Thursday, October 18, 2012

Diet Coke: A Difficult Love

I drank Diet Coke beginning at age 15 and ending at age 40.  
Although it has no calories it is not harmless.
Recent studies have shown increased risk of stroke, weight 
gain and diabetes and these are why I gave it up completely
one year and seventeen days ago (October 1, 2011).
I still miss it a little sometimes, but I no longer crave it.

From the Huffington Post:Diet Coke Addiction
First thing every morning, Ellen Talles starts her day by draining a supersize Styrofoam cup filled with Diet Coke and crushed ice. The 61-year-old from Boca Raton, Fla., drinks another Diet Coke in the car on the way to work and keeps a glass nearby "at all times" at her job as a salesclerk. By the end of the day she has put away about 2 liters.
"I just love it," she says. "I crave it, need it. My food tastes better with it."
Talles sounds a lot like an addict. Replace her ever-present glass of Diet Coke with a cigarette, and she'd make a convincing two-pack-a-day smoker. In fact, she says, she buys her 2-liter bottles 10 at a time -- more if a hurricane is in the offing -- because if she notices she's down to her last one, she panics "like somebody who doesn't have their pack of cigarettes."
Most diet-soda drinkers aren't as gung ho as Talles, but people who down several diet sodas per day are hardly rare. Government surveys have found that people who drink diet beverages average more than 26 ounces per day (some drink far more) and that 3 percent of diet-soda drinkers have at least four daily.
Are these diet-soda fiends true addicts? And if so, what are they addicted to? The most obvious answer is caffeine -- but that doesn't explain the many die-hard diet drinkers who prefer caffeine-free. Factors besides caffeine are likely at work. Although diet soda clearly isn't as addictive as a drug like nicotine, experts say the rituals that surround diet soda and the artificial sweeteners it contains can make some people psychologically -- and even physically -- dependent on it in ways that mimic more serious addictions. And unlike sugared soda, which will make you gain weight if you drink too much of it, zero-calorie soda doesn't seem to have an immediate downside that prevents people from overindulging.
"You think, 'Oh, I can drink another one because I'm not getting more calories,'" says Harold C. Urschel, M.D., an addiction psychiatrist in Dallas and the author of Healing the Addicted Brain. "Psychologically you're giving yourself permission."
How diet soda trains your brain
The simplest explanation for a serious diet-soda habit is caffeine. Many people who chain-drink diet soda may be caffeine addicts who simply prefer soda to coffee or energy drinks, though diet soda doesn't provide much of a kick by comparison. (A can of Diet Coke contains four to five times less caffeine than a small Starbucks coffee.)
Caffeine can't account for Steve Bagi's habit, however. The 44-year-old graphic designer from Chester Springs, Pa., gets his morning buzz from an enormous cup of coffee, yet he still buys caffeine-free Diet Pepsi by the case and downs six cans a day, "easy."
His Diet Pepsi cravings stem from a prior addiction to nicotine, not caffeine. "It's all tied to smoking," says Bagi, who smoked a pack a day for 20 years and started drinking diet soda to mask the aftertaste of cigarettes. He eventually kicked the smoking habit -- but the Diet Pepsi one stuck.
Trading one addiction or compulsive behavior for another -- a phenomenon known as addiction swapping -- is a well-known concept in addiction medicine, one that may explain Bagi's experience and that of other heavy diet-soda drinkers. Many people who drink diet soda are trying to lose (or keep off) weight by eating healthier, and they may turn to the sweetness of diet soda for comfort as they scale back on sugar, carbohydrates, and other satisfying foods--much like a heroin addict who steps down to Oxycontin, Dr. Urschel says.
Similarly, people may get hooked on diet soda because they associate it with a certain activity or behavior, as Bagi did with smoking. "You can get into a situation where you crave a diet soda by conditioning yourself," Dr. Urschel says. "[If] you stop for gas and always get a diet soda, the craving will start to come first, before you even pull into the station."
The psychological components of diet-soda cravings are powerful, but they aren't the whole story. Research suggests that the artificial sweeteners in diet soda (such as aspartame) may prompt people to keep refilling their glass because these fake sugars don't satisfy like the real thing.
In a 2008 study, for instance, women who drank water that was alternately sweetened with sugar and Splenda couldn't tell the difference -- but their brains could. Functional MRI (fMRI) brain scans revealed that even though both drinks lit up the brain's reward system, the sugar did so more completely.
"Your senses tell you there's something sweet that you're tasting, but your brain tells you, 'Actually, it's not as much of a reward as I expected,'" says Martin P. Paulus, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego, and one of the authors of the study. "The consequence might be that the brain says, 'Well, I'll have more of this.'"
In other words, artificial sweeteners may spur drinkers -- or their brains -- to keep chasing a "high" that diet soda keeps forever just out of reach. It's not clear that this teasing effect can lead to dependence, but it's a possibility, Dr. Paulus says. "Artificial sweeteners have positive reinforcing effects -- meaning humans will work for it, like for other foods, alcohol, and even drugs of abuse," he says. "Whenever you have that, there is a potential that a subgroup of people... will have a chance of getting addicted."
Timothy S. Harlan, M.D., a nutrition specialist and assistant professor of internal medicine at the Tulane University School of Medicine in New Orleans, says that while diet-soda dependence appears to be a real phenomenon, it is probably caused by a complex mix of behavioral factors, not necessarily artificial sweeteners. "I don't think there is clear-cut evidence of biochemical dependence on diet soda, but my sense is that certainly people do become habituated to diet soda and dependent upon it," he says.
Are you hooked?
According to the American Psychiatric Association, a key sign of substance dependence is when a person continues to use a substance even when he or she knows it's causing physical or mental health problems.
Talles fits this description. She was diagnosed with brittle bones about six years ago, and her internist urged her to quit Diet Coke because the phosphoric acid in soda -- both diet and regular -- leaches calcium from bones, which can make osteoporosis worse.
She's not having it, though. "It's not like I smoke or have any other bad habits," she says. "This is my thing." All the same, Talles acknowledges that drinking so much diet soda is probably not good for her, so in the last couple of months, she's started substituting one of her daily Diet Cokes for a caffeinated Crystal Light.
Another distinguishing feature of substance dependence -- whether it's to caffeine, nicotine, or hard drugs like heroin -- is the painful withdrawal symptoms that occur if a person tries to quit cold turkey. Although it's difficult to pinpoint whether aspartame, caffeine, or some combination of ingredients is responsible, people who cut back on diet soda report symptoms such as headaches, nausea, and irritability -- a feeling that Talles knows well.
She still remembers with horror a European vacation in 1982 during which she couldn't find diet soda for weeks. (This was still the infancy of diet soda; Diet Coke had just been released.) "I felt terribly lethargic and I had a headache," Talles recalls. "I tried to drink tea, but it didn't work the same way. ... I was having terrible withdrawal." When she finally found a vendor who sold Tab, four weeks into the trip, she bought every can he had.
Catharina Hedberg, the owner of the Ashram, a wellness retreat nestled in California's Santa Monica Mountains, has seen what she believes is aspartame withdrawal firsthand. She claims that as many as 20 percent of the people who visit the Ashram are "totally addicted" to aspartame, mainly from diet drinks. "Withdrawals are horrendous," Hedberg says, even among those who drink caffeine-free diet soda.
Before guests arrive at the retreat, Hedberg sends them a packet of literature that, among other things, encourages them to stop consuming diet soda and other products that contain aspartame. Although her observations are admittedly unscientific, Hedberg says that people who drink a lot of diet soda tend to experience nausea (and sometimes even vomiting) one to two days after arriving at the retreat, whereas coffee drinkers typically just get headaches.
The dangers of too much diet soda
Whether you feel dependent or not, drinking too much diet soda might be risky in the long run. In recent years, habitual diet-soda consumption has been linked to an increased risk of low bone mineral density in women, type 2 diabetes, and stroke. What's more, a growing body of research suggests that excessive diet soda intake may actually encourage weight gain.
Researchers are still trying to sort out the counterintuitive link between zero-calorie soda and weight gain. One explanation may be that as your body gets used to experiencing the sweet flavor of diet soda without absorbing any calories, it begins to forget that foods containing real sugar and other carbohydrates do deliver calories.
"The next time you go for a piece of fruit, your history says, 'I don't know if this has calories or not,' so you track those calories less well, and you may eat more of them," says Susan Swithers, Ph.D., a professor of psychological sciences at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind.
It's also possible that people who gravitate toward diet soda are more likely to gain weight because they have less healthy diets overall than people who choose water or other unsweetened beverages. (They may use diet soda to wash down fast food, for instance.)
If a relationship between diet soda and unhealthy food choices does exist, it may not be a total coincidence. There is some speculation -- largely unconfirmed, as of yet -- that diet sodas have subtle effects on insulin and blood-sugar levels that trigger hunger and food cravings and influence how (and what) you eat.
None of this, however, is enough to persuade Talles or Bagi to swear off their habit. They simply have a hard time imagining life without diet soda.
"I'd like to quit, and I know my wife would like me to," Bagi says. "I would like it to happen within the next year, but I'm not counting on it."

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Optimal Diet

Optimal diet

Walnuts Twice a Day...

My mother, Jane, loves walnuts.
I like them too.
She makes a great salad with them:

Jane's Salad
Field greens
Dried cherries
Dried blueberries
Raspberry vinaigrette dressing

original article from WebMD

Walnuts May Fight Breast Cancer

Study Suggests 2 Servings of Walnuts a Day May Keep Breast Tumors at Bay

Reviewed by Louise Chang, MDBy 
WebMD Health News

April 21, 2009 (Denver) -- Just two handfuls of walnuts a day may keep breast cancer away, a study in mice suggests.
And if you have breast cancer, walnuts may help curb tumor growth, the study suggests.
Researcher W. Elaine Hardman, PhD, associate professor of biochemistry at Marshall University School of Medicine in Huntington, W.Va., credits the disease-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and in particular, phytosterols, in walnuts.
“Phytosterols bind to estrogen receptors, so they would be expected to slow growth of breast cancers,” she says. Estrogen fuels the growth of some breast tumors.

Eat More Walnuts or Not?

Although the study was done in laboratory animals, people should heed recommendations to eat more walnuts, Hardman tells WebMD.
“Research suggests that walnuts can be a healthful part of the diet for the prevention not only of breast and other cancers, but also diabetes and cardiovascular disease,” she says.
But Peter G. Shields, MD, deputy director of the Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center in Washington, D.C., says it’s “outrageous” to recommend that people eat more walnuts based on a study in mice.
He notes that animal studies once suggested that beta-carotene reduced lung cancer. "But when we did the [pivotal] study in humans, smokers given beta-carotene got more lung cancer,” he tells WebMD.
“This is a nice study that calls for more research. There needs to be a lot more understood” about how walnuts might prevent breast tumors, Shields says.
The findings were presented at the American Association for Cancer Research 100th Annual Meeting.

Walnuts Delay Breast Tumors by 9 Years

Hardman and colleagues studied genetically altered mice that were programmed to develop tumors within six months.
Half consumed a diet that contained the human equivalent of two 1-ounce servings of walnuts per day. “One serving fits in the palm of your hand,” she says.
The other half was fed a diet that did not include walnuts.
Standard testing showed that eating walnuts cut the risk of developing breast tumors in half.
“If mice did get breast tumors, the growth rate was also slowed, by 50%,” Hardman says.
Looked at another way, eating walnuts delayed the development of tumors by at least three weeks in the mice. “Extrapolating to humans, this would be about a nine-year delay,” she says.
The researchers are now testing the benefits of the walnut-rich diet in male mice genetically altered to develop prostate tumors.
Hardman says she expected similar results, with the nuts both preventing and slowing the growth of prostate tumors.

I love Turnips!


Roasted White & Yellow Turnips

If you have access to a farmers’ market, look for a variety of yellow turnip called yellow globe. It is especially sweet and tender. You certainly can use either all white or all yellow turnips instead of the combination.
3/4 pound white turnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
3/4 pound yellow turnip (rutabaga), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges
2 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices
1/2 cup chicken broth, homemade or canned
1 tablespoon olive oil
5 cloves garlic, peeled and halved
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1 Granny Smith apple, cut into 1/2-inch thick wedges
1 Preheat the oven to 400°F. In a vegetable steamer, steam the turnips and carrots until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes.
2 Transfer the turnips and carrots to a roasting pan. Add the broth, oil, garlic, salt, and sage, and toss to combine.
3 Cover and roast for 10 minutes. Uncover, add the apple, and roast, shaking the pan occasionally, for about 15 minutes, or until the vegetables are browned and tender.
Makes 4 servings

Nutrition information per serving
calories 103 • total fat 4g (saturated 0.5g) • cholesterol 0mg • dietary fiber 5g • carbohydrate 17g • protein 2g • sodium 430mg
Good source of: beta carotene, fiber, potassium, vitamin C

Mashed Cauliflower Instead of Potatoes

I love this idea and I plan to try it soon!



  • raw Cauliflower - a medium head makes about a pound of florets
  • any combination of butter, milk, cream, or whatever you use when you make mashed potatoes - about 1/4 cup
  • salt and pepper
  • Options: minced garlic (a clove or two); garlic powder (1/2 to 1 teaspoon); cheese


Break the cauliflower up into florets, or just chop. I like to cook it in the microwave in a container that I prepare and serve it in, but you can steam it. Cook it until it's tender -- a fork should easily pierce it.

The easiest thing to do is to add the rest of the ingredients to the container the cauliflower is cooked in, and then use a stick (hand) blender to put it all together. Or you can put it all in a regular blender or food processor.

Assuming 4 servings from a pound of cauliflower, each will have about 3 grams of usable carbohydrate plus three grams of fiber. The calories will depend on what else you add.

A Little Exercise Makes a Difference

Five Numbers to Reduce Breast Cancer Risk

Here are five numbers every woman should know for breast cancer risk reduction:
40 years: the age you should start getting an annual mammogram. Only about 5 percent of breast cancer diagnoses occur in women who are younger than 40. In fact, the average age of a woman diagnosed with breast cancer is 61, says the National Cancer Institute.
88 percent: the odds a woman with stage one breast cancer will live at least five more years, according to the American Cancer Society.
2 or more: the number of daily alcoholic drinks that may raise your chances for developing breast cancer by 20 percent. After conducting a review of more than 50 different studies on the relationship between alcohol consumption and cancer risk, a group of British researchers determined that for each alcoholic beverage consumed per day, a woman’s breast cancer risk rose by seven percent.
20 pounds: the extra body mass that could bump your breast cancer risk by 45 percent. Having excess fatty tissues can increase the amount of cancer-fueling estrogen in a post-menopausal woman’s body. Since the majority of breast cancers happen in older women, if you are at (or nearing) menopause, you should consider maintaining a healthy weight as a crucial step to take to avoid the disease.
5 hours: the minimum amount of time you need to spend sweating each week to ward off breast cancer. Numerous studies indicate that sticking to a regular exercise regimen can lower a woman’s chances of developing breast cancer by as much as 20 percent. The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) suggests engaging in a workout regimen that includes a combination of cardio and strength training.

more information

Mid-October Healthy Ideas

I just moved back to Toledo from California where I lived for the last eight years.
The autumn colors, smells and textures have been more beautiful than I remembered!
I took my husband and daughter to MacQueen's orchard for apple picking and Shetland pony riding.
Only my three year old rode the ponies.
We bought a gallon of apple cider and a warm apple pie with crumbled topping.
The cool temperatures of the fall can lead to a search for perfect comfort foods.

I found some delicious autumn foods that combine health and enjoyment.

Brussel Sprouts

Brussels sprouts are cruciferous vegetables.  Other members of the same species that include cabbagecollard greensbroccolikale, and kohlrabi. 
They contain vitamin A, vitamin C, folic acid and dietary fiber. They contain sinigrin which has anti-cancer properties.  

Brussels sprouts, as with broccoli and other brassicas, contains sulforaphane, a chemical believed to have potent anticancer properties. Although boiling reduces the level of the anticancer compounds, steamingmicrowaving, and stir frying do not result in significant loss.[12]
Brussels sprouts and other brassicas are also a source of indole-3-carbinol, a chemical which boosts DNA repair in cells and appears to block the growth of cancer cells.[13][14]
Overcooking them will render them grey and soft and they develop a strong flavour some dislike.[8]

Here is a link to an excellent recipe: