Archive for the ‘Diet’ Category

Weekly Review: Veganism

My week as a vegan!

So last week, I decided to give the whole super-healthy vegan thing a try, just to see if I would become one those super-humans who only eats plants and feels amazing all the time. I actually did stick to the vegan rules the whole time (ok, well almost), and there were some good things and bad things I think.

First, the good.

The best thing about trying to be a vegan was that it forced me to cook. Every night. I actually got home from work, opened the refrigerator and pulled out ingredients to make a meal! Crazy! Kevin usually does all the cooking, but eating vegan without him left me no choice. I found myself liking it a bit; there’s something intrinsically rewarding about pulling together a homemade meal that I really did enjoy. I certainly eat a more balanced diet when I make dinner for myself, rather than just eating hummus and pita chips for dinner.

Then, the bad.

I missed my dairy! I have a piece of string cheese and a yogurt for lunch every day and I sorely missed those. I tried to replace them with a Kind Bar and an apple, but it just wasn’t the same. Honestly, it was really hard to feel full. The tempeh tacos I made filled me up, but that’s about it. I always left dinner feeling not hungry, but not really satisfied. Plus, may I’m just not good at making vegan meals, but nothing tasted all that great. It wasn’t that things tasted bad, but just nothing that really satified me in a delicious way.

And, the ugly.

I craved everything I wasn’t supposed to eat. I hated feeling so restricted, and I know that for the future, it just isn’t how I want to live my life. I don’t like feeling that certain foods are off limits, and I don’t want to feel guilty all the time. I much prefer to think about adding good foods, rather than restricting foods. I did find some new foods I’d like to add to my diet, like hemp milk and tempeh, and I found new recipes I’ll keep in the rotation. However, I just couldn’t justify living within such a narrow restriction forever. Plus, I’d have to take vitamins, which I really hate.

I’d love to hear about any of your dietary adventures! Have any of you ever tried veganism or another radical change?

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Vegan… for the week

My haul at the health food store

I’m doing something a little crazy this week; I’m going vegan. Hubby is out of town for the entire week, so I took the opportunity to go to the health food store and buy all kinds of things Kevin doesn’t really want to eat. He’s really a meat and potatoes kind of guy, and I have only successfully gotten him to eat tofu once. He said he liked it, but I think he was just being nice.

The funny thing is, I’m not even a vegetarian. I eat meat on a semi regular basis, and I definitely have dairy every single day. Examining the research, I’m not even convinced that veganism is necessary for optimal health. Several nutrients are really hard to get without animal products (iron and calcium) and some are impossible and require a supplement (B12). Plus, I do think that the health benefits gleaned from a vegan diet have much more to do with the large amount of vegetables and fruits consumed as well as the removal of processed foods and sugar, rather than the removal of any animal products.

So why am I bothering with the whole vegan thing? Honestly, because sometimes we all make decisions based on anecdotes and emotions rather than hard evidence. The past year I have been exposing myself to a lot of health research, and much of that has been about veganism. I read Eat and Run by Scott Jurik, Finding Utra by Rich Roll, The China Study, and watched Food Matters, Forks Over Knives, and Hungry for Change. All of which tout the incredible benefits of veganism. All of these sources go above and beyond just the health benefits; the claims about this diet border on magical. They claim it gives incredible energy, a clear mind and a great mood. They also claim that veganism improves your skin, makes the white of your eyes whiter (really?), and improves libido. So, I guess I figured why not? What’s the harm? Honestly, I thought that if I didn’t at least try it, I’d always wonder.

Lentil stew

So here I am this week, eating as healthy as humanly possible and consuming no animal products. Already, I’m tried new things I never thought I would eat. For breakfast, I make my smoothie with hemp milk, fresh spinach, chia seeds, and a packet of dried green superfood (which includes basically every healthy green plant you could imagine, plus some extracts). My lunch has stayed mostly the same; almond butter of whole wheat bread (although I bought this really expensive sprouted grain bread), apple, banana, organic applesauce, and a Kind bar. I did have to give up my string cheese and yogurt, which I was pretty sad about. Dinner is where things get interesting. Monday night I had tempeh tacos with kale and hummus. Last night I made a homemade lentil stew with sweet potatoes, and on the menu tonight is either quinoa pasta or quinoa with avocado, black beans, and some tofu. I’ve been eating cold quinoa with frozen berries, hemp milk and cinnamon for dessert, which is actually delicious.

The goal is to keep it up at least through Sunday and see if I have any of the proposed “magical” effects. I know that a week may not be long enough to tell, but I’m not sure I could really last any longer than that. Are any of you vegans? What do you think?

I’ll let you know how it goes!

-Sara

Should we be exercising… less?

This might sound crazy to you, but in the quest for weight loss, some of us may be exercising too much. How can that be, you might be asking, since so few people actually exercise? Let me ask you this; for those of you who regularly go to the gym, do you know anyone that you see there every day on the treadmill not getting any thinner? I know I do. There is a new research study out this month that suggests that some people may be struggling to lose weight because they are actually exercising too much!

The study was conducted by the University of Copenhagen and followed the weight loss efforts of overweight but otherwise healthy men in their 20s and 30s. The men were broken up into 3 groups; no exercise, 30 minutes daily and 60 minutes daily. They were told to keep their eating habits constant throughout the duration of the 13 week study. Afterwards, they were weighed, and as expected the group that did not change their diet or exercise habits lost no weight. The 60 minute group lost around 5 pounds on average, so they were mildly successful. However, the 30 minute group lost 7 pounds on average, which was significantly more than the researchers were expecting. How could this be?

One hypothesis is the compensatory eating effect. Those who worked out an hour each day felt exhausted afterwards and may have had an increased drive to eat in order to compensate for the large number of calories burned. The 30 minute group most likely didn’t perceive the effort to be all that hard, and may actually have kept their calorie intake constant. The second and more interesting hypothesis (I think) is the amount of other activity they did during the day. The 60 minute group usually felt pretty wiped out from their workout and spent most of their free time sitting; they took the elevator instead of the stairs and sat on the couch after work instead of tackling some chores. The 30 minute group actually reported feeling energized from their workout and they moved around significantly more during the day.

I loved this study because it actually made sense in my own life. When I was in college I ran both track and cross country. During the cross country season, I ran more miles during the week, and therefore always felt like I was burning a ton of calories. I definitely reduced my other activity and ate as many brownies as my heart desired and looking back at pictures, I was always a little heavier during cross country season.

How much do you exercise? Have you ever felt frustrated that you’re exercising so much and yet not losing weight?

-Sara

Hey guys! I was scouring the internet for interesting weight loss info and came across this article about sleep and weight loss. Hope you like it! -Sara

Guest Blog: Cancer and Nutrition

Please welcome guest blogger Jillian McKee, a Complimentary Medicine Advocate, to discuss proper nutrition when undergoing cancer and cancer treatment.

Cancer is a difficult situation for individuals, their family members and friends. However, eating nutritious food can help improve the quality of life during treatment, alleviate some symptoms, and offer strength and energy.

Nutrition Priorities

Eating healthy under normal circumstances is a good idea. Eating well when you have cancer is a priority, regardless of the type of cancer you may have, such as mesothelioma or any other type of cancer. Frame your eating plan around the following priorities:
            – Maintain a healthy weight
            – Promote muscle mass, strength, and energy
            – Find appealing foods that fit changing tastes and appetite levels

Nutrition Tips

Cancer patients may want to consult a registered dietitian to help find foods that are healthy and also easy to chew and digest.

Consider adding beverages, such as protein shakes, if eating meals becomes difficult. However drinking liquids during meals may increase nausea. A Stanford article suggests that cancer patients take medications with high calorie liquids or shakes. If your appetite is low, light exercise can help stimulate your appetite.

Choose foods high in protein in order to increase energy and maintain weight. Recommended levels of protein for cancer patients are approximately 45 to 60 grams daily. Foods high in protein include cheese, meat, peanut butter, eggs, cottage cheese, yogurt, milk and dried beans.

Avoid spicy foods, overly hot or cold foods, and foods with strong odors. These can make food appear less appetizing and become more difficult to eat.

Nutrition Recommendations

Before beginning cancer treatment make sure that you have plenty of easy-to-eat foods available to you. When preparing food, make and store extras to be easily accessed later. The extras should also be easy to finish making, such as a few minutes in the microwave. If you are too tired to create food, ask friends or family to help cook and deliver meals to you while you are in treatment.

As always, remember to speak with your doctor to receive information on how to handle nutrition during and after cancer treatment.

 

7 Quick Takes from ACSM

Last post about the conference, I promise! 🙂

Since I spent last week at the National American College of Sports Medicine Conference, I thought you all might like to learn a little bit about some of the latest research that’s being discussed! Rather than elaborate on for several blogs, I thought I’d give you the top 7 things I learned at the conference. Let me know if you want any more information!

1. Sanjay Gupta is quite good-looking up close. 🙂 Just had to throw that in there! (Sorry honey) Dr. Gupta came to the conference to speak about health and social media, and though he seemed to be a bit confused about who his audience was ( he thought most of us were medical doctors instead of researchers), he really was entertaining to listen to. He spoke about changing behaviors and how as a society it’s important that we reward healthy choices. The photo below is Dr. Sanja Gupta, Dr. Lustig and Diana Nyad.

2. Diana Nyad is phenomenal! If you don’t recognize the name, she is the 60+yr old woman who made a serious attempt last year at swimming from Cuba to Florida. She spoke about living life to the fullest, having big dreams and focusing on what really matters. While she didn’t present any research or novel ideas, her energy and passion were incredibly contagious. After listening to her speak, Kevin and I went on an 8 mile run. If you ever have a change to hear her speak, don’t pass it up!

3. Learned a new catch-phrase: 5,2,1,almost none. Have you guys heard about this? It’s a quick way to help parents keep their kids healthy without making things too complicated. Every day kids should have 5 servings of veggies/fruits, less than 2 hours of total screen time, at least 1 hour of activity (for kids, playing counts as exercise!), and almost no sugar. While this catch-phrase is technically aimed at kids, if we all lived by these simple rules, we would be much healthier!

4. The old manta “a calorie is a calorie” is most definitely on its way out. I had the interesting pleasure of hearing Dr. Robert Lustig speak about obesity and sugar. If you haven’t seen his youtube video, you should check it out. He gave a 90 minute lecture on the evils of sugar and crazily enough, the video has gone viral. Dr. Lustig has gotten so much attention in part because of the tenacity and bluntness with which he speaks. He has no problem calling sugar “evil” or calling people “fat” right to their faces. While his views are definitely controversial, he does make a very interesting case for the negative effects of sugar and warns that regardless of calorie content, sugar is harmful and can lead to weight gain. This link is from 60 minutes is has both Dr. Lustig and Dr. Sanjay Gupta this is the same information they shared with us at the conferance http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXhKQEdIDa0

5. I learned a little more about high fructose corn syrup; one group of researchers put mice on a high fructose diet and monitored their insulin sensitivity (if you have low sensitivity, you are at risk for diabetes). The high fructose diet significantly lowered insulin sensitivity (bad), but when the mice were put on a regular exercise routine, their insulin sensitivity went back to normal.

6. For those with diabetes, another group of researchers tracked insulin sensitivity 48 hours after a single exercise session and found that just one bout of exercise improves sensitivity for at least 24 hours. The effect doesn’t last much longer than that, which is why diabetes are recommended to exercise 5-7 days a week if they can.

7. Lastly, the research I presented! I found that the flavonoid quercetin, found in fruits and veggies with dark red colors, may help alleviate fatigue induced by chemotherapy. Almost everyone who has cancer and undergoes cancer treatment reports a significant, debilitating fatigue, and I hypothesized that inflammation might play a role. Quercetin is a natural anti-inflammatory, and when fed to mice at regular intervals, the mice experience less fatigue following chemotherapy treatment.

Hope you learned something!

-Sara

5 “Health Foods” that Aren’t Healthy

I know there’s a ton of information out there about what is a “healthy” diet, and advertising doesn’t help to clarify the situation at all. We get bombarded with images of “all natural”, sugar-free, and pictures of skinny people eating and drinking things we think will make us fitter, thinner and healthier. Unfortunately, many of these products don’t deliver what they promise, and instead may wreak havoc on your waistline. Here are the top 5 offenders (in my opinion):

1. Gatorade. This is my favorite product to poke fun at, not because their advertising is deceiving, but because of the way most of us react to it. Every Gatorade ad features professional athletes, extreme endurance runners, and fitness gurus pushing themselves to the max, and using Gatorade to achieve their incredible goals. And yet, who consumes a huge portion of their product? We do. Us 30 min run 3-5 times per week, average joes. Why? We know we aren’t Lance Armstrong or LeBron James, and yet some of us drink these products after every workout. Time for a little reality check; Gatorade (or other sports drinks) are a great way to replenish electrolytes and carbohydrates if you’ve depleted them.  Working out for 2-3 hours at a time in the sun means you’re very dehydrated, have low muscle glucose, and in need of sodium and potassium. If you just ran 2 miles on a treadmill, water will do just fine. For those of you who are interested in exercising to lose weight, Gatorade is a great way to negate all the hard work you’ve just accomplished. Put the bottle down and just have some water. It’s free!

2. Balance Bars. These are one of those energy bars that fall in between a few categories, and may be successful at tricking you into thinking they are incredibly healthy. (I used to eat one everyday!) The packaging has a runner on the front with a 40-30-30 graphic that suggests scientific research has gone into the bar (which it probably has). However, each bar has 200 calories, 17 grams of sugar, and 7 grams of fat. Just for a point of reference, a Twix Bar has 286 calories, 28 grams of sugar, and 14 grams of fat. So, the balance bar is better, but not by much.

3. Vitamin Water. How could something called vitamin water be bad for you? Well, it isn’t necessarily bad, just not as good as they claim. Each bottle of vitamin water contains 120 calories, and 32 grams of sugar (more than the Twix Bar). That’s a ton of sugar for something you’re just sipping on to get some vitamins. You’re much better of drinking water with lemon and taking a multi-vitamin every morning.

4. Diet Soda. You may have heard about this one. There are several reports and publications liking regular diet soda consumption to an increase in metabolic syndrome, type II diabetes, and weight gain. Here’s a nice article reviewing some of those studies. The evidence is controversial; some claim extraneous factors led to weight gain, and that not enough factors were controlled to draw accurate conclusions. What I do think is interesting is that while the relationship between diet soda use and weight gain is weak, there is convincing evidence that diet soda doesn’t lead to weight loss. (at least not in the long-term). Additionally, the artificial sugars and dyes used in soda have been linked to cancer and other digestive issues. If you can, try switching to water with lemon, or put some natural fruit juice in sparkling mineral water.

5. 100 calorie packs of anything. Honestly, I think these are just dumb. I bought them quite a bit in college thinking I would be able to regulate portions better and feel satisfied from a little treat, but it never worked. I would take one pack of 100 calorie cookies to school with me, eat another at dinner, and a third before bed; each time feeling completely unsatisfied with my meager portion of fake food. If you want to eat, then you should eat something whole, natural and real. Yes, it will contain more calories, but it will leave you actually feeling satisfied and you won’t need to eat so much.

What foods do you consider “diet” or “healthy” foods? Has your opinion of what’s healthy changed over time?

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