Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating


Metabolic Syndrome (MetS)

Original Image by U.S. Army via Flickr
Original Image by U.S. Army via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

Metabolic syndrome is not an actual syndrome, but a cluster of risk factors that can raise one’s chances of heart disease, diabetes and/or stroke.  While, the name may be misleading, it’s called metabolic syndrome due to the impact the risk factors have on one’s biochemical processes and the ability for one’s body to function normally.  Other common names for MetS include Syndrome X, Obesity syndrome, insulin resistance syndrome, hypertriglyceridimic waist and/or dysmetabolic syndrome.

While one can have only one of the following risk factors, it’s common for someone to encounter multiple risk factors simultaneously.  One’s considered to have metabolic syndrome if at least 3/5 risk factors pertain to them:

  1. Large waistline:  Also known as “apple shape”; with abdominal obesity, excess fat in the abdominal area increases chances of heart disease, then on hips; for men: 40 inches or larger; for women: 35 inches or larger
  2. High triglyceride levels:  Triglycerides are a type of fat found in the blood; or if you’re already on triglyceride medications; 150 mg/dL or higher
  3. Low HDL cholesterol level:  When low HDL levels are low, it means the cholesterol from arteries isn’t being removed at ideal rate;for men: 40 mg/dL or lower; for women: 50 mg/dL or lower
  4. High blood pressure: With high blood pressure over time, it can damage the heart and lead to plaque buildup; blood pressure of 135/85 mm Hg or higher
  5. High fasting blood sugar:  Can signify early diabetes; 100 mg/dL or higher

For those living with MetS, it can lead to diabetes, yet the follow recommendations for those with MetS may help:

Original Image by Department of Foreign Affairs via Flickr
Original Image by Department of Foreign Affairs via Flickr
  • Increase  physical activity: while it may be hard at first, start by walking 5 minutes a day and increase time gradually; it’s doctor recommended to do at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise daily
  • Losing 5-10% of your body weight can make a world of difference! It can decrease blood pressure, insulin resistance and one’s risk for diabetes
  • Adopting the Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet or Mediterranean diet can help one eat healthier: limits intake of unhealthy fats, while highlighting whole grains, high intake of fruits and vegetables and low sodium foods
  • Stop smoking!: Smoking increases one’s insulin resistance and
  • If prescribed, don’t forget to necessary medications to help control blood pressure and cholesterol levels

The more risk factors one has, for example, 4/5 risk factors, the more likely one will develop heart disease and or develop diabetes than someone who doesn’t have metabolic syndrome.  While the above risk factors are often looked at as indicators of heart disease, they’re not the sole risk factors, physical inactivity, smoking, insulin resistance, age and gender can also play a role in one’s heart health.  With 35% of the American adults with MetS, be proactive and talk to your physician.


DASH to Na Moderation


By: Nikki Nies

When reading nutrition fact labels, everyone knows to check calories, more recently people have become more aware of the fat content, but another aspect of the nutrition fact label that has not received as much exposure, but everyone should be more aware of the salt content.  A lot of times salt and sodium are synonymous.  I’m guilty of mixing the two up as well.  However, to clarify NaCl is composed of 40% sodium and 60% chloride.  So when one is talking about the salt content, one referring to NaCl, which one can consume 5000 mg of NaCl since sodium is only 40% of NaCl. Make sense?

A lot of foods may be ideal meal options for many, if looking at the calories and fat, however there may be a hidden source of weight gain, high blood pressure and heart disease.    What’s the recommended sodium content?  Healthy adults should aim for no more than 1500 mg of sodium daily.  With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.

So what is sodium exactly? Why do you need watch your intake? Image

Sodium is a trace mineral, made of sodium and chloride.  When sodium content is naturally provided in foods that is an easy way to consume one’s recommended trace needs of this mineral.  Salt is needed to hold water in the blood vessels, muscle contraction, nerve transmission, maintain pH and hydration and regulates water balance.  If too much water’s in the body, the amount of blood’s increased., which makes the heart work harder.   However, many Americans consume more than 75% of their sodium in the added form.

In cooking, sodium has a lot of functions—from giving flavor, used as a preservative to prevent food borne pathogens, bind ingredients, enhance color and is used as a stabilizer.

The American Heart Association has stated if Americans reduced their sodium content by1500 mg of sodium, the numberImage of high blood pressure cases would decrease by 26% and save  more than $26 billion in healthcare costs over just a year..

With some many desired foods containing sodium, many Americans have acquired a taste for sodium.  When grocery shopping or eating out, be conscious of these commonly used terms associated with sodium—they don’t mean the same thing.

Interpreting Sodium Terms:

Sodium-free Less than 5 mg of sodium per serving
Very low sodium 35 mg or less per serving
Low sodium 140 mg or less of sodium
Reduced (or less) sodium Usual sodium level reduced by 25% per serving
Light (for sodium reduced products) If food’s “low calorie”, “low calorie” and sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving
Light sodium If sodium’s reduced by at least 50% per serving

How can you reduce your sodium intake?

  • Use low sodium or no salt added vegetables—such as Rienzi products
  • Be aware of deli meats high sodium content—limit consumption to 2-3 times a week
  • Choose fresh fruits and vegetables over canned when possible
  • Avoid adding salt when eating
  • Choose foods high in potassium, which counteract the “feeling” of needs salt
    • Such as white beans, green leafy greens, baked potatoes
    • Add lemon juice to fresh fish and vegetables

The Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet is a great meal concept caters to multiple caloric needs, such as one who wants to eat a 1600 calorie daily, but also provides servings for someone who wants to eat 2000 kcal daily.  Thankfully, the DASH diet provides the same goal: to lower blood pressure.  Even if one does not have hypertension yet, the DASH diet has a lot of great food suggestions for those with pre-hypertension and/or wanting to eat healthy.

Using these tips, one can be preventive, proactive as well as keep their high blood pressure under control.  Check out the DASH diet’s website, it contains everything from recommended sodium intake, DASH diet ebooks, great, easy recipes and media.

Photo Credit: Renal Fellow and Cooking Light