Thursday, October 8, 2015

Beet Heart Failure

When a team of researchers discovered that nitrates present in beets improve an athlete’s muscle performance, it was only natural for them to become curious as to what else these powerful nitrates could do.  During aerobic exercise, the nitrates convert to nitric oxide, providing benefits to blood pressure and cardiovascular health.

Most recently, these same researchers determined that the nitrates also benefit patients with heart failure.  Heart failure is the gradual loss of pumping capacity, which results in fatigue and shortness of breath.  This means that the everyday activities that were once simple will become increasingly difficult to accomplish.  “Activities of daily living are power-based,” notes senior study author Dr. Linda R. Peterson.  She adds, “we want to help make people more powerful because power is such an important predictor of how well people do, whether they have heart failure, cancer or other conditions.”

A small study group of patients showed a 13% increase in power in muscles that extend the knee just two hours after drinking beet juice.  Dr. Andrew R. Coggan, assistant professor of radiology at the Washington University School of Medicine, compares the “beet-juice effect” to Popeye eating his spinach.  In fact, he says, “the magnitude of this improvement is comparable to that seen in heart patients who have done 2-3 months of resistance training.”
The benefits of nitrates are continuing to be studied.  Next, the team would like to study the effects of nitrates in older populations.  Dr. Coggan hopes that his future research will provide a significant benefit to older individuals.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

What's in Your Substitute?

So when you hear the word “healthy”, do you cringe?  Does the image of plain salads and dry chicken instantly pop into your mind?  Maybe it’s because people believe they have to give up all their favorite foods to be healthy, or at least only have one “cheat day” before going back to drinking gallons of water each day and eating tasteless vegetables.  Well not anymore!  People, let me introduce “the food substitute.”  Yes, eating your favorite foods can still be done, just with some minor changes to your recipes.  Will they taste exactly the same?  Probably not.  But would you rather forgo pizza, fries, and desserts until you just can’t take it anymore?  Or, would you rather be satisfied, eat them a few times a week, and slowly change your tastes to a more healthy version?  I vote for the later. 

Everyone likes pizza, right?  But did you know, a single slice of pepperoni pizza from Pizza Hut has roughly 370 calories?!  That’s for just one slice (and who eats just one slice?!).  But, what if I said, make your own and substitute the crust for a whole wheat tortilla?  An entire pizza has only 291 calories.  You still can eat pizza, just a slightly healthier version.  To cut even more calories, try using turkey pepperoni (and do I dare even suggest going vegetarian) and 2% mozzarella cheese! 

Fries.  I understand that every now and again, you just need to have those hot, crispy, golden-to- perfection, salty fries from the infamous Golden Arches.  But, what if you crave them more than just a few times a year?  A medium fry has 340 calories, not including the sandwich and the soda/milkshake.  How about baking your fries?  Or switching it up and using a sweet potatoes?  Your new total is 102 calories per serving!

And finally, dessert.  Summer and warm weather calls for ice cream.  Who am I kidding?  Every day is a reason for ice cream.  But can our waistlines really afford this indulgence?  Hardly.  A serving of Häagen-Dazs strawberry ice cream has roughly 250 calories in half a cup.  (I think my local ice cream stand missed that serving size memo).  Alternative?  How about some homemade fresh strawberry snow cones?  You’re down to 90 calories for the same serving amount!

Is indulging in your favorite foods every now and again bad?  Definitely no.  But eating greasy, high-fat foods even a few times a week puts our health in jeopardy.  Take a few moments and see what kinds of healthy substitutes you can make to your meals each day.  This may take a while to get used to, but gradually changing your foods and choosing healthier substitutes makes for a much healthier you!  

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

A Smooth Transition to a Healthier Lifestyle

Great angst is usually caused when make that leap to a healthier lifestyle. When forming this transition, others become nervous and make things more complicated than they need to be. A lot of times, people make this transition drastic, which does not always benefit them. In reality, it is better to make this transition gradually, rather than all at once. Here are a few helpful tips on making the transition to healthier eating habits:

  • When categorizing food, people often put them into either a good food or bad food category. Rather, people should be viewing foods as either rich in nutrients or not rich in nutrients. This will give a whole new perspective to what foods to eat and how to eat them. Nutrient rich foods are loaded with things such as vitamins, minerals, and fiber. They also tend to be lower in calories, in comparison with junk food.
·      When transitioning to a healthier lifestyle, one often picks out a few certain healthy foods and stick to them. This gets real old real quick, which is why it is so important to eat a variety of different foods. Your meals should be filled with a variety of colors, textures, and sizes. By creating this diversity within your daily meals, your body is receiving a lot of different vitamins and minerals. For example, adding more dark green vegetables (i.e. kale and broccoli) and orange vegetables (i.e. carrots and sweet potatoes) will help your body receive an abundant amount of carotenoids and vitamin K. These typically help lower cholesterol and heighten energy levels. It is also important to vary your protein consumption, as well. Some good protein sources include fish, beans, eggs, poultry, and peas. Another tip to kick-start a healthier lifestyle, is to eat at least three ounces of whole-grain cereals, breads, crackers, rice or pasta every day. 
·       Monitoring the types of fats that are present in the food you are eating is another essential tip to eating healthier. You want to consume foods low in saturated fats, trans fats and cholesterol. This will help to reduce the risk of heart disease. Many of the fats in your diet should be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats. You can find out what types of fats are in food simply by reading food labels.
So remember, you don’t have to freak yourself out about beginning a healthier lifestyle. If you stick to these starter tips, your transition from a “junk food junkie” to a “healthy hunk” will be a smooth one J


Saturday, September 26, 2015

Excuses, Excuses!

Americans are always commenting about how they want to change their dietary habits, but are constantly giving excuses in why it would be too hard to live a healthier life style. According to, these are some of the main reasons why Americans resist eating healthier:

1.)   82% of Americans don’t want to give up foods they like in order to eat healthier.
·      The predisposition that you have to give up all “junk food” in order to live a healthy lifestyle is not completely true. A couple of cookies or a slice of pizza eaten every once in a while is not going to disturb someone’s healthy lifestyle. Everyone has cravings for junk food! The key to a healthy lifestyle is to not be consumed by these cravings. Always remember, eat in moderation!
2.)    62% of Americans claim they do not have time to track their diets in order to eat healthier.
·      This statistic is a reminder of how lazy Americans have become. We love everything to be quick and easy, and we greatly value our leisure time. So, I can understand why 62% of Americans would not be able to find an extra minute or two for writing down what their meals consisted of that day. I have a couple of suggestions for those who register under this category.
o   Keep your food journal with you at all times. For women this is a little easier to do because most women carry purses with them. For men, I suggest a small pocket sized journal they can put in their pants alongside their wallets. By having the food journal with you at all times, it makes it easier to quickly jot down what you eat while you’re eating it.
o   If you think a notebook is unconventional, there are numerous apps that you can download on your smartphone to help you keep track of your diet. Examples of such apps include MyFittnessPal and MyNetDiary. Both apps help you track calories and physical activity. MyNetDiary also helps you plan healthy meals, which often times is the most challenging part for people.
3.)   60% of Americans juggle both work and a family and only claim to only have time to prep meals in 15 min.
·      It’s true, Americans today live in a fast pace society and are constantly running from event to event. This was true in my household growing up. It was extremely hard for my parents to feed my sisters and themselves when they had to constantly drive us to and from all of our events. Not to mention, they did housework in between working themselves. Something that my mom began to do was pre-make meals on Sunday for the upcoming week. She would label them with the day it was to be cooked and instructions on how to cook it. This saved her a lot of time and energy in the end, and I highly suggest it for families that are constantly on the go.
4.)   36% of Americans claim to have no leisure time for physical activity.
·      Even if you do not have time to workout every day, there are numerous ways to increase your physical activity without going to the gym. For instance, if your job is within walking distance or biking distance, you should take advantage of that. Both methods of transportation are great ways to get some exercise in, and they are eco-friendly, as well. Another popular trend people are taking advantage of is the Fitbit. The Fitbit is a watch-like device that tracks all-day activity like steps, distance, calories burned and active minutes. It is a great and fashionable way to keep track of how active you’ve been and to keep track of personal goals.
 In reality, it is not so difficult after all in making changes and modifying your diet and/or lifestyle. Start by making a few changes at a time, and trust me, the shift from an unhealthy to a healthy lifestyle will be a lot smoother!