Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Gaining weight the healthy way! Here's how!

I have had a request on advice on how to gain weight in a healthy way, and instead of a private reply, I KNOW she's not the only one with this problem, so I decided to make an entire blog topic out of it!
I have been in the position before where I've been told to gain weight. I'm naturally on the thin side, so if I become more active or get stressed and don't eat as much I lose weight fast. Many people have a hypermetabolism and have a similar issue, and for some people it seems virtually IMPOSSIBLE to gain weight, and yes, believe it or not, some people WANT to. If you are overweight, please don't get offended by this blog, my goal is to help people with all types of nutritional problems, from underweight to overweight and beyond. I love sharing my knowledge with people in all positions and encourage you to ask me for requests if you have questions about your own lifestyle, I will always do my best to answer. :)
There are ways besides stuffing your face with pizza and donuts to gain weight in a healthier way that isn't as shocking (and UNHEALTHY) on your body. Just as with weight loss, weight gain is very similar, just reversing the goals. It is never healthier to gain more than 2 pounds a week, just as in it's not healthier to lose more than 2 pounds a week. Same idea. As I've discussed before, 3500 calories= 1lb, and 7,000 calories=2 lbs. So if your goal is weight gain, you need to attempt to add on an additional 500-1000 calories on top of what you usually eat. This will help with the healthy amount of weight gain. Now, although a calorie is a calorie and whether you eat 500 extra calories of spinach or 500 extra calories of chocolate, the weight gain WILL be the same, but increasing one's weight by foods that are high in cholesterol (meat, cheese, dairy, etc.) or refined sugar (candy, baked goods, sodas) is not the way to go. Although people that have a fast metabolism can enjoy these foods a little more liberally, if the attempt is healthy weight gain, you should stick to foods that have significant amounts of protein, carbohydrates, and bulk. Good foods to achieve this would be protein shakes, such as boost, ensure, and others that have a significant amount of calories, but also provide vitamin benefits as well. Ensure has around 250 calories per can, so two a day on top of your normal diet would help you achieve a 1lb/wk weight gain or one a day and an additional 250 calories from another source. (They often use ensure as a supplement in many eating disorder clinics, and with elderly people that have a hard time with their appetite and weight gain). ALSO, protein bars (although I don't believe in them for people that are trying to get "extra protein" for working out, because they are unecessary) also usually have decent amount of calories that can assist with weight gain. Balance bars usually have around 200 calories and also contain the vitamins and minerals that are beneficial. Although protein supplement shakes can get costly, they are probably the easiest way to gain weight in a healthy way. Protein bars are usually a little cheaper (about $1 /bar). You can also include more food in general. Stick to things that are carbohydrate rich, because they usually have more calories. Bagels, rice, couscous, sandwiches, peanut butter, granola bars, NUTS (high in calories and health benefits like omega 3s), trail mix, etc. There are tons of options to incorporate more food into your diet without feeling like you are overly stuffing yourself. Staying active (walking, etc.) is OK, as long as you are making up for these calories, because if you are already thin, any activity will burn more calories that you need to store and often cause weight loss on top of the already fast metabolism. Hope this helps! <3

I also found a website that might be helpful to those of you who want to gain weight :)

Stay healthy!
Keep giving me your questions and suggestions!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Energy Drinks- what's the deal? Good, bad, side-effects?

I'm not going to lie, occasionally I'll have a red bull, but very rarely, because I personally don't care for them, nor do I feel that "burst of energy" that the commercials talk about, and I certainly don't grow wings. From Monster, Rockstar, NOS, Redbull, Sugar-free Redbull, to Full Throttle, and the hundreds more that are out there, how do you know which ones are good, which ones are bad, and which ones really serve their purpose of providing "energy"?

I'm going to talk a little bit about the facts first. Energy drinks are NOT going to kill most people, BUT they certainly aren't good for you either. I personally don't believe that any of them are good for you, but just an opinion based on the research I have done. I think if you have one maybe once a week or a few times a month, you will be fine, but I know some people that slam these things down like there's no tomorrow.

First I will talk about the negative side of these drinks. Number one: they are EXTREMELY high in sugar (minus the sugar-free ones, but we'll get to those later). We all know sugar in moderation is not a big problem, but in excess, which is what these drinks contain (EXCESS REFINED SUGAR), is not only bad for glucose levels in the blood, it contains massive amounts of calories (15 calories per teaspoon), and excessively high amounts of caffein, well over the FDA limit for soda (which is 65 mg per 12oz can). Caffein can cause a jittery feeling, insomnia, panic and anxiety attacks, stomach problems, rise in blood pressure,  and in rare cases CARDIAC ARRHYTHMIAS, which is where the heart can skip a beat and in some cases is difficult to get back on track causing death. If you are an unhealthy individual who has history of blood pressure problems, heart problems, gastric distress or diabetes, you should at no time drink these. Not to mention, there is no doubt that these drinks are bad for the teeth and aging processes of your body. How much sugar  and caffeine are exactly are in these energy drinks? (Keep in mind there are variations in flavors, so I'm giving the basics here)

Monster:   16 oz Monster, there is 54 g Sugar
                 Caffeine: 160 mg
Rockstar:  16oz Rockstar, there is 62g Sugar
                 Caffeine: 160 mg
Nos:         16 oz Nos has 54 g sugar
                 Caffeine: 260 mg
Redbull:   8.46 oz can of Redbull has 27 g Sugar
                 Caffeine: 80 mg
Full Throttle:  16 oz has 58 g sugar
                      Caffeine: 144 mg

You can see all of these well exceed the amount of caffeine considered safe by the FDA. There is no daily recommended daily intake for sugar grams themselves, but there is an allowance of carbohydrates, also known as polysaccharides, which as you know from my previous discussion are complex sugars. The carbohydrates recommended per day, for the average healthy adult (both male and female) and child, is 130g/day. Most people eat much more than than this, which is one reason the obesity rate is so high. 1 teaspoon of sugar is 4.2 grams of sugar, which is about 4 grams of carbohydrate. NO MORE than 25% of your 130 g carbohydrate should come from sugar, which is around 50g. In each of these energy drinks the range of TEASPOONS of sugar is about 7 (red bull)-15 (the others),  let's take the 15g so at 15x4 g/carb = 60, so there you have it, you've already had over the recommended grams of sugar for the day. Along with the negative side effects I listed above, you can see why energy drinks are not a great choice.

Negative effects of Alcohol and Energy Drinks:
There been a lot of controversy on alcoholic energy drinks and mixing regular energy drinks with alcohol. Why the buzz? In a very simple explanation, energy drinks are an upper, very high in caffeine, and alcohol is a downer (hello? passed out?), mixing high doses of the two can potentially put the heart into shock. Redbull and vodka for example: Redbull has 80 mg of caffeine, which will cause a rise in blood pressure and heart rate, when alcohol is added to this, it can send mixed signals to the nervous system and bring about problems with the rhythm of the heart beat, which in some people who are medically unstable, cause fatal disturbances among the heart rhythms.

Sugar-free Energy drinks:
Although they have less sugar, hence less calories, they still have the same amount of caffeine. So the guideline for the mixing with alcohol remains, and the possible negative effects on heart, blood pressure, and heart rhythm still apply. Because sugar-free energy drinks have less sugar, the effect of the "crash" is much less noticeable.

