Friday, December 25, 2009

Smart Restaurant Strategies

Restaurants can be intimidating to people who are trying to eat healthy, and vacations don't have to sabotage your weight loss program. With a little planning and research, you can enjoy your restaurant meal with out abandoning healthy eating. Consider meal options at different restaurants and look for places with a wide range of menu items. Know menu terms and cooking basics. Look for foods that are steamed, broiled, baked or grilled, and limit fried and sautéed items or foods described as "crispy," "rich" or "au gratin." Alfredo sauce, for example adds an alarming number of calories to a dish; opt for the marinara! Don't be afraid to speak up and ask how something is prepared, and ask for an alternative method or ingredient. Many restaurants will honor requests. Restaurants typically serve huge portions, sometimes enough for two or three people. Cutting your meals in half and taking the rest home also makes good economic sense these days! Also, eat slowly. It takes about 20 minutes for your brain to get the message from your stomach that you are no longer hungry. Fast eaters often are over-eaters, while slow eaters tend to eat less and are still satisfied.
Food choices away from home are important to your health and weight because many of us are eating more meals away from home. Fortunately, making healthful and delicious choices in restaurants is also easier today. Restaurants of all types are responding to customers’ desires with more options in portion sizes, preparation methods and menu items. Again, be assertive. Your voice is your best advocate. Bon Appetite!
For more info about healthy dinning, go to

Friday, December 18, 2009

Persimmon; the Japanese Orange

This brilliant orange-red glossy fruit arrives in markets just as summer is ending, and are not available after December. Don't miss out! Persimmons are well worth trying not only for their exceptional flavor but for their vitamin C, beta carotene, potassium, B-6, and lutein.
There are two types of persimmons - astringent and non-astringent. The astringent persimmon such as the Hachiya, has two personalities. When ripe, it possesses a rich, sweet, spicy flavor. Unripened fruit tastes quite bitter. To ripen the fruit, store in a paper bag at room temp. Ripened fruit will keep in the fridge for 3 days.
How to eat them? Scoop out the sweet jelly-like flesh with a spoon and eat them on-the-spot, or add to plain or vanilla yogurt. Fuyu persimmons remain firm when ripe, so they can be chopped and added to salads and salsa. One persimmon provides approx. 70 calories.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


What is broccolini? Also referred to as baby broccoli; a cross between traditional broccoli and Chinese kale and can be found in the produce section of your local grocery store. Broccolini is the trade name and was introduced to the U.S. in 1998 by Mann Packing Co. It looks like broccoli but with a longer stem and smaller flowering buds.
As with most green vegetables, broccolini is loaded with vitamin C (130% of the daily value), vitamin A, potassium, calcium, and iron. An eight stalk (3 oz.) serving provides only 35 calories and is nearly sodium free. The taste has hints of asparagus, with a sweet and peppery flavor which becomes milder when when cooked. Unlike broccoli, the stalks aren't woody or chewy, and is completely edible from flower to stem.
Sautee broccolini with sliced garlic in oil from a bottle of sun-dried tomatoes, and top it off with a few of the diced tomatoes. Or toss with a little olive oil and roast at 450 degrees F on a baking sheet for 12-15 minutes. Season with a sprinkle of lemon juice, freshly ground pepper, and parmesan cheese. Or just steam and drizzle with your favorite vinaigrette or toasted sesame oil.
Put a new twist to your traditional holiday meal this year!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

In A Nut Shell

Nuts and seeds are good foods. Most are rich in unsaturated fats, magnesium, copper, protein, fiber and iron. They are also high in calories. The term "energy rich" does not mean that you will feel more energetic or stronger, as some labels imply. Energy is just a term for calories. When shopping for nuts, don't let the so called health claims boost your calorie intake. Here is what we know about nuts:

Nut eaters. People who eat more nuts are less likely to die of a heart attack. That's partly because nut eaters are typically leaner, non-smokers, and more active.
Unsaturated fats. LDL (bad) cholesterol is 2-19% lower when people are fed almonds, peanuts, pecans, or walnuts than when they don't eat nuts. Most other nuts aren't well studied, but odds are that they also lower LDL. Brazil nuts, macadamias and cashews, however, do not lower LDL.
How much? Researchers gave people 1&1/2 to 3&1/2 servings of nuts a day, which did not significantly lower cholesterol. 3 &1/2 servings provide a whopping 600 calories!
Beyond fats. Nuts may lower damaging triglycerides, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, reduce inflammation, and relax artery linings. So far, the evidence is only preliminary.
Salt. Salted nuts typically have 100-300mg of sodium in every 1 oz (1/4 cup) serving. Check the nutrition facts label; if it says "unsalted" or "raw," you can dodge it all.
Dry roasted, oil roasted, or raw? It doesn't matter. Roasted nuts, with or without oil, are no higher in saturated fat or calories.
Calories. Nuts are calorie dense and hard to resist. If you use them to garnish salads, rice, or cereal, you may be less likely to go overboard.
Peanut butter. In theory, peanut butter should have the same impact on cholesterol as peanuts; assuming it contains no partially hydrogenated oils. Yet, unlike nut eaters, peanut butter eaters have no lower risk of heart disease or obesity. It could be due to the other ingredients in peanut butter such as sugar, high fructose corn syrup, and oils not naturally found in nuts. Again, check the labels and avoid products containing added ingredients.

Will nuts keep you alert, as the T.V. commercial claims? Absolutely not. Are they a good alternative to say, red meats? Absolutely.
~ CSPI, 2009 ~

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Food Allergy Dilemas

The holidays and other food-focused celebrations can be a challenge for those with food allergies and special dietary needs. Most dishes are made from scratch by cooks who don't have to think about allergens or cross-contamination on a daily basis. Unfortunately, there is no rule book or etiquette guide to help us through these occasions. Here are a few tips that may be helpful this holiday season:
  • Prepare at least one special "safe" dessert for guests with allergies or special needs such as diabetes.
  • If you are serving foods that contain your child's allergens, make it clear to well-meaning relatives that only you will serve your child. Someone may decide to give your child gravy, not realizing that you have a gluten-free version set aside for your little one.
  • Traces of allergens on utensils have caused severe and even fatal allergic reactions. Allow your guests with special dietary needs to serve themselves first at the buffet with clean utensils before there is any chance of the dishes becoming cross contaminated. You might also allow your guest to prepare their plate in the kitchen if they prefer, and you can offer to set aside some safe second portions in labeled containers for them.
  • Ask about other guest's special dietary needs, and let your guests know exactly what you plan to serve. Save the product labels and recipe cards for your guests to view, and serve sauces and dressings on the side.
  • Don't be afraid to ask about the ingredients when attending dinners, and let the hostess know about yours' or a family member's special needs ahead of time. If need be, bring along a safe plate for your child. Especially if multiple food allergies are involved.
  • If your child has "only" a peanut or nut allergy and you're certain that he or she can consume dinner safely, desserts are a high risk food category with the majority of severe reactions coming from this food category. You can almost never have too many desserts so bring along a safe one to share.
Make the holiday about more than just food. Most children do not like to discuss their food allergies or special food needs on occasions like these. Gently let your friends and relatives know that there is no need to fuss over your child's special meal nor do they need to pity the child. Most kids just want to fit in. Focus on family traditions and activities, and enjoy the company!

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Keep the Holiday Nibbling From Becoming a New Year's Resolution

The Holidays are here with all the parties, cookies, and beverages. It's enough to sabotage the regimen of even the most dedicated health nut. Which is why I won't be posting a list of goodies to avoid. It's the holidays after all, enjoy them! Just be realistic and practice moderation. Don't try to micro manage your food, starve all day before a dinner party, drink gallons of water, or limit yourself to eating the celery. The worst way to approach the buffet table is with an empty stomach. Have a light snack before leaving the house. (A glass of Carnation Instant Breakfast in skim milk works for me!) You won't be so compelled to pull a chair up to the fondue pot. Keep "portion size" in mind. SAMPLE your favorite things; just don't go back for seconds, thirds.... and keep in mind that alcohol packs a lot of calories (7 calories per gm. as opposed to other carbs that provide only 4). Don't take the cookie plate from your office party back to your desk. Unconscious nibbling is disastrous.
At the end of the day, it's all about the calories. Adjust your exercise routine to compensate for any additional calories. An extra 15 minutes is usually adequate.
When preparing party dishes, DO substitute low fat or non-fat dairy ingredients or cheeses where ever possible; your guests will never miss it, especially where alcohol is being served! DO substitute diet sodas in mixed drinks and beverages. A few drinks can provide more calories than the meal.
Have a safe and healthy holiday season!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

The Price for Red Meat

The National Cancer Institute recently released findings from the largest study ever linking meat consumption and mortality, which should convince even the most enthusiastic carnivores to cut back. The more red and processed meats consumed, the greater the risk of heart disease and cancer. Just by consuming 5 oz. /day (about 1 1/2 Big Macs/day) increases the risk by 30%. The strongest evidence is for colorectal cancer. What scientists call N-nitroso compounds can be carcinogenic. They appear to form in the digestive tract when heme iron (the type in red meat) and intestinal bacteria trigger meat protein to combine with the nitrites that are added to processed meats, AND/OR with the nitrites that the body makes from the naturally occurring nitrates in water and in some vegetables. And some people have bacteria that produce far more N-nitroso compounds than others. Such mutagens can also damage more than the gutt. Once the mutagens get into the blood, they can act at any site. Prostate cancer was increased by 40% in men who consumed one third of an ounce of well done red meat a day. Pancreatic cancer increases by 40-50% for men. A nine year study found a 38% increase in incidences of Type II diabetes in women who ate processed meat at least 5 times per week. It is believed that the nitrites may be damaging the islet (insulin producing) cells of the pancreas. As with colorectal cancer, the heme iron may be partly to blame. The adverse effect of red meat consumption is related to it's high iron content, which can also damage islet cells of the pancreas. The non-heme iron in grains and vegetables is not a problem, since heme iron is more "bioavailable;" and the body continues to absorb it even if we don't need it. It tends to override the regulatory mechanism, which does not happen with non-heme iron.
The NCI's recommendation is to reduce consumption of red and processed meats to one serving a week (about 4 oz.). Replace red meat with poultry, fish, beans, nuts, and soy based "veggie meats." Look for deli meats that are nitrite free.
  • Red meats: Beef, pork, steak, hamburgers, foods made with meat (lasagna, stew) and processed meats made with red meat (beef hot dogs, beef bologna). Yes, pork is a red meat, and not "the other white meat" as the industry claims. (Just an other successfull slogan/snow job!)
  • White meats: Chicken, turkey, fish, and processed white meats (hot dogs, sausage, and deli meats made from poultry).
  • Processed meats: Bacon, sausage, salami, pepperoni, "loaf" type deli meats, chipped ham, hot dogs, whether made with red or white meat.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Factory Beef Farming = Environmental Disaster

The dark shadow of the American food system as reported by the United Nation's Food and Agriculture Organization is the consequences of the huge and crowded feedlots in which most cattle and virtually all hogs spend their lives. The most obvious problem (especially if you live downwind) is the manure. The excrement pollutes the air, and contaminates recreational lakes, rivers, and farm irrigation systems with E. coli. The E. coli is finding it's way into our vegetable crops. The large amounts of fertilizer for the corn and cattle feed crops wash into streams that empty into the Gulf of Mexico, creating oxygen deficient dead zones. The methane produced by even the organic, grass fed variety is a greenhouse gas 25 times more destructive to the ozone than carbon dioxide. It is estimated that livestock are responsible for 18% of all greenhouse gas emissions worldwide. That's more than the emission from transportation; not including the environmental cost of producing and packaging feeds for livestock, shipping them, and so on. So, if avoiding early death from the over-consumption of red meat doesn't persuade you to eat less, the environmental consequences should be convincing enough.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Prostate Health News

New studies show that high doses of folic acid may raise the risk of prostate cancer. A 10 year study performed on 643 men taking 1000 mcg of folic acid to show if the B vitamin could prevent the occurrence of precancerous colon polyps, instead revealed a 10% increase in the incidence of prostate cancer. Though the study can be considered inconclusive due to the size of the group, it doesn't hurt to play it safe while additional studies continue.
What to do? If you take a multivitamin containing 400 mcg (100% of the daily value), take only one every-other day. Also, watch for fortified breakfast cereals (should contain no more than 25% of the daily value). For more information on folate fortified foods, refere to the article on Breast Cancer & Folate from Oct. 2009 archives. There's no need to limit fruits and vegetables and other folate rich foods.
~National Cancer Institute, 2009~

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Prostate Cancer Prevention: What Works & What May Harm

Evidence based reports from studies that look at healthy men as well as those who already have cancer. Here is what may harm:
  • Selenium. The National Cancer Institute found that those taking selenium (200mcg/day) and Vit. E (400 had no lower risk of prostate cancer. However, in the same study, the incidence of diabetes rose slightly. It was also discovered, that men with the variant genotype "V" (which includes about 75% of the men in this country) high levels of blood selenium were linked to a higher risk of aggressive cancer.
  • Vitamin E. Until recently, vit. E was a potential friend to the prostate. Now it is a possible foe. Vitamin E is a potent antioxidant at dietary levels (provided by diet). At high doses, it becomes an oxidant (causes cell damage). In trials where men took supplemental doses of 400-600 IU/day, had no higher risk than those receiving a placebo.
  • Calcium & Dairy. In several studies, the highest prostate cancer risk was seen in people who were taking a calcium supplement in addition to calcium fortified and/or calcium rich foods, (intakes of over 1500-2000mg/day). Until scientists know more, it's probably best to avoid excess. Calcium is added to everything from orange juice to antacids, and people may be getting much more than they realize.
  • Vitamin D. Most studies find no link between blood levels of vit. D and prostate or colon cancer. As of yet, there aren't enough large studies with blood levels to look at. Don't fall for the Men's Multivitamin claims.
  • Obesity. The Cancer Prevention Study II tracked 70,000 men for 10 years. The risk of fatal or metatastic prostate cancer was 54% higher in those who were obese, than those who were normal weight. Just one more reason to stay lean and active.
  • Meat. In a study of 29,000 men, those who averaged at least 2 1/2 oz. of very well done meat/week showed a 40% higher risk of prostate cancer those those who ate no well-done meat.
  • Zinc. In one study, men who got more than 100mg./day of zinc from supplements had double the risk of advanced prostate cancer, compared to men who didn't take zinc supplements. Also, in an other trial where men were given 80mg./day of zinc to see if it could reduce the risk of eye disease, the zinc takers were more likely to be hospitalized for genito-urinary complications enlarged prostate, UTI, kidney stones) than those who took no zinc.
Things that may help:
  • Tomatoes & Lycopene. In a study that tracked 137,000 men for 6 years, those who had the highest levels of blood lycopene were 60% less likely to be diagnosed with prostate cancer. Whether it's lycopene or something else in tomato products, it doesn't hurt to include them in your daily vegetable consumption.
  • Flaxseed. It is believed that the estrogen-like compounds might protect the prostate. Flax seed has also been extinct from the American diet for over a century, and the occurrence of prostate cancer has been rising. A tablespoon a day is the recommended dose until further studies to it's safety are conducted.
  • Green Tea. The extract polyphenon E is the focus for the latest research and controversy. The National Cancer Institute bought a large amount of it hoping to get FDA approval as a prescription drug, so there is little for anyone else to study at this time. An earlier study of 50,000 Japanese men who drank at least 5 cups of green tea/day showed a 50% lower risk of developing prostate cancer.
  • Soy. Clinical studies that gave men soy foods or isoflavinoids to treat prostate cancer haven't had great success, though after tracking 82,000 men who ate more soy foods showed a lower risk of developing the disease. More studies are underway.
If you are diagnosed with prostate cancer, your odds of surviving 10 years are roughly 93%, and death rates have dropped since 1990. You are more likely to die with prostate cancer than from it. Being older than 50 is the main risk factor for prostate cancer. Men whose families carry the gene changes that cause breast cancer, BRCA1 or BRCA2, are thought to be at increased risk for prostate cancer. For more information about prostate cancer go to

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Season's Harvest

Fall season is here and gourds and squash are abundant. What to do with those odd looking vegetables? Let me first say that gourds and squash are healthy and versatile. Even better, gourds and squash are fairly inexpensive and go a long way in a dish. Stretch your grocery dollars and support area farmers and your local economy by shopping at farm markets.
Squashes are gourds; fleshy vegetables protected by a rind that belong to the Cucurbitacea family, which also includes melons and cucumbers. Squash is a notably American food. It sustained Native Americans for some 5 thousand years and nourished the early European settlers, who quickly made the vegetable a mainstay of their diet. From Acorn to Zuchinni, they are high in fiber, nutrient dense, and virually fat free. Winter squash is one of the best for storage. Squash that is stored has more carotene than freshly picked squash.
Baking: This method brings out the sweetness of winter squash. You can bake squash halves (Acorn is excellent for this!) with the skins on, later scooping out and mashing the flesh with your favorite seasonings such as cinnamon, brown sugar, sesame seeds, or grated cheese.
Boiling: This method is faster, though it tends to dilute flavors. Place peeled squash pieces in a small amount of water and boil until tender. Drain off water and mash.
Microwave: Arrange squash halves
cut side up or, chunks, in microwaveable dish, cover and cook until tender (7-10 min.). Let stand for 5 min. after cooking.
Sauteeing: Grated or peeled, diced squash can be sauteed in broth or oil in a non-stick skillet. Cook until slightly crunchy.
Steaming: Place seeded squash halves in a vegetable steamer and cook over boiling water until tender. Or, cook peeled chunks/slices in the steamer 15-20 min.
Serve mashed or pureed. To enhance the natural sweetness, combine the squash with any of the following baked or steamed pears, apples, bananas, cranberries, lemon, orange juice, almond or vanilla extract, fresh or powdered ginger, curry, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, cloves, brown sugar, maple syrup, or honey. For a savory dish, mash the cooked squash with sauteed onions, garlic, and herbs, or mix with cooked corn, tomatoes, and bell peppers.

Winter salad of squash, pomegranate and pine nuts recipe:

A tangy salad that makes a good first course. To turn it into a substantial main dish for two, add a teacupful of cooked pearl barley or couscous.

1lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into cubes

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses or 1 tbsp honey mixed with 1 extra tsp lime juice

a bunch of watercress, washed and tough stems removed

2 tbsp red pomegranate seeds (buy them ready shelled in punnets in the fruit section of the supermarket)

2oz/60g pine nuts

  • Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Line a large roasting tin with non-stick parchment.
  • Tumble the squash into the roasting tin and toss in a tablespoonful of olive oil until coated. Sprinkle with salt and grind over pepper.
  • Roast for 30 minutes or until tender and edged with brown.
  • Mix the rest of the olive oil with the lime juice and pomegranate molasses (or honey). Taste and season with salt and pepper.
  • In a large bowl, mix the watercress, butternut squash and dressing with pomegranate seeds and pine nuts. Divide between plates and serve.
For more recipes, visit What's Cooking America

Friday, October 23, 2009

What We Know About Vitamin D

The evidence that vitamin D protects against breast cancer is suggestive, but inconclusive. Many types of cancer are currently being studied under the influence of vitamin D. Colon, pancreatic, and prostate cancer are showing significant reductions of incidence with the use of vitamin D supplements of 1000 IU or more per day. One study suggests significant reductions in total cancer. Animal studies offer a surplus of evidence that vitamin D protects against cancer.
Vitamin D decreases cell proliferation and is a powerful anti-inflammatory. There is preliminary evidence that it may lower the risk of multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, heart disease, autism, and autoimmune thyroid disease. Vitamin D also plays a role in depression. Most studies are too new to show any long term effects. Firm conclusions will be based on further research.
For now, shoot for 700 to 1,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Most multi-vitamins supply 400 IU. Expect only 40 - 150 IU in most foods fortified with vit. D. Toxicity levels have not yet been established, though studies using as much as 3000 IU/day have shown no ill effects. Farmed salmon has about 1/4 the vit. D of wild salmon. Only a few foods (like fatty fish) have more that 220 IU of vit. D per serving. Ultra violet rays from the sun can prompt your skin, liver, and kidneys to make vit. D, but UV rays are too weak in the winter (unless you live as far south as Los Angeles or Atlanta), or use sunscreen. That's why it may be simpler to get vit. D from a supplement.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Powerful Pomegranates

