Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Coconut Sugar: What is it, and is it good for you?

Coconut Sugar: What Is It, and Is It Good for You?

Coconut sugar is one of the newest sweeteners to show up in grocery stores. It is a minimally processed natural sugar made from dried coconut palm nectar. It has a sweet flavor the rest on STACK

Monday, November 3, 2014

How Fatty Is Your Thanksgiving?

How Fatty Is Your Thanksgiving?

Times have changed since 1621, when the pilgrims and native Americans chowed down for the first Thanksgiving. Their meal the rest on STACK

Monday, October 27, 2014


Intense workouts and all out game day plays tear your muscles and lead to inflammation in the body. Most athletes experience achy muscles several days after exercise which is a sign of micro tears in the muscle tissue. These tears activate the immune system resulting in swelling and inflammation. This type of inflammation is good to an extent since it helps your body repair and build larger muscles.

Chronic inflammation that persists over a longer period of time from over training, eating a poor diet, having a weakened immune system, or a number of other causes is a bad type of inflammation. This type breaks down muscle tissue, further weakens the immune system, and increases the likelihood of illness and susceptibility to disease. A high inflammatory state in the body, whether short term or long term, can decrease aerobic capacity and affect athletic performance.  

Nutrition plays a critical role in decreasing inflammation and decreasing recovery time to help improve athletic performance. The first step is to get rid of foods that trigger inflammation and are low in nutrient value. Foods high in saturated fat and trans fats are top offenders and include fried foods, ice cream, sausage, bacon, red meat, chips, butter, whole milk, pizza, baked goods, and full fat cheese.

Unsaturated fats are healthier for the body but could also lead to inflammation as well. We must obtain omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids from our diet and keep each in balance to prevent inflammation. A typical American diet has a ratio of 20:1 omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids, triggering chronic inflammation in the body. To correct this differential, athletes should be eating less corn and soybean oils often found in packaged foods. They should increase their intake of fish, ground flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts to create more of a balance.

Highly processed foods and sugar are also inflammatory foods. Examples include white bread, sweetened cereal, fruit snacks, cookies, high fructose corn syrup, white rice, frozen meals, soda, and candy. These foods should be replaced with quality nutrient carriers such as beans, brown rice, quinoa, sweet potatoes, whole grain bread, and oatmeal.

Other added ingredients to avoid include artificial coloring, artificial flavors, monosodium glutamate (MSG), and hydrogenated oils.

Other foods you should eat regularly include avocado, broccoli, chili peppers, garlic, ginger, olive oil, green tea, onions, spinach, tomatoes, turmeric, fish, and berries.  

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The 7 Best Nuts for Your Health and Performance

The 7 Best Nuts for Your Health and Performance

Nuts are bite-sized powerhouses loaded with good fat, protein, vitamins and minerals to keep you fueled. These concentrated sources of energy the rest on STACK

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Else Are You Drinking? The Truth About BPA Dangers

What Else Are You Drinking? The Truth About BPA Dangers

You've probably heard that the bottled water you drink during your workout may contain Bisphenol A (BPA), a clear, synthetic compound found in plastics and epoxy. But the rest on STACK

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Balsamic Portobello Burgers

Serves: 4

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbs lemon juice
1 tbs dijon mustard
1 tbs minced garlic
1 tsp minced thyme
4 portobello mushrooms
Salt and pepper to taste

Remove stems and gills from the mushrooms (a spoon works well for this) and scrub clean.
In a bowl whisk together vinegar, oil, lemon juice, mustard, garlic, thyme, some salt, and some pepper.
Place mushrooms in a resealable plastic bag and pour marinade over top.
Seal bag and toss to coat. Leave at room temperature to marinate for 30 minutes, toss occasionally.
Place mushrooms on a medium heat grill for 5 minutes each side until fully cooked.
Serve on a whole grain bun with kale, red onions, and tomato. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Brown Rice vs. White Rice: Does It Really Matter?

When you visit a restaurant, you sometimes get a choice of white or brown rice with your meal. Your health-minded the rest on STACK.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

How the Glycemic Index Can Help Your Athletic Performance

How the Glycemic Index Can Help Your Athletic Performance

The glycemic index is a measurement of how quickly a carbohydrate food affects blood sugar levels compared to pure sugar. Foods are the rest on STACK

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

The Skinny on Good Fats vs. Bad Fats

  Fat is a necessary macronutrient in your diet—but all fats are not created equal. Fat cushions our organs and protects them from trauma, which is especially important for those of us who play contact sports. It is also a potent source the rest on STACK.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Garlic Lemon Zoodle Pasta

A spiralizer is my new favorite kitchen tool that transforms vegetables, like zucchini, into noodles. This is a fun easy way to increase vegetable consumption and decrease carbohydrate intake from traditional pasta dishes. Whether you are working on weight loss, going gluten free, or just appreciate clean healthy meals this rather inexpensive tool would be a great addition to your kitchen.

