Category Archives: artificial sweeteners

Coconut oil: health food or health fad?

Firstly, I want to give a shout out to all the new readers of Prevention RD! In the past 2 days there’s been lots of new “faces” – so happy to hear from you! I am insanely behind this week on blog reading, but can’t wait to catch up with you this weekend! 😀 I didn’t know if Thursday would ever make it here, but I’m sooo excited to start my 3-day weekend!

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If you buzz around the blogosphere you’ve definitely read something about coconut oil and/or butter. Tracey brilliantly asked me to share some important information about these foods on my blog, and I am so glad she did! This is a HOT topic right now!

My $0.02 on Coconut Oil

[Note: Due to MAJOR differences in nutrition components, I will discuss coconut water in a later post.]

Various fat sources are like various sugar (and sugar substitute) sources…they can all be a part of a healthy, balanced intake. Unfortunately, we (the consumers) hear something is “good” for us, and we become OBSESSED with this illusive idea of “super healthy foods”. Take for example, antioxidants. Cooking Light recently discussed the passing phase of “Super Foods” and “antioxidants” – we knew nuts, seeds, salmon, and berries were good for us. But we need not shun everything else. Same goes for sugar and sugar substitutes. Stevia is showing great promise as a 100% safe and all-natural, calorie-free sweeteners, but why commit to just one sweetener? Honey and agave sure have their place, especially with their low glycemic index. Food monogamy = no bueno!

I feel the same about fats, including tropical fats such as coconut oil and butter. If you simply Google “Is coconut oil healthy?” get ready to find a lot of coconut proponent sites. This is NOT where credible information is found…it’s where suckers go and money-making happens. There are no large-scale, valid, or reliable studies to date supporting claims that coconut oils and butters produce weight loss, boost energy, increase immunity, cure hypothyroidism, increase satiety, or decrease cravings. However, there are credible studies supporting heart-healthy diets which include a healthy balance of fats – saturated fat, monounsaturated fat, and polyunsaturated fat. A mixed-fat diet best supports a healthy ratio of HDL-cholesterol (the good) to LDL-cholesterol (the bad). Note: TRANS fat is never considered a healthy fat to include in the diet. Coconut oil should be never be hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated (check the ingredient list for these key words!), as that indicates trans fat content.

What we do know is that coconut oil contains a lot of saturated fat – 91-92% saturated fat — 4x the amount in Crisco shortening and 12x more than canola oil. The fat in coconut oil is in the form of medium-chain triglyercerides (MCT), which means little to most. In brief, medium-chain triglycerides are quickly cleared from the blood and are a completely oxidized for energy. While that is wonderful for critically ill patients unable to properly digest fats, that means little for the general, healthy population. Furthermore, MCT’s do not contain any essential fatty acids (omega 3’s and 6’s which are not made by the body). And for what it’s worth, the Food and Drug Administration, as well as the American Medical Association, endorse limiting saturated fats, and therefore tropical oils (but that’s not to say don’t include them in moderation).

Tracey’s Q: Is coconut oil healthy?
My A: Not really…nope.

Tracey’s Q: Is it just a fad?
My A: I’d say so. Unless people are just now learning they enjoy coconut?? 😉

Bottom Line:

  • If you choose to consume coconut oil/butter, choose a product which has not been hydrogenated (check the label!)
  • Limit your saturated fat intake to 7% or less of your daily caloric intake (11.5 grams for a 1,500 calorie intake; 14 grams for a 1,800 calorie intake; 15.5 grams for a 2,000 calorie intake)
  • Include a variety of fats from the diet – canola oil, olive oil, and flaxseed oil all contain both essential fatty acids, and contain WAY less saturated fat than coconut oil
  • Complete annual blood work with your medical provider – this should include a lipid panel
  • Never “marry” a food – variety is the key to success!

There’s so much conflicting information on health and nutrition…and it can be hard to decipher. And while some of it is confusing, or contains a lot of gray area, that’s the way the health industry goes. We’re all learning together. Always. But the more we learn, the more we can utilize in optimizing our health.

Me, personally? It’s ironic that Tracey asked this question this week, because I picked up some coconut oil on Monday at the store. I have several recipes calling for coconut oil that I’d like to try. My draw to trying coconut oil is simply pleasure…love coconut! Unless it’s to-die-for-good, it will likely be a one-time purchase for my kitchen! Personally, I’m canola oil’s #1 fan! 😉

Question: Have you used coconut butter or oil? Did you like it? Were you/are you weary to use it based on its saturated fat content?

Heart smart,


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Filed under antioxidants, artificial sweeteners, aspartame, blog topic request, butter, coconut oil, fish oil/omega-3's, food safety, fruits and vegetables, glycemic index, healthy cooking, heart health, hydrogenation, MUFAs and PUFAs, research study, saturated fat, stevia, sugar substitutes, trans fat, Uncategorized

Friday Fun Day!

No work on Fridays, wooo! 😀

Yesterday a fun new kitchen gadget arrived: a Soda Stream! I don’t think I’ve seen Mr. Prevention so excited over something blog-related…ever. I’ve seen the Soda Stream in the blogosphere and I’m excited to have one of my own :-D. Tonight we tried the Diet Grapefruit flavor and it was delicious!

Mr. Prevention also tried the cola and really enjoyed it. We put together a video to demonstrate how EASY making the soda is…(sorry about Lily barking…she’s not a fan of new noises!)

You can make 50 8-ounce servings for $4.99! Score! Added bonus: the diet flavors are aspartame-free and the regular soda contains no high fructose corn syrup and are a mere 35 calories for 8 ounces! This will certainly help off-set the cost of my Zevia addiction 😉

I also had an itch to bake last night…so I did! There’s soooooo many new recipes I want to try this week!! My co-workers are going to be getting a lot of cookies and muffins next week at this rate!

WARNING: ADDICTIVE COOKIES AHEAD!!

Caramel Apple Oatmeal Cookies adapted from Cooking Light

6.75 ounces all-purpose flour whole wheat pastry flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons unsalted butter 50/50 Smart Balance Butter Blend, softened
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg 1/4 cup Egg Beaters
3/4 cup finely chopped dried fresh apple
3/4 cup caramel bits or 16 small soft caramel candies, chopped

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350° F

Weigh or lightly spoon flour into dry measuring cups; level with a knife. Combine flour and next 4 ingredients (through salt) in a bowl; stir well.

Place sugars and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until light and fluffy. Add vanilla and egg; beat well. Gradually add flour mixture; beat at low speed until just combined. Fold in apple and caramel bits.

Drop dough by 2 teaspoonfuls 2 inches apart onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Flatten balls slightly with hand. Bake at 350° for 9 minutes. Cool on pans 3 minutes. Remove cookies from pans; cool completely on wire racks. Yield: 3 dozen

Nutritional Information (per cookie): 94 calories; 2.5 g. fat; 63 mg. sodium; 17 g. carbohydrate; 0.9 g. fiber; 0.8 g. protein

Result: These. Are. Amazing!!!!!!!!!!!!! These truly may be the best cookies I’ve ever had!!!

Apricot-Coconut Bran Muffins from Lily’s Health Pad

1 1/2 cups wheat bran
1 1/4 cups non-fat buttermilk
1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/3 cup natural turbinado sugar (could use refined cane sugar)
2 eggs
1 cup chopped, dried apricots
1/3 cup unsweetened coconut

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350º F.

Combine the wheat bran and buttermilk.  (Simply wet bran with milk.  Don’t over mix.)  Set aside for 10 minutes.

Combine and stir flour, baking soda, and sugar.  Add bran mixture and eggs.  Stir just until ingredients are moistened.  Fold in apricots and coconut.

Grease or line cupcake tins with liners.  Equally distribute batter into 12 moulds.  Bake at 350º F for 16 to 18 minutes.

Remove muffin tin from the oven.  Let muffins sit for 5 minutes before serving.

Nutrition Information (per muffin): 150 calories; 2.8 g. fat; 37 mg. cholesterol; 35 mg. sodium; 28.8 g. carbohydrate; 4.4 g. fiber; 2.6 g. protein

Result: Yum! These are reeeally good!!! Love muffins for breakfast 🙂

I’m taking a break from NNM topics today. I’m pooped after all that baking 🙂

Mr. Prevention and I are off to Dallas this weekend to visit friends. Not sure what the weekend brings, but I’ll try to check in!

Question: What’s the last thing you baked? Is there a baking modification you always make (i.e. canola oil for vegetable oil)?

Any fun weekend plans? 🙂

TGIF..have a wonderful, healthy, happy weekend!

41 Comments

Filed under artificial sweeteners, aspartame, blog, breakfast, budget shopping, Cooking Light, dessert, dog, friends, high-fructose corn syrup, pets, recipe, soda, Splenda, sugar substitutes, travel

Q&A + garden + renal failure

Gooooooooood morning, Friday!

I have a 7am hair appointment (weird time, I agree) and then I’m off to Houston to see my BFF for the weekend! I’m really excited! I don’t know that we have anything in particular planned other than a day trip to Galvelston. I will bring my beloved laptop and try to check in at some point!! But if you don’t hear from me, I’m enjoying the Houston sun! 😀

But not before a Q&A…!

Heather of Get Healthy with Heather: I used to have big issues with lactose but now it seems to only happen with non fat dairy products. Do you know why that could be?

Prevention RD: Okay, I’m making a deduction here. RD’s chime in if you have any ideas on this! When fat is taken out of products – sugar is put in. For example, whole milk has less “sugar” (carbohydrate) than fat-free milk. This sugar is in the form of lactose in dairy products. All products are going to vary based on the brand, so start checking out the carbohydrate content on your whole fat versus low-fat versus fat-free dairy products. I’ll bet this is the issue! While only a small change, chances are your body has its “happy zone” for lactose tolerance. GREAT question…got me thinkin’! 😉

Bridget: I just discovered your site recently, and I have a topic request: my husband (who had not had a physical for nearly 10 years) and I got back our annual physical results today. It turns out that he has a shockingly high triglycerides count: 574! Our doctor is going to start him on nicotinic acid medication to get his triglycerides down, since she says that it could cause pancreas damage at its current level. She wants to check his blood again in 6 weeks. Obviously I don’t want him to be on medication forever, so I am going to research what we can do from a dietary standpoint. She says to decrease sugar intake in his diet–do you have any other info on what might help him?

Prevention RD: So glad you found me! While 574 is a high value and he does risk pancreatitis with such high levels, I have seen much worse! Like…5,000+!! Crazy, huh? More like scary, really. Triglycerides are largely influenced by the diet because the value represents the lipid (fat) found in the blood. Weight loss, lower calorie intake, limited alcohol intake, and reduced carbohydrate (simple carbohydrates – i.e. sugar, white flour, sodas, juices, sweets, etc.) intake help lower triglycerides. A low saturated and trans fat diet should be implemented and healthy fats (mono and polyunsaturated fats) should be increased (e.g. nuts, seeds, natural nut butters, avocados, canola oil, olive oil, etc.). Additionally, I recommend 3,000 milligrams of omega-3/fish oil supplementation a day. Omega 3’s work beautifully to lower triglycerides. Good luck to your hubby! Great question!

