8 Small But Worthwhile Changes You Can Make to Eat Healthier

by Katelyn Castro

Every March, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics celebrates National Nutrition Month® with new (and a little cheesy) nutrition theme each year. This year’s theme is “Put Your Best Fork Forward.” While this can be interpreted in many ways, here is my spin the theme, including a step-by-step guide on how healthy eating can fit into your lifestyle.

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward! For more information about National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, visit www.eatright.org.

National Nutrition Month 2017: Put Your Best Fork Forward! For more information about National Nutrition Month and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, visit http://www.eatright.org.

When January rolls around, reflecting on the past year leaves many people vowing to lose weight or eat healthier. Yet, about 80% of New Year’s resolutions fail by the second week of February, according to U.S. News. Why? More often then not, we set our weight loss goals too high or make our diets too extreme, asking our bodies to work in overdrive and making failure is inevitable. Our high expectations can leave us feeling defeated and too frustrated with ourselves to even consider a different approach.

Creating SMART—Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic, and Timely— goals on the other hand, can set us up for success. By working on a behavior, like eating more mindfully, rather than focusing on an outcome, like weight loss, lofty goals can become more reasonable. Now, three months into the New Year, is the perfect time to re-evaluate resolutions and take a more practical approach to health and wellness with SMART goals.

“Put Your Best Fork Forward,” the theme of this year’s National Nutrition Month® aligns perfectly with this sustainable approach to healthy eating. National Nutrition Month® 2017, recognized by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, is all about making small changes in our food choices—one forkful at a time—to develop lifelong, healthy eating habits.

Below is a list of eight small changes that you can make to shift towards healthier eating. Since our priorities, like our food choices, are personal and unique to each of us, I included eight suggestions so you can focus on a goal that fits into your lifestyle Make the goal specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely with the help of this resource, and give it a try!

1. Cook more meals from home.

When you take the time to cook your own meals, whether it’s English muffin pizzas or an elegant chicken marsala dinner, you can choose the ingredients and manage the portions. Even if you choose to add some oil, butter, or salt while cooking, most homemade meals are still lower in unhealthy fats, sodium, and calories than the restaurant or fast food version, according to research. Homemade meals also save money and time. In the time it takes to have a pizza delivered or a meal served at a restaurant, your dinner can be prepared and ready to eat—especially if you choose simple, tasty recipes like these.

SMART Goal Idea: If you eat out frequently on weekends, skip your Saturday restaurant plans and spend time with your family or friends cooking a meal from home instead.

2. Switch one of your daily grains to a whole grain.

Many of us have at least one go-to starch, whether it’s pasta, rice, or bread. Choosing the whole grain version of one of your mainstay starches is an easy way to add fiber, vitamins, and minerals, and reduce added sugars. For example, swap white bread or honey wheat bread for whole grain bread, switch white or veggie pasta to whole wheat pasta, or replace Cinnamon Toast Crunch cereal with Kashi Heart to Heart Warm Cinnamon cereal.

To find whole grains at the grocery store, ignore the front of the package labeling or the whole grain stamp of approval—these health claims can be deceiving! Instead, go straight to the ingredient list: the first ingredient listed should include the word “whole” followed by the name of the grain in the product. For example, if “whole wheat flour”, “whole oat flour”, or “whole rye flour” are listed as the first ingredients, then you’ve found yourself a whole grain!

SMART Goal Idea: If you add rice to your meals on a regular basis, swap out the white rice for a brown rice, or try one of these lesser-known whole grains.

3. Change the way you use fat in cooking.

Adding butter to a skillet for pancakes or pouring oil into a pan for a stir-fry can seem like second nature after a while. However, it’s easy to overdo it with these calorie-dense foods—one tablespoon of oil has about 120 calories! Using oils, like canola and olive oil, instead of butter when cooking can be a simple way to replace saturated fats with more heart-healthy unsaturated fats in meals. Also, investing in an oil mister or an oil spray like PAM can make a little oil go a long way, sparing you some calories.

SMART Goal Idea: If you like to sauté or roast foods like meats, veggies, or potatoes on a daily basis, skip the butter and layers of oil and use an oil mister. Spray the bottom of the pan before cooking, then add food and lightly spray the oil again over the top of food.

4. Aim for two to three servings of vegetables each day.

Eighty-seven percent of Americans do not meet the recommended servings of vegetables (2 1/2 cups daily), according to a national report from the Center of Disease Control. If you fall into this group, then you’re probably missing out on some essential nutrients. Vegetables are loaded with fiber, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which are all important for skin, eye, heart and immune health. For some veggie inspiration, check out these flavorful vegetable-filled recipes.

If you already eat enough veggies, focus on increasing the variety of your vegetables since different colored vegetables have different vitamins and antioxidants. Aim for a combination of green vegetables like broccoli and spinach, red/orange vegetables like carrots and tomatoes, and starchy vegetables like peas and potatoes.

SMART Goal Idea: If you are a pasta lover, steam or roast some veggies while your pasta is cooking. Fill half your plate with pasta and fill the other half with a colorful array of cooked vegetables and some protein like beans, chicken, or shrimp. Broccoli and squash, tomatoes and spinach, mushrooms and cauliflower are a few tasty veggie combinations.

5. Sweeten your breakfast and snacks naturally.

Flavored yogurt, sweetened cereal, and packaged oatmeal are some of the sneakiest sources of added sugars. Even a serving of Raisin Bran cereal has 18 grams of sugar—equivalent to 4 to 5 teaspoons of white sugar! Unless you’re eating Raisin Bran for dessert, save those added sugars for times when you’re really craving sweets. Stick to the unsweetened yogurt, cereal, and oatmeal, and flavor them yourself with fruit, nuts, or seeds. Even drizzling some honey or a sprinkle of brown sugar on unsweetened oats, cereal or yogurt, will still give you less added sugar than most sweetened versions.

SMART Goal Idea: If you rely on sweetened oatmeal packets for breakfasts, replace them with plain quick oats or rolled oats. If you like your oatmeal fruity, try this recipe. For a more savory and creamy oatmeal, give this recipe a try.

6. Make water your beverage of choice.

If you’re a regular soda drinker, switching to water could be the simplest change that you can make to improve your health. Replacing soda and other sugary drinks with water doesn’t just save you calories, but it eliminates empty calories so you can make room for other calories from more nutritious food.

If you’ve already cut out soda from your diet, focus on drinking enough water. Since many metabolic pathways rely on water, dehydration can make our metabolism work less efficiently. Memory, concentration, mood, energy level, and muscle movement are also negatively impacted by dehydration, even mildly dehydration. Though eight cups of water daily is generally recommended, the best way to find out how much water your body needs is to check your urine. Yes, I’m talking about your pee—you want it to be a light, almost clear color. If it’s dark yellow, then you may not be drinking enough water throughout the day. To up your H2O intake, set a reminder on your phone to drink more water with one of these apps or try one of these drinks to give your water some more flavor.

SMART Goal Idea: Once you determine out how many cups of water your body needs, split the volume in three and aim to drink that amount every three to four hours throughout the day. For example, if you need nine cups of water, try to drink 3 cups before noon, 3 more cups in the afternoon, and 3 more cups before you go to sleep.

7. Go meatless once a week.

Since the World Health Organization identified processed meats as “carcinogenic” and red meat as “probably carcinogenic,” concern continues to grow over the potential risks of eating too much of these meats, especially processed meats like bacon, sausage, hot dogs, and deli meats. While avoiding all processed meats and red meats may be unrealistic, try committing one day of the week to not eating meat. Making this small change has several health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease and lower risk of some cancers, according to research from the Meatless Monday campaign. Going meatless once a week may seem a little less daunting, when you consider everything you can add to your plate like whole grains, beans, lentils, and vegetables. For some delicious meatless meals, check out these recipes.

SMART Goal Idea: Instead of ordering a burrito with steak, cheese, and rice, fill your burrito with black beans, rice, corn salsa, and guacamole­—you’ll still get plenty of protein, with the addition of fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, and minerals.

8. Check in with your hunger, fullness, and cravings.

Not ready to change anything about your eating habits? That’s okay too! Start by getting more curious about how, when, and why you eat. Before meals, ask yourself how hungry you are. After eating, consider how full you are: satisfied or uncomfortably full? When you have an intense food craving, ask yourself what may be triggering the craving. Are you overly hungry, stressed, or distracted? Is it emotional hunger or physical hunger? Keeping track of how certain foods make you feel and identifying what may be influencing your food choices can give you perspective for when you’re ready to make changes.

SMART Goal Idea: Pick one meal each day and spend 10 to 15 minutes tracking your hunger, fullness, and cravings before, during, and after the meal. Keep a journal, write a note in your phone, or get an App to track your intake and make you more mindful.

Katelyn Castro is a second-year student in the DI/MS Nutrition program at the Friedman School. She’s a foodie, runner, and part-time yogi on a mission to make healthy eating easy, sustainable, and enjoyable. You can find her thoughts on all things relating to food and nutrition at nutritionservedsimply.com.


Bulletproof Coffee: the Breakfast of Champions?

by Ally Gallop, BSc, RD, CDE

Imagine waking up in the morning to a breakfast of butter, oil, and coffee. Better known as Bulletproof Coffee, it’s the new rage in the diet world. With proponents noting marked improvements in alertness, hunger suppression, and weight loss, bulletproof coffee and its creator are altering the morning routine. But navigating through these claims, the science doesn’t align.

After a trip to Tibet in 2004, Silicon Valley businessman Dave Asprey tasted Tibetan Yak Butter Tea: a concoction of brewed tea, salt, and yak butter. Upon returning to the U.S., Asprey devised his own version. Now marketed as bulletproof coffee (or BPC), it pairs well with his newly released book The Bulletproof Diet. Advocates for BPC include U.S. Olympic marathoner Ryan Hall, Divergent actor Shailene Woodley, and singer/songwriter Ed Sheeran. BPC is said to be creamier than a latte, prevent hunger before lunch, increase alertness, and be loaded with vitamins A, E, and K2 alongside omega-3 fatty acids. Yet the most enticing reason in opting for this drink is because it seemingly causes weight loss without having to exercise.

The recipe for BPC is simple. In a blender combine many of Asprey’s own products:629px-Bulletproof_Coffee_Starter_Kit

  • At least 2 tablespoons of unsalted grass-fed butter,
  • 1-2 tablespoons of Brain Octane™ Oil, and
  • Bulletproof® Upgraded™ brewed coffee beans.

Keep in mind, BPC is meant as a breakfast replacement. So let’s compare the BPC nutritional content to that of a typical breakfast: two scrambled eggs, an apple, black coffee, and a slice of whole grain toast with a tablespoon of peanut butter.

Typical Breakfast BPC *Unable to find specific nutrient data for grass-fed butter and omega-3 content.**The USDA Foods List only lists information for vitamin K1.
Calories (calories) 491 461
Total Fat (g) 23 51
Saturated Fat (g) 4 43
Omega-3 Fatty Acids (mg) < 1 n/a*
Total Carbohydrates (g) 48 0
Total Fiber (g) 10.4 0
Protein (g) 24 0
Vitamin A (IU) 803 400
Vitamin E (mg) 1.88 0.4
Vitamin K1 (μg) 9.5 0.8
Vitamin K2 (μg) n/a** n/a**
Caffeine (mg) 142 142

Starting the day off with a high-fat brew that shuns hunger and enhances alertness sounds like a great idea. Losing weight is easier when your stomach isn’t grumbling. High-fat BPC in the gut slows the rate of stomach emptying, suppresses ghrelin (the “eat more” hormone), and reduces the amount of calories consumed at subsequent snacks and meals. Since fat takes the longest to leave the stomach and be digested, even in its liquid form, Asprey’s claim makes some sense.

But Asprey’s claims regarding omega-3s and vitamins A, E, and K2 are cloudier. The amount of these nutrients in grass-fed versus conventionally grain-fed beef is higher. Yet only 60% of studies found a statistically significant difference. Further, no research exists on the amount of omega-3 fatty acids in butter- all the research comparing omega-3 contents is in types of beef, not dairy.

Recently, I contacted Kerrygold, a popular brand of grass-fed butter, and asked them to elaborate on the omega-3 content their product. They responded by saying that they have no research on omega-3’s present in butter. While grass-fed dairy may be a wiser nutritional source, there is currently no research that supports Asprey’s supposition that it has more omega-3s.

The caffeine content of BPC is likely the source of increased alertness drinkers report. It’s also possible that if the coffee truly does have a higher omega-3 content, those omega-3s could give the brain extra power.

Asprey’s line of Bulletproof® Upgraded™ coffee beans are touted as being free of mycotoxins (i.e., mold), which he claims are pervasive components of every other coffee on the market. However, coffee producers like Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts have long known about these mycotoxins. That’s why coffee beans are wet-processed, which means that the beans are washed to eliminate the mold. So the upgraded brew is no better than the rest.

But what really stands out about BPC? How about its fat content: the brew fulfills 23% of both your daily total caloric and fat intake. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) recommends 25-35% of daily total calories should come from fat. BPC fulfills that quota on its own. The Canadian Society of Intestinal Research also reminds us how fat is a stimulant for the intestines. Higher intakes may result in abdominal cramping, diarrhea, and floating stools. But that’s never advertised.

Being so high in calories, how can BPC help weight loss? If, like with any diet, fewer calories are consumed, then weight loss may occur. Asprey’s book recommends following a low-carbohydrate diet as to induce ketosis. And food restriction generally leads to weight loss.

In an interview with Runner’s World, University of California Davis’ director of sports nutrition Liz Applegate debunks Asprey’s idea behind Brain Octane™ oil, which is made of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). Asprey believes that the oil increases the body’s ability to burn calories because it is processed differently than other fats. Unlike long-chain triglycerides, MCTs pass directly from the gut into the bloodstream and are immediately available to be burned for energy. However, Applegate notes that there is no scientific evidence to support MCTs’ ability to increase metabolism and promote weight loss. If consumed in amounts that surpass the body’s immediate needs, MCTs will still be converted to and stored as fat.


Breakfast of Champions?

Ultimately, this article wouldn’t be complete without attempting BPC myself. I found it odd watching butter dissolve into my morning cup. The oil slick on top was definitely unsettling. Using coconut oil and regular coffee in place of Asprey’s oil and beans, the concoction was creamy with a subtle hint of coconut. My hunger was suppressed the rest of the day, cravings for carbs were reduced, and I was able to forgo my mid-morning snack. In comparison to my normal routine of breakfast and a snack, I likely saved 120 calories. But due to an injury, I was unable to exercise. Would this daily pattern of high-fat BPC power me through morning exercise sessions?

Should YOU add BPC to your diet?

The typical breakfast provides protein and fiber, long having been touted as essentials for their hunger-suppressing properties. But choose BPC, and neither exist. The idea is you can’t have both food and BPC.

For those who already eat breakfast, replacing it with BPC on a short-term basis or intermittently could be all right. The BPC’s calories are appropriate for a morning meal. Caloric intake may even be less, depending on what one would normally eat. However, the habit of drinking coffee alongside breakfast may return, thereby increasing total calories consumed. In a recent article, Chris Gayomali, a journalist for Fast Company, tried BPC for two weeks. By the end, he was adding toast in addition to his BPC. After two weeks he ditched BPC completely because he missed eating solids.

Diet trends tend to fail due to deprivation. Given that all other meals and snacks consumed throughout the day remain constant, having BPC and food in the morning could lead to weight gain since it is so high in calories.

If you’re adamant about BPC, doing so every-other-day and ensuring intake of higher fiber and protein foods is advised. That way you can indulge while still limiting saturated fat intakes, promoting gut health with fiber, and sparing protein. Following the IOM guidelines, you wouldn’t require any additional fat on a BPC day. On those days opt for vegetable-dishes, lean protein, and unsaturated fats, like those from nuts, plant oils, and avocados.

For those who don’t typically eat breakfast, adding almost 500 calories of BPC in addition to your usual food consumption could lead to significant weight gain.

So what’s the final consensus?

When it comes to Bulletproof Coffee, the science is lacking. Egregious claims that the oil supplies “fast energy for the brain,” “reduces brain fog,” and is responsible for “rebalancing…yeast in the gut” are stated on Asprey’s website. Yet they lack any footnotes for supporting literature.

We also can’t look at foods in isolation. Rather, the whole diet matters. Asprey’s BPC argument focuses on the nutrients in two items: butter and oil. Humans are encouraged to seek variety in the foods we eat. The typical breakfast I detailed above already contains all of the nutrients advertised as part of BPC and more. If for an entire month one were to replace their breakfast with solely BPC they would be missing out on vital nutrients that variety would fulfill.

Like any other diet, BPC is supposedly “universal.” It’s meant to meet the needs of all of its followers. For me, I felt full. Others may be starving after just a couple hours.

And ultimately, Dave Asprey is a businessman. His empire includes a line of pricey oil and coffee beans in addition to travel mugs, T-shirts, and anti-aging skin creams. With a booming business plan, book, and BPC shops in the works, Asprey is raking it in when you drink his breakfast of champions.

Ally Gallop, BSc, RD is a Certified Diabetes Educator and is studying towards an MS/MPH focusing in health communication and epidemiology. She continues to drink black coffee alongside her high-fiber and scrambled egg breakfast.

Turmeric: The Health Benefits of a Spicy Life

by Nusheen Orandi

What if adding only a fraction of a teaspoon of something to your cooking could prevent and treat Alzheimer’s disease while also having anti-cancer, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory properties? This is no magical drug, but a spice that comes in a delectable shade of orange in your local grocery store. Turmeric, that is.

Turmeric, a powder derived from grinding up dried rhizomes (roots) of the turmeric plant, is a widely used spice in the Indian, Asian, and Middle Eastern cultures. However, research behind turmeric is largely aimed at curcumin, the most active component of turmeric that makes up 2-5% of it.


Could turmeric (curcumin) be the first treatment for Alzheimer’s disease?

It’s probably not a coincidence that India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease in the world. The relative lack of the disease in India, where turmeric (and thus curcumin) is a commonly consumed spice, has led researchers to conduct epidemiological studies that examine the effect of curcumin. Alzheimer’s is a devastating illness that deteriorates cognitive function. Researchers believe that one of the first pathologies of Alzheimer’s disease is the accumulation of plaques (protein fragments) in the brain. The build up of these plaques can kill nerve cells and produce free radicals that damage nerve cells, which is what leads to Alzheimer’s disease.

Where does curcumin come in? As an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent, curcumin could reduce or prevent these plaques from forming, thus preventing the neuronal breakdown that leads to Alzheimer’s disease. This could make a difference to millions of seniors worldwide who are at risk for or fall victim to this disease.

Is “curcumin” also “anti-cancer?”

A possible cure for cancer?

The discovery of this medical Holy Grail has been the dream of physicians and research labs alike. Although curcumin is likely not the whole answer, its anti-tumor properties give hope to the realm of oncology research.

Curcumin’s anti-tumor qualities seem to be derived from its ability to “inhibit the proliferation and survival of almost all types of tumor cells.” Evidence demonstrates that curcumin can initiate apoptosis (or programmed cell death) in tumor cells, known as “curcumin-induced cell death.” This reduction of cell growth prevents tumors from occurring. Curcumin has also been shown to inhibit the growth and proliferation of cancer cell growth. Researchers are not sure why curcumin targets only cancer cells instead of normal cells, but continue to dive into its many biochemical pathways. The ongoing studies of the anti-cancer chemical properties of curcumin could lead to the development of a drug or synthetic extract to treat certain cancers and protect patients from harmful chemotherapies. Perhaps turmeric could indeed personify its nickname, given for its color, “the golden spice.”

Move over blueberries, curcumin is the new antioxidant in town

At this time of year, we become hyper-aware of our health, keeping a fair distance from sniffling strangers on the T and packing in antioxidant-rich foods. Berries are not your only friends! Curcumin is a free radical scavenger, preventing oxidative damage to the lipid membranes of our cells. This process, known as lipid peroxidation, can lead to the destruction of DNA and proteins, which can cause damage that leads to a spectrum of ailments. Whether it’s protection from the common cold or from chronic diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis and neurodegenerative diseases, curcumin plays an important antioxidant role. So, if you feel yourself getting sick, dash a bit of turmeric in your soup!

