Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dangerous Trans Fats

Trans fats are fats that remain hard at room temperature. These fats are formed when vegetable oils are heated at high temperatures in the presence of hydrogen. That is why they are called hydrogenated fats.

Trans fats are considered the most dangerous fats because they can thicken the blood, combine with calcium and cholesterol to form a thick, waxy substance that sticks to the walls of the blood vessels and make it hard for blood to flow through the arteries.

When blood flow is impeded, it means that oxygen-rich blood cannot get to the heart, lungs and blood vessels the way it should. This could lead to all kinds of problems involving those vital organs.

It means that the heart has to work harder, breathing could become difficult, and the brain could become foggy. Your blood pressure could also be affected as plaque builds up in the arteries, causing stiffening and requiring more pressure for the blood to flow through.

If the problem is serious enough, you could have a heart attack or a stroke. In many cases, a stroke happens when small pieces of plaque break away from the walls of the blood vessels and enters the circulation. At some point, a clot may form. This clot can then clog the artery and cut off the lifeblood from reaching the heart or brain. 

Lack of blood flow and oxygen to the heart or brain can result in a stroke. If not treated immediately, a stroke can be fatal.
Even a small amount of trans fat can be bad for you. That is why the government has set a limit of zero trans fat for humans.

However, food manufacturers can put anything under .5 grams of trans fat per serving in food without having to list the amount on food labels. Therefore, you have to know which foods might have some level of trans fat, even if it is not listed on the nutrition panel.

If the nutrition panel says zero (0), you will need to read the ingredients listing to see what types of fat might have been used in the manufacture of a particular product. If you see words like margarine, shortening, hydrogenated fat, hydrogenated vegetable oil, partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, on the package, these are clues that the product is made with trans fat. Do your best to avoid such products.

Your next step: Talk to a registered dietitian.

Lactose Intolerance


If you have lactose intolerance it means that you cannot digest lactose, which is the sugar that is found in milk. This happens when your body does not produce lactase, an enzyme that is needed to break down the lactose or milk sugar.

How Do You Know If You Have Lactose Intolerance?

You may be lactose intolerant if you develop stomach symptoms within a few minutes to a couple of hours after consuming milk or other foods made with milk. The symptoms may be quite mild in some people, moderate in others and severe in the worse cases.

Symptoms of Lactose Intolerance

If you have any of the following symptoms after consuming milk or milk products, you may have lactose intolerance:
  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea

What Should You Do If You Have Lactose Intolerance?
If your symptoms are mild, you might be able to consume a small amount of milk or milk product. Some people who are lactose intolerant are able to consume cheeses and yogurt without experiencing any serious symptoms, even if they cannot tolerate regular milk. You should pay attention to the signals in your own body and avoid those things that trigger a reaction. Always consult with your doctor to rule out any more serious medical condition.

Some supermarkets carry lactose-free or lactose-reduced milk. You might consider trying one of these if you are concerned about getting enough calcium. You can also get calcium from soy milk and other non-milk foods that have been fortified with calcium. 

Lactase enzyme, sold as an over-the-counter product is another option. This enzyme helps to digest the sugar in milk, making it easier for you to consume milk and milk products without the symptoms of lactose intolerance.

What Are Some Non-Dairy Foods That Contain a Good Bit of Calcium?

There are not many foods that provide calcium in amounts close to what you would get from milk, cheese, yogurt or other dairy products. However, there are a few foods that might help to fill the gap.

Here is a short list:

Rhubarb, frozen ....................... 348 mg per cup, cooked
Sardines with bone .................. 325 mg per 3 oz serving
Spinach, frozen ........................ 291 mg per cup, cooked
Salmon, canned, with bone ...... 181 mg per 3 oz serving
Soy milk, unfortified .................. 61 mg per cup
Orange ....................................... 52 mg per medium orange
Broccoli, raw ............................. 41 mg per cup
Pinto beans, cooked ................... 80 mg per cup
In comparison, milk would provide between 250 and 285 mg calcium per cup; Swiss cheese 224 mg per oz; and cottage cheese 87 mg per half-cup.


If you have lactose intolerance, talk to a registered dietitian to find ways of incorporating more calcium-rich foods in your diet. She can help you to get the calcium you from dairy foods that you can tolerate along with other calcium-rich, non-dairy foods while eliminating those dairy foods that you cannot tolerate.


MyPyramid - The Food Guide Pyramid Made Simple


MyPyramid is a simple guide, based on the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, that is designed to help you plan balanced meals and snacks. MyPyramid is divided into 5 parts. Each part represents one of five basic food groups. By choosing foods from each of these groups and eating the recommended portions everyday, you will be able to get most or all of the nutrients that you need for optimum health.

The Five Basic Food Groups

Here are the five basic food groups from MyPyramid along with the recommended intake for each group.

Grains. Choose from a variety of breads, cereals, crackers, rice and pasta. Make at least half of your daily intake whole grains. 1 serving of grain is about 1 slice of bread, 1 cup breakfast cereal or 1/2 cup of cooked rice, cereal or pasta. Actual portions may vary, particularly with breakfast cereals. Eat 6 servings per day.

Vegetables. Choose from dark leafy greens, such as spinach, kale and collard greens, beets, carrots, sweet potatoes, cabbage, asparagus, tomatoes, green beans, and the wide range of other vegetables available to you. Eat 2-1/2 cups per day.

Fruits. Choose from apples, mangoes, papaya, pomegranate, pears, peaches, cantaloupe, grapes, strawberries, pineapple, blueberries, kiwi, watermelon and many others. Eat 2 cups per day.

Milk and other dairy (or calcium-rich substitutes). Choose reduced fat milk, cheese, yogurt and/or other milk-based products. If you are unable to use dairy, consider soy milk and other foods fortified with calcium. Drink 3 cups per day. (2 cups for children ages 2 to 8)

Meat, fish, poultry and other protein-rich foods. Choose lean meat, poultry and fish. Also, dried beans and peas, nuts and seeds. Eat 5-1/2 ounces per day.

Note: Portions shown and recommended intakes are based a 2000-calorie diet for adults. You will need to make adjustments for young children. Additionally, if you are trying to lose weight (or gain), you will also need to adjust your intake accordingly. Need help? Talk to a registered dietitian.


MyPyramid incorporates the guidelines outlined in the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which include staying physically active, keeping within calorie limits and limiting the amount of fats, added sugars and salt (sodium) that you consume. Take these steps to a healthier you, starting right now.

Resources - Inside the Pyramid

Dietary Guidelines for Americans: Current Guidelines - 2005 Dietary Guidelines

Monday, November 29, 2010

Salt and High Blood Pressure

If you have high blood pressure, your doctor may have told you to “watch the salt.” In essence, this means to eat less salt. For some people, it could mean eating a lot less commercially processed foods, which tend to be high in sodium.

Recommended Intake
According to the US Government, American adults should consume 2300 milligrams of sodium daily. That is equivalent to roughly one teaspoon of salt. People with high blood pressure are generally advised to keep their sodium intake even lower, to about 1500 milligrams. But it is easy to consume a lot more sodium and not even know it. That is because salt and other sodium containing products are widely used in cooking and preserving food.

Dining Out
Fast food places and other restaurants are notorious for the high levels of sodium in most of the foods they serve. That makes it very difficult to control your salt intake when dining out. Thus, your best bet is to prepare your own meals and snacks from scratch.

You will need to read the labels on packaged foods to be sure that you are not getting too much sodium. The ingredients list will list salt along with any other sodium-containing compound in the food. 

The Nutrition Panel is more specific. It tells how much sodium is in each serving of the food and shows the Daily Value (DV) for specific nutrients - in this case, sodium, This DV is given as a percent of the total recommended intake.

