This is in response to First-Year Fifteen Can it be avoided?. I just want the reader (and others at Columbia) to know that when I was at CU, I...
Cholesterol is a necessary component for living cells. However, high levels of blood cholesterol are associated with an increased risk of heart disease. To complicate matters even more, blood cholesterol can be divided into two types, one of which actually lowers the risk of heart disease! To get the story on cholesterol straight, it's necessary to understand something about how cholesterol works in the body and how it can contribute to heart disease.
Most of the cholesterol in the body is produced by the liver. A significantly smaller amount comes from dietary sources, such as meat, eggs, and dairy products. Cholesterol travels throughout the body via the blood stream, being absorbed by cells along the way to be used for important processes, such as hormone production and cell membrane repair. Because it isn't water soluble, cholesterol is ferried along the bloodstream encased in protein. These cholesterol-filled protein orbs are called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins come in a variety of sizes that behave differently from one another. Broadly, health care providers and scientists talk about low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).
The role of both types of cholesterol in heart disease centers around the formation of arterial plaques — fatty, filmy deposits on arterial walls. Over time, plaques become hardened, leading to narrow, rigid arteries that impede blood flow and thereby increase the risk of heart attack. Also, smaller plaques sometimes develop blood clots on their surface, which can then detach and go on to block arteries downstream, potentially leading to heart attack. Although the biochemistry involved isn't simple, the take home message is that LDL contributes to the formation of plaques on the artery walls, while HDL helps prevent their formation. Accordingly, LDL is often called "bad" cholesterol while HDL is called "good" cholesterol. (These terms apply only to blood cholesterol; dietary cholesterol is neither good nor bad in this sense.)
For more information on cholesterol and heart disease, read the Related Q&As listed below.
Dear Hopelessly hungry,
It's true that some students put on weight when they first come to college, however this is not a universal event, nor a foregone conclusion. For many first year students, it's their first time away from home, making choices about what to eat, how much, and how often. On top of this, many college students eat in cafeterias, where meal options are abundant and portion control can be a daunting task. Students may also be facing new challenges and situations that lead them to eat for reasons other than hunger — such as coping with stress, loneliness, or even hanging out and having fun late at night with friends.
You can, however, make good food choices. Here are some general tips for finding healthier options:
All in all, you want to aim for a varied diet with enough whole grains, lean protein, and fruits and vegetables and minimal fatty and sugary foods. For more tips about working in healthier foods, check out the Optimal Nutrition section of the Go Ask Alice! archive, learn more about the tools from Columbia's Get Balanced initiative, or visit Choosemyplate.gov. You can also call your school's health service and make an appointment with, or get a referral for, a nutritionist to create an appropriate food plan for your individual needs. At Columbia, use Open Communicator or call x4-2284 to make an appointment.
There are often different culprits outside of the dining hall. During the first year at college, some students consume much more alcohol than in the past. Although there is no fat in alcohol, calories from alcohol are unusual in that they can't be stored or converted to energy for later use. Meaning that calories from alcohol are used first by the body, while calories from food that would otherwise be burned are stored, potentially contributing to weight gain.
Additionally, many first-year students might not think about exercising or may have trouble finding the time. Eating balanced meals and participating in regular physical activity are both major factors in losing or maintaining weight. If your concern is avoiding weight gain, keep physical activity in mind as a key ingredient. It may help to work out with a friend or schedule your exercise — Columbia students, faculty, and alumni can connect with CU Move to access tools and support for choosing strategies that support being physically active.
Gaining a few pounds may feel like the worst thing that can happen to you; however, it's important to learn how to take care of yourself, stay healthy, listen to your body, and eat because you're hungry — not because you don't want to study, you just got in a fight with your roommate, or you think you might have flunked a test. Check out the related questions and tips below to think about what you can do to maintain a healthy eating routine, and have a great first year.
Eat varied and well-balanced meals at your school's eateries. Besides what you choose to eat, watch how much you eat as well, because calories count and can add up quickly.
This is in response to First-Year Fifteen Can it be avoided?. I just want the reader (and others at Columbia) to know that when I was at CU, I...
This is in response to First-Year Fifteen Can it be avoided?. I just want the reader (and others at Columbia) to know that when I was at CU, I visited the nutritionist and found the experience to be incredibly helpful. I'm not sure if the same nutritionist is still there (this was several years ago), but she was kind, non-judgmental, and full of good advice.
Dear Where's my hair?
You can expect to normally lose between 100-200 strands of hair each day. If your hair is coming out by the handfuls however, you do have cause to worry and should see a physician for a complete medical workup. A large loss of hair can indicate more serious bodily malfunctions. Stress can also be implicated as a cause of hair loss, and if things have been extra stressful for you lately, you might want to see a counselor to help you reduce your stress levels.
If your hair loss is more moderate, you are right that your nutrition and diet have a lot to do with it. Zinc is an important mineral for your hair, and a deficiency would probably show up as excessive hair loss, lack of sheen, and difficulty with control. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for zinc in adult men is 11 mg, and for adult women the RDA is 8 mg. A zinc supplement might help you here, but consult your health provider before starting one. Zinc is found naturally in beans, seeds and nuts, legumes, milk, and wheat bran and germ. Also, in terms of your vegetarianism, you might very well be taking in insufficient levels of vitamin B-12. This is somewhat common among vegetarians, and the results of a deficiency include dandruff, scaling, and hair loss. Most of the naturally occurring B-12 is in animal products, but can also be found in nutritional yeast and sometimes in fermented soy products (i.e. tempeh). For adult women, the RDA for B-12 is 2.4 mcg. For adult men, the RDA is 2.4 mcg. Read Vegetarian — B-12 deficient for more information on vegetarians and B-12 deficiencies.
If updates to your eating plan don't seem to help, perhaps a visit with your health care provider is the next step. S/he can run some tests to check for a number of other possible options. If you are a Columbia student, you may consider a visit with a Registered Dietitian. Never fear, hope is not lost. Happy eating and a speedy solution to your concerns.
Dear Simple Tastes,
Actually, your diet does sound fairly healthy...for one day, once in a while! What it's missing is variety — you need to vary your foods in order to cover all your vitamin and mineral, or micronutrient, requirements (and not get bored with your food!). Also, it turns out you have good, caring friends who are giving you helpful advice!
Back to varying your diet — luckily, variety doesn't always require lots of time or effort. You can get your micronutrients by quickly including vegetables in the foods you're already eating. Start by adding lettuce, tomato, and/or red pepper slices to your whole grain bread and cheese combo. You can buy the veggies pre-washed and sliced at many grocery stores and delis. Snacking on mini-carrots that come pre-washed and peeled or enhancing your meals with frozen vegetables can also help provide necessary nutrients. What about adding a veggie to your soft-boiled eggs at breakfast? Frozen spinach would taste great and is also quick to prepare.
Next, throw in some additional fruits. Varying by color helps to insure a wide variety of nutrients. So, what about apples? You can choose from a variety of types (e.g., Granny Smith, Empire, and Macintosh) and they are fairly inexpensive. Canned foods are great to have around. Pick up some canned pineapple, mandarin oranges, or peaches. Try to purchase canned fruit in their own juice instead of in heavy syrup — this cuts down on the sugar. What about slicing a banana in your canned pineapple? Easy breezy.
Your body also needs minerals to stay healthy. Some of these minerals include calcium, iron, sodium, manganese, copper, iodine, and magnesium. Since dietary guidelines are different from one person to the next, check out ChooseMyPlate.gov for an extensive breakdown based on daily calorie intake and age. Here are a few of the overall messages:
Some other ways to spice up your diet, even when you're in a rush, can also include:
Columbia students on the Morningside campus should check out Get Balanced! for specific information related to eating healthy at Columbia. Students can also make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian at Medical Services. Remember, in order for all your hard working efforts to be fruitful, it can only help if your diet is fruit-filled and balanced, too!
Regardless of the time of day you eat it, ice cream wouldn't make it on any top ten healthy foods list. However, if your body is able to deal with the high doses of sugar and fat first thing in the morning, which many adults cannot, there might not be reason to toss out the ice cream scoop just yet.
The most important thing is to eat something within the first few hours after waking up in order to get your metabolism going and refuel your body after not eating for several hours. The fat in ice cream may help you stay full longer, and it contains a lot of calcium, which your body needs for healthy bones and other important functions.
Sound too good to be true? It might be… if you did it every day. Like many other things in life, too much of a good thing may not always be the best for you. Ice cream is high in calories and saturated fats, which is why it's a supplement to, rather than a basic staple, of a healthy diet.
If you're choosing ice cream first thing in the morning because you love that it's sweet, creamy, and cold, you may want to try some low-fat yogurt instead. It's like ice cream but not as high in fat, calories, or sugar. All the while, it still provides you with ample amounts of calcium. If you don't mind warming up, you could also try oatmeal sweetened with a touch of brown sugar, cinnamon, or honey and stir in some chopped up fruit for more flavor. Making the oatmeal with milk instead of water can help you feel full longer and provide essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium. If it's just your sweet tooth you're looking to satisfy, you could try switching to granola with fruit and yogurt, toast with jam or fruit spreads, or lightly sweetened cereal with milk.
Combining these foods with the occasional bowl of ice cream in the morning will help to ensure that you're eating a healthy and balanced diet overall. Of course, it's also important to eat well throughout the day, which means including plenty of fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and low-fat dairy products in other meals. For more tips on healthy eating, check out the related Q&As below.
Chocoholics of the world rejoice; there's another reason to be cuckoo for cocoa. In addition to satisfying your sweet tooth, chocolate also contains flavonoids — a type of antioxidant with several health benefits.
However, all chocolate is not created equal. To get the most antioxidant bang for your bite, choose plain, dark chocolate. Most chocolate found in products like candy bars and hot cocoa mix has been processed to reduce the amount flavonoids, which give chocolate its bitter, nutty taste. Many chocolates also have added milk and sugar, which increases the amount of fat and calories per serving. Another downside, milk interferes with the body's ability to absorb flavonoids, working against chocolate's health benefits.
In it's purest form, dark chocolate is a heart-healthy alternative to refined confections. Feel free to indulge once in a while, but remember there are other sweet sources of antioxidants like fruit. For more information about the power of antioxidants, check out Antioxidants in the Go Ask Alice! Archives. Here's to having your chocolate, and staying healthy too!
Dear Five a day,
Eating enough fruits and veggies, and the other food groups while you're at it, can help to keep you healthy, strong, and energetic. Wouldn't it be great if chocolate counted as our daily allowance of legumes, and beer as grains? While these decadent pleasures actually do contain plenty of nutrients, and while wine has benefits in common with its younger incarnation, the grape, it's not quite the same thing.
Both grape juice and red wine contain resveratrol, a plant-based compound, which may reduce the risk of heart disease. Both also contain antioxidants called flavonoids, which may reduce low-density lipoprotein (LDL) otherwise known as "bad" cholesterol, and increase high-density lipoprotein (HDL), the "good" cholesterol. Additionally, studies suggest that drinking either grape juice or red wine can reduce the risk of blood clots, protect blood vessels, prevent atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries), and help to maintain healthy blood pressure. There is less evidence that the potential benefits of wine apply to drinking white or rosé wines.
While this is starting to sound like a big thumbs up for red wine, fruit has nutrients, like loads of fiber, live enzymes, and vitamins and minerals that just aren't present in wine. For that matter, many of them aren't present in juice either — you'd have to eat the fruit itself to get all of them. In addition to not containing all the nutritional value of fruit, wine also contains alcohol, which can pose a stress to the liver, pancreas, and nerve cells over time. Heavy drinkers are also at risk for malnutrition, as alcohol may serve as a caloric substitute for more nutritious foods (like fruit).
For people in good health, regular and moderate wine drinking is usually fine and in fact it may offer some health benefits. But potential health benefits should not necessarily be a reason to start drinking if you don't already. Studies show that occasional or binge drinkers have a higher mortality rates than those who drink moderately on a regular basis. There are also some people who would do best to stay away from wine altogether. Those who suffer from alcoholism, liver disease, pancreatitis, uncontrolled hypertension, depression, or heart disease may worsen their conditions by drinking alcohol.
The somber news for the cabernet-lovers is that while wine can be good for you if you are already healthy and drink moderately and regularly, the best way to fulfill your five-a-day fruit requirement is still the good old-fashioned way of, well, eating fruit.
If you'd like more nutrition advice on how to tailor your diet, you can make an appointment with a nutritionist. Columbia students can meet with a nutritionist at Medical Services (Morningside campus) or the Student Health Service (CUMC campus) for a consultation. Also, you may want to check out the Get Balanced! Guide to Healthier Eating which provides more information regarding food choices available to members of the Columbia Unviersity community.
Rejoining the ranks of the omnivorous need not mean you make major shifts in your current vegetarian diet, assuming that your current diet is reasonably well-balanced and contains plenty of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Most recommendations about transitioning from a vegetarian diet to one that includes meat suggest slowly adding in easy-to-digest, lean meats, while continuing to eat vegetarian staples.
Fish is an excellent first step. Fish, especially salmon, trout, herring, and sardines (in general, cold-water fish with small bones) is a great source of protein as well as omega-3 fatty acids, and fish isn't as hard for the body to break down and digest as more dense, fattier meats. Choosing the right fish has become trickier as concerns about mercury levels (a toxin), overfishing of wild stocks, and aqua-farming practices increase. Check out the Monterrey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program to learn more about sustainable and healthy choices for getting your fish fix.
Lean meats, such as poultry (white meat and skinless are the leanest poultry choices), lean cuts of beef and pork, and ground meats with the least percentage of fat, are also good sources of protein and iron. These should be at least 90 percent lean. Again, when adding poultry and meats back into your diet, you may want to consider issues of sustainability when buying. Some issues to consider include whether the animals were free-range, raised without hormones or antibiotics, or grass-fed.
Like any meat-eater, you may want to use caution when considering processed meats like ham, sausage, hot dogs, and packaged lunch meats, as they're often loaded with preservatives and sodium. However, if you find a trustworthy brand or deli, these are a convenient and easy way to incorporate meat into your diet once your body has had a while to get used to the leaner meats. Turkey, roast beef, and low-fat varieties of luncheon meats tend to have less fat than bologna or salami. With the addition of meat to your diet comes increased cholesterol and saturated fat. Fatty or red meats, egg yolks, and full-fat dairy are high in both cholesterol and saturated fat. Everyone, not just those transitioning from vegetarianism, should be mindful of how much cholesterol and saturated fat they're consuming.
Finally, just because you are adding meat to your diet, remember that your vegetarian favorites like grains, beans, nuts, seeds, fruits, and vegetables are still an important part of your eating plan. These are all important sources of vitamins, minerals, fibers, proteins, and enzymes. You mentioned that you were a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means you have been eating eggs and dairy. These animal products are great sources of protein and other nutrients and can be included in your diet along with everything else.
The USDA considers fish, meat, legumes, and beans to be in the same food group. The recommended daily amount one should eat from this group depends on age, sex, and level of physical activity; however, typically a serving from the protein group is 3 to 4 ounces. As you can see, meat doesn't need to be eaten in huge portions to meet your protein requirements and, you don't need to eat it every day. Making the change to an omnivorous diet slowly, with continued use of the vegetarian foods you were accustomed to eating, can help avoid shocking your system with a sudden onslaught of new foods.
Columbia students who would like more nutrition guidance can make an appointment with a Registered Dietician by calling Medical Services (Morningside campus) or the Student Health Center (CUMC campus). Enjoy the vast array of new options you have in meal planning and restaurant choices, and don't forget to eat your vegetables, even in the midst of meat-eating bliss!
Also referred to as pyridoxine, pyridoxamine, and pyridoxal, vitamin B-6 is involved in the metabolism of amino acids, glucose, and lipids in the liver. Vitamin B-6 is also crucial in the synthesis of neurotransmitters, hemoglobin, and histamine, as well as proper gene expression. Because vitamin B-6 plays a significant role in more than 100 metabolic reactions, consuming enough of it on a daily basis is important. However, research regarding vitamin B-6 supplements is generally inconclusive, so those deficient in the vitamin should consider making dietary adjustments rather than taking supplements.
The amount of vitamin B-6 to be consumed on a daily basis depends upon an individual’s age and gender. The Food and Drug Administration has established the following Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI) of vitamin B-6:
Although it is relatively rare, vitamin B-6 deficiency can have harmful effects. Dialysis, arthritis, liver disease, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s Disease, and HIV patients are at higher risk for vitamin B-6 deficiency, as well as individuals coping with alcoholism and those who take certain medications like penicillamine and hydrocortisone. It has also been found that oral contraceptives and other estrogens can interfere with vitamin B-6 metabolism, resulting in deficiency. Those deficient in the vitamin might consider changing their diets in order to ensure that they are consuming enough of the nutrient from food.
There are lots of great sources of vitamin B-6 in a wide range of delicious foods. Vitamin B-6 is found in meat, poultry, fish, eggs, whole grains, legumes (bean and peas), potatoes, yeast, bananas, corn, cabbage, yams, prunes, watermelon, and avocado. One’s daily quota of vitamin B-6 can be easily consumed through food, including these vitamin B-6 rich food sources:
Banana, medium size
Chicken breast, 3 oz., roasted
Pork loin, 3 oz., roasted
Baked potato with skin, 3 oz.
Watermelon, 1 cup
Black beans, boiled, 1 cup
For more information about nutrition, check out the Optimal Nutrition section of the Go Ask Alice! archives. If you’re a Columbia student on the Morningside campus, you can make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian to discuss your intake of vitamin B-6. If you are on the Medical Center campus, contact Medical Services to make an appointment with a Registered Dietitian. While you’re at it, take a look at Columbia’s Get Balanced Guide for Healthier Eating for more information and ideas.
Dear Udderly confused,
The major difference between soymilk and "regular" milk (predominantly cow's milk in the United States; goat and sheep's milk are other options) is that one is derived from a plant and the other from an animal. Although ethical, hypothetical, or debatable issues frequently arise when discussing this subject, this answer is going to deal strictly with the nutritional differences between these two kinds of milk.
What's most commonly referred to as simply “milk” is cow's milk, a product of the cow’s mammary gland. As with all other animal-based foods, it's a complete protein; that is, it supplies people with all the necessary amino acids to form proteins. Cow's milk contains 8 grams of protein and 12 grams of carbohydrates per 8-ounce cup. Cow's milk is a rich source of other nutrients as well. One cup provides adults with about 30 percent of their daily calcium needs and about 50 percent of their vitamin B12 and riboflavin requirements. Often, milk is fortified with vitamin D to facilitate the absorption of calcium. Vitamin A is usually added to milk as well. Depending on the selection, cow's milk can have a significant amount of fat. (See the chart at the end of the answer for a comparison of the fat content of some varieties of milk.)
Lactose, the primary carbohydrate in cow's milk, poses a digestive problem for some people. These folks are deficient in the lactase enzyme that's needed to break down this milk sugar, causing gas, bloating, and diarrhea after consuming some forms of dairy products. The solution is to purchase products with the lactose already broken down, to take the enzyme in the form of a pill or drops, or to find a substitute for these foods. Check out Lactose intolerance for more information.
Soymilk is not technically milk, but a beverage made from soybeans. It is the liquid that remains after soybeans are soaked, finely ground, and then strained. Since it doesn't contain any lactose, soymilk is suitable for lactose intolerant folks. It's also a popular cow's milk substitute for vegans and vegetarians since it's based on a plant source (others include rice, oat, almond, coconut, and potato milk).
One cup of unfortified soymilk contains almost 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 4½ grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Although soymilk supplies some B vitamins, it's not a good source of B12, nor does it provide a significant amount of calcium. Since many people substitute soy beverages for cow's milk, manufacturers offer fortified versions. These varieties may include calcium and vitamins E, B12, and D, among other nutrients. If you do choose to use soymilk instead of cow’s milk, read labels carefully to be sure you're getting enough of these important nutrients or consider getting them from alternative food sources.
Soymilk may help some people reduce their risk for heart disease. Soy naturally contains isoflavones, plant chemicals that help lower LDL ("bad" cholesterol) if taken as part of a "heart healthy" eating plan. The recommendation is to take in about 25 grams of soy protein per day. One cup of soymilk has about 7 - 10 grams of protein, depending on the brand. Previously, researchers thought soy consumption was correlated with increased rates of breast cancer, but recent research suggests that soymilk consumption may actually reduce breast cancer rates for some populations, including post-menopausal women and Asian populations. Soy’s unique effect on Asian women is thought to be the result of larger amounts of dietary soy consumed over longer periods of time than other in women.
All in all, what you choose to drink is really a matter of personal preference and your health objectives. You may find this chart helpful in comparing the nutritional qualities between cow's milk and soymilk [per 1 cup (8 oz.) serving]:
|Reduced fat (2%)||120||5||38||297||.89|
|Low fat (1%)||100||3||27||300||.90|
*RDA (men and women) for: Calcium: 1,000 - 1,300 milligrams/day (depending upon age) Vitamin B12: 2.0 micrograms/day
May you always have a tall glass of (soy or cow's) milk with your cookies!
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