February 2014

Healthy Heart for Life

One in four Americans have some form of heart disease and half of all Americans have one or more risk factors. It is the number one killer disease in America, and up to half of those deaths could be prevented with changes in lifestyle, with diet leading the troops. You already know that the heart-healthy diet starts with colorful fruits and vegetables, from apples and artichokes to watermelon and zucchini. Aim for at least eight servings daily. You also know that you can’t get to heart health without daily exercise. Here are a few more tips to keep you, your waistline, and your heart in tip top condition.

1. Does being heart healthy mean cutting out meat? Not at all, but it does mean choosing the right cuts and keeping the portions small. That’s because the second diet rule (after the veggie one above) for heart health is to cut back on the “bad” fats, the saturated fats that are in red meat and fatty dairy products, and increase the “good” fats, the omega-3s and monounsaturates.

In the meat drawer, focus on extra-lean meats low in saturated fats and high in healthy omega-3 fats, such as skinned chicken breast or ground turkey breast, red meat with 7% or less fat by weight, and salmon. The American Heart Association recommends at least 2 servings a week of omega-3 rich seafood to prevent irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), blood clots, clogged arteries, and high triglyceride levels. The omega-3s also might help reduce inflammation in blood vessels associated with atherosclerosis. If you can’t afford or don’t like fish, are vegetarian, or are concerned about pesticides and mercury in fish, look for foods that are fortified with a plant-based, contaminant-free DHA that also are easy to fit into your daily routine, such as milk, yogurt,  juices, etc. Aim for at least 220 milligrams of the omega-3 DHA a day.

2. What about cheese? Cheese now surpasses red meat as this country’s #1 source of artery-clogging saturated fat. To reduce this bad fat and still enjoy your favorite recipes, stock low-fat cheeses. Instead of butter, choose margarine with stanols and sterols known to help lower blood cholesterol levels (however, you’ll need to consume 3 Tablespoons daily to get enough stanols to lower cholesterol levels…and the calories can add up). Other dairy foods that fit well into a heart-healthy kitchen include fat-free sour cream, fat-free cream cheese, and nonfat plain yogurt, preferably ones fortified with vitamin D, since this vitamin shows promise in lowering heart disease and stroke risk.

3. What about grains? The #3 rule for a heart healthy kitchen is load up on fiber-rich foods. That means, stock only breads and baked items that say “100% whole wheat” or “100% whole grain.” Otherwise, even if the label says whole, it is likely to be made with refined wheat flour, which is just white flour. Better yet, try less common grains, like quinoa, which is high in protein, magnesium, iron, potassium, and fiber, yet gluten- and fat-free. My favorite is Ancient Harvest, a line of quinoa products that includes pastas.

Photo credit:  Nicolas Raymond via Compfight

I Need Your Help

And you could win a book!

It’s important to me that we’re covering the topics that are most important to you! Please take a moment to let me know what your favorite feature(s) are in our monthly newsletter, and let us know what topics you’d like to read more about. To thank you for your time, we’ll randomly select a winner and send a copy of The Food & Mood Cookbook. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts!

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Just Do This Today

1. Substitute quinoa in place of rice in one of your favorite dishes.

2. Choose a healthy snack, such as watermelon cubes or baby carrots dunked in hummus.

3. Vow to not watch TV or sit in front of your computer tonight. Instead, take a walk with the family, a friend, or the dog.

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. The Sexy Diet: Women who drop pounds feel sexier, according to a study from the University of Pennsylvania. Half of all women who request bariatric surgery experience signs of sexual dysfunction, yet two years following that surgery, the 106 formerly obese women in this study had lost almost 33% of their former weight reported increased arousal, lubrication, sexual desire, and overall sexual satisfaction. Blood tests also showed an increase in sex hormones, suggesting that weight loss improves fertility. Women with the poorest quality sex lives prior to surgery reported the most dramatic improvements a year following surgery.

Sarwer D, Spitzer J, Wadden T, et al: Change in sexual functioning and sex hormone levels in women following bariatric surgery. JAMA Surgery 2013;November 4th.

2. Calcium and Your Bones: Both calcium and milk really do protect bones from osteoporosis, according to a study from the School of Medicine Konkuk University in Seoul, Korea. Using survey data from the Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (KNHANES) for adults (3,819 males, 5,625 females) ages 20 years-old and older, researchers compared intakes of dietary calcium, milk, and dairy products along with blood levels of vitamin D to bone mineral density. The results showed that osteoporosis risk significantly decreased as calcium intake increased. In addition, the risk for osteoporosis significantly decreased as the ratio of calcium to phosphorus increased and  as blood vitamin D levels increased. The researchers advocate an increase in calcium, milk, and dairy product intake, and that blood vitamin D levels be maintained within optimal levels for the maintenance of bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis.

Hong H, Kim E, Lee J: Effects of calcium intake, milk and dairy product intake, and blood vitamin D level on osteoporosis risk in Korean adults. Nutrition Research and Practice 2013;7:409-417.

Photo credit:  Jen Morgan via Compfight

3. Muscles Need E: Low vitamin E status might contribute to bone loss and muscle wasting, according to a study from Uppsala University in Sweden. During a 19-year follow-up of 14,738 men and women, the researchers found a higher incidence of fracture rate in women and men with low initial vitamin E status. In contrast, vitamin E supplementation was associated with a lower risk of fracture. Previous studies show that low vitamin E status is linked to reduced physical performance in people who are 65-years-old and older. This relationship was observed also in participants in this study who had vitamin E levels averaging 30.0umol/L or less. One in every two young adults in the US have blood vitamin E levels less than 25.9umol/L. Since this level is well below the level associated with muscle wasting in this study, it is clear a large section of the population may be experiencing harmful effects from inadequate vitamin E status.

Michaelsson K, Wolk A, Byberg L, et al: Intake and serum concentrations of a-tocopherol in relation to fracture in elderly women and men: 2 cohort studies. American Journal of Clinical20Nutrition 2013; doi:10.3945/ajcn.113.064691

Photo credit: ~ggvic~ via Compfight

Food & Mood Tip – Water: The Fatigue-Busting Nutrient

Your body is mostly water. Men are about 60% water (10 to 12 gallons) and women are about 55% water (water is more concentrated in muscle than in fat and women have more body fat than men, in general). For example, water makes up 83% of blood, 75% of brain tissue, 70% of muscle, 20% to 30% of body fat, and  22% of bone. Water fills every space inside and between cells. It is the body’s universal solvent, coolant, lubricant, and transport agent, so it lubricates joints, maintains body temperature, hydrates the skin, transports toxins and waste out of body, carries nutrients to tissues, and helps digest food.

Every system in your body – from reproduction and digestion to circulation, mood, and memory – depends on water. Consequently, it helps ward off fatigue, the number one health complaint in the United States, and might help boost alertness and feelings of vitality. It keeps tissues hydrated and wards off migraines, other headaches, kidney stones, and urinary tract infections. Water even might help lower cancer risk. In one study from Harvard School of Public Health, men who drank 10 or more cups of water a day had half the risk of  bladder cancer compared to men who drank five cups or less.

Even mild dehydration, such as losing 1% to 2% of body weight, results in a variety of problems, from headaches, fatigue, and weakness to lightheadedness, poor stamina, reduced short-term memory, and poor concentration and reasoning ability. No wonder people often feel sluggish when they don’t drink enough water! Make sure to drink enough water every day that your urine is pale yellow.

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Eat Your Way to Sexy Secrets – Another Reason to Drop Those Extra Pounds

A little whipped cream rubbed on a tummy or an oiled-up body might be a fun addition to a sexy romp in the hay, but take that same fat and pack it into a belly and it isn’t pretty.  Body fat looks much like the yellowish fatty globs you cut off of chicken breasts. A pound of it is about the size of a child’s football or a large grapefruit. Thirty extra pounds of it is enough to fill a grocery cart.

Now, imagine that fat tucked in and around internal organs where it releases fats into the blood stream, damages tissues, alters body chemistry, increases inflammation, raises levels of free radicals that pierce cell membranes and corrupt the cellular genetic code, and acts as an endocrine gland pumping out hormones that further damage organs, clog arteries, reduce sperm production, and roadblock sexual function. Insulin and blood sugar levels rise along with risk for diabetes, while testosterone, the hormone that revs sex drive, plummets as body fat accumulates. All of that goes on 24/7, awake or asleep, watching TV or taking a shower. The longer the fat remains, the more damage to the body.

The good news? Every single one of those harmful effects are reversed or at least improved with weight loss.

 Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Month

Pecan, Tart Apple, and Dried Cherry Salad
From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams

The contrast of tart and sweet is accented by the light maple hint of dressing in this simple tossed salad. Serve with any chicken dish or as a meal at lunch. Don’t be concerned about the total fat percentage. Since lettuce has almost no calories, the only calories come from the cherries and fat, raising the fat percentage even though the total fat is low. All the fat comes from healthy mono-unsaturated fats in the nuts and canola oil.

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup fat-free mayonnaise
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar or maple sugar
2 tablespoons canola oil
salt and pepper

1 /2 cup pecan bits
1 tablespoon maple syrup
2 5-ounce bags of baby greens (about 18 cups lightly packed)
2 tart apples (Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and chopped
3/4 cup dried cherries


Dressing: In a blender, mix syrup, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, oil, and salt and pepper to taste until creamy. Set aside.


1) Place pecans in a small bowl and drizzle with maple syrup. Toss and let stand for 10 minutes. Place on tin foil in oven preheated to 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until toasted. Remove and let cool.

2) Place greens in large bowl. Top with apples, cherries, and pecans. Toss with dressing just before serving. Serve on chilled plates.  Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 185 Calories; 40% fat (8 grams); < 1 gram saturated fat; 6% protein; 54% carbohydrate; 3.7 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do You Know?” from last issue:

1. There is more sodium and iron in muscle than any other mineral.
False. Magnesium is the most bountiful mineral other than potassium in soft tissues, such as the muscles and heart. This mineral aids in the maintenance of muscle and helps convert glycogen to energy. Magnesium also regulates muscle relaxation and contraction and nerve transmission; consequently, inadequate intake can result in weakened muscles, high blood pressure, and irregular heart beats. Typical diets contain only 120 milligrams of magnesium per 1,000 calories, so a woman must consume at least 2,300 calories to obtain the recommended 280 milligrams needed to prevent clinical deficiencies. Pregnant women need at least 2,666 calories daily to meet their recommendation of 320 milligrams. You can boost magnesium intake by including several of the following magnesium-rich foods in your daily diets: Dark green leafy vegetables, nuts, 100% whole grains, quinoa, wheat germ, legumes, avocados, bananas, and berries.

2. The only thing you cut out of your diet are calories, saturated fat, and cholesterol when you eliminate red meat.
False. Women concerned about saturated fat and cholesterol have cut back on red meat, the richest source of zinc. In addition, the average woman in the United States consumes about 1,634 calories, a calorie intake more suitable to a toddler and too low to ensure even adequate, let alone optimal, intake of zinc. Consequently, this essential trace mineral often is low in many diets, which can have far-reaching effects on health. A premenopausal woman needs at least 12 milligrams daily – and 15 milligrams or more during pregnancy – to maintain the two to three grams of zinc in the human body, which are involved in more than 20 enzymatic reactions involving bone formation, energy production, protein synthesis such as the formation of hemoglobin or proteins in muscle cells, insulin activity, wound healing, and immunity.

Another nutrient lost when red meat is eliminated is iron. The iron in meat is much better absorbed than iron in plants, such as vegetables or legumes. Statistics vary, but up to 80% of women during the childbearing years are low in iron. You are at particular risk if you menstruate heavily, are vegetarian, have been pregnant in the past few years, or consume less than 2,500 calories a day. Have your serum ferritin (a sensitive indicator of iron status) levels checked next time you have blood drawn. Finally, other nutrients, like vitamin B12 and vitamin B6, can be low if a person is not vigilant in adding several foods rich in these nutrients to the daily diet.

Photo credit: Rexipe Rexipe via Compfight

Do You Know?

1. Are free-range eggs healthier?

2. Is chicken broth really good for a cold or fever?

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo

Free range chickenBeware the label claim on poultry that states, “Free-range.” While this might invoke images of happy chickens roaming free across flowered meadows, in reality all it means is that producers must allow the animals access to open air for any length of time. Any chicken that sees the light of day, even if it is on a cement slab for 5 minutes, can be called ‘free range.”

Because the term “free-range” is so broad, some chicken farmers have chosen alternative words to describe how their poultry is raised.  “Pastured poultry” is a term promoted by farmer/author Joel Salatin for chickens raised on grass pastures their entire lives, except for the initial brooding period. The Pastured Poultry concept is promoted by the American Pastured Poultry Producers’ Association (APPPA), an organization of farmers raising their poultry using20Salatin’s recommendations.  Some people report these chickens taste better, but there is no evidence they are more nutritious or leaner.

Photo credit:  Compassion in World Farming via Compfight

Food Finds/Food Fails:

Food Finds:
1. Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Decaf Green Tea: A new line of tea from this well-known company has a dusting of vitamin C to give it that one-two punch for winter and cold season. I like the Lemon Jasmine the best, but other Flavors in the line include Honey Lemon Ginseng and Antioxidant Green Tea with vitamins A and C. You get 20% of your daily need for vitamin C, while cozying by the fire with a delicious hot cup of tea. Not bad!

2. Dole Single Serve Frozen Blueberry Cups: What a great idea! These 3-ounce cups of antioxidant-packed blueberries fit perfectly into kids’ lunches, brown bag lunches for work or road trips, or just a snack when you’re on the go. They keep the rest of lunch cold, too. Granted, you could do the same thing with a big bag of blueberries portioned into mini-baggies, but sometimes we just don’t have the time to make the switch.

3. Green Giant’s Steamers Antioxidant Blend: This frozen veggie blend is perfect for those nights when you have 10 minutes to get a healthy dinner on the table. In fact, in the time it would take to chop the broccoli, carrots, and red and yellow peppers, you can microwave this pouch. And, the antioxidant name is no scam. The antioxidant levels of a vegetable can be guestimated by the color. The more pigment, the more antioxidants. You get a big chunk of the rainbow in these blend. Granted, there is some calories (100 calories if you eat the whole pouch) from the    1 /2 teaspoon of fat, but it comes from olive oil. The sodium per serving is low, too.

Food Fails:
1. Kellogg’s Krave Double Chocolate Cereal: No surprise that a cereal touted as a dessert is probably not good for you. Ignore the claim that this is a “Crispy multi-grain cereal.” A dusting of whole grain cannot magically morph a bowl full of junk into a health food. Each 3/4 cup serving includes 120 calories, almost a teaspoon of fat, and almost 3 teaspoons of sugar. In fact, the first ingredient in the first ingredient (a chocolate flavoring) is sugar, followed by oil. There also are further sugar sources throughout the ingredient list. Save you money, your teeth, and your health by avoiding this cereal!

2. Zoi Strawberry Cream Greek Yogurt. When is a yogurt more like a candy bar? When it’s Zoi! While their plain, nonfat Greek Yogurt has only 8 grams of sugar, which comes naturally from the lactose in milk, the Strawberry Cream has 30 grams, or 7 1 /2 teaspoons, of sugar, in a 6-ounce serving. That’s the sugar you would get in a Snickers Bar! This yogurt also has almost a teaspoon of artery-clogging saturated fat. Buy the plain, nonfat and sweeten it yourself with a little jam or fresh fruit.

3. Marie Callender’s Cheddar Biscuit with Bacon, Egg & Cheddar: The name pretty much says it all. But, you still may be surprised to see how truly bad this frozen breakfast is. While the advertisement uses words like “light” and “fluffy,” in truth, one little muffin packs 300 calories, almost 50% of which comes from the 16 grams of fat (that is 4 teaspoons, 2 teaspoons of which is saturated). The only thing worse than the grease is the hefty dose of salt. One muffin contains 71% of the recommended daily intake for sodium, or 1060 milligrams. Honestly, I wouldn’t feed this to my dog, let alone anyone I love!

The Daily Menu

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 frozen whole wheat waffles, toasted and topped with 3 tablespoons fat-free sour cream and 2/3 cup fresh or thawed blueberries.
6 ounces grapefruit juice
Herb tea

1 / 2 Turkey sandwich made from 1 slice whole wheat bread, 2 ounces turkey breast, and 1 tablespoon cranberry sauce
1 serving of Pecan, Tart Apple, and Dried Cherry Salad
1 Tangerine, peeled and sectioned
Sparkling water with lime

Afternoon Snack:
1 mango, peeled and sliced and topped with 6 ounces nonfat lemon yogurt and chopped mint leaves.

Green tea

Linguini with Tomatoes and Clams:
1 cup cooked linguini noodles topped with:
Sauce: 1 / 2 cup chopped onion, 8 ounces stewed tomatoes, 2 tsp. chopped fresh parsley, 2 minced garlic cloves, 1 / 2 tsp. marjoram, salt and pepper simmered in non-stick skillet until onion is tender. Add 1/4 pound fresh, shelled steamer clams and cook for 10 minutes over medium-high heat. Pour over pasta.

1 cup steamed broccoli

Tomatoes with Mozzarella & Basil: Cut a medium tomato into three slices and top each slice with a thin slice of fresh mozzarella cheese and a fresh basil leaf. Drizzle 2 teaspoons low-fat balsamic vinaigrette dressing over the slices.

Evening Snack:
2/3 cup Cherrios, 4 tablespoons dried cranberries, and 1 tablespoon candied ginger.
Decaffeinated tea or water with lemon

Nutritional Information: 1,800 Calories; 17 % fat, 34 grams total fat, 11 grams saturated fat; 21% protein, 94.5 grams protein; 62 % carbs, 279 grams carbs; 32 grams fiber; 1,117 milligrams calcium; 484 micrograms folate; 1,643 milligrams sodium.