Tag Archives: Diet

Helping Your Health Intentions

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Most of us start every year trying to lose a few pounds.
It’d always be nice to run faster, jump higher, lift heavier.
Whether it’s finally having those six pack abs or faithfully sticking to a healthy diet, getting healthier and staying there can be a lifelong process, so what are the best ways to do that? And are our best laid plans helping or hurting our goals?

1. Diet sodas aren’t helping your diet. The easy solution to losing weight while still fulfilling those carbonation cravings seems like switching from your favorite full calorie drinks to the diet version. Sad news: one study showed that the greater the number of diet sodas consumed, the greater the chance of being overweight. Another linked it to higher risks of metabolic syndrome.

2. Get a little extra shuteye. Sleeping the day away may feel lazy to us but the truth is a difference of even 16 minutes can show big differences in the health of test subjects. Feeling tired throughout the day might be an indication of not enough hours of sleep but it can also indicate a variety of disorders that could be keeping you from sleeping soundly through the night. A little tired? Take a nap. Persistent tiredness? Time to do some investigating.

3. Packaging Promises. The grocery store is bursting at the seams with good that will lower your cholesterol, boost your metabolism, gives you extra calcium to prevent osteoporosis, everything but a granola bar that will make you live forever! Who knows. It could be around the corner…

Recently, it seems the hot topic is probiotics and yogurt. It appears not all bacteria is bad for you and the microorganisms commonly associated with yogurt can help get your digestive system back in order after being ravaged by stress or a potato chip diet. They can also help with gas and bloating so you’re feeling good throughout the day.

The thing to know is some food products are vague about revealing how many bacteria are left in the product after processing. It may not be enough to make a difference unless you’re consuming it in bulk. In addition, the key to probiotics is delivery to the intestines which means they have to be strong enough to survive stomach acid. Most packaging has less to say about that, so do your research on bacteria counts and what is actually being promised. A cup of yogurt every now and then may not be enough to really affect your digestive health so consider natural probiotic supplements. One product, SCD Essential Probiotics, contains 11 strains of probiotics grown together and designed to survive stomach acid to actually do what you’re hoping. It’s also all natural and made with organic ingredients. Good news all around.

We support your intention to be a healthier you and staying informed helps you make wise choices, so learn and grow!

 

 

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Smartphone Apps: Can They Help Health Intentions?

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In the never ending quest to reach that ultimate pinnacle of what I feel is my utmost best health and fitness, I’ve tried many different foods and workouts. As with almost everything else in life, smartphones are quickly becoming the first line of defense against slipping back into old habits, and I wondered if this technology could be my answer to improving my health without allowing the goal of treating my body better to seem too large or general to accomplish. We’ve all heard the phrase “there’s an app for that” but really, almost anything health related has an app. A quick scan of the  iTunes App store boasted thousands of medical apps ranging from an encyclopedia of medicinal herbs, to a baby heartbeat monitor for pregnant women to use on their growing bundles of joy.

 

In the beginning stages of my research, I noticed that even the medical community is getting in on the game, using some very specialized apps which have allowed doctors to quickly and efficiently diagnose and treat a variety of conditions. At first I was leery, since according to the health tech industry blog HealthITjobs.com, users should always consider carefully what information they’re inputting into apps: “There are real concerns with regards to privacy and HIPPA compliance within this new wave of health related apps. Most of these apps are not regulated by the government for safety or security so right now the responsibility lies in the hands of the app developers. On the flip side, these apps are empowering individuals to take control of their own health and enabling healthcare providers to make better decisions with more data.”

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Better Than Before: Thinner for (Holiday) Dinner

holiday dinnerNext week brings us Passover and Easter. And just these two holidays alone can spell diet disaster. If you’ve ever eaten matzoh, you know that it stays in your system for all eight days, unable to find a way out! And matzoh balls can sometimes weigh as much as a Mack truck. An Easter brunch menu offers similar regimen wreckers as Thanksgiving fare, plus the obligatory chocolate eggs. And we haven’t even gotten to the rest of the barbecues and feasts found on Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Memorial weekend, July 4, and at June weddings, to name just a few. So what are we to do if our intent is to still be able to fit into a bathing suit this summer?

Since there doesn’t seem to be any end to opportunities to pile on the pounds, I asked Jacqueline B. Marcus, a Nutrition Consultant and Owner of Jacqueline B. Marcus and Associates Food and Nutrition Consulting in Highland Park, Illinois, if it’s possible to be Better Than Before weight-wise in spite of it all. Happily, Jacqueline devotes an entire chapter to healthy weight management in her new book, Culinary Nutrition: The Science and Practice of Healthy Cooking.

“Yes,” she began, “you can end the nonsense and regain control, if you simply stop, look and listen.” By that she means to stop the negative self-talk about your body and willpower, to take a hard look at yourself in the mirror and the numbers on your scale, and then to listen carefully to her advice to achieve and maintain your “true weight,” no matter what the temptations.

If you are invited to dinner, first up is to call ahead and ask your host: “What’s cooking?” If the answer is a collection of calorically-challenged courses, propose to augment the repast with BYO. Offer to bring a favorite dish to share the cost of a holiday meal. (You don’t have to mention that it is –horrors!—healthy.) If you happen to have a green thumb in cooking rather than gardening, there is no rule against buying something rather than risk poisoning your friends.

Of course, not all (or that many) social occasions will lend themselves to a non-insulting offer to bring your own food to someone else’s dinner party – or even an inoffensive query as to the menu. So Jacqueline suggests that if friendship or propriety trumps your diet concerns, eat a little lean protein or veggies beforehand to lessen your hunger.

