Friday, February 22, 2008

Take this Snow and Shove(l) it

When I grow up, I want to be a weatherperson, so I can be wrong all the time and still get paid...If I worked the same way, I'd tell people they could eat cookies, cake and pie for breakfast and then still lose 20 lbs! Last night's prediction was 2-4 inches. The time is now 12:05 pm. We have 9 inches and there's no sign of stopping.

School is canceled, work is closed, gym is shut-down, all appointments are off. My to-do list has suddenly been condensed to shoveling the walk and blogging. And watching the cat nap. So, her day still resumes as normal. But for the rest of us.... Snow Day!

There's nothing better than a big breakfast when you're buried under the white stuff, so I whipped this one up this morning to sneak a little extra fiber into our diet. File it for your next Snow Day:

Snow Day Cinna-Oatmeal Pancakes
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour (or a combo of whole wheat and reg flour)
1/2 cup oatmeal
2 Tablespoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 Tablespoon sugar
A hearty dash of cinnamon

1 1/4 cups skim milk
1 egg
1 Tablespoon vegetable oil


Whisk together dry ingredients. Whisk together wet ingredients. Combine and stir just until mixed. Ladle 1/4 cup batter into in hot, nonstick frying pan, flipping halfway through cooking time when edges begin to brown and bubbles erupt. Warm pancakes in over at 3oo degrees while cooking the remaining batter, allowing the centers to firm up.

Serve with lite syrup and sliced fruit of your choice. Makes about 6 pancakes.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Classes 4 & 5... Snowstorms and Exams

You get a two-for-one deal on this post, since classes last week were VERY brief due to the horrible weather. Campus is about 5 minutes from home, and it took about 20 to get there last Tuesday. Work closed early due to weather, but class goes on! I'm glad I live so close.

Happy to report Quizzes 1 and 2 went very well. Last night, we had our first exam. 50 questions, some fill in, most multiple choice. That did not make it an easy exam, however. I'm quickly learning that my professor is apt to ask something trivial OR over-arching... so be prepared for it all. Sample questions... test your knowledge (answers at the end of the post)

1. Calculate the caloric content of a meal that is 25 g CHO, 5 g PRO and 10g FAT.

2. A patient complains of poor vision. You recommend they eat:
a. tomatoes
b. garlic
c. honeydew
d. blueberries

3. Three hours after a meal, _________ is active within the body.
a. Glycogenesis
b. Glycolysis
c. Glycogenolysis
d. Glucaneogenesis

In other news, we're taking a deeper look at Carbohydrates this week. We reviewed another set of fun diseases and afflictions one can obtain by lack of carbs in the diet, or inability to process carbs in the diet, etc, etc. Of particular note was our unit on fiber... something near and dear to my heart.

Fun fact... women need at least 25 g of fiber a day to keep things running, um, smoothly. But did you know men require closer to 38 grams? Try to beef up your fiber intake by getting 5-9 servings of fruit and veggies a day. Top fiber winners include broccoli, beans, and fruits with skins on (like pears and apples). Also, choose whole grains over refined ones. When choosing breads, look for "100% whole grain" listed on the label. And when looking at a breakfast cereal, opt for 5 g or more per serving.

Here's a shout-out for my Dad-- we also learned this week about Diverticular Disease. While not fun, this condition is also not life-threatening. By age 70, 50% of adults will have diverticulitis. So what is it? Diverticula are little pouches formed along the walls of your colon. Sometimes, matter can get stuck in those little pouches, making the owner of said colon one very unhappy camper. The diverticula become irritated and inflamed, and it can lead to cramping, diarrhea, fever, and on occasion, bleeding. If you experience a bout of diverticulitus, steer clear of nuts, seeds, kernels or any other small foods with a "shell" or "skin" (think corn, almonds, etc...). Also, eat a high fiber diet and drink plenty of water to keep that colon movin'!

And, finally this week, a shout-out to my husband, who wants me to inform the world of why our poop is brown. (He suggested I label this post, "What color is your Pooper-chute?" Get it? Hilarious...) So what gives our poop that lovely, signature color? It's the presence of defunct and used up red blood cell matter, as well as some bile excretion. Ahhh, as much as we joke, if your pooh is very dark, grey, or otherwise off in some way or another, talk to your doctor. It can be an indication that something's not right in your realm. No class discussion about why it smells. Stay tuned, I guess...

Answer key:
1.Carbohydrates (CHO) and proteins (PRO) are both worth 4 calories per gram each. Lipids (FAT) are 9 calories a gram. That's why fatty foods tend to be higher in calories. So, this item is
210 calories.
25 x 4 = 100
5 x 4 = 20
10 x 9 = 90
TOTAL = 210
2. c. Honeydew contains lutein, a phytochemical of the green group. Lutein is found in the eye and may help prevent macular degeneration, as well as lower the risk of some cancers and help build strong bones and teeth. Other great sources of lutein are spinach, green peppers, kale and our good friend and superfood, brocolli.
3. It's a, but it can also be b. Or even c, which is why this test will definitely be curved and gave me a tremendous headache. If you really want to know the processes of all these metabolic pathways, email me offline. I find them horribly boring.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Night Bites

So, a coworker recently asked me the following question:
Out of curiosity, when it comes to calorie intake vs. metabolism maintainance, at what time of night do the texts suggest talking in your last meal or snack, and what should it contain (carbs vs. no carbs)?

Here's the answer, which I thought I'd post if others had the same question...

There is no evidence to suggest that you should stop eating after a certain time... your body is capable of digestion round the clock, and it takes anywhere from 18-72 hours for the process to be completed... so it might be hours or even days before the carbs you ate for dinner get turned to glucose on a cellular level. Also, the old myth that you digest better standing up is untrue. You digest the exact same way either lying down or standing up-- the process is involuntary and regulated by the "autopilot" area of your brain. You can even digest standing on your head.

Having said that and stating the science, we all know that trying to sleep after a heavy meal can sometimes be uncomfortable. But so can going to bed on an empty stomach!

When to stop eating is really a personal choice, and there are lots of factors to take into account:
  • Activity level--how active are you, and at what times of the day are you most active (ie. do you run 3 miles in the morning? or do you hit the gym after work? Do you work the night shift?)
  • Timing of other meals and snacks--What time do you normally finish dinner? Lunch? When else do you snack?
  • Lifestyle and Satisfaction--Do you crave a sweet treat late at night? Do the TV and snacking go hand-in-hand? What else is happening in the house in the evenings?

Every person is different. To use me as an example, I try not to eat past 10:30 PM. Here's why:

  • Activity level-- I work out in the morning, so I try to get the bulk of my calories into breakfast and lunch-- that's also when I'm hungriest.
  • Timing-- Since we don't eat dinner until 8 or 8:30, post snacking is rarely a problem. I'm still full. Also not a problem since I'm usually in bed and asleep by 10:45-11:00. 10:30 for me just shouldn't feel like "eating time", it needs to feel like "bed time."
  • Lifestyle and Satisfaction-- I do sometimes crave a little treat at the end of the day, so I'll indulge in 100-150 calories. Not really because I'm hungry, but because ice cream rocks. So do 100 calorie cupcakes! Because I know how I like to eat, I'll leave room in my calorie count for this end-of-day treat.
To answer your question about carbs/no carbs... there is really no benefit (or harm, either) in restricting certain nutrients at certain times for a normal person. (intensive athletes and diabetics-- a different story). Do what feels right for you. A lot of people swear too many carbs make them feel sluggish. In truth, it's probably not the carbs, but the refined stuff that's doing them in.

Scientifically speaking, your body digests carbs more quickly than proteins. Fats take the longest amount of time. So, what you eat before you rest depends on what you wish to achieve. For example, to not get woken up by a gurgling, churning tummy, you may want to avoid heavy fats (like a 15 oz porterhouse at 9 PM) To not wake up starving, you may want to have a little protein, since combining a carb with a protein always keeps you fuller longer. (So have one less cookie but add 1/2 cup skim milk.)

Monday, February 11, 2008

Solved: The Case of the Missing Book (no, the Amish didn't take it)

Well, first off, let me say, Lancaster PA is one of the more fabulous places on earth. The Amish certainly do know how to bake and cook. I am especially in awe of the Central Farmer's market, where the milk is fresh, the produce is local, and the prices are unbeatable. After much window shopping and drooling, my Dear Friend and I settled on homemade sandwiches, fresh pears and the local specialty... Whoopie Pies. Why the Amish made an item called "Whoopie Pie" famous is beyond me. But they also have a town called Intercourse, and another called Virginville. Later that night for dinner, we went to the Bird-In-Hand Schmoorgasboard and, as Dear Friend aptly pointed out, we had a schmoorgasm. Behold the joy of apple butter, baked corn and shoefly pie! Not to worry... we ate our vegetables, too. Kudos to the O'Flahrty Dingledein B&B as well... great hosts, yummy breakfast, cozy fireplace, warm quilts. I recommend it highly if you're planning a trip to the greater Lancaster area.

After 4 weeks now, the missing book is no longer missing. Well, it is missing, but I've been refunded my money and will not be expecting it to arrive, at least. I am very annoyed with this bookseller and look forward to posting a nasty rating on their website. I'll head over to the campus bookstore before class tomorrow and buy the book for $100 instead of $79. Makes you wonder what the value of $21 really is...

Quiz this week on Digestion and The Cell, so I'll be studying a bit more tonight and will then look over notes at lunch tomorrow. As I digest... how ironic.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Class #3 Metabolize!

So, this week started with a quiz, and I'm happy to report I think I only missed one question. When it's graded and returned, I'll post it and see if YOU know the answer! It was 10 multiple choice questions, and took about 10 minutes to complete. I had spent ample time studying, so felt very prepared. Next week is Quiz #2.

This week's focus was on that process we all love to blame for our weight issues... metabolism. Metabolism is really just a fancy way of explaining the chemical reactions that enable our cells to obtain and use energy from the nutrients we eat. The process involves enzymes and coenzymes, all working together in little cycles that are named... the Cori Cycle, the Krebs Cycle, the Citric Acid Cycle, etc. Your liver is the star of the metabolism show; everyone else is just a supporting actor.

Eating is important to keeping your metabolism functioning properly. Ideally, your body should be breaking down carbohydrates (such as glucose) and proteins in a constant cycle. What happens if you suddenly stop eating, or you totally cut carbs out of your diet? Well, once your reserves are gone, your body will starting using ketones as an energy source. Ketones are organic compounds that your body starts to munch on when not enough carbs are available. (This could be muscle, or even organs.) Basically, your body will do anything it can to provide itself with energy. So, to put it grossly, your body begins to eat itself. Like Pizza the Hut! Often times, folks in this situation will have fruity breath or smell like acetone. Yep, the same stuff in nail polish remover.

So, what's the moral of this metabolism story? A healthy diet is a balanced diet. Make sure you are eating within normal frequencies-- every 3-6 hours during the day. Make sure you are eating the proper balance of carbs, proteins and fats in your diet, too. The General Rule of Thumb, per day:
  • Carbohydrates: 45-65% of your total energy intake
  • Protein: 10-35% of your total energy intake
  • Fat:20-35% of your total energy intake
Remember, carbs aren't just breads and grains...they are fruits and veggies too!

Also up for discussion this week, the Endocrine System. Yes, the fun world of glands and hormones! All designed to keep you running at normal levels...
  • Glucagon, secreted by your pancreas, increases blood glucose levels by speeding stuff up in your liver.
  • Isulin, also from your pancreas, decreases blood glucose levels by hurrying along glucose from the bloodstream directly into cells, where it's then metabolized. (This is why Diabetics often carry extra weight-- glucose gets stored instead-- never processed metabolically.)
  • Your heart releases ANH, which reminds your kidneys to get rid of extra sodium
  • Your fat storing cells secret leptin, which tell us how full or hungry we feel
What happens when your endocrine system is out of whack? Well, several things can happen, since hormones are required to regulate your metabolism. There are are number of diseases-- Hashimoto's disease, Grave's Disease and more, all of which result into hyper- or hypo- thyroidism. Most are treatable. See your doctor if you think you have a problem.
  • Hyperthyroidism increases your metabolic rate. You might be hungry all the time but still losing weight, irritable, and you might take on a "bug-eyed" look due to edema of tissue in the back of the eye socket.
  • Hypothyroidism slows your metabolic rate. Later in life, this is also known as Myxedema. You may feel sluggish and tired, might experience hair loss, gain weight without a change in diet, or have a swelling in certain body tissues. (I know, I know, contrary to popular belief, we do not ALL suffer from this as we age!)
Other diseases affect or occur in other glands, like the Adrenal Gland (Cushing's Disease), Pituitary Gland (Diabetes Insipidus, aka. "Water Diabetes") or the Pancreas (Diabetes). Again, if you notice unusual symptoms, but you haven't changed your diet, check with your doc.

An anonymous poster asked if I have received my other book yet... and the answer is no. (Could said poster be Dad or Husband?) I have been unable to track it down. The good news is I'm not missing any education-- all class materials are pretty straightforward, and the readings only suppliment what we discuss in class. However, I paid for the *&%!! book, so I'd really like to have it. My lesson has been learned. Now you know why the university bookstore can charge a ridiculous fee for books.

I'm signing off to study... and will be visiting Amish Country this weekend! Three cheers for the Quilting Museum and the Farmer's Market. Stay tuned to find out what I eat at the Bird-in-Hand Smoorrgasboard!

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Everything's going swimmingly!

Sunday night, and the rest of the world is watching the Superbowl. Husband and I hate the NY Giants, so there wasn't much interest for us. Commercials are fun, but they mostly just make me want to eat junk food.

Anyhow, I have excellent news... found my way to the university pool this morning and swam a full mile. (33 laps in a 25 m pool, assuming this is a mile. Leave a comment if you think the math is wrong-- this has been a topic of much debate in our household). Took about 35 minutes, so I'll need to work on speed. Also will need to work on endurance. After swimming, I studied at the campus library for about an hour, came home, had lunch, and spent the remainder of the afternoon having a "nap-off" with the cat. She won, but I came in a close second. I'm pooped!

First quiz is this week, so I'm busy reviewing notes and still trying to get through the backlog of reading from delayed textbook purchases. My second text has STILL not arrived. Tomorrow I'll have to hunt it down via tracking number.

Thanks to dear friends who met us out for a late Italian dinner Saturday night. (Blame the GPS system for the delay-- is there a "find a route with no streetlights" function?) Company and food were both equally wonderful. Nothing is better than smoked mozzarella and re-hashing the glory days of video gaming at the fraternity house. Banana Fantasy!