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Did I just hear right? Indeed I did. I caught a moment of the news and the anchor was covering a new study touting these results – and later, after a quick online search, I learned that this anchor wasn’t alone – many were covering the “4 cup a day, keep diabetes away” story.

Here’s what I’ve got to say, could 4 cups of Joe a day ever be healthy, or even help prevent diabetes?:

1) If one exchanged plain coffee for caffeinated sodas – this would be a nutritional upgrade that could help prevent diabetes.
2) If, however, one decided to have cream and sugar or even fat-free milk and artificial sugar or a no-sugar added powder or a non-dairy creamer with partially hydrogenated oil in their coffee…then they would lose in terms of diabetes risk
3) If one was drinking 8 cups of coffee a day or 6 cups and 2 Red Bulls, and traded down to 4 cups a day, then I could see how this nutrition upgrade could help prevent diabetes.
4) If one was drinking 16-24 ounces daily of juice, “vitamin” waters, and sugar-based teas, and exchanged these for 4 cups of coffee one could see reduction in their risk of diabetes as well as likely their waist circumference and body fat.
5) If one was eating “energy” bars with greater than 10 grams of sugar, less than 5 grams of protein, and which contained artificial ingredients daily or several times daily, and exchanged it for a cup of coffee and an apple with some peanut butter, then perhaps the coffee could help to reduce diabetes risk.
6) If, however, one consumed 4 cups of coffee in lieu of eating nutrient balanced eating occasions during the day and then “backloaded” with calories at night, then one surely did not help prevent the onset of diabetes and moreover, the stress and irritation to the system would more likely increase risk for other chronic diseases or symptoms in the future
7) If one added spices to coffee like cinnamon, clove, and cardamom then one would likely feel the benefit of digestive aids as well as hormonal ones that could help protect the body against diabetes and other diseases.
8) If one has a high risk of diabetes due to obesity, family history, or other medical factors and decides to ONLY increase consumption of coffee to prevent diabetes then one likely misses out on whole host of other well-documented nutrition and lifestyle behaviors that can help prevent diabetes while also improving overall long term health.
9) If one consumed only organic coffee – so that no additional chemicals enter our system – then one will help reduce the toxic burden in the body which could be linked to a lower risk of obesity and disease, including diabetes.
10) If when consuming coffee, one doesn’t get any jitters and it allows one to function daily as well as get in routine exercise and go to sleep at a reasonable hour (before midnight) with 6-8 hours of sleep then the coffee consumption might not be an issue.
11) If, however, one has one 24-hour day where coffee wasn’t available and one can’t function; one scours the cupboards for sugar to get a “lift” or to identify replacement sources of caffeine. Then one’s body is telling them that it is likely addicted to caffeine and should consider reducing or eliminating intake.

Net, net, only you can answer the “if’s” for yourself. But I will provide one final If / Then scenario that applies to us all: IF you believe the topline of a study presented on the news and change your diet to meet the reported results without finding out more about what the study results were based on, as well as whether it fits your particular health profile, Then you have no one but yourself to blame if the outcome isn’t as the tv reporter presented.

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In a never-ending cycle of “we say it’s good today, then we say it’s bad tomorrow” the recent raising of the vitamin D daily recs, while acknowledging the need to increase levels in Americans, confuses consumers with a concern about whether to supplement and what levels are actually best. The following review on the matter in Natural Foods Merchandiser is extremely helpful to read… http://newhope360.com/vitamins-and-minerals/vitamin-d-intake-levels-officially-rise?cid=nl_iu

Furthermore, I will add that those who say they aren’t sure we need to supplement Vitamin D likely haven’t looked at the food portions necessary to reach daily levels (8 glasses of milk, anyone?) or that most foods have Vitamin D2 vs Vitamin D3, which is the optimal source for humans.

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Last month, I once again went “to the source” of a food (nutrient) as part of my ongoing effort to see food production firsthand and address any questions or concerns that I have on behalf of US consumers. Unlike recent trips to Australia, Brazil, Costa Rica, and Alaska, this trip hardly took me off the beaten path, from DC I traveled to Columbia, Maryland, but rather it had me traveling through time both the past and the future.

