Sunday, June 29, 2014

How Much Water Do You Need?

We have all heard that you should drink 8 glasses of water a day for good health.  But is this true?  What if you drink coffee, tea and only 4 glasses of water a day?  Are you unhealthy?  Now that it is summer, paying attention to fluid intake is a good idea. 
How do you know if you are becoming dehydrated?  Thirst is the first sign of dehydration.  So if you are thirsty, get something to drink to replenish your body fluids.
Does coffee, tea count as fluid?  Yes.  Both are fluids that can help you stay hydrated.   Popular belief says these drinks contain caffeine so they don’t count as “fluids” or part of the 8 glasses a day.  But that isn’t true.  Researchers have found that the caffeine in these beverages doesn’t cancel out their hydration effects.
Does milk, juice or even foods like watermelon – other foods count towards our “water” intake?  Yes.  All liquids count towards your fluid intake.  Many foods have a high water content such as watermelon.   In fact, foods constitute about 22% of our water intake.
Is eight glasses of water a day a myth?  Yes, not a harmful myth but a myth nonetheless.  Way back in 1945 a study indicated we need 64 ounces of fluid a day, which is 8 glasses.  But this study also included all fluids such as coffee and tea and not just water.  If you want to drink 8 glasses of “water” a day, go ahead.  But if you want to drink 8 glasses of fluid a day, including your coffee, tea, milk, that is fine too.  Mostly, if you are thirsty, get something to drink to rehydrate yourself.
What are good “fluids” to drink to stay hydrated?
  • Water
  • Coffee or tea – unsweetened
  • Non-fat milk or low fat milk
  • 100% juice – up to 8 ounces a day
  • Sports drinks – for endurance athletes
Keeping hydrated is important but it doesn’t have to be drinking just water.  Enjoy that unsweetened ice tea, the Crystal Light Lemonade, and your ice cold water this summer.  

Sources:  How Much Water Do You Really Need?,  Image Source:  Water

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Why Love Exercise?

Many of us hear the word “exercise” and we groan.  Simple walking is exercise.  But to be healthy we need to add some aerobic exercise to our routine.   Why aerobic exercise?
  1. Heart – our hearts are a muscle and as such we can strengthen our heart muscle with aerobic exercise.  This will increase the size of your heart and make it stronger and pump more efficiently.  An athlete has a heart that is about a third larger than a normal heart because they have strengthened their heart muscle. 
  2. Cardiac efficiency – a stronger heart pumps more blood with each beat.  This delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your cells. 
  3. Heart rate – a stronger heart pumps more blood with each beat so it needs to beat less.  This gives you a lower heart rate which Is good for your heart and your health.  Your heart just doesn’t have to work as hard to get oxygen and nutrients to the cells in your body.
  4. Exercise recovery – do a sprint and one gasps for air.  With a stronger heart your recovery from exercise is faster.
  5. Blood pressure – aerobic exercise helps you keep your blood pressure lower. 

So think of ways to get some aerobic exercise into your weekly routine.  Biking, an aerobics class, running, speed walking one to two blocks then walking at a normal pace for one to two blocks and repeat.  There are many ways to get your heart pumping to strengthen your heart muscle. 

Source:  5 Reasons to Love Exercise, Berkeley Wellness Letter, Sept.  2012  Image Source:  Heart

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Can you Lose Weight on Vacation Without Trying?

Just returned from a 10 day trip to France.  I was looking forward to all their great bread and cheese.  It was a group trip, about 31 people in all: many college students and some adults.  Our first day we got off the plane in the morning, stored our luggage at the hotel and our tour guide began our tour of Paris.  Yes, we did take the metro into Paris proper but then the walking tour began including Notre Dame and many sites near there.   In a park a French teacher had a group of elementary students out for a picnic lunch.  What was striking was there were no overweight kids in the class.  Then a group of high school students came with their lunch, again no overweight students.  As we continued our walking tour, I noticed many Parisians walking to lunch, to the metro, carrying their 2-3 foot long baguettes.  Again, I observed that no one was obese and almost all were normal weight. 

That night I looked at my pedometer and we had walked 5.6 miles.  The next day was Museum d’Orsay and more sites in Paris.  Even with taking the metro to and from our hotel, to and from dinner, we walked 6.0 miles on day 2.  Day 3 was the Louvre, the Latin Quarter, the Locks of Love Bridge and 6.28 miles.  We hadn’t signed up for a walking tour of Paris but it definitely became one.  In between walking we ate good breakfasts of croissants, or rolls with chocolate, and the usual ham and cheese and fruit. We would stop for good lunches of baguettes, cheese, chicken and then their bakeries of great desserts or the chocolate store and of course afternoon coffee. 

Even when we left Paris for long bus rides into the country, we would stop at smaller towns, at chateaus and more walking.  I kept track of how much we walked: 
  •        Day one 5.6 miles
  •         Day two  6.3 miles
  •      Day three   6.0 miles
  •         Day four    6.28 miles
  •         Day five   5.6 miles
  •         Day six     4.74 miles ( a lot more time on the bus than other days)
  •         Day seven   6.39 miles 
  •        Day eight   4.7 miles

Surprising also, was the amount of bread eaten.  Every meal had a heavy emphasis on their fantastic fresh bread – usually white bread but I did find a whole grain baguette in one of the smaller French towns.  Breakfast was always croissants, rolls. Lunch was often a foot long baguette filled with cheese, chicken, lettuce and tomato (similar to a Subway but the baguette was fresh, delicious and sans all our preservatives).  Every dinner included a basket of rolls but no butter.  (Butter was never served at dinner and you literally had to beg to get a small amount).  So many people in the U.S. avoid bread because “bread is fattening”.  Well, the Parisians and French certainly prove that wrong.  They eat a whole lot of bread but they also seem to walk and bicycle wherever they go.  Despite their high intake of bread and more bread, few were overweight. Not a scientific samples but we covered a whole lot of Paris and almost every French person I saw was of normal weight.

We are home now.  My daughter lost 5 pounds on the trip and I lost two.  We weren’t trying to lose weight and we both ate lots and lots of their fantastic French bread.  It seems most French haven’t heard the rumor that “bread is fattening”.  They enjoy eating their fantastic tasting bread as they walk to the bakery to get it and then walk home with their 3 food long baguette.  (Thank goodness for Zappos and their comment section as I bought shoes that someone said they wore walking through Europe. And walk we did.)
Image Source:

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Is Your Diet Missing These Nutrients?

I was talking to a neighbor and she said her college age son was borderline for high blood pressure.  I told her he should eat a banana a day.  She looked at me with surprise.  Most people have heard of lowering sodium for high blood pressure but not as many have heard of increasing potassium.   

Potassium is one of 7 nutrients the USDA has said Americans aren’t getting enough of.  Are you lacking in any of these nutrients?
Potassium – not only helps keep our blood pressure healthy it also helps our muscles and nerve function.  Food sources:
  • Bananas
  • Milk
  • Sweet potatoes
  •  Legumes  
  • Avocados 
Magnesium – since so many of us eat white bread and few fruits and vegetables, we may be missing out on magnesium.  Low levels are linked to osteoporosis, high blood pressure, diabetes, muscle cramps, and heart disease.  Food sources:
                Whole grains  (e.g. oatmeal)      spinach   beans  nuts (especially almonds) 
Vitamin A – pretty easy to get if you are eating 5 fruits and vegetables a day and drinking milk or eating yogurt at meals.  Not so easy if your diet is missing fruits and vegetables or loaded with fake foods like Sunny D and Hi-C.  One of the first signs of vitamin A deficiency is having trouble seeing in the dark.  Our eyes need Vitamin A. for good vision.  Vitamin A helps our immune system and skin.  Carrots don’t really have vitamin A but carotene which our body converts to vitamin A but eating carrots is a great way to get the vitamin A your body needs.  Other food sources:
                Look for orange – sweet potatoes, pumpkin, squash, apricots, carrots

                Look for dark green – spinach, broccoli
Vitamin D – sad that so many children and adults lack vitamin D as our bodies make vitamin D when we go outside.  It is also easy to get from milk and yogurt.  This vitamin plays a huge role in our overall health and researchers are still finding out important roles this vitamin plays in our overall health.  This include healthy bones, healthy muscles, our nerves and keeping our immune system strong to ward off illnesses.  Sources:
  • Go Outside – when the sun hits our skin, our bodies can make vitamin D
  •  Milk/Yogurt are fortified with vitamin D
  •  Fish – some fish are a good source such as salmon, mackerel
  •  Egg yolks – some are labeled to be good sources of vitamin D
  •  Calcium fortified Orange Juice is also usually fortified with vitamin D
So what nutrients might you be lacking and what steps can you take to include these nutrients in your diet?
Source:  Missing Nutrients in Your Diet
Image Source:  Dark Green Vegetables

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Olive Oil – Your best choice

Recently I was in the grocery store watching a couple trying to choose cooking oil.  They would pick up a bottle of oil, look at it, put it back and then pick up another bottle of oil.  They seemed totally mystified by the vast array of oils to choose from.   And it can be confusing.  But one cooking oil stands out as being the healthiest and that is Olive Oil. 
Which Olive Oil to Choose?
Choose Extra Virgin Olive Oil – a little pricier but a better choice for your health.  Or, as Rachel Ray calls it, EVOO.  EVOO is the least processed of the olive oils so it is richer in the polyphenols that are good for our health.  It is also higher in Omega-3’s and vitamin E.  Pass up the “light” olive oil.  It is not “light” in calories but is the most refined olive oil so not the one to choose for your health.  Also avoid “pure olive oil”.  Sounds good but it is also refined and not as good as EVOO.  So Rachel Ray gets it right. 
Why Olive Oil?  
  • Prevents heart disease  - it used to be that one chose oils high in polyunsaturated fats.  Now they recommend we choose oils high in monounsaturated fats, such as olive oil.  Researchers now call Olive Oil with its monounsaturated fats, the “Heart- Healing fat”.  (Prevent a Second Heart Attack Through Diet).  Olive oil helps lower your bad cholesterol (LDL-cholesterol), and helps raise your good cholesterol (HDL-cholesterol).  The Mayo Clinic notes EVOO has greater cholesterol-lowering effects.  They recommend about 2 Tablespoons of olive oil a day, in place of other fats, for a heart-healthy effect.  (Cholesterol:  Top 5 foods to lower your numbers).
  • Reduce Your Cancer Risk – Greeks that ate up to 3 Tablespoons of olive oil a day as part of their overall diet, significantly reduced their risk of cancer.
  • Controls Blood Pressure – in addition to eating fruits and vegetables, it seems olive oil is important in controlling blood pressure. 
When to use olive oil?
Use EVOO in marinades, salad dressings, sauces, grilling, sautéing.  Some people don’t like to use olive oil when cooking at high temperatures because it seems to give foods a more intense flavor.  But it is safe to use EVOO up to 410 degreess Fahrenheit which covers the range needed for most cooking needs.
How many calories in olive oil?
Olive oil does have calories, and as a fat, a lot of calories.  One tablespoon has 120 calories.  So slathering olive oil on everything will greatly increase your calorie intake. Measure it when cooking and invest in an olive oil mister.
So the next time you are shopping for cooking oil, choose EVOO.

Image Source;  EVOO