kris ulland

Your Nutrition Partner

“The biggest public health experiment in history.” Those are the words David Ludwig of Harvard Medical School used to describe the intense efforts undertaken by the scientific establishment and the federal government to get us all to adopt low-fat diets.

In the four decades that followed, Americans followed their advice faithfully. The experiment was a failure. A lot of people died from the cardiovascular problems that the recommendation was meant to avert.

According to the USDA, as the total amount of fat eaten by Americans fell by roughly 25 percent, the number of calories we consumed from sugar and carbs rose dramatically. And, so did the prevalence of obesity and type 2 diabetes. In fact, the nationwide rise in obesity rates began at exactly the same time we started weaning ourselves off fat.

According to the CDC, obesity rates were relatively flat between 1960 and the mid-1070s. Then, they suddenly took off, rising more than 8 percent between 1976 and 1994 and continuing on the same trend until today. Childhood obesity rates also tripled during the same period.

By June of 2015, one of the country’s top nutrition authorities, Dariush Mozaffarian, a cardiologist and dean of the Tufts School of Nutrition Science and Policy, published an editorial. He and co-author David Ludwig wrote in the Journal of the American Medical Association asking that the government put an end to their decades-long war on dietary fat and to promote the consumption of healthy fat.

Research indicates that eating fats – traditional, unrefined fats from plants and animals – is overwhelming good for us. The largest randomized controlled study comparing a high-fat diet to a low-fat diet, the PREDIMED study, showed that a high-fat diet reduces heart disease, diabetes, AND obesity.

In February 2020, the CDC presented data on obesity rates in the United States. The results showed a startling 42.4% of adults are obese. An additional 31.8% were overweight. Unfortunately, a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine estimates the by 2030 the percentage of obese American adults will rise to 48.9%.

Obesity has been determined to be the underlying cause of approximately 20% of deaths in the United States.

There are many factors that are contributing to the rise in obesity rates other than the decrease in good fat consumption. Genetics can play a role. Lifestyles and occupations are more sedentary, while more unhealthy, ultra-processed foods are too readily available. Processed food tends to be high in added sugar, salt, oil, and unhealthy fats. These ultra-processed foods contain ingredients that you don’t use in a home-cooked meal like modified starches, hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers, and humectants.

Ultra-processed foods account for more than 60% of calories in the U.S. diet. Examples of ultra-processed foods are carbonated and artificially flavored drinks, ice cream, breakfast cereals, chips, and heat-and-serve dishes.

Populations that have the lowest intake of ultra-processed foods are in Sardina, Italy, Ikaria, Greece, Okinawa, Japan, Loma Linda, California and Nicoya, Costa Rica where the residents live an average of 10 years longer than those populations who eat a standard American diet.

A meta-analysis published in 2017 found that regular consumption of sugar-sweetened soda was associated with an 18% increase in obesity. More surprisingly, regular consumption of artificially-sweetened diet soda was associated with a 50% increase in obesity.

You might assume that diet soda is healthier than regular soda due to the minimal calorie content. However, artificial sweeteners can lead to significant changes in the gut microbiota. Human and animal research show that non-caloric artificial sweeteners cause alterations in gut microbiota composition that impair glucose tolerance, resulting in poor metabolic responses.

Negative Effects of Excess Weight

  • Excess weight increases the risk for an array of serious conditions: fatty liver disease, kidney disease, gallbladder disease, sleep apnea.
  • Being overweight is associated with an increase risk of chronic pain, including low-back pain, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome and abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, jaw pain, and body-wide chronic pain. A study in twins found that compared to their normal weight twin, obese or overweight twins had significantly higher odds of lower-back pain or generalized body pain.
  • Excess weight promotes osteoarthritis as a result of both increased wear and tear and because of chronic inflammation.
  • Obesity is strongly associated with depression. A meta-analysis that included data on over 58,000 individuals found that obesity significantly increased the odds of developing depression, while depression significantly increased the odds of becoming obese.
  • A host of negative pregnancy outcomes, such as gestational diabetes, pre-eclampsia, caesarean birth, fetal defects, and preterm birth are all more common in overweight or obese mothers.
  • Excess weight makes it more difficult to absorb vitamin D and other fat soluble vitamins (A, E and K).

Being overweight or obese increases the risk of the most prevalent diseases afflicting mankind. The financial costs to our healthcare system are unsustainable. Although the media have been sounding the alarm, we need to be better informed and motivated about maintaining a healthy body weight.

New Year’s resolutions are coming up. They are hard to keep when you try to make a switch from one day to the next. This year, think about tricking yourself into making changes that are sustainable. Add more fruits and vegetables, slowly. Make stews with beans and legumes instead of meats. Have nuts and seeds available for snacking. Limit sugary treats for special occasions. And, make these changes for yourself, not because you read it might be good for you to lose a couple of pounds.

No one likes to be told what to do. Shift your thinking so it is your idea to take wonderful care of yourself in 2021!

We ALL deserve a better year and, remember, good health is in your hands!

Sage

Sage belongs to the mint family, alongside other herbs like oregano, rosemary, basil and thyme. Its botanical name comes from the Latin word “salvare,” meaning “to be saved.”  Sage is an evergreen shrub.  It has oval, dusty gray-green leaves with woody stems. Because of the fine, velveteen hair-like projections on sage leaves, they have a slightly fuzzy or fluffy appearance and cottony texture, which can make it unpleasant to eat raw. There are many varieties of sage, but the species used for culinary purposes is known as common sage, garden sage, kitchen sage, or Salvia officinalis.

Sage has a strong aroma and earthy flavor, which is why it’s typically used in small amounts. It is also used as a natural cleaning agent, pesticide and ritual object in spiritual sage burning or smudging.

Sage has a very long history and has been used since ancient times for several purposes, from warding off evil to boosting female fertility. Sage was utilized by the Romans to assist in digestion and was also used to treat ulcers, wounds, and sore throats.

The French turned sage into a tea, and once the Chinese tried it, they sought out the herb and traded large amounts of Chinese tea for just a fraction of the sage. In the early 800s AD, sage was considered an important crop because of its medicinal properties as well as lucrative trade business.

 One teaspoon of ground sage contains:

  • Calories: 2
  • Protein: 0.1 grams
  • Carbs: 0.4 grams
  • Fat: 0.1 grams
  • Vitamin K: 10% of the reference daily intake (RDI)
  • Iron: 1.1% of the RDI
  • Vitamin B6: 1.1% of the RDI
  • Calcium: 1% of the RDI
  • Manganese: 1% of the RDI

A small amount of sage has 10% of your daily vitamin K needs. Sage also contains small amounts of magnesium, zinc, copper and vitamins A, C and E.

Sage is known for its antifungal, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. Volatile oils (distilled from the blossoms) contain the phenolic flavonoids apigenin, diosmetin and luteolin, plus rosmarinic acid, which can be easily absorbed into the body.

Medicinally used for muscle aches, rheumatism and aromatherapy, these oils also contain ketones, including A- and B-thujone, which may help enhance mental clarity and memory. These properties may be useful in treating cognitive decline and patients suffering from Alzheimer’s. In fact, sage, made into a drink from the leaves, has been called the “thinker’s tea.”

One study noted the history of sage’s ability to enhance memory. A placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover trial on sage involving 44 participants showed significantly improved immediate measures of word and cognitive recall. In healthy adults, sage was shown to improve memory in low doses. Higher doses also elevated mood and increased alertness, calmness and contentedness.

Sage also appears to halt the breakdown of the chemical messenger acetylcholine (ACH), which has a role in memory. ACH levels appear to fall in Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, 39 participants with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease consumed either 60 drops (2 ml) of a sage extract supplement or a placebo daily for four months. Those taking the sage extract performed better on tests that measured memory, problem-solving, reasoning and other cognitive abilities.

In 2011, researchers reviewed traditional medicinal uses for sage for menopausal symptoms. Eight medical practices in Switzerland participated in a study on sage that involved 71 patients, all averaging 56 years of age, menopausal for at least 12 months and experiencing at least five hot flashes a day. Each was treated with a once-per-day tablet of fresh sage leaves for eight weeks. This preparation demonstrated clinical value in relieving mild, moderate, severe and very severe hot flashes, which decreased by nearly 50% to 100% over eight weeks in the treatment.

Sage has antimicrobial effects, which can neutralize microbes that promote dental plaque. In one study, a sage-based mouthwash was shown to effectively kill the Streptococcus mutans bacteria, which causes dental cavities. In a test-tube study, a sage-based essential oil was shown to kill and halt the spread of Candida albicans, a fungus that may also cause cavities. One review noted that sage may treat throat infections, dental abscesses, infected gums and mouth ulcers.

A study in mice with type 2 diabetes found that sage tea acts like metformin, which is a drug prescribed to manage blood sugar in people with diabetes. In humans, sage leaf extract has been shown to lower blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity with a similar effect as rosiglitazone, another anti-diabetes drug.

In one study, consuming sage tea twice daily lowered LDL cholesterol and total blood cholesterol while raising HDL cholesterol after just two weeks. Several other human studies illustrate a similar effect with sage extract.

Animal and test-tube studies demonstrate that sage may fight certain types of cancer, including those of the mouth, colon, liver, cervix, breast, skin and kidney. In these studies, sage extracts not only suppress the growth of cancer cells but also stimulate cell death.

How to Buy

Fresh sage is usually sold with the stem intact to preserve freshness. It is available in the produce section of the supermarket either in a bunch or in a plastic clamshell container. Look for bright-colored leaves that seem sturdy and aren’t wilted; they should be without spots and dried-out edges. Dried sage can be found in the spice aisle of the grocery store. Sage retains much of its flavor once it is dried. Drying concentrates the flavor and can give the herb a slightly bitter taste. Therefore, when cooking, less dried herb is added to the recipe than fresh.

There are two forms of dried sage: rubbed and powdered. Rubbed sage is created by rubbing the leaves together until they develop into coarse flakes. Powdered sage is a very fine texture that does not retain the flavor well, and therefore should be used in a timely manner.

How to Store

When kept refrigerated and wrapped in the original plastic clamshell container, fresh sage should stay good for up to one week. Once fresh sage has wilted, the flavor will be diminished and changed significantly. Fresh sage can also be frozen for long-term use. Dried sage should be kept in an airtight container away from heat and moisture. When stored properly, dried sage should maintain good flavor for up to one year.

How to Cook

Sage is often paired with other herbs such as thyme, marjoram, and rosemary and harmonizes well with garlic, onion, oregano, parsley, and bay leaf.

The versions can all be substituted for one another, but since the potency of each is different, the measurements will have to change. Calculate that about seven leaves of fresh sage are equal to 2 teaspoons of rubbed sage or 1 teaspoon of powdered sage.

To cook with fresh sage, remove the leaves from the stems, rinse with cold water, and dry well. Cut according to the recipe instructions; sage leaves are often sliced into chiffonade, chopped, or minced. Dried rubbed sage and powdered sage can be measured out and simply added to the recipe. The large leaves of sage can also be deep-fried to yield a flavorful, crispy chip that can then be used as a garnish or seasoning on a variety of dishes.

Whether you use fresh or dried sage will determine when the herb should be added to the recipe. Although fresh sage can be incorporated at the beginning, as it is strong enough to retain its flavor throughout the cooking process. Dried sage should be added at the start so the flavor has time to mellow.

Brussels Sprouts With Chestnuts and Sage

Kathy Farrell-Kingsley/ Photo credit: Eating Well Magazine

12 Servings (easy to half this recipe!)

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon vegan butter

Instructions

  • Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add Brussels sprouts and cook until bright green and just tender, 6 to 8 minutes. Drain well.
  • Melt vegan butter with oil and broth in a large skillet over medium heat. Add Brussels sprouts, chestnuts and sage and cook, stirring often, until heated through, 2 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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