Fresh Pomegranates are available in September through January. Nutritional research confirms that pomegranates contain minerals e.g. calcium, potassium, and iron, plus compounds known as phytonutrients, that help the body protect against heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis and cancer.The powerful antioxidants in the fruit also help retard aging and can neutralize almost twice as many free radicals as red wine and seven times as many as green tea.
Studies on both mice and humans have produced positive results in the reversal of atherosclerosis. After one year of drinking eight oz. of pomegranate juice daily,
the people in a 2004 study showed a 35 % decline in thickness of the carotid artery walls. Over the same period, the people who did not drink the juice showed a 9% increase in the thickness of the carotid arterial wall.
Buying pomegranate juice is tricky, though. Only a quarter of the companies that market it are selling the actual product. Many of them contain cheaper juices (apple, grape, or pear) to stretch the more expensive pomegranate juice. Others are sweetened with sugars or colored with blackcurrant to assimilate the color of pomegranates. Check ingredient labels; the price is also a clue to an unadulterated product.
Fresh pomegranates, also known as "Chinese apples" sparkle in winter and holiday meals adding brilliant color, flavor and texture to dishes ranging from appetizers to desserts. The ruby colored fruit we refer to as seeds are called arils. Use the arils as a garnish or add to tossed salads. Each aril is a delicious sac of juice that surrounds a seed. Pomegranates can contain 840 arils that are compartmentalized between shiny, tough membranes. The arils range from pink to dark red. Whether you swallow the seeds or spit them out is a matter of personal preference. Keep in mind that the seeds add fiber; researchers suggest that the crunchy seeds help flush fats and cholesterol from the digestive tract.
The edible fruit from one medium pomegranate (5 ounces) contains 104 calories, 1.5 g protein, 26.4 g carbohydrates, 9 mg vitamin C and 399 mg potassium.
One medium pomegranate weighs about 9 ounces and yields about 5 ounces of fruit (3/4 cup) and 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of juice.
WHOLE pomegranates keep well at room temperature for several days, away from sunlight; up to 3 months refrigerated in plastic bags.
For more ways to enjoy pomegranates, click POM recipes

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Trans Fat & Breast Cancer

Gram for gram, the naturally occurring trans fat in high fat dairy foods and beef poses as much, if not more, risk to the heart and breasts as the man-made trans fat in partially hydrogenated oils. Beef and dairy have about 10 times the saturated fat as trans fat. (Pork has no trans fat.) Fats in the body cause oxidative damage to cells. If you minimize the fatty beef and high fat dairy foods, you avoid the harm from both types of fats. Skip foods made with partially hydrogenated oils in restaurants and the supermarket. And don't believe the industry claims that "natural" trans fat is harmless! Not everything found in nature is harmless.
A 7 year study in France recently revealed that women with higher blood levels of trans fat were nearly twice as likely to be diagnosed with breast cancer as those with lower levels of trans fat.
~American Journal of Epidemiology~

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Folate Linked to Breast Cancer

Folate, also known as folic acid, helps convert vitamin B12 to one of it's coenzyme forms and helps synthesize the DNA required for all rapidly growing cells. The need for folate rises considerably during pregnancy and whenever cells are multiplying, so the recommendations for pregnant women are higher than for older adults. Women past their childbearing years, however, may have a higher risk of breast cancer with the use of supplements.
Researchers studied more than 1700 women in 1993 with high blood levels of folate. Ten years later, the women with the highest amount of blood folate levels were at a 70% higher risk of breast tumors that respond to estrogen or progesterone than those with the lowest levels. It is also believed that folate actually "feeds the tumor."
What to do? Until more studies are done, play it safe. If you take a multivitamin:
  • Watch your cereals. Many breakfast/energy bars and cereals are fortified with folate or folic acid. If you typically eat more than one serving (about 1/2 - 1 cup) watch for cereals that contain 25 or 50% of the daily value for folic acid.
  • Go whole grain. White pasta, rice, and breads are fortified with 100 to 130 mcg of folic acid per cup. Whole grain bread, pasta and brown rice are not.
  • Don't worry about naturally occuring folate. The folate in orange juice, vegetables, beans and other foods isn't absorbed as well as the folic acid in fortified foods, so it's not a problem.
Just keep in mind than folate helps prevent spina bifida and neural-tube birth defects. So if you are, or could become pregnant, get at least 400 mcg a day of folic acid from a multivitamin or your food.
~ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition~

Monday, October 5, 2009

Lifestyle Links to Breast Cancer

A study reported by the Journal of Clinical Oncology (2009) found that being obese, smoking, and drinking alcohol all increase the risk of breast cancer being diagnosed a second time in women previously diagnosed with the disease.

The researchers looked at the records of more than 1,000 women successfully treated for early-stage breast cancer. About 360 of the women were later diagnosed with a new breast cancer in the opposite breast (known as contralateral breast cancer). The researchers wanted to know if being obese, smoking, and regularly drinking alcohol contributed to the risk of developing a second breast cancer.

The risk of developing a second breast cancer was:

  • 40% higher in women who were obese compared to women who weren't obese
  • almost doubled in women who drank seven or more alcoholic drinks per week compared to women who didn't drink alcohol or drank less
  • more than doubled in women who smoked compared to women who didn't smoke

The researchers also found that women who drank regularly AND smoked were more than 7 times more likely to develop a second breast cancer compared to women who didn't smoke or drink regularly.

If you have been treated for early-stage breast cancer, try to do all you can to lower both your risk of the cancer coming back AND your risk of a new, second breast cancer. Along with the treatment plan you and your doctor choose, a healthy diet and lifestyle can help keep these risks as low as possible:
  • Maintain a healthy weight and eat a low-fat diet that includes generous servings of fruits and vegetables.
  • Exercise regularly at medium intensity.
  • Don't smoke. If you do smoke, make the effort to quit.
  • Avoid alcohol.
Visit to learn about diet and lifestyle options to keep your risk as low as it can be.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Diabetes; Are You at Risk?

Type I diabetes is the less common type of diabetes in which the person produces no insulin at all, and requires an external supply of insulin. It is considered an autoimmune disease. It frequently develops in childhood.
Type II diabetes is carbohydrate intolerance due to the body's inability to use insulin normally, to produce enough insulin, or both. Impaired glucose tolerance and type II diabetes are associated with excess body fat (especially "belly fat"), physical inactivity, and aging. Obesity aggravates insulin resistance: as body fat increases, body tissues become less able to respond to insulin. Most experts believe that the rising rates of diabetes and it's destructive consequences can be eased or even stopped by adopting healthy behaviors that include weight management and regular physical activity. Type II diabetes is the more prevalent type; about 85-90%. Cases have increased exponentially in the U.S. in recent years as a result of the obesity epidemic.
Insulin resistance is the condition where the body's cells fail to respond to insulin as they do in healthy people.
For those with type II diabetes, the American Diabetes Association's guidelines recommend:
  • Weight loss of 7% or more
  • 150 or more minutes per week of physical activity
  • Percent of total calories from energy nutrients: 15-20% protein, less than 30% fat (10 % saturated), and approx. 50% from carbohydrates.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Sugar Free is not Carbohydrate Free

People with diabetes do not need special foods. In fact, the foods that are good for you are good for everyone. The diabetic aisle in the grocery store can most likely be avoided. Special foods are not only costly, but labels are sometimes deceiving. If you are taking insulin, the prescribed amount will cover your daily carbohydrate intake, no matter what the form; including sugar.
Foods labeled as sugar-free, no sugar added, reduced sugar, and dietetic may still contain carbohydrate. Sugar is only one type of carbohydrate that affects blood glucose levels. Sugar free puddings, for example contain starch, which is a more complex carbohydrate. If you are carb-counting, look at the Nutrition Facts Panel instead of relying on claims on the front of the box.
If you don’t have a lot of time when reading labels, simply look at the total carbohydrate in a food. The total carbohydrate includes starch, fiber, sugar, and sugar alcohols. Using the amount of total carbohydrate will give you a pretty good number to use for carbohydrate counting. It is more helpful to check the total carbohydrate because it includes both sugar and starch. If you only look at the sugar content, you are not accounting for the starch in a food.
~American Diabetes Association~

Monday, September 21, 2009

Glycemic Index; Fad or Fact?

Glycemic index is a measure of the extent to which blood sugar (glucose) levels are raised by a specific amount of carbohydrate-containing food compared to the the same amount of glucose and white bread.
In the not-so-distant past, it was thought that all carbohydrates were the same and they all had the same effect on blood glucose levels. It is now known that some types of simple and complex carbohydrates elevate blood sugars more than others. Carbohydrates that are digested and absorbed quickly have a high glycemic index and raise blood glucose to a higher level. Diets providing low glycemic index carbs have been found to improve blood glucose control in people with type II diabetes, reduce elevated levels of blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and increases levels of beneficial HDL cholesterol, as well as decreasing the risk of developing type II diabetes, heart disease, and some types of cancer. Foods with a high glycemic index may also cause a rapid spike in blood sugar which will cause an enhanced secretion of insulin from the pancreas. This in turn will cause a rapid reduction of blood glucose to the point of hypoglycemia (abnormally low blood glucose). This insulin response and chronic low blood sugar is refered to as reactive hypoglycemia. Reactive hypoglycemia has been shown to be a precursor to type II diabetes.
Foods with low glycemic index lead to a slower insulin response and a more stable blood glucose level. Protien and fats in combination with high glycemic foods help to slow the absorption of the carbohydrate, and can help ward off a rapid spike in glucose and the following sudden drop.
A low-glycemic diet is not recommended for weight loss (as in the South Beach diet), and has not been shown to lower blood glucose in type I diabetics over the long term. It is helpful, however, in avoiding the roller coaster "spike & drop" in glucose levels common for those with a sugar sensitivity such as reactive hypoglycemia, or those with type II diabetes. Low glycemic foods are typically complex carbohydrates, whereas high glycemic index foods are processed grains and simple sugars.
For a glycemic index of common foods and more information, see Free Glycemic Index Chart
Until scientists know more about the glycemic index, people with type I diabetes should eat healthy foods, whether or not they have a high glycemic index.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

You Don't Have To Wear Birkenstocks To Be A Vegetarian!

Vegetarianism is not a religion. People become vegetarians for several reasons, such as weight control, improved health, religion, taste preferences, or to oppose animal cruelty. There are several degrees of vegetarianism as well. If you are concerned about any of the above issues, there may be a vegetarian lifestyle to fit your individual needs.
You may become a "part-time" vegetarian simply by eating less meat. Most Americans consume more than enough animal protein to meet their nutritional needs. We could more than likely cut our consumption in half and still be well nourished. According to the American Dietetic Association's position papers, vegetarian diets are associated with reduced risk for obesity, heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, colon cancer, lung cancer, and kidney disease. Seventh Day Adventists, a religious group whose food ways center on a lacto-ovo-vegetarian diet, have a significantly lower mortality rate from cancer than the rest of the population, and are noted world wide for their longevity.

A semi-vegetarian substitutes white meats such as chicken and turkey breast for it's lower fat content, for red meats.
A Pesco vegetarian consumes fish as their main source of animal protein.
Ovo vegetarians consume eggs; lacto vegetarians consume dairy products; Ovolacto vegetarians consume both eggs and dairy.
The term "Vegan" applies to a strict diet containing no animal products. Some true vegans don't even wear animal products, such as leather and cosmetics containing animal fats. The more restrictive the diet, the more difficult it becomes to get the nutrients you need.

Vegetarians who plan their diets carefully can easily obtain all the nutrients they need to support good health throughout the lifespan, including athletes, pregnant & lactating women, and children. Protein usually is not the problem it was once thought to be in the vegetarian diet. Complete proteins are found in the animal products of the pesco vegetarian and the ovo/lacto vegetarian. Plant based proteins can provide all essential amino acids to the vegan, so long as the sources are varied. Not all plants contain the same amino acids. The vegan diet must contain plant foods that possess complementary proteins in order to receive a balanced distribution of the essential amino acids. The two most common plant foods that vegans can combine to achieve complementary proteins are legumes (nuts, beans, chick-peas) and grains (wheat, corn, rice, oats). Other deficiencies common with the vegan diet are Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, iron, calcium, zinc, as they are found primarily in animal products. Fortified cereals and soy milk should be included, as well as some vitamin supplementation. Iron and other minerals found in vegetables are not as easily absorbed due to the oxalates that naturally occur in plants. Special attention should be given to dietary practices that promote absorption of minerals.
Choosing to adopt a vegetarian diet is up to the individual and represents a significant change in dietary habits. As with all diet plans, do your research and consult with your health care provider. For more information, visit the Vegetarian Resource Group at Cooking vegetarian meals is less complicated with a guide. Easy Veggie Meal Plans (bottom of web page) is a great cookbook for beginners as well as the novice vegetarian. To order, Click Here!

