Posts Tagged ‘FOOD’

In the last blog (Dumb and Dumber Diets in 2012, January 13, 2013), I identified loser diets for last year. If those diets were ridiculous, who were the winners?

Each year nutrition experts evaluate more than 25 diets for the US News & World Report to decide the best overall diet. For the third year in a row, they chose the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. Scores were based on whether diets were easy to follow, nutritious, and safe and effective.

The primary focus of the DASH diet, developed by National Institute of Health, is to decrease sodium intake and thereby lower blood pressure. The 2010 Dietary Guidelines recommend a maximum of 2300 milligrams (mg) per day, the equivalent of about one teaspoon of salt. For African-Americans, those over age fifty-one or individuals who have chronic diseases of hypertension, diabetes, or kidney disease,the suggested limit is 1500 mg/day. The DASH diet also effectively lowers cholesterol and reduces risks for heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

What is this #1 diet? The DASH plan requires no special foods or difficult-to-follow recipes. It is based on eating a specific amount of servings from fruits, vegetables, low-fat milk products, whole grains, and protein foods from lean meats, poultry, fish, nuts, and seeds. It is lower in sodium, sweets, added sugars, and fats than what most Americans eat.

If you choose to follow this healthy diet, change your eating pattern slowly. Sudden increased amounts of fiber from fruits, vegetables, and grains may cause bloating and digestive upsets. Symptoms subside as your body system adjusts to healthier fares. The additional fiber is a benefit for overall health. If you eat very few fruits/vegetables, start with a vegetable at lunch the first day—maybe a salad or raw carrot strips—and alternate with a vegetable serving the next day at dinner. Add a fruit of your choice during the day. Gradually add more fruits and vegetables.

Alter milk products to lower the amount of fat in your diet. Begin with 2% products and gradually reduce the amount of fat over a period of weeks. Choose low-fat cottage cheese, yogurt, and other milk products.

The DASH diet is similar to recommendations from the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. A daily comparison for a 2000 calorie diet looks like this:

FRUITS: 4 Servings
VEGETABLES: 5 Servings
GRAINS: 6 Servings (1 oz./serving)
At least half from whole grain.
Choose from lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
DAIRY:  3 cups equivalent
Choose low-fat or skim products.

FRUITS: 4-5 Servings
VEGETABLES: 4-5 Servings
GRAINS: 6-8 Servings (1 oz./serving)
At least half from whole grain.
PROTEIN FOODS: Less than 6 oz.
Choose from lean meats, poultry, fish, legumes, nuts, and seeds.
DAIRY: 2-3 cups equivalent
Choose low-fat or skim products.

Check out more information on the DASH diet at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/dash_brief.pdf.  Find sample menus at: http://dashdiet.org/sample_menu.asp, and see select recipes at: http://dashdiet.org/DASH_diet_recipes.asp

Other good choices are out there, but if you want #1, DASH is the way to go. Why wait to start getting healthier?

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November 14 is World Diabetes Day. The World Health Organization estimates that diabetes affects more than 346 million people worldwide. In the United States, diabetes afflicts more than eight percent of the population with about seven million of those undiagnosed.

Type 1 diabetes usually develops in childhood. The pancreas is unable to produce enough of the hormone insulin to convert blood glucose into energy. Only about five percent of those with diabetes have this form.

Type II diabetes is often called adult-onset diabetes. It is more prevalent in African Americans, Latinos, Native Americans, Asian Americans, and in the aged population. This type more commonly occurs as a result of excessive weight caused by a poor diet and too little exercise.

Diet is key in controlling diabetes. Often people who are overweight and diagnosed with the condition can improve or even eliminate the disease  by losing weight and eating a healthier diet. The American Diabetes Association (ADA) at http://www.diabetes.org/food-and-fitness/food/what-can-i-eat/ provides guidelines to improve eating. These include:

  • Make healthy food choices. Choose from a variety of vegetables, fruits, lean meats, whole grains, and low-fat dairy products.
  • Recognize and control intake of foods that raise blood glucose. Carbohydrates raise sugar levels in the blood. The carbohydrate sugar does not cause diabetes, but consuming too much can increase blood glucose levels and result in weight gain. However, not all sugars are bad. Sugars primarily come in the form of natural sources, such as fruits which are healthy for you, and added sugars. It is the latter that can create problems. Starch is another source of carbohydrate. Choose those higher in fiber and from whole grain sources.
  • Consume more diabetes superfoods. The ADA lists the following as superfoods: beans, dark green leafy vegetables, citrus fruit, sweet potatoes, berries, tomatoes, fish high in Omega-3 fatty acids, whole grains, nuts, and fat-free dairy products. Some of these foods are high in calories so enjoy but watch serving size.
  • Choose desserts sparingly and selectively. A diagnosis of diabetes doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy an occasional treat. Choose those with fewer calories and savor small portions.
  • Fats. Learn the difference between good fats and bad fats. Those from animal source generally aren’t as healthy while most from plant sources are.

If you are one of those nearly nineteen million in the US already diagnosed with type-2 diabetes, review your lifestyle and keep blood sugar levels under control. If you aren’t, remember these tips to stay healthy and enjoy living without the risk of this disease and its many medical complications. For more information, see the ADA website at http://www.diabetes.org/diabetes-basics/.

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It almost seems un-American not to cook out on July 4th. Families throughout the nation celebrate this annual event with grills blazing, whether at a community event, a favorite park, or in their own backyard.

This happy time can result in unpleasant food poisoning unless foods are handled carefully. Follow these tips adapted from articles by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to keep foods safe.

  • Wash, Wash, Wash. Sure, you know to wash your hands before eating. But extend that washing to many times in food preparation to prevent cross contamination, especially when handling uncooked meats. Wash any surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meats. That includes those tongs used to transfer raw portions to the grill and back to serving dishes or plates.
  • Check Temperatures. Looks can deceive when it comes to doneness. Use a meat thermometer to make sure meat cooks to a safe temperature. Hamburger should show an internal reading of 160oF before serving to family and guests.
  • Hold Foods at Safe Temperatures. Even in optimum conditions, prepared foods should not stay out more than two hours. With a July heat-wave, that time drops to one hour or less. Keep hot foods hot and cold foods cold until serving time, either in your refrigerator and warming oven at home or in separate insulated containers when away from home.
  • Store Leftovers Appropriately. Place foods in airtight, shallow containers. Put uncooked meats in the lower part of the refrigerator and store other foods above.

Follow these guides to assure a food-safe and festive holiday. God bless America!

To see AND articles about keeping food safe, check the following sites.



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How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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Chocolate is a mainstay of many holiday treats. While two boxes of heart-shaped delicacies linger on my table, Easter approaches for another round of tasty morsels. Is there any good news for chocolate lovers? Yes. Chocolate may have some health benefits.

In forty-two clinical studies, people who consumed chocolate or cocoa for a few weeks to months had slightly decreased blood pressure and improved blood vessel function. The British Medical Journal reported that those who regularly consumed more chocolate (forty-five grams per week) compared to those who ate smaller amounts (less than nine grams per week) were nearly 30% less likely to experience stroke. Eating chocolate also decreased insulin levels and reduced diabetes risk. Researchers, however, did not support chocolate as a healthful indulgence and recommended moderation.

In another study, two groups of overweight and obese pre-menopausal women were given either a daily dark-chocolate snack or a non-chocolate snack. Both groups showed decreases in body weight. Thus, eaten sparingly, dark chocolate did not hamper weight loss.

From a health perspective, is chocolate good? Although flavanoids in chocolate, specifically flavanol, may be responsible for healthful benefits, researchers doubt one could eat enough to improve health without creating weight problems. The downside of this decadent treat is the high calorie, fat, and sugar content. Dark chocolate has more cocoa (60%) and less sugar than milk chocolate.

