Sunday, January 29, 2017

Drink Tea for Good Health

Who doesn’t enjoy a cup of hot tea, especially in winter?  Does tea have any health benefits?  Do different kinds of tea have different health benefits?  Yes.  An interesting article, in Environmental Nutrition discussed teas for various health reasons such as weight, insomnia and improving your immunity.
Many people make health claims for herbal teas, but what health claims are true and reliable?  

Weight – are there herbal teas that promote weight loss? 
  • Green, white and oolong teas:  These 3 teas have chemicals in them called catechins.  In the lab at least, these chemicals do affect fat metabolism.  Green tea is especially rich in catechins. 
  • Roobios tea:  This is a different tea, a red tea with a different chemical.  This one has the chemical, aspalathin.   One study showed it helped improve fat metabolism.
  • Peppermint tea:  a real treat on a cold winter day.  The smell of peppermint in this tea seems to help suppress one’s appetite. 

Insomnia and Anxiety
  • Chamomile tea: have trouble sleeping?  Then a cup of chamomile tea may be helpful.  One study indicated it helped those with anxiety – so if you feel stressed, enjoy a cup of chamomile tea.
  • Kava tea:  studies have shown it may help relieve anxiety – but CAUTION.  Stay clear of kava supplements which have been linked to liver damage.
  • Valerian tea:  Some studies have found a cup of valerian tea can help you sleep better.

Immunity – are there teas that can help boost your immunity?
  • Echinacea tea:  Studies have provided mixed results on the link between this tea and immunity.  Some studies have shown it may help prevent the common cold.
  • Ginseng tea:  Some studies have found this tea helpful in preventing colds and the flu or at least help improve symptoms. 

CAUTION – drinking herbal teas may indeed have some health benefits but more research is needed.  But stay clear of buying the herbal and dietary supplements that contain green tea extract.  The National Institutes of Health (NIH) acknowledges the benefits of drinking green tea and notes, “Green tea has long been believed to have health restoring properties and its ingredients have antioxidant activity. “   But NIH also notes that dietary supplements, like Hydoxycut, which contains high concentrations of green tea extract, has been linked to liver injury. 

Enjoy a brewed cup of herbal tea.  Just stay clear of herbal and dietary supplements containing extracts, like the green tea extract which can be found in some weight loss pills.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Best Diets for Weight Loss in 2017

Making a resolution to lose a few pounds in 2017?  If so, what are the best diets to be on for those interested in dropping a few pounds?  So many weight loss diets are “bad” diets as they are fads, diets that take away food groups and take away nutrients.  Diets that don’t change your lifestyle but offer a quick solution but for many a temporary solution.  You may lose some weight but once you go “off” the diet, you gain the weight back.  US News & World Report not only ranks the best diets for overall health (last week’s blog topic) but also the Best Weight-Loss Diets.  
What makes a weight-loss diet a winner?  The experts ranking the diets looked for both short and long term weight loss results.   They noted some diets did well in the short term, people lost weight on the diet, but long-term results, not so good.  A diet really isn’t successful if you gain all the weight back that you wanted to say good bye to. 
What Weight Loss Diets were ranked the best by US News & World Report 

    1. Weight Watchers = Number 1 Diet for Weight Loss in 2017
a.       Pros:  Healthier eating.  Weight Watchers helps you learn to eat healthier and encourages exercise.  This diet doesn’t just focus on counting calories but on making healthier food choices.  In Weight Watchers, you count points, not calories.  Unlike many diets, Weight Watchers doesn’t just focus on lowering calories.  It also helps you choose healthier foods, foods with less saturated fat, less added sugar and more protein.  There is mobile App to use on your smartphone. Fitness – you count points for food and you count points for exercise.  But not just going to the gym, cleaning your house adds points, mowing the lawn, walking the dog.  Basically, get moving points.
b.       Cons – some people don’t like all the counting of points.  A student in my class said their mother was happy counting the points but their dad said he just wanted to eat when out in a restaurant and didn’t want to figure out the points for every food on his plate. 
      2.  Jenny Craig Diet = Number 2 Diet for Weight Loss in 2017 (actually a tie for second place)
a.       Pros – this program offers meals that come to you with calories already counted for you.  They also provide recipes so you can make foods that fit into their diet program.  Like Weight Watchers, Jenny Craig promotes an active lifestyle and healthier eating patterns.  Studies do show you will lose weight on this program, as long as you stay on the program.
b.       Cons – cost – you will pay for the pre-packaged food. US News & World Report notes the enrollment fee is $99 and food costs can run $15 to $23 dollars each day which equates to $450 to $690 a month.  So not a cheap way to lose weight.  You can eat out occasionally, but the program is based on Jenny Craig foods delivered to you or you make.  A male student in my class chose this diet to lose weight for a future mountain climbing trip.  He lost weight, but said he was quite hungry at times. 
      3. Volumetrics Diet = Number 2 Diet for Weight Loss in 2017  (not a typo, this diet tied with Jenny Craig for second place) 
a.       Pros – focus of this diet is foods loaded with nutrients not loaded with calories.  Thus, more fruits and vegetables which are low in calories but full of nutrients.  A nutrition professor from Penn State University is behind this diet.  She divides foods into 4 groups – not the basic four, but new groups based on energy density (or calorie density).  Nonstarchy fruits and vegetables are number one or category one.  Then comes the starchy fruits and vegetables along with grains, cereals, low -fat meats and other low-fat foods.  Junk food ends up in the 4th category – the chips, candy, cookies.  Interesting that nuts are put in the 4th category and nuts are a healthy food choice.  Cost is a pro as there are no expensive foods to buy.  You do need to buy a book to give you guidance on what to eat and cook on this diet.
b.       Cons -  You have to keep track of what food is in what category.  If you choose a higher calorie food, you might be able to eat only a portion of it to fit into your daily allotment.  Exercise is not a major focus although the diet encourages walking and increasing your daily steps to 10, You can read a lot more about each diet at the Best Weight-Loss Diets website and by going to the websites of each of the above programs.
Try a diet that works for you.  One you can follow and stay on.  One that not only results in weight loss but lifestyle changes that help you keep off any weight you do lose.  WeMD has good advice to follow:  to prevent disease and stay active for life, you do need to exercise. So be sure to add this into your new lifestyle!  (Jenny Craig Review).  

Egg, bacon and avocado sandwich (Courtesy of Weight Watchers)

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Best Diets for 2017 for Eating Healthy

What does “eating healthy” mean?  What are healthy diets to follow?  Not for weight loss or weight gain, but just a healthy eating pattern?  I recently heard a person say they were on an “anti-inflammatory” diet.   They had given up fruit and dairy – 2 important food groups for good health so already not a good choice.  Another person said they were eating healthy and following the Whole30 diet.  US News & World Report gives the Whole30 diet a poor rating and a low ranking.  Why?  The diet is quite restrictive and excludes grain (an important food group), dairy (another important food group), legumes, even peanut butter.  Any diet that excludes a food group, excludes nutrients that the food group provides, is not a healthy diet. 

Each year, the US News & World Report evaluates the “Best Diets”.   For 2017, they evaluated 38 popular diets and determined which ones are best for your health and fitness.  What do they look for?  They use health experts to rank diets on a number of parameters including how nutritious the diet is, how safe it is and whether the diet protects against diseases like diabetes and heart disease.

Three diets ranked as the “Best Diets” for 2017  
      1.        DASH Diet – this diet stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, thus the acronym, DASH. Although it was designed to help lower blood pressure, the diet is good for your health. 
a.       Nutrients – the diet emphasizes nutrients that help lower one’s blood pressure like potassium and calcium.  It encourages more fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein and dairy – but low fat dairy products. 
b.       Foods to limit are red meats, and foods high in salt. 
Although the diet was designed for lowering high blood pressure, it is a good overall pattern of eating healthy.
    2. Mediterranean Diet – this diet has been written about extensively.  Many nutritionists and health experts recommend this pattern of healthy eating.
a.       Why good for your health?  The Mediterranean diet is a good diet for disease prevention – prevention of cancer and diabetes.  It is diet for healthy hearts and a healthy brain.  Basically, a healthier you.
b.       Foods to enjoy:  fruits, vegetables, olive oil, nuts, and fish.   
                                                               i.      Choose low-fat dairy – 2%, 1% or non-fat milk.  Choose low-fat yogurt.  Buy cheese that is made with low fat or skim milk like mozzarella cheese.
                                                             ii.      Whole grains – as noted in last week’s blog, so many Americans have few or no whole grains in their day.  Find a way to add whole grains to your daily food intake and to your kid’s diet.
                                                           iii.      Fruit and Vegetables – 5 A Day is a start.  More than 5 A Day is even healthier.
                                                           iv.      Nuts – add a handful of nuts a day
                                                             v.      Olive oil – buy some extra virgin olive oil and use it in cooking.
c.       Foods to cut back on: red meat, foods with added sugar and foods high in saturated fat. 
       3.   MIND Diet – this sounds like it would be a “quack” diet, but it is actually a combination of the DASH and Mediterranean diets.  It emphasizes the foods in these 2 diets that contribute to healthy brains.
a.       What are brain healthy foods emphasized in the MIND diet?
                                                               i.      Vegetables – leafy greens, beans
                                                             ii.      Fruits – berries,
                                                           iii.      Oil – olive oil
                                                           iv.      Protein – emphasis on fish and poultry
b.       Foods to cut back on:  red meat, fried and fast food, butter, stick margarine (choose tub margarine) and foods with added sugar like sweets and pastries.  
So rather than going on some crazy diet plan in an effort to eat healthier in 2017, choose one of the above diets to begin modeling your own eating after.  Healthy eating doesn’t mean giving up all the foods you like to eat, but adding some foods that promote good health like more fruits and vegetables and more whole grains.

Sunday, January 8, 2017

4 Nutrition Habits to Practice in 2017

What are 4 nutrition habits you can adopt in 2017 that are easy and will lead to a healthier you?   So many people make New Year’s Resolutions with broad goals that they never attain.   Goals such as “I will lose weight.”  “I will exercise more.”   No specifics and no real changes in your habits.  What are some nutrition habits you can easily adopt in 2017 that will improve your health, the way you look and the way you feel?  Try adopting one of these habits a month and see how easy it is to eat healthier in 2017.

Nutrition Habit #1:  Eat breakfast
Eat breakfast every day.  So many people skip breakfast, send their kids off to school without any breakfast and then wonder why they feel so tired by 10 AM.  Breakfast is truly the most important meal of the day and the way to fuel up and “break the fast” of not eating all night.
  • Whole grains – breakfast is a great time to add some whole grains to your day.
    • Cereal – choose a whole grain cereal like oatmeal, Cheerios.  In fact, all General Mills cereals are whole grain so choosing a whole grain cereal for you and for your kids is easy.
    • Bagels, English Muffins – no time?  Pop a whole grain bagel thin or whole grain English muffin in the toaster.
  • Fruit – eat a banana, drink 4 ounces of 100% juice, add some raisins to your oatmeal.
  • Protein – add some protein to your breakfast for “staying power”.  Carbs are digested first and protein next.  You won’t be as hungry at 11 AM if you had some protein in your breakfast.  Drink some low-fat milk, eat a low-fat yogurt.  Enjoy some scrambled eggs.
 Nutrition Habit #2:  Eat 5 A Day
Eat at least 5 fruits and vegetables a day.  So many people are missing the mark on fresh fruits and veggies.  Make it a habit to eat fruit at breakfast every day.  In a rush, grab a banana to eat at work.  Drink 4 ounces of 100% juice.  At lunch, have 2 fruits or one fruit and one vegetable.  Pack an apple and some baby carrots.  At dinner, have 2 vegetables.  My husband’s mother said it wasn’t dinner unless 2 vegetables were served.  If this is too much for you, then start with at least one fruit or vegetable at every meal.  And French Fries don’t count.  Eating at a Fast Food place?  Choose the apple slices and/or the salad to get your 5 A Day.

Nutrition Habit #3:  Whole Grains
Make every day a whole grain day.  So many Americans aren’t eating even one serving of whole grains a day and USDA recommends half of all your grains (breads, cereal, muffins, etc.) should be whole grain.  If you aren’t eating any whole grains, try adding one whole grain a day.  A better habit is to have at least 3 servings of whole grains a day.  MyPlate has a number of tips to help you eat more whole grains every day:
  • Cereal – choose whole grain such as a General Mills cereal or oatmeal.
  • Bagels – choose whole grain like a whole grain bagel thin.  Make a sandwich for lunch on a whole grain bagel.
  • Chips/Popcorn – choose whole grain chips like Sun Chips.  Buy some SkinnyPop popcorn.  It comes in 100 calorie bags, easy to pack for a snack.
  • Crackers – choose Triscuits, Wheat Thins.
  • Rice – choose brown rice.
To read more about how to add whole grains to your day, go to How Much Whole Grain Should You Eat a Day?  

Nutrition Habit #4:  Add Some Fiber to Your Day
Add more fiber to your day.  I have never heard anyone make a New Year’s Resolution that says, “I will eat more fiber every day.” But for so many Americans, that should be a goal.  So many Americans eat refined foods like white bread, pastries, donuts and don’t even think about how much fiber they are getting each day.  If you want to know how many grams of fiber you need each day, go to Kellogg’s Nutrition Fiber Tracker.  This quick fiber calculator will tell you how many grams of fiber you should be getting each day.  Start small with fiber grams.  It takes a while for your body to adjust to adding more fiber to your diet.
  • Cereal – look at the nutrition label and choose a cereal with more fiber.
  • Breads – even whole wheat bread varies in fiber content.  Choose a bread that gives you more fiber per slice.
  • Crackers – choose whole grain crackers to add some fiber.
  • Fruit and Vegetables – fresh fruit and vegetables will add more fiber to your diet than processed.  Choosing the apple instead of applesauce will add more fiber
Choose one of the above nutrition habits and make this your nutrition habit for January 2017.  In February add another nutrition habit.  Add one nutrition habit a month for the first 4 months of 2017 and you will have healthier eating habits, you will feel better, and look better.   

Sources:  MyPlate, How Much Whole Grain Should You Eat a Day?, Kellogg’s Nutrition Fiber Tracker, Image Source:  Quaker Oats

Sunday, January 1, 2017

What is fairlife Milk?

Have you heard of fa!rlife (the brand uses all lower case letters and an exclamation point for the “i”) Milk?  My daughter asked me if I had heard of it and a friend of hers read about it in a Men’s Health magazine.  The friend really liked the taste of it.  So, what is it and how does it differ from regular cow’s milk?  Is it healthier, does it cost more? 

What is Fairlife (intentional cap) milk?
It is cow’s milk that is altered in a number of ways.  One it is it ultra-filtered and two a lactase enzyme is added.  Like regular skim or fat-free milk, it is fortified with vitamins A and D.

How is Fairlife milk different from regular cow’s milk, from Almond milk?
  • Ultra-filtered – you may have seen other milks labeled “ultra-filtered”.  Ultra-filtration creates milk that has a longer shelf life.  Pasteurized milk means it is heated for 15-20 seconds to kill off some of the harmful bacteria.  Ultra-filtered milk is pasteurized at a higher temperature but for less time.  This kills off more bacteria, giving the milk a longer shelf life if it is unopened.  Once you open the ultra-filtered milk, the shelf life is the same. Their cold-filtration process concentrates nutrients like protein and calcium.  And some of the sugar is filtered out.
  • Protein – Fairlife has more protein per serving than regular cow’s milk, almost twice as much as regular milk and much more protein than Almond milk.  (See chart below).
  • Calcium – Fairlife also has more calcium per serving than regular cow’s milk, but not as much calcium as Almond milk. 
  • Lactose – Fairlife provides no lactose. Lactose is the natural sugar present in milk.  Most people have no problem digesting lactose but if you do, this product contains no lactose.  Thus, people who are lactose intolerant can drink this milk.

Is it a good post-workout drink, a good breakfast drink?
Men’s Health nutrition advisor was asked if Fairlife was a better post workout drink.   Mike Roussell, Ph.D. is advising his clients to switch to Fairlife.  In the article, he states, “It takes milk and makes it better.” 

Post-workout – most nutritionists and personal trainers recommend protein post-workout.  Milk has a very high quality protein.  Since Fairlife concentrates the protein, it provides even more of milk’s high quality protein so would make a good post-workout drink.

Breakfast – many people don’t get enough protein at breakfast.  Men’s Health noted that adding Fairlife to your breakfast will add protein to your breakfast.  

Is it real milk?
Yes.   Fairlife milk is cow’s milk. 
Many products today are labeled “milk” but contain no cow’s milk.  Products such as soy milk, Almond milk have no cow’s milk.  Fairlife is made from real cow’s milk.  

Try it.  Some say they like the taste.  Others say it is watery and doesn’t have much taste.  Men’s Health says it is “more creamy than regular dairy”, so try it to see if you like it.

Is it organic?
No, it is not organic.  Fairlife milk is from cows not treated with the growth hormone, rBST.

This extra filtration and processing does add to the cost.  Comparing prices is not easy as Fairlife does not come in a half gallon size.  A half gallon of milk is 64 ounces.  Fairlife is only 52 ounces so not quite a half gallon.  In our area, the 52 ounce size of Fairlife costs from $2.99 to $3.99, about the same as a half gallon (64 ounces) of organic milk. So, because of the reduced size, Fairlife costs more than organic milk in our area.  Regular cow’s milk costs $1.89 to $2.09.  A half gallon of regular or organic milk provides 8, eight ounce glasses of milk.  The 52 ounce size of Fairlife would provide 6.5 eight ounce glasses of milk.
If you want more protein and more calcium per serving, and no lactose, then Fairlife is worth a try.  

How do the milks compare for an 8 ounce serving? (adapted from Fairlife nutrition comparison)
Fairlife fat-free
13 grams
375 mg
6 grams
Regular cow’s Milk – fat free
8 grams
276 mg
12 grams
1 gram
451 mg
7 grams
8 grams
451 mg
6 grams