Nutrition doesn’t have to be complicated; sometimes, the introduction of just a few simple healthy foods can have hugely positive effects on general health and wellbeing as is evident from some of the nutritional studies published this week.

Find out more in this week’s Nutrition News.

Prunes supporting heart health

Issues relating to heart health are still among the top risk factors for mortality worldwide, so it is hugely important to consider the implications of diet on heart health. One recent study carried out by San Diego State University found that simply consuming prunes could help support heart health, raising antioxidant capacity and reducing inflammation among healthy, post-menopausal women.

The study, which was reported on in this article, found that eating 50g prunes, which equated to 5-6 prunes, daily for 6 months was associated with improved cardiovascular disease risk factors. The study’s authors also noted that eating prunes seemingly raised the levels of “good” cholesterol, HDL, which lowered the ratio of total cholesterol to HDL.

Speaking of the findings, Mark Kern, Ph.D., RD, CSSD, Professor of Nutrition at the School of Exercise and Nutritional Sciences at San Diego State University said, “Not only does this study show that prunes may be a good way to reduce inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity, it also suggests that eating prunes every day may improve cholesterol levels in postmenopausal women."

It is worth noting that the sample size of the study was just 48 participants and all were post-menopausal women, so further research would be required to better understand the role prunes could play in heart health amongst the general population but it gives solid foundations from which to investigate further.

Are canned beans healthy?

Canned beans are a convenient and tasty protein source that is suitable for a range of diets but, given that they are not fresh, are they healthy?

This article by Healthline addresses the main considerations of beans and their impact on our health. Canned beans are produced through a process or rehydrating, partially cooking and canning under high pressure and heat. As part of this process, additives, such as nitrates and nitrites, are used to preserve the beans and help the prevention of mould and bacteria growth. These additives are relatively harmless in small amounts but, in excess, can affect blood and oxygen flow in the body.

Despite some areas for consideration and caution, canned beans can be an affordable and healthy addition to the diet. They are a great source of protein and fibre, support gut health as they are a prebiotic and contain anti-inflammatory and anti-lipid properties. Beans are also a great source of essential nutrients, such as folate, which contributes to normal blood formation, normal amino acid synthesis and other vital functions, and potassium, which contributes to the normal function of the nervous system and normal muscle function.

All things considered, canned beans can be a very healthful addition to the diet and provide a number of essential nutrients, however, it is important to consume in moderation and take note of the ingredients when purchasing.

Switching from a western diet for healthy skin and joints

A balanced diet is known to support gut health but a recent study, covered by Science Daily, has explored the link between switching from a western diet to a balanced diet and its effects on skin and joint health. According to a study by the University of California Davis Health, a diet high in sugar and fats can lead to an imbalance of the gut’s microbial culture, which can result in inflammatory skin conditions and subsequent joint pain.

What researchers found most interesting from their study was that the negative inflammatory effects on joint and skin health were seemingly reversible when their test subjects switched to a balanced diet from one that was high in sugar and fat. Speaking of the findings, Zhenrui Shi, visiting assistant researcher in the UC Davis Department of Dermatology and lead author on the study said, “It was quite surprising that a simple diet modification of less sugar and fat may have significant effects on psoriasis”.

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Alison Astill-Smith author Alison is the 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.