Post-Workout Nutrition: What to Eat After a Workout

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You put a lot of effort into your workouts, always looking to perform better and reach your goals. Chances are you’ve given more thought to your pre-workout meal than your post-workout meal. However, consuming the right nutrients after you exercise is just as important as what you eat before. Below, is a detailed guide to optimal nutrition after workouts.

Eating After a Workout Is Important

To understand how the right foods can help you after exercise, it’s important to understand how your body is affected by physical activity. When you’re working out, your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel. This results in your muscles being partially depleted of glycogen. Some of the proteins in your muscles also get broken down and damaged.

After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow those muscle proteins. Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout. Doing this helps your body:

  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown.
  • Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth).
  • Restore glycogen stores.
  • Enhance recovery

BOTTOM LINE: Getting in the right nutrients after exercise can help you rebuild your muscle proteins and glycogen stores. It also helps stimulate growth of new muscle.

Protein, Carbs and Fat

Protein Helps Repair and Build Muscle

These powerful macronutrients are involved in your body’s post-workout recovery process. As explained above, exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein. The rate at which this happens depends on the exercise and your level of training, but even well-trained athletes experience muscle protein breakdown. Consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also gives you the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue.

It is recommended that you consume 0.14–0.23 grams of protein per pound of body weight (0.3–0.5 grams/kg) very soon after a workout. Studies have shown that ingesting 20–40 grams of protein seems to maximize the body’s ability to recover after exercise.

Carbs Help With Recovery

Your body’s glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them. The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training. For this reason, if you participate in endurance sports (running, swimming, etc.), you might need to consume more carbs than a bodybuilder.

Consuming 0.5–0.7 grams of carbs per pound (1.1–1.5 grams/kg) of body weight within 30 minutes after training results in proper glycogen re-synthesis. Furthermore, insulin secretion, which promotes glycogen synthesis, is better stimulated when carbs and protein are consumed at the same time. Therefore, consuming both carbs and protein after exercise can maximize protein and glycogen synthesis. Try consuming the two in a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein). For example, 40 grams of protein and 120 grams of carbs.

Eating plenty of carbs to rebuild glycogen stores is most important for people who exercise often, such as twice in the same day. If you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts then this becomes less important.

Fat Is Not That Bad

Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat may slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits. For example, a study showed that whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth after a workout than skim milk. Moreover, another study showed that even when ingesting a high-fat meal (45% energy from fat) after working out, muscle glycogen synthesis was not affected.

It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.

BOTTOM LINE: A post-workout meal with both protein and carbs will enhance glycogen storage and muscle protein synthesis. Consuming a ratio of 3:1 (carbs to protein) is a practical way to achieve this.

The Timing of Your Post-Workout Meal Matters

Your body’s ability to rebuild glycogen and protein is enhanced after you exercise. For this reason, it is recommended that you consume a combination of carbs and protein as soon as possible after exercising. Although the timing does not need to be exact, many experts recommend eating your post-workout meal within 45 minutes. In fact, it’s believed that the delay of carb consumption by as little as two hours after a workout may lead to as much as 50% lower rates of glycogen synthesis. However, if you consumed a meal before exercising, it’s likely that the benefits from that meal still apply after training.

BOTTOM LINE: Eat your post-workout meal within 45 minutes of exercising. However, you can extend this period a little longer, depending on the timing of your pre-workout meal.

Foods to Eat After You Workout

The primary goal of your post-workout meal is to supply your body with the right nutrients for adequate recovery and to maximize the benefits of your workout. Choosing easily digested foods will promote faster nutrient absorption. The following lists contain examples of simple and easily digested foods:

Carbs:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Chocolate milk
  • Quinoa
  • Fruits (pineapple, berries, banana, kiwi)
  • Rice cakes
  • Rice
  • Oatmeal
  • Potatoes
  • Pasta
  • Dark, leafy green vegetables

Protein:

  • Animal- or plant-based protein powder
  • Eggs
  • Greek yogurt
  • Cottage cheese
  • Salmon
  • Chicken
  • Protein bar
  • Tuna

Fats:

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Nut butters
  • Trail mix (dried fruits and nuts)

Sample Post-Workout Meals

Combinations of the foods listed above can create great meals that provide you with all the nutrients you need after exercise. Here are a few examples of quick and easy meals to eat after your workout:

  • Grilled chicken with roasted vegetables
  • Egg omelet with avocado spread on toast
  • Salmon with sweet potato
  • Tuna salad sandwich on whole grain bread
  • Tuna and crackers
  • Oatmeal, whey protein, banana and almonds
  • Cottage cheese and fruits
  • Pita and hummus
  • Rice crackers and peanut butter
  • Whole grain toast and almond butter
  • Cereal and skim milk
  • Greek yogurt, berries and granola
  • Protein shake and banana
  • Quinoa bowl with berries and pecans
  • Multi-grain bread and raw peanuts

Make Sure to Drink Plenty of Water

It is important to drink plenty of water before and after your workout. When you are properly hydrated, this ensures the optimal internal environment for your body to maximize results. During exercise, you lose water and electrolytes through sweat. Replenishing these after a workout can help with recovery and performance.

It’s especially important to replenish fluids if your next exercise session is within 12 hours. Depending on the intensity of your workout, water or an electrolyte drink is recommended to replenish fluid losses.

BOTTOM LINE: It is important to get water and electrolytes after exercise to replace what was lost during your workout.

Putting It All Together

Consuming a proper amount of carbs and protein after exercise is essential. It will stimulate muscle protein synthesis, improve recovery and enhance performance during your next workout. If you’re not able to eat within 45 minutes of working out, it’s important to not go much longer than 2 hours before eating a meal. Finally, replenishing lost water and electrolytes can complete the picture and help you maximize the benefits of your workout.

Adapted from: Arlene Semeco, MS, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Chill out! Frozen foods, particularly fruits and veggies, can be just as nutritious as fresh produce and, in some cases, they may be even better.

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Nutrients for a Sharp Memory

Research supports a variety of nutrients and food components that protect cognitive function.

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Nearly everyone has walked into a room and forgotten what he or she went in there for, or has had trouble recalling an obvious word, and worried that his or her brain may not be as sharp as it once was. “My private clients, both young and old, express concern about preserving their memory,” says Jennifer McDaniel, MS, RDN, CSSD, LD, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “I believe many underestimate the power of dietary choices in supporting brain health.” The brain, like the cardiovascular system, depends on good blood flow for optimal functioning. Heart-healthy lifestyle choices such as regular physical activity and a healthful dietary pattern are, therefore, good ways to keep the brain healthy and the memory sharp. “What’s good for the heart is good for the head,” McDaniel says. The heart-healthy Mediterranean-style eating pattern, for example, is linked to better cognitive function, memory, and alertness in numerous studies. The MIND diet, a variation of the Mediterranean diet that specifically targets brain health, adds an emphasis on certain foods such as green leafy vegetables and berries that have been linked (or contain components that in studies have been linked) with brain benefits, but what are some particular nutrients or food components that stand out for their brain-boosting powers? Research is inconclusive to date, but there is a few promising nutrients.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

The omega-3 family of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) play several important roles in brain structure and function, and there’s clinical evidence suggesting that dietary deficiency in these PUFAs can have adverse cognitive effects. In addition, “There’s solid evidence from observational studies linking omega-3 fatty acid intake to cognitive benefits,” says Ondine van de Rest, MSc, PhD, an assistant professor in the division of human nutrition at Wageningen University in the Netherlands who’s done extensive work on nutrition and cognition. Numerous epidemiologic studies have found that high intake of PUFA-rich fish is associated with positive cognitive function and inversely associated with development and progression of dementia. In one study, elderly subjects who consumed fish or seafood even once per week exhibited a significantly lower risk of developing dementia in the seven-year follow-up period.

The long-chain omega-3 DHA, found in fish, shellfish, algae and especially prevalent in oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, menhaden, and sardines, is especially important to brain function. Since the body doesn’t make DHA efficiently, humans are dependent on dietary sources, and it appears the typical Western diet is falling short. According to one study, less than one-half of women consume the recommended dietary allowance. Despite these promising correlations, cause and effect has yet to be definitively demonstrated. “So far it has been hard to replicate these epidemiologic results in randomized controlled intervention studies, which are needed to establish a causal relationship,” van de Rest says. “Intervention studies to date show modest results, if any, and only in specific groups of mild cognitively impaired individuals, not in those who are still cognitively healthy.”

Research methodology may play a role in this discrepancy. “Some clinical studies that found no beneficial effects from omega-3 supplementation let participants in the control group eat up to three fish meals a week,” says Maggie Moon, MS, RDN, author of The MIND Diet: A Scientific Approach to Enhancing Brain Function and Helping Prevent Alzheimer’s and Dementia. “The amount of omega-3s in the fish would be enough to nullify any difference between the groups.” When it comes to brain health, avoiding saturated and trans fat may be as important as consuming polyunsaturated omega-3 fats. According to a 2014 review, laboratory, animal, and prospective epidemiologic studies support the hypothesis that high intake of saturated or trans fatty acids increases the risk of dementia. Additionally, the Chicago Health and Aging Project found that the people in the upper quintile for saturated fat consumption had a two-fold increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease compared with those in the lowest quintile. Not all studies are in agreement, but Moon again points to methodology as a likely confounding factor. “When you’ve got good methodology and control for the type of fat, the relationship between saturated fat and cognitive decline is clear,” Moon says. “They rise together.”

Lutein

Lutein is another nutrient found to aid in brain health and preserve memory. This nutrient is a yellow-pigmented carotenoid found in egg yolk, avocado, and dark leafy greens such as spinach and kale. Elizabeth Johnson, PhD, an antioxidant researcher with the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, has been involved in extensive research on lutein. “Lutein is selectively taken up into the macula of the retina, where it’s believed to be important for eye health,” Johnson says. “To get to the retina, it needs to cross the blood-brain barrier.” Research by Johnson and her colleagues found that lutein is the major carotenoid in the brain, and that brain tissue levels of lutein are related to cognition, including memory.

