I heart coffee. It never lets me down and usually boosts me up. But as I was having my habitual cup this morning, I began to wonder how coffee impacts our health. Certainly there has been a lot of press about it lately, both good and bad. I decided to do some investigating, and this is what I found:
My doctor has me on an organic diet, but that can get expensive in a hurry. That's why I decided to take matters into my own hands this year and set up a veggie garden. Now mind you, it would have to be a HUGE one to cover all of my dietary needs. I didn't have the space or time for that nonsense. Instead I started with a smaller variety, and if that works well I can expand my planting the following year.
It's easy to set up a mini garden at home, even if you live in the smallest of apartments. Containers can be set in sunny spots and can grow the items you use most often. For me that included basil, tomatoes, onions, lettuce, and cilantro. When using containers, make sure you add a good plant food to the mix. You will also need to water more often than when planting directly in the ground.
Another tip to keep in mind is to place your containers close to a water source. If you have to walk a distance or lug heavy watering cans, you are less likely to tend to your thirsty plants. I put my garden right next to a hose because I am one LAZY girl.
Finally, you'll want to make sure the "critters" in your neighborhood can't get at your plants. For me that meant keeping rabbits, deer, and raccoons out. An affordable mesh barrier can be purchased at your local hardware store. These work well and are easy to install.
Once your veggies start coming in, you'll want to harvest them quickly. This encourages new growth and also allows you to enjoy the "fruits" of your labor.
As I threw away several moldy, mushy, and expired items from my fridge, I decided that I needed a new plan. I have a household of two adults and while I love to eat healthy, I tend to throw away a lot of food every week on trash day. Healthy foods tend to be more expensive and usually we have to purchase more than we need or would like to eat in the time frame before it goes bad. I looked into my options and tried a meal delivery program. There are several meal delivery programs available and many with great discounts or even free starter kits.
The program I chose has meal preference options to meet our needs. For example, you can choose vegetarian, low calorie, quick meals, or eliminate a certain kind of meat. We get a box delivered once a week (on Tuesdays) with 3 meals. The packaging is perfect and has plenty of sturdy ice packs.
There are many aspects about this program that I love! First, we are getting healthy, portion controlled foods. We are trying new recipes that we may not have before and they do not repeat meals. But they do give an easy to follow recipe card and a list of all of the ingredients to reproduce the dish should you choose. All of the ingredients are fresh. We have tried many new food items and learned how to cook with fresh herbs and new grains that we have not tried before.
This routine has become great for my lifestyle. I grocery shop on the weekend and make meals for the weekend and the beginning of the week while the items I purchased are still fresh. Then our box comes on Tuesday and we have meals for the remainder of the week. We found that we are cutting back significantly on our weekly grocery bill and are wasting very little food now.
I encourage you to give food delivery services a try if you have a smaller family like mine, want to try new healthy, portion-controlled recipes and cook with new ingredients.
We all know you have to exercise to burn calories, but do you know exactly how much exercise you have to do to burn off the snack you just had? It may surprise you. This weekend, I proudly approached my husband after a ½ hour on the elliptical and told him that I did 3 miles in 30 minutes and burned 350 calories. My neighbor who was chatting with him at the time responded “That’s it??? I thought you would get much more for a half hour!” Even more depressing was when we went to the local ice cream store for a banana split to find that it was 450 calories!
This misunderstanding of calories and exercise has transformed our world so that 2/3 of our population is now overweight or obese. The hottest trend lately has been fitness trackers that record steps, sleep and heart rate. I see them everywhere. I even hear colleagues tell me they have to go for a walk to get their 10,000 steps in today. But do you know what 10,000 steps get you? The average person with moderate activity will burn 400-500 calories for every 10,000 steps. You have to burn 3,500 calories to lose 1 pound of fat. If you meet a 10,000 step goal every day you should lose 1 pound per week. This is a very healthy goal and a great way to maintain weight loss once you have reached your weight goal. Keep in mind, weight loss is dependent not only on calories burned, but also how many calories you consume.
The FDA has required restaurant chains to post to calorie information on all of their menus. This allows us to better realize how many calories are in the meals that we are ordering. The actual amount may surprise you. The amount of recommended calories daily is based on age, gender and activity. The USDA guidelines recommend 1,600-2,000 calories per day for women and 2,200-2,800 calories for men to maintain your current weight.
So I highly encourage you to be vigilant about the amount of calories you take in daily and how many you are actually burning each day. Keep a record for just one week and you will quickly realize why your jeans are feeling a little snugger. Now know you where you need to do to make changes in your diet or activity to meet your goals.
Having trouble sleeping? It could be your diet. Studies have found that consuming too much saturated fat and sugar, and not enough fiber, could cause disruptive sleep patterns. The greater the amount of fiber in the diet, the more time an individual spent in the deeper stages of restorative sleep.
This is another reason a healthy diet is so important! Be sure you are eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, Limit the amount of sugar you consume, and aim to eat leaner forms of protein such as chicken, turkey, and nuts.
Another culprit of deep sleep is alcohol. It can interrupt the normal cycles and cause you to wake up throughout the night. Try to limit the amount of alcohol you consume before bedtime.
Hopefully this will help you to bag some vital zzzzzz's!
I do love a brisk cup of coffee in the morning. As I am writing this article, I am sipping on a cup and marveling at the wonderful world in which we live. Mind you, I woke up as grouchy as any gal could be at 5:00 AM. But then I took my first sip, and things started to look brighter.
That’s the beauty of coffee. It’s a gentle mood booster. Research is starting to discover it has other health benefits as well:
· Lower risk of heart disease.
· Lower risk of neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s.
· Lower risk of diabetes.
· Lower risk of car accidents.
· Lower risk of suicide.
These benefits were identified in those who drank caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee. They believe there are compounds in the beverage that reduce insulin resistance and systematic inflammation (IDEA Fitness Journal, 2016 March).
So how much can you drink? It really depends on your body. I know that if I drink more than one cup I am jittery all day long. Other people can consume five cups and not feel a thing. Researchers suggest from 3 to 5 cups is safe.
There are some conditions, however, where coffee consumption is not recommended. If you suffer from an anxiety disorder, then you will want to avoid the beverage. Those with osteoporosis should also limit the number of cups they drink. In both cases the caffeine is harmful. However, if you switch to decaf then you eliminate this problem.
Another thing I want to caution you on is what you’re putting in your coffee. The health benefits are greatly diminished when you add sugar and heavy cream. Try to limit these as much as possible. Liza recently broke me of my mocha habit, which is loaded with sugar, chocolate, and whipped cream. She introduced me to café lattes which have milk and nothing more. I get mine with reduced fat milk and they are divine.
As I wrap up this article I am also taking my last sip of coffee. It’s time to tackle the day!!
Do you have problems with constipation, gas, or diarrhea? Do you get frequent headaches? You could have a food allergy or sensitivity. These tend to show up as we get older and can wreak havoc on our bodies. A simple way to test for a food allergy is through an elimination diet.
Here's how it works. Quit eating anything that you think may be causing problems for 2 weeks. Some of the top food allergens are as follows:
If anything causes a reaction, you will need to eliminate it for an additional 3 months. Then you can try it again in small amounts. If you no longer have a reaction then you can eat the food item on occasion. However, if you are still having a reaction then you will need to wait another 3 months before you try again. The gut takes a long time to heal so be patient!
There are some people who can never eat certain foods again. I am one of them and have learned to embrace the situation. Food is an important part of our life but when it harms us, it's not worth it! Take care of your gut and it will take care of you.
Magnesium is a powerful mineral that is vital to our health. It is found in the earth and is concentrated in certain foods. Due to farming practices that are depleting the soil, many of these foods have a decreased amount of magnesium. What's more, our diet and behaviors can lead to a deficiency in the body.
How do you know if you have a magnesium deficiency? There are tests the doctor can order but they are not always accurate. A better method is to assess your symptoms and your lifestyle. The symptoms include:
If you have symptoms, your next step is to asses your lifestyle. The following things can contribute to a magnesium deficiency:
If you suspect that you have a deficiency, there are things you can do to rectify the problem. The first is to consume foods that contain magnesium on a daily basis. These include:
Another thing you can do is to take an epsom salt bath at least 3 times a week. Fill the tub with hot water and a cup of epsom salts and soak for 20 minutes. This is my favorite method because it fights stress as well. I light candles, put on soothing music, and do some deep breathing exercises in the tub.
Of course, you can also take a magnesium supplement and there are many affordable options on the market. I do want to caution you, though, that these can lead to digestive issues like diarrhea. If you opt for a supplement then start with a small dose It should match the amount of calcium you are taking per day and should be taken in the evening, away from your Vitamin D supplement.
FYI - magnesium, Vitamin D, and calcium all work together. You need magnesium to activate D, which can only carry calcium one it is activated. Calcium is needed for most bodily functions, especially those related to the heart, muscles, nerves, and bones. Thus you need all 3 to function.
Nutrition is a young science and we are learning more and more each day. A healthy diet is your best defense!
When trying to eat healthy, most of us will reach for the greens. Vegetables such as spinach, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are all wonderful sources of vitamins and minerals. We need them in our diets. But what about the humble sweet potato? It too is chock full of wonderful nutrients such as:
That's a lot of nutritional punch for such a small potato! What's more, it's low in calories (about 110) and easy to prepare. Try microwaving it, roasting it, or mashing it. You can even add it to soups or salads.
Probiotics, or healthy bacteria, have become quite popular these days. And with good reason. The average American has killed off a large percentage of their healthy gut bacteria by the time they reach 30. The result can be a diverse set of symptoms that include gas, bloating, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, headaches, skin rashes, and a greater susceptibility to colds and the flu.
Why does this occur? One of the biggest culprits is our diet. Things like fast food, sugar, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol can wipe out the good guys. This allows the bad bacteria (mostly yeast) to grow. Antibiotics also have this effect. They not only kill an infection but also the good bacteria in our gut. That's why some women end up with a yeast infection after taking a round of antibiotics.
Yeast is not necessarily a bad thing. Some yeast is good for us and experts agree that about 20% of it should be in our gut at all times. The problem is when yeast takes over our digestive system. This shuts down our natural elimination and immune processes, causing problems.
If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms then probiotics may help. They can be consumed naturally in food items such as kefir (liquid yogurt) or kimchi (fermented cabbage). If you opt for yogurt be sure to select the unsweetened option. An over-the-counter pill is another option. If you choose to go that route make sure the pill has a lot of different strains of bacteria. Your doctor is a great resource for selecting a pill.
Remember, a healthy gut makes for a happy body and a fierce immune system.
It's that time of year when pumpkins make their grand entrance. Most people use them as decorations but this vegetable is quite nutritious and can be used in a variety of recipes. Even the seeds can be used so don't throw them out when you are carving that jack-o-lantern!
Below is one of my favorite pumpkin seed recipes, compliments of Real Simple.
You Will Need:
2 cups of fresh pumpkin seeds, cleaned and patted dry
2 Tbs melted butter
2 Tbs sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
Spread the seeds out on a cookie sheet and bake for 50 to 60 minutes. Remove from oven and increase the temperature to 350 degrees.
Mix the remaining ingredients in a bowl and add the seeds. Toss to coat. Spread back on the cookie sheet and bake another 10 to 15 minutes, or until golden.
This is a great snack option and kids tend to love it. Best of all, pumpkin seeds are chock full of fiber, zinc, Vitamin E, manganese, protein, iron, and magnesium.
I have not been feeling very energetic lately, so I visited my primary care doctor to get a set of labs. We discovered that I have a significant vitamin D deficiency. I was surprised by this. Most of us who live in the northern United States have a vitamin D deficiency in the winter months, but it was not expected of the summer months. I spend a lot of time outdoors in the summer, but more in the evenings. I also take a daily multi-vitamin that has 1,000 units of vitamin D. I eat vitamin D fortified cereal and drink milk almost daily. So how can I possibly be deficient???
