Use Some Common Sense When Deciphering Nutrition Headlines!
Mass hysteria about health issues is on the rise. Americans have become obsessed with a handful of nutrition issues and have let much more important advice slip by. Maybe it’s the media overload on nutrition issues. Maybe we’re confused by contradictory nutrition headlines. Maybe it’s the sound-byte approach to nutrition reporting. Maybe it’s the desire for a magic bullet and quick fix. Whatever the cause, many people have traded in common sense for nutrition hysteria and have lost sight of how to put information into perspective.
For example, everything from baldness, breast cancer, and infertility to heart disease, depression, and PMS has been blamed on pesticides in our produce. Granted, pesticides and their residues aren’t good for us and there is evidence they’re everywhere in our environment, which means they’re everywhere in our food. The best we can do is limit our exposure by eating certified organic foods. But, let’s put this issue into perspective.
First, all foods, not just fruits and vegetables, contain pesticides, including milk, grains, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, and oils. You must give up eating (and possibly breathing and drinking) to eliminate exposure to these chemicals.
Second, thousands of studies spanning decades of research show that fruits and vegetables lower our risk for everything from heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension to obesity, depression, cataracts, aging, and memory loss. None of those studies used organic produce, so it’s safe to say that pesticide exposure poses much less of a risk than avoiding Mother Nature’s closest thing to perfect food.
We wouldn’t dream of taking prescription drugs without a physician’s advice, yet willingly and blindly self-medicate with medicinal herbs that have potential health risks. Dang gui binds to estrogen receptors and promotes uterine growth, potentially stimulating estrogen receptor-positive cancer cells and a woman’s risk for breast cancer. Ginkgo biloba has produced intracerebral hemorrhage in some people, and also interacts with thiazide diuretics to cause hypertension. Kava kava combined with benzodiazepine can produce a semi-comatose state. St. John’s wort has caused dizziness, confusion, tiredness, and reduced sperm motility. This is not to say that herbs aren’t helpful, only that we often take them on advice as scanty as a friend’s advice or a newspaper headline. The list goes on.
Most health books on the best-seller list are fad diets with no sound scientific back-up. They tell us to cut carbohydrates and eat more protein, which increases our risks for kidney stones, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Or, guzzle coconut oil, instead of cutting calories? Why do we willingly take such risks? Next time you hear a nutrition report, keep in mind that each report is merely a thread in the tapestry, not a cause to act. Investigate nutrition issues using reputable sources. Ask for proof. Put headlines into perspective. And, use some good old-fashioned common sense!
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Photo credit: Ellen Munro via Compfight
Just Do This Today
1. Strap on a pedometer and walk 10,000 steps.
2. Say “no” to the French fries with that restaurant meal and request steamed veggies instead.
3. Drink 8 glasses of water throughout the day.
4. When a craving for something sweet hits, brush your teeth and wait 15 minutes to see if the craving subsides.
Hot Off the Diet Press
1. Dairy Eyes: People who consume few calcium-rich milk products are at risk for vision problems, according to a study from the University of Sydney, Australia. Researchers investigated the association between consumption of total, regular, and low-fat dairy foods, as well as total calcium intake, with the risk for vascular problems of the retina. Dietary intakes were gathered on people who were 50-years-old or older and compared to photographs of retinal vascular calibrations. Results showed that people who consumed the least amount of dairy foods compared to those who consumed the most had significantly more vascular damage in retinal tissue. Damage was most pronounced in those who consumed the least amount of low-fat milk products. Low calcium intake also was associated with more damage to blood vessels in retinal tissue.
Gopinath B, Flood V, Wang J, et al: Lower dairy products and calcium intake is associated with adverse retinal vascular changes in older adults. Nutrition, Metabolism, and Cardiovascular Disease 2014;24:155-161.
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2. Pro- Lycopene, Anti-Inflammatory: Increasing the daily intake of lycopene-rich foods could help save the life of people with heart failure. Researchers at the University of Kentucky studied 40 patients with heart failure who were randomly assigned to regular care or regular care plus more than 29 milligrams of lycopene in vegetable juice. After 30 days, blood lycopene levels were highest in the women from the treatment group, who also showed a corresponding lower C-reactive protein (CRP) level, an indicator of reduced inflammation. In Perspective: Inflammation is a major contributor to the ongoing disease process of heart failure. Antioxidants, such as lycopene, appear to slow the progression of heart failure by inhibiting damaging inflammatory processes.
