Wednesday, December 30, 2015

10 Tips for a Healthy New Year

1. Find Your Motivation-What is it that drives you to change your lifestyle and be a better
version of yourself? Is it looking and feeling younger, fitting into clothes better, taking less
medication, having more pain-free days, being there for your grandchildren, or preventing chronic disease? Whatever motivates you, set goals and actively work towards them.

2. Eat Breakfast Every Day-Eat within 2 hours of waking up to kick start your metabolism. We are most sensitive to carbohydrates first thing in the morning so swap sugary cereals and refined carbohydrates for lean protein and complex carbohydrates such as an egg white
vegetable omelet with a side of berries.

3. Fill Up on Vegetables-Half of your plate should be filled with vegetables to provide optimal nutrients and calorie control. Vegetables are packed with fiber which adds bulk without a lot of
calories. You get the satisfaction of chewing and eating a good portion of food without a high calorie cost.

4. Eat Clean-Choose healthy, whole, unprocessed foods such as apples, broccoli, brown rice, chicken, almonds, and milk. Avoid heavily processed foods, especially those low in nutrients such as baked goods, chips, diet soda, and ready-to-eat foods like mac and cheese. 

5. Exercise-Vigorous exercise is a natural defense for the body, protecting it against heart
disease and stroke. Exercise also burns calories to help with weight management, lowers blood sugar, improves mental outlook, and alleviates stress. Exercise at least 30 minutes most days.

6. Stop Eating by 8 pm-Some research indicates eating after 8pm can interfere with the body’s internal clock and hormone secretions resulting in higher blood sugar, higher cholesterol, and weight gain. Eating a large meal before bed can also cause heartburn and effect how your REM sleep cycle functions. Work on eating dinner earlier and close the kitchen by 8pm.

7. Weigh Yourself Weekly-Knowledge is power! Regular weighing keeps you mindful of your goals and nips weight gain in the bud. Daily weighing can become frustrating for some people due to weight fluctuations from shifts in fluid. Try weighing yourself once a week and log your results in a journal to track your progress over time.

8. Stop Cheating-Self control and enjoyment of all foods in moderation is the ultimate
long-term goal. Stop designating cheat days or cheat weekends and learn to eat all foods
mindfully and moderately. It is okay to eat a nice meal from time to time or have 1-2 cookies at a party but eating appetizers, having a few drinks, eating a rich dinner, and then having a slice of pie will tip the scale.

9. Manage Your Stress-When stressed your body produces more cortisol, a stress hormone which can increase blood sugar levels, triglycerides, and lead to more fat being stored around your abdomen. Cortisol also increases hunger signals in the brain resulting in cravings for high calorie foods. Stress management is an important part of a healthy lifestyle and should include regular exercise, adequate sleep, and relaxation. Limit caffeine as this can stimulate cortisol. Also limit sugar, chocolate, cake, cookies, and white bread products.

10. Sleep-Studies show people with bedtimes after 10:30pm gained more weight overtime.
Getting less than 7 hours of sleep has also been associated with alterations in appetite regulating hormones resulting in weight gain. Work on going to bed at a regular time to ensure you get a restful 7-8 hours of sleep consistently.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Greatest Gift is Health

December is a magical time to spread kindness, good fortune, and cheer. It is a season for embracing traditions, spending time with others, and believing in the hopes and promises of the new year to come. The hustle and bustle of the season makes it a busy time of year with shopping, preparing feasts, and visiting friends near and far. For some December can even bring sorrow with loved ones who are missing, traditions that no longer occur, and stress that cannot be overcome. 

As we celebrate the season, take time to reflect on the greatest gift we can posses; the gift of good health. Being healthy encompasses mind, body, and spirit with the absence of injury and illness. Health allows us to live life to the fullest in a positive, productive, and pain free way. Lifestyle choices dramatically shape our health, and can improve our mental and physical wellbeing at any age. For people with acute or chronic illness, and even people with incurable disease the benefits of healthy lifestyle choices promotes the greatest health they can achieve.

