Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Skinny Fat

Why You Should Still Care About Your Health, Even if You're "Thin"

So your weight is within the normal BMI (Body Mass Index) range, and you fit into your size small or medium clothes just fine. Why do you need to worry about nutrition or exercise if you seem to feel and look "healthy?" It turns out, that even though an individual has a normal weight and size, a poor diet can cause them to have unseen health problems. Failure to maintain a healthy diet and exercise plan allows your body to assume the state of being “skinny fat.”

Let's Talk About Fat

Eating a diet consisting of high sugar content, processed foods, and solid fats leads to the storage of what is called visceral fat. Visceral fat is the fat that is stored in your abdomen in between your organs. There are two main kinds of fat: subcutaneous fat and visceral fat. Subcutaneous fat is the kind that is stored just beneath the skin. It can be found in your stomach, arms, neck, and even the soles of your feet. This kind of fat is healthy and essential in moderate amounts. Too much can lead to overweight and obesity, which come with a host of problems. However, the hidden killer is visceral fat.

Visceral fat wraps around your inner organs-- the heart, liver, lungs, and other major organs. Carrying excess amounts of visceral fat can be one of the symptoms of metabolic syndrome. This disease provides a host of other symptoms such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and elevated insulin levels.  Having visceral fat has also been linked to stroke, heart disease, diabetes, breast cancer, and dementia, among other adverse health conditions.

The problem with visceral fat is that it can be hiding even in relatively thin people. This means that even those who think they're safe and attribute genetics to their physique are not safe from the negative effects of a poor diet. Weight is simple a clue that doctors look for to indicate the state of an individual's health. However, it’s not the be-all-end-all diagnosis. In fact, when a thin person is diagnosed with diabetes they have twice the risk of death compared to that of an overweight person diagnosed with the same disease.

Look at it this way: some cars show their age and you can tell how old it is by the exterior. However, some cars look to be in deceivingly good condition-- until you check under the hood.

What To Do

Whether you feel you need to lose a few pounds or you haven't ever thought you needed to worry about your weight, everyone should strive to eat better and exercise. Eat a diet full of a variety of fruits and vegetables. They should take up half your plate or more. Cut down on added sugars such as soda pop and sugary treats, and choose lean protein instead of bacon or red meat. Avoid processed foods (most things in a package) as much as possible, as these can contain significant amounts of added sugars and extra fat. Additionally, it is important to have whole grains in your diet. This includes whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, oatmeal, and quinoa.
 Try to find ways to be more active that you enjoy. If you hate working out, do Zumba or play a game of soccer with your friends/family. The recommended guideline for the average person is to do 150 minutes a week of moderate activity (rule of thumb: you can still talk while you're doing the activity, but not carry on a conversation easily). Incorporate resistance training into your life (lifting, pushing, and carrying heavy things). This will add to your muscle stores so that you have the strength to do your daily tasks well into your old age, as well as increasing your resting metabolism so that you burn more calories at rest.

All of these tips will help prevent you from developing problems down the road from fat you didn't even know you were accumulating. If you're concerned you might be "skinny fat," have your provider test your blood sugar, blood pressure, triglycerides, and blood cholesterol levels. These results will give a good basic picture of your current state of health.



Thursday, October 23, 2014

10 Delicious Fruits and Vegetables You've Probably Never Heard Of

Ten Fruits and Vegetables You've Never Heard Of

1. Horned Melon (African Cucumber/Kiwano)

Native to Africa, these horned melons have been compared to the taste of cucumber, zucchini, banana, and lemon. They are now grown in California, New Zealand, Chile, and Australia. It can be eaten at any stage of ripening. Some even eat the peel, which is rich in vitamin C and dietary fiber.

2. Cherimoya

Thought to be native to the Andes, this interesting fruit is now grown throughout South Asia, Central America, South America, Southern California and more. The flesh of the fruit is soft, sweet, and white with a sorbet-like texture. Mark Twain once said that the cherimoya was "the most delicious fruit known to men." Because of its taste and texture, it has also been nicknamed the custard apple.

3. Soursop (Guanabana/Brazilian Pawpaw)

This fruit is native to Cuba, Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean, and is a cousin to the cherimoya. Its fruit has been described as the cross between pineapple and strawberry. However, the seeds make it difficult to eat the flesh. The pulp is also used to make fruit nectar, smoothies, fruit juice drinks, and other treats. Some even claim it can be used to treat cancer, although there is no scientific evidence to support this idea. 

4. Jicama

Native to Mexico, jicama is a root vegetable that has a crisp white flesh. The flavor is sweet and starchy, similar to a mild apple. It is a great source of potassium and vitamin C, and can be eaten raw by itself, on salads, or paired with other seasonings.

5. Langsat

Not the most attractive of fruit, the langsat is actually produced by a tree in the mahogany family. The plant originates in Southeast Asia, and bears small fruit that look a little bit like a cluster of tiny potatoes. The seeds of the fruit are covered in a clear-white flesh that have a sweet and sour taste, almost like a cross between a grape and a grapefruit.

6.  Lychee

Lychee is from China but is now popular in many parts of the world. The skin is tough and inedible, but the fruit inside is clear, juicy, and sweet. Interestingly, in the 1st century fresh lychees were in such demand in the Imperial Court in China that a special brigade of fast horses was assigned to retrieve them regularly from Guangdong.

7. Purple Mangosteen

Mangosteen is native to Indonesia and is about the size of a tangerine. The rind is tough and inedible, but the fruit inside is similar to a citrus fruit, and is white and fibrous. The flavor is sweet, tangy, and juicy.

8. Romanesco Broccoli

Romanesco is so similar to cauliflower that it can be substituted in most recipes. The taste is comparable, but romanesco is described as being delicate and nutty in flavor. The big differences are in the  appearance and in the texture. Romanesco broccoli is much crunchier than cauliflower.

9. Sapodilla

Sapodilla is native to southern Mexico, the Caribbean, and Central America. The flesh ranges from pale yellow to an earthy brown, and has a grainy texture like a ripe pear. The taste when ripe is malty and exceptionally sweet, being compared to candy.

10. Starfruit (Carambola)

This fun-shaped fruit is native to the Philippines, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, and other places. It can be eaten whole ripe or unripe. The riper the fruit, the sweeter it is. It has a waxy skin with a flesh that is comparable to a plum or citrus fruit. The taste can be compared to a cross between an apple and a grape. Starfruit is also rich in antioxidants, potassium, and vitamin C.



Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Why You Should Wash Your Produce

3 Reasons You Should Wash Your Produce

We've all taken a bite out of that shiny apple, thinking it was probably clean enough without washing. However, there are a few reasons why you should think twice before chomping down on some unwashed produce. Here are three reasons why you should wash your produce before eating it:

1. Pesticides

Eating certain fruits and vegetables can expose you to up to 14 different pesticides per day on average. Prolonged exposure to pesticides can lead to chronic health problems, and children are especially susceptible. Limiting your family's exposure by washing your produce thoroughly can reduce the risk of damaging your health.

2. Food Borne Illnesses

There are all kinds of food borne illnesses that we can protract from our food. It doesn't just have to be raw chicken to house bacteria. You should always be cautious before putting food in your mouth. With salmonella, staphyloccocus aureus, and E. coli out there to take our bodies by storm, it's important to practice proper food hygiene.

3. Dirt!

It may go without saying, but our produce is dirty! Have you ever opened up a head of lettuce to find dirt, gravel, and even dead bugs inbetween the leaves? A lot of our produce comes from the ground, and the ground is dirty. This means that the fruits and vegetables that we eat that come with a layer of dust, mud, or whatever else they were pulled up with (including insects). If you have a problem with eating dirt and bugs, it is probably a good idea to wash your produce.

The Proper Way to Wash Your Produce (from FDA.gov):

"Wash all produce thoroughly under running water before eating, cutting or cooking. This includes produce grown conventionally or organically at home, or purchased from a grocery store or farmer's market. Washing fruits and vegetables with soap or detergent or using commercial produce washes is not recommended. Scrub firm produce, such as melons and cucumbers, with a clean produce brush. Dry produce with a clean cloth towel or paper towel to further reduce bacteria that may be present."



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Breaking Through Weight Loss Plateaus

The Day the Scale Stood Still...

It has happened to the best of us. We are cheerfully cruising along on our various weight loss journeys, weight dropping off consistently for the first few weeks or months, when suddenly everything comes to a screeching halt. You think, "Why even bother?"

First of all, the worst thing you can do is give up on yourself. Just because you haven't seen a loss on the scale doesn't mean you haven't been making progress. The scale doesn't measure body composition (muscle versus fat, or water weight), it can only tell you your body's relationship with gravity. Also, you've hopefully been making progress with lifestyle changes (like exercising and eating vegetables), which means that even if you're not losing weight right now, you're still making better choices for your body.

5 Ways to Break Through a Weight Loss Plateau:

1. Be Honest With Yourself

This is perhaps the most important rule. You may have started off measuring your food and meticulously counting calories, but now you feel you know yourself and can eyeball portion sizes. You also may have started out sweating vigorously on the elliptical machine six days a week, and now take a few days off every couple weeks (or every week). Or maybe you've been going out to eat a little more often, not realizing that those "exceptions" are now becoming the norm. Getting too comfortable can happen slowly and we may not even notice the extra calories or decrease in effort at the gym. Take a look at your habits objectively, and be honest. We are only hurting our own progress by making justifications or trying to cut corners. If you feel that maybe you've been letting things slide a little bit too much, forgive yourself, refocus, and renew your dedication to your goals.

2. Try Something Different

If you keep trying the same thing over and over, you'll most likely get the same results. With weight loss plateaus, it's all about surprising your body. If you walk half an hour every day, try biking instead. You can also try high-intensity interval training (HIIT) workouts. This is where you incorporate sprints into your workout at certain intervals that depend on your fitness level. If you're a beginner, do two minutes of your preferred cardio at a moderate pace, then do thirty seconds of maximum effort. Repeat this about ten times. As your fitness level improves, you can increase the "sprint" time and decrease the breaks in between. Trying something new in your work-outs can shock the body and finally tip the scales in your favor.
If you are the kind of person who eats the same thing for every meal day after day, it's time to break the habit. Variety is one of the most important principles of health. We need a variety of foods, especially fruits and vegetables, to get all of the nutrients we need for our body. Try eating new foods and incorporating more variety into your diet.

3. Drink More Water

As it was mentioned previously, the scale doesn't take water weight into account. Your body could be retaining water because it isn't getting enough water every day. The more water you drink, the more the body can let go of those water stores and flush out the "bloat." Additionally, drinking water can help you feel more energized and remain more active throughout the day by keeping blood volume up and therefore supplying enough oxygen to your muscles. Drinking a glass of water can also help with cravings or overeating. When you have a craving or are considering that second helping, drink a full glass of water and wait at least ten minutes. This will help you to determine whether you are really hungry.

4. Measure for Success

If you haven't already started measuring yourself, do it now! Sometimes you won't see a loss on the scale, but you will see a loss of inches. The inches are just as important as the pounds, as they can indicate fat loss. Sometimes you can drop a dress size without having lost a pound! If your workouts are focused more on weight training than cardio, and you haven't been eating at a deficit (less calories than your body expends in energy), then it is very possible to sculpt your body and lose inches but no weight. Check every few weeks or months to see your progress. The standard is to measure your arms, thighs, waist, hip, and neck.

5. Be Patient

I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but sometimes it just takes a while to see progress. If you tend to see your weight jump up after hitting a new low number, don't panic! The body can fluctuate up to ten pounds in one day! Try to keep the overall trend in mind. Don't let the number ruin your progress. Keep making healthy choices and eventually you will see progress. Weight loss is a matter of taking in less energy than you put out. If you do this consistently, eventually the math will add up and you will reach your goals. It's okay to take a long time to reach your goal! Studies actually show that those who lose weight more slowly keep it off better. So keep hitting the gym and eating your vegetables. You will get there eventually, and your body will thank you for it. Weight loss isn't just a destination-- it's a journey.

Note: If you've honestly tried everything and your weight is still stagnant, make an appointment with your provider. There may be medical reasons that make it harder for you to lose weight.



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