At ABQ Today: How to Make the Best Choices for Your Proper Nutrition
The rise of nutrition drinks, teas, shakes, bars, and supplements are here at ABQ. And they are unstoppable!
We see ads for specific products claiming to be beneficial for overall mental health and cancer prevention. But how sure are we that these really are?
With this in mind, we need to check from time to time and ask ourselves: what should we look for in these products to ensure that we are on the right track?
Here are answers to common questions related to nutrition that might have, in one way or another, crossed your mind. Let us discuss nutrition labels, drinks, bars, and how nutrition can affect a person’s mental health and her fight against certain cancers.
- Nutrition labels – are they accurate?
- Nutrition shakes and teas – are they healthy?
- Are nutrition bars indeed reliable to be nutritious?
- How can nutrition affect mental health?
- Can nutrition help fight cancer?
Nutrition Labels – Are They Accurate?
Nutrition labels are mandated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in accordance with the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act (NLEA) of 1990. Nutrition labels are designed to give clear and transparent information about the specific nutrients present in a certain food. It is given via a standardized format which includes product-specific information such as serving size, calories, and nutrient information.
Now the question is, are these nutrition labels accurate? Unfortunately, these labels are not true half of the time.
Truth is that the law allows a relatively large margin of error (up to 20%) between the stated value and the actual value of nutrients. Imagine thinking that you are having a 100-calorie salad, but you are actually getting a 120-calorie vegan fix. Or if you view it on a larger scale, imagine thinking that you are having a 1000-calorie diet for the day, but you pretty much ate food equivalent to 1200 calories!
It may not sound so significant for healthy individuals, but for people on a strict diet because of medical disorders, this 20% is a major disruption for one’s diet specifications. This is bad news, especially for people with diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and chronic kidney disease.
According to a 2008 report conducted by the Government Accountability Office on 300 randomly audited Nutrition Facts labels, values for roughly 90% of the labels fall within the acceptable 20%. It was also found out further that the problematic nutrients were Vitamin A and iron. About a third of the labels were reported to be “unacceptably inaccurate” with respect to iron content.
Although it is tempting to ignore nutrition labels, a study in 2010 focused on people trying to lose weight has shown that these labels do matter. Awareness of nutritional content somehow influences a person’s eating behavior in a positive manner. But then, knowing how flawed and erroneous these labels can be, nothing can go wrong if one chooses to go back to the basics – eating minimally processed, whole, and unpackaged food.
By 2016, these nutrition labels were updated to specifically include updated information regarding the connection between diet and chronic lifestyle diseases. This was done to help consumers become well informed about their food choices. Among the best things about the new format are the following:
- It sees to it that the percent Daily Value is explained well at the footnote;
- More visible font size for “Calories”, “servings per container,” and “Serving size”;
- Declaration of the actual amount (in addition to percent Daily Value) of very important vitamins and minerals specifically vitamin D, calcium, iron and potassium;
- Declaration of “Added sugars,” in grams and as percent Daily Value; and
- Daily values for specific nutrients such as sodium, dietary fiber and vitamin D were updated based on recent research and scientific data.
Nutrition Shakes and Teas – Are They Healthy?
We see it almost everywhere - not just in ABQ, but all over the globe! Nutritional beverages all claiming they have what every person needs to recharge – promising faster metabolism, detoxification, and an energy boost.
First, let us look at the major components of these nutrition shakes and teas. Most of these drinks claim to be low-calorie, but do these beverages appear to be what they are hyped to be?
Most nutritionists say that these nutrition shakes and teas – coming in bright hues that could almost convince everyone to give it a try – have a rather high unregulated dose of caffeine coupled with supplements.
That makes it very much like your ordinary energy drink.
Social media has created the hype that made these shakes and teas the “it” thing nowadays. Unfortunately, however, most of these beverages do not have studies to back up their claims on metabolism, detoxification, and energy boosts.
Add to that, these beverages are not obliged to disclose all ingredients. The components and supplements are not regulated by the FDA, hence, there is no absolute and reliable way to be sure that they contain what they claim to have.
One sure thing common among these beverages is their high dose of caffeine. This apparently explains the “kick” that most of these shakes and teas do to consumers.
However, very high doses of caffeine can be detrimental to one’s health. It doesn’t have to be blatantly obvious: caffeine can be incorporated in the drinks through the inclusion of plant-based sources such as guarana, green tea, or black tea. For instance, since green tea is known for its health benefits, it can serve as the perfect coverup for outrageously high caffeine concentrations.
Sad to say, there is no regulation whatsoever regarding the dose and labeling of these beverages.
Most nutritional teas and shakes claim to be “nutritious” because of an overload of B vitamins. True enough, your B vitamins contribute highly to energy boosts.
The thing is B vitamins should also be taken moderately to avoid side effects which include nausea and a rapid heart rate. Toxicity symptoms can occur anytime, and no one will take responsibility if something fatal happens.
What do we learn from this? There are no shortcuts towards achieving a healthier you. No nutritional shake or tea has ever come up with enough evidence that they can really help people boost their metabolism and perhaps aid in weight loss as well.
At the end of the day, a healthy diet loaded with fruits and vegetables, coupled with water for hydration, is still one’s best option for a reliable metabolic boost. Say no to purportedly quick fixes for your health and body!
Are nutrition bars indeed reliable to be nutritious?
Nowadays, it does seem that sitting down to carefully munch your lunch is already a luxury. With today’s people always on the go, one sometimes finds herself advised by her health provider to take nutrition bars to make up for lost nutrients and calories.
The thing to remember is: these nutrition bars are not made equal! Though it comes conveniently like a wrapped candy that you can just put away in your purse to munch on any time, it comes in different forms to suit different needs.
It may be nutritious, but you can’t just shove every little nutrient into one small, tiny bar. Hence, there are high-carbohydrate bars, protein bars, energy bars, meal-replacement bars, etc.
The danger comes in when you choose the bar that is not suited for your specific need. You might be in for a little overkill. Plus, there are additional warnings: some of these bars just might contain a little too much sugar and fat. Dieticians recommend that these bars be used in moderation.
Another thing to remember: anything that provides calories, provides energy. Even if it’s just a banana, it can give you a boost the same way a chocolate bar gives you energy.
Thus, although these nutrition bars come in handy, make sure you choose the bar that you need. And make sure you do not rely too heavily on them. These bars should never replace the need for whole, minimally processed foods on your diet. With nutrition bars gaining much popularity in ABQ, now you know the right thing to do!
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How Can Nutrition Affect Mental Health?
With ABQ serving as the medical hub of New Mexico, it is not far off that its constituents are aware enough to prioritize mental health and wellbeing.
And with a lot of focus today on mental health, it is not far off that one should discuss the relationship of nutrition to one’s mental well-being.
Mood disorders, anxiety, and depression are found to be linked to low levels of certain nutrients such as folate, iron, magnesium, and zinc. Decreased levels of B vitamins, specifically vitamins B6, B12, and low levels of vitamin D are also noted to affect mental well-being.
In 2013, a meta-analysis on 22 eligible studies indicated that high compliance to a Mediterranean diet resulted in a 32% lesser risk for depression.
Another 2019 study conducted on 1128 adults aged 50 and above noted that a diet rich in sugar and saturated fat was associated with high anxiety levels.
In 2019, a systematic review of 56 studies conducted on adolescents revealed an inverse association between the consumption of healthy foods and the risk of depression. Specifically, these foods include olive oil, fish, nuts, legumes, dairy products, fruits, and vegetables. Moreover, it was also suggested to improve symptoms.
This just goes to show that eating healthy food is like giving your brain the best fuel for it to work harmoniously. The human body’s digestive system contains millions of good bacteria that ultimately influence neurotransmitter production. These neurotransmitters are responsible for brain function.
Eating junk food, fatty food, and processed food somehow disrupts the digestive tract’s ecosystem and causes inflammation. Mood disorders begin when neurotransmission goes nuts.
Can Nutrition Help Fight Cancer?
WIth cancer as the second leading cause of death in New Mexico, it is necessary to take all options available to decrease risk among the population. Despite the presence of an active and effective cancer coalition in ABQ, dealing with cancer remains to be an overwhelmingly difficult experience.
It is vital to remember that although there seems to be a lot of genetic influence in cancer, environmental factors are thought to be linked to 80-90% of cancer cases.
Studies have shown that a healthy diet coupled with lifestyle changes can help prevent 30 to 40% of all cancers. There are specific foods that are associated with an increased risk for cancer. Thus, avoiding these foods will likely result in lower cancer risk.
Concentrated sugars and refined flour products contribute to cancer risk. This also includes low fiber intake, eating too much red meat, and having an imbalance in omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.
Do you know that processed meat is already identified as a carcinogen? The International Agency for Cancer Research has established this fact after 22 scientists from 10 different countries studied the carcinogenicity of processed meat. A carcinogen is a substance that causes cancer. Processed meat includes meat that underwent various procedures to preserve its flavor. Specific examples include hot dogs, bacon, ham, salami, and chorizo.
A review of multiple studies has established that people who are regularly eating processed meat have a 20 – 50% chance of developing colorectal cancer.
Aside from processed meat, another culprit for developing cancer is overcooking food. Cooking food at high temperatures can result in the production of heterocyclic amines and advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). These are harmful compounds that can cause inflammation and oxidative stress to the body.
Food high in fat and protein produce these harmful compounds when cooked through frying, sautéing, grilling, broiling, and barbequing. Gentler cooking methods are advised instead, such as steaming, boiling, or stewing.
Dairy consumption is also linked to cancer, particularly prostate cancer. A study involving 3918 men diagnosed with prostate cancer showed that increased intake of dairy also increased the risk for cancer progression.
This just goes to show that less and imbalanced nutrition highly influences cancer risk. Proper nutrition is crucial to cancer prevention.
Cancer cannot be prevented through a single superfood. Instead, cancer is prevented by loading up one’s daily diet with healthy food.
Several studies have established the effectiveness of certain food groups against cancer. This includes:
- Vegetables (e.g. broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, tomatoes, and carrots)
- Fruits (e.g. citrus fruits)
- Spices (e.g. cinnamon and curcumin)
- Beans and legumes
- Olive oil
- High-quality dairy products which include raw milk and fermented milk products
The balance of proper nutrition is vital in preventing and fighting against cancer. People who were already diagnosed with cancer are encouraged to follow a balanced diet to help them have a better quality of life.
Nutrition is a very broad topic that covers a lot of questions. With more developments in research, it is normal to find ourselves troubled as to which supplement or product is the most reliable.
If we are aiming for controlled diets, we usually rely on nutrition labels to help us count calories and identify ingredients. It turns out, however, that these are not accurate most of the time.
Nutritional shakes and teas promise to contain a lot of nutrients and are highly effective in energy boosts. It seems however that these ads are misleading. If one decides to drink these, it will be at her own risk as these beverages are not regulated.
Nutrition bars may be one of the most convenient creations today, but they are not created equal. It is highly important to identify your specific need before deciding which nutrition bar will come in handy.
Nutrition highly affects how neurotransmitters function in our brain. Thus, proper nutrition is also key for better mental health.
There may be a lot of risk factors for cancer, but it can be prevented or delayed with the proper diet. It is also crucial for cancer patients to maintain a proper diet to have a better quality of life despite cancer treatments.