Friday, April 29, 2011

Is it Healthy to Leave School Lunch to the Feds?

Is it Healthy to Leave School Lunch to the Feds?
Sarah Reid, RHNC

It used to be that having to eat a school “hot lunch” was something children dreaded, and avoided at all costs. The food was characteristically bad, the product of over-processed, over-cooked, and overly reheated foods the institutions relied on to keep costs under control and toe the basic government nutrition line. If you had a choice, chowing down on a baloney or peanut butter sandwich, baby carrots or grapes, a juice box and maybe even a cookie or two from your lunchbox meant escaping mushy peas and “mystery meat” with the mandatory milk carton from the lunch lady. In highschool there was a bit more choice of the matter – most of us made our own lunches or left the campus to eat, and the only items that ever sold out in the cafeteria were the French fries and onion rings. While there were several “Eat Smart” options on offer, and some were admittedly decent (especially when the cooking was taken over by the culinary arts students), the fact remained that it was over-processed, often bland or super-salty, and even the salads and wraps were limp and overdressed.

For those of us looking to keep the weight down (and tell me a pre-teen or teenage girl who isn’t) or avoid allergies, the school lunch was anathema. It was far better from a health perspective to pack yourself something, and the majority of us who did tended to have fewer sick days, better energy, less acne and even slightly better grades compared to the others! So with all those bonuses packed in a lunchbox, how would you feel if all of a sudden the lunchbox became as taboo in a school as a jar of peanut butter is today?

Well, some schools in the United States are banning lunches from home in favour of providing every student with a regulated hot meal. Doesn’t say much for the parents, does it? The principal of a Chicago public school, Elsa Carmona, has been quoted in the city’s major paper as saying her lunch policy is “about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve. It’s milk versus a Coke”. If students are unfortunate enough to have a medically-regulated diet (such as for allergies), they alone get a “free pass” from the lunch line. Everyone else has two options: eat a Carmona meal or go hungry the rest of the day. There are other schools following the same principle, all espousing the nutrition benefits of a school-made menu over a packed lunch. Funny that several children are acting out in protest and refusing to eat, since the States passed the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010, ideally making school lunch programs more nutritious. It’s a proven fact that skipping meals often leads to unhealthy, impulsive overeating later in the day – and extra pounds. Obviously, the idea of fighting obesity and unhealthy habits through the Chicago schools’ method is somewhat flawed, and the formula is not about the health of the children! Forcing kids to buy into this “plan” is after all guaranteed revenue, since while the meals be mandatory, they’re not free. At $2.25 each, it can easily be more than a homemade similarly nutritious lunch, and over half of it is thrown out in disgust by would-be diners. Chocolate milk is still on offer, as it is still considered as healthy as white milk – regardless of the fact it has more sugar than the equivalent of soda.

Luckily, the school lunch programs are also being pressured by the American Dietetic Association to stop selling soda pop or sweets at all (although most still promote and sell sweetened, flavoured milk). The stumbling block is, as always, money. Schools earn extra (and guaranteed) revenue from junk-food sales, and general food prices are hitting the roof – to say nothing of what nutritious, wholesome offerings cost. It’s hard to tighten the purse-strings on the already strangled budget education institutions contend with, and while the government is willing to allow schools to serve up pre-packaged slop they won’t hand down the funding that the programs desperately need to make something healthy the kids might actually eat.

Though soft drinks should never have been in any school in the first place, removing the liquid, acidic drinks along with the chips and chocolate bars from the immediate reach of hungry kids and teens just might break habits before they form. But just like the bedroom, the government has no place in the private kitchens of the people, and we should be free to decline their invitations to dinner in favour of our own PB&J.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Drinking Orange Juice is Associated with Better Overall Health

Many of us are taking a potent dietary supplement every morning without even realizing it. That's right, as you pour yourself a tall glass of O.J. with your breakfast, you might not know that you're actually getting more nutrients in your diet than you bargained for.

In order to improve the odds that people are getting enough key nutrients in their diets, many foods these days are fortified vitamins and minerals. In your breakfast alone, there is a very good chance that your toast, margarine, milk and orange juice all contain added nutrients that aren't normally present in those foods, or in such high amounts. But aside from all those 'snuck in' nutrients, new research is suggesting that plain old 100% pure orange juice has many health benefits, including improving the odds of having a healthy diet and better overall health.

To make things even better, data collected from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study between the years of 2003 and 2006 showed that adults who drank 100% pure orange juice were also at a lower risk of being overweight than adults who didn't drink any.

100% pure orange juice contains vitamin C, vitamin B6, folate, magnesium and potassium; nutrients which are typically underconsumed by most people. In addition, so many varieties of O.J. exist which have other essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D added in. These nutrients are also frequently underconsumed, and are critical for the maintenance of bone health.

In addition, it was found that adults who drank orange juice were 16% less likely to be overweight or obese. In women, the results were even better; drinking O.J. was associated with a 27 % drop in the risk of being overweight or obese! Hmm...I get the feeling that the sales of orange juice might just go up this month!

Thursday, April 28, 2011

AHA Reports Most People Misunderstand Diet's Link to Heart Health

Despite the abundance of information linking a healthy diet to a healthy heart, it seems that being bombarded with facts is just confusing people even further. According to a survey by the American Heart Association of 1,000 adults, many people have simply got the message wrong, especially when it comes to salt, and it shows in the stats!

You see, all you really need each day is about 1,500mg of sodium and yet, it is difficult for the majority of North Americans to even just stick to the daily recommendation of 2,400 mg. In fact, most people consume upwards of twice that recommendation, within the range of 3000-4500 mg of sodium per day!

According to the report, over 60% of adults believed that sea salt was lower in sodium than regular salt, so they could use more. While regular table salt (sodium chloride) is about half sodium and half chloride, sea salt is about 40% sodium. In reality, that difference is pretty insignificant. In addition, about half of the survey respondents believed that added salt was the main source of sodium in their diets, which is also false. The main source of sodium is packaged and processed foods; salt is a great preservative!

Since cutting back on sodium is such an important step in improving heart health, the AHA stresses that everyone "must remember to read the Nutrition Facts panel and ingredient list on food and beverages.” That's the only way you can truly know how much sodium you're putting in your body each day. Yes, it seems daunting and tedious and you might wish things could be simple like they used to be, but times have changed, food has changed and the food industry is ruthless when it comes to salt! Being properly informed gives you the power to take better care of your health.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Food Labels May Fool Snap-Judging Dieters

Dieters have a reputation for being picky eaters and label-readers. If people are trying to lose weight or they have other specific nutritional concerns, like allergies, the golden rule is "don't eat it if you can't read it". For the most part, this dietary discrimination is useful, if not essential, but new research has found that many dieters actually have lots of brushing up to do on their label reading skills. When deciding whether or not foods are healthy, dieters are often duped.

According to the report which was a joint effort by professors or marketing and graduate students from a range or U.S. universities, dieters are quick to pass judgment on foods based on key words that they read on food packages, rather than the ingredients themselves. Quite often, what they think is the 'healthier' choice in fact isn't.

The study authors found that people tend to associate different words with "forbidden" and "allowed foods" which they use to decide whether foods are healthy or not. In reality, however, they aren't selecting for healthier foods, they're discriminating against what they perceive as 'unhealthy' ones. For example, foods with labels bearing the word 'pasta' might get the boot, while 'salads' are assumed to be healthy. The trouble is, without the benefit of knowing the actual ingredients in each dish, it is virtually impossible to make an informed decision with regards to the healthfulness of food products.

According to the authors, with the increased use of 'health-washed' words like 'smoothie', 'flavoured water' and 'veggie chips', people are getting confused or tricked into buying unhealthy foods masquerading as health food superheroes. So, to make things easier (and healthier) for yourself, don't forget the golden rules of nutrition facts and ingredient label reading, which you can easily find here.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Heart Healthy Fats May Raise Prostate Cancer Risk

Diets come in all different shapes and sizes and we adopt them for different reasons. The strange thing, it seems, is that no matter which route we choose, with good intentions and high hopes, we might reduce risk of developing one disease while tipping the scales in favour of another! In other cases, the outcomes we might expect are quite different from what we actually get. You see, according to a new study, consuming lots of heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids may in fact raise the risk of developing prostate cancer in men.

In a study of 3,400 men in the United States, researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Centre were interested to see how different inflammation-related fatty acids related to the development of prostate cancer. Omega-3 fatty acids are anti-inflammatory, while omega-6 and trans fatty acids are pro-inflammatory.

In the report, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, the researchers were surprised to find that the men in the study with high blood levels of a heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acid, DHA, were at an increased risk of developing a particularly aggressive form of prostate cancer. In fact, their risk was 2.5 times greater than men with the lowest blood levels of DHA. It was also found that men who had higher blood ratios of trans fats compared to DHA had a 50% lower chance of developing this aggressive form of prostate cancer.

The results were contrary to what the researchers expected, which highlights the complexity of nutrient interactions with our physiology. You can't simply predict what will happen, especially when studying single nutrients in isolation of their actual food sources! But until further research is compiled that might explain the peculiar findings of this study, it is safe to say, based on a solid foundation of research, that choosing more omega-3 fatty acids over trans-fats in your diet is the healthier route to go.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Judging Weight Loss – It’s Not a Numbers Game

Judging Weight Loss – It’s Not a Numbers Game
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Everyone – whether having struggled with the scale or not – has battled the numbers game in their lifetime. Of course, the numbers game I’m referring to is independent of the scale, the measuring tape or the amount of crunches you do at the gym. This is a much harder to navigate course, which starts when you walk through the doors of your favourite clothing store.

Vanity sizing is more popular than ever now, thanks to the omnipresence of obese members of the public coupled with the constant barrage of skinny jeans and miniskirts at every turn. Most individuals, if they are overweight, are self-conscious enough about that fact to refrain from any large amount of bare skin or tight clothes – in the days of my struggle with obesity (having topped the scales at 230 lbs at age 15), I would ask myself why the companies would even bother making clothes like that in a size above a 6. Not that the sizes meant anything then either. Dieters today, regardless of how many pounds or inches they lose, may very well find themselves continuously buying the same size... even though each pair of jeans has a smaller waist than the one before.

The more you decide to spend on an outfit, the higher the emotional cost can be as well. The women’s department is exempt from “male style” sizing, which prefers to actually take the concrete measurements of the waist and inseam and translate it into a piece of clothing. Instead, a 27” waist in a chic boutique like Guess, for example, translates into size 8-10 trousers. Go to Old Navy or Sears, though, and you’re lucky to find a pair that won’t fall off of you. Sizes like “double-zero” are now as common on the racks as the 4’s and 6’s were five years ago, but every minute variation in style seems to warrant a different number.

It’s enough to make your head spin and turn you off from hitting the malls altogether. Fitting rooms are more like torture chambers instead of places to bond with your best friends over a new season’s digs. And forget about ordering clothes online or asking for a new sweater for your birthday – how can you relay what size you are when 2-10 can fit into one outfit?

The prevalence of this “feel better about yourself” manner of tagging clothes, and the lack of it’s consistency between labels, is why now more than ever the number on the “size” label shouldn’t dictate your feelings regarding weight loss success. If you’ve been eating right, exercising and steering clear of your “traps”, the readout on the scale and the tightening of your belt will show your success far more than a hidden scrap of fabric tucked under your collar.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Friday, April 22, 2011

NIM’s “Get Ready for Summer” Biggest Loser Challenge

May is hot on our heels, folks (although you'd never know it)!! That means that May long weekend is fast approaching, complete with barbecues and bathing suits (fingers crossed - this IS Canada).

Are you ready to wow your friends and family with your body transformation? Everyone who signed up for NIM's biggest loser challenge sure is.

With huge discounts and tons of support and motivation, you simply can't afford to miss out!!!

Have you signed up yet? Time is running out. The deadline to sign up is Friday, April 29th at 4pm (that's a week from today!)

Don't miss your chance!

Click here for more information.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ketogenic Diets Might Reverse Kidney Damage in Diabetes

Diets are by no means a 'one size fits all' sort of deal; everyone has different needs, goals and preferences. While most people can obtain and maintain good health though following a healthy balanced diet based on the principles outlined in Canada's Food Guide, it doesn't work for everyone. People who are at a higher risk of developing disease or already have it have different dietary needs that, in some cases, go against the grain.

According to new research, 'ketogenic' diets, or those higher in fat, moderate in protein and low in carbohydrates might be ideal for individuals living with diabetic kidney failure; at least in the short term. Ketogenesis occurs when the body is starved of carbohydrates and sugars, which triggers the body to burn fat instead of glucose. It has been found that such diets may actually reverse existing kidney damage in individuals living with type 1 or 2 diabetes who have developed kidney failure as a result. The catch (there's always a catch!) is that the research to support these findings was done using mice. However, the researchers are hopeful that similar outcomes will occur in human trials.

The researchers believe that in humans, exposure to the diet for as little as one month may be all it takes to "reset" the gene that causes diabetic kidney failure. They caution, however, that this diet is not meant to be followed for long periods of time because there are plenty of other side-effects that go along with a state of ketosis. Nonetheless, it is interesting to realize that depending on what ails you, modifying your diet in ways that might not be considered conventional might actually improve your health!

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Your Body Talks – Here’s How to Respond

Your Body Talks – Here’s How to Respond
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Ever wish your body could just come out and say what was wrong with it? No more vague aches here, odd swelling there, and finally finding out why you’re so tired and strung out all the time?
Well, your inner self can’t pick up the phone or send you an email, but it can communicate – seemingly benign, too subtle to mind signals fire out all the time, but the trick is to learn the language of “human” and figure out what to do.

Whether you’re feeling stiff and achy, exhausted, or stressed out to no end with blood pressure in the stratosphere, the good news is that the fixes can be as simple and quick as making dinner. Food has been used as medicine for centuries and is more powerful than any drug on the market, and cheaper too! The other benefit of using food to heal yourself is that it treats the root cause of the problem – malnutrition in one sense or another – and not simply the symptoms. No hangover, no withdrawal, no interactions with other items on your medicine shelf, and no side effects like drowsiness or headaches (unless you’re allergic, of course!). While the effects of eating for your system’s needs aren’t as instant as popping a pill, they last far longer.

For instance – do you find yourself crashing at 2 or 3PM every day and can’t get your pizzazz back, even though you sleep well at night? It’s probably time to take a look at your B vitamin and iron levels. While getting enough iron and B12 can be particularly troublesome for vegetarians and vegans (since B12 is only found in animal or lacto-fermented food), these elements (along with B6, another energy-booster) are commonly lacking in most modern-day individuals. Why? Too much processed, nutrient-void food (including items high in fat, sugar and salt), depleted soil and stress all provide answers. The kitchen cure is found mostly in shellfish, oily fish, low-fat dairy and miso, so regularly hitting the sushi bar for a brown-rice salmon roll and a bowl of miso soup isn’t such a bad idea!

Low levels of copper and manganese, as well as magnesium, are to blame for stiff and aching joints in the morning. Coupled with regular exercise such as brisk walking daily, regular intake of seeds, nuts, whole grains, soybeans and chickpeas will help keep those aches at bay. Magnesium also helps reduce muscle tension, cramping and blood pressure, which is great news for severe PMS or migraine sufferers. Hypertension also signals your body’s need for more potassium and B6, to cope with an excess of sodium in the blood.

Finally, if you’re one of the many who feel that “rolling with the punches” life throws at you is not as easy as it used to be, and find daily stresses weigh on you like a ton of bricks, the powerhouse B complex of vitamins are your best defensive tact. Sapped by overworking adrenals (producers of the “fight or flight” chemical epinephrine and the chronic stress hormone cortisol), B1, B3, B6, B12 and folic acid need to be constantly replenished to maintain even moods, nerve function and adequate amounts of the “feel-good” chemical dopamine in the brain and bloodstream.

Of course, if you’ve developed a long-standing deficiency due to years of poor eating, medication use and stress, you may need to pinch-hit with a supplementation program until your levels are back to normal. Talk to a nutritionist to determine the best course of action, and how to modify your diet, lifestyle and attitudes towards food to best support your needs.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Limiting 'Craved' Foods may Reduce Diet Cravings

Cravings are strange and wondrous things. Common sense (and life experience) tells us that if we give up the things we love cold-turkey, in due time, we're bound to be drawn to them like a magnet, only with greater intensity. It's like the "white polar bear" experiment; if I say to you "don't think about a white polar bear...OK now what are you thinking about?" chances are good that it's a white polar bear. Same thing applies with cheesecake.

If you're thinking about cheesecake but having a crusty sugar-free cookie instead, to "kill" the craving, you'll probably eat 7 cookies and then go buy cheesecake anyways. Darn cravings! The problem is that lots of high-calorie goodies and low-calorie diets don't exactly mesh well together. So what on earth can be done to quell those cravings?

Normally, the most sound advice is to enjoy the foods you really love in moderation or in smaller portions. If they're real diet-busters, at least enjoy most elements of them like their spices, flavours and textures while adding in some healthier substitutions. If you have a taste of what you love every single day, your odds of downing the entire package of (whatever) significantly decreases. The key is to enjoy your food so you don't feel like you're the only one missing out and everyone else gets to have whatever they want.

To add to this, new research has found that by limiting or even eliminating certain foods from one's diet may work even better to quell those cravings once and for all. In the study, 270 men and women were randomly assigned to a low-carb diet or a low-fat diet for two years. The low-carb diet involved eating more foods that were higher in fat and protein. The low-fat diet meant cutting back on calories and fat, with 15% of calories from protein, 30% from fat and 55% from carbohydrate (Interestingly, that range is actually within the healthy range of what is recommended by Health Canada).

Foods that were high in sugar or generally deemed "unhealthy" and high-carb foods like bagels were kept off the low-carb diet. The participants' cravings towards sweets, high-fat foods, carbohydrates and starches and fast-food fats were monitored throughout the process. In addition, the participants were asked about how much they liked certain foods that were eliminated from their diets.

