May 21, 2018

Combat Cramps During Exercise

If you are an athlete that trains outside in the summer heat, you have most likely experienced debilitating cramps.  It does not matter how well conditioned you are, if you don't take the proper precautionary measures to avoid cramps, they will take you to your knees potentially leading to injury.

While most cramps are due to overuse (exercising too excessive either by going farther or faster than in the recent past or not allowing proper recovery time), continuing to put yourself at your limit becomes especially problematic during hot summer days.  Drinking an electrolyte beverage may help prevent cramping as it replaces minerals your body loses through sweating. Drinks like Gatorade or Advocare's Rehydrate are very beneficial for athletes or anyone who exercises beyond 1 hour.  Aim to drink 6 to 8 ounces of an electrolyte beverage every 1 to 2 hours of activity. Additionally, plan in advance for an early morning training session by drinking at least 6 ounces the night before at bedtime and then drink at least another 6 ounces 1 hour in the morning before the activity.  During activity, drink water as needed. If the session goes beyond 1 hour, that is when you need to incorporate the 6 to 8 ounces of electrolyte replacement.

If you feel cramps creeping up on you,  that is when you need to dial back on your effort.  Slow it down. If cramps are hitting you during a run, incorporate walking breaks and avoid getting to the point of huffing and puffing.  If you try to push through, cramps are only going to increase and this puts you at risk for injury. A good training plan will incorporate hard training sessions followed by days of light activity.  Do not expect yourself to go 100% every session.  This will surely set you up for injury.

Current research on cramps shows the problem happens in the neural communication pathway.  During training you reach a point of fatigue.  Sometimes there is miscommunication causing the muscle to stay contracted when it shouldn't and wham, you cramp.  

“The mechanism for muscle fatigue and muscle damage causing cramping is best explained through an imbalance that develops in the nervous system control of muscle. Muscles tend to become very twitchy when they become fatigued or are injured,” said Schwellnus. You’re more likely to get cramps, then, when your muscles are working harder and are fatiguing, such when you’re out of shape or racing hard.

Avoid cramps by taking the following steps:

1. Warm-up: 
If you don't already warm-up utilizing dynamic movements, you need to do so.  Allow 10 to 15 minutes for warming up.  This gets your heart rate elevated and pumping blood to the muscles prior to placing demands on them literally raising the temperature of the muscles so you don't start off "cold".

2. Start slow gradually increase intensity:
Do not start the beginning of your training session at full speed. Following the warm-up, you may increase effort, just don't go full speed.   

3. Excessive temperatures? Shorten training, train inside, or split your session:
If the temperature is very high and/or humidity is a factor, either shorten your planned session, take it inside, or split your training into two parts.

4. Allow more breaks:
Heat puts added stress on the body.  As it takes added effort for your body to cool, incorporate much needed walking breaks so your heart may adequately pump under less stress to cool you down.

5.  Shorten strides:
Because you run the risk of being in a state of dehydration when it is hot outside, shorten your stride during sprints or hill work to better avoid cramping or pulling a muscle.

6. Stop and Stretch:
If a cramp sets in, stop activity immediately.  It is now time to deep breath and stretch it out. Static stretching inhibits the muscle from contracting. After stretching and the cramps resides, start slow and gradually increase effort.

Bottom Line:
If you feel a cramp coming on, backing off will usually prevent it.  If you are stubborn and push through, it will debilitate you making it impossible to continue and likely setting you up for injury.

May 11, 2018

Bread for Diabetics

Living with diabetes often means giving up foods you love.  Bread has been identified as one of the hardest foods to give up. However, there is a bread that diabetics don't have to run from as it has been shown to help diabetics lower blood sugar, aid in weight loss, and has heart healthy benefits as well. In fact, the general population would be better off making a switch to this healthy bread.  To learn more about this "super" bread and all the health benefits boosted by its large variety of nutrients, go to:
Ezekiel bread - Click Here

June 24, 2017

What's Popping? Popcorn and Health

"Popcorn kernels themselves are extremely healthy.
Preparation of popcorn has a major impact on its nutrition
Whether it's air-popped, microwaved or oil-popped, popcorn has impressive nutrition. Air-popped popcorn is slightly more desirable for a few reasons (but we'll get into preparation later). The following nutritional figures are for air-popped popcorn. A single 1-ounce serving contains 110 calories, 1 gram of fat, almost no saturated fat, 4 grams of dietary fiber, 4 grams of protein and 10 percent of your daily magnesium.
What jumps out right away are the low calorie and fat totals. At 110 calories per serving, popcorn qualifies as a snack you can mindlessly munch on in front of the television without worrying about major repercussions. The remarkably low fat totals are equally impressive."
Read more on healthy benefits of popcorn and what to avoid at:

Popcorn Actually Healthy?
Click on link to view Full article.
Written by - Brandon Hall is an Assistant Content Director for STACK

October 26, 2016

Fat that's Good for You!

Often considered a bad word, fat can actually be a healthy addition to your diet. For specifics on fat, read the shared link at the end of this post. To summarize what dietary changes you need to make:

(1) Eliminate hydrogenated man-made fats, better known as trans fats.
(2) Eat fatty fish 3 times per week
(3) Limit saturated fats from animal sources
(4) Incorporate coconut oil into your diet
(5) Eat fatty plant foods daily

By making these changes, you will decrease inflammation in your body, promote joint health, and improve your blood lipid profile... that translates to healthier heart.

For a great article with more specifics on the above recommendations, go to:
Do You Need an Oil Change?
[ Love that title!!]

October 21, 2016

Frolicking Cows Produce Golden Butter

Ever noticed not all butter looks the same?

Butters vary from white to yellow. Why? It comes down to where the milked cow was fed. Cows raised on pastures produce yellow butter while grain fed cows produce white butter. The time of year factors in as well...for those pasture raised. Milk collected late spring, early summer is more yellow than any other time of the year.

Want to learn more on this interesting fact? Go to:

October 14, 2016

Coconut Oil -- The Benefits and Usues

Have you noticed coconut oil prominently displayed in stores these days? 
Why has this tropical fat become such a health craze? 

But, you wonder, isn't the fat saturated? Yep. 

Click on the shared link for a great read on how coconut oil can benefit you in your quest to eat healthy:

October 12, 2016

Alcohol & Cancer

My Thoughts:

Admittedly, I enjoy a drink or two when socializing with friends. Alcohol in moderation, takes the edge off and allows me to relax. Nonetheless, being a freak on health -- what's good for me, what's not -- to say I was less than thrilled when stumbling on the following article, well, that's an understatement.  Keep in mind, smoking plus alcohol use is really bad. Regardless, what the scientists present will be on the forefront of my mind when sitting down with my next loaded beverage:

Article -- No Confusion: Alcohol Causes 7 Cancers (click on title to read)

Article's take to heart message:

Earlier this year, the United Kingdom issued new guidelines on alcohol drinking, recommending that men drink no more than women and warning that any amount of alcohol increases the risk of developing a range of cancers.
Organizations in New Zealand are also taking action. The New Zealand Medical Association, the Cancer Society of New Zealand, and the National Heart Foundation have all adopted evidence-based position statements that "debunk" cardiovascular benefits as a motivation to drink and that highlight cancer risks, Dr Connor said.

May 1, 2012

Never Give Up

" Don't ever give up, even if you don't get to where you want You'll still be somewhere better than where you were before."                                                 --- Copyright © 2000 Audra Erny

April 10, 2012

Exercise for Cancer Patients

By David Haas

Exercise has been long believed to be a great health benefit aside from just improving cardiovascular strength and controlling weight. It has also been shown to improve a person's overall mood and help fight a wide range of other diseases including depression, allergies and IBS. Of course exercise does not actually cure diseases, but research has determined that the way the body reacts to exercise can help combat illness.

Recently, some studies have shown a link between adults getting regular exercise (i.e., thirty to sixty minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise each day) can significantly reduce one's chances of developing certain types of cancer including colon and breast cancer. Exercise can also be quite beneficial for people who have already developed cancer or pre-cancerous tumors.  Health care professionals believe there are certain reasons for this phenomenon. For example, exercise releases a large amount of positive endorphins in the body that can help increase one's positive mood and reduce any pain that was being felt. Additionally, being physically fit gives the body more strength to fight off disease.

It is important to understand that though the national guidelines recommend a fairly ambitious plan of exercising close to an hour every day, even a small amount of light exercise can make a difference in a person's life and help fight off disease. This is especially important for people who already feel very sick or have trouble breathing or moving, like when receiving mesothelioma treatment.  Simply walking around for a few minutes everyday can help a person build physical strength and also improve a person's mood and outlook on life. Modern medicine is finally beginning to embrace the idea that a person's mental state has a great impact on their physical state. Since exercise releases certain endorphins that create a natural "high", the brain will help to body react more positively to traditional treatments like chemotherapy and radiation. Exercise has also been shown to help reduce the negative side effects that are often associated with these treatments.

For any person with higher risk factors for cancer or an existing cancerous tumor, they should talk to their doctors about how they should work exercise into their normal routine. Of course, during cancer treatment is not the ideal time to begin a rigorous exercise routine or intense training program. This is why it is important to work closely with a doctor to understand one's physical limits and create a routine that meets their needs without introducing additional harm to their body. For a person that does not currently have cancer, this information can serve as another reminder of the overall benefits of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and continuing to participate in some type of physical activity on a daily basis.
For more great articles by David Haas, visit his blog at:

April 3, 2012

Chocolate Lover's Waistlines

The ever-quotable Katharine Hepburn once said of her slender form: “What you see before you is the result of a lifetime of chocolate.”

New evidence suggests she may have been right. People who eat chocolate may be thinner than those who don’t.

Wait — keep reading. Don’t grab the nearest Hershey’s bar or throw back handfuls of M&Ms just yet.

Read more at:

January 15, 2012

'Best Diet' helps health, not just weight

If you’re looking to lower your blood pressure or seeking a new healthy eating plan, you might want to try the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that was ranked the best diet of 2012, by U.S. News & World Report.

This is the second year in a row that U.S. News named the DASH diet as the “best diet overall.” A panel of 22 medical experts on diet, obesity, nutrition, diabetes and heart disease developed the rankings list.

“It’s not just the latest fad diet in terms of weight loss,” said Marla Heller, the author of the best-selling “The DASH Diet Action Plan” and a certified nutritionist in Northbrook. “It’s the only diet plan that’s been proven to improve health.”

The DASH diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fish, poultry, low-fat dairy products, nuts and legumes – foods that are low in saturated fat and cholesterol.


January 9, 2012

Fat Chance Fad Diets Will Work

CELEBRITIES go from fat to thin in the blink of an eye, so why can't we?
Australians are spending billions of dollars a year while being bombarded with photographs of the rich and famous saying how easy it is to shed the kilos if you just use the "magic formula" of the next big thing in dieting.
But Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA) says people are doing themselves a disservice by buying into diet fads which do not provide a sustainable platform for long-term weight loss.
The DAA has named the worst three diet offenders - the Blood Type Diet, the Acid and Alkaline Diet and the Lemon Detox diet.
Coast dietitian, Maya McColm said dieting fads were not designed for the long term.
"Diets often compromise on nutritional quality," she said.
"No-one diet suits everyone - there are many factors which influence weight loss - from healthy eating and exercise to emotional support and motivation."
Ms McColm said it was about a healthy and holistic lifestyle change, not yo-yo dieting.
"Each individual must change their mindset - no-one can do it for them," she said.
"It is about exercising, eating well and integrating this into everyday life."
She said in this day and age people were time poor and opted for take-aways over quality food.
"It is not just about eating foods with a low Glycemic Index (GI) but also low Human Intervention (HI)," she said.

December 2, 2011

5x7 Folded Card

Rejoice Lord King Religious Christmas Card
Shop Shutterfly's collection of Christmas photo cards.
View the entire collection of cards.

October 4, 2011

Resist Temptation with All Your (Muscle) Might

Make a fist before picking your dessert.

The simple act of tightening a muscle — in your hand, your calf, whatever — can help you make the healthier choice.

"Firm muscles can firm willpower and … increase self-control…. Put simply, steely muscles can lead to a steely resolve," says a study recently published in the Journal of Consumer Research.

Read more at:,0,6797331.column

October 3, 2011

How to build a better salad

Just because something's called "salad" doesn't make it healthy -- in fact, it can be the exact opposite. Here's how to make your salad nutritious, tasty and filling:

Keep it colorful. A salad with iceberg lettuce, celery and cucumbers has significantly fewer vitamins than one with romaine or spinach leaves, carrots, broccoli and tomatoes. "Generally, the darker and brighter the color, the better the nutrition," says Holly Hicks, a registered dietitian in Newport News, Va.

Add lean protein. Without it, your stomach likely will be rumbling again soon. Good choices: grilled chicken breast or shrimp, lean beef, canned salmon, beans, baked tofu and hard-boiled eggs.

Sprinkle on some crunch. Add a small handful of raw almonds or walnuts (about 10) or seeds for protein and healthy fats. Avoid sugarcoated nuts, which are basically candy. You also can shave kernels from a leftover ear of corn........
Read the full article at:
Click Here

September 27, 2011

Liquid calories: How pop, alcohol and fruit juices are making us fat -

Way Too Much of a Good Thing

Liquid certainly is the stuff of life, but today our cups runneth over with beverage choices -- energy drinks and anti-energy ones, vitamin-enhanced waters, vegetable and fruit blends in alluring exotic flavours. Never mind pomegranate and pineapple, now there's acai, goji, and lychee. And that's not to mention our pervasive coffee culture of cappuccinos, Frappuccinos, double-doubles, and triple-triples.

The above is a paragraph out of an excellent article on liquid calories. It's a must read. Great testimonial included. Go to:

Liquid calories: How pop, alcohol and fruit juices are making us fat -

September 19, 2011

Can eating well while pregnant make your baby smarter?

Mothers who wish to boost their babies' IQ often speak or sing to them while in utero or put them in front of Baby Einstein videos. But what if you could optimize IQ simply by serving them a healthful diet?

A recent study published in the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health suggests just that. Using questionnaires given to mothers, British researchers investigated the eating habits of nearly 4,000 children at the ages of 3, 4, 7 and 8½. The scientists corrected for the mothers' education level, social class, consumption of fatty fish during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

Full Article at:

September 14, 2011

Helpful tips to eating healthy without spending a fortune - Chicago Sun-Times

Helpful tips to eating healthy without spending a fortune - Chicago Sun-Times

Just because you are on a limited food budget doesn’t mean you have to sacrifice nutrition and your health.

It’s a matter of changing your eating, preparation and spending habits.

“The key is shopping smart,” declares registered dietitian Kelly Kleckner who advises patients — many of whom are on food stamps and fighting obesity — at Mount Sinai Hospital.


October 21, 2010

Susie's Trampoline Workout!

The following demonstrates an excellent cardio workout you can do on the trampoline. Note: The videography is unprofessional, so bear with that.

March 30, 2010

Diabetes: Take It Serious & Be in Control!

Diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death in the US (Deaths: Final Data for 2001, NCHS, CDC). According to the National Eye Institute and the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK), an estimated 17 million Americans have diabetes, and 5.9 million of them have not yet been diagnosed. The number is climbing. Every year one million Americans 20 years and older are newly diagnosed. What's scary is most people are not diagnosed as having diabetes until they develop a life-threatening complication. In most of these cases, had the person known he had diabetes, the complication could have been avoided.

Complications associated with Diabetes:

(1) Blindness: Diabetes is the number one cause of blindness in people ages 25-74.

(2) Heart Disease: People with diabetes are 2 to 4 times more likely to experience heart disease.

(3) Stroke: If you have diabetes, you are 5 times more likely to suffer from a stroke.

(4) Amputations: The number one cause of lower limb amputations that is not related to a traumatic injury is - you guessed it - diabetes!

(5) Kidney failure: Diabetes is the leading cause of kidney failure.

(6) Nerve damage: It is estimated that 65% of people with diabetes suffer from mild to severe nerve damage.

Am I trying to use scare tactics? You bet I am. I will never forget a lady I met with diabetes. She had lost one leg, was partially blind, had suffered a stroke, and her kidneys no longer functioned properly. Why did this poor woman suffer these maladies? She refused to keep her diabetes under control, flat out refused.

It is not a hard task to accomplish, but it does take commitment and discipline. I cannot stress enough to those of you who suffer from diabetes: (1) Follow a well planned diet regimen, (2) Monitor your blood glucose level frequently, and (3)Follow your prescription drug regimen. These steps are imperative if you wish to live a long, happy life free of complications. Pretty bold statement, but it's the truth.

If you go through life with the attitude that diabetes is no big deal, chances are very good you will suffer one or more of the complications listed above. Future blogs will discuss important issues related to diet and provide you with valuable self-help resources.
Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with
"Text ur R.D."
-- Learn more at:

March 27, 2010

Anti-Aging Effects of Exercise

Misconception: Older adults are weak and their level of energy inevitably declines.

Research shows that regular exercise provides the same benefit for elderly people as it does for younger individuals. If you are over 55 years old, simply implementing regular exercise can prevent and, in most cases, reverse almost half of the physical deterioration normally associated with getting older. So, why is it that less than 10 percent of people who have retired exercise more than 3 times per week?

The area of fitness that you should focus on the most is strength training. When you are younger, the majority of your workout schedule should consist of aerobic exercise. As you get older, the ratio of aerobic exercise to strength training sessions should flip-flop. Training with weights will improve your level of strength, balance, and flexibility. This results in reducing your risk of falls and fractures.

This is unbelievable: If you strength train regularly for one full year, you can take 15 to 20 years off your physical condition!! Aging is often perceived as the enemy. Reality - It is physical inactivity that is the true enemy. By not keeping yourself active, even at age 30, you will notice your muscles getting smaller and weaker.

FACT: By not regularly including strength exercise in your workout regimen, you will lose up to one-half pound of muscle every year of life after age 25. This can not only effect your physical capabilities later in life, but will also cause you to gain weight. Muscle is a very active tissue with high-energy requirements. At rest, your muscles are responsible for over 25% of your calorie expenditure. Thus, increasing the amount of muscle tissue in your body results in a corresponding increase in the number of calories your body will burn, even at rest.

Do you have a hard time making yourself go to the gym to get in your workout? Why not get involved with a senior activity that requires you to be social while incorporating your physical activity? The National Senior Games Association provides opportunities for adults over the age of 50 to participate in athletic competition.

***Before beginning activity, please schedule a visit with your primary physician. Talk with him or her about the activity.

Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with
"Text ur R.D."
-- Learn more at:

April 20, 2009

Fiber & Your Heart

You hear a lot today about fiber. What is fiber? Dietary fiber is the part of the plant food source that your body cannot break down - it is not digested. There are many health benefits associated with eating a diet rich in fiber. This article will focus on the benefits associated with heart disease prevention.

Diet & Blood Cholesterol --
How you eat greatly affects your blood cholesterol. A diet low in cholesterol and saturated fat is one nutritional change you should make. Another important change to make is to eat foods high in fiber.

Types of Dietary Fiber --
There are two kinds of dietary fiber: (1) soluble fiber, and (2) insoluble fiber.

Insoluble fiber (also known as "roughage"):
Found in whole grains, vegetables, wheat bran, nuts, and beans. This type of fiber is not absorbed by the body. Insoluble fiber's health benefits include aiding digestion and promoting regularity by adding bulk. The "bulk" keeps other foods moving through the digestive tract.

Soluble fiber:
Offers the real heart disease benefit by reducing blood cholesterol levels. Food sources include oats, barley, beans, lentils, peas, nuts, seeds, apples and other types of fruits, and vegetables. Soluble fiber helps lower blood cholesterol by binding to cholesterol in the digestive tract. Basically, it locks up the cholesterol causing it to be eliminated from the body naturally.

How much fiber should you be getting through your diet?
Try to eat between 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. On average, most of us eat less than half the fiber we should be eating - 10 to 15 grams per day.

How can you increase your fiber intake?
* Substitute high-fiber foods such as whole-grain bread, brown rice, fruits, and vegetables for low-fiber foods such as white bread, white rice, candy, and chips.
* Eat more vegetables and fruits WITH their skins on, when appropriate. The skins are a good source of fiber.
* For breakfast, eat cereal made from whole grains, bran, or oats. Include a tasty fruit with your morning cereal.
* Include 2 servings of vegetables at lunch and dinner, again with skins on when appropriate.
* Consider eating cooked oatmeal. Eating just 1-1/2 cups of cooked oatmeal (about 3/4 cup uncooked) per day has shown to help reduce blood cholesterol levels.
* All the above, of course, is best when also eating a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol.

One final note on adding fiber into your diet: Do it GRADUALLY!! Too much too soon can cause bloating and abdominal cramps. Try adding about one serving of a fiber-rich food source every 3 days. AND, be sure to drink plenty of WATER!!
Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at:

The Nutty Truth About Nuts

Did You Know ... The number one killer of American women is heart disease. Heart disease is not isolated to men. Women need to be just as careful with their lifestyle to reduce their risk of developing heart disease. This is especially true if you are post-menopausal.

Did You Know ... Eating nuts a few times per week may significantly lower risk for developing heart disease. Eating nuts 5 times per week or more may reduce risk by over 50% when compared to those who don't consume nuts!

What makes nuts so special?
* Usaturated fat-- While the total fat content of nuts is high (48-74% by weight), the type of fat is mostly unsaturated. Importantly, most nuts are rich in oleic acid (a monounsaturated fat).
* Fiber -- Nuts are high in dietary fiber.
*Vitamin E -- Nuts are an excellent source of vitamin E which is known to be beneficial to heart health. In fact, nuts contain more vitamin E than any other food apart from extracted vegetable oils. The best nuts for vitamin E content are almonds, hazelnuts, walnuts, and pecans.
* Minerals -- Nuts are a rich source of copper and magnesium. These two minerals have positive effects on the level of blood serum lipids.

Caution --
It should be noted that nuts are still high in fat, thus, calories. If you struggle with weight problems, be sure to substitute nuts for foods you would normally eat. Do not include them in addition to your diet, else, you are very likely to gain weight.

Here's a list of nut serving sizes --
Note: For each serving of nuts, there are 45 calories and 5 grams of fat (the "good" kind!). The serving sizes are not very big!

Type of nuts....................Amount
Almonds...........................6 nuts
Cashews...........................6 nuts
Mixed nuts(50% peanuts)...6 nuts
Peanuts............................10 nuts
Pecans..............................4 halves

If you do not like to eat nuts plain, add them to foods. You can add them to salads, yogurt, vegetable dishes, or try blending them in as part of a milk shake. Enjoy something nutty today!

Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at:

Burn More Calories -- Faster!

Have you ever wondered how you can make your body burn calories faster? Can that really be done? Yes! With a long term commitment, you can actually speed up the rate at which your body burns calories (known as metabolism). In fact, there are many factors that affect your metabolic rate.

The 3 Basic Aspects of Metabolism (or total energy expenditure):

(1) Resting Metabolic Rate (RMR) -
RMR is the amount of energy (calories) needed to run the vital functions of your body (i.e. breathing, heart beating). RMR is believed to account for about 65 to 75% of the calories your body burns in a day. Consider this -- As the percent of body fat increases, the RMR decreases, or you burn fewer calories at rest. Additionally, muscle deterioration will also decrease the RMR. Muscles deteriorate when you don't challenge them! To ultimately combat a decrease in RMR, build more muscle and shrink those fat stores.

(2) Thermic Effect of Food (TEF) -
TEF involves the work associated with digesting the food you eat. Yes, your body is actually burning calories as you eat them. Don't get too excited -- The amount of energy used here ranges from just 5 to 15%. Wondering how to burn more calories just by eating? The composition of your diet has an effect on this part of metabolism. When the ratio of carbohydrate to fat is high, metabolism is higher. The body has work harder to convert carbohydrates to fat than it does dietary fat which is already in a storable form. Thus, eating a diet low in fat is not only heart healthy, but will help you burn a few extra calories.

(3) Effect of Physical Activity -
This is the energy your body burns while performing daily activities, exercise, play, etc. On average, physical activity accounts for 20 to 40% of the calories burned by your body in one day. It is the component of metabolism that you have the most control over. It should be obvious that a person who is sedentary (inactive) versus a very active person will burn far fewer calories. Factors that affect calories burned, or metabolism, include the intensity of the activity, how long the activity is performed, and the frequency (or how often the activity is performed). This is probably a no-brainer, but the more intense the activity, the more calories are burned; the longer you do the activity, the more calories you are burning; and the more often you do the activity, the more calories are used up.

Unfortunately for us women, we tend to have less muscle mass than men. This is the way we are made, (no, guys, this is not an excuse, just the facts). Thus, women typically have a lower RMR than men. People under the age of 30 usually have a faster metabolic rate for the same reason - higher muscle mass. However, this does not have to hold true. Maintain your muscle mass by lifting weights three days a week. Studies have shown that in as little as three months of moderate weight training, RMR increases. Remember, that's your RESTING calorie burn!

The Effects of Food on Metabolism:

* Anything that speeds up the heart rate, such as stimulants, will temporarily increase your RMR. Examples of food stimulants include caffeine and spicy chili peppers (the key being spicy).

* Complex carbohydrates (i.e. bread, rice, pasta, potatoes, beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables) contain about half the calories by weight of fat. Plus, it is more work for the body to convert carbohydrates to body fat.

* Alcohol is a concentrated calorie source and contains few nutrients. It actually reduces the body's ability to burn fat.

* The soluble fiber in oat products not only lowers cholesterol but enhances weight loss.

BONUS: Walking within 10 minutes of eating can actually boost your TEF helping your body burn 10% more calories than normal. Eating every 3 to 4 hours (6 to 7 small meals per day) will increase your TEF, thus your metabolism.

Power List of Ways to Increase Metabolism:

* Never ever skip meals, especially breakfast.
* After lunch and dinner, take a brief walk (10 to 15 minutes).
* Do NOT eat LESS than 1200 calories per day.
* Eat 50 to 60% of your calories from carbohydrates.
* Train with weights at least 3 days a week.
* Perform some form of aerobic exercise most days of the week.
* Drink plenty of water.
* Get Plenty of Sleep.
Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer --Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with"Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at:

April 18, 2009

Cholesterol - All you need to Know!

When you go to the doctor and he tells you your cholesterol level, you typically are told your TOTAL blood cholesterol level. Ever wondered how cholesterol gets into your blood? The body's liver makes most of the cholesterol it needs - yes, NEEDS. Some cholesterol is absorbed from the food you eat.

Why does the body NEED cholesterol?
The body needs cholesterol to make several important hormones including estrogen and testosterone. In addition, cholesterol is part of the protective covering that surrounds nerves and other cell membranes.

Why is having a high blood cholesterol level bad?
Elevated cholesterol levels are associated with heart disease. For a better assessment of your risk of heart disease, it is important to know not only your total cholesterol but also your HDL. The total cholesterol consists of HDL (high-density lipoprotein), LDL (low-density lipoprotein), and VLDL (very low-density lipoprotein). LDL is the bad guy. HDL is the good guy. Why? LDL cholesterol sticks to your the walls of your blood vessels and can cause blockage. VLDL is the precursor to LDL cholesterol. HDL goes around in the blood stream, collects bad cholesterol, and carries it back to the liver where it is broken down.

What is considered a healthy level in the blood?
It is desirable to keep total cholesterol levels below 200mg/dl. Values above 240 mg/dl are considered significantly elevated. If you know your LDL value, it is desirable to have this type of cholesterol below 130 mg/dl. Values for LDL above 160 are considered significantly elevated. Because HDL is the good guy, you want this level high. Values below 35 mg/dl are a HIGH risk indicator for heart disease. It is more desirable to have HDL levels close to 50 mg/dl or higher.

The Total Cholesterol:HDL Ratio is a good indicator of risk. To calculate this important ratio, divide your Total cholesterol value by your HDL value. The HIGHER the ratio, the GREATER the risk of heart disease. For example: Total = 240 mg/dl HDL = 30 mg/dl Ratio = 240/30 = 8.0
*This is a high risk ratio.


What is cholesterol?
It is a waxy, fat-like substance.

What foods contain cholesterol?
Foods of animal origin are the ONLY foods that contain cholesterol. Foods of plant origin, even those naturally containing fat, DO NOT contain cholesterol.

Cholesterol in food:
There are a number of factors that affect your blood cholesterol level. One factor, is a diet high in dietary cholesterol. Moderation is advised to keep cholesterol levels in check. The American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program recommend that you consume 300 mg of cholesterol or less per day.

As stated above, foods of animal origin are the ONLY foods that contain cholesterol. Foods of plant origin, even those naturally containing fat, DO NOT contain cholesterol. Are certain foods of animal origin higher in cholesterol than others? Yes.

Not many people enjoy eating organ meats, such as liver. If you are someone who does, you should know that organ meats are high in cholesterol, 270 mg per 3-ounce serving of liver. While liver is nutritious, if you are at risk for heart disease then you need to limit your intake.

Egg yolks have gotten a bad rap in the past. Why? It is because egg yolks are high in cholesterol, 215 mg per yolk. The yolk is definitely nutritious, its purpose is to provide nutrients for a chick embryo to develop. Unfortunately, it contains too much cholesterol to eat it as you please. You should limit the number of yolks you eat to 3 or less per week. What about the whites? Eat as many whites as you like. The white part of an egg contains no cholesterol and is a rich, complete source of protein.

To limit the number of egg yolks, you can substitute 2 egg whites for one whole egg when baking. For example, a recipe calls for 2 eggs. You could either use 1 whole egg plus 2 egg whites OR 4 egg whites. By doing this simple substitution, you will decrease the cholesterol content. Another option is to use an egg substitute, check label for egg equivalent.

As for meats, look for leaner cuts of meat, fish, and poultry. Cut away excess fat before cooking. Choose low-fat dairy products. By following these steps, you will not be able to eliminate all the cholesterol but you are taking important steps towards healthy eating.

Read food labels for foods low in cholesterol or foods that are cholesterol free. How do you know if a product is low in cholesterol? Here are the food label requirements (government regulated):

Label claim: Per Serving:
Cholesterol Free - Less than 2 mg cholesterol and
Less than or equal to 2 g of saturated fat
Low Cholesterol - Less than or equal to 20 mg cholesterol and
Less than or equal to 2 g of saturated fat
Reduced OR Less - At least 25% less cholesterol than the original
Cholesterol and Less than or equal to 2 g of saturated fat

The above shows requirements for saturated fat. This is because blood cholesterol levels are significantly affected by dietary saturated fat intake. Cholesterol and saturated fat usually are found in the same foods, thus sometimes get confused. In animal products, both the lean portion (flesh or muscle) and the fatty tissue contain cholesterol. This is why some low-fat foods (animal) can be relatively high in cholesterol. Foods such as shellfish and organ meats are high in cholesterol yet low in saturated fat.

Quiz question:
Nuts are high in fat, 80-89% of calories coming from fat. Do they contain cholesterol?
A: No. Nuts are from plant origin therefore they contain NO cholesterol.

Do not assume that dishes that contain vegetables or grains are cholesterol free. Vegetables and grains start off cholesterol free BUT most recipes include egg yolk, milk, meat, or butter. The cholesterol content depends on the recipe ingredients as a whole.

Effects of Saturated Fat:
If you have heart disease or have a family history of heart disease, it is likely your doctor has asked you to follow a diet low in fat and cholesterol. The fat to watch is saturated fat. Saturated fat INCREASES the level of "bad" LDL cholesterol in your blood. This is why it is so important to pay attention to the amount of saturated fat that is in your diet.

You do not have to avoid all fats. Unsaturated fats actually lower LDL cholesterol levels. "Unsaturated fats" includes polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats. Monounsaturated fat is considered better than polyunsaturated fat. Why? In addition to lowering the "bad" LDL cholesterol, polyunsaturated fat lowers the "good" HDL cholesterol. As discussed above, HDL is beneficial because it collects LDL and brings it back to the liver where the LDL is broken down. Monounsaturated fat leaves the beneficial HDL cholesterol intact.

*Sources of Polyunsaturated Fat: Corn Oil, Sunflower Seed Oil, Safflower Oil, Soybean Oil
*Sources of Monounsaturated Fat: Olive Oil, Canola Oil, Peanut Oil

The main sources of saturated fat are from foods from animal origin and some from plants. Animal foods that are high in saturated fat include beef, veal, lamb, pork, butter, cream, milk (whole and 2%), cheese, and other dairy products made from whole milk. Plant foods that are high include coconut oil, palm oil, palm kernel oil, and cocoa butter. Check food labels to see which type of oil or fat was used in production.

The American Heart Association's dietary guidelines recommend (1) Total Fat intake should be Less Than 30 Percent of daily calories, and (2) Saturated fat intake should be Less Than 10 Percent of calories.

Cooking Tips from the American Heart Association --

To reduce saturated fat in meat:
(1) Use a rack to drain off the fat when broiling, roasting, or baking. Instead of basting with drippings, keep meat moist with wine, fruit juices or an acceptable oil-based marinade.
(2) Cook a day ahead of time. Stews, boiled meat, soup stock or other dishes in which fat cooks into the liquid can be refrigerated. Then the hardened fat can be removed from the top.
(3) Make gravies after the fat has hardened and can be removed from the liquid.
(4) Broil rather than pan-fry meats such as hamburger, lamb chops, pork chops, and steak.
(5) When a recipe calls for browning the meat first, try browning it under the broiler instead of in a pan.
(6) Avoid adding butter or margarine to vegetables when cooking. Instead use herbs and spices for flavor

Cholesterol-Lowering Medications:
If you have high cholesterol and you make the necessary changes in your diet and activity level, your cholesterol level should begin to go down after three to six months. If not your doctor may recommend cholesterol-lowering medication. If you are prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medication, remember that this is only the part of the plan. For maximum benefit and effectiveness, you must continue eating foods low in fat and cholesterol and continue exercising.
Other lifestyle changes you should make to avoid heart disease include losing weight if you are overweight, stop smoking if you smoke, control high blood pressure, and manage stress in your life. Traditionally, physicians have used medication to control blood cholesterol.

Here is a fact for you to think about before you decide to take cholesterol-lowering medication:
75% of all heart disease can be prevented by lifestyle changes including dietary changes and increased activity.

Cholesterol-lowering drugs are known as "antihyperlipidemic agents". There are five major groups: (1) Fibric acid derivatives - Atromid-S (clofibrate) and Lopid (gemdibrozil), which work by preventing the liver from making or releasing cholesterol into the bloodstream, (2) Bile acid sequestrants - Questran (cholestryamine) and Colestid (cholestipol), which bind to bile acids and prevent their absorption, (3) Nicotinic acid - Nicolar (nicotinic acid), which decreases the secretion of VLDL thus the formation of "bad" LDL cholesterol, (4) Probucol - Lorelco (probucol), which enhances the clearance of cholesterol including LDL and HDL cholesterol, and (5) HMG-CoA reductase inhibitors - Mevacor (lovastatin), Pravastatin, and Zocor (simvastatin), which work to help lower LDL cholesterol.

Now that you know which drugs are available and their general method of action in the body, you can hopefully make an educated decision along with your doctor on whether or not cholesterol-lowering drugs are necessary. Again, it cannot be stressed enough, a proper diet and exercise regimen can help you in your fight against high cholesterol. Good luck!

"Perfect Portions Digital Scale with Nutrition Facts Display in Red"
Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD -- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer -- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at:

April 7, 2009

Chocolate - No Longer Junk Food!

Enough is known about chocolate now to justifiably make the following statement, "Chocolate is good for you and no longer just an empty calorie junk food!" Did you know chocolate has been linked to lower blood pressure? Lower cholesterol? Increased insulin sensitivity? Improved blood flow to the brain? Reduced inflamation? Improved texture of the skin? Happiness -- well, that last one is no surprise to a chocolate lover!

What is it that makes chocolate so wonderful, not just to the taste buds, but all the health benefits just listed? The positive health benefits can be attributed to flavonol antioxidants (flavonols). Flavonols come from ground, fermented cocoa seeds. Take out the cocoa butter and sugar from chocolate and flavonols are what's left. Dark chocolate has more flavonols than milk chocolate and forget white chocolate which is not a true chocolate. White chocolate is made from cocoa butter and sugar containing no flavonols. The darker the chocolate, the better it is for your body because there are more of those wonderful flavonols. However, not all dark chocolate is created equal. Flavonols can be destroyed during processing, i.e., dutched and alkalized cocoa products.

Moderation is, of course, a must for healthy chocolate consumption. Cocoa powder itself is virtually fat-free. Chocolate, however, contains a significant amount of sugar and fat thus calories. Just one ounce of chocolate contains abut 200 calories and 10 grams of fat .. BUT 1 oz. is an adequate amount to reap the benefits noted in this article! So, eat smart. If you are going to begin including an ounce of chocolate in your diet, counteract the extra calories by eliminating it somewhere else in your diet. Last note -- If you want the health benefits of cocoa without the calories added to make chocolate, try adding cocoa powder in a smoothie made from banana, yogurt, milk, frozen berries and a touch of honey - yum!

For more information on chocolate and a list of some of the top rated flavonol-containing chocolates, go to:

Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD
-- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D."
-- Learn more at:

Multivitamin = Better Health?

Trying to incorporate healthier lifestyle changes often brings into question multivitamin use -- Should you take a daily multivitamin? Which of the many choices on the market is right for you? Fact is most Americans fall short of consuming many of the recommended nutrients necessary to maintain optimum health. Taking a basic daily multivitamin is a good preventive action. Convenience foods and fast foods are much to blame. We are busy and too often opt for the quick and easy when it comes to meals.

While Western countries are no longer afflicted with vitamin deficient disease such as scurvy (not enough vitamin C) or rickets (not enough vitamin D), degenerative diseases such as heart disease and osteoporosis are still on the rise. So, what's commonly missing in our diets? Less than 1 in 5 Americans consume enough vitamin E. Only 1 in 4 get enough vitamin K. And, fewer than 1/2 get enough vitamin A or calcium in their diet. It's these types of nutritional inadequacies that may be setting us up for the common degenerative diseases such as heart disease, osteoporosis, cancer and others. Simply taking a daily multivitamin is an easy, inexpensive way to bridge these nutritional gaps. It should be noted that a standard multivitamin will not contain enough calcium. A separate calcium supplement is advisable unless you truly include 3 to 4 servings of dairy in your diet every single day.

A basic multivitamin is one that doesn't go beyond 100% of the recommended amount. What about super formulas that go beyond the RDAs? Taking a supplement that goes above and beyond 100% can introduce new health problems. You will be consuming more than the recommended safe upper limit. What about taking more than one supplement formulation? Let's say you start taking high dose multivitamin and also want to take a separate antioxidant formula. You would potentially be getting more than 10,000 IU for vitamin A exceeding it's safe upper limit and this is not even counting the amount of vitamin A naturally consumed in your diet. Studies have shown over supplementing with one antioxidant can cause health risks. Taking a high dose multivitamin with a prostate formula or immune boosting formula could put your consumption of zinc over 50 mg ultimately interfering with copper absorption resulting in a copper deficiency! Bottom line -- extra nutritional supplementation does not = better health!

Summary ---
Eating a healthy, well balanced diet is the best defense against nutritionally related diseases. Including a basic daily multivitamin is recommended. Antioxidants can help prevent diseases when they come from food sources, but not excessive amounts via supplements which can actually have the opposite effect. Remember -- Fresh is best!

Written by: Laura S. Garrett, RD
-- Registered Dietitian & ACE Certified Personal Trainer
-- Keep Laura's advice at your fingertips, wherever you and your cell phone go with "Text ur R.D." -- Learn more at: