News Roundup: High Fat Diets

Last Friday, the results of a small rodent study were presented at the Society for the Study of Ingestive Behavior by scientist Krzysztof Czaja (University of Georgia College of Veterinary Medicine).  His research with rodents demonstrated that a “high fat” diet changes the composition of gut bacteria in the body, which eventually leads to over-eating.

The resulting headlines, such as those seen below, warn of the risks of a “high fat” diet. The problem with headlines like those below is that they conflict with information that has been broadly circulated, accepted, and proven, regarding the health benefits of a diet that includes moderate amounts of healthy fats. 

As stated in our previous blog, Fat is Not the Enemy, all fat isn’t created equal. Some healthy fat is actually a good thing (think walnuts and olive oil). The type of fat used in Dr. Czaja’s study was saturated fat and trans-fat (think donuts and pizza), both of which have previously been proven to be unhealthy. In fact, the FDA recently banned trans-fat from the American food supply.

As you read through headlines claiming “fat is bad”, take note of which type of fat they are referring too and remember that unsaturated fat (in moderation) can and should be a part of a healthy diet.

This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to high fat diets.

How A High-Fat Diet May Be Screwing With Your Brain.  Huffington Post. “For two weeks, he fed them all the same balanced, healthy chow that all lab rats need to stay at a normal weight. Then he took half of them and fed them high-fat rat food, made with a mixture of saturated fats and trans fats, like the fats that are found in our highly processed foods such as fast food, frozen pizza and pastries made with vegetable shortening.

Study finds that high fat diet changes gut microbe populations.  EurekAlert. “According to a new study with rats, that high-fat indulgence literally changes the populations of bacteria residing inside the gut and also alters the signaling to the brain. The result? The brain no longer senses signals for fullness, which can cause overeating--a leading cause of obesity.”

This is your brain on fried eggs: Brain, motivation and eating a high-fat diet.  ScienceDaily.  “Fulton's study is the first of its kind to show that, regardless of weight changes, unrestrained intake of saturated fats can have negative effects on the controls of motivation by the brain.”

Understanding the Power of Omega-3s.  LiveScience. “Omega-3s [a type of unsaturated fat] work several ways in the heart. They appear to prevent irregular heartbeat, reduce fatty plaques inside artery walls, decrease blood clotting, decrease triglycerides (blood fat), increase HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease inflammation.”


News Roundup: Phasing Out Trans Fats


Back in 2013, the Food and Drug Administration proposed to phase out trans fats from the American food supply.  According to the FDA, Americans still eat about a gram of trans fat every day, and phasing it out could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths each year. The agency says it will make a final decision by next week (June 15).


This week’s News Roundup brings you a collection of articles and blog posts related to phasing out trans fats from the American food supply.


5 Things About Trans Fats and the FDA’s Proposed Phase Out.  Yahoo! HEALTH. Scientists say there are no health benefits to trans fats, which are used in processing food and in restaurants, usually to improve texture, shelf life or flavor. Trans fats can raise levels of “bad” cholesterol and lower “good” cholesterol, increasing the risk of heart disease, the leading cause of death in the United States. Trans fats are widely considered the worst kind for your heart, even worse than saturated fats, which also can contribute to heart disease.”


Adios, Trans Fats: FDA Poised To Phase Out Artery-Clogging FatNPR.   “The FDA allows companies to list 0 grams on the label even if the food contains up to half a gram of trans fats. In other words, If a packaged food has less than .5 grams per serving, it can be labeled as trans-fat free. So, if you want to avoid these trace levels, you've got to scan the ingredient list. If you see partially hydrogenated oils listed, you know there's a small amount of trans fats in the food.”


Five Things to Know About the Feds’ Proposed Trans Fats Phaseout.  The Blaze. “Think baked goods, microwave popcorn and fried foods. Over the years, trans fats have been most plentiful in foods like frostings, which need solid fat for texture, or in those that need a longer shelf life or flavor enhancement. Popular foods that have historically contained trans fats are pie crusts, biscuits, microwave popcorn, coffee creamers, frozen pizza, refrigerated dough, vegetable shortenings and stick margarines.”


Trans fats to be phased out, FDA says.  The Washington Post. ““While consumption of potentially harmful trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” said FDA Commissioner Margaret A. Hamburg.”


Superfood Series: Part 5

6 Reason why Walnuts are Superfood All-stars:

  1.  Heart Health.  Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation and preserve endothelial cell function that is associated with heart disease.  These heart healthy fats have a unique chemical structure that aides in unclogging arteries the same way drain cleaner unclogs your kitchen sink pipes.  Walnuts also contain a unique combination of fiber and unsaturated fats which can also help lower cholesterol (and reduce insulin resistance which often leads to diabetes). 
  2. Weight controlResearch indicates that diets containing walnuts are more supportive of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.  Even though walnuts are relatively high in fat and calories for size, when eaten in moderation they can help suppress appetite in between meals and provide high amounts of satiety (the feeling of being satisfied or full).  This is because walnuts have a good amount of protein and fiber (1-.25 cup serving contains 5g protein and 3 g fiber), both of which contribute to the feeling of fullness.  There are many ways to include walnuts into your diet.  Try eating a handful or throw them into your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. 
  3. Brain Health.  Back to the Omega -3s, there is a link between Omega-3 consumption and the ability to fight depression and cognitive degeneration.  Research shows that people who ate walnuts as part of a Mediterranean style diet were associated with better memory and brain function.  A review of the literature postulates that antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline. 
  4. Slows Cancer Tumor Growth.  Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in walnuts are arguably the two most important factors that can have an effect on the development of cancer.  Antioxidants help prevent cancer by repairing damaged cells.  Research has revealed that walnuts have the ability to help prevent, fight, and slow growth of certain cancerous tumors (i.e. prostate, gastrointestinal, and breast cancer). 
  5. Sleep.  Walnuts have the ability to raise melatonin levels by a whopping three times.  Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  It plays a role in sleep regulation by controlling the sleep wake cycle, helping you to feel sleepy at night.  Bonus?  Melatonin in walnuts is in bio-available form, which means it is easier to absorb than other supplemental sources of melatonin. 
  6. Metabolism booster.  Thecombination of protein and essential fatty acids found in walnuts can help boost metabolism.Walnuts also contain16% of the daily recommend amount of magnesium-which is needed for protein synthesis.  Magnesium functions as an electrolyte, which means that it is used to communicate between nerves and muscles. When muscles have adequate magnesium, they are able to function properly and continue to support a healthy metabolism. To sum it up, walnuts can help your body to function and continue to grow stronger and build muscle as you exercise.

*For full health benefits, make sure to eat the raw version of walnuts and stay away from anything that is coated in sugar or salt like candied walnuts.


Superfood Series: Part 4

Chia Seeds:  Small, but Mighty

What’s not to love about chia seeds? They are unprocessed, whole grain, and chock-full of nutrients.  Chia seeds are jam-packed with protein, fiber, and minerals. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a look at their overall nutritional content. 




Healthy Weight.  Chia seeds are not the magic solution for weight loss that some companies would like you to believe, but their high fiber and protein content make them a viable addition to any healthy weight loss or maintenance plan. Thanks to their high fiber content, chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight.  Their gel like presence in your stomach will help you feel fuller, longer and reduce the chance of over-eating. Additionally, chia seeds contain high quality protein that consists of all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids that cannot be synthesized on their own and must be obtained through food) that will keep hunger at bay and energy levels consistent. 

Healthy Heart.  Chia seeds are a great source of heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  They are a particularly good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. PUFAs can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly type II diabetes. 

Digestion.  Fiber aids in digestion and chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber.  At 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), they are 40% fiber by weight.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans. 

Strong bones.  Chia seeds are high in many critical bone nutrients and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These three minerals account for 98% of the body’s mineral content by weight.  Although, deficiencies in phosphorus and magnesium are rare in the typical American diet, calcium deficiency is more common.  As we age, calcium absorption and retention decreases in our bones.  Including chia seeds in your diet may help offset this natural loss in calcium. 

Antioxidants have been shown to help fight off everything from heart disease to cancer.  Some of the most abundant antioxidants in chia seeds (quercetin, kaempferol,  myricetin, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid) are associated with health benefits such as boosted energy, endurance, and fitness of the brain and muscles; protection against chronic disease such as lung cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes;  and inflammation prevention.      

Athletic performance.  Folklore says that Aztecs and Mayans carb-loaded with chia seeds before an athletic event, much in the same way we do with sport drinks before a sporting event. We’re thinking they were on to something.  In one study, researchers compared athletic performance of athletes who drank Gatorade to athletes who drank a mixture of half-Gatorade and half-chia seeds.  The results indicated no difference in performance between the two groups, suggesting that chia seeds may serve as a possible healthy alternative to highly processed, sugar-laden sport drinks. Furthermore, the high calcium and magnesium content in chia seeds makes them a good source of electrolytes which helps prevent hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise.

Diabetes.  The unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber (10 out of 12 carbohydrates are from fiber) in chia seeds causes a slow and steady rise in blood sugar which is favorable for people with diabetes.  A few clinical studies have demonstrated this favorable effect.  The results of one study indicated that including 37 grams (about 2.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels.  Hint* Substituting chia seeds for bread crumbs and other high glycemic load foods can be a helpful place to start.    

Versatility.  There are many ways to eat chia seeds. In addition to their long shelf life (thanks to antioxidants), chia seeds are so versatile that you can add them to almost anything.  Eat them alone if you’re in a hurry or add them to water or milk to create a thick, gelatinous pudding.  Other people like to add them to salads, sandwiches, and soups.  Check out these other ideas if you’re curious


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.


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.


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 that’s a bargain!

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