October 24, 2014

Links I like: 10.24.14

Happy Friday! I'm still getting caught up from FNCE, and floating in a haze of new information and new acquaintances. If you are an RD or a dietetics student who is reading this and who has never attended FNCE, start making plans for Nashville next year...it's totally worth it. Part of my catch-up has been perusing a week's worth of nutrition-related news, and here's some of the best of what I've uncovered:
That a lot of links, so I'll call it good for now. Have a great weekend!

October 23, 2014

When less is more: siggi's yogurt

Ah, the difference a year makes! At FNCE 2013, I had an unpleasant experience with a standard, highly sweetened Greek yogurt brand on the last day of the conference. This year, I had siggi's to save me! 

Tuesday morning, I was running on caffeine and carbs, hastily grabbed on the way from my hotel to my first educational session. I felt the desperate need for protein. When my morning session turned out to be far less interesting than expected, I bailed and beelined straight for the siggi's dairy booth on the expo floor. "I'm craving pumpkin spice," I cried, and was instantly rewarded:

I think I'm seriously addicted to this flavor, and I heard the same thing from a few of my friends/colleagues. All of siggi's yogurt flavors are much lower in sugar than other brands of flavored yogurt. They are lightly sweetened, letting the natural tang of the yogurt shine through. (Interestingly, I had a conversation with a Canadian RD at the Almond Board of California breakfast I attended, and she said she's noticed that yogurts sold in the US are much sweeter than those in Canada, either from sugar/corn syrup or from artificial sweeteners.)

siggi's plain yogurt contains 4 grams of sugar, which would be entirely natural sugar in the form of lactose. By comparison, siggi's flavored yogurts contain 9 to 11 grams of sugar, or 5 to 7 grams of added sugar. One teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams. (I always keep a big tub of plain Greek yogurt in my refrigerator, but I don't eat it totally plain...I stir in bit of preserves or fig butter. The end result is similar in sweetness to siggi's.)

The big-name Greek yogurt brands have about 17 grams of sugar and 12 grams of protein in their flavored varieties. siggi's yogurt has 14 grams of protein and a simple ingredient list. My pumpkin & spice yogurt contained pasteurized skim milk, cane sugar, pasteurized cream, pumpkin, cinnamon, vanilla bean extract, lemon juice, nutmeg and live active cultures. 

Whereas I would classify many flavored yogurts as dessert (at best) siggi's is a healthy, tasty addition to breakfast, lunch or snacktime. They have some cool flavors, too (orange & ginger is another favorite). Honestly, personally and professionally, siggi's has the only flavored yogurts I am willing to recommend. I'll take it one step further...I feel good about recommending them.

I had the opportunity to attend a siggi's-sponsored breakfast and hear Siggi Hilmarsson talk about the story of his company. He moved to New York City from Iceland in 2004 and was shocked at how sweet the yogurt was. (As he pointed out, some have as much sugar as a soda.) He missed the lightly sweetened yogurt he grew up with, so he got a recipe from his mother and started making his own Icelandic yogurt, called skyr. As his yogurt-making skills grew, he made it his full-time job, moving his operation to a dairy plant in upstate New York.

Breakfast was siggi's vanilla yogurt, berries, nuts and granola. A perfect start to the day (even at 6:45 a.m.). In keeping with siggi's culture of health, breakfast attendees were also led through a fun morning workout, overlooking the interior of the CNN Center (alas, I was wearing a skirt that day, so I just snapped a few photos, while drinking my coffee).

Have you ever tried siggi's? Find out if and where it's available near you via their store locator! Hint, they have some delicious-looking recipes on their website, too.

October 22, 2014

Yoga: Medicine for mind + body

I almost titled this post "There's no place like home," because I was very happy to get nine hours of sleep in my own bed last night (that said, the beds in the Glenn Hotel were quite comfy, and I wish I could have brought the shower in our room home with us). Another thing I missed while I was at FNCE (besides sleep) was yoga, so that was my top priority this morning (after coffee).

I try to do a 30-minute yoga session most mornings of the week, guided by one of my many DVDs (currently in heavy rotation: Rodney Yee's "A.M. Yoga for Your Week"). After a session I attended Monday on the evidence supporting the beneficial psychophysiological mechanisms of yoga and meditation, I found myself itching to resume my stalled meditation practice and step up my current yoga routine.

The speakers were registered dietitian nutritionist and yoga teacher Anu (Sandeep) Kaur, MS, RDN, RYT and Dr. Sat Bir Khalsa, PhD, of Harvard Medical School. At their core, Kaur said, yoga and meditation help us cultivate mindfulness. Mindfulness is quite trendy right now, which can obscure it's true substance.

"If we say that mindfulness is a self-care fad, then we're really undermining its potency," she said.

While there are many forms of yoga, and some only focus on the fitness aspects of the practice, the word "yoga" means "union of mind, body and spirt." More traditional forms of yoga include yogic breathing, which Kaur says can bring you closer to your body and your thoughts.

Dr. Khalsa, author of Your Brain on Yoga, spoke more about the physiological effects of the relaxation response that comes from yoga and meditation practice. He cited a study published last year which found that relaxation response practice enhanced the expression of genes linked to improved cellular function, metabolism, insulin secretion and telomere maintenance. It also reduced the expression of genes linked to chronic inflammation and stress. I don't know about you, but I would like less inflammation, less stress and healthy cells and telomeres!

In addition to reducing stress, Dr. Khalsa said that regular yoga and meditation practice can help reduce anxiety, improve mood and lessen pain. "Human being have a remarkable ability for internal self-regulation."

He also mentioned a 2010 study published in Science magazine ("A Wandering Mind Is An Unhappy Mind") that found that our minds wander frequently, regardless of what we are doing, and that we are less happy when our minds are wandering than when they are not. In a nutshell, our ability to think about things that are not happening at that moment is a cognitive "achievement" that comes at an emotional cost. Ergo, practices like yoga and meditation that help you be mindful and present in the moment may help you be happier.

I'll wrap up this post by sharing one of the presentation slides, which gives an overview of how yoga practices can have profound effects on our physical, mental and emotional health (and you don't have to be a naturally bendy person to practice yoga!):

I should also mention that this talk was moderated by the lovely Annie B. Kay, MS, RD, LDN, RYT, author of the book Every Bite Is Divine . She also has an e-newsletter that I enjoy. You can sign up on her website.

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Affiliate program, which means that if you buy one of the items mentioned above after clicking on the embedded links, I may earn a commission. This fact does not influence what books or products I mention on my blog. My opinions and recommendations are always 100 percent my own.