Sunday, September 20, 2015

Beyond the Buzz II

Beyond the Buzz.  Is what you’ve heard true…or just new?

With so much information – and misinformation – out there, it’s hard to know what to believe.  Nutrition information is passed along through the media, from friends, the internet, and even some health professionals.  What is true or what is based on flawed data?  What is exploited by the food industry (they are trying to make a profit let’s not forget).  Here’s the truth about some of the foods that you eat. 

Can Sugar Harm Your Heart?

The U.S. government recently came out with new dietary guidelines to withdraw longstanding warnings about cholesterol.  There was much news about the “incredible edible egg” and I can’t tell you how times this question was asked in my nutrition classes, “So really, how many eggs can I eat in a day?” What people seem to forget is that the warnings weren’t dropped from foods such as meat, butter, and other foods that raise cholesterol.  The warnings were not about foods, like eggs, that contain cholesterol.  The actual news headlines were missed in fact.  Everyone was so worried about eggs. 

The actual report concluded that added sugars are linked to a higher risk not just of obesity, type 2 diabetes, and tooth decay, but of heart disease and stroke.  Whoa.  Why aren’t we talking about this more then?? There is a gentleman who did a film called, “The Sugar Film” who is talking about this (I need to see this movie!) 

The research does suggest that over a lifetime the typical amounts of added sugar do increase your risk of cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular death.  This evidence has been building for a while now.  And there were two studies just recently that helped provide the proof.  In a study by Kimber Stanhope at the University of California, Davis, there is  direct evidence that added sugars increase risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  The participants in the study drank a sugary drink with breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  The drinks were made with a dose of high-fructose corn syrup equal to 0, 10, 17 ½ or 25 percent of their daily requirement.  What were the results you ask??  The higher the dose, the higher the participants’ LDL “lousy” cholesterol and post-meal triglycerides.  Just to put this into perspective the 10% group had the equivalence of half a can of regular soda with each meal and this was enough to raise risk factors for cardiovascular disease.  ½ can of soda?  Let’s be real.  Sodas no longer come in cans.  We’re talking 20-ounce bottles in this day and age.  Remember only ½ can of soda at each meal was found to raise LDL cholesterol.

So how do sugars raise LDL and triglycerides?  It’s the fructose half of table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, and other added sugars that seem to be the culprit.  “Fructose is nearly exclusively metabolized in the liver, so it doesn’t get to the rest of the body.  When the liver gets overloaded, it turns some of the fructose in to fat.  Some of that fat ends up in the bloodstream as triglycerides, and that eventually leads to a rise in LDL cholesterol,” explains Stanhope. 

Bottom Line:  Follow the recommendations from the American Heart Association’s guidelines:  limit added sugars to no more than 6 teaspoons (100 calories’ worth) for women and 9 teaspoons (150 calories) for men.  Eat whole, real food and stay away from packaged products. Oh yeah, and know all the hidden names for sugar.   


Is drinking fruit and vegetables as healthy as eating them?

Last week at work I had a professional program and I was teaching ~50 adults.  I might have burst everybody’s bubble with this one.  This trend of juicing and smoothies (and let’s not forget the now popular smoothie bowl) is one of the worst trends ever!!  Many companies tailor their advertising to show that even if you don’t have time to eat your veggies be sure to drink them during the day (and their product can help you accomplish this goal.) 

In the study conducted, for every three servings of whole fruit eaten, the risk of type 2 diabetes dropped by nearly 20%.  And for each serving of green leafy vegetables eaten, the risk was linked to roughly a 10% drop in diabetes risk.  And then in contrast, for each daily serving of fruit juice consumed, there was an 18% higher risk of type 2 diabetes – that being for just an 8-ounce juice.  The theory is that at times people aren’t always compensating for the calories later on.  It’s the same thing that happens with sugar-sweetened beverages.  You have the calories at your meal and don’t pay attention to the calories in your beverage.  They have to be considered as a part of the total calories for the day. 

Fruit juice provides a heavy sugar load in a liquid form, therefore it has a faster absorption.  With this rapid absorption it increases the insulin required to get the sugar out of your bloodstream and into your muscles.  And if you are having that insulin spike regularly it might cause problems with your ability to produce enough insulin – your pancreas is on overdrive.  It gets tired from repeatedly having to compensate and that’s when we begin to see problems arise.  And while we are talking here about juice, please remember that smoothies are just as harmful.  When you have the blade destroying the fiber, which is the benefit of chewing the fruit whole, the blade destroys the insoluble fiber of the fruit.  As Robert Ludwig describes it, “the cellulose is torn to smithereens.”  Yes, you still get some soluble fiber, which will help move food through the intestine faster, “but it doesn’t have the “latticework” from the insoluble fiber to help form an intestinal barrier – the sugar in the fruit will be absorbed just as fast as if the juice were strained with no fiber at all.  You need both types of fiber to derive the beneficial effects.” So now you see the problem with this trend??  I know you don’t want to hear it but it’s the truth. 

The Bottom Line:  Eat, don’t drink, your fruits and vegetables.  Even if they did just open up a juice bar across the street from your work place.

Do beans cut cholesterol?

Many companies promote their products to contain whole grains and will then in turn lower cholesterol.  But what about beans? Why isn’t there more discussion on their benefits?  (Yes, I know the answer to this:  no $$ to promote healthy foods).  And can they lower cholesterol?  (Currently the only bean that has promoted this to be a benefit is the soybean). 

The study took place in 2011 and people were randomly assigned to eat either legumes or an alternative food.  On average, LDL “lousy” cholesterol levels were 8 points lower when they ate legumes.  The serving size was just ½ cup per day!  Beans are high in soluble fiber, the fiber that dissolves in water.  As digestion is occurring, soluble fiber binds the bile acids in the gut which in turn keeps them from being reabsorbed into the bloodstream.  The liver makes up for this loss by taking cholesterol out of the blood to make more bile acids – that lowers your LDL cholesterol.  Thank you beans and soluble fiber.   In most of the studies conducted the serving size again was right around ½ cup in size.  That’s a lot of bang for your buck!  Beans not only have soluble fiber, but they’re a good source of complex carbohydrates and protein, all of which helps in maintaining a better blood sugar level. 

The bottom line:  Been told to lower your LDL cholesterol level?  Add beans to your daily intake – as a side dish, in a soup or salad, or even as your main dish – Meatless Monday anyone?

Does green tea prevent cancer?

This is what is quoted out there – whether it is through WebMD or Doctor Oz or Andrew Weil:  “In many laboratory studies they’ve been examining green tea’s potential role in lowering risks of cancers:  ovarian, breast, bladder, esophageal, and prostate cancers.  More studies are needed, however, the research so far is promising.  “Green tea’s high EGCG content also makes it an effective cancer fighter.”  The actual truth:  Many studies hunting for a lower risk of cancer in tea drinkers have come up EMPTY. 

Breast:  There was no lower risk in those who drank tea in regards to breast cancer.  Some of the studies looked at those who drank black tea, however, there were studies with Japanese women who do drink a high quantity of green tea and there were no benefits.

Colon:  In the study conducted, green tea was linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer in Chinese women and a higher risk in Chinese men.

Prostate:  The studies were conflicting.  In one study there was a lower risk in Japanese men who drank 5 cups a day, however, in another study there was no link of a benefit.

There was a review of over 20 studies on various cancers (bladder, colon, esophagus, lunch, pancreas, prostate, stomach, and other organs), the conclusion:  “there is insufficient and conflicting evidence to give any firm recommendations regarding green tea consumption for cancer prevention.”

The Bottom Line:  Drink green tea if you like it, just not to lower your risk of cancer.  And of course make sure that there’s no added sugar. 


Is fiber the key to staying regular?

How many times a day do YOU use the restroom?  No need to answer out loud, just something to think about J  If you are having a problem in that department, fiber can help.  I always tell people to go for the WHOLE food version – you can’t always believe what’s on a label – there are just TOO many added sources of fiber and the full extent of their benefit is not yet known.  Fiber helps with regularity but processing can disrupt it’s natural structure – for example use wheat bran, not ground up wheat bran.  Insoluble fiber  is thought to be more helpful for laxation than soluble, however, some studies show that oat bran and psyllium (soluble fiber) are very effective as well in helping laxation.  So soluble versus insoluble isn’t always a good predictor. 

The average intake of fiber for most Americans is less than half of what’s recommended.  For women 50 and under the recommendation is 25 grams of fiber (over 50, it’s 21 grams).  If you’re a man under 50 you’ll need 38 grams of fiber (over 50, 30 grams).  People often underestimate the amount of fiber that they’re taking in – I always tell people, log your food for a day or two – you might be surprised to see what you find. 

As for all these “fiber-enhanced” products on the market?  There are too few studies to have actually looked at their benefits.  But many of the easily added fibers, polydextrose, inulin, and resistant starches – have minimal effects on stool weight.  They may add just 1 or 2 grams of fecal matter for every gram of fiber consumed.  The fiber in oats, probably produces 3 grams of fecal matter for every gram you eat.  That’s right, I went there.  As a marketing technique, sure I’d want to buy a product with that much fiber in it, however, when you get down to the nitty gritty, it’s not natural and doesn’t provide the benefit.  And who knows how much added sugar is in some of those products, i.e. Fiber One?? 

The Bottom Line:  Eat whole foods to receive REAL fiber.  Don’t rely on packaged products enhanced with fiber to get your daily intake. 

Nutrition is a science that is always evolving.  Sorting out the research and separating food fact from fiction can be difficult – not to mention that new studies can always change the picture.  Pay attention to reputable sources of information.  And remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Sunday, September 6, 2015

That's A "Keeper"!

It’s my Saturday morning ritual.  Long run, breakfast with my running buddy, and then planning my groceries for the week.  Yesterday I came home and began to sort through ALL the recipes I have.  I have a stack and I mean a stack of recipes just waiting to try.  I scroll through Instagram, Facebook, and now Twitter.  Yes, Twitter.  There are SO many resources to find recipes.  I’m starting to get a little overwhelmed with all of the recipes I want to try.  I try to be selective and think ahead as to what really will be a “keeper” and weed out ones that won’t make the cut.  Maybe they just sounded good the first time around but at the second look I know I must’ve been hungry at the time that recipe made the cut. J  I also got the America’s Test Kitchen Cookbook – The Complete Vegetarian Cookbook – a couple of months ago.  Talk about overwhelming.  I know ALL their recipes will turn out!   They tested them for pete’s sake!  The only problem again with their book is there are TOO many to try!   The other premise for picking out some recipes is whether or not I’ll be able to make it.  I am not a cook by any means.  And if any of you all know me, accidents find me.  Yesterday when I was making homemade waffles I was opening the seltzer water and sure enough it exploded.  I don’t buy carbonated beverages and definitely wasn’t prepared for that!!  Who does that happen to?  Moi.  I need a hidden camera in my kitchen so that people would believe the chaos in the kitchen J 

“Keeper” – a recipe that I’ve tried that’s a definite success and makes it into my “keeper” recipe book, ultimately a possible repeat recipe.  The key word being repeat – I haven’t repeated any in quite a few months, but I know I have my tried and true recipes when and if they’re needed.  Here are a few of the latest rounds of keeper recipes. 

Breakfast: Cinnamon Oatmeal Pancakes
I was in the grocery store the other day and noticed all of the frozen breakfast products.  Frozen waffles, pancakes, breakfast sandwiches, and even frozen oatmeal for you.  Packaged and convenient, all you need to do is warm it up.   It actually grossed me out.  I know I’ve had this conversation before and convenience is a really big issue, but cooking healthy will require a little bit of planning and time spent toward the cooking.  Sorry not sorry.  These pancakes are a prime example where you can make a lot ahead of time and freeze them.  They freeze amazingly!!  I am not the best at flipping pancakes so instead of crowding the griddle I do less at a time and use two spatulas for the flipping.   Mine may have not turned out as pretty but they sure did taste delish.  I always add protein in for the breakfast with nut butter on top of the pancakes.  Breakfast is typically high carbohydrate and not enough protein and then you’re hungry right away.  Always add the protein – it will keep you satiated for longer.  I rotate through the nut butters:  peanut, almond, and cashew – to help provide some variety and flavor.  I also add some hemp seed on top as well.  More about hemp seed later.  Make these pancakes, you won’t regret it.

Breakfast: Overnight Oats

I can’t tell you how many recipes for overnight oats I have tried.  I have felt bad in throwing the oats out (but couldn’t stomach eating them so I had to waste them).   I almost gave up in trying the overnight oats trend.  Until this recipe came along.   I’m not sure if it has to do with the quantity being individual sizes or what but this recipe comes out delish!  I was a little bit doubtful when she said it could be eaten cold.  The first morning I made it and forgot I had made it the night before.  The 2nd day I was determined to remember to eat them and was in a rush.  I had to grab the oatmeal on the run (so there was no time to heat it up).  Cold it was.  Surprisingly it was good even cold!  Now don’t get me wrong, heating it up just a bit allows the nut butter to melt and I do prefer it warmed just a tad.  But in a pinch, cold will work!  I am such a believer in this recipe that I made these overnight oats for a program of 12 people at work.  There I was the night before prepping each individual Mason jar (with love).  I did alter the recipe and used regular cow’s milk, just ½ tablespoon of maple syrup, and did a mix of peanut butter or almond butter.  I knew the exact carbohydrate count for the participants (Type 1 DM where they inject insulin based on the carbohydrate count) and I wanted to show them how eating on the run/go could be easy.  10 of the 12 participants liked the recipe.  The two that didn’t said, “It was too healthy tasting”.  Okay maybe they need the full tablespoon of maple syrup.  I think the odds are good for liking these overnight oats.  Make them, just don’t forget to eat them the next day – the chia seeds do swell and it will get too thick to eat if left too long.  (this picture is the minimalist baker's - it's a double portion of the recipe!)

 Main Dish:  Tacos
Can every night be Taco Tuesday night? And why isn’t there a taco emoji yet?  I’m always telling patients to plan their monthly meals ahead of time (at least weekly).  Tacos can be part of the weekly meal rotation.  They’re easy to throw together and can taste completely different from the taco from the week before, so it won’t feel like it’s a repeat.  Which is important when it comes to making dinner for the family (in the hopes that all will like what’s being prepared).  Here are two, both vegetarian (you can always add some grilled chicken or steak), one that takes a little more preparation time and one that takes virtually no time at all.

Brussels Sprout Tacos with Caramelized Shallot Salsa – If you think you don’t like onions (shallots) think again.  These tacos will take some time due to roasting the tomatoes and Brussel sprouts and caramelizing the shallots, but it is SO worth it.  This lady, Jessica Merchant, has a talent for pairing together the right flavors.   Sometimes I’ll read her blog and think, no that can’t be.   I have learned never to doubt her.   Her flavor combinations are on point all the time.   My only gripe?  She needs more vegetarian recipes J  These tacos are quite delicious and they do warm up well (if you’re only making for one, like me!)

Quinoa Black Bean Tacos – Super easy and quite delicious!  Two thumbs up also because ALL her recipes are vegetarian!  This is another blog, Cookie and Kate (her dog) that I have been using a lot of lately.  Her recipes are vegetarian and are simple to make.  For being so simple and having so much flavor is a plus for me.  I love using quinoa as part of the combination here.  Quinoa is a grain that is a complete protein – having all the amino acids, essential and nonessential.  Not to mention quinoa has more protein than other grains.  For me as a vegetarian the key is making sure to balance my protein with my carbohydrates.  It’s very easy as a vegetarian to eat high carbohydrate meals (as the protein might be lacking from an animal source).  While it is harder to get a sufficient amount of plant protein it is possible.  As a dietitian I am always constantly aware of this and am striving to make sure that I get the sufficient amount of protein that I need.  This helps stave off cravings that may occur because I didn’t give my body what it adequately needs.
Vegan JalapeƱo SauceI found this gem of a sauce on another taco night.  This vegan sauce has the base of cashews.  Think of a cool ranch kind of flavor.  That’s THIS sauce.  The best part (besides it helping to give me more protein at every meal?) it’s versatile!  Yes it was great as a sauce for my tacos, but it worked well the next day as a salad dressing – a sauce that can “blend once” and eat more times kind of sauce – as the author/maker of this sauce states, and it’s the truth!   I love a variety of nuts to help obtain my protein, but cashews hands down are the most versatile.  You can make them into a savory type sauce or into something sweet, it’s kind of hard to believe they can do that!  I’ve made them before in a vegan cheesecake.  They really can be both savory and sweet. 

SnackNutty Jumbles
These are absolutely SO easy to make.  I buy the Planter’s Mixed Nuts (50% fewer peanuts unsalted) mix so I have a variety of nuts and don’t have to worry about measuring each nut out individually.  Yes, there is some sugar added in along with the egg white, but after you bake them this is what helps them bind together.   The percentage of carbohydrate to protein is a perfect balance and isn’t skewed to have too much of one or the other – perfect snack in my book.  I eat nuts every day to help obtain my protein for the day.  Every now and then I need to spruce them up and make them taste a little different than just your average nut.  I’ve used nuts to make “taco meat”, the cashew sauce as above, and even blended them up to make a fake parmesan cheese.  These nutty jumbles bring the natural flavor of the nuts out when they roast in the oven.  Simple and delicious, what’s not to love?

SnackAlmond Butter Cookies
I’m all for experimenting.  This recipe did just that for me.  A cookie without an egg you say?  Let’s go.  You mix flaxseed meal along with some water and let it sit for a few minutes.  This acts as the binder in the recipe (similar to what an egg does) and is used quite often in vegetarian/vegan baking recipes.  These cookies are so delicious and proved me to be a believer when using the “flax-egg”.  Many have bombed and none stood the test of time.  These do.  I haven’t made them with another nut butter, but I can tell you now, they didn’t last long at all and need to be made again. Picture by the Simple Veganista.
My new go to add it to everything item:  Hemp seeds.   I’ve been doing this for a while now and I’m not sure why I haven’t shared this idea before.   I throw hemp seeds in my salad dressing (so they don’t sink to the bottom of my salad), I throw hemp seeds in those overnight oats, I throw it on top of my nut butter toasts – anywhere and everywhere I can add it I do.   These little seeds give you the nutritional power of hemp with a blend of omega-3 and omega-6 fats and high fiber content.  There are 10 grams of protein per 3 tablespoons.  They are also a good source of magnesium, a mineral that helps with relaxation, blood sugar control, blood pressure, and potentially osteoporosis.    Yes they are calorically dense, but they are NUTRIENT dense as well.  So easy to add in the day to my meals and help me obtain a sufficient amount of protein to help balance my carbohydrate intake.  Hemp seeds have a rich nutty flavor that makes everything just taste better.  Try it.
So there you have it – a few more recipes that have recently made it into my “keepers”.  I hope you see a recipe or two that you might like to try.  Why struggle to find a new recipe if you’re not sure that’ll turn out?  Start your own “keeper” cookbook.  You’ll be glad you did.