Wednesday, June 20, 2012

5 Steps to a Great Summer BBQ

If you're from a cold climate Summertime is what we look forward to for about three months out of the year. Living is easy, and their are lots of outdoor activities such as swimming, biking, fishing, jogging and sun bathing occupy your days. BBQs fill your nights. All of these activities require you to show your body, and you want to look amazing in those shorts or fitted T, so you need to be smart about how you do things this summer. After all, you didn't eat healthy and work out all year just to waste it on a few summer parties full of junk food, right? A summer BBQ is a great time to show off what you learned during your transformation into fitness. By you hosting a healthy BBQ party you can inspire your friends to a healthy lifestyle. Here are some healthy, fun alternatives to your a keeping you slim and trim, instead of gaining those extra pounds. 1) Appetizers. These little beginners can be some the tastiest foods to sink your teeth into, but can have huge calories hidden in them. In fact, it's probably best to skip most of these at a typical BBQ. Look to serve veggie platters with a little pizzaz! This can be accomplished by adding some multi-colored, phytonutrient-rich veggies you don't typically find on a boring old platter. Bell peppers. The brighter the pepper, the higher the concentration of antioxidants and vitamin C. Asparagus. Raw asparagus fancies up your platter, and it happens to be a great source of protein, calcium, iron, and vitamins A and C. Squash. Another vivaciously-colored and great-tasting veggie that you can sink your teeth into. They are also a great source of vitamins B1, B6, and C, folic acid, fiber, and potassium. Just like bell peppers, the richer the color, the richer the nutrients. Broccolini. Sometimes mistakenly called baby broccoli. Everybody loves babies, right? When it comes to broccolini's nutritional value, yes. Baby broccoli has a nice deep green color and contains protein, potassium, folic acid, calcium, iron, fiber, and vitamins A and C. Add some hummus to spice up to those veggies instead of the typical creamy dressings, and really make your friends rave. Your platter will be the talk of the town (or gym). 2) Drinks. Of course you have beer on hand since beer and BBQs go hand in hand. It's not going to kill you to have a high quality craft brew or two, but that doesn't mean you need to host a frat party. Guests are going to bring drinks. Guests are going to drink alcohol. Providing lots of healthy alternatives will help to keep the calorie count down. Fill pitchers with a variety of iced herbal teas, and or plenty of water with slices of fruit or cucumber to encourage your guests to hydrate properly. 3) Main course. Just think lean PROTEIN. (That veggie platter should have done you right for carbs.) Don't serve the typical hot dogs and hamburgers, be a little more creative. Your friends will love the fact that you have some great fresh fish on the grill. Here's a little trick. Choose a nice moist fish like mahi-mahi or salmon. Take a one-foot-by-one-foot square of aluminum foil and rub it with seasoning, lemon, and just a dash of olive oil. Place your fish in the foil, wrap it up (not too snug—give it a bit of room to breathe) and place it on the BBQ. Leave on the grill for 10 to 12 minutes and you have yourself a nice healthy meal. Fish is high in protein and an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids. 4) Dessert. Summertime is the best time to introduce fun healthy desserts, since there is a plethora of yummy seasonal fruit on hand. Start by cutting a watermelon in half and scooping out all the contents. Then fill it with all types of fruit, like strawberries, blueberries, melon, bananas, peaches, plums, and kiwi. It is a super creative, fun summer dessert and fruit is high in fiber, low in calories, rich in vitamins, and contains no fat. 5) Entertainment. Most cookouts include a round of flag football, Frisbee®, or horseshoes. But if you really want to be the talk of the neighborhood, why not finish the festivities with dancing? Jack the tunes, clear the floor, deck, or lawn, and make room for some. Everyone loves to dance, and your burning some of those calorie off while you're having fun with your guest. The above blueprint won't promote the artery-hardening party we typically associate with BBQs. But it'll still be a heck of a good time, and you'll have some pretty happy guests knowing that they don't have to diet for the next week to make up for a fatty, sugary shindig. You can really influence others by showing them that a summer barbecue can be nice and healthy. There is no need to compromise your waistline for a good time. To Your Health, John

