Sunday, November 25, 2012

What's in Your Soup?

Soup sales have slumped in the last few years, so the marketing machine is giving the labels a makeover. Companies are advertising whatever will get your attention, such as more fiber, protein, vegetables, whole grains, etc. As usual, many of the claims don't mean much. Here are some tips for separating the beans from the bull.
The word "natural" is quite trendy and usually means little, though most labels using the term DO contain  fewer additives. Beware however, salt is 100% "natural." Sea Salt is only a coarser grain, so of course there is less of it in a measured teaspoon. Look for soups that contain 300mg. or less per serving. Your arteries will thank you.
High fiber would be great if it were all unprocessed, or if it didn't come from psyllium or soluble corn fiber. Look for soups containing whole grain pastas, beans and lentils for the real deal in lowering LDL cholesterol.
"Full serving of Vegetables" would be impressive if the vegetables didn't come from tomato paste. If you get tired of searching the labels for real vegetables, you can always add a handful of frozen vegetables to your favorite soup for a quick nutrition boost.
Very few canned soup brands are able to advertize that they do not use BPA (bisphenol A) to line their cans. The bottom of the can will be stamped "NB." Pregnant women and young children should avoid canned products and look for soups in cartons, pouches, or microwave bowls.
"A Good Source of Protein" would be a serving that provides at least 8 grams. High protein soups are generally a bean, split pea, or lentil soup, and not necessarily one containing meat.
"Low Calorie" are soups boasting 100 calories per serving. A great choice, especially if you eat more than a serving size. Just watch out for the sodium. Most have more than the regular soups.
American Heart Association Certified To earn the Heart Check, soups must provide no more than 480 mg. sodium per serving and stay below the AHA's limits for saturated fat and cholesterol, and a hefty check to the AHA. Keep in mind the 1 cup serving size!
For those low sodium soups that need some flavor:
     Tomato soup: add some basil, or a light sprinkle of oregano, thyme, or tarragon.
     Chicken: Ginger and a squeeze of lime, or a little cilantro with a dash of hot sauce.
     Vegetable: Sprinkle some Parmesan cheese, parsley or a dash of pesto.
      Butternut Squash: a dash of dried sage, or some curry and a spoonful of plain yogurt.
      Bean or Lentil: roasted red peppers and/or fresh ground black pepper. Baby spinach.

~CSPI, 2012

Monday, October 1, 2012

Organics Gain Higher Ratings

Not only are the sale of organic foods increasing, but research has shown that organic produce has higher levels of potentially healthy compounds. Two reasons: Plants in an organic field have to fend off insects and fungi by the use of their own natural defense, which has time to mature without the interference of chemicals. As a result, they have higher concentrations of defensive compounds (phytochemicals) that may keep us healthier. Shelf life of the fruits and vegetables improves for the same reason. Plus, nitrogen fertilizers give mold and bacteria more of what they need to grow.
 Second, there is no "dilution effect." Nitrogen fertilizers used in conventional farming drive up the yields and produce bigger plants, diluting the concentration of the plants levels of vitamins, minerals, and polyphenols. Organic fertilizer also enriches the soil with nutrients that nitrogen alone does not, eventually leaving the topsoil deplete of minerals.
Imported produce presents a greater health risk than our own conventional farming, since the EPA's Food Quality & Protection Act was passed by Congress in 1996 reforming the use of pesticides in the U.S.
Such restrictions are not practiced outside of the U.S.Toxicity exposure is at the greatest risk from December through April, when imports are at their peak.
What does Organic mean on the label?
   Fruits & Vegetables - no synthetic pesticides, fertilizers, sewage sludge. Not irradiated or genetically engineered.
   Meat & Poultry - raised on 100% organic feed, access to outdoors. Not irradiated or fed animal byproducts, and no hormones or antibiotics.
   Eggs - hens are fed 100% organic feed, no growth hormones or antibiotics. Not necessarily cage free or free range.
   Milk - all cow's feed is 100% organic for the past 12 months & at least 30% of diet is from pasture (cows have access to outdoors). No hormones or antibiotics.
   Seafood - no current official U.S. standards, USDA is working on a standard for farm-raised seafood.
   Packaged Foods - "100% Organic" = all ingredients are organic. "Organic" = at least 95% of ingredients are organic. "Made With Organic Ingredients" = at least 70% of ingredients are organic.  

~ Environmental Health Perspective, 2012

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Brain Boosting Pills

There are plenty of them out there: Ginkgo, Vinpocetine, Huperzine A, Phosphatidylserine (PS) DHA, and claims of antioxidants and B vitamins to keep you mentally sharp. As of yet, there are no published studies behind any of the claims. Think about it. We would all be geniuses, and Alzheimer's would be a thing of the past.
According to studies at the University of Iowa, taking a walk everyday improves memory better than Omega 3 (DHA) supplements. Several studies have concluded that there is no evidence that PS has any effect on cognitive function. B6, B12, and Folic acid have proven to show little, if any improvement in several studies. However, large doses of the B vitamins may spur the growth of precancerous colorectal polyps. The National Library of Medicine has no known studies linking huperazine A and improved memory; no verifiable evidence can be found. (a consumer website that tests supplements) points out that huperzine A is very expensive, which is an incentive for manufacturers to use less than the actual amount the labels claim. One brand analyzed was consistently deficient by 15% of the amount listed. This practice is not uncommon in many OTC supplements and herbal remedies.
As for the claim for antioxidants preventing oxidative damage to brain cells, several large randomized trials at Brigham and Women's Hospital have come up with no evidence that they improve memory. Long term studies continue, as it may be possible however, that a lifetime of good eating habits are important for memory.
Bottom line: Don't expect a pill to fix a lifetime of poor eating habits, shed pounds, turn back the clock, or cure the common cold. By the time people realize they don't work, the manufacturers have already made their millions and are concocting their next marketing scheme.

~American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2011
~JAMA, 2010

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kimch'i; A Taste of Korea

Kimchi  represents Korea's best known food. Koreans serve kimchi at almost every meal, and is considered one the world's healthiest foods. Made of fermented vegetables, primarily Napa cabbage, this spicy dish is served either alone or mixed with rice or noodles. And it’s part of a high-fiber, low-fat diet that has kept obesity at bay in Korea. A one cup serving supplies approx. 32 calories.
 Kimchi (pronounced kimchee) is loaded with fiber and vitamins A, B, and C, but its biggest benefit may be in its “healthy bacteria” called lactobacilli, found in fermented foods like kimchi and yogurt. This good bacteria helps with digestion, and studies show fermented cabbage has compounds that may prevent the growth of cancer.

No need to go through the trouble of making it from scratch (the smell of fermenting cabbage will keep more than vampires at bay!) You can find many types of Kimchi in the grocery store. There are so many ways to serve kimchi, it's no wonder it can be served 3 times a day without repeating the dish. Try scrambling eggs , diced tomatoes, and mushrooms,with kimchi. Use it as a wrap filling or to top a baked potato. It is used in soups, as burger and pizza toppings, in sushi, salads. The uses are as vast as the imagination.

For recipe ideas, see All


Sunday, July 15, 2012

Protecting Eyes

Forget the supplements that promise eye health. There is more to it than we know! Many antioxidants are linked to eye health, some of which have not even been discovered. Many are still being studied. What we do know, is that what is good for your eyes is good for the rest of you. The best advice by Julie Mares, professor of ophthalmology at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health, is to eat dark, leafy green vegetables, such as spinach, kale, collards, and Swiss chard. They are "nutritional powerhouses" because they have "gobs of antioxidants," and "something else in leafy greens could explain their link to healthy eyes." Age-related macular degeneration and cataracts is the leading cause of blindness in older people, and a number of studies have found a lower risk of both in people who consume these antioxidant-rich foods. The predominant carotenoids found in both the lens and retina (the area that lets us read fine detail) are lutein and zeaxanthin.
Second on the list is oily fish. Omega-3 supplements may not be the end-all solution, either. There may be other things such as vitamin D and selenium (or both) in fish that contribute to eye health. Other green vegetables such as peas and broccoli may contribute other valuable antioxidants.
Things that contribute to the risk of early cataracts and macular degeneration (besides the obvious excess sunlight and smoking): Refined sugars and starches. High blood glucose and increased blood pressure damage the tiny and fragile vascular system of the eyes. Poor diets usually consist of excess sugars and starches that tend to replace nutrient rich foods, so not only is one adding oxidative stress to vital organs, but missing out on protective nutrients at the same time. That's a double-whammy!
Look here for Lutein
(1/2 cup cooked)                       mg. lutein & zeaxanthin
Kale                                                    11.9
Spinach                                                10.2
Swiss chard                                           9.6
Collards                                                 7.3
Peas (frozen)                                          1.9
Broccoli                                                 1.2
Romaine (raw - 1 C)                              1.1
Brussels sprouts                                     1.0
Zucchinni                                               1.0
Asparagus                                              0.7
Corn                                                       0.6
Green beans                                            0.4
Nectarine (1)                                           0.2
Orange (1)                                               0.2

 ~ U.S.D.A., 2012

Monday, July 2, 2012

Food Label Overload

Sorting through the information on labels can be confusing and misleading, since manufacturers purposely design them that way. The most important number is the calories per serving, and serving size. At the end of the day, watching weight is all about the calories. Budgeting them is an art that is learned over time, so where the calories come from just helps you to budget. So when you need to make an "eat it or skip it" decision, check the data that includes saturated fats next (below 2 grams per serving is best). Unless you know the amount of calories provided by a certain food, you won't know just what you are getting.You may decide to pass on the 70 calories in that tablespoon of chocolate chips!

Monday, June 4, 2012

The Versatile Papaya

You don't have to visit the Caribbean to get that tropical flavor. Just pick up a papaya! They are a great addition to salsas, pico de gallo, black bean dishes, and of course, fruit salads. They pair up wonderfully with mango, melon, and pineapple. Dice and top on grilled salmon, pork, or chicken. Papaya juice makes a fabulous meat tenderizer for your favorite grilled dishes. The enzymes help to break down the tough collagen, and the same enzymes are great for digestion and can relieve that uncomfortable "full" feeling after a hearty meal.
Papayas are also nutritional powerhouses. Each cup of cubed papaya provides 2&1/2 grams of fiber, more than a days supply of vit. C, 28% MDR of vit A, folate, potassium, and for only 60 calories. So don't stop at just one cup!
Look for papayas that are partly yellow on the outside - if they are green, they won't ripen properly. Store at room temp. until mostly yellow. Slice open the fruit, scooping out the seeds with a large spoon, and cut away the skin. Sprinkle on some lime or lemon juice - enjoy!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Don't Be Fooled

Most weight loss products don't work, and many bring unwelcome side effects. Here's what researchers have found.
Hoodia  Unilever withdrew it's $27 million investment in Hoodia in 2008, and now that the clinical trials have been published, we know why. Of the 42 women between the ages of 18 to 50 in the trial lost no more weight than the women who took a placebo. Worse yet, the Hoodia takers reported 5 or more times the number of side effects that include headaches, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and gas. Blood pressure also rose 5 to 16 points in two weeks.
Lipozene  In two published studies, dieters who maintained a steady calorie intake of 1200 calories a day and exercised regularly, lost 3 - 4 pounds over those who took a placebo. Participants who did not change diet or lifestyle lost no weight. So much for the "no change in lifestyle needed" claim. The ingredient in Lipozene is a soluble dietary fiber that swells in the digestive tract and gives a feeling of fullness. It may help with dieting and weight loss if you are cutting calories. However, because it swells so much, it can cause choking or block the throat, esophagus or intestines unless it is taken with at least 8 oz. of water, and never take it before going to bed.
Acai  For over 5 years, the fraudulent claims of easy weight loss have shamelessly sailed the internet. As of yet, no studies have proven that acai berry pills do anything to help with weight, muscle, or fat.
African Mango  Rich in soluble fiber, it works no different for weight loss as any other high fiber diet. As for pills containing the extract, no studies funded by anyone other than the investors have surfaced.
Green Tea Extract  Overall, the studies show that those who used product lost one pound more than those taking a placebo. Caffeine could be the ingredient taking the credit for that one. The concentrated form of EGCG (the antioxidant in green tea) may be responsible for 34 cases of liver damage, according to the U. S. Pharmacopeia.
~American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2010
~Drug Safety, 2008

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Purple Potato Eaters

Lose weight and lower blood pressure with this Korean folk remedy - purple potatoes! The researchers suggest that purple potatoes are an effective agent to reduce blood pressure and lower the risk of heart disease in people with high blood pressure -- without weight gain. The purple vegetable has many of the same healthful plant pigments as purple fruits. It's rich in antioxidants, such as anthocyanins, carotenoids, and phenolic acids, which may reduce chronic inflammation linked with heart disease and stroke. Pigmented potatoes also have high amounts of chlorogenic acid, a substance shown in animal studies to reduce elevated blood pressure.
People in the studies did not gain weight when they added two servings a day to their usual calorie intake. It is safe to reason that if the potatoes replaced a typical serving of starch, that weight loss would occur.
Microwaving the purple spuds and eating them with their skins on is one of the best ways to get the most antioxidants and plant pigments from them. The variety Purple Majesty perform beautifully in the kitchen, mashing, baking, roasting and microwaving to perfection, and make spectacular chips and crisps. They'll make a great "goulish" Halloween party snack! Potatoes in general are a good source of vit. C and potassium, and the skins add more fiber to your diet.

~ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2012

Friday, April 6, 2012

When The Terms "Enriched" or "Fortified" Are On The Label

Both terms mean that nutrients have been added to make the food more nutritious. Enriched means nutrients that were lost during food processing have been added back. An example is adding back certain vitamins lost in processing wheat to make white flour. Fortified means vitamins or minerals have been added to a food that weren't originally in the food. An example is adding vitamin D to milk, or calcium to orange juice.
~Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Boost Your Metabolism With Breakfast

It's the most important meal of the day, so don't skip it. Make it quick or make it to go with a few simple ideas:
  • Top a toaster waffle with almond butter and a slice of fruit, or low fat yogurt.
  • Add your favorite whole grain cereal to yogurt to add crunch.
  • Make instant oatmeal with skim milk instead of water. Add berries, nuts, or raisins.
  • Cook hard boiled eggs ahead and store them for a quick breakfast with your favorite bagel or English muffin. Or slice them and fill a pita - add shredded cheese.
  • Top a bagel or English muffin with a slice of breakfast ham and low fat Swiss cheese. Ham is a very lean and nutritious cut of meat - a better option than bacon or sausage.
  • Make your own low fat, no added sugar, smoothie with skim milk, strawberries, and bananas.
  • Spread peanut butter on a flour tortilla and add a whole banana, roll it up!

You'll find you have so much more energy, and you won't be so tempted by the vending machine or doughnut drive-through.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Nutrition For Autism

Autism is a complex developmental and neurological condition that typically appears during the first three years of life. It affects brain function, particularly in the areas of social interaction and communication skills. Approximately one in every 150 American children has autism or a similar disorder. The number of children being diagnosed with autism is growing at a rate of 10 percent to 17 percent per year.
People and children with Autism have special dietary needs, and many have various food sensitivities. New studies show that gluten (wheat protein) and casein (milk protein) bind to opioid-receptors in the brain, and can have a potent effect on behavior (like heroin or morphine), causing problems including sleepiness, giddiness, inattention/”zoning out”, and aggressive and self-abusive behavior. Like opioids, they can be highly addictive, and a lack of them can cause severe behaviors. Tests are available to show food sensitivities. If you are considering a Gluten Free, Casein Free diet, talk with your health-care team, including a registered dietitian. There can be side effects and potential nutrient shortfalls when a GFCG diet is self-prescribed.
Several studies have demonstrated that children with autism have substantial oxidative stress, suggesting either a low level of key antioxidants or an increased need for them.
There are over 20 studies of vitamin B6 with Magnesium for autism, including 12 double-blind, placebo-controlled studies, making it one of most studied treatments for autism. Almost all of these studies found that 45-50% of children and adults with autism benefited from high-dose supplementation of vitamin B6 with magnesium. Vitamin B6 is required for over 100 enzymatic reactions, including the production of major neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, and others) and glutathione (needed for detoxification). Magnesium is used to prevent the possibility of hyperactivity, which can occur if the vitamin B6 is taken by itself. Studies show that Vit. C also has positive effects, as it helps with protein metabolism, and sufficient levels of iron should be monitored as well. Low levels of essential fatty acids are associated with a wide range of psychological disorders, including depression, post-partum depression, bipolar (manic/depression) and Rett’s syndrome (similar to autism). Most importantly, two published studies have found that children with autism have lower levels of omega –3 fatty acids than the general population.
Supplementation may be necessary, as typical Autism behavior can affect eating habits and food choices. It is still best to encourage healthy, vitamin-rich foods to ensure the proper balance of nutrients. Only a customized diet plan with your health care provider should be considered. Medical Nutrition Therapy for the treatment of any illness or disorder is regulated by law and limited to professional nutrition practices. To find a Registered Dietitian in your area, go to Find a Dietitian

~Mayo Clinic, 2011

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Allergy or Intolerance?

Food allergies occur when your body's immune system over reacts to a substance in a food, usually a protein, your body sees as harmful. This sets off a chain reaction within your body. Symptoms can occur within minutes and are generally seen on the skin (hives, itchiness, swelling of the skin). Gastrointestinal symptoms may include vomiting and diarrhea. Respiratory symptoms may accompany skin and gastrointestinal symptoms, but don't usually occur alone. They can be mild–such as a runny nose or itchy eyes to severe and even life-threatening. Most food allergies develop early in life, and many are outgrown.

Anaphylaxis (an-a-fi-LAK-sis) is a serious allergic reaction that happens very quickly. Without immediate treatment – an injection of epinephrine (adrenaline) and expert care – anaphylaxis can be fatal. Symptoms of anaphylaxis may include difficulty breathing, dizziness or loss of consciousness. If you have any of these symptoms, particularly after eating, seek medical care immediately (call 911). Don't wait to see if your symptoms go away or get better on their own.

A food intolerance is not the same as a food allergy. An intolerance occurs when your body is unable to digest a certain component of a food, such as lactose, a sugar found in milk; monosodium glutamate; or sulfites, a preservative. Though symptoms of intolerance may be unpleasant, including abdominal cramping or diarrhea, they are not life-threatening.

To help you avoid allergens, the Food and Drug Administration has mandated food companies specify on product labels if any of the eight major allergens is contained in the food. Manufacturers can change ingredients of products without notice, so double-check ingredient labels every time you buy a food, even a familiar one. Cosmetics and beauty products also may contain common allergens such as milk, egg, wheat and tree nuts.

A dietitian can help you understand which foods are safe to eat and how best to avoid items that may cause a reaction. When foods are cut from your diet, you may be short-changing yourself on important vitamins and minerals. Ask your healthcare provider for a referral.

~ Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 2012

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Lactose Intolerance: Marketing Hype or Ligitimate Disorder?

True lactose intolerance results from a deficiency of lactase, the intestinal enzyme that splits lactose (milk sugar) into glucose and galactose, to be absorbed into the blood. Undigested lactose attracts water in the intestine, causing the bloating, cramping, and diarrhea. Bacteria in the large intestine metabolize the sugars into irritating acids and gases, increasing the discomfort. The severity varies among individuals.
It is a rare case that a person is born with such a deficiency and pretty limited to certain ethnic groups. More often, lactose intolerance is the result of damaged intestinal lining, either through radiation therapy, malnutrition, diarrhea, toxins (including food poisoning), antibiotics, or by the naturally diminishing lactase activity that comes with the aging process. In many cases, it is a temporary condition.
Many people believe they are lactose intolerant when they are not, thanks to vigorous advertising campaigns that promote products for lactose intolerance. Lactose is found in many foods besides dairy products, so if you are truly lactose intolerant, you would also have the same symptoms from eating certain breads, cereals, salad dressings, cake mixes, or anything containing whey protein and casein.
Yet, even some people with true lactose intolerance are able to consume dairy products. The bacteria in the large intestine can digest lactose in small, regular doses. The metabolic capacity for lactose can develop as the micro flora adapt to digesting it. A few simple tricks can alleviate the discomfort:
  • Consume lactose (dairy) with other foods to slow down the transit of the sugar through the intestines, giving it more time to break down.
  • Eat dairy foods regularly so that the intestinal micro flora remain adapted to digesting lactose.
  • Limit lactose products to no more than 8 oz. at a time.
  • Yogurt has about 10 G. of lactose per cup, but the bacteria help digest it. A serving of hard cheese has less than one gram, while cottage cheese and ice cream contains 4-5 G. Fermented cheeses are usually better tolerated.
  • Lactase enzyme preparations can be added to dairy products, and fermented milk (contains acidophilus) are helpful, especially for temporary symptoms resulting from an illness. Acidophilus is a digestive bacteria that breaks down milk sugar, and is used in the fermenting process of dairy products, as in yogurt and cheese.
Total elimination of dairy products from the diet can lead to nutrient deficiencies that are difficult to obtain from alternate sources. Milk is a major source of calcium, riboflavin (vit. B2), vit. D, and proteins most easily absorbed by muscle tissue.
~Normal and Clinical Nutrition, 6th ed. Whitney, Cataldo, Rolfes

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Aspartame Myths Debunked

The American Dietetic Association has challenged three current internet rumors concerning Aspartame. According to it's Evidence Analysis Library, the sweetener does not cause "rebound hunger." Much evidence shows that it has no effect on appetite or food intake. Therefore, it would not lead to weight gain. When used in the reduced calorie diet, it increases weight loss, due to it's lack of calories. There have been no ill effects on health overall as a sweetener, as various myths have reported. Some claims that explain the chemistry behind the catabolic phases of Aspartame are incorrect. The ADA has concluded that in the 40 plus years the product has been on the market, "Aspartame consumption is not associated with adverse effects in the general population."
Aspartame is one of the most studied of all food additives. It is a simple compound made of components common to many foods: the amino acids phenylalanine and aspartic acid, with a methyl group. The combination creates a product with 200 times the sweetness of table sugar (sucrose & fructose). When digested, enzymes break apart the 3 components. The amino acids are used as proteins, just as any other food proteins. The methyl group converts to methanol, and oxidizes into carbon dioxide. Simple tomato juice yeilds 6 times the amount of methanol as a diet soda.
People with the inherited disease phenylketonuria, or PKU, are unable to metabolize and dispose of phenylalanine. The accumulation of phenylalanine and it's by-products is toxic, therefore a specialized low protein diet is the treatment, and aspartame must be avoided. For this reason, all newborns in the U.S. are screened for the disease.
Aside from the special case of PKU, aspartame is safe.

~American Dietetic Association

~Tuft's University

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Edamame, Close Up

Edamame, or young shelled soybeans, can be eaten fresh. They provide instant texture, protein, and a nutty flavor. It's history can be traced back to ancient 13th century Japan, but now can be found in your supermarket's freezer section. Just thaw, and they are ready to add to salads, stir-fries, soups, and grains. One cup of edamame supplies 17 g. of protein, 8 g. fiber, and an abundance of calcium, folate, vit. K, and iron. One cup also contains 189 calories and 8g. unsaturated fat.
As with all beans and lentils, they are excellent for the diabetic diet since they digest slowly, which provides a gentle rise in blood sugar. Diabetics who eat a substantial amount of legumes require less insulin to control their blood sugar.