Keep Up with Calcium!

One doesn’t need a degree in nutrition to know that calcium is important in our diet. But maybe all the “reasons” have gotten a bit fuzzy in our brains over the years?  Well here is a refresher on why calcium is important for bone health, the various “drains” on calcium in our bodies, and some ideas on getting more calcium into your diet.

Calcium is a key in preventing and treating osteoporosis as well as other health benefits. Other than our bones, calcium is critical to many other functions in the body. It is used by our hearts for healthy blood vessels and regulates blood pressure, proper nerve and muscle function, and for adequate blood clotting.

As we get older, we also lose bone density.  The natural aging process causes our bodies to lose bone density at faster rates. However, even in our aging years, our bodies can and do build new bone. The trick is to adopt strategies to increase bone density faster than it is lost.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Photo source: Wikipedia Commons.

Getting enough

Individuals who had low calcium intake throughout their lives also have lower bone mass and higher fracture rates as they aged.  The vast majority of people in the US do not consume enough calcium needed for growing and maintaining healthy bones. The recommended calcium intakes in milligrams for various age groups are as follows:

  • 51-70 year old males: 1,000 mg/day
  • 51-70 year old females: 1,200 mg/day

Although many dietary guidelines state 1,200 mg/day as the maximum, rheumatologists recommend that those with a high risk of osteoporosis or over the age of 70 can take up to 1,500 mg/day.  Too much of a good thing can be…too much of a good thing, however. Over 2,500 mg/day can cause kidney stones and other health issues.

Calcium drains: Even for those who take enough daily calcium, there are factors that not only inhibit calcium absorption, but also deplete our bodies of calcium.

  • High levels of protein and sodium in the diet can cause the body to increase secretion of calcium through the kidneys.
  • Women in menopause experiencing hormonal change begin to lose bone density at a faster rate. Bones become more brittle as they naturally lose mass.
  • People with lactose intolerance may not be taking extra steps to insure enough calcium intakes.
  • Neglecting to consume vitamin D along with calcium inhibits absorption of calcium. The recommended daily does for vitamin D is 3,000-5,000 IU. Check this out for an explanation as to why the recommended dosage has increased. Better yet, get out in the sun for 15-20 minutes a day and gain your vitamin D3 directly into your bloodstream. If you will be out longer than 20 minutes, put on your sunscreen after that time.
  • Consuming colas and other carbonated drinks: The Phosphoric acid as well as the high sugar levels in colas dissolve calcium in your system.

Calcium and exercise: We know that resistance training strengthens our bones, right? But resistance training combined with strenuous endurance exercise such cycling or running can leave the blood with depleted calcium levels. To combat this, athletes who take their calcium supplements 30 minutes prior to a workout experience less of a decrease in calcium blood levels. So by no means should you decrease your workouts, just workout smart and take your calcium before hand.

Calcium rich foods:
½ cup firm tofu, calcium enriched with calcium sulfate   860 mg
Oatmeal 350 mg (sweeten your oatmeal with blackstrap molasses for an additional 137 mg)
1.5 oz. shredded cheddar cheese   324mg
1 cup Non-fat milk                     302 mg
1 cup plain low fat yogurt      300 mg
1 cup cooked soybeans           261 mg
½ can of canned salmon (with bones)    232 mg
½ cup firm tofu, calcium enriched with calcium sulfate   860 mg
6 oz. calcium fortified orange juice    200-260 mg
2 cups raw, chopped kale       188 mg
Approx. 1/3 cup almonds    150 mg

So now you have your why’s, why not’s, and how’s on calcium, it is up to you to determine your when’s.  What tricks and tips do you take to sneak more calcium in your diet? Do you have any favorite recipes?

A Balanced Nutritional Approach that Supports Your Exercise Plan

You are staying faithful to your commitment to an active and healthy life in your fifties and beyond. It takes work and discipline, but too often, it is more fun to choose an activity and pay less attention to the foods you are consuming since you have “earned it”.

Studies have shown that what we eat and how much of it will have a more direct effect to weight loss than exercise alone.  Human nature tends to give more thought and energy to one healthy habit over another.  We are not suggesting that people should diet only and forget your workouts or exercise plan.  Just make sure you don’t buy into thinking that one is more important than the other.

