Thursday, 31 January 2008

Ban the trans

As of July 2007, eating establishments in New York were prohibited from using cooking oils that contained trans fats. They have until July 2008 to eliminate artificial trans fats from all their foods. Denmark has also passed legislation requiring limits to the levels of trans fats in food.

In Canada, we're not so lucky. The extent of the government's action plan is to ask food companies to voluntarily reduce trans fats from their products by 2009. However, different cities, like Toronto and Calgary, are taking matters into their own hands. On the plus side, we were the first country to make labelling of trans fats mandatory.
So, what's a trans fat?
It's the product of taking a healthy liquid oil and pumping it with hydrogen (hydrogenation)- a process that hardens the oil, making it spreadable. They're used by the food industry cause they're cheap and stable so they increase the product's shelf life.

Why are they bad?
They not only increase your "lousy" LDL cholesterol but also lower your "healthy" HDL cholesterol. They also increase triglycerides (fat in your blood) and appear to increase inflammation that is thought to play a key role in the formation of blockages in heart blood vessels.
1 gram of trans fats is said to be 10 times worst than 1 gram saturated fat.

How much should you have?
The average Canadian is eating 10 grams trans fats a day! According to Health Canada, we should limit our intake to less than 2 grams a day. According to me, you should aim for 0 grams!!

What foods contain trans fats?
Trans fats are in most processed foods- spreads like shortening and margarines, packaged foods like pancake mixes, baked goods like muffins and doughnuts, instant soups and noodles, fast food and fried chicken, frozen foods like pies, pizzas, breaded fish and waffles, crackers, toppings and dips like whipping toppings, gravy mixes, salad dressings and non-dairy creamers.

Not all trans fat comes from hydrogenated vegetable oil. Meat and milk have small amounts of naturally occurring trans. But “small” becomes substantial (seven grams) when you’re ordering a 16-ounce prime rib.
See below for trans fat contents of some common foods.

How do you know you're eating trans fats?
Read the labels! All labels should have trans fats on the nutrition information table. Look for products with 0g
be aware that, in Canada, companies only have to label a product as having trans fats if the serving contains more than 0.2 grams. (In the States, only if there's 0.5 grams trans fats/serving!).
So you must read through the ingredient list. If you see the following ingredients, the product contains trans fats:
hydrogenated oil, partially hydrogenated oil, shortening.

For example, low fat peanut butter (Kraft) lists 0 grams trans fat/serving on the nutrition facts table but by reading the ingredient list you'll see 'hydrogenated oil'. So the product does in fact contain trans fats.

Lastly, remember, trans-fat free does not necessarily mean healthy, calorie-free or even saturated fat- free!!

The trans fats in some popular food products

Typical order of fried seafood combo pack: 10grams
Burger King Medium French Fries: 6.5 grams
Doughnut: 5 grams

Shortening (1 Tbsp): 4.2 grams
Cinnabon Cinnamon Roll: 4 grams
Small bag potato chips: 3.2 grams
Nabisco Chips Ahoy! Chocolate Chip Cookies (3 cookies): 1.5 grams
Kellogg's Cracklin' Oat Bran Cereal (3/4cup) : 1.5 grams

General Mills Cinnamon Toast Crunch (3/4 cup): 0.5 grams
Quaker Chewy Granola Bars Chocolate Chip (1 bar): 0.5 grams
Butter (1 Tbsp): 0.3 grams

Sources: ; ;

Caffeine recommendations

I just rechecked and although the recommendations are 400mg caffeine for the average person,
for women of childbearing age, the new recommendation is a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 300 mg. That's the equivalent of only one grande Starbucks brewed coffee.

For children age 12 and under, Health Canada recommends a maximum daily caffeine intake of no more than 2.5 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. Based on average body weights of children, this means a daily caffeine intake of no more than:

45 mg for children aged 4 - 6;
62.5 mg for children aged 7 - 9; and
85 mg for children aged 10 - 12.

Those recommended maximums are equivalent to about one to two 12-oz (355 ml) cans of cola a day.

Can caffeinated beverages hydrate?

Caffeine has been in the news a lot lately. A recent study showed that people with type 2 diabetes may have more trouble controlling blood sugars when drinking caffeine. The study only had 10 participants- half took pills that provided caffeine equivalent to 4 cups of coffee and te other half took a placebo. The caffeine group's blood sugars went up 8% higher than the placebo group. This contradicts other studies that have shown that caffeine actually reduced type 2 diabetes risk.

Another study showed that too much caffeine during pregnancy increases the risk of miscarriage. I need to review that study...
But I just read some good new regarding caffeine:

We all know we need to get at least 8 cups fluids a day but we've been told that caffeine is not included in that because it's a diuretic. Not true (unless you never consume caffeine and get a large dose of it).

A recent study gave medical and graduate students (who normally consumed caffeine) either equal amounts of water plus caffeinated cola or water plus a ceffeinated citrus cola or water and a mix of caffeinated cola and coffee.

When they measured urinary output over 24 hours, they found that there was no difference between the 3 groups!

So include caffeinated beverages when trying to meet your fluid requirements.

Health Canada recommends not to exceed 400mg caffeine a day.
Click here for the caffeine content of popular drinks and foods.

Friday, 25 January 2008

Is dark chocolate healthy?!

A recent study that was published in JAMA has shown that eating a small amount of dark chocolate lowered blood pressure without weight gain or other adverse effects!

Participants either had untreated high blood pressure or were pre-hypertensive and were randomly assigned to one of 2 groups: one was told to eat 30 calories (or 6.3grams) of dark chocolate daily for 18 weeks and the other, the same amount of white chocolate for the same amount of time.

The dark chocolate group’s blood pressures decreased by 2 or 3 points whereas the white chocolate group’s didn’t change.

Dark chocolate contains polyphenols which are a group of chemical compounds that are believed to have some health benefits. The dark chocolate eaters also had higher blood levels of s-nitrosoglutathione which relaxes blood vessels and could explain the lower blood pressure.
According to the authors, although the blood pressure reduction was small, the effects are clinically noteworthy since it’s been estimated that only a 3 point reduction in blood pressure could reduce relative risk of stroke mortality by 8%, of coronary artery disease mortality by 5% and of all-cause mortality by 4%.


These findings need to be replicated: the study wasn’t double-blinded (meaning that the groups knew whether they were getting dark or white chocolate- duh!) and the number of participants was only 44.

Remember that weight gain will contribute to increasing your blood pressure- these people only ate 30 calories worth of chocolate- that’s the size of 1.5 Hershey Kisses. For us chocolate lovers, it's hard to stop there!

And, of course, the same results wouldn’t apply to dark chocolate cake or mousse or ice cream!
Still… I say have some dark chocolate this weekend- not for its health benefits- but cause it’s yummy!

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, 24 January 2008

Exercise those blues away!

We’ve all heard of the ‘runner’s high’ or endorphins released during exercise. I definitely feel better after a run (getting out is sometimes hard at 6:15am in the winter though!). But for the first time, a study done at Duke University compared exercise to an antidepressant in a group of 202 people diagnosed with major depressive disorder.
And guess what?
Exercise was as effective as the drug in alleviating the symptoms of depression!
The 202 people were assigned to 4 groups: one took Zoloft (an antidepressant), another did group exercise, the third did exercise at home and one took a placebo.
Sixteen weeks later, 47% of the group that took the antidepressant, 45% of the supervised exercise group, and 40% of those that exercised at home no longer met the criteria for major depression! The differences between these 3 groups were not statistically significant. However, all groups improved a statistically significant amount over the placebo group (only 31% of which no longer met the criteria for depression at the end of the study).
This study provides powerful evidence that exercise may be a viable alternative to antidepressant medication in the treatment of major depressive disorder. But even if you’re not depressed but just feel worn out and need more energy (and who doesn’t!), studies have shown that physical activity will benefit you too!

Not only does physical activity improve mental health, it improves your cardiovascular fitness, your cholesterol and blood pressure, helps regulate your blood sugars, helps in weight loss, improves bone density, increases your self esteem, gives you more energy, makes you more aware of your body etc etc. Easy to see why they say that if these benefits could be put into a pill form, it would be the most prescribed pill out there! Even I'd take it!

On that note… good luck to James on his marathon on Sunday in Miami!! He leaves tomorrow and this is his first full marathon (but he’s run 2 halfs). He’s been training super hard so he’ll do super well!! After all that exercise, you’ll be in great mental health!!

My first Nutrition Nibbles post!


I decided to post my Nutrition Nibbles on a blog rather than inundate your inboxes (Thanks James for this suggestion and thanks Anna for the name for my blog)!
Like I emailed some of you, I thought I'd post some recent nutrition (and other) info so I can share stuff I read about or am thinking about.
Feel free to add your comments!

This was yesterday's email:

1. A recent study tracking 29 000 men showed that men who ate broccoli or cauliflower more than once a week were half as likely to have prostate cancer that spread beyond the prostate than men who ate broccoli or cauliflower less than once a month. So... enjoy these veggies sauteed, steamed, cooked or raw!

2. Sun exposure may lower risk of breast cancer (this one makes me happy!)! Women whose skin showed more signs of sun exposure were 47% less likely to have advanced breast cancer. This was true only for women who had light pigmented skin (measured under the arm).
Sun is a principal source of Vitamin D. Make sure you get Vitamin D through food (or supplements if necessary) and go in the sun (without sunscreen) 20 minutes a day during the spring and summer months- just don't get a sunburn!!
Studies show that you should be getting 800-1000 IU Vitamin D a day- instead of the 400 IU previously recommended.

20 minutes in the sun during spring and summer months, without sunscreen= 200-400IU. Food sources of Vitamin D:

3.5 oz cooked salmon: 360 IU
1.75 oz sardines canned in oil (drained): 250 IU
3 oz Tuna fish canned in oil: 200 IU
1 cup Fortified milk (including soymilk): 98 IU
1 Tbsp margarine: 60 IU
3/4-1cup Fortified with 10% of daily value of Vitamin D (read label): 40 IU
1 Egg (with yolk): 20 IU
1 oz swiss cheese: 12 IU

3. Cool link- What people eat around the world:,29307,1626519_1373664,00.html