Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Cheers to That!

A new review published in The BMJ found coffee consumption might reduce risk of various cancers, liver, neurologic, and metabolic conditions. 

Data from 201 meta-analyses of observational research with 67 health outcomes and 17 meta-analyses of interventional research with 9 health outcomes were studied. Overall coffee consumption was associated with benefit rather than harm, with the largest reduction of risk coming from consumption of 3-4 cups per day compared to zero coffee consumption. This included all-cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, and cardiovascular mortality. High consumption was also correlated with lower risk of several cancers, liver conditions, metabolic conditions, and neurologic conditions.

The only exception was during pregnancy where high coffee intake was associated with low birth weight, preterm babies, and pregnancy loss.    Outside of pregnancy evidence suggests up to four cups of coffee per day might reduce risk without causing harm. Let’s cheers to that!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

How to Lower Your Blood Pressure

Last month the American Heart Association, American College of Cardiology, and seven other groups updated the national guidelines for blood pressure goals. The new guidelines define normal blood pressure as less than 120/80 mm Hg and high blood  pressure at or above 130/80 mm Hg. 

While there remains contention among many specialists, the national guidelines encourage lifestyle change for Stage 1 hypertension in the 130/80 to 139/89 mm Hg range unless the patient has cardiovascular disease or is at higher cardiovascular risk; in which case medication may be necessary. For those with blood pressure 140/90 mm Hg or higher medication along with lifestyle change is encouraged.

Lifestyle change encompasses diet, exercise, and behaviors. The diet with the greatest documented health benefits for hypertension is the DASH Diet (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) which has been shown to lower blood pressure in as little as 14 days and one study showed after 4 months dropped blood pressure by 20 mm Hg in some participants.

The DASH Diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fat-free/low fat dairy, whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, and nuts. It is low in sodium, sugar, red meat, and saturated fat. By combining foods rich in potassium, magnesium and calcium while limiting sodium, greater blood pressure control is achieved.

To help lower blood pressure it is encouraged to limit sodium to less than 1500mg/day, that is less than 1/2 tsp of salt...including “hidden” sources in soup, restaurant/take-out food, tomato sauce, cheese, bread, and salad dressing. Read food labels and avoid anything over 300mg/serving. If it tastes salty or you can see salt you should avoid it.

On the positive side you can enjoy many foods rich in potassium, magnesium, and calcium such as spinach, pumpkin seeds, halibut, almonds, cashews, unsalted beans, low fat/nonfat yogurt, bananas, oranges, and sweet potatoes to name a few.

The DASH diet is not necessarily designed for weight loss, however cutting calories and getting to a healthy weight helps lower blood pressure. One study showed for every 2.2lbs lost a person can drop systolic blood pressure by 1mm Hg.

Living an active lifestyle can help lower blood pressure, especially when engaging in aerobic exercise such as fast walking, biking, jogging, basketball, etc. It is recommended to exercise at least 150 minutes per week at 65% or higher of your maximum heart rate; although if you are new to exercise start out slow and build up to that over a few weeks. 

Avoid smoking and if you consume alcohol frequently cut back; high alcohol intake can increase blood pressure. Interestingly though, drinking less than two drinks per day for men and less than one drink per day for women has been shown to decrease blood  pressure in some studies. It is not recommended to start drinking if you currently do not, but if you enjoy an occasional libation that is likely okay.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Improve Memory with Exercise

Deep within our brain the hippocampus has an important role in controlling our long-term memory, emotions, and spatial navigation. In the first study of its kind, researchers in Australia and the UK examined the impact of aerobic exercise on the hippocampus in humans.

Brain scans from 737 participants were reviewed before and after an exercise program. Participants ranged from 24-76 years of age and included health people, those with mild Alzheimer’s, people with depression, and people with schizophrenia.

Exercise programs included aerobic exercise on a stationary bike, walking, or running on a treadmill 2-5 times per week for 3-24 months. 

While our brain typically shrinks about 5% per decade after the age of 40, researchers found a significant increase in the size of the left area of the hippocampus in study participants. Researchers believe physical exercise is one of the “proven” ways to maintain brain size and function as we get older.

With exercise the body produces brain-derived neurotrophic factor which appears to reduce the deterioration of the brain. Over time this may be why aerobic exercise prevents age-related mental decline.

Indirectly exercise can help you get better sleep, improve your mood, and reduce stress and anxiety; problems which can contribute to mental impairment.

Researches are optimistic regular aerobic exercise might reduce Alzheimer’s and dementia, although more research is needed to establish such benefits.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Maintain Don’t Gain
Thanksgiving Survival Plan

  • Eat a normal breakfast and a light lunch. Avoid skipping meals because it slows down your metabolism and increases hunger causing you to overeat later on.

  • Wake up early and exercise to burn off extra calories you will be eating and to alleviate some holiday stress.

  • Stick to water or sparkling water instead of sweetened beverages. Limit alcohol intake and pick light beer or wine instead of mixed drinks, eggnog, or punch which can be over 500 calories each.

  • Limit appetizers to lower calorie options like fresh vegetables and shrimp cocktail. Make a point not to stand near food to reduce nibbling temptation. 

  • If you know you will not find any healthy choices bring a healthy side dish or salad to share.

  • Survey the entire table before placing food on your plate. Decide which foods are worth eating and which you should ignore. Stick to your decision, don’t waste calories on foods you don’t love. 

  • Put a small portion on your plate. You can go back for more if you love it and are still hungry. 

  • Pace yourself and be aware of what you are eating. Eat slowly to savor the taste and texture of your food. Talk more to eat less. 

  • Eat until you are satisfied but not full. Leave some food behind on your plate, especially if you did not love eating it. Drop out of the “clean plate” club mindset. 

  • 400 calories for a slice of pie can be a big problem. Don’t feel obligated to have dessert if you don’t want any. Avoid “extras” such as ice cream. Try 1-2 cookies or a slice of cake instead of pie, or eat less of the pie crust. 

  • Don’t feel guilty! Holiday’s should be celebrated with family and friends. Treat yourself in moderation and understand one meal has a minor impact when you are good all week.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Splenda and Diabetes Risk

Splenda (also known as sucralose) is a zero calorie sweetener that satisfies a sweet tooth without the guilt...although research shows it may be doing more harm than good.

One study from Washington University School of Medicine found obese people without diabetes experienced 20% higher insulin levels after consuming Splenda compared to consuming water before a glucose-tolerance test. How could this be when Splenda is zero calories? Some findings show receptors in the mouth and in the GI track detect sweetness which stimulate the release of insulin. Over time, excessive insulin secretion could lead to insulin resistance, a hallmark of type 2 diabetes.

Another study from Adelaide Medical School in Australia found healthy normal weight people who consumes sucralose for two weeks had a change in glucose absorption, insulin and gut peptides, and blood glucose levels which increased their risk for type 2 diabetes.

According to a study published in the Diabetes Care Journal daily consumption of diet soda (which includes artificial sweeteners such as sucralose, aspartame, saccharin, etc.) was associated with a 67% greater risk of type 2 diabetes compared to non-consumers. Daily consumption also increased risk of metabolic syndrome by 36%. Metabolic syndrome is a group of conditions (high blood pressure, high blood sugar, abnormal cholesterol, and a large waistline) that increase risk of cardiovascular disease.

Other studies have highlighted the negative impact of diet soda and weight. A 10-year study from University of Texas found people who drank two or more diet sodas daily had six-times the waistline compared to those who never drank diet soda. Researchers speculate diet soda may actually stimulate appetite and cause a person to eat more later in the day.

Researches from Boston University School of  Medicine followed over 4,000 people over the course of a decade and found people who drank at least one diet soda daily were three times as likely to develop both stroke and dementia. Consumption of regular soda had no increase in stroke or dementia risk, although researchers are quick to state water is the best fluid to drink instead of sugar or alternatively sweetened beverages.

Splenda carries consequences and is not a good substitute for people trying to live a healthier lifestyle. In fact the research is showing real sugar might be better than artificial sweeteners despite having calories. The best beverages to drink regularly are water, seltzer, and unsweetened tea. When it comes to added sugar men should limit their intake to 3 tablespoons (37 grams) daily and women should limit their intake to 2 tablespoons (25 grams) daily.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Romanesco or Space Broccoli?

Spiral-shaped florets, florescent lime-green hue, Romanesco looks more like a vegetable from Star Wars than something people eat on planet earth.

What might look like a new vegetable surfacing at your farmer’s market, Romanesco has been grown in Italy since the 16th century. It was likely crossbred by farmers to create a striking vegetable with crunch and delicate flavor.

Similar to broccoli and cauliflower, the Romanesco is easier to digest. It is rich in zinc, vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber, and carotenoids. It provides antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Studies have found Romanesco to be high in kaempferol, a flavonoid that inhibits cancer cell growth and induces cancer cell death. Kaempferol has also been shown to prevent arteriosclerosis by inhibiting oxidation of cholesterol.

When shopping for Romanesco look for dense and heavy heads with bright green color. The stem should be firm; avoid any signs of wilting. It should keep about a week in the refrigerator.

Romanesco can be eaten just like cauliflower. Try serving it raw along with hummus or tossed into a salad, sautéing or roasting it with olive oil and garlic, or steaming it for an easy side dish. It cooks fairly fast so be sure not to overcook it; you want to keep its shape.

Spicy Romanesco with Lemon and Capers
Serves: 4
130 calories per serving

1 head Romanesco, cut into florets
3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 tbs capers, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper

Directions: Preheat oven to 425F. On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper toss the Romanesco with 2 tbs olive oil. Roast for 10 minutes, stir, and roast for another 10 minutes until browned and tender. Meanwhile in a medium sized bowl whisk together remaining olive oil, lemon juice, lemon zest, capers, red pepper flakes, and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Remove Romanesco from the oven and toss in dressing before serving.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Metabolic Adaptation: How eating too little can damage metabolism

Metabolic Adaptation describes how the body fights to maintain equilibrium and prevent starvation. It was very helpful back in our caveman days but a real problem today for people who need to lose weight.

As you lose weight your body adapts to conserve energy and be more efficient. With less body weight, resting metabolic rate decreases and you do not burn as many calories when exercising. With less food intake thermogenesis lowers. Hormones increase to stimulate appetite and stress from eating too little can cause higher levels of cortisol in the body.

As metabolic adaptation occurs weight loss reaches a plateau. At this point weight loss can continue only if you add more exercise or reduce calories even more. If calorie intake is already very low and exercise volume is very high you reach a limit where it is not safe, realistic, or advisable to continue such extremes. If you stop your routine weight gain is common. 

A good example of metabolic adaptation comes from research on The Biggest Loser. Researchers measured 14 participants metabolic rate at the start and end of the show. On average metabolic rate decreased by 610±483 calories. Following up 6 years later 13 of the 14 participants gained weight, although most kept at least 10% of their weight off. Metabolic rate remained low and did not go back to normal as their weight increased. Overall metabolic rate was 500 calories lower than what would be expected in people of similar height, weight, and age.

To minimize metabolic adaptation it is recommended to decrease calories gradually to support 1-2 pounds of weight loss per week rather than crash dieting for rapid weight loss. Eat protein rich foods at each meal and snack since protein has the highest thermic effect, provides satiety, and helps retain more lean muscle mass. In addition to cardio, make sure you strength train at least twice per week since lean muscle increases metabolism. Get enough sleep for the body to recover and work on stress management.

As weight loss starts to plateau make additional modest adjustments to continue losing. The ultimate goal is to develop healthy routines that are sustainable long term and help you feel energized and healthy. Understand that weight loss is not easy. We generally overestimate the amount of calories we burn and underestimate the amount of calories we consume. Work on  accuracy before assuming your metabolism is damaged.

Interested in Nutrition Counseling? We can calculate your calorie target and create a customized nutrition plan to help you reach your goals. Contact me to schedule your appointment.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Are We Getting Healthier? Update on U.S. Obesity Rates

Back in 2000 no states had obesity rates over 25%. Today 47 states are over 25% causing a big need for concern. Fortunately, obesity rates are stabilizing in adults and kids. Progress is being made in the fight against obesity and hopes of furthering nutrition education and public health funding can continue efforts into the future.

Last year was the first time the State of Obesity: Better Policies for a Healthier America report showed a decline in obesity rates. Encouraging reports for this year again show a decline in one state (Kansas), an increase in four states (Colorado, Minnesota, Washington, and West Virginia), with all other states staying stable.

Based on data from the Centers for Disease Control, the highest obesity rates are in the South, Midwest, and in adults without a college education and income below $15,000 per year.

The most obese states are:
1. West Virginia 37.5%
2. Mississippi 37.3%
3. Alabama and Arkansas 35.7%
4. Louisiana 35.5%

The least obese states are:
1. Colorado 22.3%
2. The District of Colombia 22.6%
3. Massachusetts 23.6%
4. Hawaii 23.8%
5. California 25%

Pennsylvania ranks 25th most obese at 30.3% and New Jersey ranks 36th most obese at 27.4%.

The fight against obesity is far from over but small changes every day can lead us to a healthier future.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Is Occasionally Drinking During Pregnancy Safe?

Experts agree binge drinking is very dangerous to a pregnancy. But are a few sips of wine or champagne at a special occasion really harmful? Many pregnant women ask this question and with limited research in the area the true answer is hard to find.

The American Academy of Pediatrics, March of Dimes, and Centers for Disease Control have strong positions that women who are pregnant, trying to get pregnant, or who think they might be pregnant should not drink   alcohol. Their position is that no level of alcohol is safe during pregnancy.

One of the main concerns is that alcohol quickly passes through the placenta and umbilical cord to the baby and can lead to fetal alcohol   spectrum disorders that impact head size, height, weight, speech, vision, hearing, and other thinking and developmental skills.

Unfortunately the harmful impact of alcohol can be subtle and difficult to detect. It is not clear whether there is a safe threshold, or if even small amounts of alcohol can harm some infants.

One British team reviewed over 26 studies on women who had low alcohol consumption during their pregnancy (less than 1-2 glasses of light white wine or beer per week). Due to lack of data a safe level of consumption could not be identified. Researchers found evidence of an 8% greater chance of a low birth weight baby and a 10% greater chance of a      premature baby in women who drank lightly compared to those who completely avoided alcohol just before and during pregnancy. 

Despite health organizations strong advise, some controversial studies have offered different evidence. One study published in 2010 in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health found no increased risk of behavioral or cognitive problems by age 5 in children who’s mothers consumed 1-2 alcoholic beverages per week during pregnancy.

The bottom line, until more research is conducted we do not know the risks. Many experts encourage women not to take chances; given so many other factors one can worry about, take alcohol out of the equation.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Most Disgusting Smelling Fruit In the World

If you travel to Southeast Asia, or to your local Asian market, you might find a very large and very smelly durian fruit. Banned from many hotels, airports, and the Singapore Mass Transit-if you’ve smelled it once you won’t forget.

The durian is regarded as the “king of fruits” due to its large size. It can weigh between 2-7 pounds and grow up to 12 inches long and 6 inches wide. A thorny greenish-brownish colored skin covers its yellow flesh.

The smell has been described as a combination of rotten onions, raw sewage, and turpentine which can linger for several days. Despite the dreadful smell the flesh has a pleasant sweet taste of almonds and custard. People either love it or hate it.

While not native to Thailand, the country is a major producer and hosts the World Durian Festival annually. Southern Thai people often eat the fruit young when the flesh is still crisp and mild in flavor. Northern Thia people often wait for the fruit to fully ripen and become soft and aromatic making the flesh very rich and slightly alcoholic.

Strong demand for high quality durian can drive prices high, costing about $8-15 USD per fruit. Some markets will sell the flesh only, and people in Singapore have spent as much as $50 USD for six pieces of the flesh.

The flesh can be eaten raw or cooked to flavor traditional Asian dishes, added to sweet sticky rice, made into ice cream, served in cappuccino, and turned into candy. In traditional medicine it has been used to reduce fevers and as an aphrodisiac. The skin is not edible, and while raw seeds are toxic they can be boiled or roasted making them safe for consumption.

Half a cup of durian flesh has 179 calories. The fruit is a good source of fiber, potassium, vitamin C, folate, thiamine, riboflavin, and B6.

Durian contains compounds that may prevent alcohol from being broken down in the body, resulting in increased blood alcohol levels, nausea, vomiting, and heart palpitations. It is advised not to consume durian and alcohol together.

This exotic fruit isn’t for everyone but the next time you find yourself in Southern Asia or an Asian market give it a try; if they are nearby you can’t miss the smell.

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Eat Pizza and Lose Weight?

A New Jersey man named Brian Northrup claims he lost 5.9 lbs and improved his athletic performance after eating a full Domino’s pizza every day for a year.

Using social media Northrup tracked his starting weight at 167.1lbs and ending weight 367 days later at 161.2lbs where he celebrated with three Domino’s pizzas filled high with feta, sausage, bacon, and pineapple.

While this was not a scientific experiment Northrup claims “I eat more in order to work out more” which helped give him energy to lift weights 3-4 time per week and do 20-30 minutes of cardio daily. Northrup claims his routine increased his strength, speed, and cardiovascular endurance while getting him in great shape.

Active men like Northrup, aged 25-29 years, can require over 2800 calories per day to sustain themselves. One medium Domino’s pizza has 1680 calories which could explain why he was able to lose weight despite eating an entire pizza daily.

Health professions question the long term safety of his daily consumption since one entire pizza has 64g total fat, 28g saturated fat, and 3600mg sodium. Strong evidence-based research shows high intake of saturated fat increases chronic disease risk and high sodium intake has been linked to hypertension risk and stomach cancer.

Food is fuel and plays an important role in energy production, especially when it comes to athletic performance. Obtaining sufficient calories, clean burning fuel, and the right amount of carbohydrates, fat, and protein is encouraged to promote optimal athletic performance. 

Domino’s states they did not sponsor the social media stunt and hope Northrup is a member of their Loyalty Program to earn free pizzas overtime.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Marijuana and Hypertension Mortality Risk

There is more support for marijuana legalization which may significantly increase usage. While it provides benefit for some, little research on its impact to cardiovascular health has been done.

A new study published in the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology found 21% of their 1,213 participants smoked only marijuana, 20% smoked marijuana and cigarettes, and 4% only smoked cigarettes. The average use of marijuana was 11.5 years.

From the data collected researchers found marijuana use to be associated with a 3.42 times higher risk of death from hypertension with an increase of 1.04 times higher risk for each year of use. It was found that cardiovascular risk was higher in marijuana smokers than cigarette   smokers which was cause for concern. One researcher stated “the detrimental effects of marijuana on brain function far exceed that of cigarette smoking.”

Marijuana impacts the cardiovascular system by stimulating the sympathetic nervous system. This can lead to an increase in oxygen demand, heart rate, and blood pressure. Cases of heart attacks after marijuana use have been reported.

Researchers discourage believing in claims that marijuana is not harmful to health. As use becomes more popular they encourage caution to assess whether health benefits outweigh the risks. More studies to identify a correlation between marijuana use and cardiovascular health are encouraged. 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

It’s Greek to Me

They might come in similar white tubs, but all yogurt is not created equal, and consumers are catching on. Greek yogurt sales have skyrocketed, and for good reason. The straining  process removes whey, sugar, salt, and lactose from the yogurt which makes it more thick and creamy. For about the same amount of calories, Greek yogurt has less sugar and twice as much protein as regular varieties which makes it very nutrient dense. For people who are lactose intolerant Greek varieties might be better tolerated as well.

6 ounces of Greek yogurt has 15-20 grams of protein which is similar to 2-3 ounces of meat. Protein keeps you feeling full longer which can help keep your appetite controlled. Greek   yogurt is also very appealing to vegetarians and people seeking more protein in their diets. In comparison 6 ounces of regular yogurt has around 9 grams of protein.

Going Greek reduces carbohydrates, but only if you are cautions about the added sugar. Plain Greek yogurt is best for you (try sweetening it with fresh fruit). Many sweetened Greek yogurts can be very high in added sugar with total carbohydrates of 15-30 grams. Read the food label and select plain as often as you can.

Be cautious of Greek yogurt’s fat content, which can be much higher in saturated fat than regular yogurt varieties. Evidence-based research continues to encourage low saturated fat intake to reduce heart disease and diabetes risk. Eating healthier unsaturated fats in moderation is better for you. Select nonfat or 1% dairy products and pair them with healthy fats such as chopped nuts, flaxseeds, or chia seeds.

Whether you select Greek yogurt or regular varieties, both contain probiotics which promote a healthy digestive tract and a healthy immune system. It is encouraged to eat probiotics   regularly, making Greek yogurt a wonderful addition to your daily routine.

Greek Yogurt Tuna Salad Recipe
Serves: 2
90 calories per serving

1 5-ounce can chunk light tuna in water, drained
¼ cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt
1 tbs Dijon mustard
1 stalk celery, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Mix all ingredients together until well combined. Refrigerate at least one hour until chilled. Pairs well with salad, whole grain bread, or with whole grain crackers.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Wine vs. Liquor vs. Beer

Is drinking alcohol good for you? Studies are mixed with some showing moderate amounts of alcohol decreasing inflammation, increasing good cholesterol, and lowering risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Other studies encourage reducing intake of alcohol even for light to moderate drinkers for improved cardiovascular health. 

While it is uncertain whether no drinking or moderate drinking is better, the general consensus is that too much alcohol is bad for anyone's health.

Imbibing more than 2 drinks per day for men and more than 1 drink per day for women can increase blood pressure and triglycerides as well as increase the risk of heart disease, obesity, cancer, and liver disease.

What counts as 1 drink?
5 ounces of Wine
12 ounces of Beer
1.5 ounces of 80 proof Spirit

What alcohol is best for your health and for your waistline? Red wine likely offers the best health benefits because it contains the highest amount of antioxidants and natural plant chemicals, such as resveratrol, which might help lower disease risk. One glass has around 125 calories.

Beer and liquor have been shown to help lower disease risk too, but the calories can range greatly. Light beer such as Budweiser Select has only 55 calories per bottle, while craft beer such as Sierra Nevada’s Stout has 225 calories.

1.5 ounces of vodka has only 96 calories but use caution with sugary mixers like soda and juice which can make the calories soar. A cosmo has around 200 calories, a captain and coke has around 290 calories, and a strawberry daiquiri can be well over 600 calories. Mix with club soda and a fresh lemon or order on the rocks to cut down on calories.

Alcohol stimulates appetite too so watch what you are eating, especially bar food and late night snacks that often accompany libations.

Steamed Mussels Recipe
Serves: 4

4lbs mussels                            
2 tbs olive oil                              
1 shallot, minced                    
2 garlic cloves, minced             
4 sprigs fresh thyme                     
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, juiced
1c low sodium chicken broth
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 tomato, diced
1/2 cup roughly chopped parsley

Directions: Scrub mussels under cold water, discard any with broken shells. Heat oil in a 6qt pot and sauté shallots, garlic, and thyme. Add mussels, wine, lemon juice, broth, and red pepper flakes. Cover pot and steam over medium-high heat for 5 minutes until mussels open. Toss in tomato and parsley, cover, and steam 1 minute more until soft. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Do You Have To Wash Produce?

From farm to table, estimates show about 20 people will touch your produce before you bring it home. That is a lot of opportunities for germs and microorganisms to spread. In fact the CDC estimates each year 1 in 6 people in the U.S. gets sick from food borne illness, 128,000 people are hospitalized, and 3,000 people die.

One study on 4,600 different food borne illness outbreaks found 46% of cases were linked to produce, in particular leafy greens such as kale and spinach. Contaminated water from fecal matter resulted in norovirus being the responsible contaminant for the majority of illnesses.

A different study analyzing produce from countries around the world found 97 different bacteria, many of which are known   opportunistic pathogens. The most abundant pathogens were E. coli which was found on 22% of vegetables and enterobacteriaceae which was found on 60% of fruits and 91% of vegetables.

To remove germs researches at Connecticut Agricultural Experiment Station found rinsing produce under tap water for one minute reduced pesticides and microorganisms by 90%. Water temperature did not change results but rubbing produce by hand was most beneficial.

Another study at the University of Florida found mixing vinegar with water removed E. coli and other bacteria and viruses by 95% on strawberries tested.

Experts and the FDA recommend washing produce to remove pesticides and microorganisms that could be harmful when consumed. It appears washing and rubbing produce under tap water is just as effective if not more effective than soap and vegetable washes. Diluted vinegar solutions are beneficial for removing additional bacteria and viruses.   

Grilled Fruit Kabobs
Serves: 8
150 calories per serving

8 wood or metal skewers (soak wood skewers at least 1 hour in water)
Assorted fruit cut into 1” cubes (pineapple, strawberries, banana, mango, etc.)
1 cup nonfat vanilla Greek yogurt
1/3 cup creamy natural peanut butter

Skewer the assorted fruit and place on a medium heat grill about 2-3 minutes each side until slightly brown.

Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk together yogurt and peanut butter until smooth. Serve as a dip with fruit kabobs for dessert. 

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Is The Charcoal Food Trend Safe?

Black is in when it comes to food. Activated charcoal from burnt coconut shells, wood, or other plants is being used to color ice cream, juices, hot dogs, biscuits, and even cheese. 

Where can you find such foods? Health food stores nationwide are showcasing charcoal juices and waters, Morgenstern’s in NYC broke headlines featuring coconut ash ice cream, and to celebrate 10 years in Japan IKEA featured black hot dogs for $2.95.

 Activated charcoal has been used for centuries and continues to be used today in emergency rooms around the world. It binds easily to substances and has been lifesaving if someone ingests poison or overdoses. The charcoal will bind to the drug or chemical and prevent it from being absorbed by the body. 

While small amounts used in food is unlikely to cause harm, the safety of long-term use has not been studied. Researchers are concerned regular charcoal use could bind to vitamins and minerals in food and drinks, depriving the body of nutrients it needs.

Claims that it cures a hangover are also unlikely; it would take twice the typical dose used for poisoning to bind alcohol from one beer.

