As posted yesterday in NutritionData.com’s blog by Monica Reinagel, research from India has found that when onion or garlic is eaten with grains, it allows us to better absorb the sometimes shy nutrients zinc and iron. Grains have something called phytic acid, or phytate, that can prevent these minerals from being absorbed normally. However, onion and garlic eaten with grains allowed the body to better absorb these nutrients, which can be hard to come by – especially for non-meat eaters.
Since garlic and onion go together so well with so many types of foods, it certainly doesn’t hurt to incorporate either of these food friends into sandwiches, as well as rice, pasta and other grain-based dishes/foods.
A study released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Trust for America’s Health found that obesity rates increased in 28 states. Mississippi still reigns supreme as the heaviest state, and also boasts the highest rates of hypertension and being physically inactive.
The survey also polled parents, and found that there is an increasing awareness of obesity and the potential harmful impacts it can have on individuals and the public overall. However, parents still aren’t connecting childhood obesity on a broader scale with the impacts it can have on their own kids’ lives. For example, 84% of parents think their kids are at a healthy weight, yet 33% of kids and teens are overweight/obese (there is a 17% discrepancy between reality and perceptions).
It’s great that an increasing number of people and parents are becoming aware of the obesity epidemic and how linked it is to overall health. Yes, the obesity numbers are growing in the majority of states. However, the fact that awareness is on the rise is a great sign – and the first step to improving the situation.
Today, the U.S. Department of Agriculture released the 2010 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee draft report. Everyone in the U.S. (including YOU!) has an opportunity to comment on the report until July 15. This report will be used to develop the 2010 Dietary Guidelines, which will reign as the overarching U.S. gov’t’s nutrition recommendations until 2015.
The report is long and contains a lot of details. Some of the notable conclusions/recommendations include:
- Audience: Previous versions have focused recommendations on a healthy population. Not this time. Since the majority of Americans are overweight or obese, these recommendations have been tailored to folks who need to drop some pounds. Of course, the recommendation is to do so smartly, by decreasing/managing calorie intake and moving more.
- Sodium: Dropping daily intakes down to 1,500 mg/day (from the last version’s recommended 2,300mg). This is pretty drastic, but with the help of the recently-released IOM report on sodium, there will likely be gradual decreases in sodium content in the overall food environment of foods over time. The majority of sodium in the diet is in processed foods and restaurant foods. Essentially, the U.S. palate will need to change so people don’t go running for the salt shaker to make these sodium-reduced foods “taste right.”
- Plant-Based and Whole Foods-Based: The report recommends eating a plant-based diet that includes low-fat and fat-free dairy but is limited to moderate amounts of meat, poultry and eggs. It also puts an emphasis on eating whole foods that are dense in nutrients and that are minimally processed.
- Reducing Added Sugars, Solid Fat, Refined Grains and Sodium: In addition to the sodium note above (a big change for the population!), there is a large push to limit added sugars, solid (saturated/trans) fats and grains that are highly refined plus low in nutrients and/or high in added sugar. Limiting these components is more of a focus than discretionary calories (extra calories left over you could have fun with if you got what you needed first), which were an emphasis in the last iteration.
- Focus on Breakfast: The importance of breaking the fast is a sub-focus of the report, as the authors note the important links between eating breakfast and getting more nutrients and the lower risk for obesity, especially in kids.
- Fats: Saturated fat recommendations have been dropped to 7% of total calories from 10% in the last iteration of the report. Further, they’ve singled out “cholesterol-lowering fatty acids,” which include both saturated and artificially-created trans fats, and give the target of a 5-7% of calories total.
- Sustainability: The report emphasizes this topic for the first time, underscoring the importance of a sustainable food supply.
- Nutrients of Concern: The nutrients that people aren’t getting enough of that the report focuses on are vitamin D, calcium, potassium and fiber. It emphasizes ways to get more of these nutrients.
An extra tidbit: The guidelines are considered to be released jointly by USDA and U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). This round, USDA has taken the lead on development. Next round, DHHS will.
CalorieLab had a great post about added sugars in U.S. diets.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recently released guidelines for how much added sugar we should be taking in. They emphasize that eating a lot of added sugars (the kind of sugars slipped into processed foods and sugars we add to foods ourselves) is linked to a number of health problems, including obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc.
AHA recommends that adult women should keep added sugar intake within 100 calories/day (6.5 teaspoons) and men within 150 calories/day (9.5 teaspoons). Brown sugar, table sugar, honey, agave nectar, high fructose corn syrup and molasses are included in this “added sugar” category.
A key fact about these sugars is that, beyond calories, they don’t provide any nutritional value. In other words, they’re empty calories. In a world where were getting too many calories and too few nutrients, this adds up. Especially with the stat that in the U.S., on average, people consume 22.2 teaspoons of added sugars/day (355 calories).
The post also provides a list of some common processed food items and their added sugar content. These foods have a startlingly high level of sugar. Many foods we don’t even think of as being sweet, such as breads and sauces, are stocked with added sugars.
It’s clear that food processing will need to change to take some of these added sugars out of processed foods, which many of us are eating more than we’re not eating them. It’ll be interesting to see if U.S. palates can gradually tune down enough to accept lower-sugar products as palatable.
A study from the Archives of Internal Medicine and covered in USA Today found that the combination of four common bad habits – smoking, drinking too much (3+ drinks/day for men and 2+ drinks/day for women), poor diet (eating fruits and veggies less than 3 times/day) and lack of activity (less than two hours per week) may age us by 12 years.
To us, there is a “Duh!” component to this research. However, the limits of “bad” habits weren’t too extreme – further encouraging us (and people we talk to) that moderate changes and improvements in our lifestyles can make a difference. Being healthy doesn’t have to be a joyless all-or-nothing lifestyle!
Tara Parker-Pope has a cool blog post, featured in the “Science Times” section of the NYT that can help you make sense of the new health care law. The post links to a number of NYT articles on U.S. health care reform that help give a good glimpse at several related concerns and perspectives.
Today, March 10, marks National Registered Dietitian Day. It’s smack dab in the middle of National Nutrition Month, a month meant to remind us about the importance eating well plays in our whole lives.
The day was created two years ago by the American Dietetic Association to celebrate the registered dietitian (RD) – both of us! As RDs, we aren’t simply self-proclaimed nutrition experts (unlike your Aunt Thelma, your next door neighbor or the overly helpful clerk at a health foods store); we have degrees in/related to our fields (in our cases public health and nutrition) and finished an internship and passed an exam to get the designation of RD.
Turn to us as food and nutrition experts who can translate the science of nutrition into realistic solutions for living well. And, no, you don’t have to eat a carrot today in celebration if you don’t want to!