What should your balanced nutritional approach include for food choices when you are exercising and staying faithful to your fitness plan? There is no one particular diet for workouts, but when you remember the Pilates approach to mind and body balance, that will help you choose the foods that result in feeling better and more balanced. Strike balance with the major food groups and learn to listen to your body, it will make it clear what it needs.

Photo credit: Sweet on Veg

Photo credit: Sweet on Veg

Have you been counting calories and restricting yourself? Instead, look around at all the healthy choices available to you. Nutritionist Lily Nichols, has written an information-packed post discussing the negative calorie track and how to get off of it with 11 tips to a healthier approach to food and nutrition. It is about finding balance nutritionally when you listen to your body and pay attention to the flavors of the foods you eat. Take time to educate yourself on healthier choices and also allow for indulgence in your favorite delights so you are not in depriving yourself all the time.

Here is guide for some great options that support your commitment to a fit and healthy lifestyle and nutritional balance.

  • Oatmeal: Start your day with this power-packed slow release gold mine and you will burn more fat since slow release carbohydrates don’t spike your blood sugar
  • Almonds: A 2-ounce serving of almonds requires chewing and leaves you feeling satisfied. Chewing more causes a greater fat release from the almonds, triggering the hormones that curb hunger.
  • Apples: With only 95 calories, this gem is packed with fiber and phytonutrients to regulate your blood sugar as well as having a positive impact on digestive bacteria.
  • Soup: People who start a meal with vegetable soup tend to keep the rest of the meal in balance in regards to caloric intake, nutrients, and fiber.
  • Mushrooms: These guys served as an entrée leave you feeling just as satisfied as if you had beef, but are packed with important nutrients such as niacin, selenium, vitamin D, riboflavin, and potassium.
  • Hot Chile Peppers: consuming one of these 30 minutes before a meal leaves people less hungry and cutting down on unnecessary intake.
  • Eggs: not only high in protein, but eggs leave you feeling fuller longer and support muscle gain

You certainly will not maintain balance if you run out of energy in mid-workout, so plan to have a small meal or snack of complex carbohydrates and lean protein. There are also some great recipes out there for healthy pre-workout protein shakes. It is best to begin your workout with glycogen-rich muscle and a stable blood sugar. Make sure to start with filtered water for your liquid:

  • 1-2 Tablespoons of omega-3 sport oil such as chia, flax, or fish
  • 1-2 servings of whey, hemps or soy protein isolate
  • ½ to 1 cup of low glycemic, organic fresh fruit

At the end of the day, opt for approach that emphasizes the great choices you have for flavorful and healthy options instead of one that focuses on restrictions. This results in a balanced approach supporting your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. Please share with us tips and tricks that you have adopted to improve your nutritional approach.

5 Healthy Fall Salad Recipes

Now is the time to take advantage of your garden and farmers’ market bounty to enjoy some fresh options for meals.  You can create some pretty incredible salads with ingredients that won’t be so freely available in just a few months.

We have made it easy for you and found some yummy, fresh recipes to help you add some variation and healthy nutrients to your dinners. Bon appetite!

1. This warm spaghetti squash recipe is perfect for using some of that squash that your garden just keeps on giving. Gain an edge using olive oil instead of canola, and you will benefit from antioxidants called polyphenols. Low calorie count and high in water makes spaghetti squash a great addition to your diet.

2. High in dietary fiber, anti-oxidants, and low calories makes this spinach and pear salad is a nutritional and flavor filled recipe to try. In addition to the high iron and vitamin A and C content, the spinach will provide you with flavonoid poly phenolic antioxidants such as lutein, zea-xanthin and beta-carotene.

3. Early fall results in an abundance of corn and tomatoes, so take advantage of them with this Salad of Corn and Cherry Tomatoes.  *Corn is a nutritional dynamo, rich in antioxidants and fiber. Cherry tomatoes are bursting with vitamins C and A, Vitamin B-6, and also full of anti-oxidants. This one is easy to prepare the night before and allow the flavors to really blend.

4. Crisp, crunch apples are the fruit of fall. Overflowing with vital dietary fiber, iron, antioxidants, and vitamin C, this easy to prep Fall Apple Salad is a champion. It literally only takes 5 minutes to make, giving you plenty of time to get in your workout

5. Caramelized squash and pomegranate ginger vinaigrette make the Autumn Arugula Salad a dazzling blend of tastes.  With only 72 calories per ½ cup of pomegranate seeds, increased blood flow and reducing prostrate cancer rates make this salad a great choice.  They also provided a powerful combination of antioxidants. In the past, I avoided pomegranates since I was unsure of how to cut them.  Well check this out and be daunted no more!

* Beware when it comes to using corn in your diet. Much of the grocery store corn and even at farmer’s markets is GMO corn.  You can usually avoid GMO by buying organic corn products.

Enjoy those lovely fall days and evenings with some fun, variety for you meals knowing these 5 recipes are all a part of that fit and healthy lifestyle you seek!  Please share with us your favorites.

Why Most Diets Fail

While many things unite us as Americans, one factor is not to be proud of… Americans are struggling in increasing numbers with body weight.  We are not just talking obesity, but just plain old being overweight. The statistics do not look good for us:

  • According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, 35.7% of American adults (aged 20 and older) are obese (BMI 30 and above) — up from about 23% in the early 1990s.
  • Two thirds of Americans claim they are on a diet, yet less than 20% achieve not only successful weight loss, but also fail to maintain the loss
  • Over the last 50 years, Americans went from 24.3% of the population classified as overweight, to over 35% currently.

Elizabeth Kolbert writes an excellent article in The New Yorker examining the why’s of how we all got here and how we have changed culturally, as a result of all this weight gain.  One subject that sells more books, supplements, and nutrition programs than probably all others combined is our collective desire to lose weight. We can look at all the reasons we are gaining weight, and Kolbert’ s article does a good job of that. But for our purposes here, we are going to understand why we tend to fail to keep the weight off.

In a very simplistic nutshell, we gain weight when we consume more calories than what our bodies’ burn off.  There are many contributing factors that make that process more of a challenge for some than others such as thyroid issues, genetic predisposition, and life style factors.

In order to be successful at weight loss, it is critical to pinpoint your pitfalls and be determined in your strategies for a successful approach. Examining our lifestyle habits and how those detract from a successful weight loss program is important to success. When we understand how metabolism works then we can make choices to improve that. Let’s examine some of the top reasons why most diets fail:

  • Looking at a diet as a temporary short term solution to a weight issue.  Those who succeed at weight loss do so with a lifestyle approach for long term health.  It is key to make dietary changes to support good health long after the weight is off
  • An inaccurate view on activity and calories burned: In order to lose 1 lb. per week, cut your calories by 500/day. Achieving that by exercise alone or diet alone is not only unrealistic, but defeating and can be dangerous. Increase both your moderate and vigorous types of exercise, track steps with a pedometer to help you take more of them, and also reduce your calories consumed.
  • Adopting too drastic or strict of a diet that triggers headaches, mood swings, irritability and brain fog.  Feeling cruddy is an indicator of a poor diet rather than a healthy one which is going to yield a lifestyle change.
  • A diet that actually lowers your metabolism: Drastically cutting back on calories and also teaching yourself to “go hungry” slows your metabolism down and throws your body into fat storage mode. Light snacking or smaller, healthy meals every two hours is a more successful approach.
  • Simplifying a diet approach to just “consume less calories”: Caloric consumption is the place to start, but failing to understand how sugars and fats impact weight gain, understand complex vs simple carbs, and not boosting your metabolism and you are setting yourself up for failure.
  • Emotional eating: this is a very complex topic, but check out this article to gain an understanding of how we subscribe emotional cues to foods can be the most powerful factor in attaining weight loss success.
  • Getting inadequate sleep: People with fewer than six hours of sleep at night increase the body’s production of ghrelin, the hormone that stimulates appetite. Lack of sleep also increases cortisol levels, the stress hormone, which leads to weight gain.

Identify the “diet fails” that tend to get in the way of your weight loss success, implement strategies to counter act those, and you are on your way to success…and a fitter, healthier YOU!

