Tag: diet

The Keto Diet: Healthy or Unhealthy?

It seems like every couple of years a different diet fad takes the world by storm, often touting weight loss and/or a host of health benefits, and the ketogenic “keto” diet is no exception. This latest diet trend has produced quite the buzz in recent years for its potential weight loss benefits, but the verdict seems mixed on just how healthy this diet may be.

The keto diet is a low-carbohydrate, high-fat diet. This includes eating foods such as meats, cheeses, eggs, fish, and oils, and avoiding foods such as breads, fruits, starchy vegetables, and sugars.  Carbohydrates provide our bodies with glucose that gives us energy. By consuming less carbohydrates, our bodies are forced to turn to fats as a source of energy, placing our body in a state of “ketosis.”

While the keto diet has only recently made headlines, it has actually been used for nearly a century as a sort of last medical resort for treating individuals with epilepsy, particularly children. However, while beneficial for these individuals, it may not necessarily benefit those with other health conditions. Further, it is still  unknown what the long-term effects of a ketogenic diet are.

In an interview with Plant Based News, Dr. Kim Williams, former President of the American College of Cardiology, claimed that, while it may offer short-term weight loss, the keto diet offers limited health benefits. Furthermore, in a recent study by Seidelmann et al. (2018), researchers found that low-carbohydrate diets that relied on animal proteins and fats were associated with greater risk of death. As Dr. Marcelo Campos, lecturer at Harvard Medical School, describes, the keto diet can include heavy red meat and unhealthy foods that are fatty and processed. Further, the keto diet may lead to nutritional deficiencies given its high-fat diet. Ultimately, Dr. Campos suggests that individuals engage in long-term, sustainable change, consuming a balanced, unprocessed diet as opposed to a short-term diet like the keto diet.

What are your thoughts on the keto diet? Let us know in the comments below!


Belluz, Julia. (2018, June 13). The keto diet, explained. Retrieved from https://www.vox.com/science-and-health/2018/2/21/16965122/keto-diet-reset

Campos, Marcelo. (2017, July 27). Ketogenic diet: Is the ultimate low-carb diet good for you? Retrieved from https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/ketogenic-diet-is-the-ultimate-low-carb-diet-good-for-you-2017072712089

Chiorando, Maria. (2018, August 24). ‘No One Should Be Doing Keto Diet’ Says Leading Cardiologist. Retrieved from https://www.plantbasednews.org/post/no-one-should-be-doing-keto-diet-leading-cardiologist

Epilepsy Society. (2016, March). Ketogenic Diet. Retrieved from https://www.epilepsysociety.org.uk/ketogenic-diet

Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health. (N.d.). Diet Review: Ketogenic Diet for Weight Loss. Retrieved from https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/healthy-weight/diet-reviews/ketogenic-diet/

Seidelmann, S. B., Claggett, B., Cheng, S., Henglin, M., Shah, A., Steffen, L. M., … & Solomon, S. D. (2018). Dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality: a prospective cohort study and meta-analysis. The Lancet Public Health.

WebMD. (2017, February 1). What’s a Ketogenic Diet? Retrieved from https://www.webmd.com/diet/ss/slideshow-ketogenic-diet



Are You Consuming Too Much Sugar?

Earlier this year, the federal government released their 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines report which recommended that less than 10 percent of daily calories should come from added sugars (note- this does not include naturally occurring sugars found in milk and fruits). The guidelines are based on Americans eating a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet, meaning 10% of daily calories equals 50 grams of sugar. While this guideline may seem strict, it does not come as a surprise, as new research shows too much added sugar can result in severe weight gain and an increase in risk of death from cardiovascular disease.

You may be thinking, “50 grams of sugar does not sound like a lot,” and you are right. Just one Grande Caramel Frappuccino from Starbucks has a whopping 59 grams of sugar- just over the daily limit. Wondering what other foods and drinks will reach you near or over the limit? Here are just a few:



One 12 oz bottle of Coca-Cola- one bottle of this with lunch and you’re already almost at the daily limit with 39 grams of added sugar.







One Clif Bar- Clif Bars can range anywhere from 20-25 grams of sugar in just one bar- that’s half your daily sugar in a food most people consider a snack!






1/2 Cup of Pasta Sauce- When thinking of foods high in sugar, pasta sauce is usually not one of the first to come to mind- but just one serving of Bertolli Tomato and Basil pasta sauce has 12 grams of sugar.





A bottle of Gatorade- While this sports drink prides itself off having important electrolytes that keep body fluids in balance, one serving also contains just around 21 grams of sugar. What’s worse? Most bottles of Gatorade contain 2-2.5 servings per bottle. That’s over 42 grams of sugar!

