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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Food combos to enhance your health

What foods should we eat together?  How do some foods help our health when eaten together?  Environmental Nutrition has an interesting article on Food Synergy Boosts Nutrition.  What food combos should you eat together to boost your nutrition?

1. Add some fat to your salads – so many times we hear, “cut the fat” out of our diets.  Yes, we should cut the fried food but healthy fats we need to add to our diet.  Especially when we are eating salads. 
a.       SALAD + FAT – forget the fat-free salad dressing and reach for reduced fat or full fat dressing.  Why?  Salads, such as mixed spring salad mix are loaded with vitamins like vitamin A, E, K and folate.  They are also loaded with antioxidants. To best absorb these healthy nutrients, we need some fat in the meal.  A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that some fat on your salad improved absorption of antioxidants like lutein and the vitamins A,E,K and beta-carotene.  Not surprising since these are fat-soluble vitamins and they need some fat to be absorbed. 
  •    Nuts – sprinkle some chopped walnuts, slivered almonds or other nuts on your salad.  Another way to add some healthy fat.
  •    So when choosing a salad dressing for your salad, make sure it has some fat in it.  Salad dressings made with olive oil are a good choice.
  •  Avocado – full of heart healthy fat.  Add some chopped or sliced avocado for a real nutritional boost.  WebMD notes that adding avocado to a salad increasing absorption of carotene and lutein.  Carotene helps protect against cancer and heart disease and lutein promotes eye health. 
      2.   Yogurt + Fruit – eating yogurt for probiotics is a great way to boost your nutrition.  Our gut is full of bacteria, but adding the healthy bacteria in probiotics promotes a healthier gut and a healthier immune system.  But one actually needs to “feed” these probiotics.  What do they eat? FIBER.  When you snack on yogurt or have yogurt with a meal, make sure that meal has some fiber in it.  Fruit is a great way to add fiber to a lunch or a snack of yogurt.  Yogurt + blueberries, yogurt + raspberries.  Or add some whole grain crackers to the lunch or snack.  Add some chopped nuts to the yogurt.  All these choices will add fiber which will “feed” those healthy probiotic bacteria.

     3.  Vitamin C + iron – we all need iron in our day.  Iron essential picks up the oxygen in your lungs and takes it to your cells.  But to better absorb the iron in our foods, we need some vitamin C.  Eating a bowl of Cheerios?  Drink a glass of OJ to help you absorb the iron in the Cheerios.  Many vegetables provide iron but this iron is not as well absorbed as the iron in meats.  Having spinach, a whole grain English muffin?  Add some “C” to the meal to help get that iron in your system.  To add some “C” to a salad, add tomatoes, green pepper, red pepper, broccoli, some tangerine slices.  All citrus provides “C” so a great way to add iron.  When shopping recently, I saw a package of 3 rainbow peppers – yellow, orange and red.  The young mother said her kids loved the rainbow colors and they liked eating the rainbow.  Adding this rainbow of colors to salad would easily boost the “C” and help the iron be absorbed.
Add peppers to salads, omelets
  4.  Blueberries + Strawberries – both of these fruits are full of antioxidants and super healthy.  Many nutritionists call blueberries a “super food”.  But did you know combining these fruits results in even bigger boost to your health?  Other fruit combos also provide health benefits.  Enjoy an apple and a Clementine, make a mixed fresh fruit cup, add combos of fruit to a smoothie.  

5. Green Tea + Lemon – Green tea is an easy way to add some antioxidants to your day without adding any calories.  An even more potent health booster is to put some lemon in your tea.  At a restaurant this week, I choose green tea and then reached for the lemon slices but they were out.  I took the time to ask them to refill the lemon slice container as I not only like the taste of lemon in my tea – I like the healthy boost that a little lemon provides.  The lemon helps our body absorbs more of the antioxidants in the green tea. 
Some easy food combos to try this week.  Strawberries and blueberries will be in season soon so remember to combine these as a super healthy snack.  Reach for the lemon when enjoying a cup of tea.  

