Scary Information About Soda

Health on November 2nd, 2010 No Comments

Most people are aware that soda doesn't  qualify as a health food.  Most people, however, are not aware of just how bad soda can be for your body. Did you know that soda can cause osteoporosis (weakening of the bones). Everyone knows that regular (non-diet) sodas will cause weight gain but have you heard that diet soda can also lead to disappointing results on the scale.

Most sodas are extremely high in phosphorus.  This is a problem because phosphorus and calcium compete for the same receptors in your body.  Calcium, unfortunately, is at a great disadvantage.  Your body has a 240 time greater affinity for phosphorus than calcium.  That means that when your body encounters calcium and phosphorus together, it will almost never choose calcium.  If you are consuming soda regularly, that means you will almost certainly be low on calcium.  As calcium is an important component for numerous physiological functions, the body will need to recruit calcium from other sources if it is not readily available from the diet.  Obviously, the largest source of calcium in your body is your bones.  As your body begins to scour the bones for calcium, they will become weaker and eventually this will lead to the condition noted as osteoporosis.

In regard to soda, causing weight gain, it is fairly easy to see how this is possible with regular, non-diet, sodas.  Generally, a soda is about 150 calories per 12 ounces.  These are completely empty calories, devoid of all nutrition. Considering an average person only burns 2000 calories per day, even one 12 ounce soda contains about 7.5% of the total calories allowed for the day.  When you consider that most people drink far larger quantities, (a 32 ounce soda would be 400 calories) it is easy to see how this can cause excessive weight gain.

More surprisingly is the fact that studies have shown people gain weight drinking diet soda.  One reason for this can be due to caffeine. Caffeine is not an external source of energy.  Caffeine simply acts to mobilize as much sugar (energy) into the cells as possible. When the cells are confronted with excess sugars, you experience increased energy.  After the sugar is utilized, there is then a marked drop in the blood sugar levels.  This results in your body experiencing a crash.  In a crash state, with blood sugars being low, your body will trigger a need to seek out foods to raise blood sugar quickly.  This will result in a hunt for junk food or foods high in sugar.  As these foods are usually high in calories, the end result is weight gain.

If you are a soda lover, it is okay to indulge yourself perhaps once a week.  But as a regular daily occurrence, the consumption of soda is placing your health at risk. 


Colon Cancer Weapon

Health on October 29th, 2010 No Comments

How would you like to reduce your risk of colon cancer by 23%?  A recent study has shown that adherence to five basic tenants can indeed provide you with these results.  The five factors that you need to include in your life are: no smoking, drinking alcohol in moderation, waist circumference below 34.6 inches for women and 40 inches for men, consuming a healthful diet (adequate daily intake of fruits/vegetables and fiber and limiting consumption of red meat and fat), and being physically active for at least 30 minutes a day.

Interestingly enough, these criteria are very similar to those utilized in another study that showed by following some simple rules you can live 13 years longer.  This study stated that eating four to five servings of fruits/vegetables, exercising three or more times per week, not smoking, and drinking alcohol in moderation increases your longevity by 13 years. You may be surprised to learn that these lifestyle characteristics show up regularly in research with amazing results.  Sometimes they're studied individually and sometimes in groups.  Irregardless, the results are always exceptionally positive.

Going back to colon/gastrointestinal cancer, another study found that men's cancer risk was decreased by 50% for those that participating regularly in exercise.  It is interesting to compare the first study which decreased colon cancer risk by 23% with the above study that states you can decrease your risk by 50%. In the 23% study there were numerous characteristics that you had to adhere to while in the 50% study, one single factor is able to reduce your cancer risk significantly more. That factor is exercise.  Both groups mention and include exercise as a factor, but the difference is in level of intensity.  The first study only states 30 minutes of being physically active whereas the below listed study states more intensive exercise.  This latter study shows the truly amazing benefits of participating in a regular, vigorous, exercise program.  Exercise is not simply a means to lose weight but is instead the closest thing you can get to the fountain of youth.


What the heck is the Glycemic Index?

Health on October 18th, 2010 No Comments

You may be familiar with the term "glycemic index" from Nutrisystem's advertising campaign.  Nutrisystem parlayed this fancy term into an entire marketing campaign.  Unfortunately, for the average consumer or person trying to lose weight the glycemic index is fairly useless.

What is the glycemic index?  The glycemic index is an index originally designed approximately 30 years ago for diabetics.  The glycemic index simply rates how quickly an individual food will raise a person's blood sugar.  As diabetics have to be concerned with their blood sugar, this information is very useful.  For the nondiabetic person, the benefit is minimal at best.

The usefulness of the glycemic index becomes even worse when you combine foods instead of eating them in isolation.  The index is only valid when foods are consumed by themselves.  If you eat more than one food at a time the index is of no value.  Unless you're planning on eating a Nutrisystem meal in stages to isolate the different foods, the glycemic index will be of no value.

Be careful with any marketing campaigns that involve medical jargon or supposed physician approval.  They are often just tactics to part you from your hard earned money.  Even though it's not glamorous, research has consistently shown that the only way to lose weight and maintain weight loss is portion control and exercise.


Good Carb Bad Carb

Health on October 13th, 2010 No Comments

Carbohydrate should comprise 60 to 70% of your diet.  In our protein obsessive society this may seem high, but these are the numbers that registered dietitians will tell you are healthy for our bodies.  It is important, however, to note that there is a big difference between good carbohydrates and bad carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates encompass a large variety of foods such as cereals, breads, pastas, fruits, and sweets.  Of this list, it's easy to see who would be considered the bad carbohydrate.  Obviously, the sweets are not considered healthy carbohydrates.  Common table sugar is your primary ingredient in these foods.  Sugar is a low-quality carbohydrate.  All of the other carbohydrates are excellent choices to include in your diet (the less processed the better;  processing removes much of the nutritional value out of foods).

Many people think they carbohydrates such as bread, pasta or starches are bad and that they will lead you to get fat.  This is simply untrue.  Carbohydrates don't make you fat, only over eating makes you fat. Carbohydrates, regardless of their sources, possesses 4 calories per gram.  There is actually no difference, calorie wise, between 100 grams of sugar, 100 grams of pasta or 100 grams of fruit. As a joke, I regularly tell people that you can lose weight on an all candy diet.  The fact of the matter is that as long as you only eat 1200 calories of candy per day you will lose weight. You will probably not feel good and you will be malnourished but you will lose as much weight as somebody eating a highly nutritious 1200 calorie diet.

Don't be afraid of carbohydrates.  They are excellent food choices and should comprise the majority of your diet.  The only carbohydrate you need to avoid is sugar.  It is the only evil carbohydrate.


Why Protein Appears to be a Hero

Health on October 9th, 2010 2 Comments

Carbohydrates are bad.  Proteins are good.  This seems to be the common consensus that people have regarding these two substances.  The fact of the matter is that neither one is bad . There are good reasons, however, why protein appears to be more weight-loss friendly than carbohydrates.

First of all, it is important to note that protein and carbohydrate have the exact same caloric equivalent.  One gram of both carbohydrate and protein have the energy value of 4 calories. Since they both possess the same amount of calories you may wonder why carbohydrates would seem evil when compared to protein.  The answer lies in their digestion.

Carbohydrates are your body's favorite food.  70% of your diet should come from carbohydrate.  Carbohydrates are the equivalent of gasoline to your car.  Because carbs are your body's preferred fuel source, digestion is highly efficient and begins in the mouth.  Put a piece of candy in your mouth (most candy is pure carbohydrate), and it will dissolve.  This is because you have an enzyme in your mouth called amylase that will begin the breakdown of carbohydrate.  By the time carbohydrates arrive in your stomach, they are already partially digested.  Then, after a little time in the stomach, breakdown becomes complete and carbohydrate is ready for efficient digestion in your intestines.  Because of this system, carbohydrate digestion is almost 100% efficient.  In other words if you eat 100 calories of carbohydrate you'll probably digest 100 calories.

Protein digestion, on the other hand, is highly inefficient.  Whereas carbohydrate digestion began in your mouth, protein digestion does not begin until your stomach.  Put a piece of steak in your mouth and leave it there as long as you like.  It will look disgusting but it will not be broken down in the least.  When protein arrives in your stomach, breakdown begins.  The stomach breaks  protein down as best it can but if it does not break down the protein to a small enough molecule then protein absorption will be impossible in the small intestine. Protein digestion only occurs in the first five to six feet of intestine following expulsion from the stomach.  That means that if the stomach doesn't do a good enough job, the larger proteins that not been broken down will pass through the intestines and be expelled by the body.  Because of this system, protein digestion is only about 28% efficient.  That means that if you eat 100 calories of protein you will only digest about 28 calories.

Technically speaking, you can usually eat about three times as much protein as carbohydrate and digest about the same amount of calories.  While this might seem like a great idea, keep in mind that protein digestion is hard on the liver and kidneys.  Many people consume too much protein.  Protein should only be 10 to 15% of your diet or .8 grams per kilogram of body weight (you can figure out your body weight in kilograms by dividing your weight in pounds by 2.2)

The bottom line is that neither carbohydrates or proteins make you fat . It is simply the number of calories that you consume.  If you overeat you will gain weight whether the substance is all carbohydrate or all protein.  Remember, portion control is the key to losing or maintaining weight.


Why You Need Carbohydrate

Health on October 2nd, 2010 No Comments

Carbohydrate has gotten beaten up in the press by protein over the last few decades.  Unfortunately, carbohydrates bad reputation is undeserved.  In fact, registered dietitians will tell you that at least 60% of your diet should come from carbohydrate.  Carbohydrate provides energy for your body.  It is like gasoline to your car.  Your body can run on other fuel but carbohydrate is its favorite.

Carbohydrate is also the only source of fuel that your brain is able to utilize.  Your brain cannot utilize fat or protein for energy.  Therefore, if you are not getting enough carbohydrate in your diet, then it is highly likely that your thinking will not be at its optimum.

Do you want your body to burn fat? Well you had better consume carbohydrate.  It is a physiologic fact that you cannot process fat without the presence of carbohydrate.  Fat burns in a flame of carbohydrate.  This is a basic fact that is taught in physiology class.  If you do not have carbohydrate present the body, the body will be incapable of metabolizing fat.

When your body is low on carbohydrate, it's equivalent to running your car around with an empty gas tank.  The fumes in your gas tank may get you where you want to go some of the time but other times you may find yourself out of gas.  

Tune in next week and we will discuss why protein seems to have an advantage over carbohydrate.


28 Days to a New You

Health on September 25th, 2010 No Comments

Change overnight would be nice but it's not realistic.  Studies have shown that it takes about 28 days to form a habit. Whether it be starting a new exercise program or changing your diet, you need to be diligent during those first four weeks.  The first month it will be easy to quit and fail.  Things will be hard but if you can make it over the 28 day hump things will get easier.  Once you have eclipsed this barrier and established good habits they will now be a part of your routine and much easier to maintain.

Four weeks is also an important number because that is approximately how long it takes for your body to change following implementation of a new program (diet or exercise).  The human body is incredibly efficient.  The body will not spend any extra energy that it does not deem absolutely necessary.  When you first start an exercise program, you cannot expect a change in your muscles for a least four to six weeks.  You may indeed get stronger because the body will become more efficient at exercise.  Just as when you learn to ride a bicycle, at first you are a bit shaky but as you practice your skill improves and so does your speed.  With exercise, your strength and endurance will improve as the body becomes more efficient at the nervous system level.  Your body will coordinate movement with greater efficiency.  But it is only after four weeks that your body will actually undergo change.  Changing the musculoskeletal system requires a tremendous amount of energy from the body.  The body, therefore, is not about to change at the first sign of exercise.  The body will wait to find out if it is truly necessary to make alerations.  After four weeks, the body will have decided that you are indeed serious and change is indeed necessary.  The body will then begin the remodeling process.

Dieting can act in the same manner.  If you have a had a terrible diet for years and then suddenly you begin to eat properly your body is not going to change overnight.  For example, many people only eat one to two meals a day. This slows your metabolism as the body thinks that it is starving a good part of the day.  If you then begin to engage in healthier dietary habits such as eating six times per day the body will recognize that it is now getting consistent amounts of food at regular intervals.  It will not, however, speed up the metabolism for several weeks as it will want to make sure that this new program is going to continue.  After four weeks have elapsed, the body will consider that food must now be consistently available and it will be safe to increase the metabolism. 

If you have been discouraged in the past by slow results during the early part of diet or exercise, this is why.  Stick to your plan.  If you're still not making progress after four weeks, this is the time that you should consider making additional changes.  Don't quit early.  Give your body a chance to change. Stay strong during those first four weeks. After the first month, it's all downhill.


Eat Breakfast

Health on September 15th, 2010 No Comments

Most people have heard that breakfast is the most important part of the day.  But why? The importance of breakfast lies within its name.  If you separate breakfast into its two components, "break" and "fast" you will find the answer.  Breakfast is the meal in which you are stopping or breaking the fast that has occurred since dinner the night before.

Assuming that you eat dinner at seven o'clock at night and breakfast at seven in the morning, there is a 12 hour spam between meals.  During this span, your body will continue to utilize blood sugar for maintenance activities.  Once your body starts to run low on blood sugar from your last meal, your body will go into conservation/starvation mode.  In this mode, your body will hoard fat and break down muscle for energy. This is a scenario that you want to avoid.

If you skip breakfast, you may not eat your first meal until lunch.  That means you may go 17 hours, or possibly even more, without putting food in your body.  This will definitely place you in starvation mode.

In addition to your body breaking down muscle for fuel, skipping breakfast will cause your metabolism to slow.  This process occurs for the same reason.  Your body thinks that it is starving and, therefore, must slow all metabolic processes to guarantee survival.

If you are trying to lose weight, or make sure that you do not gain unwanted weight, eating breakfast should be at the cornerstone of your routine.  Keep in mind breakfast does not have to be a full-blown meal.  Juice and toast or even a glass of milk can provide a good start to your day. The important thing to remember is that you simply need to get some food in your body at the beginning of your day.


Live 13 Years Longer

Health on September 8th, 2010 No Comments

Want to live 13 years longer? A recent study has shown that you can do just that by adhering to four simple principles.  The study looked at thousands of people, postmortem, and found that people that adhered to four characteristics in their lifestyles outlived those that did not by an average of 13 years.  What were the four characteristics?  No smoking.  Drinking alcohol in moderation, or not at all.  Exercising three or more times per week.  And eating four to five servings of fruits and/or vegetables per day.

These four simple characteristics will not only increase your longevity but they will also improve your quality of life.  You will not only live longer but you will feel better, and have more energy and strength to perform the activities that you love.

If taking on all four characteristics at once seems a bit daunting, you can always tackle one at a time.  Simply add in a new characteristic as you master the previous.  Remember that it takes approximately 28 days to form a habit.  That means even if you have problems in all four areas you can still be living a healthy lifestyle in as little as four months. Good luck.


Addicted to Food

Health on September 1st, 2010 No Comments

We've all done it.  Eaten food that we know we shouldn't.  Or consumed so much food we feel terrible throughout the day.  The question is, why do we continue to repeat this cycle on a regular basis?

Fortunately, science has an answer.  Neuroscientists have found that certain combinations of fat, sugar, and salt stimulate the brain dopamine pathways.  The dopamine pathways lead to the pleasure centers of your brain.  These are the same centers that are stimulated by drugs and alcohol.  Essentially, foods that are high in salt, sugar, and fat produce an addictive reaction.  Just as an alcoholic or heroine junkie pursues their drug of choice, you may pursue processed and fast foods.

Why is it that processed and fast foods are full of salt ,sugar and fat? The answer is simple.  Number one: the processed food and fast food industries are well aware of this research.  Just like the cigarette companies that add addictive nicotine, it is in the food industry's best interest to produce a product that has addictive ingredients.  Number two: the goal of a food manufacturer is to design a good tasting food and produce a profit.  Salt, sugar, and fat solve this problem for the food manufacturers as they are cheap substances that significantly improve the flavor of food.

So how can you avoid falling prey to addictive foods?  The answer is simple but difficult to follow.  The only way to stop an addiction is to stop engaging in the addictive behavior.  The longer you go without eating these foods the less difficulty you will have avoiding them.