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CentraCare Health – Monticello

  • Ask the Doctor - September 2017

Ask the Doctor

Katie Rudnitski, APRN, CNP at CentraCare Clinic – Big Lake

Things You Did Not Know About Eating Healthy


Question: I am trying to eat healthy but feel like I am in a rut. What are some things I should consider to help jump start my path to healthier eating?

Answer: As a provider, my patients often inspire me with their personal nutrition success stories. I always thought of myself as healthy because I exercised on a regular basis, but wellness has so many aspect including physical, emotional, social and environmental components. After seeing the amazing outcomes many of my patients achieved after making lifestyle changes, I decided to look at my overall wellness and find areas I could improve including trying to eat a more nutritious diet, cutting back on caffeine and becoming more cognizant of what is in my food. By making these changes, my overall health has improved and I feel better. While trying to motivate myself during this process, I learned some interesting facts about eating healthy that helped support my wellness journey and may be helpful to others as well including:

Nutrition trumps calories. Focusing too much on calorie counting often leads to choosing foods that are less nutritiously dense. While things such as nuts and avocados are high calorie foods, they provide fatty acids and fat-soluble vitamins needed to achieve a healthy weight. While a serving of chips may fill you up more and contain less calories compared to a serving of nuts, the calories consumed by eating the nuts is used differently in the body and will be targeted at fueling basic bodily functions.

Eating organic is healthier.  There are several perks to eating organic versus conventional. Conventional foods are those that are grown where artificial herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers are used. With repeated exposure, this may pose a significant impact on health. Many studies are being performed investigating the health risks secondary to exposure to these chemicals. Potential impacts include increase cancer risks, decrease immunity, etc.

  1. One major perk is organic tastes better! Because it does not contain the preservatives to make it last longer, organic foods are often fresher at time of purchase.
  2. If organic food is not budget friendly, try to focus on foods where pesticide exposure may be less significant.
  3. The dirty dozen are 12 foods that are known for the highest pesticide exposure and should be organic whenever possible:
    1. Strawberries
    2. Spinach
    3. Nectarines
    4. Apples
    5. Peaches
    6. Pears
    7. Cherries
    8. Grapes
    9. Celery
    10. Tomatoes
    11. Sweet bell peppers
    12. Potatoes
  4. The clean 15 are foods that are safer conventional foods to eat because they have the least pesticide contamination:
    1. Sweet corn
    2. Avocados
    3. Pineapples
    4. Cabbage
    5. Onions
    6. Sweet peas
    7. Papayas
    8. Asparagus
    9. Mangos
    10. Eggplant
    11. Honeydew
    12. Kiwi
    13. Cantaloupe
    14. Cauliflower
    15. Grapefruit

Nutrition has a significant impact on the gut which can contribute to many underlying health conditions. Individuals can have variable sensitivities resulting in “gut permeability” and triggering an immune response which can lead to chronic inflammation. This chronic inflammation may be responsible for several underlying health conditions such as chronic pain, irritable bowel, skin rashes/inflammation, fatigue, depression, etc.

Cutting out soda, especially diet soda, has many health benefits. Many people drink diet soda as they avoid unwanted or extra calories. Studies show that artificial sweeteners are actually linked to weight gain as it disrupts the body’s ability to regulate calorie intake.

Caffeine in moderation. Like most things, caffeine is not bad in moderation however it’s easy to get into a habit where you require more to get through the day. It is best to gradually decrease caffeine intake versus stopping abruptly to avoid withdrawal symptoms. Benefits of decreasing caffeine intake include improvement in sleep, decrease fatigue and restlessness. Caffeine consumption can also be linked to several conditions including anxiety, heart palpitations, decrease bone mineral density and headaches.

Reading food labels is important. Many of the foods we eat on a regular basis are packed with preservatives. The moto “if it doesn’t go bad quickly, it’s probably not good for you” is a good rule to follow. For example, several of the salty snacks enjoyed by many contain a preservative called BHT. While research is limited on the use of BHT there are debates surrounding its impact on increasing cancer risks. BHT is allowed in many foods in small amounts however many countries have band its use because it can be toxic in higher doses. What studies have not shown is the impact on health with repeated exposure. The bottom line is familiarize yourself with what is in your food and avoid preservatives whenever possible.

Low fat or reduced fat does not mean healthier. To avoid saturated fats (fats found in red meats, some processed foods and dairy products) in foods to be marketed as “low fat”, they are replaced with other fats such as trans-fats that can detrimental to heart health. In an effort to make low fat products taste good, the sugar content is often increased which means an increase in carbohydrates and calorie content. The body will digest high carb foods more quickly leading to fluctuation in sugar, cravings and ultimately increase in calorie intake.

Whenever possible, choose whole fruits versus fruit juices. While “juicing” is a convenient way to get the recommended servings of fruits/day, this eliminates the benefits that eating whole fruit offers. Certain vitamins may be lost during production of juices that are purchased off the shelf. A lot of juice will not include the skin and pulp from the fruit so you don’t get the added benefit of fiber which can aid in satiety, slower absorption of sugar which prevents spikes in blood sugar and improvement in digestion.   

Making small changes to your eating habits every day can lead to improvement in your overall health. Contact your provider to look at options for healthy eating that help you achieve your unique health goals!

CentraCare Health - Monticello

1013 Hart Boulevard, Suite 1
Monticello, MN 55362
Phone: 763-295-2945
Business Office: 800-835-6618
Monticello Medical Group: 763-271-2200
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