A recent report from the Journal of the American Heart Association cautions that calcium supplements may be detrimental to heart health. The report analyzed 10 years of medical tests on cardiac patients and found that those who took calcium supplements were more likely to have an excess of plaque buildup in their arteries. The report indicated that participants who received calcium through food did not have an increased risk of developing heart disease. I often see patients that are taking multiple supplements and have the “more is better!” mentality, but that is not always true.
Although calcium is important, is a supplement really necessary? Can you get the recommended amount of calcium through food? Absolutely! Our bodies respond to and utilize nutrients, vitamins, and minerals found in food far better than those found in supplements. An added bonus of achieving calcium needs through food are the other nutrients, vitamins, and minerals the food naturally contains. As seen in the table below, many breakfast cereals are fortified with calcium, so this combined with milk may help you quickly achieve a good portion of calcium needs!
Men and women 19-50 years of age have a recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 1,000 mg calcium daily.
Men ages 51-70 years are recommended to have 1,000 mg daily and women 1,200 mg daily. 1,200 mg/day becomes the recommended amount for both men and women ages 71 and older.
For many people, the holidays are a season of happiness, celebration, and family gatherings. For those who have experienced loss, the glimmer of holiday lights and decorations can evoke feelings of loneliness and sadness, reflecting on memories of past times. How can we celebrate a holiday while also mourning the loss of someone close to us? Here are some tips for getting through the season for facing grief during the holiday season.
Typically during the holidays, we can predict the days that will be most difficult for us. Do your best to plan ahead; set aside some time alone if necessary or schedule your trip to the cemetery. If you know certain parts of the holiday won’t be the same, create new traditions or incorporate times of remembrance.
Externalize your grief:
Grief.com has some positive ideas about how to mark the loss of a loved one. Some of these ideas include lighting a candle or saying a prayer for the loved one before the holiday meal. You may also choose to include others by having everyone share a positive memory or funny story about the person.
Take a break:
Grief.com also suggests cancelling the holiday. The beauty of holidays is that they come back every year, so if you decide you need a year off from hosting Thanksgiving dinner or you are just not up for traveling this December, take some time off. It is important to remember that any feeling shouldn’t remain stored up inside. Choosing to cancel or postpone a holiday celebration is not selfish but rather a positive form of self-care.
It is important to remember that the holidays are a time of celebration but can also be a time of difficulty. Be aware of your own feelings and also the feelings of others. Don’t be afraid to reach out to a loved one who may be struggling this holiday season and be sure to take care of yourself.
‘Tis the season for pumpkins! It’s hard not to notice the end caps at the grocery store that display pumpkin cookies, pumpkin donuts, pumpkin bread…the list goes on! Even coffee chains and fast food restaurants advertise pumpkin coffees and other items. Although these once-a-year items are a treat for those of us who look forward to them, many contain very little pumpkin and therefore contain very little nutrients that pumpkin provides. So what is the health punch in pumpkin?
The vibrant color orange in pumpkin comes from beta-carotene, which is converted to vitamin A in the body. Vitamin A is essential for vision as it helps the retina absorb and process light. Just 1 cup of pumpkin provides 200% of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A. Beta-carotene has also been linked to healthy skin, as it helps protect the skin from harmful UV rays.
Healthy weight/digestive health
Pumpkin is a helpful aid in weight loss or weight maintenance. It is very concentrated in fiber, which keeps us fuller for longer which helps to prevent overconsumption at meals and excessive snacking. Fiber is also essential for a healthy digestive tract. I cup of canned pumpkin has about 7 grams of fiber, which is more fiber than 2 slices of some bread!
Consistent vitamin C intake has been linked to a stronger immune system and may help prevent colds or help us recover from colds more quickly. Pumpkin is an excellent source of vitamin C and can be eaten as a natural immunity booster!
How can pumpkin be incorporated into recipes? Add canned pumpkin to smoothies! It will add to the smooth texture and will also provide an array of nutrients. Pumpkin bars can be made with minimal sugar and cinnamon and nutmeg for strong flavoring agents. Lastly, canned pumpkin can be used to make creamy soup topped with pumpkin seeds for a bowl filled with fiber that will keep you fuller for longer!
Recently, I was asked about the importance of recovery snacks after a workout and if they help with weight loss. Refueling after a workout is important regardless of your exercise or fitness goals and in some cases, it may be the difference between making huge gains in the gym or not. Whether your focus for working out is on weight loss, muscle building or even improved body composition, a post-workout snack can complement all of these goals.
Why is it important to eat after a workout?
While we know how important exercise is for fitness, many of us are unaware of how significant the recovery process is for health and weight loss. It is important to re-nourish your muscles and metabolism following a workout as this will allow you to A) refuel your engines and repair muscle tissue and B) obtain the capability to exercise just as hard for your next workout.
Think of your body and muscles in terms of how you treat your car. Eating frequently throughout day is equivalent to making pit stops and refueling your gas tank. Just like your vehicle, constant refueling keeps your metabolism going. You wouldn’t run your car out of gas, so why would you run your body out of fuel? When you exercise, you are revving up your metabolic engine and this can cause your body to burn up gas even faster. Missing that opportunity to refuel post-workout puts you at risk of draining your metabolic gas tank. Remember, it doesn’t matter how expensive, how brand new or how many options your car has. A car without gas is useless to you. Unfortunately, the same can be said about our metabolisms. Lack of fuel and drained metabolic gas tanks can lead to decreased functioning and performance.
If you’re a science nerd like me, you’ll want a more in-depth explanation. Having a greater understanding on what happens to our bodies on a physiological-biochemical level can help motivate positive dietary behaviors. When you work out, tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle tissues as a result from repeated muscle contraction. Exercised muscle tissue is constantly adapting, meaning it is breaking down and rebuilding itself. Having a post-workout shake or snack can help initiate the repairing process. Ideally, this snack should be consumed within 30 minutes of finishing your workout, when your “metabolic window” is at its peak. During this time, one experiences increased blood flow to muscles, creating a faster delivery of nutrients. Insulin sensitivity and enzyme activity required for rebuilding and refueling tissue are also heightened after exercise. Consuming your post-workout snack during this increased hormone and enzyme-activity time frame will ensure you are properly refueling your body.
What makes a perfect post-workout snack if you’re trying to lose weight?
Regardless of your goal, the best type of snack to have post-workout is a lean protein source with quick digesting carbohydrates. The combination of the two preps your muscles to act like a sponge so they more properly absorb amino acids (proteins) and glucose (carbs). Amino acids will help rebuild and repair your muscles and glucose will refuel them with energy. Protein shakes make great post workout snacks for this reason. One could also focus on whole foods such as egg whites, lean meats or other desired lean protein source coupled with fruit, sweet potatoes or preferred starchy food. While fat is incredibly important in the diet, your post-workout snack is not the time to take a lot of it in merely because of the fact that it slows down digestion and can hinder the rapid absorption process needed to initiate protein synthesis after a workout.
Should you modify your next meal because of the post-workout snack?
Yes and no. Your first actual meal after your workout should contain a higher amount of healthy carbohydrates as compared to your other meals throughout the day. This is when I would recommend eating items such as rice, sweet potatoes and squash or whatever your favorite starch is with your protein and veggie sources. Save the salads and lower carb menu items for meals that are farther away from your workouts. In terms of calories, there is no reason to cut nutrients away from your meals to save up calories for your post-workout snack. I know it sounds counter-productive to eat what you technically just burned off, but properly re-nourishing your muscles and body will help keep your metabolism lit up all day long. Remember, a healthy metabolism is one that burns more calories overall than one that is being underfed.
Have you ever noticed how getting an unexpected laugh in the middle of a stressful workday can help relax you and lift your mood? I’ve heard it said that humor is often created by a combination of tragedy and surprise.
This makes sense when I remember an incident during a very stressful day at a previous job. After seeing several clients and trying to catch up on a ridiculous amount of paperwork, I was feeling stressed and worried about all that still needed accomplished for the day. I rushed to the front desk to pick up some papers off the printer when I saw the director of the company lean over to the speaker of our fax machine, and yell, “I’m trying to fax something to you!”. I had just witnessed his first fax attempt and it was hilarious.
Stress? Gone! Worries? Gone! Nothing seemed to matter as it had five minutes earlier.
Finding a balanced amount of humor in the workplace and in our lives in general is beneficial to our health, productivity and work relationships. On the job, humor can strengthen relationships, enhance teamwork, and when used appropriately, it can diffuse conflict.
The benefits of laughter to our physical health include a boost to immunity, decrease in pain, lower stress and relax muscles. Laughter benefits our mental health by decreasing anxiety, fear and stress, increases energy and helps you to stay focused. Humor helps you to put things into perspective and avoid feeling overwhelmed.
Some ways to find humor when you are overwhelmed by problems and stress:
When you hear laughter and when time allows, move toward it.
Laugh at yourself and share embarrassing moments
Surround yourself with pictures, posters or other reminders to lighten up.
Ask yourself if the situation is really worth being upset or upsetting others about.
I recently read an article about the declining sales of soda and the beverages that are taking their place. Bottled water sales have increased as people try to shy away from sugar-sweetened beverages, which is great news! Another beverage that is quickly taking the place of soda is tea. Although tea can be a healthier alternative, sweetened tea can be just as harmful as soda. Two cups of sugar (or more!) is commonly added to 1 gallon of iced tea! Hot teas and mixed tea drinks can be a source of added sugar as well. Two types of tea that have become popular are matcha and chai, but do these always have the health benefits we think?
A tea that has been “trending” is matcha, which is a type of green tea. It is stone-ground into powder from leaves and can be added to drinks or solid food. Many places have started adding it to drinks but it is also added to soups and even brownies! It is rich in antioxidants called polyphenols, which are linked to a variety of health benefits including anti-aging, reduction in the growth of cancer cells and improved blood pressure. Matcha combined with fruit and cow’s milk or plant-based milk is becoming a popular alternative to many sugar-loaded drinks that provide little nutritional value.
Another popular tea is masala chai, also referred to as chai tea. It is commonly brewed with black tea, although it can be made from green tea as well. It is rich in antioxidants and certain ingredients are thought to help digestion and reduce inflammation. Common ingredients and flavorings include: cardamom, chili, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and nutmeg. Some or all of these are combined with cow’s milk or plant-based milk. This can be a healthier alternative to sugar-sweetened beverages, however, this type of tea drink can have excessive sugar added as many are made with a premixed solution that has sugar. Unsweetened and lightly sweetened versions are generally available and provide about 1/3 the amount of caffeine of coffee.
Tea can be a healthier alternative used for much-needed caffeine in place of a fancy coffee drink or soda, but it can still be a concentrated source of added sugar. Key words to look for that generally mean very little to no sugar added: “unsweetened”, “fresh-brewed/steeped”, or “lightly sweetened.” When in doubt, ask when ordering!