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Filed under: Nutrition

How strong are your bones?

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Strength-training for your bones.

We don’t give much thought to our skeletal systems until we do something that results in a broken bone. But bones play a vital role in a person’s general health and fitness. Our bones support us, allow us to move, and protect our vital organs from injury. They also store minerals—such as calcium and phosphorus—that are released into the bloodstream when our systems need them, for example, for muscle contractions.

Bone loss usually occurs gradually over a long period of time. By taking steps now to maintain healthy bones, you could ward off medical conditions such as osteoporosis.

One way to maintain optimal bone health is to eat foods rich in calcium and vitamin D. Without enough vitamin D, the body cannot absorb enough calcium from the foods we eat. This causes calcium to be taken our bones, which prevents the growth of new bone and results in weaker bones.

Good sources of calcium include low-fat dairy products, nuts and seeds, beans, broccoli and other leafy green vegetables, and fortified products such as orange juice that have added calcium. Good sources of vitamin D are egg yolks, fatty fish, beef liver, and milk with vitamin D. We also make vitamin D when our skin is exposed to the sun, although not everyone is able to get enough vitamin D this way.

Another way to keep your bones strong is to engage in physical activity. The best exercises are the strength-building and weight-bearing kinds such as walking, climbing, lifting weights, and dancing.

Other ways to maintain bone health include preventing falls by reducing the risk factors that you can control. Improve your balance and strength through exercise, maintain good vision, and make sure that your home is free of “falling dangers” such as poor lighting and loose rugs. Risk factors such as smoking, alcohol, medications, and body weight are also controllable. Smoking cigarettes, like vitamin D deficiency, can keep your body from using the calcium in your diet. Alcohol and certain medications (glucocorticoids, for example) also can cause your bones to become weak or lose mass. Moreover, being too thin increases one’s risk of developing weak bones that are more likely to break. If necessary, boost your diet with calcium and vitamin D supplements. Also consider talking to your physician about your bone health.

You may have heard again and again how important calcium and vitamin D are. Maybe you’ve even taken some or all of the steps above. But if you haven’t, start now and take action! Eat the right foods and exercise for strong bones.

Choose juice drinks wisely

Filed under: Nutrition, Diet

With so many fruit juices on grocery shelves, do you find yourself asking, “Which one do I choose?"


With so many fruit juices on grocery shelves, do you find yourself asking “Which one do I choose?"  Look for fruit juices that are labeled “100 percent fruit juice” and read the ingredients. Juices that contain high fructose corn syrup or other sugars are an be labeled as a fruit drink, fruit punch, or fruit cocktail. These drinks add calories and contribute to obesity. Choose 100 percent fruit juice to optimize nutrition with natural ingredients, vitamins, minerals, and no artificial flavorings or sweeteners.

Not all carbohydrate foods are equally effective

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Certain foods raise blood sugar better than others. It's important to what to eat after a moderate to high intensity mission or exercise.

As stated in the Warfighter Nutrition Guide (chapter 5) , certain foods raise blood sugar, or glucose, levels better than others. Ultimately, blood glucose from foods you eat are stored in the muscles and liver, in the form of glycogen, to supply energy for future physical activity.

The term glycemic index (GI) is used to describe how high a particular food will raise blood glucose. A high GI food is more effective for replenishing muscle and liver stores of glycogen than one with a low GI. Immediately after a moderate/high intensity mission or exercise, eat foods and beverages that have a moderate to high GI to replenish the glucose used up.

Click here for more information on the Glycemic Index.

Understand cholesterol-related food claims

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Filed under: Nutrition, Diet
Be an educated consumer and learn what common cholesterol-related nutrient content claims mean.

Do you find the nutrient claims listed on many foods confusing?  You are not alone!

Such claims are strictly defined by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). Here are common cholesterol-related nutrient content claims with a detailed description of what each means. If a food claims to be cholesterol free, it means that one serving of the product contains less than two milligrams of cholesterol and two grams or less of saturated fat. Low cholesterol means that one serving contains 20 or fewer milligrams of cholesterol and two grams or less of saturated fat. Finally, reduced cholesterol means at least 25 percent less cholesterol than the regular product and 2 grams or less of saturated fat. Arm yourself with this information and be an educated consumer next time you shop.

