Pineapple juice is a popular tropical beverage.

It’s made from pineapple fruit, which is native to countries like Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Kenya, India, China, and the Philippines.

Many cultures use the fruit and its juices as a traditional folk remedy to treat or prevent various ailments.

Modern research has linked pineapple juice and its compounds to health benefits, such as improved digestion and heart health, reduced inflammation, and perhaps even some protection against cancer. However, not all evidence has been conclusive.

Here are 7 science-based benefits of pineapple juice, based on the current research.

1. Rich in nutrients 

Pineapple juice provides a concentrated dose of various nutrients. One cup (240 mL) contains around:

  • Calories: 132
  • Protein: less than 1 gram
  • Fat: less than 1 gram
  • Carbs: 33 grams
  • Sugars: 25 grams
  • Fiber: less than 1 gram
  • Manganese: 55% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Copper: 19% of the DV
  • Vitamin B6: 15% of the DV
  • Vitamin C: 14% of the DV
  • Thiamine: 12% of the DV
  • Folate: 11% of the DV
  • Potassium: 7% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 7% of the DV

Pineapple juice is particularly rich in manganese, copper, and vitamins B6 and C. These nutrients play an important role in bone health, immunity, wound healing, energy production, and tissue synthesis.

It also contains trace amounts of iron, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, choline, and vitamin K, as well as various B vitamins.

2. Contains additional beneficial compounds

In addition to being rich in vitamins and minerals, pineapple juice is a good source of antioxidants, which are beneficial plant compounds that help keep your body healthy.

Antioxidants help neutralize unstable compounds known as free radicals, which can build up in your body due to factors like pollution, stress, or an unhealthy diet and cause cell damage.

Experts believe that the antioxidants in pineapple juice, particularly vitamin C, beta carotene, and various flavonoids, are in large part to thank for its potential beneficial effects.

Pineapple juice also contains bromelain, a group of enzymes linked to health benefits, such as reduced inflammation, improved digestion, and stronger immunity.

3. May suppress inflammation

Pineapple juice may help reduce inflammation, which is believed to be the root cause of many chronic diseases.

This may largely be due to its bromelain content. Some research suggests that this compound may be as effective as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) — but with fewer side effects.

In Europe, bromelain is approved for use to reduce inflammation caused by trauma or surgery, as well as to treat surgical wounds or deep burns.

In addition, there’s evidence that ingesting bromelain before surgery may help reduce the level of inflammation and pain caused by surgery.

Some studies further suggest that bromelain may help reduce pain and inflammation caused by a sports injury, rheumatoid arthritis, or osteoarthritis of the knee.

That said, research has yet to test the direct effects of pineapple juice on inflammation.

Therefore, it’s unclear whether the bromelain intakes achieved through drinking small to moderate amounts of pineapple juice would provide the same anti-inflammatory benefits as those observed in these studies.

4. May boost your immunity 

Pineapple juice may contribute to a stronger immune system.

Test-tube studies suggest that bromelain, a mixture of enzymes naturally found in pineapple juice, may activate the immune system.

Bromelain may also improve recovery from infections, such as pneumonia, sinusitis, and bronchitis, especially when used in combination with antibiotics.

However, most of these studies are dated, and none have examined the immunity-boosting effects of pineapple juice in humans. Therefore, more research is needed to confirm these results.

5. May help your digestion

The enzymes in pineapple juice function as proteases. Proteases help break down protein into smaller subunits, such as amino acids and small peptides, which can then be more easily absorbed in your gut.

Bromelain, a group of enzymes in pineapple juice, may particularly help improve digestion in people whose pancreas cannot make enough digestive enzymes — a medical condition known as pancreatic insufficiency.

Animal research suggests that bromelain may also help protect your gut from harmful, diarrhea-causing bacteria, such as E. coli and V. cholera. 

Moreover, according to some test-tube research, bromelain may help reduce gut inflammation in people with inflammatory bowel disorders, such as Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.

That said, most studies have investigated the effect of concentrated doses of bromelain, rather than that of pineapple juice, and very few were conducted in humans. Therefore, more research is needed.

6. May promote heart health

The bromelain naturally found in pineapple juice may also benefit your heart.

Test-tube and animal studies suggest that bromelain may help reduce high blood pressure, prevent the formation of blood clots, and minimize the severity of angina pectoris and transient ischemic attacks — two health conditions caused by heart disease.

However, the number of studies is limited, and none are specific to pineapple juice. Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

7. May help fight certain types of cancer

Pineapple juice may have potential cancer-fighting effects. Again, this is likely in large part due to its bromelain content.

Some studies suggest that bromelain may help prevent the formation of tumors, reduce their size, or even cause the death of cancerous cells.

However, these were test-tube studies using concentrated amounts of bromelain that were much higher than those you’d ingest from drinking a glass of pineapple juice. This makes it difficult to project their results to humans.

Therefore, more research is needed before strong conclusions can be made.

Possible precautions

Pineapple juice is generally considered safe for most people.

That said, bromelain, a group of enzymes naturally found in pineapple juice, may enhance the absorption of certain drugs, especially antibiotics and blood thinners.

As such, if you are taking medications, consult your physician or registered dietitian to make sure it’s safe to consume pineapple juice.

This beverage’s acidity may also trigger heartburn or reflux in some people. Specifically, those with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may want to avoid consuming large amounts of this beverage.

Despite its potential benefits, it’s important to remember that pineapple juice remains low in fiber yet high in sugar.

This means it’s unlikely to fill you up as much as eating the same quantity of raw pineapple would. Therefore, it may promote weight gain in some people.

What’s more, while drinking small amounts of juice has been linked to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease, drinking more than 5 ounces (150 mL) per day may have the opposite effect.

Therefore, it’s likely best to avoid drinking too much pineapple juice, and when you do, stick to 100% pure varieties that are free of added sugars.

The bottom line

Pineapple juice contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and beneficial plant compounds that may protect you from disease.

Studies link this beverage to improved digestion, heart health, and immunity. Pineapple juice or its compounds may also help reduce inflammation and perhaps even offer some protection against certain types of cancer.

However, human studies are limited, and it’s unclear whether the effects observed in test tubes or animals can be achieved by small daily intakes of pineapple juice.

Moreover, this beverage remains low in fiber and rich in sugar, so drinking large quantities each day is not recommended.

Source: Healthline

What is iodine?

Also called iodide, iodine is a type of mineral that’s naturally found in the earth’s soil and ocean waters. Many salt water and plant-based foods contain iodine, and this mineral is most-widely available in iodized salt.

It’s important to get enough iodine in the diet. It regulates hormones, fetal development, and more.

If your iodine levels are low, your doctor might recommend supplementation. You shouldn’t take supplements without checking with your doctor first.

Read on to learn more about the uses and side effects of iodine, plus recommended daily amounts by age.

11 uses of iodine

Iodine is considered an essential mineral for our bodies. It’s particularly important during pregnancy, and exposure in the womb may even help prevent certain health conditions later in life.

The following is a list of some of the most important uses and how they benefit the body.

1. Promoting thyroid health

Iodine plays a vital role in thyroid health. Your thyroid gland, which is located at the base of the front of your neck, helps regulate hormone production. These hormones control your metabolism, heart health, and more.

To make thyroid hormones, your thyroid takes up iodine in small amounts. Without iodine, thyroid hormone production can decrease. A “low” or underactive thyroid gland can lead to a condition called hypothyroidism.

Given the wide availability of iodine in western diets, thyroid health isn’t typically impacted by low iodine levels in the United States.

You can get enough iodine from your diet by eating dairy products, fortified foods, and salt water fish. Iodine is also available in plant foods that grow in naturally iodine-rich soil. You also can get the mineral by seasoning your food with iodized salt.

While iodine promotes overall thyroid health, too much iodine can have a negative effect on the thyroid gland. That’s why you shouldn’t take iodine supplements without your doctor’s recommendation.

2. Reducing risk for some goiters

A goiter is an enlarged thyroid gland. Your thyroid may become enlarged as a result from either hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid gland.

Non-cancerous thyroid nodules (cysts) can also cause thyroid gland enlargement.

