Thursday, December 13, 2012

20 snacks for less than 100 calories

So you’re trying to stay in shape and you’re doing a great job! But there comes that time in the afternoon when you start hearing your stomach growl. You try to disregard it but it keeps urging you to reach out for the nearest edible food item. Now you will definitely ruin your diet!


There are great snacks for less than 100 calories each. So browse through them and always stay prepared for that inevitable afternoon moment!

1.  One small light muffin

2.  2/3 cup of oatmeal

3.  ¾ cup of breakfast cereals

4.  1 cup meghli without nuts

5.  1 cup mhallabieh light (with artificial sweetener)

6.  1 cup rice milk light (with artificial sweetener)

7.  1 cup custard light (with artificial sweetener)

8.  1 cup of jell’O light with chunks of fruits (with artificial sweetener)

9.  1 yoghurt with chunks of fruits

10.  1 cereal bar

11.  Fruits: 1.5 servings

12.  3 Rice cakes

13.  2 Toasts and 2 teaspoons of jam

14.  2 Toasts and 3 slices of 0 fat cheese or labneh

15.  Chocolate: read labels to choose the right one (remember our article about label reading?)

16.  Pop corn: 4 cups popped (no added oil)

17.  3 Dried fruits (for raisins it’s 3 tablespoons)

18.  Raw nuts

Equivalent to 100
8-10 halves
Pine nuts
7-8 halves

19.  3 Light cookies

20.  1 glass of light milk with a teaspoon of Nescafe or chocolate

So now you have 20 extra reasons to stick to your diet! 
Good luck :D


Monday, December 10, 2012

The Recipe For Fighting Depression!

Depression: It is the world's fourth leading cause of morbidity and mortality and is expected to move up to number two by 2020. In any one year, 10-12 million Americans are affected by depression, with the condition twice as common in females than in males. Some 11% of men and 16% of women in Canada will suffer from major depression at some point in their lives, making this disorder one of society's leading public health issues. 

Now how do we treat it? Usually, we prescribe ourselves lots and lots of chocolate and fatty food!

But really, what is the right recipe for fighting depression?

Foods that fight depression!

1.   Fish and fish oils

They are a source of Omega 3, zinc, selenium and vitamin B12.

Omega 3 are essential fatty acids that have proven to be potent natural anti-depressants. In fact, it seems the higher the consumption of fish in a certain population, the lower the incidence of depression. Fish and seafood consumption has also been correlated with protection against post-partum depression, bipolar disorder and seasonal affective disorder.
A study published in 2010 in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry revealed that Omega-3 supplements improved depression symptoms in patients diagnosed with depression unaccompanied by an anxiety disorder. Efficacy for these patients was comparable to that generally observed with conventional antidepressant treatment.
Studies around Omega 3 and particularly EPA (a type of omega 3 fatty acid) look very promising. A study comparing it to conventional anti-depressants would confirm its role more clearly.

In general, depression is connected with low blood zinc levels that are increased by effective antidepressant therapy. A recent study showed that a supplementation of 25mg of Zinc may improve depressive symptoms.

Selenium plays a significant role in the human antioxidant defense system. Lowered levels of selenium have been associated with negative mood scores in at least 5 studies. In fact, low selenium status can be associated with ‘a significantly greater incidence of depression and other negative mood states such as anxiety, confusion, and hostility.’ The good news is that a consumption of foods rich in selenium or taking a supplement can improve mood significantly.

Vitamin B-12 and other B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions.
Low vitamin B12 status has been found in studies of depressive patients. Studies suggest that high vitamin B12 status may be associated with better treatment outcome.

2.   Meat, poultry, milk and eggs

They are a source of Zinc, Selenium and Vitamin B12 which, as stated above, are linked to depression.

3.   Green leafy vegetables

They are a great source of Folic acid or Vitamin B9.
A growing body of research has documented the low levels of folic acid among patients with depression. In addition, there are small clinical trials showing a beneficial effect of folic acid in depression, and its ability to enhance the effectiveness of antidepressant medications at just 500 mcg. (pic)

4.   Carbohydrate rich foods

Carbs protect against depression by providing serotonin to the brain.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter, a type of chemical that helps relay signals from one area of the brain to another. Low serotonin levels in the brain have been linked with depression. It is not known whether these low levels cause depression or whether depression causes serotonin levels to drop. However, anti-depressant medications that work on serotonin levels are believed to reduce symptoms of depression without accurate knowledge about the mechanism of action.

Serotonin is not found in food. It is manufactured in the body using tryptophan, an amino acid. Now, you may wonder why I put serotonin under the carbohydrates section. It should be in the protein section, right? Well, the consumption of protein rich foods floods the blood with both tryptophan and its competing amino acids, all fighting for entry into the brain. That means only a small amount of tryptophan gets through -- and serotonin levels don't rise. In contrast, consuming carbohydrate rich food triggers a release of insulin, a hormone that allows any amino acids in the blood to be absorbed into the body -- but not the brain. Except for, you guessed it -- tryptophan! The latter stays in the bloodstream at high levels after a carbohydrate rich meal and then freely enters the brain causing serotonin levels to rise.

So basically, in just a few words, carbs elevate serotonin levels and help fight depression!

5.   Chocolate

Finally! You’ve been waiting for it! Chocolate, indeed, can improve your mood because of the flavor, the aroma and the way it melts in your mouth. However, you should be careful as a new study found that people who eat the most chocolate have a greater likelihood of depression.
So have chocolate in moderation for a soothing effect!

Behaviors that fight depression!

1.   Bring on the sunshine!

Vitamin D deficiency is increasingly being recognized as a common problem and may be implicated in depression. Women with moderate to severe depression had substantial improvement in their symptoms of depression after they received treatment for their vitamin D deficiency, a new study finds. This correlation is yet to be proven. However, the preliminary results are promising. And as we discussed in a previous article, vitamin D comes from sun exposure.

2.   Work Out

Exercise increases levels of “feel good” hormones. It also helps you lose/maintain your weight which affects your psychological status.

3.   Stay away from fast food and baked goods

Crying your heart out then heading towards McDonald’s is not the answer! In fact, according to a recent study, baked goods and fast food are linked with depression. Consumers of fast food, compared to those who eat little or none, are 51% more likely to develop depression.

Finishing this article, I noticed that the recipe for fighting depression is none other than a healthy diet!

Important note: It is crucial to consult with your physician and preferably your psychiatrist especially if you are on anti-depressant medication


Thursday, December 6, 2012

What are menus really telling you?

When dining out, you look for the ingredients that make you drool. When you want to eat healthy, that’s when you get lost!

In 2010, the United States Supreme Court required big restaurant chains to state clearly nutritional facts about every meal in their menus. This step allows consumers to be more aware of what they are eating and it definitely affects their food choices.

And in a study published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and dietetics, researchers found a decrease in calorie, saturated fat and sodium consumption after such a regulation.

In Lebanon, this regulation might not happen any time soon. Some restaurants may be stating calories of low fat items. However, no regulations regarding the matter exist.

So in the meantime, you can regulate your food choices by knowing what’s being said between the lines of a menu.

Check out what the menus are really telling you:

Baked (مطبوخ)
Grilled (مشوي)
Braised (مطهو ببطء)
Lightly sautéed (سوتيه)
Broiled (مشوي)
Poached (مسلوق)
Steamed (على البخار)

Fewer calories/ Less Fat

Au gratin
Batter fried
French fried

More Calories/ Fat


More Salt

Take control of your food choices at restaurants. And most important of all, dare to ask about the ingredients. Don’t stay in the dark when it comes to dining out!


Monday, December 3, 2012

Scam alert! Iridology and weight loss!

You want to lose weight but those traditional low-cal diets are simply not working! You are bored of listening to the same old story. You want something new. Well, the latest trend in the weight loss field in Lebanon is Iridology. What is it and how is it related to weight?

One piece of advice: read the entire article because it might look exciting at first but I’m not sure the ending is very promising!

1. What is iridology according to its masters?

Iridology is the study of the 'Iris', the colored part of the eye. By analyzing the unique combination of pigments and structure within the iris, a picture of your health emerges.

The various shapes, markings, discolorations, textures and other manifestations are used by iridologists to analyze pathologies, hereditary strengths and weakness, drug settlements, tissue destruction, nutritional deficiencies and biochemical imbalances. The iris reveals inflammation that may or may not be causing immediate pain. 

These signs and symptoms may be something you have experienced in the past, may be experiencing now, or you may experience in the future.
The eye is connected to every organ and tissue of the body by way of the brain and nervous system.  Nerve fibers in the iris respond to changes in body tissues by manifesting changes in its structure and coloration.

This technique actually provides a veritable microchip of information. And it is considered a very important part of preventive medicine as it allows you to identify weak points that may cause disease in the future.
The iris analysis does not heal anyone! It only provides an insight into ones-self. It identifies weaknesses and points out what your body needs in order to fight those weaknesses: herbs or supplements, certain foods, etc.
Iridology is an assessment tool, not a therapy. If you are feeling anything, you should consult with your physician.

2.   How is it related to weight loss?

Also according to its practitioners, iridology can find the reasons behind inability to lose weight. It could be a sluggish thyroid (that usually decreases your metabolism) that isn’t deep seated enough to show in blood test; it could also be digestive enzymes that are causing uncontrollable cravings; or maybe faulty salt absorption leading to decreased motivation to movement.

3.   Should you believe that?

Wouldn’t we love to believe that everything that goes on inside that body of ours is written in our eyes? Wouldn’t we love to believe that what we should or should not eat in order to have the perfect body is also written in our eyes? It’s an amazing dream; however, I’m not sure if it has come true with iridology. In fact, there are many points one can argue about this alternative medicine:

-      Iridologists operate in a gray zone in North America. There are no laws defining and regulating the practice. So basically it is neither considered legal nor illegal. And when we are talking about medical issues, this matter is risky!

-      According to the International Iridology Practitioners Association, you can take online courses in iridology. No need to be a physician, you can simply go ahead and become an iridologist. That sounds fishy, doesn’t it?

-      Studies about the efficiency of iridology were conducted and published in renowned medical journals such as JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) and BMJ (British Medical Journal).
          ·         In the first, 143 patients mixed between kidney-disease free and having a kidney disease were examined by 3 iridologists. “The likelihood of correct detection was statistically no better than chance.” So basically, the iridologists were not able to properly detect the patients with kidney disease. It was more a matter of luck.
          ·         In the second, 5 leading iridologists attempted to search for gallbladder disease in the eyes of 78 mixed patients (half of them suffered from the disease and the other half was perfectly healthy). Again, the results were close to chance validity. And the study concluded that iridology was not a useful diagnostic aid.

Concerning iridology and weight loss, I can assure you that you will lose weight once you do it. Surprised?
Well, my friend went to an iridologist and this is his menu for the day:
Breakfast: Turkey in pita bread
Lunch: Fish/meat/chicken filet with iceberg lettuce salad
Dinner: Palmito and asparagus salad
Now tell me, wouldn’t anyone lose weight to this high protein, low calorie diet? Save your 200 or 300$ and do this for free. Let me know how much weight you will lose. But most importantly, let me know how you will maintain this lost weight at a later stage because I’m sure that this diet doesn’t last a lifetime.

Desperate times call for desperate measures. However, some of those measures might just be a rip-off and a false hope. Don’t let yourself be the victim of desperation!


Monday, November 19, 2012

Lebanon News: Rotaract Metn's Health Fair

Yesterday, Sunday the 18th of November, The Rotaract Club of Metn headed towards Ayroun for their annual health fair. Doctors from several specialties were gathered in order to screen for potential diseases or to follow up on existing ones. Specialists in family medicine, ophthalmology, dermatology, dentistry and nutrition were available to provide free consultations to everyone!

As soon as patients arrived, general information was taken from them regarding known pathologies, a blood sugar test was conducted and their blood pressure was taken.

They were then redirected to the professionals they were looking for.
The dentists were available for check-ups and education regarding good oral hygiene. They were also distributing toothbrushes for free.

“It was a very good day. We focused more on preventive dentistry than the actual work.” – Dr Rahayel

The ophthalmologists were testing the acuity of vision but they were also trying to screen for:

- Glaucoma: a group of eye conditions that lead to damage to the optic nerve which is responsible for carrying visual information from the eye to the brain. It is the second most common cause of blindness in the United States.

- Cataract: it is the clouding of the lens of the eye. People who suffer from this condition normally have a blurry vision. It is more common in people above the age 45. However, some conditions may speed it up: diabetes, smoking, eye inflammation, eye injury, etc.

In assigning health priorities, skin disease is normally considered a small player compared with other diseases. However, not only do some skin diseases lead to a higher mortality rate in the population, but they also affect a patient’s quality of life and psychological status. This is why the presence of a dermatologist at the fair seemed essential.

Three doctors specialized in family medicine were present in order to screen for all types of diseases.

“We were lucky enough to detect a very serious case of untreated diabetes and another of heart disease.” – Dr Omar
And this, indeed, proves the importance of screening.

We, at Point a la ligne, were there to screen for potential cases of overweight and obesity. In fact, as you already know, obesity is very closely related to diabetes, cardiovascular disease, some cancers, etc. Body composition tests were conducted and appropriate and personalized diets were provided.  

And last but not least, all present were fortunate enough to have a session by members of the Red Cross, regarding first aid. Tips on how to deal with common situations were given, not to forget the live demonstrations!

This is one example of many health campaigns that go on all over the country. And I believe that we are lucky to have so many NGOs, just like Rotaract, interested in early detection of diseases. Because after all, the earlier the detection, the easier and most likely the recovery would be!

So if you’re feeling anything or doubting anything in your body, don’t hesitate! Go for a check-up every once in a while. Community centers are available in all areas too!


Monday, November 12, 2012

Live Gluten Free! - All you need to know about celiac disease

1. What is celiac disease?

Celiac disease is a disease of the digestive system that damages the small intestine and interferes with the absorption of nutrients from food. It is an allergic reaction to gluten, a protein found in wheat (قمح), oats (الشوفان), rye (حبوب الجاودار) and barley (الشعير).

It is not clear what causes celiac disease. However, it has been proven that it runs in the family. People who suffer from this condition are genetically predisposed and they may start experiencing the symptoms at any age. In other terms, they have it in their genes but it may not appear during childhood. The symptoms might start at later stages in life.

Symptoms may be different from one person to another. And they may also be common with other diseases. That’s why the diagnosis is not made right away. They may include decrease of appetite, diarrhea or constipation, abdominal pain, bloating, unexplained weight loss, skin rashes, etc.

If left untreated, celiac disease may lead to malnutrition, loss of bone density, lactose intolerance, bruising easily, fatigue, hair loss, depression or anxiety, nosebleeds, cancer, etc.

Many tests are available to detect celiac disease; however, the only conclusive one would be a biopsy of the intestinal lining.

2. What is the appropriate diet?

There is no cure for celiac disease. The only way to make symptoms disappear and allow the villi to heal is to adopt a GLUTEN-FREE diet.

So basically, if you are suffering from celiac disease, you should omit all sources of gluten from your diet. This means that you should not consume wheat, oat, barley and rye.

Once gluten is removed from the diet, you may start feeling better in just a few days. However, complete rehealing and regrowth of the villi may take several months. You should note that the healing process is faster in children than adults.

Now, if you accidently eat a product that contains gluten, you might experience abdominal pain or diarrhea. Sometimes, you might not see any signs. But any traces of gluten in your diet can be damaging, whether you experience symptoms or not. So please be careful and save the following list!

Food group

Breads and cereals

-      Rice and rice flour
-      Corn and corn flour
-      Potatoes and potato flour
-      Tapioca and tapioca flour
-      Soy and soy flour
-      Rice noodles
-      Quinoa

-      Pita bread of all kinds
-      French bread
-      Kaak
-      Toast
-      Cracottes
-      Wheat starch and wheat flour
-      Barley: starch and flour
-      Bulgur (برغل)
-      Couscous
-      Semolina (سميد)
-      Pasta
-      Vermicelli (شعيريه)
-      “Moghrabieh”
-      “Keshek”
-      Falafel
-      All breakfast cereals
-      Bread crumbs

Meat, fish and poultry

-      All types of fresh and frozen products (unprocessed): beef, lamb, veal, chicken, fish and sea food
-      Canned fish like tuna and sardines
-      Eggs

-      Processed meats: jambon, mortadelle, etc.
-      “Kebbeh”
-      Sausages
-      Pastrami
-      Hot dogs
-      Cordon bleu
-      Chicken nuggets
-      Escalope


-      All legumes such as hummus, beans, soy, etc.

Milk and milk products

-      All types of fresh milk, pasteurized, powder and sterilized, concentrated and cream.
-      Labneh
-      Laban
-      Cheese: cheddar, edam, cottage, parmesan, gruyere, akkawi, halloum and double crème.

-      Soy milk
-      Cheese: blue cheese and roquefort

Fruits and vegetables

-      All fresh, frozen and unprocessed fruits and vegetables

-      Check labels of canned ones as some may contain gluten


-      White sugar
-      Honey
-      Jam
-      Molasses
-      Cocoa
-      “Halawa”
-      Sahlab, meghli, mhallabieh
-      Jell’O
-      Any other dessert that is sure not to contain the 4 grains

-      Arabic sweets: baklava, osmallieh, knefeh, maamoul.
-      Cakes, pancakes, doughnuts, ice cream (cornet), croissants and all types of biscuits.

Fats and oils

-      Butter
-      Margarine
-      Vegetable oils
-      Tehine

-      Wheat oil


-      Wine and distilled liquors, ciders and spirits
-      Tea
-      Juices

-      Beers
-      Sodas may contain minimal traces of gluten and an allergic reaction to them depends on your sensitivity.


-      Spices
-      Pickles, olives
-      Ketchup, mustard, tomato paste, gluten free soy sauce

-      Regular soy sauce
-      Ready to serve salad dressings

Fortunately, there are wide ranges of Gluten-Free products on the market. I’ve taken a few pictures of products you can find in your local supermarket. I’m sure there are more so always look for the “Gluten-free” label.

There are many other brands you can 
find in supermarkets. These are just 

It is very important to watch out for hidden sources of gluten. A product might not seem like it contains gluten but it might be contaminated. And that’s why it is crucial to read food labels (ingredients and potential allergens) in every product that you buy. In the next picture, the product is rice cakes. Check the label: it clearly states that the product might be "contaminated with gluten".

Celiac disease can be effectively managed through changing your diet. You might find it tricky at first but after all, eating is a habit and you will get used to it. And of course, all of us dietitians are ready to help you whenever you need us. So don’t hesitate to call us if you run out of food ideas J