Smart Nutrition Notes – April 2015
Spring into Health
Spring has finally sprung in the Monadnock region of New Hampshire. The snow here is melting at a frantic pace and that giant snow bank in our driveway may actually be gone by the first of May–maybe! What a winter. It feels great to move forward and leave it in the past.
In this month’s newsletter we take a look at the controversy around saturated fatwhich clearly is not the horrible substance we once believed it was.
The Recipe for the Month uses a tasty and chewy ancient grain which you may not be familiar with and capitalizes on delicious vegetables from the spring harvest.
There is a lot going on for Smart Nutrition this spring and I hope you can join us for some of the events.
What’s the skinny on fat?
For decades we have demonized fat for its link to heart disease. It turns out we were a bit too hasty in our assessment. Back in the 1950’s, scientist Ancel Keys found that saturated fat increased cholesterol levels. Since cholesterol was widely believed to increase cardiovascular risk, it was generally considered that we should avoid saturated fat and the low fat craze began to take hold.
By the mid to late 1970’s the low fat lifestyle was pushed into high gear by the development of the Dietary Guidelines, a direct result of Senate hearings which took place to look at the relationship between diet and disease.
Scientists had evidence that foods with saturated fat such as eggs and meat could raise LDL cholesterol. But there were a lot of complexities that scientists didn’t yet understand, and not a lot of data. The recommendation was to decrease fat consumption and replace those calories with whole grains, fruits and vegetables. But what the American public heard is that fats are bad and carbs are good and the low fat craze gained even more momentum.
In fact we became obsessed about the fat content of our foods. Food manufacturers realized that “low fat” on a label was a tremendous selling point and went to work finding ways to offer more reduced fat choices. Because fat contributes to the texture, flavor, and aroma of foods, to keep foods tasty and popular, more and more sugar and salt was added to our food supply.
By the time we reached the 90’s, fat free foods were everywhere in the grocery store and it appeared to many that fat free muffins and cookies were the answer to our snack attacks. At the same time, obesity and diabetes were increasing at a frightening rate. Now we know that sugar and refined carbs which replaced the fat in our diets is harmful in significant amounts – it’s not just because it’s high in calories but because it triggers a toxic chain of reactions in the body that produce harmful fats, hormones, and other metabolic by-products. More about that in a separate newsletter.
About 15 years ago, we began to understand the concept of “good” and “bad” fats. Nuts, seeds, oils and avocado were good for the heart but we were still coaching people to steer clear of the saturated fats like red meat, butter and eggs.
But then recently in a study published in the Annals of Internal Medicine researchers concluded that saturated fat does not, in fact, appear to increase heart disease. The researchers analyzed data from 76 studies involving more than 600,000 people and found that those who ate the most of this so-called “bad” fat did not have a higher risk of cardiovascular disease than those who ate the least. Trans fats, however, clearly do increase your risk of heart disease so continue to be wary of partially hydrogenated fats.
So what does all this mean? No one in the nutrition field is saying that all saturated fats are healthy. “Lack of harm is not the same thing as being beneficial,” explains David Katz, M.D., M.P.H., director of the Yale University Prevention Research Center and an EatingWell adviser. And some researchers are saying that we need to evolve our thinking. Pamela Peeke, M.D., clinical assistant professor at the University of Maryland School of Medicine says, “Let’s think in terms of beneficial and not-so-great. There is no bad, except for trans fats.”
Lauric acid for example which is found in coconut oil was once criticized for its saturated fat content (92% saturated) but has been found to have no effect on cholesterol. And stearic acid found in beef and chocolate not only doesn’t increase cholesterol but in the context of a healthy diet may have a positive effect on health as demonstrated in a recent study in the Journal of Human Hypertension. Using a diet low in salt and sugar, rich in fruits, veggies and whole grains (the DASH diet) that swapped in lean beef as the main protein source (about 4 ounces a day) lowered blood pressure and improved blood vessel function. Myristic acid, also found in beef, on the other hand, may have more of a bad guy profile.
So it’s complicated, dependent on the type of saturated fat and clearly more research is needed. And it’s meaningless to recommend to the public to consume only x% of saturated fat in your diet because we don’t just eat saturated fat. We eat food! Rather than focusing on the grams of fat and percentages, it makes more sense to focus on the quality of the food you eat.
One thing almost all nutritionists can agree on no matter where they fall on the saturated fat issue is that you should consume a diet with plenty of fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds, good quality protein preferably free range or wild like chicken, eggs and fish, minimally processed whole grains and healthy fats. And make it local and seasonal. According to Dariush Mozaffarian, M.D., Dr.PH., dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University and a co-author of the study which appeared in the Annals of Internal Medicine, “Foods are complicated. We can’t just look at one aspect and judge their overall healthfulness.”
So I think it is fair to say that a couple of slices of uncured bacon to flavor up a minestrone soup can’t be a bad thing.
Recipe of the Month
Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus and Feta
A delicious salad making use of fresh spring ingredients.
What the heck is Farro?
Farro is an ancient grain which was used to feed the Roman Legions. Italians have dined on farro for centuries and love it for its roasted nutty flavor and chewy texture. This wonderful grain is high in fiber and iron and has about the same amount of protein as quinoa. It comes in pearled and semi-pearled varieties. Choose the semi pearled because it contains higher levels of fiber and nutrient rich bran. You can also find whole grain farro which is more nutritious but it needs to soak overnight. It can be used as a side dish or as the basis for a soup or salad.
NOTE: Farro is a type of wheat so it is unsuitable for individuals who have celiac disease or a wheat sensitivity or allergy. Download the Recipe Here (PDF)
We have several programs underway currently in Amherst, Peterborough and Nashua. Here’s what is coming up soon. Click the Program title for link to more information.
Clean and Lean Cleanse at American Apothecary Skin
April 29 – Free Intro session
Spring is a natural time of transition, which makes it ideal for a gentle detox cleanse that will reset your body and mind while priming you for a summer of wellness. On Wednesday April 29, Smart Nutrition is offering a free introductory session on why you should cleanse and how to do it gently, effectively and safely at American Apothecary Skin at 22 Greeley St. in Merrimack. We will also look at the pros and cons of different cleanses while introducing the benefits of following a whole foods cleanse. Please contact Ruth Clark directly to register at 924-9505 or ruthrd@SmartNutritionLLC.com
St. Joseph’s Health and Wellness Fair – May 2
Please join us on May 2 from 1 to 2 at the National Guard Armory at 154 Osgood Rd. in Milford for the St. Joseph’s Health and Wellness Fair. Free health screenings, interactive booths, fitness demonstrations and a healthy recipe contest will be offered. Smart Nutrition is planning to win the healthy recipe event with our Farro Salad with Peas, Asparagus and Feta Cheese recipe!
Spring into Balance—Manage Your Weight, Mood and Life
May 5 – June 9 + 2 additional sessions
Are you overweight, over-medicated or stressed about your life? Have you tried everything to balance your life? Are you frustrated with yourself and upset at how you look and feel? Overeating or making poor food choices is usually a distraction from uncomfortable feelings or from being too busy to care yourself. If you struggle with mood swings or emotional eating patterns, this program is for you.
Join us for an engaging three month program that explores the relationship between food, stress and your health. Offered by two seasoned health care professionals, Ruth Clark, RD, MPH, Expert in Functional Nutrition with Lois Hermann, Mind-Body Medicine Expert. We will empower you to make better choices for your life. Or goal is to empower you to make better choices for your life to help you look and feel ten years younger. Amherst, NH.
For further information on these events, visit the EVENTS page.