Food News and Facts


Do We Underestimate Young Clients’ Motivation for Healthy Eating?

Is body mass index an indication of how successful a teen will be with making healthy choices?

As overweight and obesity affect 32% of children and 69% of adults in the United States, it’s paramount to find ways to motivate clients of all ages to eat more healthfully. A BMC Obesity paper published online in November 2017 looked at adolescents’ perceived competence for healthy eating and exercise, as well as their level of motivation to engage in these habits. Though the study’s authors had hypothesized that “overweight/obese” teens would have lower levels of self-motivation and perceived competence in these areas, the findings revealed quite the opposite. In fact, this group demonstrated higher levels of perceived competence for healthy eating than did “normal-weight” teens. As for self-motivation, levels were similar across the board, though influence from outside sources (such as family and peers) was higher for the teens with higher BMIs.

Encouraging the “Right” Kind of Motivation

One of the study authors, Jennifer K. Yee, MD, associate professor of pediatrics in the division of endocrinology at Harbor-UCLA Medical Center, offers this advice for fitness professionals when meeting with a teen looking to make healthy lifestyle changes for weight management:

Identify current motivators. “It is important to understand where the individual is in his or her own weight loss journey,” says Yee. She suggests asking, “What are your reasons for wanting to eat healthfully (or exercise)?” Answers that reflect the teen’s personal beliefs for wanting to make the change reflect autonomous motivation, which is more likely to result in sustainable change than is controlled motivation (such as peer or family pressure).

Look for reasons within. You can assist the teen in promoting autonomous motivation by asking, ‘What are some of the benefits that you feel from exercise (or healthy eating)? What are some reasons you might want to continue this exercise schedule (or healthy eating pattern)?’” says Yee.

Help them reimagine the end goal. “Focus should remain on maintaining the exercise schedule or healthy eating pattern rather than on actual weight loss,” says Yee, “since there are many health benefits from these behaviors regardless of changes in weight.”

Editor’s note: For more advice on how to develop your behavior change dialogue, read “Motivational Interviewing: Steps to Behavior Change” on the NASM blog.

Taking mint extract may improve scores in memory and physical agility drills.

A Brain Booster That Enhances Athletic Performance

Could chewing spearmint gum improve sports performance? It would have to be a lot of gum to deliver enough rosmarinic acid and phenols to make a difference. Good news, though: Neumentix, a spearmint extract launched in 2014 as a cognitive performance enhancer, could do the trick. Data presented recently at the International Society of Sports Nutrition conference indicate that a daily 900- milligram dose of this product (which contains 14.5% rosmarinic acid and 24% total phenolic content) is associated with significant improvements in athletic reaction time after 7 days, plus improved focus and agility after about a month. At the end of the 90-day study, participants were still enjoying these perks. The double-blind, placebo-controlled study, which was funded by Kemin Foods (maker of Neumentix) and led by Paul Falcone from the MusclePharm Sports Science Institute, involved 142 healthy men and women with an average age of 27.

Eat Tomatoes, Breathe Easier

Researchers from Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at diet and lung function in 680 adults over a 10-year period. The scientists discovered that a higher intake of tomatoes correlated with a slowdown in the decline of forced vital capacity (the amount of air that can be forcibly exhaled after taking in as much air as possible). And a higher intake of tomatoes was linked to significantly slower decrease in function among former smokers, suggesting that fruit helps repair damage done by smoking.

Using Blood Glucose to Choose the “Best” Weight Loss Diet

For decades, weight loss research has centered on an unsubstantiated belief that there’s one “best” diet for everyone. Recently, though, researchers found that the optimal diet choice for a particular person may depend upon his or her fasting blood sugar and/or fasting insulin levels, according to a weight loss biomarker study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (2017; 106 [2], 499–505).

The study analyzed results from three randomized clinical trials involving more than 1,200 participants. Researchers found that people with prediabetes were more successful losing weight on a low-glycemic diet (low in carbohydrate) or New Nordic Diet (high in fiber and whole grains) than they were on a high-glycemic (high-carb) eating plan. What’s more, the high-blood-sugar group was more susceptible to regaining lost weight when following a diet with a high-glycemic load. Interestingly, people whose blood sugar was “normal” when they embarked on these programs didn’t show as much variation from diet to diet. In fact, their comparative gains and losses were between 0.5 and 2 kg, whereas the prediabetes group had variations of 3–6 kg, depending on which plan they followed.

The study authors concluded: “This easily accessible biomarker [blood sugar] could potentially magnify weight loss and optimize weight maintenance by stratifying patients to provide personalized dietary guidance for overweight and obesity.”

The protein in many powders is an optimal type for stimulating muscle protein synthesis: rapidly digested, with high essential amino acids and adequate leucine.

The RDA for Protein Won’t “Do” for You


Ten years ago, the International Society of Sports Nutrition (ISSN) published its first position stand on exercise and the use of protein. Since then, a slew of research has been published, and protein consumption has increased among athletes of all levels. In response, the recently updated ISSN position stand includes new information regarding the “dietary protein categories that affect physically active individuals across domains such as exercise performance, body composition, protein timing, recommended intakes, protein sources and quality, and the preparation methods of various proteins.”

Some highlights from the paper (found in its entirety at are particularly intriguing. Perhaps most notable: For a training athlete, the current Recommended Dietary Allowance for protein—0.8 gram per kilogram of body weight per day—is not sufficient to meet daily needs. Learn more below.

For building and maintaining muscle mass, an overall daily protein intake in the range of 1.4–2.0 g/kg/d is sufficient for most exercising individuals.

To maximize muscle protein synthesis (MPS), 0.25 g/kg/d of a high-quality protein is recommended (daily total of 20–40 g/d). For senior men (mean age of 71), higher doses (about 40 g/d) are likely needed to maximize MPS.

To promote fat loss, resistance-trained individuals may benefit from taking in more than 3 g/kg/d. Note: The amount of protein intake surrounding resistance training appears to matter more than the timing of intake (before or after a workout).

Athletes who are at a high training level may find supplementation a practical method for ingesting adequate protein while minimizing caloric intake; however, they should still emphasize whole-food sources of protein that contain all of the essential amino acids.

For endurance athletes, protein intake doesn’t appear to improve endurance performance, but the addition of protein may help to offset muscle damage, reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness and promote recovery.

Of course, everyone has different goals, needs, preferences and metabolic profiles, which makes it important to consult with a qualified nutrition professional to create an individualized protein plan. Be sure to refer clients appropriately if nutrition is outside of your scope.

By the Numbers:

700–3,000 milligrams:

Amount of leucine ISSN recommends as the goal for a single dose of protein, along with a balanced array of essential amino acids.

2018 Food Trends: Flowers, Fruits, Stems and Roots

Whole Foods and The Specialty Food Association released their annual food trend report on, and you may want to revamp your garden. Today’s restaurant menus are replete with recipes based on rinds, roots and stems, and home cooks may not be far behind in offering similar fare. Some top trends for 2018:

  • more dairy products from plants (give oat milk a try)
  • flower-based drinks and snacks (elderflower soda or dandelion jam, anyone?)
  • air-popped, puffed and dried root snacks, such as parsnip and jicama chips
  • new sugar alternatives, including syrups made from dates and sorghum
  • cannabis snacks (With recreational marijuana use now legal in eight states, expect this category to boom, not burn out.)

Also look for an uptick in Filipino and Middle Eastern offerings and a resurgence in traditional bread (made with freshly milled whole grains), plus a demand for deeper levels of transparency. Beyond non-GMO, organic, Fair Trade, pasture-raised and cage-free, people want to know exactly what’s in their food, how it became food, and each food’s nutrient and calorie content. You may want to read the whole report from November 6, 2017, so you’re in the know when clients bring up a new trend.

A daily half-cup serving of cooked kale, collards, greens or spinach (or 1 cup of raw lettuce) offers significant brain-boosting benefits.

Don’t “Forget” the Side Salad

In a study published in Neurology online researchers noted that people who ate one serving of leafy greens per day had brains effectively 11 years younger than their salad-skipping counterparts
(2017; doi: 10.1212/WNL.0000000000004815). The study of nearly 1,000 people aged 58–99 took place over a 5-year period and looked at how consumption of leafy greens—whose primary nutrients and bioactives include vitamin K, lutein, kaempferol, folate, beta-carotene, nitrate and alpha–tocopherol—affected cognitive decline.

Kids who eat more fish may sleep better.

Instead of counting sheep, maybe children should count fish sticks. A cohort study of 541 Chinese schoolchildren aged 9–11 found a positive relationship linking frequent fish consumption (defined as at least one fish serving per week), sleep quality and IQ. The study authors posit that the long-chain omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish explain the results, mentioning the nutrients’ role in neural-tissue growth, regulation of melatonin production, and mediation of sleep/wake regulation. The frequent fish eaters also scored 4.8 points higher on full-scale IQ than those who seldom or never ate fish.

The Lowdown on Higher Vitamin D

How Much Is Too Much?

Within a few months of each other, two papers came out regarding vitamin D. The first, published in The Journal of Nutrition, highlighted the benefits of vitamin D. It found that middle-aged participants (aged 40–59) with optimal serum levels of vitamin D also had longer leukocyte telomere length (LTL). LTL shortening is associated with genomic instability and carcinogenesis (2017; 147 [4], 514–20). The second paper, from The Journal of the American Medical Association, noted an uptick in the number of people taking potentially toxic amounts of over 4,000 IU per day, nearly 7 times the RDA of 600 IU/d (2017; 317 [23], 2448–50).

Registered nutritional counselor Sharisse Dalby, CHN, RNC, NNCP, of Vancouver, British Columbia, offers these insights to American Fitness readers: “While vitamin D is important for bone health and hormone regulation—and may even improve mood or help prevent disease—it can also have some toxic side effects due to its ability to [be stored in] excess within your body’s fat cells.” She recommends consulting a healthcare practitioner before taking any supplement, especially before taking more than the RDA. “That doesn’t mean you can’t focus on increasing your vitamin D levels more naturally through sunshine,” says Darby. Other safe ways to boost D include enjoying foods high in the nutrient, such as salmon and tuna, as well as vitamin D–fortified foods.

Recipe: Blueberry Pecan Oatmeal Griddle Cakes

Law librarian by day, recipe creator by night, Theresa Greco shares this recipe to demonstrate how easy it can be to eat organic foods. Based in Peoria, Arizona, Greco has created recipes for national magazines and for retailers such as Whole Foods Market and Stonyfield Yogurt. Her passion for nonprocessed foods comes through on her website,

1½ C organic old-fashioned oats, divided
½ C chopped pecans
1 t cinnamon
1 t baking soda
pinch of salt
1 C fat-free Greek yogurt
1 egg
1 T olive oil
1 t vanilla
½ C organic blueberries
Topping: additional yogurt and organic blueberries (optional)

Preheat a greased griddle pan over medium heat.

In a food processor, pulse 1 C oats until finely ground and resembling flour. In a mixing bowl, add oat flour, remaining ½ C oats, pecans, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. Stir to combine. In a separate bowl, combine yogurt, egg, oil and vanilla. Mix until well-combined.

Pour wet ingredients into dry ingredients, and mix to incorporate. Fold in blueberries.

Using a ¼ C measuring cup, scoop batter onto preheated griddle pan. Gently flatten batter to resemble patties. Cook for 3–4 minutes, then flip cakes, and cook for another 3–4 minutes.

Cakes are done when both sides are golden-brown and the center is set. If desired, top with lightly sweetened yogurt and blueberries before serving.

Meet our experts

AFM_Author_Williams Alexandra Williams, MA, A writer and editor, as well as a lecturer at UC Santa Barbara in the department of Exercise Studies, Sport and Recreation. She is a vegetarian who cooks and bakes from scratch. Find her at

The information provided is without warranty or guarantee and NASM disclaims any liability for decisions you make based on the information. Learn more