Net Nutritionist

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Q: Is butter from grass fed cows more nutritious than regular conventional butter?

A: Yes.  Cows in the old days were raised on grass and milked daily.  Today 90% are confined to feed lots, fed corn, hay, and what is on the ground around them in addition to receiving hormone injection to triple their milk.  This method of dairy farming has increased production but the nutritional quality isn’t the same.

Pastured or grass fed cows produced five times the CLA, conjugated linoleic acid than the confined cows.   CLA is not produced by the body and has potent anti-cancer properties.  Grass fed cows also produce equal amounts of omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids which is correlated with lower risks of inflammatory disease such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, autoimmune, allergies, dementia, and other health conditions.  Confined, feed lot cows have a ratio of 5 or 6 to one omega 6 to omega 3 fats which correlate with higher risks for those same diseases.

Lastly when you milk a cow 3 times a day the other nutrients become diluted.  Grass fed animals, milked once a day, have higher amounts of beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E.  When grass is dried to hay it loses those nutrients so even the hay that the confined cows eat has lost its nutrient content.

Look for raw, unpasteurized grass fed butter if you can find it.  Pasteurization and heating  can destroy and degrade the essential nutrients in raw milk such as Vitamin A, B vitamins, Vitamin C, and D.  Another idea is make your own butter from raw milk.  There are recipes all over the internet and YouTube.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n9zz_YzplgQ

You will pay a little more for grass fed raw dairy.  Grass fed, humanely treated animals do not produce as much milk and it takes about 1 quart of cream to make 6 oz of butter.  Check out http://www.eatwild.com/products/index.html to find a grass fed supplier in your area.

Q: Is Agave healthier than sugar?

A: Agave sweeteners are not healthier than sugar, honey, high-fructose corn syrup, or any other sweetener. Nutritionally and functionally, agave syrup is similar to high-fructose corn syrup and sucrose (Karo) syrup. It does contain small amounts of calcium, potassium, and magnesium, but not enough to matter nutritionally. Agave is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than sugar so you can use less of it – which means you can achieve the same sweetness for about the same number of calories.

Agave nectar or syrup, which is typically processed from the core of the blue agave plant, is as high as 90% concentrated fructose (a simple sugar that occurs naturally in fruit), and the rest glucose. The agave you can buy ranges from 90% to as little as 55% fructose (similar to high-fructose corn syrup), depending on the processing.

Q: Is organic produce healthier than conventional produce?

A: Yes. The national organic standards forbid the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, sewage sludge, irradiation, and genetic engineering to grow fruits, vegetables, nuts and grains. Studies have shown organic produce to be 12-60% higher in some nutrients depending on the weather and to have 30% less pesticide residues than conventionally grown crops.

Organic production is more sustainable, uses less energy, produces fewer greenhouse emissions, and creates healthier soils. Organic is better for our health and environment.

Organic produce and foods are definitely a healthier choice but if they are not available or too expensive, the primary goal is to eat a variety of fruits and vegetables period, everyday. Wash all of your produce thoroughly to remove pesticide residues, pathogens, debris, and mold.

Q: What fruits and vegetables have the highest pesticide residues?

A: Everyone is pretty aware that conventionally grown plants are higher in pesticide residues than organic, although both growing methods have some pesticides. Then Environmental Working Group (EWG) tests more than 10,000 pesticides in fruit and vegetables and developed a list of conventionally grown versions with the highest residues, “The Dirty Dozen” and the lowest residues, “The Clean 15.”

The Dirty Dozen: Apples, celery, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, grapes, hot peppers, nectarines (imported), peaches, potatoes, spinach, strawberries, and sweet bell peppers.

The Clean 15: Asparagus, avocados, cabbage, cantaloupe, sweet corn, eggplant, grapefruit, kiwi, mangos, mushrooms, onions, papayas, pineapple, sweet peas (frozen), and sweet potatoes.

Q: I am considering taking flaxseed for my blood pressure.  Should I take the oil or the whole seeds?

A: Great idea!  I encourage you to try eating whole flaxseed.  Studies have shown eating whole flaxseeds lower blood pressure, inhibit the process of atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), cut LDL cholesterol, potentially lower certain types of cancers specifically hormone related breast cancers and prostate cancers and can contribute to increased brain function. Whole flaxseeds are high in omega-3 fatty acids (ALA) and lignans (fiber) which are together are health protective.  When you take the oil you do not benefit from the fiber (2 T has 4 grams fiber) which is also excellent for cleaning out the digestive tract and controlling blood sugar. Take 2-3 tablespoons of flaxseeds daily on salads, in your oatmeal, mix in with other nut butters and spread on toast, or with a smoothie!  If you eat other foods on a daily basis that are high in ALA like walnuts, avocado, soybeans, and chia seeds you don’t necessarily need to take flaxseeds everyday.

Q: I moved to Washington State a year ago I have gained over 40 pounds. I am depressed, sleep all the time, am always tired, and drink 6-8 cans of Dr. Pepper daily. I read something recently about a condition called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Do you think SAD could be causing my weight gain?

A: It sounds like you could have (SAD); a condition that causes depression, mood changes, and an affinity for sugary foods but your actual weight gain is being caused by the increase in sugary drinks and inactivity. 6 Dr. Peppers have 900 calories of sugar and more than that, they increase insulin and blood sugar which makes you continue to reach for the sugar.  A vicious cycle that is exhausting.  Perhaps the first step is to try to stop drinking the Dr. Pepper.

SAD is a condition seen in the winter months and is more prevalent in the northern states and countries that have long dark winters and cloudy rainy weather. In Alaska for example, as much as 10% of the population is estimated to have SAD whereas Florida only has about a 1%. Researchers believe SAD results from the shorter day length in the winter when it is dark and cold. When the warm weather and sun come back in the spring and summer SAD affected people return to normal.

Light therapy and exercise are helpful in treating the symptoms of SAD.  Medications can treat some of the symptoms of depression but many of the medications also cause weight gain and other side affects.

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