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The Saturday Smoothie: Fall Tips to Achieve Better Health

Creating an Active Lifestyle

Who says that staying fit has to be be a pain?  Guess what, IT DOESN’T!  One of the great things about living a healthy and active lifestyle is you can choose any activities you like.  Enjoy riding a bike?  Great!  Love going on long runs in the mornings before the world wakes up?  Fantastic!  Find something that actually excites you.  Something that puts a smile on your face, rather than something you dread even thinking about.  Use these practical tips for incorporating fitness into your daily routine.  In no time, you’ll learn to love it.

Learn How To Create an Active Lifestyle (click)

Healthy Lifestyle

Practical Ways to be More Present

When we’re so in our own heads, and with our own thoughts, it prevents us from actually contributing much to the world.  In fact, it’s a great way to let life slip you by.  Instead, focus on being present.  Well, what does that even mean?  I hear the term thrown around a lot, but how is it actually applicable to me?  When you’re present, that little voice inside of your head is silenced.  You’re one with your surroundings, and your attention is completely focused and receptive to everything around you.  Sound enjoyable?  It is.  It’s such a great way to live.

Learn How to Be More Present

Be Present

Being Healthy and Satisfied with Less

 Just how much food do we really need?  When you see some people that constantly are eating, taking in 3,000, 4k, or even 5k calories per day, do you ever stop and think, is that really necessary to eat as much as you can get away with?  Well, what if we looked at it from the other side of the coin.  What if we ate as little as possible in order to remain healthy, fit, and productive?  Learn all about Mark Sisson’s approach to diet and health.  He has plenty of great reasons, as well as some tips and tricks, for how to stay lean and fit with a healthy diet.

Learn How to Be Content With Less

Satisfied with Less

When Was Your Last Fitness Event?

Think back to the last time that you set a physical goal and trained for it consistently.  Was it this year?  Was it 5 years ago?  Has it really been more than a decade?  Well, there’s still some time left in 2016 to finish the year healthier than you started, and what better way to do so than to sign up for an event.  It may sound a little daunting at first, but like anything in life, it’s well within the realm of possibility if you take things step by step.  Give it a shot, and you’ll be well on your way to newfound youth and vigor.

Learn How Easy it is to Run (or walk!) a 5k

Compete

How to Stay Healthy at Work

One of the biggest contributors to obesity is a sedentary lifestyle.  We sit while we eat, when we’re watching television, at our desks at work, and when we catch up with friends.  Add some stress from the workplace into the mix and it’s no wonder why many of us are overweight, or weigh more than we’d like.

Use these simple tips to ensure you can keep off the unwanted pounds, stay healthy at work, and continue ever forward on your journey towards better health.

Don’t Drink Your Calories

Many people (myself included) love and need to start their day with caffeine.  Coffee is fine, but those caramel blended Frappuccinos or similarly sugar-filled drinks will make it downright impossible to stay in shape.  Instead of the dessert-like blended drinks, try a green or black tea, or even a black coffee.  If you don’t find black coffee too appetizing, try adding a bit of cinnamon – it works wonders.  If that combination is still too much to handle, try adding a splash of cream, but leave the sugar aside.

Sugary Drinks

Drink Water Throughout The Day

Keep a large bottle of water on your desk.  Fill it up.  Drink it.  Rinse and repeat.  It is a pretty simple concept, but even just having water in plain sight and within arms reach will substantially increase your water consumption.  If you want some variety, add a bit of lemon, lime, grapefruit, or carbonation to your water.  Worried about the increased number of trips to the bathroom?  Guess what, that’s a bit more exercise you would not have gotten in otherwise.  Often times when we snack, it’s actually because we’re dehydrated, not hungry.  So make it a priority to continually drink water throughout the day.

Take Short Breaks

Ideally you are utilizing a standing desk and trying to sit as little as possible, but if that is not the case or a standing desk is not available, take intermittent pauses in your day to take a stroll around the office, down the street, or up and down the stairs.  I’m personally a big fan of walking meetings.  If there is a meeting that does not require the use of in-office technology or the use of a whiteboard, try to have the meeting while walking around the block.  It gets you out of the office into fresh air, and lets you get a bit of exercise in during your workday.

Stopwatch

Pack Your Lunch

Think veggies, fats, and lean meats.  Ideally grass-fed / free range / wild caught, but that’s a whole different conversation. The key takeaway is that when you pack your lunch, you know exactly what you are ingesting, how fresh it is, and where it comes from.  Not only will it help you look better, feel better, and perform better, it also will be a bit easier on the wallet when compared to eating pricey takeout from the restaurants around the block.

Exercise Regularly

A great way to achieve this is by building it into your schedule.  You don’t even need to go too crazy, you just need to go consistently.  It is not about what you do, it’s about consistency.  Weight lift, run, practice yoga, take dance classes – whatever physical activity you prefer, just make sure it is something that you can do on a regular basis.  If possible, try to get some exercise during your lunch break at work, then eat at your desk afterwards.  It will break up your day, and you may even notice a newfound energy throughout the rest of the afternoon.

Snack Healthy

I love snacking.  I could eat dark chocolate and candy bars all day, but I opt for the healthy snacks.  Try a piece of fruit, a handful of mixed nuts, some carrots, or some yogurt and granola.  Ideally you want to keep the snacking to a minimum, but that is not always possible.  When you do feel that urge, go for the healthy choice.  Often times, realize that the snacking may actually be out of boredom, not out of hunger.  If that is the case, refill that water bottle we talked about earlier and take a quick stroll to clear your head.  You will find yourself back in that productive workflow in no time.

healthy snacks

Sit less, stand more, reward your body with healthy and nutritious food that will serve you, and get some exercise in each day.  If you cannot pronounce the ingredients it probably doesn’t belong in your body. It sounds simple, but it comes down to all the small choices you make on a daily basis.

The key to making these lifestyle changes is keeping your eyes on the bigger picture – your personal well being; realizing that it is all about the journey rather than any one destination.  Make changes and improvements continually along the way, and you’ll find your fitness and wellness goals are easier to achieve.

How to Feel Younger

Our health is one of our most valuable assets.  When we’re healthy, we can spend higher quality time with our loved ones, can move around easily, and enjoy going out and having fun.  When we’re feeling under the weather, or have been living an unhealthy lifestyle, it’s difficult to find the motivation to do anything.

Perhaps you were in great shape in the past, but over the course of a few months, or years, your health has started to slip.  How do you go about getting healthy and feeling younger?  Use these simple strategies to put a smile back on your face and add that spring back into your step.

Adjust your Posture

It sounds simple, but even just sitting with better posture will change the way your body feels.  Straighten your back, pull your shoulders back, and keep your head up.  Learn to get in the habit of paying attention to your posture throughout the day.  To get started, it’s helpful to stand against a wall and flatten your back against it.  It’s ok if it’s difficult at first.  After years of bad posture, you’re retraining your body to maintain the form it’s made to be in.

meditation

Get Moving and Increase Mobility

Even if you aren’t an athlete, it’s important to move around each day to get the blood flowing.  Take a walk around the neighborhood.  Walk up and down a few flights of stairs.  Do air squats in the comfort of your own living room.  By getting daily exercise, you improve your circulation, heart health, digestion, and strength.  Exercise is one of the absolute best things you can do for your body to look and feel younger.

Socialize Every Day

Humans are social animals.  For our entire history, we’ve lived in communities where we have regular interaction with our peers.  In this day and age, it’s easy to live an isolated lifestyle and go through the usual daily routine.  Even if your friends and loved ones don’t live nearby, make it a point to get out and socialize every day.  Start by making small talk with the people around you.  Strike up a conversation with someone while waiting in line at the grocery store.  When in doubt, ask questions.  People love talking about themselves, and asking a question is a sure way to get the conversation going.

socializing

Eat a Healthy Diet

The food we eat directly affects the way that we feel.  When we eat a diet full of sugar, processed carbs, preservatives, and and chemicals, it leads to weight gain, moodiness, and poor health.  On the other hand, when our diet is full of vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats, our body is able to repair itself.  We feel younger, look fitter, and grow stronger.

Feed your Body What It’s Missing

Go and get a blood test.  Often times, when we feel sluggish, it may be the result of micronutrient deficiencies.  It’s amazing how quickly you start to feel young again when your body has the proper balance of nutrients.  There’s no magic pill, or end-all-be all, but starting with a blood test will show you what’s healthy, and where you need to make improvements.

Practice Daily Gratitude

There’s an ancient Zen philosophy, that says “learn only to be content.”  It’s the secret to lifelong happiness.  Be content with what you have, rather than focused on what you want.  Practice gratitude by saying three things that you’re thankful for every day.  They can be simple.  I’m grateful for the great weather.  I’m thankful for a cup of coffee in the morning.  I’m thankful for my loving family.  See how easy that is?

gratitude

Gut Health and Why You Should Take Probiotics

yogurtWe’re always told it’s healthy to consume probiotics, but why is that the case?  First, it’s important to understand what comprises the human body.  There’s bones, muscles, tendons, blood, lymph, organs, and lots and lots of bacteria.  The truth is, our bodies contain trillions of microorganisms that live in a symbiotic relationship with us.  That means that the bacteria living inside our bodies are beneficial to us and our health, and we are beneficial to them.

Why Bacteria Lives in our Bodies, and Why It’s a Good Thing!

There are tens of thousands of types of bacteria that live in our bodies, with the highest concentration of them living in our intestines and gut.  As a whole, they encompass our gut microbiome.  Think of it as an entire world of bacteria and microscopic organisms, contained entirely within our bodies.  They’re important because they help our bodies break down the food we consume so we can digest and use the nutrients as energy.

How Gut Health is Tied to Overall Health

The health of our gut is a great indication of our overall health, because the two are intimately tied together.  When you have a healthy blend of bacteria in the gut, you’re able to digest food effectively and efficiently, detoxify the body, absorb nutrients, and fight infection and inflammation.  If your gut microbiome is out of balance, or contains too many of the wrong types of bacteria, it can leads to problems.  Rapid weight gain, irritability, indigestion, poor mental performance, skin problems, and a weakened immune system are all characteristics of an unhealthy gut.

old ageIs my Gut Bacteria Trying to Tell Me Something?

Our gut communicates with our brain, through the vagus nerve.  Ever had a “gut feeling,” or do you make decisions “based on your gut?”  What about an intense craving for sugar, a craving so strong that it was just impossible to say no to that delicious cookie or cupcake?  This was likely due to the bacteria in your gut signaling a desire for sugar.  The bacteria in our guts communicate directly with our brain, and can even change the way that we behave via cravings and signals that are sent to our brains.   

How do we Change the Type of Bacteria in our Guts?

The good news is we can have a direct affect on the balance of bacteria in our bodies.  The microorganisms in our gut microbiome feed on the food we put into our bodies, so it’s crucial we eat healthy food to promote better gut health.  Ever heard the phrase, “you are what you eat?” 

We quite literally are comprised of the foods that we put into our bodies.  When we eat leafy greens and healthy fats, healthy types of bacteria that digest those foods tend to flourish.  If on the other hand, we eat a diet full of sugar, toxins, preservatives, and processed foods, it allows other types of microorganisms to take over the healthy balance in of bacteria in our bodies.

headstand

What Should I do to Improve the Balance of Healthy Bacteria?

  • Eat Healthy

The single biggest positive influence we can have on our gut bacteria is eating a diet comprised of whole foods, vegetables, healthy fats, and fiber.  It feeds the healthy microbes in our bodies, so they are able to flourish.  Get as many vegetables into your diet as you can.  They’re low in calories, high in micronutrients, and are critical for long term health and wellness.

  • Eliminate Toxins

Processed foods, sugars, preservatives, and environmental toxins can wreak havoc on the balance of healthy bacteria in our bodies.  Cut them out of your diet completely, or minimize them as best as possible to help get your gut micro biome back in check.  Everyone wants the cookie or the slice of cake now and then, and that’s ok.  Have your cheat meal or special dessert that you love, but don’t eat in excess.

  • Consume Probiotics and Fermented Foods

Yogurt, cheese, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso are all great sources of healthy bacteria.  Probiotics and fermented foods contain healthy bacteria, so it’s a way to repopulate our gut with the right types of microorganisms.  They’ll help with digestion and make you healthier both inside and out.

  • Manage Stress and Get Adequate Sleep

Our stress and cortisol levels have a direct affect on the balance of bacteria in our bodies.  Frequent stress and lack of sleep weakens our immune systems, and prevents us from performing optimally.  Guard your sleep as best as you can.  Stop using electronics an hour before bed time, turn off notifications to avoid interruption, and learn to meditate and be as present as you can throughout your day-to-day life.

  • Only Use Antibiotics when Absolutely Necessary

Antibiotics are one of the most important and effective aspects of modern medicine, but they must be used with care.  They are able to destroy harmful bacteria in our bodies, but they also tend to wipe out the good bacteria as well.  Only use them if absolutely necessary, because it’s critical to protect your gut health to the best of your abilities.  Make no mistake, they’re incredibly beneficial, but they need to be used in moderation, and only to treat specific illnesses when prescribed by your doctor.

What Should I Take Away?

The health of our gut and our body is intimately paired with our overall health and well being.  When the microorganisms are in check, they can be our best friend because they promote health, digestion, and longevity.  When they’re out of balance, they can be our worst enemy. 

Do everything you can to protect your gut, because it will help you achieve vibrant health and vitality.  At the end of the day, nobody is as invested in your long term health as you are, so consider the foods and nutrients you put into your body each and every day. Get in the habit of asking yourself, “is this going to help me, or hurt me?”

5 Easy, Healthy Crock Pot Soup Recipes

These cold winter nights get the cravings going for comfort foods, and unfortunately, many comfort foods are high in unhealthy starches and fats. However, there are plenty of satisfying meals that are good for you, while being super simple to make! Here are five easy and healthy crock pot soup recipes – make them for a dinner and enjoy the leftovers for lunch, or prep the ingredients to freeze and cook up later. Psst: All of these can be made without the meat for a delicious vegetarian option!

Smoked Turkey-Lentil Soup (featured image)

Ingredients:

  • 8-ounce smoked turkey leg
  • 6 cups vegetable broth
  • ½ lb. dried lentils (rinsed and drained)
  • 8 ounces of pre-chopped onion, celery and bell pepper mixture
  • 2 tsp. fresh oregano (chopped)
  • ½ tsp. ground black pepper
  • plain fat-free Greek yogurt (optional)
  • sprigs of oregano (optional)

Instructions: Place the first six ingredients into a 3- or 4-quart crock pot. Cover and cook on low for 8- to 10-hours until the turkey is falling off the bone and the lentils are soft. Remove the turkey leg, discard the skin and bone, shred the meat and return to the pot. Serve garnished with the yogurt and oregano sprigs (optional).

 

sweet-potato-chicken-and-quinoa-soupSweet Potato, Chicken & Quinoa Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast
  • 1 cup quinoa (rinsed well)
  • 2 large sweet potatoes (peeled and cubed)
  • 1 16-ounce can black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • 1 14.5-ounce can petite diced tomatoes (not drained)
  • 1 tsp. minced garlic
  • 1 packet chili seasoning
  • 5 cups chicken broth
  • Parsley (optional)

Instructions: Put the first 8 ingredients into a 3- or 4-quart crock pot. Cover with a lid and cook on high for 3-5 hours. Use two forks to shred the chicken. Serve with fresh parsley (optional), salt and pepper to taste.

 

slow-cooker-beef-stewHarvest Beef Stew

Ingredients:

  • 2 lb. beef chuck roast (cubed)
  • ⅓ cup whole wheat flour
  • 3 TBSP olive oil
  • 2 cups carrots (sliced)
  • 3 celery stalks (diced)
  • 3 cups russet potatoes (diced)
  • 1 large onion (chopped)
  • 4 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 1 28-ounce can of diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 TBSP balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tsp. Italian seasoning
  • 2 TBSP fresh parsley (minced)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Combine the beef cubes with flour in a large bowl, then saute in the olive oil for 5-10 minutes on medium-high heat until the meat is slightly browned. Transfer the beef to a 3- or 4-quart slow cooker, and add the rest of the ingredients. Stir to combine. Cook on low for 5-6 hours.

 

crockpot-african-peanut-soupAfrican-Inspired Vegetarian Soup

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • ¼ cup green onion (sliced)
  • 2 red bell peppers (seeds removed and chopped)
  • 1 TBSP garlic (minced)
  • 2 14-ounce cans of diced tomatoes in juice
  • 8 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp. cumin
  • 1 TBSP Ancho chile powder*
  • 1 tsp. New Mexico chile powder*
  • 1 tsp. Aleppo pepper*
  • ½ cup brown lentils (uncooked)
  • ¼ cup brown rice (uncooked)
  • 1 cup peanut butter (all natural, no added sugar)

*Use any mixture of chile powders or spicy red pepper flakes

Instructions: Place the first 12 ingredients (through the brown rice) into a crock pot, and stir to combine. Cook on low for 8 hours, OR on high for 4 hours (if cooking on high, reduce heat to low after 4 hours). After the applicable cooking time has passed, add the peanut butter and cook for about one more hour on low. Serve hot, and garnish with chopped green onion (if desired).

 

Screen Shot 2016-01-11 at 4.28.16 PMTuscan Chicken Stew

Ingredients:

  • 6-8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (cubed)
  • 2 carrots (peeled and sliced)
  • 2 celery stalks (sliced)
  • 1 medium onion (chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (minced)
  • 2 medium tomatoes (chopped)
  • 12 baby potatoes (halved)
  • 1 ¾ cup chicken stock
  • 1 TBSP tomato paste
  • 2 TBSP white wine
  • ½ tsp. fennel seeds (crushed)

Before Serving:

  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 ½ TBSP cornstarch
  • 3 tsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 sprig fresh rosemary
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Parsley (chopped)

Instructions: Place all of the initial ingredients into a 4- or 5-quart crock pot and toss to combine. Cook on low for 4-6 hours. Just before serving, mix the cornstarch and water together until there are no lumps. Add the cornstarch mixture, vinegar, rosemary and salt to the crock pot.

Understanding “Good Fats” vs “Bad Fats” in Your Diet

For many years, now the accepted school of thought is that fat in our diet is bad, lean is good. More and more studies in recent times are providing evidence that carbohydrates, not fat, is the root of an unhealthy diet. Fat is a necessary part of a normal, balanced healthy diet. Hold on to those two words: “Balanced and healthy”. Rather than avoid fats altogether or blindly consume low fat options in our diet, it is important to understand the various forms of fat and how our bodies metabolize them.

Understand that when food manufacturers provide low-fat versions of peanut butter, salad dressing, etc., they are usually adding sugars, additives, and salt to make them taste better. Don’t trade less fat for more sugar and processed ingredients. For example, margarine contains lower calories than butter but is high in trans fat. Margarine is manufactured using hexane, hydrogen gas, emulsifiers, bleach, and synthetic vitamins and colors. Call me crazy, but a bit of butter seems healthier on my toast than lower calorie margarine.

The healthy fats include omega 3 and omega 6 which are monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. These fats help increase the good HDL cholesterol in your blood and combat the bad LDL. LDL collects in the walls of blood vessels, causing atherosclerosis. LDL cholesterol deposits in the artery walls as early as childhood and adolescence. White blood cells increase to protect the blood vessels and convert the LDL to a toxic, oxidized form of cholesterol. Soon a low level inflammation is occurring in the artery wall, creating plaque.

Monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats not only help lower your bad cholesterol levels, but also tend to be high in vitamin E, which is deficient in most people’s diets and essential for your bodies’ development of cells and healthy skin

Examples of monounsaturated fats include:

  • Avocados
  • Canola oil, olive oil, peanut oil, rapeseed oil, tea seed oil, macadamia nut oil, and sunflower oil
  • Nuts like almonds, cashew, pecans, peanuts, hazelnuts, Brazil nuts and pistachios
  • Olives
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Whole grain wheat
  • Cereal
  • Oatmeal
Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Flaxseed oil contains a high level of alpha-linolenic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid. Photo source.

Examples of Polyunsaturated fats include:

  • Cereal grains and pasta
  • vegetables and vegetable products
  • Fruits and whole fruit juices (non-pasteurized is best)
  • Nuts and seed products
  • Legumes
  • Finfish and shellfish
  • Poultry
  • Beef
  • Dairy and eggs

While these good fats contain more calories, they also help you to feel more satisfied, less likely to continue to consume more low fat options higher in sugar. But don’t load up on peanut butter and real butter; just use them in moderation.

Saturated fats comprise of more than two dozen different kinds and they are not all the same, nor should we approach them all the same. Until recently, the school of thought was to avoid all saturated fats.   But many sources of saturated fats are also really good for you in many other ways.

A 2010 study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that there was not enough proof linking saturated fat alone to either heart disease or stroke. People had been replacing animal fats for vegetable oils and refined carbs, which caused triglycerides to go up and good HDL cholesterol to go down. A New England Journal of Medicine study showed that people on a lower-carb diet shed more weight faster than those on a low fat diet; even the low-carb group was consuming more fats. Likely because fewer carbs release less insulin, control hunger and reduce storage of fat. All of this helps to keep cholesterol at healthier levels.

So the question is not which saturated fats are acceptable and which aren’t but keep your entire fat consumption to no higher than 20-25% of your daily intake. Avoid saturated fats that are highly refined due to the additives, sugars, and chemicals involved in the process. If you have to choose between “low cal-low fat” trans fats such as margarine, partially hydrogenated vegetable oils, and vegetable shortening, or natural, saturated fats (in moderation, of course) then choose saturated fats. Keep your saturated fats as low as possible, but choose from sources of “good” saturated fats such as:

  • Organic, extra virgin olive oil
  • Organic Peanuts and other nuts
  • Regular 100% peanut butter instead of “low-fat” options
  • Wild Salmon instead of farmed
  • Butter instead of margarine
  • Organic, grass fed meats instead of grain and hormone fed (also avoid meats that are cured, processed with nitrates and other preservatives).

Understanding the wide variety of saturated fats and how they are metabolized is a detailed subject that we encourage you to explore before you just blindly toss all saturated fats out of your diet. The key is moderation and balance in all things. Know your fats and you will make better, healthier choices for your life. Please share with us your experiences with changing fats in your diet and what has worked for you.

 

Featured photo credit Flickr user Jaanus Silla.

Fabulous Fall Recipes for Fitness

Here in the Pacific Northwest, we are blessed with a lovely, long fall harvest season with our temperate climate. Many veggies are readily available locally and organic and it is a great opportunity to stock up, try new recipes, and enjoy the bounty.

Here are some fantastic fall recipes that are friendly to your fitness regimen, as well!

Nothing says fall faster than soups. This simple, yet hearty Autumn Chicken Stew features some of fall’s top offerings: carrots, apples and parsnips. This one is easy to prep the ingredients the night before so that it is all ready to put together the following evening ready for dinner. In addition to its high vitamin A count, this soup is low calorie, low in cholesterol, and appropriate for diabetics. Serve with cheese sandwiches on the side for a full meal.

One of the healthiest squash you can try is pumpkin. It is action packed with beta-carotene, vitamins A and C, and lots of antioxidants. So start those brisk fall mornings off right with Spiced Pumpkin Maple Baked Oatmeal, it is high fiber, gluten free, good for your cholesterol, easy on the budget, preps really well the night before, allowing you to spoil your family and yourself with the yummy scents and flavors of spices and pumpkin with a hearty, warm morning meal.

This oh-so-easy-to make Roasted Fall Vegetables recipe takes full advantage of the abundance of organic squash and root vegetables available. The red potatoes are a great source of iron and vitamin C. Rich in phytonutrients and antioxidants, the butternut squash makes this a winning side dish to any entrée.

The abundance of apples each fall is a great opportunity for cooks everywhere. Put your fall apples to good use with this Apple Sangria recipe for your fall gatherings. Lower sugar content in white wine keeps this one a bit more in the “healthy” category than most drink recipes. Everything in moderation, right? 😉

 

In the comments section below, share some of your favorite fall recipes and how they are helping you in your healthy and fit lifestyle.

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.

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!