Vitamin D is produced by the body when skin is exposed to sunlight. It also occurs naturally in some common foods—fish, egg yolk and fortified dairy and grains. Vitamin D helps the body use calcium that we take in our diet and supports strong bones. Low levels can lead to increased risk of death from cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment in older adults and severe asthma in children. Vitamin D can protect from developing diabetes, hypertension, glucose intolerance and multiple sclerosis.
Vitamin D deficiency occurs when you do not get enough natural sunlight exposure. Those who work full time in day shift indoors, wear sunblock, or wear clothing that covers the majority of your body when you are outdoors. Dark skin can also prevent absorption of sunlight for appropriate vitamin D synthesis.
Other causes of vitamin D deficiency are related to diet or medical problems. Most vitamin D occurs in animal products, thus vegans are at high risk for vitamin D Deficiency. Food items that are fortified with vitamin D are not usually sufficient to support your body’s need for vitamin D. Sometimes kidneys are unable to convert vitamin D to an active form, especially as you get older. Some people have medical problems related to their gastrointestinal tract that prevent adequate absorption of vitamin D. Fat cells in those with obesity can extract vitamin D from the blood causing vitamin D deficiency.
A simple blood test for 25-hydroxy vitamin D will determine if you have vitamin D deficiency. A normal level is 20-50 nanograms/milliliter. A level less than 20 is called Vitamin D insufficiency. Those with a level less than 12 are diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency. The CDC estimates that 32% of adults and children in the U.S. have vitamin D deficiency. That’s 1 in 3 people who have vitamin D deficiency, so get your level checked!
If you find you have a low level of vitamin D, you should discuss with your medical provider a plan to supplement and retest your level. Some ways to help optimize your level is to expose your skin to sunlight during peak hours of the day, consider sitting outside to eat your lunch or take a walk outdoors during your lunch break. When you supplement vitamin D, keep in mind that it is fat-soluble. Thus it should be taken with a meal to optimize absorption.
We all know the importance of eating vegetables. They are chock full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber that improve almost every aspect of our health. The government suggests that we eat at least 5 servings of vegetables a day. A serving is 1/2 a cup of either cooked or raw vegetables.
Goodness but that seems like a lot! Americans aren't the most healthy of eaters to begin with, and vegetables don't always give us the satisfaction that other foods do. But there are easy ways to sneak these nutrient dense foods into your diet:
Eat your veggies!
There are three types of kids when it comes to school lunches. The ones who pack every day, the ones who buy their lunch every day and the hybrid who does a combination of packing and buying. For those that buy lunches, most school programs ensure a healthy, balanced meal option. For those that pack daily, sometimes there is more of a struggle to ensure a healthy balance. Some parents pack lunches for their children, others allow children to pack for themselves. Here are some ideas to make packing lunches a bit easier for you.
· Pack lunches the night before. This saves you time in the morning when you are rushing to get out of the door on time.
· Include your children in the process. Have your children help choose the items to ensure they will actually eat the foods they choose while at school.
· Buy prepared/pre-cut fruits and veggies or cut a large amount of fruits and veggies up on the weekend and store in containers for the week. Pre-cut foods may cost a little more, but it will save you time when you are busy with other things.
· Store foods in portion sized bags. I love the snack size bags. Once or twice a week, fill several snack size bags with fruits, veggies, healthy snacks, lean protein, and dairy. Buy plastic bins and number them. Have your child take one item from each bin to make a complete lunch. Refill bins as appropriate.
· Incorporate left overs into lunches. Many kids love left-overs and several do not have to be reheated. These can include cool pizza, meat cut into snack sizes, chips and salsa & pasta with pesto or olive oil. When you finish dinner, simply put left-overs into containers that can be easily taken to school the next day.
· Make your own lunchables. Using a plastic container, fill with 4 cupcake liners. Put a fruit in one, a veggie in one, a lean protein in one and a snack in another. Have your children help choose the items to ensure they will actually eat the foods they choose while at school.
· Make home-made ice packs. Buy sponges at the dollar store, dampen with water, put into a sealable plastic bag and put in the freezer. These are very cheap and easy to make and won’t be upset when they disappear “by accident” of course!
I love fresh produced, but I hate when it goes to waste. I typically buy bananas every week at the grocery store, but often our two member household cannot finish them before they turn brown. I put the brown ones in the freezer until I can make banana bread or a smoothie out of them. Then I realized the entire top shelf of my freezer was filled with brown bananas. Sure, I could buy less, but then of course, we would finish them and wish we had more. I came across a helpful hint online, tried it and thought I would share with you as I am enjoying a yellow banana that I bought 5 days ago!
Most of us have many bottles of vitamin supplements stacked in our cabinets and on our counters. We feel healthier when we take a vitamin, but do you really NEED it and is it helping you? The surprising answer, is NO!
Unless a healthcare provider has prescribed a multivitamin or supplement for you, you probably should not be taking one. First, vitamins and supplements are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration). Thus, you may not be taking what you think you are or the correct amount. The highest quality supplements tend to be the more expensive ones, which are often passed over for those on a budget.
Secondly, vitamins and supplements will not make up for a poor diet. If you eat a healthy, well rounded diet, you are probably getting all of the vitamins and minerals you need. Have your medical provider test your levels to determine if you have any deficiency prior to taking vitamins and supplements.
Furthermore, excessive doses can cause harm or even death! With fortified foods and drinks, multivitamins and additional supplements, it can be easy to unknowingly over dose. Most water soluble vitamins are excreted in the urine when you have too much. However, several vitamins and supplements are not easily removed and build up causing problems. Over supplementing can decrease the absorption of some essential vitamins and minerals. Too much vitamin C or zinc can cause nausea, diarrhea or stomach cramps. Too much selenium can lead to hair loss, GI upset, fatigue and nerve damage and too much vitamin B can cause leg cramps. Exceeding the recommended dose of vitamin D may lead to serious heart problems. Excessive folic acid can mask vitamin B12 deficiency and lead to permanent nerve damage if left untreated. Toxic levels of iron can cause skin discoloration, enlarged liver or spleen, abdominal pain, congestive heart failure, irregular heart rhythms and insulin dependent diabetes.
This is not a complete list of all of the side effects and dangers of overdosing on vitamins and supplements, but this should get your attention to realize that these are not always safe and need to be considered with all of the other medications you take and food you typically eat. Sit down with your medical provider or a nutritionist to determine what supplements are necessary for you and what dose you need to take based on your deficiency and the diet you normally consume.
I had heard of the so-called "super foods" before but had never really paid attention to them. Then I noticed that more and more people were talking about them. I finally did some research to learn more.
Super foods are packed with nutrients that help to fight disease. The vast majority of them are fruits and vegetables. They are listed below:
Other stellar foods to eat are beans, dark chocolate, plain yogurt, flax, citrus, salmon, green tea, yams, oatmeal, and turkey.
This information was obtained from a book called, 21 Super Foods which was published by Siloam in 2014.
I gotta say, I'm loving my Spirelli. We have had zucchini more often, and less pasta noodles.
My latest kick is to make a stir-fry with whatever veggies I have on hand.
I saute the veggies (and chicken if we want meat) in a smidge of olive oil. After they are nice and soft, I add some "sauce"....this time I was lazy and used a Campbell's Skillet Sauce (toasted sesame). You could make your own sauce, or use one of those dry packets where you add water/oil. Whatever works best for you!
I stir the sauce and veggies until everything is coated and warm, and then throw in my zoodles and heat through. I use 1-3 zucchinis, depending on whether or not I want leftovers.
Note: the zoodles are very water-dense, so it's better to use a thicker sauce so the zoodles will thin it out a bit.
The result is a delicious, colorful, nutrient-dense meal that gets me a couple of servings of veggies. You can't beat that!
These zucchini nutritional facts are worth repeating:
A cup of chopped zucchini contains 22 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 24 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 29 percent for women, and only 21 calories. Zucchini has been shown to help regulate blood sugar due to its high amounts of B-complex vitamins. Zucchini also contains zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids which are also important for blood sugar regulation.
