March 23, 2012

What Was Once Bad is Now Good...For Now

Trying to keep up with health warning and suggestions is a frustrating pursuit. Not only is there more information on the Internet than anyone can possibly sort through, but it seems like the "rules" keep changing. i joke to Betty that if we wait long enough, I'll be able to start smoking again...for my health.

I thought it would be fun to prove the point by looking at recent studies that seem to contradict earlier reports. Of course, the more we learn the more we know. But, doesn't it seem as though we can never find something that is true and stays that way? here are just some of the recent reversals in what we thought was true:

Eggs are bad for us: Yes, and no. A couple of fried eggs for breakfast every morning remains a major health risk. All that extra cholesterol is not good for your heart. But, for most folks, an egg a day is not a problem. Because they are so low in saturated fat and have no trans fat, the minimal spike in cholesterol isn't a problem.

Calories eaten close to bedtime are worse than calories during the day. We have all heard the theory that food consumed too close to bedtime is bad. Your body doesn't have time to process the food before you fall asleep so all those extra calories become fat. Doctors say that simply isn't true. A calorie is a calorie regardless of when you ingest it. Maybe eating closer to bed time will make it harder for you to fall asleep, but 100 calories at 8PM is the same as 100 calories at 8AM.

Eating smaller meals throughout the day is better than the standard three meal approach. That may be true for some reasons, like maintaining  level blood sugar, but is not true in terms of weight loss. Yes, your metabolism cranks up a bit each time you eat. But, the amount for a small, mini-meal isn't enough to be significant. Forcing yourself to prepare 6 meals a day tends to end up with more snack and processed foods being eaten because they are quicker to prepare.

Coffee is bad for you. Past research has indicated that the effects of the caffeine can raise your blood pressure. There are some studies that say pregnant women should limit caffeine intake due to possible effects on fetus development. But, recent studies have painted a picture that is much more favorable. Coffee drinking may drastically reduce chances of developing type II diabetes. There are findings that point toward a major impact on preventing colorectal cancer, liver cancer and even Parkinson's disease in men.

Chocolate cases acne and is empty calories. New research is showing chocolate to be a tremendous positive for several parts of our body. Studies have shown clear heart benefits from better blood flow and improved bad cholesterol numbers. Dark chocolate has shown the ability to reduce high blood pressure. It seems to improve skin quality, increase blood flow to the brain, and allow your muscles to recover faster after a workout.

Wine is a no-no..too many empty calories and too much alcohol. In moderation this seems to no longer be true. Consumed in appropriate quantities wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease and some cancers. It has proven to raise your good cholesterol levels. Wine may even slow the progression of disorders like Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease. The key is to not over-indulge or the health benefits are lost and damage can occur. So, how much is right? For men, the current guideline is not more than two 5 oz servings a day or red or white wine. For women, cut that amount in half.

I found all sorts of other supposedly "bad" food that can be beneficial: vegetarian pizza, beef jerky (!), full-fat ice cream, butter, peanut butter, even pork rinds (loaded with protein and less fat than potato chips). The key is always moderation and balance.

My goal isn't to get you to abandon your low-fat, vegetable and fruit-based diet or pork rinds and chocolate. Rather, it is to remind us that "rules" are constantly changing. Health is a moving target that requires us to keep up-to-date and not assume the way we have always lived is our best choice.

That being said, it is time for my afternoon glass of red wine.

29 comments:

  1. Yep every time we turn around there is a new revelation about some food that was bad or good just the day before. I don't listen anymore I just eat what I like.

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    1. Sometimes I wonder what the people who said one thing was "true" only to learn later it was "false" think about the effects of their incorrect studies. They certainly meant well and worked with what they had. But still, I wonder how many continue to support their original findings....believeing that at some point in the future the pendulum will swing back their way!

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  2. Your sentence "The key is moderation and balance" says it all. And common sense. There are some things, tobacco for example (responsible for the early demise of both my father and mother), which probably have no threshold that would qualify them as safe. I know there are studies that indicate drastic reduction in caloric intake can measurably increase longevity and there are those who follow such regimens. No thanks. I'll try to stick an interesting and varied diet, not over indulge in the obviously bad things (but I WILL have the occasional juicy steak, hamburger, or decadent desert!) and get as much exercise as I can force myself to. I know that last one is the key to my health and happiness. Just returned from a 4 mile run (well, OK I did some walking because it was SOOO beautiful here in the Carolinas today) and it just makes me feel so good. But, for some reason as usual I had to cajole myself to get into the running gear and get out the door. If I could commit to that daily and stick with it, it would far surpass sticking to anything like some goofy soon to be debunked diet!

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    1. Like you, I wonder about my resistance to the exercise and routine I know will improve and maintain the quality of life I desire. I can find more excuses to not go to the gym! Even going out the front door for a simple 35 minutes, 2 mile walk around the park near our house takes a super human effort on my part.

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  3. Bob, it really is impossible to keep. whats worse, even the best evidence is sometimes contradictory. Red wine every night is good for my heart (yea) but puts me at larger risk for breast cancer. You simply cannot win sometimes.

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    1. I think about my grandparents who lived into their 80's and 90's and had no Internet and no studies to tell them what to do. Heavens, in their day doctors advertised cigarettes as good for you.

      A combination of genes and moderation was the advice they followed.

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  4. Allan,

    I feel your pain! I love my morning runs the moment I take that first step, but sometimes forcing myself out the door is just brutal. It's the ying and yang of our egos I guess!

    Bob,

    My spouse and I have gone vegan, and feel wonderful, but we definitely follow the 90/10 rule, meaning we stay with our vegan lifestyle 90% of the time, but give ourselves complete permission to deviate as it feels sensible to do so. We want the change to be about improving our quality of life, not a prison that we can never break out of!

    I find that I generally know already what is and isn't good for me by the way I feel immediately after eating. The information released by the media can be helpful, and a good motivator to change habits, but rarely does it surprise me. My physical reactions always let me know first, even if I'm resistant to making a change.

    And I know this posting is about diet, but being me I have to make a pitch for exercising regularly at 70% or more of cardio capacity. Regular, vigorous exercise is as essentially as adhering to a sensible diet for quality and longevity of life. Not only can it offset some of the damage caused by overeating or eating the wrong things, it's the only thing that can strengthen cardio fitness and directly benefit your heart. From the Harvard University website: "If you’re physically active, your heart gets trained to beat slower and stronger, so it needs less oxygen to function well; your arteries get springier, so they push your blood along better; and your levels of “good” HDL cholesterol go up."

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    1. Alan made reference to the studies that show a severe intake of calories seems to prolong life. But, like him I'd ask at what cost? Living is for living, not starving yourself half to death to live an extra 5-10 years.

      Exercise...we always come back to its importance, don't we. I could have a large slice of chocolate cake for breakfast and dinner and be fine if I exercised enough to burn off the calories and kept my HDL and LDL in line.

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    2. Pretty sure your comment had to do with living in a manner considered too restrictive by most, rather than about our vegan lifestyle . . . however, just in case it did, be assured we eat very, very well! Mushroom risotto, spinach lasagna, eggplant parmesan and vegetable fajitas just this last week alone. Each so delicious my spouse and I agreed we would have paid money to have any of them served to us at a restaurant. (My husband actually groaned with pleasure when he took his first forkful of the mushroom risotto it was so good! :-)

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    3. Yes, Tamara, I was referring to those who live on a very low caloric intake to prolong life, certainly not a vegan diet. Of the items you mentioned I have had all of them and like them. Spinach lasagna is one of my favorites. Maintaining a vegan diet (even at 90%) requires a lot of will power and dedication. More power (vegetable power) to you.

      Is there a particular website or two you can recommend for having excellent vegan recipes?

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    4. So far I've been making all of my recipes from two cookbooks, one vegetarian, the other vegan. The vegetarian cookbook is "Vegetarian. The Best Ever Recipe Collection" by Linda Fraser, purchased for $5.99 + shipping on Amazon.com. The other, vegan, is "Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero, $13.61 + shipping on Amazon.com. The vegetarian cookbook recipes are simple and delicious, and I've modified as I feel appropriate for vegan eating. The vegan cookbook is outstanding, everything is packed with flavor, however, the recipes are a bit more complicated so I use it primarily on weekends when I have more time to cook.

      You can also just modify your favorite recipes. My chicken pot pie is now potato/mushroom pot pie, our tacos still taste exactly the same using Boca for the meat filler, as does my spaghetti - using tofu-turkey sausage in place of the real deal.

      We've found giving up all meat, including fish, to actually be the easy part. Learning how to substitute vegan alternatives for dairy products took a little longer. We took about eight weeks to make the full transition, but it now all feels very normal to us.

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    5. And to jump on Tamara's bandwagon, another recent study showed that an hour of walking each day was enough to switch off almost all the effects of having the obesity gene (yes there is an obesity gene, and no, now you can't use that excuse anymore.)

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    6. OK, Syd, make me feel really bad! Just one hour? It doesn't even have to be continuous to work. OK, I can do this.

      Thanks for the info, Tamara. I don't think I want to be true vegan, but more vegetarian meals make all the sense in the world.

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    7. Did somebody say 'walking'? :) There is a great youtube video called "23 and 1/2 hours: What is the single best thing we can do for our health". http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aUaInS6HIGo It was made by a doc who investigated the benefits of walking 30 minutes a day. I'm with Syd on the hour a day though but that's only because I really really like getting out there and walking!

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    8. From a man who wants to enter 100 races and walk 10,000 miles I'd expect nothing less. I'm anxious to look at the video.

      Readers: check out Scott's blog. He is truly dedicated to the benefits of walking for your health..both mental and physical.

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  5. I have to just laugh when a new "study" comes out saying that product X causes cancer/diabetes/heart attacks/ad nauseum. As my doctor pointed out years ago, you have to look at the details of the study to see if the results are valid. How many people were included, how long, control group, etc. I follow the maxim 'moderation in all things' (plus the Weight Watchers point value for now). A splurge now and then is OK, because what is life if not to enjoy it? I don't want to live longer but be miserable or feel denied pleasures. My grandmother lived to 101 without following any nutritional guidelines.

    Thanks for pointing out the facts, Bob!

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    1. Portion control, limiting meat, staying away from junk food and drink, and exercise = a lifestyle I should be able to follow and enjoy whatever years I have left. My dad is 88 and claims he is just middle age. Considering the shape he is in he may be right!

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  6. Thanks Bob for the blog. I read everything that I can on healthy eating. It is confusing. Sometimes I just want to say wait I am through but I don't. A heart attack got my attention with that one. Thanks again for the information.

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    1. A heart attack will do that! My family has a history of heart issues so I am extra aware of the ticker and its frailty.

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  7. Agree with all the above comments. The X Factor ... genetics. I'm lucky We've always enjoyed exercise, oatmeal, and broccoli (and the dog needing 3 miles a day rain or shine helps the "motivation").

    We are currently conducting our own study to confirm the positive health benefits of watching Modern Family and eating Milk Duds every Wednesday! So far so good :--)

    A great weekend to all.

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    1. You may be on to something with the milk duds research, Rick. Personally, I am trying to prove that two naps a day are the minimum for a healthly and satisfying retirement. I think it is working. I'll let you know when i wake up from the next one.

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  8. But I just read about yet another threat to your health -- if you don't eat anything, you will starve to death!

    But seriously, moderation seems to be the key. Unless of course you're talking about ice cream.

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  9. Steve in Los AngelesSat Mar 24, 11:28:00 PM MST

    Bob: The above postings are very informative. I thank Scott for his posting about the wonderful benefits of walking. I continue to walk at least four miles a day at least five days a week. I really enjoy walking! This past Thursday, I estimate that I walked about twenty miles (which I do on occasion). When I go on long walks, I make sure that I have plenty of snacks with me and that I keep myself well-hydrated.

    With regard to eating, of course moderation is very important. I occasionally will have rich, high-calorie desserts. However, the overwhelming majority of my food is very nutritionally sound. My blood pressure is excellent and my low-density lipoprotein cholesterol is low. Lately, I have been having lentils as part of my evening meals (together with steamed rice). I also have been eating a lot of tomato-based foods. I rarely eat red meat anymore. Instead, I eat chicken and fish. Also, I now rarely drink any beverages with alcohol. Instead, I drink more grape juice, orange juice, and cranberry juice.

    I also commend you on talking about naps. I know that when my body tells me that I need to take a nap or otherwise rest, I pay attention to my body.

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    1. We had the grandkids and parents at our house yesterday to meet the new puppy and enjoy a completely evil meal of steak, baked potato, corn on the cobb, watermelon, and chocolate cake. It was a dual birthday celebration and set my weight loss progress back a week.

      Oh well, everyone had a great time together and the puppy made new friends. Occasionally, you just have to bust the rules.

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  10. Bob, on the subject of vegetarian recipes, there is a website you might like called Meatless Mondays, http://www.meatlessmonday.com/. They advocate giving up meat just one day a week to get used to being without meat and they have lots of recipes.

    I decided about 6 weeks ago to become a vegetarian. I'd wanted to for a couple years but going on my yoga retreat decided me. I lost about 8 lbs the first month. My husband was so impressed with that that he said he would try it too, during the week and just eat meat on weekends.

    We follow the 80/20 rule. 80% of the time we eat and exercise, etc but we don't beat ourselves up if we want to go out for ice cream or BBQ.

    I think everybody has to decide what works for them. If your health is not very good, then changes probably do need to be made in the diet and exercise part of your life.

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    1. Thanks, Joan. I will certainly check out that site. We only eat meat 2 times a week but we're certainly looking for a wider variety of choices for the rest of the week.

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  11. Very funny when you think about it. The cost to us in extra stress over all the uncertainty should be taken into account, too! I was thinking some of this applies to child rearing, too. I did things with my son that were conventional wisdom at the time but are frowned upon now. It's a miracle any of us make it to adulthood! And then of course, we can start worrying about all this other stuff!

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    1. We coiuld spend every free moment keeping up on all the latest studies and get hit by a bus! I read whatever these studies say but frankly don't do much with the information.

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