A 5-year Goal to Transition the ONC Health IT Certification Program’s Testing Portfolio

Throughout its seven-year history, the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology’s (ONC) Health IT Certification Program (Program) has evolved in many ways, including improvements that enhanced the Program’s integrity, transparency, and efficiency. Central to the Program’s administration is the use of electronic, automated testing tools for health information technology (health IT). These […]

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Is Smelling Your Food Making You Fat?

Is smelling your food making you fat? Smell and metabolism may be more closely connected than we realize, a new study suggests.

 

Researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, temporarily eliminated the sense of smell in adult mice and found that obese smell-deficient mice shed serious weight, slimming down to a sleek physique even while eating a high-fat diet. Meanwhile, mice who retained their sense of smell ate the very same amount of fatty food (and moved around the same amount) as the smell-deficient mice and packed on the weight, ballooning to twice their previous weight, the researchers say.

 

A third group of mice with a super sharp sense of smell — super smellers — were also fed the same amount of fatty food. Guess what happened to them? Yep. They bulked up even more on the high-fat diet than the mice with normal senses of smell.

 

The research suggest that our ability to smell food goes beyond just helping us find and assess it. It may play an active role in metabolism, affecting the way our body contends with calories – rewiring our brain to signal whether to burn fat or store it.

 

One theory about what’s going on here is that because we are less sensitive to smell after we have eaten than when we are hungry, removing the sense of smell tricks the body into thinking it has already eaten and doesn’t need the calories it is taking in, making it free to burn them.

 

So might the link between smell and weight hold true for humans, as well as mice? “It has a good chance,” Andrew Dillin, the molecular and cell biologist who led the study, tells Healthy Eats. “We know that smell is linked to hunger and satiety in humans. When hungry, our sense of smell increases and after eating our sense of smell decreases…so I think it will be conserved.”

 

Alas, simply holding your nose when eating won’t help you shed pounds. Working with the mice, the scientists used gene therapy to temporarily eliminate the neurons that sense odorants. (Don’t worry; the olfactory neurons grew back in about three weeks and the mice could go back to their normal smell-sensing selves.)

 

However, “It will be interesting to ask if obese people can be stratified based on their ability to smell. Perhaps there is a population of obese humans that are super smellers,” Dillin says. “Sensory perception, or how we perceive our calories, could have a profound impact upon health in some individuals.”

 

And that’s nothing to sniff at.

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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What’s the Deal With Electrolytes, Anyway?

You know how sports drinks – your Gatorades and your PowerAde, and their curiously colorful ilk – are always going on about all the electrolytes they’ll help you recover after a workout? While some people debate whether that’s true, others wonder what an electrolyte even is.

 

Because we’ve been hearing about them forever, we may be afraid to ask. Now we don’t have to be. The American Chemical Society and PBS Digital Studios have teamed up on a video that fills us all in.

 

According to the video, electrolytes are nutrients that we usually take in through the foods we eat. While regular old table salt (sodium chloride) is the most common electrolyte in our bodies, others include potassium, magnesium, calcium and phosphate.

 

These electrolytes – positive and negative ions – control the flow of water and nerve impulses in our bodies. We need the proper balance of electrolytes to maintain our health at a cellular level and keep our hearts, lungs and brains functioning. We lose electrolytes when we sweat, and if we lose too many, our bodies can run into major problems performing basic physiological functions like maintaining blood pressure, regular heartbeat, etc.

 

However, even though electrolytes are key, sports drinks may not be the best way for most of us to replenish electrolytes after a regular workout, the video warns. That is, in part, because most of us can safely rely on the electrolytes we take in from the foods we eat…and also because sports drinks can be seriously sugary. (So much for all that work you did to burn calories!) Good food sources of sodium include canned tuna, salted nuts and pickles, while tomatoes, bananas, potatoes and yogurt are good sources of potassium.

 

“If you’re working out for an hour or so, water will keep you hydrated and you probably don’t need those extra electrolytes or sugars,” the ACS suggests in the video.

 

However, in cases where you’re doing serious exercise for an extended period of time – like, say, running a marathon – sports drinks, and the electrolytes they promise, may be worth the calories, the ACS allows. No need to sweat the sugar.

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Buyer Beware: The Dangers of Confusing Food with Supplements

Are you looking for the magic pill for weight loss, increased energy or anything else that ails you? You aren’t alone. While the draw of dietary supplements is strong and the claims compelling – don’t be fooled – these products are not the same as food. For example, a recent study identified green tea extract as a potentially dangerous ingredient. While sipping on green tea can benefit health, the supplemental form commonly found in weight loss and bodybuilding supplements has been linked to many cases of liver damage. Here are 4 other supplements that are much more dangerous than their food-based counterparts.

 

Why Supplements Can Be So Dangerous

Unlike foods and medications, the dietary supplement industry has very little FDA oversight. For this reason, many products sold on store shelves and online are manufactured without proper safety testing. These dangers may be the culprit for a dramatic uptick in liver disease over the last decade. Health conscious consumers are rightfully confused. When a nutrient gets attention for its health benefits, it’s logical to look for more from a supplement, but this can do more harm than good. While there is a time and place for supplements when a true deficiency has been detected, some of the most popular nutrients out there can treat your body very differently when taken in supplement form. The good news is, however, it’s spectacularly hard to eat your way into toxicity if you stick to the whole food sources.

 

Red Yeast Rice

Touted for its cholesterol lowering properties, this supplement has made the Consumer Reports list of 15 Supplement Ingredients to Always Avoid. Not only can it negatively affect the action of cholesterol-lowering prescription drugs, it may also affect proper function of the muscles, kidneys and liver.

 

Iron

Your body relies heavily on iron for healthy blood. According to the National Institutes of Health, populations at risk for deficiency include infants, children, teen girls and both pregnant and pre-menopausal women. Eating iron rich foods like dried fruits, fortified cereals, dark-meat poultry and red meat can help you meet those daily needs, while supplements can be toxic to the liver.  For this reason, if you choose to take a supplement monitor blood levels regularly and work with your doctor and registered dietitian to establish a proper supplement dosage.

 

Vitamin A

This essential nutrient is found in red and orange fruits and veggies as well as milk, cheese and meat. The animal based sources are known as retinol and high doses from supplements can cause skin changes, liver problems and birth defects in pregnant women.

 

Vitamin B6

Lots of folks reach for B vitamins like B6 to help boost energy and brain function, but the truth is only calories from food will truly give you energy and nutrients the body needs. Large doses of B6 can lead to nerve damage when taken for long periods of time. Since this nutrient may appear in many different supplements, it’s vitally important to take inventory of all the supplements you are taking. Vitamin B6 can be found in a wide variety of foods including chickpeas, chicken, potatoes, cottage cheese, nuts, raisins, tofu, rice and watermelon.

 

Dana Angelo White, MS, RD, ATC, is a registered dietitian, certified athletic trainer and owner of Dana White Nutrition, Inc., which specializes in culinary and sports nutrition.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Market Watch: Cherries

Sweet, tangy and conveniently bite-sized, cherries are one of the most reliable treats of summer. Beginning in June and ending in late August, the cherry season outlasts that of the other stone fruits and berries at the market. That’s because there are dozens of varieties that ripen at different times, ensuring a plentiful supply all summer long. Unlike peaches or nectarines, cherries are always sold tree-ripened, meaning that you’ll never have to sit around waiting for just the right moment to eat them. Sweet cherries range from golden with a tinge of red to deep purple and nearly black. The most popular variety is the Bing, but other common types include the Rainier, Brooks, Sweetheart and Queen Anne. The most popular sour, or tart cherry is the

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, which is harder to find fresh and is often made into juice, or sold frozen and canned. Happily, cold-tolerant cherries are grown in many regions of the country, from the Northwest and upper Midwest to the East coast. That means there’s usually a plentiful supply at roadside stands, farmer’s markets and grocery stores near you.

