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Food and Mood Connection

food and mood

 

Have you ever experienced the sensation of butterflies in your stomach? Many of us are able to correctly interpret this sensation as “feeling nervous;” however, have you ever wondered why that might be? Recent research has uncovered what has been termed the “gut-brain” connection, which actually describes a separate nervous system tract (the enteric nervous system) that connects our brain to our intestines (1). When we experience anxiety emotionally, this signal can travel from our brain through the enteric nervous system to our gut and produce the sensation of pain or discomfort (2), alerting us physically to a psychological need.

This discovery has led to a new question: if the brain and digestive system are connected, is our mood connected to the food we eat? The answer is yes! The types and quantities of certain foods we eat affect our mood, and our mood likewise influences tastes and cravings for food. In this blog post, we are going to explore the connection between our mood and food for 3 different mental health conditions: anxiety, depression, and ADHD.

 

Food and Mood: Anxiety

There may be a connection between omega-3 fatty acid levels in the body and anxiety; some studies have observed lower anxiety levels with higher circulating levels of omega-3 fats (3). This would make sense intuitively, as omega-3 fatty acids are associated with decreased levels of inflammation in the body, and if we have less inflammation, it follows that the body would be in an elevated state of calm. Find Omega-3’s in foods such as salmon, chia seeds, and flaxseeds.

Sufficient levels of probiotics, or “good” bacteria that support healthy functioning of our digestive tract, decrease anxiety levels and improve overall mental outlook as well (5). While we can get probiotics from dietary supplements, it is also worth noting that we can get probiotics naturally from the diet from foods such as yogurt, kefir, kimchi, or kombucha. It’s also worth mentioning the observed connection in the development of eating disorders secondary to developing anxiety (4). Oftentimes in treating eating disorders or disordered eating, it is important to identify any areas of anxiety or areas of life that feel unmanageable that could have initiated disordered eating behaviors. Without dealing with the sources of anxiety, true recovery will not be possible.

 

Food and Mood: Depression

Individuals with depression are more likely to crave carbohydrates, sugar, and salt (1). One connection to this is that individuals with depression typically have low circulating levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps to regulate mood (1). When serotonin levels are low, our body will often crave carbohydrates to boost these levels. Interestingly, the gut produces about 95% of our body’s serotonin levels, not the brain (1). This is why digestive upset can often accompany symptoms of depression. Additionally, when experiencing depression, many individuals will feel less motivated to cook and are more likely to reach for processed foods over whole foods that offer more nutrition. The good news is this connection is bidirectional! Individuals that consume more whole foods (such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins) are less likely to be depressed and more likely to experience stable moods (6).

 

Food and Mood: ADHD

Several studies in the past decade have shown a possible connection between micronutrient deficiencies and ADHD symptoms in children. Additionally, consuming foods high in sugar or made with artificial food dyes (especially red 40) has been linked to increases in hyperactivity and impulsivity (7). A good place to start for anyone experiencing ADHD symptoms is to look at their dietary intake. Aim to decrease added sugar and artificial food dyes and increase whole foods to manage symptoms. Requesting micronutrient testing to determine any significant deficiencies of minerals like iron, zinc, or magnesium that may need to be corrected through supplementation. Remember to always ask your doctor or dietitian before starting a new dietary supplement!

 

The Takeaway

The main message here is that what we eat matters! I often teach clients to view food as fuel for their body’s physical activity, but we also want to think about how different food makes us feel and what self-care looks like from a dietary perspective. Exploration of the food and mood connection is new, but it’s clear that physical and mental health are inextricably connected. Take care of your mind and body, and you’ll maximize your health from every angle!

 

Resources

  1. Naidoo, Uma. (2020). This is Your Brain on Food. Little, Brown Spark.
  2. Anxiety and Depression Association of America (2018, July 19). How to Calm an Anxious Stomach: The Brain-Gut Connection. https://adaa.org/learn-from-us/from-the-experts/blog-posts/consumer/how-calm-anxious-stomach-brain-gut-connection 
  3. Harvard Health (2019, January 1). Omega-3’s for Anxiety? https://www.health.harvard.edu/mind-and-mood/omega-3s-for-anxiety 
  4. Behavioral Nutrition (2020, May 29). How Anxiety Can Lead to Disordered Eating. https://behavioralnutrition.org/how-anxiety-can-lead-to-disordered-eating/
  5. Laguipo, Angela B. (2020, July 7). Research Shows Probiotics can Help Combat Anxiety and Depression. https://www.news-medical.net/news/20200707/Research-shows-probiotics-can-help-combat-anxiety-and-depression.aspx
  6. Ljungberg, Tina, et. al. (2020, March 2). Evidence of the Importance of Dietary Habits Regarding Depressive Symptoms and Depression. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 17(5): 1616.
  7. Lange, Klaus W. (2020, February 26). Micronutrients and Diet in the Treatment of Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder: Chances and Pitfalls. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 11: 102.

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The Effects of Underfueling

underfueling

Underfueling, or not providing adequate energy for the body, can lead to a variety of health problems long-term. Side effects that may occur include the reduction of reproductive hormones, bone density loss, and poor heart health (1). These effects can in turn lead to decreased athletic performance and higher risk of injury. This blog post will discuss the various effects underfueling on health to emphasize the importance of getting enough food throughout the day is for optimal performance and health.

 

How does Underfueling Occur?

Underfueling can occur unintentionally or intentionally (3).

Unintentional underfueling:

  • Unintentional underfueling can be due to hunger signals being absent soon after exercise and due to external stressors of life. When stressors arise, your body’s main priority is to focus on addressing the source of stress and signals to eat or digest food will diminish. This causes your hunger cues to go on the back burner until the stressors are dealt with. In these instances, individuals may not recognize that their body needs nourishment.

Intentional underfueling:

  • Underfueling can be caused intentionally as a result of disordered eating and eating disorders. There are red flags to watch for that signal disordered eating is present. These red flags are discussed in a previous blog post titled “Identifying Disordered Eating Patterns.” Some of the red flags include:
    • Labeling foods as “good” or “bad”
      • Labeling foods as “good” or “bad” can lead to underfueling by not allowing all foods to be permissible. The “bad” foods category may consist of foods that actually promote recovery or pre-workout fuel (such as bagels, granola, protein bars, or milk). Restricting the diet to avoid these foods can lead to underconsumption of essential nutrients, which can then lead to lowers levels of endurance, excessive soreness, and increased risk of illness or injury.
    • Obsession with food, exercise, and/or body image that negatively impacts an individual’s quality of life
      • Similar to the previous red flag of disordered eating, this can lead to underfueling because an individual may restrict the foods they eat to maintain a certain body size, which can lead to eating less than the body needs.
    • Being anxious around food in social environments
      • Being anxious around food in social situations can lead to an individual carefully selecting amounts and types of foods that appear to be “acceptable” by the people at the social event. This can lead the individual to underfueling if the individual eats less than their body needs.

What Areas of Health are Affected by Underfueling?

 

Bone Health

Bones are critical to performance and overall health. Bones support many functions and abilities in your body, such as storing calcium. By not providing your bones with enough nourishment, the following can occur:

  • Decreased bone density
  • Impaired performance
  • Increased risk of stress fractures and injuries (1,2)

Estrogen is an important hormone for bone health (1). Estrogen levels are low when undernourished, which leads to a reduction in the creation of new bone. More bone is reabsorbed than created, further reducing bone density (1). Unfortunately, bone density cannot be completely reversed at a certain point (1). For this reason, it is crucial to consume adequate nourishment for your bone health, such as calcium and protein.

  • Not getting enough fuel can greatly impact bone health, and put an athlete at a higher risk for injury.

 

Loss of Menstrual Cycle

In addition to bone health, estrogen plays an important role in menstrual cycle regularity for female athletes. Although not always the case, the complete loss of the menstrual cycle can occur with underfueling. Low estrogen levels can lead to amenorrhea (1). Amenorrhea is defined as the loss of menstrual cycles for 3 months, having less than 9 cycles a year, or not having a menstrual cycle start by age 15 (1,4).

  • Loss of estrogen contributes to the loss of menstrual cycle, and bone health.

 

Testosterone

Underfueling also reduces testosterone levels in the body (1). Testosterone, like estrogen, can impair bone health and may do so faster than estrogen can (1).

  • Poor bone health can lead to increased instances of injury.

 

Metabolism

Metabolism is the process of converting food into energy to support all daily activities. When you are not giving your body enough nourishment, your metabolism decreases to preserve energy (1). This leads to less energy availability for the function of some organs and biological processes, such as digestion, heart rate, blood flow to hands and feet, and overall energy levels (1). This also means that our body does not have the fuel it needs for optimal athletic performance because our organs and biological processes don’t occur at their normal rate.

