Fear of Flatulence

surprise gestureAre you still buying the childhood rhyme, “Beans, beans, the magical fruit, the more you eat the more you toot”? You are not alone. Fear of flatulence is the number one reason people give for not making beans and legumes a regular part of their diet. However, what’s become common “wisdom” is, in most cases, wrong. Those not used to eating beans may briefly have excess gas, but research has shown that by sticking with a diet that includes legumes, this inconvenient side effect diminishes over time. People with IBS or other intestinal issues may find legumes particularly bothersome; however, for the majority, the health benefits of consuming beans outweighs any discomfort and embarrassment a temporary spike in gas may cause.

Lentils, black beans, soy beans, chickpeas, cannellini beans are just a few popular examples of the amazing legume. They are cheap, nutritious, delicious and powerful disease fighters. A 2004 study concluded that eating legumes was the “most important dietary predictor of survival in older people of different ethnicities.” The study found an 8% reduction in risk of death for every 20 grams increase in daily legumes intake. (Keep in mind a can of beans contains about 250 grams).

Here are a few things legumes have going for them:

  • An economical dietary source of good quality protein and are higher in protein than most other plant foods. Legumes have about twice the protein content of cereal grains.
  • Generally low in fat, virtually free of saturated fats and contain no cholesterol. Soybeans and peanuts are the exception, with significant levels of mostly monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fatty acids, including alpha-linolenic acid.
  • Rich in energy-giving carbohydrates, with a low GI rating for blood glucose control.beansonspoons
  • A good source of B-group vitamins (especially folate), iron, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
  • Low in sodium – sodium content of canned legumes can be reduced by up to 41% if the product is drained and rinsed.
  • Abundant in fiber, including both insoluble and soluble fiber, plus resistant starch for colonic health benefits.
  • Rich in phytonutrients (e.g. isoflavones, lignans, protease inhibitors). Soy beans are particularly high in phytoestrogens, with research over the last 20 years linking soy foods and/or phytoestrogens to a reduced risk of certain cancers including breast and prostate cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis and problems associated with menopause
  • Gluten free – as such, legumes are suitable for people with celiac disease or gluten sensitivity.

Sources:

Legumes and Nutrition – Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council / Australia

Increased Lifespan From Beans, Michael Greger, M.D.

Images courtesy of FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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Ode to Kim Kardashian

kimkA friend texted me the latest selfie of Kim Kardashian with the simple question, “Thoughts?” My first was “EW!” Like half the people on Instagram and Twitter, I’m not crazy about a new mother publishing half-nude picture of herself for all the world to see.

However, her body prompts a different set of reactions for me. The first is amazement. Her butt is not only super size, it appears genuinely toned. (Though I’ve got to say, enjoy that while you can, Kim. That flesh will inevitably head south.)

The second reaction is – good for her! She is celebrating her curves, albeit in an inappropriate way. I don’t know much about Kim’s lifestyle, but I’ve never heard that she’s a hard-partying girl. According to the tabloids she works out with a trainer and eats well. So if this is her voluptuous post-pregnancy body, then I say, You Go Girl!

Kim is clearly never going to have Paris Hilton’s skinny body. Maybe she doesn’t want that. By posting this photo she’s pretty clear that she takes pride in her curves.

By all accounts the Twitter backlash has been scathing, with lots of use of the words “fat” and “disgusting.” It’s scary how freely hypercritical people are on social media.

Venus at a Mirror by Peter Paul Rubens

Our standards of beauty are somewhat capricious. The seventeenth-century painter, Rubens, portrayed Venus, the goddess of love and beauty, as an equally full-figured and sensual woman. And more recently, during the mid to late 19th century, the bustle was the height of women’s fashion. And what about Jennifer Lopez? She’s got some junk in the trunk. Is it possible that she and the Kardashians can help reset the bar on our current paradigm of beauty and physical perfection?

Image: Peter Paul Rubens – Venus at a Mirror [1613-14], Oil on canvas, 98 x 124 cm, Private Collection.

A fork, a plate, a chair

A client recently shared a brilliant mental checklist she uses each time she eats something. “Am I using a fork and a plate, and am I sitting in a chair?” In other words, she tries to eat mindfully.

Of course we all eat on the run sometimes. It’s not always practical to sit down for a meal or a snack, but you will eat less, make better food choices, and enjoy your meal more if you eat with intention. The mental checklist – a fork, a plate, a chair — can help you remember to stop and make time to nourish yourself.

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Where do you get your protein?

What’s your take on protein in our diet? Is more better? Is it the magic bullet to make you leaner and stronger? Should you include a healthy portion at each meal? Do you add protein powder to your smoothies? In order to make healthy food choices, we need to know how much we need and where to get it.

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When it was discovered in 1838, protein was named after the Greek word proteios meaning “of prime importance.” Since then it has been hailed as the building blocks of life, and meat and dairy earned the title of “perfect” and “complete” proteins. Along with fat and carbohydrates protein is one of three macronutrients in the human diet. But while protein wins the popularity contest, fat and carbs have been demonized by numerous fad diets. The truth is somewhere in between. We need all three macronutrients in a healthy ratio. Studies show that ideal ratio is found in a diet high in carbs, low in fat, and moderate in protein.

How much do we need?

This is where the perception problem comes in. When college athletes were surveyed on their ideas of protein requirements the majority had no clue. Thirty-three percent indicated a recommended intake of 8.7 grams per kilogram of body weight per day. That’s 11 times the RDI (recommended daily intake)!

For the average person, based on a healthy weight, the National Academy of Sciences, Institute of Medicine recommends eating 0.8 g/kg/day. For a 175-pound man, that translates to 63 grams of protein each day. A 125-pound woman would need about 45 grams.

Quick Formula
body weight (in pounds) x 0.36 = recommended protein intake

That’s not what the average American is eating. We typically eat 115-150 grams (15-20% of our diet) each day. We are going a little heavy on the protein. In fact, these figures reflect not what is optimal for the average person, but are equivalent to what the American Dietetic Association recommends for endurance athletes!

Yet even some consider the government’s recommendation (0.8 g/kg/day) too high. The World Health Organization recommends only 5% of daily calories be from protein. Advocates of whole-food plant-based nutrition such as T. Colin Campbell of Cornell University recommend no more than 8-10% of total daily calories be protein. He advocates getting all of your daily protein from plant-based sources.

Campbell and a growing number of others involved in health, nutrition and bio-chemical research see the dangers of consuming excess animal protein. One of the most compelling reasons is IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor), a hormone found in animal products such as dairy. IGF-1 plays an important role in our growth as children, yet when we are continually exposed to high levels of it throughout our lives, the effects can be harmful. IGF-1 is tied to accelerated aging and has been shown to promote growth in cancer cells. Campbell’s life-long research has shown that consuming levels of animal protein higher than 20% can turn on the growth of cancer cells in laboratory animals, while consuming levels at or less than 5% can actually turn off cancer cell growth.

This makes a lot of sense when we consider milk. Whether from a cow, a goat, or a human, its natural function is to fuel the growth of an infant mammal. Yet we when we continue to consume dairy products beyond infancy, we run the risk of promoting unwanted cell growth in our bodies.

What sources of protein are best?

reggie bushMost people think that meat, dairy, and eggs are the best sources of protein. It’s a message that’s been reinforced by the American meat and dairy industry for the last century. Many now know that grains such as quinoa, beans and nuts are also protein rich. Yet few realize that vegetables are a valuable source of protein AND a powerhouse of micronutrients.

Compare 100 calories of sirloin steak (1.61 oz) and broccoli (10 oz).

Broccoli (100 calories) Sirloin (100 calories)
Weight 10.1 oz 1.61 oz
Protein 6.8 g 13.20 g
Carbohydrates 20.51 g 0
Fat 1.17 g 4.8 g
Cholesterol 0 40.6 g

See a full nutritional breakdown along with figures for romaine and kale here. Other protein-rich vegetables include spinach, asparagus, carrots, and cauliflower. Protein can also be found in avocado, tomatoes, bananas and many other fruits.

As the chart illustrates, plant-based protein sources provide the energy-giving complex carbohydrates with very little fat and no cholesterol. At the same time fruits and vegetables are the single best source of vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals that protect us from disease.

Of course beans and legumes are versatile, inexpensive and a delicious source of protein. One hundred calories of black beans (less than ½ cup) has about 6 grams of protein and the same amount of fiber. Tofu contains 11 grams of protein per a 100-calorie serving.

gorilla cartoon

In case you’re still not convinced that humans can get adequate protein from plants, consider some of the largest and strongest mammals on the planet – the elephant, giraffe, buffalo, gorilla and the rhinoceros. Herbivores — all of them.

A true protein-deficiency is extremely rare. As long as you are consuming adequate calories (not entirely from junk food or fruit), then you are getting plenty of protein. Don’t spend your money on protein powders and supplements. The best sources are unprocessed, low-fat and come naturally “packaged” with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, such as vegetables, beans, lentils and nuts. Vegans and vegetarians should beware of high-carb and overly processed food choices that are low in nutrition (aka vegan junk food). Concentrate on eating a wide variety of whole foods in your diet, and you will easily consume the optimal amount of protein while protecting yourself from disease.

MORE INFORMATION

How Much Protein Do We Really Need?, Jeff Novick, MS, RD

Physicians’ Committee for Responsible Medicine, The Protein Myth: The Building Blocks of Life 

Mind Body Green, 10 Vegan Sources of Protein

Dr. McDougall’s Health and Medical Center, George Goff: Triple Bypass Surgery (video)

Reggie Bush Image Courtesy MilkPep/Body by Milk.