Sometimes a goiter develops as a direct response to iodine deficiency. This is the most common cause of goiter worldwide, though it’s not as common a cause in the United States and other countries with access to iodine-rich foods.

Iodine-induced goiters may be reversed by adding iodine-rich foods or supplements in the diet.

3. Managing overactive thyroid gland

Your doctor may recommend a special type of iodine called radioactive iodine to treat an overactive thyroid gland. Also called radioiodine, this medication is taken by mouth. It’s used to destroy extra thyroid cells to help reduce excessive amounts of thyroid hormone.

The risk with radioactive iodine is that it can destroy too many thyroid cells. This can decrease the amount of hormone production, leading to hypothyroidism. For this reason, radioactive iodine is usually only recommended after anti-thyroid drugs have failed.

Radioactive iodine is not the same thing as iodine supplements. You should never take iodine supplements for hyperthyroidism.

4. Treating thyroid cancer

Radioiodine may also be a possible treatment option for thyroid cancer. It works in much the same way as hyperthyroid treatment.

When you take radioactive iodine orally, the medication destroys thyroid cells, including cancerous ones. It may be used as a treatment following thyroid surgery to make sure all cancerous cells have been removed from the body.

According to the American Cancer Society, radioactive iodine treatments significantly improve the chances of survival for people with thyroid cancer.

5. Neurodevelopment during pregnancy

You need more iodine in pregnancy. That’s because iodine intake during pregnancy is linked to brain development in fetuses. One review found that babies whose birth mothers had an iodine deficiency during pregnancy were more likely to grow up with lower IQ’s and other intellectual delays.

The recommended daily intake of iodine during pregnancy is 220 mcg. By comparison, the recommended amount in non-pregnant adults is 150 mcg a day.

If you’re pregnant, ask your doctor about iodine supplementation, especially if your prenatal vitamin doesn’t have iodine (many do not). Iodine supplements may also be necessary if you’re deficient in the mineral.

You’ll also need to continue monitoring your iodine intake if you’re breastfeeding. The recommended daily amount of iodine while nursing is 290 mcg. That’s because the iodine you take up from diet and supplementation is transferred via breast milk to your nursing infant. This is a crucial brain developmental period, so infants need 110 mcg per day until they’ve reached 6 months of age.

6. Improving cognitive function

The same neurological benefits of iodine during pregnancy may extend to healthy brain function during childhood. This also includes a reduced risk of intellectual disability.

It is likely your child gets all the iodine they need through their diet, but if you have any questions about their iodine intake, talk to their pediatrician.

7. Improving birth weight

As with brain development, iodine during pregnancy is associated with a healthy birth weight. One study of pregnant women with goiters found that 400 mg of iodine taken daily for six to eight weeks was helpful in correcting goiters related to iodine deficiency. In turn, there was an overall improvement in birth weight in newborns.

While iodine intake can impact a baby’s birth weight and overall development, it’s important to note that the above study focused on women in developing areas who were already deficient in iron.

Unless your doctor has determined you are iodine deficient, taking supplements aren’t likely to impact your baby’s weight at birth. In fact, taking iodine unnecessarily can cause health issues.

8. May help treat fibrocystic breast disease

It’s possible that iodine supplements or medications can help treat fibrocystic breast disease. This non-cancerous condition is most common in women of reproductive age, and it can cause painful breast lumps.

Although there is some promise that iodine might help with fibrocystic breast cysts, you shouldn’t attempt self-treatment. Only take iodine for this condition if your doctor specifically recommends it. Otherwise, you could be at risk of side effects from iodine toxicity.

9. Disinfecting water

Iodine is just one method of water disinfection. This may be especially helpful if you don’t have access to potable water due to traveling or effects from a natural disaster.

Two percent liquid iodine tincture may be added to water in five-drop increments per one quart of clear water. If the water is cloudy, add ten drops per quart.

Iodine tablets may also be used, but the instructions can vary by manufacturer.

Despite the role iodine can play in disinfecting drinking water, there’s also some concerns that it can increase total iodine intake in humans and lead to adverse health effects. Total iodine intake shouldn’t exceed 2 mg per day.

10. Protection from nuclear fallout

In the case of nuclear emergencies, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends the use of potassium iodide (KI) to protect the thyroid gland from radiation injuries. These are available in tablet and liquid formulas.

While not completely foolproof, the sooner KI is taken, the better the thyroid is thought to be protected in the event of this kind of emergency.

There are serious risks associated with KI, including gastrointestinal upset, inflammation, and allergic reaction. You’re also at increased risk for thyroid disease. Your risk for complications is higher if you already have thyroid disease.

11. Treating infections

Iodine can be used topically in a liquid form to help treat and prevent infections. It works by killing bacteria in and around mild cuts and scrapes.

Topical iodine should not be used on newborn babies. It should also not be used for deep cuts, animal bites, or burns.

Follow directions on the packaging for dosage information, and do not use for more than 10 days unless directed by your doctor.

How much iodine do you need?

To reduce our risk for iodine deficiency, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) has the following recommendations for daily intake based on age:

Age Daily recommended amount in micrograms (mcg)
birth–6 months 110 mcg
infants between 7–12 months 130 mcg
children 1–8 years old 90 mcg
children 9–13 years old 120 mcg
adults and teens, 14 and older 150 mcg
pregnant women 220 mcg
nursing women 290 mcg
Side effects of iodine

Possible side effects from too much iodine include:

  • nausea or vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • fever
  • burning sensations in the throat and mouth
  • stomach pain

In more severe cases, iodine toxicity may lead to coma.

You shouldn’t take iodine if you have a thyroid condition, unless recommended by your doctor.

Young children and the elderly are more prone to iodine side effects.

Symptoms of iodine deficiency

Iodine deficiency can only be diagnosed via urine tests.

The symptoms of low iodine levels are primarily detected through thyroid symptoms, such as:

  • a visible goiter
  • thyroid gland that’s painful or tender to the touch
  • breathing difficulties, especially when lying down
  • difficulty swallowing
  • fatigue
  • extreme feelings of coldness, despite normal temperatures
  • hair loss
  • depression
  • brain fog
  • unintentional weight gain
Who should take iodine?

Your doctor might recommend iodine supplements if your levels are low. The only way to know for certain is by checking your levels through a urine test. After that point, your doctor may recommend a supplement.

Iodine is available in stronger formulas through a prescription. However, these are used for serious health conditions only. For example, your doctor may recommend prescription-strength iodine if you’ve been exposed to radiation or have an overactive thyroid gland.

If you suspect you need iodine support, check with your doctor to see if you’re a candidate.

Takeaway

Iodine is an essential nutrient. People with access to iodized salt, seafood, and certain vegetables are able to get enough iodine from their diet.

In some cases, you may need iodine supplementation to help reduce your risk for iodine deficiency, or as a treatment for certain medical conditions, such as underactive thyroid or goiter.

Talk to your doctor about your specific iodine needs.

Source: Healthline

Bananas are one of the most popular pre-workout snacks.

They’re not only portable, versatile, and delicious but also rich in carbohydrates and easy to digest.

Plus, they’re highly nutritious and may offer other added benefits for exercise performance due to their content of important nutrients like potassium.

This article takes a closer look at whether you should eat a banana before your next workout.

High in carbs

Like other fruits, bananas are a good source of carbs, with about 27 grams of carbs in 1 medium banana.

Carbs are either broken down into glucose (sugar) or converted to glucose, which is a main source of fuel for your body.

Consuming carbs can increase glycogen stores, which is the form of glucose stored in the muscles and liver that’s used for energy during many types of exercise.

Eating carbs before exercise can be especially beneficial for workouts with a longer duration, such as biking or jogging, as doing so can delay how soon your body has to use its glycogen stores and improve performance.

One study in 11 people found that consuming carbs 15 minutes before running enhanced endurance and increased time to exhaustion by nearly 13%.

However, because they’re relatively high in carbs, bananas may not be ideal as a pre-workout snack for those on a low carb or ketogenic diet.

Easily digestible energy source

In addition to supplying a good number of carbs in each serving, some of the carbs in bananas are fiber.

Fiber can help slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, providing your cells with a steady stream of glucose to help you power through your workout.

Ripe bananas are also rich in simple carbs and low in fat, making them easier to digest than many other foods.

In fact, bananas are often recommended for those experiencing digestive issues like nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea.

For this reason, bananas may be a good choice as a pre-workout snack, as they can provide your body with long-lasting energy without weighing you down or causing stomach upset.

Rich in potassium

Bananas are an excellent source of potassium and provide about 10–14% of the recommended daily value for this nutrient in just one medium banana.

Potassium is an important mineral that regulates blood pressure levels, maintains nerve function, and controls fluid balance.

It also helps support muscle health and muscle contractions.

In fact, low levels of potassium can cause muscle cramps, which are characterized by sudden, painful contractions of the muscle.

Given that potassium is excreted through sweat, it’s important for those who are physically active to consume plenty of potassium-rich foods and beverages to replete your electrolytes.

One study in 230 women found that those who experienced muscle cramps generally consumed lower amounts of potassium.

Eating a banana prior to working out can help you meet your needs for potassium to promote muscle function and prevent cramps.

The bottom line

Bananas are rich in nutrients like carbs and potassium, both of which are important for exercise performance and muscle growth.

They’re also easy to digest and can slow the absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, making bananas a great snack option before your next workout.

Enjoy bananas alone or try pairing them with a good source of protein like yogurt or peanut butter for an easy pre-workout snack.

Source: Healthline

What is arthritis?

Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints. It can affect one joint or multiple joints. There are more than 100 different types of arthritis, with different causes and treatment methods. Two of the most common types are osteoarthritis (OA) and rheumatoid arthritis (RA).

The symptoms of arthritis usually develop over time, but they may also appear suddenly. Arthritis is most commonly seen in adults over the age of 65, but it can also develop in children, teens, and younger adults. Arthritis is more common in women than men and in people who are overweight.

What are the symptoms of arthritis?

Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling are the most common symptoms of arthritis. Your range of motion may also decrease, and you may experience redness of the skin around the joint. Many people with arthritis notice their symptoms are worse in the morning.

In the case of RA, you may feel tired or experience a loss of appetite due to the inflammation the immune system’s activity causes. You may also become anemic — meaning your red blood cell count decreases — or have a slight fever. Severe RA can cause joint deformity if left untreated.

What causes arthritis?

Cartilage is a firm but flexible connective tissue in your joints. It protects the joints by absorbing the pressure and shock created when you move and put stress on them. A reduction in the normal amount of this cartilage tissue cause some forms of arthritis.

Normal wear and tear causes OA, one of the most common forms of arthritis. An infection or injury to the joints can exacerbate this natural breakdown of cartilage tissue. Your risk of developing OA may be higher if you have a family history of the disease.

Another common form of arthritis, RA, is an autoimmune disorder. It occurs when your body’s immune system attacks the tissues of the body. These attacks affect the synovium, a soft tissue in your joints that produces a fluid that nourishes the cartilage and lubricates the joints.

RA is a disease of the synovium that will invade and destroy a joint. It can eventually lead to the destruction of both bone and cartilage inside the joint.

The exact cause of the immune system’s attacks is unknown. But scientists have discovered genetic markers that increase your risk of developing RA fivefold.

How is arthritis diagnosed?

Seeing your primary care physician is a good first step if you’re unsure who to see for an arthritis diagnosis. They will perform a physical exam to check for fluid around the joints, warmor red joints, and limited range of motion in the joints. Your doctor can refer you to a specialist if needed.

If you’re experiencing severe symptoms, you may choose to schedule an appointment with a rheumatologist first. This may lead to a faster diagnosis and treatment.

Extracting and analyzing inflammation levels in your blood and joint fluids can help your doctor determine what kind of arthritis you have. Blood tests that check for specific types of antibodies like anti-CCP (anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide), RF (rheumatoid factor), and ANA (antinuclear antibody) are also common diagnostic tests.

Doctors commonly use imaging scans such as X-ray, MRI, and CT scans to produce an image of your bones and cartilage. This is so they can rule out other causes of your symptoms, such as bone spurs.

How is arthritis treated?

The main goal of treatment is to reduce the amount of pain you’re experiencing and prevent additional damage to the joints. You’ll learn what works best for you in terms of controlling pain. Some people find heating pads and ice packs to be soothing. Others use mobility assistance devices, like canes or walkers, to help take pressure off sore joints.

Improving your joint function is also important. Your doctor may prescribe you a combination of treatment methods to achieve the best results.

Medication

A number of different types of medication treat arthritis:

  • Analgesics, such as hydrocodone (Vicodin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol), are effective for pain management, but don’t help decrease inflammation.
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen (Advil) and salicylates, help control pain and inflammation. Salicylates can thin the blood, so they should be used very cautiously with additional blood thinning medications.
  • Menthol or capsaicin creams block the transmission of pain signals from your joints.
  • Immunosuppressants like prednisone or cortisone help reduce inflammation.

If you have RA, your doctor may put you on corticosteroids or disease-modifying antirheumatic drugs (DMARDs), which suppress your immune system. There are also many medications to treat OA available over the counter or by prescription.

Surgery

Surgery to replace your joint with an artificial one may be an option. This form of surgery is most commonly performed to replace hips and knees.

If your arthritis is most severe in your fingers or wrists, your doctor may perform a joint fusion. In this procedure, the ends of your bones are locked together until they heal and become one.

Physical therapy

Physical therapy involving exercises that help strengthen the muscles around the affected joint is a core component of arthritis treatment.

What lifestyle changes can help people with arthritis?

Weight loss and maintaining a healthy weight reduce the risk of developing OA and can reduce symptoms if you already have it.

Eating a healthy diet is important for weight loss. Choosing a diet with lots of antioxidants, such as fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs, can help reduce inflammation. Other inflammation-reducing foods include fish and nuts.

Foods to minimize or avoid if you have arthritis include fried foods, processed foods, dairy products, and high intakes of meat.

Some research also suggests that gluten antibodies may be present in people with RA. A gluten-free diet may improve symptoms and disease progression. A 2015 study also recommends a gluten-free diet for all people who receive a diagnosis of undifferentiated connective tissue disease.

Regular exercise will keep your joints flexible. Swimming is often a good form of exercise for people with arthritis because it doesn’t put pressure on your joints the way running and walking do. Staying active is important, but you should also be sure to rest when you need to and avoid overexerting yourself.

At-home exercises you can try include:

  • the head tilt, neck rotation, and other exercises to relieve pain in your neck
  • finger bends and thumb bends to ease pain in your hands
  • leg raises, hamstring stretches, and other easy exercises for knee arthritis
What is the long-term outlook for people with arthritis?

While there’s no cure for arthritis, the right treatment can greatly reduce your symptoms.

In addition to the treatments your doctor recommends, you can make a number of lifestyle changes that may help you manage your arthritis.

Source: Healthline 

Pregnancy can be one of the most exciting and happy experiences in a woman’s life.

However, it can also be a confusing and overwhelming time for some mothers-to-be.

The internet, magazines, and advertisements flood women with advice on how to stay healthy during pregnancy.

While most women know that high mercury seafood, alcohol, and cigarettes are off-limits during pregnancy, many are unaware that some vitamins, minerals, and herbal supplements should be avoided as well.

Information on which supplements are safe and which aren’t often varies between sources, making things more complicated.

This article breaks down which supplements are believed to be safe to take during pregnancy and explains why some supplements must be avoided.

Why take supplements during pregnancy?

Consuming the right nutrients is important at every stage of life, but it’s especially critical during pregnancy, as pregnant women need to nourish both themselves and their growing babies.

Pregnancy increases the need for nutrients

During pregnancy, a woman’s macronutrient intake needs grow significantly. Macronutrients include carbohydrates, proteins, and fats.

For example, protein intake needs to increase from the recommended 0.36 grams per pound (0.8 grams per kg) of body weight for non-pregnant women to 0.5 grams per pound (1.1 grams per kg) of body weight for pregnant women.

However, the requirement for micronutrients, which include vitamins, minerals, and trace elements, increases even more than the need for macronutrients.

Vitamins and minerals support maternal and fetal growth at every stage of pregnancy and are required to support critical functions like cell growth and cell signaling,

While some women are able to meet this growing demand through a well-planned, nutrient-dense diet, others are not.

Some pregnant women may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements for various reasons, including:

  • Nutrient deficiencies: Some women may need a supplement after a blood test reveals a deficiency in a vitamin or mineral. Correcting deficiencies is critical, as a shortage of nutrients like folate has been linked to birth defects.
  • Hyperemesis gravidarum: This pregnancy complication is characterized by severe nausea and vomiting. It can lead to weight loss and nutrient deficiencies.
  • Dietary restrictions: Women who follow specific diets, including vegans and those with food intolerances and allergies, may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals to prevent micronutrient deficiencies.
  • Smoking: Although it’s critical for mothers to avoid cigarettes during pregnancy, those who continue to smoke have an increased need for specific nutrients like vitamin C and folate.
  • Multiple pregnancies: Women carrying more than one baby have higher micronutrient needs than women carrying one baby. Supplementing is often necessary to ensure optimal nutrition for both the mother and her babies.
  • Genetic mutations like MTHFR: MTHFR is a gene that converts folate into a form that the body can use. Pregnant women with this gene mutation may need to supplement with a specific form of folate to avoid complications.
  • Poor diet: Women who undereat or choose foods that are low in nutrients may need to supplement with vitamins and minerals to avoid deficiencies.

In addition, experts like those at the American Congress of Obstetrics and
Gynecology recommend that all pregnant women take a prenatal vitamin and folic acid supplement. This is advised to fill nutritional gaps and prevent birth defects like spina bifida.

For these reasons, many moms-to-be turn to vitamin and mineral supplements.

Herbal supplements during pregnancy

In addition to micronutrients, herbal supplements are popular.

One study found that around 15.4% of pregnant women in the United States use herbal supplements.

Alarmingly, over 25% of these women didn’t inform their doctor they were taking them.

While some herbal supplements may be safe to take during pregnancy, there are far more that might not be.

Although some herbs can help with common pregnancy complications like nausea and upset stomach, some may be harmful to both the mother and baby.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much research regarding the use of herbal supplements by pregnant women, and much is unknown about how the supplements can affect expectant mothers.

Supplements considered safe during pregnancy

Just as with medications, your doctor should approve and supervise all micronutrient and herbal supplements to ensure that they’re necessary and taken in safe amounts.

Always purchase vitamins from a reputable brand that volunteers to have their products evaluated by third-party organizations like the United States Pharmacopeial Convention (USP).

This ensures that the vitamins live up to specific standards and are generally safe to take.

1. Prenatal vitamins

Prenatal vitamins are multivitamins that are specially formulated to meet the increased demand for micronutrients during pregnancy.

They’re intended to be taken before conception and during pregnancy and lactation.

Observational studies have shown that supplementing with prenatal vitamins reduces the risk of preterm birth and preeclampsia. Preeclampsia is a potentially dangerous complication characterized by high blood pressure and possibly protein in the urine.

While prenatal vitamins are not meant to replace a healthy diet, they may help prevent nutritional gaps by providing extra micronutrients that are in high demand during pregnancy.

Since prenatal vitamins contain the vitamins and minerals that pregnant women need, taking additional vitamin or mineral supplements may not be necessary unless suggested by your doctor.

Prenatal vitamins are often prescribed by doctors and available over-the-counter.

2. Folate

Folate is a B vitamin that plays an integral role in DNA synthesis, red blood cell production, and fetal growth and development.

Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate found in many supplements. It gets converted into the active form of folate — L-methylfolate — in the body.

It’s recommended that pregnant women take 600 ug of folate or folic acid per day to reduce the risk of neural tube defects and congenital abnormalities like cleft palate and heart defects.

In a review of five randomized studies including 6,105 women, supplementing with folic acid daily was associated with a reduced risk of neural tube defects. No negative side effects were noted.

Although adequate folate can be obtained through diet, many women don’t eat enough folate-rich foods, making supplementation necessary.

Additionally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that all women of childbearing age consume at least 400 mcg of folate or folic acid per day.

This is because many pregnancies are unplanned, and birth defects due to a folate deficiency can occur very early in pregnancy, even before most women know they’re pregnant.

It may be wise for pregnant women, especially those with an MTHFR genetic mutation, to choose a supplement that contains L-methylfolate to ensure maximum uptake.

3. Iron

The need for iron increases significantly during pregnancy, as maternal blood volume increases by nearly 50%.

Iron is critical for oxygen transport and healthy growth and development of the fetus and placenta.

In the United States, the prevalence of iron deficiency in pregnant women is around 18%, and 5% of these women are anemic.

Anemia during pregnancy has been associated with preterm delivery, maternal depression, and infant anemia.

The recommended intake of 27 mg iron per day can be met through most prenatal vitamins. However, pregnant women with iron deficiency or anemia need higher doses of iron, managed by their doctor.

Pregnant women who are not iron deficient should not take more than the recommended intake of iron to avoid adverse side effects. These may include constipation, vomiting, and abnormally high hemoglobin levels.

4. Vitamin D

This fat-soluble vitamin is important for immune function, bone health, and cell division.

Vitamin D deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk of cesarean section, preeclampsia, preterm birth, and gestational diabetes.

The current recommended intake of vitamin D during pregnancy is 600 IU per day. However, some experts suggest that vitamin D needs during pregnancy are much higher.

All pregnant women should speak with their doctor regarding screening for vitamin D deficiency and proper supplementation.

5. Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in your body. It plays critical roles in immune, muscle, and nerve function.

Deficiency in this mineral during pregnancy may increase the risk of chronic hypertension and premature labor.

Some studies suggest that supplementing with magnesium may reduce the risk of complications like fetal growth restriction and preterm birth.

6. Ginger

Ginger root is commonly used as a spice and herbal supplement.

In supplement form, it’s most commonly used to treat nausea caused by motion sickness, pregnancy, or chemotherapy.

A review of four studies suggested that ginger is both safe and effective for treating pregnancy-induced nausea and vomiting.

Nausea and vomiting are common during pregnancy, with up to 80% of women experiencing them in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Though ginger may help reduce this unpleasant pregnancy complication, more research is needed to identify the maximum safe dosage.

7. Fish oil

Fish oil contains docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), two essential fatty acids that are important for fetal brain development.

Supplementing with DHA and EPA in pregnancy might boost infant brain development and decrease maternal depression, though research on this topic is inconclusive.

Although observational studies have shown improved cognitive function in the children of women who supplemented with fish oil during pregnancy, several controlled studies have failed to show a consistent benefit.

For example, one study involving 2,399 women found no difference in the cognitive function of infants whose mothers had supplemented with fish oil capsules containing 800 mg of DHA per day during pregnancy, compared with infants whose mothers did not.

This study also found that supplementing with fish oil did not affect maternal depression.

However, the study found that supplementing with fish oil protected against preterm delivery, and some evidence suggests that fish oil may benefit fetal eye development.

Maternal DHA levels are important for proper fetal development and supplementing is considered safe. The jury is still out on whether taking fish oil during pregnancy is necessary.

To get DHA and EPA through diet, pregnant women are encouraged to consume two to three servings of low mercury fish like salmon, sardines, or pollock per week

8. Probiotics

Given increased general awareness of gut health, many moms-to-be turn to probiotics.

Probiotics are living microorganisms that are thought to benefit digestive health.

Many studies have shown that probiotics are safe to take during pregnancy, and no harmful side effects have been identified, aside from an extremely low risk of probiotic-induced infection.

Additionally, several studies have shown that supplementing with probiotics may reduce the risk of gestational diabetes, postpartum depression, and infant eczema and dermatitis.

Research on probiotic use in pregnancy is ongoing, and more about the role of probiotics in maternal and fetal health is sure to be discovered.

Supplements to avoid during pregnancy

While supplementing with some micronutrients and herbs is safe for pregnant women, many of them should be avoided.

1. Vitamin A

Although this vitamin is extremely important for fetal vision development and immune function, too much vitamin A can be harmful.

Given that vitamin A is fat-soluble, the body stores excess amounts in the liver.

This accumulation can have toxic effects on the body and lead to liver damage. It can even cause birth defects.

For example, excessive amounts of vitamin A during pregnancy has been shown to cause congenital birth defects.

Between prenatal vitamins and diet, pregnant women should be able to get enough vitamin A, and additional supplementation is not advised.

2. Vitamin E

This fat-soluble vitamin plays many important roles in the body and is involved in gene expression and immune function.

While vitamin E is very important for health, it’s recommended that pregnant women do not supplement with it.

Supplementing with vitamin E has not been shown to improve outcomes for either mothers or babies and may instead increase the risk of abdominal pain and premature rupture of the amniotic sack.

3. Black cohosh

A member of the buttercup family, black cohosh is a plant used for a variety of purposes, including controlling hot flashes and menstrual cramps.

It’s unsafe to take this herb during pregnancy, as it can cause uterine contractions, which could induce preterm labor.

Black cohosh has also been found to cause liver damage in some people.

4. Goldenseal

Goldenseal is a plant that’s used as a dietary supplement to treat respiratory infections and diarrhea, although there’s very little research on its effects and safety.

Goldenseal contains a substance called berberine, which has been shown to worsen jaundice in infants. It can lead to a condition called kernicterus, a rare type of brain damage that can be fatal.

For these reasons, pregnant women should avoid goldenseal.

5. Dong quai

Dong quai is a root that has been used for over 1,000 years and is popular in Chinese medicine.

Though it’s used to treat everything from menstrual cramps to high blood pressure, evidence regarding its efficacy and safety is lacking.

Pregnant women should avoid dong quai, as it may stimulate uterine contractions, raising the risk of miscarriage.

6. Yohimbe

Yohimbe is a supplement made from the bark of a tree native to Africa.

It’s used as an herbal remedy to treat a range of conditions from erectile dysfunction to obesity.

This herb should never be used during pregnancy, as it has been associated with dangerous side effects like high blood pressure, heart attacks, and seizures.

7. Other herbal supplements considered unsafe during pregnancy:
  • saw palmetto
  • tansy
  • red clover
  • angelica
  • yarrow
  • wormwood
  • blue cohosh
  • pennyroyal
  • ephedra
  • mugwort
The bottom line

Pregnancy is a time of growth and development, making health and nutrition a top priority.

While some supplements can be helpful during pregnancy, many can cause dangerous side effects in both pregnant women and their babies.

Importantly, while supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals may help fill nutritional gaps, supplements are not meant to replace a healthy diet and lifestyle.

Nourishing your body with nutrient-dense foods, as well as getting enough exercise and sleep and minimizing stress, is the best way to ensure a healthy pregnancy for you and your baby.

Although supplements can be necessary and helpful in certain circumstances, always check with your doctor regarding doses, safety, and potential risks and benefits.

Source: HealthLine

Type 2 diabetes is a chronic disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Uncontrolled cases can cause blindness, kidney failure, heart disease and other serious conditions.

Before diabetes is diagnosed, there is a period where blood sugar levels are high but not high enough to be diagnosed as diabetes. This is known as prediabetes.

It’s estimated that up to 70% of people with prediabetes go on to develop type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, progressing from prediabetes to diabetes isn’t inevitable.

Although there are certain factors you can’t change — such as your genes, age or past behaviors — there are many actions you can take to reduce the risk of diabetes.

Here are 13 ways to avoid getting diabetes.

1. Cut Sugar and Refined Carbs From Your Diet

Eating sugary foods and refined carbs can put at-risk individuals on the fast track to developing diabetes.

Your body rapidly breaks these foods down into small sugar molecules, which are absorbed into your bloodstream.

The resulting rise in blood sugar stimulates your pancreas to produce insulin, a hormone that helps sugar get out of the bloodstream and into your body’s cells.

In people with prediabetes, the body’s cells are resistant to insulin’s action, so sugar remains high in the blood. To compensate, the pancreas produces more insulin, attempting to bring blood sugar down to a healthy level.

Over time, this can lead to progressively higher blood sugar and insulin levels, until the condition eventually turns into type 2 diabetes.

Many studies have shown a link between the frequent consumption of sugar or refined carbs and the risk of diabetes. What’s more, replacing them with foods that have less of an effect on blood sugar may help reduce your risk.

A detailed analysis of 37 studies found that people with the highest intakes of fast-digesting carbs were 40% more likely to develop diabetes than those with the lowest intakes.

2. Work Out Regularly

Performing physical activity on a regular basis may help prevent diabetes.

Exercise increases the insulin sensitivity of your cells. So when you exercise, less insulin is required to keep your blood sugar levels under control.

One study in people with prediabetes found that moderate-intensity exercise increased insulin sensitivity by 51% and high-intensity exercise increased it by 85%. However, this effect only occurred on workout days.

Many types of physical activity have been shown to reduce insulin resistance and blood sugar in overweight, obese and prediabetic adults. These include aerobic exercise, high-intensity interval training and strength training.

Working out more frequently seems to lead to improvements in insulin response and function. One study in people at risk of diabetes found that burning more than 2,000 calories weekly via exercise was required to achieve these benefits.

Therefore, it’s best to choose physical activity that you enjoy, can engage in regularly and feel you can stick with long-term.

3. Drink Water as Your Primary Beverage

Water is by far the most natural beverage you can drink.

What’s more, sticking with water most of the time helps you avoid beverages that are high in sugar, preservatives and other questionable ingredients.

Sugary beverages like soda and punch have been linked to an increased risk of both type 2 diabetes and latent autoimmune diabetes of adults (LADA).

LADA is a form of type 1 diabetes that occurs in people over 18 years of age. Unlike the acute symptoms seen with type 1 diabetes in childhood, LADA develops slowly, requiring more treatment as the disease progresses.

One large observational study looked at the diabetes risk of 2,800 people.

Those who consumed more than two servings of sugar-sweetened beverages per day had a 99% increased risk of developing LADA and a 20% increased risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Researchers of one study on the effects of sweet drinks on diabetes stated that neither artificially sweetened beverages nor fruit juice were good beverages for diabetes prevention.

By contrast, consuming water may provide benefits. Some studies have found that increased water consumption may lead to better blood sugar control and insulin response.

One 24-week study showed that overweight adults who replaced diet sodas with water while following a weight loss program experienced a decrease in insulin resistance and lower fasting blood sugar and insulin levels.

4. Lose Weight If You’re Overweight or Obese

Although not everyone who develops type 2 diabetes is overweight or obese, the majority are.

What’s more, those with prediabetes tend to carry excess weight in their midsection and around abdominal organs like the liver. This is known as visceral fat.

Excess visceral fat promotes inflammation and insulin resistance, which significantly increase the risk of diabetes.

Although losing even a small amount of weight can help reduce this risk, studies show that the more you lose, the more benefits you’ll experience.

One study of more than 1,000 people with prediabetes found that for every kilogram (2.2 lbs) of weight participants lost, their risk of diabetes reduced by 16%, up to a maximum reduction of 96%.

There are many healthy options for losing weight, including low-carb, Mediterranean, paleo and vegetarian diets. However, choosing a way of eating you can stick with long-term is key to helping you maintain the weight loss.

One study found that obese people whose blood sugar and insulin levels decreased after losing weight experienced elevations in these values after gaining back all or a portion of the weight they lost.

5. Quit Smoking

Smoking has been shown to cause or contribute to many serious health conditions, including heart disease, emphysema and cancers of the lung, breast, prostate and digestive tract.

There’s also research linking smoking and second-hand smoke exposure to type 2 diabetes.

In an analysis of several studies totaling over one million people, smoking was found to increase the risk of diabetes by 44% in average smokers and 61% in people who smoked more than 20 cigarettes daily.

One study followed the risk of diabetes in middle-aged male smokers after they quit. After five years their risk had reduced by 13%, and after 20 years they had the same risk as people who had never smoked.

Researchers stated that even though many of the men gained weight after quitting, after several smoke-free years, their risk of diabetes was lower than if they’d continued smoking.

6. Follow a Very-Low-Carb Diet

Following a ketogenic or very-low-carb diet can help you avoid diabetes.

Although there are a number of ways of eating that promote weight loss, very-low-carb diets have strong evidence behind them.

They have consistently been shown to lower blood sugar and insulin levels, increase insulin sensitivity and reduce other diabetes risk factors.

In a 12-week study, prediabetic individuals consumed either a low-fat or low-carb diet. Blood sugar dropped by 12% and insulin dropped by 50% in the low-carb group.

In the low-fat group, meanwhile, blood sugar dropped by only 1% and insulin dropped by 19%. Thus, the low-carb diet had better results on both counts.

If you minimize your carb intake, your blood sugar levels won’t rise very much after you eat. Therefore, your body needs less insulin to maintain your blood sugar within healthy levels.

What’s more, very-low-carb or ketogenic diets may also reduce fasting blood sugar.

In a study of obese men with prediabetes who followed a ketogenic diet, average fasting blood sugar decreased from 118 to 92 mg/dl, which is within the normal range. Participants also lost weight and improved several other health markers.

7. Watch Portion Sizes

Whether or not you decide to follow a low-carb diet, it’s important to avoid large portions of food to reduce the risk of diabetes, especially if you are overweight.

Eating too much food at one time has been shown to cause higher blood sugar and insulin levels in people at risk of diabetes.

On the other hand, decreasing portion sizes may help prevent this type of response.

A two-year study in prediabetic men found that those who reduced food portion sizes and practiced other healthful nutrition behaviors had a 46% lower risk of developing diabetes than the men who made no lifestyle changes.

Another study looking at weight loss methods in people with prediabetes reported that the group practicing portion control lowered their blood sugar and insulin levels significantly after 12 weeks.

8. Avoid Sedentary Behaviors

It’s important to avoid being sedentary if you want to prevent diabetes.

If you get no or very little physical activity, and you sit during most of your day, then you lead a sedentary lifestyle.

Observational studies have shown a consistent link between sedentary behavior and the risk of diabetes.

A large analysis of 47 studies found that people who spent the highest amount of time per day engaged in sedentary behavior had a 91% increased risk of developing diabetes.

Changing sedentary behavior can be as simple as standing up from your desk and walking around for a few minutes every hour.

Unfortunately, it can be hard to reverse firmly entrenched habits.

One study gave young adults at risk of diabetes a 12-month program designed to change sedentary behavior. Sadly, after the program ended, the researchers found that participants hadn’t reduced how much time they sat.

Set realistic and achievable goals, such as standing while talking on the phone or taking the stairs instead of the elevator. Committing to these easy, concrete actions may be the best way to reverse sedentary tendencies.

9. Eat a High-Fiber Diet

Getting plenty of fiber is beneficial for gut health and weight management.

Studies in obese, elderly and prediabetic individuals have shown that it helps keep blood sugar and insulin levels low.

Fiber can be divided into two broad categories: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber absorbs water, whereas insoluble fiber does not.

In the digestive tract, soluble fiber and water form a gel that slows down the rate at which food is absorbed. This leads to a more gradual rise in blood sugar levels.

However, insoluble fiber has also been linked to reductions in blood sugar levels and a decreased risk of diabetes, although exactly how it works is not clear.

Most unprocessed plant foods contain fiber, although some have more than others. Check out this list of 22 high-fiber foods for many excellent sources of fiber.

10. Optimize Vitamin D Levels

Vitamin D is important for blood sugar control.

Indeed, studies have found that people who don’t get enough vitamin D, or whose blood levels are too low, have a greater risk of all types of diabetes.

Most health organizations recommend maintaining a vitamin D blood level of at least 30 ng/ml (75 nmol/l).

One study found that people with the highest blood levels of vitamin D were 43% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes than those with the lowest blood levels.

Another observational study looked at Finnish children who received supplements containing adequate levels of vitamin D.

Children who took the vitamin D supplements had a 78% lower risk of developing type 1 diabetes than children who received less than the recommended amount of vitamin D.

Controlled studies have shown that when people who are deficient take vitamin D supplements, the function of their insulin-producing cells improves, their blood sugar levels normalize and their risk of diabetes reduces significantly.

Good food sources of vitamin D include fatty fish and cod liver oil. In addition, sun exposure can increase vitamin D levels in the blood.

However, for many people, supplementing with 2,000–4,000 IU of vitamin D daily may be necessary to achieve and maintain optimal levels.

11. Minimize Your Intake of Processed Foods

One clear step you can take to improve your health is to minimize your consumption of processed foods.

They’re linked to all sorts of health problems, including heart disease, obesity and diabetes.

Studies suggest that cutting back on packaged foods that are high in vegetable oils, refined grains and additives may help reduce the risk of diabetes.

This may be partly due to the protective effects of whole foods like nuts, vegetables, fruits and other plant foods.

One study found that poor-quality diets that were high in processed foods increased the risk of diabetes by 30%. However, including nutritious whole foods helped reduce this risk.

12. Drink Coffee or Tea

Although water should be your primary beverage, research suggests that including coffee or tea in your diet may help you avoid diabetes.

Studies have reported that drinking coffee on a daily basis reduced the risk of type 2 diabetes by 8–54%, with the greatest effect generally seen in people with the highest consumption.

Another review of several studies that included caffeinated tea and coffee found similar results, with the largest risk reduction in women and overweight men.

Coffee and tea have antioxidants known as polyphenols that may help protect against diabetes.

In addition, green tea contains a unique antioxidant compound called epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) that has been shown to reduce blood sugar release from the liver and increase insulin sensitivity.

13. Consider Taking These Natural Herbs

There are a few herbs that may help increase insulin sensitivity and reduce the likelihood of diabetes progression.

Curcumin

Curcumin is a component of the bright gold spice turmeric, which is one of the main ingredients in curries.

It has strong anti-inflammatory properties and has been used in India for centuries as part of Ayurvedic medicine.

Research has shown it can be very effective against arthritis and may help reduce inflammatory markers in people with prediabetes.

There’s also impressive evidence that it may decrease insulin resistance and reduce the risk of diabetes progression.

In a controlled nine-month study of 240 prediabetic adults, among the group who took 750 mg of curcumin daily, no one developed diabetes. However, 16.4% of the control group did.

In addition, the curcumin group experienced an increase in insulin sensitivity and improved functioning of insulin-producing cells in the pancreas.

Berberine

Berberine is found in several herbs and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years.

Studies have shown that it fights inflammation and lowers cholesterol and other heart disease markers.

In addition, several studies in people with type 2 diabetes have found that berberine has strong blood-sugar-lowering properties.

In fact, a large analysis of 14 studies found that berberine is as effective at lowering blood sugar levels as metformin, one of the oldest and most widely used diabetes medications.

Because berberine works by increasing insulin sensitivity and reducing the release of sugar by the liver, it might theoretically help people with prediabetes avoid diabetes.

However, at this point there are no studies that have looked at this.

In addition, since its effects on blood sugar are so strong, it should not be used in conjunction with other diabetes medications unless authorized by a doctor.

The Bottom Line

You have control over many of the factors that influence diabetes.

Rather than viewing prediabetes as a stepping stone to diabetes, it may be helpful to see it as a motivator for making changes that can help reduce your risk.

Eating the right foods and adopting other lifestyle behaviors that promote healthy blood sugar and insulin levels will give you the best chance at avoiding diabetes.

Source: Healthline 

Information about dried fruit is very conflicting.

Some say it is a nutritious, healthy snack, while others claim it is no better than candy.

This is a detailed article about dried fruit and how it can affect your health.

What is Dried Fruit?

Dried fruit is fruit that has had almost all of the water content removed through drying methods.

The fruit shrinks during this process, leaving a small, energy-dense dried fruit.

Raisins are the most common type, followed by dates, prunes, figs and apricots.

Other varieties of dried fruit are also available, sometimes in candied form (sugar coated). These include mangoes, pineapples, cranberries, bananas and apples.

Dried fruit can be preserved for much longer than fresh fruit and can be a handy snack, particularly on long trips where refrigeration is not available.

Dried Fruit is Loaded With Micronutrients, Fiber and Antioxidants

Dried fruit is highly nutritious.

One piece of dried fruit contains about the same amount of nutrients as the fresh fruit, but condensed in a much smaller package.

By weight, dried fruit contains up to 3.5 times the fiber, vitamins and minerals of fresh fruit.

Therefore, one serving can provide a large percentage of the daily recommended intake of many vitamins and minerals, such as folate.

However, there are some exceptions. For example, the vitamin C content is significantly reduced when the fruit is dried.

Dried fruit generally contains a lot of fiber and is a great source of antioxidants, especially polyphenols.

Polyphenol antioxidants are associated with health benefits such as improved blood flow, better digestive health, decreased oxidative damage and reduced risk of many diseases.

Health Effects of Dried Fruit

Several studies have shown that people who eat dried fruit tend to weigh less and ingest more nutrients, compared to individuals not eating dried fruit.

However, these studies were observational in nature, so they can not prove that the dried fruit caused the improvements.

Dried fruit is also a good source of many plant compounds, including powerful antioxidants.

Raisins May Reduce the Risk of Certain Diseases

Raisins are dried grapes.

They are packed with fiber, potassium and various health-promoting plant compounds.

They have a low to medium glycemic index value, and a low insulin index.

This means that raisins should not cause major spikes in blood sugar or insulin levels after meals.

Studies show that eating raisins may:

  • Lower blood pressure.
  • Improve blood sugar control.
  • Decrease inflammatory markers and blood cholesterol.
  • Lead to increased feeling of fullness.

All of these factors should contribute to a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Prunes are Natural Laxatives and May Help Fight Diseases

Prunes are dried plums.

They are highly nutritious, being rich in fiber, potassium, beta-carotene (vitamin A) and vitamin K.

They are known for their natural laxative effects.

This is caused by their high content of fiber and a sugar alcohol called sorbitol, which is found naturally in some fruit.

Eating prunes has been shown to help improve stool frequency and consistency. Prunes are considered to be even more effective at relieving constipation than psyllium, which is another common remedy.

As a great source of antioxidants, prunes may inhibit the oxidation of LDL cholesterol and help prevent heart disease and cancer.

Prunes are also rich in a mineral called boron, which can help fight osteoporosis.

Furthermore, prunes are very filling and should not cause rapid spikes in blood sugar levels.

Dates May Benefit Pregnancy and Help Prevent Several Diseases

Dates are incredibly sweet. They are a great source of fiber, potassium, iron and several plant compounds.

Of all the dried fruit, they are one of the richest sources of antioxidants, contributing to reduced oxidative damage in the body.

Dates have a low glycemic index, which means that eating them should not cause major spikes in blood sugar levels.

Date consumption has also been studied in relation to pregnant women and labor.

Eating dates regularly during the last few weeks of pregnancy may help facilitate cervical dilation, as well as decrease the need for induced labor.

One study had women eat dates during the last few weeks of pregnancy. Only 4% of the date-eating women required induced labor, compared to 21% of those who did not consume dates.

Dates have also shown promising results in animal and test-tube studies as a remedy for infertility in males, but human studies are lacking at this point.

Dried Fruit is High in Natural Sugar and Calories

Fruit tend to contain significant amounts of natural sugars.

Because the water has been removed from dried fruit, this concentrates all the sugar and calories in a much smaller package.

For this reason, dried fruit is very high in calories and sugar, including both glucose and fructose.

Below are some examples of the natural sugar content of dried fruit.

  • Raisins: 59%.
  • Dates: 64–66%.
  • Prunes: 38%.
  • Apricots: 53%.
  • Figs: 48%.

About 22–51% of this sugar content is fructose. Eating a lot of fructose may have negative health effects. This includes increased risk of weight gain, type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

A small 1-ounce portion of raisins contains 84 calories, almost exclusively from sugar.

Because dried fruit is sweet and energy-dense, it is easy to eat large amounts at a time, which can result in excess sugar and calorie intake.

Avoid Dried Fruit with Added Sugar (Candied Fruit)

To make some dried fruit even more sweet and appealing, they are coated with added sugar or syrup before being dried.

Dried fruit with added sugar are also referred to as “candied” fruit.

Added sugar has repeatedly been shown to have harmful effects on health, increasing the risk of obesity, heart disease and even cancer.

To avoid dried fruit that contains added sugar, it is very important to read the ingredients and nutrition information found on the package.

Dried Fruit May Also Contain Sulfites, and May be Contaminated With Fungi and Toxins

Some producers add preservatives called sulfites to their dried fruit.

This makes the dried fruit look more appealing, because it preserves the fruit and prevents discoloration.

This applies mainly to brightly colored fruits, such as apricots and raisins.

Some individuals may be sensitive to sulfites, and may experience stomach cramps, skin rashes and asthma attacks after ingesting them. To avoid sulfites, choose dried fruit that is brown or grayish rather than brightly colored.

Dried fruit that is improperly stored and handled may also be contaminated with fungi, aflatoxins and other toxic compounds.

Take Home Message

Same as with many other foods, dried fruit have both good and bad aspects.

Dried fruit can boost your fiber and nutrient intake and supply your body with large amounts of antioxidants.

However, they are also high in sugar and calories, and can cause problems when eaten in excess.

For this reason, dried fruit should only be eaten in small amounts, preferably along with other nutritious foods.

They should not be eaten by the handful, because it is very easy to eat too many calories from dried fruit.

Also, they are a high-carb food, making them unsuitable on a low-carb diet.

At the end of the day, dried fruit is far from perfect, but it is certainly a much healthier and more nutritious snack than chips or other processed junk foods.

Source: HealthLine

 

Bananas are an incredibly popular fruit — and it’s no wonder why. They’re convenient, versatile, and a staple ingredient in many cuisines worldwide.

Though bananas are a healthy, nutrient-dense snack, eating too many could be detrimental.

This article explores how many bananas you should eat per day.

Bananas are highly nutritious

Bananas are as delicious as they are convenient, but their nutritional value is what really makes them shine.

They’re a good source of several essential nutrients, including manganese, potassium, and vitamins C and B6.

A medium-sized, fresh banana (118 grams) provides the following nutrients:

  • Calories: 105
  • Carbs: 27 grams
  • Fiber: 3 grams
  • Fat: 0.3 grams
  • Protein: 1 gram
  • Vitamin C: 17% of the Daily Value (DV)
  • Vitamin B6: 22% of the DV
  • Potassium: 12% of the DV
  • Manganese: 16% of the DV
  • Magnesium: 8% of the DV

Bananas also contain various plant compounds that may reduce stress, inflammation, and your risk of chronic diseases.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends eating at least five servings of fruits and vegetables per day. Adding bananas to your routine is a great way to boost your intake of whole fruit and promote your overall health.

Very low in protein and fat

The vast majority of the calories in bananas come from carbs. They only provide negligible amounts of protein and fat.

In fact, protein and fat combined make up less than 8% of the total calorie content of a banana.

Protein is a major structural component of your body, and it’s needed for proper immune function, tissue repair, muscle building, and bone health.

Meanwhile, fats provide energy, assist with the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, and play a role in hormone production and brain health.

Because bananas lack these vital nutrients, they don’t hold up well on their own as a nutritionally complete meal.

If a banana is your usual go-to snack, consider pairing it with a source of healthy fat and protein, such as peanut butter, a handful of walnuts, or a boiled egg, to make it more nutritionally balanced.

Too much of a good thing

Bananas are a healthy addition to almost any diet, but too much of any single food — including bananas — could do more harm than good.

Bananas are not typically considered a high-calorie food. However, if your banana habit is causing you to eat more calories than your body needs, it could lead to unhealthy weight gain.

Additionally, over 90% of the calories in bananas come from carbs

In unripe or green bananas, the main source of carbs comes from starch. As the fruit ripens, the starch converts to sugar. Thus, by the time your banana is ripe enough to eat, a large proportion of the calories may be coming from sugar.

Additionally, eating too many bananas may lead to nutrient deficiencies, especially if you’re not making room for foods that contain the nutrients bananas are lacking, such as protein, fat, calcium, vitamin D, and iron.

How many bananas should you eat?

Balance and variety are hallmarks of a healthy diet.

Your body is a complex system that requires many types of nutrients to function properly. The best way to ensure you’re getting everything your body needs is to eat an assortment of foods from each food group.

There is no specific number of bananas that automatically makes them good or bad. It really depends on your unique calorie and nutrient needs.

In theory, you could eat as many bananas as you want, as long as you’re not over-consuming calories, displacing other foods and nutrients that your body needs, or harming your health in other ways.

That said, one to two bananas per day would likely be considered a moderate intake for most healthy people.

Don’t forget to include a variety of other nutrient-dense fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and healthy fats.

The bottom line

Bananas are one of the most popular fruits in the world.

They’re full important nutrients, but eating too many could end up doing more harm than good.

Too much of any single food may contribute to weight gain and nutrient deficiencies.

One to two bananas per day is considered a moderate intake for most healthy people.

Be sure to eat this fruit as part of a balanced diet that provides all the nutrients your body needs.

 

Source: Healthline 

Ever wondered how you could explain explain Coronavirus to children?

Here is a great book that helps you do so.

This book was made by Nosy Crow to meet the needs of children and their families. was edited by by Elizabeth Jenner, Kate Wilson & Nia Roberts and illustrated by Axel Scheffler

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Wearing a face mask often helps people feel protected and reassured. But can a surgical face mask keep you from being exposed to or transmitting certain infectious diseases?

And, if face masks do shield you from infectious diseases, such as COVID-19, is there a proper way to put them on, take them off, and discard them? Keep reading to find out.

What is a surgical face mask?

A surgical mask is a loose-fitting, disposable mask that’s rectangular in shape. The mask has elastic bands or ties that can be looped behind your ears or tied behind your head to hold it in place. A metal strip may be present at the top of the mask and can be pinched to fit the mask around your nose.

A properly worn three-ply surgical mask may help block transmission of large-particle microorganisms from droplets, sprays, splatters, and splashes. The mask may also reduce the likelihood of hand-to-face contact.

The surgical mask’s three-ply layers work as follows:

  • The outer layer repels water, blood, and other body fluids.
  • The middle layer filters certain pathogens.
  • The inner layer absorbs moisture and sweat from exhaled air.

However, the edges of surgical masks don’t form a tight seal around your nose or mouth. Therefore, they can’t filter out small airborne particles such as those transmitted by coughing or sneezing.

When should you wear a face mask?

The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends using surgical masks only if you:

  • have a fever, cough, or other respiratory symptoms
  • are well but caring for someone with a respiratory illness — in this case, wear a mask when you’re within 6 feet or closer to the person who is ill

Although a surgical mask helps trap larger respiratory droplets, it can’t protect you from contracting the novel coronavirus, which is known as SARS-CoV-2. That’s because surgical masks:

  • don’t filter out smaller airborne particles
  • don’t fit snugly on your face, so airborne particles can leak in through the sides of the mask

Some studies have failed to show that surgical masks effectively prevent exposure to infectious diseases in community or public settings.

At present, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) doesn’t recommend that the general public wear surgical masks or N95 respirators to protect from respiratory illnesses like COVID-19. Healthcare providers and first responders need these supplies, and there’s currently a shortage of them.

However, in the case of COVID-19, the CDC does advise the general public to wear cloth face coverings to prevent the spread of the disease. The CDC also provides instructions on how to make your own.

How to put on a surgical mask

If you need to wear a surgical mask, take the following steps to put one on correctly.

Steps to putting on a face mask

  1. Before putting on the mask, wash your hands for at least 20 seconds with soap and water, or rub your hands together thoroughly with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
  2. Check for defects in the face mask, such as tears or broken loops.
  3. Position the colored side of the mask outward.
  4. If present, make sure the metallic strip is at the top of the mask and positioned against the bridge of your nose.
  5. If the mask has:
    • Ear loops: Hold the mask by both ear loops and place one loop over each ear.
    • Ties: Hold the mask by the upper strings. Tie the upper strings in a secure bow near the crown of your head. Tie the bottom strings securely in a bow near the nape of your neck.
    • Dual elastic bands: Pull the top band over your head and position it against the crown of your head. Pull the bottom band over your head and position it against the nape of your neck.
  6. Mold the bendable metallic upper strip to the shape of your nose by pinching and pressing down on it with your fingers.
  7. Pull the bottom of the mask over your mouth and chin.
  8. Be sure the mask fits snugly.
  9. Don’t touch the mask once in position.
  10. If the mask gets soiled or damp, replace it with a new one.

What not to do when wearing a surgical mask

Once the mask is positioned securely, there are certain precautions to keep in mind to ensure you don’t transfer pathogens to your face or hands.

Do not:

  • touch the mask once it’s secured on your face, as it might have pathogens on it
  • dangle the mask from one ear
  • hang the mask around your neck
  • crisscross the ties
  • reuse single-use masks

If you have to touch the face mask while you’re wearing it, wash your hands first. Be sure to also wash your hands afterward, or use hand sanitizer.

How to remove and discard a surgical mask

It’s important to remove the face mask correctly to ensure you don’t transfer any germs to your hands or face. You also want to make sure you discard the mask safely.

Steps to taking off a face mask

  1. Before you take off the mask, wash your hands well or use hand sanitizer.
  2. Avoid touching the mask itself, as it could be contaminated. Hold it by the loops, ties, or bands only.
  3. Carefully remove the mask from your face once you:
    • unhook both ear loops, or
    • untie the bottom bow first, followed by the top one, or
    • remove the bottom band first by lifting it over your head, then do the same with the top band
  4. Holding the mask loops, ties, or bands, discard the mask by placing it in a covered trash bin.
  5. After removing the mask, wash your hands thoroughly or use hand sanitizer.

What is an N95 respirator?

N95 respirators are form-fitted to the size and shape of your face. Because they fit your face more snugly, there’s less opportunity for airborne particles to leak in around the sides of the mask.

N95s can also filtrate small airborne particles more effectively.

The key to an effective N95 is to ensure that it fits your face correctly. Healthcare practitioners who provide direct patient care are fit-tested annually by a qualified professional to be sure their N95 fits them snugly.

A properly fitted N95 respirator usually filtrates pathogens in the air much better than a surgical mask. Respirators that have been carefully tested and certified to carry the N95 designation can block up to 95 percent of tiny (0.3 micron) test particles. But they also have their limitations.

However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) doesn’t recommend that the general public use N95 respirators to protect themselves from respiratory illnesses such as COVID-19. If worn without a snug fit, they can’t filter out small airborne particles that cause illnesses.

According to the FDA, the best way to prevent an infection is to avoid being exposed to the virus. It recommends practicing social distancing and frequent handwashing.

The results of a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis found no significant difference between N95 respirators and surgical masks when used by healthcare workers to prevent transmission of acute respiratory infections in clinical settings.

A recent 2019 randomized clinical trial published in the journal JAMA supported these findings.

What works best to limit infection?

If you have a respiratory illness, the best way to minimize transmission is to avoid other people. The same applies if you want to avoid contracting a virus.

To reduce your risk of transmitting the virus, or coming into contact with it, the WHO recommends the following:

  • Practice good hand hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water for at least 20 seconds at a time.
  • Use hand sanitizer that contains at least 60 percent alcohol if you don’t have access to soap and water.
  • Avoid touching your face, mouth, and eyes.
  • Keep a safe distance from others. The CDC recommends at least 6 feet.
  • Avoid public places until you recover fully.
  • Stay home and rest.

 The bottom line

Surgical masks may protect against larger airborne particles, while N95 respirators provide better protection against smaller particles.

Putting on and taking off these face masks correctly may help protect you and the health of those around you from transmitting or contracting pathogens.

Although face masks may help reduce the spread of some disease-causing organisms, evidence suggests that using face masks may not always protect you or others from exposure to certain pathogens.

Source: HealthLine