Eggs Across The Lifespan

Eggs contain a number of nutrients that are essential throughout the lifespan:

  • High-quality protein contains building blocks needed to support healthy bones and muscles. Research suggests that exercise, along with optimal protein intake, can slow the effects of sarcopenia or chronic age-related muscle loss.
  • Choline is essential for normal liver function and brain health. It is especially important during pregnancy to support normal fetal growth and development, and most pregnant women do not consume adequate amounts of choline. Consuming eggs during pregnancy is one solution to choline consumption issues.
  • Lutein and zeaxanthin are antioxidants that are believed to reduce the risk of developing cataracts and slow the progression of age-related macular degeneration, a disease that develops with age.

Elevating Awareness and Intake of Choline: An Essential Nutrient for Public Health (article review)

By: Kasia Ciaston

Today we have another blog by our Dietetic Intern Kasia Ciaston.

Early research conducted on choline from the 1930’s established the link between low choline and liver/muscle damage. Since then, choline has been deemed as an essential nutrient and the latest evidence demonstrates the increased significance of choline throughout the lifecycle.  Data collectedby the 2005 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey revealed that 90% of the U.S. population was consuming less than adequate amounts of dietary choline.  Although choline is produced internally, there are sub-populations with increased requirements due to genetic variations. A recent article in Nutrition Today explains emerging research demonstrating the vitality of choline consumption at all stages of life.

Pregnancy

Choline requirements during pregnancy and lactation are particularly high. Choline is present in high concentrations in amniotic fluid and breast milk which in turn increases maternal demand for the nutrient. A low of intake of choline in this population has been linked to preeclampsia, premature births, and very low birth weights. Emerging science shows that like folic acid, low choline intake doubles the risk of neural tube defects

In animal studies conducted with rats, low choline intake during pregnancy was linked to long-term cognitive impairment. Rats consuming adequate choline exhibited slower declines in memory and attention.

Childhood

Studies suggest that choline-sensitivity continues after birth into infancy. Adequate choline during this stage may enhance brain development, memory, and learning abilities later on in life.

Adulthood

Increased amounts of homocysteine in the body have been linked to higher risks for cardiovascular disease, bone fractures, cancer, and cognitive impairment. Due to the essential role of choline in the breakdown of homocysteine among other metabolic markers – choline has been tagged as playing potential roles in reduced inflammation and cardiovascular risk

The implications of choline within the health care field are far and wide. The importance of choline throughout the lifecycle is becoming more prominent, but more research is still needed to substantiate its claims to fame.

School Meals Boost Nutrition and Learning

Hi Readers!  Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Neva Cochran, blogging.  Enjoy!

~Marcia

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I recently read an article online from the UK Daily Mail titled, “Jamie Oliver health crusade leads to fewer pupils eating school meals.” It seems the popular British chef and TV personality has not achieved the desired result from his campaign to improve the nutritional quality of England’s school meals that he deemed unhealthy.

According to the article, more than half of primary and two-thirds of secondary school students are rejecting Oliver’s “healthier” menus. Participation in school lunch is below the level it was prior to his intervention: 44.1% of English primary school kids and 37.6% of those in secondary schools ate school meals this year compared to 44.9% for both in 2004. His attempt to bring his crusade to this side of the Atlantic has been met with resistance from school districts. And, in my opinion, that’s a good thing because school meals in the U.S. are one of the best nutritional bargains around.

In July, I attended the annual national conference of the School Nutrition Association, working in an exhibit booth for one of my clients. This meeting in Nashville attracted over 3,000 school nutrition professionals ranging from registered dietitian directors of large metropolitan school district nutrition programs to women and men who work on the front lines, preparing and serving meals to kids in big city and small town schools across the country.

These are some of the most dedicated, passionate and caring individuals I’ve met in all of the many areas of dietetics practice I’ve encountered in 30+ years as an RD. And what they do is amazing. School meals must meet strict USDA nutrition guidelines for calories, fat, sodium, vitamins and minerals as well as standards for food safety. Average reimbursements rates of only about $1.60 for breakfast and $2.75 for lunch must cover food, labor, supplies and equipment costs. This is no easy feat and they do it with a positive attitude and great concern and care for the students they serve.

School meal programs increasingly serve more nutrient-rich foods and beverages, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, and lean proteins according to the “Position of the American Dietetic Association, School Nutrition Association, and Society for Nutrition Education: Comprehensive School Nutrition Services” published in November 2010. So rather than being the problem, school nutrition programs are the solution to providing nutritious meals and combating childhood obesity, as the results of several recent studies attest:

  • Consumption of school meals is positively related to children’s intakes of key food groups at lunch and breakfast
  • School meal program participation is associated with reduced prevalence of nutrient inadequacy.
  • School lunch participants eat fewer calorie-dense foods than nonparticipants. In fact, calorie density is highest when kids eat at locations away from home and school.
  • Participating in a school breakfast program improves daily nutrient intake and better nutrient intake is associated with significantly improved academic performance and decreased hunger.
  •  School breakfast programs improve attendance rates and decrease tardiness and, among the most undernourished children, school breakfast improves academic performance and the ability to learn.
  • There is no evidence that school breakfast or lunch programs contribute to rising rates of childhood obesity. In fact, school breakfast participation was associated with a significantly lower BMI. School breakfast participation may be a protective factor, by encouraging students to consume breakfast more regularly.

Bottom line: school meals are a great deal for kids both nutritionally and economically. They go hand-in-hand with promoting a healthy body and healthy mind that helps students feel, perform and learn better.

“Kids LiveWell” Aims to Improve Eating Habits in Children through Healthier Restaurant Options

Family meals seem to be becoming more popular again; however they have a new face.  Many families are sitting together, but not at home. They are dining out in restaurants.   New measures are being taken to help the consumers make better choices.  “Kids LiveWell” was released this past week by the National Restaurant Association (NRA).  It is a new nationwide initiative that provides parents and children with a growing selection of healthful menu options when dining out.

Registered Dietitians assisted the restaurants in creating the choices for the kids menu and the restaurants are offering and promoting a variety of items that meet the qualifications.  The qualifying criteria are based on leading health organizations’ scientific recommendations, including the 2010 USDA Dietary Guidelines.

Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Full Kids’ Meals (entrée, side option and beverage):

  • 600 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 770 mg of sodium
  • 2 or more food groups (see below)

Kids LiveWell Nutrition Criteria for Side Items:

  • 200 calories or less
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total fat
  • ≤ 10% of calories from saturated fat
  • < 0.5 grams trans fat (artificial trans fat only)
  • ≤ 35% of calories from total sugars (added and naturally occurring)
  • ≤ 250 mg of sodium
  • 1 food group (see below)

Entrees must include two sources & sides must include one source of the following:

  • Fruit: > ½ cup = 1 star (includes 100% juice)
  • Vegetable: > ½ cup = 1 star
  • Whole grains: contains whole grains = 1 star
  • Lean protein (skinless white meat poultry, fish/seafood, beef, pork, tofu, beans, egg whites/substitute): > 2 ounces meat, 1 egg equivalent, 1 oz nuts/seeds/dry bean/peas = 1 star (lean as defined by USDA)
  • Lower-fat dairy (1% or skim milk and dairy): > ½ cup = 1 star (while not considered low-fat, 2% milk is allowed if included in the meal and the meal still fits the full meal criteria)

Healthy Dining Finder has listed the “Inaugural Leaders” and new restaurants are going to be added weekly.   There are a variety of options for children.  Admittedly, it would have been nice if more eggs were included. Packed full of nutrients and affordable, eggs would be a great option for restaurants and parents.  Upon review, I only noted one restaurant had a regular egg option at breakfast.  The majority had egg white or substitute as related to the criteria of lean protein.  It is possible that a restaurant could include an egg if they were able to meet other criteria, but it could be difficult based on the food selection that a particular restaurant may have.

I personally see some benefits to this program.  Often the caloric content of adult meals is underestimated, as are kids meals. I think this awareness is a step in the right direction.  However from my previous experiences in working with families, I know that it often does not work for one person in the family to eat differently that the rest.  Will this help others in the family choose healthier choices?  If the adults or older teens are eating the high calorie, high fat options; what does this say to the child?  Perhaps more adults will utilize the Healthy Dining Finder website, not just for their kids but for themselves.

Protein at Breakfast: The Most Important Part of the Most Important Meal

Breakfast Eggs

Hi Readers!  Today we have one of our Registered Dietitian Advisors, Keith Ayoob, blogging.  Enjoy!

~Marcia

You’ve heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day.  It’s true for everyone, and especially for kids.  There’s also plenty of science to back it up.  Kids who eat breakfast do better in school.  They also miss fewer days from school and are more likely to have a normal body weight.

Many adults skip breakfast and even when they don’t, their breakfast tends to run more towards coffee and a roll and butter.  Not much protein at all and that’s how they’re starting their day, setting themselves up for a possible crash mid-morning and real hunger pangs by lunch, which may also be skipped.

