Nutrition, Uncategorized

More Nutrition Myths Debunked

Sydney Bates, Dietetic Intern

There is a lot of conflicting information when it comes to nutrition. It seems that every day there is a new headline that’s that is at odds with everything we thought we knew. Despite emerging science, many nutrition myths are still prevalent. Here’s the truth about some common nutrition myths.

Myth: Egg yolks are high in cholesterol and should therefore be avoided
Fact: For decades, we were told not to eat eggs too often (and only the whites) if we wanted to be healthier and avoid elevated cholesterol. The latest evidence, however, shows that advice was scrambled. While egg whites are an excellent source of protein, the egg yolks contain most of the major nutrients including iron, folate and vitamins that support eye and brain health. The dietary cholesterol in eggs that was demonized for decades is now largely recognized by the medical community as having little effect on blood cholesterol. Overall, eggs contain a host of valuable nutrients, and focusing on the cholesterol content of eggs as a contributor to disease is not only counter-productive but false. Maintaining a balanced eating pattern with plenty of plant-based proteins and fats with the occasional animal product is the key to keeping those blood lipids at an optimal level.

Myth: Coffee is bad for you
Fact: The majority of studies on coffee have actually shown it provides protective effects against disease. Coffee is loaded with antioxidants, and has also been shown to help reduce the risk of developing diabetes in regular consumers. It’s likely the bad reputation comes from cream and sugar many people add to their drink. Adding sweetener greatly decreases this protective effect. To reap the most benefits, limit the amount of cream, milk, sugar, or artificial flavorings you add to your coffee.

Myth: You can eat as much “healthy” food as you like
Fact: The key to a healthy lifestyle is eating a variety of foods from all the main food groups. What this means is that just because the media touts avocados and kale as healthy “superfoods,” it doesn’t mean more is better; even healthy foods still need to be eaten in moderation. Ever hear of the saying, “too much of a good thing?” It applies to so-called healthy foods too. The body needs a certain amount of nutrients to function, and any excess is either stored as fat or eliminated. Plus, when you eat from only a small selection of foods, you miss opportunities to obtain vital nutrients from other sources. No one food contains all the macro- and micronutrients we need. That’s why it’s so important to view articles that promise things such as “eat as much of these foods as you want and never gain weight” with a critical eye. These headlines are designed to grab your attention using the allure of being able to eat all day long and never gain weight. To maintain health, eat a variety of foods, from all the food groups, in portions that are satisfying but don’t leave you feeling overly full all the time.

Myth: Gluten Free is healthier…and other labeling misconceptions
Fact: The term “health halo” is given to foods with a reputation for being better for you. They may have a special title or brand that is associated with being more nutritious, but this is not always the case. For instance, foods like smoothies, granola, organic snacks, protein shakes or foods labeled “organic” or “gluten free” are often thought of as being better options. The fact of the matter is that this is simply marketing and tailoring to consumer demand. Gluten is a protein found in wheat that has received a lot of attention recently. People with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity need to avoid gluten, but there is no need for the average person to eliminate gluten from their diet. As for organic foods, if you have the resources to purchase the “dirty dozen” (produce known to have high levels of pesticides) organic, wonderful. If not, you will not be losing out on any of the health-giving vitamins and minerals found in fresh produce. Learn more about the “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” and make an informed decision about which foods you will purchase organic. Overall, beware of falling for labeling traps and use your best judgement!

If you have questions about nutrition or your meal plan, speak with a Registered Dietitian to shed light on the evidence.

Post content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, LDN, CDE
recipes

Chicken Vegetable Stir – fry

Cooking dinner at home during the week doesn’t have to be complicated.  Try this chicken stir-fry recipe from the MGH Be Fit program.  Short on time?  Fill up a container with already cut veggies from your grocery store salad bar. Or keep frozen vegetables, such as broccoli, on hand to use in a pinch.  Substitute tofu for the chicken for a meatless option.

Ingredients:

2 tbsp reduced sodium soy sauce
1 tsp brown sugar or honey
1 tsp minced ginger
1 pound chicken breasts, raw
2 tbsp olive (or canola or peanut) oil, divided
½ cup sliced onion
1 cup sliced red, orange, or green peppers
1 cup roughly chopped broccoli florets
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen peas
4 cups cooked brown rice (such as quick-cooking Uncle Ben’s Ready Brown Rice—90 second)

Instructions:
In a medium bowl, combine soy sauce, brown sugar, and ginger. Add chicken to the soy sauce mixture; set aside.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat; add chicken breasts. Cook 4-6 minutes per side (until each side in browned). Remove the cooked chicken and set aside.

Wipe out the inside of your pan with a paper towel to remove any overly browned bites.  Add 1 tbsp oil and then add the remaining vegetables (except peas) to the pan, including the garlic.

Stir vegetables occasionally until they are tender- crisp; add the peas and cook until warmed through. Cut the cooked chicken into strips and add to the vegetables; stir to combine.

Serve with 1 cup cooked rice per person.

Yield:  4 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving: 
Calories:  455 •  Protein:  32g • Sodium:  400mg • Carbohydrate:  49g • Fiber:  5g
Fat:  14g • Sat fat:  2g

Recipe from Tara Linitz, MS, RD, LDN
Fitness

Low-cost Fitness Options

A regular exercise routine is a powerful tool in your diabetes management plan.  Exercise can lower blood sugar, and helpful for losing/maintaining a healthy weight.  Going to the gym or health club isn’t a great fit for everyone, though.  They can be intimidating for one (especially if you’re just getting started), and the closest gym might still be too difficult to get to often enough to make it worthwhile.  Then there’s cost.  Memberships can be expensive, and some places charge extra for certain fitness classes.  If you’re trying to save money, exercising at home may be a better fit.

But what about access to equipment like weights and exercise machines?  If you have space you can purchase your own exercise machine or a set of weights, but again this might not be an option if saving money is a concern.  If you do have a little budget for fitness equipment, a set of resistance bands (with a door anchor), jump ropes and a stability ball are versatile, low-cost choices.  In reality you don’t need any equipment to exercise (a routine made of bodyweight exercises can be effective and challenging), or you can incorporate some items you probably already have at home into your routine.

Hand weights => Canned goods

Cans of soup are a good option for arm raises or other upper body exercises that use light hand weights.  If you need more challenge you can use a milk jug filled with water.  The more water you add, the heavier the weight. 

Gliding Disks => Paper plates

Gliding discs are circular plastic discs used to slide hands or feet (depending on the activity) along the floor when doing body weight exercises like mountain climbers, lunges, or.  A set of paper plates or a dish towel will work just as well at home.

Squat machine => Wall

Yes, even a blank wall can be used as a piece of fitness equipment!  To do a wall squat, stand with your back against the wall and slide down until your thighs are parallel with the floor, moving your feet out so your knees are bent at 90 degrees.  Hold.  As you get stronger, you’ll be able to hold the squat longer.

Stair machine => Stairs

Another piece of fitness equipment you probably already have in your home or office.  Skip the elevator and take the stairs whenever possible.

Post content reviewed by the Clubs at Charles River Park
Nutrition, recipes

Be Fit Basics: Quinoa Breakfast Cereal

Ingredients:
11/2 cups skim milk
1 cup uncooked quinoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, plus more for serving
4 teaspoons honey, agave, or maple syrup
20 walnut halves
1 cup sliced strawberries

Instructions:
In a medium saucepan, combine skim milk, quinoa, salt, and cinnamon and bring to a boil, covered. Reduce heat to low and cook until milk is absorbed and quinoa is tender (about 20 minutes).

Remove pan from heat and let stand for 5 minutes, covered. Fluff with fork.

Divide quinoa evenly among 4 bowls. Top each with 1 teaspoon of honey, agave, or maple syrup, 5 or 6 walnut halves, and 1/4 cup of sliced strawberries. Use additional milk as desired.

Yield: 4 servings

Nutrition Information per Serving:
Calories: 300 • Protein: 10g • Sodium: 190mg • Carbohydrate: 50g • Fiber: 7g • Fat: 8g • Sat Fat: 0.5g

Recipe adapted from epicurious.com
Nutrition

Personalized Nutrition- Is the Future Here Yet?

By Robert Dunn, Dietetic Intern

Is the secret to a perfect diet hidden in your own body?

Personalized nutrition is a modern approach to nutrition that aims to prescribe specific diets based on biomarkers. Biomarkers are substances that provide information on a person’s condition, and can be used to measure disease risk. By assessing their impact on nutrition, medical professionals may be able to precisely determine the best diet for improving a person’s health.

