All posts in Nutrition

Do You Know Why Wheat Is Bad For You?

Do You Know Why Wheat Is Bad For 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.

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Four Ways to Rev Up your Metabolism

Four Ways to Rev Up your Metabolism

After you lose weight, your metabolism slows down, thus it is easier to regain the weight you lost. And once you gain back the weight, the harder it is to lose it.  It’s a vicious cycle.  But you can get it back under control.  By employing a few helpful nutrition and lifestyle changes, you will be on the road to optimizing your metabolism for life.

What is metabolism? It’s the sum of all the chemical reactions happening in your body. Based on the science of food metabolism and the way our bodies burn energy, here are four ways to boost your metabolism for lasting weight control:

  1. Distribute your intake of protein throughout the day. Don’t let dinner be the meal where you consume most of your protein. Spread it out among all your meals for more efficient use.
  1. Work out daily: But mix up what you do every day.  Combine resistance, aerobic and flexibility training to five consistent workouts per week.  Maybe 2-3 times a week do an aerobic or cardio workout like jogging, my favorite, or biking.  Balance this out with 2-3 days of some form of stretching like Yoga or Pilates.  The objective is to not solely burn calories but to boost your body’s metabolism and response to exercise through recovery and rebuilding.
  1. Manage stress: Stress is not something we are going to eliminate, and a little bit is not necessarily a bad thing.  But when your stress level gets out of whack, your metabolism suffers.  Stress causes your hormones, such as cortisol, to overproduce and affects your insulin sensitivity.  You tend to sleep less and gain weight. We also tend to overeat and exercise less when we are stressed.
  1. Sleep well. Even a single interruption in your normal 6-8 hours per night sleep pattern has a detrimental effect on fat metabolism and tissue recovery from exercising.  Plan your sleep routine as you would a workout. When you give your body a full night sleep on a consistent basis, you are supporting the release of important hormones. Melatonin is one of these hormones that help control your daily metabolic rate.

Your energy levels, ability to work out, and weight gain or loss all depend on your body’s metabolic processes.  If you implement these four simple strategies, your body will operate more efficiently.  You’ll maintain weight loss, which makes for a happier new year.

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How Chocolate Can Alleviate Anxiety & Stress

How Chocolate Can Alleviate Anxiety & Stress

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.

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Resolve to Take a Broad Approach to Weight Management this New Year

Resolve to Take a Broad Approach to Weight Management this New Year

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!
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Do You Know Why Tea is Good For You?

Do You Know Why Tea is Good For You?

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!

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Drink Up: The Health Benefits of Coffee

Drink Up: The Health Benefits of Coffee

One of the things I look forward to each morning is a cup of fresh-brewed coffee. In fact, I enjoy it so much I often list it as one of the three things I am grateful for each week. My morning Joe helps me to ease into my routine; it is my time to be quiet and savor the beginning of a new day.

What I have learned is that I am not alone, 54 percent of all adults in the United States drink coffee daily. If you fall into that category, you may be happy to learn that coffee drinking is a healthy habit. Coffee is full of disease-fighting antioxidants, as are many other plants. Yes, we often forget that coffee is actually a plant. The coffee bean contains more than 1,000 naturally occurring substances called “phytochemicals.” They are antioxidants that protect cells from damage by free radicals in your body.

Drinking coffee has also been shown to reduce tooth cavities, boost athletic performance, improve mood, and stop headaches. It also can reduce your chance of getting Type 2 diabetes, lower cancer risk, prevent strokes, and fight off Parkinson disease. Coffee also improves cognitive function as we age.

So how much coffee do we need to drink each day to reap these wonderful benefits?

Researchers have found that for those who drink four to six cups per day, versus only two or fewer, their risk for Type 2 diabetes decreased by almost 30 percent. The number decreases by 35 percent for people who drink more than six cups per day. Of course, my first thought when I read this was four to six cups a day is too much. I’d be bouncing off the walls. The good news is the benefits are the same if you drink decaffeinated coffee.

Regular black coffee only has two calories so it’s a great alternative beverage to soft drinks or energy drinks. The federal dietary guidelines state that up to five cups of coffee a day are in line with a healthy diet. But make sure you go easy on the cream, sugar and other additives… We don’t want to turn a healthy habit into something that negates the good!

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20% Genes + 80% Lifestyle= ?

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My Great Aunt, 108 years old.

I have a great aunt that is 108 years old. She is still mobile, lives at home and is mentally sharp. She is one of the oldest citizens of North Carolina and often interviewed by the media on secrets to longevity and quality of life. Although her sister (my grandmother) lived to be 97, her health and quality of life declined in her late 80s.

What’s the difference between these two sisters even though both had longevity?

Researchers agree that a person’s genes account for only 20 percent of human longevity. The balance depends on how you live life in your younger years. Both ladies owned their own businesses. My grandmother worked until her late 70s, my great aunt until her early 90s. Neither had regular exercise routines, but both were always very busy with their businesses. My aunt walked, climbed stairs and did a bit of lifting in her younger years because she owned an interior design business. She never seemed to sit down. My grandmother was a little overweight most of her life, and my great aunt was always thin and still remains a snappy dresser. Neither of them watched very much television.

My grandmother smoked occasionally earlier on. My great aunt never did. They both enjoyed a little wine with their food, and my grandmother would have a beer occasionally. They both ate a predominantly Mediterranean diet — especially lots of olive oil and fish. I’m convinced that their diet is the second key contributor to their longevity.

The four basics to a Mediterranean diet:

1. Eat more plants — Plant-based foods including fruits, vegetables and whole grains are critical to good health, yet most of us come up short on these.

2. Choose healthier fats — The Mediterranean diet is not low in fats. But olive oil, nuts, seeds, avocado and fish are extremely good for you, so eat as much of them as you can.

3. Lean protein — While plant-based foods make up the majority of a Mediterranean diet, lean meats can also play a key role. Protein consumption via seafood, poultry, eggs and lean meats in moderation are important.

4. Beverages — A little wine may be included in a Mediterranean diet, but moderation is extremely important. Water is by far the critical staple. So drink lots of it throughout your waking hours.

Do you want to make changes in you lifestyle and look and feel better? Is the quality of your life important now as well as in the future? I can help you make the necessary changes and help you stick with the program. Consider taking advantage of my free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session. It is designed to improve your eating and other health habits critical for enjoying a long and quality way of life.

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How to Make Weight Loss Last

How to Make Weight Loss Last

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, especially after 50 years of age, you know it’s an extremely difficult challenge. You should also know that keeping off those extra pounds is even harder.

According to the International of Journal of Obesity, among overweight and obese adults, only 17 percent who lost at least 10 percent of what they started with were able to keep it off long term. And those who lost more are less likely to keep it off. So why is this?

The key to lasting change in any area of your life is developing healthy habits and sticking with them. So start now to develop good dietary choices. This makes managing the weight loss far easier. It’s also important to establish reasonable goals ahead of time. You can’t reach a goal if you don’t have one. When it comes to maintaining your body weight, keep that goal in mind and hold yourself accountable.

But don’t beat yourself up if you get off track occasionally. As I often tell my health-coaching clients, change is not linear. It’s OK to slip occasionally. Just get back on track as soon as you can and continue working toward becoming the best that you can be.

It’s also important to customize your diet to fit your lifestyle once you are in maintenance mode. The key is to find what works for you personally. One diet does not fit all, and neither does one diet-maintenance plan.

Fun times, vacations, dinners out, etc. are important. It’s fine to enjoy these times. They are a part of enjoying life. So plan accordingly. Keep your overall diet healthy and practical for your lifestyle. Here’s a time-tested rule of thumb: If you eat healthy 80 percent of the time, you can splurge for the other 20 percent.

Of course, no article on maintaining weight loss would be complete without reference to exercise. Exercise and nutrition go hand in hand. Exercise is a great way to break through weight loss plateaus and help you manage your weight once you have reached your goals. Whether you prefer a leisurely walk around the block, an intense 10k race, or anything in between, exercise is great for maintaining your weight, your energy and a critical can-do attitude.

Once you have hit your weight-loss goal, it’s wise to continue to build muscle mass with exercise such as resistance training. As we age, we lose muscle mass. But many women don’t want to build muscle, only lose fat. Unfortunately, you can’t have one without the other. Muscle burns fat and it important for maintaining your weight and keeping your metabolism revved up. The best way to lose fat is to build lean muscle with exercise and the right amount of protein, plant based protein counts too.

If you find you are struggling with losing weight, or keeping it off, accountability may be the missing piece for you. Give me a call for a free, 30-minute optimal health breakthrough session to see how I might be able to help.

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Don’t Forget to Eat Your Pears

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An apple a day really is a great way to stay healthy, but don’t forget pears! The nutrition benefits of the lowly pear rank right up there with the best of fruits. Pears are juicy, sweet, crunchy and full of juice. They also contain dietary fiber, antioxidants, minerals, and vitamins — especially when the skins are left on the fruit.

Pears are easy to digest, low in calories, full of vitamin C, anti-inflammatory and non-allergenic for most people. They are especially promising in the treatment of type-2 diabetes in women as well as beneficial in fighting heart disease and treating colon problems.

There are basically two kinds of pears: European (which include Bartlett’s) and Asian. The best way to determine if a pear ready to eat is to gently press the flesh near the stem. If it is spongy, it’s ready. If your pears are still hard, put them in the refrigerator and wait until they soften. Some people also put them in paper bags to hasten ripeness.

When ready to eat, some cooks dice pears and add them to salads which can include mustard greens, kale, watercress, walnuts, and raisins. Chopped pears also go well with grated ginger, honey, and cereals. One of my favorite ways to prepare pears is to make a cobbler or what is known as “pear crisp.” (Recipes for Pear Crisp can be found online or in cookbooks.) An excellent site to visit is http://usapears.org.

So, the next time you head out looking for a healthy fruit to eat, don’t forget the pears. They’re plentiful this time of year and should cost between $1.50 to $4 per pound, depending on freshness and where you find them.

Do you have a good pear recipe to share with me? If so, let me know and I’ll include it here in my blog. Thanks!

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Are statins safe AND effective?

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Statins lower cholesterol in most people’s blood. There is no disputing this fact. But questions still remain about whether the results are worth the risk.

Researchers and doctors do not yet know what the long-term effects might be for people who are prescribed statins. They are not sure about side effects, and they don’t know for sure if statins can help prevent heart disease.

Statins are prescribed under different names. They include atorvastatin (Lipitor), fluvastatin (Lescol), lovastatin (Altoprev), pitavastatin (Livalo), pravastatin (Pravachol), rosuvastatin (Crestor) and simvastatin (Zocor). Generic versions of these medications are also available. They block substances required to make cholesterol in the body, and also help your body reabsorb cholesterol that has built up in plaques on your artery walls. These plaques can clog blood vessels and cause heart attacks.

But high cholesterol alone does not make the case for prescribing statins, especially for people under the age of 50, according to researchers at the Mayo Clinic. Other risk factors include race, gender, blood pressure and whether you have diabetes or smoke cigarettes. The following guidelines from the American College of Cardiology and American Heart Association apply to people who are likely to be helped by statins:

— People who already have cardiovascular disease. These include victims of heart attacks, strokes caused by blockages in a blood vessel, mini-strokes, peripheral artery disease and those who have had prior surgery to open or replace coronary arteries.

— People who have very high LDL (bad) cholesterol, those who have diabetes and patients whose risk of a heart attack is high within the next 10 years.

But there are things you should start doing now whether you have been prescribed a statin or not. They are:

— Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.

— Establish a healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, refined carbohydrates and salt. Make sure your diet is rich in fruits, vegetables, fish and whole grains.

— Establish a proven exercise regimen and stick with it.

— Maintain a healthy belt size, which is less than 40 inches in men and less than 35 inches in women.

And this is where integrated health coaches can help. They will work with you on a regular basis to help you to reach your health goals and to maintain them. Also remember: If you are prescribed a statin, be sure to be tested regularly and follow your doctor’s advice.

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