Nutritional Antioxidants

antioxidant-rich-food-600x400

By:  Anna Bui, Healthy Aggies intern

Nowadays many commercial packaged foods and drinks are advertised as a “good source of antioxidants.”  We see the word all the time but most of us aren’t able to explain why antioxidants are good or even which foods contain them. “Antioxidant” has become synonymous with “good health.” But, what are they and how are they beneficial?

Antioxidants are compounds produced by the body and often found in fruits and veggies that can inhibit oxidation or “fight against” free radicals. To understand what an antioxidant is we need to understand the oxidation process and how free radicals are produced.

In the chemical structure of all things, atoms are surrounded by electrons (negatively charged particles) that orbit around in a layer called a shell. Each shell needs to be filled by a set of electrons through various types of bonds with other molecules. Free radicals are unstable molecules that do not have a full outer shell.  The primary source of free radicals are the normal metabolic processes that occur in the body.  We are also exposed from X-rays, sunlight, air pollutants, or smoking. Free radicals are everywhere! They become reactive and can be very damaging to our bodies if we are unable to eradicate them.  They can react with our DNA, can cause cell mutations, oxidative stress, aging, and promote cancer.

Since we cannot remove free radicals from our lives, we’re lucky that, as human beings, we have adapted a mechanism to counteract their effects – through antioxidants. Antioxidants prevent oxidation by donating an electron to these free radicals to make them less reactive. Not only can antioxidants donate an electron, they don’t then become a free radical themselves!  It’s amazing!!  Our bodies make some types of antioxidants but we can boost the supply through consuming certain foods.

Good sources of antioxidants in food include almost all fruits and veggies, dark chocolate, green and black teas, and legumes.  As of now, more research needs to be conducted on how many antioxidants we need to consume for optimal health.

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3249911/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/318652.php

Finals snacking – fuel to power through!

By Ruth Vodonos, Healthy Aggies Intern

Make sure to eat carbohydrates, it’s what your brain uses for energy!  Find carbs in grains, fruits and starchy veggies.  Whole food is best – e.g. whole grain toast with peanut butter and strawberries is better than a strawberry poptart.

Combine a fruit with a source of protein so you don’t have to deal with a sugar crash (finals are bad enough as is).

Combo examples:peanut butter apple

  • Bananas & Peanut Butter 

(add whole-wheat bread and make it a sandwich!)

  • Apples & Almond Butter

(for those with peanut allergies, any sort of nut butter would work!)

  • Berries & Cottage Cheese

Cottage-Cheese-Berries-720(a good way to get berries when they aren’t in season is to buy them frozen)

  • Any fruit & Greek Yogurt

 

 

More ideas:

  • Hummus & Veggies (esp. cucumbers, low in calories and fun to munch on)
    SweetPotatoHummus_PDS
  • Roasted Chickpeas, seeds or nuts to chew on (just stay aware of the fat content and portion size)

 

 

 

 

When spending long amounts of time in the library studying for exams, make sure to keep yourself from going hungry by packing these snacks for yourself beforehand. Good luck on those finals Aggies! 🙂

Thoughts for Spring

spring

By:  Zona Jin, Nutrition Peer Counselor

It’s almost spring break! If you’re planning on going to the beach, you may find yourself thinking about how you’ll look in a swimsuit. The fashion, fitness and media industries sell us a “thin ideal”. Although you know that many of the photos are edited, it is sometimes hard to stop comparing yourself to them. This blog is going to give you a few tips for body positivity.

Weight is just a number. Eating, exercising, and even drinking water affects the number. Our body is an amazing system that balances energy intake and expenditure, typically you won’t gain or lose significant weight in one meal or even one day.  It happens slowly over time when there is an energy surplus. Additionally, body composition plays a role in body weight. Muscles, bones and water are all heavy but are very important to our health and we want them to be strong and healthy.  If you inherited large bone structure or work out to maintain muscle structure, your weight may be higher.  Constantly checking the number on the scale isn’t a good thing to spend time on!

We are all unique. Appearance is attributed to genetics as well as environmental exposures. As we each develop into a unique person, our body develops into a unique body. Embrace your body the way it is, and appreciate what your body allows you to do in this wonderful life.

Body affirmation. We receive judgmental voices every day from the media and even the people around us. It is important to know that you are glamorous the way you are. You can choose to look in the mirror and tell yourself so, or put sticky notes with body affirmations on your bedroom door, notebook, or laptop to remind you.

