Plates, Pyramids, Pagodas! Comparing 3 Food Guides of Different Countries

By Sammy Seefeldt, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Food graphics are a tool for making food choices. Although most of the recommendations are similar, each graphic depicts the guidance differently.  Did you know that countries have unique graphics for their nutrition guidelines? I never had realized until recently that this is the case! The graphics have similar components but each takes into account the cultural preferences when placing the foods. Let’s look at three different guides, noting the similarities and differences, realizing the impact in each that culture has.

United States

You may recognize the food diagram of the United States– MyPlate. This guide is formatted as a plate highlighting the main food groups. The simplicity of the graphic is appealing. The plate guides individuals to have a meal filled with half vegetables and fruit, a quarter of grains, and a quarter of protein. Notably, this plate also includes a glass for dairy consumption. The uniqueness of the dairy portion may indicate the emphasis of dairy in the U.S. food supply. This guide does not indicate specifically what types of foods should be eaten more or less (whole grains, lean meats) and does not contain oils as a category; looking deeper into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans helps with additional guidance. Myplate.gov is useful for understanding this diagram… but do all Americans put effort into obtaining this extra information?

China

As you can see, China’s food guide is very different from that of the U.S. with more detail, differing placement of food groups, and extra items. The depiction of the food groups in the pagoda is culturally sensitive. In the base of the pagoda are the cereals, tubers, and legumes.  This part looks slightly bigger than the next level, but the total quantity of fruits and vegetables recommended is more than from cereals, tubers, and legumes. This hidden difference elucidates the importance of the bottom food group to the Chinese, similar in importance as fruits and vegetables to the U.S. Interestingly, the amounts and specific types of the food groups are shown on the right side of the diagram. This is user-friendly and provides more detail to fully understand the food choices. Sodium recommendations are much more generous in China at <6000mg vs 2300mg in the U.S.  Most obvious is the addition of physical exercise to the diagram. Do you agree with me that this is an awesome addition?!

Australia

Australia was a pyramid I had not seen until writing this blog! What caught my eye were the details of the graphics. For example, look at the “enjoy herbs and spices”, “choose water”, healthy fats, types of grains (quinoa, oats), types of milk (soy milk), and how lentils are both in the vegetables and legumes section as well as the protein section. These details are useful for vegetarians especially! The addition of what to limit was also something that was not included on the U.S. or China diagrams that I personally believe is a necessary component. What do you think?

Conspicuously, these graphics differ in many ways. Yet, each emphasizes the consumption of mostly vegetables and fruits and less dairy, protein, and carbohydrates. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every 5 years; what are some elements you would like to see on our food guide graphic in the future? What are elements from each food graphic (U.S., China, and Australia) that you like and dislike? Comment below!

What is Nourish?

By Hannah Squire, UC Davis Healthy Aggies Coordinator

Do you get overwhelmed with all of the ‘healthy’ food options around campus? Buzz words like ‘superfood’, ‘full of antioxidants’, and ‘whole food’ on labels can be confusing. Luckily, Healthy UC Davis has your back to     discern what foods are really full of the nutrients you need to function well, and contain less of the components that don’t really serve you! Do you recall the orange Nourish symbol around the dining commons, ASUCD Coffee House, or any of the markets? The Nourish guidelines are the ‘holy grail’ of nutrition information at UC Davis!

The orange symbol is about the Nourish Campaign which was developed by nutrition professionals as a funded project by Healthy UC Davis. The intent is to make it easier to identify and choose foods that are most nourishing to you. How so? This symbol is an indicator that the product you are selecting has….

  • MORE:
    • Fruit & Veggies
    • Fiber
    • Whole Grains
    • Healthy Fats
  • LESS:
    • Added Sugar
    • Sodium
    • Saturated Fats

For example, if you are looking for a granola bar at the Memorial Union Market, you could see the Nourish Symbol on the display indicating that the item has more of the recommended nutrients and less of the other stuff. This is one piece of information you can use to meet your goals.

Next time you walk into a food establishment on campus or at UC Davis Health, consider choosing a product that has the Nourish symbol next to it. You’ll gain more of the nutrients needed in order for your body to maintain its peak performance! For more information about Nourish, check out the Healthy UC Davis website!

Are there differences in nutrient supplements marketed for men and women?

By Elisha Aispuro, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Before I tackle this, you may be wondering do we really need supplements at all? Well… I’m here to tell you that an increasing number of health experts will tell you that they’re unnecessary and you’re better off saving your money for something else. Of course, there are a few exceptions, such as if you’re treating a specific deficiency, in which case it’s best to check in with your doctor and have the proper blood work done to determine your body’s specific needs based on your age, gender, and medical history. However, besides exceptions like the one mentioned, the majority of us don’t need the extra supplements as long as we intake a variety of different foods from within the food groups (grains, dairy, protein, fats, vegetables, and fruits). 

You may be thinking, what happens if you do decide to consume additional vitamins & minerals through supplements as a “just in case I may be deficient” type of thing? 

Consuming Excess Nutrients fromFound In Supplements

The most common thing to happen is your body will simply flush out the excess water-soluble vitamins and minerals. The biggestreal danger comes froman potentially come from consuming too many fat-soluble vitamins (A,D, E, and K). Our bodies tend to hold on to excess fat-soluble vitamins and this couldmay lead to vitamin toxicity and on rare occasions a vitamin overdose.

There are also scenarios in which supplements can interfere with other medications so be sure to tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking if you’re also taking prescribed medication.

Now that we’ve cleared that up, let’s answer the reason you’re really here.

Differences in Nutrient Needs

The truth is that individuals who are biologically male and female do have different required levels when it comes to vitamins and minerals. While we all require the same types of nutrients, our specific age, sex, and medical history does affect the amounts we individually need.

For instance, the vitamins and minerals needed for women can vary immensely based on several categories such as if she’s pregnant, premenopausal, menopausal, and breastfeeding. Additionally, when a woman is on her period, she loses a significant amount of iron which needs to be replaced, so some women’s multi-vitamins may contain higher amounts of iron than men’s multi-vitamins. Typically, multi-vitamins formulated with a focus on female-specific nutrients need higher amounts of iron, folate, and calcium due to the reasons mentioned above.

Another example is that many multivitamins marketed towards men are composed of minerals and vitamins with a focus on supporting urinary and prostate health. These multivitamins contain nutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B, Zinc, and an amino acid blend that may be higher in men’s rather than women’s multivitamins. 

Aside from these and a couple of other minor differences, there’s no significant difference in supplements marketed towards men and women. This is to say, if you accidentally pick up a women’s multivitamin instead of a men’s multivitamin, it won’t be the end of the world. However, minor differences can add up over time so you probably don’t want to buy a multivitamin not specific to you regularly. And, if you’re feeling confused by all of this, there’s a ton of multivitamin options that aren’t recommended for anyone in particular, so that can always be an option as well. These include known brands such as the Kirkland Signature Daily Multi and the Alive Max Potency Multivitamin.

One other thing, just because there’s a sex-specific label on your multivitamin doesn’t mean it will cover your unique nutrient needs, so it’s important to meet with your doctor and discuss what’s best for you if supplementation is needed.

I know this was a supplementation mouthful, but I hope this advice helps you feel less overwhelmed next time you walk by the multivitamin section at your local store.

Do you have any particular multivitamin brand you live by?

Let us know in the comments below!

The Not So Stressful Ways to Deal With Stress

student with her head in her hand at a study table with many books and papers.

By Sammy Seefeldt, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Today more than ever we live in a world rampant with anxiety and stress. From the never ending changing health of the world to the day-to-day struggle to excel in work, school, and social life – it is no wonder stress and anxiety are a norm. The American Psychological Association found that 2 in 3 adults (67%) are reported to have increased stress levels over the course of the pandemic.

Stress seems to be something that we will never escape. Clearly, stress affects our mental and social well-being. But how does stress affect our physical well-being, specifically in regards to our eating patterns?

When it comes to responding to stress, most individuals either lose their appetite or turn to food in response to stress. This has to do with the innate physiological response of “fight or flight.” This response is rooted in the result of our ancestors being put in stressful situations. The classic example is being chased by a tiger. Either people immediately run as fast as they can to escape, or freeze or try to hide; some even advance at the tiger. 

Losing your appetite when anxious or stressed is an experience of a fight response where all your body can do is focus on the feeling of anxiety or stress. When people turn to food in this case, they are experiencing a flight response, trying to comfort themselves with food. Whether you lose your appetite or want to eat when stressed, there are ways to combat this. Here are a few ways to help combat your body’s reaction to anxiety and stress.

  1. Identify what is causing the stress: Once you understand what is causing the stress, you can seek help to manage the stressor. This is one of the first steps to understanding if the stress is caused by something that is controllable. 
  2. Schedule eating times: When hunger cues are overshadowed by your body’s response to stress it is hard to provide yourself with proper nutrition. Therefore setting a time for meals or snacks could help mechanically regulate your eating pattern. 
  3. Stick to foods that you easily tolerate. During a time of stress, it is important to stick to foods that do not upset your stomach and are easily tolerable. This allows you to obtain nutrients little by little until your appetite regulates. 
  4. Practice Self-Care!: Meditate, exercise, talk to a friend…anything that helps reduce your stress and anxiety levels. It is easy to get swept up in moments of anxiety and stress. However, it is crucial to make time to do things that are conducive to relieving stress. 

I hope that the next time you are feeling overwhelmed, stressed, or anxious, possibly leading to a loss in appetite or tendency to overeat, look to these tips. We all experience these things and we all deserve to treat ourselves with care even more so during these times. 

Are you feeling stressed or anxious? Check out these resources offered through UC Davis. https://healthy.ucdavis.edu/mental-emotional/campus-resources

Can drinking soda really hurt my health?

By Elisha Aispuro, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Picture this… it’s a hot summer day and the first thing you reach for is an icy-cold soda.  It seems so refreshing! As you start drinking this sugar-packed fizzy drink to quench your thirst, you slowly become thirstier without knowing it. This may sound counterintuitive because beverages are thought to quench our thirst but the truth is not all beverages are created the same. Some beverages such as sugary sodas contain high levels of acids which actually make you more thirsty.

Besides increasing your thirst with every sip, drinking soda regularly can have serious health consequences that you may want to consider.

Effects of Excessive Soda Consumption 

Obesity

Soft drinks mostly consist of carbonated water and sweeteners.  They have no nutritional value. I’m not sure about you but I prefer to eat , rather than drink, my calories each day.  It helps sate me.  Regular consumption of sugar can also make your body prone to storing more fat and can lead to various metabolic diseases.

Yeah I know, scary stuff. But these effects on our body don’t happen from one soda alone and drinking soda in moderation can be part of an overall healthy diet. 

Insulin Resistance and Type 2 Diabetes

High consumption of soda leads to an increased risk of developing metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, and diabetes. Drinking too much soda (as well as eating too much added sugar from any source) can make the cells in your body resistant to the effects of insulin leading to insulin resistance and ultimately type 2 diabetes.

Bone and Teeth Health

Drinking typical sugar-sweetened sodas regularly can lead to higher accumulation of fructose in the body, leading to higher risk of inflammation and swelling. You’ve probably heard the term inflammation thrown around a lot in the wellness community and that’s because it’s important to prevent inflammation. Excess Inflammation negatively affects almost every system in the body. The phosphoric acid in soda (and diet soda) can dissolve tooth enamel and weaken bones, too..

Alternatives to Soda

While those potential effects of soda on your body sound daunting, it’s possible to live a healthy lifestyle while occasionally sipping on some soda. There are many alternative beverages to consider that can quench your thirst and be satisfying.  Kombucha, a fermented tea with carbonation that comes in various flavors without all the added sugar, is something to consider. Kombucha is not only a tasty lower-sugar alternative but it also contains high quantities of probiotics. Another flavorful option is carbonated water that comes in a variety of flavors with little to no sugar added. These alternatives, including classic water with infused flavors, are some good ways to slowly decrease your soda intake while increasing your intake of other tasty, thirst-quenching beverages. At this time, there is lack of conclusive evidence that diet soda and non-nutritive sweeteners pose health risks

Do you have any soda alternatives you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!

What is HAES?

By Matthew Nguyen, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Social media, as much fun as it is, continues to create ‘social norms’ that are damaging.  A big one of these being what a healthy person should look like. Society has established that being skinny or muscular is healthy, while being large or overweight is considered unhealthy. This creates a bias towards weight which can lead to food and body preoccupation, self-hatred, eating disorders, discrimination, poor health, etc. But, did you know that your body shape or weight does not necessarily determine your health. This is what the Health at Every Size movement or HAES strives to change. This movement helps recognize that health outcomes are mainly driven by social, economic, and environmental factors, which require a social and political response.  This change in mindset might not be easy, but here are some tips you can try to incorporate into your everyday life.

1. Trust yourself. We all have internal systems designed to keep us healthy — and at a healthy weight. Support your body in naturally finding its appropriate weight by honoring its signals of hunger, fullness, and appetite.

2. Eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full, and seek out pleasur­able and satisfying foods.

3. Tailor your tastes so that you enjoy more nutritious foods, staying mindful that there is plenty of room for less nutritious choices in the context of an overall healthy diet and lifestyle

4. Embrace size diversity. Humans come in a variety of sizes and shapes. Open to the beauty found across the spectrum and support others in recognizing their unique attractiveness.

5. Find the joy in moving your body and becoming more physically vital in your everyday life.

6. Accept your size. Love and appreciate the body you have. Self-acceptance empowers you to move on and make positive changes.

I hope people who read this understand that we are all beautiful and we should not let society dictate how you should look and feel. 😊

Fall Snacking

By Kalyn Concepcion, Healthy Aggies Intern

Happy November Aggies!

As the weather in Davis is beginning to cool down and all the leaves on the trees are changing into beautiful colors, it finally feels like fall! And with fall arrived, the holiday season is just around the corner: cozy clothes, warm drinks, and of course, indulging in delicious holiday meals. While it is super important to maintain a balanced diet, it doesn’t mean you have to skip out on celebratory meals. 

Here are a few healthy fall snacks to try this Fall that will help you feel nourished.

  1. Fall Fruit Salad

Put together a salad with in-season fruits. Cut up apples, pears, and grapes, then toss in some pomegranate seeds. If you want to add more flavor, toss this salad with some honey or lemon juice.

  • Air fryer apple chips

They’re like kale chips, but with apples! Instead of reaching for a bag of potato chips, try this alternative. Thinly slice apples and air fry until crispy. These can be eaten as is or seasoned. For savory apple chips, sprinkle on sea salt, and for sweet chips, toss in cinnamon and sugar. You can also try this with pears!

  • Granola energy bites with pumpkin

These quick granola bites are perfectly tailored for fall. Start off by mixing together your dry ingredients: dry rolled oats, cinnamon, nutmeg, pumpkin spice seasoning (optional), and anything else you would like (chocolate chips, chopped nuts, etc.) Then, combine peanut butter, honey or maple syrup, pumpkin puree, and vanilla extract. Mix everything together and roll out small granola bites. Let chill in the fridge before snacking! 

  • Roasted pumpkin seeds

After scooping out the inside of your pumpkin, make sure to save the seeds for a crunchy, savory snack. After washing, removing the pulp, and drying off the seeds, toss in a little olive oil and your favorite seasonings. Roast in the oven until crunchy and enjoy!

  • Butternut squash fries

A new take on sweet potato fries: butternut squash fries! Cut up a butternut squash into thin fry-shaped sticks, toss with some olive oil, and either bake in the oven or air fry until crispy. Sprinkle on some sea salt and serve with your favorite dipping sauce. 

Let us know if you have a favorite!

Should you juice or blend? 

By Elisha Aispuro, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Living in California will have you hearing the most absurd arguments as many of you know. One of those repeated arguments always discusses the age old question, is it better to juice or blend?

While it may be tempting to watch the Goop Lab starring Gwenyth Paltro on Netflix to answer the question, I’ll save you the trouble and answer the question in this post!

Juicing vs. Blending

Using a juicer entails separating juice from fiber leading to delicious creations such as carrot juice without any pulp or fiber. I know what you’re thinking…. why would you want to exclude the fiber when it’s good for you? Removing the fiber allows you to pack more vegetables/fruits in a juice thus increasing your servings of vegetables/fruits in an easy and hydrating way. Additionally, juices carry several benefits including being an instant infusion of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients to your bloodstream. Choosing a juice over a smoothie also gives your digestive system somewhat of a break allowing cells to focus on resting and repairing when needed.

On the other hand, blending entails blending all ingredients together into a filling smoothie. Smoothies carry many benefits such as supporting digestive health by aiding in regular digestion and elimination of toxins. Smoothies also help satisfy hunger, sustain energy levels over time, and balance blood sugar. Choosing to blend over juicing will lead to having a delicious fiber-filled drink that will not be digested as quickly.

Do both!

You may be thinking that you don’t want to choose just one or the other. Well I’m here to reassure you that you don’t have to. Both juicing and blending carry their own awesome benefits. Listed below are two similar recipes using both techniques so feel free to try both and decide for yourself what you like best!

Green Juice Recipe

The base ingredients include 2 cups of spinach and 2 peeled oranges with potential add-ins such as ginger root or broccoli stems for a quick energy boosting juice.

Green Smoothie Recipe

The base ingredients include 2 cups of spinach, 1 peeled orange, 1 cup of water or milk, 1 tablespoon of nut butter with potential add-ins such as protein powder or hemp seeds for a filling smoothie.

Do you have any life-changingly delicious smoothie or juice recipes you’d like to share with us? Let us know in the comments!

The Importance of Electrolytes


By Angela Feng, Healthy Aggies Intern

Electrolytes are minerals present in your body…and there’s a whole lot of them! This includes: Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Calcium, Magnesium, Phosphate, and Bicarbonate. Electrolytes are essential in maintaining vital body functions. They are responsible for conducting nervous impulses, contracting muscles, and keeping you hydrated. Did you know electrolytes and water can be lost when you sweat? Long periods of intense exercise may cause significant electrolyte loss.

So… you might be wondering where to get more of these? Well, you’ve come to the right place! Here are some electrolyte rich food and beverages that you can incorporate in your meals:

  • Coconut Water is naturally low in sugar and contains electrolytes like potassium, sodium, phosphorus, and magnesium!
  • Whole Milk also has the same electrolytes as coconut water, with an additional supply of calcium, carbohydrates and protein.
  • 100% Fruit Juice is a great refreshing electrolyte-rich drink. Make sure to look for fruit juice with no added sugars! Watermelon juice contains “L-citrulline,” which is known to enhance oxygen transport and athletic performance!
  • Leafy Green Vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli contain a variety of electrolytes. These can be added into salads or smoothies.
  • Nut and Seeds like cashews, almonds, and sunflowers are rich in magnesium and phosphorus. Nut and seed butters are both great too!
  • Legumes are loaded with electrolytes and also provide protein. These include a variety of beans such as: kidney beans, pinto beans, and black beans. Other common legumes include: chickpeas, peanuts, and lentils.

Tell me about your favorite electrolyte rich foods in the comments below!

4 Ways to Embrace Gentle Nutrition

By Vivien Zhong, UC Davis Nutrition Peer Counselor

Have you ever apologized for having a big feast? Or felt guilty while eating a delicious dessert? Do you been stress and worry about healthy eating?

If you answer “yes” to one of the above questions, know that you are not alone and it doesn’t need to be this way! You might want to look into the ideas of gentle nutrition! This post will show you why.

What is Gentle Nutrition?

Gentle nutrition is the 10th principle of “Intuitive Eating” developed by two Registered Dietitians Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch. Intuitive eating emphasizes that you are the ONLY expert of your body because only you can feel your body signals, such as hunger and stress. Eating should be an intuitive process: when you’re hungry, you eat; when you’re full, you stop. Yes, that’s it! People who eat in response to hunger and fullness have a more positive self-esteem and are more satisfied with their bodies!

Gentle nutrition states that “Taste is important, but health is still honored, without guilt.” It encourages us to change our eating attitude: eating should be a satisfying experience rather than a guilty or bad one. In essence, there is no labeled “good” or “bad” food. However, many people avoid certain “bad” foods because they think a single bite of those “bad” foods would immediately make them unhealthy. That’s where the guilt stems from – the labels that people put on the foods that negatively influence how they feel when they take a bite.

Why is gentle nutrition important?

Eating with gentle nutrition means to choose foods that both honor your health while also offering a satisfying taste! Research shows that worry and stress about healthy eating could have a larger negative impact on our health than the actual food we consumed. When we give ourselves full permission to eat enjoyable foods, we’re less likely to eat to excess, less likely to engage in binge eating, and experience less guilt when eating. We have to keep the pleasure and joy in eating!

So, how can you practice Gentle Nutrition?

Listen to your body.

Reflect on how eating a particular food makes your body feel. For example, your tongue may be the first part of your body to honor when tasting foods, but it’s certainly not the only one.

Ask yourself:

  • How does the food make your entire body feel? Do you like this feeling? Why or why not?
  • Is there any discomfort in the stomach after the meal?
  • Do you feel hungry or full?
  • Which food makes you feel the most or least nourished? The most or least satisfied?

Addition, not restriction.

The word “gentle” means that nutrition is not restrictive. Restriction leads to deprivation, which often leads to binge and guilt, followed by restriction again. Rather, it’s all about moderation and balance. Each food has its own nutritional values, so try eating various types of foods in moderate amounts: not too little or too much. Consume the amount of foods that your body feels satisfied and comfortable with.

Health, not weight.

Our society values thinness, but healthy, beautiful bodies come in all shapes and sizes. It doesn’t have to be “Oh I gained a pound today, I better just have a salad for lunch.” With positive changes in eating and activity, health will improve and body will settle at a weight that is right for you!

Progress, not perfection.

Remember, your health is determined by your long-term dietary pattern, not just a single meal, snack, or drink! It’s okay to eat desserts and treats. Incorporating gentle nutrition into your diet allows you to embody compassion and forgiveness with yourself. Small steps add up and allow you to enjoy the progress along the way.

Happy eating! Take a breath, give yourself permission to eat and enjoy your food. In the comment section below, tell me what you plan to do differently in your next meal 🙂