Looking for natural ways to prevent disease and maximize health is an evident goal of nutrition. What’s even better is if it’s as accessible as cooking with a spice a little more often. Often times, consumers try to look for answers in the form of a supplement or pill (curcumin, in this case), which can contain a much higher dosage than the natural form (contained in turmeric) and yet not exceed the benefit of just using the turmeric spice, as cultures around the world do. Research continues to look for answers to show just how far curcumin’s anti-flammatory and antioxidant properties can go. In fact, it’s only a matter of time before turmeric becomes as trendy as coconut oil in the market and we begin to see turmeric water, turmeric-infused oils or turmeric hair care. Until then, embrace the power of yellow curry.

If you’re looking for a way to use turmeric, check out this recipe from Eating Well to get you started!

Nusheen Orandi is a first-year student from California in the Nutrition Communication program and likes to spend her time tea-shop hunting, tensely watching the Tottenham Hotspurs, and cooking and eating with friends and family.

If Vitamins Were Celebrities

by Emily Finnan, RD LDN

Vitamins have received so much media play lately you’d think they were celebrities. But what if vitamins really were celebrities? Would they be the troubled reality star or the all-American movie hero? Read on for our take!

Vitamin D

The current star of the nutrition world, vitamin D has been touted to play a beneficial role in seemingly everything from osteoporosis, some types of cancer, type 2 diabetes, multiple sclerosis, congestive heart failure, rheumatoid arthritis, and more (see Melissa Hudec’s December article in The Sprout for more info). Vitamin D research is hot and trendy much like…

JENNIFER LAWERENCE. She gained superstardom from starring in 2012’s The Hunger Games. From winning an Oscar to her adorable red carpet stumble, America is in love. Forbes even named her the most powerful actress in 2014. However, vitamin D research is still emerging, and Jennifer Lawrence’s blockbuster franchise is ongoing. Time will tell if they will both remain in the spotlight.

Vitamin E

This vitamin’s past reminds us of vitamin D’s stardom. In the 1980s, this antioxidant was thought to be the magic nutrient for conditions like cancer, atherosclerosis, vision loss, and heart disease; though further research did not support this. In some cases even negative effects were shown at large doses. However, this vitamin sprung back into the media recently due to a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled trial showing an association between large-dose supplements and a reduction in functional decline for those with Alzheimer’s disease (3). This vitamin’s comeback reminds us of…

MADONNA. Becoming the 80s pop queen with her 1984 hit album Like a Virgin, she revolutionized fashion and women’s role in pop. Madonna has released other albums since, but nothing has compared to her initial celebrity status. Madonna is set to have a new album, Rebel Heart, released this year, so perhaps she too will have a comeback.

Vitamin A

You have a choice with vitamin A: preformed, found in animals and supplements, or provitamin A, found in plants pigments. The most well-known provitamin A is beta-carotene, found in orange and dark green vegetables and fruits. Excess doses of preformed vitamin A, usually from supplements, may lead to serious liver damage. Yet excess beta-carotene can also cause a harmless, though maybe hilarious, orange pigmented skin much like…

SNOOKI, or Nicole Polizzi. Though her orange hue is the result of too much spray tan, rather than excessive intake of beta-carotene, both are harmless and will dissipate over time.

Vitamin K

Present in high amounts in leafy greens, a vitamin K deficiency may result in the blood’s decreased ability to clot. This could result in nosebleeds, bleeding gums, and cuts that take longer to stop bleeding. This would be a problem for most people except for…

ROBERT PATTINSON. He will forever be remembered as Edward Cullen, the hunky vampire from the Twilight series. His character would surely revel in a vitamin K-deficient person, what with all of that easily-accessible blood – YUM. Although deficiencies aren’t common, avoid satisfying Edward, and eat your leafy greens!

Vitamin C

This vitamin is best known for its presence in citrus fruits and its alleged ability to “cure” the common cold. Well, that wishful thinking has not held up in clinical trials, but it stems from the true power of vitamin C as an antioxidant and its role in immune functions. Despite this, Americans still swoon for vitamin C supplements and continue to take mega-doses during flu season. It seems we simply cannot get enough, much like…

TAYLOR SWIFT. This 25-year-old singer/songwriter has been topping the charts since her days as a teenage country star. With seven Grammys to her name, she is the only singer to have three albums selling more than a million copies in their debut week. Just like with Taylor Swift, it’s possible to overdose on vitamin C. Excess intake may lead to gastrointestinal upset, headaches, and kidney stones. What about too much Taylor? Attending concerts and buying all those albums gets expensive!

The B vitamins

This family of eight encompasses a variety of important functions including macronutrient metabolism. Excessive intakes generally have minimal side effects, much like THE KARDASHIAN FAMILY. This group of eight is everywhere, be it on television, over social media, and in celebrity news. Thankfully no side effects have been reported yet…

  • Thiamine (vitamin B1)

Thiamine is found in a variety of foods, with pork and fortified grains being especially great sources. It is the number one B vitamin, just like KRIS JENNER is the first Kardashian. As the mother of the group we wouldn’t know any of these famous faces if it wasn’t for her.

  • Riboflavin (vitamin B2)

This is a major player in making energy for the cell via the electron transport chain (ETC). The ETC occurs in the mitochondria, and the cell works very hard to keep it going. This reminds us of KENDALL JENNER. She is the only one of the family who is currently working at something other than being famous: through a successful modeling career.

