5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

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Source: Sara Siskind

With the cold winter months here, we find ourselves spending more of our time indoors and hibernating from the harsh weather. This is the time of year people are more susceptible to colds and the flu.  One reason is that viruses tend to live longer in cold air. Also, being indoors leaves us closer in proximity to others where germs can spread more easily from person to person. Since part of our wellbeing depends on how we treat ourselves, now is the time to fuel our bodies with immune boosting vitamins and minerals found in a whole food diet.  Prevention is key! Sara Siskind, Certified Nutritional Health Counselor and founder of Hands on Healthy has come up with 5 of her favorite immune boosting foods has come up with 5 of her favorite immune boosting foods you can add into your diet to help you feel your best all winter long no matter if you’re trapped indoors, traveling, or just in your day-to-day activities. 

1. Eat colorful fruits and vegetables rich in vitamins and minerals. Reach for red and pink grapefruits, oranges, kiwis, and berries. Choose cruciferous veggies like broccoli, cauliflower and brussels sprouts. These fruits and veggies are not only loaded with essential vitamins and phytonutrients, but they are also rich in antioxidants which give your immune system a boot and help build up your digestive track.

2.     Add in pistachios as a heart healthy, protein rich snack. Pistachios are also rich in antioxidants and the heart healthy fats to help your body absorb vitamin E.  Vitamin E is needed by the immune system to fight off invading bacteria. Pistachios are also rich in vitamin B6 which also helps prevent infection and create healthy red blood cells your body needs. Setton Farms Pistachio Chewy Bites are an easy way to eat pistachios on the go or simply adding to your lunch bag.

3.    Look for omega 3 fatty acids and selenium which are found in shellfish, salmon, mackerel, and herring.  These foods help white blood cells produce a protein which helps clear flu viruses out of the body. Omega 3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body by clearing the lungs pathways. This can help protect from colds and respiratory infections.

4.     Make yogurt your go-to breakfast or snack. Yogurt contains probiotics; “healthy bacteria” that your body needs to keep your immune system strong and keeps your digestive free of disease-causing germs.  Yogurt is also filled with protein that keeps your body energized and strong.

5.     Spice up your food with turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon.  These spices are especially known to contain antioxidants that help to protect your cells and keep inflammation in the body down.  I add turmeric to soups, eggs, rice, and poultry. Fresh grated ginger brings warmth to any beverage. Cinnamon can be sprinkled on oatmeal, cereal, yogurt, and easily added to anything you bake.

Certified Nutritional Health Counselor, Sara Siskind is the founder of Hands On Healthy, cooking classes for adults, families and teens based in New York. Sara has dedicated her career to educating clients on how food and lifestyle choices affect health, and how to make the right choices to look and feel your best each day. Sara translates unnamed-1the complexity of integrated nutrition into usable tools with easy-to-cook recipes that appeal to the entire family. Sara counsels privately to offer highly customized health and nutrition plans for her clients. She also works with parents on shopping and cooking smarter to create healthier homes. In addition, she teaches beginner to gourmet cooking classes with her signature “toss it in” approach. In addition, Sara regularly works with corporations and non-profit organizations to lead workshops and lectures on healthy eating.

Website: www.sarasiskind.com

5 Breakfasts to Start Your Day Strong

Even with a late night snack, your body starts the day in a state of energy depletion. When you start your morning without refueling, it’s a race against the clock until you either crash, stuff whatever is closest in your face, or have a mental breakdown. OK, that last one was a bit extreme, but it’s true that without adequate glucose, your brain isn’t able to function at it’s best, meaning your cognitive functions are dulled and leave you in a fog. Needless to say; breakfast is a pretty big deal.

If you’re thinking, “Yeah, I get it. Breakfast is important”, you’re not alone. There are 93% of us who believe breakfast to be the most important meal of the day. But believing is only half the battle. Only 44% of us actually eat breakfast, citing time and convenience as the top reason for skipping. (statisticsbrain.com)

It’s also understandable to be confused over what you “should” eat in the AM. Look up “best breakfast” and you’ll get a wide range of opinions, leaving you more confused than you were!

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Photo Credit: eatzycath via Flickr

I don’t believe there is one breakfast that beats all others, but I do believe there are 3 pillars that make a breakfast best: 1) Mix of carbs, protein, and healthy fat 2) Convenience 3) Taste. You need the components of complex carbs, protein, and fat to fuel all of your mental and physical functions, you need to be able to prepare and eat it, and – arguably most important – you need to enjoy it!

Here are 5 breakfasts to fuel your morning:

Gourmet English Muffins

When you dine out, English muffins are always a side item. Something that comes along with your meal and is either spread with butter or jam. Give them the starring role tomorrow morning by dressing them up with healthy filling toppings!

Starting with a whole grain muffin gives you the complex carbs and dietary fiber you need, and the possibilities are nearly endless from there. The PB & J is a favorite of mine!

Try it yourself:

Whole grain English muffin

Natural crunchy peanut butter

Fresh strawberries, sliced

Top your muffin with peanut butter and toast if you have the time. Place sliced berries (I love strawberries, but often use raspberries or blueberries when in season) on top and enjoy!

Other topping ideas to mix and match: Low fat cheese spread, honey, avocado, ricotta cheese, pumpkin puree, sliced banana.

Yogurt Parfait

Diner parfait’s can be loaded with sugar, and that’s just the stuff in the yogurt! Candy-like granola may taste good, but the sugar rush to your bloodstream can have you crashing before you clear your inbox. Stock up on large containers of plain low-fat Greek yogurt and make your own!

Try it yourself:

Plain Greek yogurt

Fresh or frozen blueberries

Chopped pecans

Honey

Mix together based on your preferences; maybe you like a berry and nut heavy parfait, while your partner prefers lots of yogurt with the occasional flavor burst. Other mix-in ideas: low-fat granola, cottage cheese (in place of yogurt), toasted almonds, coconut, dates.

Power Smoothie

Smoothies are the most widespread breakfast option out there, and with kitchen accessories like the Vitamix and Ninja, it’s easier than ever to quickly make your own. You can control the consistency by experimenting with different portions of ice, liquid, fruits, veggies, or even peanut butter.

Try it yourself:

1 C almond milk

1 small banana

½ C natural peanut butter

1 C ice

Mix with standard blender or smoothie maker

Knowing the basics of smoothies allows you to get super creative. Here are the elements: Ice, liquid (milk, water, juice, etc.), fruit and or veggies, protein boost (optional, but filling; peanut butter, protein powder, nuts, flax or hemp seeds, tofu), extra flavor (cinnamon, turmeric, ginger, coconut).

Packed Pita

The pita is not just for lunch anymore. What’s a more practical breakfast-on-the-go than something stuffed with delicious things you can hold in your hand?

Try it yourself:

Whole grain pita

Avocado

Baby spinach

Hard boiled egg, sliced

Tomato, sliced

The above recipe is savory, but if you prefer a little more sweetness in the morning, go the route of the English muffin recipes by stuffing it with ricotta cheese, honey and fruit, or peanut butter and honey!

Grab Bag

There are those mornings you don’t have time to even spread peanut butter on a pita, and need something you can toss into your bag in hopes there will be time to toss it in your face. I’ve had many of those mornings, and will have many more. Here is what I do; I prioritize the balance of protein, carbs, and healthy fat, whether it’s in one item like a protein bar, or a variety like an apple, string cheese and handful of almonds.

My top choices to try yourself:

Protein/energy bar brands (low sugar and fat, high protein): KIND, Lara, Go Macro, Kate’s

String cheese

Apple

Banana

Almonds

All of these recipes can be made in a few minutes in the morning, or the night before so you can grab it and get out the door.

Do you eat breakfast most mornings?

What’s your go-to morning meal?

Dan Chabert, writing from Copenhagen, Denmark, Dan is an entrepreneur, husband and ultramarathon distance runner. He spends most of his time on runnerclick.com, monicashealthmag.com and nicershoes.com. He has been featured on runner blogs all over the world.

Three of the Many Benefits of Cherry Juice

There are currently more than 160 college and professional teams that use cherry juice, specifically the brand Cheribundi, as a recovery aid for their athletes. The following is a list of the health benefits of all the natural, gluten-free, and kosher tart cherry juice.

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Photo Credit: http://cheribundi.com

Over 50 scientific studies support that the tart cherry juice in Cheribundi has the following benefits:

Athletic Recovery

Decreased Muscle Soreness – Antioxidants in tart cherries fight inflammation-causing enzymes, reducing muscle soreness after workouts.

Faster Recovery – Antioxidants work to reduce inflammation and exercise induced oxidative stress, aiding in the recovery of muscle function, which speeds up recovery.

Pain and Inflammation Management

Reducing inflammation – which may cause physical pain.

Managing pain – associated with common ailments such as arthritis and gout.

Improved Sleep

Increased Sleep Time – Melatonin in tart cherries helps regulate your body’s sleep cycle naturally

Improved Sleep Quality – The combination of melatonin and anthocyanins in tart cherries help promote deeper, more restful sleep resulting in better focus, mood, and productivity.

Additional Reading

Read The Science Behind the Benefits of Cherry Juice

What to Eat on the Paleo Diet

Have you heard about the advantages of the Paleo Diet but still don’t comprehend it? Are you overwhelmed by the vast ocean of information about this Diet? Do you just want a simple solution to get started on the Paleo Diet?

Our guest writer Paul Vandyken has made a visual, clear and super simple guide to what you should eat and not eat on a Paleo diet. Enjoy!

Paul Vandyken is a personal trainer, nutrition coach. His personal website is RigorFitness.com. His blog has articles, videos, and pictures with tips, tricks about fitness, nutrition, and healthy lifestyle. If you are on the journey to your healthy and happy lifestyle, visiting his blog may worth a look or even help you enhance your process.

Some of the Unexpected Benefits of Beet Juice

If climbing Mount Everest is on your bucket list, you may want to add beet juice to your grocery shopping list. A recent study by Bakker et al. published in Nitric Oxide suggests that drinking beet juice may help prevent symptoms of altitude sickness like headache, fatigue, nausea, shortness of breath, poor appetite, and insomnia.

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Photo Credit: https://crudojuicery.com

The onset of high altitude illness occurs when your brain and other body tissues are starved for oxygen. As elevation increases the partial pressure of oxygen in the air decreases, meaning there is simply less pressure to move the oxygen from the air into our lungs, blood, and body tissues. Standing atop Everest at 8848 meters (29,029 ft) would feel like you were breathing 6% less oxygen than compared to sea level! Beet juice is a natural source of inorganic nitrates, which are metabolized inside the body to nitric oxide.

Nitric Oxide is essential for normal functioning of the vasculature and is a potent vasodilator, allowing for greater blood flow and oxygen delivery to tissues. Bakker and colleagues hypothesized that drinking beet juice might prevent the reduction in artery function that typically occurs at high altitudes. Their study participants drank either beet juice or a placebo and ascended from 1370 m elevation to 4200 m elevation. As expected, participants on the placebo experienced a decline in artery function, measured by an ultrasound test called flow mediated dilation (FMD). Amazingly, when participants drank the beet juice the altitude-induced drop in FMD was prevented! In addition to increased NO production and vasodilation, beet juice might also help prevent altitude sickness by improving the efficiency of oxygen usage within the mitochondria of the cells.

Researchers have found that the body can produce more energy per molecule of oxygen consumed when supplemented with beet juice. The application of this finding has been tested among athletes who have consistently shown the ability to race faster in time trial style events and to go longer before reaching exhaustion by adding beet juice to their pre-competition regimens.

Therefore, if you are an athlete competing at high elevation, you really want to get on the (beet) juice. If you plan on hiking, skiing, or climbing mountains, the safest way to acclimatize to the altitude is to ascend slowly. Your body has natural compensation mechanisms that help you adjust to the “thinner air.” However, it can take weeks before these fully kick in. To boost your body’s acclimatization process, prevent high altitude illness, and feel as spry as a mountain goat in the Andes, follow these dietary strategies:

• Eat at least 8 servings of vegetables and fruits per day, especially leafy greens and berries which are high in micronutrients and antioxidants.

• Avoid high-fat and heavily salted foods, as they can actually impair arterial function by slowing blood flow and decreasing NO production.

• Drink enough fluid to ensure adequate hydration but do not over-hydrate. The best way to monitor fluid status is by the color of your urine which should be clear to pale yellow in color without any foul odor.

• Avoid alcohol which can interfere with respiratory function and disrupt normal sleeping patterns.

• Pack BeetPerformer Beet Juice in your backpack and drink a can daily to wash down your GORP (Good Old Raisins & Peanuts).

Tara Martine, MS, RD, LDN is the Health Promotion Registered Dietitian at Tyndall Air Force Base and the female overall winner of the 2014 Savannah Rock N’ Roll Marathon.  Tara earned her BS in mathematics from The College of William and Mary.  She holds a Master’s degree in nutrition from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  She is a member of The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics as well as the Sports, Cardiovascular, and Wellness Nutrition practice group.  Her areas of expertise include sports nutrition, weight loss, and plant-based nutrition.

Understanding the Difference Between Types of Carbohydrates

Carbohydrates can seem confusing – some are considered “good” while others are deemed “bad.”

Dr. Neal Malik, MPH, RDN, CHES, EP-C, a core faculty member at the School of Natural Health Arts & Sciences at Bastyr University in California, explains that processed carbohydrates (sometimes called refined carbohydrates) are lacking fiber, as well as many important nutrients such vitamins and minerals. Consuming these processed carbohydrates may lead to a spike in blood sugar, and is often associated with a number of chronic conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

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Photo Credit: http://foodstantly.com

It’s tough for even the most health conscious eaters to know for sure which carbohydrates to avoid, and which can have great health benefits. Dr. Malik breaks it down below:

  • DO incorporate whole grains into your diet. These include whole grain breads, pastas, cereals, brown or wild rice and quinoa. They are minimally processed and therefore provide more nutrients and fiber than their refined counterparts.
  • DON’T drink soda. Most people forget that sodas are full of carbohydrates. They’re main ingredient is sugar, which is an extremely processed carb!
  • DO eat lots of beans and legumes. These foods contain plenty of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals. They can also increase feelings of satiety, helping you feel fuller for longer.
  • DON’T sip on fruit juice. One whole orange is not equal to one glass of orange juice, so you are getting several times the recommended serving amount without the satiety. Even 100% fruit juice contains fructose (a sugar and therefore carbohydrate) which is absorbed and processed by the body quicker than if one were to eat a whole fruit.
  • DO eat sweet potatoes. The bright orange color signifies that these carbohydrates are a wonderful source of Vitamin A and fiber.

Additional Reading

Why We Get Fat by Gary Taubes.

The Art and Science of Low Carbohydrate Living by Jeff Volek, PhD, Stephen Phimmey, MD

The A to Z Weight Loss Study: The Battle of the Diets

This is a great video on a 12-month randomized study that was done at Stanford University by Christopher Gardner, PhD, Abby King, PhD and colleagues on some of the popular diet books that out there. If you have tried (or are thinking about trying) either the Atkins, Zone or Dean Ornish Diet at some point I would highly recommend watching the video and reading the white paper seen in JAMA. The amount of weight loss during the study was a modest 2% to 5% from baseline. Those subjects who followed the Atkins diet did have more weight loss than the other three groups. For the complete results published in the JAMA paper click here.

Reference

The A to Z Weight Loss Study: A Randomized Study. JAMA, 297(9): 969-977, 2007.

5 Heart-Healthy Superfoods that Should be Included in Your Diet

Heart disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. February’s Heart Health Month is the perfect time to incorporate heart healthy foods into your diet. A nutritious diet can be as good for your heart as it is your waistline and you might be surprised at some of the top heart healthy foods. With the below infographic from Medifast, you can get a jump-start on heart health and enjoy five top superfoods!

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Can Exercise Help Eating Disorder Sufferers?

The term ‘eating disorder’ sends a shudder of horror through every modern parent. The spiralling obsession with physical perfection, egged on by an insidiously dangerous online community [1] is seeing more and more of our young people fall prey to the world’s deadliest mental illnesses. Anorexia and bulimia claim hundreds of lives worldwide each year, and it’s estimated that over half of all Americans personally know someone suffering from an eating disorder [2]. And it’s getting worse. While the world scrambles to apportion blame [3] and agonize over causes, treatment for eating disorders remains a touch-and-go issue. It has been proposed that exercise could be introduced as a healthier means of helping those suffering from eating disorders – but this is a controversial treatment which would need a lot of fine-management to bring about correctly. Here, we explore the pros and cons of exercise programs for those suffering from eating disorders.

Cons

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Source: http://eating-disorders.emedtv.com

Let’s start with the problematic aspects of putting eating disorder sufferers onto an exercise regime. The major issue with many eating disorders is that the sufferer prioritizes their appearance (or how they perceive their appearance to be) over their physical health. They thus take things which, if done correctly, can be quite healthy – i.e. a calorie controlled diet – to dangerous extremes in the pursuit of physical perfection. If one attempts to wean a bulimic or an anorexic off an excessively restrictive diet and onto exercise as a form of weight control instead, one runs the risk of creating a mindset which abuses exercise in quite as dangerous a manner as the initial extreme dieting. Nasty complications [4] can arise just as much from someone who purges calories through excessive exercise as through vomiting and laxatives. Conditions like ‘Exercise Bulimia’ [5], ‘Exercise Addiction’, and even ‘Bigorexia’ are becoming increasingly recognized within the medical community. The bottom line is: if some is willing to sacrifice physical health for a certain physique, then recommending exercise as an alternative method of achieving that physique is not likely to have particularly positive long-term results. However, if the patient undertakes the exercise in order to improve their health and wellbeing (rather than to sculpt their body), then they can gain a good deal of benefit. The crucial factor is the attitude with which the exercise is performed.

Pros

As everyone is well aware, exercise has a plethora of incredible benefits for physical health. However, for those already obsessed with weight-control and body image, it can become another dangerous tool in their body-sculpting arsenal. This is readily acknowledged by most psychologists and psychiatrists within the field. Nonetheless, studies have (cautiously) shown that – if undertaken with emphasis on health rather than looks – exercise can be an effective preventative and even intervention for those with body image issues [6]. Exercise is fantastic at improving mental health in a variety of ways [7]. It gives a natural mood boost, it helps the brain to function as it should, and it imbues participants which a kind of self-confidence which is invaluable for keeping eating disorders at bay. If exercise is encouraged for at-risk groups, with an emphasis on health rather than appearance, then it’s possible that it could improve not only the physical but the mental health of these individuals. This would in turn cause any nascent eating disorders to potentially recede. As always, however, this must be done very carefully. As soon as signs of excessively using exercise in a manner detrimental to health are spotted, then it’s very important to raise this with the professionals as soon as possible! Unfortunately, exercise in the modern mindset is associated more with physical appearance than it is with physical health. If this association can be sidelined, however, then there’s a lot of potential for eating disorder sufferers to get an enormous amount of benefit from it.

References

[1] Social Issues Research Centre, “Totally In Control – the rise of pro-ana/pro-mia websites”

[2] South Carolina Department of Mental Health, “Eating Disorder Statistics”

[3] Denis Campbell, “Stark rise in eating disorders blamed on overexposure to celebrities’ bodies”, The Guardian, Jun 2015

[4] Bulimia.com, “Medical Issues From Anorexia, Bulimia, and Other Eating Disorders”

[5] Johanna Cox, “Exercise Bulimia: How Much Is Too Much?”, Elle, Jan 2010

[6] University of Florida, “Exercise could help prevent, treat eating disorders”, Jan 2011

[7] Royal College of Psychiatrists, “Physical Activity and Mental Health”

After initially working in the health care sector helping people with diet and fitness, Jen Gillan decided to take a career break to get married and start a family, once her two children arrived she decided to take up writing in order to work from home and support her family, she now writes on a range of health and fitness topics – including mental health and wellbeing.