The Latest Diet Recommendations for Breast Cancer

The Latest Diet Recommendations for Breast Cancer
By Laura Cipullo and the Laura Cipullo Whole Nutrition Services Team

 

Breast Cancer is the most commonly diagnosed cancer in women today. It is estimated that 1 in every 8 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer in their lifetime, equaling a quarter of a million women being diagnosed each year. As many of you may know, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month.  In effort to raise the awareness of our EALM readers, we wanted to highlight the importance of diet and lifestyle, on not only your overall health, but also in relation to breast cancer.

1-in-8 Breast Cancer infographic
Photo courtesy of www.nationalbreastcancer.org

The Role of Diet and Lifestyle:

In a recent article featuring Mary Flynn, registered dietitian and co-author of the book “The Pink Ribbon Diet,” she states, “because the majority of breast cancer cases don’t have a genetic link, you have to conclude that lifestyle factors, including diet, play a large role.” The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics takes a similar stance, stating that “while there is no certain way to prevent breast cancer, it has been found that leading a healthy lifestyle can help reduce your risk and boost your odds if you do get breast cancer.”

Risk Factors:

Highlighted below are the risk factors. However, we want to stress that if you find you fall under a few, or more than a few, of these categories it is important not to panic. If you are concerned, please talk with your doctor and follow the recommendations for when and how often to get mammograms. Here are risk factors provided by the Center for Disease Control:

  • Beginning your menstrual cycle before the age of 12
  • Starting menopause at a later than average age
  • Never giving birth
  • Not breastfeeding post-birth
  • Long-term use of hormone-replacement therapy
  • Family history of breast cancer
  • Previous radiation therapy to the breast/chest area, especially at a young age
  • Being overweight, especially in women of the postmenopausal age

What About Insulin?

An article written by Franco Berrino, et al., states that elevated serum insulin levels are associated with an increased risk of recurrence in breast cancer patients1. The authors also found each of the following to be associated with breast cancer incidence: high plasma levels of glucose (>110 mg/100 mL), high levels of triglycerides (>150 mg/100 mL), low levels of HDL cholesterol (<50 mg/100 mL), large waist circumference (>88 cm), and hypertension (SBP > 130 mmHg or DBP >85 mmHg). The article also states that those with both metabolic syndrome and breast cancer have the worst prognosis.1 In addition, recent research has shown significant positive associations between obesity and higher death rates for a number of cancers, including breast cancer2.
 

In other research, omega 3 fats (alpha-linolenic acid, EPA, DHA) have been shown in animal studies to protect from cancer, while omega 6 fats (linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) have been found to be cancer-promoting fatty acids. Flax seed oil and DHA (most beneficial from an algae source) can both be used to increase the intake of omega-3 fatty acids. DHA originating from a marine source was found to be the most efficient source. To learn more about fatty acids in your daily diet check out our blog post on Fatty Acids.2

breast cancer awareness ribbon

The Center for Disease Control’s and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ tips on how to help reduce your risk of breast cancer:

  • Get a minimum of 4 hours of exercise per week – aim for a minimum of 30 minutes most days of the week for optimal health. Some experts recommend yoga to breast cancer patients, as the practice of yoga can ease anxiety, depression, and stress.
  • Limit alcoholic beverages to 1 per day, or none at all
  • Try to maintain a healthy weight (a mid range), especially following menopause
  • Eat plenty of:
    • Dark, leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables: broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collards, kale
    • Fruits: berries, cherries, citrus
    • Whole-grains: oats, barley, bulgur, whole-grain pastas, breads, cereals, crackers
    • Legumes: dried beans and peas, lentils, and soybeans
    • Researchers and medical professionals suggest that cancer survivors eat a variety of antioxidant-rich foods each day (since cancer survivors can be at an increased risk of developing new cancers).

Diet and Yoga and Decreasing Stress:

Regardless of whether you are an individual with breast cancer, in remission from breast cancer, or woman trying to reduce your risk, the message is to maintain an active life while consuming a largely plant based diet with a focus on consuming omega 3 fatty acids like salmon, trout and sardines.  Find ways to increase your intake of fruits and vegetables such as joining a community agriculture share. Be sure to try the many different forms of yoga for a form of movement and as way to decrease stress. To help manage insulin levels, focus on eating carbohydrates, proteins and fats at each meal and two of the three at snacks. This will slow the absorption of the carbohydrates thereby preventing a high blood sugar and insulin surge. Start with small goals and build upon them each week.

What’s your favorite recipe high in antioxidants? What is your favorite way to decreases stress? Do you have a favorite app that helps you achieve optimal wellness?

 

Breast Cancer Resources:

 

 

References:

1. Berrino, F., A. Villarini, M. De Petris, M. Raimondi, and P. Pasanisi. Adjuvant Diet to Improve Hormonal and Metabolic Factors Affecting Breast Cancer Prognosis. Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences 1089.1 (2006): 110-18.
2.  Donaldson M.S.. Nutrition and cancer: A review of the evidence for an anti-cancer diet. Nutr. J. 2004; 3:19–25.

 

7 Tips to Build Healthy Habits

With the holidays quickly approaching, it may seem like a daunting thing to try to stick to your healthy eating habits.  Here are a few habits to try to stick to not only during the holidays but everyday.  These things can have a major impact on your health and wellness!

1. Stay hydrated!  We often forget about this one, but make sure you try to get at least 6 glasses of pure water a day.  If regular water seems boring try things such as sparkling water or adding fresh fruit and vegetable slices such as oranges, grapefruit, and cucumber to your water to add fresh flavor!

2. Don’t skip meals.  While many of us are on the go, it is important not to skip meals.  This will only slow down your metabolism and cause you to overeat at your next meal.  Keep things such as almonds and pumpkin seeds in your bag as they will provide that extra boost of protein to help satisfy hunger on the go.

3. Try eating a variety of foods so that you do not become bored with your meals.  One way to do this is to select a new fruit or vegetable at the market each week so that it not only allows you to explore a new food but also provides variety.

4. Try to get about 45 minutes of physical activity a day. Yoga is a great way to fit in exercise and wind down during the holiday craze. To enter for a chance to win a free yoga session in New York City’s Jivamukti Yoga Center, click here. While this may seem like a lot for your busy schedule, you can easily break it up into increments if needed, such as taking a 20 minute walk during lunch, taking the stairs instead of elevator, and getting off of the train one stop earlier than your usual stop.

5. Take time for yourself each day.  Whether it is 10 minutes or an hour, do something that helps you relax and is something you enjoy.  It could be taking a yoga class, writing in a journal, or simply reading a few pages in your new book.  This will help you become less stressed, especially during the holidays.

6. With tempting things in your house such as tortilla chips, cookies, nuts, and other snacks, one of the best things you can do is to buy serving size baggies and measure out the serving size into each individual bag.  This not only helps you avoid overeating, but it also helps you visual what an actual portion looks like.  It also makes it easy to grab when you are in a hurry or looking for a quick snack.

7. Set aside one afternoon during the week if you can to prepare most of your meals for the upcoming week.  You can make your stocks and broths, cook your meat, roast your veggies, etc. so that come the busy workweek, all you have to do is add in your fresh ingredients and seasonings.  This will save time during the week but still allow you to have those quality family meals.

Veggie Burgers: How They Stack Up

Are veggie burgers really meatless? Yes, it is exactly as the name suggests—no meat. Yet in the eyes of many meat lovers, comparing the taste and texture of veggie burgers just does not stack up to its meat counterpart. While some are made to mimic the taste, texture color and feel of meat burgers, veggie burgers aren’t just a meat substitute. Veggie burgers are available for those who may not like the taste of meat (but still want something hearty and healthy), have dietary restrictions, share different beliefs or simply just prefer the flavor and ingredients that make veggie burgers stand on its own.

