Thursday, December 8, 2011

Would Your Kitchen Pass Inspection?

Keep your kitchen from making you sick! Of course, we don't live in a germ free environment, but the kitchen can really be germ central. Bugs (bacteria) feed on the basic food we survive on - water and sugars. They migrate from hands to sinks, counter tops and eventually to your food.
Sponges are usually the dirtiest thing in the kitchen, harboring everything from coliform, yeast, & mold to staph & strep. Food and Drug Administration's Food Code prohibits their use in restaurants and health care facilities (nursing home kitchens, etc.) The reason they become cesspools is because they come in contact with food residues that get trapped in the various nooks and crannies which provide nutrients for bacterial growth, and are often left in damp or wet areas near the sink. They are also very difficult to sanitize properly. Soaking them in 10% household bleach or running them through the dishwasher does nothing to reduce bacteria! Microwaving at full power for one minute is most effective, just make sure the sponge is wet to avoid a fire, and it does not contain any metal. Better yet, start with a fresh one every day. Dishcloths are the best option, as they can be laundered regularly.
Cleaning counter tops and appliances with soap is enough to kill bacteria. It's more important to keep things clean than to have things disinfected. Most disinfectants don't work until AFTER the surface has been cleaned. Oils and such leave even bleach ineffective. Some chemicals are not safe for use around food, and always rinse items that have been bleached. Home made disinfectants such as vinegar or baking soda are usually too weak to be effective. Never store cleaning or other chemicals together with food items.
Garbage disposals have been found to harbor E coli, Listeria, and even Salmonella. Soaking or rinsing salad greens in your sink is not recommended, since bacteria can come from the drains. Use a colander or bowl, and rinse sinks/drains and disposals with a bleach solution (1T. bleach to 1 gal. water) on a weekly basis.
Which cutting board is safer - wood or plastic? It doesn't matter. It is the integrity of the surface that matters. Cuts and scratches let in food particles. Special anti-microbial boards are a waste of money, since the bacteria cling to the grease or food particles and not the treated fibers of the board. Just clean all boards thoroughly with soap and water, or use a dishwasher. Replace worn and chipped boards.
Microwave ovens cook by bombarding the food with electric waves - not heat. And they only hit one local spot at a time. They are not "self cleaning." Wash the insides often. Killing all microbes on reheated food is also a challenge, since they don't heat the food evenly. Bacteria still thrives on the cold spots. When reheating foods, allow "standing time" or time for the entire article to heat by induction. Make sure your microwave has enough wattage to cook food properly (1,100 watts or more). And always reheat in microwave-safe containers! Use glass (Pyrex or Corning ware) , paper, wax paper. Plastics and styrofoam melt, leaching harmful and toxic chemicals into the food.
Keep your refrigerator at 40F degrees or lower, and wash the insides regularly with soap & water. The cool temps only SLOW the bacterial growth. Even freezing only suspends bacterial growth. It will resume proliferation when the items thaw. Freezers should be kept at 0 F to keep foods at optimal freshness.
Your dishwasher, however may be your best defense for spreading illness, since the detergents are much stronger and the drying heat gives an additional kill factor.
As always, wash your hands. Studies continue to prove that proper hand washing is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of illness and infection, according to the Center for Disease Control. The water does not need to be hot - it is the length of scrubbing time (20 seconds) and the degree of friction that's important. Also, antibacterial soaps do not show to be any more effective in reducing bacteria than proper washing with ordinary soap, according to The Food & Drug Administration. Studies are still questioning the safety of the ingredient triclosan in many antibacterial soap products. (Exposure to high levels have been linked to suppressed thyroid hormone levels). OOOPS!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Coffee To The Rescue!

That morning cup of coffee may do more than wake you up. A new study shows a lower risk of (metatastic) prostate cancer. Researchers tracked 48,000 men in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study from 1986 to 200. Those who drank one to five cups of coffee (regular or decaf) a day had a 30% lower risk of prostate cancer than those who consumed no coffee. Various studies also show how coffee may help reduce the risk of other diseases such as type 2 diabetes, Parkinson's, colon cancer, cirrhosis, gall stones, depression and more.
Caffeine is not the issue; it’s the whole coffee package. Research points to antioxidants -- nutrients that help prevent tissue damage caused by molecules called oxygen-free radicals. Coffee has a very strong antioxidant capacity. Coffee also contains minerals such as magnesium and chromium, which help the body use the hormone insulin, which controls blood sugar (glucose).
A 2009 study from Finland and Sweden showed that, out of 1,400 people followed for about 20 years, those who reported drinking 3-5 cups of coffee daily were 65% less likely to develop dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, compared with nondrinkers or occasional coffee drinkers.
As with everything, remember to use moderation. Keep in mind that coffee accompaniments such as cream and sugar add fat and calories to your diet. Finally, heavy caffeine use (four to seven cups a day) can cause problems such as restlessness, anxiety, irritability and insomnia.
~ Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 2011

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Harvest The Flavor

A Fall candidate for your shopping cart is the Acorn Squash. It is excellent for baking and a snap to prepare. It's compact size is perfect for two servings, and you can use the cut-in-half baked squash as a bowl for soup or for your favorite pilaf or other filling. Squash are one of the best keeping vegetables. In fact, stored squash contains more carotene than freshly picked squash. Their shelf life makes them quite economical. In cold storage (not refridgerated) they can last up to 3 months.
Along with acorn's sweet, nutty flavor are the vitamins B-1, B-6, C, carotene, calcium (a whopping 90mg. per 7 oz. serving!) magnesium, potassium, and fiber, with about 100 calories.
Cut an acorn squash in half and remove the seeds. Brush with olive oil and season to taste. Bake cut side up at 400 degrees for 35 minutes. Each pound of squash yields 2 cups.
A one cup serving supplies 2 g. protein, 22 g. carb., 3 g. fiber, 5 mg. sodium, 0 sat. fat.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Health Nuts

Reduce some of the guilt that comes with holiday goodies by adding walnuts to your baked goods and casseroles. Walnuts not only taste great but are a rich source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and an excellent source of those hard to find omega-3 fatty acids. Like most nuts, they can easily be added to your favorite recipes, and even your favorite breakfast cereals.
Approximately 90% of the phenols in walnuts are found in the skin, including key phenolic acids, tannins, and flavonoids, so leave the skins on! Phytonutrient research on the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits of walnuts has moved this food further and further up the ladder of foods that are protective against metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular problems, type 2 diabetes, and certain cancers - including prostate cancer and breast cancer. Some phytonutrients found in walnuts - for example, the quinone juglone, the tannin tellimagrandin or the flavonol morin - are found in virtually no other commonly-eaten foods, and are valuable as antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients. Walnuts contain a significant amount of folate, B6, manganese, copper, phosphorous and fiber; almost 1/3 of the daily value per one cup serving. The form of vitamin E found in walnuts is somewhat unusual, and particularly beneficial. A final fascinating aspect of walnuts and their potential health benefits involves melatonin (MLT). MLT is a widely-active messaging molecule in our nervous system, and very hormone-like in its regulatory properties. MLT is critical in the regulation of sleep, daily (circadian) rhythms, light-dark adjustment, and other processes.
Shelled walnuts are generally available in prepackaged containers as well as bulk bins.When buying in bulk, make sure that the bins containing the walnuts are covered and that the store has a good product turnover so as to ensure its maximal freshness. Due to their high polyunsaturated fat content, walnuts are extremely perishable. Shelled walnuts should be stored in an airtight container and placed in the refrigerator, where they will keep for six months, or the freezer, where they will last for one year. Unshelled walnuts should preferably be stored in the refrigerator, although as long as you keep them in a cool, dry, dark place they will stay fresh for up to six months.
Beware, a one cup serving also packs a whopping 765 calories! Treats are still a treat, even with the nutritional benefits.
~ USDA, 2011

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Yes, There Really is a Food Day!

October 24th will be a day to learn about food issues and to advocate for healthy, affordable food produced in a sustainable, humane way. There is also much to celebrate. America's food system has come a long way. More organic foods than ever are being produced, and farmer's markets are popping up everywhere. Yogurt, brown rice and tofu used to be considered "exotic." Many whole foods are now found at local grocers instead of specialty stores.
On the other hand, there are the huge "factory farms" that are hurting the family farms, polluting the land, rivers, and air with excess fertilizer, pesticides, and cesspools of manure, while housing animals in shameful conditions. Obesity is at epidemic proportions, and food poisoning is still a threat despite sanitation regulations.
Numerous organizations have banded together to help solve these problems by educating everyone from grade school kids to government officials. The American Dietetic Association has a hand in the process of promoting Food Day by joining the advisory board, along with The American Public Health Association, Farmer's Market Coalition, Senators, The Food Network, and several food manufacturers and restaurants.
Food Day is a national campaign to support the family farms by limiting subsidies to industrial- scale farms, curb diet related disease, protect the environment, limit the marketing of junk-food to kids, and address many more food production issues.
The public can help promote this campaign by hosting events at schools, churches, and at home. You can also join an event already planned in your area. (Check the map at Make it Food Day everyday by keeping it real - real food, that is!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

Fast Food That 's Good For You

Eating healthy doesn't have to be labor intensive, costly, or complicated. If you can open a bag of potato chips, you can just as easily open a bag of salad. Many vegetable blends can be found in the freezer case, right next to your favorite boxed dinner. Instead of the box, try a bag of stir fry veggies already cut and ready to go - dump in a skillet, add seasonings, and dinner is served. A bag of fresh spinach makes a great salad and is a powerhouse of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Add nuts instead of croutons. Options for single serving folks - buy salad or cut up carrots, broccoli, etc. at a salad bar or deli. The cost isn't so high because there is no waste.
Replace processed meats with no-nitrite-added deli meats. The American Institute for Cancer Research recommends eliminating all processed meats from the diet. The nitrites added to preserve them do twice the damage as red meat. Try a veggie burger, or ground poultry. At least you don't have to worry about E. Coli with veggie burgers!
Switch to "thins" or light bread. Get your carbs from fruits, veggies, and beans. Make your grains count by buying 100% Whole Grain cereals and breads. Half of a standard bagel is a serving. Also try mini bagels or thins.
Instead of the standard granola bar as a carry-on, pack a slice of whole grain bread with peanut butter (folded over) for your afternoon pick-me-up. Many granola bars are just candy bars in disguise.
Buy sliced fruits such as mango, pineapple, cantaloupe, in the produce section. Though it costs a little more for the prep work, it's still cheaper than fruit salad at a restaurant.
Make fruit smoothies at home with frozen berries, skim milk and yogurt. You'll save a bundle on calories compared to the sugar-laden concoctions sold at restaurants. Add fruit to plain yogurt to reduce calories. The stuff on the bottom of many "fat free" yogurts is similar to candy.
Avoid liquid cheese. Really, it's not even cheese. It's liquid saturated fat with no nutritional value whatsoever.
Eliminate two servings of meat per week and replace them fish. Broiled or grilled, it only takes a few minutes! And a small (lunch box size) can of tuna on a tossed salad doesn't even require cooking. Toss a can into your purse and buy a small side salad at any drive-through for a cheap and heart healthy lunch.
Make junk food boring by adding variety to your pantry. Stock up with the good stuff. The reason people go to restaurants is for the variety. You never order a meal that you can get at home.
Snack Tip: Rinse a container of blueberries or snap peas, eat.
Liquid calories don't curb hunger, they just add calories. This applies to not only sodas, but fruit juice, energy drinks, and coffee concoctions. The average American gets at least 22% of their daily calories from liquids. Switch to calorie-free beverages.
When eating out: Just say no to that basket of bread or tortilla chips. Get the thin, not thick pizza crust, and replace nitrite rich meats with chicken or veggies. Try a bean burrito instead of beef. Avoid the noodles, deep fried, and breaded items at Asian restaurants. A Gyro packs about 800 calories with the fatty, high sodium meats. Opt for the chicken souvlaki pita for half the calories. Order two veggies as your sides with dinner, instead of starches. And order "petite" desserts that many restaurants now offer, or share a dessert with a friend.

