Something to Chew On

A Guide to Eating Right and Living Well


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Cholesterol Month – Part 2

Diet:

  • Limit saturated and trans fats.
    • Saturated and trans fats are found in fatty or fried meats such as: bacon, sausage, hotdogs, bologna, pepperoni, salami, poultry skin, fried chicken, fried pork tenderloin and fried fish.salmonheart
    • They are also found in whole milk products, high-fat cheese, ice cream, butter, cream, margarine and lard.
    • Foods made with hydrogenated oils (pizza and other packaged food items), candy bars, crackers, chips, pastries, doughnuts and muffins are additional ways these bad fats can be found in our diets.
    • Take Away Message: Try to avoid/limit red meat, fried foods, processed pastry/bakery items and dairy products made with whole milk.
  • Limit total amount of fat that you eat (good and bad) to 25%-35% of the total calories you eat.
    • Even if you’re not a calorie-counting whiz, the simplest way to accomplish this is to stick to heart-healthy fat sources such as: fish, nuts, seeds, peanut butter, avocados and olive oil and limit/avoid the sources of unhealthy fats.
    • A small popcorn from the movie theater contains 42 grams of fat, which would be 25% of total calories for a person following a 1500 calorie diet. Here’s an example of a healthier way to incorporate fat into the diet: Try adding ½ medium avocado (15 g) with breakfast, 1 Tbsp of peanut butter (8.5 g) with a snack and 4 oz of salmon (12 g) with dinner to create nutritious, well-balanced meals.
    • Become more familiar with reading food labels  and utilizing online resources for finding fat content of foods. A great website is www.calorieking.com for finding nutritional information on foods and menu items. This is very useful when dining out or ordering in! Pizza is a very common source of unhealthy fats in our diet. Two slices of pepperoni pizza plus garlic dipping sauce contains 37 grams of fat.
  • Increase Omega-3 fatty acid intake.
    • This recommendation goes right along with choosing healthier sources of fats in one’s diet. The benefits of omega-3 fats go well beyond heart health. They can also help with reducing inflammation and supporting eye and brain health.
    • Omega-3 fats, specifically Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) are found in canola, soybean and flaxseed oil.
    • The most potent sources of omega-3 fats include salmon, albacore tuna, mackerel and sardines (EPA and DHA sources).
    • Ground flaxseed and walnuts (ALA) are two wonderful ways to incorporate omega-3 fats into your diet, especially if you are not a fan of fish.
    • The American Heart Association recommends that people with heart disease get 1 gm of omega-3 fatty acids from a combination of EPA and DHA per day. Consult with your physician before adding a fish oil supplement into your regimen as this may have possible interactions with other medications.
  • Increase dietary fiber intake to at least 20-30 grams per day.
    • Fiber is Mother Nature’s cholesterol lowering medication. While total fiber is very important, try to include sources of soluble fiber into your daily intake.
    • Soluble fiber is found in oats, oat bran, kidney beans, broccoli, ground flaxseed, apples, bananas and potatoes with the skin. It is also added in fortified fiber products such as Fiber One and Fiber Plus cereals and snack bars.
    • Fiber is only found in plant-based foods; fruits, vegetables, nuts/seeds, beans/legumes and whole grains. When choosing a grain (pasta, bread, cereal), make sure it is made with 100% whole wheat or whole grain. Barley, quinoa and brown rice make great choices too. Focus on filling ½ your plate with fruits and/or vegetables. Add nuts/seeds to salads, cereals or simply enjoy them by themselves.

Patients often ask me, “But Amanda, I don’t eat fried foods and I never eat red meat; why do I have high cholesterol?” In many cases, it’s not a matter of consuming too much of the bad stuff, it’s that you may not be consuming enough of the good stuff, specifically the omega-3 fatty acids and enough fiber.

Read part one of Cholesterol Month here!cholesterol colors


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When In Rome: The Mediterranean Diet

While skipping off to the coasts of Greece and Italy may seem like a fantastic idea, a less expensive option may be to bring the Mediterranean style of eating into your home. Research consistently shows that following the Mediterranean diet can help reduce one’s risk for developing heart disease, diabetes and possibly degenerative cognitive disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.med pyramid

Principles of the Mediterranean diet include:

  • Consumption of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish, chicken and eggs, beans and nuts, olive oil and small amounts of dairy.
  • Regular daily physical activity.
  • Family meal times.
  • Focus on plant foods and minimal consumption of red meat and processed foods and beverages.
  • Increased use of herbs and spices, not condiments to flavor foods.
  • Diet low in saturated fat with olive oil as the main fat source.

Foods to include on your next grocery list:

Vegetables

  • Tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Artichokes
  • Red/green peppers
  • Mushrooms
  • Fresh green beans
  • Eggplant
  • Zucchini
  • Mustard/collard greens
  • Squash
  • Olives
  • Onions
  • Sweet potatoes

Fruits

  • Apples
  • Bananas
  • Melons
  • Blueberries
  • Strawberries
  • Raspberries
  • Pomegranate
  • Peaches
  • Plums
  • Oranges
  • Kiwi

Fish/Poultry/Dairy

  • Salmon
  • Shrimp
  • Scallops
  • Tuna
  • Tilapia
  • Chicken
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt

Beans

  • Chickpeas
  • Hummus
  • White, Black, Pinto Beans
  • Lentils

Nuts/Seeds

  • Walnuts
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Ground Flaxseed
  • Pine Nuts

Grains

  • Oatmeal
  • Quinoa
  • Bulgur
  • Barley
  • Wild/Jasmine/Brown Rice
  • Couscous
  • Whole Wheat Pasta

Healthy Oils/Fats

  • Olive oil
  • Avocados

Herbs/Spices

  • Garlic
  • Basil
  • Oregano
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
  • Mint
  • Coriander
  • Cumin

While this is not an all-inclusive lists of foods found in the Mediterranean diet, it can be a great place to start.

What are the pros for following the Mediterranean diet?

  • Increased consumption of omega-3 fatty acids. Healthy fats containing omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to help reduce LDL (the bad) cholesterol levels, help prevent degenerative eye disorders and possibly reduce inflammation.
  • Increased fruit and vegetable consumption. Most people miss the mark for consuming 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Incorporating Mediterranean recipes into your meals can help you easily reach that goal.
  • Limited red meat consumption and dairy consumption. Red meat and high-fat dairy products are some of the highest sources of saturated fats. Diets high in saturated fats have been linked to an increased risk of heart disease.
  • Family meal times. Research shows that families who eat together consume more fiber, calcium, iron and Vitamins B6, B12, C and E and consume less sodium and added sugars. Children and adolescents who share family meal times are more likely to be in a normal weight range and have healthier eating patterns.

The potential cons?

  • Meal planning. Most recipes require fresh ingredients that take to time to be chopped, cooked and prepared. However, planning ahead can help you utilize preparation and cooking time more efficiently.
  • Cost. Some items such as salmon, seafood and nuts can be more costly compared to other proteins.
  • Kid-friendliness. Consuming more natural flavors may take time to adjust to for young kids. Keep in mind that many children with unhealthy BMIs often consume too many processed food items and sugary-sweetened beverages.

Whether you take the Mediterranean diet on full-storm or simply incorporate a few Mediterranean-style meals into your week, consuming minimally processed foods is a great habit for a healthy lifestyle.


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Seeing Is Believing: Eye Health

September, 1993. I remember the day very distinctly. I received a letter from the school nurse and was instructed to deliver it to my mom as soon as I got home. The curious cat that I was, I opened the letter on the school bus and read those dreadful words every elementary student fears: I needed glasses. Rather than follow the nurse’s orders, I took matters into my own hands. I hid the letter underneath my bed where the secret stayed with me for an entire year. I was not so lucky the next year, because, apparently, they began mailing those letters out.

Genetics play a role in our fate when it comes to needing glasses, but did you know that you can possibly decrease your risk for some vision problems by consuming a diet packed with “healthy eye” nutrients? A growing body of research suggests that specific nutrients in our diet can help protect our eyes.

Improve your vision with a healthy diet.

Improve your vision with a healthy diet.

The two most common sight-depriving disorders include cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. Scientists have been working hard at analyzing the differences in the diets of individuals who develop these disorders versus those that do not. High intakes of antioxidants from vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin appear to reduce the risk of developing vision impairment problems later in life.

A cataract is characterized by a clouding of the eye that occurs when components of our lens are damaged by free radicals and UV light. Antioxidants are the nutrients in foods that can help prevent free radicals from damaging the proteins in our eyes. Antioxidants, such as lutein and zeaxanthin, have been found in high concentrations in the macula portion of the eye. Scientists believe that they help protect our eyes by absorbing blue light and neutralizing free radicals. Interestingly, research has found that people with macular degeneration typically consume lower levels of these antioxidants which supports the theory of these nutrients’ protective role against age-related macular degeneration. A recent study in the Journal of Nutrition supports the protective benefits of omega-3 fatty acids on age-related macular degeneration.

I spy with my little eye—some nutritious foods to include in your diet!

Foods containing lutein and zeaxanthin:

You are not alone.

You are not alone.

  • Kale, spinach and other dark leafy greens
  • Broccoli
  • Corn
  • Carrots
  • Eggs

Foods containing vitamin C:

  • Bell peppers (especially red)
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli
  • Oranges
  • Tomatoes
  • Dark leafy green vegetables

Foods containing vitamin E:

  • Almonds
  • Whole grain Total cereal
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Avocados
  • Spinach

Foods containing omega-3 fatty acids:

  • Salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna
  • Walnuts
  • Ground flaxseed

There are countless ways to add these nutrient-rich foods to your meals. Here are a few examples:

  • Sliced avocados and tomatoes on top of one whole egg
  • Sliced strawberries in Total cereal
  • Spinach salad with almonds and orange slices
  • Homemade vegetable soup with kale, carrots, corn and potatoes
  • Sauté bell peppers, onions and spinach
  • Add ground flaxseed to a bowl of oatmeal
  • Use walnuts instead of croutons for salads

Remember, it is the synergy of all these antioxidants working together with other nutrient properties of food that provide the protective benefits. Mega-dosing specific vitamins/minerals may cause more harm than good. For example, individuals on coumadin therapy should not take vitamin E supplements. Always consult with your primary care physician before taking a new supplement.


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Let’s Get the Flax Facts!

When hearing the word omega-3 fatty acids, most people think of salmon, or maybe walnuts. Today, I wanted to introduce you to another heart-healthy food that contains omega-3 fatty acids—flaxseed. I know what you’re thinking: what is flaxseed, and how do I eat it?

Flaxseed is one of many nutritional powerhouse foods, meaning it is full of healthy nutrients, including fiber, antioxidants, protein and omega-3 fatty acids (specifically alpha-linolenic acid or ALA). ALA is a polyunsaturated fat that is needed in our diets. Replacing bad fats (saturated and trans-fats) with the good fats (mono- and poly-unsaturated fats) can help lower the risk for chronic diseases like heart disease, stroke and cancer, as well as lower the LDL (bad) cholesterol. Flax is a source of lignans which are antioxidants that may reduce the activity of cell-damaging free radicals. One tablespoon of milled flax contains about 3 grams of fiber (both soluble and insoluble). Fiber from flax can help one feel fuller longer, help reduce cholesterol and improve colon and digestive health. Flax is also a great source of nutrients for vegetarians and a great way to obtain omega-3 fatty acids for people with fish allergies.

You can find flaxseed at your local grocery store. I have found it in the cereal aisle, next to the oatmeal or in the gluten-free section. Remember to refrigerate the flaxseed once opened.  Aim for an intake of 1-2 tablespoons of flaxseed per day. The best way to buy it is “milled”. We cannot absorb all the healthy nutrients flax has to offer unless it’s in the ground/milled form. You can grind whole flax seeds on your own using a coffee grinder, food processor or blender.

Here are some ideas for adding flax into your diet. Consuming it with other foods adds a light nutty flavor to your dishes:

  • Mix flax in with your yogurt
  • Add it to breakfast cereal or oatmeal
  • Mix in with fruit smoothies
  • Sprinkle into soups/stews/sauces

Try these other flax-friendly recipes!

For kids:

  • Add to applesauce
  • Sprinkle a thin layer between peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
  • Add to beans/chili after cooking
  • Mix in with mashed potatoes (or mashed cauliflower) after cooking

How do you add flax into your diet?

For more ideas, recipes and information about flax please visit: www.healthyflax.com.

Eat right, move more and live life to the flax!

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