Artificial Flavorings


By April Irvine

I came across this interesting video by 60 minutes where they interviewed alchemists from the flavor food industry. The video is about 14 minutes long and provides an interesting perspective on how Americans may become addicted to food. It’s definitely a must watch video.


1. 60 minutes. “Inside the Flavor Factory”. CBS. Video. Accessed on December 30, 2014.




5 Easy Ways to Add More Fiber


By April Irvine

Eating enough fiber is important to prevent certain diseases, cancer, and aids in weight management. Fiber is a complex carbohydrate, a large molecule that takes longer for the body to breakdown to use as energy. There are two types of fiber: soluble fiber and insoluble fiber.

Soluble fiber attracts water to form a gel which slows down digestion.  This is why fiber has a lasting effect of fullness because it delays the emptying of our stomach. Because you feel fuller longer, you will eat less. The slow breakdown of fiber also slows the release of sugars into your blood. This is especially beneficial for preventing diabetes and for those who are diabetic. Alsofiber01__1_2_3656_5035_1_1_51, the gel like substance of soluble fiber binds with LDL or ‘bad’ cholesterol in our gastrointestinal tract to be excreted.

Insoluble fibers are healthy for your gut or digestive system because it helps ‘bulk’ your stools and can help treat constipation. Because it does not combine with water, it passes through your digestive track quickly- keeping you regular in the bathroom.

US Department of Agriculture recommends 25 to 38 grams per day. Follow these easy tips to get more fiber in your day

  1. Eat fruits – eat rather than drink your fruits. Dried fruits such as dried figs are high in fiber.
  2. Eat vegetables – try to include in most meals and snacks.
  3. Read the Nutrition Label – choose foods with the highest dietary fiber per serving. Oatmeal is a good source of fiber.
  4. Don’t peel edible skins from fruits or vegetables – there is fiber in the skin. Instead wash fruits and vegetables before eating.
  5. Eat beans, lentils, and split peas – these foods are fiber filling and inexpensive. When buying the canned forms, don’t forget to rinse them in a colander before using, to remove excess sodium.



2. Lattimer JM, Haub MD. Effects of dietary fiber and its components on metabolic health. Nutrients. 2010;2(12):1266-89.

3. Rideout TC, Harding SV, Jones PJ, Fan MZ. Guar gum and similar soluble fibers in the regulation of cholesterol metabolism: current understandings and future research priorities. Vasc Health Risk Manag. 2008;4(5):1023-33.

Supplements: Health or Harm?

Photo Credit: Kristel Irvine

Written by April Irvine

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey or NHANES reports that in an effort to adopt a healthier lifestyle, about two-thirds of adults in the US are using dietary supplements. Although, acquiring our nutrients from a pill may be convenient and easy, supplements don’t necessarily deliver the promise of better health.

Supplements are not regulated by the Federal Drug Administration (FDA). This means that there is no guarantee that the labeling on the package, it’s purity and strength are true. For example, dietary supplements may claim to make you faster, stronger, or slimmer but the manufacturers don’t have to prove that its safe or if it even works. Be careful, some supplements could contain illegal substances.

Although in some situations, supplements may help to improve health. A supplement may be recommended if you are on a restrictive diet, an older adult (age 50+), vegetarian or vegan, pregnant or lactating women, or a medical condition that limits your food choices. For example, a pregnant woman should take a prenatal vitamin to prevent deficiencies and improve fetal outcomes. Check with your doctor or dietitian to see if a supplement is recommended for you.

Remember, real food contains healthy things a pill can’t give us. Eating a wide variety of nutrient-rich foods is the best way for most people to get the nutrients they need to be healthy and reduce their risk of chronic disease. Healthy food choices include grains/legumes, dairy, lean meats, fruits, and vegetables).

USPMost people don’t need supplements however, if you choose use them its important be well informed. The U.S. Pharmacopeial Convention (USP) is a third party organization that sets standards for the identity, strength, quality, and purity of dietary supplements and NSF sets standards for accurate ingredient labeling and testing for contaminants. NSF have different labeling and certification processes, be sure to do your research beforehand. Look for the NSF or USP mark on the supplement bottle to know that it’s been tested and approved.


Even though some supplements have been tested by third part organizations, supplements can have powerful biological effects. When we take a nutrient out of a food and concentrate it in a pill, it’s not quite the same thing so consider your individual situation and consult a doctor or a registered dietitian before taking a supplement.


  1. Dickinson A, Mackay D. Health habits and other characteristics of dietary supplement users: a review. Nutr J. 2014;13:14.
  1. Marra M.V., Boyar A.P. Position of the American Dietetic Association: Nutrient supplementation.J. Am. Diet Assoc.2009;109:2073–2085. doi: 10.1016/j.jada.2009.10.020

Spilling the Beans


By April Irvine

If you haven’t already, it’s time to hop aboard the bean bandwagon because not only is it tasty, but its good for you too. Since starting graduate school, beans have become a pantry staple in my home because they are an inexpensive source of energy (typically less than 25 cents/cup) while providing all the nutrients my body needs. They are high in protein and soluble fiber and a good source of vitamins and minerals. Diets rich in soluble fiber are associated with improved blood sugar control, cholesterol levels, and may protect against heart disease. Not to mention they help bring regularity in the bathroom.

  • Beans are typically sold dried, canned, or frozen. If you choose canned beans, choose the canned variety with less sodium or rinse and drain canned beans to remove up to 40% of the sodium.
  • Vary your beans. Beans can be found in many shapes, colors, and textures. Serve beans for any or all meals of the day. Use bean flour in desserts or freeze pureed beans in ice trays to thicken soups.
  • Cook more than you need. Cooked beans can be refrigerated for at least four days and frozen for up to a year.
  • If cooking dry beans from scratch, avoid adding acidic ingredients like tomatoes or vinegar until they are almost finished. Adding acidic ingredients too early slows the cooking process.
  • Don’t fear side effects. Flatulence can occur if you eat beans because of the indigestible carbohydrates, however research shows eating beans more often and discarding the water used to soak/cook the beans can help reduce gas.

black bean

Black beans are an excellent source of fiber, folate, iron, magnesium, and a phytonutrient called anthocyanins. Enjoy the earthy flavor of black beans in salads, mashed into burgers, soups, dips, or brownies.

Black-Eyed Peas
Black-eyed peas are a good source of fiber, magnesium and zinc. These beans pair well with tomatoes, rice and leafy greens.

Lima beans are an excellent source of fiber and potassium. Try this recipe: Lima bean succotash.

Soybeans (Edamame)
Edamame_-_boild_green_soybeansSoybeans are an excellent source of calcium, iron and potassium. Research suggests whole soy protein may lower the risk of breast cancer and bone loss in some populations and lower cholesterol levels. Soybeans can be steamed, purred into dips, or toss into stir-fry’s.

Kidney (Red and White)
Kidney beans are high in fiber and folate and deliver robust flavor. Because of their thicker skin, kidney beans hold their shape with longer cook times, such as chili, but are also delicious in salads. White kidney beans (also called cannellini) are a bit milder and can be added to salads and sauces.

Chickpea or Garbanzohummus
Chickpeas are high in fiber, folate, potassium and magnesium. Enjoy chickpeas in a creamy hummus, vegetable-rich salad or in stews.

Dare to try something new?





Omega 3’s: Fishing for health


By April Irvine

Omega 3’s is getting more publicity than any other type of fat and you’re very likely to have seen advertisements about this. You may have seen milk, cereals, or eggs fortified with omega 3’s or how fish oil supplements have been promoted as an easy way to protect the heart or reduce inflammation. According to the Nutrition Business Journal, fish oil products generated more than 1.2 billion in sales last year.

What are omega 3’s and why should I include them?

Omega 3 fatty acids are a group of polyunsaturated fatty acids (healthy fats) important for many functions in the body. One special aspect of omega 3’s is their chemical structure. They contain what are called “double bonds”—special connections that define how our body uses them for function. But it is the position of the double bonds in omega-3’s that makes a remarkable difference in biological function. Omega 3’s are used in gene expression, have anti-inflammatory properties, provide structure to red blood cells, and play a crucial role in brain function.

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Food sources of omega-3s, including EPA and DHA, are found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and trout, and shellfish, such as crab, mussels, and oysters. A different type of omega-3, called ALA, are found in plant sources of food such as canola, flaxseeds, chia seeds, walnuts, and soy oils. All omega 3’s fatty acids are essential nutrients for health, this means that our bodies cannot make these nutrients, we must eat them!

What the science says

Cardiovascular Disease: Evidence suggests that seafood rich in omega-3 fatty acids should be included in a heart-healthy diet. There is moderate amount of evidence of people who eat seafood at least once a week are less likely to die of heart disease than those who never eat seafood. The Federal Government’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2010 recommends 8 or more ounces of a variety of seafood per week for adults because it provides a range of nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids. (Smaller amounts are recommended for young children).

omegaOmega-3’s in supplement form have not been shown to protect against heart disease. In 2012, two groups of scientists conducted meta-analyses evaluating the effects of supplements rich in EPA and DHA such as fish oil, on heart disease risk. Neither meta-analysis found convincing evidence of a protective effect. There are several reasons why these supplements may not help to prevent heart disease even though a diet rich in seafood may. Eating seafood a few times a week not only provides healthy fats but a host of nutrients, such as vitamins and minerals; when we take a single nutrient out of the context of the food, concentrate and put it in a pill, its not quite the same thing. Also, some of the benefits of seafood may result from people eating it in place of less healthful foods. Evidence also shows that people who eat seafood have generally healthier lifestyles, and these other lifestyle characteristics may be responsible for the lower rates of heart disease.

Rheumatoid Arthritis

A 2012 systematic review concluded that the types of omega-3s found in seafood and fish oil may be modestly helpful in relieving symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis. In the studies included in the review, many of the participants reported that when they were taking fish oil they had briefer morning stiffness, less joint swelling and pain, and less need for anti-inflammatory drugs to control their symptoms.

Infant Development

The nutritional value of seafood is particularly important during early development. The Dietary Guidelines recommend that women who are pregnant or breastfeeding consume at least 8 ounces but no more than 12 ounces of seafood each week. Do not eat certain types of seafood that are high in mercury—a toxin that can harm the nervous system of a fetus or young child. For the full recommendations on seafood consumption for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding, see the Dietary Guidelines or

If You Are Considering Omega-3 Supplements

  • Do not use omega-3 supplements to replace conventional care or to postpone seeing a doctor about a health problem.
  • Omega 3 supplements can interact with medicine that affects blood clotting.
  • Fish liver oils (which are not the same as fish oils) contain vitamins A and D as well as omega-3 fatty acids; these vitamins can be toxic in high doses.
  • Consult your health care provider before using omega-3 supplements. If you are allergic to fish or shellfish; or if you are considering giving a child an omega-3 supplement, it is especially important to consult your (or your child’s) health care provider.

Take home message

Consider eating fish and other seafood (if your not allergic of course). The health benefits of omega-3 dietary supplements are still unclear. If we could absolutely, positively say that the benefits of eating seafood comes entirely from omega-3 fats, then downing fish oil pills would be an alternative to eating fish. But it’s more than likely that you need the entire orchestra of fish fats, vitamins, minerals, and supporting molecules. The same holds true of other foods. Taking a handful of supplements is no substitute for the wealth of nutrients you get from eating fruits, vegetables, and whole grains.

Next time you go grocery shopping and you decide to include fish in your grocery cart but not sure what to do with it? Try this BBQ salmon burger recipe, Pinterest also has a wealth of fish recipes to choose from!


  2. Vannice G, Rasmussen H. Position of the academy of nutrition and dietetics: dietary fatty acids for healthy adults. J Acad Nutr Diet. 2014;114(1):136-53.
  3. Filion KB, El Khoury F, Bielinski M, et al. Omega-3 fatty acids in high-risk cardiovascular patients: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders. 2010;10:24.
  4. Kwak SM, Myung S-K, Lee YJ, et al. Efficacy of omega-3 fatty acid supplements (eicosapentaenoic acid and docosahexaenoic acid) in the secondary prevention of cardiovascular disease. A meta-analysis of randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled trials. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2012;172(9):686–694.
  5. Rizos EC, Ntzani EE, Bika E, et al. Association between omega-3 fatty acid supplementation and risk of major cardiovascular disease events. A systematic review and meta-analysis.JAMA. 2012;308(10):1024–1033.

FDA New Labeling Rules Go Into Effect Nationwide

nutrition label

As a response to the Affordable Care Act and with the help of lobbying and advocates from the public, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced its rules for nationwide nutritional labeling yesterday. FDA now requires all food establishments and vending machines with 20 locations or more to post the amount of calories on their menus; this includes alcoholic beverages as well. Other nutritional information such as total fat, protein, and sodium must be made available upon request. Many Americans frequently eat and drink outside of the home and now people will have clear information about the foods they eat.

This is an important step towards improving public health. While no single action can prevent obesity, many organizations, communities and federal agencies are making an effort to combat the obesity epidemic. The new rules are supported by both the National Restaurant Association and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics so that consumers have the tools to make the best choices for them.

New York City adopted similar guidelines in 2006. Other large cities have followed suit.  McDonald’s and a few other large chains already post their calorie counts in most locations. But this is the first law that makes calorie listing mandatory across the country. It has taken four years since the bill was signed into law for the FDA to finalize its recommendations into guidelines. Companies now have one year to comply.




Nutrition In The Community

In the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity. More than one-third of U.S. adults (34.9%) and 17% of children (2-18 years) are obese. Obesity increases your risk of heart disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer, some of which are the leading causes of preventable death.

Last week I had the pleasure of attending the Dupage County, Forward Together We Will Coalition meeting. This program is comprised of leaders in communities, schools, healthcare, faith, and businesses that aim to combat the obesity epidemic by changing policies and environment so children and families in Dupage County Illinois can have and maintain a healthy lifestyle.

Where does Colorado stand with obesity?

While Colorado may be touted as America’s “leanest” state, we are not immune to the growing prevalence of obesity.


  • 58% of Colorado adults are overweight and obese and 21.3% are obese.
  • If trends continue, only 33% of Colorado adults will be a healthy weight by 2020.
  • Although we are the leanest state, a significant proportion of the population is overweight or obese.


  • 23% of Colorado children (ages 2-14) are overweight or obese.
  • With a ranking of 23rd in the nation, Colorado’s childhood obesity rate is rising at the second-fastest rate of increase in the nation.




In 2009, Colorado spent $1.637 billion treating diseases and conditions related to obesity.

downloadLiveWell Colorado aims to make Colorado the healthiest state in the nation. Some of the initiatives includes but not limited to:

  • Farm to school aims to connect school’s, including students, staff, and parents, to healthy, local foods by using local foods and providing food and nutrition education.
  • The Colorado Safe Routes aims to maximize and promote opportunities for children to safely walk and bike to and from
  • Denver Urban Gardens addresses the socio-economic barriers to accessing healthy,
    affordable food and receiving nutrition and gardening education. Three target areas are Baker, La Alma/Lincoln Park, and Sun Valley neighborhoods, which are diverse, lower income neighborhoods with high need populations.
  • Go, Slow, Whoa program is a cafeteria promotional program that encourages elementary children and parents to make healthy food choices in 18 Aurora Public Schools and 10 Cherry Creek Schools. In 2012, the schools earned the USDA Healthier US School Challenge Bronze Award.
  • Food for Thought is a program designed to raise student awareness of the food system and how their food choices impact personal health as well as the world around them.
  • DENVER B-CYCLE PARTNERSHIP, one of the largest country’s municipal bike sharing programs, provides bike access by getting people out of their cars to experience the city while being physically active. Low income residents can receive funding to participate in the program.

Over the course of the dietetic internship I have developed a passion for public health because these programs take risks, aim to educate and improve communities, address disparities, and are passionate to help those in need and make a difference. Check out what LiveWell Colorado is doing in your local community (or another program that takes to your liking). Not only can you benefit from the resources offered so you can live a healthy lifestyle, but get involved and support the initiatives so you can become the change you wish to see in the world!

Healthy People 2020

By April Irvine