Tuesday, September 29, 2015

15 Most Surprising Sources for Omega-3s — Ranked!

Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids are likely one of the nutrients people don't get enough of. Lack of Omega 3's in the diet, or a larger than recommended ratio of Omega 6's to Omega 3s are thought to adversely affect cognitive function, joint pain and cholesterol levels. One of the things I tell parents with ADHD or ADD children is to try adding Omega 3's to the daily nutritional plan for their children and see if that has a positive affect.

This is from an Eat This, Not That! article.

Imagine if you could take a pill that prevented you from ever feeling fat, dumb or depressed. Oh, and imagine that same pill happened to protect against heart disease, arthritis and osteoporosis, too. Not too shabby, right?

Well, omega-3 fatty acids can do all of that, and this life-saving fat comes as a natural ingredient in many of our healthiest (and most delicious) foods, especially salmon, which has more than 1,500 mg in a 3 ounce portion. But as for popping omega-3 pills? “Supplements just don’t cut it,” says Elizabeth Chew, a NIH official who conducted a recent study on omega-3 pills and found zero benefits, at least when it comes to the cognitive abilities of older folks.

So if you’re shelling money for fish oil tablets, consider this good news: You can stop swallowing those horse-pill sized gel caps and go back to eating real food—including burgers, cheese, and even pizza. The researchers at Eat This, Not That! magazine have identified some of the most unlikely, and most delicious, ways to get your 1,100 mg of daily omega-3s recommended by the National Institutes of Health (men should get 1,600 mg daily)—we call it The Ultimate Omega-3 Countdown! You won’t believe what’s #1.

And don’t be fooled into thinking that just any fish will be good for your health.

Omega-3 Superfood #15 Grass-fed Beef
Omega-3 Payoff: 160 mg per 6-ounce steak

Because they wander around in fields eating things like flax and purslane (about which you’ll read, below), grass-fed cows yield meat that contains about 4 times more omega-3s than grain-fed animals.

Omega-3 Superfood #14 Mustard Seed
Omega-3 Payoff: 230 mg per tablespoon

One tiny teaspoon of ground mustard provides 100 milligrams of omega-3s, plus serious fat-burning potential. Scientists at England’s Oxford Polytechnic Institute found that a teaspoon of the hot stuff was enough to boost the metabolism by up to 25% for several hours after eating. Researchers attribute the weight loss benefits to allyl isothiocyanates, compounds that give the mustard its characteristic flavor. You can use ground mustard seed as you would black pepper—put a dash on your salmon for a double dose of omega-3 goodness!

Omega-3 Superfood #13 Omega-3 Eggs
Omega-3 Payoff: 225 mg per egg

Eggs turn up on many of our “best lists” because they are chock full of protein, vitamins, antioxidants, and a fat-fighting nutrient called choline. Omega-3 enriched eggs are laid by hens that are fed flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fish oil, thereby automatically improving your cluck! Speaking of turning off fat genes, blast fat quickly green tea. In a recent study, participants who combined a daily habit of 4 to 5 cups of green tea each day with 25 minutes of exercise lost 2 pounds more than those who didn’t drink the tea. That’s why we made it part of our brand new weight-loss plan, The 7-Day Flat-Belly Tea Diet and Cleanse! Test panelists lost up to 10 pounds in just one week!

Omega-3 Superfood #12 Wild Rice
Omega-3 Payoff: 240 mg per ½ cup (uncooked)

Diet experts go ga-ga for brown rice, but it’s wild rice that tugs on our heartstrings as a weight loss wonder food. After all, the native American grain has nearly double the fiber and protein, and fewer calories than its arguably more popular cousin. Whole grains have a proven reputation as a weight-loss staple. In one study, Penn State researchers found dieters on a calorie-restricted diet who ate whole grains like rice lost significantly more belly fat than a group who consumed the equivalent number of calories from refined carbohydrates. Another grain high in omega-3s: kamut, which, along with a fruit that tastes like chocolate pudding—yes, chocolate pudding—is one of our 8 Stupendous Secret Superfoods That Burn Fat!

