Changes. Suggestions Welcome.

I’ve decided to make some changes to this blog. I’ve gotten some pretty good feedback and I have some ideas…

First off, I think I will start including some clinical nutrition into this blog. Many of you may be surprised to know that what I do from 9-5 to bring home the bacon is not what you would typically think of when you think dietitian or nutritionist. I spend a lot of my days ordering milkshakes for grannies, writing orders for feeding tubes, and counseling the h-word out of heart failure patients. It might be fun to share some of those experiences, so you have a better idea of what clinical dietitians do-in case anyone is wondering.

Second, I am going to try to make this blog more personal. I always have my phone to snap pics, so I don’t know why I have been using photostock pics from the internet? Plus maybe it will make you all feel better to hear my food-fails. Or triumphs. Or why I think any of the stuff I post on here is even important. But don’t worry, I am not going to make this too personal. I am not in it to be the next Taza or quit my day job to make money off my blog full of any and all the thoughts in my head. There’s quit enough of that.

Finally, I am going to make the post more short and sweet. So far I am failing, but I promise to try to be more concise. NOW, what do you guys want to see? I am always trying to think of topics that everyone wants to hear about or can apply to their lives, so don’t hesitate to tell me if what I write about is boring, what do you want to know?

Comments Welcome.

Coconut Oil

coconut-oil-2Coconut oil is a tropical oil made from the dried fruit (or nut) or coconut palm tree. It has been a topic of controversy for a while now. Up until a couple of years ago it was labeled as one of those “bad fats”. It is a saturated fat which we all know is the type to be avoided, or at least consumed from < 10% of our daily fat allowance. So why all the talk about the coconut oil miracle and the newest “good fat?”

Let’s review some of the supposed benefits easily found searching the www:

  • Coconut oil may prevent or reverse Alzheimer’s disease
  • Coconut oil can relieve symptoms of hypothyroidism by boosting metabolism and raising body temperature to support a healthy thyroid
  • Coconut oil can support weight loss
  • Coconut oil can support healthy hair and skin
  • Coconut can be beneficial for insulin resistance and supporting healthy blood glucose
  • Coconut oil can support a healthy immune system by resisting viruses and bacteria and fighting off fungus and candida
  • Coconut oil can raise “good” HDL cholesterol
  • Coconut helps digestions of fat-soluble vitamins

So, I use the word supposed because most of these points have caveats or are not thoroughly proven or reviewed. For example, Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s disease is like cancer, in the fact that there are so many possible etiologies and treatments. The reason coconut oil is said to be beneficial is because it supports healthy blood glucose and resistance to insulin dysfunctions. Alzheimer’s is sometimes referred to as type 3 diabetes because the root may come back to our bodies ability to maintain healthy blood sugars and insulin function. Coconut oil is a fat, and if you remember, fat and protein help to slow the digestion of sugars and provide a steady release of glucose into the blood stream rather than a quick spike when sugar is digested alone. But in that case, any sort of fat or protein could be considered beneficial against Alzheimer’s disease. I guess I just need to see more research and specifics before I go crazy over coconut oil to preserve my memory.

Coconut oil is a Medium Chain Triglyceride (MCT) oil. This is a unique quality because in normal fat digestion, our bodies need bile (released from the liver) to coat the triglyceride chains in order for them to be packed into micelles and absorbed across the intestinal wall. However, because MCT chains aren’t as long and complex, they can be absorbed whole into the inner intestinal wall and eventually into the blood stream. This  is beneficial especially for those with liver disorders or other upper intestinal illness, because MCT oils can still be absorbed even when the liver or pancreas are unable to produce bile or the appropriate enzymes, respectively, to start the absorption process.

And then there is weight loss. If you pop into a health food store, any associate will be quick to direct you to coconut oil supplements if you inquire about weight loss solutions.  This probably has to do with coconut oils role in boosting metabolism, especially in the abdominal region. MCT oils cannot be stored in adipose tissues (aka “fat cells”, like the kind that contribute to body fat). However, according to the Mayo clinic, coconut oil has only been proven to reduce waist size, not BMI or actual pound loss. So don’t get too excited about popping a couple of pills a day and watching the weight melt off. It won’t most likely. And don’t forget, fat grams = 9 calories each, so that’s something to keep in mind when considering calories in/calories out.

Coconut oil contains lauric acid which is a fatty-acid that raises both HDL (good) AND LDL (bad) cholesterol. That isn’t the best news, but there are few proven ways to actually raise HDL cholesterol (exercise and red wine) so it isn’t something to so easily dismiss. If you are able to watch and maintain your LDL levels, coconut oil may be great to help you raise your HDL. In the end LDL:HDL ratios are the important thing to look at when considering risk for coronary artery disease.

The Huffington Post posted this cool article about using coconut oil for beauty. I am pretty excited about using coconut oil as a natural moisturizer. By all means, don’t be afraid to use coconut oil for your hair and skin, it’s rich in Vitamin E and moisturizing components.

So at the end of the day, I do personally like coconut oil- in moderation. It has a sweet and nutty flavor. It is perfect for curries and fish, and I’ve even substituted it for butter when baking. It’s solid at room temperature and when you heat it up in the pan it starts to melt and give off a nutty coconutty heavenly scent that is so yummy! I recommend picking some up at the grocery store. Look for extra-virgin and try these brands:

coconut-oilSPE-11201-1They’re just the ones I like best. Check out this book for much more detail, but remember keep a moderate midset. And don’t miss the new recipes in the recipe tab using coconut oil!

Some bad news, some good news

As the title suggests, I have some bad news and some good news. I will start with the bad so we can end with the good, obviously.

BAD

Have you seen this article floating around the world wide web? I highly suggest reading it before continuing on with my post, but if not (it is a free country) I will brief you…

So there’s this company, Monsanto (which I will explain more in a minute), and they’ve gone ahead and gotten President Obama to pass a bill that basically provides sanction to the continuation of growing genetically modified organisms (GMO’s) and genetically engineered (GE) seeds. I will not go into too much detail regarding GMO’s and GE’s now, because that’s a topic for another day, but this is what the bill means:  It gives the go ahead to continue to plant and sell man-made crops, even if the health risks are unanswered. This means the USDA cannot regulate Monsanto’s production of GMO’s. Monsanto can continue to plant and sell these foods to us and we will have no idea (GMO labeling is not required or available on any food packaging at this time). So if that isn’t troubling enough, my biggest issue is the power the government is giving this company. So let me elaborate more on that.

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Monsanto = The devils. They have basically monopolized the agriculture business here in the U.S.A. They have a lot of money and lot of power. Companies like this seriously influence politicians and several laws that can affect you and I, and they usually don’t have the people’s best interest in mind. For example, the MyPlate method, or previously, the Food Guide Pyramid, has been under revision for over a half-century because constant battles between health and medical scientists (who advocate health) and big corporations like Monsanto, the dairy industry, and the meat industry (who advocate profits). Who do you think usually wins the battles?

Monsanto specializes in growing corn, soy beans, and cotton because the government subsidizes these crops. Doesn’t sound too bad yet? Well there are some problems:

First, soy and corn are in EVERYTHING, and usually not the good stuff. Soy lecithin is a common ingredient found in everything processed (check labels of your Kudos bars and Cheetos and you will find it) and corn makes good ole’ high fructose corn syrup, which is also in most things processed. Corn is the number one thing we are feeding our live stock. Not fresh grass that is high in omega-3’s and healthy vitamins and minerals, but rather processed corn meal. Kids eat processed corn, our cows eat processed corn, and we all end up with diabetes and heart failure. Too dramatic? Check out this article for more detail.

Another problem is this thing called mono-cropping. Have you seen either of these?food-inc 610jXoOi8hL

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am no dummy, I know these documentaries are a major form of propaganda, but they do describe the mono-cropping business well. Basically soil likes diversity. Most crop scientists and farmers know that to have successful crops and healthy soil you switch out what you grow year-to-year. So one year you might choose to grow potatoes, and the next year on the same plot of land, you could grow onions, the next year turnips. What happens when we crop the same thing over and over (ahem, corn) ? Well maybe we need a crop scientist to explain better, but basically it corrodes the soil. The crop yields year-to-year will lessen, the product will be challenged, and eventually we are going to ruin the ability to farm and plant on our own country’s soil. Imagine the day when even in the summer months, prime harvest season, all our tomatoes are from Chile and our berries are from Switzerland?

That may not matter to many people, but think of the carbon footprint traveling food all over the world leaves? From semi’s, to jets, to cargo ships, we are using a lot of energy and consequently polluting the earth. I will tell you what, I am sick of the Smog Lake City status! Also, think of the thousands of failing farms that are forced out of business because of the big wigs like Monsanto who are in it to make a quick profit for the cheapest cost, regardless or the consequences for our crops, health, or local farmers. And if all of this isn’t convincing enough, when there is a zombie apocalypse and exporting/importing food goes to boot, I hope we have some food laying around here on our own soil!

Feeling overwhelmed much? Well not to worry, here comes the good news!!

Good

We still have a lot of agency and choice when it comes to our health and food choices. It may seen unrealistic that we as individuals can do much to combat companies like Monsanto, or the policies that govern our lives, but there are small things we can always do.

One of the things I was the most passionate about during school was sustainable food systems. I heart supporting local food business. From farmers markets, community gardens, and Community Supported Agriculture (CSA’s) we can get involved and make a difference. CSA’s, for those who don’t know, are partnerships between local farmers and consumers who buy shares in the farm in exchange for weekly supplies of fresh produce. This partnership provides small-scale farmers with economic stability, while ensuring consumer participants high-quality produce usually below retail price. Plus it definitely lessens the carbon-footprint and CO2 emissions when we are getting our produce from less than 20 miles away.

My friend referred me to Utah Farms CSA. and I loooove my baskets! We have been getting varieties of lettuce, sprouts, eggs, cheese, honey, potatoes, and onions and surprises like juice and barely. And, I have actually been saving money on my monthly grocery bill because with every basket they provide recipes to use the ingredients. I spend less getting the few extra items I need to make the delicious and super nutritious meals.

I am getting so excited just writing about this right now. I want everyone to sign up! If this isn’t turning you on, consider some other ways to eat locally.

The farmers markets will be open for business soon! Or when you grocery shop, look for local products usually designated by this sign: images

Check out Edible Wasatch magazine for lists of several local places to eat or buy delicious goods. And if nothing else, try planting something yourself (this is my major summer goal) even if it’s as simple as a basil plant.

Food is a most precious commodity, and I am really excited about eating locally and empowering ya’ll to make good choices everyday so that one day (a girl can dream) big corporations won’t dictate the food future of our nation or the people’s well being. Power to the people!

P.S. Check out the recipes section for some recipes included with my baskets this past month!

OpEd

So school is definitely in full swing. For one class I need to write a Opinion Editorial on a two sided issue presented in a policy analysis we are working on. Good stuff right?

My topic is the CDC’s winnable battle : Nutrition, Physical Activity, and Obesity. Since I have already been writing, I figured I would share, and in return can I get your feedback? I am curious to know your thoughts and opinions about the topic mostly. I would like to have more support or opposition to include. I am also ok with writing critique if that’s what you would rather dish out. I can take it, I can welcome it.

The Cost of Vending Machines

It is no surprise that teenagers are quick to adopt the latest trends, and in the case of obesity, they are the ultimate trendsetters. It also should be no bombshell that teens are drinking too many sugary sodas. Perhaps it is time we start connecting the dots, and even better, intervening.

Recent findings from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) show that obesity rates among adolescents have tripled over the past 3 decades. Nearly one out every five teens is packing more body fat than is appropriate for their height.  While the numbers are shocking, the social impact is even more alarming.

Quality of life effects of obesity are similar to those caused by smoking, drinking, and poverty. 365,000 deaths per year are attributed to poor diet and physical activity, second only to tobacco as the leading cause of preventable death. And if that’s not disturbing enough, overweight youth are more likely to experience lower-self esteem, depressed moods, body dissatisfaction, and social marginalization and discrimination.

There is, however, a glimmer of hope. School. 95% of adolescents attend school outside of their own home. Therefore schools have the unique ability and responsibility to create an environment that may encourage healthy behaviors. One way in particular is the regulation or banning of sugary drinks on campus.

The Child Nutrition and WIC Reauthorization Act of 2004 requires that all school districts include their own wellness policies for regulating “competitive” foods and beverages, or rather, those sold separately from the commodities provided from the National School Lunch Program. The problem is obvious here. Districts establish their own guidelines.  There is a lack of conclusive evidence as to what policies or best practices contribute to the reduction of student’s over-all weight status. The strongest evidence though, based on available data, suggests that prohibition of sales of sodas in schools have the greatest potential for impacting adolescent obesity.

The most tragic part of this situation is that even after the alarming statistics, supportive evidence, and feasibility of the solution, there is significant opposition from school faculty, parents, and community members when it comes to banning the vending machines.

School administrators argue that if soda is not available in the school, teenagers are likely to leave campus, hit up the local 7-11 for a 32 oz. fountain soda, and money that could have potentially benefitted the school, will be lost.  This also creates a crisis for the custodial team who will probably have more soda spills because cups with lids are not as preventative as capped bottles. The most substantial argument made by faculty is that it is ultimately the parents’ responsibility to exemplify and monitor healthy behaviors for their own child.

It is safe to assume that no parent would ever start the day by scooping 15 teaspoons of table sugar into a Ziploc bag and passing it off to their kid to constitute their lunch. But in reality, parent’s who provide their kid with one dollar to hit up the soda machine for a 20 oz Coke are doing just that.  It could also be assumed that no parent would intentionally inflict harm or risk upon his or her child. Something is clearly afoot in this situation, and the truth might be lack of knowledge or skills from the home front.

The question is not whether or not it should be the school or the parent’s responsibility to imbue health practices, but rather where will have the greatest impact. 5A high schools have over 2,000 students usually from vast racial and socioeconomic backgrounds that are influenced by commodities available or unavailable to them at school. Any educator should know that providing and environment conducive to learning and growth is the only practical solution for impact. It is a paradox that the risks and harms of obesity may be drilled during the health class lecture, but take 10 steps from the classroom and their stands the soda machine shining enticingly before the students. Something doesn’t add up.

One thing does add up well, and that is the annual medical costs associated with obesity each year. An estimated $14 billion dollars each year are attributed to obesity. In 2008 persons who were obese had medical costs that were $1,429 higher than the cost for people with normal body weights. With the fragile economic state our nation is currently facing, can we truly defend vending machines in our schools?

Whether it is changing the status quo, rearranging social norms, or schools taking an incremental financial cut, it is absolutely the first and most feasible step to tackling the obesity epidemic facing adolescents. This is a situation of quality of life and potential death and cannot be passed by.

So, you have a sweet tooth eh?

I came across this really great article in Delicious Living magazine. I want to share it. And as a disclaimer, this is me paraphrasing the article pretty heavily. So I will not take credit for the research or opinions expressed below:

The article is titled : Reduce Food Cravings. It’s super awesome because it shares the opinions and advice from a Doctor, a Registered Dietitian, and a Psychologist on why we crave foods (especially sweet and delicious foods).

Doctor Walter Crinnion says: Many people crave sugar because it allows more of the amino acid tryptophan to reach the brain and bind to the endorphin receptor sites. When this occurs, the body produces seratonin – ya know, that happy feel good hormone ;). This is why we LOVE our sweets and we CRAVE them. They make us feel GOOD! He also mentions that food cravings often stem from adverse food reactions, AKA ,poor digestion. If you are not absorbing the healthy nutrients that you need, your cells will essentially feel hungry, and you’re body is going to start the cravings. This is a biological cue your cells send your brain that they aren’t being nourished. So make sure you’re gut is in check! Consider looking into digestive enzymes if you think it is necessary for you to acquire optimal digestion.

A final tip from the Doc is that sometimes food cravings aren’t about food at all. You know how when we are bored we suddenly crave snacks? It’s just because we are bored and our body is craving something to do. So the next time you want to jump up off the couch to grab some more gummy bears or peanut butter pretzels, think about why you are actually feeling cravings. A glass of water or a short walk may alleviate that craving desire you are experiencing.

Dietitian Jessica Crandall says: The most commonly craved foods are simple sugars like candies and white carbohydrates because they provide short burst of instant energy. They can stimulate us when we are feeling sluggish. Combat this by getting enough zzzz’s. Shoot for at least 8 hours (personally, I don’t think that’s realistic for anyone these days! But good luck!). Also, eating a balanced diet of complex carbohydrates, proteins, and fats prevent vitamin and mineral deficiencies that can also cause food cravings. For example, an insufficient amount of iron and vitamin D can contribute to cravings. So consider foods like meat, beans, and green leafy veggies (iceberg doesn’t count).

And of course, if you want your sweets you gotta have your sweets, BUT, do so in moderation. Try not to binge. If you crave ice cream, switch to frozen yogurt. If you crave potato chips or french fries, try a baked potato instead. And as always, control your portions when indulging. Portion out your chips and jelly beans, don’t eat straight from the bag.

Psychologist Wansink says: It is possible to “rewire” yourself to want foods that are good for you. For example, if you associate ice cream sundaes with happy occasions , slowly start to connect fresh bananas with light whipped cream with birthdays and parties instead.

Combat the urge. There is little evidence to suggest that giving into a food craving with satisfy your hunger. It will more likely ignite an appetite. So when you crave something unhealthy, occupy yourself with another activity to focus your mind elsewhere. And finally, it is ok to binge on an unhealthy food occasionally, but be sure to get back to normal eating habits as soon as possible so you won’t disrupt the good you have going.

I hope you have enjoyed this tid bit. I have been feeling extra snacky lately so I really needed this advice. Happy not giving into cravings too often!

Ima Babe!

Today I have more of a personal thing to share. Something that has been bothering me lately. And that is body image.

It is rough to be a girl sometimes, and not to say that guys don’t worry about their bodies too, but I think it’s extra hard for us ladies. It breaks my heart a little bit when I hear my friends, sisters, or randoms at the park complaining about how they wish their stomachs were flatter, their butts firmer, or their jeans a size or two smaller.

It’s the time of year I guess when the days get longer, allergies start buggin, and the only thing that gets passed around quicker than mini Cadburry Eggs is the phrase “swim suit ready,” which is a little ironic. It is great to get into shape and have good realistic goals, but please people let’s not obsess and let the littlest flaws overtake us.

Maybe I am so paranoid because eating disorders are too common and too real for me. I don’t want to take the time to get into the dangers of extreme under-eating now, but there have been two things that have helped avoid that tragic trap that I would like to share. This book right here. It’s awesome. It’s (very) slightly on the crude side and has a different sort of humor, BUT it is fantastic about getting real about being a girl. Kaz Cook address eating disorders and the rough world we live in trying to live up to celebrities and models who’s “perfect” image we can’t seem to avoid. But also she talks anything from hair styles to feminine hygiene products. I know this will be my go-to book for my future daughters. I recommend it to everyone I know who struggles with loving themselves and embracing the joy of being a woman. Girl Power!

The second thing is learn to love yourself, even if you have to “fake it before you make it” or whatever that phrase is. At the risk of seeming hypocritical, I will gladly admit that I have moments where I get down on my body or image, but I have learned to combat it and over all appreciate all the great things my body can do for me. When I was completing my first semester of college I started looking at myself in the  mirror every morning and telling myself loudly “IMA BABE!” It was mostly a confidence booster that I needed to help me get through my chemistry class, I kind of copied the Cool Runnings idea… but it stuck. And the concept passed around room 208 and through the years and soon we had a bunch of arrogant shewolves… just kidding. Inside joke. But anyway, I love to always tell people to try it. Seriously. Look in the mirror and tell yourself you’re a babe, or you are beautiful, or you are sexy, or you are lovely, or whatever phrase will do it for ya.

Sorry this is so personal and so cheesy. But I felt inclined to share. YOU’RE A BABE!

90:10

On my first day of Nutrition 1010 I learned about the 90:10 rule. Have you heard of it?

This rule says that 90% of the time we should eat healthy, meet our daily vitamin recommendations, and get all our servings of fruits and vegetables, etc. But then 10% of the time we can slack a little. Ya know, have a piece of cake or a whole bag of potato chips (although I hope it wouldn’t be the whole bag…) I love this rule because food is delicious and social and to be enjoyed, and sometimes that means indulging ourselves a little. We shouldn’t have to feel guilty for this or punish ourselves with hours on the treadmill the next day. Bleh.

Yesterday, I will admit, I had a “10” day. I was in a bit of a mood and the only thing to console me was a chocolate doughnut. Oh and some Cadburry eggs. Oh and a Popsicle. You can judge me all you want, but it felt so good this morning to wake up and start fresh. I went for a run and had a green smoothie, and I’ve just been consumed with these thoughts that it’s so great that what we eat is a choice we make every meal and we have the power alone to choose to be healthy or not.

So the point of my little personal story today is that normal and healthy eating means moderation, variety, and occasional spoils. I think the best advice I could give someone as a nutritionist is to eat what makes you feel good. I get excited about eating healthy because I feel better and can cope with my days more easily. It’s nice to have choices and agency. And a magic bullet.