Sunday, December 4, 2011

How to Stop Smoking Without Gaining Weight

cigarette_butt.jpgA weight loss patient came to me venting her frustrations over weight gain after she quit smoking.

She was at her breaking point and ready to start smoking again to get the extra weight off.

Smoking is the last thing you want to do to try to maintain a healthy weight. Even if your weight might be normal, your overall health is suffering.

Here are the ideas that I reviewed with her to get her on track to reaching her weight loss goals, while ridding that extra frustration.

Begin an exercise routine if you haven't already. This is the number one thing that helps most former smokers. Since smoking does burn extra calories, you can replace your previous calorie burn with exercise burn! An added bonus is that exercise helps to relieve stress, tension, and anxiety that you may be dealing with. Focus on eating mindfully. It is important not to become an emotional eater when you quit. Instead of reaching for a cigarette, many will reach for comfort food. Focus on your true physical hunger levels instead. Have snacks for munching readily available. When you do feel the need to put something in your mouth out of habit, grab a piece of sugar free gum or hard candy. Popcorn, fresh fruit, carrots, and other raw vegetables are good for crunching.Remove trigger foods and beverages from the home. This includes alcohol which may make you want to start smoking again, and contributes to empty calories in the day. Keep junk food and other "comfort" foods out of the house so you are not tempted.Eat 3 regular small meals and 2 or 3 healthy snacks in your day. This will help to tame your increased hunger levels. Yes, there are plenty of people out there who still smoke! Even though the rates have drastically dropped, people still need all the support they can get.

Those of you who have struggled with "food addiction" know what addictive behavior feels like. So, next time you meet someone who is struggling, you can share some of these tips.

If you have quit smoking, what strategies worked for you?

View the original article here

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Couple Loses Over 100 lbs on the 17 Day Diet

kurt-georgia-after.jpgHere's a great story about a couple who did the 17 Day Diet together and lost over 100lbs.

This couple emailed us directly and aren't connected with 17 Day in any way other than using the program to lose weight.

Georgia: Starting Weight: 188lbs

Size: 16-18

Health: I was struggling with menopause and hot flashes! I easily gained at least 25 pounds with nothing seeming to work, plus I had stomach/digestive issues, was out of breath, not happy with myself, and I had no energy.

Kurt: Starting Weight: 285lbs

Size: 2XL-3XL w/42 inch waist

Health: One year prior he had 2 heart stents put in, was a full blown diabetic needing more and more insulin to try to maintain blood sugars, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, and taking several medications for both symptoms/diseases just to try to keep them at a fairly normal level--still high, but somewhat controlled.

First of all, my clothes didn't fit and I refused to buy larger. My thighs rubbed together to the point they were chaffing and it hurt to walk. I also began to notice that my stomach seemed to be resting on my lap when I sat. kurt-georgia-before.jpg
Us BeforeOn top of that, I was recouping from an accident where my leg and foot were severely injured. The healing was very slow and shoes were not fitting right (due to my feet being 2 different sizes). I love my husband and didn't want to lose him to heart disease or diabetes and Kurt didn't want to die from them either. He had no energy, bad color in his complexion, and his feet hurt from diabetes. He was also outgrowing his clothes.
A person that Kurt did business with told him about the 17 Day Diet and obviously it was working for him. The man also told him about others in his family also on the diet and their success stories. Kurt and I had been thinking about going back on Atkins or South Beach--which we had used in the past, but just couldn't get excited about it.

When Kurt came home and told me about it the diet, Kurt was not only excited about it, but it was something he wanted to do, so I was all for it. I loaded the book on my Kindle, read it, and began preparing for "D" day which was May 15, 2011.

We were amazed! After the only 3 days Kurt had lost 10 pounds and I had lost 5. It just continued from there. I spent most of the 1st 17 day phase concentrating so much on the meal plans, shopping lists, etc, that it was pretty easy and the 17 days went by quickly.

As the weight started coming off, it was easier to exercise. I really didn't exercise until the 3rd phase. I did, however, make sure that I did something outside of sitting on the couch like cleaning, laundry, yard work, etc, so that I had some form of workout for at least 17 minutes each day. Presently, I exercise about 3 times a week on the treadmill for about 45 minutes. Kurt does a lot of walking with his job, but some days will make extra effort to walk between buildings on the fairgrounds vs. riding.

Today, we both have so much energy, more confidence, and like our new bodies. We both hit our 50 pound weight loss goals in August 2011 and have actually surpassed them. We still want to lose about 5-10 more pounds.

Kurt now wears size L-XL and 34/36 waist pants. I am now a size 6-8. He only takes 3 pills a day now and no more insulin shots! His doctor actually shook his hand and congratulated him. Prior to the diet, we spent so much money on medications.

The most expensive thing about the 17 Day Diet was purchasing new clothes! But, what fun! We laugh that we can now bend over, tie our shoes, and breath at the same time. Kurt is an avid hunter and has found that the his lighter weight has easily helped with his pheasant and deer hunting.

We get so many compliments and are continually telling people about the 17 Day Diet. We consider this a lifestyle change and will be on it forever. However, the best part of this diet is that my husband will now be around for a long time!
If you don't see the scale move--don't get discouraged. I always feel that this is a time when my body seems to be reshaping itself.If you get bored with meals, go to the 17 Day Diet recipes site. There are so many awesome recipes by very creative people which helps keep up motivation.Always continue to reference the book for each phase/chapter as you go through. I find that I have missed items or forgotten things in between time.If you can do this as a couple or family, all the better. For those who don't need to lose the weight, the meals can be easily modified for them.

View the original article here

The Aquavore Diet

aquavore_diet_book.jpgDr. William H. Dunn, a cancer doctor, wrote the book, The Aquavore Diet. His goal is for everyone to understand how to minimize cancer risk through a healthy diet.

The Aquavore Diet gives a plan on how to do so by eating foods with higher water content.

The idea is that maintaining good hydration status will help the body detoxify, improve metabolism, stop dehydration, increase feelings of satiety, and improve the function of the hypothalamus. All of this will help to reduce weight, and keep the body healthy.

The Aquavore Diet notes that over time we have begun to choose high calorie, low moisture foods. We get hungry and thirsty and may reach for that salad or apple, but the smell and temptation of the other foods seem much more appealing.

Dr. Dunn suggests that by eating these low moisture foods, they never satisfy our original thirst. We keep eating and eating to try to satisfy that hunger, but since the food is low moisture, all we ingest is excess calories. This leads to a weight problem.

Just like insulin resistance, The Aquavore Diet suggests we get "thirst" resistant. As we age, many of us can get by with less and less water. But, we need to turn this around in order to improve the body processes. Dr. Dunn says it is as simple as drinking a little more water every day, or eating foods with a lot of moisture. Cook meats at low and slow temperatures like in soups or stews, but focus on eating more plant proteins.Consume more fish and seafood.Any fresh fruit or vegetable including beans and potatoes.Broths or soups.Nuts.Limit alcohol to only one or two small glasses of wine per day because it can have dehydrating and other negative health effects beyond that.Jello for dessert.You may eat any ratio of protein, fat, and carbohydrates as long as you focus on eating high moisture foods and keeping the glycemic index of foods lower. Dr. Dunn does suggest not to consume too much protein (no more than 30% of your total calories), but the key to this diet is consuming plenty of fruits and vegetables which happen to have high moisture and high fiber contents. The Aquavore Diet also recommends always starting a meal with soup or at least a salad. As with any diet, it is always good to ask your doctor or dietitian first.

Overall, I think this is a sound diet, and I like that you have the flexibility to choose what you want. The diet is very similar to following any clean eating or whole foods diet plan. I think it would work well for many people.

What do you think? You can learn more about or purchase The Aquavore Diet here .

View the original article here

Friday, December 2, 2011

What are Plant Phytochemicals?

mixed_berries.jpgYou may have read health articles discussing phytochemicals and how they are so good for you.

But, have you ever wondered what exactly they are and what they do for you?

Simply put--phytochemicals are plant chemicals just like the name says. Phytochemicals are also known as antioxidants, but not all phytochemicals are antioxidants. Some act like hormones or stimulate enzymes.

No need to try to get the science straight--there are thousands of phytochemicals out there. Basically, they are active components in plants that benefit human health.

Betalains: Found in beets, and are just beginning to be researched more thoroughly. But, they have been shown to display anti-cancer properties.Carotenoids: A very common antioxidant found in orange and yellow plants--one of the most highly ingested phytochemicals. Flavonoids aka Polyphenols: Found in the purple, blue, and red plants. These are a large group of phytochemicals including quercetin (in onions), catechins (in green tea), anthocyanins (in berries), and isoflavones (in soy), just to name a few. These are some of the most thoroughly researched phytochemicals, and are the reason we know the variety of health benefits of green tea and berries.Phytoestrogens aka Lignans: Found in grains and seeds, and can act like estrogen. Phytoestrogens are still being studied for their effect on breast cancer and prostate cancer. Phytosterols: Known for their ability to lower total cholesterol levels. Found in nuts, seeds, grains, and vegetable oils.Organosulfides and other sulfur phytochemicals: Found in cruciferous vegetables like Brussels sprouts. Think of these as the smelly phytochemicals (from the sulfur) that have very high anti-cancer properties.Oxalates: A healthy phytochemical, but those prone to kidney stones should limit their oxalate vegetable intake.Resveratrol: We all know this one as the antioxidant found in wine. It is known as the youth antioxidant that can help slow the aging process. Red wine contains other phytochemicals like phytoestrogens and anthocyanins. No need to know all these terms. More importantly, remember that fresh fruits, vegetables, and any plant product contain plenty of disease-fighting phytochemicals. So, focus on eating a majority plant-based diet and you will get all the phytochemicals you need to keep you strong and healthy!

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BPA Contamination: Which Foods Should You Avoid?

canned_green_beans.jpgBPA, Bisphenol A, has been all over the news as a dangerous byproduct that humans may ingest from plastic products.

Did you know that BPA from canned green beans is likely higher than any BPA you can ingest from a plastic bottle or other food source?

Now, you may be wondering what's so bad about BPA and if you need to stop eating canned green beans?

Disrupted endocrine function: BPA can act like an estrogen hormone in the bodyIncreased cancer risk: primarily the hormone-based cancers like breast and prostateDecreased fertilityCould interfere with neurological developmentObesityReduced thyroid functionDiabetesHeart DiseaseAsthmano-bpa.jpg Canned soups and vegetables: Rinse these foods to get off some of the BPA, or try Eden Brand or Native Forest productsCanned infant formulaCanned soda and anything else in a can since it has a plastic liningFood in plastic containers with the number 7 on the packageNon-food item: Paper receipts contain BPAResearch has found significant health concerns with high levels of BPA, but humans are only consuming, on average, very low and slow doses. Therefore, it would be only imperative for pregnant women, babies, children, and women who may become pregnant to monitor their BPA intake. Most water bottles are now BPA free. Plastic containers are the least of my worries nowadays. If you are concerned, you can always buy glass containers.

I pay more attention to the packaging of my foods, and look for labels to say that the packaging is BPA free. But, as always, focus on eating more fresh and unpackaged foods, and we will have one less thing to worry about!

Do you avoid BPA?

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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Prevent Cold and Flu with a Healthy Diet

sneeze.jpgAs many of us approach the cold months of the year, flu season begins to peak. I fair pretty well most years and seem to avoid a lot of sick days. It got me wondering if diet has anything to do with staying cold-free.

Well, I did my research, and there is some evidence that a few key nutrients can ward off the common cold and the flu.

Sunflower Seeds: Are an excellent source of vitamin E--one of the highest natural sources! Natural vitamin E found in foods is a powerful antioxidant and immune booster. Most nuts and seeds are also a good source of selenium and zinc which can help the body detoxify.Garlic: Contains a phytochemical, called allicin, which can kill bacteria and viruses, and is thought to improve the immune system. Spinach: Any leafy green vegetable contains abundant nutrients. But, spinach is a powerhouse of vitamins and minerals that can help ward off disease. Spinach is an excellent source of vitamin A, vitamin K, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin E, and zinc (just to name a few). Mushrooms: Another good source of selenium and zinc. In addition, mushrooms were used as one of the world's first antibiotics. There is even a mushroom called the maitake mushroom that is used in cancer prevention and treatment. There is a long history of use of mushrooms for illness prevention.Yogurt: We all know now that yogurt contains probiotics which can improve the healthy bacteria in the intestines. Healthy intestinal bacteria are a key for proper immune health. Look for yogurts that contain vitamin D, and you will get an additional health boost.Citrus Fruits: One piece of citrus fruit can contain over 100% of your daily value for vitamin C. Peppers are also a great source. Vitamin C has long been studied for its properties in curing a variety of illnesses. Tea with Lemon and Honey: Tea is detoxifying. Lemon is a natural antibacterial. Honey is a combination of an antioxidant and antibacterial. All three combined make a nutritious and almost medicinal drink!Water: Helps to flush out toxins, and maintain hydration. Proper hydration is key to keeping the metabolism strong and healthy.Of course, don't forget to wash your hands frequently. This is the first step in preventing the flu. But, aside from proper hygiene, I will be eating healthy this cold and flu season just in case any of these nutritious foods can help keep me disease-free.

What about you, do you feel like certain foods can prevent the cold and flu?

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Required Reading: The Best Nutrition Books

popular_diet_books.jpgI've read quite a few books on diet and nutrition over the years. I figured it was about time I created a "best of" list.

The following are books that I believe stand above the throngs of mediocrity and hype that pervade the "Diet and Health" sections of bookstores.

In no particular order, here are 7 "must-reads" of Nutrition and Diet books.

A true classic in the world of nutrition, this instant classic is an eye-opener to where we've been, where we are, and where things are going when it comes to what we are consuming. A very informative, comprehensive and well-balanced "how to" guide when it comes to navigating your grocery store aisles. It's a big book but finish it and you will be well-armed for grocery store dominance! Tom became an "under the radar" e-book legend with his groundbreaking "Burn the Fat, Feed the Muscle" offering and then followed it up with no-nonsense, evidence based and easy-to follow "Body Fat Solution". A true "total package" book that is destined to be a classic. Yes Mr. Pollan has 2 books in this distinguished list. Eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Pollan takes this simple concept and weaves it into another classic with his very engaging diatribe on "nutritionism" and the politics and other factors that impact what we eat. Overeating is a monumental issue in our overindulgent society. Kessler tackles the root of the problem and provides some sound solutions to help overcome it. This book is a very thought-altering reading experience. The Fat Loss Troubleshoot is as comprehensive a manual as you will find on the subject - tackling a myriad of issues that are stand in the way of you and the body and health that you want. It's a matter-of-fact, un-sugar-coated and evidence-based journey with a conversational tone. This book is nothing short of epically complete. A bit overwhelming in terms of the volume of content (I see this e-book as part manual, part encyclopedia) but man alive you get it all here - metabolism, exercise, nutrition, and supplements. It's best digested in bits, but it's an invaluable resource all the same.

Which books have you read that have helped you? Please list your "Reading Essentials"

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Wednesday, November 30, 2011

How to Eat Healthier at Japanese or Sushi Restaurants

sushi_roll.jpgThe first thing many ask about Japanese or Sushi cuisine is, "what about all the rice?" Yes, Japanese food is typically served with rice. But, not all traditional Japanese food includes rice.

So, no need to worry about those extra carbohydrates. I will review the best and worst health choices for when dining out at Japanese restaurants.

Tempura and Katsu: Means breaded or battered and fried.Condiments and sauces on sushi: Sushi with cream cheese and sriracha chili sauce mixed with kewpie mayo (the standard spicy mayo sauce) can increase the calories.Other sauces: Soy sauce, brown sauces, and miso all contain high sodium, so if you are following a low sodium diet, ask for these sauces on the side.Fried Rice: Thousands of calories. Think of all the surface area the grains of rice allow the oil and butter to soak in to.Kimchi: Can be found at some Japanese restaurants (is a Korean dish), but is high sodium at over 1000 mg of sodium per cup!Rice balls and fried rice ballsBento Boxes: Are easy and convenient. But, eat only half the rice they give you, and do not choose any fried items.StewsGrilled seafood or poultry: Most other fish-based dishes are also a great choice unless they specifically say they are deep fried. Another example is yakitori which is a skewer of grilled chicken.Teriyaki: Most dishes are a lighter option.Gyoza: Another name for potstickers. Make sure these are steamed.Traditional seaweed or ginger salad.Sunomono: Seaweed and seafood salad with a vinaigrette dressing.Ohitashi: A simple spinach dish.California roll: The simple classic is usually about 200 calories or less!Nigiri sushi: Only 30 to 70 calories per piece depending on the type of fish or seafood.Edamame: Contains plenty of filling fiber, and is a lower calorie item.Soba and Udon Noodles: You may find a variety of dishes with these noodles. Most are lower calorie options. Green TeaI always get confused when I see words I am not familiar with on the menu. So, it can be hard to know when something is high calorie or not. When in doubt, just ask how it is prepared.

Do you have any Japanese food favorites?

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Weight Watchers Smart Ones Satisfying Selections: Smart or Not?

Weight Watcher's and Heinz team up to produce Smart Ones, frozen meals that are designed to be used with Weight Watchers PointsPlus or for anyone looking to cut calories, but avoid the kitchen.

I was sent a few coupons to try the new Smart Ones Satisfying Selections. Since we focus on healthy eating, let's see how these low calorie, frozen meals measure up.

I sampled Smart Ones Sesame Chicken, which comes in a single serving bag. It can be heated by placing the whole bag in the microwave or the contents can be placed in a non-stick skillet. An 11.7 ounce serving delivers; 360 Calories, 7 fat grams, 6 grams of fiber, 25 grams of protein, and 49 grams of carbs with 10 of those coming from sugar.

The meal was a satisfying portion and it tasted good. It looked to me like there were less vegetables in the actual product, then were pictured on the package and the chicken was breaded, which was a little soggy. I'm not sure why they went that route since breading only adds calories.

Here's where Smart Ones Sesame Chicken derails a bit. This frozen meal contains over 50 ingredients and while this is largely due to the the breakdown of how each main ingredient is made i.e. noodles, sauce, breaded chicken etc., there are some processed ingredients that we should be aware of.

Wheat- This product is predominately wheat based so people with gluten sensitivity should avoid it.

Sucralose- This product is artificially sweetened. Some people have reported allergic type reactions to this sweetener.

smart-ones-ingredients.gifChicken fat- This ingredient is added for flavor, but it also adds cholesterol and saturated fat.

Soy- Soy sauce, soybeans, soy protein, and soybean oil are used in this product so people with soy allergies should avoid it.

Preservatives- This product does contain preservatives. Potassium lactate and sodium phosphate are both used. Both are generally considered safe, but sodium phosphate is also a drug given to people to empty the colon prior to a colonoscopy.

While the taste of Smart Ones Sesame Chicken and portion size are definitely positive, I think the product could be improved nutritionally. They could use grilled chicken instead of the breaded chicken, which would cut down on processed ingredients and calories. To make up the calories saved by this change, they could add more vegetables to the product to increase its vitamin and fiber content.

Overall, Smart Ones seems to be one of the better frozen meal options available, especially for people following the Weight Watchers program who need some quick lunch or dinner options. However, the majority of their meals should be ones in which they prepare themselves using fresh, wholesome, non-processed ingredients.

View the original article here

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Hemp: Power Food or Just for Smoking?

hemp-products.jpgIs the hemp plant the world's answer to our dietary and sustainable resource woes?

Its fiber is praised as one of the strongest to make textiles with and its seeds are touted for their oil and complete protein.

But, should we be buying stock in hemp farms? Or, are hemp food products just a fad?

First of all, before all of the anti-marijuana people get fired up, I'm talking about the 2 very low THC producing sub-species of Cannabis. One which has fibrous stems and the other which has oil rich seeds.

Hemp is a highly sustainable crop because it grows fast and requires little to no pesticides or herbicides. However, it does require nutrient rich soil, so fertilizers are normally used.

Non-THC crops are used to make clothes, rope, biofuel, paint, and food products. They have been cultivated for 1000's of years.

hemp-oilHemp Seed Oil: This oil is cold pressed from the hemp seed and is marketed as a better choice than olive oil. The oil has a light nutty taste and can be used on salads or for cooking. It has a smoke point of 330 degrees Fahrenheit, which is lower than that of olive oil.

It contains less saturated fat than olive oil as well as provides 2.5 grams of omega-3 and 7.5 grams of omega-6. The oil I sampled was "GOOD Original Hemp Seed Oil". They also use this oil to make a line of salad dressings and mayonnaise.

hemp-protein.gifHemp Protein: This has become a popular choice among vegans as a way to get extra protein their diets. The hemp crop has less environmental impact than the soy crop and I won't even go into the impact the dairy industry places on the environment in oder to produce whey protein.

The downside to hemp protein is that it is more expensive and yields less protein per gram of product. 30g of hemp protein powder yields 15g of protein, while the same amount of whey yields 21g and soy 24g. However, hemp protein powder delivers 8 grams of fiber, while the other two have very little to none. I looked at Nutivia hemp protein for this comparison.

Hemp Milk: This cow's milk alternative is also gaining popularity as yet another way to avoid the cow puss. I recently wrote an article comparing the nutrition of milk alternatives, so I won't repeat that here.

I think any plant that can be grown easily, that's good for the planet, and that has a lot of practical applications should be considered a viable crop. The USA has been reluctant in allowing farmers to grow hemp, so most is imported from China.

Hemp protein is a great option for those that need more protein in their diets, but can't or don't want to use whey or soy. I'm a bit 50/50 on the use of the oil. Although it does have healthy omega-3, it also has quite a bit omega-6. Many nutritionists believe these should be consumed in a balanced ratio.

Perhaps hemp food products will come down in cost as more brands enter the marketplace providing increased competition.

Have you tried hemp protein or oil? What did you think of it?

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Smart Halloween Candy Removal Tips

Halloween_candy_corn.jpgGrowing up, I always had a massive bag of Halloween candy that lasted me a whole year.

Any food that has such a long shelf life is probably not a good choice. I know that many who are trying to lose weight worry about the temptation of candy.

So, even if you don't recognize Halloween, here are some ideas for removing candy from the house.

Participate in a candy buy back program. Dietitians are not the only ones who want you to consume less candy. Dentists want to save your teeth as well! In the USA, we have a buy back program where your local dentist will buy back candy in exchange for coupons, prizes, and cash. The UK also has similar programs.Send your candy to US troops. Many living away from home would love to receive a care package of candy. Soldiers' Angels is one program that will send your candy to the soldiers. Many dentists are also doing this in the buy back programs.Make a craft project! Make a candy mosaic (a picture out of candy), or a festive candy wreath.Call your local hospital or nursing home and do a reverse trick-or-trick. Go around to patients' rooms, and give out candy (as long as you get permission for which patients can eat the candy).Save the candy for the next Holiday. At Christmas, you can make decorations out of it, or use it to make Gingerbread houses. At your next birthday party or gathering, stuff a piƱata full of the candy. Donate to a food bank, or shelter. If you live in the USA, contact Feeding America. For Canada, try Food Banks Canada. For Europe, try the Federation of Food Banks. For other countries like New Zealand, try the Salvation Army.

Of course you can eat a few pieces of candy without ruining your health! If you are going to choose to eat candy, I would recommend a healthier option like some dark chocolate.

However, if you ate just three extra pieces of candy per day and kept the rest of your diet the same, it could lead to weight gain over time. And for those dedicated to their weight loss routine, candy in the house is a frustrating obstacle.

View the original article here

Monday, November 28, 2011

Light Laughing Cow Cheeses: Healthy or Not?

laughing_cow_cheese.jpgIn my house, we like to keep laughing cow cheeses around for snacks. You can find them on most grocery store shelves advertised as a lighter cheese option.

I find them pretty satisfying for only 35 calories per wedge. But, how is it possible to keep the calories so low?

1 Wedge of Light Laughing Cow Cheese: Light Cheddar, Cheddar, Swiss and Semisoft Cheeses (Cultured Milk and Skim Milk, Salt, Enzymes), Whey, Cream, Sodium Phosphate, Sodium Citrate, Salt.

The ingredients are comparable to other soft cheese spreads like cream cheese. The only unnatural ingredients are the sodium phosphate and sodium citrate which are both preservatives. Sodium phosphate is typically used to preserve meats, and is a healthier preservative to use than nitrites. Sodium citrate is regarded as safe since it is just the salt of citric acid.

light-laughing-cow-nutrition.gifAs you can see, one wedge is very light, and adds a very small amount of calories to your diet. The main negative nutrition fact is that one wedge contains 210 mg of sodium. This is quite a bit for such a small piece of food. For the average person, it is recommended to eat less than 2400 mg of sodium per day.

The added bonus of this cheese is that one wedge delivers 8% of your daily needs for calcium. This is higher than I would expect for a small piece of cheese.

Light Laughing Cow Cheese has six different flavors: creamy swiss, garlic and herb, French onion, blue cheese, mozzarella with sun-dried tomato and basil, and queso fresco and chipotle.

My favorite is the French onion. It tastes the most like a real cheese to me. The others all taste a little artificial or have some kind of slight chemical aftertaste. Other people I know do not think so. They love all the flavors and detect no chemical taste.

I don't like a lot of additives in my food, or preservatives, but for this particular product, I still consider it an option to include in a healthy diet. Plus, I don't buy Light Laughing Cow Cheese all of the time. I do try to stick to real cheeses, but smaller amounts. That is how they keep the calories so low with this product--the serving size. One wedge is only 21 grams, and can be eaten in just a few bites.

What do you think? Would you include this product in a healthy diet?

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Sunday, November 27, 2011

Special K Cereal: True Health Revealed

speical_k_cereal.jpgSpecial K cereal is probably one of the most popular cereals for adults.

But, does that make it the healthiest? Probably not, considering the majority of people are overweight.

If you choose Special K cereal for your breakfast or as part of the Special K Diet, you may want to think again.

special-k-nutrition.gifRice followed by wheat gluten, and sugar are the first ingredients in Special K, original flavor. High fructose corn syrup follows closely after.

So far, this says to label readers that this cereal is sugary and likely has a high glycemic index. This means that the food will cause a faster spike in blood glucose, and then leave you feeling tired and hungry.

Wheat gluten is used to improve the texture and flavor.

Wheat germ is what gives the cereal most of its nutrition. Defatted means that the fat is taken out so that the grain has a longer shelf life. The wheat germ is what adds the small amount of fiber, and some of the protein to the cereal.

Special K contains a significant amount of salt (223mg). When reading cereal labels, I like to see the sodium below 200mg.

Dried whey is a common food additive used for flavor, and is actual whey protein with the moisture removed. This contributes to the protein content of the cereal.

Malt adds flavor as well. The remainder of the ingredients are added vitamins and minerals.

The calories aren't high, and the actual sugar (4g) is not outrageous even though the first few ingredients are sugar. This is surprising, but still does not make Special K cereal a healthy choice. The fiber content is actually less than a gram! The main problem I have with this cereal is that it is not a high enough quality grain. It lacks the necessary fiber, nutrients, and phytochemicals to start the day off right.

Many people use this cereal to control calories, but you would be better off eating a piece of fruit with a few almonds.

Do you eat Special K or have you tried the Special K Diet?

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Spirulina: An Aquatic Superfood?

spirulina.jpgYou may have heard of spirulina before and wondered what this health supplement is all about.

Spirulina is rare blue-green algae that is a powerhouse of health. It is said to have all the health benefits of multiple fruits and vegetables, yet packed into an algae that is normally fed to fish!

Complete Protein: It contains all the amino acids necessary for health. This makes spirulina a great food or supplement for vegetarians and vegans, or for those who eat less meat. However, with the recommended daily dose of 1 teaspoon, you will only be getting 2 grams of protein.B12: One of the few plant sources. Spirulina does not produce B12, but, rather it is a byproduct of animal contamination. No need to worry about contamination and toxicity as long as you are getting your spirulina from a reliable source. In addition, the type of B12 found in spirulina is questionable. We are still unsure if it gets absorbed by the body or not. So, vegetarians and vegans should continue to supplement in other ways.Trace amounts of thiamin, riboflavin, iron, copper, and manganese in one teaspoon of dried spirulina.Chlorophyll: A pigment found in spirulina that gives it a green color. Can help to improve digestion, improve the circulatory system, and heal the liver. Serving size: 1 teaspoon There isn't any concrete scientific evidence about what spirulina can be used for, but here are a few possible health claims: Alleviate PMSReduce depression, anxiety, and other mood disordersIncrease energyWeight lossBetter blood glucose controlImprove skin toneDecrease inflammation and arthritisReduce cancer riskYou can buy spirulina in a pill or powder form. But, please remember to buy from a well known brand, and do not take excessive forms of this supplement as it is not well researched.

Spirulina seems to be a superfood and a highly digestible source of protein. But, it is still fairly new on the market, so I would recommend caution when consuming it by only taking the recommended daily dose.

Have you tried spirulina, and if so, have you noticed any health benefits?

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Saturday, November 26, 2011

Muesli Fusion All-Natural Raw Cereal: Put to the Test

muesli-fusion.jpgIf you have ever been to Europe or Down Under, you know that muesli is standard breakfast fare there.

However, muesli has never really caught on in the USA, which is a shame because it's usually really healthy and a great way to start the day.

A new company, Muesli Fusion, hopes to change that and they recently sent me samples of their all-natural muesli to review.

If you are unfamiliar with muesli, it's basically a raw rolled oats based cereal that includes nuts, seeds, dried fruit, and other raw whole grains. It isn't the same thing as granola, which is sweetened and then baked.

Muesli Fusion is only sweetened by the dried fruit used and can be eaten cold with milk, soaked in water, soaked in juice, or prepared hot as you would oatmeal.

I tried four varieties of Muesli Fusion; An Ox, Harvest Festival, Athlete Fuel, and POW. For the sake of time and space, here's how An Ox stacked up.

muesli-fusion-nutrion.gifIngredients: Organic Whole Grain Rolled Oats, Goji Berries, Blueberries (blueberries, sugar, sunflower oil), Organic Whole Grain Rolled Rye, Walnuts, Organic Cocoa Nibs

Muesli Fusion contains only simple, wholesome ingredients, but I'll expound on just a couple of them.

Goji Berries: These tiny berries grow in parts of china and are rich in antioxidants. The have been used in Chinese medicine for centuries for their health promoting properties.

Sunflower Oil: This oil is high in omega-6 fatty acids, there is debate concerning the dangers of consuming too much omega-6.

Rolled Rye: This is a great choice for many, but those with gluten intolerance should be aware.

Cocoa Nibs: These are the real deal folks. Just small pieces of roasted cocoa beans.

Having lived in New Zealand for 4 years, I came accustomed to having half the cereal aisle filled with different types of muesli. Now back in the States, I miss this raw cereal. Muesli Fusion is a great find. All the varieties are tasty and contain only simple, natural ingredients. On the downside, as with many of these specialty products, Muesli Fusion is on the expensive side.

I know I could make my own muesli, but for me and other busy people Muesli Fusion is a great ready-to-go option. If you've never tried muesli, it can be a great addition to your healthy diet. Not only can it be eaten for breakfast, but muesli is a great addition to yogurt and muffins as well as can be added to desserts like apple crisp to make it more nutritious.

Overall, Muesli Fusion is a clean, wholesome product and a nice addition to the marketplace.

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