Monthly Archives: August 2014

Are You Eating Less, But Not Losing Weight?

calorie dense lunchAre you frustrated with eating less at each meal, feeling hungry more often and not seeing the number on your scale budge southward at all?  Have you been successful keeping the munchie foods out of the closet yet are still craving them?  Have you stopped baking cookies and buying ice cream but are mad that you haven’t lost one pound after making all these sacrifices?

What Is Eating Less?

Is eating less just eating smaller portions of what you have always eaten?  Is it eating less trying to add things that you have heard are healthy while cutting back on other foods?  Is eating less skipping breakfast and lunch and then eating a dinner that never quite stops until bedtime?

There is no way to really know what “eating less” is until you actually calculate the calories that you are eating.  The Calorie King Calorie, Fat and Carbohydrate Counter Book or app has a good inventory of food listings including some restaurant common food listings.  Myfitnesspal also is a great app for recording your food intake and letting it to the calculating for you.

The above meal may be less for someone who would normally eat 3 or 4 pieces of pizza along with a liter of coke, but it also has some foods that are high in calories like the cheese and sausage on the pizza and the avocado.  A piece of pizza has about 240 calories and a half of an avocado has about 160 calories.  Even though the avocado has a healthier fat than pizza, both are still high in fat which boost the calories considerably.  This meal contains about 450 calories but doesn’t have the volume of food that the one below contains.

Calorie Density

Something to consider when trying to lose weight while not “eating less” is to consider the calorie density of food.  The more fat in a food, the higher the calorie density.  So an avocado, which is about 90% fat has about 15 grams of fat.  You may remember that fat has 9 calories in each gram, while protein and carbohydrates have 4 calories per gram.  While you need fat in each meal as a way to fill you up and absorb fat soluble vitamins, you don’t want to over do it by getting too many calories.

healthy lunchThis same meal to the right has fewer calories than the one above – about 200 calories, but look at the volume of food!  This has much fewer calories but it is not “eating less”.  It has much more volume because it has so many non-starchy veggies and unsweetened fruit that are naturally lower in calories.  You could even add some lettuce and a half cup of black beans and only add another 100 calories to the meal.  And you would still be eating fewer calories that the above meal.

Just be careful if you add salad dressing.  One tbsp of oil has 120 calories.  One way to get around it is to either try salad spritzer or make your own dressing with 3/4 vinegar and 1/4 oil and measure your portion.


Some people have more success with weight loss when they eat four or five smaller meals each day.  Going more than 5 hours between meals can cause your metabolism to slow down which is why skipping meals does not work if you are trying to lose weight.  The above meal would be a great idea as one of those meals.

You do not have to eat less in order to lose weight.  You just have to know how many calories are in your foods and choose accordingly. In general, filling your plate with more non-starchy veggies and much less fatty foods like fried foods, fatty meats, cheese, cream sauces, salad dressing and baked goods will get you to your goal.  It’s not rocket science but it does mean coming to terms with all these other food favorites and that is where a good health coach can help.




Soy Isoflavones, Breasts and Your Health

Does consuming soy increase the chance of breast cancer?  Does soy cause “man boobs”? There are many health benefits of making soy a regular part of your diet but are there risks to consuming it?  More specifically let’s look at the soy isoflavones that are behind all the research.

Health Benefits of Soy

Soy contains a type of isoflavone called phytoestrogens.  Phytoestrogen’s structural similarity to estrodiol makes them act like the hormone estrogen by sitting or blocking the estrogen receptor site.  According to the American Heart Association, soy isoflavones can lower your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) by about 3%.  The LInus Pauling Institute also reports that the consumption of soy isoflavones may protect against osteoporosis.  The fiber in soy beans, nuts and edamame helps prevent colon cancer, while soy milk and tofu are high in selenium which protects men against prostate cancer.  However, it’s soy’s estrogenic effect on the body that has caused the most debate and research.

Soy Isoflavones

Cell research at the American Institute for Cancer Research(AICR) has focused on soy isoflavones genistein and daidzein.  In laboratory studies genistein has decreased tumor growth and increased the destruction of cancer cells in prostate cancer.  Soy isoflavones also act as antioxidants, reducing inflammation and inhibiting the activation of certain proteins that promote cancer cell growth.  Furthermore, recent evidence indicates that soy isoflavones like genistein are more likely to bind to the estrogen recepter in humans called ER-beta- the potential tumer suppressor, rather than ER-alpha- the promoter of cancer cell growth.

Since most Americans do not eat much soy, most of the studies have been conducted in Asia where the average person has 1-2 servings of soy daily.  Population studies there link soy consumption to lower breast cancer risk.  However, several randomized controlled trials done in the US that have studied women who have consumed soy protein powder in an amount equal or higher than what an Asian woman consumes, have shown no difference in hormone levels or breast density, markers of increased breast cancer risk.  More to come on protein powder isolates.  Therefore  the  AICR concludes that even though the evidence is suggestive of the benefits of soy’s prevention of breast cancer, it is not yet conclusive.

Yet, in a pooled analysis of 10,000 breast cancer survivors, studies showed that those who consumed at least 10mg of isoflavones daily had a 25% decrease in breast cancer recurrence.

For prostate cancer survivors research also indicates the soy foods lower PSA level.  In several clinical trials of men with different stages of prostate cancer, ingestion of 30-200mg of isoflavones tended to slow the rise in PSA levels.

Man Boobs

The development of male breast tissue or gynocomastia, according to an article from UpToDate, is very rare and occurs only when very large amounts of soy are consumed.  Men naturally produce a small amount of estrogen but certain drugs, herbals, cancers, and conditions can cause gynocomastia.  There was a case where a 60 year old man presented with gynocomastacia.  He was drinking 3 quarts of soy milk a day which is the equivalent of 360 mg of isoflavones.  That’s more than 12 servings of isoflavones – many more servings than what was studied in other clinical trials.  It was felt that this high level of phytoestrogens impacted estradiol levels which then lead to the development of breast tissue.  His gynocomastia improved when he decreased his consumption of soy milk.

Type of Soy Isoflavone and Equol

About a fourth of the US population has a certain gut bacteria that metabolizes the isoflavones into a substance called “equol”.   In the Journal of Nutrition, evidence suggests that the type of isoflavone consumed may determine whether or not equol is produced.  Asian soy products have a high proportion of isoflavone aglycons, while the Western soy products tend to have more isoflavone glycosides.   Aglycons tend to be absorbed faster than glycosides and may be more easily converted to equol.  In a recent cholesterol-lowering dietary intervention study of a soy germ-enriched pasta containing predominantly the aglycon form or isoflavone, 69% of the participants  made equol, which is higher than the usual 20-30% found in most Westerners.  Isolated soy proteins have mainly glycosides, therefore they may not be as beneficial.  Most studies on soy’s impact on cholesterol was just done using soy isolates, like the ones mentioned in the third paragraph.  Interestingly, research also supports that those women who produced equol made a different type of estrogen, one that did not promote breast cancer growth.

So What Should You Do?

tempehIf you are looking to reduce your cholesterol then you probably want to switch to a fermented form of soy like miso, tempeh, natto or tamari.  Miso is a paste made from soy beans (but check the label – some are made from rice) and can be used for soup stock.  Tempeh, is found in cake-like sheets and can be added to pasta sauce or even used in sandwiches.  A cup of tempeh has 31 grams of protein- equivalent to 4.5 ounces of meat, is low in carbs and 18 grams of mainly heart healthy fats.   According to it can also be made at home by soaking dehulled soy beans and using a tempeh starter.  Natto is another fermented soy that is sweeter than tempeh that can also be added to soups or topped over rice.  Tamari can be found in Asian markets and is like soy sauce.

If you are trying to boost your protein in some of your meals then you can still use a soy protein powder but know you are getting very few of those isoflavone aglycons.  Perhaps the solution is to just use whey protein powder to boost your smoothie protein and make miso, tempeh, and natto part of your regular diet!



Protein Powders – Be Informed

The last few blogs addressed the importance of protein in your diet.  For many people a convenient source of protein is through protein powders.  They can be used as a meal or to augment the protein in a meal.  Protein powders used in conjunction with strength training can increase lean body mass and strength.  However be an informed consumer by knowing what different types of protein powders offer, the serving size, the food nutrients they contain, and how they are processed in order to get best for your money.  If you are using them as a supplement make sure you are not getting unnecessary calories, too much fat or extra ingredients you do not need.

Types of Protein Powders

There are fivetypes of protein powders – whey, casein, soy, rice adn hemp.  Whey and casein are made from milk.  The protein in milk is 80% casein and 20% whey.  Soy is a vegetable protein.  Rice, although mainly a carbohydrate, does have protein that is extricated through an enzymatic process.  Be aware that many protein products are made up of a combination of these sources without full disclosure of the exact proportions.  The majority of protein powders are whey based and have more milk fat and cholesterol in them.

Whey protein is a complete protein, meaning that it contains all the essential amino acids needed for the body. There are 20 amino acids and our body can only make 10 of them.  Proteins in our body catalyze most of what goes on in our cells.  We need to consume or make all of the 20 amino acids, or our body will start taking it from body sources- particularly from muscle.  There are several amino acids in particular – valine, leucine and iso-leucine – that are depleted following exercise and are needed in order to maintain muscle mass.  Whey protein is believed to be more rapidly digested than casein and more completely than soy protein.  There is some evidence that whey protein can also boost your immune system.

There are different forms of whey protein. There are whey concentrates made from taking the water out of whey leaving mostly protein with some lactose, fat and cholesterol.  Concentration can vary.  If the whey is made through a cold press the powder will also contain the part that boosts the immune system.  Then there are whey isolates that are similar to concentrates but have lower amounts of lactose, fat and cholesterol and can also be made through a cold press.  Whey hydrosolates are pre-digested protein that are even more bioavailable and are well suited for use after a workout for those interested in building muscle.  Lastly, there are ion-exchange purified whey protein that has been more chemically processed and is the purest form of whey but lacks the immune system boosting ability.  Concentrates tend to be the least expensive since there is less processing.

Casein is another milk protein and very high in glutamine, the main amino acid in muscles and throughout the body.  However, it is not as bioavailable as whey protein, meaning that a lower percentage is absorbed.  There is some evidence that there is a slower release of amino acids from casein making it useful for athletes who want to maintain lean muscle tissue, particularly if taken before bed (the body goes into a catabolic state at night when it breaks down protein tissue for energy). Popular forms are micellar casein and calcium caseinate.

Soy protein is the most heart healthy of proteins.  It is considered a complete protein but it does have less of the amino acid methionine which is not a problem for adults but could be for infants. Soy can lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.  Soy isolates as opposed to concentrates may have more isoflavones which can help with menopausal symptoms.  There is some evidence that soy can interfere with thyroid function so discuss this with your provider if you have any thyroid dysfunction. There has also been some questions raised about soy’s link to breast cancer but according to the American Cancer Society, although the isoflavones in soy act like estrogen, they have anti-estrogen properties and are not considered to increase the likelihood of breast cancer.  Large studies of women who have consumed soy have shown either no link to breast cancer or a protective association, meaning that the more soy consumed, the less the risk of breast cancer.  Furthermore, the consumption of soy protein has been associated with a lower risk of prostate cancer.

Rice protein is considered to be well absorbed and hypoallergenic. It is not a complete protein since it lacks isoleucine, but it can be combined with other protein sources to provide all the essential amino acids.

Hemp protein powder is a complete protein.  It is grown from the hemp plant and is a member of the cannabis family.  It delivers about 14 grams of protein per serving and is a good source of essential fatty acids – particularly alpha-linolenic acid (ALA)- the essential fatty acid that helps with the formation of omega 3’s.  Omega 3 fatty acids are heart healthy fats that help fight against heart disease, cancer, some autoimmune disease and even cell membrane formation in the brain.  A 1 ounce serving of hemp powder also delivers 4 grams of fiber.  I would recommend buying organic to make sure you are not getting any pesticides with your serving.

Buyer Beware

Know what is in your protein powder. Some powders contain extra sugars like fructose, honey, lactose, maltose and fruit juices to enhance flavor but also add extra calories.  Some use sugar alcohols like lactitol, maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol and xylitol which can still raise blood sugars and may cause diarrhea.  The consumption of extra protein can lead to dehydration and if someone is also experiencing diarrhea which also causes fluid loss, serious health consequences could ensue like kidney failure.  Some protein powders contain artificial sweeteners like aspartame and saccharin.  Consumer Lab did a study of some different types of protein powders in 2010 and found that some labels were not accurate and some even contained small amounts of lead.  Prolab’s Advanced Essential Whey Milk Chocolate was not approved because it contained less protein and more carbohydrates than stated on the label. Dymatize Nutrition Elite Casein Smooth Vanilla was not approved because the label was found to have additional sugars and cholesterol than stated. Optimum Nutrition Gold Standard 100% Egg Rich Chocolate is not approved because it had additional cholesterol than stated on the label. Shakeology Greenberry was not approved because it was found to have 12.7 mcg of lead in each serving.

Know how much protein, carbs and fat you are getting and know what that means.  The Institute of Medicine recommends .8 grams per kilogram of weight. But age, sex, physical activity and purpose should also be factored in.  My last blog discussed research indicating that older adults may need as much as 1 – 1.5 grams of protein per kilogram of weight.  For someone who is around 50, weighs 200 pounds and who gets 30 minutes of vigorous exercise a day that may mean up to 135 grams of protein a day.  Protein powders vary on the amount of protein, calories, fat and carbohydrates in them.  If you are using them for a meal then you would expect it to deliver a third of the USDA requirements for food nutrients, vitamins and minerals including the delivery liquid you are using. Every food label is based on a 2000 calorie diet.  Be sure your meal supplement isn’t giving you too many calories, carbs, and saturated fat.  The USDA recommends that no more than 10% of our total daily calories comes from saturated fat and that we limit cholesterol to no more than 300 mg based on a 2000 calorie diet. That amounts to 20 grams of saturated fat for someone on a 2000 calorie diet.  An ounce of cheese gives you 7 grams of fat a quarter pounder with cheese with a small mocha frappe gives you 24 grams.  If you have any family history of diabetes, have diabetes or have been told your blood glucose levels are a little high, then this may not be the best way to consume a meal since it could lead to a blood sugar spike.

Try Protein Powder As A Smoothie Genisoy soy powder

One way I like to use protein powder is to make a smoothie.  I’m using this Genisoy brand on the left side because it was on the Consumer Lab approved list, has 25 grams of protein per serving, no carbs or saturated fat and has only 110 calories.  I add lots of veggies – right now I use kale from my garden – and some fruit, Greek yogurt, flax seed and some dried high fiber hot cereal mix to boost the fiber content.  I do find that although this is a thick shake, it does not keep me as full as long since everything is pulverized so more readily digestable but I do like that I’m getting a meal packed full of healthy protein, lots of veggies, and some great nutrients to boost my immune system.  I find I need variety in my life and this is a wonderful way for me to get what my body needs to fuel me better and keep me healthy.