Sunday, October 15, 2017

Common Nutrition Myths

So much misinformation is out there about nutrition.  At a recent book signing, I was in line to get some of the delicious treats that were being served.  The lady in front of me told her friend that she was trying to lose weight.  “I am cutting out the carbs, but you can’t cut out all your carbs,” she stated as she looked at all the table laden with delicious cookies and cakes.  Cutting back on carbs to lose weight is a common nutrition myth.  Yes, cut back on those added sugars and refined carbs like white bread, but keep the whole grains, fruits, and vegetables in your day.  My daughter shared with me some common nutrition myths that were posted on Snapchat.  Let’s look at 2 of those nutrition myths this week and more next week.  

1.   Nutrition Myth:  Ordering only egg-white omelets
In a nutrition course I teach, a mother indicated she served her children only egg whites and never the egg yolk.  When I asked why?  She said the egg yolk is bad for you.  Egg yolks are actually loaded with nutrition.  The entire egg has only 70 calories and provides a high-quality protein that actually helps stabilize your blood sugar levels.  According to Harvard, “an egg a day does not increase your risk of a heart attack…”  Researchers have found saturated fat is more linked to heart disease risk than dietary cholesterol.  The yellow color of eggs yolks is due to the carotenoids, lutein and zeaxanthin which are good for eye health by lowering the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.  Yolks contain choline for our brains and heart health. Egg yolks provide a good amount of vitamin A (270 IU) and vitamin D (41 IU).  Egg yolks are one of the few foods that provide vitamin D in our diets.  Yolks provide the mineral selenium that helps our immune function and iron for our red blood cells.  Yes, the yolk also has the cholesterol but the American Heart Association indicates we can now eat eggs once again.  


2.   Nutrition Myth:  Gluten Free and Cutting the Carbs

Cutting carbs to lose weight is a long-standing nutrition myth.  Never have I heard an overweight person say, “I want to lose a few pounds so I am cutting back on fat in my diet.”  Or, “I want to lose a few pounds so I am cutting back on the added sugars in my diet.”  If you want to “cut the carbs” cut the unhealthy carbs, the added sugar carbs in soda, in the fruit drinks like Sunny D, in cereals like Froot Loops that has sugar as the first ingredient.  But don’t cut the whole grain cereals, the whole grain bread, the baked sweet potato.  Carbs are the major energy source for our bodies.  Cut your carbs and you could end up feeling tired.  Fuel up with carbs, but healthy carbs.  By choosing the fruits, vegetables, whole grains you add many nutrients, folate, many B vitamins (needed for energy production) and much needed fiber to your day.
Going Gluten Free – one can hardly pick up a food package in the grocery store without reading “gluten-free”.  Another food craze not based on nutrition.  Yes, there are people who have to adhere to a gluten-free diet, those with celiac disease or Crohn’s.  But as the November 2017 issue of Consumer Reports states, “A gluten-free diet isn’t necessarily a healthy diet.”  They also warn, “For most people, eating less gluten may be risky.”  Gluten is found in the grains, wheat, barley, and rye.  According to Consumer Reports, about a third of us are buying gluten-free products.  Most do so thinking “gluten-free” means healthier.  But if you don’t have a medical condition like celiac disease, there is no reason to be “gluten-free”.  A British study found that those who avoided gluten in their diet, also had less whole grains and less of the many nutrients and fiber whole grains provide. A surprising finding is those who go “gluten-free” may be adding more arsenic or mercury to their day.  Consumer Reports notes, “A recent study published in the journal Epidemiology showed that people who were on gluten-free diet had up to twice the amount of arsenic and 70 percent more mercury in their systems than people who were not.”   Alarming that people trying to eat healthier by going “gluten-free” could be eating to the detriment of their overall health.  Why more arsenic and mercury if you go gluten-free? Because many of those gluten-free crackers, cereals, pastas are made with rice flour and rice can have “worrying amounts of arsenic”.  The Chief Medical Advisor at Consumer Reports sums it up by saying, “The bottom line is that by eliminating gluten from your diet unnecessarily, you are missing out on some important aspects of nutrition.” 

Recommendations:

1.      Enjoy some eggs in your diet and the whole egg.  If you are worried about cholesterol levels, then limit your egg consumption to one egg a day.  A 2016 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating one egg a day was not associated with an increase in heart risks. That's on top of a 2003 study published in the British Medical Journal, which tracked 115,000 adults for 14 years: researchers found eating one egg daily was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease and stroke. I enjoy 2-3 eggs at a time, scrambled, hard-boiled, but I don’t eat eggs every day.  But when I do eat eggs, I eat the whole egg to get all the nutrients.

2.       Add some whole grains to your day – so important for good health.  At least half the grains you eat each day should be whole grains.  Even those with celiac disease can add whole grains by adding Quinoa, Amaranth and other whole grains to their day. Whole grains are full of vitamins and minerals and have fiber to fill you up.  Fiber helps lower one’s risk of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and helps with weight loss as it fills you up at meals. 




Sunday, October 8, 2017

Breakfast habits and your waistline

What are the worst breakfast foods and habits for your waistline?  MSN lists 37 of them in their article 37 Worst Breakfast Habits for Your Waistline.  We won’t review all 37 but let’s review some of them and add some other ideas for a healthy breakfast.  In the article they mentioned a book that actually focuses on breakfasts and belly fat, called Zero Belly Breakfasts.  
  
1.   Eat Breakfast – so many people skip breakfast thinking that is a good way to cut calories.  But then by 10 AM they are hitting the snack machines because they are hungry.  So eat breakfast every day.  The National Weight Control Registry  notes that 78% of people who lost weight and kept it off, ate breakfast every day.   

2.   Focus on Protein – To lose weight and keep it off, a lot of research has shown that adding protein to your breakfast can help keep weight off.  Why?  Because protein has “staying power” it stays with you longer so you aren’t so hungry mid-morning.  The National Weight Control Registry found that 80% of people who successfully lost weight and kept it off, ate a high protein breakfast.  Protein also doesn’t spike your blood sugar and helps keep your blood sugar levels stable for up to 3 hours after breakfast.  Eat This, Not That! Has some suggestions for high-protein breakfasts:
a.       Eggs – a great high-quality protein to start your day with.  Make some egg frittata muffins and freeze them to enjoy at breakfast.  My sister makes up a batch of 12 frittatas.  And then saps them in the microwave to have a hot frittata for breakfast.  They are also good to bring to work and put in a microwave to sap a frittata or two hot for lunch. Or, enjoy some scrambled eggs made with milk.

Scrambled eggs made with milk

b.       Low fat Yogurt – also a high-quality protein and a good way to add calcium, vitamin D and probiotics to your day. Greek yogurt has more protein but regular yogurt has more calcium per serving.
Yogurt
 c.       Peanut Butter – put some peanut butter on a whole grain English muffin or whole grain bagel.
d.       Low fat cottage cheese – so many people seem to have forgotten about cottage cheese. Add some frozen or fresh berries, add some cinnamon.  
Cottage Cheese with fresh fruit
e.       Low Fat or Skim Milk – a glass of skim mill has only 90 calories and provides 8 grams of high quality protein.
3.   Black Coffee is good, coffee loaded with creamers and sugar, not so good.  If you want to add something to your coffee, skip the creamers and choose some almond milk, soy milk, or low-fat milk.  My older daughter adds 2% low-fat milk to her morning coffee.  This is one way she adds milk to her day and adds calcium, protein and vitamin D to her day. 

4.    Energy drinks – not the best choice to start your day.  One would think energy drinks would energize you for the day.  But many energy drinks are loaded with sugar.  Drink the coffee, have some hot tea but skip the energy drinks. 

5.   Skip the Fast Food Breakfast or choose some healthier options.  Who doesn’t enjoy an Egg McMuffin for breakfast?  A nice treat but enjoying fast food for breakfast several times a week can add a lot of extra calories.  If you are going out for fast food breakfasts, check out Best & Worst Breakfast Sandwiches.  The Egg McMuffin is a better choice at 300 calories. And it provides a good amount of protein.  Subway offers a good Egg & Cheese sandwich at 360 calories.  Choose the whole grain bread to boost the nutritional value.  Panera offers a Breakfast Power Sandwich on Whole Grain bread.  About 340 calories.  Dunkin Donuts offers something besides the morning donut.  Choose the Ham, Egg, and Cheese on an English Muffin for 280 calories.

