Healthy Eating

Why you should keep tabs on your drinking

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

During the holiday season it’s not difficult to overindulge and too much alcohol. There’s a well-established connection between binge drinking and atrial fibrillation or afib, an irregular heart rhythm that can increase the risk of a stroke. It’s known as holiday heart syndrome. A recent study suggests that even more moderate alcohol consumption may increase the risk.

Hot soup in a hurry

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Making your own soup is easier than you may think, and it’s certainly healthier than buying prepared soup from a restaurant or market. prepared soups often have too much fat and salt; by making it yourself, you can load it up with healthy vegetables. Add protein such as lentils or beans, fish, or extra-lean beef, turkey, or chicken for a complete meal.

There’s no sugar-coating it: All calories are not created equal

Celia Smoak Spell
Celia Smoak Spell, Assistant Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The view that calories are calories regardless of their source has been shown to be outdated. Foods with a low glycemic index are better because they tend to raise blood sugar more slowly, and they are also more likely to be healthier foods overall. By choosing the low-glycemic foods and thus the minimally processed foods, people can lose more weight, feel fuller longer, and remain healthier.

Water, water everywhere

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

It may be tempting to carry a water bottle everywhere you go so you can “stay hydrated.” Doctors may advise those taking certain medications or with certain health conditions, to drink more, but most people can get all the water their bodies need from the food they eat and by drinking water when thirsty.

To gluten or not to gluten?

Mallika Marshall, MD
Mallika Marshall, MD, Contributing Editor

Gluten is a serious problem for people with celiac disease, but there are many who simply feel that gluten free eating is healthier. The profusion of gluten-free foods makes it a lot easier to eat gluten free than it used to be but , they may contain more sugar and fat to make them taste better and you miss out on some nutrients by avoiding whole grains in your diet.

New study says that it’s safe to skip the spoon and let babies feed themselves

Claire McCarthy, MD
Claire McCarthy, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

A study suggests that a new approach to baby-led weaning is safe and has some benefits. With parent supervision, babies can feed themselves solids without a spoon — foods that they can pick up and get into their mouths, but that are also low risk for choking. Benefits of this approach include babies starting solids when they’re ready rather than when parents are ready and babies learn early to be in charge of what and how much they eat.

“Double dipping” your chip: Dangerous or just…icky?

Robert H. Shmerling, MD
Robert H. Shmerling, MD, Faculty Editor, Harvard Health Publications

The idea of double dipping became a mainstream public worry because of an episode of Seinfeld, bringing up the idea that double dipping might be grosser than we originally thought it was. Although it originally started as a playful debate, double dipping does raise questions about the spread of bacteria, and believe it or not, research has tried to address these questions.

Are fresh juice drinks as healthy as they seem?

Beverly Merz
Beverly Merz, Executive Editor, Harvard Women's Health Watch

For people on the go, it’s easy to turn to a fruit juice or a smoothie when you don’t have time to sit and eat a full meal, especially when this seems like a healthy option. There are definite benefits to this decision. After all, cold pressed juices and smoothies are often served fresh, and they contain most of the vitamins and minerals from the pressed fruit. However these fruity drinks can also raise blood sugar levels and pack on the calories, even if they are made with healthy ingredients.

Summer is the perfect time to fine tune your diet

Katherine D. McManus, MS, RD

If you’re feeling down about not sticking to your New Year’s Resolution to eat better, don’t fret! Summer is the perfect time to kick start your new eating routine. It’s important to establish an eating pattern and stay with it. Eating vegetables, fruits, whole grains, nuts, and seeds are some great ways to eat healthfully. These tips can help you eat swap the sugar for fruit and the red meat for lean protein.

For the good of your heart: Keep holding the salt

Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD
Naomi D. L. Fisher, MD, Contributor

A recently published study claimed that people who ate a low sodium diet were more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease and death. However, there were problems with this study – including difficulty with accurately measuring each study volunteer’s daily intake of sodium. Low sodium diets may be harmful for small subsets of people, but for the majority of people restricting salt intake is still important for cardiovascular health.