July 31, 2007

Numbers Game: Answer

A study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention journal analyzed the eating patterns of 1,800 Mexican women and concluded that participants who got more than half of their total calories from refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, chips, cookies, etc.) had a 220 percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, than subjects whose carbohydrate intake consisted mostly of whole grains.

Does this mean you should never have a refined carbohydrate again? No.

However, refined carbohydrates should make up the minority of your total carbohydrate intake.
I encourage a 75/25 division, wherein 75% of your daily grains are whole.

If you want -- and are able -- to make 100% of your grains whole, go right ahead! However, I allow a 25% window for situations where these might not be available to us as well as for personal taste (as much as I love whole wheat pasta, I respect that it doesn't float some people's boats).

It's worth keeping in mind that refined carbohydrates should not be blamed exclusively for increasing one's cancer risk.

After all, it is usually these types of foods (cookies, cakes, muffins) that also contain high amounts of sugars, sodium, and saturated fats. Or, in the case of hamburgers buns, accompany foods with these same properties.

July 30, 2007

Quick and Healthy Recipe: Veggie Wraps

This easy to make (no appliances needed!) recipe is a great summertime lunch treat.

1 whole wheat wrap
2 tablespoons hummus
1/2 cup avocado
1/4 cup peppers (red or green)
1/8 cup red onion, chopped
1/4 cup mesclun mix
1/8 cup carrots, shredded

Place ingredients in the center of the wrap (for an extra touch, heat up the wrap in the microwave first for approximately 30 seconds), fold, and eat.

Nutrition Profile:
360 calories
14 grams heart-healthy fats

2 grams saturated fat
11 grams (!) fiber

Although it might not seem like a filling meal, the combination of high fiber and heart-healthy fats is guaranteed to keep you full for hours. Even my most carnivorous friends have been surprised at how great this wrap is and how full they feel afterwards.

As an added bonus, the medley of vegetables provides a plethora of vitamins (including A, C, and E), minerals (such as potassium and magnesium), and antioxidants.

Goes great with a chickpea, cucumber, and cilantro salad.

You Ask, I Answer: Diet Products

Since diet products need to have less than 5 calories to be labeled calorie free, do most diet sodas tend to have just under five, or do they have have zero to one calorie per serving? does coke zero really have zero calories per serving?

-- Anonymous

Great question!

According to the Food & Drug Administration, a food product can be labeled as calorie-free or zero-calorie if it has 5 or fewer calories per serving.

Issue 4 of the Small Bites newsletter focused on fats, and had a similar explanation for the labeling of trans fats.

A bag of chips can claim to be trans-fat free as long as long as it contains less than 1 gram per serving. If a bag has 0.8 grams per serving and you have three servings, you've just had almost 2.5 grams of trans fats (mind you, you should ideally be getting zero grams a day and the maximum recommendation is set at just 2 grams)!

A standard can of diet soda provides approximately 2 calories. Not exactly zero calories, but also not worth worrying about.

The main concerns with diet soda are the phosphoric acid (which lowers calcium levels), the artificial sweeteners (which, being hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar often leave people craving more sugar) and the fact that it often replaces more healthful beverage choices (i.e: water, low-fat milk, etc.)

July 28, 2007

Numbers Game: The Right Carbs

A study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention journal analyzed the eating patterns of 1,800 Mexican women and concluded that participants who got more than half of their total calories from refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, chips, cookies, etc.) had a __________ percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, than subjects whose carbohydrate intake consisted mostly of whole grains.

a) 25
b) 95
c) 220
d) 100

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

July 26, 2007

Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt

Yogurt mixed with fruit. Can’t get more nutritious than that, can you?

Well, depends on what your definition of “fruit” is.

Unfortunately, the fruit contained in “fruit on the bottom” yogurt is pure jam. In other words, take fruit, remove fiber, and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.

Consider the ingredient list for Dannon’s strawberry flavored fruit on the bottom yogurt:

“Cultured Grade A Low Fat Milk, Strawberries, Sugar, Fructose Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup.”

By the way – the only reason why those three sweeteners are listed separately? If they were lumped together as “sweeteners”, they would be the FIRST ingredient on the label!

Keep in mind that added sugar (in the form of fruit jelly) means more calories.

For example, a six ounce container of plain yogurt with a half cup of fresh strawberries adds up to 104 calories.

A six ounce container of strawberry flavored fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt provides 50% more calories, zero grams of fiber, and 90% less vitamin C (due to 39 less grams than yogurt mixed with fresh strawberries)

Undoubtedly, you are better off buying regular yogurt (preferably low or non-fat and without much added sugar) and adding your own fresh fruit.

If that’s inconvenient, add whole grain cereals like Grapenuts, Kashi, or Total to your yogurt to boost its fiber, vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content.

July 25, 2007

You "Ask", I Answer: Food Courts

Unfortunately, I think [the shortage of healthy options at the Bronx Zoo and other food courts is] due to convenience. I bet it's much easier (and cheaper) to keep frozen hamburger meat than fruit/veggies/dairy. There's less of a chance the frozen stuff will go bad. As for the hamburger buns? No idea. I worry what kind of preservatives are in it to keep it "fresh."