Enjoy breakfast this week.  Whether eating at home or out, add some protein to your breakfast.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Breakfast in a hurry

Breakfast – the most important meal of the day.  But what if you have no time, running late?  Do you need to grab something as you go out the door?  Are there any breakfast bars you should keep stocked in your pantry to “grab and go”?  The October issue of Environmental Nutrition reviewed numerous “Breakfast in a Bar” for nutritional quality.  I take these bars with me for a quick “snack” during the day.  Or when on a trip, if we are going to a late lunch, I snack on one of these bars to get me to lunch time. 
What to look for when choosing a breakfast bar:
  1. Fiber – look for at least 3 grams of fiber.
  2. Protein – look for at least 4 grams of protein.
  3. Sugar – no more than 11 grams of sugar.  Sugar has 4 calories a gram so 11 grams of sugar would be 44 calories.
  4. First ingredient:  look for whole grain (e.g. oatmeal), fruit or nuts as the first ingredient.  If 1st ingredient is sugar, skip it.

Healthy Breakfast bars
  •  Healthy choices for breakfast bars can contribute fruit, whole grains, nuts or seeds to your day.  If these are the first ingredients in the breakfast, you are adding nutrients to your day.
  • Add some protein with the breakfast bar – some yogurt, a glass of milk.  Protein has “staying power” and you won’t be as hungry later in the morning. Or, the article suggests spreading your breakfast bar with some nut butter:  peanut butter, almond butter.
  • Add some 100% juice – not a complete breakfast but a breakfast bar and juice will give you some quick energy and more nutrients than a bar alone.

Some Top Rated Breakfast Bars (adapter from Breakfast in a Bar, for a full list go to this link).
Calories
Total Fat (g)
Protein (g)
Carbs (g)
Sugars (g)
Fiber  (g)
Clif Bar Nut Butter Filled, Organic Banana Choc., PB
230
10
7
27
11
3
Kind Breakfast Bars, Maple Cinnamon (2)
210
9
8
26
10
4
Kind Breakfast Bars, PB (2)
230
11
5
28
8
5
LaraBar Nut&Seed Crunchy Bar, Dark Choc. Almond
200
15
5
13
7
4
LaraBar Nut& Seed Crunchy Bar, Almond Cranberry
190
14
5
14
8
4
LaraBar Nut& Seed Crunchy Bar, Maple Cinnamon
200
16
5
12
6
4
Nature Valley Biscuits, Honey (4)
230
9
4
34
11
4
Nature Valley Biscuits, Lemon Poppy Seed
230
9
4
33
10
4

Not in the mood for a bar?  Quaker has a number of grab and go choices that you can eat for breakfast, as a snack or before you work out for an energy boost.  The first ingredients of the Quaker Breakfast Square, Peanut Butter flavor is whole grain rolled oats, and peanut spread.  There is no high fructose corn syrup and each square provides 23 grams of whole grains per serving.  So, a good way to add some whole grains to your day.   The Baked Apple Cinnamon has a little more sugar and less protein but would contribute whole grains to your day.  So many Americans are lacking whole grains, this would be a way towards the goal of half your grains should be whole grains.  And a good way to add some fiber to your day.
Breakfast “Grab and Go” from Quaker
Calories
Total Fat (g)
Protein (g)
Carbs (g)
Sugars (g)
Fiber  (g)
250
10
6
35
11
6
210
4.5
3
41
13
5

No time for a real breakfast, then stock your pantry with some breakfast bars or breakfast squares.  Want to bring healthier snack to work and avoid the 3 PM vending machine blues?  Bring one of these bars/squares with you.  Need a snack before a game after school?  Buy some 100% juice and eat one of these bars for a healthier snack.    