Biddle M, Lennie T, Bricker G, et al: Lycopene dietary intervention. Journal of Cardiovascular Nursing 2014;Mar 18th.
3. The Low Pressure Vegetarian Diet: Switching to a vegetarian diet could help lower blood pressure, according to a study from the National Cerebral and Cardiovascular Center in Osaka, Japan. In this meta-analysis of 39 studies that included close to 22,000 people, the researchers found that vegetarians had significantly lower blood pressure compared to meat eaters. On average, the vegetarians’s blood pressures were lower by 5 to 7 mm/Hg for systolic blood pressure and 2 to 5 mm/Hg for diastolic blood pressure. The researchers say that even these modest reductions in blood pressure are enough to lower heart attack risk by 9% and the risk for stroke by 14%. The type of vegetarian diet did not seem to matter and could include ones that emphasized vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and/or fruits or even ones that included eggs, milk products, and seafood (although technically fish inclusion would not be a vegetarian diet).
Yokoyama Y, Nishimura K, Barnard N, et al: Vegetarian diets and blood pressure. JAMA Internal Medicine 2014;February 24th.
Food & Mood Tip
Do you eat when you’re mad, bored, tired, lonely? That’s emotional eating. Turning to food for something other than physical nourishment only trades one problem for another. Emotional eaters need alternative coping skills. People who develop habits of turning to food every time things go wrong, program themselves for emotional eating. In addition, if they anticipate that they are likely to overeat later, they starve themselves early in the day, which of course can lead to a binge. What do you do? Eat regular meals, rather than skipping meals and overeating later. Stop yourself before a snack and check in with your emotions. In fact, several times a day, ask yourself how you are feeling. Are you mad, happy, sad, calm, angry, frustrated, excited,hungry, or what? Ask yourself what you need. Do you need a hug, a breath of fresh air, a good talk with a friend, or a snack? Many times your cravings are for something other than food. In those cases, do something to feel better, rather than unconsciously grabbing a bag of chips. For example, a brisk walk or a bike ride will do much more for relieving frustration than eating a stale doughnut in the employee’s lounge. Remind yourself that food won’t make you feel any better. Believe it or not, that simple strategy actually works. People who were feeling down-in-the-dumps actually ate less when researchers at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland told them that fatty snacks wouldn’t improve their moods.
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Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Month
Cioppino Infused with Fresh Fennel and Orange (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)
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, divined
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 percent fat (6.3 grams); <1 gram saturated fat; 46 percent protein; 37 percent carbohydrate; 5.4 grams fiber.
Answers to “Do You Know?” from last issue:
1. Are food cravings a sign your body needs certain nutrients?
I wish! If that were the case, a person low in magnesium would crave spinach and legumes and the majority of Americans low in the omega-3 fat DHA would crave anchovies and herring. Granted, a small, all-carb snack will boost the feel-good brain chemical, serotonin, but anything more than a cup or two of air-popped popcorn and you’re binging, not fueling brain chemistry. Most cravings are based on psychological wants, rather than physical needs. In short, your body doesn’t “need” potato chips, cup cakes, ice cream, and Godiva chocolate.
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2. Are most of the nutrients in the skin of vegetables, such as potatoes?
There are vitamins, minerals, and fiber in the skin, but those same nutrients are also throughout vegetables, from potatoes to carrots. Antioxidants are found in the color, so are particularly concentrated in apple skins, which are bright green or red, while the flesh has less color, therefore slightly less antioxidants. But the skin is only…well, skin deep, while the flesh of a vegetable is the vast majority of the plant, so more than makes up the difference.
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Do You Know?
1. Can spicy foods help you lose weight?
2. Will an apple a day keep the doctor away?
Check next week for the answers….
Label Lingo – Don’t Be Fooled by the Picture!
The label shows a picture of a delicious peach, a juicy apple, or a shaft of winter wheat. But, beware. Don’t be fooled by the picture. For example, the label on a package of Tang shows a juicy orange, but the powdered fruit-like beverage is all sugar, fructose, and citric acid. It contains less than 2% “natural” flavors. The bright orange color comes from food dyes Yellow #5 and #6. Nabisco Oreos shows cookies splashing in milk, yet there is no milk, butter, eggs or any other dairy ingredient in the filling. However, there is sugar, flour, vegetable oils, and high fructose corn syrup. Chocolate is the last ingredient. The box of Kellogg’s Frosted Mini Wheats Blueberry shows blueberries galore, but the ingredient list shows no sign of anything resembling the real berry. There is red and blue food coloring…is that what they mean by blueberries? As I’ve said before, never believe anything on the front label, including the picture. Always check the ingredient list and the nutritional information.
Food Finds/Food Fails:
1. KIND Strong & Kind bars: This brand already has a long line of healthy bars with ingredients you can recognize, mostly fruits and nuts. Their new line packs a flavor punch, such as Roasted Jalapeno or Thai Sweet Chili using spices, not salt, to pack a wallop of good taste. Gluten-free and non-GMO, these are a great on-the-go snack, especially if you compliment a bar with a carton of milk or yogurt and a piece of fruit!
2. Dave’s Killer Bread: This is probably the best bread, outside of my own homemade, that I’ve ever had! Packed with only whole grains, seeds, nuts, organic this and that, it’s a chewy, low glycemic index, delicious brand of breads. The story is good, too. As it states on the label, Dave spent 15 years in prison and then reinvented himself, setting out to bake the best bread ever. Well, Dave since has gotten into a bit more trouble with the law, but the bread lives on. My favorite is “Good Seed,” with 670 milligrams of omega-3s and 4 grams of fiber. But every bread in the brand is good.
1. Meadow Gold’s POG (stands for Passion Fruit, Orange, and Guava): Sold in the refrigerated section of the grocery store and touted as all-fruit, this sugary fake’s first ingredient is water, followed by sugar. Only then does fruit make an appearance in the package. A one cup serving has no fiber and 25 grams of sugar. That’s more than 6 teaspoons. If you need a fruit juice, choose 100% orange juice and skip this pretend juice.
2. The Zone Perfect Dark Chocolate Almond Bar: “Great taste” says the label. Of course, it has a great taste; it’s the equivalent of a salty brownie packed with chocolate, cocoa butter, palm oil, bleached flour, more than 3 teaspoons of sugar, 200 milligrams of sodium, and a full teaspoon of saturated fat. Doesn’t the 12 grams of protein and 19 vitamins and minerals help to redeem this dessert? Nope. Protein is the one nutrient the vast majority of Americans already get too much of and there are 40+ essential nutrients and literally hundreds of thousands of phytonutrients, so a meager 19 hardly makes a dent, especially when packaged in a cookie.
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.
2/3 cup oatmeal cooked in 2/3 cup 1% low-fat milk topped with 1 teaspoon chopped walnuts and 2 teaspoons maple syrup 1 cup cantaloupe with 1 /2 cup plain, nonfat yogurt
Fruity Burrito: Spread 2 tablespoons fat-free cream cheese and 2 teaspoons all-fruit jam on a heated 8″ Life Balance flour tortilla, fill with 1/3 cup fresh fruit such as peach slices and strawberries, and roll into a burrito.
Sparkling water flavored with a lemon slice
1 serving Cioppino Infused with Fresh Fennel and Orange
1 slice whole wheat bread
1 /2 mango, peeled, seeded, and sliced
3 fat-free whole wheat crackers
topped with: 2 teaspoons peanut butter and 1 teaspoon jam
1 cup baby carrots
Sushi Salmon: Blend 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, 1/4 teaspoon wasabi powder, 1 /2 teaspoon minced fresh ginger in a small bowl. Rub on a 4-ounce salmon fillet. Broil for 5 to 10 minutes (depending on thickness of fish, or until center is no longer translucent).
1 /2 6-ounce baked garnet sweet potato
1 cup steamed broccoli
1/2 cup cooked brown rice
1 baked apple stuffed with 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, 1 /2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, and 2 teaspoons brown sugar
Nutrition Analysis: 1,988 Calories, 22 % fat (49 g, 10 g saturated), 62 % carbs (308 g), 17 % protein (84.5 g), 37 g fiber, 2,668 mg sodium.
In June Elizabeth will be…..
1. On Fox in Chicago, discussing The Visionary Diet: How What You Eat Could Save Your Eyes, on June 9th.
2. On AMNorthWest, Channel 2 in Portland, OR on June 30th.
She is also quoted in the June issue of Vegetarian Times in the article, Good to the Bone.