Veggie Burgers

Gone are the days when veggie burgers were the lonesome, meatless option at a backyard barbecue. With the rise in vegetarianism and veganism in recent years, came an increase in consumer demand for more veggie burgers. In turn, the market for veggie burgers has also become widespread. They have successfully made their way on to fast-food menus like Burger King and McDonald’s and are even served by upscale restaurants.

For many vegetarians/vegans, people who are watching their intake of saturated fats or simply prefer the taste of it over a beef or turkey burger, veggie burgers can be a great option! However, if you have ever tried a veggie burger and are still eating veggie burgers today, odds are that you’ve probably tried many. There are dozens of varieties and flavors. Some are too dry or beany, too salty or contain fillers and tastes like cardboard. Then there are some that contain a long list of ingredients that you’ve never heard of before and probably can’t pronounce. On the other hand, there are those that contain less than 5 ingredients, contain wholesome ingredients like vegetables and grains like quinoa, which make it flavorful and savory. Let’s see how these meatless burgers stack up!

How These Veggie Burgers Stack Up

Veggie burgers can be quite delicious, and make for quick go-to lunches. But with so many options in the grocery aisles many are left to wonder, “Which brands are the best?” Not all patties are vegan or soy free. As some of the more familiar ones on the market are Amy’s Garden Burger, Boca, Morning Star, we thought we’d point out some of the ones that are lesser known and reason why we like them (in no particular order).

De Cantos

Vegan: Yes
Dairy, gluten and soy free
Fairly new to the market, these burgers deserve some spotlight.
Each burger contains 5 raw veggies and no fillers like wheat, gluten,
soy, dairy or added sugar. It is “meaty” in the sense that it is fulfilling,
but does not have a “meaty taste.” While the company delivers
locally in New Jersey, if you’re having trouble finding this product,
try looking at Whole Foods!

Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burgers

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Certified Kosher
Ingredients: Carrots, Onions, String Beans, Oat Bran, Soybeans,
Zucchini, Peas, Broccoli, Corn, Soy Flakes, Spinach, Expeller Pressed
Canola Oil, Red Peppers, Arrowroot, Corn Starch, Garlic, Corn Meal,
Salt, Parsley, Black PepperSome people prefer the taste and texture of “just vegetables” in their
veggie burgers. If that’s the case, then Dr. Praeger’s is just that. Only
downside is that it may be flimsy and may not hold up as well if you’re
throwing it in the microwave. To make sure the patty holds its shape,
it’s best prepared on a grill or flat pan.

Hilary’s Eat Well

Vegan: Yes
Gluten free, dairy free, soy free, corn free, yeast free, egg free,
and nut free.
Plus side: They’re packaged in biodegradable plastic pouches!
Ingredients: Water Millet Quinoa Expeller-Pressed Coconut Oil
Spinach Onion Garlic Psyllium Husk Powder Arrowroot Sweet
Potato Real Salt Apple Cider Vinegar Sunflower Seed OilThis burger is packed with great spices and tastes close to a fresh
veggie burger. For those who are big on texture and don’t like to
be left wondering “Is this a veggie burger??” Well this one holds
its shape and has a balanced texture, not too chewy or soft.

 

Sunshine’s Organic Quarter Pound Original Veggie Burger

Vegan: Yes
Soy Free: No
Gluten free
Ingredients: Organic cooked brown rice, organic ground raw
sunflower seeds, organic carrots, organic spices, sea saltThis burger is rich, savory and packs a slightly nutty flavor. If you
are a fan of sunflower seeds, this is the burger for you.

Are Veggie Burgers Better for You?

When dining out, be mindful that the nutrition content of a veggie burger may vary depending on its cooking process. While the veggie patty itself may be a healthy option, as with ordering any burger at a restaurant, any fixin’s like cheese, condiments, or a side of fries alongside the bun can sometimes stack up in terms of calories and fats.