The results were really interesting. It was found that those on the low-carb diet craved carbs and starches much less than the low-fat group. Their preferences for high-carb and high-sugar foods also dropped much more over time than in the low-fat group. They were also less bothered by hunger than their low-fat diet friends. On the flip side, the people in the low-fat group craved high-fat foods much less than than the low-carb group. They also preferred low-carb/high-protein foods much less than the low-carb group.

According to the authors, this study demonstrates that "promoting the restriction of specific types of foods while dieting causes decreased cravings and preferences for the foods that are targeted for restriction," which is the opposite of what most 'dieters' expect.

Ultimately, everyone is different and has their own unique needs, preferences, goals and cravings when trying to get healthy or lose weight and there's no 'best' approach that applies to everyone. Give some healthy approaches a try and see what works best for you! And if you falter momentarily, know that it is completely normal and you are strong enough to get right back up again and get back on track.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Nutrition Labels: What Should You Look For?

When you're out doing your groceries, do you feel like you're the only one who doesn't know how to read a nutrition label? On the surface, it might look like everyone else does, but you'd be surprised how few people actually do. Not to worry! We've got you covered. Next time you hit the aisles you'll be armed and ready to make the best choices for you and your family.

Most food manufacturers are required to print a 'Nutrition Facts' panel on their food labels, but not all do, and they don't all look identical! You might find that some items, such as foods from small manufacturers, foods in small packages, and foods sold in bulk, don't even have one. In that case, try to scope out the ingredients list if there is one (More on that below).

In a nutshell, the Nutrition Facts panel lists important nutrition information for the food. Here's what you should pay special attention to:

Serving Size. Always check this number; it tells you the size of the serving that the other nutrition information on the label applies to. It is listed in a 'household' or common measure (like cups, slices or chips), as well as a weight measure. It not only tells you how many times to multiply your 'actual' serving to find out what was in the food you ate (e.g. You might find that a bag of chips that appears to contain one serving actually contains two — and twice the calories and grams of fat you bargained for), but it also allows you to compare similar products side by side. When comparing items of different shapes and sizes like bread and pasta, the weight measure is your best bet.
Calories. This is the number of calories in one serving of the food. The 'Calories from Fat' gives you the number (not the percentage) of calories in the food that comes from fat. Checking out the number of calories in foods allows you to budget your daily calories more effectively. Don't be fooled though, low calorie foods are not always healthy! Check the rest of the label. A serving of soup might appear to be innocently low in calories, but will scare your socks off with how much sodium it contains!

Nutrient list. The middle portion of the label lists the amounts of fat (total, saturated, and trans), cholesterol, sodium, carbohydrate (fibre and sugars), and protein. It also lists the amounts of vitamins A and C, iron, and calcium. (Other vitamins and minerals may appear as well, but they are not required.) Pay special attention to the amounts listed for Fat, Sodium, and Cholesterol.

Fats. The number listed next to 'Fat' should not immediately alarm you - not all fats are created equally! It is a good idea to keep the total number low, but you really want to pay special attention to getting as little saturated and trans fats as possible. These are the ones that are associated with poor health and disease. Mono- and Poly-unsaturated fats are the good kinds, so it is good if they make up most of the fats in the foods you're buying. But keep in mind that even though they're good, they're not a free-for-all. Limit your overall fat intake to only as much as you need to maintain a healthy weight.

Sodium. In a day, all you really need for good health is about 1500 mg, but as long as you keep your sodium intake below 2300mg per day, you're doing better than most.

Fibre. Aim to get 25-35 grams of fibre in your diet each day.

% Daily Value. Listed next to each nutrient is "% Daily Value," or the percentage in each serving of one day's recommended intake for that nutrient. This is a great little tool to help you compare food items and also gauge how much of each nutrient you're getting from that particular food. Keep in mind, however, that these percentages are based on a 2,000-calorie diet; if you eat fewer calories a day, then you're actually getting a larger percentage of your day's total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, and protein from each food.

The recommended dietary allowances of the other nutrients like vitamins and minerals are the same for all calorie levels, but keep in mind that the %DV for sodium is based on an intake of 2,400mg. This means that if the %DV of the sodium in your soup is 20% based on 2,400mg, and all you want is 1,500mg each day, that soup is really giving you 32% of your daily goal! An easy way to guesstimate that number is to multiply it by 1.5.

Label Claims. Generally, if a % Daily Value is less than 5 percent, the food is considered "low" in that nutrient. If the % Daily Value is greater than 20 percent, the food is considered "high" in that nutrient.

The Ingredient List. It is also important that you know why the ingredient order in the ingredients list matters. Ingredients are listed in order of percentage by weight. In other words, the first ingredient is what the product contains the most of; generally, you should pay the most attention to the first five ingredients. Beware if any of the first ingredients are: partially hydrogenated oil, High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS), and sugar (also known as glucose, sucrose, fructose, galactose, maltose, molasses, maltodextrin, and fruit juice concentrate). It is not recommended to consume these components in high quantities as part of a healthy diet.

And there you have it. With a good pair of glasses and some basic math skills, nutrition facts panels and ingredient lists really aren't all that scary. The information you get by reading them before you choose foods is really invaluable if you're trying to maintain good health. Realistically, isn't it scarier not knowing what's in your food?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Is Walking Really Exercise?

Ask just about anyone if walking is considered exercise and the first word on their lips will most likely be "yes!". For others, this 'yes' may be followed by reflective pause, realizing that there are many components to exercising, and they might add "it depends". It's true - it does depend, which is why exercise physiologist and author Tom Holland makes the bold assertion that "walking is not exercise" in his new book entitled“Beat the Gym".

While it is true that walking is a great way to get in some physical activity, and it does burn calories, the number of calories that get torched depends on the speed, duration and intensity of the walk in addition to terrain factors - are you walking up and down hills? How steep are they? Are you walking through sand or on pavement? So many factors can influence the impact of walking on your overall health, and whether or not it would count as exercise. In defense of his earlier statement, Holland added “It really comes down to simple math...The caloric expenditure of walking is simply not enough to counterbalance food intake. A 140-pound person walking at 4 miles per hour burns roughly 288 calories in one hour. That's about 4 Oreos worth.” Whether or not that is significant to you is another question.

Walking is a great way for the elderly to stay in shape as it is a weight bearing activity that is also low impact, but experts will assert that "window shopping" isn't enough - you need some pep in your step! Holland also agrees that walking is also a good option if you have a lot of weight to lose, want to maintain basic cardiovascular health or are de-conditioned, injured or just beginning an exercise program. However, for larger, more intense goals and "radical body transformations", walking for hours on end may just be a waste of time if you could be performing more rigorous physical activity and blasting way more calories.

Most people think that walking or jogging burns way more calories than it actually does. So while it has its amazing health benefits and should by no means avoided or eliminated from a healthy active routine, it might be time to consider adding in a little more intensity if you've got bigger calorie burning goals!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Pasta Dinner Might Boost Weight Loss

When people embark on a weight loss mission, even if they're only trying to shave off the last 5 lbs, the first thing on the chopping block is usually carbs. Carbs really get a bad rap sometimes; potatoes, bread and pasta tend to be considered 'fattening' foods that people flat out quit eating when they are "on a diet". It is a terrible idea to pin the blame of weight gain on a few innocent foods because they contain nutrients essential for good health and also because the rumours aren't true. It also turns out that with the right timing, carbs can actually boost weight loss and lower cholesterol levels, among other benefits.

Carbohydrates are the main fuel source for your muscles and brain, so cutting them out or limiting them too severely can be detrimental to your health. Another good reason not to skin on carbs is that consuming balanced meals and snacks that contain at least 3 food groups (e.g. meat or alternatives, grains and vegetables) can help balance blood sugar levels and keep you full and satisfied from one meal to the next. And finally, new research has shown that having more carbs at dinner rather than spacing them out differently through the day can actually help your body blast more calories and improve a number of clinical outcomes.

In the study, two groups of men and women followed diets containing between 1300-1500 calories, made up of 20 per cent protein, 30 per cent to 35 per cent fat, and 45 per cent to 50 per cent carbohydrate. This is considered a low- to moderate-carbohydrate diet, as carbohydrates should make up between 45-55% of your daily energy intake. The difference between the groups was in the timing of the carbohydrate intake; the experimental group had less carbs and more protein at breakfast and lunch and a larger portion of carbs with dinner.

After 6 months it was found that the participants in the experimental group lost more weight, more of which was fat, and they also lost a larger percentage of their waist circumferences. Their hunger and fullness hormones as well as their glucose and insulin levels were more balanced, and the participants reported feeling more full throughout the day. In addition, their cholesterol and inflammatory marker levels also decreased.

Keep in mind that those participants didn't eat more carbs over all, they just timed them differently to serve different purposes throughout the day. So before you nix sandwiches and pasta all together, give this method a try!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How Much is Too Much When it Comes to Healthy Eating?

As the obesity epidemic rises around the world, more and more importance and emphasis is being placed on healthy eating and living a healthy lifestyle to manage one's weight. But just as we point the finger and 'diagnose' people as being unhealthy, it appears we do the same for those who take the opposite route. In every case there are extremes, but when does healthy eating become 'orthorexia'?

Orthorexia is gaining attention as a disorder potentially as serious as anorexia or bulimia - it involves the fixation on eating only healthy or "righteous" foods all the time. In fact, there is speculation that perhaps the “Godfather of Fitness” Jack LaLanne 'suffered' from this pattern of eating.

In case you need a refresher, Jack LaLanne was considered "America’s Number 1 Physical Fitness Expert and Guru", a health, fitness and nutrition pioneer who emphasized the importance of healthy living in the every day life of the average American. He died at the ripe age of 96.

You might remember Jack LaLanne as the guy who sold juicers on TV, but he was actually the first person to ever sell vitamins and fitness equipment on TV and developed many important fitness machines that appear at every gym today. He was the first person to have their own fitness program on TV and the first to advocate for the use of weights in regular exercise regimens in men, women, the elderly and the disabled. He was the first to advocate the importance of nutrition in healthy living and developed the first nutrition bar and instant meal replacement drink.

If you've ever heard anyone use the phrase "Ten seconds on the lips and a lifetime on the hips", you can thank Mr. LaLanne for that - he said it first. He was also known for having said "Your waistline is your lifeline", which we know today is truer than ever. In addition, he emphasized the importance of nutrition and healthy living by saying "If you eat right, you can't do wrong", which is perhaps why there is speculation that he was obsessed with "righteous" eating, or was orthorexic. He also said "It’s not what you do some of the time that counts, it’s what you do all of the time that counts." For Mr. LaLanne, a healthy lifestyle meant practicing moderation, exercising regularly and eating natural, healthy foods all the time.

Jack's mission was a simple one, and his life's work was devoted to "helping people to help themselves feel better, look better, and live longer." It certainly worked for him! In his impressive 70 year career, Jack accomplished many of his goals, set numerous world records and inspired people all over the world to do whatever they can today for a healthier tomorrow. He lived a long, full and healthy life, so was his obsession with health really a negative? Not in my opinion.

He had it right when he emphasized moderation and the fact that "it's not what you do some of the time that counts", meaning here and there, indulgences and treats are valid and necessary for your mental health! The rest of the time, however, healthy eating and exercising are the cornerstones of good health and lend to a lower risk of disease. Perhaps some people do take 'health' to the extremes, but overall, we should celebrate those who advocate for healthy eating and active living and try to apply those philosophies in our own daily lives.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

'Organic' Does not Always Mean 'Healthy'

There is so much confusion about what the term 'organic' actually means. The presence of the little sticker or logo on foods or their packages tends to give people a sense of security about their food, that it is healthier and perhaps safer for them to consume. The trouble is that, oftentimes, this illusion of 'innocence' and overarching sense of 'it's good for you' gives people the green light to indulge and enjoy those foods in larger quantities. The end result, however, is just like any other form of excess caloric intake - subsequent weight gain.

