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