What we eat has a huge impact on our health but research in nutrition is ongoing, with new discoveries made every day. This week’s Nutrition News covers the latest studies and articles to be published highlighting the food sources that support processes within the body.

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Kale vs spinach – which is healthier?

While both spinach and kale are considered highly nutritious leafy greens, they do have some key variations in their nutritional profile.

Spinach and kale are often labeled as "superfoods" due to their abundance of nutrients, although there is no standardised definition for this term. Both greens are rich in fibre, which supports digestive health, heart health, and the immune system, as well as blood sugar regulation. However, kale contains slightly more fibre than spinach, as discussed by Verywell Health in their Spinach vs Kale Nutritional Comparison.

Vitamin K, essential for blood clotting and bone health, is found in both spinach and kale, with spinach offering a higher amount per cup. Vitamin C, an antioxidant important for supporting the body’s cells against the effects of free radicals and maintaining immune health, is present in both greens, with kale providing a greater quantity. Spinach, on the other hand, contains more vitamin A, which is beneficial as it supports immune function and eye health.

Calcium, necessary for bone and teeth health, can be obtained from both dairy and plant sources. Both spinach and kale provide calcium, with kale offering a higher amount. However, it is worth noting that spinach contains a compound called oxalate, which can affect calcium absorption.

Folate, a B vitamin crucial for supporting pregnancy and neural tube defect prevention, is found in both spinach and kale, although spinach contains a significantly higher amount.

In conclusion, both spinach and kale offer numerous health benefits and can be incorporated into a balanced diet in various ways. Whether raw or cooked, they provide valuable nutrients and can enhance the nutritional value of meals. The choice between spinach and kale ultimately comes down to personal preference and individual dietary needs.

The healthy fats to incorporate into your diet

Fats have somewhat of a negative reputation, but they are actually essential nutrients that play an important role in body in maintaining health, as argued in this Mindbodygreen article on healthy fats. Healthy fats are necessary for energy support, vitamin absorption, maintaining cell structure, hormone production, and providing insulation and protection for organs. It is recommended to consume 20% to 35% of total calorie intake from fats, which for a 2,000-calorie diet is around 45 to 75 grams per day.

Healthy fats, such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, are easier for the body to break down compared to saturated or trans fats. They have positive effects on heart health, cholesterol levels, and act as an anti-inflammatory. Sources of healthy fats include avocados, olive oil, nuts, seeds, fatty fish, eggs, full-fat yogurt, beans, ghee, and dark chocolate.

Omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are both essential, but the modern diet tends to have an imbalance favouring omega-6s due to food processing. Consuming enough omega-3s is important to balance out the inflammatory effects of excess omega-6s. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in fatty fish oils and have anti-inflammatory properties that support cognitive health and heart health.

It is crucial to avoid unhealthy fats such as trans fats and highly processed. Trans fats, found in products like margarine and shortening, pose a serious risk to heart health and highly processed fats like soybean oil, corn oil, and sunflower oil can increase inflammation in the body.

Moderation is key, and they can be part of a healthy balanced diet that is also rich in fruits and vegetables.

Overall, incorporating natural, nutritious sources of healthy fats into your diet is important for overall well-being.

Vitamin K for diabetes support

Researchers from the Université de Montréal and the Montreal Clinical Research Institute (IRCM) have made a significant breakthrough in the understanding of diabetes by identifying a new role for vitamin K and gamma-carboxylation in beta cells. This discovery, the first of its kind in 15 years of basic research, sheds light on the mechanisms underlying diabetes.

The study, discussed in this Medical Xpress article “New research reveals how vitamin K helps protect against diabetes”, explains how vitamin K contributes to the prevention of diabetes. While vitamin K is primarily known for its role in blood clotting, scientists suspected it may have additional functions, including its potential connection to diabetes. Previous studies had hinted at a link between reduced vitamin K intake and an increased risk of diabetes, but the precise biological mechanisms remained unclear until now.

The team, led by UdeM associate research professor Mathieu Ferron, discovered that the enzymes involved in gamma-carboxylation, a process facilitated by vitamin K, are abundant in pancreatic beta cells. These cells are responsible for producing insulin, which regulates blood sugar levels. Understanding the cellular mechanisms through which vitamin K maintains beta cell function was crucial to uncovering its role in diabetes support.

The researchers identified a novel gamma-carboxylated protein called ERGP, which plays a vital role in maintaining appropriate calcium levels in beta cells, thereby preventing disruptions in insulin secretion. They further demonstrated that vitamin K, through gamma-carboxylation, is essential for ERGP to fulfill its function. This discovery marks the first identification of a vitamin K-dependent protein in 15 years, paving the way for new avenues of research in this field.

The findings have significant implications for diabetes research. This breakthrough underscores the importance of continued exploration into the multifaceted functions of micronutrients and their potential in maintaining health.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is Director and Founder of Metabolics who writes about Metabolics updates, events and natural healthcare. Her experience and passion for natural supplements and healthcare comes from her years of experience as a practising osteopath, having founded Metabolics in her search for high quality, natural products in her own work. Alison has been a qualified and practising Osteopath since 1981 and regularly gives seminars on a range of healthcare subjects to the wider practitioner community helping share her knowledge and experience.