Food Is Not Your Enemy


Alcohol: The Benefits and Risks
December 19, 2017, 11:40 am
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

There’s no question that too much alcohol is not good for us—heavy drinking is a major cause of preventable death, whether from liver disease or traffic accidents. But what about “moderate” drinking? And what counts as moderate, anyway?

According to the USDA, moderate drinking means one to two drinks per day for men, and one drink per day for women. One drink is considered to be 12 ounces of beer, or 5 ounces of wine, or 1.5 ounces of hard alcohol. This quantity of alcohol is considered to be more helpful than harmful—at least when it comes to such issues as heart health. In study after study, according to the Harvard School of Public Health, moderate drinkers have a 25-40% reduced risk of heart attack and stroke. They also have less risk of developing type 2 diabetes and gallstones.

But other studies have found that even moderate drinking can raise our risk of developing certain types of cancer, such as cancer of the breast, esophagus, throat and neck, larynx, liver, and colon. As far as breast cancer risk, alcohol can change the way a woman’s body metabolizes estrogen, which can lead to higher levels of estrogen in the body. This rise, in turn, can raise breast cancer risk.

There is some good news on this front, though—folate appears to mitigate this increased risk of breast cancer significantly. In the wide-ranging Nurses’ Health Study, among women who consumed one alcoholic drink a day or more, those whose blood contained the highest levels of folate–a B vitamin found in dark leafy greens, citrus, nuts, beans, and seeds–were 90% less likely to develop breast cancer than those who had the lowest levels of folate.

It’s also good to remember that alcohol contains empty calories that do not help us feel full. If you’re concerned about your weight, remember that each glass of wine, beer, or straight liquor you have will contain 100-150 calories, and that’s before you get involved with added sugary syrups and sodas in cocktails. Have a few drinks on a Friday night and you’ve essentially had an additional dinner’s worth of calories.

So enjoy your booze, but keep your intake under control. And eat your greens!

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Pumpkin Spice: Naughty or Nice?
November 16, 2017, 11:05 am
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: ,

Let me say up front that my newsletter this month is not going to weigh in on the “pumpkin spice wars” and make value judgments about people who like pumpkin spice vs. those who do not. I personally do not like pumpkin spice—you will never see me so much as sniffing at a piece or pumpkin pie or a pumpkin spice latte—but if you enjoy this combo of spices, good for you! Because the spices commonly used in pumpkin spice—cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and ginger, among them—actually have great health benefits. Lucky for me, I do enjoy these spices separately in other settings, and you can too—cinnamon is great on top of oatmeal, coffee, or sweet potatoes, for instance, and ginger is indispensable in a good stir fry and many an Indian dish.

Be forewarned—the classic Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte with whipped cream (grande size) has 380 calories and 50 grams of sugar (that translates to over 12 teaspoons of sugar). There are healthier ways to get these spices into your diet, for sure, like a simple plain chai tea with maybe just a splash of milk.

Here are some of the positive effects that these sweet spices can have on our health, according to Harvard Medical School …

Cinnamon. The most popular of the pumpkin-themed spices, cinnamon has antioxidant, antidiabetic, and antibacterial properties. It has been found to reduce inflammation and improve brain function.

Cloves. Cloves are an antioxidant powerhouse, containing more antioxidants than virtually any other food or spice. They have antifungal and antimicrobial properties. And a compound found in cloves has been shown to be more powerful than aspirin in helping to prevent blood clots.

Nutmeg. Nutmeg contains compounds that help boost mood, relieve pain, and lower blood pressure. It may also help slow cognitive decline in people suffering from Alzheimer’s. Added to a little warm milk, nutmeg can help aid sleep.

Ginger. Ginger can help relieve pain, and is a well-known remedy for nausea and upset stomach. It’s also good for improving memory and focus.

Cardamom. Another spice with antioxidant and antibacterial properties, cardamom has also been found to help lower blood pressure and risk of stroke.

So enjoy these warming, sweet spices—just watch the sugar that often comes with them!



“Why Have I Gained Weight?”
October 24, 2017, 1:01 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, weight loss | Tags: , ,

When it comes to our weight, sometimes we fail to see what’s right in front of us.

Maybe you’ve put some weight on in the past few years, and you can’t understand why. “What am I doing wrong?” you wonder. You feel like you eat healthy, you make decent choices, you exercise. Did your metabolism just slow down for some reason? It can all be very frustrating when we can’t understand the reason behind the higher number we’re seeing on the scale.

This is when you need to do some detective work. Are you simply missing some very obvious patterns and problems? For instance, do you snack in front of the TV every night after dinner, without giving it a second thought? Do you grab a couple of little chocolates from the jar on your co-worker’s desk every time you walk by? If you’re out doing something that doesn’t involve food with friends, are you the one who always suggests you all stop for coffee and a pastry or some other sweet treat? Do you eat nuts mindlessly several times a day, thinking it doesn’t matter because they are good for you?

These are just a few examples of behaviors you may be engaged in that are leading to weight gain. So spend the time really taking a close look at your daily habits, and question everything. Those seemingly innocent habits might not be so innocent after all.



How Your Diet Can Heal You–Or Harm You

There’s a pill for everything. Pills to treat symptoms, pills to help prevent diseases, pills to deal with mental health issues. Sometimes these pills are very necessary, and can truly save lives. But there are times when food can work as well as medicine—if not better—when it comes to addressing specific health concerns.

Here are just a few examples:

-Just recently a study found that we can reduce the risk of dementia significantly just by changing our diet—eating in a way to lower blood pressure and weight make a big difference here.

-Many people can avoid taking drugs to lower their cholesterol—which can cause such side effects as headaches, muscle pain, and increased risk of diabetes—by switching up their diets. Eating more nuts, seeds, fiber-rich foods, olive oil, and fish and sidelining such foods as white/refined carbs and sugar can make a huge difference in our cholesterol numbers.

-Increasing intake of healthy fats from plants and fish and reducing the toxic combination of sugar and too much caffeine can really help people who are suffering from depression and/or anxiety.

-Blood pressure can respond quickly to changes in salt intake. Before committing to a lifetime of taking blood pressure meds, which also can have unwanted side effects, try significantly reducing your salt intake by eating less restaurant food and processed food like chips/pretzels, cold cuts, and canned soups.

-Rather than taking acid-reducing pills (which inhibit absorption of B vitamins) or downing Tums like candy, notice if there are particular foods that are causing your reflux or stomach upset. From experience working with my clients, I’ve found that this is true virtually 100 percent of the time.

You really can think of every bite of food you’re eating as something that is either going to lead to greater health, or something that could harm your health. So choose wisely, and make food your medicine rather than your poison.



How to Slow Aging

When most of us think about the process of aging, we look at the external—our skin, our hair, our belly pouch that may have appeared in the past year. Our first response to seeing these changes may be to slather on an expensive cream, or dye our grays away, or go on a fad diet to whittle down our thickened waist. But one of the most effective ways to truly slow down our body’s aging process is to think differently about the foods we eat over the long term.

Some recent studies have found that structures in the body called telomeres play a large role in our longevity. Telomeres protect our DNA by capping the ends of our chromosomes and preventing them from becoming damaged. And it turns out that people with longer telomeres live longer than people with short telomeres.

The most effective way to ensure that you have long telomeres is to consume plenty of carotenoid-rich foods. Carotenoids are the natural pigments that are responsible for the bright colors of fruits and vegetables. Plant-based foods are also rich in antioxidants, which can help fight the oxidative stress that can lead to the shortening of our telomeres.

It’s also important to eat an anti-inflammatory diet to help prevent signs of aging. This means avoiding added sugars as well as refined carbohydrates like white bread and white rice as much as you can. When it comes to preventing inflammation in the body, vegetables and fruits are again your friend here, along with healthy fats like olive oil, avocados, nuts, seeds, and fish. Healthy fats also help regulate our hormonal systems, an important factor when it comes to aging as well.

And as for applying cream to our skin? I do recommend using a moisturizer that contains sunscreen daily on the face, 365 days a year. The sun does play a large role in aging our skin.

The nice thing about eating to prevent aging is that the foods I’m recommending will also help you manage your weight and reduce your risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes. So eat colorfully, don’t fear fats, and nourish those telomeres!



Balance Is a Waste of Time
June 20, 2017, 3:50 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: , ,

Work-life balance was a mistake from the start. Because we don’t really want balance. We want satisfaction.” – Matthew Kelly, author

Balance is a sticky subject among many people. We have careers, partners, children, family commitments, classes, hobbies … plus big desires to improve our health. How can one possibly balance so many things?

I’m going to let you in on a little secret: You can’t.

“Harmony” is an easier goal than balance.

Harmony means everything is co-existing in a spirit of cooperation. But whatever you want to call it–harmony, balance, or “fitting it all in”–there is a secret to doing more of what you want and less of what you don’t want.

Although the solution sounds simple, it requires that you get absolutely clear on what you want your life to look like, and what you do not want in your life:

  • First, ask yourself what isn’t serving you. What doesn’t need to be in your life? What is dragging you down? Keeping you awake at night?
  • Have you identified a few things? Now get rid of them (or fix them–now).
  • Next, ask yourself what you want in your life, or in this week or this day. What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to be with? Focus your energy on these things. If anything doesn’t fit into this larger scheme, let it go (or learn how to say “no”).

Ready to dive in and make a few changes? Give these tips a try and see how much more harmonious your life can be. No balance required.



How Much Water Should You Drink?
May 24, 2017, 3:53 pm
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Water, weight loss | Tags: ,

“How much water should I be drinking each day?” I get this question a lot.

The answer? It depends.

First off, it’s important to note that most people do not drink enough water. The consequences of mild to moderate dehydration can range from headaches, poor digestion, cravings, and sluggish thinking to skin breakouts, bad breath, and general fatigue. Water is necessary to keep every system in the body functioning properly, and plays a role in carrying nutrients and oxygen to our cells, preventing constipation, cushioning our joints, keeping our heartbeat stable, regulating body temperature and blood pressure, and more.

According to the Harvard Health Letter, most people need about four to six cups of water each day. But I think most of us would benefit from more than that, and over the years I’ve seen people feel better and reduce cravings from drinking more water. I actually prefer the almost clichéd advice of six to eight cups a day. In the warmer months, when we tend to play hard, sweat, and spend prolonged time in the sun, drinking even more water that that might be necessary. And of course, if you’re working out you’ll need a greater quantity of water as well.

To start your day off on the right foot, drink a glass of water as soon as you wake up. Drinking water first thing in the morning pulls out toxins from the previous day and freshens your system for the day ahead. Keep a bottle or cup of water accessible throughout the day, whether you are on the go or at a desk. Having water close by will remind you to take a sip when thirsty. The first sip will usually let you know how much more water you need. A sip or two may be enough, or you may need a big glass. If you drink most of your daily water before early evening, you most likely will not be thirsty before bed. This is good, because drinking before bed and then waking to use the bathroom disturbs your peaceful night’s sleep.

If the taste of plain water is unappealing, experiment to see how you can make it tasty and drinkable. Try adding a few mint leaves, a wedge of lemon, a sprig of parsley, slices of cucumber, a twist of lime, or a squeeze of orange to make water more tempting. Herbal tea counts as water intake too! Whichever way you prefer it, make water an important priority each day.