Kenya: Does water maintain its health benefits if I add one of those sugar free sweeteners like Crystal Light or does it really just become more like a ‘kool-aid’ type of drink?

Prevention RD: I am not opposed to these beverages because they encourage calorie-free, caffeine-free beverage choices. Is it preferred to water? Nah (because of the artificial sweeteners and preservatives). But I think it’s WAY better to consume those products to help stay properly hydrated versus not consuming enough liquids each day. I think a good rule of thumb is to have at least half of your water needs each day coming from water and the rest from caffeine-free, calorie-free beverages (i.e. flavored waters, Crystal Light, Fit and Active, etc.), if needed. Good question!!

John of Challenges 2010: I came across something where it’s said green tea can block testosterone and that black tea would be better for males. What do you think?

Prevention RD: I checked with the ADA, MayoClinic, and WebMD which report nothing of the like. I’ve never heard of this before so I also ran it past our medical providers. None of them batted an eye in recognition of this as an issue. A Google search turned up nothing but body building and supplement sites. Sketch! I’m going to suggest an “everything in moderation” approach. 🙂

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GARDEN UPDATE!!!

I have some growth!!! 4 days later and we’re in gardening business!!! 😀

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Today’s NNM Topic: Renal Failure

Today’s topic is renal failure because so much of the renal failure in the US is secondary to uncontrolled diabetes, yesterday’s topic. Elevated blood glucose can cause scarring to the delicate and intricate renal nephrons which comprise the kidneys. During the beginning stages of renal failure, protein, sodium, potassium, and phosphorus may be limited to help preserve kidney function. These electrolytes are closely monitored to ensure proper fluid and pH balance, among other things.

According to the National Kidney Foundation, 30% of type 1 diabetics and 10-40% of type 2 diabetics develop kidney disease. Once the kidneys fail transplant or dialysis are required to live. When the kidneys can no longer clean the blood of waste and fluid, dialysis must be initiated. Dialysis sessions typically last 3-4 hours and must be completed several times a week.

Kidney failure due to uncontrolled diabetes is a very scary reality.

Question: Where was the last vacation or getaway you took? Any fun weekend plans?

Enjoy the weekend!!

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Filed under artificial sweeteners, aspartame, blog topic request, blood glucose, diabetes, diet, dietitians, doctors, fish oil/omega-3's, friends, garden, minerals, MUFAs and PUFAs, physicians, protein, saturated fat, sodium, sugar substitutes, supplements, trans fat, travel, vitamins, water, weight loss, work

Q&A

I think it’s been MONTHS since I posted 2x in one day! Whew! So much going on and so little time in which to share and catch up with you all! Forgive me for not being as “active” in the Blogosphere — work is busy and I am continuously striving for a healthy life-work-happiness-blog balance 🙂 Just like my garden should come with a warning, so should blogging — it quickly becomes very time-consuming!! 😉

If you haven’t already checked out my finished garden bed, be sure you do! I am very proud!

On to the Q&A…

Ambre: I’m a new-vegetarian…as of the end of November/beginning of December…Well, technically pescetarian. I’m doing the Susan G Komen 3-Day for the Cure in November (my 2nd time), which is a 60 mile walk over the course of three days. I found this information on their website, and I was wondering if there was anything else you recommend for me?

In order for vegetarian diets to support optimal athletic performance, it is important to incorporate an adequate amount of protein into your daily diet. Many people believe that following a vegetarian diet means they automatically will lose weight. This is not necessarily the case as many vegetarians inadvertently have a high fat intake based on whole-fat dairy products, butter, eggs, cheeses, nuts and seeds. Below are some tips for following a healthy vegetarian diet to help lose weight, maintain an optimal protein intake and support your training walks: 1. Choose low-fat or fat-free dairy products or low-fat fortified soy products. 2. Build your protein around legumes, tofu and tempeh. 3. Watch serving sizes on nuts and seeds; they are full of healthy fat but are very concentrated in calories. 4. Avoid fried foods and choose those that are baked, broiled, or steamed. 5. Add protein powder to shakes or cereal if you are not getting enough. 6. Increase your bean intake; they are high in protein and fiber. 7. Add soy products to your diet. 8. Limit snacks that are high in sugar and fat. 9. Flavor foods with salsa, lemon juice and vinegars instead of high-fat condiments like butter, mayonnaise and high-fat dressings. Certain vitamins and minerals such as iron, riboflavin (vitamin B2), vitamin B12, calcium and zinc must be consumed in adequate amounts. These typically are found in animal based foods. Fortified soymilks are great for boosting calcium and vitamin B12. Eggs also are a great source of B12. Outstanding iron sources include fortified breakfast cereals, bread, textured vegetable protein, legumes, dried beans, nuts, dried fruit and green leafy vegetables. Eating rich sources of vitamin C with meats will help enhance iron absorption.

Prevention RD: Great question, Ambre! The suggestions the website made are really helpful. I don’t agree that soy should be added to the diet, however. I think that there are some benefits of soy in moderation, but some research suggests soy intake is related to increased risk of breast cancer. I particularly like that the information fully discloses that a vegetarian diet does not necessarily produce weight loss. When you cut out major foods groups in the diet, intake of other food groups naturally increases. When meat is taken out of the diet, protein intake tends to drop and fat and carbohydrate intake goes up. Thus it is important to get adequate protein (0.8-1 gram per kilogram of body weight) and to ensure fat sources are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fat versus saturated and trans fat and carbohydrate sources are complex and high in fiber. I hope this helps! Feel free to email me any further questions on this and I can help calculate some nutrient goals for you! And thanks for walking the Susan G. Komen 3-Day! You are inspirational!

Also, please consider giving to Ambre’s fund-raising! A little bit will truly make a difference! I always feel so empowered after giving to a great cause!

John of Challenges 2010: When I get my blood checked can you give me an idea of what things to make sure they check. I mean they check for the good/bad cholesterol and blood sugar and really can’t remember what else. Reason I ask is I’m up here in Canada and it sounds like they don’t check out as many things or I just don’t know what other info I should be trying to get off them.

Prevention RD: This is a really great question and my answer may be biased from a nutrition perspective, but I’ll give it a go! I ALWAYS check: total cholesterol, LDL-cholesterol (the “bad”), HDL-cholesterol (the “good”), triglycerides, GFR (kidney function), plasma glucose, HbA1c (on my diabetics and pre-diabetics), TSH (metabolism), hemoglobin, hematocrit, TIBC (total iron binding capacity), AST and ALT (liver enzymes). For what it’s worth our clinic runs a CMP (complete metabolic panel), lipids (cholesterol), TSH, and CBC (complete metabolic panel) on patients annually. This is going to include everything I look at as a dietitian and then some. Good for you for being an active advocate for your health! We cannot always leave our well-being in the hands of professionals.

John of Challenges 2010: According to SparkPeople I don’t eat enough carbs. I do not try to avoid carbs. I do try and get my macronutrients in a 40:30:30 ratio for carbs, fats and proteins. Is there a minimum number you recommend and can you give me some ideas besides arborio rice 🙂 that are higher in carbs but still not bad in calories?

Prevention RD: Risotto everyday! Just kidding…that’s a joke for John since he got me hooked on Arborio rice 🙂 I think knowing your body weight would give me a better idea of how many grams you need, but with all of your exercise I would think 50% calories from carbohydrates may be a better fit for your needs. I’m a fan of 40:30:30 for those who are inactive, but that’s not you. Exercise requires a lot of glycogen (carbohydrate stores) and replenishment of the glycogen stores after long workouts. For a 2,000 calorie diet, this would be 250 grams of carbohydrates. I never recommend much below 150-160 grams, and that’s for my diabetics or petite patients. As for sources of carbohydrate: fruits, vegetables, legumes, milk, yogurt, and whole grains (bread, rice, pasta, quinoa, millet, barley, oats, etc.). Of course juice, sugar, candy, pastries, and sweets will contain plentiful amounts of simple carbohydrates, as well. But aim to have at LEAST half your grains as whole each day!

John of Challenges 2010: Green Tea…what are the health benefits and is there a difference between the stuff you brew at home or pick-up bottled?

Prevention RD: Green tea — thumbs up! Green tea with aspartame or loads of sugar — thumbs down! Like many things health-related we can observe the practices of the East where tea (green and otherwise) are staple beverages. There is no denying that green tea offers a zero-calorie, antioxidant-rich, tasty thirst quencher with a MUCH lower caffeine content than most other caffeinated beverages, but what is added TO the green tea is the deciding factor in it’s benefit. Most of the green teas on the market which are bottled and sweetened contain excessive amounts of sugar (64 grams in some!) or aspartame. Additionally, many bottled teas are made from tea powder which lacks the antioxidants of brewed tea. The bottled green teas may also contain preservatives to extend shelf-life which many times add sodium to the tea, as well as making it less “pure” (I will NOT use the word “CLEAN”!). I hope this helps some…another really great question!

Rebecca from France: I’m curious to know your opinion on artificial sweetners/sugar substitutes.  My mother uses Splenda a lot and these types of sweeters are just starting to grow in popularity in France.  But how healthy are they really?  I ask because most people would agree that “processed meat,” for example, isn’t as healthy as a cut of meat.  So why, then, would processed/artificial sweetners be a good choice to put in our bodies (as opposed to “real” sugar)?

Prevention RD: I want to quote Cara from Cara’s Cravings. Last week’s Q&A had a question about sweeteners, and she left a great comment that read:

I don’t think there’s a definitive answer on what the healthiest alternative to sugar is. There are so many ways to be healthy! For some people, it’s really important to limit those extra calories, and I happen to think that some artificial sweetener here and there is not going to kill you, and can certainly help with a weight-loss diet. For some people, keeping it all-natural is a top priority. Personally? I’m somewhere in the middle so I use a variety of sweeteners – Truvia, agave in moderation, a little splenda here and there, and real sugar.

I agree with Cara’s words 100%. Working with a large diabetic population, I know the importance of artificial sweeteners. And for those watching their weight, artificial sweeteners allow a lot more flexibility in their diet. As someone who not only “knows” nutrition, but also struggles with their weight, I too see the value in non-nutritive sweeteners (calorie-free). However, I do believe artificial sweeteners are WAY over-used in our society. I aim to use a variety of sweeteners and ALL of them in moderation — I drink 1 can of Zevia a day (Stevia-sweetened carbonated beverage) and use Splenda, brown sugar, suncant, cane sugar, granular sugar, powdered sugar, agave, honey, molasses, maple syrup, and so on in cooking and baking. As far as artificial sweeteners, I strictly use Splenda and Stevia products and steer clear of aspartame and Sweet ‘n’ Low, Equal, Twin, etc. Bottom line is that there’s no single way to reach “good health” and that one person’s goals and needs are very different from the next person’s. I hope this helps — excellent question! 🙂

Thanks everyone for submitting wonderful questions! Feel free to send any nutrition questions my way and I will be happy to answer them on the next Q&A!

And an Oklahoma joke for the day…

You know you work in Oklahoma when the doctor on staff leaves at 1 pm to go deliver a calf. But, he’ll be back just as soon as he can!


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Filed under antioxidants, artificial sweeteners, blog topic request, blood glucose, caffeine, carbohydrates, cholesterol, diabetes, diet, dietitians, doctors, garden, hormones, low-carb, MUFAs and PUFAs, physicians, protein, reduced-calorie, saturated fat, sodium, Splenda, stevia, sugar substitutes, supplements, trans fat, vitamins, weight loss, weight maintentance

Oh, the irony! …and a Q&A

John asked a question last week on my Q&A regarding Arborio rice and it’s nutritional benefits. Or lack thereof. Oops. You know, like a kid told not to touch an open flame, I went and made an Arborio recipe (because 24 1/2 years was too long to go without this treat). But I blame Kerstin for this…her recipes are all too enticing! Behold:

Gruyere Risotto with Asparagus and Mushrooms adapted from Cake, Batter, and Bowl

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/2 cups 1 large bunch asparagus, chopped
2 cups mushrooms
1 tablespoon butter Smart Balance Light
1 yellow onion, 3 small shallots, chopped (I didn’t have an onion! The shallots were awesome!)
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup Arborio rice, dry
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 cups shredded Gruyere cheese (approx. 7 ounces)
2 tablespoons 1/4 cup lemon juice (juice from one lemon)
1 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Heat olive oil over medium high heat in a large pan and sauté asparagus and mushrooms until tender, about 8 to 10 minutes. Remove from heat.

Meanwhile, melt butter over medium high heat in a large stockpot. Sauté the onion for 5 to 7 minutes or until tender; add garlic and sauté for an additional minute. Add the rice and stir until well-coated and translucent. Reduce heat to medium and stir in 1 cup of chicken stock. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the stock has been absorbed; add another cup and continue in this way until all the chicken stock has been absorbed, for about 30 minutes. Stir in gruyere cheese, lemon juice, and salt and simmer an additional 5 minutes or until desired consistency is reached. Stir in asparagus and mushrooms. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle Parmesan cheese on top. Makes 5 servings.

Nutrition Information (1/5th of recipe): 382 calories, 18 g. fat, 40 mg. cholesterol; 610 mg. sodium; 33 g. carbohydrate; 1.4 g. fiber, 19.2 g. protein per serving

Ok, sure…not the best stats, but this recipe is a W-O-W recipe! You know, the kind you make for a special someone you’re trying to impress…or when your in-laws come to town (my in-laws read my blog AND they’re amazing, so this doesn’t apply to me, of course!). At least it has vegetables!? But yeah, Gruyere doesn’t come in a low-fat version to my knowledge 😉 But MAN, it is GOOD! My husband was so sweet to me tonight. I got a, “Thanks for making dinner, babe! It tastes really Italian.”

::blink blink:: Thumbs upppppppppp!

And on to the brief (but good!) Q&A for the week…

…Or possible known as the once-a-week, really long, exhaustively detailed posts!

Biz of Biggest Diabetic Loser: If I know I am going to have a hard workout, I tend to give myself a bit less insulin at breakfast so my blood sugar doesn’t crash and burn. Take today for instance – I was 180 before working out, and when I got back it was a perfect 102.  I then took the right amount of insulin for my lunch. Do you think having that “temporary” high will hurt me in the long run? My blood sugar numbers on average for 30 days are between 116 and 125.

Prevention RD: For those of you who don’t know Biz, she is a type 1 diabetic and author of the wonderful blog, Biggest Diabetic Loser. I feel comfortable answering this because I know your HbA1c is just below 7.0% — my answer would vary for someone with a higher HbA1c. I think that if this is working for you, you’re fine to continue with this regimen (especially if you’re on an insulin pump, which I’m not sure if you are or not…). The one option you have is to take a ligher dose of insulin with breakfast – bolus for maybe half the carbs you consume with whatever carb:insulin ratio you use and exercise with a G2/water or water/juice mix and drink that throughout your workout. This would have you starting your workout closer to a 120-140 mg/dl reading (I wouldn’t recommend below 120 to start in case you don’t intake enough and risk bottoming out) and fueling your blood glucose as the exercise works to decrease the glucose, hypothetically keeping you right in the 100-130 range throughout the duration of your exercise. If you decide to take this approach, I would certainly have your monitor nearby and come prepared – glucose tabs, honey or whatever agent you use in emergency hypoglycemic instances. I do feel there could be some benefit in your HbA1c if you’re able to prevention missing any insulin doses in light of working out. It may take some trial and error to work out any kinks, but it can be done! The key with type 1 diabetes and exercise is consistency. I say it all the time – diabetics know their bodies better than ANYONE else…even the best of doctors and endocrinologists out there. I hope this makes sense and keep me posted – I want to know what you decide to try out, if anything! Awesome make-Nicole-think question! P.S. I ran this past both our Diabetes Nurse and one of the doctors on staff today, and they agreed! 🙂

Molly: I’ve been meaning to ask this question for quite some time.  I’d say I live a healthy life style; working out regularly and watching what I eat.  I try to eat  as balanced of a diet as I can, getting the right amount of good fats, proteins and carbohydrates.  But one thing that will ALWAYS be hard for me to control is my love for salt.  I definitely love salty over sweet and almost always salt my food (even if it doesn’t need it).  What I try and do to compensate for my love of salt is drink A LOT of water…I mean a lot.  I feel as though this will some how help or “reverse” the effects.  Is it crazy for me to think that or is there actually some logic behind it?

Prevention RD: Hey Molly! Good question! I have to put in my plug on the importance of a low-sodium diet. Salt is a hard habit to kick, so don’t wait until you’re any more set in your ways to change! The majority of the salt we ingest is present in our food through the processing it undergoes, so any additional salt to our diet is likely too much. Excessive salt intake can cause serious electrolyte imbalances, water retention, and hypertension – also known as “the silent killer”. Having high blood pressure puts undue strain on every vessel in our bodies and over time, this can cause serious internal damage and lead to strokes and cardiovascular disease. While I am catastrophizing (not a word…) some, it is a serious matter. Make sure you get your blood pressure checked regularly and exercise is definitely a huge help! How much water are you drinking? Large loads of sodium can off-set the sodium balance of the body and thirst does increase when this balance is off. If your high water intake is habitual that sounds fine, but if your thirst seems excessive, this could indicate a sodium in balance in the body. If this is the case, I would look to decrease your salt usage even more so. Another thing to consider is increasing your intake of potassium; potassium and sodium work together in the body to carry impulses through the body which are vital for proper health. Using less processed foods and cooking from scratch can help lower the salt in your diet without changing the content too much. But as far as water actually flushing out all the sodium, this isn’t really the case. Water can help ease the effects of bloating, but it doesn’t reverse salt intake. Sorry! Great question!!

Anonymous: I’ve read a lot about agave nectar being just as bad as sugar – is this true?

Prevention RD: I’m sure you’ve seen this claim a lot – it’s all over right now! Agave is the natural sweetener that comes from the same Mexican plant used to make tequila! Agave has similar calorie and carbohydrate content to sugar, however agave is three times sweeter and thus requires less to achieve the same sweetness. Agave can be up to 90% fructose – the natural sugar found in fruits which has a lower glycemic index than sugar itself. While agave nectar is a tasty, all-natural sweetener, it is still a high-calorie sweetener that should be used in moderation. Until we find a 100% all-natural, organic, calorie-free, perfectly safe sweetener, we will be able to find a problem with any other sweetener for one reason or another! People hear that something is “good” or “healthy” and they take that to mean more is better, and that’s just not the case. Really great question!

Alison of Waisting Duxie: I am trying to conceive. Can I get too much folic acid? Most supplements are 800 mcg, the supplement that I am taking to lengthen my luteal phase (gotta love pre-menopausal in my mid 30s) has 200 mg and I’m supposed to take it 3 times a day, BUT I often forget.  Is it better to take the 800 one in the morning when I know I won’t forget and then maybe get 400 more over the day? How much does a typical diet high in dark leafy green veggies add and ultimately is this one of those vitamins you can overdo.

Prevention RD: The “tolerable upper limit” for folate is 1000 micrograms a day, though risk for toxicity is low. Because so many foods in the US food supply are fortified and enriched, most Americans meet the 400 mcg recommended daily value. What I am unable to locate is any folic acid recommendations to lengthening of your luteal phase. Best as I can tell and rationalize, you shouldn’t need additional folic acid and 800 mcg’s should be more than sufficient. I would not recommend taking over 1,000 mcg’s a day as this exceeds the upper limit. Check with your doctor regarding the 3 doses a day. Other than better chances of absorption, I don’t know of any other rationale for the frequent dosing, but I’m not a MD! I hope this helps – really interesting question! And congrats to you in starting a family! 😀

Happppppppppy Hump Day! Half way there, folks!

Question #1: What vitamins, minerals, or other supplements do you take?

Question #2: What’s your take on agave nectar? Like? Dislike? Healthy? Not-so-healthy?

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Thank you, Oprah!

Oprah Winfrey aired a show on Thursday about diabetes, the Silent Killer. The show featured America’s doctor, Dr. Oz, as well as Bob Greene. USA Today put out a great article on the show.

If you didn’t get to catch the show, here’s a 10-minute excerpt:

I am passionate about diabetes and nutrition — it’s what I do. And we are learning more and more about diabetes, the disease that is predicted to bankrupt our health care system. I loved the show — diabetes and its compliacations were explained in a fashion that any American could comprehend.

Facts I learned:

  • Drinking just ONE can of regular soda a day increases one’s chances of developing type 2 diabetes by 83% !!!!!!!!!
  • Engaging in 30 minutes of exercise most days of the week reduces one’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes by 60%!!
  • If your waist circumference is greater than half your height in inches, you are at increased risk of diabetes. Ex: 5’5 = 65″; waist > 32.5″ is a risk factor for developing diabetes

Points made that I question:

  • Dr. Oz said that type 2 diabetes is reversible. I think this is debatable. Can a type 2 diabetic lower blood glucose levels to safe, normal ranges (with or without pills or insulin)? Yes.  Does this erase their diabetes diagnosis? Nah. This was just a logistical thing that I wanted to voice my opinion on. Specifically, for insurance purposes…chronic disease diagnoses don’t just disappear, even if they are well managed.

Other points to clarify:

  • Dr. Oz discussed staying away from the “whites” — white bread, pasta, sugar, etc. I agree with him in that these foods should be limited and more healthful replacements should be used when possible. However, I wanted to point out that there are a LOT of foods that are carbohydrates and ALL breakdown to sugar (glucose) in the body, such as: milk, wheat bread, brown rice, fruit, vegetables, juice, cereal, etc.

The bottom line:

  • Eat a balanced diet with an emphasis on lean proteins (animal sources of otherwise), complex carbohydrates (fiber-containing foods), fruits, and vegetables
  • DO NOT drink your carbohydrates — kick the soda habit and limit juice (even 100% all juices — eat the fruit instead!)
  • Exercise. 30 minutes a day. Most days of the week. As Bob Greene stated on the show, “Exercise is not an option!”
  • Do not focus on the dollar signs. Simple sugars and carbohydrates are cheaper and more easily accessible, yes. Be an educated consumer and understand the long-term cost that can be associated with poor health.
  • If you have uncontrolled diabetes and “feel fine” — please, don’t fool yourself. The statistics don’t lie. Change NOW before it’s too late. If I had a dollar for every time I heard, “If only I did something before it was too late…”

After watching the show on Friday, I walked into my local Walgreen’s. And look what was on the door:

In the red circle it says, “As featured on the Oprah Winfrey Show”

There was a woman getting her blood sugar tested and I thought it would be rather invasive and  inappropriate to take a picture, so just take my word for it 😉 The table was set-up right inside the door. What a wonderful event! Go, Oprah and Walgreens!

Question: What’s your take on soda? Juice? Do you choose to drink regular or diet soda? No soda? If you were counseling a regular soda drinker, how would you encourage them to kick the habit? What about diet soda drinkers?

I feel soda drinkers have VERY strong opinions on soda and easily justify their habit. Diet soda drinkers say, “Regular soda is too many calories and sugar.” and regular soda drinkers say, “Diet soda has that fake stuff that isn’t healthy.”

Random question: Do you say “soda” or “pop”…or “soda pop”? 😉

P.S. Email any burning nutrition questions to me at PreventionRD@gmail.com! I’m planning my next Q&A! 🙂

Giveaway alert:

Michelle over at Lucky Taste Buds is giving away a $50 Safeway giftcard!

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Q&A: Stevia, Crohn’s, diabetes, and nut butters

THANK YOU for your well wishes for Miss Lily. She is our baby and it was a scary event, to say the least! Thanks for all the sweet comments! 🙂

I wasn’t planning on another Q&A so soon, but I was BLOWN AWAY by the questions I received since Tuesday’s Q&A…I just couldn’t resist. Plus, I’m not concise in my answers and there may be a 1 million word limit? 😉

Marla of Family Fresh Cooking: I love the flavor of Stevia and that it is an all natural sweetener that ranks 0 on the glycemic index. Everything I have read says it’s healthy to use (unlike artificial sweeteners.) Do you know of anything that would suggest otherwise?

Prevention RD: Stevia – hot topic! Stevia use and advertising has spread like wild fire! Like you said, Stevia offers a “natural” non-nutritive (calorie-free) sweetener. Like most everything we eat, safety of use will come back to labeling and marketing. The FDA has administered GRAS status (Generally Recognized as Safe) for 95% of higher purified Rebaudioside A (Reb A or rebiana) Extract. Other steviol glycosides will also submit FDA petitions for GRAS status shortly. Reb A is one of two main steviol glycosides (the other is stevioside) and are all 200-300x sweeter than sugar. Reb A has been tested through peer-reviewed research, including metabolic and carcinogenicity testing. All have shown no adverse effects with Reb A doses of approximately 4-15 mg/kg body weight per day. The World Health Organization’s Joint Expert Committee on Food Additives concluded that high purity stevia compounds are safe for use as general purpose sweeteners set at a daily intake of 0-4 milligrams per kilogram of body weight as steviol glycosides. Take home message: Yes, they are safe at moderate intake levels. Source: American Dietetic Association, June 2009. Hot Topics: Stevia.

Courtney of Pink Cow Girl: I have Crohn’s disease….or at least that’s what one GI doctor said, except I don’t have ANY of the regular issues. I can eat nuts, popcorn, onions, etc. But I’m on medication for Crohn’s. I’m also starting to think that I may be slightly lactose intolerant? What is your opinion on managing these issues with diet? Do you think going vegan could help my stomach troubles???

Prevention RD: Crohn’s disease – not fun 😦 For those that aren’t familiar with Crohn’s, it is a condition of lesions that develop throughout the GI tract. Lesions can begin in the mouth and develop anywhere and everywhere, between the mouth to the anus. I brushed up on Crohn’s and found some interesting information (I learn from these Q&A’s, too!). Crohn’s may be correlated with cola beverage intake, chewing gum, chocolate, and increased sugar consumption. Other research shows that high animal protein and polyunsaturated fat intake along with low intake of omega-3 fatty acids may contribute to the development of Crohn’s. It is also more common in people of Jewish decent and the majority of cases peak between the ages of 15 and 30. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, anorexia (low appetite secondary to disease process), and weight loss. When Crohn’s is in remission, a high-fiber diet, as tolerated, is recommended to stimulate peristalsis (the rhythmic movement of the intestines) and to improve the tone of the intestinal muscles. Unnecessary restrictions should be avoided to maximize nutrient intake. During acute (active) Crohn’s outbreaks, a low-fiber diet and/or bowel rest is recommended to minimize symptoms and decrease the risk of bowel obstruction. Lactose intolerance is common in those suffering from Crohn’s disease. The restrictions you are describing, however, would align more so with a diverticulitis diet – avoidance of small food particles that can get stuck in small out-pouches of the intestine causing infection – nothing related to Crohn’s. If you were properly diagnosed with Crohn’s (typically you are scoped to look for lesions throughout the GI tract), I would advise against a vegan diet. Malnutrition is very common in Crohn’s patients and putting strict restrictions on the diet could further exacerbate any malnutrition. If you suspect you have lactose sensitivity, I would omit lactose and switch to lactose-free milk, cheese, yogurt, ice creams, etc. If your symptoms improve, you have your answer! Excellent question! I wish you all the luck in managing such a complicated, uncomfortable disease.

Courtney of Pink Cow Girl: My favorite employee at my school (the secretary) has diabetes (sugar diabetes…but I don’t know if that means type 1 or 2 or if it matters). She also will eat ANY and EVERY kind of candy she can get her hands on. I love to bake cookies, and I want to give her something HEALTHY but…not let her know it. Do you have any delicious diabetic recipes??? I’d love to hear what you suggest as far as the best sweet treat to trick a diabetic!!!

