Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Avoid the Fat Trap

A friend of mine asked me what I thought of an article by the Poliquin Editorial Staff. Anyone who knows me well knows that I don't usually give brief answers. :) I thought this article brought up some great talking points, so I am answering her in a blog post!

Great points:
* While exercise will still be beneficial in many ways, it is true that you can't negate a poor diet with exercise. If you eat more calories than you burn, you will gain weight.

* There is research that supports the idea that weight training helps with insulin sensitivity. This is a great point and helps to prevent/prolong the onset of diabetes while also helping diabetics to manage their blood sugar.

* I completely agree with not getting so caught up in the game of counting calories to lose weight. Intuitive eating (watch for a blog post on this in the future) produces a better outcome than the calorie game. We should focus more of our efforts on choosing nutrient dense foods that are high in fiber, low in saturated and trans fat, and low in sugar; and stopping eating when we are satisfied.

* All fats are not evil. Well said! Fats are important in our diet, but just like anything else, too much will kill you!

* I love the point about eliminating juice and soda! Soda is just a bunch of empty calories and juice isn't a whole lot better.

* I also love the point about avoiding all trans/partially hydrogenated oils. This is very difficult, but less is better than more when we're dealing with these fats.

* It is true that when your body is releasing a lot of insulin, it does increase the amount of fat that you store. That is an important thing to remember when you have an impaired insulin response. For normal, healthy people who have a good insulin response, your body should be able to deal with sugar pretty efficiently. For people who have an impaired insulin response, your body may need to release more and more insulin to deal with a glucose (sugar) load. This does not mean you need to cut out carbohydrates. It means that you need to eat a normal amount of carbohydrate at meals. I say this because people think that diabetics have to cut down on carbohydrates. They really just need to get back to eating a "normal" amount, which is how everyone should eat. A range, depending on your body size, activity, and sex, of about 45-60 grams per meal would be "normal". Also, choosing foods that are high in fiber and eating some fat and protein along with it helps your body to manage the glucose (sugar) load.

Points that are a little misguided:

* Americans are overweight because of the 2800 to 3000 calories eaten each day, not because they eat too many carbohydrates specifically. Everyone is always trying to blame obesity on a particular factor that they believe is evil. Although there are empty calories and calories that have a higher nutrition density, a calorie is a calorie. By this, I mean that if you eat too many calories, no matter where they come from, you will gain weight. If you eat fewer calories than you burn, you will lose weight.

* As the author said, aerobic exercise doesn't really build muscle. However, it is key to burning fat and it will create a greater calorie deficit than weight training. Weight training should be a part of an exercise regemin for numerous reasons; and it does build muscle. However, your greatest calorie burns will come from aerobic exercise.

* The author brought up the thermic effect of food, the amount of energy/calories that it takes your body to actually digest food. Just because it may take a few more calories to digest protein than carbohydrate doesn't mean it will make any significant difference. We are talking about just a few calories here. It takes 3500 calories to equal one pound of fat.

* The journal article that the author sited was used to support the point that a low-carb diet is best. What the author failed to mention was that a third diet was also used as a part of this study. The third diet was a mediterranean diet and it consisted of a healthy percentage of fat in the diet (35%). The article did not mention the percentages of protein and carbohydrate. However, considering that the diet was also high in fiber, I will assume that a fair amount of calories came from carbohydrates. All three groups lost weight, but the low-carb and mediterranean groups lost the most. All three groups had a significant decrease in waist circumference and blood pressure; however, there was no significant difference between the three groups. The low-carb group showed the highest level of ketones in the urine. From this bit of information, my thoughts are:

-Because the mediterranean group and low-carb group were similar in their weight-loss, it is difficult to conclude that reducing carbohydrates is better.
-Because the low-carb group had more ketones in the urine, I would venture to say that this diet is not the safest.
-This study only lasted two years, so remember that it does not give us any information on differences of chronic disease.
-Only 272 people completed this study.

* The author's suggestion to eliminate sugar is...well...silly. He encourages fruits and fruits have natural sugar. Anyone who says they have eliminated sugar or tells you to eliminate sugar is highly misguided. It is not unhealthy to have some natural sugar in your diet. It is also very contradictory to say that fruit is good but sugar is not. Just like anything else, too much sugar will kill you, but a little won't hurt you.

* Please do not eat 50% of your diet as fat. If you do that, likely 40% will be from protein, and only 10% from carbohydrate. How will you get all of your fiber? And this brings up a totally different set points that would make this blog post entirely too long.

Shai, I., Schwarzfuchs. D., et al. Weight Loss with a Low-Carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or Low-Fat Diet. The New England Journal of Medicine. 2008. 359(3), 229-241.

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Little Things Count

Many times I hear people say they want to lose weight, get healthy, lower their cholesterol, and fit into their clothes. For some reason, it seems like people often forget that each and every decision they make about food and activity contributes to their success or failure. When we're baking in the kitchen, those licks of the spoon and cookie crumbs don't count. We keep making excuses instead of following through on that daily exercise. We focus on the prize, but fail to make the little decisions that will make the prize a reality.

Recently I was inspired by someone who really put it beautifully. He was so caught up in the end result he was looking for that he realized he wasn't focusing on how to get there. When faced with candy or fruit, he thought to himself about how it was his decision right then and there that helped him to get a little bit closer to his goal. He explained that he realized that each and every choice that he makes impacts his success.

I'm sure to many people think this seems like common sense, and it is! Even though it is common sense, many people continue to rationalize little decisions that pile up and make a huge impact on their success or failure. Consider stepping away from the lofty goal and taking a closer look at the present moment. What can you do now to start moving in the right direction. Think about how will you make good decisions tomorrow rather than how you will fit into your favorite pants next year.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Coconut Oil: Beneficial or Just a Fad?

And so it begins, another trendy weight loss tool, or is it?

Coconut oil has recently gained popularity as a tool to improve heart health, thyroid function, the rate of metabolism, and immune funtion. Just one teaspoon of this oil contains a whopping 12 grams of saturated fat, which is the type of fat that is known to be converted into cholesterol in the body. Just because of that one detail, I was immediately skeptical of this new fad.

After doing a little bit of research on this topic, it seems that the evidence is quite weak in supporting the claims listed above. Before we throw out the copious knowledge that we have gained over the years about the dangers of saturated fat, I think we will need a lot more convincing.

Keep in mind that the American Heart Association and the National Cholesterol Education Program still recommend limiting saturated fat to no more than 7%-10% of total calories. For instance, if you are consuming an 1800 calorie diet, that would limit you to 14-20 grams of saturated fat daily. Two teaspoons of coconut oil would exceed the limit for the entire day!

Another point to remember is that you will always win with a diet very high in fruits in vegetables. They contain an unmatchable variety of vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are known to decrease the risk of heart disease and cancer. They also contain fiber which tends to help people control their body weight, stabalize blood sugar, and decrease cholesterol levels. If you're looking for something in your diet to really increase, start chomping down on all of your seasonal favorite fruits and vegetables!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Summer Vegetable Salad

1 tomato
1 avocado
1 yellow pepper
1 green pepper
2 carrots
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 Tbsp chopped fresh basil

Chop first four vegetables and mix together. Add carrot shavings, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and fresh basil. Stir and enjoy!

This recipe really is just a jumping off point. You could add any vegetables that you have sitting in your refrigerator or take away and vegetables that aren't your favorite. Also, you could experiment with different herbs. This is easy, delicious, beautiful, and a great way to use up left-over vegetables! Enjoy!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Strawberry Avocado Wraps

1 pound cooked chicken sliced in small strips
5 8" whole wheat tortillas
3 cups fresh strawberries hulled
2 tsp raspberry vinegar
2 tsp Splenda
2 Tbsp chopped fresh mint
1 avocado sliced in strips

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Chop the strawberries. I used the Pampered Chef Food Chopper, but you could also just use a knife. The strawberries should be soupy but still somewhat chunky. Stir in raspberry vinegar, Splenda, and mint. In the center of each tortilla place about 3 ounces of chicken and top with slices of avocado and about 4 tablespoons of the strawberry mixture. Fold up the bottom of the tortilla and then the two sides. Place seam down on a baking sheet or secure with toothpicks. Bake for about 10 minutes or until heated through. Enjoy!

Serves 5

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Easy Mango Salsa Over Salmon

1 Mango, chopped
1/2 Red onion, chopped
1 Tbsp minced fresh cilantro
1 Tbsp minced fresh mint
1 Tbsp lime juice
16oz Wild Salmon

Mix all ingredients. Grill, bake, or pan-fry salmon. Top with salsa.


Why wild salmon? It has a higher amount of omega-3 fatty acids than farm-raised salmon.

Think this recipe sounds expensive? Buy mango when it is on sale! Also, buy several pounds of wild salmon when it is on sale and freeze it. During the off season, you can find frozen wild salmon in many grocery stores.

Consider growing some of your favorite herbs. You just can't kill mint! I have a pot of mint that keeps coming back every year without having to do anything to it. Be sure to grow it in a pot because it will take over your yard or garden. Cilantro is also fairly easy to grow. This way you have herbs just waiting to be cut and cooked with. If you still don't feel like you are ready for this, buy the herbs and plan several recipes in the same week with those herbs. That way you'll be sure to get a lot of bang for your buck!

Looking for more gardening tips? Check out my very knowledgeable cousin's guest post!