Eat a PBJ post-workout

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Want a great post-workout meal?

It’s important to eat something after a strenuous workout to replenish muscle stores of carbohydrate and have plenty of protein available to repair the body. Try a peanut butter and jelly (PBJ) sandwich for a great post workout meal! It’s cheap and packed with nutrition if you use natural peanut butter without added sugar and fats, and whole-grain bread.

For other post-exercise snacks please visit the Warfighter Nutrition Guide.

What’s a health claim?

A recent FTC complaint against POM Wonderful products had us wondering what exactly a health claim is.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently filed a complaint against POM Wonderful products due to deceptive advertising. POM Wonderful has claimed that its products will reduce (or treat) heart disease, prostate cancer and erectile dysfunction. The FTC says that these claims are not supported by scientific research.

So, what’s a health claim and what’s considered acceptable advertising as such?

A health claim statement has to have a food substance, food, or dietary ingredient, and a health condition or disease. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved certain health claims that, based on scientific evidence, show a link between a food or supplement and a health condition or disease. Health claims cannot state that a food product or supplement can treat or cure a disease. It may claim to minimize a disease risk; for example, a product advertised as low sodium can state the approved claim that “diets low in sodium may reduce the risk of high blood pressure, a disease associated with many factors.”

Health claims shouldn’t be confused with structure/function claims. These claims do not have to be approved and reviewed by the FDA, yet they must be truthful in stating that a substance maintains structures and/or functions of the body.  We see these claims on many fiber-rich products, like “fiber maintains bowel regularity,” or a dairy product stating that “calcium builds strong bones.” Unlike health claims, structure/function claims cannot be linked to a health-related condition or disease.  Also, an important point to keep in mind: if a dietary supplement label makes a structure/function claim, it must also state this disclaimer: “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.”

There are also nutrient content claims.  These describe the amount of a nutrient in a product.  Descriptions such as free, low, high, and rich in are used, or other terms that describe the nutrient content to that of the content in another product, such as reduced, lite, less, or more.

Manufacturing companies want consumers to buy their products.  We, as consumers, must be savvy as we try to choose products that are healthy for our families and us. False health claims are used on food products as well as dietary supplements. They claim to help us lose weight, cure diseases, and prevent memory loss. The FDA has not approved claims that focus on the treatment of diseases. They have, however, set forth regulations to authorize health claims after the scientific evidence has been presented and reviewed.

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Rethinking protein powder supplements

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Protein powder supplements are a popular source for packing on muscle.

Protein powder in a cup

Protein powder supplements are a popular source for packing on muscle. The September 27, 2010 edition Health section of the L.A. Times contains an article that poses the question of how much supplements, if any, should one use in building muscle mass?

Read the full article here.

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Control portions to eat fast food healthfully

HPRC Fitness Arena:
Portion control is even more important when it comes to fast food.

It may be hard to avoid the convenience of fast food since it’s inexpensive, tasty, and well...convenient. But with that convenience often comes an overload of calories, fat, and sodium. To avoid these pitfalls, be mindful of your portion sizes.  For more tips on how to make healthier fast food choices, view this guide by Helpguide.org.

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What you eat affects how you sleep.

HPRC Fitness Arena:
If you have trouble sleeping, think about tweaking your diet for a better night's sleep.

Sleep requirements vary slightly from person to person, but in general, most healthy adults need at least eight hours of sleep each night to function at their best. Food fuels our way through the day (can give you the necessary energy to pull you through the day), but did you know that food also has an effect on how we sleep? Watch what you eat in the course of a day – particularly in the hours before you go to bed – if you want to optimize your sleep at night. We give you some tips below on the best foods to eat to help you sleep soundly, and those to avoid if you have trouble resting at night.

Foods to avoid before bed:

  • Caffeine: Caffeine can cause sleep disturbances even many hours after drinking it. Some people find there’s a cut-off time for their bodies – caffeine before that time won’t affect their sleep, but anything after, say, 2:00 p.m. can cause problems with their sleep. Caffeine is found in coffee, tea, and chocolate, among other foods.
  • Alcohol: Some people think of alcohol as a nightcap to help you sleep better. While it may help you get to sleep faster, it also reduces sleep quality by waking you up later, in the middle of the night. A glass of wine before bed should be fine; several stiff drinks are not.
  • Big or heavy meals: Fatty food takes time to digest and may keep you from getting to sleep. Spicy and acidic foods at night often cause stomach problems and/or heartburn. Try having an earlier dinner and avoid heavy, rich foods within two hours of when you’ll be going to bed.
  • Liquids: Caffeinated drinks act as diuretics, resulting in frequent nighttime trips to the bathroom, and drinking too much water or other liquids close to bedtime also increases your trips to the bathroom in the night.
  • Sugar: Anything too sugary, like many desserts or nighttime snacks are, can interfere with your sleep.

    Best foods before bed:

    • Bananas: Bananas contain large amounts of tryptophan, which triggers the release of melatonin and serotonin in our brains, helping us relax.
    • Dairy: Dairy is also a good source of tryptophan, especially combined with some carbohydrates, like oatmeal. A warm glass of milk or a small bowl of oatmeal should help you sleep.
    • Turkey: Another good source of tryptophan. Think of the post-Thanksgiving turkey slump many of us experience! Combined with whole-wheat bread in a small sandwich, this is a recipe for a deep, relaxing sleep.

    Quality sleep is essential to our health. To start sleeping soundly, try some simple modifications to your diet and see if it helps you.

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    Confused about supplements?

    HPRC Fitness Arena:
    Wandering down the aisle of a store looking for a dietary supplement can be overwhelming and intimidating. The Natural Medicines Database can help.

    Wandering down the aisle of a store looking for a dietary supplement can be overwhelming and intimidating. There are so many to choose from, and we often have to make our choices based on advertising claims and rely on the manufacturers for ingredient information. Does the supplement actually have the ingredients claimed on the label? Will it have the reported effect on our health?

    The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database is the “scientific gold standard” for evidence-based information on dietary supplements and natural medicines, including drug interactions, effectiveness, safety and use, and more. HPRC has partnered with Natural Medicines Database to allow healthcare providers, Warfighters, and military families to search this comprehensive database in order to make informed decisions about dietary supplement use. The Natural Medicines Database also has “Natural MedWATCH,” which allows users to report an adverse event associated with the use of dietary supplements or natural medicines so that they can then forward the report on to the appropriate regulatory agency.

    By going to the HPRC homepage, users can access any of the three database choices provided: Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database for Health Professionals, Consumers, or Natural MedWATCH. After choosing one of the sites, first-time users should sign up for an account, which is done with an active DoD email address. Once inside this vast database, a user can search for an individual natural medicine ingredient of interest or a brand name product.

    The professional version of the database includes:

    • Evidence-based monographs available for individual natural ingredients.
    • Scientific names of ingredients
    • Information on safety, effectiveness, mechanism of action, adverse reactions, interactions, and dosage/administration (which are not necessarily recommended or safe doses) of ingredients
    • Patient handouts
    • Brand-name product searches by ingredient
    • “Natural Product Effectiveness Checker” for medical conditions
    • “Natural Product Drug Interaction Checker” for a list of drugs/natural products interactions
    • Comprehensive information on brand-name products, including ingredient lists and summary reports on effectiveness, interactions, and adverse effects.
    • Up-to-date information for over 60,000 brand name products

    The consumer version, for military families and Warfighters, contains the same research-based information on herbal remedies, dietary supplements and other natural products, but in an easier-to-understand version. An important point consumers should be aware of is that it may be necessary to research each individual ingredient in a product before making a decision to use it for health benefits.

    So, if you want to find credible, evidence-based information on dietary supplements and/or natural products, search the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. Evaluating natural health products can be daunting and there is no other comprehensive, reliable site like it to guide you in making your decision.

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