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Nuts about Nuts

Posted by James on 03/04/2018 | Comment

Nuts about Nuts? Should nuts be consumed to reduce risk of chronic disease?

In a Nutshell discusses whether or not nuts are all they are cracked up to be. Nuts are advertised as a great source of protein and unsaturated fats. Although this may be true, other sources of protein have much fewer calories, such as beans, tofu, Greek yogurt, milk, fish, and poultry. Due to its caloric density, serving size recommendations for nuts may just seem nuts. Just one serving of brazil nuts (6-8 nuts) equates to 150 to 200 . So maybe we shouldn’t be nuts about nuts.

Reasons to go nuts about nuts. Nuts are known to be a good source of protein, especially for those who do not consume animal protein. An ounce of most nuts has 4 to 6 grams of . Nuts are also a good source of dietary fiber, polyunsaturated fats (also known as the “good” type of fat), and antioxidants, such as vitamin E. Such a nutrient dense composition may reduce risk of cardiovascular disease by reducing insulin resistance, cholesterol concentrations, lipid peroxidation, and oxidative . “Nuts also contain other bioactive compounds…which may reduce cancer risk by inducing cell cycle arrest, apoptosis, inhibiting cell proliferation, migration, invasion, and angiogenesis”.

A randomized controlled trial design, comparing participants on either a control diet or a Mediterranean diet, with either nuts or olive oil, found the lowest total mortality risk associated with those who were on a Mediterranean diet, consuming nuts greater than 3 servings/week at . However, who is to say that this association was attributed to the Mediterranean diet and not the actual nut consumption?

The New England Journal of Medicine published the findings of a cohort study, which examined the association between nut consumption and total mortality amongst nurses and other health . This study found that nut consumption was inversely associated with total mortality among both women and men. Specifically, significant inverse associations were observed between nut consumption and deaths due to cancer, cardiovascular disease, and respiratory . In agreeance with Bao et al. (2013), Aune et al. (2016) found a reduced risk of developing cancer, specifically colorectal cancer. Furthermore, current literature suggests a reduced risk of coronary heart , and type 2 diabetes

Research also demonstrates an association between nut consumption and blood cholesterol—specifically lowering LDL, or the “bad” , and elevating HDL, or the “good” cholesterol.

O’Neil et al. (2015) conducted a cross-sectional study, examining the association between nut consumption, weight, and cardiovascular risk factors. Findings indicated a lower BMI and waist circumference, and a lower likelihood of obesity in those consuming tree nuts. To further strengthen these findings, Aune et al. (2016) also found a better weight status among those who consumed tree nuts.

Although it is safe to say that much of the current research supports the notion of “going nuts for nuts”, it is important to realize the limitations of existing studies and other contradictory findings. For example, O’Neil et al. (2015) states that previous research has shown inconsistencies in the association of tree nut consumption with risk factors for cardiovascular disease and metabolic syndrome. With that being said, nut consumption and reduced risk of chronic disease is not a “black and white” issue—hence its ongoing controversy.

Not-so-nutty tips for nut eaters. Rather than eating nuts out of a bag, grab a quick handful, put the bag away, and be done with it. Also, purchase nuts low in sodium and sugar. Look for words such as, “unsalted” or “lightly salted” and try to avoid nuts smothered in chocolate or yogurt. Nuts can also serve as a good substitute for less healthful foods. For example, instead of croutons, sprinkle toasted nuts on your salad. Or, replace a sugary cereal with a whole grain cereal, and add your own nuts and fresh


(1) Hurley J and Liebman B. In a Nutshell: Are nuts all they’re cracked up to be? Nutrition Action Health Letter. October 2015.

(2) Aune D, Keum N, Giovannucci E, et al. Nut consumption and risk of cardiovascular disease, total cancer, all-cause and cause-specific mortality: a systematic review and dose-response meta-analysis of prospective studies. BMC Medicine; 2016: 14: 207-220.

(3) Guasch-Ferre M, Bullo M, Martinez-Gonzalez AM, et al. Frequency of nut consumption and mortality risk in PREDIMED nutrition intervention trial. BMC Medicine. 2013; 11: 164. Abstract Only.

(4) Bao Y, Han J, Hu FB, Giovannucci E, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, et al. Association of nut consumption with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 2013; 269: 2001-2011. Abstract Only.

(5) O’Neil Ce, Fulgoni VL, Nicklas TA. Tree nut consumption is associated with better adiposity measures and cardiovascular and metabolic syndrome health risk factors in US Adults: NHANES 2005-2010; Nutrition Journal. 2015; 14: 64-71. Abstract Only.


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Going Gluten Free

Posted by James on 03/04/2018 | Comment

Why are we so hung up on the gluten-free diet?

The gluten-free diet craze

Have you ever stopped to wonder why the gluten-free diet has become one of the most popular diets in the United States?

Claims have been made that gluten-free diets can help you lose weight and improve overall health and exercise performance (1). Even a wide range of books, magazines, and TV shows indicate a correlation between gluten ingestion and a multitude of health concerns (1). The research to back these claims? None.

Yet, the findings of a 2015 survey (figure 1) are astonishing. Over 50% of the 1,500+ American adults who completed the survey, purchase gluten-free foods for either “no reason”, or because they believe it to be a “healthier option” (2).

Figure 1 Results from a 2015 survey of more than 1500 American adults explaining the reasoning behind selecting gluten-free foods (7)


Is your diet free of just gluten?

Just by its name, one can presume a gluten-free diet is, in fact, free of gluten. Yet, if gluten is tossed out the window, are other important nutrients to follow?

A growing body of evidence (1, 3, 4, 5) suggests nutritional inadequacies among those following a gluten-free diet. This diet excludes gluten-containing foods that are major sources of energy, carbohydrates, iron, calcium, zinc, magnesium, and B vitamins (6) and replaces them with excessive amounts of fat (4) and sugar (5, 7).

A recent case-control, cross-sectional study, published in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, contributes to this growing body of evidence by showing a more unbalanced diet in participants with celiac disease than control participants in terms of added sugars, total fat, and micronutrient consumption (6).

Norelle Reilly, a MD from the Division of Pediatric Gastroenterology at Columbia University Medical Center, explains, “…apart from the treatment of specific disease or symptoms, [a gluten-free diet] may carry more risk than benefit for children” (3).

What if You or Your Child Has Celiac Disease?

If you or your child has celiac disease, the only current treatment is strict gluten avoidance (1). The following table summarizes the potential outcomes of a gluten-free diet. Although there are disadvantages and risks, proper guidance from a registered dietitian can help foster a healthy and balanced diet, rich in vitamins and minerals.

Summary of potential gluten-free diet outcomes (3)

If a gluten-free diet is the right fit for you or your child, the following tips and kid-friendly gluten-free recipes can be of help.

Helpful Tips and Gluten-Free Recipes for Children and Families

  1. For those picky eaters who gravitate towards white rice, try mixing in some millet.
  2. Try quinoa, or if you are really feeling adventurous, try buckwheat!
  3. Build strong and healthy bones by adding protein, calcium, magnesium and potassium to your diet with greek yogurt. Check out these fun recipes your family will love.
  4. Let your child help wash and prepare vegetables. They will be more willing to try them—and may even like them!
  5. Try gluten-free banana walnut oat waffles for a Sunday morning special treat.
  6. Gluten-free oats and a nut butter can be used to make zinc and iron-rich Oat Balls or Energy Bars
  7. On a budget? Use frozen instead of fresh fruit and vegetables to create a deliciously nutritious smoothie for you and your child.

For additional gluten-free recipes, visit http://melissashealthyliving.com/category/recipes/gluten-free/


Final Thoughts and Reminders

  • Go for the naturally gluten-free grains, such as millet, quinoa, and buckwheat, for its fiber and energy content to promote a healthy gut and immune system.
  • In addition to avoiding gluten, focus on promoting a balanced and healthy diet.
  • Seek advice from a registered dietitian or health professional to ensure your gluten-free diet is not lacking in important nutrients.

Focus on what you can eat rather than what you can’t eat.



  1. Babio N, et al. Patients with Celiac Disease Reported Higher Consumption of Added Sugar and Total Fat Than Healthy Individuals. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition. 2017;64(1), 63-69.
  2. Reilly NR. The Gluten-Free Diet: Recognizing Fact, Fiction, and Fad. Journal of Pediatrics. 2016; 175, 206-208.
  3. Newberry C, McKnight L, Sarav M, Pickett-Blakely O. Going Gluten-Free: the history and nutritional implications of today’s most popular diet. Curr Gastroenterol Rep. 2017; 19: 54.
  4. Kulai T, Rashid M. Assessment of nutritional adequacy of packaged gluten-free food products. Can J Diet Pract Res. 2014; 75: 186-190.
  5. Wild D, Robins GG, Burley VJ, Howdle PD. Evidence of high sugar intake, and low fibre and mineral intake, in the gluten-free diet. Aliment Pharmacol Ther. 2010; 32: 573-581
  6. Zuccotti G, Fabiano V, Dilillo D, Picca M, Cravidi C, Brambilla P. Intakes of nutrients in Italian children with celiac disease and the role of commercially available gluten-free products. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2013; 26: 436-444
  7. Becker B. Gluten Free Trend. www.hartman-group.com/hartbeat-acumen/120/gluten-free-trend. Updated September 3, 2015. Accessed February 16, 2018.
  8. Nutrient Recommendations: Dietary Reference Intakes (DRI). National Institutes of Health. 2011. Available at: https://ods.od.nih.gov/Health_Information/Dietary_Reference_Intakes.aspx. Accessed February 16, 2018.


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Microbiome and Gut Health

Posted by James on 01/17/2018 | Comment

The human microbiome is a collective term for all the microorganisms, such as bacteria, fungi, and viruses, living in and on the human body. Microbes are the microorganisms that interact in the microbiome. Just like organisms in Earth’s ecosystems, our microbial population changes when our environment changes. The microbes that are the best equipped to live in a particular environment, are the microbes that survive.

Within a few years after birth, we are covered in thousands of different microbes, and they colonize the entire body. Microbe variation is highest during childhood, and gradually decreases with age. Even still, the microbiome continues to change in response to events like illness, disease, antibiotic treatment, fever, stress, injury, and changes in diet.

Of all the human microbial communities, the gastrointestinal (GI) microbiota has the most significant effect on human physiology because of its influence on the development and maintenance of the immune system.

The GI microbiota is a complex ecosystem comprised of tens to hundreds of trillions of microbes that are distributed throughout the gut. Within this structure, the majority of the GI microbiota are bacteria—containing over five million genes that code for the production of specific proteins or enzymes that initiate particular physiologic functions in the host.

Disruptions of GI microbiota are linked with a wide range of health disorders including obesity, hypertension, and diabetes. Alternately, the structure of the microbial communities can positively modulate energy extraction, glucose metabolism, vitamin production, and host immunity.

Our microbes vary with gender, diet, climate, age, occupation, and hygiene. However, long-term diet is believed to be the environmental factor with the most significant impact on the gastrointestinal microbiota.

Manipulating the microbiome to improve health status is becoming increasingly common. For example, metabolic or endocrine disorders may be a potential target for using the GI microbiome to individualize dietary interventions. In GI conditions, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome, an opportunity may exist to reduce symptoms severity by manipulating the bacteria present in the gut.

Utilization of the microbiome in specific clinical situations also has the potential to improve clinical outcomes in diabetes management, cardiovascular disease, obesity, and potentially nonalcoholic fatty liver disease. Dietary intervention in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is one area that could particularly benefit from incorporating features of the microbiome into its assessment. Altering the substrates used by the bacteria in the gut may alter the metabolites produced and reduce liver damage.

Dietary fiber has been shown to promote diversity of the microbiome, which gives reason to encourage patients to increase their fiber intake. Furthermore, incorporating a wider range of fiber sources provides a greater range of substrates for the microbiome, giving the opportunity for a wider range of bacteria to become established in the gastrointestinal tract.

Knowledge of the GI microbiome provides an opportunity to promote individualized nutritional advice to enhance overall health and wellbeing. Specifically, it shows promise for those with a metabolic, endocrine, and/or gastrointestinal disorder.


Chung, S., Ravel, J., & Regan, M. (2018). Clinical relevance of gastrointestinal microbiota during pregnancy: A primer for nurses. Biological Research for Nursing, 20(1), 84-102. doi:10.1177/1099800417732412

Harvie, B. (2017). Using the Human Gastrointestinal Microbiome to Personalize Nutrition Advice: Are Registered Dietitian Nutritionists Ready for the Opportunities and Challenges? Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 117(12), 1865-1869.

Your Changing Microbiome. (n.d.). Retrieved January 10, 2018, from http://learn.genetics.utah. edu/content/microbiome/changing/


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

High Protein for Breakfast

Posted by James on 12/28/2017 | Comment

Did you know that when, and how much, protein you consume impacts your overall metabolism and satiety levels throughout the entire day? Consuming a high-protein breakfast, anywhere from 20 g to 39 g protein [1], enhances satiety and reduces subsequent energy intake.

Although overall dietary protein consumption in the US is adequate based on current recommendations, the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that the majority of protein is consumed at dinner [2], while protein consumed at breakfast is well below the levels shown to favorably affect appetite and metabolism [3]. In fact, approximately 20% of US men and women consume absolutely nothing for breakfast [4].

Benefits of Breakfast [5]

  1. Provides energy for the brain.
  2. Provides nutrients to meet the daily requirements.
  3. Reduces risk of overweight and obesity.

Benefits of High Protein Breakfast

  1. Improves short-term appetite control and satiety.
  2. Reduces subsequent energy intake over a 24-hour period, particularly of high fat, evening snacks [6], and lunchtime meals [7-11].
  3. Reduces postprandial glycemic response and insulinemic responses [1].


  1. The greatest effects of a high-protein breakfast are seen in protein intakes > 20 g, and most consistently at intakes > 30 g per meal. As an example, two eggs and one 6-ounce plain, nonfat, Greek yogurt consist of 22 g protein in totality.

a. Aside from eggs and Greek yogurt, other sources of protein include:

  1. Peanut butter
  2. Quinoa porridge
  3. Sliced avocado
  4. Low fat cottage cheese
  5. Protein smoothies.

It is important to evenly distribute your consumption of protein throughout the entire day. With that being said, approximately of your daily protein should be consumed at breakfast. The research of Rains et al. [1], published in the Nutrition Journal, conducted a randomized, controlled, crossover study, to determine the effects of high-protein breakfast consumption on appetite, postprandial glycemic and insulinemic responses, and caloric intake at lunchtime. 34 normal weight to overweight (BMI 18.5 to 29.9 ), premenopausal women (ages 18-55 y), who were regular consumers of breakfast and lunch, were randomly assigned to consume a high-protein (30 or 39 g) sausage and egg-based frozen convenience meal, a low-protein (3 g) meal consisting of pancakes and syrup, or to not consume a meal of any kind. The table below (Rains et al., 2015), illustrates the characteristics of all four test meals.

Results of Rains et al. (2015)

  1. Improved appetite control, reduced postprandial glycemic and insulinemic responses, and lower energy intake at lunchtime, is greatest when consuming a high-protein (30 g and 39 g) breakfast.
  2. There were minimal differences in responses between the two protein-containing meals, suggesting that both protein levels (30 g and 39 g) were sufficient.

Conclusions and Practical Implications

  1. Convenient, high-protein, breakfast options, would be potentially beneficial for individuals interested in reducing morning hunger and energy intake later in the day as well as glycemic excursions.
  2. Such meals are easy to prepare, compared to other high-protein foods consumed at breakfast, which require a greater degree of preparation.
  3. Increased satiation, and therefore better adherence to caloric restriction, is one potential mechanism by which high protein diets may facilitate weight loss.

Other Research Findings

  1. Even adolescents, who habitually skip breakfast, have shown an improved short-term appetite control and satiety when consuming high-protein breakfasts [12-14].
  2. Several meta-analyses from long-term, higher protein, weight loss and/or weight maintenance diets report reduction in glycated hemoglobin and/or fasting insulin concentrations with higher versus normal protein diet [15-16].
  3. High protein meals have been shown to decrease levels of the hunger stimulating hormone ghrelin and/or promote the increase in the satiety stimulating hormones peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1, resulting in increased perceptions of satiety [17, 9, 18-20].


  1. Rains TM, Leidy HJ, Sanoshy KD, Lawless AL, Maki KC. A randomized, controlled, crossover trial to assess the acute appetitive and metabolic effects of sausage and egg-based convenience breakfast meals in overweight premenopausal women. Nutr J. 2015;14:17
  2. Fulgoni 3rd VL. Current protein intake in America: analysis of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2003–2004. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87:1554S–7.
  3. Rains TM, Maki KC, Fulgoni 3rd VL, Auestad N. Protein intake at breakfast is associated with reduced energy intake at lunch: an analysis of NHANES 2003–2006. FASEB J. 2013;27:349.7.
  4. Kant AK, Graubard BI. Secular trends in patterns of self-reported food consumption of adult Americans: NHANES 1971–1975 to NHANES 1999–2002. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;84:1215–23.
  5. Blondin SA, Anzman-Frasca S, Djang HC, Economos CD. Breakfast consumption and adiposity among children and adolescents: an updated review of the literature. Ped Obes. 2016;11:333-348.
  6. Leidy HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM, Hoertel HA. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping”, late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:677–88.
  7. Fallaize R, Wilson L, Gray J, Morgan LM, Griffin BA. Variation in the effects of three different breakfast meals on subjective satiety and subsequent intake of energy at lunch and evening meal. Eur J Nutr. 2013;52:1353–9.
  8. Vander Wal JS, Marth JM, Khosla P, Jen KL, Dhurandhar NV. Short-term effect of eggs on satiety in overweight and obese subjects. J Am Coll Nutr. 2005;24:510–5.
  9. Leidy HJ, Racki EM. The addition of a protein-rich breakfast and its effects on acute appetite control and food intake in ‘breakfast-skipping’ adolescents. Int J Obes (Lond). 2010;34:1125–33.
  10. Ratliff J, Leite JO, de Ogburn R, Puglisi MJ, VanHeest J, Fernandez ML. Consuming eggs for breakfast influences plasma glucose and ghrelin, while reducing energy intake during the next 24 hours in adult men. Nutr Res. 2010;30:96–103.
  11. Clegg M, Shafat A. Energy and macronutrient composition of breakfast affect gastric emptying of lunch and subsequent food intake, satiety and satiation. Appetite. 2010;54:517–23.
  12. Karatsoreos IN, Thaler JP, Borgland SL, Champagne FA, Hurd YL, Hill MN. Food for thought: hormonal, experiential, and neural influences on feeding and obesity. J Neurosci. 2013;33:17610–6.
  13. Probst A, Humpeler S, Heinzl H, Blasche G, Ekmekcioglu C. Short-term effect of macronutrient composition and glycemic index of a yoghurt breakfast on satiety and mood in healthy young men. Forsch Komplementmed. 2012;19:247–51.
  14. Bertenshaw EJ, Lluch A, Yeomans MR. Satiating effects of protein but not carbohydrate consumed in a between-meal beverage context. Physiol Behav. 2008;93:427–36.
  15. Johnstone AM, Stubbs RJ, Harbron CG. Effect of overfeeding macronutrients on day-to-day food intake in man. Eur J Clin Nutr. 1996;50:418–30.
  16. Clifton PM, Condo D, Keogh JB. Long term weight maintenance after advice to consume low carbohydrate, higher protein diets–a systematic review and meta analysis. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2014;24:224–35.
  17. Leidy HJ, Carnell NS, Mattes RD, Campbell WW. Higher protein intake preserves lean mass and satiety with weight loss in pre-obese and obese women. Obesity. 2007;15:421–9.
  18. Belza A, Ritz C, Sorensen MQ, Holst JJ, Rehfeld JF, Astrup A. Contribution of gastroenteropancreatic appetite hormones to protein-induced satiety. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013;97:980–9.
  19. Batterham RL, Heffron H, Kapoor S, Chivers JE, Chandarana K, Herzog H, et al. Critical role for peptide YY in protein-mediated satiation and body-weight regulation. Cell Metab. 2006;4:223–33.
  20. Blom WA, Lluch A, Stafleu A, Vinoy S, Holst JJ, Schaafsma G, et al. Effect of a high-protein breakfast on the postprandial ghrelin response. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83:211–20.

Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Blue Apron or HelloFresh?

Posted by James on 12/28/2017 | Comment

Wondering if Blue Apron or HelloFresh makes sense for you? Well, it depends.

As it becomes more and more difficult to find time during the week to take a trip to the local grocery store, consumers have turned to online grocery shopping and delivery services. Although companies, such as Amazon, Walmart, and Whole Foods Market, offer online grocery services for its customers, Blue Apron and HelloFresh, go a step further by providing exact quantities of its ingredients with wholesome and healthful recipes.

Blue Apron prides itself on its collaborative effort with chefs and farmers to make food more sustainable and recipes more delicious. Blue Apron cuts out the middleman, which helps to reduce the cost of each recipe. Furthermore, it allows consumers to cook from scratch, while helping to reduce the preparation time. From a sustainability and a convenience perspective, companies similar to Blue Apron and HelloFresh are great options. However, when looking at the prices, it may not be a great option for everyone.

If you are someone who buys ingredients in bulk and uses these ingredients before its expiration, you are better off sticking to your traditional ways. However, if your time is limited, and/or you have a tendency to waste ingredients, Blue Apron or HelloFresh may be the right fit for you. For example, Blue Apron is priced at $8.74/serving, while AmazonFresh, Walmart Grocery, and Whole Foods Market are priced significantly higher at $13.80/serving, $11.10/serving, and $17.23/serving, respectively.

Furthermore, if you and your family are looking to reduce the cost of dinning out, but are looking for a healthful and convenient alternative, Blue Apron or HelloFresh may help consumers find a happy medium. However, if you are one to use ingredients in multiple recipes, throughout a given period of time, it is better to continue buying in bulk from your local grocer, saving anywhere from $4-$6/serving.

Moral of the story?

If you are willing to spend more time and energy, in order to save more money, go to the grocery store. If you are willing to spend more money, in order to save more time and energy, visit Blue Apron, HelloFresh, or a company with similar services.

Below are charts demonstrating the cost of a particular recipe from Blue Apron, and the equivalent costs if one were to order from AmazonFresh, Walmart, or Whole Foods Market. For the recipe, visit https://www.blueapron.com/recipes/roasted-pork-broccoli-with-apple-cheese-sauce-garlic-breadcrumbs.



Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Instagram for Maintaining a Healthful Lifestyle

Posted by James on 11/07/2017 | Comment

Research from the University of Washington found benefits of Instagram users utilizing food photography as an approach to achieving and maintaining a healthful lifestyle. It promotes mindful eating among Instagram users, emphasizing the importance of eating with all five senses to create awareness towards positively nurturing your body. Food photography allows Instagram users to track and log their meals while going about their everyday lives, and has held Instagram users accountable for what, and how much, they eat.

There is an artistic element to photographing your food. It is an art in which anyone with a smartphone can succeed. The editing tools available create a world full of professional photographers. Enhancing the color, or changing the angle at which the photo is being taken, improves the creativity and quality of the photo.

Food photography creates a scene that endorses feelings around food by creating detailed imagery, such as the juice oozing from an orange, or even the crispness of your favorite apple. A picture of your mom’s casserole is so much more than just the actual casserole; it allows other Instagram followers to reflect on their favorite childhood dish. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Instagram followers are able to build off of other users to recreate old memories and experiences.

Achieving a healthful diet is one thing, but maintaining it is a completely different story. Many diet and weight loss programs fail, in regards to maintenance. However, Instagram’s visual inspiration is an effective approach towards achieving and maintaining a healthful lifestyle. It is a support program without the hassle of various program costs and unwanted public exposure. Using a variety of hashtags, such as #fooddiary or #foodjournal, draws like-minded followers together and promotes a supportive community, free of judgment. These communities support, encourage, and mentor each other to achieve one’s goals.

Instagram provides users with the opportunity to achieve and maintain a healthful lifestyle, in a way that is both artistic and enjoyable. Reflect on your current lifestyle and consider how Instagram and other social media sites may help to further improve it.


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Dietary Nitrates

Posted by James on 11/07/2017 | Comment

Whether you are looking to decrease blood pressure or improve exercise performance, dietary nitrates have been the talk of the town. Although the research is in its early stages, the findings are promising.

When dietary nitrate is consumed, it is converted to nitric oxide (NO), resulting in increased vasodilation of the blood vessels supplying oxygenated blood to the exercising muscles. Research has shown that this process increases the volume and speed of oxygen and nutrient delivery to the muscles, resulting in an improved maximum oxygen uptake. Also, NO allows mitochondria within the muscles to operate more efficiently, producing more energy per unit of oxygen. Berry et al. (2015) explains this alternative pathway as a backup system for NO production during exercise.

Although the research of Berry et al. (2015), Vanhatalo et al. (2010), and Muggeridge et al. (2014) states no significant difference in heart rate, significant evidence suggests that the benefits of dietary nitrate can increase plasma nitrite, improve exercise performance, and decrease resting systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Berry et al., 2015). Other benefits include improved circulation, increased energy and brain activity, prevention of chronic disease, detoxification, boosted blood levels, delayed aging, improved mental health, and an increased ability to fight free radicals and inflammation (Berry et al., 2015).

Additionally, Vanhatalo et al. (2010) found that dietary nitrate supplementation may prove to be a therapeutic agent for the treatment of hypertension. Hypertensive participants have shown that a 5 mmHg reduction in blood pressure has the potential of reducing the incidence of stroke by 22% and coronary heart disease by 16%.

Efficacy of dietary nitrite supplementation is dependent on factors such as the age, health, diet, and fitness training status of an individual. Other factors include the intensity, duration, and nature of the exercise task.

Highest levels of dietary nitrate are found in vegetables, including celery, beets, arugula, and spinach. However, certain methods of preparing vegetables, such as boiling, may result in nitrate losses.

Increasing your dietary nitrate intake can be easily accomplished by adding beets to your smoothies, using spinach and arugula in your salad, snacking on celery and peanut butter, or stir frying root vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli.


Berry, M. J., Justus, N. W., Hauser, J. I., Case, A. H., Helms, C. C., Basu, S., & …Miller, G. D. (2015) Dietary nitrate supplementation improves exercise performance and decreases blood pressure in COPD patients. Nitric Oxide, 48(A critical examination of the ergogenic/therapeutic effects of supplementation to increase nitric oxide bioavailability), 22-30. doi:10.1016/j.niox.2014.10.007

Muggeridge, D. J., F. Howe, C. C., Spendiff, O., Pedlar, C., James, P. E., & Easton, C. (2014). A Single Dose of Beetroot Juice Enhances Cycling Performance in Stimulated Altitude. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 46(1), 143-150 8p. doi:10.1249/MSS.0b013e3182a1dc51

Vanhatalo, A., Bailey, S. J., Blackwell, J. R., DiMenna, F. J., Pavey, T. G., Wilkerson, D. P., & … Jones, A. M. (2010). Acute and chronic effects of dietary nitrate supplementation on blood pressure and the physiological responses to moderate-intensity and incremental exercise. American Journal of Physiology (Consolidated),(4), 1121. doi:10.1152/ajpregu.00206.2010


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Bone Health and Fall Prevention

Posted by James on 10/26/2017 | Comment

How can we reduce the incidence of bone fractures?

Can it be as simple as preventing a fall?

The most common sites of bone fractures are the spine, hip and pelvis, and the wrist. 90% of hip and wrist fractures and 50% of spine fractures are due to falls. Even more, 1 in 3 adults over the age 65 falls each year and 1 in 2 adults over 80 falls each year.

And yet, the alarming statistics continue. As many as 20% will die within a year of suffering a hip fracture, 25% will no longer be able to live independently, and only 40% will regain pre-fracture level of independent movement.

Fall prevention can be accomplished by removing environmental hazards, having regular vision tests, reviewing medications with physicians, and engaging in regular exercise, including dance, tai chi, medicine ball tosses, Pilates, and heal raises, to improve flexibility and strengthen muscles.

Aside from fall prevention, promotion of bone health through diet and dietary supplements, exercise, and bone-sparing medication, are known to be beneficial. Specifically, dietary recommendations include eating sufficient food, ample protein, plenty of fruits and vegetables, soy foods, foods rich in omega-3 fatty acids, and an adequate calcium and vitamin D intake.

If you are curious about your risk of bone fracture, below are two predictive risk assessment tools:

Women’s Health Initiative Hip Fracture Risk Calculator at http://hipcalculator.fhcrc.org/
World Health Organization Fracture Risk Assessment Tool at http://www.shef.ac.uk/FRAX

Support your bones. They support you.


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University

Less is More

Posted by James on 10/07/2017 | Comment

The less ingredients, the better.

Snacks with 5 Ingredients or Less

Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University


Posted by James on 10/07/2017 | Comment

Fat is commonly known to be stubborn, unwelcomed, and misunderstood. We tend to demonize fat and blame it for the high rates of obesity and diabetes. Is fat a scapegoat? Or is it truly something we should fear? Sylvia Tara, the author of, The Secret Life of Fat, explained her frustrations with watching people around her eat whatever, and whenever, they want, while preserving their thin stature. This motivated her to learn the ins and outs of fat. While speaking to Tom Ashbrook from On Point, she explained, “Fat is not just fat.” Fat is an endocrine organ that produces hormones that are vital to our health. She encourages working with your fat, rather than against it. David Ludwig, a professor at Harvard Medical School states, “Body fat is so much more than a passive calorie storage depot,” (The Secret Life of Fat, 2017). Fat has the unique ability to use stem cells to “regenerate, increase our appetite,…and use bacteria, genetics, and viruses to expand itself,” (The Secret Life of Fat, 2017). Our body needs fat and we possess many defense mechanisms to protect and hold on to it.

Fat releases a hormone, known as leptin, which regulates appetite and metabolism. A major reason why people lose weight and quickly gain it back is because once fat is lost, leptin levels decrease, resulting in an increase in appetite and a decrease in metabolism.

Therefore, maintaining weight loss is often harder than the actual process of losing weight. After losing weight, it is important to reduce caloric intake by 22% in order to keep off the weight. For example, take someone who is naturally 150 pounds and compare their overall caloric intake to someone who originally was 170 pounds but who lost 20 pounds and is now 150 pounds. The person who is naturally 150 pounds can have an overall higher caloric intake than the person who lost 20 pounds and currently the same weight.

Not only is fat an energy reserve for our body, but also is crucial for brain, immune, and reproductive health. Sylvia Tara explains how brain volume is related to fat. Brain growth and development relies on adequate leptin levels. Furthermore, behaviors can often be different in those with lower levels of leptin. So what causes leptin levels to deplete? Either the loss of fat through behavior and lifestyle change, or from a genetic defect.

Fat is also important for immune health. Immune cells, known as T cells, have receptors for the hormone leptin, which help increase activity and propagation of these immune cells. If there is a low level of leptin, there are fewer T cells, causing you to become more prone to infection. As previously mentioned, the reason for low levels of leptin is either behavioral or genetic.

Reproductive health is also dependent on fat because fat produces estrogen. Oftentimes, when there is too little fat, there is a delay in puberty or even a loss in menstrual cycles, resulting in the inability to conceive.

Other factors besides diet and exercise that effect fat, are age and gender. Typically, men are more prone to have less fat than women. Also, as you age, you begin to lose hormones that are important for burning fat. For instance, a 65 year old woman would have different needs than a 25 year old man.

Research on fat remains controversial, however, there are certain views that are agreed upon. Most health professionals agree with the following:

1) Saturated fatty acids should be limited to 10% of total calories

2) Saturated fat should be substituted for polyunsaturated fats

3) Replacing fat with refined carbohydrates can equally be, if not more so, damaging to the body.

It is important to note that the research is ambiguous. As health professionals, we do not hold all the answers, and that can be scary. But as the field of nutrition grows, and the science and technology improves, we will have a better understanding on fat. With that being said, be cautious of fat, but do not be fearful of it. Focus on your overall dietary pattern, rather than specific nutrients in each individual food, and remind yourself that fat is important.


New Research Reveals Deep Truths About Fat. (2017). Retrieved August 11, 2017, from http://www.wbur.org/onpoint/2017/01/03/weight-loss-fat-science

The Secret Life of Fat by Sylvia Tara PhD. (2017). Retrieved August 11, 2017, from http://thesecretlifeoffat.com/

Zelman, K. (2011). The Great Fat Debate: A Closer Look at the Controversy– Questioning the Validity of Age-Old Dietary Guidance. Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 111(5), 655-658. Retrieved August 11, 2017, fromhttps://doi.org/10.1016/j.jada.2011.03.026.


Written by Nicole Lindel ~ Nutrition Education Master’s Student at Columbia University