Archive for the ‘Health Information’ Category

Watermelon Season is Here!

Monday, May 24th, 2010

I’m so excited: I bought a watermelon yesterday for just $3.99, which means it’s officially Watermelon Season in my book! Watermelon is one of my all-time favorite fruits… I don’t want to look like one, but I love to eat them!

I cut half of it up to enjoy with dinner tonight, and it was finger-licking, lip-smacking, melt-in-your-mouth delicious. When I fed a bite to my husband while he manned the grill, he said “Holy crap! That’s quite possibly the best watermelon I’ve ever had!” I couldn’t agree more. Sweet, juicy, bright pink – simply perfect.

Run out and buy yourself a watermelon – and then eat it. It’ll fill you up with its delicious fiberifficness!

How to Choose a Watermelon

  • Look the watermelon over: You are looking for a firm, symmetrical watermelon that is free from bruises, cuts or dents.
  • Lift it up: The watermelon should be heavy for its size. Watermelon is 92% water; most of the weight is water.
  • Turn it over: The underside of the watermelon should have a creamy yellow spot from where it sat on the ground and ripened in the sun.

Health Benefits of Watermelon

  • Watermelon is the Lycopene Leader in fresh produce, having higher concentrations of lycopene than any other fresh fruit or vegetable. In fact, fresh watermelon contains higher levels of lycopene than fresh tomatoes – a 2-cup serving of watermelon contains an average of 18.16 mg and one medium-sized tomato contains 4 mg.
  • Watermelon has heart healthy properties because it is naturally low in saturated fat, total fat and cholesterol.
  • Watermelon is practically a multivitamin unto itself: A 2-cup serving of watermelon is an excellent source of Vitamin A (important for optimal eye health), Vitamin B6 (used by the body to manufacture brain chemicals [neurotransmitters], such as serotonin, melatonin and dopamine, which preliminary research shows may help the body cope with anxiety and panic), and Vitamin C (which helps bolster your immune system’s defenses against infections and viruses and is known to stimulate the immune system and protect against free radical damage.

For more information on watermelon’s health benefits – and all things watermelon! – visit www.watermelon.org.

Fast-Food vs. Real Food

Saturday, October 3rd, 2009

One of the sites I read frequently, BODA Blog, does a neat feature each week called Friday News Bites. All three items this week are fascinating, so check them out.

I especially wanted to share one of them with you: A woman on a mission did some testing to find out if she could make home-cooked versions of some popular fast-food items cheaper, healthier and better tasting.

Spoiler alert: She could.

In most cases, it was no more time consuming, either.

She had a small group of testers – teenage fast-food connoisseurs – and tackled the McDonald’s Sausage McMuffin With Egg, the Burger King Double Whopper, and Domino’s Hand Tossed Pizza. After some trial and error (in some cases) she came up with equivalents to each of these items… that were far from equivalent. They all had better nutrition, were less expensive, reasonably easy to make, and the testers unanimously agreed that her versions tasted better. She even included her recipes!

If you didn’t know it before, perhaps this article will help you realize that there really is no reason to eat fast-food.

Of course, fast-food isn’t my downfall. It’s sit-down restaurants that cause me problems, but I’m sure the same can be done with food from those places, as well.

I’m getting there…

>> Read the full article at The Washington Post.

Mastering My Metabolism

Monday, August 17th, 2009

I recently finished reading Jillian Michaels’ newest book, Master Your Metabolism. Straight off the bat, let me tell you that I thought it was a fascinating read, and I recommend that you check it out for yourself.

The book is all about your hormones and how they affect your overall health, including, of course, weight loss. There are hormones that help you to lose weight, and others that make your body hold on to fat. Everything we eat – as well as products we use in the home (cleansers, cosmetics, plastic, etc), and environmental toxins – mess up our body’s natural hormone balance and makes it more difficult for us to lose weight.

It starts out with a chapter about Jillian. She talks about being overweight and binge eating as an adolescent, and then how she lost the weight. Even as recently as the first few seasons of The Biggest Loser, she had a hard time just maintaining her weight. So she “consulted top experts in the field of metabolism and discovered that she’d inadvertently been abusing her endocrine system for years. After “fixing” her own metabolism, she decided to share what she learned by devising this simple, 3-phase plan that engages all the weight-loss hormones (including the friendly HGH, testosterone, DHEA; and the not-so-friendly: insulin, cortisol, and excess estrogen).”   – From Amazon.com product description.

The next few chapters were pretty heavy, for me at least. She goes over all the major hormones, what they do and how they are affected positively or negatively by our food and environment. In fact, she even says at the end of the first chapter that if you want to jump right into the plan that you can skip a few chapters and come back to it later. For me, though, I didn’t want to blindly follow a bunch of rules without knowing why. So I read the heavy chapters.

Incidentally, Jillian Michaels is not a doctor or a nutritionist. However, she’s done a ton of research on the subject and there are over 20 pages of references in the back of the book. And she clearly knows how to help people lose weight…

Let me just tell you, this book is a bit frightening. We all know High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) isn’t good for you, but do we all know why? I know I didn’t. And it’s in everything. What about hydrogenated fats? And refined grains? And artificial sweeteners? It’s crazy to think about all the terrible things we’re putting into our bodies – and our children’s bodies.

I know that it will be incredibly difficult to follow this plan to a T. However, I have decided that I will do my best. To cut out as many processed foods and non-organic meats as possible. To eat whole grains instead of refined grains. To eat as much real, whole food as I can (which will be necessary since I’m cutting out all the processed garbage!). In fact, my husband and I cleaned out the refrigerator this weekend and threw out all the crap – and there was a lot of it, believe me.

(Interestingly, most of my low-fat/low-calorie foods got thrown away. After reading the list of ingredients – and knowing what to look for – I was appalled at what I’d been eating on a regular basis, under the guise of eating healthy. I feel a little tricked.)

I know that I’m still going to eat out a few times a week, and that I will occassionally eat food that friends and family have prepared. In these situations, I know that I will have little control over what I am eating.

But that’s ok.

I figure, if I do as much as I can as often as I can, that I will certainly create a positive effect. I’m not one to have a defeatist attitude and say that because I can’t be perfect I shouldn’t put in any effort.

The Master Your Metabolism plan is not an “all or nothing diet,” like Atkin’s, for instance. It’s a lifestyle. I’m going to remove as much of the worst things – processed foods and nonorganic meat and dairy – and do as much of the other things she talks about in the book, as possible. I suspect it will get easier as I go along, and if there’s any truth to this, I’ll notice a difference in how I feel and on the scale… and that will make it even easier!

I’ll keep you posted on how it goes. In the meantime, I think you’d get a lot out of this book as well. Check it out, and Master Your Metabolism, too!

Something to Chew On

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009

From the Women’s Health website:

James Levine, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic has measured the energy burned by chewing and found that just moving your jaw up and down can burn some 11 extra calories per hour, which is a boost of about 19 percent over your just-sitting-there level. Now, 11 calories may not sound like much, but that’s about a pound a year for every hour per day that you chew. And that doesn’t count the calorie savings from the snacks you’re not eating.

I’ve started chewing Big Red, since I read somewhere (can’t remember where!) that cinnamon flavored gum is better at curbing cravings than fruit flavored gum, which is what I was chewing tons of. However, Big Red has 10 calories per stick to Extra’s (the fruity ones) 5 calories. I know it’s only 5 calories, but it adds up!

With this information though, I feel much better about it. As long as I chew it for at least an hour, I will negate all the calories in that stick… plus one!

So chew on, folks. Chew on.

Music Increases Endurance

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

As any runner with an iPod (or back in the day, a Walkman) could tell you, listening to music increases your exercise endurance. A recent study now proves it – and not just a little, but by 15%!

That being said, my running playlist has been getting stale. There are a few songs that will remain (probably forever), but for the most part, I need some fresh stuff. That doesn’t necessarily mean NEW music, just some upbeat songs that will help keep me going on my runs. Here’s what I’m keeping on the list (highly recommended for your own workout playlist!):

  • Viva la Vida – Coldplay
  • Hip To Be Square – Huey Lewis & The News
  • Peace Frogs – The Doors
  • Standing Outside the Fire – Garth Brooks
  • Eye of the Tiger – Survivor (naturally…)
  • Sinnerman (Felix da Housecat’s Heavenly house Mix) – Felix da Housecat & Nina Simone

All the rest, like I said, are stale. I find myself skipping them when my iPod shuffles to them, and that’s not what I want to have to concern myself with on the road.

That’s where you guys come in! What helps keep you moving when you’re working out? I’m looking for suggestions – Bring it on!

200 Sit-Ups, Here I Come!

Monday, July 20th, 2009

As promised, I’ll be starting the 200 sit-up challenge this week! Over the weekend I did the initial test, and performed 56 good crunches consecutively. That’s right about where I thought I’d be, and it’s more than a quarter of the way there. That’s further along at the start than I was with the push ups!

I plan on doing the sit-ups and push ups on the same day, at least to start. Since they’re different body parts, I don’t think it’ll be a problem. If for some reason it doesn’t work for me, though, I’ll switch it up and do sit-ups one day and push ups the next.

Anyone else joining in? Let me know, kids!

On another note, I learned today that I have poison ivy (or oak or sumac). I don’t know where it came from, but I suspect it’s in my yard somewhere. A few months ago, I had something similar, so clearly it’s in the vicinity. My dermatologist informed me I am no longer allowed to eat mangoes or cashews*. I’m not too upset about the cashews, but I’m a huge mango lover (they’re mangolicious!). Mangoes are so much a part of my diet that when I got home I had a lot of stuff to throw out – what a delicious waste.

I know it seems silly, but I’m weirdly upset about this. I really like mangoes! And now I can’t have those OR cherries.

Ah well. At least I still have watermelon, strawberries and bananas!

* From Wikipedia: Mangoes and cashews are in the same family with poison ivy and poison sumac. Mango peel contains urushiol, the chemical in poison ivy and poison sumac that can cause urushiol-induced contact dermatitis in susceptible people.

Jillian Michaels’ Podcast

Monday, June 22nd, 2009

I recently discovered that Jillian Michaels of Biggest Loser fame has a weekly radio show on KFI, a radio station out of LA. Luckily for those of us living outside the listening area, the show is available on iTunes as a free podcast. I downloaded and took a bunch of them with me for the car ride up to Buffalo this past weekend and it made the time fly by.

Each show is 2 hours long (the podcast doesn’t have the commercials, so it’s more like 75 minutes or so) and starts off with about 10 or 15 minutes of Jillian speaking about a specific topic: Failure, Fitness Myths, Coping with Criticism, etc. That’s followed by a Q&A section with Jillian answering questions from callers (or emails). Sometimes there’s an interview with someone, too.

I find the show very interesting: It’s informative and thought-provoking, as well as motivational and inspiring. I’ve always liked Jillian as a trainer on The Biggest Loser, and I love her workout video “30-Day Shred” but I never realized how smart she actually is. Girl knows her stuff!

Here’s how to download the free podcast from iTunes:

– In the iTunes search box (upper right) type in “KFI Sundays”

– There you’ll find a bunch of Sunday shows on the station (they’re all lumped together). You can either download her shows one-by-one, or subscribe to KFI Sundays and then only “get” Jillian’s shows.

Lots of great and entertaining information. For free! Check it out and let me know what you think.