Radio Nutrition (https://radionutrition.com) is your source for actionable information on diet, healthy food choices and supplements. The Walk Talk Nutrition podcast series features nutrition experts Donna Feldman MS RDN and Kathy Isacks RD CDE, who discuss hot topics in nutrition, new research, healthy food choices in restaurants and fad diets.
Did the quarantine affect your food habits?
Has the lock down affected your eating habits? Eating more and enjoying it less? Eating better? No change? Just a few very looonnnnng months ago, our busy lives meant that our food choices were dominated by food prepared by someone else. Convenience food, restaurant food, fast food, take out, grab and go snacks and processed food. Who had time to cook? Not to mention the skills, let alone the kitchen tools. If you could eat very well by buying food someone else had prepared, why cook? Added bonus: no kitchen clean up.
My how things have changed. In the course of one weekend we went from being too busy to cook, to having nothing but time on our hands.
Someday scholars will analyze the impact of the lock down on our food behavior. All we know for sure right now is that eating at home became the new norm. In fact, it was the only option. You might be eating restaurant take-out, frozen foods, prepared food from the grocery store or home-cooked meals, but you were definitely eating at home.
Judging from the empty shelves at the grocery store, we’ve been eating a lot of pasta, rice, beans, canned soup and frozen pizza. Not much tofu though. One hilarious photo showed grocery shelves where everything had been stripped away except the tofu, the little packages sitting all alone. Based on the months-long shortage of flour and sugar, we can also assume high consumption of homemade cookies, muffins, cakes and banana bread. Strangely, fresh produce, fresh meat, yoghurt, cheese, commercial bread and milk have remained plentiful. Months later, food companies are still struggling to keep up with the demand for canned soup. The flour situation has improved, but if the lock down persists into winter, that could change quickly. Frankly given the incessant media hysteria and fear mongering, I would not discount that possibility. Plan your holiday baking accordingly.
Will we become permanent converts to the joys of cooking? Or will people drift back to their previous food habits if daily life ever gets back to normal? I don’t see daily home cooking taking root without permanent fundamental changes to how people live. If we’ve learned anything during the lock down it’s this: cooking is very time consuming. Easy to do when there’s nothing else going on all day. But if you go back to your long commute, long work day and busy schedule, you probably won’t be cooking dinner from scratch every night.
Did all this home cooking result in healthier eating? Maybe, maybe not. There is a widespread belief that home cooked food is automatically healthier than prepared food. After all, you can control the ingredients and the portions. True, but if you want healthy meals, you have to plan healthy meals and purchase healthy ingredients. All that flour and sugar went somewhere. Possibly to peoples’ thighs.
According to Grub Hub, the most popular food searches so far this year include spicy chicken sandwiches, red velvet cupcakes, vanilla shakes and cheeseburger sliders. According to PepsiCo’s recent financial report, people have been scarfing up snack foods like Fritos, significantly boosting the company’s income. Not exactly the picture of healthy choices.
I recently surveyed a large group of friends about how the quarantine had affected their food habits. These were retired women, so it was a rather select group, not representative of everyone’s experience. They all know how to cook (even if they don’t always enjoy cooking),
Host immunity depends nutrition
Host Immunity isn’t about hospitality. It’s about the ability of your immune system to fight infections and heal injuries. Many nutrients are critical for immune function. Which is why I find it puzzling (or disturbing) to hear medical professionals dissing the importance of nutrition for immunity.
Host immunity is your body’s defense system. Listen up to learn about key nutrients that support your defenses.
Covid-19 and hypertension
Used with permission by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics
Like all upper respiratory viral infections, SARS-CoV-2 — aka Covid-19, aka corona virus — affects groups of people differently. Young and healthy people may not even show symptoms. Frail elderly people with preexisting medical problems may develop severe and life threatening complications, predominantly pneumonia. Covid-19 is especially dangerous for people with hypertension. Why is that?
This variant of the corona virus family has only been recognized since January, so it’s remarkable that scientists already know so much about how it does its dirty work. I found a really nerdy description of the process by which the Covid-19 gets into a cell in The Economist. The article is behind a pay wall, but this sort of Virus 101 information can be found elsewhere in virology and infectious disease literature. I’ll try to sum it up in simple terms.
You have to understand that the cells in our bodies are not little balloon-like bags full of liquid. The outer membrane is an active part of the cell, with protrusions and indentations and portals and pumps imbedded in the membrane structure. These are designed to lock together with specific molecules inside and outside the cell. Some molecules are allowed to enter the cell, others are moved out; some molecules create a chemical message by attaching to a receptor, telling the cell to perform some metabolic function. It’s really quite an ingenious system.
So along comes a Covid-19 virus. It can’t do anything until it gets into a cell, so like other viruses, it has a specific way to hijack one of the cell’s entry control systems. This particular virus hijacks what is called the ACE2 receptor. Many types of cells have these unique receptors, and they are especially abundant on cells of the respiratory system. A region on the virus fits into that receptor’s shape like a puzzle piece, which starts a chain of events on the membrane that allows the virus into the cell. Once in the cell, the virus uses the cell’s replication equipment to make more copies of itself, leading to an inflammatory response.
You may be familiar with the term ACE2, particularly if you have hypertension, because some blood pressure drugs are known as ACE2 inhibitors. These medications interfere with ACE2 receptors; the result is relaxation of blood vessel walls and lower blood pressure. As I said, ACE2 receptors are particularly common on cells in the respiratory system, which might explain why common Covid 19 symptoms include coughing and shortness of breath. But while the link between hypertension, ACE2 receptors and Covid-19 is known, the reason for this link is not known. Will that information help with treatment or prevention. We don’t know yet.
What does all this have to do with nutrition? The most common causes of hypertension are lifestyle risk factors, diet in particular. Obesity is the primary risk factor. Losing weight leads to lower blood pressure, although the degree of improvement will vary from one person to another. Sedentary lifestyle is another risk factor. Adding regular meaningful exercise helps lower blood pressure. Of course,
What’s the best nut butter?
almond, sesame and peanut butters
I’ve been thinking about nut butters recently because some almond butter appeared in my pantry. It was an ingredient for a particular recipe, but of course I had to have a spoonful. Yum! It’s got a lovely mild/sweet flavor, and I wondered why I haven’t been buying it more often. I am now.
All of which also made me think of the nutrition aspects of nut butters. In their natural form, nut butters are very similar to each other. They have decent protein and healthy fats. They’re a great addition to anyone’s diet, but are especially useful for vegetarians and vegans for the protein.
These days we’ve got lots of nut butter options in the average grocery store. You can find them in jars, and some stores have machines so you can have fresh ground nut butter. That way you know you’re just getting ground nuts, no additives.
Unfortunately, many nut butters are doctored up to keep the oil from separating or to add sweeteners. Some have added oil to make them more spreadable. Walnut butter seems particularly likely to include added fats and sweeteners.
Here’s the breakdown for 2 TB of some common nut butters you can find at most grocery stores. The values are for natural versions of these butters. In other words, no added sugar or texturizers or other stuff like (gah!) palm oil. Added sugar would change the carbohydrate and calorie content. Added fat would dilute (reduce) the amount of protein and carbs, although not significantly.
Nut butters are also good sources of iron, potassium, zinc, magnesium and vitamin E.
In my opinion, “best” isn’t defined by the type of nut. It’s defined by “natural”. No added palm oil (gah!), coconut oil (ugh!), sweeteners or other additives. Just nuts, perhaps salt. So check the label before buying. Other than that, choose the nut butter that fits your needs and taste preferences. Here are some uses:
* They’re all great spread on toast, pita or bagels. * Make nut butter sandwiches. Add honey, jam, fresh fruit slices (banana, apples, pears) or thin sliced cucumber or shredded sweet pepper.* Wrap up a tortilla with nut butter and perhaps some fresh chopped vegetables like cucumbers or grated carrots, or dried fruit or just plain. Figs and almond butter… hmmm.* Peanut butter is especially good for Asian style peanut sauce, used on noodles or tofu or vegetables. Tahini is an essential ingredient for hummus.* Use as a dip for raw vegetables* Spread on crackers for a snack* Use to make a salad dressing. Tahini dressing is one example.* Make cookies! Peanut butter cookies are well known, but try using almond butter instead.* Here’s another idea: include 2 or 3 different nut butters in a gift basket.
To sum it up, nut butters are a great source of protein, healthy fats and other nutrients for vegan and vegetarian diets. Even better, they’re delicious and versatile. Anyone moving towards a more plant-based diet should include one or more nut butters in their food repertoire.
podcast originally published Jan 2016.
(NOT) My Favorite Diet: Paleo Diet
Glyptodon: artwork by Heinrich Harder via Wikipedia
The Paleo Diet has never been a favorite of mine. It’s based on the pretense that modern foods can mimic the diet eaten by primitive humans 50,000 or 1 million years ago. The assumption being that primitive humans gorged on meat and not much else. The perfect excuse to gorge on meat!
And what would be the point of that? The dream of transforming your physique into a lean mean hunting machine just by eating meat? Not much chance of that.
Late Night Fat Shaming
James Corden rebukes Bill Maher about the effect of fat shaming
Late night hosts recently took on the obesity epidemic. Bill Maher wants to bring back fat shaming. He thinks it’s the solution. James Corden responds that fat shaming will just make the problem worse. Who is right? In my opinion, both have valid points about obesity.
Meanwhile Instagram and Facebook claim they are going to do something about all the garbage posts that shil miracle diet products and glorify eating disorders. Apparently detox lollipops are a thing. If you admit you’re younger than 18 you supposedly won’t be seeing ads for those anymore.
I’m a big believer in setting an example rather than scolding about lifestyle habits. To that end, I finish the podcast with a suggestion for Mr. Corden: change the famous Carpool Karaoke segments to Walking Karaoke.
I just tried listening to this because I'm interested in anything related to nutrition. I had to unsubscribe immediately because the speaker reads the podcast so sloooooowly. It was so bad I couldn't even listen.