Archive for the ‘NUTRIENTS & NUTRITION’ Category

Sugar sugar

Sugar sugar (Photo credit: dhammza)

What do you think Halloween means to most children? My first guess is candy. I doubt they think much about ghost and goblins. They recognize the best part of trick or treat. It’s all about those gooey or hard high-sugar candies.

What’s a parent to do? While we’re concerned about all that sugar, what are we dishing out to our neighbor’s children?

Most of us enjoy sweets. There’s nothing wrong with candy to satisfy our occasional sweet tooth. But are some options healthier than others?

The National Confectioners Association at http://www.candyusa.com gives a calorie count of select candies and other helpful information. Consider these treats for less than 100 calories:




hard candy

one piece 20

Hershey’s miniature assortment



4-bite size chocolate squares

one 45
jelly beans 15-25 small


Brach’s candy corn

13 pieces 70
candy bars small snack size

about 80


small snack size


peanut butter cups two bite-sized

about 90


Although the high sugar content of candy is a concern, especially for children, it isn’t the worst thing they can eat. In the average diet, candy provides about 6 percent of added sugar, ranking just above dairy desserts at 5.4 percent. Fruit drinks come in third with 10.5 percent followed by grains and flour based desserts at 13 percent, and various other foods at 28 percent. The highest amount of sugar in the diet, at nearly 38 percent, comes from sodas and energy/sports drinks.

While candy contributed modestly toward total calories, researchers claimed it didn’t increase weight or body mass index (BMI) as much as other high-calorie foods and drinks. Children and adolescents who consumed more candy, which resulted in slightly higher total energy and added sugar intakes, weren’t as likely to be overweight or obese as those who did not eat candy.

Is this a license to overindulge? By no means. Added sugar in any food increases calories, and calories translate into weight.The average American eats candy less than twice a week and averages less than 50 calories a day from those tasty morsels.

This Halloween, use judgment in the amount of candy you allow yourself and your children.  Give the kids a treat while selectively controlling calories. Teach them to enjoy treats in moderation while eating healthier diets with plenty of fruits, vegetables, meats, dairy products, and whole grain breads and cereals. You will know you have done your part to keep them healthy.

Little goblins and adult ones, too, can savor limited amounts of candy treats on this special occasions without feeling guilty.


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How long do you want to live? We seem to have a built-in urge to live longer. Normal healthy people don’t want the grim reaper at their doorstep.

Deaths occur from numerous causes. Several things may cut the lifespan, but science is closing in on many factors that seem to increase longevity. Some lifestyle patterns, like smoking, may shorten life while others such as exercise seem to add more years. Unscrupulous wonder-potions with claims to extend existence surface then disappear. Do specific foods or nutrients impact survival?

Insufficient amounts of vitamin D may cause or worsen several health conditions—osteopenia, osteoporosis, muscle weakness, fractures, some cancers, auto immune diseases, infectious diseases, and cardiovascular diseases. These infirmities decrease quality of life, and some shorten the lifespan. Sufficient quantities of vitamin D may help prevent various health problems, especially certain types of cancers and diabetes.

Researchers studied the role of vitamin D in more than 10,000 people with an average age of fifty-eight. Based on blood levels below thirty nanograms per milliliter, they classified seventy percent as vitamin D deficient. Those with deficiencies were more prone to high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, diabetes, and increased mortality. Survival rates improved when they treated the vitamin D-deficient with supplements.

How much vitamin D do older adults need? Like other nutrients, it’s best to get vitamins from food sources. Unlike other nutrients, the sun is an excellent source of vitamin D. In the elderly, loss of the skin’s ability to generate vitamin D from sunshine aggravated by immobility or limited exposure to outside physical activities causes even greater risks for deficiency. The most plentiful natural food supply is fatty fish. Mushrooms, eggs, cheese, and liver contain limited amounts. The food industry supplements many products— namely milk, yogurt, cereal, and orange juice—with vitamin D to close the nutrient gap in diets.

The Recommended Dietary Allowance for vitamin D after age seventy is 800 International Units (IU) per day. The Institute of Medicine set a level of 4,000 IU as the upper limit for supplementation. Although other health professionals increase that limit to 10,000 IU, the lower level reduces the potential for harm from an overdose.

While studies show definite health improvements in those treated for deficiencies, too much vitamin D has a downside. We cannot assume that if a little is good, more is better. Doses of vitamin D above the upper recommended levels can cause health issues, especially for those with kidney problems. However, the potential consequences from deficiency outweigh the less life-threatening conditions of overdose.

Will vitamin D delay aging and cause you to live longer?  Maybe. Evidence seems clear that vitamin D plays a role in longevity. If you fail to consume vitamin D rich foods, either natural or fortified, supplements may make a difference. You don’t have to wait until old age to start. After all, if you delay consuming adequate amounts, you may not get there.

 “Healthy Eating & Diet,” http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/are-you-getting-enough-vitamin-d

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Like a pendulum, the latest food craze swings from one extreme to another. How will this year measure up to previous years? As consumers become more health conscious, food trends shift. According to The Hartman Group, we can look ahead to several changes in 2012. A few of those include:

  • Change in portion size. Smaller portion sizes emerge as customers, restaurants, and retailers move away from the idea that “Bigger is Better to Smaller is Beautiful.”
  • Emphasis on personalized nutrition. Look for increased interest in nutrigenomics (nutritional genetics) as customized diets replace the “one-size-fits-all” attitudes of past years. Expect processed food choices to shift toward higher quality foods.

A taste for real food beckons today’s consumers as the following trends increase and more outdated ones decrease.

  • Real butter replacing margarine.
  • Grass-fed meats displacing soy protein. Reports of side effects and advice from health professionals have caused soy to plunge into disfavor.
  • Healthy fats instead of fat-free.
  • Cage-free whole eggs emphasized more than egg whites.
  • Dairy from grass-fed cows instead of grain-fed. Milk from grass-fed Jersey, Guernsey, and Brown Swiss cows produce higher quality fat than those grain-fed which have higher levels of less healthy Omega 6 fatty acids.
  • Fresh produce touted over excessive supplements.
  • Stevia favored over artificial sweeteners.
  • Local, seasonal fruits replacing out-of-season exotic fruits with claims of higher antioxidant levels. Blueberries remain high on the list of preferred high-nutritional foods. Cherries continue to surface as a new favorite for athletes and health-conscious consumers. Expect to see a wider variety of local berries and tree fruits.

While consumers continue to follow older trends, healthier fares abound for 2012. Will you be in the mainstream of positive changes toward a healthier lifestyle?

For questions about any of these trends, contact me or see http://www.hartman-group.com/downloads/looking-ahead-2012-trends.pdf

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Finally, someone designated a month just for my taste. January is National Hot Tea Month. The Duchess of Bedford in 1840 initiated the afternoon tea to ward off “that sinking feeling.” I can attest to that. Nothing quiets my soul like settling down in the late afternoon with Earl Grey to whisk away worries of the day.

My love for hot tea spans more decades than I will admit, but the joy of such a respite goes back centuries. Drinking tea, credited to a Chinese Emperor, began nearly 5,000 years ago.

Tea is the most commonly consumed beverage in the world other than water. Not all teas are the same nor do they offer equal health benefits. Black, green, oolong, and more recently white tea, come from the leaves of the Camellia sinensis plant. Black tea, the most popular tea for Americans, claims 87% of the market. Its fermented leaves produce a rich full color and flavor. Oolong, rarely seen in America, is mildly fermented. The astringent flavored green tea and the sweet, silky, delicate-favored white tea aren’t fermented.

Herbal teas differ from what we call true tea. Herbal teas come from the leaves, fruits, or flowers of other plants. They contain no caffeine nor do they possess the same healthful qualities of the tea plant.

One tea bag of black tea has slightly less caffeine (about 40 milligrams) than a 12-ounce cola and about half as much as coffee. Caffeine in green tea is about half that of black tea, and white tea contains even less than green tea. One decaffeinated tea bag has about 2 milligrams of caffeine.

If you drink tea every day, it may keep you healthier in several ways. While earlier research touted healthfulness of green tea, black tea also promotes physical well-being, and white tea may contribute greater advantages because of its plentiful supply of antioxidants. Benefits attributed to tea include:

  • Decreased serum cholesterol, LDL or “bad” cholesterol, and triglycerides
  • Reduced risks of heart disease and stroke
  • Lowered risks of cancer including certain skin, colon, ovarian, and oral cancers
  • Improved immune function
  • Increased bone mineral density (BMD) which may lead to protecting women from osteoporosis
  • Decreased incidence of dental cavities
  • Reduced risk of kidney stones.

