Friday, October 29, 2010

Have a Happy, Healthy Halloween

Staying energetic and alert on Halloween can be tough if you're in and out of a sugar-induced coma. Managing kids who are in an out of sugar-induced comas and highs can be even more difficult, especially if combined with the first point above. So this halloween, we're arming you with some not-so scary tips that will help take the fear out of Halloween diet- and health-busters.

1. Eat a healthy meal before the candy shows up. Whether that be from trick or treating or going to a Halloween party, make sure that you and your family are well-fuelled up so that the temptation and craving for sweets and snacks will be lessened.

2. Throw out all the neon-coloured stuff. OK maybe keep a few if you really like them, but for the most part, with a few exceptions, those candies contain the most sugar, artificial ingredients and additives.

3. Ration that stash. If you've got kids, remind them that if they eat less candy now, there will be more for later. They don't need to turn their Halloween candy collection into an all-you-can-eat candy buffet, and neither do you.

4. Lead by example. If you only allow your kids to eat the higher quality stuff, they won't be so tempted to dash for the cheap candy jar every time time one is presented!

5. Don't use treats as a reward. Trade your kids' candy for something non-food related as a reward (like movie tickets) but you don't want to get them started on a slippery path to using food for comfort/good behaviour!

6. Don't give in so easily. You're stronger than that! You will undoubtedly be tempted by sweets and treats, but you don't have to give in to every craving. Have a big glass of water, distract yourself and avoid the candy stash, but if you really want a treat and you feel you deserve one, then by all means enjoy yourself. Just don't 'enjoy' 5 servings.

Other than that, be safe, responsible, enjoy yourself and have a happy Halloween!!

How to Avoid The Diet Trickery of Halloween Treats

Let's be honest for a second: Halloween is not about dressing up, spooky decorations or pumpkin carving. No, Halloween is about candy. The buildup to this weekend is a month in the making, with candies and chips stocking the shelves from October 1st, tempting both kiddies and parents alike. All this buildup just for one weekend where kids run rampant on sugar-highs and consume obscene amounts of candy then continue to do so until their supply runs out mid-November.

For the grown-ups it's even worse. We may be too old for trick or treating, but that doesn't mean there aren't Halloween treats at the office (and at home). We've got not only the candy, but also the spiked punch and Hors d'Ĺ“uvres to deal with followed by the treadmill and scale to fight with. In a 'supposedly' health-conscious society, there's something so defiantly tempting about rebelling and throwing everything we know about good health out the window. So how is one to cope?

Firstly, you can start by realizing that 'just saying no' is neither realistic nor a good option. When everyone around you is indulging and you hold back, you'll only feel worse and still sneak a few extra treats in later to compensate. The key here is moderation - pick and choose your absolute favourite treats and actually enjoy them, don't inhale them. And don't keep sticking your hand back into that candy bowl.

Next, if you're attending a party or just kicking back, limit yourself to only a few drinks at the most. 1-2 drinks a day is a safe, healthy recommendation for most people, but once you break that point, you are increasing your risk of cardiovascular disease and poor health. And no, you can't save all your drinks from Monday to Friday and 'use' them all this weekend! Unfortunately, it just doesn't work like that.

Also, there's no sense in eating or keeping 'cheap' candy around the house. If you need a treat, get yourself some high-quality dark chocolate and savour it! You'll eat less, you'll enjoy it and you'll feel good all over about your decision - trust us. There's nothing spooky about that!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Surprising Health Benefits of Pumpkin

It's kind of weird when you stop looking at pumpkins as 'those things we put on our porches/use as decorations for fall and Halloween' and start thinking 'mmm...that would taste so good in my oatmeal, as a side with dinner or in my salad'. Don't worry though, if you are one of the latter, you're not alone, and your health will benefit greatly for it. If you're not there yet - read on and join the club.

Pumpkins and squashes are all part of the same family - if you love butternut squash or zucchini, plain old pumpkin tastes like a hybrid of the two. If you buy the canned pureed kind, there is no added sugar, it's crazy low in calories (only 35 calories for 1/2 a cup) and fat free, yet loaded with fibre and vitamins A, C, E (all antioxidants), magnesium, potassium and even iron. This means that adding a little pumpkin to your meals will help you fill up and save on calories. Pumpkins even contain alpha hydroxy acids, powerful fruit acids that help lift away old skin cells to reveal a radiant, more luminous complexion! You can mix the puree into virtually anything without noticing much difference, in fact, you may just find that things taste better with a little pumpkin mixed in!

