6 Starter Steps to Tame Your Triglycerides

 

I recently had a client come to a nutrition consultation for a severely elevated triglyceride level. While his elevated triglyceride level was a challenging and depressing situation for him personally, it was what his cardiologist told him to eat which was really depressing! His physician actually told him to “eat grass and cardboard.” Obviously, this doctor was being sarcastic, but the comment implied that the diet needed to be overly restrictive. As is often the case with nutrition advice, this particular advice was misleading, incomplete, and inappropriate in terms of helping the patient improve his medical outcome.

6 ways to decrease triglycerides without eating grass and cardboard

Maintain or get to a healthy weight.

Triglyceride and cholesterol reduction may result from losing weight if overweight. Maintaining an ideal weight is important for all aspects of health, including triglyceride reduction.

Increase physical activity

Aerobic exercise can aid with weight loss and decrease triglyceride levels at the same time.Triglyceride reduction occurs with short bouts of aerobic exercise as well as long-term repetitive exercise. Most studies support doing 30-45 minutes of moderately intensive exercise five times a week. Have your doctor sign off on your exercise if you have been inactive!

Cut down on carbs

Carbohydrates are basically divided into two categories: simple and complex. Simple carbohydrates tend to be sweet, such as soft drinks, desserts, candies, and syrup. Bread, pasta, rice, fruits, and vegetables are sources of complex carbs.

It is generally recommended that people with high triglycerides avoid simple carbohydrates. Some people are so sensitive to sweets that their triglyceride levels increase drastically when they eat too much sugar. In any healthful diet, complex carbohydrates should be in the 45-65% of overall calorie intake, but even too much high-fiber, nutrient-dense complex carbohydrates can aggravate triglyceride levels when eaten in amounts exceeding 60% of total calorie intake.

Limit alcohol

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), even small amounts of alcohol can increase triglyceride levels. For some people, cutting out alcohol can elicit a marked decrease in their triglyceride levels. In the case of my patient, his triglyceride decreased a whopping 90%.

Choose fats wisely

Up to 30% of the calories you get from fat should come from foods higher in monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, according to the AHA.

Eat more fish

Most health experts also recommend eating more fish because of the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish, which have been associated with decreased triglyceride levels. Omega-3 fatty acids also help make the blood less sticky, so it is less likely to forms clots that contribute to heart attacks. Fatty fish like sardines, herring, and salmon are good sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Other good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include: tofu, soybeans, flaxseed, nuts, and green leafy vegetables.

While these are steps to start you off, a licensed dietitian can personalize your food plan to meet your goals. You do not need to eat cardboard and grass!

What’s on your plate to lower triglyceride levels?

Healthy Eating Confusion? 5 Easy Tips to Start!

healthy eating confusion

Wondering how to Eat? Follow 5 steps to clear up healthy eating confusion!

If you are confused about how to eat, you are far from alone. We are a society on ”nutrition” overload. Messages reach us each time we turn on the ten o’ clock news or boot up the computer. Eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, do this, don’t do that-and consumers feel messages conflict and constantly spin a one-eighty every other week. No wonder the public is unsure about what to eat or who to take advice from! With that in mind, here are 5 tips to clear up healthy eating confusion. These tips can help most people improve their overall health status.

5 important and easy tips to clear up healthy eating confusion

Decrease your animal protein consumption

This will decrease your saturated fat intake, keep your calories in line, AND decrease your carbon footprint on our dear planet earth.

Eat more plant-based foods

The upside of this, is simply, more anti-oxidants, more fiber, fewer calories, and less of a carbon footprint on planet earth.

Focus on unprocessed foods as much as possible

The less processed the food, the more nutrient dense the food. When the food is molded, distorted, manipulated, or redesigned, the nutrition composition is most likely altered, and not usually for the better!

Don’t be afraid of bread

Whole grain breads are a rich source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, zinc, and fiber.

Cast a wide net on the variety of foods you eat

No single food is a magic health bullet. Eating a variety of foods keeps your taste buds happy and also increases the likelihood that you are getting more and varied nutrients into your diet.

Some people should not follow these suggestions due to specific medical concerns. But  for most people, this is an excellent start to eating a better quality of diet. If you need to omit food groups or implement special diet therapy, consider consulting with a Registered/Licensed Dietitian to design a food plan that works for your health goals.

Bon Appetit!

 

“Great” Green Tea: What’s in it For Your Health?

Green tea health benefits and how to prepare

Green tea is probably the one beverage I can think of that can be deemed completely healthy and almost without any controversy!  A search on pub med today just yielded 4688 scientific/medical journal abstracts on green tea. I am not aware of any studies that are critical of green tea regarding health, and scientists have been interested in the potential health benefits of green tea for many decades.

Key anti-oxidant in green tea that promotes health

The compound epigallocatechin gallate (EGCG) is found primarily in green tea, and it is the compound that appears to confer the significant health benefits of green tea. This compound is one of four prominent compounds which are strong anti-oxidants present in green tea. Some of the health benefits of green tea include: interfering with cancer cells, lowering lipids, decreasing inflammation, decreasing the risk of blood clots and stroke, and fighting tooth decay.

Caffeine

Many people assume green tea has a lot of caffeine and they opt for decaffeinated green tea. A cup of regular brewed green tea has less than 30 mg of caffeine while a cup of regular brewed coffee (not Starbucks) has 95 mg or more. So, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, go for the decaffeinated version. But if caffeine sensitivity is not an issue, even the regular green tea is still low in caffeine. Choose decaffeinated teas that remove caffeine with carbon dioxide rather than chemicals. Use of chemicals for decaffeinating may actually destroy the anti-oxidants.

How to brew green tea

Green tea can be brewed as loose leaves of tea or using a tea bag. Use one tsp. loose tea or one tea bag per serving. Using bottled water rather than tap water for brewing may improve the taste of the tea. Steep your tea in water which has just reached the boiling point of 160 degrees. Turn the heat off and steep the tea for 2-4 minutes. Limiting the steeping time to 2-4 minutes will allow for optimal anti-oxidants and decrease the bitterness and caffeine content. Steeping tea for 4 minutes will actually increase the caffeine content to 40-100 mg of caffeine per 8 ounce serving.

Flavored teas and tea products 

Flavored teas will be lower in anti-oxidants. The flavoring added to the teas reduces the actual tea percentage and therefore the anti-oxidants. Nonetheless, flavored teas and already prepared tea products can still be a source of anti-oxidants. You can also brew your own tea, and add your own flavorings such as mint, lemon, or ginseng.

With the summer heat wave sweeping the entire country, consider making your green tea into a pitcher of iced tea. You’ll get the health benefits of green tea along with hydration!

Do you have a favorite green tea brand or recipe to share on this blog?

How to Buy Bread: Shopping Tips for the Savvy Shopper

 

how to buy bread

Bread choices can be overwhelming!

It’s just a simple food staple, but what’s the best way to buy bread? What points should be considered? A recent family conversation revealed to me the confusion on  how to buy bread. It’s not just an issue of rye versus wheat or white versus whole grain. Grocery shoppers encounter a far more complex array of bread terms such as enriched, 100% whole grain, high fiber, and gluten-free.

Knowing a few facts about what these terms mean is crucial for the savvy bread shopper. Check out some of the key factors to consider when you buy your next loaf of bread.

Whole grain bread or 100% grain, does it matter when you buy bread?

These terms mean the entire grain kernel was used to make the bread, as opposed to just part of the kernel. More specifically, the bread was made from all parts of the grain kernel: the nutrient dense bran and germ of the grain, as well as the less nutrient dense middle endosperm. As a result, the fiber and nutrient content of the bread is generally higher. Both whole grain bread and 100% grain translate to a healthy option for the consumer.

Enriched white bread (refined flour)

Enriched white bread is made from the less nutrient rich endosperm. US government regulation also requires that only some of the nutrients found in whole grain bread be added back into enriched white bread. These nutrients include some B-complex vitamins; however, fiber, magnesium, zinc, vitamin E, and chromium are not typically added in to the enriched product. So, opt for whole grain or 100% grain when you buy bread. You are getting more nutrition bang for your buck.

Wheat bread, brown bread, stone ground

These breads are not necessarily made from a whole grain, and consequently are not guaranteed to be a nutritious option. You must check the label to determine whether the bread is made from a whole grain or an enriched flour.

Fiber

Most whole grain breads will yield more fiber than white enriched products. Fiber is an important element of a healthy diet, so look for a minimum of 2 grams of fiber per slice. Many whole grain breads may have as much as 5 grams of fiber.

Sodium

Bread can be a significant source of sodium. If this is an issue for you, check out the nutrition fact label for this information. Sliced packaged bread typically ranges from about 150 mg to several hundred mg of sodium per slice.

Calories are an important factor when you buy bread

Calorie content per slice of bread varies widely. Many varieties of sliced bread range from 70-120 calories per slice. Check the nutrition information to ensure that the bread of your choice aligns with your caloric requirements.

Other label deciphering tricks for how to buy bread

Look at the list of ingredients. The most prevalent ingredient is listed first, and the least prevalent ingredient is listed at the end. If you are looking for a healthy whole grain bread, you would most likely see “whole or 100% wheat” noted first on the list of ingredients. A less nutritionally desirable bread might list 100% whole wheat, followed by enriched wheat and other ingredients.

A word about gluten 

Gluten is protein which some individuals are sensitive to, or must avoid due to celiac disease. It has become popular to avoid or decrease gluten, but it is not necessary for everyone to do so. When it comes to bread, avoid gluten if it is medically required.

A word about high fructose corn syrup

High fructose corn syrup is used as a sweetener in food items, and it has been highly criticized in the past few years. Whatever the final scientific findings on high fructose corn syrup may be, there are many breads on the market free of this ingredient. Read your labels and find a bread that uses an alternate sweetener if this concerns you.

Do you have a healthy favorite store brand bread you can recommend?

7 Trader Joe’s Best Bite Entrees When Time is Tight!

It’s summer, and I cannot figure out why I am so busy! Today, as has been the case for the last few weeks, I am short on time. I decided to hit my favorite area specialty grocery store this morning for some “back-up” type meals to avoid being tied to the kitchen later in the day. I like to keep a few “convenience” type meal alternatives that do not require either thinking, or labor, when I am either very tired or too busy to spend time in the kitchen. My criteria when purchasing such foods is typically limited to evaluating: total fat, calories, and sodium.  For many convenience foods, it is easy enough to find limited fat and calories, or limited sodium, but rather a difficult task to find convenience foods already prepared that are acceptable in all three categories.

Here are my favorite “go-to” foods from Trader Joe’s

  • Breaded Tenderloin Chicken Breasts (per 66 gram piece, has 110 calories, 3.5 gm total fat, 180 mg sodium); toss on a bed of lettuce greens for a quick meal.
  • Roasted Vegetable Multi-Grain Lasagna (per 1/4 package, has 240 calories, 7 gm total fat, 480 mg sodium)
  • Wild Salmon in Yogurt and Mint Sauce with Orzo Pasta, Spinach and Zucchini (one container has 350 calories, 10 gm fat, 310 mg sodium)
  • Chile Lime Chicken Burger (one burger has 150 calories, 6 gm fat, 310 mg sodium)
  • Organic No Salt Added Marinara Sauce (has 60 calories, no fat, and only 35 mg of sodium per 1/2 cup).  Just put on pasta, add a dash of favorite cheese and serve with a salad.
  • Reduced Fat Fish Sticks (6 fish sticks have 220 calories, 9 gm fat, and 240 mg sodium)
  • Grilled Chicken Strips (3 oz. serving has 130 calories, 2.5 gm fat, and 210 mg sodium).  Toss on top of a bed of greens, with a lower sodium roll, and you are good for dinner.

Here’s to a night out of the hot kitchen! And, for dessert, there is always a bite of TJ 56% cacao dark chocolate (1/2 bar has 80 calories, 5 gm of fat, 0 sodium, and  a lot of antioxidants).

Do you have any healthy meals to recommend from Trader Joe’s or other specialty grocery stores?

 

Build a Better Breakfast!

 

My Creamy Berry Smoothie

 

Nutritionally speaking, there are a lot of important reasons to fuel up in the morning.  Research has noted that breakfast eaters have a jump-start on: maintaining a healthy weight, meeting daily nutritional requirements, and performing better physically and mentally all day.The “problems”, however, always seem to revolve around what to eat, how long will it take to prepare, and how fast can it be eaten! If you are getting tired of standard breakfast fare, consider the following as options:

Berry Creamy Smoothie

Blend 1.5 cups of blueberries (may start off as frozen and let thaw while in shower), ½ cup 1% milk fat cottage cheese, and ½ cup orange juice in a blender until thoroughly mixed.

Each 12 ounce serving has 260 calories, 15 grams protein, 48 grams carb, 2 grams fat, 7 grams fiber, and 275 mg. of potassium.

Oat Bran Muffins

Make from scratch.  This is about as easy as it gets and you know what is going into your body. They can be frozen after you make a batch, and then pulled out of the freezer when you get up in the morning. Let thaw as you shower. Enjoy with some orange or low sodium V-8 juice.

When evaluating an oat bran muffin recipe, if you are watching your waistline, consider recipes without dried fruits and nuts as ingredients. If a recipe calls for applesauce, that allows for a moister oat bran muffin.

 Oat Bran Muffin Recipe

Improvise with an English Muffin

Toast an English muffin, add one slice low-fat cheese and a slice of Canadian bacon.  Now you have an Egg McMuffin, sans the egg, and you don’t need to stop at the drive through and get tempted with hash browns.

What about English muffin pizza for breakfast? Toast each half to make it crispy.  Spread some pizza sauce on each half, some shredded mozzarella, and zap for a few seconds in the microwave.

Standby eggs

Consider hard boiling several to grab during the week. Each egg is a nice packet of nutrients and only about 80 calories. Or, consider making small cheese and spinach quiches in muffin pans and freezing. Making that little bit of effort ahead of time in order to grab these will be worth it as you head to work.

Bottom line, a better breakfast will mean a better you and better day.  If you are also thinking of lunch and dinner, here are some other suggestions! 

Do you have a favorite, fast, and healthy breakfast idea?

 

 

20 Reasons to Eat Your Carbs and Forgo the Beef!

If you have a beef with carbs, you might want to rethink avoiding them. There are technically many reasons to actually eat the right amount of carbs. For whatever reason, the topic of carbohydrates fuels a firestorm of controversy. Look anywhere on the Internet, and you will find a preponderance of carbohydrate criticism and vilification. It’s true that not all carbs are the same. The carbs which should be emphasized for health are the complex carbohydrates. These carbs are high in nutrient density. Complex carbs include lentils, grains, fruits, and vegetables. 20 of the many reasons to eat your carbs are listed, so check out the list!

20 reasons to eat your carbs instead of beef

Penne with Chickpeas, tomato, and feta

  20 guilt-free reasons to eat nutrient dense carbs

  1. They provide a rich source of B-complex vitamins not found in other food categories.

  2. In the form of fruits and vegetables, they are an excellent source of vitamin C

  3. Complex carbs provide significant sources of potassium.

  4. They are naturally low in fat.

  5.  Provide health protecting phytonutrients found almost exclusively in complex carbs.

  6. Complex carbs are high in fiber to aid digestion and prevent constipation.

  7. Fiber-rich complex carbs aid in blood glucose control.

  8. Complex carbs fill you up and help you stick with a weight loss diet.

  9. Sufficient carbohydrates prevent ketosis.

  10. Carbohydrates spare the protein to function in growth, healing, and repair.

  11. When decreasing carbs, you then need to increase your calories from another nutrient such as animal protein, which in excessive amounts may weaken bones.

  12. Cut your carbs, then you need to increase your calories from other nutrients such as fat. This may lead to plaque build up on your arteries.

