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Before you think we're going to tell you that you can't eat bacon, relax. That's not the case! But, there is a lot of discussion around nitrates, nitrites, and nitrosamines, especially regarding processed meats (such as bacon and deli meats). It can be difficult to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to these topics! So, what are these three compounds, and are they actually harmful? Let’s find out! First, let’s clarify the differences between them:Nitrates are found naturally in foods such as spinach, arugula, lettuce, swiss chard, beets, and carrots. Nitrates can be converted to nitric oxide, which is a vasodilator (helps with blood flow). Nitrites are an approved food additive to things like cured meats and bacon to add colour and improve shelf life. Nitrites can be converted into nitrosamines under certain conditions. Nitrosamines are a chemical found in tobacco products, as well as in food products such as bacon, cured meats, and beer. Some nitrosamines have been found to cause cancer in animals, and may increase the risk of cancer in humans. There is strong evidence supporting an increased risk of colon cancer with diets high in processed meats (bacon, salami, cured meats). However, we're not sure whether this is because of the added nitrites in the meats, or other compounds. The cancer-causing effects may not come from the nitrites themselves, but instead from their converted form - nitrosamines. When we eat foods containing nitrites, they can be converted to nitrosamines. Nitrosamines are one of the cancer-causing compounds found in cigarette smoke, and also found in processed meats. However, the presence of phytonutrients in plant foods (example: Vitamin C) prevent nitrosamines from forming. Does this mean having kale with your bacon will stop nitrosamine formation? Probably not entirely, but more research needs to be done.
Summary: added nitrites in processed meats may be converted to nitrosamines in our body in the absence of plant-based phytonutrients (ex. Vitamin C). These nitrosamines may have cancer-causing effects.
To complicate things just a little more, there are also claims that nitrates and nitrites are beneficial for health. Confusing right? Some evidence suggests that it is beneficial when dietary nitrates are converted to nitric oxide. The benefits of nitric oxide may include improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, and even helping with athletic performance. This is because nitric oxide is a vasodilator, which increases blood flow and oxygen supply. It's important to note that these benefits have only been seen with plant-based sources of nitrates like spinach, arugula, lettuce, beets and carrots.
Summary: nitrates found in plant foods can be converted to nitric oxide, which may have health benefits like improving heart health, lowering blood pressure, and improving athletic performance.
Good news is nitrites and nitrosamines are not found in all meats, just in processed or cured meat where nitrites have been purposefully added. If you do include animal products in your diet, we recommend you limit processed and cured meats, and instead enjoy unprocessed, sustainably raised meat in moderation.
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Bread has gotten a bad rap over the years, likely due to the popularity of low carb and gluten-free fad diets. Unless you have a medical condition such as celiac disease, wheat allergy, or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, there is no need for you to avoid bread! In fact, bread can be included as part of a healthy, balanced diet every day - yes that is correct, every day! Of course there are bread products you should try to choose more often than others (think: whole grain bread), but I think we often forget about all the great things bread has to offer. Read below to find out more about why bread is not the enemy!
1. Carbohydrates are our body’s preferred energy source
Bread is a source of carbohydrates, which are our brain and muscle’s preferred fuel source. For steady energy throughout the day, focus on good quality, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains. These take longer to digest, which can help you feel full for longer and provide a slower, steady release of energy.
2. Vegetables are also carbohydrates
What?! Vegetables are carbs?! But vegetables are so good for us! Does this mean vegetables = bread? Well no, but this is a good reminder for why carbohydrates are not bad for you. When it comes to a healthy diet, you really need to look at the overall picture. There is no single “bad” food, just like there is no single “superfood”. Different foods and nutrients all work together to create a healthy, balanced diet. Aim to eat a variety of whole grains, along with other carbohydrate sources such as fruits, vegetables, and legumes to ensure your body is getting all of the nutrients it needs.
3. Bread does not make you gain weight
No single food is going to make you gain weight. In fact, hearty, high fiber breads can actually have the opposite effect - they can make you feel full for longer, provide you with adequate energy throughout the day, and prevent cravings and overeating later in the day. Bread is often vilified when it comes to weight management, however, being overly restrictive with certain foods can cause an unhealthy relationship with food. Focus on nourishing your body with good food, and enjoy everything in moderation!
4. Bread can be a good source of fiber and protein
Especially the whole grain options! Fiber is very important for our gut health, regular bowel movements, and keeping us full. Proteins are the building blocks of our body, and also help keep us full. In addition to fiber and protein, whole grain breads are also a source of B vitamins, folate, iron, and even calcium.
5. Bread can easily be paired with other nutritious foods
Another reason why bread is so great - you can make it even more nutritious by pairing it with other nutrient-rich foods! Looking for some ideas?
Nut and seed buttersHomemade chia-fruit jamMashed avocado & hot sauceHummus with freshly cracked black pepperPoached egg with fresh tomato and arugulaSliced or melted cheeseCanned tuna or salmon Panini with rotisserie chicken, brie, and vegetables
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A weekend favourite! Super easy and super nutritious. Get kids involved and be creative with your toppings! Pair egg cups with a fresh fruit salad or a light breakfast green salad.
RECIPE
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
6 slices of multigrain bread 2 tbsp unsalted butter or margarine, melted ½ cup shredded cheddar cheese (or other preferred cheese)½ cup diced tomato6 medium eggsSalt and freshly ground pepperOptional Toppings: fresh salsa, guacamole, baby arugula, parsley
Directions
Preheat oven to 375°Flatten each bread slice with a rolling pin until very thin. Trim crusts off bread (optional). Lightly brush both sides of bread with melted butter. Cut each slice in half diagonally.Place two bread halves in 1 muffin cup, with cut-sides-facing and bread corners sticking up above rims. Ensure the bottom of the muffin cup is completely covered. Repeat with remaining bread slices.Bake bread at 375° for 5 minutesRemove from oven. Divide shredded cheese and diced tomato into each cup. Crack 1 egg into each cup. Sprinkle eggs evenly with salt and pepper.Bake an additional 16-18 minutes, or until desired doneness of egg yolk is achieved.Remove pan from oven and let cool for 5 minutes.Gently twist eggy cups out of each muffin tin. Top with additional desired toppings. Enjoy!
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French toast is often viewed as a decadent meal, but it can actually be a very nutritious breakfast option! This recipe doesn’t use any added sugar (except for the optional maple syrup for topping), and uses whole grain bread (excellent fiber!), eggs (protein!), and fortified almond milk or alternative (calcium & vitamin D!). You can top it with sliced fruits or berries for a fiber boost, and an extra dollop of Greek yogurt for some extra protein. Healthy AND kid-friendly!!
RECIPE
Serves: 4-6
Ingredients
8 slices of multigrain bread 4 eggs
1 cup fortified almond milk (or other preferred milk)
1 tsp vanilla extract1 ½ tsp cinnamon1/2 tsp nutmeg¼ tsp saltCoconut Oil for cookingOptional Toppings: fresh fruit, pure maple syrup, Greek yogurt
Directions
In a large bowl whisk together eggs, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg andsaltPlace egg mixture into shallow dishAdd bread 2 slices at a time and allow to soak for 1 minute on each sideHeat coconut oil in a large panCook first 2 slices over medium heat for 2-3 minutes per sideRepeat with remaining bread slices and egg mixServe immediately with toppings of choice. Enjoy!
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Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) has become a very popular natural remedy for just about everything. There have been many claims that ACV can assist with weight loss, dandruff relief, acne treatments, digestion, and even diabetes! Is all of this too good to be true? Let’s explore the science together!
The main component of ACV is acetic acid, which many claim can have the following benefits:
Weight lossFeeling of fullnessLowering cholesterolKilling bacteriaDestroying cancer cellsDecreasing blood sugar
Though studies have been conducted to test the benefits of ACV, no significant data has been found which backs up these claims. Most testing has been done on animals (primarily rats and mice), which have very different anatomy and physiology compared to humans.
For people with diabetes, consuming vinegar has been linked to reducing blood sugar levels. A study by the American Diabetes Association states that people with type 2 diabetes could benefit from having vinegar at night, making their blood sugar levels better in the morning (2). The acetic acid blocks starch from being absorbed, therefore not allowing blood sugar levels to significantly increase.
Another study found that, after 8 weeks of consuming ACV twice a day, people with high cholesterol had substantial decrease in total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels (3). However, no impact was found on healthy individuals who did not already have increased levels of cholesterol.
ACV has been found to have antimicrobial properties, making it helpful for immunocompromised patients who suffer from infections due to microbes (1). However, this is only the case when it is used alongside other methods of treatment.
ACV is definitely not a magic weight loss drink. Findings show that only minimal weight loss is achieved if consuming ACV consistently (4). The reason weight loss can occur is due to the acetic acid which can block starch from being absorbed. At the end of the day, having a balanced diet, being active, and managing stress are the key elements of a healthy lifestyle!
Taking ‘health shots’ of ACV has become increasingly popular. Due to its acidic properties, consuming ACV by itself can result in gastrointestinal upset. If you are planning to incorporate ACV as a 'health shot', make sure to dilute it with water. If not, it can cause damage to your throat as well as to your stomach. It is also important to talk to your doctor before deciding to incorporate ACV regularly into your diet because it can interact with medications you may be taking.
Further testing and studies need to be performed before any assumptions on ACV’s benefits can be confirmed. However, apple cider vinegar can be a part of a healthy, balanced lifestyle when consumed in moderation such as in salad dressing, as an egg substitute, or as part of a recipe.
Still have questions about apple cider vinegar or another health trend? Be sure to make an appointment with Alex or Stephanie!
References:
Antimicrobial activity of apple cider vinegar against Escherichia coli, Staphylococcus aureus and Candida albicans (Yagnik, D., Serafin, V., Shah, A., 2018)American Diabetes Association – Vinegar Ingestion at Bedtime Moderates Waking Glucose Concentrations in Adults with Well-Controlled Type 2 Diabetes (White, A., and Johnston, C., 2007)Influence of apple cider vinegar on blood lipids (Chan, Y., Nazari, R., Nia, H., 2012)Can apple cider vinegar help with weight loss? (CNN, LaMotte, S., 2017)
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