When shopping this week, buy some salad dressing with a healthy fat in it like olive oil.  Easy ways to give your health a nutrition boost.

Sources:  Food Synergy Boosts Nutrition, study, avocado, fruits, lemon  Images:  Peppers, walnuts, blueberries                         

Friday, April 6, 2018

Fast Food – How Much is Too Much?

Fast Food anyone?  Who doesn’t like an Egg McMuffin for breakfast or some grilled chicken at KFC?  Or, a good Subway sandwich and chips?  Can you enjoy Fast Food and still be healthy?  Registered Dietitian, Christy Brissette, has some easy rules to follow for Fast Food.  Her motto is the 80:20 rule.  At least 80% of the time, eat healthy.  Less than 20% of the time, “treat yourself” and enjoy some junk food.  Brissette wrote that a client asked her, “How often can I get away with eating junk food?”  She has given this advice to many of her clients and found that it worked well even with chronic dieters.  You have met these folks.  People who are always “on a diet” and then have one cookie or a Fast Food meal and they have “blown” their diet.  Learning to eat healthy and enjoying “treats” is a way to learn healthier eating habits and get off the on-again, off-again dieting spiral.  Brissette notes that once her clients who are on these “forever” diets are allowed some treats, they find it easier to eat healthy most of the time.  So what did Brissette tell her client?

What is Junk Food?
Everyone seems to know what “junk food” is but many people confuse foods that do supply nutrients with junk food which has little nutritional value.  Here are some foods – which would you say are junk foods?
  • Ice cream
  • Pudding
  • Cheeseburger
  • French Fries
  • Coke
  • Chocolate Milk
Surprising to me, some of my students rate ice cream as a “junk food”.  Yet, MyPlate counts ice cream as a dairy serving.  Both ice cream and pudding can contribute protein and calcium to your day.  Cheeseburger?  Not really junk food as it supplies 3 food groups, protein, dairy and grains.  Yes, you can make a burger at home and use leaner ground beef, but a cheeseburger provides a lot of good nutrients.  Chocolate Milk – a treat many kids enjoy.  Let them enjoy some chocolate milk as you are adding protein, calcium and vitamin D to their day.  Some sugar yes, but also a lot of good nutrients. 

So what is “junk food”?  Most nutritionists define it as foods that have few nutrients but lots of calories from fat and/or sugar.  So Coke would be 100% junk food as the calories are all from sugar and few nutrients are provided.  French fries are loaded with fat and frying the potatoes destroys vitamins like vitamin E.  So most people would put French Fries in the junk food category. 
Some people classify all Fast Food as junk food.  But there are many healthier options.  Subway has the Fresh Fit options, all 400 calories or less.  Choose the whole grain bread, add lots of veggies and choose some Sun Chips and milk and you have a healthy meal.  
Subway Oven Roasted Chicken
Are there long-term health effects of eating Junk Food?
Brissette cites a study that found eating fast food more than once a week increased one’s risk of obesity.  Those eating fast food more than once a week has a higher risk of Type 2 diabetes, and death from coronary heart disease.  Not surprising the obesity risk is higher as so much fast food is loaded with fat and calories.  Choosing grilled options instead of fried, cutting back on the amount of fat in the fast food selections you make would probably change some of these outcomes.
Every good meal helps your health
The good news according to Brisette, is that every healthy meal you eat helps your overall health.  What healthy meals mean is meals with fruit, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy and lean meat.  Add a handful of nuts or seeds each day for good health. 
Kids and Fast Food - make your rule for Fast Food - milk with the meal, always ordering fruit. 
The American Heart Association has some recommendations for kids and Fast Food meals:
  • Skip the fries – choose the apple slices or other fruit or veggies as the side
  • Fries  -if you choose fries, order small and share it with your kid
  • Potato – get the baked potato – amazing how many people think a baked potato is fattening but French fries are OK.  Skip the sour cream and choose one topping like cheese or bacon.
  • Choose Grilled – this cuts the fat a lot.
  • Whole Wheat – choose a whole wheat bun/bread when available.  Subway offers this as does Panera.
  • Drinks – choose milk for kids and water or 100% juice for you.  (Milk for adults is also a good idea).  Skip the sugared sodas and make sure any “juice” you order is 100% juice and not a juice drink loaded with added sugar.

Eating healthy most of the time still allows for the “treat yourself” meals and desserts.   So enjoy a handful of nuts every day, eating 5 fruits and veggies a day but also enjoying some junk food.
McDonald's salad

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Weight Loss Tips

Who knew there are things you are doing that can sabotage your weight loss efforts.  Chemicals in food and other substances that may promote weight gain and not weight loss.  What are these chemicals and where are they
  1. Chemicals that may be sabotaging your weight:  What are some things that can sabotage your weight loss progress that you didn’t think about?  Did you know that there are chemicals in your everyday life that may promote the pounds rather than shed the pounds?  The U.S. News & World Report has an interesting article, Chemicals May Be Keeping You Fat.  What are these chemicals and what do they have to do with your weight?
  2. What are the chemicals?  They are called PFASs, substances found in food packaging, and in common household cleaners.  They include chemicals such as BPA and BPS.
  3. What do these chemicals have to do with our weight?  A study in PLOS Medicine, found that people who lost weight were more likely to regain this weight if they had a lot of PFASs in their body.  These chemicals that promote weight gain are also known as Nutritional Obesogens .  Web MD noted the PFASs may actually slow down your metabolism.
a.       Check your pantry or cupboard for packages, food that may have these PFASs.  What to look for?
  • Added sugar – so many foods have added sugar.  Look at the ingredients of almost any packaged food and you will find added sugar.  Good thing the new food labels will more clearly tell you if sugars have been added to a food item.
  • Monosodium Glutamate – MSG – a flavor enhancer that can be added to foods.
  •  Artificial Colors – so many cereals and other foods have artificial colors added.  Eating real food, and drinking real juice can help you avoid artificial colors.  Many people think Sunny D or Hi-C are 100% juice.  Look at the ingredients and note how little real juice is in these “juice” drinks.  Sunny D has only 2% real juice.  Mostly it is water and high fructose corn syrup.  But it also has artificial colors, Yellow #5 and Yellow #6.  Check out the ingredients in the foods in your cupboard or pantry and look for these artificial colors.  You may find them in cereals, Sports Drinks, frosting, salad dressings.  
Look for artificial colors in foods
b.      Take out foods – who doesn’t like pizza delivered to their door or microwave popcorn?  Apparently, the containers for these foods can have the PFASs chemicals in them.  Hopefully, manufacturers are finding a way to get the PFASs removed as I love microwave popcorn and pizza delivered to your door is something we all enjoy.
c.       Cut back on plastic – the plastic containers for your lunch, the plastic water bottle.  I now try to store leftover food in clear glass containers.  I try to use a metal water bottle as often as I can at the gym.  Look for containers with codes 1,2,4 and 5 as these are the least problematic.  (I checked all my plastic ware and it is coded a “5”.)
Look for the number on plastic containers

d.       Receipts – yes, those receipts you get at the grocery store, retail stores or even at the ATM machine.   Some of these receipts have the PFASs that can be absorbed through your skin.  The good news is a number of stores are removing these harmful chemicals from receipts.  Bloomberg reported in January, 2018, that Trader Joe’s  is removing two offending chemicals from receipts:  BPA and BPS.  Bloomberg also reported that a study of receipts found 93% of 208 receipts tested had BPA and BPS in them.  The study they reported on had tested major retailers including gas stations, retailers and banks.  Trader Joe’s also lists on their website which products contain or don’t contain BPA in packaging.  Best Buy is another retailer that has taken these harmful chemicals out of receipts.  If you want to find out how retailers check out on chemicals, go to:  How Retailers Rank on Toxic Chemicals.  

4.   How can you avoid PFASs and chemicals in food and other items?
  • Buy real, unprocessed food.  Fresh fruit and vegetables.
  • Use less plastic – store food in glass, ceramic or stainless steel containers.  Use glass or metal water bottles. 
  • Avoid the food dyes – look at the ingredients to see if artificial colors have been added to the beverage, cereal or other food you are eating.
  • Avoid receipts – get an email or text receipt or shop at stores that have removed BPA and BPS from receipts
  • Look at ingredients and cut back on foods with artificial colors.
  • Look at ingredients and cut back on “added” sugar.  Not easy to do since sugar is added to a lot of foods.  Natural sugars like the lactose in milk, the fructose in real juice are fine.  If the food doesn’t have the  new food label that lists, “added sugars” you need to check the ingredients to see if sugar has been added. And added sugar” comes in many forms like high fructose corn syrup.
So if someone says they have lost weight but have trouble keeping it off.  They may be right.  There may be chemicals in their everyday life that do make it harder for them to keep the weight off.   Hard to eliminate all these culprits but see if you can cut back on some of them that are in your everyday life.

Nutrition in the News: Chocolate and Coffee

Who doesn’t like chocolate?  Well a new   One hears “less sugar” and you think they either cut out some sugar or reduced the taste.  Or, they reduced the sugar by adding an artificial sweetener. But Nestle has actually changed the structure of the sugar molecule to let them reduce the amount of sugar they are putting in chocolate candy.  So is this a good thing?  

What is this “new sugar” that Nestle has developed?
Nestle researchers have been trying to reduce the amount of sugar in chocolate.  The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we reduce our intake of “added sugars”.  So it would be a good thing if chocolate candy has less “added sugar”.  What Nestle is doing is changing the actual structure of the sugar molecule.  Basically, it will be hollowed-out sugar molecule so you taste the sugar on your tongue but it will be hollow inside, and thus reducing the sugar content by 30%.  In their press release , Nestle introduced their new Milkybar, their first candy with the reduced sugar content.  Not yet available here in the U.S.A., but will be appearing in the United Kingdom and Ireland.  Nestle describes the new sugar as, an aerated, porous sugar that dissolves more quickly in the mouth. This allows someone to perceive the same sweetness as before while consuming less sugar.
Hopefully, we will be seeing some Nestle reduced sugar chocolate in the U.S. soon.
Reduced Sugar Milkybar
 Coffee- what is the fuss about coffee and cancer risk? 
The news this week talks about a judge in California who wants coffee sellers to post warnings about coffee and cancer risk.  Why is the judge making this ruling and should we be concerned about the coffee we drink?  Like chocolate, who doesn’t like coffee?  I enjoy some coffee every morning.
Why do they want coffee sellers in California to post warnings about coffee and cancer risk?  When they roast coffee beans, acrylamide, a chemical is produced.   It is the acrylamide that the judge wants to warn consumers about.

So what are the facts?  Is acrylamide really bad for us?  NPR  wrote a Fact Check article on this topic.  They noted not only is the judge’s decision at odds with science, there is a large body of evidence that drinking coffee is safe and benefits may have health such as reducing the risk for some cancers.  Harvard Medical School in the Harvard Health Letter stated,  "Past studies have suggested that drinking coffee is associated with many health benefits, such as added longevity, lower blood pressure, less weight gain with aging, and a reduced risk of many diseases, including type 2 diabetes, liver disease, cardiovascular disease, several degenerative neurological diseases (like Parkinson's disease), and cancer."

There is a lot of scientific evidence about the health benefits of drinking coffee, both regular and decaf.  If you are concerned about coffee, then keep your intake to 4 cups or less a day.  Apparently, drinking more than 4 cups a day doesn’t add any health benefits.

Look for the new reduced sugar Nestle candy coming soon.  And don’t give up your morning cup of coffee just yet.  I know I will be enjoying some coffee every morning this week.

Sources:  press release, Nestle,  cancer risk, NPR, Harvard Health Letter, health benefits  Images:  coffee. Milkybar, morning coffee