Our Favorite Veggie Burger

What’s our favorite veggie burger? Ideally, it is the one we can make ourselves!  While making veggie burgers from scratch can call for a bit of time and preparation, if you make them in big batches, you can simply freeze them and voila! You’ve got veggie burgers on the ready, made with your favorite vegetables and grains… ingredients that you yourself know and can pronounce! With a little research, you can find tons of recipes on the Internet. Or, if you want to start with an easy but homemade classic, try Portobello mushrooms. With light marinade, they can be hearty and mouthwatering.

If you haven’t found your “perfect veggie burger” and making one from scratch doesn’t sound very appetizing, don’t give up just yet! With a little patience and perhaps a lot of tastings, it’s possible to find a veggie burger that is more flavorful and delectable (if not more) as its counterpart!

A Desert Where Shopping Matters

From comparing grocery store prices to analyzing a product’s nutritional label, a weekend trip to the grocery store can turn into stressful and overwhelming task. Many of us want to eat healthier, but how can we shop for healthy foods while on a limited budget? Although price often plays a major role in influencing what we buy when we go food shopping, buying healthy foods doesn’t have to be expensive.

Many organizations are making an effort to tackle this nationwide issue by teaching nutrition education, but one organization’s unique efforts is City Harvest’s Shopping Matters, which takes place right in local grocery stores. And just like many other Americans, if money is what is keeping you from making healthy food purchases, I challenge you to think again. What if you could learn to stretch your budget, to buy and eat healthy foods? Read on to learn about the awesome efforts made by City Harvest, and the programs’ tips to get the most healthful bang for your buck.

What is Shopping Matters?

Shopping Matters is an initiative created by City Harvest in partnership with Share Our Strength. The two-hour grocery store tour is led by a qualified facilitator, who teaches the participants how to shop on a budget, read food labels, how to identify whole-grains and stretch your budget to create more than just one meal. After one hour, participants are presented with a $10 challenge to put what they’ve just learned into practice. Participants must follow specific guidelines, i.e. grain must be whole-grain bread or cereal, to buy at least one food from each food group totaling no more than $10. This part of the tour is particularly fun and exciting for the participants because it not only tests their knowledge but it offers motivation to try new foods like 2% milk rather than whole milk.

Another Kind of Desert

Can you imagine travelling 15 miles to buy a head of lettuce or some fresh fruit? Many of us are fortunate to be able to call Whole Foods or Trader Joes, our local market. With organic foods and fresh produce so readily available to us, it can be easy to forget that for many Americans, this is not the case. Imagine if the closest grocery store was too far to get to without transportation. An area where grocery stores are scarce or missing, this is called a food desert. Although there may be bodegas or take-out restaurants in the surrounding neighborhood, it would still be considered a food desert since many atimes only highly processed foods are offered. It is in these areas that poverty, obesity and health related diseases are at an all time high. City Harvest considers these factors and implements the Shopping Matters Tours in only specific neighborhoods. The tours currently take place in the following neighborhoods: 1) The South Bronx, 2) Stapleton, Staten Island 3). Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. By conducting the tours in the actual neighborhood markets like Key Foods, not only places the participants in a realistic environment, but makes the food culture relevant.

Build the Skills To Make Healthy Choices While On a Budget

A Shopping Matters Tour may not be taking place in your local market but that doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from the tips City Harvest has to offer! Here’s the inside scoop on the skills you need to build to stretch your budget and make tasty, healthy meals for you and your family:

  • Buy Seasonal Fruits and Vegetables – Not only will your produce taste better, but during peak season fresh produce costs less.
  • Fresh, Frozen and Canned – People tend to think fresh produce is the “best” form. However, keep in mind that fresh produce often needs be used quickly and if not in season, can be expensive.  A more economical alternative is to buy frozen fruits and vegetables, which can cost less and is available year-round. If canned foods are on sale, they have a long shelf life and can be a good purchase. If opting to buy canned products, choose items without added sodium, low in fat, or 100% juice. If there is sodium in it, simply rinse off canned produce to reduce the sodium.  Surely every packaging has its pros and cons but by opening yourself up to fruits and vegetables in all their forms, in terms of prices, you’ll have more options to choose from.
  • Compare Prices – Use unit prices to find the best bang for your buck. The unit price shows ounce for ounce or pound by pound just how much you are paying for a particular item. For example, when comparing two bagged items of different sizes, it can help you identify just exactly which costs less.
  • Read Food Labels – Take a few seconds to check the serving size. If considering your family meals, this can be especially helpful in meal planning. Look at the calories, sodium and nutrients you will be getting from the product.
  • Read the Ingredients – Just because the bread is brown or says “multigrain” or even “100% wheat” doesn’t mean it is actually made with whole grain. Be a smart and saavy shopper and check for the first ingredient on the list. Some examples are: Whole wheat, bulgar, buckwheat, millet, oatmeal, quinoa, brown rice
  • Organic vs. Non-Organic – Some items need not be purchased organic. If you wish to purchase organic, check out this Dirty Dozen list for a better understanding of what items are better off organic and which ones you can do without. If cost is a factor however, getting your fruits and vegetables should be at the top of the list, even if its not organic.
  • Cut coupons and checkout weekly specials

What's on our "Q"?

 The Skinny on Shakes for People With Diabetes

With so many meal replacements on the market, but how do you pick
which one is best? Taste shouldn’t be the only determining factor. It can
be important to consider the sugar, carbohydrate or even protein content.11 Nutritious, Kid-Friendly Finger Foods

Who doesn’t love meatballs? Check out this easy to follow recipe made
from lean turkey breast, which helps turn this usual calorie fest into something
a bit healthier. And while your at it, make sure to check out the Mango Tango Tortillas!

Jet-Set With Your Picnic Basket! Fun Theme Ideas for Lunch

Themed picnics are a great way to incorporate entertainment, flavor, and
even education into a family outing. Add a clever theme to your picnic by
incorporating foods from another city or, better yet, from around the world!

Also in “Q”: Remember to tune in for Restaurant Week 2012 recommendations, this Wednesday AM on CBS’s W1NY!!

 

Turning Back the Hands of Time: The Paleo Diet

Diets come and diets go, but like an old pair of jeans out of style… if you wait long enough it’s sure to come back. With the Paleo movement sweeping across the nation, the ancient diet followed by early humans is making a comeback. The Paleo Diet, also called Stone Age or Caveman Diet, suggests following a meal plan with foods people were eating millions of years ago. Although there may be health benefits to following the Paleo diet such as possibly losing weight and avoiding hyperglycemia, like any meal plan with restrictions, knowing there is substantial data to support a claim is just as, if not more important. Ask yourself will people’s weight yo yo after “cheating” on their Hunter Gatherer Diet?

Principles of The Paleo Diet

To understand the theory of the Paleo diet, we must first turn back the hands of time. For millions of years, the human diet consisted of only meat, fish, poultry, and the leaves, roots, and fruits of plants. The Paleo diet (short for Paleolithic) is based on the claim that a healthy diet should consist of only the foods that can be hunted, fished and gathered during the Paleolithic era. The basics of the meal plan are that if the cavemen did not eat it, then you shouldn’t either. Proponents of the diet believe that evolution has led us to eat foods our bodies are not adapted to neither process nor digest. Fast-forward to modern day when conditions like obesity and Type 2 Diabetes are at an all time high. Advocates claim that since people in that era rarely had metabolic disturbances, one can now prevent chronic diseases, control blood sugar spikes and lead a healthier life following this diet.

What Can You Eat?

Swearing off refined sugar, dairy, legumes and grains?? To many, the Paleo diet may seem extremely restrictive.  You won’t find any refined sugars, added salt, processed foods and packaged snacks in this meal plan (I agree this can be healthy if whole grains, legumes and dairy were included). While the diet will differ slightly with personal modifications, the general Paleo plan consists of whole, unprocessed foods like lean meat, eggs, seafood, non-starchy vegetables — and some but not a ton of fruit, nuts and seeds. (Since it is encouraged to eat grass-fed beef, free-range chicken and eggs and fresh fruits and vegetables, keep in mind that following the Paleo diet can be rather expensive for the average person).

