Search Results for: Eat Well to Be Well

Eat Well to Be Well: A+ after-school snacks enhance kids’ health

Summer is almost over with a new school year about to begin. You’ve bought new book bags, shoes, and school supplies to start your child’s school year off right.  But there’s one other important component enhancing your child’s school success and health – healthy after-school snacks.

The importance of after-school snacks

Who doesn’t remember coming home from school hungry and looking for something to eat? Children of today are no different. Keeping nutritious after-school snacks on hand allows kids of all ages the perfect opportunity to enrich their growth and nutritional needs.

As parents, we are responsible for forming our kids’ snack habits.  Think of the after-school snack as a mini-meal.  Healthy, nutritious snacks are a far smarter way to fill them up instead of offering overly-refined foods such as chips or Cheetos. Smart snack choices can provide key nutrients like fiber, iron, and protein that may otherwise be lacking in some kids’ diets.

The idea is to fuel your kids’ brains providing an energy boost while satisfying their hunger cravings helping them achieve academic success. For those participating in sports, busy student athletes will be wise to choose nutritious snacks supporting energy for growth and athletic performance. When smart snack choices are frequently made, this not only develops good eating habits, but also enjoyment of wholesome foods.

Eat Well to Be Well: Simply sidestep metabolic syndrome

Results from your annual physical were not the best – high cholesterol, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure – should you be concerned? Yes. You may have a condition called metabolic syndrome that can erupt into multiple health worries. The good news is making lifestyle changes can significantly blunt the advancement of this health problem. But what is metabolic syndrome and how would you know if you have it?

Understanding metabolic syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions significantly increasing your risk of having a heart attack or stroke. If you have this condition, it’s not a matter of if you will have a heart attack or stroke; it’s a matter of when.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, there are five conditions considered to be risk facts for metabolic syndrome: high blood pressure, high fasting blood sugar, abnormally high triglyceride levels, a low HDL cholesterol level (good cholesterol), and excess body fat around the waist (waist measurement or circumference). Below are the criteria for each of these conditions indicating if you are at risk:

  • Blood pressure – equal to or greater than 130/85 mmHg.
  • Fasting blood sugar – greater than 100 mg/dl.
  • Triglycerides – equal to or greater than 150 mg/dl.
  • HDL cholesterol – equal to or less than 50 mg/dl for women or equal to or less than 40 mg/dl for men.
  • Waist circumference – equal to or greater than 35 inches for women or equal to or greater than 40 inches for men.

Anyone with at least three or more of the risk factors has metabolic syndrome. Currently, a whopping 34 percent of American adults have metabolic syndrome, up from 25 percent two decades ago. And just recently, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, has found that the gains made in improving death rates from heart disease and strokes have stalled, which is driving down life expectancy in the U.S. This is after decades when Americans could expect to live longer than the generation before them.

Eat Well to Be Well: Why choosing cow’s milk still matters

Going to the grocery store to “get milk,” is not always what it used to mean. Open up the refrigerator in many homes, and the “milk” might instead be a nondairy milk alternative. From soymilk, almond, coconut, rice, cashew, oat, hemp, quinoa, or hazelnut, just to name a few, cow’s milk has competition.

Traditional cow’s milk still dominates the milk market, but research shows that U.S. nondairy milk sales are growing, causing cow’s milk sales to sag. Nondairy milk alternatives have gained popularity among consumers. But are nondairy milk alternatives as healthy for us as cow’s milk and why are consumers dropping dairy milk for plant-based alternative milks anyway?

Reasons for the switch to nondairy milk alternatives

The consumer consumption switch on buying more nondairy milk alternatives is being fueled for several reasons:

  • People with a milk allergy have a safe alternative to cow’s milk.
  • People with lactose intolerance – however, dairy milk manufacturers make some varieties of cow’s milk with the lactose already broken down.
  • People who are vegans and consume no animal products.
  • People who have health concerns over consuming dairy milk believing it is fattening or unhealthy.
  • There is public perception that nondairy milk alternatives are healthier than dairy milk.
  • Some consumers question modern milk production practices.

How does the nutritional profile of cow’s milk compare to plant-based milks? This is where it is very important for consumer’s to read the nutrition facts label on all types of nondairy milk alternatives. While it’s tempting to follow the trend of drinking plant-based milk alternatives, before deserting cow’s milk, know the nutritional differences between them.

Let’s be clear, cow’s milk is still the gold standard with a high nutritional profile for several reasons:

Eat Well to Be Well: Why making every bite count matters more as we age

Humorist, novelist, and journalist Mark Twain was famous for his wit and wisdom. One of my favorite quotes he coined was, “Age is an issue of mind over matter. If you don’t mind, it doesn’t matter.” However, what does matter is how healthfully we age, at least to me. I personally hope to live a long healthy life, with the emphasis on “healthy.”

So, is healthy eating more important as we get older? Good nutrition is important at every stage of life. But as the decades go by, likely, health issues will start to appear. Your food choices often have a significant role of what we may or may not develop. Smart nutritional choices do make a difference. That’s why it’s never too late to start afresh with eating habits promoting your health.

When you look at each decade of life nutritionally, they bring certain phases and changes to focus on. Anyone who has lived long enough has seen and felt bodily changes. That’s why starting young is best for building a strong nutritional foundation. Let’s look at what to focus on as the years go by:

Eat Well to Be Well: The harms of going gluten-free when you don’t have to

In case you haven’t noticed, the gluten-free market has exploded within the past five years. This tidal wave of gluten-free popularity took off with endorsements from food blogs and social media hash tags. Even the food industry has played a significant role. Extensive labeling of foods as gluten-free or not has amassed such a following, an estimated one in five Americans include gluten-free foods in their diet.

Yet, most people pulling gluten-free foods off grocery store shelves do not have sensitivity to wheat, barley or rye. In fact, experts estimate that only about seven percent of Americans benefit from avoiding gluten. That means many of us eating gluten-free really don’t need to. Despite this fact, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, gluten-free alternatives to traditional foods accounted for nearly $1.6 billion in sales in 2015. Most of this growth is driven by consumers believing gluten-free is healthier and may aid weight loss. So, who should go gluten-free and who should not?

Who benefits from following a gluten-free diet?

Any person diagnosed with celiac disease through an intestinal biopsy will need to follow a gluten-free diet for the rest of their life. Celiac disease is an autoimmune disorder caused by an abnormal immune response to gluten. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye that can damage the lining of the small intestine by causing inflammation. When the damage occurs, it reduces the ability of the intestinal lining to absorb nutrients, which can lead to problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, or growth delays in children.

A food label shows this product is not gluten free: Wheat flour and whole wheat flour are derived from gluten-containing wheat. USDA graphic.

Another form of celiac disease called dermatitis herpetiformis (DH), also warrants going gluten-free. DH can trigger the immune system to attack the skin, causing a chronic, itchy bumpy rash that can be quite painful.

One other reason to avoid gluten is to reduce symptoms of gluten sensitivity. Gluten sensitivity is not an autoimmune disease; instead it’s the inability to process gluten, resulting in unpleasant symptoms such as diarrhea, gas, bloating, and constipation.

Anyone who believes they may benefit from a gluten-free diet should be evaluated by their family physician and a gastroenterologist to determine if they have celiac disease, DH or gluten sensitivity. If they do, following a gluten-free diet will help them feel better with fewer symptoms.

Eat Well to be Well: Build brainpower with brain-healthy foods

“To keep the body in good health is a duty, otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.” This very wise and aptly spoken quote from Buddha makes perfect sense in the world today when a greater percentage of our population is developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

We always hear talk about heart health but what about brain health? Our brain needs our attention too. It needs to be nourished and fed the right kind of foods to keep us thinking clearly, focused, feeling energetic and functioning at our best.

As dementia and Alzheimer’s disease continue to rise in the United States with no cure in sight, the earlier we begin making healthy food choices, the better. Currently, Alzheimer’s disease is the 6th leading cause of death with 5.3 million Americans living with this condition. It is predicted that unless a cure is found, 16 million Americans will have the disease by 2050.

The brain needs adequate blood flow to enhance memory and cognitive thinking. Many studies have been conducted demonstrating how a healthy diet with proper food choices does indeed make a remarkable difference in how we think and feel, giving us a brain boost we can benefit from. By adding in foods to boost brain health, this is one way we can participate in keeping our brains healthy. Here are five foods for protecting, promoting and preserving brain health:

Eat Well to Be Well: Hormones in beef – Should you worry?

When it comes to food, everyone has an opinion and each of us has many questions. Take beef for instance. It seems you either eat it or you don’t. And if you choose not to, one concern for avoiding it could be the fear of hormones in beef.  How do we know beef is safe to eat and why are hormones used anyway?

The ‘beef’ over eating meat

The sensationalism surrounding beef being filled with hormones is just that – an over exaggeration.  It’s important to understand all living things – plants, animals, and people – produce hormones. Hormones are special chemical messengers necessary for controlling most major body functions from hunger to reproduction. The hormones used in beef production are only those that are also naturally produced by cattle. They include estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone, as well as synthetic versions of them.

Why are hormones used?

The simple answer why cattle are implanted with hormones is to help the cattle grow faster. These growth-promoting hormone pellets, about the size of an Advil tablet, contain a small amount of hormones and are put under the skin on the backside of the ear – cattle ears are never used in food production, thus they do not end up in the food we eat.

If you’re worried about the amount of hormones in these pellets, don’t be. The amount is a fraction of the natural production of mature bulls or heifers. A 1,300 pound steer is implanted with 30 milligrams of estrogen to last 150 days and that’s it. Compare this to the amount of ingested hormones a woman on birth control pills takes for months or years. Also, hormones don’t build-up in the cow’s system so there is no residue from the pellets in your meat.

These hormones not only help the animal gain weight faster, but they also have less of an impact on the environment than a non-treated animal. This means less time, food, and water are used to finish the animal, making them less expensive to produce, a cost-savings passed on to us as consumers. Research from Iowa State University found that hormone implants have no effect on beef quality or safety.

Eat Well to Be Well: Eat right or exercise? Which to choose when in a pinch

A few weeks ago, my sister asked me this question, “If you had to cut corners, which is better to choose – eating healthy or exercise?” My initial response was “Trying to cut corners should be kept to a minimum. To achieve health and fitness, making wise food choices and engaging in consistent exercise are both necessary – they go hand-in-hand.” But I understood what she was asking. There are times in our lives when things get busy and we find ourselves doing one thing but not another.

Which one should we choose if we have to make a decision when in a pinch? Healthy eating wins hands down. Here’s why:

If you focus only on exercise without making changes in your food choices, you won’t see much of a weight loss. Those who exercise with the goal of losing weight but without cutting back on portion sizes or choosing healthier food will see minimal weight reduction in 6 to 12 months, compared to combining exercise with healthy eating.

Eat Well to Be Well: Plant 6 seeds of health into your diet

In case you haven’t noticed, seeds are everywhere and I’m not talking about the kind you buy at a greenhouse. I’m talking about the kind you buy at the grocery store to feed yourself. These tiny nutritional superstars come in all shapes, sizes and colors, and need to be a part of your daily diet. Once mainly relegated to health food stores, seeds are being recognized as a wholesome dietary addition offering a wide range of nutrients, textures and flavors. A spoonful or two each day is all you need to reap the vast nutritional benefits they provide in keeping us healthy and possibly decreasing risk of diseases.

Eat Well to Be Well: It’s okay to ‘go nuts’ a little each day

If you feel a little nutty some days, go ahead be that way – as in terms of adding them to your diet. In the past, nuts were often considered taboo – not any more. These nutritional standouts have risen to the top of the good-for-you food list ranking up there with fruits and vegetables as a nutrient dense food. Once considered too high in fat and calories to be good for us, nuts have done a nutritional turnaround. Years of research has turned the once frowned upon indulgence into a nutritional powerhouse and are now encouraged to be added to our daily diet.

Nowadays we know the composition of fat in nuts is a good type of fat which is quite healthy for us. Nuts are rich in the healthy oils of monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, along with omega-3 fatty acids. Nuts comes from plants therefore they contain no cholesterol; in addition they are free of trans fats and very low in saturated fat. The healthy fats combined with fiber, phytosterols and flavonoids also found in nuts, all make contributions to lowering blood cholesterol and improving heart health.

Nuts’ high fat and calorie content have made people fearful of weight gain. A half cup of pistachios contains 160 calories while a quarter cup of walnuts or almonds each contain 180 calories. However, no need to abstain as nuts’ high protein and fiber content counteract making us feel full, and studies have shown eating nuts can actually be associated with a reduced risk of weight gain. A medium-sized handful a day is the perfect portion to eat.

Eat Well to Be Well: Food fallacies – separate fact from fiction on diabetes

Diabetes is becoming more of an epidemic than ever. The number of individuals diagnosed and undiagnosed with diabetes is estimated to be at 29.1 million people or 9.3 percent of the population in the United States. We all know of someone with this disease and how hard it can be to follow the pattern of eating meant to keep diabetes in control. Diet, or the way a person eats, is the cornerstone of treating this condition but sometimes there is conflicting advice on how to go about that. Let’s dispel some of those myths regarding diabetes:

Eat Well to Be Well: Dr. Samadi challenges women to take a role in men’s health

Men, when was the last time you’ve had your PSA test done? PSA stands for prostate-specific antigen, which is a protein produced by cells of the prostate gland. The PSA test is simply a matter of getting a blood sample to measure the level of PSA in a man’s blood and it is recommended to get a baseline PSA at age 40.

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness month and Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, has a Samadi Challenge for all women to encourage the men in their lives to have their PSA levels checked.

“Helping men live longer healthier lives is my passion. Through the years I have realized that if you want to get something done ask a woman to do it,” Dr. Samadi said. “It was with that frame of thought that I launched the Samadi Challenge for Prostate Cancer. By educating women on the importance of having the men in their lives get tested, taking preventative measures such as with their diet, and being open to discussing treatment options if necessary, I believe we can really make an impact on men’s health.”

Eat Well to Be Well: Why zinc and lycopene may help prevent prostate cancer

September is National Prostate Cancer Awareness Month and there’s no better time than now to talk about two nutrients that may possibly reduce your risk of developing this disease. Before we get to that, let’s review facts on prostate cancer.

Prostate cancer is the most common cancer diagnosed in American men other than skin cancer. Here are key statistics from the American Cancer Society on prostate cancer for the year 2015:

  • About 220,800 new cases will be diagnosed.
  • About 27,540 deaths will occur.
  • About 1 in 7 men will be diagnosed with it during their lifetime.
  • It mainly occurs in older men with the average age at the time of diagnosis around 65.
  • It is the second leading cause of cancer death in American men, only behind lung cancer.
  • It is a serious disease, but most men do not die from it and the cure rate is high.

Eat Well to Be Well: Vitamin D – a key to preventing falls in the elderly

We all hope that as we age, our ability to live in our own homes independently is a dream that will be a reality. Unfortunately one of the more common reasons why the elderly have to give up that dream is the increased risk of falling, leading to fractures, disability and loss of independence. However, the sun and a vital nutrient in our food can possibly change that. Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, appears to play a significant role in helping to prevent falls. Studies have shown this fat-soluble vitamin seems to maintain muscle strength, which is critical in preserving confidence in day-to-day activities and lessening the fear of falling that could result in significant physical injury.

The problem of falls in the elderly is common. For people aged 65 or older, one out of every three will experience falling at some point. In 2013, 2.5 million nonfatal falls occurred in elderly adults that often resulted in head traumas, lacerations and hip fractures, and around 25,500 older adults died from unintentional fall injuries. Hip fractures occur at a rate of more than 258,000 each year with over 95 percent being caused by falls. The majority of falls are preventable, and when the elderly have sufficient vitamin D, it could be a major key to help lower this risk.

Eat Well to Be Well: Minimize portion size to maximize weight loss

Over the years, if there was one thing that grew right along with the American public’s waistline, it was the portion size of our food. Or should that statement be reversed?

Either way, as our waistlines and portion sizes expanded, the number of people diagnosed with heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension has swelled to epidemic proportions.

Some will say the weight gain is due to not enough exercise or sitting at a desk all day or snacking on processed foods. Those things can certainly be part of the problem, but as a dietitian, I’ve always felt what really got the ball rolling was increasing portion sizes of our food. From the popularity of all-you-can-eat buffets to free refills of soda, trying to keep your weight reasonable while living in an obesity-promoting environment is tough.

“Portion control is arguable the simplest and easiest habit you could adopt as part of a healthy lifestyle and maintaining a healthy weight, especially soon after you’ve lost weight,” said Dr. David B. Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “You know what they say, where there’s a will, there’s a way. The key is to trick your brain into loving portion control.”

The portion size of our food has gotten to the point where most people don’t know what a normal portion size should look like. We just willingly accept that when you place an order for a small pizza for yourself it arrives looking like it could feed a family of four.

Eat Well to Be Well: A prescription for prediabetes – be proactive

We’ve all heard of type 1 or type 2 diabetes, but what about prediabetes? The prevalence of prediabetes is a major problem in this country. It’s estimated 79 million Americans have it, with about 35 percent of adults aged 20 and older and 50 percent of adults aged 65 and older. It is an under diagnosed and under treated condition that is affecting our economy and the cost of medicine. The cost of prediabetes increased by 74 percent to $44 billion from 2007 to 2012 – in 2012, diabetes exceeded $322 billion due to high medical costs and lost productivity. The progression of prediabetes to diabetes needs to be delayed or reversed before it causes major health problems in individuals and collapses our healthcare system.

“Obesity has significantly increased the diagnosis of prediabetes in America,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 79 million American adults have prediabetes. As you might guess, prediabetes can develop into diabetes.”

Prediabetes is a condition in which blood glucose levels are higher than normal but not high enough to be classified as full-blown type 2 diabetes. There are often no signs or symptoms of prediabetes but if you experience any of the following or other unusual symptoms, schedule an appointment with your doctor: fatigue, frequent urination, blurred vision, or increased thirst.

Eat Well to Be Well: 6 anti-inflammatory foods to ease rheumatoid arthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis is a chronic autoimmune disease affecting about 1.5 million Americans with three times as many women being affected than men. Women often get diagnosed between ages 30 and 60 while men tend to be older when diagnosed. With RA, the body’s immune system attacks the joints of the hands, feet, wrists, elbows, knees and ankles, causing inflammation and resulting in swelling and pain. Over time, it can damage cartilage, causing joints to become unstable, loose, painful and deformed.

“Inflammation is your immune system’s reaction to irritation, injury or infection,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “It’s quite a normal response and a natural part of healing. But chronic inflammation for a long period of time has a negative effect on the body and often leads to chronic illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and even arthritis.”

The high levels of inflammation associated with RA not only affect the joints but also can contribute to blood vessel damage leading to heart disease. A Mayo Clinic study found that people with RA have twice the risk of heart disease than the general population. In fact, people with RA have a 60 percent increased risk of a heart attack within one to four years after diagnosis. The combined risk of joint and cardiac problems related to RA make it extremely important to follow an anti-inflammatory diet to reduce inflammation and the health issues associated with it.

“Inflammation is often associated with diseases like cancer and skin conditions but many people are unaware of its effects on the muscles, joints and long-term bone health,” Dr. Samadi said. “The combination of heat, pain, redness and swelling that happens inside the body creates a hostile environment, setting the tone for rheumatoid arthritis to develop.”

Eat Well to Be Well: Protein’s the power in preventing sarcopenia

Sarcopenia – a funny sounding word for a condition that affects 30 percent of people over the age of 60 and 50 percent of people age 80 and older. This word was coined in 1989 by a Dr. Irwin H. Rosenberg and is defined as the involuntary, gradual loss of muscle mass and strength as we age. All of us are at risk no matter our gender, ethnicity or where we live. The effects of sarcopenia can be devastating – increased falls and fractures, frailty, difficulty with walking, decrease in activities and a loss of physical function and independence.

This progressive condition can begin as early as age 30 and can reduce muscle tissue by 3 to 8 percent per decade. Between 50 and 60 years of age, muscle strength declines annually by 1.5 percent and by 3 percent after the age of 60. The muscle we lose as we age is slowly replaced with fat, even if body weight remains unchanged. That’s why even thin people can still have a high percent body fat content if they do little to maintain muscle mass leading to sarcopenia.

Think you can’t spot sarcopenia? It’s easy if you know what to look for. As the muscles weaken and get smaller, we have more difficulty in lifting heavy objects, walking far distances, reaching for something on a high shelf, bending over to pick objects up and a decline in stamina. And we just simply lose our muscle tone. Where we once enjoyed flexing muscles we could see, now they have gotten, well … flabby!

Eat Well to Be Well: Seven ways to rev up your metabolism for weight loss

Have you ever wondered why some people can lose weight effortlessly while others struggle with it their whole lives? For those in the latter, they may blame it on their metabolism.

Metabolism, also known as basal metabolic rate (BMR), or simply metabolic rate, is the rate in which the body uses energy or calories to support keeping you alive – it’s all those involuntary things our bodies do without us even having to think about it – our heart beating, blood circulating, respiration, temperature maintenance, and nerve activity.

If you are someone who has tried numerous diets over the years yet still find it difficult to reach the weight you desire, it’s possible your metabolism might need a bit of a jump start. First realize there are various factors that can affect your metabolism:

Eat Well to Be Well: Don’t suffer in silence with binge eating disorder

Eating disorders, often not discussed, really should warrant more attention and research into the causes, complications, and appropriate treatment, but ideally, prevention before they can begin. These serious, potentially life-threatening conditions affect all aspects of a person’s emotional and physical health and should not be thought of as just a fad.

“This stems from one’s relationship with food,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “Eating disorders occur when people have extreme emotional and behavioral issues with food and their weight. Developing an eating disorder can have serious physical and emotional effects on a person, which can even become life-threatening.”

There are many forms an eating disorder can take. Probably the most well-known eating disorders are anorexia and bulimia. However, another eating disorder is actually more common among adults in the United States than anorexia and bulimia combined, affecting both women and men – binge eating disorder.

Eat Well to Be Well: Two nutrients everyone needs for a sharp mind and clear eyesight

When it comes to nutrients protecting and maintaining eye and brain health, there are two words everyone should be familiar with – lutein and zeaxanthin. This twosome are key nutrients that have substantial evidence-based science indicating the role they play in keeping two very important organs – the eyes and the brain – healthy and working their best.

“Eye health is one of the most undervalued but important aspects of our overall health,” said Dr. David Samadi, chairman of urology and chief of robotic surgery at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. “It’s important for patients not to neglect their vision health, as eye disorders can be quite debilitating, such as inflammation of the eyelids, blurry vision and even cataracts. There are many things you can do to keep them healthy and make sure you’re seeing your best.”

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