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  • Archive for July, 2007

    Quick and Healthy Recipe: Veggie Wraps

    This easy to make (no appliances needed!) recipe is a great summertime lunch treat.

    1 whole wheat wrap
    2 tablespoons hummus
    1/2 cup avocado
    1/4 cup peppers (red or green)
    1/8 cup red onion, chopped
    1/4 cup mesclun mix
    1/8 cup carrots, shredded

    Place ingredients in the center of the wrap (for an extra touch, heat up the wrap in the microwave first for approximately 30 seconds), fold, and eat.

    Nutrition Profile:
    360 calories
    14 grams heart-healthy fats

    2 grams saturated fat
    11 grams (!) fiber

    Although it might not seem like a filling meal, the combination of high fiber and heart-healthy fats is guaranteed to keep you full for hours. Even my most carnivorous friends have been surprised at how great this wrap is and how full they feel afterwards.

    As an added bonus, the medley of vegetables provides a plethora of vitamins (including A, C, and E), minerals (such as potassium and magnesium), and antioxidants.

    Goes great with a chickpea, cucumber, and cilantro salad.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Diet Products

    Since diet products need to have less than 5 calories to be labeled calorie free, do most diet sodas tend to have just under five, or do they have have zero to one calorie per serving? does coke zero really have zero calories per serving?

    – Anonymous

    Great question!

    According to the Food & Drug Administration, a food product can be labeled as calorie-free or zero-calorie if it has 5 or fewer calories per serving.

    Issue 4 of the Small Bites newsletter focused on fats, and had a similar explanation for the labeling of trans fats.

    A bag of chips can claim to be trans-fat free as long as long as it contains less than 1 gram per serving. If a bag has 0.8 grams per serving and you have three servings, you’ve just had almost 2.5 grams of trans fats (mind you, you should ideally be getting zero grams a day and the maximum recommendation is set at just 2 grams)!

    A standard can of diet soda provides approximately 2 calories. Not exactly zero calories, but also not worth worrying about.

    The main concerns with diet soda are the phosphoric acid (which lowers calcium levels), the artificial sweeteners (which, being hundreds of times sweeter than real sugar often leave people craving more sugar) and the fact that it often replaces more healthful beverage choices.

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    Numbers Game: The Right Carbs

    A study published in the Cancer Epidemiology, Mile Markers, and Prevention journal analyzed the eating patterns of 1,800 Mexican women and concluded that participants who got more than half of their total calories from refined carbohydrates (white flour, sugar, chips, cookies, etc.) had a __________ percent higher risk of developing breast cancer, than subjects whose carbohydrate intake consisted mostly of whole grains.

    a) 25
    b) 95
    c) 220
    d) 100

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer!

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    Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing: Fruit on the Bottom Yogurt

    Yogurt mixed with fruit. Can’t get more nutritious than that, can you?

    Well, depends on what your definition of “fruit” is.

    Unfortunately, the fruit contained in “fruit on the bottom” yogurt is pure jam. In other words, take fruit, remove fiber, and add 2 tablespoons of sugar.

    Consider the ingredient list for Dannon’s strawberry flavored fruit on the bottom yogurt:

    “Cultured Grade A Low Fat Milk, Strawberries, Sugar, Fructose Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup.”

    By the way – the only reason why those three sweeteners are listed separately? If they were lumped together as “sweeteners”, they would be the FIRST ingredient on the label!

    Keep in mind that added sugar (in the form of fruit jelly) means more calories.

    For example, a six ounce container of plain yogurt with a half cup of fresh strawberries adds up to 104 calories.

    A six ounce container of strawberry flavored fruit-on-the-bottom yogurt provides 50% more calories, zero grams of fiber, and 90% less vitamin C.

    Undoubtedly, you are better off buying regular yogurt (preferably low or non-fat and without much added sugar) and adding your own fresh fruit.

    If that’s inconvenient, add whole grain cereals like Grapenuts, Kashi, or Total to your yogurt to boost its fiber, vitamin, mineral, and antioxidant content.

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    You "Ask", I Answer: Food Courts

    Unfortunately, I think [the shortage of healthy options at the Bronx Zoo and other food courts is] due to convenience. I bet it’s much easier (and cheaper) to keep frozen hamburger meat than fruit/veggies/dairy. There’s less of a chance the frozen stuff will go bad. As for the hamburger buns? No idea. I worry what kind of preservatives are in it to keep it “fresh.”

    – Anonymous

    A great point to bring up. It is true that frozen items with long shelf lives are preferred over foods that spoil in a matter of days.

    That being said, here is some healthy fare that shouldn’t cause any problems for the zoo’s business model.

    Fruit smoothies (using frozen berries — no ice needed! — and long shelf-life milk)

    Healthy stir-frys (frozen frozen vegetables, brown rice, and spices).

    Whole wheat hamburger buns (most people can’t tell the difference, and the extra fiber won’t hurt them)

    Small boxes of raisins and small bags of pre-sliced apples (just like Subway sells)

    Plain unbuttered popcorn

    Healthy energy bars (i.e.: Lara, Clif Nectar)

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    We’re Animals, Too

    Despite having lived in New York City for seven years, last weekend marked my first visit to the Bronx Zoo. I was initially a bit weary, as I wrestle with a few ethical and moral issues anytime animals are used to entertain humans. As much as I love to see them in the flesh, I certainly don’t walk away happy after seeing a gorilla sit in a 10 x 10 wire cage.

    I was pleasantly surprised, though, when I found myself looking through glass windows (or, sometimes, just looking out, with nothing but distance separating me) at animals that roamed large spaces, many of which contained grass and trees.

    Signs all over the zoo expressed concern over endangered species and how human civilization has played a part in driving out many animals from their natural habitats.

    A social conscience provided the undertone for many of the geo-specific exhibits, specifically pointing out how the health of animals was a top priority for the zoo.

    Come to think of it, I didn’t spot a single obese cheetah or leopard, and monkeys were provided real trees from which they ate leaves from, respecting their eating habits in nature.

    My joy quickly dissipated, though, when I entered the zoo’s food court.

    My choices – as a mammal belonging to the homo sapien sapien species — were: hamburgers, chicken fingers, French fries, six-ounce pretzels (this fiber-less 600-calorie item was deemed a healthy choice), ice cream, butter popcorn, and hot dogs.

    Sodium, saturated fats, added sugars, and fiber-less carbohydrates abounded. Vegetables (not counting wilted lettuce in the burgers) and fruits appeared to have gone the way of the dodo bird.

    Don’t get me wrong. I think people have the right to enjoy some greasy fare once in a while, but where is the choice for those of us who want to eat something healthy?

    True, I could very well have taken a backpack with a banana, whole grain crackers, and raw almonds, but is it so bold of me to ask that I be offered these products at the food court?

    At the very least, how about offering soy burgers, grilled chicken sandwiches, fruit and yogurt smoothies, individual bags of sliced apples, and small cartons of low-fat plain and chocolate milk alongside the standard junk?

    I don’t expect the zoo to be my destination for healthy eating, but why is a country with 97 million obese adults so hesitant to offer health-conscious food choices?

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    According to market research published in the Nutrition Business Journal, nutrition bars accrued sales of $ 2 billion in 2005.

    Although promises of energy, weight maintenance, fat burning, and healthy eating abound, many of these bars fall short and might as well be Crunch Bars with added vitamins.

    Find out who the winners and losers are in a special round-up to be posted very soon.

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    In The News: Soda

    Today’s alarming headline arrives courtesy of the journal Circulation, which published a study concluding that all sodas (yes, including the diet varieties) appear to increase risk factors for heart disease and diabetes.

    “Adults who drink one or more sodas a day had about a 50 percent higher risk of metabolic syndrome – a cluster of risk factors such as excessive fat around the wait, low levels of ‘good’ cholesterol, high blood pressure, and other symptoms.”

    Is soda the new trans fat? Not quite – I don’t foresee a ban anytime soon (nor would I condone one).

    While I would never recommend that a non soda-drinker start gulping down these sugary/aspartame concoctions, I also would not tell someone who enjoys the occasional fizzy sweet drink to give it up entirely.

    The real issue here, I believe, is what is being eaten in conjunction with these beverages.

    Think about it. What do the overwhelming majority of people tend to eat alongside regular or diet soda? Potato chips, French fries, hamburgers, pepperoni pizza, buttery popcorn, tortilla chips with cheese dip, hot dogs, candy, etc.

    I’ve rarely seen someone accompany a fruit salad, a bowl of oatmeal, or a yogurt parfait with an ice cold Coke.

    It’s very possible that what this study simply reveals – not too shockingly — is the effect junk food has on our bodies.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Olive Oil

    Is light olive oil lower in calories than the regular kind?

    – Amanda Krintson
    Hartford, CT

    No. All oils contain between 120 and 130 calories per tablespoon. The term “light” in reference to olive oil indicates it has been heavily refined to remove its strong color and flavor.

    Light olive oil still has the same heart-healthy benefits as regular olive oil thanks to its high levels of monounsaturated fat, but it can be used for baking or to cook anything that might be ruined by strong olive taste.

    As an added bonus, light olive oil has a higher smoke point than regular olive oil, making it a better choice for high-heat cooking methods.

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    Light Up? Load Up on Antioxidants!

    In most people’s minds, cigarettes are mostly associated with cancer, but did you know smoking also affects your nutrition status?

    Not only does smoking damage cells and clog arteries — thus paving the way for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease — it also significantly decreases the amount of vitamin C in our body.

    Ironically, smokers need more vitamin C than anyone else since this antioxidant is crucial in repairing the cell damage caused by inhaling all these toxins in the first place!

    Although I am not a proponent of unnecessary supplementation, I suggest all smokers take a vitamin C supplement, as their needs are too high (approximately 2,000 milligrams) to be reached with diet alone.

    Meanwhile, a 2005 study done at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute found that smoking decreases levels of Vitamin E – another antioxidant — from tissues, making them “particularly vulnerable to attack by toxins and free radicals,” according to researchers.

    Benzo(a)pyrene, a hydrocarbon present in car exhaust fumes as well as cigarettes, depletes vitamin A levels. Not surprisingly, low vitamin A levels are linked to a higher risk for developing emphysema.

    However, supplementing one’s diet with vitamin A (beta-carotene) was shown to actually increase the risk of developing lung cancer by the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Trial, a massive Finnish study that tracked almost 30,000 male 50 to 69-year-old Finnish smokers for eight years. Results were published in the June 23, 1993 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    In essence, smoking suppresses your immune system and makes you extremely vulnerable to a wide array of illnesses and diseases.

    Although a high fruit and vegetable intake is recommended for everyone, smokers need to be especially aware of their consumption. Whereas five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for the average adult, I recommend smokers aim for ten to twelve servings a day.

    Why such a high amount? The antioxidants exclusively found in these two food groups may help partly counteract some of the cell damage caused by cigarette smoking.

    Looking at minerals, smokers should pay special attention to calcium, as the cadmium in cigarettes impairs calcium metabolism, putting them at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

    Taking supplements does not “balance out” the harm done by continuous cigarette smoking, and, in the case of vitamin A, supplementation is not recommended, despite the depletion smoking causes.

    The best solution, obviously, is to kick the habit. Until then, be mindful of your eating habits and supplement your diet with vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin E to give your immune system a small boost while it’s attacked by toxic puffs of smoke.

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    Since fiber is a carbohydrate, I assume it has 4 calories per gram as regular carbs do. However, since our bodies cannot digest fiber, when product calculate the total calorie content in a serving size, do they count the calories in fiber or do they automatically deduct them because we cannot digest it?

    – Anonymous

    Fiber is actually calorie-free because it is composed of undigestable carbohydrates. Simply put, fiber is not absorbed or digested (hence, it is not considered a true nutrient).

    If you see a food label showing 15 grams of carbohydrates and five grams of fiber in one serving of a given food, those five grams of fiber are not contributing calories and considered separate from the 15 grams.

    Although calorie-free, fiber is plenty useful. Once it hits our large intestine, the bacteria present there ferment it to produce short-chain fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation of the colon, stabilize blood sugar, and stimulate the production of antibodies and other disease-fighting cells.

    This is precisely why fiber is so crucial in helping lower the risk of developing certain diseases. Without it, our bacteria are unable to support our immune systems to their full extent.

    Share

    Light Up? Load Up on Antioxidants!

    In most people’s minds, cigarettes are mostly associated with cancer, but did you know smoking also affects your nutrition status?

    Not only does smoking damage cells and clog arteries — thus paving the way for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease — it also significantly decreases the amount of vitamin C in our body.

    Ironically, smokers need more vitamin C than anyone else since this antioxidant is crucial in repairing the cell damage caused by inhaling all these toxins in the first place!

    Although I am not a proponent of unnecessary supplementation, I suggest all smokers take a vitamin C supplement, as their needs are too high (approximately 2,000 milligrams) to be reached with diet alone.

