Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Are You Eating Your Fruits and Vegetables?

When it comes to most Americans, many of us aren’t consuming enough of these healthful foods.  A recent analysis conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports only 13.1% of Americans are eating enough fruit and a shocking 8.9% of Americans are eating enough vegetables.  Each state varied in consumption, with California ranking the highest in consumption of both fruits and vegetables, Tennessee consuming the least amount of fruit and Mississippi consuming the least amount of vegetables.  According to Medical News Today, a survey that was conducted from 2007-2010, indicated that “half of the US population consumed under 1 cup of fruits and under 1.5 cups of vegetables a day.”

Fruits and vegetables not only add beneficial color to your plate, but they include essential nutrients that have been known to reduce the risk for heart disease, stroke, and even some types of cancers.  In addition, fruits and vegetables have a low calorie density, which when eaten in place of foods that are more calorie dense, can help with weight loss and maintenance.
The amount considered “enough” is different for everyone and varies depending on age, sex, and activity level.  Some tips to help increase your intake of fruits and vegetables include:

·      Aim to make half of your plate fruits and vegetables
·      Pair raw veggies with hummus for a crunchy snack
·      Save time by utilizing frozen vegetables in recipes
·      Add greens such as spinach or kale to soups, stews, and casseroles
·      Top your salad with dried or fresh fruit
·      Buy pre-washed bags of vegetables and cut-up containers of fruit
·      Head to the grocery store or farmers market and pick up something new to you
·      Wash and cut fresh fruit and vegetables and place them in a see-through container in the fridge for easy snacking

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Slow Your Roll!

            A recent study from the University of Surrey in the UK suggests that walking may be a cue for overeating just as television, laptops and other forms of screen time are. I’m sure you’re familiar with the tidbit of information that watching television while eating is linked with overeating. Now it makes sense why my mother called our television an “idiotbox.” Interestingly enough, walking triggered much more overeating than television did.

            In the study, 60 female students ate a cereal bar while doing one of three things: walking a hallway, watching television, or talking with a friend. After eating the cereal bar, the participants were then told to take part in an unsupervised taste test. During the taste test, bowls of grapes, carrots and chocolate were left on the table, and the participants were told to eat “as much as they’d like.” The researchers found that those previously walking and eating the cereal bar consumed more snacks in general and around five times more chocolate than other participants.

            The researchers suggest trying to avoid distractions while eating, and to take your lunch break away from the desk at work. They go on to say that eating away from the desk causes workers to feel more full and less likely to snack later on. The key point to take away is the importance of giving our meals attention and to always be mindful and conscious of what, and how much, we are consuming in any setting.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Why No Carb Diets Should Be a No-Go

 Usually when people decide to go on a diet, the first thing they want to eliminate is carbs. This is actually doing them more harm than good, however. If someone is looking to lose a few pounds, decreasing the intake of carbs is not going to have major effects on the body. If a person is looking to lose a significant amount of weight, however, removing carbohydrates from his or her diet will cause tiredness due to depletion in nutrients.

The typical “Carb-Free” diet tends to eliminate foods, such as, grains, flour, and sugar. What people fail to realize is that most carbohydrates come from a plant source via fruits, veggies, nuts, and seeds. These types of foods contain vital nutrients and minerals needed for a healthy metabolism. Completely eliminating carbs from your diet can prove to be detrimental to the human body. It can also cause setbacks in the weight loss process.

Carbohydrates are the first and easiest nutrient to be broken down by the body for energy. When carbs are consumed, they are broken down into glucose and then released into the bloodstream.  After it is released into the bloodstream, some will be used for immediate energy, while the rest of it will be stored as glycogen in the muscles and the liver until needed. The excess carbohydrates will eventually be converted into fat and stored into adipose tissue. So, if carbs are eliminated from a person’s diet, the body must find other ways to gain its energy. These options are usually harder for the body to breakdown and not as easy to utilize.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Standards for Sprouted Grains

Lately, sprouted grains are all the hype.  While it was once considered crazy to set a jar of soaked grains on the counter and watch them begin to grow little sprouts, it sure isn’t now!  Sprouted grains are regularly featured in many different forms of media such as T.V. shows, magazines, books, and the Internet.

The reason grains are commonly sprouted is because the seed has growth inhibitors that only allow it to grow when the moisture content and temperature are acceptable.  Once it begins to sprout, enzymes transform the starch into molecules that are much easier for the seed to digest.  Even though more research needs to be conducted, sprouting supposedly increases the bioavailability of some vitamins and minerals.  In addition, some people find that sprouted grains are easier for them to digest. 

Sprouting is relatively inexpensive if you choose to sprout on your own.  However, you may have noticed the prices of the already-sprouted-grains in the grocery stores are a bit higher than the non-sprouted variety.  The process of sprouting grains is fairly simple.  Sprouting requires choosing a grain, soaking, rinsing, draining, and placing them in a jar for a few days.  Most people would prefer saving time by purchasing already sprouted grains and, unfortunately, manufactures have taken advantage of that. 

The Whole Grains Council is making an effort to set standards for sprouted grains.  One of the reasons the Council is pushing for this is to help protect the consumer and ensure that they are truly getting what they paid for.  As of right now, there are five areas the Council is considering regarding the sprouting standards.  These include
·      Having a minimum and maximum sprout length
·      Using lab tests to verify that the grain is, indeed, sprouted
·      Establishing nutrient tests to determine when the sprouting occurred
·      Establishing what percentage of grains must be sprouted
·      Setting microbial and safety tests for sprouting

The next part of the process, the Whole Grain Council says, “is to establish sub-committees that can actually test these standards.”  In the mean time, you can taste sprouted grains by purchasing ones that are already sprouted or you can even dabble in some sprouting yourself.  While they may simply be grains that have been sprouted, they also just might be simply delicious.  Give them a try sometime and use them just as you would regular grains.

Friday, August 14, 2015

Fishing For Health

            My dad recently told me he used to consume a fish oil supplement when he was younger because it allegedly was “good” for you. Granted, he said it was among one of the worst things he has ever eaten (fishy flavor isn’t for everyone), but it made me wonder what all the benefits of consuming fish oil and fish oil supplements are. Fish oils are derived from a variety of fatty fish such as salmon, trout, herring, tuna, and sardines. These fish are rich in eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are omega-3 fatty acids.

            Well, it turns out my dad was right, fish oils are chocked full of health benefits: cognition and memory, protection from vision loss, and potentially decreased risk of prostate cancer. Athletes also may consume fish oils supplements derived from cold-water fish for joint health because EPA and DHA contain anti-inflammatory chemicals called resolvins. Fish oils are also very important for fetal brain development, as you may see EPA and DHA in fortified baby formulas.

            The research goes back and forth, but putting controversy aside, in order to get the most benefit from fish oils, you need to aim to eat about two servings of fish per week. The fatty fish listed above have higher levels of EPA and DHA, but white fish, such as halibut, cod and tilapia, also have these fish oils in lower amounts. As always, fish oils are more readily absorbed from food rather than pills, so try putting a 3-ounce portion of fish on your plate for diner a few times a week!

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