The role of personalized nutrition is evolving quickly. Many researchers are optimistic that it may provide a breakthrough in the treatment of certain diseases. One of the diseases being closely studied is diabetes, a condition that affects over 29 million people in the United States. Additionally, over 80 million people are estimated to have prediabetes, putting them at risk for developing diabetes later in life. Diet and lifestyle have always been important for diabetes management, and personalized nutrition may soon play a key role in this process.

Researchers in Denmark recently published a study on personalized nutrition in diabetes treatment. Their goal was to determine the most effective weight loss diet for people that were diabetic, pre-diabetic, or neither (healthy group). To do so, they divided patients from prior weight loss studies into those groups based on two biomarkers: fasting insulin and fasting blood glucose. Once the patients were assigned groups, the researchers could then compare weight loss data to determine if any diet had a particularly strong effect on any specific group.

After comparing the data, several trends became clear. Patients in the diabetic group lost more weight on a low-carbohydrate diet that was high in plant-based fats like olive oil. Meanwhile, the healthy group was more successful with a low fat, high-carbohydrate diet. Finally, pre-diabetic patients who followed a diet high in fiber (fruits, vegetables, whole grains) lost more weight than those who followed a control diet. Based on these results, the researchers concluded that biomarkers like fasting blood sugar could be helpful in planning diet interventions for patients with either diabetes or pre-diabetes.

The results of this study seem promising, and may offer insight into weight loss strategies for people with diabetes or pre-diabetes. However, personalized nutrition is an emerging area of research and it is important we don’t make conclusions based on limited evidence. The study’s authors stated that next steps include “research to explore additional biomarkers…which may help to more effectively customize the right diet for specific individuals.”

In the meantime, people with diabetes and pre-diabetes should be encouraged to optimize their nutrition and physical activity. Nutrition counseling with qualified professionals has been shown to improve the health of people with these conditions. Anyone interested nutrition for diabetes management should consider meeting with a Registered Dietitian (RD).  Registered Dietitians are nutrition experts who help people of all backgrounds use diet to meet their medical needs.

To schedule an appointment with an RD from Massachusetts General Hospital, contact the Department of Nutrition and Food Services by calling 617-726-2779.

Content reviewed by Melanie Pearsall, RD, LDN, CDE
Health

Understanding Emotional Eating

Have you ever come home after a stressful day and ended up eating a pint of Chunky Monkey?  Or maybe you’ve mindlessly eaten a bag of chips at your desk willing the workday to go by faster?  Both of these examples are types of emotional eating:  eating for reasons other than hunger.  While eating when you’re  hungry addresses a physical need (providing the body with food in order to function), emotional eating uses food to satisfy an emotional need.  Some common causes of emotional eating include stress, anger, boredom and loneliness.    Emotional eating can affect your diabetes management because often the foods eaten are high in sugar, fat and calories.  This can raise blood sugar and make it hard to lose weight.

So how can you tell if you’re eating because you’re hungry or because you’re stressed out?  Physical hunger comes on gradually and can be satisfied by any type of food. You stop feeling hunger when you have eaten enough to feel full.  Emotional “hunger” comes on very quickly and is focused on a strong craving for a particular food, taste or texture. Emotional eating is also often mindless and can lead to feelings of guilt afterward.

Now that we know the difference between physical and emotional hunger, here are some strategies to help manage emotional eating:

  • Know your triggers – If you know what it is that causes you to eat (e.g. boredom, stress), you can take action to prevent mindless munching before it begins. Use another activity to distract yourself from wanting to eat. Try going for a walk, talking to a friend or loved one, or listening to music.
  • Pause – Before reaching for the bag of chips, stop and think: am I hungry, or am I bored? Wait 10 minutes and see if you are still truly hungry.
  • Eat smaller portions –   If you wait 10 minutes and still can’t stop thinking about those chips, have a smaller, individual portion to keep you from overeating.
  • Practice mindful eating – Slow down and take the time to really enjoy the smell, tastes and textures of your favorite foods. Try not to multi task – make eating your only activity.
  • Seek help if you need it – Emotional eating can sometimes be a symptom of depression or anxiety.  If you feel this may be the case, talk to your healthcare provider, a diabetes educator or a mental health specialist.

Post content reviewed by Jen Searl, MLS, CHWC