Sunday, December 27, 2015

Should you cut back on processed food?

Eating healthy isn’t hard, one just had to reduce the amount of processed food and focus more on fruits, vegetables and whole grains.  But what is processed food?  The Berkeley Wellness Letter (January 2016) outlined the various levels of “processed”.  Usually, the less processed the food, the better for your health.  Foods can range from highly processed to minimally processed.  Some processing is actually healthy for you.  For example, pasteurized milk is processed to kill the harmful bacteria so this is a good form of “processed” food. 
Highly Processed Foods – For many of us, highly processed foods comprise up to 63% of our calories.  That is too much processed foods.  These are foods so full of processed ingredients they are no longer recognizable as being from a plant or animal source.  Some examples:
                Hot dogs, margarine, most baked goods, ice cream, candies.  
                Also, snacks like Cheetos, Cheez-Its, Goldfish are highly processed.
Moderately Processed Foods – a lot of this processing is to preserve the food.  These foods make up about 30% of most people’s diets.  (So add up the highly processed and the moderately processed and Americans eat mostly processed food at about 93% processed.  That is a LOT of processed foods.) These aren’t all bad for your health.  White bread is processed and not good for your health but whole grain bread is processed and good for your health.  Yogurt is processed but a very healthy addition to one’s health, especially if you choose low fat varieties and those lower in added sugar.  Examples of moderately processed foods:
                White rice, white bread, pasta, canned produce, cheese, butter, yogurt, ham, and jam
    Unprocessed or minimally processed foods. Unfortunately, for many of us these comprise only 7% of our diet.  Just eating more of these foods would be a healthy choice.  Examples are:   
    Fresh or frozen produce – some people think frozen foods are unhealthy but they are a very healthy choice. Beans, Nuts, Eggs – a great source of protein and many vitamins, Brown rice – a good whole grain alternative to white rice, Milk -  after two years of age, choose low fat milk, Fresh meats – look for leaner cuts of meats, lean hamburger
    Processed foods are not only bad because many of the nutrients are missing, they are also usually the foods loaded with salt, saturated fat and added sugar.  
     What are some healthier choices in processed food?  Cooking Light notes,  (modified from Top 10 Best Processed Foods) :    
     1.      Oikos Caramel Greek Yogurt   2.  Starkist Yellow fin Tuna in Olive Oil, 3. Kashi 7 Whole Grain Pilaf or choose some quinoa.  Focus on whole grains including brown rice as a side dish instead of white rice which has many of the nutrients removed.   4. Pistachios – Planters has Pistachios flavored with sea salt which helps lower the sodium content or just get plain Pistachios or any lower sodium mixed nuts 5. Pom Wonderful Fresh Pomegrante Arils – they suggest mixing in yogurt or putting on salads.  6.  V8 juice – any V8 is a good choice, a great way to add a vegetable to your day.  V8 also has many veggie blends of juice and a V8 Fusion that provides a serving of vegetable and a serving of fruit in one beverage.  7. Whole grain crackers – a great way to add whole grains to your diet.  Triscuits and Wheat thins are popular choices.  8.  Unsweetened tea such as Inko’s Unsweetened Honeysuckle White Iced Tea.  Tea is full of antioxidants and a healthy choice but not if one drinks sweetened tea, which is loaded with added sugar.   9.  Cheese Sticks – a great high protein snack.  Choose one’s made with 2% milk to lower the fat content.  10.  Popcorn like Skinny Pop – popcorn is whole grain and can be healthy.  But theatre popcorn is loaded with salt and artificial “butter” packing on the calories. 

In the coming year, focus on less processed foods.  As the Berkeley Wellness letter noted, “Buy more whole or minimally processed foods and do the “processing” yourself.  It’s called home cooking.”

Sources:  How Processed Is Your Food?, Berkeley Wellness Letter, January 2016, Top 10 Best Processed Foods,  Image source:Fruit and Vegetables

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Are you feeding your gut bugs?

