April 2016

10 Nutrition Truths

One study does not a conclusion make when it comes to foods, nutrition, and dieting. However, there  are a few issues in nutrition that you can depend on to never change. After more than 30 years of studying the research, here are the 10 things I know for sure about food, dieting, and nutrition.

Truth #1: People who eat tons of colorful produce also stack the deck in favor of being the healthiest and living the longest. Thousands of studies spanning decades of research repeatedly and consistently show that diets rich in colorful fruits and vegetables lower the risk for all age-related diseases, boost immunity, aid in weight loss, and even extend the healthy years. Aim for no less than 9 servings daily and make produce at least half of every plate, meal, and snack.

Truth #2: The more processed a food, the higher its salt, fat, sugar, and/or calories and the lower its vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and/or fiber. Humans have yet to best Mother Nature.

Truth #3: Eat real foods more often than you eat processed foods. Humans evolved as hunter gatherers, eating wild game, pounds of produce, wild grass seeds (now called whole grains), and other natural foods. Modern diets are as alien to our bodies as breathing in carbon monoxide.  At least 75% of the diet should come from foods as untouched by human hands as possible.

Truth #4: Fad diets don’t work. People have fallen victim to hundreds, if not thousands, of diets in the past several decades and are fatter than ever. We know what works for permanent weight loss and it isn’t some ridiculous fad diet. It’s eating moderate amounts of low-fat, healthy foods and exercising daily.

Truth #5: You can’t maintain a slim figure by diet alone. Almost everyone over the age of 30 years-old who is trim is working at it. They monitor their food intake and exercise.

Truth #6: Being overweight is not good for you. We were not designed to be fat, so it is no surprise that a wealth of research shows that being over-fat, even if you are at your desirable weight but too much of that weight is fat weight, increases the risk for everything from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, hypertension, cataracts, and immune suppression to depression, memory loss, and even dementia.

Truth #7: There really are “bad” foods. No matter what someone says about there being only bad diets, there is absolutely no redeeming qualities in soft drinks or Cheez Whiz. On the other hand, no one super food can make up for a bad diet or fix a bad mood, boost energy, or improve your mind. Only an overall great diet can do that.

Truth #8: Foods should look good, taste good, and be good for you. If a food doesn’t meet all three of these requirements then it isn’t worthy of being a part of your diet. Settling for salty, greasy, fast or processed foods just because they taste good is like saying you don’t care enough about yourself and your health to choose foods that nourish you.

Truth #9: Don’t believe anything you read on the front of the box. Always turn the package over and read the Nutrition Facts label and the Ingredient List. For example, a cereal that says on the front of the box “made with whole grains,” may have “wheat flour” as the first ingredient, which is refined white flour.

Truth #10: Most people haven’t a clue what they are eating. Only one in every 100 people meet even the minimum standards of a balanced diet, yet most people, when asked, say they “eat pretty well.” Almost all of them are delusional.
Photo credit: Daniel70mi Falciola via Compfight

Do One of These Diet Do’s Today

1. Vow to include 2 colorful fruits or veggies at every meal and at least one at every snack.

2. Try one new 100% whole grain today, such as bulgur, quinoa, or teff.

3. Go for a walk, even if it is only 15 minutes.

4. Bring your food with you today, so you aren’t tempted by drive-thru’s or vending machines.

The Latest Must-Read Nutrition News

1. Omega-3s and Better Teenage Brains: Teenagers with the highest omega-3 levels also show improvement in brain function, according to a study from the Open University of the Netherlands. Blood levels of omega-3s were compared to cognitive ability in 266 typical adolescents between the ages of 13- and 15-years-old. Results showed that those teens with the highest omega-3 levels showed higher information processing speed and less impulsivity compared to those with lower omega-3 levels.
Van der Wurff I, von Schacky C, Berge K, et al: Association between blood omega-3 index and cognition in typically developing Dutch adolescents. Nutrients 2016; January 2

2. Berries Good for Your Sex Life: Foods rich in flavonoids, such as berries, cherries, red wine, and citrus, might help men maintain healthy erections, according to a study from Harvard University’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health in Boston. Diets of more than 25,000 men from the Professionals Follow-Up Study were compared to total flavonoid content during a four-year period. During 10 years of follow up, 35.6% of the men reported erectile dysfunction (ED). The study showed that higher total fruit intake, especially fruits rich in flavonoids, was associated with a 14% reduced risk for ED. Combining flavonoid-rich diets with exercise reduced the risk by 21%. Note: Phytonutrient-rich fruits might reduced the risk for ED by helping  improve blood vessel function and lowering blood pressure. Flavonoids include anthocyanins, flavanones, and flavones.
Cassidy A, Franz Z, Rimm E: Dietary flavonoid intake and incidence of erectile dysfunction. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2016; January 13

3. Dark Greens Save Vision: A diet rich in dark green leafy vegetables could protect your eyes from developing glaucoma, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Approximately 64,000 women from the Nurses’ Healthy Study and 41,000 people from the Health Professionals Follow-Up Study were included in the study. During the 25-year-follow up, almost 1,500 people developed glaucoma. Risk was compared to consumption of dark green leafy vegetable, with intakes divided into five categories from highest to lowest. Those people who included the most dark green leafies in their diets averaged about 1.5 servings (about 1 ½ cups) a day. Those eating the least amount averaged one serving every three days. Results showed that those people consuming the most dark green leafies every day had a 20% to 30% lower risk of glaucoma.
Kang J: JAMA Ophthalmology, online January 14, 2016.
Photo credit:  Sally Cummings via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip –

Crave Control

You’re on a diet, but when faced with chocolate or ice cream, do you find yourself in a tug-of-war between the angel of good intentions and the devil of desire? Put aside the guilt. Food cravings are not a sign of a lack of willpower. Research has uncovered a far more complex and deep-seated cause of those irresistible urges. More important, there is much you can do to tame the crave beast and manage your waistline.

Often cravings are fueled by a complex chemical orchestra in your brain. Nerve chemicals, such as serotonin, galanin, the endorphins, and dopamine, entice you to eat sweet or creamy foods, then stamp that experience into your memory with a gas pedal for pleasure-in-eating later. You can tame these chemicals with a few strategies.

1. Plan your cravings. Allow small servings of  your favorite food to help avoid binge eating associated with abstinence.

2. Cut back on sugar, caffeine, and refined grains, since these quick-fix energy boosts only undermine your weight loss efforts and fuel cravings in the long run.

3. If habit, not chemicals, is at the root of a craving, find more nutritious, low-calorie foods or develop a new habit that provides the same pleasurable or rewarding effect, such as take a brisk walk, paint your nails, or take a hot bath instead of eating.

4. Exercise. People who are physically active are less prone to binging and cravings, and maintain a more constant weight as compared to couch potatoes. Exercise also is a healthy way to get a pleasurable endorphin rush and reduce stress.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the month

Cioppino in a Robust Tomato Base, Infused with Fresh Fennel and Orange (From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

This fish soup is a classic that has been given a revamp with fresh fennel and orange.   The flavors linger, long after your last bite.


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 fennel bulbs, sliced paper thin

2 leeks, white part only, sliced paper thin

1 large sweet onion, chopped

3 teaspoons dried oregano

1 teaspoon dried thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds

1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes with added puree

2 8-ounce bottles of clam juice

1 large orange, juice and rind

1/2 cup white wine or substitute with 1/2 cup orange juice

2  6-1/2 ounce cans chopped clams, add liquid from 1 can only*

1 pound uncooked medium-large shrimp peeled, deveined

1 pound sea scallops, rinsed and patted dry

1 pound little neck clams, cleaned

1/4 cup fresh chopped basil


1) Heat olive oil over medium heat in a heavy, large pot or Dutch oven.

2) Add next 7 ingredients (through red pepper flakes), saute until tender, about 5 to 7 minutes.

3) Add tomatoes, clam juice, juice from orange and rind, and white wine. Increase heat and boil gently for 15 minutes.

4) Add  clams and liquid from 1 can, shrimp, scallops, and little neck clams.  Cover pan and reduce heat, simmer for 2 minutes, or until shrimp is opaque. (Careful not to overcook)

5) Pour into soup bowls, sprinkle with fresh basil, and serve. Makes 8 servings.

*This rich tomato base can be made the day before serving. Store in refrigerator. Heat to a gentle boil, then add your fresh seafood.
Nutritional Analysis per serving: 331 Calories; 17% fat (6.3 grams); <1 gram saturated fat; 46% protein; 37% carbohydrate; 5.4 grams fiber.

Your Nutrition Questions Answered

Good Coffee Smile1. Does coffee dehydrate you?

Coffee has a slight diuretic effect, but supplies far more liquid than is lost in urine. Studies show that people who drink several cups of coffee a day do not become dehydrated. Of course, too much coffee causes the jitters and disturbed sleep patterns, so this is not a license to binge. Athletes engaged in distance sports should rehydrate first with water before turning to any caffeinated beverage.

2. People should fast every so often to cleanse the body of toxins.

Fasting is a long-held tradition in some religions. It also might make you feel like you’re doing something good for your body and it’s a reasonable action to step away from food for a couple of days every so often to review the role(s) it plays in your life, but there is no body of solid research to show it does anything for your health long-term. The human body evolved over millions of years developing a complex system, including the liver, kidneys, circulatory system and digestive system, to rid itself of unwanted by-products, or what the popular press calls “toxins.” In fact, some evidence suggests that cutting calories too low, as in juice fasts, may cause fat cells to release these by products faster than the liver and kidneys can excrete them. Ironically, fasting itself also generates toxins. For example, as protein is broken down for energy, levels of toxic nitrogen substances such as uric acid are formed, which tax the kidneys and increase the risk for gout.  If you feel better by day two or three, it’s only because your body has run out of glycogen and is now living on free fatty acids, which can give you a slight euphoric feeling. You’re far better off eating healthfully over time to allow slow weight loss and a slow release of anything stored in fat cells to be eliminated from the body, which will keep the body “cleansed” far better than a temporary juice fast.

See Next Month for Answers to These Questions?

1. Is it best to eat small meals and snacks throughout the day for weight loss?

2. Calories are not a problem as long as you are choosing only healthy foods, right?
Photo credit:  Kenny Louie via Compfight

Food Finds/Food Fails:

Food Finds:

watermelon1. Watermelon: Food doesn’t get much better than this. Watermelon is packed with vitamins like vitamins A and C, minerals like potassium, fiber, and phytonutrients like citrulline that help improve blood flow. Eat plain, add a slice to sandwiches or chunks in a salad or smoothie, or puree and add to sauces, dressings, and marinades.

2. Bush’s Reduced Sodium Black Beans: Legumes are one of Mother Nature’s best sources of  minerals like iron and magnesium, vitamins like B vitamins, and phytonutrients like saponins and phytosterols that lower cancer and heart disease risk. Switching from meat to beans even four times a week is enough to lower heart disease risk by up to 20%. They also contain the 3 nutrients for weight-loss – protein, water, and fiber. So, they fill you up on fewer calories. These beans are still high in sodium, but lower than other beans and you can rinse away some of that sodium by running water over them in a colander. Add to soups, stews, burritos, nachos, dips, spreads, and more.

Food Fails:

1. Welch’s Watermelon Drink: What has 260 calories and 15 teaspoons of added sugar and nothing that even resembles a real slice of chin-dribbling watermelon? You got it. This bottle of junk isn’t worth even picking up, let alone drinking, unless you want to get a real shock by reading the ingredient lists and wondering how stuff like this is allowed to be sold!

beans2. Bush’s Bourbon and Brown Sugar Grillin’ Beans: OK. I’ll admit they taste great. But, there is a reason for that. There is more than 15 teaspoons of added sugar in a can of these beans! That’s the sugar in almost two cans of Coke!! They might have a “touch of natural Bourbon flavor” but I’m surprised there was room for the beans with the can so packed with added sugar.
Photo credit: ProtoplasmaKid via Compfight

This Month’s Menu Ideas:

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks  if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.


2/3 cup oatmeal cooked in 1 cup low-fat milk or soymilk and topped with: 2 Tbsp. toasted wheat germ, 2 Tbsp. raisins, and 2 Tbsp. chopped walnuts

1 cup orange juice

1 banana

Herb or green tea

Mid-Morning Snack:

1 cup nonfat, plain yogurt mixed with: 2 Tbsp. chopped dates and 1 Tbsp. chopped almonds

Iced green tea or water


Thai Tofu Salad: (serve hot or cold) 3 ounces firm tofu, cut into cubes and heated in a non-stick pan for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups pre-shredded cabbage mix, 1 Tbsp. peanut sauce, and 1 Tbsp. sunflower seeds. Heat over medium heat for 2 minutes (or until heated through, but still crunchy). Top with 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro and serve.

2 medium tomatoes, sliced and topped with: 2 minced garlic, 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil, 1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

Sparkling water with lemon or herb tea

Mid-Afternoon Snack:

1 cup nonfat milk blended with 1 tsp. nutmeg, 1 tsp. honey, and 1 ice cube


1 serving Cioppino in a Robust Tomato Base, Infused with Fresh Fennel and Orange

2 slices French bread

1 ounce cheddar cheese

2 cups lettuce with 2 Tbsp. Oil and vinegar dressing

Sparkling water with lime juice

Evening Snack:

2 cups frozen grapes

Nutritional Information: 1,943 calories, 23% fat (51 grams), 57% carbohydrate, 20% protein, 44 grams fiber.

What has Elizabeth been up to?

March 3rd: San Diego Living, CW6 in San Diego. Topic: Sugar Shock. http://www.cw6sandiego.com/sugar-shock-eat-your-way-to-happiness/

March 24th : AMNorthWest, KATU Channel 2 in Portland, Oregon. Topic: Energize Your Diet, Energize Your Life http://katu.com/amnw/lifestyle-health/boost-your-energy-levels