Food & Fitness after 50: Beyond Google for Answers

We all do it. We use Google to search for information. That is fine when we are looking for a restaurant in a new town or curious about a historical figure after watching a Netflix movie, but when it comes to food and nutrition information it can lead to disinformation.

GoogleCase in point, I searched for citicoline (the subject of next week’s post on brain health, so stay tuned) and 796,000 results showed up. The first 3 results were sponsored posts or ads and many of us don’t pay attention to that distinction. Later in the list of results was a WebMD article but with no date on when the article was first published or recently reviewed, we don’t know how current it is. Then, while reading the article, an ad for another heavily advertised supplement, Prevagen, popped up. (For an interesting take on Prevagen, see this article from the Center for Science in the Public Interest titled “Prevagen: How Can This Memory Supplement Flunk Its One Trial and Still Be Advertised as Effective? “To read the article click here. So, my faith in Web MD as an unbiased source of information has waned!

Most of us don’t go beyond the first page of Google results so we’re stuck with advertisements and sponsored content. So, where can you go for good information without wading through all the scientific journals which can leave you even more confused?

When I am researching a nutrition or health topic, I start with Pub Med, a free search engine containing more than 30 million citations for medical literature from MEDLINE, life science journals, and online books. Most of the citations will allow you read the research abstract but only some of the citations include links to full-text articles. Lucky for me, I have access to my university library…one of my favorite perks of being an emeritus professor.

I also use the Natural Medicines Database to research dietary supplements, but a subscription is required to fully use the site. Again, I’m lucky because membership in a practice group of sports dietitians, includes access to the database as part of my membership fee.

So, today, I want to share some free websites that I use and think will help you gain a clearer picture of  nutrition and health information. These are good places to begin your search instead of simply “googling it.”

Your Aunt Sue raves about the Eco-Atkins Diet and you’re scratching your head wondering if you should try it. Check out the website from the U.S. News & World Report Best Diets for 2019. This website is more than a ranking of “best” diets….it gives you detailed information on every aspect of the diet. And, they review 41 different diets…. from the most popular to those you’ve never heard of (Eco-Atkins?). I rely on this site when someone asks me about the latest and greatest diet. With the new year upon us…. dieting questions are bound to come up. The site includes commercial weight loss programs, diets for diabetes and heart health, plant-based diets, and of course, weight loss.

OSSHave you seen the documentary “The Game Changers,” featuring amazing vegan athletes? Documentaries can be very convincing but often one-sided. That is when I turn to McGill University Office of Science and Society for their take on everything on the latest nutrition trends, fads, and crazes. Their mission is to “demystify science for the public, foster critical thinking, and separate sense from nonsense.” They do that with good humor, sharp wit, and an engaging website. I love the short videos from Dr. Joe Schwarz and team and their answers to curious questions such as “should you put collagen in your smoothie, or should you wash eggs before cracking them?”

Keeping up with obesity research is daunting, and it seems like every day there is a new study with headlines telling us which food or beverage causes obesity or which diet will reverse the global tide of overweight and obesity in children. So, I turn to ConscienHealth and read their short post every morning. Founder, Ted Kyle, describes it thus, “our guiding principle is to connect sound science with the needs of consumers to develop obesity solutions that allow people of all sizes to be the healthiest they can be.” The daily post is always thoughtful and balanced and recognizes that black and white thinking won’t help us tackle the health problems facing Americans.

cspiLastly, I’m often asked about biotechnology. The word sounds scary, but it is just a combination of biology and technology. We all love technology (where would we be without our hand-held computers, or as we call them, smart phones?) but when it comes to our food, we are leery of using the latest technology tools to improve agriculture to feed the world. Biotech is moving so fast that it is hard to keep up with what is currently happening and what is coming. I like following The Agricultural Biotechnology Project from The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). This non-profit organization is not tied to industry and offers a clear-headed take on GMOs, gene editing and other tools used in agriculture. Before you dismiss all biotechnology practices as “bad,” take a look at this website for answers to your questions.

I hope I’ve encouraged you to seek new sources for information on nutrition and food and health. So, in 2020, here’s to good health and good information!

For more tips on eating well, moving well, and being well, check out Food & Fitness After 50 available at Amazon and other booksellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.

 

Food & Fitness After 50: To Eat Meat or Not to Eat Meat?

high_protein_diet_s4_steakI grew up eating beef. Meat was always at the center of the dinner plate, except on Fridays when we usually got fish sticks. And, when I say beef, I’m not talking about the lean beef that I encourage meat eaters to eat. Juicy meatloaf, fatty burgers, pot roasts, and roast beef were staples. Add to that, prepared meats, like bologna, hot dogs, bacon, and sausage were also in heavy rotation.

A couple of weeks ago several research papers were published that rocked the nutrition world. OK, with everything else going on in the world, it may not have made it to your newsfeed, but for dietitians it was a big deal. Basically, the studies published in The Annals of Internal Medicine seemed to reverse decades old advice that eating red meat is bad for your health. The media headlines were fast and furious casting doubt on all nutrition science and warning us that once again, nutrition researchers are flip floppers.

We dislike flip flopping….be it from a politician or a health professional.

A lot of the discourse focused on the research methodology used to conduct nutrition studies. Here’s the bottom line: it is hard to study nutrition in people. It is easy to use cell cultures (in vitro research) or animals, like mice, because you can control cells or mice. With humans, it is not so easy. (I always used to tell my students to count the legs on the research subjects before accepting the study results to apply to humans.) If you think about it, it makes sense. Let’s say I asked you to complete a very long questionnaire asking you what you ate and how often you ate it over the past six months. Most of us can’t remember what we ate yesterday, let alone over an extended period. To add to the mix, how the food was prepared is hard to recall….was the fish broiled, fried, battered, blackened, or frozen? And, what about the portion size…do you know how to distinguish a 3-ounce from a 5-ounce hamburger patty?

Another confounding issue with nutrition research is when we change our eating habits there is usually substitution involved. Let’s say you substitute ground turkey for lean ground beef in your tacos. Unless the ground turkey is ground turkey breast (which is usually more costly), the lean ground beef may have a better nutrition profile.

But, today, I don’t want to get into all the arguments for or against eating beef. Many others have written on the topic with clarity and insight. For a detailed analysis, I like this piece from Cara Rosenbloom of Toronto in the Washington Post (no relation, but we joke we are distant cousins).

Another good read on nutrition controversies, including eating meat,  comes from ConscienHealth, one of my favorite daily reads.

And, check out this post from friend and colleague, Dr. Keith Ayoob that includes a discussion of the environmental impact of beef…hint, it might be lower than you think.

What I do want to share are tips for those who choose to eat meat. And, it is a choice. I consider myself a flexitarian; I don’t eat meat every day and when I do eat meat I choose lean cuts and small portions. Here are some tips that work for me.

Lean-BeefChoose lean cuts. By definition, a lean cut has 10 grams or less of total fat and less than 4.5 grams of saturated fat in 3.5-ounce serving. A quick way to know if a cut of meat is lean is to look for the word “round” or “loin” in the name. Pork loin, ground round, eye-of-round, or sirloin are all lean cuts. A 3-ounce (size of a deck of cards) lean cut of beef or pork provides about 20 grams of high-quality protein and 10 essential nutrients. A scoop of protein powder might also give you 20 grams of protein but is devoid of other nutrients.

Honey-Mustard-and-Herb-Oven-Roasted-Pork-Loin-3Lean pork is also a high-quality meat. Yes, there are fattier cuts of pork (ribs, bacon, sausage) but pork chops or pork loins are lean and contain quality proteins, packed with vitamins and minerals.

While there several plant-based burgers on the market today (Impossible Burger, Beyond Meat) they are not nutritionally superior to lean beef burgers. Enjoy them if you want to choose less meat but don’t think they are the most healthful options.

Consider a beef-plant mixture for a burger. One of my favorite way to make burgers is to mix about 2-ounces of lean ground beef with about ½ cup of finely chopped mushrooms and form patties for the grill. The mushrooms add volume and moistness as well as sneaking in a serving of veggies.

Grill flank steak and slice and serve over a salad brimming with veggies.

thLook for healthy substitutions at the deli counter. I like Boar’s Head Pastrami Seasoned Turkey Breast; not pastrami turkey, but turkey seasoned with pastrami seasoning, as a substitute for fattier pastrami. Use the turkey to make a healthier reuben by adding sauerkraut, a slice of Swiss cheese, tangy mustard on a rye bread. ((I have no connection to Boar’s Head meats!)

Whatever you choose, remember it is the total dietary pattern that makes for good health. So, for meat eaters, keep portions in check, pile on the veggies, healthy grains, and delicious fruit to balance your meals.

For more tips on healthy food choices, check out Food & Fitness After 50, available from Amazon and other book sellers.

Copyright © 2019 [Christine Rosenbloom]. All Rights Reserved.