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Easy tips to change the way we eat

Two-thirds of Americans are overweight and obese. With this trend, diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure, gout, arthritis and sleep apnea have become commonplace with my patients.

While there are key steps that we can all take to be healthier – don’t use tobacco, limit or abstain from alcohol, make exercise a part of our daily routine – I want to focus on a few simple ways to change the way we eat.

I think Michael Pollan, author of The Omnivore’s Dilemma and other books on food, said it best: “Eat real food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

So how can you get started and make it permanent?

1. Eat real food
Foods that can sit on a shelf for years are usually loaded with salt, genetically modified ingredients, high-fructose corn syrup and artificial preservatives. This is not the food our body was meant to eat.  Instead ....

Gluten allergy: myth or fact?

Gluten is a hot topic these days, and is hitting the headlines again. Why? At the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology annual meeting, Dr. David Stukus (a pediatric allergist) set out to clarify frequent myths that he encounters in his practice.  So, why is he saying that gluten allergies do not exist?

Gluten is a protein found in foods processed from wheat and related grain products.  In celiac sprue (affecting up to 1% of adults), gluten intake leads to damage of the small intestine, impairing its ability to absorb nutrients.  I like to imagine that a healthy small intestine is like a shag carpet, and small intestine affected by active celiac sprue is more like a tile floor.  Celiac sprue is not a gluten allergy, but rather an autoimmune condition where the gluten is triggering an inflammatory response in the body.

Studies find that ...

Fall in love with pumpkin

The season’s clock has turned to autumn. The air is crisp, vibrant shades of red and orange color the trees, cozy sweaters appear from the back of the closet and pumpkin everything seems to have hit the store shelves.

From pumpkin spice lattes to pumpkin spice donuts, even pumpkin pie spice Pringles potato chips! It seems as though we have forgotten the important, all-star vegetable amongst this madness: pumpkin itself!

Pumpkin is a versatile vegetable brimming with nutrition that can be used in many different forms. Pumpkin provides a wide range of health benefits including helping keeping your vision sharp and waistline slim. Here are some of the health benefits of pumpkin:

  • Vitamin A to perk your peepers: Chock full of the antioxidant beta-carotene, the dark orange hue provides greater than 200% of the RDA for Vitamin A in a 1-cup serving. Eating foods high in Vitamin A helps protect your sight, especially night vision.
  • Cut cancer risk: Speaking of those important antioxidants, beta-carotene can help prevent certain cancers, particularly skin cancer. The deep orange carotenoids are also found in carrots, butternut squash, and sweet potatoes.
  • Fiber for weight control: Eating foods high in fiber can keep you full on fewer calories thereby eating less. With 3 grams of fiber and just 49 calories in a 1-cup serving, eating more pumpkin is a great way to assist in your weight loss efforts (not recommended in pie form, unfortunately).
  • Vitamin C to  ...

(Click 'read more' for an original recipe!)

Is the FODMAP diet right for you?

FODMAPs is an acronym, coined by two Australian researchers, that refers to Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols.  These are small chain sugars, fibers, and sugar alcohols that are poorly digested by humans, but are easily digested by the bacteria in your intestine and colon.  When the bacteria consume FODMAPs, they produce gas, which leads to symptoms of gas, bloating, abdominal discomfort, and changes in bowel movements.  The FODMAP diet is used to alleviate the impact these types of foods have on your gastrointestinal tract. 

A diet low in FODMAPs food was designed to help minimize symptoms in individuals that suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and functional bloating.  You should discuss your symptoms with your physician prior to starting this diet since other gastrointestinal related disorders need to be excluded first (i.e., celiac disease, thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and others). 

If a diet low in FODMAP is recommended for you ...

More tips for feeding picky eaters

In my last post, I shared a few tips about what to expect and how to help encourage your child to eat more. Here are some more tips to help your child eat more variety of foods, including more vegetables:

How can I get my child to eat more variety?

  • Offer a "nibble tray". At snack time, fill a muffin tin or ice cube tray with bite-sized portions of colorful, nutritious foods. Try cooked macaroni, cheese cubes, kidney beans, grape halves, broccoli florets, ready-to- eat cereal, and canned pineapple tidbits.
  • Let children cook. Your child is more likely to eat what he has helped to make.
  • Children can help wash vegetables, tear up lettuce, scrub potatoes, or stir batter.
  • Be playful. Call these finger foods playful names that a two-year-old can appreciate, such as: apple moons (thinly sliced), avocado boats (a quarter of an avocado), banana wheels, broccoli trees (steamed broccoli florets), carrot swords (cooked and thinly sliced), cheese building blocks, egg canoes (hard- boiled egg wedges), little O's (o-shaped cereal). "Olive or raspberry fingers" are much more appealing to be nibbled off their fingertips.
  • Serve new foods over and over again. A food not eaten at first may ...

Why dietary fiber reduces the risk of disease

Over the last couple of years, there has become more awareness surrounding the importance of dietary fiber and the prevention of disease. 

Why should I eat more fiber?

Dietary fiber can reduce the risk of certain diseases such as colon cancer, diverticular disease, and can also help lower cholesterol and improve symptoms from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).  Additionally, fiber can also be beneficial in helping to manage common bowel problems.

If you have been experiencing bowel or hemorrhoidal problems, fiber along with other dietary modifications can often help improve conditions such as constipation, diarrhea, incontinence, hemorrhoids or anal fissures.

How much fiber should I eat?

Current dietary guidelines suggest that....

Tips for reducing hot flashes for women with breast cancer

Hot flashes are the most common complaint from women going through menopause. And for women who are breast cancer patients, the problem is often more acute. Surgery, chemotherapy and estrogen blocking medications can bring on hot flashes or make them worse if you already have them. And for women who must discontinue hormone replacement therapy, the instant onset of hot flashes and night sweats can severely impact quality of life.

Fortunately, there are several strategies you can easily and safely employ to decrease the severity and frequency of hot flashes and night sweats. Everything I recommend here is non-estrogenic so while it is generally safe for breast cancer patients and survivors, you should always check with your oncologist before trying any new supplement.

First, a few notes on diet. I recently had a patient who stopped eating refined sugars for general health reasons, and her hot flashes nearly disappeared. Your mileage may vary on this one but there are clear health benefits from lowering sugar intake, so it may be worth a try. You might also try ...

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