Thursday, January 14, 2010


*After I wrote this post, a huge earthquake hit Haiti, taking many lives and devastating the country where a reported 80% of the population lives below the poverty line.


Photo credit: Getty Images

Please consider helping…


Day 1 of my oncology rotation began at 7:30 am Tuesday morning. Naturally, some caffeine was necessary.

How many of you start your day with a cup of coffee {or tea}? Personal faves include Trader Joe’s Gingerbread coffee and a Traverse City Cherry brew at my fave place in Michigan. And in the winter, I’m a big tea fan, too.


Kath asked about caffeine intake recommendations, so I thought I’d do a little research on the topic.


  • may help improve performance when sleep is lacking BUT
  • can interfere with sleep
  • takes about 3-4 hours to be completely eliminated by the body
  • can lead to disturbed sleeping patterns, anxiety and nervousness, upset stomach, headaches and difficulty concentrating
  • recommendations (University of IL, University of Washington School of Medicine): < 250-300 mg or ~ 3 cups of coffee

:: caffeine comparison* ::

caffeine chart

*Center for Science in the Public Interest, 2007

Bottom line: caffeine is ok to consume in moderation, but it shouldn’t be a substitute for getting adequate sleep, since we know important processes occur while you're getting your beauty rest. You should also ensure that you’re staying adequately hydrated and not substituting caffeinated beverages for water.

Caffeine dependency is controversial. The amount of caffeine to cause withdrawal symptoms (headache, fatigue, irritability, etc) differs depending on a person’s size and metabolism. I think it’s fair to say that even the recommended amount of caffeine may lead to symptoms of withdrawal in some people.

This is a good prelude for an upcoming post featuring an organization that buys coffee through a 40 family cooperative in Honduras. If you’re confused about fair trade, shade grown, etc., you won’t want to miss this post!

Off to save lives through nutrition. :-)


Thursday, January 7, 2010

peanuts vs. almonds

Hi Everyone [and welcome new readers!]-

It officially snowed in St. Louis last night. And when I say snow, I mean more than 1” [because that usually gets everyone all riled up around here]. No snow day, though…SLU is too hardcore for that business.


After I posted about roasting almonds, Matt asked if they were nutritionally superior to peanuts. After doing a little research, here’s what I came up with:

 arial 16 point

sources: almonds, peanuts, nutrition facts

:: takeaway points ::

  • both types of nuts offer nutritional benefits and have very similar macronutrient profiles
  • although sources I looked at linked both almonds and peanuts to food allergies, I think peanut allergies are more common
  • almond butter vs peanut butter: consider added sugars & oils
  • there is some concern that peanut butter contains levels of aflatoxin, which is linked to cancer, and I’m doing some more research to find out specifically about levels
  • also, I’ve read some conflicting information about the best temperature and time for roasting nuts to prevent oxidation and free radical formation…more info to come

Do you tend to choose almonds/almond butter or peanuts/peanut butter?

Don’t forget to enter the giveaway for guru salve {especially all of you athletes; it will be your best friend} before Saturday, January 9th at midnight [CST].


Tuesday, January 5, 2010

sorry for going MIA {again}

I promise I’m still alive. I really didn’t intend to go this long between posts, but it just sort of happened. I hope that you’ll bear with the sporadic posting due to the craziness of my dietetic internship.
Thanks for all of the positive feedback on my first post on fat. This topic is not easy for me to write about, especially because it goes against mainstream nutrition principles. Just a forewarning: usually I hate writing super wordy posts, but this one is a doozy {kudos if you get all the way through..}
Basically, there are 2 sides to this story. One side, supported by the American Dietetic Association and the American Heart Association, is the basis for our current dietary recommendations on fat and holds that saturated fat is the main cause of increased cholesterol levels and heart disease.
Lipid Hypothesis
There have been numerous studies that have examined the link between saturated fat intake and heart disease:
  • Ancel Keys conducted research in the 1950’s which concluded that high saturated fat intake was associated with high cholesterol which was associated with heart disease. However, many studies have questioned both the methodology and conclusions from his studies.
  • The Framington Heart Study (1948) compared subjects who consumed large amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol with those who consumed little. Recent results showed that subjects with high cholesterol or blood pressure were at increased risk for CHD, but high cholesterol was not related to dietary fat or cholesterol intake.
  • The Lipid Research Clinics Coronary Primary Prevention Trial (LRC-CPPT), is often used to justify low fat diets due to the finding that every 1% reduction in serum cholesterol levels led to a 2% reduction in the risk for CHD. However, all subjects consumed a low-cholesterol, low-saturated-fat diet, and the experimental group was also given a cholesterol-lowering drug. Independent researchers who tabulated the results of this study found no significant statistical difference in coronary heart disease death rates between the two groups.
The other side of the story…
In addition to the flaws in the studies discussed above, there have been numerous studies which support the conclusion that saturated fat does not cause heart disease.
  • The incidence of heart disease has increased since 1920, but the consumption of animal fat in the American diet has decreased.
  • The Mediterranean diet contains a high percentage of saturated fat, yet incidence of heart disease is quite low in this area.
  • Studies have shown that when overweight persons with high cholesterol and triglycerides were put on high fat and low carbohydrate diets, their lipid profiles improved significantly (Volek, 2008).
  • The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition just published a study this month evaluating the association of saturated fat with heart disease and found that the intake of saturated fat was not associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, or cardiovascular disease.
Bottom line: I’m uncertain of the link between dietary intake of saturated fat and cholesterol and heart disease. I don’t think an extremely low fat diet is beneficial or maintainable, but I also don’t think that severely limiting carbs is a good idea either. So that leaves us back where we started…moderation.
Stay tuned for part 3…answers to your questions and what other researchers say causes heart disease.
Feel free to comment with any additional questions, and I’ll try to include them in the next post.