Thursday, December 22, 2011

F4: Fats for Fighting Fat - Salmon

When it comes to lean protein sources, do not forget about salmon! They are a great source of healthy, monounsaturated fats, which contribute to reducing cholesterol (Kris-Etherton et al., 1999), promoting weight loss (Pelkman et al., 2004), and reducing the risk of rheumatoid arthritis (Miggiano and Gagliardi, 2005), and cardiovascular disease (Kris-Etherton et al., 1999; Pelkman et al., 2004). It is also a great source of protein, Vitamin D, Vitamin B12, tryptophan, and selenium.

When cooking salmon, be careful not to overcook it. Salmon can be overcooked very easily, so use methods that keep it moist and tender. Broiling is a very quick and easy cooking method for salmon. Preheat the broiler and place a cast iron pan under the heat for 10 minutes. Then, place your seasoned/marinated salmon (do not remove the skin) on the pan and broil for 7-10 minutes. After cooking, the skin will peel off easily. With this quick method, you can enjoy your salmon without overcooking and damaging nutrients.

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"


1.  Kris-Etherton, P.M., et al., High-monounsaturated fatty acid diets lower both plasma cholesterol and 
          triacylglycerol concentrations. Am J Clin Nutr, 1999. 70: p. 1009-15.

2.  Miggiano, G.A. and L. Gagliardi, Diet, nutrition, and rheumatoid arthritis. Clin Ter, 2005. 156(3): p. 

3.  Pelkman, C.L., et al., Effects of moderate-fat (from monounsaturated fat) and low-fat weight-loss diets on 
          the serum lipid profile in overweight and obese men and women. Am J Clin Nutr, 2004. 79: p. 204-12.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

How To Get Your Kids To Eat Healthy Foods

          About two weeks ago, I was asked by Cooking with the Troops CEO, Blake Powers, to volunteer at a Marine & Family Holiday Dinner and provide some type of nutritional education for children.  Of course, I jumped at this opportunity.  But in preparation for the event, I initially struggled with deciding on what to present to the kids.  All of the scientific topics I’m used to discussing were definitely out of the window.  After spending a couple of days in thought, I recalled the time I spent with my niece and nephew during Thanksgiving.  While with my family, I tried to share some of my views on eating habits to encourage them to eat healthier foods (i.e. - brainwash them).  What I was reminded of was the fact that my nephew was very willing to eat healthy food, as long as it tasted good.  So, I now had my area of focus: making healthy foods taste good.  But, how could I do that in a way to get kids involved and interested?
          Well, for those that don’t know, I make the best smoothies!  But, only healthy smoothies of course!    So there it was!  I would show the kids a simple way to make healthy foods taste good: smoothies.  It is a simple way to add fruits AND vegetables into their diet, simple enough that most kids can do it on their own.

During my smoothie demonstration.
          So for my smoothie demonstration, I had the following ingredients:  V-8 Fusion (Strawberry Banana flavor), milk, strawberries, bananas, peanut butter, and SPINACH!  Why spinach?  I wanted to show the children that there a ways to make “nasty” vegetables taste good.  With my first demonstration, I added all of these ingredients together, and LOADED the blender with spinach on purpose.  Some children were reluctant to try the smoothies after seen that (LOL!).  But once they tried it, they all liked it!  Not only did they like it, they wanted more!  So, to all of their enjoyment, I kept making more smoothies. 

          Also, to make things more interactive, I gave some of the kids the chance to make their own smoothie.  This strategy reinforced how easy it is to make healthy foods taste good.  Not only were they adding fruits and peanut butter, but they were also adding spinach…by themselves!  My favorite quote from one of the kids was, “I don’t like spinach, but I like it in my smoothie!”  Once I heard that, I knew I had accomplished my goal.  Now, some of these kids will no longer associate “healthy food” with “terrible taste”.  In my opinion, that is the major deterrent that prevents some children from eating healthier foods.  Some parents also came up to me saying, "Now my kids are asking for a blender!".  As I said...mission accomplished!
Me with Cooking With The Troops CEO, Blake Powers, and my smoothie assistant for the day.  He was with me for over an hour making different smoothies!  And they say it's hard to get kids to enjoy eating healthy.  HA!
          So, what’s the take home message from this experience?  This event confirmed that kids are VERY willing to eat healthy foods, as long as they taste good.  However, it is up to parents, caregivers, and educators to provide the healthy foods and discuss with kids why it is important.  And the earlier you start, the easier it is.  Once your children know that healthy foods are better for them, you must help them avoid associating “healthy foods” with “terrible taste”.  Smoothies are a great start, but don’t stop there!  Continuously find recipes for tasty, healthy meals with vegetables to reinforce how good vegetables can taste.  As your children grow to be young men and women, they may be more likely to include vegetables in their meals and most importantly, have better health.

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

For more information on Cooking With The Troops, please visit their website:

Monday, December 5, 2011

Cancer and Your Diet: Introduction

**I decided to change the title due to some confusion that it caused.  This blog is not saying that a proper diet can COMPLETELY prevent cancer.  It is simply saying that it MAY HELP REDUCE RISK OF CANCER.***

          This week, ESPN has dedicated much of their coverage toward the V Foundation for Cancer Research, which was cofounded by ESPN and former NC State Men’s Basketball coach, Jim Valvano (a.k.a. - Jimmy V), who was diagnosed with cancer at age 46 and lost his battle with cancer in 1993.  In light of their coverage, I thought that this would be a great time to start a series of blogs regarding the disease that has affected so many people and their families around the world.  Whether it is breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, cervical cancer, or other types of cancer, the damage that this disease can cause is devastating.  However, while so much emphasis is placed on finding a cure for cancer, much more emphasis should be placed on cancer prevention

          So, why is there not enough emphasis placed on cancer prevention?  Well, in my opinion, many people believe that cancer is just a random occurrence.  Some may think they are just unlucky.  Or maybe that child in their family that developed cancer was just unlucky, and everyone else in the family is fine.  Well, there are factors other than your genetics that play a role in cancer development.  Two co-factors that play a role in cancer prevention (or development) are your epigenetic code and your diet.    

          Epigenetics is the study of alterations in gene activity that do not involve changes to one’s genetic code, but still get passed down to at least one generation. These changes in gene activity are orchestrated by your epigenome, which can significantly alter certain genes without changing the actual DNA sequence.  In other words, your epigenome can tell a gene to “speak” normally, loudly, softly, or not at all.  Furthermore, changes in your epigenome of have been shown to contribute to cancer formation. 

          So, what causes these epigenetic changes?  While there are several environmental factors that can be involved, one of the biggest factors that can influence your epigenetics is YOUR DIET!  A proper diet can provide necessary nutrients to protect your DNA from harmful epigenetic changes.  On the other hand, an unhealthy diet may leave you vulnerable to changes in gene expression that can potential lead to tumor formation.  Even worse, epigenetic changes (good or bad) can be passed down to you from your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc.  So, if you come from a family that is not the most health-conscious, you are at FAR greater risk!  And compared to someone from a health-conscious family, it will take FAR LESS unhealthy eating in a person from an unhealthy family to initiate diseases such as cancer. 

          But some might say, “My family and I have been living healthy, so we should be OK, right?”  Well, I’d answer that question with a question.  

Are you really living healthy?

          For example, many people eat grilled food everyday without vegetables and consider themselves “healthy”.  But, some of the same people don’t know that grilling meat can produce carcinogens that can develop into cancer over time.  Many people drink diet soda and consider themselves “healthy”.  But if you read my blog about diet soda, you’d know that it’s not healthy.

          So, my goal with this blog series (and blog overall) is to provide evidence regarding 1) what REALLY is healthy, 2) what common factors can initiate epigenetic changes, and 3) dietary strategies that may help you protect yourself and your loved ones from diseases such as cancer.  If you’d like to get started, read my blog about the anti-carcinogenic properties of broccoli.

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"

Thursday, December 1, 2011

The Power of Music During Exercise

          Music is such a powerful source of motivation during exercise.  Although we get used to listening to our favorite songs during a workout, we can never perform at the same intensity on the days we forget our MP3 player at home!  But why is that?  Why does music help us lift more weight?  Why does the uptempo music in an aerobics or spinning class help us push ourselves to the extreme limits?  And why do we sometimes feel so weak without it?  Well, significant research has investigated the psychophysical and ergogenic effects of music during exercise, and the results are pretty interesting.

          Psychophysics is the study of how physical stimuli can affect sensations or perceptions.  A variety of psychophysical studies have demonstrated how synchronous music during exercise acts as an ergogenic aid, or an external force that positively influences human performance.  Music is considered synchronous when it elicits repetitive body movements in time with the beat or tempo of a song.  The use of synchronous music can be utilized to enhance performance during exercises such as bench stepping (Hayakawa et al., 2000), cycling (Anshel & Marisi, 1978), callisthenics (Uppal & Datta, 1990), 400-m running (Simpson & Karageorghis, 2006), or circuit training (Michel & Wanner, 1973).  Even though Anshel & Marisi (1978) arbitrarily chose music from the “popular rock category” and did not consider the musical preferences of all subjects, synchronous music still induced longer endurance than asynchronous music or no music at all.

          While psychophysical studies can suggest an effect of music as stimuli during exercise, it can not identify a cause.  However, several hypotheses have been made.  Bonny (1987) suggests that the rhythm of music relates to the various rhythms of the human body, such as walking, breathing, or the beat of the heart.  Studies also suggest that synchronous music increases neuromuscular efficiency, which reduces the metabolic cost of exercise (Smoll & Schultz, 1978; Szmedra & Bacharach, 1998). 

          So, if you don’t listen to music while you exercise, give it a try!  Purchase a small MP3 player (nothing fancy is necessary) and upload your favorite songs.  If you synchronize your movements during exercise with your music, you can reduce the your perceived exertion, resulting in greater endurance and more intense workouts!

Dr. O 
"I don't live to eat...I eat to live!"


1.   Anshel, M.H. and D.Q. Marisi, Effects of music and rhythm on physical performance. Research Quarterly, 1978. 49: p. 109-113.

2.   Bonny, H.L., Music the language of immediacy. The Arts in Psychtherapy, 1987. 14: p. 255-261.

3.   Hayakawa, Y., et al., Effects of music on mood during bench stepping exercise. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 2000. 90: p. 307-314.

4.   Michel, W. and H.U. Wanner, Effect of music on sports performance. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur Sportmedizin, 1973. 23: p. 141-159.

5.   Simpson, S.D. and C.I. Karageorghis, The effects of synchronous music on 400-m sprint performance. Sports Sci, 2006. 24: p. 1095-1102.

6.   Smoll, F.L. and R.W. Schultz, Relationships among measures of preferred tempos and motor rhythm. Perceptual and Motor Skills, 1978. 8: p. 883-894.

7.   Szmedra, L. and D.W. Bacharach, Effect of music on perceived exertion, plasma lactate, norepinephrine and cardiovascular hemodynamics during treadmill running. Int J Sports Med, 1998. 19: p. 32-37.

8.   Uppal, A.K. and U. Datta, Cardiorespiratory response of junior high school girls to exercise performed with and without music. Physical Education and Sports Science, 1990. 2: p. 52-56.