Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Health Benefits of Chicken Soup

The common cold is extremely common, but the reason for catching a cold is hard to assess. Some researchers have found when the internal body temperature drops after exposure to cold air, the immune system can drop as well making us more susceptible to colds. This could help explain why more people get sick in the winter rather than the summer.

Taking preventative measures to safeguard your health is strongly recommended. Protect yourself and others by washing your hands often, especially before eating. Avoid unnecessary contact with others and use a paper towel to open bathroom doors. Cough or sneeze into your arm or shoulder instead of into the air. And most importantly stay home when you are sick.

The flu is expected to peak in early January and hopefully decrease as the winter progresses. If you do come down with the flu or a cold, research shows eating chicken  soup is beneficial and is much more than comfort food when you are sick.

Researchers found chicken soup acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. It inhibits the migration of white blood cells to mucous membrane surfaces helping to relieve congestion and decrease cold symptoms.

Chicken soup was also more effective than hot water at thinning mucus and speeding up movement through the nose. This helps limit the amount of time viruses come in contact with the lining of your nose and can decrease the length of your cold.

Chicken soup contains nutrients in a form the body can easily absorb. Vitamin A, C, magnesium, phosphorus, gelatin, and antioxidants have been known to help build a strong immune system and fight off viruses. The protein from chicken provides amino acids which are used to build antibodies to fight infection. The carbohydrates in noodles or rice provide easy to digest energy which keeps you feeling satisfied.

Because chicken soup is mostly liquid, it prevents dehydration, especially if you are sweating from a fever. Plenty of other fluids is also recommended to help maintain hydration levels. The sodium and potassium in chicken soup can help maintain electrolyte balance. If purchasing canned soup, read the food label as some soups contain excessive amounts of sodium. These should be avoided if you are salt sensitive or suffer from high blood pressure.

Some of the brands used in studies that were found to be beneficial include: Campbell’s Home Cookin’ Chicken Vegetable, Campbell’s Healthy Request Chicken Noodle, Lipton Cup-o-soup Chicken Noodle, and Progresso Chicken Noodle.

Old-Fashioned Chicken Noodle Soup
Serves: 4

8 cups fat-free lower-sodium chicken broth                                
2 (4-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken thighs                               
1 (12-ounce) skinless, bone-in chicken breast 
2 cups sliced carrots 
2 cups sliced celery
1 cup chopped onion
6 ounces uncooked egg noodles
1/2 tsp black pepper

Combine chicken stock with thighs and breast in a saucepan over medium-high heat; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Remove chicken from pan and let stand 20 minutes. Remove chicken from bones and shred meat into bite-sized pieces. Discard bones. 

Add carrots, celery, and onions to pan; cover and simmer 10 minutes. Add noodles and simmer 6 minutes. Add chicken and pepper, cook 2 minutes or until noodles are tender. Garnish with celery leaves if desired.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Updated Dietary Guidelines for Americans

Every five years updated Guidelines are released to help guide Americans to eat healthier. The latest Guidelines released Thursday focus on:

· Balancing calories with physical activity to maintain a healthy weight
· Consuming more nutrient dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fat-free and low-fat dairy products and seafood
· Consuming fewer foods with sodium, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, added sugars, and refined grains

More specific guidelines include:

· Consuming less than 10% of calories from added sugar daily
· Consuming less than 10% of calories from saturated fats daily
· Consuming less than 2,300 mg of sodium daily
· If consumed, drinking alcohol in moderation (up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men)

Many experts criticize the government for allowing food manufacturers and lobbyists to skew published Guidelines. There is a great deal of money at stake based on what the guidelines say, and many food manufacturers are fighting hard to keep their businesses profitable.

According to the government, the Guidelines are grounded in the most current scientific evidence meant to help people make healthy food and beverage choices. Experts, including those from the American Cancer Society, argue the new Guidelines did not highlight the latest medical research on red meat and processed meat consumption which is repeatedly linked to higher rates of heart disease, cancer, and premature death. It is well known the meat industry has a huge influence on the USDA and many experts criticize this relationship skewing the Guidelines.

Overall we applaud the Guidelines for encouraging a reduction in added sugar, saturated fat, and sodium. In 2005 the Guidelines targeted dangerous trans fats resulting in the FDA requiring trans fats be listed on nutrition labels and removal of trans fats from all foods by 2018.

Optimism for similar changes in sugar and sodium usage by food manufacturers is anticipated. We are also pleased to see focus on the importance of everything one eats and drinks over a lifetime, rather than focusing on one specific nutrient or a specific diet to follow. It is clear the updated Guidelines are beneficial for Americans but there is certainly room for improvement.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Vitamin D Deficiency-What Are the Symptoms?

Rising evidence is linking vitamin D deficiency to increased risk of chronic diseases such as hypertension, heart disease, autoimmune diseases, and cancer. Also known as the sunshine vitamin, vitamin D is converted to a hormone within the body and acts as a chemical messenger between cells. Over 200 genes respond to vitamin D where it has a pivotal influence on bone health as well as controlling inflammation, making it a determinant factor in the development of many diseases.

42% of US adults are deficient in vitamin D, the highest rates were among African Americans and Hispanics according to a 2010 study in Nutrition Journal. People living in the Northern United States above Richmond, VA were more at risk for developing vitamin D deficiency in the winter due to the angle of the sun preventing UVB rays from being absorbed by the skin.

Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin because the body can produce its own supply from sunlight. Sun exposure allows the body to synthesize vitamin D in the skin, where it is then metabolized in the liver and kidneys to become activated for use. To prevent deficiency it is recommended to expose arms and legs to sunlight for 5-30 minutes between 10am-3pm twice per week; although season, latitude, and skin pigmentation could alter exposure time requirements.  

Vitamin D is also found in some foods such as fortified dairy products, salmon, sardines, mackerel, fortified oatmeal, fortified orange juice, fortified cereal, and some mushrooms.

You are at higher risk for vitamin D deficiency if you are African American or have darker skin tones, are elderly since vitamin D is not synthesizes as effectively, have a bowl disease such as IBS or Crohn’s, have limited sun exposure, are overweight since it is harder for the body to retrieve stored vitamin D imbedded in deeper adipose stores, and if you have kidney or liver disease.

Symptoms of deficiency are subtle, often people report bone pain or muscle weakness. Many times people do not have any symptoms at all. A blood test measuring the amount of vitamin D in your blood can assess whether you are deficient.

One study following 50,000 men for 10 years found those deficient in vitamin D were twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to men with sufficient vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D levels were also associated with higher risk of heart failure, sudden cardiac death, stroke, and cardiovascular disease.

Vitamin D has a role in lowering blood pressure and deficiency could result in higher blood pressure levels. Research shows vitamin D also plays a role in insulin secretion and vitamin D deficiency resulted in impaired insulin secretions and glucose intolerance in type 2 diabetics. In addition to increasing the risk of chronic diseases, deficiency can also cause rickets in children and osteoporosis in adults.

The recommendation for most people is to obtain sufficient sunlight or to consume 600 IU of vitamin D daily, 800 IU for people over 70 years of age. Since vitamin D is fat soluble taking too much could lead to toxicity. Do not exceed 4,000 IU daily unless under doctor