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Healthy Sources of Omega 3 and 6

This week’s Nutrition Diva podcast talks about the recommended intake of omega 6 fats.  How much is enough? How much is too much?

Here’s a guide to the omega-6 and omega-3 content of a variety of healthy foods. Click on any column to sort the list by that value.

Want a food added to the table? Add your request in the comment section and I’ll do my best to add it.

FoodServingGramsTotal Fat (g)Total PUFA (g)O-6O-3
Brazilnuts1/4 cup3322770
Canola oil1 Tbsp1414431
Chia seeds1 Tbsp103212
Corn oil1 Tbsp1414770
Flaxseeds1 Tbsp11430.52.5
Grapeseed oil1 Tbsp141410100
Hemp hearts1 Tbsp105431
Peanut butter2 Tbsp3216440
Pecans1/4 cup2518550
Pinenuts1/4 cup342311110
Pumpkin seeds1 Tbsp3216770
Rice bran oil1 Tbsp1414550
Salmon, cooked3 oz85730.52
Sesame seeds1 Tbsp96220
Sunflower seeds1 Tbsp3619820
Tofu, firm3 oz855220
Tuna, white3 oz853101
Walnuts1/4 cup302014113

 

 

Can we all calm down about coconut oil?

I’ve gotten several emails from readers asking me to respond to a viral video in which a Harvard (Harvard!) professor asserts that coconut oil is “pure poison.”

It’s hard to imagine how someone with such a prestigious pedigree could make such as silly and sensational statement in public. Presumably she was pushed over the edge by the ridiculous claims that some people have been making about coconut oil lately.

Can we all just calm down about coconut oil?

Coconut oil is not pure poison. On the other hand, it’s also not going to make you smarter, thinner, younger, or fold your laundry for you.

Proponents of coconut oil make a big deal out of the fact that coconut oil is rich in medium chain triglycerides (MCTs). But, as I discussed in my podcast episode on MCTs, claims for these specialty fats tend to be exaggerated or unproven.

Coconut oil haters such as this Harvard (!) professor mostly object to the fact that coconut is is almost 100% saturated fat. But, as I discussed in my recent podcast episode on butter, saturated fat in moderation may even have some heart health benefits.

Despite saturated fat’s rehabilitated reputation, I still think it makes sense to limit saturated fat intake to around 10-15% of calories, if for no other reason than to leave room in the diet for other healthy fats. But if you want to spend your sat fat allowance on coconut oil, I see no reason to call in Poison Control.

Surprising Link Between Diet and Brain Power

Every week seems to bring another study on the benefits of the Mediterranean diet–on heart health, longevity, cancer risk, you name it. But this study caught my eye due to a surprising connection between diet and academic performance.

The study involved a couple hundred high-school aged kids from Spain. The researchers found that those who more closely followed a Mediterranean diet pattern did better in school, getting higher grades in math, language and having higher grade point averages.

That’s not all that surprising. Previous research has found a link between Mediterranean diet and cognitive function in adults. All those healthy fats and antioxidants–and a minimum of added sugars and processed foods–appear to be good for the brain.

But the Spanish researchers found another potential explanation: The kids whose diets were most aligned with the Mediterreanean diet pattern also slept longer and better–and that this appeared to mediate the effect on academic performance. Previous studies have found that older adults who follow this dietary pattern also tend to sleep better.

But why would the Mediterranean diet lead to better sleep?  Researchers have proposed a couple of possibilities.

We know that the Mediterranean diet tends to be anti-inflammatory and there appears to be a relationship between inflammation and sleep.  When people get less sleep, their inflammation markers tend to go up.  But may also be true that higher inflammation has a negative impact on sleep quality. So it could be that the anti-inflammatory effects of the Mediterranean Diet help you sleep better.

Some of the foods that are prominent in the Mediterranean diet, including olives, olive oil, grapes, and wine, are good dietary sources of melatonin, a hormone that regulates the circadian sleep-wake cycle.  Perhaps the higher melatonin content of the Mediterranean diet has a beneficial effect on sleep rhythms.

Food for….zzzzzz

 

 

Should You Eat a Less Varied Diet?

“Eat a varied diet” is a fairly standard piece of advice. The idea is that by eating a greater variety of foods, you’ll be more likely to check off all the nutritional boxes.  But a new report suggests that the enormous amount of variety in our diet may be leading us astray.

When we have lots of different foods on our plates (or on a buffet line), we tend to eat more.  You’ve no doubt experienced this countless times. After eating a bowl of chili, we might feel no desire to continue eating…until a piece of cheesecake appears. Suddenly, we have a little more room.

But we can use this effect to our advantage, by limiting the variety of snacks and sweets that we keep around and increasing the variety of fresh vegetables, for example.

Just for fun, why not take an inventory of what’s in your house right now? How many different types of crackers, salted nuts, chips or other snack foods are on hand? How many different kinds cookies, cereal, muffins, granola bars, ice cream, chocolate, or other sweet treats?  How many types of bread, rolls, tortillas, and other starchy foods?

Now open up that crisper drawer. How many different kinds of vegetables and fruits are in there, ready to eat?  How many different sources of lean protein?

How does the variety (or lack thereof) of various categories of food correlate to your consumption patterns?

If you want to cut down on snacking, try keeping fewer snack foods around. If you want to eat more vegetables, surround yourself with more different kinds of produce.

Protein density of foods

In this week’s Nutrition Diva podcast, I talked about the concept of protein density and why it matters.

Plant-based sources of protein like legumes or nuts often contain a lot of additional calories in the form or carbohydrates and/or fats. It can be challenging to to increase your protein intake using plant-based sources without taking in more calories than you need. This is where the concept of protein density can help. 

We can calculate the protein density of a food by dividing the protein by the calories and multiplying by 100.  Foods with a higher protein density provide more protein per calorie. For example, black beans have a protein density score of 6.6, meaning that 100 calories worth of black beans contains 6.6 grams of protein. Edamame, on the other hand, has protein density of around 10. You get 50% more protein from the same number of calories.  (Although the calories and protein will change with the serving size, the protein density will always remain the same.)

Here is a table of some common foods and their protein density. You can sort this list by any column by clicking on the column header.

FoodAmountWeight (g)Protein (g)CaloriesProtein density
Egg white1 large333.601721.2
Chicken breast3 oz8526.0014018.6
Cottage cheese, lowfat1/2 cup11314.008117.3
Steak, sirloin, broiled3 oz8525.7516016.1
Tuna, white, canned3 oz8522.5515814.3
Bok choi, cooked1 cup1702.652013.3
Hamburger, 90% lean, broiled3 oz8522.1918412.1
Tofu, firm1/2 cup12621.7618112.0
Mushrooms, grilled1 cup1213.973511.3
Pork loin, broiled3 oz8523.2220611.3
Turnip greens, cooked1 cup1444.003611.1
Salmon, baked3 oz8519.0017510.9
Asparagus, cooked1 cup1804.324010.8
Broccoli, cooked1 cup1564.384110.7
Edamame1 cup11813.2412910.3
Bean sprouts1 cup1242.52269.7
Cauliflower, raw1 cup641.89209.5
Kale, cooked1 cup671.78199.4
Egg , whole1 large506.28728.7
Yogurt, plain, low fat1 container (6 oz)1708.931078.3
Collards, cooked1 cup1905.15638.2
Mozzarella, part skim1 oz286.67838.1
Brussels sprouts, raw1 cup882.97387.8
Lentils, cooked1 cup198182307.8
Zucchini, cooked1 cup1802.05277.6
Provolone cheese1 oz287.19997.3
Swiss cheese1 oz287.571107.3
Snow peas1 cup982.74416.7
Black beans, cooked1 cup24014.472186.6
Cheddar, cheese1 oz286.421135.7
Yogurt, plain, whole milk1 container (6 oz)1705.901045.7
Lima beans, cooked1 cup17011.582095.5
Cheese, feta1 oz283.99745.4
Green beans, cooked1 cup1352.01385.3
Pumpkin seeds, roasted1 oz288.381615.2
Milk, whole1 cup2448.001565.1
Tomatoes, canned1 cup2401.90385.0
Bread, whole wheat1 slice324.00814.9
Vegetable juice, canned1 cup2532.35564.2
Peanuts, roasted1 oz286.841654.1
Pasta, whole wheat, cooked1 cup1177.001744.0
Amaranth, cooked 1 cup2469.352513.7
Pasta, cooked1 cup1247.191963.7
Quinoa, cooked1 cup1858.002223.6
Almonds, roasted1 oz285.901683.5
Corn, yellow1 cup1364.111203.4
Egg noodles, cooked1 cup1607.262213.3
Baked potato1 potato2997.862842.8
Sunflower seeds, roasted1 oz284.801732.8
Rice, brown, cooked1 cup2025.532482.2
Butternut squash, backed1 cup2051.84822.2
Sweet potato, baked1 potato1142.291032.2
Rice, white, cooked1 cup1584.252052.1

Your diet isn’t the problem

Most diets pay way too much attention to what you eat and not enough to why and how you are eating it.  You get detailed instructions about exactly what to eat and what not to eat. And if you follow the instructions, you will almost certainly lose weight.

But if you are overweight, the real problem is not your diet. It’s your habits that need to change.

“Interventions that focus on changing an individual’s behaviour are not usually successful at changing an individual’s habits because they do not incorporate the strategies required to break unhealthy habits and/or form new healthy habits,” researcher Gina Cleo points out 

Lose all the weight you want on whatever diet regimen you choose. If you haven’t fixed the underlying habits, you are almost certain to regain the weight.

Cleo’s latest study, published last month in the International Journal of Obesity found that overweight adults who lost weight through focusing on changing their eating and movement habits (as opposed to following a certain diet) were more likely to maintain their weight loss for up to 12 months.

“Maintaining weight loss is often the hardest part of the weight-loss journey,” she says, “yet it was successfully achieved by our participants on the habit-based programs, without the need for dieting or strenuous exercise.

This is exactly what we are seeing in the Weighless Program, a year-long coaching program for sustainable weight loss. Although we certainly talk about food and movement, there is no prescribed diet or exercise program. Instead, we focus on dismantling that dieter’s mindset and creating the habits and mindset that lead to weighing less, permanently.  (Here’s what that looks like.)

And it’s working! After 10 months in the program, 80% of our members have lost anywhere from 3 to 18% of their starting weight. Many have been successfully maintaining a lower weight for months. And no-one has spent a single day dieting.  It’s exhilarating to witness people finally break free of destructive yo-yo dieting patterns and discover what it’s like to weigh less.

Click here to see what our members are saying.

You don’t necessarily need to join a group or a program to do this.  But if you think some professional guidance and support would be useful, our next Weighless group begins on July 6th. More details here.

 

Dieters Mindset vs Weighless Mindset

I’m guessing you’ve been on your share of diets. (And isn’t that, right there, proof that diets are not the answer?)

Although they rarely deliver permanent weight loss, diets do succeed fabulously at one thing: they’re great at creating a dieter’s mindset. And that mindset tends to follow us around, even when we’re in between diets.

What’s the dieter’s mindset? It’s a tendency to see every food as either “good” or “bad.” Even worse, it’s a tendency to see OURSELVES as “good” or “bad” depending on what we’ve eaten that day.

It’s the dieter’s mindset that puts thoughts like these into your head:

“I shouldn’t have eaten that cake after lunch. But as today is obviously ruined. I might as well go out for nachos after work.”

“I’ll be extra good tomorrow.”

“It’s sugar-free, so make it a large.”

“That’s it: No more carbs (or whatever…) until I lose five pounds.”

Ironically, that dieter’s mindset doesn’t actually help you weigh less, does it? No, it locks you in to a lifetime of dieting.

One of the most important things we do in the Weighless program is to pull that dieter’s mindset out by the roots. In place of those toxic messages, we plant ones that, over time, really do help you weigh less.

 

The Weighless Mindset is is about making friends with both food and yourself–and reinforcing the habits that support the life (and body) you want to have. Just ask the hundreds of Weighless members who have stopped dieting and started weighing less! Here’s some of what they have to say.

Ready to join them? We begin on July 6th…and then not again until 2019!

All the details are here.

 

The case for super slow weight loss

One of the things that sets the Weighless approach apart from other weight loss programs is our emphasis on slow weight loss.  Instead of coaching our members to lose a couple of pounds a week, we try to hold them to a couple of pounds a month.

Crazy, right? And yet there is a method to our madness.

Most people can only lose 2-3 pounds of body fat per month. If you’re losing weight faster than that, the rest is likely to be lean muscle. Believe me, that’s NOT what you’re trying to lose. Although our approach may seem like an insanely slow way to lose weight, we’re finding that it’s actually a much quicker (and less unpleasant) path to sustainable fat loss.

Interestingly, our members frequently report that after losing weight the “Weighless way,” they look and their clothes fit as if they have lost much more than they have.

Losing weight slowly not only preserves your metabolism and muscle mass. It also gives you more time to acquire the habits and practice the skills that will help you maintain a lower weight, heading off the dreaded–and seemingly inevitable–rebound weight gain.

It all makes sense, right? But occasionally, someone in the group will ask if there is published research to support the merits of the super slow pace of weight loss we endorse. Fair enough. I’ve built a reputation for being evidence-based, and most of the people who sign up for my programs cite this as one of the reasons they trust my advice.

Show Me the Research

A few studies have compared the effects of slow vs. fast weight loss. For example:

A 2016 study involving almost 60 subjects found that those who lost weight more slowly lost less muscle mass, which was associated with less weight regain. A similar (but longer) study dating back to 1994 compared the effects of “fast” vs. “slow” weight loss and found that the fast losers lost more weight initially but were much more likely to regain it.

The problem is that virtually all of the studies that compare fast and slow weight loss define “slow” as 1-2 pounds a week, which is still too fast by our standards.

There’s this 2008 study which found that small, cumulative changes in diet and activity (similar to the approach we use in Weighless) produced slow but sustainable weight loss–and was ultimately far more effective than giving people standard weight loss advice.

At the other end of the spectrum, the famous (and heartbreaking) “Biggest Loser” study demonstrates just how much damage fast weight can do to your metabolism. After six years, virtually all of the contestants had regained every pound (and more)–despite continuing to eat fewer calories. 

Our approach is certainly informed by research–but it also draws heavily on our experience and common sense. And although we are not (yet) conducting a controlled trial, the results we are seeing and the feedback we are getting from our members are enormously validating.  I think we’re onto something here…and maybe the researchers will take notice.  In the meantime, we have a new group beginning in just a few weeks.  You can learn more here.