Sunday, February 23, 2020

Is Detoxing Healthy?

Have you heard of people going on a Detox Diet?  A guy at the gym says he detoxes every January.  For him it is a week long fast with nothing to eat.  He drinks water but his main source of calories is a bit of real juice to drink. Usually during this detox week, he has very little energy and feels light headed.  What a surprise.  When one doesn’t fuel their body, they will not have the energy for exercise and because of low blood sugar can feel lightheaded.  Is there really any reason a person should “detox”?  Is it healthy?  Are there health risks?

The Mayo Clinic has some good information on Detox Diets.  

Why do some people want to “detox” their body?  

Some people think because our environment has pesticides and our food is contaminated, they need to cleanse themselves of harmful chemicals.  Yes, there is some mercury in fish, arsenic in rice and they do use pesticides on the foods we eat.  But does one need to go on a “detox” diet to get rid of these substances.  And, do any of the detox methods work?  Our bodies already work to remove toxic substances, so is “detoxing” helpful?  According to the Mayo Clinic, little scientific evidence exists to show any positive results of “detoxing”.   

What is detoxing and what are Detox Diets?

People “detox” in a variety of ways.  They are trying to remove any toxins in their body.  Some fast for a day or more.   Some fast for a few days, then add back real juice and some raw vegetables.  Some add herbs or other substances to their detox regimen.  Some companies advertise “detox” products and they may contain some harmful ingredients.  One wants to avoid unpasteurized juices that may contain harmful bacteria, avoid “detox” juices made of spinach or beets.  Drinking large quantities of spinach or beet juice can be hard on one’s kidneys as both contain oxalates.  Diabetics need to be aware that going on fasting regimens may adversely affect their blood sugar control.  

Our bodies are “detoxing” every day and no special “detox” program is needed.

According to the Mayo Clinic, our kidneys and liver are two organs that filter and naturally eliminate any toxins we may have ingested.  The liver can take the toxins, convert them into forms that our kidneys can get rid of.  

What is better than “detoxing”?
  • Eating a healthy diet full of fruits, vegetables and whole grains is a way to keep your kidneys and liver healthy.
  • Fluids:  Drink plenty of fluids like plain water, to keep your kidneys healthy. 
  • Fruits and Vegetables:  Wash fruits and vegetables before eating to get rid of or reduce the pesticides.  
Wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  • Fish and Mercury:  To cut back on mercury in fish, avoid King Mackerel, Swordfish, Tile fish, or Orange Roughy.  Low mercury fish/seafood include shrimp, canned light tuna, catfish, salmon, flounder, sole, trout, perch, haddock and sardines.  We want fish in our diet as it has so many health benefits. 
  • Microwave using glass containers:  Microwave foods in glass containers, not plastic containers to avoid release of chemicals like BPA into the food.  According to Harvard, some of the chemicals in plastic containers can leach out into food and beverages.  “This leaching can occur even faster and to a greater degree when plastic is exposed to heat.  This means you might be getting every higher dose of potentially harmful chemicals simply by microwaving your leftovers in a plastic container.”  So, maybe better than detoxing, is to invest in some glass containers to reheat food.
Use glass containers to reheat foods in the microwave.
So, skip the detox.  Instead do 3 things:  1) Eat more fruits and vegetables (after you wash them).  2) Microwave your food in glass containers and 3) Enjoy some sparkling water.  

Sources:  Clinic, Fish, Mercury, Orange Roughy, Harvard   Image sources:  fruit, containers, Water

Sunday, February 16, 2020

What is the 5/20 rule for nutrition?

Have you heard of the 5/20 rule when it comes to reading food labels?  Most people haven’t, but it is an easy and handy rule to use.  Students in my class often ask what they are supposed to look for when reading food labels.  Food labels can be confusing so applying the 5/20 rule can help you decide what foods are healthy to eat. 

What is the 5/20 rule?

