5 Foods to Boost Your Immune System

unnamed
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

Interview with Author, Coach & Runner Jason Karp, PhD

Here is a recent Q&A session that I had the pleasure of having with author, coach and runner, Jason Karp, PhD regarding his upcoming book, Run Your Fat Off. I have also read Jason’s previous work, The Inner Runner, which was excellent.

1) Why is running the best method to lose weight?

Because running burns more calories than any other exercise, it is weight-bearing, and it demands a great need for energy production. It is also a very sustainable strategy because running becomes a part of a person’s life. It is not a short-term fix, like so many other diet programs.

cover
Source: Jason Karp, PhD

2) What inspired you to write the book?

A couple of things: 1) I know how powerful running is as a calorie burner and long-term weight loss strategy and 2) I got sick and tired of all of the diet/weight loss propaganda by people who have little understanding of what they’re talking about. Most weight loss books are short-term fixes to a long-term problem and don’t tell people the truth about sustained weight loss.

3) What’s the secret to weight loss?

You have to read the book to find out, but to give you a hint, it is about calories consumed vs. calories burned more than any other factor, and the directing of the calories consumed into energy storage for future workouts rather than fat storage. The trick is learning how to become the director of your own calorie movie, telling those calories where to go and what to do.

4) Which is better for weight loss – long, slow cardio or short fast interval workouts?

It depends. It’s all about the calories, so it’s really a matter of math. 2 hours of long, slow running may burn more calories than 20 minutes of high-intensity running. You would have to calculate the total number of calories burned during the workout, which you can do by knowing a few numbers. I go through all the calculations in the book to answer the question.

5) But don’t high-intensity workouts cause you to burn more calories after the workout is over?

This is a big misunderstanding in the fitness industry. Although it is true that the longer and/or harder the workout, the more calories we burn afterward while our body recovers (because recovery is an aerobic, energy-using process), the number of extra calories burned is highly over-exaggerated by people in the fitness industry. It is the number of calories burned during the workout that matter more. The book discusses this myth, as well as many others.

You can purchase, Run Your Fat Off, (Reader’s Digest, 2017) by Jason Karp, PhD on Amazon.

What Affect Does Diet and BMI Have on Physical Fitness?

Introduction

Recent studies have shown that the physical fitness of an individual can be a promising indicator in measuring health and risk for outcomes such as obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, cancer, and skeletal health. (1) The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends children and adolescents between the ages of 5-17 should get at least 60 minutes a day of moderate-to vigorous-intensity physical activity. Regular physical activity is associated with many health benefits in children and can improve cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness, as well as bone health (4). It is noteworthy to promote regular physical activity because research shows that cardiorespiratory fitness levels are significantly associated with total body fat and abdominal adipose tissue. (1) Lower levels of cardiorespiratory and muscular fitness are associated with CVD risk factors. (1) And improvements in cardiorespiratory fitness have positive effects on things like depression, anxiety, self-esteem, and academic performance. (1)

Findings from a cross-sectional study done in South Carolina found that children who are obese generally spend less time in moderate and vigorous physical activity than non-obese children. (2) It also found that the energy density of a child or adolescent’s diet is directly associated with fat intake, and both energy dense high-fat diets are associated with obesity. (2) In past studies it has been suggested that reducing dietary ED by combining increased fruit and vegetable intake, as well as decreasing total fat intake, was seen to control hunger and be an effective strategy for weight loss. (3)

High-fat diets can easily turn into unhealthy diets that lead to high risk of CVD and insulin resistance, and high-fat diets generally have high energy densities. (5) According to the CDC, 1 in 6 children and adolescents is obese and obesity affects 12.7 million children and adolescents between the ages of 2-19 years old. There is a 75% predicted increase in obesity by 2018. Children who are overweight and obese are more likely to become overweight and obese as adults. (CDC) Studies have shown that for every hour of exercise a day, risk for obesity is decreased by 10%. (2) The measure of physical fitness in children and adolescents can display health as well as predict future health outcomes as an adult. (7)

The purpose of this study was to evaluate if diet and BMI of children affected physical fitness levels by using data from the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey. Energy density and total fat in the diet, as well as the BMI of the participants, were the variables used to assess performance on three important physical fitness categories, measured by the outcomes of four different physical fitness tests. The objective was to determine if BMI, energy density, and fat intake was significantly associated with physical fitness levels, and what this could mean as an outcome.