The start of a healthy lifestyle begins with a positive outlook. Researchers believe people with positive outlooks are more motivated to make healthier life decisions, focus more on their long-term health goals, and protect better against the inflammatory damage of stress. Heart disease patients with a positive outlook were more likely to live longer and patients with a positive outlook had higher physical activity levels, slept better, and were less likely to smoke. While some people are born optimists, ultimately a positive attitude is a choice. You can train yourself to be a positive person; start by smiling more.

Eat healthy by choosing foods that are minimally processed and highly nutritious. Instead of foods that come in packages target a plant based diet rich in vegetables and fruit. Enjoy lean protein such as fish, eggs, and poultry in smaller amounts. Eat whole grains over refined varieties, low fat and nonfat dairy, and select healthy fats such as nuts and olive oil daily. Understand that all foods can be enjoyed in moderation, but maintaining a healthy balance is key. Skip foods that aren’t worth the calories and savor every bite of indulgent foods you truly love.

Exercise has been shown in studies to help reverse aging at a cellular level. Exercise not only burns calories, it protects our health by increasing oxygen delivery to our cells, increasing the fluidity of our blood vessels and arteries, and improving blood flow throughout the body to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. For 24-48 hours after exercise we can see a healthy decrease in blood pressure and an increase in insulin sensitivity up to 40% after a moderate-intense exercise session. Exercise also helps improve our sleep and releases endorphins which can elevate our mood.

As this year draws to a close take a little time for yourself and reflect on where you would like your health to be this time next year. The small choices we make every day have an impact on our health over a lifetime. This holiday season give yourself the best gift money can’t buy, the gift of taking care of your health.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Cooking with Fennel

Well known in Mediterranean and Italian cuisine, the distinct licorice flavor of fennel has been used for culinary and medicinal purposes for centuries.

Fennel is a hardy herb with feathery leaves (also called fronds), yellow flowers, and a greenish-white edible bulb. It originated along the shores of the Mediterranean, although today it is widely grown throughout the world.

Ancient Chinese medicine used fennel to relieve digestive problems such as heart burn, bloating, upset stomach, and to  stimulate appetite. It has been used to treat colic in infants and for upper respiratory tract infections. Fennel powder has also been used to heal snake bites. Some research indicates fennel may help with colic and constipation by reducing swelling in the colon, however most research is insufficient and more evidence is   needed to rate the effectiveness of fennel.

Fennel is rich in vitamin C, providing 17% of the recommended daily amount. It also provides a good source of fiber, B vitamins and phytonutrients. One phytonutrient called anethole was shown to reduce cancer-signaling molecules which could help reduce cancer risk.

Fennel is in season from mid-fall to early spring. When selecting fennel look for bright green fronds with no signs of wilting and a firm light green and white bulb with no soft spots. 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Clementine Season

Clementine's might look like tiny oranges, but they are actually a hybrid fruit made from a cross between a mandarin and an orange. The clementine is believed to have been discovered by French missionaries in Algeria during the early twentieth century. Its delicious taste, seedless flesh, and being easy to peel has helped it gain great popularity over the years.

Also known as Christmas oranges, clementine’s are sold between November and January. They are mostly grown in California, Morocco, and Spain which provide a hot and dry environment suitable for production. Their sweet taste, lower acidity level, and high nutrient value compliment many recipes and are a good addition to many meals.  
At 35 calories each, clementine’s are a rich source of potassium, fiber, and folate. One clementine provides 40% of daily Vitamin C requirements. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which destroys free radicals that form in the body after coming into contact with pollutants such as cigarette smoke and pesticides.
Clementine’s contain many other bioactive compounds that can fight disease. All citrus fruit, including clementine’s, contain flavonoids which can decrease the risk of stroke, heart disease, and some cancers.
According to the National Cancer Institute high doses of Vitamin C may slow the growth and spread of prostate, pancreatic, liver, colon, and other types of cancer cells.
Some animal studies have shown Vitamin C blocking tumor growth and some human studies have shown Vitamin C improving mental, physical, and emotional functions in cancer patients. However, not all studies combining Vitamin C and cancer therapy have shown benefit. Eating foods rich in Vitamin C is recommended while the benefit of supplements  continues to be researched.
Clementine’s are very portable and can pair well with other foods such as 7 walnuts for a 130 calorie protein and fiber rich snack. Adding them to plain nonfat yogurt or tossing them into a salad are delicious options too.