Protein Powders

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Seminars, Webinars

By Annell St. Charles, PhD, R.D., L.D.N.

Protein supplements and powders have become all the rage over the last few years, particularly for people trying to build muscle.  However, most Americans already get all the protein they need from their diet, and some may even be getting too much.

Proteins are made up of amino acids, which are the key component of muscles and play many important roles in body maintenance.  Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, and legumes (dry beans or peas such as lentils, chickpeas, and kidney beans) are good sources of protein, and most Americans consume 12 to 18 percent of their calories as protein.  Dr. Van S. Hubbard, director of the NIH Division of Nutrition Research Coordination, says that most Americans do not need to worry about getting enough protein. “Unless they have some other medical problem, most people are meeting or exceeding their protein requirements,” he says. “Since protein is such a common component of most foods that you eat, if you’re eating a relatively varied diet, you’re getting enough protein.”  However, some populations, like vegetarians and older people, need to be aware of the protein in their diets.  Vegetarians can get the protein they need from rice, beans, eggs, peanut butter, dairy products, and bread.  Vegans need to be particularly careful, as they do not consume either eggs or dairy products.

A recent National Institutes of Health study of men and women age 70 years and older found that those who ate the least protein lost significantly more muscle than those who ate the most protein.  Older adults who lose muscle in their legs and hips are more likely to fall and have injuries like broken hips.  They may also have trouble doing basic things like getting up from a chair, walking upstairs, or taking a stroll due to loss of muscle strength.  For elderly people who cannot eat enough protein or who have diseases that leave them malnourished, a protein supplement can be one way to help get enough protein.

Nevertheless, the majority of Americans derive little benefit from increasing their protein intake.  Long-term studies found that high-protein diets that result in weight loss usually work as a result of the amount of calories rather than the amount of protein being consumed.

Recent weight loss, muscle fatigue, or a drop in muscle strength may be signs of protein deficiency, but these symptoms could also be due to other health conditions.

Vitamins & Minerals: What Does The Body Need?

Posted Posted in Brain Science, Continuing Education, Elder Care, Homestudy, Nutrition, Seminars

By Annell St. Charles, Ph.D., R.D., L.D.N.

In 1912, Casimir Funk, a Polish biochemist, isolated a concentrate from rice polishings that cured polyneuritis in pigeons.  He called the substance a “vital amine” or “vitamine” because it appeared to be vital for life.  There was widespread interest in eradicating several prevalent diseases at the time, and, in an article published in 1912, Funk postulated the existence of four substances:  one that prevented beriberi (“antiberiberi”), one that prevented scurvy (“antiscorbutic”), one that prevented pellagra (“antipellagric”), and one that prevented rickets (“antirachitic”).  Funk was one of several researchers in the early 20th century investigating these and other substances and their connection to health.

Epidemiologists, physicians, physiologists, and chemists all worked on this puzzle through the mid-20th century; the work was slow and onerous and plagued by many setbacks and contradictions.  Chemists were the ones ultimately able to identify and isolate the substances we call vitamins, leading to the development of synthetic forms that are available for wide consumption.  The proposed benefits and risks of vitamins and vitamin supplementation continue to be hot topics today.

The vitamins needed by the body for growth and normal development are:

  • Vitamin A
  • B Vitamins (vitamin B6, vitamin B12, folate, and others)
  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin D
  • Vitamin E
  • Vitamin K

Vitamins are divided into two groups:

  • Water-soluble are easily absorbed by the gut and stored only minimally. These include Vitamin C, thiamin, riboflavin,niacin, biotin, pantothenic acid, B6, folic acid, B12, and others.
  • Fat-soluble are stored in body tissues and excess accumulation can be toxic.  Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble vitamins.

Macrominerals & Trace Elements

These essential inorganic elements are categorized by abundance:

  • Macro-minerals are present in the body over 100 mg:  calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, sodium, chloride, and sulfur.
  • Trace elements are present in microgram or low-milligram amounts:  iron, zinc, iodine, selenium, copper, manganese, fluoride, chromium, molybdenum, silicon, nickel, boron, arsenic, tin, and vanadium.

What Is Gluten?

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Seminars, Webinars

By Annell St. Charles, Ph.D., R.D.

Gluten is the general name given to the proteins found in certain grain products — including wheat and its derivatives (wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, faro, graham, and einkorn wheat), rye, barley, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), malt, brewer’s yeast, and wheat starch (Celiac Disease Foundation, 2014).  Apparently, the hybridization that led to the production of modern bread wheat enabled the creation of a product with high amounts of the gluten complex, making modern bread wheat the worst gluten offender.

Gluten plays a significant role in nourishing plant embryos during germination.  In addition, as the name implies, “glu-ten” acts as a type of glue that holds food together, affects the elasticity of dough made from these grains, and gives shape and a chewy texture to products (such as bread) that are made from the dough.  It is also used as an additive in foods that have low-protein levels or no protein at all.  When it is used in vegetarian recipes (lacking any animal products), it helps to increase the firmness of the texture of the finished product in order to replicate that found in meats and other animal foods.

Gluten is actually made up of two different proteins, gliadin (prolamin) and glutelin, which are attached to starch in the endosperm of the grain.  Because the starch is water-soluble but the gluten isn’t, gluten can be obtained by dissolving away the starch with cold water.  (Salty cold water works best).  When gluten enters the digestive system, the proteins are broken down into smaller units called peptide chains, which are made up of amino acids.  Apparently, these peptide chains are the source of gluten sensitivity in some people, resulting in an array of symptoms, potentially contributing to more serious conditions such as celiac disease.  Whereas glutelin is water-soluble, gliadin is alcohol-soluble.  Gliadin is considered the most toxic.  Among the problematic disorders related to gluten, approximately six percent may be due to non-celiac gluten sensitivity, 10 percent may be the result of wheat allergy, and only one percent would be celiac disease.  However, despite its lower occurrence, celiac disease is considered the most serious of the bunch.


The Link Between Inflammation and Antioxidants

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

berries-221193_640By Annell St. Charles, Ph.D., R.D.

Inflammation has been mentioned as one contributor to cognitive dysfunction. Evidence suggests that inflammation is associated with age-related cognitive decline and may play a role in risk for dementia, including Alzheimer’s disease.

Potential pro-inflammatory sources of irritation/infection include:

  • microbial and viral infections.
  • exposure to allergens, radiation, and toxic chemicals .
  • autoimmune and chronic diseases.
  • obesity.
  • excess alcohol.
  • tobacco use.
  • a high-calorie diet.

There are two stages of inflammation: acute and chronic. Acute inflammation results from activation of the immune system, persists for only a short time, and is usually beneficial for the repair and healing of the damaged tissue and in removing invading pathogens. Chronic inflammation lasts for a longer period of time and may increase the risk of various long-lasting illnesses.

The relationship between inflammation and oxidative stress is two-fold. On one hand, inflammation leads to an increased uptake of oxygen, resulting in an increased release of free radicals and their metabolites (called reactive oxygen species). The inflammatory response also increases production of substances that further recruit inflammatory cells to the site of damage, resulting in the production of more reactive species. In simple terms, inflammation triggers a cycle that produces more inflammation, and the cycle is accompanied by an increase in oxidative stress.

A large body of research suggests that inflammation in the central nervous system increases with age, in part due to an increase in activation of microglia cells, which promotes a pro-inflammatory response. Microglia cells make up approximately 20 percent of the cell population of certain regions of the brain, and their activation would result in significant brain cell inflammation.
The diet can be a source of nutrients and non-nutrient constituents that can modulate inflammatory processes and, thus, aide cognitive function. Plant foods are considered a particularly rich source of anti-inflammatory substances. Diets high in fruits and vegetables are inversely associated with the risk of inflammation. In particular, carotenoids and flavonoids seem to reduce inflammatory processes.

Blueberries have been found to have one of the highest anti-inflammatory/antioxidant capacities of all fruits and vegetables. One study showed that daily ingestion of one cup of blueberries increased natural killer cell counts (helps to regulate the immune response to injury or infection), and a one-time ingestion of 1.5 cups reduced oxidative stress and increased anti-inflammatory cytokines. Research has also demonstrated that blueberry extract may inhibit one of the primary steps in the inflammatory stress pathway by reducing activation of microglia cells.

Pterostilbene is the natural dietary compound that contributes to the primary antioxidant component of blueberries. Research suggests that pterostilbene may have numerous preventive and therapeutic properties in a wide range of human diseases, including neurological/cognitive disorders.

Researchers have also demonstrated a high level of antioxidant and anti-inflammatory compounds in many other plant foods. In particular, the polyphenolic compounds contained in berries of all types, walnuts, curcumin, and fish oils have been found to provide potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory activities that may reduce the age-related sensitivity to oxidative stress or inflammation, which would, in turn, alter neurodegeneration.


What Is Good “Brain Food”?

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Nutrition, Seminars, Webinars

By Annell St. Charles, Ph.D., R.D.

salmon-518032_640It is clear that eating the right foods may enhance brain function and possibly slow some of the age-related declines in memory and cognition that may occur. It may also be possible to prevent or reduce the progression of diseases of the brain, including Alzheimer’s disease. The following is a list of foods that can be considered “good for the brain,” or more precisely, brain food.  These foods make up the basic structure of both the Mediterranean and DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diets, and represent the key phytochemical-containing foods for which researchers have demonstrated cognitive benefits. Note that where “dark-colored” foods are mentioned, the color must persist throughout the entire food, not just on the surface.

  • oily fish (salmon, sardines, mackerel, tuna, etc)
  • walnut oil
  • high omega-3 eggs
  • walnuts and other nuts
  • olive oil
  • blueberries and other berries
  • dark, leafy greens and other dark-colored vegetables
  • avocado
  • wheat germ/whole wheat
  • red, purple, or black grape skins and other dark-colored fruits
  • flaxmeal
  • curcumin (turmeric)
  • canola oil

In simple terms, an optimal diet for brain health relies on whole plant foods that have not been stripped of their fiber, essential nutrients, or critical non-nutrient components through processing. It also consists of healthy fats derived primarily from oils and fish, and a colorful array of fruits and vegetables that are as locally sourced and seasonally fresh as possible. The terms “local” and “seasonal” have been commonly adopted in an effort to draw a distinction between foods that have not spent too much time sitting in containers, transport vehicles, or refrigerators but were recently growing in a nearby field.

Switching to a brain food-rich diet means breaking free of the habit of excessive convenience. Eating foods out of season assures that their nutrient content is lessened due to the effects of heat, cold, or exposure to light. Creating meals out of primarily packaged food items means that they have been subjected to manufacturing processes that reduce their nutrient density. An exception would be frozen plant foods, which are typically subjected to flash-freezing shortly after harvesting, thus increasing the conservation of nutrients. Convenience food products are also, in general, low in phytochemicals and would not be expected to provide the antioxidant or anti-inflammatory benefits inherent in whole foods. Food products, like food supplements, also lack the synergistic potential of whole foods since their available food components have been selectively designed. In addition, most convenience food products make use of inexpensive ingredients designed to appeal to consumer taste. This means that a diet high in convenience foods will likely include high intake of hydrogenated omega-6 fats, sodium, and simple sugars.

In essence, emphasizing a brain food diet means embracing what humans have known for centuries: that eating moderately and simply from a plant-based diet, with the inclusion of ample amounts of fresh herbs and spices to enhance taste, is most likely to deliver the gift of good health.


What Is Gluten?

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition, Seminars

wheat-allergiesBy Annell St. Charles, Ph.D., R.D.

Gluten is the general name given to the proteins found in certain grain products, including wheat and its derivatives (wheat berries, durum, emmer, semolina, spelt, farina, faro, graham, einkorn wheat), rye, barley, triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye), malt, brewer’s yeast, and wheat starch.  Apparently, the hybridization that led to the production of modern bread wheat enabled the creation of a product with high amounts of the gluten complex, making modern bread wheat the “worst” gluten offender.

Gluten plays a significant role in nourishing plant embryos during germination. In addition, as the name implies, GLU-ten acts as a type of glue that holds food together, affects the elasticity of dough made from these grains, and gives shape and a chewy texture to products (such as bread), which are made from the dough. Gluten is also used as an additive in foods that have low-protein levels or no protein at all. When it is used in vegetarian recipes (lacking any animal products), it helps to increase the firmness of the texture of the finished product in order to replicate the texture found in meats and other animal foods.

Since gluten is found in the grains wheat, rye, barley, and triticale (as stated above, a hybrid of wheat and rye), and foods made from these grains, people who are sensitive to gluten should avoid any foods that contain these substances. Avoiding wheat is considered especially difficult because of the number of wheat-based flours and ingredients commonly used.