Methods

Data Source & Inclusion Criteria

The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) is a cross-sectional survey that assesses the health and nutritional status of children and adults in the US. This experiment used the NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey (NNYFS). The NNYS is a one-year, cross-sectional survey conducted by the National Center for Health Statistics in 2012. For the purpose of analysis, this was the main source of physical fitness data. It had the purpose of gathering nationally representative data that represented physical activity and fitness levels, as well as provided an evaluation of health and fitness of children and adolescents ages 3-15. Data was collected through fitness tests and interviews. The nutritional component of data in the NHANES comes from What We Eat In America (WWEIA), gathered through dietary recall from each of the participants.

This analysis included a study sample of all children and adolescents between the ages of 3-15, who participated in the 2012 NHANES National Youth Fitness Survey. However, many children between >6 years met the exclusion criteria and did not participate the physical fitness tests used in this study to evaluate fitness levels. This resulted in a final n of 1,224 participants between the ages of 6-15.

Outcome Measures

The outcome measures in this study included three categories of physical fitness. Physical fitness was evaluated through fitness tests as part of the NNYS. Participants 6-15 years old participated in fitness tests (summer 2012), which evaluated the health of each age group. The NNYFS contains examination data that evaluates body measures, cardiorespiratory endurance, cardiovascular fitness, lower body muscle strength, muscle strength, and gross motor development. For this analysis, physical fitness was measured using the following categories: cardiorespiratory endurance, core muscle strength, and upper body muscle strength.

Cardiorespiratory endurance was measured by examining fitness test results of heart rate at the end of the test (bpm) and maximal endurance time (in seconds). Core muscle strength was determined by the number of seconds plank position was held (in seconds). Upper body strength was evaluated by the number of correctly completed pull-ups the participant could do. Each exercise was assessed in regards to BMI, energy density, and total fat.

Demographic Characteristics and Potential Confounding Variables

In order to assess if physical fitness was affected, variables of BMI, energy density (kcal), and total fat (gm) were used. The NHANES gathered data of total nutrient intakes from dietary interviews given by well-trained professionals. The dietary intake data can be used to estimate the types and amounts of food (as well as beverages) consumed throughout the past 24-hours. In the NHANES, body mass index (BMI) was calculated as weight in kilograms divided by height in meters squared (rounded to one decimal place). In order to analyze BMI as a categorical variable (BMI Category), sex-specific BMI quartiles were created from body mass index data and cutoff criteria from the CDC’s sex-specific 2000 BMI-for-age growth charts. BMI category provided four quartiles: 1) Underweight, 2) Normal weight, 3) Overweight, and 4) Obese.

Energy density and total fat were variables used to measure diet of children and adolescents. Dietary intake for energy density and total fat was measured using 24-hour recalls. To account for confounding factors, which occur when the outcome is influenced by a third factor, data from the NHANES regarding age, gender, race and income were used as covariates and all models run were adjusted according to this. What was looked at was whether energy, total fat, and BMI were significantly (inversely) associated with a decrease in physical fitness of children and adolescents.

Statistical Measures Used

Data from the NHANES was analyzed using SAS University Edition (SAS Institute, Cary, NC). To examine if there was a significant association of physical fitness levels with BMI and energy density / total fat intake, the PROC REG procedure was used. PROC REG procedure was used to analyze significance, if any, in upper body muscle strength (pull-ups), core muscle strength (plank), and cardiorespiratory endurance (heart rate, maximal endurance time). These models were adjusted for age in years at exam, race, and gender, and significance was determined with a value of p<0.05. BMI Category was analyzed using the GLM procedure to predict an outcome based on a categorical variable. Graphical data shown below is the performance outcomes based on the data from results of the GLM procedure of BMI category and the specific physical fitness exercises.

Results

The data obtained from this study indicates that there was a significant inverse relationship observed between diet / BMI and various aspects of physical fitness of children and adolescents. There was a significant negative association of energy density in pull-ups (p=0.0458) and heart rate at the end of test (p=0.0195). Total fat intake had a significant inverse affect on heart rate (p=0.0404).

BMI was the most significant factor in affecting physical fitness. Children who are overweight/obese have less upper body strength than non-obese children. The mean number of pull-ups was approximately 5. Children who are obese completed on average almost 4 less pull-ups than children who are of normal weight (see figure 1).

Figure 1.

julia-paper
Source: Julia Wood

Children who are overweight/obese exhibit lower levels of cardiorespiratory endurance than normal weight children. Maximal endurance time was measured in seconds and measures the amount of time the actual exercise test takes (does not include warm up or recovery). The mean maximal endurance time was 650 seconds. Children who were overweight/obese were not able to perform the exercise test as long as those of normal weight. Overweight children lasted about 632 seconds, while obese children only lasted about 551 seconds, compared to normal weight children who could last approximately 632 seconds.

Children with a higher BMI have a lower level of cardiorespiratory endurance. The mean heart rate at the end of the test was 220 beats per minute (bpm). A non-obese child of normal weight had a heart rate of 249 bpm, while an overweight child had a heart rate of 208 bpm and an obese child had a heart rate of 209 bpm.

Children with a higher BMI display lower levels of core muscle strength. The plank is an exercise that assesses muscular endurance and core strength around the trunk and pelvis (NNYFS). Children with a normal weight had a greater ability to hold the plank position. Almost 35 seconds longer than obese children and almost 15 seconds longer than children who are overweight (see Figure 2).

Figure 2.

coremuscle
Source: Julia Wood

Strengths and Limitations

 In light of the results from this analysis, it is important to note the strengths as well as limitations. Strengths of using the NNYFS include the fact that it is a cross-sectional study that represents physical fitness levels and health of US children and adolescents as a whole. This means that the results can be applied to the entire population of US children and adolescents. Results show that there is a prevalence of low physical fitness levels in children and adolescents who have high BMI and an increased intake of high-fat/energy dense diets. From this analysis, the simple promotion of increased physical activity as well has healthy diets can be put out into the public in hopes of slowing the obesity epidemic and better health in children.

There are some weaknesses to this research. Diet factors of energy density and total fat were used in this study. Data was acquired for these two factors by dietary recall, so there is a possibility of recall bias. Also, the NHANES National Youth Fitness survey is of a cross-sectional survey design, so although analysis can point out prevalence stemming from results, it cannot determine causality. This study also uses two physical fitness tests that somewhat depend on weight/body mass. Pull-ups as well as plank exercises may be subject to influence based on body weight, which could skew results.

Conclusion

Our findings from this study indicate that a child or adolescent’s BMI and diet affect his or her performance on physical fitness tests. Children and adolescents who are overweight or obese (85th-95th percentile or >95th percentile) are seen to have lower levels of cardiorespiratory endurance, upper body muscular strength, and core muscle strength. High BMI was seen to negatively affect physical fitness the most and was more significant than any other factor (p<.001).

There is a significant inverse association between energy dense / high-fat diets and various aspects of cardiorespiratory endurance and upper body strength. Physical fitness is a marker of health and can predict health as an adult. Regular physical activity of at least 60 minutes a day for children and adolescents promotes health and fitness and may help to prevent obesity. Strategies promoting healthy eating may also slow the obesity epidemic.

References

  1. Ortega, F. B., Ruiz, J. R., Castillo, M. J., & Sjöström, M. (2008). Physical fitness in childhood and adolescence: a powerful marker of health. International journal of obesity, 32(1), 1-11.
  2. Ebbeling, C. B., Pawlak, D. B., & Ludwig, D. S. (2002). Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure. The lancet, 360(9331), 473-482.
  3. Ello-Martin, J. A., Roe, L. S., Ledikwe, J. H., Beach, A. M., & Rolls, B. J. (2007). Dietary energy density in the treatment of obesity: a year-long trial comparing 2 weight-loss diets. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 85(6), 1465-1477.
  4. Janssen, I., & LeBlanc, A. G. (2010). Systematic review of the health benefits of physical activity and fitness in school-aged children and youth. International journal of behavioral nutrition and physical activity, 7(1), 1.
  5. Guldstrand, M. C., & Simberg, C. L. (2007). High-fat diets: healthy or unhealthy?. Clinical Science, 113(10), 397-399.
  6. Schrauwen, P., & Westerterp, K. R. (2000). The role of high-fat diets and physical activity in the regulation of body weight. British Journal of Nutrition, 84(04), 417-427.
  7. Harper, M. G. (2006). Childhood obesity: strategies for prevention. Family & community health, 29(4), 288-298.

Julia Wood is a senior at Fairfield University in Connecticut where she is preparing to graduate in May 2017 with a degree in Biology and minor in Health Studies. Julia was a 4-year member of the Fairfield women’s D1 cross-country team.

How One Small Change this Year Could Have a Significant Impact on Your Overall Health

If you’re looking to make one change this year that in turn will have the biggest impact on your overall health, then start looking at the amount of added sugar you’re consuming. All the exercise that you’re doing is great but simply cutting back on your daily added sugar consumption, in conjunction with moving more, is the key to effectively changing your body composition and improving your overall health.

large
Source: http://www.heart.org

To help keep you motivated, take a waist and hip circumference measurement and look at what is known as the waist-to-hip ratio (WHR). Check this every 8-12 weeks and monitor changes. Research has demonstrated that there is a direct correlation with added sugar consumption, overall health and WHR.

“The WHO defines the ratios of >9.0 in men and >8.5 in women as one of the decisive benchmarks for metabolic syndrome. Welborn and Dahlia (2007) and Srikanthan, Seeman, and Karlamangla (2009) confirm, and cite several other investigations that show waist-to-hip ratio being the superior clinical measurement for predicting all cause and cardiovascular disease mortality.”  (Kravitz)

Look to put yourself (and family) on a sugar budget at the start of the new year. Its difficult to totally remove it from your diet but if you begin to monitor it on a daily basis, you’ll be amazed first, how prevalent it is and secondly, as you slowly begin to take it away you won’t crave it as much after a week or two.

Start by reading all food labels and cut back on the processed foods. You need to first get educated on where sugar “hides” and then start to cut back. Keep in mind there are more than 50 different names for sugar, avoid anything that ends in “ose” or contains high-fructose corn syrup etc. Choose better food options for you and your family and begin to replace the high sugar foods today. This is from a recent tweet of mine:

A simple concept that I follow for myself and my (male) clients is to consume no more than 150 calories a day from added sugar which equates to 38 grams (which is what you can start to keep track of or “budget” on a daily basis). Keep in mind that carbohydrates contain 4 calories/gram of energy (4/150 = 38 grams). Women on that same line should consume no more than 100 calories a day from added sugar which figures out to 25 grams a day (4/100 = 25 grams).

There are two types of sugars, natural sugar and added sugar. The conversation today is not about natural sugars (like fruit, milk, cheese, etc.) it’s about added sugar, which is everything you may have been eating that comes out of a package, box, carton or can.

If you need a little more convincing on the topic, take time to read Gary Taubes latest book, The Case Against Sugar, which I highly recommend.

Follow this one health tip and you will not only see noticeable changes – you’ll also avoid having a negative impact on your metabolism, the way all fad diets invariably do.

References

Welborn, T.A. and Dhaliwal, S.S. (2007). Preferred clinical measures of central obesity for predicting mortality. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 61, 1373-1379.

Srikanthan, P., Seeman, T.E., and Karlamangla, A.S. (2009). Waist-hip-ratio as a predictor of all-cause mortality in high-functioning older adults. Annals of Epidemiology, 19, 724-731.

Taubes, G., (2017) The Case Against Sugar, Random House.

How Diet and Exercise Helps You Fight Disease

There are days where you may wonder – does all the time I spend on exercising and attention I give to my diet even matter? Will I receive health benefits even though the bathroom scale, at times, may not change and my expectations are rarely met?

There is plenty of evidence that shows diet and exercise does in fact have a positive association with various health outcomes. They can help fight off or retard many diseases such as diabetes, heart disease and Alzheimer’s disease.

healthy-living
Photo Credit: http://johnfawkes.com/

New research out of UCLA Semel Institute for Neuroscience and Human Behavior has demonstrated that both diet (a Mediterranean diet) and physical fitness can determine whether or not you’ll be a victim of the disease. The study has shown that:

“healthy diet, regular physical activity, and a normal body mass index–also known as a BMI, or weight-to-height ratio–can actually reduce the incidence of protein build-ups correlated with onset of Alzheimer’s disease.”

There are around 5.2 million people in the United States that currently suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and an estimated $200 billion is spent on trying to cure this condition annually. The research from UCLA and other research groups proves, rather unsurprisingly, that “prevention and a healthy lifestyle are actually far more effective than reactive action to disease.”

As you get ready to enter another new year, take stock in the fact that the time and attention spent on your exercise and diet will, in the long run, will pay back strong dividends.

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!

picture-16
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.

Four Things We Need to Focus More on

It can be a challenging process for many when attempting to follow the latest diet plan or exercise program claiming various health benefits. There is an easy way to cut through all the rhetoric regarding these types of diet plans and so-called healthy programs by simply getting more of the following each day: sleep, spinach, steps and strength. Here are some of the health benefits when you get more of each on a regular basis.

GET MORE SLEEP: Sleep should be first on everyone’s list of things to try to get more of because when you’re deficient in it, everything from how you feel to what you eat is affected negatively. Research has shown that people who get less than six hours of sleep a night have higher blood levels of inflammatory proteins than those who get more than 6 hours of sleep.

This is important because inflammation is linked to diabetes, stroke, heart disease, arthritis, and premature aging, according to data published in the Centers for Disease and Control and Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Research conducted in 2004 has shown that sleep deprivation can enhance the release of specific peptides in the body that produce hunger. Men that slept only four hours each night for two days witnessed a decrease in specific hormones such as leptin and an increase in ghrelin compared with men who slept ten hours during that same time period. Leptin is an appetite suppressant hormone that is produced by adipose (fat) tissue, and ghrelin is released from the stomach in response to someone fasting and promotes the feeling of hunger. The hormone leptin acts on the central nervous system, most notably the hypothalamus, by not only suppressing food intake but stimulating energy expenditure as well. Ghrelin levels typically increase before meals and decrease after meals. This particular hormone stimulates appetite as well as fat production and can lead to increased food intake and a gain in body weight. A second study from the University of Pennsylvania Sleep and Chronobiology Laboratory looked at the sleeping and eating behavior of 225 people. They reported in the journal Sleep, when you’re awake between the hours of 10 p.m. and 4 a.m., you’re more likely to consume extra calories. The group ate, on average, an additional 553 calories typically choosing foods higher in fat when they were kept awake until the early morning hours. So  you may want to start getting more Z’s beginning tonight. A good tip is to eliminate all caffeinated products by early afternoon if you typically have trouble sleeping.

Recommended reading: The Promise of Sleep by William Dement, MD, Dell Publishers, 2000.

Research study: A Prospective Study of Change in Sleep Duration: Associations with Mortality in the Whitehall II Cohort, Sleep, 2007.

benefits-of-sleep
Photo Credit: http://www.12keysrehab.com

EAT MORE SPINACH: Eating more of a plant-based diet, including spinach, would in fact be a good thing for all of us. There is a 32 percent less chance of getting heart disease on a plant-based diet. Spinach is considered at the top of the healthiest vegetable list for nutrient richness. Not only is it rich in vitamins and minerals, it also has an abundance of health-promoting phytonutrients such as carotenoids and flavonoids to provide you with powerful antioxidant protection. In one study on the relationship between the risk of prostate cancer and vegetable intake — including the vegetables spinach, broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussels sprouts, collards, and kale — “only spinach showed evidence of significant protection against the occurrence of aggressive prostate cancer.” If you’re interested in trying to eat cleaner, healthier and more of a plant-based diet, like we were, than the Boston-based food delivery service Purple Carrot may be just what the doctor ordered. Visit Purple Carrot and use the promo code “koko” for a $25 discount on your first order.

Recommended reading: What to Eat by Marion Nestle, North Point Press, 2006 and Always Hungry? David Ludwig, MD, PhD, 2016.

Research study: Nutritional Update for Physicians: Plant-Based Diets, 2013.

purplecarrot_logo_long-web-01-1
Photo Credit: Purple Carrot (https://purplecarrot.com). Use promo code: “koko” for a $25 discount on your first delivery.

GET MORE STEPS: The odds are that you have heard the old adage “use it or lose it” more than once. It can be a good idea to do a reset, especially before the upcoming Holiday season that is about to take over your life and have a goal of changing your mindset regarding daily activity. The fact is if you’re not finding the time to stay active as you age, your body will slowly begin to “shut down.” When this begins to happens over time – everything from energy levels to metabolism to aerobic capacity to strength – are effected and slowly begin to decrease. Simply getting out for a walk/run/hike will help offset those areas and more. Hippocrates once said, “walking is a man’s best medicine.” To find out if his 2,400 year-old remark was actually valid, two scientists from University College London performed a meta-analysis of research published between 1970 and 2007 in peer-reviewed journals. After studying more than 4,000 research papers, they identified 18 studies that met their high standards for quality. These overall studies evaluated 459,833 test-subjects who were absent of cardiovascular disease at the start of the investigation. The subjects were followed for an average of 11.3 years, during which cardiovascular events (i.e. heart attacks and deaths) were recorded. Their meta-analysis makes a strong case for the benefits of good old walking. The group of studies showed that walking reduced the risk of cardiovascular events by 31 percent, and decreased the risk of dying during the time of the study by 32 percent. A good tool for your tool box is to wear a pedometer to make you more aware of your daily activity via daily steps. Find your 3-day average for steps and start adding 500-1000 steps/week until you’re in the 7,500 to 10,000 steps ball park. For additional information on the benefits of pedometers look into my TBC4 Plan.

Recommended reading: The Step Diet, by James Hill, PhD et al., Workman Publishing, 2004 and Move a Little, Lose a Lot by James Levine, MD, PhD, Three Rivers Press, 2009.

GET STRONGER: There is no way around it, you need to get stronger and maintain strength as you age. Getting and staying stronger as you age will help you hold onto your functional ability. The only way to “hold on” to your strength is work on getting stronger now by becoming more active and sticking with strength training for the rest of your life! An area that is often neglected, when it comes to strength, is grip strength. Research has shown for a long time now that elevated grip strength level is associated with increased longevity. In addition to grip strength, focus on getting your big muscle groups stronger, like your back, buttock and legs.

According to research, individuals who did not strength train lost about 5 to 7 pounds of muscle every ten years and the by-product of this was a reduction in their metabolism by about 50 calories a day. As you grow older, the loss of muscle becomes more pronounced and by the time you reach the age of 70, the muscular system has experienced a 40 percent loss of muscle mass and a 30 percent decrease in strength. With the loss of muscle mass comes the loss of strength and power. A person’s balance, mobility and functionality are also compromised. Strength appears to peak between the ages of 25 and 35 and is maintained or slightly lower between ages 40 and 59 and then declines by 12-14 percent per decade after 60 years of age, according to research published by Doherty in 2001.

Research study: Prognostic value of grip strength: findings from the Prospective Urban Rural Epidemiology (PURE) study, Lancet, 2015.

References

Doherty TJ, (2001). The influence of aging and sex on skeletal muscle mass and strength. Curr Opin Clin Nutr Metab Care 4:503-508.

Centers for Disease and Control and Morbidity and Mortality Report.

Nedeltcheva AV, et al., (2010). Insufficient Sleep Undermines Dietary Efforts to Reduce Adiposity. Annals Internal Medicine 153, 435-441.

Spiegel, K. et. al, (2004). Sleep Curtailment in Healthy Young Men is Associated with Decreased Leptin Levels, Elevated Ghrelin Levels, and Increased Hunger and Appetite. Annals of Internal Medicine, 141: (11) 846-85.

Rogers, M. A. and Evans, W. J. (1993). Changes in skeletal muscle with aging: Effects of exercise training. In J. O. Holloszy (Ed), Exercise and Sport Science Reviews. Baltimore: Williams and Wilkins.

The Total Body Conditioning Plan, Wood, M, (2016).

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.

home_group3-ecommerce8-29
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

Fitness for Recovery: 15 Workouts That Saved My Life

Exercise can be an incredible asset to those who are recovering from substance abuse and addiction.

As a recovering addict and as the owner of several successful rehabilitation facilities, I know the importance of exercise. Below I share my responses to some of the frequently asked questions I receive about recovery and fitness and explain how exercise helped me and countless others recover from addiction.

proper-running-form
Photo Credit: http://strengthrunning.com

How does exercise help addicts in recovery? Research has proven that a fitness routine can benefit recovering addicts. Substance abuse wreaks havoc on the mind, body, and spirit. Exercise is one of the few treatment options that helps mend all three of those aspects at once.

Exercise relieves stress, which in turn, helps create a positive outlook on life. When addicts begin to see and feel improvement, they gain a sense of pride and confidence. This feeling of wellbeing can produce similar effects to meditation, creating the right state of mind for recovery. Additionally, research shows that exercise helps rebalance brain chemistry. Often, drugs and alcohol have altered the brain’s functioning, and exercise can return the imbalance to normal levels.

What exercises would you recommend for recovering addicts? I have seen the benefits of exercise for recovering addicts, first hand. The following workouts played a role in my recovery and the recovery of countless others:

  1. Walking: Starting out slow is essential to any fitness routine, especially for individuals have experienced the trauma of substance abuse. Start with a brisk 20-30 minute walk every day.
  2. Jogging: Once you have built up enough stamina, start jogging. Getting your heart pumping will help return the body to its natural state.
  3. Swimming: The fluidity and weightlessness of swimming helps addicts find an inner peace and calmness after each workout.
  4. Yoga: helps individuals concentrate on every small movement of their bodies, while focusing on proper breathing techniques. For many, this helps restore balance to the mind, body, and spirit.
  5. Tennis: is a great way to work out any inner feelings of anger. Importantly, you don’t always need a partner, just a ball, racket, and a solid wall.
  6. Abdominal Exercises: Focusing on the abs is a great way to strengthen your core. This produces a sense of vigor that can radiate throughout your body.
  7. Hiking: Nothing is more soothing than connecting with nature. Hiking can be a great cardio workout, but can also help build a relationship with the outside world.
  8. Kayaking: Kayaking combines the weightlessness of swimming with the peacefulness of hiking, creating inner strength and a sense of calmness.
  9. Weight Lifting: Weight lifting is a great way to track physical progress and, therefore, build self-confidence.
  10. Team Sports: Sports such as soccer or basketball are a great way to improve communication skills and become part of something that is bigger than yourself. It is also a good way to introduce healthy competition into your life.
  11. Martial Arts: There is no better way to built discipline and focus than through martial arts, such as karate or Tae Kwan Do.
  12. Pilates: Like yoga, Pilates can help create a sense of calm, while also strengthening your body.
  13. Biking: Cycling is a great way to build muscle, while also satisfying your sense of adventure.
  14. Golf: While it may not seem very strenuous, golf helps build discipline. It is also a great time to practice stress control.
  15. Dancing: There is no better way to introduce fun into your fitness routine than with dance.

Per Wickstrom is the founder and CEO of Best Drug Rehabilitation, one of the top holistic rehabilitation centers in the country. He found sobriety after a decades-long struggle with addiction and has since dedicated his life and career to helping others find the same life-affirming success he has. For more information, visit PerWickstrom.com, check out Per’s blog or connect with him on Twitter or Facebook.