Archive for the ‘Nutrition’ Category

As you walk into the supermarket looking for a nice cold beverage to quench that undying thirst from the sweltering Singapore weather, you notice a mini fridge strategically positioned to capture the attention of consumers. Attractively coloured fluids in a bottle labeled with aesthetically pleasing wordings with a touch of “I am healthy!” on it.  Being increasingly health-conscious like the rest of the world, you feel this is the perfect guilt-free drink and down the bottle of VitaminWater feeling refreshed, savouring the sweet yet “healthy” beverage.

But really, what did you just drink? Nutritious water or fortified sugar water?

This may be a touchy subject because I know how many avid Vitamin Water drinkers are out there, especially in our increasingly health-conscious (but misinformed) society. However, it’s time to face the facts!

Vitamin Water gives the illusion of a healthy, hydrating, and rejuvenating miracle elixir. The bottles are beautiful, colorful, and the text on them is snappy and clever. They have empowering flavor names like “endurance,” “energy,” “essential,” and “focus.” There is no question that there is some genius marketing at hand.

However, nothing makes me cringe more than the sight of someone downing a bottle of “charge” or “balance” as though they are truly replenishing their body. The cold, hard truth is… Vitamin Water is fortified sugar water. Check the label yourself.

After researching online for their nutritional information, here’s what we’ve got.

It contains 50 Calories per serving, zero fat, and a good range of vitamins in the beverage. Wow, sounds pretty good! But wait! Let’s now identify what’s wrong with this.

  1. Ingredients: Sugar, or its disguised form, is actually second on the list. Anyone who knows how to read nutritional labels would know that ingredients of larger quantities would be nearer to the front of the list. That’s 13 grams of sugar per serving! But, the bottle is cleverly packaged to contain 2.5 servings. That would mean that if you consume the whole bottle, you’re consuming almost 33 grams of sugar or equivalent to 8 teaspoons of sugar. In comparison, a can of Coca-Cola is 39 grams of sugar.
  2. It contains less than 1% juice. So where does the vitamins come from, if not from juice? The ingredients would show that they come from chemically synthesized vitamins which you can never compare to consuming it naturally or even from a multi-vitamin pill. Of course adding vitamins to a drink doesn’t do any actual harm, but it confuses consumers into thinking that the beverage is a healthy choice. Remember, these companies don’t really care about your health and well-being… they’re trying to win you over! Our society now has become somewhat obsessed with healthier choices, and the smart companies know how to appeal to that crowd. They boast that their drink is full of essential vitamins and will somehow make you perform your daily tasks more efficiently. Trust me on this: downing a bottle of sugar water is going to do nothing but give you a sugar crash later.

 

These 2 reasons are sufficient to show you why they should be avoided, especially if you are looking to achieve your fitness goals or even lead a healthy lifestyle.

A lawsuit, brought by Center for Science in the Public Interest alleges that VitaminWater labels and advertising are filled with “deceptive and unsubstantiated claims”.  At oral arguments, defendants (Coca-Cola) suggested that no consumer could reasonably be misled into thinking vitamin water was a healthy beverage.” Hence, are they implying that only unreasonable consumers are misled into perceiving that the beverage is healthy?

Now, Vitamin Water is not pure poison. It is certainly not a health food or something that I would personally drink, but if the choice is between Vitamin Water or soda, I suppose Vitamin Water is a wiser choice. But you know what the smartest choice is? Water. Real water. It is crucial to keep your body properly hydrated at all times, and pure water is the only way to do this. Drinks that are full with sugar only continue to dehydrate the body, regardless of their water content.

In the mean time, don’t buy VitaminWater. Unless, of course, you think you could use 32 grams of liquid sugars and some synthetic vitamin chemicals in your diet. And if you somehow think that VitaminWater is healthy, the Coca-Cola Corporation thinks you are a fool.

And it’s probably not the best idea to rely on a soft drink company for your vitamins and other essential nutrients. A plant-strong diet with lots of vegetables and fruits will provide you with what you need far more reliably, far more consistently — and far more honestly.

 

I would like to share with my readers, a video made by the non-profit Consumer Wellness Center regarding VitaminWater. This is the link to the video. The Vitamin Water Deception

For a list of vitamins and minerals, their sources and the recommended daily allowances of them, click here.

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15 Biggest Nutrition Myths

Posted: May 24, 2011 in Nutrition

Angelina’s jealous that Brad’s still secretly in love with Jennifer! Tom Cruise keeps Katie Holmes trapped in a crazed religious complex! And aliens are manning the toll booths on a Nevada freeway! How do I know these things are true? Because I read them in the tabloids at my local supermarket.

The supermarket is rife with less-than-accurate reporting, and not just in the checkout-lane newspaper racks. Walk the aisles scanning food labels and you’ll see the fallout from millions of lobbying and advertising dollars spent to posit faulty claims about health and nutrition. You’ll find row upon endless row of foods that promise—explicitly or not—to improve your life, flatten your belly, and make you a happier person. The fact is, many of these foods do just the opposite. Learn how to separate fact from fiction and you might finally shed the habits that are silently sabotaging your chances of losing weight. But I must warn you: The truth can hurt.

