Saturday, June 24, 2017

Coconut oil and health myths

Is coconut oil healthy?  So many people think so.  So many students in my class have told me they use coconut oil as someone recommended it to them as being good for their health.  Not surprising since the NY Times reported that 72% of Americans think coconut oil is healthy.   Even more surprising is that 37% of nutritionists thought coconut oil was healthy.  A recent article in USA Today highlighted on MSN probably says it best as the title of their article is:  Coconut oil is about as healthy as beef fat or butter .

What does the American Heart Association say about coconut oil?
The go to place for information on heart health is the American Heart Association, at  There are so many misconceptions about coconut oil, the American Heart Association has released a report advising against coconut oil.   

Why is coconut oil bad for you?
Coconut oil raises your bad, LDL cholesterol.  Why?  Probably because it is high in saturated fats like butter and the fat in beef or bacon.  So, saturated, that 82% of the fat in coconut oil is saturated fat.  A highly concentrated source of saturated fat.   One tablespoon of coconut oil provides 11 grams of saturated fat.  How much saturated fat should you have in a day?  You should limit saturated fat to 13 grams a day according to the American Heart Association.  So, it is easy to go over the limit of saturated fat with coconut oil.  Coconut oil is even more saturated than butter (63%), beef fat (50%) or pork lard (39%) fat.  Since coconut oil raises your bad cholesterol, which is a cause of heart disease, and has no good benefits, the American Heart Association advises against coconut oil.   

Why do some people think coconut oil is healthy?
So many people have been duped into thinking coconut oil is healthy.  If someone recommends coconut oil to you, don’t listen.  The lead author of the American Heart Association report, Frank Sacks, told USA Today, he has no idea why so many people think coconut is healthy.  Some people might think coconut oil promotes weight loss.  There are studies that show medium chain triglycerides rev up the metabolism and thus might promote weight loss.  But the study that found this out didn’t use coconut  oil but an oil specially designed for the research study. 
Is there a healthy use for coconut oil?
My daughter has a great use for coconut oil.  She uses it on her dog, as it makes his coat smoother and silkier.  Some people use coconut oil as a skin moisturizer and it can be found in hair conditioners.
“You can put in on your body, but don’t put in in your body,” Sacks said.    

What other oils should one avoid?
I tell my students to avoid tropical oils, coconut oil and palm oil. Like coconut oil, palm oil is high in saturated fat.

What oils are better for your health and your heart?
Olive oil is a good, heart healthy choice.  Or choose from a number of polyunsaturated oils like corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, peanut oil.  Read about healthy cooking oils and watch a Healthy Cooking Oils 101 Video  at  The video describes which oils are heart healthy and which oils, like coconut oil, will help clog your arteries.

So, if you have some coconut oil in your home, use it as a lotion on your body or use it on your dog for softer skin and softer hair.  If someone recommends you use coconut oil in smoothies or in cooking, refer them to this blog or to so they can learn why coconut oil is not a heart healthy choice.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Brown Eggs or White Eggs?

Is there a difference between brown eggs and white eggs?  Are brown eggs healthier?  Many people think so.  Why do brown eggs often cost more than white eggs?  Recently we enjoyed a breakfast buffet at a Bed and Breakfast in Connecticut.  The buffet included a bowl of brown hard-boiled eggs.  Hotels often serve hard boiled eggs as part of their free breakfast buffet.  But usually white hard-boiled eggs.  This led to a discussion as to whether or not brown eggs are healthier and/or have a different taste. 

What is the difference between brown eggs and white eggs?
Answer:  COLOR
Yes, the only difference is the color of the eggs.  Eat This, Not That has a recent article, discussing the difference between brown eggs and white eggs.  Why are brown eggs brown?  Because of the type of chicken the eggs come from.  Brown eggs are from red-feathered chickens with red ear lobes.  White eggs come from white-feathered chickens with white ear lobes.  Mystery solved.

Why do brown eggs usually cost more?
Answer:  SIZE
Brown eggs are usually larger than white eggs. Why?  Red-feathered chickens that lay brown eggs weigh more than white feathered chickens.  A bigger chicken, a bigger egg.  And because they weigh more, the red-feathered chickens eat more and thus cost more to feed and more land to raise.

Why do some people serve brown eggs?
According to the American Egg Board, New England states prefer brown eggs.  Thus, it shouldn’t have surprised us to see brown eggs being served at a Bed & Breakfast in Connecticut. 

Why does the color of a yolk differ?
Yolk color depends on what the hen is fed.  Yolk color can vary from medium yellow when hens are fed yellow corn and alfalfa to lighter yellow from eggs fed barley. 

Does the nutritional value of eggs vary depending on what the hens are fed? 
All eggs pack a pretty powerful nutrition punch.  The protein in eggs is not only high quality, it is often cited as the “gold standard” for protein.   Eggs provide  about 6-7 grams of protein per egg, 13 vitamins and minerals (including iron) and packed in a low-calorie food, only about 60-70 calories per egg.  But don’t skip the yolk, as the yolk provides most of the vitamins and minerals. We like to use Egg Land’s Best eggs.  Why?  These eggs have more vitamin E, less saturated fat in the yolk, more than double the Omega-3’s, more vitamin D, and more lutein (good for eyes).   They feed the chickens a diet of grains, canola oil, rice bran, alfalfa, sea kelp and vitamin E. 

What about eggs and cholesterol?
WebMD notes that the American Heart Association revised its dietary guidelines for cholesterol back in 2000 to allow healthy adults to enjoy an egg a day.  But to still keep daily cholesterol to a limit of 300 mg.  A large Egg Land’s Best egg provides about 170 mg cholesterol.  But WebMD also recommends knowing your blood cholesterol and talking to your physician about your diet.  Those with high cholesterol should also talk to their doctor about eggs in their diet.

I enjoy eating eggs.  Summer is a time for egg salad sandwiches and deviled eggs.  And now you know that brown eggs and white eggs provide the same nutritional value.

Sources:  article, American Egg Board, Yolk color, Eggs provide , WebMD  Image source:  eggs

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Non-Cow’s Milk and Children’s Height

Milk at meals is a healthy choice for kids over one year of age.  Children need milk for calcium and vitamin D for healthy bones.  Milk is also an excellent source of protein and provides many other nutrients important to good health.  Most parents give their kids cow’s milk every day, but for many reasons, some parents are choosing to give their kids non-cow milk alternatives like Almond Milk or Soy Milk.  A new study looked at the growth of children receiving cow’s milk, almond milk, soy milk, or rice milk.   

Findings:  Compared with children who consumed cow’s milk, those who drank non-cow’s milk were shorter than average for their age.... For each cup of cow’s milk a child drank, they were 0.2 centimeters taller.  Some kids drank both cow’s milk and alternative non-cow’s milk.  These children were also shorter than average.
For example, the study noted a 3-year-old who drank 3 cups of cow’s milk a day would be .6 inches or about one-half inch taller than a 3-year-old who drank 3 cups of non-cow’s milk a day.

Why?  What is the difference in nutritional value between cow’s milk and non-cow’s milk?  It doesn’t seem to be the calcium or vitamin D content of the milks.  The study author, Dr. Maguire, noted:  two cups of cow’s milk contain around 16 grams of protein, which is 100 percent of the daily protein recommendation for a 3-year-old child.  In comparison, two cups of almond milk contain just 4 grams of protein.   And 4 grams of protein would be only 25% of a 3-year-old’s daily protein requirement.  However, the study concluded that more research is needed to find out the relationship between non-cow’s milk and height.
Non-cow’s milk is also usually lower in fat than whole cow’s milk.  One news article noted:  Researchers believe this may be due to non-cow’s milk lower fat and protein content halting children’s growth.  

Federal Regulations – the federal government regulates cow’s milk and the nutritional value such as how much vitamin D is added.  But the nutritional value of non-cow’s milk isn’t regulated. 
Drinking milk is important to children’s health.  Drinking cow’s milk offers children not only calcium and vitamin D but also a good serving of high quality protein.  Not just kids, but many adults drink non-cow’s milk.   A young woman I know drinks Almond Milk in place of cow’s milk because Almond Milk has less calories per serving.  This woman has grown to her full height and gets plenty of protein from other sources.  So, for her, Almond Milk may be a good choice.  Many guys like to ensure adequate protein in their diets and for them, drinking cow’s milk would be a good choice as not only is it higher in protein than non-cow’s milk, the protein in cow’s milk is a high-quality protein.  But for parents of growing children over one year of age, this study provides important information for parents to be aware of.  CBS news noted:    Maguire says parents shouldn’t assume milk alternatives are “healthier” than cow’s milk – no matter what the advertising claims.

Saturday, June 3, 2017

Weight Loss – Myths and Truths

So many Americans try different diets or think some myths like “gluten free” will lead to weight loss success.  Time magazine has an excellent article, The Weight Loss Trap:  Why Your Diet Isn’t Working.  They interviewed many experts and discuss the National Weight Control Registry.  What is this registry?  It is a study of over 10,000 people who have lost 30 or more pounds and have kept it off.  The study attempts to figure out why these people were success stories and others who go on diets gain back the weight they lost. 
What are some of the take-a-ways from this article?

      1.  Find a diet or eating plan that works for YOU.  What worked for your neighbor, your best friend may not be what it best for you.  People react differently to diets.   One person can lose a lot of weight on a diet and another person on the same diet loses only a few pounds or may even gain weight.  A student in my class said her parents tried Weight Watchers – a good diet program.  Her mom didn’t mind tracking the points.  But her father found all the point tracking burdensome.  

2. Slow and Steady wins the weight loss game.  Ever see the I Love Lucy Show, The Diet, in which she wants to lose 12 pounds in only 5 days?  She tries jumping rope, running laps around her apartment building, eating a celery-only meal while her neighbors the Mertzes feast on steak and potatoes.  In final desperation, she sits in a steam box all day.  Hilarious show, and she does lose some weight.  But weight taken off this rapidly is often a lot of water loss and one loses muscle as well as fat.   Time highlights Lexi Reed, a 26-year-old, who tried many diets, lost weight and then gained it back.  What did he finally do to lose 278 pounds?
a.       Tracked calories – so many ways to do this using the many apps available such as Lose It! and MyFitnessPal
b.       Working out – adding exercise to your day is a way to burn up some calories, add some muscle, get toned and feel better
c.       Eating healthier – Lexi started eating healthier versions of the food he loved.  I like KFC chicken but choose the grilled chicken which is a healthier option.  I like the McDonald’s Egg McMuffin but order it without butter.  What are some of your favorites that you could modify to a healthier choice?
d.        Take Lexi’s Advice:  My advice is to focus on each day, not how far you have to go.  Weight loss is a journey, not a sprint.  (Time)

      3.   Follow some Steps that have worked for people on the National Weight Control Registry, read their facts at NWCR Facts
a.        Eat breakfast every day:  78% of those on the registry eat breakfast every day.  Less likely to get those mid-morning hunger pains when one often goes to the snack machine for a candy bar or two.
b.       Change your Diet:  Try smaller portions, try adding protein to each meal.  Focus on cutting back on the fat and added sugars in your day.
c.       Less TV, more exercise:  94% of the people on the registry increased their physical activity and the most common way was to walk more.
  4.  Cut the Added Sugar – avoid sugary drinks that not only provide calories but can produce belly fat as suggested by Dr. Dean Schillinger UC San Francisco (Time).    Skip the soda/pop and go for water, unsweetened tea.  I like Crystal Light lemonade or their Peach tea.  Great summer drink. 
        5.  Take a Break – a relative finds some ways to treat herself while on a diet.  Whether it be some occasional wings, a 100-calorie bag of cookies, some treat so she isn’t just giving up all the good stuff.  Learn to make some of your favorite foods with less calories by modifying a recipe.  My younger daughter is a great cook.  We often try to modify recipes to make them healthier with less calories.  We will cut down on the fat in a recipe by using 2% milk fat cheese.    We will use half regular pasta noodles and some whole grain noodles.  We don’t want to modify a recipe so much the food is tasteless but enough to keep the good taste, yet reduce some fat or sugar calories and add more wholesome ingredients like whole grains.

Time also notes that many people may not need to lose weight as much as focus on better health.  Exercising more is a good healthy habit.  Cutting back on fat and foods with added sugar is healthier. And, if an overweight person lost 10% of their weight, they would reduce their risks of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and probably lower their blood pressure.