Sunday, May 31, 2020

Can walking more help you lose weight?

After being in our homes for that past few weeks, many of us have added on some unwanted pounds.  Now that the weather is better, can walking help you lose some of that weight?  Popsugar has a good article, “Yes, You Can Lose Weight Walking as Little as 30 Minutes a Day..”.  What are some keys to know about walking and weight loss?

  1. Amount of time – note the article indicates walking 30 minutes a day.  Much research has shown that if you want to lose some fat, you need to exercise for more than 20 minutes.  So, a 30-minute walk is a great way to start.
  2. How often?  Aim for walking and exercising for at least 150 minutes a week.  That breaks down to at least 21 minutes a day.  If you walk 30 minutes a day, you will meet and exceed the recommendation for 150 minutes a week of exercising.
  3. How long?  One may not get quick weight loss by walking.  But a JAMA Internal Medicine article reported that without changing their diet, study subjects that walked 12 miles per week for eight months, not only lost weight but lost fat.  We don’t want to lose muscle when we lose weight, we want to lose fat tissue and walking did just that.  The control group that didn’t walk 12 miles a week, gained weight.  But when this group did start walking 30 minutes a day, they also lost weight.  A good goal for walking is 30 minutes a day. But if you don’t have time to do 30 minutes, then walk for 15 minutes twice a day or ten minutes, three times a day.  If you are just starting to walk, then start with a 10-minute walk and work up to 30 minutes or more a day.
  4. Health benefits of walking – even if you aren’t interested in losing weight, walking provides a lot of health benefits.  Studies have found that regular physical activity, which includes walking, done consistently, is good for heart health by improving cholesterol levels and helping control blood pressure.  Not just physical health, but walking can improve your mental health by lowering anxiety and tension.  And walking increases the strength of your muscles and leads to stronger bones.  For those with diabetes or prediabetes, walking helps lower blood sugar levels.
  5. How many steps a day?  Most people have heard of 10,000 steps a day which is a good goal.  Those who walk even more, at 15,000 steps a day can lower their Body Mass Index (BMI).  A study in England, found that people “who walk more and sit less have lower BMI’s”.   And the study noted that sitting less resulted in less of a stomach or less waist circumference.

I love to go for a walk every day.  For almost twenty years, I joined 2 friends for a long walk at lunch time.  Now, I enjoy a walk first thing every morning.  I find walking a good way to clear one’s head and an enjoyable time outside.  Make walking a habit.  Tell yourself, “At lunch this week I will take a 15-minute walk.”  Or, “After work this week, I will walk around the neighborhood for 20 minutes.”   Break up your routine by finding different places to walk.  Luckily, we have a park close by that has walking trails. We also have walking trails in our neighborhood.  Find places you enjoy and find new places to explore.

Sources:  article , week , goal , Health benefits , strength , BMI , study , habit   Image sources:   people walking , Benefits , habit   


Sunday, May 24, 2020

Staying hydrated this summer

At long last, summer is around the corner.  With summer heat comes hydration issues.  How can you stay hydrated this summer?  What beverages are best for hydration?  How do you know when you are getting dehydrated? 

What are the health benefits of water?

Many people don’t know water is a nutrient and has many important functions in our bodies.   The Mayo Clinic notes that every cell in our body needs water in order to work properly.  According to CDC, water helps your body in many ways:

  1. Water helps keep your temperature normal – so important on hot, humid days.
  2. Water helps lubricate and cushion your joints – important in summer when we are biking, walking, hiking, golfing, playing tennis – exercise that uses our joints day in and day out.
  3. And perspiration is water – sweating on a hot day means you are losing water and need to replenish it.

Why do we need more water in summer?

  1. Hot days – when we are outside in hot weather, we sweat to help cool our bodies. 
  2. Physically active – we need more water when we are active, especially when it is hot outside

How much water do we need?

According to the National Academies of Sciences , Engineering, and Medicine, drinking plenty of water helps you stay hydrated, especially as the temperature soars. 

