Saturday, September 29, 2012

Quantifying the healthiness of YOUR diet

   This past June, I used several blog posts to talk about how researchers measure the healthiness of a meal pattern.  I discussed the Healthy Eating Index which is associated with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, the Alternative HEI which was created by nutrition scientists at Harvard, and the diet component of a cardiovascular health measure from the American Heart Association.
   In one post, I offered the criteria below which is from the AHEI.  I bring this back to your attention today because I found a legitimate website that offers a 'test' on the healthiness of YOUR meal pattern (or diet).  I took the quiz and I liked it because it seemed to follow the recommendations of the AHEI.  I scored an A but it was not a perfect A.  Even I can improve my dietary health by consuming more fruits and veggies.
   Here is the link to take the quiz and again, the AHEI info is explained below.

That blog post can be reread by clicking here.

Remember you can get a score between 0 and 10, I am giving you the extremes in these examples.

  1. Vegetables (not counting potatoes)  You get ten points for having at least 5 servings a day.  A serving is a half cup or one cup if it is a green leafy vegetable (1 c = 236 .59 g).  If you consume no veggies or just potatoes, you get a score of zero.  Vegetables are associated with decrease risk of  CVD and some cancers.  Green leafy veggies are associated with decreased risk of diabetes.  Potatoes are not associated with either and may increase the risk of diabetes.
  2. Whole Fruits (only) Ten points for 4 or more servings a day (NOT fruit juice) and a serving is one medium fruit or a half cup berries.  If you do not eat fruit on any day you get a 0.  Fruits decrease the risk of CVD and some cancers.  Fruit juice does not and can increase the risk of diabetes.
  3. Whole Grains This is calculated in grams - you may eat a food, like oat meal that has 15g of whole grains in it.  To get a ten, women need 75g and men 90g per day.  Read your labels - only whole grains count, so looking at total grains can be confusing. Whole grains reduce the risk of CVD, colorectal cancer and diabetes.  Refined grains (the white stuff) increases these risks - avoid them.
  4. Sugar Sweetened Beverages & Fruit Juice - (you know this includes soda and fruit drinks/ades).  You have to not drink any of this stuff to get your 10 points.  IF you drink one or more a day you get zero.  A serving is 8 ounces (226 g). The drinks are associated with weight gain and obesity, CVD, and diabetes.  See the note above re fruit juice.
  5. Nuts, Beans (legumes), Vegetable Protein (tofu)  The constituents or make-up of these foods is very healthful - monounsaturated fats, micronutrients, etc. These lean proteins decrease the risk of CVD (esp when eating them instead of read meat).  Nuts reduce diabetes and weight gain (but watch them for calories).  To get 10 points consume one or more servings a day (serving size is small- 1 oz (28.35g) or 1 TBSP of peanut butter (not the crappy kind).  One serving a day will get you your 10 points.  Only go for 3 or 4 servings if it is in place of bad calories - like lunch meat.
  6. Red and Processed Meats  Best scenario - 10 pts for less than one serving a MONTH.  If you have greater than or equal to 1.5 servings per day, you get 0 points.  A serving is 4 ounces of meat (steak, etc) or 1.5 ounces of processed meats (lunch meat, bacon).  Why?  Consuming red and processed meats increases the risk of CVD, CVA, diabetes, colorectol and other cancers. 
  7. Trans fats -They increase the risk of CHD and diabetes and the scores are calculated as a % of total energy intake.  The best (10 points) is .5 or less a day -  if you consume 4 or greater - 0 points.  This is the equivalent of about ten calories in a 1800 calorie diet per day.  Trans fats have no health promoting properties, but do occur naturally in small amounts - making total elimination impossible.  Certainly it is better to choose prepared foods that are 100% trans free.
  8. Fish - or long chain fatty acids (EPA+DHA)  Fish is associated with a decreased risk of cardiac arrhythmia - or irregular heartbeat and sudden cardiac death.  My father died from this. The goal is 250mg/d or two 4 ounce servings of fish per week (10 points). If you do not eat any fish you get 0 points.
  9. PUFA  Instead of having a saturated fat item as the original HEI does, this index encourages poly unsaturated fat intake in place of saturated fats.  This is very important and ties into the concern that people misunderstand the fat problem and consume an overall low fat diet.  That is not healthy! Please read more here. (esp paragraph 3) Healthy oils are associated with decreased CHD and diabetes.  We should get 10 % of our total calories from these fats (10 points).  You cannot count your fish twice though.  You can count mono unsaturated fats, like olive oil.  This would be 180 calories in a 1800 calorie day.
  10. Sodium/Salt  Too much sodium increases blood pressure, CVD, stomach cancer and all death.  The recommendations of 1500mg a day - no more - should get you your 10 points.
  11. Alcohol  No alcohol = 2.5 points, Too much (greater than or equal to 2.5/d (women) 3.5/d men), = 0 points and Moderate = 10 points.  To get your ten points women have one half to one and a half drinks per day and men have 1.5 to 2 drinks a day.  Remember these few things - 1) alcohol HAS calories, 2) not everyone should drink - no matter what this says - and 3) a drink is 4 ounces of wine, or 12 ounces of beer or 1.5 ounces of booze.  So two drinks a day = 8 ounces of wine (possibly one glass at some bars!).  I drink two measured drinks a week, sometimes 3 so I guess I would get 5 to 8 points.
Some abbreviations used:
CVD - cardiovascular disease (includes all types of heart disease)

CHD - coronary heart disease (one type of heart disease)

CVA  - cerebrovascular accident (stroke)

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