Overall, added sugar can be found in almost all processed food products. While it now may seem impossible to avoid going over the daily recommended sugar intake, it’s much easier than you think. Educate yourself, be mindful of nutrition labels, and most importantly, eat more whole, unprocessed foods with natural sugar, like fruits and vegetables.

Host a Healthy Holiday

In recent years, attention has been shifting away from medication-only treatment plans to incorporating special diets into comprehensive disease management strategies, for example rather than just giving a patient a pill to lower cholesterol and high blood pressure, a doctor will prescribe a diet low in sodium and fats (saturated and trans) as well as refer the patient to a dietitian. Consequently, many Americans are following, or at least should be following, a “special” diet. From a health professional perspective, it is encouraging to see efforts to reduce medication, which often have numerous side-effects, and increase healthier long-term lifestyle changes.

However, all the holiday parties, feasts, and edible gifts can be a real threat to staying committed to healthful diets and lifestyle habits. A lot of pressure is placed on the individual to resist temptation, exercise moderation, or swap unhealthy options for healthier choices. Yet little attention is focused on the host or hostess for providing less healthy options.

If you are planning a holiday meal, I encourage you to be cognizant of your friends’ and family’s health and lifestyle choices. Just because you make “the best creamy mashed potatoes” every year, doesn’t mean you can’t find an equally delicious substitute or alternative. It’s only logical; if a dish is available, it has a chance of being consumed, but if it’s not available, it can’t be eaten.

tableLuckily, there are a wide variety of recipe websites dedicated to special diets, such as Allrecipes.com, MyRecipes.com, FoodNetwork.com. I would suggest trying out the recipes prior to the “big” feast, as light cooking or cooking with substitute ingredients is not always the same and may take a practice run or two. Try not to think of creating a healthier meal as an inconvenience or break in tradition, but rather a fun, worth-while challenge and opportunity to show loved ones you care about their health. After all, we want to celebrate many more holiday seasons with all our friends and family.

Please post links to your favorite healthful recipes or websites for others below.

Good luck and happy holidays!

Low protein bad for bones?

Like many runners, I experienced a stress fracture in a foot bone a couple months after my first half marathon. Being winter in New England, my physician attributed it in part to a lack of enough Vitamin D, which helps your body absorb dietary calcium. Without enough vitamin D to absorb calcium, your body must access its reserves – from your bones. This has implicated calcium and vitamin D as the dynamic duo when it comes to preventing osteoporosis, the most common disease of the bones.

Now, preliminary research findings are connecting low-protein diets to calcium malabsorption in young women. Because the best time to take action to prevent osteoporosis is when you’re young, this research could have important consequences for those at risk (genetically, or otherwise) for osteoporosis.

The study, conducted by researchers from the University of Connecticut and the Yale University Bone Center, hoped to fill a gap regarding dietary components such as protein and its association with bone health. The research aimed to examine the impact of low-protein diets in young Asian and Caucasian women, two groups with higher risks for osteoporosis later in life.

While this research is in it’s early stages, the association certainly warrants further research and consideration. Osteoporosis causes almost 9 million fractures each year – in fact, 1 in 3 women over age 50 will experience osteoporotic fractures. Men aren’t off the hook though – 1 in 5 over the age of 50 also experiences fractures related to osteoporosis. Although most Americans don’t have trouble getting enough protein, many older adults consume inadequate protein due to an increased need and sometimes lack of appetite. Young and old – make sure you’re getting at least 1.0 gram /kilogram of body weight and adequate calcium and vitamin D to keep bones healthy for life!


Photo source: Quinn Dombrowski via Flickr.com

Wellness Wednesdays: ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Fruits and Vegetables

Wellness Wednesdays: ‘Good’ and ‘Bad’ Fruits and Vegetables

Spoiler Alert: ‘Dieting’ won’t help you lose weight. What to know what will? A conscious effort towards making healthier lifestyle decisions. For some people, maybe that means choosing a salad instead of fries – it’s important to them that they try to eat a ‘healthier’ diet. When you mention a ‘healthy’ diet, the first thing that comes to mind is often ‘fruits and vegetables’. But can eating fruits and vegetables really help you lose weight?

Cosmo Online published a piece last week titled, ’11 Fruits and Vegetables to Eat if You Want to Lose Weight: Not all veggies are created equal’. The article referenced a recent study published in an online scientific journal called PLOS Medicine. Here is some of the data they used to arrive at the conclusion mentioned above.


