October 11, 2014

Five Reasons to Avoid Halloween Candy This Year

Go to Halloween parties, wear a costume, drink cider, bob for apples and carve pumpkins but I strongly suggest avoiding eating candy this year.  Halloween treats are big business; Americans spend over 2 billion dollars each year on candy for this holiday specifically with Reese’s Peanut Butter cups being the most popular choice. Here’s why you should consider cutting way back on the candy you eat October 31st:

1.  It makes you feel terrible.

When you eat concentrated sweets like sugar or corn syrup, your blood sugar spikes up causing a cascade of hormones which will tell your body to store this energy as fat.  Once these hormones pump out at an increased level, your blood sugar comes crashing down again leaving you irritable and hungry for more.  Get off the roller coaster by avoiding concentrated sugar and candy, especially when you're trying to enjoy your holiday.

2Candy is filthy.  

There is an assumed natural and unavoidable level of defects in food that reportedly pose no health threat to humans including: maggots, insect fragments, mold, rodent hair, and insect/mammalian feces.  The USDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition has rules for how much is allowed into candy as well as other food products.  That’s a Halloween trick you weren’t expecting. 

3.  Sugar is addictive.  

With studies this year pouring out about how bad sugar is for your health, you’ve probably heard that you should avoid it.  Keep in mind that sugar may be an addictive substance, with some researchers comparing it to alcohol, nicotine and even cocaine because of the way it stimulates our brains.  A lot of my patients find stepping away from sugar almost impossible and aren’t surprised to learn that people get addicted to it. For some, an all-or-nothing approach is best and this can be one tactic to survive a candy-laden holiday.

4.  Halloween candy is a low quality food. 
If you are concerned about the quality of your food including topics such as organic, genetically modified ingredients, food colors and preservatives then you should know about what’s in the candy we consume. Corn syrup is a common first ingredient in most candies.  You’ll often find hydrogenated oils (aka: trans fats), other low quality oils such as palm or vegetable oils, and at the end, a list of food coloring: Red 40, Yellow 5, Yellow 6, Blue 1.  FYI corn, soy and oils are all on the most GMO food products list. 

 5.  The holidays are coming.

The ‘holiday’ season is generally specified as mid-November until mid-January but I argue that it really starts in late October with all the Halloween parties and increased candy consumption. Studies are mixed, but research has shown that people do gain weight during the holidays and folks who are overweight or obese are at higher risk for weight gain during that time period. Do yourself a favor and enjoy a healthy holiday! 

September 27, 2014

Fruits and Veggies Make You Happy!

An article came out last week through Science Daily about mental well-being and its association with fruit and veggie intake.  The University of Warwick found:

"New research focused on mental wellbeing found that high and low mental wellbeing were consistently associated with an individual's fruit and vegetable consumption. 33.5% of respondents with high mental wellbeing ate five or more portions of fruit and vegetables a day, compared with only 6.8% who ate less than one portion."

Or basically: if you eat 5+ daily fruits/veggies per day, you will have better mental well-being that those who do not.

There is a campaign led by the Produce for Better Health Foundation called Fruits & Veggies More Matters to help Americans improve their health by eating more produce. They have a helpful site full of recent nutrition news/research, seasonal menus, kids activities, and healthy recipes and ideas on how to incorporate more fresh produce.

Five servings isn't actually a lot. For example, you could have a cup of berries with breakfast and an apple for an afternoon snack, then have some carrots and hummus when you get home, and a side salad with tomatoes and mushrooms for dinner and you're there! Note I didn't list potatoes, corn or fruit juice as veggie servings - they technically are but these foods are what make up the majority of American's "veggie" intake and I think we can do better.

If you are able to consume 7+ servings of fruits and veggies per day, you can actually live longer, so says recent research.  Why not add in a couple more servings in the name of longevity? Whether you're increasing fresh produce for the sake of fiber, heart health, weight management, feeling vibrant, longevity or well-being, you can't go wrong with adding more to your diet. Have fun with it!
Study: University of Warwick. "Fruit and vegetable consumption could be as good for your mental as your physical health." ScienceDaily, 23 September 2014. 

September 7, 2014

Summertime Chia Seed Pudding

Before the weather turns cool again, I wanted to pass along a final summer recipe favorite: Chia Pudding!  Chia continues as a hot item in the health-world.  These little seeds absorb water and expand so if you enjoy the consistency of tapioca or rice pudding, this is a great snack for you. People who have a problem with a gelatinous consistency might find chia pudding off-putting, so you'll have to enjoy them crunchy instead (ie, not in any type of liquid).  High in protein, fiber and omega-3 fatty acids, chia makes a great breakfast or afternoon pick up. 

People often ask me for a simple chia-seed pudding recipe.  Here's my personal favorite - enjoy these last lovely days of summer! 

  • 2 Tablespoons chia seeds
  • ¾ cup unsweetened almond milk (plain or vanilla)
  • 1 Tablespoon sliced or slivered almonds
  • 1 Tablespoon dried, unsweetened coconut flakes
  • ¼ cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ¼ teaspoon cinnamon or cardamom
  • ½ teaspoon agave, honey or maple syrup (or to taste)

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl or jar with a spoon or whisk.  Let sit refrigerated or at room temperature for 20-30 minutes, until desired texture is achieved and mixture has thickened.  If chia pudding is too thick, add more almond milk one teaspoon at a time. 

*Original recipe by Ginger Hultin MS RD LDN 7/1/14