1 tbs olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
2 zucchinis
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, cut into quarters
4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces
salt and pepper to taste

Use a spiralizer to form noodles out of the zucchini.
Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Add zucchini noodles to the pan and stir until tender, about 3-4 minutes. Add tomatoes, basil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper. Cook about 30 seconds longer and serve hot.

Why You Need a Bedtime Snack

Sleep. It mentally recharges you for the next day, rests your heart and rebuilds damaged muscles to prime you for another day of training. Sleep is also a time of fasting. If you eat dinner early and don't snack before bed, you may the rest on STACK.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Tomato Beet Salad

1 lb small beets
2 lbs heirloom tomatoes
1 pint cherry tomatoes
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap beets in tin foil and roast until tender, about 75 minutes.

Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove beets from the foil and the skin to remove completely. It is best to wear gloves when doing this to prevent staining your hands.

Slice beets into thin rounds. Arrange in a bowl with cherry tomatoes sliced in half and heirloom tomatoes cut into wedges. Top with feta and cilantro. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Grab the Salt Shaker: Why Athletes Need to Eat More Sodium

Public health officials say that a low-sodium diet lowers blood pressure and helps you live a healthy lifestyle—and for the average Joe, that's true. But what about the football player dripping with sweat after a long, hot practice? Or the ultra endurance runner who is concerned about fatalities related to low the rest on STACK

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Benefits of Beets

Acquiring a taste for beets demands a love of strong flavor and dense texture. Red, yellow, or white varieties might appear at your local farmers market or grocery store  pro­viding a variety of nutrients and health benefits.
This super food has been the focus of recent studies claim­ing increased blood flow, lower blood pressure, and in­creased athletic performance. Low in fat and less than 40 calories per 1/2 cup, beets are an excellent addition to your diet.
The root contains a good source of folate, vitamin C, vita­min A, thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, B6, pantothenic acid, iron, manganese, copper, potassium, and magnesium.
The root also contains a unique phytonutrient called beta­lains which provides the deep red color. This pigment is different from those found in other red foods such as red wine or tomatoes, offering different health benefits to the body. Betalains has been shown to provide detoxifying, anti inflammatory, and antioxidant effects on the body.
The green leafy top portion is also edible supplying a great source of vitamin C, carotenoids, flavonoids, anti­oxidants, and vitamin A.  Consuming foods high in fla­vonoids and antioxidants can help protect against cancer and may also help prevent heart disease. The greens are usually served boiled or steamed providing a taste and tex­ture similar to spinach.
The heart healthy benefits and lower blood pressure claims are possibly linked to beets being high in nitrates. The body converts nitrates into nitric oxide which helps dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow. One study showed people who drank 1 glass of beet juice lowered their systolic blood pressure by 4-5 points within 6 hours. The results of 1 study is certainly not enough evidence to use beets as a treatment for high blood pressure, however it does reinforce the healthy impact beets can have on a balanced diet rich in fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein.  
Roasted Beet Wedges Recipe
6 Large beets
1 Tbs olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh minced dill
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Wash beets and trim off green stems.
Place whole beets in a roasting pan and drizzle with olive oil. Roast 50 minutes or until fork tender. Allow to cool slightly.
While wearing plastic gloves to avoid staining hands gently rub the skin off each beet. Slice into thin wedges and place into a medium bowl. Toss with olive oil and dill. Serve warm or chilled. Enjoy!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Athletes: Get More Powerful With Magnesium

Athletes: Get More Powerful With Magnesium

The foods we eat can change the way our bodies use energy, thereby affecting our athletic performance. Magnesium deficiency is one of the most common deficiencies in the United States. This mineral is found in every cell in the body; it supports over 300 enzymatic reactions, and it plays a significant role in how you produce the rest on STACK

Friday, June 20, 2014

Is Your Morning Workout Doing More Harm Than Good?

Do you zip off to the gym in the morning without grabbing breakfast? If so, you might be sabotaging your workout before you even step in the gym.
Building strength requires energy. When you sleep, your body uses stored glycogen (simply put, stored carbs) in your muscles and liver to keep your the rest on STACK

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Are You Eating Too Much Protein?

Protein consumption is important for developing lean muscle mass and strength, and many athletes eat more than 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight each day, hoping to build muscle. This may harm their athletic ability more than help it.
Why? Because carbohydrates are your muscles' main source of fuel, and for an athlete, nothing is more the rest on STACK

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Is Grilling Safe?


Summer just wouldn’t be summer without grilling. The delicious charred taste and  tender juiciness that can’t come from anywhere else keeps us coming back for more. Gas or charcoal, there are some great health benefits to grilling and also some documented health concerns you should be aware of.

Health Benefits: Grilling helps excess fat drip off, reducing the overall fat content. This is important particularly when cooking higher fat meats (steak, sausage, burgers) which we tend to do when grilling. The high heat provides a shorter cooking time helping vegetables retain more vitamins and minerals. The heat also seals in moisture helping you avoid added fat and sauces.

Health Concerns: High temperature cooking over gas or charcoal can produce heterocyclic amines (HCAs) which are documented carcinogens. These have caused cancer in animals and increase the risk of cancer in humans. Inflammatory substances called Advanced glycation end products (AGEs) are also created which speed up oxidative damage to cells. This can lead to or make worse degenerative diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney failure, and Alzheimer's. The smoke that comes off a grill, particularly from fat drippings, creates toxic chemicals called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) which can damage your lungs.

Protect Yourself: There are lots of ways to still enjoy grilling while minimizing your exposure to HCAs, AGEs, and PAHs. Coat your meat with a rub or marinade. This can significantly reduce the buildup of carcinogens. Be mindful of the salt content if you are watching your sodium intake. Precook your meats inside to limit the amount of exposure they have on the grill. Reduce the heat by cooking over an indirect flame; the higher the temperature the greater the formation of carcinogens and toxic substances. Finally grill vegetables, they do not develop HCAs or PAHs and their healthy antioxidant properties can help counterbalance your meat intake.


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Drink to Good Health!

Brew yourself a cup of antioxidant protection against heart disease, stroke, and cancer. Tea has been consumed for more than 4,000 years as both a beverage and medi­cine throughout Asia.
Today studies show tea is not a magic “pill” that cures cancer or replaces modern medicine, but it is a powerful antioxidant that may protect against many diseases and slow the progression of others.
Tea contains catechins which can make blood less sticky helping to reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. The antioxidant properties of catechins can also  reduce free radical damage and some studies show it may help prevent breast, prostate, and GI tract related cancers.  Studies have also shown people who drink at least one cup of tea daily have higher bone mineral density helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There are many properties in tea which could contribute to strong bones; fluoride being the best known can also help prevent cavities. Overconsump­tion has been linked to a condition called fluorosis so it is best to limit tea to 4 cups or less daily. 
Green tea has the highest catechin content, about 375 mg per cup, with black tea having around 210 mg. Decaffi­nated green and black teas appear to have the same bene­fits as regular. Adding milk to tea blocks the absorption of catechins so this should be avoided. Sugar and alternative sweeteners do not appear to effect catechin absorption, although consuming these in moderation is best.
Keeping with the theme of cancer prevention, one of our fellow bloggers and follower of Fit Nutrition 4 Life has suffered from mesothelioma. Heather has made it her life mission to spread awareness and encourage early detection as well as prevention. Please pass along her link to those who could benefit from her message.

Friday, May 30, 2014

Oatmeal Berry Muffins

These delicious muffins were easy to make and about 190 calories each making for a great whole grain snack or breakfast.

2 cups old fashioned rolled oats
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
3/4 cup raspberries
1/2 cup blueberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Prepare muffin tin with liners or spray with cooking spray.
In a large bowl whisk together oats, flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt.
In a separate bowl whisk together maple syrup, butter, eggs, and vanilla.
Add wet ingredients to dry mixture and stir until just moistened.
Fold in berries gently. Divide batter evenly into muffin cups. Bake for 20 minutes.
Let muffins cool in pan for 5 minutes before placing on cooling rack to cool completely.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Is Watermelon Good For Us?

I hope everyone had a healthy and happy Memorial Day. The fruit salad I posted yesterday was a delicious combination of watermelon cut with a star shaped cookie cutter, sliced strawberries, and blueberries. Here is some additional information on watermelon I was unable to post yesterday...

The quintessential summer melon synonymous with bbq’s, picnics, and outdoor celebrations. Undoubtedly a favorite by many, and also avoided by some who believe watermelon is merely water and sugar. Is watermelon healthy to eat, or is it a fattening food we should be avoiding?

Just like tomatoes, watermelon is high in lycopene, a carotenoid pigment important for cardiovascular health. Lycopene is an antioxidant that may help reduce the risk of cancer as well. Watermelon is also a good source of potassium, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium, and iron.

92% of watermelon is water making it a low calorie food to enjoy. 1 cup of watermelon has only 40 calories.

What about Glycemic Index?

Glycmic index is a measure of the effect sugar in food has on your blood glucose levels. High glycemic foods raise blood sugar quickly and increase the secretion of insulin. Eating high glycemic foods often can lead to too much insulin in your blood and weight gain. Lower glycemic foods have a less drastic effect on blood glucose levels.

Watermelon has a glycemic index of 72 making it a high glycemic food, but this number does not take serving size into consideration. If we eat 1 cup of watermelon we are actually consuming a low glycemic food. 2 cups of watermelon make it a medium glycemic food. 3 cups or more place it in the high glycemic category. The goal isn’t to eliminate all high glycemic foods, but rather consume them in moderating. At only 120 calories in 3 cups, watermelon it still a good low calorie and filling option whether you follow glycemic index ratings or not.

Watermelon is a nutrient dense low calorie food high in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Everything in moderation is key but watermelon along with many other fruits and vegetables can be part of a healthy well balanced diet for everyone.

Monday, May 26, 2014

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Salmon Arugula Salad with Tart Cherries

The dark red pigment of cherries is a flavonoid compound called anthocyanin glycosides which has powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. This helps the body fight against free radical damage, cancer, heart disease, and may even help soothe muscle soreness and joint pain.

Cherries are rich in fiber, vitamins A, C, and E, potassium, magnesium, iron, and folate. Tart cherries also contain melatonin, a hormone naturally produced in the body  that helps regulate sleep. Some studies have reported improved sleep in participants who drank tart cherry juice daily. Try this healthy and delicious recipe.

Serves: 4

6 cups arugula (about 3 oz)
1/2 radicchio, cut into strips
1 tbs olive oil
4 salmon fillets
3 shallots, sliced
1/2 jalapeno, seeds removed and sliced
1 1/2 cup tart cherries with pits removed (completely thaw if frozen)
1 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1/4 cup tart cherry juice
salt and pepper

Divide arugula and radicchio evenly onto 4 plates and set aside.

In a skillet over medium heat add 1 tsp olive oil and cook shallots and jalapenos until tender.

In a separate skillet add remaining olive oil and cook salmon 2-3 minutes each side until done. Place one fillet on top of each plate of salad.

In the skillet with the shallots and jalapenos, add cherries and ginger. Stir occasionally until heated. Add cherry juice and increase heat to medium-high. Allow mixture to reduce for several minutes until much of the liquid has evaporated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Spoon cherry mixture and some of the remaining liquid over each salmon fillet as well as the salad. Serve and enjoy!

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Is stress slowly killing us?

Having some stress is normal. It keeps our body alert, gives us energy, and helps us avoid danger. Stress starts to become negative when we face continual challenges and experience little relief in between. Continual stress starts to wear on our body and may play a larger role on our health than we once thought.

When we experience stress adrenaline is released into the bloodstream. This hormone increases your heart rate and blood pressure. On occasion this release is healthy, but frequent release could lead to health problems such as chronic high blood pressure, abnormal heart beats, and heart disease.
The hormone cortisol is also released into the bloodstream. This hormone increases the release of glucose into the blood for quick energy and tissue repair. Cortisol also inhibits functions that would not be essential in a fight-or-flight situation such as the immune system, digestive system, and reproductive system. This hormone also interacts with the brain, altering mood. It is believed excess release of cortisol could lead to changes in metabolism, lower immunity, and infertility. 

A study released this week from UC San Francisco followed 61 women for 1 year, half of whom where chronically stressed. Measurements of participant’s waistlines and fat distribution were assessed, and labs were drawn to identify insulin resistance, levels of stress hormones, and oxidative damage. Over the course of the year the women reported their intake of high sugar and high fat foods. The findings showed participants who were chronically stressed consumed similar amounts of high sugar, high fat foods but had significantly larger waistlines, higher oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance than lower stressed participants. This placed the stressed participants at higher health risk for heart disease and diabetes than unstressed participants who consumed the same amount of unhealthy food.
The study highlights the fact that weight gain and weight loss may not be as simple as calories in versus calories out. In previous animal studies fat cells grew faster in response to junk food under chronically stressed environments; this study suggests a similar metabolic response in humans.

How can we combat the inevitable chronic stress many of us face due to our jobs and living situations?
We need to develop a new attitude to problem solve and learn how to find solutions to limit the amount of stress we experience. We need to learn how to be flexible and “pick our battles”. We also need to learn to set limits and figure out when we need to say “No”.