Even the seeds of a pumpkin are a force to be reckoned with. They're chewy and nutty, and noshing on an ounce of pumpkin seeds each day can help balance your mood, boost heart health, reduce inflammation as they are choc full of manganese, magnesium, tryptophan, phosphorous, iron, vitamin K, zinc and a little protein.

The health benefits of pumpkins and their seeds are seemingly endless, so it's best you stop avoiding this health powerhouse and start including it with your meals! How about some pumpkin pie oatmeal made with cinnamon, pumpkin puree, raisins and oats?

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Cut Down on Salt to Protect Your Health

Do you, like most people, have a love-hate relationship with salt? Maybe you love how it adds flavour to your food, but you hate the fact that you're not supposed to be using too much, and that it's actually hidden in nearly everything you eat! So why should you even care about how much salt you eat? Because salt consumption is the most major risk factor for high blood pressure (hypertension), and because one in five Canadians has hypertension. Hypertension is lovingly referred to as the "silent killer" because it often has no symptoms or warning signs, but it increases your risk of stroke, heart disease, heart and kidney failure and death.

According to the Public Health Agency of Canada, one of the major modifiable risk factors (meaning that it's within our means to change or intervene to reduce risk) for hypertension is diet. In fact, it is estimated that nearly 30% of cases of hypertension can directly be attributed to excessive sodium intake alone! Studies have shown that even a small decrease in blood pressure can significantly reduce the risk and burden of diseases and illnesses related to blood pressure (kidney failure, heart failure, heart disease and diabetes).

It's recommended that we consume less than 2,000mg of sodium per day, but even that's a bit high. Ideally, 1,200-1,500 mg sodium per day is where you want to be at, but starting with 2000 or less is excellent and will reduce your risk anyhow. Baby steps, folks!

The most effective way to reduce your risk for hypertension (high blood pressure) is to consume less commercially prepared foods, choose foods with low sodium content and ask for less salt to be added to the food in restaurants. Low sodium diets are most effective when they are combined with other health eating diets such as the DASH. Following a healthy diet that is low in sodium and fat, higher in potassium, fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins can sometimes make as big of an impact as medication , especially in people who are already hypertensive.

The problem is that most people are less responsive to public health initiatives and warnings because the information that is provided is not being tailored specifically to them, it is 'general' for everyone, for example, Canada’s food guide or the DASH diet. People have different levels of risk and may not be sure of how the information pertains to them; it may not even apply or it does and they don’t realize it, but the bottom line is that everyone can benefit from lowering their salt intakes! Start slowly and soon you'll wonder why you ever sprinkled that salt on your food in the first place!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Government Officials: "It's Time to Ban Trans Fats"

The term 'Trans Fats' is among the most feared and loaded terms in our vocabulary today, but it's also probably one of the least understood as well. People know that they should avoid trans fats and that they are very bad for their health, but they probably don't know why. And that lack of understanding inherently leads to a decrease in actually caring about avoiding them. I mean, you can know that potato chips and Oreos are bad for you - but if you can't explain why then you'll just eat them, enjoy them, and act like you did a bad thing if anyone catches you. Otherwise, you'll just go on with life as usual! Correct me if I'm wrong. Well, trans fats are no joke; it's time to finally get serious about trans fats. Read on to find out why.

For starters, trans fats serve absolutely no purpose in our diets - they are not nutrients that we need at all. Unlike saturated or unsaturated fats, trans fats are created when foods are processed. They are either a by-product of processing or a deliberate action taken to make foods more stable so that they will last longer without spoiling or obtain some 'desirable' characteristic for consumers. It was previously thought that trans and saturated fats behaved the same way once metabolized by our bodies, but this has now proven to be incorrect. Trans fats are worse - way worse.

Saturated fats act to raise our levels of LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' kind), whereas trans fats not only raise LDL, they also decrease levels of HDL (the 'good' kind). This not only skews your lipid profile in the wrong direction, but it's very difficult to fix. The only known and proven way to raise HDL cholesterol without medication is to engage in cardiovascular exercise - it's really hard to do with dietary means and there's little evidence that specific foods will actually help. You can try adding in more soluble fibre and omega-3 fatty acids into your diet to offshoot other fats and attempt to raise your HDL levels, but again, it's tough.

There's been a big push for companies to reduce levels of trans fats in their products, but so far, it's just been voluntary. Government officials are now saying 'enough is enough' and are pushing for reductions in trans fats to be mandatory. Thank goodness! While I agree that we should all have a choice as to what we put into our bodies, we also have to realize that we would be much healthier and would place a far lesser burden on our health care system if these disease-causing compounds were simply unavailable in our foods in the first place!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Toronto's 'Weighty' Mayoral Race: Should Weight Be an Issue?

Obesity really is a hot topic, there's no denying it. It's easy to spin or spice up any story just by throwing obesity or weight-related issues into the mix. There have been all kinds of non-PC attempts to sensationalize obesity in the media recently (take for example the recent 'study' on whether 'fat' people are causing global warming), and Toronto's Mayoral race is no exception.

Now, I'm surprised I'm even commenting on this, but it's mostly because I feel it's so absurd. Recently, some newspapers and websites have been criticizing Toronto's Mayoral candidate Rob Ford in regards to his weight, and presumably judging his ability to act as Mayor as a result. I could potentially see how one might take Ford's ability (or inability) to manage his weight and extrapolate this to his ability to hold office, but let's be honest here - what does one have to do with the other? There truly are too many factors to consider as to why people are obese and it goes far beyond eating too much or not moving around enough.

Now, don't get me wrong - despite all this 'publicity' and criticism regarding Ford's weight, it's not hurting his chances at being Toronto's next mayor at all. In fact, it's giving him more hype and making his name appear in the headlines that much more. Like right now. But whatever the outcome may be, it really is important for Ford to get his weight in check in order to prevent the onset of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and almost ten different types of cancer. Ford really needs to set a good example of what a 'healthy' weight is for all Torontonians and all the world who watches Toronto's news or visits us. And it's our responsibility, in turn, to accept him how ever he is and not judge or jump to irrational conclusions about how he came to be in his current physical condition. But whenever he's ready, NIM is waiting!

Friday, October 22, 2010

Diet at Age 2? What's Going On Here?

One of the cardinal rules to follow if you want your child to potentially develop an eating disorder and have lifelong food 'issues' is to put them on a restricted diet at a young age. Yes, childhood obesity is on the rise, but in order to help prevent this in your children, it's important to feed them healthy food when they are hungry and encourage physical activity to balance their energy intake and output. This fairly simple concept appears to have been too difficult to grasp for one UK woman, who decided to put her daughter on a severely calorie-restricted diet from age 2 in order to prevent her from winding up like her mom - obese. Clever!

The daughter, who is now 8 years old, is only allowed 700 calories per day which is less than half of what is recommended for a growing child! Not only is she likely deficient in key nutrients necessary for development, but she won't have enough fuel to actually grow! The mother says she's doing this for her daughter's own good so that she will be 'pretty and popular' when as she grows up, and not heavy-set like her mom and grandmother before her. Well, I'm not sure if she's clued in yet to the fact that she won't even grow or develop properly if she doesn't eat enough!

Kids grow in spurts until the age of about 18 and it's never a good idea to restrict their food intake if they are genuinely hungry. This doesn't mean 'give them oreos if they want them', this means 'give them healthy food if they are hungry'. Most kids do look on the 'chubby' side from time to time but this is followed by a period of 'leaning out' - it's part of normal growth! Kids need fuel to learn and play, where they socialize, develop life skills and grow into healthy well-adjusted adults if all goes well. So, to recap, food intake in kids should not be restricted and kids should never be put on 'diets'. Their weight and height should be tracked by the doctor, and if they are gaining at a very rapid rate, perhaps they're eating too much and vice versa. Maybe they need to incorporate more exercise and eat more fruits and veggies.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Reduce Your Belly Fat to Cut Health Risks: Here's How

When it comes to your health, losing fat in achieving a healthy weight is great (you don't want to lose muscle). Even better? losing belly fat, as it is now known that the more weight you carry around your middle (abdominal fat, central adiposity or being an 'apple' shape) is directly related to the buildup of fat below the surface around your internal organs in that same area - known as visceral fat. This is type of fat or body shape poses the greatest risk to your health, even if your weight is within the normal range. Tricky right? So how exactly do we rid ourselves of visceral and abdominal fat?

You should know by now that you can't 'pick and choose' where you lose fat. If you consume fewer calories or engage in cardiovascular activity, fat loss is generally from all over your body. This means that doing more crunches won't give you a six-pack if you ignore your diet or don't get to a low enough total body fat percentage. But one thing is true: for every 5% total weight loss, 30% of that weight loss comes from abdominal fat! So, if you started off weighing 150lbs and you lost 7.5lbs to weigh 142.5lbs, your abdominal fat would be reduced by 30%! Alright, so how do we lose these 5 lbs and what is the best way to rid ourselves of belly fat through our diets?

New research suggests that consuming a diet filled with whole grains is the answer. In the study, adults who ate three or more servings of whole grains per day, and limited their refined grains to less than one serving per day, had 10% less belly fat than those who did not follow this diet. These findings held true regardless of smoking status, alcohol consumption, physical activity, and fruit and veggie consumption!

The bottom line, folks, is don't cut carbs out of your diet! Just replace the refined ones with whole grains! In doing so, you can help reduce your belly fat and lower your risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a cluster of symptoms including hypertension, unhealthy cholesterol levels and insulin resistance, which can develop into cardiovascular disease or Type 2 diabetes, as well as other chronic diseases. Will someone please pass the brown rice?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Swap Meat for Soy to Live Longer, Healthier: Studies

Now, you might be thinking you've heard this before; eat less meat, eat more soy, live longer.Yeah, it's kind of like how we're reminded daily, like children, to wash our hands, take our Vitamin D for better health, Vitamin C to battle colds and so on. But there's good reason to all this droning, we promise! Its because more and more research is piling in which backs up the theory that adopting a more plant-based diet is the key to living a long and healthy life (take the Japanese or people living in the Mediterranean as an example of 'what to do to live long, happy and healthy').

New research now out of the UK boldly states that up to 45,000 lives could be saved each year in the UK if people limited meat consumption to just 3 days a week. The rest of the time, choose fish, eggs, beans and legumes to meet your protein needs. The research goes on to say that there would be 9,000 fewer deaths from cancer and 5,000 fewer caused by strokes every year in the UK with a decease in meat consumption.

Additionally, more research has just come out linking higher soy consumption in post-menopausal women with a lower risk of breast cancer recurrence. Now breast cancer is a very nasty disease to battle, so if something as little as a soybean can combat it naturally and prevent it from coming back - that's saying something. Soy products are low in saturated fat, provide dietary fiber, high-quality protein and key vitamins and minerals. There is even good research backing the protective nature of soy on heart disease thanks to it's natural cholesterol-lowering benefits.

So, to get the biggest bang for your buck when it comes to your health, swap soy or other veggie sources of protein for meat most days of the week, eat fish frequently and aim to enjoy your meat products no more than 3 times a week. And remember, if you crave the taste of meat more often, there are TONS of delicious 'meatless' alternatives that look and taste so similar to meat but they're really soy.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Luteolin: How Plants Can Make You Smarter

More and more we are finding out that the secret to a long - and more importantly healthy - life is to adopt a plant-based diet. No, this doesn't mean you have to become a strict vegetarian or vegan, but you should definitely try to base all of your meals around plant foods. This includes whole grains, nuts and seeds, beans and legumes and quite obviously fruits and veggies. And to the long list of health benefits associated with loading up on your fruits and veggies, you can now include a boost in memory (and decreased memory loss).

This boost in brain health is thanks to a compound called luteolin (LOO-tee-oh-lin). Luteolin is an antioxidant, more specifically a flavinoid, which is known to prevent inflammation, help with carbohydrate metabolism and boost the immune system. Some dietary sources include celery, green pepper, thyme, perilla, chamomile tea, carrots, olive oil, peppermint, rosemary and oregano.

A new study published in the Journal of Nutrition has found that luteolin was able to decrease age-related inflammation and swelling of the brain in animal models. It was found that with age, there is an increase in molecules in the brain called 'cytokines', which are messengers released by the body during a state of illness or inflammation. These cytokines kill neurons and result in chemical changes in the brain that ultimately lead to memory loss. In the study, luteolin was able to 'combat' the cytokines found in the brain and slow-off brain tissue degradation and memory loss. According to the researchers, "These data suggest that consuming a healthy diet has the potential to reduce age-associated inflammation in the brain, which can result in better cognitive health,".

So, if you're already enjoying a healthy diet, you have one more reason to smile as you chow down!

Monday, October 18, 2010

Eat and Rest and Relax to Beat Colds and Flus

Quick: check your Facebook feed and see how many people are complaining about being sick right now. I can count at least five just off the top. Yeah, there's definitely something going around right now, and if you haven't caught it just yet, you really need to read on. Even if you're one of the unlucky ones to be battling a bug right now, we'll help you recover ASAP.

Have you noticed that some people always get sick and catch whatever latest bug is going around, while others are able to stay strong and healthy like it's no big deal? What's their secret? Well, they can start by thanking their good genes, but there are definitely some factors that are within our ability to control which can keep our defenses strong and protect us from those nasty colds and flus that are floating around. Two major factors are diet and stress levels.

Years of research have determined that diets rich in antioxidants have a protective effect on our health. It has been noted that caroteniods including beta carotene are some of the most important antioxidants to include in our diets when it comes to preventing colds and flus. Antioxidants prevent compounds called free radicals from damaging or destroying our cells, which weaken our defenses and lead to illness. Foods rich in antioxidants tend to be brightly coloured including orange, red, green and purple. Some foods you can load up on which are high in antioxidants include apricots, cantaloupes, mangoes, nectarines, peaches, grapefruit, tangerines and watermelons as well as asparagus, beets, broccoli, carrots, bell peppers, kale, collard greens, squash, spinach, sweet potatoes and tomatoes! Phew! Lots to choose from there.

In addition, it's super important to de-stress, keep warm and relax in order to let your immune system do it's job without being over worked. Remember to wash your hands often, drink lots of warm liquids (with honey, ginger and lemon), take hot baths or steamy showers, take naps if possible and go to bed an hour early each night. Give your body all the ammunition it needs to fight that cold off or prevent it from starting in the first place.

Follow as many of these tips as you can and watch that cold or flu disappear (or never appear to begin with)!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Too Skinny? Shakira Looks Emaciated in New Video

This summer, we reported that curvy Colombian singer Shakira, best known for her belly dancing and hip-shaking, slimmed down and toned up for her video 'She Wolf'. She definitely looked amazing, but now, Shakira might just be pushing the boundaries of her health by 'erasing' the parts of her body that she's best known for.

In her newest video for her song 'Loca', Shakira is barely recognizable and considerably thinner. Her ribs are in plain sight, her arms are lanky, her face is noticeably slimmer and her hips and torso appear to have several inches shaved off of them! This isn't a good look for anyone, but for a belly dancer, even more so!

As we mentioned before, Shakira confessed to following a strict diet and exercise regimen prior to her last video shoot, and undoubtedly upped the ante this time around. In her own words, “I needed a whole month to get back into shape. I danced, worked out and had to stick to a strict diet – only fish, spinach and a specially-prepared dessert with tofu. For the first time in my life I was dreaming of chocolate and cake and always woke up with tears in my eyes.”.

I'm not sure what pushed Shakira to get so skinny, because she always seemed so confident and sure of herself, and it's not like she needs more fans! In any case, we hope she gets healthy soon and sets a better example for all of her viewers. You can check the video for 'Loca' out here for yourself. Let us know what you think!

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Secrets of the Fast Food World

The fast food industry has become much more transparent in recent years. What with displaying nutrition information and ingredients as well as some in-depth insights or documentaries outlining industry practices, we know a lot more about our fast food than we used to. But naturally, there are still lots of secrets out there that the food industry doesn't want us to know about. Well, you won't find that kind of intel here, but we do have the scoop on some 'secret' menu items you probably never knew existed at your favourite fast food chains.

Have you ever heard of a 'McKinley Mac' at McDonalds (AKA the 'bigger' Big Mac: a standard Big Mac, but with the patties from a Quarter Pounder), or a 'Red Tux Mocha' (a mix of white and dark chocolate mochas with raspberry syrup) at Starbucks? Or how about a 'barnyard sandwich' at Wendy's (a spicy chicken sandwich with ham, bacon and beef, layered with cheese)? If you haven't that's because they aren't on the menu. But don't worry, these guys are 'secret' menu items do exist, and the staff know about them, so you can totally order them.

So next time you hit up one of your favourite fast food chains, order one of these 'extra special' items and surprise your friends behind the counter. Better yet, ask them what they recommend and see if they don't just tell you about some other secret menu item you've never heard of! We're not suggesting this stuff is healthy by any means, but if you've got a craving and you're looking to try something new or different, this might be your answer!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

What's for Dinner? How About Cereal...

Well, it's not exactly what you think - Yes, cereal is involved, and milk, too, but what about ground turkey or a couple of chicken breasts? What, you've never had high fibre spicy chili bean burgers or crunchy coated chicken before? The familiar suddenly becomes uncharted territory when using cereal in dinner recipes. It's a totally different ballgame.

In today's fibre-challenged society, with everything we know about the benefits of fibre consumption, sneaking in fibre wherever possible can certainly seem like a struggle. Fibre often brings to mind images of dry, cardboard-like cookies, crackers or muffins, but it's really anything but.

That's why All Bran recently challenged Canadians to 'think outside of the box' and use their products in unique and creative ways! Some of the top picks included' Crunchy coated chicken breasts with ricotta and crispy kale filling', as well as 'All-Bran salmon cakes with cucumber sauce' (Wow - my mouth is watering! ). Anywhere you would normally use breadcrumbs, why not try using high-fibre cereals. Cereals like All Bran and Fibre 1 are completely delicious, and one serving gives you more than half of your daily fibre requirement, too! So next time you're cooking, try experimenting with 'cereal for dinner. As an added bonus, you might just bump up the fibre content of your meal by about 500%!

Twilight Actress Ashley Greene Sets Example for Tweens, Ladies Everywhere!

Looking good when you're famous is a must - it's a pressure placed on celebs that comes along with the business. But not every celebrity cracks under pressure and starves them self to lose weight or to 'fit in' to society's definition of what's beautiful. Some actresses actually prefer to be healthy and happy rather than simply 'skinny' (What a concept!!). One of those actresses happens to be up and comer Ashley Greene.

Following the success of the Twilight films, Ashley has spoken out about her views on dieting and health. Often seen working out to keep fit and strong (she kicks butt in the movies - she plays a vampire, after all), Ashley follows a healthy eating plan to complement her training. Ashley sticks to healthy foods and feeds her appetite when she is hungry.

Ashley told Star magazine, "I don't do the diet thing anymore, I'm a big believer in feeding your body what it needs. Deny yourself something and you're going to end up shoving your face full of it.". Very true! It's all about balance - a little treat here or there never hurt anyone, but stuffing your face full of food is unhealthy for so many reasons. I'm glad to see that Ms. Greene is setting a good example for the target demographic of the Twilight films - tween girls - who are the most susceptible to social pressures and developing eating disorders, but also for women everywhere! It's great when celebrities use their star power for a good cause. Bravo!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Eat to Battle Breast Cancer

There are so many different foods available which have beneficial properties in preventing illness and disease that it's difficult to keep track or know what you should be eating every day! Thankfully, if your concern is combating breast cancer, there is now a diet outlined including the best foods you can eat to reduce your risk of developing this disease.

Based on years of research, this diet developed by U.S. dietitian Dr. Mary Flynn has been shown to help reduce breast cancer risk and help individuals who have suffered from breast cancer to recover to good health. The idea is to keep calories controlled in order to maintain a healthy weight (which reduces one's risk of developing cancer) and load up on foods filled with cancer-fighting substances.

Not surprisingly, many of the foods in the breast cancer prevention diet are ones we are most often advised to eat - deep or brightly coloured vegetables and fruit for their antioxidants and fibre, whole grains and healthy fats such as olive oil. In addition, low fat dairy products are advised, as are some cheeses. Meat is not a major ingredient on this diet, but it's important to obtain enough protein from various sources including poultry or eggs. Plant sources of protein such as beans, tofu, peas, and legumes are some of the healthiest available. Once an individual reaches their target weight, they may choose to indulge in a few extra calories a couple of times a week, which may include the occasional dessert.

So, if you are looking to amp up the cancer protection potential of your diet, be sure to include more of the above outlined foods. And, as an added bonus, you might just lose some weight while you're at it!

Friday, October 8, 2010

Desk Jobs Make You Pack on the Pounds: Study

With the kick off to 'wear more clothes and eat more food' season (or what I like to call 'hibernation' season) this Thanksgiving weekend, it's important to take all the necessary measures we can to avoid that pesky holiday weight gain. But according to a new study, diet and regular exercise might not be enough - our desk jobs are making us pack on the pounds whether we like it or not.

According to researchers, while we are far more active and health conscious than ever before, we are also far less active during the day at work, which tips the balance. In the past, with more active jobs, it wasn't necessary to hit the gym daily or a few times a week because enough calories were being burned or at least balanced by moving around and eating right. These days, despite our efforts, sitting on our bums for 8 hours is taking a toll on our waistlines. In addition, the amount of stress we face also affect our hormonal balance, which can cause our bodies to store more fat than it needs, especially around our middles, which is the most dangerous place.

Don't totally panic though, there are always things you can do. The key is to sneak in movement or physical activity, heck even exercise throughout the work day. Ride your bike or walk to work if possible. Get off that bus/subway train/streetcar a few stops early and walk the rest of the way. Take a gym break during lunch or take the stairs to your office. You don't have to do all of your physical activity in one large chunk - small bursts are just as good, so don't downplay their significance! And don't forget to relax and de-stress as often as possible. Even though you may feel like you're wasting time, you're actually doing your body and mind a huge favour! Take that, belly fat!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Tips for a Safe and Healthy Thanksgiving

Ah, October - the epitome of fall. The leaves are changing colours, there's a distinct chill in the air, and we all start to bundle up in sweaters, scarves and boots. What better time than this to indulge in the rich, warm, aromatic flavours that we find on our dinner tables at Thanksgiving.

As lovely as all that food is, it's critical that it's prepared safely, or else your enjoyment may quickly turn into suffering if you end up with food poisioning. Turkey can easily become contaminated with bacteria such as salmonella, which can cause diarrhea, vomiting and stomach cramps. So here are some tips to help you prepare that big bird safely and avoid any cross-contamination with the rest of your meal.

1. Always thaw your turkey in the fridge. Not on the counter, not in the sink (Unless it's completely submerged in cold water at all times - but even this is tricky). Micro-organisms thrive at temperatures between 4 and 60 degrees celcius, known as the 'Temperature Danger Zone'. So if your turkey is kept in the fridge to thaw, it will never come into this zone, which will prevent the growth of bacteria and other nasties.

2. Clean, sanitize and disinfect all surfaces that have come in contact with the turkey or it's juices. If you rinse your turkey, be sure to sanitize all counters and the sink itself. Also, don't forget to sanitize all utensils used on the raw turkey. Raw turkey juices can splash all over the place during the rinsing or transportation process from the sink to the pan, so be sure to get that bleach or lysol out!

3. Always check the internal temperature of your turkey once you think it's done. Check the thickest part of the breast or thigh - it should read at least 85 C (185 F). Digital thermometers are the best.

4. Don't cook your stuffing inside the bird. We know, it's called 'stuffing' for a reason, but it's also a food safety hazard. Filling the bird with stuffing changes the way that heat is distributed in the oven and the in turkey itself, so it slows cooking time. In addition, it will take longer for the internal temperature of the turkey and stuffing to rise to a safe level, while the outside of the bird may look done or even over cooked. Plus, realize that you're putting the stuffing into a totally raw bird, which means the stuffing needs to be cooked to the same temperature as the bird itself to avoid food poisoning.

5. Be sure to refrigerate leftovers within 2 hours of cooking. Once again, as the food re-enters the temperature danger zone, there is an increased food safety hazard. Remember - bacteria love protein, so be sure to get it outside of that danger zone ASAP so they don't have a chance to eat your leftovers before you do!

Follow these simple steps and you can rest assured that your Thanksgiving meal will not only be delicious, but also safe! Now that's something to give thanks for!

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Walnuts can Help You De-Stress and Improve Heart Health

Walnuts are peculiar little things. They look funny, and they sure taste great with maple sugar, banana muffins, and on top of salads, but their health benefits are no laughing matter. Most people don't realize that those tasty little walnuts actually pack a lot of heart-healthy punch in every bite and as a result, they might be missing out. Are you?

Walnuts are loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, you know - the kind we don't get enough of each day. Studies have shown that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids promote a lowering of LDL cholesterol (the 'bad' kind), help control blood pressure by lowering high blood pressure, reduce inflammation in the blood vessels (which can lead to heart disease) and help people de-stress and relax a bit more.

It can be tricky to get omega-3s from plant sources; other sources include almonds, and the best known plant source is flax seeds, but how much of these things do you have to gobble down in order to protect your heart and your health? Well, according to a new study, about 18 walnut halves, or 9 walnuts is all you need each day in order to see improvement in your health. Just be aware that 18 walnut halves are worth about 235 calories, so if you're watching your caloric intake, be sure to make the appropriate allowance. Just don't let the high calories throw you off - you need healthy fats in your diet and walnuts are an amazing way to get them. So how about a healthy banana walnut muffin for breakfast (or dessert)?

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Losing Sleep Might Hamper Your Weight Loss Efforts

We are all told how important sleep is for us, but do we really get it? It's the one time of the day where we shut off and recharge our batteries and stop doing things. But we're also told that most of us are sleep deprived. So if it's so important, and we seem to be able to make time for just about anything (including our favourite TV shows), then why can't we take an extra hour to catch up on our Z's - especially if we're trying to be healthy and lose weight.

It's hard to imagine that eating right and exercising might not be enough for some people when it comes to weight loss, but studies show that getting just a little too few hours of sleep each night can significantly hamper fat loss! For example, in one study, people who slept for 5.5 hrs lost 55% less fat than those who slept for 8.5. Lack of sleep actually makes the body stingier when it comes to using fat as fuel! That's a scary thought.

The problem, I think, is that we're so focused on getting things done, that the idea of 'not doing anything' is not high on our list of priorities. We try to squeeze way too much into every 24 hours, and if you think about it, it's a little ridiculous - OK really ridiculous. And the worst part is that very day of inadequate sleep you add on, you compound the negative health effects and take away from the benefits of sleeping, including weight loss. So, today, do something really good for yourself and tuck into bed a few hours earlier. Turn the temperature down a little so your room is cool. Just lay in bed if you can't fall asleep and read a magazine or book. Do this for a few nights and your body will get used to it, we promise. Happy sleeping!

Monday, October 4, 2010

Glee's Lea Michele Reveals the Secret to her Amazing Body

I'm not sure if you've noticed, but it seems as if Glee has taken over many people's lives since it first aired. There are a lot of reasons why this break-out hit TV show is so successful, but one of the main reasons is definitely Lea Michele. As one of the main characters on the show, Michele has a lot of eyes on her every single week. It's a good thing she is not only extremely talented, but she looks absolutely amazing, too!

Michele thanks her active vegan lifestyle for her fantastic figure. Swearing off all things that come from animals and breaking a hard sweat for all of Glee's challenging dance numbers, this young starlet has noticeably slimmed down and shaped up since the show first started.

When she was on the cover of Women's Health a few months back, she explained that she's not interested in changing herself for others (while her former classmates were off getting nose jobs, she refused to give in to the pressure), and that she's become much more confident in her own body over the past few years. At 24 years old, she's got a lot more wisdom and a very strong head on her shoulders compared to a lot of her peers. Lots of people, both young and old, could learn a thing or two from this amazing, talented girl!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Technology Helps Kids Get Healthy

Screen time, or the time that people spend in front of (you guessed it) screens, has been increasing steadily over the years, especially in the case of children. Not surprisingly, screen time is strongly associated with childhood obesity. Instead of playing outside, kids are spending more and more time in front of their computers, iPods, TVs and movie screens where they are exposed to marketing campaigns encouraging them to chow down on froot loops and oreos. Knowing that kids absorb ideas like sponges during screen time is tremendously beneficial to marketers and advertisers, but it can also come in handy for more positive endeavours, like education in the area of nutrition and physical activity.

Using screen time and technology as tools, US First Lady Michelle Obama and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack know that they can get through to kids and get them thinking about Nutrition and Physical activity. They have decided to create a contest for students, software developers, designers and organizations to design new and fun 'Food apps' that would help kids make nutritious choices. According to Vilsack, "The next generation—and health-conscious people of all ages—are plugged into their cell phones and computers,".

There are some super-fun and creative apps out there that kids (and grown-ups) can check out here for a crash course in nutrition! We just love this idea and can't wait to see what other new initiatives for kids and adults alike will start to surface in the not-too-distant future!