October 2015

Add These Life-Saving Foods to Your Diet

Produce Market, Airline Dr., Houston, Texas 0811091717As I’ve said before, nutrition is not a black-and-white science. You always can find one or more studies to support any idea. You have to look at where the weight of the evidence lies, with each study being a thread in a tapestry of evidence. What does the tapestry say, not the individual threads. That said, there is one black-and-white topic in nutrition. We have thousands of studies, spanning decades of research consistently and repeatedly showing that the more colorful fruits and vegetables people eat the lower their risk for disease, the better the chances of maintaining an ideal body weight, and living longer and healthier, even medication-free.

This isn’t exactly new news. However, no one is doing it. A study just came out last month from the CDC showing that only 13% of Americans consume minimum requirements for fruit and less than 9% meet the minimum requirements for vegetables. On average, Americans eat fruit once a day and vegetables fewer than two times a day.

It’s actually worse than it sounds. According to the USDA, the vegetable most often consumed by Americans is the potato, which typically is fried and salted. Next comes iceberg lettuce, which is just crunchy water compared to the nutrient-packed greens, like spinach or kale. For fruit, we choose apple juice over any other. In short, even those people who eat the most produce, are choosing the worst selections. Here’s the interesting part. A recent survey found that most people think they do pretty well when it comes to produce, yet believe other people are falling far short. The truth is, according to one study, 99 out of 100 Americans don’t meet even minimum standards of a balanced diet, with poor intake of colorful fruits and vegetables topping the list of shortages.

Nothing packs a greater health punch than produce. From a crunchy carrot, a ripe tomato,and a crisp spinach salad to a juicy orange, a sweet plum, or a creamy yam, all fruits and vegetables are good for us. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention concluded that not eating enough fruits and vegetables ranks second only to cigarette smoking as a risk factor for disease. So, even if you don’t focus on fat. Even if you don’t cut carbs or limit sweets. Even if you don’t give up your daily soft drink (of course, those changes are good, too!). If the only change you make in your current eating habit is to double your current intake of produce, and make those extra choices colorful ones, you will have made the greatest step toward a healthful diet and will dramatically improve your chances of side-stepping all age-related diseases down the road.

How much do you need every day? The daily quota is at least eight servings, which is not the three blueberries in a muffin or those greasy banana chips! I don’t count fried vegetables, French fries, iceberg lettuce, or sugary fruit beverages that contain concentrated apple, pear, or white grape juice either. To meet your 8-a-day, choose color. One serving is 1 cup raw, ½ cup cooked, 6 ounces juice, and 1 piece, such as 1 carrot or 1 orange. We actually don’t know what the best amount is, all we know is the more you eat, the better with 8 servings being a good place to start.
Photo credit: Patrick Feller via Compfight

Do One of These Diet Do’s Today

There are lots of tricks of the trade for including more colorful produce in the daily diet.

1) Two-fer it: Make a rule that you will include at least 2 servings at every meal and snack. Otherwise, you’re likely to get to the end of the day and realize all you’ve had is an apple at lunch and you need 7 more servings for dinner. That’s not so daunting, since all you need do is double a serving. So have a spinach salad at lunch with 2 cups of spinach and that’s two servings. Or, have 1 cup of cooked green peas at dinner and that’s 2 servings.

2) Stock the kitchen. Make it easy on yourself and have lots of grab-and-go veggies ready, such as baby carrots, cut up fruit, bagged greens, and clamshells of berries. Also stock the freezer with plain veggies, such as green peas, peas and carrots, chopped spinach, and more.

3) Bring produce with you. Never leave the house without your veggie stash. Maybe it’s red pepper slices and hummus. Or, strawberries and yogurt.

Berry Good Smoothie4) Blend it. Honestly, this is the easiest way to meet up to half your daily quota. Just pack berries, spinach, a kiwi, avocado, left over sweet potato, and/or watermelon with orange juice and yogurt into a blender and whip up an instant breakfast or snack smoothie.

5) Sneak it in. Add frozen chopped spinach to soups, add lots of veggies to a sandwich, cook your rice in tomato juice instead of water, grate carrots into stews or burritos, top ice cream with 1 cup of berries. Photo credit: Meal Makeover Moms via Compfight

The Latest Must-Read Nutrition News

1. Omega-3s Improve Thinking: If you’re at risk for developing Alzheimer’s disease, then this study is a must read! Researchers at the University of Illinois found that consuming more of the omega-3s in fish oil, i.e., DHA and EPA, lowered the risk for Alzheimer’s disease. They looked at 40 mentally healthy adults between the ages of 65- and 75-years-old, who had the gene variant APOE e4, which places them at risk for developing late-onset Alzheimer’s. Those subjects who consumed higher amounts of DHA and EPA performed better on tests that assessed their ability to switch between mental tasks (called cognitive flexibility). They also had a larger anterior cingulate cortex, the part of the brain involved in mental flexibility. In a second study from Nanchang University in the People’s Republic of China, the omega-3s, especially DHA, helped prevent cognitive decline in seniors.
Zamroziewicz M, Paul E, Rubin R, et al:  Anterior cingulate cortex mediates the relationship between O3PUFAs and executive functions in APOE e4 carriers. Frontiers in Aging Neuroscience 2015: May 21st.   
Zhang X, Hou W, Li M, et al: Omega-3 fatty acids and risk of cognitive decline in the elderly. Aging Clinical and Experimental Research 2015: May 30th.

