Saturday, May 28, 2016

Have Inflammation? Diet Changes May Help!

Inflammation, something all of us have experienced at some point in our lives, is a protective process the body uses to promote healing after an injury (such as a cut) or exposure to harmful substances. While inflammation can be helpful, there are forms of ongoing or chronic inflammation that can have negative health effects.  Chronic inflammation can be caused autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis and Crohn’s disease, and skin conditions such as psoriasis. Furthermore, there is some speculation that chronic inflammation can contribute to heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s disease.

            Chronic inflammation occurs when healthy cells in the body are attacked by the body’s immune system. While this inflammation can be difficult to cure, there is evidence that certain foods can have a positive impact by suppressing inflammation, enhancing the body’s immune system, and providing antioxidants to reduce inflammatory stress. It is still unclear the intake needed to reap the benefits of specific foods. Fortunately, there is numerous inflammation reducing foods, giving you a variety of options to increase your consumption. For instance, both fruits and vegetables can help reduce inflammation, so be sure to add additional fresh, frozen or dried berries, as well as dark leafy greens to your diet. Opt for plant-based protein sources, such as legumes and nuts, and replace refined grains with whole grains, such as brown rice instead of white. Pick heart healthy fats such as olive oil, avocado and fatty fish such as salmon, for a healthy dose of omega-3 fatty acids. Last but not least, season your meal with fresh herbs and spices, adding not only delicious flavor, but an antioxidant-rich punch, too!

Perhaps with these tips, you will be able to incorporate antioxidant rich foods and reduce annoying and painful inflammation, leaving you feeling ready to tackle all of your summer activities!

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Processed Foods: Guide to Healthy Choices

Processed foods, such as boxed macaroni and cheese, potato chips and microwaveable dinners, have been blamed for U.S. obesity rates, high blood pressure, and prevalence of Type 2 diabetes. However, argues Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD, and past spokesperson of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, we must determine what processed really means.

Processed foods differ widely from minimally processed (such as bagged spinach and cut fruits and vegetables) to the most heavily processed (such as frozen or pre-made meals). While heavily processed foods can have a negative effect on your health, there are positives to certain processed foods. Milk and juices fortified with calcium and vitamin D are considered processed, as are pre-cut vegetables, but both can be beneficial to your health, especially when an individual is living a busy, on-the-go lifestyle.

To prevent negative health effects from processed foods, try to consume those more minimally processed, read labels, and keep an eye out for hidden sugar, sodium and fat. Sugar can be hidden in foods such as bread, added to give the appealing brown hue. Sodium is often used to enhance flavor and texture, as well as help preserve the food, but with the addition of processed foods, you can easily exceed the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation of less than 2,300 milligrams a day. Fats are added for shelf-stability, but have the capability of raising cholesterol and negatively impacting our health. Being aware of exactly what you are consuming by reading labels can help you find the nutritious, and avoid the not-so-nutritious, processed foods!

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Friday, May 20, 2016

Doing Detox Diets Right

As summer approaches with the end of school, prom season, and the beginning of wedding season, people are more inclined to try detox diets. Detoxification is a constant natural bodily function in which important nutrients are utilized and toxins are created in order to remove unnecessary waste products via excretion. If the amount of toxins stored exceeds the amount of toxins excreted, they will be stored in bone, soft tissue, and fat cells. This can predispose an individual to health risks, such as diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and weight gain. Some reasons people partake in detox diets include: enhancing immune function, to remove toxins from the body, to prevent chronic disease, to increase energy, and to improve quality of life. The main reason people tend to go on detox diets is to speed up metabolism in order to lose weight quickly.

A lot of detox programs encourage individuals to remove processed foods and common allergens, such as dairy, gluten, eggs, and peanuts. Foods that are typically recommended during the detoxification process include: organically grown vegetables, fruit, whole non-gluten grains, nuts, seeds, and lean protein. Some programs encourage fasting, which can be dangerous due to the fact that it may suppress detoxification pathways in the body.

If you’re going to go on a detox diet, make sure you consult with that a certified health practitioner, such as an integrative and functional medicine dietitian, before beginning a detox program.

If you’re not interested in partaking in a strenuous detox program, here are some ways to encourage the natural detoxification process in the body:

  • ·       Stay hydrated by drinking about eight 8 ounce glasses of water each day.
  • ·       Eat five to nine servings of fruit and vegetables each day.
  • ·       Consume adequate amounts of fiber each day from vegetables, nuts, seeds and whole grains.
  • ·       Eat vegetables like berries, artichokes, garlic, onions, leeks, turmeric and milk thistle, and drink green tea.
  • ·       In order to maintain optimum levels of glutathione, the body's master detoxification enzyme, adequate protein intake should be consumed.
  • ·       Consider taking a multivitamin/multi mineral in order to make up for any vitamin and mineral deficiencies to enable the body's detoxification processes to function.
  • ·       To manage toxins that are produced from microbes in the gut, eat naturally fermented foods such as kefir, yogurt, kimchi and sauerkraut. Probiotics encourage proper function, as well.
  • ·       N-acetylcysteine (NAC), a precursor to glutathione, is often recommended to support the body's natural detoxification activity.
  • ·       Maintain bowel regularity. 


Monday, May 16, 2016

Low Mortality Risk; High BMI?

            A Danish cohort study associated the lowest risk for all-cause mortality with a BMI of 27. The previous value, done in the 1970’s, regarding BMI and decreased mortality was 24. BMI is simply a value calculated from weight and height. It is a quick and easy way to assess risk for certain disease states. Note that BMI just assesses risk of disease. It does not mean with absolute certainty that a high BMI will cause a disease state.

            Now that research is coming forward about a high BMI and lower mortality, many researchers are curious how this is so. Possible explanations according to this study are improved treatment for some heart disease and other complications as the explanation for this trend. Regardless of the reason, it paints a very clear picture to me: being “healthy” and living a long life is not just about being thin.

            It is also important to remember that BMI is a measure of height and weight. Body weight may come from bones, fat mass, or muscle mass primarily. This study and many other studies fail to look at body composition. Body composition, particularly, the amount of muscle mass you own, may be more important for health than we are to think.  

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Thursday, May 12, 2016

FDA Assessing a "Healthy" Change?

Nuts, avocados, and salmon are all healthy foods, right?  Well, not according to the Food and Drug Administration.  For companies that want to use “healthy” as a nutrient content claim, the FDA regulations state that a certain food must contain no more than 3 grams of fat and 1 gram of saturated fat per serving.  According to this statement, nuts, avocados, and salmon do not fit the bill, but certain varieties of Pop-tarts, Frosted Flakes, and even various Spaghetti O’s do!  How is it that some processed foods are considered to be healthier than certain whole foods?

As it turns out, the FDA’s current regulations are more than 20 years old.  No wonder many Americans are confused when they visit the grocery store!  These regulations were created back in the 90’s, when fat was the macronutrient to be feared and the sales of low-fat and fat-free products were skyrocketing.  The science regarding nutrition changes, and it absolutely did within the past 20 years.  We now know that certain types of fat, like unsaturated fats, are actually good for you and should be consumed as part of a healthy diet.  Due to the pressure from consumers and even Congress, the FDA recently released a statement saying it will reevaluate their nutrient content claim regulations including labeling something with the term “healthy.”  Looks like a step in the right direction.