-- Anonymous

A great point to bring up. It is true that frozen items with long shelf lives are preferred over foods that spoil in a matter of days.

That being said, here is some healthy fare that shouldn't cause any problems for the zoo's business model.

Fruit smoothies (using frozen berries -- no ice needed! -- and long shelf-like milk)

Soy patties (frozen, just like hamburgers)

Healthy stir-frys (frozen chicken breasts + frozen vegetables. Added bonu
s: brown rice, which has a long shelf life).

Whole wheat hamburger buns (most people can't tell the difference, and the extra fiber won't hurt them)

Small boxes of raisins and small bags of pre-sliced apples (just like Subway sells)

Plain unbuttered popcorn

Healthy energy bars (i.e.: Lara, Clif Nectar)

We're Animals, Too

Despite having lived in New York City for seven years, last weekend marked my first visit to the Bronx Zoo. I was initially a bit weary, as I wrestle with a few ethical and moral issues anytime animals are used to entertain humans. As much as I love to see them in the flesh, I certainly don’t walk away happy after seeing a gorilla sit in a 10 x 10 wire cage.

I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I found myself looking through glass windows (or, sometimes, just looking out, with nothing but distance separating me) at animals that roamed large spaces, many of which contained grass and trees.

Signs all over the zoo expressed concern over endangered species and how human civilization has played a part in driving out many animals from their natural habitats.

A social conscience provided the undertone for many of the geo-specific exhibits, specifically pointing out how the health of animals was a top priority for the zoo.

Come to think of it, I didn't spot a single obese cheetah or leopard, and monkeys were provided real trees from which they ate leaves from, respecting their eating habits in nature.

My joy quickly dissipated, though, when I entered the zoo’s food court.

My choices – as a mammal belonging to the homo sapien sapien species -- were: hamburgers, chicken fingers, French fries, six-ounce pretzels (this fiber-less 600-calorie item was deemed a healthy choice), ice cream, butter popcorn, and hot dogs.

Sodium, saturated fats, added sugars, and fiber-less carbohydrates abounded. Vegetables (not counting wilted lettuce in the burgers) and fruits appeared to have gone the way of the dodo bird.

Don’t get me wrong. I think people have the right to enjoy some greasy fare once in a while, but where is the choice for those of us who want to eat something healthy?

True, I could very well have taken a backpack with a banana, whole grain crackers, and raw almonds, but is it so bold of me to ask that I be offered these products at the food court?

At the very least, how about offering soy burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, fruit and yogurt smoothies, individual bags of sliced apples, and small cartons of low-fat plain and chocolate milk alongside the standard junk?

I don’t expect the zoo to be my destination for healthy eating, but why is a country with 97 million obese adults so hesitant to offer health-conscious food choices?

July 24, 2007

Numbers Game: Answer

According to market research published in the Nutrition Business Journal, nutrition bars accrued sales of $ 2 billion in 2005.

Although promises of energy, weight maintenance, fat burning, and healthy eating abound, many of these bars fall short and might as well be Crunch Bars with added vitamins.

Find out who the winners and losers are in a special round-up to be posted very soon.

In The News: Soda

Today's alarming headline arrives courtesy of the journal Circulation, which published a study concluding that all sodas (yes, including the diet varieties) appear to increase risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

“Adults who drink one or more sodas a day had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the wait, low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other symptoms.”

Is soda the new trans fat? Not quite – I don’t foresee a ban anytime soon (nor would I condone one).

While I would never recommend that a non soda-drinker start gulping down these sugary/aspartame concoctions, I also would not tell someone who enjoys the occasional fizzy sweet drink to give it up entirely.

The real issue here, I believe, is what is being eaten in conjunction with these beverages.

Think about it. What do the overwhelming majority of people tend to eat alongside regular or diet soda? Potato chips, French fries, hamburgers, pepperoni pizza, buttery popcorn, tortilla chips with cheese dip, hot dogs, candy, etc.

I’ve rarely seen someone accompany a fruit salad, a bowl of oatmeal, or a yogurt parfait with an ice cold Coke.

It’s very possible that what this study simply reveals – not too shockingly -- is the effect junk food has on our bodies.

July 23, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Olive Oil

Is light olive oil lower in calories than the regular kind?

-- Amanda Krintson
Hartford, CT

No. All oils contain between 120 and 130 calories per tablespoon. The term "light" in reference to olive oil indicates it has been heavily refined to remove its strong color and flavor.

Light olive oil still has the same heart-healthy benefits as regular olive oil thanks to its high levels of monounsaturated fat, but it can be used for baking or to cook anything that might be ruined by strong olive taste.

As an added bonus, light olive oil has a higher smoke point than regular olive oil, making it a better choice for high-heat cooking methods.

Light Up? Load Up on Antioxidants!

In most people’s minds, cigarettes are mostly associated with cancer, but did you know smoking also affects your nutrition status?

Not only does smoking damage cells and clog arteries -- thus paving the way for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease -- it also significantly decreases the amount of vitamin C in our body.

