Most people think they eat better than almost everyone else, survey reveals | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Each year, the International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) conducts a food and health survey to assess Americans’ evolving attitudes about food and health. For 2013, the poll focused on the dynamic between what people think and what they do; the results of the poll offer some interesting insights.

“This year, the Food & Health Survey examined the intersection between consumers’ beliefs and their actions, and some of the results are surprising,” said Marianne Smith Edge, senior vice president for nutrition and food safety at the IFIC Foundation. “Our findings clearly reveal a control gap when it comes to nutrition and health. People think it’s quite possible to control their weight, diet and level of physical activity, yet many are falling short in their own lives and recognize that it’s easier said than done.”

In the survey, participants were asked to assign their diets a letter grade from A to F. The average grade they gave themselves was B-minus; when asked to grade the diet of the average American, they assigned a C-minus — an indication that, on average, most people think they’re eating a full grade better than most everybody else.

When it comes to having control over the level of physical activity, healthfulness of their diet and weight, the gaps are wide. For example, 90 percent of respondents say it’s possible to have “a great deal of control” or “complete control” over their level of physical activity, yet only 65 percent are actually trying to take that control.

And what’s preventing people from addressing their physical activity and diet? Sixty-four percent cite a lack of willpower, 60 percent say a dislike of exercise, 54 percent note the perceived high cost of healthful food, and 51 percent cite slow progress as the reasons they are not taking control of these factors.

But that’s not to say that weight isn’t important to the people surveyed; more than half of them (56 percent) agreed that they would rather lose $1,000 than gain 20 pounds.

[tag Most people think they eat better than]

Five so-called ‘healthy’ snacks to avoid

As the nation’s collective waistline continues to expand, it has become more important than ever to educate yourself as to what sorts of foods truly are and are not healthy for you, despite what their labeling says or whether they are touted as “healthy.”

That is especially important for snacks that are supposed to be good for you but which are, in reality, not a smart food choice. Here is a list of five of these so-called healthy snacks you should avoid:

Trail Mix

Why Do We Eat Junk Food When We’re Anxious? –

The pantheon of science includes individuals who have made enormous contributions to human health—the likes of Pasteur and Salk. A pedestal in that temple awaits the scientist who solves the following mystery: Why do we eat junk food when we feel unloved?

[image]Oliver Munday

This isn’t a silly question, certainly not during September, which happens to be National Childhood Obesity Awareness Month. There’s an epidemic of obesity-related health problems, with adult-onset diabetes leading the way throughout the world. The fact that we eat when we’re not actually hungry contributes a lot to this problem.

So why do we do it? It can be because everyone around us is eating. Or because food ads can be so persuasive. Or because we want to bankrupt a hated party host by eating all his Cheetos.

One of the best-understood examples of non-nutritive eating is the fact that stress tends to make us eat more. It makes sense psychologically, in that the people most prone to stress eating are those most actively restricting food intake the rest of the time: When the going gets tough and they need to be nice to themselves, this is how they ease up. They prefer to eat fats and carbs. If the boss is a creep, why not run wild on the chocolate-covered walrus blubber?

But we can’t trace these habits merely to the complexities of the human psyche, because it’s not just humans who exhibit them. Stress a lab rat by, let’s say, putting an unknown rat in its cage, and it will eat more and show a stronger preference for high-fat/high-carb options than usual.

This phenomenon’s occurrence in many species makes evolutionary sense. For 99% of animals, stress involves a major burst of energy use as they, say, run for their lives. Afterward, the body stimulates appetite, especially for high-density calories, to rebuild depleted energy stores. But we smart, neurotic humans keep turning the stress-response on for purely psychological reasons, putting our bodies repeatedly into the restocking mode.

Scientists are beginning to understand how this stress-related junk-food craving works. Stress increases the release of “endogenous opioids” in some brain regions. These neurotransmitters resemble opiates in their structure and addictive properties (and opiates work by stimulating the receptors that evolved for responding to the brain’s opioids). This helps to account for the hugely reinforcing properties of junk food at such times.

Stress also activates the “endocannabinoid” system in the brain. Yes, there’s a class of chemicals in the brain that resemble the ingredient in cannabis that famously links pot to getting the munchies. And stress activates another brain chemical called neuropeptide Y that can stimulate the craving for fat and sugar.

The most fundamental mechanism to explain this stress effect is that comfort food is, well, comforting. As first demonstrated by Mary Dallman and colleagues at the University of California, San Francisco, working with lab rats, fat and carbs stimulate reward systems in the brain, thereby turning off the body’s hormonal stress-response.

It may seem unlikely that one type of pleasure works to offset the effects of a very different source of displeasure. Why should fat-laced rat chow lessen angst about a new cage mate? Yet we regularly make much bigger leaps. Burdened with unrequited love? Shopping often helps. Roiled with existential despair? Bach might do the trick. The common currency of reward in the brain makes for all sorts of unlikely ports in a storm.

But despite the varied possibilities of sources of comfort, some exert particularly strong primal pulls—to the detriment of our health. It is a sign of our evolutionary legacy that, at the end of a stressful day, far fewer of us will seek solace in the poetry of Robert Frost than in a pint of double fudge brownie ice cream.


Can cinnamon help diabetes patients? | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Cinnamon might improve not only the taste of apple pie and oatmeal but also the health of people with diabetes, a new review study suggests.

Researchers found that people with type 2 diabetes who took cinnamon supplements had lower fasting plasma glucose levels compared with people who didn’t take cinnamon.

The review also found that cinnamon benefited several important measures of heart health: It reduced total cholesterol, LDL “bad” cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and increased HDL “good” cholesterol.

In the review, researchers looked at data collected from 10 randomized control led trials involving 543 patients with type 2 diabetes. These studies compared people who took cinnamon in a pill form, in doses ranging from 120 milligrams to 6 grams a day, for a period of four to 18 weeks, to people who did not take cinnamon.

“When we combined the results of all the trials, we found that in patients with type 2 diabetes, there was a benefit on blood glucose and cholesterol levels,” said study researcher Olivia Phung, an assistant professor of pharmacy practice at Western University of Health Sciences in Pomona, Calif.

The study is published online on Monday, Sept. 9, in the journal The Annals of Family Medicine.

Better glucose control

Previous studies of cinnamon’s effect on blood sugar have shown mixed results.

In fact, when these same researchers published a review study of the supplement in 2008, they found it had no effect on blood sugar or cholesterol levels. But in their latest analysis, they included data from the most recent trials of cinnamon in diabetes patients.

Preliminary studies have suggested that the compound in cinnamon that’s responsible for its health effects is a substance known as cinnamaldehyde. Although it’s not clear how cinnamon may work to improve blood sugar, researchers suspect this substance may stimulate the release and effect of insulin.

“By enhancing insulin activity, it’s assumed there’d be better control of blood glucose,” Phung told LiveScience.

In the study, people who took cinnamon supplements — usually in addition to their diabetes medication — lowered their fasting glucose levels by nearly 25 milligrams/deciliter. This is less than the reduction people typically achieve by taking the diabetes drug metformin (58 mg/dL), but slightly better than the reductions seen in patients who take some of the newer drugs, such as sitagliptin (16 to 21 mg/dL), the researchers said.

More research needed

The researchers said they don’t know the exact dose of cinnamon that may be helpful for people with type 2 diabetes, or the length of time or frequency the supplement should be taken. And it’s still unclear which patients may benefit the most from taking the cinnamon, or exactly how cinnamon might fit best into diabetes treatment options.

Phung said more research is needed to determine whether there is a true cause-and-effect relationship between cinnamon intake and improved diabetes control, or if the results found in this review study were just an association seen when the findings from a bunch of smaller studies were combined.

However, she said that based on this current analysis, it looks like cinnamon may be useful for diabetes.

Nonetheless, “It’s not going to replace your diabetes medications,” Phung said, “so if you’re thinking about taking cinnamon [for diabetes control], definitely talk to your doctor or a pharmacist about it.”


How To Improve Your Immunity Against Colds, Flu, and Viruses

How To Improve Your Immunity Against Colds, Flu, and Viruses


I’ve hardly lived a sheltered life. I’ve eaten at dodgy road side street vendors in Laos, drank juice from questionable water sources at family homes in Peru, slept in tiny villages surrounded by farm animals in Ecuador, ate from plates and silverware that were rinsed in the same bucket as 40 others before me at a food co-op in Venezuela, hiked in mosquito-ridden jungles in Mexico, and snorkeled near fishing villages with inadequate sewage treatment in Panama. None of these so-called risky behaviors have resulted in any illness. I’ve never had a flu shot in my adult life, never taken malaria pills, and avoid prescription drugs whenever possible.

At the same time, almost all the people around me complain about getting the flu every year. Even worse, many of my friends complain about colds that “never go away” or “linger for weeks”. I’ve never experienced this, but my guess is that their immune system has been compromised.

The reasons for a compromised immune system can range from eating “dead” or inadequate food sources, excessive use of antibiotics, vaccinations, prescriptions drugs, or other environmental poisons like heavy metals and chemicals. A lack of exercise, poor sleeping habits, and stressful lifestyles can also challenge our immune system.

Your Immune System Is Your Only Defense

I am a firm believer that our own immune system is easily the best flu shot. Our immune system is truly our only form of defense against illness.

Our immune system is constantly defending us against all kinds of pathogens, bacteria and viruses, and if we keep our immune system strong and functioning correctly, it is by far our best chance at maintaining good health.

Unfortunately, flu shots, antibiotics and other “treatments” prescribed the “sick care” industry effectively weaken your immune system. Antibiotics literally wipe out the bacteria in your body – both bad and good bacteria. Without good or “friendly” bacteria, your body is completely vulnerable to becoming re-infected by the same or a different infection. This is why I avoid antibiotics whenever possible, and I avoid flu shots like, well, I avoid flu shots like the PLAGUE!! For further reading about the dangers of vaccinations check out (Vaccination Risk Awareness Network).

I also avoid the suddenly very popular “anti-bacterial” or “sanitizing” creams, soaps and other products. When you “sanitize” your hands throughout the day, not only are you exposing yourself to harmful chemicals, you are removing your body’s exposure to viruses and bacteria so that it can develop its own natural and effective immune response. (2)

Consider vaccines – the whole idea of a vaccine is to give the body a small enough dose so that it can develop its own immunity to that particular virus or bacteria. “Sanitizing” might temporarily reduce the amount of bacteria or viruses in a particular location, but overall it weakens your immunity, and it does not strengthen your ability to fight disease.

A Natural Approach To Immunity

So, here is how I work with my immune system. First, I recognize that a healthy immune system starts with a healthy body. If you are eating right, exercising and getting enough sleep (this is “health 101” people) you have already given your immune system a better chance of fighting off whatever it encounters out there in the world.

Secondly, I recognize the importance of being aware of how my body feels. I can tell within a few minutes if I am suddenly feeling unhealthy. This might be a small scratch in my throat, some sinus pressure, a small headache, a sneeze, a cough or (most commonly) just feeling extra tired. In fact, I usually notice this “extra tired” feeling even before any of the typical symptoms that lead to a full blown illness.

Here is what I do immediately after feeling the early signs of any kind of illness:

1. Acidophilus – Acidophilus and probiotics are live friendly bacterial cultures you can find in most health food stores. The most effective kinds should be refrigerated when you buy them, and you must keep them refrigerated to keep them alive! My strategy here is to take high doses immediately when I feel anything remotely close to a cold or illness. I will keep taking a total of 8-12 tablets per day until I feel 100% healthy again. Remember to drink LOTS of water if you take Acidophilus, and LOTS of water throughout the day while on this treatment.

2. Vitamin C – Both in a supplement form (raw powder with no sugar or other additives), and in the form of unprocessed, unsweetened, organic orange juice. There are other juices that have high levels of vitamin C but orange juice works best for me. In supplement form, make sure you get 100% pure vitamin C, not this “flavored” junk that is half sugar or half artificial sweetener. This is not about tasting good, this is about staying healthy!

3. Echinacea – I find it works best if I take high doses only when I feel I need it. I take 2-3 times the recommended daily dose IMMEDIATELY whenever I feel anything a bit “off” in my body. I don’t wait a day or two to see what happens, I react quickly to what my body is telling me.

4. Sleep – Extra sleep, even a 20-30 mid-day nap, can have a powerful impact toward helping your immune system regain control of the situation. When you sleep, your etheric body which serves as your cosmic shield is able to rebuild itself. When you awake, your etheric body feeds re-aligned positive energy back into your body.

Let The Body Rebalance On Its Own

Normally after using the above immunity formula I feel 100% well the next day. I will usually follow up with another round of doses the following day or two after, just to make sure whatever it is fully gone. However, once I feel that the symptoms are totally gone, I stop taking my immunity supplements and let my body rebalance itself on its own.

I’ve found this combination to be “highly successful” in ridding myself of any type of cold or flu before it ever really takes hold. The key is to act fast, literally within a few minutes or an hour after feeling any kind of negative symptom.

On the rare occasion when I do catch something, the above combo helps me recover quickly without taking any drugs, medications, or shots. I NEVER buy ANY of the store bought cold and flu pills. I rely 100% on natural remedies and it has worked very well for me so far.

By Michael Manville


Ask Well: Is It Better to Bike or Run? –



How does bicycling or spinning compare with running or walking as an exercise for health or weight loss?


“Both running and cycling are excellent forms of exercise,” said Hirofumi Tanaka, a professor of kinesiology and director of the Cardiovascular Aging Research Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin. “Both are rhythmic aerobic activities that involve large muscle mass.”

But there are differences, which could sway you toward one activity over the other. In general, running burns more calories per minute than cycling, Dr. Tanaka said, although the differential slims if you cycle vigorously. According to broad calculations from the American College of Sports Medicine, someone weighing 150 pounds who runs at a brisk seven minutes per mile will incinerate about 1,000 calories per hour. That same person pedaling at a steady 16 to 19 miles per hour will burn about 850 calories. Meanwhile, walking requires far fewer calories, only about 360 per hour at a 4-mile-per-hour pace.

Strenuous running and cycling also can equivalently dull appetite, at least temporarily. In a study published earlier this year, healthy, active men were assigned to run for an hour on one day and on another, to ride vigorously for the same amount of time. During both activities, the men’s blood levels of ghrelin, a hormone known to stimulate hunger, fell, compared with when they sat quietly.

But running has a downside: Injuries are common. Biking, meanwhile, is gentler. “Cycling is a nonweight bearing activity, so it is better for your knees and joints,” Dr. Tanaka said, “and it does not cause much muscle soreness.” Walking, likewise, results in few injuries, unless, like me, you are almost comically clumsy.

Any of these activities, however, will improve your aerobic fitness, and greater aerobic fitness is closely linked to a reduced risk of chronic disease and a longer life span.

“There is no easy answer to say which exercise is better, because it depends on individuals,” Dr. Tanaka said. “Personally, I have an iliotibial band problem and cannot do cycling. So I run.”

But any physical activity will improve health compared with performing none, he said. So walk one day, maybe jog another, and borrow a bicycle or join a spinning class on still another. Whichever activity you enjoy the most and will stick with is the best activity for you.


Mindful eating: 5 easy tips to get started | MNN – Mother Nature Network

Mindful eating

Much less attention is paid to the question of how we eat it.

Yet a growing body of research suggests that changing our attitudes and practices around meals and mealtime rituals may be every bit as important as obsessing over what it is we actually put in our mouths. Mindful eating (also known as intuitive eating), a concept with its roots in Buddhist teachings, aims to reconnect us more deeply with the experience of eating — and enjoying — our food. Sometimes referred to as “the opposite of diets,” mindful eating is based on the idea that there is no right or wrong way to eat, but rather varying degrees of consciousness about what we are eating and why. The goal of mindful eating, then, is to base our meals on physical cues, such as our bodies’ hunger signals, not emotional ones — like eating for comfort.

The idea was featured in a New York Times article last year, in which journalist Jeff Gordinier visited a Buddhist monastery where practitioners were encouraged to eat in silence, and chew every morsel of food as they explored its tastes, textures and smells in minute detail. The article inspired a somewhat skeptical response from our own Robin Shreeves, who noted that in her household full of young boys, the notion of eating in silence seemed like mission impossible, and might even be detrimental, given that mealtimes are often when the family gets a chance to actually converse.

But mindful eating doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing affair.

In fact, as the New York Times article stated, there are plenty of ways to work mindfulness into your daily food habits without the need to become a fully robed monk, or masticate on a raisin for three days straight.

As a registered dietitian, I am a firm believer that finding ways to slow down and eat intentionally are all a part of developing a truly healthy food culture. And some early research into mindful eating would seem to back this up. One study, for example, tracked more than 1,400 mindful eaters and showed them to have lower body weights, a greater sense of well-being, and fewer symptoms of eating disorders.

But mindful eating will only work for you can make it compatible with your lifestyle.

Here are some of my favorite tips to introduce mindfulness to mealtimes in an easy, accessible fashion.

Eat slower
Eating slowly doesn’t have to mean taking it to extremes. Still, it’s a good idea to remind yourself, and your family, that eating is not a race. Taking the time to savor and enjoy your food is one of the healthiest things you can do. You are more likely to notice when you are full, you’ll chew your food more and hence digest it more easily, and you’ll probably find yourself noticing flavors you might otherwise have missed. If you have young children, why not try making a game of it — who can chew their food the longest? Or you could introduce eating with chopsticks as a fun way to slow things down.

Savor the silence
Yes, eating in complete silence may be impossible for a family with children, but you might still encourage some quiet time and reflection. Again, try introducing the idea as a game — “let’s see if we can eat for two minutes without talking” — or suggesting that one meal a week be enjoyed in relative silence. If the family mealtime is too important an opportunity for conversation to pass up, then consider introducing a quiet meal or snack time into your day when you can enjoy it alone. The NYT article, for example, noted that one dietitian simply savors a few sips of tea in complete silence when she is too busy for a complete mindful meal.

Silence the phone. Shut off the TV.
Our daily lives are full of distractions, and it’s not uncommon for families to eat with the TV blaring or one family member or other fiddling with their iPhone. Consider making family mealtime, which should, of course, be eaten together, an electronics-free zone. I’m not saying you should never eat pizza in front of the TV, but that too should be a conscious choice that marks the exception, not the norm.

Pay attention to flavor
The tanginess of a lemon, the spicyness of arugula, the crunch of a pizza crust — paying attention to the details of our food can be a great way to start eating mindfully. After all, when you eat on the go or wolf down your meals in five minutes, it can be hard to notice what you are even eating, let alone truly savor all the different sensations of eating it. If you are trying to introduce mindful eating to your family, consider talking more about the flavors and textures of food. Ask your kids what the avocado tastes like, or how the hummus feels. And be sure to share your own observations and opinions too. (Yes, this goes against the eating in silence piece, but you don’t have to do everything at once.)

Know your food

Mindfulness is really about rekindling a relationship with our food. From planting a veggie garden through baking bread to visiting a farmers market, many of the things we locavores have been preaching about for years are not just ways to cut our carbon foodprint, but also connect with the story behind our food. Even when you have no idea where the food you are eating has come from, try asking yourself some questions about the possibilities: Who grew this? How? Where did it come from? How did it get here? Chances are, you’ll not only gain a deeper appreciation for your food, but you’ll find your shopping habits changing in the process too.

Like I say, mindful eating does not have to be an exercise in super-human concentration, but rather a simple commitment to appreciating, respecting and, above all, enjoying the food you eat every day. It can be practiced with salad or ice cream, donuts or tofu, and you can introduce it at home, at work, or even as you snack on the go (though you may find yourself doing this less often).

And while the focus becomes how you eat, not what you eat, you may find your notions of what you want to eat shifting dramatically for the better too.

Jenni Grover MS RD LDN is a registered dietitian and co-founder of Realistic Nutrition Partners in Durham, NC. She specializes in child, maternal and prenatal nutrition, with a focus on whole foods.

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[tag Mindful eating]

Nothing nutty about eating seeds | Health | The Seattle Times

Nothing nutty about eating seeds

Why should nuts get all the nutritional glory while birds get all the seeds? Seeds offer just as much nutrition and culinary versatility as their larger cousins. Even better, they are a good dietary alternative for many people who have peanut or tree-nut allergies, as adverse reactions to edible seeds are fairly uncommon.

There’s a clear difference between nuts and seeds that isn’t obvious to non-botanists. In general, seeds are rich in the antioxidant vitamin E, which is beneficial for heart health and cancer prevention. Seeds also contain phytosterols, plant compounds that can help lower cholesterol and offer other health benefits.

Flaxseeds are unique among seeds in that they are an excellent source of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), one of the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids. Numerous studies have suggested that flaxseeds have cardiovascular benefits. Flaxseeds are also a good source of several nutrients, especially fiber and antioxidants. Whole flaxseeds keep for one to two years in the refrigerator. Ground flaxseeds are more digestible but have a shorter shelf life, about six to 16 weeks in the refrigerator.

Chia seeds have outgrown their reputation as a novelty gift item (“Ch-ch-ch-chia!”) to claim status as a nutritional powerhouse. They nearly rival flaxseeds for their omega-3 and fiber content and may help promote stable blood sugar levels after eating. These tiny seeds contain respectable amounts of calcium and other minerals important for bone health, as well as several antioxidant minerals.

Pumpkin seeds are a good source of zinc, magnesium and iron. They contain small amounts of several forms of vitamin E, and research suggests that there is a health benefit to consuming E in all of its different forms. They also contain other antioxidant nutrients, giving them distinctive health properties. When roasting pumpkin seeds, limit oven time to 20 minutes to avoid undesirable changes to the oil inside.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of many important vitamins and minerals and are rich in the powerful antioxidant pair vitamin E and selenium. They get great ratings for phytosterol, protein and fiber content. Opt for unsalted sunflower seeds.

Sesame seeds are especially rich in cholesterol-lowering phytosterols and are higher in protein than any nut or seed. They contain a number of minerals that are important for bone health (such as calcium) or act as antioxidants (such as zinc). The fiber in sesame seeds may promote healthy blood pressure and cholesterol levels. Sesame paste (tahini) is an important ingredient in hummus. Allergies to sesame seeds are increasing, particularly among people allergic to peanuts or certain tree nuts.

While seeds are nutritious, they are high in calories and (healthful) fat, so be mindful of portion sizes. Consider using them as a substitute for other protein-containing foods, instead of simply adding them to your diet. Sprinkle on salads or sautéed veggies. Add to your morning oatmeal or cold cereal. Mix some into yogurt. Add to baked goods or homemade granola.

Because of their high fat content, seeds benefit from being stored in an airtight container in a cool, dark place, ideally in the refrigerator, or even the freezer.

Next time: Should you believe health claims?