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Metrowest Nutrition

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Getting to Know Your Microbiome

Monday, July 29, 2013

A colleague sent me this great article  from the New York Times about the Human Microbiome Project.  The microbiome are the trillions of bacteria living on our skin and in our gut.  This article is a little lengthy but Michael Pollan gives a fascinating and in-depth look at the importance of these inhabitants to our overall health.  Learn how our microbiome may influence the development of allergies, asthma and other increasingly common health conditions.  Could we be accidentally killing off one of our greatest defenses with the wide use of antibiotics?  What is the long term impact?  Are babies born by c-section at an increased risk for allergies?  If so, is there anything we can do to prevent this?  Pollan discusses all of this in the article.  He also discusses how our microbiome could even be connected to obesity.  I highly recommend taking some time to read it.

 

Food Variety & Sleep: Is There a Connection?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Ashley Bade RD, LDN, CNSD

A new study out of Penn State is the first to reveal an association between variety in the diet and sleep duration. It was found that those on a more varied diet were catching the greater zzz’s while the less-varied diets were counting sheep late into the night.

While we know that a varied diet is essential for optimal health, this study showed a possible new benefit to including a range of healthy foods. Nutrients that were of particular importance were tap water, lycopene (found in red and orange colored fruits and veggies) and total carbohydrates which were lower in the diets of very short sleepers (defined as less than 5 hours per night). Short sleepers (defined as 5-6 hours of sleep per night) had diets that were lower in vitamin C, tap water, selenium (found in nuts, meat & shellfish) and had higher intakes of lutein and zeaxanthin (both found in green leafy vegetables). While the envious long sleepers, defined as catching at least 9 hours of solid sleep per night had diets lower in theobromine (found in chocolate and tea), dodecanoic acid (a saturated fat), choline (from eggs and fatty meats) and total carbohydrates. Perhaps not surprising, this group was found to have a higher intake of alcohol than the other groups. Finally, the standard sleepers (defined as 7-8 hours of shut eye a night) were found to differ in diet overall with no specific nutrients coming to light in this group. However, the normal or standard sleepers were most likely to be in better overall health with lower rates of obesity and chronic disease.

Research has shown us for quite some time that a balanced and varied diet can offer a range of health benefits such as preventing certain cancers and chronic disease; this new study has brought to light the possible connection between specific nutrients in the diet with the sleep cycle. As the study states however, this is the first nationally-representative analysis of sleep duration and diet and the study notes that further studies are needed to assess if these nutrients have actual physiological effects on the sleep regulation.

Working on variety in the diet is important for everyone, no matter what your sleeping habits are. So until research can shed more light on what diet will yield the best slumber, here are a few simple swaps for adding some variety into your day:

1. For breakfast instead of having that healthy bowl of oatmeal plain, add a handful of almonds for some added calcium for bone health and monounsaturated fat for heart health. 

2. Trade romaine lettuce in your lunch salad to spinach. You’ll still get the great vitamins A and C that the romaine lettuce can provide but you’ll also get antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and beta-carotene from spinach which can help with eye sight and prevention of chronic disease.

3. At dinner swap your typical broccoli or green bean side for a serving of kale which research shows contains at least 45 measureable antioxidant flavonoids- packing a big cancer-preventing punch.

4. Also for dinner, swap out your usual chicken for a protein packed serving of salmon to add heart-healthy omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

5. Change up your usual after dinner treat with a piece of dark chocolate to not only satisfy that sweet tooth, but to add flavonols into your diet, a nutrient with antioxidant properties that research has linked to vascular health.

New Years Resolutions, Staying the Course

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

The fresh feeling ushered in by the New Year seems like the ideal time to make big changes. New Year resolutions are set and approached with enthusiasm and confidence for success. Yet even with this enthusiasm, 40% of individuals polled by the Marist Poll did not follow through with their New Year goals.  Another study by the University of Scranton showed that 30% give up their resolutions after two weeks.  So, what goes wrong?  Read on to find out how you can improve the likelihood of reaching your goals.

