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About Well+Good NYC

Well+Good NYC is your healthiest relationship. We obsessively cover the city's wellness scene—boutique fitness and yoga studios, juice and vegan hotspots, and natural beauty products.

Are Juice Cleanses Healthy? Why Some Wellness Experts Worry

Screen Shot 2013-07-12 at 10.21.56 AMWe won’t beat around the guava bush: Juice cleanses are crazy hot right now. But are they really as good for us and our over-worked digestive tracts as they sound? Or is it a tad more complicated than that? We asked a handful of New York City wellness experts to weigh in.

The Nutritionists

“Most often, I find that people who gravitate to cleanses are seeking a quick-fix for weight loss, or they’re looking for a quick detox—a clean-up of their diets without having to think about it too much,” says Marissa Lippert, a registered dietitian and author of The Cheater’s Diet. The problem? Surprise! Most see a return of the weight when they re-incorporate carbs, even healthy, complex ones. “It’s essentially a false sense of security and weight loss for a very short period of time,” Lippert says.

True, seconds Cher Pastore, R.D. She says people absolutely should not expect lasting weight loss and should keep cleanses short: “I believe a one- to three-day juice cleanse can be a part of a healthy eating plan. Any longer, I wouldn’t recommend it.”

The Acupuncturist

Traditional Chinese medicine puts an emphasis on balance, so in general, we don’t use fasting medicinally, because it is considered extreme, says Jill Blakeway, M.Sc. L. Ac., clinical director of the YinOva Center. “However, there is an old Chinese saying: ‘Grains are for energy, meats are for strength, and vegetables are for keeping the body clean.’ So a short period of fasting using vegetable and fruit juices can be cleansing.” Eating a simple diet gives your digestive system a rest, says Blakeway, but ultimately the job of detoxification is left up to specific organs. “I usually suggest acupuncture to support the organs of detoxification, such as the lungs, large intestine, bladder, and kidneys. Massage can also be helpful to enhance the flow of lymph, skin brushing is helpful to people who are cleansing,” she says.

 Read how an M.D. weighs in on this subject at Well+Good NYC >>

 

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Chia Seeds Take Over the World!

chiaheart-article-chia-seedsWe’re declaring it: Chia seeds are the new avocado.

The formerly obscure seeds beloved by ancient civilizations are now a superfood staple of modern urbanities. Lauded for their omega 3s, fiber, and protein, chia seeds are fast becoming a culinary darling among healthy types. Warning: If you haven’t been offered a chia smoothie yet, your chia-free days are numbered.

And it’s not just the seed form that people are flipping for. Chia seeds are now found in nearly every section of the grocery store—including the beauty aisle. You can find chia bars, chia oil, and chilled chia snacks. Innovative chefs are adding it to their menus—witness the Chia Seed Muffin, one of Pain Quotidien’s most popular bakery items (which online recipe writers love to try to replicate). Just how did this happen?

HISTORY

Chia’s got a rich history, starting with its pre-Colombian past as a food that fueled Aztec warriors. And, in Born to Run, Christopher MacDougall explains how the long-distance Tarahumara runners of Mexico chowed on chia. The backstory lent itself to awesome possibility—and marketing with mass appeal.

WHO IS CHIA FOR?

Chia’s a shape-shifter of the Safeway and a chameleon of the Kroger. (And if you don’t see them in those groceries, it’s just a matter of minutes.) It’s got a masculine or sporty side (Health Warrior bars) and a feminine side (Mama Chia beverages and squeezable Vitality Snacks). Both call to the marathon-running athlete and the health-conscious woman working marathon hours. And in between, there’s a healthy, culinary middle range. More on that in a minute.

NUTRITION PROFILE

Chia shotsChia’s nutrient density—high omega 3s, loads of fiber (5g per serving), and nice bump of protein (3g)—and its capacity to expand (and become a tad gelantinous like tapioca) provide stamina, endurance, and a feeling of satiety, says Dan Gluck, co-founder of Health Warrior. (So it’s no wonder chia’s also beloved by women looking to stay trim and away from the office cupcakes and vending machine.) It contains all 10 essential amino acids that you must get through your diet, so it’s considered a top source of complete plant-based protein; and it has an impressive amount of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals.

CHIA’S CULINARY CRED

Lately it’s been looking more culinary, with chefs sprinkling it on salads, bakers turning out chia muffins, and a stateside newcomer, The Chia Co., a company based in Australia. It sustainably farms the salvia Hispanica in the equatorial Kimberly region. (“It’s a latitude specific crop that grows best and achieves optimum omega 3 levels at 15 degrees from the equator,” explains The Chia Co. CEO John Foss.)

And from its harvest The Chia Co. makes Chia Shots that slide out of a skinny packet into a smoothie or over yogurt, a Chia Oil that can be drizzled over greens, and to-die-for chia pudding called Chia Pods (made from just a few all-natural ingredients) that just launched in Whole Foods. Its peppy, poppy orange packaging looks a piece with an edgy urbanite’s set of Le Creuset pots and Breville Juicer.

 

Read the rest about Chia-infused beauty products and more at Well+Good NYC >>

 

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5 Stress-Reducing Foods You Should Add to Your Diet

Screen Shot 2013-06-24 at 9.30.37 AMEating lunch at your desk every day will stress you out, but what you’re shoveling into your mouth also plays a role. And stress is more damaging than you’d think when it comes to weight maintenance and loss, says James Duigan, Elle Macpherson’s personal trainer and author of the newly revised and updated book, The Clean & Lean Diet.

It’s a vicious cycle: Stress increases hormones in your body that cause you to store fat (especially around your belly), and the more stressed you are, the more you’ll crave stress-boosting foods, like sugary snacks, which will make you more stressed after you eat them.

The key is to focus on eating a balanced diet of clean, wholesome foods that deliver essential vitamins and minerals. (Oh, and don’t forget to sleep.) “Reducing stress is not only important for fat loss or maintaining a healthy weight, but it’s also important for a healthy, happy life,” Duigan says.

Here are five stress-reducing foods from the Clean & Lean Diet to get you started now:

Avocados

This fruit’s creamy texture can help satisfy cravings when your body is in a state of stress, Duigan says. “Plus, all the good fat and potassium they contain can lower your blood pressure (and therefore stress levels).”

Berries

Studies have shown that vitamin C helps the body deal with stress, and berries deliver a healthy dose. They also provide you with fiber, which helps regulate blood-sugar levels. And blood sugar is seriously linked to stress levels.

Spinach

All dark green vegetables will fight stress by feeding your body its vitamins, and spinach is also particularly rich in magnesium. “Magnesium helps return your body to a calm state and improve your sleep,” Duigan says.

 

Read about the rest of these amazing stress-reducing foods at Well+Good NYC!

Green juice vs. green powder: How they really compare

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“Eat more greens” used to be a simple directive, but these days, there are lots of ways to get your daily dose of kale.

When we tapped our virtual Rolodex of nutritionists to ask them which is best, they all joined in a resounding chorus of “Eat them whole!” We know, we know.

But everyone has days when they’re just too busy to make a salad or when fresh veggies are nowhere to be found. Even on good days, it’s hard to fit in all of those servings, so it’s often nice to supplement with a cold-pressed juice or a greens powder packet.

But, just how virtuous are we being, we wondered? And how does green juice stack up against green powder?

We sorted through the nutritional facts—and assumptions—with help from superstar nutritionists, and came away with some surprising findings. Here’s what you need to know…

ABSORPTION OF NUTRIENTS

Drinking fresh juice is like giving yourself a nutrient shot. Since the veggies are partially digested, your body can soak them up quickly.

“The fibrous parts of the plants have been removed, and the cell walls are broken down allowing the enzymes that our bodies produce to easily act on these nutrients,” says Amy Shapiro, a registered dietican and founder of Real Nutrition NYC.

Your body should also easily process fine powders, although studies have shown that they may not retain some of the important enzymes needed for absorption. Some brands say their process has effectively preserved them, but there’s really no way to confirm this claim.

Amazing Grass

FIBER

Veggies are fabulously fibrous, but breaking them down into powder or juice can ruin that.