We don’t need an excuse or reason to eat chocolate, but we must be wary of too much of a good thing. A feasting frenzy isn’t a good idea. Although small amounts may help, too much may result in excessive weight gain, a known contributor to several health problems. Like most foods, moderation is key. Indulge your sweet tooth with a bit of dark chocolate now and then. Just settle for a small piece, not an entire box.

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March is National Nutrition Month. Sponsored annually by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the theme for 2012 is “Get Your Plate in Shape.” What does that mean?

The Academy adapted guidelines from the USDA brochure “Let’s Eat for the Health of It.” Those standards emphasized five areas:

  • Build a healthy plate. Cover half your plate with brightly colored fruits and vegetables. Choose fruits and unsalted nuts for healthy snacks.
  • Cut back on foods high in solid fats, added sugars, and salt. To help you do that, remove visible fat from meats, and choose those lower in fat content. Select drinks and foods with little or no added sugars. A 12-ounce can of cola has about ten packets of sugar. Check labels for sodium content in items like soups, breads, and frozen meals.
  • Eat the right amount of calories for you. To do that, 1) enjoy what you eat, but eat less, 2) stop eating when you become full, and 3) use smaller plates and bowls to help limit portion sizes. Before eating calorie-laden foods, ask yourself if the taste is worth those extra calories.
  • Be physically active your way. Choose your own type of exercise whether walking, swimming, cycling, or some other activity. If you can’t exercise for thirty minutes or an hour, ten minute cycles of exercise several times daily will pay dividends.
  • Learn to read food labels. Labels have ingredients listed in descending order of quantity in the product. Ingredients such as sugar may be listed in several forms: sucrose, glucose, high fructose corn syrup, and others. Watch for sodium content and the types of fats.

Improve your foods choices this month and every day. Get your plate in shape by following the above guidelines. Find more information about healthy eating at the links below.




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If you decided to express love to your valentine by making healthy food choices, consider helping the entire family live a healthier lifestyle. With so many meals eaten away from home, choosing the most healthful items becomes a challenge. Many restaurants help patrons make good choices by identifying items with fewer calories. Others offer smaller portions.

Several tips can help cut calories when eating out.

  • Order red instead of white sauces to lower calorie intake.
  • Request all dressings, sauces, butter, and gravies be served on the side so you can control serving size. Then use sparingly.
  • Choose entrees of chicken, seafood, or lean meat instead of fatty meats.
  • Check for menu items marked “healthy.”
  • Choose steamed, broiled, baked, grilled, poached, or roasted foods instead of those fried, smothered, sautéed, creamed, or au gratin.
  • Avoid cocktails, appetizers, and bread and butter before the meal.
  • Avoid all-you-can-eat buffets and specials. Order from the menu.
  • Split orders with someone else, ask for smaller portions, or ask for a to-go box at the beginning of the meal to help control the amount you eat.

With busy schedules, sometimes fast-food seems unavoidable. To make healthier choices and to teach your children to do likewise, consider the following tips.

  • Hold the mayo and other sauces.
  • Choose low-calorie dressings for salads
  • Avoid double meat portions. One portion is usually more than a serving size.
  • Choose chicken over higher fat burgers.
  • Ask for baked, broiled, or grilled fish sandwiches instead of fried fish.
  • Omit bacon on sandwiches. It’s high in sodium, usually high in fat, and adds little nutritive value to the meal.
  • Eat sandwiches open-faced to cut the extra calories from the top part.
  • Order whole-wheat buns or bread when available.
  • Choose low-fat milk, diet drinks, or water instead of regular colas.
  • Choose unsweetened tea instead of sweetened tea.
  • Skip the fries and request a fruit, fruit-cup, or vegetable such as salad.

Eating healthy isn’t nearly as hard as some try to make it. If you can’t bring yourself to make all these changes at one time, pick out a few you think your taste buds will tolerate and start there. You will at least be on your way to healthier eating and will probably lose a little weight along the way—which for most of us would be an added bonus. Bon appétit.

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