Sunday, December 29, 2013

Peanuts in the News

Some latest research on peanuts and peanut allergies is quite interesting.  Researchers studied pregnant women who ate peanuts during their pregnancy and those that didn’t.  Then they looked at their children to see if the children had peanut allergies.  They found the more peanuts a pregnant woman ate during her pregnancy, the less likely her child was to have a peanut or nut allergy. 

The study in JAMA Pediatrics  followed 11,000 pregnant women and children throughout the pregnancy, then from birth to adolescence.  Pregnant women who ate peanuts and other nuts five or more times a month had children with the lowest chance of having peanut or nut allergies.  However, these pregnant women also ate more fruits and vegetables than other women in the study.  Additionally, they fed their children nuts before age 1.  So maybe it was the fruits and vegetables or the early introduction of nuts that led to less nut allergies. 

The authors of the study stated, “Our study supports the hypotheses that early allergen exposure increases the likelihood of tolerance and thereby lowers the risk of childhood food allergy.” 

There has been an increase in reported peanut allergies among children.  In 1997 about .5 percent of children were allergic to peanuts.  By 2010, this increased three fold to 1.4 percent of children.  According to an editorial by Ruchi Gupta of Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, about 1 in 13 children have a food allergy with about 40% of these have a severe or even life-threatening allergy.

There has been confusing recommendations given to pregnant women about peanuts and nuts.  The American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000 actually recommended pregnant women avoid eating nuts while pregnant or breastfeeding.  Then children were to be kept away from nuts until age 3.  This was reversed in 2008 when the Academy said there was no reason to avoid nuts either in pregnancy or early childhood.

Dr. Gupta notes there are studies that show that women who avoided nuts in pregnancy actually increased the child’s nut allergy risk.  So much for the recommendations of the experts to avoid nuts in pregnancy as they recommended for 8 years.

But others warn the study doesn’t prove eating nuts during pregnancy can prevent a nut allergy.  More research needs to be done to verify the findings. 

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Holiday Munching- the good and bad choices

With the holidays in full swing, most of us will be enjoying plenty of food and treats.  As we are out and about and hosting parties and meals, we can choose foods and drinks that are gut busters or have fun but make some healthier choices.  Just making some modifications in what we order can influence how many calories we are packing in.

Thirsty? – stopping at Starbucks for some caffeine?  Coffee actually has a number of nutritional benefits as does tea.  It is what is added to the coffee that can do one in.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest recently evaluated the Starbucks Venti White Chocolate Mocha made with 2% milk and whipped cream on top.  They compared it to a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder and noted the Venti was actually worse nutritionally than the quarter pounder.  Why?  Perhaps because of the 580 calories and 13 teaspoons of added sugar.   If you want the Venti, then choose to modify it by asking for nonfat milk and skip the whipped cream. 

Chipotle – this eating establishment actually has many healthy options to choose from.  But it also has some that are not the best choices.  Choose the Chipotle Chicken Burrito and you are choosing 970 calories and 18 grams of saturated fat.  If you really want this burrito you can trim some of the fat by skipping the sour cream and cheese but it will still add 750 calories to your meal.  Although the chips are tasty, a 4 ounce serving packs 570 calories, with almost half of these fat calories.  Chipotle has many healthier side options such as brown rice, black beans, pinto beans, fajita veggies, and salsa which is loaded with nutrition and few calories.  Chipotle has a great nutrition calculator on their web site - worth checking out before one orders.

Hosting a party?  Certainly there will be fun foods and not so healthy foods at a party.  But one can also serve some healthier options like veggie trays, crisp bread crackers like Wasa, RyKrisp and Ryvita which are whole grain.   There are many reduced fat cheeses.  I found a cheddar wine cheese spread that was reduced fat but also delicious.  This cheese spread is great on some Triscuits or other whole grain crackers.   Hummus is popular now and also a great spread for crackers or a dip for carrots and other veggies.    Serve a bowl of nuts.  A handful of nuts a day is a healthy choice.  Fresh fruit such as grapes are also healthy alternatives.  So have the fun food but also have some healthier options available. 
Going to a Holiday Party?  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has some Helpful Tips for Healthy Holiday Parties
If you are a guest at a dinner party or other gathering, consider these tips to keep your night healthy, happy and safe:
  • If you plan on treating yourself later, start your day with a small meal that includes whole grains, fruit, low-fat or fat-free dairy and protein, such as eggs, ham or peanut butter.
  • Don't starve yourself beforehand. Rather, eat a small, lower-calorie meal or snack including fruit or a bagel so you aren't tempted to overdo your calorie intake for the day.
  • Choose carefully between foods you definitely will eat, those you will sample and those you will skip.
  • Don't rush to eat. Socialize and settle into the festivities before you eat. 
  • Move your socializing away from the buffet or appetizer trays. This will minimize the unconscious nibbling.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Can you prevent Type 2 Diabetes?

Everyone has heard of Type 1 or Juvenile Diabetes.  The diabetes someone gets when they are young through no fault of their own and they usually need insulin shots for the rest of their lives.  But many aren’t aware of how rapidly the risk of Type 2 diabetes is growing.  Over 23 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and of those, 7 million don’t even know they have diabetes.  Even more surprising is the 79 million Americans with pre-diabetes.  It used to be that doctors would warn patients their blood sugar was a little high.  Now, doctors tell patients that you have pre-diabetes.  This is to warn patients that if they don’t change their habits they are going to get full blown diabetes before too long. 

Diabetes brings on its own share of health risks.  People with diabetes can have complications leading to eye problems, heart disease, stroke, nerve damage and kidney disease.  When people have pre-diabetes or diabetes the insulin produced by the pancreas isn’t working as it should.  Their bodies may not use insulin properly to get sugar into cells so the sugar builds up in their blood. 

Fortunately, over 90 percent of Type 2 diabetes can be prevented by adopting a healthier lifestyle.  What can you do to reduce your chances of getting Type 2 diabetes?
  1.          Weight – those who are overweight increase their risk of developing type 2 diabetes.   Dropping a few pounds reduces this risk.  In one study, the Diabetes Prevention Study, those who lost 7% of their body weight such as 14 pounds for a 200 pound person, were able to lower their risk of developing Type 2 diabetes by a whopping 58%. 
  2.        Healthy Fats – I’ve discussed on this blog the importance of eating healthy fats like a handful of nuts a day or switching to olive oil.  The bad fats are saturated fats and trans fats. Both fats are bad for your heart and increase your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.  Eating out?  Then look over the menus online and choose entrees and foods lower in saturated fats such as choosing grilled vs. fried entrees.
  3.        Sugary Beverages – so many Americans drink soda, Sunny D, Capri Sun, sweetened ice tea, beverages loaded with sugar.  This sugar puts a stress on your pancreas to pour out the insulin to handle all the sugar from these beverages.  All that added sugar can also lead to weight gain.  So look for unsweetened beverages, drink water, unsweetened tea, black coffee or one of the low calorie flavored waters.   
  4.   Whole grains – so much healthier than white flour.  Whole grains take longer to digest than refined grains because of the fiber.  So there is less risk of developing diabetes with whole grains.  Try whole grain cereals – oatmeal is an excellent choice.  All General Mills cereals are whole grains so it should be easy to find a whole grain cereal you like.  
  5.        Exercise – most people hear the word “exercise” and think of the gym.  But walking is great exercise.   Sit less, move more is another way to think about being more active.
Sources:  5 ways to prevent type 2 diabetes,  5 Steps to Beat Type 2 Diabetes, Environmental Nutrition, January 20123.  Image source: Type 2 Diabetes

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Is Walking Just As Good As Running?

The key seems to be how much energy is expended.  If you walk for a good distance and burn up the same calories as a jogger who jogs 1-2 miles, then YES, walking can give you the same health benefits. 

What are those health benefits?  Lowering your risk of heart disease, less risk of hypertension, less risk of diabetes. 

As article in the December 2013 issue of Tufts’ Health and Nutrition Letter, outlined the many health benefits of walking.

Dr. Nelson, a professor at Tufts is quoted, “A 150 pound woman will burn 80 to 100 calories for each mile she walks.”  

The researchers looked at data from 15,945 participants in the National Walkers’ Health Study and 33,060 participants in the National Runners’ Health Study.  What did the study find?  Yes, runners did reap great health benefits with lower risks of hypertension, less unhealthy cholesterol, and less incidence of diabetes.  But the walkers also reduced their risk of diabetes and heart disease.  (Walking versus running for hypertension, cholesterol, and diabetes mellitus risk reduction).  In an interview, an author of the study, Paul T. Williams of Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California, noted the key is the number of calories burned in each activity, “walking and running provide an ideal test of the health benefits … because they involve the same muscle groups and the same activities performed at different intensities. (Walking IS as good fyoru your health as running - but you'll need to do it for longer to get the same benefits longer to get the same benefits)

But to get the benefits, one needs to walk the distance a runner would run.  Thus, walking around the block won’t have much benefit.  Walking the mile or two or more reaps the rewards.  Many people won’t be able to walk a mile right away, especially if they have been sedentary.  But start small and begin walking.  If at first it is just right the block then at least that is a start. 

Source:  Walking as Good as Running, If You Have Time,  Tufts Health and Nutrition Letter, December 2013. 

Sunday, December 1, 2013

What is the difference between juice and a fruit “drink”?

In the nutrition classes I teach I find many people are very confused as to what a juice is and what is a fruit drink?  Many people buy a fruit drink and think they are getting 100% juice.  Something that is 100% juice has many nutritional benefits such as vitamins like vitamin A, C, and folate, minerals and antioxidants.  Fruit drinks may have none of these or the manufacturer might fool you and add something like vitamin C and you might think you are buying something healthy when it is mostly sugar water. 

Look at the items below and see if you can tell if it is a drink or a real juice?

Sunny D
Capri Sun
Juicy Juice
Pink Lemonade
Simply Orange
Hawaiian Punch
Sunland Fruit Drink

So how do you think you did?  How many times are you  in a grocery store and you see parents who  have loaded their cart with a case of Capri Sun?  Or instead of orange juice there is a gallon of Sunny D?  Some hints at knowing if it is a juice or drink:

Drink  - if it says “drink” anywhere on the label, it is not real juice.  Thus, Sunland Fruit Drink is not real juice.  Avoid Juice Drinks that have a small amount of juice but are mostly sugar water.  Avoid “juice cocktails” which may contain only small amounts of juice. 

Juice – but if it says “juice” it may not be 100% juice.  Manufacturers note the % juice on the label so you need to read the ingredients.

Drinks – Avoid These
Juice – choose these
Sunny D
Simply Orange – 100% juice
Tropicana Orange Juice
Sunland Fruit Drink
Vegetable juice
Hawaiian Punch
Cranberry, Blueberry,Acai Berry – choose low or no sugar juices
Naked Juice
Pink Lemonade
Capri Sun 100% juice
Capri Sun Juice Drink

How much juice should you drink?  
Kids – the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends:
Under 6 – no more than 4-6 ounces of juice a day
Ages 7-18-  AAP recommends 4-12 ounces a day

If your child wants more juice than this, add some sparkling water to 100% juice and dilute it. 

Want more information on great juices for your health?  WebMD has a great slide show on juices vs. drinks – well worth looking at.  See:  Juice Wars Slideshow: Best and Worst Vegetable and Fruit Juices
So the next time you are thirsty and at a convenience store or the grocery store, read the label.  Leave the Sunny D and Hi-C on the shelf and buy some 100% juice.  
Image Source: