Sunday, January 27, 2013

Cheese Burgers Fight Cancer - Yeah Right!

I went into a burger store yesterday, only to find them hanging this cut magazine article beautifully framed on their wall!

At first, you would be like YEY! But NO.

So what the writers of this article did is:
  • They linked a study that showed that Menaquinone, a type of vitamin K, can aid the body in preventing tumor development and decrease 28 % of cancer mortality. 
  • Then they continued to suggest that since menaquinone is found in red meat (as well as frankfurters, salami, pepperoni, pork meat, cream cheese, chicken, corndogs, KFC chicken and so forth)
    >> THEN consequently your burger is "your weapon of choice" against cancer!
  • They continue to advise that you can have their lovely red wine to help 'steer' your body against cancer
These simply are incomplete scientific facts.

It's like suggesting that because chocolate contains cocoa [which has antioxidant capacity] then you can go for chocolate to fight off unwanted cell mutations and cancer!

So let's state some "Red meat VS. Cancer" updates:
And yet the meat industry, particularly Janet Riley from the American Meat Institute, suggests that all these studies are just "statistical noise". The "Meat and Livestock Association" also believe that all this fuss about meat is unnecessary. It's weird how consistent this noise seems to be! 

Of course, adapting an unhealthy lifestyle is a major factor in cancer and premature death risk. Having a "Western" lifestyle, junk food, processed food, refined sugar, high intake of alcohol, low intake of fruits, veggies and fiber along with detrimental behavioral factors like low physical activity, smoking and obesity will definitely affect your cancer risk.

Bottom Line: 

Swapping red meat with another source of protein is best advised to reduce your risk of early death - Cancer Research UK! You can check here what the American Cancer Society advises to cut down your cancer risk for red meat is ONE factor among many - but still a controllable & changeable risk factor for that matter given that 43 % of deaths associated with red meat can be prevented by cutting it down!
If you wish to have your red meat burger once in a while, make sure the meat is not fried, even pan-fried, nor chargrilled. Broiling, baking or poaching meats is the safest!

So, having more red-meat free days is a must! Have plant based protein sources like beans, legumes, & nuts as well as fish, chicken and low fat dairy would still be a better bet for you than any red meat [beef, pork, lamb] and processed meat! - Harvard Health Publications

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Money TALKS - When Food Companies Dictate What "Healthy" Is!!

Almost all what we learn as dietitians in Lebanon is based on books, studies, courses and articles all funded/made by the USA. And consequently almost all LDs [Licensed Dietitians, what we are called after we complete our BS, internship & colloquium exam held at the Lebanese Ministry of Public Health] in Lebanon are "taught" to look up to RDs [Registered Dietitians, what American/Canadian dietitians are called after they complete their BS, internship & register in the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics] - you know, given that AND & the USDA decide what we are "taught" is healthy or not.

Well, Michele Simon - Public Health attorney & president of Eat, Drink, Politics  - has hit AND with an eye-opening report just this month: And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?

AND's loyal sponsors
Source: Michele Simon's report
What is intriguing is AND's sponsors who may influence AND's 74,000 members [RDs], hence the message they spread about health!
Among AND's sponsors are [just to name a few]
  • National Dairy Council
  • National Cattleman's Beef Association
  • ConAgra
  • General Mills
  • Kellogg's
  • Coca-Cola
  • Pepsi Co.
  • Nestle
  • Mars
  • Abbott
  • Hershey's
  • Krafts Foods 
And yes, all are approved companies to give continuing education courses to AND members! Page 12 in the report gives you a small glimpse on how continuing education courses offered by Coca-Cola 'professionals' convey that sugar is harmless to kids!

What's even more interesting is that in Lebanon, we do the same!
MONEY TALKS! Oldways, Coca-Cola and Abbott have sponsored the very 3 last conferences held by the the Lebanese Association for Nutrition and Food Sciences [LANFS, soon to be renamed to LAND, Lebanese Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics - the only association for Licensed Dietitians in Lebanon]

Back in April 2011 for instance, Oldways ["A nonprofit food and nutrition education organization, with a mission to guide people to good health through heritage" as their website notes], hosted a conference in association with the LANFS and the American University of Beirut about " Basics of Balanced and Sensible Nutrition".

