Thursday, May 29, 2008

Einstein ate his vegetable

"I have always eaten animal flesh with a somewhat guilty conscience. So I am living without fats, without meat, without fish, but am feeling quite well this way. It always seems to me that man was not born to be a carnivore...Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet." -Albert Einstein. By adopting a vegetarian diet, we can all be smart as Einstein! Not really, but diet quality does affect our academic performance.

Researchers at the UofA surveyed around 5000 Canadian fifth grade student and their parents regarding dietary intake, collected heights, weights, and BMI, and conducted a literary assessment. Students with an increased fruit and vegetable intake and less caloric intake from fat (just like Einstein) were significantly less likely to fail the literary assessment. " We demonstrated that the above and beyond socioeconomic factors, diet quality is important to academic performance," the author conclude. "These finding support the broader implemenation and investment in effective school nutrition programs that have the potential to improve diet quality, academic performance, and, over the long term, their health."

Source: Diet Quality and Academic Performance, Michelle D. Florence, MSc, PDt, Mark Asbridge, PhD, Paul J. Veugelers, PhD.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

What's a healthy cereal?

You pick up a chocolate Lucky Charms cereal box and notice it's made from whole grains. On the back, it even discusses a healthy breakfast, and the nutrition label lists all sorts of nutrients. Does this make it healthy? Unfortunately, no.

Here's what to look for on the nutrition label on cereal.
  1. Serving Size. Check to make sure the serving is actually the amount you eat or similar to other cereals if you're comparing.
  2. Whole grain as the first ingredient.

  3. Fat. Look for less than 4g of fat per serving.

  4. Sugar. No more than 8-10g per serving.

  5. Fiber. Aim for at least 4g of fiber per serving. 2g = source of fiber 4g = good source of fiber 6g = very good source of fiber.

6. As for the rest of label, ignore (at least when comparing cereals).

For example, one cup (250 ml) serving of All-Bran Guardian contains 110 calories, 1.5 grams of fat, 6 grams of fibre, 10 grams of sugar, and 3 grams of protein. And it's number one ingredient is a whole grain - whole oat flour! This cereal is on the higher end for sugar, but is a good tasting high fiber cereal.

First, Breakfast

Yes, breakfast is still the most important meal of the day. Now, here's the benefits to prove it.

Control Your Weight: After you've slept the night, you need to "break" your "fast" as you haven't eaten since the day before. When your body doesn't "break" the overnight "fast", your body begins to conserve energy as it doesn't know the next time you'll decide to eat. In other words, your metabolism slows down and you're burning less calories. When lunch time comes or the next time you eat, you're body is likely to crave energy-dense foods instead of well-balanced meal. The same thing can be said for later meals or snacks.
If you don't eat breakfast to restrict calories, don't because you'll make you for it later in the day and more. Tip: Start eating breakfast to curb you late night snacking.

Better concentration and be more productive throughout the morning: Researchers believe this is due to replenishing glucose, the brain's main energy source. Breakfast is especially important for children and adolescents. According to the American Dietetic Association, children who eat a healthy breakfast are more likely to have better concentration, problem-solving skills and eye-hand coordination. They may also be more alert, creative and less likely to miss days of school. Tip: If you have no time to eat breakfast or don't feel like eating first thing, take a piece of fruit and baggie of high fiber cereal to eat on the way to work.

Consume more vitamins and minerals and less fat and cholesterol during the day.
While the reason is unclear, one study claims that increasing daily eating frequency is associated with consuming more favorable nutrients and fewer less favorable nutrients, such as dietary cholesterol. Tip: Aim for 3 of the 4 food groups at breakfast. For example, glass of milk, piece of fruit, and toast.

Have more strength and endurance. People who eat breakfast — and thus have higher energy levels — may engage in more physical activity than may people who don't eat breakfast. Tip: Make 2 changes at once: Start eating breakfast regularly and start a new fitness activity.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

What is Normal Eating?

While eating disorders and the obesity epidemic appear to be completely different issues, there can be a common ground of a troubled relationship with food. What you should and shouldn’t eat, what you ate yesterday, what you might eat tomorrow—food is always on your mind. You’ve done it all: dieting, bingeing, depriving yourself of nourishment, living to eat, obsessing about weight, stuffing your emotions with food, and yo-yoing wildly between sizes. You wish you could have a positive relationship with food, but don’t know how.
The only permanent way to establish the relationship with food you’ve always wanted is to become a “normal” eater—to say “yes” and “no” to food in just the right balance in order to maintain a healthy, comfortable weight.

Normal eating is going to the table hungry and eating until you are satisfied. It is being able to choose food you like and eat it and truly get enough of it—not just stop eating because you think you should. Normal eating is being able to give some thought to your food selection so you get nutritious food, but not being so wary and restrictive that you miss out on enjoyable food. Normal eating is giving yourself permission to eat sometimes because you are happy, sad or bored, or just because it feels good. Normal eating is mostly three meals a day, or four or five, or it can be choosing to munch along the way. It is leaving some cookies on the plate because you know you can have some again tomorrow, or it is eating more now because they taste so wonderful. Normal eating is overeating at times, feeling stuffed and uncomfortable. And it can be undereating at times and wishing you had more. Normal eating is trusting your body to make up for your mistakes in eating. Normal eating takes up some of your time and attention, but keeps its place as only one important area of your life.

In short, normal eating is flexible. It varies in response to your hunger, your schedule, your proximity to food and your feelings.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My child has started drinking “energy drinks” such as Red Bull. Is this a concern?

Energy drinks such as Red Bull are marketed as providing improved energy, concentration and athletic performance. Ingredients in these drinks include substances such as caffeine, taurine (an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein) and glucuronolactone (a carbohydrate).

Energy drinks contain similar amounts of caffeine as a cup of coffee and approximately three times the amount of caffeine as a similar amount of cola type soft drink. For example, one can of Red Bull contains 80 milligrams (mg) of caffeine. Health Canada recommends that children 10-12 years of age limit their caffeine intake to no more than 85 mg per day.

Energy drinks should not be confused with sports drinks such as Gatorade, which can be useful to re-hydrate the body after engaging in intense workouts lasting longer than an hour. Energy drinks are not thirst quenchers and may actually lead to dehydration.

Health Canada has reports of incidences of adverse reactions such as electrolyte disturbances, nausea and vomiting and heart irregularities involving energy drinks. The incidents involved improper use of energy drinks such as drinking them with alcohol or drinking them in greater quantities than recommended.

If you choose to use an energy drink be aware of the following:
-the amount of caffeine in one can of Red Bull is approximately the daily limit of caffeine for a pre-teen
-the label of Red Bull suggests a limit of no more than two cans per day
-the label of Red Bull reads Not recommended for children
-Health Canada does not recommend mixing Red Bull with alcohol
-there are many other energy drinks on the market which have not been evaluated by Health Canada; it is wise to read the label and contact a health professional if you have questions.

Bottom Line: If you are looking for improved energy and concentration then consider the benefits of regular meals and snacks and adequate consumption of water throughout the day. Adequate sleep and regular activity are also important.

Reference: Health Canada. It’s Your Health Fact-sheet “Safe Use of Energy Drinks”. June 2005.