Friday, August 14, 2015

Nuts, Seeds, and Diverticular Disease

One third of Americans have diverticular disease, a digestive disorder common in the Western world but rare in areas such as Africa and Asia. The disease consists of three conditions including diverticulosis, diverticular bleeding, and diverticulitis. The cause of the disease remains complex but often an interaction between low fiber intake, low physical activity, obesity, smoking, bowel motility, and mucosal changes are factors increasing the risk of developing the disease.

Small pouches form in the colon when there are weakened spots in the intestinal walls and when colonic pressure increases. Since the 1950’s people with diverticular disease have been advised to avoid nuts and seeds due to the theory that undigested food would become trapped in the small pouches of the colon causing inflammation and infection.

Despite the theory, it has been confirmed and published in the Journal of Family Practice as well as the Nutrition in Clinical Practice Journal that there is no evidence supporting the recommendation to avoid nuts and seeds for people with diverticular disease. In contrast eating a high fiber diet has been associated with lower risk of complications. One study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association following 47,228 men with diverticular disease for 18 years found eating nuts, corn, and popcorn did not
increase risk of diverticular complications. In fact eating nuts and popcorn reduced the risk of complications such as diverticular bleeding and infection.

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse as well as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual guidelines state eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent diverticular disease as well as prevent complications in those who already have the disease. People with the disease do not need to eliminate foods such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries.

Fiber recommendations are 38 g per day for men and 25 g per day for women ages 18-50. For men and women over the age of 51 recommendations are 30 g per day and 21 g per day respectively. Fiber rich foods include peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raspberries, blackberries, pears, oatmeal, whole grains, flaxseeds, and nuts. Drinking sufficient water with fiber rich foods is important as well for fiber to work effectively.

Although more research is needed, probiotics have shown some positive impact in treating symptoms and preventing complications of diverticular disease. Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, kombucha, and in supplemental form. Regularly consuming probiotics can help support a healthy GI tract and may help with diverticular disease as well.

For people with diverticular disease eliminating certain foods is not necessary, however any foods that worsen your symptoms should be avoided. If you are experiencing a flare-up or complications a high fiber diet might not be appropriate. Discuss your symptoms and appropriateness of your diet with your doctor to best manage your condition.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Enjoying Eggplant

Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. They contain an impressive array of nutrients such as
fiber, folate, potassium, manganese, thiamine, and B6 making it a great food to eat regularly.

Eggplant contains many phytonutrients which have been linked to lower risk of disease. One phytonutrient called nasunin, located in the skin, was found to be a powerful antioxidant protecting brain cell membranes from damage. This is encouraging for people who suffer from cognitive disorders and those working to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

As a good source of fiber eggplant can reduce cholesterol in the body helping to lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. Fiber also helps you feel full longer which is helpful for people trying to lose weight. At only 35 calories per cup eggplant is a low calorie food to enjoy.

Eggplant comes in many different varieties ranging from purple and egg shaped to yellow and skinny. The different varieties vary slightly in taste and texture, although generally eggplant has a slightly bitter taste and spongy texture.

Many times recipes recommend tenderizing eggplant and reducing some of its bitter taste by sprinkling it with salt. This helps pull out some of the water content and make the eggplant less permeable. Rinsing the eggplant will remove most of the salt, however people who are salt
sensitive or who have high blood pressure should avoid this process as a precaution.

Many people make the mistake of frying eggplant which results in a large amount of oil being absorbed. This increases the calories
dramatically and can have a negative impact on cholesterol. Grilling, roasting, and steaming are healthier cooking methods to target.

When picking out eggplant select those which feel firm with a smooth and glossy skin. Store in the refrigerator until ready for consumption. Use stainless steel knives rather than carbon steel knives to prevent a reaction which can cause the eggplant to turn black. For a healthy spin on Eggplant Parmesan try the recipe below.  

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Serves: 4
301 calories per serving
2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices                  
2 tbs fresh torn basil, minced
2 tsp olive oil, divided                                           
2 tbs parsley, minced
1 tsp minced garlic 1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (28 ounces) low sodium, peeled whole tomatoes, drained 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low sodium tomato paste 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions: Brush both sides of eggplant with 1 tsp of oil. Place on a hot grill and cook until tender and brown, about 4-5 minutes each side.

Meanwhile in a skillet heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, parsley, and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Layer eggplant, sauce, and parmesan in an 8x11-inch baking pan, beginning and ending with the sauce and parmesan. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top. Bake for 35 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. Serve with side salad.