A Little Treat with A Big Taste

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How can a high-fat food be part of a healthy diet? When it’s a nut. Nuts have unsaturated fats that are high in calories but healthy for your heart. Today’s Health-e-Recipe for Almond Fig Bars was devised to give you maximum taste and nutrition in each bite so you’re satisfied without eating too many.

That’s a tall order, but the orange zest and almond extract give these chewy bars rich flavor, while the dried figs provide natural sweetness. The figs and whole-wheat flour provide more dietary fiber than you’d usually get in a small serving of most baked goods, while the almonds offer crunch, protein and vitamin E.

Although they are high in fat, almonds and other nuts are nutritious foods. The omega-3 fats in walnuts made headlines for possible cancer prevention. With nuts, just rein in your serving size. For almonds, 23 whole nuts equal a 1-ounce serving and have 163 calories and 14 grams of fat.

Chopped or slivered nuts can be toasted to bring out their flavor so you only need to add a small amount to a recipe: place a tablespoon-full in a dry skillet over medium-high heat and stir constantly for 2 minutes until they are fragrant and golden — then toss them into salad, cereal, smoothies, soups, whole grains and steamed vegetables. Test your nut knowledge by taking our quiz. Click here to subscribe to weekly Health-e-Recipes from AICR’s Test Kitchen.

From the AICR Research Conference: Dr. Michael Fenech on DNA Damage

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We caught up with the internationally renowned Dr. Michael Fenech of CSIRO Food and Nutrition Sciences in Adelaide, Australia, who presented at the 2010 AICR Research Conference during its opening plenary session.  His talk focused on the issue of DNA damage, which is a fundamental cause of many diseases and a key component in cancer development.  He reviewed data showing that many dietary nutrients interact with enzymes involved with DNA maintenance and repair, and laid out a roadmap that may ultimately lead to dietary guidelines for preventing DNA damage.

Dr. Fenech is highly regarded in the international research community for developing a means to measure DNA damage in human cells.

Our Billions of Microbes and Cancer Prevention

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It’s the closing session at the AICR Research Conference and this one is focusing on another hot topic: microbes – the healthy ones. Our bodies are teeming with bacteria (a.k.a. microbes) and a lot of them live in our gut, metabolizing the food into metabolites that go on to play a role in cancer prevention or development.

What microbes we have and metabolites we produce may be a strong predictor of health and cancer prevention, suggests research presented by the international panel of scientists.

Among the presentations, Dr. Johanna W. Lampe at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center discussing her research in soy. Studies now show that only some people carry the bacteria to metabolize a soy compound (daidzein) into equol, which is linked with cancer prevention. Asian In general, about 50 to 60 percent of Asian populations carry the bacteria to break down daidzein, compared to only 20 to 30 percent of Western populations. There’s a lot of questions in this area and definitely more to study, says Dr. Lampe.

Yet a person’s metabolites can change within days, depending upon the diet, said Dr. Wendy Russell from the University of Aberdeen in Scotland. In numerous studies, Dr. Russell looked at what happens to the microbes and gut’s metabolites when people ate different diets. For example, people who ate a diet high with soy as the protein source produced significantly more anti-inflammatory metabolites compared to people who ate a meat-protein diet.

There’s a lot of ongoing research in microbes, including studies from Harvard University’s Dr. Peter Turnbaugh’s lab suggesting our gut bacteria play a role in obesity. We’ll be writing more about the research presented at our 2010 Annual Research Conference so keep checking.

And if you participated or read about the conference, let us know what you think.