Ashley Koff RD at Martek

Ashley Koff RD at Martek

Algae are some of the oldest living organisms on the planet, yet, as I learned, they also hold promise for helping to address nutrition, ocean, and energy issues today as well as into the future. One key reason: the algae I went to see are an exceptionally rich source of the essential fatty acid, DHA. During my tour of Martek’s facility, I learned that this discovery – of what known as life’sDHA by Martek today – occurred as part of a now defunct space project.
My interest in algal DHA stemmed from wanting to know more about something appearing in today’s food supply but equally from my growing concern for sustainability, or survival, of the oceans as pollution and the harvesting of forage fish for the isolation of DHA and EPA threaten the viability of our oceans even for the next generation. Thus, I came with a slew of questions about algae, which is a vegetarian source of the essential fatty acid, DHA, compared to that found in wild fish (salmon, sardines, etc.). However, upon arrival at Martek’s Maryland laboratory, a wall of products

The "Product Wall" at Martek

The "Product Wall" at Martek

which contain their algal DHA (life’sDHA) greeted me and stirred all sorts of additional questions about how algal DHA makes it into some of our most common food products today. After a tour of the facility by Martek senior scientist, Dr. Casey Lippmeier, and a sit down question and answer period with their vice president of scientific affairs, Dr. Jim Astwood, I arrived at the following observations about algal DHA and its role in the American diet today:

  1. All Americans need to consume DHA, especially in women of child-bearing years and young children – and consuming it from different dietary sources can help ensure adequate levels as well as absorption. Algal DHA is a vegetarian source that is equally well, if not better, absorbed DHA than other vegetarian sources of essential fatty acids that require additional steps to make usable DHA.
  2. Fish sources of DHA also include other omega 3 fatty acids as well as other omegas (there are as many as 16 different omegas), vitamins, protein and antioxidants. Algal DHA is not meant to replace wild fish sources but it can complement modest fish consumption (1-2 servings weekly of wild fish) in the diet to ensure sufficient DHA intake. For those who don’t consume fish, algal DHA presents an opportunity to get this core, essential, nutrient into the body.
  3. According to Martek, they do not remove the DHA, isolate it, but rather provide the DHA in its whole food form which also contains small amounts of other fatty acids and nutrients – levels and types of which are strain dependent.
  4. Martek works with food manufacturers, and I was able to visit their test kitchen to see how they actually do some of the food development and testing work themselves, to ensure that the DHA quality is not compromised in the production or packaging of the final product.
  5. The DHA in one serving of products containing life’sDHA varies and is not intended to deliver one’s entire dose of DHA; that said, some products, like the organic eggs do contain an excellent serving of DHA – eggs contain levels as high as 150 mg per egg. Other products with “high” levels – the delicious Dr. Dave Mega-O truffles have 200 mg per serving, Omega To Go has 100 mg per serving, and the Happy Baby / Happy Bellies products provide good sources of DHA for growing bodies.
Ashley Koff RD in Martek's Lab with Senior Scientist Dr. Casey Lippmeier

Ashley Koff RD in Martek's Lab with Senior Scientist Dr. Casey Lippmeier

Martek’s DHA is not genetically modified: this was a big issue for me, and I was able to see firsthand how strains are selected to deliver the highest quantity and quality of DHA. I’ve seen this in farming – where the most productive plants or seeds are the ones selected for future use so this made sense to me.
And I note my final conclusions here. I left feeling quite comfortable and excited about the opportunity for algal DHA to help rectify core nutrition today: imbalanced fatty acid consumption (for most, this means insufficient intake of omega 3 fatty acids). I believe that the addition of algal DHA to animal feed, soil, and food products can help accomplish this goal in a healthy way. That said, just because DHA is added to a food product does not mean that one can discount or minimize the importance of core nutrition principles for optimal health. I believe it healthier for babies to consume breast milk than formula, but both should be rich in DHA. As valuable as DHA is to the diet, and it is termed essential because we have to get it from our diet, I believe it as critical to reduce our intake of chemicals by consuming organic food products (and by organic that also means non-genetically modified). And as great as the need to get DHA into our diet is, it doesn’t overshadow the negatives of a diet derived from high glycemic load carbohydrates (i.e., fruit drinks, refined flour products, etc.) and otherwise nutrient poor foods or food products.

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To help answer this issue, Ashley Koff RD created and moderated a panel at this year’s American Dietetic Association conference (FNCE) in Boston. The panel, sponsored by Earthbound Farm, Nature’s Path, Native, and Stonyfield Farms included an introductory video:

where each company discussed why they are committed to organic food and then opened up for a lively discussion with panelists: Chensheng (Alex) Lu, Ph.D., Mark and Catherine Winkler Assistant Professor of Environmental Exposure Biology Exposure, Epidemiology, and Risk Program Department of Environmental Health Harvard School of Public Health; Jeff Moyer, Farm Director, at the Rodale Institute; and Katherine Musgrave, RD, Professor Emerita of Foods and Nutrition at the University of Maine as well as a question period from dietitians. To view the entire video, please contact colleen@ashleykoffapproved.com to receive a download.

Are you a dietitian interested in learning more about organic farming, the science of organic food, and what patient resources are available? Email us to be included in upcoming events including a late spring trip / farm tour to the Rodale Institute.

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Today, at Good Morning America Health, I tackled the issue of back-to-school nutrition.

What’s important to consider is that a) you and your child(ren) “break the fast” to get the body in energy usage mode b) that you aim for a balance of nutrients – some carb+protein + healthy fat (+unlimited veggies) at each eating occasion …too often kids’ breakfasts, snacks are too carbohydrate dense thus setting them up for an energy spike…and crash – I provided some examples to add protein and healthy fat to help balance their eating occasions. And 3) eat organic as often as possible, and definitely avoid chemicals and preservatives in food – there are many great companies making organic options as well as those without added preservatives that are tasty and kid-friendly. And because despite even the best laid plans, life happens, I showed a favorite kids’ nutrient supplement that works as a safety net for ensuring their nutritional needs are met.

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Q: I love ice cream, frozen yogurt, and basically every frozen treat (especially in summer). Are some choices better than others, nutritionally speaking?

A: What do you love about ice cream or frozen yogurt or summer treats — the smoothness, the coldness, the sweetness? Whenever you pick a summer dessert or sweet eating occasion, think about what will satisfy you the most. I recently tasted a greens and avocado popsicle — yes, it had greens, green apple, and avocado puréed and made into a homemade popsicle — and it was so yummy that it blew me away. I’ve had coconut water granitas which I loved because they hydrated me and provided a mellow, not-too-sweet flavor. But I’ve also enjoyed peanut butter chocolate coconut ice cream and said, “there’s nothing better than this!”

So the first rule for making a good decision about a dessert or summer sweet is to figure out what you really want/need.

The second rule should be obvious: portion control. If you practice portion control, you really can have your favorite summer dessert and eat it, too.

And third, keep in mind that quality matters a lot in terms of how your body absorbs nutrients and how “bad” or “good” something is for you nutritionally. Your body knows what to do with food, but chemicals can confuse it — so stick with organic ingredients without GMOs, pesticides, artificial colorings, and no hormones or antibiotics used.

Q: I see grapefruit and celery featured in a lot of diet guides. Can they really help me burn fat and lose weight?

A: We can lose weight in a lot of ways — (more…)

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This weekend the X games hit Los Angeles and Ashley Koff Approved (AKA)is helping to make sure that VIP attendees, the media and athletes have healthIER choices to snack on, drink, and maintain their optimal energy (while enjoying every bite or sip). Just like with the AKA Craft Services Makeover Project, AKA worked with X Games to exchange food and beverages for ones that packed more nutrition into their products. Companies like Nature’s Path, Sea’s Gift, Late July, GoMacro, Perfect Foods Bars, Pure Bars, and more will be available for these lucky attendees and athletes to sample.

What’s your favorite healthIER product? Is it Ashley Koff Approved? Let’s find out – send us (facebook: Ashley Koff Approved fanpage; Twitter: ashleykoff) your favorite product and why and we’ll be choosing a few lucky winners to get some AKA sample kits later this month.

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