Thursday, December 30, 2010

Eleven Weight Loss Tips for 2011

Want some help keeping your resolution to lose weight, get healthy and feel better than ever in this new year? The truth is, losing weight is much easier than everyone would have you believe. Here are a few simple tips to make this year's resolution into a keeper:

1. Start the year with a easy five-day program called Reset that totally gets rid of cravings for high fat, sugar and salt foods.  Doing this will set the stage for your success.

2. Decide on a specific goal (number of pounds you'll lose, your desired weight or even your new, skinny pants size) and write it down in a visible place--or even draw a picture of what you'll look like when you achieve your goal! 

3. Set and write down realistic exercise goals for yourself.  For sustained weight loss, you'll need to exercise at least 30 minutes per day, six days per week. At least 2 days should focus on strength training--start with elastic bands for resistance moves or light weights. The rest should be cardiovascular exercises, such as moderate to fast walking, dancing, and so on. Why bother with weight training? The bigger your muscles are, the more calories your body will burn 24/7.

4. Get at least 7-8 hours of sleep per night. Lots of research has come out in the past few years showing how hormones released during sleep are essential for slimming down AND keeping the weight off.

5. Clean out your cupboards and throw out all the foods that may threaten your success (salty snacks, sweets, and so on). If it's not in the house, you won't eat it! (If you don't have the willpower to do it yourself, ask your spouse or a friend to do it with, or even for, you.)

6. Buy a set of small plates, bowls and glasses and sell your large ones. Research shows that even healthcare professionals (who are supposed to be ultra-knowledgeable about health) serve themselves less food when eating on smaller plates vs. larger ones.

7. Keep food well sealed in cupboards, the fridge, or the freezer. Having food out and in plain view in the office or at home invites frequent snacking--just what you don't want. The less you see it, the less you'll eat.

8. Have a healthy snack with some fiber and maybe a little protein (think: an apple or pear with a slice of cheese, or whole grain crackers with a dab of nut butter) and a glass of water 30 minutes before going out to eat or to a social event.  

9. Find a partner or family member to help you stay on track. If possible, choose someone who has a similar goal. Set regular "dates" with this buddy to exercise together, share recipes, and give and get moral support. If you don't know anyone who's trying to lose weight, still try to find someone who'll commit to helping you stay on target and set a regular time to check in with that person and do something fun together, like going dancing, or even taking a walk in the park.

10. Make eating an event in itself. Rather than multitasking, set the table, turn off the TV, sit down and really taste and enjoy your food at each and every meal. Eat foods that you really enjoy (even ones that aren't low calorie)--carefully chew them thoroughly and notice how they taste. If you notice that you're eating something you don't really like, stop eating it and choose something else. Pay close attention to your body and notice when you're full. Drink a cup of water or a hot liquid such as unsweetened tea or coffee after a meal, or brush your teeth to tell your body that the meal has ended.   

11. Reward yourself--if you have a big goal, break it down into smaller increments and give yourself rewards (i.e. a night at the movies, a new book, a night out with friends, etc.) each time you reach a partial goal. When you are close to reaching your whole goal, celebrate in style! Throw a party, give yourself a day at the spa, or a long weekend at the beach in your new skinny swimsuit--you've earned it!  

If you're really ready to get started and you'd like more tips, I'm more than happy to help. Email me at kathymcsan@gmail.com and I'll do everything I can to help you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Fruits' and Veggies' Secret Weapons

Fruits and vegetables have long been held up as the vitamin, mineral and fiber powerhouses of any diet. Health professionals have long told us that if we want to control our weight and enjoy good health, we need to eat more fruits and veggies, since they’re so high in vitamins, minerals and fiber. Yet when scientists study the effects of vitamins, minerals and fiber on preventing disease and improving health, they come up empty half the time. So, what gives?

It turns out that fruits and veggies have a whole stockpile of secret weapons that we (scientists included) have long overlooked. Collectively, they’re called “phytonutrients” or “phytochemicals,” because “phyto-” (pronounced Fi-toh) is Greek for “from plants.” Phytonutrients are natural chemicals that plants make to protect themselves from threats such as damaging UV rays from the sun (we’re not the only ones who can get sunburned!), insects and pests, and pollution in the environment. They also give fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, seeds and spices, their color, flavor and aroma.

Why have they been ignored for so long? There are probably several reasons. First, unlike vitamins and minerals, they aren’t essential in the sense that people don’t need to eat phytonutrients to stay alive. Also, there are literally thousands of them; most fruits and veggies have well over 100 phytonutrients; many have several times that number, and most have some pretty long names. (1) (Hint: if you’ve seen strange words like “lycopene” on tomato sauce jars or ketchup bottles, or “resveratrol” on jars of peanuts or dark chocolate bars, welcome to hard-to-pronounce world of phytonutrients!) Finally, scientists have only recently begun to discover their power to prevent disease as well as protect and improve our health.

Given the huge health benefits that we can reap from our new-found phytonutrients friends, it’s shocking to find out that a full 94% of all Americans over the age of 18 are not getting even close to enough of them, according to the recently published study. In the 18-44 year-old age group, the number is even higher—97% don’t get enough. (2) That’s probably because the typical US diet is so low in fruits and veggies, beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds and spices. In order to get enough phytonutrients, men need to eat 5 cups of fruits and veggies per day, and women need to eat 4 to 4 ½ cups per day.

Although the best way to get your phytonutrients is through whole foods (i.e. eating fruits and veggies!), many people choose to take supplements to make sure they are getting what they need to stay well, as a kind of insurance policy. If you choose to go with supplements, make sure that you do your research before you buy. At a minimum, you want to choose a product that has both NSF (NSF International) and (USP (US Pharmacopia) seals, to ensure that the supplements actually contain what the labels claims, and that the ingredients are pure and easily absorbed in the body.

To be extra safe, you’d be wise to choose a supplement that is produced to pharmaceutical quality and is listed in the Physicians’ Desk Reference. Unfortunately, there are very few supplements that meet such tough criteria. However, if you’d like to check out one that does, take a look at the supplements and other health and skincare products made by USANA Health Sciences, Inc. My family and I have been taking them for seven years, and have never been healthier or felt more energetic and alive.

Nutrition for the Body: According to the Agricultural Research Service at the US Department of Agriculture, phytonutrients can do everything from killing cancer cells after they have started to grow, to turning certain of our genes on and off (i.e. turning on a gene that protects against diabetes, for example, or turning off one that would otherwise predispose us to heart disease). They can also fix some of the damage to our genes caused by things such as pollution (i.e. the fumes we accidentally breathe from our cars, household cleaners, or second-hand smoke), eating fatty foods, stress, sun exposure or intense workouts. Some of them can even keep us from getting sick when we’re exposed to germs; and others, such as catechins found in green tea, can reduce body fat, particularly around our middles. (3)

Nutrition for the Mind: Certain phytonutrients have been found to improve brain function and protect against diseases of the mind. For example, compounds called anthocyanidins in purple and blue fruits and veggies such as grapes and blueberries have been found to improve memory. (4) Several compounds in tea (black, green, white and oolong) have been shown to help us maintain our attention and mental focus, remain alert all day long, and protect against Alzheimer’s disease. (3,4)

Nutrition for the Spirit: Phytonutrients are precious gifts that Mother Earth (or God) gives us to preserve our bodies. When we take them into our bodies, we gratefully accept Her/His gifts, using them to protect and strengthen our physical form. Since our bodies are the physical “houses” for our souls, they are as sacred as any church, synagogue or temple. And as spiritual and/or religious beings, we have a duty to protect and care for our bodies as lovingly and responsibly as we care for our houses of worship and our own families. Making sure we get enough phytonutrients, whether through supplements or food, is a great way to honor God (or Mother Earth) and show that we understand and commit to doing our part as our own personal caretakers.
1. Davidson, Michael W. The Phytochemical Collection, Florida State University, http://micro.magnet.fsu.edu/phytochemicals/index.html

2. America’s Phytonutrient Report: Quantifying the Gap, Nutrilite Institute for Health. 2010.

3. Kovacs, Eva MR. The Growing Evidence for Supporting the Goodness of Tea. Newsletter of the Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine, American Dietetics Association, 2010; 12(4): 69-71.

4. Lau FC, Shukitt-Hale B. Joseph JA. Nutritional intervention in brain aging: reducing the effects of inflammation and oxidative stress. Subcell Biochemistry 2007; 42:299-318.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Milking your weight training work-out

You work hard to keep your muscles toned and your body in shape. Two times per week, you grunt and strain to lift heavy weights and drip with sweat from the intense exertion. Sometimes it’s hard to stay motivated, yet you do it anyway because weight training brings so many benefits.
But did you know that the actual workout is only half the strength-training story? What you do after your workout is just as important as the workout itself, because that’s the time when your muscles repair themselves and rebuild even stronger than before. You can optimize this repair process to maximize the benefits by doing one simple thing: drink milk.

Drinking 16 ounces of skim milk (chocolate or regular) within two hours of a strength-training workout has been shown in studies to strengthen and restore muscles better than sports drinks and other foods. (1, 2, 3, 4) Not only does milk help build stronger muscles, it also prepares muscles to work out again, sooner. And get this, scientists at Canada’s McMaster University found that women who drink milk after a workout burn more fat all day long than those who don’t. (5) So drink up, ladies and gents!

Nutrition for the body: Obviously, weight training builds strong muscles and strengthens bones---important for helping you do everyday activities like lifting the kids up in the air, digging in the garden, and carrying the groceries into the house. Plus, it has been shown to reduce pain in people suffering from arthritis, fibromyalgia, lower back pain, and other chronic sources of pain. Drinking milk after a workout ramps up the benefits by helping muscles rebuild even stronger and shortening recovery time, all while reducing body fat.

Nutrition for the mind: A couple of less obvious benefits of weight lifting are its ability to help you lose weight. Studies have found that weight training offers mental benefits in the form of better and faster decision-making skills, improved sleep quality and self esteem, and significantly reductions in depression and anxiety. (6, 7) Since drinking milk helps the body become stronger more quickly, all of a sudden, working out next time doesn’t seem so hard after all! Especially when you look in the mirror and see how your body is changing for the better!

Nutrition for the spirit: Where does the milk you drink come from? Even most preschoolers know the answer to that question—a cow, of course. But when you think about it, cows, like humans, make milk for their young and making milk is one of the many ways a mother (human or cow) shows her love for her child. When we drink the milk of a cow, we are taking that act of love into our bodies. That may be why in Hinduism, the cow is a symbol of food, life and the earth. Vedic scripture dictates that cows should be treated “with the same respect as one’s mother.” Remember this as you drink your milk; say a quick prayer or word of thanks to the cow; and that milk will do much more than nourish your body and mind. It will also nourish your soul.

1. Lunn WR, Colletto MR, Karfonta KE, Anderson JM, Pasiakos SM, Ferrando AA, Wolfe RR, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk consumption following endurance exercise affects skeletal muscle protein fractional synthetic rate and intracellular signaling. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S48.

2. Karfonta KE, Lunn WR, Colletto MR, Anderson JM, Rodriguez NR. Chocolate milk enhances glycogen replenishment after endurance exercise in moderately trained males. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S64.

3. Colletto MR, Lunn W, Karfonta K, Anderson J, Rogriguez N. Effects of chocolate milk consumption on leucine kinetics during recovery from endurance exercise. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S126.

4. Ferguson-Stegall L, McCleave E, Doerner PG, Ding Z, Dessard B, Kammer L, Wang B, Liu Y, Ivy J. Effects of chocolate milk supplementation on recovery from cycling exercise and subsequent time trial performance. Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise. 2010;42:S536.

5. News release, McMaster University., Josse, A. American College of Sports Medicine, pp 1122-1128.

6 Teresa Liu-Ambrose; Lindsay S. Nagamatsu; Peter Graf; B. Lynn Beattie; Maureen C. Ashe; Todd C. Handy. Resistance Training and Executive Functions: A 12-Month Randomized Controlled Trial, Arch Intern Med. 2010;170(2):170-178.

7 Doyne, Elizabeth J.; Ossip-Klein, Deborah J.; Bowman, Eric D.; Osborn, Kent M.; McDougall-Wilson, Ilona B.; Neimeyer, Robert A. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, Vol 55(5), Oct 1987, 748-754. doi: 10.1037/0022-006X.55.5.748

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Purple power punch

Summer means hot days and thirsty kids (and adults!). But before you grab for that bottle of Kool-Aid, Hi C or soda, consider this. Do you really want to deal with spastic, hyper kids all day? Probably not! Yet research shows that the artificial colors and mega-doses of sugar your kids take in when they down one of those drinks tends to make even normal kids behave as if they had attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD). (1, 2, 3, 4)
But your kids don’t like water and you’re kind of bored with it yourself, you say? No worries! Give this punch a try—it’s easy to make, easy on the wallet, extraordinarily healthy, totally refreshing and great-tasting, to boot. You can make a huge batch and have enough for a whole week or more. Or serve it at your summer BBQ—not only will you save tons of money on drinks, you’ll help the environment, too (no bottles to transport or recycle). Just be prepared to share the recipe (below) with your guests--believe me, they’ll ask you for it!

Nutrition for the body: Excellent as it tastes, you may be surprised to find out that purple power punch is extraordinarily healthy, too. Purple corn is full of powerful antioxidants called proanthocyanidins and phenolic acids. Research has shown that proanthocyanins can prevent type 2 diabetes and heart disease, protect against (and even cure if consumed in large amounts over several days) urinary tract infections and sinus infections, lower cholesterol and blood pressure, protect against colon, breast, liver and other cancers, reduced blood clots, and even fight obesity and aging (drink up, grown-ups!). (5, 6) Cinnamon and cloves also have huge disease-fighting benefits—cloves will even protect your teeth from decay.


Nutrition for the mind: The proanthocyanidins in purple corn have been shown to cross the blood-brain barrier. Since they are natural anti-inflammatories, they help the brain’s blood vessels stay healthy and reduce the likelihood of stroke. They’re also reported to improve mental acuity and help fight senility. In other words, they can help make you smarter and keep you that way as you get older.

Nutrition for the spirit: Purple corn is native to indigenous cultures in South and North America. There is a Hopi prophecy that says "when purple corn reaches the west there will be great change in the world." The Incas in Peru used chicha morada (aka purple power punch) to toast Pachamama (Mother Earth) in ceremonies and drank it to celebrate spiritual connection with the Divine. It is still used today for that purpose by Paqos and Pampa Mesayoqs (people who follow the Inka spiritual traditions). There are also some people who claim that purple corn can help us open our third eye (sixth) chakra, since its color is purple. The third eye chakra is responsible for increased intuition, and opening up to spiritual truths.

Purple Power Punch Recipe

Ingredients:

15 oz bag of dried purple corn on the cob (find it in the ethnic section of your local supermarket)
1 whole pineapple (buy organic if possible)
40 or so whole cloves
2-4 sticks of cinnamon (Note: use the sticks, not ground cinnamon)
8-10 lemons
Sugar to taste (brown sugar or honey may be used, as well)
Large pot of water

Directions:

1) Fill the largest pot you own with water, 3 or 4 corn cobs (keep the corn on the cob), cinnamon sticks and cloves, and put it on the stove to boil.
2) Wash the skin of the pineapple with soap and water (especially if your pineapple is not organic, to remove pesticides). Cut the peel off the pineapple and add it (the peel) to the pot. (We only use the peel for this recipe, so you can cut up the pineapple and store it in the fridge).
3) Once the water in the pot boils, turn the heat down enough to maintain a gentle boil/simmer, and continue to cook for an hour.
4) Carefully remove the corn cobs from the pot and slide lengthwise down the center of cob (caution—they will be very hot). Return the cut cobs or corn to the pot to boil/simmer for an addition hour or so.
5) When the liquid has become dark purple, turn off the heat and allow the punch to cool to room temperature.
6) Once the punch reaches room temperature, use a colander to remove the cloves, cinnamon, corn and pineapple peels. These you can discard (preferably into your compost pile).
7) Add sugar to taste and stir the punch gently until it dissolves.
8) Put the punch in the fridge to chill. When serving, transfer some of the punch into a pitcher. Squeeze the juice out of 2-3 lemons and add to the pitcher of chilled punch (you may need to add a little more sugar to compensate).
9) If you want to be fancy, finely chop a few apples and add them to the punch. That’s how they drink it in Peru (there, it is called chicha morada).
10) Tell the kids (and adults) to come get their purple power punch and watch them gulp it down and ask for more!

1. “Food additives and hyperactive behaviour in 3-year-old and 8/9-year-old children in the community: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo-controlled trial", Lancet, Sept 2007

2. 1997 Graduate Student Research Project conducted at the University of South Florida. Author: Richard W. Pressinger M.Ed.

3. "Food Additives May Affect Kids' Hyperactivity", WebMD Medical News, May 24, 2004.

4. "The Impact of a Low Food Additive and Sucrose Diet on Academic Performance in 803 New York City Public Schools," Schoenthaler SJ, Doraz WE, Wakefield JA, Int J Biosocial Res., 1986, 8(2); 185–195

5. “Dietary cyanidin 3-O-beta-D-glucoside-rich purple corn color prevents obesity and ameliorates hyperglycemia in mice.” J Nutr. 2003 Jul;133(7):2125-30. Research Center for Biomarkers of Preventive Medicine, Doshisha University, Imadegawa-dori, Kamigyo-ku, Kyoto Japan.

6. “Purple corn anthocyanins: chemical structure, chemoprotective activity and structure/function relationships,” Pu Jing, MS, Doctoral dissertation, Ohio State University, 2006. http://etd.ohiolink.edu/send-pdf.cgi/Jing,%20Pu.pdf?acc_num=osu1155738398

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Quinoa: Grain for the Body, Mind and Spirit

The Incas of Peru revered quinoa (a small seed-like grain) as nothing less than sacred, and for good reason! Not only is it delicious and filling, it also is has complete protein--something very few grains can claim--that's as high quality as animal protein. With quinoa, you get your carbs and your protein in a single place, plus plenty of good fiber and a little bit of "good" fat, as well. (1)

Studies have found that quinoa can do everything from helping people lose weight (because it keeps you feeling full longer than most other foods made from flour or grain) (2), to preventing cancer, heart disease and diabetes, in part thanks to its high antioxidant content (potent polyphenols called quercetin glycosides). (3)

Easy to cook, you can add it to any recipe in place of rice. I've even seen recipes for such things as quinoa sushi on the Internet (don't believe me? Google it!). Just put it in the rice cooker with 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa, or cook it on the stove using the same proportions. From there, you can eat it plain with a little salt as a side dish; add a little milk, honey, chopped nuts and dried fruit to create a breakfast porridge for days when you need your brain to be at its best; or add some cheese, veggies and your choice of seasonings for a hearty casserole main dish. You get the idea...

Nutrition for the body: Quinoa provides slowly digested carbs for sustained energy, complete protein for building strong muscles, fiber for good digestive health, and highly bioactive antioxidants that can help prevent diabetes and heart disease. Plus, its tendency to keep you feeling full for a long time makes it great for weight loss, too.

Nutrition for the mind: Starting your day with quinoa gives your brain a sustained source of fuel and all the essential amino acids you need to feel "on the ball" and mentally alert all day long. Quinoa's a great breakfast choice on days when you've got a test to pass or a tough problem to solve.

Nutrition for the spirit: As you sit down to eat your quinoa, take a minute to meditate, pray or just think about how you're about to eat a grain that sustained a great ancient civilization (the Incas) for centuries. We are all connected to the past through the food we eat. Acknowledge that fact and be grateful for the gift you are about to receive. Even if you aren't a spiritual or religious person, be aware that eating consciously has been shown by science to improve digestion and increase nutrient absorption. (4)   

(1) “Cultivos Andinos: Importancia nutricional y posibilidades de procesamiento,” Ritva Repo et al, Centro de Estudios Rurales Andinos “Bartolom√© de Las Casas,” 1988.
(2) “In vitro starch digestibility and in vivo glucose response of gluten-free foods and their gluten counterparts,” Berti et al, Eur J Nutr (2004) 43 : 198–204
(3) “Evaluation of Indigenous Grains from the Peruvian Andean Region for Antidiabetes and Antihypertension Potential Using In Vitro Methods,” J Med Food 12:4 (704-713) 2009.
(4) "Enlightened Diet," Kesten, Deborah, 2003, http://www.spiritualityhealth.com/NMagazine/articles.php?id=531