Fitness Formulary Blog

Halie Ostberg

Halie serves on the MyFormulary team as a Marketing & Editorial Content Director. She leverages her biological background and communications expertise to support her passion for making science and nutrition information accessible. When she's not writing or advocating for the Oxford comma, Halie enjoys picking things up and creating, from barbells to paintbrushes. She graduated from Gustavus Adolphus College with a Biology major and a Neuroscience minor, and has served as a biological researcher at Gustavus, the University of Connecticut, and abroad in Tanzania.
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Recent Posts

Soy & Sex Hormones: What You Need to Know

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 25, 2019 9:55:15 AM

What started as the domestication of a bean species in ancient China has blossomed into a massive, worldwide industry. Soy production in 2017 (in the U.S. alone) was valued at almost 41 billion dollars. Soy has become common in animal feed, baby formula, and 60% of processed foods. It is hailed as a nutrient-dense protein source by many, whether it's in tofu, tempeh, sauce, oil, milk, nut, or bean form.

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Topics: Food & Mood, Diet & Mood, heart health, harmful ingredients, evidence-based, research-based, protein, hormones, estrogen, soy, plant-based, menopause

20+ Tasty, Low-carb Versions of Your Favorite High-carb Foods

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 21, 2019 10:37:56 AM

Eating more healthfully doesn't have to mean giving up all your favorite foods and flavors, or flipping your lifestyle upside down. You can make simple, daily upgrades to your habits instead, and satisfy your high-carb cravings with delicious, nutritious alternatives.

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Topics: low carb treats, low carb eating, quick healthy snacks, healthy indulgence, weight management tips, hacks for healthy habits, chia, healthy eating, gluten-free, keto, low carb

Is Going 'Keto' Worth the Risks? (evidence-based)

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 16, 2019 8:34:42 AM

While keto (ketogenic diet) is a current fad, low-carb diets are nothing new. The low-carb concept has masqueraded under many different names, with the most popular version (apart from keto) being the Atkins diet. 

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Topics: Carbs & Mood, Diet & Mood, heart health, low carb eating, evidence-based, weight-loss, blue zones, balance, moderation, healthy habits, healthy carbs, healthy eating

Is Gluten Unhealthy? The Good, the Bad, & the Bloaty

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 12, 2019 8:28:27 AM

Gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley, is no longer just on the tongues and in the tummies of the people that eat it. Now it's on the minds of many, from nutrition researchers to the concerned customer who frequently asks "is this gluten free?". One NPR survey found nearly a third of adult Americans try to avoid it, even though <1% of the population have celiac disease, according to the NIH.

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Topics: hacks for healthy habits, ancient grains, healthy eating, gluten, gluten-free, indigestion, IBS, wheat allergy, bloating

Beyond Chia Pets: All About Ancient Grains

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 9, 2019 11:22:21 AM

Until relatively recently, the only reference to “Chia” in popular culture was the Chia Pet®. My, how the once lowly chia has risen to nutritional heights (along with an assortment of other “ancient” grains). Like many nutritional practices, chia seeds reflect the rediscovery of ancient wisdom.

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Topics: healthy snacks, heart health, Omega 3, indigenous, evidence-based, research-based, omegas, ancient grains, healthy carbs, chia, healthy eating, omega 6

How to "Detox" {without} Killing Your Gut

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 7, 2019 11:36:43 AM

In spite of the fact that virtually no "detox" or "cleanse" diets are effective in the long term, the trend is nowhere near over. The idea of a short, quick, and intense way to start over fresh and clean truly sells.

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Topics: low sugar diets, evidence-based, resolutions, healthy habits, juice cleanse, detox, detox diet, colon cleanse

Hack Your Brain & Upgrade Your Habits

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Jan 2, 2019 7:39:24 AM

This time of year, you're probably looking toward the new beginnings that January offers. And, you're not the only one. Gyms are more crowded, and it seems like everyone is on one cleanse or another. But how can you make your budding motivation last throughout the year (and your lifetime)? How can you make changes to your diet, lifestyle, and workout schedule that stick? 

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Topics: healthy holidays, train your brain, resolutions, healthy habits, hacks for healthy habits

More Than a Third of U.S. Adults Are Vitamin D Deficient: Are You?

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Dec 28, 2018 9:07:51 AM

According to this study, a whopping 36% of healthy adults and up to 57% of general medicine inpatients in the U.S. don't get enough vitamin D. This primarily results from two major factors: low sun exposure and low vitamin D diets.

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Topics: immune support, immune system support, supplements for immune support, evidence-based, research-based, vitamin d, vitamin deficiency, skin, hair, nails, sunshine vitamin, support for aging, vitamin d supplements, signs and symptoms, bone support

Indulge & Stay In Shape with the Japanese Concept of "Hara Hachi Bu"

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Dec 23, 2018 2:14:56 PM

Sometimes, it can seem like enjoying food and losing weight are opposites. That, somehow, you can't have both.

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Topics: healthy holidays, healthy indulgence, japanese, longevity, weight-loss, portion control, stay in shape, weight management, caloric restriction, blue zones, live longer, weight management tips, balance, moderation

6 Harmful Additives Still on U.S. Shelves [Evidence-based]

Posted by Halie Ostberg on Dec 19, 2018 6:03:51 PM

It feels like there's a new headline every week about toxic ingredients. These headlines blame food additives for everything from hyperactivity in kids to cancer. But if these additives so bad, why are they still on U.S. shelves?

It feels like there's a new headline every week about toxic ingredients. These headlines blame food additives for everything from hyperactivity in kids to cancer. But if these additives so bad, why are they still on U.S. shelves?

It turns out there is a ton of disagreement on which additives are safe, and which ones are dangerous. The disagreements occur between people, countries, companies, and scientists.

Many additives you can easily find on American shelves are banned in other countries.

Let's have a look at the additives (and the actual, unbiased research behind their dangers).

Don't care to read the research-based overview and background of each? Scroll down for a table summary.

 

6 Harmful Additives Still on U.S. Shelves (Evidence-based)

1. Trans (hydrogenated) fats

While trans fats do occur in small amounts in nature (animal products), they are primarily created through altering the structure of liquid vegetable oil by drowning it in hydrogen gas until it becomes solid.

Think of it this way: normally, some fats are liquid at room temperature and some fats are solid. Trans fats are liquid fats that undergo a harsh chemical process (hydrogenation) to turn them into solids.

While the FDA and other regulatory bodies know about the harms associated with trans fats, they continue to populate U.S. shelves (though they are being phased out).

Increased risk of:

  • Stroke: This study found that with every additional 2 grams of trans fats consumed per day, men experienced a 14% increase in risk of stroke.
  • Heart Disease: Consumption of trans fats is associated with increased risk of heart disease, according to studies 1, 2, 3, and 4.
  • Diabetes: Animal studies consistently show that high intake of trans fats is associated with poorly functioning insulin and glucose (not sure how these normally function? Check out this blog). Human studies have mixed results, though its important to note that one study of 80,000 women found high trans fat intake increased diabetes risk by 40%.
  • Bad cholesterol: When trans fats replace other fats already present in the diet, "bad" cholesterol (LDL) goes up, and "good" cholesterol (HDL) goes down (according to this meta-analysis).

 

2. BHT & BHA (Butylated hydroxytoluene, hydroxianisole)

BHT & BHA are used to prevent oils and other packaged ingredients from oxidizing or spoiling. This makes these synthesized compounds antioxidants, which you'd think would be a good thing. Unfortunately, any beneficial antioxidant effects they may have are overshadowed by their cancer-promoting effects.

Increased risk of:

  • Impaired blood clotting: While this effect may only occur at higher doses, it's still a potentially dangerous side effect that occurs in animals in multiple studies.
  • Tumor growth: The vast majority of research shows both BHT & BHA to be tumor promoters (BHT report here and BHA report here).

 

3. Artificial food dyes

Artificial food dyes (AFDs) are generally synthesized from toxic substances (like petroleum), and exactly how harmful they are is dependent on the specific dye, its contaminants, and an individual's allergies. Some studies have identified certain dyes (Red 40, Blue 1, Yellow 5 & 6) as being safe, while other specific dyes have been determined as non-safe (Red 3). Because these dyes are an entirely unnecessary component of processed foods (and because it's too hard to remember which color and number pairings were deemed safe) it's best to avoid them entirely.

Increased risk of:

  • Cancer: Most of the results that suggest increased tumor risk with AFD consumption have been in animals. However, many commonly-found contaminants are known carcinogens for humans, including benzidine. 
  • Hyperactivity (in kids): While the relationship between AFDs and ADHD/hyperactivity has been studied for more than 40 years, exactly how much of an effect AFD ingestion has on hyperactivity in kids still hasn't been figured out, and seems to differ on a case-by-case basis. However, the evidence that does exist is too substantial to ignore, a full summary can be found here.

 

4. Artificial sweeteners

Artificial sweeteners (aspartame, saccharin, sucralose, acesulfame-potassium) are tricky, because if they assist people in facing the challenges of diabetes management or weight loss, they can be beneficial. However, in most cases, ingesting artificial sweeteners has no benefit, and instead can lead to other problems.

Increased risk of: 

  • Cardiovascular & metabolic problems: When the results of 37 trials and cohort studies were compared through a meta-analysis, artificial sweetener intake was associated with weight gain, increased waist circumference, and higher rates of obesity, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and cardiovascular issues.

 

5. Olestra (Olean)

A zero-calorie fat-replacer, Olestra rose to popularity in the '90s, and is most commonly found in chips. 

Increased risk of:

 

6. Potassium bromate (bromated flour)

A frequently-found additive in baked goods, bromated flour speeds up and generally "improves" the baking process. While the substance is recognized as harmful, it's claimed that it changes during the baking process and becomes harmless. This claim is not true, and as a result its use in food is banned in a whole lot of places (from China to Canada)...and yet it's perfectly legal here in the U.S.

Increased risk of:

  • Kidney failure: According to this review, potassium bromate is nephrotoxic to animals and humans, meaning it causes kidney damage.
  • Cancer: Potassium bromate has a documented ability to damage DNA, leading to cancerous tumors (review here).

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Topics: reading snack labels, labels for healthy snacks, what to look for on the label for healthy snacks, clean snacking, labels for clean snacks, label reading, snack labels, additives, harmful ingredients, evidence-based, research-based

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