Jacqueline also shares some general suggestions for keeping up with your weight management program any time of year. “Think Clean, Lean, Attractive, Simple, Small and Yummy.” In other words C.L.A.S.S.Y! “Choose small servings of simply prepared food without fat or skin and leave sauces on the side. Large, over-dressed portions are always no-no’s.”

Focus on selecting delicious lean proteins, brightly colored vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, wholesome legumes and flavorful fruit. “Healthy food prepared with care can be enormously satisfying. Nix the extra fats and sugars from fried appetizers, snacks and sweetened drinks. If tempted, make do with just a nibble or sip.”

I always like to make half my plate just salad and vegetables. (It helps, of course, that I actually like salads and vegetables.) On the other hand, the Lawyer’s worst nightmares usually start with a dish filled with Swiss chard. He therefore might disagree with Jacqueline’s prescription for delightful dieting. (But don’t go by him for health advice. He likes Cronuts.) “Nothing beats the color, crunch and aroma of garden-fresh vegetables,” Jacqueline continues. “If steamed or lightly dressed, you can pile non-starchy vegetables like D-L-G’s (deep-leafy greens) pretty high on your plate for lots of vitamins, minerals and fiber. Then add some lean protein and wholesome grains or legumes.” (Check out The Dukan Diet at www.dukandiet.com for great recipes, meals and diet recommendations.)

It is also important to practice what Jacqueline refers to as tradeoffs. “Want that starchy side? Forget the breadbasket. Dreaming of dessert? Skip the appetizer. Love those creamy sauces? Just dribble over protein-rich foods or steamed vegetables. Fried foods your temptation? Save those fat calories for something delicious and nutritious—like velvety nonfat yogurt or ricotta cheese.” (Sounds great to me; but cue the eye rolling by The Lawyer and his ilk.)

Water, not mixed drinks, should be your beverage of choice. “Mixed drinks may add a wallop of calories!” (Boo!) “If you must imbibe, stick with lower calorie and alcohol options, such as light wine or beer. And, of course, always exercise control.”

Speaking of exercise, “try the free track at the mall, park district or gym,” she suggests. “And while you’re there, use the stairs, too. It takes a lot of exercise time to balance any indiscretions. Body fat below the waist is particularly stubborn.” (Sigh!)

Furthermore, it’s important to maintain records. “By doing so, you commit on paper or screen (like on a smartphone) and then confront what you see or do. Record your biggest obstacles and greatest successes. Write positive affirmations and prominently place them where they will motivate you: Your bathroom mirror, the scale, fridge or closet.  Keep a weight loss chart so that you can monitor the way down.”

Practicing positive self-talk is essential. “Ditch the negativism. Dieting is hard, but there are no excuses for “I can’t”, “won’t”, “should have” or “would have.” Also, remove the words “failure”, “cheat” and “loser” from your vocabulary. “No dieter is perfect all of the time. Just focus on your successes one day at a time and get back in charge ASAP.”

It’s also fine to reward yourself along the way or when you reach your “true weight” and maintain it. “Just do it without food. Buy yourself a new pair of all-purpose athletic shoes for your new commitment to walk ‘30 in 30’ –30 minutes of daily walking for 30 days, or a jump rope to burn more calories, or even light weights to tone your muscles. (A new outfit also works, as do Louboutin pumps. Trust me!)

It’s easier if you don’t attempt to do it alone. “Reach out and connect with someone who knows how challenging it is to lose weight and keep it off. They can be your dieting or exercise buddy. “Just make sure that they’re really your pal throughout the ‘thick and thin’ of weight loss and weight maintenance.”

Finally, focus on your intent to be a Better Than Before you. “Downsize! Raid your pantry and part with the oversized packages of foods and beverages high in sugars, refined carbohydrates and sodium. Likewise, raid your closet and discard any too big, old clothes,” Jacqueline concludes. “When you think smaller and take baby steps in the process, you’ll celebrate each little accomplishment along the way.”

And when it comes to seconds on matzoh balls, remember the chorus of that ancient Passover song. Dayenu! (Enough!)

Better Than Before: Is Juicing Worth the Squeeze?

juicingWhen I was growing up, my mother believed that eating liver was essential for good vision. Animal livers, she insisted, stored vitamins, in particular A and B complex. These essential nutrients help keep the retina in good shape, the visual purple strong, and the eyes well-lubricated. In any event, my mother took it one step further and gave it to us in the most palatable way she could think of – run through a blender (by a housekeeper with nose plugs) until it became juice. Suffice it to say that my brother and I wouldn’t touch the glass, let alone drink the stuff in it, so we discreetly discarded it out the window. Alas, today we both need glasses, but 17 floors below our old kitchen in New York City is the healthiest tree you’ve ever seen.

Liver juice aside, today on almost every corner in Manhattan there’s a bar touting the ‘juice du jour.’ For me, that’s way better than say, Burger King. To The Lawyer, it’s a shameful waste of good real estate, since the thought of kale juice has about as much appeal as, well, a kale anything else. But he does listen to the experts, other than his wife of course. So I asked Michael T. Murray, N.D., renowned natural medicine expert and bestselling author of more than 30 books, including his latest one, The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality (Clarkson Potter, 2014) to weigh in.

JWM: We do know the benefits of drinking fresh juices. But many of my readers and listeners have asked me if it’s better to just eat the whole fruit or vegetable. Why juice?

Dr. Murray: Well, if you think about it, the body actually converts the foods we eat into juice so the nutrients can be easily absorbed. So juicing it before you consume it saves the body energy, resulting in increased vitality. It also delivers more soluble fiber faster and in an easier-to-digest form.

JWM: A lot of bottled juices claim to contain vitamins and minerals. Is fresh always better?

