup of flaked fish, every week. Eating just one serving a week is better than eating none, particularly if it is swapping out a higher-fat meal containing processed foods. The organization advises people to eat a variety of fish with high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids, including: salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines or albacore tuna.

If more Americans ate healthier diets, the nation could save tens of billions of dollars in health care costs for major problems such as heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, strokes, hip fractures and Alzheimer’s disease. That’s the conclusion of a new study in which researchers assessed different scenarios and determined that boosting the number of Americans with healthy eating habits could save between $21 billion and $135 billion a year in health care costs. The amounts varied depending on how many more people improved their eating patterns and the type of diet they followed, according to the researchers. The researchers suggested foods such as fish, nuts, fruits and olive oil as components of a healthful diet. The study is scheduled for presentation Sunday at the American Society for Nutrition annual meeting, in Boston. “We found that increasing adherence to healthy dietary patterns by even 20 percent at a population level has the potential to save more than $20 billion in both direct and indirect costs associated with 10 major health outcomes,” said study lead author Carolyn Scrafford, senior managing scientist at Exponent, a scientific consulting firm. “That’s a significant saving from what we believe is a realistic shift in diet quality,” she said in a society news release. “Our results suggest that it’s worthwhile to educate Americans on these dietary patterns and their components,…  read on >

Not every food you eat has to be low-calorie when you want to lose weight. There are many nutritious and tasty foods that can help you feel satisfied, rather than deprived, and that’s important when you’re facing calorie restrictions day in and day out. The key to including them is careful portion control. Nuts are heart-healthy, especially almonds, walnuts and hazelnuts, but they come in at about 180 calories per ounce, so make that your daily nut limit. You’ll often see a portion described as a “handful,” but that’s too subjective a way to measure them. Use a food scale. Sweet potatoes have 120 calories per half-cup, but when slow roasted, they don’t need any toppings, especially not butter, which could easily double the calories. These vitamin A powerhouses are filling and loaded with many other nutrients, making them a very worthy vegetable among starches. Yes, olive oil is a fat. However, it’s a mono-unsaturated fat, which won’t raise your cholesterol level — unlike saturated fats like butter and lard. Though it’s 120 calories per tablespoon, all you need is a drizzle of oil for salad dressing or to saute vegetables or a chicken breast. To be very judicious with your use, use an oil sprayer. Avocadoes are rich in a wide variety of nutrients and taste rich, too –important when you’re trying to eat…  read on >