Author: Niti Shah

Is Sunflower oil really heart-healthy?

Sunflower oil rose to fame as being heart-healthy oil and is being used in many kitchens, restaurants and you will find it listed in abundant packaged products like chips and cookies. But is it really heart-healthy?

Why did the use of sunflower oil and other cooking oils increase?

For decades we have feared saturated fats like butter or coconut oil as being the unhealthy form of fat and so many organizations promoted using vegetable oils instead. And since the amount of saturated fat in sunflower oil is the lowest, it rose to fame as being heart-healthy. But what went unaccounted was the amount of omega-6 fats it contains. Also, the omega-6 and omega-3’s in it are not stable so when heated at a high temperature they can undergo oxidation and become pro-inflammatory.

What are the different types of fats?

To understand if sunflower oil is really heart-healthy let’s talk about different types of fats to make an informed decision.

Fats that are solid at room temperature for e.g. butter, ghee, coconut oil are “Saturated fats”. While on the other end of the spectrum, fats that are liquid at room temperature e.g. cooking oils are “Unsaturated fats”. You would have heard of the terms – Omega-3, 6, and 9. All of them together constitute unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats can be classified into:

1. Essential fats: both omega-3 (EPA, ALA, DHA) and omega-6 (Linoleic acid, arachidonic acid) are essential fats and together are called polyunsaturated fats aka PUFA. Essential means that our body cannot make it and we need to consume them from our foods for wellbeing.

2. Non-essential fats: while omega-9 (i.e. oleic acid) which is monounsaturated fats also known as MUFA is something that our body makes and hence is not classified as non-essential.

To summarize, omega-9 is a non-essential fat also known as MUFA while omega-3 and omega-6 are essential fats known as PUFA. But unlike PUFA which can react to heat and light, MUFA is stable when heated. This explains the rise in the use of cooking oils with high MUFA content e.g. canola oil.

What are the sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fats in our diet?

The sources of omega-6 fats in our diet are nuts, seeds, vegetable oils, meat, and dairy products. While the sources of omega-3 fats in our diet are walnuts, flaxseeds, chia seeds, and fish. Remember, as I mentioned earlier both 3’s and 6’s are essential fats and you need to consume them from food. However, it is important to consume plenty of omega-3 fats to maintain a beneficial ratio of healthy fats in our diet.

The ideal ratio of omega-3: omega-6 should be 1:4. But in the western diet, the balance is lost with that ratio being 1:16 or even more. Hence, of late you might have heard of omega-6 being unhealthy. Omega-6 itself is not unhealthy but the skewed ratio is unhealthy and brings a host of diseases like heart disease, obesity, stroke, and high blood pressure.

What to look for on the label if buying sunflower oil?

There are 3 types of sunflower oil:

1. High-oleic sunflower oil (80% omega-9)

2. Mid-oleic sunflower oil (65% omega-9)

3. Linoleic sunflower oil commonly labeled as sunflower oil (70% omega-6)

The most commonly available one is linoleic sunflower oil because that is the cheapest one and hence widely used in restaurants and packaged foods.

There are better options when it comes to cooking oil but still, if you want to purchase sunflower oil look for “high-oleic sunflower oil”.  You will know if it is the right one even when you look at the price label because typically high-oleic sunflower oil is 3x the cost.

What happens when you cook sunflower oil at high heat?

The widely available sunflower oil is high in omega-6 which when heated leads to the formation of lipid peroxides which are pro-inflammatory and damaging.

So if you are using sunflower oil, make sure the label says high-oleic sunflower oil. If it does not say that it means the sunflower oil has high omega-6 which is not heart-healthy and could be damaging when heated.

5 Nutritional Strategies for Boosting Immunity

Thank you @Natural Awakenings Dallas Metroplex Magazine for this opportunity allowing me to share my 5 key nutritional strategies that can give the immune system an upgrade! Check them out and include them for even better health. Article link: https://www.nadallas.com/2021/08/31/366874/boosting-immunity-with-balanced-nutrition
.
A strong immune system is at the top of our minds these days. Now more than ever, having a robust immunity is a must. This fall with your new school and work routines, as a Mom and a Board-certified Clinical Nutritionist, I have 5 key strategies for you. Incorporate these in your daily nutritional intake for a boost to your immunity.
.
🥑Balanced breakfast: All meals should be balanced, but most importantly breakfast. Most common breakfast choices like cereals, pancakes, waffles, bagels, muffins, etc are loaded with sugar and white processed flour; they lack any nutrition. Starting the day with breakfast choices loaded in protein, healthy fats, and complex carbs can provide the necessary fuel for the immune system without causing a drop in energy levels in the middle of the day or untimely cravings.
.
🌈Eat all the colors of the rainbow: Include different colored fruits and vegetables that provide nutritional density with vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytonutrients (which gives them the color). If I were to start a public health initiative to increase overall wellness it would be to “Eat more fruits and vegetables”.
.
💪🏼Probiotics: You might be thinking of your bottle of probiotics supplements, but there are foods that have live bacteria/probiotics. Probiotic food sources include fermented foods like yogurt, kefir, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, kimchi, sourdough bread, and Indian foods like idli/dosa to name a few. Consume a variety of these foods for microbial diversity. If you are sticking to supplementation, rotation is more important than taking the same probiotic supplement consistently.
.
👊🏻Prebiotics: These fibers act as fuel for the healthy bacteria in your gut. Prebiotics do not get enough limelight but are essential for a healthy gut. Most food sources of prebiotics are plant-based: garlic, onions, artichokes, asparagus, chicory root, bananas, oats, legumes, and mushrooms. They will help achieve a healthier and more diverse microbiome. Since 70% of the immune system resides in the gut, both prebiotics and probiotics should be a vital part of your nutritional intake.
.
💊Supplementation: If necessary, taking a high potency professional quality multi–commonly termed as MVM (multi-vitamin-mineral)–can help fill nutritional gaps. Remember food first, supplement second if needed.
.
These 5 nutritional strategies will give your immune arsenal an upgrade along with exercise, adequate sleep, and vitamin D.
Be well, Niti.

How to fit Balanced Nutrition into our busy lives?

Thank you to those who joined us in person or virtually as we embark on this wellness journey together! It was our pleasure talking about everything wellness! Balanced diet is on top of our minds these days!

Here is the link to the recording from the workshop: https://us02web.zoom.us/rec/share/JyetElXezcKBJRc8z6boK7974gK82ynsnQV51X3f8TqIemHZVir6VMXn5PLu71fc.wUskHn6aRhsfuui7?startTime=1629557086000

Also, you can access my presentation and the wealth of tips I shared here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/1Nso9PuBcxjGYNvj-OQqTKYLeOFLtC-a1/view?usp=sharing

In the balanced diet workshop, I begin with history as to how our diet quality got to this level. We can relate to times when our parents, grandparents, and grand grandparents used to spend a lot of time in the kitchen and make foods from scratch without any Vitamix and food processors and Instapots in their kitchen. I cannot imagine my life without those kitchen gadgets.  Our lives got busier and so to help us came inventions to make our lives easier. 

Big food corporations saw the market for convenience foods and jumped onto it. Because they employ neuroscientists whose job it is to make the chips, cookies, crackers, and many other processed and ultra-processed foods as addictive as possible. Big food companies are doing this to increase their sales and making items shelf-stable so their profits increase. They are not doing it for our health but so many products claim to be healthy and we unknowingly put it in our carts hoping it is good! Not saying all are bad, but unfortunately, the majority of them are. So the first thing you need to do is learn to read the label and the fewer the ingredient list, the better it is. Cleaner products have 5 items on their ingredients vs processed ones that have 30 items.

Processed and ultra-processed foods fill our grocery stores shelves and some of them get into our pantries and refrigerators. Ok, you might think I don’t eat chips and cookies- so I am safe. Unfortunately no! Quaker 1 minute oats, energy bars, energy drinks, zero-calorie drinks, fruit juices, even your ultra-high temp (UHT) milk would fall under ultra-processed foods. UHT milk stays stable for 6 months without refrigeration. Just imagine if even bacteria is saying no to get close to the milk, why are we consuming it thinking it should be a part of our balanced diet and think it is nutritious drink? Think about it…

This is one of the many reasons why the core of my balanced diet advice has always been to start with removing  these culprits from your balanced diet intake:

1.            Sugar

2.            White Flour

3.            Industrial seed oils and

4.            Artificial food coloring

If you avoid these 4 things, you’ll eliminate the vast majority of ultra-processed food from your diet—thus reducing the possibility that you’ll get addicted to the “Frankenfoods” that now comprise almost 60% of calories in the Standard American Diet.

My 21st-century wellness advice is to “STOP counting calories and START counting chemicals”.

The go-to strategies for a balanced diet that I wanted to leave you with for superior health are:

1. Clean your pantry – remove sugar, white flour, artificial colors, and ultra-processed foods

2. Meal planning and prepping

3. Start your day with a balanced breakfast

4. Go to the refrigerator, not the pantry, for snacks

5. Stock up on healthy foods in your balanced diet– eat more fruits and vegetables

I hope all this encouraged you to tackle one healthy goal today!

If you have more questions that come up along the way, please don’t hesitate to reach out.

In health,

Niti

Intermittent Fasting: Fad or Best-kept Secret to Healthy Aging?

Eating in a certain window of the day or week a.k.a intermittent fasting has been a consistent buzzword within the health and fitness world. There are claims for it to help with weight loss, overcome metabolic imbalances and improve health overall.
One thing to keep in mind is like everything else there is no one size fits all for intermittent fasting too. I wanted to present some evidence-based information so you can make an informed decision for yourself.

Is intermittent fasting a new intervention?

 
Intermittent fasting seems like a new health trend but looking back in time, fasting has been in practice for ages and has been part of almost all cultures and religions including Islam, Jainism, Hinduism, Judaism, Christianity, and many more. Fasting during Ramadan month in Islam, eating during light hours (sunrise to sunset) in Jainism, and mandatory fasting in times of limited food sources are examples of intermittent fasting in history. Historically, humans ate in certain windows of the day and did not eat throughout the day like in present times.

Why is intermittent fasting so popular these days?


Fasting does not involve complex calorie counting. There is no specific intermittent fasting diet that needs to be followed. In fact  an intermittent fasting schedule can be made to match any individual’s existing schedule comfortably. All these factors have led to the popularity of “Intermittent Fasting.”

What are the different versions of intermittent fasting?


They can be divided into four main versions based on how long the fasting is practiced:
1.      Time-restricted feeding (eating within a window of 6, 8, 10, 12 or 14 hours during the day) with 16/8 intermittent fasting being the most widely practiced these days
2.      5:2 fasting (eating for 5 days and fasting for 2 days every week)
3.      Alternate-day fasting and
4.      Periodic fasting (once a week or once every other week)

What is immunosenescence?


Immunosenescence pronounced as (ĭm″ū-nō-sĭ-nĕs′ĕns) sounds like a spelling bee word. It sure can be!
But is also a term that has been gathering interest in the scientific and health-care community.
Immunosenescence can be defined as a decline in immunity associated with advancing age and an increased frequency of infections and chronic diseases.

Why is it important to delay immunosenescence?


Aging is an irreversible process and so our goal is to find interventions that might delay the process of immunosenescence and consequently improve the quality of life.

Which form of intermittent fasting has shown the best results for healthy aging in research?


To delay immunosenescence and age gracefully in both men/women periodic fasting once a week or once every other week (fasting with only fruits and vegetables consuming <500kcal on the fasting day or going for water-only fasting) appears to show best results1,2. Besides, it is always advisable to include more vegetables in one’s diet.

What effect does periodic fasting have on our cells?


Periodic fasting has been shown to reduce the rate of aging and has also been shown to provide an anti-inflammatory effect. This periodic cycle of caloric restriction followed by re-feeding possibly helps delay immunosenescence by killing old, damaged cells and replacing them with young, functional, healthy cells1,2.

Is it very difficult to fast? Will I be able to fast?


These are valid concerns if you have never tried fasting before. Give yourself a month and trust me it gets easier. Try fasting on a busy day rather than the weekend which will keep your mind off of food. Green tea, black tea, clear broths, can act as appetite suppressants and help control hunger.

Can I eat whatever I like on days I am not fasting?


Fasting should not be an excuse to eat whatever you like on non-fasting days. Try to follow a nutritious diet on non-fasting days as well. After your fast, eat normally as if you never fasted. Be aware to not fall into binge eating the following day as it can nullify the benefits of intermittent fasting If you are a newbie and want to incorporate fasting in your lifestyle, I recommend reading- The complete guide to fasting by Dr. Jason Fung.

Periodic fasting or time-restricted feeding where one limits the hours of the day when one is eating (preferably early in the day following circadian rhythm) can be the best-kept secret our ancestors followed for their wellbeing.  Like most things, we are turning a full circle and realizing the wisdom of our ancestors around fasting!

Resources
Choi, I. Y., Lee, C., & Longo, V. D. (2017). Nutrition and fasting-mimicking diets in the prevention and treatment of autoimmune diseases and immunosenescence. Molecular and cellular endocrinology, 455, 4–12. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mce.2017.01.042
Maijó, M., Clements, S. J., Ivory, K., Nicoletti, C., & Carding, S. R. (2014). Nutrition, diet, and immunosenescence. Mechanisms of aging and development, 136-137, 116–128. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.mad.2013.12.003

Please share your insights or intermittent fasting benefits you would have experienced.
In health, Niti

“How to Get Off Sugar?”

Do we really need to get off all sources of sugar? If you understand what is a carbohydrate and how it is absorbed in our body and identify the naturally occurring- great sources of carbohydrates, we probably can incorporate those good sources and remove the processed sources of carbohydrates/sugar. That was the purpose of workshop. But would also say, in the quest to eat right and don’t forget to enjoy your food! Otherwise, the purpose is lost😊

Attached below are the presentation slides from the workshop. Looking forward to sharing more.

Overcoming Hypertension with Nutrition & Lifestyle

Hypertension is a “silent, invisible killer” that rarely causes symptoms. One of the key risk factors for cardiovascular disease is hypertension. And so On this world hypertension day, our goal is to increase awareness and overcome hypertension with what we have under our control. Hypertension has become a global public health issue. Raised blood pressure is a serious warning sign that significant lifestyle changes are urgently needed. While medical interventions are necessary and please consult your healthcare practitioner for those, I wanted to share what I have in my toolkit- powerful nutritional and lifestyle interventions that can make an impact in reducing the risk of hypertension.

Attached below are presentation slides from a workshop I did on World Hypertension day for students of Delhi Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research University (DPSRU).

Thinking of building strong foundational health?

Thinking of building strong foundational health?

As cold winter months come to an end, focus typically shifts from overall health. But good health is something we have to build and maintain.

As a Nutritionist myself, I love and propose a food-first approach! But more so realize that there are going to be nutrient gaps even in the diet of a nutritionist. And so wanted to share what I do to fill my nutrient gaps.

Jana Bennett, a friend, pharmacist, and owner of The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy in Sherman, TX is passionate about helping people understand that there isn’t a pill for every ill. But this is what she says and recommends, “I know that almost none of us eat a healthy enough diet to get all of the nutrients we need.  And even if we are super diligent about what we put into our mouths, our food supply just isn’t what it was when our grandparents were children.  Our soils are being depleted at a rapid rate and highly processed foods are in our face at every turn.  So, yes, I do think that we need to supplement our diet with the nutrients that our bodies need to function properly.” So valuable!

Here are some basic foundational products for optimal wellness that Jana Bennett recommends and I second them:

1.    A high-quality Multivitamin-mineral (MVM) supplement doesn’t replace a healthy diet, but can help enhance it, and ensure that necessary nutrients are available to support normal physiological function. Quality is important and as a general rule, you get what you pay for. Phytomulti (Metagenics) and Alphabase (Orthomolecular) are good contenders
2.    Omega 3s are very important for brain health and it also helps us to maintain a healthy lipid profile. Some recommendations would be Omegagenics EPA DHA 720 (Metagenics) or Algae Omega (Nordic Naturals) for vegetarians.
3.    Vitamin D is critical to our immune health and it isn’t very readily available in our food supply. Our bodies make vitamin D when we are exposed to sunlight but since most of us aren’t outside for long periods of time and when we are, we are (hopefully) wearing sunscreen, our bodies can’t make as much as we need so we need to get this in supplement form 5000 IU daily or 50,000 IU weekly. One I take is Vitamin D3 + K2 (Seeking health).

Investing in and supporting strong foundational health now helps build wellness and protects us from future threats to our health – Back to basics of course. I use Fullscript dispensary to allow my clients access to a variety of high-quality nutraceuticals. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help choosing the best one. 

Cheers to health and wellness,
Niti

Nutritional strategies for rehabilitation Post-COVID

This is a short video I recorded to help you on your path to recovery post-covid: https://youtu.be/-0Mrj4L658k

Thank you @texasrealfood for the mention in your blog post.

These are the tools I have in my nutrition toolkit that can help you on your path to recovery post-covid:

I will be talking about food and supplements which are strong anti-inflammatory agents. So before we jump in I wanted you to understand what is happening in the body and respiratory system, post-covid to best understand how these tools can help.

The immune response that was activated has led to inflammation and cell destruction in the lungs and other tissues in the body. And this ongoing dysregulated inflammatory activation is what is happening post covid is responsible for the lingering inflammation and can lead to the development of immune and metabolic disorders in the future. So how can we calm the immune system and break this cycle of ongoing inflammation and lead to the path of recovery after infection from a nutrition point of view? I am going to share the foods and supplements that can provide a strong anti-inflammatory effect to spark resolution and healing.

  1. Protein-rich foods: Protein is what powers the immune system and so it is a must. Protein is vital to build and repair body tissue and fight the virus. Immune system powerhouses such as antibodies and immune system cells rely on protein. So my suggestion is to carefully incorporate the protein of your choice in your meals.
  2. Next, let’s talk about Anti-inflammatory foods- The top of the list is Cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli etc that belong to this nutrient-dense family. Next are Phytonutrient rich foods– phytonutrient is a compound that is present in plant-based foods like ginger, garlic, turmeric, green tea, different colorful fruits, and veg that have immune-boosting capabilities. Not only are they rich in vitamins and minerals but are rich in immune-boosting phytonutrients that your body needs as an integral part of your recovery diet. Both cruciferous and phytonutrient-rich foods have immune-boosting capabilities and are anti-inflammatory in nature. You have so many foods to choose from to your liking that you can include to daily intake that provides a strong anti-inflammatory boost. I am including a handout in the link below for cruciferous vegetables and phytonutrient-rich foods for you to refer to.
  3. And thirdly you can nourish the body with Nutritional supplements as a boost on top of what your foods provide. A multivitamin provides overall wellness support which can help tremendously in times of recovery. Phytomulti is my favorite multi if you were to ask me for a recommendation. SPM active is a very potent supplement that is designed to help support the body’s natural capacity to respond to physical challenges and resolve the immune response. Our body naturally makes SPMs but in times where the body is struggling to resolve inflammation- supplementation provides that. SPMs are clinically shown to reduce over-inflammatory activation in lung tissue and clear debris allowing tissue repair and healing. This is mine that I use if I need anti-inflammatory support. Another strong formulation is Immune active. It has Nutritional bioactives like Vitamin C, NAC, quercetin, zinc, and EGCG  as a part of its formulation. Immune active may provide a safer approach in addressing the harmful effects associated with dysregulated inflammation and ongoing immune activation.

Here’s the link down below if you would like to purchase SPM active, Immune active or Phytomulti. We will have it for sale in our clinic in a little as well. Use promo code NEW-10-OFF to receive a 10% new customer discount. To order SPM active, Immune active or Phytomulti https://back2basicsfxmed.metagenics.com/

Hope this helps and I wish you a faster recovery with these tools!

In health,

Niti

What if I told you, sugar is not bad for you?!

What if I told you, sugar is not bad for you?!🤔 The reality is that our brains run on glucose and so we do need sugar.  However, “too much sugar” is what is bad for you especially the refined sugar we consume every day that creeps into our diet where you might not expect it to be – through processed foods like cereals, fruit snacks, sweetened yogurt, most breakfast foods, boxed mac n cheese, etc, and sugary drinks like sodas, fruit juices, sports drinks, etc. And don’t be fooled by words on packages like “real fruit”, “whole grain”, “natural”, etc. These typically don’t mean anything about the overall nutrient density or sugar!⁣⁣🙃

And you will be shocked😱 to learn what it is capable of doing inside the body. Refined sugar is an anti-nutrient which means that it increases the body’s requirement of other nutrients and thereby depletes the body’s nutrient stores. Also, refined sugar not only diminishes the immune response but is also the underlying cause of weight gain, insulin resistance, and pre-diabetes. It can send you on the blood sugar rollercoaster of ups and downs with mood, focus, anxiety, and behavior throughout the day.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that men should consume no more than 9 teaspoons (36g) of sugar per day and women and kids no more than 6 teaspoons (24g) of sugar per day. To put this in perspective, a 12 oz fruit juice or soda contains 37-39g of sugar. So if you had one serving of fruit juice or one can of regular soda you should not be having any other sugar for the entire day.

The statistics are alarming!

According to the Diabetes Council (2018) stated that the average American consumed 30 teaspoons (120g) of sugar per day making the United States rank #1 in average daily sugar consumption per person in the world. No glory in being #1.

I share 3 actionable tips and simple back to basics swaps that will help you get off “too much sugar”:

🍃 1. In the grocery stores, shop groceries in the perimeter first. That is where fruits, vegetables, dairy, eggs, meat, and seafood are located. Center aisles are where most processed foods and sugary drinks are, even though some nuts, beans, grains can be found here too.  Choose wisely when shopping the center aisles.

🍃2. Open the refrigerator instead of the pantry when you are looking for snacks. Pantry = processed, shelf-stable snacks, and Refrigerator = yogurt, fruits, vegetables, hummus, etc. Swap processed and ultra-processed, shelf-stable snacks for healthy snacks. Here is a list of some healthy snack options for you:
Apple with peanut butter
Avocado with a dash of salt, pepper, and lemon
Carrots and hummus
Crackers and cheese
Popcorn
Yogurt and granola
Fruit smoothie
Apple/Banana/Grapes/Berries/or any fruit of the season

🍃3. Start your day with little to no sugar in the breakfast (When you have sugar-laden options in breakfast such as breakfast cereals, readymade oatmeal, pancakes, waffles, cinnamon roll, etc) it puts you on a blood sugar roller coaster making you crave more sugar through the day. Consuming a wholesome, balanced protein and healthy fat-rich foods for breakfast with very little to no sugar stabilizes blood sugar and reduces the craving substantially. I have created some Blood sugar balancing breakfast choices with recipes for you to download for free and save as a pdf. Download them here: shorturl.at/osGJT Try it out and let me know of your successful swaps.

The key is to identify these hidden food culprits and swap them with healthier alternatives.

Cheers to health and wellness,
Niti

One thing you need to know if you wanting to lose weight!

One thing you need to know if you wanting to lose weight!
We are eating all the time. Societal norms have changed and we are surrounded by food in offices, homes, schools, everywhere.
We have been brainwashed to believe that constant eating/snacking is good for us.

Several myths have perpetuated that snacking is good. Eating six small meals a day was justified to help by increasing your metabolic rate and hence help with weight loss. Recent studies have confirmed that this is incorrect and do not support this myth.

Do you know what happens each time you eat food- be it a small or large meal?
Every time you consume food with carbohydrates or protein, insulin is released in response to food and that is normal. And insulin is the #1 fat-storing hormone. Just imagine if we spend 18 hours in an insulin-dominant state – SNACKING…How can we lose weight?

A simple way to keep track is a food journal. A food journal might seem trivial but can be a game-changer in achieving your goal.
There are multiple apps you can use or just an old-fashioned journal to log.

Here is an interesting study if you would like to read and explore more.
Kahleova et al., (2014). Eating two larger meals a day (breakfast and lunch) is more effective than six smaller meals in a reduced-energy regimen for patients with type 2 diabetes: a randomized crossover study https://doi.org/10.1007/s00125-014-3253-5

In health,
Niti