Monday, August 31, 2009

Carbohydrate: The Most Important Energy Source for Exercise

Carbohydrate supplies approximately 45-55% of the body's total energy (calorie) needs. Carbohydrate is also an essential fuel for prolonged sports. Exercise at high altitudes and in very cold temperatures also increase carbohydrate use. During very light exercise, fat is an important energy source. As exercise becomes more intense, carbohydrate becomes the preferred energy source as muscle glycogen (sugar) and plasma oxidation rates increase with every increment in exercise intensity. As the muscle glycogen is being used during exercise, blood glucose enters the muscle tissues. In turn, the Liver will release some of its glucose to help maintain or elevate blood glucose to prevent hypoglycemia.
As you initiate an exercise program, a major portion of your energy will be derived from your muscle glycogen stores. Lactic acid, a byproduct of glycogen metabolism produced in the muscle during intense exercise, may be released into the blood and carried to the liver for reconversion to glucose. The glucose may then return to the muscles to be used as an energy source or stored as glycogen. This is referred to as the Cori Cycle, or the working metabolism with-in the muscle cells. Lactic acid results from limited oxygen to the muscle cells during exertion; accumulation results in muscle fatigue, cramping or pain. To help relieve the pain, relax the muscles frequently to help the circulating blood carry the the lactic acid back to the liver for "recycling." Proper breathing during exercise is important to help prevent lactic acid formation. Beverages containing caffeine have shown to help relieve muscle soreness after exercise, and some athletes claim that Coenzyme Q10 has helped prevent lactic acid buildup, as it helps supply needed oxygen to the muscle cells.
A diet rich in complex carbohydrates not only have several major health benefits, but also help guarantee optimal energy sources for daily exercise training. There is no evidence that diets which restrict carbohydrate ( such as the Zone Diet) enhance training.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Nutrition Tips for Athletes

Protein is one of our most essential nutrients. Many high school and college athletes believe that athletic performance is improved by a high-protein diet. Companies that market nutritional protein supplements for athletes have capitalized on this belief. It is true that a sufficient amount of dietary protein is required by all individuals, however, advertisers imply that additional protein in the form of protein powders or amino acid supplements is necessary for optimal athletic performance. The National Academy of Sciences has historically indicated that the RDA provides adequate protein to everyone, including athletes.
Some recent studies recommend that athletes in training need to increase their protein intake, however, they also recommend that the protein be derived from natural food sources. Complete proteins are obtained primarily from animal foods; meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese. Complete protein means it contains the type and amount of the essential amino acids necessary for maintaining life and promoting growth. They are high-nutrient-density foods, especially if fat content is low to moderate. Because animal protein is of high content, you do not need as much of it to satisfy your RDA. One glass of milk contains 8 grams of protein; about 20% of the RDA for the average male. Eggs are also an excellent source, as they provide 6 grams of protein and produce less nitrogenous waste for the kidneys to process.

To calculate your protein needs, find your weight in kilograms by dividing pounds by 2.2.
Ex: 165 # / 2.2 = 75kg.
Multiply the kg of body weight by the RDA of 0.8 - 1.0 . (75 x 0.8-1.0 = 60-75 grams protein/day)

Both the American College of Sports Medicine and the American Dietetic Assoc. recently concluded that very active individuals and resistance athletes require 1.6-1.7 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight per day. Endurance athletes need approximately 1.2-1.4 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. Notice that the increase is not as drastic as some supplement labels or muscle magazines claim. Hormones build muscle, not protein.
Most scientists and sports nutritionists recommend a high carbohydrate diet for athletes, particularly endurance athletes. Increased activity levels require more overall calories, in the form of carbohydrates. From the standpoint of of both health and athletic performance, dietary carbohydrate is one of the most important nutrients in your diet. Carbohydrates provide energy to hungry muscles; in the form of glycogen. The brain and nervous system rely primarily on glucose for their metabolism. All body stores of carbohydrate are important for energy production during various forms of exercise.
For more information on nutrition for fitness and sport go to:

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Make Good Health Your Goal

Achieving and maintaining a healthier weight will contribute to your overall health and well being. Develop a plan for life long health, not just short term weight loss. By putting more emphasis on overall health, experts agree that you can raise your self esteem, resulting in healthy eating, weight loss, and over all improved health.
Set realistic goals and a step-by step plan. Track your progress with a food and activity log. Start with two or three specific or small changes at a time. When you've turned a healthy change into a habit, reward yourself with a fun activity; not ice cream!
Created by a Registered Dietitian, Weight Watchers provides assistance with goal setting, calorie counting, and the right steps to achieve and maintain a healthy weight. Weight Watchers is not a diet, it is a lesson in how to eat right for life. The program is available on-line for your convenience, and is also featured on Applebee's menu. Weight Watchers has the seal of approval by the American Dietetics Association.
If you have special dietary needs, consult your healthcare provider or a Registered Dietitian for a customized plan.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

What Is Cholesterol?

Contrary to popular belief, cholesterol is not a villain lurking in evil foods. It is a compound the body makes and uses. Cholesterol is a component of all animal and human cell membranes, nerves, and brain tissues, and is the precursor of estrogen, testosterone, adrenal hormones (cortisol), bile acids, and vitamin D.
Cholesterol is one of the most famous of the sterols, or compounds found in both plants and animals. Some people, confused about the distinction between dietary cholesterol and blood cholesterol, have asked which foods contain the "good" cholesterol. "Good" cholesterol is not a type of cholesterol found in foods, but rather the way the body transports cholesterol in the blood.
The blood cholesterol linked to heart disease is LDL cholesterol. The LDL, or Low Density Lipoproteins transport their contents throughout the body for cells to build new membranes, make hormones, or store for later use. Special LDL receptors on the Liver cells play a crucial roll in the control of blood cholesterol concentrations by removing LDL cholesterol from the circulation.
HDL, or High Density Lipoproteins, also carry cholesterol in the reverse way; by returning it from the body back to the liver for breakdown and excretion. This is why HDL cholesterol seems to have a protective effect in regards to cardiovascular disease. Fats and excess cholesterol are passed from the liver into the digestive tract through bile, formed by the Gallbladder, where they then bind to dietary fiber and plant based sterols, and are removed from the body.
Cardiovascular disease begins when the excess LDL cholesterol begins to stick to the arterial walls, which later "calcifies" or hardens, restricting blood flow, and overworks the heart. A surge in blood pressure can cause these calcified clumps to break lose and lodge in smaller arteries, (similar to blood clots), resulting in damaged arteries, aneurysms, organ damage, strokes, and death.
Saturated fats and trans fats have more of an effect on the blood cholesterol than foods containing cholesterol. The liver manufactures cholesterol from fragments of carbohydrate, protein and fat.
Adding plant sterols to the diet is one simple and effective way to manage and lower LDL cholesterol. Plant sterols, sometimes called phytosterols, are naturally found in some vegetable oils, nuts, whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. They raise HDL cholesterol, which, in turn lowers the LDL cholesterol.
Insoluble fiber, such as the type found in whole grains (bran, for instance) vegetables, fruits, seeds and nuts, are the fibers that work best at binding both the cholesterol that is ingested from the diet and that which is excreted by the liver bile. Mono and polyunsaturated fats support HDL cholesterol production also.
For more information on foods that lower cholesterol visit

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Ginger; More Than Just Flavor!

