Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

DASH: Designed for Every Body

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Diets are a lot like fashion. Depending on the season (and which celebrity is currently obsessed), there’s always one hot diet that’s catching all the buzz, even if it’s a nutritional nightmare. Looking back at all the fad diets that have come and gone over the years is like shopping in a vintage clothing store. It’s fun to browse, but those daisy-printed, polyester mini dresses and baby blue leisure suits can’t be good for one’s health.

Way back in the ’70s, when everyone wanted to look slim and sleek while wearing bell bottoms and doing the Hustle, the 700-calorie-a-day Scarsdale Medical Diet was all the rage. In 1980, when its creator, Dr. Herman Tarnower, was murdered by his long-time lover in a different kind of rage, the diet made headlines once again.

Later in the ’80s, when big shoulder pads, stirrup pants, and banana clips were in style, dieters could choose between Dr. Robert Atkins’ “revolutionary” low-carb diet; the Pritikin Program, with its focus on natural and minimally processed foods; and the Cabbage Soup diet (don’t ask and definitely don’t try this at home).

Fortunately for both fashion and dieting, good taste and common sense eventually win out. In the 1990s, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) directed the DASH (short for “dietary approaches to stop hypertension”) study. Based on the results, the NIH and the U.S. Department of Agriculture now recommend DASH as an ideal eating plan for most Americans. For anyone who has ever tried (and failed) to lose weight on a fad diet, this is similar to the moment when clothing manufacturers started making denim jeans with Lycra. Finally! A diet we can live with, live on, and most importantly, love.

As the name indicates, the DASH plan was designed to lower high blood pressure (hypertension), but it also helps to reduce cholesterol and may also reduce the risk of heart disease, certain types of cancer, kidney stones, and diabetes. Just as blue jeans are suitable for everyone, the DASH plan is recommended for most people, as it’s rich in fruits, vegetables and whole grains; low in fats; and chock-full of potassium, calcium and magnesium.

Last June, U.S. News & World Report, the Vogue magazine of facts and figures, named DASH “Best Diet Overall” and “Best Diabetes Diet,” and ranked it third in the category of “Best Heart-Healthy Diet”. A panel of health experts gave it “high marks for its nutritional completeness, safety, ability to prevent or control diabetes, and role in supporting heart health,” noting that “the DASH diet truly is the diet for everyone.”

Fashion magazines often feature “Runway to Reality” articles that show readers how to create the latest designer looks with affordable pieces from national boutiques and chain stores. In much the same way, the NIH’s DASH eating plan includes simple guidelines that you can use to make smart food choices. Here are easy and delicious ideas for eating healthy, DASH-style, on your next visit to the mall.

Breakfast on the Go
DASH guidelines include whole-grain foods for minerals and fiber, and fat-free or low-fat dairy products. Many coffee shops and restaurants offer whole-grain oatmeal for breakfast. Say yes to the optional dried fruits and chopped nuts for even more fiber, and add a tall, low-fat latté for a satisfying boost of calcium and protein.

Quick Stop for Lunch
The DASH eating plan includes raw, leafy vegetables, lean meats, cooked beans and peas, and a small amount of cheese. Popular Mexican restaurant chains feature salads as an alternative to high-fat burritos, tacos and quesadillas. Order your salad with lean grilled chicken or beef, a small portion of beans, a sprinkling of cheese, and fat-free salsa instead of sour cream. Ask for salad dressing on the side and use it sparingly to add flavor.

Afternoon Pick-Me-Up
Daily DASH guidelines call for four to five servings of fresh, frozen or canned fruit, or fruit juice. A refreshing smoothie from a juice bar makes a great afternoon treat. Ask for a brochure with nutritional information before you order, because large-size beverages can contain more calories than you might imagine. Customize your smoothie to your taste with low-fat milk, fat-free frozen yogurt, or lemonade, and a mix of bananas, mangoes, pineapples and strawberries, which are all important sources of potassium, magnesium, and fiber.

A Relaxing Dinner
Going out to dinner on the DASH eating plan is easy, as the guidelines offer plenty of flexibility. Many top national restaurant chains feature menu items tailored to health-conscious diners. Instead of a burger and fries, order savory grilled salmon or tilapia, steamed broccoli, and a baked potato or brown rice. Ask for your meal to be prepared without additional butter, oil or salt, and request a side of fresh salsa or a wedge of fresh lemon or lime for extra flavor.

Ask your doctor or nutritionist for advice on using DASH guidelines to create your own healthy eating plan.

Dietary Help for Iron-Deficiency Anemia

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

If you have been diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia, your doctor has likely advised you to eat more foods that are rich in iron. Here’s what you need to know to be sure you get the iron you need.

Foods containing iron are grouped into two categories:

•Heme iron is found only in meat, chicken and fish.
•Non-heme iron is found in eggs and vegetable-based foods, such as beans, green vegetables and dried fruit. Non-heme iron is also used to fortify some cereals, pastas and breads.
Maximizing absorption
The body absorbs heme iron from meat, chicken and fish better than non-heme iron from vegetable sources. These tips can help you maximize your overall iron absorption:

•Choose lean meats, fish and poultry. Iron is found in the flesh, not the fat. Keep your heart healthy by buying lean cuts of meat and skinless chicken.
•Eat vegetables and grains (non-heme) with small amounts of meat or poultry (heme). The average absorption of iron from plant sources increases when eaten with meat, poultry or fish. An example of a good combination is enriched spaghetti with clam or meat sauce.
•Combine iron-rich foods with foods high in vitamin C. Vitamin C can more than double the amount of iron your body absorbs. Excellent vitamin C sources include sweet bell peppers, vegetable and tomato juices, brussels sprouts, broccoli, baked and sweet potatoes, greens, cabbage, kiwi, guava, oranges and orange juice, grapefruits and grapefruit juice, strawberries and melon.
•Avoid drinking regular or herb tea, coffee or cocoa with your meals. Certain tannins and acids found in these drinks can interfere with iron absorption.
•Avoid taking any calcium supplements with your meals. Excess calcium can also interfere with iron absorption.
What about vegetarians?
Because iron is not absorbed as well from plant foods, it is recommended that vegetarians take in about twice the amount of iron recommended for non-vegetarians.

However, there is evidence that our bodies adapt to lower iron intakes over time by increasing absorption and decreasing losses. Studies show that the incidence of iron deficiency anemia among vegetarians with well-balanced diets is similar to that of non-vegetarians.

If you are a vegetarian, though, you should be sure to do the following to maximize the absorption of iron from your diet:

•Seek out specific high iron — natural and enriched — vegetarian foods.
•Avoid taking calcium supplements and drinking coffee, tea or cocoa with meals.
•Eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin C.
Adding it up
How much iron you need depends on your gender and age. In general, adult women between the ages of 19 and 50 need more than men. Men over age 18 and women over 50 need about 8 mg of iron per day. Women ages 19-50 years need 18 mg per day.

The following chart shows how much iron you get from your foods. For packaged food, use the Nutrition Facts label to determine how much iron has been added.

Cooked Source
Serving Size
Iron (mg)


Clams 3 oz.

Oysters 3 oz.

Shrimp 3 oz.

Tuna, halibut 3 oz.

Meat and poultry

Chicken, skinless breast 3 oz.

Duck, no skin 3 oz.

Beef, lean 3 oz.

Turkey breast 3 oz.

Turkey drumstick, no skin 3 oz.

Pork tenderloin 3 oz.

Eggs 1 large

Beans, cooked

Lentils 1/2 cup

Limas 1/2 cup

Dried beans (kidney, black) 1/2 cup

Split peas 1/2 cup

Soybeans, boiled 1/2 cup


Cream of wheat 1/2 cup

Fortified cold breakfast cereal 3/4 cup

Fortified oatmeal 1 packet

Wheat germ 2 Tablespoons

Enriched whole wheat bread 1 slice


Dried apricots, peaches 1/4 cup

Broccoli 1/2 cup

Brussels sprouts 1/2 cup

Peas 1/2 cup

Potatoes, cooked with skin 1 medium

Prunes 1/4 cup

Spinach, Swiss chard, cooked 1 cup

Squash, winter, cooked 1 cup

Think you need a supplement? Talk to your doctor, who will determine when and if an iron supplement is appropriate for you.

Simple Swaps! Make Healthy Food Even Healthier

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Looking for easy ways to boost the nutritional value in your food? These foods have a reputation for being healthy, but you can give them a boost with a few simple swaps.

•Swap applesauce for a whole apple: While applesauce is free of fat and salt, a whole apple packs three times the fiber of applesauce and is more filling than the pureed variety.
•Swap a baked potato for a sweet potato: Baked white potatoes have vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins and if you eat the skin, pack a fiber punch. Sweet potatoes also have all of those nutrients — but also have iron and are loaded with beta-carotene (vitamin A).
•Swap hot creamed wheat cereal for oatmeal: Hot creamed wheat cereal is low in sugar, and is fortified with iron and B vitamins. While hot creamed wheat cereal is considered a refined grain, oatmeal is considered a whole grain and naturally has more fiber, vitamins and minerals.
•Swap corn flakes for toasted O’s: Make your breakfast even healthier! Corn flakes are low in fat and sugar but they’re not made with whole corn kernel, making them low in fiber and other nutrients. Most toasted O cereals are made with whole oats and have more fiber and other minerals. Be on the lookout for excess sugar! Pick a cereal with no more than 8 grams of sugar per serving.

Key Strategies for Keeping the Weight Off

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

It’s hard to lose weight. Shedding pounds and trimming down take dedication, discipline, and months of effort. But then many find that staying at goal weight can be as tough as losing the weight in the first place.

All too often, the weight creeps back on, sometimes climbing higher than it was before. Some studies suggest that repeated bouts of weight loss and weight gain can take a toll on your physical and emotional health and may cause:

•Depression and anxiety
•Bingeing or eating a lot of food while feeling out of control
•More difficulty losing weight as you get older
•Increased risk of chronic disease, such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol
Taking off the weight… for good
The good news is that it is possible to achieve and maintain significant amounts of weight loss.In fact, about 20 percent of people in the general population are successful at long-term weight loss maintenance. This is defined as maintaining a 10 percent weight loss for 6 months to a year or more.

So what’s the secret to keeping the weight off for good? Studies and surveys reveal the following top strategies of successful “maintainers.” You can think of them as steps you can take to claim your own success.

Be physically active. Engaging in some type of physical activity most days of the week tops the list as one of the main factors in maintaining weight loss. This could include brisk walking, jogging, exercise classes or tapes, dancing, biking – anything that gets your heart pumping. Exercise can also improve well-being, which may have an impact on helping you stick with other positive lifestyle behaviors (like eating well and having a positive outlook). Working in strength training also has benefits because it builds muscle mass, which increases metabolism. Find something you truly enjoy doing – this will help you stick with it. Check with your doctor before increasing your activity level.

Watch your diet. A meal plan that allows for adequate calories, protein, and fat and is not overly restrictive has been shown to be the most beneficial. Severe calorie restrictions and fad diets tend to backfire and typically do not work in the long run. Having regular meals (not skipping) and keeping healthy eating patterns on weekends as well as weekdays is also a common success strategy.

Have realistic weight goals. The majority of people who maintain their weight loss have achieved their weight goal. In order to do this, it’s vitally important to have a realistic goal weight. Numerous studies have shown that even a 10-percent loss of body weight can go a long way towards reducing the risk of chronic disease. Be sure to set a goal you feel is achievable. You can always choose to lose more weight (if necessary) once you reach that goal.

Eat breakfast. Breakfast can reduce hunger, helping you keep your calories under control the rest of the day. Breakfast also provides energy, which can help fuel workouts. Aim for a satisfying breakfast that includes some protein and wholesome carbs, such as whole-grain cereal and fruit; whole-grain bread and natural peanut butter; yogurt and nuts; or eggs and toast.

Monitor your weight regularly. Consistent weighing (either daily or weekly) can help to catch weight gains before they get out of control. Just be aware that weight can vary from day to day based on water retention or other factors. If slight daily variations on the scale will be upsetting, weigh yourself once a week. Be aware that morning weights are usually the most accurate. Food journaling can also be a helpful tool for self-monitoring and awareness.

Learn to manage stressful situations. Stress can often lead to overeating or eating foods that may promote weight gain. People who are able to maintain their weight have learned coping mechanisms that help them deal with stress in ways that do not involve food.

Have a support system. Surrounding yourself with supportive friends, co-workers, or family members is important for long-term success.

Finally, keep in mind that the commitment to maintaining weight loss will be a lifelong effort. Having the overall approach that this is a lifestyle change, not a one-time diet or quick fix, is important for long-term success.

Want to Lose Weight? Find Support on the Web

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Dieters struggling with how to stay motivated and on track can tap into diet books, counselors, and weight-loss programs for support. But more and more people are reaching out through the Internet for help shedding pounds.

The Web offers a surprising array of tools that can help support your weight loss journey. Public and private websites offer a host of services, which can include all or some of the following:

•Forums or “communities” where users sign in and communicate with others seeking to lose or maintain weight.
•Calorie and exercise trackers
•Weight trackers
•Tips on weight loss and fitness
•Motivational messages
•Help with setting goals
The key, though, is to find a site that is reputable. You might start by asking your doctor or healthcare insurance provider for a reference.

Finding help on the Web
Losing or maintaining weight loss is no easy task. Online programs are one more tool to provide you with instant support, information on weight loss, and helpful advice.

The benefits? Here are several:

It’s there when you need it. One advantage of the Internet is that it can be accessed any time at your convenience.You may find it easier to connect online than find the time to attend a local support group. In addition to articles and tools, most weight loss sites include forums or communities, which offer access to a large network of other dieters. You can choose to express your own thoughts on a particular topic, or read feedback and comments from other members. Having a sugar craving at 2:00 in the morning? Log on and it’s likely someone else is there to help you fight the urge.

A virtual cheering section. Friends, family members, or work colleagues may not share your daily enthusiasm about losing weight. This can drain your motivation. Studies show social support can be a very positive factor in helping to achieve weight-loss goals, especially when you get little support elsewhere. Internet support groups are an easy way to connect with others who have personal knowledge of what it’s like to struggle with losing weight. They won’t make you feel guilty for eating two desserts or overindulging at the buffet table. These are people who are also looking to make changes and build new habits, just like you.

Advice and experience. Joining a group gives you access to the experience of others. Often times, many people in the community have already had some success, and are happy to share their tips and strategies. Some support groups are led by an expert facilitator, such as a registered dietitian. Other groups may invite guest presenters to discuss topics of interest.

What comes around goes around. Studies have shown that helping others can actually help you.You may have your own weight loss tips or recipes to share with others. Sharing your own successes with someone else who is struggling can make you feel good about yourself, which can in turn fuel your own motivation.

Keeping you focused. Like the idea of having a friend who checks in on you? Once you’re involved in a support group, your new contacts will want to know how you’re doing on a regular basis. There’s nothing wrong with a little positive peer pressure to help to keep you accountable.

Keeping off the weight. Using the Internet appears to be a great way to promote long-term weight maintenance. One study showed that people who consistently used a website to help maintain their weight loss were as successful over an 18-month period as those who had face-to-face counseling.

Low cost or free. Many online sites do not charge a fee to set up an account. Some will charge for a monthly or yearly subscription, but it is usually modest.

By being careful, you can maintain your privacy online while still sharing your progress. Simply choose not to completely reveal your identity or personal details. Reputable online programs may be found through local hospitals, your healthcare insurer, popular weight-loss programs with an online component, or websites geared solely toward the weight-loss process.