Strawberry Granita

Strawberry Granita is excerpted from my book, “Diet Simple.” The best ice cream in the world can be found in Italy, hands down. But much more typical of Italian fare is granita, the wonderfully fresh, flavored ice that is so refreshing after a meal. Here is a granita you can whip up in a flash, and at any time of the year. Even though it is based on frozen strawberries, the taste says “fresh” thanks to the helpful addition of orange flavoring.

8 servings

grated peel and juice of 1 orange (or 1/4 cup of another juice)
2 teaspoons orange liqueur or another liqueur (optional)
20 ounces frozen sweetened or fresh strawberries (or other fruit in season)

Optional: 1 Tablespoon Sugar (if using fresh strawberries), or Splenda
Optional: 8 mint sprigs

Put eight small sherbet dishes in the refrigerator to chill. If using fresh berries, place them in the freezer until frozen. Cut the frozen sweetened or unsweetened berries into large-sized chunks and put into a food processor. Add the orange juice, peel, and liqueur. Add sugar or Splenda, if using fresh strawberries and they aren’t sweet enough. Pulse for about 30 seconds to break up the chunks, then process on high until the mixture is smooth. When the mixture has been pureed, spoon immediately into the chilled dishes and place in the freezer. If the granita has been frozen for more than six hours, remove it from the freezer 10 minutes before serving time. If desired, decorate with the mint sprigs.

(Muffin cup liners can also be used. Fit each one into a cup in the muffin pan and fill to the 3/4 level, the frozen ice will expand. Place immediately into the freezer.)

Per serving: 80 calories, 0 grams fat, 20 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 mg sodium, 0 grams protein

Spring is wonderful for many reasons, not the least of which is the return of fresh ripe berries. Every week, I hustle to my farmers markets to see what is waiting for me. Right now, it’s strawberries: picked at their peak, they are tender, sweet, juicy and red throughout – but they have a very short season, so get them while you can!

There are very few foods that match the beautiful color and intense flavor of berries. And, fortunately, these fruits are nutrition superstars. More about nutrition benefits of BERRIES!


Zucchini Ribbons with Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette

Oldways, A nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage, asked me to provide a recipe for their website… Since Oldways promotes the Mediterranean way of eating and I’m a huge fan, I said YES! Out of the many recipes I supplied them, they chose “Zucchini Ribbons with Fresh Lemon Vinaigrette” for their website.

Serves 6 – 8

Katherine’s Favorite Vinaigrette:

Juice of 2 lemons (about 4 Tablespoons)

4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 teaspoon coarse sea salt or Kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 Tablespoon of fresh Basil, shredded, or fresh herb of your choice (optional)

The Vegetables:

4 or 5 small zucchini, green and/or yellow, with peel

1 onion, sliced very thinly
1 small red pepper, sliced thinly

Prepare the vinaigrette by whisking all ingredients together in a large salad bowl.

Slice the onion and red pepper thinly, place in the vinaigrette and toss.

Slice the zucchini into ribbons, using a vegetable peeler and slicing vertically from end to end. This will make very thin slices. You may also use a cheese slicer or mandoline. Add the zucchini, toss and serve immediately, or chill and serve later.

The entire recipe contains 644 calories. Divided by 8 servings is 81 calories per serving.

This recipe was adapted from the Palmer-Sadasiv family’s “Zucchini Ribbon Salad,” from “Let’s Eat In! Family-Tested Recipes from Around the World & Around Your Block.”

Surprising New Vitamin D Recommendations

The American Dietetic Association supports a report issued Tuesday, November 30, by the Institute of Medicine calling for new dietary intake levels for calcium and vitamin D to maintain health and avoid risks associated with excess consumption. The new Dietary Reference Intake values are based on evidence supporting the roles of these nutrients in bone health but not in other health conditions.

“The American Dietetic Association appreciates the thorough research directed by IOM regarding adequate intake amounts and health benefits of calcium and vitamin D,” said registered dietitian and ADA Spokesperson Katherine Tallmadge. “This report provides the evidence-based information that Americans need to make informed decisions regarding their daily diet.”
The IOM report, Dietary Reference Intakes for Calcium and Vitamin D, offers specific recommendations on the amounts of calcium and vitamin D that Americans should consume each day. The report concludes there is not yet sufficient information about the health benefits of consuming these nutrients beyond bone health.
“Over the past several years there has been a great deal of interest and theory regarding the additional health benefits of calcium and vitamin D, including its effect on cancer, hypertension and cardiovascular disease, diabetes and immune response,” Tallmadge said.
“According to IOM’s thorough review, this information was from studies that could not be considered consistent or conclusive. The American Dietetic Association strongly believes in the use of evidence-based practice guidelines, especially when it comes to determining Dietary Reference Intake values for nutrients,” Tallmadge said.
Evidence-based practice means relying on the best available science as the basis for practice decisions. ADA has made a strong commitment to evidence-based practice and emphasizing the need for all practitioners to understand evidence analysis and use evidence-based guidelines in its work with patients and clients.
The IOM report also states that, while national surveys indicate the majority of Americans and Canadians are consuming enough calcium and vitamin D, “higher levels have not been shown to confer greater benefits, and in fact, they have been linked to other health problems, challenging the concept that ‘more is better’.”
The American Dietetic Association is the world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA is committed to improving the nation’s health and advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy.

Omega-3s Superstars

Photo: Polly Wiedmaier

Original Content: The Washington Post

I first became interested in the power of omega-3 fatty acids when psychiatrists I work with began prescribing them for their depressed patients. Then I started hearing about their benefits for arthritis and a host of other diseases. And I couldn’t help but wonder, could it be possible that one simple change in the diet could provide so many benefits?

The connection between omega-3 fatty acids and health was first observed in the 1970s. Scientists noted that compared with their counterparts in Scandinavia, Greenland Eskimos had a reduced rate of heart disease, rheumatoid arthritis and other conditions even though they were eating a high-fat diet. The scientists hypothesized that the type of fat — marine derived — might play a role.

Since then, study after study has confirmed that omega-3 fatty acids, a type of polyunsaturated fat found primarily in fish, have a potent and positive effect on heart disease patients. Omega-3s prevent irregular heart beat, reduce plaque inside artery walls and decrease blood clotting, triglycerides (blood fat), blood pressure and inflammation.

“Omega-3s favorably affect a number of risk factors for cardiovascular disease and at the top of the list is reducing the risk of sudden death from heart attack,” says Penny Kris-Etherton, a nutrition professor at Pennsylvania State University.

But the healing powers of omega-3s don’t stop there. Research suggests they may reduce the risk of diabetes, reduce insulin resistance in people with diabetes, enhance bone density and inhibit proliferation of cancer cells in the breast, prostate and colon and improve skin condition by curbing psoriasis. Inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease seem to improve with more omega-3s. In infants, it improves cognition and visual acuity. And emerging research indicates omega-3s may boost levels of the brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine, decreasing depression and violent behavior.

While not an answer to every ailment, omega-3 fatty acids possess considerable healing powers. As an indication of their importance, the Food and Nutrition Board of the National Academy of Sciences recently established a minimum daily requirement: 1.1 grams for adult women, 1.6 grams for adult men.

But in nutrition, balance is everything. There is another essential fatty acid, omega-6. Each type of fatty acid has its important functions. But if the level of one of the fatty acids is too high, it competes with and interferes with the functioning of the other.

“If you eat too much omega-6, as is the case with today’s American diet, this interferes with omega-3 action, promotes inflammation, blood clotting and constricts blood vessels, and causes a huge array of diseases,” says Joseph Hibbeln, a psychiatrist at the National Institutes for Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism.

However, the ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is a source of heated debate among researchers. If you followed the fatty acid recommendations of the National Academy of Sciences, your ratio would be 11 to 1. But many omega-3 researchers say a far lower ratio is ideal for optimal health. Still other researchers believe a specific ratio doesn’t matter but the amount of omega-6 and omega-3 you’re eating is important.

What all the scientists do agree on is the need to consume more omega-3s. Americans don’t come close to getting their omega-3 requirement. But we used to.

