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Is free school lunch really free? Our kids are paying with their health

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When I heard about the USDA’s free “healthy and nutritious” school meals, I felt a lump in the pit of my stomach. These lunches are far from free. In fact, our children will pay the metabolic debts they accumulate (with interest) for the rest of their lives.

Big food doesn’t care about our health.

The “free” lunch program comes to collect

Chronic illnesses like type 2 diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer, infertility, autoimmune diseases, dementia and mental health problems are on the rise – and this is no accident. It is the result of decades of destructive nutritional advice promoted by the USDA and supported by a variety of stakeholders focused solely on financial gain. These diseases are a harbinger of metabolic global warming, and they are far too widespread to continue to be ignored. But the truth is, these storms brewed a long time ago, 10 to 15 years before they presented themselves as a chronic disease. Now the damage is done.

The food pyramid is just big business

The original “food pyramid,” developed nearly 20 years ago, had major flaws, but some positive properties. Fruits and vegetables were at the bottom, suggesting they should be consumed more regularly. Proteins were up next, with whole grains and foods high in calcium on top. The dairy and bread industry was quick to respond and campaigned for lawmakers to protect their profit margins, which led to our current ineffective and destructive policies.

And yes, the USDA tried a healthier model with the launch of MyPlate in 2011, Emphasis on portion control and a more appropriate distribution of the different food groups. But that still misses the point, because at the end of the day it’s not just what’s in the food that counts, but what was done with it.

Is Ultra-Processed Food Really Food?

Food is defined as a material, consisting essentially of proteins, carbohydrates and fat, that serves to sustain an organism’s body, including its growth, repair, vital processes and energy production. But what about processed foods? The likely processed foods you find in these “free” lunches have a ton of things to do with them before they hit the lunch table: added sugar for palatability, natural fiber removed to extend shelf life, emulsifiers, preservatives and more. This doesn’t even include synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and factory farming.

Let’s talk about sugar

Sugar is cleverly hidden on food labels; often disguised as corn syrup, brown sugar, honey, dextrose, and fructose. Pizza, bread, pasta, pretzels, goldfish crackers, yogurt, applesauce, and granola bars are all loaded with hidden sugar. Added sugar not only displaces nutritionally superior foods in the diet and inhibits energy production, but can also remove nutrients from other foods consumed and from the body’s stores. From the definition of food above, it turns out that neither ultra-processed food nor sugar is actually food.

Professor Efrat Monsonego Ornan of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem recently published an article in which he argued that ultra-processed foods actually stunt growth by inhibiting skeletal growth and the deposition of calcium in the bones, and by shortening the overall bones. The hidden sugars in our diet are sabotaging our bodies and fueling our national chronic health crisis.

These findings only add to what we already know: Highly processed foods can lead to cancer because they essentially hijack the metabolic program necessary for normal growth. Other facts to keep in mind: 74 percent of the foods in a grocery store have added sugar (fructose), and 67 percent of the sugar in their diets comes from highly processed foods, including school lunches and sugary breakfast items like fruit loops and orange juice.

Predator food and lack of nutritional education

Unfortunately, nobody teaches proper nutrition in schools – not before college, not during college, not even in medical school. In fact, talking about food has become just as explosive as politics or religion. As a result, kids with metabolic debt become bloated and don’t even realize it until they’re in their 20s and 30s. The food industry is hunting the nutritionally uneducated. It’s just like charging a credit card – you’re using seemingly invisible money … until you get the bill. Metabolic debt (which is essentially insulin resistance) is similar – highly processed foods cause invisible stress in children until they are diagnosed with diabetes or another equally dire condition 15 years later.

Insulin resistance explained

Insulin is a hormone produced by the pancreas that is responsible for transporting glucose into cells after a meal. Over time, with frequent and excessive consumption of sugar and refined carbohydrates, the cells can no longer absorb glucose efficiently, so this sugar level builds up in the blood. When this happens, the pancreas pumps out more insulin to lower glucose. However, the cells no longer respond to insulin (insulin resistance), which leads to increased insulin and glucose levels. Insulin resistance is a major cause of the metabolic syndrome that precedes the development of most chronic diseases. Still not convinced: Studies have shown that one in three Americans has this silent blood sugar problem.

Proper nutrition for all population groups

Many argue that free lunch is all some families can afford; But you don’t have to shop at Whole Foods to find delicious and nutritious products for your family. In fact, national chains like The Dollar Store, Walmart, and Aldi have options far superior to the current free school lunches, like canned coconut milk, beans, tuna bags, and frozen proteins like chicken and meat.

We’re not helping our children by offering free lunch when the food is currently being served in schools across the country. One could even argue that we are poisoning them.

As the world’s richest nation, are sugary foods the best we can offer our school children – our future leaders? My children’s lunch menu is full of things that sound delicious but in no way support their growth or health. “Fueling” our kids with laden BBQ fries, mini corn dogs, nacho bites, and cheeseburgers while waiting for this diet to prepare them for a full day of study and activity is making them fail – today and 15 years from now . I am not ready to settle down. We must stop adjusting our children to diabetes and other chronic diseases. We need to advocate for more nutritious foods that help focus, as well as mental and metabolic health. Only then can we call it “free”, but until we change the offer in these lunches we just add their “tab”.

David Rambo is the Chairman and CEO of Simplex Health with over 20 years of experience in the health and wellness industry.

Dr. Avi Gurwitz is Chair of the Pediatrics Department, Head of General / Emergency Pediatrics and Medical Director of Pediatric UrgiCare at Redeemer Health. He is also the pediatric emergency room at St. Mary’s Medical Center and chief medical officer at Simplex Health, a medical nutrition group.

Whole Grains Health

Protein Variety and Heart Health Are Linked, Study Finds

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We’ve all found ourselves in the habit of eating the same three things over and over (…and over) again. When life gets busy, falling back on simple dishes that satisfy your tastebuds is the natural thing to do. But if you’re cooking up the same couple proteins on the regular, a new study published in the the journal Hypertension suggests that it may be time to introduce a few new varieties into your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The study pulled existing data from over 12,000 participants who took part in a minimum of two rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers sought to explore the relationship between hypertension—or high blood pressure—and the variety and quantity of proteins from eight major dietary sources consumed by participants. (Study participants were an average age of 41 years old.)

Researchers measured protein intake by looking at three consecutive days of eating, scoring each round based on the number of protein varieties consumed (including legumes, fish, eggs, whole grains, refined grains, processed and unprocessed red meat, and poultry).

The results? “Among ‘just the right amount’ consumers of protein, those eating the greatest variety of protein had a the lowest blood pressure,” explains John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Notably, those who ate the least and the most amount of protein were at the greatest risk for developing high blood pressure, while those who ate the greatest variety of protein were 66 percent less likely to end up developing hypertension between the rounds of the survey .

“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure.” — Xianhui Qin, MD, study author

Although the survey results sound complicated—and, hey, they were—the takeaway is simple: “The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure,” Xianhui Qin, MD, the study author, said in a press release. In other words: Mix it up! Spin the protein wheel of fortune and try something new.

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If you’re not quite sure where to start with upping your protein game, Dr. Higgins recommends looking at your consumption on a daily basis. “The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 5.5 ounces of protein daily, about one to two servings, from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and some lean meats and poultry,” he says. “The best proteins are lean proteins including beans, soy or tofu, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid proteins that say ‘hydrogenated’ on label or contain high levels of trans fats or saturated fats. “

Of course, there’s always room in your eating plan for less nutritional proteins, too—just try to incorporate these lean sources when you can, and ask your doctor if you have questions about what dietary habits are right for your particular health status and family history .

A delicious way to eat more varied proteins? This delicious quiche recipe:

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Whole Grains Health

The 10 Best Diet Books in 2022

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Staff, Courtesy of Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

The word “diet” has earned itself an undeniably negative reputation, often leading people to think of unsustainable restriction and unhealthy fads. However, if you’re looking to adjust your way of eating, whether you want to feel better, lose weight, or hit a new personal record, there are tons of great diet books out there that can help educate you on ways to improve your nutrition and get you feeling better than ever.

While the diets of the past have focused on restriction, newer ways of eating encouragement consuming more good-for-you foods to crowd out less healthy choices, leaving you feeling satisfied, not deprived. These diet books are also super educational, teaching you why you should eat certain foods, what they can do for your health, and the best ways to make them delicious. To help you on your nutrition journey, we’ve gathered the best diet books and healthy cookbooks available today.

Best Diet Books

    How to Choose a Diet Book

    If you’re looking to switch up your diet, the first thing you should ask yourself is why. What exactly do you want out of a diet?

    Second, consider your lifestyle. Do you need meals that are quick and easy? Do you like to take an hour or two to cook for yourself every night? How often can you grocery shop for fresh ingredients?

    Finally, consider whether you’re looking specifically for a cookbook or one that will provide you education on a particular way of eating without necessarily giving you recipes. While many cookbooks will have some content that discusses the origins of food and their nutritional benefits, these books are unlikely to go as in-depth regarding nutrition as less recipe-focused ones.

    How We Selected

    To find the best diet books among the many options on the market, we researched the most popular books available and considered their content, credibility, design, digestibility, and organization. We then looked at both expert reviews and more than 105,000 customer ratings, written by people who’ve bought these books on Amazon, to settle on the diet books you’ll find below.

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    1

    Best vegetarian

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    This is a great all-around cookbook, but it’s an especially great buy if you’re trying to lay off meat. This book contains everything from specific meal recipes to instructions for steaming veggies, truly teaching you how to cook from start to finish. There are recipes for every meal, as well as snacks and desserts, and it includes instructions for so many different dishes you could easily cook from only this book for an entire year and not get bored.

    2

    Best for Longevity

    The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

    This cookbook highlights recipes from specific areas across the globe—called blue zones—where people live the longest. While some of their longevity surely comes from other lifestyle factors, there’s no discounting the role diet plays in their long-lasting health and wellbeing. These recipes not only focus on ingredients, but the ways in which foods are prepared and how that relates to their overall nutritional value.

    The goal of the book is to increase longevity and quality of life while creating delicious recipes that you’ll want to eat time and time again.

    3

    Best Mediterranean

    The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

    The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s full of lean proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables, providing a well-rounded, nutritious way of eating.

    This cookbook not only has 500 great Mediterranean recipes, but it also helps you learn which ingredients you should make staples in your grocery list. It also uses only ingredients that you can easily find at standard grocery stores, which makes the Mediterranean diet more accessible.

    4

    Best for Runners

    run fast eat slow

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”—and to some degree, the same holds true for personal records. While nutritious food won’t necessarily knock 30 seconds off your mile time, it can help you fuel your workouts so you get the most out of your training.

    This book was designed by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and is packed with recipes designed to help runners fuel their toughest workouts and recover after. As a bonus, the recipes included in this book just so happen to be delicious, too.

    5

    Best Vegan

    The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook

    When first going vegan, it can be difficult to figure out how to make food that is both delicious and nutritious. This book has 500 recipes ranging from meals to snacks to desserts that use entirely plant-based ingredients. These recipes also offer alternate ingredient options, like eggs and dairy, which is great if you want to add more plant-based recipes into your diet, but aren’t ready to dive headfirst into veganism.

    6

    Best for a full reset

    The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    If you’ve been diet-hopping in hopes of finding a meal plan that can help you commit to a healthier lifestyle and enjoy some weight loss, Whole 30 is a great choice. It has you cut out sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and some other specific foods for 30 days. The idea behind the diet is that it helps jumpstart weight loss while simultaneously getting you to reassess how you think about what you are eating to reach a place of freedom with your food.

    7

    Best for weight loss

    The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

    If weight loss is your goal, and you have struggled to find lasting success, this book could be a game-changer. It dives into the science of weight loss, helping you understand hormones, insulin resistance, and other reasons for weight gain. The book recommends intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet, and guides you on how to do them correctly, efficiently, and in the long term.

    8th

    Best for Learning about Food

    How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

    A lot of eating plans focus on what you should eliminate from your diet, but this book places more importance on what you should be adding to your diet and why.

    It discusses foods that are scientifically proven to help you live a longer, healthier life, and the many ways in which food can help prevent disease. It focuses on whole body health—including both mental and physical health—and teaches you to focus on more than just weight and physical appearance when it comes to your food.

    9

    Best for Anti-Dieters

    Not a Diet Book: Take Control. Gain Confidence. ChangeYourLife.

    The rise of anti-diet culture gave inspiration to this book, which helps you improve your relationship with food, tackle weight loss, and debunk fad diets to find a simple and easy way to lose weight and create habits that will keep the pounds from coming back. This book will help you build skills that enable you to live a happier, healthier life without focusing too closely on calories or numbers on a scale.

    10

    Best for fasting

    Complete Guide to Fasting

    Fasting has gained popularity over the last decade and can be a great way to boost your metabolism, clear your mind, and promote weight loss. There are, however, rules you should follow while fasting so that you improve your health rather than endangering it. This book will guide you through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting to ensure you choose the style that will work best for you and do it correctly.


    Before joining Runner’s World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe.

    This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at piano.io

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Eating different kinds of protein protects against hypertension: New study

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Despite all this talk that more Australians are toying with vegetarianism, and despite the endless drum-beating about red meat giving you cancer and a dodgy heart, we continue to have one of the world’s highest levels of meat consumption.

Analysis published in December found Australians eat about 95 kilograms of meat per capita every year. The global average is 35 kilograms.

The article, ‘The Evolution of Urban Australian Meat-Eating Practices’, argues our meat-eating habits are driven by a blocky culture, an association with social status, a perception that plant-based diets are inadequate and lame, and ignorance about cooking legumes and tofu.

On the other hand, the authors point to a survey that found almost 20 per cent of those sampled “identified as meat-reducers”.

Furthermore, the authors say, 87 percent “of the meat reducer segment reported consuming a meat-free dish as their main meal at least once a week”.

They point to another survey that found almost 20 per cent described themselves as “flexitarian”, which is cool.

But it may not translate to more lentils, nuts, whole grains, fish and dairy hitting the dinner table as new favorite sources of protein.

A new study found why we need variety

Chinese researchers found that “eating protein from a greater variety of sources is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure”.

Good to know because blood pressure is literally out of control in Australia.

One in three adults – more than six million Australians – has high blood pressure.

Of those afflicted, only 32 per cent have their hypertension under control. That leaves about four million Australians as ticking time bombs.

In December, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Alta Schutte, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UNSW Sydney, called for a national taskforce to tackle the issue.

By improving the control of hypertension, the risks of coronary heart disease, dementia and cerebrovascular disease will be substantially reduced.

The Chinese study suggests changing your diet will go some way to solving the problem.

the study

“Nutrition may be an easily accessible and effective measure to fight against hypertension. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three basic macronutrients,” said study author Dr Xianhui Qin, of the National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Disease at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

The study authors analyzed health information for nearly 12,200 adults (average age 41), who had taken part in multiple rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1997 to 2015.

Over three days in the same week, participants shared what they had eaten.

They were given a protein “variety score” based on the different sources of protein they’d eaten: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, egg and legumes.

One point was given for each source of protein, with a maximum variety score of 8. The researchers then evaluated the association for new onset hypertension in relation to the protein variety score.

New-onset hypertension was defined as blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg, the use of blood pressure-lowering medicine, or self-reporting that a physician had diagnosed high blood pressure.

The average follow-up time was six years.

The results

More than 35 per cent of the participants developed new-onset high hypertension during the follow-up.

Compared to participants with the lowest variety score for protein intake (1), those with the highest variety score (4 or higher) had a 66 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

The amount of protein eaten was also a factor. Consumption was divided into five categories, from least to most intake.

The researchers found that “people who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate most protein had the highest risk for new onset of hypertension”.

The researchers didn’t ask why a variety of proteins was more healthy. But nutritionists, doctors and health writers have banged on about it for years.

Lean red meat is high in quality protein but provides no fiber or healthy fats. Processed meats are high in saturated fats and salt and are the worst.

Fish is high in long-chain fatty acids, which are good for the brain. Lentils and whole grains are high in fibre.

Hand on heart, a bit of each during the week might stop you from carking it in the street. Which is just undignified and unmanly.

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