Shopping for the healthiest foods can be a frustrating experience. Because of an abundance of media’s messages about “good” and “bad” foods, you almost have to have a PhD in nutrition to know what to buy at the supermarket. Thankfully, the solution for simplifying the grocery shopping experience is just around the corner. Some stores now have a helpful food labeling system. For example:
--Hannaford grocery stores have created a Guiding Star system that ranks foods according to the nutrients we want to eat more of (such as calcium, iron, fiber) and those we should eat less of (saturated fat, trans fat, sodium). Signs in the market place indicate if a food has one, two or three stars. The fact that 77% of the foods in the store do not qualify for even one star indicates how sub-optimal our food supply is...
--About 500 grocery stores nationwide are using the NuVal food ranking system. Look for NuVal scores next to the price tags on the shelves. For example, Kellogg’s Unfrosted Mini-wheats have a NuVal score of 91; in comparison, the score for Rice Crispie Treats Cereal is 8. The system offers an independent review of the foods; it was not developed by the food industry and is not biased.
As a result of being educated by these helpful food-ranking systems, consumers are shifting their shopping patterns. According to speakers at a conference sponsored by Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy, people shopping at markets with the food ranking systems are now buying more of the best foods, and less of the rest.Once consumers start requesting more nutrient dense and locally grown foods, the grocery stores will change what they currently sell. Here’s to better health!
Almondsand all nuts, for that matterare a positive addition to a sports diet according to research presented at this years annual meeting of the American College of Sports Medicine. For four weeks, elite cyclists enjoyed about 60 almonds a day (~450 calories) prior to meals. They increased their anti-oxidant capacity 43% after a time trial as compared to the group who ate an equal number of calories from cookies. They also improved their time trial distance by 5% compared to the cookie group. The bottom line message is: Food Works!!!
Too often I talk with athletes who are on the see food diet. They see food and they eat it. They pay no attention to the quality of the calories, but just to the pleasure. While eating whatever you want may seem a nice reward for hard workouts, the reality is food has a strong impact on both health and performance. The trick is to find quality foods that you totally enjoy. Almonds, anyone? Better yet, slivered almonds mixed with (dried) fruits (apricots, blueberries, pineapple, etc.) and yogurt for a protein-carb combination that both fuels and builds muscles.
As the days get longer, its time to start thinking about taking Vitamin D supplements. Vitamin D is called the sunshine vitamin; when sun shines on your skin, it activates Vitamin D. D is important for not only helping absorb calcium and enhance bone strength, but also helping to reduce the risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, MS, and numerous other conditions. If you live north of Atlanta in the winter, you should take vitamin D supplements (either D-2 or D-3 is fine) because the sun is too weak to make D between Thanksgiving and Easter.
Vitamin D was once thought to be abundantly provided by sunshine, but we now know that many people have low levels of vitamin D. Indoor athletes (as well as overweight people) are at high risk for D-deficiency. Even outdoor athletes have been found to have low levels of D, so be sure to ask your MD to have your D level tested.
According to Dr. Michael Hollick, speaker at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy Fourth Annual Symposium at Tufts University in Boston, consuming adequate D through your diet is difficult. Fortified milk and oily fish are the best sources, but they might supply only 400 of the recommended 1,000 IUs of D per day.
He recommends taking 1,000 IUs of vitamin D-2 or D-3, especially if you live north of Atlanta during the winter months.