March 1, 2013

Hot New Nutrition Discoveries Make March National Nutrition Month

Nutrition has never been so hot. And, rightfully so. Recent discoveries are redefining the entire field of nutrition and some of those old diet “facts” have had a facelift in recent years. Here are just a few:

Hot Discovery #1: Vitamin D works far beyond its role as a bone-builder
Last year marked the 100th birthday of the discovery of the first vitamin. We’ve come a long way since then. But, we’ve come an even farther way in the past couple of years vit-dwhen it comes to vitamin D. When I was in college studying nutrition, the only known role of this vitamin was in helping to absorb calcium and move it into bones. It was assumed the vitamin was very toxic, so daily intakes were strictly limited. In the past few years, we have found that every cell in the body has receptors for vitamin D and it’s essential in the prevention of cancer, heart disease, depression, Winter Blues, multiple sclerosis, and more. It also might aid in weight loss and helps to maintain muscle in elderly, reducing falls by up to 60%. Even in sunshine areas, such as San Diego, up to 80% of the population is low in vitamin D. It’s no where near as toxic as once thought. In fact, it’s impossible to get enough from diet alone, so consider first having your blood levels checked and if you are low, supplement!

Hot Discovery #2: Omega-3s for mood, mind, and memory
Even a few years ago, most experts thought the brain was unaffected by dietary intake and also unable to regenerate. All of that has changed. Now we know that 66% of brain aging is within our control and diet plays a huge part in staying mentally sharp. The omega-3 fats in seafood, EPA and DHA, are critical building blocks of healthy brain cells. In fact, 97% of the omega-3s in the brain are DHA. But, your body can’t make this fat. It must come from the diet. No wonder researchers have found that people who consume ample amounts of DHA maintain better memories and are up to 60% less likely to develop dementia. DHA also reduces depression by up to 50% even in people who are the most difficult to treat and depression rates are 60 times lower in countries where people consume the most DHA, which is why even the American Psychiatric Association in 2006 added this fat to their recommendations for treating depression. In addition, a recent study from Oxford found that DHA supplements even improved reading by up to 50% in children and curbed behavioral problems. Stay tuned: Preliminary research is investigating the link with DHA and attention deficit, autism, and other neurological problems. Aim for at least 2 servings a week of DHA-rich salmon, include DHA-fortified foods in the diet, or take a supplement that supplies at least 200 milligrams of DHA.

Hot Discovery #3: Tomato extract improves blood flow
Heart disease prevention is a four-fold process. You need to:

1. Lower your blood cholesterol and triglyceride levels, while keeping your “good” cholesterol, called HDL cholesterol in the healthy range.

2. Keep your blood pressure at 120/80 to avoid hypertension.

3. Improve blood flow. That means keeping your circulation in tip top condition so that blood clots or constricted arteries don’t lead to heart attack or stroke.

4. Avoid inflammation in your blood vessels associated with the development of plaque that constricts blood vessels leading to the underlying cause of heart disease – atherosclerosis.

vine_tomatoesA new tomato extract, called Fruitflow, is now being added to food products and is vital for #3. It keeps circulation moving cleanly and smoothly for hours after ingestion, with lots of solid research to support its safety and effectiveness, including studies finding the benefits last for up to 12 hours.

Just Do This Today

1. Make sure your multi contains at least 1000IUs of vitamin D. And, if you’re not eating salmon twice a week, supplement with at least 220 milligrams of the omega-3 fat, DHA.

2. Have oatmeal for breakfast. The soluble fiber, called beta glucan, in oats lowers blood cholesterol and stabilizes blood sugar, lowering your risk for heart disease and diabetes. It also fills you up, so helps with weight management.

3. Switch from fruited or flavored yogurt to plain, nonfat and sweeten it yourself with fresh fruit. You will save yourself up to 7 teaspoon of added sugar today with this one switch.

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Take Your Calcium: Women who get too little calcium are a high risk for developing a hormone condition caused by overactive parathyroid glands that contribute to bone loss and fractures, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. Using data from more than 58,000 women in the Nurses Health Study, the researchers found that women with the highest calcium intakes had a 44% lower risk for hyperparathyroidism (PHPT) compared to women who consumed the least amount of the mineral. Women who supplemented with as little as 500 milligrams of calcium every day had a 59% lower risk for PHPT. The researchers conclude that, “Increased calcium intake, from both dietary and supplemental calcium, is independently associated with a reduced risk of developing primary hyperparathyroidism in women.”

Paik J, Curhan G, Taylor E: Calcium intake and risk of primary hyperparathyroidism in women. British Medical Journal 2013;345:e6390.

sft2. More Reasons Not to Drink Soft Drinks: Now considered “the new tobacco,” soft drinks are on the hot seat again. A study from Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that almost one in three children drink soft drinks, while these beverages supply no nutritional value other than unwanted calories. Researchers at Osaka University report that women who drink sugary bottled beverages almost daily are 83% more likely to suffer a stroke than are women who rarely or never consume these drinks. A study from Menia University in Egypt found that soft drink consumption was linked to increased risk for type 2 diabetes in women, while a study from the University of Bergen in Norway found that consuming sugar-sweetened beverages during pregnancy leads to excessive weight gain in both the mother and developing baby.

Fulgoni V, Quann E: National trends in beverage consumption in children from birth to 6-years. Nutrition Journal 2012;11:92 Eshak E, Iso H, Kokubo Y, et al: Soft drink intake in relation to incident of ischemic heart disease, stroke, and stroke subtypes in Japanese men and women. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012;October 17th.

3. The Anti-Depression Diet: People who eat little antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables are at highest risk for developing depression, according to a study from Duke University in Durham, North Carolina. Researchers compared intakes of antioxidants, fruits, and vegetables in 278 seniors, 144 with depression and 134 without depression. Results showed that vitamin C, lutein, and another carotenoid beta cryptoxanthin were significantly lower in depressed patients. In addition, fruit and vegetable intake also was low in these patients compared to controls. Antioxidants from dietary supplements was not linked to depression risk.

Payne M, Steck S, George R, et al: Fruit, vegetable, and antioxidant intakes are lower in older adults with depression. Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 2012; 112:2022-2027.

Food & Mood Tip Comfort Foods

We often reach for favorite comfort foods when we need a little emotional “pick me up.” They taste best on dreary, damp days and are what we yearn for when lonely. Comfort foods make us feel better, a little safer, and loved. They warm our tummies and calm our hearts. Comfort foods are an individual matter. Each of us has our soupown personal stash of favorites, often stemming from warm childhood memories.  There usually is a little of “mom’s homecooking” in the equation. For me, my mom often served hot tea sweetened with milk and sugar along with cinnamon toast when I was sick as a child. Today, the smell of cinnamon is comforting and there is nothing better than a cup of tea on a winter’s day. For many Americans, comfort food is synonymous with meat loaf and mashed potatoes, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, ice cream, a special cake or batch of cookies, beef stew, macaroni and cheese, apple pie, or chicken and noodles. Soup is almost always on people’s list of comfort foods. A study from the University of Illinois found that 40 percent of comfort foods were old-time favorites, such as soup.

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week: Pomegranates

pomoThere is something super sexy about clusters of densely-packed, ruby-red kernels bursting with juice. No wonder the 800+ garnet-colored jeweled seeds inside this fruit have long been the symbol of longevity, immortality, and abundance in China, and fertility in Greece.

Called the “love apple,” some suspect it was a pomegranate, not an apple, that tempted Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, while legend has it that humans become immortal by eating these seeds. They are not likely to turn a couch potato into Casanova; but they are rich in potassium, vitamin C, fiber, B vitamins, and phytonutrients like polyphenols, anthocyanins, and procyanidins (A cup of pomegranate juice has more than ten times the polyphenols of apple juice, 639 versus 61 milligrams!) They have three times the antioxidants of green tea, and help lower the risk for inflammation, heart disease, dementia and Alzheimer’s, cancer, damage to the genetic code, risk for erectile dysfunction and male infertility, and high blood pressure; improve blood flow to all parts of the body including genitals; and even help regress atherosclerosis, the underlying cause of heart disease and erectile dysfunction.

A phytonutrient, called punicalagin, speeds healing and builds collagen and elastin that plump and firm the skin. How much? Sprinkle a tablespoon or more into foods at least four times a week from fall through winter when these fruits are available, or use pure pomegranate juice throughout the year. Packaged seeds (POM Wonderful Arils) are available in the refrigerator section of select stores from October through January. Eat More: Sprinkle seeds into salads, desserts, and fruit, rice, and pasta dishes. Add juice to sauces, dressings, and marinades. Try the Fall Romance Salad in the Recipe section. To seed, put in a bowl of water, peel away the white and allow seeds to sink, which makes separating the pith from the fruit easier.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Butternut Squash Soup with Cranberry Chutney & Roasted Pecans
From The Food & Mood Cookbook: Recipes for Eating Well and Feeling Your Best by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams

It’s time to get out those favorite soup bowls, light the candles, and prepare a simple mixed green salad. This soup is as pretty to look at as it is to taste.

cooking spray
1/4 cup pecans, chopped
1 teaspoon margarine or butter
1 medium sweet onion, diced
2 apples, peeled and chopped
1 /2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 cups chicken broth
1 medium butternut squash (about 1 1 /2 pounds), peeled, seeded, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 /2 cup lite coconut milk
1 /2 cup fat-free half & half
6 tablespoons commercial cranberry chutney (finely chopped)

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a cookie sheet with cooking spray and sprinkle pecans evenly over surface. Bake for 3 to 5 minutes or until pecans are toasted. Remove and set aside.

2) In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, melt margarine or butter over medium heat, add onions, apples, and nutmeg.  Cook and stir 3 minutes.

3) Add chicken broth and squash.  Bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low.  Cover and simmer 20 minutes, until squash is very tender.

4) Process squash mixture (in 2 batches) in a food processor until smooth.

5) Return squash mixture to pot.  Add coconut milk, fat-free half & half.  Stir well (you can add additional chicken broth if the soup is too thick).  Heat until hot.

6) Ladle into soup bowls and dollop with 1 tablespoon cranberry chutney, sprinkle with toasted pecans, and serve hot. Makes 6 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per servings: 190 Calories; 39 percent fat (8.2 grams); 4.5 grams saturated fat; 10 percent protein; 51 percent carbohydrate; 4.3 grams fiber.

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

Which is the better diet food: A bag of Garlic Caesar Salad or a Quarter Pounder with Cheese?
Ceasar Salad A Garlic Caesar Salad kit says that there are 3 servings in a bag. Each little serving (1.5 cups) is 170 calories and 15 grams of fat! Use the entire salad dressing pouch and croutons on your salad and you are consuming more calories than you’ll get in a Quarter Pounder with Cheese. Hillshire Farm has a line of Entree Salads, such as Chicken Caesar, Turkey & Cranberries with Ham Julienne…all you add is the lettuce. You also will add half a day’s saturated fat and a full day’s sodium, in fact, you’ll be gobbling the nutritional equivalent of a McD’s Sausage McMuffin with Egg,  plus 700mg more sodium.

Which has the most calories, Reduced-fat or full-fat peanut butter?
pbIt’s a wash. They both have about the same calories. The reduced-fat makes up for the calories by adding more sugar in the form of corn syrup solids. When it comes to your weight, a calorie is a calorie whether it comes from sugar or fat. Instead choose: Peanut butter is fine, just watch your serving size. Keep it to 2 Tablespoons and use as a dip for fruit, as a sandwich spread, when making Thai sauces, or even in smoothies. Also, you can add partially defatted peanut butter powder to smoothies for taste with fewer calories.

Photo credit: Vegan Feast Catering via Compfight

Do You Know?

What is nutritionally better for you, honey or table sugar?

What is better for you, frozen yogurt or ice cream?

Check the next issue for the answers….

Label Lingo: What is MSG?

Monosodium glutamate or MSG is a mixture of sodium and glutamic acid, one of the amino acids that helps build proteins. But, MSG is more than just a bit of salty protein. The free-floating form of glutamic acid found in MSG is a very powerful flavor-enhancer, turning almost any food from bland to tasty. (Granted, mushrooms, tomatoes, and other natural foods contain glutamic acid; however, Mother Nature binds the amino acid to other compounds rendering it relatively inert.) It also is a source of sodium.

Riced out.For the MSG-sensitive person, a dose of the additive produces symptoms that are temporary, but uncomfortable. The most common symptom is numbness in the back of the neck that can radiate down the arms and back. Other people report mild to severe headaches, tightness in the chest, pressure around the cheeks or jaw, or mild mood changes. A safe dose has not been established and probably varies from person to person. Generally speaking, the higher the dose the more people develop symptoms. Some Chinese restaurants use so much of the additive in their cooking that the MSG reaction has been labeled Chinese Restaurant Syndrome. The average American consumes between one-third and one-half gram of MSG each day. But, it is easy to consume two grams in one meal at a Chinese restaurant. Fortunately, most foods don’t contain any where near this much MSG. If you suspect you might react to MSG, check with a physician (M.D.) who specializes in allergies or test yourself by eliminating all MSG-containing foods for at least two weeks.

Photo credit: Scott Waldron via Compfight

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.

Whole-grain waffle, commercial frozen, toasted and topped with: Fat-free sour cream, 1 Tbsp. blueberries
1 cup Orange juice
1 cup Herb tea

Chicken fajita: Mix 3 Tbsp. lime juice and 1/4 cup chopped cilantro and coat 3 ounces of chicken. (cook extra chicken to use for meals throughout the week). Mix with 1/4 cup sliced red and green bell peppers and ½ sliced red onion. Spray pan with non-stick vegetable oil and stir-fry chicken-vegetable mixture until done. Fill a warmed 10″ flour tortilla and top with 4 tsp. salsa.

Fruit salad: Orange, peeled and sectioned. Banana, sliced, ½ Apple, sliced, ½ Orange juice concentrate, 1 Tbsp. Lemon peel, 1 tsp. Candied ginger, crumbled.
Sparkling water with lemon

Mid-Afternoon Snack:
1 cup baby carrots dunked in 1/4 cup hummus
Iced tea

1 serving Butternut Squash Soup with Cranberry Chutney & Roasted Pecans.

Tossed salad: Romaine lettuce, chopped 2 cups Kidney beans, canned and drained, 1/4 cup Green onions, chopped, 2 Tbsp. Tomato, cut into 1/4″ wedges, 1 Tbsp. Vinaigrette salad dressing

Nonfat milk and/or 1 cup Water

Evening Snack:
Chocolate-strawberry fondue: 2/3 cup whole strawberries, washed and stemmed
1 Tbsp.Chocolate syrup

Nutritional information: 1604 calories, 22% fat (40 grams), 60% carbohydrates, 18% protein.