Dr. Murray: Yes! Fresh juice contains many more vitamins, minerals, and other nutritional compounds, such as enzymes and flavonoids–than its canned or bottled counterparts, which have been cooked (pasteurized) to keep them on the shelves longer. Cooking can cause the loss of up to 97 percent of water-soluble vitamins (B vitamins and C), and up to 40 percent of the fat-soluble vitamins (A, D, E, and K).

JWM: Do homemade juices have increased antioxidant and anticancer properties as well?

Dr. Murray: They do! In fact, a study comparing commercial apple juice with freshly juiced apples found that fresh, raw juice had more antiviral compounds than the store-bought versions. Another study found that fresh, raw apple juice and berry juice (especially raspberries and blackberries) has more ellagic acid, a potent anticancer and antioxidant compound that is stripped from juice when it’s been processed.

JWM: I’ve heard that some fresh juices also help get rid of toxins. How do they work?

Dr. Murray: Speaking just of fresh fruit juice…fruit contains ample glutathione, a small protein composed of 3 amino acids, which are also manufactured in our cells, which aid in the detoxification of heavy metals such as lead, as well as the elimination of pesticides and solvents.

JWM: Talk a little about raw juicing and weight loss, if you will!

Dr. Murray: To begin with, it’s a phenomenal way to reach the goal of ingesting 60 percent of total calories from raw foods. Diets containing a high percentage (up to 60 percent of calories) of uncooked foods are associated with significant weight loss and lowering of blood pressure in overweight individuals.

JWM: Any quick recipe to share?

Dr. Murray: For a delicious, nutritious fruit juice, put two whole apples, sliced in quarters, and 1/2 cup each of raspberries and blackberries through a juicer. Drink it up right away for a blast of energy and nutrients.

JWM: Dr. Murray, leaving the topic of juicing for a moment, I have been aware of your work for many years. And you have been a vocal proponent of natural medicine and healing. Yet, as a society, we seem to be surrounded by illness in epidemic proportions. Why has there been such a lack of acceptance of natural medicine thus far?

Dr. Murray: Thank you for asking that! For the last 30 years I have done my best to educate and inspire others to utilize the healing power of nature. I feel that the biggest factor for this lack of acceptance and use of natural approaches to health and healing is the current financial model of medicine. It is a complex scenario based upon companies and people profiting from a disease-oriented approach. The whole system is based upon the treatment of disease instead of the promotion of health.

JWM: I agree. And like my mother, you were way ahead of your time. What was the inspiration for the first edition of your book, The Complete Book of Juicing, back in 1992?

Dr. Murray: In 1992 there was a tremendous renaissance in the appreciation of fresh fruit and vegetable juice in promoting health. It was really the result of infomercials touting new juicer technologies. My goal in writing the first edition was to use it as a platform to educate people on the factual benefits of drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice as opposed to the unsubstantiated overstated benefits that were flying around at the time.

JWM: You recently released a revised edition, The Complete Book of Juicing, Revised and Updated: Your Delicious Guide to Youthful Vitality. How pertinent is it for today’s deteriorating lifestyle habits?

Dr. Murray: Gaining the benefits of drinking fresh fruit and vegetable juice is even more important today than it was 20 years ago. The reason for the update of the book is to deal with the explosion of new information on the important healing and health benefits produced by the simple incorporation of drinking fresh juice into a person’s daily habits.

JWM: Cynics aside, over the last three decades, have you seen a growing inclination/awareness/adoption toward alternative medicine? Do you feel social connectedness is a major contributor to this?

Dr. Murray: There has definitely been a tremendous increase in the awareness of many aspects of what is now considered alternative medicine. In fact, in the last 30 years we have seen the acceptance of many truths that were self-evident back then, but were widely argued against by conventional medicine.

JWM: For example?

Dr. Murray: First of all, the notion that dietary factors were the major determinants of many forms of cancer was viewed as being unfounded from a scientific perspective. Now that link is irrefutable, and the link between diet and many other health conditions is also much better understood today than it was then. The health food industry has been the incubator for many changes in our popular culture. For instance, 30 years ago who outside of the health food industry would have heard of probiotics, antioxidants, gluten, omega-3 fatty acids, glucosamine, and herbs like ginkgo biloba?

JWM: I think there are a lot of explanations for the enlightenment of the consumer toward natural health and natural products. But at the end of the day, I don’t think the awareness is the result of some huge advertising campaign. People are actually experiencing positive results from natural medicine and spreading the word to their family and friends. And that’s a good thing. That being said, any final pearls of wisdom for the benefit of Intent readers, so they, too can become Better Than Before?

Dr. Murray: There is no single magic bullet for turning your life and your health around. It requires focusing on all areas of your life. Each component has a powerful effect on the whole system. And, it goes beyond a health-promoting diet and lifestyle. It also requires being a guardian of your attitude and self-talk in order to program yourself to be more positive, adaptable, and committed to life. I do believe that there is a purpose to our lives, and taking care of our body, mind, and spirit is critical in achieving that purpose. So, we need to be very good to ourselves and those around us.

photo by: Food Thinkers

Better Than Before: How Diet Effects Mood with Elizabeth Somer

Elizabeth SomerQuite frankly, with the type of winter we have had so far in New York – and continuing to have, now into March – I sometimes think that only a trip to a Caribbean island will make me feel better! Thoughts of a swim in the warm ocean, lying around the sun-drenched white sand, and having one (or ten) of those drinks with the little umbrellas will undoubtedly do the trick. But obviously most of us can’t hop right on a plane to a tropical island. And, snow and cold aside, why aren’t we enjoying winter, anyway? Sledding, skiing, skating aren’t just for watching during the Olympics! And after all, being Better Than Before is all about living in the moment.

