Are You Nuts For Nuts?

Nuts can be natural and wonderful or they can be man-made and much less wonderful!

Nuts are undoubtedly one of the healthiest foods you can eat. Research shows that nut noshers have the slimmest waistlines and a significantly lower risk of heart disease.

But the benefits don’t end there. Nuts are packed with life-essential minerals, including magnesium and selenium. And they are a concentrated source of brain-nourishing and blood-sugar balancing fats.

However, manufacturers have found a way to mess with Mother Nature. For instance, the “Diamond” brand has been turning natural nuts into bad-for-you-nuts by adding genetically modified corn oil and BHT to its walnuts, hazelnuts, and other naturally pure tree nuts.

Protected by their shells, nuts are a relatively “clean” plant food and unadulterated by pesticide toxins even when grown conventionally. But add corn oil, which is high in inflammatory omega-6 fats, as well as being genetically modified almost 90 percent of the time, and you’ve completely changed their lipid profile and biochemical nature.

Corn oil itself is a preservative, but Diamond adds BHT (butylated hydroxytoluene) to ensure shelf stability. BHT prevents oxidation. It is used to preserve food odor, color, and flavor. It is banned in Australia, Japan, Romania, and Sweden due to its carcinogenic activity. In the United States, BHT is prohibited only in infant formula.

Avoid inflammatory corn oil and carcinogenic BHT by reading the labels before you buy. You’ll be pleasantly surprised to find that many inexpensive brands of nuts are free of these unnecessary additives. They contain only one simple ingredient: “nuts.”

So take a few moments and make sure the nuts you buy are the natural ones! Do what I do and buy pecans, almonds, and walnuts. Put them in a large container and mix them up. I call this my PAW recipe so my nuts are easy to access and already mixed up.

Healthy Foods That Will Make You Fat

Recently I visited and stayed with a cousin of mine. She’s almost 90, walks twice a day, has a very keen mind, and prides herself on knowing about health and nutrition. She is overweight by about 15 pounds though. And NOW she doesn’t want me to leave. Why? Because eating with me (the way I eat) is helping her lose weight! And she’s thrilled.

It got me thinking about “healthy” foods that will make you fat!

I’m not surprised by the results my cousin is experiencing. There’s not a day that goes by where someone doesn’t come to me asking for diet advice. They are confused as to why they’re NOT losing weight even though they don’t eat “a lot” and especially if they’re eating “healthy”. The truth is that while “quanity” does matter, it’s possible to still overconsume calories if choosing the wrong foods.

Some foods, even though they’re considered very healthy, carry LOTS of calories in a very small amount of food. We call these calorically dense foods and if your diet is comprised of a bunch of them, you can easily gain weight even without eating “a lot” of food.

Here are some “healthy” examples of calorically dense foods:

1. Granola – granola, especially the varieties mixed with nuts, can pack as many as 500 cals per cup.
2. Pasta – a moderate 1-1/2 cups of most pastas yield more than 60 grams of carbs and almost 350 calories.
3. Avocado – avocado is delicious and a great source of monounsaturated fat, but one single avocado has over 300 calories and 30 grams of fat.
4. Nuts and Nut Butters – nuts are super healthy, but they are one of the most calorically dense foods around. A few ounces could mean 400+ calories.
5. Fruit Juice and Smoothies – all fruit juices are loaded with sugar and so are most “smoothie” shop smoothies (make your own with whole fruit).
6. Dried Fruit – dried fruits remove the water content which dramatically decreases volume. What’s left is high in sugar and very calorically dense.
7. “Whole Wheat” Breads – even the 100% whole wheat variety can pack a lot of calories if you’re eating a lot of grains as part of your diet.
8. Whole Grain Bagels – a large “deli” bagel is loaded with carbs and calories, many times over 400 cals in a single bagel.

While some of the foods above are only “thought” to be healthy (fruit juice, whole grain bagels, etc), stuff like nuts, nut butters, and avocado are foods that I’d recommend in just about everyone’s diet and they are indeed great choices.

However, these calorically dense foods require that you monitor your intake of them closely. A few ounces of nuts, a couple tablespoons of nut butter, and an avocado is NOT a lot of food, but if you ate all of these every day, you’d be getting close to 1000 calories with these foods alone.

So exactly what has my cousin changed in her diet? At first she told me she didn’t think I was eating enough. When I told her I ate modestly but that if I got hungry then I ate again, she thought this was a wonderful viewpoint. She’d always eaten until she was REALLY full. So her portions were too large.

She’s also eating WAY less bread and crackers, so her intake of starchy carbs is way down. If she feels like a potato at dinner, we’ll make a sweet potato. If not, for dinner we’ll eat one of my special TEN ingredient salads, a cooked vegetable and a healthy protein like fish, lamb, or chicken. It’s working well for her and she’s very pleased.

I’m thinking I could have a new career. I could travel around and live with people and just have them eat what I eat. When they’ve lost the weight they’d like to lose I could move on to the next household!!

Will Running Help You Lose Weight?

As a health and fitness professional I field a lot of questions that revolve around the “what’s the BEST” topic. Everyone wants to know the BEST, but it’s an awkward question to answer and maybe even the wrong question to be asking. The best for what? The best for whom? And for each best recommendation that you might hear about or read about in the media, even if it’s wrong for you, there might be some truth in it.

So you may be exercising and eating all wrong, for YOU and your goals.

And the fitness field sure does lead to some interesting ideas posing as “the truth”.

For instance, here’s a sample taken from questions I receive:

  1. Is running several miles per day the key to getting fit?
  2. Is doing a ton of long, slow distance (LSD) running absolutely necessary?
  3. Is lifting the heaviest weights you possibly can the best way to get really strong and fit?
  4. Will eating five or six times per day crank up my metabolism?
  5. Will training one part of my body today and another part tomorrow prevent over-training?
  6. Is working out only 2-3 times per week the fastest way to make progress?

While there are pieces of truth in all these questions, there are also pieces of untruths. Let’s take one of these, the one about running and metabolism, which is one of the most frequent questions I get. I can’t tell you how many times I hear people tell me they are training for a marathon, or even a half marathon, and yet they aren’t losing any weight.

For example, long, slow cardio may make you feel good, but if you want to “STEP UP” your metabolism, you’re far better off doing a very hard, very vigorous workout that calls upon all your physical and mental reserves. You’re better off with a short workout that will never get easy, no matter how often you do it.

Consider the sprinter. Her body is lean, muscular, and powerful. But it is rare to find a long-distance cardio person who is well muscled. They may be lean, but there’s no power. Not only that, after a period of time they may end up suffering from hip, knee, ankle, and lower-back pain, particularly if their technique isn’t good.

Why? All the pounding on the joints takes a tremendous toll on the body.

And as I suggested, it depends on YOU and your goals. Running a lot of miles isn’t the best approach if your goal is fat loss or a change in body composition.

Try these 5 approaches instead:

  1. Begin doing vigorous bodyweight exercises that force you to lose control of your breathing. If you aren’t getting out of breath when you train, your system is NOT being forced to adapt and change. The harder you are breathing, the more shock to the system. The more “shock” there is, the greater the shake-up in your metabolism.
  2. Instead of running or bicycling several miles per day for cardio exercise, train like a cheetah. No I didn’t say train eating Cheetos, I said train like a cheetah! Run as hard as you can, at full blast, for as long as you can. Run with all your might. When finished, you’ll be gasping for oxygen. And this gasping is what turns on the fat-burning furnace within. Make sure you’re in appropriate shape before you tackle this one.
  3. Practice deep breathing. The deeper you breathe, the more oxygen in your system. The more oxygen in your system, the faster your metabolism. Don’t just get your deep breathing from vigorous exercise. Get if from the act of deep breathing itself, done all day long.
  4. Eat plenty of fiber-rich, water-content foods while avoiding starchy foods most of the time.
  5. Change the mental picture you have of yourself. As you see yourself in your mind’s eye, so you become.

While #4 and #5 aren’t about exercising per se, coupled with the first three suggestions, they’ll surely help you make progress.

So always remember, it’s about you and your goals and what exercise and diet plans will help you reach them in the safest, most efficient ways possible.

Want Energy-Boosting Sleep? Then Follow These 5 Tips

Here are 5 tools for 8 hours of energy-boosting sleep.

If you want the kind of sleep that will boost your energy and slow the aging process down (and who doesn’t right?), you need to build your sleep from the BED up.

1. How’s your mattress? Have you ever noticed that when you travel and stay at a hotel or stay at a friend’s house, you sleep better on their mattress.

I’m sorry to report that has happened to me quite a bit.

Most recently while staying at a friend’s house, I thought his mattress was heavenly. He got it from Costco of all places. Heck, I’ve even slept on air mattresses that were more comfortable than my own mattress. Not a good sign!

If this happens to you, GET a new mattress! There are no right and wrong answers to what will work for you, but if you’re not sleeping well do start by assessing your mattress. After all, you spend 56 hours a week on it and it should produce the results you need, which is the kind of sleep you rave about!

2. What about your sheets?

Again, I have a confession to make. I get overly attached to sheets and keep them for way way too long.

I recently got two brand new sets from Macy’s and am really enjoying them. Color is important as well as fabric. I pay more attention to how a sheet feels rather than the thread count because the thread count is a marketing ploy. From what I’ve read you can’t get more than 500 threads into a square inch!

Go with natural fibers because they are more absorbent. Over the course of an evening you can release close to a half gallon of sweat and oils.

3. How old is your blanket and what kind of shape is it in?

I use this blanket called my million dollar blanket. I named it so because about 12 years ago after I had surgery I laid for 6 weeks on a couch wrapped in this blanket and I’ve somehow given it magical healing powers!

If you think of the best sleep of your life you probably don’t recall that it was when you were only hours old. One of the reasons infants are born to sleep is because they’re swaddled in blankets, which gives them the secure sensation of being in utero.

How do you get that as an over tired adult? Crawl under a variety of fabrics filled with a range of insulations and you’ll discover your million dollar blanket! If you’re sweating, you’re not going to sleep well, so keep this is in mind as you test out blankets.

4. Let’s talk pillows! For sound, comfortable sleep, you need a pillow that will keep your neck aligned with your spine.

I have a pillow that I bought thinking I’d like it. I used it one night and couldn’t adjust, so I put it in the closet to be used for guests. Turned out that every guest I gave it to LOVED it. Strange, huh?

After hearing raves from multiple guests I decided to give the pillow another try. That was almost three years ago and I still love my pillow. I travel with my pillow (I know, I’m weird) and quite a few friends, after laying down on my pillow, have gone out and bought their own.

Let’s just say I’m VERY picky about pillows. Maybe in my next life I’ll be one of the lucky ones who can sleep anywhere, on anything and with any pillow, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Back to the keeping your spine aligned issue, the more neutral your neck’s position, the wider the nerve passageways running through it will open. The result is that you’ll reduce your risk of neck pain and enjoy a more restful sleep.

5. Thinking of trying a sleep supplement?

I don’t use them, but in researching them for this article it seems that only valerian root results in people feeling refreshed. This root contains two chemicals that have powerful sedative properties. Be careful with over the counter meds for sleeping. They shorten the time you’re in the deep stages of sleep, leaving you exhausted in the morning and often people feel fuzzy even after they wake up.

So there you have it. Maybe not exactly the 5 tools for energy boosting sleep you thought I’d suggest, but heck, they are all very important and you even got a few personal confessions from me, as well!!

shelli

Leptin: Easy Way to Keep This Fat Loss Hormone At Healthy Levels

What’s almost as good as an outdoor alpine climb for losing weight? How about omega-3’s?

I read that due to factors such as chronic stress, age-related hormonal fluctuations, and exposure to environmental toxins, 65% of American women have low levels of the appetite-suppressing hormone leptin. That’s a lot of women!

It’s relatively easy to correct. Just consume more omega-3 fatty acids.

These healthy fats elevate leptin levels and increase the body’s sensitivity to it. Consume three daily servings of omega-3 rich foods like salmon, tuna, sardines, walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseed oil.

Keeping your leptin levels in a healthy fat burning range is important whether you’re losing weight or maintaining a healthy weight.

shelli

Got Energy Slumps? Outsmart Them With These Tips

With so many of us leading demanding nonstop lives, it’s difficult not to peter out as the day goes on.

Here are some ideas to outsmart your energy slumps.

Between 1 and 3 PM we often feel dazed.

There’s a natural mid-afternoon circadian lull often dubbed the “nap zone” because we have this urge to (if we could) take a nap. When you feel this, use a circular motion to massage the webbed area between your thumb and index finger. Do this for three minutes. This acupressure move stimulates the nervous system, boosting alertness.

Between 3 and 6 PM we also tend to feel sleepy.

A demanding day elevates levels of the stress hormone cortisol, keeping it high for several hours. This leads to feeling worn down.

Try this breathing exercise. Stand up straight with one hand on your lower belly. Inhale deeply and feel your abdomen fill with air. Exhale and watch your hand drop back in towards your body. This simple belly breathing exercise is proven to reduce cortisol levels, and you’ll feel more alert, productive, and happy. A round of three to five cleansing breaths like this is all it takes to feel refreshed.

Between 6 and 9 PM is not quite late enough to be bedtime, but in the early evening your core body temperature naturally drops and sleep-inducing melatonin levels rise.

Try this wall roll-down move. Stand with your back against a wall, arms raised overhead and feet a few inches forward. Pretend the wall is sticky and slowly peel yourself away from the wall by rolling forward into a U shape. Unfold back up bit by bit. Bending over like this stimulates the flow of fresh blood and oxygen to your head, which refreshes your mind and body. Don’t worry, you’ll still be plenty tired when your bedtime comes!

You can of course use these any time of the day, but in particular during the times I’ve mentioned. I know it may seem easier to reach for that caffeine, but learning how to energize and refresh naturally is a good thing too!

shelli

Defogging Your Brain: 4 Ways to Say “Fog Be Gone”

Have you ever turned on the defroster in your car and thought to yourself, “Sure would like to have a DEFOGGER for my brain today!”

Have you ever felt like your mental edge had gone to sleep. I know I have!

So here are 4 simple strategies you can use to boost your memory and say FOG be gone!

1. Get your vitamin B’s

Vitamin B is essential to clear thinking, but as you age your body has a harder time extracting if from foods like milk, meat and fish. You can take a daily B-complex supplement containing 1000 micrograms of B12. Make sure it has at least 400 mcg of the B vitamin folate, which can improve mental speed.

2. Get your Z’s

Low quality and low quantity sleep can seriously drain your mental clarity. The brain moves memories into long term storage during deep sleep. Anything that disrupts this process can interfere with the ability to retain this information.

Stick to one bedtime and keep your room quiet, dark and cool. Limit caffeine, night-lights, naps and alcohol, all of which can interfere with sleep.

3. Get your M’s

Get MOVING! Boosting your activity level can increase brain volume and enhance cognitive function. Exercise increases the flow of blood to the brain, and it controls insulin and other chemicals linked to cognitive problems. Even a little exercise is better than nothing. The idea is to do more than you’re doing now.

4. Check your medications.

A variety of medications can cloud your ability to concentrate. Particularly if your difficulties concentrating coincide with a new drug you’re taking, talk to your physician. It’s a smart move to be aware of mind and memory changes and look in some obvious places first, like your medications.

So here’s to kissing those foggy times goodbye!

shelli

Is Salt A Four Letter Word? Maybe, Maybe Not!

To salt or not to salt? That is the question, and it’s a good one at that.

To some folks, salt is a four letter word.

However, for centuries it’s been used and praised as a spice and as a preservative.

Also, today some athletes are told to swallow salt tablets to offset the salt they lose through sweat.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the misconceptions about salt.

Salt, or sodium, is one of the electrolytes (a group of mostly minerals).

Table salt is technically sodium chloride, a combination of electrolytes. Electrolytes play an important role in your body. They are crucial for bone formation, blood clotting and the transmission of nerve impulses.

One of sodium’s most crucial roles is to help maintain optimum fluid levels in body tissues.

Sweat contains electrolytes and the main one lost in sweat is sodium. How much you’ll lose when you sweat varies from person to person. That’s why athletes who sweat excessively are advised to replace electrolytes and fluid losses.

People with existing hypertension are generally advised to lower their sodium intake.

The easiest way to do this is by avoiding processed, fast, and restaurant foods and by salting less.

Of course, reducing alcohol intake, eating more plant foods and getting more exercise will also have a positive effect on hypertension. Fruits and vegetables are high in potassium and this balances out sodium levels. In particular, potatoes, bananas, avocados, pinto and kidney beans, and artichokes are especially packed with potassium.

A new lower recommended intake for ADDED sodium (not including what naturally occurs in foods) is no more than 1500 mg/day (about two thirds of a teaspoon). In practical terms that’s 7 generous sprinkles with the salt shaker or 17 pinches of salt added to the food you cook.

Yes, salt can be a concern for some folks. But if you’re healthy, active and eat plenty of fresh plant foods and fruit, you’re probably safe in the salt category.

shelli

Are You Getting 8 Hours of Energy-Boosting Sleep? If Not, Read This Right Now!

Here are 5 tools for 8 hours of energy-boosting sleep.

If you want the kind of sleep that will boost your energy and slow the aging process down (and who doesn’t right?), you need to build your sleep from the BED up.

1. How’s your mattress?

Have you ever noticed that when you travel and stay at a hotel or stay at a friend’s house, you sleep better on their mattress.

I’m sorry to report that has happened to me quite a bit. Most recently while staying at a friend’s house, I thought his mattress was heavenly. He got it from Costco of all places. Heck, I’ve even slept on air mattresses that were more comfortable than my own mattress. Not a good sign!

If this happens to you, GET a new mattress! There are no right and wrong answers to what will work for you, but if you’re not sleeping well do start by assessing your mattress.

After all, you spend 56 hours a week on it and it should produce the results you need, which is the kind of sleep you rave about!

2. What about your sheets?

Again, I have a confession to make.

I get overly attached to sheets and keep them for way way too long.

I recently got two brand new sets from Macy’s and am really enjoying them. Color is important as well as fabric. I pay more attention to how a sheet feels rather than the thread count because the thread count is a marketing ploy. From what I’ve read you can’t get more than 500 threads into a square inch!

Go with natural fibers because they are more absorbent. Over the course of an evening you can release close to a half gallon of sweat and oils.

3. How old is your blanket and what kind of shape is it in?

I use this blanket called my million dollar blanket. I named it so because  years ago after I had surgery I laid for weeks on a couch wrapped in this blanket and I’ve somehow given it magical healing powers!

If you think of the best sleep of your life you probably don’t recall that it was when you were only hours old. One of the reasons infants are born to sleep is because they’re swaddled in blankets, which gives them the secure sensation of being in utero.

How do you get that as an over tired adult? Crawl under a variety of fabrics filled with a range of insulations and you’ll discover your million dollar blanket! If you’re sweating, you’re not going to sleep well, so keep this is in mind as you test out blankets.

4. Let’s talk pillows!

For sound, comfortable sleep, you need a pillow that will keep your neck aligned with your spine.

I have a pillow that I bought thinking I’d like it. I used it one night and couldn’t adjust, so I put it in the closet to be used for guests. Turned out that every guest I gave it to LOVED it.

Strange, huh?

After hearing raves from multiple guests I decided to give the pillow another try. That was almost three years ago and I still love my pillow.

I travel with my pillow (I know, I’m weird) and quite a few friends, after laying down on my pillow, have gone out and bought their own. Let’s just say I’m VERY picky about pillows. Maybe in my next life I’ll be one of the lucky ones who can sleep anywhere, on anything and with any pillow, but I don’t see that happening anytime soon.

Back to the keeping your spine aligned issue, the more neutral your neck’s position, the wider the nerve passageways running through it will open. The result is that you’ll reduce your risk of neck pain and enjoy a more restful sleep.

5. Thinking of trying a sleep supplement?

I don’t use them, but in researching them for this article it seems that only valerian root results in people feeling refreshed. This root contains two chemicals that have powerful sedative properties.

Be careful with over the counter meds for sleeping. They shorten the time you’re in the deep stages of sleep, leaving you exhausted in the morning and often people feel fuzzy even after they wake up.

So there you have it. Maybe not exactly the 5 tools for energy boosting sleep you thought I’d suggest, but heck, they are all very important and you even got a few personal confessions from me, as well!!

shelli

5 Ways To Release Toxins From Your Body

Detoxification is an interesting, important topic, so I thought I’d tell you about 4 ways to increase your deep-tissue detoxification.

From pesticides, pollution, plastics, fragrances and other sources, our bodies are bombarded by so many chemical toxins in our environment, we can’t possibly get rid of them all. Some of these end up incorporated into bodily tissue, where they can stay for decades.

Here are steps you can take to help your body release and repair from those toxins.

1. Add more fiber to your diet.

Fiber binds to toxins and carries them out of the body. Twenty five grams per day is the recommended fiber level for women (38 for men). You can also use fiber supplements like psyllium seeds.

2. Get adequate exercise.

Getting your blood pumping improves the movement of lymph though the lymphatic system. This helps lymph fluids circulate throughout the body, removing toxins and other harmful materials. Exercise helps reduce overall body fat, which helps the body release stored toxins.

3. Saunas assist the body’s adipose tissue in releasing toxins through a process called heat depuration.

Infrared saunas are often recommended for two reasons: the temperature doesn’t get as high as air saunas, and the infrared rays penetrate deeper into the skin to better target fat tissues.

Try starting with 15-minute sessions, and be sure to stay properly hydrated. If you have high blood pressure, check with your health practitioner before using a sauna.

4. Chelation is a process in which certain agents are used to rid the body of toxic chemicals and heavy metals.

The chelation molecule has the ability to make these toxins soluble in blood, allowing them to be eliminated. Most of this is done under the supervision of a health provider.

OK, I’ll throw in one more to the detoxification helper list.

Did you know that Omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, found in flax and fish oil, have the ability to be incorporated into cellular membranes, improving cell function and assisting in detox?

See, those fatty acids and their benefits somehow sneak their way onto almost every what’s-healthy-for-you list!

Detoxification is important, so give your body the help it needs by including these detox methods.

shelli