Wednesday, June 29, 2011

USDA MyPlate

Jennifer Koslo PhD, RD, CSSD,CPT
FT Faculty School of Health Sciences

In case you missed the headlines, on June 2nd the USDA unveiled its new food icon designed to provide guidance to Americans on how to plan a healthy diet. The new icon is a plate, called MyPlate, and it replaces the MyPyramid icon. I love it since I already use a “portion plate” when I counsel people on diet. A plate is something people can relate to much more than an abstract pyramid.  Just a bit of background, the Dietary Guidelines and the accompanying food icon are revised every 5 years as mandated by Congress. It is interesting to see how the icon has changed over the years and if you are interested in looking at the different versions, the USDA site has a brief history on its website

I am actually pleasantly surprised at the new icon and the fairly equal prominence given to each food group. It is no secret that food lobbyists and politics have had a significant impact on how our dietary guidelines and food icons have been designed. Yet MyPlate truly seems to have the health of Americans at heart. The tool is easy to understand and encourages people to fill half of their plates with fruits and vegetables and to be moderate with grain and protein consumption. Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that in 2009 only 32% of the population were eating 2 fruits per day and a mere 26% were eating 3 vegetables. Add to that the fact that fruit juice was counted as a fruit and that two of those vegetables were French fries and ketchup and it is no wonder the obesity epidemic continues to worsen. 

That brings us back to using MyPlate. Theoretically if a person follows MyPlate at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, they could easily eat 6 servings of fruits and vegetables. The USDA website has some great information and tips on how to build a healthy plate sample menus and recipes. I think some other really important things for Americans to keep in mind is that the grains should be mostly whole grain (whole wheat pasta, brown rice, etc), the protein lean (chicken breast, tofu, beans), and the dairy low-fat. Oh did you pick up on the fact that it says “protein” and not “meat”? Bet the meat industry and lobbyists weren’t too happy about that. 

All in all I think this is a step in the right direction for providing easy to use guidance to Americans on how to put together a balanced, healthy meal. The trick will be trading out those 15 inch plates for a more reasonable 9 inch plate.
Sunday, June 12, 2011

Yoga Styles

Today I’d like to continue talking about Yoga. There are many types of yoga these days, and so, I thought I’d describe a few of the popular ones.

Mitra Tredway

Ashtanga Yoga. Created by Sri K. Pattabhi Jois. This form of yoga is physically challenging as it involves a continuous series of postures. Continually moving through the poses without pause tends to heat up the muscles and make you sweat! Ultimately, one’s circulation, flexibility, and strength are greatly increased.  The Ashtanga style tends to attract those who want a vigorous work out.
To find an Ashtanga instructor in your area, try this link:

Bikram Yoga. This style was created by Bikram Choudhury (a gold medal Olympic weight lifter in 1963). The most interesting thing about this method of yoga is that it is practiced in a room set at 100 degrees! According to Choudry, the heat promotes more flexibility, detoxification (through sweating), and prevention of injuries. If you want to try this style, be prepared to sweat profusely.
To find a Bikram studio in your area, try this link:

Hatha Yoga. This form is the foundation of all Yoga styles. It includes the use of Asanas (body postures), Pranayama (breathing exercises), and meditation.  Hatha yoga can be used to achieve enlightenment or simply as exercise and/or stress management.
To find a Hatha yoga instructor in your area, try this link:

Kofi Bussia

Iyengar Yoga. My personal favorite.  As I mentioned in my previous post, this style was created by yoga master B.K.S. Iyengar.  Practitioners gain muscular strength and flexibility. The poses are held longer than in other styles of yoga and props such as cushions and blocks allow precise alignment in the pose. The equipment (props) used in this form of yoga allow everyone to practice.
 If you would like to find an Iyengar instructor in your area, try this link:

BKS Iyengar

If you have never practiced yoga, I hope I have sparked your interest. If you practiced in the past, I hope you have been inspired to return!


Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health and Wellness Dept
Kaplan University

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Do Yoga

If you have been following this blog, then you know that all of my previous posts were about food. I love to talk about how food affects health. Today I thought I’d switch it up a bit and talk about one of my favorite activities: Yoga.

