Concepts to Think About When It Comes to Your Nutrition

Young woman carries a shopping basket filled with fresh produce. She is shopping for fresh fruit and vegetables in a grocery store.

Written by Allen Tran, MS, RD, CSSD, High Performance Dietitian and Chef for U.S. Ski and Snowboard

Nutrition is vital for any elite athlete or weekend warrior. It’s the foundation for peak performance and the fuel behind it. And when it comes down to it, what you put in your body can be the difference between standing on the podium or going home empty-handed.

Whether you’re looking to lose a few pounds, prepping for a local 5K, or simply want to live a healthier lifestyle, here are three main principles to think about when it comes to your nutrition.


In the News: Slight Calorie Restriction Shown to Slow Effects of Aging, Hormone Therapy May Fight Belly Fat, Full Social Life as a Child Linked to Better Adult Health

Calorie restriction reduces adverse effects of aging. Scientists at Pennington Biomedical Research conducted the first study on calorie restriction in non-obese humans. Fifty-three healthy people between the ages of 21 and 50 cut their calorie intake by 15 percent over the course of two years. On average, the participants lost about 9 kg, but there was no prescribed diet and the goal was not weight loss, but rather to study the effect on aging. No adverse effects were noted, and instead, participants reported improved mood and health-related quality of life. Furthermore, and perhaps most revealing, the decreased calorie intake led to lowered oxidative stress, something that has been proven to lead to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, cancer, diabetes, and rheumatoid arthritis. Take a look at seven foods that are linked to premature aging to learn more. (SD)

Hormone therapy may fight post-menopausal belly fat. One of the most common conditions accompanying a loss of estrogen production is increased belly fat, and it can be frustrating that it crops up with no changes to your diet or exercise regimen and causes such severe health risks, such as heart disease and diabetes risks. However, a new study of over 1,000 post-menopausal women found that women using hormone therapy had significantly less belly fat and other distressing side effects of menopause. This research comes after years of women fearing hormone intervention to combat menopausal symptoms due to previous reports that it may increase a woman’s risk for heart disease, stroke, or breast cancer. However, these studies did not take into account the ages of the women they studied, and it now appears with this new comprehensive study that women 50 to 60, transitioning into menopause, can benefit greatly from this therapy without the added risk of disease. The study also found an immediate increase in belly fat after the hormone therapy had been discontinued, and everybody is different, so all options are worth discussing with your physician. Take this quiz to find out your belly fat type. (CNN)

A healthy social life as a young person is linked to better physical health in adulthood. It has long been suspected that a healthy social life has both current and lasting effects on one’s physical health, but a recent study published by the Association of Psychological Science confirms this and suggests that more quality time spent with friends in childhood has the most significant effect on physical health in adulthood. The more time young boys spent with friends in childhood (as reported by their parents at the time, beginning at age 6), the lower their blood pressure and BMI as 32-year-old adults. The findings were consistent among 267 participants, across races and social classes, and this longitudinal study controlled for other factors such as personality or weight in childhood and adulthood. However, the study must be repeated with females, a larger sample, and more physiological measures to be certain of the link between time spent with friends in childhood and better physical health in adulthood. (SD)

In the News: Brain Function Impaired Even After One Alcoholic Drink, Any Amount of Light While Sleeping Increases Depression Risk, The Color of Your Face Reveals Your Emotions

A new study shows that even “just one drink” affects your brain, even if you’re not aware of it. The recently-published study was performed by researchers at San Diego State University on 18 healthy social drinkers. Under one condition, the participants completed a computer-based task after drinking one drink, and under the other condition, they completed the same task after drinking orange juice that acted as a placebo for an alcoholic beverage, while their beta (movement control) and theta (decision-making) brain waves were measured. After just one drink, the decision-making brain waves of those who had had a drink decreased to about half the frequency of those who had ingested orange juice, though these effects were below the conscious level, meaning that the subjects “felt” fine. This study needs a bit more follow-up given the small number of participants, but it does suggest an inhibited driving capability after less alcohol than most people believe will affect them. If you want to cut back on your drinking, try these tips. (MNT)

Even a little light exposure at night has suggested an increased risk of depression. It has been well-documented that light during sleeping hours can interrupt your internal clock that regulates sleeping and waking, leading to poor sleep quality, but a study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology measured the effect of very low levels of light in relation to symptoms of depression. Other variables such as weight, smoking and drinking, income, medication use, and physical ailments were accounted for when they made conclusions. The group of participants who slept with more than 5 lux of light in their bedroom (for scale, 1 lux is the light of a candle, whereas a typically-lit living room is 50 lux) showed a 65 percent higher chance of being depressed. During a time where many people check phones or tablets as they fall asleep, or sleep with the television on all night, making sure that you are in a truly dark environment is an easy way to improve your mental health while you sleep. Learn more about other factors disrupting sleep here. (ABC)

Research shows we communicate emotions with our complexion colors. In fact, this change seems to be even more reliable in guessing someone’s emotions than their actual facial expressions. In 75 percent of cases, the color of someone’s face was enough for participants in a cognitive science study at the Ohio State University to correctly guess their emotions when the color was placed on a face with a fully neutral expression. The patterns of color change for different emotions were almost identical across humans, regardless of gender, base skin color, or ethnicity. What’s more, our inherent adeptness to emotion detection based on color was such that participants could tell that something was “off” if the colors were superimposed on a facial expression that did not match. It is a process we do subconsciously, which explains why we are able to pick up disgust for example, without consciously knowing it is related to a blue-yellow hue around the mouth. (MNT)

In the News: The Best Diet for Your Brain, How Lack of Sleep Can Increase Your Alzheimer’s Risk, and the Powers of Chicken Soup

A low-fat diet may be what’s best for your brain. An animal study out of the University Medical Center Groningen in the Netherlands found that eating a low-fat diet in addition to limiting calories was more effective than exercise in terms of reducing inflammation in the brain. The study took a look at inflammation that causes microglia which is “a type of immune cell whose dysfunction has been linked to development problems and diseases of the brain and central nervous system.” This study is not conclusive and needs more research to observe factors such as the impact of changing diet to low-fat if that’s not something that had been done since birth. For more information, check out this anti-inflammatory grocery list. (MNT)

If you’re frequently sleepy during the day you might have a higher risk of developing Alzheimer’s. A study published in JAMA Neurology looked at almost 3,000 older people and 22 percent had problems with being tired during the day. The lead in the study found that “people who reported excessive daytime sleepiness at the start of the study were more likely to show increases in amyloid in their brains as the study progressed. These people also tended to show faster deposition of the protein than those who did not report daytime drowsiness. What’s more, the amyloid was heaviest in two regions of the brain: the anterior cingulate and cingulate precuneus, which typically show high levels of amyloid in people with Alzheimer’s.” While more research needs to be done, getting a good night’s sleep is never a bad idea. (TIME)

Evidence finds that you should have chicken soup when you’re sick. While there aren’t concrete studies that have definitively proven chicken soup is a cure-all, certain research has shown that the elements that make up the soup could be helpful in fighting illness. One study found that the soup may have anti-inflammatory properties, another observed that spices used and steam from the soup can help clear congestion, and the ingredients have beneficial vitamins and minerals that can help your whole body. It’s not completely proven yet, but next time you feel under the weather make sure to eat chicken soup. (CNN)

Aromatherapy: The Hidden Gem of Health Care?

Rose Essential Oil

Essential oils seem to be all the rage these days due to the belief that they can enhance physical and/or psychological well-being. Often used in holistic health environments, essential oils have now made their mark in the medical model of the healthcare industry as well. Do not be surprised if you are offered essential oil options at your next health care visit.