What chemicals is your body absorbing?

wristband

There is exciting testing going on at Oregon State University to see what chemicals people are absorbing in their everyday lives! You know those rubber bracelets/wristbands that everyone wears? A group at Oregon State found that if you use certain solvents on those bracelets, it makes the bracelet porous. When they are warn, those open cells collect whatever chemicals are on your skin. They have been able to find around 1200 chemicals they can test for! The lower cost of this testing process will make it easier to get funding for all sorts of tests!

What are they testing right now? They tested roofers at different locations for PAH exposure. The importance of this is not only figuring how much they are being exposed to, but also getting RANGES of exposure between locations, between individuals, and possibly being able to follow each roofer for years to see if they have any illnesses related to the exposure. Eventually, we can find exactly what level of PAH is detrimental, monitor workers daily and potentially reduce illnesses related to that chemical.

The fact that these bracelets can pull 1200 different chemicals means it can be used with many different types of situations. They are studying pregnant women in New York for chemicals including pollution and personal care items such as soaps, make up and fragrances. They hope to see chemical impact on the health of the baby. The next test is in West Africa testing farmers for pesticide exposure. I’m really interested to see that test!

People go through their everyday lives not realizing the impact of some of the chemicals they are exposed to. Hopefully this new form of testing will give us all more information on what to watch out for as well as flag some chemicals for the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) to take a closer look at!

If you want to see the latest information on this, go to the Oregon State University website or the actual test is at http://pubs.acs.org/doi/pdf/10.1021/es405022f.

Healthy Marinades

Grill

I eat a lot of chicken breast as part of my healthy diet, but it can get boring for the family I cook for. As you know I am not a fan of fast or processed foods, so getting a variety of flavors has to come from creative cooking. I learned the magic of marinades when a group from work decided to have a dinner making party. You know……one of those places where you prepare your own meals to take home and freeze? First, I picked what sounded like the healthiest meals including chicken breast, shrimp and lean cuts of beef. We went through various stations with recipe cards where we had the meat in a zip lock bag and dropped in ingredients for a sauce. Then we sealed it and brought it home to either make it right away, or freeze it. With a fresh variety of ingredients, it’s so simple yet delicious. The best part is not using a questionable bottled marinade with artificial flavorings and preservatives.

Because it was so simple, I decided to just fill my kitchen with the typical ingredients for these sauces to make anytime. You can use them with any lean cut of meat and add a healthy side dish like wild rice or sweet potato. Here are some basic recipes you can use.

Barbeque
¾ cup ketchup
1 Tbls molasses
1 tsp honey
4 Tbls lemon juice
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp onion powder
1 tsp dry mustard
½ tsp pepper

Jamaican Jerk
2 Tbls olive oil
2 ½ tsp thyme
2 ½ tsp onion powder
½ tsp cinnamon
2 tsp allspice
½ tsp salt
2 tsp pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper or more if you like it hot

Mexican
2 Tbls Olive Oil
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 Tbls chili powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
Dash of cayenne pepper or more if you like it hot
Optional: Salsa to top off either during or after baking

Italian
3 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls red wine vinegar
2 cloves minced garlic
½ tsp onion powder
1 Tbls dried basil
1 tsp oregano
¼ tsp thyme

Eastern
3 Tbls olive oil
1 Tbls lemon juice
1 Tbls dried parsley
1 ½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp curry powder
1 clove minced garlic
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper

Asian
1 tsp sesame oil
2/3 sweet rice wine
4 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls honey
1 clove minced garlic
¼ tsp ground ginger

Injury Prevention for Early Spring Gardening

Garden

It’s been a long winter and you are now getting spring fever. Or maybe your yard looks like a disaster and you know it’s time for spring cleanup or prep. Unless you have been shoveling snow all winter it’s a good bet your body is not in any shape to jump into a day of raking, pruning or shoveling. The statistics are actually surprising! I know you’ve heard about the high instance of heart attacks for people who overexert while shoveling snow, but did you know about 400,000 people a year injure themselves while gardening and some severe enough to go to the hospital? Most common injuries include trips and falls, cuts and muscles strains. You can probably picture how this could happen with all the lifting, bending, stooping and handling of tools.