Often when I mention that I do yoga—people think I am sitting around with my legs crossed doing meditation. This is not the case. To explain the difference, it is important to first outline the eight limbed path of the yoga sutra:

Yama :  Universal morality
Niyama :  Personal observances
Asanas :  Body postures
Pranayama :  Breathing exercises
Pratyahara :  Control of the senses
Dharana :  Concentration and cultivating inner perceptual awareness
Dhyana :  Devotion, Meditation on the Divine
Samadhi :  Union with the Divine

I practice the Asanas (body postures). These are physically challenging to say the least.  The reason I started practicing yoga about 13 years ago was my poor posture. I was walking around with slumped shoulders—a bad habit which unfortunately, many of us have.

My favorite form of yoga is Iyengar. The creator of this form is a man named BKS Iyengar. Essentially, this is a form of hatha yoga with a twist: Props are used to assist alignment. The great physical benefits of yoga include muscular development, flexibility, and better posture. Another benefit to the asanas is that they keep your fascia fluid. Let me explain…

Fascia is connective tissue that surrounds our muscles—as we age it hardens and basically decreases our mobility. Check out this Gil Hedley video about fascia. He calls this his “fuzz speech”. (Warning: This video has some cadaver footage):

As you can see in this video—you do not want “fuzz” to build up. In addition to melting fuzz, yoga has many health benefits. Studies have shown yoga to be useful for conditions such as asthma, arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, multiple sclerosis, and heart disease. Yoga is also a great stress reducer. It calms the mind and reduces the levels of stress hormones.

Here is a picture of BKS Iyengar doing a back bend at age 88. As you can see—he is not stuck by the fuzz!

If you would like to find an Iyengar instructor in your area, please try the Iyengar Yoga National Association link: 

Nancy Silva, ND
Faculty, Health and Wellness Dept
Kaplan University
Friday, June 3, 2011

Wŭ líng zhī: the unsung hero of Chinese herbs!

Wŭ líng zhī: the unsung hero of Chinese herbs!
by Dr. Nina La, D.C., L.Ac.
Adjunct Professor, Kaplan University School of Health Sciences
Allied medical staff, Tri-City Regional Medical Center

Two days ago, I got into a very interesting discussion about Chinese herbs with my students. The question I presented to the class was this, “What are Chinese herbs?” And that opened doors to the most interesting discussion in HW205: Vitamins, Nutrition and Herbal Supplements!

The answers the students gave me revolved around just plants or plant-like materials, which is only partly accurate. Then, I asked them if the picture below is considered an “herb.” To you, readers, I ask the same thing, are these brown-black balls of stone-like materials considered an “herb”?

Yes, many of you have caught on. This is a Chinese herb called wŭ líng zhī (五灵脂), and if you are not already an herbalist and/or an acupuncturist, the translation may throw you out of your seat! Wŭ líng zhī literally translates to “fat of the five spirits.” The Latin translation? Feces Trogopterori Seu Pteromi or Flying Squirrel Feces! Yes, you did not just read it incorrectly; I did just say “feces,” the product of these cute little squirrels below who got their name due to their ability to “glide” between trees. And no, they cannot fly like you would expect a bat to!

Wŭ líng zhī has the ability to invigorate the blood to relieve pain and works well in conditions such as menses pain, postpartum abdominal pain, epigastric pain or chest pain. It also works wonder in treatment of clotty uterine bleeding!

If you’ve been to an acupuncturist or herbalist lately with one of the conditions above, chances are, you would have been given this wonderful herbal formula called Shī xiào sǎn 失笑散, simply translated to (Sudden Smile Powder), where Wŭ líng zhī serves as one of the two main ingredients! According to one of my professors when I was in my acupuncture alternative medicine school, the name Shī xiào sǎn actually got its name from when patients would smile after ingesting the formula. They say the patients smile because they suddenly have no more pain, but I say the patients smile because they suddenly discover what they were ingesting! And then the gag reflex would kick in, right? Just kidding…

So there you have it, flying squirrel feces, one of the many unsung heroes of Chinese herbology. The question I often got after this discussion is this: how do you know that Wŭ líng zhī actually does what it is supposed to? I say that way back then, Chinese doctors found out about herbs such as this during their animal observations (ie. horses would search for this "herb" and eat it every time they have pain). However, this theory is debatable and I am more than happy to open this question to all of our readers out there.

How do YOU believe that the ancient Chinese have discovered Wŭ líng zhī or such similar herbs?

"If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door!" - Milton Berle


Dr. Nina La is an allied medical staff specialized in acupuncture at Tri-City Regional Medical Center (Hospital). She is also a chiropractic physician, herbalist, and an adjunct professor at Kaplan University. You can contact her at, or visit her website at

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