5 Delicious, High-Protein Summer Salad Recipes

Long summer days are meant for getting out and taking advantage of all the active options to play while the weather is great!  That can mean that meal planning and prep can get pushed to the back burner since who wants to spend these great days in the grocery store line or working in the kitchen when you could be out playing?  Well here are some great summer salads that are easy to prep ahead of time and have ready to go when you get home from that after work kayak, cycle adventure, or gym class.

  • This main dish salad has less than 13 grams of fiber and nearly 17 grams of protein. The Black Bean and Mango Salad will help you make your dietary goals, replenish needed fluids, and give your body important post workout fuel.
  • arugula-chicken-avacado_300The Arugula Chicken Salad is a fabulous source of phytochemicals to help battle a variety of cancer causing components, as well as filled with vitamins A, C, and K. The radishes, avocado and lime top it off for a refreshing and yummy evening dinner salad.
  • Jennifer Aniston’s Favorite Quinoa Salad With power packed ingredients such as quinoa which is good for, cucumbers which are packed with B vitamins, and antioxidant fighting tomatoes, you can’t go wrong with this one. The hardest you have to work in prep is boiling water, so your kitchen is kept cool and so are you!
  • Ok, so maybe there are other salads that are “healthier”, but we had to include The Summer Fruit with Wine and Mint if simply for the fruit that is wine infused for 2 HOURS!!!! A nice reward for all the hard work you have been doing in your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. And in reality, there is not a “bad for you” ingredient in here!

So, with a teensy weensy bit of advanced planning, you can enjoy the hot summer evenings with yummy and good for you fresh salads to compliment all the other great choices you are making for yourself.  Bon Appetite!

Choose Your Supplements Wisely

We all know that the number one way to keep and improve your brain functions is to stay active.  However, various nutrients and supplements have been linked with healthy brain function and are important to consider as we start to age.

Americans spend over $14 billion on supplements each year, so it is important to make sure your supplement $’s truly providing benefit to you and worth that additional expense.

First of all, it is important to understand that supplements containing botanical ingredients are known to be very effective when taken in the correct dosage and are at the claimed and beneficial potency level.  The FDA does not regulate these.  This is not to say that FDA approval or lack thereof is a guarantee.  By nature, it is not possible to fully regulate botanical extracts since it is not an exact science.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

Photo credit: Pixabay.

That leaves it up to you as the consumer to do your research on the companies’ selling your supplements.  Also make sure you understand proper efficacy and potency, and shelf life of certain supplements.  It does take a little more time, but it is time well spent when you better understand what to look for and what to avoid when spending your supplement $’s.

Also be aware that while many supplements are a great answer for various health issues and concerns, they can interact negatively with other medications.  Don’t be fooled into thinking they are harmless just because they are over the counter and/or natural.  Talk with your doctor or other health professional to be sure there will be no negative interactions or side effects.

So which supplements are important to consider for brain function: Here are a few to look at to start with:

  • St. John’s Wort for healthy moods.
  • Melatonin for healthy sleep cycles, immune support, combating inflammation and more!
  • Omega 3’s for heart health, vision, nerve cells, and depression.
  • Probiotics for digestion, metabolism cholesterol and menopause management. Read on for more!
  • Vitamins A and C for healthy vision, immune support and more.
  • CoQ10 for vision, heart health, cellular energy, blood pressure and more.
  • Glucosamine and Chondroitin for joint health

Bottom line is to keep your natural diet high in all of the above, but backing it up with high quality supplements targeting the elements noted will benefit you greatly in this adventure we are all in as we experience the second 50 of life.

Carbs, Schmarbs, What’s a Person to DO??

Understanding carbohydrates and glycemic index can seem like a boring journey in to science and nutrition that few of us have time to take. However, a basic understanding of how our bodies process and metabolize these macronutrients can make a huge difference in our understanding and motivation of nutritional choices.

It is not enough to just “Avoid Carbs”. What are the different types of carbs and how do they affect the body?

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Simple Carbohydrates are classified as simple sugars whose chemical structure has only one or two sugars. Examples of these are processed table sugar, products with white flour, honey, milk, yogurt, candy, chocolate, fruit, fruit juice, cake, jam, biscuits, molasses, soda and packaged cereals. Some of these foods such as fruit may still be good for you for the fiber and other nutrients they contain.

Complex Carbohydrates are those with a chemical structure made up of three or more sugars. These types of sugars are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber. They take longer to digest and don’t elevate blood sugar levels as quickly as simple carbs do; thereby leaving you satisfied longer and less likely to overeat.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Photo from here, labeled for reuse.

Diets with complex carbs over simple carbs are less likely to experience blood sugar surge and crashes which contribute to cell damage. This article is filled with nutritional-speak, but I urge you to read through it and glean what you can about the subject.

Typically, complex carbs are found in whole grain breads & cereals, vegetables, and many legumes.  Nutritional values in complex carbs tend to be much higher than those in simple carbs.

What is Glycemic Index and how does it affect your health as you make certain food and nutritional choices in your lifestyle of good fitness? This article on the American Diabetes Association site does a good job of explaining the Glycemic Index and provides short lists of examples of foods that have high, medium and low GI ratings (under 55).

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

Source: The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

In a nutshell the GI ranks carbohydrates in relationship to the immediate effect they have on blood sugar levels. Don’t assume this information is only important to those with diabetes. When carbs have a high GI (over 70 on the GI scale) and convert to sugar in your blood stream quickly, they are metabolized fast and leave you hungrier more quickly than low glycemic foods. Even for people with no issues with diabetes, this cycle plays a significant role in healthy eating and weight management.

Simply counting carbs without an understanding of “good” versus “bad” carbs can leave holes in your nutritional plan. Learn to choose low GI foods for more success in your fit lifestyle.

Surprising Anti-Aging Benefits of Astaxanthin

A fit and healthy lifestyle yields not only benefits to our physical fitness, but our appearance and more importantly, our bodies’ abilities to fight disease.  Today’s post will focus on some emerging information regarding astaxanthin and it’s powerful abilities to protect our skin as it ages and reduce inflammation associated with arthritis and other inflammation issues.

What is astaxanthin? Astaxanthin (pronounced “asta-ZAN-thin”) is a naturally-occurring carotenoid found in algae, shrimp, lobster, crab and salmon. Carotenoids are pigment colors that occur in nature and decrease th4e risks of cancers and certain eye disease. Astaxanthin considered the most powerful naturally occurring carotenoid is found in the muscles of salmon.

Natural vs synthetic: There is much debate over natural vs synthetic forms of astaxanthin, but suffice it to say that the studies cited here on the benefits of astaxanthin all used the non-synthetic form of astaxanthin.  There are substantial dissimilarities between the two forms. In other words, the proposed human health benefits cannot also be assumed as true for synthetic astaxanthin.

Known health benefits from astaxanthin:astaxanthin

  • Cardiovascular health and sports recovery
  • Eye and brain health
  • Skin and Joint benefits
  • Muscle endurance
  • Antioxidant benefits for skin/sunscreen
  • Anti inflammatory properties for joint issues such as arthritis, tennis elbow, and carpal tunnel syndrome

astaxanthin1Studies Support Health Benefits of astaxanthin:

  • A 2009 study conducted by the NIH concluded that astaxanthin functions as a powerful antioxidant has a “superior preventive effect” towards changes in skin cell culture caused by damaging sun exposure.  Environmental stressors such as smoke, pollution, and damaging UV light inflict damage at the cellular level, causing skin to prematurely age. Antioxidants do their work by buffering the skin and bind free radicals before they can do harm.
  • In a 1998 study, astaxanthin was found to be 100 times stronger than beta-carotene and 1000 times stronger than lutein in preventing UVA light-induced oxidative stress.
  • A Japanese study saw marked improvement is the skin of 40-year-old women after only two and four weeks of 2mg daily consumption of astaxanthin.  Improvements noted were increased skin tone and elasticity, fewer fine lines and wrinkles, better overall moisture, and less puffiness under the eye. [Yamashita, E. (2002). “Cosmetic Benefit of Dietary Supplements Containing Astaxanthin and Tocotrienol on Human Skin.” Food Style. 21 6(6):112-17]
  • Subjects in a Canadian study ages 35-55 all showed improvements in 12 weeks after using various topical and dietary combinations of astaxanthin and omega-3 fatty acids.

How to take astaxanthin: Although there is not standard recommended dose, the various studies cited used 2-6 mg daily.  Keep in mind that Astaxanthin is fat-soluble.  This means it is best absorbed into your system (and reaps the most benefits) when it is taken along with a healthy source of fat.

Consider taking astaxanthin for the many health benefits noted here, but no supplement or ingredient is the magic aging cure.  Living an all around healthy and active lifestyle is the #1 method to age beautifully and well!

Interested in trying Astaxanthin? It’s available on Amazon.com, or the Vitamin Shoppe, and even at your local Walgreens.

The information included here is not intended to diagnose or promote treatment for health ailments. Always consult with your health practitioner before taking any supplement.

Sources:

Stay Hydrated for Your Workouts as the Weather Heats Up

Warmer weather is upon us, as well and fun opportunities for taking our workouts outside. Along with higher temperatures is an increased risk of dehydration. We all know that we should stay hydrated, but opinions on when, what, and how to do that can vary.

Photo credit: Pixabay user Hans.

Photo credit: Pixabay user Hans.

Any sustained exercise results in greater fluid loss as we sweat more.  Exercise in the heat increases this dramatically.  As we sweat, we lose important electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, chloride. Loss of fluids and these electrolytes can cause a drop in blood glucose as well as muscle glycogen.  When that happens, not only is performance reduced, but as our bodies become dehydrated, the risk of muscle cramps, fatigue, electrolyte deficits, and even hypernatremia (elevated sodium levels in the blood) can be life threatening.

Perhaps the most important time to consume fluids is two hours prior to a workout.  When you begin your workout well hydrated, you reduce the risk of getting dehydrated so quickly.  Consume 20 fl. oz. of liquids 2 hours prior to starting any strenuous exercise.

During exercise, if your body loses 1% of body weight in fluids, cardiovascular strain occurs and muscle performance is affected. Consuming fluids frequently (3-8 fl oz. every 15 minutes) will prevent dehydration.  Drinking water is sufficient if you are exercising less than an hour, but additional carbohydrates and electrolytes must be consumed to help maintain the proper levels of blood glucose when pushing yourself over an hour of strenuous exercise.  Sports drinks are not the only way to go; Coconut water, Green tea, low fat Chocolate milk, fruit juices, small portions of bananas or dried fruits and nuts can all help replenish your system.

If you do go for sports drinks read your labels carefully. There is not enough space in this post to look detail at sports drinks options, so suffice it to say that there is a lot of junk packaged as sport/energy drinks and we encourage you to read labels and educate yourself. This article may help and begins to explore  healthy options to replenish your body’s needs during and after a workout.

Until then, happy workouts and stay hydrated!

Don’t Forget Your Diet – Ways to Utilize Paleo Principles

by Laura Tobias, MS, RD, CD & CrossFit Level 1 Trainer

Proper nutrition is an indispensable part of living a vibrant, healthy lifestyle. Unfortunately, one of the most common pitfalls people make is that they put so much time and effort into working out and exercising that they slow – or even backtrack – their progress by not putting as much time and effort into their nutrition. No matter how many kale smoothies you consume, you cannot out train a bad diet.

While there are many theories and opinions out there as to what constitutes the “best” diet, the Paleo diet is one of the most popular diets on the market today. The Paleo diet is based off the diet of our ancient ancestors; it is a diet that is based around foods that were around before the advent of modern agriculture. In a nutshell (pun intended!), followers of the Paleo diet consume meat, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats, while eliminating grains, added sugars, dairy, legumes, alcohol, industrial seed oils (i.e., canola, soybean, sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed, and peanut oils), and processed foods. Sound a little extreme? Curious, but not ready to make the jump into a full-blown Paleo diet? You can still reap some of the wonderful benefits of a Paleo template by adopting some of the following core principles of the diet and lifestyle into your daily routine.

Photo from Pixabay.

Photo from Pixabay.

Make half of your plate non-starchy vegetables

One of the biggest misconceptions about the Paleo diet is that it is a meat-focused diet. Sadly, the Paleo diet does not consist of having a plate of bacon at every meal. While meat does play a significant role in the Paleo diet, it is by no means the star of the show. Non-starchy vegetables (i.e., leafy greens, zucchini, peppers, onions, mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, etc.) contain a ton of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and antioxidants and have been shown to protect against heart disease and certain types of cancer. At every meal, focus on making at least half of your plate non-starchy vegetables. Bonus points if you can fit in three different colored veggies!

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

Eliminate processed, refined foods, artificial sweeteners, and added sugars

Processed foods are often nutrient-poor and can contain trans-fats, which have been linked to cardiovascular disease. We should consume natural, whole foods that support our bodies’ natural biological and physiological processes, rather than foods that have been mechanically altered in a factory. If your grandmother or great-grandmother would not recognize a certain food or ingredient, it’s probably no good! When grocery shopping, keep to the perimeter of the store; fruits, vegetables, meat, and seafood can be found in this area. The only foods to avoid in the perimeter of the store are those pesky bakery items, which always seem to be coming out of the oven as soon as I enter the store!

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

Focus on quality, sustainably raised meats and seafood

The chicken at your local grocery store has little in common, nutritionally, with the chicken our ancient ancestors were eating. Unfortunately, the majority of meat found in the supermarket has been raised in concentrated animal feeding operations (“CAFOs”). In order to cheaply and quickly produce meat, CAFOs raise and feed animals in environments that vastly differ from the animals’ natural habitats. Instead of grazing on grass, cows are now fed corn, grains, and antibiotics in an attempt to quickly fatten them for slaughter. As a result, the nutrient profile of CAFO meat differs from the nutrient profile of properly raised, pastured animals. For example, grass-fed beef has a more favorable ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids compared to CAFO beef. When possible, choose local, pasture raised meats and wild caught seafood for their superior nutrient profile. 

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

Fat is your friend!

Arguably one of the greatest nutritional mistakes of the past century was the recommendation of a “low-fat, fat-free” diet approach. When we remove naturally occurring fats in foods, we have to replace them with something else. More times than naught, fat is replaced with sugar, artificial sweeteners, or hydrogenated oils, none of which will help you achieve optimal health. Healthy fats – such as those found in coconut, avocado, well-raised meats, eggs, fish, nuts, and seeds – are satiating and nourishing! Furthermore, healthy fats are needed to support brain health, skin health, and cognitive function. A 2010 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that there is no significant evidence that intake of saturated fat is associated with an increased risk of heart disease. It’s time we reclaim our health by embracing – rather than fearing – the healthy, natural fats found in foods such as eggs, nuts, avocados, coconut, meats, and fish! 

Photo from eHow.

Photo from eHow.

Exercise – get out and move daily!

Exercise can help relieve stress, improve cardiovascular health, manage your weight, improve body composition, and improve your mood. Aim to get at least 30 minutes of physical activity daily. And don’t forget about the weights! Strength training can help build lean muscle, rev up your metabolism, and support healthy bones. 

Manage and reduce stress

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

In this day and age, stress is pretty much an inevitable part of life. Stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenaline, are released during stressful situations; they are the hormones responsible for the “fight or flight” response that our ancestors experienced when they were being chased by wild animals. However, in today’s stress-filled society, these stress hormones are constantly being released in our bodies. Chronically high levels of cortisol and adrenaline can lead to anxiety, fatigue, weight gain (especially in the mid-section), decreased libido, and difficulty sleeping. Reducing stress by even a small amount can have a positive impact on your health and lifestyle. Take 20-30 minutes out of your day and spend it on an activity you enjoy, whether it be curling up with a good book, taking an Epsom salt bath, going for a walk, completing a crossword, meditating, doing yoga, or whatever makes you truly happy. 

Photo from here.

Photo from here.

Sleep, glorious sleep!

Sleep is a time for our bodies to rebuild, repair, and detoxify all of our cells, tissues, and muscles. Sleep deprivation has been linked to alterations in hormones that are associated with regulating our appetite (ex. leptin, insulin, and ghrelin). As a result, we are not only hungrier throughout the day, but we can also experience cravings for sugary, carbohydrate-rich foods in an attempt to quickly boost our energy levels. Aim to get around 8 hours of quality sleep per night!

Even if you are not ready to adopt a full-blown Paleo diet and lifestyle, try incorporating one of these habits into your lifestyle. Hope these tips are helpful in your journey to optimal health!