Healthy Eating

Your brain on chocolate

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

When research finds a connection between consumption of high-flavanol dark chocolate and improved brain function, it’s tempting to interpret it as permission to eat a lot of chocolate, but the truth isn’t quite so simple.

The best place to launch a healthy lifestyle? Your kitchen

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

Consuming more meals at home is a smart step toward healthier eating and all the benefits that brings, and preparing healthy meals is not as much of a challenge as it may seem.

Easy hacks to understand new terms on food labels

Heidi Godman
Heidi Godman, Executive Editor, Harvard Health Letter

As the variety of foods available in supermarkets has grown, new terminology has also proliferated. Definitions of food terms vary depending on the farm, manufacturer, and federal or state rules, but this guide offers quick explanations of common food terms, along with some context for why certain types of food may or may not be worth buying.

Does drinking diet soda raise the risk of a stroke?

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

While a study suggests that people who drink a diet soda or more per day may be at higher risk for stroke, there are other factors that could account for these results. Regardless, it’s wise to limit any food with artificial sweetener.

Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you?

Marcelo Campos, MD
Marcelo Campos, MD, Contributor

While there may be valid reasons to follow a ketogenic diet in the short term (weight loss, blood sugar control), it’s difficult to maintain and could cause other health issues.

This is your brain on alcohol

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

Moderate drinking may have negative long-term effects on the brain’s health, but as yet the research is inconclusive, and must be weighed alongside the evidence that moderate alcohol consumption benefits the heart. If you’re a moderate or light drinker trying to decide whether to cut back for health reasons, you probably want to consider a variety of factors.

How to get people to eat more vegetables: Change how you describe them

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

Researchers tested the appeal of vegetables by using different types of labels to describe them in a college cafeteria setting. They found that more evocative and colorful descriptions encouraged greater consumption than ones that highlighted the nutritional aspects.

Lifestyle change: “I know what to do, I just need to do it…but how?”

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

Despite willpower, many people find that making significant lifestyle changes is very difficult. Factors both internal and external influence our ability to make changes, but being aware of them is the first step to overcoming them.

Sticking to a low-salt diet when eating out

Julie Corliss
Julie Corliss, Executive Editor, Harvard Heart Letter

People concerned about sodium intake should be careful when dining out, as many restaurant meals are loaded with salt, and it’s not just the fast-food places that are guilty of this.

Could artificial sweeteners be bad for your brain?

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

While diet soda and other types of artificially sweetened drinks may not have calories, research is suggesting that those who drink them regularly may be at higher risk for stroke or dementia.