Snacking is an area where many people drop the ball when it comes to healthy eating. But snacking doesn’t have to be all bad. In summertime, you are probably more conscious of your caloric intake – especially if your summer activities include wearing a bathing suit. The trick is to change your snacking habits and control your options any time of the year. Yes! You can allow yourself guilt-free snacks that do not cancel out your typical dietary regimen.
On CNN and on Radio MD’s Staying Well with Melanie Cole, Katherine shares the best snacks and lunches that will help you maintain your health and weight loss goals.
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Genetically Modified Foods: Part II
Your responses to my recent CNN interview were PASSIONATE – on both sides of the issue – regarding GMO’s health and environmental consequences, but also the health aspects of using soybean oil, its dominance in processed foods and, because of its high levels of omega-6-fatty acid, its relationship to inflammation, a known risk factor for heart disease, cancer, arthritis, and a host of other diseases.
Genetically modified organisms (GMOs) continue to spark passionate debate: Emotions run high regarding studies of the impacts of GMOs on health and the environment, and much attention has been focused on one product widely made from GMO sources: soybean oil.
Common in processed foods in both GMO and non-GMO formulations, soybean oil has high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, which have a well-studied relationship to inflammation, a known risk factor for heart disease, cancer, arthritis and a host of other diseases.
I was interviewed about GMOs and soybean oil by CNN’s “The Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” which recently reported that Chipotle — the fast-food restaurant chain, which earned $2.73 billion last year, in part based on their reputation of using environmentally friendly ingredients — disclosed that it is using genetically modified soybean oil, and many genetically modified ingredients, in its dishes.
Most restaurants and food companies in the United States use GMOs, though they may not disclose it.
Genetically modified organisms — in this discussion, genetically modified foods — have genetic material that engineers unnaturally altered. Such foods are extremely controversial, and although they may be safe, a dearth of clinical studies and a lack of clear, accurate public information make the debate even more intense.
“The introduction of genetically modified organisms into the American food supply is a grand experiment,” said Ann Yonkers, co-director of Fresh Farm Markets and a leader in the sustainable-farming movement. “We should be using the precautionary principle with GMOs, and assume that GMOs have to be demonstrated to be good rather than assume that they are good.”
The U.S. government’s stance
GMOs are not allowed in any food certified as organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, in an online food Q&A, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) stated that GMOs have been in the U.S. food supply for about 20 years. The agency also stated in a consumer update that “Foods from genetically engineered plants must meet the same requirements, including safety requirements, as foods from traditionally bred plants.” Such foods, the FDA added, “are generally as nutritious as foods from comparable traditionally bred plants… [They] have not been more likely to cause an allergic or toxic reaction than foods from traditionally bred plants.”
Additionally, Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, said there is no safety hazard in using genetically modified soybean oil over conventional soybean oil — a finding the organization highlighted recently in its Nutrition Action newsletter.
However, the federal government does not require that GMO foods be labeled as such.
“Food manufacturers may indicate, through voluntary labeling, whether foods have or have not been developed through genetic engineering, provided that such labeling is truthful and not misleading,” the agency stated. “FDA supports voluntary labeling that provides consumers with this information.”
No studies have found GM foods to be harmful, but many concerned citizens and scientists believe there have not been sufficient longitudinal (making observations over a substantial period of time) nor clinical studies on the effects of GMOs on human health. Even if researchers were to conduct long-term studies, it would be very difficult to prove that any adverse — or positive — health outcomes are due specifically to the GMOs themselves.
Environmental consequences of GM foods
As for the environment, GMOs seem to have impact. Recently, a rogue strain of Monsanto GM wheat was found in a field in Oregon. Several Southeast Asian countries stopped imports of wheat from the U.S. Pacific Northwest, pending investigation, financially hurting American farmers, according to the Associated Press. Agriculture biotechnology giant Monsanto uses high-handed legal tactics to harass small farmers into using and paying huge sums for Monsanto GM seeds, putting some out of business, according to a CBS News report and other sources. Although the impact of GMOs on health and nutrition is unclear, the impact on the environment seems much more definite — and detrimental.
