May 29, 2007

Numbers Game: Summer Sins

A single Klondike bar provides __________ percent of the recommended daily saturated fat intake.

a) 65
b) 15
c) 25
d) 50

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Saturday for the answer!

You Ask, I Answer: Refried Beans

Why are refried beans bad?
-- Jamie Church

In essence, restaurant refried beans are mashed pinto beans mixed with several tablespoons of lard (chock full of artery-clogging and bad-cholesterol-raising saturated fat!).

The standard side dish of refried beans at a restaurant clocks in at 350 - 400 calories and provides 30% of your saturated fat and 35% of your daily sodium needs! You are better off getting a side of black beans on the side, or starting off with a black bean soup (minus the sour cream).

It is possible to make a healthier alternative of this dish at home with lower quantities of healthier oils, but at a restaurant all you are getting is an extra shot of calories and unhealthy fat.

May 28, 2007

Quick Tricks: Becoming Restaurant Savvy

It is estimated that adults in the United States eat 50 to 60 percent of their meals outside the home, which can result in some real nutrition blunders.

Not only are you unaware of what (and how much of it) goes into your food, you also have to take extra precautions to make sure you aren’t getting an overload of calories, sugar, and unhealthy fats. Allow me to provide some help:

Don’t go to a restaurant starving. Half an hour or so before heading out the door, grab a very light snack (i.e.: five or six Triscuit crackers dipped in salsa, a cup of nonfat yogurt, half a cup of veggies with hummus).

Beware the bread basket. It’s funny, isn’t it? Someone puts a basket of bread in front of us and we eat it, even if we didn’t ask for it. If any whole wheat varieties are available, reach for those first. Also, beware of buttery breads (i.e.: croissants), which add calories and fat. Lastly, go for balance. If you are hankering for a pasta dish, pass on the bread. If, instead, you are thinking along the lines of a fish and broccoli dinner, give yourself a pass for a small nibble from the basket.

Always ask for sauces, dressings, and gravies on the side. With salads, dip your fork in the dressing before each bite. With sauces and gravies, pour in no more than half of the amount you are given. With fattening condiments such as mayonnaise, dab a very light coating inside one of your sandwich's bread slices. Even better, ask for mustard instead.

Start with a broth-based soup or salad (except Caesar -- it provides as much saturated fat as a large order of McDonald's fries!) and follow it up with an appetizer, rather than an entrée. Then, feel free to share a dessert with someone else.

When it comes to meat, poultry, and fish, always go for grilled, broiled, baked, roasted, and steamed choices.

At an Italian restaurant, go for tomato-based sauces, rather than cream ones.

• Restaurant portions are HUGE. Forget the childhood “there are people starving in the world!” guilt-loaded parental speeches and, when you’re full, stop eating. If you really loved your dish, ask to take the rest home.

Watch out for liquid calories. A Thai iced tea adds 200 calories to your meal, while a standard 6 and half ounce champagne flute clocks in at 170 calories.

Don’t be afraid to substitute! A salad with fried chicken strips becomes healthier if you replace them with grilled chicken strips. Similarly, brown rice or steamed veggies make for a more nutritious side dish than white or fried rice, or restaurant mashed potatoes.

Make sure you have at least one (non-fried and not smothered in sauce or cheese) vegetable with your meal.

Avoid these nutrition disasters: tempura dishes, refried beans, any pasta dish "alfredo", "batter-dipped" and "deep fried" items, dark meat chicken entrees, fried rice, scalloped potatoes.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Granola

Granola was once synonymous with health and fitness. Although it is by no means on the same level as Doritos or Twinkies, commercial granola comes loaded with unnecessary – and unwanted – extras.

First, consider that the standard serving listed on a food label for ready-to-eat granola is a quarter of a cup, which is ridiculously small. If you are having granola for breakfast you are very likely pouring in three times that amount into your bowl.

A quarter cup provides 150 calories, 7 grams of fat, and 5 grams of sugar. That means that 3/4 of a cup adds up to 450 calories, 21 grams of fat, and 15 grams (almost 4 teaspoons) of sugar.

Granola bars aren’t much better. They might sound healthy, what with being “oat and honey” flavored or “made with real berries”. The ingredient list always tells the tale.

Consider the ingredients in Nature Valley’s Oats & Honey granola bars:

Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Canola Oil, Crisp Rice (Rice Flour, Sugar, Malt, Salt), Soy Protein, Honey, Brown Sugar Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Salt, Soy Lecithin, Baking Soda, Natural Flavor, Almond Flour, Peanut Flour.

Kudos for having whole grain oats, but jeers for having sugar as the second ingredient (and then having it appear four more times, once as the dreaded high fructose corn syrup).

At the end of the day, one serving (two small bars) provides 11 grams of sugar (almost an entire tablespoon) but only 2 grams of fiber.

Quaker’s low-fat chocolate chip granola bars only offer a longer list ingredients.

Even more troubling, at only 2 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein, and 1 gram of fiber, they lack enough of these nutrients to make us feel full.

This is often a problem with low-fat processed food -- it does not help our body feel full, so 45 minutes later we’re snacking on something else and consuming more calories.

For such a small granola bar, it sure manages to fit in a slew of ingredients:

Granola [Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Sugar, Rice Flour, Whole Grained Rolled Wheat, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And Cottonseed Oils With TBHQ And Acid Added To Preserve Freshness And/Or Sunflower Oil With Natural Tocopherol Added To Preserve Freshness, Whole Wheat Flour, Molasses, Soy Lecithin, Caramel Color, Barley, Malt, Salt, Nonfat Dry Milk), Corn Syrup, Crisp Rice (Rice, Sugar, Salt, Barley Malt), Semisweet Chocolate Chunks [Sugar, Chocolate Liquor, Cocoa Butter, Soy Lecithin , Vanillin ([An Artificial Flavor]), Sugar, Corn Syrup Solids, Glycerin, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sugar, Fructose, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean And/Or Cottenseed Oil,Sorbitol, Calcium Carbonate, Natural And Artifical Flavors, Salt, Molasses, Water, Soy Lechitin, BHT 9A Preservative), Citric Acid.

Number of times sugar appears on the label: 11

Even worse, partially hydrogenated oils show up TWICE on the food label. Remember, partially hydrogenated oils let you know if there are trans-fat in the food.

As I mentioned in Issue 4 of Small Bites, food manufacturers can get away with saying there are 0 grams of trans fat in their product if there are less than .5 grams per serving.

Half a gram might seem like nothing, but we shouldn’t be getting ANY trans fat in our diet.

What to do when you are on the road and need some portable snacks? Take the two I wholeheartedly recomment (and love to eat!) – Lara Bars and Clif Nectar Bars.

May 27, 2007

Numbers Game: Answer

According to figures published by the United States Department of Agriculture, high fructose corn syrup consumption in the United States clocked in at 0 pounds per person per year in 1966, and climbed to 62 pounds per person per year by 2001.

Unlike sugar, high fructose corn syrup goes straight to the liver (rather than the pancreas). When HFCS gets to its destination, the liver (not used to such visitors) hits the panic button and releases its troops.

Unlike the pancreas – which is used to receiving sugar and thus has insulin ready to bring down blood glucose levels – the liver doesn’t know how to proceed, so it releases a series of enzymes that not only tell the body to start storing fat, but to also raise triglycerides levels.

Even worse, these enzymes aren’t efficient at letting our brains know we are full, so it is easier to overeat when consuming products that contain HFCS.

You "Ask", I Answer

As far as your comments on calorie counting being the key to weight loss, I encourage you to do more research. Even consumer reports acknowledges the effectiveness of the low carb diet, albeit the difficulty of adhering to it.
-- Anonymous

Consumer Reports isn't the best source for nutrition research, but in any event, yes, I have seen the studies showing that low-carb diets are effective for weight loss.

However, if you fully read the research, you come to find that this is because low-carb diets restrict so many food groups (grains, most of the fruit and veggie groups, and some of the dairy group), that the dieters on them end up eating less total calories!

Therefore, the key to weight loss truly does come down to calorie counting.
I know, it's boring. It's not about your blood type, or what time you eat, or whether or not your apple was flown in from Switzerland or picked from your backyard. It comes down to calories.

That being said, that the goal of losing weight isn't just to shed pounds, but to do it in a way that allows your body to get the nutrients it needs. Going low-carb, for instance, means missing out on fiber as well as a variety of vitamins and minerals (i.e.: vitamin C) and antioxidants found in foods not allowed in low-carb diets.

If you notice, many of my All-Stars -- which provide an abundance of nutrients -- are fruits and vegetables. Sadly, you can't have most of them if you go low carb.

Thanks again for writing!

May 23, 2007

Shame on You: Kevin Trudeau (Part 2)

Kevin Trudeau begins Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You To Know About by sharing a personal anecdote. At the age of 21, he was diagnosed with mitral valve prolapse (a disorder in which the structure of the heart isn't developed correctly, thus interfering with normal bloodflow).

He goes on to say that doctors told him he had a very short time to live unless he took experimental drugs or had risky surgery.

Hmmmm… well, I went to one of the best sources in the world for information on heart health – the Mayo Clinic.

According to them, "In most people, mitral valve prolapse is harmless and doesn't require treatment or changes in lifestyle. It also doesn't shorten your life expectancy. In some people with mitral valve prolapse, however, the progression of the disease requires treatment."

The treatment can involve surgery in serious situations, but it can also include rather standard (not at all experimental) drugs like beta blockers -- which help regulate the heart muscle -- and aspirin.

Kevin Trudeau is quick to point out that many of these drugs have terrible side effects and should be avoided like the plague, since they end up causing more health problems.

While it is true that you often see a plethora of side effects linked to all medication, this is largely due to legal protection. If a given drug has been shown to cause nausea in 1% of test subjects, this symptom must be listed on the package to prevent lawsuits. A “possible symptom” should not be used as a scare tactic.

For instance, when I had to have two wisdom teeth extracted a few years ago, I had to sign a waiver saying I was aware that there was a chance I might die as a result of the general anesthetic. Does this mean wisdom tooth extraction surgery is a public health threat? No.

Trudeau claims he chose to have live cell injections in Mexico and Switzerland, which miraculously cured his condition. I would love to know more details (not surprisingly, his account is terribly short and vague), especially since there is no way live cell injections can change the shape and structure of someone's heart and completely do away with mitral valve prolapse.

Furthermore, Trudeau appears to forget that live cell injections also carry risksincluding inflammation and the formation of tumors. Additionally, gene therapy is not a “one shot” deal. Mind you, this kind of treatment is still fairly new, but subjects who undergo it need several rounds of the treatment to reap any benefits.

Trudeau claims he told his doctors about the miracle cure, thinking they would be overjoyed and pretty much ready to tell anyone who had mitral valve prolapse, “Take a jet to Switzerland and get this amazing treatment!”.

Instead, they told him that it was very likely he had been misdiagnosed (especially since live cell injections are supposed to be used for conditions related to one specific gene defect, which mitral valve prolapse is NOT). Trudeau, however, uses this as initial “proof” to his belief – that there are natural cures out there purposefully being denied to us by doctors and the government.

Interestingly enough, he refers to all these things as cures, rather than treatments. By using the word “cures”, he is undeniably saying that these methods will absolutely rid someone of their disease.

He then boldly states, "Yes, there are all-natural, nondrug, and nonsurgical cures for most every illness and disease."

Of course, Trudeau doesn't tell you what these are because, according to him, he is being censored by the Federal Trade Commission.

Mind you, throughout his book, Trudeau mentions he is "mad as hell" at the fact that food companies and the healthcare industry "are all about the money." However, he doesn’t appear to flinch when it comes to having people pay for his book and then direct them to his website, where they have to pay more fees just to read his newsletter (which, according to him, is an active way to support his cause).

In Chapter 1, Trudeau claims the field of nutrition has consistently changed its mind about what causes obesity and that, at the end of the day, "nobody knows."

What he fails to realize is that it was not nutritionists advocating low-fat diets in the 90s, low-carb diets a few years back, or trying to push ridiculous diets like food combining or “eat for your blood type”. These diets have all been created by people with no nutrition credentials, or understanding of the field.

It was always nutritionists who came out and said, “It just comes down to calories. If you are interested in losing weight, rather than eating a block of Swiss cheese and 2 pounds of ham but avoiding oatmeal, just have half of your ham and Swiss sandwich for lunch and save the rest for dinner.”

The cause for the rising obesity problem in the United States is very well-known: people are consuming more calories and burning less of them.

Portion sizes in this country have been expanding at alarming rates over the past two decades (which, incidentally, will be the topic of the next issue of the Small Bites newsletter). For Kevin Trudeau to say that "no one really knows" what causes obesity is not only misleading, but also untrue.

Chapter 1 is just the beginning of Trudeau’s gutsy claims. This weekend, we’ll take a closer look at some of the statements in Chapter 2 that had me shaking my head and furiously scribbling on the page margins.

Looks Can Be Deceiving

Advertising execs don't get paid millions for nothing!

Take a look at THIS LINK and see just how far from reality many of these fast food chains' commercials are.

May 22, 2007

Numbers Game: High Fructose Corn Syrup... It's Here To Stay

According to figures published by the United States Department of Agriculture, high fructose corn syrup consumption in the United States clocked in at _____ pounds per person per year in 1966, and climbed to _______ pounds per person per year by 2001.

a) 11, 38
b) 5, 50
c) 2, 49
d) 0, 62

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and check back on Saturday for the answer!

All-Star of the Day: Peanuts

Although almonds often take the “super nut” title, the peanut also needs to be recognized for its tremendous health benefits.

Peanuts are an excellent source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats, the same ones that make olive oil and salmon such powerfoods. Remember, diet high in monounsaturated fats and low in saturated fats has been proven to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by as much as 20 percent. “Low-fat” is not the answer; “smart fat” is!

An ounce of peanuts contains 164 calories, 7 grams of protein, 10 percent of our daily folate recommendation, 29 percent of our managenese needs, and 19 percent of our suggested niacin (vitamin B-3) intake.

Although those figures themselves might not be groundbreaking, peanuts’ antioxidant level is extremely high, rivaling that of many fruits.

In fact, resveratrol (the antioxidant found in grapes -- and, thus, red wine -- that boasts tremendous heart-healthy properties) is found in significant quantities in peanuts!

A plant compound known as beta-sitosterol also exists naturally in peanuts, and recent research links it to reductions in rates of breast and prostate cancer.

A 10-year study in Taiwan involving over 20,000 subjects (published in the January 2006 issue of the World Journal of Gastroenterology) found that the average participant who ate an ounce of peanuts twice a week lowered their risk of colon cancer by 34 percent!

Additionally, studies at Pennsylvania State University’s nutrition department found that regular consumption of foods high in monounsaturated fats -- such as peanuts -- lowered triglycerides while keeping heart-healty HDL cholesterol stable, whereas a low-fat diet LOWERED HDL levels.

Yes, peanuts are high in fat (one ounce provides 14 grams of fat), but this has proven to be a positive attribute.

Studies at Harvard, Penn State, and even countries like Israel and Papua New Guinea all came to the same conclusion. When subjects were allowed to eat an ounce of peanuts as a snack twice a day, they reported feeling fuller and therefore eating less total calories a day!

So, yes, you can most certainly enjoy peanut butter as a grown adult. However, be sure to buy “natural” peanut butter (Smuckers is my favorite). The ingredients? Just two – peanuts and salt.

Most conventional peanut butter adds “partially hydrogenated oils” (the always evil trans-fats) and added sugars, which turn this all-star into a fallen celestial body.

May 21, 2007

Full Steam Ahead

Everyone knows vegetables contain a multitude of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, but what if I told you that serving of broccoli you ate last night only had 10% of the nutrients you thought it did?

Cooking methods are crucial in determining just how many health benefits we get from our food.

Any method involving water -- such as boiling -- will greatly decrease the amount of vitamins B and C, aling with folate, in vegetables. Even worse, new studies show that many antioxidants are depleted when vegetables are cooked in water.

The solution? Steaming! Many nutrients are preserved this way, since vegetables are cooked over water, rather than in it. Nutrients that ARE lost are in much smaller quantities than when they are immersed in water.

Microwaving is your second best option. I say "second best" because it involves light, which can deplete vitamin A, B2 (riboflavin), C, D, and E. Granted, a four-minute zap in the microwave will not render the vitamin C in broccoli completely useless, but it will result in a higher loss than if you were to simply steam it.

Sauteeing and frying do not leech out nutrients, but do add on calories and fat. Yes, it is advisable to have some fat with your vegetables to maximize nutrient absorption, but a smarter move is to steam them and then drizzle a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil on top rather than cook them in 2 or 3 tablespoons of oil (especially at 120 calories a pop).

All-Star of the Day: Kale

Kale is a dark green curly-leaf vegetable related to cabbage and collard greens that is growing in popularity and quickly becoming “the new spinach.”

One cup of cooked kale adds 36 calories to our day and provides 3 grams of fiber, 354% of our daily vitamin A needs, 89% of the vitamin C we need, 27% of our manganese requirement, and a showstopping 1,328 percent Vitamin K! It also has high amounts of lutein, a powerful antioxidant crucial in the maintenance of ocular health.

Vitamin K is crucial in helping form blood clots. Although we often talk about the blood-thinning effects of Omega-3 fats, it is just as important to consume nutrients with blood-clotting properties. If you were to only have blood-thinning nutrients, you could potentially bleed to death from a papercut.

There's more to it than blood clots, though. Vitamin K deficiencies are not only linked higher incidences of gingivitis and nosebleeds, but also osteoporosis and bone fractures. Although calcium receives all the “good for your bones” press, don’t forget its partners in crime!

One of kale’s main drawing points is its sulfur-containing phytochemicals. What’s the big deal? Recent research suggests they help trigger detoxifying enzymes in our liver that stop cancer-causing substances in their tracks before they start damaging cells.

The phytonutrients in cruciferous vegetables such as kale appear to be super antioxidants. Case in point? A study at the Fred Hutchsinon Cancer Research Center concluded that men eating 28 servings of vegetables a week lowered the risk of prostate cancer by 35 percent. Superb!

However, those who only had THREE servings of cruciferous vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, mustard greens, and watercress) a week lowered it by 44 percent!

One reason why kale is such a nutrition champion is because it has one of the highest antioxidant levels of any vegetable.

An April 2007 study by the National Cancer Institute, which tracked 183,000 participants in California and Hawaii, found that those eating vegetables with high antioxidant capacity, such as kale, lowered their risk of pancreatic cancer by 23 percent.

Kale is one of the more bitter greens, but don’t let that dissuade you from making it a must-have vegetable in your household. One of my favorite ways to prepare it is to sautee it with some extra virgin olive oil, sweet onions, and garlic.

If you have an enlarged thyroid, I don’t recommend making kale a staple in your diet since it contains goitrogen, which can aggravate your condition.

Otherwise, go green and have a blast!

Numbers Game: Answer

An April 2007 investigation by the Institute of Medicine revealed that 98 percent of high schools in the United States sell "junk food" (high-calorie, high-fat, sugary snacks and/or beverages) either in vending machines or snack stores.

Many high schools are under the false belief that they are offering "healthier alternatives" because they stock Snapple rather than Coca-Cola. Really? Snapple has as much added sugar -- in the form of high fructose corn syrup -- as soda.

May 19, 2007

Simply Said: "wheat-free"/celiac disease

The past five years have produced an increase in wheat-free products such as breads, pastas, crackers, and cookies.

Although the claim "wheat-free" also accompanies other health-related ones such as "Low in saturated fat!" or "No added sugar!", you should only be concerned with avoiding wheat if you have been diagnosed with an allergy to it or a genetic disease known as celiac disease.

Celiacs can not tolerate gluten, a protein mainly found in wheat as well as barley and rye. When gluten is consumed -- even if it's as little as 1/8 of a teaspoon -- the small intestine is damaged, and symptoms vary from extremely uncomfortable bloating and diarrhea to fatigue, mouth sores, and muscle cramping.

Although approximately ten percent of celiacs don't appear to show any symptoms, they are not immune from the nutrient malabsorption that occurs as a result of damage in the small intestine.

