Sunday, November 26, 2017

How healthy is pasta?

How healthy is the pasta in your spaghetti, macaroni and cheese, rigatoni, and other pasta dishes?  So many people have been avoiding pasta as it is a “carb” and they think carbs are unhealthy.  Americans still enjoy their pasta as we eat about 20 pounds of it a year. 

How healthy is pasta?
Pasta provides a lot of nutrition.  Not just carbs but also protein, about 5-7 grams of protein in a cup of cooked pasta.  The flour used to make pasta is a high protein durum wheat flour which is higher in protein than other types of flour. If you want to add more nutrition to your spaghetti or pasta dish, add some whole wheat pasta.  We usually use about ¾ white pasta and about ¼ whole wheat pasta.  Some people use all whole wheat pasta but it is a taste one needs to get used to.  Most people hardly notice if you add just a little whole wheat pasta. 

Even the white pasta provides some fiber.  And pasta is enriched with some B vitamins and iron. Whole wheat pasta adds even more fiber and some trace minerals to your day. It also promotes fullness because of the additional fiber and thus may reduce hunger. 

Is pasta fattening?
Many people avoid “carbs” as they think “carbs” are fattening.  But pasta is actually a unique type of carb.  The protein and carbs in pasta are linked together in a way that makes the pasta you eat digested more slowly than other refined carbs like white bread.  As a result, pasta keeps you full longer and releases sugar (glucose) into your blood more slowly.  This could actually help with and not promote weight loss.  Cold pasta such as that in some cold pasta salads is called a “resistance starch”, which may actually help with weight loss.  Interestingly, resistant starch may actually increase fat burning and reduce the amount of fat stored in fat cells.  That’s because “resistant starches” resists being digested. 

Some research has shown that eating pasta may actually lower your risk of heart disease.  Probably because pasta is so low in fat.  Pasta may also reduce the risk of diabetes (cook it al dente, see below) and obesity. Probably because pasta releases sugar into your blood more slowly than other refined carbs and it helps you fill full. 

 Is cooking pasta al dente healthier?
Yes.  Al dente means you cook pasta to a slightly firm texture, not mushy.  Al dente pasta has a lower glycemic index which means it raises your blood sugar less.  Overcooking pasta is less healthy as it digested more rapidly and thus raises your blood sugar more.

What about the gluten in pasta?
Why avoid gluten?  Unless you have celiac disease, there is no reason to be avoiding gluten in your diet.   

Next week we’ll explore spaghetti sauces.  So many to choose from.  We’ll explore what to look for in a spaghetti sauce for optimal nutrition but also good taste.

Enjoy some pasta this week.  Cook it al dente and add at least a little whole grain pasta.  Kraft now offers a whole grain rotini and cheese.  Not all whole grain, but 50%.  We’ve tried it and it tastes good. A good and easy way to get some whole grain into your kids and you.

Sunday, November 19, 2017

How can you build stronger bones?

But too many of us aren’t getting the calcium we need.  About 80% of teenage girls and 60% of teenage boys aren’t getting enough calcium in their diets. Most adults are also low in getting enough calcium taking in about 500-700 mg when they need 1000 mg of calcium a day.  The Dietary Guidelines recommend adults have 3 cups of milk or dairy servings every day. 

How much calcium do you need each day?
Probably more than you are getting.  The chart below shows how much calcium different age groups are getting.  If you aren’t drinking milk or having a yogurt at every meal, you are probably low in your calcium intake.
Recommended Calcium (mg/day)
Children 4-8
Children/teens 9-18
Women over 50 and men over 70

What foods provide calcium?
Although some people take calcium supplements, calcium is best absorbed from food. 
Dairy foods – are the best sources of calcium.  MyPlate shows dairy at every meal.  Aim for a glass of milk (300 mg of calcium), low-fat or non-fat milk, or some yogurt (415 mg calcium/8 0z.) at every meal.  It is especially important for growing children and young adults to have a dairy serving at every meal.  Cheese is a good source of calcium but most cheeses don’t have vitamin D.  So, have the cheese but be sure to have milk or yogurt during the day to get both calcium and vitamin D. 
Add some dairy foods to your day
Vegetables – some vegetables have calcium.  It is not as well absorbed as the calcium in milk.  Green vegetables such as kale, spinach, and turnip greens.
Fortified Cereals – grains are not a rich source of calcium but some cereals have added calcium.  Look at the nutrition label to see how much calcium is in the cereal.
Orange Juice – orange juice provides little calcium unless it is calcium-fortified orange juice.   Most calcium-fortified OJ is also fortified with vitamin D.  This is a good way to get both calcium and vitamin D in your day.  Studies have shown the calcium in fortified OJ is absorbed about as well as the calcium in milk.  So, a great choice for people who don’t get enough calcium from dairy foods.  Remember to shake the container as the calcium in fortified juice tends to settle to the bottom. 

Kale  1 cup raw, chopped
100 mg calcium
Turnip greens, ½ c. cooked
100 mg calcium
Broccoli, raw ½ cup
21 mg calcium
Spinach 1 cup cooked
245 mg (but only about 12 mg absorbed)
Fortified Cereals
Check the food label for amount per serving
Orange Juice – calcium fortified, 8 oz
300 mg

Of course, one can also “Treat Yourself” to get some calcium in your day.  Some fun ways to get extra calcium in your day are:
Latte, 16 oz
350 mg calcium
Parfait made with ¼ ricotta, strawberries, and 1 T. almonds.   ½ cup
200 mg calcium
Ice Cream ½ cup
84 mg calcium
Chocolate pudding 1 c.
250 gm calcium
Chia Seeds 2 T.
179 mg calcium
Hershey Kisses – dark chocolate with almonds
4 = 42 mg calcium

Other ways to add calcium is to enjoy some pizza.  Cheese on pizza adds calcium.  Make a smoothie with milk or yogurt.  When I make oatmeal in the morning, I use milk instead of water.  Not only a good protein boost but also adds calcium and vitamin D.  Instead of cream in your coffee use some milk. Let your kids have some chocolate milk.  Yes, it has some sugar but is a good afternoon snack beverage.  Children will drink it and get some calcium and vitamin D in their day. 
Enjoy some chocolate pudding
This week enjoy some pudding or ice cream.   Pack a few Hershey Kisses in your lunch as a treat and also adding a little calcium to your lunch.  Going out to eat lunch yesterday, I chose the small milk to have with my lunch.  Taking kids or grandkids out for fast food?  Have them choose the milk instead of the sugared soda.  

Sunday, November 12, 2017

November is Diabetes Awareness Month

Are you at risk of diabetes?  About 1 in 4 Americans have diabetes and don’t even know it.  About 23 million Americans have Type 2 diabetes and 7 million of us don’t even know it.  Another 79 million Americans have prediabetes.  We can take some steps to lower our risk of getting Type 2 diabetes.  The American Diabetes Association has a wealth of information on diabetes and even a Diabetes Risk Test you can take.

There are two types of diabetes, Type 1 and Type 2.  They used to call these juvenile diabetes and adult diabetes.  However, so many Americans, even those at a young age are getting Type 2 diabetes that they no longer refer to this as adult onset diabetes. 
  • Type 1 – Usually kids or young adults get this type of diabetes, that is why it used to be called juvenile diabetes.  This type affects about 5% of Americans.  The body does not produce the insulin needed to get sugar (glucose) into the cells so blood sugar rises.  People with Type 1 are put on insulin therapy and other treatments and taught to manage their diabetes through medication and diet.
  • Type 2 – This is the more common type of diabetes.  Blood sugar (glucose) levels rise because the body isn’t using insulin well.  The body tries to make extra insulin to handle the rising blood sugar but over time the body can’t make enough insulin to keep blood sugar levels normal. 

What are 3 Steps to lowering your risk of getting Type 2 diabetes?
  1.  Take off some weight -  Even a Few Pounds:  a healthy weight is one way to help prevent Type 2 1diabetes.  If overweight, one doesn’t have to lose a lot of weight to improve their health.  
  •  Drop a few pounds - even a loss of 10-15 pounds can lead to a big improvement in your health.
  •  Keep a normal weight – if you already are at a normal weight, work to keep it there.  Do what my nutrition teacher, Mrs. Osborne did.  When she gained 5 pounds over her normal weight, she focused on losing those 5 pounds.  If you have lost some weight, focus on keeping those lost pounds off.  Being at a normal weight is a great way to reduce one’s risk of many health conditions, including Type 2 diabetes. 
 2.       Physical activity – being active helps you use up the sugar (glucose) in your blood as it is burned off for energy. In particular, going for a walk after eating a meal is especially helpful.
  • Be active every day – it doesn’t mean going to the gym every day.  Go for a walk, do some yoga at home.  Housework and yard work also counts as being active
  • Get off the couch.  A local physical trainer named her company, “Off Da Couch” as she wanted to emphasize sitting less and exercising more.  
Take a walk
 3.  Healthy eating – Cutting back, not on carbs, but on fat and the number of calories you take in. 

a.     Cut back on fat and calories.  Going out to eat?  Look up the menu online before you go.  Fast Food and other restaurants such as Chipotle, Panera, McDonald’s post their menus and nutrition information on line.  Take a few minutes to look down the nutrition information for menu items for Fat Calories in the foods.  Choose the food with less fat and especially less saturated fat.  Choose the grilled chicken sandwich instead of the fried chicken sandwich.  Instead of a Large French fries, get the Medium French Fries.  Small changes can make big differences in the amount of fat and calories in a meal.
b.      Eat breakfast every day – not only will this energize your morning but people who eat breakfast every day are more likely to lose weight and keep it off.
c.       Cut back or eliminate the sugary drinks – so much added sugar in sodas, fruit punches, the juice drinks that masquerade as real juice.  Research has found sugary drinks are related to an increase in Type 2 diabetes.  So cut out or cut back on the sugary drinks in your day. Choose water, unsweetened ice tea, flavored water.
d.      Whole grains – eating more whole grains lowers your risk of Type 2 diabetes.  The fiber in the whole grains slows the absorption of sugars.  Switch out some white bread for some whole grain bread.  Instead of potato chips at Subway, choose some Sun Chips which are whole grain.  At Chipotle, choose the brown rice.  Simple changes can lower your risk of Type 2 diabetes.
Whole wheat bread
Take a walk after lunch this week.  Eat breakfast every day and have some oatmeal on weekends.  Check out the Fast Food menus for lower fat options.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Cut the Added Sugar

So much added sugar in our diets.  We notice most of the added sugar in our diets, like the added sugar in candy, ice cream or desserts.  But so much added sugar is “stealth sugar” in our foods.  Manufacturers love to add sugar to common foods like bread and pasta sauce.  There is also so much confusion about “sugar” as some people avoid “sugar” and then end up avoiding milk because it has lactose, a natural sugar in milk. Or they stop eating fruit like bananas, as they mistakenly say, “bananas are high in sugar”, when bananas have NO ADDED SUGAR.  So, what should you know about added sugar?  Consumer Reports has provided an excellent guide called, Eat Smarter, Eat Healthier which includes information about we can cut back on the added sugar in our diet.  

Can you enjoy some added sugar?
Yes.  Who doesn’t like dessert, some ice cream, some cookies or other treat every day?  I do.  The problem is we eat way too many foods with added sugar and manufacturers have sneaked added sugar into so many foods that we aren’t even aware of all the added sugar we take in each day.

How much Added Sugar do Americans eat each day?
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey reports Americans eat:
17 teaspoons (73 grams) of added sugar
Teenagers consume 20 teaspoons (82 grams) a day – the most of all age groups – sugared soda anyone??  The Centers for Disease Control found that kids are now getting about 16% of their total calories from added sugar.  
How much Added Sugar should we get in a day?
  • 9 teaspoons men (36 grams) or 150 calories
  • 6 teaspoons women and children (25 grams) or 100 calories
  • Children under 2 should have no added sugars in their diet according to the American Heart Association. 
American Heart Association

Is Added Sugar linked to weight gain?
Consumer Reports claims:  Sugar:  The Gateway to Weight Gain. Yes, we should be “cutting the carbs” in our diet, the added sugar carbs.  They report that manufacturers have convinced us saturated fat is bad so we began buying low fat foods loaded with added sugar and refined flour.  This was no healthier than the saturated fat we were trying to avoid.  The high sugar, refined flour foods may be contributing to the obesity epidemic in our country and it related diseases, Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.
Consumer Reports highlights a study from 2015 of 1,700 adults that found people with the highest intake of sugars were 54% more likely to be obese or overweight compared to those who had the lowest intake of sugars.
Rachel K. Johnson, Ph.D, R.D. is quoted as saying, “It’s settled science that a high intake of added sugars in the American diet, is associated with an increased risk of overweight and obesity-conditions that are directly linked to the development of Type 2 diabetes.”

How to find the stealth added sugars in foods:
Manufacturers make it hard to limit the added sugars in our diet.  Not only do food manufacturers add sugar to so many foods but they add sugar that many of us don’t even recognize as sugar.  New food labels are coming that will tell you how much added sugar is in a food, but until then look at the ingredients to see if sugar has been added. So many people buy what they think is “juice” only to find it is a “juice drink” with lots of added sugar.  If sugar is one of the ingredients, it is not 100% juice. 
Cereal – look for how much sugar has been added to the cereal you or your child eats. 

Added Sugars
 Dr. Sears in his book, The Healthiest Kid in the Neighborhood, teaches kids to look for cereals with less than 6 grams of added sugar per serving. And to choose cereals with no artificial sweeteners or high fructose corn syrup as an ingredient.
Other suggestions Dr. Sears makes in his book to cut back on added sugars:
  • Soda:  replace with water, or sparkling water and 100% fruit juice          
  • Juice Drinks (and fruit punch, fruitades like lemonade)–  replace with water mixed with 100% juice.  Consumer Reports notes that 7% of the calories of kids comes from fruit drinks and soda.
  • Hi sugar cereal – choose a low sugar cereal and add cinnamon, berries, raisins
 And look at the yogurt you are buying to see how much sugar has been added. 

Sweetened tea is big in the south and it certainly tastes good.  To cut back on the added sugar, my daughter first mixed the sugar sweetened ice tea half and half with unsweetened ice tea.  She gradually kept adding more and more unsweetened ice tea and now just chooses the unsweetened ice tea in a restaurant.  Ice tea is quite healthy but sugar sweetened ice tea is not so healthy.
Look for the hidden added sugars in bread, pasta sauce, salad dressings, and peanut butter.  Cutting back on these hidden sugars is a way to get some of the added sugars out of your diet.
Hidden sugars can include:  agave syrup, cane sugar, coconut sugar, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, molasses, raw sugar, honey and words that end in -ose, like fructose, maltose, sucrose.

So try to cut back on the carbs in your diet, the added sugar carbs.  Look at labels this week, look at the ingredients.  Are there foods you can swap out to get rid of some of the added sugar?  Choose real juice instead of fruit drinks.  Choose a cereal with less added sugar.  Choose pasta sauce with no added sugar.  One almost has to be a detective to cut back on the added sugar in their diet.  I enjoy desserts and know that the desserts I eat have added sugar.  But we do try to cut the added sugar in our bread, peanut butter, pasta sauce and we always buy 100% real juice.