I took my query to Elizabeth Somer, author of the bestselling Eat Your Way to Happiness, and highly sought-after and respected source of nutritional information and lifestyle changes. I was hoping she could share some good news on how to keep in a good mood – not to mention not gain twenty pounds from all those hot chocolates with mini marshmallows – while we wait and wait…and wait, for spring.

JWM: Let’s start with the obvious basic question: Why does our mood often plummet during the winter?

ES: At its foundation, it’s biological. The seasonal drop in sunlight throws brain chemistry out of whack, making some of us more anxious, depressed, and tired this time of year. We snap at the kids, sleep more, crave sweets, and as a result, gain weight.

JWM: Can depression, mood swings, and chronic irritability be symptoms of more serious problems than just winter blues? Other than PMS or menopause, that is.

ES:. Yes, it could be Seasonal Affective Disorder or SAD. The winter blues and SAD rest on the same continuum, differing only in their degree of severity. In other words, a person suffering from winter blues might feel grumpy and tired, while someone with SAD suffers serious depression, with feelings of desperation, anxiety, and exhaustion. If your depression interferes with important aspects of your life, such as your job or relationships, or if you have feelings of hopelessness, these are possible symptoms of SAD that should be discussed with a physician.

JWM: Who suffers from it? Other than we confirmed hypochondriacs, of course.

ES: Approximately 10 to 20 percent of Americans battle the winter blues. The reasons why our moods slip and our appetites take over by mid-winter could be simply that we’re cooped up, bored, and restless; or it could have a deeper cause, resulting from a drop in serotonin, a brain chemical that regulates mood and hunger. Whatever the reason, most people have some kind of behavior change in the winter. Children and teens can suffer from the winter blues, too.

JWM: What could be some of the signs?

ES: The main ones are obvious – depression and fatigue that lingers. Or, ask yourself the following: Has your mood plummeted along with the temperature? While you stare forlornly out the window at another bleak, winter day, is your spouse dozing rather than playing with the kids? Do you find yourself power snacking on Skittles by the 5th day of rainstorms. If so, you could be battling winter blues or SAD.

JWM: Are there foods and activities — other than Skittles– that you recommend that can boost our mood in these darkened days?

ES: Absolutely. First of all, you might consider finding more light. If your mood improves while vacationing down South, for example, it’s probably more the sunshine than the trip. [Or the drinks with umbrellas.] The researchers at the National Institute of Mental Health in Bethesda, Maryland, are among those who have linked dark winter skies to low levels of serotonin, which makes some people drowsy and more prone to depression. Ample sunshine hitting the retina of our eyes triggers a cascade of events in the brain that raises serotonin levels. Voila! Moods improve! Up to 80% of SAD and winter blues sufferers report at least some relief when exposed for 30 minutes to 1 1 /2 hours daily to sunlight or a specialized light box that emits light 5- to 20-times brighter than typical indoor light. Check out the internet for a local resource for these lights.

JWM: How about diet? Any suggestions?

ES: Eat Regularly: Don’t attempt to skip breakfast in an effort to cut calories. You’ll overeat later in the day, struggle more with mood swings and fatigue, and battle a weight problem in the long run. Be sure to eat breakfast, but make it light and include some carbohydrates, such as cereal, fruit, and milk. Then have lunch. Something as simple as a sandwich, nonfat milk, and a piece of fruit will fuel your brain, body, and mood.

JWM: One way a lot of us make the cold hours pass better is with something to nibble on. What about snacks?

ES: Snack, but not on sweets. A voracious sweet tooth during the winter months also might stem from low serotonin levels. Chowing down on sweets works temporarily – serotonin levels rise and we feel better. But that high is followed by a crash, setting up a roller coaster of highs and lows that causes overeating and weight gain. Replace these foods with more nutritious sweet treats, such as fresh-sliced kiwi mixed with nonfat strawberry-kiwi yogurt, a half papaya filled with lemon yogurt, fresh fruit layered in a parfait glass and topped with a dollop of low-fat whipped cream, or nonfat milk whipped in a blender with fresh fruit and a sprinkle of nutmeg.

JWM: But how about people who have a sweet tooth? As you said, sugar is counter-effective in the long run. What should they do?

ES: One way to sooth your mood and save your waistline is to switch from fatty sweets to high-quality carbs, such as whole grain breads and crackers, brown rice, oatmeal, or starchy vegetables like corn or potatoes. Plan a mid-afternoon all-carb snack, such as half a whole wheat English muffin with jam, 3 fig bars, or drizzle honey over a toasted cinnamon bagel to counteract the desire to eat sweets at this crave-prone time of day. Also include carb-rich foods in your meals, such as pasta primavera or marinara, whole wheat couscous, or yams cut into strips and baked on a cookie sheet to make ‘French fries.’ (Serotonin also improves sleep, so a serotonin-boosting evening snack, such as air-popped popcorn or a scoop of sorbet, will help you sleep better, too!)

JWM: There is a lot that has been written about omega-3 fat DHA elevating your mood. How do you feel about that?

ES: You can definitely boost your spirits by taking either omega-3 fat DHA supplements of food rich in it. Research shows that this fat helps boost mood all year long, especially in the winter. In fact, DHA curbs depression by up to 50% in people who are the most difficult to treat; and even helps those who just battle a bit of grumpiness. Interestingly, researchers have found that people who are depressed have much lower levels of omega-3 fats in their blood, fat tissues, and brains — up to 36% lower than happy people. In fact, as omega-3 levels drop, so do levels of serotonin, leaving people grumpy, blue, and downright depressed. If your DHA levels are low, you have a 2.6 times greater risk of getting really crabby and blue compared to someone who keeps those levels high. On the other hand, up your intake of omega-3 fat DHA and serotonin levels rise and mood improves. The evidence is so overwhelming that the American Psychiatric Association in 2006 recommended omega-3s be included in any treatment for depression.

JWM: What are the best foods for omega-3 fat?

ES: You can get all the omega-3 fat you need from flaxseed, walnuts, canola oil, leafy greens or soy to help lower your risk for heart disease, but those foods will do nothing for your mood or memory. That’s because there are three omega-3 fats, and they are not all created equal. It is only the omega-3s in fish, especially DHA, which will boost your mood. Aim for 2 servings of omega-3-rich fish such as salmon every week, choose foods fortified with DHA, and/or take a daily supplement that contains at least 220 milligrams of DHA.

JWM: If we don’t see any improvement in our mood or appetite after a few weeks on a high-carb menu, what should we do?

ES: Try substituting some of those carbs for more protein. New research from the National Institute of Mental Health shows that some people don’t experience a mood boost when they eat high-carb diets. So, if you still feel grumpy after a week’s worth of the high-carb choices, try cutting back on the carbohydrates and  increasing protein intake by adding a slice of turkey or a glass of milk to the meal. Protein has a satiating effect that keeps you full longer and curbs cravings in some people.

JWM: A lot of people drink coffee to improve their mood. But for some, like me, it has the opposite effect. What are your thoughts about this?

ES: It’s better to limit coffee. While caffeine is a great pick-me-up, if you are drinking more than 3 small cups a day, it could be fueling fatigue. For the person who is sensitive to sugar or caffeine, simply removing these substances from the diet may be all it takes to reduce or even eliminate depression, according to research from the University of South Alabama. How coffee affects mood is unclear, although caffeine is a drug that affects the nervous system. Cut back or eliminate coffee, tea, chocolate, cocoa, colas, and caffeine-containing medications, such as Excedrin, Dristan, and Dexatrim.

JWM: We spend so much time in heated rooms in the winter, leading to not only dry skin, but dry everything. Is that a factor?

ES: Absolutely. Actually, the first sign of dehydration is fatigue, which is the stepping stone for depression. Many of us are mildly dehydrated, because thirst is a poor indicator of your body’s need for water. Drink twice as much water as it takes to quench your thirst, or at least 8 glasses daily. Drink even more water if you exercise intensely or drink a lot of coffee and tea.

JWM: Are there any other supplements that you recommend that can affect our moods?

ES: It is difficult in winter to constantly keep up the proper quantities of fresh vegetables and fruit. So several nutrient deficiencies, including the B vitamins, are more common in the winter that indicate a link to impaired mental ability and mood swings. More than one in four patients with depression is deficient in vitamins B2, B6, and B12, and folic acid. B-rich foods include chicken, legumes, fish, bananas, avocados, and dark green leafy vegetables. A moderate-dose multiple vitamin and mineral, supplies these B vitamins and can fill in the nutritional gaps on those days when you don’t eat perfectly. In addition, preliminary evidence suggests that low vitamin D levels, which can occur due to lack of exposure to sunlight, might contribute to winter blues. So make sure your supplement has at least 1000IU of this important nutrient.

JWM: What about exercise? Please don’t say to take a spin class or use the elliptical machines, my two fitness nemeses in any season!

ES: Any kind of exercise is good. It’s well proven that people who are vigorously active almost every day are at much lower risk for developing any form of depression, including winter blues.

Now if I can get my husband, The Lawyer, to sprint to take omega-3 supplements while drinking a gallon of water, I might have some peace around here before springtime!

Recipe: Kale and Quinoa Salad For Refreshing Lunch or Dinner

kale and quinoa saladI’ve been trying to lose weight since…well, since birth pretty much. I’ve been trying a lot harder now that I live on my own and have a lot more control over what I eat. One of the first things every diet (and I’ve been on most of them so I’m pretty knowledgeable of the field) is that it’s important to be able to cook for yourself. For the past three years I’ve learned to live mostly off of microwavable Lean Cuisines (have you tried their french bread pizza? Delicious!) but a few weeks ago I decided to give real cooking a try.

It turns out I’m kind of good at it! I started with a few recipe’s from Dr. Mark Hyman‘s book “The Blood Sugar Solution Cookbook” because sugar is a huge weakness for me. My dad swears that I must be half ant. Anyway, I made my through sweet potato burgers, lemon garlic chicken, and a few great smoothies. Then shortly into the cooking expedition I started experimenting on my own! I made some really awesome yorkshire puddings and chicken olive oil pasta… before realizing I was heading back into my old carb heavy (and carbs are just bread sugars) habits. So I took some inspiration from Dr. Hyman and from my favorite restaurant in Los Angeles – Franklin & Co. and perfected a kale and quinoa salad that I wanted to share with all of you.

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium boneless chicken breast / pre-cut chicken strips (can leave out for vegetarian/vegan options)
  • kale (I prefer Trader Joes kale because it’s already washed and cut, but to each their own!)
  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 avocado
  • dried cranberries
  • 4-5 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (Have a bottle ready if you’re going with chicken)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt

Preparations:

Chicken – If you’re going for the carnivore version of this salad, defrost a medium or small size chicken breast or frozen chicken strips. (I found some really great pre-cut chicken pieces, boneless and not mechanically processed at my nearby Super Target, go figure).  Fill a medium sauce pan with just enough olive oil to cover the bottom the pan and cook chicken on medium heat for 10-15 minutes. Make sure to flip over about half-way through. Chicken is properly cooked when the pinkness from the center has disappeared. Add seasoning as you wish – I like a small dash of garlic herb or lemon and pepper – but add a pinch of whatever you like. If you used a chicken breast, cut into desired pieces to add into the salad.

Quinoa – The first time I tried this I used a full cup of quinoa and had some left over for weeks, so I’ve learned to cut down (1 cup of uncooked quinoa = 3 cups cooked, jeez). Add 1/2 cup of quinoa with 1 cup of water in a small pot and cook on medium to low heat until the water is absorbed into the quinoa (Usually about 10-12 minutes, but may vary depending on your oven).

Kale – To prepare the kale, wash the leaves and cut away any extra long and thick stems. Add 1bsp olive oil, 1tbsp lemon juice and 1/4 tsp of sea salt to the leaves. Then using your hands massage the mixture into the kale (just like you’re rubbing someone’s shoulders). You’ll see the kale curl into a rich dark green and you’ll know it’s ready.

Salad - Add the dried cranberries, tomatoes, chicken, quinoa and avocado to the salad and mix. The lemon juice and olive oil you used to massage the kale mix well enough that you won’t need any additional dressing (calorie save, what!).

This has been my staple lunch for a few weeks now because once I got the hang of cooking the chicken it only takes a few minutes to make! Feel free to change up the cranberries for something different if you aren’t a fan (I’ve tried it with strawberries or olives instead, but cranberries are still my favorite). Even with chicken the salad comes in under 300 calories if you are conservative with the olive oil. I’ve heard many of my friends complain about kale’s bitter taste which makes them reluctant to eat it. When you massage it with this scrub it makes it so delicious though. It’s such a refreshing dish.

This post has been part of my intent to cook more and get more confident in the kitchen. Please support my intent or help out by sharing your favorite recipes with me! 

Stop Procrastinating and Pre-Commit to Healthier Habits

Procrastinating can cost you so much more in healthcareWhat if I told you that we, as a nation, waste $317 billion a year in medical expenses just because of forgetfulness and procrastination? Research from Express Scripts, a pharmacy benefit manager, shows that the biggest healthcare issue facing the nation today is not illnesses related to smoking, excessive drinking or obesity due to overindulgence in bacon cheeseburgers, super-sized sodas and curly fries. No! It is what the healthcare industry calls “non-adherence” – not taking our medications as prescribed by the doctor, following guidelines and sticking to our promises to take better care of ourselves in general.

We all know the importance of diet and exercise. Yet, often times we just think up some lame excuse. My husband, for example, won’t eat dark, leafy greens as he claims he’s got supersensitive papillae on this tongue and therefore they taste way too bitter. And a friend of mine won’t get on what she terms the “Dread-mill,” even now in NYC when it’s too icy to walk outside, because she knew someone who caught her foot in the belt when it was moving and fell off. (Truth be told, I feel the same way about the “H-elliptical” machine!)

And how many people do all of us know who don’t sign up for a 401K even when it means they are losing out on the match made by their employer, just because they never “get around to it?” Voila! Procrastination at work!

Getting everyone to regularly focus on their health-related behaviors is the best method for combating issues ranging from obesity to missed doses of important maintenance medications. While the approach may be appealing, unfortunately, it may run headlong against millions of years of evolution. According to Bob Nease, Ph.D., Chief Scientist at Express Scripts, “Our brains, though amazing machines, simply are not made for continuous focus on anything that isn’t immediately painful or pleasurable. The gray matter in our heads can process about 10 million bits of information a second — the same bandwidth of the original Ethernet cable. Yet the conscious part, which we think of as our mind, can only process 50 bits every second. We are wired for inattention.” (Yikes! That’s a thousand times slower than dial-up!)

Ergo, the intent-behavior gap, which explains why we behave in ways detrimental to our health, despite our best intentions to do otherwise.

Nease cites Adam Davidson, who writes the weekly “It’s the Economy” column for The New York Times Magazine, as an example. Apparently, after a lifetime of trying and failing to lose weight, Davidson recently succeeded by committing to a program that left him no options. “Most diets and other good intentions fail because there’s always a third option — an easy way out — that allows us to tell ourselves we tried even while undermining our own success,” he explains. “And when we make a firm commitment that eliminates these escape routes, we are more likely to get results.”

According to Nease, there’s a concept known to behavioral science as ‘precommitment.’ The idea, in fact, was first documented as far back as the 8th Century BC. “In Homer’s Odyssey, Odysseus needed to sail his ship past the Sirens, who’s enchanting song tempted sailors to their deaths. So before entering those waters, he lashed himself to the ship’s mast so he could resist. His precommitment helped him stay the course.”

Nease contends, however, that he has yet to hear of a diet guru taking Odysseus’ approach literally –e.g., lashing our arms to the dining-room chair. “But some companies are working to make it easier for people to impose big financial penalties on themselves if they fail to meet their weight-loss goals. And precommitment strategies in the tradition of Odysseus propose a good way to navigate through modern life’s multitude of options and temptations to arrive at a healthier place.”

For their part, Express Scripts discovered, for example, that offering their employees the opportunity to precommit nearly tripled actual participation in a company exercise program. “If they agreed in advance to let us block the time on their calendar,” Nease insists, “they ultimately overcame the day-of excuses, showed up, and got in some good exercise.”

The real costs, both financially and heath-wise, come from non-adherence to taking prescribed medications. Forgetting to take a heart pill, for instance, could endanger your life. My husband must take the anti-blood clotting medicine Plavix thanks to his three coronary stents (hellooo filet mignons!!). His cardiologist doesn’t want him to miss even a single dose as that could mean a heart clog and possible death. (He always hides his pills when we have an argument, fearing that I will switch them for a placebo!)

Discipline and willpower are the simple answers, but remember what Bob Nease said about our being wired for inattention and inertia? Below are some simple pre-commitment techniques, starting with the ones I recommend to my audience:

• Use only smaller plates and eat in a room outside the kitchen, away from the refrigerator.

