Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Top 3 Reasons You Should Eat Protein-Part II

As I continue on with my love affair of protein, here is the second reason why you should eat more protein:  Allows you to burn 50 to 70 calories per day just to digest and metabolize extra protein.  

Unlike carbohydrate or fat, there is no way to store extra protein in our bodies.  Therefore, our livers and kidneys have to do a bunch of work to convert the protein into other compounds either for storage (can be converted into carbohydrate or fat) or for elimination (something called urea).  That takes a lot of energy...about 50 to 70 calories worth.  

Now that's not much...barely a few swigs of wine....but it's something.  And for many SHEs, weight creeps up as we age.  An extra 50 calories a day could add up to 5 pounds over a year.  I don't know about you, but I'd rather eat the cottage cheese every morning than see it in the mirror one day...if you catch my drift. 

On top of this, it is pretty darn hard to overeat protein (see Part I on protein).  It is much easier to continue eating out of a bread basket or bag of chips (I am definitely an expert on this).  As such, you may also be less likely to overindulge on calories...which helps the bottom line.  (pun intended)

Now the question of how much protein a day to get the benefit of expending those extra calories is a tricky one. Since I am only a faux-cisian, I should state up front that folks with certain health conditions (e.g., kidney disease) should not be increasing protein intake.  For the rest of us, I think the answer lies somewhere between 90 and 150 grams per day (and up to 200 grams per day for those HEs).  That's about 25-35% of your total daily energy intake from protein.  Most of you are probably eating between 50 and 70 grams per day right now. 

Here's where things get a little more interesting.  Some experts suggest that the more INACTIVE you are, the more protein you should consume...more like 100 to 150 grams.  The more ACTIVE you are, the less protein you should consume...more like 90 to 110 grams.  Mrs/Dr. T...are you sure you blogged that correctly?  Why yes, I am quite sure.  The simple reason is that more active folks need more carbohydrates to comfortably perform their activities.

An easy place to start is to target 100 grams per day and see how you feel.  I will tell you that it's almost impossible to get there without a big dose at breakfast.  And remember that each of us has a unique body chemistry...not everyone will find that increasing the protein content of their diet is a good thing for them.  Would love to hear from folks if they try this!!! 

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Top 3 Reasons You Should Eat Protein-Part I

As I mentioned a few blogs ago, I spent the better part of the month of June writing a gigantor report on protein for a major food and beverage company.  Despite what some so-called "experts" will tell you, there are big food and beverage companies that want to do the right thing and make products that provide consumers with a benefit.  In such cases, they will retain a Dr. Dork like myself to review all of the science on a particular topic and come up with some conclusions.  In this case, I reviewed almost 100 clinical trials on protein.

I must admit up front, that I was already a fan of protein prior to starting this report.  I've been reading the science for the last 20 years and have seen how and when eating protein can be beneficial.  However in reviewing the most recent evidence, I now like protein even more than I did before.

That's not to say that carbohydrate and fat don't play very important roles in the diet.  They are extremely important.  All I'm saying is that protein also has a vital role in our diet for reasons beyond just replenishing muscle turnover in the body.    

Reason #1 Why You Should Eat More Protein:  Makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

This can be important for two very different reasons.  First of all, most people don't like to feel hungry.  It's not a warm fuzzy feeling to have a grumbling stomach.  Plus, when you're hungry it's hard to focus on anything...other than food.  Studies have shown that cognitive function declines when we're hungry...although if you're a human who has previously been hungry, you probably don't need a Dr. Dork to tell you that.

Second, feeling fuller for a longer period of time should (and I emphasize should) make it easier to consume fewer calories.  If you have a high-protein breakfast, you may not need a mid-morning snack (calories saved).  Or, you may consume less at your next meal (more calories saved).  This all assumes that you eat when you are hungry and stop when you are full...at least most of the time.  It's not clear how protein increases fullness but likely has to do with the amino acids signaling the 'satiety centers' in our bodies.  

One of my favorite Dr. Dorks studying protein is Dr. Donald K. Layman at University of Illinois.  He has done several studies in SHEs looking at the effects of protein on hunger, body weight, and body composition.  He will tell you that the women who eat a high-protein breakfast find they are significantly less hungry the rest of the day versus when they eat a high-carbohydrate breakfast.  But the challenge is getting a big dose of protein at breakfast.  Most convenient breakfast foods are high in carbohydrates (cereal, fruit smoothie, muffins, toast, energy bar) or fat (donut, croissants).  

Plus, some foods that say they are high in protein only contain 5 g per serving.  The research suggests that you need at least 20 g of protein to have the benefit of feeling fuller for a longer period of time.  Herein lies the challenge!  Here are a few foods that contain protein...when combined, you can get to that 20 g level:

  • 1 Egg - 6 g (77 calories)
  • 1 slice cheddar cheese - 7 g (113 calories)
  • 1 c milk - 8 g (90 calories for skim....can always dump in some protein powder to boost it up...make it a smoothie)
  • 1 c soy milk - 6 to 10 g depending on brand (~100 calories)
  • 2 T peanut butter - 8 g (190 calories)
  • 2 slices bacon - 6 g (90 calories)
  • 1 c Greek yogurt - 15 to 20 g (~100 calories)
  • 1/2 c cottage cheese - 15 g (81 calories for 1%)
  • 1/4 c almonds - 8 g (200 calories)
  • Think Thin protein bar - 20 g (240 calories)

If you can include some vegetables and sources of fiber in your breakfast, even better!  Both also increase feelings of fullness (not to mention doing a whole bunch of other good things in your body).  Any other ideas for protein at breakfast???  

Will post the next 2 reasons to eat protein later this week.  Stay tuned!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

All Hail Spanx...I Mean All....SHE and HE

Spanx streamline the shape,
Without any panty lines,
A must-have for SHEs

I like Spanx so much that I just wrote a haiku about them.  It could be their next big campaign.  I think the haiku is coming back into mainstream any day now.  Seriously...any day.

Bad poetry aside, I was an early adopter to Spanx.  You see, one of the downsides of aging is loss of elasticity of the skin.  You couple that with body fat re-distribution (and a few babies) and things can get a bit lumpy.      

I received my new Spanx catalog in the mail yesterday. Their R&D team is amazing...(their advertising team, not so much).  Check out these new items:
 These are similar to the original Spanx, but now with super special technology for the front, back, and sides.  And they are only $32.00!!!  

[Side Note:  Wearing these underneath a short skirt while walking in windy areas...like at a scientific convention in Chicago...is less embarrassing than wearing other undergarments below the skirt...I'm just saying....] 
This is a shirt!  Okay, it's $72.00 but you could wear it under a suit or under a casual summer top.  Same fancy technology as other Spanx to reduce lumpiness and muffin-topness. Comes in different colors too.
The bathing suits range from weird to cute.  This one here is actually a one piece that is designed to look like a tankini...and I think it's comparable in cuteness to other tankinis on the market.  However, let's be real for a minute...if you have legs like this woman I highly doubt that you need a Spanx tankini.  So if anyone buys this, let the rest of us know if it's a good buy at $107.00 (on sale from $178.00).

Now here is something I never would have predicted...but makes a lot of sense.

As HEs get older, they get a little lumpy too.  Now many don't care (though when they take their shirts off, I wish they would), but I bet some do.  Especially if you have a special occasion like a wedding or formal affair.  They are about a million times more expensive than a regular cotton undershirt at $58.00, but perhaps worth it?

They make a sleeveless version too.  Although, I find it a little ironic that you can see this guy's washboard stomach through his shirt.  It's a little hard to believe that this shirt will minimize a beer gut when it cannot contain the musculature of this male model.  Maybe it's built into the shirt for that price?  
What do you think?

Monday, June 21, 2010

Are the Bacteria in Your Colon Influencing Your Body Weight?

This is no joke...most of the cells in your body are not your own....they are from bacteria (bacterial cells are much smaller than human cells).  Most people have about 500 to 1000 different species of bacteria living in their body at a given time.  Some of these live in your eyes, mouth, nose, etc...but most of them reside in your colon.  

In fact, it's quite a party down there!  Most of the bacteria received an e-vite for your colon party shortly after you were born.  A few others were invited later because of what you ate or where you went on vacation or where you lived.  But no matter when and how they got there, they pretty much fall into two categories: The 'A-listers', those that you want at the party, and the 'party crashers', those that just cause trouble and you want them to mellow out or just leave.  If the party crashers somehow gain control of the party, things go south resulting in pleasantries like diarrhea, constipation, or even colon cancer.

It used to be easy to decide who was an A-lister and who was a party crasher based on whether the bacteria kept your colon functioning healthy.  But like science tends to do, it's become a bit more complicated.  A few years ago, a study in mice showed that those without any bacteria in their colons (aka, sterile) grew up to be lean whereas those that had a whole bunch of bacteria grew up to be fat.  A little bit more science happened and those mice with certain classes of bacteria turned out to be thinner than other mice with different bacteria (and it wasn't always the 'party crashers' that caused weight gain). 

You see, bacteria survive down there by eating the leftover carbohydrate that isn't digested and absorbed into your body sooner (and in eating the carbohydrate, they produce methane gas...is this ringing a bell?)  Some bacteria are better at eating up all of the leftover carbohydrate than others.  By munching on the leftover carbohydrate, they liberate the calories that would have otherwise passed right on through into the bowel.  More carbohydrate-eating bacteria = more calories in your body.  Less carbohydrate-eating bacteria = less calories in your body.  How many calories are we talking about?  Not yet known.

So do obese people have certain bacteria in their colons that make it harder for them to lose weight and keep it off?  Maybe.  Several Dr. Dorks seem to think so and are trying to conduct the studies to figure it out.  But it's a bit complicated by the fact that there are so many different species living down there.  Chances are, it's not going to be just one that is responsible for weight gain or weight loss.  And maybe there are certain bacteria that eat up a lot of carbohydrate (that might lead to weight gain) but are really good for reducing your risk for colon cancer?  Alas, it's not going to be simple to figure this all out! 

What is SHE to do?  At this point, I would do absolutely nothing except use this information to impress your friends.  Colon-Speak makes for great conversations at intimate gatherings.  "Do bacteria or cockroaches rule the world...discuss". 

I'll keep my readers (all 8 of you) posted on any new findings related to this. Should be an interesting few years to see how this all shakes out!     

Friday, June 18, 2010

Musings on Mancations

About an hour ago, I had never heard the word, Mancation.  A SHE friend told me they are a new hot trend so like any other schmuck that works from home in front of a computer, I googled it.  If you have the time, I suggest you google it too because I saw a lot of things that made me laugh out loud.  Seems like way too many internet sites trying to convince HEs that mancations are absolutely necessary, because after all, cave men used to travel together.  And it wasn't THAT long ago that men used to live in a cave...oh wait a minute, it was!  10,000 YEARS AGO!!!!  And why do so many websites geared towards HEs reference cavemen?  SHE don't get it.     

Anyway, I do get that men might want to vacation together and I'm all for it for the following reasons: 
  1. I don't want to live in a cave (or tent), or go to NASCAR, or golf for 20 hours, or go fly fishing, or sleep in a barn and if the men go together, then I don't ever have to go.  
  2. I want to go on my own 'gal-cation' or 'SHEcation' or heck, it could actually just be called a VACATION because it actually might really be relaxing and fun!
I went on my first SHEcation this past winter to Jackson Hole with 10 other SHEs.  Believe it or not, I had not gone on a girls trip since college.  Look at what happened when I got in front of a camera:

There are about 10 pictures of me like that.  Back in 1990, that was really cool to do on a girl's trip.  I'm working on some new moves for my next girls' trip.  Anyone have any suggestions on a SHEcation location?  Preferably, not near any mancation destinations.  

Side note:  Did you know that "manca" is the juvenile larva of a little crustacean?  Interesting, isn't it!  I bet you they live in tiny little caves in the ocean with lots of other manca...trying to grill meat and watching NASCAR.  

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

An Entire Book on Vitamin D

One of the most outspoken and prolific vitamin D researchers just published a new book on the topic.  About 6 years ago, the author, Michael F. Holick, was fired from his post in the Dermatology Department at Boston University for encouraging people to go out in the sun.  (His dermatology colleagues didn't like that he was promoting sun exposure when they had been convincing folks for years to slather up in sunscreen.)   He continued on in another department and now, has a second book on vitamin D.  

I haven't read this book, so would greatly appreciate if someone with more time on their hands could take that on.  That said, I have a pretty good idea what this book is going to say:  "People of North America....you need more vitamin D to be healthy and if you cannot get it from 10-30 min of sun exposure a day, take a supplement."  A whopping $16.29 saved that you can now spend on some chick lit while you sit in the sun at the pool.  Remember, only 10-30 min!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Chef Thinks Ronald McDonald Smells Like Poo

I am way too busy to be blogging today.  I've got a HUGE, COLLOSAL, GIGANTOR project due on Friday...a big paper on protein (will blog on that later).  I even spent most of the day Sunday working on it, which would have gone a bit more smoothly had I not had 2 margaritas the night before. 

But a SHE friend sent me this article about Anthony Bourdain's mission to convince his 2.5 yr old daughter that McDonald's is the enemy.  Now I say "Anthony Bourdain" like I know who he is, but I really don't.  The article says he's a chef, which is probably why I don't know him.  I'm far too busy watching E! to turn on the Food channel.

Anyway, if you have about 3 hours, you should read the article.  It's really long.  If I'm going to read something that long, there better be a vampire baby in the end.  I did make it through the first 5,000 words and had to laugh out loud at this part as he describes his approach with his daughter:

"Ronald smells bad," I say every time he shows up on television or [on a sign] out of the car window. "Kind of like... poo!

This may work to deter a 2.5 year old girl from eating at McDonalds, but it sure as heck doesn't work on any kids over the age of 6.  In fact, I bet my kids would want McDonald's more often if I said that Ronald smells like poo.  Granted, I have not tested out my hypothesis yet.  However, given that my kids have been playing with something called Flarp for the past 12 hours straight, I feel pretty confident.  If you are not familiar with Flarp, it is a goopy, slime-like substance that makes sounds of a tooting nature.  They just think it's funny.  I don't get it, but am happy that they find it so enjoyable.  (Just don't be talking on the phone when they're playing with this behind you.)

Here is how I handle my kids' requests to go do McDonalds:

Kids, "Hey mom, can we get a happy meal on our way home?"

Me, "No"

That may be harsh and old fashioned, but it is quite effective.  Maybe I could trade Anthony a few chef-prepared meals for this sage advice?   I'll even throw in a few tubs of Flarp.  Call me Anthony!

Friday, June 11, 2010

Why VitaminWater Zero Has 0 Calories yet 4 g of Carbs

Another request!  A SHE inquired about why VitaminWater Zero suspiciously provides zero calories yet has 4 grams of carbs.  As you probably know, each gram of carbohydrate provides 4 calories.  So based on the label, the product should provide 16 calories.  Well technically, there are 2.5 servings in each 20-oz bottle of VitaminWater Zero so it would contain 10 g of carbs equaling 40 calories.  Hmmmm.....

The answer has to do with the laws that govern food labeling, courtesy of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Look at any food label, and you will see the list of nutrients contained in that product per serving.  The major macronutrients are listed (fat, protein, carbohydrate) and then a few vitamins and minerals.  Anything that is not fat or protein (except alcohol) is listed in the carbohydrate category.  This includes dietary fiber and sugar alcohols.  

What makes things confusing is that most fibers and sugar alcohols don't provide 4 calories per gram.  Some of them provide zero calories per gram.  

So FDA requires food manufacturers to list the actual grams of these nutrients in the carbohydrate category but then accurately report the actual calories elsewhere on the label.  Strange, eh?  Imagine the trouble this causes people with diabetes that might be counting their carbohydrates...you wouldn't count those carbs that don't provide any calories because they go straight through your chute (meaning they enter and exit the body without releasing any energy, hence zero calories).  And then when there's 2.5 servings in one bottle...that can be A LOT of math!

VitaminWater Zero is sweetened with Truvia, a new sweetener that is a mixture of stevia (a natural plant-based sweetener) and erythritol, a sugar alcohol that is also naturally found in plants.  Erythritol is considered a carbohydrate on a food label but does not provide any calories. Coca Cola, who owns VitaminWater, could be labeling the sugar alcohols under the carbohydrate category, but they don't.  They are not required to do that under the law and they probably do not listit because the label is tiny.

Now that explains most of the discrepancy.  The label also lists 1 g of sugar per serving that presumably is coming from fructose (according to the ingredient statement).  FDA law says that products that provide less than 5 calories per serving can declare 0 calories.  Now remember, there is actually 2.5 g of of total sugar in that bottle.  This equals 10 calories. 

Given all of that, one bottle of VitaminWater Zero actually provides 10 calories.  Not as low as a glass of water but better than a bottle of Gatorade or a soda.  And it's pretty yummy.  However, if you're worried about the 10 calories, chew sugar-free gum for 1 hour.  That burns about 10 calories. 

Lastly, sugar alcohols can cause major bloating, gas, and feelings like you might explode at any minute.  The severity depends on what kind of bacteria you have living in your belly (seriously).  Erythritol will not cause these problems so no need to worry about it.  Now maltitol, that's another story.  Never eat an energy bar with maltitol and get on an airplane...I'm just saying....

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Things SHE Doesn't Need, But Really Wants

It seems as almost every day, there is a new consumer good.  Many of these items are so innovative, so practical, so reasonably priced that I buy them immediately.  For example, pedicure socks.  How smart are these?  Why didn't I think of them?

Here's a person on etsy that is crocheting them: 
You can also buy regular pairs on amazon for cheap!  (See below for a pair from amazon for $6)

And then there are those other consumer goods that are so innovative, yet so completely impractical and expensive that I want them even more than the other stuff!  For example, how awesome is this thing?
It's a sword (they call it a saber) that opens up bottles of champagne!  Seriously!  If you don't believe me, check out the website where they will gladly sell you one of these for $145.  I'm not sure if I believe this, but they claim this was a popular tool for opening up bottles of champagne following the French Revolution.  The process of opening champagne with this thing actually has a name: Sabrage.  

Imagine how cool you would look if you were having a little dinner party, your friends brought over a bottle of bubbly for the occasion, and you pop out the cork with a sword!  If this really works, I NEED one.  If a SHE (or HE) with more disposable income than me could kindly purchase one and let me know if it really works, I promise to make you a Blue Hawaiian and give you unlimited nutrition advice.  If you then buy me one as a nice hostess gift, I promise to not decorate your house.       

Sunday, June 6, 2010

The Rack Pack Paint Chi-Town Pink

I started this blog to celebrate the time in our lives when we're a little bit older, a little bit wiser, hopefully a little bit richer, and ready to take on some new challenges, pursue different opportunities, and just invest in one's (aging) self.  This encompasses a wide range of topics....like shamelessly covering your chairs in pictures of movie characters to pursuing feats of strength and endurance that you never thought were possible.

This weekend, my most challenging physical endeavor was lifting an arbor vitae out of my cart and into my swagger wagon.  However, I vicariously participated in the Avon Walk for Breast Cancer in Chicago, where several SHEs from our 'hood walked 13.1 miles on Saturday and then another 13.1 on Sunday.  The $10,000+ they raised for the event will be used to support several aspects of breast cancer including research, education, and screening/diagnosis.  

To kick off the weekend, the walkers and a bunch of us cheerleaders got together Friday night for carbohydrate loading and some light warm up exercises (e.g., dancing).  The energy that is derived from a group of SHEs is ageless.  It is a force to be reckoned with whether the group is 8, 38, or 80 years old.  This seems particularly true when there is a shared passion...in this case, rallying our five walkers for the grueling two-day event and most importantly, celebrating the accomplishment of one particular walker....a breast cancer survivor.  

If you look closely, you can see her aura.  It glows hot pink and fires up the spirit of any SHE in a 50 foot radius.  That cancer didn't stand a chance in this SHE.  

Congrats to you and all of the walkers that help make a difference in the fight against breast cancer.  And thank you for the inspiration!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Repossessing my House: a Table, Jack Sparrow & Edward Cullen

I have a love-hate relationship with Homegoods.  I read all these design blogs where resourceful SHEs magically find awesome pieces of furniture there for no money.  I am not so lucky, which is why I usually call that place, HomeCrap.  Childish, yes.  Makes me feel better though.  

I ran in there the other day and really thought I hit the jackpot.  I found this white table for $99.00 (I also found this totally cool tiki bar for $299 that would be a perfect addition to a SHE-friend's deck...come on M!)  Then the HE in my life came home and said it looks cheap....like it was $99.00 or something.  What do you think?  I think it at least looks like it's worth $125.  

On the positive, I did find a really great solution to my "problem" that I mentioned a few blogs ago.  Remember, the "problem"?
My precious Pussy Willow Sanchez likes to use my new chairs as a scratching post.  As a reminder, here are my new chairs.  

Here is my solution, my "chair-phylactics" if you will.

Well heeelllloooo Jack and Edward....so good you could come here to my humble abode...you look quite well this evening...what?  How am I doing?  Just fine, thank you (blushing).  What????  You find me attractive?  Oh geez....nah....come on, I'm married! We have a "blanket exception" though.  It's all good!  

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Do You Have More Tastebuds Than Me?

Are you or do you know a "supertaster"???  These are people that have a lot more tastebuds on their tongues than the rest of us.  About 25% of the population is characterized as being a "supertaster" and these folks are more likely to be SHEs and those of Asian or African descent. 

How do you know if you are a supertaster?  You could actually buy a kit and screen yourself.  They send you a chemical to put on your tongue and if it taste super awful, then you're a supertaster. 

Or, do you find the following foods/drinks to be bitter and icky?  brussel sprouts, cabbage, kale, coffee, green tea, spinach, soy products, grapefruit juice, and carbonated beverages

If yes, you are probably a supertaster.  

Who cares, right?  Well....the food industry cares.  They want all of us, including supertasters and nontasters (about 25% of the population) to like and buy their food.  And in general, we like their food salty.  About 75% of the salt we eat comes from processed food products.

But health experts don't like all of the salt in processed food and want the food industry to lower the salt content (it is way out of control these days...some people are eating twice as much sodium as recommended).  

Herein lies the problem...there is no easy substitute for salt in processed food products.  It's not like fat or sugar where there are artificial versions or healthier versions.  Salt is salt.  And in food products, it not only makes food taste good, but it keeps foods safer by reducing the growth of certain bacteria and extends the shelf-life of the food.  

Plus, it turns out that salt serves a very important role in keeping supertasters happy.  Salt masks the bitter tastes that are naturally present in some foods (e.g., cheese) so that supertasters don't find them icky.  If the food industry lowers the salt too much, there's going to be 25% of the population that immediately will be a little put out.  (Just a side note...sugar also masks bitter flavors, which is why so many people use it in coffee...a very, very bitter drink...gotta love food chemistry!)

So what to do???  Well obviously, there's a need for new technologies that allow for salt reduction without compromising taste.  And of course, this may seem unconventional, but lowering the amount of processed food that is consumed on a daily basis seems like an obvious solution to reducing salt intake...without alienating the supertasters out there.  Now if only I can get the food industry on board with my plan!    

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

If Your SHE Parts Feel More Like a HE

I never thought I was one to succumb to peer pressure, but here I go again!  This one goes out to a SHE I shared a glass of wine with earlier tonight.  SHE told me to put this on my blog and I said....sure! 

If you feel like you need to "enhance" what God gave you and your children take-eth away, try this

If you have to wear a fancy dress where "straps" are not fashionable and two fried eggs on your chest are not quite the look you're going for, try this.  (These are also referred to as "chicken cut-lets"...once you see/feel them, you'll know why).
If you are looking for a nice workout top that works for you and not against you (aka, non-flattening), try this.  It's Lu Lu Lemon and yes, they are expensive.  But once you bite the bullet and get a few of their items, a $50 sports bra and $120 running pants will seem like a really good deal.  They have really awesome HE clothes too...if any of you are reading this. 

If you are not happy with the semi-circles that came in your new bathing suit, try this.  They slide right in that little pocket on the bikini top.  It's the aquatic version of the chicken cut-let.