Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Where Can You Find Useful Nutrition Information?

This blog post appears on Talking About Men's Health, a blog by the Men's Health Network, this month as the first of my monthly Men's Nutrition blog. Enjoy! - Nutrition Nerd

I always think that Mondays are the perfect day to start or learn something new. We've hit the reset button while out of the office over the weekend and Monday presents a chance to start fresh. Not only that, but researchers suggest that changes you make on a Monday are more likely to be repeated throughout the week. This blog post begins the first in a series of monthly Monday Fresh Starts where I will explore positive and meaningful ways in which you can learn more about your nutrition and health and take small, active steps towards the best possible you!

One of the most difficult obstacles to overcome in your road to a more nutritious diet and healthier you is knowing which sources to believe and where to look for them. In this Monday Fresh Start, I will be highlighting some important information to know and sources to help you make your fresh start.

Which Food Pyramid should you use?

The Food Guide Pyramid most of us have heard about was created by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and modified in 2005 to be more flexible for each individual. Additionally, there are multiple versions of this food pyramid that incorporate the needs of different cultures or food preferences. If you would like to learn about and use one of these pyramids, make sure to check out Healthy Living Nutrition Information for Men which gives handy tips on understanding portion sizes. It has very useful analogies!

As a Registered Dietician student, we are taught about this food pyramid and how to help individuals meet its daily requirements. My public health, cancer research, and nutrition experience leaves some doubts in my mind when I think about what seems “healthy” based on common sense, research, and what this pyramid recommends. I personally recommend taking a look at the Healthy Eating Pyramid which combines research from multiple disciplines and recommends a drastically modified food pyramid. I try to use this guide in my own life and have found that my mental attitude has become more positive and I feel healthier. It is wonderful to be encouraged to eat healthy, exercise, and feel healthy without having to worry about specific calories or amounts of food.

What is a Portion Size? A Serving Size?

I have always been confused by portion sizes and serving sizes. Recently, I have discovered why they are so different. The portion size (found on the Food Guide Pyramids) are created by the USDA and serving sizes (found on nutrition labels on food products) are created and monitored by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). No wonder they're so different! So if you were wondering, like I was, why the portion sizes of the food pyramid don't match the serving sizes on your food labels – it's because they are regulated differently and by different government agencies.

Where can I find accurate and easy to understand nutrition information?

There are countless websites touting nutrition information relating to the products they sell. It's important to seek nutrition information from independent sources that are not biased by the possibility of selling you a product. There are two main independent resources that I consult regularly:

Center for Science in the Public Interest has the largest circulation health newsletter, Nutrition Action Healthletter, that focuses on nutrition, health, food safety, and a variety of related topics. Each month's newsletter focuses on a specific health topic and thoroughly uncovers the truth about nutrition and health research, what we have already learned, and which areas are still left to be further researched. The back page also includes Food Stars and Food Porn, which highlight the best and worst processed foods. Although it costs a small yearly fee to subscribe to the monthly newsletter, their website is a wonderful source for independent nutrition information and includes many helpful guides, PDFs, and the latest nutrition and health news. They even have an e-Book on Six Arguments for a Greener Diet for those of us who are environmentally conscious and want to incorporate that into our eating habits.

Nutrition Data is my ultimate source for nutrition information. They have many easy to use resources and extensive nutrition information. As I learn more about individual nutrients in different fresh foods, I check what I'm eating in this database. Check it out!

Future blogs will be more focused on specific nutrition and health topics, but as part of National Fruit & Vegetable Month I wanted to make sure all the men who read this blog post have a place to start.

I hope all your Mondays this month are full of fresh starts!

  • The Nutrition Nerd

Nutrition Nerd

Feedback, Suggestions, Questions

Each month I will be exploring nutrition resources, specific foods, recipes, and how nutrition can easily and simply be incorporated into your way of thinking to improve you and your family's health. If there is a specific nutrition topic that is important to you, please send suggestions for future Monday Fresh Starts to nutritionnerdalerts@gmail.com

For more information between blog posts on this site, please direct your web browser to:

Nutrition Nerd on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Los-Angeles-CA/Nutrition-Nerd/100885132783?ref=ts

Nutrition Nerd on Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/NutriNerd

Check out these links:

Food Guide Pyramid - http://www.mypyramid.gov/

Healthy Living Nutrition Information for Men - http://www.hap.org/healthy_living/mens/nutrition.php

Healthy Eating Pyramid - http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/pyramid/

Center for Science in the Public Interest - http://www.cspinet.org/

Nutrition Data - http://www.nutritiondata.com/

National Fruit and Vegetable Month - http://www.ageducate.org/news/fruit-veg_month.html

Monday, June 15, 2009

Your Skin: The Other Nutrition Gateway

Your skin is like a secondary entrance into your body. It is selective (aka keeping bacteria and other pathogens out) but is also porous and can let both micronutrients (Vitamin D, Vitamin K) and harmful chemicals in. This means that what you put on your skin is just as important as what you eat.

We think about protecting our skin when we work with household cleaners, chemicals in the laboratory or industrial setting, and with fertilizers in our lawn. The warning labels on these products come from requirements by governmental organizations such as OSHA and EPA standards (originating from class action law suits or major incidents, in many cases).

The cosmetics industry (this applies to products used by both MEN and WOMEN), however, is "regulated" by the FDA. They do have some power over safety, but they do not currently require that any of these products be tested for safety before they are sold to us. Unfortunately, this goes for supplements as well. Although they seem to be gaining more regulatory power recently, we have to remember just how long it took Congress to pass any sort of bill that allowed the FDA to regulate tobacco. Imagine how long it will take for drugs or for cosmetics (which has only begun to be illuminated to the public).

However discouraging this may seem, there are many resources that we can turn to in order to educate ourselves and prevent harm to our bodies. Today's article in the New York Times highlighted the Good Guide, one of the great resources you can use to learn what is in all that lotion, sunscreen, makeup, and deodorant you are putting on your body and all those household cleaners, air fresheners, and laundry or dish washing detergent. It is still in an early beta version, but it looks like it will be an amazing resource! You can currently browse through tens of thousands of products. The Good Guide rates 0-10, 10 being the best for your skin and body.

Here are some others you can use right now:

Cosmetics Database: Learn what your deoderant, cosmetics, lotions, etc. are rated and search for low-rated products (this site uses a hazard scale from 0-10, where 0 means no harm and 10 is the most harmful) *My personal favorite!

California's Prop 65: The Safe Drinking Water and Toxic Enforcement Act of 1986 requires that the California governor updates a list every year of chemicals that are known carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) or that are reproductively toxic. There is a PDF of the latest list.

Design for the Environment: The EPA has really begun to start using their Design for the Environment label, which designates a product is safe for you and the environment. They work mostly with industry, but includes products such as CLR (Calcium, Lime, Rust). They sponsor CleanGredients, which helps the industry make safer, greener chemicals.

Do you know of any other comparable resources? I'd love to know what they are!

*I have placed all links that I used for my research within this blog post. I encourage you to learn more and to share your thoughts in the comments of this post!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I'm the Nutrition Nerd!

Hello and welcome to my blog! I hope you are having a wonderful day :)

I am a Registered Dietician student (with a Master of Public Health in Preventive Nutrition) who loves nutrition and wants to share it with the world. This is what I call the "Nutrition Nerd" brand. We all hear about:

in the daily media and from health experts. This is often only part of the story, called macronutrition (or large, easily identifiable parts of food).

But ...
What do these mean?

Why are they important?

The answer lies in micronutrition. Micronutrition is the study of the much smaller particles in our food that affect our body's normal and healthy functioning. Some examples are vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals.

I hope you learn as I learn and enjoy doing it. I will update this each week with a new micronutrition topic. I eventually hope to update once per day with the latest news and information. In each post, you will see:

  • a topic or molecule (e.g., fatigue or vitamin C)
  • what the experts say (Registered Dieticians, Nutrition researchers, Public Health experts)
  • what this means for the average person (How it affects YOU)

  • what you can do in order to improve your nutrition and health in this area (Do something good for yourself!)

I hope to see you here again! My first post will be sometime in June.

- The Nutrition Nerd

Nutrition Nerd

P.S. You can also find me on Facebook as Nutrition Nerd or Twitter at hashtrend #NutritionNerd, or under the handle: NutriNerd