A Toast to Your Bones

Toast to your bones – how alcohol can affect your bones.

In the nutrition world, there are often mixed messages about the benefits and risk of certain thing on your health. We hear something is good for us, then it is not, then it is… Most of the time, it is one of two things that create confusion: 1) new research helps us better understand the role of certain foods and lifestyle habits and their impact our health or 2) reports on the research are misleading and aren’t properly conveyed.The latest bit of information is alcohol consumption in women and their bone health. For years, excessive or too much alcohol consumption is well-known for its effect on bone health. This is primarily because it may lower our intake of calcium and it increases our risk for falls (leading to broken bones).

Now, a recent study, with 40 participants, conducted at Oregon State University found that moderate alcohol consumption may HELP reduce bone loss in post-menopausal women. As all of us age, our bones are still going through the process of “turnover.” Unfortunately, we don’t build up as much bone as we lose when we are older, and especially after menopause.

According to the research, the alcohol consumption appears to slow down the rate of turnover – which is a good thing. Even more interesting is that when the alcohol consumption stops, the bone turnover increased, and when alcohol consumption resumed the bone turnover slowed almost immediately.

Moderate alcohol consumption in women is one alcoholic drink per day. This doesn’t mean that women should have what adds up to being an average of one alcoholic drink per day – for example, this does not mean three drinks on Friday, three drinks on Saturday and another one on Sunday. This means that one drink equivalent per day, use it or lose it. What is “one-drink”? One-drink is one 12-ounce beer, one 4-5 ounce glass of wine (not 6 or 8 ounces), OR one 1½-ounces of spirits, such as vodka, rum, whiskey or tequila. More is not healthier. (Men get two drinks per day.)

BOTTOM LINE MESSAGE (as always): If you consume alcohol, do so in moderation. This is true for men and women. Only moderate consumption is beneficial – not more.

Oregon State University (2012, July 11). Moderate alcohol consumption may help prevent bone loss, study suggests.



We all Scream!

A variety of ice cream

July 15 is National Ice Cream Day.

Sunday, July 15 is National Ice Cream Day (third Sunday in July). But does anyone need an excuse to eat ice cream?

Do you know why Baskin Robbins chose “31 flavors”? (Answer below.)

Who doesn’t like ice cream? With the seemingly endless varieties at the grocery store, the ice cream shops, the convenience store and the choice of “a la mode” with practically any dessert, there is something about ice cream that everyone can find a way to enjoy it.

Many people think of ice cream as a treat, something that they really enjoy, but feel they shouldn’t eat it. People often shy away from telling me that they eat ice cream thinking that I am going to tell them to stop…which I don’t. I say, enjoy it and don’t feel guilty. BUT yes, there is a catch: I don’t suggest that you enjoy a pint of ice cream every day. It is how much and how often you like to enjoy ice cream that is problematic or just fine.

A single serving of ice cream is one-half cup. Don’t laugh. That is four servings in one-pint of ice cream. Yes, that “small” container you eat from. Problem? The difference between the real serving and the full pint is around 700 calories for premium ice cream (230 calories in half cup vs. 920 calories in a pint) or 400 calories for other brands (130 calories in half cup vs. 520 calories in a pint).  Check out the Nutrition Facts label, the shop’s website or CalorieKing.com to find out how many calories in your favorites.

Ok, ok. I don’t mean to be a killjoy, but this is reality that people are often oblivious of. I love ice cream, especially making my own (last summer I had five flavors that I had made in my freezer). Because cold foods are usually less flavorful than warm-hot foods, ice cream needs a lot of fat and sugar to help it have flavor (and taste good). I acknowledge that many low-fat and/or low-sugar ice creams just don’t fill the need for some people. This is why I say have the REAL deal that you enjoy and satisfies you and not having a sub-par “ice cream” that you don’t really enjoy.

Some of my favorite ice cream recipes:

What is your favorite ice cream flavor, variety, or brand?

Answer to question: Baskin Robbins had 31 flavors so customers could enjoy a different flavor every day of the month.

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Powerful Potassium


Good source of potassium.

We hear a lot about sodium. We get too much, we need to cut back, processed foods and restaurant foods are high in sodium. The Dietary
Guidelines for Americans 2010
recommend that we “reduce sodium intake to less than 2,300 mg and further reduce intake to 1,500 mg” for persons in specific population groups including everyone over the age of 51 years old.

Unfortunately more Americans who need to are not following these guidelines. Most of us consume 3200 – 4200 mg of sodium per day. One teaspoon of salt has 2,300 mg of sodium. But this post isn’t about the sodium, but the mineral that can help us balance the sodium in our body – when we get too much, and the mineral that many of us don’t get enough of: potassium.

Again the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 states “Choose foods that provide more potassium, dietary fiber, calcium, and vitamin D, which are nutrients of concern in American diets. These foods include vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and milk and milk products.” Potassium is specifically found mostly in fruits, vegetables and dairy products.

Why is it so important?

As already mentioned, potassium helps balance sodium in the body; sodium and potassium are partners in balancing the water in our body. Stating simply, sodium helps us retain fluids and can increase blood pressure, which we do not want. Potassium can increase sodium’s excretion from the body, reducing the fluid retention and blood pressure.

Potassium also has a role in nerve conduction and muscle control. Athletes lose potassium during exercise, so it is found in sports drinks along with sodium. Also, people will find out from their doctor that they are low in potassium when they experience chest pain and may come how with a “prescription” to consume more potassium. Then bananas are eaten more often.

Where is it?

So there it is: when someone mentions potassium – the first thing people think of is… bananas! But there are so many more foods that have potassium than bananas; milk and yogurt; apricots, melons, raisins and prunes; white and sweet potatoes; carrots, beans, spinach and tomatoes; and finally nuts! Eating a variety of fruits and veggies, nuts and low-fat or fat-free dairy products can give you all the potassium you need each day.

How Much?

The recommendation for potassium is 4,700 mg daily (4.7 g) – but please makes sure you are getting it from your foods and not a potassium supplement unless prescribed to you.

So, your homework is to get more potassium (and still less sodium) – and get it with more than just bananas. Get a variety of fruits, vegetables,  nuts, low-fat/fat-free dairy products and you are golden – at least in this area of your life.


No Longer Living Among Pyramids


In a show of “who’s-who” among nutrition nerds, this morning registered dietitians, nutrition students and other public health professionals gathered around their respective computers to watch the live stream of the USDA’s announcement of the new food icon.

Since 1992 we have lived on the land of the Pyramid. The original black background Food Guide Pyramid was replaced in 2005 with the colorful, rainbow My Pyramid but neither was very clear consumers what is all means.
The “big reveal” this morning wasn’t so much a surprise, as a big relief. The new food icon for the U.S. is a plate! Something every single American can understand. No more pyramids or triangles with confusing lines, but an icon that a child can understand.

The “plate-method” is something that many of us dietitians have used and teaching for a while, years. Just ask my clients and student about my funny so, called circles I would draw to resemble a plate.

Here is the gist of the new food icon, now called ChooseMyPlate:

  • One-quarter of your “plate” or meal should be protein. This means lean beef or pork, chicken or turkey, fish or shellfish, or vegetarian alternatives such as beans, tofu or nuts. Fried? Rarely to never.
  • One-quarter of your meal should be whole grains or your starchy vegetable. This includes whole grain pasta, brown rice, whole wheat rolls or bread, or even the baked potato.
  • One-half of your plate should be a variety of vegetables and fruit. It can be several fruits and vegetables or just two, but it should be half of your meal. Yes, really.
  • Also, on the side, choose a serving of low-fat or non-fat dairy – a glass of milk or some yogurt (with your fruit).

The cool thing about teaching this method to help people eat healthier is that is works for dining out too. I tell people all the time to visualize the plate when they eat out.

Here is how:

When you sit down to eat at a restaurant many times they bring you bread (or chips and salsa) – there is your “grain” or starch. Even if your grains aren’t “whole” every time, it should be most of the time.

Then you get your salad – a veggie.

Now to order your main course: you will get a lot of protein (it happens), usually enough for three or four servings, so take some home. I know most people won’t but it is what I suggest. So, what side do you order, thinking about the “plate” icon? Not the rice (it usually isn’t better) or the potato (remember the bread you already had). That’s right: the steamed vegetables.

So to get the dairy – order the cheesecake or crème brulee for dessert. But share.

Think about the ChooseMyPlate icon with each meal, and then make choices with that in mind. It will help you get your fruits and veggies that everyone needs more of.

While the new food icon isn’t perfect, most of us can truly understand a plate icon over a pyramid icon.

Now if we can actually have our food on plates instead of wrappers and push that plate away more often we would be better off.


Cheers for Beer


Do you know the benefits of beer?

Albuquerque Beer Week wraps up tomorrow. This wraps a week of festivities including dinners, tours, tasting events, and other things beer drinkers like to do (beer pong). Such fun; wait am I still in college?

While the health benefits of red wine is well-known and widely reported, most people aren’t aware of the benefits of beer.

A couple of months ago, the Winter 2011 edition of the “ADA Times” arrived in my mailbox. On the cover: several glasses of beef and “A Toast to Good Health” leading to the story about the health benefits of beer. My husband immediately thought the magazine was for him!

While I have known for years that beer and spirits have health benefits right along with wine, it turns out beer has a lot more going for it than just the alcohol and flavonoids.

Beer has fiber. I had no idea, but it does. While it isn’t going to prevent colon cancer necessarily, depending on the type of beer, 12 ounces can have up to 1.3 grams of fiber. So, you still need to eat your fruits and veggies.

Beer has B vitamins: a serving of beer, 12 ounces, has several of the B vitamins including folate, B6, niacin, pantothenic acid, riboflavin and B12.

Beer has minerals: selenium (an antioxidant), potassium, magnesium, phosphorus, and fluoride are found in beer too.

Depending on the type of beer, there is a good amount of phytochemicals, antioxidants, and other beneficial nutrients.

While all the nutrients found in beer are certainly no substitute for real food or even a multi-vitamin, I am pointing out that there is more to beer than just stink and foam.

Always, remember the benefits of alcohol are only seen with moderate consumption. This means up to one 12-ounce beer for women and up to two 12-ounce beers for men.

Personal Story:

My husband and I were in Boston this past November (2010) for a vacation. On the day he planned, we were out in Jamaica Plain at Sam Adams Brewery at 10 am on a Wednesday. Ten of us were on the early morning, mid-week tour. We saw Jim Koch and the guys in the commercials who really do work there. “Sam” was our tour guide (whom I wondered if his name really was “Sam,” or if all the tour guides had the name “Sam” or “Adam” – I didn’t ask). The Sam Adams Brewery tour was our second brewery tour. Our first was the Coors Brewery in Golden, CO in 1995. Sam Adams Brewery in Boston can fit inside one room of the Coors Brewery.

At the end of the Sam Adams tour, we sat in the tasting room, got our souvenir glass, and went through 4-5 pitchers of Sam Adams. Between 10 of us. At 10:45 am on a Wednesday. That’s what a vacation is all about. Don’t worry, we took the subway out there, no driving for us.  We did get lost walking to Doyle’s Café for lunch, the first place to serve Sam Adams on tap.

Select information in this post obtained from the Winter 2011 ADA Times article, “A toast to good health: craft brew trend brings new attention to the benefits of beer” by Andrea Giancoli, MPH, RD


Radical Changes in Diet Recommendations


Highly marbled (fat) red meat is fine? I don't think so.

It turns out we were wrong: fruits and vegetables not so great… fatty, highly marbled red meat and fried fish, excellent foods for your long-term health. And the more solid fats in the diet, like butter and lard, the better.

Happy April Fool’s Day!

Snap back to reality. Of all the recommendations that have changed through the years, these are some that will likely never change.

“Increase Vegetable and Fruit Intake”

Every time the Dietary Guidelines for American’s are updated, there is always a recommendation about plant foods, especially fruits and vegetables. In 2010, there were two recommendations just for fruits and vegetables: increase vegetable and fruit intake and eat a variety of vegetables, especially dark-green and red and orange vegetables and beans and peas.

Most Americans do not get enough fruits and vegetables. Nearly every client who walks through my door gets this recommendation, and even I could use more. Why it is so hard? I don’t know. Habits? However, if we did eat more fruits and especially vegetables, we wouldn’t have room to eat as much high calorie food, we would feel better, and most likely lose weight since most fruits are about 80 calories a serving and most vegetables are 25 calories a serving.

Red Meat and Fried Fish

While I don’t tell people to avoid meat and fish, I do emphasize consuming the “right” cuts of meat. Cuts of meat (beef and pork) with “round” or “loin” such as top round, eye-of-round, tenderloin and top sirloin are leanest.

Fatty fish, such as salmon and tuna, is healthy for us. Once we bread it and fry it up, then never mind. Breaded and fried fish does not fit into the healthy category no matter what fish it is.

“Reduce Your Intake of Solid Fats”

Solid fats are mostly saturated fats and we still don’t recommend them in high amounts. Liquid fats are the healthier options so we need to choose those much more often than the solid, saturated fat. From the Dietary Guidelines 2010: reduce your intake of solid fats.

Sorry – no major changes in the health and diet recommendations this year. Keep up with the good-for-you foods. You know it is true.


The Fats You Should Eat


Better Fats Sisters (aka Mono- and Poly- Unsatured Fats)

I don’t know how many times to say it: not low-fat, but healthy fat. Long gone is the low-fat diet recommendation. The American Heart Association recommends no more than 30% of total calories from fat, while acceptable fat consumption up to 35% of total calories is fine too. What this means in the form of calories and grams of total fat is someone who can consume a 2,000 calorie diet can consume 600 – 700 calories or 67 – 78 grams of total fat.

Since the recommendation for saturated fat is less than 10% of total calories and the trans-fat recommendation is “as low as possible”, none is better, what type of fat should you consume? Unsaturated fats, specifically mono- and poly-unsaturated fat, should make up that other 20 – 25%.


Monounsaturated fat is found primarily in plants, but also in animal foods. It is liquid at room temperature but will become more solid in the refrigerator.

Monounsaturated fat helps lower LDL-cholesterol and raise HDL-cholesterol, both of which are positive. Safflower oil is 77% monounsaturated fat (8% saturated); olive oil is 75% monounsaturated fat (15% saturated); and Canola oil is 61% monounsaturated fat (7% saturated). While Safflower and olive oil are higher in monounsaturated fat, Canola oils is the healthier oil because it is has less saturated fat. I often recommend both/either Canola oil or olive oil depending on what you are cooking.

Monounsaturated fat is also found in nuts, seeds, and avocados. Even though these foods are high in fat, they are mostly monounsaturated fat, so good sources of fat. They are also good sources of calories, so be aware of how much you are consuming.


Polyunsaturated fat helps lower LDL-cholesterol, but does not affect on HDL-cholesterol. These are also found in both plant and animal foods such as nuts and seeds and cold water fish.

Omega-3 fats are a type of polyunsaturated fat, and are primarily found in cold water fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring, and sardines. Omega-3 fats are also found abundantly in flax seeds and flax-seed oil, chia seeds and walnuts.

Omega-3 fats benefit our cholesterol, but also help with healthy brain function, reduce inflammation in the body which can also help with arthritis, may help reduce cancer, and help with many other conditions.

Overall recommendations from the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 has no specific recommendation for unsaturated fats, but does recommend: “Replace protein foods that are higher in solid fats with choices that are lower in solid fats and calories and/or are sources of oils.”

Bottom line: Get most of your dietary fat from nuts, seeds, fish (not fried), and the healthy oils.