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Archive for the ‘Fitness’ Category


Diet and Depression

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Depression affects more than 21 million Americans each year. It is the leading cause of disability in the United States for individuals between the ages 15 and 44. Sudden changes, stress, illness or any of various life events can spur depressions. The good news is that studies show that a healthy diet may significantly reduce the risk of severe depression.
 
Research at the University of Eastern Finland included over 2,000 middle-aged or older men who were tracked for an average of 13 years. They found that those following a healthy diet have a much lower risk for depression. In Spain, scientists from the Universities of Las Palmas and Navarra studied a group of 10,094 individuals over four years, and found that those who followed a classic Mediterranean diet were 30 per cent less likely to develop depression. Researchers from University College, London who studied 3,486 civil servants over five years had the same results. It is thought that while different aspects of the diet may have specific benefits, it is the combined effect of a well-rounded healthy diet that has a biggest impact on mood.
 
In addition to the benefits of a healthy diet, a study by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Cancer Institute that included 265,000 people between the ages of 50 and 71 found that those who consumed over four cans or cups of soda per day were 30 per cent more likely to develop depression, in comparison with those who didn’t drink soda!
 
The Mediterranean diet in the Spanish and British studies consists of legumes, fruits, nuts, cereals, veggies and fish. It is lower in meat; alcohol and dairy consumption is moderate. It uses olive oil rather than butter, which many believe is an important a factor in the reduced risk.
 
It’s important to note that the Finnish study did not use the Mediterranean diet, but found that a healthy diet consisting of vegetables, fruits, berries, whole-grains, poultry, fish and low-fat cheese was also associated with a significantly lower risk for depressive symptoms.
 
You have a cornucopia of options when designing your nutrition regimen, so make it one that you will enjoy! Whichever dietary model you choose to follow, be sure to include plenty of antioxidants, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals! Keep in mind, junk food, sugar and processed meats may actually increase depressive symptoms!
 
Protect yourself with a trip to your local produce market… you really will be happier!
 
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A Workout a Day …

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
We’re all aware of health benefits derived from physical activity. Now, a new study indicates that exercise is as good or better than drugs for some common cardiovascular ailments!
 
Researchers at Harvard Medical School and Stanford University School of Medicine evaluated 57 randomized studies that involved more than 14,000 patients who had experienced heart attacks or strokes. The purpose of the research was to judge the effect on mortality of exercise and drugs for four common causes of death: prevention of secondary coronary heart disease, rehabilitation after stroke, prevention of heart failure, and the prevention of Type 2 diabetes. The studies used drugs that are commonly prescribe in specific areas: statins for the prevention of heart disease, blood thinners for stroke victims, diuretics for heart failure, and oral anti-diabetic for pre-diabetes.
 
The results were interesting: no difference was found between patients who took prescribed drugs or those who followed a physical fitness regimen in the mortality rate for secondary heart disease and Type 2 diabetes, while exercise programs were actually more effective than medication in stroke prevention! Only in the treatment of heart failure were drugs — antidiuretics — found to be more effective than a physical fitness program.
 
This is great news, but it has a dark side. A new survey from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that included more than 450,000 randomly selected adults ages 18 and older, found that nearly 80 percent of adult Americans do not get the recommended amounts of exercise each week. It is recommended that adults get at least 2.5 hours of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week or one hour and 15 minutes of vigorous-intensity and muscle-strengthening activities at least twice per week. They stated that physical inactivity leads to more than 5 million deaths worldwide each year! It’s a depressing statistic, but it does demonstrate that improving our health is in our hands.
 
One hundred-fifty minutes of exercise a week may sound like too much at first, but remember, you don’t have to do it all at once. It’s best to exercise each day, if your workouts are of moderate-intensity, you can even break them up into three 10-minute walks five days a week!
 
Get on the healthy side of these statistics, get up and move — the health benefits are worth it.
 
Patients with existing health conditions should talk to their doctor before stopping medication or engaging in exercise programs.
 
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Eight Cold Weather Superfoods

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Many of us mark the cooler season with a couple extra pounds around our waists, or a case of the sniffles and a sad goodbye to all the fresh local produce we’ve enjoyed all summer long. The bounty of late fall and winter harvests offers delicious, satisfying superfoods that are just right for cooler weather and offer a cornucopia of tasty delights!
 
• Michigan apples and fresh, sweet natural cider are at your local produce market now! The apple’s amazing array of benefits includes protection against cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer and asthma! Apples are harvested from August through November.
 
Brussel sprouts are finally gaining popularity. They have great cholesterol-lowering properties, aid in the prevention of cancer, and have been found to actually improve DNA stability! New research on the the anti-inflammatory nature of many nutrients found in Brussels sprouts and their role the prevention of inflammation-related conditions is currently underway. Keep tuned for any new information about Brussel sprouts and Crohn’s disease, IBD, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, obesity, rheumatoid arthritis, type 2 diabetes, and ulcerative colitis. They’re delicious roasted! They’re harvested from September to March.
 
Cauliflower is rich in the B vitamins 1, 2, 3, 5, 6, and 9. Its high vitamin K content helps reduce inflammation and it offers omega-3 fatty acids, healthy fats that are also found in salmon and flax seeds, with extremely low caloric overhead! Cauliflower also helps keep your blood flowing to essential organs! It’s harvested from September to June.
 
Parsnips contain dietary fiber, folate, potassium, manganese and vitamins C, E and K. Tender and sweet, parsnips are great roasted or added to soups and stews. Parsnips are harvested from October to April.
 
Pears are a very good source of fiber and a good source of vitamin B2, C, E, copper, and potassium. They also contain a significant amount of pectin, which is a water soluble fiber. In fact, they’re higher in pectin than apples, which aids their ability to lower cholesterol levels and in tone the intestines. Often recommended as a safe fruit to introduce to infants, they’re less likely to produce an negative response than other fruits.
Pears are harvested from August to February.
 
• All varieties of winter squash are excellent, nutrient-rich additions to you cold weather diet. They’re good to excellent sources of beta-carotene, potassium, fiber, vitamin C and several B vitamins. Known to protect against cancer, heart disease, and cataracts, they may also play a role in reducing lung inflammation and emphysema. Eat roasted with a touch of cinnamon and ginger. Squash is harvested from October to February.
 
Sweet potatoes are rich in vitamin B6, which helps maintain healthy arteries and blood vessels and potassium, which helps lower blood pressure. Rich in vitamins C and E and a great source of beta-carotene, they’re also considered a superior source of fiber, which will help you feel satisfied longer. They’re delicious and simple to prepare, just roast whole with skins on! They’re harvested from September to December.
 
You can maintain good eating habits economically throughout the year by paying attention to seasonal favorites. Our needs and appetites change throughout the yearly cycle. As winter approaches, our bodies use more energy to keep warm, but our basic requirements are the same. Skip the starchy, empty fillers.
 
Make healthy choices, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be able to skip that winter weight gain!
 
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Autumn Bounty: Pumpkins

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Pumpkins are a a symbol of fall, starting in October through Thanksgiving. Their bright orange coloring livens up the browning autumn ; they sit on porches during the end of October and go into pies and breads throughout the winter months. Their orange color also denotes that they are an excellent source the antioxidant beta-carotene, which offers protection against certain cancers and beta-cryptoxanthin, which may decrease the risk of lung cancer in smokers. It’s also a good source of B-complex vitamins — folates, niacin, vitamin B-6, thiamin and pantothenic acid — and a rich source of the minerals copper, calcium, potassium and phosphorus.
 
That’s just the beginning of the great health benefits reaped from including pumpkin in your diet!
 
Weight Loss Support. Pumpkin contains three grams of fiber in a one-cup serving with the low overhead of 49 calories, keeping you fuller longer while keeping caloric intake down. A fiber-rich diet helps you eat less, and lose weight.
 
Aid Vision. That same one-cup serving of pumpkin contains 200 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, which aids vision, particularly in dim light. Extra protection for eyesight comes from the carotenoids in pumpkins, which are converted into a form of vitamin A.
 
Energy Booster. Pumpkins is higher in potassium than bananas! Potassium takes on an important role in nerve signal transmission and muscle contraction, both of which are required for physical activity. Both a mineral and electrolyte, potassium promotes healthy body growth while supporting normal heart, digestive and muscular system function.
 
Healthy Immune System. Pumpkins are a solid source of vitamin C. The beta-carotene that your body converts into vitamin A also helps create white blood cells to fight infection. Studies have suggested that vitamin A may even enhance your body’s response to the flu vaccine.
 
Don’t throw out the seeds! They come with great bonuses of their own. They are high in calories, about 559 in 4/10ths of a cup, but they pack a lot of goodness in those calories.
 
• Pumpkin seeds contain phytosterols, which have been shown to reduce levels of LDL cholesterol and contribut to prostate health for men.
 
• Pumpkin seeds will lift your spirits! The seeds are rich in the amino acid tryptophan, which is important in production of serotonin. They’ll boost you mood, can fight depression and even help you sleep!
 
• Pumpkin seeds are a the simple way to consume more magnesium. Researchers in France found that men with the highest levels of magnesium in their blood have a 40 percent lower risk of early death than those with the lowest levels, and most men can use more! Average daily consumption by men of magnesium is 353 mg daily — 420 mg is the minimum recommended by the USDA.
 
• Pumpkin seeds are a high in zinc, making them great for your skin. Zinc protects your cell membranes, helps maintain collagen, and promotes skin renewal. Zinc is also important in the prevention of osteoporosis.
 
Finally, the latest and greatest pumpkin news may be that the alpha-carotene in pumpkin along with other nutrients actually slows the signs of aging and has been shown to protect against various cancers and cataracts!
 
Pumpkins … a lot more than decoration!
 
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In For The Count

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Whether you are a calorie counter or not, everyone has checked the the number of calories for a meal or item at some point.
 
A common question is, how many calories should you eat a day? That depends on a variety of factors, including age, size, and lifestyle. The Institute of Medicine Dietary Reference suggests that women between ages of 31-59 should eat between 1,800 and 2,200 calories, depending on their level of activity. Men in the same age group should eat between 2,200 and 2,800. Calorie usage varies between individuals and are only one factor in a healthy nutritional regimen. That said, it is important to understand what calories are.
 
A calorie is often described as a measure of heat. It is defined as the amount of energy needed to raise 1 kilogram of water from 15° to 16° Celsius and is provided by fat, carbohydrate, and protein. Counting calories is a method to help balance the calories you consume with the calories you burn throughout the day. What you eat as the source of your calories is vitally important.
 
Counting calories can be difficult. We have busy lives and are eating out more than ever! Fast food and prepared dishes don’t help either. Twenty years ago, the average cheeseburger in the United States had 333 calories now it’s over 600 calories! A small order of french fries from a popular fast food restaurant has 230 calories, 100 calories from fat, 11 grams of fat, 29 grams of carbohydrates, and 3 grams of protein and that’s not counting the 15 calories and 3 grams of carbohydrates with every ketchup packet you use with those fries! Fats have the highest concentration of calories with nine calories per gram of pure fat. Pure protein and carbohydrates each have four calories per gram.
 
The best option is to eat fruits, vegetables, and other lower-fat foods. The simple fact is that you get more food for less calories! A cup of raw broccoli gives you 31 calories, but fill that cup with ice cream and you’re at 250. Additionally, you get all the great nutrients found in healthy, low-fat food, along with the fiber that will keep you feeling full longer!
 
If you eat the right kind of calories, you don’t need to count them. Nearly one-quarter of Americans’ calories come from sweets, soft drinks, and alcoholic beverages (Did I mention there’s 7 calories per gram of pure alcohol?). Five percent comes from fruit-flavored drinks and salty snacks like potato chips, while fruits and vegetables make up a paltry 10% of the average American’s daily calorie intake. In other words, we’re not eating the nutrient-rich foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains that can help prevent heart disease, cancer, and diabetes, as much as the empty, damaging things like candy, soft drinks and white bread that have been proven to contribute to many serious problems.
 
Count calories as a gauge to help balance your diet with your needs, but be sure those calories count when it comes to your health!
 
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Fall Fitness Goals

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Fall is a great time to make changes to your fitness routine. Summer is over, your activities and diet are changing with the season and you ‘fall’ into a new schedule. It’s a great time to take control of those changes and make some positive additions to your lifestyle. Autumn is also a season of practicality and budgeting, whether it’s time or finances! This actually makes it easier for you to set up a reasonable regimen that you can adhere to. You can always expand on your expectations after you’ve experienced some success.
 
Exercise and nutrition, of course, are the keys to positive health outcomes. Try these tips to get started.
 
• The fresh, cool summer weather is the perfect time to start — or restart — an aerobic regimen. Aerobic exercise reduces health risks, helps you lose or maintain weight and is great for the heart. Healthy adults should aim for at least 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of intense aerobic activity per week, that averages out to between 11 and 22 minutes a day, depending on intensity. Aerobic exercises include walking, running, cycling, swimming, aerobic classes, hiking, and stair climbing, among other things. Work up a sweat and get your heart pumping. Break up workouts into easy, moderate, and hard days.
 
• Regular resistance training will maximize fat loss, boost bone density, improve posture, develop muscle tone, and even slow down the aging process.
 
• Be more active throughout your day. Walk a few extra blocks, take the stairs, try dancing while you vacuum! The calories you burn will really make a difference!
 
• Drink at least eight glasses of water every day! The weather may be cooler, but your body still needs to be hydrated! Your body doesn’t function at its optimal level when dehydrated.
 
• Eat small meals throughout the day. Appetites increase in the cooler weather, eating smaller meals or snacks every two to three hours during the day will help suppress hunger. It will also help maintain a balanced blood sugar level throughout the day, which keeps your energy levels up.
 
• Pay attention to eating enough healthy food. Eat five vegetable and three fruit servings every day. Fruits and vegetables are nutrient rich with high water content and low fat and calories overhead. Fill up with fruits and vegetables and you won’t have room for the junk food!
 
• Keep a daily exercise and nutrition journal. Just the act of recording the food you eat and your workouts will help you make better fitness and nutrition choices.
 
Finally, set daily, achievable goals to help reach your long-term personal goal. Your long term goal may be to lose 20 pounds, your daily goals could be to exercise for 20 minutes, drink 8 glasses of water and eat 5 servings of fruit and vegetables. They’re achievable and will go a long way towards your final goal.
 
Happy Fall! It’s all within your grasp, what are you waiting for?
 
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Knee Pain

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Is chronic knee pain putting a damper on your spring workout? More than one-third of Americans are affected by knee pain. Although many people think chronic pain is a normal part of aging, it can affect anyone – regardless of age. Close to 65% of Americans ages 18 to 34 or someone they care for have experienced chronic pain during the past year, and aching knees comes in as the second highest cause!
 
The American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons offers these suggestions to help ease knee arthritis pain and discomfort:
 
Alternate between warm and cool treatments. Different techniques that work for one person may not work for another, but alternating between cool compresses and warm moist heat does provide relief for many knee pain sufferers. Cool compresses reduce inflammation while warm moist heat relaxes and loosen tissues while stimulating blood flow to the area. Be careful and never leave heating pads/towels on for extended periods of time or while sleeping.
 
Strength and mobility training. The exercises you choose will depend on the strength of your knee. Aerobic exercise in a non-weight bearing environment – swimming or bicycling for example– can help you lose weight which will reduce the strain on your knees.
 
Stretch. Stretching the muscles and tendons surrounding the joint can help with some causes of knee pain.
 
Wear appropriate shoes. Shoes absorb the shock during movement. If they don’t, the shock moves up to your knee. For more information on the best shoe for you read our July, 2011 post If the Shoe Fits.
 
There are nutritional alternatives that will help you reduce or manage arthritis pain.
 
Anthocyanins. You can help reduce inflammation by inhibiting production of inflammatory chemicals with the antioxidant anthocyanin. Anthocyanins contribute to the health of connective tissue, and are even more powerful than vitamin C for eliminating the free radicals that irritate body tissues and cause inflammation. Add anthocyanins to your diet with cherries, blackberries, black currents, blueberries, eggplant, elderberries, raspberries, boysenberries, red and black grapes, strawberries, and plums.
 
Ginger and Turmeric. Many spices contain beneficial phytonutrients that can have powerful effects on health. Tumeric and ginger have been show to have anti–inflammatory effects, and are beneficial for joint health.
 
Green Tea. A refreshing beverage cold or hot, green tea contains a natural antioxidant called epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG). Studies suggest that EGCG works to stop the production of certain inflammatory chemicals in the body, including those involved in arthritis. Early research indicates that EGCG and other catechins in green tea may also prevent cartilage from breaking down, extending your joint health.
 
Olive Oil. Olive oil contains a natural compound called oleocanthal which may help prevent arthritis-related inflammation by blocking the same inflammatory pathways as medications commonly used to fight arthritis pain. Use olive oil when cooking instead of vegetable oil or butter. For the highest antioxidant content, choose “extra virgin” olive oil.
 
Omega-3 Fats. Many foods increase inflammation, but omega-3s actually work to decrease inflammation by suppressing the production of enzymes that erode cartilage. Participants in a number of studies have reported more energy, heightened strength, a reduction of joint swelling and tenderness, and less stiffness and pain when omega-3s are included in their nutritional regimen. The best foods for omega-3 fatty acids are include salmon, herring, sardines, anchovies, rainbow trout, flaxseed, and walnuts.
 
Vitamin C. Vitamin C is one of the nutrients most responsible for the health of collagen, a major component of cartilage. Research also indicates that people who eat a diet low in vitamin C have a greater risk of developing some kinds of arthritis. Make vitamin C rich food a part of your daily nutrition regimen. Guava, bell peppers, oranges, strawberries, pineapple, broccoli, kidney beans, kiwi, and cauliflower are all excellent sources of vitamin c.
 
Finally, avoid sugar and foods with added sugar and refined carbohydrates. Eat high fiber foods like whole grains and legumes. Studies have shown that high fiber diets are anti-inflammatory.
 
Don’t let joint pain stop you from enjoying a full and healthy lifestyle!
 
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Age-defying Menu Items

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Summer brings a cornucopia of age-defying goodness along with beautiful weather for outside activities … boost the results of your summer workouts with some healthy food items with long-lasting results! Why do these foods make onto our menu for youth? The list is long, but most are rich in anti-oxidants, protecting you from the damage caused by free radicals. Protect your skin, your eyes, and your immune system with these great summer treats … you may even be able to control the number of fat cells your body produces! You’ll not only look and feel better, you’ll be healthier!
 
Asparagus is a natural detoxifier and diuretic; it is a good source of Vitamin K and C, folate, and phytonutrients – especially glutathione an important antioxidant. A great source of fiber, asparagus also offers inulin, a prebiotic that helps the probiotics in your digestive tract flourish. Get your fresh asparagus locally from May through June.
 
Avocado‘s oleic acid give it a starring role on the health roster. Various studies indicate that this monounsaturated fat can help lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and boost levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol). They’re an excellent source of carotenoids, delivering high-quality vitamin A for eye health while supporting the immune system and promoting healthy functioning of the reproductive system. They’re also a good source of antioxidants, fiber, and vitamins C, K, and folate!
 
Basil can help suppress inflammation, it is also rich in orientin and vicenin, two water-soluble flavanoids that protect cell structure and chromosomes from radiation and oxygen-based damage. The beta-carotene found in basil may help to lessen the progression of asthma, osteoarthritis, and rheumatoid arthritis while protecting cells from further damage. Get the most out of basil by eating it fresh on salads or in pesto!
 
Blueberries seem to make all the ‘healthy food lists here, but that’s only because they’re a known superfood with a wide variety of benefits. Years of research have linked anthocyanin, the flavonoid that gives blueberries their color, with improved memory. Good news … recent studies show that we can freeze blueberries without losing the anthocyanin antioxidants!
 
Garlic and its relatives -— including onions, chives, leeks, and shallots — contain sulfur compounds that may protect blood vessels and help prevent heart attacks and stroke along with cancer-fighting properties. Early research suggests that garlic consumption may actually help to regulate the number of fat cells that get formed in our bodies!
 
Kale is filled with carotenoids and flavonoid, giving it particularly high marks for fighting disease, particularly cancer. Kale is a great source of fiber and sulfur, which makes it a great detox to keep your liver healthy! High in vitamin K, it helps protect against various cancers, aids in normal bone health and the prevention of blood clots … increased levels of vitamin K can even help people suffering from Alzheimer’s disease!
 
Thyme contains a variety of flavonoids, including apigenin, naringenin, luteolin, and thymonin which increase thyme’s antioxidant capacity, it’s also a very good source of manganese, giving thyme a high standing on the list of anti-oxidant foods. Additionally, thyme’s volatile oils have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties that can neutralize disease-causing pathogens, including some strains of E. coli and staphylococcus.
 
Salmon is not only an excellent source of omega-3s, it’s packed with the carotenoid astaxanthin that protect eyes and joints, boosts the immune system, and helps prevent heart disease and cancer. Recent studies find that In particular, adults adults who ate fatty fish twice a week had a 35 percent lower risk of dying from cardiovascular disease!
 
Eating fresh produce and fish not only tastes great … you get huge nutrition returns that help you live healthy, youthful and fit for all those summer plans!
 
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Muscle Cramps

[Written by Peter Nielsen].
 
Cramps — also called charley horses – afflict 39 percent of marathon runners, 79 percent of triathletes, and 60 percent of cyclists at some time, but they’re not alone! Cramps can occur anywhere and to anyone. Whether you’re young or old, extremely active or usually sedentary, chances are you’ve experienced a muscle cramp. Researchers have found that infants, the elderly, the overweight, and athletes are at the greatest risk for muscle cramps, which demonstrates how wide-spread they are!
 
During common cramps, muscles of your calf or foot suddenly become hard, tight, and extremely painful. They are are caused by muscle spasms, involuntary contractions of one or more muscles. While most common in the foot and calf muscles, the front and back of the thigh, the hands, arms, abdomen, and muscles along the rib cage are also common locations for cramps. They occur during, immediately after, or as long as six hours after a workout.
 
The specific factors that lead to muscle cramps has not been clearly defined, however there are several possible causes, including:
 
• Strain on the calf muscles while exercising.
• Insufficient stretching before working out.
• Muscle fatigue.
• Dehydration.
• Magnesium and potassium deficiencies.
• Spinal cord injuries.Pinched neck or back nerves.Poor blood circulation in the legs.
 
If you find yourself grimacing with charley horses there are a few things you can try!
 
• Eat foods high in vitamins and magnesium and calcium.
• Drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated.
• Stretch properly before exercise.
 
Muscle cramps usually go away in a few minutes, but if you experience them frequently for no apparent reason you may want speak to your doctor. Your body may be try to tell you something!
 
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