Sources:  Breakfast in a Bar, Quaker   Image Source:  Clif, Quaker, LaraBar

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Boost Your Brain Power


Can you eat to improve your memory?  Apparently so.  A recent article in CommonHealth describes how one can eat to essentially clog up those brain pathways or how one can eat to unclog your brain and improve your memory.  Another article reviews 15 foods to eat for a healthy brain. 
What food clog up your brain?
We all know that eating high fat foods, especially those high in saturated fat, can clog up your arteries and are not good for your heart.  Another fat, trans fat, is especially bad as it builds up in our blood vessels and damages them.  So those French fries loaded with fat and foods high in saturated fat like bacon, are not only not good for your heart, they might not be good for your brain.
The Diets high in cholesterol and fat might speed up the formation of beta-amyloid plaques in the brain.  These sticky protein clusters are blamed for much of the damage that occurs in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s.
Recommendation 1 for a healthy brain – cut back on foods high in saturated fats.  Read the label to see how many grams of saturated fat are in the food.  Eating at a fast food restaurant?  Look online at their menu and nutrition information and choose menu items with less saturated fat. 
  •  Choose the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the fried chicken sandwich
  • Choose fruit instead of French fries or at least get the smaller fries
  • Choose Lay’s chips as they have a heart healthy oil. Choose the Sun Chips to get some whole grain
Recommendation 2:  Choose foods for a healthier brain to boost brain power
What foods are good for brain health?

Unclog your brain and keep it unclogged by eating healthier fats.  Choosing monounsaturated fats like Olive Oil and Canola Oil and Polyunsaturated fats like Corn oil and Safflower oil are good for brain health. 
Canola oil – high in monounsaturated fats at 63% and very low in saturated fats at only 7%.  This oil also has a good amount of omega-3 fats which are good for your heart and brain.  An interesting fact is that canola oil contains “phytosterols” which actually help reduce how much cholesterol your body absorbs.
Canola Oil
Olive Oil very high in monounsaturated fats at 73%. Low in saturated fats at 13.8%.  Olive oil is a good source of vitamin E and K. Olive oil also provides antioxidants which are anti-inflammatory.   

Other healthy fats:  besides the plant oils other healthy fat foods:
  • Walnuts, almonds, pistachios – I add some chopped walnuts to my oatmeal or other cereal every morning.
  • Flax seeds
  •  Fish- salmon and canned tuna are especially healthy because of the omega – 3 fats.  CommonHealth recommends salmon to “keep your brain running smoothly – goodbye brain fog”. 
  •  Avocados – these used to be on the “no” list as they are high in fat.  But now they are on the “enjoy” list as avocados are loaded with monounsaturated fats good for heart and brain health.   Avocados provide vitamins K and folate which helps protect against blood clots and improves brain function in terms of memory and your concentration.   Enjoy that avocado dip and use some whole grain chips for dipping. 
 
What “diet” is good for brain health?
The Mediterranean Diet is not really a diet to lose weight but an eating pattern for a healthier you.  Eating the Mediterranean way promotes heart heatlh and brain health.  Improve the health of your blood vessels by eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish and olive oil.
  • Blueberries definitely brain food.  My husband tries to eat some blueberries every day.  Rich in those good for you antioxidants and high in vitamins C and K and a good source of fiber.  Blueberries have a substance called “gallic acid” that promotes brain health by protecting your brain from degeneration and stress.
  • Dark Chocolate – who doesn’t like chocolate?  Chocolate provides “flavonols” a good for you and your brain antioxidant.  (Have you noticed there are many, many antioxidants in foods and eating a variety of foods provides you with different antioxidants.)  This antioxidant helps improve blood flow to heart and to your brain and helps lower your blood pressure. Looking for some Hershey chocolate?  Choose the dark chocolate to get the health benefits.
  • Green Leafy Vegetables – yes, that Kale salad is good for your health.  Or choose Swiss chard, Romaine lettuce, spinach.  Eating from a salad bar?  Skip the iceberg lettuce and load up on the spinach or darker salad greens.  The darker the green, the more vitamin A and vitamin K it provides. 
To read more about healthy “brain foods” see the CommonHealth article at: 15 Best Foods for your Brain.


Sunday, September 17, 2017

Growing Waist Size in America

America is growing, not just in terms of population but also in size.  The Editorial in our local paper reads:  Obesity rates remain a national concern.  As the editorial notes, too many Americans are getting bigger.  Trust for Americas’ Health released their 2017 Obesity report.  The report found that, “far too many Americans, both adult and children, are significantly overweight to the extent that it jeopardizes their overall health and well-being.”  

States vary a lot in the number of adults who are overweight or obese.  West Virginia leads the nation as 37.7% of the adults in West Virginia are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or greater. The state with the lowest rate of obese adults was Colorado at 22.3%.  If you are interested in your state, visit Adult Obesity Rate by State, 2016.  Some states and their rankings are noted below:

States
% Obese Adults (BMI 30+)
District of Columbia, Hawaii, Massachusetts, and Colorado
20-24.9%
Minnesota, Oregon, Washington, South Dakota, Virginia
25-29.9%
Nebraska, North Dakota, Iowa, Texas, Wisconsin
30-34.9%
Alabama, Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana
                  35%+

But there is good news.  In the last two years, five states have shown a reduction in the number of adults who are obese.  

The editorial noted that it is easier to prevent obesity than it is to lose the weight after the fact.  In college, my nutrition professor was Mrs. Osborne.  She went to a convention for a week, came back to class and said she had gained five pounds at the convention.  Lots of sitting and lots of good food to eat.  But, she then said, “and now I will lose the five pounds.  No apple pie for dessert for a while.”  Rather than let the five pounds lead to more weight gain over time, she dealt with the five pounds soon after she had gained the weight.  A few weeks later she announced to the class that she had lost those five pounds.  

The Trust for America’s Health found some disturbing facts about how teenagers eat.
  •  5.2% of high school students surveyed said they had not eaten any fruit or 100% juice in the week before the survey.
  • 6.7% said they had not eaten a vegetable in the week prior to the survey
  • 14% did not eat breakfast

Eating healthier is a common theme among my students and people I talk to.  Yet, there is a lot of confusion about what eating healthier means.  The Dietary Guidelines have some recommendations for “eating healthier”.
  • Limit calories from added sugars – soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.  Look at the ingredients of the beverage you are drinking.  Is it 100% juice or a juice drink which can be loaded with added sugar.
  • Make at least half the grains in your diet, whole grains



  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy – milk, yogurt, cheese, fortified soy beverages.  Or as noted in last week’s blog, enjoy some whole milk yogurt as the saturated fat from dairy may not be bad for your health.
  • Eat fruits and vegetables, especially whole fruits.  Aim for at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day.
  • Oils – look for monounsaturated fats like Olive Oil or polyunsaturated oils like canola, corn, safflower, sunflower oil. And when choosing a cooking spray, choose one made from one of these oils.

Physical Activity – not surprising is how physically inactive many Americans are.  CDC looked at adults 50 years and older and found a low percentage of adults who are involved in physical activity.  Trust for America’s Health reports 80% of American adults do not meet the government’s national physical activity recommendations for aerobic activity and muscle strengthening.  About 45% of adults are not sufficiently active to achieve health benefits.  Not surprisingly, the states who have the most physically inactive adults are also the states with higher rates of obesity. On a positive note, more people are becoming physically active 32 states.

Physical Activity GuidelinesThe Dietary Guidelines on Physical Activity states:  Regular physical activity is one of the most important things individuals can do to improve their health.   How much physical activity is recommended?
  • Children 6-17 years – 60 minutes  or more of physical activity every day.  Most of this activity should be aerobic, of moderate or vigorous intensity.
  • Adults 18-64 years – being active is better than inactivity.  Aim for 2 hours and 30 minutes a week of moderate-intensity activity and one hour and 15 minutes a week of vigorous aerobic physical activity.  This can be done in 10-minute intervals throughout the week.
  • Adults 65+ - If they can, follow the adult guidelines.  If not, older adults should be as physically active as their condition and abilities allow them to be.  Include a focus on balance exercises.  

My daughter told me about a physical education teacher, Brian Howells, who asks all his students to go to the bookstore or a local store and buy a Fitbit to track their steps as part of his class requirement.  I was in a retail store recently and the clerk said when no customers were in the store, he walked around the store and had just finished walking 1,000 steps.   Walking 10,000 steps a day is a good goal to work towards.  If you are not at 10,000 steps a day, then work towards walking more steps than you do now.

The editorial ends by stating: “Americans will do what they want to do, but if they want to be around longer to enjoy family and friends, and endure fewer health issues as they age, avoiding obesity or dealing with obesity can be a good start.”