NUTRITION MISFIRES (excerpted from IDEA Food and Nutrition Nov. 2018)
There is so much conflicting information about food and nutrition, it is a challenge to determine what is the correct information. Stamp out misunderstandings by learning how top nutrition professionals set their clients straight on five all-too-common nutrition misfires.
Misfire #1 Sugar is bad; therefore, all carbs are bad.
“All carbs are not created equal,” advises Kathy McManus, MS, RDN, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “There are some unhealthy sources, like white bread, white rice, white potatoes, and foods containing added sugar (cake, cookies, candy and sugar-sweetened beverages). These foods raise blood sugar and can lead to diabetes and weight gain. But “The right types of carbohydrate foods, such as intact whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans and other legumes, are the foundation for a healthy diet.” (Intact whole grains include all layers of the original kernel: bran, germ and endosperm.)
Focus on reducing added sugar, not on reducing sugar that occurs naturally, as in fruit or all carbohydrates. it is added sugar or refined grain, limit intake. If it’s in whole foods, dig in, though be mindful of portion control even with healthy foods.
Misfire #2 Vegetarian diets are healthy, so I should avoid all animal foods.
Vegetarians have lower rates of overweight and obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and some cancers compared with those on a typical American diet (Appleby & Key 2016). That sounds pretty compelling, but it doesn’t necessarily mean animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, dairy products) have no place in a healthy diet. In addition to protein, meats are sources of well-absorbed minerals, including iron and zinc, while milk and other dairy products are great sources of calcium.
Misfire #3 Gluten is bad for some people; therefore, everyone should avoid gluten.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. “The fact that gluten is a protein surprises people, since today’s food conversation is very positive about protein,” says Kim Kirchherr, MS, RDN, a nutrition consultant. People with celiac disease react to gluten in a way that damages the lining of their small intestine, leading to digestive symptoms like bloating, diarrhea and malabsorption of nutrients.
Wheat sensitivities are not always related to gluten. “Some people with irritable bowel syndrome are intolerant to the carbohydrate portions of wheat called oligosaccharides. But the majority of us are totally okay to consume wheat and gluten,” says Denise Barratt, MS, RDN. She says gluten-free products may have less iron, fiber and B vitamins, so reconsider switching unless you need to avoid gluten for health reasons.
The message shouldn’t be to avoid gluten; it should be to choose more nutrient-dense breads made with whole-grain flours and, especially, more intact whole grains like barley and quinoa, which don’t raise blood sugar as much.
Misfire #4 Juicing is the best way to get your fruit and veggies.
Recent research has shown that juices are an effective way to increase vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients in the diet (Zheng 2017). In the U.S., most people don’t eat enough fruit or vegetables and may miss out on the nutrients they provide: vitamins A and C, potassium, fiber, phytonutrients, and more.
Juicers, however, usually remove fiber, and fiber is important for digestive health and cholesterol reduction, and it helps keep blood sugar under control.
Calories are another consideration. You are probably consuming a lot more calories from juice than you would if you were eating the whole fruit.
Misfire #5 Vitamins and minerals are essential for health, so I should take a lot of them.
Vitamins and minerals are critical for good health, but “bigger isn’t always better. We can’t easily get rid of excess vitamins stored in fat, such as fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. The B vitamins and vitamin C, on the other hand, are water-soluble, and we excrete what we can’t absorb, so taking an excess of those may mean you are essentially flushing the money you paid for them down the toilet.
While a multivitamin and mineral supplement containing around 100% of the Daily Values may be low risk and could make up for nutrients missing in the diet (Ward 2014), we have little research on the long-term effects of large doses of vitamins, minerals and other dietary supplements. In the U.S., laws do not require the Food and Drug Administration to verify safety or effectiveness before dietary supplements are marketed to consumers (NIH 2011).
ENJOY THE HOLIDAYS. DON’T FORGET TO EXERCISE, EAT HEALTHY, AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, BE NICE AND SMILE A LOT.
HEALTHY BRAIN FOOD (from ACE Health eTips, 9/21/17)
The brain is a remarkable organ. It is responsible for your ability to think, problem solve, process emotions, make memories, your five senses (sight, taste, touch, smell and hearing) and physical movement. With so many things to do, your brain requires a lot of energy. Proper nourishment will keep your brain happy now and prevent diseases typically associated with aging.
The basic working unit of the brain is the neuron. It is a specialized cell that transmits information to other nerve cells, muscles or glands via chemical messengers known as neurotransmitters. There are approximately 100 billion neurons in your brain that rely on a steady stream of energy to function. The right foods will take care of your brain and keep it functioning properly. Conversely, the wrong foods will not nourish your brain and can speed up age-related brain diseases and disorders, including Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, cognitive decline and impaired memory.
