Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Can Grass-Fed Beef Save the World?

This post is long overdue, since Allan Savory's TED video came out in March and I just now realized I'd like to share it. It's a really eye-opening presentation about the desertification (turning to deserts, not desserts, fatty) of our soil, and how we can reverse the problem using grazing cattle... the very same animals that we previously thought caused desertification in the first place. This desertification has been going on for thousands of years around the world, perhaps the most glaring example being the Middle East. The land that fostered the earliest civilizations 6000 years ago is, today, largely infertile.

So back to the man, Allan Savory, a Zimbabwean farmer and biologist who is best known for developing the holistic management system for grazing animals. In a nutshell, holistic management aims to replicate the natural prey/predator relationship... in nature, as a defense against predators, cattle would group together in large herds, and they would keep moving, never staying in the same place for too long... it was under these conditions in which the land was kept arable, and the constant movement prevented overgrazing of any one area. Holistic management is based on replicating this natural system by rotating cattle. Joel Salatin for example, who you may know from the documentary Food Inc., uses this method to produce grass-fed beef.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Problem With Salt Restriction

Every once in a while, you read something that just restores your faith in humanity. For me, a recent article in the New York Times did just that. Entitled "No Benefit Seen in Sharp Limits on Salt in Diet", the article makes the case that the latest sodium recommendations are too low, and that reducing sodium intake to such low levels could be dangerous.

Amen. It's about damn time. The newest sodium guidelines are ridiculously, stupidly, just absurdly low. How absurdly low you ask? The 2010 Dietary Guidelines set the upper limit at 2300 mg per day for healthy individuals, about one teaspoon of salt, and 1500 mg for those with hypertension or cardiovascular disease. Even more extreme, the American Heart Association feels that EVERYONE should shoot for 1500 mg. 

Maybe you don't know how low that is; if you've never tracked your sodium intake or read a food label then maybe you can't quite grasp it. So let me put it to you this way... the guidelines are so low, one study reports that only 0.12% of the population is eating a diet that meets the standards (1). That's 1 in every 833 of us! The average American eats about 3700 mg of sodium per day and has for the past 50 years (2). And our salt intake may have been even higher than that in the past (3). Hmm I wonder how we've all survived this long as a species when we're so blatantly overconsuming salt!?

Nope, these new recommendations just never made sense to me. But regardless of whether the guidelines are attainable, this New York Times article makes the case that a sodium intake that low can be downright dangerous. Interesting eh?? I thought so. So interesting that I spent the majority of my day at my food service rotation looking into it.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Why Your Growing Child Needs to Eat More Fat

The low-fat craze of the 90's just won't die.  I thought we were past low-fat at this point, yet every time I go to the grocery store I'm still bombarded with the fat-free message.  It's worse at Whole Foods, my place of employment. We even have a whole line of "healthy" fat-free salad dressings at our salad bar. And in my current school lunch rotation (part of the joyful road to becoming an RD), fat is being pulled from the menu like never before in favor of whole grains, vegetables, and skim milk.  New York City schools have gone as far to ban butter (!?!?). For the average consumer, the message is loud and clear: fat is bad, mmmkay? We've gotta eat more vegetables! Eat your broccoli, eat your salad! Throw out the butter and oil! Fat's killing the kids!

But there's a problem with that. A big one. Of course vegetables are full of nutrients, but eating them without fat renders their fat-soluble vitamins (mainly vitamin A) useless. And you do NOT want that, especially if you're a little cherub in the 1st grade. Read on now, ya hear?

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Women, Cholesterol, and Heart Disease: Three of My Favorite Things

These are a few of my favorite thinnnngs.  Sorry, nostalgia.

Women are not men. That should be obvious to everyone. Women have a different balance of sex hormones than men do, they have a higher body fat requirement, they can grow a baby in their bellies for 9 months, and they really like romantic comedies. Despite their inexplicable love for Matthew McConaughey movies, however, the scientific research world likes to pretend these differences don't exist. Over my years of studying cholesterol and cardiovascular disease research, I've noticed a bias here. But it's time to wise up... the research on cholesterol and heart disease shows a stark difference between the sexes. If you're a woman, and there's a 50% chance that you are, then you've been fed a load of shit. Here's why.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Is Subclinical B12 Deficiency Aging Us Prematurely?

I did a little research the other day on vitamin B12 for my Advanced Nutrition class at UConn, and I wrote this little blurb for our online discussion.  I thought it was incredibly interesting and something everyone should hear, so I cleaned it up a little and put it on the blog. Because everyone reads my blog.  Everyone.  You ain't cool.  

And yes, that means I have a higher standard for my blog posts than I do for my school assignments.  I don't know whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.  But it's definitely a thing.

A little background on B12.  It's the one essential vitamin that's only present in animal foods, meaning vegans are shit out of luck (except for maybe supplementing with algae... maybe).  It's present in just about every animal food out there, and especially high in organ meats like liver.  The problem with B12, especially as we age, is that there are a lot of things that have to go right for B12 to be absorbed correctly.  We need enough stomach acid, adequate pancreatic function, proper digestion and absorption in the small intestine... overall there's a lot of room for error, especially in older adults.  Even if we're eating enough B12, that doesn't necessarily mean we're absorbing it. 

Okay enough of that, here it is...