In a small, double-blinded placebo-controlled randomized trial, researchers gave supplements containing 10 mg lutein plus 2 mg zeaxanthin (another carotenoid found in the retina) per day to healthy older adults for 12 months and found improved cognitive function in the study population compared with the placebo group. “That’s the amount of lutein found in about 2 oz of cooked spinach,” Johnson says. “Unfortunately, the average American consumes only around 1 to 2 mg of lutein per day.” Notably, one study showed that even greater improvements in cognitive function were found when lutein was paired with the omega-3 fatty acid DHA. “No nutrient works in isolation,” Johnson says. “This study demonstrates that lutein and DHA are working together, and that’s how food works. When we promote better food selection, we promote better health.”

Vitamins

Epidemiological studies show that consumption of adequate vitamins and minerals (dietary or supplemental) are associated with lower risk of developing cognitive deficits. The B vitamins and vitamins E, C, and D specifically have been identified as playing important roles in maintaining normal brain function. Several of these vitamins, such as thiamine and vitamin E are constituents of neuronal membranes, and others, including B6, B12, and vitamin C, are implicated in tasks such as the synthesis and functioning of neurotransmitters. Members of the B vitamin family and vitamin C also are essential to energy production in the brain. The antioxidant power of vitamins C and E also may be important for reducing oxidation in the brain. Given their importance in neuronal function, these micronutrients have been studied as a way to help neurons cope with aging, with particular emphasis on vitamin E and the B vitamins.

Vitamin E

The antioxidant vitamin E is found in whole grains, nuts, seeds, dark-colored fruits, such as blueberries and blackberries, avocados, dark leafy greens, bell peppers, and vegetable oils. “Results of the research on vitamin E and the brain have been conflicting,” Moon says, “but controlling for initial serum levels of the vitamin clears up the discrepancy. A lot of the data on supplementation did not take into account baseline blood levels. People who start at a deficit do see improvement in brain-related symptoms and cognitive ability. For those already at an adequate level, adding more isn’t going to help.”

A study published in JAMA in 2014 found that, among patients with mild to moderate Alzheimer’s disease, those whose diets were supplemented with 2,000 IU per day of the vitamin E form α-tocopherol showed slower functional decline compared with the placebo group. Unfortunately, taking more than 1,000 IU of vitamin E supplements per day may be unsafe, particularly for people with CVD. Vitamin E supplementation is especially risky for those on blood thinners, and it also may increase prostate cancer risk. “There has been controversy around vitamin E supplements but never around vitamin E-rich food intake,” Moon says. Fortunately, it shouldn’t be difficult to get enough vitamin E from food, and doing so may provide additional benefits. “Food sources provide a mix of all eight forms of vitamin E, while supplements have just one or two,” Moon says. “Nutrients act synergistically in the body, and although we don’t know how the different forms of vitamin E interrelate, getting all eight forms in their natural concentrations is the best bet.”

B Vitamins

Although supplementation with B vitamins has not been shown unequivocally to improve brain function or symptoms of memory loss, the important role these vitamins play in the brain raises some interesting possibilities. For example, deficiency in vitamin B12, found exclusively in animal products, is known to lead to dementialike symptoms, which can be reversed by raising B12 levels. Low levels of both B12 and folate together have been associated with a significantly increased risk of Alzheimer’s disease. One possible link between these vitamins and dementia is their role in the metabolism of the amino acid homocysteine. Clinical research shows that people with cognitive impairment have significantly higher plasma levels of homocysteine, and insufficient levels of B6, B12, folate, thiamine, and riboflavin are implicated in high homocysteine levels and cognitive deficits.

Many studies on the role of B vitamins in brain health to date are inconclusive and conflicting, but numerous methodological issues come into play. “Some studies aren’t very sensitive or fail to take into account baseline levels of the vitamin,” Moon says. It may be necessary to consider how nutrients work together rather than studying them in isolation. Recent preliminary research, for example, suggests that B vitamin treatment is effective in slowing cognitive decline only when omega-3 fatty acid levels are normal. “You can’t fix something that’s not broken,” Moon says. “If someone has low vitamin status, raising those levels through diet or supplementation could be beneficial.”

Polyphenols

Many bioactive compounds found in plants have been examined for their role in brain health. The class of compounds known as polyphenols, in particular, is associated in population-based studies with better performance in cognitive abilities and lower risk of cognitive decline in older persons. Found in fruits, vegetables, tea, wine, juices, and some herbs, polyphenols have antioxidant properties and may have other beneficial effects in the brain, including neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory actions. Much has been written about the positive effects of berries on brain health, largely due to their high concentration of polyphenol flavonoid compounds called anthocyanins. Research on other compounds from this class of phytochemicals also is yielding promising results.

Curcumin

The polyphenolic compound curcumin lends its yellow pigment to turmeric. Preclinical studies suggest curcumin has antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and neuroprotective effects. “India has one of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s disease,” McDaniel says. “The curcumin in their traditional curries has been shown to help reduce inflammation in the brain and reduce oxidative stress.” A large population-based study found that healthy elderly Asians who frequently consumed curcumin-rich curries scored significantly better on tests of cognitive function than those who ate curries infrequently. While a six-month, randomized placebo-controlled double-blinded clinical study of curcumin in persons with progressive cognitive decline and memory issues did not show improvements in brain function scores, another study that provided supplementation with 400 mg curcumin found both short- and long-term positive effects on memory and mood in healthy older adults. A 2017 review in the journal Neural Plasticity concludes that, while curcumin may benefit the brain and cognitive function during aging, no clinical trials to date provide conclusive evidence that long-term curcumin consumption is effective for prevention or treatment of cognitive decline with aging. The review authors point to limited bioavailability as a significant limitation in studies and interventions of this promising phytochemical.

Resveratrol

A polyphenolic compound found in grapes, wine, peanuts, and some berries, resveratrol has significant free radical scavenging capabilities. Animal studies have suggested that resveratrol might be beneficial for brain health, but few clinical trials have been completed. One small-scale, randomized placebo-controlled double-blinded trial that added concord grape juice to the diets of older adults with memory decline (but not dementia) for 12 weeks found significant improvement in a measure of verbal learning. A double-blinded placebo-controlled study in which researchers gave healthy older adults 200 mg resveratrol supplements daily with 230 mg quercetin for six months found improved memory performance. As with curcumin, low bioavailability is a major drawback to resveratrol, which is readily metabolized and eliminated.

Catechins

Also known as flavan-3-ol monomers, potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory catechins constitute 30% to 42% of the solid weight of brewed green tea. They’re also found in white, oolong, black, and Pu-erh tea, which all come from the leaves of the same plant. Various epidemiologic studies (which don’t prove cause and effect) have associated long-term catechin intake with improved language and verbal memory and lower risk of cognitive impairment and decline. A small interventional study in healthy volunteers found an increase in brain activity on functional MRI scans after consumption of green tea.

For RDN’s

Fear of losing cognitive function is very real for many people. “I see some clients who are more scared of losing cognitive ability than just about any other condition,” Moon says. “It helps to let them know how easy and practical a brain-healthy diet can be. There are no special foods to buy. A plan, such as the MIND diet is flexible; it doesn’t recommend a lot of red meat or butter or hard cheeses, but there is room for them. Just eat them less often.” Moon works with clients who have favorite recipes and are looking for small ways to make them a little bit more healthful. “Use olive oil in place of butter; swap out refined grains for whole grains, or do a 50:50 mix, like adding barley or farro to a pearl couscous dish,” Moon says. Emphasizing richly colored fruits and vegetables and cooking with herbs and spices can boost vitamin and phytochemical intake. “Our goal is to recommend these dark colored fruits and vegetables since these are naturally rich in phytochemicals that reduce oxidative stress and protect the brain from inflammation,” McDaniel says. “I also tell my clients to keep their spices visible and easily accessible and to add them to food on a regular basis. Herbs and spices make foods flavorful and add beneficial phytochemicals like curcumin to the diet. I personally add a little turmeric to my morning green smoothie.”

The final word on nutrients and brain health is evolving. “It can be tempting to get caught up in research about one particular brain-boosting nutrient or food,” McDaniel says. “But it’s the consumption of a variety of brain-boosting foods, or dietary patterns, that makes a real difference. The good news is, we’re already providing dietary advice for preserving brain health when we counsel our clients on ways to promote heart health.” Moon agrees: “There’s enough research to suggest that dietary patterns like the MIND diet may be of benefit to brain health, but, regardless, we know it will be heart healthy and good for general health,” Moon says. “There’s not a lot of risk, and there’s potential for benefit.”

Adapted from: Judith C. Thalheimer, RD, LDN

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Indulge without bulge! Comfort foods in the right amounts and at the right times will provide what you’re looking for – comfort. Excessive amounts; however, could lead to discomfort and unnecessary weight gain. Avoid portion distortion.

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Can Carb Cycling Help You Lose Weight?

Carb cycling for weight loss is gaining popularity; however, there may be a healthier way to reap the same benefits! 

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You’ve heard plenty of mixed reviews for low-carb diets, but what about carb cycling? The trendpopular with body builders and some athletesis generating buzz as a weight loss method. Here’s the lowdown on how carb cycling works; its potential benefits; and a more simple, less strict alternative.

What is carb cycling, exactly?

While there isn’t one standard protocol, carb cycling typically involves alternating lower-carb days with higher-carb days. Typically fat intake increases on lower-carb days, and decreases on higher-carb days; while protein intake remains consistent. Many advocates recommend this regimen: On days when you do strength training, consume a higher amount of carbs (say 200 grams), a low amount of fat, and a moderate amount of protein. On days when you do a cardio workout, eat a moderate amount of carbs (about 100 grams), protein, and fat. On rest days, eat fewer carbs (30 grams), a higher amount of fat, and a moderate amount of protein.

Another approach involves keeping both protein intake and fat intake fairly consistent, and modifying only your carbohydrates. With this method, lower-carb days are also lower-calorie days.

What are the benefits?

Proponents of carb cycling claim that the eating pattern helps increase muscle mass, decrease body fat, and improve fitness performance. However, research on the diet is limited. One 2013 study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, looked at the effects of intermittent carb and calorie restriction in 115 overweight women aged 20 to 69, all of whom had a family history of breast cancer. The women were randomly assigned to one of three groups for three months. The first group consumed a calorie-restricted, low-carb diet two days per week. The women in the second group followed the same diet, but were allowed to eat unlimited amounts of protein and healthy fats (such as lean meat, olives, and nuts) on the low-carb days. The third group followed a standard, calorie-restricted Mediterranean diet seven days a week.

Researchers found that the women in both low-carb groups had better results: They lost roughly 9 pounds on average, compared to about 5 pounds in the Mediterranean group. Insulin resistance also decreased by 22% percent among the standard low-carb dieters; and 14% percent among those allowed extra protein and fat on low-carb dayscompared to just 4% among the Mediterranean dieters. (The results were particularly significant for the study participants, as losing weight and lowering insulin resistance may help prevent breast cancer.) While this study didn’t involve the same carb cycling approach used by body builders and athletes, it does offer some insight into the potential benefits of limiting carbs part-time, but is doing so practical? Slashing carbs, even a few days a week, needs to be sustainable in order to generate lasting results.

The authors of that 2013 study also found that a higher percentage of women on the low-carb diets experienced constipation, headaches, bad breath, light-headedness, and food fixation. These unpleasant side effects parallel with many who severely restrict their carb intake. The side effects also result in many low-carb dieters, giving up the diet or wind up binging on forbidden foods.

Is there a more sustainable approach?

One of the main philosophies behind carb cycling is limiting carbs when the body doesn’t need them as much. In a nutshell, carbs serve as fuel (like gasoline in your car) to help cells perform their jobs. Eating a large amount of carbs on days when you’re not very active doesn’t make much sense, because your body requires less fuel (much like how your car needs less gas for a ride across town compared to a road trip). Carbs that are not burned for fuel create a surpluswhich can prevent weight loss, or lead to weight gain.

On the flip side, a carb limit of 30 grams is very low, even on less active days. That’s the amount of carbs in one cup of broccoli, one whole apple, and five baby carrots. For a better balance, practice “carb matching, “or aligning your carb intake with your energy needs, which may vary from day to day, or morning to afternoon. This approach essentially involves eating larger portions of clean, whole food carbs to support more active hours; and curbing carbs when you expect you’ll be less active. For example, if you’re planning to do a morning workout, have oatmeal topped with a sliced banana for breakfast beforehand. However, if you’re headed to the office to sit at a desk for several hours, a veggie and avocado omelet with a side of berries would be a more appropriate a.m. meal.

Carb matching helps with weight loss and improves fitness performance, while supporting all-day energy and a wide range of nutrients, so it makes sense. Many pro athlete, who train or perform several hours a day, require more carbs than “office” athletes, who may fit in a morning workout, then sit in meetings the remainder of the day. Carb matching also involves aligning your carb needs with your age, height, ideal weight, sex, and occupation. After all, a young, tall man with an active job and an ideal weight of 185 pounds is going to have a higher carb requirement than an older, petite woman with a sedentary job and an ideal weight of 135 pounds.

While carb cycling involves drastic shifts, carb matching is all about creating balance; not too little, and not too much. If you’ve tried carb cycling, and it either hasn’t worked for you, or doesn’t seem like a strategy you can stick with, try moderating your carb intake based on your activity level instead. Regardless of which approach you try, stick with these two important rules of thumb:

1) Always make quality a priority by choosing fresh, whole foods. (And remember not all carbs are created equal.)

2) Listen to your body! It’s cues are pretty good at guiding you toward a “just right” balance.

Adapted from: Cynthia Sass, MPH, RD

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Shake the salting habit! Replace salt with lemon, herbs and spices.

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Banana Zucchini Chocolate Chip Muffins (Vegan)

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YIELD: About 11 medium/large muffin

PREP TIME: 10 minutes

COOK TIME: About 18 minutes, note reduction in oven temp after 10 minutes

TOTAL TIME: About 40 minutes + cooling

Baking with zucchini keeps everything so soft, moist, and you can’t taste it. The muffins taste like banana bread……though not like my mama’s! The one-bowl, no-mixer muffins are vegan and healthy. No butter, no eggs, the chocolate chips are solely sprinkled on top, and they’re made with coconut oil. It adds a nearly imperceptible undertone that’s sweeter and more fragrant than canola or vegetable oils, but substitute if you’d like. Between the softening powers of coconut oil, the creamy bananas that add tenderness, and the moisture-enhancing powers of zucchini, these are some of the softest and moistest muffins. The continue to get softer as the days pass, and the flavors marry tougher and tasted better the second day. You’ll never complain about eating your veggies after these muffins!

INGREDIENTS: 

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted (or substitute with vegetable or canola)

1/4 cup light brown sugar, packed

2 tablespoons unsweetened vanilla almond milk (or substitute with coconut, soy, rice, cow’s)

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup ripe mashed bananas (about 2 small/medium naners)

1 1/4 cups shredded zucchini, measured loosely laid in cup (not packed in or squeezed; about 1 medium zucchini, to peel is up to you)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon baking powder

pinch of salt, optional and to taste

About 11 teaspoons mini semi-sweet chocolate chips divided, about 1 teaspoon for each muffin (regular sized chips can also be used)

DIRECTIONS:

  1. Preheat oven to 400F. Spray a non-stick 12-cup regular muffin pan very well with floured cooking spray or grease and flour the pan; set aside (use liners if you choose).
  2. To a large bowl, add the first 6 ingredients, through cinnamon, and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the bananas and whisk to combine.
  4. Before adding the zucchini, put it in a paper tower and squeeze tightly for about 10 seconds to remove moisture. After squeezing, you should have about 3/4 cup of compacted shreds. Add zucchini to bowl and stir to incorporate.
  5. Add the flour, baking powder, optional salt and stir until just combined; don’t overmix.
  6. Using a large cookie scoop, 1/4 cup measure or spoon, turn batter out into prepared pan, noting that the recipe yields 11 muffins. Adjust accordingly to your size muffin pans. Each cavity should about 3/4 full; do not overflow.
  7. Sprinkle the top of each muffin generously with chocolate chips, about 1 teaspoon each.
  8. Bake at 400F for 10 minutes, reduce oven temp to 350F and bake for 8 minutes, or until muffins are set, domed, golden, and a toothpick comes out clean or with a few moist crumbs, but no batter. Allow muffins to cool in pan for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until they’ve firmed up and are cool enough to handle. It’s normal for muffin tops to flatten as they cool. Muffins will keep airtight at room temperature for up to 1 week, or in the freezer for up to 6 months. They also tend to soften over time and taste better on days 2-3 after the flavors married.

Adapted from: Averie Cooks

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Cook with your kids! Don’t think of this interaction as cooking lessons. Rather, realize that teaching your kids to put together a meal is a lesson they can use for the rest of their lives.

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Taking a break from dieting may improve weight loss

Research showed in a randomized controlled trial, that taking a 2-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. 

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Avoiding continuous dieting may be the key to losing weight and keeping the kilos off, according to the latest research from University of Tasmania. In findings (published September 2017) in the International Journal for Obesity, School of Health Sciences researchers showed in a randomized controlled trial, that taking a two-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. The study, funded by the National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) of Australia, investigated the body’s ‘famine reaction’ to continued dieting and its impact on weight loss in men with obesity. During the study, two groups of participants took part in a 16-week diet which cut calorie intake by one third.

One group maintained the diet continuously for 16 weeks while the other maintained the diet for two weeks, then broke from the diet for two weeks eating simply to keep their weight stable, and repeated this cycle for 30 weeks in total to ensure 16 weeks of dieting. Those in the intermittent diet group not only lost more weight, but also gained less weight after the trial finished. The intermittent diet group maintained an average weight loss of 8 kg (17 lb) more than the continuous diet group, six months after the end of the diet. Head of the University of Tasmania’s School of Health Sciences Professor Nuala Byrne, who led the study with a team of collaborators from Queensland University of Technology and the University of Sydney, said dieting altered a series of biological processes in the body, which led to slower weight loss, and possibly weight gain.

“When we reduce our energy (food) intake during dieting, resting metabolism decreases to a greater extent than expected; a phenomenon termed ‘adaptive thermogenesis’ — making weight loss harder to achieve,” Professor Byrne said. “This ‘famine reaction’, a survival mechanism which helped humans to survive as a species when food supply was inconsistent in millennia past, is now contributing to our growing waistlines when the food supply is readily available.” Professor Byrne said while researchers in the past had shown that as dieting continued weight loss became more difficult, this latest MATADOR (Minimising Adaptive Thermogenesis And Deactivating Obesity Rebound) study looked more closely at ways to lessen the famine response and improve weight loss success. However Professor Byrne said while this two-week intermittent diet proved to be a more successful means of weight loss compared with continuous dieting, other popular diets which included cycles of several days of fasting and feasting were no more effective than continuous dieting.

“There is a growing body of research which has shown that diets which use one to seven day periods of complete or partial fasting alternated with ad libitum food intake, are not more effective for weight loss than conventional continuous dieting,” she said. “It seems that the ‘breaks’ from dieting we have used in this study may be critical to the success of this approach. “While further investigations are needed around this intermittent dieting approach, findings from this study provide preliminary support for the model as a superior alternative to continuous dieting for weight loss.”

Adapted from: University of Tasmania. (2017, September 18). Taking a break from dieting may improve weight loss: Research showed in a randomized controlled trial, that taking a 2-week break during dieting may improve weight loss. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 26, 2017 from http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2017/09/170918222235.htm

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Take time for tea! Tea contains polyphenols, it’s good for your bones and it provides a soothing cup of comfort in any season. It it also a good plant fertilizer!!

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14 Foods That Fight Inflammation

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Inflammation is part of the body’s immune response; without it, we cannot heal. However, when it’s out of control, as in rheumatoid arthritis, it can damage the body. Additionally, it is believed to play a role in obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

Foods high in sugar and saturated fat can spur inflammation. “They cause overactivity in the immune system, which can lead to joint pain, fatigue, and damage to the blood vessels,” says Scott Zashin, MD, clinical professor at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas. Other foods may curb inflammation so be sure to add these items on your next grocery list.

Fatty fish

Oily fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna and sardines, are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which can help reduce inflammation. Aim to eat fish several times a week, using healthy cooking methods: In a 2009 study, men who consumed the most omega-3s each day from baked or boiled fish (as opposed to fried, dried or salted) cut their risk of death from heart disease by 23 percent, compared with those who ate the least. Women had a less dramatic drop but were also protected.

Not a fan of seafood? Try a fish oil supplement. They have also shown to help lower inflammation. Also, reduce your intake of omega-6 fatty acids (found in processed foods and some vegetable oils); a healthy balance between omega-3s and omega-6s is essential.

Whole grains

Consuming most of your grains as whole grains, as opposed to refined, white bread, cereal, rice, and pasta can help keep harmful inflammation at bay. That’s because whole grains have more fiber, which has been shown to reduce levels of C-reactive protein, a marker of inflammation in the blood. One caveat: Not all products labeled “whole grain” are necessarily healthier than their refined counterparts. To be sure you’re getting the good stuff, look for foods in which the total number of carbohydrate grams per serving is fewer than 10 times the number of fiber grams.

Dark leafy greens

Vitamin E may be key in protecting the body against pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines. One of the best sources of this vitamin is dark green veggies, such as spinach, Swiss chard, kale, and broccoli. Dark greens and cruciferous vegetables also have higher concentrations of certain nutrients, such as calcium, iron, and disease-fighting flavonoids, compared to other veggies with lighter-colored leaves.

Nuts

Another source of inflammation-fighting healthy fats is nuts. Almonds are particularly rich in fiber, calcium and vitamin E, and walnuts have high amounts of alpha-linolenic acid, a type of omega-3 fat. All nuts are packed with antioxidants that can help your body fight off and repair the damage caused by inflammation. Nuts (along with fish, leafy greens and whole grains) are also a big part of the Mediterranean diet, shown in one study to reduce markers of inflammation in as little as six weeks.

Soy

Studies have suggested that isoflavones (compounds in soy that the body converts into estrogenlike chemicals) may help lower CRP and inflammation levels in women. A 2007 study published in the Journal of Inflammation found that soy isoflavones also helped reduce the negative effects of inflammation on bone and heart health in mice. Avoid heavily-processed soy whenever possible, which may not include the same benefits and is usually paired with additives and preservatives. Instead, aim to get more soy milk, tofu, and edamame (boiled soybeans) into your regular diet.

Low-fat dairy

Milk products are sometimes considered a trigger food for inflammatory diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis, because some people have allergies or intolerances to casein, the protein found in dairy. However, for people who can tolerate it, low-fat and nonfat milk are an important source of nutrients. Additionally, yogurt contain probiotics, which can reduce gut inflammation.

“Foods with calcium and vitamin D, such as yogurt and skim milk, are good for everyone,” says Karen H. Costenbader, MD, associate professor of medicine and rheumatoid arthritis doctor at Harvard Medical School. In addition to their anti-inflammatory properties, she says, “it is important to get enough calcium and vitamin D for bone strength, and possibly reduction of cancer and other health risks.”

Peppers

“Colorful vegetables are part of a healthier diet in general,” says Dr. Costenbader. “As opposed to white potatoes or corn, colorful peppers, tomatoes, squash, and leafy vegetables have high quantities of antioxidant vitamins and lower levels of starch.” Bell peppers are available in a variety of colors, while hot peppers (like chili and cayenne) are rich in capsaicin, a chemical that’s used in topical creams that reduce pain and inflammation.
Peppers, however, are nightshade vegetables, which some doctors and patients believe can exacerbate inflammation in people with rheumatoid arthritis. “What helps one person may be harmful to another,” says Dr. Zashin. “You just need to pay attention to your diet and your symptoms, and stick with what works for you.”

Tomatoes

Tomatoes, another nightshade veggie, may also help reduce inflammation in some people. (Of course, Dr. Zashin’s advice about what works for you, individually, applies here, as well.) Tomatoes are rich in lycopene, which helps reduce inflammation in the lungs and throughout the rest of the body. Cooked tomatoes provide even more lycopene than raw ones, so tomato sauce works, too. A 2013 Iranian study found that tomato juice consumption was also beneficial for reducing systemic inflammation.

Beets

This vegetable’s brilliant red color is a tip-off to its equally brilliant antioxidant properties: Beets (and beetroot juice) can not only reduce inflammation but may also protect against cancer and heart disease, thanks to their generous helping of fiber, folate, and powerful plant pigments called betalains.

Ginger and turmeric

These spices, common in Asian and Indian cooking, have been shown in various studies to hold anti-inflammatory properties. “While the evidence in terms of RA inflammation is not very strong, they are vegetables—and part of a healthy, vegetable-rich diet,” says Dr. Costenbader. Turmeric, the pungent, golden spice used in curry, appears to work in the body by helping to turn off NF-kappa B, a compound that’s integral to triggering the process of inflammation, research shows. Turmeric’s cousin ginger, meanwhile, may cut inflammation in the gut when taken in supplement form.

Garlic and onions

There’s good reason these pungent vegetables are considered anti-inflammatory superstars. Organosulfur compounds derived from garlic may lower the production of substances in the blood that boost inflammation. Quercetin, a flavonoid in onions, helps inhibit inflammation-causing agents at play in arthritis. For the greatest benefits, eat garlic raw, or let crushed or chopped cloves stand for 10 minutes before cooking, and opt for red or yellow onions or shallots instead of white or sweet varieties.

Olive oil

Anything that fits into a heart-healthy diet is probably also good for inflammation, and that includes healthy, plant-based fats, such as olive oil, says Dr. Zashin, author of Natural Arthritis Treatment. In fact, a 2010 Spanish study reported that the Mediterranean diet’s heart-health perks may be largely due to its use of olive oil. Oleocanthal, the source of olive oil’s distinctive aftertaste, has been shown to have similar effects as ibuprofen. A 2014 study found that higher blood levels of alpha-tocopherol, a form of vitamin E in olive oil, was linked to better lung function; more gamma-tocopherol, a KIND of vitamin E in corn and soybean oils, was associated with higher rates of asthma, possibly due to vitamin E’s role in inflammation.

Berries

All fruits can help fight inflammation in the body, because they’re high in fiber and antioxidants. However, berries have especially strong anti-inflammatory benefits, possibly owing to the powers of anthocyanins, the antioxidant flavonoids that give berries their rich color. Studies have demonstrated, for example, that red raspberry extract helps prevent animals from developing arthritis; that blueberries can protect against inflammatory intestinal disorders, such as ulcerative colitis, as well as lower blood pressure and heart attack risk; and that women who eat more strawberries may have lower levels of CRP.

Tart cherries

Tart cherries contain the “highest anti-inflammatory content of any food,” according to a 2012 presentation by Oregon Health & Science University scientists. Research has found that tart cherry juice powder can reduce the inflammation in lab rats’ blood vessels by up to 50%; in humans, it helps athletes recover faster from intense workouts and decreases post-exertion muscle pain. Experts believe that eating 1.5 cups of tart cherries or drinking 1 to 1.5 cups of tart cherry juice a day may yield similar benefits, and YES, the cherries have got to be tart, sweet ones do not seem to have the same effects.

Adapted from: Amanda MacMillan

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Tap into your dark side! Dark chocolate has been shown to have heart-healthy benefits and it can certainly boost your mood. Be mindful of portions, though, to help keep yourself feeling happy.

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Food allergy diagnosis by oral food challenge is safe, says study

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A new study concludes that medical procedures known as oral food challenges, which are used in clinics to test people for food allergies, are very safe and rarely cause severe reactions. A report on the study, led by researchers from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, TX, and Texas Children’s Hospital, also in Houston, is published in the Annals of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology. Lead author Dr. Kwei Akuete, a practicing allergist and member of the American College of Allergy, Asthma and Immunology (ACAAI), says, “Oral food challenges are a very important tool for anyone who wants to know if they have a food allergy.” Food allergy is a serious medical condition that arises when the body’s immune system reacts to a harmless food protein, or allergen, as if it were a disease-causing germ.

The reaction is often unpredictable and ranges in severity from person to person, as well as over time in the same person. It can range from minor abdominal pain or hives on the skin to a severe and potentially fatal condition called anaphylaxis, accompanied by low blood pressure and loss of consciousness. Up to 15 million people in the United States are affected by food allergy. Research also suggests that food allergies affect around 4 percent of children and adolescents in the U.S., where prevalence among children went up by 18 percent between 1997 and 2007.

Oral food challenge

As yet, there is no cure for food allergy, so the only way to prevent reactions is to avoid the foods that cause them. In the U.S., 90 percent of severe allergic reactions are caused by eight food groups: crustacean shellfish, eggs, fish, milk, peanuts, soy, tree nuts, and wheat. Food allergy is not the same as food intolerance, and its symptoms can be mistaken for other medical conditions. It is therefore important that any diagnosis is confirmed by a qualified allergist who can then advise a food plan that is tailored to the patient’s specific allergies.

The new study concerns a type of noninvasive medical procedure called the oral food challenge (OFC), or feeding test. During an OFC, a board-certified allergist invites the patient to eat increasing amounts of a food very slowly and monitors them very closely for any reaction. OFCs are usually performed because other allergy tests, such as blood and skin tests, together with a careful medical history, have been inconclusive. OFCs are performed in two modes: open and blinded. In open OFCs, (more common in clinical practice) both the patient and the administrator know which food is being tested. Blinded OFCs are more common in research.

OFCs found to be safe

For their study, Dr. Akuete et al. investigated the results of 6,327 open OFCs that were carried out between 2008 and 2013 in five food allergy centers across the U.S. The majority of the OFCs were carried out in patients under the age of 18. They used a statistical method called meta-analysis to pool and analyze the data, and to determine rates of food allergy reactions and anaphylaxis. The results showed that only 14 percent of the patients that had OFCs experienced any reaction, and only about 2 percent experienced anaphylaxis.

The reactions that were not anaphylaxis only occurred on one part of the body, for example, hives on the skin. These were classed as mild to moderate reactions, and most of them were treated with antihistamines. Of the more severe reactions, the authors note, “19 OFCs resulted in patients being placed in hospital observation, and 63 were treated with epinephrine.

OFCs ‘improve quality of life’

“Food challenges improve the quality of life for people with food allergies, even if they are positive,” says senior study author Dr. Carla Davis, who is also a practicing allergist and ACAAI member. Dr. Davis explains the importance of having the test sooner rather than later, saying, “When an OFC is delayed, sometimes people unnecessarily cut certain foods out of their diet, and this has been shown to lead to increases in health costs to the patient. A delay risks problems with nutrition, especially for children.” It is important to seek an accurate diagnosis so that a clear recommendation can be made about which foods to avoid, she adds.

Adapted from:

Nutrition Tip of the Day

Pick plants! Protein derived from plant sources such as seeds, nuts, tofu and tempeh, as well as grains, can help lower cholesterol, improve your heart health and add a satiating blend of flavors to extend Meatless Monday to the rest of the week.

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And for one more gobble day!