Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bitter Blockers Might Make Life a Little Sweeter

For most people, loving sweets is far more common than loving bitter foods. In fact, lots of people simply can't stand the bitter stuff, and it turns them off from eating it. The trouble is, lots of bitter foods are really good for us, and avoiding them isn't a good idea if health is a priority. So what's a bitter-hater to do?

Scientists as the Givaudan Flavors Corporation in Ohio have developed an enhanced "bitterness blocker" called GIV3616, which targets certain taste buds and keeps them from recognizing bitter tastes. While they won't make your beets taste like chocolate cake, researchers believe that these 'bitter blockers' may be the key to getting people to eat more bitter foods like kale, arugula and endives and broccoli in addition to grapefruits, lemons, cranberries and dark chocolate.

Foods like spinach and broccoli are packed with nutrients like calcium, magnesium and zinc, but some people just plain struggle to swallow them down. If you think that's a little silly, consider the fact that a significant proportion of people are known as 'super tasters', meaning that they don't just taste what you and I taste - they can detect certain compounds and flavours at a much higher level which might frankly render certain foods repulsive.

As extreme as these measures may sound, adding chemicals to food is nothing new - we are exposed to a multitude of different food additives each day. Now, I'm not suggesting that is a good thing, but if we consider how many people douse "bad-tasting" healthy foods in sugary, salty and fat-filled sauces and dressings to mask their taste, perhaps bitter blockers aren't such a bad idea when it comes to whittling a few waistlines. Ultimately, a risk-benefit assessment would need to be done in order to truly determine what would actually cause us the least harm.

You won't find me in line to get my hands on this stuff if it hits the market, but then again, I'm biased because I love my bitters! How about you?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

NIM’s “Get Ready for Summer” Biggest Loser Challenge

You're invited to participate in NIM’s best contest yet!

Sign up for this challenge by Friday April 29th (by 4pm at the latest) and receive a 15% discount.

If you are serious about losing weight this challenge is sure to give you the support and motivation you need to reach your goal.

The kick off to this exciting event will be on Monday, May 2nd and the contest runs until Tuesday, May 31st. The winners will then be decided.

Don't miss out!


Details:

For every person who signs up for the challenge, NIM will donate 2 free days that will be split among the winners. The more contestants that sign up, the more free days will be added to the pot!

Contestants will be grouped into teams of 5 which will be announced on Monday, May 2nd. Friends and family are welcome to form their own teams.

Contestants must sign up for a 30 day program and can take a maximum of 2 days off for the duration of the challenge.

Prizes:

1. All 5 team members on the winning team that loses the largest combined % weight* on NIM during the month of May will receive a 20% discount on their next month’s renewal.

In addition, 20% of the free days added to the pot will be split among the members of the winning team.

Two grand prizes will be awarded as follows:

2. 40% of the free days in the pot to the individual on the winning team who achieves the largest % weight loss on NIM during the month of May.

3. 40% of the free days in the pot to the individual in the contest as a whole who achieves the largest % weight loss on NIM during the month of May, regardless of their team. If this is the same person as in point 2., the prize will be awarded to the second biggest loser.

Example: If 5 teams of 5 members sign up, that’s 50 free days. 20% will be given to the winning team, meaning 10 free days, or 2 free days to each person (plus a 20% discount on renewal). The remaining 80% (40 days) will be shared among the two grand prize winners, meaning each will take away 20 free days!

Why? So that, as a team, you can work together to stay motivated and have fun. You all have an incentive to stay on track!

Group pages will be set up here on NIM's Facebook page for all of the teams so that everyone can stay on track and see how the other teams are doing.

The Fine Print:

In order to determine the winners, weigh-ins will be completed at home, on the Monday of each week. The weight, in addition to a photo of the read out on scale must be sent in to NIM where it will be posted on the team member’s Facebook group page anonymously.

To be fair, before and after photos must be taken and sent to NIM on May 2nd and May 31st. NIM will not use or release these photos unless the individual is a winner. By sending your photos to NIM, you consent to these terms.

*% weight loss = (1-[final weight divided by starting weight])
o E.g. 1-[142.5/150] = 5% weight loss

Lighten Up to Lighten Up

Lighten Up to Lighten Up
Sarah Reid, RHNC
The rise in cases of clinical depression, especially in young adults, is becoming more and more attributed to the low quality of the modern western diet. The latest culprit is trans-fatty acids, according to a 6 year long Spanish study. The lead researcher on the project team noted that the volunteers who ate more trans fats, appearing only in concentrated artificial form in processed foods, had an almost 50% increase in the likelihood of developing depression.
Good nutrition provides a host of benefits, and the trans-fat blacklisting is a step towards better physical and mental health for the coming generations. Limiting the processed, prepackaged foods you choose is imperative, but not all fat is bad! Indulging in some salmon, nuts, seeds and even small amounts of low-fat dairy products is the perfect way to get some quality protein, but protective Omega-3 fatty acids too. Higher Omega-3s, along with the other antioxidants, minerals, vitamins and phytonutrients in a whole foods-approach diet, fight against the damage done by the trans-fats and help protect you from any more. For mental health concerns, essential fatty acids form the coating of the nerves and help keep the synapses firing properly. The result? More even moods, better concentration, and a general improvement in the quality of the ability to adapt and cope with change.
The movement towards “trans-fat free” labelling is an important one, but when shopping don’t assume it’s automatically healthier. There is still evidence out there that supports ties of preservatives, additives and sweeteners to both physical and mental issues – particularly with childhood development. Those Oreos may have no trans-fats, but they’ve been replaced by palm oil (which raises cholesterol at the same rate), sugar is the first ingredient, and – surprise! – there’s a hefty dose of High Fructose Corn Syrup too. What’s shocking is that Nabisco decided to take on the Oreo first, and not a biscuit commonly given to teething infants – Arrowroot. Those still have partially hydrogenated oils, two kinds of sugar and HFCS (if you’re interested, arrowroot flour is in the ingredients... 5th from the bottom).  The partially hydrogenated oils can actually be worse for you – containing up to 50% trans fats compared to fully hydrogenated oils which are completely trans-fat free (though higher in saturated fat).
The thing to take away from this is not an all-or-nothing approach to living. Trans-fats are out there, in everyday foods – including healthy, natural ones like meat and dairy. However, the natural trans-fats will never be as abundant or concentrated as those in processed foods. Making the shift to a less-processed, fresh-foods lifestyle and controlling what type of fats you eat (as much as you can) will keep everyone lighter – and reduce their weight as well.
Sarah Reid is a Holistic Nutritional Consultant with her company NEW-trition

Boost Your Memory with Healthy Diet and Exercise

Are you finding things a little harder to remember as the years go by? It's normal to forget things here and there as we're inundated with information on a daily basis, but new research suggests we can potentially boost our brain power and enhance our memory capabilities by eating healthy foods and exercising regularly.

Whether achieving or maintaining a healthy weight is your goal, it's important not to focus too much on the number on your scale without its proper interpretation - body composition is just as important. The more lean body mass you have and less excess fat mass, the better off you are! Researchers have found that maintaining a healthy weight with less fat around the midsection has been linked to better memory as they believe that carrying around excess levels of fat on the body can impede healthy brain functioning. This is because it causes stress on the body, raising cortisol levels which have the potential to interact with brain neurons.

Researchers have also found that regular exercise promotes the growth of new, healthy brain cells and enhances long-term memory. Furthermore, regular exercise also boosts the circulation of blood throughout the body, including in the brain, and helps relax blood vessels for an overall beneficial effect on the brain and memory capabilities.

In addition to the benefits of exercising, we can't ignore the benefits eating right. We know that healthy diets plentiful in essential nutrients, including omega-3 fatty acids are not just good for our bodies, they also help keep our brains cells in tip top shape and prevent age-related memory loss. The best approach, based on mounds of research, is to follow a Mediterranean-style diet, including lots of fresh fruit and vegetables, fish, nuts and seeds rich in omega-3 fatty acids, lean meats, whole grains, beans, legumes and olive oil.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Robbie Williams and Britney Spears are on a Mission

To lose weight, that is! And, well, not together - but ultimately, their goals are more similar than what might be totally obvious.

Both stars have had public ups and downs with their weight (among other factors) and have recently gained more than they would have liked. Now, both are on a mission to shed the excess chub in preparation for their concert tours. Their strategies and motivators, however, do differ.

Williams has set up a challenge with his band member to see who can lose the most weight (with no particular set goal), while Britney is hoping to lose ten pounds by eating right and properly fueling her high-energy dance routines and workouts. Williams' boyish competition with his bandmate Gary Barlow seems a little silly on the surface, as he said "Right, if you're eating a lettuce, I'm eating half a lettuce." Boys will be boys? Britney, on the other hand is eating 6 high-protein meals each day and has forbidden any sign of junk food in her presence. She is also cutting down on her alcohol consumption and is making sure that none of her dancers had been drinking the night before any of her performances, so that everyone is in top form.

Hopefully, there's more to Williams' strategy than meets the eye - perhaps a healthy, balanced diet more like Britney's? Either way, it will be interesting to see who achieves their goals and what strategy works best - tough competition or tough willpower!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Diet, Exercise...Music and Laughter? What's the Link?

If you think of your health as a pyramid, you can be sure that a solid base depends on a healthy diet and remaining physically active. There are, of course, other pieces to this puzzle which contribute to good health and disease prevention, such as getting enough sleep, relaxing and remaining optimistic. Building on the last point, researchers now believe that laughter and music can help reduce your blood pressure, even as much as some medications!

The Japanese study sounds like one of the funnest I've ever heard of! Participants were assigned to laughter or music interventions, or neither. Participants in the music group sang, listened, and stretched to music and were also encouraged to listen to music at home.

"Laughter yogis” entertained those in the laughter group, who participated in laughter yoga, combining breathing exercises with laughter and playful eye contact. They also watched traditional Japanese comedy called "Rakugo".

After 3 months of such interventions, the blood pressure of the participants in both intervention groups decreased significantly, about as much as some medications or lifestyle interventions can achieve. Those in the music group saw a decrease in their blood pressure of nearly 6 mmHg while the laughter group experienced decreases of 5 mmHg. The group that received no intervention did not experience a change in blood pressure.

Once again, this just goes to show that if you want to live a long, healthy life, you really do have to make time to live, love and laugh!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Bowl a Day Keeps the Heart Doctor Away

For many Canadians, breakfast cereals are a morning staple. We're very fortunate that we have an abundance of delicious, healthy options to choose from. Even better, the American Heart Association has released a report which states that whole grain breakfast cereals can help reduce blood pressure, which lowers the risk of heart disease. That's definitely something to smile about in the morning!

Whole grain cereals are an excellent way to tick off a box or two on your checklist of servings of grains on Canada's Food Guide. They also tend to be higher in fibre - there are now many high fibre options - which increases their heart healthy benefits!

In the report, researchers analyzed cereal consumption data from the Physicians' Health Study which followed thousands of male physicians for 16 years. The results showed that just eating cereal once a week could reduce the risk of high blood pressure, which is a risk factor for heart disease, by 8%, while 2-6 servings per week raised that number to 16%. Those cereal fanatics who consumed it 7 or more times a week showed a 25% reduction in the risk of high blood pressure!

The report also outlined the fact that, in the long haul, diets higher in fibre can reduce the lifetime risk of heart disease in individuals. High fibre diets are associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol, which are all risk factors for heart attacks and other heart and blood vessel problems.

So there you have it; why not change up your usual routine and include some high-fibre whole grain cereal (like Kashi Go Lean or Nature's Path Organic Optimum among many others!) - hot or cold, however you like it!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taking the Fun Out of Movie Popcorn

Popcorn can be quite a healthy snack. While cooked corn is considered a vegetable, dried corn kernels are considered whole grains (they can be used to make flour for tortillas, breads, muffins, cereals etc.) which are high in fibre and pretty much fat free. But as soon as you add movie theatres into the mix, full of sweets and sodas and - yes - popcorn, our innocent, healthy snack becomes virtually unrecognizable.

More like an entire day's worth of calories and fat rather than a snack, your average movie theatre popcorn, based on a survey of the 3 top chains in the U.S., is loaded with anywhere between 590 to 1,200 calories and 60 grams of saturated fat, depending on the size. Add butter, and now you have 1,400 calories and 63 grams of saturated fat, and that's not talking about the largest size, either. As a result, the U.S. wants to burst everyone's bubble and start slapping nutrition labels on movie theatre popcorn bags! But of course, theatre execs strongly oppose this mandate, because concession sales make up about 1/3 of their sales.

So, aside from being a whole grain with a significant amount of fibre, why is movie theatre popcorn so ridiculously unhealthy? How come your low-fat microwave popcorn at home has nowhere near the above numbers? The answer is that movie theatre popcorn isn't designed to be healthy. It is designed to be addictive and is most likely popped in oil, whereas at home you can control what you put on your kernels. Movie theatre popcorn is also ridiculously high in sodium, meaning you need a jumbo-sized beverage to wash it all down. That means more money for movie theatres! It's no surprise that they don't want you to know what's in there.

I think the more we know about what we're eating, the better off we are. It doesn't mean we can't have that popcorn at the movies, it just means we have to make an extra effort to eat well and exercise in addition to enjoying it as a special treat while we're out on the town! So, as with all nutrition related policies, only time will tell if there's a strong enough push for this proposal to get approved as a law, but we definitely know there is lots of opposition.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Kombucha: A Health Food Store in Liquid Form

Have you heard about the latest "super-drink" in the health-food world? Kombucha is a mixture of green or black tea, sugar and a live culture that ferments into a slightly fizzy, tart beverage with a host of health benefits to its name. A child of ancient Chinese medical technology (noted as an "elixir of life" and a source of renewing chi energy), the finished brew contains probiotics, "friendly" yeasts, live enzymes, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals and other health promoting compounds.

Like all nutrients stemming from "animal" sources (including bacterially fermented items like yogurt and sauerkraut), kombuch tea is rich in living digestive enzymes and B vitamins, particularly B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and B15. The B vitamin complex in kombucha is of particular interest to vegans, who generally lack a reliable, concentrated source of the nutrients. B vitamins are essential in the maintenance of immunity and energy production, as well as protecting the body from constricted blood vessels and the build up of oxidized cholesterol (key causes of cardiovascular disease). The living, "good" yeast cultures and probiotic bacteria in the culture used to ferment the drink reinforce a healthy gut ecology, which not only increases the body's resistance to infection, but reduces allergic responses to common problem foods such as wheat and eggs, prevents undigested protein "leaking" into the bloodstream (a major cause of anaphlyactic reaction and the development of "new" allergies), reduces bloating and flatulence and even fights candida. Unlike other fermented beverages such as beer and wine, kombucha does not form alcohol - instead, the sugar becomes these organic probiotic acids, enzymes, minerals and vitamins.

Those with joint problems such as sprains and arthritis will also find benefits in drinking this old yet-new beverage. One of the organic acids in kombucha (as well as other fermented vegetables) actually converts to a popular cartilage support compound known as glucosamine in the liver. Unlike supplemental forms of glucosamine, the naturally synthesized compound does not have to be re-processed by the digestive and hepatic systems in order to become helpful in forming cartilage and ligaments.

Like any item in either the conventional or natural pharmacy, there are some cases where kombucha can actually do more harm than good. Any hyper-immune responsive conditions (like HIV and AIDS) will actually be made stronger by the immune-boosting properties in the drink. Those allergic to yeast or hypersensitive to acids will also react badly to the beverage, and it has been declared by the FDA that those who are pregnant, nursing, elderly or children should not take the tea due to their compromised immune systems. Kombucha is not a standardised "medicine" with strictly controlled conditions, so officially no scientific claims can be made as to regarding its impact on the well being of the individual are beginning to bring kombucha's prowess into the mainstream media and medical worlds.

So, what do you think about kombucha? Have you tried it, and if yes, what was it like?

From Gyms to Bootcamps to...Retreats?

Perhaps it's due to the popularity of TV shows like "Last Ten Pounds", but Bootcamp-style fitness programs have popped up all over the place in the past few years. In these programs, 'Drill Sargent' types shout commands at (and motivate) individuals looking to get in great shape in a limited amount of time. Combined with a healthy diet appropriate for weight loss, these Bootcamps can really be quite effective. But now, as we're finding that some people need an even bigger push and perhaps a higher degree of supervision, the trend is moving toward weight loss camps or "retreats, spas and resorts" for adults!

Despite their inviting names, which bring about thoughts of relaxation and indulgence, these camps are really not as cushy as the words would suggest. In fact, the only thing campers are meant to indulge in is weight loss. Studies have indeed found that motivation is key when it comes to weight loss. It is true that being around others with similar goals who can encourage and support you can give you that extra boost that you would be missing if you tried to train on your own. Now add in a staff nutritionist preparing and monitoring your meals, plus no excuses when it comes to working out, and it seems like you've got a virtually fail-proof solution to weight loss.

But the truth is, you don't always get what you pay for - the results you get are a reflection of how much effort you put in. At up to thousands of dollars a week, you'd better be serious about weight loss before you get on board. Unlike the TV show "The Biggest Loser", a lot of the activities and options provided are optional, so if you choose to turn them down, you're really missing out on the full experience.

For those who go all the way, such an intensive crash course in all things health related, and a huge injection of motivation and self-confidence has helped many campers go on to lose even more weight on their own when all is said and done. As with all programs, results do vary, so if you're planning on giving less than 100%, don't expect to get your money's worth in a place like this. Better to ease into a routine on your own and join in when the time is right.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Maybe the Hulk Was Just Hungry...

In case you're not familiar, The Hulk started out as just a regular, peaceful guy who went about his daily life not bothering anybody. You didn't want to make him mad though; as soon as he started to get just the tiniest bit stressed, he changed colour (turned bright green in this case) and erupted into a rage, stomping about and smashing everything in sight. This sort of phenomenon doesn't just occur with fictional comic figures; it can also be witnessed in the homes and cars of many hungry dieters. Was the poor Hulk just hungry?

In the least surprising, "no duh" headline of the day, the results of a new study have "found" that dieting makes people stressed out, irritable, and more likely to become aggressive. Truthfully, whatever diets those people in the study were on must have been poorly designed. I'll explain.

The whole phenomena being described above is closely tied to a person's blood sugar levels, but also to the amounts of perceived stress they endure while dieting. Both of these factors can be related to deprivation - omitting foods they enjoy in addition to not consuming enough calories, not spacing out their meals appropriately, and not eating balanced meals and snacks! That already sounds crappy to me and makes me irritable and angry just thinking about it!

The key to a successful weight loss program is first and foremost to enjoy it - that in and of itself makes it easy to follow and massively reduces diet-related stress. In fact, you would think that you would be less stressed if you liked the foods you were eating and looked forward to them, in addition to losing weight. Next, snacks should be eaten in between meals and dessert should be enjoyed every day, for a total of 6 or more mealtimes each day, such that a person's blood sugar levels do not dip so low as to cause this 'Hulk-like' phenomenon. And of course, meals need to be properly balanced with protein, fats and carbohydrates.

People often focus all their energy on protein, placing all their hopes on it to help them lose weight. Carbs and fats are perceived as the bad guys, and they're usually the first to get cut in diets. The truth is, carbs are what give you energy and keep you from going into an angry rage, while fats are necessary for long-lasting energy and feelings of fullness and satisfaction. For the best health in addition to the best weight loss results, calories should be reduced while the composition of those calories should be well balanced!

So before you start biting people's heads off, try consulting a trusted resource for some help with dietary modification. Be smart about your diet and you'll reach your goals peacefully and happily in no time!

Monday, March 21, 2011

McRunner Sets Personal Best with McDonald's Diet

A couple of weeks back, we told you about Joe D'Amico - the marathon-running enthusiast from LA who was also a sucker for McDonald's food. He challenged himself to eat 100% McDonald's food for 30 days, aside from the odd multivitamin or electrolyte beverage, in preparation for his latest marathon just to see what happens.

D'Amico made healthier choices off the hotly controversial menu, and aimed to follow a diet appropriate for a marathon runner. His diet was higher in overall calories in addition to carbohydrates to fuel his extended runs, fat to supply long-lasting energy, protein to repair his muscles and support his immune system, and sodium (which is in no short supply at McDonald's) to replace electrolytes lost through sweating.

Certainly, supporters and opponents of McDonald's alike waited with bated breath for D'Amico's outcomes so that they could have more 'evidence' to back their positions. As a nutrition professional, I was more interested in demonstrating that a healthy person's body composition is determined by the amount and type of calories they consume and the amount and type of exercise they perform. This contributes to, but does not determine, a person's overall health status.

McDonald's is by no means a 'healthier' choice for food, but in moderation, it may satisfy a different need for some people. For D'Amico, he just needed convenient fuel to burn, which he certainly did. He was also curious to see how his body would react to such a diet, which I'm sure many others have wondered as well. So it turns out, in all the times he's run the Los Angeles marathon, Joe D'Amico reached his personal best on his all McDonald's Diet! He placed 29th overall. Now - just imagine how much better he could have done with some higher quality fuel!

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Combating the Growing Canadian

It’s amazing what constitutes good news in the health and fitness world these days. A few days ago, the headline “One in four Canadian adults obese, less than U.S.: StatsCan” ran in the Toronto Star. While it sounds like a great accomplishment, the fact remains that a quarter of the Canadian populous is still obese (with a BMI over 30) – and that doesn’t count those in the “overweight” category with BMIs between 25 and 29.9. The StatsCan study was conducted between 2007 and 2009, and while the data determined the US was still facing a greater epidemic than other countries across the globe, it also highlighted one very disturbing trend. Canada is starting to catch up – and if our expansion continues at the rate it’s at now, we’ll have just as many overweight and obese adults as our Southern neighbours within the next generation.

So what’s to blame for the growing obesity crisis? Depending on the source you use, the extra weight problem that the modern day North American faces is caused by anything from genetics to hormones, and there is even one correlation of childhood weight problems to the amount of time the mother spends working outside the home. The sheer fact, though, is that weight gain today is for the same reason as it was 100 years ago: we simply eat more calories than we burn. Oversized portions in restaurants, “value added” packages of junk food and increasingly sedentary lifestyles all contribute to the total load. The convenience of drive-thru and delivery is now an expectation that has drastically reduced the amount of home-cooked meals consumed in the home. As a result, children are not learning the basics of cooking or indeed the value of “real food” – compounding the issue and setting the stage for another generation of overweight adults.

Beginning to combat the issue starts with a re-setting of priorities. Many people balk at the thought of purchasing fresh produce and nutritious ingredients because on the surface they are more expensive than their boxed and canned convenience counterparts. However, the costs can be offset by shopping at bulk food stores for dry goods and spices (which often have a higher turnover), and by not spending money on processed foods or eating at McDonald’s. Eliminating junk food in the house is a built-in control for emotional and compulsive eaters – no junk, no excess sugar and fat making its way into the body. Paying for nutritious food will also save you money, time and inconvenience in the future by reducing the need for medicine and doctor’s visits. For those who cite a lack of time as their main obstacle to healthy eating, a variety of options are open to you. Batch-cooking for lunches and dinners throughout the week is a good way to start: if you have your own “convenience foods” in the house, there is no reason to go out for a meal. There are also the options of nutritious grocery or food delivery services. Of particular benefit to those hard-working, single executives who are determined to improve their lives but don’t know where to start (or don’t have the time to learn how to prepare healthy recipes), they offer a simple solution that fits both time, budget and ability constraints.

There is no substitute for the benefits that exercise brings to the overall health of the individual. Far from requiring 2-3 hour sessions at the gym, increasing activity is as simple as taking the stairs instead of the elevator, parking further from the door of a building, or even power-walking around the mall. Those with children have a “built-in” fitness centre waiting for them – play tag outside, go to the park and play, even teach them the fun of road hockey. Community centres offer public and family swim and skate times as well, which are economical and a great way for families to bond while doing something physical.

The obesity crisis in Western society does not have to be a century-long epidemic. The more value people begin to place on their wellbeing and health, the less of a “sick-care” system we will need to rely on to get us through our golden years. It just takes a few steps to get started, and a few stairs to keep going.


Sarah Reid, RHNC


Friday, March 18, 2011

Time Your Meals Right to Lose More Weight

When it comes to eating for weight loss, timing is everything. You know that for the best results, diet and exercise must go hand in hand, but the story doesn't end there. You can think of diet and exercise as a couple that must coordinate their actions throughout the day to get along in the very best way possible. If done correctly, it's a match made in heaven!

When thinking about timing, the first point to consider is how many times a day you will actually eat. In terms of revving up your metabolism, or your body's ability to burn calories, it's best to eat smaller meals more often rather than just three larger meals as breakfast, lunch and dinner. Eating 6 or more times a day, in regular intervals, not only keeps your blood sugar levels more stable, but your body is better able to utilize the calories that you consume, keeping your energy levels up and the fire (that is, your metabolism) burning steady all day long.

The next factor to consider is how to coordinate meals or snacks around workouts. If you're working out right in the morning, many experts argue that moderate cardiovascular exercise can burn a greater percentage of calories from fat if it is done on an empty stomach. Your body will dip into its own stores for energy, rather than using the energy that was most recently consumed if you had eaten something beforehand.

If you are working out later in the day, you'll have to do a little bit of juggling. Theoretically, it's better to work out first and eat after if you have to choose between the two, as the exercise will boost your metabolism and then burn your post-meal calories more efficiently. However, if you have time for food, say an hour or less prior to a workout, it's a good idea to have a small, carbohydrate-rich snack like a banana for fuel so that you can give it your all. If you've got more time than that, have a small, balanced meal including complex carbohydrates (like whole grains), some protein and a small amount of fat. A bowl of whole grain cereal with some fruit is a good example, or a small sandwich.

If you're a regular gym goer looking to lose weight, just focus on hydration while you're sweating away, you don't need an energy boost during your workout. This is not true, however, if you're exercising for over 90 minutes, for example, if you're playing a long game of hockey or running a marathon. In that case, you might need to top up your carbohydrates with easily digestible sources like an electrolyte beverage such as Gatorade or an energy bar or gel. After your workout, have a well balanced, high quality meal. Your body will be hungry for energy and will need to repair muscle tissues that were damaged during your workout.

With these tips in mind, combined with a healthy diet and exercise regimen, the sky's the limit when it comes to reaching your health and weight loss goals.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Paddy's Day!

Wishing you a happy, healthy and very green St. Patrick's Day!

Also, at the risk of sounding like your mother, remember to drink your green Guinness responsibly!

Cheers!

Bradley Cooper's "Depressing" A-Team Diet

While women looked on with their jaws dropped and men were intensely jealous, nobody could deny that Bradley Cooper was in fantastic shape while filming "The A-Team". So while some women might look to his rail-thin girlfriend, Renee Zellwegger, for diet advice, guys are itching to know how they can get 8-packs like Mr. Cooper's before summer hits.

Truth be told, as anyone who has tried has found out, rock-hard abs aren't that hard to build. The hard part is actually seeing them under a layer of skin, fat and water. That part is all diet. Sorry - you can do as many crunches as you want, but unless you eat for your abs, nobody will know they're there. And the even harder truth is that you need to get your body fat percentage down ridiculously low in order for a 6-pack, nevermind an 8-pack to shine through. This is something Bradley Cooper knows all too well, and he still gets depressed thinking about it!

In order to get that envy-inspiring body, Cooper pretty much cut out carbs and had to drastically cut back on his calories. Being a big fan of carbs, sandwiches and eating in general, cooper had to resort to desperate measures to keep his hands off a panini. In an interview, Cooper confessed "When I was shooting The A-Team I couldn't eat anything, which was a nightmare because I love to eat". He went on to say "It was the worst but I would still make sandwiches. I would like cut a grape in half – this is so depressing – and I would put an almond inside, you know, to make a little sandwich. It was my big treat,". Wow - depressing indeed!

So guys, and ladies, before you embark on your journey to 6-pack land, keep in mind that it's a huge sacrifice and not a sustainable lifestyle at all. If you want to enjoy life and not cry every time you see anyone eating, please settle for a fit, healthy body and a flat stomach instead. We're not Hollywood actors here! A little fat (and a sandwich) never hurt anyone.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Owning a Dog Can Help You Lose Your Belly Pooch

Who among us has the energy to lace up our runners and hit the pavement when we get home each day? Especially now, in this weather? It's a rare occurrence, but it does happen. Now imaging coming home to find Fido thrilled to see you and he just so happens to need to go for a walk. How's that for motivation? It's far more likely you'll lace up your runners and hit the pavement.

The same can be true on weekends. Instead of staying in or strolling around the mall, owning a dog gives people a reason to enjoy the great outdoors and spend time with their beloved Fido. Studies have actually found that owning a dog is like owning a piece of exercise equipment; those with dogs get roughly the same amount of calories as those with exercise machines! In fact, it has also been found that the simple act of petting a dog is a potent stress-buster.

To add to the many, many benefits of owning a dog, it also turns out that teens who have a dog in the family are more active than their pooch-less counterparts, for the same reasons noted above. The difference in this particular study wasn't major, however, on the whole, any extra bit of physical activity or decrease in stress makes a difference on health.

Less stress and more physical activity? Wow - dogs sure sound like the friendliest and funnest cross-trainers I've ever heard of!

Happy National Dietitians Day (Canada)!!!

Hooray! It's finally Canada's turn to celebrate all the great work RD's do.

Today we celebrate dietitians "as health care professionals, committed to using their specialized knowledge and skills in food and nutrition to improve the health of Canadians."

It's also a day to promote awareness of what dietitians do, the different types of dietitians, and how to become one, for those who don't know. You can find out more here.

If you know an RD, give them a hug or a pat on the back today!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson on "New Diet Craze"

Hollywood is a crazy place. Women are expected to be skinny and fit, while men are expected to have 6-packs the likes of the Old Spice guy. It seems like every other day, celebrities confess to adopting new diets, many of which are outrageous, unhealthy, or both. Now, three of Hollywood's hottest young starlets, who are known for their curves and steadfast commitment to health and fitness (not crazes or trends) have admitted to following Hollywood's latest diet craze.

Have you heard? Jessica Alba, Jessica Biel and Scarlett Johansson are all on the Jimmy K diet. Actually, so are Rebecca Romijn, January Jones and Emily Blunt. Yes, they have had great success on this diet which works because "Fattening foods are subjected to powerful slimming forces which strip away 80% of the carbohydrates, proteins and fats and divert them directly into Jimmy's stomach, where they are digested,". In case you're confused, "Jimmy K" is Jimmy Kimmel, a comedian.

That's right - these girls haven't changed their minds about health; the diet is a spoof! In the clip, the ladies' "before" photos had their faces photoshopped onto the bodies of overweight individuals. This skit is the continuation of Jimmy's "revolutionary fitness regimen" which included "Hottie Body Humpilates" - You may use your imagination for that one.

I definitely had a good laugh about this new 'diet', but I must admit, I laugh just as hard when I hear about some of those other diet hoaxes, too. Thanks for shining some light on this issue, Jimmy!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sweet Medicine: Better-For-You Chocolate

Could it be? We know that chocolate in small doses is quite possibly the sweetest medicine, but some lucky folks may soon have even more reason to snack on the food of the gods.

In a press release late last week, it was announced that Agostoni Chocolate, an Italian farm-to-bar producer of all natural premium chocolates, has joined forces with probiotic strain producer Ganeden Biotech, Inc., to launch a range of probiotic-enhanced Private Label chocolates to be sold as over the counter supplements.

This might be the most comprehensive definition of functional foods that I can think of - not only does chocolate nourish the soul, it also nourishes the body and now, even more so! Cocoa loaded with antioxidants, but this new chocolate would also boost the health of our digestive tracts with the addition of patented probiotics.

The individually wrapped chocolate 'supplements' offer a daily dose of high quality dark chocolate combined with the GanedenBC30® probiotic in a small 0.18 oz mini-disk format. The supplement comes in two levels of cocoa percentage in addition to a choice of organic or conventional ingredients. A serving of just two chocolates a day delivers a probiotic dose to boost digestive and immune health, all for a mere 50 calories. Really, what could be sweeter than that?

Now, the real questions is how can I get my hands on some of this?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Man Adopts All-McDonald's Diet to Prep for Marathon

Perhaps I'll be stirring up a little bit of controversy with my next few comments, but hopefully I'll get you thinking critically. When you think of marathon runners, what do you expect? They're usually very lean and muscular, a body type which we would normally associate with a low-fat, lower-calorie diet. What about someone who eats McDonalds every day at every meal for 30 days straight? Most people wouldn't associate that lean, healthy, 'ripped' physique with such a diet. But combine the two - a marathon runner on a rigorous training schedule plus an all-McDonald's diet for 30 days and you've got Mr. Joe D'Amico, the 'drive-thru runner'.

In truth, marathon runners actually require far more calories than the average person. Since their bodies tend to be so low in fat, their diets tend to supply more energy from that nutrient in addition to lots of carbohydrates for sustained energy during long runs. They also need protein to help their muscles heal and recover. Add in the fact that they are sweating for hours a day, and you bet they need to replace that sodium as well. Despite eating as much as they do, so much cardiovascular exercise puts their bodies in such a catabolic state that they tend to almost look emaciated at times. In that case, McDonald's doesn't seem like such a stretch to supplement a marathon runner's diet.

In an attempt to combine his two passions, McDonald's food and running marathons, D'Amico has committed to sticking to his new regime and blogging about his experience. Even though he's eating 100% of his meals at McDonald's, D'Amico is making 'healthier' choices like fruit smoothies and parfaits, and just the egg out of a sandwich for breakfast. For lunch, he'll grab some grilled chicken snack wraps, and salads with grilled chicken for dinner. He gets in lots of fruit and vegetables and even nuts through his smoothies and salads, including snacks like fruit and walnut salad. It doesn't sound so bad after all! But just to be sure he's not missing anything, D'Amico is making a few exceptions. He's adding water, multivitamins, ibuprofen and PowerGel to his all-McDonald's diet.

So really what we can take from this example is that 1. no matter where you eat or what you eat, you should be conscious of what's in it and why you're eating it - what is it doing for you (or to you?) and 2. balancing energy in with energy out through exercising is essential if you want to maintain a healthy weight, keep your muscles in good shape and keep your heart strong and healthy.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Could Being Healthy Ruin an Actor's Career?

As outrageous and backwards as it might seem that good health might jeopardize someone's career, Hollywood doesn't always work in rational ways (wait - does it ever?). Going from overweight to a healthy weight would normally be celebrated in the 'real world', or even if the actor was female, but Jonah Hill in particular is being slammed instead of praised for his recent weight loss success.

In recently losing over 30 lbs, actor Jonah Hill, best known for his comedic roles as the 'chubby guy' in films like 'Superbad' and 'Get Him to the Greek' looks noticeably thinner. His oftentimes dark sense of humor frequently revolved around issues of his weight, which perhaps added that something extra to his roles. The problem that has arisen now, critics argue, is that he was always somewhat typecast in roles as the 'funny chubby guy', and if that character no longer exists, what sorts of roles will he play? It's not a very nice take on the situation, I know.

Critics also claim that people like to laugh at chubby comedians - Jack Black is a classic example - and has based his entire career on playing this character. It is also claimed that the careers of those who have lost weight (and shed that persona), including Drew Carey and John Goodman, have suffered.

Nevertheless, we should all commend Mr. Hill on taking the necessary measures to improve his health! Since he is still pretty new to the industry, perhaps this change will propel him forward and allow him to graduate into new dynamic roles where he can shine for different reasons. We've never really had the opportunity to view other angles of Hill's acting portfolio and I suspect that we're in for a pleasant surprise.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Keep Fit, Trim and Healthy with Resistance Training

When it comes to losing weight and keeping it off, a negative calorie balance is key. That means that you have to 'subtract' calories from what you usually need for a stable weight each day so that you create a calorie deficit. This causes your body to use up some of its own stores as energy and the end result is weight loss. You can certainly do this with diet alone, but if you have a bigger appetite, you might shift your focus toward exercising a bit more to blast calories that way. In any case, physical activity is as important as eating well and can't be overlooked.

Many people think that cardio is the only way to go when it comes to exercise and they're afraid of resistance training. Yes, cardio blasts fat and calories, but so does resistance training. It just does it in a different way. There's a misconception that resistance training will make you bulk up, but if you use lighter weights, you're just toning and tightening those muscles. Who wouldn't want that? Even Yoga and Pilates count, as you're using your own body weight as resistance to strengthen and tone your muscles.

Resistance training is important in all stages of life, even in youth and adolescents. The Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology has recently published a comprehensive paper on resistance training in children and adolescents, as many people fear that such exercise will stunt growth or cause other harm in those age groups. They found quite the contrary, in fact they noted that “Traditional fears associated with youth resistance training have been replaced with more recent findings that indicate that regular participation in weight-bearing physical activities is essential for normal bone growth and development.”. It is also important for the same reasons in later stages of life - weight bearing activities are necessary for bone health in addition to the maintenance of lean muscle mass.

It really is true what they say about lean muscle mass - use it or lose it - and you really can't afford to lose it if you want to maintain good health throughout the years! So go on, start with a pair of 5lb weights or sign up for a Yoga or Pilates class and see what you're capable of!

Happy Registered Dietitians Day (US)!!!

How lucky are RDs? They actually get to celebrate twice this year! Yes, I thought RD day was also today in Canada (it is in the US), but it turns out that here, it's on March 16th, 2011!

In any case, it's RDs are always worth celebrating so they deserve it! Happy Registered Dietitians Day!

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Is Taking Your Time With Meals the Secret to Weight Loss?

For a long time, one important piece of advice regarding weight loss or maintenance was to take your time with your meals instead of wolfing them down in a hurry. The point was to really pay attention to the flavours and sensations - be present in the moment (not distracted by the TV or computer) and be able to notice when you are actually full. You know, it takes about 20 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain 'I'm full', and if you eat way too fast, you might just miss that cue. But does this theory really pan out? Does slowing it down really help when it comes to your weight?

Researchers from the Netherlands wanted to find out. Naturally, they designed a study where two dining situations were created - one was a lengthy affair where the food was presented in a staggered fashion with breaks in between, and the other was a regular, shorter, casual meal experience lasting only 30 minutes with all the food presented at once. Each participant experienced both situations on different days. Despite the difference in the length of the meal time, the number of calories and amount of food that the participants were given in both groups was the same. The meals were balanced in terms of protein, fats and carbohydrates, including a salad, pasta with meat sauce, vegetable lasagna and some dessert. Two and a half hours after their meals were finished, the diners were presented with tea and an array of sweets like cookies and cake. So what happened?

It turns out that people ate just as many snacks in both cases! Blood samples had been drawn before and after meals, and participants were asked how full they felt after eating. The blood work showed that eating more slowly caused the levels of their 'fullness' hormones to rise more slowly, whereas eating faster made them spike. Those who ate more slowly said they felt fuller, but their behaviors weren't in line with their feelings or beliefs.

The bottom line, the researchers believe, is that we can't just look at biological markers like hormones to understand who will eat more and who will eat less. Knowledge doesn't necessarily translate to behaviour (in fat, it usually doesn't). We're pretty much suckers to our environments! That's why gimmicks and diet pills don't work - they do absolutely nothing to help us resist what is in front of us and overtly decide to avoid eating more than we need to. Unless we consciously resist snacking when we know we've eaten enough calorie-wise, we simply can't help it, no matter what our stomachs tell our brains!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Health Obsessed Billionaire Aims to Live 125 Years

Imagine having your health in such good shape - perfect health you could say - that a sore throat is unheard of and cause for alarm. You have perfect blood pressure, clear arteries and in great physical shape. Now add in the fact that you're a 87 years old and you just might be billionaire David Murdock.

Never suffering from a back ache, a headache or "anything else", Murdock swears by his plant-based diet; he is convinced that it is the answer to all that ails us. In fact, he is so convinced of this, that he has spent over $500 million in research to figure out how it all works. He's got plenty of access to resources to help along with his research initiatives, as he owns Dole, the world's largest producer of fruits and vegetables.

Embarking on a new study involving 50,000 participants, monitoring their diets and blood work, Murdock hopes to determine which biological markers can predict the onset of diseases. He hopes to one day eradicate diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

There's no doubt that Murdock is getting large doses of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants on the regular, as he eats up to 20 fruits and vegetables each day, many of which are blended into smoothies that he drinks 2-3 times a day. In addition, to meet his protein requirements, Murdock consumes seafood, egg whites, beans and nuts but he avoids dairy, red meat and poultry. In addition, alcohol, salt and sugar are off limits.

In the end, Murdock aims to live until he is 125 years old because he figures if nothing is wrong with him healthwise, there's nothing to stop him! If only we could all be so fortunate...