Thursday, June 7, 2012

7 Ways to Boost Your Energy Without Caffeine

The middle of the day is when it usually hits you, somewhere between lunch and 6ish: that low-energy brain-deadness that makes you want to call it quits for the day. Since that's usually not an option, you reach for the next solution: the caffeine pick-me-up. Be it coffee or tea or a soda, many of us are in the habit of using caffeine to give us that boost during the laziest part of the day. Of course, some of us—and you know who you are—go one step further and combine refined sugar and caffeine. Nothing like a slushy sugary drink from your favorite coffee shop, or a candy bar from the vending machine. It's a very slippery slope. But what if you don't want to be a caffeine addict? Maybe it's getting in the way of sleep later that night. Maybe you've done some research, weighed the pros and cons and decided caffeine just isn't your thing. How to break the cycle? Here are 7 healthy ways to pull yourself through an afternoon. 1)Get 15 minutes of exercise. Researchers at the University of Georgia found overwhelming evidence that regular exercise plays a significant role in increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue. "A lot of times when people are fatigued, the last thing they want to do is exercise," said professor Patrick O'Connor, co-director of the UGA exercise psychology laboratory. "But if you're physically inactive and fatigued, being just a bit more active will help." Take a brisk walk, go for a quick run, do some Jumping Jacks. Walk up and down the office stairs for 15 minutes. Jump rope for 5 minutes, then walk. The more active you can be in these 15 minutes, the better you will feel and you will have a new found energy. Activity increases circulation, and circulation transports oxygen throughout the body, which in turn boosts our energy level. 2)Meditation with deep breathing. Conscious breathing is, perhaps, the easiest way to energize your body and improve mental clarity, among many other benefits. Breathing deeply provides your body with the oxygen it needs to increase energy and alertness. Dr. Andrew Weil, who has written extensively on the restorative power of the breath, suggests "The Stimulating Breath" as an energy booster. (It's basically a mini-version of Kundalini yoga's "Breath of Fire.") Close your mouth, and breathe forcefully and rapidly in and out of your nose for 15 seconds, then breathe naturally. Alternately, you can sit up straight, on a ball if possible, roll your shoulders back and breathe deeply for 10 minutes, pausing on the inhale and then again on the exhale, as a way to simply become aware of your breath. 3)Add almonds to your diet. Here's the amazing thing about almonds: they're rich in protein and they contain magnesium, a mineral that helps convert sugar into energy. Magnesium also helps with immune support, restful sleep, stress relief and heightens mood. The almond is considered a superfood because it's high in calcium and vitamin E with zero cholesterol. If you don't like almonds, try cashews, walnuts, or pecans. Nut butters are also a good way to mix up the textures, preferably unsalted. If almonds are too hard on your teeth, try soaking them in water overnight before you eat them. It softens them just enough. 4)Jam your favorite tunes. Listening to your favorite upbeat song gets you pumped up and gives you a quick burst of energy, right? The music works on several physiological levels. One, music can raise your endorphin level. Endorphins are the biochemicals produced by our brains that both relieve pain and increase our sense of happiness. They're the same chemicals responsible for "the runner's high," the euphoric feeling you get after a great workout. Two, music boosts your energy level by increasing blood flow. Researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore concluded that listening to your favorite music has a measurably positive effect on your cardiovascular system by expanding the inner lining of your blood vessels, which increases circulation. 5)Get some sun. Take a break and get out in the sunshine, even if it's only for 10 minutes. The sun is a great source of vitamin D, a nutrient that's essential for healthy bones and teeth, but research now suggests that vitamin D may help in preventing cancer, as well as regulating our moods, cognitive abilities, and energy levels. The sun also plays a huge role in our daily circadian rhythm, our body's natural 24-hour sleep/awake cycle. When this cycle is thrown out of balance, it often leads to sleep loss and stress. 6)Take a power nap. Cornell psychology professor James Maas coined the term "power nap" in his 1997 book, Power Sleep. In it, he recommends the daytime nap as a healthy, even necessary activity—but only if you don't have trouble falling asleep at night. He also believes they are most effective when you take them at the same time every day, which is usually about 8 hours after you wake. Maas says 15 to 30 minutes is the optimal amount of time for a nap; any longer and you'll enter a deep sleep which can leave you feeling groggy. He also provides these nap tips: Turn off the lights, close the door, and get rid of other distractions. Lying down on a couch, or chair with your feet up, is ideal, but any position including head down on your desk will do. Set an alarm, so you can nap worry-free. 7)Take a cold shower. Commonly known as the Scottish shower, the idea is that alternating between hot and cold water improves cardiovascular circulation, which leads to feeling energized. Beyond youthful vigor, practitioners of the Scottish shower claim it keeps them younger-looking, too. In addition, researchers at the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine found that short cold showers might even help relieve depression. It's simple: Spend four minutes in a hot shower, then slowly decrease the amount of hot water, until it's pure cold. Enjoy the chill for at least two minutes. If caffeine is your habit, it will take time and effort to replace it with other ways to invigorate yourself. But the first step is simply becoming aware of all the other effective options available to you. Welcome to your new, caffiene-free, energized, oxygen-rich world. To Your Health, John

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

3 Critically Important Fat Loss Lessons

According to The US Department of Health and Human Services, 14% of adolescents in the United States are overweight. This figure has nearly tripled in the last 20 years. The number of adolescents and teens that are being diagnosed with Type 2 Diabetes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure is rising in exponential proportions. f you were to ask any overweight teenager, "What upsets you the most about your weight?" I assure you the answer will not have anything to do with the health implications mentioned above, but will be about the social criticizing, bullying and ridicule that they almost always receive by their, not so compassionate, peers. Below I will share some important steps I feel will not only help your own fat loss efforts, but will encourage the loved ones in your life (children and adults included) to also establish a healthy lifestyle. 1)Make healthy eating a family event. When you involve your children in every part of the food making process, they are excited to eat and share their creations. Start a small vegetable or herb garden with your family that you all take care of together. Where can you get your children or your family members more involved in food preparation? Even if it’s asking them to search the internet for new recipes they want to create, they’ll be excited to know that it was "their" recipe that is for dinner tonight. 2)Make exercise about having fun. Kids are supposed to play and so are adults. Who likes boring gym equipment anyway? (I don’t!) You’ll not only get an incredible workout by finding a playful activity (sports, jump rope, playground, playing tag in the backyard), but you’ll also experience the mood lifting hormones that come along with fun play. 3)Find your support system. There is a reason why there are support groups for drug addiction, alcoholics, and weight loss...because they work! It’s just too hard to make significant changes in our lives (especially when they’re challenging) without some cheerleaders on our side. The support system is a critical piece of the puzzle. With the wonderful support of family and community, it's much easier to stay on this healthy journey,especially when so many people are there to encourage you every day.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Pecans Have It All

Pecans have it all. Besides being one of the most elegant, versatile and rich-tasting nuts you can put on your plate, they offer up a package of health benefits that’s very impressive. In fact, the 2005 Dietary Guidelines from the U.S. Department of Agriculture recommend eating 4 to 5 servings of nuts each week.
The Mayo Clinic conducted a study which found that all nuts are nutrient dense and naturally cholesterol free. Not only are nuts cholesterol free but, studies have suggested that eating pecans may help reduce LDL cholesterol levels, leading to a reduction in the risk of heart attacks and coronary artery disease. The serving size for nuts is about one ounce, which equals about 15 pecan halves. Pecans are a great staple for vegetarians, because one serving of pecans can take the place of the protein found in an ounce of meat. Pecans are also a rich source of oleic acid, the same type of fatty acid found in olive oil. Researchers from Northwestern University in Chicago recently found in laboratory tests that oleic acid has the ability to suppress the activity of a gene in cells thought to trigger breast cancer. While this area of study is still in its early stages, the researchers say it could eventually translate into a recommendation to eat more foods rich in oleic acid, like pecans and olive oil. Researchers from Loma Linda University in California and New Mexico State University in Las Cruces , New Mexico , have confirmed that when pecans are part of the daily diet, levels of “bad” cholesterol in the blood drop. Pecans get their cholesterol-lowering ability from both the type of fat they contain and the presence of beta-sitosterol, a natural cholesterol-lowering compound. Eating 1 ½ ounces of pecans a day, when its part of a heart-healthy diet, can reduce the risk of heart disease. Moreover, a study published in the June 2004 issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry found that pecans, hazelnuts, and walnuts contained the highest antioxidant levels of all nuts tested. The same natural compound that gives pecans its cholesterol-lowering power, has also been shown to be effective in treating the symptoms of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a non-cancerous enlargement of the prostate gland in men. About two ounces of pecans provides a dose of beta-sitosterol found to be effective. In addition, a recent laboratory study from Purdue University found that gamma-tocopherol, the type of vitamin E found in pecans, has the ability to kill prostate cancer cells while leaving healthy cells alone. Last but not least, despite the widely held belief that “nuts are fattening,” several population studies have found that as nut consumption increased, body fat actually decreased. To Your Health, John