The 5/20 Rule has to do with the % Daily Value on Food Labels.  The % Daily Value shows you how much of a nutrient you are getting in each serving of that food.    
When you look at any food label you will “% Daily Value” and then a lot of numbers and %’s by various nutrients.  To paraphrase The Moxy Kitchen blog, “By the 5/20 Rule, a % Daily Value at or below 5% indicates a low amount of a nutrient in the food, whereas a % Daily Value at or above 20% indicates a high amount of a nutrient in that food.” 

In the 5/20 rule, what is the 5% or less?     

If any nutrients on the food label are 5% or less of the Daily Value, then the food isn’t high in that nutrient
We want some nutrients to be 5% or less.  For example, look for foods that have 5% or less of sodium.  Trying to keep sodium at 5% or less in the foods you eat, would be a good thing as Americans get too much sodium in their diets. 

In the 5/20 rule, what is the 20% or more?

When you look at food labels and you see a vitamin or mineral has 20% or more of the daily value, then that is considered a high amount of that nutrient and this is a good thing. 
Look down the food label for vitamins, minerals, fiber, protein providing 20% or more of the daily value and that would be considered a good contribution to your daily needs for that nutrient.  

How can you use the 5/20 rule to cut back on added sugars, total fat, and saturated fats?  

Look for foods that provide 5% or less of your daily value for sugars, but especially for added sugars.  We aren’t trying to cut back on the natural sugars in foods like the natural fructose in fruit or the natural lactose in cow’s milk.  But, we are trying to cut back on the “added sugars” manufacturers add to so many of the foods we buy.  The new food labels will more clearly state, “Added Sugars” so the consumer can now tell how much sugar a manufacturer added to a food. 
Cutting back on total fat and saturated fat is also good for one’s health.  We need some fat in our diets but most Americans get far more fat than they need each day.  Saturated fat has been linked to raising your blood cholesterol levels and increasing your risk of heart disease and stroke according to the American Heart Association.  So, watching for the % Daily Value of saturated fat would be a good thing to look for. 

New Food Labels will emphasize Vitamin D, Calcium and Potassium.  And now clearly state, "Added Sugars".
How can you use the 5/20 rule to beef up your protein intake?

Look for foods that supply 20% or more of the daily value of protein.  Meat, poultry, fish aren’t usually labeled for nutritional value but are very good protein choices.  Dairy foods like cow’s milk, yogurt and cheese provide high quality protein as do eggs.

What nutrients should you focus on for the 20%?

Americans aren’t getting enough calcium, potassium or vitamin D so finding foods like cows’ milk or yogurt that provide these nutrients is a healthy choice.  In fact, the new nutrition labels will be focusing on Calcium, Potassium and Vitamin D as these are nutrients of concern in the American diet.   No longer required on food labels are vitamins A and C but a manufacturer can still decide to put these on the food label package.  

This week:
This week when looking at food labels, skip the “natural”, “light”, “reduced” on labels and look at the food label to see what nutrients the foods you are eating provide.  How can you apply the 5/20 rule this week to the foods you eat? 

(And a special shut out to my sister who suggested this topic.) 

Sunday, February 9, 2020

Add some healthy carbs to your day.

Carbs – so many myths about carbs.  Come January, you hear about people going on diets and many people say they are “cutting my carbs”.  Are there carbs you should cut back on?  Yes, but there are also carbs you should be adding to your diet, not cutting.  Healthy carbs add important nutrients to your diet.  And carbs are your body’s fuel.  Low carb diets can mean low energy diets.  I love carbs and we aren’t cutting carbs in our family.  Recently, I was out eating lunch with my two daughters.  The waiter asked, “would you like a bread basket?”   We all responded in unison, “YES!”  And we enjoyed every piece of bread in that bread basket.

So, what are the “healthy carbs” and what are the carbs we actually should be cutting back on?

What are carbs?
I showed a video in the nutrition class I teach that asked people on the street, “What are carbs?”  Most people really couldn’t answer that question.  Carbs can be starches like the starches found in bread, beans, potatoes, pasta or sugars like white table sugar or the natural sugar found in fruit. Fiber is also a carb, even though we can’t digest it, fiber is important for a healthy digestive system.  

Why do we need carbs?
Carbs are your body’s main source of fuel.  When you eat starches or sugars, your body turns it into glucose which fuels all of our body cells.  And we need glucose to support the physical activities we do each day.  According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines about half our daily calories should be from carbs. 

What are healthy carbs?
The least processed carbs are the healthiest.  That would be whole grains like oatmeal, whole grain bread, whole grain English muffins, whole grain cereal like Shredded Wheat, Wheat Chex, Cheerios, and whole grain pasta.  Good carbs also include fruit and vegetables and beans.  All of these healthy carbs are loaded with vitamins, minerals and fiber.  They also provide those healthy antioxidants that help prevent diseases and boost our immune systems. 

What are unhealthy carbs?
A student said there aren’t really “bad” carbs, there are just carbs that aren’t so good for our health.  These would include processed foods like white bread, pastries, donuts, sugar sweetened beverages like Sunny D, Hi-C, lemonade, juice drinks.  Why are they considered unhealthy?  First, these processed carbs are stripped of many vitamins and minerals during processing and often stripped of fiber.  Carbs high in sugar are easily digested and can lead to weight gain, and promote diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.  Look at the ingredients when you buy a packaged food.  If the first ingredient is sugar, high fructose corn syrup or some other sugar, the food is mostly sugar and not a very healthy choice.  Save those foods for dessert.  

How can you add some healthy carbs to your day?

Breakfast – eat some whole grain cereal, have a slice of whole grain toast, enjoy an English muffin.  Oatmeal is one of the healthiest choices for a breakfast cereal but there are many whole grain cereals.  If you have kids, let them choose any big G cereal as all General Mills cereals are whole grain.   Enjoy some fresh fruit like bananas.  Bananas are full of nutrients, add some fiber to your day, and are a quick energy source to start your day. 

Lunch – pack a lunch that includes some whole grain.  It doesn’t have to be whole grain bread, as you can choose some whole grain crackers.  Or chips – yes, chips.  I love chips and often eat some chips at lunch.  But usually healthy, whole grain chips, like Sun Chips, or Late July chips or Food Should Taste Good chips. 

Add some whole grain chips to your lunch.
Juice – be sure the juice you buy is “real” juice.   Juice drinks like Sunny D and Hi-C have little juice and lots of added sugar and are never a good choice.  I like a glass of 100% Orange Juice or 100% Grapefruit Juice.  Some of my students like Naked Juice and V8.  Find a 100% juice that you like to drink.

Dinner – reach for those sweet potato fries or enjoy a baked sweet potato.  Serve some brown rice instead of white rice.  At a recent meeting the professor next to me said she loved white rice but maybe she ate too much of it.  I suggested she switch it up with some brown rice as brown rice is whole grain.  Quinoa comes in easy to cook 90 second packets.  This makes it so easy to add Quinoa to any dinner.  And Quinoa is whole grain and for those worried about gluten – it is gluten-free.   Enjoy some chili made with beans as beans are a very healthy carb. 
Quinoa is whole grain and this Quinoa cooks in 90 seconds.
What are some ways you can “add some carbs” to your day?  Not just any carbs, but some healthy carbs.  

Sources:  carbs, U.S. Dietary Guidelines, Naked Juice,  V8,  Dinner   Image sources:  Quinoa, Chips, V8 Fusion

Sunday, February 2, 2020

Some Easy Ways to Burn Off Those Calories

So many people say they will exercise more as the new year starts.  Always good intentions, they join a gym, go a few times and by late February or early March they stop going or go to the gym rarely.  But one doesn’t have to “go to the gym” to exercise and burn off calories.  Engaging in some simple, everyday activities can put some exercise in your day and help burn off some calories.  Going to the gym is fine and I go a few times a week. But one can also “exercise” in many ways throughout the day.  The goal is to be more active, Sit Less and Move More.  Shape and Self have some ways to “Burn More Calories In A Day”.  Here are a few:  

1.  Cook – who ever thought one could “work out” by cooking a meal?  But when you cut, chop and dice you are burning up some calories.   Shape estimates about 128 calories before you sit down to eat.

2.  Cleaning – add in some 25 minutes of cleaning – scrubbing, bending, vacuuming, washing the car and you burn up about 107 calories.  

3.  Gardening – a little early for gardening in most parts of the country but once the weather warms up you can go out and do some gardening.  Digging, planting and walking around your yard can burn up about 105 calories over 25 minutes.  No place for a garden?  Then put some pots on your deck or patio and plant some herbs like chives, parsley, Rosemary.

4.  Paint – no, not a landscape but paint a room.  Painting can burn up about 120 calories over 35 minutes. 

5.  Stand Up – instead of sitting at work, answer a phone call standing up.  My Apple Watch reminds me to stand every so often throughout the day.  Or, if someone calls walk around your office or house.  A neighbor has a friend call her every night at 8:00 PM and while they are talking, they both walk around their home for their evening “workout”.  Standing instead of sitting can burn up an extra 100 calories a day. 

6.  Move More – Instead of sending a text to a co-worker – walk to their office and talk to them.  I was always amazed when an employee 2 cubicles down from my office would send an email instead of walking down the hall and talking to me in person.  Walk to the copy machine.  Go to the stairwell and climb up and down a few flights of stairs.  Registered Dietitian, Patricia Bannan,  recommends, “If you have a job that requires you to sit all day, set your smartphone alarm to go off every hour as a reminder to get up and take a brisk five minute walk.  By the end of an eight-hour day you could have walked an extra 40 minute or burn an extra 150 calories.”

7.  Park Far Away – whenever I go to a mall, a store, my car is always far, far, away from the door.  Walking across the parking lot to the store door is an easy way to add some steps into your day and to burn up a few more calories.

8.  Protein – add some protein to your lunch, in fact, to every meal.  Your body burns up more calories digesting protein.  “A 2002 study published in the NSCA’s Guide to Sport and Exercise Nutrition found that consuming a high protein meal, 30 percent calories from protein, nearly doubles the amount of calories burned during digestion when compared with a meal of only 15 percent calories from protein,”  says a trainer.  And easy way to add some protein to your day is to pack some yogurt – real dairy yogurt, not fake yogurt.  Real dairy has an excellent quality protein. And according to the Cleveland Clinic, “Eating yogurt (as part of a healthy diet) also is linked with gaining less weight long-term.”
Yogurt is a great way to add high-quality protein to a meal.

9.  Stretch Breaks – take some time during the day for some stretches.  Get up from watching TV and do some Yoga poses or stretches.  Get up from your desk and take the time to do some stretches.  Instead of a “coffee break” have a “stretch break”.  Adding in 10-20 minutes of stretching during the day can burn up 100 calories.  And, your body will feel better.

10.  Stairs – take the stairs, not the elevator whenever you can.  If there is an escalator, “walk” up the escalator.  Need a bathroom break at work?  Go down or up the stairs to use the bathroom on a different floor and take the stairs back.  Registered Dietitian, Maxine Young, says she got this idea from one of her patients and now she shares it with others.  
Take the stairs and not the elevator whenever you can.
So often I hear, “I don’t have time to exercise.”   By incorporating some exercise throughout the day, you will be “exercising” even though you don’t hit the gym, or you didn’t have to block out an hour or more of your day to take an exercise class or “workout”.  Stand more, sit less, move more, walk more, stretch more.  Find ways that work for you.  This week, try just one of the above ideas and see if you can incorporate the idea into your day.