I know what I shouldn’t eat. But what should I eat?

Most people know what foods are bad for them. It is not rocket science that in a healthy diet,  avoiding foods that are loaded with sugar, fat, or calories is imperative. Staying away from empty calories is important to good health and losing weight. So what should you eat? The goal is to eat foods that are filled with nutrients such as vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber. In essence, you should be eating foods that are nutrient dense. The goal is to eat more foods with a high nutrient content and low calories. A large portion of your daily diet should be made up of nutrient rich plant foods, whose calories are accompanied by health-promoting phytochemicals: green and other non-starchy vegetables; fresh fruits; beans and legumes; raw nuts, seeds, and avocados; starchy vegetables; and whole grains. It is important to understand that food has powerful disease-protecting and therapeutic effects. It is not sufficient to merely avoid fats, consume foods with a low glycemic index, lower the intake of animal products, or eat a diet of mostly raw foods. A truly healthy diet must be micro-nutrient rich. Certain foods are high in nutrient density. Those foods you should be consuming more of include: kale, spinach, bok choy, broccoli, brussels sprouts, swiss chard, arugula, red/green peppers, carrots, cauliflower, strawberries, tomatoes, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, plums, oranges, lentils, cantaloupe, beans, peaches, seeds, tofu, pistachios, walnuts. The foods with the highest micronutrient per calorie scores are green vegetables, colorful vegetables, and fresh fruits. For optimal health and to combat disease, it is necessary to consume more of these foods that deliver the highest concentration of nutrients.

Consider Almond Milk

Almond milk is a healthy replacement for cow’s milk.  Almond milk like soy milk is not milk in the literal sense. It is a drink made from ground almonds and water. Almond milk  is now readily available at most supermarkets as well as Costco and Wal-Mart.
This non-dairy alternative can be used by those who are lactose intolerant. Since almond milk is extracted from almonds, it is lactose-free and can be easily consumed by lactose intolerant people.  One glass of unsweetened almond milk contains about 40-60 calories, 2.5g of fat, 1 g of protein, 1 g of fiber along with vitamins and minerals.  The calorie content of almond milk is less than cow’s milk or soy milk. Thus, people trying to lose weight can drink almond milk.  Almond milk is loaded with unsaturated fat, which means almond milk is beneficial in reducing the risk of heart disease. It can help reduce the bad cholesterol (LDL) in the blood. Moreover, almond milk does not contain cholesterol and saturated fat like cow’s milk. Almond milk contains protein to help the growth and repair functions of the body. Almond milk does not contain sugar naturally. Some packaged almond milk available in stores have added sugar which increases the sugar and calorie content so look at labels. Almond milk contains multiple vitamins and minerals including calcium, manganese, selenium and vitamin E. Almond milk is  calcium fortified and thus a good source of calcium. Manganese plays an important role in activating enzymes in the body. Manganese along with phosphorous also plays a role in keeping bones and teeth healthy. Vitamin E, an antioxidant protects the cell membranes by destroying the free radicals that cause damage to them. Selenium is good for the functioning of the immune system. Almond milk is good source of flavonoids. This is because almond milk is prepared by crushing the almonds with the skin. The skin is rich in flavonoids, which are good for cardiovascular health. Almond milk is also rich in antioxidants which are beneficial in preventing heart disease and cancer. Almond milk is healthy, flavorful and tasty. It can be a healthy alternative to cow’s milk. Give it a try!

The Secret to Losing Weight Finally Revealed!!

Eat less and exercise more.

To repeat:

Eat less and exercise more.

