Although the government has switched from using a food ‘pyramid’ to a plate, consumers still have trouble figuring out what counts as a serving. You may have heard the suggestion that the size of your palm is about 3 ounces of meat. Correct me if I’m wrong, but won’t that size vary based on the size of your hand? I think we can all agree, we need something a bit more standardized.
In general, we should all aim to consume a minimum 4 servings of vegetables (1/2 cup cooked, 1 cup raw or ¾ cup juice. Fruit intake should be around 3 servings per day (1 medium fruit, ½ cup canned fruit, ¼ cup dried fruit or ¾ cup fruit juice), though athletes or others with higher calorie needs may consume more.
The suggestion for dairy products is 3 per day, which include 1 cup milk, yogurt or 1 oz of cheese. Protein needs vary individually, but in general, most adults require around 5 or more ounces per day.
Grains such as cereal, bread, pasta, rice, crackers should be mostly whole grain and serving sizes vary. A serving of most cooked grains is ½ cup or 1 slice bread, ½ a bagel, etc. Go for 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole oats, etc. over processed grains.
Below are a few ideas to clue you in on what a serving size really looks like.
1 oz = pair of dice
1 ½ oz = 9 volt battery
2 oz. = a pair of dominoes
3 oz. cooked meat, fish or poultry = a deck of playing cards
¼ cup = 1 egg
½ cup = 1 scoop of ice cream
¾ cup = 1 raquetball
1 cup = 1 baseball
1 slice of bread = a CD case
1 tsp. = 1 postage stamp
2 Tbsp. = a ping pong ball
Last month I wrote about colorectal cancer awareness. But eating fiber also has other benefits, including cholesterol reduction, blood sugar control and weight managment. Below are a few other reasons to be good to your gut!
We all take our guts for granted. We eat, we experience gas and we make our regular trips to the bathroom (so to speak) as needed. But until we experience constipation (or diarrhea), we may not think much about our gastrointestinal systems. One thing that aids in gut health and regularity is fiber.
We’ve all heard that fiber from fruits, vegetables, beans and grains are needed to keep us regular. But not all fiber is created equal. Wheat bran and psyllium (a type of fiber found in Metamucil) are best for increasing stool weight according to a University of Minnesota scientist.
Soluble fiber from fruit, oats and beans aid in cholesterol reduction and blood sugar control and are also important to include in your diet regularly. Aim for 25-35 grams of fiber daily from a variety of sources including whole wheat bread or pasta, bran cereal, oatmeal, fresh fruits and vegetables and dried beans.
Added fibers such as inulin or chicory root increase fiber content of food, but may also increase gassiness as they are poorly absorbed. Read the label if you experience excessive gas from fiber-enhanced foods (such as bars, bread and other products).
In addition to fiber, scientists believe we need to keep our gut “flora” (bacteria) healthy. There are several strains of bacteria in our gastrointestinal system (some good, some bad). Yogurt for example contains live cultures such as lactobacillus that may impact gut health. The way yogurt is effective is not fully known, but may be due to modifying gut pH, fighting bacteria through production of antimicrobial compounds, and competing for pathogen binding and receptor sites. These bacteria may also produce available nutrients and growth factors, stimulate immunomodulatory cells, and produce lactase- which aids in digestion of the milk sugar, lactose. Yogurt is a great source of calcium, B vitamins, protein, vitamin D and potassium as well. Many varieties of yogurt exist, so check the nutrition facts label for calorie, fat and sugar content.
Finally, for gut health and regularity, don’t forget about water! When fiber intake is changed drastically, it may cause constipation and/or bloating if water intake is limited. Add fiber gradually to your diet (1-2 servings of high fiber foods/week) to allow your gut to get used to it. Aim for 6-8 (8 oz) cups of plain water per day to aid with normal digestion and transport of nutrients. Water also helps maintain body temperature, blood pressure and skin turgor. It’s the most important, but often forgotten nutrient.
Care for your colon!
March is National Colorectal cancer awareness month. This deadly type of cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men and women. The American Cancer Society advises everyone over the age of 50 to get screened for colon cancer through regular colonoscopies. And diet plays a key role in prevention, too.
Prep for a colonoscopy includes eating a clear liquid diet (clear juice, broth, jello, popsicles) and taking strong laxatives to “clean you out”. During the procedure, a thin, long, flexible device with a lighted lens called a colonoscope will be guided into your rectum and passed to your colon to take pictures or remove polyps if they are lurking. Polyps may be benign (non-cancerous) or malignant (cancerous). Don’t worry- medication is typically given prior to the procedure and you’ll likely not remember it. Most patients rest for at least 2 hours after the procedure before having a friend or family member drive them home.
Risk factors for colo-rectal cancer include age (over 50), heredity, African American race, colon growths (polyps), chronic diseases of the colon such as Crohn’s and smoking. Excessive red meat consumption has also been linked with colorectal cancer, especially in men.
A recent Australian study found that different foods affect different parts of the bowel (good and bad). For example, eating Brassica vegetables (broccoli, and cauliflower) lower the risk of distal and proximal cancer, while dark yellow vegetables and apples reduced the risk of distal cancer. And surprisingly, fruit juice intake was associated with an increased risk of rectal cancer.
In addition, consumption of whole grains (such as bran or wheat cereal, oatmeal, whole wheat bread & pasta, bulgur, etc) may reduce the risk of colon cancer up to 20%. Experts recommend eating at least 25-35 grams of dietary fiber per day. Here are a few ways to do it:
1. Eat oats or bran cereal for breakfast.
2. Use 100% whole wheat bread for your sandwich or toast.
3. Choose whole fruit like oranges over orange juice.
4. Add berries to your yogurt or salad.
5. Snack on an apple and handful of nuts between meals.
6. Switch to brown rice and whole wheat pasta
7. Add spinach, onions and other vegetables to scrambled eggs.
8. Toss black beans, peas or kidney beans into your salad.
9. Choose whole wheat pasta over white pasta.
10. Snack on Triscuit or other whole grain crackers.
See, it’s not as hard as you think to eat more fiber!
February is American Heart Health Month. With heart disease topping the charts as the number 1 killer of Americans, it’s time to start thinking about your ticker. Did you know 1 in 3 deaths is related to heart disease and stroke and that heart disease costs hospitals over 444 billion in health care dollars and lost time at work? Below are some simple tips to reduce your risk.