Signs of spring are beginning to pop up, and as we open the windows and leave our jackets in the closet, we’ll focus on giving your diet a spring cleaning too. UAB News has gathered some of UAB’s top nutrition experts to help serve you up some new information and tips on making your palate as well-rounded as possible. From the money and calorie saving benefits of packing your lunch versus buying it, to what to eat to keep your eyes as healthy as possible, to the benefits and drawbacks of going gluten-free, UAB doctors have got you covered.
Inflammation is the body’s normal response to injury. While it may be a natural defense system, it can lead to disease development if it becomes chronic. A University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) expert says one way to fight inflammation is with food.
“The inflammation process has one goal: to respond immediately to detect and destroy the toxic material in damaged tissues before it can spread throughout the body,” explained Lauren Whitt, Ph.D., UAB Employee Wellness director and adjunct professor of personal health. “The trouble with inflammation occurs when the defense system gets out-of-control and begins to destroy healthy tissue, causing more damage than the original issue.”
Obesity has even been found to cause inflammation, and it can lead to the development of cardiovascular and metabolic disease, according to the National Council on Strength & Fitness. But weight loss is related to reduction of inflammation, and Whitt says the right anti-inflammatory foods are the answer.
Eating healthy can affect more than what the scale says. According to experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB), it is possible to aid eye health through nutrition and supplements.
Research by the National Eye Institute (NEI) has shown that high levels of antioxidants and zinc, in the form of a nutritional supplement tablet, reduced the risk of advanced age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
“AMD is the leading cause of blindness in older adults,” said Cynthia Owsley, Ph.D., professor and vice chair for clinical research in the Department of Ophthalmology. “These dietary supplements are not a cure for AMD, but they do reduce one’s risk of progressing to the most serious form of the disease.”
UAB School of Optometry Professor Leo Semes, O.D., talked about the importance of diet to eye health.
“You are what you eat; it’s trite but it’s true,” Semes said. “It’s been shown that certain habits like eating a high-fat diet are associated with, but not causative, in AMD.”
New products are released each year promising to help buyers suppress their appetite to lose weight, but these over-the-counter concoctions may not be as effective as more natural approaches.
A web search of ingredients getting attention recently, like Hoodia gordonii or green coffee bean extract, brings up countless products that cannot always be trusted, according to University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Department of Nutrition Sciences Professor and Chair Timothy Garvey, M.D.
“There are little or no rigorous data addressing the efficacy of these sorts of compounds,” Garvey said. “People buying these products are likely to be wasting money.”
Instead, Garvey added that patients with obesity complications should seek direction from their health care providers.
“There are proven lifestyle modification programs and medications that can be helpful,” Garvey added.
Lunch hour spent in a restaurant can be a good break, but it comes with drawbacks. Finance and nutrition sciences experts at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) say dining out during the work day too often can be an expensive and unhealthy habit, but simple tips can make lunchtime healthier for the body, mind and bank account.
UAB Personal Finance Instructor Elizabeth Turnbull, M.B.A., explained that eating lunches out adds up.
“If you spend even just $6 per lunch five days per week, that is $120 every four weeks,” Turnbull said. “Obviously, this number increases drastically if you are married and your spouse is doing the same thing.”
Turnbull recommends setting an achievable goal.
“Instead of saying you will never eat out, which is pretty unrealistic, plan to eat lunch out no more than two days a week instead of five,” Turnbull said. “This will help you better adhere to the plan, save money and develop better habits.”
UAB Assistant Professor of Nutrition Sciences Beth Kitchin, Ph.D., R.D., added that dining out too often can also be unhealthy.