We need to take care of ourselves. Eat health foods and avoid the junk; high sugar snacks and caffeine may be quick fixes but are not long term solutions to the problem. Start exercising to release “feel good” endorphins, relax tense muscles, improve your mood, and strengthen the cardiovascular system. Get enough sleep to be well rested and help your body recover from the stress you are under. Studies show lack of sleep can also increase the secretion of stress hormones in the body.
We need to relax more. Take deep breaths to slow the heart, stretch, and massage muscles to reduce tension. Take time to do something you enjoy and get away from the stressful environment. Stay away from unhealthy expressions of stress relief such as drinking too much alcohol, smoking, or overeating.   

We need to talk it out. Talk to trusted family and friends about your stress. Venting can be very cathartic and new perspectives and suggestions from others could help find new solutions you hadn’t considered. Also know when to consult a professional and your physician to learn better coping strategies and manage your health proactively.  

Friday, April 25, 2014

Post Workout Recovery

Post Workout Recovery
Criticality of Nutrient Distribution and Timing

Your workout isn’t finished until you refuel
Research supports during the 20-30 minutes immediately following a workout your body is most receptive to muscle glycogen and protein synthesis. Glycogen is a type of carbohydrate stored in your muscles and in your liver. During exercise glycogen stores are used for energy and muscles breakdown from stress. Consuming a post workout snack replenishes glycogen stores, supports the restoration and building of muscle tissue, reduces post exercise fatigue, and aids in faster recovery.

Research supports a 3:1 or 4:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein is most effective in replenishing glycogen stores as well as increases the rate of protein synthesis. Consuming high protein snacks immediately post workout with little amounts of carbohydrates is not as effective for muscle tissue development. Alternatively consuming a snack mostly of carbs and very little protein is not as effective for muscle glycogen replenishment.
All sugar is not the same

Healthy balanced diets for athletes and nonathletes include limiting refined sugars. Processed foods, candy, and desserts are filled with sugar we want to avoid; for this reason sugar has a bad reputation. When it comes to increasing athletic performance sugar can be very effective and aid in workout recovery. Simple sugars such as glucose and fructose are rapidly absorbed and become excellent fuel sources during exercise. Post exercise, glucose especially, is quick to replenish depleted glycogen stores and reduce post exercise fatigue. Selecting natural sources of simple sugars, such as fruit, is recommended over candy or desserts.

Liquid post workout snacks can be consumed fast, aid in rehydration, and may be more portable than solid foods. Based on your preferences solid foods can be equally as effective. Aim for foods rich in glucose, high in glycemic value, and low in fat. The longer the duration and intensity of your workout, the more carbs and protein your body needs. Typically aiming for a 200-300 calorie snack is adequate for most workouts. Low intensity exercise and short duration may only require regular meals to properly refuel stores.
Post Workout Snacks
1 low fat string cheese and 1 apple (122 calories, 20g carbs, 6g protein)
1 cup low fat chocolate milk (170 calories, 25g carbs, 8g protein)
2 oz sliced turkey and 10 crackers (184 calories, 24g carbs, 9g protein)
¼ cup raisins with 1 low fat string cheese (190 calories, 32g carbs, 9g protein)
1 cup cheerios with 1 cup skim milk (191 calories, 34g carbs, 11.5g protein)
1 English muffin, 1 oz turkey, and 2 tbs hummus (219 calories, 30g carbs, 11g protein)
1 cup vegetable lentil soup with 5 crackers (230 calories, 41g carbs, 10g protein)
Smoothie with 1 cup skim milk, 1 tbs peanut butter, ½ banana, and ½ cup strawberries (245 calories, 35.5g carbs, 12g protein)
Low fat fruit flavored Greek yogurt and 1 banana (245 calories, 47g carbs, 15g protein)
1 English muffin, ¼ cup low fat cheese, ½ cup tomato sauce, and 1 cup vegetable soup (320 calories, 52g carbs, 14g protein)
2 waffles, 1/3 cup plain nonfat yogurt and 1 tbs almond butter (334 calories, 36g carbs, 11g protein)
1 plain bagel and 1 hardboiled egg (344 calories, 52g carbs, 16g protein)
¾ cup low fat berry granola with 1 cup low fat plain yogurt (364 calories, 62g carbs, 17g protein)
2 tbs peanut butter, 2 tsp jelly and 2 slices bread (400 calories, 43g carbs, 14g protein)
1 roll, 1 oz turkey, 1oz low fat cheese, spinach, tomato, 8 oz orange juice (400 calories, 67g carbs, 17g protein)

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Drink to Good Health: Resveratrol

This polyphenol (a type of plant compound) is an antioxidant that is naturally produced by several plants to provide protection from bacteria and pathogens. Red wine particularly has been touted as an excellent source of resveratrol, however the compound can also be found in blueberries, cocoa powder, cranberries, lingonberries, mulberries, peanuts, pistachios, purple grapes, red grapes, and in the roots of the Japanese knotweed plant.

