Juicing/Detoxing: Do This Instead

We previously wrote about the pitfalls of juicing/detoxing.  Although it may not cause any harm (unless you are pregnant, have diabetes, etc.), it won’t exactly “detox” your system or help you lose weight (and keep it off) either. Thankfully, your liver takes care of all the detoxing you need to do. If you are still looking for a way to eat healthier or maybe lose some weight, here’s what do to instead.

Eat more whole foods

A better way to think about eating healthier is to focus on more whole foods, versus other things, like “detoxing” or “eating clean” (all of which imply something extreme). Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible. In other words, whole foods are as close to their natural state as possible. 

Processed Food

Whole Food

Apple sauce

Whole apple

Sweet potato fries

Whole sweet potato

Strawberry fruit by the foot

Whole strawberries

Frozen chicken patty

Whole roasted chicken

Chocolate covered almonds

Raw almonds

Coffee creamer

Half and half

Tortilla shell

Brown rice

Flavored oatmeal

Plain oatmeal with fresh fruit

 

Whole foods are naturally lower in sugar, fat, and sodium and higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A diet consisting primarily of whole foods will help you to feel more energized and less lethargic. The Mediterranean style of eating is a great “diet” to follow. It is primarily whole foods based and is supported by research in reducing risk of heart disease, diabetes, and overweight/obesity. 

Eat less (way less) processed foods

As mentioned above, processed foods are higher in sugar, fat, and sodium than whole foods. Additionally, they are also usually full of additives, preservatives, and unnatural ingredients. Some processed foods are sneakier than you think when it comes to “hidden” ingredients. For example, it is nearly impossible to find a spaghetti sauce without sugar added to it. Instead, try shopping at a health food store such as Trader Joe’s, but always read the nutrition label, as these types of stores also carry high sugar foods as well.  Or, you can make your own homemade sauce using canned or fresh tomatoes and fresh ingredients. Eating a diet high in processed foods is, therefore, more likely to contribute to weight gain and associated diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Drink more water and less sugary beverages

Most of us know by now the importance of drinking enough water. The problem is that more and more Americans are substituting water with sugary beverages such as sodas, sport drinks, fruit juices, and coffee drinks. Did you know that a typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar? That’s almost 240 calories just from sugar. According to the new nutrition guidelines, Americans should aim for less than 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. It’s easy to see how only 1 soda or juice puts you over the limit for the whole day. The problem with eating too much sugar is that it is linked with overweight/obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few.

Get moving

Besides eating healthier, exercise is another crucial component of living a healthier lifestyle. Although exercising won’t directly detox your body, it will help the kidneys and colon get rid of waste, which is really the end goal for most people who are interested in “detoxing”. Exercise also helps fight off some of the diseases mentioned above (heart disease, diabetes, overweight/obesity). Additionally, it will help you to feel more energized and sleep better at night. Having more muscle also means having more lean body mass and less fat mass.

In summary, instead of jumping on the next “detox” fad, adopt a healthier diet and incorporate some exercise and your body will naturally take care of itself. Your liver detoxes everything for you, and there’s no magical tea that replace the liver’s function. Stick to more whole food and less processed foods and you will likely experience the benefits you were hoping for while on a “detox” diet.  

Reshaping Your Environment: Get the most out of your space

It's easy to underestimate the impact of our surroundings on our life. An unsuspecting person may walk into the kitchen and grab a banana out of the fruit bowl without knowing that they would have just as likely grabbed a donut, if it had been there instead of the banana. Think about how much more work you can get done by having your own private office with a door, rather than working in a shared space, such as a cubicle.

Although there are some things that we can’t totally change (such as working in a cubicle), we can almost always make modifications. Whether small or large, reorganizing and setting aside a specific space for your most important tasks, can have a huge impact on your day.

Nutrition

One of the best ways to shape your food and drink environment can be summarized by the old saying “out of sight, out of mind”. Make the healthiest foods, like fruit, the most visible and easily accessible in your kitchen. Conversely, remove all unhealthy, “junk food” from the counter tops (and your house altogether, ideally). If you have a difficult time deciding what is healthy and unhealthy, a good rule of thumb is to not have any food on your counter top except fruit. Also, place pre-made green salads or a bowl of grapes at eye level in the refrigerator to keep them visible. If you spend a lot of time away from home, pack some healthy snacks so that you can create your own healthy food environment anywhere you are. 

The same principles work when it comes to staying hydrated.  Keeping water in a pitcher in the fridge or in convenient water bottles will help keep your family hydrated.  You will naturally tend to gravitate toward the food and drink that is most convenient and visible.

Exercise

What is most important to you when you are exercising? Think of the things in your environment that motivate you the most, and focus on enhancing them. For example, if music is crucial to your workout, then make sure you load up with a good playlist before each workout. If you love being outdoors, then take your workout outside to the park, or your backyard. If you are intimidated by large groups of people, make sure to choose a gym that is smaller in size or offers private workout areas. Regardless of your preferences, make sure that you addressing your needs and removing any barriers from your environment that may be preventing you from exercising.

Sleep

Creating a bedroom that is conducive for sleep is one of the easiest ways to modify your environment. The bedroom should be used for sleep (or intimate time) only. No watching TV and no exercising in there either. Your bedroom should be cool, dark, and quiet. Use blackout curtains and a white noise machine, if necessary. If kids or pets often keep you awake, try to create a specific space for them that is off your bed, preferably in another room.

Mind/Body

As discussed previously, the benefits of practicing mindfulness range from improved sleep, to lower stress levels. Creating a space to practice mindfulness is sometimes as easy as finding an empty, quiet room to sit for a while. Other times, you will want to create a more permanent space that is calm, peaceful, and relaxing. This can be your go-to place when meditating or practicing mindfulness. You will want to make sure this space has a comfortable place to sit, and is not too cluttered with unused items. Instead, have one or two items that inspire you.  These items will help you find your center and practice. Setting aside this space solely for the purpose of relaxation will provide peace of mind, knowing that you have a peaceful place dedicated for this one purpose. 

 

Choosing the Healthiest Sushi: What to Order and What to Stay Away From

 

Oftentimes people think of sushi as a “no-brainer” for a healthy meal.  After all, how can one go wrong with lean protein in fish, carbohydrates in rice, vegetables, and a harmless seaweed wrap? It is important to choose wisely, however, since the dish has become more popular, diverse, and creative over the past few years. Some sushi rolls now come packed with mayonnaise, fried fats, and sugary dressings that make it a not so healthy choice.  Here, we will help you learn to decipher the sushi roll menu, allowing you to enjoy the delicious rolls without packing on the unwanted calories. By knowing what to order and what to avoid, sushi rolls can be a healthy meal, rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals, and lean protein.

 

Basic Tips for Navigating the Menu:

 

Skip the Spicy

 

When a roll is described as “spicy”, this generally means that the roll combines hot chili sauce mixed in with calorie dense mayonnaise.

 

Ask for Brown Rice

 

Many establishments now offer brown rice instead of white rice.  Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate, meaning it is digested more slowly and contains healthy fiber.  This is a better option than the quickly absorbed, refined starches found in white rice.

 

Pass on Crispy

 

This means that a portion of the roll, such as the meat or the onions on top of it, have been fried in fattening oils, giving your roll a huge increase in extra calories.

 

Choose Seaweed or Cucumber Wraps

 

Some restaurants will allow you to swap any rice roll for just a seaweed (nori) or cucumber wrap. This drastically reduces the calorie content of the roll and bumps up the vitamins and minerals. If substitutions are not available, simply choose those rolls that are already rice-free.

 

Use Caution with Specialty Rolls

 

The increasing popularity of sushi establishments also means fancier and more flamboyant choices for rolls.  The specialty section of the menu usually offers rolls with more cream cheese, tempura coating, and mayonnaise to make them larger and add to the “wow” factor of presentation.  It is best to stick to the basics if you are watching your calorie intake, and only enjoy the “special” rolls on special occasions!

 

Avoid Anything Tempura 

 

This, too, means that the shrimp or vegetables have been dipped in batter then deep fried, making that roll much higher in overall fat and calories.

 

Slow Down on the Soy Sauce

 

Instead of filling your condiment cup with soy sauce right away, keep in mind that many of the ingredients are pre-seasoned and may only need a touch of soy sauce, rather than a complete soak! Experiment with wasabi and ginger for added heat and flavor, without all the added sodium.

 

Start with a Sashimi appetizer

 

Sashimi (slices of raw fish) are your best bet when it comes to low calorie, rich in omega fatty acids, and lean protein.  Split a platter with a friend for an appetizer, or order this as your meal without the rice.

 

Last, but not Least, Know the Lingo!

 

  • Futomaki: a thick roll, usually cut into eight pieces. Specialty rolls are usually futomaki.
  • Hosomaki: thin roll with just one type of filling. Single-ingredient rolls such as salmon, tuna, or cucumber rolls are usually hosomaki.
  • Uramaki: a roll with the nori (seaweed) on the inside and rice on the outside. Sometimes called an inside-out roll.
  • TemakiAlso called a hand roll, this is a cone-shaped nori roll with the ingredients and minimal rice inside.

 

Have these tips in your mental toolbox the next time you hit the local sushi eatery, and feel confident that you are making healthy choices!

 

 

Diabetes: What You Need to Know

Worldwide, 382 million people are diagnosed with diabetes.  Diabetes related deaths claim the lives of 1 American every 3 minutes and is the leading cause of blindness, kidney failure, amputations, heart failure and stroke. Besides the enormous physical and mental strain, people with diabetes face the huge cost to treat diabetes. The total cost of diagnosed diabetes has risen to $245 billion in 2012 from $174 billion in 2007 – according to the American Diabetes Association.

The Basics

All cells in the human body need energy.  When you eat or drink, food is broken down into glucose, a simple form of energy the body needs and uses.  Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, helps remove glucose from the blood stream where high levels cause the symptoms of diabetes. Think of insulin as the mediator that is required to carry glucose from the blood stream to the body’s cells where it can be utilized for energy.   Diabetes occurs when there is a problem with insulin production or activity and results in high blood sugar levels. Let’s take a look at some of the differences between type I and type 2 diabetes.  For our purpose in this blog, we will further examine Type 2 diabetes below.  

*Genetics contribute to both types of diabetes

What causes type 2 Diabetes?

Although we don’t know all of the causes of type 2 diabetes, we know that it is likely a combination of genetics and lifestyle factors.  The good news is that type 2 diabetes can often prevented and reversed through changes in lifestyle habits.  In this blog, we examine the relationship between four key areas of health and type 2 diabetes.   

Physical Activity

Lack of exercise is usually correlated with higher amounts of body fat- which interfere with the body’s ability to properly utilize insulin and, therefore, remove glucose from the blood stream.  During exercise the body is forced to use stored energy as fuel for the workout.  When we don’t exercise, our body is not able to utilize its fuel (glucose) as efficiently.  A higher waist circumference (aka “belly fat”) is also highly associated with increased instances of developing diabetes.  This is because excess abdominal fat produces hormones and other substances that cause harmful effects on the body such as an increase in the production of LDL (“bad” cholesterol), heart disease, and increased insulin resistance

How can I prevent/reverse it?  Move more.  Exercise decreases body fat and promotes weight loss.  Both of which have been shown to have a positive impact on diabetes management.  Unhealthy amounts of body fat can impair the system that regulates hormones involved with diabetes. Conversely, muscle helps the body improve the process of insulin and blood glucose regulation.  The recommended amount of physical activity for those with or approaching diabetes is the same as for those without diabetes: 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous activity per week.  Taking a brisk walk, bicycling, and swimming are all good examples of ways to meet this goal. 

Dietary Intake

The typical American diet is high in white bread, pasta, soda, highly processed food, and junk food.  Foods like this which are high in carbohydrates can have a negative impact on diabetes. When too many carbohydrates are consistently eaten, blood glucose levels remain high, and over time, the body becomes less efficient at utilizing insulin to reduce blood sugar levels.  The whole process starts to malfunction and this is the beginning of insulin resistance and diabetes.

How can I prevent/reverse it?  Focus on replacing, not eliminating food groups.  Carbohydrates have a much larger impact on blood sugar levels than fats or proteins, so that’s why it’s important for people with diabetes to be mindful of carbohydrate intake.  In spite of what is commonly said, managing diabetes isn't as much about completely eliminating foods from your diet. It’s more about replacing sugary, starchy food sources like, fried food, soda, and sweets with healthier choices like protein based dishes, low carb fruits and vegetables, and water.  Portion size is a key factor.  Typical meals should consist of a protein, a healthy fat, and a whole grain carbohydrate; a small sweet treat should be reserved for special occasions only. 

Sleep

Research has demonstrated the correlation between sleep loss and risk for weight gain, insulin resistance, and type 2 diabetes.  When sleep deprived, our body’s hormones are thrown out of balance.  For example, the stress hormone cortisol is higher when sleep is inadequate.  Elevated levels of cortisol can prompt insulin resistance which interferes with the body’s metabolism and ability to properly regulate blood glucose levels.  Reduced sleep has also been shown to reduce levels of the hormone leptin which is an appetite suppressant; and increase levels of the hormone ghrelin which is an appetite stimulant.  With these two key hunger hormones out of balance, it is more difficult to regulate dietary intake and this is when we often see overall increased caloric consumption as well as increased consumption of carbohydrates, specifically. 

How can I prevent/reverse it?  Prioritize Sleep. For some, improving sleep may be a matter of prioritizing an earlier bed time.  For others, a deeper delve into personal sleep habits may be needed.  One place to start is to make sure you are maintaining a regular schedule by getting up and going to bed at the same time every day. Secondly, make sure to eliminate all sources of caffeine (soda, coffee, tea, chocolate) at least 6 hours prior to bedtime.  Lastly, make your bedroom a haven for sleep.  A bedroom that is favorable to sleep is one that is dark, quiet, cool, and comfortable. 

Mind/Body

Both mental and physical stress can have an impact on people with diabetes.  Stress hormones like the aforementioned cortisol, and epinephrine can negatively impact diabetes.  Let’s think about the fight or flight process.  When we react to an urgent, stressful situation our body releases a series of hormones that start a cascade of processes that draw energy from our stores which increases blood glucose levels and allows us to utilize energy for our fight-or-flight response.  For people with diabetes, exposure to long term stress hormones decrease insulin’s ability to remove glucose from the blood stream and blood sugar levels become more imbalanced.  It can be a viscous cycle. 

What How can I prevent/reverse it?  Being more mindful of daily lifestyle habits is a good place to start.  According to the American Diabetes Association, you can decrease your risk for type 2 diabetes by making lifestyle modifications like the ones listed below:

Superfood Series: Part 4

Chia Seeds:  Small, but Mighty

What’s not to love about chia seeds? They are unprocessed, whole grain, and chock-full of nutrients.  Chia seeds are jam-packed with protein, fiber, and minerals. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a look at their overall nutritional content. 

 

 

 

Healthy Weight.  Chia seeds are not the magic solution for weight loss that some companies would like you to believe, but their high fiber and protein content make them a viable addition to any healthy weight loss or maintenance plan. Thanks to their high fiber content, chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight.  Their gel like presence in your stomach will help you feel fuller, longer and reduce the chance of over-eating. Additionally, chia seeds contain high quality protein that consists of all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids that cannot be synthesized on their own and must be obtained through food) that will keep hunger at bay and energy levels consistent. 

Healthy Heart.  Chia seeds are a great source of heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  They are a particularly good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. PUFAs can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly type II diabetes. 

Digestion.  Fiber aids in digestion and chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber.  At 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), they are 40% fiber by weight.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans. 

Strong bones.  Chia seeds are high in many critical bone nutrients and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These three minerals account for 98% of the body’s mineral content by weight.  Although, deficiencies in phosphorus and magnesium are rare in the typical American diet, calcium deficiency is more common.  As we age, calcium absorption and retention decreases in our bones.  Including chia seeds in your diet may help offset this natural loss in calcium. 

Antioxidants have been shown to help fight off everything from heart disease to cancer.  Some of the most abundant antioxidants in chia seeds (quercetin, kaempferol,  myricetin, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid) are associated with health benefits such as boosted energy, endurance, and fitness of the brain and muscles; protection against chronic disease such as lung cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes;  and inflammation prevention.      

Athletic performance.  Folklore says that Aztecs and Mayans carb-loaded with chia seeds before an athletic event, much in the same way we do with sport drinks before a sporting event. We’re thinking they were on to something.  In one study, researchers compared athletic performance of athletes who drank Gatorade to athletes who drank a mixture of half-Gatorade and half-chia seeds.  The results indicated no difference in performance between the two groups, suggesting that chia seeds may serve as a possible healthy alternative to highly processed, sugar-laden sport drinks. Furthermore, the high calcium and magnesium content in chia seeds makes them a good source of electrolytes which helps prevent hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise.

Diabetes.  The unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber (10 out of 12 carbohydrates are from fiber) in chia seeds causes a slow and steady rise in blood sugar which is favorable for people with diabetes.  A few clinical studies have demonstrated this favorable effect.  The results of one study indicated that including 37 grams (about 2.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels.  Hint* Substituting chia seeds for bread crumbs and other high glycemic load foods can be a helpful place to start.    

Versatility.  There are many ways to eat chia seeds. In addition to their long shelf life (thanks to antioxidants), chia seeds are so versatile that you can add them to almost anything.  Eat them alone if you’re in a hurry or add them to water or milk to create a thick, gelatinous pudding.  Other people like to add them to salads, sandwiches, and soups.  Check out these other ideas if you’re curious

Resources: 

http://www.eatright.org/Public/content.aspx?id=6442472548

http://authoritynutrition.com/11-proven-health-benefits-of-chia-seeds/

http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/show/3643

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3518271/

http://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Minerals-Calcium-Phosphorus-and-Magnesium.aspx

http://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements/omega-3-fatty-acids-fish-oil-alpha-linolenic-acid/evidence/hrb-20059372

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21183832

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/NutritionCenter/HealthyEating/Polyunsaturated-Fats_UCM_301461_Article.jsp

http://www.chialive.com.au/Chia-Antioxidants.html