“Early humans ate plenty of high-omega-3 foods, wild greens, seafood, lean animals that grazed on high-omega-3 grasses, such as purslane, and our bodies evolved a need for it,” says Artemis Simopoulos, president of the Center for Genetics, Nutrition and Health and author of “The Omega Diet” (Harper Collins, 1999).

Today, the highest concentration of omega-3s is found in fish. The two most potent omega-3 fatty acids are known as DHA and EPA and are usually found in oily fishes, such as mackerel, salmon and tuna. These fatty acids end up in every single cell membrane in the human body. They act as a cell lubricant, improve flexibility and communication among cells.

Omega-3s are also found in plant sources, especially flaxseed oil, canola oil, walnuts and some vegetables. These fatty acids, while valuable, are not as beneficial as the more potent omega-3s found in fish.

But for those who are concerned about the discovery of mercury and other contaminants in seafood, plant sources are important to consider. These omega-3s occur as ALA, a type of fatty acid that must be converted in the body to the more usable forms of DHA and EPA.

Omega-6s are found in safflower, soybean and corn oil, which are in many processed foods. Because of Americans’ increased intake of processed and fast foods over the past 50 years, omega-6s have largely replaced omega-3s in the modern diet.

Though grass-fed animal meat, available in some stores and farmers markets, contains at least two times more omega-3s than grain-fed animal meat, it doesn’t come close to the levels you can find in fish. Animal scientists are working on improving the omega-3 fatty acid content of beef, chicken and other meats by feeding the animals flax and other high-omega-3 foods, but these products are a long way from being sold in your grocery store.

You can now buy omega-3-enhanced eggs from chickens that are fed algae, flax and/or fish. The reported amount of omega-3s contained in each egg, however, varies according to brand. These amounts of omega-3s are still considerably lower than levels found in fish.

Omega-3 supplements can be effective, though it is possible to take too much. For example, by reducing inflammation, omega-3s also may reduce the immune response. There is also a slight increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke or excessive bleeding. Large doses should be taken only under a doctor’s supervision.

How much fish do you need to consume? Most of the studies on omega-3s found a positive benefit with 500 to 1,000 milligrams per day. In response, the American Heart Association now recommends all adults eat a variety of fish, particularly oily fish, at least twice weekly (three-ounce portions), which would provide an average of 500 milligrams per day. For patients with coronary artery disease, the AHA recommends 1,000 milligrams daily — but never above 3,000 milligrams.

As usual, balance is paramount.

Here’s How You Can Get There

photo by ADA

Original Content: Washington Post

I believe that low-carbohydrate diets should be approached cautiously. But if you’re determined to follow a low-carb diet, or if you’re trying to transition from a low-carb diet to a healthier one, here are several tips that will make your experience healthier and the results longer lasting:

• Eat at least 130 grams of carbohydrates daily. In a recent report, the National Academy of Sciences’ Food and Nutrition Board said you need a minimum of 130 grams of carbohydrate for brain function. (Low-carb diets vary but rarely recommend you eat more than 100 grams per day.) To maximize the nutrition and minimize the glucose and insulin response, focus on whole, natural foods and deemphasize processed and refined carbohydrates such as those made with white flour or sugar.

• Eat at least 25 grams of fiber daily. One of the keys to weight loss is to feel full with fewer calories. High-fiber foods help make this happen. Studies show that eating 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men is important for optimum health. Fiber comes in many different forms in food. It is concentrated in the skin of fruits and vegetables, such as apples, corn, and legumes. It is in the seeds of vegetables and fruits such as berries and cucumbers. It is found in the germ and bran or coating that surrounds wheat kernels and other grains. These essential parts of the grain are removed to create white flour and other refined grains.

• Minimize saturated fats. If there’s one thing science has shown fairly conclusively, it’s that saturated fat — found in animal fat — is bad news.

A diet high in saturated fat increases the risk for coronary artery disease by causing LDL (bad cholesterol) levels to rise. New evidence suggests this may also increase the risk for Alzheimer’s and dementia, and even increase belly fat, which is a risk factor for heart disease and diabetes. A diet high in red meat and animal fat has been correlated with several cancers.

To minimize saturated fat, choose seafood, poultry without skin, lean red meats and reduced fat or fat- free dairy products. Concentrate on established healthy fats found in fish, nuts, canola and olive oils.

