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Change Your Life: Eat Breakfast!

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In Egypt, they eat a dish called ful medames (fava beans) and pita bread. In Japan rice and miso soup is the preferred choice. And in Germany, soft boiled eggs, fresh bread from the local bakery, cold cuts, jams, and sweet rolls stimulate the senses. No matter where you are in the world, breakfast is the best way to start the day and part of the proof is in sheer number of traditional tasty breakfast items on the menu.

In America, coffee-on-the-go is king as well as muffins, pastries, breakfast sandwiches, and other quick bites. Although eating “something” is better than nothing first thing in the morning, experts say it’s best to swap the sugary stuff (and greasy foods) for fresh healthy foods that offer more than a jolt that fades within a few hours. Before we talk about how you can make breakfast better, take a look at just a few benefits of resisting the urge to skip that all important first meal of the day.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, adults and children can reap the same benefits of starting the day with a healthy breakfast.

Breakfast eaters:

• Are better at interacting with others at work and at school
• Concentrate better than non-breakfast eaters  and perform problem-solving tasks better
• Have improved memory and are more attentive
• Are less likely to call in sick or show up late to work or school
• Get more vitamins and nutrients than those that do not eat breakfast. They get more calcium, dietary fiber, folate, protein, iron, vitamin A, vitamin C, and more.
• Are less likely to be overweight
• Are less likely to overeat, meaning they usually have healthier eating habits and make smarter choices throughout the day

According to the Mayo Clinic, breakfast eaters also have lower cholesterol levels and more strength and endurance to handle whatever physical challenges may come their way during the day.

To enjoy the many benefits of eating breakfast, you have to do it daily and choose the right foods. First, forget the calorie-laden coffee drinks and opt for 100% fruit juice or low-sodium vegetable juice, tea, plain coffee, or water.  Soy, almond milk, and low-fat milk are also excellent choices. Next, ditch the fast-food breakfast sandwiches, donuts, Danishes, and other sugary eats and choose yogurt, whole grain cereal or toast, fruit, nuts, or oatmeal instead. Finally, fruit should always be on the menu. Bananas, berries, melons, apples, oranges or just about any fresh fruit you can think of should be eaten at breakfast and throughout the day.

While it is perfectly ok to have pancakes, waffles, biscuits and gravy or other rich breakfasts every now and then, try not to stray too often, and stick to healthy staples that will keep you bright-eyed and bushy-tailed well beyond the 12 o’clock whistle.

Here's to your wellness,


10 Best Exercises for Women

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Trainers and medical professionals alike agree that strength training is one of the best forms of exercises for women. Unless you’re a body builder, however, the last thing a woman wants to do is bulk up. What women do want is a lean, strong body that still looks feminine, but fit. Fortunately, a number of exceptional strengthening exercises target the most common trouble areas for women—the hips, butt, and thighs.

Along with an average amount of cardio exercise and a sensible diet, these exercises can help halt bone loss, improve energy and balance, trim and tighten, control weight, improve flexibility, replace fat with lean muscle, and revitalize. It doesn’t take much to get started either. You don’t need a gym membership or expensive equipment to get results. All you need is your own body weight, a quiet, clutter-free space, and comfortable workout clothes.

Although dozens of exercises can help you reach your goals, the 10 best exercises for women below are the easiest to do at home.

Calf Raise

For strong, toned calves, stand up straight with your hands on the back of a chair, feet hip width apart. Slowly raise your heels until you’re on tiptoe, pause, then lower. Do 3-4 sets of 15-20 reps for maximum results.

Close Grip Push-Up

The close-grip push-up (hands are held in a diamond shape) helps strengthen the entire upper body. To feel the burn, do 3 sets of 10-15 reps.

Jump Squat

Trainers love this one. Squat down, then jump as high as you can before returning to a squat position. Repeat immediately. Try 3 sets of 20 for lean legs.

Push Up

Although less challenging than the close grip push-up, the push-up has been a staple in the fitness world since the beginning of time. Push-ups strengthen the entire upper body. Aim for 3 sets of 12-15 reps per session. 

Reverse Lunge

Reverse lunges can help shape, tone, and strengthen the entire lower half. Stand straight up, then take a giant step back with your left foot, and drop your hips towards the floor. Reverse the motion and press back to standing. Alternate sides. Try 3 sets of 20 reps on each side.

Single Leg Bridge

Lie on the floor and bend your right leg to a 90-degree angle, foot flat on the floor. Keep the left leg straight and raised 45 degrees. Press through the right heel and contract the glutes to lift the hips towards the ceiling. Count to two and return to starting position. Repeat for 3 sets of 12-15 reps. Switch sides.

Single Leg Squat

Grab a chair, stand in front of it with your back facing the chair. With your hands on your hips, extend one leg back placing it on the seat of the chair. Take a dip and come back up. Do 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps. Repeat on the other side.

Sit-Ups

Good old-fashioned sit-ups help strengthen the abdominal muscles. Along with a sensible diet and cardio, it is possible to achieve a flatter stomach and stronger ab muscles by committing to 3 sets of 10-15 reps at least three days a week.

Standing Butt Blaster

Stand up straight or press your arms against a wall or door. Extend your right leg back slowly. Try 3 sets of 30-50 reps on each leg.

Walking Lunge

Stand tall with your hands on your hips. Lunge forward on your right without letting the left knee touch the ground. Try 2-3 sets of 12-15 reps per side. This exercise tones the thighs and butt.

Together, they take less than 30 minutes to complete. Shoot for two to three strength training sessions per week with at least one day of recovery between sessions. This is when the actual strengthening of your muscles happens.

Here's to your wellness,


Meal Replacement Bars vs. Fresh On-the-Go Snacks: What’s Better?

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Americans are always on the go. Between work and home life, who has time to eat healthy or sit down for a meal at all? Well, many think that they have found a way to get a significant amount of sustenance and still stay on schedule. The fix (they say) is tiny little packages and cans filled with promises of a big energy boost, all the vitamins and minerals you need, and even weight loss.

Go into any grocery store, drug store or even many convenient stores and you’ll find a large selection of meal replacement bars and drinks. In addition to the claims they make, meal replacement bars (MRBs) and drinks are popular because they’re portable, convenient and they offer a relatively cost-efficient way of replacing a meal. But are they a healthy? Yes and no.

Opting for a “meal in a can” or a package in moderation won’t hurt, but making a habit of it will. For starters, liquid meal replacements were originally developed to meet the nutritional needs of people too sick or weak to eat. Manufacturers soon discovered a new market for these products—people looking for a quick fix or an energy boost between meals. While some of these products do contain vitamins and minerals, regular use doesn’t provide all the benefits of a varied diet.

Energy bars are packed with carbs (sugar and starches) that provide the body with quick energy. The added vitamins and minerals don’t provide the body with energy and have no value if you’re already eating a healthy diet. Many people mistakenly believe that eating a bar in the place of a meal with help them lose weight. The thing to remember is this: MRBs still contain fat, sugar, calories and carbs. Moreover, not eating enough calories to fuel your body (and the right calories to boot) will have the opposite effect—the metabolism will become sluggish, making weight loss difficult.

In the end, meal replacement bars and meals in a can won’t provide the same benefits as a regular, well-balanced meal. In addition, they rarely stop you from eating more than you normally would. Simply put, MRB’s lack the health-protecting factors your body needs, so it’s best to use them as a last resort.

If your options are a Butterfinger or Balance Bar, by all means grab the Balance Bar! If your options are a fudge brownie or a Slim Fast Shake, yes—drink the shake! There’s no evidence that MRB’s can do more for you than carbohydrate rich foods like cereals, breads and other grain products, and fruits and vegetables, so if you can help it, skip the MRBs and liquid meals altogether and grab some real food.

Here are a few fabulous foods you can eat on the run that provide the vitamins, minerals and energy you need, naturally.
   
• Bananas, apples and other fresh fruits
• Carrots, green peppers, cherry tomatoes or other raw vegetables 
• Snack size fruit cups or apple sauce
• Dried fruits
• Tetra pack fruit juices
• Grain products
• Raisin Bread
• Whole grain bagels, crackers or pita wedges
• Raisin bran mini muffins 
• Single serve box cereals
• Rice cakes
• To-Go milks such as almond, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, soy
• To-Go skim or 1% milk
• To-Go low-fat flavored milks 
• Fruit yogurt (2% or less) 
• Cheese cubes (20% fat or less) 
• Hard boiled eggs 
• Peanut butter and crackers
• Celery and peanut butter
• Trail mix (nuts, seeds, cereal, dried fruit) 
• Roasted soybeans or chick peas 
• Gingersnap, arrowroot or fig Newton cookies

Remember—keep whole food consumption high and meal replacement use low to nil. You’ll look better, you’ll feel better, and you’ll be healthier!

Here's to your wellness,


Winter Biking: Yes, Winter Biking

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Did you know that biking for just 30 minutes each day reduces the risk of heart disease by a whopping 50 percent? Did you know that biking also relieves stress and anxiety, it helps shed pounds, and it even tones the arms and legs? Not only this, but biking has become one of the fastest growing forms of transportation in the U.S. No doubt, biking is all the rage, but winter biking seems to be taking center stage these days.

Fitness buffs and commuters alike are grabbing their bikes and taking to the street in droves, even when the ground is covered with snow and ice. Although biking during other seasons offers many benefits, winter biking presents much tougher, yet positive physical challenges and it’s sure cure for cabin fever.

Even if it’s just 20 minutes, researchers say soaking up some sun while exercising in the a.m. during the winter months can combat winter depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder). You see, light rouses the production of cholecalciferol (Vitamin D3), which helps keep serotonin levels high during the winter months. Higher serotonin levels (serotonin is also called the "happy hormone") help boost the mood.

Reaping the benefits of extra serotonin production would be tough to accomplish while darting from warm place to warm place during the winter months. So, if you think you’re ready to embrace the cold weather and start a winter biking routine, all you have to do is make sure you have good set of wide, high traction tires, excellent biking skills, and the right gear.

The three most important areas to consider before gearing up are the feet, hands, and head. For the feet, consider wearing a solid pair of waterproof boots with Thinsulate. For the hands, the best bet is to buy leather glove shells and synthetic liners. You can also layer regular gloves, but just make sure you are able to maneuver your bike, and brake, without fully removing your gloves. Keeping the head warm is easy. A few thin layers should do the trick and don’t forget to wear a helmet.

For the rest of the body, think layers. Long underwear and/or sweats, and a pair of waterproof/windproof outer pants should work just fine for the lower body. Dressing the upper body varies based on your level of comfort, level of exertion, and weather conditions. A polypropylene undershirt combined with a medium-weight synthetic middle layer and a water-resistant, breathable shell is probably all you need on cold days.

On days when the wind chill factor is particularly low, cover your body from head to toe. Wear a *balaclava to guard your face as well as a headband and ski hat to cover your ears. Goggles can protect your eyes as well as fill any gaps between the ski cap, headband, and balaclava.

If you’re not on a bike path or other trail absent of street traffic, remember to always obey traffic signs and signals. Use designated bike lanes whenever possible, and if you find yourself riding at night, use the brightest headlights and taillights you can find. Oh, and don’t forget to have fun!

Here's to your wellness,

The Truth About Salt

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The sodium in salt helps maintain the fluid in blood cells. It is used to transmit information in our nerves and muscles, and it assists in the absorption of certain nutrients. Because the human body does not make salt, humans rely on food to get the amount needed to keep the body functioning properly.

Centuries ago, salt was primarily used as a preservative for cheese, fish, meat, vegetables, and even fruit. Today, more salt is used in the industrial world than in the food supply. This is good news. However, because Americans have become so accustomed to the taste of salt, table salt sales haven’t suffered and salt is a main ingredient in restaurants across the country. And yes, many packaged and processed foods still contain salt.

Because salt is still used as an additive in homes across America, at restaurants, and in many packaged foods (canned soups are a major source of sodium), sodium consumption is at an all-time high. Most Americans consume 3,000 to 3,600 milligrams of sodium per day and just 10 percent comes from the natural salt found in food. Roughly 75 percent comes from processed foods and dining out. Consuming too much salt can lead to water retention, which causes high blood pressure. High blood pressure can cause heart and kidney disease, stroke, and even heart failure.

Fortunately, convincing America to cut back on salt is not a lost cause. Education is the key to helping curb consumption. Knowing how much salt the body actually needs is the first step. The truth is, for proper functioning the body requires a mere 200 milligrams of sodium per day. However, the FDA recommends no more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, which is equal to a teaspoon of salt. Individuals with hypertension, African-Americans, older adults, and the middle-aged should limit salt intake to 1,500 or less per day. The American Heart Association (AHA) has stricter requirements. The AHA says all Americans should limit salt intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day. 

Limiting salt intake to less than 1,500 milligrams per day is not as difficult as it sounds. Following a few simple rules while shopping and cooking can help keep salt intake in check. Salt is an acquired taste, so most foods are excellent without it. Try this simple test—taste your food first before reaching for the saltshaker. You might be surprised at how much better your food tastes without it!

Consider leaving the saltshaker in the cabinet or ditch it altogether. Skip salt in cooking water, use fresh herbs and spices to season food and enjoy plenty of fresh vegetables. Read nutrition facts on food labels, and choose reduced sodium or “no salt added” food. You should also limit intake of processed meats or buy fresh meats with low to no salt, and limit sodium-laden condiments such as soy sauce, ketchup, mustard, and tartar sauce. Stock up on lemons and olive oil, which are excellent alternatives to salty condiments.

Here's to your wellness,


Eating your Omega-3s

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You saw a news segment about it a few months ago. You read about them in your favorite fitness mag last week. And just yesterday, your doctor suggested adding fish oil to your diet for better health. If it seems like you’re hearing more and more about omega-3s, and more often, it’s not your imagination. Omega-3s are essential fatty acids (EFAs) that the body needs for good health, but the body cannot manufacture them. Fortunately, you can get the amount you need through a variety of healthy foods and even supplements.


There are several types of omega-3s including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and alpha-linolenic (ALA). Fish and seafood, nuts and seeds, grains, beans, greens, and healthy oils are the best dietary sources of Omega-3 fatty acids. Although mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, flaxseed oil, and walnuts offer the highest number of grams per serving, a variety of other foods on the list can help you obtain the amount recommended by healthcare professionals.

Healthy individuals should consume at least one rich source of omega-3 fatty acids each day or between one and two grams per day. If you don’t eat omega-3 rich foods such as fish and flaxseeds, doctors recommend taking an omega-3 supplement of at least 500 mg daily. If you have a heart condition or have had a heart attack, your doctor may recommend double the amount.

For your reference, specific dietary sources of omega-3s include: Mackerel, Sardines, Herring, Salmon, Swordfish, Bluefish, Cod, Crab, Scallops, Tuna, Lobster, Flaxseeds, Walnuts, Pecans, Soybeans, Tofu, Spinach, Kale, Collard Greens, Flaxseed Oil, Canola Oil, Walnut Oil and Olive Oil.      

Walnuts, canola oil, soybean oil, and flaxseed oil contain alpha-linolenic (ALA), while fish contains both docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA). DHA and EPA have been shown to significantly reduce blood triglyceride levels. Low to normal triglyceride (fat) levels is safe, while high triglyceride levels raise your risk of heart disease. ALA may not be as beneficial as DHA and EPA, but the body can convert it to DHA and EPA, although in minimal amounts.

In addition to contributing to better heart health, omega-3s fight inflammation and they may help alleviate symptoms associated with depression and rheumatoid arthritis. A recent study published in the Public Library of Science (PLoS) even suggests that the omega-3s found in fish oil might enhance cognitive performance in healthy people by boosting their working memory. Now there’s an argument for eating your omega-3s!

Here's to your wellness,


Anti-Aging Foods

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Aging is something we all struggle against, but you can improve your vitality, overall health, prolong and improve the quality of your life but adding certain foods to your diet. These foods can lower the risk of age-related illness and prevent diseases. Many of these foods contain antioxidants, which protect cells against free radicals, which diseases such as cancer as well the cosmetic effects of aging such as wrinkles.

Fish

Fish is a great source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which protects against heart disease, decreases the risk of arrhythmia and lower blood pressure. It also decreases inflammation, a property many anti-aging foods have; this is not inflammation resulting from a sprained ankle but tissue aggravation that leads to chronic diseases like cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s and osteoporosis. Omega-3 fatty acids are found in the highest quantity in coldwater fish like salmon, herring, tuna and sardines. Studies show a 40% decrease in mortality when a person consumes 2-3 servings per week, the recommended serving endorsed by the American Heart Association.

Red Wine

Red wine contains the antioxidant resveratrol, which is thought to prevent blood clots, decrease bad cholesterol and improve heart health by protecting the arteries and the lining of blood vessels. The recommended amount is 5 oz a day. While white wine does contain some reveratrol, the amount is significantly lower because red wine stays in longer contact with the skin of the grape, which not only gives it its red color but its antioxidant properties. Grape juice is also a great source of reveratrol.

Dark Chocolate

Good news for chocolate lovers! Dark chocolate has a higher concentration of antioxidants than any other food. Flavanol, derived from the cocoa bean, protects you from the harmful effects of UV exposure by increasing circulation in the skin tissue and helping it retain moisture, decreasing wrinkles and giving you a younger appearance. It also keeps the heart healthy by preventing blood clots from forming, maintaining blood pressure and reducing the risk of heart attacks. Only dark chocolate (at least 75% cocoa) has these properties as the processing used to make other chocolate strips it of antioxidant property.

Tea

Green, black, white and oolong teas –leaves from the Camellia sinesis plant - contain polyphenols which contain antioxidants, fluoride and caffeine. In addition to decreasing the risk of heart attack and boosting the immune system, tea protects tooth enamel and fights age-associated memory loss.

Fruits and Vegetables

You will find the best anti-aging properties in the darkest and most colorful fruits and vegetables. Green leafy vegetables like kale contain lutin and zeaxantin which protect against the side effects of UV as well as boosting the immune system. Dark berries, like blackberries, promote cell health and have been shown to protect against cancer. Among its many properties, blueberries have been shown to reverse neurodegeneration and increase memory cells. A diet high in fruits and vegetables can help reduce your risk of cancer by 25%.

Other Anti-aging foods

Beans, Nuts, Whole Grains, Garlic, Avocado, Yogurt and Coffee

Just by adding a few off these foods a week can help with the anti-aging process.

Here's to your wellness,


How Healthy Is Your Diet, Really?

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If you’re among the millions of Americans who are overweight, obese, or afflicted with cardiovascular disease or diabetes, you’ve probably heard of “heart-healthy” diets: Ornish, Pritikin, DASH, Mayo Clinic, Esselstyn, Mediterranean, and so on. Your doctor may have even recommended that you begin one of these programs.

Even if your physician has never urged you to adopt a healthier eating plan, you may have tried one of the innumerable trendy diets that seem to dot the landscape, such as Zone, South Beach, Atkins, Paleolithic or Biotype. Most of these programs – and their promoters – fade from the scene when the latest “best-seller” diet comes along. This is not to say they don’t have merit; it’s just that none of them seems to be sustainable, either on a personal or societal basis.

Unfortunately, despite decades of research, not even the experts can agree on what constitutes a healthy diet. In large part, that’s because human physiology is incredibly complex; nutritional concepts that seem to be corroborated by one group of researchers are often challenged by others. Marketers who are more interested in monetary gain than health promotion take advantage of this confusion and misrepresent otherwise meaningful data from clinical studies. Finally, a powerful food industry exerts pressures that influence dietary guidelines disseminated by health policymakers.

So, what’s the average non-scientist citizen supposed to do? Well, you may just have to pick one or two trustworthy sources of information and stick with them. One reasonably reliable authority is the American Heart Association, an organization that pools data from well-designed studies and distills it into recommendations that most of us can understand. The following guidelines are among the more durable counsel that has emanated from this and similar agencies in recent years:

Watch Your Portion Sizes

This is one dietary issue that seems to challenge almost everyone. Serving sizes are listed on most food items, but many people don’t even read, much less heed them. When a can or box of prepared food contains four servings and you down the whole thing yourself, you’re headed for trouble.

For foods that don’t have serving sizes listed, consumers can turn to online or printed guides. A serving size is a specific amount based on measurements most people recognize, such as ounces or cups. For example, a serving size of cooked pasta is about 1/2 cup, while a portion of meat or fish is 2 ounces (about the size of a card deck).

Eat Fruits and Vegetables

Like it or not, plant foods are simply the best way to get the antioxidants you need to ward off cancer, delay aging, keep your arteries pliable, reduce inflammation and preserve brain function. In addition to their antioxidant content, fruits and vegetables are rich in fiber and low in calories, so they’ll help fill you up without tipping the scale in the wrong direction. And, if you’re consuming more fruits and vegetables (you should try for 7 to 10 servings daily), you’ll likely eat fewer of the foods that aren’t as good for you.

Whole Grains Are Good

Notwithstanding the claims of low-carb fans, carbohydrates have always been an important energy source in human nutrition, and you need some carbs to stay healthy. However, not all carbohydrates are the same. Avoid refined and processed grains and limit your intake of simple carbohydrates (you’ll recognize these by their sweetness). Instead, rely on whole grains, which are richer in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and omega-3 fatty acids. In addition to lowering your cholesterol and blood pressure, whole grains won’t trigger a post-meal insulin surge that leads to insulin resistance, which is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Be Fat-Selective

Despite the perennial controversy about the importance of different types of fat in human health, it’s pretty clear that some fats increase systemic inflammation and increase your risk for heart disease and cancer. The American Heart Association recommends that saturated fats comprise no more than 7% of your total calories, and you should avoid trans fats altogether (1% of total calories is the upper limit here). Use polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats, such as canola or olive oil, and choose margarine's that contain cholesterol-lowering plant sterols, such as Benecol or Smart Balance.

Most foods list their fat composition on the label, which is put there for your convenience. Beware of items that are advertised as “low fat”; some contain trans fats, which may be disguised in the ingredients list as “partially hydrogenated oils.”

Be Picky about Protein

In addition to carbohydrates and fats, proteins are the third “macronutrient” required for human nutrition. Proteins furnish essential amino acids that your body uses to synthesize hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, immune molecules and structural components. Choose high-quality sources of protein, such as lean meats, fish, egg whites, low-fat dairy products, legumes and soy products. And remember that most people only need about 1 gram of protein for each kilogram of lean body weight per day – that’s about 50 to 60 grams – so don’t overdo it. Excess dietary protein will simply be converted to fat.

Shake Off the Salt Habit

At least30% of American adults have hypertension (high blood pressure) and at least half of these people are salt sensitive, meaning their blood pressure rises in response to the sodium in their diets. Ideally, you should consume less than 1,500 mg of sodium daily from all sources (about 2/3 tsp of table salt). If you become a label reader, you’ll probably discover that you’re consuming too much salt; most processed foods are packaged with salt to make them more palatable.  

Americans are a faddish bunch. In the midst of an obesity epidemic that is threatening our collective well being and eroding the underpinnings of our healthcare system, we’re more likely to leap headfirst into the latest vogue diet than we are to critically examine what’s wrong (and what’s right) with our current eating habits and make a few sensible changes. However, if you adopt the recommendations listed here, you could rightfully claim that your diet is healthy. Really.

Here's to your wellness,


High Protein Foods

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Protein is one of three essential macronutrients in human nutrition. (The other two are fats and carbohydrates.) Proteins comprise about one-fifth of your body weight and form the architectural underpinnings of your eyes, skin, hair, nails, muscles, tendons, ligaments, and internal organs. Only water is more abundant than protein in your tissues.

Amino acids, which are the building blocks of proteins, can be used by your body for energy; more importantly, they are used to synthesize hormones, neurotransmitters, enzymes, antibodies and other immune molecules, carrier molecules (hemoglobin and albumin, for example), pigments, and structural components.

Obviously, proteins are an essential component of your diet. However, in developed countries like the United States, protein deficiency is uncommon; most Americans actually consume more protein than they need. In fact, surplus dietary protein is one of the driving forces behind the obesity epidemic. After all, like other energy-containing nutrients, protein that isn’t immediately utilized is converted to fat.

The trick, then, is to eat high-protein foods – more specifically, foods that contain high-quality protein – that furnish the amino acids your body needs without supplying excess calories. High-quality proteins are those that contain most or all of the essential amino acids, which are amino acids that cannot be synthesized within your cells and consequently must be obtained from your diet.

Certain animal foods, such as pork, eggs, milk, cheese, beef, lamb and poultry, are often called “complete” proteins, because they contain all of the eight to ten amino acids your body cannot manufacture – that is, the essential amino acids. However, most of these foods contain substantial amounts of undesirable saturated fat, and when they’re metabolized they can make it more difficult for your cells to maintain an optimal acid-base equilibrium.

Many plant-based foods are excellent protein sources, too, although you’ll need to eat several different types of plants to obtain all of the essential amino acids. That’s because many vegetable proteins contain adequate levels of most essential amino acids but may be lacking in one or two. Examples of high-quality plant proteins include whole grains (much of a grain’s protein is housed in its germ covering), legumes, nuts, seeds, soybeans and fermented soy products, brown rice, sprouts, quinoa and wheat grass. In addition to being good sources of protein, most plant foods are more “pH-friendly,” they contain healthier types of fat, and they’re usually packed with beneficial fiber.

All whole foods contain protein, so it isn’t difficult to get enough in your diet. (Humans only need about 1/3 gram of protein per pound of lean body weight daily.) It’s the source of protein that ultimately determines how healthy you are. If you’re an inveterate meat-eater, try adding more plant proteins to your diet. You’ll not only feel better in the long run; you’ll make mealtimes more interesting!

Here's to your wellness,


Secrets of the Caveman Diet

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The secret to the Caveman Diet is…there is no secret. The Caveman Diet also known as the Paleo Diet claims “to be the healthiest way you can eat because it is the only nutritional approach that works with your genetics to help you stay lean, strong and energetic! Research in biology, biochemistry, Ophthalmology, Dermatology and many other disciplines indicate it is our modern diet, full of refined foods, trans fats and sugar, that is at the root of degenerative diseases such as obesity, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s, depression and infertility”-Robb Wolf

Briefly, I think that the Standard American Diet is in such a terrible state, with a history of wrecking the health families, great leaders and teachers, athletes, etc. that almost any diet would be an immediate improvement. The secret to the Caveman diet is that its promoters make it sound like it is nutritious and delicious. Further, it is a diet that that people have strayed from and that’s why so many people are struggling today with their weight, energy, leanness, and for some…their strength. This is what I read in a Paleo Diet article recently:” One of the greatest deviations away from our ancestral diet is the amounts and types of fat found in modern grain feed animals vs. the amounts and types of fats found in grass fed or wild meat, fowl and fish. What we observe is wild meat is remarkably lean, and has relatively low amounts of saturated fats, while supplying significant amounts of beneficial omega-3 fats such as EPA and DHA in this paper Prof. Cordain and his team analyze the complete fatty acid profile from several species of wild deer and elk. The take home message is that free range meat is far healthier than conventional meat.”

Is this a diet that people have strayed from? By the way aren’t we as humans suppose to evolve? And is not evolution a process of developing, getting better, wiser, faster and economical? So, we haven’t strayed from anything, but eating to survive and even for those who could afford eating above the level of survival, they were limited in the knowledge of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, physical activity and rest.

Although there appear to be many benefits to following the Paleo diet, it doesn't come without some downsides. The Caveman diet is very restrictive, which may lead to vitamin and mineral deficiencies such as calcium and vitamin D. Depending on individual protein choices, this diet can also be high in saturated fat, a nutrient linked to increased inflammation.

Here's to your wellness,


Healthy Snacks

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Most of us have grown up thinking that snacking is a bad habit, that it is something that will “ruin our dinner” or was possibly the reason we are overweight. In some cases, snacking is a bad habit, such as when you eat an entire bag of chips and soda in front of the TV a half hour after you’ve just eaten dinner. But when you make the decision to make your snacks work for you, especially if you are actively trying to lose weight, you will amazed at how much more effectively you and your body work throughout the day.
   
The first rule to healthy snacking is to be prepared. You need to load your refrigerator, freezer, pantry, work drawer and even your car with healthy snacks so that you always have something on hand in case you get hungry. This will require effort on your part, but good preparations will lead to making good choices. Packing a few bags of almonds and dates to keep at work when you hungry will make you less likely to head for the candy machine. You’re more likely to stick to your diet and have the energy for a better afternoon workout.
   
Before you think you can get off easy by buying prepackaged 100 calorie snacks or energy bars at the supermarket, keep in mind that most of these products are full of ingredients like sugar, sodium, trans fats and preservatives. Creating the perfect snack combination by combining 2-3 of the following elements: low calories (about 200), whole grains, fiber, protein, nutrients, complex carbohydrates and a small amount of “good” fat (monosaturated or polyunsaturated fats). It should provide energy and be satisfying enough to get rid of hunger.
   
Contrary to what many people think, eating more frequently, for example 5-6 small meals or 3 meals and 2-3 small snacks will speed up your body’s metabolism, causing you to burn more calories and give you enough energy to exercise. When you starve yourself, your body will ration calories for energy storage. Make sure you eat complete meals and don’t substitute snacks for meals. A good way to avoid overindulging at a dinner or a party is to eat a small snack before you go.
   
Here are some examples of healthy snack ideas:

Savory:
• Edamame in the shell
• Whole wheat toast with 2 microwaved egg whites
• 2 slices lean deli meat (no nitrates) wrapped around nonfat string cheese
• Cup of soup (lentil, vegetable or lean protein) with 5 whole wheat crackers – low sodium, preservative free
• Tuna with whole wheat crackers
• Hummus with fresh, raw vegetables

Sweet:
• ½ melon with scoop of nonfat cottage cheese
• Almonds and dried fruit (dates, figs, raisins)
• Fruit smoothie: ½ c nonfat yogurt, frozen fruit, ice, 2 T juice
• Oatmeal and berries
• Cup of nonfat Greek yogurt with teaspoon of honey
• Apple with almond butter
• Glass of Almond milk

Snacking is good and actually recommended. The key to keeping healthy is to snack smart! 

Here's to your wellness,

How to Lose Belly Fat

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One trait that sets an athlete apart from the rest of the herd is a ripped six-pack, that ladder-like array of abdominal muscles that bears witness to thousands of crunches, sit-ups and knee-raises. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the ignoble “spare tire,” an abdominal ornament that attests to too many trips through the take-out line and too many remote control-punching hours on the couch.

Having an apron of fat around your middle – what doctors call “visceral fat” – is more than just a cosmetic issue. Abdominal fat is one of the diagnostic criteria for metabolic syndrome, a condition that heightens your risk for diabetes, heart disease, stroke and certain types of cancer. There’s something about visceral fat that sets off an inflammatory fire in your body, a slow conflagration that damages blood vessels, triggers insulin resistance and incites revolt within your immune system.

While any excess visceral fat poses a health risk, the odds for serious trouble really ratchet upward when your waist size reaches a critical limit: 35 inches (89 cm) if you’re a woman or 40 inches (102 cm) if you’re a man. Your waist-to-hip ratio and body mass index are also useful for determining health risks, but these clinical tools are confusing for some people. Nearly anyone can wrap a tape measure around his or her waist. (Place the tape against your bare skin just above your hipbone to get an accurate measurement.)

So what’s the best way to unload your beer belly or trim the overhang from your muffin top? Like excess fat anywhere on your body, visceral fat will disappear if you increase your activity level and reduce your caloric intake. Unfortunately, there’s no diet plan, supplement or specific exercise that will magically dissolve abdominal fat. Sit-ups will strengthen your abdominal muscles, but such “spot reduction” exercises aren’t any better than other types of exercise for getting rid of belly fat.

Increasing muscle mass in any area of your body will help burn visceral fat, because muscle tissue is metabolically active and demands lots of energy even between exercise sessions. So mix a little weightlifting into your workout routine. Strive for 15 to 60 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise – mixing aerobics with resistance training – every day. If you can’t fit a one-hour session into your schedule, break your daily exercise into several 10- to 15-minute workouts.

In addition to the empty calories it provides, alcohol elevates hormones that help visceral fat grow and make it harder to lose once it’s nestled around your waistline. If you drink more than two alcoholic beverages daily, cutting back will help you lose your belly roll. Cortisol, another hormone that contributes to the deposition of visceral fat, is higher in people who are chronically stressed or who are sleep-deprived. Get at least seven hours of restful sleep each night; if you’re under a lot of stress, seek ways to reduce it (counseling, delegating responsibility, exercise, etc.).

Belly fat can be stubborn, but it will disappear if you develop a routine and stick to it. And even if it takes you six months, a year or even more to slim down, you’ll start reaping health benefits long before that last obstinate bulge slides off your middle.  

Here's to your wellness,


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