If you’ve been sedentary all winter, the first step to preventing gardening injuries is to warm up your muscles. Start by doing a couple minutes of stretches.

  • Stand tall and reach for the ceiling
  • Bend forward and reach for your toes
  • Stand tall and reach your arms out to the side
  • Stand tall and twist at the waist back and forth, swing arms at shoulder height
  • Intertwine your fingers and hold together, turn palms out in front of you, stretching your arms out straight in front of you
  • Stretch one finger at a time by using your other hand to pull it into an extension then curl it back
  • Rotate your hand around at the wrist
  • Rotate your feet around at your ankles
  • Do a runners lunge and/or squats to warm up your legs

Now that you are ready to go out, do the following:

  • Completely cover your body in durable clothing to prevent scratches, cuts and exposure to the weather.
  • Put all of your tools in a specific location so you won’t accidentally trip over them. Use them as per the instructions.
  • When lifting, keep your spine straight and tall and bend at the knees.
  • Keep you back straight when digging with a large shovel or raking.
  • When working on the ground, squat or kneel down rather than bending over.
  • Use a kneeling garden pad.
  • Keep everything you are working with at arm’s length to limit the amount of extended reaching.

Gradually increase the amount of time you work in your garden. Start with 20 minutes the first day and slowly increase daily until you are back up to your normal speed. If you have too much that needs to be done to build up slowly, switch up your tasks. Instead of spending all day raking, do 5 minutes of raking, 5 minutes of moving the debris into your disposal bin, 5 minutes of pruning and then 5 minutes of weeding. Start the whole cycle over again. This will give certain muscles a break in between and will reduce muscle stress.

Gardening technology has gotten better in recent years. You can find ergonomic tools at your higher end gardening centers or online. I recently purchased a woman’s sized ergo handle spade shovel that had really made digging easier.  Surf the web and check it out!

Of course I have some nutritional advice. Drink plenty of water and stay hydrated. Eat something before you start gardening and eat a snack with a little protein every 2 hours you are outside. This will keep your energy up and will help your muscles recover faster. It may even prevent soreness.

Okay….now that you are well equipped for a safe day of gardening……gets out there and cure your spring fever!

How do I lower my blood cholesterol?

heart

So you’ve been told your cholesterol is too high. The doctor hands you a pamphlet and says avoid high cholesterol foods and see a nutritionist. A lot of people I know have this type of experience whether it be high blood pressure, high cholesterol or triglycerides, or some friends have come to me with the Big D, diabetes. Most people are a little shaken and feel they don’t really have enough information to address their situation. The problem is when you get a shock like this you don’t know what to ask. Keep in mind it’s never too late to call the doctor’s office and ask questions. Sit down and make a list right away. There is never a stupid question when it comes to your health.

Getting back to high cholesterol……….the first important factor to keep in mind is that your cholesterol level is not solely based on what you eat, although it does have an influence. Everyone’s body has a level set for how much cholesterol it thinks it needs and it’s usually hereditary. Even if you eat nothing containing cholesterol, the body will still try to hold that level of cholesterol constant. It even knows how to make its own. Some people just have higher cholesterol by nature and it doesn’t mean they are at a higher risk of heart disease. That being said, doctors usually compare past cholesterol levels and will note that your level is going up before they show concern. In this case, it IS something you can change and you should act as quickly as possible before it becomes a real problem.

The next question I usually get is “why does my body want cholesterol?” The answer is cholesterol is the substance used in the walls of your red blood cells. You don’t want weak cell walls do you? It is also important for digestion and maintaining Vitamin D levels in the body. The health community is finding out the importance of Vitamin D for not only bone health, but also for the immune system and maintaining proper hormone levels.

You should also ask your doctor for your cholesterol type break down between HDL and LDL. To simplify it for you, HDL is good and LDL is bad. High LDL can lead to heart disease. Many times when a doctor has concern with your cholesterol, they found you have high LDL. This is important to know because rather than just decreasing cholesterol intake, you want to focus on increasing your HDL.

Now for food…….

Honestly, if you just follow the USDA RDAs, the American Dietetic Association, the American Diabetes Association or even Weight Watchers programs, it will include cholesterol reduction. Losing weight in general will lower your cholesterol level. This means more fruits and vegetables and less of the cholesterol bearing foods.

Animal products are the main source of cholesterol intake including all meats, dairy and eggs. You obviously don’t want to give all of these up as it’s your main source of protein and calcium. Focus and lower cholesterol versions such as fish and poultry for meat, skim or non-fat versions of dairy products, especially cheese if you eat it at all. You can eat egg whites, but the egg yolk is the portion that contains cholesterol. In baking, rather than using butter, use unsaturated vegetable oils when possible.

To increase your HDL, add Omega 3 fatty acids to your diet. Salmon is one of the biggest sources along with sardines. Other sources include olive oil, flax seed oil, peanut oil, nuts, and avocados. You can also supplement with fish oil. If you drink alcohol, there is no need to quit. An occasional glass of red wine is found to increase HDL levels, but if you don’t drink now, don’t start as there are better ways to increase your HDL.

Another question I’ve received is about a recent trend in using red yeast rice to lower cholesterol. Because this is an eastern medicine option, there have not been enough studies done in America to verify its long term effectiveness or its safety. Studies so far have only lasted 12 weeks. Red yeast rice has similar ingredients to prescription drugs, but because the level of active ingredient is not as carefully measured as your standard pharmaceuticals, the amount you are actually taking in can vary. The FDA pulled the most known version of this product off the shelf in 2007 due to lack of testing leading to safety concerns. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, if you do decide to use red yeast rice, do not exceed 600 mg 4 times daily. Make sure to talk to a pharmacist about side effects and other drug interactions. There are quite a few.

The biggest impact to both reduce your cholesterol level and increase your HDL……..Get Physically Active! Not only will it improve your cholesterol situation, it will also help you lose weight and feel better!

Following all of these simple steps can make a dramatic difference. I’ve had friends able to drop back into their ranges within 3 months. I wish you luck on your next doctor’s visit!

New FDA Food Nutrition Labels are being proposed!

Food Label

Finally! Have you ever found reading your food labels misleading? Even as a dietician I sometimes have to read between the lines to find clues of what food manufacturers might want to hide.  Well, finally the FDA is proposing new labeling regulations for the first time in more than 20 years! This is great progress for those of us who are careful about what we eat!

First and foremost, what’s considered a serving size is going to change. You know how the food companies were able to create their own serving size, like… 5 potato chips? You know you are going to eat more than 5 potato chips! Now you have to do the math. Well, it’s only 60 calories per serving…..but wait…I’m eating 25 chips!  You are actually eating 300 calories!  The FDA will put guidelines as to what a reasonable serving size is. Yay! No more of this ½ a candy bar being considered a serving size!

There is also so much that has changed in the last 20 years in what we found very good for you, like larger amounts of Vitamin D, potassium and Omega 3 fatty acids. Recommended Daily Allowances will change and will be required on labels.

We’ve also found that sugar, sodium, saturated and trans fats are worse than we thought. Labels will focus on all sugars, types of fat and there is discussion around reducing the sodium recommended daily allowance. Focus will also be on total calories rather than “percentage of”. Remember how I always bring up the hidden sugars that are in your food? With this new proposal, food companies will have to list all grams of sugar regardless of what kind of sugar it is!

Studies show that more and more people are reading food labels every year so this is a big win for people like us. Get online to help support the FDA push this one through! Food companies will have 2 years to change their food label to meet these new regulations so keep an eye open!