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Is Pho Healthy or Not? Will I Gain Weight If I Have It Often?

Is Pho Healthy or Not? Will I Gain Weight If I Have It Often?

A warm bowl of pho soup is everyone’s favorite these days. Made with a blend of broth, meat, rice noodles, and topped with vegetables, pho has it all from a nutritional standpoint. But there’s also talk about pho being unhealthy due to its high sodium content and that it was even fattening. Whether pho is good or bad for you depends on the specific recipe, your choice of condiments, and portion size.

Many of us tend to go overboard with our portion sizes when given a variety of options of meat, veggies etc.

Most of us have had their first bowl pho at our local Vietnamese restaurants where customers are given a variety of options of meat, veggies, serving size, and condiments. No wonder, so many of us tend to go overboard with our portion sizes with that much freedom available. You’ve probably asked yourself at one point is pho healthy and will it ruin your waistline?[1] This is especially true if you eat pho on an almost daily basis and feel guilty about it. Another thing that may make you feel weary about pho is that you don’t see this traditionally Vietnamese dish being recommended as a weight-loss and health promoting option. Instead, you are more likely to hear pho referred to as an unhealthy fast-food or street-food.

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Hearing talk of pho being one of those unhealthy restaurant meals can kill all the fun around this popular noodle soup. Well, we’re here to tell you that pho can be a big part of even the best diet plan if you eat it moderately and if you customize it wisely.[2] On the downside, many low-quality restaurant versions tend to be high in saturated fat and sodium, so this can get a bit tricky. Studies show that too much fat in your diet can lead to weight gain, a higher risk of diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.[3] Furthermore, too much sodium in your daily diet can cause hypertension and damage your heart, kidneys, and blood vessels.

Pho is healthy only when…

While pho may come with its downsides, you can customize this delicious Vietnamese dish to make it more healthful. Compared to other fast-food dishes, a small serving of pho is quite balanced in nutrients and pretty low in calories. For instance, an appetizer serving size of chicken pho contains only 162 calories.[4] Of this, 32% of the calories come from fat, 32% come from carbohydrates, and 36% of the calories in one cup of pho come from protein. On the other hand, a meal-sized portion of pho may provide up to 400 calories which are only 20% of the recommended daily intake of calories.

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As you can see, good quality pho isn’t the highly fattening fast food it was made up to be. This is especially true with pho that was made using traditional methods. Traditionally, pho was made by cooking beef bones or chicken for a very long time, and the excess fat at the top was removed. Restaurant versions may skip this last step, but high-end restaurants make it a priority to make their meals healthy and delicious. But other than providing you with a modest number of calories, pho is also great for meeting your vitamin and mineral needs. Pho is rich in vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron. Depending on how much veggies you like to include, you can also get plenty of fiber from your bowl of pho.

How to make your pho healthful

Enjoying pho and getting plenty of health benefits with it is possible is you make the right decisions. First, it is best to look for a Vietnamese restaurant serving traditional pho instead of the fast-food version. As we’ve already explained, some restaurants skip skimming the excess fat from their pho broth making for an unhealthier soup version. Secondly, when customizing your pho at your favorite restaurant, be careful no tot go overboard with certain ingredients. Too much rice noodles will cause a spike in your blood glucose and make a meal fattening. Similarly, adding more than your fair share of meat cuts to your bowl of pho will pack on the extra calories. Instead, be generous with vegetable topping when customizing your pho. Veggies like bean sprouts, jalapenos, and onions will control your blood glucose levels, and their fiber content will keep you feeling full.

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But other than customizing your pho bowl to suit your health-conscious lifestyle, why not play it safe and make a homemade version instead? While Pho is traditionally made over the course of one to two days, there are plenty pho recipes requiring just a fraction of that time. With homemade pho, you get to have more control over the amount of fat, protein, and carbs you consume with each portion. We suggest opting for homemade chicken pho because chicken is leaner than beef.

We also suggest being moderate with condiments like soy sauce and siracha sauce. While these sauces help make pho taste great, they are very high in sodium. Restaurant versions also tend to go overboard with the sodium in pho to make it more palatable. But as already explained, this practice can be dangerous for your overall health. Instead, add only a tiny bit of sauces and salt to your pho, just enough to remove any blandness. You can also be playful with your topping and add spring onions or broccoli even. Make sure to read about low-calorie foods and benefits of broccoli before making your homemade pho.[5]

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Whether or not pho is healthy varies greatly from one version to the other. Traditional pho served with skimmed broth, a moderate serving of noodles, a tiny bit of sauce, and a generous helping of veggies is nutritious and possibly healthy. On the other hand, fast-food versions packed in sodium and saturated fat may not be the best choice for a daily meal. To get around this problem, pho lovers can customize their bowls by adding more veggies, being skimpy with condiments, and adding noodles moderately.

Featured photo credit: KQED via google.com

Reference

[1] Healthy Dining Finder: What’s the Best Pho to Order?
[2] Consumer Health Digest: Best Diet Plan: 6 Ways to Choose an Effective Diet Plan
[3] Guldstrand, M. C., & Simberg, C. L.: High-fat diets: healthy or unhealthy?
[4] Fat Secret: Chicken pho
[5] Consumer Health Digest: List of Low Calorie Foods

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

12 Best Brain Foods That Improve Memory and Boost Brain Power

12 Best Brain Foods That Improve Memory and Boost Brain Power

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate:

15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

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B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

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It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and black tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here:

11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

More Resources About Boosting Brain Power

Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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