How Energy Drinks are Affecting Your Health

By Kat Brown, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

6 tips to preventing caffeine addiction

  1.       Pre-existing conditions
  2.       Know your limits
  3.       Read the labels
  4.       Beware the “buzz”
  5.       Instant energy boosters
  6.       See the signs

Pre-existing conditions

Many conditions may heavily influence how these energy drinks affect your body personally. Often times fatal incidents that site energy drinks as the cause are combined with a pre-existing condition.  Most often these conditions involve some type of cardiac arrhythmia. Conditions that involve jeopardized heart health, blood pressure, or other major organ functions can intensify the effects of energy drinks creating the platform for a lethal combination.

Know your Limits

Just because your coworker can down 2 Rockstar’s before lunch and seem totally fine doesn’t mean you can do the same. Caffeine can affect individuals differently based on their tolerance. A research study from The Journal for Nurse Practitioners reviewed the effects of caffeine on individuals found that people develop a caffeine tolerance. Someone who drinks a red bull every morning may have developed a tolerance to that caffeine dosage and may not be affected the same as someone who rarely drinks energy drinks. Also, studies have shown that while smaller doses of caffeine, 40mg, may help improve cognition, 80mg or higher may impair cognition. Dr. David Kruse states, “The ability to tolerate caffeine with exercise is based on fitness level, hydration status, pre-existing medical conditions, and medication use.”

Read the labels

How often do you flip over that can you just bought at the convenience store? In order to know how much caffeine you are consuming it is important to know what is in these energy drinks.  The FDA regulation for caffeine is 72mg per 12 fluid ounces, many of these energy drinks contain anywhere from 6.67mg/oz to 33.33 mg/oz of caffeine.  After receiving scrutiny from consumers many of these energy drink brands have begun to suggest that their products are more “natural”. They site the use of ingredients such as taurine, B vitamins, inositol, ginseng, ginko biloba, L-carnitine, and L-Theanine.

Beware the “buzz”

Many of these drinks use “buzz” words to attract consumers. Pimp juice and Cocaine are two energy drinks that have used provocative names to entice consumers into purchasing these drinks. Other energy drinks use words like “zero-crash” and “party like a rockstar” to attract consumers. Companies such as Kraft promote their energy drink Mio Energy by stating that the black cherry flavor is “so wild it could get you arrested on a plane, but it’s worth the lawyer fees.”

Instant Energy-Boosters

Now that you’ve been reading those labels your starting to second-guess guzzling down that 24oz. can of sugar. Try some of these energy-boosters instead:

  • “Sunlight energizes and elevates mood,” says Dr. Lorraine Maita, a board certified internist and author of Vibrance for Life: How to Live Younger and Healthier in Short Hills, New Jersey.
  • Tap your thymus with your fingertips for 20 seconds, while slowly and deeply breathing in and out. “Your thymus is located at center top of your chest, below the collar bone, between your breasts. When tapped it triggers the production of T-cells, boosts energy, relieves stress, and increases strength and vitality,” says Marian Buck-Murray, a nutrition coach and Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) practitioner in Maplewood, New Jersey
  • Stretch often, energy can be zapped from periods of inactivity. Blood vessels constrict during prolonged periods of stillness and can make you feel drowsy. Do not stay stagnant for too long and make sure to get up and stretch often.

See the Signs

It is important to be aware of the signs of caffeine intoxication. Excessive caffeine intake can result in migraines, cardiac arrhythmia, compromised sleep cycles, dehydration, increased blood pressure, nervousness, anxiety, headaches, tremors, and dysphoric mood changes. Caffeine meets all the requirements for being an addictive substance, including dependence, tolerance, and withdrawal and should be recognized as such.


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Is Your Whole Grain Bread Lying To You?

By Alise Robers, Recent Arizona State University Student 

When grocery shopping there are so many different options and brands to choose from. It can sometimes be overwhelming! If you want to pick out a loaf of bread that is 100 percent whole grain, you have to be wary of the many breads that are pretending to be healthier for you. Breads that claim to be “wheat breads” are often enriched with over 50 percent white flour with molasses or caramel added to make them look like whole wheat.1 To avoid the headache, here are some hints for finding true whole grain bread, rolls, and crackers.

Hint #1: To ensure the bread you are buying is in fact whole grain, it’s important that you first read the ingredient list on the food label.  It’s helpful to know that the ingredient that weighs the most will be listed first and the ingredient that weighs the least will be listed last.1 For example, if the whole grain is listed first, then you know that ingredient makes up the majority of that product. Look for whole wheat, whole oats, whole rye, whole grain corn, whole grain barley, or brown rice as the first ingredient. Stay away from breads that list wheat flour, de-germinated cornmeal, or enriched flour as their first ingredient because these are not good sources of whole grain.1,2


Hint #2: The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends you make half or more of the grains you eat whole grains.3 This means 3 to 5 servings of whole grains every day. When picking out your loaf of bread look for the packages that have the Whole Grains Council stamp, which will show you how many grams of whole grain are in one serving of the product.2 One serving of whole grains is 16 grams, and your goal should be to eat about 48 grams per day!