It is that simple. No fancy diets, food plans, hormones, shakes, snack bars, diet centers, or fancy equipment needed. You now know the magic secret. It is quite simple. Unfortunately, there are no magic diets that allow you to lose weight quickly and keep it off. No magic foods that will melt away pounds. To lose weight you must eat less and burn more calories. Reducing the calorie density of the foods you eat will allow you to avoid hunger and lose weight. Fat is the most calorie dense macro-nutrient. It has double the calories per gram compared to carbohydrates and protein. Cutting back on fat is a good first step to losing weight. Replace the fat with complex carbohydrates, especially fruits and vegetables. Cutting back on fat and increasing your exercise will allow the pounds to start dropping off. It is very difficult to lose weight by only cutting calories. Your exercise goal should be at least 30 minutes 4-5 times a week.  Your exercise should be at a moderate intensity. Be patient. Weight loss should be slow but steady. If the weight is not coming off, you are eating too many calories or not exercising enough. The key is to take action today and to be consistent. Do not give up or become frustrated. Stick to your goal and over the long term, the weight will come off. Even better though, it will stay off!

I have bad genetics – should I just give up?

I hear all the time about how people have bad genetics and there is nothing they can do to avoid their fates.  They are doomed. For example: “Both my parents have diabetes so why watch my diet? There is nothing I can do.” ” My dad had a heart attack at age 45, so I will too. Why bother exercising?” “Both my parents were overweight, so why even bother watching my calories? It is in my genes.” Are these people right? Are we doomed by our genes? No! Here is a great way to think about genetics. Your genes are like loading a gun with bullets. Your lifestyle though, determines whether the trigger is pulled. In other words, your genes do not completely determine your destiny. The choices we make about our lifestyle are just as important. We do not have to be our parents! By making smart decisions about our lifestyles we can avoid their fates. By watching our diets and exercising we do not have to be overweight or diabetic. By taking care of ourselves and not smoking, we can avoid heart attacks and strokes.  We do not have to pull the trigger! We do not have to be our genes. The moral of the story is:  watch your diet, exercise, and take care of your body and live a long healthy life despite what your genetics are.

Omega 3 versus Omega 6 Fatty Acids

There are two types of essential fatty acids: omega-3 and omega-6. We cannot make them on our own and thus have to obtain them from our diet. Both are polyunsaturated fatty acids that differ from each other in their chemical structure.  There are two types of omega-3 fatty acids: eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) that the body needs. The omega-3 fatty acids foster mental acuity, a healthy nervous system, immunity, reduction in blood clots, reduction in triglycerides, reduction in LDL cholesterol, and a regular heart rhythm. There are several sources of these omega-3 fatty acids including cold water fish such as salmon, sardines, herring, and mackerel. Vegetarian sources of omega-3 fatty acids, such as walnuts and flaxseeds contain a precursor to omega-3 (alpha-linolenic acid called ALA) that the body then converts to EPA and DHA. EPA and DHA are the building blocks for hormones that control immune function, blood clotting, and cell growth as well as components of cell membranes. Compared to omega-3 fatty acids, there are many more sources of omega-6 fatty acids in our diet. Omega-6 fatty acids are found in seeds and nuts, and the oils extracted from them. Vegetable oils are used in many of the snack foods, cookies, crackers, and sweets in our diet as well as in fast food. Soybean oil alone is now so ubiquitous in fast foods and processed foods that an astounding 20 percent of the calories in the American diet are estimated to come from this single source. The body also constructs hormones from omega-6 fatty acids. Hormones derived from each of the two classes of essential fatty acids have opposite effects. Those from omega-6 fatty acids tend to increase inflammation, blood clotting, and cell proliferation, while those from omega-3 fatty acids decrease those functions. Both families of hormones must be in balance to maintain optimum health. We should be consuming omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in roughly equal amounts. But to our great detriment, we get far too much of the omega-6s and not enough of the omega-3s. This dietary imbalance may explain the rise of such diseases as asthma, coronary heart disease, many forms of cancer, autoimmunity and neurodegenerative diseases, all of which are believed to stem from inflammation in the body. Bringing the fats into proper proportion may improve these conditions. To get more omega-3 fatty acids, eat more oily fish (or take fish oil supplements), walnuts, and flax seeds. You can cut down on omega-6 levels by reducing consumption of processed and fast foods and polyunsaturated vegetable oils (corn, sunflower, safflower, soy, and cottonseed, for example). Use canola or extra virgin olive oil for cooking and in salad dressings. Remember though, all oils are 100% fat. They all contain approximately 120 calories per tablespoon. Always use oils sparingly!

Phytochemicals

Phytochemicals are natural compounds found in fruits and vegetables. They  give an orange its orange color and make a strawberry red. More importantly, they may protect us from many diseases including heart attacks, stroke, cancer, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Phytochemicals are natural compounds that don’t fall within any other nutritional category. They are not vitamins, proteins, carbohydrates, fats or minerals. Although they are not nutrients, phytochemicals are beneficial to your health. Each type of fruit or vegetable may contain hundreds of phytochemicals. An orange alone may contain 150 or more different phytochemicals. Phytochemicals originated to help plants survive in an often hostile environment.  To protect themselves from  highly reactive oxygen, plants developed antioxidant compounds, including phytochemicals. Phytochemicals protect plants against bacteria, fungi, viruses and cell damage. These same phytochemicals that protect plants also help protect us. The phytochemicals have antioxidant properties, which means that they protect against substances called free radicals which can damage healthy cells. For example, phytochemicals appear to protect against atherosclerosis and decrease the risk of heart attack and stroke. They also  appear to protect against certain types of cancers. Examples include Allium/Allicin which are contained in onions and garlic. These have been under investigation for their potential to reduce cholesterol levels and protect against heart disease. Studies have consistently shown that people who eat garlic have lower levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). Another example of a phytochemical is Flavonoids. They are a part of a phytochemical family called polyphenols. There are more than 4,000 different flavonoids. The major categories of flavonoids are: flavones, flavonols, isoflavones, anthocyanins and catechins. Flavonoids are found in cranberries, onions, broccoli, kale, celery, soybeans, tomatoes, eggplant, cherries, apples, cranberries and tea. Red wine and grape juice contain a high level of phenolic flavonoids. Studies have shown that flavonoids can fight heart disease, slow cancer tumor growth, prevent blood clots, reduce inflammation and act as antioxidants. Another example of phytochemicals, Indoles are found in cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cabbage, brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, bok choy and turnips. Their primary benefit appears to be in protecting against certain forms of cancers. They may counteract carcinogens (cancer-causing agents) in the body, and they may play a role in blocking the growth of new prostate and breast cancer cells. Isoflavones (or phytoestrogens) are a type of flavonoid similar to the female hormone estrogen. They are found primarily in soy, but also in grains, berries, seeds and certain vegetables (such as chickpeas). Like estrogen, isoflavones can improve bone density and lower cholesterol levels, as well as reduce some of the symptoms of menopause. They may also protect against hormone-driven forms of cancer, such as prostate and breast cancer. A final example are plant sterols. Plant sterols have been investigated for their ability to lower cholesterol. In conclusion, the key is to eat a wide variety of different colored fruits and vegetables every day to get the full effect. Eat 5-9 servings a day. The more the better. Go to the grocery store and spend some time in the fresh fruit and vegetable area looking for new and different items. Explore. Experiment. Eat from the rainbow!
 

 

Go for a walk today!

Walking is an excellent form of exercise. Walking 2000 steps is equal to a mile and will burn approximately 100 calories. Walking a mile a day can help you lose a pound a month or 10lbs a year. Double that and walk an extra 4000 steps a day and lose 2 pounds a month or almost 20lbs in a year. Many feel they need special exercise equipment or gym memberships to start exercising. Walking is just as good as any other type of aerobic exercise and is low impact so you are less likely to get hurt. Make time to go walking everyday. Put it on your schedule. Go early in the morning or during your lunch break. I hear excuses all the time including: its too cold, its too hot, my neighborhood is not conductive for walking, or I have nowhere to go. Stop with the excuses. Weather should not be a factor. You can always go walking at a mall or large store (such as target) – just leave your wallet at home! Walking not only will help you lose weight but also helps lower blood pressure, raise HDL (good) cholesterol, and lowers levels of inflammation. No more excuses – go for a walk today! Your health and well-being should be a top priority in your life.