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Potatoes: The Most Fattening Food

If you've gained weight as an adult, blame it on potatoes - chips, fries and other potato dishes seem to be the foods most directly responsible for the pound per year the average adult gains. That news comes from a Harvard School of Public Health Study that examined the diet and lifestyle factors that appear most related to long-term weight gain. The researchers reviewed three separate studies that included data from nearly 121,000 men and women who were followed from 12 to 20 years. None of the participants were obese or suffered from any chronic disease when they joined the studies. The researchers assessed changes in consumption of specific foods and drinks, physical activity, TV time and time spent sleeping to help identify what contributes most to weight gain. All told, the researchers found that diet was the primary culprit and that the foods linked to the greatest weight gain were potato chips, other potato-based foods, sugar sweetened beverages, and unprocessed and processed meats. Increased consumption of some foods (vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts and yogurt) were linked to less weight gain.

My take? Here's another example of how specific foods that rank high on the glycemic index can contribute to weight gain. The glycemic index ranks carbohydrates on the basis of how quickly they raise your blood sugar. Rapid elevations in blood glucose set in motion a series of physiologic changes that induce the body to store calories as fat. Foods scoring higher than 60 (on a scale of 100) are considered high glycemic index foods. These include potatoes as well as most pastries and snack foods, most bread (both white and whole wheat), raisins and watermelon. Regular consumption of high glycemic index foods increases your risk of developing insulin resistance, an underlying cause of obesity, high cholesterol and adult-onset diabetes. In that respect, high-glycemic-index foods - including potatoes - can be considered "bad carbs."

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Hammocks: Sway Yourself to Sleep
Did you ever wonder why you're more likely to doze off while lying in a hammock or sitting in a rocking chair? A small study from the University of Geneva in Switzerland suggests that the rocking motion allows some of us to go to sleep sooner than we do lying on a bed and encourages deeper sleep as well. The researchers asked 12 volunteers (none of whom had sleeping problems) to nap on a custom-made bed and on an experimental hammock. During their naps, the volunteers were hooked to an electroencephalogram (EEG) to monitor their brain activity. Results showed that all of the volunteers fell asleep in less time when lying in the hammock than when they were on the bed. The swaying motion of the hammock also boosted the duration of the sleep stage that normally occupies sleeping at night, and increased spurts of brain activity known as sleep spindles, which are consistent with deeper sleep. the researchers next want to study whether swaying or rocking can improve longer periods of sleep and help treat insomnia.

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Berry Good News for Bones
Blueberries provide lots of antioxidant compounds that are good for our general health, and a new study suggests that they may help strengthen bones, too. An animal study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture has shown that baby rats fed foods containing 10 percent freeze-dried blueberry powder developed significantly more bone mass than baby rats who didn't get blueberry powder in their food. Now researchers have to determine whether these same effects occur in humans. In other berry news, researchers from Italy and Spain published a study online on June 21 in the journal Food Chemistry showing that eating strawberries improves the antioxidant capacity in blood. The research team provided 12 healthy human volunteers 500 grams (about 17.6 ounces) of strawberries daily and took blood samples periodically over the span of a month. They concluded that the strawberries increased the response of red blood cells to counter oxidative stress, a biochemical process associated with disease. The team is now looking into the effects of eating smaller amounts of strawberries daily. If you want to increase your consumption of strawberries, be sure to buy organic ones - non-organic farming methods may yield berry crops that are high in pesticide residues.

Learn more about pesticides on produce:

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Summer Recipes: Spinach Goma Ae
In Japanese, "goma" means sesame seed and "ae" means sauce. This cold, flavorful side dish (sometimes written as "gomae") features a sesame-seed dressing and is often found in bento, or lunchboxes. It's a useful recipe when you need to use up a lot of garden-fresh spinach, as it cooks way down. A light and refreshing addition to any summer meal!

View the recipe: Spinach Goma Ae


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