Sunday, April 28, 2019

Why eating breakfast is good for your health

We all have heard that “breakfast is the most important meal of the day”.  I always emphasize to students how important breakfast is to children’s health and recent research is showing to adult health as well.  

Adult Health
Research in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology found that breakfast skippers increase their risk of dying from heart disease or a stroke.  And the risk is huge.  The study found that people who skipped breakfast had not only a higher risk of dying from heart disease but breakfast skippers had an 87% higher risk of dying from heart disease than those who took the time to eat breakfast every day.  And it just wasn’t a study of “old” people.  The 6,550 study participants ages ranged from 40 to 75.  

How often did the people in the study skip or eat breakfast?
  • 5.1% never ate breakfast
  • 10.9% rarely ate breakfast
  • 25% had breakfast sometimes
  • 59% ate breakfast every day
 Unfortunately, the study didn’t provide information on what people ate for breakfast.  And for those “breakfast skippers” did they raid the office snack machines around 10 AM?  I once asked an adult what they had for breakfast and they said, “nothing”.  I then asked what was the first thing they ate that day and what time did they eat it.  Well, the person said they got hungry around 10 AM, went to the candy machine and bought 2 Snicker’s bars.  When I said that they ate candy for breakfast, they were quite surprised.  So, better studies are needed to find out what those who ate breakfast ate and if the “breakfast skippers” had a late breakfast of junk food. 

Why did skipping breakfast increase one’s risk of dying from heart disease or stroke? 
The study found that skipping breakfast has some adverse effects on one’s health.  Breakfast skippers had a higher risk of high blood cholesterol levels, increased obesity risk, high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  The finding of an increased risk of heart disease for breakfast skippers is supported by  study published in 2013 that found men who ate breakfast had a lower risk of heart disease. 

Also, are the breakfast skippers more likely to have an unhealthy lifestyle?  Seems so, as those who skipped breakfast were also former smokers, or heavy drinkers, or not physically active, and had poor diets overall. 

Children’s Health
Some attribute breakfast skipping to a habit learned in childhood.  And children who skip breakfast are at increased risk of childhood obesity.  Parents who let their kids skip breakfast, may be letting their kids skip out on important nutrients.  Breakfast skipping kids are more likely to have diets low in iron, calcium and folate compared to kids who eat breakfast every day.  Not a surprise since juice like orange juice provides the vitamin folate and the vitamin C in OJ helps a kid absorb the iron in a breakfast cereal that has iron in it.  And who doesn’t put milk on their cereal which would provide the much-needed calcium a growing child needs? 
Healthy French Toast
Make this a no-skip breakfast week.  Grab something for breakfast every day.  Aim for at least 100 calories.  Drink that cup of OJ.  Make a smoothie to drink in the car while you commute.  Put out the breakfast bowls and cereal before bed so everything is easy and quick to have a morning bowl of cereal.  Even a glass of real milk would supply some important nutrients a child needs for growth such as calcium and vitamin D.  When commuting, I would sometimes bring something to eat in the car.  Some OJ, coffee of course, and some Wheat Chex mixed with raisins.  Then at morning break I would have a yogurt to round out my morning in the car “breakfast”.  Leftovers count.  If your child, (or you), grabs a piece of leftover pizza and a glass of milk or juice, that would count as breakfast.  Try some healthy French toast or a healthy breakfast sandwich, recipe below.  

Healthy Breakfast Sandwich
  • Nonsting sprayck cooking spray
  • 4 eggs + 4 egg whites
  • ¼ c.  minced chives
  • ¼ c. minced parsley
  •  4 whole-wheat English muffins
  •  4  ½ inch round slices Canadian bacon
  • 1 beefsteak tomato, sliced into ½ inch thick slices
      Directions:  Whisk eggs and egg whites together in a bowl.  Add chves and parsley and stir.  Spray a large pan with nonstick cooking spray.  Ladle ¼ of the egg mixture into the pan and cook, omelet style.  Slide the omelet onto a plate, cover with foil to keep warm. Make the remaining egg omelets.  Heat the Canadian bacon until warm about 1-2 minutes per side.  Toast English muffin, fold omelet in to fit on English muffin, place on 1 muffin half.  Top with bacon slice, tomato and other muffin half. Enjoy a tasty breakfast sandwich! 
Healthy Breakfast Sandwich

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Lose the fat, keep the muscle

Want to lose a few pounds before swimsuit season starts?  If so, losing fat, not muscle should be the goal.  Many fad diets proclaim losing 5 or more pounds in one week.  Yes, that may be possible but along with some fat loss you will be losing some muscle and a lot of water.  Often people find when they go off the crash diet, the weight piles back on.  And losing muscles means you slow your metabolism as muscle burns more calories than fat.  So, how can you drop some pounds with more of the loss being fat and not the muscle you want to keep?  An article on “4 Rules for Losing Fat, Not Muscle” has some suggestions. 

      1.   Cut the calories but do it gradually
To lose weight you do have to cut back on calories in versus calories out.  But cutting back on too many calories at once can slow your metabolism, make it hard to get the nutrients you need, and cause you to lose muscle mass along with some fat. Women should maintain at least 1200 calories a day for good health, while men should eat a minimum of 1500 calories a day. 
To lose a pound a week, you need to cut back on 500 calories a day.  But doing so could leave you quite hungry.  A better option is to cut back some on calories but to increase your exercise.  Some research has shown that even cutting back on 100 calories a day can lead to better health and slow, but steady weight loss.
How many calories do you need a day?  A lot depends on your age and how active you are.  Check out the table below:  

Moderately Active





2.  Focus on Toning and Total-Body Strength            
A few stretches and some yoga are great for flexibility but you want to include some other exercises for overall body strength.  There are some easy ways to add some toning to your day, can even do some at the office such as squats.  WebMD recommends tennis, swimming, the elliptical, stationary bike, Pilates, jogging, even walking for “stronger leg muscles and stronger bones”.  For those into sports, try bowling for your arms and walking the golf course.  If you are into weights, then 2 days of strength training will get you toned.  

       3.  Focus on Protein
It takes more calories to digest protein foods and protein stays with you longer so you won’t be as hungry if you eat protein at each meal.  Protein, especially high-quality protein, builds muscle.  The best quality proteins are eggs, milk and yogurt.  Some researchers recommend eating “between 25 and 35 grams of protein at every meal for both muscle health and weight loss.” 

       4.  Add some cardio to your day
Your heart is a muscle and doing some aerobic exercise will exercise your heart and your lungs.  And it can be a low-intensity workout of about 30 minutes.  Go for a brisk walk, a swim or get the bicycle out of the garage and go for a ride.
As the weather gets warmer, it will be easier to get outside and be more active.   And the days are longer so easier to get in an after dinner walk or an evening bike ride.

Sources:  4 Rules for Losing Fat, Not Muscle, 1200, 1500, 100 calories a day, Total-Body

Sunday, April 14, 2019

Cinnamon and your health

Cinnamon, does it have any health benefits?  Last week we talked about turmeric and the many health benefits spices have.  Cinnamon is a spice that also has health benefits.  Like turmeric, cinnamon has been around for a long time, “since 2000 BC in Ancient Egypt”.  In the U.S. cinnamon ranks just behind black pepper as a popular spice.  
What can cinnamon do for your health?
  • Diabetes- some research has shown that cinnamon can help those with type 2 diabetes.  How?  By lowering blood glucose levels and also improving lipid levels.  Researchers monitored 60 people with type 2 diabetes who added cinnamon to their diets for 40 days. Those taking cinnamon lowered their blood glucose, their bad LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol.  Another study found taking 1/4th teaspoon of cinnamon a day lowered the LDL bad cholesterol.  However, other research indicates that adding cinnamon didn’t help lower blood glucose or hemoglobin A1c.
  • A metabolism booster?  Some studies have shown that cinnamon can boost metabolism but more studies needed to show how much cinnamon is needed and if there are any long-term effects.
  • Healthy skin?  Who doesn’t want healthier looking skin?  Online you can find recipes for a cinnamon facial mask.  But little evidence to back up such claims.  One small study found cinnamon may help promote collagen production.  But, once again, more research is needed.
  • Lower Blood pressure?  Eating some cinnamon daily for 3 months has been found to lower blood pressure in study participants.  But more studies needed to show how much cinnamon and how long these benefits last.
  • Reduce inflammation – like turmeric, cinnamon may also reduce inflammation which would be beneficial to those with rheumatoid arthritis.

How to add more cinnamon to your day? 

Since scientists aren’t sure how much cinnamon is needed, and high doses can be toxic, try adding cinnamon to every day foods.   My husband sprinkles some cinnamon on his morning oatmeal.  Growing up, my kids enjoyed cinnamon-sugar sprinkled on toast.  Harvard Medical School “suggests that consuming as little as ½ teaspoon of cinnamon each day can reduce your blood sugar, cholesterol, and triglyceride levels by as much as 12 to 30 percent”.  So, just try to add some cinnamon to your day by sprinkling some on foods you eat like hot cereal such as oatmeal and your morning toast.  Or, sprinkle cinnamon on some apple slices.  I like to make my oatmeal “super healthy” by not only adding cinnamon but also some chopped walnuts and raisins.  My husband puts healthy blueberries and cinnamon on his oatmeal.  Try some cinnamon tea, recipe below.
Sprinkle cinnamon on oatmeal
The Tasty Cinnamon Tea Recipe (from and The Whole U)
  • A few cinnamon sticks
  • 1 tablespoon honey (optional)

Add a cinnamon stick to a cup of water and boil it for 5 minutes. Then let it steep for 10 minutes. You can also use broken pieces of cinnamon, but let it steep for less time. Sweeten up with honey if desired.

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Natural Remedies – What Works?

We all have heard of natural remedies for many health conditions.  Go to any drug store and walk down the vitamin aisle.  You will see hundreds of bottles of vitamins and minerals but also many so-called “natural” remedies for certain medical conditions.  Some of these remedies are bogus, unproven, and can even be bad for one’s health.  But other “natural” remedies seem to have some promise.  One of these natural remedies is a spice.  Spices have been known for a long time to have health benefits as spices are full of those healthy antioxidants.  Not only do spices make our food taste better, they provide few calories while providing good nutritional value.  One spice in particular, turmeric, is getting a lot of attention and praise from those in the health field.

What is Turmeric?
Turmeric is a yellowish spice, known for 4,000 years and used often in Indian cooking and the spice used in curry.  The chemical  in turmeric that provides health benefits is curcumin, which is yellow in color.  Most of the turmeric used throughout the world comes from India.
What health conditions is turmeric used for?
People use turmeric for a number of health conditions including, arthritis, heartburn, joint pain, stomach pain, Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, and high cholesterol.  NIH notes that turmeric’s antiarthritic effects… include inhibition of joint inflammation....  Indeed, this is one of the main reasons so many older people are taking turmeric.  Since it acts as an anti-inflammatory, it has also been found to be helpful in reducing muscle soreness from exercising.  Another reported action of turmeric is lowering blood cholesterol including lowering of the bad LDL cholesterol.  

How does turmeric work?
The curcumin in turmeric may be helpful in reducing inflammation.  Turmeric is also a good source of iron and the antioxidant mineral, manganese.  Iron is important in helping our bodies carry oxygen in our blood to our tissues to help in energy production.  

How much turmeric?
Dr. Roach, who writes a health column, notes that turmeric is thought to be safe.  Most people don’t have side effects but those that do experience stomach upset, nausea, dizziness, or diarrhea.  The doctor notes he has many patients taking turmeric and about half say it has helped them.  He notes the usual dose for turmeric is 400-500 mg taken 2 or 3 times a day.  However, absorption varies.  Black pepper seems to aid in the absorption of turmeric, increasing its bioavailability by some 2000%.  You can now buy turmeric supplements with black pepper.  But some people aren’t able to handle turmeric without side effects.  One person noted side effects after taking 600 mg of turmeric twice a day or even once a day.  Dr. Roach recommends trying a lower dose if one experiences side effects.  On a personal note, my husband and I have been taking 500 mg of turmeric once a day for over 3 years and have not noticed any adverse side effects.  Check with your doctor about taking supplements such as turmeric to be sure they are safe for you.  
Black pepper enhances turmeric absorption
How can you add turmeric to your day?
Since turmeric is a spice, one doesn’t have to take supplements to add turmeric to their diet.  Dietitian Megan Ware suggests:  adding turmeric to spices when making a barbecue rub.  Make a homemade dressing using oil, vinegar, and season with spices that include turmeric.  Add turmeric to marinades you use in cooking.  She notes a number of recipes developed by dietitians such as a Mason jar lentil salad.  Another dietitian recommends an Apple Cider Turmeric Vinaigrette (recipe below).

  •  3 Tbsp. apple cider
  •  2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar
  • 1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh ground pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. fresh thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. turmeric
  • 1/2 tsp. Dijon mustard
  1.  Measure all ingredients into a small bowl.
  2.  Blend all ingredients together using a whisk. 
  3.  Refrigerate until ready to use.
Apple Cider Turmeric Vinaigrette