While you flatter your palate and celebrate the virtues of hot tea, bask in the thought of improved health. As the Apostle John wrote, “Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you” (3 John 1:2). Start today with a  cup of steaming hot tea. Enjoy!

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October 20 is World Osteoporosis Day. This date climaxes the Bone and Joint Decade National Action Week (October 12-20) mandated by President George W. Bush in 2002. The event focuses on arthritis, back pain, and osteoporosis and calls attention to prevention, management, and treatments. According to reports by the Bone and Joint Institute, musculoskeletal conditions affect millions worldwide and nearly half the American population over age eighteen. This malady is the most common cause of severe long-term pain and physical disability.

Osteoporosis, referred to as a silent disease, occurs without symptoms. As many as ten million Americans have osteoporosis and thirty-four million more have low bone mass. Forty percent of women over age fifty can expect to suffer from at least one fracture as a result of this disease.

What can you do? Several lifestyle factors impact bone health. Smoking and the consumption of two to three ounces a day of alcohol may cause greater susceptibility for osteoporosis. Certain medications can lead to a loss of bone density and fractures.

Good nutrition is vital for bone health. Inadequate intakes of calcium contribute to the development of osteoporosis. Food sources of calcium include milk and milk products, sardines and salmon, dark green vegetables (such as kale, broccoli, and spinach), and almonds. Some foods fortified with calcium include orange juice, cereals, and bread.

Vitamin D, important for calcium absorption and bone health, is found in liver, saltwater fish (salmon, mackerel, herring, and tuna), and egg yolks. Many people acquire Vitamin D through fortified milk. Sunshine, another source of Vitamin D, could prove less reliable, especially during winter months. Children and most adults need 600 IU/day while older adults need at least 800 IU daily.

In addition to nutrition, the skeleton needs exercise. Weight-bearing exercises, especially, make bones stronger.

It’s never too late to consider bone health. A bone mineral density (BMD) test identifies osteoporosis, measures bone loss, and determines risk for fractures. The test is painless. Early treatment of abnormalities may prevent easily fractured bones and pain plus the multiple expenses associated with this prevalent disease. Take care of those bones. You need them to last for a lifetime.



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October is National Apple Month. As fall days grow cooler, we anticipate abundant crisp, tart varieties of apples. The chart below lists some of the most common varieties, their use, and availability.





Yellow to red

Rich, full flavor

Great for salads or to eat raw

September — December

Golden Delicious

Golden yellow

Mellow, sweet all-purpose apple for
baking, salads, and to eat raw


Granny Smith

Evenly colored bright green

Tart, crisp, juicy and excellent for
cooking, salads, and to eat raw


Red Delicious

Bright to dark red

Mildly sweet, juicy

Favorite eating apple



Dark red

Spicy, slightly tart

Great for cider, cooking or eating raw

October – August

Does an apple a day keep the doctor away? Research indicates some truth to this statement. Apples and apple products promote weight loss, improve lung function, protect against certain types of cancers, protect arteries against harmful plaque build-up to prevent heart disease, and help those with type 2 diabetes and asthma. According to the US Apple Organization, apples may diminish the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease and possibly decrease risks for developing it. Apples may improve immunity and gastrointestinal health due to its pectin content. Also, apples have few calories, about 80 per medium size, and are rich in fiber and other nutrients.

Apples keep well and are great to pack in lunches. Serve them plain or with peanut butter or cheese for a healthy snack.

For a simple, nutritious dessert, slice apples into thin strips, lengthwise, place in a
microwavable dish and cook only until slightly tender. Top with a small amount
of sugar or artificial sweetener and a couple teaspoons of butter or margarine.
Serve warm. Or pan-fry sliced apples in a small amount of margarine/butter until tender and lightly brown. Sprinkle with your favorite sweetener and cinnamon if desired. For special occasions, make apples a la mode by adding a small scoop of ice cream on top of the cooked apples. This treat is as tasty as apple pie with a lot fewer calories.

Apples have become the next superfruit. Learn more and find tasty recipes at one of the web sites below.



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Small tomatoes in Korea

Image via Wikipedia

What could be more refreshing and colorful on the summer menu than a tomato? Whether eaten alone or alongside other fresh summer vegetables, the tangy taste appeals to most. Herbs of thyme, basil, sage, oregano, and dill enhance its flavor in recipes. For many ethnic dishes, tomatoes pair well with chili, cumin, or curry powder for more pungent tastes.

Tomatoes make a great addition to most any sandwich or as the main ingredient. Nothing beats red ripe tomatoes sliced and served on whole wheat bread with your favorite salad dressing or add strips of cooked turkey bacon and fresh spinach. Tomatoes add color, taste, and extra nutrients to many salads. Use as the base for all kinds of interesting combinations from plain cottage cheese to meat salads or in livelier combinations of nuts, cheese, and vegetables. The list is endless.

Not only does the flavor of tomatoes appeal to most, they’re loaded with needed nutrients such as rich sources of antioxidants. Antioxidants includes Beta-carotene, Lutein, Lycopene, Selenium, Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and Vitamin E. Antioxidants protect against oxidation processes which damage cells and are believed to cause the body to become more susceptible to blood vessel disease, cancer, and other problems.

Lycopene seems to concentrate in the prostate gland and tends to abate prostate cancer. Tomatoes not only may help to prevent cancer, the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) reports recent studies found that components of tomatoes stopped growth of cancer cells in the breast, lungs, and endometrial.

As summer winds down, enjoy the tasty treat of many varieties of tomatoes. Go to the link below for a great recipe, “Stuffed Tomatoes with Feta and Pine Nuts.”

And the added bonus? Tomatoes are low in calories. Eat and enjoy!


Source: http://www.aicr.org/site/News2?page=NewsArticle&id=10196&news

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Asparagus Salad

When we moved into our home some fifteen years ago, my interest leaned more toward flower gardens than growing vegetables. I planted one clump of asparagus. The tender spears that emerged produced feathery plumes when left uncut—just enough to mix into floral arrangements.

It wasn’t as though we don’t enjoy this vegetable. A few favorite recipes include asparagus. I wasn’t optimistic my clump would produce enough to eat.

Asparagus tends to be more expensive than most vegetables, but you can take advantage of lower prices in early summer when production is at its peak. The delectable low-sodium spears contain no fat and make a great addition to meals.  Nutrient-laden asparagus abounds in vitamins A, C, thiamin, folic acid, and B6. It has about twenty calories per serving and adds substantial fiber to the diet.

This year my small clump produced an abundance of spears. I harvested asparagus for freezing and tried new dishes. I discovered how great asparagus is in salads. For a tasty side dish, add the salad below to your menus. To jazz it up to a full vegetarian meal, add a hard-cooked egg, black beans, walnuts, strawberries or Mandarin oranges, and feta cheese. For meat-lovers, crumble crisp-cooked turkey bacon on top. Drizzle lightly with your favorite dressing. Tasty and healthy.

Asparagus Salad (for each serving)

5                      asparagus spears

2                      cups baby spring mix greens

2                      2″-3″ strips pimiento

Rinse asparagus and place in a microwaveable dish. Cover with plastic wrap. Punch two small holes into wrap to allow steam to escape. If microwave has varied settings for vegetables, set for frozen vegetable. If not, cook until spears are bright green and still crisp. Rinse greens and place on individual serving dishes. Place spears across top. Lay strips of pimiento over asparagus. Serve with low-calorie balsamic vinaigrette.

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How do you know if you make wise food choices? The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides guidelines to assure healthy food selections. The USDA developed the first food guide of five groups in 1917 with emphasis on the newly discovered vitamins and minerals. That guide remained the standard to good health until the advent of the “Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDA) from the National Academy of Sciences in 1940.

The National Nutrition Guide with seven food groups evolved in1946 from a 1943 version. Confusion over multiple groups resulted in the “Basic Four” recommendations of 1956. The USDA and Health and Human Services (HHS) conjointly developed Dietary Guidelines in 1980 and continue to revise this publication every five years. They released the 2010 edition on January 31, 2011. (see Blog for 4/5/11)

 The 2010 guidelines suggest increasing the food and nutrients below to improve eating habits.

Fruits and vegetables.  Choose a variety of dark green, red, and orange fruits/vegetables because they:

  • Contribute nutrients (folate, manganese, potassium, dietary fiber, vitamins A, C, and K) often inadequate in the diet.  
  • Reduce risks of chronic diseases.  As little as 2 ½ cups of fruits/vegetables per day reduce risks of heart attack and stroke. Some fruits/vegetables may  protect against cancer.
  • Lower calories. Fruits/vegetables help maintain appropriate weight by replacing less nutrient-dense foods. Whole fruit instead of juice increases fiber and aids weight loss. If you consume juice, select undiluted, pure juice.

