Not So(da) Fast

What’s a better cure for an afternoon crash or a more satisfying beverage on a  hot day than a refreshing, cold soft drink? Well actually, a whole lot of things. Before you pop the top on that Coke, Pepsi, or other soda, make sure you know the potentially harmful side effects of that fizzy drink. 

To put it simply, soda is nothing more than sugar water, and is devoid of any nutritional value. Not only are sodas lacking in any health benefits, but several studies have shown that they can actually cause detrimental effects on your health from head to toe (literally.) Let’s move from top to bottom of the body and take a look at what chugging that bubbly beverage is doing to your body.

 

1. Brain: shutterstock_189386849

An ingredient called Brominated Vegetable Oil is added to most sodas to prevent the flavoring from separating from the drink. Sounds safe, right? I mean, at least it has the word “vegetable” in it. However, BVO is also used as a chemical in flame retardants in plastics. “Chemical,” “flame-retardant,” “plastic”…. not things that you want going into your body. In fact, BVO has been known to cause memory loss and nerve disorders when consumed in large quantities. Once it is consumed, BVO builds up in body fat, possibly causing behavioral problems, infertility, and lesions on the heart muscles over time.

In addition to this possibly harmful chemical, sodas also contain copious amounts of sugar. A single can of soda is equal to 10 teaspoons of sugar, which causes blood pressure to sky-rocket and an insulin response to be produced. I encourage you to measure out 10 teaspoons of table sugar and imagine swallowing it within the same amount of time that it takes you to drink a can of soda. Chances are, it won’t be too appetizing. Too much sugar in the diet can decrease the production of brain chemicals (good chemicals) that help us learn, store memories, and process insulin.

 

2. Teeth:

shutterstock_189145892The effects of sugar on teeth are so prevalent, that dentists have a name for people who drink too much soda: “Mountain Dew Mouth.” Excessive sugar levels can cause cavities, plaque build-up, and gum disease, and the high levels of acid in soda corrode teeth almost as badly as drinking battery acid. Teeth aren’t the only bones affected by drinking colas. Likely due to phosphoric acid and caffeine, drinking sodas has also been linked to osteoporosis and bone density loss. Make no bones about it, sodas are potentially bad for your… bones.

 

 

3. Heart, Kidneys, and Lungs

All sodas contain phosphates (phosphoric acids,) a weak acid that gives cola its tangy flavor. While the phosphates boost profit margins for the soda companies by shutterstock_189589853lengthening the shelf-life of soft drinks, they can lead to heart and kidney problems, muscle loss, osteoporosis, and, according to one study, trigger accelerated aging. In a study conducted in 2010, the FASEB Journal found that the excessive phosphate levels in sodas caused lab rats to die 5 weeks earlier than rats who had normal phosphate levels. Increased levels of phosphoric acid have also been linked to kidney stones and other renal problems. Don’t fool yourself into thinking that diet sodas are any better… their consumption leads to DOUBLE the risk of kidney stones.

Sodas have even been linked to increased risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, and the more soda you drink, the more likely you are to develop asthma or COPD. These effects could be the result of a number of things, including the GMO’s found in the corn syrup used to make sodas.

 

4. Fat

When you think of the word “fat” most people picture a big gut. However, when it comes to sodas, we are talking about a lot more fat than just a bulge over your belt. In a study conducted by Danish researchers, people who drank one soda everyday for 6 months saw a 132-142% increase in liver fat, a 117-221% increase in skeletal fat, and a 30% increase in  both triglyceride blood fats and other organ fats. These types of fat build-ups are serious and an lead to insulin resistance and ultimately diabetes. shutterstock_189843827

Now for your “classic fat”: Researchers from the University of Texas Health Science Center monitored 475 adults for 10 years and found that those that drank diet (yeah right!) soda had a 70% increase in waist circumference over the 10-year study compared with those who didn’t drink any soda. More than 2 diet sodas a day led to a 500% waist expansion. Yes, you read that right, five-hundred-percent! For some reason, when I drink a soda, I tell myself that I am saving calories by consuming a soft drink rather than a snack. Wrong! The single biggest source of calories for Americans are sodas, more so than Big-Macs, chocolate cake, or any other scrumptious high-calorie snack you can imagine. Drinking just one soft drink a day is the equivalent of 39 pounds of sugar in one year. If you wouldn’t consume that much raw sugar, why would you consume it when combined with other harmful ingredients?shutterstock_189972770

 

Tips For Quitting

Unfortunately, there are no “electronic sodas” or soft-drink patches to help you kick the habit. I have tried many times to quit cold-turkey, only to give into my craving within a few days. If this article doesn’t provide enough motivation for you to totally forgo soft drinks, here are some tips to help you cut back.

  • Don’t buy sodas at the grocery store. Its much easier to skip out on soda when you don’t have any in stock at your house. Even if you order one when you go out to eat, at least you aren’t mindlessly downing cans of them at home.
  • Drink sodas from glass bottles. Nearly all aluminum cans are lined with an epoxy resin (BPA), which is used to keep the acids in the soda from reacting with the metal. BPA is known to interfere with hormones and has been linked to everything from infertility, diabetes, obesity, and some forms of reproductive cancers. Try to stay away from plastic bottles as well, as they are not environment-friendly.
  • Try to only drink clear sodas, like Sprite and 7-UP. The artificial caramel coloring used to make colas contains two contaminants (2-methylimidazole and 4-methylimidazole) which have been found to cause cancer in animals. In fact, just 16 micrograms a day of 4-methylimidazole is enough to pose a cancer threat, and each can of regular and diet sodas contain 200 micrograms!
  • If good ole H2O is just too plain for you to sip on all day, try mixing in a pack of Oxylent with your water bottle. This award-winning multivitamin supplement-drink contains vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, amino acids, and CoQ10. This yummy, naturally energizing drink mix contains no sugar, zero calories, and is 100% GMO free. Trust me, it even tastes better than a soft drink,and is available in many flavors.

 

It takes guts ® to quit drinking sodas!

Trending: MCT Oil

Last week, we talked about the Coconut Water trend and how it is a better alternative to sugary sports drinks or sodas. Chances are, you’ve also heard of Coconut Oil and its benefits for your teeth, hair, and skin. However, if Coconut Oil is the Quarterback of the “Health Trends Team”, MCT Oil is the Olympic gold medalist. Dr. Frank Lipman, an internationally recognized expert in the field of integrative medicine, explores the wonders of MCT oil in the following article.

 

Frank-Lipman-MD1

 

 

What Is MCT Oil? 
  MCT oil is derived from coconut and palm oil; its moniker stands for “medium-chain triglycerides,” which are naturally occurring fatty acids. They’re easily digested, rapidly used as energy, and metabolized quickly in the liver without being stored as fat. Unsurprisingly, MCT oil has been found to support fat-burning as well as weight management. Athletes commonly use it to enhance body composition (burning fat while building more muscle). 

This super-oil has also been shown to improve cognitive function, because it increases the body’s production of ketones, which are used as fuel for the brain. Plus, along with fat-burning and brain power, MCT Oil can boost the immune system and help fight bacterial, fungal, and viral infections.

 

MCT Oil Versus Coconut Oil: What’s The Difference? 
  MCT oil is derived from coconut (and palm) oil. Coconut oil contains about 60% medium-chain fatty acids, while these make up 100% of MCT oil. The latter is like a very concentrated version of the former — about six times stronger, but without the coconut flavor (MCT is virtually tasteless).

How Do You Use It? 
  Perhaps the most popular way to consume MCT oil is in Bulletproof Coffee — some people call it “rocket fuel” because it can give you so much sustained energy. To make it, blend one tablespoon of MCT oil and one tablespoon of grass-fed butter into your cup of Joe. You can also use MCT oil in your morning smoothie for a supercharged breakfast, or in sauces and salad dressings when you need a neutral-tasting oil. You can even cook with it (at temperatures below 320 degrees Fahrenheit, mind you)

How Much Should I Use? 
Start with one teaspoon and work your way up to a tablespoon. Too much MCT at once has been known to cause some digestive distress. If this occurs, take a few probioticsfb

Trending: Dry Brushing

Maybe you’re not as unfortunate, but the sight of my legs in a spring dress after a long, cold winter is a ghastly sight. As the weather heats up (or does for a day and then goes back to being freezing,) the thought of exposing my pale, bumpy, dry legs and arms gives me a mild panic attack. However, the ancient Greeks, a culture obsessed with beauty, may have just figured out a solution for this common (I hope) problem. drybrush2

If you’ve opened up any health or beauty magazine within the past year, you have most likely come across an article about “Dry Brushing.” Long story short, dry brushing is an invigorating exfoliation method that uses natural bristles to promote circulation and smooth the skin’s surface by sloughing off dead skin cells. Before it became a trend, many naturopathic doctors and aestheticians offered dry brushing as a service to help with bloating, since massaging the lymph nodes helps the body shed excess water and toxins. Like many other services that were previously only offered at a spa, you can now perform this service yourself in the comfort of your own home.

drybrush3 Your skin is your biggest organ, as well as your only visible one, so you want to make sure it is in tip top shape. Different people recommend different frequencies, but since dry brushing is said to help eliminate cellulite, I do it as much as possible, which is usually twice a day. “Hail damaged” thighs are the result of a combination of fat and connective tissue (and unfortunately, genetics.) By dry brushing the skin in long sweeps, starting at the ankles and moving upwards towards the heart, stagnant toxins that break down connective tissue (and lead to cellulite) are removed. However, cellulite is not the main reason you should be dry-brushing your skin. Here are some other reasons to give dry-brushing a try:

  • Buffs away dead skin
  • Boosts circulation and lymphatic drainage
  • Rids your body of toxins
  • Effectively opens up the pores on your skin
  • Promotes tighter skin, cell renewal, and blood flow
  • Aids in digestion and kidney function
  • Gives you a glowing, smooth complexion

While you shouldn’t get your hopes up too high and expect dry brushing to completely get your legs ready for warmer climates, its benefits are not something to ignore. Make sure you get a brush with natural, not synthetic bristles and that you’re not applying so much pressure that it hurts.

dry brush

Trending: Coconut Water

 This week, I am going to be talking about the latest trends in the Natural Products and Wellness industries. Over the past year, several trends have come and gone for natural products consumers, as the experts seem to be constantly changing their minds on what is really good for you and what is a hoax. Today we look at Coconut Water, which has come to be known as “Mother Nature’s sports drink.” Because it is low in calories, high in potassium, naturally fat (and cholesterol free), and thoroughly hydrating, the rising demand for coconut water has turned it into the latest health craze. Marketers and athlete endorsers promote the product as being able to help several conditions, from hangovers, to cancer, to kidney stones.
The following article is from Fooducate, a convenient health-tracking app you can download on your mobile device.
The Truth About Coconut Water

Coconut water is the clear liquid found inside the hollow center of a young, green coconut. It is not to be confused with coconut milk or cream, a liquid puree of the coconut meat. Coconut water is extracted from coconuts when the proportion of water to meat is highest.

The drink is very popular in central and south America, the Pacific Islands, and other tropical regions. Fresh coconut water is served directly from the fruit by cracking a small hole on top for a straw.

Coconut water has caught on strongly in the US, and is viewed by many as a viable alternative to sports drinks. An 8 fluid ounce serving of coconut water has only 45 calories, mostly from 2.5 teaspoons of naturally occurring sugar. A big benefit is the high potassium content – 500mg (equivalent to the potassium in a banana). Americans are deficient in potassium intake.

Various brands of coconut water tout themselves as all-natural energy drinks. They list health benefits such as electrolyte replenishment, alkaline balance, kidney cleansing, and more. Whether all these health benefits are true or not, coconut water beats Gatorade and other sports drinks because it has less ingredients, less chemicals (colorings), and less sugar.

However, water trumps them both. Unless you are working out for more than an hour, water and and a banana will do you just as good as any coconut water drink. And for less money too.

Bottom Line
Water trumps all for hydration. If you want a somewhat exotic sweet treat, try coconut water.

Supermarket tips
When buying coconut water, choose a product that lists only coconut water as its ingredient. Avoid products with added juices or flavors as they will add more sugars and calories to your beverage.
In conclusion, when you are craving a sweet drink and water just isn’t doing the job for you, grab a coconut water instead of a sports drink or a soda. Here are 5 additional reasons from MindBodyGreen to try out the latest health trend, Coconut Water:
Coconut Water
1. It prevents dehydration.
Coconut water helps maintain the body’s fluid levels and its potassium content helps maintain water pressure within cells and blood. In developing countries where clean water is scarce, coconut water can be life-saving and save people suffering from diarrhea, dysentery, or cholera.
2. It fuels your brain and muscles.
Due to its electrolyte content, coconut water improves nervous system function and nerve transmission. It also helps prevent muscle spasms and cramps.
3. It fights aging.
Coconut water contains a compound called cytokinin, which protects cells from aging and cancer.
4. It aids digestion.
Improves digestion and metabolism through bioactive enzymes. It can also aid the absorption of food
5. It supports immune function.
Its Lauric acid content is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. It boosts the immune system in fighting infection whilst helping to eradicate intestinal worms and candida.

The Super-Foods Alphabet

The thought of eating super healthy gets me excited, until I walk into the grocery store and see all kinds of foreign objects in the fruits and vegetables section. “What is this prickly thing,” I ask myself. “Am I supposed to EAT that?” I approach these alien foods, but quickly shy away and revert to the boxed foods section when a clerk says “are you finding everything ok?”— “No I’m not finding everything ok! I came into the store to stock up on healthy foods and I have no idea what I’m doing,” I fee like saying.

If the thought of shopping in the fruits and vegetables section freaks you out, print out this super-foods alphabet so that you can find what you are looking for the next time you go on a health mission. Think of this as “Super-foods For Dummies”

 

Almonds: The most nutritionally dense nut, almonds offer 13 grams of unsaturated fat and 3.4 grams of fiber in just one serving. Almonds may also help with weight loss, have major benefits for the heart, and reduce total cholesterol.

 

Blueberries: Not only are they tasty, but blueberries are a super-fruit full of antioxidants that may help fight disease and sustain brain health. One study found that blueberries may also inhibit the growth of breast cancer cells! (Ok, these I can find in the grocery store.)

chia seeds

 

Chia: Perhaps most well known from the Chia-pet craze, chia seeds have much more to offer than a humorously shaped potted plant. Packed with magnesium, iron, calcium, and potassium, chia seeds are quickly gaining popularity in the health-food market. You can either add the seeds to smoothies or yogurt or take a chia seed oil supplement to get all the benefits of this super-food.

 

Dates: No, I’m not talking about going out to eat with a love-interest, but something even better! Did you know that dates can be used as a substitute for sugar and/or butter while baking? They are also full of fiber and vitamins and minerals including potassium, selenium, copper, and magnesium! That’s more beneficial for my health than any date I’ve ever been on! Finally, a date that truly cares about me…date

Eggs: Eggs have many more benefits than just being high in protein. They are also rich in Omega-3 fatty acids and antioxidants. They can help protect your eyes from free radicals and eye degeneration, and the yolks contain a particular B-vitamin that is essential for proper brain function. Eggs-actly what you should be eating for breakfast!

flax

 

 

Flax: You already know that the Omega-3’s in flax can help lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease, but did you know that flax seeds are higher in fiber than flax oil? Try adding some flax seeds to baked goods, oatmeal, or a salad.

 

 

Greek Yogurt: This yogurt is set apart from the others because it has been strained to remove excess liquid. After this process, Greek yogurt ends up full of protein and probiotics. It takes about 4 pounds of raw milk to produce one pound of Greek yogurt, but Greek yogurt ends up  lower in carbohydrates and sodium.

 

Hemp: The biggest health benefit comes from protein and essential fatty acids, which may help fight coronary heart disease, cancer, and even symptoms of depression. The GLA in hemp adds a variety of benefits ranging from allergy defense, to helping treat ADD, and even helping lower cholesterol levels.hemp

 

 

Ice Water: When the body is exposed to cold temperatures, it burns extra calories to keep itself warm, increasing metabolism by up to 50% in the process. Therefore, drinking a glass of water not only hydrates you, but can also speed up your metabolism and increase weight loss. Ice, ice, baby!

jalepenoJalepenos: These peppers aren’t spicy just for the heck of it. Capsaicin, a compound found in spicy peppers like jalepenos, has been found to speed up the metabolism and suppress the appetite.

 

kaleKale: Ringing in at only 36 calories per cup, kale is a great low-calorie source of fiber, calcium, and iron. It is also full of vitamins A, K, and C.

 

 

 

Leeks: These veggies can offer some protective powers when it comes to cancer. The organosulfur compounds in leeks have been credited with everything from boosting immunity to kicking cancer. (So that’s what those weird looking things in the veggie aisle are!)leeks

 

 

 

Milk: Research suggests that chocolate milk could help improve athletic performance and lead to better body composition. This treat provides the ideal ratio of carbs and protein for consuming after you work out. Got chocolate milk?

 

Nuts: The unsaturated fats contained in nuts are good for you heart and some can even help lower blood pressure and body fat. However, homosapien nuts can have the opposite effects.

 

Oatmeal: The whole-grains in oatmeal make it a great source of fiber, which is known to help lower blood cholesterol, aid in digestion, and help improve metabolism. While the oatmeal in packets are extremely convenient, it is ideal to make your own oatmeal in order to cut out any unnecessary sugar or additives.

 

Pineapple: Is your sweet tooth calling to you after eating all of these veggies? Pineapple is the answer! This fruit is known for boosting the immune system.

 

Quinoa: While it looks like rice, quinoa actually comes from a seed related to green leafy veggies like kale and Swiss chard. This is one of the only grains or seeds that provides the 9 essential amino acids that our bodies are incapable of producing, and therefore must consume.quinoa

 

 

Radish: Some studies suggest that certain compounds in radishes radishmay be able to help stop the growth of some cancers, including breast cancer! Other compounds in radishes may aid in muscle recovery after a tough workout. You look radishing, darling!

 

 

Spinach: Popeye’s ancient wisdom about spinach still holds true. These greens are full of antioxidants, anti-inflammatory nutrients, and vitamins that promote vision and bone health. Due to its high levels of vitamin A, spinach is good for your skin too! “Strong to the finish, cause I eat my spinach”

 

 

Tumeric: Its not just the yellow color that makes this spice famous, but also its use for treating digestive problems and relieving pain. Tumeric gets its super powers tumericfrom an antioxidant called curcumin, a traditional Indian medicine used for thousands of years to treat inflammation-based conditions ranging from IBS and autoimmune disorders to arthritis and tendonitis.

 

 

ugli

Ugli Fruit: Also known as Tangelo, this citrus fruit is a cross between a grapefruit, Seville orange, and a tangerine. Just one serving contains about 140% of the daily recommended value of vitamin C! Don’t let its ugli looks deceive you.

 

 

 

Vegetables: You can’t have too many veggies! Whether you go with green veggies,(a great source of iron and calcium), red veggies (full of lucopene and anthocyanins), or allium veggies like onions (full of antioxidants), you are doing your health a huge favor.

 

 

Wheatgrass: “Shots for everyone!” Ok, not the kind of shots you’re probably thinking of. Those may seem like a super-food at the time, but they are not. A shot of wheatgrass, however, is a quick way to get a dose of greens, offering many health benefits to its drinkers including live enzymes that aid digestion.

xiguaXigua: This fancy word is really just another name for watermelon (I needed a word that started with X.)  This refreshing fruit is packed with water and is low in sugar and high in vitamins A and C. Lycopene, an essential carotenoid found in some fruits, can protect the body from UV rays, cardiovascular disease, and some forms of cancer.

 

 

Yams: Not to be confused with its fraternal twin the sweet potato, this super-food is yamlow on the glycemic index, meaning that it can be eaten without negatively affecting blood sugar levels, thus making them a great food to consume for sustained energy. Yams are also a great source of fiber, vitamin B6, potassium, and manganese, which are key for the proper function of the nervous system.

 

 

Zucchini: Last but not least, this green-skinned veggie is packed with vitamins C and B6, potassium, manganese, and folate. With only 20 calories per cup and a high water content, this veggie is a great snack for staying hydrated in the summer heat. zucchini

 

Say ‘Adios’ To Allergies

Recently, Dr. Susanne Bennett, a member of Essential Formulas’ Scientific Advisory Board, was interviewed by Dr. Manny of Fox News. Dr. Bennett talks about her 7-day method to get rid of allergies, which is the basis of her new book The 7 Day Allergy Makeover. Below is the article from Fox News, click here to watch the video of her allergy makeoverinterview.

Say goodbye to cold frigid weather and hello to warmer temperatures because spring has finally arrived!

But for many of us, the blossoming season can only mean one thing–allergies.

Instead of reaching into your medicine cabinet, consider these natural solutions to get rid of your allergies once and for all.

According to Dr. Susanne Bennett, a natural allergy specialist and author of the new book, “The 7-Day Allergy Makeover,” uncovering the root cause of allergies can stop symptoms from recurring.

“Medications only minimize the symptoms— it does not get to the root cause. Let’s go beyond popping a pill and heal the body by going in and finding out what the root of the problem is,” Bennett told FoxNews.com.

To create an allergy-free lifestyle, Bennett recommends her 7-day holistic program:

Day 1- Nutrition

The first step to restore your health from the inside out is by eliminating allergenic foods and beverages from your diet.

“I believe that what you eat has a big impact on the rest of your body because our immune system and our gut can be inflamed from the foods that we eat,” Bennett said. “Heal your gut by eliminating certain foods so you can see how your body feels without them.”

Bennett has found that many people are sensitive to dairy, gluten, sugar, fungal foods, alcohol, peanuts and eggs.

Day 2- Water

The more water we drink, the better chance we have at breaking down and flushing out harmful allergens and toxins from our bodies.

“The more hydrated your body is, the fewer allergies you will have; but drink purified water!” Bennett said.

Studies have shown that the drinking water in the U.S. contains thousands of chemicals and contaminants. Even though the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) monitors the levels of containments in our water, some people may be more sensitive to potential harm caused by chemicals.

“Over time, the chemicals we ingest from our water build up and [this] puts more stress on our immune system, ultimately lowering our ability to handle allergens,” she said.

Bennett recommends using a reverse osmosis (RO) filtration unit to get 100 percent clean water that’s free of heavy metals, natural and synthetic toxins, microbes, debris and minerals.

Day 3- Air

To clean up your air, Dr. Bennett suggests three basic tips:
1) Block out what you can by shutting doors and windows on windy, foggy days.
2) Invest in a proper air filter for your home.
3)  Don’t add anything that can make allergies worse like plastics and synthetics.

“We don’t realize that there are a lot of toxins in our indoor air quality, so we want to make sure that we have an air purifier to get rid of those allergy triggers like pollen and dust-mites. You don’t want the type of air purifiers that are called ionizers, you need a HEPA (high-energy particulate air filtration) [purifier],” Bennett said.

Day 4- Living environments

Keeping your home as clean as possible will help remove airborne allergens circulating around your house.

“Allergy-proof your bedroom by getting dust mite covers for your bed and pillow covers,” Bennett said. “And get rid of any allergens you can clean out like pet dander, mold from magazines and books and dust from window treatments.”

Bennett also recommends using a natural cleaner and dusting regularly.

Day 5- Kitchen

Kitchenware can also affect your allergies. When scratched and heated, non-stick pots and pans can release harmful chemicals that can affect your allergies. The safest pots and pans to use are glass, enamel and cast iron.

“Kitchens can be one of the worst allergens in the entire house.  We have plastics that can actually burden our body and we have different types of pots and pans that are not as healthy as we think,” Dr. Bennett said.

Dr. Bennett also recommends buying glass containers instead of plastic.

“All plastics have the potential to leach into our food, especially if they are heated or used to store acidic foods like tomato sauces,” she said.

Day 6- Body

If allergens don’t enter our body through food, water or air, the next culprit is our skin.

Taking good care of your skin helps strengthen immunity because your body is not struggling with rashes, dirt or bacteria.

“There are about a million bugs growing on our skin so it’s important to wash our body properly- and that means no two-minute showers,” Bennett said. “I recommend a full cleanse by washing and scrubbing your body with a mild probiotic soap and cloth that will exfoliate your skin.”

Bennett also suggests showering before you go to bed to wash off the pollen, dirt and smog from your body before getting settled into your clean bed.

Day 7- Emotional health

A stressed and worn-down body has a more difficult time dealing with allergens.

“You don’t find an allergic person that is a calm person. People who are allergic and sensitive are more agitated and overwhelmed- you know life is a little more difficult. So what I suggest is calming your nervous system down with various tools such as deep breathing and going out and being in nature,” Bennett said.

To help your body relax, she also suggests creating a daily routine and making large to-do lists manageable by breaking them down into smaller lists for specific tasks.

The Fast Effects of Fast Food

We all know what it feels like to crave a big, juicy burger and an order of crispy fries. How convenient that this “gotta-have-a-burger-and-fries” feeling usually occurs when we are in a hurry and a drive-through is located just minutes away. On the way to the fast-food joint, we try to justify our value meal by telling ourselves that “moderation is key” and that we will work out and burn off the calories later. Then, the moment finally arrives when your scrumptious meal is just seconds away. You pull-up to the drive through window and spit out your order. “Hi, I would like an order of poor brain function, a side of indigestion and heartburn, a larger cup of moodiness, and constipation, please.”

fastfood1  The truth is, there is no such thing as moderation when it comes to junk-food. Nutritionists have warned about the long-term effects of fast food for decades, however, they have just recently discovered that the negative effects of fast food take root much more quickly than they originally thought. In fact, the consequences of eating fast food begins almost immediately, and every time you hit up a fast food restaurant, you leave a little less healthy. A new study published in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology indicates that damage to the arteries occurs pretty much immediately after just ONE junk-food meal. The study compared the effects of a junk-food meal and a Mediterranean-based meal on the inner lining of the blood vessels of 28 healthy, non-smoking men between the ages of 18 and 50. The men’s endothelial function, the ability of blood vessels to dilate, was measured after a 12 hour fast and 2 hours after each meal, one of them being junk-food with 15g saturated fat and 0g Omega-3’s and the other being a Mediterranean-based meal with 8g of saturated fat and 2g of Omega-3’s. Almost immediately after eating a fast food sausage, egg, and cheese sandwich, the men’s arteries dilated 24% less than when the subjects were in a fasted state. Poor endothelial function is a significant precursor of atherosclerosis, which is when the arteries become hardened, causing blood flow to be blocked. This study provides evidence that endothelial function declines after consuming only one junk-food meal, so imagine the arterial damage that occurs from consistently consuming fast food! That “value meal” just dropped way down in value, huh?

If this evidence isn’t enough to convince you that convenience is no reason to compromise your health, here are some of the other short-term effects fast food has been shown to have on your body:

Poor Brain Function: In order to function properly, your brain needs glucose, which is derived from carbohydrates and other nutrients such as healthy fats and antioxidants. In a study published in Child: Care, Health, and Development, evidence shows that fatty foods can have an immediate negative impact on brain function. Researchers analyzed the fast-food consumption and test scores in math and reading of 12,000 fifth graders. It turned out, the kids who ate fast food 4-6 times within a given week tested significantly lower than those who did not eat junk-food.

Poor Exercise Capabilities: After eating fast food, rats in The Journal of the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology study ran 35% less distance than rats who were fed healthy food. According to the National Eating Disorders Association, people who eat fast food often experience poor muscle strength, endurance, oxygen utilization, and coordination.

Mood Problems: “The high content of sugar in junk-food causes fluctuations in blood glucose levels,” says dietitian Chowdhary. “This makes [you] edgy, sleepy, and irritable throughout the day and leaves [you] with no motivation to be active.” The chemicals in your brain that promote positive moods, like serotonin and dopamine, rely on food and nutrients in order to function properly. Eating foods rich in antioxidants, like fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats, leads to positive energy and moods, while a diet high in fast foods lacks these nutritional benefits and thus increases the risk of depression.

So, the next time you’re craving that quick and convenient fast food, ask yourself if “a large order of moodiness, a side of lost productivity,and poor endothelial function” sounds yummy. Steer clear of fast food restaurants and make your own version of “fast food” by preparing quick snacks and meals in advance that you can grab on the go. Enhancing the convenience of healthy foods like fruits, veggies, and whole grains, will reduce your desire to reach for the bad stuff.

 

Man vs. Machine

I don’t know about you, but when I walk into the gym and see 1000 different machines, I get a little intimidated. I don’t know which machine trains what or how much weight to add to them, much less how to use them! I try to watch the gym experts get on and off the machines and imitate their steps, but I just never know if I am doing it right. I’ve even hurt myself on a machine doing shoulder presses, an injury I am still dealing with 3 years later. After all this trouble, I have decided to stick with “man power” and avoid most machines all-together. If you are like me and are not an equipment expert, it would be wise to avoid the following machines because they have been known to cause the most injuries.

1. Seated Chest Fly Machine: While meant to train chest and shoulders, this machine can put the shoulders in an unstable position, placing excessive stress on the shoulder joint and its connective tissues.seated fly chest machine

Instead: Work the same muscles by doing sets of incline push-ups.

2. Smith Machine Squats: The alignment of this machine makes for linear movements rather than natural, arched movements in the chest, biceps, and legs, therefore putting stress on your knees, shoulders, and low back.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Instead: Try doing body weight squats.

 

3. Seated Rotation Machine: I used to like this machine, but I discovered that because the pelvis doesn’t move with the chest, it causes excessive twisting forces on the spine.seated rotation

Instead: Tone up by doing some cable wood chops!

 

4. Seated Leg Lift Extension Machine: Talk about “all that work for nothing,” this machine strengthens a motion that your legs aren’t even designed to do! It can also strain your ligaments and tendons surrounding your kneecaps. single leg extension_small

Instead: Train muscles in your legs that you will actually use by doing 1-legged body-weight squats.

 

5. Seated Hip Abductor Machine: Here’s another machine that will waste your time. While it is meant to train your outer thighs, because you are seated, it trains a movement that has no functional use and can place undue pressure on the spine.seated hip abductor

Instead: Do some lateral band walks and really feel your muscles working!

 

6. Roman Chair Back Extension Machine: Repeatedly flexing the back while its supporting weight places pressure on the spine and increases the risk for damaging your disks. roman back extension

Instead: Protect your spine and try holding a bird-dog pose.

 

7. Roman Chair Sit-Up: This machine places the lower back in a vulnerable, rounded position, placing stress on the lower back.roman-chair-sit-ups

Instead: Train your abs and hip flexors by holding the plank position for 60 seconds.

 

8. Seated Shoulder Press Machine: I have a personal vendetta against this machine, since it is the one I messed up my shoulders on over 3 years ago. The shoulder movement required by this machine doesn’t allow you to use your hips to assist your shoulders, which is the natural way to push something up overhead. This puts the shoulder joints in a vulnerable position and puts undue stress on your shoulder.shoulder-press

Instead: Work your shoulders and triceps by doing medicine ball throws.

 Don’t get me wrong, not all machines are bad! But, it is best to either learn how to do them correctly from a professional or to use good ole man-power and body-weight when working out.

Wake Up And Smell The Coffee Addiction

 Is the thought of that first cup of coffee the only reason you get out of bed in the morning? Is one cup never enough? Would you rather drink a cup of bad coffee than no coffee? Do you turn into a morning monster without your cup of Joe? Are you really into coffee? I mean reallllyyyy into coffee?! 

 If you answered yes to these questions, congratulations, you’re a coffee addict like me! When I think of the word “addiction,” I think of  “Hi, I’m Claire and I’m a [coffee] addict (Hi Claire).”  But you fellow coffee addicts out there may be pleasantly surprised to know that your coffee addiction isn’t something you need to attend a recovery program for. In fact, your dependent relationship with coffee may be more beneficial for you than you realize. With all of the mixed opinions on the health aspects of coffee, for many of us it has turned into another “can’t live with it, can’t live without it” thing in our lives to worry about. On the rare occasion that I come across a non-coffee drinker, I begin to feel guilty about my coffee consumption and convince myself that I need to give it up… until the next morning when I realize how bad of an idea that was. But its not just my bad temper and fatigue without it that tell me its a bad idea to give up coffee; its science as well.  Here are the ABC’s of scientific research done on the health benefits of coffee:

Abnormal heart rhythms are 20% less likely to occur in people who drink 1-3 cups per day

Burns fat by as much as 10% in obese people and 29% in lean people

Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, causing it to send signals to the fat cells to break down body fat

Diabetes (type II) risk is reduced for coffee-drinkers by up to 50%

Frequent studies show that coffee-drinkers have up to a 65% lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s Disease

Energy levels increased

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Gallstones risk reduced by 25% after 4 cups per day

High in antioxidants, which protect against damaged cells and reduce the risk of chronic diseases

In a 2011 Harvard study, women who drank 4 cups per day had a 20% lower risk of depression

Just 2 calories in a typical cup of black coffee!

Keeps your risk of liver cancer 40% lower than non-coffee drinkers

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Lowers risk of Parkinson’s Disease by 25% (2-3 cups per day)

Minimizes chance of getting metastatic prostate cancer by 30% (1-3 cups per day)

Need a brain boost? Coffee blocks an inhibitory neurotransmitter called Adenosine which can improve memory, mood, and general cognitive function

Only drink up to 5 cups per day

Potassium, Magnesium, Niacin, Vitamin B5, Vitamin B2, and Manganese are essential nutrients found in coffee

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Quitting your workout? No way! Coffee can stimulate your muscles and therefore increase reps

Roast matters. Go for light-roasted black coffee

Stroke risk lowered by 20% for women who drink 2 or more cups daily

Those who drank 4 cups of coffee a day were 53% less likely to commit suicide in a study of over 200,000 people

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United States’ largest source of antioxidants… more than fruits and vegetables combined!

Very helpful to drink 30 minutes before exercising

Want to boost your metabolic rate by 3-11%? Drink coffee!

X your risk of cirrhosis by 80% by drinking 4 cups daily

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Your average physical performance can improve by 11-12% on average after drinking coffee

Zest up your morning… coffee reduces fatigue

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While there are coffee-haters out there who would like to argue that coffee is bad for you, I choose to believe the evidence I have come across in my research. Call it confirmation bias, but facts don’t lie. So stop feeling guilty about enjoying your morning cup of Joe and wake up and smell the coffee, you addict you!

Your Love/Hate Relationship With Chocolate

  With Valentines Day just one day away,we all have one thing on our minds…. chocolate. Well, maybe its only on the minds of us single folks who won’t be celebrating the holiday over an expensive dinner, but rather at home with a sappy movie and a large box of, you guessed it, chocolates. Like most relationships, chocolate sends us a lot of mixed messages: is it good for you, or is it not? Sometimes we love it, sometimes we vow to cut it out of our lives; it makes us feel good and it makes us feel guilty. chocolate heartWith all of these conflicts, how are we supposed to know whether or not our relationship with chocolate is worth staying in? What better way to evaluate a relationship than the tried-and-true Pro/Con List:

 

Pro: People who eat chocolate are 37% less likely to develop heart disease than those who rarely eat it, according to researchers at the University of Cambridge. Chocolate contains Arginine, which releases a substance to dilate and relax arteries.

Con: As you probably already know, chocolate has a lot of calories, which is not something you want to be collecting if you are trying to lose weight.

Pro: Dark chocolate is made from roasted cocoa kernels, which are rich in antioxidants called flavenoids. Antioxidants work to help neutralize some of the harmful chemical reactions occurring in your body due to our exposure to pollutants.

Con: Mood swings. Yes, we are still evaluating chocolate, not your girlfriend. The sugar in chocolate can cause swings in the levels of your Endorphins, which are brain chemicals that affect mood.

Pro: With ten times less the amount of caffeine than that of the average serving of coffee, soda, or tea, chocolate is a better way to decrease fatigue. In small doses, caffeine can be beneficial in improving your fat metabolism, exercise endurance, and alertness.

Con: As the saying goes, “too much of a good thing isn’t always a good thing.” Similar to the brain processes with addictive drugs, receptors eventually become desensitized to the mood-lifting effect of chocolate, causing you to need more and more of it to get the same endorphin-raising effects.

Pro: The British Medical Journal found evidence showing that eating 100g of dark chocolate per day could reduce blood pressure by enough to decrease the risk of heart attack or stroke by 21%!

Pro: After consuming chocolate, your body converts its Tryptophan to Seratonin in the brain, producing a mood-lifting effect. This is also said to lower stress levels and anxiety.

 

Lucky for us Valentines Day-chocolate-eating-single people, we came out with more pro’s on our list than cons! Its really not a question of whether chocolate is healthy or not, but a matter of selecting the right kind of chocolate and in the right amount. The best kind of chocolate you can eat is dark chocolate, since it has the highest percentage of cocoa and the least amount of added sugar. Like Chia, cocoa was first discovered by the Aztecs, who believed it to increase wisdom and boost energy levels. Modern day chocolate usually contains additives like sugar or dairy. The closer you can get to the original cocoa powder of the Aztecs, the better. A good target-level is dark chocolate with 72% or more cocoa. White chocolate, containing no cocoa powder, provides none of the health benefits discussed above. Once you go dark, you never go back.

All Valentines Day and “single people” commentary aside, dark chocolate is a guilt-free treat when consumed in moderation. Although the study done by the British Medical Journal was based on a 100g intake of dark chocolate a day, the more common recommendation is about 28g, or 1 ounce, per day. We now have 2 things to thank the Aztecs for!