You've probably heard it all before. Maybe the advice has even been so drilled into your head that it's simply become background noise: Eat your veggies. Choose whole grains. Banish the trans fats…. Et cetera, et cetera. Well, it may all be old news, but the age-old mantra is still true: "You are what you eat." So, here's a brief nutrition review, along with a couple of tips on how to begin making changes.
These are the basics of a healthy eating plan:
- Look for a rainbow of fruits and veggies. If you choose a variety of colors, you'll get a variety of nutrients – go for orange veggies and dark leafy greens, for example, along with dry beans and peas such as kidney beans, split peas, or lentils. And for the most benefits, choose whole fruits, not juice. Shoot for 5 to 6 servings each day.
- Got milk? Aim for 3 servings. A serving is 1 cup of milk or yogurt, 2 cups of cottage cheese, or 1½ ounces of cheese. If you're lactose intolerant, look for beverages that are free of milk products but are fortified with calcium. Make low-fat and nonfat choices most often.
- Eat the "whole" thing. Choose whole-grain breads, rice, cereals, crackers or pasta. Three ounces is a good daily goal.
- Be lean (not mean). Choose 5 ½ to 6 ounces of lean meats and poultry but mix up your protein choices. If you're a diehard carnivore, remember that protein is found in plants, too. Include fish, nuts, seeds, and beans in your meal plans.
- Go easy on the extras. The Nutrition Facts label is your friend! Look for foods low in saturated fats, salt (sodium), and added sugars. Nix the trans fats altogether.
Not many of us are great at keeping track of calories and serving sizes. Check out this nifty, new online calculator that does it for you: www.myfoodapedia. Type in the name of a food you want more information about. With one click of your mouse, you'll see what food group it falls into, how much a serving size is, and how many calories are in a serving. You can also compare it with another similar food. For example, if you're wondering how your cereals stack up with one another, you can quickly find out. You might be surprised to learn that homemade granola has three times the calories of Grape-Nuts.
Now, I'm the first to admit that making dietary changes isn't easy. Rather than trying to change everything at once, choose one change to start with. For example, try adding one more serving of veggies a day. Or, start eating breakfast if you aren't already. Or switch from snacks with empty calories (soda) to nutrient-rich snacks (an apple with peanut butter). Focus on how much better you feel and how your food choices can improve your overall health.
If you've made diet changes and are still troubled by weight gain, talk with our pharmacy staff. Perhaps a medication could be causing the problem. Your doctor may be able to change your prescription.
For more information, visit www.healthmart.com and click on “Health and Wellness.” In the Wellness Library, you'll find a wealth of information about nutrition – from a guide to organic foods to a look at senior nutrition.
Present naturally in more than 60 different plants, caffeine comes to us compliments of the coffee bean, kola nut, tea leaf, and cacao pod, among others.
Caffeine is widely recognized as the most popular mood-altering drug in the world.
For anyone who wakes up and smells the coffee (or tea), its benefits are obvious: an increased sense of alertness, well-being, and sociability. For some, however, this drug can have a down side, too: increased irritability or anxiety, rapid heartbeat, excessive urination, or disrupted sleep—especially when consumed late or throughout the day, or in large quantities.1 Caffeine may also slightly increase your blood pressure or contribute to acid reflux, where stomach contents back up into your esophagus.
Caffeine can cause physical dependence, meaning it leads to withdrawal symptoms within 12 to 24 hours of discontinuing its use. This can happen if you regularly consume as little as 100 mg of caffeine a day—what’s found in a 5-ounce cup of coffee. Symptoms can be severe enough to interfere with your day-to-day functioning and can last for 2 to 9 days.
What are the symptoms of withdrawal? You may have experienced them when you forgot to pack the ground coffee for that five-day backpacking trip or when you had to go “cold turkey” right before a medical procedure or test. Headaches, fatigue, irritability, anxiety, flu-like symptoms, lack of concentration, all in all—not a whole lot of fun.
Does this mean you should give up your beloved cup o’ Joe? It depends. Certainly if symptoms are causing you discomfort, it might be time to gradually cut back.
Perhaps the first step you should take is to become more familiar with the many sources of caffeine. It’s not only found in coffee and tea, but also in many sodas and foods containing chocolate, such as cake, ice cream, yogurt, candy, and pudding. Did you know that even decaffeinated or so-called “caffeine-free” beverages contain small amounts of caffeine? And, certain noncola drinks, such as some orange or cream sodas and lemon-lime drinks do, as well.
Here’s a sample of the caffeine content in a few common beverages and foods:
• Coffee: (5 oz): 60–150 mg
• Tea: (5 oz): 40–80 mg
• Caffeinated soft drink (12 oz): 22–71 mg
• Coffee ice cream (6 oz): 8–85 mg
• Espresso (1 oz): 30–50 mg
• Coffee yogurt (8 oz): 45 mg
• Dark chocolate (1.5 oz): 5–35 mg
Check labels. Other products also contain caffeine. These include weight loss products, which contain 75–350 mg of caffeine. Prescription medications, such as Darvon, Cafergot, and Fiorinal, and over-the-counter (OTC) medications, such as Midol, Nodoz, and Vivarin, also do. Before taking products such as these, discuss any medical conditions you have with your doctor. Bring your doctor or me a list of your medications—some can interact poorly with caffeine.
Pain relievers, such as Excedrin, contain 64–130 mg of caffeine in just two tablets. Caffeine can help your body absorb the medication faster and make it more effective. But when combined with other foods high in caffeine, medications such as these can cause rebound headaches. If this is a problem for you, don’t stop taking the medication without first talking with you’re doctor
Taking calcium—either through diet or supplements—is a little like making deposits into a bone bank account. If you keep a healthy balance of this mineral, your body is able to build and maintain bone, which is a living, ever-changing tissue. Not only does calcium keep bones and teeth healthy, it also helps with clotting blood, sending signals between nerves, and regulating heart rhythms.
But if you fail to make calcium “deposits,” your body starts to pull calcium out of your bones and “overdraws your account.” Worse than a painful overdraft fee, however, this calcium imbalance can cause porous, weakened bones. This condition is called osteoporosis. In the U.S., it affects 8 million women and 2 million men, resulting in 1.5 million fractures each year.
How much calcium do you need? It varies, depending on your age. Your preteen or teen needs more. Banking calcium at this stage is really like making an early investment in “retirement.”
The National Academy of Sciences recommends:
• 1,300 mg/day for children ages 9–18
• 1,000 mg/day for men and women ages 19–50
• 1,200 mg/day for men and women ages 50 or older
Some guidelines suggest 1,500 mg for postmenopausal women who don’t take estrogen. That’s because—due to a loss of estrogen at menopause—women start to have bone loss earlier than men.
If you take calcium supplements, it’s best to divide the dose. Take half in the morning and half at night. Let me know if you have questions about different types of calcium. I can also discuss any medications that might interfere with calcium absorption. And I can give you tips on how to handle any calcium side effects, such as constipation or indigestion. To limit side effects, be sure to take no more than 2,000 mg daily.
Foods rich in calcium include dairy products, dark leafy greens, dried beans, nuts, and calcium-fortified foods, which may include orange juice, cereal, and bread. Some recent studies suggest that food sources of calcium may be better than supplements. Last year, a study reported on in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that participants who got most of their calcium from diet had better bone density than those who got most it from supplements. It’s too soon to know why, but it might have to do with better absorption or other food compounds that enhance bone health.
What else can you do to prevent bone loss as you age? Try weight-bearing exercise, such as walking or running, and get enough vitamin D. This vitamin helps your body absorb calcium. To get enough of it, you can spend at least 15 minutes in the sun several times a week. You can also take supplements or get food sources of vitamin D—in salmon, tuna, or fortified milk, margarine, or cereal. Try to get 800 International Units (IU) daily, but no more than 2,000 IU, which can be toxic.
What’s one of the best—and cheapest—insurance policies you can buy? Well, some experts consider it the bottle of multivitamins that sits on your kitchen table.
Vitamins are substances that your body needs to grow and function the right way, ones your body can’t produce by itself. Not everyone agrees a multivitamin is necessary for all people. After all, if your diet is well balanced, you can get many of the vitamins you need from food.
But a multivitamin may still be smart, no matter how much organic produce or whole grains you eat. Growing evidence indicates that several vitamins can help ward off serious diseases, such as cancer, osteoporosis, and heart disease. Plus, it is really hard to get the right amounts of some vitamins through diet. For example, you’d need to eat eight servings of fruits or four to six servings of vegetables daily to get the required amount of folic acid. This is an essential nutrient that’s been shown to lower the risk of birth defects and colon cancer.
A multivitamin is even more important in cases like these:
• You are pregnant or trying to become pregnant.
• You’re aging or have another condition making it harder to absorb nutrients.
• You have an illness that is depleting your body’s nutrients.
• You’re a strict vegetarian.
• You are on a restricted diet.
I can guide you in selecting a multivitamin that’s right for you. First, I’d check to see if you have any allergies to vitamins and whether a multivitamin might interact poorly with any of your medications.
Here are a couple of general guidelines to follow. Know that a store-brand multivitamin is just as good as a name brand—and cheaper, too. But steer clear of super-cheap multivitamins in close-out or dollar stores. A Consumer Report test showed that nearly half failed to contain the labeled amount of at least one nutrient or they failed to dissolve properly.
Pick a multivitamin with no more than 100 percent of the vitamins needed daily. Too much of a good thing can be harmful. But know that you may need extra of certain vitamins, such as vitamin D, especially as you age. I’d be glad to guide you on this.
What is included in a one-a-day multivitamin? Available in tablets, chewables, capsules, or liquids, multivitamins usually include the following:
• Vitamin D, which helps build bones and lowers risk of colorectal cancer
• Vitamin A, which aids the immune system and regulates cell growth. (Too much vitamin A may raise the risk of bone fractures.)
• Carotenoids, which may help prevent cancer
• Vitamins B6, B12, and E, which may help with heart health
• Vitamin K, which helps with blood clotting and building bone.
Many multivitamins also include minerals such as calcium or iron. How much you need also depends on your age and health.1 Ask me any questions you have.
Remember: Don’t use your multivitamin as a crutch or an excuse to eat junk food. There’s no real substitute for eating healthy food. It offers unique advantages, such as fiber and other compounds that may help prevent disease.