Tracking Your Intake
You can keep track of your total sodium intake by paying attention to the milligrams of sodium per serving or to the percentage shown per serving. If the package contains 4 servings, you will need to multiply the percent sodium per person by 4 to get the total percentage of the DV you will be getting if you eat the entire package. The same goes for calculating the total milligrams of sodium. A good rule of thumb is to avoid foods that contain more than 5 to 7 percent of the DV per serving.

Other Related Health Issues
There are many other things besides sodium that may cause you to develop high blood pressure, including obesity, stress, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and certain prescription drugs. Unfortunately, not everyone will have success by merely cutting back on the salt. If non-drug strategies do not work, you doctor is likely to put you on prescription drugs.  

If you have high blood pressure, pay attention to what you eat. Keeping your salt intake to about 1500 milligrams of sodium per day might help, particularly if you are salt-sensitive. For others, 2300 milligrams of sodium should be adequate.

7 Helpful Tips for Losing Weight During the Holiday Season

You might think that losing weight during the holiday season means that you can't eat and enjoy the amazing variety of foods that make the holidays so delightful. In fact, you can enjoy the same holiday treats that everyone else does, but not without some restrictions.

Understanding Your Relationship With Food
First of all, if you are to succeed at losing weight during the holiday season, you have to understand your relationship with food. If you know that you cannot have just one piece of chocolate fudge brownie, don’t challenge your taste buds; you are likely to lose the challenge. Instead, consider treating yourself to another of your favorite treats, but make it one that will not cause you to overeat.

Create a List
If you are overweight, you should have a sense of which foods are most likely to cause you to gain weight. Make a list of these foods. Next to these 'challenging' foods, ext to each of those foods, write down one or two foods that you might enjoy as a healthy alternative. Use this list when you go shopping, in planning family meals and snacks, and when attending your office party or other social event.

Be Mindful of What You're Eating
You have to pay attention to what you are eating. If you are not paying attention you could end up eating a lot more than you plan to. This is particularly true if alcohol is served or if there is an endless flow of hors de oeuvres being catered to the crowd.

Portion Control
If you can have a small bite of any holiday treat and not eat until you are stuffed, you will probably do okay. But if you can’t resist all of the high-calories snacks you may encounter, you're hardly likely to to lose the weight. In fact, you can easily gain a lot.

Skip the Empty Calories
Keep in mind that empty calories abound over the holidays. These take the form of candies, soft drinks and other foods that are essentially a load of calories from sugar, unhealthy fats. Sodas and candy are the biggest threats during the holidays. You would be wise to eliminate these foods if you can, or consume only small amounts and on rare occasion.

Go Easy on the Alcohol
Alcoholic drinks can cause you to lose your resolve. As a result, you could end up eating a lot more than you plan to. Stay away from the bar. If alcoholic drinks are being catered, learn to say, "No Thank You."

You might find it difficult to lose weight during the holidays. But it is worth a try. Even if you don't lose the weight, by paying attention to your diet you may be able to avoid runaway weight gain and related health problems.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Fiber Up Your Diet

Fiber is the tough part of plant foods that cannot be digested and absorbed. Although fiber cannot be absorbed into your bloodstream, it is very important to your health. The work is initiated in your digestive tract, but has wide ranging impact on your total health, including bowel health, prevention of constipation, heart health, cholesterol, blood sugar, hunger and satiety, weight management and much more.

Types of Fiber
There are two basic types of fiber, soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber can be dissolved in water to form a gel, while insoluble fiber does not dissolve in water. Soluble fiber binds waste in the gut, holding it together as a soft mass, while insoluble fiber helps to stimulate the action of the intestines to push the waste along, into the colon and out.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The recommended intake of fiber is 25 grams daily for women and 35 grams for men. Unfortunately, many people in the US are not getting nearly enough. This is the result of eating large amounts of highly processed foods from which the fiber has been removed. 

Food Sources of Fiber
You need to eat a variety of plant foods to get the recommended intake of fiber. Keep in mind that number of servings, portion sizes, method of preparation, waste (such as peeling fruit), and straining (as in making juice), will determine  the actual amount of fiber that you get each day. As a general rule, you should choose foods as close to their natural state as possible and eat less of those with added sugars or made from refined, white flour products. Here is a short list of moderate to high fiber foods that you can choose from.
  • Whole grain breads and cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Dried beans or peas
  • Nuts and seeds

Mix It Up
You can mix and match foods to get the fiber you need. Keep in mind that while fruits are naturally high in fiber, fruit juice is not, as the fiber is removed in juicing. So, go for the whole fruit. Also, remember to drink plenty of water. 

Eating a diet that is rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, dried beans, peas, nuts and seeds will help you to get the fiber you need for total health.

Monday, November 15, 2010

5 Most Popular Blogs on Dr. Carter's Nutrition Journal

Thank you for visiting Dr. Carter's Nutrition Journal at
I am taking a short break and will resume posting within a couple of days. In the meanwhile, here is a list of our most common blogs of the year. There are a lot more blogs like these in our archives. If you have not viewed them as yet, this is a good time to do so. See what you missed.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Getting Your Child to Eat a Good Breakfast

Starting the day with a healthy breakfast is a great way to ensure that your child is able to meet his daily requirements for protein, fiber, vitamins, minerals, fluids and other dietary essentials.

Benefits of a Good Breakfast
Eating a good breakfast goes beyond helping to meet your child's basic nutritional needs. Studies show that children who eat a good breakfast are more alert in school, have more energy,  and do better in academic and physical performance than those who skip breakfast. 

Reducing Junk Food Consumption
If your child eats a good breakfast, he is less likely to stop by the corner store or vending machine to fill up on sodas, cookies, and other junk food. These sugary, high-calorie snacks lack the important nutrients that children need for healthy growth and development. Instead, these high-calorie, low-nutrient foods offer an excess of calories that may easily contribute to the growing problem of childhood obesity in this country.

Get a Head Start on Breakfast
You can take the stress out of trying to figure out what to give your child for breakfast if you have a plan. Here are a few simple suggestions:
  • When grocery shopping, keep breakfast in mind. Of course, having a shopping list is always a good idea. Buy foods that are easy to prepare or that can be eaten on the go without making a mess. Read the nutrition label on food packages and avoid those with a large amount of sugar, fat or salt. The less processed, the better.
  • Plan ahead. Review breakfast plans for the next day - even if it is just a mental review of what you plan to prepare for breakfast. Make sure  that you have what you need. 
  • Post a menu on the refrigerator or in some other place where older children can see it and place breakfast foods within easy reach so that no one has to ask where things are or waste time trying to find the foods they need. This includes zippered bags or other containers for packing breakfast to go, in case you are running out of time.
  • Let your child help with planning, preparing and serving or packing breakfast as soon as he is old enough to do so. 
  • And here’s the biggie: Get kids to bed early and get them up 10 to 15 minutes earlier than usual to allow more time for breakfast. 
Breakfast to Go
Sometimes, there just isn't enough time to get kids out of bed, get them ready for school and have them sit down to a good breakfast. As a result, it becomes necessary to pack breakfast to eat on the go. 

Here are a few menu ideas for those times when it becomes necessary for your child to eat breakfast on the go. 

– Whole grain breakfast cereal, milk and grapes

Tuesday - Cheese sandwich with whole wheat bread and cran-grape juice

Wednesday – Sliced turkey, lettuce, whole wheat bread and milk

Thursday - Whole grain breakfast cereal, milk and banana

Friday – Peanut butter sandwich, milk and apple

Note: Many schools now offer breakfast. If your child participates in the school breakfast program, make sure that he gets there on time.

Your Weekend Breakfast
Weekends give the whole family a chance to sleep a little later and have a leisurely breakfast. Here are a couple ideas for your sit-down, family style breakfast.

Saturday - Pancakes, omelet, milk and strawberries

Sunday – Hot oatmeal with raisins, milk and orange juice

Without a doubt, mornings can be hectic - trying to get children out of bed and to school on time is no easy task, especially when you also have to make an early start to get to work on time. But with a little advance planning, you can have your kids eating a healthy breakfast and out the door in good time. 

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Heart Disease: The Cholesterol Link 2 - HDL Cholesterol

HDL Cholesterol
As mentioned in my previous blog (November 10, 2010) cholesterol is a waxy substance that is important for a number of vital functions, like forming vitamin D, hormone production and as part of the nerves and other cells in your body. High-density lipoprotein cholesterol, also known as HDL cholesterol or good cholesterol plays a vital role in lowering the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

On the other hand, high levels of LDL does just the opposite, causing the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can then lead to a heart attack or stroke..

HDL Lowers Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke
HDL or good cholesterol appears to prevent cardiovascular disease by removing LDL cholesterol from the blood and recycling it in the liver. By removing the LDL cholesterol from your blood, HDL reduces the chances of plaque buildup and the risk of a heart attack or stroke.

HDL cholesterol should be above 40 mg/dL. If it is below 40 mg/dL, you risk of having a heart attack or stroke increases. The desirable ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol is about 1 to 4 (1 mg/dl HDL to 4 mg/dl LDL cholesterol).

Improving Your HDL to LDL Ratio
One way to reduce your risk of heart disease is to improve the boost your HDL cholesterol and lower your LDL cholesterol. There are several things that you can do to achieve that goal - diet, exercise and lose weight if you are overweight.

Diet. One of the most important things you can do to reduce your LDL cholesterol is to avoid foods that contain trans fat and limit your intake of foods that are high in saturated fat and cholesterol. It is not enough to just reduce your intake of cholesterol, since your body makes most of the cholesterol that is in your blood. By limiting your intake of trans fat and saturated fat, you may be able to reduce the amount of cholesterol that your liver produces.

In addition to controlling your fat intake, it is also important to eat foods that are high-fiber, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, dried beans and peas. F

Avoiding foods with added sugar (including high fructose corn syrup), and highly refined and processed foods, especially foods made with white flour is also important, especially if you are trying to cut calories to lose weight.

Exercise. Exercise can help to lower your cholesterol and improve the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol in your blood, improve blood circulation and strengthen your heart muscles.

Lose weight. If you are overweight, lose the excess body weight. Studies show that losing as little as 10 percent of your body weight can result in tremendous improvements in a number of health parameters, including lowering your total cholesterol and improving the ratio of HDL to LDL cholesterol.

Good vs. Bad Cholesterol
High Blood Cholesterol, Treatments

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Heart Disease: The Cholesterol Link - LDL Cholesterol

What is LDL Cholesterol? 
Cholesterol is a waxy substance that is made by your liver and found in the cell membranes and blood. You can also get it from the foods you eat. Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol for short, is called bad cholesterol because if you have too much of this form of cholesterol in your blood, it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Cholesterol also travels through your body as high-density lipoprotein cholesterol or HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is called good cholesterol because it has a favorable effect on your health. An important function is to clear the LDL or bad cholesterol from your blood. This can help to lower your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

The Good News About Cholesterol
You hear so much about the harmful effect of high cholesterol that you probably never stop to think that this substance could be of any good.  That is where you would be mistaken. In fact, you actually need cholesterol for a number of important functions. For example, cholesterol is used to make vitamin D. It is also used for making hormones like estrogen and testosterone, and is an important part of the structure and function of nerves and the membrane of every cell.

The Bad News About LDL Cholesterol - Plaque
LDL cholesterol becomes dangerous when there is too much in your blood. That is because when the levels get too high, it could cause plaque to build up in your blood vessels. This in turn can cause the arteries to become narrow and interfere with normal blood flow to your heart. When this happens, your heart may not get enough oxygen. As a result, it has to work harder and can become damaged from lack of oxygen and the increased work it must perform.

Another serious danger of plaque is that it can break away from the arterial wall, form a blood clot and block the flow of blood to vital organs like the heart or brain. The end result could be a heart attack or a stroke.

Reducing Your Risk of Cardiovascular Disease
You can reduce your risk of a heart attack or stroke by keeping your LDL cholesterol low and your HDL high.

What Your Cholesterol Numbers Mean
Knowing your cholesterol numbers can help you determine if you are at risk for cholesterol-related cardiovascular disease. A simple blood test can be done to measure your LDL and HDL cholesterol levels. Make a special effort to know your numbers and what they mean. The following information may be helpful. (I will discuss ways to lower your LDL cholesterol and raise your HDL cholesterol in the next blog.)

Total cholesterol:
Less than 200 mg/dL is considered desirable
200 - 239 is borderline high
240 mg/dL and above is high

LDL cholesterol:
Less than 100 mg/dL is optimal
100 to 129 near optimal
130 - 159 mg/dL is borderline
160 - 189 mg/dL is high
190 mg/dL and above is very high

HDL cholesterol:
60 and above is high, which means it is protective
40 mg/dL and above for men and 60 and above for women is good
Below 40 is bad

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dietary Guidelines for Americans

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are a set of recommendations and advice for people two years of age and older, about how good dietary choices can promote health and reduce the risk of diabetes, hart disease, and other chronic diseases. The guidelines are updated every 5 years and issued jointly by the Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). 

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are the cornerstone of Federal nutrition policy and nutrition education activities are in effect until the 2010 Dietary Guidelines are published. 

Here is a synopsis of the Dietary Guidelines. Use this information to make decisions about what to eat or feed your family from day to day. Pay special attention to the recommendation for limiting foods with added sugars, trans fat, saturated fat, refined carbohydrates and large amounts of salt.

Summary of Key Recommendations 
  • Eat a variety of nutrient-dense foods from the basic food groups. 
  • Limit foods that are high in saturated fat, trans fat and cholesterol.
  • Limit intake of foods that are high in sugar. 
  • Limit foods that are high in salt. 
  • Limit alcohol intake. 
Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005 

Monday, November 8, 2010

Empty Calories (Revised November 8, 2010)

Is soda an empty-calorie food?
If a group of people were asked whether or not soda is an empty-calorie food, the consensus would certainly be yes. It is clear that sodas are loaded with calories from sugar (high fructose corn syrup), but offer no nutritive value when it comes to protein, vitamins, minerals or other health-promoting and disease-preventing compounds.

What about pizza? 
Is this an empty-calorie food?

Many people seem confused on this issue. They tend to confuse empty calories with high-calorie. But there is a real distinction and it is important to understand the distinction if you are going to make decisions about what to eat or serve your family.

To determine if pizza is an empty-calorie food we have to look not only at the calorie content, but at whether or not it provides a reasonable amount of essential nutrients in relation to the calories.

Here’s a quick look at some basic ingredients that may be found in pizza:
Cheese, tomato sauce, choice of veggies, pineapple, mushroom, pepperoni and sausage – to name a few. And of course you have the pizza crust.

It is obvious that despite the potential to be high in calories, pizza offers some real nutritional benefits – protein, lycopene, fiber, iron, and a host of other vitamins and minerals.

What about desserts?
Dessert can also mean a bowl of chilled fresh fruit or a piece of pineapple. It could also mean frozen yogurt or ice cream. There is nothing empty about the calories you get from any of these desserts.

Even cakes and pastries that are high in fat, sugar and calories are not empty calories. They are simply high-calorie foods that have a disproportionately large number of calories from unhealthy fat and sugar. These foods are considered undesirable, not because they are empty-calorie foods, but because they have the potential for causing unhealthy weight gain and other health problems, if eaten in excess.

Take ice cream, for example. No one would deny that ice cream is an energy-dense food. However, ice cream (not the artificial stuff) contains a reasonable amount of protein, calcium and other important nutrients. Therefore, while it is a high-calorie food it does not meet the criteria for being an empty-calorie food.

Now, sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages are a different story. These foods offer no real nutritional value beyond the calories they provide. The same can be said for most candies and confectionaries.

It is important to deliver the right messages about food in order to avoid confusion and thus make it easier for people to make the right choices when deciding what to eat and feed their families. 

Still confused about what to eat or serve your family? Talk to a registered dietitian.

Note: This post was erroneously posted earlier in its draft form. This post replaces the previous one dated November 8, 2010. If you received the draft in error, please delete it and save this post. Thank you.

U.S. Kids Filling Up on “Empty Calories,” Study Finds: Medline Plus
American Dietetic Association, news release, Oct. 1, 2010

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Every Parent Should Know About Childhood Obesity

Reposted from June 19, 2010

Sadly, sodas and other sugary drinks have become the beverage of choice among America's children, as indicated in a USDA report. This report, based on the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 1988-94, shows that the daily soft drink intake of children between the ages of 14 and 18 was almost 4 times more than milk intake (0.7 servings of milk versus 2.7 servings of soda). Younger children were also consuming more soft drink than milk. 

And in a study reported by Harvard University School of Public Health (February 2001), soft drinks were listed as the leading source of added sugars in the diet of children. Researchers also found that the odds of becoming obese increased 1.6 times for each additional can or glass of sugar-sweetened soda that kids drank.

There is compelling evidence to show that children who drink large amounts of soda daily are prone to become overweight or obese. That is why it is important for you to pay attention to what your child is drinking and take steps to reduce his or her intake of sodas and other sugar-sweetened beverages to less than one serving per day - down to zero. Offer more milk, water and a limited amount of 100% fruit juice instead.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Breakfast: The Importance of Eating a Good Breakfast

Eating a good breakfast provides all sorts of health benefits; it is important for your overall health, promotes mental alertness and keeps you energized so you can perform your best, both mentally and physically.

Eating a Good Breakfast Offers Many Health Benefits
Here are just a few of the health benefits you will enjoy when you eat a good breakfast.

Nutrition. After a long night without food, your body is in a state of nutritional deprivation. It must draw on the reserve of nutrients in your cells in order to continue functioning. Eating a good breakfast helps to maintain those reserves. A good breakfast provides the nutrients you need for healthy growth and development, as well. If you skip breakfast, chances are you may consume too many calories during the day without getting enough of the vitamins, minerals and other dietary essentials that you need for optimum health. Your breakfast should provide two-fifths to one-third of the nutrients you need for the day.  

Blood sugar. Your body literally goes into an overnight fast while you sleep. By the time you awaken, your blood sugar drops, which diminishes your energy level. A good breakfast restores your blood sugar and gives you the energy you need to get up and go. Try to eat foods that contain a mix of complex carbohydrates so that you get some fiber. Try to avoid consuming a lot of sugar that could send a rush of glucose into your bloodstream at once. 

Mental alertness. Your brain needs glucose (sugar) to function properly. During sleep, the level of glucose in your blood is lowered. As a result, your brain might not be getting enough. By eating a good breakfast, you are able to recharge your brain, in a manner of speaking, so that you can think clearly and perform other tasks efficiently throughout the morning hours. Eating a balanced breakfast of fruits and/or vegetables, whole grain bread or cereal and a good source of protein is key. Breakfast is also a good time to get some calcium in your diet from things like milk, cheese or yogurt.

Physical activity. Your muscles need glucose for optimum performance. But, like all the cells in your body, muscle cells must have other key nutrients present in order to metabolize or use the glucose you consume. So, eating a balanced breakfast that provides a variety of vitamins, minerals and other dietary essentials is important. Avoid drinking sodas or consuming cookies, chips and donuts or other sugary and/or high fat foods for breakfast, as these foods could actually impede your performance.

Weight control. Studies show that people who eat a good breakfast are more likely to control their weight than those who skip breakfast. One reason might be that when you eat a good breakfast, you are less likely to fill up on sodas, chips, donuts and other high-calorie, low nutrient foods that lead to unhealthy weight gain. Try to eat foods that are minimally processed and that are low in sugar, saturated fat and salt. Eating foods high in fiber, such as whole grains and nuts can help you to feel full longer, making it less likely that you will fill up on high fiber foods later in the morning.

Constipation. A good breakfast that includes whole grains and other high-fiber foods will help to improve gut function, move waste along your G.I. tract and out as waste. This will reduce the risk of constipation so that you can enjoy total health.

The bottom line is, you need to start your day by eating a good breakfast. This will help you to get some key nutrients, boost your metabolism, enhance both mental and physical activity, and may help you to lose weight if that is your goal.

Next blog: What to Eat for Breakfast 

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Lose Weight Naturally

If you suspect that you are overweight, or if you doctor told you that you need to shed a few pounds, take heed and lose the weight. Otherwise, you could be facing a lifetime of insulin injections to control your blood sugar, costly medications to control your blood pressure and cholesterol levels, heart disease, the risk of stroke and many other health problems related to being overweight or obese.

Even if you have been diagnosed with a chronic disease, it is not too late. You can improve your health and live a more active life by losing weight and consuming a diet rich in leafy greens and other vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables. Studies show that losing even a small amount of weight, as little as 7 to 10 percent of your body weight, can bring about big improvements in your health. So, take the first step towards reclaiming your health today.

Don’t know where to start? Here are a few tips:
Talk to someone. Find someone to talk to about your weight and health goals. You will probably find it easier to get started and stay on track if you have someone you can talk to about your weight and health goals.

Resist the temptation. There will be many times when you feel like having a soda, candy bar or other junk food. Instead of giving in, distract yourself by finding something to do that doesn't involve eating, or fix yourself a nutritious snack. Even drinking a cup of water might help.

Fill up on water, fruits and vegetables. It is important to have foods on hand that are nutritious and that you enjoy. Losing weight should not be a punishing regimen. Sure, it will take a certain degree of discipline, but as soon as it begins to seem like punishment. the gig is over. So, keep lots of water and low-calorie, nutritious foods on hand for those "moments."

Keep your cupboard free of junk food. As the saying goes, “Out of sight, out of mind.” If you don’t keep junk food in the house, it would be much harder to binge on them. 

Forget the fast food. Fast food could be your worse nightmare if you are serious about losing weight and reclaiming your health. A meal consisting of an order of French fries, hamburger and a soda can be dynamite when it comes to unhealthy fats, calories, sugar and salt/sodium. Wo, watch out!

Exercise. What you eat is only one part of the weight-loss equation. Exercise is also extremely important. It is through exercise that you will burn off any extra calories that you might inadvertently consume. So, whether at home or at the gym, find ways to stay physically active.

Keep a food diary. Writing down what you eat and drink, and how much exercise you get can give you a clear perspective on what may be causing you to gain weight as well as what may be helping you to lose the weight. This information could prove to be quite valuable as you move forward.

Keep a positive attitude. If you want to lose weight, you have to believe that you can. 

Ask for help. There may be times when you feel totally out of control and go on a rampage, eating every and anything. Then the sadness, anger and depression sets in. You can be sure that you are not the only one it happens to. But if it happens too often or leads to a terrible setback, it may be a sign that you need help. Reach out. If necessary, seek a qualified nutrition professional or mental health counselor. Remember, you don't have to struggle alone.

Love yourself.  Loving who you are on the inside will give you the power to do all of the other things you need to do in order to achieve the goals you set for yourself.

Have faith. Pray and trust in God. 

Eating Vegetables Can Help You Lose Weight

Vegetables are the ideal diet food. They are low in calories but packed vitamins, minerals and other powerful, health-promoting compounds. Beyond the well-known nutrients that vegetables provide, they are also loaded with thousands of functional compounds that offer unique disease-fightting, health benefits.

How Much Vegetables Should You Eat?
According to the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the USDA, a good rule of thumb is to eat a minimum of 2 to 3 servings of vegetables daily, assuming that you are also eating 2 to 3 servings of fruits. In effect, your total fruit and vegetable intake should total at least 5 servings.

Of course, on a low-calorie diet, you will eat more vegetables in place of other starchy and high fat foods. In some cases, you might consume as much as 9 or more servings of vegetables, which, although bulky and filling, would provide relatively few calories. With most vegetables providing under 35 calories per serving, you could easily eat 9 servings for under 350 calories.

According to a number of government studies, most Americans are not meeting the recommended 2 to 3 servings of vegetables or combined 5 servings of fruits and vegetables. Rather than consuming these nutrient-dense foods, we are consuming calorie-dense, nutrient-poor foods, which are contributing to the growing obesity epidemic in this country. 

Obviously, if you want to lose weight, it makes good sense to eat more vegetables and less of the more starchy, high-calorie foods that have become the mainstay of the American diet.

Benefits of Eating Vegetables to Lose Weight:
  • Vegetables are low in calories. That means you can eat more for less calories. 
  • Vegetables are high in fiber, which helps to fill you up and reduce your total energy intake.
  • Vegetables are highly nutritious. No other group of food provide the concentration of vitamins, minerals and other phytonutrients for so few calories.
  • You can mix and match to create a wide variety of meals and snacks everyday; vegetables come in a wide array of colors, textures and flavors to tease your taste buds.
  • Vegetables can be prepared quickly and with little effort, so, even if you don't want to spend much time in the kitchen you can still enjoy a tasty and nutritious meal without ruining your diet. Just wash and eat them raw or steam lightly for a quick bite.
  • Vegetables are so versatile, you can toss them in almost any dish to make a casserole, soup, salad, sandwich or even dessert.
  • You can take vegetables anywhere, anytime and in any climate without too much worry about hazardous temperatures, as most vegetables keep well at a wide range of temperatures. (Of course, you still need to pay attention to basic sanitation rules.)
Vegetables to Choose From:
  • Green beans
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Lettuce
  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Cauliflower
  • Mushrooms
  • Onion
  • Celery
  • Red bell pepper
  • Tomatoes
  • Beets
  • Cucumbers
  • Sweet potato
  • Pumpkin
  • Squash
  • Okra
  • Edamame
  • Sweet peas
A diet that consists of an abundance of vegetables will provide you with lots of fiber, fill you up and reduce hunger so that you are less likely to overeat. As a result, you stand a better chance of losing weight than you would on the typical American diet that is loaded with refined carbohydrates and fatty meats, and other low-nutrient, high-calorie foods.


Soda Consumption and Obesity in America

Americans consume an excessive amount of sodas, loaded with sugar, high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and/or other sweeteners annually. Excessive intake of sodas and other sweetened drinks have been linked to the high incidence of obesity in the US. "The consumption of HFCS increased over 1000 percent between 1979 and 1990, paralleling the increase in obesity, according to the authors of an article in the March 2004 issue of AJCN.

Facing Your Soda Drinking Problem
To put it bluntly, excessive soda consumption is a major part of America’s obesity problem. Anyone who argues with that has his head deep in the sand. To prove the point, I challenge you to give up sodas for 6 weeks. If you succeed, you will be amazed at how easy it is to lose weight if you are overweight or obese. Case in point: In a recent 28-day challenge on the Dr. Oz (TV) Show, Dr. Roizen took the challenge and reported that he had lost 5 pounds by cutting out sodas. 

Can you give it up?
Frankly, I don’t think that many people will be up to the challenge. Call it habit. Call it addiction. Call it whatever you like. But if you are hooked on sodas; if you can't go a few days without having some, it is a habit that many people find hard to break.

The problem with drinking too much soda 
1) You are putting added sugars, which contributes to disease-causing inflammation in your body
2) You are consuming excessive amounts of phosphoric acid
3) You are adding empty calories which easily contribute to unhealthy weight gain, which in turn has been linked to the development of diabetes and a number of other chronic diseases
4) You are most likely eliminating foods that are necessary to give you the health-promoting, disease-preventing nutrients you need for optimum health

The Problem With Diet Sodas
Even if you drink so-called diet sodas, you are not doing your body any good. In case you have not heard, artificial sweeteners, known in the food industry as non-nutritive sweeteners, aren’t any better than the sugar or high fructose corn syrup found in regular sodas. In fact, recent studies suggest that artificial sweeteners fool your taste buds and alter your ability to control food intake. It stimulates insulin secretion, increases the feeling of hunger and leads to increased food intake. This obviously defeats the reason you used the artificial sweetener in the first place.

You only need to look around you to see that artificial sweeteners have done absolutely nothing to ease the obesity crisis. In fact, the increasing incidence of obesity has paralleled the increase in consumption of sodas, both sugar/high fructose corn syrup sweetened and artificially sweetened.

"The consumption of HFCS increased > 1000% between 1970 and 1990, far exceeding the changes in intake of any other food or food group. HFCS now represents > 40% of caloric sweeteners added to foods and beverages and is the sole caloric sweetener in soft drinks in the United States. Our most conservative estimate of the consumption of HFCS indicates a daily average of 132 kcal for all Americans aged 2 y, and the top 20% of consumers of caloric sweeteners ingest 316 kcal from HFCS/d." I was so struck by the referenced article - that I felt compelled to share this quote with you.

Sodas are bad for you. Remember that the next time you reach for a soda, ask yourself if you would be better off with a good old-fashioned glass of water. Want a little flavor in it? Squeeze a little juice from a lemon or lime and drink.

Consumption of high-fructose corn syrup in beverages may play a r...ray et al. 79 (4):537 - - American Journal of /clinical Nutrition

Monday, November 1, 2010

Becoming a Registered Dietitian: Job Outlook and Earnings

If you are passionate about helping people to live healthier, more active lives, a career as a registered dietitian might be just what you’re looking for. In my previous blog, I offered some insight into what it takes to become qualified as a registered dietitian. The next question I am often asked about the field of dietetics and nutrition is about salaries. What can you expect to earn as a registered dietitian?

Job Outlook
Before talking about earnings, let’s take a brief look at the demand for registered dietitians and nutritionists in related fields. We can take a look at the broader employment picture, since once you become an RD so many opportunities are opened up to you. While most RDs work in hospitals and clinics, many find jobs in schools, clinics, nonprofit organizations, the food industry, marketing, communications, education and research, to name a few.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for dietitians and nutritionists is expected to grow from 60,300 in 2008 to 65,800 in 2010. This is an increase of about 9 percent. A growing aging population and concerns about obesity and chronic diseases will impact this growth in employment opportunities.

The BLS report indicates that median annual wages of dietitians and nutritionists were $50,590 in May 2008. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $31,460 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $73,410.

“According to the American Dietetic Association, median annual wages for registered dietitians in 2007 varied by practice area as follows: $60,008 in consultation and business; $64,002 in food and nutrition management; $66,061 in education and research; $52,000 in clinical nutrition/ambulatory care; $53,997 in clinical nutrition/long-term care; $48,006 in community nutrition; and $48,984 in clinical nutrition/acute care. Salaries also vary by years in practice, education level, and geographic region.” (From the BLS)


Sunday, October 31, 2010

Becoming a Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most trained, experienced and qualified to help people make healthy food choices. To become a registered dietitian, you have to undergo rigorous training in the biological, chemical and physical sciences, math, business management, education, psychology, food, and culture. That's the short list. You will also have to take a series of courses in food composition, food preparation, human nutrition and related subjects.

If you plan to enter the field of nutrition and dietetics, be prepared to tackle the tough courses in order to receive your bachelor's degree. Upon completion of the bachelor's program, you will have to complete a dietetic internship at a hospital. This may include rounds in public health. schools, and the food industry. Some programs allow you to complete your degree program and dietetic internship at the same time (concurrently).

After you've completed your studies and the dietetic internship, you can now be called a dietitian. However, more and more institutions, especially hospitals, are requiring you to go one step further in order to be employed as a dietitian. They are looking for RD's. What's an RD, you might ask.

RD stands for registered dietitian. That's one who has taken a comprehensive, qualifying exam and passed it. In addition to having the credential as a registered dietitian, most states now regulate the practice of dietetics by requiring anyone practicing as a dietitian to be licensed with the appropriate state licensing board. 

The Commission on Dietetic Registration is the agency of the American Dietetic Registration that handles credentialing.

Jobs in Dietetics
Most registered dietitians work in hospitals, but the field of opportunities is wide open. To become a public health nutritionist, a master’s degree in public health or nutrition is generally required. Public health nutritionists work in clinics with patients who have diseases, including diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and other chronic diseases. 

Many public health nutritionists work with WIC (Women, Infants and Children) programs across the country.  School lunch is another area where you would find opportunities to work in the field of nutrition and dietetics.

More and more dietitians are choosing to become entrepreneurs, setting up their own practice in whatever area of emphasis they have a passion for. Others are creating and working for nonprofit organizations. These organizations serve children in Head Start, after school programs, parent organizations and other groups. Consulting for major food and pharmaceutical corporations, college teaching are yet other areas where you might work as a registered dietitian.

Next: Compensation and other things you should know about being a registered dietitian

Saturday, October 30, 2010

4 Reasons Why You Should Lose Weight Now

Obesity is a problem of mammoth proportion in the US and fast becoming the trend across the globe. Unfortunately, it can lead to a number of serious health problems. In some cases, these problems could be life threatening. What might seem like just a little extra weight around the waistline could actually signal a firestorm of health problems raging on the inside. As the rate of obesity continues to climb, you can expect the health problems to escalate, as well. But it doesn’t have to happen that way. Losing weight can reverse a great deal of the health problems associated with being overweight or obese. 

Here are 4 good reasons why you should lose weight now: 
1. Cardiovascular disease. Obesity can lead to cardiovascular disease. Studies show that people who are obese are more likely than others to have plaque buildup in their arteries. The buildup of this waxy substance can result in narrowing of your arteries, causing your heart to work harder, and ultimately cause a heart attack or stroke. Losing weight can prevent or slow the progression of cardiovascular disease.

2. Diabetes. Obesity can lead to type 2 diabetes. The massive amount of fat in your body interferes with your body’s ability to use insulin effectively. As a result, sugar builds up in your blood instead of being moved into the cells. Too much sugar in the blood can cause inflammation in the blood vessels and lead to damage to a number of important organs, including the eyes and kidneys. Losing weight can improve blood glucose levels and slow or reverse damage caused by high blood sugar.

3. High blood pressure. Obesity can lead to high blood pressure. If you are obese, it means that you are carrying around a greater load than your body can comfortably manage. It means more blood must be pumped to the vital organs. Getting this job done means that the heart and blood vessels must work harder. This extra work leads to increased tension in the walls of the blood vessels, which often results in hypertension or high blood pressure. Losing weight can reduce the strain on the blood vessels and reduce may reduce your blood pressure.

4. Sadness and depression. Obesity can lead to sadness and depression. If you are overweight or obese, you probably know from experience that it could be really hard to do the fun things you want to do. Instead of living a full, active life, you may turn to food for comfort, perpetuating a cycle of sadness and depression. Losing weight can help to ease the sadness and depression associated with obesity, and allow you to get your life back! 

Clearly, obesity is not just about how you look or what size clothes you wear. It could be disastrous to your health in so many ways. It can literally rob you of the joy of living. But it doesn't have to be that way. You can lose weight, improve your health and get back in the game of living. If you need help, talk to a registered dietitian. You can find one in your area by going to the American Dietetic Association website at and clicking on the link to “Find a dietitian.”

Friday, October 29, 2010

10 Rules for Achieving Heart-Healthy Weight Loss

Eating a healthy diet and getting regular exercise are the keys to heart-healthy weight loss. But making the right choices is not always easy. That's where rules come in. By following a few basic rules, you can lose the weight and improve your cardiovascular health.

10 Simple Rules for Heart-Healthy Weight Loss
Rule 1. Make the commitment. There comes a moment when you have to decide if you really want to lose the weight or if you are content to remain at the weight you're at. If you're dissatisfied and want change, you have to make the commitment.

Rule 2. Choose foods that are high in dietary fiber. Fortunately for you, the foods that are naturally high in fiber are, for the most part, low in calories. That means you can enjoy the heart-healthy benefits of the fiber and lose weight without going hungry. To comply with this rule, eat lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, along with other foods that are naturally high in fiber.

Rule 3. Have some fish. Fish ranks high on the list of antioxidant-rich foods that help to keep your blood vessels flexible and prevent the buildup of plaque. Fish and other seafood are also great for losing weight because they provide ample protein without excessive amounts calories from fat. Even fatty/oily fish is good for you because the fish oil is rich in omega-3 fats – just what the doctor ordered for your heart health.

Rule 4. Drink plenty of water. It is important to stay properly hydrated when you are on a diet to lose weight. Water helps to keep you from feeling hungry, which can prevent you from overeating. Proper hydration is also important for the health of your heart and blood vessels. It keeps the nutrients in solution, helps to maintain the right amount of alkalinity in your blood, and can protect you from collapsing during exercise.

Rule 5. Consider having a glass of wine with dinner. A number of studies show that polyphenols in red wine may help to control cholesterol levels, prevent hardening of the arteries and promote healthy blood flow to the heart. But on't go overboard with these drinks. A good rule of thumb is one for the women and two for the men.

Rule 6. Go nuts for nuts. Until recently, nuts were generally considered off limits for people trying to lose weight. However, studies show that there is no reason to avoid these delightful foods if you can fit them into your diet as part of a healthy heart plan. So, go ahead and enjoy the anti-oxidant benefits that nuts provide.

Rule 7. Have an avocado. The avocado is an interesting fruit. Unlike other fruits, the avocado is high in fat. But the good news is, the fat in avocado is monounsaturated fat (MUFA), which helps to regulate cholesterol levels and keep your heart and blood vessels in great shape.

Rule 8. Fill up on dried beans, peas and seeds. These foods are high in fiber as well as protein and other key nutrients. The fiber is key because it helps your body get rid of LDL or bad cholesterol; this in turn helps to prevent the buildup of cholesterol plaque in your arteries.

Rule 9. Choose Whole Grains. Whole grains are naturally high fiber, healthy fats and vitamin E, all of which play a vital role in protecting your heart and blood vessels. Choosing whole grains instead of foods made with refined white flower can work wonders in keeping your calories down for successful weight loss.

Rule 10. Be Smart About Calories. You will have to make a special effort to ensure that the number of calories you consume is less than the amount that you burn. This will create the calorie deficit that is necessary to lose weight. If you can eliminate the sweets and foods with added sweeteners, you should fare well. Pay attention to all the other rules that are designed to produce weight loss and promote a healthy heart and blood vessels. 

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Diabetes - Part 3: Diet and Nutrition in the Management of Diabetes

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, you know that it means your body is not handling sugar properly. With type 2 diabetes, you may be producing insulin, but the cells are just not responsive to the insulin. So, instead of the sugar entering the cells where it can be used for energy, it just kinda hangs around in the blood. This leads to high blood glucose (sugar) levels, which in turn can create all kinds of health problems. These problems are discussed elsewhere. For now, I want to focus on the importance of diet and nutrition in controlling diabetes.

Goal of Dietary Management of Diabetes
Your primary goal in treating diabetes should be to get your blood sugar to a safe level and maintain it that way. Ideally, you would want it to be between 70 and 99 mg/dL. Your doctor will work with you to determine what is a safe, desirable and sustainable level for you.

It is important to understand that high blood sugar can lead to heart disease and stroke over time. It can lead to blindness, cuts, bruises or infections that are slow to heal, nerve damage and kidney failure. But by controlling your blood sugar, you can reduce the chances of these conditions developing. In effect, proper control of your blood sugar will help to improve your overall health.

Dietary Strategies for Controlling Your Blood Sugar
The most important thing that you can do to control your blood sugar is to eat a diet that is rich in vitamins, minerals, fiber and other health-promoting compounds. Of course, consuming a healthy balance of energy nutrients, namely protein, fat and carbohydrates, is also critical. At the same time, you will need to avoid foods that are loaded with added sugar, trans fat or saturated fat and salt/sodium.

If you are overweight or obese, you have a greater risk of having diabetes than people who are at a normal weight. Numerous studies show that losing weight can help to improve blood sugar levels and thus reduce other health risks. Even if you lose just 10 percent of your body weight, you can see tremendous health benefits in terms of improvement in your blood sugar and other conditions, such as cholesterol levels.

Exercise is another important consideration. Getting regular exercise will help to lower your blood sugar levels, lose weight and improve circulation, all of which are important to total health.

Tips for Eating to Control Your Blood Sugar
Here are a few basic strategies that can help to control your blood sugar:
  • Eat a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables. These foods are high in nutrients and offer a wide-range of health-promoting benefits.
  • Eat foods that are high in fiber. Whole grains, fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds and dried beans and peas are excellent choices.
  • Eat foods that are high in omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fat. These fats act as powerful antioxidants to help prevent damage to your vital organs.
  • Get an ample supply of vitamin D. A few minutes of exposure to the UVB rays of the sun daily should provide the vitamin D you need. But for extra insurance, the government recommends that you consume foods that have been fortified with vitamin D. Aim for 400 IUs of vitamin D from food.
Other Strategies to Manage Your Diabetes
  • Eat meals and snacks at regular times each day. This will help to prevent your blood sugar from becoming dangerously high or dangerously low. If you are taking medication to lower your blood sugar, meals must be timed accordingly.
  • Be consistent with the amount that you eat. Pay attention to how much protein, carbohydrate and fat you are eating. Learn what is a portion for each food group and plan meals and snacks accordingly.
  • Get regular exercise. This will help to reduce the amount of sugar in your blood. It will also help you to lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight or obese. As mentioned earlier, even losing a small amount of weight can have tremendous health benefits. In some cases, people have been able to decrease the amount of medication needed or to come off of medications altogether after losing weight and controlling their blood sugar with diet and exercise.
  • Talk to a registered dietitian. You might be surprised at how clear all the "diet talk" becomes when you talk to a dietitian. Don't skip this important step. You can find a registered dietitian by going to the American Dietetic Association website: and key in 'Find a dietitian,' to find a diet and nutrition professional near you. 
If you are not able to control your blood sugar by eating a healthy diet, exercising and losing weight, your doctor will prescribe a glucose-lowering drug. If medication is prescribed, you still have to pay attention to what and how much you eat. Making smart food choices is the secret to proper diabetes management. So, take medications as prescribed and follow a sensible diet.

If you have been diagnosed with diabetes, it is important to focus on lowering your blood sugar and maintaining it at an acceptable level. You can achieve this by paying attention to what and how much you eat, getting regular exercise and losing weight if you are overweight. Keep in mind that registered dietitians are the healthcare professionals most qualified to help you create a diet and nutrition program that is uniquely suited to your needs. So, ask your doctor for a referral if he hasn't given you one.

What I need to know about Eating and Diabetes
Diabetes and Diet - Disease Management and Prevention Information brought to you by the American Dietetic Association

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Diabetes - Part 2: Symptoms: How to Tell If You Might Have Diabetes

You might have diabetes and not know it. In fact, according to the CDC, about one-third of people with diabetes don’t know they have it. But if left untreated, it could lead to other serious health problems, like heart disease, kidney damage and blindness. If you have a family history of diabetes or have other risk factors, you should know the symptoms.  Most of these symptoms may be associated with other health problems, so it is important to see a physician to get the right diagnosis. 

Common Symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes 
  • Increased thirst - due to dehydration
  • Frequent urination – to get rid of excess sugar/glucose from the blood
  • Fatigue/tiredness/weakness – due to lack of sugar for energy in the muscles and other tissues where it is needed
  • Blurred vision - due to damage to the small blood vessels of the eyes
  • Cuts or bruises that are slow to heal – due to poor blood circulation
  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet/nerve pain – due to nerve damage and poor blood circulation
If you have diabetes, early diagnosis and proper treatment could make a huge difference in the course of the disease. Talk to your doctor about your treatment options, and ask for a referral to see a registered dietitian. Follow your doctor’s advice. Nutrition is a very important in the management of diabetes, so it is important to follow the recommendations of your dietitian along with the advice of your physician.

Next: Blog: Diabetes – Part 3: Diet and Nutrition in Diabetes Management

CDC Diabetes Public Health Resources - Diabetes and Me - Basics about Diabetes

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Diabetes – Part 1: Know Your Risks

Diabetes is a condition in which there is too much sugar (glucose) in the blood. In you have type 2 diabetes, the body either does not produce enough insulin or the insulin produced does not clear the sugar from your blood. Too much sugar in your blood could lead to numerous health problems, including heart disease and stroke. Knowing your risk can help you to make smart food and lifestyle choices to prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Know Your Risk for Diabetes 
How likely are you to develop diabetes? There are certain conditions, called risk factors, that tend to predict the likelihood of your developing diabetes. If you have any of these risk factors, your chances of developing type 2 diabetes are greater than someone who does not have any of those risk factors.

Here are some common risk factors for diabetes:
  • Family history of diabetes/genetics
  • Obesity
  • Aging
  • Lack of exercise
  • History of gestational diabetes
  • Race/ Ethnicity: Being African American, Hispanic American, Hawaiian or Native American

Tests for Type 2 Diabetes
If your doctor suspects that you might have diabetes or that you might be at risk, he will order a blood test. Initial blood glucose testing is fairly simple. A blood sample is taken and tested to determine the amount of glucose in your blood.

Fasting blood glucose. To take a fasting blood glucose test, your doctor will ask you not to eat anything for at least 8 hours before the blood test is scheduled. A blood sample is then taken and checked for glucose. A normal fasting blood glucose level is 70 to 99 mg/dL.

If your test comes back at 100 to 125 mg/dL, you are considered to be pre-diabetic. It means that your body is not handling the sugar efficiently.

Above 125 mg/dL you are likely to be diagnosed as having diabetes.

Oral glucose tolerance test. Another test for diabetes is the oral glucose tolerance test. This test is done after you have fasted for at least 8 hours. After the 8-hour fast you are given a sugar (glucose)-containing drink. Your blood is tested for glucose two hours after you have had the drink.

If your blood glucose level is less than 140 mg/dL, your blood glucose is considered to be normal.

If your test shows that your glucose level of 140 to 199 suggests that you may have pre-diabetes.

If your blood glucose level is 200 mg/dL or greater, you will most likely be considered to be diagnosed with diabetes. A repeat test should be done to confirm the diagnosis.

Gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is a condition that occurs in many women during pregnancy. This test is a part of the standard care for pregnant women. The blood sugar levels needed to render a diagnosis of gestational diabetes are a little different from those used for non-pregnant women.

If you are at risk for diabetes, it does not mean that you will absolutely develop diabetes. It just means that you have a greater chance than someone who does not have any of those risk factors. Get tested and talk to your doctor and a registered dietitian about steps you can take prevent or delay the onset of diabetes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Registered Dietitian: The Food and Nutrition Professional

What is a registered dietitian?

I was recently asked the question, "What is the difference between a registered dietitian and a nutritionist?"
In simplest terms, I explained that a registered dietitian undergoes rigorous training in the sciences, management, education and human behavior, to mention a few. Additionally, a registered dietitian completes a dietetic internship to become a dietitian. Ultimately, the student/dietitian must take and pass a comprehensive test to become qualified as a registered dietitian or RD.

On the other hand, nutritionist is one who completes training in nutrition, but the field of nutrition is much broader. And with little government standards for who might call themselves a nutritionist, far too many people have established themselves as 'nutrition gurus.

More to come.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

The Health Benefits of Fiber

Millions of Americans are not getting the fiber they need sustain their health. In fact, you may be suffering, needlessly, from health problems that could easily be prevented by just eating more foods that are high in fiber and less sugar and other highly processed foods.

What is Fiber
Fiber is the insoluble part of carbohydrates that cannot be digested and absorbed. Although fiber is not absorbed from the digestive tract, it can affect your health in a number of ways, including binding with digestive waste and removing toxins from your body.

Types of Fiber
There are two main types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. Soluble fiber is fiber that can be dissolved in water and is found mostly in fruits. Insoluble fiber is more straw-like and is not soluble in water. Both soluble and insoluble fibers are important to your health.

Health Benefits of Fiber
Fiber is best known for its role in promoting regular bowel movements and preventing constipation.

In the process of moving waste from your gut, mops and traps bile, cholesterol, and other potentially toxic waste and moves through your colon and out of your body.

Another important benefit of fiber is controlling your blood sugar. It does so by slowing the breakdown of carbohydrates in the gut, so that sugar is absorbed more slowly. This helps to prevent potentially harmful spikes in your blood sugar.

Additionally, fiber also acts as a probiotic, which means it allows healthy bacteria to grow and reduces the amount harmful bacteria in the gut.

Numerous studies show that a diet rich in fiber may help to promote weight loss, reduce the risk of diabetes, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and colon cancer.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?
The National Research Counsel recommends that adult women consume 25 grams of fiber daily and that men get at least 35 grams. Children need smaller amounts.

Food Sources of Fiber
Fiber comes from plant foods. You can get the fiber you need by eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables, whole grains, dried beans and peas, legumes, tree nuts and seeds.

Eat foods that are rich in fiber to keep your digestive tract healthy, prevent rapid spikes in your blood sugar, control your cholesterol and enjoy all of the other health benefits that you get from fiber. These benefits include weight loss and reducing the risk of colon cancer.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Foods That Fight Chronic Inflammation

Certain foods can cause chronic inflammation in your body, which over time, will result in oxidative damage to your cardiovascular system, your joints and your brain. But there are some things that you can do to reduce chronic inflammation and protect your tissues and organs.

What is Chronic Inflammation?
Chronic inflammation is a low-grade inflammation that has been linked to obesity and certain foods like sugar and certain fats. This chronic inflammation can result in oxidative damage within the walls of the blood vessels, as well as to other tissues and lead to chronic and sometimes crippling disease.

Foods That Increase Chronic Inflammation
Foods that contribute to excessive weight gain and obesity, such as sugar and other refined carbohydrates/white flour products, saturated fat and trans fat are also the foods that have been associated with chronic inflammation. High insulin levels in the blood (usually in response to high levels of sugar) have been also been shown to increase inflammation in the walls of the blood vessels.

Omega-6 oils, such as corn oil, can also increase your risk of inflammation. Corn oil is commonly used in commercial baked goods and other processed foods.

Symptoms of Chronic Inflammation
Chronic or continuous inflammation can lead to damage to the your blood vessels, joints and other tissues, including the brain. Arthritis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer and Alzheimer's disease have been linked to inflammation. 

But, unfortunately, chronic inflammation can go on for years, slowly causing damage to the internal organs without any real symptoms. By the time the disease caused by the inflammation discovered, it could be quite serious, even life-threatening.

Foods That Fight Chronic Inflammation
Eating foods that are rich in antioxidants can help to fight chronic inflammation. Here are some of those anti-oxidant, anti-inflammatory foods that you can use.

Seafood. Salmon, sardines, tuna,  and other oily fish are  high in omega-3 fats.

Fruits. Blueberries, cherries, strawberries, raspberries, cranberries and other berries. Also, mangoes, papaya, pineapple red grapes, apples and avocados.

Vegetables. Sweet potatoes, broccoli, cabbage, kale, red peppers, avocado, onion and garlic.

Nuts and seeds. Walnuts, almonds, flaxseed and pumpkin seed.

Oil. Olive oil.

Herbs and spices. Ginger, garlic, oregano, turmeric, cinnamon and cayenne pepper.

Other. Other anti-inflammatory foods include cocoa, red wine and green tea.

Eat more foods that are rich in anti-oxidants and avoid those that are known to increase inflammation to reduce your risk of chronic diseases. And lose weight if you are overweight or obese.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Preventing Osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a major problem for millions of women and men in the US. The basic cause is lack of adequate vitamin D and calcium. If you are at risk, there are some things that you can do to prevent or slow the development of osteoporosis.

What is Osteoporosis? 
Osteoporosis is a condition in which bones lose calcium and become thin and brittle.

Causes of Osteoporosis 
You can develop osteoporosis if you are not consuming enough calcium. Vitamin D is needed for calcium absorption, so if you do not have enough vitamin D in your body, you could also be at risk for osteoporosis.

Signs of Osteoporosis 
The first sign that someone has osteoporosis might be when they fall and break a bone. It is often said that you fall and break a bone, but as one of my professors used to say, it is more likely that the reverse happens – you break a bone and fall. Sometimes, pain in the hips could be a sign of osteoporosis.

Testing for Osteoporosis 
A bone density test is used to determine the density or thickness of your bones.

Preventing Osteoporosis 
Eating a diet that is rich in calcium is the first step in preventing osteoporosis. But vitamin D must be present in order for you to absorb the calcium and make it available to build strong bones. Taking a calcium supplement along with vitamin D might delay bone loss in some individuals. Regular exercise can also help to prevent or delay the development of osteoporosis.

Treating Osteoporosis 
Unfortunately, by the time osteoporosis is diagnosed, it may be too late to correct the problem with calcium and vitamin D supplements alone. At this stage, your doctor might prescribe a type of drug, called bisphosphonate, that literally harden the calcium in the bones. However, these drugs, which turn your bones into cement-like structures, can have serious side effects.

Food Sources of Calcium 
The most common food sources of calcium are milk and other dairy products. You can also get calcium from other foods that have been fortified with calcium, including orange juice and some breakfast cereals.

Food Sources of Vitamin D 
Natural sources of vitamin D include fish, fish oil, fish liver oil and mushrooms that have been irradiated. Orange juice and some breakfast cereals that have been fortified with vitamin D are also good sources. However, most of the vitamin D that you get comes from the sun. You can get about 400 IUs of vitamin D from food. In comparison, your body can make 10,000 IUs with just a brief exposure to the sun (10 to 20 minutes of sunlight).

Recommended Intake of Calcium 
The recommended intake for calcium is 800 milligram for adults. If you are at risk for osteoporosis, you might need as much as 1000 to 1200 milligrams of calcium plus vitamin D. To meet this goal, a dietary supplement is usually required.

Recommended Intake of Vitamin D 
The recommended intake for vitamin D is 400 IUs from food sources. This is the amount deemed necessary to prevent rickets or osteomalacia, which are signs of calcium deficiency in children and adults, respectively.

There has been a lot of discussion about the need for higher doses of vitamin D, with some studies suggesting that the recommended intake of 400 IUs is not enough and that people need a much higher dose of this vitamin.

Osteoporosis is a condition that results from lack of adequate calcium and vitamin D in the body. You can prevent or delay the development of osteoporosis by eating foods rich in these two nutrients, and getting regular exposure to the sun. Exercise can also help to prevent osteoporosis.