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Food, Our Diet And Politics: KCBS In Depth With Dr. Marion Nestle

SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS)— One of the most important questions when it comes to our health is what or whom influences what we eat. Last week the committee advising the government on new dietary guidelines released its recommendations for 2015.

In a nutshell, the committee advised eating fewer animal products, more vegetable and plant-based foods, along with much less added sugar and saturated fats, and getting more vitamin D. But the good news is we can decriminalize eggs and non-processed foods in the fight against cholesterol. The guidelines say water should be our primary beverage, but we may now also enjoy more cups of coffee, guilt free than previously thought.

If adopted, these guidelines will become part of new government policy influencing health care, nutrition in public facilities, like schools and of course, the food industry.

Dr. Marion Nestle, a nutrition scientist, professor, advocate and author chaired the department of nutrition food studies and public health at New York University for more than 15 years. She was also a nutrition senior advisor for the U.S. Department of Health.

“Everybody likes to think that we make our own choices about what we eat, but what’s available and what’s marketed has a great deal to do with American’s food choices. I think we all underestimate the effect of the $17 billion dollars that the food industry spends on trying to convince us to spend on their products,” she said partly in explanation of the confluence of health policy, lobbying and what we eat.

The people who make up the dietary guidelines committee are usually academics who are nutrition scientists who are brought in because of their expertise. Nestle said the scientists are respected, but that much of the issue of conflict lies within the food industry.

“The food industry’s interest is in selling more food. That’s their job. They’re not social service agencies. They really have no economic interest in public health in any direct way.”

Nestle claims the meat, sugar and other processed food industries have all weighed in on the guideline recommendations have all weighed in on the advisory committee report to say that it’s not scientifically substantiated, but their reaction was anticipated.

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National Nutrition Month: Raising a Healthier Generation through Diet, Education

The School Breakfast Program provides children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced, healthy meal consistent with the latest nutrition science and Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

The School Breakfast Program provides children of all economic backgrounds a well-balanced, healthy meal consistent with the latest nutrition science and Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

We all want our children to succeed.  It’s an important value and one the entire country can rally around.  This March we’re redoubling our efforts to that commitment by celebrating National Nutrition Month and the importance of raising a healthier generation of kids.

It’s our collective responsibility to ensure the next generation has access to healthier meals.  USDA and the Obama administration support a nutritious diet by making the healthy choice the easy choice in our schools.  And for good reason…

Our nutrition assistance programs, such as the National School Lunch and School Breakfast Programs, provide children with the nutritious food they need to lead healthy lifestyles for the long term.  To make this happen, it’s imperative we teach our nation’s children how to enjoy well-balanced meals, stay physically active and maintain healthy lifestyles so they learn, grow and achieve their full potential.  They deserve to learn to make the choices that set them up for success and better position them to achieve their dreams.

Dreams need to be nurtured though.  And USDA feels strongly that no child should start the school day hungry.  Research reveals that students who consume breakfast make greater strides on standardized tests, pay attention and behave better in class.  They also tend to be less frequently tardy, absent or visiting the nurse’s office when they’ve got breakfast in their stomachs.  That’s why we’re so dedicated to this program.  In fact, over the seven-year period from 2008 through 2014, total participation in the School Breakfast Program has grown 27.8 percent.

The principal goal of our School Breakfast Program is to provide schoolchildren access to a nutritious start to the day, one that promotes both healthy eating and learning readiness.  We understand that not all children are able to eat breakfast at home.  Whether it’s a family’s tight budget or an issue of being too busy, not all children get the energy and nutrients they need for a healthy beginning to their day.  The modern School Breakfast Program is designed to address those realities and is structured to meet the needs of all ages, schedules and physical environments.  Schools can even consider creative options like grab and go kiosks or Breakfast in the Classroom to accommodate their students’ circumstances.

The Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) offers another opportunity for schools with a large percentage of low-income students to serve free meals to all their students.  CEP helps cut back on paperwork for schools, while boosting access to nutritious breakfasts for students in need.

To highlight these priorities, we recognize the first week of March (March 2 – 6) as National School Breakfast Week.  The celebration underscores the important nutritional foundation breakfast provides and the role the program serves in charting a healthier course for our kids.

During this time we’re also celebrating International School Meals Day on March 5.  The day raises awareness of the importance of food and nutrition in education and invites schools, teachers and students across the globe to share their school feeding experiences.  Themed “Celebrate Culture through Food,” the event helps draw the connection between a culture and its food.

Good nutrition is as critical to a child’s overall success as the curriculum that our schools teach every day.  At USDA, we’re focused on strengthening the future of America by improving the health of our nation’s children.  And why not, they deserve it!

To learn more about FNS nutrition assistance efforts, follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/usdanutrition

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Do Fitness Apps Actually Help You Lose Weight?

We’re living in the age of fitness apps: Not only can you download helpful trackers to monitor your diet or exercise, new smartphones come with that capability built right into their technology. (Case in point: 5 Fun Ways to Use Apple’s New iPhone 6 Health App.) But, is this advent of health-related apps actually helpful? Well, it depends on your starting point. 

Turns out, health apps are actually only helpful to those who are already healthy, according to new data. Carnegie Mellon University’s Integrated Innovation Institute has been working on an ongoing study, which has surveyed 2,000 men and women, ages 18-34, on topics ranging from financial habits to professional pursuits. Their latest report showed that while 66 percent of people who maintain a healthy diet said they find apps helpful to monitor diet and exercise, 67 percent of people who don’t maintain a healthy diet don’t find those apps helpful. Translation: health-related apps only help if you’re already doing the work to stay healthy. 

It makes sense: If you’re already inclined to set specific fitness goals and get your daily fix of fruits and veggies, technology that helps you reach those goals would be appealing. But if you’re not predisposed to healthy behaviors, downloading an app isn’t a magic solution. In fact, a recent study found that fitness trackers could actually be doing you a disservice—by tracking your activity for you, you lose out on an important self-tracking step that enables you to actually modify behavior. So if you’re solely relying on a tracker to maintain good health habits, any changes you make might last only as long as you wear that tracker. 

Moral of the story: all the technology in the world can’t replace a genuine desire to eat healthy and stay in shape. 

The study also found that of those people who think about their weight a lot, 60 percent blame their parents (or believe genetics is a dominant factor), and of those who don’t think about their weight a lot, only 39 percent blame their family. (Are Parents to Blame for Your Bad Workout Habits? Find out what the experts say.) For more, see the infographic below.

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Valerie Pampuch: Milk can be part of a healthy diet

There seems to be an ongoing debate whether humans should be drinking milk. I get it. It doesn’t quite make sense because that milk was intended for infant offspring.

Milk contains a small amount of a naturally occurring sugar, lactose. Babies are born with lactase, the stomach enzyme needed to break apart and digest lactose. When we age, the amount of stomach lactase can decline, and this makes sense because as we age we no longer need the breast milk of our mothers.

However, many years ago, our ancestors drank the milk of other mammals to survive, and lucky for us, evolution has made it possible for many of us to “stomach” milk.

So, should you be drinking it now that you’re able to read this article and clearly no longer a baby?

Beyond the health benefits milk provides our bones and teeth, it has been shown to have a positive affect on blood pressure and cardiovascular disease due to its heart healthy amount of calcium, magnesium and potassium. Vitamin B12 is required to maintain healthy nerves, red blood cells and energy productions, and for normal cell division.

Vitamin B12 can be difficult to find in the diet if you do not eat meat and is often low in older populations; luckily milk has a healthy amount of vitamin B12, just another reason to drink a glass.

Milk also can be a better choice for replenishing electrolytes after exercise because it contains potassium and sodium, the primary electrolytes lost in sweat.

If you’re lactose intolerant, you don’t have to miss out on the benefits of drinking milk. Most grocery stores sell lactose-free milk that already has the lactose broken down into its easy-to-digest sugars glucose and galactose. It’s just as nutritious as regular milk. Another option is using an over-the-counter lactase enzyme that comes in a pill form.

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How To Lose Weight: Add Fiber To Your Diet, But Know Right From Wrong

Although restrictive diets help individuals lose weight, there’s one major problem: sticking with them. A recent study revealed that one doesn’t necessarily need to follow a complex diet plan in order to see improvements in overall health. The simple addition of more fiber brought about notable changes in study participants’ health, and even better, researchers say it’s a change most are likely to keep up.

Extra body weight is associated with a number of health risks, including type 2 diabetes, but unlike other health risks, obesity is reversible. Unfortunately for many, losing weight is easier said than done. In the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, researchers asked 260 adults at-risk for developing type 2 diabetes to change their diets for one year. Half of the participants were asked to increase their daily intake of fiber, and the other half were asked to follow the American Heart Association guidelines, which consist of reducing sugar and salt intake, eating more fruits and vegetables, consuming lean proteins, limiting alcohol, and ensuring equal protein, fat, and carbohydrate consumption. 


At the end of the year, it was clear that the participants who followed the AHA diet lost the most weight, but that did not mean that those who increased their fiber saw no results. AHA dieters lost an average 6 pounds after the year, while the high-fiber dieters lost around 4 pounds over the course of the year. However, it was noted that those who followed the high-fiber plan were more likely to stick to their dietary plan over the course of the year than those assigned to the AHA diet, which could prove useful for those who find it hard to follow a diet plan. All participants experienced lower blood pressure and reduced blood sugar levels. 

“For people who find it difficult to follow complex dietary recommendations, a simple-to-follow diet with just one message — increase your fiber intake — may be the way to go,” study author Dr. Yunsheng Ma told CBS News.

Benefits of Fiber

For the study, the participants were asked to eat 30 grams of fiber a day, taken in the form of food, not supplements. Increasing fiber in this form with vegetables, fruits, and whole grains had additional health benefits, as Ma explained that “High-fiber foods are rich in vitamins and other essential nutrients, so they provide many benefits” over fiber supplements.

So how do you increase your amount of daily fiber? Well, the first step is to understand there are two forms of fiber: soluble and insoluble.   

The National Institutes of Health explains that soluble fibers attract water to form a gel. This helps to keep you fuller longer, which in turn can aid in weight loss. Examples of soluble fiber include oatmeal and cereal, fruits such as apples and pears, nuts, and many types of beans. Insoluble fibers create a laxative effect. They are hard for the body to break down, so in turn help to pass waste along the gastrointestinal tract. These include whole grains, carrots, and root vegetable skins.

Another benefit of increasing your fiber is that it helps to “crowd out” unhealthier options by keeping you fuller longer. Ma also explained that they found that “increasing dietary fiber was accomplished by a host of other healthy dietary changes, likely because high-fiber foods displaced unhealthy foods, such as fatty and sugary foods, in the diet.” 

Source: Ma Y, Olendzi BC, Wang J, et al. Single-Component Versus Multicomponent Dietary Goals for the Metabolic Syndrome: A Randomized Trial. Annals of Internal Medicine. 2015

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