Does Vegetarian Equal Healthful?

RatatouilleMany people equate vegetarian eating with healthfulness. But just how much do vegetarian diets affect people’s health?

This past week, I attended the International Congress on Vegetarian Nutrition, a conference exploring the research on vegetarian diets and health, including aging, obesity, cancer, type 2 diabetes and other chronic diseases.

We enjoyed a lot of lively discussion on these topics – both areas of agreement and those that are controversial. Here are a few of my take-aways from the conference: Continue reading

Study: More Magnesium Links to Lower Insulin Levels

Spinach_canstockphoto0556156Spinach — the dark green leafy source of Popeye’s superhuman strength — is abundant in many nutrients, including magnesium. A new study suggests that diets higher in magnesium are associated with lower blood levels of glucose and insulin, which are often elevated in people with type 2 diabetes.

Research now shows that people with type 2 diabetes are at increased risk of certain cancers, including kidney, pancreatic and colorectal.

The study was published online last month in The Journal of Nutrition.

Study researchers analyzed data from approximately 53,000 non-diabetic European men and women from 15 studies who were part of the Cohorts for Heart and Aging Research in Genomic Epidemiology (CHARGE) study. The individual studies had collected dietary data through questionnaires, interviews, and/or food diaries along with glucose and insulin levels after participants had not eaten for at least 8 hours. Continue reading

3 Tips for More Fiber on Your Restaurant Plate

Eating meals at home, compared to restaurants and fast food establishments, means more fiber in our diets, according to a recent report from the USDA based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Per 1000 calories, we get about 1.5 grams more fiber from home meals than from restaurant meals.

Americans consume on average 15 grams of fiber per day, less than the recommended 25-30 grams per day. If Americans would eat more fiber, there would be fewer cases of colorectal cancer, heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  Fiber rich foods include vegetables, fruit, whole grains and legumes.

Eating meals at home only gets us to about 16 grams and eating fast food gets Americans only to 12 grams, so there’s room for improvement overall. Here are three strategies you can use to increase fiber while eating out and you can also them in your kitchen.

  1. Think vegetables and fruit first. When you look at the menu, look for the appetizers, entrees and sides that will include a substantial serving of vegetables and/or fruit. Salads and soups can be one way to add veggies or if sandwiches come with fries or chips, ask for a side salad, fruit or other vegetable instead.
  2. Go for the whole grain. Always ask for the whole wheat bread or wrap (not just “wheat”), corn tortilla  or brown rice. Oatmeal is the hot new item for breakfast – that is a perfect way to add a few grams of fiber early in the day.
  3. Choose Beans – small but mighty in fiber. Look for bean or lentil soups, salads with beans, bean burritos or sides like baked beans or black-eyed peas. You can ask for them to be added to veggie soups or to salads. Again – sub them for fries or chips as sides.

Any one of those strategies can mean a difference of 2-3 grams of fiber for your meal. If you can do that at each of your meals – whether home or away – that 6-9 extra grams of fiber per day may just get you to the recommended amount!

Read more on how to get more fiber in your diet.

How do you try to get more fiber in your restaurant meals?