  • Niacin (vitamin B3)

Unlike with the other B-vitamins, there is a quick-reacting side effect to excess intakes of niacin known as niacin flush. This typically happens after high-dose supplementation and causes blood capillaries in the face to dilate, resulting in a blush and warm feeling. Perhaps this is the culprit behind KYLIE JENNER’s new pouty lips? Likely not. (8, 9)


  • Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B5)

Pantothenic Acid forms a part of the coenzymes used in many metabolic reactions. Very little attention has been paid to it in scientific research and the media much like ROB KARDASHIAN. Whomp, Whomp.

  • Pyridoxine (vitamin B6 )

This vitamin is necessary in many reactions including the creation of neurotransmitters like serotonin, and a serotonin imbalance has been linked to depression. This is the opposite of KHLOE KARDASHIAN. The jokester of the family, she’s guaranteed to turn any Kardashian pucker into a smile.

  • Biotin (vitamin B7)

Biotin is abundant in the foods we eat, so deficiency is uncommon. You probably don’t need to seek out biotin, much like KIM KARDASHIAN. She’s everywhere, and you probably don’t need to see more. Biotin and Kim also share a startling resemblance…


  • Folate (vitamin B9)

Folate is necessary for a growing fetus, and inadequate amounts may lead to spina bifida, a debilitating birth defect. Getting enough folate probably wasn’t an issue for KOURTNEY KARDASHIAN. With three healthy children she probably consumed her fair share of folate-rich foods like leafy greens and fortified grains.



  • Cobalamin (vitamin B12)

Certain populations are at increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, particularly the elderly. Maybe BRUCE JENNER, the elder of the family at age 65, should consider the possibility of a deficiency should he show signs and symptoms like fatigue, pale skin, and easily bruising or bleeding.

Emily Finnan is a first-year biochemical and molecular nutrition student. In her time off from school and working as a pediatric dietitian she enjoys cooking and watching critically-acclaimed documentaries along with the latest realty television shows.

The Basics of a Ketogenic Diet

by Mireille Najjar

The ketogenic diet remains one of the most extreme types of low carbohydrate diets, yet its potential role in tumor regression and pediatric epilepsy treatment has become an increasing topic of study among researchers and health professionals worldwide.

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The ketogenic diet is a low-carbohydrate, moderate-protein, high-fat diet often used to control seizures in children with epilepsy. In such cases, the diet is usually recommended when two or more anti-seizure medications fail to control the seizures or result in harmful side effects. The diet requires careful monitoring by a medical support team, including a pediatrician, a neurologist and a dietitian. After two to three years, a normal diet is reintroduced gradually, depending on the progress of the child. A doctor may also slowly reduce the dosage of medications at this time.

High fat sources common in the ketogenic diet

High fat sources common in the ketogenic diet

Some individuals follow the diet to lose weight and have reported successful short-term weight loss after several months by eating low-carbohydrate, high-fat meals daily. Several studies have also reported unknown or beneficial long-term effects of the diet, particularly in obese patients with high cholesterol. While it can induce rapid weight loss, it is always important to consult a doctor or dietitian before beginning a ketogenic diet.

How Does the Diet Work?

The ketogenic diet works by shifting the body’s energy source from carbohydrates to fat. When the body is in a fasting state, it creates molecules called ketone bodies that build up as the body burns fat for energy—a process called ketosis. The exact reason is unknown, but researchers believe that the high production of ketone bodies improves seizure control in some epileptic children who show no signs of improvement with medication. Some studies, such as a 2010 case report in Nutrition & Metabolism, also show evidence of reduced tumor growth in cancer patients who receive chemotherapy and radiation along with the ketogenic diet.

Characteristics of the Diet

In general, the ratio of fat to carbohydrates and proteins is four to one (4:1) and must be tailored specifically for each individual. This is approximately 60 percent of calories from fat, 35 percent from protein, and 5 percent from carbohydrates. When starting out, it is recommended to limit net carbohydrate intake, which is the amount of carbohydrate in a food that the body is able to use for energy, to 20 grams per day to help the body enter ketosis. Afterwards, it should be limited to less than 50 grams per day. The amount of net carbohydrates per day is dependent on an individual’s own metabolism and activity level.

Many people—particularly adults—find the ketogenic diet difficult to follow since it is very limited in the types and variety of food it allows. The diet is based mostly on fat, protein and vegetables (specifically green leafy vegetables) that provide most of the carbohydrates you eat. Since the diet does not supply sufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals, people usually need to take vitamin and mineral supplements. They must also be completely committed to following the diet for it to work effectively.

Below are some tips on what you should and should not eat, as well as general tips, while on the ketogenic diet:

Foods to Eat

  • Eat plenty of green leafy vegetables like spinach, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, celery and cucumbers. Limit vegetables like red and yellow peppers, onions and tomatoes, and avoid starchy vegetables like potatoes since they contain higher amounts of carbohydrates.
  • Consume peanut butter, cheese or boiled eggs as a snack. Nuts (with the exception of macadamias and walnuts) should be consumed in moderation since they are rich in inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids.
  • Meat, such as beef, pork and lamb, can be cut or prepared any way you like.
  • Leave the skin on poultry (chicken, turkey, quail, duck, etc.) to increase the fat content. It can also be prepared any way you like.
Beef stir fry, an easy-to-prepare ketogenic meal

Beef stir fry, an easy-to-prepare ketogenic meal

Foods to Avoid

  • Avoid low-fat foods. Since you are getting most of your calories and energy from fat, you need to make sure you are eating enough high-fat products, such as bacon, full-fat dairy (including raw and organic milk products, such as heavy whipping cream, sour cream, cottage cheese, cream cheese, hard and soft cheese, full-fat yogurt, etc.), mayonnaise, oil and butter.
  • If you choose to drink coffee, avoid extra sugar and milk. Instead of sugar, use a sweetener such as Stevia or EZ-Sweetz®. Replace milk with almond milk or heavy cream for a low-carbohydrate alternative.
  • Do not eat fresh, dried or frozen fruit since fruit is high in carbohydrates and fructose, the natural sugar found in fruit. If you choose to eat something sweet, you can eat one or two strawberries, but the fructose might prevent ketosis.
  • Avoid all grains and grain products, juices made from fruit and vegetables, beer, milk (1 percent and skim), beans and lentils, which are all high in carbohydrates.

Important Tips to Consider

  • Check the carbohydrate content of everything you eat. Some foods, such as processed sausages, cheeses, and sauces, contain hidden carbohydrates. For example, added honey and artificial sweeteners in regular low-carbohydrate mustard can increase its carbohydrate content. Be sure to check the carbohydrate content of mayonnaise and oil-based salad dressings, too.
  • Keep track of your daily food and carbohydrate intake. Keep a spreadsheet, use an online food intake tracker, or record the foods you eat in a journal. Write down how you felt each day and any changes you made. If you go off track, you can look back and see what was successful for you.
  • Always choose the lowest carbohydrate options to make sure you do not exceed your daily carbohydrate limit of 50 grams per day. Also, check food labels for net carbohydrates, which are the total carbohydrates minus the amount of fiber.
  • Take a daily multivitamin to replenish the nutrients lost while following the diet.

1-Day Sample Menu (4:1 ratio, approximately 1,884 calories)

Breakfast: Eggs (4 whole eggs, ½ avocado)

Total calories: 419
Fat: 31 g
Protein: 25 g
Net carbohydrates: 5 g

Lunch: Chipotle salad, no dressing (lettuce, chicken, mild salsa, cheese, sour cream and guacamole)

Total calories: 585
Fat: 38 g
Protein: 45 g
Net carbohydrates: 9 g

Snack: Large spinach salad (spinach, olive oil and vinegar dressing)

Total calories: 340
Fat: 32 g
Protein: 4 g
Net carbohydrates: 2 g

Dinner: Cheesy chicken (2 grilled chicken breasts, ½ cup cheese)

Total calories: 380
Fat: 15 g
Protein: 62 g
Net carbohydrates: 4 g

Snack: 24 almonds

Total calories: 160
Fat: 15 g
Protein: 6 g
Net carbohydrates: 3 g

Daily Totals:

Calories: 1,884
Fat: 131 g (63.7% of calories from fat)
Protein: 140 g (30.9% of calories from protein)
Net carbohydrates: 23 g (5.4% of calories from carbohydrates)

Mireille Najjar is a first-year Nutrition Communication student originally from Lebanon. She has a background in nutrition and dietetics and hopes to further strengthen her true passion—writing—here at Friedman.

FDA’s Proposed Trans Fat Ban and Potential Environmental Impacts

by Barbara Patterson

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration made a substantial first step at banning partially hydrogenated oils– the primary source of industrially produced fats. FDA has made a tentative decision that partially hydrogenated oils are no longer recognized as safe in foods. If finalized after the 60-day comment period, the decision would mean that food manufacturers would no longer be permitted to sell partially hydrogenated oils or use them as ingredients without prior approval from FDA for use as a food additive.

Under an amendment to the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act, in 1958, any substance that is intentionally added to a food is classified as a food additive and is subsequently subject to pre-market review and approval by FDA unless it is generally recognized as safe, or GRAS as its commonly referred as.  A food substance may be GRAS through either scientific procedures or through experience based on common use in food for substances used prior to 1958.  Partially hydrogenated oils have been used widespread commercially due to their ability to increase shelf life and inexpensive cost since the 1940s and have been considered GRAS by the food industry due to the pre-1958 use of partially hydrogenated oils.

FDA admits that trans fat consumption has declined tremendously since mandated nutrition labeling for all trans fats fully went into effect in 2008, based on the 2003 ruling from FDA.  Yet the Administration recognizes that certain populations still consume high levels of trans fats.   Those populations still consuming high amounts of foods containing trans fats face the risk of adverse effects on blood cholesterol levels and increased risk for coronary heart disease.  Trans fats are the worst offending fats because they raise LDL cholesterol, the “bad cholesterol,” and lower HDL, the “good cholesterol.”

What will replace trans fats in foods?  Likely other saturated fats will replace trans fat in the diet, resulting in increased use of palm or coconut oils.  If demand switches to palm oil, it may have devastating environmental impacts.  Indonesia, for example, has lost tremendous rainforest acreage due to the production of palm oil.  From 2009 to 2011, Indonesia lost 1.24 million hectares of forest, largely driven by increased palm oil production.  Indonesia has one of the world’s largest rainforest, and the depleted forests have made the country a significant contributor to global climate change.

Critics of FDA’s initial attempt to ban trans fat argue that the ban is no longer necessary since the labeling requirements prompted the removal of the majority of trans fats in processed foods.  The American Soybean Association stated in a press release, “We have concerns that if the FDA were to finalize this determination, food processor may be pressured to replace remaining partially hydrogenated oils with those high in saturated fat such as palm or coconut oils, which would not be a good outcome for consumers.”

If you would like to comment on the proposed removal of GRAS status for partially hydrogenated oils, you can submit a written comment on regulations.gov or mail a hard copy to FDA by the deadline, January 7, 2014.

Barbara Patterson is a 2nd year FPAN/AFE student focused on federal policy.  She loves bourbon, Michigan and her dog, Daisy. To learn more about her, please visit our Meet Our Writers page.

Nutrition News: Filters, Fantasy Football, and Freezers

by Sheryl Carvajal

There are several factors that play into our behaviors surrounding nutrition, from beliefs about food choices to outside factors dealing with the subconscious.  Sometimes, even random and unexpected things can influence how we see, choose, and eat food.

We can't get no satisfaction/S. Carvajal

We can’t get no satisfaction/S. Carvajal

We live in a generation where social media is ever-present and has the power to reach across countries and oceans.  We can see the effects of the growing popularity of platforms like Twitter and Instagram; “selfie,” a word used to describe a photo taken of oneself has taken social media by storm, and has even become the Oxford Dictionaries 2013 word of the year.

Instagram is a photo-sharing smartphone app that you can use to apply filters to enhance the most ordinary of pictures, and often times a hashtag is assigned to increase traffic to your photo.  In addition to the selfie, it isn’t uncommon to see pictures of rainbows, animals, and steaming cups of cappuccino on your feed.  But one particular category of pictures that is filling the cyber photo book is pictures of delicious meals, which many label as #foodporn.  From intricately dressed salads to decadent desserts, taking and looking at these pictures can actually affect one’s appetite.

A study conducted by researchers at Brigham Young University suggests that looking at too many pictures of appetizing meals and treats can make eating less enjoyable.   Overexposure to these foods gives the viewer a sense of satisfaction and satiation without actually eating the food.  Essentially, it suggests that with the heightened sense of sight, you’ve already experienced the food, thereby causing the sense of taste to decrease.

While some restaurants have been known to ban patrons from taking pictures of their plates, maybe we should follow the example and save the food for our mouths instead of our eyes.

Food and Football
Whether you’re a lifelong fan of your hometown’s team, you’ve adopted the New England way and cheer on the Patriots every Sunday, or you’re just hoping for another win for your Fantasy team, football is often surrounded by food.  Tailgate food, finger food, and a fridge or cooler full of beer is often the go-to for diehard fans and casual viewers alike.

As college football Bowl Games and the National Championship draw near, and we gear up for Super Bowl Sunday, eating habits may not only be influenced during game time.  A study published in Psychological Science found that NFL fans whose teams lost on Sunday are more likely to consume extra fat and sugar the following Monday.  Compared to their usual consumption, fans of losing teams consumed an average of a 16% more saturated fat; for those whose team won, there was a decrease of about 9% in saturated fat compared to usual consumption.

Football fanatics might lose-eat/S. Carvajal

Football fanatics might lose-eat/S. Carvajal

Though there still may be other factors to consider in eating patterns and behaviors following a win or loss for one’s football team, it may be a good idea to try to be more conscious of your Monday diet, regardless of whether the Patriots (or your favorite team) come out with a “W.”

Fresh vs Frozen debate
As nutrition students, many of us love the idea of cooking with and eating fresh produce.  We hear phrases like “fresh is best” and try to limit pre-packaged foods.  I don’t know about you, but being in this field for so long, whenever I hear the word ‘frozen’ I have a knee-jerk response to associate it with processed foods, though that is not always correct.

It turns out that frozen fruits and vegetables might sometimes be more nutritionally valuable when compared with their fresh counterparts, according to a study done at the University of Georgia in collaboration with the Frozen Food Foundation.  The reason for this is that often times, the produce that you find at the grocery store isn’t at its nutritional peak.  Produce is picked before it is ripe so it can ripen during the transit from the farm to the shelves.

Especially for those items that are out of season, it may be a good idea to take to the freezers at the store, as they are frozen right after harvesting, which locks in the nutritional content.

Of course this isn’t the case if you grow your own fruits and vegetables, or you shop at your local farmer’s market or Community Supported Agriculture (CSA), as they don’t lose their nutritional value from a long transit.  However, if you do happen to shop at big name supermarkets, you may want to think twice before overlooking the frozen produce aisle.

Sheryl Lynn Carvajal is an avid Instagram-er and Fantasy Football “coach.”  Though her hometown NFL team is currently and sadly the worst team in the league, she can’t wait to watch Florida State play in the National Championship game! To learn more about her, please visit our Meet Our Writers page.