Biggest complaint about not eating breakfast is a lack of time.  As a nutritionist working with families and kids, honestly, I have a rough time with this one.  Breakfast is just too important to dismiss casually like that.  Funny – parents cringe at the thought of their child going to bed without eating dinner but they often have no problem with a child who skips breakfast.

This needs to change, but so does the way we think of breakfast in general.  Research on adults has shown that people tend to eat about two-thirds of their protein at dinner and only about 10% of it at breakfast.  That’s a concern, because the first meal of the day should contain at least as much protein as the dinner meal.  Not to say that people should be eating more protein overall, just spreading it out more evenly.  A third of your day’s protein should come at breakfast.  There’s evidence showing that people will utilize protein more efficiently, that is, for muscle growth and repair, if protein is more evenly distributed.  About a third of a day’s supply at each meal would do it.

Protein: Nature’s Appetite Regulator

Protein tends to help you feel full and satisfied, less hungry.  It does this in two ways: by blunting the rise in blood sugar and by staying in your stomach for longer, because it takes the body longer to digest it.

I have a hectic life, too.  I don’t always know when I’m going to get to lunch but I’m sensitive to hunger pangs like anyone else.  As long as I get enough protein in the morning, the timing of my next meal can be a bit more flexible – as it may need to be.

Recommendations are for between 10-35% of your calories from protein, so it’s not likely you’ll get too much protein, especially if you think of just shifting some of your protein from dinner to breakfast.  Aim for leaner protein foods to keep calories reasonable.

My Favorites at Breakfast

Cereal is often a typical at breakfast food and you don’t have to give it up to get more protein.  Indeed, whole grain cereal is a good way to get fresh fruit and low-fat milk into your diet and you need these foods.  I think of this breakfast as only a start however.  That’s right.  Add at least an ounce of lean protein to kick this breakfast into full steam.  Here are some of my favorite protein-boosting breakfast foods:

  • Hard-cooked eggs.  A total go-to food.  They’re fast, easy, and give me great protein and nutrition in the morning.  I keep a bowl in the fridge at all times and it’s a top-notch grab-and-go protein boost.  Yes, they’re absolutely OK every day.
  • Non-fat Greek yogurt.  Another great lean protein food, just pricier.
  • Low-fat cottage cheese.  It’s not “girl food”.  Check the label.  It’s protein-loaded and ready when you are.
  • Leftover dinner.  Not a big meal, just add that leftover chicken drumstick or slice of roast beef.

If you add one of the above to your usual bowl of cereal/fruit/milk, you’ll not only stay full for longer, you’ll get protein when your body actually needs more of it – first thing in the morning.

– Keith

Lutein, Zeaxanthin and Eye Health

Recent news on the benefits of lutein and zeaxanthin caught my eye (pun intended). Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids that can impact, among other things, visual health by decreasing the risk of macular degeneration, an age-related eye condition. Lutein and zeaxanthin can be found in green leafy vegetables – such as spinach, kale, collard greens, and broccoli – as well as eggs. However, research suggests that the lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs are more bioavailable than when from plant sources. This is probably due to the lipid matrix of the egg yolk, which facilitates absorption of the fat soluble carotenoids. And nutrient bioavailability is an important consideration for human health. It doesn’t much matter if a food is high in a given nutrient if that nutrient is inaccessible to the body upon consumption.

The amount of lutein and zeaxanthin in eggs is variable, and is largely dependent on the feed that the hen consumes. Some egg producers fortify the hens’ diet with marigold extract or purified lutein in an effort to raise the content of these vitamins in eggs. As a consumer you can get a rough idea of the lutein content of an egg by observing the color of the egg yolk. Lutein imparts an orange-yellow color to the yolk. Yolks from hens not supplemented with additional carotenoids tend to have a more yellow color.

For more information on lutein and zeaxanthin and their impact on eye health, the articles below are recommended. With an aging population comes a rise in age-related health conditions such as macular degeneration.  So you’re likely to hear more and more about these carotenoids in the future.

 

Vishwanathan R, Goodrow-Kotyla EF, Wooten BR, Wilson TA, Nicolosi RJ. Consumption of 2 and 4 egg yolks/d for 5 wk increases macular pigment concentrations in older adults with low macular pigment taking cholesterol-lowering statins. Am J Clin Nutr 2009;90:1272-9.

Moeller SM, Jacques PF, Blumberg JB. The potential role of dietary xanthophylls in cataract and age-related macular degeneration. J Am Coll Nutr 2000;19:522S-527S.