As someone who coaches people on sustainable weight loss, these are questions I’ve spent a lot of time thinking (and writing) about, as well. Today I want to tell you about the three different ways our bodies register or experience hunger.
In my recent episode on how calories in food are determined, I talked about the hazards of relying too heavily on calorie counters and calculators. I pointed out that we probably can’t rely entirely on our hunger or satiety signals to tell us if we need food and when we’ve had enough.
And I bet that might might have been what triggered a listener to phone in and ask what I thought of intuitive eating and whether there was any good research to support it.
Does Intuitive Eating Work?
Intuitive eating is a popular concept these days and people throw this term around pretty loosely. It’s hard to know sometimes exactly what they mean by it.
For some, it just means not following rigid diet rules. I’m all for that! But if you’re having trouble managing your weight, that approach alone may not be enough to solve the problem. I talked more about the strengths and weaknesses of intuitive eating as an approach to weight management in episode #397.
On a closely related topic, Cheryl from Massachussetts emailed this week to ask:
“Even when I eat a good sized meal with adequate levels of protein, fat, and fiber, I...
There is a lot of buzz these days about CBD, a product that's derived from the cannabis (or marijuana) plant. CBD is not the same as medical (or recreational) marijuana. It won't get you high. But it does have a variety of effects in the body and brain. It's used both topically and as a dietary supplement to treat conditions including pain, inflammation, anxiety, and insomnia.
Many of you have written with questions about CBD oil and, to tell you the truth, I had a lot of questions myself. So, I invited someone with expertise in this subject to help us sort through the claims: Janice Bissex is a Registered Dietition/Nutritionist as well as a Holistic Cannabis Practioner.
Up until a couple of years ago, Janice was the co-host of the long-running Meal Makeover Moms podcast. But she recently shifted her practice from family nutrition to counseling patients and health practitioners on the use of medical marijuana and CBD.
Unlike medical marijuana, CBD is not a regulated substance and does not have the intoxicating effects associated with marijuana. It's sold over the counter as a dietary supplement—but misperceptions about its uses and effects abound.
In this fact-filled interview, Janice explains:
Exactly what CBD is (and isn't)
Which receptors in our brains and tissues are affected by CBD
How CBD works to relieve pain and inflammation
How CBD can alleviate anxiety
The types of insomnia most likely to respond favorably to CBD
Potential benefits of CBD in autism
The evidence to support its efficacy
Who should and shouldn't consider trying CBD
What to look for when buying CBD products
Safety, dosing, and drug interactions
The state of regulation and oversight of CBD products
Arguments for and against CBD use
Click on the audio player to hear the entire interview.
Nutrition Diva listener James writes: “I was wondering if you could devote an episode to calories: how they're measured, how we process them, what a bomb calorimeter is, and all the problems with counting calories.”
What Do Calories Measure?
A calorie is a unit of measure, like an inch or a kilogram. Only instead of measuring length or weight, a calorie measures energy. Technically, a calorie is the amount of energy it takes to raise one gram of water by one degree Celsius.
Calories can be measured by something called a bomb calorimeter. You might have even built a crude version of a bomb calorimeter in science class. In broad strokes, you submerge a chamber in a bucket of water and put a thermometer in the water. Inside the submerged chamber, you set something on fire. The heat generated by the combustion raises the temperature of the water in the bucket, which you can measure with the thermometer. You can then calculate the amount of energy or calories were in the thing you set on fire.
If we habitually take in more energy than we use, we gain weight. So, we use calories as a guideline to determine how much food energy a person needs.
We used to use bomb calorimeters to calculate how many calories a given food contains. These days, however, it’s more common to estimate the number of calories based on how much protein, fat, and carbohydrate a food contains. (These amounts can be determined through chemical analysis.)
When we’re using the word "calorie" in relation to food, by the way, we’re actually referring kilocalories. Sometimes you’ll see calories abbreviated as kcal and that’s what that refers to. When we say that a food that contains 60 calories, it technically contains 60,000 calories. But all those zeros would would be a pain to deal with so we just lop them off. This drives phycisists and chemists absolutely nuts.
Why Do Calories Matter?
Just like in that bomb calorimeter, our bodies combust food to release its stored...
In last week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talked about the potential benefits of omega-3 eggs. Ironically, shortly before that episode was released, a new study came out that was widely covered in the media, finding that people who ate more than a few eggs a week had an increased risk of heart disease and death.
This headline wouldn’t have raised any eyebrows 20 years ago, when we firmly (but falsely) believed that eating foods that contained cholesterol would contribute to high blood cholesterol and heart disease risk.
But in 2016, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans officially removed cholesterol from the list of nutrients that we need to worry about limiting. This was based on an accumulating stack of epidemiological evidence finding no clear link between dietary cholesterol and heart disease risk.
In addition to these observational studies, there have also been controlled diet studies which are able to provide more reliable information about cause and effect. Most of these found that diets containing more cholesterol did not increase heart disease risk factors compared to similar diets that were lower in cholesterol.
All of this evidence ultimately led the USDA to take cholesterol off the list of nutrients of concern. This decision was not an impulsive one. In fact, many in the health and nutrition community felt that it took the USDA 10 or 20 years longer than it should have to let eggs and cholesterol off the hook.
When this latest study hit the newswire, dozens of concerned Nutrition Diva listeners reached out to me for comment. And I totally sympathize with those of you who feel jerked around. First eggs are bad. Then they’re fine. Now they’re bad again. So let me try to put this latest headline in perspective.
These findings weren’t actually about eggs. They were about cholesterol....
Nutrition Diva podcast listener Adele writes: “My husband is allergic to fish so he buys omega-3 eggs instead. Do you get the same benefits from eating omega-3 eggs as you would from eating fish?"
How Do They Make Omega-3 Eggs?
You’ve probably seen omega-3 enriched eggs at the grocery store. Perhaps you’ve wondered how they get the omega-3 into the eggs? It’s actually a pretty low tech method: They feed the hens flaxseed, which is high in omega-3 fatty acids. Just like you and me, hens that take in more omega-3s end up with more of these fatty acids in their tissues, and that applies to their eggs as well.
In terms of protein, both fish and eggs are high quality protein sources, although you’d have to eat about three eggs to get the same amount of protein as in a 3-ounce serving of salmon. In terms of omega-3 fatty acids, there are two things to keep in mind. One is how much omega-3 you’re actually getting.
The oilier ocean fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines) tend to be higher in omega-3 while the milder fish and and shellfish are lower.
How Much Omega-3 Can You Get from Eggs?
The amount of omega-3 in an enriched egg varies considerably from around 100 to 500 mg per egg. The most popular brand of omega-3 eggs claims just 125 mg of omega-3 per egg. By comparison, a 4-ounce serving of salmon (or just one tablespoon of flaxseed) is going to give you six or seven times as much omega-3 as a serving of omega-3 eggs. (I’m considering two large eggs to be a serving.)
Not all fish is quite as rich in omega-3 as salmon is. Generally, the oilier ocean fish (like salmon, mackerel, and sardines) tend to be higher in omega-3 while the milder fish and and shellfish are lower. A serving of grouper, flounder, or perch, for example will have about as much omega-3 as you’d get from a couple of omega-3 eggs. Shrimp, tilapia, and crab are even lower in omega-3s.
Nuts are generally thought of as healthy food choices. They are somewhat high in calories, due to their relatively high fat content. But these aren’t just empty calories. Along with those healthy unsaturated fats, you’re also getting fiber and protein, which help keep you from getting hungry. Perhaps that’s why dieters who include nuts in their meal plans lose more weight and report feeling less hungry. And in general, people who eat nuts on a regular basis are more likely to maintain a healthy weight.
Nuts are also rich in vitamin E, which is good for your skin, heart, and brain. They also contain phytosterols, natural plant compounds that help to regulate your cholesterol levels. Regular nut consumption is linked with reduced risk of heart disease and other diseases.
So far the news is all good. But, several Nutrition Diva listeners have written to ask me about aspergillus or aflatoxin in nuts—and whether this is something that we need to worry about. I can tell you that some of the scariest things you may have encountered online are probably exaggerated or taken out of context. Nonetheless, these are not imaginary concerns.
What Are Apergillus and Aflatoxins?
Aspergillus is type of fungus that’s found in the soil and can cause disease in certain food crops, especially legumes, grains, and tree nuts. An aspergillus infection can weaken the plants enough to reduce crop yield, which is a concern for the farmers. But even if crop yields are affected only minimally, the aspergillus fungus continues to be a problem after the crops are harvested. It can cause grains or nuts to rot in storage—leading to more losses for farmers or distributors.
But the main concern in terms of human health is that aspergillus produces potentially harmful compounds called mycotoxins—in particular, a group of mycotoxins called aflatoxins. These are known to be carcinogenic.
Chronic aflatoxin exposure can lead to liver damage or liver cancer, especially in individuals with pre-existing conditions such as a Hepatitis...
This week, I’m talking with Melissa Joy Dobbins, a registered dietitian/nutritionist who served for many years as a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. She’s also the creator and host of a terrific podcast called Sound Bites.
One of the things that Melissa and I have in common is an allergy to misleading or just plain inaccurate information about food and nutrition that circulates so freely these days.
In her Sound Bites podcast, she brings experts in to dispel misunderstandings and myths and give listeners a more nuanced understanding of the science. She'seven created a series of resources to help other nutrition professionals communicate more clearly and effectively in the media.
In this week's podcast, I talk with Melissa about her Do M.O.R.E. with Dinner project. But this isn't really about doing more. Most of us already feel like we couldn’t do one more thing. It’s about getting more from this daily necessity. M.O.R.E. stands for Make Ordinary Rituals Extraordinary.
In our interview (which you can hear by clicking the audio player above), Melissa shares the personal goal that inspired this project.
The Toolkit includes links to a lot of great resources created by dietitian/nutritionists and others: recipes, meal prep and planning tools, kitchen organization tips, information on children’s nutrition, even a guide to starting your own garden.
Dedicating some time to meal planning and preparation can definitely upgrade your family’s nutrition (not to mention save money and decrease food waste). But this isn’t just about nutrition. It’s also an opportunity to become closer as a family. In our conversation, Melissa talks about the practice that dramatically changed her family's dinner routine, and her relationship with her kids.
We're told that families need to sit down together most evenings and eat a family meal....
The FDA recently announced that it plans to increase its oversight of the multi-billion dollar supplement industry. This would include everything from the calcium and multivitamins at your local drug store, to those questionable weight loss and virility supplements pitched on late night cable TV stations.
According to the FDA, “Three out of every four American consumers take a dietary supplement on a regular basis. For older Americans, the rate rises to four in five. And one in three children take supplements.”
All of these are currently regulated under guidelines known as DSHEA—the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act. According to the regulations, manufacturers are responsible for ensuring that their products are safe and correctly labeled.
However, unlike drug makers, supplement manufacturers do not have to submit proof of safety or efficacy before bringing their product to market. It’s sort of an honor system. If you get caught doing something wrong, you’ll be punished. But for the most part, there’s an assumption that people are following the rules.
In the 25 years since these regulations were enacted, the supplement industry has grown ten-fold—from about 4,000 products in 1994 to 50,000 different products now. With this explosive growth has come an increasing number of what FDA commissioner Scott Gottlieb calls “bad actors,” aka companies that are either intentionally or accidentally breaking the rules. As a result, there’s a greater chance that consumers will be exposed to products that have undeclared or even illegal ingredients or contaminants.There’s also a greater chance that products may include unapproved or inaccurate health claims.
In response, Gottlieb intends to step up enforcement of the regulations. Hopefully, this will result in fewer people going to the emergency room due to adverse effects from dietary supplements. (In 2015, there were 23,000 such visits).
My guest today is Jonathan Bailor, author of a new book called The Setpoint Diet and the founder and CEO of Sane Solution. Before starting his own company, Jonathan served as a Senior Program Manager at Microsoft, where he helped create health and fitness-focused products like NikeKinect Training and Xbox Fitness.
Here are a few of the topics we delve into in our conversation (just click on the audio player to listen):
What we gain (and lose!) when we focus on the quality of our food choices.
How can we change the weight our body "wants" to weigh?
How big a factor do external factors play in changing one's Setpoint?
How to choose foods that keep hunger at bay
The limits of appetite control
How to avoid overeating healthy foods
Where food and eating fits in to a balanced life
How to love yourself slim.
About 5 years ago, Jonathan wrote a book called The Calorie Myth, in which he argued that it’s the quality of calories that determines our weight, more so than the quantity. In The Setpoint Diet, Jonathan adds new insights into how to convert those principles into action in the real world, based on his experience with thousands of participants.
This concept of a body weight setpoint is an interesting one. It contends that the body has a certain weight that it wants to be. And if we lose weight, the body fights to return to its setpoint weight. In The Setpoint Diet, Bailor says we can change that setpoint—that weight that our body wants to weigh—by changing our diet.
But as we discuss in our interview, that setpoint may be at least partially determined by our environment—the way our homes and workplaces and schedules are set up and the degree to which they encourage us to overeat or be sedentary. We can lose a bunch of weight on a short term diet. But if we don’t change, in a permanent way, the way our homes and workplaces and schedules are set up, that environment is going to exert a lot of pressure on us to revert to previous habits (and...
What’s a good diet made up of? Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean sources of protein, healthy fats. You’ve probably heard this litany so many times that the words fail to register.
But today I want to zoom in on this term “lean protein.” What does this actually mean?
The definition of a lean protein is one that has no more than 3 grams of fat per ounce. That would include skinless chicken, ham, and pork tenderloin. Salmon or peanut butter, on the other hand, would not be considered lean proteins.
But does the idea of lean protein really make any sense? Is leaner protein necessarily better for you?
(I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard experts extol the merits of lean protein and then list salmon as an example. It just goes to show how mindlessly we’ve come to use this term.)
What Does Lean Have to Do With Health?
But does the idea of lean protein really make any sense? Is leaner protein necessarily better for you?
Part of this may be a holdover from the days when we considered fat to be the energy. Most of us have now realized that, although we do need to ensure that our calorie intake is appropriate to our needs, we don’t need to strictly limit the amount of fat we eat.
In fact, replacing some of the refined carbohydrates in our diets with healthy sources of fat can actually be a nutritional upgrade. The Mediterranean diet, for example, is quite a bit higher in fat than the diet recommended by the American Heart Association but is actually linked to a reduced risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity.
The emphasis on lean protein is also probably a throwback to a time when dietary protein was largely synonymous with meat. Leaner cuts of meat were thought to be better not just because they are lower in fat but also because they are lower in saturated fat. If...