Good Food News of 2012

 
 
Nutrition headlines seem to shout the “worst” food news…from “everything causes cancer” to “no health benefits found” by consuming your favorite food. So, let’s take a moment as 2012 comes to a close to celebrate those nutrition stories that you may have overlooked in all of the noise. The following nutrition stories were good news stories and should be embraced in 2013.


1. A healthy diet (one high in the usual suspects…fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts and fish) is additive to the protective effects of medications used to treat heart disease. In a study of over 31,000 patients from 40 countries, researchers found that those who ate a healthy diet along with taking prescription meds reduced their risk of cardiovascular disease by 35%, stroke by 19%, heart attack by 14%, and congestive heart failure by 28%. This study looked at secondary prevention….that is preventing another disease after one disease has been diagnosed and treated. Paying attention to diet…and not just relying on medication to treat our most common diseases has a better outcome than just popping pills.

2. Speaking of nuts…did you see the study from researchers at the United States Department of Agriculture who found hat calories on the label are too high for our of the most heart healthy foods….almonds (check out my photo above to see that almonds even look heart healthy!) Researchers found that almonds contain 20% fewer calories as stated on the label; so that means your 100-calorie snack pack of almonds provides only 80 calories to your body. When we eat nuts, especially hard nuts like almonds, the cell walls are not completely broken down and the fat content inside of the cells does not get absorbed. Voila…fewer calories but all of the great taste and nutrition.

3. For the 2.9 million breast cancer survivors in the U.S. there is good news on eating soy. For years, those of use who have had breast cancer have been frightened to eat soy because of reports that the isoflavones in soy exert an estrogenic effect on breast tissue. Recently, the American Institute for Cancer Research reported that “six recent human studies and one major meta-analysis have found that consuming moderate amounts of soy foods does not increase a breast cancer survivor’s risk of recurrence or death.” A moderate serving of soy is defined as one or two servings of soy a day; a serving is 1 cup of soy milk, 1/2 cup of edamame, 3-ounces of tofu, or a soy-based veggie burger.

4. Lastly, one of my good food news stories comes from McDonald’s…yes, McDonald’s. In September they announced that they will voluntarily post calorie counts on menu boards and I applaud any quick service restaurant that provides nutrition information to the public. And, if you haven’t tried some of their healthier options like the strawberry banana real fruit smoothie, Southwest salad with grilled chicken, or the new Egg White Delight McMuffin, try one in 2013 and be prepared to be surprised.



Healing Foods

Although I was in denial for about 6 years the truth is I needed a total hip replacement. For me, an old high school injury + 25 years of running + age = osteoarthritis. I tried physical therapy, cortisone injections, glucosamine, chondroitin, oral meds, and even acupuncture, and while everything helped for a little while, the reality was that the cartilage cushion in my hip just wasn’t coming back. I was sure I was too young for such a big surgery, although my surgeon’s PA assured me I was a year over the average age of patients getting hip replacements (thanks for reminding me of my age). I learned from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons website that hip replacement “is one of the most successful operations in all of medicine,” with more than 285,000 performed each year in the U.S.

So, I had a total hip replacement five weeks ago today. The first 2 and half weeks were rough but then I got my strength back (thanks to home physical therapy) and am walking 2 miles a day without pain and without a limp…no more swaying when I walk!

In all the preparation leading up to the surgery no one talked about the importance of nutrition in recovering from surgery, so here is my advice to anyone having major surgery.

1. Eat high quality protein foods before and after surgery. Foods that contain all of the essential amino acids are need to keep your immune system strong (the last thing you want is to get sick before surgery). After surgery protein-rich foods help wound healing and to make blood cells to replace blood losses from surgery. Expect a poor appetite after surgery (my appetite was depressed for about 2-3 weeks after surgery) so eat small portion of protein several times a day. For example, eat a hard cooked or a scrambled egg for breakfast, a piece of string cheese mid-morning, Greek yogurt for lunch (regular yogurt is OK, but Greek yogurt is higher in protein), shredded chicken in chicken soup for dinner and a handful of almonds in the evening to get protein at every meal and snack. As your appetite picks up, add cereal and milk, peanut butter toast, turkey on a bagel, grilled cheese, a small lean steak, or a tofu noodle bowl.

2. Vitamin C-rich foods are needed to make the protein collagen that provides strength to the surgical wound. In the old days when vitamin C deficiency led to scurvy (it was prevalent in those undergoing long sea voyages with little access to fruits or vegetables) it was common for wound dehiscence or the opening up of old wounds.We don’t have to worry about scurvy today and it is easier for us to get vitamin C by eating citrus fruits or drinking orange juice. I snacked on my favorite seasonal fruit, Clementine tangerines, every afternoon. If your appetite is not good, try a supplement of vitamin C or a vitamin C adult gummy.

3. Zinc is a mineral found in meat, fish, poultry and dairy foods, with smaller amounts found in whole grains, legumes and nuts. Zinc is needed to repair cells and keep a healthy immune system. Get zinc from foods rather than supplements…too much zinc can cause nausea and vomiting.

4. Tart cherry juice is a potent source of anti-oxidants and many athletes use it to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after exercise. And, tart cherries also contain melatonin which might help improve sleep quality. Tart cherries aren’t the same as the sweet cherries that you eat for a snack; so, it you want to try it look for tart cherry juice. One 10.5 ounce bottle contains the equivalent of about 45 tart cherries which is enough to reduce inflammation and pain.

5. Fiber may not seem to fit with the “healing” foods theme of this article, but after surgery including high fiber foods in your diet (along with plenty of water) can alleviate constipation. Prescription pain meds are well known to cause constipation so stock up on prune juice or dried prunes. Drink about 4-5 ounces of prune juice or eat 2-4 dried prunes each day to keep things moving without having to resort to harsh chemical laxatives.

No one wants to have surgery, but if it happens, use foods to help you heal and bounce back to be better than the old you!