COCONUT OIL : superfood or hype?

Can I just start out by saying that I really, really, really do not like Dr Oz.

Or rather, I dislike the outrageous claims he makes on national television without having the scientific evidence and clinical research to back them up.

Last year on his show, Dr Oz told us that “superpowers” are what coconut oil is full of.

…..what???? Where did you get this, Dr. Oz????! That’s a pretty bold statement considering how little solid research we actually have.

One of the things I am most proud of as a dietitian is that we are truly focused on evidence based research. We do not (or most of us, anyway) become swayed by the fads and claims of the media. When presenting nutritional information, we carefully highlight if things are “still being researched” and use words like “potential” and “possible”. That’s because we can’t make hard and fast claims off of one or two clinical trial or a few testimonies. You cannot make guarantees that may never actually come true. It’s just wrong, not fair to the general public, and an abuse of power.

That being said, there is a decent amount of research in progress on the effects of coconut oil on the body. Some of the trials are neutral, others are supporting the benefits, but there still ISN’T enough research to make an educated claim.

Let’s go over two of the most common claims:


Dr. George Cahill in the 60’s was the first to discover that the brain is actually able to use ketones for energy.

Why is this important?

Our brain , in normal conditions, uses glucose for energy to process information. During starvation, when our glucose supplies are depleted, our body uses its fat stores for energy and uses “ketones” instead of glucose. The problem in Alzheimer’s disease is that the brain starts to forget how to use glucose and begins to “starve”. In an ideal situation, the brain would switch to ketones for energy , avoid starvation and also the progression of disease, keeping mental function intact. Part of the reason that coconut oil has been toted as a “cure” for Alzheimer’s disease is that the oil is composed of 60% medium chain triglycerides (MCT’s) which are a faster metabolizing fat that produces small amounts of ketones when broken down for energy. The problem is, this small amount of ketone production from dietary intake alone is not enough to counteract the starvation of the brain because the levels are not high enough to make a substantial difference.

There ARE documented cases of individuals (google Dr Mary Newport and her husband Steve Newport, for example) who have testimonies to the benefits of coconut oil in combatting mental diseases. But, there just isn’t enough solid research to make a true, scientific claim. The studies available are preliminary at best.
The NIH is currently in the middle of a 3 year study to determine the effects of coconut oil on adults with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease. The study is set to conclude in December 2016. I’ll definitely be following up on this one.


This claim comes from the fact that coconut oil is primarily composed of MCT’s, like I mentioned earlier. This type of fat is more easily broken down by the liver and is a quicker energy source for the body. There is some indication that this type of fat produces a mild thermogenic (calorie-burning) effect when broken down for energy.

One particular study divided two groups of obese women into one group which consumed 30ml of coconut oil and another group which consumed 30ml of soybean oil. Both groups followed a reduced calorie diet and exercise program. The group who consumed the coconut oil experienced a reduction in abdominal fat.

Yet another study involving animals found that the group of animals consuming a controlled amount of MCT’s did not experience any difference in body fat loss compared to the group consuming a placebo oil.

Another study involving 30 adults did find that those adults who consumed coconut oil as a part of their diet and exercise program did experience, on average, more fat loss than their placebo counterparts.

There are multiple smaller studies performed on the effects of MCTs on fat loss, but many of them have limitations or just simply didn’t include enough information in their trials to come up with an educated result. More research is needed to come up with a conclusion.

The take away….
Even though there’s still alot of questions unanswered, I see no harm in substituting the fat in your diet with coconut oil. I would treat it just like you would any other calorie dense item: in moderation. I think coconut oil has alot of potentially promising benefits that we just need to take with a grain of salt, and I’m really looking forward to the results of the Clinical studies that are in progress to learn more.

Thanks for reading! Would love to hear any opinions, opposition or agreement.

