Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well

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Guest Blogger : Belly Fat and Your Risk of Chronic Disease

Watch Your WaistDo you have more than an inch to pinch? When you look down, have the tips of your toes disappeared? If so, you might want to measure your belly fat, which can increase your risk for chronic disease.

According to an article by Mayo Clinic staff; it is common for “belly fat,” also known as visceral fat, to appear after menopause due to low levels of estrogen. It is estrogen that influences where we store fat in our body. So let’s measure our risk! Determine your waist circumference by locating the top of your hip bones. Use a measuring tape from this point to pull snug, but not so much to compress your skin. Run the tape around your middle; take your final measurement when you exhale.

Now that we’ve measured our “belly fat,” let’s discuss why it may not “just be a cosmetic concern.” You should know that “belly fat” can increase inflammation and produce hormones that raise blood pressure, negatively change the balance of good (HDL) to bad (LDL) cholesterol and promote insulin resistance, a risk factor for developing diabetes.

As a registered dietitian, I encourage people to improve their health through good nutrition and physical activity. Shed those extra pounds to avoid complications associated with “belly fat” and the “bad stuff” it creates. Eat foods that help you feel full, such as whole grains and high fiber foods like peas, dried beans and lentils. To expand your antioxidant arsenal without adding extra calories from fat, enjoy fruit and non-starchy vegetables. Great choices are berries, cherries, apples, carrots, tomatoes and dark green, leafy vegetables!

We all need to consider the effect chronic disease has on our body, but people with a genetic risk for diabetes also need to worry about the damage high blood sugars can cause to the eyes, kidneys and feet. A decrease in “belly fat” may help to reduce these effects.Woman on Exercise Machine

Other concerns for those with diabetes
In addition to a healthy diet, be as physically active as possible. In general most of us should be at least moderately active. Moderate activity is defined as being physically active at least 150 minutes per week. This level of activity could be met by walking 30 minutes, 5 days a week.

Talk to your physician about the importance of maintaining adequate vitamin D levels. Low vitamin D is associated with a 30% to 50% increased risk for breast cancer. Remember, some of our best defense can be found in “super foods” such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, cranberries and green tea. You could also add ground flaxseed to your cereal or have a moderate amount (1-2 servings a day) of soy or tofu. Did you know certain brands of mushrooms are a great source for vitamin D?

Please know, current literature is still mixed about the impact of plant estrogens in people with hormonally sensitive cancer of the breast, ovaries or prostate. Speak with your physician about this topic and practice caution with the use of phytoestrogen supplements, soy powders and capsules, as they could be linked to recurrence of cancer. As with all medical nutrition recommendations, individualization is essential. Speak with a registered dietitian today if you have more questions about healthy eating for disease prevention.

Schleder, Missy RD

Melissa S. Schleder
Registered Dietitian, Springfield Clinic Endocrinology
Resources: ; ;; ;

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Cholesterol Month – Part 1

September is one of my favorite months. It marks the beginning of fall, campfires, football season and hoodies. It also happens to be National Cholesterol Education Month. Cholesterol was a word that I knew at an early age. Grandma was always yelling out across the farm, “Karl, did you take your cholesterol pills?” As a child, I believed that cholesterol was a problem that only old people had. Today, we now know this is not the case. Thanks to the Bogalusa Heart Study,  we have learned that children as young as 5 can begin developing risk factors for heart disease. This study and others like it show how important it is to adopt healthy lifestyles in childhood.

It’s important to know your numbers. Everyone over the age of 20 should have their cholesterol levels checked at least every 5 years. This is an important matter because one does not feel symptoms of high cholesterol. When there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it begins to build up on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this build-up can lead to a hardening of the arterial walls which can slow down blood flow to the heart or even form a blockage. Lowering your cholesterol can help lessen the risk for developing heart disease.

cholesterol numbers

The three most important factors that you can control to help lower your cholesterol levels are: DIET, PHYSICAL ACTIVITY and WEIGHT.

Check back on Monday, Sept. 9 for part 2 of the Cholesterol Month Blog series where we discuss diet in regards to cholesterol management.

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Cancer Nutrition Series: Dealing with Mucositis (Sore Mouth)

Cancer and its treatment can lead to a variety of side effects and discomforts. But, through proper nutrition, these effects can be alleviated. Amanda Figge, MS, RD, LDN, registered dietitian with Springfield Clinic, discusses the ways to eat properly while dealing with cancer.

In this video, Amanda discusses eating with mucositis, or mouth sores resulting from cancer treatment.

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Sleep: Good for the Mind, Body and Soul

Sweet dreamsSleep has long been thought to be a restorative process, essential to all daily body and brain functions. We all need sleep—it rejuvenates the thought, healing, and bodily processes.

“Good sleep hygiene,” refers to steps that can lead us to a healthy sleep life. Bedtime “rituals” can enhance a good sleep experience and add to one’s own health and well-being.

1.   Don’t go to bed unless you
are sleepy. If you are not sleepy, then do something else—read a book, listen to soft music or browse a magazine. Find something relaxing, but not stimulating, to take your mind off worries. This will relax your body and distract your mind.

2.   If you are not asleep in 20 minutes, then get out of bed. Go to another room. Your bedroom should be where you go to sleep, it is not a place to lie awake bored. Once you feel tired then go back to the bedroom to sleep.

3.   Don’t stare at the clock. Again, use your internal clock to gauge time. Watching the clock can increase frustration.

4.   Set an alarm to get up at the same time every morning and follow up at the same time even on time off.

5.   Avoid taking naps if you can. Only nap if it has always been part of your lifestyle. If you do nap, keep it less than an hour.

6.   Keep a regular schedule to keep your inner clock running smoothly.

7.   Do not consume caffeine six hours prior to bedtime.

8.   Do not go to bed hungry, but also do not consume a “heavy” meal prior to bed. Milk and turkey products do contain some elements that our conducive to sleep.

9.   Do not perform strenuous activities/exercise four to six hours prior to bed.

10. Create a comfortable sleep environment (cool is better than hot). Keep your room as dark as possible and quiet. Less noise means more sleep. Perhaps, use a fan or soothing music.

11. Do not use your bedroom for work activities. The bedroom should be a stress free zone.

12. Avoid sleeping pills, or use cautiously. Most doctors do not prescribe for more than a period of three weeks. Do not use alcohol while taking sleeping pills.sleep_iStock_000013521696Large

Remember: Sleep does a body GOOD!
For more information about better sleep, visit:

Written By: Sheila Leggett RRT, RPSGT, RST, Springfield Clinic Sleep Disorders Center Manager



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