Ultimate Diet Comparison

Anyone looking for a weight loss plan probably feels like they are being bombarded with new diets, fads, and gimmicks on a regular basis. With all of the information out there, it’s hard to know what works, what doesn’t, what is healthy, and what is not.  Let’s take a look at some of the most popular plans out there and examine the components of each one.

Diet comparison2

 

Paleo Diet (Similar to Atkins, Dukan Diet, Vegan Diet)

The Goal: Promotes weight loss and maintenance; prevention of Type 2 Diabetes and heart disease.

The Theory: Paleo advocates say that the highly processed, high carbohydrate diet of the typical American is the cause for many of the biggest health issues. The premise of this diet is to eat the way cavemen did in the Paleolithic period more than 10,000 years ago. The motto of the Paleo diet is “if a cavemen didn’t eat it, I shouldn’t either”.

The Food: The Paleo diet is high in meats, fish, nuts, berries, fruits, vegetables. Grains, sugars, dairy, and legumes are not consumed.

Pros/Cons: While most Americans would benefit from eating fewer processed and sugary foods, and more fruits and vegetables, any diet that encourages the omission of complete food groups is not recommended. Whole grains are the preferred source of energy for the brain, and also offer vitamins and fiber. Furthermore, because dairy and fortified cereals are not allowed on the Paleo diet plan, calcium and vitamin D will be lacking. Both of these dietary requirements are crucial in muscle function and bone health. Weight loss may result from following this plan because of simple calorie reduction, but the rigid rules and guidelines make it difficult and unhealthy to follow long term.

DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Diet (Similar to TLC Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, Vegetarien Diet, Ornish Diet)

The Goal: To prevent and lower high blood pressure; promotes weight loss.

The Theory: A healthy eating pattern that is low in sodium and high in potassium, calcium, protein, and fiber will help fight off hypertension. The DASH diet was designed by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute.

The Food: The DASH eating plan emphasizes vegetables, fruits, and low fat or fat free dairy products. It includes whole grains, fish, poultry, beans, seeds, nuts, and vegetable oils. Sweets, red meats, sodium (salt), and sugary beverages are limited.

Pros/Cons: This eating plan is rich in potassium, calcium, fiber, and protein and is low in sodium, saturated and trans fats. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that healthy adults consume no more than 2300mg of sodium per day, while those with high blood pressure or who are at risk for developing high blood pressure further reduce sodium intake to 1500mg/day. The DASH diet is backed by scientific research studies showing that this pattern of eating does help to lower blood pressure and even promotes weight loss. Although reducing/omitting salt may take some time to get used to, seasonings such as herbs and spices can help avoid blandness. This is a healthy, balanced eating plan that includes all foods groups and echoes the recommendations of the American Dietetic Association. 

Dukan Diet (Similar to Paleo Diet and Atkins Diet)

The Goal: Weight Loss.

The Theory: The idea behind this diet is that protein, not calories, is the key to weight loss. When protein supplies the majority of the diet and fat and carbohydrates are restricted, the brain turns to alternate fuel sources (stored fat) for energy. This diet has 4 stages with clearly identified rules for eating at each stage.

The Food: What you are allowed to eat depends on the stage of the diet. In stage 1 (the “Attack” phase), it’s all you can eat proteins: lean beef, veal, pork, venison, organ meats, eggs, fish, shellfish, ham, turkey, chicken, tofu, and nonfat dairy. Water and diet sodas are also allowed, along with 1 ½ Tbsp of oat bran per day. In the phases that follow, foods like vegetables and eventually fruits and specific carbohydrates are slowly added back into the diet. The last phase (called “Permanent Stabilization”) is meant to last a lifetime and help keep the weight off.  It also includes strict rules about when and what foods can be eaten.

Pros/Cons: This diet encourages the body to be in a state of ketosis, where fat is used as the brain’s fuel source. Common side effects of this type of very low-carb diet include bad breath, dry mouth, lethargy, and constipation. At each stage, you must follow specific rules and cheating is considered destructive. This diet is low in potassium, fiber, and vitamin D.  For those who do not eat fish, omega fatty acids could also be lacking. Consuming a diet this high in protein causes the kidneys to work overtime to eliminate uric acid, a byproduct of protein breakdown. Kidney stones and other kidney problems may result from a long term, very high protein diet such as this. Besides unhealthily omitting whole food groups, the “black and white” way of thinking foods is not recommended. A more balanced approach and mindset would be a better way to reach weight loss goals.

Mediterranean Diet (Similar to DASH Diet, Mayo Clinic Diet, and Vegetarian Diet)

The Goal: Weight Loss and improvement; overall health.

The Theory: In general, people who live in the countries near the Mediterranean Sea live longer, healthier lives than Americans.  The population experiences less heart disease and diabetes as well.  This eating pattern mirrors that of the region.

The Food: The Mediterranean eating pattern emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, legumes, and olive oil, with fish and seafood at least a couple times per week. Poultry and dairy are encouraged in moderation, and red meat and sweets are saved for special occasions only.

Pros/Cons: This is a sensible eating plan that focuses on heart healthy foods while limiting foods high in saturated fat and sugar. Researchers at Harvard University developed a Mediterranean Diet Pyramid to help consumers with food choices. There are clear and well established cardiovascular benefits to this style of eating (note: this is not considered a “diet” but rather a way of eating for life).  The Mediterranean diet has been shown to reduce blood pressure, improve blood cholesterol profiles, and meets the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for fat, protein, fiber, and other key nutrients.

The Engine 2 Diet (Similar to Vegan Diet, Vegetarian Diet, Raw Food Diet, Ornish Diet,    Macrobiotic Diet)

The Goal: Improve overall health with the added benefit of weight loss.

The Theory: A plant based diet can prevent and often reverse heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s, and cancer, which are thought to be caused by the typical American diet that is high in animal foods and saturated fat. The creator of this diet claims that plants and plant based foods offer the nutrients, fats, and proteins that keep the body functioning as it was intended.

The Food: The Engine 2 Diet consists of plants and plant based foods, minus vegetable oil (which is said to be stripped of nutrients and high in calories and saturated fat). All animal based products (meat, dairy, fish, eggs) and processed foods are omitted from the diet and replaced with whole grains, vegetables, beans, and fruits. Cooking with water instead of vegetable oil is recommended. This is a 4-phase program that slowly eliminates unwanted foods until a full vegan diet is achieved.

Pros/Cons: Most Americans eat too many processed foods and high-fat animal products, so the premise of this plant based diet for improving overall health is likely to have benefits. This diet plan aligns with the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans for most nutrients, but may fall short on Vitamin B12, Calcium, and Vitamin D, all which are found mainly in dairy products and meat. Some people find it difficult to follow a strict vegan diet, though it can be maintained in a healthy way with proper education and support. The Engine 2 program does offer online support for a fee.

Superfood Series: Part 1

bananas

There’s a lot of information floating around the web which boasts the fantastic, heroic-like powers of bananas. But, what does the research say? We’ve looked through the literature and done the work for you. The verdict? Bananas pack a healthy food punch!

Here are 7 reasons why bananas are superfood all-stars:

  1. Reduces Risk of Heart Disease. Just one medium size banana provides 12% of the recommended amount of daily fiber (20-35 g/day). Approximately 1/3 of the fiber in bananas is soluble fiber which is the type of fiber associated with decreased risk of heart disease. High in potassium and low in salt, bananas are officially recognized by the FDA as being able to lower blood pressure, and protect against heart attack and stroke.
  2. Healthy Weight. Soluble fiber also provides us with the feeling of fullness, which helps promote weight loss. For a fiber-full breakfast or snack, throw in a whole, ripened banana with 1 cup of cooked steel cut oats. This combination provides around 12 grams of fiber which can help you in reaching your weight loss goals!
  3. Digestion. Bananas digest more slowly than other foods due to their fiber and pectins which causes a slower absorption into the blood stream.
  4. This means bananas are also good for people with Diabetes. Bananas have a relatively low glycemic load value (16) because they digest slowly which leads to a slow and steady rise of blood sugar.  As bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into sugar, which means the greener the banana, the lower the glycemic load.     
  5. Constipation. Stopped up? Research indicates that bananas can help you. The fiber in bananas acts as a sort of “scrub brush” of the intestines, which aids in digestion and helps prompt regular bowel movements. The key is to eat a ripe banana.  Green tinted bananas contain a considerable amount of starch, which can be hard to digest and lead to constipation. As bananas ripen, their starch is broken down into sugar, and they become easier to digest.  Bonus: as bananas turn from green to yellow, levels of cancer and heart disease fighting antioxidants increase! 
  6. Athletic Performance. The unique combination of vitamins and minerals in bananas in conjunction with their low glycemic load, makes them a great fruit for athletes. Did we mention that bananas are a good source of potassium which helps prevent muscle cramps? Their portability also makes them a perfect snack for travel games.
  7. Happy Thoughts. Some nutrients in bananas are known to be able to help fight against depressive symptoms. That’s right; bananas play a small role in overcoming depression due to high levels of tryptophan, which is converted into serotonin -- the happy-mood brain neurotransmitter.

Sources:

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/05/120529113258.htm
http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsweek/Glycemic_index_and_glycemic_load_for_100_foods.htm
http://www.personal.psu.edu/afr3/blogs/SIOW/2011/09/a-banana-a-day-keeps-depression-away.html
http://columbusclinical.com/blog/five-foods-that-cause-constipation
http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=7
http://www.naturalnews.com/036771_bananas_digestion_health_benefits.html
http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/PreventionTreatmentofHighBloodPressure/Potassium-and-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_303243_Article.jsp 

Grocery Guide

Grocery shopping can be a pretty daunting task for most of us. Misleading health claims, deceptive packaging, and simply being low on time can all add to the difficulty of making the healthiest purchases. That’s why we’ve created a grocery guide to help you decipher which foods to pick and which foods to ditch. We’ve also included some healthy alternatives and bargains for those savvy shoppers!

A quick rule is to primarily shop the perimeter of the store. This is where you will usually find the healthiest and freshest foods like fruits, vegetables, lean meat, and low-fat dairy. The less healthy, processed foods are usually located on the inner aisles.

Produce Section

Shop the rainbow. Each differently colored fruit or vegetable represents a variety of vitamins and minerals. Try to buy something from each color category as you pass through the produce section.

Grocery Guide

Healthy Alternative: Try making baked fruit or veggie chips with apples, kale, spinach, eggplant, or zucchini. Simply toss with olive oil, salt and pepper, and bake at 425°F for 10 minutes or longer. 

Bargain Buy: As your produce starts to over-ripen (bananas, strawberries, blueberries) throw them in the freezer and mix with low-fat milk to make a smoothie. Don’t waste money on not-so-healthy- frozen smoothie mixes or ice cream.

Quick Tip: When it comes to buying salad greens, the darker the leaf, the more nutrient dense the food. For example, spinach has 19 times more Vitamin A and 3 times as much protein as iceberg lettuce.

Meat, Fish, and Deli

Quick Tip: In general, the lighter the color, the leaner the meat.

Beef: 93% lean ground beef, eye, top and bottom round, sirloin, and flank steak are all a great source of protein that offers less fat and cholesterol in comparison to other popular cuts.

Healthy Alternative: 99% fat-free ground turkey breast is often cheaper than ground beef and lower in fat which is helpful in fighting cardiovascular disease.

Boneless skinless chicken breast: Is a great source of protein. Try to get “all natural” or non-enhanced chicken breasts if you can because enhanced chicken is injected with saltwater to keep it moist; 3 ounces can pack more than 300 mg of sodium.

Healthy Alternative: Tofu and beans are a great source of protein that is usually cheaper and a great option for vegetarians.

Healthy Food Phony: Deli meat and canned meat are usually much higher in sodium and preservatives such as nitrites which have been linked to certain cancers.

Pantry Aisle

Mustard: Toss the mayo and try mustard. Dijon and spicy mustard are both much lower in calories and fat, but pack a powerful flavor punch.

Healthy Alternative: Avocado offers heart healthy unsaturated fats in place of saturated fats found in mayonnaise.

Vinaigrette-based salad dressing: Go for vinaigrette-based dressings instead of mayonnaise-based dressings like ranch or bleu cheese and you’ll save calories and fat.

Whole grain cereal: Check for less than 200 calories per serving, ≤8 grams of sugar per serving, and aim for a cereal with more fiber than sugar per serving.

Healthy Food Phony: Granola. Many granola-based cereals want to be perceived as healthy but contain more calories, sugar, and fat in comparison to other cereals.

Snacks

Popcorn: Ditch the pre-bagged kind that is high in fat and unhealthy preservatives. Instead, pop your own.

Cheese sticks: Reduced fat, often called “light” string cheese sticks are a great source of protein for kids and adults alike.

Hummus: Made from protein packed chickpeas, hummus is also a good source of fiber. Try eating with carrots, celery, or bell peppers instead of potato chips.

70% Dark chocolate: A healthier choice for those with a sweet tooth, but make sure it’s at least 70% dark. This kind is lower in sugar and fat and has more antioxidants in it which have been shown to reduce risk of heart disease and some cancers.

Nuts: (especially walnuts) have heart healthy omega- 3 fatty acids and protein. If you need some help enjoying these in moderation, try the pre-packaged individual serving sizes. Or to save money, buy the larger container and package them into smaller snack-size bags yourself.  Just make sure to avoid sugar coated, honey-roasted varieties. Stick to the raw form.

Drinks

1% Low-fat milk: Is a great source of lean protein, calcium, and vitamin D.

Healthy substitute: Try soy, almond or coconut milk instead of cow’s milk. Just make sure you get the unsweetened kind to avoid too much added sugar.

Tea: Black, green, and herbal teas are all high in antioxidants. Just don’t add too much sugar or honey. Opt for the caffeine free option for afternoons and evenings.

Healthy Food Phony: Sport Drinks. On average, sport drinks contain 20 grams of sugar in one 12 oz. serving. Not to mention a plethora of other UFOs (Unidentifiable Food-Like Objects). Unless you’re engaging in endurance sports, water is sufficient for hydration.

Refrigerator/Freezer Aisle

Quick Tip: Frozen fruits and vegetables are often packaged at their peak ripeness which makes them just as nutrient dense if not more than fresh fruits and vegetables, and often at a fraction of the price. Just check the ingredients label to make sure there is no added sugar, preservatives, sodium, etc.

Low-fat cottage cheese: This is a great source of protein and calcium. Jazz it up with some fruit!

Low-fat cheese: Try goat, feta, or ricotta instead of American which is heavily processed and often contains the most salt and fat of all cheese!

Healthy Food Phony: Smoothie kits. Often these ready to go kits have added sugar and other junk. Try making your own instead.

Bargain Buy: A one pound package of cooked frozen spinach is inexpensive and packed full of nutrients. It takes about 1 ½ pounds of fresh spinach to make one standard 10 ounce package of frozen spinach...now that’s a bargain!

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Depression

 

Mental health and well-being in the military are critical areas that must be addressed with understanding and compassion. Today, our focus is depression.

Some Facts

Suicide rates among the military population used to be less prevalent than in the civilian population. However, in 2005 suicide within the military, particularly the Army, steadily began increasing to record levels every year, until in 2008 it exceeded the civilian matched population rates. Defense Department officials are hopeful those rates are in a state of decline.

Contrary to the popular belief that mental illness and suicide in the military is largely attributed to stressors from deployment, the largest study of mental health risk and resilience ever conducted among U.S. military personnel found that approximately one-third of post-enlistment suicide attempts tied back to pre-enlistment mental disorders.

The results of the same research study also indicated that pre- and post-enlistment mental disorders accounted for 60% of first suicide attempts in the Army. This further highlights the importance of addressing the current status of mental health present in today’s military service member population.

Active Duty: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among U.S. military personnel, according to data from the Department of Defense. In 2012, a record 350 service members took their own lives. That total was twice as many as the decade before and surpassed not only the number of American troops killed in Afghanistan but also the number who died in transportation accidents in the same year.

Veterans: Every day, 22 veterans take their own lives. That’s 1 suicide every 65 minutes, and that’s not including deaths that occurred in several states such as California and Texas.

National Guard: Suicide rates in the National Guard are higher than for full time troops. In 2012, 34.2 per 100,000 Guard soldiers took their own lives in comparison to 22.7 per 100,000 full time soldiers. At any given time, troops on active-duty rolls include not only full-time soldiers, sailors, Marines and Airmen; but also include National Guard or reservists who are temporarily called up to full duty status. So- while the exact numbers are hard to decipher, more than likely, the numbers are higher.

 

 

As we move toward a better understanding of emotional health, we must remain in compassionate space, refrain from judgment, and never assume that we can adequately contemplate the intensity of the battle that individuals are fighting within themselves.

 

The environment for the Soldier and their family members can be stressful at times. Soldiers are being deployed, leaving their spouse at home to take care of their family and the home.  Soldiers are placed in a situation that can increase rates of anxiety and result in symptoms of depression once they have completed deployment and are trying to reintegrate with their family and adjust to being home.  The family is placed in a situation where they often feel overwhelmed with demands and possibly guilty for feeling any sense of resentment towards the situation. Symptoms of depression are common. Recognizing these symptoms and whether they are interfering with daily life is important in this vulnerable population. It wasn’t too long ago that the Department of Veterans Affairs released data suggesting that rates of veterans taking their own lives are increasing. Learning the symptoms of depression and treating them early is the best way to prevent tragedy from occurring.

Depression is one of the most common and most treatable mental disorders. The problem lies in not knowing how to recognize depression and/or not taking action to treat the depression. At times, there may be perceived stigma associated with being “labeled” with a “mental” problem, and/or with seeking treatment for that problem. This is even more prevalent in the military population. Soldiers may feel that they just need to “be strong” and deal with issues themselves or feel they will be judged for getting mental health treatment. Failing to take appropriate action can result in a downward spiral with symptoms getting worse. A movement towards empowering soldiers to take action on symptoms of depression without repercussion will result in more of those needing help actually getting it. This movement includes family members, peers, and friends getting on board to support individuals seeking appropriate treatment.

What To Look For

Depression includes a variety of symptoms that can vary from one person to the next that continue day to day. If you notice some of these symptoms continuing for more than just a few days, it may be time to think about seeking help. Common symptoms can include but are not limited to:

1) Feeling fatigued or having no energy almost every day

2) Inability to start or finish daily tasks (cleaning the house, basic hygiene, running errands)

3) A feeling of hopelessness…like there is no reason to live, nothing to look forward to

4) Loss of concentration or inability to remember things

5) Changes in sleep patterns (sleeping too much or not enough)

6) Significant changes in weight (weight gain or loss)

7) Thoughts of death or suicide

It is not advised that you or someone you know use this checklist as a way to “diagnose” depression. This checklist should be used as a tool in recognizing when outside help is needed. We have also included several resources for further information on depression and depression in the military.

Resources

434_Courage_hands2012

Service members, including members of the National Guard and Reserves, along with their loved ones can call 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1, chat online at www.MilitaryCrisisLine.net, or send a text message to 838255 to receive free, confidential support 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.  

A hotline has been established specifically for the military called the “Let’s Talk” Deployment Health Helpline: 1-800-796-9699. Available from 7:30-4:30 p.m. EST. 

For additional information, check out Recovery.org, which provides further resources for suicidal thought treatment and recovery.  


Omega Fatty Acids

You’ve probably heard about Omega fatty acids, and that they are good for your health. What many people may not know, however, is that there are two types of Omega fatty acids and both play a role in the necessary processes of inflammation and blood clotting, but in a very different way.

What are Omega fatty acids?

Omega-6 and Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs). Both of these types of unsaturated fats are healthy and essential in the diet. Both are biologically active in the body, unlike most fats which are used for energy or stored. This means that they play important roles in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. Omega-6s are pro-inflammatory, and Omega-3s have an anti-inflammatory effect. The inflammatory process is a normal and healthy function of the body, specifically when an injury occurs. The early stages of inflammation enlist the immune system to help control infection, and wound healing and tissue re-growth occur in the later stages of inflammation. It is also necessary for blood to have the ability to clot in order to prevent excessive bleeding. The problem occurs when there is excessive inflammation and clotting in the body, which can lead to heart disease, arthritis, and other serious diseases. The key is to balance the consumption of Omega-6 and Omega-3.

How much do I need?

Health experts do not endorse a daily recommended intake for Omega-6 or Omega-3, rather, the emphasis is on the ratio of Omega-6 to Omega-3. Most people consume a diet that is too high in Omega-6 fatty acids, and lacks in Omega-3s. This unbalanced ratio has a damaging effect on the body, and is one of the most negative aspects of the typical American diet. Anthropological studies show that humans evolved eating a ratio of Omega-6: Omega-3 somewhere around 1:1. The typical diet today has a ratio of 16:1!

To better balance the ratio of Omega fatty acids in your diet, follow these tips:

  • Processed oils are loaded with Omega-6s, so limit or avoid them. The oils highest in Omega-6s include sunflower, corn, sesame, and peanut oil. These are typically found in highly processed or fried foods because they are inexpensive and readily available. Limiting these foods in your diet will reduce the overall amount of Omega-6 consumed.
  • Omega-3s are found in seafood such as salmon, tuna, trout, sardines, anchovies, and halibut. Other sources are beans, nuts, and spinach. Some foods are fortified or enriched with Omega-3s, such as bread, cereal, oatmeal, and yogurt. Choose canola, flaxseed, soybean and olive oils when cooking.
  • The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (like salmon) at least twice a week. Eating a variety of non-processed foods in place of processed or fried foods will also help to improve the ratio of fatty acid consumption in your diet.
  • If you feel that your diet lacks in Omega-3s, consider taking a Fish Oil Supplement to get these beneficial fatty acids. Supplements will vary in the amount of fatty acids they contain, so look for one with at least 600mg of DHA (Docosahexaenoic Acid, the primary form of fatty acid found in fish that offers health benefits). Let your doctor know if you are taking a Fish Oil Supplement.
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