Friday, May 2, 2008

Better Watch Your Butter

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First, you start with a pound of butter. This seems to be the mantra for the cooking we do in South Louisiana. I was at a function a couple of months ago and had the best crawfish etouffée I’ve ever tasted. I promise you there were more pounds of butter in that dish than there was crawfish. We do love our butter, don’t we? Many of us are butter addicts. We will put butter on anything, and if the bread served with a restaurant dinner isn’t swimming in some butter/garlic combo, then it just doesn’t meet our standards, does it? Just like I discussed yesterday with salt, we spread butter before thinking about the calorie content and type of fat that butter is and its impact on our bodies.

I view butter like my addiction to ice cream. A little ice cream eaten in the context of my total nutrition plan is okay. It’s when I consume large amounts that my weight starts to rise, and all the other potential bad things can happen. Other people just have to have their French fries. It’s okay to have an occasional order of fries. Just don’t eat too many too often. So it is with butter. A little dab will do you, and keep it in context of the total nutrition plan.

Is butter bad for you and why? Butter is an animal fat. It has both saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which can increase your blood cholesterol. Saturated fats can raise LDL, your bad cholesterol – which then raises total cholesterol. These factors might not affect you. But for some people, they have a major impact on cholesterol levels. See your doctor and get a blood test so you can monitor your cholesterol levels.

Some people like butter substitutes. I have seen all the same commercials on TV, and even if they say it tastes just like butter without the saturated fats, I find that butter is better. If you are going to use butter, watch the portion size and monitor your cholesterol levels.

DXA and weigh in comes Monday. I had better be a good boy over the weekend. Have a great one!

Bill Richardson


Thursday, May 1, 2008

Hold the Salt!

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Salty snacks are my favorite – even rivaling sweets. Of course, ice cream is in a category by itself. It’s ice cream. In fact, I don’t think that we should be forced to count a daily bowl of ice cream against our calorie intake. Maybe we need a constitutional amendment!

Back to salty snacks. How much salt do we eat and how much do we need? I think that I have over time consumed more salt than my body needs. Some of the leading scientific organizations and agencies recommend limiting sodium intake to 2,400 mg per day, which is approximately 6,000 mg of salt. Too much salt can affect blood pressure and hypertension.

I have become accustomed to reading the labels to determine the amount sodium contained in an item. For example, the almonds I just ate had 100 mg of sodium per serving, and the 7-ounce package had seven servings. Hence, if my math is correct, 100 mg per ounce. If I ate the whole package each day, I would consume 700 mg of sodium or about one third of the maximum recommended. The diet drink that I had with the almonds had an additional 235 mg of sodium. It all adds up. From my observation, the more processed foods are, the more sodium they contain. Do your own check and just see how many mg of sodium you are eating with your current nutrition plan. I suggest that you record in your food log the amount of sodium you are consuming. It might surprise you.

Tomorrow, we will discuss another icon in the cuisine world – butter.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

Generally, people prefer either sweet snacks or salty snacks. There are drawbacks to both depending what types of foods one consumes as snacks. Those that prefer sweet snacks can end up consuming too many empty calories from sweeteners such as sugar. Those that prefer salty snacks can have unintended consequences from salt – high blood pressure. Some individuals are salt sensitive. That means that they respond to increasing amounts of salt in the diet by increased blood pressure. These individuals in particular would benefit from lower salt intake. Anyone over the age of 50, African Americans and those with high blood pressure or kidney disease may be more sensitive to the blood pressure-raising effects of sodium. If you belong to this group, you would likely benefit from cutting back on sodium.

The average salt intake in the American diet is about 8 to 10 grams of salt, or about 3 to 4 grams of sodium. That is more than recommended by the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2005):

  • Consume less than 2,300 mg (approximately 1 tsp of salt) of sodium per day.
  • Choose and prepare foods with little salt. At the same time, consume potassium-rich foods, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Individuals with hypertension, blacks or anybody over 50 years old should aim to consume no more than 1,500 mg of sodium per day and meet the potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day) with food.

The guidelines also state that an individual's preference for salt is not fixed. After consuming foods lower in salt for a period of time, taste for salt tends to decreases.

Salt preference is a learned habit, and we can adjust our palate to lower our intake of salt. What it takes is getting used to the flavor of food without the added salt. Think about it. Do you add salt to your food before you taste it? If you do, you are adding salt that you do not need. I have two brothers. My older brother started to cook his oatmeal without salt, and he got used to the taste. He told the rest of us that oatmeal actually tasted better without the added salt. At first my younger brother thought that he had gone too far in eliminating sodium from his diet, but not to be outdone, he started to cook his oatmeal the same way. Now he cooks most of his food without added salt. So salt taste is an acquired taste that can be changed.

Where do we get most of our sodium, or salt, in our diet? Salt is used as a preservative, so any pre-prepared food has not only additional salt in it but also sodium sulfite, sodium benzoate and sodium sorbate. In pre-prepared foods, preservatives such as sodium benzoate – used in fruit products, jams, relishes, beverages, dressings, salads, pie and pastry fillings, icings, olives and sauerkraut – acts against yeasts, some bacteria (food-borne pathogens but not spoilage bacteria) and some molds.

Many processed food also have disodium phosphate, which reduces cooking time, enhances mixing qualities and emulsifies. Sodium alginate is another compound in prepared foods that increases viscosity and emulsifies fats. And, of course, sodium nitrate and nutrite are used in meats and meat products as preservatives.

Flavoring compounds also have sodium. Monosodium glutamate is one of the most famous. Excess sodium glutamate can cause symptoms such as flushing in sensitive individuals.

What foods tend to be high in sodium?

  • Smoked or cured meats like bacon, bologna, hot dogs, ham, corned beef, luncheon meats and sausage.
  • Canned fish like tuna, salmon, sardines and mackerel. Rinse before eating.
  • Although buttermilk is high in sodium, 1 percent or skim buttermilk can be used in cooking to replace whole milk or fat.
  • Most cheese spreads and cheeses.
  • Salty chips, nuts, pretzels or pork rinds.
  • Some cold (ready-to-eat) cereals highest in sodium, instant hot cereals.
  • Quick-cooking rice and instant noodles, boxed mixes like rice, scalloped potatoes, macaroni and cheese, and some frozen dinners, pot pies and pizza.
  • Regular canned vegetables.
  • Pickled foods like herring, pickles, relish, olives, or sauerkraut.
  • Regular canned soups, instant soups.
  • Butter, fatback and salt pork.

In addition, condiments such as soy sauce, steak sauce, salad dressing, ketchup, barbecue sauce, garlic salt, onion salt, seasoned salts like lemon pepper, bouillon cubes and meat tenderizer are high in sodium. Also ingredients such as baking soda and baking powder have sodium in them. Limit your use of sodium-laden condiments.

Use herbs, spices and other flavorings to enhance foods. Learn how to use fresh or dried herbs, spices, zest from citrus fruit, and fruit juices to jazz up your meals.

Reducing sodium intake will result in reduced blood pressure if you are sensitive to sodium. As the chancellor states, it helps to read the labels. Many times the same prepared food has varying levels of sodium, depending on the manufacturer. Choose the one with the least sodium. Think about using fewer prepared foods and use less salt when cooking. Also remove the salt shaker from the table, and use spices and herbs in its place.

Heli Roy


Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Grow Younger with Lifestyle Change

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Gerald Roberts can’t say enough about the good things that happen to you if you adopt a healthy lifestyle. Gerald is the LSU AgCenter county agent in St. Landry Parish. Gerald gave testimony at one of the AgCenter’s regional meetings, where I pitched the AgCenter’s wellness program and encouraged employees to become involved.

In l985, Gerald was scheduled to have major back surgery to treat chronic pain that apparently came from two degenerative discs. He dreaded having that surgery and worried about the threat to his quality of life. His blood pressure was “out of sight,” he said, and he experienced numbness and tingling in his limbs.

His doctor gave him an alternative. He could probably put off the surgery for at least another couple of years if Gerald would lose weight and start to exercise. Gerald was at 220 pounds on his 5-foot-8-inch frame. He was not active and did no exercise.

So he agreed to try. He started walking every day and eating better. Within a year and a half, he was down to 178 pounds. He was feeling good, and his blood pressure was down. The weight was a bit too low, though. He didn’t want to be that skinny. So he went back up to 190-195 pounds.

And that’s where he’s stayed to this day. And that back surgery? He never has to have it.

His exercise routine includes a daily workout on the treadmill. He goes for 40-45 minutes at a 3.5 to 4 mile-per-hour speed. Three days a week he lifts weights at a health club in Opelousas. He lives out in the country between Opelousas and Ville Platte on an 8-acre spread.

His eating habits are drastically different than they were 25 years ago. He drinks 1 percent milk. He eats lots of brown rice, which he’s grown to love. And he has a salad every night with his dinner.

His wife has joined him in the lifestyle change, which helps, he said.

“We support each other,” he said.

Gerald feels better physically and feels better about himself emotionally.

“It’s helped my self-confidence. I communicate better. And that’s important for an AgCenter employee,” he said.

He’s 53 and feels better than he did when his was 30. Now, that’s saying a lot!

Bill Richardson


Monday, April 28, 2008

Meatless or Less Meat?

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I was at a social function recently and overheard a young person state that she was a vegetarian and had been one for several years. I didn’t have a chance to talk to this person about nutritional intake, but it got me to thinking and then reading about a vegetarian lifestyle.

A couple of things stand out. The reasons many people seem to follow vegetarian diets emanate from either religious, economic or health concerns. In Friday’s blog, the information source recommended that we consume less red meat. From what I read, vegetarians consume whole grains, dried beans, nuts, fresh and dried fruits and vegetables. Lacto-ovo-vegetarians also do not consume milk or eggs. On the economic side, grains, fruits and vegetables are less expensive than meat, and thus nutrition revolves around what a person or culture can afford. 

This blog has on many occasions stressed the importance of whole grains, fruit and vegetables as staples of the diet – and limiting red meat, although not eliminating it altogether. If you follow the vegetarian lifestyle, then you should take special note of your intake of certain vitamins and minerals. Total vegetarians should make sure they get enough calcium, vitamin B12, iron, zinc and protein. Vitamin D is also mentioned as noteworthy, especially if dairy products are eliminated.

Following a vegetarian lifestyle is a personal decision. But investigate before you start. Care should be given to adequate vitamin and mineral supplementation. Reading all the background information indicates to me – as my personal decision – to stay with my 2,200 calorie plan, which I have to examine to make sure that I am following the guidelines and eating a balanced diet. I have included more whole grains, fruit and vegetables in my plan and have included more fish and chicken. I still consume moderate amounts of red meat. 

Do you salt everything? How much is enough and what is too much? Log on tomorrow and we will discuss salt.

Bill Richardson

Nutritionist’s Response

In a book,  Diet, Life Expectancy, and Chronic Disease: Studies of Seventh-day Adventists and Other Vegetarians, author Gary E. Fraser talks about the difference between vegetarians and nonvegetarians. He discusses the health effects of the vegetarian diet and lifestyle on 7th Day Adventists, a religious group that adheres to a vegetarian diet. The 7th Day Adventists have emphasized a diet based on wholeness and the importance of health since the inception of the church. The church members do not consume alcohol, tobacco or illegal drugs and avoid coffee and other beverages containing caffeine.

Studies by the National Institutes of Health have shown that Adventists as a group are healthier than their non-Adventist neighbors and that men in particular are healthier in the Adventists group compared to non-Adventists. The Adventists consume whole-grain breads, cereals and pastas. They use fresh vegetables and fruits liberally, and they consume legumes, nuts, seeds more than the average population. They consume low-fat dairy products such as milk, yogurt and cheeses. Egg yolks are used in moderation. The use of nuts and legumes alone can explain the difference in heart disease risk of the Adventists compared to normal population.

There are many other religious groups around the world that also follow a vegetarian diet. These include Hindus in India, Shintos in Japan, Buddhists in China, Japan and other areas of the Far East. Certain sects of Judaism follow a vegetarian diet as do some followers of Islam.

In the United States many people are opting to follow a vegetarian diet, not because of religious beliefs but rather health reasons. People who follow a vegetarian diet have a lower incidence of chronic diseases such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes. Consequently, vegetarians are expected to live longer because of the reduced risk of chronic diseases.

In many parts of the world, people follow a vegetarian diet for economic reasons. Meat is simply too expensive. In the United States we consume more protein than in any other country. Americans can easily reduce their meat intake without suffering any negative consequences and potentially even reap health benefits. The protective phytochemicals that help ward off chronic disease are in plants. Think about building your meals around vegetables and whole grains and use meat as a condiment. That way you get the maximum benefit from your diet and you can help delay or prevent chronic disease development.

Heli Roy

2/10/2009 1:16:35 AM
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