Nutrition is a complicated topic if we keep the focus on the latest fad, popular trend, or the “in” pop culture-esque piece of advice (whether it’s right or wrong or somewhere in between).
Beef sometimes gets the shaft. It is often portrayed as an unhealthy option or as a “problem causing food”. Remember the ads in the 80’s and 90’s (yes, I’ve just dated myself…sigh…)? “Where’s the Beef?” This is an important question to ask – where is the beef? Why should we give beef a little more credit than we have in years past?
If a little is good, more is obviously better. Wait! Not so fast! Protein is both powerful and necessary to maintaining health, BUT in the case of this macronutrient, more is just more and not better.
First, let’s take a look at what proteins are and what they do in the body. Proteins are made up of amino acids (think of these as legos) and provide the major structural components of muscle tissue, brain tissue, the nervous system, blood, skin and even hair and nails! It doesn’t stop there – this macronutrient also provides a transportation system for minerals, vitamins, fats, and oxygen. It even plays a role in maintaining the acid-base balance and fluid balance. Although we derive energy from consuming protein, it is the body’s least preferred source of fuel for activity and rest. However, during times of starvation, the body breaks down its stores to provide a source of fuel. Continue reading “The Power of Protein – What’s enough? What’s too much?”
What is the Health Halo?
If it looks healthy and says it’s healthy – then it is, right? Not always. Just because certain products contain added fiber, Omega fatty acids, or have fewer calories than the original version doesn’t mean it has added nutritional benefits.
The “Health Halo”: a term given to those subtle, but persuasive words or phrases listed on food packages or clever marketing schemes. For example, when a food label says “organic” or “low fat”, we tend to automatically believe the food is healthier if not even “good or us”. Continue reading “The Health Halo Phenomenon”
Simplify the Complex
If you’re like me, you appreciate succinct, simple and easy to understand (and apply) health and nutrition information. One look at the lengthy 2010 Dietary Guidelines document tells us the information contained within those pages is anything but succinct, simple, or easy. This week’s post reduces the complexity of the guidelines and summarizes what dietary practices we need to implement and/or change to positively influence overall health and wellbeing. For a full examination of the updated guidelines, visit 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines.
The Fun of Food & Family
This week’s blog post is dedicated to all the moms, dads, grandparents, and care givers to little ones.
Kids are sometimes finicky eaters – as we well know (mine included). The minute we say, “it’s good for you” the noses turn up and the arms are crossed. So, how do we combat this aversion? By first making healthy food fun food. Continue reading “Teachable Tastes – Making Healthy Food Fun for Kids”
Sipping the Good stuff
As adult libations go, I reach immediately for the vino. I love a crisp, fruity Pinot Grigio on a hot day and crave the comfort of a dark velvety Cab when it’s cold. But, the question I often am asked is “how healthy is wine?” Let’s review what the body of literature tells us.
Red wine contains something called resveratrol – a polyphenol compound found in certain plants that appears to have some antioxidant properties. Past research indicated resveratrol may be the key ingredient responsible for reducing inflammation and LDL cholesterol (the “bad” stuff) as well as preventing blood clots. A caveat – much of the research was on animals and animals have different reactions to different substances. A second caveat – resveratrol is found in the skins of grapes, which are the principal ingredient in most wines – including the whites. The difference is the grapes are fermented longer for red wines than white, so the levels of this polyphenol are greater in reds. This is not to say that white wines don’t have their benefits – they can and do! Continue reading “Wine Me Up! Is Alcohol Beneficial to Health?”
In case the 90 degree weather didn’t tip you off, it’s summer! Hopefully you are all enjoying long sunny days, empty schoolyards, campfires, parties, and picnics in the park. As is American tradition and culture, we typically like to celebrate the summer season with endless backyard barbeques.
Gatherings of this nature generally involve food and beverages that may not be – let’s say – of the heart healthy variety. This summer, as you partake in the festivities, keep the following tips in mind. In doing so, you will find it is possible to enjoy the celebration and indulge in delicious food without compromising personal health and nutrition goals. Continue reading “BBQ – Healthy Business”
Carbohydrates are often demonized and characterized as “the one” that makes weight gain so profound. I’m here to tell you this is not the case and it’s time we take a closer look at the facts before committing to a “bread boycott”.
What are carbs?
Carbs are “hydrated carbons” as the name carbohydrate implies; they are sugar compounds made with carbon and water attached. See – nothing scary! Not only do our bodies need carbs for immediate energy, carbs are the only fuel source for the brain and red blood cells (a little science nerdy nerd fact for you in case the dinner table conversation runs out of “energy” – pun totally intended;))
The Detox Diet
If you Google “detox diet”, you will come across a thousand different definitions and variations. To break it down to the common denominators, most include some element of the following: fasting, increased water intake, restricted caloric consumption and often, but not always, a recommendation to consume specific supplements (herbs, laxatives, etc.). Most of these diets (as is common with any diet) are temporary solutions to a greater issue – lifestyle choices.
In addition, may of these diets make “promises” of bright/clear skin, increased energy levels, weight loss, improved mood, etc. This begs the question – how does it work? Perhaps the better question to ask is – Does it work?
Detox diets are centered on the belief that the elimination of certain foods or food groups will rid the toxins found in said foods. In addition, the digestive system gets a “break” from foods that are considered difficult to digest (meat, cheese, processed foods, etc.). As a result of the restrictive eating patterns, individuals lose weight (initially and rapidly).
First we need to examine human physiology in a basic, trimmed down way (no nerdy science talk here…I say this because I, at heart, am a true science nerd :)). The human body has a very sophisticated detoxification process, which involves a number of systems and organs…the digestive system as a whole, the liver, kidneys, lymphatic system, skin, etc. Sure, increasing water consumption is a good practice we should all follow, but to do so with the idea in mind that it will “cleanse” or “detoxify” the body more so than simply eating a balanced diet isn’t necessarily true. Yes, if a toxin or substance is water soluble, a high volume of water may aid the body in ridding that substance; however, many toxins are fat soluble and will not respond to a change in water intake.
The Expert Insight
Many professionals in the health, fitness, and nutrition world would consider these types of diets a “fad” or “food fad” because many “detox” plans involve unreasonable and outlandish claims that the avoidance of certain foods and nutrients will result in “special” health benefits. Not the case. In addition, experts express concerns about the cost-prohibitive nature of these diets. Such costs include physical harm from food-drug interactions or potentially toxic components in certain products the dieter is encouraged to take while “detoxifying”. Further, individuals who may already be suffering from a chronic disease (such as type 2 diabetes or other metabolic malady) may ultimately pay the price for delayed treatment and require extensive and intensive tertiary therapy (ACE, 2013).
While I share ALL of these same concerns as a fitness and health professional, I also have concerns about the psychological costs incurred from “failing” on a detox diet – or any diet for that matter. So many individuals pursue a diet as a way to achieve perfection instead of progress; when progress is not sustained and weight is regained, the dieter feels a sense of failure and, in turn, loses a great deal of self-efficacy. Further, as I’ve noted before, diets often fail to bring about sustainable lifestyle and behavior changes.
Top 10 Questions to Ask
When considering any diet recommendations that don’t come from a qualified professional (RD, etc.), these are the top 10 questions I would suggest you use to scrutinize the information being presented.
- Is exercise encouraged as a component of this program? If so, what, if any, guidelines are recommended to clients? Note: If any program prohibits weight training or cardio during a “weight loss” phase – it’s a big pile of B.S. This likely means the diet is so restrictive (in terms of carbs) that the dieter would have depleted all available energy stores by cutting out carbs, thus not having any resources to fuel exercise.
- How is progress measured? Are the components of health-related fitness (cardiorespiratory fitness, muscular strength and endurance, flexibility, and body comp) assessed and reassessed as part of the program itself? Specifically, how is body composition measured?
- Is caloric need/basal metabolic rate assessed and is caloric intake and expenditure tracked and evaluated? How?
- What is the average caloric intake? Is it below 1200?
- What is the risk for ketosis while on this program? With the low carbohydrate intake, is cognitive function impaired?
- Is blood pressure, resting heart rate, and fasting glucose measured regularly?
- What are the credentials of the professionals involved with this program?
- If an exercise professional is part of the program team, does he or she possess a certification that is accredited by the NCCA (ACE, NSCA, ACSM, NCSF, NASM, etc.)?
- Are dietary supplements required/recommended? If so, how is the quality and purity of the ingredients assured as supplements are not regulated?
- What theoretical framework provides the basis for this program? In other words, what substantiated behavioral theories are used to guide this program and how are long-term behavior/lifestyle changes encouraged and taught?
Ditch the Detox & Do It Right
In short, the human body does not to be detoxified through a restrictive diet plan. No detox diet will supersede the quality of the physiological processes we already possess as carbon-based life forms. The best plan to follow – balanced living. Eat a diet of whole grains, fruits, veggies, fiber, water (lots of it), lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. You’ll live in a constant state of “detox” and you’ll be well, live well, and stay well.
Until next time…Meet you at the Well