 

Cherry Facts

Low in calories, all types of cherries contain pectin, a type of soluble fiber, which helps to lower cholesterol. They’re also a good source of vitamin C. Lately, it’s tart cherries that have received the most attention for their health benefits. Containing powerful antioxidants called anthocyanins (the compounds that give them their bright red hue), tart cherries have been shown to help reduce the inflammation associated with arthritis, gout and muscle pain after exercise.

No matter the variety, look for cherries that are firm and shiny with bright green stems. If possible, taste one, and, if you have the patience, select cherries one by one instead of grabbing handfuls. Reject any that are bruised, soft, or small.

Refrigerate them in a covered container in the fridge for up to a week and rinse them under cold water just before eating. If using cherries in recipes, you may want to pit them. With a paring knife, slice them in half and pop out the pits with the tip, or use a cherry pitter for the job. In a pinch, you can also use a paper clip to pry out the pits. (First bend back the long end, and use the other end as a scoop).

 

What to Do with Cherries 

Although they’re delicious eaten by the handful, cherries shine in all manner of desserts. From the classic French clafoutis to all-American pies, cobblers, and crisps, cherries are a baker’s dream. But beyond desserts, cherries are easily incorporated into appetizers, salads, and simple sauces for chicken, pork or fish.

To add a hint of sweetness to a salad of peppery greens like arugula or watercress, top with slivered fresh cherries and sliced almonds. Or, mixed halved or quartered cherries into a grain salad made with bulgur or quinoa, chopped walnuts, crumbled feta cheese and fresh herbs. For a quick and unusual appetizer, roast pitted cherries at high heat until beginning to caramelize, about 15 minutes, then spoon onto fancy crackers spread with goat cheese. Serve sprinkled with lots of cracked black pepper and chopped rosemary. Cherries are also delicious in a fresh salsa served over grilled fish: Combine roughly chopped cherries with minced red onion, cilantro, and Serrano peppers and season with a squeeze of lime juice. Or, for a quick-cook sauce that’s divine spooned over pork tenderloin or chicken, sauté shallots and fresh ginger in olive oil, add halved cherries and red wine, and simmer until the fruit is just tender.

You don’t have even crank up the oven to use cherries in desserts. Instead, whip up a quick, (and healthy) cherry-cheesecake parfait: Whisk together part-skim ricotta and cream cheese and sweeten to taste with honey. Spoon the mixture into pretty glasses and top with pitted cherries that have been cooked until tender with a few tablespoons of water. Serve sprinkled with a handful of granola. For a frozen treat, puree sweet or tart cherries with lemon juice and sugar to taste, then pour into a baking dish and freeze about 6 hours, scraping the mixture every once in a while with a fork until fluffy.

If you still haven’t gotten your fill of cherries, it’s easy to extend the season. Freeze whole or pitted cherries on a baking sheet until solid, then transfer to freezer bags and store up to 6 months. Then, simply use as you would fresh cherries in recipes. Here are a few more ideas to get you cooking:

 

Frozen Fruit Smoothies

Cherry Ricotta Cheesecake

Banana-Cherry Custard Muffins

Gluten-Free Grilled Cherry Cobbler

 

Abigail Chipley is a freelance recipe developer, writer and cooking teacher who lives in Portland, Oregon.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Drinking Tea May Bring Deeper Benefits Than You Realized

Coffee, tea or … well, both have their fans. But only one of them is traditionally drunk with crumpets at teatime, so, hey, tea definitely has that in its favor.

 

What’s more, a new study suggests that drinking tea, especially for women, could actually affect us at a genetic level and modulate our risk for certain diseases, especially cancer. The results were somewhat different for coffee. Big ups for tea then.

