Mother’s Diet Critical

baby with veggiesAs I have mentioned in previous newsletters there has been a recent mini explosion of new science telling us that what an expectant mother eats can have profound effects on her baby’s lifelong health. This month brought us a bit more.  The journal Obstetrics and Gynecology reported that women who ate a typical “Western Diet”, characterized as high in red meat, pizza, potatoes and low in fruit were 1.9 times more likely to give birth to a child with cleft lip or cleft palate vs. those consuming a “Prudent” diet including more fish, garlic, nuts and veggies.

A second study (British Journal of Nutrition) conducted in laboratory rats found that rats fed chow laced with added junk food – rich in fat, sugar and sweet gave birth to pups that both favored and overate the same type of junk foods.  This was in contrast to the pups from rats on just the regular chow.  The relevant implication is that eating too much junk food during pregnancy may adversely affect childhood taste preferences along with appetite control.

And finally what I think is a profoundly important study in regards to the rapidly advancing childhood obesity crisis – scientists reported in the August issue of Diabetes Care that expectant mothers with abnormally high blood sugar, known as gestational diabetes, increased the chances of her child becoming obese by the ages of 5-7 by 89%.  Unfortunately, driven by an increase in maternal overweight and obesity, the incidence of gestational diabetes has skyrocketed over the past decade, rising by about 12% per year.  There was great news from the study however, in that the risk was completely negated if the diabetic mothers kept their blood sugars normal.  Diet, physical activity and if needed, shots of insulin are the interventions used to control abnormal blood sugar in expectant moms.

It’s reports like this that compelled me to create my new Healthy Pregnancy Grocery List.  Pregnant women are generally uniquely motivated to make healthy lifestyle changes and it gives me great pleasure to make it a bit easier for them to do so!

 

Healthy Eating Slashes the Risk of Diabetes

Want to slash your risk of type 2 diabetes? Look no further than the foods that cross your lips. In a new analysis that monitored the diets and health of thousands of women for up to 28 years, the data was clear. Consuming an overall healthy diet plays a pivotal role in diabetes protection. Relative to their fellow females consuming unhealthy diets, the healthy eaters in this study experienced the following risk reduction for type 2 diabetes:

  • Hispanic women – 55%
  • White women – 48%
  • Asian women – 42%
  • Black women – 32%salmon dinner
The diet of the “healthy” eaters was characterized as higher in whole grains, polyunsaturated (healthy) fats, coffee, and nuts, while being lower in saturated and trans fats (unhealthy fats), sugary beverages, and red and processed meats. Given that type 2 diabetes is currently epidemic and on course to devastate our collective health and bankrupt our economy, this is welcome news indeed! Click here to get the complete prescription for diabetes prevention. (Harvard School of Public Health, news release. Jan.15, 2015)

Amazing Avocados– A Food to Revere

 

If you are looking for a delicious and proven means to lower your bad cholesterol levels-eat more avocados! In a new clinical trial that compared three different diets (low-fat with no avocado, moderate fat with no avocado, and moderate fat with one avocado a day) those consuming the moderate fat avocado diet hands down came out on top for heart health. Relative to the other two diets, the avocado eaters lowered their bad cholesterol levels the most (about twice as much as the low-fat diet!), in addition to experiencing several other cardiovascular benefits. These favorable changes included lower triglyceride levels and lower small dense LDL’s (the “deadly” cholesterol), among several others.

I consider avocados one of the most underutilized of all superfoods. This unsung hero is simply phenomenal in terms of its nutritional firepower (vitamins, minerals, fiber, phytochemicals, healthy fats, etc.) and there is loads of good data to support its benefits for all-over health. Whether your goals are heart health, brain health, metabolic health, or slowing the aging process, avocados are a delectable gift straight from Mother Nature’s side-effect free apothecary. I aim to include this green goddess in my diet each day. Here are the other foods I strive to eat daily. (Journal of the American Heart Association, January 2015 DOI: 10.1161/JAHA.114.001355)

5 Major Nutritional No-No’s You Never Want to Make

  1. Taking in any amount of trans fats. Science knows no safe level of intake for this truly “toxic” form of fat. Strictly avoid all processed foods that list “partially hydrogenated oil” in their ingredients list.bad fats
  2. Eating “ultrapalatable” foods with any regularity. Foods high in fat and/or sugar and salt can directly stimulate the brain’s pleasure centers predisposing to food addiction and chronic loss of appetite control. The worst offenders are traditional fast foods, along with ice cream, cookies, pastries, cake, donuts, and other sweets/desserts.
  3. Using fat-free salad dressings. Most are excessive in sugar, but even worse, because they contain no fat, you will not absorb any of the life-giving, disease-busting family of carotenoid nutrients that salad veggies like lettuce greens, carrots, and tomatoes are famous for. Make your own extra virgin olive oil vinaigrettes for best results.
  4. Eating processed red meats. On the cancer front, science knows no safe level of intake for processed red meats. Processed red meats include bacon, sausage, bologna, ham, pastrami, etc. Processed red meats are a “convincing” cause of colorectal cancer.
  5. Taking in a carbohydrate food that does not contain fiber. Fiber-less carb foods—typically the “Great White Hazards” like white rice, white potatoes, white flour products, and sugar/sweets—are a recipe for weight gain, appetite stimulation, and poor cardiometabolic. Avoid these notorious carbs by living by the Nutrition Golden Rule “Never Eat a Carb Food That Does Not Contain Fiber.”

A Little Movement Can Save Your Life

treadmillsPhysical activity really is the “universal life preserver.” That is the conclusion from a powerful new study that followed the health and physical activity levels of 334,000 men and women over a 12-year period. But first some bad news. According to this analysis, being sedentary is deadly-in fact twice as deadly as being obese. As for the good news, the study also found that as little as 20 minutes of brisk walking daily can reduce a person’s risk for an untimely death up to 30 percent! According to a noted expert in exercise physiology who commented on this eye-opening new study, the beneficial adaptations that the body makes in response to a little movement is nothing short of “astounding.” And I agree-if you can get such a sensational return by dedicating just 1.4 percent of your day to moving your body, then that really is astounding.

 For the full lowdown on all the benefits that the “magic pill” exercise provides, click here. Warning, this may make you want to get up and move now! (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2014)

BPA and Blood Pressure

The alarm bells for exposure to BPA have been getting louder over that past few years, and higher blood pressure may indeed be another cause for concern. BPA is a compound found in some plastics as well as the liners used for most canned foods and beverages. Although a definitive verdict on BPA exposure and health is still out, past studies have linked this “endocrine disrupter” to many maladies including infertility, obesity, diabetes, early puberty, and some cancers. In a clinical trial recently published, researchers were interested in testing the effects of a single typical exposure to BPA on blood pressure. For the study they had adult study subjects consume soymilk from a can and soymilk from a glass bottle on separate occasions three different times. Relative to consuming the soymilk from the bottle, consuming the soymilk from the can resulted in a 1,600 percent increase in urine levels of BPA, along with a 5-point increase in blood pressure two hours later. The researchers noted that a 5-point increase in blood pressure is “clinically significant” and enough to boost cardiovascular risk in those who already have heart disease or high blood pressure. Thankfully, there are simple steps you can take to lower your exposure to this dubious compound. (Hypertension, 2014; DOI 10.1161/HYPERTENSIONAHA.114.04261) Click here to see how.

 

4 Foods to Eat More of This Year

  1. Beans – Beans are the most underutilized economic superfood. This humble beans02nutritional powerhouse of a food group is worthy on many fronts particularly for appetite control, healthy metabolism, cardiovascular health, and brain health. Strive to include a serving in any form and in any variety each day.

  2. Dark Leafy Greens –   Dark leafy greens are unequivocally the nutrient Goliath – packing in more nutrition per unit calorie than any other food. When it comes to documented health benefits from eating produce, dark leafy greens always rise to the top. Strive to eat some form of dark leafy greens daily. If you don’t, you are missing out on one of the quickest and easiest ways to guard your health!

  3. Physically Intact Whole Grains – This wholesome group of good carbs is truly on a healthy roll with a rock-solid scientific reputation for protecting against type 2 diabetes, improving heart health, guarding metabolic function, and lowering the risk of death. Need I say more! For best results aim for two or more servings daily and stick to unadulterated – unprocessed true whole grains like brown rice, quinoa, oatmeal, barley, etc.

  4. Oily Fish – To cut right to the chase – if you do not consume some form of oily fish at least twice a week, it is nearly impossible for you to achieve optimal heart or brain health. Oily fish are the only food that can provide you with a good dose of the long chained, “essential” omega 3 fats, DHA and EPA. DHA and EPA are vital for heart and brain function. For added incentive, bear in mind that oily fish are also a great source of vitamin D, complete protein, selenium and magnesium. Wild salmon – canned, fresh or frozen is always my top pick for oily fish.

 

Wild Blueberries a Tasty Antidote to a High Fat Diet

blueberries (1)If like me, you indulged more on high fat goodies over the holidays, you will be pleased to know that wild blueberries appear to offer up a host of “damage control” benefits. In a lab study that sought to evaluate the effects of a high fat diet enhanced with wild berries over a three-month period, rats consuming the daily dose of berries benefited in several ways, relative to the rats fed a high fat diet without the berries. Two worthy of mention were significantly lower levels of inflammatory compounds in the bloodstream and lower blood pressure.

Blueberries, particularly wild blueberries, are notably high in a special class of blue/red plant pigments called anthocynanins. Due to their sensational antioxidant and anti-inflammatory prowess, anthocyanins are thought to be the “active ingredients” behind berries’ widely acclaimed health benefits. You can find frozen wild, organic blueberries at many grocery outlets, and I encourage you to eat them regularly. I buy mine from our local Costco. (PloS ONE, 2014;9(12)) Click here to see the list of the other foods highest in anthocyanins.

4 Weight Loss Strategies to Avoid

  1. Weight loss supplements – Published comprehensive, authoritative reviews on weight loss supplements have shown they are NOT EFFECTIVE. At a minimum you are wasting your money. At the worst you are exposing yourself to potential adverse side effects and in very rare cases, even death.
  2. Drastic dietary changes – Studies prove that only permanent, sensible changes in diet work for sustainable weight loss.
  3. Exercising without altering what you eat – Although exercise has glorious health benefits and can enhance the effects of dietary changes for trimming down, there is not a shred of evidence that exercise on its own leads to long term weight loss.
  4. Rapid weight loss – One of the well-documented and highly undesirable pitfalls of losing weight is loss of muscle mass. While even gradual and modest weight loss often leads to loss of some muscle, drastic and rapid weight loss is a virtual guarantee for significant muscle wasting – horrors! Aim for ½ to 2 pounds a week and be sure to eat your protein and engage in resistance exercise as you cut back on your calories to prevent loss of your precious lean body mass.

A Simple Step to Boost Weight Loss

Tis the season for weight loss
and if you want to succeed, simply stepping on the scale may be one of the most effective moves you could make. In a new study that followed the body weight of overweight study subjects who expressed a desire to lose weight, those who weighed themselves more often over the following year lost more weight. In contrast, study subjects who went more than a week without stepping on the scale actually gained weight. Based on this observational study, the researchers concluded “the more often you weigh yourself the more weight you lose.” The researchers noted that the average time participants could go between weighing without putting on weight was 5.8 days. Based on this study and previous studies, the lead researcher recommended daily weighing as the ideal for those trying to lose weight. (PloS ONE, 2014 9(11))

For those trying to keep lost weight off or to maintain a healthy weight, weighing regularly is also fundamental. In the National Weight Control Registry, which is the largest ongoing study of successful dieters, weighing regularly has been identified as one of the key practices of its triumphant study subjects. As someone that considers weight control an ESSENTIAL element of her job description, I can speak very personally about this no-brainer practice. Because the scale always tells the truth, I weigh myself religiously at least three times a week. If I see the scale budge upwards to any degree, I immediately tweak my diet to rein things back in. Although I have found that I have to tweak more often as I get older, I have no doubt that this practice has saved me. After all, we know that avoiding weight gain is profoundly less difficult than shedding it after the fact!