Archive for » April 12th, 2012«

Vegetarian Diet for a Better Mood?

Can eating meat be detrimental for your mood and mental health? Is there a reason that your vegetarian friend is so energetic and cheerful all the time? The latest nutrition research suggests there may be scientific validity to these observations.

According to a recent study published this February by Bonnie Beezhold in Nutrition Journal, a randomized group of omnivores reported improved mood states after only two weeks of eliminating meat, fish and poultry from their diets.

The study consisted of three groups. The omnivores were randomly assigned to either a control group, which included consuming meat, fish and poultry daily, a second group assigned to consuming fish 3-4 times a week but avoiding meat and poultry, and a third group that avoided meat, fish, and poultry altogether. At baseline and at the end of the two weeks, the participants completed a food frequency questionnaire, a “Profile of Mood States” questionnaire, and a “Depression Anxiety and Stress Scale.” According to the self-reported results, both the omnivore’s and the fish eater’s moods remained unchanged, while the vegetarian group showed significant improvements in their mood scores at the end of the two week trial. (1) This and other studies conducted by Beezhold suggest that vegetarianism is associated with overall healthier mood status.

So what is it about meat and poultry that may have adverse affects on our mood? Omnivorous diets are high in arachidonic acid (omega-6) in comparison to vegetarian diets. Past research has shown that high intakes of arachidonic acid, found mainly in red meat, poultry, and some fish, promotes changes in the brain that can negatively disturb our mood. High blood levels of arachidonic acid, in relationship to eicosapentaenoic acid (omega-3), have been linked to clinical symptoms of depression. (2) While omega-3s, especially fish oil, have become the poster child for brain function and lowering oxidative stress, the high levels of omega-6 in our modern omnivorous diets may be doing us more harm than good. A possible solution to this imbalance of omegas in your diet could be the addition of several amazing plant sources of omega-3s such as walnuts and flaxseed, that provide the benefits of omega-3s with lower levels of omega-6s.

These findings challenge what we have come to learn about the beneficial effects of fish our brain and, according to Beezhold, suggest an unrecognized benefit of vegetarian diets that are naturally lower in omega fatty acids. While vegetarians typically have lower levels of both omega fatty acids, they also have much higher circulating concentrations of antioxidants due to their increased plant consumption. (3) Vegetarians therefore may not need as many omega fatty acids to protect them from oxidative stress.

While there is still debate about the ideal diet for optimum brain function, this field of research certainly raises another interesting argument that points to how cutting down on our meat and poultry consumption can have beneficial impacts on our overall health and well-being.

(1) Beezhold and Johnston: Restriction of meat, fish, and poultry in omnivores improves mood: A pilot randomized controlled trial. Nutrition Journal 2012 11:9 (http://www.nutritionj.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-11-9.pdf)

(2) Adams, Peter B., Sheryl Lawson, Andrew Sanigorski, and Andrew J. Sinclair. “Arachidonic Acid to Eicosapentaenoic Acid Ratio in Blood Correlates Positively with Clinical Symptoms of Depression.” Lipids 31.1 (1996): S157-161. Print. (http://www.springerlink.com/content/u028h00453272554/about/)

(3) Beezhold et al., Vegetarian diets are associated with healthy mood states: a cross- sectional study in Seventh Day Adventist adults Nutrition Journal 2010, 9:26 (http://www.biomedcentral.com/content/pdf/1475-2891-9-26.pdf)

For more by Riley Rearden, click here.

For more on mental health, click here.

Flickr photo by Martin Cathrae


The Positive Effects of HCG Diet Plans, As Discussed by Physician’s Weight …

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8 Gluten-Free Things That Won’t Help You Lose Weight Like Miley Cyrus

Yesterday, TheGloss posted about Miley Cyrus‘ dubious announcement that she has a gluten allergy—which she says explains her recent weight loss (not an eating disorder or crash diet, like some people-with-too-much-time-on-their-hands have been speculating). Whether she’s jumping on a diet trend for weight loss or health, we can’t be sure—but Miley’s tweets about gluten were less than illuminating for people who are confused about why so many people are suddenly going gluten-free. So here’s a crash course on the topic, and the trendy foods to avoid—whether you want to lose weight or improve your health.

First, it’s important to understand the main problems people have with wheat and gluten:

  1. Gluten Sensitivity—can range from mild to extreme reaction to gluten, but won’t show up on blood tests for Celiac Disease (this is also often referred to as a gluten allergy).
  2. Celiac Disease—an autoimmune disorder by which eating gluten causes an immune reaction that destroys the lining of the lower intestine, causing an inability to absorb certain nutrients and, in worst cases, can cause deficiencies that severely damage the nervous system and vital organs.

“Gluten intolerance” is a vague term that indicates a wide spectrum of reactions to gluten, including gluten sensitivity and celiac disease.

According to recent research, gluten sensitivity and celiac have both increased dramatically in recent years. Gluten allergies in particular have increased exponentially—some believe as many as 5 to 10% of Americans suffer some form of it—while it’s less clear whether celiac has grown as rapidly. One study last year indicated that it’s five times more common than it was in the 1950′s, but researcher’s aren’t sure if that’s because of increased awareness and diagnosis, or an actual change in our immune systems.

And explanations abound: While some researchers claim that the increase in celiac is because we have become “too clean,” causing a weakening of our immune systems, many doctors claim the rise in gluten sensitivity is due to the genetic modification of wheat in recent years (like many plants, wheat has been altered for higher crop yields, and different taste and texture to suit modern tastes and food product needs).

But whatever the statistics and explanations, many don’t believe the hype; in fact, a study published earlier this year basically called bullshit on anyone claiming gluten sensitivity who doesn’t test positive for celiac disease.

The skepticism, at least in part part, is probably due to the simultaneous boom in “gluten-free” foods on the market. A New York Times article published last fall cited statistics claiming the volume of products sold went up 37% in 2011, making the gluten-free market a $6.3 billion industry and growing. With that kind of market opportunity, it’s not just niche health food companies who are jumping on the bandwagon; corporations like General Mills are also looking for a way to get in on what seem to be recession-proof profits.

But many of the doctors urging patients to ditch gluten for improved health don’t want you to take part in those products at all; common sense says that replacing empty calories like white bread, crackers, and pastries with lean protein, vegetables, and whole grains will help most people lose weight and feel better. But swapping out processed junk for gluten-free processed junk isn’t likely to improve your health or change your body much (although those products do help people suffering celiac disease get their fix of cookies now and then).

If you’re considering jumping on the gluten-free bandwagon for health or weight loss, try to avoid foods like these:


Hill’s® Pet Nutrition Introduces Science Diet® Ideal Balance™ and MyBowl for Cats – SYS

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TOPEKA, Kan., April 11, 2012 /PRNewswire/ – Building on the successful launch of Hill’s® Science Diet® Ideal Balanceand MyBowl for Dogs – the first of its kind interactive tool designed to put dog nutrition in terms people can understand – Hill’s® Pet Nutrition and petMD.com, the largest global source of pet health information, are now offering the same balanced diet options and educational resources to families who own felines.

(Photo: http://photos.prnewswire.com/prnh/20120411/NY86113 )

Science Diet® Ideal Balance and MyBowl for Cats provide pets a precisely balanced diet and a tool that helps their owners understand the importance of balanced nutrition for their feline.

MyBowl for Cats

MyBowl for Cats puts pet nutrition in easy to understand human terms to:

  • Illustrate the proper proportion of essential nutrients cats need – carbohydrates, protein, minerals, vitamins, fats and oils
  • Educate owners about the specific benefits each nutrients delivers when fed in the right balance
  • Decode the cat food label so owners ensure their cat is receiving the proper balance of nutrients at each meal

A Chance to Win

During the month of April, cat owners can test their pet nutrition knowledge with an interactive online quiz at www.petmd.com for a chance to win one of four $2,500 pet retailer gift cards.  All participating owners will also receive a rebate for a free bag of Hill’s® Science Diet® Ideal Balance™ (up to $12.99).

“The positive response we received for MyBowl for Dogs confirmed that pet owners are looking for simple-to-understand information about proper pet nutrition,” said Mark Champ, Product Manager, Hill’s Pet Nutrition. “MyBowl for Cats provides feline-specific tools to help cat owners easily demystify nutrition labels and determine the best, balanced diet for their pet.”

Science Diet® Ideal Balance™ for Cats

An important part of maintaining a pet’s optimal health is selecting a food that provides the right balance of essential vitamins and nutrients. Hill’s® Pet Nutrition is making this choice easy with the launch of their new Hill’s® Science Diet® Ideal Balance™ food for cats. Formulated with the precise amount of natural ingredients in the exact proportions cats need, this new formulation features fresh chicken as its first ingredient, an assortment of fruits and vegetables and contains no corn or artificial colors. Ideal Balance™ provides cat owners a natural pet food choice while still delivering the right balance of high-quality ingredients owners have come to expect from the Science Diet® portfolio of products.

Cat Nutrition Center

The MyBowl tool will be housed on petMD.com, which now features a newly created Cat Nutrition Center, in addition to its Dog Nutrition Center. Now both cat and dog owners can find detailed nutrition information and tools for their pets including:

  • MyBowl for Cats MyBowl for Dogs
  • Nutrition Articles and Slideshows
  • “The Nutrition Nugget” Nutrition Blog by Dr. Jennifer Coates
  • Dog Cat Nutrition Quizzes and FAQ

Science Diet® Ideal Balance™ for cats is now available at Pet Specialty stores, Farm and Feed stores and select Veterinary Clinics.

About Hill’s Pet Nutrition

Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc. manufactures Hill’s® Prescription Diet® brand pet foods, therapeutic pet foods available only through veterinarians, and Hill’s® Science Diet® brand pet foods sold through veterinarians and finer pet specialty stores. Founded more than 60 years ago with a unique commitment to pet nutrition and well-being, Hill’s is committed to its mission to help enrich and lengthen the special relationships between people and their pets. Hill’s produces high-quality, great-tasting pet foods owners can trust and give to their canine and feline companions as part of a veterinary health care team recommendation. This ultimately improves patient health and the health of the practice. For more information about Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc., and Hill’s Evidence-Based Clinical Nutrition™ visit HillsPet.com.

About petMD

petMD is a leading online resource focused solely on the health and well-being of pets. The site maintains the world’s largest pet health library, written and approved by a network of trusted veterinarians. petMD was founded to inspire pet owners to provide an ever-increasing quality of life for their pets and to connect pet owners with pet experts and other animal lovers. petMD is a subsidiary of the Pet360 family of brands, which also includes PetFoodDirect.com – the most complete pet food and supply retailer online, and NationalPetPharmacy.com – a fully certified, full-service pet pharmacy delivering pet meds, vitamins and comprehensive pet health and wellness products.

SOURCE Hill’s Pet Nutrition Inc.

Eat More ‘Superfoods’ To Lose Weight

(CNN) — When you’re on a diet, food consumes your life.

You can’t eat carbohydrates, so you think about them constantly. You can’t dig into your co-worker’s candy drawer, so MM’s float across your computer screen like a desert mirage.

You skip the bar after work because that’s where the margaritas live. And forget snacking after 8 p.m.; that would be breaking diet rule No. 364.

“I’ve hated diets all my life,” says Lucy Danziger, who is ironically the author of a new weight-loss book, “The Drop 10 Diet.”

“If I tell you ‘Don’t think about this,’ that’s all you can think about.”

What if losing weight didn’t have to be so negative?

As the editor-in-chief of SELF magazine for more than 10 years, Danziger has seen every fad diet known to woman come across her desk.

Then, five years ago, the triathlete decided to ditch dieting all together and focus on choosing foods that would “pay her back.” She wanted to run, swim and bike faster, and she needed the proper fuel to do that.

Danziger started eating superfoods: foods like nuts, berries and whole grains that are full of fiber, protein and important nutrients. In less than six months, she dropped 25 pounds.

It’s certainly not a new nutrition concept: Avoid processed foods; eat more vegetables and fruits; replace white bread with wheat. But the idea of focusing on what you should eat, instead of what you can’t, could change the way we look at weight loss in America, Danziger says.

“We’re going to give you so many choices of what you can eat, you’re not thinking about starvation. … You’re thinking about feeding the engine.”

Danziger is big on metaphors. As she noshes on almonds in her office, she compares superfoods to premium gas for a car. “They have to do more than supply you with calories.”

So what makes a food “super”?

Dr. Steven Pratt coined the term in 2004 with his first book, “SuperFoods Rx: Fourteen Foods That Will Change Your Life.”

According to Pratt, a superfood has three qualifications: It has to be readily available to the public, it has to contain nutrients that are known to enhance longevity, and its health benefits have to be backed by peer-reviewed, scientific studies.

Pratt lists salmon, broccoli, spinach, berries and green tea as a few of his favorites. His website, SuperFoodsRx.com, gives 20 more examples.

“These foods were chosen because they contain high concentrations of crucial nutrients, as well as the fact that many of them are low in calories,” the website states. “Foods containing these nutrients have been proven to help prevent and, in some cases, reverse the well-known effects of aging, including cardiovascular disease, Type II Diabetes, hypertension and certain cancers.”

Weight loss wasn’t on Pratt’s agenda when he started supporting superfoods. Yet as he traveled around the world touting the brand, that’s what people were excited about.

“The most common thing I hear is how much weight people lost without trying to lose weight,” Pratt says. “It’s the non-diet diet. It’s food you can eat for a lifetime.”