Common Foods that Typically Contain Gluten

  • Pastas (ravioli, gnocchi, couscous, dumplings)
  • Noodles (ramen, udon, soba, chow mein, egg noodles)
  • Breads and pastries (croissants, pita, naan, bagels, flatbreads, cornbread, potato bread, muffins , donuts, rolls)
  • Crackers (pretzels, goldfish, graham crackers)
  • Baked goods (cakes, cookies, pie crusts, brownies)
  • Cereal and granola (corn flakes and rice puffs often contain malt extract/flavoring; granola is often made with regular oats, which do not contain gluten, however oats may be cross-contaminated during growing, harvesting, or processing
  • Breakfast foods (pancakes, waffles, French toast, crepes, biscuits)
  • Breading and coating mixes (panko, breadcrumbs)
  • Croutons (stuffings, dressings)
  • Sauces and gravies (many use wheat flour as a thickener; soy sauce, cream sauces made with a roux)
  • Flour tortillas
  • Beer (unless listed gluten-free; malt beverages)
  • Brewer’s yeast

By all accounts, gluten sensitivity is increasing in the U.S. The rise in gluten-related sensitivity disorders can be traced back to changes in the way that wheat is processed and wheat-based products are manufactured.  The changes led to alternation in the type and availability of grain products in the marketplace. In essence, the amount of gluten in grain-based products increased as manufacturers attempted to create products with more consumer appeal.  In addition, the number of complaints that seemed to stem from an increased consumption of these products kept pace with their availability. Somewhere along the line, our genes also changed in response to these modifications in our diet. Our bodies reacted in alarm to the presence of gluten, targeting it as a foreign invader.


Changing To A Mediterranean Diet

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

By Dr. Annell St. Charles (PhD, RD)

olives-473793_640The Mediterranean Diet has been a hot topic in both scientific articles and the popular press for many years because of its reported benefits for improving health and reducing overall mortality. However, the truth is that these benefits are the result of not only the diet traditionally consumed by people living in countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea, but also the overall lifestyle enjoyed by that populace.

The Mediterranean Way embraces a lifestyle that seeks balance between work and leisure; movement and relaxation; solitary and social time; and fresh food and convenient food products. It’s about enjoying life to the fullest, which includes maintaining good physical, emotional, and mental health throughout life.

The process of changing to a Mediterranean diet can be approached step-by-step, for example by:

  • replacing one or two meat meals each week with fish to change the composition of fat consumed.
  • adding one more daily serving of vegetables to the current average number of servings to help ease the move toward a daily goal of five servings or more.
  • emphasizing more colorful vegetables will also increase the availability of antioxidants.
  • substituting fresh fruit for one fatty, sugary dessert per week to help make fresh fruit a habit; even if desserts are not regularly eaten, planning a weekly meal that begins or ends in fresh fruit will be a helpful. dietary change.

Additional suggestions for making a gradual change include:

  • switching from refined bread and grain products to whole grain products to help boost fiber and nutrient intake.
  •  substituting beans for grains a couple of times a week.
  • getting in the nut habit—all natural, raw, or roasted nuts are good, and be sure to include walnuts.
  •  if drinking a cocktail is a daily event, switching to the more antioxidant and anti-inflammatory-rich red wine.

The dietary habits of the people of the Mediterranean region are greatly influenced by the climate, which for much of the year in the southernmost region tends toward warm, sunny days that cool off at night. The long, sunny days encourage a pattern of midday meals designed to create a break in work activities, often followed by a stroll and a nap to restore energy for the rest of the day and night. Dinner tends to be eaten late and is typically enjoyed with friends or family, often in an outdoor setting, and always with a glass or two of wine made from locally-grown grapes. Meals are often long and slow-paced. Other lifestyle habits of the Mediterranean region that are thought to influence health are the tendency to spend more time walking, tending to gardens, and biking for recreation and transportation.

Our homestudy course addresses “the Mediterranean Way,” the way of life that includes the diet, activity, and social habits of people living in that part of the world.


Thyroid Problems in Women

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Homestudy, Nutrition

By Dr. Annell St. Charles, PhD, RD

An estimated 27 million Americans have thyroid disease, and more than half of them are undiagnosed. Thyroid disease affects almost every aspect of health, so understanding more about the thyroid — and the symptoms that occur when something goes wrong with this small gland — can help protect and restore health.vigeland-85501_640

Women are at the greatest risk of developing thyroid problems. Thyroid disorders occur in women approximately seven times more often than men. A woman faces as high as a one in five chance of developing thyroid problems during her lifetime. The risk also increases with age and for those with a family history of thyroid problems.

The thyroid is a small gland located in the lower part of the neck, lying against and around the larynx and trachea. The word thyroid comes from the Greek word for “shield,” which refers to its shield-like covering of the larynx and trachea. Palpating the laryngeal prominence, also known as the Adam’s apple, helps to identify the upper margin of the thyroid gland. However, its location is also rather elusive because it moves with the act of swallowing.

The thyroid gland manufactures and stores thyroid hormone (TH), often referred to as the body’s metabolic hormone. Among other jobs, TH stimulates enzymes that combine oxygen and glucose, a process that increases your basal metabolic rate (BMR) and body heat production. The hormone also helps maintain blood pressure and regulates tissue growth and development. The hormone is critical for skeletal and nervous system development. It plays an important role in the development of the reproductive system.

Check Your Neck
Every time you look in the mirror, a key to your well-being stares back at you. An enlarged thyroid may mean your gland is producing too much or too little hormone. The key is knowing what to watch for. Perform this simple self-check once every two months.

  • Hold a mirror in front of you and focus your gaze on the lower front area of your neck, right above your collarbone.
  • Tilt your head back, moving the mirror along with you.
  • Take a medium-size sip of water.
  • As you swallow, watch your thyroid area, checking for any unusual bulges or protrusions. (Note: Don’t confuse your thyroid with your Adam’s apple, which is farther up.)
  • If you see anything suspicious, contact your physician.
    Source: American College of Endocrinology

If you think you may have a thyroid disorder or are concerned about any of the symptoms listed above, it’s important to talk to your health care provider.  For information about this home-study course, check out our bookstore.


Eating Right at Midlife & Beyond

Posted Posted in Continuing Education, Elder Care, Homestudy, Nutrition

By Annell St. Charles, PhD, RD, LDN

vegetables-752153_640“In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.”
– Benjamin Franklin, 1789

Human aging is a product of not only physical changes, but modifications and adjustments to our mental, emotional, and social selves.

Creating a healthy daily meal plan is challenging for even the most motivated of us, and it is helpful to keep things as simple as possible. At the forefront of a healthy lifestyle is a healthy diet. However, as we age there is a tendency for many of us to allow our dietary patterns to regress to childhood. If most children are given permission to design their own diet, it would likely be full of sugary treats, salty snacks, and limited choices. As adults, we understand that this is not a healthy way to eat. And yet it often becomes the exact pattern we adopt as we grow old.

The American Institute for Cancer Research’s publication Nutrition After 50 lists some helpful ideas for fitting more plant foods into the diet, as follows:

  1.  Include fruits, juices, or vegetables with the breakfast meal. These foods can be added to cereal, stirred or blended into yogurt, or mixed into an egg dish.
  2. Pack a snack of fresh, dried, or canned fruit (no sugar added) for a day’s outing.
  3. Be creative with adding vegetables to meals. Include them in pasta sauce, use them to top potatoes, or make a vegetable pizza.
  4. Choose fruit for dessert, but make it special. Top low-fat frozen yogurt or sorbet with fresh berries. Bake an apple and top with softened raisins and cinnamon.
  5.  Try something new. Branch out from eating the “same old” fruits and vegetables and try something new. The internet provides a lot of good tips for recipes using previously untried food.
  6. Buy frozen and canned vegetables and fruits. Fresh is not always best, especially when most of it gets thrown away because of spoilage. There are many products available without added salt or sugar. Rinsing canned vegetables can also help wash off excess sodium.

Since many of the changes that occur with age are now recognized as resulting from an imbalance between pro-oxidants and antioxidants, consuming a surplus of antioxidants is ideal. In essence, an antioxidant-rich diet is rich in plant foods and healthy oils and low in simple sugars and solid fats. It is also a diet that is part of an overall active lifestyle that includes physical movement, social interaction, and meaningful encounters. Because, in the end, our measure of the worth of our lives should not be the years we have accumulated, but the quality of the years we have lived.

Get Eating Right at Midlife & Beyond and many other Homestudy courses from INR