“Green powders have minimal, if any, fiber because the amount of the product consumed is so small and concentrated,” says Shapiro, so you shouldn’t really consider powders a source for fiber. (Amazing Grass Green Superfood, for example, has just 2 grams per serving.)

Juices that are cold-pressed or made using traditional centrifugal juicers are mostly stripped of their fiber. But there’s a way to hold onto some pulp if you’re juicing at home.

On the other hand, “blenders like the Vitamix pulverize the greens [and don’t remove any of the pulp], so you get your juice but keep the fiber,” explains Brooke Kalanick, a naturopathic doctor and co-author of Ultimate You.

 

Read about how powders and juices compare on calories, quality, and taste at Well and Good NYC  >>

 

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How to Grill Greens: A Top Chef Explains

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For most people, heating up coals for grass-fed burgers or salmon steaks this time of year is a no-brainer, but not many think to cook their greens on the grill.

Galen Zamarra, chef and owner of the acclaimed Mas Farmhouse, thinks you should. At Mas’ younger-sister restaurant, Mas La Grillade, Zamarra literally cooks everything—from tuna to ramps to romaine—on a super cool open-flame grill system, using locally sourced hardwoods and techniques like steaming, charring, and grilling.

Galen Zamarra in the kitchen at Mas La Grillade with his just-grilled greens.

Galen Zamarra in the kitchen at Mas La Grillade with his just-grilled greens. (Photo: Melisse Gelula for Well+Good)

Why does the system work well for greens? It’s quick, easy, and adds a delicious smoky flavor. (We stopped by for lunch and trust us, it’s true.)

Zamarra gave us a sneak peek into the wood-burning kitchen and an on-the-spot spinach grilling demo. Follow his instructions below, or watch the four-minute video—and you’ll become the healthy star of this summer’s backyard (or rooftop) barbecue.

1. Heat it up. “It’s important that the grill is nice and hot to start,” Zamarra says, so let it heat up while you’re mixing up a healthy batch of mojitos. “You don’t want any flame, just the radiant heat from the coals.”

2. Prep the spinach. Toss it with extra virgin olive oil, salt, and pepper in a bowl. “But don’t dress it as much as you would a salad,” he says. Just a little bit of oil will help it cook quickly.

3. Use a special bowl. You can use a wire rack, but your best bet is a stainless steel colander-style bowl that has small holes all over it. “If you put the leaves directly on the grill, they’ll just fall through. This way [with the bowl], the heat and the smoke will come right up through the bowl and cook it and flavor it.”


Read the final 3 steps and watch a video at Well and Good NYC  >>

 

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6 things you need to know about BRCA mutations

Screen-shot-2013-05-17-at-1.57.56-PMBRCA mutations are having a moment, thanks to Angelina Jolie’s public announcement of both her BRCA1 positive status and her decision to undergo a preventative mastectomy in the New York Times this week.

And while disease awareness is super important, celeb buzz can also lead to hype and misinterpretation.

“I just think that what people have to keep in mind was that this was her decision, a decision she made as a gene mutation carrier, and it appears she made it very thoughtfully. This may not be the right decision for every woman, even for another woman who has the mutation,” says Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph—a top breast surgeon at NYU Langone Medical Center and an expert on BRCA mutations and prophylactic surgery.

To help you understand how she came to that decision, we asked Dr. Joseph to break down the basics of BRCA mutations. Here are the top six things you need to know.

1. What the heck are they? BRCA1 and BRCA2 are “tumor suppressor” genes, meaning they help prevent uncontrolled cell growth. Every person’s DNA includes two copies of each of the genes. In people with a mutation, one of those copies is “broken” leaving the body more susceptible to tumor growth.

Dr. Kathie-Ann Joseph

2. Where do they come from? The mutations are passed on from generation to generation, from either parent to their children. But since each person has two copies of each gene, there’s only a 50 percent chance a parent with a mutation will pass it on. If you don’t inherit it, your cancer risk will be similar to that of the general population.

3. I have cancer in my family! We must have it, right? No, no, and no. BRCA mutations are found in an estimated .1 to .2 percent of the general population, meaning they’re exceedingly rare.And most sources estimate that just 5–10 percent of breast cancer cases are due to BRCA mutations. In other words, 90–95 percent of breast cancer cases do not involve BRCA mutations.

Read the final 3 things you need to know at Well and Good NYC  >>

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The Journey of Alan Finger, a Yoga Master’s Master

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Alan Finger is a yoga legend, who’s on his second honorary title. First Yogiraj (meaning “master”) and now, about 50 years into teaching, he’s acquired another that comes with passing on teachings to a new group of yogic masters: Kavi Yogiraj.

While “Kavi” confers a new level of seniority, it also means “wandering,” which couldn’t be more appropriate. Since Finger came to the United States in 1975, he’s lived in Maryland, Los Angeles, and New York, taught yoga on Hollywood sets, in the homes of celebrities like Barbra Streisand, and started a slew of studios, starting with YogaWorks.

But this Thursday, he’ll celebrate the fifth anniversary of ISHTA, the New York studio he founded with his wife and business partner, Sarah Platt-Finger.

ISHTA is the first studio Finger named after his renowned method, and while the Kavi Yogiraj has permission to wander, it seems like he has finally found a true home for the yoga he’s spent years developing and teaching.

THE EARLY YEARS

Finger’s father, Mani Finger, found yoga after hearing Yogananda speak on a trip to LA in 1951. When his father returned home to South Africa, he transformed their home into an ashram, where as a child, Finger lived among traveling swamis. (B.K.S. Iyengar was just one of the esteemed visitors.)

In the late ’60s, Finger and his father developed ISHTA, which stands for Integrated Science of Hatha, Tantra, and Ayurveda. “The word ISHTA means ‘that which resonates with your spirit,’ and I like that because it’s the yoga that resonates with an individual—because we’re all different, our bodies, our energies, our minds,” he said, when we caught up with him last week.

In 1975, politics in the country compelled him to pack up his mat and head to the U.S. His first studio was in Maryland, outside of DC, but he moved to LA after just nine months. “It started snowing, so I packed up, locked the door, and moved to California!” he says. There, Finger became a yogi to the stars, teaching James Taylor, Barbra Streisand, and Joni Mitchell, and on the sets of shows like Laverne and Shirley and Mork and Mindy.

ISHTA Yoga

Finger with his wife and business partner, Sarah Platt-Finger.

But Finger got tired of catering to celebs and in 1987 founded YogaWorks with Maty Ezraty and Chuck Miller. In the early ’90s, he decided to move to New York, and after selling his stake in YogaWorks, he founded Yoga Zone, which he ran while filming a TV show of the same name. The show aired in 64 million homes in the U.S., increasing Finger’s fame. “Wherever we go today, people still say ‘Oh my god! I started yoga with you in my living room!’” Finger says.

After Yoga Zone, he founded Be Yoga, which—in a full-circle twist—was later bought by YogaWorks.

Read about Finger’s next chapter at Well and Good NYC  >>

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Getting Spiritually Naked with Meggan Watterson

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Should a soul-searching pilgrimage to Bali or a few Divinity School degrees to find your spiritual self be out of the question, no worries. Harvard-trained theologian, Meggan Watterson, did both. The 30-something New Yorker spent two decades studying holy texts, searching for the spiritual voices of women.

The results are in her new book, Reveal: A Sacred Manual for Getting Spiritually Naked, where Watterson provides a road map to finding love within yourself. (No plane ticket required.)

“I want this book to be the spiritual mentor that I couldn’t find, but desperately longed for when my journey began,” Watterson told us, after relaying a personal story about storming out of bible school at age 10 because of the way women’s voices weren’t heard.

We asked Watterson how her questioning, research, and journey lead her to being happier, bolder, and “spiritually naked”—and how we can have some of that for ourselves.

