Good news for the future King George (that’s Kate and William’s little prince) and all the other princes and princesses out there! More of your moms are breastfeeding you during your first hours of arrival and for months to come. That has health benefits for you and your mom, as well as family finances and society in general.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 77 percent of U.S. moms are breastfeeding for the first six months — up from 71 percent in 2000. The CDC credits mothers’ growing awareness of the benefits, as well as programs that bring a newborn into contact with mom within the first five minutes after birth (it seems this encourages the child to express the natural impulse to breastfeed). The rate of breastfeeding after six months also is up, from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010; and after 12 months, from 16 percent to 27 percent.
The benefits to baby? A stronger immune system. Breastfed babies are better able to ward off ear and gastrointestinal infections and some types of dermatitis. They also grow up with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, asthma and obesity.
Mommy benefits? You’ll lower your weight and your risk for Type 2 diabetes, as well as postpartum depression, hypertension, heart attack, and breast and ovarian cancers.
Then there’s the health care benefits! In the U.S., breastfeeding saves around $860 million annually because of reduced medical problems for babies and moms, and that doesn’t include what’s saved at home by not having to buy formula.
When the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, archaeologists finally could decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics because all its inscriptions also were written in ancient Greek — which they understood. Unfortunately, when it comes to decoding nutrition labels, there’s no easy way to know what they mean. So here’s our rundown of the top three things nutrition labels can tell you, and what they don’t.
Calorie counts: How food is prepared, how you chew it and how your gut bacteria behave can alter the total calories food delivers to your body. So use the count as a general guide, then establish a healthy diet every day with nine servings of fruits and veggies; four servings (3 ounces each) of animal protein; two or more for grains (only 100 percent whole) and other carbs. Also, if the label says 100 calories, but there are 2.5 servings (250 calories) in the package, beware you don’t take in more than you planned!
Trans fats: When the label says 0 trans fats, the food is allowed to contain 0.5 grams per serving! Frequent ingestion may deliver heart-damaging amounts. If the ingredients list includes “hydrogenated oil,” that’s probably a trans fat (partially hydrogenated oil ALWAYS is). To either, just say no.
Carb counts: Carbohydrate counts include processed carbs and sugars (check the ingredients list for felonious sugar syrups or added sugars). Don’t rely on printed carb counts; look for separate info on sugars and fiber, and realize the phrase “whole wheat” or “whole grain” in the ingredients list does NOT mean 100 percent (the only good-for-you form).
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chair of the Wellness Institute at the Cleveland Clinic. To live your healthiest, tune into “The Dr. Oz Show” or visit www.sharecare.com.