Thursday, February 17, 2011

On the Radar...

Two recent bites of nutrition news popped on my radar in the past few days and they're worth a quick share.

1. Mark Bittman's op-ed in yesterday New York Times asks the poignant question: "why aren't genetically modified foods labeled?"  Don't ask, and nothing will change.  It's a pretty scary notion when you sit down and consider it for a quick second.  Read through the article for Bittman's lengthier musings, but when you boil it down, we're putting food/fuel/nourishment in our bodies that's somehow been altered--by man and machines. The USDA now allows three different types of G.M.O's (alfalfa, a type of corn used to make ethanol and sugar beets) to be used in food production, yet has no regulatory position on labeling around it.  Scary?  Umm...without question.  There's fear of cross-pollination with non-G.M.O. crops and the risk of serious allergic reactions.   I'll leave you with this: Europe is so wary of genetically engineered foods that it rarely produces them and has actually banned their import.  Maybe we should think about following suit?

 2. The New York Times strikes twice...Jane Brody's Personal Health column yesterday lays out the new set of Dietary Guildelines released on Jan. 31st by the USDA and Health and Human Services.  Interesting that the vast majority of the guidelines sound quite familiar (it's like they took the very words right from my me, they didn't!).  What's most interesting is that new guidelines take us back to the very basics of wholesome, sensible eating -- finally!  They place emphasis on nutrient-dense foods and how to feasibly eat fewer calories without relinquishing all the pleasure out of delicious, healthful food.  Brody, similar to moi, highlights that moderation is the true secret to eating well and enjoying your food.  Here's a brief overview via Ms. Brody (and in turn, myself): 

  • Eat lots more vegetables and fruits, filling half your plate with them.
  • Choose lean meat and poultry, and replace some of them with seafood.
  • Consume mainly nonfat or low-fat milk and other dairy products.  (though I'm in full support of full-fat cheese -- in moderate quantities.  amazing flavor and taste translate to enjoyment and satisfaction via smaller amounts.  i will also make the disclaimer that i use whole milk in my coffee and my yogurt of choice is the local, organic *full-fat* brand, Maple Hill.)
  • Choose low-sodium products and use less salt and salty ingredients in food preparation.  (using a bit salt in cooking gets the green light in my book and is often key to bringing out an ingredient's flavor, but over-salting or adding extra salt after the food's been prepared is where we can hit the skids.) 
  • Eat more fiber-rich foods; replace most refined grains and grain-based foods with whole-grain versions.
  • Use vegetable oils like olive and canola oils instead of solid fats like butter and margarine, but remember that all fats have lots of calories.  (for baking, sometimes real butter is a must though...which just means that we can be a little thoughtful when slicing up that not-too-small, not-too-large, piece of pie.)
  • Eat out less; cook at home more often (a no-brainer and something I've been saying for years!)
  • Drink water, calorie-free beverages and 100 precent fruit juice (4 ounces is a serving of juice)
  • Bottom line: eat less, exercise more for a better-balanced outcome.


Deanna - The Unnatural Mother said...

Always worth reiterating this information. I was touting your services to a friend just yesterday and mentioned almost all this info....except for the butter, I thought a pad of butter would be better to use than margarine (that's proceessed), is that true?

Anonymous said...

I get totally confused on the butter, coconut oil, saturated fat talk too.
Should I use organic butter or trans-fat free spread? I know nut butters are an option.
For heart health and healthy lipids this gets confusing.
Thanks - I think it could warrent an entire post!

Marissa Lippert said...

Deanna & Greg - great questions!
- Deanna, you're dead on...yes to using a pat of butter over margarine (too processed and it may contain partially hydrogenated fat). Go with the real thing and use it sparingly!

-Greg, either organic butter (1 tsp or so per serving) or an spread like Olivio is a good option. Butter and coconut oil are both higher in saturated fats than unsaturated fat sources like avocado, olive oil and nuts. BUT they can have a place in moderation in our diet like I mentioned. There's controversy over coconut oil, but it may impact us differently as a saturated fat b/c it's from a plant source whereas butter is from an animal source.
The bottom line is to use any fat sparingly and for optimal heart health, reach for unsaturated fat sources the majority of the time!

Terr said...

Hi, Marissa. My first time posting. Really enjoy the blog and v. much agree with The Cheater's Diet philosophy.

If I may add to the discussion on saturated fat. This is very much a contentious area in nutrition. Saturated fat has been implicated as a atherogenic lipid since the Diet-Heart Hypothesis came out in the 50's. Since then fat, esp. saturated fat, has been vilified by the media and health professionals alike. A simple hypothesis has somehow become fact. Truth is, research is showing that saturated fat may actually be beneficial. Three main types - stearic, lauric, and palmitic. Stearic acid is converted by the body into oleic acid, which is a monounsaturated fat. Lauric (found in both coconut oil and animal products like butter) and palmitic acids both raise LDL, but also raise HDL. The rise in LDL is not a big deal because saturated fats increase the LDL particle size making them less of a concern when compared to small LDL particles. It's hard to de-stigmatize saturated fat, though, when it has been maligned by many for so long.

As for total fat in the diet, Harvard University writes, "no link was seen between the overall percentage of calories from fat and any important health outcome, including cancer, heart disease, and weight gain."

If anything, the take away is that nutrition is a constantly changing science. Definitely no need to let it drive us insane, though. That's why I like The Cheater's Diet philosophy so much. There is NO need to strive for perfection.