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Why Eat Mushrooms?

September is National Mushroom Month. Mushrooms add a pleasant touch and taste to many dishes, but they provide so much more. These unique food items constitute a class of their own. Mushrooms are fungi that are commonly placed into the vegetable category because of their nutritive value.

What do you know about this distinctive food?

  • Mushrooms are one of few foods in the American diet that is a natural source of Vitamin D.
  • They are naturally high in umami, the fifth taste sense along with salty, sweet, bitter, and sour.
  • They are low in sodium and calories.
  • Antioxidants in mushrooms help the immune system.

Mushrooms can be used in varied ways to help incrMushroom, Nature, White, Raindropease the nutritional value of many dishes. Consider these tips.

  • Replace part of the ground beef in dishes with mushrooms to lower fat and calories.
  • Replace sour cream and cheese on that baked potato with sautéed mushrooms with herb seasonings.
  • Make dishes more filling and increase the flavor with the addition of mushrooms.
  • Add spinach and mushrooms to scrambled eggs to increase vegetable portions in your diet.

Mushrooms are versatile as an ingredient or served as a side dish in place of vegetables. They are wholesome and rich in B vitamins and minerals, especially selenium which works as an antioxidant to protect body cells. Mushrooms contain about as much potassium as a small banana.

Mushrooms have shown potential in decreasing tumor growth in cancer. They help with weight loss because they are low in calories yet give a sense of fullness. They also blend well with many foods, especially meats.

The most popular mushroom is the white button. It makes up about 90% of mushrooms consumed. It has a mild flavor which intensifies with cooking. Other varieties include:

  • Crimini:     Richer and deeper in flavor. Great with wild game, beef, and mixed with cooked vegetables. High in antioxidants and low in calories with about 23 calories per serving.
  • Portabella: Deep meat-like texture and flavor. Often served as appetizers, entrees, or as side dishes.
  • Maritake:   Rippled and fan-shaped, called “Hen of the Woods.” Distinctive aroma with a woodsy taste.
  • Shiitake:    Needs to be cooked before eating. Brownish color with a meaty texture and rich, woodsy flavor. Slightly higher in calories with about 41 calories per serving.
  • Other choices with mild flavors include Enoki, Oyster, and Beech.

While most of us use mushrooms in favorite dishes, increasing the use may result in greater physical well-being when used in place of high sodium or fatty foods. At the same time, substitutions just may help us as we combat our personal battle with excess body fat.

Before September fades away, resolve to add this nutritious and versatile food to your meals.

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Maybe you have been there. You lose weight and the next thing you know, you have gained it back, plus a little extra. Does this up-and-down process we call yo-yo dieting or weight cycling injure your health?

Sixty-eight percent of Americans over age 20 are obese or overweight. Of those, about 45 million are on a diet. As many as 65 percent of people who lose weight regain it within three years. For those who lose pounds rapidly, only five percent will sustain weight loss.

The controversy continues as to whether this practice harms otherwise healthy adults. Limited studies show the impact for crash dieting may result in frail bones, muscle atrophy, weakened immune system, and heart palpitations. However, weight cycling may be linked to stroke, heart attack, or death in people with preëxisting coronary heart disease (CHD).

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A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine confirms that for those with heart disease, a yo-yo pattern of dieting may prove fatal. The study included nearly 10,000 men and women between ages 35 to 75 and spanned almost five years. All participants had high cholesterol levels at the beginning of the study. For those overweight or obese when the study began, weight fluctuation of up to 8.6 pounds accounted for 136 percent more strokes, 117 percent more heart attacks, and 124 percent more deaths. While results did not prove a cause and effect relationship, an association seemed to exist. The study also found that the onset of diabetes increased for those who demonstrated greater variability in weight.

The August 28, 2017 journal Obesity reported that individuals whose weight fluctuated over a two-year period did not fare as well in keeping weight off as did those who consistently lost weight at a slower pace.

What do these studies tell us? For a better outcome when losing weight, make the process slow and steady. Unlike weight cycling or yo-yo dieting, consistency in losing weight assures a greater possibility of keeping weight off and at the same time, it reduces potential harm to your body, especially if  you have CHD. Before you start another crash diet, consider your long term goal for weight loss and the price such a diet could cost you in compromised health.

HEALTHY MEAL 2

Who doesn’t want to extend years of life as long as possible? Researchers confirm that even after middle age, we can lengthen our life span. In a study of nearly 74,000 health professionals 60 years-of-age or older, those who shifted to better eating habits lived longer. What changes did they make? Those who increased the amount of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains plus other healthy foods in their diets lowered their risk of premature death compared to those whose diets remained the same. Likewise, those who let their eating habits slip to less healthy fares in their older years increased their risks for dying.

Researchers used three scoring systems based on the Alternate Healthy Eating Index, the Alternate Mediterranean diet, and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet. While those diets differ somewhat, all promote fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, low-fat dairy, olive oil, and nuts. Some foods may include more of certain vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, or other nutrients, but all of these received higher scores and are good options. In all diets, less healthy choices such as sweets, processed foods, and red meats received low scores. The higher the overall score, the lower the risk of premature death.

Even changing a few items, such as fish or legumes in place of red meat, made a slight difference.  Alice Lichtenstein, spokesperson for the American Heart Association stated, “The key is to make changes that you can stick with for the rest of your life.” She added, “There are no magic-bullet foods or nutrients.” The message isn’t new. However, many believe if they haven’t followed healthy eating rules throughout their lifetimes, change is hopeless. Not so. It’s never too late to improve eating habits.

Choosing healthy foods helps prevent an early death and assures that the years we live will be less hampered by the many diseases resulting from poor diets. Quality of life is a precious commodity for everyone, especially as we age. Making slight diet changes can improve physical well-being and make those extra years’ worth living. It’s a win-win choice.

 

June is National Dairy Month. In past times, the mention of milk referred to dairy or that white liquid produced by mammals. Not so anymore. Controversy continues as to whether drinks from almonds, soybeans, coconut, and other plants constitute milk. While these products may be healthy, they definitely aren’t the same as milk from animals.Glass, Milk, White, Cow'S Milk, Pour A

Test your knowledge about dairy (with 1% fat), unsweetened almond, soy, rice, and coconut milks by taking the quiz below.

  • What milk listed above has the highest amount of protein?
  • Which one is highest in calories?
  • Which milks are fortified with calcium and vitamin D?
  • Which milk is highest in fat, based on the above criteria?
  • Which one(s) is/are lactose-free?

Protein in milk. Cow’s milk by far has the highest content of protein. In doesn’t matter if the product is skim, reduced fat, whole, organic, or inorganic, it contains the same amount of protein, about 1 gram per ounce or 8 grams in 8-ounce servings. Coconut and rice are the lowest with 0 grams of protein while almond has 1 gram, and soy 7 grams.

Calories in milk. Dairy milk (1% fat) also contains the most calories with 110 per serving. The most popular non-dairy milks usually contain added sugar, increasing the calorie count. When served unsweetened, plant milks have a calorie count as follows: almond― 40, soy― 80, rice― 70, and coconut― 45.

Fortified milk. A fortified food indicates that manufacturers have added micronutrients to the product. Federal regulations mandate fortification of cow’s milk with 2000 International Units (IU) per quart of vitamin A and 400 IU of vitamin D. Cow’s milk is naturally high in the mineral calcium, and the vitamin D improves calcium absorption. The federal government does not regulated fortification in plant milks, but many do add vitamins and minerals to simulate cow’s milk.

Fat content. Coconut milk, with 4.5 grams per serving of mostly saturated fat, has the highest content of the milks listed. Controversy continues regarding the pros and cons of the healthfulness of coconut milk. Current research confirms that saturated fat is less healthy than unsaturated types of fat whether from animal sources or plant sources. Soy milk is second highest in fat content with 4 grams per serving. The amount of fat in cow’s milk depends on whether it is skim―with minimal fat, whole―full-fat content, or somewhere in-between for reduced fat milk. Based on the 1 percent criteria, dairy, almond, and rice all have 2.5 grams of fat per 8-ounce serving.

Lactose. Lactose is a sugar found only in milk. Some people who have trouble digesting cow’s milk may be lactose intolerant.

Consumer Reports compared these milks and identified pros and cons.

  • Almond milk. These drinks contain few almonds, sometimes no more than the equivalent of three to four whole almonds. The nuts are ground and added to water. Drinks may contain some vitamin E and are often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. Panelists preferred “Almond Breeze Original” of the eight tasted. This drink has sugar added and possibly other additives.
  • Coconut milk. This drink is not the same as coconut milk found in cans. It is watered down to match the consistency of dairy milk. Added nutrients may include calcium and vitamin D, and some may have B12. Of the five brands tasted, the panel chose “Silk Almond-Coconut Blend Original” as the most flavorful.
  • Soy milk. This product is a good source of protein, but not the quality protein found in cow’s milk. It is made with ground soybeans and water, and is often fortified with B-vitamins, calcium, and vitamin D. Consumer Reports panelists tasted four products and selected “Silk Soymilk Vanilla” as the best. It, too, has added sugar.

With these facts, you can make more informed decisions about the type of milk you choose for you and your family. Dairy is usually the most economical and packs in more nutrients than any of the plant sources. All dairy milk has nine essential nutrients and high-quality (complete) protein. Non-dairy milks have no federal standards and may contain as much as ten different added ingredients including salt and sugar plus stabilizers and emulsifiers like locust bean gum, lecithin, and other gums.

Let me know what you think. Should these non-dairy drinks continue to be labeled as milk?

It’s strawberry season, my childhood favorite time of year. I grew up on a small farm where my dad grew strawberries. Fond memories linger of those days when fresh-from-the-field strawberries were often a part of every meal. I ate all the berries I wanted throughout the growing season plus unending amounts of frozen berries during the year.

It never occurred to me how healthy thImage result for free clipart strawberriesose bright red fruits were or the many nutritious benefits from eating them. Today, researchers assure us that strawberries are a part of a healthy diet and may contribute to well-being in many ways. They are high in vitamin C, folate, potassium, and phytochemicals. Flavonoids, a type of phytochemical, have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and antimutagenic properties. Strawberries have been associated with many health conditions and may help or prevent the following:

  • Reduce total cholesterol, LDL oxidation, and cell inflammation: These factors influence risks of heart attacks. A diet high in strawberries significantly lowers cholesterol levels. Researchers found that women who ate three servings per week of strawberries or blueberries reduced their chances of heart attacks by nearly one-third.
  • Prevent weight gain: According to studies in the British Medical Journal, flavonoid-rich foods like strawberries may help manage weight more easily.
  • Improve insulin resistance: Anthocyanins, responsible for berries’ bright red color, may improve insulin sensitivity. Researchers found that women who ate strawberries at least once a month were at a lower risk for diabetes.
  • Improve cognition: Strawberries and blueberries may help prevent age-related cognitive decline. They offset negative effects of cell oxidation and inflammation in the brain and protect women’s memory. Eating strawberries may delay mental aging in older women by as much as 2.5 years. In one study, women who ate more than two servings a week experienced less deterioration than those who ate one or fewer servings.

As a bonus, strawberries also seem to improve motor skills in women. What a delicious way to improve health and keep our brains intact. Make it a point to include ample servings in your diet. During this plentiful strawberry season, remember you are helping your overall health and brain function while enjoying a tasty treat.

Many Americans know something about vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. What do we know about fiber? Health professionals may disagree as to whether fiber is a nutrient, but it is essential to health. A healthy diet includes sufficient fiber, a form of carbohydrate that differs in significant ways from other types of this nutrient. The complexity of the sugar molecules linked together causes fiber to be more difficult to digest.

Fiber comes from plant sources, primarily whole grains which have twice the amount of fiber as refined grains, vegetables, fruits, and legumes. Unpeeled fruits and vegetables also provide more fiber as well as other nutrients than those that have been peeled.

Fiber is divided into two types, soluble and insoluble. Dietary sources are basically the same. Soluble fiber is water solvent and aids in digestion by causing carbohydrate and other nutrients to be absorbed more slowly. This helps control blood sugar levels, a positive for those with diabetes. It also plays a significant role in lowering blood levels of LDL cholesterol because it interferes with absorption of fat and cholesterol.

Insoluble fiber provides bulk in the diet which in turn helps stimulate movement through the intestinal tract to regulate waste removal from the body. Because both soluble and insoluble fiber cause a feeling of fullness, they can be beneficial in weight loss. Those who consume higher fiber diets usually eat less and remain free from hunger for longer periods of time.

How much fiber do we need? Requirements may vary, but most women need at least 30 grams and men 38 grams per day. After age fifty, both need less. Women need about 21 grams and men 30 grams of fiber per day.

To avoid abdominal distress, it is best to increase fiber intake slowly. Gradually change from a low-fiber to a high-fiber diet. The following are suggested ways to increase fiber in our diets:

  • Switch from refined foods to those made with whole grains.
  • Add beans to soups, salad and side dishes.
  • Add unsalted nuts and seeds to foods and use as snacks in place of sweets.
  • Add fruits and/or vegetables to cereals, salads, and other foods.
  • Add vegetables (such as zucchini and carrots) into main dishes like lasagna, meatloaf, stews, and more.
  • Keep fresh fruits and vegetables prepared and refrigerated for quick snacks.

When buying foods, check labels of similar products to determine those with higher fiber content. Increasing fiber in the diet isn’t difficult. It will pay dividends in better health and well-being.

 

 

March is National Nutrition Month, and today, March 8, 2017, is National Registered Dietitian Nutritionist Day. Why is that significant? The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (Academy) is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. The Academy represent more than 100,000 credentialed practitioners, primarily registered dietitians nutritionists, who are committed to improving the health of individual patients/clients, families, and the community.
I'm Blogging National Nutrition Month

In 2008, the Academy created a special day for Registered Dietitians Nutritionists. According to their website,  key messages for the public about these leading nutrition and dietetic experts encompass the following:

  • Acquire degrees from Academy-approved programs in colleges and universities in specific fields of nutrition, food service, and dietetics plus additional internship training or plans of study,
  • Translate the science of nutrition into practical application for healthy living,
  • Help individuals achieve positive lifestyle changes,
  • Advocate the advancement of nutritional status of Americans and people around the globe.

The Academy distributes nutrition related educational materials, and for National Nutrition Month has posted a word game for adults. Try it to refresh your memory and challenge your brain.

Celebrate this month with wise food choices. Should you need help with diets or food issues, remember to contact a registered dietitian nutritionist.