  • Low metabolism leads to biological processes not occurring at their normal rate, so an individual is unable to perform at their best.

 

Digestion

As a result of a reduced metabolism, digestive symptoms can occur, such as bloating, cramping, or constipation. The digestive system slows down because the body already has to keep many other systems of the body operating at a normal rate (1). This can in turn alter your bowel movements and stool consistency (1).

  • Constipation can make it harder to perform and concentrate.

 

Cardiovascular

The cardiovascular system includes your heart and blood vessels. Because athletes exert a lot of energy while exercising, when an athlete gets up and takes a short walk their heart rate does not typically increase drastically (1).  In prolonged underfueling, cardiac muscle may be degraded, which causes the heart to have to beat faster to deliver the same amount of blood to various tissues. This can lead to irreguluar heart rythems and, in extreme cases, a heart attack (1).

  • The cardiovascular system has to work harder, reducing optimal performance.

 

Skin, Hair, and Nails

Our skin, hair, and nails do a wonderful job of informing us when our body isn’t fueled. When undernourished:

  • The skin will become dry and lose its youthful appearance (1)
  • Nails become brittle and stop growing at their normal rate (1)
  • Hair loss and hair thinning can occur (1)

There are several nutrients important for skin, hair, nail health. Some of these nutrients include protein, iron, biotin (one of the B vitamins), omega-3 fatty acids, and Vitamins A, D, and E (5).

  • Inadequate intake of protein and other nutrients has an impact on hair, skin, and nails. Changes to these tissues is a way for your body to signal that you are not receiving enough of one or more of these nutrients, many of which are vital for optimal performance and immune function.

 

Mental Health

Underfueling negatively impacts mental health (2). Food has an important role in fueling our physical body, which also includes the systems that affect mental health. Our gut and brain are connected, so if the body isn’t fueled enough, mood and stress levels can be affected. For example, 90% of the neurotransmitter serotonin is found in the gut. Serotonin helps to regulate our mood, appetite, and sleep cycle (6).

Carbohydrates are critical to brain health as well, as they are the body’s main source of fuel! If you ever experienced feeling “hangry”, part of this feeling is a result of blood glucose levels getting too low as a result of inadequate carbohydrate intake.

Finally, and individual’s relationship with food can affect mental health as well. If you find yourself constantly thinking about food and judging your self-worth based on your food choices, you may experience higher rates of anxiety or depressive symptoms. Learning to feel comfortable with eating a wide variety of foods in a variety of different social situations will help to create a healthy relationship with food and improve mental health.

 

Conclusion:

  • Underfueling can be caused intentionally (disordered eating) and unintentionally (not eating after working out because of not feeling hungry).
  • Underfueling can lead to many negative effects on the body, which can, in turn, lead to poor athletic performance and overall health.
  • It is important to make sure you have a healthy relationship with food to help optimize performance and find enjoyment in food.

 

To learn more about underfueling, check out these resources:

 

Resources

  1. Gaudiani JL. Sick Enough. A Guide to the Medical Complications of Eating Disorders. Taylor & Francis; 2019.
  2. Ackerman KE, Holtzman B, Cooper KM, et al. Low energy availability surrogates correlate with health and performance consequences of relative energy deficiency in sport. Br J Sports Med. 2019;53(10):628-634. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/bjsports-2017-098958.
  3. Gaitley, J. Identifying Low Energy Availability in Female Athletes. Phoenix Children’s. Published August 5, 2020. Accessed April 21, 2021. https://www.phoenixchildrens.org/blog/2020/08/identifying-low-energy-availability-female-athletes
  4. The Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Current evaluation of amenorrhea. The Practice Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. Published November 2008. Accessed April 22, 2021. https://www.asrm.org/globalassets/asrm/asrm-content/news-and-publications/practice-guidelines/for-non-members/current_evaluation_of_amenorrhea.pdf
  5. Wright, KC. The Growing Field of Nutritional Psychiatry. Today’s Dietitian. Published July 2019. Accessed April 22, 2021.  https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0916p56.shtml
  6. Reisdorf, AG.CPE Monthly: Beauty and Nutrition — Evidence-Based Dietary Practices Can Help Patients Look and Feel Their Best. Today’s Dietitian. Published September 2016. Accessed April 22, 2021.  https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/0719p10.shtml

 

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What is a Processed Food, Really?

processed food

Almost all food is processed to some degree; the differences between processed food products lie within the ingredient list. If you have ever seen the back of most food packaging labels, you have probably seen that it has both “Nutrition Facts” and “Ingredients” sections. Many consumers may say they feel overwhelmed by all the words they see and that is completely understandable! Ingredient lists reside near the bottom of a food label. Many of the words are understandable, but some may be completely unrecognizable.

In this blog, you will learn the relationship of the nutrition facts section to the ingredients section. Additionally, we’ll compare some food products based on their ingredient list as some examples and you will learn some tips for reading food labels and the significance of some specific ingredients used often in products. 

 

Important Ingredients to Look for

As mentioned, there are key components to pay attention to on a nutrition facts label. 

Added Sugars

Added sugars were added to the nutrition facts label so that people could make informed choices based on their needs. What is not told, is that “Added Sugars” is not synonymous with the ingredients list. There are many terms for sugar, such as: 

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Brown rice syrup
  • Corn syrup (50% sugar, 50% oligosaccharides)
  • Terms ending in “ose” (dextrose, fructose, glucose, lactose, maltose, sucrose)
  • Fruit concentrate, which fruit without the pulp or skin. This removes the fiber and vitamins, leaving only sugar in the form of fructose. (1) (2)

Artificial Sweeteners

Like sugar, there are a number of names and types for artificial sweeteners that are added to products to add sweetness while providing no added sugar. Some examples of artificial sweeteners are: saccharin, aspartame, and sucralose. (3) Numerous studies have mentioned that artificially sweetened foods and beverages can be a great alternative to limit sugar intake and mention some benefits, but also some drawbacks: 

  • Confuse the brain because body is not receiving calories for perceived sweetness
  • Make you eat more to feel full/increase hunger
  • May disrupt balance of gut bacteria
  • Easy alternative to decreasing sugar consumption, can help with weight control
  • Can help with reducing added sugar intake 

There is some research that links artificial sweeteners to issues with type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and increased cravings. While artificial sweeteners are generally considered safe, much of the insight mentioned requires more research on the effects of artificial sweeteners. (3)

 

Guar Gum and Xanthan Gum

Guar gum contains high amounts of fiber and to reduce levels of blood pressure. The fiber thickens and binds foods. Excess consumption may cause some symptoms like gas, bloating, or cramps. (4)

Xanthan gum is another common additive meant to thicken or stabilize food. There is some research that ties xanthan gum to reduced levels of blood sugar and cholesterol. It is possible someone may experience digestive issues like gas and bloating when consumed in excess. (5)

 

Other Ingredients to Note

Nitrites/Nitrates: Good for preservation in processed meats to prevent bacterial growth. They are linked to higher risk of cancers with high intake. (6) It is recommended to look for nitrate- or preservative-free foods.

Enriched Wheat: This term is usually a “buzzword” to make the ingredient seem better than it is. When wheat is “enriched,” it is processed to remove the bran and endosperm. This process causes the wheat item to lose much of its nutrient value. Look for 100% whole wheat varieties instead. 

Lecithin: Comes in powder or liquid forms from soybeans or dehydrated sunflowers. Lecithin provides a texture to help foods mix, such as incorporating a powder into liquid. Its research boasts a host of benefits, like reduced cholesterol. (7)

Natural Flavors: Natural flavors must originate from a plant or animal material and are used to enhance flavor. Natural flavors are still highly processed, can be sourced from genetically modified crops, and contain chemical additives, like preservatives and solvents. (8) The word “natural” contains many different meanings, although it is often understood as healthy.  

 

How can you Determine the Quality of a Food Item?

Now that we know more about some ingredient terms, here are some things to remember when reading the label: 

  • All foods must list their ingredients in order of predominance
  • First three to five ingredients are the most prominent. 
  • Don’t hang on any specific term to look out for (i.e sugar has a large list of names that all mean about the same thing)
  • Compare the ingredients to the nutrition facts.

Now that we know this, let us check out some products to compare!

 

Protein Bars

The protein bars mentioned are in “blueberry flavor,” except the MET-RX bar because they only had a fruit flavor in apple; this allows for consistency.

processed foods

RXBAR

If we look at the ingredient list, the first mentioned are dates – a fruit sugar and fiber. Following dates are egg whites, almonds, and blueberries. Natural flavors come last, indicating minimal amounts compared to all of the other ingredients in the protein bar.

CLIF BAR

Clif Bar highlights using whole ingredients for its products. Important points include:

  • No artificial sweeteners. 
  • In the list of ingredients, almost every other ingredient is a form of sugar; note that while “organic,” organic sugar is still sugar. 
  • Other ingredients listed near the top are organic rolled oats, an organic protein isolate (which is composed of 90% or more protein), and organic almonds. 

All these ingredients offer a good amount of nutrients. Clif Bar does have a slightly higher amount of sugar in it, but can provide great fuel for the body to tackle going for a jog, working out, and to gain weight. 

LUNA BAR

Similar to the ingredient lists on the Clif and MET-RX Bar, LUNA Bars have a longer list. However, most words are not difficult to understand. 

  • Compared to sodium in the RXBar (140 mg), Clif Bar (180 mg) and the MET-RX Bar (390 mg), the LUNA Bar (95 mg) has a low amount. 95 mg of sodium accounts for a small percentage of your daily averages.
  • The LUNA Bar puts its protein blend at the beginning, meaning the protein blend is the most predominant ingredient.
  • There is moderate amounts of carbohydrates, which primarily come from four sources of sugar. None of these sources are artificial. 

I would recommend this bar before going to the gym or on a run, like Clif Bar. LUNA bar could do okay as a midday snack because of its lower amount of sugars and high fat and protein.

MET-RX Bar

Deemed as the “meal-replacement bar,” MET-RX has a claim to fame for its high amount of protein. The sodium count on this bar is high too. This bar’s list is fairly daunting to look at, but the main thing to notice is the first half of the ingredient list makes up three ingredients. Let’s break it down: 

  1. “Soy crisps,” consist mostly of soy protein isolate.
  2. “Apple layer,” many sugar sources. 
  3. “Yogurt flavored coating” contains mainly cultured whey protein concentrate.
  4. Corn syrup 
  5. METAMYOSIN, a protein blend. 
  6. Maltitol syrup – a sugar alcohol (denoted by the -ol suffix). Maltitol syrup is a sweetener that contains some carbohydrates. 

This bar contains a lot of protein and carbohydrates, and a fairly high amount of saturated fat. This bar provides what it states, but there are many extra additives.  

 

Protein Powders

Quick Terms:

Concentrates are primarily about 70–80% protein and contain some lactose (milk sugar) and fat.

Isolate contains 90% protein, or higher, with less lactose and fat 

processed food

TGS Whey Protein

This is a blend of only whey protein concentrate and sunflower lecithin, an emulsifier that helps the whey mix together. This blend was made with intent for absolutely no additives and is unflavored. This example shows that many of the extra ingredients in the following powders enhance flavoring. 

GHOST Whey Protein Powder

This ingredient list is shorter than some of the other companies. 

  • The whey protein mix is composed of whey protein isolate, concentrate, and hydrolysate. 
  • Although the formula isn’t entirely natural, they have lowered – not eliminated – the amount of troublesome ingredients used in many other whey powders, such as:
    • High Fructose Corn Syrup
    • Molasses
    • Sugar 
  • The most notable additive is sucralose, an artificial sweetener. 

The good thing is there are a total of 4g of sugars in this blend and 2g of added sugar, making it a fair recommendation based on its composition.

PROJym Protein Powder

  • The first ingredient listed is a mix of protein: this is a protein blend made from micellar casein, milk protein isolate, whey protein isolate, and egg white
  • Next is a creamer containing coconut oil, maltodextrin, food starch and a mixture of fat emulsifiers with a salt component. 
    • Coconut oil does provide some good fats, but mostly contains saturated fats. 
    • Maltodextrin contains some sugar, but it’s only present in small amounts in food. Maltodextrin is a mixture of starchy vegetables – like corn or potatoes
    • ProJym Protein powder contains natural and artificial flavors.

This powder is quite healthy all together. It has a reduced amount of additives with a high quality protein blend.

 

Dressings

processed food

Annie’s Cowgirl Ranch

Annie’s has all organic ingredients, which start with water, expeller-pressed canola oil, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, and cane sugar. 

  • We extract canola oil using pressure, which is better than methods using heat that may alter the oil. Canola oil reduces LDL cholesterol, but does contain a high amount of omega-6 fatty acids. 
  • Apple cider vinegar fights against free radicals and cell damage and contains polyphenols, which may reduce inflammation.  This component isn’t high in a dressing blend, but it is acidic; consuming too much may damage teeth or upset your stomach. 
  • This dressing contains a little carbohydrate, 1 gram of saturated fat, and a high amount of sodium (240mg). 

 

Hidden Valley Ranch

  • The first ingredient is vegetable oil (from soybean and/or canola), which is seen as generally  healthy by the FDA.
    • Soybean oil has omega-6 fatty acids. When consumed too often, it may lead to chronic inflammation.
    • These types of oils are fragile and susceptible to degrading to chemicals that are harmful to the body.
  • After vegetable oil is water, sugar and salt. 

Hidden Valley doesn’t contain too many carbohydrates (2g), but it does have a higher amount of sodium (260mg).

 

Whole30 Ranch

Like Hidden Valley, Whole30 starts with an oil, but this time they used high oleic sunflower oil.

  •  This oil is healthier than soybean or canola oil because high oleic oils contain monounsaturated fats, which help reduce LDL cholesterol. 
  • Following the high-oleic sunflower oil is water, egg yolks, and distilled vinegar. 

Whole30 contains zero carbohydrates and a little less sodium (210 mg) than Hidden Valley

 

Conclusion

Whole foods that aren’t packed with lots of additives are generally the best way to go. If you do decide to buy processed foods, it’s good to know some common ingredients to look out for.  Some ingredients may not be present in significant enough quantities to affect dietary quality. Lastly, make sure to compare ingredients back to the nutrition facts. Multiple forms of sugar, for example, can be listed numerous times, but the overall amount of sugar and added sugar on the nutrition facts label may not be significantly high. Don’t be scared of processed foods, but do be cautious. Good luck shopping!

 

Need more help with understanding food labels? Check out our other blog post regarding updated to the nutrition facts label!

 

Resources

Protein Bars

https://www.rxbar.com/media/pdf/R/RX_Catalog_Fall_2019.pdf

https://www.walmart.com/ip/LUNA-BAR-Snack-Bars-Gluten-Free-Blueberry-Bliss-Flavor-15-Ct-1-69-oz/39800541?wmlspartner=wlpa&selectedSellerId=0&&adid=22222222227000000000&wl0=&wl1=g&wl2=c&wl3=42423897272&wl4=pla-51320962143&wl5=9015392&wl6=&wl7=&wl8=&wl9=pla&wl10=8175035&wl11=online&wl12=39800541&veh=sem&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnKeCBhDPARIsAFDTLTIO96TvonousEhbXlqhBebvvH7Q1xFMswpIo70-LcYkTB5Ptz0DepUaAnrwEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds 

https://shop.clifbar.com/products/clif-bar-blueberry-crisp?variant=34478775140485&utm_medium=cpc&utm_source=google&utm_campaign=Google%20Shopping&ds_rl=1282849&ds_rl=1282849&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnKeCBhDPARIsAFDTLTIANO4DYZYRaExhBOgA7etOEmFTuWoldzdR-q8Hhd7tsh9jCpjqZjQaAjbgEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds 

https://shop.metrx.com/Big-100-Crispy-Apple-Pie/p/MTRX-159357&c=METRx@ProteinBars@Big100

 

Protein Powders

https://www.gnc.com/best-sellers-shop-all/527950.html?mrkgadid=&mrkgcl=1098&mrkgen=&mrkgbflag=&mrkgcat=&acctid=21700000001526007&&dskeywordid=92700057937791656&lid=92700057937791656&ds_s_kwgid=58700006417899872&ds_s_inventory_feed_id=97700000003618928&dsproductgroupid=317461650145&product_id=527950&merchid=1418768&prodctry=US&prodlang=en&channel=online&storeid=%7bproduct_store_id%7d&device=c&network=u&matchtype=&locationid=%7bloc_phyiscal_ms%7d&creative=472640341132&targetid=pla-317461650145&campaignid=11357099411&adgroupid=111332759517&gclid=Cj0KCQiAnKeCBhDPARIsAFDTLTIwnXMWafAXkXInejgkaotcDuxjr0K-rCBp8RuqN_nzfHNNl6Sw05EaAg3ZEALw_wcB&gclsrc=aw.ds

https://www.bodybuilding.com/store/jym-supplement-science/pro-jym-protein-powder.html

https://www.amazon.com/TGS-Natural-100-Protein-Powder/product-reviews/B00HBFZNAO/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_show_all_btm?ie=UTF8&reviewerType=all_reviews

 