Prevention RD: Can I just say that I think it’s adorable when people refer to diabetes as “sugar diabetes”? 🙂 It makes me smile every time! The majority of diabetics in the US are type 2, meaning they are non-insulin dependent diabetics (don’t have to take shots, or at least not initially…for most). Type 2 diabetes used to be referred to as “adult onset diabetes” but that is no longer true – type 2 diabetes is being diagnosed in kids under the ago of 10 — compliments of the obesity epidemic here in America. Scary, isn’t it? Regardless, type 1 or 2, a diabetic diet is a carbohydrate-controlled diet. Carbohydrates break down to glucose (sugar) in the body, so the words “carbohydrate” and “sugar” are many times used interchangeably. A diabetic can control through the diet how much carbohydrate they intake, and thus controlling how high their blood sugars go. What’s important to understand is that a diabetic can eat “normal” foods, in moderation. Further, a diabetic diet is just like any other diet – the calories from carbohydrate should comprise 50% or more of the diet – not “low carb”. While there are lower-carbohydrate and sugar-free options available, one must remember that portion control is still crucial for blood sugar control (and sugar-free does NOT mean carb-free!). I’ve made several recipes as of late that would qualify as “low-to-moderate” in carbohydrate – Oatmeal Cranberry While Chocolate Chip Cookies (16.2 grams of carbohydrate = 1 carb choice), Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip, and Pecan Cookies (15.5 grams of carbohydrate = 1 carb choice), Chocolate Peanut Butter Cookies (13.2 grams of carbohydrate = 1 carb choice), and Chocolate Chip Chickpea Cookies (13.6 grams of carbohydrate = 1 carb choice). P.S. 1 carb choice = approximately 15 grams of carbohydrate. I hope this helps! Thank you for 1) being an awesome, caring co-worker and 2) asking a great, diabetes-related question! Let me know how she likes them!

Ambre: I’m recently (thanks to watching Food, Inc.) pretty much not eating meat. On occasion I do eat fish (because I cannot give up sushi). I’m wondering if you can give me some ideas on how many grams of protein I need a day, and if I need to take any other supplements besides a multivitamin? I take a multivitamin supplement. I am also dieting, trying to lose 25 more lbs. I am currently 154lbs, 5’5″.

Prevention RD: Great movie, isn’t it? But, I couldn’t give up sushi either! Life just wouldn’t be worth living (half kidding!)! The average adult requires 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight (2.2 pounds = 1 kilogram). Therefore, 56 grams of protein a day should meet your protein needs. I would advise seeing a medical provider to under-go simple blood testing to determine whether or not your iron or hemoglobin is low. If so, an iron supplement may be advisable. In the mean time, pair high-iron non-heme sources such as leafy greens with vitamin C-containing fruits and vegetables such as tomatoes, citrus fruit, red bell peppers, and melon. For non-heme iron to be absorbed, vitamin C is required in the meal. As long as you are free of chronic disease and other co-morbidities, following a diet meeting the DRI’s + your multivitamin, you are likely meeting your nutritional needs. Thanks for the question, good luck in your weight loss!

Melanie: When I compared the nutrition facts for peanut butter and all-natural peanut better, the information was EXACTLY the same. The only difference that I could see was more sodium in my regular peanut butter, but I’m not really concerned about that. I chose to look next at the ingredients to see how they compared. The regular peanut butter ingredients are: Select Roasted Peanuts, Soy bean oil, Corn dextrin, Sugar, Hydrogenated vegetable oil, and salt. I know how bad hydrogenated oils are for us, but if these extra ingredients don’t make any difference in the nutritional information, are there really enough of them in the peanut butter to do any harm?

Prevention RD: Such a wonderful question and one that many people have concerns about. Hydrogenated oils and trans fats simply have NO place in the diet — they raise LDL-cholesterol (the “bad” kind) and lower HDL-cholesterol (the “good” kind) – double whammy! The US (I assume Canada is the same) does not require “trans fat” to be on the label unless the products contains more than 0.5 grams per serving. While this amount seems negligible, it is not. Trans fat should be eliminated from the diet whenever possible and purchasing all-natural peanut butter is a great way to decrease intake of hydrogenated oil. Shop around for brands that you enjoy, or consider using a 50/50 blend of your preferred peanut butter and an all-natural brand – it all adds up to make a positive change. Thanks for the great question!

Melanie: I noticed that comparing raw peanuts to raw almonds – they have roughly the same amount of calories but raw almonds have less saturated fats. Does that mean almond butter would be a healthier choice than peanut butter?

Prevention RD: You’re very label savvy! Yes, almonds have less saturated fat than peanuts; almonds are rich in mono and polyunsaturated fatty acids making them a very heart-healthy nut despite their relatively high caloric density. In comparing almond butter to peanut butter (all-natural brands of each), almond butter contains 0.5 grams of saturated fat while peanut butter contains 2.5 grams of saturated fat. I think this is one of the main reasons almond butter has been gaining spotlight attention in recent years. I would never deem all-natural peanut butter a poor source of nutrition but if you’re comparing it to almond butter…almond butter does take the cake! Great question!

Question: How many people do you know with diabetes (type 1 or 2)?

Any exciting weekend plans? 🙂

And on a completely unrelated topic (for Jersey Shore fans) — who would you date if you HAD to choose one? The Situation? Pauly D? Vinny? Ronnie?

Happy Friday! Cheers to a wonderful weekend!!!!


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