April 29, 2005
Get Up and Get Moving in May!
May is National Physical Fitness and Sports Month and I encourage everyone to get up and get moving! Now, when I say get moving I mean a couple different things. It is important for all of us to be “active��? during our daily lives. So, if your day involves getting up, 10 hours of sitting at your desk, going through the drive-through on your way home, eating dinner as you watch television and going to bed, I’m talking to you. There are a couple things you want to keep in mind while you are at work. Number one is park your car far far away. If you drive to work, park your car in the furthest-most spot in the lot. If you take the bus, get off one stop early and walk the rest of the way. If you currently walk or bike to work – you are already many steps ahead! Number two is take your breaks. However, you are not going to the water cooler or break room for a doughnut, you are going for a walk. Fitting in three 10 minute walks a day can have significant health benefits. So this means your lunch break will also include a short walk. Don’t forget to walk by your boss’ desk to remind him/her that May 18, 2005 is National Employee Health and Fitness Day. Number three is take the stairs. If you have the choice of taking the elevator or the stairs, you will take the stairs. If there is a restroom on a different floor than the one you are on, I propose you take the extra steps and use the restroom on another floor. Your waistline will thank you later. Enough about work, let’s say you are at home and you are looking for ways to be active. You can work in your yard – mow the lawn, with a push-mower, of course, weed, plant flowers, fix the leaky hose or take your dogs for a walk. Inside, you can finish the laundry, organize the office or turn on some snappy music and clean, dance around or a combination of the two. All of these things keep you active as you go about your daily routine.
The other type of movement I want you to focus on is a “bout��? of exercise to help improve your fitness level. I said the E word, I know, but don’t think of it as effort, think of it as energized! First things first, find something you like to do. I like to run…maybe not always in the beginning but once I get into my rhythm, I could run forever. (By the way, National Running and Fitness Week is May 16-22) I have run in a marathon, 3 half-marathons and numerous short races like 5Ks, 10Ks, 5 milers and 10 milers. My favorites have been in San Francisco running across the Golden Gate Bridge, down Embarcadero, through the Presidio and Golden Gate Park. Others may despise running. That is why it is most important to find something you like so you can stick with it. You can bike, swim, walk, take an aerobics class, play basketball, soccer, or any other team sport. They even make video games in which playing it involves dancing or putting you through a boot camp workout! Keep in mind, I am in no way an advocate of video games and that is the only video game recommendation you will hear coming out of my mouth. So that is aerobic activity and is only one component of fitness. Being fit also includes strength training. Building strength not only makes you stronger but also prevents injuries, makes daily activities easier to do, keeps your bones strong and improves your posture. You can build strength by using free weights, fitness tubes, strength bands or even soup cans or water bottles. All you need is some resistance. The last component of fitness is flexibility. Benefits of flexibility include improvements in your range of motion, balance and also helps prevent injuries. Improvements in flexibility can be achieved through basic daily stretches of major muscle groups or by doing yoga or tai chi.
So now it’s up to you. Find some free time by turning off the television. You have ideas on how to get moving and hopefully a little motivation. Remember, we make time for things that we want to make time for and making time to be active, whichever frequency, intensity or type you choose is well worth the time and effort. Exercise has profound impacts on your health, including lowers blood pressure, blood glucose levels, triglycerides, increases HDL cholesterol, relieves stress, builds strength, endurance and flexibility, helps you sleep better, increases self esteem, protects your bones and boosts your energy level. Listed above are all the great reasons to be active: so what do you do?
** Please consult with your physician before starting any exercise program. If you are not physically active, it is wise to start slow and easy and gradually add time and intensity.
April 28, 2005
1 cup finely sliced carrots
1/4 cup chopped onion
2 ounce slivered almonds
1/2 cup brown rice
1/2 cup frozen peas
1 2/3 cup low--sodium chicken broth
Pepper to taste
1. Spray a nonstick skillet with cooking spray. Add carrots, onions and almonds and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until lightly browned.
2. Add rice and peas to carrots and mix well. Add broth and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce to low heat and cover tightly.
3. Cook until all liquid is absorbed about 25 to 30 minutes.
-- Recipe courtesy of Weight Watchers
'Enriched' means it isn't a true whole grain bread.
Cheryl Ann Macellaro wrote:
One of the new dietary guidelines this year recommends adding three or more whole-grain products to your daily diet. Whole grains are important for reducing the risk of heart disease and high cholesterol. They help control blood sugar and have been shown to help prevent cancer and bowel disorders.
Whole grain foods include breads, pastas, cereals and rice. Grain is made up of three parts: the bran, endosperm and the germ. Whole grains come from all three parts. Milled or refined flours come from the endosperm only, leaving out the nutrient-dense portions.
Reading the labels is the best way to ensure you are buying whole-grain foods. The first ingredient should read "made with whole wheat flour, whole oats or brown rice." If the label contains words such as "enriched wheat flour," that's the best way to tell it's not a whole grain product.
The best sources of whole grain foods are:
100 percent whole wheat bread;
Whole grain pastas;
Cheerios, Kashi and Total cereals
and brown rice.
Because they come from plants, they are low in fat and are a good fiber source.
Brown rice takes longer to cook but is more nutrient dense than the milled white rice. Trying whole wheat pastas, substituting whole wheat flour in place of white flour and making brown rice side dishes are just a few ways to add whole grains to the diet.
