Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Eat More Seafood!

The FDA has worked with the EPA to come out with new guidelines that promote increased seafood and fish consumption in pregnant and breastfeeding women. Over the years, pregnant women have cut back on their seafood consumption due to fears of the mercury levels in fish being harmful to the growing fetus. However, most of the commonly eaten fish and shellfish are low in mercury and critical for optimal neurological development of the fetus. Low mercury seafood includes salmon, shrimp, light canned tuna, tilapia, catfish, pollock and cod. The FDA’s key message is:

“Eat 8 to 12 ounces of a variety of fish each week from choices that are lower in mercury. The nutritional value of fish is important during growth and development before birth, in early infancy for breastfed infants, and in childhood.” (1)

There has been extensive research indicating that fish have incredible health benefits and people that eat fish regularly tend to live longer and healthier lives. Fish and shellfish are extremely lean sources of protein, rich in vitamins, minerals, and many contain high levels of the omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA. Your body does not make EPA and DHA on its own, as it must convert these from plant-based sources of omega-3’s that you consume…but the conversion rate is low and typically inadequate, and low in men. The omega-3 fatty acids are shown to be anti-inflammatory and incredibly important for heart, brain, and eye health.

The goals of the new guidelines are to promote that people eat low-mercury fish 2-3x per week (8-12 ounces total), avoid the fish highest in mercury (tilefish from the Gulf of Mexico, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel), limit white albacore tuna to 6 oz/wk, be aware of fish advisories when harvesting your own fish, and stay within your calorie needs when adding more fish to your diet. Most white fish filets are about 4 oz, whereas when you eat a meal out you can easily get a tuna or salmon filet that runs you 6-8 oz.

The push for these new guidelines is because many pregnant women (and people in general) have completely cut seafood out of their diet. It seems that women were fearful since the FDA set guidelines in 2004 limiting seafood consumption to 12 oz per week. Many women were misinformed and instead of keeping their intake to the 12 oz per week, they decided to cut it out altogether. High intakes of omega-3’s through seafood and fish oil supplements shown to have a positive influence on gestational age and birth weight, which are important determinants of infant morbidity, mortality, neurological development, and risk for obesity later in life (3). In addition to eating seafood while pregnant, it is encouraged that people of all ages and life stages consume fish regularly to obtain all the health benefits. For children, choose smaller portions appropriate for their age and size.

Fish is usually the healthiest option when eating out at a restaurant (assuming it isn’t breaded and fried), and is a super quick protein to cook when you are running low on time. A fish filet cooks much quicker (5-7 min) than chicken breast, and is a great staple to have on hand in your freezer. I also encourage people to try some more exotic seafood, like calamari, and incorporate shellfish like oysters and mussels into your diet since they are great sources of zinc (important for your immune system & reproduction!) and iron. Don’t be afraid of the cholesterol in shellfish like shrimp since shrimp are virtually fat free and have no saturated fat. In fact, eating seafood, whole grains, and vegetables for dinner is a winning combo to actually reduce your blood cholesterol levels. Below is a chart from the Environmental Worker's Group of good and not-so-good seafood choices:


1. http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/FoodborneIllnessContaminants/Metals/UCM400358.pdf
2. http://www.ewg.org/research/us-gives-seafood-eaters-flawed-advice-on-mercury-contamination-healthy-omega-3s
3. http://www.hmhb.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/PNWG-White-Paper1.pdf
4. Hibbeln JR, Davis JM, Steer C, Emmett P, Rogers I, Williams C, Golding J. Maternal seafood consumption in pregnancy and neurodevelopmental outcomes in childhood (ALSPAC study): an observational cohort study. Lancet. 2007 Feb 17;369:578-85
5. http://healthland.time.com/2013/04/02/fish-the-fountain-of-youth/

Friday, June 20, 2014

Guest Blog Post: When Paying for Organic Really Does Make a Difference

Below is a guest blog written by Christine Case-Lo, representing Healthline, web-site that is a great resource for medical information and includes many helpful health tools.

Buying all organic sounds like a great idea. We all want to eat healthy, use more natural products, and have a smaller footprint on our environment. But the expense can get overwhelming. That coveted organic label sometimes can double the price of an item.

Is it worth it? What does healthier eating really mean? Is organic more nutritious or less harmful?

Organic food does not necessarily contain more nutrients than conventionally grown food. A 2012 review in Annals of Internal Medicine looked at forty-five years worth of scientific literature on the topic. Researchers determined that there was little evidence that organic food had more nutrients. However, that same review said consuming organic food reduced exposure to pesticide residue in produce. Organic meats were also less likely to contain antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Pesticides in Produce

Pesticide exposure is a real concern, especially for growing children and pregnant women. Pesticides have been linked to cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, ADHD, and birth defects.

The Environmental Working Group maintains a list of popular produce items ranked by their pesticide content. These twenty items are a good place to start investing in organic:

1. Apples
2. Strawberries
3. Grapes
4. Celery
5. Peaches
6. Spinach
7. Sweet bell peppers
8. Nectarines (imported)
9. Cucumbers
10. Cherry tomatoes
11. Snap peas (imported)
12. Potatoes
13. Hot peppers
14. Blueberries (domestic)
15. Lettuce
16. Kale/Collard Greens
17. Plums
18. Cherries
19. Nectarines (domestic)
20. Pears

The good news is the EWG also maintains a list of the “Clean Fifteen”. These are produce items that don’t contain a lot of pesticide. These are pretty safe to buy as conventionally grown:

1. Avocado
2. Sweet corn
3. Pineapples
4. Cabbage
5. Frozen sweet peas
6. Onions
7. Asparagus
8. Mangoes
9. Papayas
10. Kiwi
11. Eggplant
12. Grapefruit
13. Cantaloupe
14. Cauliflower
15. Sweet potatoes

 Antibiotics in Meat and Hormones in Milk

Organic milk and meat can be pricey as well. It might be worth it if you are concerned about exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria and hormones. The EWG recently reported the results of federal testing of supermarket meat. Tests showed significant levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in 81% of ground turkey, 69% of pork chops, 55% of ground beef and 39% of chicken breasts, wings and thighs.

How to avoid exposure? A 2011 study showed that poultry farms that converted from conventional to organic and who had stopped feeding antibiotics to their stock reduced levels of antibiotic-resistant bacteria. Meat raised without antibiotics is less likely to contain antibiotic resistant bacteria.

Many people purchase organic milk to avoid exposure to rBGH. rBGH is a hormone given to dairy cows to increase milk production. It is not given to cows on organic farms. However, doctors from the American Academy of Pediatrics did not advocate buying organic milk. According to the AAP, the bovine growth hormone found in conventional milk is not active in humans. Most of the hormone is destroyed during pasteurization.

Cows are also treated with estrogen supplements on conventional farms. The AAP states that the levels of estrogen in conventional cow’s milk are much lower than the level of sex hormones found in human breast milk. There should not be a high risk with exposure in children drinking conventional milk.

But organic milk may have some unique benefits. Studies have shown that full-fat organic milk, from cows that been allowed to graze, has a higher level of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3s are protective against cardiovascular disease.

Ultimately the impact of cows on the environment is considerable. The methane they produce from intestinal gas is a source of greenhouse gas. The AAP suggested that cows treated with hormones to increase milk production might actually have a lower impact on the environment, since fewer cows are needed to produce the same amount of milk.

Lean Green Clean

 Organic living isn’t just about food; it’s about reducing your impact on the environment. But choosing the “organic” cleaner, the “green” storage container, or “earth-friendly” weed killer doesn’t have to be budget busting.

Many pricy but toxic cleaning products can be replaced with white vinegar, lemon juice or baking soda pastes. Inexpensive glass mason jars are a great alternative to plastic storage containers.

Weed killers like Roundup containing glyphosate have been shown to be highly toxic in pregnant women. Killing weeds with boiling water, salt or undiluted vinegar is safe and inexpensive. Those are all effective ways to kill weeds without adding toxins to your environment.

Making the decision to go organic doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Every little bit has a positive impact on your health and the environment. Making smart produce choices, looking for antibiotic-free meats, and making your own cleaning products are good ways to go organic without breaking the bank.

-All 48 fruits and vegetables with pesticide residue data. (2014) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved June 8, 2014 from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/list.php#
 -EWG’s Shopping Guide to Pesticides in Produce. (2014) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.ewg.org/foodnews/
-Nutrition and Healthy Eating: Organic Foods: Are They Safer? More Nutritious? (September 2012) The --Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-living/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/organic-food/art-20043880
 -Smith-Spangler, C. et al. (September 2012) Are Organic Foods Safer or Healthier Than Conventional Alternatives? Annals of Internal Medicine. 157(5): 348-366. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://annals.org/article.aspx?articleid=1355685
· Benbook, C. (December 2013) Organic production enhances milk nutritional quality by shifting fatty acid composition: a United States-wide, 18-month study. PLOS One. 8(12):e82429. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.plosone.org/article/info:doi/10.1371/journal.pone.0082429
· Jakuboski, S. (July 2011) the Dangers of Pesticides. Scitable by Nature Education. Retrieved June 9, 2014 from http://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/green-science/the_dangers_of_pesticides
· Sapkota, A. (November 2011) Lower prevalence of antibiotic-resistant enterococci on US conventional poultry farms that transitioned to organic practices. Environmental Health Perspectives. 119(11): 1622-1628. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3226496/
· Superbugs Invade American Supermarkets. (2013) Environmental Working Group. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://www.ewg.org/meateatersguide/superbugs/
· Forman, J. et al. (October 2012) Organic Foods: Health and Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages. Pediatrics. Published online DOI: 10.1542/peds.2012-2579. Retrieved June 10, 2014 from http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/early/2012/10/15/peds.2012-2579.full.pdf+html
-Benachour, N. and Seralini, G-E. (2009

About the Author: 

Christine Case-Lo loves helping people understand more about health and science issues that impact their lives. Christine is a work-at-home mom, a writer and a special needs advocate. She has degrees in medical coding, bioengineering and pharmaceutical chemistry. Educational writing has been a passion of hers since childhood. She's been contributing to Healthline for two years.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Exercise increases the diversity of gut bacteria

If you are my client, you know I feel that exercise is just as important to health as eating healthy. The benefits of exercise far surpass just the fact that you are burning calories. Exercise is extremely important for reducing stress, increasing self confidence and elevating your mood, improving sleep, and SO SO SO many more things. Thus I always require that my clients are as active as possible- ideally getting in something cardiovascular EVERY day. The average person does not need a day off if you are working different muscle groups and are using a variety of ways to get in your physical activity throughout the week.

Below is an article that references yet another study that demonstrates how exercise is more than just about the calories burned, in fact, it can improve your microflora/probiotics/gut bacteria which I have blogged about previously: