Monday, August 25, 2008

Fat-Free Ice Cream Or Just A Smaller Size?

Q: Ice cream in the summer is my passion. Is going for fat-free ice cream (not frozen yogurt) really better for me than regular ice cream? Or is it more about the portion size and how often I indulge?

There is one main type of artery-clogging fat that all Americans should try to cut back on to keep their hearts strong and healthy and to help prevent heart disease (the No. 1 killer of American men and women): saturated fat. We also need to watch our calorie intake, as we are a nation of overweight individuals—a situation that is associated with increased risk of disease.

Full-fat premium ice cream contains a staggering amount of saturated fat and calories—and that’s before all the toppings or the gargantuan serving sizes that so many of us opt for at the counter. We should all take note of the potential damage regular consumption of these luscious and creamy treats could take on our arteries and waistlines. I recommend delicious and satisfying fat-free or low-fat ice cream choices as your summer treat instead. Here’s a comparison of Cold Stone Creamery’s ice cream choices to drive home this point (note that these are calorie and fat comparisons of just the ice cream and not the insane amount of additional calories and fat that come along with the “extras” like waffle cones, cookies brownies, candy or whipped toppings):

  • 1 small cup full-fat Cookie Batter Ice Cream: 380 calories, 11 grams saturated fat.
  • 1 large cup full-fat Cookie Batter Ice Cream: 900 calories(!), 26 grams saturated fat.
  • 1 small cup fat-free Raspberry Sorbet: 160 calories, 0 grams saturated fat.
  • 1 large cup fat-free Raspberry Sorbet: 390 calories, 0 grams saturated fat.
So, the moral of the story is to enjoy your passion for summer ice cream treats but make your choices wisely most of the time. Go for the sorbets, fat-free and low-fat single scoops whenever possible, and your heart and waistline will surely appreciate it!

Monday, August 18, 2008

Do I Really Need A Daily Supplement?

Q: Do I really need to take a daily supplement if my diet is diverse and healthy?

A: Americans love their supplements, with over half of us taking some type of dietary supplement daily. Is this a smart move? Although it is preferable to obtain all the nutrients our bodies require from consuming a healthy, balanced diet, the fact is, many of us fail to get in the 40-plus essential nutrients our bodies need on a daily basis. Therefore, as a safety net, I encourage people to eat a healthy diet first and if they so desire, to take an inexpensive multivitamin and mineral supplement containing 100% of the daily value for most vitamins and minerals.

That said, keep in mind a favorite saying among nutritionists: “A lousy diet with supplements is still a lousy diet.” No amount of vitamin popping will ensure good health unless you are eating a healthy, balanced diet. A supplement does not compensate for a poor diet and will not guarantee good health. A supplement should be just that, a supplement to a nutritious diet and a healthy lifestyle.

Friday, August 15, 2008

CARBS! It's What Fuels Michael Phelps's Olympic Fire

In Wednesday’s (8/13/08) Sun-Sentinel, the reigning super Olympian and Boy Wonder Michael Phelps was asked about his dietary habits. His response was, “Lots of carbs.”
Phelps’ comment provides further evidence that carbs are truly the fuel of choice for the elite gold medal athletes among us. Which leads me to the topic at hand: that carbs have gotten a bad rap and it’s time to set the record (Olympic? world?) straight.
There are three types of macronutrients that supply energy (calories) for the human body: carbohydrates, fat, and protein. When it comes to eating for good health, it’s all in the balance, and “good” carbs should be the foundation of the diet, with a nice dose of added “healthy fats” and a smaller amount of lean protein. Carbohydrates are the most widely eaten food in the world and should comprise the bulk of any and all healthy diets, as carbs are truly the staff of life. Carbs supply quick energy for the muscles. Plus, if you eat the good whole-grain carbs, you get the added benefits of fiber, loads of vitamins and minerals, and tons of important phytonutrients (antioxidants and natural cholesterol-lowering phytosterols, for example). The best sources of “good” carbs are whole grains, fruits, vegetables, and beans.
So how much is enough? For the mere mortals among us (inactive or modestly active), carbohydrates should make up at least 50% of our total caloric intake. For the dedicated athlete (especially endurance athletes like swimmers, cyclists, and runners), carbs should make up at least 60% of their total calorie intake. Elite athletes are different. During peak training, elite endurance athletes often increase their carb intake to 70%, a necessary adjustment to give them the extra energy and nutrition required to train at an optimal level.
When my patients tell me that carbs are fattening, I always tell them to look at Lance Armstrong, who in the months leading up to the Tour de France routinely ate a 60% to 70% carbohydrate diet. If carbs make you fat, then why is he one of the leanest, fittest humans on the planet? Carbs are not fattening; too many calories, regardless of the source—excess carbs, fat, or protein—are what put on the pounds. So follow the lead of the great athletes among us: Eat a healthy higher carbohydrate, moderate fat, and protein diet and get that daily exercise in.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Does Cheese Really Bind Up Your Digestive System?

Q: Do certain foods like cheese really bind up your digestive system, or is that just a story?

Cheese, and for that matter, dairy products, have gotten a bad rap lately with the common misconception that they “bind you up” and are generally unhealthy. The fact is, dairy is the leading source of bone-building calcium in the American diet and most Americans simply are not consuming enough dairy. This is a huge health concern, particularly for our children, because a lack of sufficient calcium in the diet during the crucial bone-building years—the teens and young adulthood—will result in failure to reach peak bone mass, which could predispose them to contracting osteoporosis later in life.

What’s more, calcium helps lower blood pressure, as shown in the famous DASH diet studies. Dairy contains lots more nutrition than just calcium. Filled with vitamin D (if fortified), vitamin A, riboflavin, B12 and protein, dairy is truly a nutrient-dense food. Most major health organizations recommend that all Americans consume three serving of dairy foods per day. I suggest going for the 1% or fat-free varieties to cut out the artery-clogging saturated fat that comes bundled up with full-fat dairy foods.

Certain people cannot consume dairy products because of a situation called “lactose intolerance.” These people either lack or have a reduced activity of the enzyme lactase, required to digest the milk sugar lactose. For these individuals, consuming dairy products can result in severe gastrointestinal symptoms. Lactose-intolerant individuals should know there are plenty of lactose-free dairy products on the market, as well as lactase supplements that would enable them to obtain nutritious dairy foods in their diet.

Monday, August 4, 2008

How Can I Get In Shape After Having A Baby?

Q: How can I start to get back in shape after just having a baby?

One of the best ways to get back in shape after having a baby is to breast-feed. The physiological process of breast-feeding requires that a woman’s metabolic rate go into overtime as her body strives to produce milk to nurture her growing infant. This process requires an exorbitant amount of calories to sustain. If you combine breast-feeding with both a nutrient-dense, calorie-controlled diet (with enough calories to support lactation) and regular aerobic exercise (like taking the baby for long walks), you will surely be on the right track for getting back into shape and getting back your pre-pregnancy body.

If a woman decides not to breast-feed, she can still take a healthy approach to getting back into shape following the birth of her new baby. The extra fat that Mother Nature adds to a woman’s body to support her pregnancy can be taken off following the same general principles for all types of healthy weight loss: eat a healthy, balanced, calorie-controlled diet combined with regular exercise, and aim for a weight loss of no more than 1 to 2 pounds per week. There are registered dietitians who specialize in pregnancy, and I would highly recommend you consult with one to get on the right path. Go to to find a registered dietitian in your area.