Some foods to avoid include the following: grains such as rice, refined carbohydrates like flour and cereals (no oat bran or Kashi), dairy, beans, peanuts, processed meats like hot dogs and chicken nuggets, soda, fruit juice, caffeine, alcohol.

Food for Thought

Although proponents of the diet claim that cavemen did not develop such chronic diseases, there is no evidence to support this claim. While the meal plan does restrict refined sugars and grains (both of which can contribute to obesity and Type 2 Diabetes if eaten in excess while following a sedentary lifestyle), it is important to remember that several diets are founded on the basis that one should include more fruits and veggies, whole and unprocessed foods. I believe it is Dr. Oz who puts patients on vegan diets to reverse diabetes and there are also many books recommending this as well. Keep in mind that the recommendation for a healthy diet also includes whole grains, dairy and legumes. Eliminating certain food groups, as suggested by the Paleo plan draws attention to potential nutrient deficiencies. For example, by avoiding dairy, individuals who follow a Paelo diet may develop osteoporosis if they lived long enough. That’s another question to ask. What was the average lifespan of a caveman? Did they ever get old enough to diagnose weak bones or did they die of malnutrition or by animal attack before osteoporosis set in? Oddly, while reading the meal plan for a Paleo diet, I see shrimp, chicken and beef. Did cave men and women really eat these three proteins in one day? I think it may be fair to say they ate beef one week and venison another. If they ate shrimp one week, they were probably spearing fish the next. Finally, did cave people know how to steam?? There are so many questions that make me think twice about this theory.

Lost In Translation

Don’t miss the message here. Less is more. Less processed, more healthy fats, less to eat and more movement. Any effort to eat foods directly sourced from our earth, to eat only lean free-range grass fed animals, and to cook your own meals is the way to go. Just don’t forget grains such as amaranth and barely, beans such as lentil and dairy such as delicious French Brie. These foods contain macro and micronutrients. I don’t think a French person would ever agree to this diet, yet people love to think the French are savvy with their food philosophy.  Also, I personally don’t think the Paleo diet is America’s answer to our health crisis, but if this concepts helps you to feel good and control your sugar, that is a step in the right direction.

The Cave versus Industry

In our society, we must recognize, diet is only half the battle. Industrialization has led us to lead a sedentary lifestyle.  Cave people were fit because they moved everyday for survival. We drive and tap our iPhones for success rather than survival. Cave people only ate what was available so that may have been no food or just berries for days. That kept them trim, but was it healthy? Today we have government subsidies for cheap food to prevent people from starving, and in return it has lead us to eat poor quality, processed food. In addition, our minds are brainwashed with marketing and ironically, it is cheaper to buy a super sized soda than that of a smaller soda (ounce for ounce). So if the Paleo helps you to be healthier, by all means be healthier. Just recognize that the restrictions in any diet are questionable and not necessarily supported by science or history. And remember, restrictions lead to binging, so be careful. Diets don’t work in isolation; rather lifestyle changes that are realistic and behaviorally based are the way go!

Omega-3 and Omega-6 Fatty Acids: The Scoop You Didn’t Know

Over the past few years, omega-3 fatty acids have received a lot of attention and promotion. Yet when you pick up your supplements at the local pharmacy or health food store, the label includes omega-3’s, omega-6’s omega-9’s and oh my mega confusion! What is the difference between these essential fatty acids and what is this talk about keeping a ratio? This blog will help demystify the omega-3 fatty acids versus omega-6 fatty acids confusion. Find out if you need to add omegas to your nutritional intake and which omega.

The Difference Between Omega-3 and Omega-6

Both omega-3 and omega-6 are termed ‘essential fatty acids’ (EFA), since our bodies cannot readily produce these, we must obtain them through foods or supplements.