Omega-3 Superfood #11 Purslane
Omega-3 Payoff: 300 mg per ½ cup

What the heck is purslane? While not a common food in most of the U.S., this sour, slightly salty green is often used in Greek and Turkish cooking. You can find it at farmers’ markets in spring and summer, but the most likely place you’ll encounter it is growing in the cracks of your driveway. A weed to most, it was a regular part of Gandhi’s diet, and a mere half cup has more than 1,000 IUs of vitamin A. This might be the cheapest stealth health food in the world!

Omega-3 Superfood #10 Winter Squash
Omega-3 Payoff: 332 mg per cup (baked)

More squash = less squish. A cup of winter squash provides one-third the recommended daily intake of vitamin C — a nutrient researchers say is directly related to the body’s ability to burn through fat. In fact, one study by researchers from Arizona State University showed deficiencies of vitamin C were strongly correlated with increased body fat and waist measurements.

Omega-3 Superfood #9 Spinach
Omega-3 Payoff: 352 mg per half-cup (cooked)

At only 40 calories per cooked cup, spinach is also rich in vitamin E and two compounds called “betaine” and “choline” that work together to turn off fat storage genes. Recent research suggests compounds in the leaf membranes called thylakoids may also serve as a powerful appetite suppressant. Participants in the three-month study who drank a breakfast smoothie containing spinach thylakoids had fewer cravings and lost 5.5 pounds more than the placebo group.

Omega-3 Superfood #8 Fontina Cheese
Omega-3 Payoff: 448 mg per 2-ounce serving

Dairy has made a dietary comeback, with new research suggesting the high-fat products like cheese may help reduce the risk of obesity. Cheese-eaters lost more belly fat than a control group who took a calcium supplement, one study found. The group that nibbled cheese also exhibited increased levels of butyrate, a fatty acid found in the gut proven to improve fat metabolism. So enjoy a piece guilt-free and then maximize your fat burn with these sweet and salty 50 Best-Ever Snacks for Weight Loss!

Omega-3 Superfood #7 Red Lentils
Omega-3 Payoff: 480 mg per cup (raw)

Lentils are an inexpensive dietary pulse, touted by weight loss experts for their ability to boost fat metabolism and regulate appetites. Researchers say the slimming benefits can be attributed to resistant starch, a form of slow-digesting fiber that triggers the release of acetate, a molecule in the gut that signals the brain when it’s time to stop eating. In fact, people who ate a daily serving of lentils (about ¾ cup) felt an average 31 percent fuller compared to a control diet, a systematic review of clinical trials on legumes found.

Omega-3 Superfood #6 Anchovies
Omega-3 Payoff: 597 mg per 1 oz boneless

The debate over pizza toppings is settled. While salmon, tuna, halibut and other popular fish grab all the omega-3 glory, the humble anchovy is often forgotten about. But just a couple of slices of anchovy pizza get you more than halfway to your daily quota. The superfish is also rich in calcium and potassium (both essential weight-loss minerals) as well as vitamin A. If you’re adventurous, eat them with the bones still in: a 2015 study in Food Chemistry Journal found that the traditional way of eating anchovies yields 8 times as much calcium and twice as much iron as the cleaned-up, boneless option.

Omega-3 Superfood #5 Firm Tofu
Omega-3 Payoff: 814 mg per 3-ounce serving

It has the reputation of being bland and slimy, but like the high school nerd-turned-successful hottie, tofu is worth a second look. A solid curd made from mashed soybeans, it’s a terrific source of plant-based protein with proven weight-loss potential. One study published in the journal Nature showed dieters who followed a 12-week meal plan that included a soy-based protein replacement lost twice as much weight and saw greater reductions in cholesterol and belly fat than a control group whose equicaloric weight loss diet included protein from lean meats. And the omega-3 count is off the chart.