~ JAMA, 2010

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Back To School With Diabetes

Kids with diabetes have an even longer list of school supplies and tasks. Planning for diabetes management at school can be daunting, but there is plenty of advice available. The American Diabetes Association's Safe at School program ( is an excellent resource of information for parents and kids. Parents and administrators need to be aware of the legal responsibilities in caring for students with diabetes, and it's important to prepare the child, also.
As kids grow older, they should take increasing responsibility for their own diabetes management, so include them in the planning process and ask them what their thoughts are. Children who take an active role in their own care tend to do best in managing their diabetes. At the same time, it can be tiring to them. Parents need to stay involved and make sure there is at least one adult within the school environment (i.e. nurse, teacher) who can be called on in an emergency. It's a good idea to review your child's blood glucose target ranges with your physician and the school's staff so that they know when to intervene or alert you. You may also want to chat with the dietitian about healthy snacks or the best treatments for low blood sugar, or talk with the school nurse about whether your child is ready for unsupervised pump boluses. The Diabetes Medical Management Plan (a Section 504 Plan) and other care plans should be filed several weeks before the school year begins.
The greatest tool a child can have at school and even later in life is being able to speak up for themselves. Though friends and the school's staff are able to read the warning signs of high or low blood sugar, the youngest of children can learn to recognize these signs in themselves and alert others when necessary. High school age children should be able to take on the responsiblities of implementing the 504 Plans as well as carrying a cell phone to report their highs and lows to their care team.
The ADA's Safe at School campaign provides materials parents can use to educate schools about the laws and how to form a good working relationship with teachers and other staff members. Children should not have to miss-out on field trips, parties, and sporting events because of their diabetes or of their school official's lack of care know-how. It is illegal for a school to exclude a child with diabetes from such an event because a parent is unable to accompany them.
Probably the most important back-to-school task is talking with your child. Find out just what they are ready to take on by themselves and what they will need your help with. The more awareness created for those concerned, the better the school year will proceed.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Magnesium Rx

Like calcium and phosphorous, magnesium supports bone health. It is also involved in many enzyme systems, nerve impulse transmission, immune function, normal muscle contraction, and critical to normal heart function. Magnesium acts in all the cells of the soft tissues where it forms part of the protein-making machinery and is necessary for energy metabolism. Recent studies show a link to sudden cardiac death and magnesium deficiency (less than 260 mg/day). Magnesium also proves to help protect against hypertension. It has been noted that people living in areas where "hard water" which contains high concentrations of calcium and magnesium, tend to have lower rates of heart disease (34%). Most magnesium deficiencies are the result of disease, alcohol abuse, diuretic use, kidney disorders, and prolonged diarrhea & vomiting. Athletes exposed to extreme heat resulting in dehydration are at risk for symptoms, such as dizzines and muscle fatigue. Toxicity (overdose) is rare though deadly, and usually results from supplements. The RDA of magnesium is 350 to 400 mg./day.
Significant dietary sources of magnesium are nuts, legumes, whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, seafood (especially halibut), chocolate, and cocoa.

~American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Muscle From A Bottle

As if body building were that easy! The one absolute sure way to slow down muscle loss with aging or to build muscle is with strength training. How much and which kind of protein we eat, and how it is distributed throughout the day also matters. What science knows and what people are doing are at opposite ends of the spectrum.
On average, 30 grams of protein per meal is the maximum amount the body can synthesize at a time; the excess will be converted to fat. High quality protien comes from animal sources, i.e. fish, dairy, eggs, meats. Leucine seems to be the most important of the amino acids that make up animal proteins. In fact, researchers believe it is the key ingredient which provides the driving force of protein synthesis (muscle building). Milk contains whey protein, which has the highest concentration of leucine, making it a popular ingredient in bodybuilding powders. Vegetables contain some leucine, soy ranking the highest, though not as efficient for synthesis.
The largest anabolic (tissue-building) response to protein consumption is after exercise. During exercise, the signaling proteins that regulate synthesis shut down.
And what about those popular liquid supplements? Made up of mostly water, sugar, vegetable oil and a vitamin supplement, they contain the same amount of protien as 2 cups of skim milk, for about 3 times the cost. The metabolite HMB, a.k.a. "Revigor" mentioned on one of the bottled types does not contain enough of the ingredient to be effective. Even in studies where participants took 5 times the amount of HMB found in the supplement, along with arginine and lysine, and regular strength training, showed no more increase in muscle tissue after one year than those taking a placebo.
Creatine, however, has shown evidence as being the most effective and safest supplement for improving muscle size, when used properly and accompanied with resistance training. Creatine is a natural compound found in the body and in foods such as meat, fish, and poultry. Creatine makes energy available to muscles during exercise, and "plumps" muscles with added fluids. Older adults tend to benefit the most from creatine supplements, since the body slows down the natural production with the aging process. Vegans benefit also, since they don't get so much from their diet.
~ Journal of Parenteral and Enteral Nutrition, 2009

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Artichoke; A Culinary Delicacy

Because of it's intricate structure, many people have shy ed away from this delectable and fiber rich vegetable. A single artichoke is actually an unopened flower bud from a thistle-like plant related to the daisy called the Cyanara scolymus. Each "bud" consists of outer leaves that are tough and inedible at the tip, but fleshy and tender at the base. The inedible "choke" (resembles corn silk) is enclosed within a light colored cone. The "heart" or the fleshy bottom of the artichoke is the vegetable equivalent of lobster. Cynarin, a substance present in artichokes stimulates the taste buds responsible for detecting sweet flavors. It makes the food you eat afterward taste sweet.
Preparing fresh artichokes can be labor intensive, yet more economical and flavorful than canned or frozen. Where to start? Wash under cold water. Cut off the top inch of each bud with a large sharp knife. Rub the cut parts in lemon juice to prevent browning (oxidation). Pull off any short, coarse leaves from the bottom and cut of the stem flush with the base so that the artichoke can stand upright. Boil, steam (25 to 40 min.) or microwave (4-7 min. ea.). Peel the cooked leaves and dip the fleshy base into dipping sauce, discarding the tougher tips. Discard the choke. The bottom can be cut up and dipped also. For recipes, the whole artichoke can be cooked and halved length-wise to remove the chokes. Leaves and quartered bottoms make great appetizers.
One serving size of the raw artichoke provides 47 calories, 3 g. protein, 11 g. dietary fiber. Also high on the list are Vitamin C, folate, potassium, and magnesium.

Artichoke Saute
9 oz. frozen artichoke hearts, thawed & drained.
4 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil, divided.
8 oz. sliced shiitake mushroom caps.
1 15oz. can chickpeas, rinsed & drained.
3 cloves garlic, chopped.
2 sliced scallions.
6 sprigs Italian parsley, chopped.
1 Tbs. lemon juice.
1/2 tsp. kosher salt.

In a large skillet, saute the artichokes in 1 Tbs. olive oil until browned. Remove from pan. Saute the mushrooms in 1 Tbs. olive oil until browned. Remove from pan, and repeat steps for chickpeas; lightly brown. Add the remaining olive oil, stir in garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Return mushrooms and artichokes to the pan and heat, add scallions and parsley. Season with lemon juice and salt. Serves 4. Calories: 290 Fat: 6 g (2 g. sat) Protein: 9 g. Sodium: 310 mg. Fiber: 10 g.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Green Tea Time

Green tea is an easy sell, in any package. But, does it live up to the hype? The studies on animals are impressive, but the evidence in humans has been hard to come by.
Green tea is rich in plant compounds, but the jury is still out over "if " and how much is needed to be of any health benefit. The best source of polyphenols is from brewed green tea and not some weak, ready-to-drink or instant tea product. Most contain as much sugar as soft drinks, and the coloring is largely from synthetic dyes.
Steep the tea bag for at least 3 minutes. Squeezing in some lemon adds vitamin C, which protects the polyphenols from being oxidized and lost. Three or more servings a day are required to keep blood levels of polyphenols high enough to be effective. If you drink bottled tea, look for one made primarily from brewed tea and not tea extracts or concentrate.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Newly Discovered Health Benefits From Omega 3's

An evolving body of research is revealing new benefits of omega - 3 fatty acids in the diet. An Iowa State U. study has discovered that inadequate amounts of Omega 3's in the diet of pregnant women may be a precursor to increased incidence of childhood allergies. It is also published in a recent article in the Journal of Pediatrics that early introduction of fish to an infants diet (before 9 months of age) has a protective effect against hereditary eczema and a lower incidence of upper respiratory infections and asthma.
Large epidemiological studies have suggested that adequate intake of omega - 3's may prevent or delay cognitive decline in older adults. Animal studies have shown a reduction in Alzheimer-like brain alterations.
Your best sources for Omega-3 fatty acids are dark, cold water fish such as Tuna, wild Salmon, and Halibut. If you chose to take a supplement, research the products for purity - price isn't always a factor. Two to three servings of fish per week is a safe amount. Plenty of fresh vegetables will also help to "detox" heavy metals from the body, so don't be afraid of the ocean's bounty.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Earth Friendly Food Tips

For over 40 years, Earth Day on April 22 has reminded us to do our best to ensure a cleaner, more healthful environment for current and future generations. The three "R's" of a sustainable lifestyle are reduce, reuse, and recycle, which can be put into practice in dozens of ways, including food. Not only the way food is produced, but also the ways in which food is packaged, shipped, prepared and served are just as important to eco-friendly principals. Try putting these Earth friendly practices into your life:
Eat organic. Organically produced foods reduce pollution in the air, soil, and water by ensuring reduced use of pesticides.
Eat locally. It's the next best thing to growing your own. Buying at local farm markets helps farmers and your local economy, AND helps reduce greenhouse gas emissions due to shipping.
Eat fewer processed foods. Processed food create unnecessary packaging, and the processing and transportation is much more energy and resource intensive than buying fresh ingredients and cooking from scratch. Home canning and freezing utilizes reusable packaging.
Eat lower on the food chain. That means working toward a plant-based diet. If all Americans eliminated just one day of meat consumption per week, the reduction in global warming would be equivalent to taking 4 to 6 million cars off the road.
Small changes can make a large impact that help to sustain the Earth and it's resources. For more ideas, the 2011 Earth Day campaign A Billion Acts of Green can be found at

Saturday, March 5, 2011

March is National Nutrition Month

Originated in 1973, National Nutrition Month is an annual campaign sponsored by the American Dietetic Association to promote nutrition awareness and education. This year's theme is "Eat Right With Color." Splash some color on your plate with a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and dairy every day. Making small improvements in your eating habits will over time, add up to significant health benefits.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Marvelous Mushrooms

The mushroom may pale in comparison to the other brightly colored vegetables in the display case, but nutritionally it is no lightweight. Mushrooms contain surprising amounts of fiber, B vitamins, selenium, potassium, and copper. They are also the only plant source of vitamin D. When exposed to sunlight, their vit. D content soars.
Emerging data suggests that mushrooms may have the ability to enhance our immune system, fight infections, and offer protection against diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Mushrooms contain enzymes and microbial compounds to fight off potential invaders and to keep from rotting. Scientists believe these survival skills of fungi may be a clue to the health benefits, considering the fact the antibiotic penicillin was derived from a fungus.
Mushrooms can also help in low calorie meal planning, since they are 90% water and virtually fat-free. When used as a substitute for meat, they can reduce calorie intake by 400 calories a day.
Complex flavors and appealing textures make mushrooms a versatile ingredient in cooking. Add crunch with raw enokis to salads or soups. Stir-fry almost any fresh mushroom or saute with garlic and toss with pasta. Top steaks, chicken, and omelets. Creminis may be oven roasted with a drizzle of olive oil and eaten hot, or cooled and added to salads. Portabellas (a large cremini) are perfect for brushing with toasted sesame oil and soy sauce and grilling. Dried porcini and shiitake add flavor to soups and sauces, and risotto.
Fresh mushrooms can be refrigerated for up to a week when stored in a paper bag. Quickly rinse mushrooms to remove obvious dirt, but don't soak them as they will absorb water and become soggy. Trim off the end of the stem before using. If you go foraging for wild mushrooms, bring an expert who knows the difference between the edible and the stomach-pumpers!

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Eat Your Way to a Better Mood

Got the winter blues? Your diet could be the reason. Certain foods are key components in the production of powerful brain chemicals, called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine may jog your memory, improve performance, improve sleep and boost your mood. Try these good mood food strategies and notice a better outlook.
  • Limit refined carbohydrates. Refined starches and sugars such as white bread, crackers, bagels and rice, soda, candy, fruit juice, are digested quickly, leading to a dip in energy and rebound hunger a few hours later. They can also create radical spikes (and drops) in your blood sugar, which leave you feeling cranky and tired. High-quality carbohydrates such as vegetables, fruit, legumes, brown or wild rice and oatmeal trigger the release of serotonin which enhances calmness, improves outlook, and may lessen feelings of depression. Foods rich in soluble fiber such as flax seeds, oats, barley, apples, pears, sweet potatoes, peas and beans help slow down the absorption of sugar in your blood, potentially lessening mood swings.
  • Get your B-vitamins. Folate and vitamin B12 may influence mood by playing a role in serotonin production. Studies have shown that low blood levels of these vitamins are sometimes related to depression. Instead of supplements, get naturally balanced B-complex in foods such as fortified whole grain breakfast cereals, lentils, black eyed peas, soybeans, oatmeal, mustard greens, beets, broccoli, sunflower seeds, wheat germ and oranges. Mood boosting foods rich in vitamin B12: shellfish, wild salmon (fresh or canned), fortified whole grain breakfast cereal, lean beef, low-fat dairy, and eggs.
  • Those amazing Omega-3's! Foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as oily fish (salmon, Atlantic mackerel and sardines), ground flax seeds, walnuts, canola oil, soy nuts and omega-3 fortified eggs are always the best way to get your nutrients. But an occasional supplement helps, especially if you are trying to reduce calories. For omega-3's, look for supplements that contain 650mg of EPA and DHA combined.
  • Don't forget vitamin D. Although a link between vitamin D and seasonal affective disorder (winter blues) is still speculative, don't discount this sunshine vitamin. Vitamin D may increase levels of serotonin in the brain. Good sources of vitamin D: fish with bones, low-fat milk, fortified soy milk and egg yolks. Because vitamin D rich foods are limited, it may be beneficial to take a daily multivitamin to reach the recently updated goal of 600 International Units. Check with your doctor before starting a dietary supplement.
Be sure to maintain a regular eating pattern. By eating every 4 to 5 hours throughout the day, your brain and body gets a constant source of fuel. This can dramatically prevent dips and spikes in your blood sugar. Limit caffeine since it will also deliver a quick energy surge followed by a crash. Many commercial energy drinks are loaded with added sugar and can be quite calorie-laden. Be sure to drink plenty of water or other unsweetened beverages at regular intervals too, as dehydration and fatigue go hand-in-hand. Improvements in your mood may take a few weeks....but you are guaranteed to feel better!

Sari Greaves, RD CDN

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Dietitians Share Their Personal Struggles with Weight Loss

Even dietitians have battled weight issues and dysfunctional relationships with food. Through our own struggles, we have learned how to better counsel clients who want to conquer the same dietary demons.
First of all, one cannot lose weight for someone else. It has to be a goal for internal personal reasons. Take ownership of your own health. When someone else is in control of a personal issue, resentment takes over and motivation is lost.
One diet does not fit all. It's about finding what works for each individual lifestyle; everyone has their own weight-loss journey. Don't just change what you are eating, but also change what you are doing daily. Surround yourself with dietary habits that include physical activities, and don't expect immediate results.
Restricting food always leads to eventual excess eating. Become more in tune with your own behaviors and emotional aspects towards food, and learn to break certain patterns. Weight loss doesn't mean going hungry. By eating the right foods, the urge to indulge in the forbidden is diminished.
Be comfortable with who you are and avoid the yo-yo diet trap; too heavy, too thin - find balance. Obsessing over food and exercise pushes people to extremes. This pertains to developing a healthy self image and a healthy relationship with food. Don't hesitate to work with a counselor if you struggle with these issues. Fix the inner self, and the outer self will follow suit.
Weight control is about more than just eating right. It involves deeply rooted emotional issues and habits. If you wish to consult with an RD, by all means, don't feel intimidated; many have had the same experiences with weight control as everyone else. Besides being able to pass along healthy tidbits learned from our own weight loss journeys, we are able to empathize and inspire.

~ Best wishes for a happy and healthy New Year!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Choosing A Personal Trainer

Today's trainers are certified by a variety of organizations, and you may be wondering which is the best certification to possess. Each tends to bring something unique to the table, so the pivotal factor is not the certification itself, but the individual. It is more a matter of finding one who will work best to fit your specific needs and one whom you trust.
Here are some of the more well known organizations and what the credentials mean:
The American Aerobic Association International Certification is based on prior study and an exam. Certifications are good for two years and are renewed each year.
The American Council on Exercise Includes a written test on a variety of questions relating to execise and health related topics, designing programs for hypothetical clients, and requires automated external defibrillator (AED) certification. Credentials are good for 2 years and require continuing education annually to maintain certification.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) This designation requires a current CPR certification and a high school diploma prior to sitting for the exam. The exam includes a written test assessing the ability to design exercise programs, perform fitness tests, and safely work with healthy people and those medically cleared for exercise training. 45 continuing education credits are required each year to maintain certification.
The Cooper Institute Personal Trainer Exam consists of a written exam covering a range of topics; from exercise prescription and assessment to exercise science. Applicants must be at least 18 years of age and hold a current CPR certification. Certifications are good for 3 years.
The International Sports Sciences Association consists of an at-home study program; the exam is taken on-line. Students must have a current CPR/AED certification prior to the exam. 20 continuing education hours every 2 years are required to maintain certification.
National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Trainers must hold a current CPR/AED certification prior to the exam which consists of 120 multiple choice questions. Two continuing education credits are required every two years to maintain the credentials.
The National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) is a 200 multiple choice question exam that assesses the students knowledge of exercise prescription and testing as well as exercise technique. CPR/AED certification is required prior to the exam. This organization also offers other credentials such as the certified strength and conditioning specialist (CSCS) which requires a college degree to sit for the 400 question CSCS exam.