Thursday, December 5, 2013

Savoy Cabbage

There is a new kid in the cabbage patch...That funny looking cabbage with the crinkly leaves appears as an elderly uncle to your ordinary green cabbage. Savoy may be ugly, but it has it's advantages. It is much milder and sweeter tasting, with no strong, sulfury odor when cooking. It's less dense than ordinary cabbage, so it is easier to cut and cooks faster. The leaves are tender enough for salads, so they don't have to be shredded to be edible raw. Savoy is in season during the fall and winter months, but is usually found in grocery stores year-round. It's as vitamin-packed as any variety. A half cup serving yields 21% the daily vit. C, 13% of vit. A, 8% folate, and for less than 20 calories. As with all cruciferous vegetables, it contains natural chemicals that aid in the production and maintenance of the skin's collagen.
Use it in your favorite recipes, or try stir frying sliced leaves in canola oil with garlic, ginger, and scallions. Drizzle with toasted sesame oil & reduced sodium soy sauce.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Resveratrol Falls Short of Expectations

Resveratrol is the antioxidant found in red grapes, red wine, and berries that has been touted as an anti-aging miracle. It's antioxidant properties reduce inflammation, which in turn, should help reduce the risk of heart disease, some cancers, type II diabetes, and reduce cell damage that also leads to Alzheimer's and other age-related diseases. Because there have been very few studies conducted on resveratrol in humans, doctors still can't confirm any benefits, and they don't know what effects the supplements may have on people over the long term. Research in Scandinavia  tested the supplement on healthy sedentary men over age 60 who participated in an 8 week high intensity training program. They were compared to a similar group of men who were given a placebo. By the end of the training period, the men taking the placebo had better oxygen capacity than those taking the resveratrol. Blood pressure, triglycerides, LDL & HDL cholesterols improved in the placebo group only. This study suggests that the antioxidant may blunt the benefits of exercise.
There seems to be no reason to take the supplement. The participants in the study took 250mg/ day. You would need to drink 113 bottles of merlot to get that much, so go ahead and have that glass of wine with dinner.
~ J. Physiol, 2013

Friday, October 18, 2013

Peanut Butter Patrol

The lunchbox classic has gone gourmet. Hello Honey Pretzel, Vanilla Espresso, Mocha Cappuccino, and so on...and then some with nuts other than peanuts. Here's what to try, and not to.
ALA is not a bonus. The evidence that the omega-3 fat in  flax seed and other vegetable oils protects the heart are quite weak. Omega's found in seafood (EPA & DHA) are proving to be more beneficial.
Trans fat has been eliminated from nearly all of them. Some contain hydrogenated oils, which do not contain trans fat. Avoid the partially hydrogenated oils, as they are the ones that contain the trans fat.
Natural can sometimes mean there are no hydrogenated oils...only to substitute with palm oil, which adds saturated fat. It can also mean there are no added oil or emulsifiers to keep the oils from separating.
Salt Most peanut butters taste just fine without added salt, but even for those with salt added, it is not an unreasonable amount. Two tablespoons of peanut butter contain approx. 70 - 200 mg. "Low sodium" varieties contain about 60 - 100mg. Check the Nutrition Facts label on individual brands.
Sugar Name brands usually add 1-2 grams  to the 1-2 grams that occur naturally in the peanuts. Not a lot. Avoid the added corn syrup or dreaded high fructose corn syrup, which of course is just sugar in a different form. "Artisan" varieties can contain as much as 9 added grams of sugar per serving. Some contain enough sugar to displace a gram or two of protein. The butters containing fruit may sound healthier, but most have more sugar than fruit, if any real fruit at all. If you like fruit with your peanut butter, add your own!
Light Two flat tablespoons of regular peanut butter contain 200 calories with only 7-8 grams of protein, about 50 more calories than 2 oz. of turkey or ham. It's hard to reduce the calories with out losing nutrition. Here's how some make the attempt: Powdered Is made with dry roasted peanuts that you add water to. The calories are reduced to just 50 per serving, while maintaining the protein. Whipped PB contains about 150 calories per serving by adding air, which also reduces the protein to about 5-6 grams. Reduced Fat does not always mean less calories. Some varieties replace the fat with corn syrup solids - sugar instead of nuts - no savings there! Also avoid ingredients that dilute peanuts with defatted peanut flour. It only reduces the protein to less than 4g per serving.
Peanut butter is rich in unsaturated fat (cholesterol lowering), vit E, magnesium, copper, fiber, and zinc. Other nuts, seeds and soy can offer less saturated fats and more nutrients.
Almond butter contains more vit E, magnesium, iron, and copper than PB, and less sat. fat, and is rich in calcium. Just be prepared to pay at least twice as much.
Cashew butters are rich in magnesium, iron, and copper, but less vit E and protein than PB, and less cholesterol lowering polyunsaturated fat. Cashews are also higher in saturated fats...too much to balance out the fat ratio to be considered "heart healthy."
Soy butter doesn't taste like PB, and has the same amount of calories. It works for some folks who can't eat peanuts.
Sunflower is lower in saturated fat and higher in nutrition; great for those who can't eat nuts. Beware of brands made in the same factory as peanut butter if you are allergic to nuts.
 Chocolate-nut spreads sound healthy, but they are not. Most contain more added sugar and palm oil than nuts, with less than 2g protein and 4% of the day's calcium requirement. The high saturated fat is not balanced by the amount of unsaturated fat.

CSPI, 2013

Friday, September 13, 2013

Kids and Body Image

You are the most influential person in your child's life. With that said, you can promote a positive body image in your child, and it needs to start at the earliest age possible. Body image disturbances can begin as early as preschool, so it is important to check your own issues with body image. Children naturally absorb negative messages about diet, exercise, appearances, and your latest food peeve. They will begin to worry about their weight and think they should be dieting. Kids with a negative body image feel more self-conscious, anxious and isolated. They are at greater risk for excessive weight gain and for eating disorders, and weight-related teasing is a major basis for bullying.
For your kid's sake and your own, shift your focus from weight to health. Stop obsessing about numbers on the scale and concentrate on delicious nutrition and fun physical activity. Children don't need to work out; they need to play. Encourage physical activities and let them choose what interests them, whether is is sports, hip-hop dancing, or karate. The important thing is to get them moving. Teach them healthy eating habits with smart, tasty snacking ideas instead of counting calories or restricting their intake. Whatever our age or size, we feel better when we take care of our bodies.
Young people with a positive image of themselves feel more comfortable and confident in their ability to succeed. They don't obsess about  food, weight, or how others judge their appearance.
Nutrition and fitness make for great goals because they give us the energy to do all things that we want to do, and the health to enjoy our accomplishments.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Oh, The Power of Carotenoids!

We already know that foods rich in beta-carotene and lutein are crazy wonderful for us, and now we have proof that they are even better than we thought. Results from a long term study (11 years) involving over one million people show that in people who consumed the most beta carotene and lutein had the least incidences of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (Lou Gehrig's Disease/ALS). A 15 - 20% difference from the general population.  The amount of beta carotene in a single small carrot reduces the risk by 6 - 10%. It was also shown that those who took the supplement instead showed no difference in risk than those who ate neither the foods or supplements. So, something in those foods either help protect from disease or help to metabolize the carotenoids. The best way to get your vitamins and antioxidants is by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, especially dark greens. First on the list are peppers, all colors! Here are the ones that pack the most (in order):
Foods for Beta Carotene & Lutein
Romain lettuce
Mustard greens
Pumpkin & Squash (orange varieties contain the most)

~ Ann. Neurol., 2013

Friday, July 12, 2013

One More Reason to Eat Less Red Meat

In April, The Cleveland Clinic published studies pointing a finger at a new hazardous chemical naturally found in red meat: Trimethylamine-N-oxide, or TMAO. TMAO is the byproduct of carnitine digestion. Carnitine is a nutrient that fuels the cells that contribute to the replication of new cells throughout the body, primarily muscle tissue. In both animals and humans, when carnitine is ingested, microbes in the intestines break down the carnitine and convert it into TMAO, which turns out to be the trouble-maker.The Cleveland Clinic's Lerner Research Institute theorizes that excess amounts of carnitine ingestion leads to accelerated atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The everyday diet can effect the amount of TMAO the gut microbes make. People who eat large amounts of meat on a regular basis produce exponential amounts of the damaging compound. Vegetarians produce none of the compound, and people who had taken oral antibiotics for other ailments, yet ate moderate amounts of red meat, temporarily produced none. It shows that the amount of natural microflora in the gut effects how much TMAO gets produced. It is believed then, that by ingesting small amounts of red meat on occasion, the production is greatly reduced, because the bacteria strain has a chance to "die off" between the culprit meals.
To make matters worse, the TMAO was found to accelerate the deposit of cholesterol on the artery walls, and the liver was found to produce fewer bile acids, which aid in removing cholesterol from the blood and depositing them into the gut, where they are shuttled out of the body. The LDL cholesterol threat is raised on all fronts.
Although carnitine is a necessary nutrient, it is found in just about everything, so deficiencies in this country are extremely rare. Unless you have a mitochondrial disorder and are under doctor's care, throw out the carnitine & choline supplements. Limit your red meats to one serving a week. How much is a serving? 3 ounces. Not much, when you consider the average steak is 14 - 16 oz. The Panera Smoked Ham & Swiss sandwich contains 4 servings of meat. The average burger joint serves up 3 servings in one sandwich.
Reducing consumption is no easy task, but it can be done by keeping conscientious of your intake. According to Walter Willet, chair of the dept. of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health, "eating meat only once a week can eliminate most of the risk."
  ~CSPI, 2013 

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Safe Snacking on the Road

Road trip season is in full swing and driving hazards aren't the only safety issues for concern. Where ever you head this summer, don't forget to pack nutritious snacks and keep your back seat treats safe. Choose easy-to-transport, shelf-stable foods. Good choices include cereal, trail mix, popcorn, single-serve applesauce, cans of tuna, peanut butter sandwiches, fresh fruit, carrots or celery. Lunch box sizes of canned tuna can be added to fast food side salads for an economical meal that won't destroy your diet. Keep coolers and lunch bags in the back seat instead of the trunk. The environment tends to be cooler in the car, especially when the air conditioning is on. Use plenty of ice, and know the safe limits of food items. Don't let cold foods sit for more than an hour at temps. above 40 degrees. Don't keep leftovers for more than one to two hours, depending on out door temps.
Remember to wash hands often, especially when handling food, even with fast food and carry-out items. If you don't have access to soap and water, keep antibacterial wipes and hand sanitizer on board.
Keep your summer safe and fun!

Friday, May 31, 2013

Say Goodbye to Ginkgo

One of the most popular (& over rated)  herbal supplements has been found to cause cancer in laboratory animals. The National Toxicology Program announces after 2 years of study, clear evidence shows that recommended doses of Ginkgo Biloba causes liver cancer in mice and thyroid cancer in rats. Some of the cancers were quite aggressive, and some of the animals developed more cancers ever seen in an NTP lab before. Furthermore, there has yet to be any evidence to show that the use of Ginkgo improves memory and concentration, or delays cognitive decline.
The Food & Drug Administration has been telling food manufacturers to stop adding Gingko to foods and drinks for years. Since Congress passed the law of 1994 stating that the public has the right to make their own choices, it is harder for an agency to ban unsafe ingredients. Until it is removed from the shelves, the smart choice for the public is to ban the items themselves.
 ~ National Toxicology, 2013

Not So Splendid

Attention Splenda  users! Preliminary research in Italy has produced evidence of a link between high doses of sucralose (Splenda) and leukemia in laboratory mice. Of course, further studies will be conducted and evaluated before confirming an increased risk in humans. In the meantime, the use of caution is advised. Watch for further updates.
 ~Center For Science in the Public Interest, 2013.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Arsenic and Rice: Should You Worry?

Arsenic is a human carcinogen and it is found in nature, so it shows up in our food supply. It is taken up from the soil, and rice does it more readily than other grains, fruits, vegetables, and poultry. Toxic amounts found in drinking water have been known to cause skin, bladder, lung, liver and kidney cancers. Americans, however, are exposed to much lower levels, thanks to regulated water treatment and EPA standards. The amount of arsenic in a community's drinking water is public information and can be accessed by contacting your local utility company. To rid your drinking water of arsenic, you will need an under-the-sink reverse osmosis  filter. Pitcher or faucet filters don't do the job.
How concerned should we be about our daily exposure? According to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences, there isn't enough data to set a toxic limit on inorganic arsenic in food. Of course, the less you ingest, the better. It is recommended that adults eat no more than 1 1/2 to 2 cups of rice a week. You can also remove up to 50% of the arsenic in cooked rice by rinsing it with water, then cooking it in 6 parts water to one part rice, cooking until it reaches proper texture, and pouring off the excess water.
To check the arsenic levels in your favorite brands, go to Consumer
~Epidemiology, 2009 

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Nonstick Cookware is Back

The New York State Department of Health has announced the results of various safety tests performed on several popular brands of nonstick cookware. They conclude the products are safe when used properly. 
The villain under fire is PFOA, a compound the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has studied intensely since it was suspected to be a human carcinogen. It has been noted that most of the harmful chemical is burned off of the cookware before it leaves the factory. It was found that new nonstick cookware heated to 356 to 444 degrees F. did emit PFOA, both into the air and into the water that was being heated, but the amounts were "very little." The amounts emitted also declined with each subsequent use. The highest level found was 100 times lower than Consumer Reports concluded to be of little concern to public health. Concerns regarding the breakdown of the product and the release of toxic particles and fumes over time have also been addressed. It has been shown that such a breakdown of materials only occurs when the cookware is heated beyond normal - to temps. above 500 degrees F. At that temp., foods will burn and the handles will melt. When the cookware coating becomes damaged or begins to flake with age, it's time to replace it.
~ Environmental Science Technology, 41:1180, 2007

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Ten Years Later...

No proof exists that farm raised salmon is any safer than it was 10 years ago. In 2002, 700 samples of farm raised salmon showed 10 times the amount of PCBs, dioxins, pesticides, and mercury than wild salmon. What is typically called "Atlantic Salmon" is actually farmed in Chile and Canada. Farms in Scotland and Norway also show similar amounts of toxins. Farmed salmon absorb the PCBs and other industrial chemicals from the fishmeal & oils they are fed. Since the 2002 studies, no other tests have been performed. Environmental organizations oppose most salmon farming for the reason that large amounts of wild fish are used to feed the farmed fish, and that waste from the ponds pollute the oceans.
The EPA recommends that consumers eat farm raised fish no more than once a month. Use caution when purchasing frozen fish; packaging labels can be misleading. If it does not say "Wild", it probably isn't.
~ Institute for Health and the Environment, 2013

Friday, April 5, 2013

New Autism Reports

Prenatal folic acid supplements have proven effective in preventing neural tube defects such as spina bifida. A Norwegian study tracking 85000 children recently discovered a 40% reduction of incidences of autism in children born to women who took the B vitamin before and during their pregnancies, compared to women who did not take the supplement. If you plan to become pregnant, be sure to start the supplements before hand; about 6 to 8 weeks. The study also showed that women who started the supplement mid-term did not have similar results; the children had no lower risk of autism. The Center for Disease Control recommends 400 micrograms of folic acid daily for women who are or plan to become pregnant.
~ JAMA, 2013

Monday, April 1, 2013

Life Really Is a Bowl of Cherries!

People with gout may be able to cut in half their risk of recurrent attacks by eating about 20 tart cherries a day, according to research from the Boston University School of Medicine. Cherries contain a powerful natural property that inhibits the production of uric acids in the body, and the elimination of the same. It is the high levels of uric acid that cause the joint inflammation. The phyto-chemicals in the red cherries also work as an anti inflammatory similar to ibuprofen. Subjects in several studies concerning arthritis have reported relief from arthritis pain not related to gout.
The flavinoids in cherries are most concentrated in the skins of the cherries, so the best way to get the powerful antioxidant benefits is by eating the whole fruit, either fresh or dried. Look for juices containing the entire fruit; a residue of settled fruit puree on the bottom of the container is the best evidence the whole fruit was used to make the product. Also, many  juices are mostly apple juice with cherry flavoring or just enough cherry juice to give it color. Be sure the ingredient label says "100% cherry" juice and not just "100% juice."  If you eat cherries alone for gout treatment or in combination with  medication, it is advised to drink a lot of water to help flush out the toxic properties of uric acids from the body.
The benefits of medical diets often work as well as traditional medications and have no side effects. And, when used on a long-term basis, they provide the body with other health benefits. Even with the cherries, it is still necessary to stick to a low-purine diet for the treatment of gout. As always, be sure to discuss your diet and medications with your doctor so that there won't be a surprise of drug - food interactions.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

National Nutrition Month Turns 40

National Nutrition Month is an annual nutrition education and information campaign, which focuses on making informed food choices and developing sound eating and physical activity habits. This month also celebrates my profession, which makes it a welcomed  break from the holidays that encourage gluttony.
This year’s NNM theme “Eat Right, Your Way, Every Day,” supports personalized healthy eating styles and acknowledges that food preferences, lifestyles, and health concerns along with cultural and ethnic backgrounds all have a great impact on our individual food choices. As RD's, we want to inspire you this month to simply make a small change every day that works for you. Make it personal and make it better. General nutrition wisdom should come into play – concepts of balance, moderation, making sure you get adequate nutrition from a variety of foods and aiming for a healthy lifestyle rather alternating perfect days and cheat days.
Make this month count by vowing to try new things, get active, and share your ideas with friends & family.
For nutrition facts and ideas from the experts, visit 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Blame the Beans?

Gas rumors don't just start at the pump. Most intestinal gas results from fiber additives (inulin, chicory root extract, sorbitol and maltitol) in many processed or manufactured food items bearing the "high fiber" claim on the label. Thought beans, cabbage and milk are the usual suspects, many additives can be the cause of the exponential amounts resulting in bloating, cramps, or diarrhea. Inulin, along with other more complex sugars known as oliosaccharides are sugars our digestive enzymes can not break down. It ferments in the large intestine; a process that produces gas. Beans also contain such sugars, but soaking dried beans, combined with the cooking process remove most of the culprits. Over-the-counter enzyme remedies help with digestion of the sugars to prevent the gas producing fermentation process.
Some sugar free candies, sodas, and gum contain the sugar alcohols mentioned. Some fiber enriched snack items contain as much as 9 grams of inulin, where a serving of beans only contains 3 grams of the oligosaccharides.
Instead of avoiding the whole foods that provide the best nutrition, check the label of your favorite granola bar, cereal, or yogurt. You may be avoiding the wrong food. Though intestinal gas is un-welcomed, it is not harmful.

~American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 1998

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Colon Cleansing...REALLY??

Labels of such products promise to "cleanse, detox, regulate." Some include a bonus "liver cleanser, gastro cleanser," and pills for "kidney health." And those are just the products you swallow. A more motivated person would try the colonic irrigation kits. Do we need to clean our colons and other organs? Absolutely not, according to Ranit Mishori, physician and associate professor of family medicine at Georgetown University. The claims of eliminating your body of toxins to reduce allergies, depression, or whatever is completely unfounded. Our bodies are designed to rid itself of toxins. If anything, taking pills only adds to the work our kidneys do everyday, and liver enzymes are produced and used within the liver. Enzymes you take orally get destroyed long before they can make it to the liver. Colonic cleansers, or "enema's on steroids" have proven fatal. Lawsuits in several states are pending. Such a practice began in ancient times and became  popular in the early 1900's until the American Medical Association condemned the practice in 1919. Such use of "colonic cleansers" upsets the bacterial balance of the gutt, which interrupts the enzyme activities and absorption of nutrients. This imbalance leads to lower GI upsets, inflammation, and reduced immunity from infection & disease. There are much safer interventions to detox and de-stress our bodies. Yoga, walking, talking, a glass of wine, daily servings of vegetables, water. I'll opt for the latter...
 ~ Journal of Family Practice, 2011
 ~American Journal of Gastroenterology, 2009