• Get your essential nutrients. With an intake of approximately 160 grams of carbohydrates a day, you can still obtain the vital nutrients essential to health. Here is a basic breakdown:

• three servings of dairy or

calcium-fortified soy: 36 grams carbs

• three servings fruits: 45 grams carbs

• four servings vegetables: 20 grams carbs

• four servings grains, preferably whole: 60 grams carbs

• Don’t rely on supplements to replace foods. To their credit, most advocates of low-carb diets recommend supplements because they realize the diet is deficient in dozens, if not hundreds, of important nutrients. But supplements can never take the place of real food. A whole, natural food is the perfect package for the vitamins, minerals and beneficial phytochemicals your body needs not just to survive but to thrive. Studies on supplements have failed to show the same health-enhancing and cancer-preventing effects as a diet high in fruits and vegetables.

• Avoid processed low-carb foods. One of the positive things about the low-carb movement is that it persuaded people to reduce their intake of processed, refined foods (a k a junk foods) and instead turn to whole foods. But now the food industry has responded to the low-carb craze with low-carb foods with low nutritional value. These foods undermine the nutritional benefits gained by cutting out processed food. Besides, have you noticed that most of the low-carb foods contain the same number of calories — and often more saturated fat — as their high-carb counterparts?

• Increase physical activity. No matter what you eat, if you’re physically active, your body clears glucose and fat more quickly and efficiently from the blood stream so there is no need to worry about high insulin levels.

• Live a little! If you restrict yourself too much, your diet is doomed to fail. Research shows that those who successfully maintain weight loss reduce the fatty or sweet foods in their diet but still treat themselves occasionally. I’ve found a once-a-week splurge is good for the soul.

Katherine Tallmadge

Work It In

photo: Linda Roth

Original Content, The Washington Post

You risk losing many of the benefits of calorie restriction once you stop dieting. But I’m convinced you can incorporate many of the discoveries of calorie-restricted diets into your life in a more moderate and sustainable way so that your health benefits can last:

• Exercise. It naturally clears glucose from your bloodstream and that keeps insulin levels low. It creates a condition physiologically similar to calorie restriction. People who are more active have less disease and live longer. Reducing refined sugar and flour may also help reduce blood sugar and insulin.

• Eat more foods high in antioxidants such as green tea and deeply colored vegetables and fruits: Berries, spinach, kale, cabbage and broccoli, pumpkin and carrots are some examples.

• To reduce inflammation, eat more foods high in omega-3 fatty acids — fatty fish such as salmon, herring and sardines, or vegetarian sources such as walnuts and flax seeds. Also, reduce saturated fats, found mostly in animal fats

• Lose weight. It will reduce metabolism, hormones, growth factors and cell proliferation.

• To keep calories at low but healthy levels while still feeling full, increase consumption of high- fiber, high-water- containing, nutrient- dense, low-calorie foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. Reduce consumption of nutrient-poor, calorie- dense processed and refined foods such as chips, crackers and sweets.

— Katherine Tallmadge

Eat Less, Live Longer?

photo by Almond Bd CA

Original Content, The Washington Post

Lose weight! Feel great! Live longer!

Every diet guru makes the same claims. But can so many different plans get the same results? Can you achieve the same positive responses from the low-carb, high-saturated-fat Atkins regimen as you do from the abstemiously low-fat, almost vegetarian approach at the other extreme?

This may come as a surprise, but the answer is probably yes. While these regimens seem very different, they share a significant common theme: They restrict your calories and cause weight loss.

Scientists are finding there may be a more straightforward way to not only lose weight, but to avoid heart disease, cancer, diabetes and to even live longer. The secret is to focus sharply on reducing calories.

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that any time you restrict calories you will receive significant health benefits that may not only help you lose weight, but effect a series of biological mechanisms that may prolong your life. (It is important to note that once you go off these diets and if you gain weight, all of the positive benefits are lost.)

It works in animals. Rats fed calorie-restricted diets live 50 percent longer than their normally fed counterparts. Their quality of life is superior, too. They’re healthier, more active, their hormones are at more youthful levels and their immune function is superior. The same is true with fish, flies and worms. There have been preliminary positive results with rhesus monkeys and even humans.

The results of the first human study on calorie restriction, performed at the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, are interesting.

“People on severe calorie restriction have a reduced risk of developing stroke, heart attack, arteriosclerosis and diabetes,” said Luigi Fontana, instructor of medicine at the university’s division of geriatrics and nutritional science and lead author of the study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences published last month.

“Since 40 percent of Americans die of these causes, these health improvements would increase many peoples’ life expectancy,” said Fontana. “Calorie restriction would also help reduce the 300,000 cases of preventable death due to obesity.”

The kind of calorie restriction being studied shouldn’t be confused with malnutrition (which occurs with starvation or semi-starvation when food is scarce) or in disordered eating. The important difference is while the calorie restrictors cut calories by 25 percent, they eat dietitian-designed, doctor-supervised diets containing all of their essential nutrients. They eat about 20 percent to 26 percent of their calories from protein, 28 percent from fat and the rest from high-volume, low-calorie, nutrient-dense carbohydrates such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes.

As pure science, calorie restriction makes a compelling case. Anecdotally, we’ve all seen how reducing calories restores health, energy and well-being in our friends and colleagues who are on diets and losing weight. But most don’t continue on those regimens, and, therefore, the benefits don’t last. As a practical matter, long-term severe calorie restriction is probably unworkable for most Americans, and it still hasn’t been proven that it’s healthy or safe for humans in the long run.

“Calorie restriction studies are provocative; but you may end up with deficiencies dangerous for your health,” says Fontana. “Chronic calorie restrictors are taking risks.”

But the research is finding that there are certain aspects of aging that we can change. There are several theories as to why and how calorie restriction prolongs your life. The reasons it reduces disease risk factors and prolongs life are probably varied:

• It lowers your metabolic rate. “The higher your metabolism, the more oxygen your body burns,” says Eric Ravussin, a professor at the Pennington Biomedical Research Center in Baton Rouge, La. “This produces ‘reactive oxygen species,’ which are byproducts of metabolism and are harmful.”

ROS damage the building blocks of life, including protein, lipids and genetic material, DNA. This leads to abnormal genetic signals, causing cancers and disregulation of cells, leading to organ damage, skin deterioration, and maybe even gray hair — all signs of aging.

• Calorie restriction reduces inflammation, which is one cause of many diseases, such as heart disease and arthritis. Also, calorie restriction reduces some “growth factor” hormones.

“When you eat extra calories, your body gets a signal that you’re growing and growth factor hormones promote cell proliferation, which may increase the risk of cancers, among other dangers,” says Fontana.

• Calorie restrictors also have lower hormone levels, body temperatures, plasma insulin levels, and higher levels of the hormone, DHEA. The same is also true about people who live longer, according to the Baltimore Longitudinal Study on Aging, an ongoing study funded by the National Institutes of Health.

• Calorie restriction reduces body fat, which research shows has many benefits.

“We used to think body fat was inert, But it isn’t,” says Fontana. “Fat tissue produces hormones, pro-inflammatory chemicals, which regulate metabolism, the immune system, inflammation and the progression of artery hardening, so that when you have less body fat, you get many biological benefits.”

There are many advantages to calorie restriction. But there are downsides to severe calorie restriction, too. In fact, scientists are not recommending it as a key way to stay healthy, since the research is not complete. Abnormally low metabolism can cause irritability or depression in some people or may backfire and lead to an eating disorder. If you eat too few calories and hormone levels lower too much, this may lead to infertility problems or increase chances of osteoporosis in women.

I believe that one of the real benefits of the low-calorie approach is that it places important emphasis on the central issue: reducing calories, rather than getting diverted into seemingly important, but in fact, peripheral matters, such as carb and fat counting.

