Health & Fitness

Watercress filled with nutrients

By Michael Roizen M.D., and Mehmet Oz, M.D.

Hippocrates (the Greek father of medicine) opened his first hospital in 400 B.C. on the isle of Kos. Watercress was grown in the adjacent springs and was used to treat “blood disorders.” Ancient Persians made sure their armies had a daily serving, and in England the crustless watercress sandwich has been a hallmark of High Tea since ‘cress was first cultivated in the 1600s. But here in North America, watercress has been somewhat neglected, until recently, when news hit that it is packed – and we mean packed – with nutrients that fight diseases such as cancer, and are essential for loads of energy.

Turns out that, per calorie, watercress delivers the maximum amount of nutrients, earning what the Aggregate Nutrient Density Index considers a perfect 1,000. One cup of watercress contains 4 calories, but delivers 106 percent of your daily value for vitamin K, 21 percent of vitamin A; 24 percent of vitamin C; 4 percent of calcium; 3 percent of potassium; and a touch of several B vitamins, as well as manganese, copper, phosphorus and magnesium.

Although watercress grows wild in streams, it’s better to skip that potentially chemically polluted or parasite- or bacteria-bearing source. Stick with cultivated watercress grown in pure water. It can be enjoyed raw or cooked. So toss it in a salad, steam it in a stir-fry or add it to soups and casseroles. And serve it with tea on 100 percent whole-grain bread (trim the crust!) with a sprinkle of olive oil and thinly sliced cucumber.

Matters of the heart

In “Bonnie and Clyde,” when the dashingly handsome but sociopathic Clyde Barrow (Warren Beatty) confessed to Bonnie Parker (Faye Dunaway) that “I’m not much of a loverboy,” he didn’t have a clue that erectile dysfunction was an indicator of future heart disease.

A new study from Johns Hopkins’ Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease reveals that if you and your doctor think you’re heart-healthy (you’ve got no symptoms of heart disease) but you’ve got occasional ED, well ... take it as an early warning sign that you’re building up plaque in your cardiovascular system, and that’s why sometimes your arteries are all that’s stiffening. Trouble in your circulatory system that precedes heart disease – increased levels of calcified plaque in the coronary arteries and in the lining of your carotid artery – can increase the risk of ED by 53 percent.

But you don’t have to be a Clyde Barrow fugitive from a happy heart, physically or emotionally. If you’re “healthy” yet still find that you’re dealing with ED, make a pledge to get on a heart- and romance-saving regimen. That means you’ll say “so long” to the Five Food Felons (trans and sat fats, added sugars and syrups, and grains that aren’t 100 percent whole), get at least 30 minutes of additional physical activity a day (heading for 10,000 steps daily) and KO stress with meditation and enough sleep (seven to eight hours nightly).

Your reward (it was $1,500 for Clyde, dead or alive) will be a healthier heart and a much improved love life.

A kiss is not just a kiss

Opposites may attract if they’re magnets. But that’s not so true when it comes to kisses. Turns out that the appeal of a first kiss may have as much to do with familiar-to-you bacteria that live in your potential mate’s mouth (over 20 billion reside there) as how he or she looks or acts.

Researchers in the Netherlands recently discovered that repeated episodes of intimate kissing (full tongue contact and saliva exchange) can transfer more than 80 million bacteria from one person to another, and make couples’ oral biomes increasingly similar.

After a transfer, some bacteria come and go, but others stay for the long term, bonding the two mouths. That could partly explain why some couples enjoy kissing each other: They feel good about the way the other tastes, and their bacteria get along.

Other studies show that a first kiss is more likely to affect your feelings of attraction (or disinterest) toward a potential mate than other “information.” Perhaps it’s the bacteria you bring to the first kiss that affects your desire to keep on kissing, or not.

Clearly, the more that’s discovered about your microbiome – the bacteria in your intestine, your mouth and on your skin – the more important your choice of bacteria seems to be. So pucker up and see if a biome swap builds compatibility. Maybe you really are made for each other. Then you can enjoy all the benefits of a successful intimate relationship: reduced stress, lower blood pressure.

Fat chance you’ll remember this

Heart transplants save lives every day. Transformers save the world from destruction (in movieland). But trans fats? We agree with the lead author of a new study on trans fats and memory who points out that while they extend the shelf life of prepared foods, they reduce the shelf life of people.

Still found in everything from coffee creamers to frozen pizza dough, taking in these artificially made fats (liquid oil is hydrogenated, turning it into a solid) increases your risk for obesity, heart disease and diabetes. Plus, they damage your ability to recall information.

A University of California San Diego study found that the more trans fats men 45 and younger ate, the worse their memory was. And it doesn’t take much to do damage. Every additional gram (that’s just one-fifth of a teaspoon!) of trans fats in a guy’s diet measurably reduces his ability to recall words.

Although there were no women in the study, rest assured that these evil fats have a similar effect on the female brain. So, remember: Read the ingredients list on every package and make sure there are no trans fats (also listed as hydrogenated oils) of any kind. The nutrition label won’t give you the whole story. Listing zero trans fats doesn’t really mean ZERO (it says zero if there’s 0.5g or less per serving). Don’t want to read labels? Opt for fresh foods, prepared at home from scratch. Then your whole family will be able to say thanks for the great food memories.

Mehmet Oz, M.D. is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D. is Chief Wellness Officer and Chair of Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.