Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Tips for a Healthy New Year

1. Find Your Motivation-What is it that drives you to change your lifestyle and be a better
version of yourself? Is it looking and feeling younger, fitting into clothes better, taking less
medication, having more pain-free days, being there for your grandchildren, or preventing chronic disease? Whatever motivates you, set goals and actively work towards them.

2. Eat Breakfast Every Day-Eat within 2 hours of waking up to kick start your metabolism. We are most sensitive to carbohydrates first thing in the morning so swap sugary cereals and refined carbohydrates for lean protein and complex carbohydrates such as an egg white
vegetable omelet with a side of berries.

3. Fill Up on Vegetables-Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables to provide optimal nutrients and calorie control. Vegetables are packed with fiber which adds bulk without a lot of
calories. You get the satisfaction of chewing and eating a good portion of food without a high calorie cost.

4. Eat Clean-Choose healthy, whole, unprocessed foods such as apples, broccoli, brown rice, chicken, almonds, and milk. Avoid heavily processed foods, especially those low in nutrients such as baked goods, chips, diet soda, and ready-to-eat foods like mac and cheese. 

5. Exercise-Vigorous exercise is a natural defense for the body, protecting it against heart
disease and stroke. Exercise also burns calories to help with weight management, lowers blood sugar, improves mental outlook, and alleviates stress. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days.

6. Stop Eating by 8 pm-Some research indicates eating after 8pm can interfere with the body’s internal clock and hormone secretions resulting in higher blood sugar, higher cholesterol, and weight gain. Eating a large meal before bed can also cause heartburn and effect how your REM sleep cycle functions. Work on eating dinner earlier and close the kitchen by 8pm.

7. Weigh Yourself Weekly-Knowledge is power! Regular weighing keeps you mindful of your goals and nips weight gain in the bud. Daily weighing can become frustrating for some people due to weight fluctuations from shifts in fluid. Try weighing yourself once a week and log your results in a journal to track your progress over time.

8. Stop Cheating-Self control and enjoyment of all foods in moderation is the ultimate
long-term goal. Stop designating cheat days or cheat weekends and learn to eat all foods
mindfully and moderately. It is okay to eat a nice meal from time to time or have 1-2 cookies at a party but eating appetizers, having a few drinks, eating a rich dinner, and then having a slice of pie will tip the scale.

9. Manage Your Stress-When stressed your body produces more cortisol, a stress hormone which can increase blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and lead to more fat being stored around your abdomen. Cortisol also increases hunger signals in the brain resulting in cravings for high calorie foods. Stress management is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and should include regular exercise, adequate sleep, and relaxation. Limit caffeine as this can stimulate cortisol. Also limit sugar, chocolate, cake, cookies, and white bread products.

10. Sleep-Studies show people with bedtimes after 10:30pm gained more weight overtime.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep has also been associated with alterations in appetite regulating hormones resulting in weight gain. Work on going to bed at a regular time to ensure you get a restful 7-8 hours of sleep consistently.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Greatest Gift is Health

December is a magical time to spread kindness, good fortune, and cheer. It is a season for embracing traditions, spending time with others, and believing in the hopes and promises of the new year to come. The hustle and bustle of the season makes it a busy time of year with shopping, preparing feasts, and visiting friends near and far. For some December can even bring sorrow with loved ones who are missing, traditions that no longer occur, and stress that cannot be overcome. 

As we celebrate the season, take time to reflect on the greatest gift we can posses; the gift of good health. Being healthy encompasses mind, body, and spirit with the absence of injury and illness. Health allows us to live life to the fullest in a positive, productive, and pain free way. Lifestyle choices dramatically shape our health, and can improve our mental and physical wellbeing at any age. For people with acute or chronic illness, and even people with incurable disease the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices promotes the greatest health they can achieve.

The start of a healthy lifestyle begins with a positive outlook. Researchers believe people with positive outlooks are more motivated to make healthier life decisions, focus more on their long-term health goals, and protect better against the inflammatory damage of stress. Heart disease patients with a positive outlook were more likely to live longer and patients with a positive outlook had higher physical activity levels, slept better, and were less likely to smoke. While some people are born optimists, ultimately a positive attitude is a choice. You can train yourself to be a positive person; start by smiling more.

Eat healthy by choosing foods that are minimally processed and highly nutritious. Instead of foods that come in packages target a plant based diet rich in vegetables and fruit. Enjoy lean protein such as fish, eggs, and poultry in smaller amounts. Eat whole grains over refined varieties, low fat and nonfat dairy, and select healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil daily. Understand that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation, but maintaining a healthy balance is key. Skip foods that aren’t worth the calories and savor every bite of indulgent foods you truly love.

Exercise has been shown in studies to help reverse aging at a cellular level. Exercise not only burns calories, it protects our health by increasing oxygen delivery to our cells, increasing the fluidity of our blood vessels and arteries, and improving blood flow throughout the body to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. For 24-48 hours after exercise we can see a healthy decrease in blood pressure and an increase in insulin sensitivity up to 40% after a moderate-intense exercise session. Exercise also helps improve our sleep and releases endorphins which can elevate our mood.

As this year draws to a close take a little time for yourself and reflect on where you would like your health to be this time next year. The small choices we make every day have an impact on our health over a lifetime. This holiday season give yourself the best gift money can’t buy, the gift of taking care of your health.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cooking with Fennel

Well known in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, the distinct licorice flavor of fennel has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries.

Fennel is a hardy herb with feathery leaves (also called fronds), yellow flowers, and a greenish-white edible bulb. It originated along the shores of the Mediterranean, although today it is widely grown throughout the world.

Ancient Chinese medicine used fennel to relieve digestive problems such as heart burn, bloating, upset stomach, and to  stimulate appetite. It has been used to treat colic in infants and for upper respiratory tract infections. Fennel powder has also been used to heal snake bites. Some research indicates fennel may help with colic and constipation by reducing swelling in the colon, however most research is insufficient and more evidence is   needed to rate the effectiveness of fennel.

Fennel is rich in vitamin C, providing 17% of the recommended daily amount. It also provides a good source of fiber, B vitamins and phytonutrients. One phytonutrient called anethole was shown to reduce cancer-signaling molecules which could help reduce cancer risk.

Fennel is in season from mid-fall to early spring. When selecting fennel look for bright green fronds with no signs of wilting and a firm light green and white bulb with no soft spots. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Clementine Season

Clementine's might look like tiny oranges, but they are actually a hybrid fruit made from a cross between a mandarin and an orange. The clementine is believed to have been discovered by French missionaries in Algeria during the early twentieth century. Its delicious taste, seedless flesh, and being easy to peel has helped it gain great popularity over the years.

Also known as Christmas oranges, clementine’s are sold between November and January. They are mostly grown in California, Morocco, and Spain which provide a hot and dry environment suitable for production. Their sweet taste, lower acidity level, and high nutrient value compliment many recipes and are a good addition to many meals.  
At 35 calories each, clementine’s are a rich source of potassium, fiber, and folate. One clementine provides 40% of daily Vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which destroys free radicals that form in the body after coming into contact with pollutants such as cigarette smoke and pesticides.
Clementine’s contain many other bioactive compounds that can fight disease. All citrus fruit, including clementine’s, contain flavonoids which can decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, and some cancers.
According to the National Cancer Institute high doses of Vitamin C may slow the growth and spread of prostate, pancreatic, liver, colon, and other types of cancer cells.
Some animal studies have shown Vitamin C blocking tumor growth and some human studies have shown Vitamin C improving mental, physical, and emotional functions in cancer patients. However, not all studies combining Vitamin C and cancer therapy have shown benefit. Eating foods rich in Vitamin C is recommended while the benefit of supplements  continues to be researched.
Clementine’s are very portable and can pair well with other foods such as 7 walnuts for a 130 calorie protein and fiber rich snack. Adding them to plain nonfat yogurt or tossing them into a salad are delicious options too.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Eat Your Sprouts this Season

As a member of the cruciferous family, Brussels sprouts are a nutrient powerhouse. 1/2 cup provides half your daily needs of vitamin C, helping to keep your immune system strong during this cold weather. It also protects your cells from damage.

That same 1/2 cup provides nearly 100% of your daily needs of vitamin K, necessary for blood clotting and to strengthen your bones. Brussels sprouts are an excellent source of folate which can decrease stroke and heart disease risk. It is also a great source of vitamin A and potassium.

A recent study showed improved DNA stability in white blood cells after daily consumption of 1.25 cups of Brussels sprouts. It appears the vegetable blocks the activity of certain unfavorable enzymes helping to give DNA protective benefits. 

Brussels sprouts contain many other phytonutrients such as glucosinolates and isothiocyanates. These compounds reduce the risk of cancer by eliminating potential carcinogens from your body. Isothiocyanates may also reduce your heart attack risk.
Steaming helps to retain the most nutrients, followed by roasting and sautéing. To reduce the bitter taste slice the sprouts in half to release some of the thiocyanates, a bitter compound.

Boiling greatly reduces the bitter flavor but decreases the nutritional value substantially so this is not the best option. Roasting can bring out the natural sweetness in the sprouts and pairing it with something acidic, such as vinegar can play off the flavor of the sprout nicely.

For a delicious side dish to any meal try our fall inspired recipe below.

Mustard Grilled Brussels Sprouts
Serves: 4

1lb Brussels Sprouts
2 tbs Olive oil
2 tbs Whole grain mustard
4 wooden or metal skewers

Directions: Rinse Brussels sprouts, trim the stems, and pull off any dark outer leaves. Place Brussels sprouts in a pot of boiling water and lower heat to a simmer. Cook 3-5 minutes until sprouts are tender.

Place sprouts in a bowl of ice water to cool down. Drain and toss sprouts with olive oil followed by the mustard until well coated.

Skewer sprouts evenly onto wooden or metal skewers. Place over medium-high heat grill and cook 4-5 minutes each side until slightly charred and warm. Enjoy!

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Fall in Love with Pears

The many varieties of pears are native to coastal regions spanning from western Europe and northern Africa all the way to Asia. In the 1500’s Europeans began bringing pears to North America and today Washington state produces over half of the nations pears. California, Oregon, New York, and Pennsylvania are also well suited for growing pears and have significant commercial production.

Harvest of pears takes place in the summer and fall before they are fully ripe. Look for pears that are firm but not too hard. The skin should be smooth and free of bruises. The color may not be uniform and contain brown-specks which is normal.

Gently press the top of the pear near its stem, if it gives into pressure the pear is ripe and ready to be eaten. If the flesh feels extremely soft and squishy the pear is overripe. Overripe pears work best in cooking rather than eaten raw.

Pears are one of the highest fiber fruits, providing six grams in one medium pear. The skin of the pear contains about half the fiber as well as three to four times as many phytonutrients as the flesh, so it is best to eat it with the skin on.

Fiber is a well known substance helping to reduce risk of heart disease and type two diabetes. In addition to containing both soluble and insoluble fiber, pears also contain flavonoids which may improve insulin sensitivity. Red Anjou, Red Bartlett, Comice, Seckel, and Starkrimson varieties were found to have the highest amount to help reduce risk of type two diabetes. 

Fiber and phytonutrients in pears have also been associated with lower cancer risk, especially stomach, esophageal, and colorectal cancer.

One medium pear is also packed with 12% of the daily recommended amount of vitamin C, 10% of vitamin K, 6% of potassium, and also contains magnesium, calcium B-6, and folate.

The sweet, buttery taste of pears are a prefect addition to salads, used in a healthy recipe, or eaten on their own. For a healthy dessert try our Walnut and Honey Baked Pear Recipe below.

Walnut and Honey Baked Pears
Serves: 4 (1/2 pear each)
110 calories per serving
17g carbs
2 large ripe pears
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp honey
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cut the pears in half lengthwise and use a spoon or melon baller to scoop out the seeds.

Place pears, flesh side up, on a baking sheet. (Cut a sliver off the skin side of the pear to help it stay upright.) Sprinkle with cinnamon, top with walnuts, and drizzle 1/2 tsp honey over each pear.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until tender. Optional: Serve with 1 tbs vanilla Greek yogurt.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

November is American Diabetes Month

If you still have Halloween candy in the house it might be a good time to throw it away. November is American Diabetes Month, a good reminder of the ever-growing disease and importance of lifestyle habits to reduce your risk.

86 million people in the United States are at risk for developing diabetes and nearly 30 million children and adults in the United States already have diabetes. The American Diabetes Association predicts 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes by 2050 unless we take steps to stop the disease.

Diabetes is a problem where blood glucose, also called blood sugar, is higher than normal. Over time high blood sugar can damage your eyes, kidneys, nerves, and heart. Having diabetes nearly doubles the risk of heart attack, is the leading cause of blindness in working-age adults, and is the leading cause of kidney failure.

Your risk for prediabetes and diabetes increases if you are over 45 years of age, are overweight, are physically inactive, have a family history of diabetes, are African American, Hispanic, American Indian, Asian American, or Pacific Islander, have PCOS, have low HDL cholesterol and/or high triglycerides, have high blood pressure, or had gestational diabetes.

Fortunately you can prevent or delay diabetes! You can also prevent diabetic complications if you already have the disease! One of the largest risk factors for type 2 diabetes is being overweight. The best possible way to reduce risk is by losing at least 7% of your weight and maintaining a healthy weight for your height. The second best way to reduce your risk is by exercising 150 minutes each week (30 minutes 5 days a week). People who cut calories and exercise regularly can reduce the progression of prediabetes to diabetes by 58%.

Diets high in saturated fat have been linked to diabetes. Work on reducing your saturated fat intake by limiting cheese, butter, red meat, processed meat, ice cream, baked goods, fried foods, etc.

Drinking sugary drinks can increase your diabetes risk. A study published in 2008 following 187,382 participants found those who ate whole fruit regularly had a decreased risk of type 2 diabetes. Those who consumed 4 ounces or more of fruit juice daily increased their risk of type 2 diabetes as much as 21%.
Skipping breakfast and fasting until noon can also have a major impact on your blood sugar and impair insulin response for the rest of the day. Eating regular healthy meals is important in managing blood sugar levels.

The type and amount of carbohydrates you eat can affect how quickly blood sugar rises. It is not recommended to avoid carbohydrates entirely, in fact people who consume 3 whole grain servings daily are one-third less likely to develop diabetes. Limit sweets to special occasions and eat them in         moderation. Replace refined carbohydrates such as white bread and white rice with complex carbohydrates such as whole grain bread and brown rice. Replace heavily processed foods such as pretzels, crackers, and French fries with minimally processed foods such as carrot sticks, almonds, and baked sweet potatoes.
Be proactive in reducing your diabetes risk. Talk to your doctor and registered dietitian about your eating habits and ways to reduce your risk this month.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Breast Cancer Awareness Lifestyle Habits and Risk


· 1 in 8 women will develop invasive breast cancer

· Breast cancer has the second highest death rates in women among other   cancers

· 2,350 new cases of invasive breast cancer are expected to be diagnosed in men in 2015

· 85% of breast cancer occur in women with no family history

· Breast cancer screening saves lives. Mammography is the most effective screening tool used today. Talk to your doctor about scheduling your exam as well as regular self exams for early detection.

October is breast cancer awareness month, the second most common cancer in women. Raising awareness increases early detection and promotes healthy lifestyle habits that can reduce risk and save lives.

Part of prevention is understanding risk factors that increase the likelihood of breast cancer developing. Some factors we cannot change such as being female, age, and family history of breast
cancer. However, there are some factors researches have identified which are controllable and could impact breast cancer risk.

Body weight can affect breast cancer risk after menopause. Research shows being overweight or obese increases blood levels of estrogen and can increase risk of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer by 70%. Insulin levels are also higher in overweight women which could increase risk further. Losing weight after menopause and maintaining a healthy weight throughout adulthood can help lower risk of breast cancer.

Evidence is increasing that physical activity is important for cancer prevention. Studies show women who do not exercise have a 25% increased risk of breast cancer compared to women who do exercise. Women’s Health Initiative found brisk walking as little as 30 minutes  3-5 times per week reduced breast cancer risk by 10%. Additional exercise produces even greater reduction in risk and could have
beneficial effects on weight management and cardiovascular health.

Research has established a clear link between alcohol consumption and increased risk of breast cancer. Published in the International Journal of Cancer this month, a study following over 300,000 females for 11 years found women who consume 2-5 alcoholic drinks daily have a 1 1/2 times the risk of breast cancer compared to women who do not drink. The risk increases with the amount consumed. Women are advised to consume less than one drink per day, defined as 5 oz of wine, 12 oz of beer, or 1.5 oz of liquor.

Many studies have examined eating habits and breast cancer risk, and at this time much evidence is conflicting. Some studies have found increased breast cancer risk in women who ate more red meat and processed meat. A diet low in fat and high in fruits and
vegetables might have protective benefits.

The consumption of soy has been quite controversial in breast cancer research. Soy, which includes tofu, tempeh, edamame, soymilk, and miso contain phytoestrogens, compounds that mimic estrogen in the body. Some studies have found consuming soy can increase cancer cell growth. However, Asian countries where soy consumption is very high, have the lowest rates of breast cancer which could indicate protective benefits from eating soy.

Until the research becomes more clear the American Cancer Society and American Institute for Cancer Research recommends consuming soy in moderation and avoiding supplementation of soy. Moderation is defined as 1-2 servings of soy daily, about 1 cup of soy milk, 1/2 cup edamame, 1 oz soy nuts, or 1/3 cup tofu.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Are you a Night Owl?

Could the time at which you fall asleep have an impact on your weight, regardless of how many hours you sleep? We have an internal clock called the circadian rhythm which aligns with daylight and darkness. Our circadian rhythm regulates physiological and metabolic functions in the body, and could play a major role in weight management.

A new study from the University of California, Berkeley followed 3,342 youths and adults over a 15 year period to determine the correlation    between bedtime and weight. Their findings were later bedtimes, after 10:30pm, increased weight overtime. Going to bed each additional hour later was associated with a 2.1 point gain in body mass index, a measure of weight for height.

A study from the University of Pennsylvania found in just 5 days sleep-restricted subjects who slept 4 hours (4am-8am) gained more weight than control subjects who slept 10 hours (10pm-8am). The sleep restricted group ate on average 130 more calories throughout the day and opted for higher fat foods late at night. Among the sleep-restricted subjects, males gained more weight than females and African Americans gained more weight than Caucasians. Chronically sleep deprived adults with late bedtimes are at greater risk of weight gain and should consider improving sleep habits to reduce their risk.

Finally a study from Northwestern University found people who stayed up late and slept in gained more weight than people who went to bed  earlier and woke up earlier. Late sleepers consumed on average 248 more calories, half as many fruits and vegetables, twice as much fast food, and more soda. The study found the extra calories consumed could result in 2 lbs of weight gain per month if not balanced with more

Insufficient sleep and excessive daytime fatigue is a serious epidemic. When sleep and eating habits are not aligned with the body’s circadian rhythm it could lead to disturbances in appetite and insulin metabolism resulting in weight gain.  It is all about lifestyle; eating and sleeping at regular times could improve the effectiveness of weight loss programs and help those struggling with weight management.

Monday, September 21, 2015

The Real Cost of Going Organic

It is clear American’s desire organic foods; demand is soaring with nearly 80% of households including some organic foods as part of their purchases. Sales totaled $35.9 billion in the U.S. for 2014 and accounted for 12% of all produce sold. The number of certified organic farms increased last year to 19,474, however inability to keep pace with demand keeps organic foods much pricier than conventional varieties.

$3.49/lb vs $1.49/lb for an organic Granny Smith apple vs. the conventional variety at my supermarket this weekend. The price difference is easy to see, but the quality difference is much harder prompting the question, is organic food worth the added cost?

Organic refers to farming practices which do not use synthetic pesticides, bioengineered genes (GMO’s), petroleum or sewage-based fertilizers, and remain separate from conventional products. Organic livestock must have access to the outdoors, eat organic feed, and not be given antibiotics, growth hormones, or animal-by-products. It is important to note in organic farming certain organic pesticides are allowed as are natural fertilizers such as manure and compost.

Some studies show use of pesticides in conventional farming, even at low doses, increases the risk of certain cancers such as breast cancer, brain tumors, lymphoma, leukemia, and prostate cancer. Some experts also attribute the use of antibiotics in meat production to increases in antibiotic-resistant bacteria resulting in serious public health concerns.

Research presented at the European Association for the Study of Diabetes found a 61% increased risk of diabetes upon exposure to environmental contaminants, including pesticides. Another study presented at the same meeting found that a 10-time increased exposure to environmental contaminants in early pregnancy increased risk of gestational diabetes 4.4 times.

The question as to whether organic food is healthier has not been substantiated due to lack of significant scientific evidence. Studies on vitamin and mineral content of produce is all over the map and varies greatly. Studies do consistently show organic milk, meat, poultry, and eggs have higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids which can help reduce risk of heart disease, depression, stroke, cancer, and other diseases. Further research on benefits of organic foods is needed.

For people concerned about exposure going organic might be worth the added cost. Studies consistently show organic foods have lower residue and fewer pesticides compared to conventional varieties. Each year the Environmental Workers Group identifies the top twelve produce as the “dirty dozen” most contaminated with pesticides and residue. Targeting organic varieties of these foods would be a good start. Alternatively the “clean fifteen” are the fifteen least contaminated conventional produce which might support more cost efficiency if buying 100% organic is not economical. Check out their website for more information.

Dirty Dozen: Produce most contaminated with pesticides and residue
  • Apples
  • Peaches
  • Nectarines
  • Strawberries
  • Grapes
  • Celery
  • Spinach
  • Sweet bell peppers
  • Cucumbers
  • Cherry tomatoes
  • Snap peas
  • Potatoes
Clean 15: Produce least contaminated with pesticides and residue
  • Avocado
  • Sweet corn
  • Pineapples
  • Cabbage
  • Frozen sweet peas
  • Onions
  • Asparagus
  • Papayas
  • Kiwi
  • Eggplant
  • Grapefruit
  • Cantaloupe
  • Cauliflower
  • Sweet potatoes

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kids Craving Sweets

Children love sweet tasting foods, and as any parent knows, growing independence and testing boundaries can lead to many battles over which foods your child will eat. So many parents strive to emphasize healthy eating habits and nutritious food, only to be faced with kids who would prefer cookies over eggs for breakfast. New research from the University of Washington and the Monell Center shows nature rather than nurture might be the reason for your child’s love of sweets.

Findings reported in the journal Physiology & Behavior found a relationship between children’s increased desire for sweets and their growth rate. When growth is rapid, calorie demands increase as a biological need. Researches speculate children are programed to like sweet taste because it is a high energy source. Studies found as children’s physical growth slowed their preference for sweets declined as well.  

As parents it is important to teach moderation when it comes to sweets rather than keeping them entirely off limits; constant denial can lead to obsession. When your child is looking for sweets provide sweet options which are also healthy such as green smoothies, apple slices, sweet potatoes, yogurt, and trail mix. The American Heart Association recommends children limit their sugar intake to 3-8 tsp (12-32g) daily, depending on their age and calorie needs. This allows for small treats on occasion but should not be an every day occurrence.

Avoid keeping a cookie jar or displaying sweets in plain sight. Instead display fresh fruit at eye level. Avoid attracting extra attention to sweets such as      declaring “ice cream time” or using sweets as a reward. Be a great role model by eating healthy foods with your children and limiting your sweets consumption.

When helping your child with food selections provide questions with limited choices such as “would you like strawberries or apples” rather than open ended questions such as “what would you like to eat”. If your child insists on sweets firmly but patiently provide an alternative “you cannot have cookies but you can have apples with peanut butter”. Standing your ground and remaining   consistent is important.

It is a parents’ job to provide a range of healthy foods, but it is the child’s responsibility to choose what to eat and how much. Using food as a reward or pressuring children to clean their plates interrupts their ability to recognize their body’s cues. Focus on providing sufficient energy from nutrient dense foods, creating pleasant family mealtime, and offering a range of options for your child to select from.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Eat Your Apples

Looking to stay trim? Apples are ranked as one of the most satisfying foods to control appetite. Satiety, the physical sensation of appetite being satisfied, is short lived after eating refined foods and simple sugars such as pretzels, crackers, and juice. Highly satiating foods, such as apples, have high fiber and water content, which fill your stomach for less calories.

The skin of apples contain a compound called ursolic acid, which increased calorie burn and reduced the risk of obesity in one animal study. Another compound, called quercetin, has been found to inhibit enzymes that breakdown carbohydrates. The compounds decrease the absorption of glucose in the digestive tract and stimulate insulin receptors which increase uptake of glucose helping less sugar enter your bloodstream.

Ranked as one of the top antioxidant rich fruits, apples are associated with a decreased risk of chronic disease. One medium apple has 90 calories and is packed with 4g of fiber. A type of soluble fiber found in the flesh of an apple, called pectin, has been shown to lower “bad”  LDL cholesterol and possibly decrease blood pressure as well. Other phytonutrients found in apples has been shown to prevent oxidation, inflammation, and cancer.

Brain health studies have found promising signs of apples protecting neurons from oxidative stress which could help reduce the risk of neurological disorders such as Alzheimer’s Disease. Pulmonary research has also found regular apple consumption was associated with better lung function and lower risk of asthma particularly in children.

All varieties of apples offer health benefits and should be part of your healthy balanced diet. Some studies did identify certain varieties having higher phytonutrient levels than other. These varieties include: Fuji, Red  Delicious, Northern Spy, Fortune, Gala, and Liberty.

When considering the type of apple to purchase, organic varieties contain far less pesticides and residue compared to commercial varieties. Skinning an apple with help remove residue, however a large amount of nutrients will be lost. Purchasing organic and eating the skin provides the most nutrients with the least exposure to pesticides and harmful residue.

Apples make for a wonderful snack and pairing it with protein will increase your satiety even more. One medium apple and 10 almonds is 160 calories. Or try pairing it with 1 tbs of peanut butter for 185 calories. 

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Clean Eating: Eat the Way Nature Intended

What is Clean Eating?
· Clean eating is choosing healthy, whole, unprocessed foods to eat such as apples, broccoli, brown rice, chicken, almonds, and milk.

What are Processed Foods?
· Any food that has been altered from its original state.
· Foods that contain additional ingredients such as sodium, sugar, fat, preservatives, and artificial ingredients.
· Includes everything from heavily processed hot dogs to minimally processed organic pasta sauce.
· Read food labels on packaged foods to determine if any other ingredients has been added. Avoid foods with a long list of ingredients or any ingredients you cannot pronounce.

Is Processing Bad?
· Processing is not always bad; it can remove toxins and bacteria by pasteurizing milk. It can allow us to eat foods that are not in season by freezing or canning vegetables. It can alter the consistency and taste to make foods more appealing by blending fruit and vegetables together for a smoothie.
· Pasteurized milk, frozen vegetables, and green smoothies are all examples of minimally processed foods which have a place in a healthy lifestyle.
· Ultra-processed foods such as diet soda, baked goods, chips, and ready-to-eat foods such as Rice-a-Roni are foods to avoid. Health problems such as obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, and depression have been associated with ultra-processed food consumption.

Eat Clean!
· Clean eating does not mean everything you eat must be raw and straight from the ground. It does mean choosing minimally processed foods with few added ingredients prepared in healthy ways.
· Clean foods such as produce, dairy, and meat are along the perimeter of a grocery store. Shop along the perimeter and avoid going deeper into the center of the store where more processed foods are located.
· When selecting foods ask yourself: Where did this food come from? How much has it been processed or handled? Are all ingredients recognizable? Does it contain healthy foods to nourish me?

Friday, August 14, 2015

Nuts, Seeds, and Diverticular Disease

One third of Americans have diverticular disease, a digestive disorder common in the Western world but rare in areas such as Africa and Asia. The disease consists of three conditions including diverticulosis, diverticular bleeding, and diverticulitis. The cause of the disease remains complex but often an interaction between low fiber intake, low physical activity, obesity, smoking, bowel motility, and mucosal changes are factors increasing the risk of developing the disease.

Small pouches form in the colon when there are weakened spots in the intestinal walls and when colonic pressure increases. Since the 1950’s people with diverticular disease have been advised to avoid nuts and seeds due to the theory that undigested food would become trapped in the small pouches of the colon causing inflammation and infection.

Despite the theory, it has been confirmed and published in the Journal of Family Practice as well as the Nutrition in Clinical Practice Journal that there is no evidence supporting the recommendation to avoid nuts and seeds for people with diverticular disease. In contrast eating a high fiber diet has been associated with lower risk of complications. One study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association following 47,228 men with diverticular disease for 18 years found eating nuts, corn, and popcorn did not
increase risk of diverticular complications. In fact eating nuts and popcorn reduced the risk of complications such as diverticular bleeding and infection.

The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse as well as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Nutrition Care Manual guidelines state eating a high-fiber diet can help prevent diverticular disease as well as prevent complications in those who already have the disease. People with the disease do not need to eliminate foods such as nuts, seeds, popcorn, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, strawberries, and raspberries.

Fiber recommendations are 38 g per day for men and 25 g per day for women ages 18-50. For men and women over the age of 51 recommendations are 30 g per day and 21 g per day respectively. Fiber rich foods include peas, lentils, black beans, lima beans, artichokes, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, raspberries, blackberries, pears, oatmeal, whole grains, flaxseeds, and nuts. Drinking sufficient water with fiber rich foods is important as well for fiber to work effectively.

Although more research is needed, probiotics have shown some positive impact in treating symptoms and preventing complications of diverticular disease. Probiotics are live bacteria found in certain foods such as yogurt, kefir, buttermilk, kimchi, kombucha, and in supplemental form. Regularly consuming probiotics can help support a healthy GI tract and may help with diverticular disease as well.

For people with diverticular disease eliminating certain foods is not necessary, however any foods that worsen your symptoms should be avoided. If you are experiencing a flare-up or complications a high fiber diet might not be appropriate. Discuss your symptoms and appropriateness of your diet with your doctor to best manage your condition.

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Enjoying Eggplant

Eggplant belongs to the nightshade family along with tomatoes, peppers, and potatoes. They contain an impressive array of nutrients such as
fiber, folate, potassium, manganese, thiamine, and B6 making it a great food to eat regularly.

Eggplant contains many phytonutrients which have been linked to lower risk of disease. One phytonutrient called nasunin, located in the skin, was found to be a powerful antioxidant protecting brain cell membranes from damage. This is encouraging for people who suffer from cognitive disorders and those working to reduce their risk of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.

As a good source of fiber eggplant can reduce cholesterol in the body helping to lower your risk of stroke and heart disease. Fiber also helps you feel full longer which is helpful for people trying to lose weight. At only 35 calories per cup eggplant is a low calorie food to enjoy.

Eggplant comes in many different varieties ranging from purple and egg shaped to yellow and skinny. The different varieties vary slightly in taste and texture, although generally eggplant has a slightly bitter taste and spongy texture.

Many times recipes recommend tenderizing eggplant and reducing some of its bitter taste by sprinkling it with salt. This helps pull out some of the water content and make the eggplant less permeable. Rinsing the eggplant will remove most of the salt, however people who are salt
sensitive or who have high blood pressure should avoid this process as a precaution.

Many people make the mistake of frying eggplant which results in a large amount of oil being absorbed. This increases the calories
dramatically and can have a negative impact on cholesterol. Grilling, roasting, and steaming are healthier cooking methods to target.

When picking out eggplant select those which feel firm with a smooth and glossy skin. Store in the refrigerator until ready for consumption. Use stainless steel knives rather than carbon steel knives to prevent a reaction which can cause the eggplant to turn black. For a healthy spin on Eggplant Parmesan try the recipe below.  

Grilled Eggplant Parmesan

Serves: 4
301 calories per serving
2 medium eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1/2 inch slices                  
2 tbs fresh torn basil, minced
2 tsp olive oil, divided                                           
2 tbs parsley, minced
1 tsp minced garlic 1/4 tsp black pepper
1 can (28 ounces) low sodium, peeled whole tomatoes, drained 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup low sodium tomato paste 8 ounces part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced

Directions: Brush both sides of eggplant with 1 tsp of oil. Place on a hot grill and cook until tender and brown, about 4-5 minutes each side.

Meanwhile in a skillet heat 1 tsp olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomatoes, tomato paste, basil, parsley, and pepper. Simmer, stirring occasionally for about 20 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350° F. Layer eggplant, sauce, and parmesan in an 8x11-inch baking pan, beginning and ending with the sauce and parmesan. Arrange the mozzarella slices on top. Bake for 35 minutes, or until brown and bubbling. Serve with side salad.


Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Season of Summer Corn

The United States produces more corn than any other country. Heavy subsidies and
genetic modification to resist insects and bacteria makes corn very affordable for a
multitude of uses including ethanol production, livestock feed, and corn syrup. With mounting evidence of processed foods contributing to obesity related diseases corn has received a bad reputation.

According to the Non-GMO Project, 88% of U.S. corn is genetically modified, meaning genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory. Concerns over
unstable combinations of gene variations that do not occur in nature interacting with animals and bacteria is being studied. While no long term studies have looked at GMO’s impact in humans, several animal studies have identified serious health risks including infertility, accelerated aging, immune problems, alterations in insulin
sensitivity, changes in the GI tract, and changes in major organs. In more than 60
countries around the world, including the European Union, there are significant
restrictions and bans on GMO’s. Despite this the U.S. approves the use of GMO’s and does not mandate GMO’s being listed on the food label for consumer transparency.

We can find plenty of delicious sweet corn in our grocery stores this time of year and some consumers might be concerned whether corn is healthy or not. Corn is a low fat complex carbohydrate with about 60 calories in one ear, the same as a small apple. Corn is a wonderful source of lutein and zeaxanthin, two phytochemicals which can promote healthy vision. It is a good source of fiber, folate, niacin, vitamin A, and vitamin C. Cooking corn actually increases its antioxidant capacity, helping to protect the body from cancer and inflammation.

Corn can be a healthy complex carbohydrate depending on how it is prepared. For those concerns with GMO’s purchase Non-GMO Project Verified sweet corn (list available on or purchase Organic corn, since Certified Organic farmers are not allowed to use GMO seeds. Grilling, boiling, and roasting corn brings out its natural sweetness. A small drizzle of olive oil can help enhance the flavor. Avoid using copious amounts of butter, salt, or cream when preparing corn for better cardiovascular health. Also keep servings to around 1/2 cup or one ear of corn for portion control. Corn is certainly a healthy food to enjoy this summer when enjoyed in moderation.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Benefits of Blueberries

One of the highest antioxidant fruits, blueberries fight free radical damage helping to better preserve our health and ward off aging. The blue color is from a pigment called anthocyanin which provides the dark red, purple, and blue hues in blueberries as well as eggplant, red cabbage, and cranberries.

Blueberries are a good source of dietary fiber which may help reduce the risk of heart disease and support digestive health. Fiber also helps you feel full for less calories which is a benefit for managing your weight.

Exciting research on blueberries and cognitive benefits is underway. One study following older adults for 12 weeks found those who consumed blueberries daily experienced improvements in memory and cognitive function. Scientists speculate the multitude of different antioxidants in blueberries help protect nerve cells from oxidative damage.

Blueberries are also an excellent source of vitamin C for collagen formation, wound healing, and protein metabolism. Manganese, vitamin K, B6, and potassium are also abundant in blueberries helping to support optimal nutrition in the body.

For most people, 3 servings of fruit daily is recommended. One serving of blueberries is 3/4 cup which contains 60 calories, 16g carbohydrates, 2.7g fiber, and 0g fat. Use blueberries instead of sugar to sweeten oatmeal, yogurt, or cereal. Try them in a smoothie with nonfat plain Greek yogurt, or toss them into a spring mix salad with orange segments and balsamic vinaigrette.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Late Night Eating, Friend or Foe?

Why people gain weight is complicated, clearly not as simple as calories in and calories out. According to a USDA survey, overweight adults tend to eat significantly more calories at dinnertime and after dinner than normal weight adults, leading to speculation late night eating has a bad impact on our waistlines.

We have an internal clock called the circadian rhythm which aligns with daylight and darkness. Some research suggests our circadian rhythm influences energy use, and better meal timing can have a large impact on weight management.

For decades researches have seen increased rates of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease in shift workers. Factors such as poor diet and lack of exercise could be to blame, however shift workers often have lower levels of hormones that regulate appetite. Disrupting the sleep-wake cycle is detrimental to health and adequate sleep of at least 7 hours has been associated with better health.

In animal studies, mice fed a high fat diet during the night gained 48% more weight than mice eating the same calories with the same activity level during the day. Fasting overnight, such as from 8pm to 8am, also had a beneficial impact on blood sugar and cholesterol levels. 

All too often American’s eat too light during the day and take in nearly half of their calories at night. Not eating out of hunger but from stress, emotions, or boredom is what gets us in trouble. Rarely do we reach for baby carrots when stressed or depressed, it is typically high-calorie, high-fat foods such as ice cream, cookies, chips, and pretzels.

Snacking on high-calorie, high-fat foods can also make for a restless sleep impacting secretions of appetite regulating hormones, make us not hungry for breakfast, and increase our blood sugar levels for up to 24 hours according to a study published in  Obesity of Research & Clinical Practice.

For weight management target an appropriate number of calories daily (see your nutritionist for your calorie goal), spread your calories evenly throughout the day, avoid eating after 8pm, and if you must eat late limit after dinner snacks to 200 calories or less.

Healthy After Dinner Snacks Under 200 Calories

· 6 ounces nonfat plain Greek yogurt with 1/2 cup berries
· 1 cup baby carrots with 3 tablespoons hummus
· 1 apple with 1 laughing cow cheese wedge
· 2 rice cakes with 1 tablespoon peanut butter
· 1 cup low sugar cereal with skim milk
· 1 cup fresh strawberries topped with 2 tablespoons whipped cream
· 3 cups healthy popcorn


Tips to Avoid Late Night Eating
· Prevent boredom snacking by keeping your evenings entertaining. Try exercising, a new hobby, reading a book, or playing games with the family.

· Stop the habit of eating in front of the TV. Set a rule to only eat in the kitchen without distractions.

· Try drinking hot decaf tea at night to keep your hands occupied without the calories of snacks.

· Eat a well-balanced high-fiber dinner. If you have been avoiding carbohydrates only to binge on chips, pretzels, or sweets late at night you should try adding a healthy carbohydrate to dinner such as a baked sweet potato.

· Keep junk food out of sight and out of the house. 

· Target a well-balanced high-fiber lunch and mid-afternoon snack to help avoid overeating at dinner.

· Stop skipping breakfast. People who skip breakfast often eat more calories by the end of the day.