Reference: Bertoia ML, Mukamal KJ, Cahill LE, Hou T, Ludwig DS, Mozaffarian D, et al. (2015). Changes in Intake of Fruits and Vegetables and Weight Change in United States Men and Women Followed for Up to 24 Years: Analysis from Three Prospective Cohort Studies. PLoS Med 12(9): e1001878. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001878

On the right, you’ll see the abbreviation of the data source used by the authors – it’s very expensive to collect new data, so these authors simply ran a new analysis using several existing data sets. In short, that means that each colored line represents dietary information from tens of thousands of people. The dot indicates the average weight change for each serving of that ‘class’ of fruit or vegetable – with citrus fruits, for example, they suggest that eating one additional serving of citrus fruit per day was associated with a 0.25 lb weight loss over four years.

I would encourage the interpretation that fruits and vegetables can, and should, be part of a healthy diet, and that following a healthy diet can lead to weight loss. As far as specific fruits and vegetables to support weight loss, the evidence is far less established. Beyond eating a variety of colors to ensure the adequate intake of vitamins, I think all fruits and veggies can be enjoyed without discrimination.

Wellness Wednesdays: Protein – How Much Do You Really Need?

Last week, I wrote about why protein shakes and supplements may not be a sure-fire way to lose weight. Still, protein is an essential macronutrient – one of the key building blocks our bodies need to function. But just how much do we really need?

General dietary recommendations suggest consuming 10-20% of daily calories from protein. For the hypothetical person following a 2,000 calorie/day diet, that means 200-400 calories (because protein provides 4 calories/gram, 200-400 calories means 50-100 grams of protein). The American Dietetic Association (ADA) recommends consuming 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight – an adult male weighing 75 kilograms, for example, would need to eat 60 grams of protein per day. Perfect…except most people don’t eat ‘nutrients’ – they eat foods that contain nutrients. If 60 grams of protein doesn’t mean anything to you, that’s OK – let’s look at some combinations of food that add up to 60 grams of protein.

Combination 1:

1 hard-boiled egg: 6 grams of protein

1 8 oz. glass of skim milk: 8 grams of protein

1 4 oz. chicken breast: 35 grams of protein

1 cup quinoa: 8 grams protein

1/2 cup frozen yogurt: 3 grams of protein

Total: 60 grams of protein


Combination 2:

1/2 cup steel cut oatmeal: 7 grams of protein

6 oz. low-fat Greek yogurt: 17 grams of protein

1 cup black beans: 15 grams of protein

1 cup firm tofu: 20 grams of protein

Total: 60 grams of protein


There is an endless array of different combinations to suit your palate, but my point is that many people don’t need to worry about eating more protein – you probably get more than enough in your regular diet, whether purposefully or not.

Some resources, primarily target towards young adult males, suggest consuming 1 gram of protein per pound of body weight (for those who need a refresher on the metric system, 1 kilogram equals 2.2 pounds) – that’s nearly three times the intake suggested by the ADA. This extra protein is purported to boost muscle growth and promote fat loss – but let me fill you in on a little ‘secret’: although we do need additional protein under certain high-stress conditions (think traumatic injury, not daily to-do list), there isn’t a storage system for any ‘extra’ protein – the carbon simply gets converted to fat, while the nitrogen-containing components processed and eliminated by the kidneys. Excessive amounts of protein consumed for an extended period of time may overburden the kidneys, and increase the risk for kidney failure.

So, you may be asking yourself: how much do protein do I need to eat? Unfortunately, I can’t answer that (sorry to disappoint…) For more information, talk to a Registered Dietician (RD) – these nutrition experts are the only qualified professionals licensed to provide individualized dietary advice.


Photo credit: http://www.tibbiyardim.com/wp-content/uploads/healthy-eating-for-children-and-babies-1-calorie-needs-and-protein-requirements.jpg

Pass the Cheese for Less Heart Disease?

Ever wondered about that “French Paradox” and how the French have lower rates of heart disease even with a diet high in saturated fats? Much of the research has focused on the health benefits of wine and active lifestyles, but a new approach examines how cheese metabolism could be the missing link to explain the phenomenon.

In a recent study published in The Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that subjects who ate cheese or milk (compared to a control diet) had higher levels of a compound called butyrate in their fecal samples. This fatty acid is produced by the bacteria in the large intestine and was linked to lower levels of total blood cholesterol levels, as well as low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Higher levels of LDL-cholesterol are generally associated with a greater risk for cardiovascular disease.

However, it must be noted that the study only included 15 young, healthy men. The authors speculate that because gender and age both have effects on the metabolic by-products, this could mask any effect a specific diet has in a future intervention study of similar design. Additionally, the association between the butyrate and lower cholesterol was only a weak correlation. This means the findings should be taken as a mere piece of the whole puzzle and not a reason to eat a diet built entirely on dairy and saturated fats (as tempting as that may seem).


Image source: ulterior epicure on Flickr.com

Type 1 Tuesdays: Gastroparesis – A New Year’s Resolution or Result of Health Problems?


Many of you may have set New Year’s Resolutions, such as “losing weight” or “eating healthier,” however, my New Year’s Resolution was forced upon me a few days after the New Year and after several weeks of illness.  As alluded to in one of my previous posts, I was diagnosed with gastroparesis, or delayed gastric emptying, this January, which is a condition wherein your stomach does not efficiently digest food.  This condition is a common complication of type 1 diabetes.

The primary treatment for this disorder is a diet of easy to digest foods and frequent small meals.  As my doctor advised, liquids are better than solids.  As you may already be thinking, many healthy foods we should eat everyday are hard to digest, such as fruits and vegetables.  So, this “diet” restricts consumption of those healthy foods and requires more low fat, high carbohydrate foods, such as potatoes and smoothies.  The “diet” also requires small meals throughout the day, instead of the normal three larger meals.  This “diet,” as with most things, has some positives and negatives.

Some of the positives are that you can save money on food.  One “normal” meal, whether home-cooked or from a restaurant, can now last 4-5 days.   Additionally, it can help with weight loss, which I have experienced first hand this past month.

Some negatives are that the “diet” is inconsistent with our American culture and with recommendations for a healthy diet as recommended by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Americans typically eat 3 large meals each day that include high fat foods and the USDA recommends a diet high in salads, fruits and vegetables.  I had heard in the past that small, more frequent meals are better for you, particularly for those with type 1 diabetes.  However, when I tried to impose this on myself, when it was not medically necessary, it was hard to abide by and stick to.  When eating a small portion, it takes much less time than other people at a meal and meals have become social events as well as a time for nourishment.  The foods required for this diet are the opposite of normal nutritional recommendations for any person, and particularly for “diabetic friendly” diets.

It has been a struggle to change my eating habits regarding the timing of meals and the consumption of fruits and vegetables.  However, I am seeing that if people would eat smaller portions and watch fat intake, this could definitely be beneficial – even though this is contrary to the culture we are surrounded by.  Are we literally feeding the obesity epidemic by our cultural standards for food consumption?  How should we develop and implement the changes necessary to create a healthier culture?



A tub of lard…for health?

This is reaching, a bit, since the communication at issue here is more informal and social than official health communication, but it’s an issue that seems worth exploring all the same.

Lard is making a comeback, and one reason is the claim some people are making that it’s good for you.  Or at least better for you than the trans fats in hydrogenated vegetable oil, otherwise known as Crisco in most cases.

One of National Public Radio’s blogs this week raises the question about pig fat, mentioning celebrity chef Mario Batali as one noteworthy foodie extolling its benefits.  NPR points out that–just like your mama (or grandmama) told you, lard makes pie crusts flakier than vegetable fat ever can, and it’s eaten by some cultures as a delicacy akin to pate.

Me, I suspect it’s more the fashionable retro thing.  Lately everything old is new again; the styles of my own youth are back–bell-bottoms and platform shoes, anyone?–Mad Men is making the 50’s and 60’s seem like great decades, and it seems we all hunger for a time when the kitchen was more than where we went to heat up a frozen burrito.  I don’t suppose it’s Batali’s responsibility to see to our health, any more than it was Paula Deen’s to ‘fess up about her own diabetes.  But it does seem worrisome that, after decades of positive change in the food industry and in peoples’ understanding of the factors that contribute to good health, we’re backsliding with slippery, greasy glee.


Photo courtesy of Nourished Kitchen

Label confusion can influence dieters

A recent study in The Journal of Consumer Research found that what an item is labeled can influence what people on diets will and will not eat.

According to an article in Medical News Today about the study, “..Dieters are more drawn to marketing hype while non-dieters tend to focus more on the food’s nutritional content.”

Dieters have certain names of food types that are off limits, such as ice cream, pasta, potato chips and candy, but it was really the labels that kept them away from such foods. If a product is called something more healthful, people on diets may be more inclined to eat it. Misleading labels that make food sound more nutritious can encourage dieters.

For example, a milkshake called a fruit smoothie might be more likely to fool a dieter, who is going to rely on the label and may not check the nutritional information, according to the article.

Upstream has covered some issues with food labeling before and how having labels that are confusing may be problematic to consumers.

What do you think of labels that consumers think they understand, such as fruit smoothie, that really may not be nutritious at all? What can be done to help combat this confusion?