Saturday, May 22, 2010

It's Fast But Is It Food?

Yesterday on my way back from Atlanta where I was giving a presentation on children and vitamin D, I stopped at Hardee’s for lunch. That’s a picture of my actual meal from yesterday after the first bite. I don’t eat fast food often but when I do, I relish it. My relationship with fast food is one of dependence and a grudging acknowledgment that it tastes good.  Yes, I actually like the taste of fast food despite being a foodie. I love the phony charred taste of the burgers, lackluster buns, and the fries shiny with grease.  At least I usually do.

Yesterday, after eating my 1/3 pound cheeseburger and curly fries, I didn’t get the same sense of satisfaction I usually do after a fast food meal. I sat down with great anticipation of this rare indulgent and  - nothing. The burger was fairly flavorless and the fries, though plenty curly and tasty, seemed to be missing something.  I left feeling full but at the same time, empty. Had my relationship with fast food changed? I could always count on it for a quick flavorful meal that felt indulgent and a little dangerous – as though I am testing the limits of my body to withstand the assault of cholesterol, fat and salt.  

But yesterday – nothing. No rush.  No great taste. No feeling of triumph that my body could withstand the onslaught of artery hardening, blood pressure pumping nutrients. And as I drove away, trying to analyze my experience, I realized that my disappointment wasn’t just that it didn’t taste as good as I remembered. It was my sneaking suspicion after all these years, that fast food isn’t real food. It’s as though it tricks us into thinking it’s food. But it’s really just a clever cloaked facsimile. Will I eat it again? Probably. Sometimes fast food is truly an act of desperation. But I won’t expect much the next time around.

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham 

Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Research Studies That Need You and How To Find Them

I love it when something that makes sense happens. The National Institutes of Health has created something that makes a lot of sense. It’s called “Research Match”. Research Match is a website that matches people who are interested in being in a study with the researches who need them.


I work at teaching hospital/research university so people ask me all the time “are there any studies at UAB I can be in?” And I never know the answer because there are too many studies going on for me to keep up with. This is a scenario I am sure happens all over the country. Now my university – the University of Alabama at Birmingham – has joined with 51 other institutions across the country to take part in the NIH’s “Research Match”. All you have to do is visit: http://www.researchmatch.org/ and register on their site. They’ll connect you with researchers in your area whose studies you may be want to join. Talk about a win/win that makes good sense!

http://www.researchmatch.org/

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham

Sunday, May 9, 2010

For Best Results, Just Add Fat

If you snack on carrot sticks or use fat-free dressing on your salads, you’re probably not getting the health benefits you think you are.  Over the years, several studies have shown that the carotenoids – that family of disease fighters that includes beta-carotene and lycopene – need fat to be absorbed. The fat-soluble carotenoids don’t like to go it alone so dip your carrots in some regular or low-fat (but not non-fat) ranch dressing.  Add some cheese or nuts to that afternoon snack of baby carrots. Toss some avocado with your salad. It may be as little as 5 grams of fat that you need to get good absorption. That’s equal to about 1 teaspoon of fat or just a small handful of almonds. 

I think the deeper message here is that we are supposed to eat different foods together for the best results. I often hear of fad diets that tell you to separate out fruit from proteins. Or don’t mix carbs with meat. But it just doesn’t hold up to scientific scrutiny. Our bodies can easily handle mixtures of nutrients. Our intestinal tracts are marvels at orchestrating the vast array of chemical interactions that shuttle the nutrients from meals and snacks into our bloodstreams. There are even times when nutrients help each other out. For instance, getting a good source of vitamin C like sweet peppers or broccoli helps you to absorb a type of iron called “non-heme” iron.

So make the most of those healthy fruits and vegetables by adding in a bit of fat.

Beth Kitchin, MS, RD
Assistant Professor, Nutrition Sciences
University of Alabama at Birmingham