Despite numerous health claims, activated charcoal is unlikely to do a lot of good unless you’re been poisoned. We don’t recommend jumping on the charcoal juice or water craze, but small amounts in food or drinks is likely safe.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Minimize Vacation Weight Gain

Most summer vacations center around food and indulging, which can have major consequences once you come back home. Studies show 61% of American adults gained weight while on vacation. Some gained as much as 7 pounds due to higher calorie intake, especially from alcohol. The average weight gain was 0.7 pounds, which is not too shocking, however the weight tended to stay on after they returned home.
Weight creep is when people gain small amounts of weight over a long period of time. What might not seem like too much weight gain over vacation can add up after several years. Unless you weigh yourself regularly people don’t realize subtle weight gain is happening. Follow these tips to minimize vacation weight gain this summer:

Weigh yourself before and after vacation

Go hiking, swim, plan physical activities, and exercise during your trip

Pack healthy snacks and sandwiches in a cooler for road trips

Don’t load up at breakfast, instead set the tone for the rest of the day by practicing portion control

Pick healthy menu items at restaurants such as baked poultry, fish, salads, and vegetable based dishes

Treat yourself in moderation, but not every day

Enjoy small portions and eat slowly

Order wisely from the bar, fruity drinks can have over 500 calories. Stick with wine, light beer, white wine spritzers, vodka soda, and champagne.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Watch out! Fried Potatoes Could Be Deadly

A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found people eating fried potatoes, in the form of French fries, potato chips, or hash browns, two-three times per week doubled their risk of dying early compared to people who never ate fried potatoes.

Potato chips and French fries were found to contain higher levels of acrylamide, which the World Health Organization and FDA state is a major health concern due to its neurotoxicity in humans and carcinogenic properties.

Frying foods also oxidizes cholesterol more readily, which can produce more atherosclerotic plaque compared to nonoxidized cholesterol in the body.

Fried foods are high in calories, which could lead to weight gain and high in saturated fat, which could raise cholesterol. A side of French fries typically has 500 calories, 24g fat, 3.5g saturated fat, 66g carbs, and 350mg sodium. Add a few squirts of ketchup and the sodium increases to 670mg.

The American Heart Association Recommends reducing saturated fat to no more than 5-6% of total daily calories. For a 2000 calorie diet that is 11-13g per day.

The study was observational and cannot conclude fried potatoes cause early death, however researchers believe fried potato consumption is associated with a less healthy Western diet associated with higher mortality rates.

The study found no raise in mortality rates from people eating non-fried potatoes. A small potato with the skin is rich in fiber, has more potassium than a banana, provides half your daily needs of vitamin C, and contains protein. If you love potatoes consider roasting them in the oven with olive oil and rosemary or steaming them for a few minutes in the microwave for a healthier side dish to a meal. 

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Reducing Risk of Alzheimer’s

Researchers at Temple University recently published a study in Annals of Clinical and Translational Neurology indicating extra virgin olive oil (evoo) protects memory and reduces  classic markers of Alzheimer’s disease such as  amyloid-beta plaques and neurofibrillary tangles in the brain.

Studying the relationship of evoo on Alzheimer’s, researchers fed one group of mice a diet rich in olive oil and a second group of mice regular chow. Mice fed the evoo diet for 3 months and 6 months performed better on working memory, spatial memory, and learning abilities tests than the group fed regular chow. There was also a dramatic difference in nerve cell appearance and function of brain tissue between the two groups.

Mice fed the evoo diet had less brain  inflammation. They had better synaptic integrity, which is the connection between neurons. They also had a dramatic increase in nerve cell autophagy activation; a cellular process that clears out toxins and debris, such as amyloid plaques and neurofibrillary tangles.

Neurofibrillary tangles are believed to contribute to nerve cell dysfunction in the brain, resulting in Alzheimer’s memory problems.

Researchers concluded “Thanks to the autophagy activation, memory and synaptic integrity were preserved, and the pathological effects in animals otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer’s disease were significantly reduced.”

Researchers plan to continue their study on the same mice who have developed plaques and tangles to determine if a diet rich in evoo could stop or reverse Alzheimer’s once present. 

Olive oil has a medium-high smoking point and can withstand cooking temperatures to up 375-400F making it a good oil for salads, baking, oven cooking, and stir-frying. 1 tbs has 120 calories so watch the amount you use if you are also watching your waistline.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Vegetarian Grilling

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics vegetarians have a lower risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity, and certain types of cancers including colorectal, ovarian, and breast.

Vegetarians are people who primarily eat fruit, vegetables, beans, grains, nuts, and seeds. Vegans exclude all animal products from their diet including dairy products, eggs, and honey. Lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but avoid meat, poultry, fish, and eggs. Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs but avoid meat, poultry, and fish. The lacto-ovo’s make up the majority of vegetarians in the United States.

People choose to be vegetarians for many reasons including economical, environmental, personal health, spiritual beliefs, and compassion for animals. A well balanced vegetarian diet can be sufficient in all essential nutrients including protein, but careful planning is  important; after all many processed foods such as chips and French fries are vegetarian but not healthy choices. Clean eating by targeting minimally processed wholesome foods   provide the essential nutrients the body needs for optimal health.

Top sources of vegetarian protein include beans, lentils, tofu, edamame, tempeh, hemp, seitan, nuts, seeds, eggs, low fat dairy products, textured vegetable protein, soy products, and whole grains. Numerous vegetarian protein powders are also an option, the most prevalent contain soy, brown rice, pea, hemp, whey, or seeds.

Summer grilling is most often associated with burgers and hot dogs, but vegetarians can enjoy so much more when grilling outside. Using the grill brings out the natural sweetness of vegetables and seals in moisture for tender texture. Grilled vegetables do not develop dangerous carcinogens that meat does when cooked over high temperature, such as Heterocyclic Amines (HCAs) or Polycyclic Aromatic Hydrocarbons (PAHs). Vegetables are also high in fiber, rich in nutrients, low in calories, and provide antioxidants to fight off free radicals in the body.

Whether you are a vegetarian or not we can all benefit from eating meatless meals during the week. Consider the delicious summer recipe below and consider adding a meatless Monday to your families routine to help increase the vegetables in your diet.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

How Accurate Is Your Fitness Tracker?

A new study from Stanford University published in the Journal of Personalized Medicine evaluated the accuracy of seven fitness trackers on the market: Apple Watch, Fitbit Surge, Samsung Gear S2, Microsoft Band, Mio Alpha 2, Basis Peak, and PulseOn.

60 healthy participants wore the wrist watches or bands while sitting, walking, running, and biking while also having continuous cardiac monitoring and indirect calorimetry to measure metabolic rate. Results showed fairly accurate measurements of heart rate, on average within 5% of the gold standard 12-lead ECG. Apple Watch had the greatest accuracy with an average error of 2.0% and Samsung Gear S2 had the lowest accuracy with an average error of 6.8% from the gold standard.

Unfortunately none of the devices accurately measured calorie expenditure. The most accurate device, Fitbit Surge, was off by 27% on average, and the least accurate device, PulseOn, was off by 93% on average. Researches caution use of fitness trackers for assessing calorie expenditure and encourage greater transparency from companies to validate data.

Wearable technology, such as fitness trackers, do a great job motivating people to get moving, stay mindful of their goals, and foster healthier habits throughout the day. This study highlights the benefit fitness trackers have on measuring heart rate within a generally acceptable range of error. Unfortunately there are some limitations and fitness trackers should not be relied on for accurate calorie expenditure at this time.

If you have been tracking exercise on your fitness device and considering that…cheeseburger/glass of wine/ice cream treat at the end of the day you might want to reconsider. While everything in moderation is good...if it seems too good to be true it probably is.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Probiotics For Depression

In our country depression is the most prevalent mental health condition. 80% of people do not receive treatment, and those that do face major side effects with medications. Could a change in diet alleviate symptoms for millions of sufferers? Scientists are optimistic it can happen with probiotics.

Scientists at the University of Virginia School of Medicine found a direct link between mental health and gut microbiome when they fed mice Lactobacillus probiotic bacteria found in yogurt resulting in a reversal of depression symptoms.

Scientists found when mice were stressed their gut microbiome changed and they lost Lactobacillus bacteria which then was  followed by depression symptoms. Feeding mice Lactobacillus bacteria with their food reversed their depression symptoms.

Lactobacillus bacteria in the gut also impacted the level of a  metabolite called kynurenine in the blood, which other studies have shown impact depression. 

The team of scientists plan to apply their findings on humans to study how the microbiome and probiotics could alter depression.  People with depression should not stop taking medications  without consulting their physicians, but including yogurt daily could be beneficial.

Yogurt begins with Lactobacillus cultures, but some products are heat treated which kills the good bacteria. The National Yogurt Association has a Active Cultures Seal on products that contain at least 100 million live and active cultures per gram. Look for the seal to ensure sufficient quantities of probiotics are in the yogurt you are eating.