Katherine Tallmadge is a Washington nutritionist and author of “Diet Simple” (Lifeline Press, 2004). Send e-mails to her at

© 2004 The Washington Post Company

The Numbers

The Numbers

Original content, The Washington Post

Here are some common foods and their saturated fat content (calories/grams saturated fat):

Butter, 1 tablespoon 102/7

Corn oil, 1 tablespoon 120/2

Olive oil, 1 tablespoon 119/2

Canola oil, 1 tablespoon 124/1

Prime rib, 1 ounce 110/11

Lean roast beef, 1 ounce 47/2

Skinless chicken breast1 ounce 48/0.3

Cheese, 1 ounce 100/6

Reduced fat cheese, 1 ounce 70/3

Whole milk, 1 cup 150/5

1 percent milk, 1 cup 102/1.5

Skim milk, 1 cup 86/0

— Katherine Tallmadge

So Saturated

Original Content, The Washington Post

Saturated fats are the “evildoers” of the nutrition world, and they come in the guise of some of the most delicious foods: butter, cream, cheese, chocolate, coconut, prime rib.

How could something so good be so bad? Well, first of all, let me assure you that not all saturated fats are created equal. In fact, some of the foods high in saturated fats have redeeming qualities that may mitigate their damage. Second, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in the field of nutrition, there’s never just one magic — or deadly — bullet.

I discovered the power of saturated fats while working with patients. I found when saturated fats are cut to extremely low levels, cholesterol levels drop precipitously. I was stunned at what a simple dietary change could achieve.

The National Academy of Sciences says Americans should minimize their intake of saturated fats, which play a role in raising bad cholesterol (LDL) and increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease, which kills half of all Americans.

Foods contain a mixture of fats, some of which are essential for health. Certain polyunsaturated fats (the omega-3 fatty acids in seafood, flax and walnuts, and omega-6 fatty acids in soybean and corn oil) are essential. You need them in your diet because your body can’t synthesize them, and you’ll develop deficiency symptoms without them.

Saturated fats are nonessential fats, which means that the body can make them on its own, so they’re not needed in the diet. Chocolate and animal fats found in dairy, meat, lard and tallow are high in a saturated fat called stearic acid. While other saturated fats raise LDL levels, stearic acid has been found to have a neutral effect on LDL. In fact, some folks in the chocolate, dairy and meat industries have pointed to this neutral effect as a reason to go ahead and enjoy these foods without worrying about the risk of heart disease.

But a new study appears to challenge this claim. Scientists have found that while it’s true that stearic acid doesn’t raise LDL levels, it still may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease because it increases fibrinogen and C-reactive protein levels in the blood. Fibrinogen and C-reactive protein are both indicators of inflammation, an emerging risk factor in cardiovascular disease development as well as cancer and many other diseases.

“This news is going to change the thinking about stearic acid being neutral,” said David Baer, lead investigator of the study, conducted at the Department of Agriculture’s Diet and Human Performance Laboratory in Beltsville.

In addition to stearic acid, there are three other common saturated fats — palmitic acid (found in palm oil, chocolate and meat), lauric acid (found in coconut) and myristic acid (the most potent LDL-raiser, found in dairy and coconut). These three fats raise not only LDL but also HDL, thus keeping constant that important ratio between the “bad” and the “good” cholesterol. Scientists are not sure how much protection this provides, despite the fact that HDL levels are high. These saturated fats may also cause inflammation, but the research isn’t definitive yet.

But some foods that are rich in saturated fat contain protective, healthy nutrients as well. Chocolate, for instance, contains antioxidants and anti-platelet factors. Coconut also contains antioxidants. There is some evidence that these benefits may help outweigh the risks from the saturated fat. But most experts believe it is still not good to eat large amounts of these foods.

Saturated fats, which are solid at room temperature, have other negative effects. When they’re high in the diet, they replace in the body’s cells the more positive unsaturated fats, which are liquid at room temperature. The saturated fats become incorporated into cell membranes and make the membranes more rigid, causing malfunctions leading to, among other things, insulin resistance.

“Saturated fats can reduce insulin’s ability to control blood glucose and in the long run may cause type 2 diabetes,” says Frank Hu, associate professor of nutrition and epidemiology at Harvard University’s School of Public Health.

Adding to the diabetes connection, a recent Johns Hopkins University study found that dietary saturated fat correlated with higher levels of belly fat, a known risk factor in heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. High-saturated-fat diets may even play a role in dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

Unsaturated oils do just the opposite. If they’re prevalent in the diet and can compete successfully with saturated fat, they incorporate into the cell membranes instead and increase cell fluidity and flexibility, which is one of many reasons scientists believe they’re so beneficial to overall health.

In fact, there is also a theory that the ratio of polyunsaturated fat to saturated fat in the diet may be more influential in heart disease risk than the absolute numbers — yet another example of the importance of balance in the world of nutrition.

Several large studies have verified that when people replace saturated fat with unsaturated oils, a 40 percent to 65 percent reduction in heart disease deaths can be achieved, especially when a little omega-3 fatty acid is added. Interestingly, these studies showed only a modest reduction in LDL, which illustrates the importance of paying attention to other risk factors such as inflammation.

Comparatively, treatment with statin drugs that lower LDL cholesterol (arguably one of the most prescribed medications today) reduces heart disease deaths by only about 30 percent because it doesn’t remove all the risks. So even when taking statins, dietary change is essential.

“Diet and lifestyle change can work better than statins,” says Ernst Schaefer, director of the Lipid and Heart Disease Prevention Program at the New England Medical Center. “But the problem is compliance.”

Many people find it challenging to reduce the amount of saturated fat in their diets. Life without chocolate or butter seems draconian and a goal that is impossible to meet. But a heart-healthy diet need not be so austere if you keep balance and variety in mind.

The trouble comes with extremes, when you’re eating burgers, fries and a shake — all in one meal. Try this instead: Choose a leaner burger with a green salad and vinaigrette on the side and a bowl of berries and nuts for dessert. The antioxidants from the salad and berries, and the healthy fats from the nuts and vinaigrette just might counterbalance the saturated fat in the burger.

Another solution would be to try to always have surf with your turf. The anti-inflammatory compounds in the omega-3 fatty acids in fish may help counteract the inflammatory compounds in the beef.

“And if you burned what you ate through activity, this all wouldn’t be as much of a problem!” says Baer, research physiologist at USDA.

Know your saturated fats:

Health authorities say that if your LDL is lower than 100, you shouldn’t exceed 10% saturated fat calories. If your LDL is higher than 100, you should keep your saturated fat to no more than 7% of your total calories. I’ve found you can even take it lower, say 3 – 4% of calories- for more dramatic results.  But you’ll never get to zero, as a little saturated fat is in just about everything, even some healthy foods!


10%                 7%                   3-4%

For the typical 2,000 calorie diet, that’s  22 grams,        15 grams,         7 – 9 grams


Here are some common foods and their saturated fat content

cal/g sat fat

Butter, 1 Tbsp                                    102/7

Corn Oil, 1 Tbsp                    120/2

Olive Oil, 1 Tbsp                    119/2

Canola Oil, 1 Tbsp                 124/1

English Walnuts                      185/2

Prime Rib, 1 oz                                   110/11

Lean Roast Beef, 1 oz             47/2

Skinless Chicken Breast, 1 oz 48/0.3

Wild Coho Salmon                  39/0.3

Flounder                                  33/0.1

Cheese, 1 oz                            100/6

Reduced Fat Cheese, 1 oz       70/3

Whole Milk, 1 cup                  150/5

1% Milk, 1 cup                       102/1.5

Skim Milk, 1 cup                    86/0

Chocolate, 1 oz                       135/5

Cocoa, 1 oz                             75/2.5 (“Droste” Cocoa)

Coconut Milk, 1 cup              452/51

Every Day, in Many Ways

photo by ADA

Original Content: The Washington Post

What are some ways we can eat berries every day?

“A no-brainer,” says Janie Hibler, author of “The Berry Bible” (William Morrow, 2004), “is a berry smoothie for breakfast.” For lunch, she says, throw a handful into your salad. For snacks, carry dried berries and nuts. At dinner, berries go beautifully with meats, grains and main courses. You can also make berry popcicles, syrups for pancakes and spritzers.

Hibler recommends always having berry purees or coulis on hand. “A sauce rivaled by none,” she says. But berries also are great added to drinks, smoothies, yogurts, cereal — you name it.

To make a coulis, rinse and drain the berries, puree them in a food processor and add a little sugar or even liqueur, if desired. It will keep in your refrigerator for three to four days or can be frozen for a month.

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