Archive for August, 2012

Carbs for Dinner?

Question: “Per the debate over carbohydrate intake, what is the overall volume/ratio in your diet in relation to weight gain and particularly to that number one question you hear people ask about whether they’ll get fat eating carbs for dinner?” – Anonymous

Short Answer:  Calories in excess cause weight gain, not carbohydrates.  When calories are consumed in excess of the body’s needs, the body stores those calories in the form of fat tissue.

Long Answer:

We vilified this poor macronutrient

Before I jump into the science-y stuff, I thought I’d mention that the “carbohydrate debate” is not really a debate in medical communities.  Carbohydrates are the body’s preferred source of energy.  Carbs are essential for the brain, immune system and red blood cells to function properly.  The Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs), established by the USDA, recommend that adults consume carbohydrate at a range between 45-65 percent of total calories per day.

It’s the “refined carbs” to be wary about

Why carbs have gotten a bum rap: the fastest way to consume calories in excess of the body’s needs is in the form of “refined carbs.”  Why?  Refined carbohydrates have added sugar, which is sugar listed on a nutrition label in the form of high fructose corn syrup, glucose, syrup, nectar, etc.  When a product has added sugar, the total calories drastically multiply in that product.

What this means as far as weight gain

It’s easier to gain weight when the majority of your diet is full of refined carbohydrates.  The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has not established an “RDA” or recommended daily allowance for added sugar.  However, the Department of Agriculture and some non-profits (like CSPI, the Center for Science in the Public Interest – amazing organization) have recommended no more than 10 teaspoons of added sugar, which comes out to ~40 grams.  Remember this is ADDED SUGAR.  You would not include a banana or apple to this limit, because people did not add sugar to natural fruits.

Let’s look at this in an extreme case.

Pretend you decided to eat all of your calories for the day in the form of bread.  You would feel, (a) bloated, (b) constipated, and (c) less sated due to consuming one macronutrient.  But here’s the kicker: you’d maintain your weight.  Maybe your weight would fluctuate by a pound or two, since glycogen (our energy storage) requires water to be stored.  But the reality is that if you only ate the amount of calories you needed to maintain your weight (even if through carbs), you would maintain your weight.

Demystifying the carbohydrate conundrum

There are refined carbs (as mentioned above) and there are complex carbs (fruits, veggies, nuts, seeds, legumes, beans, starchy veggies, grains, whole wheat breads and whole wheat pastas).  Here’s where percentages of carb versus protein versus fat come into play.  The more nutrient dense the diet, the better off your health and your weight.  Thus, having a greater percentage of carbohydrate one day over another and a drop in protein or fat (within your calorie needs) will not make you gain weight.  Does this mean we always have to eat between 45-65 percent of our calories from carb?  No.  But it does not mean that including a carb will cause weight gain, either.

What this means as far as practicality…

Adults need at least 130 grams of carbohydrates per day, 38 grams of which should be fiber for men and 25 grams for women.  130 grams is not a lot of carbohydrates – especially for an active person.  Thus, it is appropriate to assess your baseline calorie needs, followed by a measurement of your current activity factor.  By doing so, you establish a range of calories you require on a daily basis.  I typically like to use the Harris Benedict equation to assess kcal needs.





Bone Breakdown: NTx Test

I just had my Annual Check-Up early yesterday morning and want to share a new test with everyone – especially for the ladies.  A good test to measure the rate of bone breakdown is through something called the N-telopeptide test (or NTx test).  This is a simple and non-invasive test: urinate into a cup; the doctor finds out your results.  A normal result is anywhere between 0.45 – 4.5 uIU/mL.  Why you want to do this: women have an increased risk of developing osteopenia (low bone density), which is a precursor to osteoporosis later in life.  During your 20s and 30s, you can rectify low bone density much faster than later on in life.  You can do so through increasing vitamin D (supplements, sunlight and food sources) and by weight training (adding a stress to the bone produces bone cells).  Treatment through supplementation and weight training is warranted once you know where you stand, so ask for the test! To learn more about other tests you should take at the doctor’s office, visit the the Health Checklist Channel.


Vegetarian Sources: Vitamin D & B12

Vegetarians are known to have low levels of both vitamins B12 and D (since the best sources of these vitamins are found in the flesh of fatty fish, seafood and meat products).  Luckily, many foods are now “fortified” with vitamins B12 and D.  When a food is fortified, it means the company has added vitamins and minerals to enrich the product’s nutritional value.  How to detect if a product is fortified?  #1 Look for the Nutrition Facts label. #2 At the bottom of the label, a product is required to list the amounts of vitamins A and C, and the minerals calcium and iron.  #3 Many times there are additional vitamin or mineral listings, in order for a company to market the product as, “an excellent source of B12!” or, “enriched with vitamin D.”  Some examples are: Kashi’s Heart to Heart cereal (100% B12); Soy Milk (50% B12; 30% vitamin D).  Other B12/D vegetarian sources include: nutritional yeast (which are flakes to add to yogurt, cereal or oatmeal), orange juice, dairy products, eggs and veggie burgers.

Maximize B12 with Food Sources:

  • Breakfast ideas:
    • 1 cup heart to heart cereal with soy milk
    • 1 cup yogurt (half DV B12) with nutritional yeast
    • Lunch ideas:
      • Tofu (good source) with veggies and brown rice
      • Snack: 1 cup soy milk with a piece of fruit
      • Dinner:
        • Veggie burgers (fortified with B12!)
        • Whole wheat bread (fortified!)

Maximize Vitamin D with food sources:

  • Milk and Soymilk
  • Yogurt
  • Eggs
  • Swiss Cheese (also has B12)