Tag Archives: diets

The 6 Nutrients Vegetarians and Vegan Diets May Be Missing

Incorporating more meatless meals into your diet is a great way to boost health. Research shows that eating more plant-based foods and less animal products can reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and even some cancers. However, whether you choose to eat this way part-time or all of the time, there are a few nutrients that need more planning to ensure you are getting enough. Luckily, there many whole food sources, fortified foods, and supplements to ensure you are meeting the daily nutrient requirements. If you follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, or plan on switching any time soon, be mindful of these 6 nutrients.

 

Vitamin B-12

Vitamin B12, found primarily in animal products, is needed for production of DNA and maintaining nerve cells. A deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia and nerve damage, among other problems. Therefore, a reliable source of B-12 is essential, especially for vegans, in order to prevent deficiency. Since fortified foods vary greatly in the amount of B12 they supply, a daily supplement is recommended instead.

 

Calcium

Calcium needs can be easily met without animal products since calcium-rich foods are found in all food groups. Vegan sources include leafy greens, calcium-set tofu, soybeans, tempeh, dried figs, almonds, tahini, broccoli and chickpeas, as well as fortified foods.

 

Vitamin D

Also known as the sunshine vitamin, this is one nutrient that we don’t need to obtain directly from our diets during summer months. When the sun’s UV-B rays hit the skin, a reaction takes place that triggers skin cells to manufacture vitamin D. You don’t need much, as fair-skinned individuals can produce up to 10,000 IU’s of the vitamin with just 10 minutes of exposure. However, depending on your skin tone, where you live and the time of year, this amount can be harder to obtain directly from sunlight. Plant-based sources of vitamin D include fortified plant-based milks, tofu, some mushrooms, fortified breakfast cereals and orange juice with calcium.

 

Iron

Iron is found in two forms, heme and non-heme iron. Heme iron, found predominately in meat, poultry, and fish, is well absorbed. Non-heme iron, found in plant foods like fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts is less well absorbed. As plant-based diets only contain non-heme iron, vegans especially should include foods that are high in iron and include techniques that can promote iron absorption. These include sprouting, soaking, and fermenting as well as including a Vitamin-C rich food source. Plant-based sources of iron include chickpeas, lentils, tofu, whole and enriched grain products, raisins, figs, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds and broccoli.

 

Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids provide the building blocks for the brain, nervous system, and cell membranes. Vegetarians and vegan may have difficulty balancing the amount of essential fatty acids and intake of omega-3 fats. Unlike omega-6 fatty acids, omega-3 fatty acids are less common in food, making it easy to be deficient in this important nutrient. Good sources of omega-3 ALA’s are found flax seeds, hemp seeds, chia seeds, walnuts, leafy greens, soybeans, and wheat germ. If these are not included regularly, supplementing with an algae-derived DHA/EPA supplement is encouraged.

 

Zinc

The main sources of zinc in the diet are usually animal products, followed by fortified cereals. However, many plant foods do contain zinc. Being mindful of incorporating these foods into your diet is important, especially since phytates in plant-foods can inhibit some of their absorption. However, the effects of phytates can be lowered through fermentation, soaking, and boiling root vegetables. Good sources of zinc include tofu, tempeh, pumpkin, black beans, chickpeas, lentils, oatmeal, tahini and cashews.

 

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.” 

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Eat for Your Body, Not Your Bikini: How to Love Your Summer Body

Summer is around the corner, and while many look forward to the joys this season brings — vacations, more time spent outside, time off from school and work — just as many dread it thanks to media marketing around getting “the perfect bikini body” and photo-shopped models painting an unrealistic ideal. Along with the “beach body” marketing comes an onslaught of ridiculous fad diets and expensive schemes that ultimately lead to long-term weight gain…not to mention lower self-esteem, anxiety and preoccupation with food. This summer, try eating for your body, instead of that bikini and implement these practices to cultivate body respect and kindness.

 

Intuitive Eating

Ever wonder how a toddler knows exactly what and how much he/she wants to eat? We’re all born with an innate ability to know what food our body needs and when we’re satisfied. But unfortunately, somewhere along the way, a family member, friend, health professional, or the media told us what we should and shouldn’t eat and we lost touch with that inner voice. The good news is that inner wisdom still lives within each of us, and intuitive eating is a practice that helps us strengthen that voice by tuning into our body to honor our hunger and feel when we’re full. The work involves making peace with food by ditching the diet culture mentality, telling the food police to shove it, and finding pleasure and satisfaction from eating. This summer, rather than asking yourself “what should I eat right now?”, which comes from a place of fear, guilt and shame, empower your internal wisdom and flex that self-trust muscle by asking, “what do I want to eat right now?”

 

Social Media “Diet”

The only “diet” that may be of some value to follow this summer is one where you control the media you take in. Marci Evans, registered dietitian and eating disorder expert in Cambridge, MA, helps her clients block unhelpful people on Facebook, un-follow provoking Instagram accounts, toss out triggering magazines and carefully curate the blogs they read. “Then we have fun filling their feeds with information that inspires them to be their healthiest and most authentic self in mind, body, and spirit. It’s a picture of health that is taken from the inside, rather than the outside,” Evans says. Not sure where to start? Evans recommends to “try searching for people who promote body positivity, body acceptance, intuitive eating, and non-dieting.” Rebecca Scritchfield, RDN, author of Body Kindness, says we need to filter our social media feeds so we can see pictures of people in larger bodies having fun. “The reality is 67% of American women are a size 14 or higher. Why can’t we see more representation of what people really look like? Exposure to size diversity helps us all.”

 

Ban Body Bashing

Negative body talk is all around us; in fact, many women bond over complaining about their bodies. But if we don’t like our bodies, guess what, we’re not going to treat them very well. It’s time to change the dialogue because our thoughts affect our behaviors and if we want to start treating our bodies better, we need to start with shifting the dialogue from negative to positive. Scritchfield suggests trying to focus on all the wonderful things our bodies do for us. “Write a ‘love letter’ to yourself. Put positive post-its where you get dressed and feel naked and vulnerable and see if the self-love note helps you feel a little less body shame.” She also says it’s pretty powerful to “write down your ‘critic’ thoughts and ask ‘would I say this to a little girl’?”. Evans recommends getting your girlfriends in on the change. “Let your friends know that you want your friendships to foster support and encouragement, not body bashing.”

 

Feel Good in Your Here and Now Body

The reality is that many aspects of our bodies are out of our control, and the more we try to manipulate them to fit a certain size or reach a number on the scale, the more if backfires and we feel worse. The best thing we can do is to treat our bodies with respect because health is more about behaviors than it is about a size. Rather than waiting to treat yourself until you reach that “number,” start working today to feel good in your here-and-now body. Evans recommends trying things like a fun pair of sunglasses, a new nail polish, a fresh haircut and hydrating your skin with lotion. “You deserve to treat your body with warmth and kindness today! Turns out we treat things we like better than we treat things we hate. So start treating your body as if you like it, and your health just might thank you for it!”

 

Kara Lydon, R.D., L.D.N., R.Y.T., is a nutrition coach, yoga teacher and self-proclaimed foodie. She is a recipe developer, food photographer, writer and spokeswoman. Her food and healthy living blog, The Foodie Dietitian, features seasonal vegetarian recipes and simple strategies to bring more mindfulness and yoga into your life.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Can The Mediterranean Diet Help Treat Depression?

Feeling a bit down? New research suggests that a Mediterranean diet can help treat depression. Now that’s cause for celebration! The study suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins may be able to treat major depressive episodes.

 

The study

The researchers followed 67 Australian individuals with a history of depression and poor dietary habits. Study participants were randomly sorted into two groups. One group received dietary intervention, consisting of 60-minutes of Dietitian-lead nutrition one time per week. The second group received social support, otherwise known as ‘befriending’ or spending time with another individual discussing neutral topics, like sports, news or music. In addition to the interventions, both groups were being treated with a mixture of anti-depressive medication or therapy.

The dietary intervention group learned about the importance of eating a Mediterranean diet, including 5-8 servings of whole grains per day, 6 servings of vegetables per day, 3 servings of fruit per day, 3-4 servings of legumes per day, 2-3 servings of low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods per week, 1 serving of raw and unsalted nuts per day, 2 servings of fish per week, 3-4 servings of lean red meats per week, 2-3 servings of  chicken per week, 6 eggs per week and 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day. They were also encouraged to reduce their intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks to no more than 3 per week.

After 12 weeks of the intervention, the dietary support group showed a significantly greater improvement on the depression rating scale than the social support group. In other words, the participants who received dietary support felt less depressed. This study is still preliminary, but it suggests that changing one’s diet may actually be a useful tool in treating depression.

 

Eat The Mediterranean Way

The Mediterranean Diet has long been promoted for its many health benefits. Not only may it help fight depression, but research suggests that eating like a Greek can improve weight loss, control blood sugar and reduce the risk of developing cancer, heart disease and dementia. Follow these tips to add more of the Mediterranean style of eating to your diet to reap the benefits.

  • Use oil whenever possible, like in homemade salad dressings and marinades. Opt for oil instead of margarine or butter when roasting veggies or topping popcorn.
  • Swap out chicken for fish two nights per week. Don’t get stuck in the boring old protein rut. Treat your family to an omega-rich serving of fresh fish.
  • Add veggies to every plate—even breakfast. According to the USDA’s My Plate, every plate should consist of at least half fruits and vegetables. Since many of us don’t get that at breakfast, make an effort to add veggies to your morning smoothie, omelet or toast.
  • Opt for whole grains. Luckily, the abundance of commercially available whole grains is at an all-time high. If you’re not in the mood for whole wheat bread or brown rice, try quinoa, oats, kamut, bulgur, farro, freekeh, sorghum or buckwheat.
  • Go nuts! Replace the chips in your snack drawer with unsalted nuts. Walnuts are high in heart-healthy omegas, but any type of nut will do. Nuts are bit high in calories, so be cautious of the portion size—it’s usually about a handful or 20 nuts.
  • Pick pulses. A group of superfoods made up of chickpeas, lentils, dry peas and beans, pulses are a great source of plant-based protein and fiber. Try Meatless Monday by swapping out your dinner meat for a protein-packed pulse.
  • Herb it up. Mediterranean food is rich in flavorful herbs, like oregano, dill and basil. Add herbs to roasted veggies, soups and salads to reduce the salt and add big flavors.

 

Natalie Rizzo, M.S., R.D., is a media dietitian, food and nutrition writer, spokesperson and blogger at Nutrition à la Natalie.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

Eat These Foods to Boost Your Brain Power

We’ve all had those days when our brains feel foggy: when we can’t focus and our memory is less-than sharp. And chances are, you’ve resorted to extra caffeine and a sugary snack in an effort to jolt your brain back into full function. But what if you could consume something that’s actually healthy for your brain instead?

That’s the idea behind numerous supplements, foods and drinks that contain nootropics, substances purported to improve cognition. Nootropic cocktails may contain any number of things including B vitamins, L-theanine, niacin, as well as various herbs and amino acids. But despite the growing popularity of these brain boosters, there is little scientific evidence to back up most of their claims. “I love the idea of boosting brain power, but show me any science that a supplement is better than movement, meditation and nutrient-dense brain food when it comes to mental health,” says Drew Ramsey, MD, assistant clinical professor of psychiatry, Columbia University and author of Eat Complete (Harper Collins, 2016).

According to Ramsey, boosting brain power is actually pretty simple. He even made a little rhyme about the key brain foods to make it easy to remember: “Seafood, greens, nuts and beans.” Eating more of those core foods can go a long way toward keeping your brain healthy—and a healthy brain works better. Important nutrients for feeding your brain include omega-3 fats, monounsaturated fats, vitamin B12, zinc, magnesium, iron, choline, lycopene, vitamin E and carotenoids. It’s not about a specific food or magic bullet supplement, but rather categories of healthy foods that provide high levels of these proven brain-boosting nutrients. “Our brains consume 20 percent of everything we eat,” says Ramsey. “This nourishment provides energy and nutrients to create and sustain the quadrillions of connections that construct the brain, plus the electricity that courses between those connections.” In other words: if you want a better brain, feed it better food.

 

Crispy Shrimp with Greens and Beans

Serves 4

Lovers of fried seafood take note. This crispy panfry is a healthier option than your usual deep fry. Pick your shrimp well (wild with no salt preservative) for a high-protein, iodine-rich seafood option that is appealing for kids and those new to seafood. By subbing in the greens and beans for biscuits or fries, not only do you get a major nutrition boost, but you also load up on filling fiber.

½ cup gluten-free pancake mix

½ cup Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons ground flaxseeds

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

1 teaspoon dried herbs, such as Italian seasoning

1 pasture-raised egg

1 pound large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails removed

3 tablespoons olive oil

½ pound Swiss chard or kale, chopped

2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced

One 15.5-ounce can no-salt-added chickpeas or navy beans, rinsed well under cold running water and drained

 

Place the pancake mix, cheese, flaxseeds, pumpkin seeds, and herbs on a plate and toss with your fingers to mix.

Whisk the egg in a shallow bowl.

Dip a shrimp in the beaten egg and press into the pancake mixture, then transfer to a large clean plate. Repeat with the remaining shrimp, working in batches as needed, and place in the fridge while you prepare the greens.

Warm 1 tablespoon of the olive oil in a large skillet and add the greens and garlic. Toss well and cook for 1 to 2 minutes until the greens have wilted. Add the beans and toss again. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Heat a separate large skillet over medium heat and add the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the shrimp and cook for 4 to 6 minutes, turning occasionally, until the shrimp are crispy and cooked through. Transfer to a plate lined with a paper towel.

Place the greens on four plates, dividing them equally, and top with the shrimp. Serve immediately.

 

Per serving: Calories 525; Fat 19 g (Saturated 3 g); Cholesterol 1 g; Sodium 461 mg; Carbohydrate 51 g; Fiber 11 g; Sugars 11 g; Protein 38 g

Recipe and photo courtesy of  Drew Ramsey.

 

Sally Wadyka is a Boulder, Colorado-based journalist who writes about nutrition, health and wellness.

Diet 101: Whole30

As a registered dietitian, I’ve got a healthy skepticism towards most diets. Being in private practice for almost a decade will do that to you. I’ve seen clients come in on just about every eating pattern imaginable, from raw-food to paleo and everything in between. With the growing popularity of Whole30, I set out to examine the basics of the diet and nutritional truths behind some of the claims.

 

What is Whole30?

Whole30 is an elimination diet, with shares a similar philosophy with the Paleo trend. Both recommend eating lots of fresh, high-quality foods while ditching anything processed. Specifically, you are removing all grains, dairy, soy, legumes, sugar, certain preservatives and artificial sweeteners from your diet. According to the authors, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig, these foods have been linked to hormonal imbalance, systemic inflammation, gut issues and more, though most of those claims aren’t backed by evidence-based research. Ideally, Whole30 is to be done strictly for 30 days; afterwards you can gently add back in said foods to see how your body responds.

 

Mindful eating

In addition to the diet recommendations, Whole30 encourages no calorie counting, measuring or weighing yourself for the entire 30-day process. Instead, the program focuses on non-scale victories, like improved sleep, skin, energy and overall feeling. The program isn’t promoted to be a long-term diet, but instead a reset button to focus on whole-foods that nourish your body.

As a long-time student of intuitive eating, I’m a big fan of switching the focus to non-scale victories and removing the added pressure of specific numbers and goals. For most dieters, these are big detractors and can often feel like punishment rather than an empowered choice. However, one of the tenets of intuitiveness is allowing yourself to eat whatever you want, without any parameters in place. Whole30 can fit this mindset if you are truly enjoying the foods you are eating and don’t feel deprived, but it’s not an automatic switch to mindful eating.

 

Whole grains are not the enemy

Whole30 encourages the removal of all grains; whole, unprocessed grains included. While some people report feeling better after the removal of gluten from their diets, many grains are naturally gluten-free. But in fact, eating whole grains may be more beneficial than taking them out. Grains contain essential micronutrients and both soluble and insoluble fiber, and they are also inexpensive and may improve longevity. In a recent meta-analysis published in BMJ, whole grains can help you live longer by reducing your risk of heart disease, cancer, diabetes and infections diseases. The same report also states than consuming 90 grams of whole grains daily cuts risk for all mortality by 17 percent.

While you can get enough fiber from fruits and vegetables, there is likely not an additional need to cut out all grains. If you feel that you do better without gluten, check out gluten-free varieties like quinoa, millet, oats, sorghum and brown rice.

 

Processed-free

While the term processed-free gets thrown around often, there is some benefit in reducing intake of packages snacks, sugary treats and preservatives. For one, eliminating intake of these foods almost all but forces you to cook from scratch, which has big payoffs. Cooking your own meals, especially for novice chefs, reinforces life-long habits, improves kitchen confidence and helps you control exactly what goes into each meal. For those who have shied away from cooking before may find that they actually enjoy the process and will continue to do so well after Whole30 is complete.

It’s no secret that the Standard American Diet is high in refined grains, sugar, salt, processed meats and salt. An excess of any of these has been linked to both chronic disease and a lower mortality rate. Tackling the Whole30 plan allows you to check-in with your current diet to asses how much of these foods you currently eat and positive ways to cut back.

 

Alex Caspero MA, RD, RYT is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist and Yoga Teacher. She is the founder of Delish Knowledge (delishknowledge.com), a resource for healthy, whole-food vegetarian recipes. In her private coaching practice, she helps individuals find their “Happy Weight.”