Diet Affects Prostate Cancer Risk

Prostate cancer is the second-leading cause of cancer-related deaths in men.  Research suggests what you eat or choose not to eat may help in prevention.

Genetics account for only an estimated 5 to 10 percent of prostate cancer  risk, according to the American Cancer Society. Age increases risk, and ethnic  background also plays a role. Men with a first-degree relative diagnosed with  prostate cancer before age 65 and African-American men are at double the risk,  and perhaps this sub population should be extra vigilant with their diets.

The dietary factors linked with increased risk of prostate cancer are red  meat, dietary fat, saturated fat, dairy products and too much calcium. Factors  that lower risk appear to be plant foods high in carotenoids, lycopenes and  antioxidants like soy, fiber and fruit.

Men who consumed red meat (beef, pork or lamb) at least five times per week  had more than double the risk than those who had it less than once per week in  Harvard’s Physician’s Health study of almost 15,000 men. Other studies find  daily meat consumption to triple risk.

Nitrate-preserved cold cuts and charbroiled beef also appear detrimental  because they contain chemical compounds that affect DNA and cancer progression.  Consider substituting turkey or veggie burgers for beef burgers; chicken or  turkey sausage for pork sausage; hummus or tuna for cold cuts in sandwiches; and  vegetarian soy crumbles (found in the freezer section) for ground beef in chili  or meat sauce recipes. And try choosing red meat once a week or less.

This one change can help in other ways. For example, it will likely lower  total and saturated fat, which promotes production of sex hormones that affect  the prostate, and may create room on the plate for factors that offer protection  like fruits, vegetables, soy and fiber.

Excess milk, dairy products and calcium could be detrimental, too. Studies  find milk in excess of two glasses per day, high-fat dairy products like cheese  and ice cream and taking a calcium supplement raises the risk of prostate  cancer.

Dairy products may affect risk because of an increase in insulin growth  factor, which promotes tumor growth. Excess calcium needs vitamin D for  absorption, which pulls this important gene-expression nutrient out of the  bloodstream and away from helping DNA in cells.

Like red meat, consider limiting full-fat cheese and ice cream, and perhaps  try soy milk or vanilla soy milk as a substitute for cow’s milk. In one study,  drinking just one glass of soy milk daily decreased the incidence of prostate  cancer risk by 70 percent. Men should not take a calcium supplement unless  evaluated by a doctor or dietitian.

What to eat?

Eat two or more fruits daily, including tomatoes and tomato products;  generous portions of vegetables, including onions, broccoli, cauliflower and  other cruciferous vegetables as well as carrots, sweet potatoes and other  carotenoid-rich varieties. Also eat whole grains, lean proteins like fish or  poultry and vegetarian meals made from beans or soy.

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and  nutrition. Send your questions to her at  This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor  before changing your diet.

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Meal Planning Leads to Better Health

To achieve a goal, making a plan can help. This is true if you desire to eat healthier, too.

We plan for vacations. We plan to complete tasks at work. We help children plan for a successful school year. So why do so few plan a healthy eating routine? Maybe it’s time to sharpen the pencil and try out a meal plan.

In the midst of afternoon chaos, it can be challenging to think of something healthy to make for dinner. This is when parents cave and call for takeout – greasy food devoid of beneficial vegetables.

But consider this: For the same amount of time it would take to order and pick up takeout, you can grill chicken, steam fresh broccoli and prepare a baked potato cooked-to-order in the microwave. More fiber, more natural vitamins, less saturated and trans fat, and you likely saved money.

People tend to buy takeout when they are in-the-moment hungry and don’t have something available to make quickly. But if the decision has already been made thanks to a meal plan, and the food is close to being ready and the choice becomes a no-brainer.

To make a meal plan, start by outlining your anticipated week’s worth of nutritious, balanced meals before going to the supermarket. Then shop from that list. It could look something like this:

Monday: steak fajitas and vegetable salad

Tuesday: grilled chicken, sweet potato, salad

Wednesday: chicken chili made with corn, salsa and chopped veggies

Thursday: salmon, asparagus, brown rice

Friday: turkey meatballs in a slow cooker, pasta, broccoli

Saturday: turkey tips, quinoa, spinach salad

Sunday: shrimp over pasta, roasted vegetables

A weekly meal plan helps to reduce food waste and prep time. If vegetables are slated for certain days, they are likely to be eaten rather than found molding in the refrigerator a week later.

If you wander the market and buy things with the notion, “Maybe I’ll make squash this week,” the thought is easily forgotten later. But if you write it down and post your plan within sight, it is a reminder that initiates action.

Aim to prep more perishable items, like a large salad, at the beginning of the week. If rinsed and dried well, it will last for a few meals.

Use some leftovers for the next meal. Grilled chicken, for example, can be tossed into a slow cooker for chicken chili, perhaps to be used on a night known to be too busy for cooking.

Buy a few “back-up” items to be ready for changes. For example, if you’re unable to pick up fresh fish, frozen fish filets can be substituted. Breaded chicken tenders could be used if your chicken is not defrosted.

Be realistic; try new or complicated recipes on days when you have time to burn.

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at

This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.

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Fructose and Added Sugars

Q: Should I avoid high-fructose corn syrup? — Tom in  Hanover, Mass.

A: Limiting products with high-fructose corn syrup is a good  idea, but don’t single out that one sweetener. It is important to limit all  added sugars.

High-fructose corn syrup, an added sweetener in food products, contains 55  percent fructose, a short chain carbohydrate. Research finds fructose is  metabolized differently than other sugars. It gets shuttled to the liver,  converted to triglycerides, or fat, and sent to the bloodstream, causing  triglyceride levels to rise, which can increase the risk of diabetes and heart  disease.

Other studies find fructose blunts levels of leptin, a hormone that  regulates appetite, which can lead to overeating and weight gain, and this  weight gets stored in the belly. Too much fructose is also linked to gout.

Ordinary table sugar, or sucrose, contains 50 percent fructose. Other  sweeteners, such as apple and grape juice concentrates, molasses and honey, all  contain at least 50 percent fructose, and they should be limited, too. Look to  the ingredient list on the food label to determine the type of added  sweetener.

Soft drinks are the No. 1 source of added sugars in the American diet.  Research finds even as little as one soda a day increases the risk of heart  disease and metabolic syndrome, a precursor to diabetes.

According to the Corn Refiners Association, sodas are supposed to contain no  more than 55 percent fructose and 45 percent glucose. But when researchers  pulled soft drinks from shelves in California and analyzed them, they found  surprising results:

Pepsi, Coke and Sprite contained “really high fructose corn syrup” with 65  percent fructose. The results, recently published in the journal Obesity, could  explain why soft drinks appear to be particularly detrimental to health.

Although sweeteners with fructose have special health considerations,  over-indulging in any type of sugar is a problem. In the United States, we  consume 20 percent more added sugars than we did in the 1970s, which translates  into an extra 400 calories, enough to cause alarming rates of weight gain.  Excess weight alone, regardless of whether it comes from fructose, increases the  risk of diabetes and heart disease.

The bottom line is all sweeteners should be limited in the diet. The  American Heart Association recommends women should consume no more than 100  calories in added sugar daily and men no more than 150 calories.

A 12-ounce soda contains approximately 150 calories of added sugar, and  other sweetened beverages, such as fruit drinks, juices, sports drinks,  sweetened teas and coffee drinks, can add up, too.

Check grams of sugar on the food label or online to determine the calorie  amount in beverages, cookies, muffins, cakes, cereal and other products. Each  gram of sugar is the equivalent of four calories. For example, a cup of lemonade  containing 23 grams of sugar will supply 92 calories of added sugar to your  diet, and a granola bar with 10 grams will contribute 40 calories.

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and  nutrition. Send your questions to her at  This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor  before making any changes in your diet.