What’s the first thing women should know if they are struggling and haven’t found happiness and meaning in their lives yet? There’s a voice inside of you that knows your truth. And we’re each here for a sacred reason, and if we dare to follow that voice of truth inside of us, that voice of love, we can live out what a unique expression we each have to share. That to me, is happiness. The beginning is understanding that there will never be a voice outside of you that will lead you to your truth, happiness, meaning—a life beyond what you can even imagine right now. The courage that it takes to follow the voice inside of us is so uncelebrated—it’s something that you have to become loyal to and devoted to in the same way we imagine becoming devoted to a lover or partner. We can become that devoted and faithful to the voice inside of us, and it can lead us to a life that fulfills us and allows us to reach our potential with grace and magic.

Is there a way to get the sacred experience that occurs in meditation into our every day lives? At one point, I had this expectation that I’d sit on a cushion and light incense for 5 to 20 minutes a day. And the more and more I tried to superimpose that onto my life, the more I felt like a spiritual failure—that somehow I wasn’t doing things right. I had this longing but thought I didn’t have the correct discipline. The reality was sitting on a meditation cushion every day wasn’t what I needed to feel connected that place within. I needed it to be seamlessly interwoven into what was mundane.

Read the rest at Well and Good NYC  >>

 

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5 Keys to Healthy Grocery Shopping

Healthy groceriesWandering wide-eyed up and down every aisle at Fairway is not an efficient food shopping strategy; nor does it inspire healthy choices. But that’s what Melissa Lanz was doing before she realized it was time to overhaul her approach to making healthy, fresh meals for her family, starting with how she approached the grocery store.

“I was just so depleted and always stressed and always wondering what was for dinner,” Lanz says. “Dinner would be a science project every night, and I was still wasting food. When I didn’t have a plan, there was just always that stress.”

So Lanz created The Fresh 20, an online resource that provides you with meal plans for an entire week based on a shopping list that includes just 20 fresh, multitasking ingredients. The approach aims to reduce waste and make healthy meal prep both economical and efficient, and Lanz lays it all out in her first book, also called The Fresh 20: 20-Ingredient Meal Plans for Health and Happiness 5 Nights a Week, which debuted this week.

We asked Lanz to point out the mistakes most people are making when they shop and offer tips on how to start killing it with your cart (or, more likely, basket).

1. Have a plan. This one is obvious, but it’s the most common cause of crispers full of rotten spinach and consistently forgetting the olive oil. “There are a lot of products we get bombarded with, so not going with a list can be daunting,” Lanz explains. Write. It. Down.

2. Stick to the perimeter. Avoid the belly of the supermarket beast by moving along the perimeter of the store, where almost all grocers house the fresh-food departments, like produce and meats. Wandering center aisles will just lead you to shelves overflowing with processed foods. (Though you might legitimately find the olive oil and almond milk there.)

3. Don’t overbuy. “I see so many carts, and I think, ‘Do they have a family of eight?’” Lanz jokes. Go for quality over quantity, especially with meat. While grass-fed may cost more per pound, it will be more budget-friendly if you exercise portion control. Really think about how much you should realistically be finishing in a week.

Read the final two steps at Well and Good NYC  >>

 

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photo by: greggavedon.com

Do you have a “leaky gut”?

stomach“Leaky gut” is probably not the sexiest term you’ve heard this week, but it’s steadily becoming a buzz word among leading physicians—like Frank Lipman and Mark Hyman—on the alternative and functional medicine scene.

Why? The physicians credit the phenomenon with being one cause of a host of chronic health problems, from digestive issues and acne to autoimmune diseases like arthritis and psoriasis. And collectively these affect a huge number of people.

We got the scoop on this problem with the yuck-factor name that may be affecting your health.

WHAT IS LEAKY GUT?

Leaky gut syndrome is known as “increased intestinal permeability” in the conventional medical world. “There are tight junctions between the cells of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract,” explains Christine Frissora, MD, a gastroenterologist at the Center for Advanced Digestive Care at NewYork-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center. “These junctions decrease the permeability of the lining of the GI tract, so that bacteria and other toxins cannot enter the blood stream.”

The problem occurs when those junctions are loosened, and bacteria and other harmful substances literally leak out of your small intestine into your blood stream, triggering an inflammatory reaction in the body. And that’s not a good thing.

THE CAUSE AND EFFECTS OF LEAKY GUT

Learn the cause and effects of leaky gut at Well and Good NYC  >>

 

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