Thursday, June 28, 2012

Is Sea Salt Better Than Table Salt?

I keep hearing that sea salt is better than regular iodized salt. What is different in sea salt? And is table salt another kind different from iodized salt?  Ken R.

Hi Ken,
I hear this question frequently and it can be very confusing. First it's important to know that all salt is sodium-chloride. Period. And all salt contains the same content of sodium and chloride, no matter where it's from or how it's used.

That said, different textures of salt can have different uses. Because sea salt has larger grains than table salt, the perceived taste may be preferable on certain dishes. On the other hand, the smaller grains of table salt are spread across your tongue easier, and using less can bring more of the flavor.
There is also an anti-caking agent added to most brands of regular table salt, and some people believe that interferes with the pure salt taste.

Iodized salt has iodine added to it as a vehicle to provide this essential mineral to diets across the states. It dates back to the first part of the 20th century when goiter (the iodide-deficiency disease) was found rampant in the northern part of the midwest where soil was iodine-poor. Nowadays we have access to food from all over the world and we don't see nearly as many people with mineral deficiencies.

Bottom line: Choose whichever texture you prefer and experiment with different types on different foods. Be sure to limit your use, especially if you are prone to high blood pressure or kidney disease. And remember that a large portion of sodium in the diet of many Americans comes from processed, smoked, and canned foods as opposed to using too much salt at the table.

Monday, June 25, 2012

How Can I Stop Eating Junk Food?

I've recently noticed that I have been eating a lot of snacks and junk food. It might just be summer boredom. But when I get bored, I find myself eating again. I can never seem to get full. I'll find myself standing over the snacks and looking for which ones I want first. It's gotten a bit worse lately. I just can't seem to stop eating so much junk.

My diet in general is kind of poor. I want to change my diet, but It's hard. I try to, but always end up eating the same old things until I get sick of them. All I eat is basically junk food.
How do I stop eating so much junk food, and change my diet to something more healthy?

Ginger R.

Hi Ginger,
That's tough. Because junk food tastes so good and makes us feel so good when we eat it. You may have to just keeping doing it until the suffering (do you really feel awful about it?) outweighs the pleasure you get from eating it. Until you are suffering in some obvious way ("my clothes don't fit!") the scales will always tip towards the pleasure of eating sweet and salty snacks.

If you want to make a change, you're going to have to come up with some motivation. Here's the task: Write down the top 5 reasons you want to stop eating junk food and improve the healthfulness of your diet. Usually these will be non-descript one-word answers like "health". Well, that doesn't sound very motivating. Take each of these words another step and ask "Why is health important to me?" Keep asking that question of each answer until you come up with a darn good reason to stop eating junk food! For some people it's, 'My parents both have diabetes and I know that's what's in store for me if I don't get down to a reasonable weight' and for others it's more like, 'I feel terrible about myself and look horrible in my clothes--most of which don't even fit anymore--so I never go out with my friends anymore and I miss them'.

Then establish a reward system. Give yourself credit (in the form of a star sticker on a calendar or a dollar in a jar) every time you make the right move, and choose a glass of water instead of a handful of cookies, or a piece of fruit instead of a candy bar. Have an established reward, like a pedicure after 20 stars, or a new pair of shoes when the jar has enough $$ in it. This way you'll be working towards something you want in addition to feeling better about making the right choice. Chances are, you'll feel much better physically as well. And, in time, the junk food won't have the same hold on you, and avoiding it will become easier.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

I would just like to lose 10 pounds

Hi, I feel a little funny writing because I only want to lose 10 pounds. It's not even a matter of health. I just know I would feel better if I were 10 pounds lighter. I'm a 41 year old female, 5'4" weighing 140 pounds. I just want to get back to where I was a few years ago. I don't know what changed--I can't think of anything--and I am so frustrated I don't know where to start. Can you just point me in the right direction. It's so confusing hearing about all the diets I'm not sure what would work. I don't really think a diet is the right answer. Cynthia F.

Hi Cynthia,
It's quite common to put on a few pounds over several years and not even realize it. Keep in mind that by changing just 20 calories a day--that's right, just 20!--you can gain two pounds a year. So it's not even noticeable...until a few years later when you're up 8 or 10 pounds. Now the clothes are getting tight--now it's serious!
So how do you lose it? The same way you gained it. Only, hopefully a bit quicker!

Take a look at some small things that may have changed in your lifestyle: Did you pick up a habit like having a creamy latte at your Monday meetings or an ice cream or alcoholic beverage after work on Fridays? Did you stop taking 2 flights of stairs because you changed jobs or moved from where you used to live? Have you slacked on your exercise routine because you're dating someone new? Or started eating out more than you used to (it's terribly difficult to watch calories when you don't know what's in that dish you ordered).

Even if you can't figure it out, it's easy to find a way to cut 100 calories from your diet and lose that 10 pounds over a year. Want to lose it quicker? Lose another 100 or so from sweets and added fats, and add a 100-calorie burning exercise, like just a 20-minute walk in the evening.

My best advice is always to keep a food and exercise diary. There are a lot of websites that make this easy, or you can do it the old-fashioned way (I do) with just a pencil and paper. Writing down what you eat makes you think about it and acknowledge it. Knowing that cinnamon roll could stand between you and that pound you want to lose this month may just be all the motivation you need to say no!

Think about having a buddy to partner with, or even a coach to get you started and staying on track ( has a list of products and services). A lot of the websites keep you motivated by letting you link to other buddies, and award you token 'prizes' for staying the course.

Whatever you choose be sure it's the right way for you--it shouldn't be too complicated or rigid, and should eventually become a healthy habit, so you'll never find yourself in this situation again :)

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

What Does a 1200-Calorie Diet Look Like?

I'm trying to lose weight, and being that I'm a woman in my 60's I find it harder than ever to get a few pounds off. I am trying to find a 1200-calorie diet to follow as I understand that's what it would take for me to lose this weight. I'm not sure how to go about planning my meals. Can you help?
Doris E.

Hi Doris,
It's likely you may find a 1200 calorie diet challenging, depending on how you normally eat. It's true we need fewer calories as we age, and especially women of shorter stature require precious few calories to prevent weight gain. Here's what a basic 1200-calorie diet would look like, with a few alternatives suggested.

Breakfast: 1 egg or 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese with 2 slices of "light" bread (40 calories per slice) and 1 cup of berries or melon. [an alternative is a bowl of high-fiber cereal with skim milk and fruit--this saves a protein serving for a morning snack, which could be a hard-boiled egg or string cheese sticks].

Lunch: Salad tossed with lots of fresh vegetables and 2 oz chicken, tuna or turkey (go very easy on the dressing--even lo-cal--as it can add up to over a hundred calories for every couple of tablespoons) and yogurt, saving starch for an afternoon snack, like a granola bar [alternative meal would be (1) lite lunchmeat on light bread with a small salad and fruit, or (2) a baked potato with plain yogurt and veggies--saving some calories for an afternoon snack such as cheese and crackers].

Dinner: 2-3 ounces of meat (preferably fish, chicken, or very lean beef or pork) with a side of about 1 cup of rice or pasta, cous cous, etc and about 1/2 your plate full of fresh vegetables like broccoli, carrots, zucchini, green beans or brussels sprouts. [If you choose to make dinner basically protein and veggies, you can save starches and a few grams of fat for an evening snack of peanut butter and graham crackers or a skinny cow ice cream treat].

Basically it's restricting portions of virtually everything you eat, and very limited in fat and sweets. You could add diet soda and diet jello, in moderation, as well as tea and coffee which have no calories.

Unfortunately most people stay on a diet like this for a few weeks, then go back to the way they were eating before and gain whatever they lost.
My advice is always to first try limiting and cutting back on some of the things you eat, allowing a slow and steady weight loss without suffering.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Does Milk Have Too Much Acid?

I keep hearing that we shouldn't drink milk because it can make your body too acid. I like milk and I've always thought I was doing my body good, getting a concentrated source of calcium for my bones. And I drink skim milk so it's a good protein source without fat. Am I wrong? Is it really not good for me?
Staci R.

Hi Staci,

I've heard these rumors as well, and let me put your mind at ease--there is absolutely NO truth to this at all. 
In fact, the pH balance in your body (usually this refers to your blood pH) is controlled by your lungs and your kidneys. These organs tightly regulate the blood pH to between 7.35 and 7.45 at all times. They can adjust by retaining or excreting certain compounds in the body, such as CO2.

Stomach acid is more acidic than anything you can ever eat, even the much maligned coca-cola. (Coca-cola has a pH of about 2.8 and stomach acid between 1.0 and 2.0). 
After leaving the stomach, contents are neutralized on their way into the first section of the small intestine by release of bicarbonate (a strong basic compound contained in pancreatic juices). 

There is no way you can eat so much acidic food or so much basic food (the opposite of acid, these foods have a high pH) that it throws your body pH out of whack. The only times we see people have acid-base imbalance is (1) severe advanced lung illness, (2) severe advanced kidney disease (or acute kidney injury), or (3) diabetic ketoacidosis (a life-threatening condition caused by extremely high ketone levels in untreated diabetes). Even the ketosis-promoting carb-free diets cannot affect the pH of your system because the healthy kidneys and lungs correct for this.

Some people have to limit their intake of highly acidic foods because of indigestion called GERD, and others have to limit foods that make their stomach cells secrete more acid, like chocolate, caffeine and peppermint. These conditions are limited to the stomach and esophagus.

Bottom line: There really isn't any way acid foods make their way into the blood to affect the pH of your system.