Friday, February 27, 2009

Clean Up: Healthy Living Could Cut Cancer By 1/3

At least that's what experts are saying. Although we've known that a healthy lifestyle is the key to a long, healthy life for some time now - the numbers really paint a clearer picture and help send the message home. The researchers responsible for these findings are saying that a healthier lifestyle over all (healthy food choices, healthy eating habits, exercise, healthy weight) could cut the incidence of a whole slew of common cancers by as much as 1/3 in the US and even more in some poorer countries! Some of the significant causes of cancer according to the researchers are what people eat, and how quickly they're growing.

I guess it's no surprise to hear that the best foods for you are natural, whole foods, filled with real vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other cancer-fighting properties. Foods such as fruits, veggies, whole grains, low fat dairy, small amounts of lean meats are health-promoting all stars. The big losers, as we all know, are saturated and trans fats as well as all things artificial - processed foods in general. Your plate should be filled with colour - if it's mostly beige or brown then you might be in trouble.

Saturated fats are actually found in nature, but choosing low-fat dairy and lean meats are a good start in helping you cut those out. Trans-fats, on the other hand, are purely man-made and processed foods can be loaded with them. That and a side of sugar plus other fancy chemicals (mmm...preservatives!). I mean, do you really think that food is supposed to stay 'fresh' for as long as it does nowadays? Compare the shelf life of fresh fruits and veg to all that stuff in the pantry.
The take-home message here? The more we mess with the way that nature intended for us to live, as well as digest our food and absorb nutrients, the more we send our bodies out of whack! They can only do what they're genetically programmed to do, so adding too much 'dirty' fuel to the fire can, and likely will, mess up your body's natural balance. Start by making small changes and the benefits will be far-reaching!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Calorie is a Calorie is a Calorie in Weight Loss

That's what a new study has found. The study published in The New England Journal of Medicine has found that it doesn't matter what 'kind' of calories you're cutting (protein, fat or carbs), its the simple reduction of calories that leads to weight loss. It's all in the numbers!

The researchers compared four different popular diets that each focused on some specific principles and combinations of nutrients, ensuring that all participants consumed the same number of calories. The surprising thing they found was that none of the diets were more effective at helping participants shed the pounds.

Bottom line: don't fall for the 'hype' of fad diets. The very best diet you can be on is one that provides you with with all of the nutrients that you need to stay healthy, and is easy for YOU to stick to at the same time. In other words, as long as it fits easily into your lifestyle, you love the stuff you're eating and you're getting the right amount of lean protein, healthy fats and healthy carbs that your body needs - you'll be on the right track to shedding those pounds!

Obesity as Deadly as Smoking in Young Men

Wow - here's some really shocking news! A new Swedish study published in The British Medical Journal has found that being overweight and obese is as hazardous to your health as light and heavy smoking.

The researchers used data from mandatory conscription tests performed when men were 18, which included measures of BMI and questions regarding smoking status. These men were later followed for nearly 40 years afterward. Their findings? Men who were obese at age 18 were twice as likely to die prematurely than their healthy-weight counterparts. But that's not all - these were the same odds that they found when they compared heavy smokers (10 cigarettes per day) to those who didn't smoke!

Now, I don't know about you, but ten cigarettes a day sure seems like it can't be good for your health and if obesity poses the same risks, then it's really time to do something about it. The researchers go on to say that "The global obesity epidemic and smoking among adolescents remain important targets for intensified public health initiatives,". It seems we all know how unhealthy smoking is, and there has been a whole lot of public policy and funding put in place to eliminate it, but maybe it's time that Health Canada and the government took some real action in decreasing the incidence of overweight and obesity in kids. Wait a minute, maybe that's why they brought participACTION back?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

New Study: A Drink a Day Increases Cancer Risk

OK, now I'm confused. Up until now, we've all heard that one drink a day was good for you but that may not be so. A new study out of the UK states that as little as one drink a day is enough to increase the risk of cancer in middle-aged women.

Here's the scary part - It has long been known that exceeding one to two drinks per day in women has been associated with negative health effects, but the results of this study highlight the fact that there really is no 'safe' level of alcohol consumption. The more you drink, the higher your risk climbs. What's really surprising is the fact that this study specifically looked at low levels of consumption and they were still able to find an increased risk of cancer. According to the study, consuming just one drink a day increased the risk of cancer in women by a minimum of 6%! Now, that's no small change!

Of course, a healthy lifestyle is all about weighing risk against benefits. One drink per day is still shown to be good for the heart and there are so many other risk factors for cancer that it's hard to keep track! If a daily drink helps you de-stress and zen out for a little while, then it's up to you to decide if it's something you're willing to risk.

Geez...these days it seems you literally have to "pick your poison"!

'Toxic' Cancer-causing Chemical Found in French Fries

As if you need another reason to step away from the fries, the prospect of downing some acrylamide might make you think twice before you pop one of those golden-brown beauties into your mouth. What exactly is acrylamide? It's a chemical that has been shown to cause cancer in animals, but the risk to human health is not 100% clear.

Now, you're probably wondering why you haven't heard of this stuff yet. As it turns out, acrylamide in fried foods is nothing new. This cancer-causing chemical is produced when specific amino acids and carbohydrates (like those found in potatoes) hit extremely high temperatures (like those found in the deep fryer) and this fact has been known for decades!

Health Canada is only just now proposing that acrylamide gets placed on the 'toxic' food list. The government is doing a sort of 'sweep' in getting rid of all kinds of common and potential hazardous substances that have never been properly tested or regulated for 'safe levels of exposure'.

So, if you're worried about acrylamide but you're not ready to give up potatoes all together, try boiling them for an acrylamide-free meal or frying them at home at lower temperatures.

Ottawa: Spend $700 Million to Fight Heart Disease, Save $22 Billion

According to a report commissioned by the government of Canada, $700 million dollars should be spent by Ottawa over the next seven years to combat the leading cause of death in our country: heart disease. The plan is get people to eat healthier, exercise more and quit smoking in order to decrease the risk of developing heart disease.

But here's the thing - don't we hear this advice all the time? How are they actually going to accomplish all of this? Their answer: "education, legislation and regulation" similar to what's been done in the past with smoking. Similar plans exist for cancer, diabetes, and lung disease, but up until this point there has been no real plan to deal with heart disease and stroke in Canadians. It is estimated that if this plan goes forward, the incidence of heart disease and stroke in Canada could decrease by as much as 25% by 2020 and $22 billion could be saved in health care costs and lost productivity as a result of illness.

According to Sally Brown, CEO of the Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada "We now know that up to 80 per cent of premature heart disease and stroke are preventable,". And that's not all...according to the group, nine out of every ten Canadians over the age of 20 have at least one risk factor going against them! That's a scary thought.

So what does this all mean for you? If you haven't already at least attempted to adopt a healthier lifestyle, you might want to start because chances are you'll be hearing an awful lot more about all of this in the coming years!

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pentagon: US Troops Getting Fat!

File this under 'What the heck....?'. According to the US Defense Department's Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, the incidence of overweight and obesity in US troops has more than doubled since the beginning of the war in Iraq. According to researchers the "stress and return from deployment were the most frequently cited reasons" for gaining weight. It seems that unhealthy eating habits and "sedentary pastimes" such as playing video games have spilled over into the army.

Levels of overweight troops were relatively steady up until 2002, but they have since skyrocketed. According to the study, nearly 1 in 20 members of the service are diagnosed as clinically overweight today, but the number is estimated to be higher. That's some bad news, alright.

According to the study, "Overweight/obesity is a significant military medical concern because it is associated with decreased military operational effectiveness,". Yikes! Those soldiers need to trade in those PS3's for some Wii Fit's!

Lower Your Risk of Cancer by Consuming High Calcium Foods

According to a new study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, diets rich in calcium help lower the risk of certain types of cancers in both men and women. The researchers found that the most positive outcomes were associated with calcium from food, not necessarily from supplements.

Although there has been some debate in the past, the vast number of participants in this study has lent to the strength and validity of the findings. In this study, participants who got the most calcium were the least likely to develop various types of cancer. Men who consumed the most calcium significantly lowered their risk of developing cancer of the esophagus, the head and neck and the colon. High levels of calcium consumption in women were linked to lower levels of liver and colon cancer.

The highest effective level of calcium consumption was 1,200 mg per day, and anything more didn't have an effect on participants' abilities to ward off cancer. This is a relatively easy amount of calcium to obtain from the diet - you can get it from obvious sources such as dairy products, soy products or calcium-fortified orange juice. Almonds, beans, legumes and dark leafy greens are also sources of calcium. Just one cup of cooked broccoli contains about 74 mg of calcium.

Choosing a variety of foods rich in calcium in your diet comes with the bonus of including numerous other nutrients that your body needs for optimal performance. Bottom line - Participants who got the most calcium were the healthiest over all.

There's a Reason it's Called 'Fat Tuesday'

For those of you who don't know (or don't care), today is Mardi Gras. Literal translation: Fat Tuesday; the day when you're "supposed" to pig out and eat pancakes. Just watching the news this morning I saw images of happy diner patrons consuming whipped-cream and maple syrup laden pancakes the size of my head (with a couple of blueberries sprinkled on top...). I couldn't help but wonder how many calories are in all of that?

After a little bit of research, I changed my tune and realized that maybe this "Fat Tuesday" isn't such a bad idea. You see, the tradition of pigging out or "fattening up" on Mardi Gras is actually a custom of the Catholic religion done in preparation for 40 days of fasting and sacrifice for Lent. Maybe this is an extreme example of discipline and a once-in-a-while treat, but I think it goes to show that you can most definitely reward yourself with a bad-for-you, full-fat treat so long as you counteract all the bad stuff by making up for it with really healthy, disciplined eating habits combined with exercise.

Sure, you could always create healthy, low-fat treat recipes if you want to have them more often, but where's the fun and reward in that? Besides, shocking your metabolism once in a while is not such a bad idea, as long as it is just that - once in a while! Now where's that whipped cream......?

Friday, February 20, 2009

What Everybody Ought to Know About Root Veggies...

Doctors, nutritionists and Dietitians alike praise root vegetables like jicama, rutabagas, carrots, beets, turnips and radishes for so many reasons. For one thing, they pack a major nutritional punch on a budget - which is a major bonus in these tough economic times. Not to mention, they have a super-long shelf life compared to other produce - sometimes up to three weeks in the fridge!

Root veggies are a great way to to get your daily dose of fibre, antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. We at NIM love root veggies, too and you can find a wide variety of them in our delicious recipes.

Warning: Fast-Food Restaurants Increase Risk of Stroke

Sounds pretty obvious, right? Well, it's not exactly what you think. A new study has found that the more fast-food restaurants a neighbourhood has, the greater the risk of stroke is for those living there. There is no direct proof that simply living in these areas will actually increase your risk of having a stroke, but there is a strong association.

The researchers are not sure as to whether the increased stroke risk comes from actually eating more fast food, or if it's because the neighbourhood is not a healthy environment in general (i.e. there are no healthier options and health promotion is poorer). Communities with a greater number of fast food restaurants are more likely to have residents with heart disease and obesity as well.

Once again, folks, the key to a healthy lifestyle and reducing your risk of stroke, heart disease and obesity is to stay away from unhealthy food options such as fast-food restaurants and stay active in your daily life. If you simply lack the time to cook up healthy meals and are looking for a solution, you should know that there are "Fast" food options available that can actually improve your quality of life...NIM is the perfect example!

Because it's Not Only About Eating Right!

As we were scanning the interweb this morning to find an interesting piece of news that our NIM readers would find both interesting and relevant, something dawned on us. As much as eating right to maintain a healthy and balanced lifestyle is certainly a worthwhile endeavor. It's also okay if you're signed up with NIM Diet simply so that you'll one day look like this...

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Sugar: Coming to a Soda Near You

Wait, but I thought it never left? Actually, for a long time, soda has been sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, which is a fancy name for another form of sugar manufactured from corn. HFCS has been a staple in the food and beverage industry for decades because corn is abundant and it's cheaper to use than sucrose from such sources as real cane sugar. There have been many studies published about the potential health risks of HFCS although the jury is still out on whether it's actually worse for you than table sugar.

In an interesting marketing move, Pepsico is "throwing back" to a time when the real stuff was used in their sodas by pumping out "Pepsi throwback" and "Mountain Dew throwback" for a limited time. These sodas will be sweetened with real cane sugar.

So, if you enjoy having 10.5 teaspoons of sugar in your soda, you might have just found yourself a more "natural" alternative to high fructose corn syrup!

Brain Age: Save Your Money, Play Scrabble

The effectiveness of Nintendo's Brain Age and other 'Brain Exercise' games has been put to the test lately. In a recent study from the University of Rennes, Brittany, researchers found that playing Brain Age was no more effective than simply playing scrabble or completing Sudoku puzzles. Another review study which appeared in Alzheimer's and Dementia suggested that there is actually no evidence that these sorts of "interventions" delay or slow the progression of cognitive changes in the elderly.

In terms of entertainment, these games are all fine and great, but they have been marketed as "secret weapons" in the fight against aging brains, which they are most definitely not. There is no harm in playing these games as long as they don't take time away from participating in other, proven "brain aging" interventions such as simple exercise or physical activity.

Nintendo actually acknowledges that these games are only "inspired" by claims that the brain needs exercising, just as the body does. Also, they have never actually claimed that there is any scientific basis behind their popular video games.

Hmm...something to think about next time you're thinking of flexing your cognitive muscles.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

So Long Stress! How You Can Conquer Cortisol

You know you lead a busy lifestyle, but sometimes stress just sneaks up on you and you don't know what to do about it. Why do we even get stressed in the first place? Blame our ancestors.

Stress hormones such as adrenaline and Cortisol are produced by the adrenal glands whenever we feel as though we are in some sort of danger. You may have heard of the "fight or flight" response, which means that your body experiences a rapid (acute) release of these stress hormones in order for you to garner all of your strength and avoid a crisis situation. You almost become super-human for that time and can do things you would not normally be able to do. Historically, this response was meant to protect early humans from being eaten by lions or bears, but, um...I don't see any lions or bears around. And I don't feel super-human when I'm stressed, just frazzled, hungry and tired! When we talk about "stress" today, we really mean chronic stress.

The stress response isn't meant to be chronic, or constant, such as what we are experiencing nowadays. Our bodies don't know the difference between a lion and rush-hour traffic jams, and thus we are constantly overworking our HPA axes and stress responses, leading to potentially disastrous effects. Chronically high levels of stress hormones can send your blood pressure skyrocketing, leading to heart disease. It can also cause sleep problems, a depressed immune response and weight gain.

Well, now that we've cleared the air - here are some tips for how you can quell the unhealthy effects of chronic stress:

- give meditation a try
- listen to your favourite tunes
- get some more sleep or take naps
- drink black tea
- have a really good laugh
- grab a massage
- and lastly, chew some gum!

Can you say Om?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Discipline and Restraint: What Research Says About Dieting

Dieting can be tough - just ask Oprah Winfrey. Anyone who has struggled with their weight in the past (or currently) can attest to the fact that those extra pounds just seem to sneak up on you, and before you know it, you're tipping the scales. In this sense, dieting can be futile and most definitely confusing; there are so many diets out there! What is the "right" or "best" way to lose weight and keep it off for life? A growing body of research is pointing to the fact that - you guessed it - successful dieting requires a great deal of restraint and discipline.

Anyone who has ever "black-listed" certain foods, or has restricted or restrained them from their diet can attest to the fact that sooner or later, they're going to snap and binge on all of those goodies (or should we call them baddies?). Previous short-term research studies can back this up. So isn't it better just to eat these "bad" foods in moderation so that we aren't inclined to pig out? That would make sense in a perfect world, but it's actually very wrong. You see, most of us aren't disciplined enough to know what "moderation" is! We are, after all, human, and we are inherently driven by our instincts. Visual cues, scents and the "just one bite" approach might send you into a pig-out frenzy. Sometimes we just don't know when to stop, or we simply lack the willpower to de-junk our kitchens and homes to avoid temptation in the first place.

New research published in The American Journal of Health Promotion points to the fact that demonstrating restrained eating - which means avoiding unhealthy foods and substituting them with healthy ones - can reduce your risk of gaining weight by almost 2.5 times in the long run. The researchers highlight the fact that if we want to maintain our weight or lose weight, we simply can't eat whatever we might desire.

As tough and time consuming as it might sound, there is more evidence than ever that keeping food diaries, counting calories and periodically weighing oneself is a sound practice. This allows you to do the math - you can see exactly where and when you consumed those extra calories, backed by a change in the numbers on the scale. If you do tend to pig out, the numbers will speak for themselves, and you will know what you have to do if you really want to lose weight. If we do indeed practice restrained eating, and we rid our homes and environments of "bad" foods, then they just aren't there for us to snack on. Once in a while, as a reward it might be nice to have a brownie or two, but if you keep track of where you pigged out then you know just what is throwing your diet off.

If all of this is way out of left field for you, or you simply lack the time to keep a food journal- consider consulting a registered dietitian or going on a meal plan such as NIM where your calories are calculated for you, meals are pre-packaged, and there is no temptation to keep going back for more. The researchers involved in this study found that individuals who received help in the form of consultation over the phone actually doubled their intake of fruits and vegetables and made other healthy changes to their diet. The easier dieting is to understand, the easier it is to take action to make changes.

Disciplining yourself to control your exposure to high-calorie, unhealthy foods can be very difficult, especially when temptation is all around you. That's why it's your job to get rid of what tempts you at home, and be as strong as you can when all of your friends are eating foods that you know you shouldn't. Other suggested practices for successful weight loss include eating routine meals -keeping a schedule - so that your brain knows when it's going to get what it wants, and you will be less inclined to reach for the nearest piece of food (what ever it might be!) when you are hungry.

Part of the challenge of a healthy lifestyle is to re-define your rewards and re-program your brain and body to enjoy and prefer healthy food over the bad stuff. Just be sure that you do actually reward yourself for hard week of work. If you know you are going to eat dessert on Friday, or bacon on Sunday morning, then you will be far less tempted to cheat at any other time during the week, your cravings won't be as bad. All things considered, you have to keep your mind, body and soul happy if you truly want to achieve your goals, whatever they may be.

Step Away From the Milkshake...

Yes, we realize it's not easy to resist a Baskin Robbins Chocolate Oreo Shake. Especially when it's oh so good. But we just thought you should know that it was rated, according to a recent article in Men's Health, as the worst food in America of 2009.

A large Baskin Robbins Large Chocolate Oreo Shake contains a whopping 2,600 calories, 135g of saturated fat, 263g of sugar and 1,700mg of sodium.

Also making the list assuming you haven't already wised up and got yourself on NIM's healthy diet delivery is Outback Steakhouse's Baby Back Ribs (2,260 calories), Dairy Queen's 6-Piece Chicken Strip Basket and Chili's Smokehouse Bacon Triple-the-Cheese BigMouth Burger (which we're fairly confident clogs our arteries just by reading out loud).

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentine's Day Treats That Won't Derail Your Diet!

Think Valentine's Day has to be a diet disaster? Think again! Here are some sweet and healthy food and drink ideas to make your special day a little bit more romantic while sparing your waistline.

Coffee - Sometimes regarded as an aphrodisiac, coffee awakens the senses and stimulates the body and mind. Engage in a little romantic conversation with your honey at your favourite coffee shop in the afternoon to get the romantic vibes goings. Coffee has many health benefits so long as you are conscious about what exactly goes into your brew. Skip the sugar (or use less) and opt for a low-cal sweetener, making sure to ask for skim milk or low-fat soy in your concoction. You could even add in a little chocolate syrup and a tablespoon or two of whipped cream (only about 25 calories per tablespoon) for a little indulgence that won't throw your diet out the window. Your guilty pleasure will taste so good you won't even miss those empty calories!

Dark Chocolate - Dessert doesn't have to equal a ton of extra calories and sugar if you are smart about it. There have been so many good things said about the amazing delicacy known as dark chocolate that there's no way you can't have some on Valentine's Day (as if you even needed an excuse)! Dark chocolate is actually being touted by some as a 'health food' because it is so rich in antioxidants called flavinoids which can help prevent disease. These antioxidants are found in the cocoa beans, so the higher the percentage of cocoa in your chocolate, the better; aim for at least 60%. Warning: White chocolate contains zero cocoa, so steer clear of it!

Be careful not to over indulge, however, because despite the fact that dark chocolate can lower cholesterol and blood pressure in small amounts (about 6 grams or so), it is also loaded with sugar and fat - consume too much and you are doing yourself a major disfavour. Try making a few dark chocolate-dipped strawberries and other fresh fruits such as pineapples and bananas for a sweet, romantic dessert that packs more good stuff than bad.

Wine - A staple on Valentine's Day or any other romantic occasion, both red and white wine offer health benefits if consumed in moderation. The alcohol and phytochemicals found in wine can actually reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease. One to two drinks a day is all it takes - any more and, again, those health benefits are lost.

If you're out for drinks with your sweetheart, alternate glasses of wine with a tall glass of water. Really take your time sipping and tasting the flavours in your wine, and enjoy each other's company.

Over all, the key to a healthy, balanced lifestyle is moderation. Sure, you've heard that a million times before, but it really is true. Stick with these guilt-free Valentine's Day suggestions and you'll be on the right track to health (and romance!).

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Save Money, Buy Apples

Did you know that multivitamins are the most commonly used diet supplement on the market.

Did you also know that according to the recent issue in the Archives of Internal Medicine, researchers found no evidence of any benefit from multivitamin use in any of 10 categories, including no differences in the rate of breast or colon cancer, heart attack, stroke, blood clots or mortality.

"I don’t want to disparage people who take multivitamins," said Dr. Neuhouser when asked to comment, "But If they want to choose to spend their dollars elsewhere this might be a good place to do so. Perhaps fruits and vegetables.”

Further confirming the old-adage that an apple a day keeps the doctor away!

Not Losing Weight On Your Diet? Check Your Eating Habits

You may think that your current diet is super-healthy and perhaps you are flabbergasted by the fact that you just can't seem to shed those pounds. Well, look no further - you may be sabotaging your own weight loss goals without even knowing it by succumbing to these naughty eating habits.

1. You Skip breakfast. You might think that you're saving yourself a few hundred calories by not eating that bowl of oatmeal in the morning - WRONG. This is a common mistake that many Canadians make. You need to eat breakfast in the morning to rev up your metabolism and fuel up your body in order to face the challenges of the day. Think about the word- you are literally 'breaking the fast' that your body went into while you were sleeping. The longer you hold out, the hungrier you will get and the more likely your body will be to store those calories because it thinks you are literally starving. Not to mention the fact that you will probably consume a ton more calories later on to compensate, throwing both your metabolism and blood sugar out of whack.

2. You 'graze' throughout the day. Aren't we supposed to eat more, smaller meals as opposed to just three big ones? Not necessarily. Yes, eating 5-6 smaller portions as opposed to 3 meals of the same caloric value can be beneficial by keeping your metabolism constantly working and your blood sugar levels more stable, however, the blunder that most people make is that they can't keep their hands out of the proverbial cookie-jar. Grazing doesn't mean "keep snacking" all day! You do need structure in your diet and whether that means eating more often or actually sitting down at the table for three meals a day is up to you - just make sure you're aware of what exactly goes into your mouth!

3. You think you can eat as much "healthy" food as you want. Isn't that why it's called "healthy" in the first place, because it's low in calories? Absolutely not. While it's true that foods like fruits and veggies are usually very low in calories, foods like whole grains, nuts, seeds, fish such as salmon, and chicken can pack quite the caloric punch if you are not careful to portion control your servings. For example, the recommended serving of almonds per day is about the size of a closed handful and I think we all know just how easy it is to keep going back for more trail mix!

Now that you are packing this arsenal of healthy eating tips, take a step back and re-evaluate your eating habits to find out where you might be tripping up.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Obesity During Pregnancy Increases Odds of Birth Defects

New research out today in the Journal of the American Medical Association gives obese women another reason to shed the pounds, especially if they are considering becoming pregnant. The researchers suggest losing any extra weight before conceiving - here's why.

Obesity poses major health risks to pregnant women and their unborn children. Obese women are more likely to give birth to children with neural tube defects such as spina bifida, heart problems, cleft palate, water in the brain, problems with the growth of arms and legs and several other defects. Pregnant obese women risk facing gestational diabetes, high blood pressure, an increased risk of blood clots and a higher chance of requiring C-sections (babies born to obese women are often larger than average).

According to the World Health Organization, 400 million people around the world are obese and this number is on the rise! In 2004 in the US alone, one third of women aged 15 and over were obese! Despite the fact that on the whole the occurrence of such birth defects is low, the risk that obese women face is several times higher than women of healthy weight.

The exact mechanism that links maternal obesity to an increased risk of birth defects is not yet clear, however the researchers suggest that obese women who are considering becoming pregnant should check with their doctors and make sure that they are at a safe weight. They should most definitely seek help if they are overweight so that they can improve their diet and lifestyle, and eat healthfully and sensibly in preparation for pregnancy.

In fact, all women of any weight who are considering pregnancy need to make sure that they are eating right in order to support the healthy growth and development of their children.

50 Minutes of Exercise Per Day Keeps the Weight Off

One day they say it's 30 and the next it's 50? What exactly is going on here? According to updated guidelines from the American College of Sports medicine, the amount of recommended daily physical activity has been increased to prevent people from gaining weight, help them lose weight and maintain weight loss.

You see, 30 minutes of moderate intensity exercise per day, 5 days a week is absolutely great if your goal is "modest" weight loss or to help maintain weight loss, but increasing that number to 50 has been shown to assist in "significant" weight loss and a greater likelihood of keeping the weight off in overweight and obese adults. Strength training has also been recommended as a part of a healthy lifestyle and fitness regimen, because by adding some muscle to your frame, you increase your fat-free mass, boost your metabolism, and, get this - muscle actually helps burn fat for you.

All in all, combining a healthy, calorie-reduced diet with exercise or physical activity is far more effective in helping you lose weight compared to just dieting alone. Get Moving!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Parents to Blame for Childhood Obesity is reporting that a new study suggests that parents play a huge role in the growing obesity problem among young children and teenagers.

According to the research, "adolescents are more likely to eat at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day if their parents do. Contrarily, teens whose parents eat fast food or drink soda are more likely to do the same."

Which means, if your child is starting to look like the kid in the photo above, you may have yourself to blame!

The Skinny on Probiotics

We've all seen those commercials with belly-dancing midsections and ladies clad in yoga gear enjoying their yogurts, but really - what's the deal? What are pre- and probiotics and why are they so popular all of a sudden? Well, probiotics most definitely aren't new - they have just received a lot more attention in the past ten years or so as a result of their positive effects on our health.

To put it simply: probiotics are the "good" or "friendly" bacteria that live inside of your intestines. Having a healthy "gut flora" as it's called, is a key factor in promoting healthy immune and digestive systems through the absorption of nutrients. Prebiotics, on the other hand, are food ingredients that we cannot digest or break down but they nourish our gut flora, stimulating it's growth and colonization of the bowels. Keep in mind that we also have "bad" bacteria living inside of us, only it is normally kept in check and balance by all the good stuff. If, for some reason the scales tip toward the "bad" side, we are prone to falling ill. Case in point: diarrhea.

Now, food companies and their marketers have jumped on the probiotic bandwagon en masse, even "challenging" us to try their products, promising to make us feel better. The thing is, almost all yogurts contain live active cultures such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium (check the label), but these new yogurts have fancy, new patented and perfected strains of bacteria that are promised to be even better than before. Some yogurts have two or three strains, some have exclusive strains and some even have prebiotics in the mix! With all of this bombardment of options, are any of them actually worthwhile to try?

Certainly, every little bit helps. Studies have definitely found that probiotic cultures do indeed aid in improving our health, but it's important to realize that these yogurts and other products sold on a mass scale usually contain very few probiotic ingredients and won't do that much for you. Use them as a means of maintaining good health (as yogurts provide you with calcium and other important nutrients) as opposed to a treatment. In other words: don't look for a cure or some life-changing experience if you choose to consume these products. If you are looking for a therapeutic dose of probiotics, do your research or ask your doctor for a recommendation.

More research is in order on many of these "new" strains of bacteria present in popular yogurts, however most experts agree that consuming them can't hurt! It's worth a try. And if you do decide to give yogurts a try as a kind of "intro" to probiotics, opt for plain or non-fat yogurts in a bid to save your waistline; the fruity ones are often filled with crazy amounts of sugar and pack quite the caloric punch! Try adding your own fresh fruit for a tasty treat.

Bottoms up!

Monday, February 9, 2009

Is Vitamin Water a Scam?

Is one of the latest trends in addictive health drinks simply an elaborate scam to get you hooked on more sugar?

If we're to believe a recent blog post over at, absolutely!

Because it turns out that aside from Vitamins, this so\-called energy drink has unhealthy amounts of "Natural Flavors" which any doctor will tell you is code for sugar, sugar and more sugar (that's not a good thing in case you're wondering). Sugar acts like an H-bomb on your system, giving you a quick explosion of energy followed by plummeting disaster,as your pancreas and other glands do all they can to balance out the toxic stimulation to blood sugar.

So the next time you think Vitamin Water is healthy, why not try regular water. Or green drinks, homemade orangina or ginger ale to replenish vitamins and quench thirst.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Hey! Have You Heard?

Be sure to check out NIM's facebook page for the latest scoop on what's new at NIM including contests, photos, videos, links to follow us on Twitter and Youtube and more!
Happy Friday!

Vitamin D: The Sunshine Vitamin (and So Much More)

We've all heard something or another about vitamin D, but what's the story? In truth, if there's one supplement we should all be taking during these winter months, it's vitamin D. You see, vitamin D is normally produced through by regular sun exposure - all it really takes is about 15 minutes of sticking your arm out the window in order for your body to absorb UVB rays and produce vitamin D on it's own. The problem we're facing here as Canadians is that for about six months of the year, there simply is not enough sunlight (or skin exposure) for us to be able to produce adequate amounts of the "sunshine vitamin".

OK, now you know that you probably aren't getting enough vitamin D at the moment, but what does that matter to you? Vitamin D helps the body use calcium and phosphorous to build and maintain strong bones and teeth. Without adequate levels of the vitamin, calcium and phosphorous can start to leach out, leading to weakening bones and teeth and can even lead to osteoporosis in older adults. Vitamin D has also been touted to protect against many diseases and ailments such as diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, certain types of cancers, support a healthy immune system, ward off infections and so much more!

To cap things, new research published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism suggests that teenage girls with higher levels of vitamin D may be able to jump higher, faster, with more power and force than their peers - a muscular advantage! As well - today new research has been announced which has found a link between vitamin D deficiency and the risk of developing MS in those who may be genetically predisposed to the disease by affecting certain genes.

According to 1997 guidelines, the average Canadian should consume 200IU of vitamin D per day and double or triple that if they are over the age of 50. The highest safe level is 2000IU. Now, you might be thinking that 1997 was an awfully long time ago from a research perspective and you are absolutely correct. Since these findings were published, there have been literally thousands of additional studies which are pointing more and more to the fact that adults should actually be consuming 1000IU per day, especially in the winter. The Canadian Cancer Society is one of the biggest proponents of this recommendation.

Maybe you think you can get all of your vitamin D from food? Good Luck! I don't know about you, but I can't exactly drink 2.5 litres or ten cups of milk every day (not to mention older adults!!). Vitamin D supplements are safe, inexpensive and very convenient to take.

So, in the words of Dr. Paul O'Connor, director of the MS program at U of T and scientific and clinical advisor for the MS Society of Canada - "I think every Canadian should make sure they're taking enough vitamin D". Agreed!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Eggs: The Perfect Food?

Eggs are convenient, versatile and delicious, but it seems that they've been given a bad reputation in the past few years. So with all this talk about eggs being "perfect" nowadays, why aren't we eating more of them?

In a (nut)shell, eggs contain more nutrients than most foods. An average large egg provides the gold-standard in high-quality protein and almost every nutrient essential to sustaining life. One large egg is loaded with more protein than milk, fish, beef or soybeans and keeps you feeling full, satisfied and satiated. Plus, at only 70 calories a pop, it's a wonder that we're not taking advantage of these wonders of the natural (and culinary) world.

According to many research findings, eating just two eggs for breakfast may help overweight adults shed the pounds while at the same time increase their energy levels. According to researchers, eating eggs for breakfast can dramatically improve the odds of successfully losing weight and sticking to a weight loss plan. The feeling of fullness and satisfaction that eggs provide help people stick to a reduced-calorie diet.

But aren't eggs high in cholesterol? Not to worry. In the above noted study, participants' levels of HDL and LDL remained unchanged. If you want to be a bit more cautious, eating an average of one egg yolk per day will not hurt your cholesterol levels, according to University of Massachusetts researchers. Obviously, if you have high cholesterol, you should consult with your doctor to see if egg yolks are right for you, but that's not to say that you can't still enjoy the benefits of egg whites!

Nowadays, eggs are considered to be a functional food - not only do they cover our basic nutritional needs, but they also play an important role in the healthy development of the body.

Eating high-quality protein at breakfast seems to be the key to long-term weight loss and maintenance. Check out how to make NIM's amazing pizza omelet here and get on the right track to weight loss with NIM.

Get cracking!

Addicted to Caffeine? Maybe That's a Good Thing...

Caffeine is the world's #1 drug of choice: it promotes wakefulness, mental acuity, athletic performance and is also commonly used as a fat burner to improve body composition. It's safe to say that most North Americans rely on caffeine to get through their days, most commonly in the form of coffee, tea and energy drinks such as Red Bull.

As you can see, the benefits of coffee are many, and new discoveries just keep percolating in. In a recent review study, researchers found a link between drinking caffeine and a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes. The more coffee that was consumed by participants, the greater the risk reduction. Similarly, a study in the Journal of Alzheimer's Disease found that middle-aged Finnish adults who regularly drank several cups of coffee per day had a lower risk of developing dementia later in life. The adults drank 3 to 5 cups of Joe per day and were found to be 2/3 less likely to develop dementia than their non-coffee drinking counterparts.

Well, all of this sounds great, right? But is it possible to have too much of a good thing? There is much debate as to whether or not caffeine is addictive, but in being a drug, most experts agree that it certainly can become addictive. It all depends on your age, weight, metabolic rate and personal sensitivity to caffeine, but as little as 2.5 cups of coffee per day might push you over the edge. If caffeine is withdrawn for as little as 24 hours, symptoms such as headaches, irritability and fatigue start to manifest. Sound familiar?

It is recommended that adults limit their daily caffeine intake to 250mg per day, which is about the equivalent of 2 regular cups of coffee, to be on the safe side. With very high levels of caffeine consumption, the risk of potentially serious side effects such as cardiac and bone loss effects increase. This, in addition to caffeine's diuretic effects (water loss) make too much caffeine a potentially dangerous thing.

Oh, and speaking of dangerous, try keeping your coffee or tea as simple as possible. On their own, coffee and tea pretty much have zero calories, but once you start adding sugar, cream and syrups, you can rack up quite the hefty calorie content in your beverage of choice. Now, that's definitely not conducive to weight loss!

Be smart and cautious about your caffeine consumption. Nobody is suggesting that a caffeine free-for-all will cure all that ails you, but caffeine can certainly be a useful tool in achieving weight loss, productivity and improving overall health.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Avoiding the Pitfalls of Diet Temptation

OK, we have all been there. At home, at a friend's house or at work, somebody mysteriously left a box of donuts open, or a bowl of chocolate-covered almonds out. How about the time you went out "just" for a coffee and came back with a muffin, too? Temptation is brutal, but the good news is that there are ways to avoid it!

First thing's first - ALWAYS be prepared! If you are full, you are a lot less likely to cave and cheat on your diet. That means eating a satisfying breakfast each morning and making sure you fill up on protein and fibre if you know you might face temptation some time soon. One tip I might suggest is always having a snack or meal with you so that if you are tempted - you do have something to eat. One really great snack is a juicy, delicious apple. It will fill you up and give you a little boost until it's time for your next meal or snack. Raw veggies are great too!

Next, make sure that you are not sabotaging yourself by going to the grocery store hungry. Yes, my friends, this is one of the absolute worst things you can do when on a diet (or otherwise!). If your stomach is growling, just about anything and everything you see appears delicious...and somehow sensible. Next thing you know, you're at home and instead of eating a proper meal, you crack open that box of cookies.

Lastly, don't eat just because you are bored! There are a lot of better things to do (assuming you even have free time on your hands). An innumerable amount of calories can be consumed in front of the TV or computer. It's a slippery slope you don't want to fall down.

And as a final point - did you know that oftentimes thirst is mistaken for hunger? Whenever you feel those hunger pangs, go for a tall glass of water and re-evaluate.

Good luck!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

NIM Diet Reviewed on

To borrow a phrase from the ever so fabulous Sally Field, "They like us... they really really like us!"

Yes our friends, the reviews our in and NIM is thrilled to announce that have given us five stars! Or at least they would have if they used stars. But nevertheless, did offer up praise when it comes to our, "Customized menus based upon your body type and health goals, very convenient weight loss program, and meals that are prepared and delivered fresh." Pretty much the Ebert equivalent of "Two Thumbs Up!"

Which begs the question... what are you waiting for? Find out how you can start losing weight today by clicking here.

Trouble Sleeping? Give Cherries a Try

Melatonin. You've probably heard of it before - it's a hormone that regulates the sleep-wake cycle. But did you know that cherries are one of the best natural sources of the circadian-rhythm fixing hormone? As an added bonus, they're also high in antioxidants, which we all know by now are good for our health. At only 90 calories per cup, these delicious little orbs contain 10% of the Daily Value for vitamin C and three grams of fibre.

Next time you have trouble sleeping (insomnia or jet-lag, anyone?) try noshing on a few cherries before bed-time. If they're not in season you can try them in their various forms such as juices, dried or frozen. Is anyone else's mouth watering?

Pill-Popping Kids and Teens?

It's a question that is on many parents' minds - do kids and teens really need to be taking vitamin and mineral supplements? According to a U.S. study, one third of kids and teens are indeed supplementing their diets and they probably don't need to be. Healthy, active youngsters who eat a variety of foods are likely getting all of the nutrients they need from their diets alone. Hey, someone did once say that 'Variety is the spice of life'.

Even Canada's food guide reminds us to "choose a variety" of fruits, veggies and grains, and mix up meats and alternatives as well as milk and alternatives from day to day. This way, we can hope to cover all of our bases and not get stuck in a nutritional rut (or get bored for that matter!). They go on to say that "By eating the right amount and type of food recommended in Canada's Food Guide, children can get the nutrients they need to grow and thrive". They also recommend being active every day.

Supplementing diets with additional vitamins and minerals may not be harmful if they are taken correctly, however an excess of certain micronutrients can, in fact, be harmful if they reach toxic levels. And another thing - supplements aren't cheap! Families that can afford to purchase supplements are more likely to already be consuming a range of foods including dairy products, foods high in fibre and low in fat - over all healthy!

The researchers were sure to remind parents and their kids that taking a supplement will not make up for a lousy diet. Just remember - a vitamin or mineral supplement is not a band-aid solution; it is, well, just a supplement - an addition, a complement to a diet that might need a little help.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Eating: Take Your Time

Your mother might have been on to something when she told you to eat more slowly. According to a Japanese study published in the British Journal of Medicine, women who scarf down their meals are twice as likely to be overweight than their slower-eating counterparts. You see, when food is consumed to quickly, your body doesn't have enough time to digest it and sent the message to your brain that you are full and should stop eating.

The solution? Focus on your food. Try not to eat while watching TV or being otherwise distracted. When you actually pay attention to what you are eating, you might notice that you don't actually want or need to eat as much as you had originally thought.
Another suggestion - Chew longer. Actually think about how much food you put in your mouth and take the time to chew it fully. Don't inhale your food!

Maybe you're thinking about your lunch break or how you rushed our the door to work this morning and had no time to...well...take your time. Go for portion control. We are hard-wired to want to finish everything on our plates (think back to that take-out container. Did you really have to eat the whole thing?), so eating from a smaller plate (or container) allows us to finish all of our food and still have a sense of satisfaction.

Just remember that food is meant to be enjoyed -- the longer you have to actually taste and savour your food, the more likely you are to feel satisfied and stick to your diet and healthy-eating regimen.

Take your time while eating and your brain and body will thank you.

The Morning After the Calorie-Fest...I Mean Super Bowl

I'll be the first to admit it - I was snacking on pretzels and nachos with salsa last night as I watched the Super Bowl...and maybe I tried a little pie. More interestingly though, I watched as my normally health-conscious friends consumed bowl after bowl of fiery-hot chili, loaded up with screaming-hot hot sauce, cheese, sour cream and a side of beer. After all, studies show that it is definitely harder to control your cravings in the presence of all kinds of goodies, especially if all of your friends are eating them! The fact remains, Super Bowl Sunday is one of the biggest calorie-fests of the year.

OK, so that was yesterday - that day has passed. So now what? What do you do if you "accidentally" pigged out last night? Brush yourself off and start fresh today. The fact that you even feel bad is a sign that you are ready to make a change and get back on track (and thankfully, NIM is there to help!).

If that doesn't make you feel any better, just know that you're not the only one with indigestion today - antacid sales historically go up 20% the Monday after the Super Bowl.

Warning: Peanut Product Recall

Okay, so admittedly you probably don't need us starting your busy work week off with a Salmonella Contamination Warning, but considering that odds are fairly good that NIM readers enjoy the occasional protein bar, we thought we'd best be letting you know that the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has recalled almost 50 different snack products over fears that they could be contaminated with salmonella linked to an outbreak in the U.S. that sickened hundreds and may have led to at least eight deaths.

"As of today, we have 39 products that were manufactured in Canada that we have on our recall list and there are 42 products that are imported from the United States," agency spokesperson Garfield Balsom said yesterday.

For a complete list of recalled products, click here.