Nutrition Labels: How To Read Them

Category : HEALTH & BEAUTY

This was written for the Huffington Post but we loved how this article was written. Its always confusing really understanding labels. Here are some highlights.

By, Laura Schocker

One step to fighting the obesity battle might just be printed on the back of your food package. New research published in the journal Agricultural Economics suggests that people who read nutrition labels tend to be slimmer than those who don’t. And that effect was especially pronounced among women: Female study participants who scanned labels were more than eight pounds lighter than their non-label-reading peers.

Of course, it could be that those who look at labels are already more health-conscious, but it can only help to understand what’s really in your food. And while the finding is somewhat intuitive, the truth is that many of us aren’t reading those labels. A study published last year in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found that while a third of people say they always look at the calorie counts on a label, in reality only 9 percent really do. And just 1 percent looked at the other components, including total fat, trans fat, sugar and serving size.

“The results of this study suggest that consumers have a finite attention span for Nutrition Facts labels: although most consumers did view labels, very few consumers viewed every component on any label,” study researchers Dan J. Graham, Ph.D. and Robert W. Jeffrey, Ph.D., of the University of Minnesota School of Public Health, wrote in their findings.

So how can we make label reading more accessible?

Smart Ways To Read A Nutrition Label

Serving Size
“The entire food label is based on one thing, and that’s serving size,” Blatner says. “It is the most underestimated, under-written about, under-talked about thing on a food label.”

And so, accordingly, this should be the first thing you look at when scanning the back of a package. Planning to eat all three servings in a bag of pretzels? You’ll need to remember to multiply all the numbers below by three.

Learn more about how serving sizes are determined here.

Calories (And Calories From Fat)
Now that two thirds of the U.S. population is overweight or obese, Blatner says calories should be your next stop when evaluating a label. “Calories make the world go round with weight,” she says.

Forty calories per serving is considered “low,” 100 calories is “moderate” and 400 calories and beyond is “high,” according to the American Heart Association. Food labels are based on a 2,000 calorie diet — you might need more or less depending on your age, weight, gender and activity level. For reference, calculate your recommended daily calorie intake by clicking over to the Mayo Clinic, and speak to your doctor for specific recommendations.

As for that “calories from fat” line? Skip it, Smithson says. “It’s confusing and it doesn’t give as much great information as the other parts of the label.”

Fat (Total Fat, Saturated Fat, Trans Fat)

In the past, Blatner says, people obsessed about the “total fat” line on the label — but now we know there are actually good fats we need in our diet, namely the heart-healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats (found, for instance, in fatty fish).

So instead of focusing on the total fat count, look for saturated fats, which raise blood cholesterol levels and increase risk for heart disease and stroke. The American Heart Association recommends limiting these fats to 7 percent of total daily calories — that adds up to 16 grams for someone on a 2,000 calorie-a-day diet. Too complicated? Try the 5 and 20 trick: 5 percent of your daily value is considered low and 20 percent is considered high, anything in between is moderate. So aim for 5 percent or less on the things you don’t want (like saturated fat) and 20 percent or more on the things you do.

Trans fats are especially dangerous, as they raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol and lower your good (HDL) cholesterol at the same time, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fortunately, many manufacturers have scrambled to remove trans fat from their products. But Smithson points out that a label can say it has 0 g of trans fat as long as it actually contains .49 grams or fewer — meaning that if you consume more than one serving size, you might still go beyond the daily limits. Look for the words “partially hydrogenated” on the ingredient label, which is another way of saying trans fat, the Mayo Clinic says.

Total Carb
Despite their bad rap, carbs are an important nutrient, and a key source of energy for the body. (Complex carbohydrates, which include whole grains, are the healthier pick over refined or simple carbohydrates, according to the NIH).

Carb counting is important for people with diabetes, Smithson explains, as carbohydrates raise blood glucose levels.

Cholesterol
“Saturated fat is tied even more to your actual body cholesterol levels than cholesterol in food itself,” Blatner says, so when doing a quick label scan, you’re better off to look for the former rather than the latter. That said, you should still keep the amount of cholesterol as low as possible (5 percent of your daily value or less according to the 5 and 20 rule).

And remember that cholesterol only occurs in animal products — if a bag of peanuts, for instance, is boasting being “cholesterol free,” that’s no great feat.

Fiber

Plenty of dietary fiber is important for maintaining intestinal regularity and bowel health, Smithson explains. Other benefits include reducing blood cholesterol levels and controlling blood sugar levels, and assisting in weight loss, according to the Mayo Clinic.

The USDA recommends consuming 14 g of fiber for every 1,000 calories per day, which adds up to 28 g for someone on a 2,000 calorie diet. But no need to do math — the 5 and 20 rule applies again; shoot to pick foods with 20 percent or more of your daily value of fiber. For a list of surprisingly rich sources of fiber, click here.

Protein
According to the CDC, about 35 percent of your daily calories should come from protein — that’s about 46 g for adult women and 56 g for adult men. The FDA doesn’t require labels to list percent daily values for protein (unless a claim is made that it’s “high protein”), as most adults and children consume plenty of the nutrient.

Meat may be the most well-known source of protein, but it’s definitely not the only option — for a list of meat-free sources, click here.

Read your labels,stay informed, and make it part of everyday life. The benefits will be energizing.

Slimming Strawberries For Weight Loss

Category : HEALTH & BEAUTY

May 31, 2011

Featured on HuffPost Health by Leo Galland, M.D.

Red, ripe and delicious, strawberries are a little fruit that work overtime for your health.

Peak strawberry season is just around the corner, so now is the perfect time to add strawberries to your menu for summer weight loss. From farm stands to your local supermarket, these luscious berries are sure to turn up just about everywhere.

The exciting research that is being done shows that the special nutritional components in strawberries might be able to stimulate your metabolism and help suppress your appetite. They can control blood sugar and can also help you lose weight.

It is no wonder that scientists across the United States, in Sweden and other countries have been researching the wonders of the strawberry and discovering more evidence of its health benefits. There is no doubt that strawberries have joined the other rock stars of super nutritious fruit such as blueberries, cherries, cranberries and pomegranates.

What Gives Strawberries Their Nutritional Punch?

Strawberries are a healthy food to eat to lose weight, because there are 49 calories in one cup of strawberries. They are also loaded with Vitamin C, 3 grams of fiber, and some calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

Strawberries are rich sources of phenolic antioxidants that can help:

  1. reverse inflammation
  2. aid in weight loss
  3. reduce the risk of chronic disease.

Strawberries Promote Weight Loss

The ellagic acid and anthocyanins found in strawberries aid weight loss in at least three ways:

  1. Chronic inflammation blocks the hormones involved in keeping you lean. Anti-inflammatory foods like strawberries help restore normal function to weight-reducing hormones.
  2. Anthocyanins actually increase the body’s production of a hormone called adiponectin, which stimulates your metabolism and suppresses your appetite.
  3. Both ellagic acid and anthocyanins slow the rate of digestion of starchy foods, controlling the rise in blood sugar that follows a starchy meal. This effect is used to control blood sugar in people with adult-onset (Type 2) diabetes.

Organic Strawberries Have More Nutrition

I recommend organically grown strawberries. Organic strawberries have been shown to have higher levels of vitamin C and than conventionally grown strawberries, due to a higher content of phenolic antioxidants.

In a fascinating study, researchers from Washington State University compared organic strawberries and farms to conventional strawberries and farms. They found the organic strawberries to be higher in quality, and the soil to be healthier. Specifically, in comparison to the conventionally grown berries, the organic strawberries had higher total antioxidants, ascorbic acid, and total phenolics.

 

DR. OZ’S TOP 10 DAILY ESSENTIALS

Category : HEALTH & BEAUTY

May 13, 2011

Featured on doctoroz.com

Dr. Oz boils down what he considers the top 10 most essential habits you need to carry out on a daily basis for optimal health.

To make life simpler, Dr. Oz has whittled down his top 10 daily essentials, starting at number 10 and building toward the single most important thing you need to do on a daily basis to achieve optimal health.

Dr. Oz’s Top 10 Daily Essentials

10. Eat a Hard-boiled Egg

Eggs are protein powerhouses that provide 13% of your daily protein and only 4% of your daily calories. These excellent, inexpensive protein sources fight frailty. Rich in choline, they also reduce inflammation in the brain, which has been linked to Alzheimer’s. Cook up a week’s worth in advance and take them with you on the go. If you’re not a fan of hard-boiled eggs, eat one a day scrambled, poached or any other way you like it.

9. Check Your Poop

First, your poop should never appear white. If this occurs, it could mean lack of bile, indicating a blockage or a problem with absorption. Second, keep in mind that the range for bowel movement occurrence is very broad – anywhere from 3 times a week to multiple times a day is considered normal.

8. Make Vegetables Half of Every Single Meal

Vegetables are chockfull of vital nutrients and most of us do not get enough of them. Make them half of every single meal. Get your veggies in the morning by tossing them into an omelet. At lunch and dinner, eat more veggie-based salads and soups; divide your plate into two halves with your main course, say chicken or fish, taking up one side and vegetables the other. Click here for more suggestions on getting more vegetables into each of your meals.

7. Take Half Multivitamin in the Morning and the Other Half at Night

A multivitamin serves as an insurance policy, guaranteeing your body gets everything it needs. However, your body can’t absorb all these nutrients at once, and you wind up eliminating a portion of them via your urine or bowel movements. To maximize absorption, split your multivitamin in two and take half in the morning and half in the evening. Better yet, try and purchase a brand that offers a daily dosage in various pills. Click here for Dr. Oz’s Ultimate Supplement Checklist.

6:  Supplement With a Bone-Boosting Cocktail

To protect your bones, a multivitamin is not enough. You need a bone-boosting cocktail comprised of:

  • Vitamin D3, 1000 IU
  • Calcium, 600 mg
  • Magnesium, 400 mg

Today, most drugstores now sell this combination all in one pill, and here’s why you need all three combined: Vitamin D aids calcium absorption to keep bones strong. Magnesium also counteracts blood vessel constriction and constipation caused by calcium. Click here for Dr. Oz’s Bone-Boosting Plan.

5. Get at Least 7 Hours of Sleep

A brand new study shows that people who don’t get enough sleep are not as sharp the next day and most alarmingly, they don’t even realize it. Here are 4 ways to help you sleep better and get to sleeper faster:

  • Read a book before bed. Reading acts as a soothing balm that helps you fall asleep.
  • Instead of an overhead light, which stimulates the brain to wake up, use a reading light.
  • Turn your alarm clock away from view so it won’t stimulate the brain’s pineal gland, which senses light.
  • Use an eye mask to keep light out and increase sleep quality.

4. Have Sex

You already know that a healthy sex life with your partner helps you stay bonded and also provides a good workout. Now a new study shows that sex is also good for your brain, leading to improved interconnections in the brain and stress reduction.

3.Breathe and Stretch for 5 Minutes

Five minutes of breathing and stretching each day creates a powerful stress buster that can add years to your life. When you wake up in the morning, try the “hippie” stretch: Reach down and try to touch your toes. Relax your hips and let your head go loose. Now alternate relaxing your left and right knees and walk around a bit. Close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Five minutes later, you’re loosened up and good to go. For Dr. Oz’s 7-Minute Workout, click here.

2. Eliminate Simple Sugars

Simple sugars are the reason behind America’s obesity epidemic. If it’s white or processed, you need to eliminate it. In addition, practice reading labels and avoid products containing “hidden sugars” such as high fructose corn syrup (HFCS), evaporated cane juice and brown rice sugar. For a list of the other foods you should eliminate, click here.

1. Sit Less, Move More

Groundbreaking research shows that for every hour a day you spend sitting, your risk of death increases by 11%. Even small movements throughout the day, such as fidgeting, can add up to major health benefits. Dr. Oz recommends getting 10,000 steps a day. To do this, invest in a pedometer so you can keep track of each step you make toward optimal health.