Focus on the experience you had, not how you look on the pictures. Spring break is supposed to be a relaxing and fun time with the people you love (or yourself!) So be in each moment and just smile and be happy. When you act like a confident and happy person often that is who you become!

Try a new outfit without worrying how you look. We all have insecurities about our appearance, but don’t let that discourage you from trying new things. If the outfit makes you happy, wear it!

There are so many other commitments that need our attention, don’t let negative body image waste your precious time. Celebrate your body the way it is, and be the best version of yourself you can be!

Staying Motivated towards Health

checklist

By:  Haley Guadagni, Nutrition Peer Counselor

It is very common for anybody that is pursuing a healthier lifestyle to have ups and downs. However, if you’re someone that feels like you’re consistently falling off track, it might be time to rethink your source of motivation! According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, “there are two types of rewards: hedonia and eudaimonia.” In terms of healthy living, hedonia refers to the superficial kinds of things you might receive when doing well with your eating habits and exercise such as weight loss, looking better and feeling like you’re accepted by others more. Eudaimonia refers more to the feeling of overall well-being that you get from healthy living like having more energy, feeling productive and getting stronger.

Connecting your lifestyle goals to these “E-rewards” rather than “H-rewards” will motivate you much more to keep going on your mission to become healthier, and actually makes your brain less depressed! This is because receiving these rewards activates the ventral striatum, which is your brain’s reward region. It may be tough to switch over to this mindset when you’re not used to it, but here are my Top 5 Tips to Gaining a Better Mindset:

  1. Unfollow certain social media accounts. Or even better – limit social media! Constantly seeing pictures of other people’s bodies or even just lifestyles can keep us too focused on what a certain diet will make our bodies look like, or how many days a week we need to be going to the gym in order to look like someone else, which can leave us feeling discouraged and eventually give up on trying at all. If you do choose to use social media, try to follow athletes or people that inspire you with their perseverance or strength, not their abs.
  2. Surround yourself with encouragement. Having a gym or meal prep buddy can be an awesome thing! However, you want to make sure that the people in your life are encouraging you in a positive way and focusing on more holistic reasons for getting healthy, rather than just looks, as well.
  3. Think small, think sustainable. Making a lot of big changes at once may not be the best for sustainability of a healthy lifestyle. For example, many people decide that they’re going to go to the gym 5-6 days a week after being sedentary their whole lives, then wonder why it’s so easy for them to get off track. Of course this is going to be difficult! Setting goals that are realistic for you is key to sticking to them. When you start on a new goal, whether it’s eating differently or exercising more, think to yourself: “Will I be able to keep this up for the rest of my life?” If not, it may be time to rethink your goals.
  4. Make it fun! Eating healthy and exercising doesn’t have to be boring. Try out a new recipe, a new fruit or veggie you’ve never tried, pick up a new sport or active hobby! There are so many more options out there than you think – find what you like! This way you’re more likely to actually look forward to eating better and working out.
  5. Forgive yourself. If you “mess up” on your new healthy eating habits or miss a workout, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t give up! The faster you forgive yourself and accept that you can’t change the past, the faster you’ll get back on track. Plus, taking a little break can help you come back stronger. Remember, you’re only human!

Don’t know where to start in terms of living a healthier lifestyle? Come see a nutrition peer counselor any weekday – hours are listed on the Campus Recreation website!

Source:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-missing-rewards-that-motivate-healthy-lifestyle-changes-201603179301

 

My Chocolatey Valentine’s Day!

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By Clara Matsumoto, Healthy Aggies Intern

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate loved ones and often includes an iconic romantic gift: chocolate. In fact, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. Though chocolate is thought to be unhealthy since it is a “dessert”, some chocolate possesses health supporting qualities. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about candy bars like Kit Kat since the amount of processed, added sugar in those do more harm than good. I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate which should be 72% cacao or more, and is not processed with added fats and loads of sugar. Dark chocolate not only has a much more complex and rich flavor, it has a multitude of health benefits!

Dark chocolate contains beneficial nutrients. These include polyphenols and flavanols, plant pigments that protect the heart by supporting the production of nitric oxide in the vessel endothelium which helps them relax and improves blood flow, lowering blood pressure. Flavanols also boost brain health by increasing the cerebral blood flow to gray matter. Chocolate contains an abundance of antioxidants which help fight against free radicals, highly reactive molecules that can damage our DNA, and make our skin age faster. It is rich in minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. These minerals help aid in the production of red blood cells, boost the immune system and energy levels, aid in calcium absorption, and keep our bones strong.

Though dark chocolate offers benefits, it’s important to keep the portion small because it is calorie dense!  A recommended portion of chocolate is about an ounce. One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao contains about 168 calories, mostly contributed by fat since fat contributes 9 kcal per gram. The good news is that the fat in cacao has a good amount of unsaturated fat in it and the saturated fat (stearic acid) has been shown to have a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.  Palmitic acid, the other type of saturated fat in dark chocolate, does effect blood cholesterol levels, further enforcing that it should be eaten in moderation.

So when you are trying to figure out what to eat for dessert on Valentine’s Day, consider eating some dark chocolate. In small amounts it helps boost cardiovascular and brain health, fights free radicals, and contains beneficial micronutrients. After all, you deserve a sweet indulgent treat that not only tastes great and satisfies your sweet tooth, but also packs a punch in optimizing your health!

Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263176.php
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288165.php
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286839.php
  4. 4. https://www.thespruceeats.com/fun-valentine-candy-facts-521446
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/
  6.  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16774-heart-healthy-benefits-of-chocolate

Should you eat breakfast or skip it to make it to your early class?

 

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By Laura Lucas Pablo, Healthy Aggies Intern

You have your earliest class in the morning and all you want to do is sleep in as many minutes as you can forgetting that you also need to eat something. However, you tell yourself that you can eat after your class or wait until is lunch time just to get those extra hours of sleep. Starting with the obvious, we typically eat different foods a day at different times right? Breakfast, lunch and dinner,  but why should it be this way? Why is it so important to have our first meal of the day. As most of us know, breakfast is known to be the most important meal of the day but it might be more important than you think.

Why is Breakfast so important?

          Breakfast encourages healthier eating:  It has been shown that people who eat breakfast tend to eat 12.3 percent healthier throughout the day which can lead to losing weight or maintaining weight, if that is something that you are concern about, eating breakfast might help you achieve your goal. Eating breakfast also has been shown to maintain our blood sugar levels and prevent food cravings and issues with will power later in the day meaning that breakfast might help you make better decisions later on in the day. What happens when you skip breakfast is that your blood sugar drops even lower, as a result, you become hungry and have less energy. This sets you up to impulsively snack in the morning, often on high-fat sweets or to eat extra servings or bigger portions at lunch or dinner. A study from 2010 found evidence that people who skip breakfast compensate later in the day with more refined carbohydrates and fats and fewer fruits and vegetables, but when you eat breakfast, your body feels nourished and satisfied, making you less likely to overeat the rest of the day.

          Breakfast boost energy levels: When we wake up in the morning the sugar level that our body needs to our muscle and brain work their best is usually low, and breakfast helps replenish it. If your body doesn’t get anything in the morning, you might feel low in energy and most likely eat a heavy lunch consisting of fats and carbs as stated earlier. Glucose is the body’s energy source, it is broken down and absorbed from the carbohydrates you eat. In the morning, after you’ve gone without food for as long as 12 hours, your glycogen stores are low. Glycogen is the glucose that has been stored in your muscle tissue and liver where it is released slowly overnight to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Once all of the energy from the glycogen stores is used up, your body starts to break down fatty acids to produce the energy it needs. Without carbohydrate, fatty acids are only partially oxidized, which means that they do not have enough oxygen to transfer to the body which can cause reduced energy levels. Eating breakfast restores your glycogen stores and boosts your energy levels, as well as your metabolism for the day.

          Breakfast provides nutrients: Breakfast provides a significant proportion of the day’s total nutrient intake and offers the opportunity to eat foods full with nutrients such as folate, iron, B vitamins and fiber. Essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can only be gained from food, so even though your body can usually find enough energy to make it to the next meal, you still need to top up your vitamin and mineral levels to maintain health and vitality. So it might be a good idea to start eating your first meal of the day.

          Breakfast promotes heart health:Eating breakfast does not only increase your energy but also promotes heart health. Studies have show that those who eat breakfast tend to lower their risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In a study conducted among a group of men where they studied those who ate breakfast and those who did not. After the experiment, they found that men who reported they skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported they didn’t skip breakfast. Although this study consisted of men, it applies to women and to any races as well. Eating breakfast is a way to reduce heart problems but only when what we are eating is healthy. For example, if you eat a bowl of oatmeal with some eggs and fruits, it is a good way to start the morning since it gives you many health benefits.

          Breakfast can help with cognitive function: The human brain is a remarkable organ, it represents 2% of adult body weight, yet is the most metabolically active body organ. In order for our brain to function throughout the day, we need to give it the necessary nutrients from food. A research in cognitive performance in school children, showed that cognitive performance consists of a healthy diet, a diet that includes breakfast. This is because as mentioned before, when we wake up in the morning our blood glucose and insulin concentration is low and these can interfere with brain function. A study was conducted on children where they tested their academic performance, school attendance and mood. After they finished their study, it was shown that those who perform better were children who ate breakfast. Although this study was more focused on children, the authors stated it also applies to adolescents ages from 19 and above because as we develop, our brain is also developing so it needs that energy and all the nutrients necessary to function better.

          Takeaway: As college students, it is very hard to actually eat breakfast everyday either because we don’t have time or we go to sleep late and cannot wake up in the morning to prepare breakfast. But, I challenge you to eat breakfast with the right foods for two weeks and you will perform better during the day, not only physically but mentally.

 

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X17300045

https://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Healthy-Living/Weight-Management/Article-Viewer/Article/347/eating-breakfast-helps-weight-loss

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/most-important-meal#1

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breakfast

https://www.kelloggsnutrition.com/content/dam/globalnutrition/en_CA/assets/Docs/DCOutsert_Fall2011_FINAL.pdf

What do they use instead of Sugar and is it really any ‘Healthier’?

 

 

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By Rini Jablonski, Healthy Aggies Intern

You’re hungry as you walk past the protein bar aisle in the grocery store and think “this could be a healthy alternative to the delicious but sugary granola bars in the next aisle”. We’re all used to hearing that “sugar is bad”, so when you walk over and pick up a protein bar with only one gram of sugar, that’s great right?

One of the ingredients commonly listed on these protein bars is “sugar alcohol”. I have personally always thought that sugar alcohols are healthier than sugars because of this protein bar association. From a “cutting back on calories” standpoint, sugar alcohols accomplish the goal. But there are five main ideas to take away regarding sugar alcohols when trying to decide.

  • What are sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are not to be confused with artificial sweeteners. They are natural substances and are extracted from plant products such as fruits and berries. Their chemical structure is different from that of regular sugar, and some of the most common sugar alcohols you’ll see listed in products include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, and Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates.
  • Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories: This is because they are similar to fiber in that their chemical structure is harder for our body to break down. Because of this, they are not as easily absorbed by the small intestine. In addition, they do not result in a high spike in blood sugar. This is why sugar alcohols are becoming increasingly popular with diabetic individuals.
  • Sugar alcohols are better for your teeth: Unlike sugar, sugar alcohols are beneficial for your teeth. Bacteria normally consume sugar on your teeth and secrete acid that wears away at your tooth enamel. These same bacteria will attempt to consume the sugar alcohols as well, but because sugar alcohols are harder to metabolize, their growth is inhibited. That’s why you see Xylitol commonly used in gum. 
  • Overconsumption can result in digestive problems: This is a big negative and the main reason why these ingredients are not used in greater quantity. Because sugar alcohols are harder to metabolize, overconsumption of them can result in digestive problems, sometimes severe, like cramping, gas, and diarrhea. For those with sensitive stomachs, it is probably better to avoid sugar alcohols all together.
  • We don’t know the long-term effects: The use of sugar alcohols has only recently become popular. Further research must be done to determine the long-term effects of sugar alcohol consumption.

The takeaway: From what we know now, sugar alcohols appear to be a decent alternative to high-calorie sweeteners and do not present any immediate major health concerns. As with any food however, it is always best to be mindful of portion control and be conscious of the products you are consuming. Something containing sugar alcohol sweeteners may distract from the fact that the product has a very high fat or carbohydrate content. And as mentioned, we do not currently know the long-term effects of consuming sugar alcohols, so use the information in this article to make an informed decision about your food!

Sources:

https://www.ynhh.org/services/nutrition/sugar-alcohol.aspx

https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/counting-sugar-alcohols/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sugar-alcohols-good-or-bad#section6

https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-are-sugar-alcohols#1