A Nutrition Report Card for Americans: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings

A Nutrition Report Card for Americans: Dark Clouds, Silver Linings

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Many of the latest findings on the American diet are not encouraging. Almost half of U.S. adults, or 46%, have a poor-quality diet, with too little fish, whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts and beans, and too much salt, sugar-sweetened beverages and processed meats.
Our additional research shows U.S. kids are doing even worse: More than half, or 56%, have a poor diet. Importantly, for both adults and children, most of the dietary shortcomings were from too few healthy foods, rather than too much unhealthy foods.

I am a cardiologist and professor and dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University. In a series of research papers using national data collected over the past 20 years, my colleagues and I have investigated how the dietary habits of Americans have evolved. We have assessed diets among adults and children, among women and men, and by race and ethnicity, income, education and food security status.

Dark clouds, silver linings

The largest single category of foods is carbohydrate-rich: grains, cereals, starches and sugars. In the U.S., 42% of all calories consumed are carbohydrates from lower-nutritional-quality foods such as refined grains and cereals, added sugars and potatoes. Only 9% of calories are from higher-nutritional-quality carbohydrates, such as whole grains, fruits, legumes and non-starchy vegetables. What’s more, the average American takes in nearly four 50-gram servings – or about 7 ounces – of processed meat per week. Processed meats include luncheon meats, sausage, hot dogs, ham and bacon. These products, preserved with sodium, nitrites and other additives, have strong links to stroke, heart disease, diabetes and some cancers.

The news is sobering, but there are glimmers of a silver lining. Comparing trends since 1999-2000, the average American diet has actually improved over time.

Back then, 56% of adults and 77% of kids had poor diets. Since then, both kids and adults have increased whole grain intake. Both have also cut back on sugar-sweetened beverages – kids by half, from two daily servings to one.

Adults have also modestly increased consumption of nuts, seeds and legumes; and kids, of fruits and vegetables. Intakes of unprocessed red meats declined by about half a serving per week, replaced by poultry. Intakes of fish and processed meat did not appreciably change.

But these improvements are not equitably distributed. Comparing different races and ethnicities, or income and education levels, disparities remain. In many cases, they have widened over time. Our most recent data shows 44% of Black adults have poor-quality diets, compared with 31% of whites. Of kids whose most educated parent has a high school degree, nearly two-thirds – 63% – have a poor diet; for kids with at least one parent with a college degree, it’s 43%.

In our most recent, and perhaps our most compelling, research, we’ve evaluated nutritional quality of the American diet according to the food source: grocery stores, restaurants, schools, work sites and other venues.

We found that foods eaten from fast-food or fast-casual restaurants offered the worst nutrition – 85% of foods eaten by children at these establishments, and 70% by adults, were of poor quality. At full-service restaurants and work-site cafeterias, about half the foods eaten were of poor quality. At grocery stores, we found some improvement from 2003 to 2018. The percentage of poor-quality foods eaten from grocery stores dropped from 40% to 33% for adults, and 53% to 45% for children.

But the largest improvements from 2003 to 2018 happened at schools. The proportion of poor-quality foods eaten from school was cut by more than half, from 56% to 24%. Nearly all this occurred after 2010, with the passage of the federal Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act, which created much stronger nutrition standards for schools and early child care. Improvements we found included higher intakes of whole grains, fruits, greens and beans, and fewer sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains and added sugars – all targets of the legislation.

In fact, looking across U.S. food sources, we found that schools have become the top overall source of nutritious eating in the country. As the U.S. slowly recovers from the pandemic, these results amplify the importance of reopening schools, and providing school meals, to ensure nutritious eating for kids.

Suggestions for change

Both COVID-19 and the country’s awakening on systemic racism have raised the national consciousness on the fragmented, fragile and inequitable nature of its food system. This makes our findings of racial and ethnic nutritional disparities even more dire. To achieve true nutrition security, we need a series of policy actions and business innovations to shift our food system toward health, equity and sustainability. These include promoting food as medicine by integrating nutrition into health care and food assistance programs; by creating a National Institute of Nutrition and new public-private partnerships to accelerate science, innovation and entrepreneurship; and by creating a new Office of the National Director of Food and Nutrition to coordinate the currently fragmented US$150 billion annual federal investments in diverse food and nutrition areas.

Policy change works, as clearly demonstrated by the dramatic impact of a single policy change – the 2010 Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act – on the nutrition of millions of American children. It’s time to grasp this unique moment in the country’s history and reimagine U.S. national food policy to create a nourishing and sustainable food system for all.

Contributor: Dariush Mozaffarian -Dean of Nutrition Science and Policy, Tufts University for TheConversation.com


What’s Going on In Your Mind Matters. Changing Your Expectations Can Mean More Success, Experts Say

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“I think therefore I am,” mind over matter, the little engine that thought he could — our philosophers, language and literature all point to the power of perspective.

Psychologists say this common wisdom is right: What you expect from yourself and the world make a big impact on the results of your endeavors.

“From a neuroscience perspective, the brain will believe anything you tell it, right and wrong,” said Roseann Capanna-Hodge, a psychologist based in Connecticut.

Research has shown that this phenomenon can have huge benefits when approaching a significant or difficult task, said David Robson, science writer and author of “The Expectation Effect: How Your Mindset Can Change Your World.”

“We do know that there’s the mind-body connection, which isn’t kind of mysterious or magical, it’s just, it’s how it has to work and that this is in itself changing our physiology,” Robson told CNN Chief Medical Correspondent Dr. Sanjay Gupta in his podcast, Chasing Life.

Thinking that you could catch up in a race or that your public speaking anxiety could help you perform better does, in many cases, Robson said.

Psychologists agree and say that rerouting your expectations to work more for you takes self-awareness, self-compassion and resilience. Here are six expert ways to develop a mindset that pushes you toward success.

Curb the negative bias

Expectations, even negative ones, are meant to help our brains navigate a complicated world by simplifying our predictions of the wide range of outcomes to any situation, Emiliana Simon-Thomas, science director of the Greater Good Science Center at the University of California, Berkeley, said.

Those negative expectations can help up anticipate and avoid danger, but they aren’t always up to date with the context that surrounds us, she added. The bias to sense danger sometimes inaccurately skews how we see the situation ahead of us.

And inaccurate information in the face of a challenge can create obstacles of its own.

“Pessimistic thoughts really just put you in a position where you’re more vulnerable to actually experiencing that unpleasant or negative outcome,” she added.

Communicate better with yourself

Setting more positive expectations — and hopefully reaping the rewards — starts with how you talk to yourself, Capanna-Hodge said.

When baseball players step up to the plate, they tell themselves they will knock it out of the park, she said, and the rest of the world should be doing the same, whether it comes to dietary changes, dating, career development or physical challenges.

Sometimes, though, those negative thoughts feel pretty automatic. If that’s the case, Capanna-Hodge recommends activities like prayer, meditation, journaling and visualization to get better in touch with your goals and more in control about how you think about them.

Focus on the challenge

We tend to see ourselves and our obstacles in two ways, Simon-Thomas said. Either our abilities are fixed or can grow, and our obstacles are a threat or a challenge.

Shifting focus to believe that we can develop skills and to see difficulties as a challenge to be met rather than a threat to be avoided has shown to result in more success, she said.

“Is this a challenge that I can get excited about trying to drum up the resources to accomplish? Or is this a threat to my worth as a person?” Simon-Thomas said. “If you could relate to or interpret that situation as a challenge, your physiological response is empowering and equips you to be more creative and effective.”

Stretch mindset

An optimistic expectation doesn’t always mean tying yourself to one specific outcome, said Joan Rosenberg, a California-based psychologist and author of “90 Seconds to a Life You Love: How to Master Your Difficult Feelings to Cultivate Lasting Confidence, Resilience, and Authenticity.”

Instead, she recommends setting expectations that anticipates a positive result, without being too hard on yourself.

For trying something new and challenging, Rosenberg said her ideal mindset is “I’m going to do the best I can and see just how far I can stretch.”

Prepare to face the emotional outcomes

The disappointing truth is those seeking to accomplish something new often will have to fail at least a few times. Part of going into those challenges with an optimal mindset means preparing to face whatever the emotional consequences are — win or lose.

It usually isn’t the loss people avoid, but the feelings that can come with it, like fear, anger, vulnerability, sadness and embarrassment, Rosenberg said. For most, the worst part are the physical feelings that come with a setback, like a flush in your cheeks or racing heart.

Fortunately, data has shown those feels tend to last for no more than 90 seconds, she added. Preparing yourself to sit through whatever unpleasant emotion and feeling may arise can make you more ready to charge into the challenge as well as more resilient if it doesn’t go your way, she said.

Turn disappointment into information gathering

Sitting in those uncomfortable feels of loss can actually be turned into a gain, Rosenberg added.

She recommended people find the opportunity to find information in the disappointment. Perhaps you learn that you need to eat something more substantial before your 5K or triathlon, that your feelings of sadness mean you really care about the kind of job you were interviewing for, or that the new friends you have been spending time with don’t make you feel that good.

“Why would I want to stay present in those feelings? Because it’s a source of information that when, joined with thought and reason, will help me make better decisions in my life,” Rosenberg said.

Having realistically optimistic expectations is not a cure-all for life’s disappointments and losses, but it does better equip each of us to go into a challenge with our best resources, experts said.

Contributor: Madeline Holcombe, CNN

Why You Shouldn’t Exercise to Lose Weight

Why You Shouldn't Exercise to Lose Weight

Claremont Colonic Center
Many of us are lacing up our sneakers and starting (or restarting) exercise regimens in hopes of shedding unwanted pounds. Unquestionably, aiming to be more active is a good thing. But if the main reason is to lose weight, your New Year’s resolution could very well backfire.

For starters, exercise—at least the kind most of us do—is typically ineffective for weight loss. Take walking, for example. A 150-pound person who walks briskly for 30 minutes will burn, on average, around 140 calories. That’s equal to one can of soda—not exactly a great return on your investment of time and effort. It’s much easier just to skip the soda.

Studies overall show that doing moderate-intensity aerobic exercise such as walking for 30 minutes a day, five days a week—the amount recommended for good health—typically produces little or no weight loss by itself.

When moderate exercise is added to diet, the results are equally unimpressive. Pooling data from six trials, researchers found that a combination of diet and exercise generated no greater weight loss than diet alone after six months. At 12 months, the diet-and-exercise combo showed an advantage, but it was slight—about 4 pounds on average. In another review of studies, the difference was less than 3 pounds.

In studies where exercise has produced meaningful weight loss, participants burned at least 400 to 500 calories per session on five or more days a week. To achieve that, a 150-pound person would need to log a minimum of 90 minutes per day of brisk walking or 30 minutes of running 8-minute miles. In short, sessions need to go well beyond what most of us are willing or able to do. And even if we manage to exert that much effort, our bodies often compensate by boosting appetite and dialing down metabolism, effects that over time limit how many pounds we shed.

When exercise fails to meet our weight-loss expectations, we often sour on it and stop working out. In a study of 30 overweight people who participated in a 12-week exercise program and were interviewed afterward, this response was typical: “It was quite disappointing that I didn’t lose a single pound and . . . it kind of made me give up.” Another respondent who failed to lose weight described her exercise experience as “like banging my head against a brick wall.” It’s pretty safe to assume she didn’t go back for more.

Perhaps the biggest problem with exercising to drop pounds is that it turns physical activity into punishment—a price we have to pay for a slimmer body. How many times have you heard someone say (or said yourself) “I’ll need to do extra exercise” after eating too much during the holidays or at a celebratory dinner? We treat exercise as a form of self-punishment for being “bad.”

By framing exercise as penance, we’re unlikely to enjoy it or to keep doing it for very long. That’s the message from a study in which researchers asked middle-aged women to write down their thoughts about physical activity. Those who used terms like “calories” or “weight” were labeled “body-shapers,” while those who didn’t were called “non-body-shapers.” Both groups weighed about the same on average. The body-shapers were more likely to view exercise as a struggle, while the non-body-shapers tended to say that it made them feel good. Given such attitudes, it’s not surprising that the body-shapers exercised considerably less than the non-body-shapers.

The takeaway is that we’re more likely to perceive exercise positively and actually do it when we focus on our well-being rather than our weight. For some, the incentive may be an improved mood or less stress. Others may find that exercise makes them feel physically and mentally stronger or more in control of their lives.

Of course, the benefits of physical activity extend well beyond these. It’s been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, diabetes, dementia, depression, colds, back pain, osteoporosis and premature death. It can also improve sleep, boost energy, fend off old-age feebleness and even enhance our sex lives.

What’s more, while it’s not very helpful for melting away pounds, exercise can prevent weight gain and improve your appearance by increasing muscle mass and reducing visceral fat, the type indicated by a large waist that’s linked to heart disease and diabetes.

Imagine a pill with this long list of benefits. We’d all be clamoring for it.

So by all means, strive to exercise regularly in 2022. It’s perhaps the most important thing you can do for your health. But to improve the odds of success, focus on how movement helps you feel better physically and emotionally—and forget about how it moves the needle on the scale.

Contributor: Robert J. Davis – Time.com

Why dancing may be the one New Year’s resolution you actually keep in 2022

Why dancing may be the one New Year's resolution you actually keep in 2022

Claremont Colonic
As a professionally trained dancer for nearly 20 years, I’ve found that a combination of pirouettes and leaps across the floor can leave me sweaty and breathing heavily on the other side — but I often don’t even notice it.

The rush of joy, power and freedom of dancing far outweighs the challenge.

If you get self-conscious, though, it may not have felt that way when the music came on at your cousin’s wedding in the Before Times and you stepped onto the dance floor.

If you can find a way through that initial awkwardness, experts say dancing can benefit your physical and mental well-being.

With the latest surge of Covid-19 raging, now may be the ideal time to get the hang of dancing from home. Why not start off by boogying in the privacy of your living room and build from there?

For many people, the new year starts off with ambitious goals for a better life, only to have those resolutions fizzle by mid-March. Bringing more dance into your life, however, might be a way to increase mental and physical health that actually sticks, said New York-based Brazilian professional dancer Ricardo Souza. With Covid-19 making gathering in the dance studio risky, many teachers are offering online options, he said.

“When most people set New Year’s resolutions, they make ones for things they really don’t want to do, like lose weight or work out more,” Souza said via email. “Dance is something that is fun, and because of that, you are much more apt to stick with it! It’s also something you can take at your own pace and have realistic goals around so that it continues being something enjoyable.”

The benefits of having fun are backed by science. Research shows that you are more likely to continue your workouts if you enjoy them, according to Katy Milkman, behavioral scientist and professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania.

Whether you are drawn to a two-step or a tango, jazz or jazzercise, hip-hop or Broadway tap: Dance professionals say there are ways for people of every taste and experience level to bring more dance into their lives to find better fitness, joy and social connection.

Get moving and go cardio

If you are looking to increase your workouts, how can you beat moving to your favorite music?

“I think dance is a fantastic form of cardiovascular exercise, which is a really important part of a well-rounded fitness program,” said Dana Santas, a CNN fitness contributor and mind-body coach for professional athletes.

Cardiovascular exercise is anything that sustains a raised heart rate, works your respiratory system and uses large muscle groups, she added.
“Upbeat dancing, which uses your legs — and pretty much your whole body — definitely qualifies,” Santas said. That cardiovascular exercise can help you reach a multitude of goals for the new year.

“It burns calories, helps your heart and lungs work more efficiently, boosts production of feel-good hormones and mood-boosting endorphins and increases endurance over time, so you feel more energized and less tired throughout your day,” Santas said.

For those aiming for more energy, cardio has also been linked to increased sleep quality, according to a study in the Journal of Physiotherapy.

Get happier

That movement can also lift your mood during what is a stressful and chaotic time for many people. Research published in the journal Front Psychiatry found that exercise and activity reduces anxiety.

“Any time you move your physical body in a joyful way, it benefits all aspects of your health and well-being,” Souza said. “It’s also a great way to get out of this Covid rut so many people have been in, to try something new, and to meet new people.”

The poise, coordination and grace needed to execute many of the forms of dance can change the confidence people have in themselves, he added.

The clearest mental benefit of dance is the social engagement and emotional outlet it provides “in a way that doesn’t put pressure on the need to communicate verbally,” said Lucie Clements, a UK-based psychologist who works with professional dancers.

Find the dance style for you

Dance may sound enticing, but if images of perfect ballerinas in shiny, satin pointe shoes make the idea sound inaccessible, never fear, experts said.

There are plenty of ways to get inspired — and overcome the shyness that may hold you back.

“First, be open-minded to try and learn as many dances as you can,” Souza said.

Taking a one-off class likely won’t give you the results or happiness you are looking for, Clements said. It may help to try different styles or different kinds of instructors to see what works best for you.

If you are a little embarrassed at the thought of not knowing what you are doing, having a more structured class with an instructor with a history in pedagogical training may provide the experience you are looking for, Clements said.

Free yourself of expectations

“Second, have fun with your mistakes. Nobody is watching you or cares about your mistakes,” Souza said.
“There is a part of you that wants to move, be loud, and goofy, and expressive. Let it go!” he added. “If you still don’t feel comfortable, you can always name this ‘character.’ I have a name for my sexy and passionate self. I call him ‘The Latin Lover.’

“Every time that I start to feel uncomfortable with a sexy movement or choreography, I call ‘The Latin Lover’ to dance. It works!”

That might be easier said than done for some people. You can take it slowly with those online classes, Souza suggested.

“Then you build confidence to dance in person when things get better,” he said.
Show you’ve got the moves<br>
The third step to creating a dance resolution is considering finding a way to work toward a performance, according to Souza.

“One of the benefits of dance is how it can train you to be in the spotlight, and this is a valuable lesson that can be applied to many areas of life,” Souza said. “Remember, this is about self-expression and having fun. Go in without expectations. Remember that movement is natural, and just have fun.”

Contributor: Madeline Holcombe, CNN