My references and sources:

Mango Avocado Salad


One of my favorite things to do is make recipes I come across on Pinterest or random magazines. I have to really be in the mood to cook for no reason and I can usually get pretty inspired after a few minutes of scrolling. I actually found this recipe in Cosmopolitan magazine and I was surprised because Cosmo isn’t typically a place I go to for recipe inspiration. I made this the other day and it is super, super yummy! I only got to have a small amount of it, because when I came home *somebody* had eaten it all (Mom, that means you…).

I had to tweak the recipe a little bit because I found that the amount of liquid the recipe ended up calling for would have made it a SOUP, especially because the fruit releases juice on its own. The recipe originally called for 3\4 cup of greek yogurt, if you decide you want it to be a thinner consistency. Totally up to the individual, but less yogurt was my preference. The cayenne pepper was actually a nice little unexpected kick. I would really start with less and work your way up because it’s not supposed to be overly spicy. It cuts nicely through the tartness of the lime and the sweetness of the fruit.


1 lime
2 tbs Agave syrup
Two whole grapefruit
1 whole avocado
1 whole mango
Cayenne pepper to taste
1\2 cup plain greek yogurt


Slice the grapefruit, avocado, and mango into long thin pieces (discard of skin and rind).

In separate bowl, combine the juice from the lime, agave syrup, and 1\2 greek yogurt.

Arrange the grapefruit, avocado, and mango in alternating slices on a plate.

Gently spoon the yogurt\lime\agave mixture over the fruit slices.

Finally, sprinkle a TINY bit of cayenne pepper over the fruit. It doesn’t need to be much more than you would do as a garnish.


Approximately 4.

Dietitians get fat, too.



It’s been awhile.

I’ve been seriously lacking inspiration for a new post these past few weeks. A big reason for this is probably because I haven’t been on my A-game with taking care of myself. I’m a dietitian, I’m supposed to have that all under control, right? So I haven’t been able to bring myself to post anything. But then it hit me, maybe some people would appreciate hearing this, that dietitians struggle with the same things they’re teaching. That we are not perfect. That we wake up some mornings hungover and not able to fit into our pants. So here goes….

I gained weight. Too much of it. 17 pounds, to be exact.

I convinced myself the scale didn’t work, that it needed new batteries, that my boyfriend’s scale was actually the accurate one (the one that made me literally the same weight every time I stepped on it no matter how much wine I had last week… It’s in the trash now, by the way)

I kind of had to accept the facts when I couldn’t fit into my pants anymore.

I’m not fat by any means. But I know that the more unintended weight we gain as we get older, the more we put ourselves at risk for yucky diseases like diabetes, hypertension, cancer, etc. etc.

I decided to put down my pride and make this into a lesson learned for both myself and whoever is reading this blog of mine: so, what did I do wrong?

1.) I drank too much.
I don’t mean that I got drunk every night. But the CDC’s recommendation for women (defined as “moderate alcohol consumption”) is no more than 1 drink daily. Going by this recommendation, I drank too much. A bottle of wine is far too easy to polish off in two nights (a bottle of wine is 5 servings).

2.) I ate too many of my calories after dark.

It is very easy for me to control my portions and choose the right foods during the daytime hours. I experience very little temptation and I am often so busy with work that I am able to distract myself. It’s when I get home that I find myself starving and craving all the wrong foods. Over the winter months this became especially difficult.

3.) I snacked too much.
I. Picked. At. Everything. Boyfriend munching on chips? I had four or five of those. Bowl of popcorn at work? Handful of those. Cooking dinner? Spoonful here, forkful there. The worst part of this habit is, you don’t feel as if you are consuming much of anything so you subconsciously write off the calories. It is so easy to consume hundreds, even thousands of calories without even realizing it.

4.) I stopped working out.
Back in June, I sprained my ankle badly. I had been training for a race and took a bad step during a run. It took months to heal, and it wasn’t until November or December that I was pain free. I truly love to run, and not being able to do this for so long was extremely discouraging. Instead of taking up another low impact activity, I threw in the towel all together. This, combined with my fairly sedentary job, did not help the situation.

SO, what now?

Baby steps.