When foods are labelled as 'organic', it is really just an indication of the way that the foods were produced. It means that those foods are free of synthetic ingredients, were grown without artificial fertilizers, pesticides, or hormones and were not irradiated or otherwise 'unnaturally' treated. Despite the dominating misconception, there is no direct link between 'organically grown' and 'more nutritious'; in other words, an organically grown apple won't necessarily have more nutrients or goodness than a conventionally grown one. However, it's means of production was more natural and better not only for the planet but in many cases also for the farmer.

Funny enough, despite all this, Cornell researchers have found that people tend to perceive organic foods as having a 'halo effect', meaning that they can do no harm and that their beneficial properties extend way beyond what the term organic actually means. The researchers performed a study where participants were given two foods, one organic and one conventional and were asked to rate them on a series of properties. According to the report, the participants preferred almost all of the taste elements of the organic foods, and also believed they were significantly lower in calories and fat, and higher in fiber and should even cost more. Even organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be healthier than their "non-organic" counterparts! The kicker was that in the study, there was actually no difference in the foods; they were identical except for their labels. Gotcha!

It is important that, before we choose to buy foods that are new, different, unfamiliar or more costly, we do at least a little bit of research with regards to what the difference actually is and whether or not it's worth it for us. You wouldn't buy a laptop or TV without doing at least a little bit of comparison shopping, would you? The same principle should extend even further to things that you're putting directly into your body and provide you with sustenance and nutrition!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Blueberry Extract May Reduce Number of Fat Cells

We've known for a long time that antioxidants found in plants are wonderful for our health. A little bit more recently, there has been a focus on plant polyphenols based on their demonstrated ability to help ward off various diseases. Now, new research out of Texas has added to a growing body of evidence that suggests that polyphenols found in blueberries can help reduce the number and growth of fat cells and also enhance their destruction.

In an effort to examine whether blueberries could play a role in reducing the burden of the obesity epidemic in America, a researcher from Texas Woman's University (TWU) was interested in further narrowing down the effects of blueberry polyphenols on adipocytes, special cells that synthesize and store fat. The experiments were performed using cells from mice.

Interestingly, it was discovered that as the dose of the extract increased, fewer unspecialized cells ended up becoming adipocytes. The highest dose of blueberry polyphenols resulted in a 73% decrease in lipids while the lowest dose still showed a 27% decrease. In terms of uncovering the potential effectiveness on humans, more research is definitely needed. "We still need to test this dose in humans, to make sure there are no adverse effects, and to see if the doses are as effective. Determining the best dose for humans will be important," said the principal researcher. "The promise is there for blueberries to help reduce adipose tissue from forming in the body."

As with all research on selected and concentrated food extracts, it is unclear as to whether consuming the foods in their natural forms will be enough to yield significant effects. For that matter, more research is needed to shed light on whether these results will be significant at all in humans! In any case, as blueberries are considered a superfood, it would be a good idea to include them in your diet regardless of whether or not they are 'the magic bullet' of weight loss. If nothing else, they sure are delicious.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

The Bacon Scale

The Bacon Scale
Sarah Reid, RHNC

Bacon is not a health food.

While that's not exactly rocket science, and a fact I sincerely hope doesn't shock anyone, the nutrition of many restaurant dishes just might. Rather than spew out lists of numbers and charts of saturated and trans fats as percentages of total calories by weight, or any of the other common methods of compiling "diet bibles", the Eating Well subsite on Huffington Post has created a rather ingenious, visual tool that measures a meal not by numbers, but in strips of bacon. It is only a tiny set of offerings right now (and only US-based chains), but it's getting enough press and Twitter buzz that I predict it will soon be expanding.

In the meantime, you can calculate your meal's equivalent in fatty rashers of pork yourself, provided the restaurant you choose has the nutritional information available (as all American chains must now legally provide). A single strip of bacon has 43 calories, 3-4 grams total fat (1.1 grams saturated), 9 milligrams cholesterol and 196 mg sodium. A bit of basic division later, and pretso - your dinner on the bacon scale.

In case you were wondering - a KFC Double Down (while not making any health claims) has 13 strips to it's name - an average of all the data. Vegetarian options don't automatically earn a "health" claim either, as the 7-strip worthy Cappellini Pomodoro from Olive Garden demonstrates. By going the vegetarian route (and eschewing the cheesey items) when dining out, though, you can save yourself almost a day's worth of cholesterol and a lot of saturated fat - but if what you choose is cream, butter and cheese filled (such as anything alfredo) or deep fried (hello, vegetable tempura!) grilled chicken or even a small piece of steak is the better way to go!

How many strips of bacon did you eat tonight? Do you have a favourite restaurant meal that you enjoy no matter what the caloric cost?

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Friday, April 8, 2011

Eating Like a Herbivore May Prolong Life

The way we have been producing and consuming food in the past 50 years is virtually unrecognizable compared to the way humans have been eating for thousands of years (Thanks 'Food Inc.'!). So, even though our ancient ancestors were indeed meat eaters, consuming whatever they could find off the land, and our not so ancient ancestors had agriculture and farms as assets, today's food is a far cry from what it used to be. As a result, the foods that we eat today have a different effect on our health compared to what they once did (or even 50 years ago) and researchers are suggesting that avoiding meat can help prevent disease and prolong life.

According to a new study published in the journal Diabetes Care (which you can check out here), following a vegetarian diet can cut one's risk of metabolic syndrome, also known as "diabesity" because it includes factors such as diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease. Of the 773 participants in the 'Adventist Health Study 2', it was found that vegetarians had lower levels of triglycerides, glucose, blood pressure and waist circumference than non-vegetarians. The only exception was that there was no difference in their cholesterol levels.

It was found that only 23% of vegetarians (eating any kind of meat less than once a month) had at least three factors of metabolic syndrome compared to 39% of non-vegetarians and 37% of semi-vegetarians (eating meat or poultry less than once a week). Vegetarians also had lower BMIs on average.

It is interesting that even those classified as vegetarians were, by definition, allowed to have some meat once in a while. This means that in the study, some people probably had none at all while others dabbled here and there, yet the results on the whole were far more favourable than those who had it more frequently, even twice a month. It kind of seems unfair though, when you consider that the risk of developing at least 3 symptoms of metabolic syndrome barely differed between those who had meat a couple of times a month (37%) and those who had it in unrestricted amounts (39%).

What this suggests is that if you want to reap the benefits of vegetarianism outlined here (i.e. slashing multiple risk factors), it's not a short-term sort of deal; you've got to be committed. Other studies, however, have found that giving up meat even once a week has marked health and environmental benefits, so don't be totally discouraged if you're not ready to ditch that steak just yet!

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Tangerine a Day Keeps Obesity at Bay

Apples and many brightly coloured antioxidant-rich fruits and veggies tend to steal the show when we talk about keeping the doctor away and preventing diseases. However, a new study shows that another common grocery store fruit might possess some extraordinary powers that have until now been largely overlooked.

It turns out that the little cousin of our breakfast staple, the orange, might be better for us than we had previously imagined. Thanks to a new study from the University of Western Ontario, researchers now believe that a substance found in tangerines may help ward of obesity, type 2 diabetes and even offered long-term protection against heart disease.

In the studies using lab mice, both groups were given free access to plenty of food representing a "Western Diet" loaded with fats and sugars, while only one group was treated with nobiletin, an antioxidant found in high concentrations in tangerines. The group treated with nobiletin remained healthy, while the other group became obese, showing elevated cholesterol and insulin levels and a fatty liver -symptoms that increase the risk of cardiovascular disease and Type 2 diabetes.

One of the researchers, Murray Huff, was also responsible for highlighting the health benefits of narinigen, a compound found in grapefruits that was also suggested to prevent obesity. Nobiletin, however, is supposed to be 10 times as effective as narinigen, offering long-term protection against vascular plaque buildup.

While the results of this study are indeed fascinating, fact that this study was done on mice, and that the 'magic ingredient' was isolated on it's own and not consumed within the context of the fruit itself is troublesome. We can't draw direct conclusions or implications with regards to the effect of nobiletin (or eating more tangerines) on humans, but it wouldn't hurt if people ate a little bit more fruit each day, would it? Especially considering a majority of Canadians don't get enough fruits or vegetables each day, and plenty of us are overweight or obese, studies like these may be helpful in reinforcing the value of adding a bit more colour to our diets each day.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

An Extra 20 Pounds

"An Extra 20 Pounds"
Sarah Reid, RHNC

We all know that extra weight has consequences - both cosmetic and deep beneath the skin. A "mobile lab" put together by a company called CIGNA demonstrates just what an extra 20 pounds can do to an average person's frame - for example, adding 80 extra pounds of stress on the knee joints, winding even the fittest participants, and altering the body's centre of gravity so that general mundane tasks become difficult to manage.

Yet more evidence to support the fight against childhood and adolescent obesity has come about in the field of cancer prevention. Young girls with as few as 15 extra pounds also bear the burden of higher breast and ovarian cancer risks, and for boys, that risk is the same for prostate and testicular cancer. Sleep apnea, snoring, respiratory and cardiovascular problems all correspond with high weight, and the longer you keep an extra pound or two sitting around - especially if it's on your waist - the harder it is to lose and the worse it strains your system.

So go and drag out the scale from the back of your closet and take a look at the numbers. It may only be an "extra few pounds", but it could be an extra few years off your longevity.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

"Epigenetics Diet" Incorporates Old Wisdom

Hey, guess what? It turns out broccoli is good for you. Wouldn't you know it, your mom and some of the healthiest people in the world were right. But now, a diet known as the "epigenetics diet" is gaining some solid ground based on some evidence and lots of allegations that it can fend off cancer.

The principle of epigenetics is that, while your genetic endowment is pre-determined, the environment influences the expression and mutation of your genes and shapes the eventual health and disease outcomes that you will face. For example, a person might be at a higher risk of heart disease or cancer based on their genes, but if they are careful with their diet and pay attention to staying regularly active, they may never be plagued by these ailments, or vice versa. Proponents of the epigenetics diet suggest that following such an eating plan may even help reverse some genetic damage that may have occurred.

The epigenetics diet suggests that people consume more foods that are high in antioxidants including green tea, grapes, turmeric, garlic and of course - broccoli, in addition to foods higher in folic acid such as leafy greens, beans and peas, sunflower seeds, eggs, peanuts, whole grains and even fortified breakfast cereals. In any case, no matter what you want to call it, a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds, healthy fats and lean protein. If you paid close attention, you'd realize this pretty much sums up the Mediterranean Diet or even Canada's Food Guide in a nutshell!

So basically, no matter how much people want to re-brand this way of eating, the underlying message is crystal clear: there's really no better way to live than to eat healthy, natural foods!

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Sweet Sin

Sweet Sin
Sarah Reid, RHNC

North Americans eat a staggering amount of sugar. While that fact alone shouldn’t surprise you, the amount itself might – just over 1/3 cup of the sweet stuff gets into our systems each day, and that’s not just what’s being stirred into your morning coffee. 46% is found in drinks, like pop, which can have over 3 tbsp of sweetener in a 355mL can, and many fruit juices containing anything from agave to High Fructose Corn Syrup. In the food world, sugar is added to almost everything as a flavour enhancer. Even though they’re anything but sweet, canned soups, soy sauce and even pre-made burger patties are laced with sugar in one of it’s many forms. It’s not made well known to the public, though, as salt in these items is far easier to modify – by adding sugar! How often do we see “lower sodium” on their labels rather than “reduced sugar”? Looking at the highly promoted “reduced sodium” variety of a popular brand’s condensed tomato soup, it has 2 grams more per 1-cup serving – 14 grams overall. Alcohol is another culprit that may lurk in the shadows. Not only does alcohol contain sugar as part of it’s fermentation process, studies show that the compounds in the drink cause hunger signals at a faster and more concentrated rate than either pop or juice, and inhibit fat – to – energy conversion in the body as well.
Even if you’re looking for sugar on the label, you’re unlikely to find much if your eyes are scanning for “white” or “granulated”.  Here are just some of sugar’s pseudonyms used in processed foods regularly lining our shelves:
Agave nectar
Barley malt
Maple syrup
High fructose corn syrup
Beet sugar
Brown sugar
Cane sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Crystallized cane juice
Evaporated cane juice
Invert sugar
Raw sugar
Fruit juice concentrate

See how hard it can be to eschew the substance completely?
We have become addicted to the simple taste of sweetness without any pronounced flavour, and it is showing in our health and on our hips. Though almost completely nutrient deficient, sugar – any sugar – is an incredible source of two things: calories and simple carbohydrates. The amount of sugar – 600 teaspoons or 12 ½ cups – the average person eats in just 30 days contains 9000 calories! That means that to burn that extra energy, a 150-lb woman would have to power walk, with a loaded grocery cart or stroller, for 30 hours. I don’t know about you, but I don’t have 30 extra hours on hand to dedicate to aerobic exercise. Even if I was to attend meetings or school for over 70 hours, I wouldn’t be able to burn off a month of sugar.
While our society cannot completely avoid sugar and it’s twins, the battle of the “sugar bulge” starts with cutting out the obvious sources of the sweetener. Slash handfuls of candy, corn-syrupy fruit juice and soda, watch the lattes and stop adding spoonfuls to anything and everything. If you’re worried about crashing to a sugarless horror, start slow – a teaspoon or can of pop a day – and when you do choose to sweeten, pick ingredients with a bit more to them than calories. Maple syrup and molasses both contain minerals such as iron, and honey is an antibiotic agent that’s twice as sweet as sucrose and more flavourful. Eventually, the ability to appreciate food for it’s taste and not it’s hidden additives will take over, and you’ll wonder what you ever did before.

Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

J Lo Shares Her Post-Baby Body Struggles

With so many young celebrities having babies left and right, then immediately bouncing back to their pre-baby bodies (or better), non-famous new moms in the real world may have feel undue pressure to do the same for themselves. Realistically, however, most new moms simply don't have the time to devote to regular exercise or stressing over burning calories. In addition, following a structured diet is difficult with the amount of organization and planing that can be involved, not to mention worries about potentially harming the new baby if the "wrong" foods are consumed, or one's calories are too low when breastfeeding. Thankfully, one new celebrity mom has broken the mold and opened up about her "regular mom" struggles to maintain a fit physique post-baby.

Jennifer Lopez has always been known for her fit physique, probably more so than for her acting or singing abilities. She started off as a dancer, and has continued to keep her body in shape by regularly exercising. But after the birth of her twin babies who are now 3 years old, Jennifer says her body has never been the same. Well, maybe her body does look the same, but she says she has to work much harder to maintain her physique, meaning that her metabolism has changed following her pregnancy. This is a common phenomenon and is especially predominant in moms in their 30s or older.

Jennifer says she has never been a big eater, so she's lucky in that respect, but she also misses her naturally "concave" stomach, which she never had to pay attention to maintaining in the past. Nowadays, things have changed, and she's really had to amp up her game, focus on different exercises and pay more attention to what she eats. Interesting - these sound like the struggles of a normal person!

Even though I'm sure she has more help (and more access to help) than most people could ever dream of, J Lo's struggles highlight the fact that everyone's body is different and things do change following pregnancy. In real life, looking like a celebrity is impossible enough, not to mention adding a new baby into the mix! As any new mom can attest, the health and safety of the baby is of the utmost importance, so sometimes having a concave stomach is just not on the agenda for a little while and it's nothing to be disappointed over!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Skip the Coffee with a Fast Food Breakfast

For a fast food breakfast, it used to be that you either had some sort of baked good and a coffee on the run, or you headed to McDonalds for eggs on the go. Sure, they had coffee too, but it wasn't very good. Now, if you're looking for breakfast in a hurry, you've got a multitude of options, all serving complete meals paired with a decent cup of coffee. But be warned: if this sounds like your source of morning fuel and a fruit cup just won't cut it, you might consider skipping the coffee. Here's why.

According to a new study from the University of Guelph, pairing a cup of Joe with a high-fat breakfast can cause your blood sugar levels to spike, nearly as high as what is seen in individuals at risk for type 2 diabetes. Actually, the greasy breakfast on it's own is enough to do this, but mixing in caffeine nearly doubles the effect!

According to the researchers, consuming a slew of saturated fats makes it difficult for the body to clear sugar from the blood, and caffeine makes it even harder, potentially making the effect last for hours. According to one of the researchers, "Having sugar remain in our blood for long periods is unhealthy because it can take a toll on our organs,".

Not only does this study stress the need for people who are at risk of or live with diabetes to avoid both high-fat foods and limit their caffeine, it also highlights the fact that this combination is dangerous for anyone! Now there's something to ponder.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Sucker Punch Stars Cheat on their Strict Diets

It is pretty much the golden rule that the stricter a diet is, the faster a person is going to give it the boot. Diets that are depriving are way more likely to be ditched, not only because they're so hard on the body, they also result in some serious psychological issues! It's hard enough for the average human being to stick to a strict diet and exercise regimen, but just imagine what it must be like to crank the stress factor up to max while filming a movie. Not surprisingly, just like anyone else, even movie stars cheat on their diets.

Sucker Punch, a dark action fantasy film, definitely isn't lacking when it comes to pretty (but tough as nails) chicks who will kick your butt. The cast includes Vanessa Hudgens (of High School Musical fame), Emily Browning, Bright Star's Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone, Jamie Chung and Carla Gugino, who can all attest to being put through the paces for their roles.

After enduring military and martial arts training for a reported four and a half hours daily, plus following strict, high-protein diets in order to build muscle mass and be in amazing shape, all in the British cold, the girls have confessed to turning to each other for support, indulging in cake as their guilty pleasure. According to Australian actress Emily Browning, "Wednesday nights we would all go out and eat cakes together, or just have a cheat night and get together."

Despite the mentally and physically strenuous training the girls endured, they realized that a clean diet was indeed the key to sustaining their high performance activities. According to Jenna Malone, "They were training us to be high performance athletes," adding "You can’t keep up the level of workload that we were enduring on Cheetos and wine coolers. I mean, it’s physically impossible and it was part of the challenge."

Ultimately, training at such a high level is not a feat that many people can accomplish. The bottom line is that a proper, healthy diet is the key to supporting a strong athletic performance, but nobody can or should resist the odd treat here and there!