The changing reputation of fat and cholesterol

Fat is bad, right?  It is highly caloric, adds pounds and inches to the waistline, and is one cause of heart disease.  That is what we have been told for, well, a long time.  And don’t even mention cholesterol.  That guy packed his bags and was chased out of town long ago.

Not so fast. Healthy eating recommendations are changing once again.  It is enough to make a dietitian cry, or at least eat crow.

A new set of Dietary Guidelines will be out later this year, and the advisory committee has published its report for consideration.  These current recommendations are based on better research than in the past.  Here are some of the committee’s recommendations concerning fat and cholesterol.

  • 1.  Replace saturated fat (SFA) with unsaturated fat (PUFA).  This is not really new because we have been prompted for several years to eat less fatty meat and fewer whole fat dairy items, both sources of saturated fat.  In place of those foods folks are encouraged to include low-fat or non-fat dairy, fish, oils, nuts, dried beans, and monounsaturated sources such as avocados in daily eating plans.

Total fat is not considered the issue, but the type of fat is.

  • 2.   Along with the idea above, another recommendation is to eat less red and processed meats.  This will not only improve our health, but that of the environment as well.  Interesting that the committee chose to address the environment.
  • 3.  Do not be overly concerned with dietary cholesterol.  It used to be that the daily limit for cholesterol consumption was 300 mg. Eggs weigh in around 200 mg, so we were advised to limit eggs to one per day. But dietary cholesterol has lost some of its importance as far as heart disease is concerned.

Worthy of note, diabetics are still cautioned to not overdo their cholesterol intake due to heart disease risk.  And blood cholesterol, the type that is measured with blood tests, may still be a concern.  A person’s LDL or low density cholesterol, if elevated, can increase one’s risk of heart disease.

There are other recommendations to limit sugar, refined carbs, and alcohol in our diets.  And the committee is also concerned about young people and their high consumption of caffeinated beverages.

It will be interesting to see how many of the recommendations the Department of Health and Human Services and the USDA decide to include in the new Dietary Guidelines.


When worrying about weight goes to extremes

This week is National Eating Disorders Awareness Week.  The theme for the week is I Had No Idea.  Really, how many of us understand eating disorders?

According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics approximately 24 million Americans have some type of eating disorder. These disorders are serious medical conditions that occur when people spend most of their time focused on food and, oftentimes, body image. Although eating disorders are frequently found among females, men and boys can also be affected by abnormal eating habits.

The American Psychological Association lists three main types of eating disorders.

  1. Anorexia nervosa occurs when people see themselves as fat but are really very thin from extreme diet restriction.
  2. Bulimia nervosa is diagnosed when people eat large amounts of food, often in secret, and then purge by vomiting or using laxatives. Or, instead of purging, excessive exercise or fasting are used to keep weight down.
  3. Binge-eating disorder describes the regular habit of eating excessively without the purge.

According to Marci Anderson, MS, RD, CPT, eating disorders top other psychiatric illnesses in mortality rate.   She states that these diseases are not associated only with female teens, but also occur in those over 50 years of age. And it is estimated that 10 millions males will develop an eating disorder during their life.

Females, adolescents, and athletes (such as dancers, rowers, and gymnasts who keep their weight fine-tuned) are often at risk for eating disorders. With the continuing emphasis on obesity and body image in our country, even young children are at risk.

Eating disorders left untreated can severely impact one’s health. Anorexia can lead to an abnormally slow heart beat, osteoporosis, muscle loss, fatigue, dry skin, and dry hair. Bulimia can result in heart failure, inflammation of the esophagus, tooth decay, ulcers, and pancreatitis. Binge eating shares the risks of obesity including diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and heart disease.

For more information on eating disorders, symptoms, and treatment, visit these organization websites:

Giving up something for Lent? How about doing something for others

Lent begins this week.  Some people will observe the beginning of this time with prayer, religious services, or the familiar ashes applied to the forehead.

Traditionally, people the observe Lent often form goals that revolve around giving up some treat such as  chocolate, fast food, or alcohol during the Lenten season.  Others use Lent as a time to renew New Year’s resolutions or healthy eating goals.

Over the years the concept of giving something up for Lent has broadened to include doing something positive for self or for others.  Drinking water instead of pop or going meatless two or three times a week are examples of Lenten resolutions that add a positive spin to doing without.

If you have not committed to a resolution yet, consider an activity to help others.  Here are a few suggestions.

  • Volunteer at a food pantry. There are food pantries and homeless shelters throughout most locals that could use an extra hand.
  • Give a gift of time to schools or church-sponsored charities.
  • Help elderly or other neighbors in need by preparing extra meals for them. Or, offer to drive the elderly to the grocery store for needed items.  Better yet, volunteer to pick up items the next time you shop.
  • Volunteer at a local hospital or clinic.

Lent can be a time to review past behaviors and begin new, positive habits. Hopefully these new habits will continue past Easter and change your life and the life of others for years to come.

Clementines make a perfect snack

Citrus fruits are in plentiful supply at this time of year. Navel oranges, grapefruit, and other varieties are available at reasonable prices. And those cute, little clementines that come in wooden boxes or mesh bags are becoming more popular with shoppers because of their small size, sweet taste, few seeds, and easy-to-peel skin.

With only 35 calories per fruit, clementines offer a healthy snack or meal addition that both children and adults can enjoy. These tasty packages of nutrition are not only low in calories, but are also low in sodium and a source of heart-healthy vitamin C, potassium, folate, and fiber.

Besides being healthy to eat, clementines are versatile, too, and can be enjoyed in many ways.

  • For breakfast, lunch, after-school treats, or midday snacks, just peel and eat. What could be easier than that, especially when time is short? Keep a bowl of clementines out on the table or countertop to encourage healthy snacking.
  • When enjoying a favorite hot or cold cereal, add clementine slices for a sweet treat. No need for added sugar with the natural sweetness of this fruit.
  • For a salad or side dish, combine cut-up clementines with a selection of berries, or chopped apples and dates. Or, add the fruit to mixed greens and then drizzle with just enough honey-mustard dressing to coat the salad.
  • As a dessert, a clementine parfait can be prepared easily by layering a fat-free yogurt and your choice of low-fat granola or puffed cereal, and chopped nuts.

Need more ideas? Visit Bon Appétit for a salad with clementines, fennel and avocado. And check out EveryDay with Rachael Ray for a tasty combination of clementines and ricotta cheese.

Enjoy these little darlings soon.