I did try a carrot in the Spirelli and it didn't work very well. I'll give it another shot and report back. I'm also going to try a sweet potato.
You know that age-old question: "If you could eat only one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?" For me, it's pizza, but a close second is pasta. That doesn't bode well for my waistline, but there it is.
So when I saw a recipe for healthy "zoodles" I knew that I had to try them. I bought this little gadget called a Spirelli at Bed, Bath & Beyond ($25 with coupon). It's about the size of a drinking glass and very easy to use. You just cut off the ends of a zucchini and hold it in your hand and rotate the zucchini into the Spirelli and out comes "zoodles".
Then you heat the zoodles (I threw them in boiling water for about 2 minutes), and add spaghetti sauce and some freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
My husband was skeptical but after he tried our "spaghetti" he was very pleasantly surprised. You can see that there is green because I didn't peel the zucchini.....extra fiber! But if you are trying to pull a fast one on your kids, peel it first to hide all evidence of a vegetable.
The texture was good, not too crunchy but not as soft as spaghetti. I will play around with it to find the best option. I'm going to steam them next time because I read that boiling leeches out the nutrients.
We always have gobs and gobs of zucchini in our garden each summer, so I will be trying other recipes too. Next up is Chicken Lo Mein Zoodles.
Nutritional Facts: A cup of chopped zucchini contains 22 milligrams of vitamin C, which is 24 percent of the recommended daily intake for men and 29 percent for women, and only 21 calories. Zucchini has been shown to help regulate blood sugar due to its high amounts of B-complex vitamins. Zucchini also contains zinc, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids which are also important for blood sugar regulation.
So load up!!
Quinoa. Ugh! I have tried for years to embrace this wholesome grain and have always come up short. But recently I came across a recipe that looked promising. After a bit of tweaking the result was spectacular. It's easy to make and the leftovers are great in lunches. Even my husband liked it!
1 cup quinoa
1/4 cup lemon or lime juice
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup sliced green onions
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsely
1/2 cup chopped cucumber
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cups halved cherry tomatoes
2 cups diced feta cheese
Cook the quinoa in water as directed on the package.
Throw in a bowl and add the juice, olive oil, and seasonings (I used salt, pepper, and garlic powder).
Throw in the remaining ingredients and gently mix.
You can serve this hot or cold and can use other vegetables and seasonings if you like.
FYI: it is pronounced "Keen Wah".
Organic food is anything grown on a farm that follows strict regulations and does not use chemicals, hormones, pesticides, etc. The belief is that buying organic foods not only promotes your own health, but also that of the planet.
While this sounds great the reality is that organic food usually is not as big as chemically grown food. It can also be quite expensive. If you think you might like to try eating organically, start with the "dirty dozen." These are the top 12 food items that nutritionists recommend you purchase organically because they are the most heavily doused with chemicals. They include:
Shop around for good deals. Some stores offer organic produce at a much lower price than others. You may also find a good food co-op in your area. I am fortunate to live in Amish country and therefore have access to several good, organically-grown farm stands in the summer.
For those who simply cannot afford to purchase organic foods, take heart. You can still thoroughly wash your produce to eliminate most of the chemicals.
With a new year starting it might be a good time to clean up your eating habits. We Americans tend to eat processed and fatty foods that can wreak havoc on our bodies. Many experts recommend we strive for a more Mediterranean diet. It involves eating foods that are popular in countries that border the Mediterranean Sea (think Greece, Italy, etc).
Here are the basic principles of the Mediterranean diet:
I have been slowly adopting this diet and have already reaped the benefits of a smaller waistline, clearer skin, and more energy. It takes time but the benefits make it worth the effort. Those who follow a Mediterranean diet drastically reduce their risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease!
My husband is a diet soda junkie. He can't get enough of the stuff. I keep telling him how bad it is for his health but he does't listen. Being the nag that I am (those are actually my initials), I decided to write an article on the subject.
Diet soda can be sweetened with different artificial sweeteners. There is a lot of research on each of these but it all appears to be inconclusive. Here's what we do know about diet soda in general, though:
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