Each month, resident nutritionist TJ Waterfall rounds up the latest nutrition-related research. In the news this month: why cooking is good for the soul, why you need to eat more ginger, and how hemp can match steak when it comes to pound-for-pound protein power.

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

Chef’s kiss

New research has found that being confident in the kitchen is good for your mental health. The study found that a seven-week cooking course helped increase participants’ cooking confidence, and as a result they reported significant improvements in general health, mental health, and vitality. It’s likely due to a combination of the health benefits of home-cooked food, alongside an increased sense of satisfaction around cooking.

Frontiers in Nutrition 

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

20%

A large 30-year Harvard study of over 100,000 health professionals has found that eating avocado just twice a week slashes risk of heart disease by over 20%. Full of fibre, healthy monounsaturated fats, and an abundance of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, avocados are especially beneficial when used to replace other fat-rich foods like butter, cheese or processed meats. 

Journal of the American Heart Association

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

Root cause

Ginger has been unveiled as something of a miracle food. A large review of 109 clinical trials found regular consumption resulted in significant improvements in inflammation, metabolic measures, digestive function, obesity risk, and colorectal cancer markers.

Nutrients

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

11%

was the increase in dangerous visceral fat among study subjects who got insufficient sleep. Visceral fat is deposited deep inside the abdomen, around the internal organs, and is strongly linked to cardiac and metabolic diseases. In the study, even those with low body fat to begin with saw an 11% increase in this type of fat.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

Acid test

Think ‘omega-3’ and you might think of salmon, but a large research review has found that the major plant-based version of the nutrient, known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), can benefit heart health and reduce the risk of heart disease for those who don’t eat seafood. Intake of ALA from plant-food sources like walnuts, chia, and flaxseeds, was linked with a 20% reduced risk of fatal heart disease. Researchers also found that people who already have high intake of omega-3 from seafood still get extra benefits from eating these plant-based sources.

Advances in Nutrition

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

Fake news

Artificial sweeteners, like aspartame and acesulfame-K, help to reduce sugar content and calorie intake, so choosing diet versions of your favourite fizzy drinks might seem a no-brainer. However, according to new research from over 100,000 French adults, regularly consuming artificial sweeteners is associated with a 13% increased risk of cancer.

PLOS Medicine

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

See red

A new clinical trial has found that daily consumption of cranberries for one month improved cardiovascular function in healthy men. Those consuming just 9g of whole cranberry powder – equivalent to around 100g of fresh cranberries – saw significant improvements in heart and blood vessel function, thanks to the increase in health- and performance-boosting polyphenols and metabolites in the bloodstream.

Food & Function

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

11g

of protein is packed into just a few tablespoons of hemp, making it a pound-for-pound better protein source than beef. Hemp seeds are also a good source of inflammation-reducing omega-3 fats.

Nutrition News: Avocado Benefits, Hemp Protein & Kitchen Confidence | Men's Fitness UK

Plenty of protein

In a large study of over 12,000 adults, researchers found eating protein from a larger variety of sources – including whole grains and legumes – helped to lower the risk of developing high blood pressure by a huge 66%.

Journal of the American College of Cardiology