The highest concentrations of the compound are found on the skin of red grapes making red wine highest in resveratrol. The amount of time the grape skin is fermented impacts the amount of resveratrol within the wine. White wine has less of the compound due to the skin of the grapes being removed earlier. Other factors including grape variety, humidity, and other environmental conditions also impact resveratrol content and the amount can range greatly from year to year. Most red wines contain anywhere between 0.2 to 12.59 mg/L of the compound. Typically organic wines are thought to have higher amounts due to less chemical usage and their need to produce more resveratrol to combat fungus. Pinot noir is fermented the longest with the skin intact which could also increase resveatrol levels. Wines from cooler regions such as Italian sangiovese, Australian shiraz, and French burgundy were found to have higher levels compared to warmer climates such as California, Spain, and South American wines.  

Resveratrol was discovered in 1939 but it was not until 1992 when scientists suggested resveratrol may be the reason for the heart benefits of red wine. The hypothesis was based on the “French Paradox” where high levels of saturated fat intake, smoking, and regular red wine consumption in France resulted in relatively low levels of mortality from coronary heart diseases. This suggested regular red wine consumption may provide protection from heart disease.  

Following the 1992 study, hundreds of reports have promoted the health benefits of resveratrol. The majority of studies have been conducted in test tubes or with animals. Several have been conducted on humans but these were not long term studies and have not shown significant evidence of resveratrols health benefits. Mouse studies have indicated activation of one gene that helps protect the body against side effects of obesity and diseases of aging. It is thought resveratrol may prevent heart disease by reducing inflammation, preventing the oxidation of LDL cholesterol, and preventing platelets from sticking together and forming clots. It is believes resveratrol may prevent cancer by reducing the spread of cancer cells. For Alzheimer’s disease resveratrol may protect nerves from damage. Resveratrol may also help prevent against insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

Moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce heart disease risk by 20-30%. Some studies have shown wine drinkers to have lower risks than people consuming beer or liquor; however other studies found no difference. It is not yet clear if polyphenols, such as resveratrol, in red wine have the most beneficial impact on reducing heart disease risk. Due to the limited studies in humans we are unable to confirm health benefits of resveratrol at this time.

Manufacturers have capitalized on selling resveratrol as a supplement, and while it is generally considered safe, the long term side effects have not been studied. Resveratrol does have estrogen like properties, similar to soy, and should not be taken by pregnant or breastfeeding women. It is also recommended children and adolescents under 18 not take the supplement as the effects on development are unknown. People on certain medications such as anticoagulents (Warfarin), antiplatelet drugs (Plavix, Persantine), and NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen) are also advised not to take resveratrol supplements. Until more is known regarding the estrogen like properties of resveratrol, women at risk or with a history of estrogen-sensitive cancers should also avoid supplements.

In addition to resveratrol, red wine contains other polyphenol compounds and anthocyanins which have beneficial antioxidant properties. Until more research ensures the efficacy and safety of supplements my opinion is to consume these compounds from natural sources so they can work together in synergy with other phytochemicals.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Goji Berry

Eat it raw, dried, cooked, or as juice; this bright reddish-orange berry has a mild sweet, sour, and tangy taste when dried, and has a chewy texture similar to a very dry raisin. Ancient Chinese medicine used goji berries for longevity and immunity. Today the goji berry has earned the reputation of being a super fruit thanks to its nutrient value. The berry contains various phytochemicals, phenolic pigments, calcium, vitamin C, selenium, riboflavin, beta-carotene, and zeaxanthin. These vitamins, minerals, and antioxidant compounds have led the way for preliminary medical research to identify possible healing powers within the goji berry. It is important to note at this time due to limited clinical trials no health claims have been substantiated and consumers should be aware of this when reading advertisements. 

Published studies have speculated from animal models and human pilot studies that goji berries may inhibit some forms of cancer, prevent oxidative stress, protect against retinal damage secondary to ischemia, and prevent against cardiovascular and inflammatory diseases. From my research it appears only two published studies have tested goji on humans, one published in 1994 found people with cancer did respond better to treatment when goji was added into their diet.
When it comes to eyesight the antioxidant zeaxanthin found in goji berries absorbs blue light and protects the retina of the eye. Several studies show consuming foods rich in zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of macular degeneration. This compound is also found in paprika, corn, and saffron.
For most people eating goji berries along with other fruits and vegetables is an excellent was to add nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals into their diet. Since research is ongoing and nothing is conclusive just yet I would recommend not “overdoing it” with the goji crazy, but certainly adding some goji into your diet can be part of a healthy lifestyle.

Goji berries can interact with some medications, particularly with the way they are metabolized in the liver. Taking goji with anticoagulants (especially warfarin) by increasing bleeding risk, drugs for diabetes by causing drops in blood suagr, and drugs for hypertension by causing your blood pressure to go too low. Goji can also stimulate the uterus and should not be used when pregnant or breastfeeding. Most interactions were seen in people consuming 3-4 cups of juice daily or 6-18g berries daily.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Coo-coo for Coconuts

Coconut oil is the latest “super-good-for-you” food claiming to improve cholesterol, regulate blood sugar levels, increase metabolism aiding in weight loss, and fight off  infection.

For years every major health organization advised consumers to avoid high consumption of coconut oil due to it being high in saturated fat. Today we are hearing the type of saturated fat in coconut may not be harmful to our health.
There are two types of coconut oils, hydrogenated coconut oil and virgin coconut oil. Hydrogenated coconut oil is manufactured and contains trans fats which turn good cholesterol into bad cholesterol in your body. Many major health organizations are lobbying to have trans fats removed from all foods. It is important to read food labels on packaged goods to ensure it does not contain trans fats, hydrogenated, or partially hydrogenated oils. Hydrogenated coconut oil is no exception and should not be consumed.

Virgin coconut oil, or regular coconut oil that is not hydrogenated typically means the oil has been unprocessed. Unlike olive oil, there is not an industry standard for the meaning of “virgin”. It is assumed the coconut oil has not been refined or bleached. 1 tablespoon of coconut oil has 120 calories and meets 60% of the maximum amount of saturated fat allowed in a 2000 calorie diet. If you have that with 4 ounces of beef you have exceeded your daily limit. Here is a side by side comparison with 1 tablespoon of olive oil:

 Historically polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are considered the “good fats” that prevent heart disease and improve cholesterol levels in the body. Trans fats and saturated fats have been considered the “bad fats” that cause plaque buildup in the arteries and lead to heart disease. The unique feature of coconut oil is that it contains mostly medium-chain triglycerides that may not have a significant effect on cholesterol.
Medium-chain triglycerides are digested rapidly and are broken down immediately. Once in the blood stream they are sent directly to the liver which uses them for energy or stores them as fat. It is thought the rapid speed of digestion leads to increased energy and increases in metabolism helping to promote weight loss.

For all the positive effects we hear about coconut oil we rarely hear the negative or harmful effects. Because medium-chain triglycerides are rapidly delivered to the liver, overconsumption can lead to added stress on your liver and some studies show it may contribute to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Ketones are also produced as a byproduct of metabolism and can be a large concern for people with diabetes. Diabetics and people with liver disease are encouraged not to consume medium-chain triglycerides. Other side effects of consumption include nausea, gastric distress, and diarrhea. Coconut oil also contains omega-6 fatty acids that produce a more inflammatory effect on the body while oils containing omega-3 fatty acids produce an anti-inflammatory effect on the body.
Eating too much of anything is unhealthy and something as concentrated in calories as fat can quickly lead to weight gain, increasing risk of cardiovascular disease. When we hear recommendations to “eat more healthy fats” I often see clients take this as an invitation to use copious amounts of oil on everything they eat. A well balanced 2000 calorie diet should include 6 teaspoons of healthy fat daily. 1 teaspoon of oil is equivalent to:

·         1 ½ tsp nut butter

·         2 Tbs avocado

·         6 almonds

·         8 black olives

·         1 Tbs regular salad dressing

·         2 Tbs reduced-fat salad dressing

·         1 Tbs flaxseed

·         1 slice bacon

·         2 Tbs sour cream

As you can see an ounce of almonds and dressing on your salad meets your recommended 6 tsp daily. Remember you will be consuming additional fat in the protein you consume, as well as in other processed foods. When all of this is taken into account you want to end up with consuming about 50-75g of fat overall for the day on a 2000 calorie diet. There is no need to go overboard with covering everything in oil.
The reality is we do not have enough information at this time to know for sure if coconut oil does harm or good for the body. There certainly are better options out there such as olive and canola oil which have been very beneficial in decreasing cholesterol and providing better ratios of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids promoting anti-inflammatory effects on the body. Instead of playing roulette with your health it is best not to switch over to the coconut oil trend. I always say everything in moderation…enjoying coconut oil from time to time is not dangerous but making it a steady part of your diet may not be so positive.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Eat to Boost Energy

Food gives us much-needed energy. Just like a car, our body needs fuel to run. It is important to maintain normal blood sugar levels, and the best way to accomplish this is by eating every few hours any never let our “tank” get empty.

Studies show people who Eat Breakfast have a better mood, have more energy throughout the day, overeat less at night, and are less likely to be overweight. After an overnight fast eating breakfast supplies your body with fuel and signals your metabolism to start burning energy efficiently. Eating a 300-400 calorie nutrient rich breakfast balanced with fiber and protein will help provide a steady stream of energy. This will keep you satisfied longer than a sugary breakfast filled with empty calories. Try:

·         Whole wheat English muffin with 1 tbs peanut butter topped with sliced banana

·         Nonfat Greek yogurt topped with 1/3 cup low-fat granola and ¾ cup blueberries

·         1 egg and 2 egg whites mixed with spinach and tomato with 2 slices whole wheat toast

·         1 cup whole grain cereal with 1 cup nonfat milk, 2 tbs walnuts, and 1 cup sliced melon

·         2 frozen whole grain waffles topped with ½ cup nonfat yogurt, 1 tbs slivered almonds, and 1 cup fresh raspberries

Enjoy a Power Snack by eating between each meal. Studies show eating large quantities of food stimulates increased insulin production and deposition of fat. Eating less more often, through smaller meals and snacks every 3-4 hours encourages your metabolism to consistently burn calories, your blood sugar levels to remain stable, and you to stay well energized. Just like breakfast, combine fiber with protein to provide a nutrient dense power snack. Try:

·         1 oz low fat cheese and 1 medium apple

·         1 cup baby carrots and 2 tbs hummus

·         23 almonds

·         Single serve low fat yogurt with ¾ cup berries

·         2 rice cakes with 1 tbs peanut butter and ½ banana

Maintaining consistent energy is established through keeping blood sugar balanced. Eating more whole grains and less sugar helps allow a slow and steady release of carbohydrates into the bloodstream. When we eat sweet foods or refined carbs, such as cookies, candy, or white rice, we get a spike in blood sugar and an initial burst of energy which is followed by a rapid drop in blood sugar. We then have feelings of fatigue and may start eating more to compensate for our drop in energy. If we do this enough times in a day, we feel exhausted by the evening. Studies also show people who eat whole grains can lower their cholesterol levels, manage their diabetes better, and are less likely to be overweight. Try:

·         Brown rice

·         Popcorn

·         Oatmeal

·         Any grain that starts with “whole”

·         Quinoa

Dehydration can deplete our energy levels and lower our metabolism. Drink water throughout the day to stay well hydrated, remembering thirst is not a good indicator of hydration status. Most people need about 8-10 cups of fluid daily. Water is the best but other fluids count towards that total too. Keep in mind caffeine may be a quick pick-me-up but once the caffeine wears off, where will your energy levels be? Drinking caffeine and alcohol later in the day can also affect your quality of sleep. Get enough sleep to restore your energy levels and promote greater health. Studies show lack of sleep contributes to weight gain, increased risk of cardiovascular disease, increased rates of depression, aging, accidents, and forgetfulness.

Magnesium supports over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body and plays a significant role in how our body produces energy. Magnesium is the most common nutrient deficiencies in the United States…along with calcium and vitamins A, C, D, and E. Food high in fiber are generally high in magnesium as well. Men need about 420mg daily; women need about 320mg daily. Try:

·         Dark Leafy Greens: Spinach, Swiss chard, Kale

·         Nuts and Seeds: Pumpkin, Sesame, Brazil Nuts, Almonds, Cashews, Pine Nuts

·         Fish: Mackerel, Pollock, Tuna

·         Beans and Lentils: Soybeans, White beans, French beans, Black-eyed peas

·         Whole Grains: Brown Rice, Quinoa, Millet, Bulgur, Buckwheat, Wild Rice

Treat yourself to a piece of Dark Chocolate to fight off fatigue. Dark chocolate comprised of at least 70% cocoa contains a significant amount of flavanols which have been linked to lowering blood pressure, decreasing LDL cholesterol oxidation, increasing insulin sensitivity, decreasing inflammation, and reducing fatigue. Researchers believe chocolate may increase serotonin levels in the brain helping to regulate mood and sleep which helps alleviate chronic fatigue. One study also showed increased blood flow to the brain for 2-3 hours after consumption which may increase alertness and cognitive skills.

Food is fuel and picking the right nutrients at the right time gives you optimal energy throughout the day.