May 9 2016

Superfoods

 

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Summer is coming. I can tell and it’s not the weather, it is the arrival of superfoods. Not that they ever went away, but as the weather heats up so does the hype. Every magazine, every second news story, blah, blah, blah, is the new superfood…

First, you can’t live on one food – that would really be a superfood – and second, trying to make up for a multitude of sins by suddenly consuming any one superfood isn’t going to make miracles happen. 

Over and over again the research proves that there is one super diet. A plant based, whole foods diet. It is not that one diet will prevent heart disease and another type 2 diabetes and another Alzheimer’s and cancer.

It is just one diet.

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There are many studies and many personal stories. But if you want the real proof, follow the money. Corporations and health care companies are promoting a plant based whole foods diet to their clients, because it will save them lots of money on health care costs.

Kaiser Permanente, the largest managed care plan providers in the US tells their doctors “Physicians should consider recommending a plant-based diet to all their patients, especially those with high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease or obesity.”

The Complete Health Improvement Program  (CHIP) in Canada showed “rapid and meaningful reductions in chronic disease risk factors” with a plant based eating pattern.

A study at 10 corporate settings the US insurance company GEICO showed “An 18-week dietary intervention using a low-fat plant-based diet in a corporate setting improves body weight, plasma lipids, and, in individuals with diabetes, glycemic control.”

A study from the Department of Nutrition, School of Public Health at Loma Linda University in California concluded  “vegetarians have consistently shown to have lower risks for cardiometabolic outcomes and some cancers”

Dr. Dean Ornish, showed a regression of coronary atherosclerosis with intensive lifestyle changes. In fact they found “the primary determinant of change in percent diameter stenosis in the experimental group was neither age nor disease severity but adherence to the recommended changes in diet and lifestyle” His program is covered by Medicare in the United States.

Dr Caldwell Esselstyn Jr at the Cleveland Clinic showed that 99% of 198 people with cardiovascular disease on a plant based diet avoided another major cardiac event.

And finally, this week a study by the doctor’s at the Mayo Clinic in Arizona that evaluated dietary advice for doctors has concluded that “physicians should advise patients to limit animal products when possible and consume more plants than meat.”  In the 1.5 million people studied all cause mortality is highest for those that consume meat.

It is not just that people eating a plant based, whole foods diet live longer, they cost less in health care dollars. They spend less time in hospital, take fewer medications and weigh less. 

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Every time you choose to eat a whole foods, plant based meal you are contributing to your good health. Lifestyle medicine, is a new way of looking at healthcare. The  focus is on preventing and treating the cause of disease, not simply treating the risk factors. Lifestyle medicine practitioners are asking that patients receive all the options about managing their conditions, including dietary changes. However, preventative medicine is bad for some businesses. It could eliminate the need for medications and surgery. Ask your doctor if prevention is right for you.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla

 


Nov 25 2015

22 minutes

fitness-inspiration1Is your health worth 22 minutes a day?

I’m asking because of a conversation I had with some other health professionals and it surprised me. These were people whose job it is to promote health.

First, a little background, most recommendations for maintaining your health suggest 150 minutes of activity per week, about 22 minutes a day. Second, as long as you do 10 minutes at a time you don’t even have to do all 22 minutes at once! Third, this can be as simple as brisk walking. In fact walking is one of the healthiest things you can do for yourself. Finally, these recommendations are strictly for overall health improvements, not increased fitness or weight management.

Last week I spent a day at a Cardiac Wellness seminar. The cardiologists recommended a minimum exercise prescription of 150 minutes a week to prevent another heart attack. They even stated that more, and they were talking about mostly walking, was in fact better for your heart health. Funny, that works for preventing heart disease too.

So does 22 minutes a day sound like too big a price to pay for your health?

I’m asking a serious question because, let’s face it, I get way more than 22 minutes a day of exercise. Between walking the dog, walking to the gym. walking to get groceries, walking to get more coffee, you get the picture, I walk a minimum of 60 minutes everyday. Which is the amount that most people who successfully lose weight and keep it off, report walking at least 5 times a week. It is also the time that used to be recommended for maintaining your health until someone thought that we should not make it so difficult for people, it might be too hard so let’s just drop the recommendation.

Which brings me to this.

Why is it better to confuse people with false promises just to make them feel better than to just give them the facts and let them decide what to do?

This is where my discussion with the other health professionals went a little off the rails. They were worried that recommending at least 150 minutes a day might sound too hard – how could we possibly ask people to do this amount daily? ( I can feel my blood pressure going up as I write this because this sort of nonsense makes me lose it). All I could respond with was, it is not my position to adjust the facts to make people feel good about doing less. When was the last time you went to the bank and they said “we don’t want you to feel bad about not paying your bills so we won’t charge you interest”? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

Professor Stephan Achenbach, European Society of Cardiology vice president for Global Affairs and Communications, enthusiastically supported the recent research linking heart failure improvements with diet and exercise “Heart failure is a growing epidemic across the world and clearly, medication alone is not a sufficient approach. Lifestyle modification must be a central part of management in heart failure patients, not only for treatment but also for prevention. This research helps us understand the effects even better.”

If you want to make a difference in your health, and you can, then at least do the minimum. Think it won’t happen to you? Every 7 minutes in Canada someone dies from a heart attack. In the US it is every 39 seconds. It is still the leading cause of death in North America  It is an equal opportunity killer, with deaths from heart disease and stroke being 28% men and 30% women.
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There are other modifiable risk factors like smoking, stress, alcohol, high cholesterol and having diabetes all increase the risk. I would argue that walking 22 minutes a day might be the easiest place to start. One other fact before you decide if 22 minutes is worth it, heart disease costs the Canadian economy $22.2 billion (CAD) every year and in the US it is $315 billion (USD) and those costs are rising with the beginnings of heart disease being seen in 1 of 6 teenagers.

So, are you worth 22 minutes? Let me know.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla

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May 4 2015

3 secrets to healthy eating

Did you know that you can improve your diet with three easy changes? Researchers at Cornell Food Lab analyzed 112 studies and they found that the key to healthier eating came down to these three things, convenience, attractiveness and making healthy foods the obvious choice.

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What does that mean exactly? If you store your fruit in a bowl it is more convenient, looks good and it is a normal choice, rather than having it in the bottom drawer of your fridge.

“A healthy diet can be as easy as making the healthiest choice the most convenient, attractive, and normal,” said Brian Wansink, Ph.D. author of Slim by Design and Director of the Cornell Food and Brand Lab.

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Need another reason to make your fruits and vegetable consumption the obvious choice? Researchers in the UK found that by modifying your diet to include fruits, vegetables and whole grains while reducing meat and processed snack foods could save 7 million years of life lost in the next 30 years, in the UK alone, from reductions in heart disease and stroke.

Small changes add up. Put your healthiest choices where you can see them.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla

 


Feb 9 2015

Prevention diet

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I read a study about hot peppers, actually the ingredient capsaicin, as a potential weight loss supplement. Now I love hot peppers, I put them in everything – everything that I make for dinner that is – but I don’t think this gives me permission to eat everything. However the study states:

“The temptation to eat fatty foods is often so strong that, for many, it can override or overpower any dietary restrictions. As a solution to this problem, a group of researchers at the University of Wyoming developed a novel approach to stimulate energy metabolism — without the need to restrict calories.”

But, you can already eat a diet that lets you eat as much as you want, without gaining lots of weight and improves your health. It is called a plant based diet. Besides reducing body fat it has a number of other benefits too.

Or you could add hot peppers to everything you eat, which is not so bad for dinner, but maybe not so good for breakfast.

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Spice up your diet with peppers every day to keep obesity away. Credit: Thyagarajan

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla


Jan 19 2015

It’s never too late

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It is never too late to improve your health. Whether you are thin, heavy, old, young, smoker or nonsmoker, active or inactive you can change your risk of disease especially cancer, heart disease and diabetes by eating a plant based diet. Even if you have been eating meat for decades before switching to a plant based diets.

Studies done as long as 100 years ago show that those people that eat a plant based diets, even if they start later in life, live longer, healthier lives. We also see this in migration studies. When Asians move to North America it takes years of eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) to reverse their health. They have higher rates of prostate, colon and breast cancer once they switch from a traditional diet to one high in animal fats and processed foods.

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Rates of breast and prostate cancer in Japanese women and men after changing from a traditional to Standard American Diet

No matter when you start the results from the largest study ever published on Americans eating plant-based diets that found vegetarian diets associated with lower all-cause mortality, meaning those who started eating vegetarian live, on average, longer lives. 

Want to live a longer, healthier life? Eat less animal protein and fat, eat less processed food, eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. And don’t worry when you start eating better, it can change your health at any age.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla


Nov 26 2014

What’s your heart health score?

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Harvard University has released a quiz that will help you assess your risk of cardiovascular disease. What’s your Healthy Heart  Score? 

Take the quiz and find out what you can do to prevent heart disease.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla


Nov 24 2014

Gluten free

When I go looking for the latest health information to write about I want to look at the science. Today two studies got me thinking about all the other misinformation that you can find on the internet.

First, the good news, a review of ALL the current evidence on the health impact of eating whole grains by researchers at the University of Warwick concludes that “myths attributed to wheat free diets are just that – myths.”

Gluten free at the grocery store

Gluten free at the grocery store

The review of the evidence suggests that besides the 1-2% of the population with specific wheat or gluten intolerance there is little to support a wheat free diet. However there is now an entire industry based on wheat / gluten free foods that may be more expensive and unhealthier than eating whole grain wheat products.

The review also compared various carbohydrates for nutritional value and found that wheat has the highest protein content, oats have the highest fat content and rice has the highest carbohydrate content.

Consumer Reports recently studied gluten free diets and found six disturbing realities behind this current trend.

  1. Gluten free may be less nutritious.
  2. You will probably be exposed to more arsenic in your diet.
  3. You might gain weight.
  4. It will be more expensive.
  5. You might be eating gluten anyway. 5% of foods labelled gluten free don’t meet the guidelines.
  6. You might miss a serious health condition. Getting a diagnosis to avoid gluten usually involves a blood test and an endoscopic biopsy. If you are having abdominal issues this could be caused by many other factors, let your  doctor make the diagnosis, resist the urge diagnose by Google.
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Consumer Reports Chart For Gluten Free Foods

 The second study I found today confirms that you get what you pay for. Funded by the Dairy Research Institute, The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association and the Egg Nutrition Center the study states that doubling or tripling of saturated fat in the diet will not drive up the levels of blood cholesterol, but that more carbohydrates in the diet increase a fatty acid in the blood linked to diabetes and heart disease.

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I would suggest it means that if you are eating the Standard American Diet adding more fat doesn’t really matter, you are already eating too much. The research here is simply comparing one terrible diet with another and perhaps most importantly in this study they only used 16 participants. Or maybe they want to sell more gluten free foods.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla


Nov 3 2014

Death by diet

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“Education, knowledge, and awareness are not enough.”

This statement from Dr Norm Campbell, Professor of Medicine, Physiology and Pharmacology and Community Health Sciences, at the Libin Cardiovascular Institute of Alberta, and  supported by more than 15 health organizations was published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology asking the Canadian government to promote access to affordable and healthy food. This could significantly reduce diet related diseases and improve cardiovascular health.

In 2010 unhealthy eating was considered the leading cause of death and disability in Canada and other developed countries. Poor diet as defined by the World Health Organization is one high in sugar, sodium, trans and saturated fats as well as low in fresh vegetables and fruits is the leading risk factor in preventable diseases. 66% of deaths each year are due to preventable cancers, chronic respiratory disease, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Canadian health organizations are now asking the government to provide healthy food environments to prevent diet related disease.

Do you have easy access to affordable, healthy choices? Not just at the grocery store, but where you work and where your kids go to school? I would bet that it is easier to buy junk or fast food than healthy, fresh choices.

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There is now an international campaign to reduce consumption of these toxic foods. Foods with high sugar content, refined grains and too much salt, to reduce the risk of preventable diseases.

Dr. William Li, President and Medical Director of the Angiogenesis Foundation in Cambridge, Mass says

 “All consumers should look at their diets as if food is the medicine necessary to maintain healthy, disease-free lives. Prevention is always better than a cure”

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People that live in societies that eat healthy, plant based diets, rarely contract these preventable diseases.

Would having access to fresh fruits and vegetables change what and how you eat? Let me know.

 Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla


Jul 14 2014

Sometimes less is more

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Americans spend less on food. In 2012 the average American spent 6.6% of their yearly budget on food, while Canadians spent 9.6% and people living in the U.K. spent 9.1% of their budget on food.

But spending less doesn’t equal eating less. In fact Americans are eating more processed foods than ever. The top 10 sources of calories in America are:

  1. Grain-based desserts (cakes, cookies, donuts, pies, crisps, cobblers, and granola bars)
  2. Yeast breads
  3. Chicken and chicken-mixed dishes
  4. Soda, energy drinks, and sports drinks
  5. Pizza
  6. Alcoholic beverages
  7. Pasta and pasta dishes
  8. Mexican mixed dishes
  9. Beef and beef-mixed dishes
  10. Dairy desserts

Currently 35% of the average American diet consists of solid fats and added sugars (SoFAS) when it is recommended that no more 5-15% of your diet should consist of SoFAS. At the same time most Americans eat less than 20% of the recommended intake for whole grains, less than 60% of the recommended intake for vegetables and less than 50% of the recommended intake for fruits.

For the last 20 years the leading cause of death in the U.S. was due to smoking, diet and inactivity. Poor diet has been linked to type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee made up of 40 experts in diet and nutrition recognizes that a large percentage of the American population now have diet related chronic disease or risk factors simply due to unhealthy food choices.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla

 

 

 

 


Jun 16 2014

Quality counts

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Type 2 diabetes is a chronic condition that effects the way your body metabolizes sugar to use as a fuel source. It may be caused when your pancreas doesn’t produce enough insulin to keep glucose levels normal in your blood or when your body becomes resistant to the insulin.

Insulin, a hormone produced in your pancreas, allows sugar (glucose) to enter cells to be used as a fuel source. As you lower the glucose levels in your blood your body reduces the insulin produced in the pancreas.

Glucose, sugar from food, is the main fuel source for your cells. Being able to use and regulate sugar is critical for energy. Your liver stores and makes glucose when you need energy to keep the glucose levels in your blood in a normal range.

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Being unable to regulate glucose levels in your blood either because your pancreas does not produce insulin or your body can’t use the insulin produced results in serious complications including:

  • Heart disease, diabetes increases the risk of stroke and heart disease 2-4 times.
  • Nerve damage, excess blood sugar damages smaller blood vessels that feed your nerve cells especially in your legs.
  • Kidney damage, kidneys filter waste through a network of millions of tiny blood vessels and diabetes damages this intricate filtration system leading to kidney disease and possibly kidney failure.
  • Eye damage, nerve damage in feet, osteoporosis and Alzheimer’s disease.

Type 2 diabetes is a serious condition which can be prevented through a healthy lifestyle. Contributing factors include family history, genetics, a sedentary lifestyle, poor diet and excess body weight can cause type 2 diabetes. Being overweight is a significant risk factor as increased body fat, especially in the abdominal area, makes it harder for insulin to be used by the body.

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A new study from the researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health brings some very good news. They found that independent of other changes, including physical activity and weight loss, that a 10% improvement in the quality of your diet reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes by 20%.

Researcher, Sylvia Ley, PhD, explains,

“We found that diet was indeed associated with diabetes independent of weight loss and increased physical activity, if you improve other lifestyle factors you reduce your risk for type 2 diabetes even more, but improving diet quality alone has significant benefits. We want them to know if they can improve the overall quality of what they eat — consume less red meat and sugar-sweetened beverages, and more fruits, vegetables and whole grains — they are going to improve their health and reduce their risk for diabetes.”

 The researchers also found that it didn’t matter how good or bad your diet is to begin with, but that eliminating saturated fats, sugar sweetened beverages while increasing whole grains, fruits and vegetables reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

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Direct costs of diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association in 2012 was $245 billion USD which included $176 billion in direct costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity.

Change your mind, change your health,

Shayla