“Being at school without breakfast is like trying to drive your car without gas”– Hayes

According to registered dietitian Dayle Hayes, the number one problem for children in America is undernourishment. Even though 17% of American children are obese and the obesity rate for children and adolescents has tripled in a single generation, the number of teens and children are not receiving enough nutrients. About 70% of teen boys and 90% of teen girls aren’t receiving the adequate amount of calcium. Children, and especially teens, are also deficient in vitamins A, C, D and E as well as potassium, dietary fiber, magnesium and phosphorus, Hayes says.

Some schools serve unhealthy foods, parents aren’t always taking responsibility of what their children are consuming, fast food restaurants don’t offer too many healthy options, and the media promotes unhealthy eating behaviors.

According to Hayes, more school districts are moving back to scratch cooking. They’re using locally grown food and preparing more of the meals themselves as opposed to serving processed foods that contain more sugar and fat. Districts that have their own nutrition program — such as Vancouver Public Schools — and those that contract with companies such as Sodexo and Chartwells for meal service — such as the Battle Ground, Camas and Evergreen districts — can have quality programs that offer healthy, nutritious meals to kids, Hayes said. She also suggests that serving breakfast in the classroom, for example, helps kids get more nutrients. A bowl of whole-grain cereal, fruit and milk contain many of the essential nutrients kids aren’t getting enough of.

Beginning this fall, three Evergreen elementary schools will provide all children breakfast in the classroom at no cost. Crestline, Silver Star and Burton were selected for the program because of their high numbers of children qualifying for free and reduced meals, said Karen Steinhardt, the district’s food services manager.

Districts need to scrutinize the entire environment of their schools, from vending machine products to alternatives offered in the cafeterias. And schools need to provide kids, especially younger students, with enough time to eat their lunches, Hayes said.

Source: http://www.columbian.com/news/2011/jul/27/expert-children-overweight-undernourished/

Do We Need a Better Food Label?

A project at the University of California, Berkeley, School of Journalism has taken on the task of designing a better food label, asking for ideas to replace the current black and white Nutrition Facts label that appears on every food package. The Berkeley project has generated dozens of new ideas that are likely to be considered by the United States Food and Drug Administration, which is in the process of revising the existing food label.

“There are a lot of things right with the current label, but at the same time people are confused. The question is whether a new nutrition facts label could help people make more educated decisions.’’ said Lily Mihalik, co-creator of the project and a fellow in the News21 program.

The panel of judges included the food writer Michael Pollan; the consumer health activist Michael Jacobson; Dr. Robert Lustig, a San Francisco pediatrician; Laura Brunow Miner, a San Francisco graphic designer; and Andrew Vande Moere, a Belgian design professor.

The winning entry, from a San Francisco visual designer, Renee Walker, uses colorful boxes to depict the relative proportion of ingredients in a product. The second place design, from Joey Brunelle, replaces serving size calories with total calories per package or bottle. A green, yellow and red color-coding system denotes reasonable, questionable or unhealthy amounts of carbohydrates or fat. Two designs, from Bradley Mu, a freelance Web designer and recent interactive media graduate from Elon University in North Carolina, and Dylan Brown, creative director at Pixar Canada in Vancouver, British Columbia, tied for third place. Mr. Mu’s label mimics the traditional food label but uses color and highlights natural foods in green type and food additives in bold. It also features the glycemic index, a measure of how quickly a food increases the level of sugar in the body. The design by Mr. Brown uses color-coded letter grades to rate food ingredients, offering green A’s and B’s, yellow C’s and red D’s and F’s.

Although the judging panel has picked its favorites among the label submissions, the project is now asking members of the public to vote on their favorites. The project’s Web site, Rethink the Food Label, will take votes through midday Sunday and announce the winner next week. Visitors to the site can also view a slide show of all the submitted designs.

Source: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2011/07/28/designing-a-better-food-label/

Yoga Increasing Cortisol & Relieving Stress!

Cortisol is a steroid hormone that is produced and released by the adrenal gland and functions as a component of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in response to stress.

