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If you just finished your taxes, you may be thinking about how to spend less money this year. Here are four ways that also help you eat healthier:
Community supported agriculture (CSA) programs mean that you buy shares in a family farm and get a weekly delivery of goodies. You typically pay less than at the store, because there is no middleman. It also benefits farmers. A Google search can tell you about options near you.
Most Americans overeat animal protein, and conventional methods (i.e., concentrated animal feeding operations) use hormones, antibiotics, high-pesticide feed, and other cost-cutting measures that appear increasingly terrible for human health. Plus, researchers at the USC Longevity Institute report that reducing protein intake, especially from animal foods, is healthy in numerous ways that promote slower and healthier aging.
I know, I know… Researchers have done a complete 180 on this one. But skipping a meal now and then is currently believed to be good for gut health, and most people do not grossly overeat afterwards, as previously thought. In fact, research suggests that people only eat about 110% at the meal following a short fast.
You’ve probably been seeing the depressing headlines about how any benefits from alcohol have been overhyped. Some studies about the benefits of resveratrol were even fraudulent and retracted. Bummer! ... but a good opportunity to save money and get healthier.
What else do you do to eat healthier and save money? We’d love to hear about it!
Growing evidence suggests that gut health is all health. In other words, many health conditions either originate in the gut (e.g., autoimmune conditions), or are made better when gut health improves. This goes for mental health as well as physical.
So here’s a handy list of 15 ways to promote better gut health:
The research keeps pouring in, suggesting that Americans have severely underestimated the importance of gut health in the past, especially for people living with chronic inflammation, autoimmune disorders, mental health issues or neurological problems. So it’s time to re-evaluate our diets from our guts’ point of view, and maybe to learn to love sauerkraut (...we’re struggling with that one, too!).
This week's tip is brief:
Be mindful on Easter!
That cute little Easter Bunny can bring loads of weight gain. In fact, since we started keeping track of client results (in 1997) Easter is the #1 weight gain holiday of the year! It beats out Christmas, Thanksgiving and even Halloween! We can't explain exactly why, but suspect it has something to do with brunches, candy, Easter bread, and/or not being as "on guard" as on other holidays. So strategize NOW and make us proud.
Over the years, our nutrition practice has witnessed countless people discovering these valuable lessons over Lent, and wishing they had internalized them sooner.
Lesson 1: The loss is temporary.
Giving up a favorite junky food (for Lent or any time) is hard....but only for a few weeks. Once a processed food loses its hold on your brain and taste buds, it often stops appealing at all. Taste buds change to love whatever feeds you when you are most hungry, so no food is the permanent love of your life. You move on to healthier things that are just as beloved.
But then, after Lent, you eat the old treat again and...
Lesson 2: The old infatuation comes back shockingly fast.
Upon trying the treat again, many people don't even enjoy the first few bites. The food seems over-flavored and over-processed. But habit, curiosity, or a quest for that old "hit" make them finish the treat and before they know it, they are having fresh cravings.
Lesson 3: Next time you do all the work to break free, don't go back!
When you work hard to give up a junky food, and reach that wonderful place of no longer wanting it, don't get curious about trying it again! Instead, reap the rewards of living free from junk-food-want.
Nothing shows true love like food that is both romantic and healthy. Here are some Valentine's ideas to get you started:
Lunch or Dinner:
Happy Valentine's Day!
Watching football (i.e., hours of sedentary snacking and high adrenaline) is the optimal condition for promoting blood sugar spikes, fat storage and inflammation, if you don't watch it.
One way to reduce the risk is to do a good workout before the game, to deplete your muscles of glycogen. Another option is to choose healthier snacks to replace the chips and pizza. Here are some ideas:
If skipping your favorite junk food bums you out, take heart: Research shows that most people mindlessly much on anything within reach during the Super Bowl, and enjoy it the same whether it's raw veggies or hard core junk food.
So make us proud Sunday! And please share your healthy snack ideas. We can never have too many.
Gut microbes have become celebrities in the worlds of nutrition and wellness, and with good reason. They appear to play a significant role in everything from inflammation to weight to mood and they appear to be involved in a growing variety of medical conditions.
Microbes are found doing numerous different jobs, including extracting and producing nutrients, helping to protect and repair the intestinal barrier, sending signals to the immune system about potential threats in the environment, and much more. Current theories posit that microbes are especially relevant to allergies and autoimmune disease, because they can either signal the immune system to be relaxed OR they can instruct it to stay on high alert and to over-react.
Maybe our microbes’ influence shouldn’t be surprising, given that we have trillions of them all over the body. In fact, a human body contains fewer human cells with less DNA than the microbes that live in it and on it. Some scientists hypothesize that we evolved with these microbes so that we humans wouldn’t need to do so many tasks all on our own. Instead, we allow microbes to live on us and, in exchange, they do some of the work for us. That means that each of us is not just an individual, but a whole big walking microbial community!
The exciting part to me is that these trillions of microbes can be managed to help us be healthier, happier, leaner and more youthful. If we take care of our microbes, and create the right conditions for beneficial microbes to flourish, then THEY will help take care of US. On the other hand, if we allow conditions to be right for “bad” microbes, we’ll have to live with the mayhem and destruction they can cause.
So...what can we do to recruit our microbes to be an army of helpers? Lots of things! Current research suggests that we can…
• Eat to feed the “good” microbes by maximizing the variety of plant foods in our diet, especially vegetables
• Starve the “bad” microbes of their favorite fuel, which is sugar and processed carbs,
• Stop eating foods that kill or disturb good microbes, such as artificial sweeteners, preservatives, and foods containing antibiotics (e.g., animals raised where overcrowding necessitates widespread administration of antibiotics),
• Eat beneficial bacteria directly via fermented foods (especially veggies), like sauerkraut, kim-chi, natto, etc.
• Leave enough time between meals to get truly hungry, which allows for the intestines to do their natural cleaning wave, called the migrating motor complex,
• Reduce stress, which influences microbes,
• Stop killing beneficial microbes via over-use of antibacterial soaps, mouthwash, detergents, and unnecessary antibiotics
As you can see, there’s a lot we can do to manage our microbes. Who couldn’t use a few trillion extra helpers on their wellness team?!
Some surprising nutrition findings explain why many Americans don't lose weight after the holidays, despite eating healthier. Here's the (rather humbling) summary, after grocery bills were examined for 207 households:
On average, households bought more unhealthy food during the holiday season (between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day) compared to the previous months. No surprise. After January 1, they bought more healthy foods. Again, no surprise.
HOWEVER, after January 1, while buying more healthy food, they still purchased holiday levels of UNhealthy food. They just bought MORE food and MORE calories. Doh!
If you want to see the gory details, the complete article can be read at: http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0110561
Since I'm currently in Truckee, where the Donner Party famously starved to the point of cannibalism, I'm reminded that over-buying food is a survival instinct baked deep into our biology. But...if your New Year's weight loss has been stymied, you might want to pay closer attention to your grocery purchases.
Happy new year!
Happy Almost New Year!
If you want to improve your health habits in the new year, then here is a valuable tip:
Willpower succeeds much better when you focus on what you WILL do, rather than on what you WON'T.
For example, replace "no-no" resolutions like this:
with "to-do" resolutions like this:
The best to-do items are those that actively interfere with the unwanted habit. For example, mindless nibbling isn't possible when you're taking a bath, a walk or a yoga class. And, incidentally, if you wanted to justify playing computer games, they've been proven to help people avoid nighttime munching.
It's a seemingly minor shift in focus, but it hugely raises your chances for success: So take some time RIGHT NOW to rephrase any "will not" resolutions into positive "to-do" items.
And have a wonderful new year!
Here are 10 ways to maximize your joy at the holiday table while minimizing weight gain:
Be the best conversationalist (i.e., slowest eater) at the table.
Cut your food in smaller pieces.
Use all your senses: Savor the sights, sounds and smells of the season.
Prepare nice responses to food-pushers, so you don't overeat just to please someone else.
Plan active fun, especially right before or after dinner, when it will help blunt a blood sugar spike. A short walk or game of Twister can make all the difference.
Prioritize. Remember that consuming alcohol and dessert at the same meal pretty much guarantees you'll gain fat. If that's not worth it to you, choose only one or the other.
If a big splurge IS worth it to you, then listen to your taste buds and appetite. If you've been eating cleaner recently, you'll notice that you get satisfied much more quickly than you used to.
Have an attitude of gratitude. It's good for your mental and physical health and has also been shown to make people eat healthier without even trying.
Expect that splurges may blitz your taste buds or stretch your stomach, making it harder to eat right for a few days afterwards, when clean eating tastes bland and under-satisfying. It's part of the price you pay, but so long as you expect it, it's not such a big deal.
Focus on the people more than the food. Try to get even more enjoyment out of connecting with others than you can out of the food. See if you can bond with your table-mates and make a memory that lasts longer than the taste of rich foods.
Happiest Holiday wishes to you!!
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