Dressings

https://www.hiddenvalley.com/products/bottled-dressings-dips/original-ranch/original-ranch/

https://shop.whole30.com/product/house-ranch/?gclid=Cj0KCQiAv6yCBhCLARIsABqJTjYm6bBcL8_KhnzEb7thMTTQB6omfTBoA9uea9Uskruf-bnOuNfUnjcaAnvTEALw_wcB

https://www.annies.com/product/organic-cowgirl-ranch-dressing/

 

  1. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sugar/added-sugars 
  2. https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/09/01/545336956/what-is-fruit-concentrate-anyway-and-is-it-good-for-you
  3. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/artificial-sweeteners-good-or-bad#other-effects
  4. https://d1wqtxts1xzle7.cloudfront.net/39870315/1056.pdf?1447172730=&response-content-disposition=inline%3B+filename%3DGuar_gum_in_insulin_dependent_diabetes_e.pdf&Expires=1615780690&Signature=JYgii7oKpnfw0-l8E-UkhXOjJYKVpC4Ebl4k5r1B5Y0fvK1Ky31MGRKa02GgztmKxc6BagZNc4aT4CbpSbi7Fnh1L7-iRaKc3DKw8rk~e6elgHA0gc15R2DhMo0NUszv61IAuNsq8-ie25L4j2sby8GU0O6UtBDUzNmVOOEOSrNQBe8J2tPVRk0S5LuhMHe79PadtrN5CuVT3VMFktqxn33b3nqcBwz490xWquAGYWtZu0sgpIOOk7Lrk3zTHkQ2uPBXzoVVAjwh0Cf-EjmnSn1yWnoOEhCQK0nmyISuluCKzVcGbyzllZ9GT5od4KYFsQka~AnGWkZIZ2TnMf6-7w__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAJLOHF5GGSLRBV4ZA
  5. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/xanthan-gum
  6. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16865769/ 
  7. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/cholesterol/2010/824813/ 
  8. https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/natural-flavors#TOC_TITLE_HDR_7 

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Dietary Intake and Acne: What is the Link?

diet and acne

If you are struggling with unwanted breakouts, you are far from alone. The prevalence of acne is estimated to affect 9.4% of people worldwide. The incidence rate is highest in adolescents and young adults but typically decreases with age beyond 30 years. Because this can be difficult condition to manage, many people who struggle with acne often want to know what factors can contribute to or prevent breakouts. While typical areas examined will include skin hygiene, stress, and personal care products, interest has increased in recent years regarding the connection between dietary intake and acne.

There are so many foods we eat daily, many of which are beneficial to our skin, and others that are not. So, which are affecting the condition of our skin the most? Read on to learn which foods may affect skin health and which do not.

 

Sugar and High-glycemic Index Foods  

Consumption of sweets and other carbohydrate-rich foods have been attributed to the majority of skin breakouts. (1) When the body breaks down carbohydrates, it releases insulin. This is normally an okay, and much needed, reaction from the body. Trouble begins when we are regularly consuming “high-glycemic” foods, which cause large spikes in blood sugar and lead to high blood sugar. When the body is in this consistent state of high blood sugar, it leads to multiple reactions:

  • Increased Insulin-like growth factor-1
  • Increased Insulin-like growth factor binding protein-3
  • Elevated Androgen Hormones

All these reactions can lead to cellular, follicular growth and/or androgen-driven sebum production, which can affect oil production in pores.

 

Research Studies 

  1. Low glycemic load diet led to participants improving their acne and weight loss. (2)
  2. Low glycemic load diet led to participants improving acne, no weight loss. (3)

 

These two studies show connections between the improvement of acne and skin lesions and a low glycemic index diet.

Study 1

The first offers a strong study using a randomized controlled study but limited from having only 43 participants. 

  • The control group was asked to remain on their diet consisting of, generally, high-glycemic index carbohydrates/foods. 
  • The experimental group was provided a diet consisting of 25% energy from protein, 45% from low-glycemic index carbohydrates, and 30% energy from fats. 
  • Both groups received a topical cleanser to use in place of typical soap and water. 

The experimental group began with an average of 40.6 skin lesions and the control group began with 34.9. At the end of a 12-week assessment, skin lesion count had gone down by an average of 21.9 and 13.8, respectively. Additionally, the experimental group had a loss in BMI. 

Study 2

The second study also has limitations of 32 participants and self-reported diets from the participants. They had a low glycemic load diet group of 17 participants and a control group of 15. 

  • The low glycemic load diet group ate a diet that consisted of 25% energy from protein, 45% from low-GI carbohydrates, and 30% energy from fats. 
  • The control group ate carbohydrate-rich foods daily. 

The mean non-inflammatory lesion counts for the LGLD group and the control group were significantly decreased, by 27.6% and 14.2%, respectively.

Aside from the small group size, each study is completed with strong methods and results. Strengths are especially seen in the studies being randomized controlled trials and researchers and dermatologists not knowing which participants are part of which group until the end of the study.  In conclusion, it is suggested that following a low-glycemic load and low-glycemic index food intake may benefit skin health based on these two studies. 

 

dairy and acne

Milk and Dairy Products

The effects of dairy products on skin health are closely related to the effects of sugar on skin. Milk has carbohydrates in it, which can produce a spike in blood sugar, as we mentioned for high-glycemic index foods. The difference between milk and carbohydrate-rich foods is that milk is considered low on the glycemic index compared to food like a slice of bread, which is considered high on the glycemic index. 

Milk consumed in excess can lead to high blood sugar levels. In addition to the effects of high blood sugar, dairy intake increases insulin-like growth factor-1. This may lead to the same effects that high blood sugar produces in relation to acne production.  

Research Studies 

  • 6,094 girls, ages 9–15 years, yielded a positive association between acne prevalence and consumption of whole, skimmed, and low-fat milk; there was no association with non-milk dairy foods, chocolate, and pizza. (4)
  • 4,273 boys, ages 9–15 years, discovered a weak association between acne and skimmed milk; there were no associations with milks of a higher fat content. (5)

 

These two large studies mentioned above report some relevance of milk consumption and acne. They were limited because the children were self-reporting their dairy intake and, if they had acne, its condition. It is difficult to know whether any certain component within dairy is contributing to acne. 

There is little possibility the fat content of milk would affect the condition of acne. Some researchers are attempting loosely to consider any connection to whey. There are no randomized controlled trials investigating the relationship between frequent dairy or milk consumption and acne. Overall, there is minimal evidence suggesting dairy would have an impact on acne outside of containing carbohydrates; but milk is also considered a low on the glycemic index, making that assumption difficult to conclude.

 

Chocolate

Another food item thought to affect acne is chocolate. It has been difficult to find a strong connection between acne and any specific component of chocolate. The major component that has been hypothesized to have an effect on skin health is cocoa. Other than the cocoa content, sugar in regular chocolate products could be what is contributing to potential acne breakouts. 

Research Studies 

  • Thirteen men consumed 100% cocoa, hydrolyzed gelatin powder, or a mix. The study found a statistically significant increase in acne lesions after cocoa consumption (6)

 

The researchers discovered that the thirteen men in this study had an increase in acne. The limitations of the study are that they only had 13 participants and the men were “acne-prone.” While the study used a randomized controlled trial, the evidence is considered weak due to the low number of participants and being the only study of its kind. More research is needed to conclude significant evidence. 

 

omega-3 fatty acids and acne

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids provide a unique perspective on the impact of food on acne. Unlike the rest of the food items mentioned here, omega-3 fatty acids offer a protective result from acne due to reducing inflammatory responses. 

Research Studies

  • A 10-week, randomized, controlled parallel study had 45 participants, ages 18 – 33 (36 men, 9 women), split into groups that received omega-3 fatty acid supplementation, γ-linoleic acid (an anti-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acid) supplementation, or were in a control group. The omega-3 fatty acid and γ-linoleic acid groups both show improvement from supplementation. (7)

 

This study shows a small connection for improved acne conditions while taking γ-linoleic acid or omega-3 fatty acid. This study does not provide strong enough evidence of omega-3 fatty acid due to the small size of the group. More studies could greatly benefit this research. However, omega-3 fatty acid supplements have many health benefits outside of skin health. Considering its great availability and health benefits, supplementation could be a considerable option to improve acne conditions.

 

Conclusions

  • High-glycemic index/load foods are likely to aggravate acne when consumed regularly.
  • Milk and dairy products could affect acne conditions if consumed heavily for extended periods of time.
  • Chocolate has loose connections to aggravation of acne unless considering its high glycemic index like any other sugary candy.
  • Omega-3 fatty acid supplementation has loose connections to benefiting the condition of a person’s acne.

In closing, there are many studies to be considered when researching what dietary effects have on the condition of skin and acne aggravation. While research on this topic started decades ago, it was not until recently, in the 2000s, that more research has come out. If your acne is at a stage where it is just beginning, some of these dietary tips may be of benefit to you. 

