Happy 4th of July! If you haven’t yet entered my Independence Day Giveaway, don’t miss out on a chance to win a $50 Target card! It is open until midnight EST tonight (July 3rd).
Here are 5 interesting nutrition stories of the week that caught my eye. Enjoy and drop a comment to let me know what’s on your mind.
30 states have 30% or higher childhood obesity rates
Scary statistics, and nothing to be proud of in my opinion. This data comes from a new report called F as in Fat – How Obesity Policies are Failing in America 2009 published by the Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) and Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF). Mississippi got the top honor for its 44% childhood obesity rate – that is nearly 1 in 2 children 10-17 years old is either overweight or obese. 8 of the 10 states with highest rates of childhood obesity are in the South. Another study of children 2-5 years old in low income families shows that nearly 15% of these children are obese compared to about 12% nationwide. It is not that we don’t know the reason for this trend – children eat junk food, they spend too much time watching TV or in front of a computer, they don’t exercise, and schools are not up to standard when it comes to providing healthy meals. Still, nothing is being done about it, and seems like we have no control over the expanding waistlines of our children. Clearly, childhood obesity is a problem we need to confront with all our creativity and resources since it has terrible implications for the long term health of our nation.
Animal fats linked to pancreatic cancer
In another study linking saturated and trans-fats to cancer, researchers from the National Cancer Institute found positive association between pancreatic cancer and fats from red meat and dairy food sources. Why the cancer of the pancreas and not any other? One theory blames the enzymes produced by the pancreas in the digestion of these fats. Another idea is that diets high in saturated fats lead to insulin resistance and increase in the risk of Type 2 diabetes, which in turn increases the risk of pancreatic cancer. There is no reason to panic and stop eating fats – in fact there are healthy fats that I have written about recently. Unsaturated fats and essential fatty acids are good sources of fats and should be a part of your daily diet in the right amounts. Same goes for children since these healthy fats are needed to support their growth and brain development. Besides red meat and dairy sources, saturated and trans-fats are present in many of the packaged foods, so you should check the label carefully before buying them.
Walnuts can cut cholesterol
Researchers from Harvard’s Nutrition department analyzed data from published trials which compared the effect of walnut-rich diets against control diets to conclude that walnuts can decrease the total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol(“bad”) even over a short period of time. Other benefits were antioxidant and anit-inflammation capacity without any negative effects on body weight. Granted that this is based on a limited number of trials and subjects, and that there may be other factors involved. Still, can’t argue with the fact that walnuts are an excellent source of unsaturated fat and omega-3 fatty acids, so overall they are very healthy. We usually add walnuts to our salads at dinner each night, which is one way we have been able to include them in our daily diet without much preparation. Do you have a favorite walnut recipe you would like to share?
Try this nutty 4th of July fruit salad
I really liked this recipe for a coconut fruit salad from Jenna on her Food with Kid Appeal blog. The red (watermelon), white (coconut) and blue (blueberries) colors are quite appropriate for a July 4th celebration! Coconut meat (the white inside part of a mature coconut) is one of my favorites since I grew up on desserts made from it. It is soft, sweet and very chewy with a rich texture. Coconut milk is also very delicious; you may have heard about it being used extensively in Thai recipes. She provides a lot of great details about the nutritious value of coconuts even though they are high in saturated fats and suggests to use in moderation. Coconut oil is very rich in these fats; it is widely used for cooking and even skin care in India. Because of its nutritional value, coconut is part of almost every major religious ceremony in India and considered to be a a valuable fruit.
Good health comes in small bites
Another great article by one of my favorite bloggers and Pediatrician Dr. Ayala. In Small Bites for Health, she writes about a recent study which looked at the effect of bite size and the chewing time on the amount of food eaten in one sitting. Small bites resulted in lower food intake, in fact large bites resulted in volunteers eating nearly 100 g more (or about 100 extra calories in the chocolate custard used in the study) before they felt full. Also they ate more when they ate faster so that the each bite spent only 3 seconds in their mouth compared to the 9 seconds in the slow eating group. We are a fast-food nation where food is eaten on the go and big portions disappear in our mouths within seconds while driving at 60 miles an hour! No wonder an average American consumes 300 more calories today compared to 25 years ago. We seem to “need” to eat a lot more than actually needed before we feel full and satisfied. A simple trick like a small bites and good chewing can help us reduce the amount we eat. Grandma’s advice eat slowly with small bites is still so correct after all!
Enjoy your holiday weekend! And let me know what you think.
Photo source – Spiralz on Flickr