Grain Brain

Dr. Perlmutter’s Grain Brain diet suggests all carbohydrates destroy the brain, including the “good carbohydrates.”  It’s worth noting Dr. Perlmutter’s field of specialty is neurology, not nutrition.  One may understand prescribing a low carbohydrate diet for those developing neurological conditions, but for healthy individuals, it can do more harm than good.  The average brain relies on 120 g of carbohydrates daily for regular function.

He recommends relying on a diet high in cholesterol and fat even though carbohydrates are the preferred fuel source for the brain.  Without an adequate amount of carbohydrates, carbohydrate malabsorption, glycogen storage disease, diabetes melltitus and resorting to using fat as a fuel source can occur.   If fat is used as a primary energy source, ketone production can occur in the liver and ketones will start to be used as fuel.  In a ketogenic stage, an intermediate stage of starvation can arise and can cause ketoacidosis. tumblr_inline_mleuq2dy4I1rr7zxj

Energy from carbohydrates is stored temporarily in cells in the form of ATP.  Glucose production is necessary for energy in muscle cells, brain and red blood cells.  Carbohydrates are easier to metabolize than fat and protein due to their accessibility to the body and since glucose is the mostimportant energy source.  The concentration of glucose within one’s bloodstream dictates the actions of insulin.  Fiber only comes from carbohydrates and has the potential to supplement viscous subgroups by reducing ileal bile acid absorption.  Some simple and complex carbohydrates have their own enzymatic oxidation pathways (i.e. lactose requires lactase enzyme to break down into monosaccharides).

Carbohydrates are used for structural support and for storage of glycogen and starch.  If there is an excess amount of carbohydrates consumed, they are broken down into acetyl CoA, which is used for fatty acid synthesis.  Even though hydrophobic lipids are a more compact form of energy storage than hydrophilic carbohydrates, glucose is not able to be synthesized from lipids.

Photo Credit: Never Give Up Tumblr


1. Mann J. Dietary carbohydrate: relationship to cardiovascular disease and disorders of carbohydrate metabolism. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2007;61(Suppl. 1):S100–11.

Make it a Super [Healthy] Bowl

By: Nikki Nies

The Super Bowl is the perfect venue to pull out your vegetable platters and water infused drinks, right?  If you’re reading that last statement, thinking I’ve lost my mind.  That’s just me wishfully thinking what the Super Bowl would represent.  The great foods that accompany the Super Bowl are an equally expected part of the game.

When you’re in the kitchen heating up the chicken wings or dishing out the salsa for the chips, why not take this time to experiment with new flavors as well?  Adding a healthier spin on guilty pleasure dishes doesn’t have to become an added burden.

The tip with the following recipe is that some of the beloved fried foods have had alterations in their recipes, baking the food, instead of submerging the food in oil.  If you’re not a fan of the specific following recipes, perhaps, it’ll give you some inspiration to try a new, healthier recipe too.

  1. Lemon Drop Chicken Wings:
  2. Spinach Artichoke Dip:,,10000001121119,00.html
  3. Zucchini Fries:,,10000001831902,00.html
  4. Mini Turkey Burgers:
  5. Baked Smoky Chicken Fingers:,,10000001097977,00.html
  6. Sweet Roasted Cherry Tomato Salsa:
  7. Jalepeno Cheddar Crackers:
  8. Buffalo Baked Blooming Onion:
  9. Caprese Salad Skewers:
  10. Roasted Mushroom Crostini:

The average Super Bowl fan eats a day’s worth of calories during the game.  Don’t become a statistic, be original. So, while you’re grabbing snacks at the supermarket this weekend to stock up for the big game on Sunday, while the bag of chips may be hard to wrestle out of your kids hands, why not try some new [healthier] dishes as well?


Super Bowl Recipe Round Up: 8 Easy & Healthy Crowd Pleasing Recipes!

Mind the [Thigh] Gap

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Bernard Goldbach via Flickr
Original Image by Bernard Goldbach via Flickr

I had heard about the countless thigh gap pictures on Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter, but it appears the thigh gap phenomenon has spilled over to other realms of the world, including real life.  Having a thigh gap has turned from a cultural aspiration to an obsession.  The thigh gap craze is exactly what it sounds like, a gap between one’s upper thighs when knees and legs are together.

The thigh gap obsession speaks volumes of this society’s definition of beauty and the lengths people are willing to go to achieve the gap.  More people don’t have a thigh gap than do and evolutionary dictation, the likelihood of one achieving a thigh gap healthily is slim.  When looking at pictures of thigh gaps, people forget that it’s not healthy to be that slim, photos are often altered and thigh gap is viewed as an “ideal” gap.

 The craze is so bad, there’s multiple sources of “how to” guides to achieve the ideal gap as well as pages dedicated to girls proudly showing off their gaps.  The attention to thigh gaps fuel the concept of distorted body image and can lead to an eating disorder.

So, what can be done?

  • Limit use of social media pages and/or sites that advertise thigh gaps as healthy
  • Embrace ALL womanly curves and sizes
  • Take a self esteem inventory: Write your strengths and weaknesses out
  • Set realistic expectations: It may help cease negative thinking and evaluate where you head is
  • Identify your accomplishments: Let go of perfection, it doesn’t exist
  • Get to know yourself: You might surprise yourself, open yourself up to new opportunities
  • Stop comparing yourself to others: I know, it’s easier said than done, but it’s got to happen for you to take control of your life; you should only compare the past YOU to the present YOU

I hope you don’t mind, but I like my thighs just the way they are.  I don’t need a guide on how to do that, do I?


Thigh Gaps: A Trend That Needs to Die

6 Tips to Improve Your Self-Esteem

The Ride Called Life

By: Nikki Nies

Are you happy?  It’s a simple yes or no question, but often times people answer with more than just one word.  If  you were to ask me such a question and we’re being honest here, I’m not happy.  Like many, I feel like I’m plugging a long.  With such an attitude, it’s easy to see how one can spiral out of  healthy eating habits and not be one’s best version of him or herself.

You see, I moved to Illinois last August for my dietetic internship, which I’m entirely grateful for being accepted into and don’t want to know where or what I’d be doing if I hadn’t be accepted.  Yet, the move was the largest physical and emotional move I’ve ever done.  I’ve had this countdown of “1 year to go, 11 months to go” and that’s not healthy.  I regret to think about how much I’ve missed out on while I was busy with my countdown.  Not taking advantage of where I live and the resources available for me to grow as a health professional and more importantly a human is hard to admit.   It’s been an adjustment and I hate to say it, but I’m still adjusting to living out here even 5 months later.  It’s nothing personal to Illinois, it’s nice, it’s just not home.

I’m not here attempting to write a public diary entry, but to express that it’s natural to get into a rut and not embrace all the highs and lows of life.  I need to recalibrate my thoughts and realize why I’m here, to start the next chapter in my life as a Registered Dietitian.  You know the saying, if it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it?  I’m beginning to understand the truth to that statement more and more daily.  As with everything, moderation and balance is key. I used to pride myself in knowing myself well, but I’ve learned a lot about myself in these last few months.  I’ve learned what areas I could improve on while admitting strengths I can hone in on.

I hope this non-traditional blog post is relatable and if you’re in a similar situation, you remember to embrace what ever situation you’re in.  Your mood and attitude can dictate your health and well being.  Your mind can be such an advocate or enemy, it’s your choice.  I know my faith’s gotten through a lot of situations and I need to lighten up and enjoy the ride, which is called life.  Life passes by and you better get on or off the train.  I’d prefer to be on the train, wouldn’t you?

Hyperemesis Gravidarum (HG)

By: Nikki NiesHyperemesis-gravidarum

Hyperemesis gravidarum (HG) is severe nausea and vomiting that may occur during pregnancy.  It can prevent less than optimal intake of food and fluids, leading to metabolic imbalances, electrolyte disturbance,difficulty completing daily tasks,food aversions, nutritional deficiencies, dehydration, production of ketones and/or loss of greater than 5% of pre-pregnancy weight.

HG can last anywhere from only the first trimester to the whole pregnancy.  Complications of vomiting, such as gastric ulcers, malnutrition or esophageal bleeding can lead to increased HG.

Unfortunately, research has not found a definitive reason for HG’s occurance, with the likelihood that it is caused by multiple factors.  Yet, the diagnosis of HG can be found by measuring weight loss, checking for ketones and overall feeling of mother.

Treatment of HG:

With mild cases of HG, it can be treated with antacids, medications and rest. In more severe cases, a hospital stay may be required to entail the mother receives adequate amount of fluids through an IV.

Now you may be wondering what the difference is between morning sickness and HG is:

Morning sickness

Hyperemesis Gravidarum

Nausea sometimes accompanied by vomiting Nausea accompanied by severe vomiting
Nausea that subsides at 12 weeks or soon after Nausea that doesn’t subside
Vomiting that doesn’t cause severe dehydration Vomiting that causes severe dehydration
Vomiting that allows you to keep some food down Vomiting that doesn’t allow you to keep any food down

While you can’t control the onset of HG through one’s pregnancy, it can be manageable.  Just think, the problems that accompany HG will last at most 9 months, but the birth of a loved one will be for a lifetime!


Healthier U


By: Nikki Nies

When looking for potential universities to attend, everything from tuition, location and academic rigor is compared.  It’s gotten so competitive,  that even the health of the university is ranked.  And, rightfully so.   As of October 2013, The Active Times has ranked the 50 fittest colleges in America.  Athletic facilities, team sport participation, campus eateries and overall quality of life on campus were taken into consideration when compiling the rankings.

Before checking out the list, what’re you willing to bet your school makes the list?

10. Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN: Since a 2003 integration of varsity sports into the Office of Student Life, there has been successful growth in the participation of athletic programs; offers top of the line rec facility and wellness center; ranked as having a high quality of life

9. Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA: has the 2nd largest capacity football stadium in the nation; has claimed 68 national team championships; offers over 50 club team sports; has an entire college devoted to Health and Human Development

8. Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS: ranked #38 on College Prowler’s list of schools with most active varsity sports team; recently launched Wildcats Wellness Coalition program, which aims to strengthen student’s emotional, environmental, spiritual and mental health; has one of the largest state of the art rec center

 7. Wheaton College, Wheaton, IL : has a $15 million sports and recreation complex; has a rock climbing wall; 8000 square foot weight room; pool; 3 separate gyms; has some of the highest ranked campus food in the nation due to partnership with Cafe Bon Appetit, which offers fresh food through the Farm to Fork Program

6. Claremont McKenna College, Claremont, CA:  According to the Princeton Review, students are the happiest in the nation; campus offers several healthy dining options; many incoming freshmen are orientated with W.O.A.!, which is Wilderness Orientation Adventure

5. Whitman College, Walla Walla, WA: Ranked #10 on Princeton’s best quality of life list; #5 of “everyone plays intramural sports”; has created a harmoniously happy campus

4. Rice University, Houston, TX: Ranked  Ranked #1 on Princeton’s best quality of life list; described to have “world class dining”; has more than 35 intramural and club sports teams

3. Bowdoin College, Brunswick, ME: tops Princeton Review’s “best campus food” list 6 times in the last decade; dining service is run by a Registered Dietitian (RD) that include meals such as baked Maine pollock and spicy lentil tacos; since 2009 has state-of-the-art Peter Buck Center for Health and Fitness

2. Washington State University in St. Louis, St Louis, MO: consistently producing Division III championship teams in women’s volleyball and men’s and women’s basketball; school has 16 eateries (including kosher); College Prowlers labels the food the “best in the nation”; students score 99 out of 100 on quality of life and happiest rating

1. Virginia Polytechnic Institute, Blacksburg, VA: has dining halls dedicated to organically grown, sustainable food systems; multiple top 10 dining halls; continually successful Division I varsity sports teams

Now that you’ve seen the top ten fittest colleges, check out the full list at .  It’s great to see students embracing  the impressive services the colleges have to offer. Does this list change your thoughts on where you’re applying next year?


Unsaturated Fatty Acids


By: Nikki Nies

Saturated fatty acids, such as animal fat,are commonly deemed to be limited in one’s diet along with trans fats.  However, unsaturated fatty acids should be incorporated into people’s every day diet.  It’s recommended approximately 30% of one’s daily intake derive from healthier fats, with total calories from saturated fat limited to 10% of diet. url

Unsaturated fatty acids derive from vegetables and plants while saturated fats are man made (i.e. butter).  Unsaturated fatty acids are liquid at room temperature.

With a  moderate intake of monounsaturated fats, it can increase one’s long term health, help prevent an increase in blood triglycerides, reduce LDL cholesterol levels  and be good for blood fat control.

Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA) can be broken down until 2 separate categories, omega 3 and omega 6. Omega 3 fatty acids are needed for growth, healthy skin and metabolism  and may help protect against heart disease.  Omega 6 fatty acids provide an essential fatty acid that we need, but our bodies don’t make.  PUFAs have been seen to have lower LDL cholesterol, but with too much can also reduce one’s HDL cholesterol (considered the good fat).

Sources of unsaturated fatty acids include:

Monounsaturated Fat Sources Omega 6 Polyunsaturated Fat Sources Omega 3 Polyunsaturated Fat Sources
Nuts Soybean Oil Soybean Oil
Vegetable oil Corn Oil Canola Oil
Canola Oil Safflower Oil Walnuts
Olive Oil Flaxseed
High oleic safflower oil Fish: trout, herring and salmon
Sunflower Oil

Healthy Tips:

  • Have an ounce of dry roasted nuts as a snack; can be included as a meat and bean source
  • Substitute PUFAs and MUFAs for high calorie saturated fatty acids  and trans fat
  • Use liquid fats (i.e. oil) in cooking instead of solid fats (i.e. butter, margarine)

Fats are the most concentrated source of calories, at 9 kcal/gram compared to protein and carbohydrate counterparts.  Remember quality fats, such as PUFAs and MUFAs trump quantity fats.


The Gluten Free Frenzie

By: Nikki Nies

Original Image by Memphis CVB via Flickr
Original Image by Memphis CVB via Flickr

Being gluten free has become one of the latest trends.  While it’s great to see more brands carrying gluten free products to cater to those that are truly gluten intolerant, it’s a shame others are using  gluten free products when they don’t have to.  Those with celiac disease and/or gluten allergies need to adhere to a gluten free diet to ensure the best quality of life.  For the 1% of those that can be stricken if gluten is consumed it can be a matter of life or death.  Special tests are the only way to know if you need to avoid gluten completely, otherwise you may not need to live a completely gluten free life.

To better understand if should consider talking to your physician about gluten in your life, let’s do a run down on what exactly gluten is.

Original Image by Andrea Nguyen  via Flickr
Original Image by Andrea Nguyen via Flickr

Gluten is a type of protein found in barley, rye and wheat.  Going gluten free means eating such grains.  Compared to other sources of protein, such as steak, gluten is harder to digest.   It’s easy to find the words barley, rye and wheat on an ingredient list, however, one needs to be aware that triticale (across between wheat and rye), hydrolyzed vegetable protein (contains wheat) and malt, which is made of barley should be eliminated as well.

Why is gluten found in so many products?  Why not just eliminate the use of the protein if it irritates people you ask?  Well, it makes pizza dough stretchy, gives bread its spongy texture, and can thicken sauces and soups.

Within the last 50 years, our consumption of refined wheat flour has increased dramatically and has added to the number of people with gluten sensitivity.  As a country, we’re in a state of “gluten overload”, with many feeling the impact of eating too much gluten.  The good news, if you’re gluten sensitive, you probably won’t have to give up gluten entirely, yet seeing your primary physician is the best route of care.

Symptoms of gluten irritation:

  • Gas
  • Skin rashes
  • Heart burn
  • Insomnia
  • Brain Fog
  • Bloating
  • Weight Loss
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Chronic Diarrhea
  • Abdominal cramping

Allowed foods on a gluten free diet include beans, rice, quinoa, seeds, nuts, eggs, fresh meats, poultry and fish, fruits and vegetables and most dairy products.  To be certain you’re not consuming gluten, make sure to only consume products that have a “gluten free” label.  As said before, the availability of gluten free products have increased 10 fold in the last few years, even popping up in mainstream grocery stores.  Instead of using gluten, many products contain rice or potato as a base.

Those on a gluten free diet need to be aware of the extra monitoring of their intake of vitamins and minerals.  Since many grains are enriched with vitamins and minerals, by avoiding gluten products one may be limited in their intake of enriched products.  Seeking advice from a dietitian can help gauge one’s intake of iron, riboflavin, calcium, fiber, niacin and/or folate.


The Photoshop Celebrity Transformations

Watch this quick, yet profound video on the manipulation of many photos of our favorite stars.  Perfection really doesn’t exist!

To Supplement with Supplements?


By: Nikki Nies

When the mention of supplements arises it’s evident there’s conclusive perspectives on the need and use of supplements in daily life.  The talk of supplements even causes controversies with health professionals, as some want to avoid supplements at all costs, while others see the benefits outweigh the costs.  Defined by Congress through the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act, a dietary supplement is regarded as: Herbal-Natural-Supplements1

  • Not as tobacco
  • Intended to supplement the diet
  • Contains one or more dietary ingredients and/or its constituents (i.e. vitamins, minerals, botanicals, herbs, amino acids)
  • Intended to be taken orally in the composition of a pill, capsule, tablet or liquid
  • Is labeled on the front panel of the bottle as a dietary supplement

The Federal Drug & Administration (FDA) regulates dietary supplements, however, not in the same thorough process as every day foods.  Supplement ingredients that that have been sold in the U.S. prior to 1994 are not required to be reviewed by the FDA prior to being placed on the market since they’re presumed to be safe.  Those ingredients that have emerged after 1994 must be notify the FDA and request permission for usage through evidence that it provides beneficial effects.

The decision for a product to be labeled a dietary supplement versus a conventional food or drug is dependent on how the product is advertised and portrayed by the manufacturer and/or the accompany literature.  However, many dietary and food supplement food labels do not provide such information.  Also, unlike drug products, there are no provisions in the law to for FDA to “approve” dietary supplements for safety or effectiveness before they are put on the market.

Once a dietary supplement is marketed, FDA has to prove that the product is not safe in order to restrict its use or remove it from the market. In contrast, before being allowed to market a drug product, manufacturers must obtain FDA approval by providing convincing evidence that it is both safe and effective.

Since supplements aren’t required by law to be tested for the safety and effectiveness, the amount of sound evidence of the positive impact of supplements  is limited and varies from supplement to supplement.  Drugs are different from dietary supplements as they can include claims such as the ability to mitigate, diagnose, cure, treat or prevent a disease, while said claims can not be done on a dietary supplement label.

I know many swear by the benefits of supplements.  I’m glad to see they’ve benefited from using them, but I’m still wary of their positive impact and lack of FDA regulation.  While food should be the primary source of nutrition, I can see how and why people would use supplements to aid in deficiencies.  Definitely more research and better regulation needs to occur for a better stance on supplements.