Fight the Fat Confusion
Food News & Facts
Swapping "bad" fats for "good" (olive oil, fish oils, nuts) may help reduce
cardiovascular events as much as taking statins.
While it may seem as if "everyone" knows to limit saturated fats for health
reasons, your clients may not understand what those health reasons are
… or what to do next. Recently, Sacks et al. released a new
Presidential Advisory published on behalf of the American Heart Association
in Circulation reaffirming the evidence of the beneficial role that
unsaturated fats-specifically when swapped for saturated fats-may play in
cardiovascular health [2017; 136 (4)]. In fact, new figures suggest this
fat swap may help reduce cardiovascular events by as much as 30%, on par
with the reduction observed from cholesterol-lowering drugs such as
So how do you help your clients use this information, yet stay within your
scope of practice? Perhaps a bit of education could do the trick. You can
certainly tell them that saturated fat raises LDL cholesterol, a leading
cause of atherosclerosis, and that it increases the risk of cardiovascular
disease, but be prepared to explain all those terms (or direct them to the
AHA website: www.heart.org). Help them see the link between almonds and a
reduced risk of stroke or heart attack, and they might find fat swaps worth
a try. Here are some other fat facts you might share:
- Saturated fats should make up less than 10% of daily calories, per
the AHA (and 60 years' worth of research).
- Reading labels is smart and makes you look hip and cool.
- Swap saturated-fat foods with healthy ones, not junk food
- Be wary of food trends. The recently popular coconut oil is 82%
saturated fat, while canola oil is only 7%.
- It's not just the obvious things (bacon, burgers, butter) that are
high in saturated fat; it's also "hidden" in foods like palm oil, chicken
skin, cheese and cream.
- Be aware of emotional eating, as "comfort" foods tend to be
- A starter list of "better" choices would include canola, corn,
soybean, peanut, safflower, sunflower and olive oils; walnuts, almonds,
cashews, hazelnuts, pistachios and pecans; plus salmon and avocados.
Clients can type up a cheat sheet for the grocery store.
(A word of caution: Remind them that people on prescribed statins should
stay on them unless directed otherwise by their doctor.)
Maybe you have a texting system in place with your clients. If so,
encourage them to send pictures of their "good for bad" swaps. Perhaps you
do reward points for prizes, and they can keep a log to turn in. Or have
them enlist their family/friends to help them switch to unsaturated
choices. Who knows? Maybe their family and friends will become your clients
Less Gluten Can Mean Greater Heart Risks
In what may be the opposite of what you'd expect, a recent study published in The British Medical Journal suggests that people who don't have celiac disease can increase their risk of coronary heart disease (CHD) if they reduce gluten intake [2017; 357, j1892].
Using data collected from the Nurses' Health Study that began in 1986, a
follow-up review analyzed long-term consumption of gluten of over 110,000
people with the development of incident CHD (cardiac disease involving an
"event" such as a heart attack). During that time, about 6,500 women and
men developed CHD. Participants in the lowest fifth of gluten intake had a
CHD incidence rate of 352 per 100,000 person years, while those in the
highest fifth of gluten intake had a rate of 277 events per 100,000 person
years. Simply put, people who do not have celiac disease, yet
reduce their gluten intake in the belief that it's healthful, may be doing
themselves a disservice, as the gluten avoiders had a higher rate of CHD.
Perhaps this can be attributed to a lower consumption of heart-healthy
whole grains. For now, the authors support caution in choosing a
gluten-free diet if you're not among the 0.7% of the population with
diagnosed celiac disease.
Moms-to-Be: Can the Diet Soda
If you work with pregnant women,
encourage them to drink water instead of diet beverages. According to a
study published in the International Journal of Epidemiology, Zhu et al.
found that women with gestational diabetes who drink at least one artificially
sweetened beverage a day during pregnancy are more likely to
have children who become overweight or obese by age 7, compared to those
whose mothers drank water [2017; doi: 10.1093/ije/dyx095].
Pregnant women tend to increase their beverage consumption as the volume of
amniotic fluid increases; yet, to avoid extra calories, they may switch out
sugary drinks for ones that contain artificial sweeteners. Their attempt to
avoid weight gain unfortunately backfires for the babies, who are 60% more
likely to have a high birth weight and nearly twice as likely to be
overweight or obese by age 7. Luckily, if they substitute water for the
sweetened drinks instead, they can reduce their child's risk at age 7 by
A Neat Trick for Treats
A significant number of leading candy companies have committed to offering
smaller pack sizes and making labels more transparent, reports
foodnavigator-usa.com [Crawford 5/18/17]. The National Confectioners
Association has stated their intent to make 50% of the individually wrapped
products they offer available in packages totaling 200 calories or less by
2022. As well, they will print calorie information on the front of
90% of their best-selling products by that date. Consumers should also
expect to see a PR push soon that emphasizes that candy is a treat, not a
snack or meal replacement.
Encouraging kids (and their adults) to play with their food could be a good
thing for the environment, if it's in the form of edible origami pasta.
Starting with flat sheets of cellulose and gelatin, engineers at MIT
created a variety of shapes flavored with plankton and squid ink, including
horses and flowers. When dropped into hot broth, the cutouts pop into 3-D
shapes (see the video on designboom.com). In addition to being fun, origami
pasta could help reduce waste. In a traditional macaroni box, 67% of the
volume is air. "We thought maybe in the future our shape-changing food
could be packed flat and save space," said Wen Wang in a Science Daily
interview [May 25, 2017]. The perks would include lower shipping costs and
a smaller carbon footprint.
A Diet Twice As Good for Weight Loss, Fat Loss
It may be time to underscore the benefits of a vegetarian diet for those
clients wishing to lose weight. According to findings by Kahleova et al.
published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition,
dieters who choose a vegetarian diet lose weight more effectively than
those on conventional low-calorie diets [2017; 36 (5), 364-69]. Not only
that, the vegetarian dieters also improve their metabolism by reducing
Seventy-four subjects with type 2 diabetes were divided 50/50 into the
vegetarian and control groups, with both following a very low-calorie
anti-diabetic diet. Using magnetic resonance imaging, researchers studied
adipose tissue in the study participants' thighs, looking for any
differences in the three types of fat stored there: subcutaneous,
subfascial and intramuscular (that is, beneath the skin, lining the muscles
and within the muscles). While subcutaneous fat was reduced about equally
by the two diets, subfascial fat was reduced only in response to the
vegetarian diet, and intramuscular fat had a greater reduction with the
These findings are particularly important for people with high blood sugar.
As increased subfascial fat in people with type 2 diabetes is associated
with insulin resistance, reducing it could have a beneficial effect on
glucose metabolism, better enabling glucose to move from the bloodstream
into the cells where it's needed for fuel. Also, a decrease in
intramuscular fat could help improve muscular mobility and strength.
If you work with people who wish to lose weight, or suffer from type 2
diabetes or metabolic syndrome, their new motto just might be, "Viva la
My DNA Made Me Do It!
Brain genes may be the reason some clients cannot give up chocolate,
according to Spanish research published in The FASEB Journal
[2017; 31 (1, Suppl. 299.1)]. An analysis by Berciano et al. of genetic
data from 818 men and women showed that certain genes played a significant
role in a person's food choices and dietary habits. Higher chocolate intake
and a larger waist size were associated with certain forms of the oxytocin
receptor gene, known as OXTR. Does this mean it's time for clients to give
up and give in to temptation? No, though it may require incremental steps
to reduce chocolate intake, rather than relying on willpower.
Can Instagram Help You Eat Healthier?
In a small, yet delicious study from University of Washington, it
would seem that posting a visual account of everything eaten in a day can
help people stay accountable and choose healthy foods. Using the hashtags
#fooddiary and #foodjournal, participants skipped traditional
pen-and-notebook methods or modern apps in favor of sharing photos of
everything they ate in a day. In a paper presented at the CHI 2017
Conference on Human Factors in Computing Systems, Chung et al. reported
that the posters felt more supported by their hashtag peers and had a
better perception of how much they ate because it was there to see. While
the temptation to leave out photos of "undesirable" food was strong, the
Instagrammers found that honesty won out in the end. For those who don't
want to overwhelm their current followers with photos of food, creating a
second account based on targeted, relevant hashtags could be a socially
acceptable way of finding like-minded communities.
Asian-Inspired Breakfasts Are Hot, Hot, Hot
Out of 119 types of foods, the National Restaurant
Association listed Asian-inspired cuisine as #6 on its 2017 "What's Hot"
list. Perhaps census trends showing the Asian population as America's
fastest-growing ethnic segment has something to do with it. (It increased
76% between 2000 and 2015!) You can expand your morning menu with these
four types of dishes from four Asian countries. Each can be customized with
your favorite vegetables, protein sources and toppings (see photos).
- China's congee (rice porridge; see recipe at right)
- Korea's bibimbap (mixed rice)
- Japan's ramen (noodles in broth)
- Vietnam's bánh mi (sandwich)
Recipe: Ginger Congee
When she's not teaching yoga classes in Greenwich, Connecticut, Tracy
Bechtel is using her skills as a holistic health coach to help people be
their best in body, mind and soul. She completed her studies at the
Institute of Integrative Nutrition in New York City and is a member of the
American Association of Drugless Practitioners. One of her passions is
creating recipes, including this Ginger Congee (pronounced "kahn-jee")
breakfast that celebrates ginger's healing properties and its strong role
in Ayurvedic medicine.
As it takes a few hours to prepare, Bechtel recommends cooking the congee
in a slow cooker overnight.*
Makes 4-6 servings.
- 1 large piece of ginger root (about the length of your hand)
- 5 scallions, roughly chopped
- 7 dried shiitake mushrooms
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 10 C water
- 1 C short-grain brown rice
- 3 scallions, thinly sliced
- tamari, to taste
- toasted sesame oil, drizzled
- certified GMO-free baked tofu, cut into strips
- poached egg
- raw baby spinach
- Asian chili paste
- gomasio (salted sesame seeds)
- fried shallots
Wash ginger root well. There's no need to peel the ginger. Cut ginger root
into round coins about 1⁄4-inch thick. In a large pot, combine ginger, scallions, mushrooms, garlic and water.
Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 30 minutes. Strain solids from broth, reserving the mushrooms.
Slice mushrooms thinly and set aside.
In the same pot, combine broth and brown rice. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat
to low and simmer covered for 1 1⁄2-2 hours. Remove from heat
and allow to stand for 5-10 minutes to thicken.
Spoon congee into individual bowls. Top with scallions and reserved
shiitake mushrooms. Add other desired toppings.
*Slow cooker instructions: After cooking the broth, put broth and
brown rice in a slow cooker. Cook on low for 8-10 hours while you sleep!
Stir well before serving. Add scallions and reserved mushrooms. Add
additional toppings as desired.
For more recipes, head to www.tracybechtel.com. Recipe used with