The dose makes the poison.
Most scientists and medical doctors would agree with that statement.
Yet, some insist on distorting the facts. News articles you read offer to tell you “what’s safe to eat”. I’m hoping we are at a tipping point with the crazy articles that are printed about diet, nutrition and food. A recent article by Yvette Guinevere d’Entremont (aka The SciBabe, @sciencebabe on Twitter) got quite a few shares. Yvette (a chemist) challenges the popular fear-mongering Vani Hari (computer-science-turned-diet-expert), and pretty much came right out and said, “you are full of sh#t”. Ouch.
Well, someone had to say it.
There is no shortage of nutrition misinformation on the Internet. Unlike individuals like Hari, most registered dietitians have a broader view of health and disease, food, and how people eat (unfortunately there are even physicians who subscribe to the fear-mongering approach, singling out ingredients, or bashing certain processed foods).
Un-Food-Babe-like, I’ve reviewed real food records from real people all over the country (the University of Pittsburgh was the nutrition data entry center for the MDRD research on kidney disease and diet). I’ve also counseled thousands of individuals over the years, of all ages, and of a variety socio economic backgrounds, with a range of health and disease.
But rather than talk to the folks who actually work with people, and have a real background in nutrition science, let’s just fall for the latest “story” that we read on Facebook, right?
I have to say that it’s maddening at times, and I find myself siding with the chemists and biochemists. You should too. As The Science Babe said:
Reading Hari’s site, it’s rare to come across a single scientific fact. Between her egregious abuse of the word “toxin” anytime there’s a chemical she can’t pronounce and asserting that everyone who disagrees with her is a paid shill, it’s hard to pinpoint her biggest sin.
Ah yes, the paid shill. I’ve been called that name before. Everyone with expertise and a position in a certain field should shun employment. Sticks and stones love...
I admit, I am biased toward the chemist’s point of view. I’ve said many times, that food is chemistry. Yvette also wrote:
If I told you that a chemical that’s used as a disinfectant, used in industrial laboratory for hydrolysis reactions, and can create a nasty chemical burn is also a common ingredient in salad dressing [vinegar], would you panic? Be suspicious that the industries were poisoning your children? Think it might cause cancer? Sign a petition to have it removed?
My goal as a nutrition educator and counselor is to help people reach positive health outcomes by living a life that they want. This means eating foods they enjoy, and helping them find ways to do so, within their personal health goals. Everyone has individual preferences, means, and backgrounds. I completely disagree with approaches that claim certain foods or food groups must be eliminated in order to meet a health goal.
Evidence, Not Opinions
I recently attended a session about how dietary guideline reports become policy at the Experimental Biology conference in Boston. The three PhD speakers, were highly regarded in their fields, participated in the laborious process that is the Dietary Guidelines Committee (in 2010), and have quite a bit of research and life experience between them. Yet when I had a conversation with someone after the program he commented, “I wish they had brought in someone who represented other viewpoints.” You mean, someone with a different opinion?
Why? These individuals were presenting both what science can say is “proven” (strong evidence, i.e., a causal relationship established through randomized control trials), and what is “possible” (weak to moderate grade evidence). Opinion has nothing to do with it.
I have many colleagues who know their stuff, and insist on evidence. Policy should be based on evidence.We all have opinions, but opinions are not what policy should be made of. Nor should the diet you follow.
There’s been quite a stir over the past week over the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics decision to allow Kraft® to use their “Kids Eat Right” logo on the Kraft Singles® product.
Among registered dietitian members, there is not really much disagreement over whether the Academy should allow brands to use a logo that gives the impression that they are endorsing that product. Endorsement, or even the perception of it, is a bad idea. Most everyone agrees that allowing Kraft® to use the seal was a poor decision that was communicated to Academy membership very poorly.
Certainly, it was also misconstrued by the media. No matter how much the perception of the endorsement is at the heart of the issue, the fact that it was a processed cheese product is what really hit a nerve (not to mention all of the negative press that accompanied it).
The interesting question however is not what dietitians or news reporters think, but what consumers at large think about registered dietitians. As an Academy member, I personally wrote a letter to the CEO, House Of Delegates, and President, disagreeing with the idea of ‘endorsing’ or ‘appearing to endorse’ specific brands, and also encouraging better transparency and communication.
As far as the cheese goes, if a client enjoys a certain processed cheese, I can make recommendations around it to balance his diet.
I have chosen to keep my sense of humor and try to stay positive here. I know that cheese, or even processed food, is not the underlying issues here with most of my colleagues. How partnerships with food companies can work without conflict of interest, is a question. Can dietitians, or any professional, make recommendations if they are exposed to or working with brands? Since I work within an evidence-based profession that already has a Code of Ethics, I think they can. But the Academy needs to consider putting some additional guidelines in place that will help them make future decisions about partnering with the food industry.
Also important to note is that Kids Eat Right is a program launched in 2010 and sponsored by the Academy Foundation (a non-profit 501c charitable organization, supported by donations). They do all sorts of wonderful things such as award scholarships to college students pursuing degrees in nutrition, award mini grants to provide nutrition education to children and provide educational resources to help families raise healthy children.
But all that warm and fuzzy stuff aside, the Times piece took on a life of its own (even The Daily Show included the story in their junk food smack down, and Fox News asks if processed cheese is all bad), so naturally, with all of this negative press and focus on cheese, a lot of people, including dietitians, are up in arms. Why? Well, because this convoluted news demeans our profession and all of the positive action and programs that are provided be good, competent, well-trained folks.
Food, Nutrition and Groceries
Here’s the deal. Whether an organization that represents food and nutrition experts would choose to partner with a perceived ‘healthy’ or ‘junk’ food company, the fact remains that people eat food that they purchase from grocery stores.
Dietitians are humans just like everyone else. We each have food preferences and taste buds, food budgets, cultural backgrounds, and available grocery stores, that influence how we eat. We mostly work on “healthy” as much as we can.
Consider, that if you live to be age 75, that’s about 27,010 days of eating – That’s a lot of days to never eat a “processed” or packaged food.
While we may be in the business of health, we are also in the business of helping meet people where they are, and helping them make the healthiest choices they can afford, and live with.
There are other organizations that claim to be interested in nutrition and public health, but may have different agendas (and whose donors remain anonymous. The Academy however is pretty transparent about who their partners are).
I’ve been a registered dietitian since 1991 and have been working in this field since 1986. People who seek advice or collaboration, get it from the people that they can relate to. I can’t claim to help people live a Paleo or Vegan lifestyle. It’s not my thing. Therefore people will seek me out for my specific skill set, and seek out others for theirs.
Nothing wrong with that. Cheese. No cheese. Seal. No seal.
Well since everyone’s been talking about Kraft Singles, I guess they forgot all about the Dietary Guidelines for Americans report. Seems the media loves to mock us dietitians when they get a chance – Whatever. When it comes to eating, common sense goes a long way. The DGA helps by offering tips, and the latest report includes guidelines about how much sugar or artificial sweeteners you should consume.
Also, if you are a parent, keep in mind that children aren’t little adults. They are smaller, are growing, and have different nutritional needs.
- Added Sugar. Added sugars are addressed in terms of how they may impact obesity, diabetes, heart health and dental caries. High intake of sugar-sweetened beverages is recognized as associated with unhealthy weights. The evidence linking added sugar to cardiovascular disease has limitations. As far as dental caries go, there is a relationship between higher sugar intake and higher incidence of dental caries. (and for those wondering about added sugar math – 1 teaspoon of sugar = 4 grams sugar. And remember in foods such as sweetened yogurt, 10-12 grams of the sugar is naturally occurring lactose)
- Low calorie sweeteners. Interestingly, despite evidence showing that low cal sweeteners can aid in weight control, the DGAC concluded that since there is some studies have shown that they are associated with diabetes risk (no studies showing cause), they should be limited, and replaced with water as a primary beverage.
“Although the finding indicates a positive association between ASSD and type 2 diabetes risk, the trend was not consistent and may indicate an alternative explanation, such as confounding by lifestyle factors or reverse causality (e.g., individuals with higher BMI at baseline may use ASSD as a means to control weight).”
If an overweight person walks into my office and reports that he drinks 2 liters of soda a day, I’m obviously going to encourage him to work on breaking that habit. Sugar is calorie-dense, and it’s easy to over consume calories via caloric liquids. On the other hand, a skinny 17-year old may have room in his diet for an extra 300 calories of juice, juice drink, or soda as long as his diet is balanced otherwise. Especially if he isn’t a big eater (it’s a myth that all teenage boys eat constantly).
Artificial sweeteners have been shown to be safe, and can be an effective tool in managing blood sugar levels in those with diabetes (yes, water is a no-calorie choice, but sometimes folks want to drink a flavored beverage. A diet beverage does not impact blood glucose levels).
Take-away: Dietary advice should be individualized. While most of my colleagues will use the DGA to offer advice, each of them will also consider your personal situation and history when guiding you. Lots more reasons to see a registered dietitian! Happy National Nutrition Month®
I live in the Northeast, and it’s been a long winter, and there’s not much sign that it will be over soon. As much as I enjoy the outdoors, I’ve found it more and more difficult to get out for fresh air this winter. Years ago, when my children were small, I’d hop out of bed at 5:50 a.m., get dressed, and head outside for a 3-4 mile run three mornings a week. I was so good that I’d know exactly what outfit to put on for every 5 degree change in temperature (from 0-90!) all year. In the winter, I’d come home with icicles on my eyelashes.
Flash forward to now. I just don’t have the energy (desire?) to do that anymore. I get to the gym twice each week for weight training, and then everything else is hit or miss lately. While I do love walking and jogging outdoors, for whatever reason, going out into the 5 degree weather no longer appeals to me (unless I’m skiing, which I can’t do every week).
I have always advised people to do what they love. If you don’t enjoy the exercise routine you begin, it’s unlikely that you’ll stick with it. Since weekly exercise is important (and it’s especially important to not slack off as you age), finding something that works for you is key.
For me, I need to change it up. And I really don’t like group classes, and prefer to be outside. I also will sign up for the occasional 5K, charity run (jog), or event (although I won’t do another mud run). My latest goals: A morning yoga workout at home on Mondays and Fridays (since I work from a home office, this saves time for me) and a walk on Wednesdays and Saturdays.
Do what works for you. Help others stay motivated! What do you do when you get into an exercise rut?
March is National Nutrition Month®, a special month when registered dietitians-nutritionists (RDNs) send out extra special messages to consumers about healthy eating and lifestyle.
Each year the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics chooses a campaign theme. This year’s theme: “Bite into a Healthy Lifestyle®”.
Eating well plays a big role in health, but so do many other lifestyle choices. I think we are only beginning to understand the role stress plays on our bodies, for example. Taking good care of yourself means thinking about all of your lifestyle choices:
- Do you eat a healthy breakfast?
- Do you get enough sleep?
- Do you get some physical activity each day?
- Do you abstain from smoking or chew tobacco? (Work on quitting!)
- Do you allow yourself some free time to relax?
- Do you keep fresh fruits and vegetables in your home?
- Do you drink enough water?
- Do you include a vegetables in at least two meals a day?
Take time this month to consider these aspects of your life. Make time to set a few goals to improve your lifestyle, stress less, eat well, sit less, and move your body more. We all don’t have to eat identical diets – there is more than one way to eat a healthy diet – but we do need to slow down, keep our bodies moving, and take time for healthy meals. I just ate an orange, and am going to do some yoga later. It’s a revolving work in progress for all of us. Cheers.
Fat, sodium and sugar will be hot topics this year. They are reviewed in “Chapter 6″ of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines proposal (Cross Cutting Topics of Public Health Importance), and there is quite a bit of disagreement among doctors, dietitians, and self-proclaimed nutrition experts.
Luckily, the Dietary Guidelines Committeen(DAC) is a smart bunch, who are aware of all of the strong evidence that exists (randomized controlled trials) about these nutrients, as well as systematic reviews and metaanalysis on the topics. So despite what you may read about adding butter to your coffee or extra salt to your food, the DAC has evidence that this continues to be a bad idea.
- Sodium. Since 30% of Americans have high blood pressure, sodium is important to address. There is strong evidence that relates sodium to blood pressure, a reduced sodium diet is recommended. Also recommended: A DASH Diet pattern of eating for those with heart disease risk or high blood pressure.
- Saturated Fat. Saturated fat should be limited, but while there is evidence that subbing polyunsaturated fats (corn, soybean, sunflower oils) helps lower LDL cholesterol, there’s less evidence for replacing them with monounsatured fat (olive, canola, peanut oils) to reduce cardiovascular risk.
What is the relationship between sodium intake and adults? The DAC concluded that there’s strong evidence (including DASH clinical trials) that most adults benefit from a lower sodium diet. There’s moderate evidence showing that the lower the sodium intake, the more significant the blood pressure lowering (1500-2400 milligrams daily). There’s also moderate evidence that children have a similar benefit. The average sodium intake in the U.S. is 3467 milligrams daily.
Conclusion: If you have high blood pressure, reduce your sodium and salt intake. Read labels, eat less processed foods.
On the other hand, there are limitations to the evidence that sodium plays a role in heart disease itself. But, the DAC also recommends a reduction in sodium added during processing stating ‘“The FDA should expeditiously initiate a process to set mandatory national standards for the sodium content of foods”.
Potassium: What effect does the interralationship of sodium and postassium have on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease outcomes?
While popular thought is that potassium is an important part of heart health, the evidence is limited that potassium helps reduce stroke or lower blood pressure. Hopefully food companies will eventually respond with lowering sodium levels, so that healthier convenience foods can be enjoyed.
What is the relationship between saturated fat and heart disease? The DAC found strong and consistent evidence that replacing saturated fats (butter, animal fats, trans fats from processed baked goods) with unsaturated fats (especially PUFA – corn, soybean, sunflower oils), significantly reduces total and LDL (bad) cholesterol. Replacing saturated fats with carbohydrates also reduces total and LDL cholesterol, but significantly increases triglycerides and reduces HDL (good) cholesterol.
Since much of the monounsaturated fat contributed to the average American diet comes from animal fats, there’s only limited evidence that plant sources of monounsaturated fat (olives, olive oil, avocado, nuts) reduces risk. The overall recommendation is to maintain an upper limit of 10% of total calories from saturated fats.
A sensible goal would be to include a variety of plant oils in your diet, as well as nuts and avocados, and limit the amount of animal fats used.
“Individuals are encouraged to consume dietary patterns that emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts; include low- and non-fat dairy products, poultry, seafood, non-tropical vegetable oils; limit sodium, saturated fat, refined grains, sugar-sweetened foods and beverages, and are lower in red and processed meats. Multiple dietary patterns can achieve these food and nutrient patterns and are beneficial for cardiovascular health, and they should be tailored to individuals’ biological needs and food preferences.”
Next week – I’ll review the sugar and artificial sweetener aspect of the committee’s review.
Sensational headlines rule the press, always have. Many journalists sprint to their keyboards with the latest science report or medical press release, without speaking to any experts about it, or even reading the full reports. And other times, there’s just a bad headline that goes viral, sometimes misleading the public. This is especially of concern when the press attempts to interpret information that, in the days before the Internet, was only intended for professionals.
The American Academy of Pediatric’s abstract: “Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools” was published online on February 23rd. Afterward, headlines read: “Sugar can be a ‘powerful tool’…” by Food Navigator. Probably not the best headline, although reading on you’ll see “moderation is key” in the article. They were bringing to light the idea that flavor-enhancing sugars, sodium and fat, can be used “strategically” to enhance the palatability of foods for a healthy diet, but many only read the headline. The US News headline was a little better with “A little fat and sugar is ok if diet is healthy…”.
It’s unfortunate that consumers read these headlines and get caught up in all of the hype about them on social media. I miss the days when lay people turned to their doctor, and trusted him, for medical advice. Now they trust anyone who tweets.
As the most recent issue of National Geographic poses – Is there a war against science? Instead of just listening to your pediatrician or dietitian, or some other highly trained expert on any given science-based topic, people seem to want to take matters into their own hands. In my opinion, the popular press has encouraged this mistrust by printing sensationalized, and often misleading, headlines.
One thing’s for sure – added sugar remains a hot button and misunderstood issue. I’ve heard everything from “I highly disagree!” to “parents shouldn’t put sugar on broccoli” in response to the AAP statement. I don’t think anyone’s putting sugar on broccoli, but there are other ways sugar does enhance the flavor and enjoyment of food.
Sugar in My Family’s Diet
For instance, my kids enjoy Key lime and Vanilla yogurt. They burn lots of calories, they are not overweight, they were highly active as youngsters, and they don’t need or want plain yogurt. But they still benefit from the calcium and protein, and other nutrients the sweetened yogurt delivers. Another example – Only 2/5 of us like carrots. I’m not into juicing, but I could make a delicious carrot soufflé to go with dinner. They’ll gobble it up, benefiting from the fiber, beta carotene, etc.
I’m sure that’s one reason someone invented carrot cake – “Hey I have all of these carrots from the garden that nobody’s eating!”.
I put some sort of sweetener (white sugar, brown sugar or maple syrup) on my oatmeal, because I prefer the taste that way, and I’m not worried about the 8 grams of sugar and 32 calories that I’m adding. The oats outweigh them.
Breast milk is sweet. It’s human nature to accept sweet over sour. (A reason we always suggest offering vegetables before fruits to infants- to get them used to the bitter, bland flavors. But anyone who has fed a baby knows they love those bananas the first time!). Its my professional opinion that a parent’s role is to offer variety, not withhold, so children can learn to self-limit. The AAP is not suggesting we offer added sugar with abandon.
Read More About It
- The paper was written with the intent to “offer a perspective promoting nutrient-rich foods within calorie guidelines to improve those foods brought into or sold in schools.” Do we remember what perspective is? Do we have room in our minds for considering other viewpoints of the facts? Sugar (as an “empty calorie” but safe ingredient), should be viewed with respect to other nutrients in the diet. What Robert Murray actually stated:
“A good diet is built on highly nutritious foods from each of the main food groups,” said Robert Murray, M.D., FAAP, lead author of the policy statement, “Snacks, Sweetened Beverages, Added Sugars, and Schools,” published in the March 2015 Pediatrics (released online Feb. 23). “No ingredient should be banned. A small amount of sugar or fat is ok if it means a child is more likely to eat foods that are highly nutritious.”
“Children, like adults, often want their own preferred flavors and textures during meals and snacks,” Dr. Murray said. “It’s no secret that brown sugar on oatmeal, or salad dressing with cut vegetables, can make these healthy foods more palatable to children, and increase their consumption. This is not a license to give kids anything they want; we just need to use sugar, fat and sodium strategically.”
Sometimes when I’m out, or at the gym, I secretly enjoy overhearing conversations about what people are eating (or not eating). Anyone who knows me knows that I love food, enjoy eating, and indulge in rich or fried food or desserts from time to time, while also preparing veggies and snacking on fruit.
But so many people seem to create rigid rules for themselves about eating and food choices. It’s wonderful to have a choice, and I guess “food rules’ have replaced “diets” for some, but in my world, eating is part of the enjoyment of each day, and it is also purposeful – to sustain the energy you need to function at your best and be productive. In some cases what you eat is not always as important as how you eat; but a healthy diet is good medicine for a healthy body – enter the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The New Rules (well, not so much rules as they are guidelines)
The USDA just released their report for the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). Every five years these guidelines are reviewed, taking into account evidence-based data and new research about diet and epidemiology. There is always some argument or disagreement about them, but overall, in my opinion, they have always served as a good framework to provide balanced, disease-prevention advice about what to eat. And a lot of work and thought, from a panel of experts, goes into them.
The report that is now available is still open to written public comment beginning sometime in March, and through April 8, 2015.
What I am pleased to see in this executive report, is a focus on so much more than simply a list of food rules. They’ve addressed other behavioral, social and cultural factors that impact how you eat, and this recognition is long overdue. Here are a few new aspects of this new release that’s caught my eye thus far:
- At the core of better eating, there is a need for behavior change. While past guidelines summed up what you should eat more of or less of, this addition recognizes that without purposeful behavior change, no dietary therapy will have a positive impact. Recognizing the way Americans live (for instance 33% of meals are eaten away from home) is key to helping people develop new strategies for healthier choices.
“Individual behavior change lies at the inner core of the social-ecological model that forms the basis of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for American Advisory Committee (DGAC) conceptual model”
- The roles that sedentary lifestyles, poor sleep habits, food security, family meals, and cultural backgrounds, play in how you make your food choices every day, is addressed. The 2015 guidelines recognize that your environment affects your choices, and the fact that very few Americans have been able to meet previous guidelines.
“Improving dietary and lifestyle patterns and reducing diet-related chronic diseases, including obesity, will require actions at the individual behavioral and population and environmental levels. Behavioral strategies are needed to motivate and enhance the capacity of the individual to adopt and improve their lifestyle behaviors. Specific behavioral efforts related to eating and food and beverage choices include improving knowledge, attitudes, motivations, and food and cooking skills. Environmental change also is important because the environmental context and conditions affect what and how much people eat and what food choices are available.”
- Given the growing interest in a sustainable food supply, the 2015 DGAs are examining this important issue. Their definition:
“Sustainable diets are a pattern of eating that promotes health and well-being and provides food security for the present population while sustaining human and natural resources for future generations.”
More to Come
One thing is for sure: you have to keep trying to eat more vegetables, drink more water, exercise, reduce your sodium intake, reduce saturated fat and added sugars. There’s a lot more to it, and I’ll be reviewing them and following the final outcome over the next few months, so stay tuned.
The upcoming US Dietary Guidelines for Americans (currently under review for release of the 2015 version) are eliminating the guideline to limit dietary cholesterol. Interestingly, most dietitians have never focused on this guideline, so this is not news to us.
Often when a person receives a diagnosis of high blood cholesterol, the first thing that comes to mind is something like “I have to watch my cholesterol”. However dietary cholesterol does not have that big of an impact on blood cholesterol. The overall quality of the diet (particularly fiber, and the amount of plant-based foods), as well as total fat, are more important.
The idea that new guidelines are no longer considering dietary cholesterol as a “nutrient of concern” does not mean that your overall diet has no impact on your blood cholesterol and fat levels. The Dietary Guidelines recommendation for daily cholesterol had been 300 milligrams a day (and lower for DASH Diet guidelines). The average man consumes about 340 milligrams. So on that point, the idea of a recommendation may be a moot point – people generally aren’t over-consuming cholesterol in their diets. They never really have.
As these new guidelines continue to form, keep these tips in mind:
- As I often tell patients, it’s easy to limit dietary cholesterol, but it’s more difficult to limit dietary fat.
- Dietary cholesterol only comes from animal products.
- Dietary fat may be delivered by animal or plant based products. Vegetable oils or vegetable-based margarine spreads are “cholesterol-free”, but are sources of fat. Some salad dressings may also be cholesterol-free but a source of fat. Meats can have varying amounts of fat. And of course, many snack foods and fried foods contain various sources and amounts of fat.
- While there’s some debate about the link between saturated fat and heart disease, many news outlets publish headlines that often exaggerate or misinterpret studies they report on. A heart healthy diet limits the amount of butter, cream, cheese, and fatty meats consumed. You don’t have to avoid these foods, but it’s prudent to limit the portion of them, choose lean meats and fish, and balance out your plate with more vegetables and whole grains.
- One benefit to the limiting guideline for dietary cholesterol is that this guideline helped encourage the intake of more plants. Adding more vegetables, fruit, and whole grains to your diet ensures that you include adequate fiber (which helps keep blood cholesterol levels healthy) and also adds important antioxidants and other minerals and vitamins to your diet.
Enjoy Some Eggs
Unfortunately, the previous dietary cholesterol limits seemed to target eggs. Over the past 70 years or so egg consumption has gone down, although egg intake has been increasing over the past several years as dietitians and clinicians have relaxed the weekly egg rules. Eggs are a great inexpensive source of protein (the white) and other important nutrients. Eggs are a great addition to your breakfast, or even as a high protein, mid-day snack.
- Remember that the cholesterol in eggs come from the yolks, so if you do have heart disease, diabetes, or high blood cholesterol, you should probably not go overboard and have a 3-egg omelet every morning. You can create a delicious high protein omelet using 2 whole eggs, and 2 egg whites. Fold in fresh spinach, onions, mushrooms and some shredded cheese for a delicious breakfast or lunch.
Vegetables, Grains, and Beans
Dietary fiber from plant products is an important part of a healthy diet. Sources of fiber, such as fruit and vegetables, provide important nutrients including antioxidant vitamins A and C, as well as B vitamins. Whole grains such as brown rice, wild rice, barley or quinoa also contribute some fiber to the diet. Grains mixed with beans and vegetables can offer up a high fiber, high nutrient, high protein, low fat meal or side dish.
Of course, the DASH Diet incorporates all of these foods with guidelines to ensure your heart stays healthy, and your blood pressure or diabetes is well managed. While cholesterol is not a focus of the DASH Diet, the diet limits portions of meats and therefore cholesterol, and also some fats, while encouraging a high intake of fruits and vegetables, and low fat dairy products.
While the government’s committee to revise the Dietary Guidelines for Americans may have removed a guideline to limit cholesterol, keep in mind that it’s still a good idea to be aware of the amount of animal fats in your diet. Incorporating the goals of the DASH Diet will help you add more medicinal nutrients and fiber to your diet, and limit the dietary components that aren’t.
February is Heart Month – not only a time to treat your Valentine, but also a time to learn more about heart health. High blood pressure, or hypertension, is common, and a major risk factor for heart disease. These eight factors play a role:
- Family History
While you can’t stop the clock nor change your family history, you do have some control over six of these eight factors. Think about what you eat each day, and work on adding more nutrient-rich, fiber-rich foods. Fruits, vegetables or nuts are a good place to start for fiber. Most people respond well to a sodium reduction. While many of the recipes in our books have no added salt, it is okay to add a pinch here and there, but be aware of the sodium added to your diet from highly processed food (keeping in mind that a daily goal for sodium is around 2300 milligrams).
Note that exercise is on the list. Improving your fitness level helps your heart and simply makes your body more functional. Talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, and start slowly. If you can, consider hiring a personal trainer to get you started, or join a group exercise class with a friend. Having some accountability helps.
Modifying Your Behavior
Just a few modifications in your behavior can result in improved health by the end of the year. Everyone is an individual, and the possibilities are endless, but consider choosing from these simple changes to a healthier you in 6 months:
- Eat oatmeal for breakfast 3 or more times a week. The fiber in oatmeal can help lower your cholesterol.
- Take a 20-45 minute walk 3 times a week. Or use a fitness tracker to add more steps daily.
- Have a green salad with lean protein (grilled chicken, fish, cottage cheese, beans, or nuts) on it for lunch twice a week
- At dinner twice a week – skip the bread and starch, and enjoy lean meat and vegetables
- Do 5 or more push ups every morning, and work up to 45 abdominal crunches
- Replace your vending machine candy bar/chips with a 6 ounce yogurt or a fresh piece of fruit every afternoon.