Marisa Moore, a registered dietitian with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says superfoods are healthy, but adding them to your plate won’t simply melt the pounds away.

“Yes, there are foods that are high in fiber, water and protein, and therefore promote satiety. … These are without a doubt recommended as weight-management friendly,” Moore wrote in an e-mail. “But to say that they boost fat loss may be taking it a step too far.”

Danziger agrees: Superfoods aren’t a free pass to eat as much as you want, whenever you want. Still, it would be pretty difficult to get fat eating spinach.

For Danziger, eating superfoods is about energy. She feels super after eating superfoods. She wants to work out, which in turn helps her sleep better, which gives her more energy and keeps her diet on track.

Pratt says that feeling is what keeps the superfoods trend strong.

“The better you feel, the more you do it. Your body will send an e-mail to your brain within minutes thanking it, saying, ‘I’m going to do better. I’m not going to get sick anymore.’ “

After joking about injecting that feeling into his patients, Pratt turns serious. He’s been pushing superfoods since the mid-1990s, and still obesity rates and obesity-related disease rates are sky-high in America.

Pratt attributes most of that to the culture: It takes time and energy to make a change. Danziger says cost is certainly an issue for some people. But both experts agree the reward is worth it in the long run.

“At the end of the day, you invest in your wardrobe and your hair and your car and everything else,” Danziger says. “So invest in your body. Because it’s supposed to last for 100 years.”

(Leslie Wade contributed to this story.)

LeeAnn Weintraub: Apply spring cleaning routine to kitchen and diet

Spring cleaning is all about lightening your load, making space in your closet for warmer-weather clothes and clearing away old clutter.

And there’s no better place to start your spring cleaning than the kitchen.

Get rid of old, outdated bottles, diet-sabotaging foods and unhealthy items and make room for leaner, healthy foods that are in alignment with your diet and fitness goals.

Out with the old

Start by going through the refrigerator and pantry and checking expiration and best-if-used-by dates.

Use or sell-by dates don’t apply once the package is opened. Once open, items should be disposed of even sooner.

Toss anything that is expired or questionable. The sniff test is not a reliable method when assessing freshness of food. Food may appear and smell fine for days after it has gone bad. If in doubt, throw it out.

Be sure to look through jars and bottles in the fridge door and all compartments. By getting rid of old and outdated food you will make space for fresh and healthy items.

Stock up on produce

Now that it’s spring, there are plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables in season. Apricots, cherries, peas and asparagus are just a few examples of fruits and veggies that are going to be peaking in availability and freshness over the next few weeks.

Think about ways beyond salad to include more fresh produce in your diet.

Lettuce wraps are a fantastic way to incorporate

lots of veggies such as carrots, cucumber, sprouts and fresh herbs into your meal plan. Include some tofu or chicken breast for a source of lean protein.

Use seasonal berries in a parfait or try grilling stone fruit and serving it with yogurt or cottage cheese.

Streamline what you eat

Consider simplifying your diet by cutting back on foods with a long list of ingredients. By choosing mostly whole, unprocessed foods you can avoid unnecessary additives and artificial ingredients and steer clear of higher-calorie items.

Plus, buying less packaged food will decrease the amount of trash you produce and can help decrease the clutter in your kitchen.

Purchase staples such as flour, sugar, oil, vinegar and nuts in bulk and store them in reusable glass jars and containers.

Finally, go through condiments, herbs and spices and consolidate where you have doubles of any items. Recycle, compost or toss out what you don’t need.

Keep food safety in mind

Be sure that your refrigerator is set to 40 degrees or below.

Avoid storing eggs in the refrigerator door where it often gets warmer than the recommended temperature. In fact, items that have higher acidity, such as sauces and dressings, store well in the fridge door, but longer than two months may be pushing the limits of freshness and safety.

Store leftovers in tightly sealed containers and toss them out after three to five days.

Work toward health goals

Think about how to make positive changes in your food environment that connect with your health goals.

For example, if you want to be more consistent about eating a balanced breakfast stock up on nutritious breakfast foods such as high-fiber cereal, low-fat or nonfat yogurt, and fresh fruit.

Stay hydrated by keeping a pitcher of water on hand and maintaining a supply of beverages you and your family enjoy.

If you are struggling with grogginess or fatigue in the afternoon, keep energy-boosting snacks such as nuts, oatmeal and avocado on hand.

A bit of spring cleaning will have you on your way to maintaining a clean and organized kitchen stocked with the right foods for a fit and active lifestyle.


LeeAnn Weintraub, M.P.H., R.D., can be reached at RD@halfacup.com.