Omega-3 Superfood #4 Walnuts
Omega-3 Payoff: 2,500 mg per ¼ cup

Walnuts pack the most omega-3 punch of any nut or seed, and they’re also high in disease-fighting antioxidants. This combination, according to a recent study, is highly protective against heart disease. Walnuts help reduce blood pressure and decrease inflammation in the blood vessels during times of stress. Toss some into salads or eat a handful as an afternoon snack.

Omega-3 Superfood #3 Navy Beans
Omega-3 Payoff: 1 cup has 1,190 mg

Not only are beans a great source of belly-fat-fighting fiber, a single cup gives you nearly an entire day’s worth of omega-3s. Navy beans are packed with satiating protein, and brimming with vitamins and minerals. Studies show that navy beans in particular can help battle diabetes and obesity.

Omega-3 Superfood #2 Chia seeds
Omega-3 Payoff: 2,500 mg per tbsp

Yes, those same chia seeds of Chia Pet fame. These nutty-tasting seeds can be added to salads, smoothies, stir fry and more to give your meals an omega-3 boost, and just a tiny shake each morning on your cereal ensures you’re hitting your daily quota.

#1 Omega-3 Superfood is…. Flaxseed Oil!
Omega-3 Payoff: 7,300 mg per tbsp

While whole flaxseeds are high in omega-3s, their hard exteriors often resist digestion, meaning you don’t necessarily get the nutritional bang for your buck. Go for the ground version (also known as flax meal), or get nearly a week’s worth of the good stuff by drizzling a little of the oil onto your salad. Studies have found flax to be helpful for cardiovascular disease symptoms like hypertension, according to a recent study in the journal Hypertension. That’s why flaxseed oil fits in among our 8 Best Oils for Weight Loss.

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Thursday, September 17, 2015

Nutritional Science Isn’t Very Scientific

Nutritional Science Isn’t Very Scientific is the title of an article posted on slate.com

The author, Heather Tirado Gilligan, say's that the research behind dietary recommendations is a lot less certain than you think.
The potato industry recently scored a big victory, in what sounds at first like a familiar story of Big Ag winning out over public health. Eight years ago, over allegations of insufficient nutritional value, potatoes were excluded from a government program that helps pregnant women and young children improve their diets. The rationale was that aid recipients in the Women, Infants, and Children program already ate plenty of white potatoes, a widely consumed vegetable in the U.S.

But in February, potatoes were back on the menu after a fierce multiyear lobbying campaign by the National Potato Council. Nutritionist Marion Nestle and other progressive reformers called foul, denouncing the change. “Really?” Nestle scoffed. “I have a hard time believing that WIC recipients are suffering from lack of potatoes in their diets.” Several watchdog groups and the national WIC advocacy group opposed the change, too. “It’s disappointing that politics has trumped science,” Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, told reporters.

But did science really lose? In this case, the potato industry had science on its side, the outcry from nutritionists notwithstanding. Despite the common belief that potatoes are nutritionally null, a report released in February by the Institute of Medicine, an independent nonprofit, shows that white potatoes are an inexpensive source of potassium, fiber, and other needed nutrients, and one that people actually enjoy eating.

The takeaway from the potato controversy is not that lobbyists sometimes base their campaigns on real science. Rather it’s that the David-and-Goliath narrative of science versus Big Ag may be blinding us to another, even bigger problem: the fact that there is often very little solid science backing recommendations about what we eat.

Most of our devout beliefs about nutrition have not been subjected to a robust, experimental, controlled clinical trial, the type of study that shows cause and effect, which may be why Americans are pummeled with contradictory and confounding nutritional advice. Nutritional bad guys that have fallen from grace in the national consciousness—white potatoes, eggs, nuts, iceberg lettuce—have been redeemed years later. Onetime good guys, like margarine and pasta, have been recast as villains. Cholesterol is back in the probably-won’t-kill-you column after being shunned for 40 years, as of the latest nutritional advice from the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee in February. (That advice was still too timid, according to Cleveland Clinic cardiologist Steve Nissen, who also wants the nutritional guidelines to admit our best evidence suggests fat isn’t bad for you either). And then there’s salt—don’t eat too little, says the newest research. You could die.

Amid the growing concern that nutritional advice to avoid high-fat food led to overconsumption of carbohydrates and caused spikes in illnesses like Type 2 diabetes, more and more scientists are starting to worry publicly that the basis of our dietary advice is scientific quicksand.

How potatoes were born again is a telling example of the uncertain foundation of nutrition. Potatoes had a bad rap in part because they are usually eaten deep fried, but even when they are not, they have a high glycemic index, according to prominent Harvard nutritionist Walter Willett. A high GI means that foods quickly turn into sugar (glucose) in the body and may eventually lead to heart disease and other illnesses, especially among diabetics, according to an analysis of data from the Nurse’s Health Study at Harvard, which Willett oversees. He placed potatoes in the same naughty group as candy in his influential 2005 book Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy: The Harvard Medical School Guide to Healthy Eating. One of his studies concluded that white potatoes are worse than soda, leading the L.A. Times to dub spuds public enemy No. 1 in 2011.

So how, just a few years later, did white potatoes return to the list of healthy foods? The IOM committee found a lack of evidence supporting claims that the tubers are unhealthy. WIC only pays for fresh produce, or frozen or canned fruits and veggies with nothing added, so there is no worry women in the program are using their vouchers for potato chips. No one contests the positives of potatoes—much needed micronutrients and fiber—and there isn’t enough proof, they found, that the GI is important to health. So white potatoes got the green light.

Willett calls the IOM potato report “myopic,” because other vegetables have the same needed nutrients as potatoes without the possible dangers of high GI foods that his studies have shown. And because micronutrient deficiency isn’t our biggest dietary problem, Willett told me in a recent email exchange, “obesity is likely to be of greater concern.” In other words, why take the risk on a possible downside to eating potatoes when you don’t need to?

Many nutritional studies are observational studies, including massive ones like the Nurses’ Health Study. Researchers like Willett try to suss out how changes in diet affect health by looking at associations between what people report they eat and how long they live. When many observational studies reach the same conclusions, Willett says, there is enough evidence to support dietary recommendations. Even though they only show correlation, not cause and effect, observational studies direct what we eat.

Apart from their inability to determine cause and effect, there’s another problem with observational studies: The data they’re based on—surveys where people report what they ate the day (or week) before—are notoriously unreliable. Researchers have long known that people (even nurses) misreport, intentionally and unintentionally, what they eat. Scientists politely call this “recall bias.”

The coupling of observational studies and self-reported data leads some observers to the conclusion that we know neither how Americans do eat nor how they should eat. A recent PLOS One article even suggests that several national studies use data that is so wildly off base that the self-reported caloric intake is “incompatible with survival.” If people had eaten as little as they reported, in other words, they would be starving.

Peter Attia, a medical researcher and doctor, started questioning the basis of dietary guidelines when he saw that following them didn’t work for his patients. They didn’t lose weight, even when they virtuously stuck with their diets. When he took a look at the research supporting the advice he was giving to his patients, he saw shoddy science. Attia estimates that 16,000 nutritional studies are published each year, but the majority of them are deeply flawed: either poorly controlled clinical trials, observational studies, or animal studies. “Those studies wouldn’t pass muster in another field,” he told me.

Attia co-founded the nonprofit Nutrition Science Initiative. NuSI has about $40 million from the Laura and John Arnold Foundation to support clinical trials in nutrition rigorous enough to tell us what to eat. Its goal is to answer one fundamental question about how we should eat: Are low-fat or low-carb diets better for health?

The NuSI projects are not the first clinical trials in nutrition, and Willett pointed out to me that previous big and expensive trials have failed because people don’t follow their randomly assigned diet—and that is one key reason that the field has depended so heavily on observational studies. NuSI-funded trials try to correct for this problem: In one of the studies, subjects are isolated in a clinical residence for eight weeks at a time and every morsel of food they eat is controlled. In another, 150 overweight or obese subjects, all college students, faculty, and staff, eat every meal in a special dining hall. In the third study, participants aren’t isolated but are assigned to either a low-fat or low-carb diet and record what they’ve eaten immediately after they eat to sidestep recall bias. In two or three years, Attia estimates, results will be available.

Even if the participants in the NuSI studies do follow their diets perfectly, and even if researchers establish whether low-fat or low-carb is better, that won’t necessarily establish whether we should eat more or less of individual foods. What kind of carbs are good for you, and should potatoes specifically be avoided? Which vegetables should you be eating more of? It would take hundreds of clinical trials to come up with solid advice about which foods to eat and which to avoid—especially since genetic variations mean that different people have different nutritional needs.

In the meantime, should dietary recommendations end until we have solid clinical trials to show how to navigate our bewildering array of food choices? Should the government stop creating random purchasing restrictions for people who need help getting food on the table? One interesting bit of advice came in the many discussions following the IOM’s recent reversal on cholesterol—cardiologist Steve Nissen suggested that any recommendations come with a side of brutal honesty. “We are all guessing,” he said. “And we have to be more humble about telling people what we know and what we don’t know.”

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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Redesigned Nutrition Labels

From the article "How the Redesigned Nutrition Facts Label Can Change the Way America Eats", from Yahoo!

In the 23 years since the nutrition facts label first appeared on the backs of most packaged foods, there has only been one significant change — the addition of trans fat numbers in 2006. But since 1992, critics have derided the label for not reflecting the way modern Americans eat, being hard to read and use, and not including enough information about everything from sugar to caffeine content. Food companies and consumer groups have tried to create more readable solutions — making health claims like “good source of fiber” or putting select nutritional information on the front of the package — to varying results.

But within the next few years, consumers can expect a complete transformation. The first redesign was announced by the Food and Drug Administration in March 2014 and last month, the FDA added another proposed change. The changes, in tandem, will affect both the labels’ design and what they actually measure, reconsidering serving sizes and point out different nutritional information. But according to FDA press officer Lauren Kotwicki, shoppers shouldn’t expect to see new labels in the grocery aisles just yet. First, the new rules have to be finalized by the FDA: The organization takes public comments and advice from dietary, regulatory, and other groups within the agency into consideration before approval (the newest proposals are open for public comment until October 13, 2015). Since the process takes place within one agency, it’s difficult for outsiders to track how long it may take to get a final ruling — or how many more proposals will emerge before the changes are finalized.

But once that has happened, the FDA has proposed to allow manufacturers up to two years to comply with the new regulations. Though there could be further additions to the redesign, here are the changes consumers should know:

Serving sizes updated:

By law, serving sizes on packaged food have to reflect how much people actually eat in one sitting — not, as widely assumed, the “suggested” serving size. The standards for current serving sizes were last updated in 1994 and are based on Nationwide Food Consumption Surveys from 1977-78 and 1987-88. According to the FDA, newer data shows that about 17 percent of these sizes no longer fit with American eating habits. If consumers across the United States are eating more — regularly finishing a half-pint of ice cream by themselves during one movie — then the nutrition facts label should list that pint as two servings, not four servings as currently listed.

Currently, food packages that contain between 150 and 200 percent of the “reference amounts customarily consumed” (RACC, aka “how much people tend to eat in one meal”) can be listed as more than one serving. The FDA has proposed ending that allowance: Since these portions are only slightly larger than “regular” or average RACCs, people often end up treating them as a single serving. Fifteen-ounce soups and 20-ounce sodas, for example, will both be listed as one serving if the proposed changes become law. Products containing between 200 and 400 percent of the RACC could also be required to have a dual-column label which lists nutritional information both per serving and per package, since it’s possible that people will eat them in one sitting. (Think of eating a pint of ice cream by yourself or an entire package of cookies.)

However, not everyone thinks that this proposed change is for the best. Harvard’s Behavioral Science and Regulation Group notes that “more than half of consumers perceive the term ‘serving size’ to be a recommended serving size, not an amount customarily consumed.” Since so much of nutritional information is based on the idea of eating an amount that’s “good for you,” it isn’t much of a stretch for consumers to apply this idea to serving sizes, too,“ the HBSRG writes. This basic misunderstanding could lead to people consuming more than they otherwise would if serving sizes became larger.

The label will be easier to read:

Unless you’re keen to count calories, the old nutrition facts label made it difficult to tell just how much you were eating at a glance. To remedy the problem, the FDA has proposed overhauling the design to make servings, calories, and daily values of various nutrients clearer. Both calories and serving sizes will appear in larger, bolded type, and the percent of daily values column has been moved to the left side to allow eaters easier scanning. (If you happen across a number higher than 25 percent, it’s an automatic tip off that this food may not be a healthy choice.)

The FDA is also planning to insert a footnote that explains what "daily values” actually mean. The nutrition facts label currently carries the somewhat vague footnote: “Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.” To make things clearer, the FDA has proposed changing the footnote to read, “The percent daily value (%DV) tells you how much a nutrient in a serving of food contributes to a daily diet. 2,000 calories a day is used for general nutrition advice.” Yet this label still may not go far enough for shoppers who may make decisions in as little as one third of a second.

The FDA also proposed an “alternate format” for the label which categorizes nutrients into three categories: quick facts (including fat, carbs, sugars, and protein), “avoid too much” (saturated and trans fat, sodium, carbohydrates, and added sugars), and “get enough” (mostly vitamins and nutrients like fiber). The alternate format has gotten less press coverage than the main redesign, but comes closer to the simplified nutritional information championed by food advocates.

Nutritional Updates and Added Sugars:

Some important changes that easily slip under the radar of anyone who isn’t a professional nutritionist are those that come from a modern understanding of a healthy diet. Daily values for sodium, dietary fiber, and Vitamin D will be updated and manufacturers will, for the first time, be required to list potassium and Vitamin D on labels. Vitamins A and C will be “included on a voluntary basis.” These changes have less to do with the nutrients themselves than the types of deficiency-related diseases that are common in the United States. While most people get more than enough Vitamins A and C, segments of the population still suffer from high blood pressure (which can be reduced with higher potassium intake). Vitamin D deficiencies still cause rickets in children or osteoporosis in adults, among other health problems.

And since, as the FDA states, we now know that “the type of fat is more important than the amount” of fat, the general category “Calories from Fat” will be removed from the label — though total fat, saturated fat, and trans fat will continue to appear.

But the recent proposal to include “added sugars” in addition to total quantity of sugar on the nutrition facts label is easily the most controversial change suggested by the FDA. According to Kotwicki, the agency took this step because of a recommendation in the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans “to reduce intake of calories from solid fats and added sugars.” As critics have pointed out, naturally occurring and added sugars are physiologically indistinguishable. However, foods with high levels of natural sugars — like fruit or milk — are very different in overall nutrition from those with an abundance of added sugar — soda or cookies.

The nutrition facts label has been lumped into the category of things laypeople aren’t meant to understand.

Unsurprisingly, those most vehemently against this proposed change are groups like the American Bakers Association, the Sugar Association, and the cranberry industry (which relies on large quantities of sugar to combat the cranberry’s tartness). In the latter example, juice brand Ocean Spray is encouraging its employees to write-in to the FDA, with a provided “sample letter” arguing that “the proposed FDA Rule places the viability of our multi-generational family farms in jeopardy.” It asks for an exemption on behalf of all cranberry products to avoid “unintended negative consequences” toward the otherwise healthy fruit.

The last two decades have been transformational for American attitudes toward food. Awareness of diet-related diseases and rising obesity rates has increased, along with the popularity of local and organic foods. The nutrition facts label has, for too long, been lumped into the category of things laypeople aren’t meant to understand. Finally, consumers and regulatory agencies alike are realizing that this information is something everyone should grasp.

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