Category: Nutrition

THAT SHIP HAS SAILED: Why the US should stop shipping American-grown food abroad

The development of the Food for Peace program was the US’s first program for fighting international hunger. This program focuses heavily on donating commodities to vulnerable populations abroad. Most donated goods are grown domestically and shipped to developing countries where over three billion people have received assistance since its inception. It is estimated that another eight to twelve million people could receive help by reforming US food aid policies. A major barrier to expanding reach is the shipment of US agricultural goods abroad. This is a practice that should be eliminated because it is harmful in the following ways:

1. It is time-consuming.

Shipping US grown goods abroad takes on average 126 days. In emergency situations, people are only able to survive for 12 days without foods. In many instances, waiting for US commodities to ship is deadly.

2. It wastes money on transportation fees.

Between 2003 and 2012, the US spent close to $18 billion on food aid. Over half of this money was used on international transportation fees. Money that could be used to feed millions was used to support US-based shipping companies and the transport of good.

3. It cripples international agricultural sectors.

US grown food is sold at a much lower cost than food sold by local farmers. This can put local farmers out of business if they are unable to compete with the sale of US products. Resultantly, communities become completely dependent on aid.

We should discontinue the practice of shipping US commodities abroad and instead support international agricultural ventures. Learn more about FY 2016 reform proposals here.

An Appetite for Adjectives

How can healthy foods be rebranded to garner interest and uptake, without the use of a master chef? A study this summer looked at the effects of descriptive food labels on the amount of vegetables self-served at lunch. The researchers categorized four different labeling groups:

  1. Basic description (i.e. carrots)
  2. Healthy restrictive (reduced-sodium carrots)
  3. Healthy positive (vitamin-rich carrots)
  4. Indulgent (caramelized carrots)

The vegetables and their recipes remained unchanged regardless of the label type. However, the indulgently labeled vegetables had 25% more people select the vegetable than the basic description, 41% more than in the healthy restrictive, and 35% more than the healthy positive. And when the indulgent label vegetables were selected, the portion size selected was greater than when the vegetable was a basic or healthy positive label.

These findings suggest that how we talk about a food impacts how we interact with it. Once the self-service containers were weighed and paid for, we don’t know how much of that food the individuals ate. Perception seems to play a large role in intent, though, and I am curious to see how health communicators can turn that intent into sustainable action through reframing the perceptions of vegetables and other recommended healthy foods.

http://www.cnn.com/2017/06/19/health/vegetables-indulgent-names-study/index.html

Fall for Healthy Options this Season

Ladies and Gentlemen: Fall is upon us! Well, next Friday it is anyway. As the season changes and the leaves along with it, you can unbox those fall scarves and cute booties. You can also expect a few new items on the menu at coffee shops, bakeries, and restaurants, and if you’re anything like me, these new menu items are always a highlight. (Pumpkin spiced latte anyone?) They’re a wonderful seasonal treat and hard to resist, but too many can mean excess weight gain and upping your chances of an unexpected visit to the dentist.

If you’re looking to indulge in the fall harvest without any unwanted physical results, check out a few of the recipes below. They’re delicious, comforting and you’re sure to sneak in a veggie or two.

Sweet Potato Cornbread This new twist on an old classic provides all the indulgence of sweet potatoes with the added promise of fragrant spices.

Ratatouille Veggie-loaded and flavor-filled = best of both worlds. What more could you ask for? This dish is a key to guilt-free, wholesome eating.

Butternut Squash Gratin You won’t find boring potatoes here. This creamy dish is a perfect for a luxury weekend or for a workday wind down. For a low-calorie option, try it with low-fat milk.

Happy Eating!

What is the low FODMAP diet?

There are some foods that are known culprits of abdominal bloating and gas, foods like carbonated soda, beans, and dairy. Pistachios and mangos aren’t usually included in that list. They are, however, both considered high FODMAP foods.

FODMAPs is an acronym for “Fermentable Oligo- Di-Monosaccharides And Polyols” and these short-chain carbohydrates are not always well suited for the intestinal tract. Decreasing high FODMAPs food may help relieve digestion problems like abdominal cramping as well as other intestinal issues like Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

Common FODMAPs:

  • Fructose (fruits, honey, high fructose corn syrup)
  • Lactose (dairy)
  • Fructans (wheat, onion, garlic)
  • Galactans (beans, lentils, legumes such as soy)
  • Polyols (sweeteners containing sorbitol, xylitol, stone fruits)

The low FODMAP diet is a short-term restrictive diet to determine which type of foods trigger intestinal symptoms through the process of elimination. After about 6 weeks on this diet, each of the above types of FODMAPs is reintroduced (one type per week) as symptoms are noted per type and food sensitivities discovered.

Know thyself, and know thy gut! For more information on FODMAPs, check out these links:

Low FODMAP Diet: The D.I.Y Beginner’s Guide

Stanford University Medical Center Digestive Health Center

Are you accepting toxic food advice?