I remember Coca-Cola had few talks in this conference concerning how their drinks could be incorporated in a healthy diet to ensure proper hydration, that their caramelized added colors are non-cancerous and that sugar does not contribute to obesity! Everybody who attended was frustrated for days afterwards, thank god for some critical thinking!
I was able to retrieve the conference's program from AUB's website, and cropped Coca-Cola's talks!

Now the LANFS makes sure that sponsoring companies do not interfere with the content of the speakers it invites, yet succumbs to the sponsors' talks. Advertising that sodas could contribute to one's usual hydration is not OK, but this false message was direct & attendees found it easy to detect the marketing techniques. But what about hidden messages that most of us dietitians are programmed not to detect! It's pathetic to let big food companies influence what healthy recommendations are! Huge companies influence huge health associations like AND which influence everything we are taught to teach! We are being taught what to convey to the public by what US gigantic food companies require us to market! Most dietitians here let their clients have diets sodas in their diets (Coca-Cola/PepsiCo.), preach to have 3 servings of dairy products per day (as per the Dairy Council's advise of course/ although more studies are decreasing this recommendation to a maximum of 1 serving/day post coming soon) & require them to have lean red meat as a good source of protein (Beef Council) - just to name a few!

It's about time we think for ourselves & check different schools than "those funded by food companies"!  The report is a must read for all dietitians, for most of us recommend BLINDLY what the USDA & AND dictate. There's no major research done in Lebanon, and those done are funded by Mama Food Companies like Nestle & Coca-Cola. So we base our studies on AND's work which are apparently taking their OK from bigger Mama companies. The chain seems corrupted. So research more for yourself & look up different schools. There's no harm in knowing the 2 sides of this major story and THEN decide for yourself - with critical thinking - what real food and healthy is!

A magic pill exists after all!

If you want to decrease your risk of

  • Arthritis by 47 %
  • Dementia and Alzheimer's by 50 %
  • Diabetes by 58 %
  • 41 % of hip fracture if you're post-menopausal
  • Anxiety by 48 %
  • Depression by 30-47 %
  • 23 % of death
  • Fatigue
  • Cancer

Watch Dr. Mike Evan's 10-minute awesome video to get your magic pill!


Monday, January 14, 2013

Winter Exercising, the right way!

Nancy Clark is a complete sports nutrition genius [most of the times]! So I'm reading a lot of her work, articles & books lately!

When the temperature drops outside, the last thing we want to do is get detached from the warmth of our homes; however, given that I vowed to increase my physical activity this year and that I prefer exercising outside as opposed to the gym, learning 'how' to exercise in the cold is a must!

Hiking in Barouk, Chouf - Lebanon
Shot by Bassam ZeinEddine

Winter Hydration - To start with, keep in mind that cold reduces the thirst mechanism; you will feel less thirsty and may not think to drink more often even if you are sweating. This actually happens with me all the time so whenever I am exercising outside during winter – whether bicycling, hiking, running or skiing, I am doing my best to consciously consume fluids to replace what is lost from sweat as well as water vapour exhaled when breathing. Nancy also suggests not to drink icy water, one that is kept in your backpack or on your bike. Instead, keep an insulated bottle of water filled with lukewarm/hot water to avoid any chills! Some choose to skip fluid breaks to minimize the need to urinate (yes, this is true!), but dehydration hurts one's performance so remember to drink!

Winter Food – Fuel up on food before you start any exercise with a high carb, medium protein, low fat meal. Not only does food provide you with fuel to pump up your exercise, but it also generates 10% extra body heart, aka thermogenesis for warmth, just 30-60 minutes after you eat!
For example, I am having 3 hours before my workout:
- peanut butter & toast with an apple/banana
- yogurt with fruit & almonds
- sandwich of thyme & oil/cheese/labne with cucumber
Or an apple/banana/grapes before 30 minutes to an hour before my workout!

Now in your backpack, always keep a source of quick sugars, preferably fruits or dried fruits, but chocolate and energy bars can come in handy as emergency foods! I also tend to keep raw nuts, but I rarely eat them while hiking, it's right after I finish that I have my fruit &/or nuts. Now during winter, your energy needs do not increase per say; however when your body temperature decrease, you will start involuntarily moving to generate heat, which burns extra calories. In case your temperature further drops, you will start shivering which can burn up to 400 calories/hr depleting muscle glycogen, this is why emergency food is needed, especially if you are injured or get lost in the cold. Keep them in your backpack either way!

Dress for the weather – Hats, scarves, waterproof shoes, and lots of layers! Experts suggest that the 1st layer (closest to your skin) should be made of a synthetic material (like polypropylene), not cotton, in order to minimize sweat contact. Fleece or wool is good as an insulating 2nd layer, and a 3rd top layer should ideally be made of a waterproof and breathable cloth. Lose heavy jackets for they will overheat you! Keep an extra dry layer in your backpack, you never know! Nancy suggests to lose layers as we become warmer, but this still depends on the weather outside.

Winter Recovery Foods – No cold/frozen food and fluids for they will definitely chill your body no matter how hot you think you are. Instead, have warm fluids, soups and food to replenish what you have burned. Carbs & proteins are both needed so you can go for oatmeal with nuts, lentils soup, pasta with meat red sauce, toast and eggs, or cheese & turkey heated sandwich!

Make sure to protect your skin from the sun, especially on higher altitudes! Winter is not a good excuse to dump your outdoor activities, after all, summer bodies are earned during winter!

Reference The Athlete's Kitchen 

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Mindful Exercising this Winter

Whether you are kicking off your year with healthy and active resolutions or you decided to take things slow, exercising in a proper conscious way will help you make the most out of your workouts! When it comes to me, I decided to exercise more regularly this new year, and I'm off to a good start! I've walked, ran, hiked, bicycled, and lifted weights in just 2 weeks from new year's day!

Mindful exercising is when you are fully aware of what you are doing while exercising, without overthinking, with no judgement, no day dreaming, no random thoughts, no life distractions – it’s nothing but you, your body, your breath, your muscles and your exercise! It's actually hard to dominate at first, especially that I am used to think my life through when I am exercising. This is fine sometimes, especially if you’re being positive and motivated; nevertheless, focusing on yourself and your exercise is much more important to fully benefit! In fact, a study conducted by a Harvard psychologist was able to improve blood pressure & decrease body weight, body and waist circumference in women just by making them more aware of their regular physical activity! That's why mindful exercising is my primary goal this year.

Hiking in Marj Besri - Chouf, Lebanon
Shot by Ghandi Tarabay
To start with, the next time you hit the gym, hike, go for a jog or swim – learn the right techniques of the exercise you are engaged in. Wearing the right clothes, using the right gear and learning proper muscle techniques & moves are much needed to make the best out of your exercise.

In addition, listen to your body - whether in heart rate, joints, tension points, muscles stress, feeling of dizziness and thirst. For one, this will help you avoid overstressing your muscles and help you avoid injuries. It will also aid you in becoming more vigilant & aware of your surroundings, in improving your performance, in perfecting your reactions and thus making you a better athlete.

While exercising, focus on your breathing techniques as well. This seems the hardest for me so far! Feel your breath move in and out of your body. Pay attention to your nostrils as air passes in and out. Notice the way your abdomen expands and collapses. Focus on the sound of your exhalation and inhalation. When your mind wanders, unconscious breathing will follow your heart beats, leading to shorter and faster inhalations and exhalations - my obstacle :p. Redirect your attention to your breath and expand breathing. This will allow proper flow of oxygen in and carbon dioxide out. This will also help in pumping blood more efficiently throughout your body.

Focus on the here and now of exercising - what your body is doing and how your brain is reacting. With time, mindfulness in your exercise will become effortless. Attend your full range of sensations into what you are doing! Muscles, heart beat, breath, sweat! This will distract you from everyday challenges (which you have plenty of time to go back to!) while alleviating your stress and anxiety. 

I'll be looking more into winter exercises now that it snowed all over the place so I'm guessing my upcoming post will be icy!