The #1 New Years resolution is – no surprise here, to lose weight.  Getting organized and spending less money follow closely at #2 and #3.  Regardless of the specific goal, resolutions require behavior changes that can be difficult to make “stick”.  Starting out right can help you succeed throughout the year and even longer.  Here are some ways to do it.

Strengthen your self-control.  Start small. Say no to the second cookie after dinner. Start making small changes so that you don’t become overwhelmed by trying to do it all at once.

Set a specific goal with smaller milestones.  You may want to lose 20 pounds, but focusing on such a long-term goal may make you more likely to call it quits. Smaller milestones on the way to your long-term goal are easier to achieve and provide more quickly and frequently achieved gratification.

Develop a plan for achieving your goal.  Include details for managing any setbacks.  It is important to have a plan to follow. It is difficult to, for example, lose weight without knowing what steps to take to improve how and what you eat. Including details for setbacks will help you power through any obstacles without giving up. It will remind you that a small setback is not a failure.

Create a form of accountability.  Trying to lose weight? Keep a food journal to make you think about what you’re eating. Trying to quit smoking? Have a friend check-in to see how you’re doing. Be creative in figuring out what form of accountability works for you.

Reward yourself!  Remember those smaller milestones? These provide a great opportunity to reward yourself. There are many creative incentives to keep yourself going. A great example is to use money you would have otherwise used on take-out or snacks from the vending machine on a manicure.

Stay positive.  It's easy to get lost in the challenges to keeping your resolution. If you find yourself becoming overwhelmed with the negative, shift your mindset. Stop thinking about how hard it is not to eat the cheeseburger.  Instead, remind yourself of how much more energetic you feel. Think about how great you’ll feel when you can run and play with your kids or how gratifying it is to follow through on a goal you set for yourself.

See a counselor.  Finding a great counselor, such as a dietician, can help you stay on track. Not only can they help you prepare a detailed plan for success, they are there for you throughout the process. They can serve as encouragement and accountability, helping you stay on track if you hit a setback!

Remain persistent.  There is no one “right” way to approach a resolution. Everyone is different. The first plan you try may not work. But don’t give up! Prepare yourself ahead of time for the possibility of having to rework your plan. Keeping a positive attitude throughout is vital to finding success!

Is your resolution to live and eat more healthfully individually or as a family? Try these tips from our dieticians for easy changes to incorporate into your daily routine!

Gather Around the Table.  Families that share at least 3 meals per week are more likely to have children with healthy eating habits, weights within the normal range and a decreased rate of eating disorders. Aim for at least 3 shared meals per week- this can be a simple breakfast before the school day or a dinner in the dining room, what matters is that the family is together!

Make Half Your Grains Whole.  Whole grains are a great source of fiber, vitamins and minerals that refined grains just can’t stand up to. Make a goal of changing at least half of your grains to whole grains. Choose wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain pasta, quinoa, or oatmeal for the majority of your starch choices to reap the benefit of these super foods.  

Think about portions.  When taking foods from a package, take the simple step of checking the serving size on the nutrition facts label. Portion out the serving size as a starting point for you and your loved ones. 

Please Don’t Pass the Salt.  Limiting sodium for you and your family now can greatly help lower the risk of stroke and heart disease later in life. Start by avoiding adding salt while cooking, don’t add it onto foods and choose packaged products with ~300 mg or less of sodium per serving.

Power Off.  Eating in front of TV or computer screens can take our focus off our meal or snack and can easily lead to overeating. A great way to avoid excess calories is to take the pledge to be mindful of your foods.  When you eat sit away from the screen and pay attention to the taste, the smell and your satiety or fullness factor.

 For some help staying the course with your New Years Resolutions, contact our dietitians to set up an appointment today info@metrowestnutrition.com.

Low Glycemic Diet Yields a Higher Burn Rate

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Jackie Ballou MS, RD, LDN

"What diet should I choose to lose weight?" is by far the most commonly asked question I receive from clients, friends and family. 

It’s no wonder people are confused about what to eat to manage their weight considering the number of conflicting nutrition messages we are exposed to on a daily basis. 

From gluten-free and grapefruit diets, cookie diets to cleanses, many diets promise results, but what actually works?  And more importantly, which type of diet helps prevent weight regain after loss? 

While weight loss success is individual, a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers some promising insights into how best to maintain lost weight.

The researchers looked at how three different diets, very low-carbohydrate, low-glycemic index, and low-fat affected participants’ energy expenditure, or total number of calories burned.  The research also evaluated hunger levels after losing 10-15% of their body weight.  The glycemic index ranks carbohydrate containing foods depending how they affect blood sugar after eating.  High glycemic index foods like white bread, sweets and sugary drinks result in a rapid rise and fall in blood sugar, while low glycemic index foods such as most vegetables, fruits and beans more moderately affect blood sugar.

It is thought that one possible mechanism explaining why lost weight is so often regained is due to a resulting decrease in energy expenditure and an increase in feelings of hunger.  These factors combined set the stage for weight regain after loss--you use less calories than before losing weight, plus you feel more hungry.

Twenty-one adults with overweight/obesity participated in the seven month-long study.  Participants underwent energy expenditure testing among other tests at the beginning, during and at completion of the study. 

After following a diet that resulted in a 10-15% weight loss, participants were randomly assigned to the three different diets. In random order, participants followed each of the diets for one month.  During this phase of the study, goal was for participants to maintain their weight, thus each of the three diets contained the same amount of calories. 

Researchers found that although the three diets contained the same amount of calories, participants’ energy expenditure differed, depending on diet.  On average, when participants were on the very low-carbohydrate diet, their energy expenditure was 300 calories higher than when they were on the low-fat diet.  The low-glycemic index diet also resulted in higher energy expenditure than the low-fat diet, although less so than the very low-carbohydrate diet.  Researchers did not find any difference in self-reported hunger levels between the three diets.  Although the very low-carbohydrate diet was advantageous in terms of higher energy expenditure, when participants followed this diet, body levels of markers of inflammation (an indication of stress) were also highest, compared with the other two diets.  Study authors explained some research has demonstrated markers of inflammation may put people at risk for cardiovascular disease.  Another disadvantage to a very low carbohydrate diet not sited in this study is the increased risk of depression and irritability. 

This study demonstrates the low-glycemic index diet may result in increased energy expenditure after weight loss compared to a low-fat diet, without increasing markers of bodily stress as shown with the very low-carbohydrate diet.  While the study points to the low-glycemic index diet as most beneficial for weight maintenance after loss, the evidence will be strengthened with more research in a larger population over a longer duration. 

Bottom line, the study is promising for sustained weight loss with the low-glycemic index diet, but stay tuned for more research.  Nutrition for weight loss, despite all the seemingly conflicting messages, is a young science, but thanks to well-designed research studies like this one, we are coming closer to evidence-based solutions that work.

Ebbeling CB, Swain JF, Feldman HA, et al.  Effects of Dietary Composition on Energy Expenditure During Weight-Loss Maintenance.  Journal of the American Medical Association.  2012; 307(24):  2627-2634.

Good News for Coffee Lovers

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Most Americans can’t imagine facing the day without their morning cup of Joe and new research is showing that coffee may be better for us than we thought.  Coffee is a great pick-me-up to help you power through the day.  There are some other perks too.  For example, the antioxidants found in coffee help lower type 2 diabetes risk, although the direct process is not fully understood. Java can also help lower your risk of Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s diseases.  On the flip side, too much caffeine can make you anxious and jittery.  So, if you’re looking for a pick me up with less caffeine and maximum health benefits, try reaching for a cup of green tea.  Many studies have found various health benefits related to the antioxidants found in green tea.  And unfortunately, decaffeinating the tea causes it to lose some of these benefits.

Read more about how coffee is good for you here. 

BPA Alert!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Last week my husband came home exclaiming that we needed to rid the house of all BPA.  Apparently, he had read a study indicating exposure in utero negatively impacts girls' behavior and mood.  Bisphenol A or BPA is an estrogen-mimicking, hormone disruptor.  The study showed that higher BPA urine levels in pregnant women, the more pronounced the effect on behavior in girls.  They linked it to anxiety, depression and hyperactivity.  The study is summarized here in this Huffington Post article  Huffington Post/ BPA and Pregnancy.  

BPA is found in some bottles (including baby bottles) and plastic containers, specifically those labeled with a #7 on the bottom.  This is very commonly seen in colored plastic.  #1, #4 and #5 plastics do not contain BPA.  Other products that contain BPA are canned foods and beverages - the lining used often contains BPA.  It's also found some plastic storage bags and in thermally-printed receipts (although this one seems less concerning unless you decide to ingest your receipts).  Here are some tips to avoiding BPA-containing products

Seeing that we recently found out I'm pregnant with a girl, this was cause for concern.  Mind you, we have already removed all of the plastic culprits from the home.  I was comfortable knowing that we had at least reduced our exposure.  However, one of my staple prego lunches is lentil vegetable soup which is of course in a can... a can lined with BPA-containing material most likely.  Needless to say, I've stopped eating this and was happy to find a suitable alternative in a carton container.  I haven't looked extensively into the materials used in these cartons but for now, they generally seem like a safer alternative.  There are two soup carton brands that I found claiming to use no BPA in their packaging and those are Dr. McDougall's and Pacific Foods.  You can find these at Whole Foods and Wegman's and possibly in the natural food section at other stores.   

Coincidentally, I also received some information in the mail this week from MASSPIRG indicating that there is a bill in the works to ban BPA from products for children under 3.  The bill is called 'An Act to Protect Children from Bisphenol-A' and is sponsored by Sen. Karen Spilka from Framingham.  To find out more about this campaign and what you can do to help MASSPIRG - Issues

Here's some more food for thought on this topic.  I was giving a training to teachers from several local elementary and middle school enrichment programs today and we got talking about this recent study.  One teacher shared that it's almost impossible not to serve items that are pre-packaged (in plastic and cans) due to health department regulations.  These foods are apparently "safer".  They also cheaper so even in a facility that has a fully regulated kitchen, you will likely find shelves lined with canned and plastic-wrapped foods.  We need to think about how to provide healthier alternatives for children in our schools.  At the very least, the research on BPA will likely impact consumer trends and possibly lead companies to finding safer packaging alternatives for food.  In the meantime, try to minimize processed food and check out the materials included in the packaging of foods you commonly eat.

"Anna Rexia" Costume Fuels Controversy

Wednesday, October 05, 2011

One of my clients described this Halloween costume today as I listened in disbelief.  The "Anna Rexia" costume is a short, tight black dress with the outline of a skeleton on it accompanied by a tape measure around the waist.  The heart-shaped name tag coincidentally represents one of the many organs afflicted by anorexia. 

How is it acceptable or the least bit humorous to mock such a serious illness?  As my client put it, you would never see a cancer patient Halloween costume.  So what's the difference?  It highlights the ignorance many have to the devastating consequences of this serious condition (i.e. 10-15% fatality rate).  The fact that anyone could see this as humorous is downright disturbing!

To view this Halloween costume and read more about the controversy around it, check out this abc report Eating Disorder Experts Have a Bone to Pick with Controversial "Anna Rexia" Costume.

 

 

Going Greek with Your Yogurt?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011
Have you noticed the transformation in the yogurt selection over the past few years?  If not, you probably don't eat much yogurt.  It's hard to miss the Greek yogurt trend.  So, what makes this yogurt so special?  Here's an article summarizing it's benefits What's the Scoop? - Greek Yogurt.

Yogurt is produced by fermenting milk.  Greek yogurt has been strained to remove the whey resulting in a thicker, creamier texture that many people love.  From a nutrition perspective, Greek yogurt is a loaded with calcium and has almost twice as much protein as regular yogurt. It's an excellend protein source for vegetarians who include dairy and a healthy, sustaining snack for pretty much anyone who isn't lactose intolerant.  Research indicates a high-protein post-workout snack helps rebuild muscle.  So you may want to consider some greek yogurt in that smoothie after your summer workout.  Greek yogurt also makes for a complete, high protein and tasty breakfast when combined with berries and granola. 

Looking for more benefits?  This creamy yogurt can be used as a lowfat/nonfat substitue for high fat dairy products.  Use it instead of sour cream in tacos or instead of mayo in chicken salad. It will produce a slightly tangier taste which many people like but if that doesn't appeal to you, offset it with other seasonings in the recipe or maybe some agave nectar. This website for the popular greek yogurt brand, Chobani has some recipes you may want to check out (http://chobani.com/kitchen).   

Exercising on Empty Proves to be an Empty Cause

Monday, July 11, 2011

A client recently mentioned that a trainer told her to workout in the morning on an empty stomach claiming that this would accelerate fat loss.  This is a myth, one that I will gladly bust.  I've heard many people describe the theory - starving the body of fuel before exercise forces it to turn to fat stores for energy.  The reality is, we don't burn more fat when we exercise on empty.  In fact, our bodies are more likely to breakdown muscle tissue when we're in a starved state.  This article summarizes the supporting research - Exercising on an Empty Stomach Does not Lead to Greater Fat Loss

Not to mention, it's absolutely no fun to exercise when you're hungry.  Low blood sugar leads to nausea, dizziness, headaches and fatigue.  Exercising in this state seems like a good recipe for a trip to the ER to me!  Not to mention, you're likely to work out harder (and enjoy it more) if you have some fuel in your system. 

Of course, you may want to avoid eating a large meal right before working out.  A good rule of thumb is to plan workouts for an hour after snacks or two hours after meals to allow adequate time for digestion.  If you're working out early in the morning or need to grab a snack right before exercising, choose something easy-to-digest.  A good pre-workout snacks include a short-term energy source (carbohydrate) and a long-term energy source (protein or fat).  Here are some options for quick, easy-to-digest energy boosts: 

 -a slice of toast or banana with peanut butter 
 -a handful of trail mix
 -fruit & yogurt smoothie
 -nutrition bar with a combination of carbohydrate, protein and fat



Try these yummy, homeade granola bars for a quick, on-the-go treat.  Homeade Granola Bars

Can Extra Virgin Olive Oil Take the Heat?

Friday, July 08, 2011

My friend emailed me the other day after reading an article by Sheryl Crow stating that extra virgin olive oil (EVOO) is carcinogenic at high temperatures.  Like her, I was surprised to hear this.  EVOO is known for it's health benefits; it's loaded with mono-unsaturated fatty acids and antioxidants which benefit the heart and reduce inflammation and oxidative stress in the body.  Could it be that heating it to extremely high temperatures has the opposite impact on the body?  This was news to me so I poke around a little.  This article does a good job of debunking the myth Can Extra Virgin Olive Oil Stand Your Kitchen's Heat?.  EVOO does have a lower smoke point than other oils and smoking oil is what causes the structural damage to the fatty acids that leads to production of oxygen radicals in the body.  Ideally, you want to avoid cooking any oil to the point of smoking.  However, as this article states, the fatty acids in EVOO are more resistant to this kind of structural damage.  Nonetheless, if you're going to deep fry something, it's probably best to opt for another type of oil, one with a higher smoke point (i.e. canola or safflower).  Or better yet, avoid frying and opt for sauteeing and grilling which are healthier options! 

Through my search I uncovered some inspiring articles about Sheryl Crow's battle with breast cancer and how it radically changed her thoughts about food.  She is an inspiration for healthly living and recently published a cookbook cleverly titled If it Makes You Healthy.  This article showcases a couple yummy-looking recipes from her book Sheryl Crow's New Cookbook.



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