Tuesday, March 27, 2012

10 Easy Things You Can Do Today To Be Healthier

Jim Carrey as Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. A movie I highly recommend!

Big changes can happen in small increments. Here are some easy things you can do today (and tomorrow) to increase your health and well-being. You can pick one or five to start with. Next week, add one more. You will feel better for it, I promise!

1. Drink more water! Try to drink 2 cups upon rising and then increase your total intake for the day.
2. Take a good twice a day multivitamin...DAILY!
3. Get at least 7-8 hours of quality sleep per day. Avoid caffeine and alcohol if those impair your quality of sleep.
4. Eat oatmeal for breakfast. Add any toppings you want such as fruit, nuts, seeds, agave syrup, maple syrup...even better with ground flax meal or chia seeds.
5. Exercise! Any kind: cardio, yoga, high intensity interval training, walking...
6. Eat a large salad with dark greens. Add any beans, seeds, chopped veggies or fruit you like. Make it huge! Be sure to use a low fat dressing...
7. Have 2-3 pieces of fruit. All at once or spread throughout the day. (Juice doesn't count!)
8. Eat some raw veggies. I like broccoli, carrots, peppers, cucumbers, celery, and jicama. No-oil hummus is nice for a dip...
9. Write down a list of everything you have to be grateful for in life.
10. Do something nice for yourself (that doesn't involve food). Examples: watch a funny movie. Like oh, say, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective. ;0P

Sunday, March 25, 2012

6 High Calcium Foods That Kick Milk's Butt!


**These are my opinions based on my research. I am not a doctor nor do I claim to try to give any health advice beyond telling people to, "eat more plants!" I have a personal interest in determining the nutrient content of my plant-based lifestyle and thought it may possibly interest others on a similar path. I also have an interest in debunking popular dietary myths propagated by big business and through our own government policies. To your health!

There are a few things to consider when moving towards a plant-based diet...like how to get that adorable milk mustache without the milk, for starters! Ok, that one's easy. There are so many different types of high quality non-dairy milk out there. You can easily get a very nice soymilk mustache, almond milk mustache, or rice milk mustache, for starters. Or my family's favorite: vanilla almond milk. MMmmmmmmmmmm!
The real question here is, will you get a comparable intake of dietary calcium without dairy?

The short answer is yes, as long as you are eating a healthy plant-based diet including green leafy vegetables, fruits, beans, grains, nuts, seeds, etc., it should be easy to meet the 1000mg/day requirement for an average adult. There are fabulous plant sources of calcium out there and they are more bio-available to our bodies than dairy. High bioavailability just means that our bodies can use the calcium from plant sources easier. Not only that, but there is evidence that animal protein causes calcium to be leached out of bones due to its causing an acidic environment in the body. With that being said, it doesn't seem to make sense to have your primary source of calcium be from an animal! Dairy is a good source of calcium, but it is not the best source for optimum health.

When you derive calcium from plant foods you also get all the other phytonutrients, fiber, and vitamins from that plant with it. What you don't get is important, too: no cholesterol or saturated fat from the dairy. While 1 cup of milk has about 300 mg of calcium, there are foods that have more calcium per calorie in addition to a host of other benefits.

Without further ado, here are 6 high calcium (not to mention low calorie) foods that will make you re-think your morning glass of milk...

1) Collard Greens, 2 cups = 600 mg!!
2) Spinach, 2 cups = 500mg
3) Tofu, 1 cup = 150mg
4) Kale, 2 cups= 350mg
5) 1 cup of enriched non dairy milk, such as soy, rice, or almond milk = 300mg
6) Soybeans, 1 cup = 175mg

As you can see, leafy green vegetables are amazing sources of calcium (not to mention a jillion other nutrients). Other great sources can include foods that are fortified with calcium, such as the non-dairy milks and cereals.

Here is what an imaginary day might look like: 1 cup of fortified breakfast cereal (~300mg) with 1 cup fortified non-dairy milk (300mg), a couple oranges (100mg) and some raisins mixed into your cereal already put you at over 700mg for breakfast alone. Maybe you snack on almonds (~50mg) and have a mixed vegetable stir fry with tofu and bok choy (~400mg)...if this is a portion of the plant based menu you enjoy then you will have no trouble meeting the *RDA for calcium. Not to mention, if you eat this way you will most likely feel better, look better, and be in better physical health than if you derived your calcium from dairy sources.

Just sayin'.

*Currently the RDA for calcium is set at 1000mg/day for adults 19-50. Although based on what I have seen this high limit is to help offset the deleterious effects of the SAD (Standard American Diet) which is high in animal protein and low in ..well, everything of nutritive value. So, if you are eating a plant-based diet that includes many fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, and seeds then you are most likely meeting all your calcium needs as well as keeping yourself in amazing shape, inside and out. Go, plant-based eaters!

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dinner Party Menu...

I need to practice my dinner party hosting skills. What better time than St. Patrick's Day? Actually, I picked the day randomly and the only tribute to Saint Patty will be a lone bottle of Jameson Whiskey. Practically a meal in itself, eh?!

Also, we will be eating lots of greens in honor of the holiday (not really, we do this all the time!)

Here is the menu:

pita chips with 2 different kinds of hummus (store bought)
Kalamata olive tapenade with rustic bread
Spinach salad with red onion, pomegranate seeds, and Trader Joe's Champagne Pear Vinaigrette (I know it has gorgonzola cheese but overall it is pretty low calorie and sooooo tasty!)
Quinoa Tabouli (I omitted the olive oil from this recipe. It seemed quite tasty without.)
Barley with cranberries and hazelnuts (I couldn't find the farro! Barley is close but the farro is much better. Farro!)
Main Dishes:
Sweet Potato and Kale Enchiladas (I added 1 can of pinto and 1 can of black beans for more protein and fiber)
Cookie Dough Truffles (Full disclosure: I couldn't find the vegan chocolate chips and was too tired to go to another store so I used regular semi sweet chocolate.) These are way too good...use with caution!!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Is Sugar Really That Bad For You? ...

We all know the saying about Coca Cola reportedly containing cocaine in its original formulation, don't we? Of course, they took it out a long time ago but it may be full of something even more harmful, and addictive: sugar! Or more commonly nowdays, HFCS (High Fructose Corn Syrup).

On Saturday I got the chance to hear Julia Ross (author of the Diet Cure and the Mood Cure) at a conference and her speech was titled, "Sugar Addiction: Confronting the Greatest Nutritional Crisis of All Time." Wow. Julia Ross brought it! I took notes until my hand almost fell off...I thought I knew how bad sugar was but I had no idea HOW BAD! I will try and summarize what I learned and then offer some tips for reducing sugar in your diet and dealing with sugar cravings

Sugar and Heart Disease were virtually nonexistent in the United States until the 1930s, when it was just beginning to be refined and sold here. Ever since then the rates of heart disease, cancer, and many other diseases have been rising along with our sugar consumption (see graph above). Sugar is not just found in obvious foods, like candies and sodas. It also comes from highly processed grains such as refined flours. Processed foods are usually full of refined flours and added sugars and usually devoid of nutrients. Unfortunately, they are usually affordable. This has helped contribute to the obesity epidemic in this country with families that are struggling to put food on the table having little choice but to purchase and consume processed, sugar-filled foods that are not only completely worthless nutrition-wise, they are harmful!

In 2006 the World Health Organization made an important nutritional pronouncement that was on the front page of every newspaper in the world....except in the United States. It said, "Our only recommendation for ending the worldwide physical and mental health crisis is to cut all sweetened foods to below 10% of calories." That would be around 250 calories for an average adult.

Why wasn't this put into our newspapers here in the good old U. S. of A? Ever hear of the Sugar Council? See, they weren't too hot on the idea if it meant people would buy and consume less sugar...

The fact is that sugar is as toxic as alcohol and 4 times as addictive as cocaine. In fact, if you give a cocaine addicted laboratory rat the choice between a hit of cocaine or a hit of saccharine, which do you think he chooses? Every time: sugar. Sugar kills 35 million people per year, worldwide.

Don't think of switching to non-sugar sweeteners either. HFCS is twice as sweet and addictive as sucrose (table sugar), equal in liver damage to alcohol, and suppresses natural appetite regulators. That's right: if you consume HFCS your brain won't get the "I'm Full" signal. Just what we need in a country in the midst of an obesity epidemic.

For even more on sugar see the LIFE-CHANGING video featuring Robert Lustig, a pediatric oncologist, as he exposes just how devastating to our health sugar is. Not many people are willing to stand up to the mighty business conglomerates in this country. People like him are heroes. By the way, he wrote a jounral article entitled, "Is Sugar Toxic?" (hint:yes) that had to be published in a journal outside of the United States (Nature, International Weekly Journal of Science). Big Business is in bed with the Government and it is unacceptable that the consequences are our health and the health of our children!

So, we all could stand to reduce the amount of this toxic chemical in our bodies. But how? Many people deal with cravings for sugar. Actually, it takes time but it is possible to break free from the vicious cycle of sugar craving.

Tips to reduce Sugar in Your Diet

  1. Eliminate Sodas and Fruit Juices

  2. Use fruit or sweet vegetables frequently so your body gets sweet satisfaction the healthy way.

  3. Limit sweet treats to a few times per week (or less!)

  4. Use whole wheat bread instead of white, brown rice instead of white rice, whole grains instead of processed ones.

  5. Don't add sugar to coffee or tea! Even 1 tsp. can add up if you drink multiple cups

  6. Avoid HCFS like the plague! Remember that it causes your brain to miss the "I'm Full" signal!

Tips to Deal With Sugar Cravings

  1. Eat fruits and sweet veggies throughout the day to front-load your diet with healthy sweet foods

  2. (sweet potatoes, yams, red peppers)

  3. Use agave nectar/syrup instead of sugar to sweeten things- the sweet taste comes from natural fructose which is absorbed slowly by the body. I like this on whole wheat pancakes and waffles, oatmeal, even in cooking.

  4. Make sure you are eating lots of healthy foods (see tip #1) and taking a multivitamin as well. Sometimes deficiencies can make cravings worse! Your body might be trying to tell you that it needs more healthy food.

  5. Eat throughout the day! When you are starving it is hard to make healthy food choices and your sugar cracings can really kick in. Start the day off on the right foot with a healthy breakfast (which could even be 2 pieces of fruit) and make sure you have a healthy snack every 2-3 hours between meals. Follow your WiMS: Wake-Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack-Meal-Snack or WiMS for short!

Got any great tips for reducing sugar intake or dealing with cravings? Share them here!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

I Ate at Outback Steakhouse Last Night!

...I know. Not what you would expect from a plant-based eater. But just listen to this story and read on to find out what I ordered...

I had a great opportunity to visit a fabulous conference put on by the Institute for Integrative Nutrition on Saturday. I took my mom, a Nurse Practitioner, and we sat in awe for 4 hours listening to some amazing speakers talking about things such as why sugar is so bad for you, and why the old concept of energy in/energy out doesn't work for weight loss. Then there was David Wolfe-the raw food/superfood/superherb/living water guru. He is fantastic! His talk was titled, "Add-ing In" which I loved.

Wolfe's whole premise is that the more healthy foods (and he really likes the superfoods. I will do a post on those soon) you eat, or "add-in", the more it pushes out the unhealthy food. This is fabulous! Listen: you don't have to completely eliminate anything from your diet (unless you have a medical condition and your doctor advises it) as long as most of your diet includes wonderfully nourishing, nutritious foods. Add in vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and legumes. Add in a piece of fruit, a salad, a handful of nuts, steamed veggies, a smoothie, fresh juice. Add in fresh soups before a meal. Add in a multivitamin to your daily regime. Add in exercise! When you shift your focus away from what you need to cut-out of your life and focus on what you can add-in, you realize that this isn't about deprivation. It is about abundance!

After hearing these amazing talks we left feeling energized...but hungry. Driving around Long Beach for 30 minutes just trying to find the freeway, only to get off near a shopping mall where the only restaurant nearby was an Outback Steakhouse. I said, "Mom, we can't. On principle alone, we can't."

I mean, we had just left a health conference and here we were at Outback Steakhouse. Steaks are not healthy! Animal protein is not healthy. Now, I am not going to tell you never to eat steak again. After all, there are lots of things we eat that are not healthy, such as Birthday Cake. But a birthday celebration with it's rare treat of cake and ice cream are one thing. Eating a steak dinner occasionally *should* be fine. We get into trouble when we make eating steak or other animal protein a large portion of our diet (read The China Study for further, extensively researched, information). However, using Wolfe's "add-in" principle, perhaps you could add in a salad, steamed broccoli, some wheat bread (hold the butter), and a plain baked potato TO your steak dinner and actually come out ahead. Here's how: limit the amount of steak and increase the amount of healthy foods (salad, veggies, baked potato, even bread).

So, what did we end up ordering? I was STARVING and we did eat 2 of the wheat bread loaves. I had no butter but it was good bread and I enjoyed it. We ordered a flatbread with veggies (asked for extra veggies and they were more than happy to do that for us) and cheese and kept the chicken on mom's side. We both ordered a spinach salad-mine without chicken. And you know what? It was good. Success! We reached the end of the meal full and happy. I didn't feel deprived one bit and completely enjoyed my Outback Steakhouse dinner! It's not my first choice for a restaurant but when you know a few tricks (add-ins!), it's easy.

Remember the concept of add-ins is an everyday thing. Add in the good stuff and the bad stuff naturally becomes less and less a part of your diet. The best part is that you can add in LOTS of beautiful healthy food! Plant-based eating makes it possible for you to eat a diet that is abundant, fresh, nutritious, varied, and healthy. You don't have to worry about obsessive and addictive behaviors around this food. You will feel energized, happier, and excited about life!

Some ideas for Add-Ins:
Have a piece of fruit (or 2!) before you have breakfast
Add a handful of spinach to your morning potato, tofu, or even egg scramble.
Add a small handful of nuts (walnuts are great for Omega-3) or seeds to your oatmeal or soy yogurt
Add a snack to your day (fruit, veggies, nuts, seeds)
Have a vegetable based soup before lunch or dinner
Add a salad to your lunch and dinner
Add steamed vegetables to your lunch or dinner
Add a vegggie wrap as a snack (whole wheat tortilla, hummus, spinach, sprouts, etc.)
Munch on carrot sticks, apple slices, etc. in the evening if you have the "snackies"

Please let me know if you have any other ideas of great things to "Add-In" to your diet or life! I love this concept because it keeps the focus on positive changes you can make, not what you need to take away.