  13. A low carbohydrate intake might increase cortisol levels. This may increase risk of some cancers.

  14. A low carbohydrate intake might lead to an increased animal protein intake, which can increase painful gout.

  15. You need carbohydrates in your diet to make glycogen.This is your storage fuel for endurance athletic events and can be a fuel source if food is not available.

  16. Dairy products are nutrient dense carbohydrates which have important nutrients for strong bones and normal blood pressure.

  17. Most Americans do not consume enough magnesium. Many good sources of magnesium are complex carbs like spinach, bran cereal, beans, lentils, and dairy products.

  18. Strong bones need more than just calcium. And, many of the nutrients necessary for strong bones-vitamin K, various B vitamins, and magnesium are readily available from complex carbs.

  19. As food, they create less of a carbon footprint than growing animals to eat.

  20. They are satisfying and taste good! Don’t you miss them?

For these reasons, emphasizing unprocessed nutrient dense carbs such as lentils, beans, fruits, vegetables, fat-free dairy, and whole grain foods is not controversial, it is intelligent eating for the 21st century.

 

 

Cereals With Too Much Iron? Pick These Cereals, Not Those Cereals!

cereal with too much iron

Does your cereal have too much iron?

Do your regularly eat cereals with too much iron? Iron consumption is critical for the health of all-especially women of childbearing age, infants, and children. Iron deficiency can cause a range of symptoms from energy draining anemia to disruptive behavior in children. Because adequate dietary iron is so critical to health, many of our foods are fortified with iron to lessen the public health risk of too little iron.

Cereals are probably the most widely iron fortified food in this country. For infants, iron fortified baby cereal is an excellent way for babies to get the iron they need to grow. For older children and adults, a single serving of cereal can provide 100% of the recommendation for iron.

Iron requirements vary based on age and gender

But, what happens if a lot of this highly fortified cereal is eaten by men and older women who have significantly lower iron requirements than younger women and children?  Women of childbearing age need 18 mg of iron, but men and  women in menopause need only 8 mg of iron. While a healthy body can actually exert some control over absorbing too much iron, once in the body, it can be problematic to excrete. If too much iron is absorbed on an ongoing basis, it can cause a range of symptoms from increased infection to organ failure in susceptible individuals. The Iron Disorders Institute has extensive information about iron overload symptoms and treatment.

Cereals with too much iron can be avoided by checking the Nutrition Fact Label

cereals with too much iron

How much iron is in your cereal? How much iron do you need?

If you walk down the cereal aisle and start looking at the Nutrition Fact Label on cereal boxes, you will see that some of the most popular cereals-including some of the healthier high fiber whole grain varieties- are often packed with 50 to nearly 100% of the recommended 18 mg suitable for younger women. So, what about a man or older woman who chooses to eat multiple servings of a these cereals in a given day? They would be ingesting much more iron than they need, potentially placing themselves at medical risk over the long run.

Let’s look at how some popular cereals stack up per serving with regard to the 18 mg iron requirement:

  • Cheerios have 6.3 mg
  • Special K has 6.3 mg
  • Corn Chex has 9 mg
  • Corn Flakes have 9 mg
  • Raisin Bran has 6.3-10.8 mg (depends on the brand)
  • Wheat Chex has 14.4 mg
  • Frosted Mini Wheats have 16.2 mg
  • Multi-Bran Chex has 16.2 mg
  • Total has 18 mg

For those who love their cereal, but need less iron, there are some lower iron choices such as:

  • Kashi cereals range from virtually no iron up to 2 mg depending on the variety selected
  • Puffins have less than 1 mg
  • Cooked oatmeal has less than 2 mg
  • Fiber One has 4.5 mg
  • Frosted Cheerios have 4.5 mg
  • Basic 4 has 4.5 mg
  • Flax Plus Multibran Flakes has less than 2 mg

Given that many people eat more than the standard  ½-1 cup serving size, there is little doubt that some of you are consuming very large amounts of iron from cereal. Couple large serving sizes of iron fortified cereal with a glass of orange juice, and the iron absorption triples from the vitamin C in that orange juice!

Should you change your cereal choice based on your iron requirements? I hope this gave you something to think about.