Hint #3: Keep an eye out for the whole grain health claim on food product labels: “Diets rich in whole-grain foods and other plant foods and low in saturated fat and cholesterol may help reduce the risk of heart disease.”1,2 This claim ensures that the product contains at least 51 percent or more whole grains by weight and is low in fat.


Hint #4: Pay attention to the amount of fiber listed per serving on the nutrition label. If the product contains a substantial amount of whole grain ingredients it should have a minimum of 2 grams of fiber per serving.1 Keep in mind that it is very possible for a product to have a large amount of fiber but no whole grain ingredients. Food manufacturers will add functional fibers to certain foods and depending on these in order to meet your daily fiber needs is not as healthy as eating a diet rich in whole grains.1



Eating a diet that is nutritionally balances is one of the best ways to keep yourself fit and healthy. Whole grains are a big part of that, so don’t forget to get your daily serving! For more information about whole grains, visit Fill Your Plate!





  1. Drummond, Karen Eich, and Lisa M. Brefere. Nutrition for Foodservice and Culinary Professionals. 8th Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010. 55, 92-93. Print.
  2. “U.S. Dietary Guidelines and WG.” U.S. Dietary Guidelines and WG | The Whole Grains Council. N.p., n.d. Web. 2017.
  3. “Chapter 1 key Elements of Healthy Eating Patterns.” A Closer Look Inside Healthy Eating Pattersm-2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines. N.p., n.d. Web. 2017.







Posted in Cooking, Food, Grain | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Salad for Every Season

By Lori Meszaros, ASU Nutrition Communication Student


Arizona’s climate gives you an abundance of produce that can be grown year-round, making it salad time any time of the year! Adding more salads into your weekly meal plan is an easy way to add fresh, seasonal fruits and vegetables into your diet. Helping you get your recommended 5 a day, and they’re not just limited to lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers.

Gone are the days of salads only making an appearance as an appetizer or side dish. Now salads are taking center stage and filling your plate for lunch and dinner.

Having a salad every day is one of the easiest things you can do to add more fruits and vegetables to your diet. These Dietary Guidelines recommend making half your plate full of fruits and vegetables, and research supports eating more fruits and vegetables lowers your risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and certain cancers.1,2 So why not try swapping out one meal a day for a delicious, nutrient dense salad? With all of the salad recipes to choose from on Fill Your Plate, you won’t be left feeling deprived or hungry.

Hungry for fresh local produce to put in your salad? Well, Arizona has some of the best! And you can find out what’s in season by checking out Arizona Produce in Season. Here’s one of my favorite salads I enjoy year round. It makes a great protein packed lunch or light dinner on a hot night.


Chickpea salad


  • Handful of toasted walnuts*, chopped
  • ¼ walnut oil, or extra virgin olive oil- whatever you have on hand
  • 1 tbsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp coriander


Add all above ingredients to a large mixing bowl and stir to coat. While the nuts are soaking up the seasoning chop up the following ingredients.


  • 2-3 tomatoes
  • 1 red sweet pepper
  • 1 generous pinch of salt, about ½- 1 tsp, adjust for your taste


Chop tomatoes and sweet pepper, toss on top of walnuts then sprinkle with salt. Let the tomatoes and sweet pepper sit and rest a bit to sweat. This brings out the juice from the fruit and adds to the flavor of the salad. While the fruit is sweating, add the remaining ingredients to the bowl-


  • 1 small red onion, diced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 package of spinach, chopped
  • 1 handful cilantro, chopped, about ½ cup after chopped
  • 1 cup cooked quinoa
  • 2 cups cooked brown or green lentils, or 1 can drained and rinsed
  • 2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed**
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar (or to taste)


Toss all ingredients until combined.

* 1 cup dried chickpeas soaked then cooked = 3 cups cooked chickpeas, same as 2 cans.

** Toasted walnuts- Heat to 375F, spread walnuts on a lined baking tray and roast for 10 minutes.

Looking for seasonal salads to enjoy for lunch or dinner? Here’s a list of yummy salads from Fill Your Plate to try for each season.



Apple Pear Salad

Armenian Cucumber- Tomato Salad

Chutney-Melon Chicken Salad

Country Garden Salad

Farmers Salad

Green Salad

Melon-Cucumber Salad

Pistachio Salad

The Farmer’s Favorite Salad

Tri-Color Penne w/ Cherry Tomatoes & Cheese

Waldorf Salad

Watermelon Salad



Avocado and Tomato Salad

Chopped Medjool Salad

Crunchy Apple Salad


Fall & Winter

Join the Party Salad



Golden Beet & Pomegranate Salad

Golden Beet, Fennel & Avocado Salad

Orange Almond Salad


Winter/early spring

Artichoke Chicken Salad

Cole Slaw


Winter & Summer

BBQ Pork Salad with Summer Fruits & Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette

Grilled Romaine with Creamy Balsamic Vinaigrette

Isabell Rousseau’s Carrot Salad Recipe

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese Dressing

Wheat Farmer’s Salad


Spring & Fall

Fettuccine and Ham Salad

Country Garden Salad

Mixed Greens with Goat Cheese Dressing




  1. Post, R.C, Haven, J., Maniscalco, S., & Brown, M.C. It takes a village to communicate the dietary guidelines for Americans and MyPlate. J Acad Nutr Diet, 2103;13(12):1589-1590.


  1. Moore, L.V., & Thompson, F.E. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 2015;64(26):709-713.
Posted in Arizona, Cooking, Food, Fruit, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, Produce, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ripe vs Unripe

By Laura Slatalla, ASU Nutrition Student

As fruit ripens, the nutritional composition of it changes too. Enzymes in the fruit start to break down the starch into simpler sugars, so the glycemic index starts to rise. Riper fruits will give you a greater spike in blood sugar. They’re also lower in fiber, and there’s a loss in some vitamin and mineral content, but that can be slowed down by letting them ripen in the fridge.

Not all the side effects of ripening are negative though. Antioxidants are a byproduct of ripening fruit! That’s right- the more bruised your banana is, the more antioxidants it contains.

So ask yourself, what do you want out of your fruit? Sweeter fruit with cancer-fighting properties, or fruit with more fiber and less simple sugar? It’s a personal choice.

Here’s how to check the ripeness of fruit. Smell it. Ripe fruit will have a sweet fruity scent compared to unripe fruit. It should be soft, but not mushy. Although, even if fruit is a little mushier you can freeze it for smoothies later. The color should be a little darker.

When picking a melon keep in mind they don’t continue to ripen off the vine because they don’t contain ethylene like apples or bananas. Ripe melons should feel heavier, sound hollow, and smell sweet- but not too sweet.

Eat fruit the way you like it. Snack on it and top your breakfast with it! Either way, you’re getting micronutrients and antioxidants!



Posted in Cooking, Food, Fruit, Grocery, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, Vegetables | Leave a comment

Kittens, Peppers, and Daughters: A Simple Salad

By Nathan Chambers, Recent Arizona State University Nutrition Student 

For Christmas last year we got two kittens. If you’ve ever adopted a new pet, you know that your child is going to make you buy things that you simply do not need for the animal. Our cats have harnesses. Who walks their cat?


One item that became of particular interest to my daughter– the kittens didn’t care about it at all– was the pet grass. She checked on it every day, measuring the new height of each rapidly growing blade. It got me thinking… how can I turn this into a profit?

Just kidding. But by growing your own herb garden, you could save a few bucks on grocery trips! And if you can get your kid to do the maintenance work, hey free labor.


We wanted to pick plants that could be grown indoors with relatively little care, but we also wanted things that we might actually use.



Starting small, we chose three plants:



  1. Red Chili Pepper— Okay, so this isn’t an herb… but it can be a relatively prolific provider! Or so I’ve read. Ours has yet to produce, but it is a beautiful plant. Also, my wife loves spicy foods, so we were anxious to get some home grown peppers.


Like most indoor plants, you want to place your chili pepper plant near a window that receives ample light. Water when the soil begins to dry out, but don’t keep it soaked all the time, or you risk rotten roots.



  1. Peppermint-– Here is an herb for you! We picked mint based on its ease of care and the pleasant scent the plant gives off.


To my knowledge, our daughter never had any particular affinity for mint, but now that she is in charge of its care, she loves adding a few leaves to her lemon water.


Care for the peppermint plant is the same as for the chili pepper. Though mint does tend to do better in cooler weather than the pepper.



  1. Basil— Another herb and another one picked because it is easy to care for. Basil will also give off a pleasant scent.


Our favorite use for basil is in a Caprese salad. Though my daughter doesn’t particularly care for this use, she will eat all the mozzarella if I turn my back on her!


There is nothing to the care of this plant either. Water when the soil becomes dry, keep near a sunny window and make sure that the air around it is free of pollutants.


These plants are very easy to keep, even for someone without a green thumb.




I have found this to be an amazing tool to teach our daughter the importance of responsibility: if you don’t water your plants, and turn them occasionally, and don’t forget that they need to be fertilized… if you don’t do these things your plant will die. No more mint water!


When the plants are big and fruitful enough to produce, it is also a great way to introduce her to working in the kitchen. By giving her some basic prep work, washing the basil and gathering the supplies, for example, she learns how much work it takes to cook a meal. She is developing an appreciation for the kitchen.


Caprese Salad


If you decide to go out and buy yourself and your child, a basil plant (or five– you really need a few if you’re going to have enough to actually use), you will probably want my Caprese salad recipe.


I’ve seen Caprese salad served with just olive oil, as a literal bowl of salad with pieces of mozzarella, and as a heap of cheese balls, basil, and cherry tomatoes. This is how I like to prepare it:




1 vine-ripe tomato, sliced into ¼ inch discs

½ pound of mozzarella, sliced into ¼ inch discs

10-15 fresh leaves of basil

Olive oil for drizzling

Balsamic vinegar for drizzling

Salt and pepper to taste




Layer the sliced tomato, mozzarella, and leaves of basil alternating between the three ingredients. Drizzle the salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Lightly salt and pepper.


That’s it! A colorful starter for your meal.


Posted in Cooking, Food, Fruit, Health Tips, Healthy Eating, Produce, Recipes, Vegetables | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment