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Questions from our readers

  1. Do I really need to take a multivitamin?
  2. I have high cholesterol and I’d like to try and avoid going on any medications, if possible. Are there certain foods that will help lower my cholesterol?
  3. I know I’m supposed to get almost 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day but I have a hard time getting in even half that. Any tips?
  4. Is Your Diet “Sheened?”
  5. My doctor told me to eat more fiber to lose weight because it will help me feel less hungry but what foods are best for getting enough fiber?
  6. Salt is such a hot topic in the news right now – how do I know if I’m getting too much?
  7. What are omega-3 fatty acids and why should I eat them?
Do I really need to take a multivitamin?
For otherwise healthy adults, we always recommend natural, whole foods first when trying to meet all of your nutrient needs. The key to this eating a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables (branch out from just apples and bananas), whole grains, nuts, lean meats and protein sources and low-fat dairy foods. The trouble with multivitamins is that they don’t offer many of the other important nutrients found in real foods like fiber, plant sterols, antioxidants, etc.

Multivitamins can be beneficial to those on a restricted diet that may require limiting entire food groups, women of childbearing age, older American and some athletes who have higher nutrient requirements. Look for a multivitamin that has 100% of the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI) for most vitamins. Be careful of supplements that have greater than 200% or more DRI, and be especially cautious of ones that have 1,000 percent of the DRI.

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I have high cholesterol and I’d like to try and avoid going on any medications, if possible. Are there certain foods that will help lower my cholesterol?
I have high cholesterol and I’d like to try and avoid going on any medications, if possible. Are there certain foods that will help lower my cholesterol?

Yes! Your diet can help you optimize your blood cholesterol levels. In fact, some research shows that a healthy diet and exercise is as effective as cholesterol-lowering meds, so definitely try a diet and exercise approach and see how effective lifestyle can be.

In general, you want to follow a heart healthy diet that is primarily plant-based Include a variety of fruits and vegetables, low-fat dairy products, proteins low in saturated fats, whole-grains and oils low in saturated and trans fats.

There are also specific foods that you can incorporate into your daily diet that have been shown to actually help to lower your cholesterol, which include:

  • High Fiber Foods: Foods like oatmeal, barley, beans, apples, oranges, prunes, and pears contain soluble fiber, which actually helps to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Healthy Mono- and Polys: Foods rich in healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats can lower LDL when they replace saturated fat in your diet. Good food sources include olive oil, canola oil, sesame oil and avocados.
  • Plant sterols/ stanols: Plant sterols/stanols work by blocking the absorption of cholesterol from other foods. Sterols/ stanols are found naturally in plant-based foods like fruits, vegetables and nuts but have also been added to foods like margarines, orange juice and yogurt.
  • Nuts (pistachios, walnuts, pecans, etc.): nuts are a nutritious way to get healthy fats and have been shown to lower LDL cholesterol levels. In fact, the FDA recommends 1.5 ounces/day of nuts for heart health benefits.
  • Soy: Soy food sources such as edamame and tofu are high in protein and have been shown to lower LDL levels.

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I know I’m supposed to get almost 7 servings of fruits and vegetables a day but I have a hard time getting in even half that. Any tips?
Even as dietitians we sometimes struggle to get in all of our fruits and veggies especially when on-the-road or in crunch-mode meeting deadlines. Here are some tricks we’ve enlisted ourselves to make sure our diets don’t suffer when life gets a bit hairy.

  • Outta sight, outta mind. Don’t buy the fruits and vegetables and expect they’ll find their way onto your dinner plate. Keep them within arm’s reach — on the kitchen counter, at the front of your shelf in the fridge or on your desktop at work.
  • Eating on the go? Take advantage of your grocery stores’ salad bar, ask for extra veggies on your Subway sub or choose a garden salad (w/grilled chicken and low fat dressing) from the fast foods healthy choices menu.
  • 50% – 25% – 25%. At dinner (and even lunch) aim to fill half of your plate with vegetables. Use the other have to split between a lean source of protein and a whole grain.
  • Mix it up. Throw dried cranberries or raisins in a trail mix with nuts and whole grain cereal.
  • Convenience is key. Buy packaged, ready-to-eat fresh vegetables and fruits. These will help cut down on prep time.

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Is Your Diet “Sheened?”

Is your diet "Sheened?"  Does it Cut Calories with Crazy #$@!?

[sws_blockquote_transparent align="left" source="Charlie Sheen" quotestyle="sws_transparent03"]If people could just read behind the hieroglyphic. I’m an F-18 bro. There’s my life. Deal with it. Oh, wait, can’t process it? LOSERS. [/sws_blockquote_transparent]

 

Mark Izhak, a personal training and dietitian-in-training in New York City shared his recent blog post, Is Your Diet as Crazy as Charlie Sheen? with us and we LOVED it and had to share with all of you.

Of course, I had to add my own 2 cents to the Diets that Fill You Up On Crazy to Cut Calories.

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3 Telltale Signs That Your Diet is Whacked

It's my way or the highway..

There is no one ultimate diet. Different methods work for some and not for others. In fact, research shows that people do best when they take elements of different types of diets and find bits and pieces of what works from one to create their own approach to healthy eating.

You're Either "Good" or "Bad" (depending upon what you eat)

Diets that require sweeping changes or eliminating entire food group(s) are generally not sustainable and you wind up beating yourself up twice: It's hard to lose and it's worse to see the weight pile back on. Instead, make small adjustments to your eating and never give up when you slip up. We know that small steps add up to big results.

It Alienates You

Anyone on a diet needs the support of those around them. Your spouse, friends and family will all play a part in your weight-loss success. If you're "sheening" you won't have anyone who wants to be around you! Our approach to weight loss is a diet and lifestyle that fits your entire family, friends, work colleagues and is one that people embrace not run away from.

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The Anti-Sheen Approach to Losing Weight

To really succeed with your diet, follow advice from dietitians. We may be a bit more, um, boring, compared to the Sheen school of weight loss but in the long run, you'll be happier and healthier for it.

 


 

 

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My doctor told me to eat more fiber to lose weight because it will help me feel less hungry but what foods are best for getting enough fiber?
Your doctor is right. Fiber is a type carbohydrate that the body can’t digest which is why it can be helpful in managing weight. A high-fiber diet tends to keep you feeling fuller longer so you’ll eat less. Also, high-fiber foods tend to be less “calorie dense,” which just means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Fiber-filled food sources include:

  • Fruit: raspberries, apples, pears, citrus fruits, dried fruit
  • Vegetables: artichoke, carrots, corn, broccoli
  • Whole grains: oatmeal, barley, bran flakes, whole-wheat spaghetti
  • Beans, Nuts, Seeds: black beans, sunflower seeds, pistachios, almonds

Now how much do you need? Women should shoot for more than 20 grams of fiber a day; men should aim for more than 30 grams.

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Salt is such a hot topic in the news right now – how do I know if I’m getting too much?
Sodium is making the headlines these days but unfortunately the story being told isn’t a good one. New reports show that on average, Americans exceeds their salt needs by 30 percent, which really adds up when done on a daily basis. Too much salt can lead to high blood pressure in those that are salt sensitive.

Most Americans should limit themselves to 2,300 milligrams a day of sodium (about 1 teaspoon of salt) and those at higher risk should limit themselves to 1,500 milligrams.

Many think all that extra salt is coming from the shaker but the truth is 75% of the salt in our diet comes from processed foods which make up a large part of the American diet these days.

How do you shake the salt?

  • Eat fresh, whole foods and use herbs, spices and citrus to season your foods.
  • Look for lower salt options when dining out
  • Read labels. Many canned vegetables and soups have low-sodium options.
  • Ditch the salt shaker at the table and try using more herbs and spices, lemon and other sodium-free flavor enhancers.

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What are omega-3 fatty acids and why should I eat them?
Omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids that are necessary for many normal functions in our body, but they are also associated with many health benefits, including protection against heart disease and possibly stroke and cancer.Sources of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet include fish oil and certain plant/nut oils.

Fish oil contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). Walnuts and vegetable oils (olive, canola, soybean, flaxseed) contain alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which the body can convert into the beneficial EPA and DHA, although the conversion is slow. The American Heart Association recommends eating fish (especially salmon, halibut, mackerel and albacore tuna) at least two times a week.

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