    Meanwhile, a 2005 study done at Oregon State University’s Linus Pauling Institute found that smoking decreases levels of Vitamin E – another antioxidant — from tissues, making them “particularly vulnerable to attack by toxins and free radicals,” according to researchers.

    Benzo(a)pyrene, a hydrocarbon present in car exhaust fumes as well as cigarettes, depletes vitamin A levels. Not surprisingly, low vitamin A levels are linked to a higher risk for developing emphysema.

    However, supplementing one’s diet with vitamin A (beta-carotene) was shown to actually increase the risk of developing lung cancer by the Alpha-Tocopherol, Beta-Carotene Cancer Prevention (ATBC) Trial, a massive Finnish study that tracked almost 30,000 male 50 to 69-year-old Finnish smokers for eight years. Results were published in the June 23, 1993 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

    In essence, smoking suppresses your immune system and makes you extremely vulnerable to a wide array of illnesses and diseases.

    Although a high fruit and vegetable intake is recommended for everyone, smokers need to be especially aware of their consumption. Whereas five to seven servings of fruits and vegetables are recommended for the average adult, I recommend smokers aim for ten to twelve servings a day.

    Why such a high amount? The antioxidants exclusively found in these two food groups may help partly counteract some of the cell damage caused by cigarette smoking.

    Looking at minerals, smokers should pay special attention to calcium, as the cadmium in cigarettes impairs calcium metabolism, putting them at higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

    Taking supplements does not “balance out” the harm done by continuous cigarette smoking, and, in the case of vitamin A, supplementation is not recommended, despite the depletion smoking causes.

    The best solution, obviously, is to kick the habit. Until then, be mindful of your eating habits and supplement your diet with vitamin C, calcium, and vitamin E to give your immune system a small boost while it’s attacked by toxic puffs of smoke.

    Share

    You Ask, I Answer: Fiber

    Since fiber is a carbohydrate, I assume it has 4 calories per gram as regular carbs do. However, since our bodies cannot digest fiber, when product calculate the total calorie content in a serving size, do they count the calories in fiber or do they automatically deduct them because we cannot digest it?

    – Anonymous

    Fiber is actually calorie-free because it is composed of undigestable carbohydrates. Simply put, fiber is not absorbed or digested (hence, it is not considered a true nutrient).

    If you see a food label showing 15 grams of carbohydrates and five grams of fiber in one serving of a given food, those five grams of fiber are not contributing calories and considered separate from the 15 grams.

    Although calorie-free, fiber is plenty useful. Once it hits our large intestine, the bacteria present there ferment it to produce short-chain fatty acids, which help lower cholesterol, reduce inflammation of the colon, stabilize blood sugar, and stimulate the production of antibodies and other disease-fighting cells.

    This is precisely why fiber is so crucial in helping lower the risk of developing certain diseases. Without it, our bacteria are unable to support our immune systems to their full extent.

    Share

    They’re Baaaack!

    Remember the pressure that was on McDonald’s after the release of Morgan Spurlock’s critically acclaimed 2004 documentary Supersize Me to drop said mammoth items from their menu?

    In what appeared to be an almost overnight move, 42 ounce (510 calories, when consumed without any ice cubes in the cup!) sodas were replaced by raw apple slices, healthier salads, and complementary pedometers.

    Somehow, Wendy’s and Burger King managed to escape scrutiny and made no excuses about their ever-growing menu (last year, Burger King proudly introduced the Quad Stacker — four beef patties, four slices of American cheese, and eight strips of bacon in one 1,000 calorie burger that provides 75% of our daily sodium needs!).

    It seems McDonald’s is ready to go head-to-head with the big boys. A new beverage size called Hugo (get it? It’s huge!) has been released in Berkeley, California. Its size? 42 ounces — the exact same as a Supersize beverage.

    This article in the New York Times‘ Business section explores this turn of events in more detail, and offers some great quotes from Marion Nestle and Lisa R. Young, two leaders in the nutrition field who I not only admire, but also have the honor and pleasure of working with at New York University.

    Share

    Numbers Game: Money Bars

    According to market research published in the Nutrition Business Journal, nutrition bars accrued sales of $ ______________ in 2005.

    a) 2 billion
    b) 20 million
    c) 60 million
    d) 10 billion

    Leave your guess in the “comments” section and come back on Tuesday for the answer, as well as a special report on which bars can truly call themselves “nutritious” and which belong in a vending machine alongside Butterfingers and M&M’s.

    Share
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