6.04.2010

The 6 Weight Loss Myths, Part 2 of 2


A continuation of yesterday’s post…


#4 The Carb Myth: Eating low carb or no carb will make us thin

This is not true! In fact, carbs could even be considered the most important foods in our diet for long-term health. Our body burns glucose for energy (see information on metabolism here), and this glucose comes from carbohydrates. The key is to eat the right kinds of carbs. Refined or processed carbs slow down our metabolism, but complex carbs eaten in their natural state actually speed up our metabolism. Some great sources of complex carbs include fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains. These carbohydrates contain phytonutrients, which are plant chemicals that are essential for optimal health. Phytonutrients turn on certain genes that help us burn fat and also slow the aging process inside our bodies. Eating unprocessed carbs is also important because they contain more fiber and will not turn into sugar as rapidly inside the body. This will help keep blood sugar levels balanced.







#5 The Avoidance Myth: Skipping meals helps us lose weight

When we eat is just as important as what we eat. When we skip meals, our bodies start to feel starved. This eventually leads to overeating, which can start a viscous cycle of starving and then overeating. This rule applies to the very first meal of your day: breakfast. Don’t skip it! When people skip breakfast or don’t eat a breakfast with some protein, complex carbohydrates and fat, they tend to have slower metabolisms. A balanced breakfast jump starts our metabolism for the day, allowing us to have more energy and burn more fat throughout the day.

Food and calorie intake ideally should be spread out throughout the day. Our last meal of the day should be eaten at least two hours before we go to sleep. This is because our bodies need to put their energy toward digestion. If we try to eat and then go right to sleep, our sleep will be restless and digestion will be incomplete.


#6 The Protector Myth: Government policies and food industry regulations always have our best health interests in mind

Unfortunately, the government does not have the resources to create a food pyramid for each of us as individuals. Every person is different and has different health and nutrition needs. We need to educate ourselves and take control of our own health and that of our family. We are all capable of doing this, as long as we are willing to put some effort into it.





Large amounts of research and money are put into creating foods that are processed and unhealthy. The government is faced with the daunting task of managing our food supply, and inevitably the solutions are not always perfect. But if we can gain a better understanding of what processed foods are and what they do to our bodies, we will be able to make better decisions about what we choose to eat. I strongly encourage each of you to do your own research and make your own decisions – take responsibility for your health. Poor diet is the #2 cause of death in America, behind only smoking.


I hope these myths have helped clear some things up for those of you looking to lose weight. My best advice is to forget about dieting altogether. Instead, try to gradually move to eating 100% whole foods. You can eat as much or as often as you want – just eat whole foods. This is a great first step and I promise you will notice incredible changes in your body. Plus, grocery shopping gets so much easier! Grains, fruits, vegetables, meat, fish, nuts, seeds, beans, legumes, oils… all delicious and the possibilities are endless if you are willing to get creative in the kitchen!



6.03.2010

The 6 Weight Loss Myths, Part 1 of 2


My Weight Management class is wrapping up and we’re beginning sports nutrition, but I wanted to share some good information I found in one of the books we read. The book is called UltraMetabolism and is written by Mark Hyman, MD. He talks about ways we can work with our bodies through food, supplements and exercise to actually burn more fat. He also talks about the concept of nutrigenomics, which is how food “talks” to or interacts with our genes, and how this affects our weight. According to Dr. Hyman, the best way to lose weight and keep it off is to rebalance and stabilize metabolism.


He came up with 7 weight loss myths, and I used his information to come up with 6. These are adapted from the book and are slightly different, based on what I believe will be effective for clients to read and relate to. Of course, this is just one book – one doctor’s theory on how people can lose weight. As we all know, there are thousands of weight loss books out there and some people can get caught up in the latest weight loss fad diet and lose sight of their own individual health and needs. So, I’m not saying you should go out and buy UltraMetabolism and use it to lose weight. If I thought one book could solve everyone’s nutrition problems, I wouldn’t be studying to become a nutrition therapist who focuses on the individuality of each person! But, I did like Dr. Hyman’s weight loss myths, because I think they are a good foundation for those wishing to lose weight.








#1 The Starvation Myth: Eat less, exercise more, and then we will lose weight


Many people see someone who is overweight and they think, “that person is lazy” or “that person has no discipline and indulges too often”. However, weight loss is not all about calories in minus calories out. There are so many components to how our metabolism functions, including where our calories are coming from, what nutritional deficiencies or excesses we may have, any hormonal imbalances we are experiencing, and much more. Calorie restriction actually causes the body to think it is starving, which sets of chemical processes in the brain that tell us to eat more food. We have a part of our brain that is wired for survival, and this part of the brain will respond to starvation without any of our control. A person absolutely must eat more calories than their resting metabolic rate, or the body will perceive starvation and immediately slow the metabolism down.






#2 The Calorie Myth: All calories are created equal


For some, this is a hard one to grasp, but it’s the truth. It’s the type, not the amount, of calories you consume that is important. Starving yourself all day so you can enjoy three pieces of chocolate cake at your friend’s birthday party isn’t helping your body at all, and can actually lead to weight gain. Your typical three square meals may be equal in calories to that chocolate cake, but the cake will only contain a tiny fraction of the nutrients you’d get from eating real food. And those nutrients are what we need to burn fat. On the other hand, if you had eaten three balanced, whole-food meals and then enjoyed a piece of cake, your body would have the nutrients it needs to metabolize the cake and burn the fat.


Another thing to know about certain types of calories: food (or, calories) that enters our bloodstream quickly will promote weight gain, no matter what else we’ve eaten that day. This includes foods like white bread, white pasta, cookies, cakes, sugary juices or any sodas, etc. However, food (calories) that enters our bloodstream slowly promotes weight loss. Foods speak to our genes and have control over how our metabolism will work.





#3 The Fat Myth: Eating fat makes us fat


In his book, Dr. Hyman talks about the American Paradox: over the last 40 years, national fat consumption has dropped from 42% to 34% of total calories, but obesity and high BMIs have risen significantly. Translation? Fat does not make us fat, it helps us burn fat! We just have to make sure we’re eating the proper fats. There are different types of fat, and they each interact with our genes in a different way. Some turn on our genes for weight gain, and others for weight loss. For example, essential omega-3 fats enhance metabolism and promote weight loss, whereas trans fats found in processed foods cause weight gain, impair metabolism and lead to inflammation.


Don’t be afraid to consume more healthy fats!


Tomorrow I’ll wrap up with the last three weight loss myths.



6.02.2010

Bioavailability

Bioavailability is a concept I have mentioned a few times recently, and I want to expand on it so everyone has a strong understanding of what it is, why it’s important, the things that can affect bioavailability, and how to start thinking about it in terms of the foods you are eating.


What is Bioavailability?


Bioavailability, in the context of nutrition, describes the availability of nutrients to be absorbed into our body and to nourish us. The more bioavailable a nutrient is, the more benefit we receive from it. Bioavailability differs from person to person, and depends on a variety of things such as the health of one’s digestive tract, the types of foods being eaten and the combination of foods being eaten.


Why is the concept of bioavailability important?


The concept of bioavailability helps us understand the importance of getting the most benefit out of the foods we choose to eat. Food labels tell us which nutrients are found in a particular food: fats, protein, carbs, vitamins and minerals. However, what we really need to figure out is how many of these nutrients are actually being absorbed and utilized by our body? Once we have a better understanding of bioavailability, we can make better choices around the foods we eat, and increase the likelihood that we will benefit our health from each food.


What types of things affect bioavailability of nutrients?


The bioavailability of nutrients is determined by the nutrient content of a food; whether or not the food has been processed, and how processed it is; a person’s individual health and the health of their digestive system; other foods that are eaten at a particular meal or are a part of one’s diet; and the presence of anti-nutritional factors (from Grain Fields Australia).


As we know, processed foods are often stripped of their nutrients and then fortified or enriched, meaning certain nutrients are added back in. Enrichment means adding back in the original nutrients that were lost during processing, whereas fortifying means adding in additional nutrients not found in the original food but thought to be beneficial to health. Many foods are enriched and/or fortified, including breads, crackers, cereals and even milk or juice. When nutrients are added back into foods, studies have shown that they become less bioavailable to our body. This is why I encourage people to eat whole foods instead of processed foods. That boxed cereal may boast loads of protein and fiber and iron, but how much of it is actually getting into our body and benefiting our health? It’s hard to know for sure, but definitely not as much as if we ate a grain cereal we prepared ourselves and added some fresh fruit and nuts to it.


Each person’s individual state of health can also significantly affect bioavailability of nutrients. Someone with a very healthy digestive system, regular bowel movements, and highly functioning metabolism will absorb many more nutrients than someone who commonly experiences abdominal pain or bloating after meals, soft stools or constipation, or has other symptoms that may indicate a food allergy, such as gas, acne, headaches, or overall discomfort after eating certain foods. This is why it is so important to be in tune with your body and try to figure out the cause of any digestive discomfort you may experience. A lifetime of soft stools or excessive gas is not just “something that runs in the family” or “how it will always be”. Diet and nutrition are so important for overall health, and these may be signs that you have a digestive issue that needs attention. Altering diet to improve digestion will allow more nutrients to be absorbed into your body, which creates more balance, better health, and helps prevent disease.


Certain food combinations can also affect bioavailability of nutrients. For example, the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E & K) need fat to be properly absorbed. People who have trouble absorbing fats, such as those who have ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, or cystic fibrosis, may also have trouble absorbing these vitamins, meaning they are not as bioavailable to them despite being present in the foods they are consuming. Remember when I talked about the importance of eating the entire egg, not just the egg white? This is partly because so many nutrients found in the egg white need the yolk in order to be properly absorbed into our body.


Things like sugar, alcohol and caffeine can also change bioavailability of nutrients, in that they attach to certain vitamins and minerals and carry them right out of our body before we can utilize them for our health. Many alcoholics are found to be undernourished for this reason, as well as those who consume too much caffeine or too many sugary foods and drinks.


Some things to think about…


It all comes back to eating whole foods. Whole foods are not processed, they are better for our digestive system and our health, they contain the proper balance of macronutrients and micronutrients, and they help balance our blood sugar, reduce cravings, achieve a healthy weight, create a balanced body overall. Remember, we obtain energy from macronutrients (fats, protein and carbs), and we are able to actually USE the energy because of the micronutrients (vitamins and minerals). Some foods that people often consume but may not realize that bioavailability of nutrients could be low include protein powder or protein shakes; Vitamin Water; processed energy bars; cereals that claim to be packed with fiber; and fortified or enriched wheat breads.


This is just a brief overview but I hope it helps you understand bioavailability a bit better!



6.01.2010

Sprouted Grains


I’m back! My vacation was perfect and now I’m ready to start blogging again. No specific focus for this week… just answering some questions I’ve gotten recently.


One reader asked me about the advantages of eating sprouted grain bread products versus other bread products. I touched on this briefly in February when I talked about English muffins, but it’s a great question and I’m happy to revisit the topic.


Let’s start with white Wonder bread – something we’ve probably all eaten at some point in our lives. Wonder bread is made from wheat that has been bleached, a process that strips the wheat of all of its original nutrients. White flour used in refined grain products such as Wonder bread has lost over half of vitamins B1, B2 and B3, vitamin E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorous, zinc, copper, iron and fiber. In the 1940s, the government began sponsoring the enrichment of bleached wheat products. The makers of Wonder bread began adding vitamins and minerals to their bread, and started an advertising campaign that boasted of the many nutrients found in Wonder bread. When foods are enriched, the nutrients added are not as bioavailable to us as nutrients found in whole foods. I will talk about bioavailability later this week, because it is an interesting and important concept to understand.












Many people have moved on from Wonder bread and are now consuming whole grain bread products: bread, bagels, English muffins, tortillas, and even chips and crackers. Remember this picture from the blog post I wrote about bagels?











I think it’s helpful to actually see what a “whole grain” looks like. Refined grain producs have the bran and germ removed from the wheat kernel. Whole grains are significantly more nutrient-dense than refined grains, which is evident in the grain’s taste and texture. They contain fiber, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, lignans, phenolic acids, phytoestrogens, and other important phytochemicals. The breads that are usually made from whole grains are the ones labeled as “whole wheat,” however multi-grain, rye and pumpernickel can be made from whole grains as well.


Some companies have now taken bread one step further, with sprouted grain products. When grains are sprouted, their nutritional content changes. Sprouting allows the germ of the wheat to release enzymes. These enzymes help us digest the grains more easily. Sprouted grains are also higher in protein, vitamins, and antioxidants, and help promote healthy bacteria in our digestive tract. Many people find that sprouted grains are much gentler on the stomach and easier to digest than regular whole grain breads. They are digested very slowly, which helps us stay full longer and helps stabilize blood sugar.









The Food for Life products are usually cooked slowly at low temperatures (250 degrees), so they are not considered a raw food. However, this type of cooking allows for most of the nutrients and enzymes to remain in tact for easier digestion.


If you are someone who feels slight discomfort when digesting whole grain products, you may want to try sprouted grains. They taste great, and the Food for Life brand has many options – tortillas, breads, pasta, English muffins and more. We buy the tortillas and English muffins all the time and love them! I still buy whole grain freshly (and locally) baked bread rather than using the sprouted grain bread, because I love the bread we buy and I save a lot of money by slicing it myself very thinly and making the loaf last twice as long. But the sprouted grain English muffins are great for breakfasts, and the tortillas make it into our lunch rotation frequently. Today for lunch: tortillas with turkey, Colorado-made raw milk cheese (from Twin Mountain Milkhouse, sold at In Season Local Market in Denver), bok choy, and stone ground mustard made with Guinness, straight from the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin!