Strolling down the vitamin isle of your favorite drug store is like taking a long walk off a short dock. If you aren’t careful, you might be all wet when it comes to having good health. This is especially true of so-called heart-healthy supplements.
Consumer Reports says in its July 2017 issue of “On Health, the Truth About What’s Good for You,” that most of those shelves loaded down with expensive dietary supplements touted to help you heart are a waste of money. These include omega-3 fish-oil pills, Q10 (or CoQ10) and red yeast rice.
Consuming foods — like sardines, tuna and mackerel — do contain healthy omega-3 fatty acids that are necessary for maintaining a healthy heart. But taking a pill as a substitute is extremely “iffy” based on numerous studies endorsed by the American Heart Association. People who have already had heart attacks or been diagnosed with heart failure might benefit from taking heavy doses of fish-oil supplement, but only reduce their chance of dying of heart disease by a mere 10 percent.
Coq10 is another supplement that is not all that it is hyped up to be. Supplements of this compound, produced by the body as well as some healthy foods, are touted as been good management tools in the prevention of heart failure and alleviating muscle aches associated with cholesterol-lowering statins. But here again, there is a significant lack of conclusive evidence that this supplement does what it is supposed to do.
Red yeast rice pills are the latest unproved heart-healthy supplement making the vitamin shelf rounds. Red yeast rice is said to lower LDL (or “bad’) cholesterol in the human body. However, Consumer Reports lists red yeast rice as one of 15 supplement ingredients to avoid.
Remember, with over-the-counter supplements, the user seldom knows what she is getting because there is little or no government regulation by the federal government. Although there are some high-quality supplements available, it is best to get them through your trusted health-care provider. Otherwise you might be wasting not only your money but also your health because some over-the-counter supplements interact badly with certain prescribed medications.
We are in an exciting time in life. Just as we had the beginning of the digital revolution at the end of the last century, we are now experiencing a personal transformation revolution. It’s about becoming healthier, happier and living your own life with purpose. But better health and positive change won’t come unless you know what you’re doing.
Here are five steps to help you begin your own journey on the road to personal development:
- Set goals: The first step to living the way you want is to set goals for each part of your life. Those would be your health, career, finances, spirituality and family, but not necessary in that order. Setting separate goals in each area of your life allows you to prioritize what you want to achieve so you can increase your chances of doing so.
However, if you are like most people, you set goals but fail to achieve them because they are too vague. When I work with my health coaching clients, one of the things we work on is setting SMART goals. So what is a SMART goal?
S — Specific: If you want to lose weight, for example, you need to specify how much.
M — Measurable: The easier it is to track your progress, the better your chance of attaining it. “If you don’t measure it, you can’t improve it,” said Lord Kelvin. Tracking your food intake is one way to do this and makes it less difficult to determine if extra efforts are in order in case you experience a setback or come up short on the progress you desire.
A — Achievable: Although you should aim high, make sure your goals are still achievable and action-oriented.
R — Realistic: While some goals are achievable, they might not be realistic for this moment in time. An example might be you have decided to do a marathon but you have not even run a mile yet. Running is realistic, but you might want to start by building up to running a marathon by completing a 5k (3.1 miles) or a 10k (6.2 miles) race first.
T — Time-based: Setting a deadline will help you remain focused and ensure you stay on track. Using the same example above, you might say, “starting June 1 I will begin jogging and complete a 5k race by Sept. 1, 2017.”
- Create an action plan: Once you’ve set your goals and have written them down, create an action plan on how to achieve them. What activities do you need to do to achieve your goals? If you have a long-term goal, break it down into small steps to make it manageable. Don’t forget to track your progress so you can look back and pat yourself on the back every time you move one step closer to your goal.
- Make time for growth activities: Even though life is very busy, it’s vital that you make time for yourself and your own personal growth. Take 15 minutes to read, learn, or listen to a podcast. Wake up 15 minutes earlier to read or write in your journal. If mornings are tough for you, block out 15 minutes during the day or before you go to bed at night. Whenever you chose is up to you but make sure to try and do it daily.
- Adopt a positive mindset: Optimists are more likely to enjoy and succeed in life than people who always see the negative in a situation. Fill your head with positive information and people. Before long you too will have a sunnier disposition and all the health benefits that come with it.
- Keep a journal: Journaling allows you to keep a record of your progress. It helps you learn from the challenges you face and your triumphs and everything in between. I personally like to have two journals going at all times, a gratitude and goal journal. Writing everything down gives me a chance to reflect on my journey, embrace the challenges and savor the joyful moments along the way to the destination.
If you have already set your goals and accomplished them you are in good shape. Give yourself a pat on the back. Even though there is no special prize, if you have managed to do it by yourself, you’ve learned it takes longer and with more mistakes.
However, have you tried to succeed alone and failed? Health coaching can help you dive a little deeper. I know the reason that people lose weight but never seem to keep it off. People THINK that the reason they give up exercise is that they’re lazy but there’s a surprising reason they don’t stick with it. Meditation is something one can use to relieve stress; I know what it takes to cultivate a daily practice with little effort. People feel they should be restricting calories and avoiding certain foods to eat a healthy diet and are shocked when that’s not the case. Would you like to have a wellness breakthrough session with me? You’ll discover the top 5 things that can get in the way of your health goals, and the #1 thing you need to move forward.
Research shows that three similar diets are proven to protect older folks from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia. They are the MIND (Mediterranean Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, the original DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) and the Mediterranean diet.
Lately I’ve been hearing from many clients that the only way to lose weight is to eat lots of protein and cut carbs. “How is a diet that limits many of the foods you love like pasta, crusty French bread, alcohol, etc. going to work long term?” I ask them. “Isn’t enjoying good food with family and friends one of the things you enjoy in life?”
We actually are having winter this year in the Lowcountry even though freezes have been few and far between. That means the grocery shelves should still be full of fresh greens. If not, check out local farmers markets, especially if you’re looking for tasty kale, chard and collards.
Packed with vitamin A, C, K and E, these vegetables are also rich iron, calcium, manganese and potassium, as well as a wealth of antioxidants, which have numerous beneficial effects for our health.
Kale is one of the healthiest and most nutritious foods on the planet. Simply remove the leaf from the stem sauté quickly with a little bit of lemon juice, garlic and extra virgin olive oil. You can also make a salad with it or add it to quinoa to make a healthy and satisfying meal.
Collards here is the South are extremely healthy too. My husband and I own a farm in Hampton County where this deep green vegetable is one of our favorites. We wash our collards carefully and use kitchen shears to cut them into thick, two-inch shreds, which we add to a pot of boiling organic chicken broth and fresh green onions, including the stems, seasoned to taste. We make sure to not leave them on the stove for more than 20 minutes. The longer you boil them, the less the nutritional value. So keep sampling until they reach the consistency you like.
Collards also are excellent when added to various soups; so don’t be hesitant to experiment.
Fresh chard is somewhat of a new staple for traditional Southern cooks. A relative of the beet family, chard offers beautiful green, yellow and red color to winter dishes. Fresh young chard is great in salads, while more mature leaves can be sautéed or cooked. The bitterness typically fades with cooking, so also sample often until you get the taste and consistency you like.
So, don’t be shy. No need to wait until spring. Ask your grocer or you favorite farmer for fresh kale, collards and chard now. Your body will thank you.
Over the holidays, I read a book by David Perlmutter, MD, called the “Grain Brain.” It has been on my bookshelf for a couple of years but only recently caught my eye. Maybe subconsciously I knew I was eating too much grain, especially wheat, over this holiday season. After reading this book and skimming another one, “Wheat Belly” by William Davis, MD, I decided to make some changes. Now don’t get me wrong, I love wheat products. However, what I read has encouraged to cut way back, if not eliminate, whole wheat from my diet.
Historically, wheat is not bad for you. But since the 1980s, the new forms of wheat that have been genetically modified cause inflammation in our bodies, our guts to leak and trigger the increase in autoimmune diseases.
So, what’s the solution? Resorting to the new gluten-free replacements foods on the market today? And why is wheat bad for you? Here’s what I have learned from Dr. Perlmutter, a neurologist, and Dr. Davis, a cardiologist:
- Did you know whole wheat is full of sugar? Yes, eating two slices of whole wheat bread could spike your blood sugar as much as eating two tablespoons of pure sugar. Not good because it could put you on the path to diabetes.
- This chronic spike in blood sugar and insulin can increase visceral fat around your belly. This abdominal fat manufactures excess estrogen in both men and women and can lead to breast cancer in women, “man boobs” in men.
- You may know that skin is our largest organ and part of our immune system. But did you know that excessive amount of wheat can advance aging and cause wrinkles? Wheat has also been linked to skin inflammation and psoriasis.
- And it doesn’t seem to matter what type of wheat. Organic, sprouted or stone ground, it’s still wheat. Wheat in and of itself triggers high blood sugar, visceral fat and inflammation.
- Wheat and baldness are linked. It seems that eating wheat can fuel a certain type of baldness, alopecia areata. This is the non-heredity kind, a type of hair loss that occurs in patches, usually from the scalp. Dr. Davis says he has patients who quit eating wheat products and regrow hair in their bald spots where skin once had inflammation.
- Wheat is the only plant food that generates an acidic by-product, which can affect your body’s PH level. You need to maintain a healthy PH level and non-acidic environment in your body so you don’t pull calcium from your bones. Bones that have become calcium depleted are ripe for fractures and osteoporosis.
- And lastly, elimination of wheat from your diet can help with fewer mood swings, better moods, deeper sleep and better concentration. But caution! If you decide to take yourself off wheat, be careful. Some folks experience withdrawal symptoms that include brain fog, irritability and extreme fatigue.
Although wheat hides in foods besides the bread aisle, going wheat-free is easier than you think. Eliminate processed foods and start cooking from scratch again. Create simple salad dressing from extra virgin olive oil, vinegar and spices. Avoid fast-food restaurants and convenience foods in the grocery stores. You’ll save money and your health.
Healthy eating can benefit you in many ways. It can help you live longer and become stronger. Good nutrition keeps your muscles, bones and organs in tip-top shape. A proper diet can also reduce the risks of heart disease, stroke, high blood pressure and diabetes. Also, healthy eating leads to consuming fewer calories and more nutrient-rich food that will keep your weight under control.
Eating healthy and maintaining a healthy diet can sharpen your mind, too. Nutrients are essential for the brain to function properly. Most kinds of nuts, but particularly walnuts, are packed with omega-3 fatty acids that can improve focus and decrease the risk of Alzheimer’s’ disease. Consuming antioxidant-rich foods enhances memory and mental alertness as you age.
Consuming wholesome meals rich in nutrients will give you more energy and help you look better. Looking better improves self-esteem. The way you eat and the way you feel are connected. If you eat well by properly nourishing your body, you feel good.
This holiday season try to incorporate some of the following tips into your daily eating habits. If you start now by incorporating small changes, you won’t’ be so overwhelmed come January.
— Reduce sodium intake.
— Avoid white flour, refined sugar and white rice.
— Put five colors on your plate. Fruits and vegetables rich in color correspond to being rich in nutrients.
— Eat until you are satisfied, but don’t stuff yourself.
— Be mindful of beverage consumption. Alcohol induces overeating.
— Make time for exercise. It relieves stress and helps prevent weight gain.
And let me leave you with these thoughts:
Don’t’ restrict yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday treats. Just be aware of how much you are consuming and limit the amount. Think twice about drinking a second glass of an alcoholic beverage. Instead, incorporate healthy options of things you enjoy. One of my holiday favorites is alcohol-free eggnog. I have found the soy version every bit as rich and satisfying but with half the calories. Enjoy the holidays, incorporate healthy recipes into your holiday meals and make time for physical activity. Give the gift of health to yourself starting now.
It’s OK to eat chocolate, but do so BEFORE you get uptight. Also, check the label to make sure it’s not loaded with milk and sugar.
Research has shown that obese women have higher levels of cortisol than those who maintain a healthy weight. Cortisol triggers the accumulation of fat, especially around organs and the abdomen, which can contribute to depression, heart disease and stroke. Yet a 2009 study found that people who ate 40 grams (1 ounce) of dark chocolate every day for two weeks saw a decrease in their cortisol levels. Another study in 2010 found that people who ate chocolate over the course of 30 days lowered their levels of anxiety.
But, timing is everything. Be sure to eat the right kind of chocolate before — not after — the onset of anxiety or stress. Those who ate chocolate in response to stress generally felt just as depressed after their chocolate fix as they did before. Their depressed feelings lasted approximately three minutes, which was long enough for them to reach for more chocolate.
Eating chocolate regularly in small amounts at the right time allows your body to slowly build up levels of polyphenols, which are antioxidants that regulate stress hormones. So, remember to slow down when consuming chocolate, and savor it is small doses for the best results.
Also remember to choose dark chocolate over milk chocolate because milk blocks your body’s ability to absorb the antidepressant antioxidants (polyphenols). So to make chocolate healthy food, you should eat it with at least 70% cocoa. The higher the percentage, the better it is for you. If the percentage it not clearly labeled on the wrapper, you should probably stay away from it.
It’s best to limit yourself to 40 grams of “good” chocolate a day. Divide the bars into servings about the size of the end joint of your thumb for best results. Eating more than 40 grams has no added benefit.
Eat the right kind of chocolate (70 percent and up) “mindfully,” as I like to say. Don’t’ chew or suck on it. Let it sit on your tongue and melt slowly. This causes the flavor to linger and tricks your brain into thinking you are eating the entire time. Mindful eaters are far less likely to overindulge.
If you don’t like the taste of low-sugar, dark chocolate, try adding cocoa powder (not Dutch chocolate, which has been heavily processed) to your foods. Add a few tablespoons to your morning oatmeal or other low-sugar cereals. Hot chocolate is good too, but make sure you use almond milk or soymilk, thus avoiding dairy fat. But limit yourself to eight tablespoons of cocoa powder a day.
Now that we are in the holiday season, many of us resign ourselves to the weight gain that typically follows. Indeed, it is very hard to pass up holiday sweets that seem to be everywhere as well as extra servings of a traditional family dish. That’s why so many weight loss books are published at this time promising a “New Year, New You.”
So it’s no surprise that the No. 1 New Year’s resolution is to lose weight. But this year consider a broader approach to resolving the problem for more lasting success. Here are 10 points that my health-coaching clients have incorporated into their weight-management programs that you may want to consider:
1. Sleep better.
2. Work out more, whether it is outside, at the gym or home.
3. Begin a daily mindfulness or meditation practice.
4. Drink more water and get rid of diet sodas.
5. Eat more vegetables and less meat.
6. Organize your home, workspace or both.
7. Make new friends and/or spend more time with those you already have.
8. Improve work/life balance to allow more time to take better care of yourself.
9. Quit tolerating an uncomfortable situation at home or work out of fear. Define the problem and fix it.
10. Find an app or person to hold you accountable to whatever goal you are trying to achieve so you will create a lasting new habit.
There is a lot of help available, so take advantage of it now so 2017 can be your best year yet!
Finally the cooler weather is upon us, which for me, is “tea time.” But, like most everything I consume, I play a game of sorts with myself to determine what’s healthiest for my body. However, tea is a bit different.
All varieties of tea — whether it is black tea, green, oolong (between green and black) or white —are good for me, and probably you too. The health benefits include keeping your mind sharp and reducing your risk of heart disease, stroke and type 2 diabetes. Yes, tea is the number two beverage, behind water, as the most sipped beverage worldwide is loaded with disease fighting plant compounds and antioxidants.
True teas are made from the leaves of Camellia sinensis plant. Differences in flavor and color depend on the how the leaves are rolled, crushed and exposed to air before drying. Herbal teas are infused with herbs and spices.
So like anything good for you, how much should you consume? Some experts recommend having 2-3 cups per day. Since tea, like coffee, has caffeine, balance your intake with de-caffeinated varieties or take fewer sips. Black tea has the most caffeine, with 72 mgs in 12 ounces, about half of what a cup of coffee would have in the same size serving. And if your preference is decaf tea, double up on the teas bags to get the same beneficial plant compounds because the de-caf process dilutes some of the healthy compounds.
A few words of warning, though: Don’t load up your tea with sugar and cream. This can add a huge whopping of calories and sugar to your healthy routine. Also if you do not peculiarly like tea, a supplement with the green tea extract powders is not OK. The benefits you might get are overshadowed by the risks of dizziness, ringing in the ears, elevated blood pressure and heart rate, liver damage and possible death. Need I say more!