Healthy Eating

Vitamin D: What’s the “right” level?

Monique Tello, MD, MPH
Monique Tello, MD, MPH, Contributing Editor

Agreement on the adequate level of vitamin D is difficult to come by in the medical community, with respected organizations offering widely divergent guidelines on how much is enough for most people. All that said, most experts agree that doctors should be checking vitamin D levels in high-risk people — those most at risk for a true deficiency.

How much artificial trans fat is still in our food?

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

Although the FDA has mandated that trans fats must be removed from processed foods in 2018, many products still contain the fats. Because small amounts are not required to be listed on the Nutrition Facts label, consumers must read ingredient lists to find these fats. The trick to finding trans fats: read the ingredient lists on Nutrition Facts labels. If partially hydrogenated oil is among the ingredients, you’ll know the food contains trans fat, even if the label states that a serving has zero grams of trans fat.

Spice up your holidays with brain-healthy seasonings

Uma Naidoo, MD
Uma Naidoo, MD, Contributor

Spices and herbs have a long history as a safe component of human diets and traditional health practices. Aromatic ingredients that flavor our holiday meals also deliver antioxidants, anti-inflammatory agents, and other bioactive compounds that benefit the brain.

The 3 biggest feeding mistakes you can make with your preschooler

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

Instilling good eating habits in children is not easy, especially when they are young. It’s important for parents to set rules and limits around meals and snacks, and just as important to stick to them, which is the difficult part. It can take a many tries before a child figures out that healthy foods like kale, strawberries, or brown rice taste great.

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.