Nutrition News

Health News Roundup: Fall 2021

Boosting your whole grains, de-stressing with pups and more!

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The Fido Factor

When the pressure’s on, chilling with your dog might help: Researchers at Washington State University found that students who have pet therapy dogs improved their planning and thinking skills over a four-week period. The sessions helped the students relax and rebound from feeling overwhelmed and sharpened their ability to concentrate more effectively than traditional stress-busting techniques. As a bonus, those improvements lasted up to six weeks after the canine cuddling program ended. Talk about taking a bite out of stress! 

Waist Away

Those who ate at least three servings of whole grains daily — e.g., brown rice and whole- wheat bread — experienced less of an increase in blood pressure, blood sugar levels and waist size than those who ate just half a serving per day, suggests research published in The Journal of Nutrition.

“The benefits may be related to the fiber in whole grains, which can slow digestion and help us feel full and might eat a little less,” says senior author Nicola McKeown, Ph.D., an epidemiologist at Tufts. “[Fiber] also may help prevent post-meal blood sugar spikes and feed our healthy gut microbe.” Boosting your daily intake of whole grains is simple: Add a scoop of cooked quinoa to your breakfast frittata, trade regular pasta for lentil or chickpea varieties, and buy brown rice cakes instead of regular. 

Bad Things in Small Packages

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is more common in industrialized nations such as the U.S., and new research published in the British Medical Journal might have insight as to why: Researchers found an 82 percent increase in the risk of developing IBD among those who consumed five or more servings of processed foods per day. (Since a Western diet is typically high in processed foods, it’s easy to draw a parallel between the disease and the U.S.) Ultra-processed foods tend to be low in fiber and vitamins and high in sugar and fat, all of which leads to digestive issues and poor gut health. To reduce your chances of developing IBD, eat a clean diet with a focus on whole, single-ingredient foods. 

Managing stress 

Australian researchers studying the effect of work on mental health discovered that poor management practices were more likely than long hours to lead to depression, according to research published in the British Medical Journal. In a yearlong study of nearly 4,000 employees, those who didn’t feel their efforts were being rewarded or acknowledged were three times as likely to develop new depressive symptoms. What’s more, a separate study from the University of Missouri and Kansas State University concluded that respectful communication was more important than perks among workers 21 to 34 years old. If you feel unsupported in your job, it might be time to rethink your career path, especially if you’re the main support system at home, as well.