Avoiding wheat, rye, and barley is not as easy as it sounds. Many medicines have traces of gluten, and cross-contamination can often happen in factories (which is why you will often see food labels for products that don't contain either of those three ingredients warning consumers that the respective food was made in a factory that processes wheat).

Once diagnosed (after a simple blood test), the lifestyle change can be hard, especially when dining out. A fish and vegetable stew might sound harmless, but that tomato sauce on top might have a little flour in it to thicken it. Frozen yogurts often use gluten as a stabilizing agent! Remember, even the slightest trace of gluten is enough to set off some very uncomfortable symptoms.

Luckily, celiacs have more options than ever. Although all sorts of wheat flour (all-purpose, whole wheat, durum, farina, etc.) should be avoided, experimenting with other types (ie: chickpea, tapioca, rice) is recommended.

Celiacs often end up introducing their palate to a variety of flavors -- quinoa, amaranth, and flax often become a regular addition to their diet, rather than the "funky grain" they have once a month.

Unfortunately, the only "cure" to celiac disease is avoiding foods that damage the small intestine.

May 18, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Water

Do we really need to drink 8 glasses of water a day?

-- Derek Naughman
Minneapolis, MN

This is undoubtedly one of the most prevalent nutrition myths.

This all stems from a scientific report which concluded that humans need approximately 64 to 75 ounces of fluid a day.

The mass media reported this as "64 ounces of water a day," completely oblivious to the fact that said figure accounted for water present in the food we eat as well as beverages other than H2O (milk, coffee, tea, soda, juice, etc).

If the food we ate was lacking in water, it would practically be impossible to swallow it. Granted, some food (cucumbers, watermelons) offers more hydration than others (peanut butter).

Yes, you read correctly -- coffee contributes to that water figure. Some of you might be confused, since caffeine, a natural diuretic, dehydrates.

Many clinical research trials, however, have shown that regular coffee drinkers' bodies get used to the caffeine intake and their fluid loss, if any, is minimal.

While it is possible that a new coffee drinker may need slightly more hydration, after a few months of drinking 2 cups of coffee a day, his body will not need to replenish the fluids once lost to caffeine.

Of course water is one of the best beverages you can have, since it is free of added sugars, artificial sweeteners, and calories.

However, milk (dairy or soy) offers calcium, protein, and vitamin D, while tea and coffee offer some great antoxidants.

Simply put, drink when you feel thirsty and you'll be just fine. This will most likely vary with context. You will drink more fluid if you are exercising, and will feel more thirsty in summer than winter.

If your thirst only requires 4 or 5 cups of liquid a day, so be it. Don't force water down your throat because "you have to drink 8 glasses a day" (you don't!). If any "expert" references the "8 glasses of water a day" figure as dogma, feel free to correct them.

As for that myth claiming that by the time we are thirsty we are actually dehydrated -- absolutely not true. Thirst and dehydration happen under very different conditions in the body.

Older people need to be increasingly aware of staying hydrated, though, since humans' thirst mechanism loses efficiency with age.

May 17, 2007

Shame On You: Kevin Trudeau (Part 1)

Kevin Trudeau has been earning millions thanks to his book The Natural Cures “They” Don’t Want You to Know About, and, frankly, I can’t stomach it anymore.

Here is a man with absolutely no knowledge of nutrition, making the most bizarre and unfounded claims and essentially lying to people. Over the next few weeks, I will dedicate the “Shame On You” segment to Mr. Trudeau and his outrageous claims so you can see for yourself why he is a joke – and an insult – to the field of nutrition.

Before we even delve into his book, though, I would like to share some information on this character.

The cover of The Natural Cures… boasts a round sticker in all capital letters reading, “As Seen on TV”. Yes, true enough. At 2 AM. On informercials HE produces and pays for.

Any other time he has been on television outside of his infomercials, it is to be unmasked as the fraud he is.

Trudeau’s court records don’t tell a very pleasant tale. In 1990, he deposited $80,000 in false checks. He accomplished this by fooling banks into thinking was a doctor when he hadn’t spent a single minute in medical school!

Trudeau has “hit back” by saying that precisely because he is not a doctor, he is the best person to dish out medical advice since he hasn’t been “brainwashed” to “write prescriptions.”

One could certainly make the argument that Western society suffers from “pill syndrome” (believing that medication should be taken the second one feels slightly off-kilter).

However, Trudeau has absolutely no academic background in -- and does not understand -- biochemistry, physiology, disease, or nutrition, and it clearly shows. His book not only makes ludicrous suggestions and arguments, but is backed up by basically no research.

By 1998, the Federal Trade Commission was hot on his trail and fined him half a million dollars for the false claims he was making in many of his informercials.

In 2003, Trudeau was once again sought after by the FTC, this time for making claims that a supplement he was hawking – Coral Calcium Supreme – could cure all sorts of cancers. At the time, Trudeau was making the preposterous, misleading, and downright dangerous claim that diseases like heart disease and diabetes were a direct cause of low calcium intake, and that taking his supplement was the cure everyone needed!

Trudeau hasn’t just been duping television audiences in the United States. The Brits were “lucky enough” to see his infomercial for “Perfect Lift”, a non-surgical procedure which promised to bring back years of youth to a person’s face.

Not surprisingly, the British FTC equivalent quickly took him off the air for telling complete lies.

I will analyze this New York Times bestseller (I think my blood pressure shot up 200 points as I typed that) in detail in forthcoming posts, but allow me to formally introduce you to it.

Acording to Trudeau, pretty much every disease known to mankind is due to nutritional deficiencies, toxins, preservatives, artificial sweeteners, and chemicals in our food. It is these things, he says, that render our immune systems weak and vulnerable to disease.

He claims that by changing the way we eat, we can prevent disease.

Fair enough, I also believe that our dietary lifestyles play a role in our health, along with other factors such as environment and genetics. However, Trudeau’s idea of health and nutrition is as real as an episode of “24”.

Much of his misleading information starts on the cover of his book. “Includes the natural cures for over 50 specific diseases!” it screams. Except that to see this information, you must go to his website and pay a monthly fee. Nowhere in the book does he say what these supposed cures he knows about are (but he does tell you that stress isn’t good for your health. Groundbreaking!)

There is MUCH more to come. You will not want to miss this.

Coming Soon: Shame On You

"Shame On You" is a new feature of Small Bites, revealing the truth behind some well-known figures in the field of nutrition (many of whom, interestingly enough, don't have any nutrition credentials).

Later tonight I will post Part 1 of what will be a very lengthy "Shame On You" on Kevin Trudeau, author of The Weight Loss Cure "They" Don't Want You To Know About.

Scarily, despite tackling nutrition in a grossly inaccurate, and often ridiculous, way, Trudeau's book is a #1 New York Times bestseller.

Over the next few weeks, I will take you through a detailed analysis of key parts of the book to prevent you from being duped and lied to by a man whose record speaks for itself.

Stay tuned.

May 16, 2007

Numbers Game: Frito-Lay High

An April 2007 investigation by the Institute of Medicine revealed that ________ percent of high schools in the United States sell "junk food" (high-calorie, high-fat, sugary snacks and/or beverages) either in vending machines or snack stores.

a) 71
b) 98
c) 87
d) 75

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and check back on Sunday for the answer!

Blanch & Shock At Your Next Party!

Here's a quick -- but very cool -- trick for your next dinner soiree.

To bring out the rich, deep colors of vegetables (i.e.: broccoli), all you need to do is blanch and shock them. The whole process takes approximately one minute!

To blanch, bring salted water in a pot to a rolling boil. Then, drop your vegetables in, uncovered, for approximately 45 seconds. This will not only heighten color, but also remove bitter flavors. Plus, since the total time spent in water is minimal, water-soluble vitamins (B and C) will not be lost.

Shocking involves stopping the cooking process (leaving the vegetables crunchy, like, say, for a crudite) by draining the vegetables and immediately placing them in an ice bath (only long enough to cool them; you don't want any freezing action).

You'll be surprised at the difference this short technique makes in the presentation of your food! In fact, when you try it out, leave one raw vegetable out to compare to the blanched and shocked ones and see for yourself.

All-Star of the Day: Cinnamon

Although we often look to actual food for nutrition, don’t forget about spices – especially cinnamon!

Ready for a surprise? Just one tablespoon of cinnamon (18 calories’ worth) adds 4 grams of fiber to your day (as much as a large apple), along with 56% of our daily manganese needs, 8% of the calcium we should be getting each day, and 13% of our recommended daily value of iron!

(By the way, I wouldn't recommend downing a tablespoon of cinnamon in one gulp, but rather sprinkling a teaspoon over two or three of the things you eat throughout the day).

Isn’t that incredible? There are even more surprising health properties to this delicious condiment.

Cinnamaldehyde – the compound responsible for the unmistakable taste of cinnamon – contains anti-inflammatory properties (great news for anyone with rheumatoid arthritis as well as when it comes to lowering the risk of developing blood clots).

If you’re looking for a gastrointestinal champ, add cinnamon to some plain yogurt – the healthy bacteria in your colon will absolutely love it. Receant research suggests cinnamon is one of the best foods (not just spices, but foods) that help in the decrease of harmful intestinal bacteria and fungi.

A 2003 study conducted in Pakistan by the United States Department of Agriculture (published in the December 2003 issues of Diabetes Care) even saw a noticeable decrease in total cholesterol and triglyceride levels of subjects who just had half a teaspoon of cinnamon every day! Specifically, subjects lowered total cholesterol by as much as 26 percent, and LDL cholesterol by anywhere from 7 to 27 percent!

When consumed in high amounts, cinnamon can be toxic, so don’t begin to measure out cinnamon in cups. Just one teaspoon a day is enough to see certain benefits.

Nutrition History: Healthier Breads

Look at the food label for any grain product (even the most refined of breads) and you’ll always see 4 B-vitamins (thiamin, niacin, riboflavin, folate) and iron listed.

Thiamin(B1), riboflavin (B2), and niacin (B3), are bread's enriched vitamins, while iron is its enriched mineral. Meaning, the flour lost these nutrients while undergoing the milling process, so they are added back in.

The requirement of replenishing these nutrients stems from the Enrichment Act of 1942, an initiative to lower the rates of vitamin and mineral deficiencies at the time.

In February of 1996, the Food & Drug Administration required that folic acid (the bioavailable version of folate, another B vitamin) be added to all grain products,in an effort to lower rates of neural tube defects (research unequivocally demonstrated that babies of women who consumed low levels of folate during the first trimester of pregnancy had a higher risk of being born with neural tube defects.)

Folate is not originally found in the endosperm of grains (which is the only part white bread is made from), so it is put in via fortification (added on), rather than enrichment (added back).

Since folate is a B vitamin (which is water soluble), it is crucial to get the required amount every single day.

Whole grains naturally contain folate, so they do not need extra amounts.

Quick lesson on whole wheat vs. white or regular wheat bread:

Whole wheat breads use all 3 parts of the wheat shaft: the germ, bran, and endosperm
Refined wheat breads only use the endosperm (thus completely missing out on nutrients found exclusively in the bran and germ, such as vitamin E and selenium).

Fortunately, the folate initiative has worked! Since the fortification of folate to breads, cereals, and pastas, neural tube defects have decreased by 25 percent in this country.

Why bread products? They are widely consumed by people in the United States, regardless of age, socioeconomic level, or ethnicity.

That being said, commercial breads are not the best sources of folate. Spinach, asparagus, and all sorts of legumes (lentils, chickpeas, black beans, kidney beans, etc.) provide more substantial amounts of this crucial B-vitamin.

You Ask, I Answer: Gatorade

Is it a good idea to have Gatorade to replenish body fluids if you are doing a long workout (more than 2 hours) at high intensity? I think it definitely helps. What do you recommend?
-- Anonymous

Great question! My main issue with sports drinks is that many people believe – mainly due to marketing tactics – they are always necessary.

If you are exercising moderately for less than 45 minutes, water will do just fine.

Now, if you are exercising at high intensity for more than 2 hours, then yes, a sports drink would be a good idea, mainly to keep fatigue at bay and replenish lost electrolytes.

More casual exercisers need to realize that the 90 calories burned during 20 minutes of speed walking don’t mean a thing when followed by a 110-calorie bottle of Gatorade!

May 14, 2007

Numbers Game: Answer

According to figures by the United States Department of Agriculture, calorie consumption in the United States per capita increased 20 percent between 1982 and 2000.

Puts the ever-increasing obesity epidemic in context, don't you think? Simply put, everyone in this country has been eating more in the past twenty years than ever before.

Once again, calories are calories. Notice the study doesn't mention "more carbs", "less protein", or "more meals after 9 PM".

You Ask, I Answer: Salmon

I read in your latest newsletter that wild salmon offers more nutrition than farmed salmon. It's more expensive, though! Should I just switch to another type of fish altogether, even though I love salmon?

-- Pam Lowen
Las Cruces, New Mexico

While it is true that other types of seafood -- such as shrimp and tuna -- offer the same heart-healthy Omega-3 fats found in salmon, you don't necessarily have to make the switch.

Although wild salmon is more expensive than its farmed counterpart, there is a solution -- canned salmon!

All canned salmon is wild, making it an excellent source of Omega-3 fatty acids. In fact, one can alone covers your entire day's worth of recommended Omega-3 intake.

There's even ANOTHER benefit to eating canned salmon. The soft, edible fish bones are a good source of calcium (one 4 ounce can provides 20% of our recommended daily calcium needs). Great news to those who are lactose intolerant or just do not like dairy.

Not only is canned salmon less expensive, it's also ready to eat and makes a great addition to lunchtime salads. Go ahead -- think outside the tuna can.

Simply Said: "Cholesterol Free"

Ah, this sneaky tactic unfortunately works on many consumers every year.

A "cholesterol" free label with bright capital letters will jump out from some food packaging, and some people put that item in their shopping carts virtuously, believing they are choosing a healthier product.

Not necessarily! All "cholesterol-free" means is that that particular product is not an animal product or by-product, as those are the foods that naturally contain cholesterol.

For instance, a package of Oreo cookies will advertise itself as "cholesterol free". Fair enough, but 3 of those cookies contain 160 calories, 7 grams of fat, 2 grams of saturated fat, 3 1/2 tablespoons of added sugar, and practically no vitamins and minerals.

Meanwhile, a can of salmon, while not cholesterol free, offers a mountain of nutrients (including heart-healthy fats) that an Oreo cookie could never dream of offering.

And, remember, our blood cholesterol is not affected by the cholesterol found in foods. Shunning shrimp, salmon, or lean meats in favor of cholesterol-free processed food will not do you any favors.

Celebrity Diet Secrets: Suzanne Sommers

Suzanne Sommers -- and a handful of other Hollywood starlets -- proclaims that the secret to weight loss and overall well-being is found in "food combining".

In other words, they do not eat protein, carbs, and fat during the same meal. Otherwise, they claim, stomach acid is neutralized and unable to absorb nutrients. In turn, food sits in the stomach, rots, and builds up as toxic material in our colons, resulting in weight gain.

Followers also believe that about three fourths of calories should come from fruits and vegetables, and the rest from carbs and protein. Dairy is not allowed. Oh yeah, and you can eat nothing but fruit until noon. Furthermore, if you want protein, you have to wait a few hours following your "starch only" meal.

I'm all for Hollywood stars entertaining us, but why do some feel the need to become "experts" in subjects they just don't have a clue about?

First of all, every bite of food we eat goes through our digestive system and ends up getting excreted at some point. If, by chance, someone is constipated and waste IS temporarily stuck, the easy solution lies in consuming more insoluble fiber (the type found in whole wheat products as well as the skins of fruits and vegetables) and water, not by eating a steak at 2 PM and potatoes at 4 PM.

Secondly, apart from fruit (which is 100% carbohydrate), oils (which is 100% fat) and animal meat (which is 100% protein), most foods are made up of a mixture of nutrients. For instance, 2% milk has fat, carbohydrates, and protein. Whole grain breads have a little fat, some protein, and mostly carbs. Even lettuce has traces of protein!
Let's analyze some claims made by Spice Williams, a proponent of food combining:

"Fruits (especially tropical fruits) have God-given digestive enzymes that will help to clean out the residue left over from the food you've eaten the night before. "

What helps to clean out residue from our digestive systems is fiber, not digestive enzymes. Besides, digestive enzymes are already in our bodies; we don't need to get them from food. While fruit is one way to add fiber to your diet, so is sprinkling flaxseed in a smoothie, or topping a whole grain English muffin with natural peanut butter. And those are just as God-given, in case anyone of faith is wondering.

"Fruits seem to have magical healing and cleansing powers. They travel through the digestive tract very quickly (within an hour) which is why it's so important not to eat them with any other food group. When you combine a fruit with, say for instance, cereal or waffles, it ends up getting held up in the stomach, unable to move through the "pylorus" (the exit opening of the stomach) and into the small intestine where it undergoes the little digestion it requires. When this happens, bacterial decomposition follows, and the fruit begins to ferment and turn into wine!"

If I were a betting man, I'd bet my life savings that Ms. Williams has never taken a biochemistry class. First of all, there is nothing magical about fruit's "powers". They have a variety of antioxidants and phytochemicals along with a high fiber and vitamin content, so of course they are going to help our bodies' systems be healthy. And yes, because fruits are simple carbohydrates, they travel quickly. All that means is they are a great snack to have about an hour before exercising, because their fuel is pretty much instantly up for grabs. Lastly, our bodies are not wine-making factories. Our cells don't go around stomping on fruit in little barrels with spigots.

I also wonder if Ms. Williams even took a basic nutrition course, seeing as how she lists "milk" under proteins. Anyone with two eyes can read a nutrition label and see that all milk contains protein as well as carbohydrates (and fat, unless it's skim).

"When you mis-combine your meals by mixing animal protein with, say, carbohydrates high in starch, your stomach begins pouring in both alkaline and acid, and unfortunately they neutralize each other. It's a stalemate, and since the stomach maintains a 104 degree temperature, what you end up with is sort of an "oven" where the undigested meat and starch begins to ferment, rot and putrefy, causing the undesirable symptoms of gas, flatulence, headaches, bloat, sleepiness, diarrhea, constipation, etc. We're talking about a real mess, and if it continues over the years, undigested food will begin to pile up and ultimately clog your colon and intestinal tract (your life lines to health)."

Our stomach is the same temperature as the rest of our bodies -- approximately 98.6 degrees (not 104 as Spice claims, or 115 as other food combining advocates point out). Even if it were, since when does heat make food rot?

Additionally, flatulence is a normal human process. Passing gas (regardless at which end of the body it happens) several times a day is not a symptom of illness or food rotting in your stomach.

And one more thing -- if, according to these food combining followers, food that is incorrectly combined piles up in our colon, then wouldn't many of supposedly have decades' worth of food stuck in our colons? That's physically impossible!

I'd also like to let Williams know that sometimes combining foods helps with nutrient absorption. For instance, vitamin C (found in many fruits) helps us absorb iron (found in meats and a few vegetables).

Our bodies are smart. They can tell the difference between proteins, fats, and carbs, and activate the necessary enzymes to absorb the required nutrients. We have evolved to the point where we can eat different kinds of foods in one sitting without worrying that we are giving our bodies just too much to do. What isn't smart is to follow a fad diet that is very low in vitamins D and B12 as well as iron and zinc, and is based in fiction.

The only reason why anyone would lose weight on this diet is because they are being severely restricted with their food choices.

When it comes to weight loss, the main concept to always remember is: a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. 200 calories are 200 calories, whether they come from peaches or pizza, whether you eat them standing up or sitting down, or at 7 AM or 1 AM.

As for Suzanne Somers -- nutrition expert is one role I would never hire her for.

May 13, 2007

All About Fat

The fourth issue of Small Bites was sent out to subscribers this past Friday.

It is now available for public viewing here. Enjoy!

May 11, 2007

Numbers Game: Chew on This

According to figures by the United States Department of Agriculture, calorie consumption in the United States per capita increased ________ percent between 1982 and 2000.

a) 5
b) 10
c) 15
d) 20

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Monday for the answer!

Sex & The Ziti

The concept of aphrodisiac foods has fascinated the world for approximately 5,000 years.

According to lore, certain foods increase sexual desire and potency, mostly based on their provocative shapes and textures. For instance, the word “avocado” comes from the Aztec “ahuactl” (which translates to “testicle”), hence the belief that avocados are a great form of culinary foreplay.

In reality, there are no foods worthy of an x-rating.

That said, here are some thoughts to keep in mind when sharing dinner with a hottie you want to have for dessert.

Avoid crucifeous vegetables (i.e.: broccoli and cauliflower), beans, and undercooked starchy vegetables, which will result in an increase of gas.
B vitamins, iron, zinc, and healthy fats all help contribute to the production of sex hormones. Fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains, and lean meats are the best sources of these nutrients, so be sure to have them every day. The less processed your diet, the more of these nutrients you’ll get!
Pineapples and bananas contain bromelain, an enzyme which some studies indicate helps increase male libido. In order to reap these benefits, though, these foods should be consumed several times a week.
Avoid heavy foods (i.e.: cream-based sauces, rich stews) that take a long time to digest and lower your energy levels.
• For men concerned with their taste, having fruits like pineapple every day will sweeten things up. On the contrary, meat and dairy products tend to give a more acid, sour taste.

May 10, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: The Glycemic Index

What's your take on the glycemic index as a way to monitor "good" and "bad" foods?
-- Anonymous

Thirty years after it was first researched and introduced to mainstream nutrition, the glycemic index is making a comeback.

The glycemix index (GI) is a ranking that lists foods based on their effect on our blood sugar levels.
Foods that spike up our blood sugar following consumption are ranked higher, while those that help maintain blood glucose levels receive a lower number.

Many low-carbers constantly refer to the GI, and will make statements like, “I don’t eat potatoes. They’re way up there on the glycemic index!”

Oh, the horror! If anyone ever tells you that, your nutrition BS alarms should go off.

Yes, it is true that foods largely composed of carbohydrates (especially refined ones) will raise our blood sugar more than those that mostly consist of fats and/or protein. That doesn’t necessarily make them less healthy, though.

For instance, according to the glycemic index, a croissant, ketchup, and ice cream are a better choice than cooked carrots.
Thus, this tool does not take into account that ice cream and croissants have high levels of cholesterol-raising saturated fat and not a trace of fiber, ketchup is a high-sodium condiment, and cooked carrots offer a wealth of nutrients.

Additionally, I’m of the thought that the glycemic index oversimplifies foods. For instance, a baked potato scores high on this chart because the assumption is that you are eating it by itself. Have it as a side dish to accompany any protein (whether animal or vegetable), and the glycemic index of that potato becomes lower!

Similarly, cooking methods affect foods’ GI numbers. Pasta scores lower when al dente, and potatoes result in a lower number if they are refrigerated prior to being eaten.

Remember, when it comes to weight management, the main thing you truly need to keep tabs on is your caloric intake.
Three thousand calories of food will make you gain weight, whether they come from lettuce leaves or ice cream (obviously, because lettuce leaves offer practically no calories, you would need to eat a LOT of them to even get 100 calories).

Although the glycemic index is definitely helpful for people living with diabetes (who need to closely monitor their blood sugar levels throughout the day), I don't consider it an effective weight management tool for the average person.

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Zone Bars

“Energy bars,” “health bars,” “protein bars.” No matter what you call them, 90 percent of these are just extra calories and sugar under the guise of health foods.

I recently received a handful of e-mails specifically asking me about Zone bars. I am not a fan; in fact, I consider them worthy of a “wolf in sheep's clothing” label.

Let’s take the chocolate-peanut butter flavor. Yes, it contributes high amounts of a number of vitamins (big deal, the large majority of us do not need them if we eat a balanced diet) but that comes with 210 calories, 360 milligrams of sodium (15% of our maximua allotted amount), 0 grams of fiber, and 13 grams (a little more than 1 tablespoon) of added sugar.

In scanning the label, you find that the “peanut butter fudge” is a chemical concoction containing corn syrup, sugar, AND high fructose corn syrup.

Interestingly enough, many people who I’ve spoken with refer to these bars as part of what they eat when they are “good” and keeping an eye on their weight. Time to go back to the drawing board, I'm afraid.

Those 210 calories would be much better spent on food that is less artificial and offers more nutrients.

For instance, dipping slices of a medium-sized Granny Smith apple into 1 tablespoon of peanut butter provides 177 calories, 4.5 grams of fiber, and absolutely no added sugar. Plus, both of these foods contain naturally occurring antioxidants and phytonutrients (plant compounds), which offer health benefits that pale in comparison to a bar’s added vitamins.

Similarly, if you are in a munchy mood, you can enjoy FIVE cups of air-popped popcorn. You’ll only take in 150 calories, but enjoy the benefits of six grams of fiber!

If you are on the run and a Zone bar is the only thing you can get your hands on, it is definitely preferable to a pack of Reese's peanut butter cups or a bag of Lay’s potato chips. However, there is no need to make this a daily staple in your quest to eat better.

Numbers Game: Answer

Losing 10 pounds of excess weight lowers your risk of developing Type 2 (adult on-set) diabetes by 30 percent.

Similarly, although scarier, gaining 10 pounds increases your risk by thirty percent.

May 9, 2007

Say What?: The Blood(y Nonsense) Type Diet

The “blood type” diet is the creation of Peter D'Adamo, who is not a nutritionist, but rather a naturopathic doctor.

According to him, the secret to staying healthy and slim is by eating according to your blood type
(whether that be A, B, AB, or O). D’Adamo states that while some foods are healthy for one blood type, they can be downright dangerous for another.

According to D’Adamo, for example, Type O’s should eat high amounts of meat and avoid grains, as this blood type can be traced back to our oldest hunting ancestors. Type A’s should stick to a vegetarian diet, but Type B’s and ABs, who are related to nomadic tribes, can eat a little of everything in moderation.

Anthropologists were up in arms when this diet first came out, since there is no reason to believe that prehistoric humans, who according to D’Adamo all ate vast amounts of meat, followed the exact same diet.

D’Adamo continues by claiming that eating the wrong foods for our blood types results in a very serious condition known as agglutination, wherein red blood cells clump together, blocking blood flow and not allowing some cells to get the oxygen they need.

According to D’Adamo, this is all due to lectins, proteins found on the surfaces of foods that are extremely dangerous when eaten by the wrong blood type.

I can’t help but wonder -- if we’ve all been unknowingly eating from all the food groups and going against our blood type needs, why aren’t some of us keeling over after just a few years of eating supposed toxic food (like whole grain breads) on a daily basis?

Furthermore, many of these catastrophic statements (i.e.: when a type A person drinks milk, agglutination happens immediately) are never explained. How much milk are we talking about? A sip? A cup? How many times a week?

Regardless, lectins are by no means a health concern. Not only do most of them disappear with cooking, our digestive system also destroys them (a factor D’Adamo’s lectin research completely fails to take into account).

This part of his theory reminds me of that now infamous e-mail forward that went around in the late 90s, explaining that a penny submerged in a glass of Coca-Cola for 24 hours disintegrates, “so imagine what it does to your insides!” Yeah, except a penny doesn’t have gastric acids that prevents those same chemicals in soda from destroying our intestines overnight.

More reasons as to why this diet is just a ploy to get you to spend money? The blood types D’Adamo uses is one of severeal ways of classifying human blood. This diet would be the equivalent of someone creating meal plans based solely on your eye color. It’s irrelevant, scientifically inaccurate, and a complete gimmick.

I also find it especially noteworthy that no matter what your bloodtype, D’Adamo recommends cutting out processed foods, added sugars, and junk. It doesn’t take a genius to recommend that as a way to quick weight loss.

At the end of the day, the “Eat For Your Blood Type” diet is just a reduced-calorie diet (some of the diet plans clock in at just over 1,000 calories – who WOULDN’T lose weight?) with a new premise.

All-Star of the Day: Almonds

Yet another victim of the fat-phobic 90s, almonds are finally getting the respect they deserve.

And why shouldn’t they? One ounce of almonds (about 23 pieces) amount to 163 calories, 3 grams of fiber, 6 grams of protein, and 37 percent of our vitamin E, 19 percent of our magnesium, and 36 percent of our manganese daily requirements.

Magnesium might not be as popular as iron or calcium, but it is an extremely important mineral to have in our diets. Without it, our veins resist bloodflow, increasing our risk of high blood pressure and blood clot formation.

Those 6 grams of protein are very special. Arginine, a protein found in almonds, has been shown to make our arteries more elastic, therefore reducing the risk of plaque buildup on their walls.

That alone make almonds a wonderful food for cardiovascular health. But they wouldn’t be all-stars unless they offered even more benefits.

Take this. Research by the American Heart Association concluded that eating just one ounce of almonds every day for 30 days lowers LDL (bad) cholesterol by 4 and a half percent!

“But almonds are fatty,” I have a feeling some of you are thinking.

Let’s put this to rest once and for all. Eating a handful of nuts every day does NOT make you fat. There’s plenty of research to back this up.

The people in the study I just mentioned were eating 23 almonds every day for a month and they didn’t gain an ounce of weight.

How can that be? A team of scientists at Purdue University found that people who consumed almonds on a daily basis reduced calories from other food sources. For example, if they had almonds in their salad, they didn’t eat bread or ask for dessert; if they had almonds as an afternoon snack, they weren’t craving candy or Doritos at 4 o’clock.

Over at London’s King College, another interesting hypothesis has emerged. Researchers believe the fiber makeup of almonds alone may reduce the amount of fat (and calories) we absorb from these delicious nuts!

As if that wasn’t enough, a Harvard study found that participants who added an ounce of almonds a day to an otherwise low-fat eating plan lost the same amount of weight as those who didn’t.

Here is the really surprising part. Six months later, the almonds eaters kept the weight off, while those who continued their diet low in fat and calories had GAINED some of the weight back!

So, please, have a handful of raw almonds and ENJOY THEM!

There’s more. Almonds are worth having in our anti-diabetes arsenal. When consumed with a meal, almonds helped lower blood sugar levels after eating.

Meanwhile, a 20-year long dietary analysis conducted by the Nurses’ Health Study demonstrated that, once again, just 1 ounce of almonds a day lowers the risk of developing gallstones by as much as 25 percent.

To get the most out of these nutrition A-listers, be sure to buy the raw kind and store them in the fridge once opened to slow down their spoilage. Munch away!

May 8, 2007

Quick Tricks: Eating More Vegetables

Five servings a day is the goal, but the average adult in the United States gets two and a half (it gets worse -- the three most consumed vegetables are iceberg lettuce, French fries, and ketchup!). Here are some tips for upping your vegetable intake:

Have at least one vegetable with lunch and dinner. Baked sweet potatoes, sauteed spinach, and steamed broccoli are delicious, easy to make, and full of nutrients.

Make salad one of your meals three or four times a week. Forget the standard "greens and tomatoes" and refer back to this article for hints on creating a tasty, filling salad.

Veg-out during snack time. Pass on the potato chips and instead dip celery sticks into natural peanut butter or broccoli and carrots into hummus.

Add at least two nutritious vegetables to a sandwich (i.e.: spinach leaves, shredded carrots, peppers, sliced tomatoes, etc.)

Add a vegetable to your pizza (i.e.: broccoli, spinach, onions, peppers, etc.)

Mix in at least two vegetables into an omelette.

Go for frozen. In a hurry? Pop open a bag of frozen broccoli spears or sweet peppers and throw them into a stir-fry. Veggies in five minutes!

Add at least two chopped vegetables to pasta sauce. They will enhance flavor and help fill you up faster.

Mix and match! Please your tastebuds by cutting up peppers, onions, carrots, potatoes, sweet potatoes, turnips, and parsnips, mixing them with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper, and roasting them in the oven for 20 - 25 minutes at 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

Numbers Game: Down with Diabetes

Losing ______ pounds of excess weight lowers your risk of developing Type 2 (adult on-set) diabetes by ______ percent.

a) 15, 20
b) 20, 15

c) 10, 30
d) 5, 10

Leave your guess in the "comments" section, and be sure to come back Thursday for the answer.

Luna Lore

I don't really have a problem with Luna Bars. I think they're okay once in a while, although at 190 calories and a tablespoon's worth of added sugar, you're better off having some whole fruit and a handful of raw nuts instead.

They are definitely not bad enough to be considered one of my "wolf in sheep's clothing" items, but I was a tad bit disappointed when I saw their latest line of products -- Luna teacakes (not pictured).

It's not so much the product I have a problem with, but the claims on the label.

For instance, the vanilla macadamia teacake is meant for "mood balance".

Per the eye-pleasing website, "Omega-3, vanilla for aromatherapy, goji berries for increasing spirits and optimism, and Vitamin D, the "sunshine vitamin", connected to boosting mood through the stimulation of serotonin."

Let's break this down.

"Vanilla for aromatherapy." Except this isn't a candle. Unless you plan on snorting your Luna teacake, how is this relevant?

"Goji berries for increasing spirits and optimism." Yes, goji berries are a nutritional powerhouse (which I will soon feature as an "All-Star of the Day"), but to say they increase optimism is silly. Optimism is not a nutrient.

As for the Vitamin D claim -- the best way to get it is just by being out in the sun, so it truly IS the sunshine vitamin (no quotation marks necessary).

Regardless, increased serotonin levels are also linked to carbohydrate consumption, so McDonald's could make that same claim for their French fries! Again, though, this statement is such a leap. It would be equivalent to a company saying their blueberry sauce is relaxing because the color blue has been shown to lower stress levels.

Although eating healthy, whole foods definitely provides us with more energy (in turn giving us an overall feeling of physical and emotional wellness), going to the other extreme and selling a food as a "mood upper" is just a hyperbolized marketing strategy.