Grains. Choose at least half of grain products from whole-grain sources:

  • Whole grains provide iron, magnesium, selenium, B vitamins, and dietary fiber.
  • They may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, lower body weight, and lower the incidence of type 2 diabetes.
  • Check the first or second item listed on the label under ingredients to confirm that the food product is primarily whole grain.  


  • Adults need the equivalent of three cups of fat-free or low-fat milk per day.
  • Milk products contribute calcium and (fortified) vitamin D to the diet and a significant amount of protein.

Protein Foods

  • Includes meats, seafood, poultry, eggs, legumes, and nuts.
  • Protein foods provide B vitamins, vitamin E, iron, zinc, and magnesium.
  • Select seafood, legumes, and nuts to cut solid fat in the diet.

According to the 2010 guidelines, selection of these food groups promotes adequate nutrients, helps control caloric intake, and may reduce risks of chronic disease. To assure you make wise choices , include these food groups in your diet. 

Sources:  http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm, Chapter 4.

 “Healthy Eating Politics,” http://www.healthy-eating-politics.com/usda-food-pyramid.html  (accessed 4/30/2011)

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In a healthy diet, all foods are acceptable within a moderate range. Today, however, Americans consume too much salt, fat—especially solid fat, added sugar, and refined grain. We readily acquire tastes for salty, fatty, and/or sweet foods. In moderation that’s not a problem, but excess may cause weight problems or compromise health.

Americans consume an estimated 3,400 milligrams (mg) of sodium per day. Current Dietary Guidelines recommend no more than 2,300 mg/day for healthy adolescents and adults. Those with high blood pressure, diabetes, chronic kidney disease, over the age of fifty-one, or of African-American decent should ingest no more than 1,500 mg daily. High sodium intake may cause high blood pressure and increase risks for cardiovascular disease.

Prepared foods are a primary source of sodium in the diet. Major contributors in order of amounts include yeast breads, chicken/chicken mixed dishes, pizza, pasta/pasta dishes, cold cuts, condiments, and tortillas/burritos/tacos. Other sources high in sodium are sausage/franks/bacon and regular cheese.

Fats, an important component in the diet, contain essential fatty acids and help in the absorption of the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E, and K. Fats provide more than twice the number of calories per gram as do carbohydrates or proteins. The type of fatty acid consumed, saturated, monounsaturated, or polyunsaturated, has a greater impact on cardiovascular health than does total fat.

With the exception of palm and coconut oil, saturated fatty acids (SFA) are usually solid at room temperature and come primarily from animal sources. SFA increase levels of blood-cholesterol and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) which may contribute to heart disease. All fatty acids contain the same amount of calories, but monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids may decrease health risks while SFA may increase them. Sources of monounsaturated fatty acids include olive, canola, and safflower oils. Polyunsaturated fatty acids are prevalent in soybean, cottonseed, and corn oils.

Sugars are natural components of many plant foods. Added sugars include high-fructose corn syrup, white and brown sugar, syrups, and others. Americans primarily consume added sugars in colas/energy/sports drinks, grain-based desserts, sugar-sweetened fruit drinks, dairy-based desserts, and candy.

Excess quantities of fats and added sugars may result in weight gain and a less nutritious diet. Suggestions for limiting these two food components include:

  • Focus on nutrient-dense foods in all categories.
  • Reduce the amount of fats (trim meats, etc) and sugars when cooking at home.
  • Eat smaller food portions of foods high in fat and sugar.

In addition to excessive salt, solid fats, and added sugars, refined grains are less desirable in a healthy diet than whole grains. Refined grains, even though enriched with vitamins and minerals, fail to provide needed fiber. The Dietary Guidelines recommend consumers replace at least half of refined grains in the diet with whole grains.

There are no bad foods, but excessive sodium, solid fats, added sugars, or refined grains tend to limit intake of more nutrient-dense foods. Look at your diet and see is you make wise choices.                                    

 Source: http://www.cnpp.usda.gov/DGAs2010-PolicyDocument.htm, Chapter 3.

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