Ironically, smokers need more vitamin C than anyone else since this antioxidant is crucial in repairing the cell damage caused by inhaling all these toxins in the first place!

Although I am not a proponent of unnecessary supplementation, I suggest all smokers take a vitamin C supplement, as their needs are too high (approximately 2,000 milligrams) to be reached with diet alone.

Meanwhile, a 2005 study done at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute found that smoking decreases levels of Vitamin E – another antioxidant -- from tissues, making them “particularly vulnerable to attack by toxins and free radicals,” according to researchers.

Benzo(a)pyrene, a hydrocarbon present in car exhaust fumes as well as cigarettes, depletes vitamin A levels. Not surprisingly, low vitamin A levels are linked to a higher risk for developing emphysema.

However, supplementing one's diet with vitamin A (beta-carotene) was shown to actually increase the risk of developing lung cancer by the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Trial, a massive Finnish study that tracked almost 30,000 male 50 to 69-year-old Finnish smokers for eight years. Results were published in the June 23, 1993 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

In essence, smoking suppresses your immune system and makes you extremely vulnerable to a wide array of illnesses and diseases.

Although a high fruit and vegetable intake is recommended for everyone, smokers need to be especially aware of their consumption. Whereas five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for the average adult, I recommend smokers aim for ten to twelve servings a day.

Why such a high amount? The antioxidants exclusively found in these two food groups may help partly counteract some of the cell damage caused by cigarette smoking.

Looking at minerals, smokers should pay special attention to calcium, as the cadmium in cigarettes impairs calcium metabolism, putting them at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Taking supplements does not “balance out” the harm done by continuous cigarette smoking, and, in the case of vitamin A, supplementation is not recommended, despite the depletion smoking causes.

The best solution, obviously, is to kick the habit. Until then, be mindful of your eating habits and supplement your diet with vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin E to give your immune system a small boost while it’s attacked by toxic puffs of smoke.

You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

Since fiber is a carbohydrate, I assume it has 4 calories per gram as regular carbs do. However, since our bodies cannot digest fiber, when product calculate the total calorie content in a serving size, do they count the calories in fiber or do they automatically deduct them because we cannot digest it?

-- Anonymous

Fiber is actually calorie-free because it is composed of undigestable carbohydrates. Simply put, fiber is not absorbed or digested (hence, it is not considered a true nutrient).

If you see a food label showing 15 grams of carbohydrates and five grams of fiber in one serving of a given food, those five grams of fiber are not contributing calories and considered separate from the 15 grams.

Although calorie-free, fiber is plenty useful. Once it hits our large intestine, the bacteria present there ferment it to produce short-chain fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation of the colon, stabilize blood sugar, and stimulate the production of antibodies and other disease-fighting cells.

This is precisely why fiber is so crucial in helping lower the risk of developing certain diseases. Without it, our bacteria are unable to support our immune systems to their full extent.

July 22, 2007

They're Baaaack!

Remember the pressure that was on McDonald's after the release of Morgan Spurlock's critically acclaimed 2004 documentary Supersize Me to drop said mammoth items from their menu?

In what appeared to be an almost overnight move, 42 ounce (510 calories, when consumed without any ice cubes in the cup!) sodas were replaced by raw apple slices, healthier salads, and complementary pedometers.

Somehow, Wendy's and Burger King managed to escape scrutiny and made no excuses about their ever-growing menu (last year, Burger King proudly introduced the Quad Stacker -- four beef patties, four slices of American cheese, and eight strips of bacon in one 1,000 calorie burger that provides 75% of our daily sodium needs!).

It seems McDonald's is ready to go head-to-head with the big boys. A new beverage size called Hugo (get it? It's huge!) has been released in Berkeley, California. Its size? 42 ounces -- the exact same as a Supersize beverage.

This article in the New York Times' Business section explores this turn of events in more detail, and offers some great quotes from Marion Nestle and Lisa R. Young, two leaders in the nutrition field who I not only admire, but also have the honor and pleasure of working with at New York University.

Numbers Game: Money Bars

According to market research published in the Nutrition Business Journal, nutrition bars accrued sales of $ ______________ in 2005.

a) 2 billion
b) 20 million
c) 60 million
d) 10 billion

Leave your guess in the "comments" section and come back on Tuesday for the answer, as well as a special report on which bars can truly call themselves "nutritious" and which belong in a vending machine alongside Butterfingers and M&M's.

July 21, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Pre-Workout Snack

Is it a good idea to eat before a workout, or should I try to get to the gym before eating breakfast in the morning?

-- Paul Jernis
Fort Wayne, IN

It's a good idea to eat something approximately two or one and a half hours prior to beginning your workout.

By "something", I am referring to foods that are quickly digested and, thus, available for energy when you need it. Low-fat carbohydrates like a piece of fresh fruit, a small bowl of oatmeal, or a handful of whole grain crackers with are ideal.

Your pre-workout snack should not exceed 200 calories.

Keep in mind the time mentioned above. Grabbing a quick snack half an hour before walking into the gym is ineffective, as it will not be ready to be used as fuel in such a short amount of time.

This is one time to stay away from high-fat foods, as they stay in your stomach longer (which is why healthy fats are always good to include in a meal -- they help you stay full!).

If you overeat, blood will be busy in your stomach breaking down food, rather than helping build muscle. Additionally, too much food prior to working out will result in your fat stores not being burned up by exercise.

I have recently seen a few energy bars touted as "pre-workout" specific. Do not fall for advertising. These bars are, in essence, candy. Full of sugar and fat, they will result in nothing but stomach aches and sugar crashes if followed by an exercise session.

Some people claim getting their cardio in on an empty stomach is ideal for the burning of fat. In part, they are right. However, they are forgetting the second part of the situation -- your body is also simultaneously breaking down muscle for energy!

This is less than ideal for several reasons. Firstly, remember that the body needs to burn calories in order to sustain muscle. If this tissue is broken down, that means fewer calories are burned -- the exact opposite effect you are looking for.

Additionally, the breakdown of muscle tissue during exercise can result in dehydration, dizziness, and fatigue.

Think about it -- if you are easily fatigued, you will work out at a lower intensity for a lower amount of time. In other words, you are sabotaging your own workout!

For successful weight loss and maintenance, focus on smart eating and frequent physical activity. Attempting to gain an edge by depriving yourself of food before exercising is not only hazardous to your health, it also just doesn't make sense.

July 19, 2007

Numbers Game: Answer

According to market research company Marketdata Enterprises, the diet industry (with its books, supplements, and diet aids) is expected to take in $ 58 billion this year.

That's double the gross domestic product of Bolivia, and ten times more than Mongolia's!

Although there are some great nutrition books out on the market, the ones that appear to get the most media attention and sales are those which promote ideas and theories based on erroneous facts by people who have never taken a single nutrition course or need to take their own advice before telling others how to lose weight.

Shame on You: Kevin Trudeau (Part 5)

Let's continue with Kevin Trudeau's secrets that will help us never get sick!

Too bad “not reading Kevin Trudeau’s books” isn’t one of the tips; I simultaneously get nauseous and high blood pressure every time I read some of his ridiculous ideas on health and nutrition.

For example…

"Do a seven to thirty day fast."

Trudeau recommends going to his website to find out specific suggestions and guidelines, but, lo and behold, you can only see this information if you subscribe to his website – and pay $9.95 a month.

Although I was considering forking over that amount for the sake of research, I then crashed back to reality and realized I didn’t need to see Trudeau’s suggestions to discredit this piece of advice.

Fasting as a way of losing weight or "getting rid of toxins" is not only ridiculous, but also unsafe.

When our bodies are in ‘starvation mode’, they go into ketosis (a state in which they burn fat, rather than carbohydrates, for energy). If you were ever on a low-carb diet, I am sure you remember being told this was ideal.

Not so much. States of ketosis often result in kidney damage that can lead to filtration problems down the road, and also prevent our brains from being nourished in the most optimal way -- with glucose (a carbohydrate).

If you are concerned with toxins and “cleaning out your system”, then eat at least five servings of fresh fruits and vegetables every day, integrate whole grains into your diet, stay hydrated, and perform physical activity.

Starving yourself for seven days, or drinking only cayenne pepper, water, and maple syrup for three weeks is one of the least helpful things you can do for your body.

How could you possibly be benefiting from starving yourself and thus not nourishing your body with nutrients, vitamins, and minerals?

Bottom line -- fasting weakens our immune systems, thereby elevating our odds of getting sick.

"Do not eat any food produced or sold by a publicly traded corporation or is a 'brand name' product."

Which leaves us with…? I would love for Mr. Trudeau to tell me how I'm supposed to eat in today’s world without getting at least a handful of foods that are brand name products.

The standard "get everything at your local farmer’s market” isn’t enough in this situation.

Don’t get me wrong – I am all for supporting local farmers and getting fresh produce from them, but why this expectation that they should be our sole source of food?

Farmer’s markets, for instance, can’t provide me with raisins, edamame, tempeh, oatmeal, or brown rice - some of the healthiest foods in this planet! As far as I know, these are only available from publicly traded companies, no matter how small.

“Do not eat anything that comes out of the microwave.”

The reason for this? “When you microwave anything, it becomes energetically toxic to the body. [It] weakens your immune system and causes depression and anxiety”, Trudeau explains.

Going back to the real world, microwave cooking can be beneficial in some aspects. Since microwave cooking requires less time than conventional methods, more nutrients are retained when cooking certain foods.

Water-soluble nutrients (vitamins B and C, in particular) are quickly broken down if they are boiled in hot water; in a microwave, however, they will be retained in a similar fashion as to when they are steamed.

Additionally, microwaves are often the best way to defrost certain foods by reducing the risk of foodborne illness.

“Do not drink diet sodas.”

“The idea that diet sodas have fewer calories, [and] thus are good for weight control, is a total lie,” Trudeau revels.

In fact, if you follow his advice, you can replace diet soda with regular soda and not gain weight. Good luck!

If you are currently drinking 3 cans of Diet Coke and replace them with regular Coke, you’re talking about 400 extra calories added to your day. If you change nothing else about the way you eat, you will undoubtedly gain weight.

While I wouldn’t necessarily advocate drinking diet sodas, I also think this concept of “don’t you ever take a sip of Diet Coke” is hysteria.

This summer, a student in a class I was assisting with raised her hand and proceeded to breathlessly share "facts" about Coke that have been circulating in e-mail chain letters for the past ten years. Among them, "If you put a penny in a glass of Coke overnight, it disintegrates!"

The supposed link we are supposed to make is, "Wow, if it can do that to a penny, imagine what it does to our body!" Except that pennies don't have the same protective acids our stomachs do, and our internal organs are not made of copper.

Sorry, but spam chain letters are not good sources of nutrition advice.

If you are eating a balanced diet rich in calcium, having a Diet Coke or two every weekend is not going to kill you.

Apart from the calcium-leeching properties of diet soda, the big concern is that these are usually accompaniments to unhealthy fast food. If you pop open a can of soda in the afternoon, you are most likely to have it with chips, cookies, or candy rather than fruit, vegetables, or a handful of trail mix.

Come back next week for more nuggets from the book the New York State Consumer Protection Board billed a "fraud"!

July 17, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Sugar

How does sugar affect weight gain and fat storage?

-- Anonymous

Sugar -- in all its forms -- amounts to 4 calories per gram. In other words, whether you are having sugar in the raw, honey, or plain white table sugar, the calories you are taking in per gram are the same.

If you look at a food label and see that a product contains 30 grams of sugar, a simple math calculation would let you know that 120 of its calories (30 grams x 4 calories per gram) are coming from sugar.

The issue of weight gain and fat storage has more to do with high fructose corn syrup.

Unlike sugar, which stimulates the pancreas to create insulin and lower blood sugar levels, high fructose corn syrup goes straight to our liver.

Our liver is not used to such visits, so it goes into freak-out mode, hitting the panic button to release its troops.
Our pancreas are used to sugar dropping by, so it has insulin ready to balance its effects.

However, all the liver can offer is a series of enzymes that tell the body not only to store fat, but also to raise triglyceride levels.
The most alarming thing is that these enzymes don't help tell our brains that we are full.

Thus, it appears to be easier to overeat foods with high fructose corn syrup rather than those with real sugar.

Sugar in and of itself is not fattening. It just so happens that sugary snacks are also high in fat (which clocks in at 9 calories per gram) and, thus, pack quite a caloric punch.

July 16, 2007

Numbers Game: The Wallet Diet

According to market research company Marketdata Enterprises, the diet industry (with its books, supplements, and diet aids) is expected to take in $ ___________ this year.

a) 27 million
b) 92 million
c) 24 billion
d) 58 billion

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

You Ask, I Answer: Dieting & Meals

How many times a day should I eat if I want to lose weight?

-- Michelle Haskins

Orlando, FL

While it is true that eating every few hours helps keep our metabolism running efficiently, don’t get lost in trivial details.

At the end of the day, weight loss is simply the result of consuming fewer calories than you did before.

Let’s assume that in order to lose weight, you need to eat no more than 1,800 calories a day. Whether you want to break this up into three 600-calorie meals or six 300-calorie meals is up to you.

What’s most important is that you don’t consume more calories than you should.

Some people find that all snacking achieves is mindless eating that results in an overload of calories. Others, though, believe that planned snacks are great at curbing hunger and preventing binge-eating.

To lose -- and keep -- weight off successfully, you need to find the rhythm and style that works for YOU. Whether it's eating three larger meals or six smaller ones a day, or working out before lunch or right after work, your focus should simply be on cutting down on fat and sugar-laden snacks, eating more whole foods, and making physical activity a part of your routine a few times a week.

July 12, 2007

Quick Tricks: Getting Enough Calcium/Preventing Osteoporosis

According to current estimates, 90% of adult females and 78% of adult males in the United States are not meeting their daily calcium requirement.

Depending on your age and gender, you should get anywhere from 1,000 to 1,300 milligrams of this VIP mineral every day.

From the ages of 9 to 18, calcium intake should be at approximately 1,300 milligrams.

From 18 to 50, it lowers slightly to 1,000 milligrams.

After age 51, males and females should aim for at least 1,300 milligrams, although 1,500 milligrams are recommended.

Here are some ways to sneak more calcium into your day -- and prevent it from leaching out:

  • Include steamed or sautéed greens in your diet. One cup of collard greens provides 360 milligrams, while the same amount of spinach contributes 245.
  • Make quinoa one of your staple grains. One cup of this Incan wonder grain contains 106 milligrams of calcium.
  • Potassium helps prevent calcium loss, so be sure to have two of the following foods every day: oranges, bananas, avocados, raisins, wheat germ, potatoes, tomatoes, and sweet potatoes.
  • Watch your protein intake. Excess protein results in the excretion of calcium from our bones. To find out how much protein your body requires, take your weight in pounds and divide it by 2.2. Then, multiply that number by .8. Your protein intake should not exceed 200% of this value.
  • Cut back on caffeine. High levels of caffeine are also responsible for leaching calcium out of our bones. Aim for no more than two eight-ounce cups of coffee a day.
  • Grin and bear it. Weight-bearing exercises help maintain bone density and slow down bone loss.
  • If you drink milk, aim for 2 servings a day. Hate it by itself? Add it to your coffee, or have milk-based smoothies.
  • Limit your intake of sodas. The phosphoric acid in them leeches calcium from your bones. And, yes, this applies to dark AND light sodas.
  • Know your sources. The following foods are calcium all-stars: non-fat yogurt, non-fat milk, fortified cereals, fortified orange juice, fortified soymilk, and almonds.

Angels and Devils: Vending Machine Snacks

Although healthy snacking has become a little easier due to the addition of fresh fruit and vegetables as well as nutritious energy bars to airport terminals and convenience stores, there are times when we’re faced with the proverbial vending machine.

When it comes to the lesser of various evils, here are some suggestions.


Pop Tarts: Two of these add up to 400 calories, 10 grams of fat, 8 ½ teaspoons of sugar and a measly 1 gram of fiber.

Grandma’s Homemade Cookies: Seems like innocent grandma takes no issue with letting you take in 380 calories, 6 grams of saturated fat (30% of the maximum allowance) and 7 ½ teaspoons of sugar.

Hostess Ding Dongs: Twelve grams of saturated fat (60% of the maximum allotment) and 360 calories make this childhood favorite as bad for your arteries as a Big Mac.

Drake’s Apple Pie: 440 calories and 8 grams of trans fats (which should be completely avoided) make up this "fruit-filled" treat.

Three Musketeers: Yes, it feels light and airy, but this bar provides 260 calories, 5 grams of saturated fat, and 10 teaspoons of sugar.

Hostess Cakes: They certainly look cute with their curlicue frosting, but there’s nothing precious about a snack that provides 360 calories, 12 grams of fat, and a quarter of your sodium allotment in four bites!

Hostess Fruit Pies: Not only is the “fruit” nothing but sugar-laden jelly, this snack also clocks in at 500 calories and contains 60% of the saturated fat we should be getting in one day.


Remember, most of these foods are only angels in the realm of vending machine snacks!

Trail mix/sunflower seeds/raw nuts: The healthy fats, high protein, and fiber will help keep you full. Additionally, the nuts provide vitamin E, phosphorus, and calcium while the dried fruits (if you choose trail mix) provide vitamins C and A.

Baked! Lay’s: If crunch is what you want, go for the baked variety. You’ll get a lot less fat and 4 grams of fiber.

Animal Crackers: a small bag only provides 120 calories and 2 grams of fat (that’s 50% fewer calories and 85% less fat than a vending-size Chips Ahoy package.)

Twizzlers: A small bag satisfies a sweet tooth without hurting your waistline or arteries (130 calories, 0.5 grams of fat, no saturated fat)

Sun chips: They are still chips, but at least they are made with whole grains and have less fat (and a little more fiber) than other brands.

July 11, 2007

Eat Healthy, Breathe Right

A brand new study by the Harvard School of Public Health found a link between Omega-3 fats and vitamin C and E intake and respiratory health.

Click here to read a very brief summary of the study.

Since it never hurts to review...

Sources of Vitamin C: oranges, berries, kiwi, peppers, tomatoes, broccoli, parsley, melons, cauliflower, spinach

Sources of vitamin E: vegetable oils (sunflower, corn, olive), kale, spinach, wheat germ, peanut butter, seeds, whole grains

Sources of Omega-3 fats: salmon, tuna, walnuts, ground flaxseed, scallops, tofu, tempeh, winter squash

July 8, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Overeating

For the past four months, I have been very strict with my eating. Nothing but whole grains, a lot of vegetables, and absolutely no junk food. Then, yesterday I went to a party where I broke down and had two slices of cake, turkey sandwiches made with white bread and mayonnaise, and a few glasses of Diet Coke. Did I just undo all my healthy eating?

-- Anonymous (per the writer's request)

Not at all! One day of indulgence does not undo months of healthy eating.

I have to be honest, though. It worries me when someone tells me they are following a diet "very strictly", because I know it inevitably leads to cravings that go unfulfilled and later manifest as binge eating. I don't know this from a book I read in one of my classes, but from my own experience.

Prior to studying and understanding nutrition, I would set up ridiculous goals for myself like "I won't eat sugar for a month" only to break down two weeks into it and devour three quarters of a pint of ice cream in one sitting.

Food is meant to be enjoyed and savored. If you are using it as a psychological weapon or punishment, you are engaging in unhealthy behavior patterns that will ultimately sabotage you.

I am a firm believer in the "one free meal a week" school of thought. Meaning, allow yourself one breakfast, lunch, and dinner each week where you can have whatever you please.

It is crucial, though, to plan these meals in advance. Knowing Wednesday is your "free dinner" day will make it easier on your body and mind than walking or driving by Coldstone on your way from work and making one of their concoctions your free meal of the day on the spur of the moment.

There is no reason to ban any food. Instead of dividing foods into "good" and "bad" categories, place them into "should have every day", "should have no more than once a week", and "should have no more than once a month."

If donuts are your weakness, allow yourself one small donut a week. If you're an ice cream lover, go ahead and have yourself a small cup of your favorite ice cream flavor every Friday night. Just keep the portions small and don't keep these foods in your house to avoid downfalls.

Definitely aim to have fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes every day. However, a small scoop of ice cream and a sandwich made with white bread should not be seen as the equivalent of arsenic.

July 7, 2007

Shame On You: Kevin Trudeau (Part 4)

When we last left our infomercial wiz, Mr. Trudeau was making the ridiculous claim that animals in the wild never get sick and, therefore, we must really be doing something wrong if we get a cold once in a while.

Chapter Six, titled "How to Never Get Sick Again" was one I could not wait to sink my teeth into.

Trudeau opens the chapter by arrogantly claiming it might as well be titled "How to Be Young Forever" since his tips will not only prevent you from getting sick, they will also reverse the aging process!

I'm surprised he doesn't pitch something along the lines of "If you call within the next 30 minutes, I'll even provide you with a small bottle from the Fountain of Youth! CALL NOW!"

Trudeau claims that "a healthy person has little, if any, body odor, bad breath, foot odor, [and] their urine and stool do not smell."

Really? I know plenty of people with diabetes who don't have body odor or bad breath, just as I know people who are in fine physical condition but apparently don't get along too well with their bar of soap and toothbrush. I'll chalk this one up to yet another Trudeau opinion spun as fact.

He then goes on a rant about life expectancy, explaining that our sense of aging is completely warped. In his mind, living until the age of 85 is a darn shame, since our bodies are meant to live until we are at least 120.

"The fact of the matter is a person 100 years old should be strong, flexible, full of life and energy, and have the physical capacity of what the average forty-year-old person has," he explains.

Since Trudeau is so hell-bent on using animals and nature as benchmarks, perhaps he can see that all animals -- including humans -- go through a life cycle, which goes from birth to death, and includes childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and old age. Being 100 years of age and unable to run a marathon like someone in their thirties is not a sign of decay and disease!

Trudeau then goes on to list his "amazing secrets" for never getting sick and remaining young. I will divide these into several posts so I can break down my favorites at length.

1. "Get 15 colonics in 30 days."

That is one colonic every two days! As I mentioned recently, colonics are completely unnecessary. The only thing they accomplish is the loss of water weight, which is immediately gained back. Additionally, they destroy all the healthy bacteria in our colon, which is responsible for fighting away infection!

Trudeau claims that as I am reading his book, I have "three to fifteen pounds of undigested fecal matter stuck" in my colon, which in turn cause gas and bloating, slow down my metabolism, and prevent me from absorbing nutrients! I'm surprised he isn't also blaming the death of baby penguins in Antarctica to my colon.

Furthermore, if Trudeau is so concerned with nutrients, why is he advocating people get colonics, which wipe minerals like potassium (which our colons absorb) out of our bodies?

I am going out on a limb here and assuming Trudeau has never taken a basic human physiology course. Otherwise, he would know that toxins can not build up in our colon since it consistently sheds its lining.

As I have mentioned before, the best way to cleanse your system is by reducing the amount of junk food you eat and increasing your intake of fresh, whole foods, getting at least 30 grams of fiber a day, and staying hydrated. This alone will keep the nasty stuff moving through your system so it can be excreted.

And, if you want to speed up your metabolism while getting rid of toxins, do physical activity! This way, you'll sweat the toxins away while keeping your metabolism working at a speedy rate.

Tips two through eight consist of more cleanses! That's right -- Trudeau wants you to get liver, kidney, gallbladder, parasite, and full-body cleanses.

Is Trudeau supposed to be helping people get healthy? The above sounds like the perfect way to suck out all sorts of nutrients from our body. Enough said.

10. Use a rebounder (mini trampoline) ten minutes a day.

"A rebounder stimulates the immune system and is incredibly effective at cleaning out toxins out of the cells."

And, according to Trudeau, it stimulates all major organs and glands.

The same can be said for ANY exercise, whether it's power walking, lifting weights, taking an aerobics class, dancing for 20 minutes, or doing jumping jacks in your underwear.

There is no need to go out and keep a mini trampoline handy to prevent from getting sick.

11. "Walk one hour a day."

"Walking outside reduces stress, stimulates the lymphatic system, promotes a thin, lean body, and walking while looking at the world eliminates depression and dramatically reduces stress."

Again, any physical activity will result in the production of endorphins, the "feel-good" natural chemicals that have been linked with feelings of vitality and

I do want to point out that exercise will not cure or eliminate depression.
If you are clinically depressed, power-walking for 60 minutes a day might help, but it should by no means replace counseling or any medication you may be on.

And, yes, ANY physical activity will promote a thin, lean body if it is also accompanied by a sensible and balanced eating plan.
Walking one hour a day and then dining at Burger King is a whole different story.

The important thing is to simply move more.
Your body doesn't care if you're walking in Beverly Hills or a treadmill in Des Moines, Iowa. Simply move!

If you weigh 300 pounds and do not exercise regularly, do not attempt to walk for one hour if you currently feel short of breath after going up one flight of stairs.

Rather, simply start by walking for as long as you can handle, even if it's just five minutes. Then, slowly try to increase the amount of time you walk each day -- even if it's just 20 more seconds each day.

Although you need to challenge your body's limits, you also need to respect them to avoid from getting hurt.

In a few days, I'll post more of Mr. Trudeau's gems. Come back for a good laugh!

Numbers Game: Answer

A 2004 study by the National Automatic Merchandising Association concluded that Americans spent approximately $ 20 billion purchasing food and beverages from vending machines in the past year.

What's especially disturbing is that labor organization research determined that as many as 20% of all employees' lunches in the United States come from vending machines!

July 5, 2007

Quick and Healthy Recipe: Black Bean Dip

One of my favorite dips to bring to a party or have at home for snacking.
It's not only delicious, but also a great source of fiber, protein, iron, folate, magnesium, and monounsaturated fats.

The recipe below makes enough for five people, although you might be tempted to polish it off before your first guest arrives!


1 small (15.5 oz) can of black beans
2 TBSP olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1/2 large red onion, chopped
3/4 cup chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup + 1 TBSP cilantro leaves
Juice of 1/2 lime
1 TBSP chili powder (or more, if you want a kick)
Salt (optional; to taste)


1) Rinse and drain the black beans
2) Insert beans into blender or food processor
3) Insert remaining ingredients into blender or food processor (in order provided above)
4) Pureé until smooth


121 calories
6 g fat
(of which only .8 g are saturated fat)
322 mg sodium

4.5 g fiber
5.5 g protein


Triscuit crackers
Carrot sticks
Baked tortilla chips
Whole wheat pita triangles

July 3, 2007

Numbers Game: Pick Your Poison

A 2004 study by the National Automatic Merchandising Association concluded that Americans spent approximately $ ________________ purchasing food and beverages from vending machines in the past year.

a) 10 million
b) 20 billion
c) 45 billion
d) 90 million

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

July 2, 2007

You Ask, I Answer: Water/Dehydration

Sometimes I'm really thirsty in the summer and feel weak from the heat. What's the story on fitness waters and flavored sports drinks?

-- Antoinette Moore
Austin, TX

Good, plain old water is undoubtedly the most important nutrient. Not only is 65% of our body made up of it, we also need it to regulate bloodflow and keep all systems and internal organs running smoothly.

Dehydration is the direct result of fluid loss, which mainly occurs through urination and sweat (which is why our dehydration risk increases as temperatures rise).

One good way to tell if you are dehydrated is by looking at your urine. If it is a very dark, yellow color – and if your urine output is very low – you may be at risk for dehydration.

As far as fitness waters and flavored sports drinks go, please read the following posts to see what I think of Gatorade and Propel Fitness Water.

Vitamin Water, as healthy as it sounds, has as much sugar as soda. In my mind, it should be viewed as popping a vitamin and downing it with a soft drink.

In short, nothing beats water for combating thirst.

That being said, you should only drink water when you feel thirsty. Chugging down bottle upon bottle of water because “you have to” will do nothing but place unnecessary stress on your kidneys and bladder.

The often-quoted recommendation of eight glasses of water a day is the misinterpretation of a report that recommended said amount of total liquid (including that found in our foods as well as drinks other than water) daily.

If, however, your only sources of fluids are coffee and soda, I would encourage you to add in a two or three glasses of water to your day.

Angels and Devils: Frozen Foods

The frozen food market has been growing increasingly over the past 15 years, as more food shoppers seek convenience.

When it comes to nutrition, though, ease does not always equal health. Here’s a quick list of what to steer away from, and what you can put in your cart with peace of mind.

As you read this list, remember that saturated fat intake should be at no more than 20 grams per day for a 2,000 calorie diet (your specific limit would be lower or higher depending on how many less or more calories you eat), and your sodium intake should not surpass 2,300 milligrams each day, regardless of your caloric intake.


Amy’s Black Bean Burrito

280 calories

1 gram saturated fat

580 milligrams sodium

Amy’s Rice and Bean Burrito

280 calories

.5 g saturated fat

550 mg sodium

Healthy Choice Chicken Enchiladas

310 calories

2.5 g saturated fat

600 mg sodium

Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken

230 calories

1 g saturated fat

530 mg sodium


Bertolli Shrimp Scampi over Linguini

550 calories

10 g saturated fat

1200 mg sodium

Marie Callender’s Herb Roasted Chicken w/ Mashed Potatoes

530 calories

12 g saturated fat

1,270 mg sodium

Swanson Hungry Man Classic Fried Chicken Dinner

790 calories

10 g saturated fat

1,940 mg sodium

Stouffer’s White Meat Chicken Pot Pie

730 calories

18 g saturated fat

1,180 mg sodium

Hungry Man Mexican Style Fiesta

870 calories

10 g saturated fat

2,230 mg sodium