Friday, September 23, 2011

Should we drink water that has electrolytes (minerals) added?

I drink a lot of water since I tend to have a dry throat and I really like water. Like most nutrients, too much water can kill you- it can dilute the electrolytes in your body water that you need for your heart to beat (sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium). So should I worry about replacing these electrolytes?

Probably the best way to get electrolytes is to eat fruits and veggies and use table salt as needed. Gatorade has lots of sodium and potassium but also contains sugar and various chemicals.

What about bottled waters that claim to contain electrolytes? I looked up the mineral contents of various waters on the USDA website and on product websites and couldn’t find any perfect brand.

Smartwater & Poland Springs were similar to tap water, Evian and Perrier had more calcium but less potassium, and Calistoga and Dasani were low in everything.

The winner was my favorite brand, Pellegrino- too bad it’s expensive and its transport wastes energy. Good thing that an extra serving of veggies will do the trick and more.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Two links to nutrition info and videos that I like

I like a blog by Jack Norris at, on plant-based diets- it's great if you have any questions about how to get the vitamin B12 and iron and protein you need if you are a vegan.

Jack shared a link to a site called that has some interesting videos. I watched a few of them and they are short and provocative (two good things).

If you check out the videos, let me know what you think.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Soybeans are not dangerous

There have been all sorts of rumors about dangerous things in soy, such as estrogen-like compounds that might have feminizing effects or encourage the growth of some breast cancers, or compounds that might be bad for your thyroid gland. Stop worrying!

There is no evidence that the very slight estrogen-like activity in soy has any harmful or even significant consequences. I wonder if this rumor is promoted by the dairy industry– since cow’s milk makes your blood cholesterol go up and soy products make it go down, they need to grasp at some straws.

Just remember that Asian cultures have eaten tofu, made soymilk and enjoyed good health for thousands of years. For you jocks it is a rare vegetarian source of high quality protein. For those of you worried about heart disease it contains healthy polyunsaturated fats, plant sterols and fibers to lower your blood cholesterol.

You probably don’t want to overdo it, just like you don’t want to overdo anything, even things as healthy as drinking water and getting some sun. And I wouldn’t want to subsist on all sorts of products made out of highly processed soy powders- or other kinds of refined or purified products– but there isn’t any reason to shy away from tofu or edamame or a glass of soy milk.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Catch the US women’s soccer team competing with Japan in the World Cup finals on Sunday

It’s pretty amazing that the US women’s soccer team will be competing in the finals of the World Cup on Sunday. Not knowing many celebrities, I’m excited that I know a member of team USA, defender #19, Rachel Buehler, who was a student in a class on fat nutrition I teach at Stanford University. Maybe she gets some of her energy and stamina from eating healthy fats? Go Rachel!

Monday, June 6, 2011

Is there such a thing as a refreshing alternative to soda?

Someone asked for ideas for a drink that could satisfy a craving for something sweet but not be as unhealthy as soda. There is nothing that’s just like soda- carbonated, refreshing and sweet all at once- after all the food industry has spent a lot of time and money figuring out exactly how to make sodas addictive. So it might take a little time to get used to an alternative but it’s worth the effort.

How about orange juice, apple cider, grapefruit juice, grape juice or Martinelli’s Sparkling Cider for the sweet craving, and plain sparkling water with a wedge of lime for refreshment? Juices don’t contain artificial additives and they do contain all sorts of minerals we need, including potassium and magnesium, which are good for your heart and circulatory system. Americans don’t get enough of these minerals, partly because they’re removed when grains are refined- think about this next time you eat pasta or French bread.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lowering blood cholesterol- do statins have side effects?

I was asked to comment about the safety and side effect of statins– Lipitor, Pravacol, Zocor and others– drugs that are very effective at lowering blood cholesterol and preventing death from heart attacks. I’m not an M.D., but my impression is that these are pretty good drugs as far as safety and efficacy goes.

However, they can occasionally be toxic to the liver and to muscles, and if you are taking a statin your doctor is probably checking for liver toxicity (ALT/AST) and should be checking for muscle toxicity (creatine kinase). Your job is to note any muscle weakness or pain that might indicate dangerous muscle breakdown, which might eventually be fatal.

If you are concerned, there are two things you can do– one is to take supplements of coenzyme Q and vitamin D along with your statin. I can’t say that the evidence for benefits of these supplements is unequivocal, but I would take them if it were me.

The other thing you can do is to work with me to lower your cholesterol without statins. I’ve had great success with nutritional strategies that go far beyond the pretty useless low-fat recommendations you’ve probably given up on. Look on the testimonials page of my website ( or search my name on Yelp for clients bragging about their low cholesterol numbers.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Does whte bread do any harm?

Although I talk about the merits of whole wheat flour all the time, I don’t think having a little white flour or bread made with a mixture of whole and refined flours is all that bad.

You will be missing out on the fiber, potassium, magnesium, calcium, etc. that are removed when grains are refined. But if the starches you eat are mostly whole foods, like oats or kasha for breakfast, corn tortillas with lunch and potatoes with dinner, then you can afford to add in some white flour.

I like Beckmann’s German Farm Bread even though the first ingredient is white flour. Good nutrition is all about moderation- people who eat whole wheat and not much else become zinc deficient because the fiber binds zinc and you can’t absorb it.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Does evening-eating cause weight gain?

People seem to think that food is metabolized less efficiently when it’s eaten at night rather than earlier in the day, and that because of this eating at night causes weight gain. I don’t believe this.

Eating in the evening only causes weight gain if you eat too much. Frequently people try hard to ‘be good’ during the day only to end up hungry at night, when it’s all too easy to get more calories than you need from desserts and high calorie snacks. Face it–when you’re hungry at 10 or 11 p.m., do you make a salad or do you have a bowl of ice cream?

Try having more healthy food during the day until you find the right balance and aren’t uncontrollably hungry at night. It’s not just your weight you’ll control but the types of foods you end up eating also.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How much fruit is too much?

Yesterday I sent out an Email asking for questions about nutrition that I could answer in this blog and the response was huge–I got some great questions. I’ll try to answer one a day and I’ll Email whomever wrote that question to make sure they see my answer.

For today I’ll talk about fruit–I’m always saying that fruit is “free”–that you can eat as much as you want even if you are trying to lose weight, because it is so low in calories, so filling and high in vitamins, minerals and fiber.

The question was: “How much fruit is too much? (Too much sugar?)
My answer: I would not restrict fresh fruit at all. When you want it, eat it (this doesn’t include fruit juice or dried fruit). The kind of sugar you want to avoid is refined or concentrated sugars that no longer look like a plant.

See how this works for you– how do you feel? I’m not advising you to eat only fruit– fruit alone provides such a short-term energy boost, that you may end up with low blood sugar (weak, headachy) if you don’t get some healthy protein and fat.

Have oranges, banana or berries with your breakfast of eggs or oatmeal & walnuts. Have mangoes and apples for snacks and desserts. And see my blog below for a mango salad recipe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

My favorite fruit is in season

If you aren’t already addicted to Champagne (or Manila or Ataulfo) mangoes, now is the time to begin your love affair. These yellow mangoes are smaller than the usual green and red variety–and they are superior in every way. Champagne mangoes are tart and sweet and smooth- kind of like a peach.

Wait until the mangoes are a little soft–they may have some small black spots too–peel them, cut the flesh off of the large pit, and eat it plain or in almost any salad.

The other day I made a salad with Manila mango slices, avocado, chopped roasted almonds, lime juice and salt–yum. For protein you could add some small cubes of tofu fried in olive oil, cooked shrimp or some chick peas, and to make it even more satisfying a little roasted walnut oil is good.

Right now these mangoes an incredible bargain for $1 each at Sigona’s Market and Whole Foods Market. Like any fruit they are a great source of the potassium and magnesium that we need for heart and muscle health so this is a win-win food choice.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Hot Dogs To Love

I love hot dogs and will eat a Hebrew National All Beef Frank at Costco a couple of times a year, but I’m happy to report that I’ve found a better option for a yummy beef hot dog. The butcher at Whole Foods recommended hot dogs made by Fork In The Road and they are delicious and much healthier than most.

Ounce for ounce, Fork In The Road Honest Dogs With Pasture-Raised Beef have less saturated fat and fewer calories compared to Hebrew National Franks. And you can feel good that the cows were raised sustainably on family farms (that you can trace by a farm code on the package). I ate mine with a Golden Sheaf Potato Roll- okay it didn’t fit too well- but it tasted fantastic.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

What do farmed salmon and old fluorescent lights have in common?

PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) are chemicals that were used in the past to make fluorescent lights, paint, transformers, pumps, and much more. Unfortunately they are toxic and they stick around in the environment very persistently. Reading this morning about PCBs leaking from old fluorescent light fixtures in schools* reminded me of another common route of exposure- eating salmon.

Many toxic chemicals including PCBs are found in farmed salmon at levels 10 times as high as in wild salmon. If you eat more than ½ meal of farmed salmon per month, your toxin intake may be too high according to EPA estimates.**

So, try to eat wild salmon, but also think about the bigger picture. Manufacturing is always going to use chemicals, and they are going to end up in our environment- and not just when you throw the product away. Leftovers from the manufacturing process end up somewhere, and it’s all too frequently in the water and the air.

Say no to buying new gadgets. In addition to recycling, reduce and reuse. Recycling old appliances and plastic bags is good, but the new ones you buy were made in factories that generate all sorts of chemical waste so reusing is better. Help make sure that there will still be some fish around clean enough for your grandchildren to eat and with all the money you save, you’ll be able to afford local, organic food.
*New York Times 2/4/11 A17; **Science 1/9/04 303:226

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Do you need to eat breakfast?

If you aren’t hungry in the morning, is there a reason to force yourself to eat breakfast? I don’t think so.

It’s never a good idea to eat when you aren’t hungry- first because you would be teaching your body to ignore your natural instincts telling you when you need to eat, and second, because you are taking in calories that you may not need.

There is a catch. You don’t want to end up so hungry at 10 or 11 a.m. that you go for the doughnuts in the conference room or justify to yourself that it’s okay to eat a huge lunch.

The solution is to stop in the kitchen long enough to grab something to take with you and here are some suggestions for a snack that will get you to lunch time without becoming ravenous-
- a hard boiled egg and an apple
- a handful of almonds and a banana
- 3 huge Medjool dates and a handful of walnuts
- a handful of roasted peanuts and an orange
- a small peanut butter sandwich

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Can you tell how healthy someone is from just looking at them?

“People should be healthy and fit at whatever size they are”- a quote from Dr. Regina Benjamin, the U.S. surgeon general, who is shown in the NY Times Magazine* looking radiant and strong, and not looking skinny.*

As she no doubt knows, the health risks of being overweight have been greatly exaggerated. Much better measures of good health are cardiovascular fitness, blood pressure and blood sugar.

Instead of making a quick judgment about people’s health status based on their size, we need to take some time, give them a treadmill test, and do some blood work. If they don’t measure up, prescribe exercise and healthy foods instead of just prescribing “weight loss”.

* p. 14, 1/9/11

Monday, January 10, 2011

Should medical doctors be prescribing wine?

I was disturbed to read these comments from M.D.s in the Stanford Medical Center magazine for alumni- “Too little wine is more harmful than just the right amount..” and “Wine should be considered…a health food in liquid form” (autumn 2010, p.7).

Sure, there is all sorts of indirect evidence suggesting that wine (and other alcoholic drinks) may have benefits, but we’ve seen how lots of indirect evidence doesn’t mean much. Remember being told that hormone replacement therapy was a good idea after menopause? When a double-blinded, placebo-controlled study was finally carried out, surprise, taking hormones turned out to be bad for you!

Let’s hope this won’t be the case for wine, but for now we don’t know. Health practitioners should practice saying “I don’t know- drink a little if you like and don’t drink if you don’t like to”.