If you’re a health junkie or on social media at all, you’ve probably seen these terms: registered dietitian, nutritionist, nutrition coach, food guru, etc.. With so much information flying around there’s a lot of confusion over what it all means and who to listen to when it comes to nutrition advice. My answer? It all depends! All of these titles embody a love of food but there are some big differences in who to look to for food advice. Let’s set the record straight.

Registered Dietitian

Registered dietitians (RDs), also called registered dietitian nutritionists (RDNs), are recognized as experts of food and nutrition in the medical field. This is largely because of the many years these professionals spend studying the science behind food and how it affects the body. The government has regulations on who can call themselves a “registered dietitian”. This is to protect the public from people who present themselves as nutrition experts, but who have no formal training. For example, if someone with diabetes accepts nutrition advice from a nutritionist and it hurts them the nutritionist can not be held accountable. Registered dietitians, on the other hand, can lose their license or suffer fines for providing poor nutrition advice.  This is because RDs go through extensive training before they can practice. As of 2017, RDs are required to complete the following:

  • a bachelor’s or advanced degree in food science or human nutrition
  • supervised training and internships
  • pass the RD exam

After RDs are certified, they also have to complete annual training to maintain their credentials. This is my field of study and the past two years I’ve spent work toward a masters in this field has not been easy, but I’m so close to the finish line! From my studies, it seems RDs are excellent in a number of areas. They really understand how to help manage medical conditions and weight loss. They also can point out what diet trends are completely bogus with science.

Nutritionists/Nutrition Coach/Food Guru

Terms like nutritionist, nutrition coach and the like are not regulated. Anyone can use these labels. This isn’t to say they don’t have valuable nutrition knowledge. Many nutritionists have a wealth of nutrition knowledge from experience and self-study. Some of my favorite nutritionist on Facebook and Instagram provide excellent recipe ideas and encourage their followers to make healthy choices with amazing food photography. On the other hand, following nutrition advice from individuals not formally trained in food science can be dangerous. A nutritionist might not fully understand nutrition information or they may be misinformed. This can be dangerous if a nutritionist misinforms a large number of individuals, especially through social media platforms. Misinformation is particularly harmful when individuals are looking to receive information around serious medical conditions like diabetes and weight loss.

The next time you’re in search of food advice think about what you need! If you have a medical condition or you’re looking for advice on how to lose weight in a healthy way, you might want to look for advice from an RD. If you’re looking for meal prepping tips or fitness inspiration, a nutritionist can certainly help. There’s space for both in this food lovers community.

Looking at the Hunter-Gatherer Gut

There are anywhere from 10-100 trillion microbes that thrive in the human body. They help maintain normal body conditions, facilitate with digestion, and are really important to our immune systems. Some of these are permanent whereas others are transient. Your own microbiota will change over the course of your life, strongly influenced by diet among other factors. An article published last week in Science magazine says these changes may even have once been seasonal.

Their logic is based on a study conducted with the Hadza community in Tanzania. These hunter-gatherers have a diet that must be much closer to that of our earliest ancestors, rooted in foraging as opposed to agriculture. The Hadza suffer much less from digestive illness–Chron’s, colitis, colon cancer–than do modern Westerners. Though the pattern of gut microbes found have yet to be more seriously researched, there seems to be health benefits of eating seasonally. Some scientists are tentatively naming this synchronization of food ingested and microbes in the gut a biorhythm of sorts.

This is certainly not the first time the hunter-gatherer diet has been looked to for inspiration. The Paleo Diet fad/trend is based in this vein of thought. It’s rich in natural proteins and fats, carbs from fruits and roots, and eliminates dairy, grains, and the cheap highly processed foods that so conveniently line our grocery stores. It has its critics certainly, but it would be interesting to see if the Paleo dieter’s microbiota is more similar to that of the Hadza.

As research in this field continues, it’ll be interesting to see how parallels in diet and its effects on the gut will continue to inform our favorite apt saying: You are what you eat.

 

Organic by any other name: 2017 Dirty Dozen

You have two sets of potatoes in the grocery store.  One is $0.99/lb.  The other is $1.50/lb and has an organic sticker on it.  If you’re like me you sit there thinking, “Why would I pay more for a little sticker?  I’ll pay a little less and save the change.”  Now, let’s find out if we made the right choice.

Organic basically means that products including lotions, oils and produce are made with fewer chemicals.  (Note that I say fewer we’ll address this in a minute.)  This word is regulated by the USDA which means, unlike terms like cage-free and natural, not just anyone can slap the word organic on something to sell products.  There is a strict list of chemicals and pesticides that the USDA has approved for use on organic produce.  So, while organic isn’t always 100% chemical free, organic farmers do use a lot fewer chemicals than traditional farmers.  When it comes to produce, there is a huge difference in the chemical content.  A lot of food grown in our country is essentially doused in chemicals to keep rodents, fungus, and bugs at bay.  A list comes out every year noting the foods most heavily laden with harsh chemicals.  Allow me to introduce this year’s “dirty dozen”:

1. Strawberries

2. Spinach

3. Nectarines

4. Apples

5. Peaches

6. Pears

7. Cherries

8. Grapes

9. Celery

10. Tomatoes

11. Sweet bell peppers

12. Potatoes

(Source: www.ewg.org)

I can already hear people saying “What’s the point if chemicals could still be present?  “There are chemicals in everything so what’s the point of organic?”  Sure, but what if I told you some people have noted over 20 different pesticides on strawberries?  And that some of the pesticides used by traditional farmers are things like DDT, a chemical linked to cancer and reproductive issues. Other pesticides are linked to brain damage, birth defects and Parkinson’s.  Consumers have to look out for their own best interests.  We have to take responsibility for our own health by paying close attention to what we put in our bodies. Next time you’re out shopping, consider picking up the organic potatoes.  Selecting some organic items could help you live a longer more healthy life.

Turmeric’s Health Benefits

To this day, if I’m feeling a little under the weather, my parents will prescribe a healthy dose of turmeric. Sore throat? Teaspoon of turmeric in warm milk. Acne acting up? Make a turmeric paste. Feeling weary? Add some more turmeric in your veggies when you cook.

Turmeric is a naturally bitter spice, but my ma and pa are right–it’s somewhat of a super food! It’s an anti-oxidant as well as an anti-inflammatory agent. It’s also been known to have anti-fungal and anti-cancer properties.

Curcumin, the phytochemical that gives turmeric it’s trademark yellow color, makes up about 2-5% of turmeric, but is responsible for most of its recognized therapeutic effects. It was first extracted from turmeric in the early 1800s and since then has been used extensively in Asian cooking, religious ceremonies, and for medicinal purposes. It works by regulating transcription factors (proteins that are important in converting DNA to RNA, which then codes for genes). It is also thought to bind to cellular proteins, and to be able to help stop the growth of tumor cells.

But wait, there’s more! With that strong yellow color, it makes a very effective natural food coloring, and can function as a preservative of sorts. All in all, not a bad spice to throw in the mix every now and again.

I think I may just roll my eyes a little less the next time my mom tells me drink a warm cup of haldi (Hindi for turmeric) milk before bed.

Spaghetti Squash Lasagna with Broccolini

By EatingWell Test Kitchen (eatingwell.com)

Total time: 1 hr 10 mins

 

INGREDIENTS

1 2 1/2- to 3-pound spaghetti squash, halved lengthwise and seeded

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 bunch broccolini, chopped (or just regular fresh or frozen broccoli)

4 cloves garlic, minced (amount is optional depending on how much you like garlic)

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)

2 tablespoons water

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided

1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese, divided

3/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

 

DIRECTIONS

  1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 450 °F.
  2. Place squash cut-side down in a microwave-safe dish; add 2 tablespoons water. Microwave, uncovered, on High until the flesh is tender, about 10 minutes. (Alternatively, place squash halves cut-side down on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake in a 400 °F oven until the squash is tender, 40 to 50 minutes.)
  3. Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add broccolini, garlic and red pepper (if using); cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Add water and cook, stirring, until the broccolini is tender, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to a large bowl.
  4. Use a fork to scrape the squash from the shells into the bowl. Place the shells in a broiler-safe baking pan or on a baking sheet. Stir 3/4 cup mozzarella, 2 tablespoons Parmesan, Italian seasoning, salt and pepper into the squash mixture. Divide it between the shells; top with the remaining 1/4 cup mozzarella and 2 tablespoons Parmesan.
  5. Bake on the lower rack for 10 minutes. Move to the upper rack, turn the broiler to high and broil, watching carefully, until the cheese starts to brown, about 2 minutes.

 

Original recipe can be found at http://www.eatingwell.com/recipe/252696/spaghetti-squash-lasagna-with-broccolini/

 

Quinoa Breakfast Pots

By: Wendy Polisi
Servings: 4

INGREDIENTS
4 cups almond milk
1 cup mixed quinoa (equal parts of white, red, and black varieties)
10 oz fresh strawberries, sliced (16-20 strawberries)
2 tbsp pistachios, slivered
honey to sweeten (I use approximately 2 tbsp.)

DIRECTIONS
1. In a small saucepan, warm the almond milk on low heat. After 2 minutes, add the quinoa and stir gently so the quinoa doesn’t clump together.
2. Cook on low heat for 15 minutes, or until the quinoa is cooked through.
3. Remove from heat, and divide among bowls or jars for an easy breakfast to-go!
4. Top with the strawberries and pistachios, and drizzle the honey on top.

Original recipe can be found at http://wendypolisi.com/5-ingredient-quinoa-breakfast-pots/