• Eliminate leftovers by buying food and preparing dishes in smaller quantities.

• Banish snack foods from the house. You can’t eat what you can’t find.

• If you’re a late riser, put the alarm clock across the room to avoid simply reaching over and swatting the Snooze — or worse, Off – button.

To precommit to your medications, I defer to Bob Nease:

• Tape a note to your refrigerator or set an alarm that will help make taking your pills part of your daily routine.

• Having your prescriptions delivered to your home in 90-day supplies has been proven to increase adherence.

• Check your prescription insurance plan to see if automatic refill reminders are available and how you can sign up to receive them.

• Long before you near the end of your final refill, schedule an appointment with your physician to renew the prescription. If you wait until the last minute, you might not be able to get there in time to stay on your therapy.

• Take advantage of being able to ‘opt out’ if your automatic enrollment gives you the choice. This approach leverages inertia – the opposite of patient engagement — by making you do something to stop the delivery.

No matter what method you use to pre-commit to all aspects of your personal wellbeing, remember that better decisions today lead to healthier results tomorrow. In other words, to feeling Better Than Before.

How Much Sodium Does a Water Softener Add to Your Diet?

When you think of drinking a glass of water, you probably don’t worry about drinking a bunch of sodium. However, depending on where you live and your local water supply, you could be drinking saltier water than you have to. Many households use water softeners that contain sodium to get rid of hard water. Understanding how water softeners work and your options for softening your water will help you make the best decision for your home.

What Is the Difference Between Hard & Soft Water?

As water moves through pipes to reach your house, it can pick up minerals from the pipes and the ground. Depending on the amount of minerals in the water, chemists classify water as hard or soft. Hard water has lots of magnesium and calcium ions. Soft water has less magnesium and calcium ions but may have sodium or potassium ions instead. These ions in your water can affect everything from the water’s taste to how well your detergent works to build up in your plumbing.

The minerals in hard water can combine with detergent to produce a sticky scum that will end up anywhere you use soap. Hard water can also leave water stains on glasses washed in a dishwasher. Because of these issues, most people use water softeners to remove some of the minerals from hard water and have better-washed clothes and dishes. Soft water may feel more slippery and sometimes has a slightly salty taste.

How Do Water Softeners Work?

Water softeners are systems that contain a resin through which your drinking water passes. As the water moves through the resin, the resin pulls the calcium and magnesium ions out and puts in either sodium or potassium ions instead. These sodium and potassium ions work better with your detergent to help remove dirt and oil, to the point that you can use less soap to get everything just as clean.

Water softeners typically treat your drinking water and not water used in irrigation. You need to backwash the resin in the water softener system to remove any dirt and make sure that the correct balance of sodium or potassium ions is present to remove the magnesium and calcium. Sometimes water softening systems need more salt added to recharge the resin with sodium ions.

How Much Sodium Is Added to the Water?

The amount of sodium added from a water softening system varies based on the manufacturer and specifications of the system. Untreated tap water already has a small amount of sodium in it. If you live in an area with very hard water, you will need to add more sodium to make your water soft. Typically water softening systems add between 10 to 40 milligrams of sodium per eight ounce glass of water. While this may not seem like a lot of sodium, it presents a source of sodium that most people don’t consider when they think of dietary sodium in their daily intake.

Why Should You Avoid Salt-Based Water Softener Systems?

If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you should avoid using salt-based water softener systems. These systems will introduce more sodium into your diet. Even if you are not concerned about the sodium, these systems use extra water during the backwashing phase. Salt-based water softener systems waste water because water is used to flush the system. Salt-based water softener systems are not environmentally friendly due the excess sodium pumped back into the sewer system.

There are options for non-sodium based water softeners to suit your needs. Saltless water softener systems do not use chemicals or salts of any kind. No added salt means that your water is not slippery or salty tasting. Because there is no salt, the salt-free water softener systems do not waste water or add sodium to the sewer system.

When dealing with hard water in your home, you have options to keep your plumbing free of buildup and your dishes and clothes as clean as possible without using excess detergent. Understanding the differences between the various water softening systems can direct you towards the system that will work best for your home. Which system would you prefer for your home?

Why Wait: Setting Realistic Intents for 2014 to Increase Your Success

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As December draws to a close people begin looking towards the year ahead and making their resolutions. At Intent, we encourage people to think a little deeper, to set their goals based on the desires of their soul. As you are creating your list of intents for 2014 there are several things to consider. Often times people set goals that are unrealistic and when they realize that they won’t be able to reach that expectation they give up entirely. Don’t let that happen to you,especially if you are setting intents related to your health and fitness. Create goals that challenge you, but that you know you can reach so that it motivates you to keep going.

To help you start off 2014 in a healthier way, and maintain that change throughout the year, we talked to our friends at Sports Club/LA on how to set Intents that are realistic for your personality and lifestyle to help you create permanent change. Follow these tips when making your 2014 New Year Intent lists.

