Nearly two years ago, I decided to follow a vegan diet, or an almost vegan diet, anyway. As I tell my patients, the decision to embrace a plant-based diet is a very personal one. People choose it for a variety of reasons, and it’s just one of several ways to eat more healthfully. Just look at your priorities and do what’s right for you.
For me, a plant-based diet made sense. Here, I share how I made the transition and why.
Health, environment, animal welfare
Several factors in my life converged to convince me to go vegan.
Certainly, there were health reasons: I have a family history of heart disease, and my father died of a heart attack. Heart medications didn’t agree with me, so I took a more serious look at my diet. That thinking coincided with my evolving views of animal rights and a growing desire to do good things to help the planet. I had already started driving less and riding my bike more for health and environmental reasons. Helping to reduce our dependency on the meat industry seemed like another way to be a good world citizen: It can help conserve land, water and energy resources as well as prevent pollution.
September is National Cholesterol Awareness Month, so it’s a great opportunity to educate yourself about the vital role cholesterol plays in your health.
Most people are aware that you want to have low LDL (“bad”) and high HDL (“good”) cholesterol. But there are a lot of misconceptions about what makes your LDL and HDL go up or down. Should you avoid egg yolks? Should you stick to low-fat foods, or is sugar the real culprit?
To help clear things up, we’ve compiled a list of tips that we, as dietitians, routinely share with our patients — especially those who are trying to improve their cholesterol numbers, or who have a family history of heart disease and want to reduce their own risk.
Food and its impact on health is a common topic of conversation among people. There are television shows, books and countless websites dedicated to the subject. In recent years, one of the most common culprits of concern when it comes to food is gluten.
As a pediatric gastroenterologist at Rush, I often hear questions about gluten. Many of my patients’ parents ask me how a gluten-free diet can affect their child’s health or help improve different symptoms. The answers to their questions are not always simple.
What is gluten?
Let’s start with the basics. Gluten has been an integral part of the human diet for thousands of years. There is currently no scientific evidence that states gluten is intrinsically harmful to healthy children.
Worried about that extra luggage you might acquire around the holidays, adding to an already expanded waistline? A review of studies evaluating holiday weight gain determined the average gain during the six-week period between Thanksgiving and New Year’s to be only 0.8 pounds. However, for those individuals who were already overweight or obese, the gain was as much as five pounds. A more recent evaluation indicated that obese participants show greater increases in body fat over the holiday season compared to their normal weight counterparts.
Even if the number of pounds gained varies greatly, there’s the phenomenon commonly called “holiday creep.” We gain the most weight during the holidays and rarely shed it afterwards, so it accumulates over the years, until by middle age, we are a bit too hefty around the middle and elsewhere.
Meet Vernon Cail, a research assistant with the Department of Preventive Medicine at Rush University Medical Center. He’s working on two studies, one involving childhood obesity and another examining food purchasing patterns in the Chicago area.
“We wanted to see what type of home environmental factors influence obesity,” he says, “so to do that we have to travel to the house to observe it, analyze it and assess the conditions.”
Cail visits homes throughout the Chicago area to meet with study participants, and while the traffic is trying at times, the interactions with participants make it all worthwhile.
“I really enjoy the relationships that I build with the families,” he says. “I enjoy spending time with people who share interests of mine: that’s to get healthy, to get kids healthy, hopefully get their household healthy.”
Kate Sigel had a big hit on her hand when she made a cake for the Feb. 9 dedication of the new Rush Family Birth Center. The 50-pound confection featured alphabet blocks, a teddy bear, baby rattle and bottle – all of them edible.
A baker in the Department of Food and Nutrition Services, Sigel has been working at Rush since last May. She talked about making the Family Birth Center cake, how she makes a contribution at Rush, and the joy of baking.
The cake is adorable. How did you come up with the design?
They had an idea of what they wanted. They sent a couple of pictures and said “we want a cake with alphabet blocks, and we want pastel colors.” I took the idea they provided and ran with it by adding the rattle and the bottle and the bear. I thought it would fun. There’s always a whimsy to pastry and cakes.
What ingredients did you use for it all?
The base cake and building blocks were all cake and frosting. The bear and bottle and baby rattle were Rice Krispies treats covered in frosting and fondant, which is like a sugar paste. It gives you a really smooth finish, and you can model it.
In recognition of National AmeriCorps Week, AmeriCorps member Simone Blake explains her work with the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center.
I’m serving as a healthy nutrition and aging educator at the Rush Alzheimer’s Disease Center through AmeriCorps’ Healthy Communities Corps. Its mission is to improve food quantity and quality in underserved communities across Chicago and Cook County.
The AmeriCorps program engages over 80,000 men and women in intensive service to tackle pressing problems each year, through thousands of nonprofits, schools, public agencies and community and faith-based groups across the country.
Everyone should have opportunities to reach positive health outcomes. Aging adults in our current fast food nation find themselves stranded. They need fiber and nutrient-dense foods when only high-calorie, low-nutrient foods are available.