MYTH #1: High fructose corn syrup is worse than table sugar
Whether or not added sugar is bad for you has never been in dispute. The less sugar you eat, the better. But whether HFCS is worse than plain ol’ table sugar has long been a contentious issue. Here’s what you need to know: Both HFCS and table sugar, or sucrose, are built with roughly a 50-50 blend of two sugars, fructose, and glucose. That means in all likelihood that your body can’t tell one from the other—they’re both just sugar. HFCS’s real sin is that it’s supercheap, and as a result, it’s added to everything from cereal to ketchup to salad dressing. Plus it may be affecting your health in ways not yet fully understood by the scientific community. Is it a good idea to minimize the HFCS in your diet? Absolutely. It’s best to cut out all unnecessary sugars. But HFCS’s role as nutritional enemy #1 has been exaggerated.

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MYTH #2: Sea salt is a healthier version of regular salt
Everyday table salt comes from a mine and contains roughly 2,300 milligrams of sodium per teaspoon. Sea salt comes from evaporated seawater, and it also contains roughly 2,300 milligrams of sodium. That makes them, well, roughly identical. Advocates point to the fact that sea salt also contains other compounds like magnesium and iron, but in truth, these minerals exist in trace amounts. To obtain a meaningful dose, you’d have to take in extremely high and potentially dangerous levels of sodium. What’s more, traditional table salt is regularly fortified with iodine, which plays an important role in regulating the hormones in your body. Sea salt, on the other hand, gives you virtually zero iodine. The bottom line is this: If switching from table salt to sea salt causes you to consume even one extra granule, then you’ve just completely snuffed out whatever elusive health boon you hope to receive. Plus you’ve wasted a few bucks.

MYTH #3: Energy drinks are less harmful than soda
Energy drinks like Red Bull, Monster, and Full Throttle attempt to boost your energy with a cache of B vitamins, herbal extracts, and amino acids. But what your body’s going to remember most (especially around your waistline) is the sugar in these concoctions; a 16-ounce can delivers as much as 280 calories of pure sugar, which is about 80 calories more than you’d find in a 16-ounce cup of Pepsi. What’s more, a University of Maryland study found energy drinks to be 11 percent more corrosive to your teeth than regular soda. So here’s the secret that energy drink companies don’t want you to know: The only proven, significant energy boost comes from caffeine. If you want an energy boost, save yourself the sugar spike and drink a cup of coffee.

MYTH #4: Diet soda is harmless
The obesity-research community is becoming increasingly aware that the artificial sweeteners used in diet soda—aspartame and sucralose, for instance—lead to hard-to-control food urges later in the day. One Purdue study discovered that rats took in more calories if they’d been fed artificial sweeteners prior to mealtime, and a University of Texas study found that people who consume just three diet sodas per week were more than 40 percent more likely to be obese. Try weaning yourself off by switching to carbonated water and flavoring with lemon, cucumber, and fresh herbs.

MYTH #5: Low-fat foods are better for you
As it applies to food marketing, the term “low fat” is synonymous with “loaded with salt and cheap carbohydrates.” For instance, look at Smucker’s Reduced Fat Peanut Butter. To replace the fat it skimmed out, Smucker’s added a fast-digesting carbohydrate called maltodextrin. That’s not going to help you lose weight. A 2008 study in the New England Journal of Medicine found that over a 2-year span, people on low-carb diets lost 62 percent more body weight than those trying to cut fat. (Plus, the fat in peanut butter is heart-healthy monounsaturated fat—you’d be better off eating more of it, not less!)

MYTH #6: “Trans-fat free” foods are actually trans-fat free
The FDA’s guidelines allow companies to claim 0 grams of trans fat—even broadcast it on the front of their packages—as long as the food in question contains no more than 0.5 grams of trans fat per serving. But here’s the deal: Due to an inextricable link to heart disease, the World Health Organization advises people to keep trans fat intake as low as possible, maxing out at about 1 gram per 2,000 calories consumed. If your cupboard’s full of foods with almost half a gram per serving, you might be blowing past that number every single day. The American Journal of Health Promotion recently published an article urging the FDA to rethink its lax regulations, but until that happens, you should avoid all foods with “partially hydrogenated oil” (meaning, trans fats) on their ingredients statements.

MYTH #7: Foods labeled “natural” are healthier
The FDA makes no serious effort to control the use of the word “natural” on nutrition labels. Case in point: 7UP boasts that it’s made with “100% Natural Flavors” when, in fact, the soda is sweetened with a decidedly un-natural dose of high fructose corn syrup. “Corn” is natural, but “high fructose corn syrup” is produced using a centrifuge and a series of chemical reactions. Other “natural” abusers include Natural Cheetos, which are made with maltodextrin and disodium phosphate, and “natural advantage” Post Raisin Bran, which bathes its raisins in both sugar and corn syrup. The worst part is, you’re likely paying a premium price for common junk food.

MYTH #8: Egg yolks raise your cholesterol
Egg yolks contain dietary cholesterol; this much is true. But research has proven that dietary cholesterol has almost nothing to do with serum cholesterol, the stuff in your blood. Wake Forest University researchers reviewed more than 30 egg studies and found no link between egg consumption and heart disease, and a study in Saint Louis found that eating eggs for breakfast could decrease your calorie intake for the remainder of the day.

MYTH #9: Eating junk food helps battle stress
You’ve been there: Stressed out and sprawled across your sofa with one arm elbow deep in a bag of cheese puffs. In the moment, it can be comforting, but a study published in the British Journal of Psychiatry found that people who consumed the most highly processed foods were 58 percent more likely to be depressed than those who ate the least.

MYTH #10: Chocolate is bad for you
Cocoa is a plant-based food replete with flavonoids that increase blood flow and release feel-good endorphins. Plus, it contains a healthy kind of saturated fat called stearic acid, which research has shown can increase your good HDL cholesterol. But here’s the rub: When most people think of chocolate, their minds jump immediately to milk chocolate, which contains far more sugar than actual cocoa. Instead, look for dark chocolate, specifically those versions that tell you exactly how much cocoa they contain. A bar with 60% cocoa is good, but the more cocoa it contains, the greater the health effects.

Myth #11: Granola is good for you
Oats are good for you, and the same goes for oatmeal. But granola takes those good-for-you hunks of flattened oat, blankets them in sugar, and bakes them in oil to give them crunch. The amount of fat and sugar added to each oat is at the discretion of food processors, but you can bet your last cup of milk it’s going to far sweeter and more fatty than a bowl of regular cereal. Take this example: A single cup of Quaker Natural Granola, Nuts & Raisins has 420 calories, 30 grams of sugar, and 10 grams of fat. Switch to a humble cup of Kix and you drop down about 90 calories, 2.5 grams of sugar, and 1 gram of fat.

MYTH #12: Bananas are the best source of potassium
Your body uses potassium to keep your nerves and muscles firing efficiently, and an adequate intake can blunt sodium’s effect on blood pressure. One 2009 study found that a 2:1 ratio of potassium to sodium could halve your risk of heart disease, and since the average American consumes about 3,400 milligrams of sodium each day, your goal should be 6,800 milligrams of daily potassium. You’re extremely unlikely to ever reach that mark—and never with bananas alone. One medium banana has 422 milligrams and 105 calories. Here are the sources that earn you roughly the same amount of potassium in fewer calories:

  • Potato, half a medium spud, 80 calories
  • Apricots, 5 whole fruit, 80 calories
  • Cantaloupe, 1 cup cubes, 55 calories
  • Broccoli, 1 full stalk, 50 calories
  • Sun-dried tomatoes, a quarter cup, 35 calories

MYTH #13: Oranges are the best source of vitamin C
Far more than a simple immune booster, vitamin C is an antioxidant that plays a host of important roles in your body. It strengthens skin by helping to build collagen, improves mood by increasing the flow of norepinephrine, and bolsters metabolic efficiency by helping transport fat cells into the body’s energy-burning mitochondria. But since your body can neither store nor create the wonder vitamin, you need to provide a constant supply. An orange is the most famous vitamin-C food, and although it’s a good source, it’s by no means the best. For 70 calories, one orange gives you about 70 micrograms of vitamin C. Here are five sources with just as much vitamin C and even fewer calories:

  • Papaya, ¾ cup, 50 calories
  • Brussel’s sprouts, 1 cup, 40 calories
  • Strawberries, 7 large fruit, 40 calories
  • Broccoli, ½ stalk, 25 calories
  • Red Bell Pepper, ½ medium pepper, 20 calories

MYTH #14: Organic is always better
Often, but not in every case. Organic produce is almost nutritionally identical to its conventional counterpart. The issue is pesticide exposure—pesticides have been linked to an increased risk of obesity in some studies. But many conventionally grown fruits and vegetables are very low in pesticides. Take, for example, the conventional onion: It’s got the lowest pesticide load of 45 fruits and vegetables tested by the Environmental Working Group. Also in the safe-to-eat-conventional group are avocados, sweet corn, and pineapple. In general, fruits and vegetables with impermeable skins are safe to buy conventional, while produce like celery, peaches, apples, and blueberries are better purchased organic.

MYTH #15: Meat is bad for you
Pork, beef, and lamb are among the world’s best sources of complete protein, and a Danish study found that dieting with 25 percent of calories from protein can help you lose twice as much weight as dieting with 12 percent protein. Then there’s vitamin B12, which is prevalent only in animal-based foods. B12 is essential to your body’s ability to decode DNA and build red blood cells, and British researchers found that adequate intakes protect against age-related brain shrinkage. Now, if you’re worried that meat will increase your risk for heart disease, don’t be. A Harvard review last year looked at 20 studies and found that meat’s link to heart disease exists only with processed meats like bacon, sausage, and deli cuts. Unprocessed meats, those that hadn’t been smoked, cured, or chemically preserved, presented absolutely zero risk.

Source: David Zinczenko, Matt Goulding (2011) 15 Biggest Nutrition Myths Retrieved from, http://health.yahoo.net/experts/eatthis/15-biggest-nutrition-myths

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Question: Should You Exercise on an Empty Stomach?
If I exercise on an empty stomach in the morning, will I burn more fat?
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Answer: The theory behind this is that your blood sugar levels are low when you’re in a fasted state (after going all night without eating) which targets more fat burning.

The problem is that just because you’re using more fat as fuel doesn’t mean you’re actually burning more fat off your body. Burning fat is more about overall calorie expenditure, not just about the type of energy your body is using for your workout. Another problem is that you may not be able to workout as long or as hard if you’re hungry, which means you may end up burning fewer calories than if you’d eaten something and worked harder.

There are other benefits to eating before your workout:

  • It can boost recovery and strength gains
  • It can help you sustain longer, more intense workouts
  • It can help you avoid low blood sugar, which can make you feel dizzy or nauseous
  • It can make your workouts more enjoyable (since you’re not thinking about eating the whole time)

The bottom line is, we each have to find a system that works for us. You may be fine doing cardio without a meal in the morning, but strength training may require more fuel to really challenge your muscles. The best answer to this is to do what works for you. Don’t go hungry just because you think you’re burning more fat…after all, if you cut it short or lower the intensity because of low energy, how much fat are you burning anyway?

A study published in 1999 in the journal Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise had a group of people ride an exercise bike on two mornings: on one day after a small breakfast, and the other after eating nothing. The researchers found that when the subjects ate nothing, they became fatigued faster and stopped exercising about 30 minutes earlier.

Dr. David Prince, an assistant professor of rehabilitation medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University in New York, said that when you exercise on an empty tank, your body burns through stored carbohydrates first, then protein, before it finally moves on to fat. In the meantime, he said, “you lower your blood sugar, causing ravenous hunger that in most people would lead them to eat much more than they would otherwise.”

If you do eat before a workout, make sure you give your body time to digest. The larger the meal, the more time you’ll need. But, if you choose a light snack (100-200 calories) and stick with higher carb fare, you can probably exercise after about 30-60 minutes. Pre-workout snack ideas:

  • Banana (or other type of fruit)
  • Yogurt
  • Oatmeal
  • Energy bar or gel
  • Fruit smoothie
  • Sports drink

 

THE BOTTOM LINE: Exercising on an empty stomach burns a higher percentage of fat but shortens your workout and makes them less intense due to fatigue, resulting in a lower total caloric expenditure necessary for weight loss.

 

 

 

Source:

Kirwan J, O’Gorman D, Evans W. A moderate glycemic meal before endurance exercise can enhance performance. 1998. J Appl Physiol 84: 53-59.

22 of the most healthy foods

Posted: January 23, 2011 in Nutrition

The following power foods can claim big bragging rights: They can fend off serious diseases like diabetes and cancer and heart problems; fortify your immune system; protect and smooth your skin; and help you lose weight or stay slim.

If you’re eating most of them already, good for you! If not, now’s the time to load up your shopping cart and supercharge your health!

 

1. Eggs

Egg yolks are home to tons of essential but hard-to-get nutrients, including choline, which is linked to lower rates of breast cancer (one yolk supplies 25% of your daily need) and antioxidants that may help prevent macular degeneration and cataracts. Though many of us have shunned whole eggs because of their link to heart disease risk, there’s actually substantial evidence that for most of us, eggs are not harmful but healthy.

People with heart disease should limit egg yolks to two a week, but the rest of us can have one whole egg daily; research shows it won’t raise your risk of heart attack or stroke. Make omelettes with one whole egg and two whites, and watch cholesterol at other meals.

2. Greek Yogurt

Yogurt is a great way to get calcium, and it’s also rich in immune-boosting bacteria. But next time you hit the yogurt aisle, pick up the Greek kind—compared with regular yogurt, it has twice the protein (and 25% of women over 40 don’t get enough). Look for fat-free varieties like Oikos Organic Greek Yogurt (90 calories and 15 g of protein per 5.3-ounce serving).

3. Fat-Free Milk

Yes, it does your body good: Studies show that calcium isn’t just a bone booster but a fat fighter too. Recent research from the University of Tennessee found that obese people who went on a low-calorie, calcium-rich diet lost 70% more weight than those who ate the least. Vitamin D not only allows your body to absorb calcium, it’s also a super nutrient in its own right. Recent research found that adequate D levels can reduce heart disease risk, ward off certain types of cancer, relieve back pain, and even help prevent depression, but most of us don’t get nearly enough of the 1,000+ IU daily that most experts recommend.

A splash of milk in your morning coffee isn’t enough to provide the calcium and vitamin D you need. Use milk instead of water to make your oatmeal, have a glass with breakfast, or stir some chocolate syrup into it for an after-dinner treat.

4. Salmon

Salmon is a rich source of vitamin D and one of the best sources of omega-3s you can find. These essential fatty acids have a wide range of impressive health benefits—from preventing heart disease to smoothing your skin and aiding weight loss to boosting your mood and minimizing the effects of arthritis. Unfortunately, many people aren’t reaping these perks because we’re deficient, which some experts believe may be at the root of many of the big health problems today, like obesity, heart disease, and cancer.

Omega-3s also slow the rate of digestion, which makes you feel fuller longer, so you eat fewer calories throughout the day.

5. Lean Beef

Lean beef is one of the best-absorbed sources of iron there is. (Too-little iron can cause anemia.) Adding as little as 1 ounce of beef per day can make a big difference in the body’s ability to absorb iron from other sources. Beef also packs plenty of zinc (even minor deficiencies may impair memory) and B vitamins, which help your body turn food into energy.

If you can, splurge on grass-fed. Compared with grain-fed beef, it has twice the concentration of vitamin E, a powerful brain-boosting antioxidant. It’s also high in omega-3 fatty acids. Because this type of beef tends to be lower in overall fat, it can be tough—so marinate it, and use a meat thermometer to avoid overcooking.

6. Beans

It’s hard to imagine a more perfect food than beans. One cooked cupful can provide as much as 17 g fiber. They’re also loaded with protein and dozens of key nutrients, including a few most women fall short on—calcium, potassium, and magnesium. Studies tie beans to a reduced risk of heart diseases, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast and colon cancers.

The latest dietary guidelines recommend consuming at least 3 cups of beans a week—3 times the measly 1 cup we usually get. Keep your cupboards stocked with all kinds: black, white, kidney, fat-free refried, etc. Use them in salads, stuffed baked potatoes, and veggie chili or pureed for sandwich spreads.

7. Nuts

In a nutshell: USDA researchers say that eating 1½ ounces of tree nuts daily can reduce your risk of heart disease and diabetes. Walnuts are rich in omega-3s. Hazelnuts contain arginine, an amino acid that may lower blood pressure. An ounce of almonds has as many heart-healthy polyphenols as a cup of green tea and 1/2 cup of steamed broccoli combined; they may help lower LDL cholesterol as well.

The key is moderation, since nuts are high in calories. Keep a jar of chopped nuts in your fridge, and sprinkle a tablespoon on cereal, salads, stir-fries, or yogurt. Or have an ounce as a snack most days of the week.

8. Edamame and Tofu

Soy’s days as a cure-all may be over—some claims, such as help for hot flashes, don’t seem to be panning out—but edamame still has an important place on your plate. Foods such as tofu, soy milk, and edamame help fight heart disease when they replace fatty meats and cheeses, slashing saturated fat intake. Soy also contains heart-healthy polyunsaturated fats, a good amount of fibre, and some important vitamins.

Soy’s isoflavones, or plant estrogens, may also help prevent breast cancer. Some researchers believe these bind with estrogen receptors, reducing your exposure to the more powerful effects of your own estrogen. But stick with whole soy foods rather than processed foods, like patties or chips, made with soy powder. Don’t take soy supplements, which contain high and possibly dangerous amounts of isoflavones.

9. Oatmeal

Fiber-rich oats are even healthier than the FDA thought when it first stamped them with a heart disease–reducing seal 10 years ago. According to new research, they can also cut your risk of type 2 diabetes. When Finnish researchers tracked 4,316 men and women over the course of 10 years, they found that people who ate the highest percentage of cereal fiber were 61% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes.

To reap the benefits, eat 1/2 cup daily—preferably unsweetened. For a versatile breakfast, top with different combinations of fruit, yogurt, and nuts. You can also use oats to coat fish or chicken or add texture to meatballs.

10. Flaxseed

Flaxseed is the most potent plant source of omega-3 fats. Studies indicate that adding flaxseed to your diet can reduce the development of heart disease by 46%—it helps keep red blood cells from clumping together and forming clots that can block arteries. It may also reduce breast cancer odds. In one study, women who ate 10 g of flaxseed (about 1 rounded tablespoon) every day for 2 months had a 25% improvement in the ratio of breast cancer–protective to breast cancer–promoting chemicals in their blood.

Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of flaxseed a day on your cereal, salad, or yogurt. Buy it pre-ground, and keep it refrigerated.

11. Olive Oil

Olive oil is full of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats (MUFAs), which lower “bad” LDL cholesterol and raise “good” HDL cholesterol. It’s rich in antioxidants, which may help reduce the risk of cancer and other chronic diseases, like Alzheimer’s.

Look for extra virgin oils for the most antioxidants and flavor. Drizzle small amounts on veggies before roasting; use it to sauté or stir-fry, in dressings and marinades, and to flavor bread at dinner in lieu of a layer of butter or margarine.

12. Avocado

These smooth, buttery fruits are a great source of not only MUFAs but other key nutrients as well. One Ohio State University study found that when avocado was added to salads and salsa, it helped increase the absorption of specific carotenoids, plant compounds linked to lower risk of heart disease and macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness. “Avocados are packed with heart-protective compounds, such as soluble fiber, vitamin E, folate, and potassium,” says Elizabeth Somer, RD, author of 10 Habits That Mess Up a Woman’s Diet.

But they are a bit high in calories. To avoid weight gain, use avocado in place of another high-fat food or condiment, such as cheese or mayo.

13. Broccoli

Pick any life-threatening disease—cancer, heart disease, you name it—and eating more broccoli and its cruciferous cousins may help you beat it, Johns Hopkins research suggests. Averaging just four weekly servings of veggies like broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower slashed the risk of dying from any disease by 26% among 6,100 people studied for 28 years.

For maximum disease-fighting benefits, whip out your old veggie steamer. It turns out that steaming broccoli lightly releases the maximum amount of sulforaphane.

14. Spinach

We’ll spare you the Popeye jokes, but spinach has serious health muscles. For one thing, it contains lots of lutein, the sunshine-yellow pigment found in egg yolks. Aside from guarding against age-related macular degeneration, a leading cause of blindness, lutein may prevent heart attacks by keeping artery walls clear of cholesterol.

Spinach is also rich in iron, which helps deliver oxygen to your cells for energy, and folate, a B vitamin that prevents birth defects. Cook frozen spinach leaves (they provide more iron when cooked than raw) and serve as a side dish with dinner a few times a week.

15. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are our most common source of lycopene, an antioxidant that may protect against heart disease and breast cancer. The only problem with tomatoes is that we generally eat them in the form of sugar-loaded jarred spaghetti sauce or as a thin slice in a sandwich. For a healthier side dish idea, quarter plum tomatoes and coat with olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Roast in a 400°F oven for 20 minutes, and serve with chicken.

16. Sweet Potatoes

One of the best ways to get vitamin A—an essential nutrient that protects and maintains eyes, skin, and the linings of our respiratory, urinary, and intestinal tracts—is from foods containing beta-carotene, which your body converts into the vitamin. Beta carotene–rich foods include carrots, squash, kale, and cantaloupe, but sweet potatoes have among the most. A half-cup serving of these sweet spuds delivers only 130 calories but 80% of the DV of vitamin A. Replace tonight’s fries with one medium baked sweet potato (1,096 mcg) and you’re good to go—and then some.

17. Garlic

Garlic is a flavor essential and a health superstar in its own right. The onion relative contains more than 70 active phytochemicals, including allicin, which studies show may decrease high blood pressure by as much as 30 points. High consumption of garlic lowered rates of ovarian, colorectal, and other cancers, according to a research review in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Allicin also fights infection and bacteria. British researchers gave 146 people either a placebo or a garlic extract for 12 weeks; garlic takers were two-thirds less likely to catch a cold.

The key to healthier garlic: Crush the cloves, and let them stand for up to 30 minutes before heating them, which activates and preserves the heart-protecting compounds, according to a 2007 study from Argentina.

18. Red Peppers

Citrus fruits get all the credit for vitamin C, but red peppers are actually the best source. Vitamin C may be best known for skin and immunity benefits. Researchers in the United Kingdom looked at vitamin C intake in 4,025 women and found that those who ate more had less wrinkling and dryness. And although getting enough vitamin C won’t prevent you from catching a cold or flu, studies show that it could help you recover faster.

Vitamin C has other important credentials too. Finnish researchers found that men with low levels were 2.4 times likelier to have a stroke, and Australian scientists recently discovered that the antioxidant reduces knee pain by protecting your knees against arthritis.

19. Blueberries

Blueberries may very well be the most potent age-defying food—they’re jam-packed with antioxidants. When researchers at Cornell University tested 25 fruits for these potent compounds, they found that tangy-sweet wild blueberries (which are smaller than their cultivated cousins) packed the most absorbable antioxidants. Research shows a diet rich in blueberries can help with memory loss, prevent urinary tract infections, and relieve eyestrain.

Add up to 1/2 cup of blueberries to your diet a day for maximum health benefits, recommends Ronald Prior, PhD, adjunct professor of food science at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. This alone provides just about double the amount of antioxidants most people get in 1 day.

20. Apples

One of the healthiest fruits you should be eating is one you probably already are: the apple. The Iowa Women’s Health Study, which has been investigating the health habits of 34,000 women for nearly 20 years, named apples as one of only three foods (along with pears and red wine) that are most effective at reducing the risk of death from heart disease among postmenopausal women. Other massive studies have found the fruit to lower risk of lung cancer and type 2 Diabetes – and even help women lose weight.

In fact, one of the only things that could make an apple unhealthy is mixing it with sugar, flour, and butter and stuffing it into a mile-high pie. Instead, have one as an afternoon snack with a tablespoon of peanut butter, or add slices to sandwiches or salads.

21. Guava

Native to South America, this tropical fruit is an excellent source of skin-healing vitamin C, with 250% of your RDA per serving. One cup of guava has nearly 5 times as much C as a medium orange (377 mg versus 83 mg)—that’s more than 5 times your daily need. It’s also loaded with lycopene (26% more than a tomato), which may help lower your risk of heart disease. And according to research by microbiologists in Bangladesh, guava can even protect against foodborne pathogens such as Listeria and staph.

You can buy guava juice, or simmer chunks in water as you would to make applesauce. Guava also makes a super smoothie: Blend 1/2 banana, 1/2 ripe guava, a handful of strawberries, 1/2 cup soy milk, and a few ice cubes.

22. Dark Chocolate

Thank you, dark chocolate, for making us feel good—not guilty—about dessert. Dark chocolate is filled with flavonoid antioxidants (more than 3 times the amount in milk chocolate) that keep blood platelets from sticking together and may even unclog your arteries.It may also help with weight loss by keeping you feeling full, according to a study from Denmark. Researchers gave 16 participants 100 g of either dark or milk chocolate and 2 hours later offered them pizza. Those who consumed the dark chocolate ate 15% fewer calories than those who had milk chocolate, and they were less interested in fatty, salty, and sugary foods.

Try a chocolate with 70% or more cocoa. Two tablespoons of dark chocolate chips with fresh berries as a midafternoon snack or after-dinner dessert should give you some of the heart-healthy benefits without busting your calorie budget.

 

Common eating disorders

Posted: December 30, 2010 in Nutrition, Psychology

Eating disorders refer to a group of conditions characterized by abnormal eating habits that may involve either insufficient or excessive food intake to the detriment of an individual’s physical and emotional health, binge eating disorder, bulimia nervosa, anorexia nervosa being the most common. In Singapore, there was a six-fold increase in eating disorders among teenagers from 2002 to 2007. But only 10 to 20 percent of them are seeking treatment. In fact, more than eight in ten want to change the way they look, while six in ten feel bad about themselves because of looks or weight.

Anorexia Nervosa

Many people with anorexia see themselves as overweight, even when they are starved or are clearly malnourished. Eating, food and weight control become obsessions. A person with anorexia typically weighs herself or himself repeatedly, portions food carefully, and eats only very small quantities of only certain foods. Some who have anorexia recover with treatment after only one episode. Others get well but have relapses. Still others have a more chronic form of anorexia, in which their health deteriorates over many years as they battle the illness.

According to some studies, people with anorexia are up to ten times more likely to die as a result of their illness compared to those without the disorder. The most common complications that lead to death are cardiac arrest, and electrolyte and fluid imbalances. Suicide also can result.

Other symptoms may develop over time, including:

  • Thinning of the bones (osteopenia or osteoporosis)
  • Brittle hair and nails
  • Dry and yellowish skin
  • Growth of fine hair over body (e.g., lanugo)
  • Mild anemia, and muscle weakness and loss
  • Severe constipation
  • Low blood pressure, slowed breathing and pulse
  • Drop in internal body temperature, causing a person to feel cold all the time
  • Lethargy

TREATING ANOREXIA involves three components:

  1. restoring the person to a healthy weight;
  2. treating the psychological issues related to the eating disorder; and
  3. reducing or eliminating behaviors or thoughts that lead to disordered eating, and preventing relapse.

Bulimia Nervosa

Bulimia nervosa is characterized by recurrent and frequent episodes of eating unusually large amounts of food (e.g., binge-eating), and feeling a lack of control over the eating. This binge-eating is followed by a type of behavior that compensates for the binge, such as purging (e.g., vomiting, excessive use of laxatives or diuretics), fasting and/or excessive exercise.

Unlike anorexia, people with bulimia can fall within the normal range for their age and weight. But like people with anorexia, they often fear gaining weight, want desperately to lose weight, and are intensely unhappy with their body size and shape. Usually, bulimic behavior is done secretly, because it is often accompanied by feelings of disgust or shame. The binging and purging cycle usually repeats several times a week. Similar to anorexia, people with bulimia often have coexisting psychological illnesses, such as depression, anxiety and/or substance abuse problems. Many physical conditions result from the purging aspect of the illness, including electrolyte imbalances, gastrointestinal problems, and oral and tooth-related problems.

Other symptoms include:

  • Chronically inflamed and sore throat
  • Swollen glands in the neck and below the jaw
  • Worn tooth enamel and increasingly sensitive and decaying teeth as a result of exposure to stomach acids
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disorder
  • Intestinal distress and irritation from laxative abuse
  • Kidney problems from diuretic abuse
  • Severe dehydration from purging of fluids

As with anorexia, TREATMENT FOR BULIMIA often involves a combination of options and depends on the needs of the individual.

To reduce or eliminate binge and purge behavior, a patient may undergo nutritional counseling and psychotherapy, especially cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), or be prescribed medication. Some antidepressants, such as fluoxetine (Prozac), which is the only medication approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for treating bulimia, may help patients who also have depression and/or anxiety. It also appears to help reduce binge-eating and purging behavior, reduces the chance of relapse, and improves eating attitudes.

CBT that has been tailored to treat bulimia also has shown to be effective in changing binging and purging behavior, and eating attitudes. Therapy may be individually oriented or group-based.

Binge Eating

Binge-eating disorder is characterized by recurrent binge-eating episodes during which a person feels a loss of control over his or her eating. Unlike bulimia, binge-eating episodes are not followed by purging, excessive exercise or fasting. As a result, people with binge-eating disorder often are overweight or obese. They also experience guilt, shame and/or distress about the binge-eating, which can lead to more binge-eating.

Obese people with binge-eating disorder often have coexisting psychological illnesses including anxiety, depression, and personality disorders. In addition, links between obesity and cardiovascular disease and hypertension are well documented.

Patients with binge-eating disorder also may be prescribed appetite suppressants. Psychotherapy, especially CBT, is also used to treat the underlying psychological issues associated with binge-eating, in an individual or group environment.

To conclude, eating disorders are influenced by psychological factors such as having low self-esteem, depression, anxiety, anger or lonliness.

and/or social factors such as a history of being teased for looks or weight, cultural pressures which glorify “thinness” and place value on obtaining the “perfect body” or norms that value people on the basis of physical appearance and not inner qualities and strengths.

Additionally, eating disorders can be prevented and can be cured. For tips on how to eat in the right way, refer to this post by clicking here!

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What should I eat?

Posted: December 12, 2010 in Nutrition

As we have discussed in the previous post, we now know how many calories we should consume. But what types of foods should we get these required calories from? Today, we’re going to discuss about the different types of food, their sources and how much you should be getting from each types of food.

Your recommended dietary requirements would be something like the picture below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Carbohydrates are your body’s primary source of fuel and can be either complex carbohydrates or simple carbohydrates. The difference is that complex carbohydrates have a lower glycemic index and and it provides a sustained release of energy, keeping you full longer as compared to simple carbohydrates which have a high glycemic index and provides you with quick sugar. We should always aim to consume complex carbohydrates throughout the day except immediately after exercise where your body would be depleted of blood sugar and you would need replenishment as soon as possible. Take note that 1 gram of carbohydrates would have 4kcal.

Good sources of carbohydrates would include: Brown rice, potatoes, pasta, wholemeal bread, oats, corn etc. A normal person should consume about 3-4g of carbohydrates per kilogram of body weight. You would need to consume more if you do endurance training for over an hour and less if you’re looking to lose weight.

 

Protein is essential to growth and repair of muscle and other body tissues. Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and they are classified as either essential(taken in through food as your body cannot produce them) or non-essential (your body is able to produce them) amino acids. One gram of protein, like carbohydrates is also 4kcal.

Good sources of protein would include: Meat, poultry, dairy, eggs and plant sources (lentils, soya beans, nuts). A sedentary person should consume about 0.8g of protein per kg of body weight, whereas endurance people need 1.2 to 1.4g and resistance training people need about 1.4 to 1.8g.

 

Fats are one source of energy and important in relation to fat soluble vitamins. We still need fat in our diet even though we’re losing weight because certain vitamins such as A, D, E and K are only fat-soluble; they can only dissolve when fat is present. There are about 9kcal in fat! Now you know why everyone is telling you to stay away from unhealthy fatty food? However, there are healthy fats too and we should consume these in our diet daily. Have a look at the table below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Vitamins and minerals boost the immune system, support normal growth and development, and help cells and organs do their jobs. Click here to read more about the different vitamins and minerals, their functions and sources here!

Vitamins & Minerals Chart

 

Water is essential to normal body function as a vehicle for carrying other nutrients and because 60% to 65% of the human body is water. Water also helps in regulating body temperature, lubricating joints, eliminating waste products and digestion. You can estimate the amount of water to drink using the “8 X 8 Rule”. Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of fluid a day. Too much water can lead to hyponatremia, also called water intoxication, which is generally the result of drinking excessive amounts of plain water which causes a low concentration of sodium in the blood.

 

How do you know when to drink water? Learn these common signs and symptoms of dehydration!

  • Dry mouth
  • Excessive thirst
  • Infrequent or dark urination
  • Muscle weakness or cramping
  • Headache
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Sunken eyes
  • Inability to produce tears

 

Now that we have all these information, how do we design them into a healthy balanced diet? That’s what the food pyramid is for!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
Generally, supplementation is not necessarily unless you are unable to get your recommended dietary requirements. I will do a post on ergogenic nutritional aids on nutritional supplementation another time. Do stay tuned!

How much should I eat?

Posted: December 12, 2010 in Nutrition

Nutrition (also called nourishment or aliment) is the provision, to cells and organisms, of the materials necessary (in the form of food) to support life. You may ask, how is nutrition related to my fitness goal?  Nutrition actually plays a bigger part than the training itself.

First, we’ll be talking about energy balancing. This will take into consideration the calories consumed and the calories expended.

 

Neutral energy balance is when the calories you take in is equal to the calories expended. This will result in maintenance of weight

Negative positive balance is when the calories you take in is less than the calories expended. This will result in lower weight and fat loss.

Positive energy balance is when the calories you take in is greater than the calories expended. This will result in increased weight with higher fats and muscle mass.

It’s easy to calculate the amount of calories we consume a day by reading the nutritional information on food labels. But how about caloric expenditure? We need to know how many calories are used up by our bodies in order to ensure that we have the desired energy balance to achieve our fitness goals.

Daily energy expenditure consists of three components: basal metabolic rate (BMR), diet-induced thermogenesis (DIT) and your physical activity level.

 

Basal metabolism rate is the amount of calories you need to maintain the body during resting conditions. It varies from people to people based on their age, gender, height, weight and body composition (muscle mass).

Physical activity level is the amount of physical activity you get daily. Physical activity is any movement that requires your muscles and that can expend calories. The higher your physical activity level, the more calories you burn.

Diet-induced thermogenesis, or thermic effect of food is the energy expended by our bodies in order to consume and process food. So now you know eating can help you burn calories too!

 

Your basal matabolism rate (BMR) can be estimated by the Schofield Equation (1985)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

However, that’s just the BMR and not the total number of calories you would need a day if you take into consideration the amount of physical activity. With more physical activity, you would naturally need more energy.

Multiply your BMR by the Physical Activity Level Factor and you would get the Estimated Energy Requirements (EER) you would need daily.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For example, if a female is 20 years old weighing 70kg and has a physical activity level factor of 1.5, her total daily caloric requirements would be (14.8 x 55kg + 487) x 1.5 = 1951.5kcal. In order to achieve the desired enerygy balance to achieve your fitness goals, consume calories according to your caloric requirements.