Living Lite

Processed Food? You'd Be Surprised How Delish!

March 11, 2018

While making meals from scratch has been the paragon of nutritional virtue, it is increasingly unrealistic for most people in our crazy busy lives to even contemplate. And while processed, pre-prepared, packaged, frozen, vacuum packed, and even canned options seem like an abomination to many of you, they can be more nutritious - and many times quite yummy - for a fraction of the cost of a restaurant meal.

I've always enjoyed BBQ, but have never quite gotten the hang of making a really delicious one. The best BBQ I've ever had was in Texas. But that took days to make! BBQ in restaurants I've found too greasy, filling, and expensive. But I recently discovered a pre-packaged one in a local grocery store's refrigerator section that is mouthwatering. For only 200 calories in a 1/2 cup serving - it is perfect for me (and, of course, most men could have twice that much). Try it yourself!

My (Photo by: Katherine Tallmadge) My "Processed, Pre-Packaged" BBQ Sandwich Ingredients

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Reversing Winter Bloat and Blues

March 4, 2018

Are you experiencing the winter blues? Bloat? More cravings than usual? It seems these occurances are running rampant right now. January and February are tough months for many people nation-wide.

The most probable causes are in your control and involve decreases in both sunlight and physical activity.  Together, they can contribute to the blues and enough of a calorie imbalance to cause weight gain. Here’s how.

  • Sunlight. Some people are particularly susceptible to light deprivation, caused by the decrease in daylight hours during the winter. This affects the neurochemical serotonin, responsible for your mood and appetite, prompting increased food cravings and weight gain.
  • Physical Activity. When it’s cold outside, we’re less physically active and cut back on subtle calorie-burning activities such as short walks and light outdoor chores. These caloric expenditures may only add up to about 100 calories per day, but this translates into a 3-4 pound weight gain (or more) during the winter months.

What to do to both improve your mood and curb your cravings?

  • Increase exposure to sunlight. Bundle up and go outside to reverse the symptoms of light deprivation.  You'll feel refreshed and less bored, and your appetite may be more controllable. The amount of needed daylight varies for each individual. In general, the more the better. One hour daily in the morning, ideally at sunrise, is most helpful. If you’re not an early bird, several hours on the weekends may help make up for a lack of sun during the week. Some people may benefit from getting daily "light therapy"  which would be prescribed by your doctor. Some popular products are from "sunbox."
  • Up your activity level, even just a little. During just one exercise bout, your brain releases feel-good chemicals, called endorphins into your body. These chemicals reduce pain, increase feelings of well-being and elevate your mood.  If you’re regularly active, these benefits multiply. A brisk 30-minute walk just three times a week relieves major depression just as effectively as an antidepressant in most adults, according to a study published in the Archives of Internal Medicine. Wear a pedometer to keep track of your activity level and to motivate you to get more.
  • Increase your intake of a colorful array of fruits and vegetables. These low-cal but filling carbohydrates increase serotonin production, helping to regulate mood and appetite. They also help you feel more satisfied for fewer calories, and research shows adding them to a meal could save at least 100 calories (translating to 4 – 5 pounds during the colder months)…some tips:
  • To lower the calories and increase the portion size of a favorite recipe, pump up the volume by adding vegetables as often as you can. This way, you can eat your usual portion for fewer calories.
  • Choose fresh fruits over dried fruits or juices. For 100 calories, you could eat 1/4 cup of raisins or two cups of grapes. (You’re more likely to fill up on the grapes.)
  • Start lunch or dinner with a hearty, satisfying, and yummy bowl of soup or a large, colorful salad with a delicious vinaigrette.
  • Turn main courses into soups or salads by adding broth or vegetables.

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The Vitamin Supplement Everyone Should Be Taking

February 25, 2018

My philosophy has always been to get your nutrients from food, not vitamin supplements. I base my advice on the body of scientific evidence finding significant negative effects, or no effects - of vitamin and antioxidant supplementation (starting with a gound-breaking study published in the New England Journal of Medicine finding antioxidant supplements had such negative effects on the subjects, it had to be halted early). Accordingly, nutrition professionals are cautious before making recommendations, as they should be. In fact, one way to smoke out a "quack nutritonist" - someone unqualified to practice nutrition - is learning that they're selling supplements.

That's not to say that some supplements aren't useful. When personalized to fit your needs, some may be beneficial - even critical - for your health. Nonetheless, taking supplements cannot substitute for the benefits of eating the nutrients in food ... except for one.

The need for this supplement started revealing itself a couple of decades ago. Children, and some adults, began exibiting symptoms of a life-threatening deficiency disease, one we virtually hadn't seen since the turn of the 20th century, when 60 to 80 percent of children suffered from it. Subsequently, the disease was mostly iradicated  by supplementing food. Nutritionists determined what was needed in the food supply based on lifesyle and consumption patterns in that era, and this calculation prevented the defiency disease ... until now.

Why is food supplementation no longer working? Modern technology, changes in food consumption patterns and in lifestyles. These same changes in American life have created many health discoveries. Sometimes you don't know the value of something until it's missing! Not only have we experienced an outbreak of the deficiency disease, we uncovered many more negative effects of its inadequacy, and thus, reasons why this nutrient is paramount to health.

Vitamin D is a nutrient taken for granted for millions of years because we got enough of it naturally from the sun. But increasingly, Americans are not exposed to sunshine. We spend most of our time indoors on our computers or in our cars. When we venture outside we're using sunscreen, which blocks not only harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays which cause skin cancer, but also prevents the skin from absorbing the UV rays necessary for producing Vitamin D in our bodies.

Vitamin D deficiency has caused unexpected consequences. It is a hormone present in almost all of your cells. Its effects are vast. We learned definitively in the early 20th century that its deficiency causes soft bones (rickets) which literally bow a child's legs because they can't hold up his/her weight. Further, new research is finding its deficiency may increase your risk for autoimmune diseases such as diabetes, also cancers, heart disease, infectious diseases, schizophrenia, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease. You get the picture... It's a big deal!

Because there is very little in food, adding 100 IUs of vitamin D to a cup of milk since the 1930s has prevented rickets successfully until today's lifestyles changed the predicted amount of sun exposure and milk consumed. And because vitamin D deficiencies seemingly vanished, we were unaware of how contributory it was to health.

The prevailing National Academy of Sciences Food and Nutrition Board recommendation for vitamin D has been 400 IUs daily. Today, it's unclear how much vitamin D each person needs to take because of variable sun exposure. But there seems to be a consensus among vitamin D scientists that blood values should be at least 50 ng/mL and there seems to be no benefit of going higher than 75 ng/mL (though most medical labs consider 30 as adequate). My clients take anywhere from 1,000 IUs to 4,000 IUs (the safe upper limit - UL) daily to achieve 50 ng/mL. Recommendations for sun exposure vary, but in general, it's been recommended that careful exposure of the hands, arms and face 2 to 3 times a week for 15 minutes is probably sufficient (Res Medica, Volume 268, Issue 2, 2005). But talk to your doctor about your individual needs.

Vitamin D, a fat soluble vitamin which is stored in your body, can be toxic when too much supplement is taken. Though, natural sources in food and from the sun cannot cause overdoses. In Europe in the 1950s, cases of soft tissue, heart and brain calcification, leading to mental retardation and other birth defects, were discovered to have been caused by excessive vitamin D added to the food supply. Ergo, supplementation has since been removed or scaled back in Europe.

Just like all nutrients, it's important not to get too little - or too much. I call it the "Goldilocks effect," because it needs to be "just right!"

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