While there are many types, the three most common omega-3 fatty acids are Docosahexaenoic Acid (DHA), Eicosapentaenoic Acid (EPA), and Alpha Linolenic Acid (ALA). DHA and EPA are mainly found in cold-water fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines, while ALA is found in plant sources like canola oil, walnuts, flaxseed, and soybeans. Unlike DHA or EPA, which can be readily absorbed by our bodies, ALA from plant sources like seeds, nuts or vegetable oils are only partially converted (about ten percent) by our bodies into the beneficial forms EPA and then DHA. Studies have shown that the health benefits of EPA and DHA are greater than ALA. Therefore, the goal is to try to get Omega 3 FA’s in the form of DHA and EPA.

Unlike omega-3‘s, omega-6‘s consists of only one type of fatty acid, Linoleic Acid (LA), which is later converted into Gamma-Linolenic Acid (GLA). As opposed to omega-3‘s, getting omega-6‘s from the foods we eat daily, is rather simple. LA is commonly found in seed oils like corn, canola, sunflower and soy — ingredients found in many of the processed foods Americans typically consume in abundance. The better sources of omega-6’s include raw nuts, like pistachios and seeds like chia. Since Americans typically consume much more of the fatty acid omega-6, it is more important for one to focus on including omega-3 fatty acids in their diet or through their supplement. However, for an individual following a low processed food lifestyle such as a paleo, vegan or vegetarian diet, omega-6’s must be included. A great source of an omega-6 fatty acid is the seed known as chia.

Helpful Hint: Two tablespoons of chia seeds provide a 3:1 ratio of omega-3:omega-6 FA. With 3x more omega-3 than omega-6, adding chia seeds to a diet can help an individual reach optimal health by balancing out the ratio of fatty-acid intake in one’s daily nutrition.

Both Are Beneficial

Omega-3’s have been found to lower the risk factors for heart disease and cancer, as well as have anti-inflammatory properties (whereas some omega-6 can contribute to inflammation). This fatty acid is necessary for brain function, healthy development of nerves and eyesight. Omega-3’s have been linked to the prevention and treatment of several other conditions like arthritis, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, depression, diabetes, high cholesterol and blood pressure, diabetes, stroke and osteoporosis to name a few.

Omega-6’s provide a defense against and can aid in reducing symptoms in diabetic neuropathy, rheumatoid arthritis, eczema, allergies and high blood pressure. Studies also show that consuming 5-10 percent of energy from omega-6’s may help decrease the risk of CHD and cardiovascular disease.

Together, omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids produce many of the health benefits described above. The catch? Eating them in the right amounts.

As In Most Things, Balance Is Key

In today’s society, the convenience of fast-food and heavily processed snacks makes for a not-so convenient way for us to maintain a balanced consumption of both omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Most processed foods contain a high amount of omega-6 and data shows that a Western diet may contain too much omega-6 fatty acids. If we recall, some omega-6’s may promote inflammatory properties but too much can result in inflammation. Recent research suggests that this imbalance may contribute to health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, and more. One such study shows that while the dietary intake of omega-3:omega-6 ratio should range from 1:1-4 for optimal health, the evolutionary changes in the Western diet has led to an increase in consumption range of 1:10-20. To reach a healthier balance between the two, experts suggest that a lower ratio of omega-3/omega-6 fatty acids is more desirable for reducing the risk of many chronic diseases.

However, just as important as it is to consume a healthy ratio of the two, it is equally important especially for vegetarians and vegans, to consume enough essential fatty acids as to prevent deficiencies. Remember, as remarkable as omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids exhibit in aiding our brain development, immune system function and blood pressure regulation, sources should be consumed in healthy moderation!

Take Home Message:
Aim for a dietary intake with a ratio of 1 omega-3 FA : 1-4 omega-6 FA.

The Epidemic of Diabetes

Hydrate with water, not soda

Regardless of weight and age, America is heading towards a Diabetes epidemic. Americans must change their lifestyles by moving more, and eating less.

Diabetes does not discriminate based on overall weight. America needs to focus on decreasing belly fat, specifically, eating less processed food and moving more.

 

Based on the study reported in the Journal of Pediatrics, Diabetes is increasing in our teen population. There was a 14% increase in prediabetes and diabetes in a ten year period. In 1999 – 2000, there was a 9% incidence of prediabetes and diabetes in teenagers between ages 12- 19. In 2007- 2008, there was a 23 % incidence of prediabetes and diabetes. This is more than two fold. However, the study also revealed this was regardless of weight. Across the weight spectrum, all teens had an increase in the incidence of Diabetes. In my mind, this is a Diabetes Epidemic not an obesity epidemic.

Obesity did not increase in our youth during this ten year period from 1999 – to 2008. One study from the NHANES reports an actual decrease in teen obesity, despite an increase in prediabetes and diabetes. Also, half of the participants in the study had at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which means everyone needs intervention.

So what is the intervention? It depends on who you ask but the many agree America must move more, eat less processed food, and practice stress relief. America is eating too much and not moving enough. We are a culture of convenience. People need to eat because they are hungry rather than bored. We need to eliminate highly processed food such as chips and soda. We need to feel full with fiber and drink for hydration. Simple solutions are to replace chips with fiber rich berries and soda with bubbly water like Perrier. Ideally, we need to decrease insulin resistance and belly bulge (aka abdominal obesity).

The study admits to flaws. One of the flaws is the tool BMI – Body Mass Index. This measurement tool uses overall weight and height, not accounting for muscle mass and frame. Football players are considered obese when using BMI. A better tool to assess for obesity, belly fat, insulin resistance and or risk for diabetes would be the waist to height ratio. This tool would not qualify the typical football player as obese.

On Tuesday, I had the opportunity to share some of these thoughts with the HLN audience. Click here to see the clip.

 

May AL, Kuklina EV, Yoon PW. Prevalence of cardiovascular disease risk factors among US adolescents, 1999−2008. Pediatrics. 2012;peds.2011-1082.

Pizza, Pizza!

Pizza is a favorite meal of many children (and many parents, too!), but due to its often high saturated fat content and refined carbohydrates, it tends to be less than a wholesome meal. You can make some simple changes to your pizza to make it a more nutrient dense choice.

  • Switch to a whole-wheat crust. This will provide more nutrients and fiber than the traditional white crust and leave you and your kids fuller and more satisfied. Many pizzerias are now offering the whole-wheat option so be sure to ask when ordering. If whole-wheat is not available, flatbread crusts are also a good option. At home, you can make pizza dough by subbing whole-wheat flour for white. For a frozen pizza, Amy’s, DiGiorno, and other lines are beginning to carry whole-wheat pizzas. Another fun option is using whole wheat English muffins (I love Thomas’ 100% Whole Wheat)—that way everyone can have their own mini personal pizza!
  • Make your sauce smart. Tomato sauce is an integral part of any good pizza and it provides many vitamins and minerals as well the phytochemical lycopene which promotes heart health. However, many sauces are high in sodium. When making pizza at home, select a sauce with no salt added. When ordering out, try a Pizza Margherita to limit the sodium.
  • Pack on the veggie toppings. Spinach, broccoli, onions, tomatoes, eggplant, mushrooms—the options are endless. These veggies turn your simple slice of pizza into a delicious nutritional powerhouse. This is also a good opportunity to introduce a new vegetable to your family. By serving it with a familiar food such as pizza, kids will be more open-minded to trying the new food.
  • Pick a protein. While the pizza’s cheese proves as a source of protein in the dish, pizza becomes a more balanced meal when one additional ounce of protein is added to it. This protein will help keep your family fuller longer. Select a lean protein such as grilled chicken, low-sodium ham, or grilled tofu. Limit the pepperoni and sausage slices. These meats are high in sodium and saturated fats.
  • Serve a side salad. It is easy to consume too many slices of pizza. To help you get in better touch with your hunger signals, pair your slice with a side salad, a handful of raw carrots, or a fruit salad.
  • Enjoy it with family and friends. Pizza is a food that is often served in celebration. It is a common choice at birthday parties, soccer championships, and family get-togethers. Make these events about enjoying the company of those around you rather than solely focusing on the food.