2. The Dumbing Down of Diabetes: People with diabetes develop problems with blood flow that affect brain function and cognition, state researchers at Harvard Medical School. In this two-year study, 65 people with an average age of 66 years were monitored for blood flow to the brain and cognitive function. Nineteen of the participants had type 2 diabetes and 21 were diabetes-free. Results showed that people with diabetes showed reduced blood flow to the brain, which was associated with a decline in thinking and memory skills. The higher a person’s average blood sugar, the worse the problem with blood vessel dilation. Inflammation also contributed to restriction of blood vessels, but only in the diabetic patients. The damaging effects of diabetes on brain function occurs in as little as two years.
Chung C, Pimentel D, Jordan A, et al: Inflammation-associated declines in cerebral vasoreactivity and cognition in type 2 diabetes. Neurology 2015;July 8th.

3. Soft Drinks Will Kill Ya’: Sugary beverages are the single most modifiable habit that can prevent diet-related death and disability throughout the world, state researchers at Tufts University in Boston. Data on sugar-sweetened beverage consumption were pooled from national dietary surveys worldwide. The effects of this consumption on BMI and diabetes, and elevated BMI on heart disease, diabetes, and cancers were obtained from large prospective pooling studies. This showed that an estimated 184,000 deaths/year are attributable to sugary beverage consumption, with 133,000 from diabetes, 45,000 from heart disease, and 6,450 from cancer. Mortality from sugary beverage consumption was as low as 1% in Japan to 30% in Mexico. A total of 8.5 million disability-adjusted life years were related to sugar-sweetened beverages intake.
Singh G, Micha R, Khatibzadeh S, et al: Estimated global, regional, and national disease burdens related to sugar-sweetened beverage consumption in 2010. Circulation 2015;June 29th.

Food & Mood Tip

–  Taste, Memories, and Emotions

The aromas of foods do more than just tickle our appetites and enhance the experience of eating. They also are one of the strongest links to emotions. Research from the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that memories triggered by the aroma of food are more emotionally-charged than memories triggered by any other cue, such as music or a picture.

This amazing ability to tie memories and emotions to aromas enhances the enjoyment of food and improves the taste of a glass of wine, a crisp salad, or a bowl of soup.  It also is the basis of why each of us has a personalized list of comfort foods. If you ask yourself where you were or what you were doing last Tuesday, you might recall the day, but the details would be dry and unemotional.  However, if you tie that memory to a candlelight dinner or the aroma of coffee while gossiping with your best friend, the memory will affect you deeply in an intimate and sometimes surprising way. Those memories stay in the brain your entire life. The smell of your Mom’s spaghetti can make you feel 10- years-old again. The aroma of turkey roasting brings back images of Thanksgiving. Hot dogs smell like baseball games.  No wonder taste is so important when it comes to the foods we choose!

Recipe of the month

Sesame Ginger Coleslaw (from The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

This slaw has 50% fewer calories and fat (most of that fat is healthful mono-unsaturated fats), no cholesterol, and twice the fiber of regular coleslaw. More importantly, it has twice the flavor and is rich in iron and folic acid, the B vitamin that boost memory and reduces heart-disease risk. It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare and goes great with sandwiches and as a side salad along with fish or chicken with dinner.


3 tablespoons sesame seeds

4 cups of pre-shredded coleslaw mix or about 2/3 of a 16-ounce bag

2/3 cup green onions, sliced

3 tablespoons rice vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tablespoon sesame oil

1 1 /2 teaspoons sugar

salt and pepper


1. Toast sesame seeds in a non-stick skillet over medium heat until browned, about 4 minutes. Set aside.

2. Combine cabbage and onions in a medium bowl.

3. Blend vinegar, ginger, oil, and sugar in a small bowl, pour over cabbage mixture, and blend thoroughly. Salt and pepper to taste. Let stand at least 5 minutes before serving (can be refrigerated up to two hours). Top with toasted sesame seeds just before serving. Makes 4 servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: 103 Calories; 60% fat (7.5 grams); 1 gram saturated fat; 11% protein; 29% carbohydrate; 2 grams fiber.

Your Nutrition Questions Answered

Does sugar cause diabetes?

Sugar does not cause diabetes.Eating too many processed foods high in calories and not exercising are the risk factors for type 2 diabetes. However, once you have diabetes, you must carefully manage calorie and carbohydrate intake, including sugar. In short, once you have diabetes, you need to watch your intake of sugar and carbohydrate, as well as eat healthfully and manage calories so you lose weight. A registered dietitian and physician can help you to manage your blood sugar level.

Is brown sugar better than white sugar?

Brown sugar is actually white sugar with a bit of added molasses. Brown sugar contains minute amounts of minerals, but the difference in its mineral content from white sugar is insignificant. They are basically the same.

See Next Month for: Do You Know?

How harmful to our bodies are GMO foods?

Is it better to cut calories or fat to lose weight?

Label Lingo

What is the % Daily Value?

These figures provide one way to determine how a serving of a certain food fits into your daily requirements for selected nutrients, and, ultimately, whether it’s worth eating. For instance, an 8-ounce glass of milk supplies 30% of the DV for calcium, which is 1,000 milligrams. That means eight ounces of milk provide 300 milligrams of calcium, a good amount. The % DV is the best estimate of how a serving of processed food helps satisfy daily nutrient needs. However, just because a highly processed food supplies a smattering of nutrients does not mean it is nutritious. Use commonsense and the Daily Value to make your food choices and don’t be fooled by the health halo of a few added nutrients to an otherwise junk food.

Food Finds/Food Fails:

Food Finds:

02 - Zutat Tomate 1. Tomatoes and Apples: A recent study found that compounds in tomatoes and in apple peel help prevent muscle wasting. Mix up your salads by adding both. Or snack on apples instead of chips and add sliced tomatoes to sandwiches.

Turmeric2. Turmeric: Turmeric is a spice used in Indian cooking, that also is found in curry powder. It lowers inflammation and damage to arteries and the brain, thus possibly reducing the risk for a variety of diseases, from heart disease to dementia. It also suppresses angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels required for cancer cells to thrive. Buy turmeric powder, since curry powder contains only 10% to 30% turmeric. Then add to stir frys, soups, stews, or as a rub for chicken.

Food Fails:

1. Two Nut Butter Products to Avoid: Nut butters are a great way to sneak in some protein and even manage your weight, but watch out for some of the junk on the grocery store shelves.

The first one to avoid is Skippy Peanut Butter Bites. The front label boasts of having 5 grams of protein per serving and double the peanut butter. Double from what is a question, since the first ingredient is “peanut butter flavoring” with more sugar than anything else. Ten measly pieces packs in a whopping 160 calories and two teaspoons of added sugar (sugar appears in the ingredient list four times), along with hydrogenated vegetables (which means there are trans fats in the product even though the label says there is none) and palm oil, which is a saturated fat and one that is devastating the habitat for orangutans.

The second nut butter to avoid is Mara Natha All Natural No Stir Coconut Almond Butter. The only health claim on the front of the label is one that says the product is “Made with whole coconut pulp.” Why that is an asset is a mystery. Two tablespoons of this goo packs 190 calories and 17 grams or more than four teaspoons of fat (more than 80% of calories come from fat). It contains evaporated cane syrup (fancy name for sugar), palm oil, and salt. You’d almost be better off eating butter.

16oz Meat Bologna2. Packaged sandwich meats. Repeatedly, the research shows that processed meats, whether it’s hot dogs and bologna or luncheon meats like ham or turkey slices, increase the risk for a host of diseases, from heart disease to infertility. Take for example Oscar Mayer’s Roasted White Turkey. While one ounce of real turkey breast supplies 10 grams of protein and only 21 milligrams of sodium, a slice of this sandwich meat supplies less protein and ten-times the sodium or 220 milligrams. This fake turkey has cornstarch, salt, sugar, and sodium phosphate, propionate, diacitate, and nitrites. It is the nitrites that researchers suspect causes inflammation and disease. Oscar’s other products, such as Deli Fresh Mesquite Smoked Turkey Breast fares even worse with 520 milligrams of sodium.
Photo credit: jaBB via Comfight
Photo credit: megabeth via Comfight

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.


1 cup Cheerios

1 Tbsp. Raisins

2/3 cup Nonfat milk

1 cup Orange juice



Turkey sandwich on 100% whole wheat bread with lettuce, tomato, and mustard

1 serving of Sesame Ginger Coleslaw

1 Orange, peeled and sectioned

Iced tea with lemon


Mid-Afternoon Snack:

1 Banana

1 cup nonfat chocolate milk


2 grilled kabobs made with 3 ounces lean pork, cherry tomatoes, green peppers, onion slices, and low-fat marinade

1 /2 cup cooked Brown rice

2 cups steamed Zucchini and carrots

Sparkling water with lemon

After-Dinner Snack:

1 cup Frozen blueberries

Nutritional information: 1613 calories, 18%  fat (33 grams), 70% carbohydrates, 12%  protein.

What has Elizabeth been up to?

September 10th: She was on San Diego Living (CW) talking about how to eat to age-proof your body

September 21st: She was on AMNorthWest (KATU in Portland, OR) dispelling nutrition myths.