A new study suggests practicing yoga reduces symptoms of chronic pain in women with fibromyalgia. Fibromyalgia is a difficult to diagnose condition which predominantly affects women. Chronic pain and fatigue often accompany the diagnosis with common symptoms including muscle stiffness, sleep disturbances, gastrointestinal discomfort, anxiety, and depression. Prior research has determined that women with fibromyalgia have lower-than-average cortisol levels. Experts believe deficient cortisol may contribute to pain, fatigue and stress sensitivity. Our cortisol levels peak about 30-40 minutes after we get up in the morning and decline throughout the day until we’re ready to go to sleep

According to this study, participants’ saliva revealed elevated levels of total cortisol following a program of 75 minutes of hatha yoga twice weekly over the course of eight weeks. Hatha yoga promotes physical relaxation by decreasing activity of the sympathetic nervous system, which lowers heart rate and increases breath volume. Researchers discovered individuals reported significant reductions in pain and associated symptoms, as well as psychological benefits. They felt less helpless, were more accepting of their condition. Mindfulness is a form of active mental awareness rooted in Buddhist traditions; it is achieved by paying total attention to the present moment with a non-judgmental awareness of inner and outer experiences.

Source: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/07/28/yoga-increases-cortisol-relieves-stress/28128.html

Genetics & Recovery From Eating Disorders

People with eating disorders often face a long term battle. People with anorexia nervosa are often severely underweight and are likely to die from malnutrition. Researchers have found that genetic traits are also linked to individuals with high anxiety and higher concern over mistakes that are associated with anorexia and bulimia. Biology and genetics can play a role in how people respond to treatment. The genetics behind these conditions is important, because it could eventually help researchers bring about treatment based on the person’s genetic makeup, with the goal of more personalized and effective treatments. Patients may be genetically predetermined to possess personality traits and temperaments that make them susceptible to the eating disorders.

In this particular study, researchers followed 1,878 women to see if common genes, pathways and biological systems increase the susceptibility to eating disorders. Most were individuals with a lifetime diagnosis of either anorexia or both anorexia and bulimia. Many also exhibited lower body mass index, higher anxiety and higher concern over mistakes than control subjects.

The scientists then identified the top 25 most statistically significant SNPs (single-nucleotide polymorphisms), after evaluating a total of 5,151 SNPs in about 350 genes.

According to Cinnamon Bloss, 10 of the 25 most strongly associated “haplotypes” (combinations of alleles for different genes that are located closely together on the same chromosome and that tend to be inherited together) involved SNPs in GABA genes.

The study confirms the hypothesis that genes may predispose individuals to a chronic course of an eating disorder, Bloss said, adding that additional studies are needed to confirm such associations.

Source: http://psychcentral.com/news/2011/07/28/genetics-complicate-recovery-from-eating-disorders/28125.html

Mindless Eating, Believe In Yourself!

Mindless eating can easily lead to overeating. In an experiment, people at a movie theater were served fresh or stale popcorn in different size containers. When they were served stale popcorn in a large container, they ate 61 percent more popcorn than they did when it was in a smaller container while watching the movie and underestimated the amount they ate. The larger the portion size, the less able we are to estimate how many calories we’re eating! Everything that surounds us supports mindless eating such as ads on TV to fast food to favorable unhealthy foods on supermarket shelves. All of these cues make it difficult to find what our bodies truly need to ingest.

We are so caught up in our fast paced society, we are always thinking of the next thing that needs to be done. If we drink a cup of tea, we seem to focus more on the worries and anxieties of the day rather than on living in the moment and enjoying our tea; If we sit with someone we love and instead of focusing on the person and the moment you have with them, we’re distracted by other thoughts in our heads; We walk but are more focused on reviewing the talking points for the next appointment rather than the moment we’re having as we walk. We’re usually somewhere else thinking about the past or the future rather than now.

Where you live and work can have important implications for whether you can eat well and stay active. When healthy choices are not available in the workplace or neighborhood, it makes it harder for us to not eat well. Also, if neighborhoods aren’t safe enough to walk, jog, or ride a bike on it prevents us from being active. As you start to clear your mind of distractions you can start to work on ways around barriers that are keeping you from exercising or eating healthfully. To be successful, it’s very important for you to believe that you can achieve a healthy weight. Believe in yourself that losing weight is possible and that you can do it. It’s not as easy as popping a pill and watching the pounds melt away but it’s a journey worth taking…  love yourself and don’t judge yourself harshly, you should be losing weight for yourself, not to please anyone else.

Source: Nhá̂t, Hạnh. Savor: Mindful Eating, Mindful Life. New York: HarperOne, 2010. Print.

