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March is National Nutrition Month

Posted by Caroline Susie on Mar 22, 2016 7:00:00 AM

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While people have many opinions about the field of nutrition, it is important to remember that the study of nutrition is a science; not an opinion.  Registered dietitians are nutrition experts.  They have their bachelor’s degree in nutrition (many hold graduate degrees), complete a 1200+ supervised internship, and pass a national registration exam required by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  Anyone can be a nutritionist but not all nutritionists are dietitians.

Top tips from a registered dietitian:

  • Consume more fruits and vegetables
    • We have a plethora of studies showing that fruits and vegetables can prevent chronic diseases (think diabetes and cancer) and help us watch our waistlines. At least half of your plate at lunch and dinner should be vegetables.  Plant foods (like leafy greens, beans, peas and whole grains) also help promote growth of good bacteria in your gut.  Incorporate whole pieces of fresh fruit throughout your day.
  • Fiber
    • The average American only consumes 12 grams of fiber per day compared to the 25-30 grams recommended. Fiber helps keep you regular, can prevent cancers (like colon cancer), and helps keep you fuller longer. 
  • Be smart about carbs
    • Not all carbohydrates are created equal. Certain carbs, complex carbs, are carbohydrates with naturally occurring sugar with a myriad of other health benefits.  Think sweet potatoes, oatmeal, brown rice and quinoa.  Simple carbs on the other hand are what you want to watch out for.  These carbohydrates offer little nutrition and will drive up your blood sugar making you feel tired.  Crackers, candy, cookies, baked goods, most prepackaged snacks fall into this category.
  • Be picky about your liquid calories
    • Liquid calories in sodas, energy drinks, specialty coffees, juices and alcohol can sabotage your weight loss attempts. Stick to non-caloric liquids like water or unsweet iced tea to save on calories and sugar. 
  • Spice it up – Spices offer tons of health benefits and can help you cut down on your sodium intake
    • This spice is from the curcumin family which is the darling of the spice world.  Known for its plentiful phytochemicals, turmeric is what makes your dishes yellow!  Studies have associated turmeric with protective benefits such as preventing cognitive decline, cancer and heart disease just to name a few.  Add this spice to your poultry, seafood, veggies and curries.
    • From the cinnamon tree (yes that is a thing), this spice has been shown to lower Hemoglobin A1C (marker of blood sugar level for past 90 days).  The Journal of the American Board of Family Medicine found one gram of cinnamon yielded reduction in A1C by 0.83%.  Check with your doctor before you go nuts on cinnamon.  Add to baked goods, oatmeal and coffee.
    • This herb contains essential oils and anti-inflammatory properties.  Fresh is best so top your salads and whole wheat pasta dishes with this fresh herb!
    • Peppers like chilis, cayenne and paprika.  Hot peppers have capsaicin which has been found to have cancer protective benefits.  Capsaicin has also been shown to alleviate pain.  Add peppers to stir fries, soups, salads and your egg dishes.
    • Mint.  Several studies show that mint can aid in digestive disorders. Some studies show that mint can suppress in asthma symptoms! Think spearmint and peppermint as a refreshing change to salads and beverages
  • Limit Red and processed Meat
    • The International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), part of the World Health Organization (WHO), recently released a report regarding red and processed meats and cancer.  IARC reviewed over 800 studies to determine potential causes and evaluate the carcinogenicity of a substance.  The studies that the committee reviewed were overall diet and lifestyle patterns (smoking, obesity, low fruit and veggie consumption, and insufficient physical activity).  The IARC’s index only tells us how strong the evidence is that something causes cancer.  Substances in the same category can differ vastly in how much they increase cancer risk.  So no, a cigarette and lean red meat are NOT in the same category. Bottom line: it’s impossible to assess the impact of red meat consumption in isolation.  Furthermore, it’s unrealistic to single out one food that can cause cancer.  The WHO did issue a clarification, “The latest IARC review does not ask people to stop eating processed meats but indicates that reducing consumption of these products can reduce the risk of colorectal cancer.”  Diets high in processed, high fat foods yield disease.  So, like everything, enjoy in moderation.  Red meat provides a great source of protein, vitamins and minerals; just don’t partake daily. 
  • Embrace the good fats
    • EGGS: They are back!  A 2015 American Journal of Clinical Nutrition investigation found that people who ate two eggs for breakfast during a three-month study reported less hunger and increased fullness post breakfast than those who did not consume eggs.  Even more important, this high egg breakfast has no effect on blood cholesterol numbers!  Cheers to the protein in eggs and all 9 essential amino acids!
    • AVOCADOS: Yes they are high in fat, but it’s the good fat!!  Researchers at Loma Linda University found that eating ½ an avocado at a meal reduced the desire to eat by up to 40%!  Thanks to the high amounts of heart health monounsaturated fatty acids which not only protect your heart but help fill you up!
    • NUTS:  Numerous studies show that nuts have helped people lose weight.  Nuts are full of protein, fiber and fat (mostly good fat!).  Almonds, brazil nuts, peanuts and walnuts are your friends!  Don’t neglect these little nutrition powerhouses!  There are countless studies that support nut nutrition.  Studies suggest those that consume nuts live longer and have less heart disease.  Studies even show that women who consume nuts while pregnant are less likely to give birth to children with nut allergies.  Nuts keep you full and satisfied while providing healthy fats like mono and polyunsaturated fats.  And, hello fiber!!  Nuts are full of fiber, which can prevent constipation. 

Heart healthy recipes


Caroline_Susie_correctedCaroline Susie RD/LD
Manager Employee Wellness
Methodist Health System

Caroline manages the internal wellness program to improve the health of Methodist Health System’s employee and dependent population. A University of Oklahoma graduate, Caroline has 10 years experience as a registered and licensed dietitian.

Topics: Nutrition

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