How well can you estimate calorie counts when dining out? Let’s try a little pop quiz to see.
Question #1. How many calories are this Pizza Skin appetizer?
Answer: 2,050 calories
Question #2. How about this Colossal Hamburger?
Answer: 2,060 calories ( fries are extra, of course )
Question #3. What about this single slice of chocolate cheesecake?
Answer: 1,380 calories
And finally, the most frustrating of all…Question #4. What about this seemingly healthy “Fresh Broccoli and Chicken Pasta”?
Answer: 2,060 calories (not to mention 65 grams of saturated fat, which is three entire days worth)
How did you do? If you are anything like me, you probably had no clue how many calories these foods contain because you don’t know what is in them.
It can be tricky to navigate through restaurants, movie theater menu boards, and vending machine offerings. Commercial foods tends to be high in sugar, fat, and salt in order to make them hyper-palatable (also known as “really tasty” to the average person). They are also usually served in large portions that encourage us to overeat.
If we want to protect our health, we have two main solutions to this dilemma.
#1 Get cooking. When we cook from home we have ultimate control over the food that we put in our bodies. There is simply no substitute.
#2 Be informed about the foods that we eat when dining out.
The New FDA Ruling
This week, the Food and Drug Administration released the final menu labeling regulations that may help us to be more informed when dining out. By the end of next year, restaurants and retail establishments with more than 20 locations will be required to post calorie counts on menu boards. This includes sit down restaurants, drive-through windows, movie theaters, deli counters, salad bars, bakery shops, coffee houses, and more. Vending machines have been allotted two years to make the change. My favorite part is that the font size of the calorie counts has the be the same size of the item name or price (whichever is smaller) so they can’t try to hide it.
The ruling is designed to help consumers make informed decisions at the point of purchase.
My thoughts? I think this is great. The information will be readily available for those who are interested.
The drawback? As consumers, we have to remember that good nutrition encompasses much more than calorie counts. For example, a diet soda, artificially sweetened pudding, or 100 calorie cookie snack pack are all low in calories. But they are not very nutritious foods.
Will the new ruling encourage consumers to choose lower calorie foods? Some research studies suggests that it may help a little bit, particularly in women (1, 2). Other studies do not find a difference (3, 4, 5). I guess time will tell.
Read more at at www.fda.gov by clicking here.
Did you know that atherosclerosis (plaque build-up in the arteries) is actually a pediatric disease?
Plaque build-up usually begins during childhood as a fatty streak. It is caused by some initial injury to the inside of the blood vessel wall. Over time, the fatty streak develops into a complex collection of cells called “plaque” that can rupture and block blood flow through the artery. Autopsies of young U.S. service members who died during combat have identified severe atherosclerosis (>50% blockage in at least one blood vessel) in men as young as their twenties and thirties (1).
So if you think that this doesn’t apply to you, I encourage you to think again.
Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for all American men and women today. If you haven’t personally dealt with it, chances are that you know someone who has.
Optimal prevention of heart disease begins early in life.
So, let’s take a look inside the arteries and see how to keep them functioning at their best.
The Anatomy of an Artery
Your arteries transport blood from your heart to all of the cells of your body. They deliver oxygen and nutrients that are necessary to keep you alive. The arteries have a layer of smooth muscle that helps them to open (dilate) and close (constrict). The inside of the arteries are lined with a delicate layer of endothelial cells– collectively called the endothelium.
The damage occurs
The problem arises when there is an initial injury to the endothelium. For example, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol (oxidized LDL), and tobacco can lead to inflammation and endothelial cell damage.
Over time, other cells and substances collect at the site of injury, such as macrophages, LDL cholesterol, white blood cells, fibrinogen, smooth muscle cells, scar tissue, and calcium. A low-level systemic inflammation causes both plaque formation and progression. The body perceives an attack and is desperately trying to defend itself.
Plaque accumulates and blocks blood flow
Initially, plaque may push the wall of the artery outward. This makes it very difficult to detect and may not cause symptoms for many years. Eventually the plaque grows inward and restricts blood flow through the artery.
Plaque build up can lead to heart attack or stroke
If a coronary artery that supplies the heart with blood becomes obstructed, then a heart attack occurs. It may cause chest discomfort or pain that radiates down one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach. Shortness of breath, nausea, and lightheadedness may also occur.
If a carotid or cerebral artery that supplies the brain with blood becomes obstructed, then a stroke occurs. Symptoms may include facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech difficulty.
When these signs and symptoms are present, it is important to call 9-1-1 immediately so blood can be restored to the affected area.
For more information about the signs and symptoms of a heart attack, click here.
Peripheral Artery Disease occurs when blood vessels in the legs (e.g., femoral or popliteal arteries) become blocked with plaque build up. This restricts blood flow to the calf muscles and can cause pain in the lower legs, particularly during exercise.
Other blood vessel disorders
There are various types of blood vessel disorders that can occur. A thrombus is a stationary clot. An embolism is a floating clot that may get caught and obstruct blood flow. An aneurysm is a ballooned outward section of a blood vessel wall that may eventually hemorrhage (break).
Younger plaques are more likely to rupture
A common misconception is that heart attacks only occur when the plaque builds up enough to completely block blood flow. The truth is that newer, younger plaques are most likely to rupture. These young plaques are only covered by a thin fibrous cap. When the plaque ruptures, various cells immediately rush to the site of injury and form a clot than can quickly block blood flow.
Almost 75% of plaque ruptures occur in arteries than are less than 50% blocked. They may have previously gone undetected because they never caused any symptoms.
Older plaques are still problematic, but they tend to have thicker fibrous caps that are less prone to rupture.
The Good News: You Can Make a Difference
At this point, you are probably wondering if this detrimental process can be reversed. Thankfully, the answer (and entire purpose of this article) is YES! Arterial plaque is constantly progressing and regressing based on the conditions within the blood vessel. When we make unhealthy food choices, remain sedentary, and smoke, plaque progresses.
Moderate lifestyle changes can halt plaque progression. Intensive lifestyle changes can help to reverse it.
For example, every single bout of exercise causes your body to produce and secrete specialized cells called Endothelial Progenitor Cells (EPCs). These EPCs circulate through your blood vessels, attach to the sites of injury and begin the repair process. Regular exercise is like a constant dose of healing medicine.
Notice in the graphic below that plaque can progress or regress based on the choices that we make every day.
Smith, Steven R. MD. “Clinical Implications of Basic Research. A Look at the Low-Carbohydrate Diet.” N Engl J Med 361(23):2286-88, December 23, 2009
In 1990, cardiologist Dr. Dean Ornish published his classic Lifestyle Heart Trial. He treated patients with Coronary Artery Disease (atherosclerosis in the arteries that supply the heart with blood) with an intensive lifestyle change program. The patients began to walk for exercise, chose a healthful plant-based diet, quit smoking, learned how to manage stress, and received weekly social support. After one year, without any medication or surgery, they experienced regression of plaque build-up (2). Yes, you can heal your heart through lifestyle changes.
To reduce the risk of heart disease, the American Heart Association recommends the following guidelines:
1) Participate in moderate physical activity for at least 30 minutes most, if not all, days of the week.
2) Eat a variety of nutritious foods from many food groups. Emphasize vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and lean sources of protein. Limit red meat.
3) Eat less of the nutrient poor foods. This includes foods such as refined grains, many processed foods, and sugary foods and beverages. Also limit saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium.
4) Don’t use any form of tobacco and avoid secondhand smoke exposure. Smoking can lead to high blood pressure, blood clots, endothelial cell damage, atherosclerosis, heart attack, and stroke.