“Let food be your medicine and your medicine be your food” – Hippocrates

Real, whole, traditional and unrefined foods are nutrient dense and as close to their natural state as possible. They come from nature, not a package, and are ideally local and in season. A diet based on real, whole food truly does serve as a foundation for ending anxiety, providing key nutrients and are essential for the body’s production of neurotransmitters and hormones. Amino acids from proteins (like eggs), the mineral zinc, the mineral magnesium from leafy green vegetables, B vitamins from grains, omega-3s from fish and meat, antioxidants from vegetables and fruit are all important for us to be receiving from our diets! You really are what you eat. Given that the food you eat is your fuel, quality is very important. Whenever possible, it’s important to choose organic, grass-fed, wild, pastured, and free of pesticides, hormones and antibiotics. Produce should be organic or pesticide free and preferably locally grown.

Remember**Skipping breakfast and not eating frequently enough during the day can result in low blood sugar with symptoms of anxiety, nervousness, and irritability.

Although protein is found in dairy and to a lesser extent in legumes, grains, nuts and seeds, the most concentrated forms are meat, poultry, eggs and fish. Protein contains amino acids and the protein you eat directly affects levels amino acids in your blood and brain which affects levels of neurotransmitters that play a role in mood. {Poultry is an excellent source of amino acids, especially tryptophan and the B vitamin niacin. Eggs are healthful and an important part of a diet based on real, whole foods. They are a great source of high quality protein and contain selenium, iodine and vitamins A and D. The yolk is a good source of choline which is important for brain health. Seafood is also a great source of amino acids, omega-3s, zinc, iodine, iron, calcium, selenium and vitamins B12, A and D.

Vegetables are an important part of the whole foods diets that proved so beneficial for mood. They provide minerals like calcium, magnesium, manganese, potassium, and zinc, many of the B vitamins and antioxidants. The antioxidants provide protection against increased oxidative stress. Try to aim more toward non-starchy vegetables and aim for at least four servings a day. Some examples of non-starchy vegetables are artichokes, asparagus, avocados, bell peppers, carrots, celery, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, cucumber, mushrooms etc.

Fruits are also an important part of the whole foods diet thats proven benefits for mood. They provide similar nutritional benefits as vegetables. Two to four servings daily is appropriate.

Keep hydrated with at least 2 quarts of water daily! In addition to plain water, try water with lemon or orange slices or even some cranberry juice! Drinking herbal tea such as mint, chamomile, lemon-ginger, licorice and orange is also beneficial.


Cloned Animals?

Cloning is the process of creating copies of DNA fragments, cells or organisms. Scientists have been effectively cloning animals for quite some time. It’s just a matter of time until humans start emerging from test tubes.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently released a report concluding that food from cloned animals is as safe as that from normal animals. The FDA will also not require labeling of foods from cloned animals. This is a huge problem because Americans have no idea what they’re putting into their bodies without any labels, especially for topics such as cloning animals and having over 70-75% of our food supply being genetically modified without even knowing it.

Center for Food Safety (CFS) also cited several health and safety problems in animal cloning including: Surrogate mothers are treated with high doses of hormones; clones are often born with severely compromised immune systems and frequently receive massive doses of antibiotics. This opens an avenue for large amounts of veterinary pharmaceuticals to enter the human food supply. Also, imbalances in clones’  hormone, protein, and/or fat levels could compromise the quality and safety of meat and milk. Doesn’t this bother anyone??

The National Academy of Sciences warned that commercialization of cloned livestock for food production could increase the incidence of food-borne illnesses, such as E. coli infections; Cloning commonly results in high failure rates and defects such as intestinal blockages; diabetes; shortened tendons; deformed feet; weakened immune systems; dysfunctional hearts, brains, livers, and kidneys; respiratory distress; and circulatory problems. The public deserves to know where their food is coming from, especially if there are uncertain risks to individual’s health.

Cloned animals tend to have more problems during childbirth as well as physical deformities. For example, oversized navels and oddly shaped heads (Cows that have heads shaped like bulldogs). Did you know it costs $20,000 to clone a cow? Is this worth all that money to have a potential threat to the human population by consuming uncertain meats or dairy and treating animals in this way?

Not labeling food products in the United States as well giving the public foods to ingest that may have a risk to human health without them knowing is a huge problem in this nation. It is something we all should be thinking about when we pick out our foods. We need to become more knowledgeable of these certain topics and stand up for our rights.