Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

For much of human history, fruits have been a favorite food, and with good reasons: they’re tasty, easy to digest, a good source of quick energy and packed with vitamins and minerals. It is very important to include all the seasonal fruits in the diet to gain maximum nutritional benefits, as no one particular fruit can provide all the necessary nutrients. A healthy diet should contain at least 3-4 servings of fruits per day including variety which is key.

The Benefits of Fruits in Your Diet 

  • Excellent sources of vitamin C, beta carotene and potassium
  • High in fiber and low in calories
  • A source of natural sugars that provide quick energy
  • Contain various polyphenols which may protect against cancer and other diseases.

The Nutritional Value of Fruits

Fruits are antioxidants. Numerous studies demonstrate that people who eat ample of amounts of fruits, 5-10 servings a day, enjoy a reduced incidence of cancer, heart attacks and strokes.

Citrus fruits are among the richest sources of vitamin C. Nutritionists recommend at least one daily serving of an orange, grapefruit, tangerines or other citrus fruits.

Brightly colored fruits, such as apricots, cantaloupes and mangoes, are high in beta-carotene. Other carotene pigments such as lycopene are found in red fruits.

Many fruits are high in potassium, an electrolyte that is essential to maintaining a proper balance of body fluids. People taking diuretic drugs, which increase the excretion of potassium in urine, are advised to eat extra servings of bananas, melons, apricots and dried fruits.

Most fruits are low in calories and high in fiber, a fact that enhances their appeal to people who are weigh conscious. Apple, pears and many other fruits contain pectin, a soluble fiber that helps regulate blood cholesterol levels. Berries, citrus and dried fruits are especially high in both soluble and insoluble fiber.

Five Ways to Eat More Fruits

  1. Top your cereal with sliced bananas, kiwifruits, fresh berries. Try something new like dried cranberries or sliced mango.
  2. Fill a cantaloupe or other melon with low-fat cottage cheese.
  3. Add 1 cup fresh or frozen berries to pancake batter. Top pancake with apple sauce or rhubarb compote instead of syrup.
  4. Don’t throw out overripe bananas. Peel and freeze them and use them later for banana bread or muffins.
  5. Add fruit such as apples, pears, and mandarin orange sections to green salads.

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I’m hooked on “The Biggest Loser” TV show. Maybe because I get to watch lives being transformed and new behaviors shaped or because I feel gratified that these changes are a result of improvements in nutrition and exercise, areas in which I have expertise in, rather than the promise of a fad diet, magic pills or surgery as a solution. But I was always so curious about what goes on behind the scenes. So you can imagine my excitement when I had the opportunity to learn from the dietitian and the medical physician for the show at a conference held in Chicago last year.

First off, they both admitted upfront that one of the reasons the people lose so much weight consistently is because of their new environment. All the barriers that usually exist to behavior change (job/life stresses, family and friends, lack of time, lack of knowledge about what to do) have been removed. Their new job is to exercise, learn about good nutrition habits, and practice them every day. This is one of the keys that contributed to their success. They get enough time in the new environment that once they leave they have enough knowledge and motivation to keep it going. Essentially, they transform their lifestyle.

Biggest Loser Diet

  • 45-30-25: Modified 45% of calories from carbohydrates (mostly fruits, vegetables and some whole grains), 30% of calories from protein, and 25% of calories from healthy fats or oils (seeds, nuts, avocado, olive oil)
  • Whole foods, elemental ingredients
  • 4-3-2-1: daily 4 cups minimum of fruits and vegetables, 3 servings of healthy proteins (e.g. fish, skinless chicken breast, 93% lean ground turkey), 2 servings of whole grains, and 1 serving of healthy fat.
  • Aim to have 1 serving of fish daily.
  • 1 optional treat per day.
  • Cereals must contain a minimum 5 grams of fiber per serving and less than 5 grams of sugar per serving. This limits the cereals to certain oatmeals, bran cereals, or other high fiber cereals on the market.
  • Goal of 7 calories per pound of body weight for daily caloric intake. This is recalculated after significant weight loss.

Participants are provided with calorie counting resources and a food and exercise diary which they must maintain daily. This helps to raise awareness of past behaviors and develops an understanding for calorie balance through diet and exercise.

Their diets are analyzed daily by the show’s nutritionist. The nutritionist reported a 70% adherence to the diet. The nutritionist also reported as a result of the diet, the contestants experience decreased risk for diabetes because the measure that is used to diagnose diabetes decreases from “at risk” to a healthy range.

Biggest Loser Exercise

  • A goal of 7 hours per week of exercise
  •  Incorporate weight training, coaching, teamwork, and competition

What a Typical Week at the Ranch Consist of

Before getting started, participants undergo extensive medical tests, including a physical, stress test, DEXA (to measure accurately percent body fat and lean mass), and “Bod Pod” (to measure resting metabolic rate). Participants also undergo psychological evaluation and the support network at home is briefed on the program so they know what to expect when the person returns home.

All participants get a full nutrition consult, including a week of food journals review. They discuss any GI symptoms they are having as well as eating schedules and cooking and shopping strategies.

Common Characteristics

In 3 seasons, they found many common characteristics, including:

  • No idea of the number of calories they need or what they actually consume
  • Most skip breakfast and snacks and let a long time go between meals
  • Most consume very little fruits and vegetables
  • Most are not getting enough protein, and what they do get is high in saturated fat
  • Most get very little whole grains
  • Most have too much refined flour and sugar
  • Little planning of meals, mostly on-the-go eating and dining out
  • Most were meeting their daily caloric needs through beverages alone (e.g. caloric sodas, juices and fruit punch)
  • Many consume very little water
  • Nearly all reported limited to no exercise
  • Nearly all prioritize everything and everyone else in their life ahead of their own health

I found that list to be insightful. It is easy to see why they are struggling with their weight when you look at behaviors they have in common. The goal of the Biggest Loser, just like any other actual weight loss program, to restructure that lifestyle and get them on the path to better health and wellness.

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Let’s take a look at two of the most popular nut butters – peanut and almond butters. They are both a great source of protein with healthy fat, but does one have a better benefit over the other doesn’t?

When buying either peanut butter or almond butter, you want to be sure you are getting the most natural form of it you can. The ingredient list on either should only include the nut (peanut or almond) and maybe some salt. There should not be any added oils or other fillers. When you compare the nutrition facts for peanut and almond butter you won’t see any big differences. In a 2 tablespoon serving, you get 190-200 calories, 16-17 grams of fat, 1.5 grams of saturated fat (which means 14-15 grams of HEALTHY unsaturated fat), 7-8 grams of protein and 2 grams of naturally occurring sugar.

The difference in these nut butters comes in the micronutrients! Almond butter provides 40% your daily need for Vitamin E, 25% your magnesium and 8% of both your calcium and iron needs. Vitamin E is thought to be beneficial in preventing heart disease and unwanted platelet clotting. It’s an antioxidant which might prevent the formation of carcinogenic nitrosamines in the stomach (formed from eating nitrites). It’s also thought to aid in healthy immune function. Other potential benefits include preventing degenerative eye disease and cognitive decline. Magnesium is equally as important to your body. It’s involved in hundreds of reactions that occur inside of you. Specifically it’s known to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, support a healthy immune system, and keep bones strong. It also helps regulate blood sugar and blood pressure. For “micro” nutrients they are pretty powerful!

Conclusion: Go for the almond butter! Its micronutrients are all about helping your body function better and prevent disease. Peanut butter is still a great choice, but almond gives you a little more bang for your buck.

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Your body breaks down carbohydrates to glucose for energy for the body’s cells. The minimum daily amount needed to spare other nutrients from being used for energy, such as fats and proteins, is 130 grams. The Franklin Institute for Science Learning stated that your brain cells require twice as much energy as the other cells in your body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, not consuming enough carbohydrates can cause a caloric deficiency or result in an excessive intake of fats, throwing your diet off balance. Furthermore, carbohydrates, particularly foods rich in complex carbohydrates, are an important source of essential micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. Examples of complex carbohydrate foods are starchy vegetables, beans, legumes, whole grains and cereals.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Guide Pyramid or MyPyramid guidelines, grains are an important food source of several B vitamins, including thiamin, riboflavin, niacin and folate, as well as minerals such as iron, magnesium and selenium.

Here are some great protein and low carb meal options to keep in mind:Complex carbohydrate foods, such as vegetable are rich in dietary fiber. Health benefits of fiber-rich diets include a reduced risk of developing coronary heart disease, improved cholesterol levels and a healthier weight. Individuals who choose diets rich in fruits and vegetables, as part of a healthful diet, are less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancers, particularly cancer of the oral cavity, throat, lung, esophagus, stomach and colon.

  • Turkey Zucchini Burger (recipe) + spaghetti squash + chopped Roma tomato
  • Egg white veggie omelet + whole egg + cottage cheese + almonds or ½ grapefruit and whole grains,
  • Monster Meatloaf (recipe) + green beans, broccoli or salad
  • Turkey Chili (recipe – replace beans w/ chopped zucchini & mushrooms) + salad
  • Turkey Meatloaf Muffins (recipe) + plain rice cake w/ natural PB
  • Fish in Foil (recipe) + veggies + almonds
  • Grilled Chicken (marinated in Dijon & Balsamic) + Romaine lettuce (wraps) + avocado
  • Cinnamon Apple Cottage Cheese (recipe) – post workout only

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Surviving the Holidays

By Jessy Hamawi CPT, BSc.

Did you know that in order to gain five pounds from now to the end of January, all you have to do is eat an average of 220 calories per day more than you actually need? The holidays typically encourage us to indulge in high-fat, high-calorie foods that are low in nutrients, and this is also the time we’re most likely to make excuses for skipping exercise. One of the most significant diet dangers revolves around sugar consumption. Binging on sugar increases the cravings for it while the body slows down. Along with sunlight deprivation in the winter, sugar binges cause a drop in serotonin, a chemical in the brain that regulates sleep and appetite. A lack of serotonin is often associated with depression. In order to help boost your serotonin level naturally, eat small but frequent meals that include complex, starchy veggies. You can also help control blood sugar levels by eating small quantities of protein three times a day. For example, eat two egg whites in the morning, some turkey at lunch and a small portion of grilled fish at night. Don’t forget exercise, you should keep up your regular exercise during the holidays and accept no excuses. When endorphins are high, you’ll cope better with stress, and regular exercise boosts endorphins.

Here are some other holiday survival tips to keep in mind:

  • Exercise an hour a day during the holidays. Exercise to burn calories, relieve stress, and elevate your endorphins and mood such as a brisk walk, run, or bike-ride.
  • Don’t skip meals. Hunger and low blood sugar lead to overeating.
  • Don’t pass up favorite foods or deprive yourself completely. Moderate consumption is the key.
  • Don’t tempt yourself by keeping trigger foods or comfort foods around the house; this just increases the likelihood that you will overeat.
  • Plan meals by keeping in mind the demands you’ll have on your schedule that day.
  • Don’t go to a party starving. Before you leave home, eat something light or drink a protein shake.
  • Alcoholic beverages pack on the calories, if you’re drinking alcohol, stick to light beer or a champagne spritzer.
  • To satisfy your sweet tooth, set limits. For example, you might allow yourself two desserts per week at 250 calories each.
  • Just because it is the holidays doesn’t mean you should give yourself the license to eat everything that passes by. Factor in the little extras into your daily intake.
  • Help out by saving fat and calories when it’s feasting time. Make or buy wild-rice stuffing, baked sweet potatoes, whole-grain rolls and angel-food cake with fruit.
  • If you tend to overeat during family gatherings, plan and visualize what and how much you will eat before you go.
  • If you want to really keep yourself honest (the same size) during the holiday season, wear your most form-fitting blue jeans. Another trick is to tie a string or ribbon around your waist (under your shirt).
  • If you are at the mercy of the dinner host, eat modest amounts of the foods offered and fill up on foods with more fiber and fewer calories. Make a small plate and skip the seconds.

Sources: Exercise and Depression . http://www.webmd.com/depression/guide/exercise-depression

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