Throughout history, ginger has been used as a natural remedy for gastrointestinal ailments. Research now suggests that the antioxidant found in ginger, polyphenol gingerol, may indeed have medicinal effects. When compared to a placebo, ginger improves symptoms of nausea and vomiting in pregnant women. Ginger has also been found to help manage motion sickness, has natural antibacterial properties, and is a potent anti-inflammitory for arthritis and other inflammitory conditions.
Fresh and ground ginger have distictively different tastes, so they are not interchangeable in cooking. When buying fresh ginger, look for smooth, not wrinkled skin; roots with more knots or branches will be more pungent. Ginger root will keep in the refridgerator wrapped in plastic for up to one week. Freezing ginger will keep for 3 months. For ginger root tea, place a few slices of fresh ginger in a tea strainer and steep in boiled water for ten minutes. Ginger supplements typically contain 500mg. of powdered ginger. For therapeutic use, try these suggested doses:
Indigestion: 2-4 grams per day.
Motion sickness:
1 gram 30 minutes before travel.
Arthritis: 1-2 grams per day.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Genetically Modified Foods; Savior or Scourge?

The battle over genetically modified foods continues, though it has simmered down in recent months. The reason is most likely due to the fading health threats and the advances in the technology. It is a good time to take stock of whether or not the advances have helped or hindered the world's food supply.
Genetic engineering has been used to make many staple crops resistant to herbicides or to make them produce their own insecticide. Both advances offer real benefits to farmers by increasing yields or farm income. Though organic farming may be better, it won't be replacing conventional farming anytime soon. Organic farming is very expensive and riddled with regulations.
Consumer benefits fall short, as biotech crops have not made foods more nutritious, cheaper, or tastier. We are still a few years away from a soybean oil with omega 3 fats to replace trans fats.
On the plus side, GM crops currently being grown are safe and cause less environmental damage than their conventional cousins. Most GM crops allow farmers to use fewer chemical pesticides. Others support no-till farming, which protects the topsoil and reduces agricultural runoff into rivers and streams. In developing nations with millions of poor subsistence farmers, GM crops are proving highly popular. Farmers in India and China growing cotton engineered to produce the Bt pesticide benefit because they can use fewer chemical pesticides and enjoy sharply increased yields. That translates into fewer pesticide poisonings. And, with the Rockefeller Foundation's grant, Golden Rice may soon move from the laboratory to fields in Southeast Asia. This particular rice provides beta carotene, which can prevent vitamin A deficiency and blindness in a region where deficiencies are epidemic.
To secure the future of GM foods, Congress should require the FDA to formally approve new GM foods to ensure that they are safe for humans. Consumers can continue to trust the safety of GM foods with stronger, not stifling regulations. ~Center for Science in the Public Interest

Friday, July 31, 2009

Calcium Isn't the Only Key to Strong Bones

Dietary calcium has been shown reduce the risk of osteoporosis and brittle bones. Calcium is also an electrolyte, which plays an important role in muscle function, including the regulation of heart muscle rhythm (or heart rate), and fluid balance. Bone is living tissue, continuously replacing new cells. Our skeletal structure is our calcium "bank," or storage system. When blood calcium drops below normal range, regulating hormones trigger the "withdrawal" of calcium from the bones to maintain normal blood levels to supply the demands of the tissues. Increased dietary calcium raises blood calcium levels, triggering the hormonal response to build bone cells. As we age, the hormone that cues the process of bone building dwindles, which is why maintaining bone health becomes more difficult. Building a good store of calcium in our younger years leads to stronger bones in our senior years.
But, it's not the only nutrient that matters. Studies show that most Americans, including infants, are not getting enough Vitamin D. It has recently been discovered that the recommended 400 IU per day is not enough. Most researchers now recommend a minimum of 1000IU per day for adults, especially in the northern regions where exposure to sunlight is reduced. Vitamin D is necessary for the transport of calcium and other minerals from the digestive tract into the blood. Vitamin D deficiencies have also been linked to migraines, breast cancer, autism, and all inflammatory illnesses such as heart disease, arthritis, and asthma. The recommended amounts of vitamin D are difficult to obtain from the diet alone, as the limited variety of foods rich in vit. D such as anchovies, herring, tuna in oil, and salmon, are not typically found on our daily dinner table. Thought milk and dairy products are fortified, and vit. D is manufactured in our bodies through sunlight, we are still falling short. Most fish oil capsules do not contain vit. D! Calcium supplements that include vit. D typicaly offer 600 IU per dose.
Other nutrients that keep the bones going strong are the alkaline residues generated from fruits and vegetables. They neutralize acid residues produced by grains and proteins in the diet. Without the alkali supply in the diet, the bones are again called upon to produce alkali. If those fruits and vegetables include leafy greens like spinach, kale, collards, or salad greens, their vitamin K may also strengthen bones. "Vitamin K is required to build bone matrix" according to Bess-Dawson Hughes, director of the Bone Metabolism Laboratory at Tuft's Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging. (One serving of greens a day supplies 150-250mcg of Vit. K; more than enough!)
Exercise also matters to the bones. Stress to the bones in the form of weight-bearing stimulates the uptake of calcium. Just about any weight-bearing exercise will do, including walking. Almost any activity other than swimming or bicycling is considered weight-bearing!

Friday, July 24, 2009

The Weight Loss Confusion

There seems to be and endless sea of weight loss products, pills, foods, clubs, books, and basic garbage everywhere you look. TV, Internet, radio, books, are just the beginning, so it's no wonder that people try them, fail, and give up. Weight loss is not as complicated as many of the so called "programs" or "diet plans" make them out to be, and if weight loss came in a bottle, the country would not be on the verge of an obesity epidemic. Basic knowledge can help you recognize the scams from the real deal. Here are some basic rules about weight loss:
Maintaining a healthy weight is a lifestyle, not a diet. The reason diets fail is because as soon as people go off the diet, the old habits come back, and so does the weight. The most successful "losers" did not follow any special diet. At the end of the day, it's all about the calories. It really doesn't matter if it's in the form of carbohydrates, fats, or protein, how they are combined, or what time of day, as long as they are balanced. Just remember the equation that more calories have to be burned than consumed. Managing weight and calories is just like managing your checking account; think of dieting as a "budget."
Never eliminate a basic food group. A "diet" that suggests eliminating or restricting dairy, carbs, certain colored foods, etc., is not a legitimate program. The food groups as designated by the USDA's Food Guide Pyramid supply all the nutrients required for a healthy metabolism. ( See for more info). By including all types of foods in the diet, not only are you getting balanced nutrition, it keeps meals from becoming boring.
Exercise is the only natural way to boost your metabolism. Metabolism refers to the way the body uses energy. Most of the products advertised do nothing to boost the metabolism. Even caffeine, though it is a stimulant, only increases your heart rate for a few hours. Side effects include insomnia and heart arrhythmia, which are counter productive to weight loss. Aerobic exercise is the best for boosting metabolism. Increasing muscle mass with strength training will increase your metabolism, as muscle requires more calories just to maintain itself. Alcohol slows the metabolism, so use moderation. Eating meals regularly keeps the metabolism working at an optimal level. When you skip meals, your body shifts into starvation mode, conserving energy.
Fat Free isn't always a good thing. Fat free cookies and such contain more sugars and salt to give flavor, but they don't provide satiety; satiety is the feeling of satisfaction from eating. Fats can provide satiety, one reason being is because they take longer to digest and provide more calories per gram than do sugars. 10% of your daily intake can be saturated fat, and 20% should be unsaturated fats, in the way of mono or polyunsaturated. They provide long lasting energy and essential fatty acids (nutrients to help maintain nerves, hormonal balance, and much more), and help ward of that hunger feeling. So eat that favorite cookie! Just remember to count the calories.
Get your ZZZZ's! How long you sleep may effect hormones that regulate appetite and weight. Sleeping only 4 - 5 hours a night, instead of the recommended 7 - 8, alters levels of the appetite regulating hormones leptin and ghrelin, leading to increased appetite. These hormonal changes combined with having more awake time for eating and feeling too tired to exercise all contribute to weight gain.
Make sure your sources of information are reliable. Always ask a nutrition professional for diet advice. Beware of the label "nutritionist," as there is no certification or definition of such. The label can be used quite freely. Chiropractors, vitamin sales people, health food store clerks can all refere to themselves as "nutritionists" thought they may not have any specialized education or certification in the field. A Registered Dietitian or Dietetic Technician are the only nutrition professionals educated and certified in accredited nutrition programs. Reliable and unbiased information generally comes from Universities, Govt. agencies, and health organizations.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ginko Biloba Isn't Just Brain Food

New research from Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston was recently presented to the American Association for Cancer Research concluding that women who took Ginko Biloba supplements for at least 6 months were 60% less likely to have ovarian cancer. In this study, 600 women with ovarian cancer were compared with 640 women who were healthy. Positive results were found as specific compounds in Ginko Biloba called ginkgolides, were tested on ovarian cancer cells. Thought the exact dosage used by the women was not revealed in the study, the usual dose is 60 to 120 mg. a day. Continued research is needed before any cancer prevention claims can be made on Ginko Biloba's behalf, but the findings thus far are quite significant.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Safe Summer Grilling

For those of us in the northern regions of the country, barbecues and picnics are cherished social events. Make the best of this warm weather ritual with these tips for safe food handling.
Keep cold food cold!

❅ Cold food should be held at or below 40° F.
❅ Meat, poultry, and seafood may be packed while still frozen so that it stays colder longer.
❅ Keep raw meat securely wrapped so their juices don’t contaminate already cooked foods or items eaten raw.
❅ Keep beverages in a separate cooler that will be opened more often.
❅ Transport coolers in the air-conditioned back seat of the vehicle, instead of the hot trunk.
❅ In hot weather, never let food sit out for more than one hour.
Keep hot food hot!
❂ After cooking meats on the grill, keep them hot until served - at 140° F or warmer.
❂ Cook thoroughly. Use a food thermometer to be sure the food has reached a safe internal temp. Don't ruin a good cut of meat by guessing!
Whole poultry - 180° F
Breasts - 170° F
Hamburgers (beef) - 160° F
Ground poultry - 165° F
Pork - 160° F
Fin fish - 140° F
❂ Beef, veal, lamb steaks, roasts and chops can be cooked to 140° F.
❂ NEVER partially grill meats and finish cooking them later.
Before you begin!
❦ Food safety begins with hand washing - even in outdoor settings. Pack hand sanitizer for picnics.
❦ Marinate food in the refrigerator, not on the counter.
❦ Use a separate brush for raw and cooked meats; wash the brush in hot, soapy water between uses.
❦ Don’t use the same platter and utensils that previously held raw meat or seafood to serve cooked meats. Harmful bacteria from uncooked drippings can contaminate safely cooked food.
What about the cancer risks with grilled foods?
As long as you don't "char" the meat, the risk is minimal. Rare to medium produces fewer mutagens than well done meats. Precooking in the microwave for 1&1/2 - 2 minutes can reduce mutagens by 90%. Sea food produces less than red meat and poultry. Veggieburgers and vegetables generate little or no mutagens. Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage) can even help the liver detoxify mutagens.

Coenzyme Q10. Is it Worth the Hype? (Or the Price!)

Coenzyme Q10 is manufactured by the body, and plays a valuable role in the mitochondria; the working metabolism within individual cells. CoQ10 also functions as an antioxidant there, protecting the cells' DNA from free radicals. It is abundant in hard working muscles, especially the heart. Levels of CoQ10 tend to decline with age, and are lower in congestive heart failure and other diseases. There is speculation that replenishing the body's CoQ10 might help treat those diseases and slow the aging process, but evidence of such is still questionable at this time.
CoQ10 is often recommended for heart failure or cardiomyopathy patients since the majority show a deficiency. In these instances, it can be a valuable tool. Whether it can prevent heart disease has yet to be studied. The typical dose is 200mg/day, and toxicity levels have not yet been established.
Some statin users claim to benefit from the supplement, though there is no confirmed evidence that the CoQ10 alone provided the relief from muscle aches. This is one of the problems some people experience with statins. Researchers believe that pain occurs when the mitochondria become impaired because their natural CoQ10 has been depleted by the statins. Here's how it works: The same enzyme makes both cholesterol and CoQ10, so when the statins block cholesterol production, they are also blocking the production of the body's natural CoQ10. Since there are no known risks to taking the supplement, one can only give it a try. As always, check with your doctor before taking any supplements.
Can healthy people benefit from CoQ10 as a preventative? Probably not. In studies with healthy mice, it didn't do much of anything to prevent disease or delay aging.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Stone Prone?

Kidney stones are one of the most common disorders that affect the kidneys. Kidney stones are usually composed of calcium oxalate and/or phosphate. Less common are stones formed of uric acid, which are frequently associated with gout.
To help prevent the formation of kidney stones, physicians have traditionally recommended reducing dietary calcium intake. The true chemistry behind the formation of calcium oxalate stones shows the real enemy are the oxalates that bind with the calcium. Since calcium is a necessary nutrient, it only makes sense to reduce the intake of oxalate instead. A low oxalate diet can be rather restrictive, and since oxalates are also found in many nutritious foods, the trick here is to avoid eating foods high in oxalates in combination with calcium rich foods. For example, spinach and cheese together on a pizza may be tasty, but it's not a good combination if you are prone to kidney stones. For a list of foods high in oxalates, click here.
To reduce your intake of phosphate, simply limit your intake of sodas. Any carbonated beverage, including flavored "fizzy" waters contain phosphorous, and they generally have no other nutritional value. Eliminating them altogether would not cause any nutritional deficiencies.
Uric acid stones can be prevented by restricting purine in the diet. Foods high in purine include pork, red meat, organ meats, sardines, anchovies, and alcohol; primarily beer. If you are following a diet for the treatment of gout, you are already on the right path to preventing uric acid stones.
Increasing fluid intake, mainly water, will dilute the urine and can help in preventing the formation of kidney stones.