Veggie Vitals: Beans Won’t String You Along

GreenBeansGreen beans are a favorite of my family – well I should say home grown and home canned green beans are a favorite.  I made the mistake a few years ago of picking up some store brand green beans and well let’s just say that the words blah and yuck were heard quite a bit that day.  Anyway, green beans are a favorite and actually one of the few “green” veggies that my husband will eat.  So, I got to wondering what kind of health benefit they had to offer.

Low in calories and no saturated fats – approximately 31 calories per serving.

Dietary Fiber – one serving equates to 14-16% of the recommended daily allowance.  Fiber helps to protect the mucous membrane in the colon by decreasing its exposure to toxic substances.

Vitamin A – Helps to protect against aging.

Vitamin C – helps to speed up the healing of cuts and bruises and is important when it comes to cancer prevention.

Vitamin K – This vitamin plays a prominent role in blood clotting and healing of wounds.  It also aids in absorption of calcium and maintaining strong bones in the elderly.

Flavonoids – aid in the reduction of heart disease.

Silicon – a key element in bone regeneration and overall bone health.

Chlorophyll – which can block the carcinogenic effects of that result when grilling meats at high temperatures.  Good to know with summer approaching.

While fresh is best, benefits can be still obtained from frozen or canned.  If you do opt for the canned version make sure to rinse and drain to reduce the sodium content.

Veggie Vitals – I do not like broccoli

bush-broccoli“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.” George H. W. Bush

The above quote was made when then President Bush banned broccoli from being served on Air Force One.  While I can certainly understand not like something – sauerkraut has never been served in my home – President Bush was definitely missing out on a good thing with broccoli.  It has been touted as a super vegetable.

  • Potassium – helps maintain a healthy nervous system and optimal brain function, promote regular muscle growth
  • Magnesium and calcium – helps regulate blood pressure
  • Vitamin C – fights free radicals and effective antihistamine for easing discomfort of common cold
  • Vitamin K and calcium – important for bone health and prevention of osteoporosis
  • Beta-carotene, zinc, and selenium – strengthen immune defense actions
  • Glucoraphanin – processed by the body into sulforaphane which rids the body of H. pylori, a bacterium found to highly increase risk of gastric cancer
  • Fiber – aids in digestion, maintains low blood sugar, and curbs overeating.
  • Carotenoid lutein – helps prevent age related macular degeneration and cataracts and may also slow down or prevent thickening of arteries.
  • B6 and folate reduce risk of atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.

So, before you side with President Bush and ban broccoli from your home, consider the many health benefits this vegetable offers.  Maybe with a little bit of garlic and parmesan cheese you’ll be able to consume this veggie and reap the benefits of this super food.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Veggie Vitals: Carrots are a Punishment

I don’t know about you, but carrots seem to be the number one diet food.  Going on a diet?  Stock up on carrots.  Which might be why my co-worker views carrots as a punishment and not a pleasure.

Carrots, however, should not be reserved for diets alone.  They provide a number of health benefits that can be enjoyed year round.carrots

  • Improves vision – beta-carotene is converted into Vitamin A in the liver and the vitamin A is then transformed by the retina to rhodopsin which is necessary for night vision.
  • Helps prevent cancer – Studies have shown a reduction in the risk of lung cancer, breast cancer and colon cancer.
  • Slows down aging – beta-carotene acts as an antioxidant to cell damage done to the body through regular metabolism.
  • Promotes healthier skin – vitamin A and antioxidants protects the skin from sun damage. Helps prevent infection – shredded raw or boiled and mashed can be used on cuts.
  • Prevents heart disease – Studies have shown diets high in carotenoids are associated with a lower risk of heart disease.
  • Cleanses the body – Vitamin A assists the liver in flushing toxins from the body.
  • Protects teeth and gums – They scrape off plaque and food particles and stimulate gums.
  • Prevents stroke – Studies show that people who are more than 6 carrots a week are less likely to suffer a stroke than those who ate 1 or less.

So, go ahead and “punish” yourself by eating carrots.  The health benefits make it definitely worth it.

 

Veggie Vitals: To Beet or Not To Beet

A couple of years ago I went to a healthy cooking demonstration here on campus.  The goal of the demo was to introduce different ways that veggies could be incorporated into a meal.  They started out with a beet smoothie.  Beets were not something that I had incorporated into my diet at that time, but I’m always game to try new things and I like smoothies, so I gave it a try.

Now, before allowing us to sample the smoothie they instructed us that we should carefully wash the beets and they recommended peeling it to remove the earthly taste.  They also suggested adding strawberries or some other fruit to add a bit of sweetness. They passed round the samples for us to try and well let’s just say I was not impressed.  To be honest I felt it tasted like dirt.  Blah!  Needless to say I was not enamored with the beet.

Fast forward a couple of years and I have joined an organic co-op, where they deliver a bag of fresh veggies to me every week.  And one week – yes, they include beets.  Not just the bottom portion which is what I would have considered to be the beet, but the whole plant, leafy greens included.  I must admit I was baffled.  Why not cut off the greens?  Were they just being lazy?  Or is this part of the organic thing – to give you the whole plant?

I did a bit of research and found that the whole plant is edible and that the greens offer benefits as well as the bulb or root.  Here are some of the health benefits of a beet as a whole:

raw-beets-6

  • Low in calories with zero cholesterol and a small amount of fat
  • Rich source of glycine betaine which can lower your risk for coronary heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular diseases.
  • Raw beets (ugh, think dirt) are an excellent source of folates which are necessary for DNA synthesis within cells. Cooking, however, significantly reduces the folate levels.
  • Rich source of B-complex vitamins.
  • Moderate levels of potassium which lowers heart rate and regulates metabolism
  • The greens are an excellent source of vitamin C which is a powerful antioxidant.
  • The greens are an excellent source of carotenoids, flavonoids antioxidants, and vitamin A which is required for maintaining healthy mucus membranes and skin and is essential for vision.

I have now embraced the beet, all of it, bulb/root and greens.  I, however, choose to roast the bulb with a bit of olive oil and garlic powder.  This removes the earthy taste and actually makes it kind of sweet.  The greens – those I put into a smoothie with a banana and berries.  Much, much better than the bulb!

I should caution you, however, that there is a very noticeable side effect from eating beets.  A day or so after consumption you will see a noticeable color change in your stool and potentially in your urine as well.

Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Go ahead – Eat the Ears, Dark Chocolate is Good for You

Bunny Ears

I have always been a fan of chocolate. Ok, so maybe an obsessed fan.  With Easter approaching, and of course, chocolate bunnies, chocolate eggs, and well just CHOCOLATE in general, I thought – hey how about a blog on the benefits of chocolate.  Imagine my surprise when I learned that dark chocolate – my favorite, by the way – is included in the Healing Foods Pyramid.  This particular pyramid focuses on foods that have healing properties and essential nutrients.

Dark chocolate has been shown to:

  • Decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • Reduce risk of blood clots
  • Increase blood flow in arteries and the heart
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improve mood and pleasure
  • Protect your skin
  • Decrease inflammation
  • And, believe it or not, those who eat a little bit every day have lower BMIs (body mass index) than those who don’t.

Of course, you do have to consider the chocolate that you are eating in order to realize the health benefits.  Turn over that chocolate bar and check out the ingredients.  Make sure the first item listed is cocoa and that it contains at least 60%. Try to avoid anything that contains the words hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated.

And don’t forget, chocolate does contain a lot of calories.  Try to limit it to no more than 1 ounce a day, which should be about one ear of that chocolate bunny.  Enjoy!

https://www.med.umich.edu/umim/food-pyramid/dark_chocolate.htm

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Nibble Nuts in the New Year

What is the deal with nuts?  Since when did nuts, and pistachios in particular, rate their own commercials?

As it turns out, there’s a good reason to include nibbling nuts as one of your resolutions this year.  They can help you live longer.  Take a look and see how….

 

What’s up with Vitamin D?!

Vitamin D has been getting a lot of hype lately.  It’s been in the news, docs are talking about it, and we at Student Health Services even offer an OIY (Order it Yourself) Vitamin D test.  Vitamin D is something that is made by our bodies from the sun, so why is there all this talk about vitamin D deficiencies?

It turns out that living in Ohio is not very conducive for vitamin D production, at least not in the colder months.  The amount of vitamin D you can get from exposing your bare skin to the sun depends upon 4 factors:

  • Time of day
  • Where you live
  • Color of your skin
  • Amount of exposed skin

Time of Day:  Think of the whole sun rising in the east and setting in the west thing.  When the sun is rising and setting it’s coming at us from an angle and it turns out that is not a good thing as far as vitamin D goes.  When the sun is angled the atmosphere blocks the UVB part of the rays which are what produces vitamin D.  The closer to midday the better the angle and the more vitamin D.

Where you live:  The closer to the equator the easier is it to produce vitamin D.  Again back to the angle thing – the further from the equator the greater the angle and the less UVB exposure.

So, consider Ohio in the winter.  Yeah.  Far from the equator and the sun is almost always angled which means rarely is there an opportunity for UVB exposure.

Color of your skin:  Melanin in our skin protects us from skin damage from too much UVB exposure.  As a result darker skin with more melanin allows less UVB to enter the skin, meaning less vitamin D is produced.  The darker the skin, the more time that must be spent in the sun to product vitamin D.

Amount of exposed skin:  It’s going to take a lot longer to made vitamin D if just your face and arms are exposed than if your back is exposed.

OK, so putting this all together, and assuming that 25% of your skin is exposed and its summer in Ohio, an individual with pale skin that tans fairly easily would need approximately 1 hour of exposure to the sun during midday to produce 1,000 IU.  An individual with dark skin would need approximately 2 hours of exposure to produce the same amount.  During the winter, it’s not possible to make vitamin D, regardless of skin type.

Oh and if you’re thinking that you can hang out in a nice air conditioned sun room and get your vitamin D through the glass – forget it!  Glass blocks all UVB.

So, how much vitamin D do you need?  The institute of Medicine recommends that adults ages 19-70 get 600 IU daily.  Not a problem if you spend time outside during the summer, but what to do in the winter?  Vitamin D can be obtained from foods, but it’s nearly impossible to get enough.  Foods that contain vitamin D are:

  • Fatty fish
  • Beef liver
  • Egg yolks
  • Fortified milk and orange juice
  • Fortified cereals

The only other option is supplements.  If you choose to take a supplement make sure that it is D3, not D2.  D3 is what would be produced by your body when exposed to sunlight.  The amount to take varies depending on where you look, but a good rule of thumb is 600 IU daily. 

If you have concerns about your vitamin D or believe that you might be deficient, come see us at Student Health or schedule an appointment with your primary care provider.  They can test your vitamin D levels and direct you as to your best course of action.

For more information on Vitamin D, check out the Vitamin D Council website.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Mary Lynn Kiacz, M.D.

Medical Mythbusters: The turkey made me do it!

There are a lot of traditions at Thanksgiving; turkey, pumpkin pie, football games, shopping, and of course “the nap”.   At my house dinner usually begins around two.  After the meal has been blessed, the football fanatics fill their plates and head to the family room to cheer on their favorite teams.  The non-football inclined take their plates to the table and kibitz.  About an hour or so later a quick glance into the family room usually reveals that the football fanatics have transitioned to “the nap”. 

The fanatics, of course, would argue that the turkey made them sleepy.  Turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan.  Tryptophan helps the body produce the B-vitamin niacin which in turn helps the body produce serotonin.  Serotonin acts as a calming agent in the brain and plays a key role in sleep.  Hence the myth that turkey makes you sleepy. 

But… tryptophan works best on an empty stomach and let’s face it, at Thanksgiving, no ones’ stomach is empty!  The turkey is competing with the potatoes, veggies, rolls, and deserts and only a small part actually makes it to the brain to produce serotonin.

The more likely culprit for the after dinner nap is a combination of things.  You have on a new fall sweater, dressed up for the relatives, which is making you a bit warm.  It’s the middle of the afternoon and the sun is shining through the windows causing you to squint a bit, i.e. close your eyes.  You’ve just consumed an enormous meal of 3000+ calories with significant carbs, and more than likely you’re a bit sleep deprived.  All of these together have the perfect makings of a nap!

So, don’t blame the turkey for that after dinner rest.  Instead, give thanks this Thanksgiving for the blessings of a wonderful meal eaten with family and friends and for the opportunity to catch up a little bit on your sleep.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

To supplement or not to supplement – Creatine

 

I grew up in the “No pain, no gain” era, meaning that if you wanted to become stronger, faster, whatever you had to work at it.  You had to do the reps, run the sprints, you had to sweat.  Now, however, it seems that more and more people want to skip the “pain”/sweat part of the equation and go right to the “gain” through supplementation.  One option people are considering for this short cut is creatine.

Creatine is something we already have.   It is a compound produced by the kidneys, pancreas, and liver and it plays a role in releasing energy when the body moves quickly or powerfully.  So, when you are sprinting or lifting weights creatine is involved.  It gives us the energy to do the lifting and sprinting and, like everything else, as we progress through our workout our creatine levels become depleted and our ability to keep pumping that iron or running those sprints diminishes.  In other words, we run out of energy.

The whole point of creatine supplementation is to allow the body to produce more energy and with more energy you will be able to complete another set of reps or run a few more sprints and with these additions you will become stronger and/or faster.  So, it’s not really a shortcut, it just gives you the energy to be able to put in some extra work and through that extra work you will see additional results.

Now, just because creatine is naturally produced by our bodies does not mean that taking it in supplement form is good for us.  As with any supplement you should talk with your doctor before taking it.  You should also be aware of potential side effects, such as:

  • Stomach pain
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramping
  • Diarrhea

Patients with kidney disease should completely avoid using creatine, and caution is advised for diabetics and people taking blood sugar supplements.

If you chose to take creatine supplements, you should expect to gain weight.  Initially this will be due to retention of water, approximately 2 to 4 pounds in the first week, but after that it will be due to an increase in muscle as a result of being able to exercise longer and harder.

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.

Reviewed by Kendra McCamey, MD

An Apple a Day – Fact or Fiction

Last year I participated in a study here on campus regarding apples.  I had always wondered about the ‘Apple a day keeps the doctor away’ saying and I liked apples, so I thought, why not.  When I signed up for the study I was told that participants would be divided into four groups.  Group 1 would take a placebo each day; Group 2 would take a capsule each day containing polyphenols, a type of antioxidant found in apples; Group 3 would eat an apple each day; and Group 4 would not only eat an apple a day, but also apple sauce and drink a glass of apple juice.  Lucky me – I ended up in Group 4.  Let me just say, that was a lot of apple.

The study was held over a 4 week period.  Prior to starting the study a blood sample was taken and I was asked to spit in a cup.  After the 4 weeks another blood sample was taken and again I spit in a cup.  I wondered about the whole spitting in a cup thing, but having read the results of the study it now makes sense.

And the results, they were fairly significant.  Those individuals who consumed an apple a day for 4 weeks lowered by 40% the blood levels of oxidized LDL – “bad” cholesterol.  This is what contributes to the hardening of arteries.  As far as spitting in the cup, they also found that eating apples has some effect on the antioxidants in saliva which has implications for dental health.

It appears that ‘An Apple a Day’ could indeed keep the cardiologist away.  As for an apple, apple sauce, and apple juice – that was a bit much. 

To read more about this study:

Submitted by Tina Comston, M.Ed.