Sunday, February 28, 2016

Walk more for greater health benefits

Everyone knows that walking is good for you.  New studies have show how good walking is for your overall health.  If a short walk is good, is a longer walk better?  How much walking does one have to do to improve health?

How much walking is needed to improve health?
Sedentary is bad, walking is good, is a new way to look at activity.  A sedentary person who only walks about 1,000 steps a day who ups it to 3,000 steps a day can improve their health.  A study published in PLOS One, and highlighted in More Steps a day keep the doctor away, found that the more steps you do the greater the health benefits.  But even increasing walking from 1000 t0 3000 steps a day resulted in a 12% lowered mortality risk.   Those who met the goal of walking 10,000 steps a day lowered their mortality risk a whopping 46%. 
They determined this by tracking 3,000 Australians, average age of 58, for over 15 years.  The study participants wore a pedometer to track daily steps. 
In the nutrition class I teach, I emphasize how changing little habits can have big health effects.  No time to go for a walk, then at least park your car as far from the entrance as you can.   Going to class, park far away.  Going to work, park far away.  Going shopping, your car should be parked off in the distance.   There are many ways to increase steps.  Take the stairs, not the elevator.  Instead of sending an email to a co-worker, go to their office or cubicle. 

What about speed walking?
No time for a long walk?  Then fit in a fast/slow walk.  Read more about walking at: Walking Workouts.   This Fitness magazine website offers a number of ways to alter the intensity and pace of your walk.  Put an App on your Smart Phone to track not only steps but also your speed.  Read about recommended Aps at:  8 Best Pedometer Applications for iPhone.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Want to lose weight? Cut back on Added Sugar.

Looking to lose weight before summer?  So many people focus on cutting back starches to lose weight when cutting back on added sugars may be more beneficial.  People are more willing to cut back on the slice of bread but not the sugared soda.  As stated by Laura Schmidt, professor of Health Policy at UC San Francisco, “Too much sugar does not just make us fat; it can also make us sick.” Is Sugar Making Us Sick? Recent research shows that cutting back on added sugars is a good way for obese kids to lose weight.  (The Berkeley Wellness Letter highlighted this study in “Yes, it’s the sugar”, March 2016.)  Cutting back on nutritious foods needed for growth is not a good idea when a child is trying to slim down. But added sugars add calories and not nutrients needed for growth and development.
What did the research find about added sugars?
Two universities, University of San Francisco and Touro University of California studied 43 obese kids ranging in age from 9-18.  These kids were given a controlled diet for only 9 days.  The focus of the diet was to cut back on added sugars.  Not starches but added sugar.  And added sugars made up a good part of these obese kids’ diet, a whopping 28 percent.  Nearly a third of their calories were from added sugars in their diet.  Not only did the controlled diet not cut back on starches, they ADDED STARCHES, like breads, cereals, and even pasta to the diets of these kids.  They also added some whole fruit to ensure the carb calories the same.  The controlled diet didn’t even cut back on calories – the calories stayed the same.  Yet, the kids lost some weight, about 2 pounds by the tenth day of the study.  Surprisingly, most of the kids reported they couldn’t eat all the food, as apparently, the starchy foods were more filling than all the added sugar foods they had been eating.

Health Improved – in only a nine day period, a number of health indicators improved:
  • Blood pressure dropped
  • Triglyceride levels were lowered
  • LDL – the “bad” cholesterol dropped
  • Fasting blood sugar dropped

So not only did the obese kids lose weight on a diet that didn’t lower calories, they also improved their health and in only 9 days of an added sugar reduction. 

Conclusion:  The study authors concluded that maybe different calories are metabolized differently in our bodies.  Added sugar calories seem to be metabolized differently than starch calories.  The author noted that cutting back on added sugar should be just as effective in adults. 
For more information, see:  Is Sugar Making Us Sick? And Added sugar and Health Risks

Sources:  Obesity and Added Sugar, Is Sugar Making Us Sick?, Yes, it’s the sugar, Berkeley Wellness Letter, March 2016.   Image source:  Sugar

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Eating for Good Eye Sight

Does what you eat affect your vision?  Do the foods you eat or don’t eat affect your eye sight?  Recently I was at a restaurant and a couple sat down in the table next to us.  The man asked the server for a flashlight as he was not able to read the menu in the dim light.  It was a little dim in the restaurant but most people would be able to read the menu.  I didn’t know what his vision problem was, but one thing came to mind, vitamin A deficiency.  One of the first systems of vitamin A deficiency is night blindness.  This results in poor vision at night or in dim light.  Perhaps this gentleman had trouble reading the menu in the dim light because he was deficient in vitamin A.  What are the vitamins and nutrients that promote good vision?  The March 2016 issue of Environmental Nutrition has an article, “Eat to See Clearly”. 

  1. Choose a Rainbow of Colors:  – Eat the colors of the rainbow for healthy eyes.  A vitamin A precursor is carotenoids found in dark green and dark orange fruits and vegetables.  Carotenoids include lutein and zeaxanthin.  These are antioxidants that help protect our eyes from damaging rays of sunlight and may protect us from getting cataracts. 
  2. Prepare your veggies for eye health – most people think raw vegetables are the healthiest.  But chopping them up and cooking in some oil actually helps with absorption of vitamin A and the carotenoids.  I always tell my students if you have a salad you don’t want fat-free dressing but some fat in the dressing helps you absorb the nutrients in the dark greens and veggies in the salad.  
  3. What Vegetables and Fruit are healthy for your eyes?
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin – darker the green the better – dark leafy greens such as: spinach, kale, collards, turnip greens, and mustard greens.  Also, peas, Brussel sprouts, summer and winter squash.
  • Carotene – pumpkin, carrots, winter squash, sweet potato, dark green leafy vegetables, and cantaloupe.         
 4. Are there supplements that are good for your eyesight?  Eating carotenoid rich foods is the best for your eyes.  For those with poor diets, supplements may help. The Age-Related Eye Disease Study recommends:              

Nutrients for Eye Health
Vitamin C
500 mg.
Vitamin E
400 IU
10 mg
2 mg
Zinc (zinc oxide)
25 mg
Copper (cupric oxide)
2 mg
For eye health eat the colors of the rainbow, enjoy the sweet potato at dinner and add some low fat salad dressing or vinegar and oil to the salad.  Sauté some fresh vegetables in olive oil so you can absorb all those eye healthy carotenoids in your food.

Sources:  Eat to See Clearly, Image source: Fruits and Vegetables

Eat fruits and vegetables for eye health.

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Are you drinking too many calories?

How many calories are in those beverages you are drinking every day?  Many people drink high energy drinks, Starbuck’s coffee, soft drinks and drinks like Gatorade without even considering those calories.   And calories from beverages easily add up.   The Alliance for a Healthier Generation has some good advice for high school students that can be applied to all of us.
Drop Liquid Calories is one of the Alliance for Health’s recommendations.  Many of us aren’t eating our calories but drinking our calories by consuming sugary beverages – soft drinks, energy drinks, sweetened ice tea, coffee with flavored syrups.  High school students and adults “are drinking more sugary beverages than ever before.”  As the website notes, the biggest source of added sugar in the diets of many of our youth are sugary beverages.  Surprisingly, many of these sugary beverages are provided by parents and they can easily change what beverages are in the home. 
Liquid calories aren’t as filling as calories from “solid” foods.  Thus, if you are trying to lose weight, don’t waste your calories on liquid calories.  Have some liquid calories and you’ll be hungry shortly after as liquid calories are not as filling as calories from solid foods.  (Wellness Letter, Fall 2015)
Suggestions to Drop Liquid Calories
  1. Drink water – water has no calories and many people don’t realize water is an essential nutrient.  We need water but we don’t need all the added sugar in the beverages we choose.  Take a water bottle with you, in a restaurant, drink water instead of a beverage.  I often ask for a glass at Subway, Panera Bread or other restaurants and just get a cup of water and ice to drink.
  2. Identify Your Unhealthy Drinks

a.       Soda loaded with sugar, usually high fructose corn syrup and 100% “empty calories”no vitamins, no minerals, just junk food.
b.      High Energy Drinks – Often loaded with added sugar calories.
c.       Juice Drinks – juice drinks have no or little juice in them.  Hi-C is only 10% juice.  Capri Sun check the label, many like Fruit Punch are mostly water and sugar.   Choose 100% juice to get real juice and no added sugar. 
d.      Flavored coffees – watch all those syrupy flavors as they add calories and added sugar.  Go to the Starbuck’s website and check out the calories:
Iced Espresso Classic – Vanilla Latte
130  calories
Iced Espresso Classic – Caffe Mocha
140 calories
Caffe  Mocha 16 oz
290 calories
Caramel Dolce Latte 16 oz
260 calories

         3.        Choose healthier beverages
  • Water – add ice and some lemon wedges
  • 100% fruit juice – look at label and make sure it is 100% juice
  •  Low –fat unflavored milk
  • Ice tea or hot tea – unsweetened 
       4.       Read the label, read the ingredients and look for these Added Sugars:

Agave, agave syrup
Evaporated cane juice
Maple syrup
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Brown sugar

So reach for the water and not the soda.  Or at least try to cut back on the beverages with all those liquid calories.

Sources:  Drop Liquid Calories, Berkeley Wellness Letter, Starbucks, Fall 2015, image source:  Added sugars