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Organic Milk

Q: Is organic milk better? — Kerri D. from Duxbury, Mass.

A: Years ago, this question would have been hard to answer. But with tighter regulations, data collection and scientific study, organic milk is emerging as a better product.

The “certified organic” stamp on a milk carton means the producer has met the following criteria:

– No hormones have been used to promote growth.

– No antibiotics have been used.

– Cows have been fed 100 percent organic feed, which reduces pesticides in the milk.

– Cows have been grass fed for at least 120 days out of the year.

Organic farmers must document their organic plan, and this is verified annually with an on-site inspection from the United States Department of Agriculture.

Today, many major brands of non-organic milk do not use growth hormones, and they make this pledge on the carton, similar to organic in this regard.

Antibiotic residue in milk should not be a concern to the consumer, either, because it is not allowed in any milk, organic or not. This is strictly enforced with testing at the receiving station, and whole batches are discarded if any residue is found.

However, some fear antibiotic use is promoting resistant bacteria and none should be allowed on organic farms. Veterinarians argue responsible use of antibiotics. Separating sick cows from the herd until they are well, as is done now, is more humane because it keeps sick “organic” cows from suffering needlessly without antibiotics, and it keeps farmers from slaughtering them to maintain an “organic” herd.

A good reason to buy organic milk is to limit exposure to pesticide chemicals. Studies have found non-organic milk has more than four times the amount of chemical residue as organic. In addition, ingestion of substances like DDE –– a by-product of now-banned DDT –– and others is related to skin and respiratory problems, infertility and, in the long-term, increased rates of Parkinson’s disease and certain cancers.

Organic milk comes from cows fed 100 percent organic feed, which means it was produced without using pesticides. Organic milk has more beneficial nutrients, too, according to one large study conducted in England at Newcastle University.

Researchers in England analyzed organic milk from 25 farms and found it had 67 percent more antioxidants and vitamins than non-organic milk. The organic milk also had higher levels of health-promoting omega-3 fatty acids and 60 percent more conjugated linoleic acid, a nutrient that has been shown to shrink tumors.

The nutritional quality of the organic milk was higher in the summer, when cows grazed more, and researchers attributed this to their diet of fresh grass and clover. The organically farmed cows in this study ate more than 80 percent of their diet from grazing on grass, compared with 37 percent for the conventional cows.

But does organic milk in the U.S. have the same nutritional profile? A year ago, organic farms did not need to meet a grazing regulation. But last summer, the USDA enhanced its definition of “organic” to only include milk from cows that have been grass-fed for at least 120 days per year.

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at

This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.

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Mediterranean Diet Helps You Age Healthfully

Choose a Mediterranean style diet to stay healthy as you age. According to Oldways, a nonprofit organization that evaluates dietary patterns worldwide, research shows this type of eating slows brain aging and reduces the risk of Alzheimer’s, diabetes, heart disease, some cancers, macular degeneration and periodontal disease.

Interest in Mediterranean foods began with the Seven Countries study completed shortly after World War II. It examined the health of almost 13,000 middle-age men in the United States, Japan, Italy, Greece, the Netherlands, Finland, and then-Yugoslavia. The results clearly showed that people who ate a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, beans and fish were the healthiest and had the lowest rates of heart disease and stroke, says Oldways.

The health of residents in Crete, Greece, in particular, exceeded that of U.S. residents in the study; researchers attributed this to their diet. With subsequent research came an understanding that a Mediterranean type diet – higher in (good) fats and lower in red meat and refined carbohydrates, like muffins, cookies, and white bread – could promote lifelong good health.

Scientists and public health officials seem to agree, based on the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Gone is advice to follow a low-fat diet. Instead, Americans are advised to center their diet on basic healthy foods – fruits, vegetables, whole grains and seafood, with some good fats (nuts, seeds, avocado, olives and vegetable oils) included – advice remarkably similar to what was discovered half a century ago and what Oldways has been preaching for over a decade.

According to the Dietary Guidelines, we are eating too many solid fats, sugars, refined grains, sodium, and saturated fat, much of it from packaged foods, and this is affecting the health of our nation. We should limit grain-based desserts, breads and sugary drinks and eat wholesome foods with omega-3’s from good fats. This boosts our intake of beneficial nutrients that help keep cholesterol, insulin and blood sugar levels normal.

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New Front of Package Food Labels

In response to first lady Michelle Obama’s call to end childhood obesity, the food industry has developed a voluntary labeling system for packaged grocery items.

But the industry’s Nutrition Keys initiative misses the boat on the most significant key: helping consumers understand calories and weight gain.

An estimated 40 percent of Americans do not read food labels, presumably because the labels are cumbersome and hard to interpret. The first lady challenged the food industry and government agencies in March 2010 to develop simple nutrient information to help consumers better manage their health and weight.

The goal: quick, front-of-package references for key nutrients –– not a replacement of the complete nutrition facts label.

Most health experts believe calories, saturated fat and sodium are the primary nutrients Americans should limit in their diet and, thus, those should be easier to understand on food packaging.

The Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute, trade organizations for the food industry, launched Nutrition Keys, their voluntary program for front-of-package labeling, when they could not agree on labeling with the FDA, which is expected to present its version later this year.

Four key nutrients –– calories, saturated fat, sodium and sugar –– will be displayed per serving in an easy-to-read format. Smaller packages may list only one key nutrient.

Two additional keys –– “nutrients to encourage” –– may also be listed. They could include potassium, fiber, calcium, iron, protein and vitamins A, C and D.

Health experts are disappointed with the food industry’s decision to add “nutrients to encourage” to the front label because they say that information could mislead consumers. For example, prominently pointing out that a chocolate chip cookie contains 50 percent of the daily value for calcium implies it is a healthy choice.

The GMA says it developed Nutrition Keys because it shares in the first lady’s goal of “solving childhood obesity within a generation,” but its actions don’t add up.

For most nutrients like calcium and vitamin C, in addition to the actual value per serving, the Nutrition Keys will also display what percent of the daily value that number represents. But this information is not mandated for calories, making it difficult for consumers to determine if the calorie count in a product is excessive.

Aiming to garner support for its new program, the GMA claims similar front-of-package labeling is widely accepted in the United Kingdom. However, the percentage of average daily calories appears in the U.K. but not on all packages in the U.S., according to The Public Health Advocacy Institute.

Perhaps the food industry does not want its Nutrition Keys to unlock some secrets? If consumers saw that one serving of Breyers Ice Cream Poppers represented 24 percent of the percentage daily value for calories (2000) and two servings represented close to 50 percent of the daily value, they might think twice about buying this snack.

Fat chance that information will be volunteered on the label.

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.

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B Good

Just tried the B Good veggie burger with a side of grilled veggies. Yummy! and nutritious. Great option for a quick bite to eat.

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You Can Lose Weight and Keep it Off


We are an overweight nation that needs to lose weight to improve our health, but why try if “95 percent of dieters regain the weight lost”?

This disheartening myth is plastered all over the Internet. It is based on a small number of unrealistic diet studies done in a hospital or university setting that attract participants not reflective of the general population.

But a unique research study of Average Joes has encouraging news: People do lose weight and, more importantly, keep it off.

The National Weight Control Registry (NWCR) was established in 1994 to unravel the secrets of successful weight loss. It is the brain-child of two researchers – Rena Wing, Ph.D, from Brown Medical School, and James O. Hill, Ph.D, from the University of Colorado. Today, NWCR is the largest prospective study of long-term successful weight loss maintenance, tracking more than 5,000 people. Participants have lost an average of 66 pounds and have kept it off for 5 1 /2 years.

To enroll in the NWCR, participants must have lost at least 30 pounds and have kept it off for at least a year. Researchers track participants’ success at keeping weight off over time. These “successful losers” are not research subjects drinking low-calorie shakes in a lab. They are people who have found ways to keep off hundreds of pounds in their real-life situations, and we all could learn from them. For true inspiration, check out the success stories on the NWCR website.

One of the most important findings is that dieting alone does not lead to success in keeping weight off; it is essential to adopt an exercise routine and stick with it for life. Health care professionals, books, magazines and websites tend to miss the boat on this and emphasize dieting. While changing eating habits is necessary, the message needs to be loud and clear: You must also exercise to maintain a healthy weight.

Here are some interesting facts from the NWCR:

Weight losses have ranged from 30 to 300 pounds.

Some people have lost weight fast, others have lost weight over many years.

The average woman is 45 years old and weighs 145 pounds.

The average man is 49 years old and weighs 190 pounds.

98% of participants modified their food intake in some way to lose weight, but how they did it was not consistent; individuals found what worked for them.

55% received some sort of help to change their eating routine.

94% increased their physical activity; most walked.

How do they keep weight off? The majority continue to maintain a healthy diet and do high levels of activity.

78% eat breakfast every day

75% weigh themselves at least once per week

62% watch fewer than 10 hours of TV per week

90% exercise, on average, one hour per day

Joan Endyke is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in food and nutrition. Send your questions to her at

This column is not intended to diagnose or treat disease. Check with your doctor before making any changes in your diet.

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The facts about 5-hour Energy shots

5-hour Energy is a caffeinated drink with added vitamins and substances touted to be more beneficial than coffee in boosting alertness, but the claims are unsubstantiated and the product could pose some harm.

These cleverly marketed 2-ounce shots promise to increase focus without a subsequent crash. According to the commercials, the shots provide “beneficial nutrients found in everyday foods like avocado, bananas and broccoli,” suggesting it is superior to the lowly coffee bean.

According to The National Coffee Association, 54 percent of U.S. adults drink coffee daily and spends, on average, $164.71 a year on coffee. Living Essentials, the parent company of 5-hour Energy, is targeting this market –– and making a dent. The company claims more than 7 million people use 5-hour Energy drinks a week.

Marketing is aimed at stressed moms, shift workers, tired students and others. What’s lacking in the advertising is proof the stuff is worth three times the price of a cup of Joe.

The claims boast the drink doesn’t contain sugar like some coffees. However, it does have the artificial sweetener sucralose and the preservative sodium benzoate, which has been shown to decrease attention span in children in a study published in The Lancet.

The drink provides ‘super doses’ of some B vitamins: 8,333 percent of the recommended daily amount of B12; 2,000 percent of B6 and 150 percent of niacin.

According to the National Institutes of Health, there is no evidence B12 supplements increase energy or endurance, except in people with a deficiency, and B6 in amounts greater than 100 milligrams per day (the equivalent of three 5-hour Energy shots) can cause adverse effects like nerve damage to the arms and legs.

The upper limit for folic acid is 1,000 micrograms, which is equal to two and a half shots. Our government has been enriching grains with folic acid for a decade in an effort to prevent birth defects. At the same time, researchers have found cancer rates increasing and attribute this to too much folic acid. They warn adults who are not of childbearing age to avoid taking high doses of folic acid in supplement form.

The so-called “energy blend” also in the 5-hour Energy drink consists of amino acids and other substances needed in small amounts by the body. There is no credible evidence to support the claim they boost energy.

A healthy diet will provide all of the nutrients found in this drink with the added benefit of health-promoting phytonutrients found only in plant foods –– not isolated vitamins packaged into a drink.

The main factor that drives alertness in the 5-hour Energy drink is simply caffeine –– an amount equivalent to one cup of coffee. But, like vitamins, caffeine alone does not provide the beneficial phytonutrients found in whole coffee beans. Excessive intake of caffeine from any source can drive up blood pressure, which can adversely affect the heart.

Although 5-hour Energy has not been directly linked to heart problems, it would be wise to eat bananas and broccoli, enjoy your java and stay clear of 5-hour Energy shots.

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What’s New

Check back frequently for the latest news from Wicked Good Health.

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