April 27, 2005
Few in U.S. Living Healthy Lifestyles
Steven Reinberg, HealthDay Reporter, HealthDay wrote:
Even though everybody seems to know what a healthy lifestyle is, very few actually live it, a new study contends.
Those who don't smoke, eat five servings of fruits and vegetables daily, exercise regularly and maintain a normal weight account for only 3 percent of the adult population in the United States, according to the report in the April 25 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine.
"We looked at national representative data for 2000," said study co-author Mathew J. Reeves, an assistant professor of epidemiology at Michigan State University. "We wanted to see the proportion of adults that met the definition for a healthy lifestyle."
In their study, Reeves and his colleague Ann P. Rafferty, from the Michigan Department of Community Health, collected data on 153,805 adults from all over the country. The data came from the 2000 Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System, which is an annual survey of the nation's health.
Reeves and Rafferty found that 76 percent of the people surveyed were nonsmokers, 40.1 percent maintained a healthy weight, 23.3 percent said they ate at least five fruits and vegetables daily, and only 22.2 percent said they exercised at least five times a week.
"When we look at the combination of all four factors, we found that only 3 percent of adults meet our criteria of a healthy lifestyle," Reeves said. "This data shows the extraordinarily low level of adults living a healthy lifestyle."
Reeves pointed out that there is substantial data showing the benefits of living a healthy lifestyle. "Those who live a healthy lifestyle live longer and have reduced disease risks, including risk for heart disease, cancer and diabetes. They have reduced medical expenditures and a better quality of life," he said.
The message is not new. "If you want to say, 'How can I best maximize my quality of life, my longevity, reduce my disease risk and reduce medical expenses?'-- you would lead this sort of healthy lifestyle," Reeves said. "Don't smoke, don't be overweight, exercise regularly and eat right -- it's exactly what your grandmother has been telling you for 50 years."
Not leading a healthy lifestyle has taken its toll, Reeves said. "We've got millions of adults in this country leading less than optimal lifestyles, and that's translated into the obesity epidemic, higher risks of chronic diseases," he said.
Reeve's main concern is for the future. "Because of the ability of the medical system to keep people alive longer, we are going to have more and more elderly people who have a lot more co-morbidities that are going to be consuming a lot of health-care dollars. We can't afford the health-care system we have now. What's it going to be like in 30 years?"
One expert thinks it's the job of health professionals to get the message out to people that living a healthy lifestyle is important. "We need to educate people about what is healthy, and how to incorporate it into their daily lives," said Samantha Heller, a senior clinical nutritionist at New York University Medical Center in New York City.
The problem, according to Heller, is that there is not enough money being spent to get that message out. "The government allots its funds to other places -- not a whole lot into public education and health," she said.
Another point Heller made is that today's culture promotes a sedentary lifestyle. "Our current lifestyle in this country supports sitting around," she said. "Within that lifestyle, you are bombarded by advertisements telling you to eat all this junk food. We have to figure out how to encourage people to buck the lifestyle we have created for ourselves."
Another expert believes that by not living healthy lifestyles, people are denying themselves a better life. "What we in preventive medicine know is that we are squandering disease-fighting opportunities," said Dr. David L. Katz, director of the Prevention Research Center at Yale University School of Medicine.
"The result is disease and premature death that simply need not occur," Katz said. "Reeves and Rafferty are pointing out how much of the power of preventive medicine is already in our hands. But for the majority of us, [it is] apparently slipping through our fingers."
The American Academy of Family Physicians can tell you more about staying healthy.
Copyright © 2004 ScoutNews, LLC. All rights reserved.
Iron-Deficiency Anemia Is Preventable
Iron deficiency anemia may be a common problem for young women, but that doesn’t make it ok. It can be prevented with a few changes in your food choices.
Iron deficiency results in the body having too few red blood cells or the cells aren’t able to carry adequate amounts of oxygen from the lungs to all of the body’s cells. This lack of oxygen results in cells that can’t produce enough energy, leading to overall fatigue.
Young women often suffer from iron deficiency anemia due to heavy menstrual flow, failure to consume enough iron-rich foods or elimination of high-iron foods entirely.
You can help prevent iron-deficiency anemia by including iron-rich foods in your eating plan. Iron from most animal sources usually is better absorbed than iron from plant sources.
Iron-rich foods include red meats like beef, pork, lamb and veal as well as chicken and fish. Good plant sources of iron include soy nuts, wheat bran, spinach, red beans and enriched cereals, rice and other grain foods.
For more help on how to include iron in your eating plan, contact a dietetics professional.
April 26, 2005
Considering a popular diet plan? For the sake of your health, check it out.
Diet books routinely top the best-seller lists, and new plans come out seemingly every day. Do they work? Will any of them be right for you?
If you are considering one or more popular diets or exercise plans, you owe it to yourself and your health to make sure their claims are valid. Ask yourself: Does the diet plan …
Promise a quick fix?
Encourage or require you to stop eating certain foods, food groups or products?
Rely on a single study as the basis for its recommendations?
Contradict recommendations of reputable health organizations?
Identify “good��? and “bad��? foods?
Just sound too good to be true?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, keep looking – for a plan that is backed by solid science, lets you keep eating your favorite foods and allows for flexibility.
Keep in mind: Your best source for help in making healthful changes to your diet is a dietetics professional with the training and expertise to help you develop an eating plan that is right for you. Visit www.eatright.org to find a dietetics professional near you.
Produced by ADA's Public
April 25, 2005
Vegetarianism: It’s More Than Just Peas and Carrots
Vegetarian eating continues to grow in popularity. More than six million adults in the United States follow vegetarian eating plans. The key to a healthy vegetarian eating plan is proper planning.
Vegetarian meals are a good way to add variety to your eating plan, keep fat intake low and help increase your fiber intake. It’s important to understand just what a vegetarian eating plan is and does.
There are several types of vegetarian eating plans including:
Semi-vegetarian - those who follow a vegetarian eating plan but occasionally eat meat, fish or poultry
Vegan—people who do not eat any animal foods
Lacto-vegetarian—those who eat dairy products along with plant proteins
Lacto-ovo—those who eat eggs and dairy products.
The key to healthy vegetarian eating is eating sufficient amounts of protein and consuming adequate amino acids. Vegans must work to ensure nutritional adequacy in their diet by eating enough grains, nuts, seeds and beans.
Adding dairy products and eggs to your diet will also help you meet your nutritional needs.
If you are a vegetarian or are thinking about trying a vegetarian eating plan, remember to choose a wide variety of plant proteins and other plant foods to help meet your nutritional requirements.
April 22, 2005
Q: Is it safe to re-use a disposable plastic water bottle?
A: Yes, but only up to a point. The bottles, designed for one-time use, are usually made of polyethylene, a flexible plastic that can be damaged with repeated use and washing. Some preliminary research suggests that this can release potentially harmful chemicals. But the studies have had inconsistent results, and researchers disagree about whether these compounds pose a significant risk.
A better reason not to re-use the bottles over and over is that they can become contaminated with bacteria from your hands or mouth. Bacteria don’t grow easily in water, but can thrive when saliva and food particles are present, especially if the bottle is left at room temperature
If you do refill your water bottle, do so only a few times. Before refilling, wash it in hot, soapy water, as you would anything you drink from—but not in the dishwasher. Wash the cap, too, and inside the narrow neck. Keep a re-used bottle out of heat or sunlight, which may speed degradation and increase bacterial growth.
Source: UC Berkeley Wellness Letter
April 21, 2005
TV Turnoff Week
National TV Turnoff Week is right around the corner. Get ready to turn off those televisions for good…or at least for the week of April 25th – May 1st. Watching television is one of the most inactive things you can possibly do. Not to mention all the food commercials you are exposed to which try to convince you that eating/drinking a certain food will make you look like this, act like that or have these kinds of friends. Then you have to deal with the urge to want to try the new flavor of Doritos that are now on the market or get the new burrito at the local taco joint. And, if you actually succumb to the urge to get the bag of Oreo cookies from the kitchen, you may mindlessly eat the whole thing by the time your show is over. Just think of all the free time you will have without TV. You can finish projects you started 3 weeks ago, play a game with your kids, go to that spinning class you have been meaning to try or maybe put on paper that novel you have been dreaming up in your head. You will be amazed of all the things you will accomplish. For more information, visit www.tvturnoff.org.
April 20, 2005
Lycopene: Antioxidants in Pizza?
Fruits and vegetables provide important nutrients including antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E, beta-carotene and lycopene. Antioxidants have disease-fighting properties that protect cells from damage by substances called free radicals. Antioxidants also may help keep the immune system healthy and reduce the risk for cancer and other diseases.
Lycopene has received a lot of attention from researchers in recent years. It is a pigment that gives vegetables and fruits, such as tomatoes, pink grapefruit and watermelon, their red color. It also appears to have strong antioxidant capabilities. Several studies suggest that consumption of lycopene-rich foods is associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Lycopene is not produced in the body, so you can only obtain its benefits by eating lycopene-rich foods. Canned tomato products, such as spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, ketchup and pizza sauce are by far the major sources of lycopene in the typical American diet. Other fruits and vegetables such as watermelon and pink grapefruit also provide lycopene, but in smaller amounts.
April 19, 2005
The New Food Icon
This morning the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the new "MyPyramid" Food Guidance System graphic symbol to help consumers implement the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans into their daily eating plans. You can find all the details at http://mypyramid.gov.
As the American Dietetic Association recommended last year, the USDA has retained the iconic and widely known shape of the Food Guide Pyramid as the government's primary graphical symbol of variety, proportion and moderation in making good nutritional choices. And ADA recommended that the educational messages within and accompanying the Pyramid should be updated to improve consumer understanding, which has also been done.
Will the new graphic symbol be successful in conveying to consumers the vital nutritional messages of balance, variety, moderation and adequacy that are found in the Dietary Guidelines' recommendations? Only time will tell for certain, and if MyPyramid can accomplish that objective it will be a great success.
As ADA told the USDA last year, no one graphic symbol can or should serve as a stand-alone consumer nutrition education tool. Many surveys, including ADA's own 1997 nutrition trends survey, found most people recognize the Food Guide Pyramid. The problem is that few people really understood the Pyramid and even fewer followed it. What is needed is what the USDA announced today: a Food Guidance System that includes a graphic symbol plus consumer messages and motivational and educational tools that work together to guide people toward healthy food choices.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines emphasize greater consumption of fruits, vegetables, low-fat dairy products and whole grains – foods that are naturally high in nutrients and low in calories. That is consistent with ADA's positions and consumer messages that emphasize the individual's total diet, or overall pattern of food consumed. ADA and the Dietary Guidelines for Americans agree that the keys are:
* Take a personalized approach to dietary advice and weight management, recognizing that one size does not fit all.
* Eat a variety of foods from every group in balance and in moderation.
* Pay attention to calorie consumption.
* Achieve a balance between food and regular physical activity.
As you know, the American Dietetic Association was deeply involved with the development of the Dietary Guidelines, and we will be just as involved in using them to set the nation's policy directions in nutrition programs, research, education, food assistance, labeling and promotion. On an individual level, I know all ADA members join me in looking forward to applying MyPyramid and its accompanying materials into our client counseling, patient care and consumer education.
In summary, the food and nutrition experts of the American Dietetic Association are committed to helping people understand and apply the recommendations of the 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans in their daily lives.
The New Dietary Dos and Don’ts
Harvard Health Publications
Every five years the federal government issues new dietary guidelines that are supposed to put the country on the road to healthier eating. Apparently Americans have been taking some wrong turns because two thirds of us are now overweight and nearly a third are obese (a body mass index of 30 or greater).
Weight control and exercise have been mentioned in the guidelines before, but the new set released in January 2005 puts them front and center where they belong. They give better advice about grains and cereals: At least three of the six daily servings are supposed to be whole grains. They also make a stronger statement about difference between the "good" and "bad" fats.
The dietary guidelines have trickledown effects on school lunch and other government programs, even if many Americans aren’t aware of the particulars. The new guidelines are especially important because they will be used to update the familiar Food Guide Pyramid.
Dr. Walter Willett, a member of the Health Letter’s editorial board and chair of the Harvard School of Public Health’s nutrition department, is happy about the emphasis on weight control and the approach to dietary fats. He says, though, that the carbohydrate recommendations could have been stronger, noting that they still allow three servings a day of nutritionally-empty refined starches. And Dr. Willett says the recommendation that we have three servings of fat-free or low-fat dairy products a day is a mistake — and a big win for the dairy industry: "In reality, large studies have consistently shown no reduction in fracture risk with high dairy intake, but many studies have shown a higher risk of prostate cancer."
Here are some highlights of the guidelines:
Weight management. Prevention is the best policy. Many of us could avoid weight gain in the first place by shaving 50–100 calories from our diets. The guidelines note that although the 2,000-calorie-a-day diet remains the reference diet, it’s not the recommended one. Many Americans should be eating far fewer calories than that. They say the best way to cut calories is to reduce the so-called discretionary ones that come from added sugars (in soft drinks and candy, for example), added fats, and alcohol.
Physical activity. Why do dietary guidelines include recommendations about physical activity? Because regular physical activity, as much as anything we eat, is essential to maintaining a healthy body weight.
Past guidelines have said that 30 minutes of exercise a day will reduce chronic disease risk and have other health benefits. The new ones say that most of us need an additional 30 minutes of moderate-to-vigorous physical activity to avoid gaining weight.
An hour of exercise a day — that sets the bar pretty high. But you don’t have to work out in a gym: Examples of moderate-level physical activity include gardening, dancing, and walking at a 3 1/2-mile-per-hour pace. And short, 10-minute bouts of activity have benefits similar to longer stretches so long as you reach the same daily total. So give yourself credit for the brisk walk from where you parked your car and similar activities.
Dietary fat. Most of the fat you eat should be the "good" polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats found in fish, nuts, and vegetable oils (corn, olive, soybean, etc.). Less than 10% of your daily calories should come from saturated fat, found primarily in meat and dairy products.
For the first time, the guidelines take a strong stand against the trans fats created by partially hydrogenating vegetable oils, saying you should eat as little trans fat as possible. Some experts were hoping they’d set a definite daily limit (1–2 grams), but Dr. Willett says the guidelines got it right. Trans fats are used to make baked goods and snack foods so they stay fresh longer. Other major sources include french fries and many stick margarines.
Carbohydrates. Fruit, vegetables, all grain-based foods, dairy products — they all contain carbohydrates, which in the good old days we called sugars and starch. The trick isn’t to boycott carbohydrates, but to make sure they arrive on our plates in packages — such as whole grains and in fruits and vegetables.
The guidelines aren’t very bold on the extra, empty carbohydrates from added sugars (the "more research is needed" refrain is sounded). The advice is to limit intake as part of the general limit on discretionary calories.
Potassium. Potassium offsets sodium’s effect on blood pressure and has other health benefits. Your daily diet should include 4,700 milligrams of the mineral. Potassium-rich foods include bananas, leafy green vegetables, and potatoes. Meat, milk, and some cereal products contain potassium but in a form that is difficult to absorb.
Fruit and vegetables. One of the first principles of healthy eating is to choose nutrient-dense foods that pack, calorie-for-calorie, the most amount of fiber, vitamins, and other nutrients. That’s why the guidelines say that the 2,000-calorie-a-day reference diet should include nine (!) servings of fruit and vegetables. For the average American, that’s over double the usual number of servings.
Dairy. At least the guidelines recommend the fat-free and low-fat dairy products, so people aren’t misled into eating cholesterol-boosting saturated fat. Dr. Willett notes, though, that dairy products are fairly high in calories. Three glasses of low-fat milk contain over 300 calories that the American diet doesn’t need.
Although the guidelines are written mainly for nutrition experts, they aren’t hard to understand. You can read the full, 84-page document at www.healthierus.gov/dietaryguidelines.
Copyright (c) 2004 by the Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College. Used with permission of StayWell. All rights reserved. Harvard Medical School does not approve or endorse any products on the page. Harvard is the sole creator of its editorial content, and that advertisers are not allowed to influence the language or images Harvard uses.
April 18, 2005
Peanut Butter: Not Just For Kids.
Looking for a tasty way to lower your cholesterol and reduce your risk of heart disease?
The answer may be in a food that many children love and enjoy on a regular basis: peanut butter. Research shows that peanut butter, along with peanuts, can help lower blood cholesterol and protect against heart disease, when used in a heart healthy eating plan.
Peanuts appear to have this effect because they contain healthy unsaturated fats. Other nutrients include fiber, vitamin E, folic acid, magnesium, copper and zinc. As with many other studies, the benefits of peanuts were seen with consumption of the food, not supplements.
A lot of people have misconceptions about peanut butter in that it is unhealthy because it has some saturated fat and some sugar in it. When you look at the big picture, the amount of healthy fats outweighs the small amount of saturated fat in a serving of peanut butter. I would also recommend the natural peanut butter which contains just peanuts and oil. Just remember, fat has the most calories per serving so even though the fat is a healthy fat, you still need to watch your serving sizes.
April 15, 2005
What you need to know about dietary supplements
Dietary supplements are growing in popularity and number, but how do you know if you need them or which ones do what? Remember, unlike drugs, supplements are not regulated by the FDA which means companies can put whatever they want in the pill and claim whatever they want about its action. Manufacturers and distributors are not required to record or inform the FDA of any reports of illness or injury associated with the dietary supplement. Some supplements are safe but ineffective. Some are unsafe but effective. Study results are mixed and human studies and long-term studies are lacking. The amount of the compound listed on the label is not always correct. Some may even contain banned substances.
Before you decide to add supplements to your routine, get the facts on what is known about them. Ask your physician or a dietetics professional the following questions about any supplements you are thinking about taking:
· What are the claims and are they valid?
· Where did the product information come from?
· Is the supplement safe and can it cause harm at any level?
· How does the supplement really work in the body?
· Does the supplement actually contain the amounts of ingredients it claims to?
· What is the scientific evidence behind the product?
· How much is recommended and how often should it be taken?
Always keep in mind that good nutrition depends on overall healthful eating and physical activity, not on the use of dietary supplements.
April 14, 2005
'Eat Right' Enzyme Directs Healthy Eating
Scientists Find Ancient Signal That Directs Appetite for Nutrition; Next Challenge Is to Listen
We shouldn't need our mothers to tell us to finish our vegetables -- research shows our bodies are wired to let us know.
Neuroscientists working separately at the University of California at Davis and at New York University School of Medicine have revealed an ancient "switch" in some mammals that signals the appetite to seek foods with perfect nutritional balance.
The mechanism has been found in rats, mice, slugs, even yeast and, the researchers say, there's every reason to believe it also exists in people.
"It's a very simple mechanism that's present in very simple organisms," said David Ron of the New York University School of Medicine. "When you see that in biology it usually means it's an important mechanism that's present in all species, including humans."
The trick is finding a way to emphasize that switch over less-healthy ones -- like the impulse to scarf down large quantities of fat and sugar -- so that people might listen to it more diligently. As researchers point out, the signal to eat good nutrition is only one of a wide array of signals at play when it comes to appetite.
"Food intake is complicated," said Ann Kelley, a neuroscientist at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. "There are so many molecules in the brain that turn it on and off that no one has a clear definitive idea of how it all works."
The 'Eat Right' Signal
The switch for eating good nutrition is not a single mechanism, but a cascade of events that starts with an enzyme known as GCN2 kinase. When eating a food that's deficient in one of the 20 critical amino acids (the building blocks that make up proteins), the body detects the deficiency in the bloodstream and puts the brakes on appetite. This prevents the animal from eating too much of one thing -- say corn, which lacks the amino acid tryptophan, and triggers more foraging for foods that can complete their nutritional needs.
"This tells us that we have an innate mechanism for recognizing what's good for us to eat," said Ron, who published his results in the current issue of the journal Cell Metabolism.
Dorothy Gietzen of the University of California at Davis has found similar results in rats, mice, even slugs. When Gietzen knocked out the gene that serves up the critical enzyme switch, the animals continued to eat foods that lacked nutrition. Animals who had not been tampered with waited for something more nutritious to come along.
"If the amino acid is not there, they won't eat the diet," said Gietzen, who published her most recent results in the journal Science. "Their brains recognized that their diet was not good for them."
The problem is there are other, stronger signals that don't always tell us to choose the apple over the candy bar.
"The story goes that in evolution when we didn't have much food around, the instinct to eat food rich in calories was a good signal to have because high-fat foods store well," said Kelley.
Battle of Signals
Kelley's research has shown that a high-fat diet appears to alter the brain biochemistry through the release of reward signals, in a similar reaction to drugs such as morphine. This is due to the release of opioids -- "pleasure chemicals" in the brain -- that reduce the feeling of being full.
More studies by Dr. Sarah Leibowitz, a neurobiologist at Rockefeller University in New York, have shown that exposure to fatty foods might reconfigure the hormonal system to want more fat. In her research, rats fed a high-fat diet become more resistant to leptin -- the hormone that stops eating. At the same time, levels of galanin -- a peptide in the brain that stimulates eating and slows down energy expenditure -- increased.
"Imbalanced diets, whether rich in sugar or fat, interfere with normal satiety processes, causing resistance to hormones such as insulin and leading to overeating," she said.
This might explain why an estimated 129.6 million Americans, or 64 percent, are overweight or obese. When we're faced with high-fat and high-sugar options, it becomes difficult to fight the urge to indulge. Still, there is reason to hope that the body's healthier instincts can win out when it comes to appetite.
Studies of babies have shown that, when presented with a variety of unprocessed foods, infants instinctively eat a little of each to achieve perfectly balanced meals. Ron thinks this means the babies are tapping into the very primitive enzyme switch that cues for complete nutrition.
That said, in today's society, where most Americans face an abundance of food choices and struggle with an abundance of urges, there may be no signal as important as culture -- and being told to finish your vegetables.
April 13, 2005
Grapefruit and Pills
Q. Why are patients taking several widely prescribed medicines warned against consuming grapefruit or grapefruit juice? A. Grapefruit interacts with an enzyme, found mostly in the lining of the digestive tract, that breaks down both the fruit and many drugs.
As a result, less of the enzyme is available to work on the drugs, and higher-than-normal amounts go into the bloodstream rather than being broken down. For some drugs, the effective dose is so much higher that it can be dangerous or even fatal.
The enzyme is called P450 34A. In 1989, scientists discovered that grapefruit juice could interfere with the digestion of one of the blood pressure medications called calcium channel blockers. Since then, the list of drugs with grapefruit warnings has grown.
Some widely prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs known as statins, including Lipitor, are of special concern; extra-high levels of the drug can cause damage to the muscles or kidneys. The list also includes some anti-anxiety drugs, antidepressants and sleeping pills; some AIDS drugs, heart drugs and blood thinners; some drugs to fight rejection of organ transplants; and some antibiotics, among many others.
The effect is long lasting, persisting 24 hours or more, so eating grapefruit in the morning and taking the drug at night won't help.
For a few drugs, grapefruit activates another digestive chemical, P-glycoprotein, and may prevent full amounts of the drugs from entering the bloodstream.
Carefully read the label and inserts when taking any new drug; ask your doctor about other possible food and drug interactions, too.
April 12, 2005
Feel Like a Nut?
Nuts to you! Just a small handful of nuts is packed with protein, other nutrients, fiber and health-protective plant substances. Stick to a small serving so calories don’t add up. In fact, 1½ ounces of nuts a day may reduce your chance of heart disease if the saturated fats and cholesterol in your food choices are low!
Different nuts have different benefits: almonds for the most fiber, almonds and hazelnuts for the most vitamin E (an antioxidant), pecans for more cancer-fighting ellagic acid, Brazil nuts for more selenium (another antioxidant), cashews and pistachios for more potassium, walnuts for omega-3 fatty acids. Many nuts also have phytic acid, which may reduce cancer risk and help control blood sugar, cholesterol and triglycerides.
Wonder about the fat? It’s mostly monounsaturated—the kind that doesn’t raise your blood cholesterol. And nuts are cholesterol-free, too.
Pick an easy nutritious culinary idea today.
Use nuts as a condiment. Sprinkle on soup, salad, yogurt, chicken, or fish or cooked veggies.
Switch nuts for different benefits. Try chopped hazelnuts in salads, walnuts in pesto, or pistachios on baked fish.
Try this crumby idea: Mix finely chopped nuts in a breadcrumb topping.
Give a toast to nuts! Toast nuts in a dry skillet over medium heat for three to five minutes, shaking often, to intensify their flavor.
Source: 365 Days of Healthy Eating from the American Dietetic Association
April 11, 2005
Water, Water Everywhere
The human body is made up of 50 to 75 percent water, or about 10 to 12 gallons, so replenishing your body's water supply is crucial for proper function.
According to the American Dietetic Association's Complete Food and Nutrition Guide, the average adult loses about two and a half quarts or about 10 cups of water daily. To maintain your body's fluid balance, you need to replace it each day.
All fluids like juice, tea, soup and even coffee count. Many foods have a high water content, too:
Food Percent Of Water
Lettuce (½ cup) 95
Watermelon (½ cup) 92
Broccoli (½ cup) 91
Grapefruit (½ cup) 91
Milk (1 cup) 89
Orange juice (3/4 cup) 88
Carrot (½ cup) 87
Yogurt (1 cup) 85
Apple (one medium) 84
Content provided by the American Dietetic Association. For more nutrition tips, visit www.eatright.org.
April 8, 2005
Fitness fans miscalculate their dietary needs so frequently that ACE came up with its list of the Top 10 Nutritional Mistakes Made by Active People. Dietitians offer suggestions on how to correct these diet errors and create a healthier eating plan.
1. EATING TOO MUCH PROTEIN AND NOT ENOUGH CARBOHYDRATES. The current popularity of low-carb diets has many people trying to fuel their workouts with poultry instead of pasta.
"Our muscles' endurance and performance comes from the glycogen in carbohydrates. You can't be an athlete and be on the Atkins diet," says Monica Callan, a certified personal trainer and Sharp Hospital registered dietitian.
A diet with too little carbs usually means a diet with too little water, and that can set you up for an increased risk of injury and dehydration.
2. SKIPPING BREAKFAST. Not eating breakfast is like asking your car to get you to work without any fuel in the tank.
"Whether or not you're an athlete, breakfast should be a non-negotiable part of the day," says Callan. "When you don't eat breakfast,
3. NOT EATING BEFORE A WORKOUT. "If you don't have the fuel, your workout won't be as productive," says Norma Flood, a registered dietitian and nutrition counselor at Scripps Center for Integrative Medicine.
A light pre-workout snack consisting of carbs, a little fat and some protein can help improve endurance and hand-eye coordination.
However, eating too much or the wrong kind of foods (too much fiber, fat or spice) will make you feel bloated, and indigestion could result. Flood recommends sticking to foods to give you quick but quality energy. A banana, toast with a dab of peanut butter, a half of a small bagel, a handful of almonds and an apple, or yogurt are all healthy options.
4. WAITING TOO LONG AFTER EXERCISE TO EAT. For optimal recovery, it's best to eat 30 minutes to two hours after exercise.
"As soon as exercise is over, your body goes into rebuilding mode," Flood says. "The best thing you can do is eat a small meal containing carbohydrates to replenish muscle glycogen stores and protein to facilitate the repair of muscle tissue."
Some nutritious post-workout eats include yogurt, a bowl of cereal, or a turkey sandwich on whole-wheat bread.
5. REPLACING MEALS WITH ENERGY BARS OR REPLACEMENT DRINKS. Sure, they're convenient, but too often energy bars offer little more nutrition than your average candy bar.
"Although energy bars are calorically dense, they're not giving you enough nutritional variety or fiber," Bland says. "For a lot of people, the energy bar has become a midday snack instead of meal replacement. And, that means overeating."
Always reach for real food first.
"There's just no substitute for the nutrients and benefits you get from fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean protein," Callan says.
6. TRUSTING THE ACCURACY OF DIETARY SUPPLEMENT LABELS AND CLAIMS. "The FDA doesn't regulate any of the supplements so it's the Wild West out there in health food stores. Manufacturers can claim anything they want to about their products," Callan says. "Most of the time, you can get the desired effects from real food instead of pills."
However, if you think you want or need to take supplements, do your homework. Talk to your pharmacist and your doctor about any you're considering. Check out the following Web sites recommended by the American Dietetic Association: www.eatright.org; the American Botanical Council, www.herbal gram.org; consumerlab.com; American Pharmaceutical Association, www.aphanet.org
7. NOT CONSUMING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CALORIES FOR THE AMOUNT OF ACTIVITY YOU DO. Your calorie intake should be sufficient to support your active lifestyle, but not so abundant that weight control becomes a challenge.
"People feel that if they're exercising, they can add more calories. It's true you can add a few more, but not too many or you'll end up heavier than when you began working out," Flood says.
People who exercise, especially when just starting out, often overestimate how many calories they burn in a workout.
A 150-pound person burns approximately five calories per minute of medium intensity exercise. So on a 30-minute power walk, a person expends about 150 calories, equivalent to a can of Coke.
Check out the dietitian-recommended Web site www.caloriesperhour.com to help you figure out your energy burn.
8. BELIEVING THAT EXERCISE MEANS YOU CAN EAT WHATEVER YOU WANT. Whether you exercise a little or a lot, you still need to follow a healthy, balanced diet and watch your portion sizes.
Athletes who work out strenuously need more calories than the typical couch potato. But even active folks need to be discriminate about the source of those calories.
"Some athletes feel like they can eat doughnuts and french fries to get the calories they need," Flood says. "The problem is those refined foods don't have the vitamins and minerals they need. They're empty calories without the nutrients necessary to create efficient energy."
9. NOT DRINKING THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF FLUIDS. Dehydration can be a serious problem, especially during warm humid weather. Drinking fluids before, during and after exercise will help you a maintain adequate hydration levels.
Unless you're working out longer than 90 minutes, replenishing with water will be sufficient. For longer workouts, make sure you include drinks with electrolytes (such as Gatorade) to replace what you lose when you sweat. Electrolytes are what your cells use to carry electrical impulses to other cells. In addition to sports drinks, electrolytes are also found naturally in fruits, vegetables and whole grains.
10. JUMPING ON THE LATEST DIET CRAZE IN SEARCH OF THAT ELUSIVE "EDGE." It's tempting to believe there is some magic formula out there that will dramatically improve our performance or help us effortlessly lose weight – if only we could find it.
"People looking for quick results try all kinds of fad diets and food crazes, which are impossible to stick with very long," Bland says. "To get long-term results, you need to make long-term changes in the way you eat. Fad diets just don't give you the right fuel for the long haul."
April 7, 2005
With all the pressures today's teenagers have to deal with, it's no wonder so many are in trouble. Statistics show that teen suicide and teen pregnancy are on the rise, as is the firearm-homicide rate for teens. Smoking among teens is in vogue, and two-thirds of eighth-graders report that they have tried alcohol. And only about 38 percent of them get enough exercise - which means the other 62 percent are setting themselves up for a sedentary life and all the problems that come with it.
Now's the time to change these statistics. Research has shown that kids who play sports, or who are physically active, are less likely to have these problems. But getting kids to exercise is no easy task unless you're willing to spend time with them and learn to speak their language.
Quality Time, Quality Talk
It's impossible to have good relationships with teenagers if you don't spend time with them. Don't expect teens to automatically think you're cool and trustworthy - you'll have to prove it. Accept them for who they are and show them that you are genuinely concerned about them. Look past the way they dress or wear their hair, and learn to understand their language so you can relate to what they have to say.
A person who is a good listener has a good chance of developing relationships with teens, since most of them would rather talk than listen. Whatever it takes, learn to listen to teenagers, and offer your words of wisdom only when necessary. It's the only way to figure them out.