The Dreaded "Crash":
If you've noticed that quick uppity feeling after you consume and energy drink and notice that about 45 minutes to an hour later you get sluggish and tired, you're not imagining it. The amount and type of sugar (glucose and fructose) that went into your system are high in their glycemic index so they spike your blood sugar rapidly (which is why they are so dangerous for diabetics), but after that spike, your blood glucose levels drop dramatically, which cause fatigue (tiredness), difficulty in concentration, etc.

They "work" for some people, others they don't. In my opinion, when I have an energy drink, I do not care for the jittery feeling, rapid heart rate, and the crash later. I wouldn't recommend energy drinks to most people more than once every week or two, if you feel the need. The side effects are more dangerous and detrimental than I think are willing to risk. The calories, the sugar, and the outrageous amount of caffein are not healthy for your body. It's you decision, this is just my view, giving you the facts.

Have a Healthy Day! <3

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

What is Celiac disease and how to take charge of your gluten-free diet!

Until I began studying nutrition, I had never heard of Celiac disease. Now it is more commonly known and discussed in the media for being more prevalent than ever. Even without this disease, many are taking on a gluten-free diet in hopes of weight loss and a healthier lifestyle. I don't see it as something that should be done, unless people suffer from this disorder. Whole grains are beneficial to those who can handle them, so please do not cut out grains unless medically needed!
Celiac disease is a digestive disease that damages the villi on the small intestine when gluten is eaten and makes it difficult to absorb nutrients from foods. It is considered an auto-immune disease, but it's cause and reasoning is still much a mystery to the dietary and medical world. We know it's genetic, but it can go unseen throughout one's life and suddenly become prevalent after a surgery, having a baby, or during a time of emotional stress. So what exactly is gluten? Gluten is the protein in wheat, rye, and barley. It is not limited to foods, there are also some medications, vitamins, and even lip balms! What happens to people with this disease if they eat gluten? Physiologically, the villi (which are the hair like things attached to your small intestine) are damaged and flattened when gluten is eaten. Over time if Celiac's goes undiagnosed, they can become permanently flattened. These villi are responsible for the absorption of nutrients from your small intestine into your blood stream, and when not working properly, this can be a big problem. The person can become malnourished no matter how much they eat or how much they weigh.
There is tons to be said about Celiac itself, BUT today I am here to talk about the great gluten alternatives there are out there for those that suffer.
Personally, I do NOT suffer from Celiac, but I have friends that do. As a frequent shopper of Trader Joes, I have tried tons of different things, including some gluten free peanut/granola bars and other products that I have found to be yummy. A main problem with gluten-free foods is that they tend to be more expensive, but if you do some of the cooking yourself, there are thousands of gluten-free recipes out there, just google it! :) When it comes to every day living, it is a very hard thing to adjust to. Wheat and wheat flour is in almost everything we eat on a daily basis, and don't even realize it!
Gluten is found in:
  • Pizza
  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Bagels
  • Many cereals that contain barley, wheat, rye or anything that says the word "malt" or "malted"

On a gluten-free diet you can still eat:
  • Eggs and milk products such as cheese. Some cheese and cheese spreads may contain gluten, so check the labels for additives. You may need to avoid milk and milk products at the beginning of treatment.
  • Flours and starches made from rice, corn, buckwheat, potatoes, soybeans, or tapioca.
  • Fresh, frozen, or canned unprocessed meats. Examples of processed meats are hot dogs, salami, and deli meat. Read labels for additives that may contain gluten.
  • Fresh, frozen, dried, or canned fruits and vegetables, if they do not have thickeners or other additives that contain gluten.
  • Certain alcohol drinks, including wine, liquor (including whiskey and brandy), liqueurs, and ciders.

They do make gluten-free breads but, the costs can be outrageous and I hear it doesn't taste great. The sad reality is that most bread and pasta products will need to be cut out of the diet when the gluten-allergy is bad, unless strictly noted as gluten free.I recommend trying Whole Foods and Trader Joes and researching most affordable prices. Trader Joe's, like I said before, has really great gluten free peanut/chewy bar things! (In the granola bar section)
Here is a website that provides a list of brands that are gluten free for all types of foods.
I wish I could be more helpful, but there's not as many substitutes out there as I thought!!
Have a happy, healthy holiday!! <3

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Today's Rant: "The China Study"- Why this fad is dangerous and uneducated.

The first I heard about "The China Study" was when I posted a topic on Calcium a couple months ago. I didn't bother researching it because it sounded so ridiculous, I wasn't about to waste my time. Now, the subject has been brought to my attention again, and I am finding out that some doctors and pediatricians are also following this fad, and although I am sure these professions are good at what they do, I can assure you they don't have a background in nutrition if they could possibly believe that this lifestyle could be "healthy" for adults and children. What is "The China Study"? It is a book written by T. Colin Campbell and his son, Thomas Campbell. Although T. Colin Campbell supposedly has a degree in biochemistry and has studied nutrition, there are too many errors, proven conflicts, and questionable theories for much of what he preaches to be true or not yet proven. He even states in his book that he makes "generalizations" and they have not yet been proven true. What does that tell you? Let's get to a few key things in his book that are proven to be false.

"Eating foods that contain any cholesterol above 0mg is unhealthy"- FALSE - Dr. T. Colin Campbell
Because your body only synthesizes 80% of it's cholesterol without diet. Your body can use that additional 20% for the essential functions carried out by cholesterol in the body. 300-330mg of cholesterol a day is considered the average and not-to-exceed amount because of the heart disease that is caused by too much. This number gives you middle-ground, not too much, not too little. These are the things that cholesterol does in your body:

-Build the structure of cell membranes
-Make hormones like estrogen, testosterone and adrenal hormones
-Help your metabolism work efficiently; for example, cholesterol is essential for your body to produce vitamin D
-Produce bile acids, which help the body digest fat and absorb important nutrients.

Now we know that too much is very bad, but 0mg is not healthy, either, which is what the China Study states.

He also argues that calcium should not be obtained from dairy sources: FALSE
Because dairy sources contain Vitamin D which are necessary for the absorption of the Calcium they also contain. Without Vitamin D, calcium cannot do what it needs to do in the body, and without calcium, bones and teeth cannot grow, they will be brittle, break easily, and many more negative consequences to inadequate calcium. Calcium CAN be found in other foods, like some vegetables, BUT, look at the vitamin D discrepancy between the two:
An 8oz glass of 2% milk has 30% of your daily calcium, 25 mg cholesterol and 25% of your daily Vitamin D.
You would have to eat THREE cups of raw spinach to get only 8% of your daily calcium, with 0 Vitamin D to absorb it.
Do you get it now?

The China Study also talks about all natural living, vegan/vegetarian diets and how dairy and these types of foods are responsible for cancer, heart disease (only when eaten an EXCESS), and diabetes (not correlated at all, except with obesity). There are just as many vegetarians with cancer as those that eat dairy and calcium in moderation. Heart disease is decreased when vegan because you are getting no cholesterol nor animal fat, but the reverse health effects, like malnutrition and bodily function and sufficiency are prevalent. Vegetarianism is not unhealthy, because they can still have dairy products that offer Calcium. When you cut out dairy completely, there will be consequences. Please be wise and advise a nutritional expert before cutting dairy products and making other way out changes to you or your child's diet.

This is a GREAT website I found, written by Dr. Wilson, MD, with a list of errors found in the book. This is ridiculous, I don't even have my bachelor's degree yet, and I know the difference between all of these mistakes. He also talks about the fact that better food choices are not discussed. Please take a look at this website, it will very clearly put your curiosity about the China Study to rest.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Trans Fat- JUST SAY NO! Trans Fat # 1 Heart Offender!

Yes, this is me in a Shirt I bought :)

Many of you have heard of it, but i can bed a majority don't quite know what it is, and that's why I'm here! Trans fat, also known as trans fatty acids are made through the chemical process of hydrogenated oils. They are occasionally found in small quanities of some meats and dairy, but these do not have the negative health effects like those trans fats formed by the process of hydrogenation. Why hydrogenate? Well, it includes the shelf life and taste of many foods, but do you really think it's work the risk? I think not. It is even secretly hidden into many of your favorite snacks you think may be healthy, like wheat thins and many granola bars. If you look on the back of your foods, they may still say "0g trans fat", because the FDA doesn't require them to include it if there is under 0.5 g in a serving. So how do you tell if the foods you are eating contain trans fat? Look in the ingredients list, does it say "partially hydrogenated ________ oil", yup! That's trans fat. Don't be fooled by the "0g" trans fat in the nutrition label, look deeper, they are out to fool you with one of the most unhealthy and toxic things produced by the food industry. Other common things that contain trans fat include coffee creamers (powdered and liquid), cake frosting, vegetable shortenings, some margarines, crackers, cookies, snack foods, and many others. There is currently a petition out there to ban trans fatty acids from all foods,and California was the first state this year to ban trans fatty acids in restaurants and fast-food chains state-wide.
This is a great website for all sorts of facts and insight to the world of trans-fats.

"Trans fats wreak havoc with the body's ability to regulate cholesterol. In the hierarchy of fats, the polyunsaturated fats which are found in vegetables are the good kind; they lower your cholesterol. Saturated fats have been condemned as the bad kind. But trans fats are far worse. They drive up the LDL ("bad") cholesterol. which markedly increases the risk of coronary artery heart disease and stroke. According to a recent study of some 80,000 women, for every 5% increase in the amount of saturated fat a woman consumes, her risk of heart disease increases by 17%. But only a 2% increase in trans fats will increase her risk of heart disease by 93%!"

Trans fats have been linked to 30,000 deaths in the United States each year, and millions of premature deaths nation-wide.

It has been deemed the largest dietary danger and without complaints and continuing the petition to the FDA, it won't be stopped. I am guilty of consuming it myself, I have been tricked by the "0 gram" label and have not read the ingredients in many of the so-called "healthy" foods i've eaten, but now being as heavily involved in nutrition as I am, I am conscious and aware of my dietary surroundings.

Read the labels carefully, and if you suspect you are eating something that isn't healthy for you, you are probably right. Food is like your friends, choose wisely, and it will benefit you in the long run. <3

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Cholesterol: What is it, and why is too much so bad?

Today's topic is all about one of my favorite things to "preach" about, and that's CHOLESTEROL! Until I found out that my fiancee's was so dangerously high, I didn't know too much about it, but when I found out, I changed every aspect of our daily lives when it came to food. You may be asking "what kind of foods contain cholesterol?"Well, your liver is what synthesizes cholesterol, and it is made by the liver from saturated fats. We've talked about saturated fats before, and why they are so bad. The number one offender when it comes to cholesterol is MEAT. The more fatty the meat, the more cholesterol. The ADA (American Dietetics Association) recommends that you don't consume red meat more than once a week. That is pretty hard to swallow for all you meat-eaters, so I say twice a week is acceptable. Now don't think that just eating a lot of chicken is going to be the better choice, chicken thighs and wings and dark meat of poultry contain just as much, if not more, cholesterol than red meat. When it comes to choosing meat, be wise. Pick lean, skinless, chicken/turkey breast, remove fat. If you are going to treat yourself with some red meat, lean toward filet mignon or other lean red meats, the less white fat running through it, the better on your heart. EGGS are another horrible cholesterol-heavy food. The average large egg contains about 212 mg cholesterol. If you eat two eggs you are already over the daily recommended intake for cholesterol. One egg contains Other offenders of cholesterol include dairy products such as milk, cheese, cream. Switch to 1 or 2% or soy milk, limit cheese to an occasional snack, and you will reasonably stay within the limit. Now what's the norm for how much cholesterol you should consume in your diet? The number stands at about 300mg a day. And if you look on the back of your food labels you can see what qualifies as a serving and how many mg are in each serving. Believe it or not, your body actually synthesizes 80% of it's cholesterol on its own and that is why you only need to consume 20% from your diet. You don't want to little, because cholesterol does benefit the body in many ways. It produces bile salts, hormones, and vitamin D, but you don't want too much because of it's negative effects on the heart, and that 300mg is the healthy balance for this.
There are three types of cholesterol: LDL (Low-density lipoprotein, aka BAD cholesterol), HDL (High-density lipoprotein, aka GOOD cholesterol), and Triglycerides. These three make up your overall cholesterol numbers which can be tested in your blood.

Here is some information obtained from www.heart.org on the positive and negative effects of each of these cholesterols.

LDL (Bad) Cholesterol
When too much LDL (bad) cholesterol circulates in the blood, it can slowly build up in the inner walls of the arteries that feed the heart and brain. Together with other substances, it can form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can narrow the arteries and make them less flexible. This condition is known as atherosclerosis. If a clot forms and blocks a narrowed artery, heart attack or stroke can result.

HDL (Good) Cholesterol
About one-fourth to one-third of blood cholesterol is carried by high-density lipoprotein (HDL). HDL cholesterol is known as "good" cholesterol, because high levels of HDL seem to protect against heart attack. Low levels of HDL (less than 40 mg/dL) also increase the risk of heart disease. Medical experts think that HDL tends to carry cholesterol away from the arteries and back to the liver, where it's passed from the body. Some experts believe that HDL removes excess cholesterol from arterial plaque, slowing its buildup.

Triglyceride is a form of fat made in the body. Elevated triglycerides can be due to overweight/obesity, physical inactivity, cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption and a diet very high in carbohydrates (60 percent of total calories or more). People with high triglycerides often have a high total cholesterol level, including a high LDL (bad) level and a low HDL (good) level. Many people with heart disease and/or diabetes also have high triglyceride levels.

My fiancee gave me permission to share his story and cholesterol numbers with you for the purpose of my educating people on how diet CAN improve cholesterol significantly, and it doesn't take too much time, either. He went to the doctor, and the next day received his blood test results. Everything was normal but the doctor was very, VERY concerned about his cholesterol numbers. They were extremely high and the doctor pretty much told him he was at a very high risk for heart attack if he didn't change his diet. He has 6 months to do it on his own or he was going on medication. We had been together about 2 years at this point, and I hadn't focused too much on cholesterol because I know I cooked pretty healthy at dinner, but I wasn't looking at the big picture, because I didn't know that the problem existed. BIG mistake. Whether there's a problem or not, you need to watch your cholesterol intake to keep it under control before the problem begins. I changed EVERYTHING. From the way I cooked dinner, the amount of red meat I let him eat a week, to limiting his egg and cheese intake, and started making his lunches every day for him. It sounds like a lot of work, but when you see the difference 6 months made, this was such a worth-while change. Now it's the normal routine. I let him have his red meat a couple times a week, 2 eggs on the weekend, and continue to make his lunch. I substituted all butter with substitute (except in baking, of course), all foods were fried or basted in olive oil, and cheese was limited. His good cholesterol was also very low, which is not good. There are heart-healthy foods that can raise this number, and these include: whole grains (pasta, bread, etc.), increasing monounsaturated fats (olive oil), and exercise. I switched all the pasta and bread to 100% whole grain/wheat, as I mentioned before, everything was cooked in olive oil, and increased the fresh fruits and vegetables served with dinner and in lunch. An HDL number above 60 is actually proven to reduce heart disease! It's amazing that the food you put into your body could have such an influence on your heart and overall health.
So after the astonishing and scary high numbers tested prior, six months later he went in for the cholesterol check-up, and his doctor couldn't believe it. Although a few of the numbers were still slightly elevated, the amount they changed for the better was astounding. His words were along the lines of: "I don't know how you did this, but keep doing it and you won't have to go on medication, this is great!" To show you the shift after the 6 month change in diet, here are the before and after numbers:

Before, After, Normal 

Cholesterol:   273, 197, <200
Cholesterol/High Density Lipoprotein (ratio):   8.5, 5.5, <5.0
LDL: 175, 117, <100
HDL: 32, 36, >/=40
Triglycerides: 329, 222, <150

It hasn't been check again, but I'm sure because we continue the healthy living lifestyle in our house and having changed his lunch from greasy fast food/roach coach to healthy sandwiches on whole wheat, it is continuing to stay on the right path and improve. There are still a couple areas of improvement, but you can see that in 6 months, with a healthy diet, the numbers significantly improved. Once eating healthier, he even told me that he didn't get that disgustingly full and slugging feeling after eating anymore, and he had more energy. Diet is everything, guys, for your heart, your mind, and your entire body!

Cholesterol is the number one offender of the heart, be smart and choose heart-healthy foods to improve your HDL and decrease your LDL. Any questions? Feel free to leave me a comment, and follow me on twitter! http://twitter.com/JilliansHealth

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Have you and your children had your fruits and veggies? PLUS fun and easy ways to get your kids to eat their's!! Childhood obesity is equivalent to poisoning your child, don't kill your kids!!!

If you know me, you know I'm extremely passionate about stopping obesity, and even more so about childhood obesity. Obesity is the single most preventable problem there is, and one primary reason for it is the lack of fruits and vegetables in the average diet. And for all you fast-food-goers, FRENCH FRIES ARE NOT A VEGETABLE! Can I make that any more clear? Greasy, fried, oily, sodium-saturated, crust-covered potatoes are NOT a vegetable. By the time they are frozen and deep fried, the very few, un-starchy, nutrients that were once in the poor little potatoes are gone. NOW, let's talk about the good stuff. Getting a colorful variety of fruits and veggies is very important. The more colorful array you choose, the more nutrients and vitamins you're getting. It is proven that people who on average eat more fruits and vegetables daily (incorporated into daily calories), weigh less and, are less-fatigued, and function better overall than those who don't. Let's start with getting your "5 a day the color way!" and the daily recommended servings of both fruits and vegetables for both children and adults.

Age                                 Fruits (serving)        Vegetables
Less Active:
2-3 yrs                              1                                  1
4-8                                    1                                1.5
9-13                                 1.5                                2
14-18                               1.5                              2.5
Moderately Active:
2-3 yrs                              1                                 1
4-8                                  1.5                              1.5
9-13                                1.5                                2
14-18                                2                               2.5
2-3 yrs                              1                                 1
4-8                                  1.5                              1.5
9-13                                1.5                              2.5
14-18                                2                                3

Age                                 Fruits                     Vegetables
Less Active:
2-3 yrs                                1                                1
4-8                                    1.5                             1.5
9-13                                  1.5                             2.5
14-18                                  2                                3
Moderately Active:
2-3 yrs                                1                                1
4-8                                    1.5                             1.5
9-13                                  1.5                             2.5
14-18                                  2                                3
2-3 yrs                                1                                1
4-8                                    1.5                               2
9-13                                    2                               2.5
14-18                                2.5                              3.5

Age                                 Fruits                     Vegetables
Less Active:
19-30                                 2                                2.5
31-51                               1.5                               2.5
51+                                  1.5                                2
Moderately Active:
19-50                                 2                                 2.5
51+                                  1.5                                2.5
19-50                                 2                                   3
51+                                    2                                 2.5

Age                                 Fruits                     Vegetables
Less Active:
19-50                                  2                                  3
51+                                     2                                2.5
Moderately Active:
19-30                                  2                                3.5
31+                                     2                                 3
19-30                                2.5                                4
31-50                                2.5                              3.5
51+                                     2                                 3

What is classified as "One" serving? These vary from fruit to fruit and veggie to veggie, but this should give you a general idea. A serving is about a cup and here are some ideas for 1 cup and 1/2 cup servings so you know how much you're getting.
A small apple- 1 cup
1 large ear of corn- 1 cup
1 large orange- 1 cup
16 grapes- 1/2 cup
A small banana- 1/2 cup
6 baby carrots- 1/2 cup
or most chopped or easily measured fruits/vegetables in a measuring cup or half cup is accurate.

What is the importance of fruits and vegetables?
Both include many essential vitamins and nutrients that the body needs. Vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants are found in fruits and vegetables and improve overall health. A diet lacking color variety of these foods is usually vitamin deficient, and replacing some of those bad calories with the right ones will help you lose weight and maintain more balance in many physiological aspects.
There are a ton of fun and tasty recipes out there than incorporate fruits and veggies and are easy and cost-effective. Broccoli with a little cheese on top is one of my favorites, spinach (raw in salads), purple grapes, 100% orange juice, and gala apples are some of the ways I daily incorporate these yummy and healthiful foods into my life!
When I was growing up, you couldn't get me to eat a vegetable if you paid me, now you couldn't pay me NOT to eat them. One thing I hear from a lot of parents is that it is difficult to get their children to eat there fruits and vegetables, but if you knew the risks and deficiencies associated with NOT eating them and the growing epidemic of childhood obesity and diabetes, you might think twice. I am one that personally believes obese children's parents should be forced to take parenting classes in nutrition and interaction. I think that allowing your children to gain weight and become obese should be considered child endangerment. It is no different than slowly slipping them cyanide every day and poisoning them, literally. This is my opinion, and you are free to have your own, but I feel that if I express it this way, parents might understand why it is so crucial to teach your children healthy living and physical activity. If your child is already overweight, it is NOT too late. This is one common misconception about overweight children [and adults], but it is never too late, and you can reverse the damage you've done. It at times is a long and rough road, but it will be worth it when you and/or your kids are healthy.

Snacks to help sneak in those good things:
Carrots and Ranch: Easy on the ranch, maybe even buy light ranch if you're child does have a weight problem, but this is a fun and tasty way to trick your kids into getting those veggies.
100% Fruit Juice: Not a substitute for 100% of the time, but for one of those fruit servings, it's a great way to sneak it in. (Unless diabetes is a factor, then please advise a doctor, because juices contain high amounts of sugar)
Celery and Peanut Butter: Easy on the peanut butter (Try to limit the serving to about 2 TBSP which is 190cal [180 reduced fat]), but another yummy way to mask some of the veggie-ness of celery. It also has protein from the peanut butter, it's a win-win.
Apples and Caramel: Again, don't let them eat the whole jar of caramel, but I think you're getting the idea.
Broccoli with some cheddar or jack cheese sprinkled on top: It takes away some of the broccoli part of it, and you also get the calcium and good stuff from the cheese!

There are tons more, but those are my most simple and easy ways to help incorporate fruits and vegetables into your child's (and maybe even your) diet! :) If you google ways to help kids eat healthier, there are tons of recipes and options, whether you have an hour or fifteen minutes, there are options out there for healthy dinners for you and your family.

Remember, the greater variety in color, the better. The more the vitamins and minerals will vary, colors are generally associated with different vitamins and benefits.

Red Fruits and Vegetables
Contain nutrients such as lycopene, ellagic acid, Quercetin, and Hesperidin, to name a few. These nutrients reduce the risk of prostate cancer, lower blood pressure, reduce tumor growth and LDL cholesterol levels, scavenge harmful free-radicals, and support join tissue in arthritis cases.

Orange and Yellow fruits and vegetables
Contain beta-carotene, zeaxanthin, flavonoids, lycopene, potassium, and vitamin C. These nutrients reduce age-related macula degeneration and the risk of prostate cancer, lower LDL cholesterol and blood pressure, promote collagen formation and healthy joints, fight harmful free radicals, encourage alkaline balance, and work with magnesium and calcium to build healthy bones.

Green vegetables and Fruit
Green vegetables contain chlorophyll, fiber, lutein, zeaxanthin, calcium, folate, vitamin C, calcium, and Beta-carotene. The nutrients found in these vegetables reduce cancer risks, lower blood pressure and LDL cholesterol levels, normalize digestion time, support retinal health and vision, fight harmful free-radicals, and boost immune system activity.

Blue and purple fruits and vegetables
Contain nutrients which include lutein, zeaxanthin, resveratrol, vitamin C, fiber, flavonoids, ellagic acid, and quercetin. Similar to the previous nutrients, these nutrients support retinal health, lower LDL cholesterol, boost immune system activity, support healthy digestion, improve calcium and other mineral absorption, fight inflammation, reduce tumor growth, act as an anticarcinogens in the digestive tract, and limit the activity of cancer cells.

White fruits and vegetables
Contain nutrients such as beta-glucans, EGCG, SDG, and lignans that provide powerful immune boosting activity. These nutrients also activate natural killer B and T cells, reduce the risk of colon, breast, and prostate cancers, and balance hormone levels, reducing the risk of hormone-related cancers

Enjoy food, do not fear it. It is your friend and your health and well-being rely on it. It's about incorporating the good with the occasional "bad" and letting yourself enjoy a little bit of everything.

Don't forget to tell your friends about "Living Healthy with Jillian!" My goal is to hopefully have 100 followers by January 1st, and I know with your help, it can happen. Thanks! <3

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

High Fructose Corn Syrup- Is it linked to diabetes and obesity?

Ok, I received a request a couple weeks ago on this topic, but have been swamped, so let's get to it. To start off with the main point, it is NOT responsible for diabetes, nor weight gain. Now let me explain. It is simply sugar, nothing more, nothing less. It is used as the primary sweetener in many of the sweet foods we eat today, and this sugar is included in the grams of sugar listed on the label. High Fructose Corn Syrup is sugar that is actually made form corn, and believe it or not, when absorbed into the blood stream is non-distinguishable from regular sugar. It is absorbed, processed, and released the same away as regular table sugarHigh fructose corn syrup is composed of the same two simple sugars (fructose and glucose) as table sugar, honey and maple syrup. Now I have discussed before that sugar does not cause diabetes. I want to make that the key discussion here, because I get frustrated with parents who bar their children from sugar with the belief it is responsible for this disease.
A little about diabetes:
Type I diabetes is a chronic and life-long disease that is caused by the pancreas's inability to produce enough insulin to keep the body's glucose levels stable. (It is sometimes genetic, but not necessarily). You can't stop it, and food is not to blame for the disease. People with this type of diabetes have a malfunction in their body, unfortunately lower amounts of sugars and insulin are required and the only way to control it. Type II diabetes is another story. It is primarily linked to obesity. In fact, 80% of those that suffer from type II diabetes are obese or significantly overweight and are not physically active, factors for the other 20% include ethnicity, age, and heredity. It is preventable, and when appropriate weight loss takes place, it is virtually like it never existed. Why does obesity cause type II diabetes? Scientifically, there is still a lot of research to be done, but the basics are that as your body weight increases, this means your calories are increasing, and it is harder for your body to process and break down the extra sugar from the excessive calories. This is an article, word-for-word by Dr. John Messmer, MD:


"Do not be misled by the fact that diabetics have higher blood sugar levels than normal. The problem in diabetes is not what is eaten, but how much. For most adults with diabetes, the problem arises from being overweight.
When one eats, the pancreas sends insulin into the bloodstream. There, the insulin stimulates the cells of the muscles and liver to take in the sugar. Sugar is either:
Burned off
Stored as starch in the muscles and liver
Converted into the fat found in fat cells.
All excess calories, whether from sugar, protein, or fat, are stored. Too many calories of any kind causes weight gain. When those genetically predisposed to diabetes gain too much weight, they will produce insulin slower or stop responding to insulin, causing their blood sugar to rise even higher. Once diabetes develops, too much sugar or too much of any food elevates the diabetic's blood sugar. When blood sugar is too high for too long, the body suffers from progressive organ damage.
So, while sugar can be a contributing factor [in the weight gain], too much sugar cannot cause diabetes. Instead, be aware of high caloric intake."

Now back to high fructose corn syrup. Now that you know that is is basically sugar (from corn), and in a lot of sweet foods, that are higher in calories, it should make sense that they should be eaten in moderation. It, itself is not responsible for weight gain and diabetes, if you eat more calories, are less physically active, gain more weight, and genetically have a pre-disposition, you are asking for type 2 diabetes. Be smart in your lifestyle. Make the right choices, and enjoy the good stuff in moderation, not excess. Type 2 diabetes used to be known as "adult onset diabetes", but it is becoming more and more common in children, why? Because children are increasingly less active, eating unhealthier, and more overweight. Simple. Get yourself and your kids off the couch, eat healthier, and maintain a healthy weight. Normal body mass is defined as 18.5 - 24.9. You should attempt to stay within that range to avoid diseases caused obesity. Bottom line, high fructose corn syrup will not kill you. There are no harsh chemicals in it, but it should definitely be considered in moderation due to the caloric content of foods that contain it (after all, it is sugar, and sugar has a lot of calories). Be good to yourself, enjoy life, and don't deprive yourself. Live not in fear of food, but enjoy it.

Jillian <3

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Don't Fear the Holidays- Enjoy them! Don't deprive yourself! Stay fit and Trim this season!

I have received a request to give some input on alternatives to the "good stuff" during the holidays. I am going to go a little more in depth than that, and provide you with some crucial information and statistics that might help you out this time around, and hopefully every holiday season from now on. From reading my previous blogs, you know that the one thing I am against is deprivation. It is all about portion control and replacing a decent amount of the junk with healthy alternatives that will leave you satisfied and not wanting more. You can eat what other people are eating, but I am going to show you how to eat less, and stay full and substitute some of that junk food you know isn't good to have all the time. There are indeed healthy alternatives to take the edge off that Holiday "I need to eat sweets" feeling.

Everybody I know talks about the Holidays and how it is virtually impossible to keep off the pounds during the season. From Halloween to New Years, American's gain an average of 5 pounds or more. It doesn't have to be this way, don't let yourself be the statistic. Another major factor in this is that once someone puts on a pound or two (especially toward the end of the year), they get the "well, I'll just wait until New Years for my resolution and I'll lose the weight then" excuse. It is a vicious cycle, and the saddest part is, this coming New Year turns into next New Year and the next, and the next, etc. People have good intentions, but they self sabotage and then find excuses so they don't feel bad for giving up on their weight loss goals.

Let's start with Halloween. CANDY. You are not alone, I LOVE candy. And it's okay. 2 or 3 fun sized pieces of halloween candy a few times a week or even once a day if you are at a healthy weight is NOT going to hurt you.
One big thing that I am opposed to is depriving children. Please, don't be one of those parents I get angry at and completely deprive your children of the candy or sugar entirely. The 2 main types of parents that deprive their children of sugar and goodies are: 1. They don't want it around them, because they feel like they will gain weight, so it's better for it not to be around AT ALL, and 2. They blame sugar for making children hyper, when it is physiologically proven to NOT play a role in ADHD or hyperactivity in children and young adults. It is also proven that children who are completely deprived of sugar when growing up will act out with emotional eating and become overweight OR feel that they do not deserve good food and it is possible to develop an eating disorder later on life (primarily females). One thing I am grateful for is that my mom never deprived me growing up. She let me have what I wanted, as long as I ate the good stuff first. I see children on a daily basis that are deprived by their parents and they act out aggressively, and also binge on sweets when they have the opportunity away from their parents, neither i a good thing, apparently. Seriously guys, no need to deprive your child, the long term effects will only harm them, and you. Allow them a couple pieces of candy every night or two, AFTER they eat a healthy and balanced dinner. Make it a reward, not an all the time thing or a means to "shut up" or your child. (The main reason for childhood obesity, tomorrow's topic). Throw a piece into their lunch box as a treat during the day. It will not hurt, and it will show them that the occasional piece of candy is not going to harm them. So be good to yourself and your kids, it is okay to have candy in moderation, it won't hurt, but make it a reward, not a given, and not until the healthy food is eaten first.

Thanksgiving- I personally don't believe going all out on a holiday dinner is bad for you. Everybody deserves to splurge every once in a while, no matter what size you are. But if you are making it a habit during the holidays, and over indulging in the left overs, it becomes a problem. Remember portion control. Do not let your foods touch each other on the plate. That will assure smaller portion sizes. Resist seconds. Take a sip of water after every bite or two, that will help fill you up faster, and ice water is actually proven to speed up the metabolism. Avoid the crust of your holiday pies. 1/8th of a pie's bottom crust contains on average about 150 calories, so if there is top and bottom crust, that is 300 unnecessary calories. Attempt to use real fruit, and look for some healthy real fruit cobblers and desserts instead. There are a ton of recipes out there. I'm here to give you the advice, not give you step by step instructions on how to make and what to eat food-wise, so do the foot work.

*Take a walk with the family after meals. Holiday or not. That promotes exercise for the entire family. As I have said before, it is recommended that healthy adults get at least 30 minutes (new recommended is 60 minutes) of moderate activity at least 5 times a week. Don't be lazy, and don't let the turkey get the best of you. You will feel better once you get moving, and burn of some of those extra calories. 1/48th to 1/24th of your day is worth being healthy and fit, don't you think?

Christmas- here we go. Candy, sweets, cookies, pie, junk, junk, junk! From sweets at the office, at school, and at home, it is next to impossible to avoid, or is it? Resist baking during the holidays. If you are having company over, make just enough for them and one serving for you and your family. There is no need to make 3 dozen cookies, and have 2 dozed left over to just stare at you all day long. I'm making sense right? Go buy a pie or a set amount of desserts for guests or for the special occasion. Having left over sweets and high-calorie foods around the house is the biggest issue for people with a sweet tooth attempting to maintain or not gain any weight, especially during the holidays. Keep some trail mix around the house, the kind with chocolate chips is great. Have a handful of then if the other members of your house are eating something sweet and you know that you've already over done it. It will take the edge of the sweet tooth, and fill you up, not to mention provide you with some awesome omega-3s and such. I love Trader Joe's "Happy Trekking" trail mix. 1/4 cup has 160 calories, but if you pay attention to the serving size, it is a good little snack to take the edge of that "I need to fit in my eating junk food" feeling. The trail mix, Flavored yogurts, Jell-O 100 calorie pudding cups (my favorite guilt free snack), etc. are great things to keep on hand while at work, school or other places that you know you are going to be bombarded with temptation. Don't be hard on yourself. If you want to have a cookie or a small piece of pie, it's OK. But you have to remember that it is a treat, a reward, not a multiple time a day treat. Maybe a few times a week. And on the days where you want to be good, carry along your other snacks that will fulfill the cravings you will probably have while seeing other people eat sweets. You don't have to deprive yourself, just eat it in moderation, and if you do have weight loss goals, incorporate those treats into your daily calories. And if people give you See's candy (I know I got like 5 boxes last year), share it, and limit yourself. The box will be there tomorrow, no need to eat the whole thing in a night or two. a few pieces a night to treat yourself after a healthy dinner is sufficient. Don't go overboard because it's there. If it is that big of a temptation, remove it from your house. If you really struggle with weight sometimes you can be triggered, especially if a smaller member of the family or friend is able to indulge a little more than you, that's why having your "sweet & healthy" snacks are key to success.
Don't forget to stay active during the Holidays and don't forget your fruits and veggies and a substitute for the sweets that everyone else is eating- yogurt, pudding, trail mix, but one or two pieces of fun sized candy won't hurt! Be good to yourself, and remember that "Everything is good in Moderation". Don't deprive yourself or your children. Maintain a healthy environment for them and yourself. Enjoy the Holidays, don't fear them. More to come on this topic because I know it is a battle for people of all shapes and sizes. <3

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Sugar Does NOT make you gain weight, calories do.

There are different types of sugars. But I'm not going to get into that, this is simply to give my opinion on the good vs. evil sugar debate. And unless you are a biochemist, you are probably fed up with all of the public debates on sugar and whether it is truly good or bad for you. When it comes to gaining weight, sugar is only a key role in an indirect correlation. A majority of high calorie foods are also high in sugar, which means the more you eat, yep, the more weight you'll gain. One teaspoon of sugar is 15 calories. So the more sugar, the more calories. There are negative effects of too much refined sugar on the body, which are noted below. The key to weight loss and weight maintenance is not sugar, it is calories. End of story. 
The average adult female should consume between 1800-2000 calories to maintain their weight, and lower, when losing weight, higher when in need of gaining weight. Men require more, usually between 2500-2800 to maintain. It is never healthier to lose or gain more than 2 pounds a week, no matter what size you are. Losing weight required a cut (from what you are currently eating) of 3,500 calories a week for ONE pound. You would need to cut out 7,000 calories a week to meet the 2 pound goal. 
Back to sugar. Too much sugar is not good for the body, but neither is too little. There is no RDI of sugar. Unless you are diabetic, usually eating candy and things higher in sugar content won't physically health-wise hurt you. As I mentioned before, sugary foods are usually higher in calories, which in turn cause weight gain. If you are eating a something that has 250 calories and has 35 grams of sugar, you are not getting any excess "fat" or weight gain from those sugar grams, but those 250 calories will count towards your desired caloric intake for the day. Too much refined sugar (white, processed sugar) found in soda, candy bars, chocolate, etc. do have negative effects when it comes to the body, when consumed in large quantities on a regular basis. Here are the some researched reasons that "too much" refined sugar may be bad for you.
1.Tooth decay
2.Gum disease
3.Unstable blood glucose levels (normally in individuals with diabetes and hypoglycemia)
4.Chromium deficiency
5.Nutrient deficiency (because sugary foods make you fuller, so then you won't feel like eating the    healthy stuff after)
7. Stress (when your body is releasing the hormones after sugar leaves the body, it produces hormones that may be linked to increased stress- adrenaline, epinephrin, cortisol)
8. Aging (sugar binds to proteins as we get older, which causes harm to skin elasticity which causes us to age quicker)

Unless you are eating high-calorie sugary based foods, you won't gain weight from sugar. Carbohydrates usually contain decent amounts of sugar, but if you refer back to my carbohydrate blog, you will see carbohydrates are not what cause weight gain, it's the calories of foods that contain carbs and the lack of exercise associated with over consumption of carbohydrates. If you are getting your sugars from a healthy piece of bread or a 120 calorie cup of yogurt, there is no downside to the sugar intake. Medically proven. It won't hurt you to eat a candy bar or drink a soda every now and then, but remember that the key word is MODERATION that those calories do count. If you are concerned about sugar, especially if you are diabetic, you would probably benefit from researching the glycemic index, which lists foods in order of how fast a certain food can raise a blood glucose level. Hope this clarify's that sugar is nothing to fear, it's the calories in and the energy out that affect your weight, not sugar and carbohydrates. =]

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

It IS possible to Eat Healthy "Fast Food"!

You don't know how many times I've heard the excuses for why people simply can't make healthy choices when it comes to meals and snacks, especially outside the home. I have heard them all. They are all excuses for why they eat fast food, but what most people don't understand is that "fast food" doesn't have to be the stereotypical burger, fries, and coke. Here are some of the most popular excuses I hear to why people have an unhealthy diet.
"I don't have time"
"I'm in a hurry"
"My kids are picky and I have to get what they like" (Big NO NO, your kids need to eat what you tell them to eat, or you are telling them it's okay to be unhealthy, this is one big reason childhood obesity is so high).
"I don't have a lot of money"
"It's more convenient"
"I'm too tired to cook"
Well let's put an end to these right now. All of those excuses point toward getting fast food. Now it's what people are getting when they hit the drive-thru that's the problem. Every fast food chain DOES have healthy options. It is actually required now that there are alternative options on most menus at fast food chains. There is nothing wrong with having a burger and fries every now and then, but when people use these excuses to order the most high calorie, saturated fat filled, greasy, artery clogging foods that are just plain not good for you on a regular basis, we've got a problem. AND..if you have children, the chances are they are eating the same or similar things to you and you are leading a very poor example. If you don't have time for a healthy, home-cooked meal, then please get a healthy, quick, fast drive-thru meal. No excuses.
I'm going to provide you with healthy options from probably the most popular and easily found fast food chain, McDonalds. I will also give you what I personally eat here, because I'm not perfect, I DO eat fast food sometimes, and it IS okay. You can use this as a guide to a majority of fast food chains, please, stop with the greasy, high calorie, unhealthy foods and make the healthier choices. The goal of this post is to show you and instill in your brain that food can be "fast" and healthy, without going deep into your pocket or setting your clock back. 
Healthy Options (Alternatives): 

  • Premium grilled chicken sandwich (on whole wheat bun)- 420 cal and 10 g fat WITH everything on it, If you get it plain, just lettuce, you will be shaving about 100 calories and about 5 g fat off of that amount.
  • Snack wraps- Different ones vary between 260 and 340 calories and 9-17 g of fat. 
  • All premium salads- range from 140 (without chicken) to 330 calories with 6-20 grams of total fat. These are without dressing, and the restaurant dressings contain a good amount of calories, I highly recommend paying attention to the dressing you get. Always go with the oil-based dressings, not cream based. (I personally love their low-fat balsamic vinagrette [40 calories per pouch]).
  • Side salad- 20 calories (AND ONLY $1)- have 2 or 3 if you have a big appetite, just watch the dressing, and calories will be included on the back of dressing packets. =]
  • Fruit and Walnut Salad- 210 calories and 7 g of fat.
  • Fruit and yogurt parfait (7oz)- 160 calories and 2 g fat

Please view their entire nutritional list if you have questions about some of your food choices from there. remember the daily recommended total fat (g) is 65g. 

When I go to McDonalds, I get the grilled chicken sandwich, plain, nothing on it. Just Chicken, lettuce and whole wheat bun and 2 side salads with low-fat balsamic vinegar. 

Hope this helps you realize there are alternatives to unhealthy fast foods, and your excuses will no longer work now that you know how to get healthy food anywhere you go. <3

McDonald's chicken cesar salad- 220 calories + 190 dressing = 410 calories..perfect meal!  6 g total fat.

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Product of the Day- VEGAN SNACK/ENERGY BARS!

Two topics today! First off I'm going to introduce what I find to be a phenomenal snack! Healthy, filling, and just, well, amazing! I would like to thank Andrea Schunk for introducing me to these at school! So what are they? They are called "Heart Thrives" and they are a combination of a cookie/bar, but called an energy bar. They are vegan, which means there are no products involving animals, no dairy, no meat, no egg, etc. The only place I have personally seen them is at the bookstore at school, but I hear Whole Foods has them, and Trader Joe's might, I will have to check that one today. I normally eat the lemon poppy seed ones. Each package includes 2 snack bars (and they are really cute, in the shape of hearts), range from about 150-165 calories per heart and the nutritional benefits are astounding. They provide 30% of your daily fiber (which makes it filling), protein, AND calcium. The ingredients include: oats, soy, and dried fruit. They come in a variety of flavors, including: APRICOT, CRANBERRY, APPLE, DATE, POPPY SEEDCHOCOLATE CHIP and RAISIN FLAVORS. 
Here is the Nutrition Label:
You can check out their website for more information at http://www.heartthrives.com

Friday, October 8, 2010

Today's Topic- Food Irradiation- What is it, and is it safe?

Logo for Irradiated Foods

I have had a request on my opinion on the irradiation of food. Also known as ionizing radiation, it has become an accepted way of preserving food, killing insects and bacteria, and much more with meat, produce, and poultry, grains, and spices. It is not only used in food, it is a widely used method in many areas. Car parts, technical devices, medical equipment, and other things that are a necessity to sterilize also use irradiation. What is it? It is defined as eliminating harmful food-borne bacteria in meats and poultry, and inhibits spoilage by fungus. In the United States, the process typically involves exposing food and its packaging to the energy of gamma rays from radioactive metals. Most of the energy simply passes through the food, leaving no residue. While the food remains, relatively unchanged, bacteria and fungi are killed or left unable to reproduce. Food irradiation was first used on small amount of food in 1963 but until 1992 was not used on raw poultry (to kill salmonella) and 1997 for red meat. In my personal opinion, 13-18 years of being used for things most Americans consume in their daily diet is not a long enough amount of time to see all of the possible side effects down the road on the people consuming these foods, although the FDA claims their safety over and over again. The real question is, do the benefits outweigh the possible and unproven risks this process has?
It is statistically shown that childhood cancer and diseases are increasing, but what is the blame? We really don't know. It could possibly be the toxins in the air, genetics, irradiated foods, cell phones, unhealthy and poor diet, the list can go on and on. Most of these problems are caused by genetic mutations within the human body, which we know, but what causes the mutations can leave people wondering and with a lifetime of guessing. What I do know is that I wish they could find a less questionable and healthier way to sterilize these foods, rather than using ionizing radiation. It is still too new, and scientists do not know (in my opinion) enough about the long term affects (over decades or even centuries) it can potentially have.
There are pros and cons to everything, including the irradiation of food. To food companies, it is considered a miracle. They can produce more food, and increase shelf life while keeping insects and other disturbances from overtaking their products. But whether it's really worth it or not, research may not show for years to come. We can only take the necessary precautions, if it concerns us that much. We can all have an opinion, and no one opinion in particular is better than the other. I am not going to start eating organic raw foods, because is it really going to help me live another 10 or 20 years? Who knows? The majority of us consume these foods. It's not like I don't, some of us may not even have too much of a choice in the matter, depending on the foods your eat and where you purchase them. Ionizing radiation IS FDA approved, in small doses, but is even a tiny amount of ionizing radiation safe over long periods of time? Or is no different than using a microwave? Although the FDA swears it has been thoroughly tested and that there is no harm, many people argue that there is simply no way to know for sure. Back in 1992, Maine, New Jersey, and New York along with several countries prohibited the sale of irradiated foods, but now it has been approved for use by fifty countries (Including ours of course) and endorsed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
In the United States, many foods are preserved using irradiation; among them are spices, grains, fruit, pork products, beef, and poultry. NASA also uses irradiated foods up in space, f.y.i. While many foods can show being (safely) irradiated without any noticeable changes, a recent consumer report on irradiated meat did note "that the flavor of both beef and chicken had a subtle and off-taste and smell, but that many consumers might not notice". Another PROVEN issue with irradiation is the fact that a few nutrients (Vitamins A, E, K and thiamin) seem to be affected and depleted during irradiation. Losses of these nutrients are only comparable, though, to what would be lost in conventional processing and preparation. Here are some opinions on both the pros and cons of food irradiation.

From www.mcvitamins.com/irradiated_foods.htm

Pathogen Elimination Pros & Cons:


  • Irradiation can kill or substantially reduce the number of potentially dangerous organisms in foods.  Estimates range for 90 to 99.9%.
  • Irradiation can kill insects and pests infesting foods such as grains and flours without leaving chemical residues.
  • Irradiation can be used to sterilize food for immune-compromised individuals such as AIDS patients.


  • Irradiation at recommended doses will not eradicate all pathogens. The remaining organisms are by definition "radiation resistant" and may create super strains of hard-to-kill pathogens.
  • Irradiation at current allowable levels is ineffective against viruses such as the Norwalk virus found in seafood.
  • Irradiation can only be used on a limited number of foods.  Fresh produce such as lettuce, grapes, tomatoes, and cucumbers turn mushy and unpalatable.  Thus, the risk from contaminated fresh produce, a major carrier of food borne disease, cannot be fully addressed by irradiation.

Chemical Changes in Foods


  • Irradiation has been deemed safe by various governmental agencies.
  • Proponents of irradiation compare the changes in food caused by irradiation (called radiolytic products) to products created by other processes such as cooking or freeze-drying.
  • Irradiation delays ripening and sprouting so food can be stored longer.


  • Studies used to approve irradiation in food have been criticized as flawed.   Even the FDA acknowledges that the studies are inadequate when reviewed singly.
  • Critics  contend that not enough is known about the potential health effects of radiolytic products, particularly about radiolytic products formed from pesticide residues on foods.
  • Longer shelf lives may provide the most benefit to food producers; consumers prefer authentically fresh foods.

Environmental Impact


  • Proponents claim there is no potential for environmental impact because the radioactive materials are fully enclosed and are returned to the manufacturer for recycling or disposal.
  • Proponents cite a good safety and regulatory record for existing irradiation facilities.


  • Consumers remain wary of the potential for devastating accidents presented by nuclear facilities
  • If irradiation is adopted to the extent desired by its proponents, hundreds more irradiation facilities (currently there are only several used for commercial foods) would need to be built, increasing the risk of accidents.

Nutrition of Irradiated Foods


  • Proponents argue that the nutrient losses from irradiation (such as 25% reduction in vitamin E, a 5-10% reduction in vitamin C, as well as decreases in vitamin B1) are no worse than those produced by cooking and other conventional treatments.


  • Unlike losses due to conventional processes like cooking, consumers have not been educated to compensate for irradiation-induced losses elsewhere in their diets.
So there you have it, make your decision based on the information give to you. And note: It is required that all irradiated foods have a logo with the words "treated by irradiation" below it.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

It's been a while! Let's start back up with Vitamin C BABY!

So, it's been a week since my last post. I apologize and am officially going to get back on schedule this time! Life has stepped in and I've been overwhelmed with school among other things, so let's take it where we left off, the importance of Vitamin C!

Vitamin C is one of those things that is so important to the overall function of the human body. It's most important function originally recognized was in the prevention of Scurvy, a disease characterized by the breakdown and bleeding of the body's tissues. Hundreds of years ago, Scurvy over took sailors, and caused the deaths of many of them. It was researched in 1740 by Dr. James Lind that citrus fruits could prevent scurvy, but at that time, he didn't know it was because of their high Vitamin C content. All sailors were provided a daily lemon ration and Scurvy seemed to no longer be a problem. It wasn't until 1930 that Vitamin C was discovered and identified as a nutrient. Although scurvy is rarely seen today, people that eat a "junk food diet" consisting of chips, crackers, cookies, soda, and burgers often become deficient in Vitamin C. 

Roles of Vitamin C (as seen nutritionally):
Collagen- Vitamin C plays a key role in the synthesis of collagen. It is a protein and a critical components of all connective tissues in our bodies, including bone, teeth, tendons, skin, and blood vessels. It also prevents burises and ensures proper wound healing (including scar tissue and component in tissue that mends broken bones). Without consuming enough Vitamin C, our bodies cannot form collagen, and tissue bleeding is a major symptom when deficient.  Also very efficient in gum health! Ask your dentist! If you have bleeding gums, it is often a sign that you are lacking adequate amounts of Vitamin C!

Antioxidant- Most of you have heard all about antioxidants on the news and heard how great they are, but do you know what they actually do? They donate electrons to free radicals (cancer causing agents) in your body and help stabilize those little guys from running a muck in your body. We will talk more about antioxidants another day :). 

Immunity- Vitamin C enhances our immune response, helping in guarding us from infection on illness. But if you already become sick, it is too late to take vitamin C and get better, contrary to popular belief. It is a preventative measure, not a cure. 

Absorption of iron- Vitamin C enhances the absoprtion of iron.. It is recommended that people with anemia or low iron stores consume vitamin C rich foods along with iron sources to improve the absorption in your body. 

Now that you know all the good things Vitamin C does for you, how much should you have, and what is too much? The Recommended Dietary Allowance may surprise you (not as much as many believe) and are as follows:
Men: 5-90 mg/day
Women: 5-75 mg/day
SMOKERS (you guys need more): 5-35mg/day MORE than the RDA.
UL (upper level intake): 2,000mg/day (this means the amount that can be tolerated by the body)

How can you get Vitamin C?
The most obvious well known source is orange juice and citrus fruits (but believe it or not, they are not the highest Vitamin C containing options). Fresh orange juice (8oz is sufficient for the day-120mg) and grapefruit juice (8oz-90mg) are two options. Oranges themselves actually have the least amount of vitamin C out of the other choices I list. (Medium orange- about 70mg). The highest amount of Vitamin C may surprise you, but is found in red bell peppers! 1 cup of raw red peppers has 180 mg of Vitamin C.
 Other good sources include green peppers, broccoli, strawberries, brussels sprouts, and kiwi.

So go get your vitamin C, and think about the benefits to your body when you make that choice. <3