Science Behind Health

With the start of each new year come many health claims. Frequently they promote this diet or that: low carb, no carb, high protein, no fat and so on. What has started to change is incorporating science into these trends. Here’s some of the latest from David Zinczenko, the author of the, “Eat This, Not That” series and of the new book, “Zero Belly Fat”:

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Take a brisk walk before breakfast: exposure to sunlight in the morning reduces weight gain by synchronizing your metabolism. You’re also burning calories in a fasted state.

Start the morning with oatmeal. It contains insoluble fiber which reduces cholesterol and helps control hunger. It also produces butyrate, which reduces inflammation.

Choose red fruit over green. The higher level of flavonoids calm the fat storage genes. Add avocados to your diet: they add healthy unsaturated fats, fight hunger and prevent the storage of belly fat. Make protein shakes with plant protein, which reduce hunger and supply ample nutrients without the inflammation issues associated with commercial shakes.  Add eggs to your diet. They contain choline, which fights your body’s trigger to store fat.

Drink lots of water embellished with citrus fruit: anti-oxidants which help flush toxins out of your body.

Make your own trail mix. Many health benefits from fruits and nuts and seeds. Without additives from commercial products.

Mini workouts can be as effective or more than trying to find hours to commit to exercise.

Try to get as much of your vitamin and mineral intake from food rather than supplements. Mega-dosing can trigger fat genes.

For dessert: try blackberries and chocolate. Anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatories.

Eat wild salmon over farmed. Mostly omega 3’s and minimal less-healthy omega 6’s. Eat real peanut butter over commercially processed brands. Contains genistein, reducing the body’s ability to store fat.

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Eat a big, green leafy salad before a meal. It fills you up with the good stuff so you eat less of the not-so-good stuff.

Fad trends and diets are becoming a thing of the past. Good advice based on science is becoming more vocal and in the forefront. Seems sensible and about time.

5 Reasons I Take Supplements

Let me just say that I am not a good pill taker. But about 4 years ago my nutritionist put me on a regimen of pharmaceutical grade supplements based on some nutritional deficiencies she identified in my profile.

Why I take Supplements

1.  While I try to eat a well balanced and nutritional diet, the fact of the matter is that is not always the case especially when we are traveling.

2. It seems I am always on a diet to counteract the weight gain I usually incur while traveling. A protein supplement helps to provide extra protein that may be missing from my diet as a result.

3. As I have gotten older, insomnia has become a chronic problem for me. I take a Magnesium supplement to help me stay asleep longer.

4. I am pretty physically active and workout 5-6 days a week. I take amino acid supplements to increase my energy levels during training and help reduce post-workout muscle soreness.

5. During my last bone scan test, my doctor said I have the bones of a 16 year old. Glad to know I have still have something like a teenager. This is a result of the Calcium and Vitamin D supplements I take.

Here is an inventory of the specific supplements I take and what they are for.

OptiCleanse

Opticleanse

It is a comprehensive, fructose-free, low-allergy–potential dietary supplement designed to support gastrointestinal function, balanced detoxification, and a normal, healthy response to inflammation which I get from time to time.

ActivEssentials

ActivEssentials

Is a proprietary multivitamin/mineral blend that supports improved nutrient intake and provides Antioxidants.

OsaplexOsaplex

Is a comprehensive dietary supplement that supports healthy bones, cartilage, and ligaments with Calcium and Vitamin D.

CurcuPlex

circuplex

Is a phytochemical obtained from turmeric and a patented black pepper extract. Turmeric is believed to be an effective supplement to combat inflammation.

OptiMag

OptiMag

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body.  Apparently, many people to not have enough magnesium in their bodies.  It participates in the development and maintenance of bones and teeth; the metabolism of carbohydrates, blood glucose, fats, and proteins and for those suffering from insomnia will help you stay asleep longer.

If you would like to improve your overall health and do not feel you are getting the maximum nutrition from your diet, I encourage you to consult a nutritionist about the supplements that are right for you,

Lentils and Indian Spices

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Did you know that lentils are good for you? Before traveling to India, I was not that familiar with them but they are a staple in India. About 30% of lentil’s calories come from protein. Lentils contain dietary fiber, folate and B1 vitamins. They are quick to cook and easy to store. And they come in different varieties, colors, shapes and sizes.

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Indian spices also have many health properties. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory properties and is being studied as a remedy for diseases including Alzheimer’s, arthritis and cancer. Cumin is an excellent source of iron, aids in digestion and may have anti-carcinogen properties. Coriander has been used to treat skin inflammation, lower cholesterol, aid in digestion and lower blood pressure. Fennel seeds contain anti-oxidants, are a rich source of fiber and contain many vitamins and minerals. There are many, many spices used in Indian cooking, each with their own beneficial qualities.

Recently I put these healthy ingredients together in a simple dal (lentil) dish. Using red lentils or masoor dal, they were simmered with turmeric and seasoned with salt. They were finished with asafetida, cumin seeds and red dried chiles that were quickly fried in ghee before being added (olive oil can be subsituted). The result was a warm, earthy and comforting dish that was filling and satisfying.

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Sugar Worse Than Fat

It has long been believed that fat was the ultimate culprit in the American diet. That fat lead to higher levels of cholesterol. And that higher levels of cholesterol lead to heart disease and premature death. As such, Americans focused on lowering fat in their diets over the past 30 years. And unfortunately, things didn’t get better. They got worse.

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Cardiovascular disease continues to be the leading cause of death for both men and women. Diabetes rates are higher than before. Child obesity is also worse than before. So the low fat mentality didn’t work. Why not?

Some scientists and members of the medical community believe that when we lowered our intake of fat, we replaced it with SUGAR. And in some ways sugar is worse than fat.

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Between a cheeseburger and a larger, sugary drink – which do you think is worse for you? Most people would quickly say the cheeseburger. But they would be wrong. It’s the sugary drink that converts into bad cholesterol – the enemy. It’s not that fat is good for you, but to reduce fat and replace it with sugar – that’s worse.

Here’s why: human bodies were not designed to consume as much sugar as we do. Naturally, we used to get sugar seasonally (once a year) when fruit fell from the trees. And there was only so much fruit you could eat. Now we eat around 140 pounds of sugar on average per year. Our bodies simply aren’t evolved to handle that.

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When the sugar hits our liver and our liver doesn’t know what to do with it, it turns it into bad cholesterol. And to our bodies, a slice of white bread and a packet of sugar are essentially the same thing, with a slight time delay.

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So, what’s really best for us? Many in the medical community believe it is a diet that emphasizes low carbohydrates and heavily weighted in vegetables. Also water is VERY important. Our brain is made up of 75% water. It’s a good idea to get up in the morning and consume 8 to 16 oz of water first thing, and continue to hydrate all day.

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The reality is, there will always be conflicting sources of information and advice on what is best and worst for us. But the more we educate ourselves, the better we will be able to determine where the consistencies are and what is controversial. We can keep up on the latest science and studies. And we can be in touch and in tune with our own bodies. It’s all our responsibility to ourselves.

* sourced from an interview between Fareed Zakaria and Dr. Sanjay Gupta on CNN

Food Sensitivity Testing

 

 

food-sensitivity

I recently referred a friend of mine who is a Nutritionist to my Sister who at the time was suffering from some severe health problems. The Nutritionist gave my Sister a Food Sensitivity Test or a Mediator Release Test (MRT) to determine if  her inflammation problems were due to something she was eating. I told her I would take the test as well even though I wasn’t really having any health issues. So this story is about my experiences with this kind of test and the ensuing elimination diet that follows.

The first step was to go to a licensed Phlebotomist to have my blood drawn and they sent the vials of drawn blood to the company that did the testing. After about two weeks, my Nutritionist friend let my Sister and I know the results of our tests.  Based on our individual results, my friend customized a diet for each of us that would allow our immune systems to rest, calm and support our bodies toward a transformative healing from symptoms such as: Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Chronic Diarrhea/Constipation, GERD/Reflux, Migraines and a number of other conditions related to inflammation.

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Even though I didn’t have any symptoms of inflammation, I decided to see how I felt being on the diet. For the first two weeks I was only allowed to eat the foods that I was least sensitive to, the idea being that any inflammation in your body would subside during that time and after that one food was added per week that was on the slightly sensitive list to see if any symptoms returned.  The diet continues until all foods on your sensitivity list are added back in to pinpoint the exact food that might be causing your symptoms.  My test results indicated that I was most sensitive to Scallops, Mustard and Blue Dye, so I was not allowed to add those items into my diet. The test also showed that I did not have a high sensitivity to Gluten products. It was not an easy diet to follow but I did it as prescribed for about 6 weeks and afterwards I did feel pretty good. My Sister followed it for a lot longer and her inflammation symptoms subsided dramatically.

If you are experiencing symptoms due to inflammation and are not having much luck with over the counter remedies, I would highly recommend contacting a Nutritionist and consider having a Food Sensitivity Test and being on an elimination diet.

 

Animal Welfare

Almost every Sunday I shop at my local farmer’s market. I find the vendors selling organic seasonal produce and buy what looks good.

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When it came to other foods though, especially dairy and protein items, I used to not give it as much thought. That was, until a few years ago when I read this book.

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By the time I read this book, I had already read “Omnivore’s Dilemma,” “Fast Food Nation,” and other similar books. I had seen some of the mainstream documentaries on the food industry (“Super Size Me,” “Food Inc,” and the like). I learned something from all of them, though nothing affected me more than Jonathan Safran Foer’s, “Eating Animals.” Part memoir and part investigative reporting, this book describes in graphic detail, what lies behind every packaged chicken, burger or fish we so freely grab at the supermarket. And it’s disturbing. Very disturbing.

Some of what comes out in this book is not new. We have read, heard or seen versions of it before. What makes this account different though and so moving, is the author’s authentic attempts to find out for himself how a chicken comes to land in a styrofoam package, neat and clean for our consumption. Not through research or interviews, but by sneaking into a chicken farm in the dark of night himself to witness the conditions. And he’s not a former Navy Seal or the like. Just a new parent who cares to understand the morality behind what we eat. Like most of us, but willing to go the extra (many) miles.

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The chicken is but one example of many and after finishing this book, I was forever changed. I think about the quality of life most of these animals get vs. those they deserve. I cringe at the thought of buying meat or fish that contributes to the thoughtless suffering of an animal for profit. I smile when I see cows grazing freely, on real grass in pasture.

Obviously I highly recommend this book. If you have any interest in food activism, this is an essential read. If you are lucky enough to live near a Whole Foods Market, they now have an animal welfare rating system for their meat. They also have a bare minimum standard for the meat and fish they carry that accounts for welfare and sustainability. Farmer’s markets also often sell protein that is welfare conscious and environmentally responsible. Even large supermarket chains and warehouse stores (like Costco) have devoted a portion of their market to organic and sustainable protein because there is enough of a demand by educated consumers. I know one thing for sure. After reading, “Eating Animals,” I cannot imagine eating a steak or a piece of chicken or a fish that I knew suffered to get to my table or caused significant environmental damage for my consumption. I cannot say that we, as a family are 100% perfect in our habits, but we strive to be and so hopefully we hit it most of the time. It gives me renewed respect for the pioneers of the modern slow food movement like Alice Waters, who I was fortunate to hear speak about a year ago. (Still on my bucket list: Chez Panisse!)

 

 

Lemon Balm “The Elixir of Life”

I met Suzanne, a registered Dietitian and Nutritionist, a few years ago when she came to me for Pilates training.  We became good friends and my family and I have benefited from her professional expertise, with supplement prescriptions and food sensitivity analysis.  She is a consummate “Earth Mama” and has a wealth of knowledge about natural remedies.  If you would like to know more about her holistic recommendations, she can be reached at suzannepolo.com.  This week she is sharing her knowledge about Lemon Balm.

Lemon Balm 2She is my current herbal love affair. This beautifully fragrant member of the mint family has kept my family healthy throughout the year. Back in November I made a lemon balm tincture from fresh leaves and we’ve used it for it’s polyphenolic antiviral and antibacterial properties. We’ve been able to side step every cold/flu illness that was passed around. You’ll also be interested to know these polyphenols make lemon balm an effective match against herpes and shingles. Here is a simple recipe to make a Lemon Balm Tincture. Not only does this medicinal herb calm the nervous system but it draws more bees than other plants, hence it’s pseudonym, bee balm.

Lemon Balm is a milder relaxant making it particularly good for children. It soothes nerves and can help with stomach problems that are often linked with anxiety and stress. It calms a restless child with ADD and ADHD, and soothes recurring nightmares.

Last week I made a lemon balm infusion. It turned out so deliciously, and honestly was simple to make (steep a large container of strong tea). The flavor is so sweet and smooth my Lemon Balm Lemonade needs no sweetener. Elixir indeed!

I’ve been sourcing my fresh lemon balm from AHO (Abundant Harvest Organics) .  This California CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) provides weekly farm boxes filled with organically grown, local produce grown by small family farmers. I coordinate a few pick up sites in the LA area.  I plan to plant my own soon as it is a fast growing perennial with an irresistible fragrance and flavor. And we need ‘the balm’ to support our sacred bees.

Lemon balm leaves’ concentration of volatile oils are antispasmodic, calming both the nervous and digestive systems. A tea or infusion is an excellent remedy for stomach distress including relief for flatulence and colic, as well as nervous exhaustion.  It’s mild sedative actions help insomnia caused by grief and sadness. lemon balm treats heartache, depression and SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).

Be good to yourself and bring lemon balm into your daily life. With little effort you’ll reap it’s healing embrace.

Lemon Balm Tincture

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Lemon Balm3

  1. Rinse 2 bunches of lemon balm, remove leaves and spread on baking sheet to air dry and fresh wilt.You don’t want any water in your tincture.
  2. Finely chop leaves and place in a clean, dry glass jar. Pour enough alcohol (80-100 proof) over the herbs. Pour enough to cover the lemon balm leaves by 2-3 inches and seal the jar with a tight fitting lid. The leaves may float to the top and then settle after a day or two. You can add more alcohol if needed.
  3. Find a warm, sunny spot for the jar to allow the lemon balm to soak for 4-6 weeks. Swirl and gently shake the jar daily to prevent settling and infuse with healing intention.
  4. Strain the liquid, compost the herbs, and pour your tincture into a clean glass jar with a tight fitting lid. Store in a cool, dark cupboard, and label your Lemon Balm Tincture. Your medicinal alcohol based tincture will keep for many years.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weight Watchers

IMG_0397Earlier this year I stepped on the scale and was shocked to see I had gained 22 lbs. I knew it was bad because I was having to wear my fat jeans. So I decided it was time to do something and I joined Weight Watchers. I had joined the WW online program a couple of times during the previous year but never could stay committed beyond a couple weeks. This time I decided to join their combination online/meeting program and have had better success. WW research has found that your weight loss is 8 times more successful if you attend meetings. I guess the reinforcement you get from hearing other people’s challenges with losing the pounds really does help. Another advantage I have found is you get a deeper understanding of how the program works than you do by winging it by yourself with the online program. It has been 13 weeks since I started the program and I have lost 16 lbs. with another 6 lbs. to go. The WW program is designed to allow you to have a somewhat normal life with occasional eating and drinking of items not considered diet food like cake and wine but being mindful the rest of the time of what you eat on a daily basis. Every food has a point value and most people get 26-28 points a day depending on your starting weight and heights. All fruits (even bananas) and vegetables (except avocados and potatoes) have zero points. So you can eat as much of those things as you want. In addition to your maximum daily points, you are allowed 49 extra points per week for indulgences like birthday cake, wine, special dinners out and general cravings like chocolate. You can also increase your weekly extra points with activity. I have found though that my weight loss isn’t as great if I use those extra allowed points. But there are times when special occasions happen and you can indulge and still lose weight.

I have had fun figuring out what real foods have the lowest point values and actually taste good. Here are a few of my favorites with their point values per serving:

Fruit – PV 0
Vegetables (except Avocados & Potatoes) – PV 0
Eggplant Dip – PV 0
Hummus – PV 2
Laughing Cow Lite cheese triangles – PV 1
Popped Wheat Thins – PV 3
Sandwich Thins – PV 3
PB2 (Dehydrated Peanut Butter) – PV 1
Lean Chicken & Turkey per oz. – PV 1
Shrimp per 3 oz. – PV 2
Plain Nonfat yogurt mixed w/Vanilla & Splenda – PV 3
Healthy Choice Fudge Bars – PV 2
Dole Banana Dippers, Chocolate covered – PV 2
Popcorn (plain) – PV 2

For most of us, losing weight is not easy but it can be a better experience with the tools and support that Weight Watchers offers.

A Healthy, Easy Dinner

Although this picture would never win any awards for food photography, I’m glad I snapped it quickly last night as we sat down to dinner. I hadn’t planned on posting about last night’s dinner, but when I looked at the plate I realized what a healthy dinner it represented.

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The main attraction is a salmon fillet, simply roasted in the oven for ten minutes with a wee bit of olive oil, salt and pepper. I use pink pepper a lot because I like the mild, fruitiness of it. The beautiful green is steamed organic broccoli. And the grain is a Korean rice mix that I pick up prepared at a local Korean produce market because it is so, so delicious! It includes brown rice, red rice and purple rice, all steamed together to a very chewy consistency. I crave it!

Proportions look pretty good, with the veggies close to 50% of the meal, with the rice and salmon each being closer to 25%. YUM.

Oh … and did I mention that this all took about 15 minutes to make ?