What are “gut bugs” you might ask?  Last week we talked about E. Coli and how these “bugs” can make you sick.  But you also have good “bugs” or bacteria in your gut.  And guess what?  You need to feed this good bacteria.  They are now finding that having good bacteria in your gut has huge health benefits.  As Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen said in a recent article, the next time “you open the fridge, remember that you’re not eating just for one.  You’re also feeding the 100 trillion bacteria that call your digestive system home.”   (   By feeding these good gut bacteria you can:
  • Help control your weight
  • Promote heart health
  • Stabilize blood sugar levels
  • Improve your immune system
  • Improve your mood
So what can you do to feed your gut bugs and reap these health benefits?
Probiotics – eating a yogurt a day is a good start.  Yogurt has probiotics which helps put the good bugs in your gut.
Fiber rich plant foods – go for the whole grain breads, cereals and foods like Quinoa.  Add some beans, chili, enjoy a stir fry full of veggies.  Replacing some red meat or fried food meals with chili, stir fry, and other fiber rich plant foods can double your amount of good bacteria that can help fight inflammation in just two weeks’ time.
Dark chocolate – previous posts outlined the heart and weight benefits of dark chocolate  but who knew dark chocolate can feed your good gut bugs?  Have about one ounce of dark chocolate with some fruit and reap the benefits of the dark chocolate  and the fiber in fruit.  Apparently, the “good bugs” in your gut love chocolate just as much as you do.  The chocolate feeds the bugs, this produces anti-inflammatory substances your body absorbs.  Bugs are happy and your body is happy and you lessen inflammation of your heart tissues.
Veggies – fiber-rich veggies like kale, broccoli, raw carrots, asparagus, cabbage, cauliflower.  The good bugs convert the fiber in these veggies into cancer fighting compound.
Fruits – load up on raspberries, bananas, pears, watermelon, nectarines – full of fructans that feed your gut bacteria. 
What should you cut back on? 
Emulsifiers – processed food can contain chemical emulsifiers such as polysorbate 80 and carboxymethylcellulose that actually affect your gut bugs to promote weight gain, heart disease and diabetes.
Refined flour like white flour, white bread – Dr. Oz calls white flour foods “one of the Five Food Felons”.  Whole grains are best for your health and for healthy gut bacteria.  Choose more brown rice, oatmeal, quinoa.
Fast Food – avoid fried foods especially at Fast Food restaurants.  The more Fast Food you eat, the more your gut bacteria can take a hit. 
For more information on feeding your gut bugs go to:  How to Nurture Your Gut Bacteria to Improve Your Mood and Health.

Recommendations - So add some yogurt this week.  Eat more fresh fruit and veggies.  Enjoy a salad with dark greens at dinner.  Have some oatmeal or Cheerios for breakfast.  And, enjoy the dark chocolate in that gift box.

Sources:  Pamper Your gut bugs and you’ll reap the rewards, Two Docs, Dr. Oz and Dr. Roizen, Free Lance Star, Nov. 15,2015, How to Nurture Your Gut Bacteria to Improve Your Mood and Health. Image Source: Chocolate

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Can you avoid E.Coli?

Chipotle has certainly been in the news about E. Coli outbreaks at its restaurants.  What is E. Coli and what can you do to avoid getting an infection?  WebMD, CNN, CDC and others have focused on E. Coli and provide some excellent tips for consumers.
What is E. Coli?
It is a bacteria and the official name is Escherichia coli.  Food infections can come from animals or humans.  It is found in both animal and human intestines.   A simple way to describe it is “Poop Germs”.  Many of us can have E. Coli in our intestines and it is harmless.  However, some strains can make you sick with diarrhea, urinary tract infections, respiratory illnesses and if severe enough even kidney failure.
What foods can be contaminated with E. Coli?
Most commonly, E. Coli outbreaks are linked to undercooked hamburgers.  Produce can be contaminated and is the leading reason for outbreaks.  Raw milk as it hasn’t been pasteurized, and unpasteurized apple cider. 
How does E. Coli get into our food?
Animals are one source as noted above.  Slaughter houses can contaminate meat if the meat gets in contact with cattle feces.  Cow feces can also wash down into a field of celery or other produce.  If cow feces comes into contact with milk, the milk will be contaminated. Server didn’t wash their hands properly?  If their feces is contaminated with E. Coli and they serve your food, touch your plate, touch your glass, touch your menu, the E. Coli germs can be transferred to you. 
What are the symptoms of E. Coli infections?
Traveler’s diarrhea or Montezuma’s revenge can be caused by E. Coli.  For this, get some rest and drink fluids.  Other symptoms include vomiting, a fever, and even bloody diarrhea.  For these symptoms, seek out medical help.  CDC notes children, the elderly or people with weakened immune systems can have more severe symptoms with E. Coli infections.  Your doctor may not prescribe antibiotics as that could make the symptoms worse.  And you probably won’t be prescribed antidiarrheal meds as that could keep the E. Coli in your intestines longer, prolonging your illness.
How can you avoid E. Coli infections?
Eat pasteurized dairy foods, pasteurized milk.  Buy pasteurized apple cider and cook beef to 160 degree F.  In the fridge, put meat in a tray or wrap up so the meat juice doesn’t drip and contaminate produce or other foods in the fridge.  After cutting meat, wash the cutting board and knife in hot, soapy water.  It is good idea to use separate cutting boards for vegetables/fruit and meats.  Some people buy different color cutting boards to ensure they keep them separate. Hand washing and then drying with a paper towel is also important.  Drying your hands on the “kitchen towel” may spread “poop germs” throughout the kitchen. 

So stay healthy this year and avoid E. Coli infections by choosing food and restaurants wisely and using safe cooking habits in the kitchen.   For more information on the E. Coli outbreak at Chipotle, watch the video from CNN at Chipotle E. Coli outbreak now linked to illness in 9 states.  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has a good Q and A on E. Coli at: Q and A:  E. Coli.   

Sources:  E. Coli Outbreaks, Chipotle E. Coli outbreak now linked to illness in 9 states, Q and A:  E. Coli.  Image Source:  E. Coli

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Why is yogurt so good for your health?

If you haven’t added some yogurt to your daily diet, it would be a good time to start.  Many people that eat yogurt think only Greek yogurt is healthy but it doesn’t have to be Greek yogurt.  Find a yogurt you like, in a flavor you are willing to eat.  Here are some health benefits of yogurt and what to look for when choosing yogurt.  (Adapted from Yogurt and health). 

     1.        Does yogurt help your smile?  Yes.  Yogurt not only doesn’t cause cavities, it helps protect your teeth (calcium) and even helps prevent periodontal disease.   
     2.       Does yogurt help your brain?  Yes.  Surprisingly, researchers have found that your gut bacteria affect brain function.  So researchers studied the probiotics in yogurt and found yogurt improved brain cognition.  
     3.       How do the probiotics in yogurt help your health?  Probiotics are the “healthy bacteria” in yogurt.  These bacteria help your intestinal flora and may improve your immune system.  
     4.       Can yogurt help you slim down?  Some researchers say yes.  But they studied people who ate a lot of yogurt, 18 ounces a day.  Those that ate all this yogurt and cut back on calories not only lost more weight but they also lost more belly fat and kept more muscle mass.  They theorize it is the calcium in yogurt that tells your fat cells to release less of a substance called “cortisol” which helps you lose more weight and more belly fat. 
     5.       Protein is filling – yogurt is a great source of protein and protein has “staying power” so you fill full longer.  Greek yogurt does have a higher protein content than other yogurts but also less calcium. So for those looking for a calcium boost, non-Greek yogurt may be the choice.  For those looking for a protein boost, then Greek yogurt is a good choice. 
     6.       Can yogurt help lower blood pressure?  Researchers have found that those who ate 2 servings of yogurt a day or more were less likely to develop high blood pressure, 54% less likely.  Yogurt is a good source of potassium which helps counter all that sodium we all have in our diets.   
     7.       Refuel after a workout – fueling up with protein and carbs is recommended after a workout.  Yogurt is a great choice for refueling as it provides an excellent quality protein and carbs, the lactose naturally present in milk and yogurt.    
     8.       Does yogurt help your immune system? Yes, it seems to build up one’s immune system.  Eating just 4 ounces of yogurt a day may strengthen and increase the number of immune cells.  It seems those probiotics in yogurt single the immune-boosting cells to power up to help you fight off illnesses.  
     9.       Vitamin D – so many Americans are deficient in vitamin D so adding yogurt is a great way to get more vitamin D in your diet. 

How to choose a healthy yogurt:  
  • Avoid Added sugar – try to avoid yogurts with added sugar.  But looking at “sugars” on the label won’t help.  Even plain Greek yogurt has the natural sugar called lactose in it.  So yogurt naturally contains about 12 grams of “ milk sugar” in a 6 ounce serving.  This 12 grams would not be ADDED SUGAR.  The only way to tell if sugar has been added is to look at the ingredients to see if sugar has been added.
  • Plain yogurt – doesn’t have added sugar but doesn’t have much flavor.  So add some fruit and maybe some honey.
  • More protein – then choose Greek yogurt.  But choose real Greek yogurt and not “Greek style” yogurt which uses thickening agents to make it seem like real Greek yogurt.
  • More calcium – to boost calcium, choose any yogurt but Greek yogurt which has less calcium per serving.  
  • Choose low fat yogurt – to lessen the amount of fat in your diet.
  • Active cultures – look for “Live and Active Cultures” seal on yogurt.  Most yogurts contain Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus but many yogurt companies are adding additional probiotics cultures.  This is a good thing as added probiotics may enhance your immune system.

 Adding some yogurt to your day is a healthy thing to do.

Sources:  Yogurt and health, Choosing yogurt, How to buy the best yogurt  Image source:

Sunday, November 29, 2015

Nutrition In the News

Some interesting nutrition topics in the news this week. 
Coffee Drinker?  Well good news for your health.  I love coffee and couldn’t start my day without it.  A large study has reported drinking coffee actually reduces your risk of dying from heart disease and other diseases.  Researchers at Harvard School of Public Health studied both caffeinated and decaffeinated coffee in over 200,000 men and women.  For non-smokers the reduced risk is impressive.  Just one-three cups of coffee a day reduces risk of dying by 8%, 3-5 cups reduced it by 15%.  But less returns on coffee consumption for over 5 cups a day.   Interesting, these findings were also true for those drinking decaf coffee. 
Cranberries – what is Thanksgiving without the traditional cranberries?  Have any leftovers?  Enjoy as cranberries are great for your health.  Eating fruits and vegetables is more than getting vitamins and minerals.  Most are loaded with antioxidant compounds that are beneficial to our health.  Cranberries have the chemical compound, proanthocyanidins in them.  These may help reduce tooth decay and lower your risk of heart disease by reducing cholesterol.  Eating homemade cranberry sauce is good as you are getting a good dose of proanthocyanidins.  If you drink cranberry juice, choose one that is at least 25% pure cranberry juice. 
Peanut Butter – with kids going back to school many parents will be putting peanut butter and jelly sandwiches in their lunch.  So how healthy is peanut butter?  Eat this, Not That! Recently highlighted the health benefits of eating peanut butter.  Among them are:  the monounsaturated fats in peanut butter are anti-inflammatory, peanut butter helps fill you up, eating peanut butter, 2 T. a day five days a week can reduce the risk of developing diabetes, peanut butter contains protein (but not a complete protein so it needs to be on a grain like bread to get the protein benefit).  Interesting a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich also provides some resveratrol, more commonly associated with grapes.  Peanuts provide some resveratrol and there is even a small amount in the grape jelly.  This chemical has anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and may protect against heart disease, cancer, obesity and infections.  So giving your child a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich for lunch or a snack is a healthy thing to do.  Serving it on whole wheat bread would add to the nutritional benefits. 

So have that cup of coffee for breakfast, enjoy some leftover cranberry sauce and pack your kid a peanut butter and jelly sandwich for a healthy lunch.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Is High Fructose Corn Syrup Bad for your Health?

Recently a student asked me if high fructose corn syrup was something to avoid.   Good question as there is so much being written about high fructose corn syrup.  If you watch the commercials sponsored by the high fructose corn syrup industry, all is well and there is no difference between sugar and high fructose corn syrup.  Others have renounced high fructose corn syrup almost from day one.  So what do some of the experts have to say about high fructose corn syrup?
Is high fructose corn syrup the same as sugar?
Actually, no.  Table sugar is about half fructose and half glucose.  High fructose corn syrup has a higher ratio of fructose to glucose having 55- 65% fructose and the rest glucose.  

Does the higher fructose content of high fructose corn syrup cause health problems? 
  •  Some studies are indicating, YES.  The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reported that beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup can significantly raise the bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol and raise triglyceride levels.  This happened in just 2 weeks of drinking beverages sweetened with high fructose corn syrup.
  • Diabetes – how does high fructose corn syrup affect glucose levels? The Mayo Clinic noted the fructose in added sugar can contribute to Type 2 diabetes.  But not the fructose naturally present in fruits.  Whole fruit may even reduce diabetes risk. Thus, the fructose in banana is fine, but the fructose in soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup would not be good for one’s health.  
 How can you reduce your intake of high fructose corn syrup?  It isn’t always easy as food manufacturers are adding high fructose corn syrup to many commonly consumed foods such as bread and catsup.   Giving up soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup would be one step.  Read the ingredients on the label to see if high fructose corn syrup is in the product.  Start buying bread, catsup, staple foods with no high fructose corn syrup.  It may be hard to find some whole wheat hamburger buns without high fructose corn syrup but Nature’s Own 100%  whole wheat buns advertise being free of high fructose corn syrup. 

Recently, WeBMD highlighted a video in their health newsletter about high fructose corn syrup.  The video, The Skinny on What Can Make You Fat, talks about high fructose corn syrup and weight gain.  This MD recommends his patients cut back on high fructose corn syrup, starting with sodas. 
So read some labels this week.  Look at the ingredients for foods made with high fructose corn syrup.  Is there another food you could buy that is not made with high fructose corn syrup?  High fructose corn syrup is not needed in one’s diet and avoiding it may be a healthy thing to do.  
Sources:   Sugar, Nature's Own,  Image source: High Fructose Corn Syrup 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Are there anti-aging foods?

Who doesn’t want to slow down the aging process? Are there foods you can eat to slow down Father Time?  WebMD has an article called, Best Foods for Your Anti-Aging Diet.   In this article, dietitian Manuel Villacorta is quoted, “What you eat makes a huge difference in how you age and how you feel.”  An aging expert, Dr. Pontius states, “Even your skin will stay younger-looking if you eat right”.  So what are these foods that can help us stay younger longer?   
     1.        Fruits and vegetables – yes, back to at least 5 A DAY and aim for even more.  It is not just the vitamins and minerals in fruits and vegetables that are good for us but the color – and the more colorful the better.  Each color provides a different array of antioxidants.  It is the antioxidants that slow the aging process and help stop the damage to your healthy cells.   
      Some vitamins and minerals act as antioxidants such as vitamin C and zinc and the precursor to vitamin A, beta-carotene.  Vitamin C can be termed the anti-wrinkle vitamin as it help keep your skin younger longer.  WebMD also notes eating lots of yellow and green vegetables can lead to fewer wrinkles.  
     2.        What are some common foods with the most antioxidants?  WebMD provides a list of the 20 Common Foods with the Most Antioxidants
a.       Fruits – cranberries, blueberries and blackberries rank the highest
b.      Vegetables – beans, artichokes and russet potatoes
c.       Nuts – pecans, walnuts and hazelnuts rank high in the nut category
d.      Other foods with good antioxidant capacity include:  prunes, kidney beans, raspberries, strawberries, red delicious apples, Granny Smith apples, sweet cherries, plums, black beans and Gala apples. 
      3.    Green tea – this tea is rich in antioxidants and may improve skin.  
      4.   Chocolate – WebMD notes a study found that women who drank hot chocolate had softer, smoother skin in 3 months.  But they drank a special hot chocolate with higher cocoa content.  I add some cocoa to the low calorie hot chocolate mix I buy.  Just a teaspoon or so to enhance the flavor but also to get more nutritional benefit.

Among all these foods there should be some you can add to your diet.  Since colder weather is coming, it is a good time to add some hot green tea or even hot chocolate.  Maybe an apple a day isn’t such bad advice after all. 

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Is bacon bad for your health?

Well the World Health Organization (WHO) has once again taken the joy out of the American diet.  They made headlines recently for their proclamation about the health risks of eating meat.  The Time headline is, The War on Delicious which is very appropriate when an organization wages war on the foods so many Americans eat.  So what are the health risks with red meat, processed meats and what meats are they talking about?  How much can you eat before you are at risk?  As a person who enjoys a bacon, lettuce, tomato sandwich, a McDonald’s Egg McMuffin with Canadian bacon, I did not take the news lightly that processed meats are bad for one’s health.

Health Risks and Processed Meat
WHO attributes about 34,000 cancer deaths each year to diets high in eating processed meats.  For red meat, they attribute 50,000 deaths a year.  But as Time points out, tobacco-related cancer is linked to 1 million deaths a year.  How much raises your risk, about 50 grams of processed meat a day.  Especially of concern are processed meats containing sodium nitrates as a preservative.  These change to nitrosamines in our body, which are carcinogenic.  Interesting, vitamin C inhibits nitrosamine production.  So maybe eating our morning bacon with a glass of orange juice would cancel some of the harmful effects of nitrates in the bacon. 
How much is 50 grams of processed meat?  WHO noted that 50 grams of processed meat A DAY raises the risk of colon cancer by 18%.  So how much is 50 grams of processed meat?  Time lists this out as:
  • 6 slices bacon
  • 1 hot dog
  • 1 slices ham
  • 5 slices hard salami
  • 2 slices Canadian bacon
Time also noted cooking meat in a frying pan at high temperatures makes it even worse for our health.  The article didn’t say anything about cooking bacon in a microwave oven.  But from the information presented in the article, that may be a better alternative.

What are Processed Meats?  Many people eat “meat” and don’t think whether it is processed or not.  How does WHO define processed meats?  Meat that is smoked, salted, cured, or changed by processing to make it taste better or last longer.
  • Hot Dogs
  • Packaged Turkey
  • Sausages
  • Corned Beef
  • Beef Jerky
  • Canned Meat
  • Chicken Nuggets
  • Bologna

Well, that just about covers it for many people’s lunches.  Switching to a cheese or peanut butter sandwich seems to be a healthier alternative than a processed meat sandwich.  Or don’t have the processed meat for lunch every day of the week to lower your risk.
 For me, I will still enjoy my bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwich and my hot dog on a whole wheat bun.  But I don’t eat these every day.  Maybe adding some vitamin C rich food to these meals will help negate the health risks of eating processed meats.  

Source:  The War on Delicious,  Image Source:  Time Cover

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Are you missing or Low in These Nutrients? (Cont.)

What nutrients are missing in your diet?  Last week we focused on 4 nutrients that you may be missing or deficient in.  This week we look at 3 more nutrients of concern and mention fiber since it is oh so important to your health.  This information is from WebMD’s slide show, The 7 Missing Nutrents in Your Diet.  This week we focus on nutrients good for your bones, calcium, vitamin D and even vitamin C helps your bones.  Also, many of us have diets low in fiber so this is needs special attention in most people’s diets.
1.       Vitamin D –many Americans, adults and children, are deficient or have low vitamin D levels.  Bones need vitamin D as do our muscles and our nerves.  Like vitamin A, vitamin D helps our immune system.
  • Good sources – milk and yogurt are usually fortified with vitamin D.  Milk or yogurt at meals is a great way to ensure you and your kids are getting the vitamin D needed.  Egg yolks, some cheese and liver also provide some vitamin D.
  •  Sunshine – our bodies can make vitamin D from sunshine. 
2.       Calcium – strong bones, teeth, good for muscles including our heart muscle.  Some studies indicate calcium helps prevent high blood pressure.   
  • Good sources – Milk and yogurt are great ways to get both calcium and vitamin D.  Cheese offers calcium but rarely vitamin D.  You need enough vitamin D to absorb the calcium so milk and yogurt are top choices.  There is some calcium but no vitamin D in kale, broccoli and canned salmon.
3.       Vitamin C –with winter coming, who doesn’t need an immune booster?  Doesn’t cure the common cold but may shorten how long a cold lasts.  Vitamin C helps your bones and tissue grow.  Since it is an antioxidant, it helps protect your cells from damage. 
  • Good Sources – all citrus (skip the Sunny D and focus on real juice) are good sources.  Enjoy many fruits high in C, limes, oranges, grapefruit, lemon, papaya, pineapple, kiwis, berries, watermelon and mangoes.  For veggies, focus on tomatoes, green and yellow peppers, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage, leafy greens.
4.       Fiber – We talked about fiber last week but so many Americans have diets low in fiber, I mention it again this week.   Fiber helps lower your cholesterol, keeps you regular and it may lower risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.  It fills you up so you eat less, good if you want to drop a few pounds. 
  • Good sources – whole grains, any General Mill cereal is whole grain, whole wheat crackers, quinoa, beans, fresh fruit, produce. Have a handful of nuts each day for some fiber.  Add fiber to your yogurt, add some bran or All-Bran cereal, ground flaxseeds, strawberries.  Enjoy some oatmeal, for lunch use whole wheat bread for your sandwich, enjoy some popcorn as a snack.  Read 29 Ways to Add More Fiber to Your Diet

Focusing on 5 fruits and veggies a day, dairy with meals (milk or yogurt for calcium and vitamin D), and whole grains will do a lot to ensure your diet is rich in Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin C, Fiber and the nutrients we talked about last week:  potassium, magnesium and vitamin A.  

Sources:  The 7 Missing Nutrents in Your Diet  Image source:  Fruit Smoothies
                                                               Fruit Smoothies

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Is your diet missing these nutrients?

Are you missing some nutrients in your diet?    There is a lot of focus on health and healthy eating, yet many Americans have diets low in one or more nutrients.  What are the top 7 nutrients commonly missing in people’s diets?  WebMD has a great slide show on  The 7 Missing Nutrents in Your Diet.  This week we will focus on 4 of these nutrients and next week cover 3 more.
Are you missing or Low in These Nutrients?
  1. Potassium - almost everyone knows we should cut back on salt and sodium but few realize potassium helps negate the harmful effects of all that salt in our diets.  Well sodium is linked with increasing blood pressure, potassium helps lower your blood pressure.  Those into weight lifting and body building may want to focus on potassium rich foods as we need potassium for our muscles.
  • Good sources of potassium – bananas, sweet potatoes, avocados, legumes, milk, potatoes
2.       Magnesium – not really a nutrient many of us think about.  But magnesium has many important roles in our bodies, our bones need magnesium, it helps our bodies produce energy, and has a role in protein synthesis and repair.  Many doctors recommend increasing magnesium rich foods for those having migraines. 
  • Good sources of magnesium – whole grains, most magnesium is removed when they make white bread, white flour.  Nuts, particularly almonds, beans, peas, leafy greens such as spinach.  Eating whole grains such as oatmeal, any General Mills cereal, wheat germ, whole wheat bread, whole grain crackers, and at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables a day will help ensure you are getting enough magnesium.
3.       Vitamin A – want good vision and be able to see in the dark well, eat some vitamin A rich foods?  Vitamin A also promotes healthy skin and healthy immune system. 
  • Good sources of vitamin A (or its precursor beta-carotene) – choose dark yellow, orange, dark green foods such as pumpkin, sweet potatoes, carrots, spinach, broccoli.
4.       Fiber – not really a nutrient but oh so important to good health.  Most Americans are lacking fiber in their diet.  Fiber can lower your cholesterol, lowers your risk of heart disease, diabetes and even some cancers.  Since fiber fills you up, you may eat less and thus help you lose those extra pounds. 
  •  Good sources of fiber - whole grains are a good source.  Read the label of whole grain breads and crackers and choose those higher in fiber.  Fresh fruit and vegetables are great sources of fiber as are nuts and seeds like flaxseed. 
This week focus on eating more fruits and vegetables and try to add more whole grains to your diet.  Enjoy a yogurt at breakfast or lunch for calcium, vitamin D and probiotics.

Sources:  The 7 Missing Nutrents in Your Diet, Magnesium,  Image source:  Fresh Fruit and Vegetables

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Tips to Eating Well for a Longer Life

       Are there foods you can eat or not eat that can help you live longer and age well?   Environmental Nutrition has an interesting article in their November issue, 5 Tips for Eating to Age Well.   Their 5 key strategies?   
            1.        Eat foods rich in EPA and DHA omega-3’s.   Many commercials on TV advertise supplements to get your EPA and DHA but eating foods rich in these is preferred.
  • EPA and DHA foods -  Fish oils are rich in EPA and DHA so focus on fish – wild-caught salmon, sardines, and herring.  
  •  How Do EPA and DHA help you age well?  They support heart health, your brain function and memory.  Even muscle strength has been shown to improve.     
       2.    Healthy gut – yes, exercise is a way to improve your midsection but eating well can improve the intestinal flora in your gut.  As you get older, the bacteria in your intestines change and not for the better.  You have less diverse bacteria and more harmful species.  
  • Feed your gut with yogurt, a good way to get the healthy probiotic bacteria. Then feed this probiotic bacteria in your gut with fruits and vegetables which provide a lot of fiber. 
  • Why?  Healthy bacteria in your gut can strengthen your immune system and decrease the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. 
           3.   Feed Your Bones - Most people know your bones need calcium to stay healthy.  But building strong bones takes more than calcium such as vitamins D and K and minerals like magnesium and strontium. 
  • Foods – for calcium focus on foods that provide both calcium and vitamin D like milk or yogurt.  Who would think that whole grains would help your bones?  Whole grains are rich in magnesium and healthy bones need magnesium.  Dark greens are a great way to get vitamin K.
  • A study in the Journal of Environmental and Public Health found those given a supplement of D, K, magnesium and sulfate for one year with calcium from foods had more bone density in their hips and spines. 
         4.   Skip the soda for a healthier, longer life.
  • Focus on water – replace those sugary sodas with plain water.  Filter the water if you wish, add some lemon.
  • Why?  All that added sugar in soda (usually high fructose corn syrup) causes inflammation and damage that may adversely affect your DNA.  The shorter the telomeres in your DNA, the faster you age.  And sugared sodas increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and even some cancers.  A Dutch study found those who drank 20 ounces of sugared soda a day, sped up their aging process by 4.6 years. 
        5.  Focus on Protein As you age, you lose some of your muscle mass along with strength and mobility.
  • Add protein to every meal, including breakfast.  To your breakfast, add some yogurt, make your oatmeal with milk instead of water, eggs, smoothies, even low-fat cottage cheese.  Aim for 20-30 grams of protein at every meal.
  • Why?  Focusing on protein at every meal may help your body synthesize muscle protein, especially if you add in exercise.
 Simple changes in your diet can lead to a longer, healthier life.