It’s not going to happen overnight, but the first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one in the first place! I’m not going on some crazy diet. I don’t believe in eliminating anything that you can’t keep up with for a lifetime. I’m going back to the basics. I already know what my downfalls are, and I’m addressing them directly:

1.) Moderation! I’m not giving up my wine by any stretch of the imagination. But, I am going to cut down considerably. The body really doesn’t know how to process alcohol except to store it as fat. That, coupled with the fact that when I drink I become magically hungry, practicing moderation will do me some good.

2.) I am going to make a conscious effort to stop picking. Chewing gum has worked for me in the past. I find that if you keep your mouth occupied , it keeps you from picking at food when you aren’t really hungry.

3.) Back to working out..I just picked up a yoga class recently. We meet once weekly, and my hope is that keeping up my flexibility will prevent me from becoming injured again when I build up the cardio to start running again. For now, only power walking for me.

4.) The kitchen is closed at night! Late night snacking will be cut down considerably. In the past I have set myself up for failure by not doing enough planning : I don’t eat enough during the day, and so when I come home, my body is all ready to make up the deficit. By making a conscious effort to eat enough of the right foods during the day, my body will not be crying for food when I’m trying to wind down for the day.

I hope at least someone benefited from this. Just know, you are not alone, and dietitians struggle too.

Potassium : the underdog nutrient


What is Potassium?

Potassium is an electrolyte in the body (like sodium, magnesium and chloride) that helps regulate the body’s intra-cellular functions by conducting electricity. One of the main purposes of this electrolyte is to regular muscle contractions, and your heart is one of your body’s biggest muscles.

What are the benefits of potassium?

There are many, but for the sake of this article I’m focusing on its role in preventing cardivascular disease. I am sure you have heard often that too much sodium (salt) will contribute to high blood pressure. This is because sodium constricts the blood vessels of the heart which in turn elevates the total pressure of the blood against the heart walls. High blood pressure is dangerous because it is a stepping stone for heart disease, which includes heart attacks and strokes. Potassium performs the exact opposite – it is a “vasodilator”, which means it RELAXES the blood vessels of the heart. In theory, potassium can help to counteract some of the negative effects of too much sodium in the diet. While sodium elevates blood pressure, potassium lowers it.

How much Potassium is enough?

The FDA recommends a DV – Daily Value (for a 2,000 calorie diet) of 3,500mg daily. Most people are unaware of what foods contain potassium, other than bananas. Potassium isn’t publicized as much as other nutrients\minerals in spite of its essential nature (such as Calcium, for example) which is why I call it the underdog nutrient. Here is a helpful table highlighting some good sources of potassium:


As you can see, bananas are on the list but they are well surpassed by lima beans, raisins, and spinach. Go figure! 🙂 Hopefully this short article raised your awareness of the importance of potassium and how powerful it is in counteracting excess sodium in the diet. It is one of the simplest ways to combat heart disease. I do feel that if potassium got as much publicity as sodium, it might be easier for the average consumer to make the connection between the two. Oh well, I guess that’s the RD’s job 🙂


Elite Fitness Plus

Pumpkin Banana Oat Smoothie

drop me in the water

This is a simple, nutritious smoothie you can whip up ahead of time for breakfast in the morning or for a snack. I generally prefer to eat my meals rather than drink them, but sometimes a smoothie hits the spot and this one is actually pretty filling. Provides a decent amount of protein & fiber for sustenance, and while it does contain sugar, none of it is added and it all comes from the milk and banana. You can add more liquid if it’s too thick for your taste.

I say to use a high powered blender because of the oats, but any blender will do. I use my Ninja and it does the trick.


1 whole banana

1\4 cup pumpkin puree (canned)

1 and 1\2 cups milk of choice (I used 2%)

Dash of cinnamon

1\2 cup old fashioned oats

Mix all ingredients in a high powered blender.

Makes about 2 8oz servings.


Serving size: 8oz
Calories: 223
Fat: 6g
Protein: 7.5g
Fiber: 4.5g
Sugar: 16g

The Paleo Diet



What is the Paleo diet?

It consists of anything that can be hunted, fished or gathered. This also means exclusion of the following : grains, dairy, legumes, sugar, salt. It is based on the premise that if we eat the way our ancestors eat, we will avoid the chronic diseases of our current generation such as obesity, diabetes, hypertension, etc, and will overall be healthier.

Generally, when a diet requires you to omit entire food groups, it is a huge red flag. There are plenty of proven health benefits to be found in both dairy AND whole grains. Low fat dairy has been suggested to aid weight loss benefits in addition to providing Vitamin D and Calcium. Whole grains have been proven to reduce the risk of heart disease and provide a great source of fiber. Exclusion of entire food groups (ones that have proven to provide more benefits than they do harm, for that matter!) also tends to make the meal plan hard to stick with.

Dairy and grains are not the source of our diseases – Americans tend to eat these, especially grains, in excess. Anything in excess will cause problems. Completely eliminating these food groups as a response to this is not the answer.

Another thought to consider…just because our ancestors ate a particular way does not mean that it’s good for us. Nutrition is a constantly evolving science and we are making new discoveries every day. What we know about the recommended dietary guidelines for Americans tells us that an average day for the Paleo diet is lacking in carbohydrates and exceeds the recommendations for protein and fat.

Elaborating on my previous point, how exactly did this author of the Paleo diet determine just what our “ancestors” ate?
Considering the following information, the premise of the book is a bit off:
Depending on the climate, the diet varied widely. Archeological scientist Christina Warinner goes into more detail in her TEDTalk, “Debunking the Paleo Diet.” The diet “has no basis in archeological reality.” Artic dwellers ate more meat; those in Mexico ate legumes, fruits, nuts, and beans and flowers. Their wild game consumption mostly included rabbits. Warmer climates had a higher plant consumption. My point being, that the diet of paleolithic times cannot be limited to what the author of the Paleo diet has specified. There were so many variations based on the climate that there is no “one diet” of this time period.

Am I completely against the Paleo diet?


I think it has a lot of wonderful components. It encourages the consumption of fruits and veggies, which the majority of Americans are lacking. It encourages the follower to avoid added sugars (recommendations are 10% or less of total calories) and excess salt.

Will you lose weight? Probably, but only if you work a calorie deficit into your plan.

If anything, I’d recommend taking the good aspects of the Paleo diet (avoiding added sugars, avoiding processed white flour, and loading up on fruits & veggies) and tweak the aspects of it that science really doesn’t support (dairy & grains are not bad, people.) What you end up with won’t really be the “Paleo” diet, but it’ll be a diet supported by science – more good for the long haul and less jumping on the fad diet bandwagon.

Resources used in the development of this article:

Ted Talks


Diet myth series #3: High fructose corn syrup is more harmful than sugar



Before I begin, I want to say I completely understand why the average consumer would believe that High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is somehow more “dangerous” than regular sugar. Any google search on the subject will bring up multiple results enforcing this belief. Many of these page results come from the media and from non-scientific sources. One of the beautiful things about being a dietitian is you learn to only trust evidence based claims, and you become very careful about what you believe when it comes to new research. It is very hard to sift through all of the information as an average consumer. This is a very hot topic in the media right now, so I thought it was perfect for my next diet myths post.

The claims against high fructose corn syrup are many. They include claims like, it causes diabetes and, your body cannot process it the way it processes sugar. The reality is that we don’t have enough experience with HFCS under our belts to fully understand the long term effects of high fructose corn syrup like we do sugar – HFCS was only invented in the 1960’s, where sugar has been in use for thousands of years. So there are still many studies to be done. But as for now, here’s what we know:

1.) High fructose corn syrup and sucrose (table sugar) are very similar in composition.

Per tablespoon, they contain roughly the same amount of calories.
They both consist of glucose & fructose in aproximately the same proportions.
The only difference between sucrose & glucose is that in HCFS, the fructose & glucose are merely “blended”, while in sugar, they are chemically bonded.

2.) HFCS does not cause obesity any more than does regular sugar.

High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is the latest to blame for the obesity epidemic. What people do not realize is that high fructose corn syrup is much cheaper than sugar and thus, is chosen over regular sugar by manufacturers to sweeten many foods. AKA, it’s everywhere! Excess consumption of ANYTHING, especially empty calories found in (any) sugar, will contribute to obesity through excess caloric consumption. This is not because HFCS is processed in your body any differently than sugar is, but because you’re likely consuming a large quantity of it , thus contributing to more calories than your body needs. There is no “special relationship” between high fructose corn syrup and obesity. Too much sugar can contribute to obesity, too.

3.) HFCS does not “cause” diabetes.

For that matter, neither does sugar consumption alone. Obesity is a risk factor for diabetes. Just like the point I made above, consuming too much of anything – whether it be sucrose or high fructose corn syrup, or anything else that has calories – can cause weight gain, making you more likely to develop Type 2 diabetes later on in life.

4.) Your body does not process HFCS any differently than sucrose.


photo and study credit: Science Direct

This study analyzed the effects of sucrose vs HFCS on the following: insulin (horomone that turns the food we eat into energy) ghrelin (horomone that increases appetite), leptin (horomone that decreases appetite), and glucose (our body’s source of energy). As you can see from the charts, the effects of sucrose and HFCS on all of these horomones almost mimic each other.



In closing….


The USDA recommends less than 10% of your calories come from added sugars…so nobody is claiming regular sugar is “better” for you. If you limit your consumption of any kind of sugar (cane sugar, honey, brown sugar, HFCS, etc.) you won’t have to worry about whether or not there are negative effects associated with long term consumption of any sweetener.

Sources used:

Advances in Nutrition


Pub Med

science direct

Myth series #2: Red wine is good for your heart


You’ve seen it in magazines, on the news, and on the web. Red wine is good for your heart. Drink it and you will “slash” your risk of heart disease dramatically…Right?

Sort of.

It all started with the French – we observed over the years their consumption of red wine and also observed their rate of heart disease still remained well below that of America, and we started to correlate the two with each other. There have been multiple studies and loads of research on the topic. So is there at least some truth in red wine’s ability to lower our chance of heart disease? Yes, but it’s benefits are HIGHLY exaggerated and are not enough to warrant starting a new drinking habit.

Here’s what the research says: Red wine is full of antioxidants called polyphenols, specifically one called resveratrol. It’s found in grape juice & white wine as well, but the levels are higher in that of red wine. The stated benefits of red wine consumption include elevating your HDL cholesterol, which is desirable in preventing heart disease. It is also thought to keep the platelets in your blood from becoming “sticky” and clogging your arteries.

There have been many studies toting the benefits of red wine consumption due to the presence of these polyphenols, but what they don’t specify is that the amount of red wine you would have to consume to equal a significant dose of polyphenols is astronomical. Don’t think that’s an excuse to binge drink, however. Excessive alcohol consumption actually increases your risk for elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure, in addition to several types of cancers, cancelling out any benefit you would have received from moderate alcohol consumption.

Red wine consumption is not the only way to raise your HDL (“good”) cholesterol – regular physical activity has an even greater impact, as does the consumption of healthy fats like those found in nuts & seeds.

Furthermore, the American Heart Association does not recommend drinking wine to reap any potential benefits, because with all the research that is out there (and still needs to be done), the cons outweigh the benefits. Maintaining a healthy weight, controlling your blood pressure and following a healthy diet will prove more beneficial to preventing heart disease than a glass of red wine.

So should you continue to drink red wine? I do. I’m a huge fan and I treat myself to a glass or two at least two or three times a week. My favorite is the Red Velvet by Cupcake Vineyards, and I love myself a good glass of Cabernet. But I don’t do it with the expectation that it will be a cure-all\prevent all. If I end up redeeming some of these health benefits, more power to me.

So in conclusion, don’t begin drinking for the proposed health benefits if you do not currently drink. The studies suggesting the health benefits of red wine specify “moderate” alcohol consumption which is equal to one drink a day for women and one to two drinks a day for med.

Realize that the health benefits of wine, while they do exist, are highly exaggerated and nothing to get excited about! The antioxidants in red wine don’t even compare to that of many fresh fruits and vegetables. If you struggle with getting enough fruits & veggies, see my post on juicing 🙂

The ins & outs of juicing

I love juicing.

I don’t do the whole “detox” thing (people, that’s why we were blessed with a liver and kidneys…) or buy into much of the hype that’s circulating in the media right now, but even as a dietitian it’s hard for me to get the recommended daily servings of fruits & veggies (USDA is recommending ~9 servings of fruits\veggies daily, which translates to about 2 cups of fruit and 2.5 cups of veggies a day).

So, its those times that I’m finding eating healthy to be the most difficult that I do the most juicing.

I bought the Jack Lalanne’s JLSS Power Juicer Deluxe Stainless-Steel Electric Juicer
about two years ago and it’s still going strong. The amount of fruit\veggies you can put through this before having to clean it out is insane. I put about 15 apples\12 carrots\5 celery single stalks before having to clean out the reservoir.

I was feeling a little under the weather today and knew I haven’t been eating the way I should.

So today, I made this carrot\apple\celery juice which is pretty freaking delicious.


Chock full of vitamin c ,vitamin a, vitamin k, potassium, and small amounts of iron & calcium. Apples are also full of polyphenols.

The only downside to juicing is you lose out on much of the fiber and alot of the polyphenols\antioxidants found in the skin of the fruit\vegetable, so I do not by any means suggest making juicing your only source of fruit & vegetable intake.

Another thing to remember is that fruit and some vegetables are very high in sugar and without the fiber to slow your body’s absorption it will hit your bloodstream fairly quickly.

However in moderation , juicing is a great supplementation to your diet, and a lot of fun too 🙂

Diet myths series – #1 Eating cholesterol raises your cholesterol

Yup, I said it.


Every 5 years the USDA releases new dietary guidelines for Americans.
Limiting cholesterol has always been a key part of these guidelines, that is, until 2015 (potentially).

The 2010 guidelines recommended a daily consumption of 300mg cholesterol or less per day: that’s equal to about less than 1 and 1\2 eggs! as a meat loving girl, that’s not a whole lot, i agree.

To be fair, the 2015 guidelines have actually not yet been released.

However, they did release the preliminary scientific report which now specifies that: “cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for over-consumption”, and also, that “no available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol, consistent with the conclusions of the AHA/ACC report”.


I know as a nation we are still in the “carbs are bad” phase, but I don’t think we all got over the “low fat” phase of the 70’s into 90’s.

Ironically, saturated fat does remain among the category of nutrients of over consumption. I say ironically because usually , foods that are high in saturated fat are also packing a punch of cholesterol. So it goes without saying that in limiting saturated fat, you are often limiting cholesterol without trying. The USDA does continue to recommend that you monitor and limit your consumption of saturated fat to 10% of less of total daily calories.

This isn’t denying that elevated serum cholesterol levels are a risk factor for heart disease. That still remains true. But the question now is, does dietary cholesterol contribute to serum cholesterol levels as much as we previously thought??

More research is needed, and as you can imagine, there are lots of opposing comments to this new research.

Did you know that the body actually NEEDS cholesterol to survive?

Did you know that the body actually produces cholesterol on it’s own, without any help from your diet? Its responsible for the production of vitamin D, as well as healthy brain function.

Off topic, it’s limitations on SUGAR that should have been specified years ago in terms of heart disease, obesity and other co-morbidities…ever wonder why there is no “percentage of daily value” of sugar on the nutrition label of any food item on the market?? …. but more on that in another post.. 😉

What’s my opinion? I believe that if you limit your intake of processed and starchy foods, you won’t have to worry abut whether or not you’re exceeding a specified limit. Trans fat and sugar won’t even be an issue, which are the components that we should really be limiting.
Food for thought 🙂


today’s dietitian

Dietary Guidelines 2015 – Advisory

Egg photo credit