October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month

By Debbie Jeffery, RDN LD
About 1 in 8 women will develop breast cancer at some time in her life, and worldwide, breast cancer is the most frequently diagnosed cancer in women. While some risk factors are out of our control, like genetics and getting older, there are things that can be done to lower your breast cancer risk. The American Institute of Cancer Research estimates that staying a healthy weight and exercising can prevent 38% of US breast cancer occurrences. Below are diet and lifestyle tips to help you fight breast cancer.
• Manage your weight. Being overweight or obese increases your breast cancer risk. For women who gain weight as adults and after menopause, this is especially true. What contributes to the increased risk is that estrogen is produced in the fatty tissue. The good news is that evidence shows that weight loss can lower the risk. Reduce lifetime weight gain by limiting calories and getting regular physical activity.
• Limit alcohol. Compared to women who don’t drink at all, women who have 2 or more alcoholic beverages a day have about 1 1/2 times the risk of breast cancer. The American Cancer Society recommends no more than 1 drink daily for women. A drink is 12 ounces beer, 5 ounces wine or 1 1/2 ounces of hard liquor.
• Breastfeed for as long as possible. The protective effect is probably a result of the balance of hormones due to the breastfeeding process. In addition, when breastfeeding is stopped, the body rids the breast of many cells, some of which may have DNA damage. Breastfeeding for 2 years may reduce breast cancer risk by half.
• Increase fruit and vegetable intake. Research has found a positive correlation between a decrease in breast cancer risk and an increase in certain vitamins, such as vitamin C, A, and E. Fruits and vegetables are high in these vitamins and other antioxidants. Also because fruits and vegetables are low in calories & fat and high in fiber, they are helpful for weight control.
• Exercise regularly. Exercise is a breast-healthy habit supported by many studies. Having a regular physical activity routine can help decrease estrogen levels which can decrease risk for breast cancer.
For more information visit the National Breast Cancer Awareness Month website, NBCAM.org.

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Are Gluten-Free Foods Right for Your?

By Debbie Jeffery, RDN LD
Gluten-Free is a current nutrition “hot” topic and many are using gluten-free products without first determining if it’s a good health choice for them. We know that gluten allergies and sensitivities are real. Celiac Disease is a medical condition that needs to be treated properly and the treatment involves avoiding gluten. Likewise when those that suffer from gluten sensitivities avoid gluten, symptoms disappear. However in growing numbers, those without either of these conditions are using gluten-free products in an effort to have a “healthier” diet.
There is nothing wrong with foods that are naturally gluten-free for example fruits, vegetables, beans, brown rice, nuts and quinoa. The problem is with food products on the grocery store shelves that are labeled “gluten-free”. If you decide to go gluten-free for reasons other than celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, below are factors to consider before assuming the product is a “healthier” alternative.
1. Fiber. Many gluten-free foods are made with rice or corn flour. In the process of making these flours, much of the fiber and essential nutrients are removed. Low fiber foods can have a higher glycemic effect (meaning they raise blood sugar levels more) than whole grains. If you’re trading a traditional whole grain cereal such as oat bran for a gluten-free cereal, you could be missing out on the benefits of a high fiber meal. A serving of oat bran will provide 4-6 grams of fiber, whereas a serving of gluten-free brown rice krisp provides less than 1 gram fiber.
2. Cost. Many gluten-free foods are more expensive. Gluten-free breads and cereals can be almost twice as expensive as traditional products without providing any benefit to those without an allergy or sensitivity to gluten.
3. Calories. A food product labeled “gluten-free” does not mean it is “calorie-free”. Gluten-free food products can contribute significant calories to the diet. Gluten-free bread can be almost twice as calorie dense as traditional wheat bread. Also, many food manufacturers are taking advantage of the popularity of gluten-free products and are adding the words “Gluten-Free” to the label of foods that have always been gluten-free. Those candy chews are still candy and sugar even though they are labeled “gluten-free”. Gluten-free does not make them any healthier.
Consider the above factors when deciding which foods are best for you!

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Dumbbells vs. Kettlebells

New trends continue to pop up within the health and fitness field every day. Many times we dive in head first in order to try the newest method of weight loss and fitness classes without really knowing what the reasoning behind it is. A major trend that has individuals swinging and using momentum to lift the weight are Kettlebells.

Besides the look of a kettlebell, what is the major difference between using them versus traditional dumbbells? As stated above, one of the biggest differences is the use of momentum and multi-joint based movements to create power and strength.

Involving multiple muscle groups and core movements with a kettlebell involves both strength and cardio into your workout. The momentum and swinging moves increase your heart rate and provide a greater use of range of motion and core strength.

Kettlebells also provide different grips and imbalances, unlike the dumbbell which has an even amount of weight on each end. The kettlebell has the weight in the middle, so when you are performing certain exercises, the weight shifts and changes throughout the movement.

However, even though they are great for explosive exercises and activate multiple muscle groups with each move, they have been shown in multiple studies to produce less strength gains than traditional dumbbells. You simply cannot increase the weight of a kettlebell the way you can with dumbbells and bars.

If your goal is to increase strength, stick to mainly using dumbbells and barbells with some exercises interchanged (ie. biceps curls, bent over rows). If your goal is to burn fat, gain endurance and power and slightly increase strength, than kettlebells may be a great option for you.

Kettlebells are worth checking out, but before you do, be sure to learn the proper form to avoid injury.

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High protein diets may lead to lower blood pressure

Adults who consume an average of 100 grams (g) of protein per day may be at a lower risk for developing high blood pressure (HBP). A recent study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension, by researchers from Boston University School of Medicine, found participants consuming the highest amount of protein (an average of 100 g protein/day) had a 40 percent lower risk of having high blood pressure compared to the lowest intake level.

The researchers analyzed protein intakes of healthy participants from the Framingham Offspring Study and followed them for development of high blood pressure over an 11-year period. They found that adults who consumed more protein, whether from animal or plant sources, had statistically significantly lower systolic blood pressure and diastolic blood pressure levels after four years of follow-up. In general, these beneficial effects were evident for both overweight and normal weight individuals. They also found that consuming more dietary protein also was associated with lower long-term risks for HBP (HBP is a risk factor for stroke and can contribute to heart disease). When the diet was also characterized by higher intakes of fiber, higher protein intakes led to 40-60 percent reductions in risk of HBP.

“These results provide no evidence to suggest that individuals concerned about the development of HBP should avoid dietary protein. Rather, ,” explained Lynn Moore, a corresponding author and associate professor of medicine at Boston University School of Medicine suggests that “protein intake may play a role in the long-term prevention of HBP” and that “this growing body of research on the vascular benefits of protein, including this study, suggest we need to revisit optimal protein intake for optimal heart health”.

There are many factors that play a role in blood pressure regulation such as exercise habits, smoking history, weight control, electrolyte intake, etc. and more research is needed to determine the role that protein plays in blood pressure control.  Since protein plays a vital role in overall health, making sure you are taking in adequate protein is important; everyone has different protein needs (ranging from 0.8g per kg to 1.4+g per kg); ask your Registered Dietitian what your individualized needs are. Here is a sampling of protein sources and estimated protein content per suggested serving. Remember that plant foods can be good sources of protein too!

  • Lean meats such as chicken breast. A serving would be about the size of the palm of your hand or about 3 oz. (about 26 grams protein)
  • Seafood such as shrimp, lobster, flounder, salmon, etc. A serving be about the size of your hand or about 3-4 oz. (about 24-27 grams protein)
  • Eggs and egg whites. A serving would be 2 whole eggs or 6-8 egg whites or 1 whole egg and 4 egg whites. (about 14-20 grams protein)
  • Plant-based proteins such as beans and lentils or tofu. A serving of beans/lentils would be ½-1 cup. Tofu would be about a ½ cup (about 7-16 grams protein).
  • Nuts/nut butter and seeds. A serving is about ¼ cup or 1 oz. for nuts and seeds or 1 Tbsp. Nut butter (about 4-8 grams protein)
  • ¼ cup dry steel oats (5 grams protein)
  • 6 oz. of Greek yogurt = (~15 grams protein)


R. Buendia, M. L. Bradlee, M. R. Singer, L. L. Moore. Diets Higher in Protein Predict Lower High Blood Pressure Risk in Framingham Offspring Study Adults. American Journal of Hypertension, 2014.

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Find Healthy Seafood with this New Guide

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has released a Consumer Guide to Seafood with a Seafood Calculator that you can use to get a custom seafood list/recommendations based on your age, weight, and more! This guide is useful, but be sure to review the information the guide suggests for you with your physician and/or Registered Dietitian. A copy of the guide can be found here and you can click here to access EWG’s Seafood Calculator.


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Leisure Time Running Reduces Cardiovascular and ‘All Cause’ Mortality Risk

by John Rumberger, PhD, MD, FACC

Cardiovascular risk and mortality are largely related to a heart attack, congestive heart failure, or a stroke – this is about 50% of all causes of death. “All cause” mortality however is a bigger issue as it includes other important causes of death including cancers – which are attributed to almost an additional 40% of deaths.

Researchers at several prominent Medical Schools performed a 15 year follow up of a registry of 55,137 subjects initially between the ages of 18 and 100 [mean age 44 years]. They assessed leisure-time running history through a medical history questionnaire.

The researchers reported {J Am Coll Cardiol 2014;64:472-481} that approximately 24% of adults participated in running in this population. Compared with non-runners, runners had 30% and 45% lower adjusted risk of all cause and cardiovascular mortality, respectively, with a 3-year life expectancy benefit [i.e. longevity]. Weekly running even <51 minutes, <6 miles, 1 to 2 times, or <6 miles/hour was sufficient to reduce risk of mortality, compared with not running.

They concluded: Running, even 5 to 10 minutes/day at slow speeds <6 miles/hour, is associated with markedly reduced risks of death from all causes and cardiovascular disease. This study may motivate healthy but sedentary individuals to begin and continue running given the substantial and attainable mortality and longevity benefits.

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Ratatouille Black Rice & Farro Salad

by Staci O’Connor, RD, CLC, CDN

Black rice is a whole grain that is high in protein, fiber, and iron with trace amounts of fat and sodium with a mild, nutty flavor (see our previous blog post). This recipe is perfect for an end of the season salad, enjoy!

Makes: 10 servings, 1 1/4 cups each


  • 1 cup farro, rinsed
  • 2 cups water plus 1 1/3 cups, divided
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 2/3 cup Forbidden black rice, rinsed
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, quartered lengthwise and thinly sliced crosswise
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or 1/2 teaspoon dried
  • 2 tablespoons port or water

Grilled Vegetables

  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, lightly crushed
  • 2 medium zucchini
  • 1 small eggplant (about 1 pound)
  • 1 large onion
  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley


  1. To prepare grains: Combine farro, 2 cups water and 1/2 teaspoon salt in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the farro is tender, 20 to 30 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, combine rice, 1 1/3 cups water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in another medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer, cover and cook until the rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Let stand, covered, for 5 minutes.
  3. Drain any remaining liquid from the farro and rice; fluff with a fork. Spread out on a large baking sheet to cool.
  4. Meanwhile, heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion, thyme and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring often, until the onion is browned in spots, 5 to 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and cook very gently, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes more. Add port (or water), increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring, until the liquid sizzles away, 15 to 30 seconds. Set aside to cool.
  5. To prepare vegetables: Preheat grill to medium-high.
  6. Whisk 1/2 cup oil, red-wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, garlic, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, pepper and fennel seeds in a large bowl.
  7. Slice zucchini and eggplant lengthwise into 1/2-inch slices; cut onion into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Cut bell peppers lengthwise in quarters; remove seeds and stem. Core tomatoes and cut in half. Brush all the vegetables generously on both sides with 1/2 cup of the vinaigrette, leaving the remaining vinaigrette in the bowl.
  8. Place about half the vegetables on the grill. Grill, turning once or twice, until softened and charred in spots, 5 to 10 minutes total. Remove to a large plate as they are done and grill the remaining vegetables.
  9. To assemble: When cool enough to handle, peel the tomatoes and add to the bowl with the vinaigrette. Crush them with a spoon or your hand into a chunky sauce. Chop the other vegetables into bite-size pieces and add to the bowl; gently stir to combine. Add the farro, rice and onion mixture and gently stir to combine.

Nutrition Per serving: 292 calories; 14 g fat (2 g sat, 10 g mono); 0 mg cholesterol; 38 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 6 g protein; 7 g fiber; 480 mg sodium; 547 mg potassium. Nutrition Bonus: Vitamin C (135% daily value), Vitamin A (45% dv), Potassium (16% dv)

Exchanges: 1 1/2 starch, 2 1/2 vegetable, 2 1/2 fat

Resource: www.eatingwell.com

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