News Feed: Fast Food and Hormones, Nordic Diets and Family Meals

Want fries with that hormone disrupter?

Yet another reason to skip fast food if you want to eat healthy: A new study indicates that fast food may expose those who consume it to chemicals called phthalates, which can disrupt hormones and even lower sperm count in men.

Researchers at the George Washington University Milken Institute School of Public Health found that people who had consumed more than 35 percent of their calories from fast food in the previous 24 hours had significantly higher levels of two phthalate byproducts, DEHP and DiNP. The authors suggest that the phthalates may have gotten into food — possibly from sources like plastic gloves or conveyor belts — during preparation or packaging, and that the heat from cooking may exacerbate the issue.

heritage carrot varienties

Photo by: David Neal Hanlon ©David Neal Hanlon

David Neal Hanlon, David Neal Hanlon

Nordic, the new Mediterranean

Should you eat like a Nordic person? Research indicates that eating like the denizens of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Sweden might not be the worst idea in the world. Sticking to a Nordic diet, which emphasizes “whole grains, fatty fish, root vegetables, cabbage, rapeseed oil and bilberries” (bilberries are similar to blueberries), may bring down your LDL cholesterol level and blood pressure, lowering your risk of cardiovascular disease and possibly helping you lose weight, Time reports.

“The healthy Nordic diet was not so strict that we would have instructed participants to weigh their food or eat exactly certain amounts of some foods,” study co-author Maria Lankinen, of the University of Eastern Finland, told Time. “It was much more flexible so that everybody could follow that diet easily forever.”


Photo by: Simon Winnall ©(c) Simon Winnall

Simon Winnall, (c) Simon Winnall

Kids, come for dinner!

Eating dinner together as a family has been credited with everything from helping kids do better in school to bolstering adolescents’ mental health to lowering their risk of substance abuse. But why? Writing in The New York Times, psychologist and author Lisa Damour posits that it all comes down to “authoritative parenting.”

Authoritative parents “hold high standards for behavior while being lovingly engaged” with their kids, Damour writes, adding, “Decades of research have documented that teenagers raised by authoritative parents are the ones most likely to do well at school, enjoy abundant psychological health and stay out of trouble.”

Regularly sitting down to a meal as a family calls for the combination of structure and warmth that defines authoritative parenting, Damour suggests. So set the table and summon the kids. (Or better yet, summon the kids to set the table!)

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. A regular contributor to The Los Angeles Times, she has also written for The New York Times, The Washington Post, Glamour, Marie Claire, The Daily Beast and Wine Spectator, among others, as well as for Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to Healthy Eats, she blogs for Food Network’s FN Dish.

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