Huge soy and corn crops displace a more naturally diverse farming system — one that uses fewer resources, is more sustainable in the long term and is healthier for the planet and people (we’ll get to that next). According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, about 84 million acres in the United States are devoted to corn, and about 73 million acres are dedicated to soybeans, a close second. Why do we need so much farmland for soy and corn, two crops largely dedicated to processed foods?
We should instead fill our fields with an array of fruits and vegetables! The USDA’s U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends every American eat at least five cups of fruits and/or vegetables daily to prevent heart disease and cancer, and to foster maximum health and ideal body weight.
Ironically, the National Academy of Sciences found that if every American followed those guidelines and attempted to eat those five cups a day, there wouldn’t be enough fruits and vegetables to go around!
Apparently, there is not enough farmland dedicated to fruits and vegetables because U.S. farmland is instead filled with soybeans and corn — much of it genetically modified — catering to the food industry instead of to the health of Americans.
Yes, genetically modifying soybeans and corn will allow the country to grow more at a lower cost. But at what other costs? Is it really what’s best for regular consumers, or what’s best for Big Agriculture and the food industry?
Is soybean oil hazardous?
Soybean oil is a great example of a genetically modified food often associated with misinformation. Because of its low cost, soybean oil is used in a vast quantity of the processed foods Americans eat. (Just look at the food-label ingredient lists in your own kitchen cabinet.)
This is a problem, because soybean oil provides a substantial amount of omega-6 fatty acid. Omega-6 fatty acid, although essential to the human body, is required in very minute amounts, and deficiencies are a rarity. Historically, humans have eaten very little omega-6 fatty acid, as it is not commonly found in nature. Now, omega-6-fatty acid is abundant because of the food industry’s dependence on soy bean oil.
Why is this a problem? Omega-6 fatty acid displaces healthy omega-3 fatty acids in the body. Omega-3 fatty acids (DHA and EPA) are a second type of essential fatty acid that studies suggest promote heart health, and overall health, and reduce inflammation, death from heart attack, cancers and a host of diseases. When omega-6 fatty acid is ingested in dramatically higher quantities than omega-3s are — as occurs in today’s average American diet — omega-6 beats omega-3s for room in human cell membranes. Studies show this can promote inflammation, which is a precursor to a variety of diseases, including heart disease, cancer, asthma, inflammatory bowel disease, and even dementia and Alzheimer’s.
Yes, the GMO debate is still heated and in full swing. There are pros to GM foods —increased yield in staple crops can help to combat world hunger, for example. However, there are also very important issues associated with GMOs that must be discussed. Until we know the results of this “grand experiment,” we can’t really be sure. (Viggy Parr contributed to this report)
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CNN’s “Situation Room with Wolf Blitzer” reported… that Chipotle Fast Food Restaurants, which earned $2.73 billion last year, in part, based on their reputation of using environmentally-friendly ingredients, have disclosed (good for them!) they are using genetically modified soy bean oil.
Katherine was interviewed recently for the report.
Genetically Modified Organisms: The GMO – in this case a food’s – genetic material has been altered unnaturally. There are no long term studies proving GMO’s safety to human health.
Sustainable Farming: Farming which has a future, where soil, water, and the environment are protected for future generations.
Local/Seasonal: The movement which promotes eating foods grown locally and in season; when food is picked at peak ripeness for maximum nutrition, flavor, environmental protection, and sustainability. For CNN’s report (and Katherine’s article) on Farmers Markets and how they save your health and the environment…
Omega-6-Fatty Acids, high in soybean oil, compete with Omega-3-Fatty Acids in your body. If omega-6-fatty acid intake is too high in comparison to omega-3′s, this leads to increases in inflammation, a leading risk factor for many diseases including heart disease, cancer, etc. For details…
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On CNN: An Egg-A-Day Does Not Increase Heart Disease or High Blood Pressure Risk (Breakthrough Study)
My clients regularly ask me, “Should I be eating eggs? My doctor tells me they’re ‘poison,’ and to avoid eggs because they’ll increase my cholesterol.”
My response? ”That’s OLD NEWS!” Read the updated scientific reports on eggs and find out why…
Most of the studies I’ve seen conclude that eggs are fine, I’ve reported in “7 Bad Foods That Are Good for You” in The Washington Post & “Eggs Don’t Deserve Their Bad Reputation, Studies Show” in LiveScience.com’s Expert Voices Op-Ed — and may even improve your health, as they contain nutrients difficult to find in other foods (see below). More importantly, a report by Ying Rong of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and her colleagues published in the British Journal of Medicine in January, reviewed 17 different egg studies.
The study concluded, “Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. The increased risk of coronary heart disease among diabetic patients and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with higher egg consumption in subgroup analyses warrant further studies.”
The bottom line: Your nutritional needs and food choices should be personalized. You should enjoy food and eating, as it is one of the basic pleasures in life!
The much-maligned egg deserves more respect
My grandmother’s favorite food in the whole wide world was eggs (see recipe below). She loved eggs so much, we named an egg cooking style after her. The “grandmommy egg” was soft-boiled for three minutes. As it sat in an egg cup, we would slice off the top third so the runny yolk would form a delicious and naturally creamy sauce for the white.
Unfortunately, during the last decades of her life, my grandmother came to see eggs as poison and avoided one of her real food pleasures. Health authorities were warning the public against eating eggs for fear that they were a major cause of high cholesterol levels — the bad kind, low-density lipoprotein, known as LDL — and increased risk of heart disease.
New studies show that the caution may have been an exaggeration.
Yes, increased blood cholesterol levels can raise the risk of heart disease. Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol. But does eating eggs raise blood cholesterol and cause heart disease? This is where the story gets somewhat complicated, so stay with me, folks, and I’ll try to make sense of all of this.
First, the research
Most epidemiological research — the kind of research that studies large populations over time and analyzes their diets and their health — has found no connection between eating eggs and increases in heart disease. On the other hand, controlled clinical studies — where researchers feed subjects specific amounts of cholesterol and measure the effect on blood — do show a slight increase in blood cholesterol with increases in dietary cholesterol, though how much depends on genetic factors.
Cholesterol is an important component of all human and animal cells and influences hormone biology, among other functions. Since your body naturally has all it needs from producing its own cholesterol, there is no dietary requirement for more cholesterol. But the American diet contains plenty, since we eat a lot of animal products. All animal products contain some cholesterol, but they also contain saturated fat, an even more significant culprit in heart-disease risk.
“The major determinant of plasma LDL level is saturated fat,“said Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.
And while eggs are high in cholesterol (186 milligrams, 184 of them in the yolk), they’re relatively low in saturated fat (1.6 grams in the yolk).
“In most people, for every 100 milligrams reduction in dietary cholesterol, one would predict a reduction in LDL levels of 2.2 points on average,“said Wanda Howell, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona.
In fact, during my 20 years of counseling people with high cholesterol, just reducing their saturated fat intake to a range of 4 percent to 7 percent of their calories, causes their blood cholesterol levels to plummet (I usually recommend 4% if you need a dramatic reduction in LDL cholesterol) — a double benefit.
Interestingly, people in Japan — consumers of some of the largest quantities of eggs in the world (averaging 328 eggs consumed per person per year — have low levels of cholesterol and heart disease compared with other developed countries, especially the United States. Why? In part, it‘s because the Japanese eat a diet low in saturated fat.
Americans do just the opposite. Research has shown that we usually have our eggs alongside foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon, sausage and buttered toast. This meal pattern raises LDL levels and makes the effect of eating eggs worse than it actually is.
So how many eggs can you eat? That depends on a number of factors. The American Heart Association no longer includes limits on the number of egg yolks you can eat, but it recommends that you limit your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams daily, or 200 milligrams if you have heart disease or if your LDL is greater than 100. You decide where that cholesterol comes from!
Other experts go further and say an egg a day is fine.
“The amount that one egg a day raises cholesterol in the blood is extremely small, so small in fact that the increase in risk in heart disease related to this change in serum cholesterol could never be detected in any kind of study,“ said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.“Elevations in LDL of this small magnitude could easily be countered by other healthy aspects of eggs.“
Based on the research, my recommendation is if you eat a healthful diet, go ahead and eat an egg a day, says Katherine on CNN. On the other hand, if your cholesterol is high and if you eat the typical American diet — high in saturated fat, devoid of fruits, vegetables and fiber — maybe you shouldn’t be eating an egg a day.
But will taking eggs out of an unhealthy diet make a positive difference? Probably not. I can‘t tell you how many times during my career I‘ve heard people say, “I‘ve cut out eggs, but my cholesterol is still high!“The impact of a healthy, balanced diet cannot be denied here.
Good for you
Assuming you’re eating a healthy diet, here are some ways you may benefit by eating eggs.
Protein. Eggs are considered the gold standard that other proteins are measured against. Because of the superior amino acid mix, an egg’s six grams of protein are absorbed easily and efficiently used by the body. The egg is also low-calorie (74 calories).
Choline. Yolks are one of the best sources of this essential nutrient. Choline is needed for brain development in a growing fetus and may also be important for brain function in adults.
Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These two, important, beneficial phytochemicals found in egg yolks (as well as kale and spinach) help prevent eye diseases, especially cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. While eggs contain less lutein and zeaxanthin than greens, these phytochemicals are more absorbable because of the presence of fat in the yolk.
Vitamin D. Eggs are one of the few natural sources of Vitamin D, important for the bones and teeth. Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium, which is important for the heart and colon, as well.
To bring this all together, here is a recipe that is a regular meal for me any time of the day — quick, easy, delicious, nutritious!
Eggs Scrambled with Onion, Garlic and Sweet Cherry Tomatoes
Sauté 1/4 sweet onion and a smashed garlic clove over medium-high heat in 1 teaspoon canola or olive oil until almost soft. Add a handful of chopped tomatoes to the pan (or any other vegetables you happen to have, such as chopped spinach, kale, mushrooms or peppers) and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to very low. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. Pour eggs into the pan containing the onion, garlic and tomato — add 1 ounce low-fat cheese, if you wish. Stir continuously until eggs are cooked. Pour over toasted, whole rye bread.
The Study: British Medical Journal 2013; 346 doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bmj.e8539 (Published 7 January 2013)
Study Conclusions: ”Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke. The increased risk of coronary heart disease among diabetic patients and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with higher egg consumption in subgroup analyses warrant further studies.”
Bottom Line: ”Your nutritional needs and food choices should be personalized. You should enjoy food and eating, as it is one of the basic pleasures in life!”
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Katherine explaining “Farmers Markets: Good For You, Good For The Environment” Watch on CNN
For those of you who want to make a contribution toward saving the planet, you may want to consider changing what you eat. One simple way to do that? Buy locally and seasonally at your Farmers Market.
What you eat profoundly affects not only your health, but the environment, too. This is important news because when it comes to environmental issues and halting global warming, many of us feel overwhelmed and helpless. So it’s amazing that something as simple as making better food choices can reduce global warming by lowering greenhouse gases, saving land, and conserving diminishing water and energy supplies.
Your protein choice will make the most significant difference on the environment (and your health). Producing meat requires six to seventeen times more land than growing vegetable protein, 26 times more water. And producing vegetables is up to 50 times more energy efficient than meat production, according to a study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
Eating vegetable protein will also save your health. Decades of research has found that plants contain compounds (phytochemicals) with potent powers of healing. People who eat a plant-based diet are leaner, have less cancer, heart disease and diabetes.
But when eating more fruits and vegetables, it’s important to consider how and where they’re grown. Environmental resource conservation is reduced if food is transported long distances and grown in large industrial farms which specialize in only one or a few foods. Locally, organically produced food saves water, energy and encourages a region’s unique varieties of fruits and vegetables. Heirloom varieties, for example, have been passed down through generations, have natural resistance to pests, disease and are better able to tolerate local conditions without too much exra energy, pesticides or water.
How you can protect the environment through your food choices:
* Buy seasonally and locally at farm stands and farmers’ markets,
* Eat a plant-based diet,
* Reduce meat consumption,
* Use heirloom varieties, whenever possible,
* Buy organic whenever possible.
This article was excerpted from: The Journal of the American Dietetic Association 2007; 107: 1033 – 1043 “Position of the American Dietetic Association: Food and Nutrition Professionals Can Implement Practices to Conserve Natural Resources and Support Ecological Sustainability”
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Featured on CNN’s Health Minute
Read it to find out why this article went VIRAL!
Recently published in LiveScience.com, published in “The Washington Post,” and broadcast on WOR Radio New York City…
Eating healthy can be harder than you think, thanks to an enterprising food industry that wants us to consume more than we need. That’s because our country’s agricultural system produces twice what most people require – 3,900 calories per person per day, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service. This encourages creative marketing to unload the excess, much of it made with cheap ingredients, having long shelf-lives, and minimal nutritional value – the kinds of “food” with the highest profit margins.
As a nutrition consultant, I know that words such as “low fat,” “high fiber,” “multigrain,” gluten free,” and “natural” can confuse even the most sophisticated customers into believing what they’re buying is healthful. In fact, market research proves it.
What can you do? First, make a habit of reading the ingredients list, not just the Nutrition Facts panel. And remember the following products worth resisting…
Reduced-fat peanut butter
The oil is the healthiest part of a peanut* or a tree nut, containing most of the nutrients, so there’s no advantage to taking it out. In fact, it’s worse because it robs the peanut butter of its health benefits. “Reduced-fat peanut butter has as many calories and more sugar than the regular,” says Bonnie Liebman, nutrition director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Instead: Buy regular peanut butter. Eating one or two ounces of nuts daily is associated with reductions in heart disease and cancer risk. A recent Harvard study showed that eating nuts is associated with lower body weights.
Sports drinks, diluted soft drinks with salt, are only needed during intense exercise exceeding one hour or in extreme heat. Drinks such as Vitaminwater (c) are essentially sugary drinks with a vitamin pill. They are “unequivocally harmful to health,” says Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health. “Whether vitamins dissolved in water have any benefit will depend on who you are and whether you are already getting enough. . . . Some people may be getting too much of some vitamins and minerals if they add vitamin water on top of fortified foods and other supplements.” A recent Iowa Women’s Health Study found an association between certain commonly used vitamin and mineral supplements and increased death rates. But the worst offenders in this category are energy drinks such as Red Bull, Sobe Life Water, or Monster Drinks. They’re not only high in sugar, but most contain stimulants which may be harmful, especially with medical conditions like high blood pressure.
Instead: Drink water, ideally from the tap (“Eau du Potomac,” as it’s known locally). It’s the best drink for hydrating your body, is naturally calorie-free and contains fluoride to prevent tooth decay. No supplement matches the nutrients in whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts and whole grains.
The reputation of these bars, also known as meal replacement bars, is that they are healthy, aid in weight loss or help build muscle. In fact, they are calorie bombs: candy bars with vitamins, protein or fiber added. For most of them, sugar is either the first (predominant) or second ingredient.
Instead: Snack on fruit or veggies for weight loss and yogurt for muscle gain. If you’re hiking a long distance and want a healthful, nonperishable calorie bomb, try nuts and dried fruit.
Multigrain breads, crackers and cereals are often the most confusing foods. People see “multigrain” and think “whole grain.” That’s not necessarily so. This is an important distinction because people who eat whole grains have a lower incidence of diabetes, heart disease and cancers, and are less likely to be overweight compared with those who eat refined grains. Note that when “enriched wheat flour” is listed in the ingredients, that’s refined flour.
Instead: Be sure a whole grain, such as whole wheat, whole rye, whole oats or brown rice, is the first and preferably the only grain in the ingredient list. A great example is a cereal listing whole rolled oats as the only grain or a bread listing whole wheat as the only wheat. Alternatively, consider an egg for breakfast. “The huge amounts of refined starch and sugar that many people eat for breakfast, often thinking that this is the healthy choice, does far more damage to their well-being than an egg,” says Harvard’s Willett.
Non-fried chips and crackers
It’s easy to believe these foods are healthful because of labels such as “baked,” “low fat” or “gluten free.” But most are made with refined grain or starch, which provide plenty of calories and few nutrients. Popchips, for example, are a new product marketed as healthful. But the ingredients are highly refined potato flakes, starch, oil, salt and about 14 additional things. Pita chips, made with white flour, oil, salt and several more ingredients, are no better. To boot, research shows that too much refined grains and starches increases the risk for heart disease, cancers, diabetes and weight gain.
Instead: Try Wasa or Finn Crisp Original Rye crackers. They’re 100 percent whole grain and have little sodium. If you’d like a chip, try Terra Chips, made with sliced vegetables, or even a 100 percent whole grain chip fried in a healthy oil, such as olive or canola. Tortilla chips and SunChips are two examples. “Now that trans fats have been removed from most cooking oils, the healthiest part of potato chips is the fat,” Willett says. “And chips made of whole grains rather than potatoes, like Frito-Lay’s SunChips, can legitimately be considered a health food,” so long as you keep to the one-ounce serving size.
*Peanuts are technically a legume, but we call them nuts nutritionally because their nutritional characteristics and health benefits closely match those of tree nuts.
Find this article originally printed in The Washington Post February 28, 2012
Listen to me discuss “Health Foods You Should Avoid” on WOR 710 Talk Radio NYC ”The Joan Hamburg Show”
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“Diet Simple” contains 192 strategies for healthy weight loss. What’s one of the most effective, enjoyable, and simple changes you can make in your eating? Simple: Add breakfast to your day. Katherine explains to Washingtonian…
Also, CNN spoke with Katherine Tallmadge about breakfast. Here’s a part of that conversation.
What exactly is it about breakfast that makes it so beneficial? And are all are breakfasts created equal? A study from Pediatrics, published in March 2008, looked at 2,000 teenagers and found that teens who ate breakfast weighed less, exercised more and ate healthier food than their classmates who didn’t eat breakfast.
CNN: Explain the real benefits of eating breakfast. In your experience, have you seen among your patients the same results this study showed: that people who aren’t eating breakfast actually weigh more? How is that?
Tallmadge: In general, people who ate more in the beginning [of] the day ate fewer overall. As soon as you start eating, you start raising your metabolism; your whole body is burning calories earlier in the day. Helps control your appetite. People who skip breakfast — victims of vending machines. The pickers — they eat overall more calories, tend to eat more.
CNN: What about for the people who say, “I just don’t have time to eat breakfast”? What are your tips?
Tallmadge: Everyone has time to eat breakfast. If someone says they don’t, then they should be happy being fat and unhealthy… I apologize for the glib answer… but it’s TRUE!
Scientific studies confirm breakfast eaters get more nutrients for the whole day, are more likely to lose and maintain healthy weights, have more energy, concentrate better, and eat fewer overall calories during the day.
My favorite breakfast? a warm bowl of oatmeal cooked in milk with fruit and nuts… even a peanut butter sandwich with yogurt and fruit, or eggs on whole grain toast with spicy chicken sausage… Do you like lox on a whole grain bagel? How about whole grain blueberry pecan pancakes? All excellent choices… Bon Appetit!
Photo: USA Rice Federation