The good news is that we are seeing more and more studies that highlight which foods are best for a healthy brain.
THE MIND DIET – This diet is a combination of the Mediterranean and DASH diets, both of which are revered for their ability to lower blood pressure, reduce risk of cardiovascular disease and decrease risk of diabetes. Participants who adhered to the diet lowered the risk of developing Alzheimer’s by as much as 53%. It is thought that the diet works by lowering oxidative stress and inflammation, both of which can be quite detrimental to the brain. This diet is full of antioxidant-rich berries and vegetables, lean proteins, wild-caught fish, legumes, nuts, seeds, avocado and olive oil, all of which decrease inflammation. The more you can control inflammation, the healthier your brain will be.
VITAMIN D – Known as the “sunshine” vitamin, vitamin D has long been known for its role in the development of strong bones. More recent findings have linked vitamin D deficiency to non-skeletal conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes, stroke, cancer, cognitive impairment and dementia. The best source of vitamin D is the sun (UVB rays), but most people are cautious about sun exposure and increasing their risk of skin cancer. Plus, wearing sunscreen blocks the absorption of the rays that allow for the vitamin D to enter the body. There are limited foods that are rich in vitamin D, so supplementing with Vitamin D3 is often recommended. Consider getting your blood vitamin D levels checked to determine how much vitamin D you will need to supplement. According to the Vitamin D Council, your recommended intake could range from 1,000-5,000 IUs.
PREBIOTICS AND PROBIOTICS – Good health begins in the gut. The bacteria that live in your gut number in the trillions and it is both the diversity and the ratio of good bugs to bad bugs that impact the health of your body, including your brain. We know that the gut bacteria directly communicate with your brain, influencing the production and function of neurotransmitters. Probiotics—the good bugs—can be found in fermented foods, such as kimchi, miso, kefir, yogurt and sauerkraut. Prebiotics—the indigestible fibers found in plant foods—keep the probiotics alive and kicking. Onions, garlic, asparagus, oats, jicama and Jerusalem artichokes are some of the richest source of prebiotics. Including these foods in most of your meals will help cultivate a diverse and robust gut microbiome.
OMEGA-3 FATS – Approximately 8% of your brain is made up of omega-3 fats, which serve as the building blocks for your neurons. The two most important omega-3s—DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid)—play a role in brain development and function, protecting it from oxidative damage and inflammation. Omega-3-rich foods include wild Alaskan salmon, mackerel, sardines, wild Pacific halibut and algae. Plant-based omega-3 fat comes in the form of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid), which can be converted to EPA and DHA, but is done so poorly. That’s not to say that these foods (ground flax seed, chia seeds, walnuts) aren’t helpful; they are important for their fiber and other inflammation-lowering properties.
TURMERIC – Turmeric is a root widely used in Indian and Southeast Asian cooking, usually as part of a curry recipe. Curcumin is the active compound in turmeric that can decrease inflammation and increase brain-derived neurotropic factor (BNF), which amplifies growth of new brain cells, enhances memory and increases the size of the memory center (hippocampus) of the brain. Best absorption of curcumin takes place when turmeric is combined with black pepper in a recipe.
THE FOODS TO AVOID – The list of foods that promote inflammation, hasten cognitive decline and increase the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease should come as no surprise. While it is almost impossible to totally avoid these foods, it is best to try to avoid them when can. Being mindful of food choices can go a long way to maintaining a healthy brain.
IS ALL SUGAR THE SAME?
We’ve probably all heard that sugar is “bad for us”. Sugar has been shown to increase your risk of type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, obesity, and cardiovascular disease. cutting back on sugar may lead to tons of benefits for your body, including lower blood pressure, reduced risk of cancer, a sharper brain, clearer skin, and fewer cravings. So, we try to avoid added sugar in candy and other products, but does this mean you should avoid fruits which are naturally high in sugar?
There’s not a big difference in the way your body treats sugar found naturally in fruit and sugar added to candy and cookies, at least from a chemical standpoint, says Rania Batayneh, M.P.H, nutritionist and author of The One One One Diet. “Both of these sugars are ultimately broken down into fructose and glucose, which are metabolized the same once they reach your gut,” she says.
What does differ: how fast they’re broken down. “Because the sugar in fruits is paired with fiber and water, it’s released much more slowly into your body, providing you with a consistent stream of energy,” Batayneh says. “Added sugar, without fiber and water, is broken down immediately, leading to a surge in insulin and blood sugar levels. As a result, you don’t feel full at all—you just crave more sugar.”
One way to monitor naturally-occurring sugars is the idea of using glycemic index (GI). This is a ranking of foods based on how much it raises our blood sugar levels. GI can help to determine appropriate amounts of natural sugars. Bananas and watermelon provide a good example of a way to bring GI into your decision-making. The medium banana contains 14 grams of naturally occurring sugar. But partly because of its good fiber content (3 grams), it qualifies as a low GI fruit. By contrast, one cup of watermelon contains less naturally occurring sugar (9-10 grams); yet, partly because of its much lower fiber content (about 1/2 gram), it has a medium GI value and for that reason can be challenging to our blood sugar level. So, even though the banana is higher in sugar, it is less likely to raise our blood sugar because of the fiber content; thus the banana is the better choice.
Bottomline: Eating fruit in moderation is fine for most people; however, the more fiber and the lower the GI, the better will be the fruit choice.
FITNESS HUMOR: “I do 5 sit-ups every monring. It doesn’t sound like much, but there are only so many times you can hit the snooze button.”
DON’T STOP RESISTANCE TRAINNG IF YOU WANT TO LOSE WEIGHT (PART TWO)
Last month the first part of this article explained the benefits of resistance training for weight loss and health. Part Two further explains the reasons why resistance training is important.
Why aerobic exercise is not enough – “But,” the question goes, “Can’t I just go for a run and build muscle? I’m using muscles when I run!”
The answer is NO! Running or other aerobic exercise is not a replacement for resistance training. They are different exercises and provide different benefits. Aerobic exercise does not deliver the needed stress to your bones, muscles and tendons.
In order to build strength, you have to pull hard on tendons, do microscopic damage to your muscles and literally bend your bones. Going out for a run or putting in an hour on the treadmill will not do this sufficiently.
This is not to say that aerobic exercise is not important: it is! But it is not resistance training. You need both. And if you omit one, you do your body a great disservice.
Avoid the “skinny fat” syndrome – Another danger of focusing on cardio or aerobic exercise to the exclusion of resistance training is becoming what is known as “skinny fat.” Skinny fat is a condition in which a person appears thin on the outside, but inside they are unhealthy and at risk for illness.
If you are losing weight through diet and exercise but not simultaneously doing resistance training, you are not only losing fat: you are losing muscle as well. Your body will burn through your muscles tissue as surely as it will burn through your fat. As you lose muscle, you lose a major source of energy, and you lose tone and definition.
Further, as you lose muscle, your bones become weak, because they do not have to do as much work. Weak bones are a precursor to osteoporosis.
Hidden fat is also a risk for the “skinny fat” person. When 800 slim people underwent an MRI scan to check for visceral or hidden fat, 45% were found to have excessive amounts of internal fat, undetectable from the outside1. Visceral fat is the most dangerous fat to have, because it accumulates around organs such as the pancreas, heart and liver and then begins releasing hormones and other secretions that lead to disease.
Resistance training can reduce visceral fat and help prevent the additional formation around the organs.
Don’t give up your resistance training just because spring is here and you are eager to get outside. There is no substitute for lifting heavy weights 2 to 3 times each week. Your health is on the line.
FREE 30-MINUTE FITNESS ASSESSMENTS – FEBRUARY 2 – 21
During the first three weeks of February, we will be conducting free modified Fitness Assessments for new clients and/or former clients. This is a great opportunity for you to refer friends and for former clients to reacquaint themselves with PFTL. The assessment will analyze posture, gait, flexibility and balance. This will be a mini-version of the 2-hour comprehensive assessment we do for all new clients.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN AN “ACTIVE COUCH POTATO” INGESTS ADDED SUGAR? (ACSM – Sports Medicine Bulletin January 2015)
A diet high in added sugar has already been established to be correlated with increased weight and metabolic disturbances. However, what happens when a person is ingesting moderate amounts of added sugar, either in the form of sucrose or high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) while also being physically inactive? Moreover, in this context, what constitutes being physically active?
Although previous research has shown that a diet high in fructose can cause deleterious metabolic effects to the body, these studies tend to use an excessive amount of added sugar, which often results in weight gain. Moreover, high fructose corn syrup is now being replaced with sucrose (table sugar) in many foods, giving the indication that they are “natural” and hence, healthier; although from a metabolic standpoint, HFCS and sucrose are essentially the same. This change in labeling has resulted in an even larger influx of added sugar in our diet.
Recent studies have investigated the effects of a diet high in a more moderate amount of added fructose (~17 percent calories from added fructose). It was found that, in as little as two weeks, a healthy young adult’s metabolic profile begins to be negatively altered. The observed consequences included increased postprandial triglyceride, very-low density lipoproteins levels and low grade inflammation when subjects were physically inactive. These results were found without subsequent changes in weight.
So now the question is this: What if a person who is ingesting only a moderate amount of added fructose, while maintaining their weight, is also physically inactive? According to the most recent ACSM recommendation for healthy adults, 30-60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise is recommended, five days per week. The problem is that a person can go to the gym for 30-45 minutes, five days per week and still only be getting ~4000-5000 steps per day because they may be sitting at a desk at work or school all day then on the couch at night. This creates the “active couch potato” conundrum. The person thinks they are being active because they do their structured recommended exercise for 45 minutes per day. But, the fact is that they are inactive the remaining 23 hours per day! If you compound that circumstance with having just one bowl of sugary cereal for breakfast and a “natural” sweetened ice tea for lunch or dinner, you now have a person whose metabolic profile is being unfavorably altered, even though they were trying to be healthy.
Even if someone is diligently going to the gym daily and maintaining a proper weight, they are still doing their body harm if they are not being active throughout the day and don’t eat a diet composed of low sugar, unprocessed, whole foods. The fitness industry has done such an immense job at promoting regular, daily exercise, we need to now take it one step further and begin to educate people on the harms of being physically inactive the remaining 23 hours per day. Additionally, there needs to be more focus on educating people on the metabolic disadvantages of a diet including even a moderate amount of added sugar, regardless of whether it is from sucrose or high fructose corn syrup.
BEAT INFLAMMATION (Wellness News Jan. 2015)
Body inflammation gets a lot of bad press, but these stories refer to chronic or excessive inflammation that causes health problems. There is also a good type of inflammation that occurs when a strong immune system responds therapeutically to an illness or injury. Beneficial inflammation is a survival tool the healthy immune system uses to differentiate a harmless substance from a harmful one called an antigen. Inflammation occurring appropriately in the body is a sign that an individual’s immunity is hard at work as a healer.
Unfortunately, if the immune system becomes impaired, it is liable to attack the body’s own cells or tissues and create a harmful type of inflammation that becomes chronic, causing untimely aging and illness. When inflammation invades the body as an immune system overreaction, it may initiate a detrimental response to a new allergen, formerly innocuous. Worse, it can result in autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus erythematosus and diabetes. Autoimmune diseases have both acquired (obtained after birth) and hereditary component, often overlapping, and something we are learning we have more control over. Stress, exercise, and our diet DIRECTLY interact with our own DNA and can turn on and off good and bad genes.
Healthy weight and diet can keep the autoimmune DNA disposition of diabetes at bay.
Additionally, chronic inflammation within our microvascular system contributes to serious health conditions like heart disease, solid cancer (breast, colon, prostate), and dementia; also impacted by our stress, exercise, and diet DIRECTLY on the DNA responsible for the inner lining of our arteries: endothelial glycocalyx.
Here are some principal triggers of chronic inflammation. Learn them and make lifestyle changes to protect yourself from an inflammatory rampage.
Stress – Chronic stress keeps the body on “fight-or-flight” alert and is an inflammatory factor that can throw the immune system out of whack.
Environmental Toxins – Twenty-first century environment is filled with toxins, such as mercury, pesticides, and industrial chemicals. If you expect government agencies to protect your family from dangerous toxins, think again. It’s up to individuals to learn about common toxins and how to avoid them as much as possible. Check www.ewa.org for helpful guides to safer consumption and use.
Inferior Diet – Eating too much sugar, refined grains, processed foods, trans fats and other fats that oxidize when heated, including hydrogenated or partially-hydrogenated vegetable oils and margarine, can produce chronic inflammation. . While the Internet and numerous books tout a variety of “anti-inflammatory diet” plans, it’s wise to consult your primary care doctor before embarking on a special diet. If you eat a whole foods, high-fiber, heavily plant-based diet rich in phytonutrients (plant chemicals that are naturally anti-inflammatory) and consume healthy monounsaturated fats with omega-3 fatty acids and not chemically hydrogenated (good fat examples: olive oil, flaxseed oil, nuts, and avocados), you will go a long way toward improving your diet and keeping chronic inflammation at bay.
Exercise Deficiency – By now, most people are aware that a lack of regular exercise plays a role in many health problems.
Persistent Infections And Allergies – People who have chronic infections, caused by bacteria, yeast, viruses, or parasites, are likely to have body inflammation. . Uncontrolled food or environmental allergens also spark inflammation. A thorough physical checkup or allergy testing can lead to the correct diagnosis and treatment.
Do what you can to avoid chronic inflammation. It’s hazardous to your health.