They're Listening - What Do You Say?
The number-one thing you can do to help teens get active is to be a good role model. Live the life that you advocate; show them that being active can be fun, and they will follow your example. Let them know that being physically active does not necessarily mean going to exercise classes or playing sports, although these are two great options. Hiking and camping, body surfing and playing Frisbee or paddleball are activities the whole family can enjoy. And, since they're having so much fun, teens will hardly realize that what they're doing is actually good for them.
Teenagers can participate in just about any fitness activity, whether it be weight training, mountain biking or martial arts. Many gyms are lowering their age requirements and offering family memberships and discounts to reach the younger market. Organized sports also are an excellent means of improving socialization and developing discipline and teamwork skills.
Competing With The Negative
It's not easy to get your message of good health and fitness across when you're competing with the lure of television and video games. That's why it's so important to appeal to a teenager's sense of fun and need for social interaction. Whenever possible, include others, such as their friends, in your fitness activities. Encouraging a teenager (or an adult, for that matter) to become more active can be discouraging, particularly when they seem to be tuning you out. At some point, that encouragement may become counter-productive. Instead, continue to serve as a role model for an active lifestyle and perhaps they will one day follow your lead.
The most important thing you can do for today's youth is to help them value their lives. Being healthy and fit will put them in touch with their bodies, increase their self-esteem and help them to establish a desire to set personal goals. Bottom line, however, is that in order to get anyone to exercise, teenager or not, it has to be fun. Teenagers aren't likely to do something just because they're told it's good for them. But with your support and encouragement, you can help put them on the path to better health that lasts a lifetime.
April 6, 2005
A View From the Fridge
WHAT do you do when your refrigerator and freezer are so jam-packed with aging foods that trying to find a bite to eat is like going on an archaeological dig? You can break out the Hefty bags and toss everything out. But if you're still looking forward to thawing and reheating last month's leftovers from Schiller's Liquor Bar, read on.
True or false: Foods can last forever in the freezer.
True. That 18-year-old slice of wedding cake may look the same as when you fit into your wedding suit, but it won't quite taste the same. Even though frozen foods are safe forever, the enzymes present in animal foods, vegetables and fruits make their quality deteriorate. Freezing slows, but does not stop, the enzyme activity.
Food in the freezer has a "quality" shelf life, which varies depending on the food. For instance, hamburger has a freezer shelf life of three to four months. And any food you freeze needs to be wrapped in heavy-duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap or an airtight freezer bag.
Here are a few examples of recommended storage durations: whole chicken or turkey, one year; TV dinners/frozen casseroles, three to four months; leftover fried chicken, four months. For more storage dates, go to fightbac.org/doubt.cfm.
True or false: A doggie bag from my favorite restaurant will last at least a week if the fridge is cold enough.
False. Takeout food, doggie bags and leftovers should be refrigerated within about two hours and eaten within two to three days, according to Rutgers professor and food-science specialist Donald W. Schaffner.
Many times, the quality and feel of the food in the mouth break down, says Meredith H. Luce, a clinical dietitian at Florida Hospital in Orlando. She advises keeping leftovers in airtight containers, not in aluminum foil — it just doesn't do the job. "Air is your enemy for preserving the taste and quality of food," she adds.
And don't think that simply looking at or smelling food will tell you if it's safe. If you're not sure when you stuck it in the fridge, toss it.
True or false: Using the salad and/or meat drawer in the fridge preserves your food for months.
False. They do help extend the life of your food — just not for months.
"The salad and meat drawers provide air circulation and minimize drying, so they do increase shelf life and maintain the texture and appearance of the foods," says Purnendu C. Vasavada, a professor of food science and microbiology at the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.
The key feature of a meat drawer is its temperature. "The colder you can keep your meat, the longer it will last," says Rutgers' Schaffner. And, "the two key features of a vegetable crisper are control of humidity and temperature."
Storing vegetables properly can increase their shelf life as much as 40 percent. However, if you put them in the drawer and forget about them — well, that defeats the entire purpose of storing vegetables in the drawer, adds dietician Luce.
From a food-safety perspective, limp or discolored vegetables, such as lettuce, are perfectly safe to eat, says Keith R. Schneider, a professor of food science at the University of Florida in Gainesville.
True or false: If cheese gets moldy, it's safe to take the mold off and eat the cheese.
True, but it depends on the kind of cheese. If mold forms on hard or firm cheese (e.g., cheddar, Parmesan), cut off the mold plus one inch of cheese around and below the mold, and be careful not to touch the mold with your knife. Then wrap the trimmed cheese in plastic wrap and refrigerate it, advises Luce, who also says that soft and semisoft cheeses like brie, feta or cottage cheese are a different story.
Mold spores spread more easily through soft foods, so if you see mold on a soft cheese (unless it's supposed to be there, as with blue cheese), throw it out. Also, discard moldy breads, jams, jellies, yogurts and sour cream.
True or false: Condiments like mayonnaise, ketchup, mustard and barbecue sauce can last almost forever in the fridge.
False — they'll last about six months, but will eventually spoil, either due to chemical changes or bacterial growth. But these bacteria aren't the ones that make us sick. "They just spoil the taste," Schaffner says.
"One of the reasons condiments last as long as they do is because they have an acidic environment (e.g., the vinegar in ketchup), and bacteria don't do well in that situation," says professor Schneider, who also reminds us that foods that are rancid are not necessarily dangerous — they just taste bad.