 

“Previous studies have reported health benefits of tea and the aim of our study was to investigate if tea consumption lead to epigenetic changes on the DNA, which might be one of the mechanisms behind these health effects,” the study’s lead author, Weronica Ek, a researcher at department of immunology, genetics and pathology in the Science for Life Laboratory at Uppsala University, in Sweden, tells Healthy Eats. “We did find epigenetic changes in women, but not in men, drinking tea.”

 

Ek says the study suggests that the changes may be one of the factors behind tea’s health benefits, but adds that it’s too soon to tell precisely how or even whether the changes affect our health. It’s also not clear why, exactly, or again, even whether, tea may affect men and women differently, how the kind of tea people drink may factor in, whether it’s simply a matter of healthy people choosing to drink tea over coffee, and the role that other elements, such as whether or not people added milk to their tea, may play. “Further research is needed to confirm how (or if) these changes affect our health,” she cautions.

 

As for whether people should choose tea over coffee, Ek won’t say. “I would suggest that people drink the beverage that they enjoy,” she demurs. So there you have it, coffee fans. You’re good to go.

 

Nevertheless, Ek’s study provides yet another piece of evidence pointing to potential health benefits from drinking tea.

 

“Tea, specifically green tea, has been reported to have a host of health benefits, including protection against cancer, heart health, diabetes and metabolic syndrome,” Elizabeth Ann Shaw, MS, RDN, CLT, nutrition communications consultant @ShawSimpleSwaps, tells Healthy Eats, citing a National Institute of Health literature review on the topic. “Although further research is needed on larger sample sizes and populations, it’s exciting to see there are other benefits outside of a great, refreshing beverage.”

 

Shaw also notes that both black and green tea contain antioxidants, which are key to ridding our bodies of the free radicals that can “wreak havoc” on our health. “Just like fruits and vegetables, tea is another great addition to increase your antioxidant intake to help boost your immunity, too,” she says.

 

Still, Shaw warns, although drinking tea may be beneficial, it’s important to be mindful of the caffeine you may be taking in as you sip it — unless it’s decaffeinated — and any added sugar.

 

“Most bottled teas on the market contain added sugar that can easily add up,” she says. “Choose natural brewed teas and add flavor, if desired, with lemon wedges.”

 

Pinkies up!

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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Are Mangoes Really the “King of Fruits?”

So many “superfoods,” so little time. We know. But when the superfood in question is as juicy and pulpy-perfect as a mango (mmmm … mangoes), it’s worth paying attention.

 

Research suggests mangoes may have a variety of health benefits, including, according to two recent studies, partly funded by the National Mango Board conducted by researchers at Texas A&M University and Oklahoma State University, possibly reducing the risk of chronic inflammation and metabolic disorders.

 

“Eating mangoes provides the body with a wide variety of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants as well as dietary fiber,” says Emily Kyle, MS, RDN, owner of Emily Kyle Nutrition.

 

The fruits are packed with vitamins A and C and are a good source of vitamin B6, as well as the minerals potassium and magnesium, Kyle says. What’s more, she notes, the antioxidants in mangoes may offer protection against some cancers, including breast, colon and prostate.

 

Kyle, who was not involved with the recent studies, says mangoes can rightfully be considered a “superfruit” or even a “king of fruits.”

 

“They may help lower bad cholesterol levels in the body, prevent and reduce the incidence of constipation with their high fiber content, and may even be able to improve gut health with their unique enzymes,” she says.

 

And of course, they are delicious — enjoyable straight up as well as when in everything from slaw to salsa, salad to smoothies. Kyle especially enjoys eating them for breakfast over plain Greek yogurt. (Check out her gorgeously photogenic Immune Boosting Tropical Breakfast Bowl.)

 

Kyle warns that eating mangoes is “not a ‘cure all’ or a ‘magic pill’ for good health.” But as part of an overall balanced diet, she notes, “they no doubt provide exceptional nutritional benefits.”

 

Bring on the golden-orange tropical orbs!

 

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

*This article was written and/or reviewed by an independent registered dietitian nutritionist.

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