  • Men – need about 15.5 cups a day – not just water but all fluid counts
  • Women – need about 11.5 cups of fluids a day

How does mild dehydration affect your body?

Even being mildly dehydrated can affect you.  Mayo Clinic notes, “Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.”

What is the first sign of dehydration?

Your body tells you when you need more fluid.  How?  When you are thirsty, your body is saying you are beginning to get dehydrated.  So, listen to what your body is telling you.  At the first sign of thirst – take in a glass of water or grab some seltzer water.  But either get your water from the faucet, the water from the refrigerator dispenser or seltzer water from a can.  Remember to skip the plastic water bottles to avoid adding more plastic to your body.  (See blog post:  How much plastic are you eating?).  Many foods can also help you stay hydrated.  Reach for that slice of watermelon as watermelon is almost 100% water.  Most fruits are hydrating.  About 80% of our water needs comes from drinking water and other beverages and about 20% comes from the food we eat.

What beverages are the most hydrating?

One would think water would be the most hydrating drink, but not so.  As I noted in my blog, Is water the best for hydration? , some researchers in Britain found that some fluids stay in your body longer than plain water and are thus more hydrating.   Two beverages more hydrating than plain water are real cow’s milk and 100% orange juice.  And milk and real juice can restore some of those electrolytes you lost when sweating on a hot day.

This week, reach for that glass of water with a slice of lemon.  After a walk on a hot day, enjoy a glass of 100% orange juice on ice.  That’s what I prefer when I come in from a walk on a hot day – I reach for the juice and a glass of ice.  So, refreshing.  And reach for a glass of cold, real milk.  The nutrients in milk and juice helps the water stay in your body longer.  Enjoy the warmer weather and stay hydrated this summer!

Sources:  Mayo Clinic, CDC, Sciences, notes, How much plastic are you eating?, watermelon, water, Is water the best for hydration?  Image Sources: hydrate  , graphic , dehydration 


Sunday, May 17, 2020

Can Vitamin D help you fight off COVID-19?

What does vitamin D have to do with COVID-19?  New research at Northwestern University indicates people who are deficient in vitamin D are “twice as likely to experience major complications”.  The researchers looked at data from 10 countries, including the USA, and found that people low on D had overactive immune systems.  Well, one would think having an overactive immune system would be a good thing, not so, especially when it comes to COVID-19.  Adequate levels of Vitamin D are protective as Vitamin D enhances our immune system and prevents the overactive immune problems.  The WST-TV 2 in Atlanta reports from Dr. Arielle Levitan, “We do believe that there is a link between vitamin D and immunity and it’s very possible that being vitamin D deficient could set you up for a worse infection.”   According to the article, not only does vitamin D boost your immune system but it also helps you fight inflammation and supports the function of your lungs.  All great benefits when it comes to COVID-19. 

Choose calcium-fortified OJ to get vitamin D and choose a carton. 

How much vitamin D do you need?

The recommended amount of vitamin D is 600 IU for ages 1 to 70 years old.  Those over 70 should aim for 800 IU a day. 

What foods provide vitamin D?

There is little vitamin D in most foods.  However, real cow’s milk is fortified with vitamin D and one can get 100-120 IU per cup of milk.  (Buy milk in the carton, not a plastic container to avoid all the plastic now in our diets.)  Eggs are another good source of vitamin D as each egg provides about 240 IU of vitamin D.  The easiest way to get vitamin D is from drinking real milk at meals or eating some real yogurt that is fortified with vitamin D.  Not all yogurt is fortified with D so you need to read the label and be sure vitamin D was added.  You can also get vitamin D from salmon, trout, sardines and some ready to eat cereals are fortified with vitamin D.  Orange juice has no vitamin D but if you buy calcium-fortified orange juice, it usually is also fortified with vitamin D.  For a list of vitamin D food sources go to the NIH fact sheet on vitamin D.

Choose real milk in a carton and not a plastic container.

How much sun exposure is needed to get enough vitamin D?

According to Harvard, one needs only 10-15 minutes of sun on your arms and legs just a few times a week for your body to generate all the D it needs.  Good that the weather is getting warmer as this makes it easier to get outside and get some “D”.

Are you low in D?

Many Americans are not getting enough vitamin D in their diets and many are not going outside enough to let their bodies make enough vitamin D.  NIH has found that guys get about 204-288 IU per day from food.  Not good, since one needs 600 IU of vitamin D a day.  But women are worse.  Women get only about 144-276 IU of vitamin D a day from food and they also need 600 IU a day. 

So, add some real milk or yogurt to your day and enjoy some time outside to increase your vitamin D levels and boost your immune system.

Sources:  research, reports, foods, sheet, Harvard , NIH   Images:  Milk  , juice , Vitamin D

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Nutrition in the News: Eggs, Gluten Free, Plastic in Foods

Eggs – who hasn’t heard that eggs are high in cholesterol and we should limit how many eggs we eat?  Because of this, many of us have cut back on how many eggs we consume.  But what does the latest research show?  Gluten free – one of the latest fads in eating.  One can hardly buy a packaged good without seeing “gluten-free” on the label.  But are gluten-free foods good for your health?  Do you really need to be concerned about gluten?   Did you read my blog last week about how much plastic we are consuming each week in our foods and beverages?  This week I took a look around the kitchen and was surprised to see how many foods that used to be in glass or cardboard, are now in plastic.  Are there ways to cut back on plastic?  Let’s look at each of these topics.

Enjoy those eggs

Eggs are much maligned – we have been scared for years about eating too many eggs. But for those of us who love eggs, there is good news.  Yes, we can eat some eggs and not raise our risk of heart disease.  In fact, the latest research shows we can eat an egg a day and not increase our risk of heart disease or high cholesterol levels.  Why the change?  Rather than focusing on dietary cholesterol, researchers have found that it is the saturated fat in our diets that increase blood cholesterol and increase our risk of heart disease and strokes.  Other researchers have found that we can eat up to 2 eggs a day and not raise our blood cholesterol levels or our triglyceride levels.  In fact, the American Heart Association changed its recommendation on eggs in 2000 and noted we can eat an egg a day.  Eggs are actually loaded with good nutrition and low in calories.  Each egg has only 75 calories but provides 7 grams of a very high-quality protein.  The egg yolk provides many nutrients including vitamin D which many Americans are low in and choline which is good for our metabolism.  Our eyes can benefit from eggs as eggs provide lutein and zeaxanthin which have been shown to reduce the risks of cataracts and macular degeneration.  I don’t eat eggs every day but over the course of a week I have a couple of hard-boiled eggs and maybe some scrambled eggs.  So, enjoy an egg salad sandwich, an omelet, or some hard-boiled eggs again.  

Enjoy some eggs again.


What is all the fuss about gluten and going on gluten-free diets?  What is gluten?  Gluten is a protein found in some grains including wheat, barley, rye and a grain called triticale.  Grains like corn, rice and quinoa do have some gluten but don’t seem to cause problems.  For someone with celiac disease, it is important to remove gluten from their diet.  But what about everyone else?  The University of California Wellness Letter notes “There’s no evidence that gluten, a protein found in wheat and some other cereal grains, causes digestive problems in people who don’t have a gluten-related disorder (celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity)…” So many Americans are trying to avoid “gluten” thinking this is a healthy thing to do.  For most of the population, there seems to be no reason to avoid gluten.  In fact, people who avoid gluten may also be avoiding whole grains, which are important for health.  “Whole grains have been found to protect against coronary heart disease and the risk of dying from cardiovascular problems.” Last fall I went to an organic bakery in California looking for some whole grain bread.  The bakery had lots of gluten-free breads but few whole grain options.  I asked which breads were whole grain and had gluten as I wanted to be sure to get some gluten.  The clerks were shocked that someone actually wanted bread that contained gluten. But I have no reason to avoid gluten in my diet and every reason to include whole grains for good health.

Gluten-free: may not be a healthy choice for most Adults.


Last week in my blog, “How much plastic are you eating?” I reported on an article noting we may be eating a credit card worth of plastic every week in our diets.  I started to look around my kitchen pantry and refrigerator and was quite surprised at how many every day foods are now in plastic containers.  First was the milk – real milk but in a plastic container.  We switched to real milk in a carton.  Hopefully, the carton isn’t lined with plastic.  Then the peanut butter was in a plastic jar.  So, we switched to peanut butter in a glass jar.  The 100% orange juice we bought was in a plastic bottle so we switched to 100% orange juice in a carton.  Then I looked at the salad dressings and all are in plastic bottles. So, we bought a package of salad spices and will make our salad dressing with olive oil and store it in a glass container.  This past week we started storing more leftovers in glass containers and not the plastic containers.    Perrier water comes in plastic bottles but also in metal cans.  So, this week we chose the metal cans.  But there is a long way to go. The ketchup is in a plastic container, the cinnamon we sprinkle on our oatmeal is in a plastic container.  It will be very challenging to lessen the amount of food in plastic bottles and containers. 

Choose cans, glass bottles, not plastic

This week, enjoy an egg salad sandwich or some scrambled eggs.  Unless you have a medical condition in which you need to be gluten-free like celiac disease, add some whole grains back to your diet.  And what can you do to get some of the plastic containers out of your kitchen?  It isn’t easy getting rid of the plastic but focusing on buying more things in glass containers and in cartons may be of benefit to your health.

Sources:    research , egg, eyes, Gluten, Wellness , health , blog , Perrier    Illustrations:  cans   , Eggs   , Gluten


Sunday, May 3, 2020

How much plastic are you eating?

Are you eating plastic every day?  Most people have never even thought about how much plastic they are consuming each day, each week, each month.  Consumer Reports has a great article, How to Eat Less Plastic .  In the article it notes, “Each of us might ingest up to a credit card’s worth of plastic weekly through food and water”.   Kind of alarming since most of us never think about eating plastic and that we might be getting plastic in the foods we eat and from the water we drink.

How much plastic are we ingesting?

Besides the credit card reference, an article in Environmental Science & Technology, discussed “Human Consumption of Microplastics”.  They estimate that our annual consumption of microplastics from foods and drinking water “ranges from 39000 to 52000 particles”.  Those of us who rely on water from plastic bottles ingest another 90000 microplastics each year.  Interestingly, even those who consume only tap water consume 4000 microplastic particles each year.  

Where is the plastic in our food and water coming from?  What are the ways we can cut back on ingesting to much plastic?

      1. Bottled water – so many people grab a plastic water bottle and forgo drinking tap water thinking bottled water is healthier.  Consumer Reports recommends going back to drinking the tap water.  Although tap water surprisingly has some microplastics, you get almost twice the microplastics from water in plastic bottles as you do from tap water.  And CDC notes bottled water “may not have a sufficient amount of fluoride, which is important for preventing tooth decay and promoting oral health”.  Parents, especially, may want to be sure their kids drink tap water to ensure their kids are getting enough fluoride.  
My daughters like to drink sparkling water.  Luckily, the brand they like comes in cans, not plastic bottles.  I like Perrier and am disappointed that more and more this brand comes in plastic bottles when it always used to come only in glass bottles or cans. 
But not just bottled water – so much of our liquids come in plastic.  Orange juice used to come in glass bottles.  Now it comes in plastic.  I think our family will switch to orange juice in the carton.  Hopefully, safer but not clear it is.  Milk used to be glass bottles or cardboard and now many milk containers are plastic. 
Buy water in glass bottles, not plastic bottles.
2.  Heating leftovers – reach for a glass container and not a plastic container when heating up foods in the microwave.  And don’t put your plastic containers in the dishwasher.  I never do, but many people do.  Consumer Reports notes the high heat of the dishwasher can leach chemicals from the plastic.
Use glass containers to store and reheat food.

      3. Avoid buying foods wrapped in plastic and store foods like leftovers in glass containers, not plastic containers or use aluminum foil to wrap leftovers.  

      4. Eat fresh foods – fresh fruit, fresh vegetables that haven’t been wrapped in plastic.  Avoid all those snack and processed foods wrapped in plastic containers.  Lays’ chips like Sun Chips aren’t wrapped in plastic and seem to be a better snack choice.  Lays’ used to comment on their packaging, but I couldn’t find it on their web site.  But chips like Sun Chips are healthier because they add whole grains to your day.

How can the plastic we are eating affect our health?

Chemicals leach into food – the plastics contain many chemicals.  One of which, phthalates, can leach into the foods we eat that are packaged in plastic.  This is especially true if one warms up food in plastic containers like popping some leftovers in the microwave to reheat them but using a plastic container to do so.  BPA is a chemical that can leach into water from plastic water bottles.  Plastic food packages made from styrene is another chemical that can leach into our foods.  Researchers are studying the harmful effects of these chemicals on the human body.  The chemicals BPA and phthalates have been found to be hormone disruptors.  Consumers have been concerned about BPA and many manufacturers have removed BPA from their products. But Consumer Reports note, the chemicals some manufacturers are using to replace BPA, may be just as harmful.  So, BPA free, may not mean the plastic has no harmful health effects. 

How can you break free from plastic this week?  Most of us would find it hard to get all the plastics out of our lives, but most of us can find ways to cut back on our use of plastics.  What are some ways you can cut down on plastic packages and containers?

Are cartons safer than plastic?
Sources:  How to Eat Less Plastic, article, CDC , Perrier   Illustrations:  glass , containers   , juice   

Sunday, April 26, 2020

How to choose some healthy carbs

So much carb confusion.  I am always amazed at how someone will take the top bun off a hamburger to cut calories but then eat a large order of fries and a large Coke.  They think the bun is bread so it is fattening while they load up on the added sugars in the Coke and the added fat in the fries.  The Dietary Guidelines don’t tell us to cut the carbs or to cut back on bread.  We actually need grains in our day, every day, every meal.  What are some healthy carbs we should have in our diet and what do the Dietary Guidelines say about carbs?

Dietary Guidelines and carbs – what are the recommendations?

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines have nothing to say about cutting back on bread, even though so many people say they are cutting back on carbs and mean they are cutting back on bread.  The Dietary Guidelines really only advise on added sugars as those are the carbs we should cut back on.

The 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines recommend:  Limit calories from added sugars to no more than 10% every day.  For the average person that eats about 2000 calories a day, that would be 200 calories or about 12 teaspoons of sugar.

What are “added sugars”?  One would think this would be simple but people think orange juice has added sugar, a banana has added sugar when there is no added sugar in fruit.  Added sugar is sugar food manufacturers add to food products like soda, sweet tea, candy, some cereals, yogurt, cake, cookies.  Foods that naturally contain sugar, like fruit, cow’s milk, vegetables do not have added sugar.  But Almond Milk like Silk Almond Milk is high in added sugars as are juice drinks like Sunny D.

 What are the good, healthy carbs we should be adding to our day?

Rather than cutting carbs, our diets should have about 50% of our calories coming from carbs, but healthy carbs. In fact, Harvard notes:  “Foods high in carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet.”  Why – energy?  It is the carbs that provide the energy, the glucose, every cell in our body needs.  Low carb diets can be low energy diets. 

Whole grains – start your day with whole grains.  So easy to do.  Make some instant oatmeal, choose a General Mills cereal, toast a whole grain bagel or whole grain English muffin.  Going to Chipotle?  Choose the brown rice which is whole grain.  I have written many times about whole grain, healthy chips (Add some whole grain snacks to your day.) I love chips and often have some for lunch.  But usually they are whole grain chips like Sun Chips.  At dinner, enjoy some brown rice or quinoa which are whole grain.
Brown rice is whole grain and a healthy choice.
Fruits and Vegetables – all are healthy.  Fruit juice – enjoy 100% fruit juice and not the many fake fruit juice drinks like Sunny D.  A student in my class recently said they went to the store and bought some “juice” and was surprised to read the label and note it had a lot of added sugar.  She then realized what she was buying was not real juice, but a fake juice drink loaded with added sugar.  The only ingredient in juice is juice.  Find some way to add some vegetables to your day.  And yes, that vegetable can be a baked potato, or beans or some frozen French fries with the skin on.  

Why are whole grains, fruits and vegetables so healthy? 

 They not only are loaded with vitamins and minerals but also fiber which so many people aren’t getting enough of.  Not to mention the healthy antioxidants fruits and vegetables provide.  Vary the color and you vary the antioxidants you get.  

Don’t like vegetables?  Try juicing and add some veggies that way.  Or, drink your vegetable with some V-8 Juice like the V8 Fruit and Vegetable blends which are 100% juice with no added sugar.  

How can you add some healthy, energy-boosting carbs to your day?
Real juice and no added sugars.

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Can walking lead to a longer life?

Many of us can’t go to the gym or participate in our usual fitness classes right now, but we can still go for a walk.  And walking is good for your health.  A new study by the National Cancer Institute, CDC and the National Institute on Aging finds the more you walk, the longer your lifespan.  The article in JAMA notes:  “Greater number of steps per day were associated with lower risk of all-cause mortality”. 

What was the study?

Researchers looked at 4840 adults at least 40 years of age who wore a step counter for up to five days over the study period of 2003-2006.  Not just any step counter but an accelerometer that not only measured steps taken but also the intensity of the walking.  

How many steps did study participants take?

The average number of steps taken a day by this group was 9124.  Those taking 8000 steps a day had significantly lower mortality than those taking 4000 steps a day. Going up to 12,000 steps a day further lowered mortality.

Some interesting findings in this study:

Intensity: Walking at a normal intensity is fine.  One doesn’t have to speed walk, or walk fast, then slow, just normal walking is healthy.  You don’t have to run a block, walk a block – just walk.  
Enjoy a walk along a trail.
How many steps do you need?  
In a press release about the study, one of the researchers, Pedro Saint-Maurice, Ph.D, noted, “While we knew physical activity is good for you, we didn’t know how many steps per day you need to take to lower your mortality risk or whether stepping at a higher intensity makes a difference”. 
The study found 4,000 steps a day is too low and considered a low level for adults.  

At least 8,000 steps a day lowered mortality by 51%.  

Taking 12,000 steps a day further lowered mortality.  Compared to taking 4,000 steps a day, taking 12,000 steps a day was associated with a 65% lower mortality risk.  Taking more steps is good for your health as those who were at the higher step count levels had lower rates of death from heart disease (cardiovascular disease) and cancer.
An easy way to count your steps.  Try a Fitbit.
 What are the health benefits of walking and being physically active?

A CDC spokesperson, Janet Fulton, Ph.D., in CDC’s Division of Nutrition, Physical Activity and Obesity, stated:  “Being physically active has many benefits, including reducing a person’s risk of obesity, heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some cancers.  And on a daily basis, it can help people feel better and sleep better”.  

Many people are walking, which is a good thing.  When I call one of my brothers, he is often mall walking as is a sister.  Another sister lives in a warmer climate and often calls me when she is taking her daily walk around her neighborhood.  My husband and I enjoy walking the trails at a local National Historical site or at one of our many state parks.  Or just walking in the neighborhood and catching up with the neighbors is a fun way to get in some steps.  Go for a walk every day this week.  If you are at the 4,000 step a day level, work up to 8,000 steps a day.  At 10,000 aim for the 12,000 a day level.  Much easier to do with the warmer weather on the way.  But my husband, noted, what about bicycling? If you take a long bike ride, instead of walking, doesn’t that work too?  Another question for NIH and CDC to answer.    
How many steps a day?

Sources:  study, JAMA,  release  Image sources: Trailside, steps , Fitbit