Saturday, May 26, 2012

Another Reason to Eat Leafy Greens

Watercress is an aquatic plant known for its vivid green color and unique peppery flavor.  It has been around since ancient times and was widely used by Persians, Romans, and Greeks.  Ancient rulers found their soldiers were in better condition when watercress was part of their daily diet.  Even Hippocrates grew watercress in natural springs around his hospital and used it to treat blood disorders.  Today, watercress can be found mixed in with salads, added to sandwiches, and a main ingredient in Chinese watercress soup.

Fortified with more than 15 essential vitamins and minerals, watercress is increasingly seen as a powerful cancer-fighting superfood, with a growing body of supportive scientific studies and discoveries. In addition, watercress is one of Mother Nature’s most nutrient dense vegetable, capturing a perfect 1000 score on the ANDI nutrient density scale.  It's as close to a perfect food as there is!

Even better yet, researchers have been studying the effects of consumption of watercress and the prevention of some of the damage caused by high intensity exercise.  A recent study by scientists at Edinburgh Napier University and the University of Ulster shows watercress helps alleviate the natural stress put on our body by a workout.  Study participants were given 85 grams (amount of a small bag) of watercress daily for eight weeks and performed high intensity exercise on the treadmill.  This study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, found that "...consuming a relatively small amount of watercress each day can help raise the levels of important antioxidant vitamins which may help protect our bodies, and allow us to enjoy the rewards of keeping fit.  It's an interesting step forward in sports nutrition development and research.", according to lead researcher Dr. Mark Fogarty.  Not only did study participants benefit from the addition of watercress to their daily diet, but Dr. Fogarty and his team also found that consuming watercress just 2 hours prior to their workout experienced the same benefits as those who ate watercress for 8 weeks.

What does this mean to you?  Watercress is an antioxidant-rich food and can help protect your body from daily wear and tear.  In terms of nutrition, watercress is rich in vitamin A (from beta-carotene) and vitamin C, and is a source of folate, calcium, iron and vitamin E.  It also contains useful amounts of vitamin K, thiamin, vitamin B6, potassium and iodine and is naturally low in sodium.  Due to its high water content (93%) it is low in calories.  It contains very little carbohydrate and fat but provides some protein.  Why not add it to your daily diet?  Add this leafy green to soups, salads, and sandwiches.  Reap the benefits of this nutrition powerhouse and protect against cellular damage from your workouts.

Spend a little more time in the produce department and fill your basket with leafy greens such as watercress, kale, collard and mustard greens.  Experiment with recipes and find your taste for something new (or something old).  

Edinburgh Napier University. "Leafy greens help prevent damage caused by a workout, study suggests." ScienceDaily, 25 Apr. 2012. Web. 25 May 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

Healthy Snacking

Are you a "snacker"?  Are you one of those people who needs to eat something every couple of hours?  According to the American Dietetic Association, approximately 38% of us have an afternoon snack.  Snacking, when done properly, can be beneficial to maintaining a healthy diet and may even help with weight loss.  How, you say?  By snacking, you decrease the length of time between meals.  This may help reduce the chance of overeating at your next meal. 

Worried about overdoing it with your snacking between meals?  Keep your snacks to 200 calories or less;  unless your metabolism requires extra energy, then shoot for 200-300 calories.  Here are some healthy snacking tips from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. 
  • Think of snacks as mini-meals that contribute nutrient-rich foods.  You can fit snack calories into your personal healthy eating plan without over-spending your day’s calorie budget.
  • Snack only when you’re hungry.  Skip the urge to nibble when you’re bored, frustrated or stressed.  Feed the urge to do something by walking the dog or working in the garden.
  • Keep portion control in mind.  Have a single-serve container of yogurt or put a small serving of nuts in a bowl.  Eating directly from a multiple-serving package can lead to overeating.
  • Plan snacks ahead of time.  Keep a variety of nutritious ready-to-eat supplies on hand, such as whole-grain crackers and low-fat cheese.
Need some snack ideas?  Try some of these 200 calorie (or less) snacks:
  • One tablespoon peanut butter spread on slices of a medium apple
  • One cup tomato soup with five whole-grain crackers
  • Three cups air-popped popcorn sprinkled with three tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  • Small baked potato topped with salsa and 1 ounce low-fat cheese 
  • Toaster waffle topped with ½ cup blueberries and 2 tablespoons low-fat yogurt
  • Six whole-wheat crackers and one slice low-fat Colby cheese
  • Fruit smoothie: Blend 1 cup fat-free milk, ½ cup frozen strawberries and ½ banana
  • One 6-inch flour tortilla with ¼ cup black beans and 2 tablespoons fresh salsa
For those active adults who may require higher calorie snacks, here are some 200-300 calorie ideas:
  • Whole wheat pita cut into wedges with 2 tablespoons hummus for a dip
  • Yogurt parfait: Layer 6 ounces fat-free yogurt, ½ cup berries and ¼ cup granola 
  • Trail mix: Mix 20 almonds, miniature box of raisins, and ¼ cup sunflower seeds 
  • Instant oatmeal made with fat-free milk with 1 tablespoon honey, ½ cup sliced peaches and dash of cinnamon
  • One 4-ounce fat-free, ready-to-eat vanilla pudding with ½ cup fresh fruit and 5 vanilla wafers
  • Veggie pizzas: Split whole wheat English muffin. Top with 2 tablespoons low-fat cream cheese, ½ cup diced fresh veggies and one ounce low-fat mozzarella cheese
  • Cinnamon-raisin mini-bagel spread with one tablespoon peanut butter
  • Hot chocolate made with low-fat or fat-free milk and a small oatmeal cookie
  • Whole-grain toaster waffle with 1-½ tablespoons chocolate-flavored hazelnut spread
  • Banana split: banana sliced length-wise topped with ½ cup frozen yogurt and a tablespoon of chopped nuts
Remember, plan ahead when it comes to snacks and then you won't be tempted to run to the drive-thru or raid the vending machine at work.  Print a copy of this blog and keep it in your kitchen.  You don't have to just eat boring baby carrots.  Experiment with some of the snacks listed above and find what pleases your palate the most. 

Need more help planning your meals and snacks?  Make an appointment with our nutrition specialist and set a plan for healthy dining.  Call PROMATx Health Club today and remember...snack on, people, snack on!!

Friday, May 18, 2012

Food Revolution Day

Obesity rates are staggering for the United States.  Childhood obesity and onset of "adult" (Type 2) diabetes in children are at epidemic rates.  It's time to take a stand and make a change.   May 19th is designated as "Food Revolution Day" by the Jamie Oliver Foundation.  According to their website, "Food Revolution Day is about connecting with your community through events at schools, restaurants, local businesses, dinner parties and farmers' markets. We want to inspire change in people’s food habits and to promote the mission for better food and education for everyone."

Now is the time you can make a conscious effort to think about where you food comes from and how you can make better choices.  Where can you start?  Stop by the Lexington Farmer's Market on May 19 and look for the Food Revolution Day table.  Grab some info on choosing fresh, unprocessed foods then peruse the many vendors from Central Kentucky and load up on some spectacular, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

Meal planning isn't difficult but it does take some effort on your part.  When grocery shopping, take your time and look at food labels.  Compare brand items and watch for hidden sugars and fats.  Shop the perimeter of the store where the fresh foods are and stay away from the processed food aisles.  Not sure what to do with all the fresh foods?  Take a cooking class or search healthy eating websites for tasty (and healthy) recipes.  Better yet, talk with the farmers/growers at the farmer's market and find out how the best enjoy their products. 

Take a stand and vow to make a difference in your family's eating habits.  Choose a different fruit and vegetable each week to "highlight" in your kitchen.  Experiment with different tastes and textures.  You never know, you just might find new items to add to your dinner table.  Get your family (kids too) involved in meal preparation so it becomes a fun thing to do together.  You will be teaching your children better eating habits and how to make wiser food choices.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Body Composition...Do You Know Yours?

Do you religiously step on the scale every week to check your progress with weight loss?  Are you struggling with losing that last 5-10 pounds?  Have you already lost the weight and are looking to maintain your successes?  Instead of just stepping on that scale, you should have your body composition analyzed by a health/fitness professional.  While just looking at body weight is important, it is also wise to know exactly how much fat mass you have versus lean mass.  Fitness professionals can analyze body composition in a number of ways:  waist-to-hip ratio, BMI (body mass index), and body fat calculation.  

First, let's look at waist-to-hip ratio.  This is a general way for a health and fitness professional to estimate your health risk for diseases such as obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.  Circumference measurements are taken of the smallest part of your natural waist (just above the belly button) and the widest part of your hips/buttocks.  Then divide the waist measurement by the hips (both in inches).  Low risk for women is 0.8 or below and 0.95 or below for men.  Essentially "apple-shaped" bodies are more at risk than "pear-shaped" ones.  

Next, BMI or body mass index, can be calculated.  This test looks at your height versus your weight.  Here's the formula for calculating BMI:  weight (lb) / [height (in)]2 x 703.  For example if you are 5'5" (65 inches) and weigh 150 pounds the formula looks like this:  [150 / (65x65)] x 703 or [150 / 4225] x 703.  Your calculation would be 24.96.  Healthy ranges for both adult men and adult women is 18.4 - 24.9.  Remember, this is an estimation of risk.  BMI calculation does not take into consideration how much lean mass a person has so BMI will be overestimated for individuals who have higher lean mass (i.e., body builders) and underestimated to those who have lost lean mass (i.e., elderly).

A more accurate picture of body composition can be obtained through body fat analysis.  This can be done through various testing procedures such as bioelectrical impedance (hand-held units), full-body scans such as BOD POD, and skinfold measurements (via calipers).  The most convenient and, probably more readily available, is bioelectrical impedance analysis (BIA).  This is the most inexpensive method and only requires a hand-held unit.  The principle behind BIA is that fat contains little water; most of the body’s water is in the lean compartment (i.e., muscle, bone, organs). Therefore, when an electrical current encounters fat, there is more resistance.  By measuring how easily currents move through the body, body fat can be estimated.

Full-body scans, such as BOD POD, are more expensive but provide much more detail.  These fiberglass units are designed to measure body weight and body volume (i.e., the body’s total size). Because fat is less dense than lean tissue, the weight-to-volume ratio can be used to predict percent body fat.  This is a little more "high-tech" and is usually found in university or hospital settings or in more specialized health/fitness clinics.

Finally, body composition can be analyzed via skinfold measurements.  Specialized calipers (i.e., "pinchers") are used to measure the thickness of skinfolds in certain areas.  These measurements are then entered into a lengthy calculation, taking into consideration height, weight, age, and gender.  While skinfold measurements are considered to be the "gold standard" of body composition measurements, it does require a specially-trained technician to perform this test.  Inaccurate measurements can drastically alter the final body fat calculation.

Now that you are familiar with some of the common procedures to analyze body composition, maybe it's time for you to have one of these tests done.  Whichever method you choose, it is important to have a fitness professional administer the test.  That way your results can be properly explained to you, health risks, if any, identified, and a plan of action can be developed.  Here at PROMATx Health Club, we have specially-trained fitness professional who can administer all of the methods listed above, with the exception of the BOD POD.

Remember, body composition can change but the number on the scale can remain the same.  You can lose fat and gain muscle at the same ratio and your body weight will remain unchanged.  Fitness professionals can help you determine healthy ranges of body fat for you as well as design a program geared towards improving your fat mass to lean mass ratio.  Don't just rely on your scale.  Get a better picture of your overall health and what your disease-related risks are.  Stop in today and make an appointment for a body composition analysis.  Don't won't hurt!  It will, however, arm you with valuable information to help you progress with your weight loss.  Call us today!!

Monday, May 14, 2012

Arthritis Awareness Month

There are lots of health observances this month including Employee Health and Fitness Month, National High Blood Pressure Education Month, National Osteoporosis Awareness and Prevention Month, National Women's Health Week, and National Senior Health and Fitness Day.  While all of these topics are important, today we will focus on Arthritis Awareness Month.

Do you suffer from arthritis?  Do you know someone who does?  Osteoarthritis (OA), also called osteoarthroses or degenerative joint disease, is the most common type of arthritis.  OA is a chronic condition characterized by the breakdown of the joint's cartilage.  This breakdown causes the bones to rub against each other, causing stiffness, pain, and loss of movement in the joint.  This chronic disease affects almost 27 million Americans.

A report from the Centers for Disease Control in 2009 shows that with the rise in obesity rates, more people are suffering from both obesity and arthritis. Obesity rates are 54% higher among adults with arthritis compared to those without the condition.  Unfortunately, Kentucky is among the top 20 states with the highest rates of obesity among adults with arthritis.  Specifically we are the 16th highest with 39.4%.

Even though arthritis can be a debilitating disease, it is important to remember that movement of the body is crucial to managing the disease.  You might think that because arthritis makes joints painful that it would be wise NOT to participate in physical activity.  However, movement keeps your joints lubricated with important fluid.  Weight training also helps by making the muscles around the joints stronger and able to support the body even though there is a deterioration of the cartilage.  Most importantly, movement/exercise can help reduce body weight, which in turn puts less stress on the joints.

Osteoarthritis can affect anyone but it doesn't mean you can be healthy and active.  Nolan Ryan (National Baseball Hall of Famer), Hank Aaron (National Baseball Hall of Famer), and Joe Namath (NFL Hall of Famer and Super Bowl MVP), all battle with OA yet they all still maintain an active lifestyle.  Don't let OA stop you (or loved ones) from being active.  Stop in at PROMATx Health Club and talk with a fitness professional to find out how you can manage your arthritis through exercise. 

Click HERE to go to the Arthritis Foundation's website to learn more about arthritis and how you can help others affected by this disease.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Healthy Gifts for Moms

Mother's Day is fast approaching.  How are you going to say "thanks" and "I love you" to your mother this year?  Here are some healthy alternatives to a box of candy and flowers to show your appreciation to mom.
  1. Dark Chocolate - If your mom loves candy then why not treat her to a dose of heart healthy, dark chocolate.  Health benefits include decreasing stroke risk, protecting the skin, and boosting mom's mood.
  2. Fruit - Edible arrangements are gaining popularity.  Talented "fruit sculptors" can transform your mom's favorite fruits into a beautiful (and edible) bouquet.  This will also help your mom get her minimum of 5 servings of fruit and she will reap the benefits of all of the vitamins and minerals.
  3. Sweat Equity - Is your mom a fitness-fanatic?  Is she hoping to start on her own exercise program?  How about the gift of fitness?  Get your mom a gift certificate to a local gym or yoga studio.  Buy her some of her favorite exercise clothes/shoes.  Sweat equity goes a long way!!
  4. Tea - Make your mom a beautiful basket of teas and a pretty mug or teapot.  Tea contains less caffeine than coffee and is packed with antioxidants.  Also, some teas have heart healthy properties such as lowering blood pressure, cholesterol, and risk of heart disease and stroke.  With a variety of flavors, you can design (or purchase) a well-rounded, healthy basket for mom!
  5. Home Spa Kit - Is your mom always on the go?  Is she busy doing everything for everyone else but forgets to treat herself?  Put together a nice little home spa kit.  Add scented bath salts, a loofah, stress-reducing scented candles, even a nice bottle of wine so your mom can relax and enjoy some peace and quiet for a change.  Not possible for her to relax at home?  Then go for the professional help with a gift certificate for a massage or manicure/pedicure.  A few minutes for your mom can make a lasting impression!
  6. Sleep-Inducing Bedding - Help your mom improve the quality of her sleep with a set of organic cotton sheets.  As she slips into bed every night, these soft-as-silk sheets will wrap her in comfort and allow her body to get the relaxation and sleep she so deserves.
  7. Sight-Saving Specs - Is your mom an outdoorsy woman?  Why not treat her to a pair of sight-savers with polarized lenses and big enough frames to fully cover her eyes.  Some brands are even made out of sustainable nylon to help protect the environment while they protect your mom's eyes!!
  8. Hydration - Improve your mom's water intake by getting her a BPA-free water bottle.  With lots of pretty colors and designs, you are sure to find a bottle that will suit your mom's taste.  Water is important for weight loss and to allow the body to function at its peak performance.  Help your mom by getting her something she enjoys drinking out of and looks cool carrying!
  9. Clean Air - What???  You didn't read that incorrectly.  Improve the air quality in your mom's house by giving her house plants that help clean toxins out of the air she breathes.  Ferns and palms, peace lily, English ivy, and rubber plants all help to rid the air of pollutants and toxins while also helping to control internal humidity.  Give your mom a gift of fresh air!
  10. Gift of Love - Finally, and most importantly, how about giving your mom some quality bonding time.  Spend some extra time with her walking through the park or enjoying a lunch/dinner with just the two of you.  Treat her with love and tell her how much she means to you.
These are just a few ideas on how you can celebrate that wonderful woman in your life...your mother.  
Happy Mother's Day!!!