Thursday, January 28, 2010

How Do I Get Enough Potassium in My Diet?

I know that the RDA of potassium for an adult is 3,500 mg. A banana has about 420 mg of potassium.
I eat about 6 bananas/day. How do I get the remaining? I am trying to keep my blood pressure in check. I am 140/90.  Marcus

Dear Marcus,
Actually the recommendation for potassium is 4700 mg per day. But it can--and should--be reached by eating a variety of foods in the diet! There is no need to have more than one banana per day, and having many servings of one food are preventing you from getting nutrients that other foods provide.
Other great sources of potassium (that are common in most people's usual diet) are potatoes, sweet potatoes, citrus fruits, tomatoes, milk, meat and fish. It is rare to see a potassium deficiency from a poor diet since it is abundant in so many food groups.
Here is more information about potassium in foods:
And since you are watching your blood pressure, there is a great diet for keeping it lower (although this is a 64-page book!)

Monday, January 25, 2010

Is There a Diet to Lower My Triglycerides?

My doctor just advised me my triglyceride levels are elevated, although not bad enough yet to warrant  medince. I have been taking fish oil for a while now.  Are there any particular foods that I should be eating or avoiding to lower them?  Joy

Dear Joy,

Triglycerides are the intermediate product of carbohydrate and sugar absorption. When you eat pasta, bread, sweets, and other carbohydrate foods these yield calories. As your body decides what to do with these calories--use them for energy, or store them as fat for later use--they travel through the bloodstream in the form of triglycerides. This means that if you get your blood tested without fasting the levels will be higher because they are still circulating after a meal. So when your doctor says "don't eat breakfast before your blood test" it is because the test results will be significantly affected.

People who are overweight tend to have higher circulating levels of triglycerides, so weight loss will help.
I would never suggest avoiding carbohydrate foods, but certainly limiting them to a reasonable two or three servings per meal. Piles of pasta, donuts and other pastries, sugary beverages and even large amounts of fruit juice can keep triglyceride levels high (above 140 mg/dL).  Limit sweets and alcohol, and focus on whole grains which can slow sugar absorption.

Fish oils are also proven to help. Eating fish is the best way! Taking more than 1000 mg (usually found in one fish oil pill) should not be done without a physician's consultation. High levels of fish oil can affect blood clotting and lead to stroke.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

How Quickly Can I Lose 80 Pounds?

I basically just started to eat just fruits and vegetables and whole wheat bread lately. My goal is to lose 80 lbs. And for my work out I dance all the time to get in a good workout.  I read that Michael Jackson lost like 7 lbs. a night from all the dancing he did because he was a strict vegetarian. What do you think about my diet and exercise routine? Will I reach my goal of losing 80 lbs.? And how long will it take for me to lose this weight?  Kenneth

Dear Kenneth,
Losing 80 pounds is an admirable goal. It's great you've found an exercise you love to do, and that you are motivated to eat healthier.

Don't be mislead by reading fantastic stories of weight loss: No one can lose seven pounds in one day unless it is water loss from perspiration (which should be replaced as quickly as possible). And there are many vegetarians who are not only overweight, but unhealthy.

Realistically you can expect to lose one pound per week for doing an hour of heavy exercise every day. Another pound or two per week can be lost by cutting out hundreds of calories of extra food intake. A maximum safe weight loss of three pounds per week means 10-12 pounds per month. For an 80 pound loss you are looking at 8 to 10 months. Reasonably.

My concern is that you are eliminating healthy foods in your effort to concentrate on weight loss alone. You have no good source of protein in your diet, for instance. If you want to eat a healthy vegetarian diet you can include beans, nuts, whole grain pastas, rice and cereals, for instance. Here is a link for a healthy and balanced vegetarian diet.

So, keep up the exercise, balance a healthy diet with fewer high-calorie foods and more nutrient-dense foods, and enjoy the weight loss as it comes off at a safe rate of 10 pounds per month. Don't be in a hurry. If you do it right you will be exactly where you want to be in the fall and you'll never have to diet again!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Are There Certain Foods to Help Control Blood Pressure?

I've heard that some foods, like bananas, help lower elevated blood pressure? What can you tell me about this and other foods?  Anna  L.

Dear Anna,

There is actually an entire diet plan to help lower blood pressure and you can view the entire 64 page booklet printed by the National Institute of Health here: .  It's called the DASH diet and stands for Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

The focus is to reduce sodium (salt) intake and to eat more foods that provide potassium (like bananas and many other fruits and vegetables) and calcium.  This mineral ratio has been proven over decades to help lower high blood pressure.

What Should I Have for Breakfast?

What would you recommend having for breakfast. I was told by a few health-conscious folks to avoid milk because it really doesn't do much good after a certain age. So cereal is out--what else would be good to have?  Marc

Dear Marc,

What a person has for breakfast is totally a matter of individual preference (given there are no health issues present). Keep in mind that breakfast should provide 25% of the daily value for nutrients. Having a pastry for breakfast isn't going to provide much in the way of nutrition, but will provide lots of calories.

What a person makes of this meal depends on how hungry they are in the morning, whether they want something to last through to lunch or can plan on a mid-morning snack, have time to sit and prepare a meal or need a fast solution, and of course what foods they like to eat!
An ideal breakfast is healthy, reasonable calorie level, and contains a source of protein (like egg or cheese) to help tide you over through mid-morning.

I do think milk is a good source of nutrition. It's difficult to get the same amount of calcium and riboflavin from any food source that isn't dairy. You could try soy milk or rice milk if you do like cereal (which can be a fantastic source of fiber).

Some quick ideas are a slice of cheese melted on an English Muffin you can grab on the way out the door and eat in the car, or a serving of Carnation Instant Breakfast.  Making an omelet is an excellent way to add in vegetables for the morning meal: mushrooms, spinach, and green pepper are some that pack a lot of fiber and nutrients into your first meal of the day

Also remember there's no rule about breakfast foods having to be typical eggs/toast/pancakes, etc. If you want a turkey sandwich or a slice of leftover pizza, that's up to you!

Monday, January 18, 2010

Are Powdered Fiber Products Good For You?

How do you feel about fibre powders like Metamucil and Benefibre? I thought I would try some Benefibre. The first couple days I was quite gassy but now my system has settled down.
I have noticed I dont feel quite as bloated,and my appetite is reduced. Terry.
Dear Terry,
I think these powders are a great way to get in dietary fiber for those who don't manage to get the 25-35 grams recommended by eating lots of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables. Serving size is one to three times per day of either a teaspoon or a tablespoon, depending whether the product is flavored or just mixed  into juice.
Some people like the idea of swallowing a pill, and many of the fiber companies make them--but beware the serving size... it's usually between three and six pills per dose, and this can be a lot to swallow three times a day.
The benefits of increasing fiber in your diet include feeling more full, alleviating constipation, and reducing the risk of developing certain types of cancers, especially that of the colon.
Metamucil, being a soluble fiber, also has the beneficial side effect of lowering bad cholesterol levels.

Gas is a common side effect when first increasing fiber intake, but as you have pointed out, our body adapts to that in a short period of time!