If you are just starting to get into nutrition and health, try checking out How to Spot a Fad Diet  or our 7 tips for healthy eating when life gets busy!

 

Resources

  1. Kucharska A, Szmurło A, Sińska B. Significance of diet in treated and untreated acne vulgaris. Postepy Dermatol Alergol. 2016;33(2):81–86.

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4884775/ 

 

2. Smith RN et al. The effect of a high-protein, low glycemic–load diet versus a conventional, high glycemic–load diet on biochemical parameters associated with acne vulgaris: A randomized, investigator-masked, controlled trial. J Am Acad Derm. 2007;57(2):247-56. 

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0190962207004148?casa_token=Z_6HtL_cGTEAAAAA:519iBbjilAbU6goU89cxCnpqE16ZQEHP-esTh6hTw1r-gZ-hcs2SV7O6qf2kmbN2na27mYykqw

 

3. Kwon HH et al. Clinical and histological effect of a low glycaemic load diet in treatment of acne vulgaris in korean patients: a randomized, controlled trial. Acta Derm Venereol. 2012;92: 241–246. 

https://www.medicaljournals.se/acta/content/abstract/10.2340/00015555-1346 

 

4. Adebamowo et al. Milk consumption and acne in adolescent girls. Dermatol Online J. Retrieved from https://escholarship.org/uc/item/77b9s0z8

 

5. Adebamowo et al. Milk consumption and acne in teenaged boys. J Am Acad Dermatol. 2008;58(5): 787–793. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4391699/

 

6. Caperton C et al. Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Study Assessing the Effect of Chocolate Consumption in Subjects with a History of Acne Vulgaris. J Clin Aesthet Dermatol. 2014 May; 7(5): 19–23. 

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4025515/#idm140640642055376title

 

7. Jung JY et al. Effect of Dietary Supplementation with Omega-3 Fatty Acid and Gamma-linolenic Acid on Acne Vulgaris: A Randomised, Doubleblind, Controlled Trial. Acta Derm Venereol 2014; 94: 521–525. 

https://www.medicaljournals.se/acta/content_files/files/pdf/94/5/4112.pdf

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5 Sports Supplements NOT to Take

sports supplements

In one of my recent blog articles, “My Top 5 Most Commonly Recommended Dietary Supplements,” I discussed supplements that may benefit certain clients including omega-3 fish oil, vitamin D, GABA, vitamin B-12, and BCAAs. Although it is best to get nutrients from the diet, there are some cases in which this is not possible, and supplements can help to fill in the gaps. Situations that may require the addition of a supplement may include dietary deficiencies, certain disease states, and some demanding training regimens.  When purchasing a dietary supplement, it’s important to remember that the FDA does not regulate vitamins, minerals, herbals, or sports supplements. For this reason, looking for a third-party seal can ensure quality, purity, and potency of the product.  Examples of third-party seals include USP, Informed Choice, NSF, and GMP. The image below shows an example of a vitamin supplement with a USP seal.

USP label

Figure 2 image source: https://www.quality-supplements.org/

Often, a product’s marketing or testimonials will promise superior effects. Because these products are not regulated by the FDA, the evidence for these statements is often lacking. Additionally, unregulated products often have added hidden ingredients that may be harmful.

This article will discuss five supplements that I do not recomend for sports performance in particular. If you have questions about other supplements not listed here, feel free to leave me a comment or send me an email!

Before taking any supplement, consult with a sports dietitian or other health-care professional. 

 

1. Vitamin C and Vitamin E

This first one might surprise you! While vitamin C and vitamin E are antioxidants (which protect our body from cellular damage), taking them immediately before or after exercise could interfere with progress. The reason for this is that while intense exercise does cause some cellular damage, this also triggers the release of proteins and enzymes that initiate muscle repair and recovery. Taking antioxidants before your workout can thus limit muscle recovery and performance adaptations. You can read more about antioxidants and performance in my blog post here. Does Taking Antioxidants During Your Workout Improve Exercise Recovery?

Supplement Claims:

  • Minimize free-radical damage to skeletal muscle
  • Reduce muscle fatigue and soreness

Clinical Studies:

  • Only small numbers of studies on sports performance
  • Findings do not show associated improved performance
  • Supplementation appears to hinder body’s physiological and exercise-induced adaptations (3)
  • Vitamin E: Several studies have shown supplementation is detrimental to health and may increase oxidative stress (2)

Summary:

  • Taking antioxidants such as vitamin E and vitamin C before a workout may limit the body’s ability to initiate muscle repair and recovery
  • Most individuals get enough vitamin E and vitamin C from a balanced diet and don’t require supplementation
  • High dose vitamin E supplements should only be consumed if recommended by a qualified healthcare professional to treat a deficiency or other health-related issue

 

2. Citrulline

Citrulline is a non-essential amino acid. It enlarges blood vessels to increase the amount of oxygen and nutrients that reach the muscles. Athletes that take citrulline supplements hope to enhance exercise performance from citrulline’s effects on the cardiovascular system that enhance blood flow. The body can make its own citrulline, and it can be found in some common foods including watermelon, pumpkin, and cucumbers.

Supplement Claims:

  • Supports production of protein
  • Reduces muscle soreness
  • Supports the immune system
  • Assists body with muscle building

Clinical Studies:

  • Clinical trials show conflicting results:
    • A 2010 study in 41 men doing barbell bench presses showed a single dose of citrulline resulted in a 59% increase in number of repetitions performed and a 40% decrease in muscle soreness after exercise. The researchers concluded that citrulline may be useful to increase athletic performance in high-intensity anaerobic exercises with short rest times and to help with post-exercise muscle soreness. (4)
    • A study in 2017 in older adults showed that citrulline demonstrated a modest increase in blood flow during submaximal exercise in men but not women. (4)

Summary:

  • Only a couple of studies that show enhanced sports performance
  • Conflicting results with men vs. women in submaximal exercise
  • Not enough evidence to show that supplementation is beneficial

 

3. Beta-alanine

Athletes take beta-alanine supplements to delay the onset of muscle fatigue and enhance performance. However, most people can get enough beta-alanine from the diet by eating meat, poultry, and fish. Vegetarians may have less beta-alanine in their bodies(5)

Supplement Claims:

  • Supports muscle endurance
  • Supports muscle output
  • Benefits athletic performance
  • Enhances high-intensity exercise

Clinical Studies:

  • Inconsistent data from studies that examined if consumption increases performance in sports that require bursts of high intensity (i.e., team sports).
  • Little to no performance benefit in activities lasting more than 10 minutes
  • May help with high-intensity and short-duration exercise lasting one to several minutes

Side effects:

  • Some people report tingling in the face, neck, and hands
  • Itchy skin

Summary:

  • Doses up to 6.4g/day appear to be safe
  • Benefit questionable regarding increasing performance in events requiring high-intensity effort over a short period of time
  • Little to no benefit in increasing performance in events lasting more than 10 minutes

 

4. DHEA

DHEA is short for dehydroepiandrosterone. It is a steroid hormone made by the adrenal glands. The body converts DHEA into other hormones, testosterone, and estradiol. DHEA production in the body declines rapidly after early adulthood. (2). For this reason, DHEA supplements are often referred to as a “fountain of youth.” DHEA in supplements is made from a substance found in soy and wild yams. However, the National Institute of Health issued a warning about DHEA that the body cannot convert the substance from wild yams to DHEA on its own. Athletes that take DHEA hope to improve muscle strength and enhance energy levels and athletic performance.

Supplement Claims: 

  • Helps immune cell function
  • Supports a healthy lean muscle mass to fat ratio (testosterone increases muscle mass by increasing protein synthesis and reducing fat mass)
  • Provides higher energy levels (fatigue is a common effect of low testosterone and estrogen.)
  • Supports bone and joint strength. (low levels of DHEA have been found in some people with osteoporosis.)

Clinical Studies:

  • Some studies show a short-term rise in testosterone concentrations however this short-term rise does not affect muscle size, strength, or power. (2)
  • Studies with older adults also confirmed that there is no evidence that DHEA increase strength in this population. (2)

 

Summary: 

  • Unknown safety profile
  • Not effective as a performance enhancer
  • No evidence of increase in lean body mass
  • No evidence of increase in testosterone levels in men
  • Should only be used under supervision of qualified health-care professional
  • Use is banned by many sports organizations

 

5. Glutamine

Glutamine provides nitrogen for the body in many biochemical reactions. The body uses glutamine in metabolism and energy production. Glutamine is stored in muscles and released into the bloodstream during times of intense physical exercise. Athletes take glutamine supplements to try and prevent muscle breakdown and improve immune function. In general, however, the body stores enough glutamine to protect against deficiencies during endurance exercise. (4).

Supplement Claims:

  • Aids in muscle repair
  • Promotes cellular energy
  • Supports immune function (the immune system uses glutamine during times of stress and intense prolonged exercise)

Clinical Studies:

  • Only a few studies examining the enhancement of athletic performance
  • Studies show no effect on muscle performance in weight lifters
  • No effects on body composition
  • May help with recovery of muscle strength or reducing muscle soreness

Summary:

  • The body can normally supply enough glutamine to protect against deficiencies
  • More studies are needed to determine effects on sports performance
  • Not effective as an immune enhancer
  • May help with recovery of muscle strength or reducing muscle soreness

Summary

In summary, although I routinely recommend some supplements for certain clients, there are many supplements that I do not recommend.  The FDA does not regulate supplements so many products do not have clinical evidence of safety or effectiveness. When choosing a supplement, check for a third party seal on the bottle such as Informed Choice or USP.

Two proven ways to increase sports performance are with optimal nutrition and hydration. A sports dietitian can help develop a personalized nutrition and hydration plan for you that supports performance, recovery, and good health. If you feel like you need some direction in taking your health or performance to the next level, leave a message on the contact page!

 

References

  1. Thomas, D. T., Erdman, K. A., & Burke, L. M. (2015, December). Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, Dietitians of Canada, and the American College of Sports Medicine: Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26920240/
  2. Dunford, M., & Doyle, J. A. (2019). Chapter 10 Dietary Supplements and Ergogenic Aids. In Nutrition for sport and exercise (pp. 365-366). Boston, MA: Cengage.
  3. Office of Dietary Supplements – Dietary Supplements for Exercise and Athletic Performance. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2021, from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/ExerciseAndAthleticPerformance
  4. Leal, D. (2020, July 13). Do Pre-Workout Supplements Improve Your Strength and Performance? Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.verywellfit.com/can-a-pre-workout-product-improve-physical-fitness-4154378
  5. Semeco, A. (2018, December 07). Beta-Alanine-A Beginner’s Guide. Retrieved January 27, 2021, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/beta-alanine-101
  6. Mayo Clinic Staff. (2020, November 13). Vitamin E. Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-vitamin-e/art-20364144
  7. Contraindications for Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C) Oral. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/drugs/2/drug-322/ascorbic-acid-vitamin-c-oral/details/list-contraindications
  8. Vitamin E: Uses, Side Effects, Interactions, Dosage, and Warning. (n.d.). Retrieved January 28, 2021, from https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-954/vitamin-e

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5 Key Changes You Need to Know About the Nutrition Facts Label

nutrition facts label

Have You Noticed the New Look of the Nutrition Facts Label on Packaged Food Products?

new food label

Figure 2https://www.fda.gov/media/97999/download

The FDA announced the nutrition facts label changes in 2016, but it gave food companies until 2020 and 2021 to make the changes. Companies with 10 million dollars in annual sales had until January of 2020 to make the changes. Companies with less than 10 million dollars in annual sales had until January of 2021. So, now, with only a few exceptions, you will see the new label on all commercially packaged food items.

Why Was the Label Redesigned?

The old label was over 20 years old and over time the nutrition guidelines have changed. The FDA believes the new label design will help consumers make better food choices.

What are the Changes to the Label?

  1. “Calories” and “Serving Size” have a Bigger, Bolder Font and “Calories from Fat” is Now Gone.

As you can see, the font size is now bigger for the words “calories,” “servings per container,” and “serving size.” These words are also bolded to draw your attention to them.

Calories from fat is no longer required. Current dietary guidelines focus on the type of fat that is in food rather than the total amount. Studies show that diets high in saturated fat and trans fat can lead to heart disease (1). Foods high in saturated fat include some dairy products, meat, and palm oil and coconut oil. Foods high in trans fat include baked goods, snack goods, and stick margarine. Healthier fats include unsaturated fats such as monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. Good sources of monounsaturated fats include avocados, almonds, peanuts, soft margarine, and canola, peanut, and olive oil. Good sources of polyunsaturated fats are salmon, walnuts, pine nuts, and corn, soybean, and sunflower oils. Eating healthier types of fats, especially polyunsaturated fats, can reduce the risk of developing heart disease (2) when they are eaten in place of saturated fats.

How to Use the Food Label to Identify Types of Fat in Food:

food label comparison

Figure 3 Peapod.com

Let’s compare the type of fat in walnuts versus cheddar cheese. The walnuts have a high amount of total fat (20g), but most of it is healthy polyunsaturated fat (14g). They have low levels of saturated fat (2g) and trans fat (0g).

  • Nutrition Lesson: Walnuts are a healthy snack in moderation. Pre-portion walnuts to ¼ cup servings to stay on track with your nutrition goals.

The cheese sticks have less total fat per serving than the walnuts. They have 7g per serving rather than 20g per serving. However, one cheese stick has 4.5g saturated fat or 22% of the total daily value for saturated fat. The saturated fat in the walnuts is only 10% of the total daily value for saturated fat.

  • Nutrition Lesson: Choose low-fat cheese as a snack. Regular cheese is one of the most common sources of saturated fat in the diet (3)

 

  1. Serving Sizes Are More Realistic.

Amounts listed on food labels now reflect the quantity of food that today’s consumers are eating. Serving sizes were originally developed in 1993. The amounts that people eat of certain foods has changed since then. It is important to note that the serving size on a food package is not a recommendation of how much to eat. Rather, it demonstrates how portions have gotten larger with time.

The FDA knows that certain smaller pack sizes of foods are usually eaten in one sitting. Many packages of chips, ice cream, and soda, now show both calories per serving and calories per package.

snack size servings

Figure 4 https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/food-serving-sizes-get-reality-check

Below is a bag of chips that shows both numbers. Although it appears to be a “snack size,” since it is only 2oz, it has two servings per bag. The entire bag is 270 calories which may be more than what you want to consume for a snack.

 

Ritz crackers

Figure 5 https://www.cvs.com/shop/ritz-cheese-crispers-cheddar-crackers-2-oz-prodid-321743
  • Nutrition Lesson: One package of food may contain more than one serving. Be aware of the serving sizes of packaged food items to stay on track with your nutrition goals.

 

  1. The Required Vitamins and Minerals on the Label Have Changed.

The original label listed the vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron content of food. The new label lists the vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium content in food. Why were vitamin D and potassium added, and vitamin A and C dropped?

The original version of the nutrition facts label is from the 1990s. During that time, many American diets were deficient in vitamin A and vitamin C. This is no longer the case. Currently, many American diets are deficient in vitamin D and potassium. Low levels of vitamin D can lead to poor bone health. Low levels of potassium can lead to high blood pressure. Thus, the FDA changed the label to reflect these changes in the population.

  • Nutrition lesson: Choose foods with higher amounts of vitamin D, potassium, calcium, and iron. This can reduce your risk of chronic diseases (5).

 

  1. The Actual Amounts of Vitamins and Minerals in a Serving Size are Now Listed.

The label now shows the actual amount of the vitamin or mineral in micrograms (mcg) or milligrams (mg). The percent (%) Daily Value (DV) is also shown. The DV of a nutrient tells us the recommended amount to consume daily or not to exceed. The %DV tells us how much of a nutrient in a food serving contributes to one’s daily goals. Having the actual amount of the vitamin or mineral makes it easier to keep track of your nutrient goals.

Soy milk

Figure 6 https://www.pinterest.com/cspinutrition/

The updated recommended DV for calcium is now 1300mg per day (the original DV was 1000mg per day) (5). Yet, it is not recommended to consume more than 500mg of calcium at a time. The body cannot absorb more than this amount of calcium at once. Thus, it is helpful to see the number of mg of calcium in the food you are consuming. This nutrition facts label from a container of soy milk shows that one cup contains 300mg of calcium or 25% DV. A DV% greater than 20% also tells us this drink is an excellent source of calcium. You could drink 3 cups of soy milk throughout the day and have 900mg towards your goal of 1300mg per day.

  • Nutrition Lesson: 5% DV or less of a nutrient per serving is considered 20% DV or more of a nutrient per serving is considered high.

  1. The New Label Shows the Amount of Added Sugar in a Serving Size.

 

This number of grams of added sugar identifies foods that had sugar added during processing. Added sugar adds calories or energy, but not vitamins or minerals. Foods that naturally contain sugar, like fruit or milk, also contain important nutrients. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, and fiber (for fruits). That is why the DV for added sugars is 50g per day based on a 2,000-calorie diet (6), but there is no DV for total sugar. Eating a lot of foods with added sugar makes it hard to meet your nutrient needs and calorie goals.

The picture below shows a sports drink with a large amount of added sugar. There are 29g of added sugar per bottle. If you play sports or exercise for 90 minutes or more at a time, drinking a sports drink may help you with endurance. Your body converts the added sugar in the drink to energy it needs to perform the activity. If you are less active and you drink a lot of sports drinks instead of water, your body could store this extra energy as fat.

 

Gatorade

Figure 7 Peapod.com
  • Nutrition Lesson: Drink water for hydration. Save the sports drinks for exercise or competitions that last longer than 90 minutes.

 

Summary

You can use the new food label to make more informed and better food choices. For more information on the other components of the food label, visit this site. FDA Interactive Nutrition Facts Label. It has an interactive tool that teaches about all the sections on the food label.

In general, choose foods with higher amounts of fiber, vitamin D, calcium, iron, and potassium. Limit foods that are higher in saturated fat, sodium, and added sugars. Choosing healthier foods can reduce your risk of many chronic diseases.

Have questions on how to read food labels to meet your nutrition needs? Leave a comment or reach out on the contact page!

 

References

  1. Ellis, R. (n.d.). The Basics of the Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.eatright.org/food/nutrition/nutrition-facts-and-food-labels/the-basics-of-the-nutrition-facts-label
  2. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2020, June 29). The New Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/food/nutrition-education-resources-materials/new-nutrition-facts-label
  3. Levin, S. (2020, June 23). 5 Top Sources of Heartbreaking Saturated Fat. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.pcrm.org/news/blog/5-top-sources-heartbreaking-saturated-fat
  4. Office of the Commissioner. (2016, July 07). Food Serving Sizes Get a Reality Check. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/food-serving-sizes-get-reality-check
  5. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2021, January 04). Changes to the Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/food/food-labeling-nutrition/changes-nutrition-facts-label
  6. Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition. (2020, March 11). Added Sugars on the New Nutrition Facts Label. Retrieved January 17, 2021, from https://www.fda.gov/food/new-nutrition-facts-label/added-sugars-new-nutrition-facts-label

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How to Spot a Fad Diet

how to spot a fad diet

With a new year fast approaching it may be tempting to make a weight loss plan based on a fad diet that you read about or heard about from a friend. There are plenty to choose from! Diets including keto, paleo, the Zone, Atkins, the Dubrow diet, the Anti-Inflammatory diet, and many more are commonly talked about in our culture.

The International Food Information Council (IFIC), conducts a yearly study on consumer beliefs and behaviors about nutrition. This year, they reported an increased number of people (43% in 2020, vs. 38 % in 2019), who are following a specific diet or eating plan. The report clarifies that while some of these eating plans have evidence-based information that they work long-term, many of these plans fall into the category of fad diets. You can view the report here.

What are the Most Popular Diets of 2020?

According to the report, the most popular diets or food consumption patterns of those surveyed in 2020 are listed below. (Note: all four of these diets fall into the category of fad diets).

  1. Intermittent Fasting (10%)
  2. Clean Eating (9%)
  3. Ketogenic or High Fat (8%)
  4. Low Carb (7%)

The survey also reported the most popular reasons for following a fad diet or new food consumption pattern. They are listed below:

  • Losing weight (47%)
  • Feeling better and having more energy (40%)
  • Improving physical appearance (39%)
  • Protecting long-term health and preventing future health concerns (37%)
  • Preventing weight gain (36%)

 

How Can You Spot A Fad Diet?

How can you tell if you a dietary pattern is a fad diet? A fad diet is a diet that is popular for a certain amount of time but is not based on standard nutrition guidelines. Fad diets gain often gain popularity due to celebrity testimonials in books, magazines, television, and social media. Some common characteristics found in fad diets are [1]:

  1. Certain foods or food groups are eliminated
  2. Some foods or food groups are eaten excessively (i.e. the grapefruit diet or the cabbage soup diet)
  3. Strict rules control the timing of eating
  4. Rapid weight loss is common
  5. Exercise is not emphasized

 

Why do Fad Diets Stop Working?

Often, fad diets are not sustainable in the long-term for several reasons:

  • Eating a limited number of foods can become boring or repetitive
  • Severely limiting food choice can omit many nutrients our body needs to function properly
  • Strict rules that control the timing of eating can be disruptive to family meals and social gatherings
  • Restricting eating for long periods of time can lead to excessive hunger and or binge eating

 

What is the Difference Between a Fad Diet and a Lifestyle Diet?

A lifestyle diet is one that incorporates a person’s unique food preferences, lifestyle, health history and goals.

Some examples of lifestyle diets that have shown to be effective are [1]:

  • The DASH diet
  • The Mediterranean diet
  • The Mayo Clinic diet
  • Weight Watchers

 

What do Lifestyle Diets Involve?

Unlike fad diets, lifestyle diets include:

  • An emphasis on making permanent behavioral changes regarding food
  • Flexibility in food choices
  • A balanced approach that accounts for your unique health conditions
  • An emphasis on high-quality foods that provide essential nutrients our body needs
  • A plan that incorporates physical activity

Losing weight following certain eating patterns is not a one-size-fits-all approach. If you feel motivated to try a certain diet or eating plan check with your physician or registered dietitian (RD or RDN) before you start.

 

How is Working with a Registered Dietitian Different?

A registered dietitian becomes your partner in health and wellness to help you do the following:

  • Account for your food preferences in a personalized plan for eating
  • Discover behavioral modification techniques that help you deal with obstacles and barriers to reaching your health goals
  • Ensure that you have a balanced eating approach that provides your body with all the nutrients it needs to function properly
  • Monitor your plan and adjust if needed to reach your goals
  • Work with your other health care providers to tailor your plan to any health conditions you may have

 

 

Weight Management Techniques that Actually Work:

  • Aiming for a healthy and sustainable rate of weight loss of about 1-2 pounds per week
  • Self-monitoring meals with a food diary
  • Incorporating regular physical activity
  • Revising health goals when necessary
  • Being accountable (A recent study from Drexel University emphasizes the importance of working with someone to help you be accountable for your health goals)

 

As a registered dietitian, I frequently have clients, friends, and family come to me asking about different dietary trends and whether they should follow them.  As with many things, the key comes down to the motivation behind wanting to change dietary habits and whether you are looking to follow something because everyone else is talking about it or because you are making an informed decision that eating this way will help to alleviate persistent problems you are experiencing.

It is helpful to see if you can categorize a diet as a fad diet or a lifestyle diet. A fad diet is often a diet that restricts food intake in some way or is only meant to be followed for a short period of time for fast results. A lifestyle diet often does not restrict food intake drastically and therefore is more realistic for someone to follow for a lifetime.

 

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that honestly, most people are never going to have to follow a specific diet to have a healthy, nutritious food intake. If you like certain aspects of a diet or enjoy making paleo or keto recipes sometimes, then great! Then you can incorporate bits and pieces and create a unique dietary style that is all your own. Changing dietary habits should always be more about what to include most often in our diet and which foods to have less often or in smaller portions for our own health and wellness goals.

Have questions about how to reach your health and fitness goals? Aren’t sure how to start making dietary changes? Reach out to Nikky via e-mail or leave a comment on the contact page!

 

References:

  1. Wolfram, R. (2018, March 18). Staying Away from Fad Diets. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://www.eatright.org/health/weight-loss/fad-diets/staying-away-from-fad-diets
  2. Mayo Clinic. (2020, June 06). Weight loss: Choosing a diet that’s right for you. Retrieved December 21, 2020, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/weight-loss/in-depth/weight-loss/art-20048466

 

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Stress Less and Enjoy Food More this Holiday Season!

enjoy food more

Many people have positive associations with food around the holidays: savory stuffing at Thanksgiving, homemade Christmas cookies, or delicious hot chocolate, to name a few. However, many people also experience anxiety related to holiday foods or meals. This anxiety can stem from fears of overeating, eating with a large group, or judgment from family members regarding food choices and portions. This holiday season, I want you to stress less and enjoy food more. To make this happen, read on for my top tips to manage food-related anxiety and find one or two that speak to you!

 

If you… worry about overeating

Try:

  • Remembering that one meal that is larger than normal or has more starches or fat than normal is not going to impact your overall health.
  • Eat a small meal or snack 1-2 hours before the main meal to avoid feeling famished when you sit down to eat; being extra hungry can cause us to make choices we might not otherwise make!
  • Slow down when eating and put your fork down between bites. This will help you to better recognize when you are full and may want to stop eating to avoid feeling overstuffed.
  • Fill at least half your plate with nutrient-dense foods (like roasted Brussels sprouts, baked sweet potatoes, or cooked butternut squash).
  • Wait 10 minutes after finishing your first plate to decide if you want more or would rather wait until later to eat again.

 

If you… worry about eating with a large group

Try:

  • Doing a relaxing activity before the meal, such as journaling, stretching, or listening to calm music (try this playlist as an example).
  • Reach out to a close friend or family member who will be attending the meal and lean on them for support as needed.
  • Take deep breaths at the table to lower your heart rate and slow your mind.
  • Excuse yourself from the table to take a break, if necessary, and come back when you are ready.
  • Remember that all food fits, and that it’s okay to choose anything on the table that you want to eat. Holidays are special occasions!

 

If you… often receive scrutiny or pressure from family members regarding food choices and portions

Try:

  • Setting boundaries. Let these family members know that you don’t feel comfortable with their comments and would prefer that they don’t evaluate your choices, especially around the holidays, when togetherness and enjoying time with family should be the top priorities.
  • Remember that people who tend to judge the behaviors of others often feel dissatisfied with their own behavior or have other personal issues that are not being addressed in a healthy way.
  • Remind yourself that you know what is best for your body. It could be helpful to write down this affirmation (and others you find helpful, too) ahead of time.
  • Plan to sit away from this family member and have other topics in mind if need be to redirect the conversation.
  • If this family member contributed to making the meal, thank them for the food and offer to take home leftovers rather than eating past your own comfort level to please them.

 

If any of these situations speaks to you, try some of these tips this holiday season to enjoy food more and stress less! Focus on making positive memories, enjoying your favorite foods, and banning any feelings of guilt over food choices. If you still feel anxious about food choices this holiday season, send Nikky a message and she will be happy to offer additional support!

 

Happy Holidays!

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Identifying Disordered Eating Patterns

disordered eating patterns

While specific criteria can identify a full-fledged eating disorder, disordered eating patterns may be more difficult to spot and understand. Disordered eating is defined as “a wide range of irregular eating behaviors that do not warrant a diagnosis of a specific eating disorder.” This broad definition does not speak to what these behaviors might be or how they could impact health. To spread some awareness on this issue, I wanted to highlight the most common disordered eating patterns, common side effects, and what actions to take to seek help if needed.

 

Common Disordered Eating Patterns

  • History of dieting or weight yo-yoing
  • Viewing foods as either “good” or “bad”
  • Engaging in rituals with food or exercise (i.e. not eating after 6 pm no matter what, exercising more in response to eating more)
  • Frequently feeling guilty or ashamed about certain food choices or amounts eaten
  • Occupation with food, exercise, and/or body image that negatively impacts quality of life
  • Feeling a loss of control around eating behaviors and food choices
  • Experiencing anxiety in social situations involving food

 

When a client presents with one or more of the patterns above, a red flag immediately goes up. These behaviors tell me that a client doesn’t have an entirely healthy relationship with food. The priority needs to be raising awareness of and addressing these behaviors before anything else, regardless of why a client may have come to see me. In fact, many clients I have worked with have come to me to improve sports performance or to change body composition and through conversation, disordered eating tendencies have been discovered for the first time. For any health professional not aware of these warning signs, they may not see the red flag and simply address the clients concerns about weight loss or performance without addressing the underlying disordered relationship with food, which in the end can frequently cause more harm.

 

Effects of Disordered Eating Patterns

Common side effects of long-term disordered eating patterns can include:

  • Decreased metabolism
  • Frequent gastrointestinal issues (such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, or nausea)
  • Increased rates of depression, anxiety, or social isolation
  • Decreased bone strength and increased risk of fractures
  • Significantly high or low blood pressure or heart rate
  • Electrolyte disturbances or other nutrient imbalances
  • Development of a clinically significant eating disorder

 

What Can You Do If You Suspect That You or A Loved One May Be Experiencing Disordered Eating?

The most important thing to do is reach out for help or additional resources as soon as possible. Both disordered eating and eating disorders have higher rates of recovery when these issues are addressed early. It’s important to find a trusted professional or team of professionals to help guide you or your loved one. Health professionals that can help include registered dietitians, counselors or therapists, psychiatrists, primary care doctors, and social workers. Please note that it’s important to seek out professionals that have experience working in the field of eating disorders or disordered eating in particular. Not all dietitians will be able to help with these issues, just like not all doctors are specialized in cardiology or orthopedics.

If you need help finding resources in your area, please click on the links below to find professionals in your area or reach out to me for help and recommendations:

 

If you would like to read more about this topic, please visit the links below for online resources or additional written materials:

 

 

References

https://www.eatright.org/health/diseases-and-conditions/eating-disorders/what-is-disordered-eating#:~:text=Symptoms%20of%20Disordered%20Eating&text=Rigid%20rituals%20and%20routines%20surrounding,food%2C%20including%20compulsive%20eating%20habits

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The Importance of Hydration

water, hydration

Proper hydration is important year round, but it can become particularly critical during the summer months. July and August are usually the hottest months of the year in the United States, which is also usually the time that people are engaging in more outdoor activities and athletes begin ramping up training for fall sports. Unfortunately, this time of year is also a prime time for a potentially serious condition to occur: dehydration.

How does dehydration occur?

Dehydration can occur by losing too much fluid (usually through sweating) or by not drinking enough fluid. You may recall from school that the human body is made up of approximately 70% water, so this fact alone illustrates how important proper hydration is for us!

The body has mechanisms in place to urge us to drink fluids, most notably the feeling of thirst. This is the most obvious sign that our body is running low on water; however, by the time you feel thirsty, you are actually already experiencing mild dehydration.

How can you tell if you are dehydrated?

There are many other symptoms that can signal dehydration. Some examples, according to Medline Plus, include the following:

  • Mild dehydration: Thirst; dry mouth; decreased urination; yellow urine
  • Moderate dehydration: Dry, cool skin; headache; darker yellow urine; muscle cramps
  • Severe dehydration: Irritability or confusion; dizziness; rapid heartbeat and/or rapid breathing; shock (decreased blood flow to important organs); unconsciousness.

Keeping an eye out for these signs are important for everyone, but they are particularly critical for two groups: older adults and athletes.

Who is most at risk for dehydration?

Older adults have a decreased response to thirst and are more likely to be on a diuretic. These factors make it important for this population to drink fluids constantly throughout the day, even when they may not feel thirsty. This is especially important during prolonged exposure to heat during activity, such as walking, gardening, mowing the lawn, etc. These activities may not always seem strenuous, but they can cause the body to sweat profusely. During activities that are of a more vigorous intensity (such as jogging/running, hiking, biking, etc.) the sweating effect is more pronounced and proper hydration more critical.

Athletes exercising in the heat can lose an average of 2.0 liters of water through sweat per hour (which is equal to a large bottle of soda!). Not replacing the lost water can cause serious fluid imbalances and dangerous rises in core temperatures. Unfortunately, student athletes are often the victims of poor monitoring of hydration status. According to sports nutrition experts William McCardle and Frank and Victor Katch, “Hyperthermia (dangerously high body temperatures) has occurred more than 100 times over the past 30 years among football players who died from excessive heat stress during practice or competition.” These situations are completely preventable by making sure to either have water or an electrolyte replacement beverage at all times during outdoor activity in the heat.

What can you do if you suspect dehydration?

If dehydration does occur for any reason, there are several steps that can be taken, depending on the severity of the condition:

  • Sip water or suck on ice cubes (or an electrolyte sports drink)
  • If heat exhaustion is also a problem, lie down somewhere cool and focus on breathing slowly
  • For severe situations, go to a hospital immediately

Notice that the first suggestion is to sip water. While replenishing fluids is a critical step to treating dehydration, it is possible to drink too much water at one time, which isn’t healthy either. Rehydrate slowly if you become dehydrated!

How much fluid should you be drinking?

A good rule of thumb is 2 cups of water 20 minutes before being active in the heat. For athletes or anyone engaging in vigorous exercise, you can weigh yourself before and after activity takes place to gauge how much fluid you need to take in to replace losses. The amount of weight lost in pounds should be replaced at least 100% to account for fluid loss in sweat and urine. For example: If 2 lbs., or 32 oz., is lost during an hour of activity, 32 oz. (or 4 cups) of water or a sports drink should be ingested over the next hour. In terms of choosing between water and a sports drink, always choose the sports drink if activity is lasting longer than an hour. Below an hour, water is usually sufficient.

So whenever you leave the house this summer, always bring a water bottle with you! And remember to always drink more when exercising or being active in the heat. Dehydration is 100% preventable, as long as you provide your body with the fluids it needs every day.

 

References

 

McArdle W, Katch FI, Katch VL (2013). Exercise, Thermoregulation, Fluid Balance, and Rehydration (4th ed.). Sports and Exercise Nutrition (pg. 319-335). Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins.

Popkin B, D’Anci KE, Rosenberg IH (2010). Water, Hydration, and Health. Nutrition Review; 68 (8): 439-458.

U.S. National Library of Medicine (2013). Dehydration. Retrieved from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000982.htm

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