  1. Avoid Specific Numbers and Go for Overall Change - The most popular “resolution” on lists this year will be “Lose x amount of pounds.” Stop right there. There have been several studies that show your weight number does not necessarily correlate to your overall health, so don’t put that pressure on yourself. If you start playing a numbers game then you already set yourself up for unnecessary pressure. Instead create an intent similar to “I intend to create a healthier lifestyle for myself.” It’s more general, but it leads to more lasting change. It means not only are you going to work out, but take into account your nutrition and spiritual health as well. When you begin to think broader about your overall health, you don’t tie yourself to a treadmill trying to sweat it out into a new pair of jeans. You begin making small changes in several aspects of your life to make you a happier person in general. Challenge yourself to think deeper, not heavier.
  2. Choose Smarter Nutrition Over Fad Diets - Your eating habits can account for up to 80% of your overall weight loss, so beginning to change your nutrition needs to be taken seriously. If you start automatically on January 1 (or tomorrow) on a fad diet that cuts out all of the foods that you’ve been used to eating, you won’t last very long. Instead it is about baby steps and making small, gradual changes so that you build making healthy choices into your routine instead of something you torture yourself to do for a few weeks – because then the results will be temporary as well. Look at improving your nutrition for good as your gateway to a healthier you! “What we choose to put in our mouth is the most intimate experience we’ll have, therefore it’s important that food be looked at with the intent of supporting and nourishing the body,” says Sports Club/LA nutritionist Karen Sherwood. “Foods that the body recognizes, i.e. fresh vegetables, fruits, lean proteins, healthy fats, and some grains should round out a person’s diet in moderate portion sizes. Weight loss is then just side effect of a truly nourished body. “
  3. Plan Challenging Routines that Don’t Ever Extend Yourself - The likelihood of you being able to go from couch to a 7-days a week work out regimen and sustain it is very unlikely. That is nothing to be ashamed of. Instead set a more realistic goal of 2-3 days a week to begin. This way if something comes up and you can’t make it one day you are still getting in a regular routine. Or start a regular class to get your feet wet – some place that will hold you accountable without overwhelming your schedule. As Karen also explains, creating a life change is about baby steps. “To make a complete life-change, taking baby steps and “leaning” into a new way of being is key. This enables us to pave a new foundation and build from there. It must begin with nutrition, and include an active life-style with focus on self care, rest, and stress management. When all of these wheels are working in harmony, the body and its relationship to food and the outside world begins to make sustainable change.”

Look over your list of 2014 intents and check them with these tips. If your current intents feel too numbers based or too specific, take a minute to think deeper – why are you setting that intent? Why is that something you desire? When you can answer those questions,  that is your true intent and focusing on that more encompassing goal will be more fulfilling than checking off a simple box. Setting an overall intent can allow you to make smaller goals, to create a plan of baby steps to reach it. Realize that creating true change in your life takes time and don’t rush it – allow yourself the patience to get there at the pace that is right for you.

Have you started your 2014 Intent list? We’d love to hear them so share in the comments below!

How Awareness and Positivity Will Lead You to Lasting Wellness

photo remix: Yoga woman on exercise ball - flickr_enthusiast_rocks_Nilmarie_Yoga-001Whenever you start a new diet or weight loss program there is one important question to ask yourself: why? Don’t stop yourself at the simple answer “Oh, I want to lose a few pounds to fit in those new jeans” or “I don’t want to feel self-conscious in a bathing suit.” Dig deeper. Many people begin the journey to permanent weight loss and overall wellness because they feel that being healthier will make them happier. While being healthier does give you more energy and confidence, you can’t expect it to cure all of your unhappiness. In fact, in Deepak Chopra’s new book “What Are You Hungry For?” he argues that tending to your personal and emotional wellbeing as you begin your weight loss program is absolutely key to making the changes stick.

While no one can claim to be happy constantly, Deepak advocates that being in tune and aware of your body and emotional state allows you to better fill its needs. “It’s an infallible kind of radar,” Deepak says, “Awareness allows you to sort out what you’re doing, how you feel, what you fear, hope and wish for – indeed everything in your life.”

You are living an unaware life when you unconsciously follow habits and rote behavior without question. Do you often let others take charge of your life or feel emotionally trapped by those around you? Isolating yourself and cutting off your connections to close friends and family can be another sign that you are out of tune with your body and need to increase your awareness to make permanent change.

You can help gain awareness by including a yoga practice or meditation in your diet and exercise plan. “Peaceful practices such as yoga or meditation to help build a refreshed sense of self,” explains Sports Club/LA nutritionist Karen Sherwood. “This is the glue that seals in the new lifestyle as the body begins to change physically, resulting in a new stream of motivation.

Being aware and working to keep a positive attitude will inevitably help keep you motivated as you progress towards your goal, and push you over hurdles or plateaus you reach along the way.

“Making any change is very emotional, so if you are starting this change from a negative, pessimistic place or allow yourself to go to that negative place, you won’t succeed.” Ginger Mallory of Sports Club/LA says. “However, if you vow to remain positive no matter what challenges may come with making this change, you will succeed! Your state of mind going into this will absolutely make or break you.”

But how do you find that awareness and keep that positive attitude? If you feel yourself slipping try these tips from Deepak.

  • Remember that you are both loved and loveable
  • Appreciate where you are – Even if you are just starting out, recognize the power in making the decision to make a change versus where you were before you took the first step.
  • Feel good about who you are – You are more than your shape or waist size. Remember that you are a worthy person and this process is only to make you healthier, not to change you in any way because you’re amazing the way you are.
  • Maintain loving and supportive relationships – Support will be key in this process. Stay close to those who inspire you, push you to be better and support you on the days when you can’t get to that place of positivity by yourself. Let them help hold you up.
  • Experience a deeper connection with a higher form of love – It doesn’t mean you have to prescribe to any specific religion, but connecting with a force or faith bigger than yourself can help you channel frustrations and negative feelings that arise out of your system. It can help buoy you during this transition and be another force to propel you forward.

This blog is part of our “What Are You Hungry For?” series with Sports Club/LA and to celebrate the release of Deepak Chopra’s latest book. Find out how you can win a copy of your own here and tell us what you are hungry for in the comments below. If you don’t want to wait for the give away you can purchase a copy of Deepak’s book today. 

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photo by: adria.richards