August 15, 2012

Warning Signs of a Bad Diet

Don’t you wish a thorough diet check-up was as simple as an annual physical exam? The appointment might start with the dietitian asking you to say “ah.” “Hmmm, not eating enough broccoli I can see,” she might say or “Just what I thought, there is too much cheese whiz and not enough sweet potatoes down there.” Unfortunately, every attempt at an accurate appraisal of our nutritional status – take for example hair analysis – has proved more quackery than quality. Don’t expect much help from most physicians either; they seldom probe beyond a blood test for anemia when it comes to nutritional status. So how are you supposed to know if you are eating right or wrong?

Luckily, many signs of a careless diet are right in front of your nose. While you explain away subtle inconveniences like fatigue, dry skin, or moodiness as “normal,” think again. These are red flags that your diet isn’t a good as you think.

Warning Sign #1. Low Energy/Fatigue
The Cause: If you’re on a low-carbohydrate fad diet, this could be the culprit. Too few carbs – the body’s prime source of immediate fuel – leaves you physically tired and mentally sluggish. Low intake of iron and/or water also causes fatigue, while a diet based on convenience, fast and processed foods is a downer.

The Solution: Skip the packaged and processed stuff, and eat a few quality carbohydrates (whole grains) and you’ll stay energized and mentally sharp while still losing weight. Add more iron-rich foods, such as dark green leafies and extra-lean meat, and at least 8 glasses of water, too. Oh, and don’t forget to exercise almost every day!

Warning Sigh #2. Dry Skin/Wrinkling and Hair Loss
The Cause: Are you eating enough vegetables? If not, your skin will age before it’s time. Vegetables are Mother Nature’s perfect source of antioxidant vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that protect the skin from the sun’s damaging rays (along with sunscreen!). Dark green leafies and deep-orange produce prevent hair loss and dry, itchy scalp and skin.

The Solution: Aim for no less than eight servings of dark-colored fruits and vegetables every day – at least two at every meal and one at every snack.

Warning Sign #3. Depressionsad
The Cause: Not enough of the omega-3 fats in fish or the B vitamins, especially folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12, and you’re likely to feel down in the dumps, even down-right depressed.

The Solution: Include two to three weekly servings of fatty fish (i.e., salmon) for the omega-3s and vitamin B12, two dark green leafies or legumes a day for folic acid, and several vitamin B6-rich bananas, whole grains, asparagus, and legumes in your diet.

Just Do This Today

1. Munch on a whole-grain toaster waffle topped with blueberries, rather than a blueberry toaster waffle. The blueberry waffle has a half teaspoon of fruit, while a half cup of real blueberries has more antioxidants than five servings of apples. In fact, USDA rates blueberries #1 in antioxidants compared to 40 other fruits and vegetables. The deep bluish-purple skin contains antioxidant-rich anthocyanins, while the insides contain ellagic acid and resveratrol, all phytochemicals with anti-cancer capabilities. Other phytochemicals in blueberries, such as proanthocyanidins and tannins, might help promote urinary tract health by blocking the grown of bacteria.

2. Add a small glass of orange juice at breakfast. O is for Orange Juice A glass of OJ every morning reduces your risk for stroke (by up to 20%), lowers the “bad” cholesterol called LDLs and boosts the good cholesterol called HDLs, thus reducing heart disease risk. That little glass of juice also lowers colon cancer risk and reduces blood pressure, while supplying twice your daily requirement for vitamin C, plus ample amounts of potassium, folic acid, and a phytochemical called D-limonene that detoxifies cancer-causing substances. Choose the calcium- and vitamin D-fortified OJ to help maintain bones and possibly curb PMS symptoms.

3. Add grated carrots to a burrito or into your Carrots at Union Square Farmer's Market - Manhattan NYC spaghetti sauce. A carrot a day could slash stroke risk by 68%. Carotenes in carrots also lower heart attack risks by up to 45%. While beta carotene supplements might increase lung cancer risk in smokers, beta carotene-rich carrots lower risk. Besides, they add color and crunch to that burrito!

Hot Off the Diet Press

1. Vitamin Poor: This year marks the 100th anniversary of the discovery of the first vitamin – thiamin. Yet, Americans still fall short of optimal. More than three out of four Americans consume vitamin-poor diets, according to a study from Kaiseraugst, Switzerland. Data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 2003 to 2008 was used to categorize vitamin intakes into five classes of people who consumed less than the recommended intake: <5%, 5 to 25%, >25 to 50%, > 50 to 75% and > 75%. Results showed that more than 75% of the Americans studied consumed sub-optimal amounts of vitamins A, D, and E. Up to 75% consumed too little vitamin C, and up to one in two women consumed inadequate amounts of vitamins B1, B6, and folic acid.

2. Overloaded Planet: Researchers at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine weighed in on the planet’s total population weight and the numbers are staggering. Using 2005 global data, the study found that if the entire 7+ billion people stepped on a scale, the total weight would be 316 million tons or 632 billion pounds. Overweight people add 16 million tons of excess body fat, the equivalent of 242 million normal-weight people. Obese people carry 3.8 million tons of excess body fat, which is the equivalent of 56 million normal-weight folks. North America has only 6% of the world’s population, but 34% of the human biomass in the world caused by obesity. In contrast, Asia has 61% of the world’s population, but only 13% of it’s biomass from obesity. If all countries had as many overweight people as the U.S., the total population weight would increase by 63 million tons, equivalent to the weight of 473 million normal-weight people. Whew!

3. Beige Is the New Brown: First there was regular ol’ white body fat. Then there was brown fat that burns calories. Now, researchers at Harvard Medical School report there is a third type of body fat – beige fat. In their study, beige fat cells from mice were cloned and found to be genetically somewhere between white and brown fat, and can burn energy like brown fat when “turned on” by the hormone “irisin, which is released from muscle while exercising.

In Perspective: The researchers suggest it might be possible to treat obese people with irisin to boost the calorie-burning ability of their beige fat cells, but wouldn’t it be much better if they turned on those cells by exercising more?!

Food & Mood Tip

If you want to be brain-dead, do the following: Skip breakfast and you probably will forget where you put your keys by mid-afternoon. Try to make up the difference with cookies for a mid-day snack and you also won’t remember your name. A diet lacking in antioxidant-rich produce and vitamin E-rich nuts, seeds, and wheat germ leaves the brain vulnerable to damage by oxygen fragments called free radicals that also contribute to memory loss.

Instead, to boost brain power, eat breakfast and skip sugary snacks mid-day. Also protect delicate brain tissue with antioxidant-rich foods. According to a study from Tufts University in Boston, the best sources of antioxidants in the diet include prunes, raisins, berries, plums, oranges, kale, spinach, Brussels sprouts, beets, red bell peppers, red grapes, and cherries. Consider taking a multiple vitamin and mineral supplement that contains extra vitamin E, and add a DHA supplement to the daily regimen, too. The MIDAS study found that 900 milligrams of this omega-3 improved memory in seniors.

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week

No one wants to hang with a grump. And, feeling irritable, on edge, testy could easily be the result of what you are eating. Many bad habits contribute to irritability including skipping meals, not eating enough, living on junk food, or depending on caffeine to get you though the day (more than 15 ounces of coffee and you could be battling caffeine jitters).

Boost your mood by eating regularly and at least 1,600 to 2,000 calories of high-quality foods (f you can’t maintain your weight on this, you need to exercise more not cut calories further). Cut back on coffee, tea, and colas to two cups a day and don’t drink coffee beyond early afternoon (caffeine lingers in your body for up to 12 hours interfering with a good night’s sleep). Boost your energy with real, unprocessed foods instead.

Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

(From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

Caramelized Leek Tart with Apples and Blue Cheese
As an appetizer, snack, or light lunch, this tart goes well with a tossed salad and glass of Chardonnay.

Cooking spray
1 pre-prepared Pillsbury pie crust (unfold, fill and bake)
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, thinly sliced, then cut in half
2 leeks (white part only), halved lengthwise, thinly sliced
1 /2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cracked pepper
2 teaspoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 /2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 cup liquid egg substitute (equivalent of 4 whole eggs)
1 cup fat-free half & half
1 1 /2 teaspoons dried thyme
2 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced (use any combination of apples)

Preheat oven to 425 degree. Spray 10 inch tart pan with cooking spray.
1) Unfold pie crust into tart pan. Gently press dough to cover bottom and sides of pan. Bake for 10 minutes, or until crust is light brown. Remove from oven. Set aside. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degree.

2) In a large, non-stick skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, leeks, salt and pepper. Saute for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until golden brown. Add balsamic vinegar and brown sugar. Stir well, then spoon caramelized onion mixture evenly on the bottom of tart crust. Add crumbled blue cheese to cover onion mixture. Set aside.

3) In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, half & half, and thyme. Pour into tart pan. Place sliced apples on top of tart mixture, starting along outer edge and working towards center of tart in a circular pattern. Overlap apples where needed. Continue layering apples until tart surface is covered with apples. Sprinkle with nutmeg. Bake for 25 minutes, or until center of tart is firm. Cool for 5 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature. Makes 8 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 251 Calories; 43 percent fat (12 grams); 5 grams saturated fat; 13 percent protein; 44 percent carbohydrate; 1.7 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do you know?” from last issue:

1. What is America’s #1 source of vitamin C, and why is this source so good?
Orange juice is a particularly good source of vitamin C because the vitamin is most stable in acidic, cold conditions. Also, unlike vitamin C-rich vegetables, oranges don’t have to be cooked, so they retain more vitamins, like vitamin C. Consequently, while dark green leafy vegetables can lose a significant amount of their vitamin C with extended storage, over-cooking, or reheating, OJ concentrate maintains its vitamin C for months and even after it’s been reconstituted will hold onto its vitamin C for up to two weeks and still will have up to half of its vitamin C after four weeks in the fridge.

2. What dried fruit might help you sleep?
Cherries. The hormone melatonin is produced in the pineal gland at the base of the brain and influences sleep processes. Cherries are one of the few foods that contain melatonin. A study from the University of Texas found that cherries contain substantial amounts of melatonin, at levels higher than found in human blood. Tart cherries, such as the Montmorency cherry, contains 13.46ng of melatonin/gram of fruit. (Burkhardt et al 2001)

A study from St. Marianna University of School of Medicine in Japan found that feeding a diet containing plants rich in melatonin to chicks raised blood levels of melatonin, proving that melatonin ingested from the diet is absorbed and enters the general circulation, so is capable of binding to sites in the brain and other tissues.

Do You Know?

1. How much added sugar does the average American consume in a year?

2. The recommended serving size for pasta? Is it the size of a ping pong ball? A baseball? A tennis ball? A softball? A soccer ball?

Check the next issue for the answers…

Label Lingo

Grass-fed sounds like a healthier meat, right?
Well, not necessarily. Meat that comes from grass-fed cattle only means that the animals had access to fresh air and sunlight and had freedom to graze, at least for a while. The term does not mean the animal was exclusively grass-fed. In fact, there is no requirement for the amount of time the animals is allowed outside to graze. The animal may have been fed a conventional diet of soybeans and corn, then allowed to graze for a few minutes. The term grass-finished is a more clearly defined term for meat that came from cattle exclusively fed grass for at least 90 days and up to 160 days before they were slaughtered.

Is this meat more nutritious? Some people say the meat is higher in vitamin E and the omega-3 fats. However, this opinion is debatable. You are far better off getting your vitamin E from wheat germ and your omega-3s from fatty fish, such as salmon, where you are guaranteed a hefty dose.

The Daily Menu

If your waistline can afford a few more calories (251 calories to be exact), add a serving of the Caramelized Leek Tart with Apples and Blue Cheese (recipe above) as a mid-day snack.

Decadent Pancakes:
1 8″ pancake made with low-fat pancake mix (< 3 grams added sugar), 1 egg, 1 Tbsp. wheat germ, and nonfat milk.

Place 1 sliced small banana along middle of pancake and roll into a “burrito.”

Top with 2 Tbsp. apricot sauce (apricots canned in own juice, drained and slightly blended, yet still chunky) and 1 Tbsp. fat-free yogurt

Cappuccino made with 1 cup nonfat milk and espresso. Sprinkle with cinnamon powder and stir with a cinnamon stick [Not only does cinnamon give a sweet taste to apples, but this spice also helps regulate blood sugar levels.]

Peanut Butter “Candy” Sandwich:

Mix 2 Tbsp. natural peanut butter, 2 tsp. honey, and 2 Tbsp. toasted wheat germ. Spread between 2 slices whole wheat bread. [Honey has a higher content of a type of extra-sweet sugar called fructose, so it tastes sweeter than regular white sugar.]

1 /2 papaya drizzled with lime juice
10 baby carrots
Sparkling water flavored with a slice of lemon [Soft drinks are the #1 source of added sugar in our diets, so quench your thirst with fizzy water and skip the 9 teaspoons of sugar in most cans of pop.]

3 ounce grilled or broiled sirloin steak
4 ounce baked potato w/ salt, pepper, and 1 Tbsp. fat-free sour cream
½ cup carrots steamed in chicken broth, 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger, 1 tsp. orange juice concentrate [The ginger and OJ enhance the natural sweetness of the carrots.]
Caesar Salad made with romaine lettuce leaves, ½ ounce grated Parmesan cheese, 2 Tbsp. low-calorie Classic Caesar dressing, and ground black pepper
1 baked apple [A baked apple stuffed with cinnamon, nutmeg, and 1 tsp. brown sugar supplies only ~ 100 calories, with only 4 grams of added sugar, yet is a great source of fiber and potassium. Apples are so packed with antioxidant-rich phytochemicals that they have the antioxidant content equivalent to 1,000mg of vitamin C!]

1 1/4 cups frozen blueberries [Frozen blueberries taste just like sorbet, but without the added sugar. This snack supplies more than 4 grams of fiber, lots of B vitamins, almost 40% of your vitamin C needs (boosts immunity, aids in healthy skin and protects against cancer), 23% of your vitamin E needs (an antioxidant important against heart disease), and several trace minerals. Blueberries also are excellent sources of compounds called phytochemicals that protect the body against heart disease and premature aging.]

Nutrition Analysis: 1498 Calories 23% fat (38 g: 10 g saturated), 58% carbs (217 g, ~15 g added sugar), 19% protein (71 g), 33 g fiber, 817 mg calcium, 487 mcg folic acid, 15.6 mg iron.