Articles

Health and Nutrition Down Under

I recently returned from a vacation in Sydney, Australia where as a dietitian/foodie I enjoyed studying the many culinary similarities we share with people so far away. I was drawn to articles in almost all publications from the most local community newsletter to the biggest city newspaper that discussed nutrition and it’s relation to health. It definitely seems Australians are as interested in fitness and health as Americans seem to be, although there seems to be less regulation on claims that foods and advertisements can make about their products.

Supermarkets seem to be screaming with products that claim to be packed with nutrients that insure health, although I’m not sure how a consumer can know which claims have scientific substantiation and which are marketing. I purchased eggs which were not refrigerated because I’m assuming they vaccinate their hens to prevent the growth of Salmonella. The variety of eggs available is dumbfounding. There were many free range eggs and others that were caged but the ones that I purchased were from a producer called “Happy Hens” egg farm. I found it interesting that these eggs specify that they are naturally grain fed eggs and are locally produced in Victoria and carry the National Heart Foundation approved check or tick “because they are a nutritious food”.  I can’t imagine how anyone has the time or interest to weigh the pros and cons of all those issues before choosing which eggs to purchase. I suspect that most consumers like me looked at the price and at $4.75/doz decided these lowest cost eggs were the best choice. I wonder if this is an example of getting what we wish for.

Do we really want the burden of deciphering an arm’s length of different claims on all our food before we purchase the most basic pantry items? I’m also wondering how consumers can prioritize which nutrition claims are the most important and which are less important for health?

~Marcia

Childhood Nutrition Myths and Facts

Hi Readers –  As you may have noticed, we have changed our blog name to Nutrition Unscrambled. Enjoy!

I was recently made aware of a blog called Raise Healthy Eaters. The site looks very good, and it offers a number of excellent tips on healthy eating for kids. A recent post discussed various nutritional myths, many of which were aimed at the micronutrient needs of children.

If you’re interested in learning more about healthy eating for children, this blog is worth checking out. And while we’re on the topic of healthy eating for children, a couple of recent studies you should be aware of are:

Krebs NF, Gao D, Gralla J, et al. Efficacy and safety of a high protein, low carbohydrate diet for weight loss in severely obese adolescents. J Pediatr 2010.

The study demonstrated that severely obese adolescents who followed a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet had significantly lower body mass index (BMI) after 13 weeks and were also able to maintain weight loss after six months versus those who followed a low-fat diet. The obese adolescents who followed the high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet also experienced greater fat mass loss and reductions in triglyceride levels.

 Leidy HJ, Racki EM. The addition of a protein-rich breakfast and its effect on acute appetite control and food intake in ‘breakfast skipping’ adolescents. Int J Obs 2010.

These researchers examined the impact of a protein-rich breakfast on adolescents who traditionally skipped breakfast. When the study participants ate a protein-rich breakfast the researchers observed that the teens were less hungry and ate approximately 130 fewer calories at lunch.

It continues to amaze me that nearly one in three American children are overweight or obese,  which increases their risk for developing chronic diseases such as diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer. More and more research is suggesting that the high carbohydrate eating practices that have been so prevalent in the U.S. for many years may be exacerbating the problem. Newer studies suggesting the benefits of higher protein/lower carb diets, such as those cited above are provocative, and worth considering.

Free Range, Organic, Conventional and Everything In Between

Some many choices, so little time to research the facts. That’s often the conundrum the average shopper finds themselves in these days. We all want the best for our families, but what does “best” really mean? With respect to eggs, producers offer variety to consumers in the form of organic eggs and cage free eggs, among other choices. But is one type of egg really healthier than another? A quick primer on these issues may help:

To be considered organic, eggs must meet a set of national standards developed by the National Organic Standard Board. Organic eggs are produced by hens given feed without pesticides, herbicides, or commercial fertilizers. The use of hormones or antibiotics is also prohibited in birds that provide organic eggs. The rub is that commercial egg producers do not use hormones or antibiotics routinely anyway. So non-organic eggs are pretty much as “untainted” as their organic cousins. Further, non-organic eggs are every bit as nutritious as organic eggs.

Cage free eggs come from hens living in indoor floor facilities. These hens do not necessarily have access to the outdoors. While some folks prefer eggs produced by cage free birds because they feel these hens live more humanely, the fact of the matter is that modern cages are designed with the bird’s welfare in mind. In the hen house, birds are more readily protected from the elements, from diseases, and from natural and unnatural predators. The diet of the caged bird is also more well controlled, leading to the production of eggs of unmatched nutritional quality. Research has continually shown that the eggs produced by caged hens are at least as nutritious, if not more so, than eggs from birds that eat a less controlled diet. And, it should be pointed out that mortality rates are higher in hens living in cage free environments.

– Mitch

Give Eggs the Company they Deserve

When observing focus groups around the country which included physicians, nurses, dietitians and personal trainers it was interesting to see how these health professionals viewed eggs and dietary cholesterol.  Most health professionals felt eggs were a healthy food choice especially compared to available alternatives. In fact, it was often heard that eggs got a bad rap and they did not feel that the food deserved to be the icon of indulgence. What we heard is that eggs offered many valuable nutrients lacking in their patient’s diets and suggested an egg is a better choice than sweetened cereals, breakfast bars or donuts. What concerned most health professionals were what other foods people choose to eat with eggs. They generally agreed that eggs need to choose new friends and could be considered healthy if they weren’t accompanied by the saturated fat and sodium found in other breakfast foods. This striking misperception is often exemplified in restaurant menus that list egg white omelets accompanied by high fat and high sodium bacon or sausage with white toast as the healthy choice, giving the impression that egg yolks are the unhealthy element.

In fact, scientific research has shown that the egg yolk supplies about 40% of the high quality protein in an egg important for muscle building and retaining muscle especially when aging or losing weight. The yolk is also known as a naturally good source of vitamin D, lutein and choline, all nutrients that are needed for health. What makes eggs especially healthy is that they can be a great vehicle for eating vegetables and whole grains that supply many other important nutrients making an egg breakfast done right a great way to start the day. To me, the recent research that showed eating eggs at breakfast did indeed keep one satisfied for longer than an isocaloric bagel breakfast confirmed that eggs at breakfast is the healthiest choice to make.

~ Marcia

An Egg A Day is OK

Most of you have probably seen or heard some of the highlights of the recently released 2010 Dietary Guidelines. With respect to healthy meal patterning, the Guidelines heavily stressed the inclusion of nutrient dense foods in the diets- foods that give you lots of nutrients, and not a lot of calories – foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains and eggs. The Guidelines also indicate that we should de-emphasize the use of solid fats (mainly saturated and trans fats), simple sugars, refined grains and sodium. Nothing earth-shattering here, but a good reminder that the “4 S’s” (solid fats; starches; sugars; salt) can wreak havoc on our diet and our health if eaten in excess.

dietary-guidelines-for-americans-2010

From an Egg Nutrition Center perspective, we were heartened to see that the Guidelines, for the first time, actually indicate that eating an egg-a-day is OK. No doubt that this was an acknowledgment that eggs are a great source of high quality protein, and a great nutrient dense food.  Likely factoring into this conclusion as well were studies such as those by Qureshi et al (Med Sci Monitor. 2007; 13:CR1-8)   which indicated that regular egg consumption does not increase the risk of stroke or cardiovascular diseases; and Lee et al. (Brit Nutr Found 2006; 31:21-27) which indicate that eating eggs daily does not have significant impact on blood cholesterol or heart disease risk.

Often overlooked by the public, the Dietary Guidelines offer a treasure trove of good information about diet, health and nutrition in easy-to-understand language. If you’re interested, you can access the Guidelines via this link: 2010 Dietary Guidelines.

 It’s worth a look-see.