Eating Out? Watch Out!

We all have our favorite restaurants we enjoy eating at. Many of us will try to go to what we consider are “healthier” choices.  One of my favorite restaurants is a Middle Eastern themed restaurant. They serve fish, chicken, beans, pitas, ect. The other day I pulled up the nutritional information as I was just curious. Unfortunately, I was dismayed. I was absolutely shocked at what I saw. The amount of calories and grams of fat in many of my favorite meals was astronomical. How could this be? After staring at the information for a while, I started to come to several conclusions. First, was portion size. The portions they serve are quite large. Several of the meals they serve are 2 or even 3 servings per meal! This led the total calorie count to almost 1000 calories a meal! This a pervasive problem when eating out and we need to be very careful at restaurants. It is very easy to over-eat at restaurants as we are frequently with friends and family and pay no attention to how much we have eaten. Before you know it, you may have consumed almost 1000 calories at one meal! If the portion size is large, cut it in half and share it with another person (and save money) or take half home. Do not feel you need to eat the whole meal. Pay attention to how much you are eating and eat slowly. Stop when you are full. Another clear problem is sauces and dressings. Several of the sauces are based in cream or oil which jacks up the calories and fat content (due to cream or oil). Surprisingly, the salad dressings were loaded with calories and fat. It was shocking to see the calorie content of the salads coming close to 1000 with the dressing. (The amount of dressing used was also quite large.) It turned the “healthy” salads into some of the most calorie dense items on the menu. Sauces can also be loaded with calories due to added cream, butter and oils. Always get the sauces and dressings on the side and use sparingly. Another area to be careful is cheese. A lot of times, items that were reasonable in calories and fat turned quite unhealthy with the addition of cheese, which is quite calorie dense and packed with saturated fat. A final area to watch out for is how items are cooked. Anytime an item is cooked in butter or oil, the calories and fat content shoots up. Even items cooked in olive oil can be loaded with calories due to the amount of oil they use. Grilled items can become unhealthy quickly also due to the use of oil. So what can we do? Here are some suggestions. First, know these pitfalls and be aware when looking at menus. If a meal has a sauce or dressing be careful. Look for fresh items. Second, if meals are large, do not eat the whole meal. Either share the meal or bring part home for another day. Finally, do not be afraid to discuss with the waiter. Ask about the ingredients in sauces and dressings. Ask about butter and oils. Ask if items can be made without cheeses, butters or oils. You might be surprised at how accommodating most restaurants can be. It is your health. You are working hard to become healthier and stronger. Do not let eating out derail your progress.

Do you have any ideas or suggestions to share with others? Feel free to leave  comments and suggestions! Let’s all get healthier together!

Cardiovascular Disease and Inflammation

Cardiovascular disease (atherosclerosis) is an inflammatory process. Blockages in the arteries are like little pockets of inflammation. A good way to visualize atherosclerosis is like little “pimples” in the arteries filled with pus. If these “pimples” burst a heart attack or stroke can occur.  A good way to measure your inflammation level and your risk of heart attack or stroke is a blood test called C reactive protein (CRP). CRP is a non-fasting blood test. A level less than 1.0 puts you at low risk. 1-3 is considered average risk. Greater than 3.0 is high risk. Interestingly, people with “normal” cholesterol levels but high CRP levels are at increased risk for cardiovascular events. There are several ways to lower your CRP and thus, your risk. Exercise and weight loss are excellent ways to lower CRP. Regular aerobic exercise is a great way to lower your CRP levels. At least 20-30 minutes every other day is the minimum. Aspirin lowers CRP and lowers risk of heart attack and stroke. Statin medications (Lipitor, Crestor, ect.) lower levels of inflammation. Many think statins work more by lowering inflammation levels and less from lowering cholesterol levels. Eating a good diet is important for lowering inflammation. Eating lots of fruits and vegetables, which are loaded with antioxidants and phytonutrients, help reduce inflammation levels. There is no such thing as eating too many fruits and vegetables! Avoid sugar which is pro-inflammatory. Avoid omega 6 fats (which are found in many oils and baked products) which are pro-inflammatory. Omega 3 fats, on the other hand, are anti-inflammatory. Omega 3 fats are found in fish oil, wild salmon, flax seeds, and walnuts. Make sure your inflammation level is checked and work on lowering it if necessary to reduce your risk of heart attacks and strokes. Always talk with your personal physician before beginning or stopping any medications or supplements.

Do Not Drink Your Calories

Losing weight means eating less calories than you body burns over a period of time. The greater the difference between what you take in and the amount you burn the quicker you will lose weight. Do not drink calories. Calories in liquids tend to have minimal nutrient value and high in sugar/calories. Obviously, cutting back and eliminating soda is critical. Soda is loaded with sugar and high in calories with no nutritional benefit. Moreover, It also best to avoid juices. Juice is concentrated sugar. Juice removes a lot of beneficial nutrients such as fiber and leaves the sugar (with some vitamins). It is easy to drink a lot of calories in juice (Watch that serving size!). It is much better to eat the whole fruit. Eat the whole orange or apple instead of drinking the juice. The same goes for vegetable juice. It is much healthier to eat the vegetables instead of the juice. Tea and coffee are better options, but be careful not to add too many calories to your coffee or tea. Many coffee shop/ bottled coffee drinks and tea drinks are loaded with sugar and also calories. Check the label. Look for unsweetened versions. Looking for a drink while eating out? Unsweetened tea is an excellent option – both hot and iced. It has no calories and also has polyphenols. Polyphenols in tea have been known to: help protect cells from the normal, but damaging, physiological process known as oxidative stress, help prevent blood clotting, help lower cholesterol levels, help neutralize enzymes that aid in the growth of tumors, help deactivate cancer promoters and help stimulate the immune system. All with no calories! The more you drink, the more you will benefit. And finally, do not forget the best drink of all – water.

 

10 Ways to Naturally Lower Your Blood Pressure

Having high blood pressure puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke, the first and third leading causes of death in the United States. People of all ages and backgrounds can develop high blood pressure. It’s preventable and treatable. High blood pressure (hypertension) is known as the silent killer as there are no symptoms. High blood pressure damages the lining of your blood vessels which can lead to heart attacks, strokes, heart failure, and kidney failure. Having high blood pressure is like blowing too much air into a balloon – eventually the pressure is too much. A normal blood pressure is 120/80. Fortunately, it is easily treatable without medication. (Never stop medication without first discussing it with your personal physician!) Here are 10 ways to lower your blood pressure without medication:

1. Lose Weight. This is the best and only long-term solution to lower your BP.

2. Exercise. Regular aerobic exercise is great for lowering your BP.

3. Decrease your salt intake

4. Increase your potassium intake (through fruits and vegetables, not supplements)

5. Increase magnesium and calcium intake.

6. Decrease alcohol use.

7. Decrease caffeine intake.

8. Increase fiber intake.

9. Eat more fruits and vegetables.

10. Reduce stress/increase relaxation. Stress causes release of stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol which elevate your blood pressure. Meditation is good for relieving stress and decreasing your BP.

Quick Health Tip #3: Eat more greens to lose weight

Green vegetables are nutritional powerhouses. They are very high in nutrients and very low in calories. (They are very nutrient dense.) They help fill you up with minimal calories. (They have a low calorie density.) In fact, greens have less than 100 calories per pound. Most people do not realize the nutrient power of greens. Some of the biggest animals such as elephants, gorillas, hippopotamuses, and giraffes all eat predominantly greens. How do they grow so large only on greens? Greens pack a powerful protein punch. Approximately 25% of calories from greens are from protein. For example, broccoli has 11gm protein per 100 calories. Romaine lettuce has 7gm protein/100 calories. In contrast, steak has only 6gm protein per 100 calories! Furthermore, greens are loaded with vitamins, fiber, and phytochemicals. Examples of green powerhouses include kale, spinach, arugula, romaine, bok choy, brussels sprouts, asparagus, broccoli, and peas. Eating more greens improves your health and prevents cancer. Eating more greens is critical to losing weight and improving your health. There is no such thing as too much greens in your diet. Having difficulty losing weight? Increasing the amount of greens in your diet will surely help the extra pounds to come off.

The Secret to Long Term Health and Vitality – More Fruits and Vegetables

What is the secret to long-term health and vitality? The answer is easy – more fruits and vegetables. Both are low in calories and high in nutrition. Fruits and vegetables fill you up with few calories. I recommend starting every meal with either a piece of fruit or a vegetable. You will therefore consume fewer calories during the meal. Furthermore, fruits and vegetables are nutritional power houses. They are nutrient dense – that is they give you a large amount of nutrients with few calories. Your goal is to eat more foods with high nutrient densities and avoiding those foods which are not nutrient dense (avoid foods with few nutrients and high in calories). Fruits and vegetables are filled with water, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals. Your minimal goal should be at least 5 servings a day. An even better goal is at least 10 servings a day. Fruit consumption has been shown to be our best protection against multiple cancers including oral, esophageal, lung, prostate, pancreatic and colorectal cancer. Nutrients in fruits and vegetables have been shown to help prevent aging and deterioration of the brain. Eat a variety of fruits and vegetables in a multitude of colors. The more colors the better. Different colors of fruits and vegetable have different phytochemicals to protect your health. Drinking juice will not suffice. Many of the nutrients are removed by juicing, including fiber and some phytonutrients. It also concentrates the sugar. Juice is loaded with sugar. The only way to get the full benefit is to eat the whole fruit or vegetable. So head down to your local market or farmer’s market and start exploring. There is a whole world of colors for you to explore. The more you eat, the better your long-term health and vitality.

Stress

Stress is a risk factor for heart attacks and stroke. Reducing stress will reduce your risk of these diseases. Stress causes your body to release several hormones including epinephrine (adrenaline) and cortisol (a steroid). Increased levels of adrenaline lead to an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and can cause constriction of blood vessels. Increased cortisol levels can lead to increased blood sugar levels and weight gain. High levels of cortisol in the blood is one of the main markers of stress. Stress can also lead to an increased release of inflammatory chemicals in our bodies. Inflammation leads to damage in many areas of your body including the blood vessels. High levels of inflammation are directly correlated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. There are many ways to combat stress. Exercise is one of the best. Exercise reduces inflammation. It also helps rid the body of the dangerous chemicals produced in the body due to stress including cortisol. Going out for an extended walk is a great stress reliever. Listening to music can lower stress levels. Stress management classes can help. Check your local university, hospital, or wellness center. Learn to meditate to relieve stress. Even five minutes of meditation a day can help lower stress levels. Deep breathing exercises can help relive stress and can be done anywhere. Visualization techniques are another option. Getting a massage can relive the body of stresses effects. If stress is severe, consider getting professional help. Remember, stress is not benign. It has a wide range of negative effects on your body which build up over time.  Take action today to reduce your stress levels and decrease its effects on your body.