3/03/08- 3/07/08


Friday, March 07, 2008

Cravin' Crawfish

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I just had the weigh-in and DEXA readings and again had some good news. First, though, my weight was up about three quarters of a pound. Yet, the percentage body fat was down a half percent, and my waist size was down a half inch. Given the blood work I shared with you earlier, I am pleased with the progress. My goal is still to get the weight down into the teens. Additionally, I want to get the body fat percentage much lower and get the waist size to at least 38, if not 36. As I wrote yesterday, nutrition and exercise is the way to go. I have a feeling that April 1 not only will be April fool’s day, but also a good day to report significant findings. Maybe it’s all those almonds I’m eating. Can’t you see it now? The almond-and-diet-soda diet. Has a nice ring, doesn’t it? One final piece of advice – this is a long-term lifestyle change, and I am prepared to fight it for the long haul. 

It’s crawfish season, and the annual ritual of eating those wonderful bugs by the sackful has begun. My first exposure to mud bugs was 25 years ago when I first came to South Louisiana. Being from the Midwest, I wondered why people ate bait. That’s what we used them for, fishing bait. Eat one? Are you kidding me? But how times have changed this former Midwesterner! I love boiled crawfish. I assume that I get a free pass on my nutrition plan for crawfish. Actually, the crawfish aren’t so bad. It’s that 100 pounds of salt used to cook them in and the beer drunk to wash them down. Of course, the potatoes and abundantly buttered corn add to the culinary delight. What a calorie nightmare! Again, like a broken record, moderation is the solution. 

Go ahead. Enjoy the crawfish. But hold the butter on the corn and potatoes. And watch the empty calories in the beer. On second thought, a crawfish-beer diet might sell some books. 

Monday we have a special guest blogger who is publicizing obesity by walking from Shreveport to Baton Rouge. I’m going to join him for part of his walk, and I believe you will like his story.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Crawfish not only taste great, they're good for us, too. Crawfish are an excellent source of high quality protein and low in calories, fat and saturated fat. They also are a good source of vitamin B12, niacin, iron, copper and selenium.

The nutritional value of 3 ounces cooked crawfish is: calories – 74; protein – 14.9 g; fat – 1.1 g; saturated fat – 0.18 g; cholesterol – 116; sodium – 82 mg.

Too much spicy, salted boiled crawfish and the accompaniments – corn, potatoes and onions – can lead to sodium overload and edema. Crawfish, corn, potatoes and onions are naturally low in sodium, but their sodium content increases after boiling in salted water.

Salt (sodium chloride) contains sodium. Sodium, along with potassium, is important in helping the body maintain normal cell function and a proper fluid balance. Too much salt can lead to too much sodium in the blood, causing water retention and uncomfortable swelling of the hands, feet, and sometimes abdomen. For healthy people, this is a temporary condition and the fluid will be excreted. In addition, any weight gain associated with the excess fluid accumulation (water weight) will disappear with fluid loss.

A serious problem related to too much salt is high blood pressure. High blood pressure increases the risk for heart disease and strokes. Approximately one third of people with high blood pressure in the United States are especially salt sensitive. This means that if they eat too much salt, it will cause or worsen high blood pressure.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend eating no more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day, about the amount in one teaspoon of table salt.  The average American adult consumes between 4 and 9 grams of sodium daily.

While enjoying crawfish, be sure to munch on the fresh vegetable appetizers and follow with fruit for dessert. Fruits and veggies are high in potassium and help blunt the effects of salt on blood pressure and may reduce the risk of kidney stones.

Beth Reames


Thursday, March 06, 2008

Sweet Potatoes All Year Long

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We live in a wonderful state where a variety and abundance of wonderful agricultural products are grown. One of those products unique to our state is the sweet potato. I remember the days when the sweet potato was a seasonal product. We consumed them during the holidays, especially Thanksgiving and Christmas. That’s when they were available, and they complemented turkey and ham perfectly. Those times of the year followed harvest, and sweet potatoes were abundant. But, things have changed.

Sweet potatoes have become a year-round staple for us. You can find them on restaurant menus, in the produce section of the grocery store and at your farmer’s markets. Our technology has evolved to where you can get sweet potatoes 12 months a year. Some diet programs recommend sweet potatoes over other potatoes. What you may not know is the research and outreach efforts of the LSU AgCenter saved the sweet potato industry in Louisiana. Our scientists developed the Beauregard variety, which became the staple of the industry. The popularity of sweet potatoes increased dramatically, and the industry grew. Read about our Sweet Potato Research Station.

What role does the sweet potato play in our nutrition plan? The specialist will give you the facts and recommendations below. Does the sweet potato contain elements important to your health or are they just a sweet alternative to other potatoes? 

I eat them because I like them. I bake them like a regular potato. I don’t put butter on them. One of my favorite restaurants in town serves sweet potato chips. Once, while on vacation, I was served sweet potato pancakes. Trust me, these would not be recommended for anyone’s nutrition plan. But were they good! I didn’t know you could make pancakes that big. It must have taken a quart of maple syrup to eat with them. I get hungry just thinking about those pancakes.

Crawfish are here! That’s tomorrow’s topic.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Sweet potatoes are a perfect choice for the health-conscious food consumer. They add valuable nutrients and color to any meal. Sweet potatoes are an excellent source of vitamin A. One medium baked sweet potato provides about twice the recommended daily amount. Sweet potatoes are a good source of dietary fiber and potassium and of vitamin C when baked in the skin. They are low in sodium, saturated fat and cholesterol. One medium baked sweet potato has only 103 calories.

Sweet potatoes in Louisiana are typically harvested from August through November. They’re cured and stored for six to eight weeks to develop their sweetness, flavor and texture. They’re then ready for the holiday season. And now, thanks to modern storage techniques, they’re marketed year-round.

Sweet potatoes can be baked, boiled, fried, broiled, canned or frozen. They can also be cooked in the microwave oven.

Before cooking sweet potatoes, scrub skin and trim off any bruised or woody portions.

If you are cutting calories, serve a plain sweet potato, cut down on margarine or butter and use skim milk or unsweetened orange juice as liquid when you prepare mashed sweet potatoes.

Beth Reames

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Ab Sense

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I was watching a little TV the other evening and saw one of those ads for a home gym-type product. Have you ever looked at the models they use? The women are always trim and fit, and the men have 1.6% body fat, muscles on top of muscles and that washboard stomach. And, you can look like them in just minutes per day. Really? Most of us can’t and won’t. Although these claims might be applicable to some people, they’re not realistic for most of us. But, we shouldn’t throw aside the need for some weight or resistance training.

One area I bet all of us need to strengthen is the “core.” I know I do. As I wrote yesterday, belly fat covers the core. Not only will the loss of belly fat help with appearance, it will reveal the muscles underneath. Apart from appearance, a strong core helps with posture. In some cases strengthening your core helps reduce back pain and back problems and allows you greater ability to perform in recreational activities like golf, tennis, bowling or whatever.

I have had strengthening my core on my radar for some time. While appearance is important, I really want to hit the golf ball farther. Like many sports, a strong core helps execute the movements of that sport better. I used to do sit-ups, but there are many exercises that strengthen your core. The specialist below will provide some specific exercises you might use. I plan to take that advice and see how I can get stronger in the middle and really hit the golf ball farther. Now if I can just figure out how to hit it straighter.

Like sweet potatoes? Let’s explore that tasty treat tomorrow. 

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Major muscles in the body such as quadriceps in the thighs, pectoralis major in the chest and abdominals, and latisimus dorsi in the lower back. These muscles help us move, lift and stay upright. Then we have our core muscles around our trunk and pelvis. When we have good core muscles, our lower back, hips and abdomen all work together well. When we have strong core muscles, they make it easier for us to do most physical activities. Many people have problems with their lower back or hips. They may have jobs that require them to sit for long periods of time, and that is when our core muscles can get weak. When we develop our core muscles, our posture is better and we have a leaner look because the muscles are strong.

To build strong core muscles, the exercises are small movements, but they are intense and require holding a position for a few seconds at a time. Improvement is seen when the position can be held for a duration. Certain exercise in yoga and pilates also help build core muscles. View core exercises.  

Heli Roy


Tuesday, March 04, 2008

What a Waist

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It just will not disappear! You know, that round glob encircling my mid section. For more than a month, I have been bouncing around a weight between 222-226 pounds. I am exercising, although not as often as I want, and I am trying to stay on the nutrition plan. But no matter what, it just hangs there defying me and medical science. Why is belly fat so defiant? Maybe it is as simple as dealing with the two things I noted above – exercise and nutrition. Reality is that I am not getting in my four vigorous walks per week, and reality is that I must not be sticking to the nutrition plan as faithfully as I should be. The belly fat is my conscience hanging out there saying, “See what happens when you are a bad boy.” If only there were a magic pill!

The scientific data makes a strong case for reducing belly fat as it relates to the health of men. And nutrition and exercise seem to be the best cure for a bulging waistline and belly fat. I am beginning to hate the term belly fat as much as I do the word obese. So, just as I attacked my obesity, belly fat, you are next. The weather is getting better and more conducive to outdoor exercise. Also, we gain some daylight soon. Four times a week is the minimum, and 2,200 calories is the target! Those two things make up my magic pill. 

Now the challenge is taking the struggle off the written page (or screen) and into practice. March has four full weeks. Four times a week times four equals 16. So when I finish March, I should have at least 16 vigorous exercise sessions in the log book. The food log is another matter. I’m just not watching the food log as I should, and I think this is contributing to my dismay with the belly fat. 

It was more fun last October writing about weight loss that seemed to just fall off. Now comes the reality of sticking to a routine that will produce results, although not as dramatic, but results nonetheless. Recall our countless discussions about long term and commitment. This is a long-term effort, and the struggle requires my commitment. Let’s see what the rest of March brings.

How is your core? Sign on tomorrow for more details!

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Obesity has been shown to be a risk factor for coronary heart disease, and abdominal obesity together with other conditions such as high blood pressure, high blood lipids and insulin resistance are known as metabolic syndrome – a clustering of conditions that predispose a person at risk for many chronic diseases. An abdominal obesity may also be a reaction to stress. Stress may cause certain hormones to be elevated, such as cortisol, which can lead to an increase in abdominal fat. Inability to cope with stressful situations can predispose individuals to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes and cancer. There is a close connection between the cortisol levels of perceived stress and abdominal obesity and its complications. Physical activity can help an individual to cope with stress and to reduce stress hormones. It can also help with faster recovery from stressful events. Physical movement, particularly aerobic activity, can help relieve stress and bring the stress hormone levels down. Exercise also increases endorphins, the feel-good chemicals in our body. That is why we don’t feel minor pains and aches during physical activity.

Therefore the best cur’ for abdominal obesity, as stated by the chancellor, is increased physical activity, particularly aerobic activity. It can help burn calories, and it can help reduce stress hormones. Dietary changes can also help in abdominal obesity. Many studies show that individuals who consume whole-grain breads and cereals have smaller waists than those who eat refined grains. This is true for both adults and children. It is thought that it might be the fiber in whole-grain products that helps slow down glucose absorption and reduce insulin response.

Men should have a waist measurement less than 40 inches, and women should have a waist measurement less than 35 inches to reduce the risk for the metabolic syndrome and chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease. If your measurement is above either of these values, based on gender, think about incorporating aerobic activity in your day and switching to whole-grain products.

Heli Roy


Monday, March 03, 2008

A City on a Diet – Guest Blogger

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(Editor’s Note: Today’s guest blog is from the mayor of Oklahoma City, Mick Cornett, who has asked residents to join him on a diet. The city’s obesity rate is 25 percent. He has challenged citizens to lose 1 million pounds and launched a Web site – www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com – which brings awareness to the problem, introduces programs to help cure it and allows participants to monitor their progress.)

Thank you, Chancellor Richardson, for the opportunity to guest blog.

We here in Oklahoma City are very supportive of your initiative. On New Year's Eve, I put my city on a diet. I challenged the 530,000 people of Oklahoma City to lose 1 million pounds. And at the time of this writing, more than 15,000 people have signed up and have lost more than 38,000 pounds. We're making progress. But more importantly, we're changing the culture, and we're creating an opportunity for people to lose weight together.

For more information, you and your readers are welcome to visit www.thiscityisgoingonadiet.com. There are links to many resources there, and perhaps even the LSU community will find something that helps them. As Americans, we are all growing more obese, and we must confront this problem together. I myself have struggled with weight gain, and in 2007, challenged myself.  I have lost 40 pounds, and now I'm trying to lose 2 more to help get us to 1 million.

Thank you for what you are doing, and good luck!

Mick Cornett
Mayor of Oklahoma City

Nutritionist’s Response

When I first read Mayor Cornett’s challenge, I thought that it was not possible for Oklahoma City residents to lose a million pounds. However, once I read further, I realized that it would mean that every person would need to lose less than 2 pounds because the population of the city is 530,000 people. I realized that his goal is do-able.

Because most people (more than 60 percent of Americans) are either overweight or obese, we could actually lose anywhere from 5 to 15 pounds (depending on body size) to be within normal weight range.

The mayor is encouraging people to get involved and lose weight and do it the right way: moving more and eating right. We have a lot of material for making smart choices about eating on our Web site www.lsuagcenter.com. Baton Rouge has made great strides in creating spaces for outdoor and indoor activities. Now that spring is here, it is light longer in the evening. The weather is wonderful most of the time. It is a good time to incorporate outdoor activities into our schedules. Let’s encourage Oklahoma City by participating in healthy eating and outdoor activities here in Louisiana.

Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:36 AM
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