Chia Seeds – Worth the hype?

Chia Seeds - Worth the hype-

Nowadays, chia seeds are everywhere. You can put them in your smoothie, your breakfast, your acai bowl – you name it! So what’s the deal with these little seeds? Are they really worth they hype? Let’s find out.

First, let’s start with the basics: what exactly are chia seeds? Chia seeds are small seeds, similar to the size of poppy seeds and they tend to be black and white. They are originally from Mexico and Guatemala and historically, they were cultivated by the Aztecs. In terms of being consumed, they form a gel-like substance when soaked in liquid and they don’t really have a strong, defined flavor.

In terms of beneficial properties, chia seeds have a bunch. That’s probably why they’ve become so popular. Each serving only has 30 calories and only 3 grams of naturally-occurring sugar. Chia seeds are also packed with vitamins, probiotics, and antioxidants. They’re also a rich source of alpha-linolenic acid, fiber, potassium and calcium.  According to the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, two teaspoons of chia seeds offer 1.7 g of ALA, 3.6 g of fiber, and 60 mg of calcium. To put this in context, two teaspoons of chia seeds offer the same amount of fiber as one packet of instant oatmeal and the same amount of calcium as ¼ cup of milk.

All of these facts regarding the benefits chia seeds offer sound great, but the skepticism begins to set in when you start hearing stories about how chia seeds can help get rid of wrinkles, can kill cancer, can help with depression, and can even help you have a flatter belly in days! Really?! While there are no proven studies regarding these chia seed magical powers, the reality is that they are indeed very nutritious. So, I guess they’re not that bad after all, as long as you have real expectations about them.

Now how exactly do you consume chia seeds? I’ll leave you with a few of my favorite ways:

  1. Blend a tablespoon of chia seeds into your favorite smoothie.
  2. Sprinkle chia seeds on your yogurt.
  3. Mix them into your ground meat when making meatballs
  4. Mix them into your peanut butter spread.
  5. Add them into your favorite salad dressing or directly into your salad.

Late Night Snack that Burns Fat & Fights Stress

Yes, you read correctly, the the title of this article is “Late Night Snack that Burns Fat & Fights Stress.” I bet you never thought you could use all of these awesome adjectives to describe one food item, did you? Do you want to try to guess what it is? I’ll give you a few hints: it’s a fruit from Barbados, it’s citrusy, it’s slightly pink, and it’s delicious. If you guessed a grapefruit, you just won the lottery my friend, and I’ll tell you why!

This healthy snack will revolutionize the way you snack throughout the day and especially late at night. Let’s start with the never-ending list of health benefits that grapefruits provide. Grapefruits contain 26% more vitamin C than oranges. These leads them to be an excellent source of antioxidants that will promote healthy skin, hair, nails, and bones. Grapefruits also possess anti-aging properties that promote youthfulness and a healthy glow. Moreover, grapefruits fight stress due to the fact that vitamin C significantly lowers levels of a stress hormone called cortisol. Cortisol is also a fat-storing hormone that is directly linked to increased belly fat, so the fact that all that vitamin C found in the grapefruit lowers the hormone quantity means that it will not only help you combat stress, but it will also help you burn fat simultaneously. Can it get any better than that?

Yes it can! Grapefruits also serve as an appetite suppressor and a cravings crusher. Researchers from the Vanderbilt University found that when people added fresh grapefruit to their diet they automatically consumed 500 less calories per day and their weight loss rate increased over 13%. If you’re not convinced, I totally understand; it’s hard to believe, but grapefruits are the real deal! In another study, researchers from Scripps Clinic in California discovered that over the course of 12 weeks, overweight people who ate fresh grapefruit before meals lost five times more weight than individuals who didn’t. If that doesn’t convince you, I don’t know what will. So go ahead, add this low-glycemic, this low-sugar carbohydrate, this amazing fruit to your late snack sessions and your overall diet and begin to enjoy all of the benefits that will soon result from it.

Artificial Sweeteners Are Harmful

Here’s a frightening fact: a University of Texas-San Antonio study discovered that increased consumption of artificially sweetened diet soda can lead to obesity. According to Sharon Fowler, MPH, a faculty associate in clinical epidemiology, “on average, for each diet soft drink our participants drank per day, they were 65 percent more likely to become overweight during the next seven to eight years and 41 percent more likely to become obese.”

The harsh reality that for a long time the chemical sweetener industry did not want you to know is that artificial sweeteners like Splenda, NutraSweet, Sunette, and Sweet ‘N Low may have serious health consequences, one of them being that they can cause you to gain weight despite the fact that they are marketed as food products that can help you lose weight.

Artificial sweeteners can lead you to gain weight in a variety of ways. For example, the consumption of artificial sweeteners can prompt you to just eat more. A study published in the International Journal of Obesity documents how when researchers fed a liquid sweetened with real sugar to one group of rats and then fed a liquid mixed with artificial sweeteners to another group, the rats that consumed the artificial sweetener ate more. One of the reasons why it is believed that artificial sweeteners ironically lead you to eat more is because they act as a kind of short circuit in your brain, thus preventing your body from sensing how much it has eaten, so you just keep eating. It is also thought that when people consume diet products like Splenda, for example, you feel subconsciously entitled to overeat. The mentality is simple, “I’m already being good by not consuming real sugar, let me have one more cookie.” No! This is not true! You will not only gain weight, but you are potentially harming your body.

Here’s the breakdown: Splenda contains sucralose, NutraSweet has aspartame, Sunette is all about acesulfame K, and Sweet ‘N Low is saccharin. So far, the Center For Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) included aspartame, saccharin, and acesulfame K in their “avoid” list of food additives due to the health risks associated with these artificial sweeteners that have been unveiled over time. Just to give you an idea, aspartame (NutraSweet) has been linked to tumors. Sucralose (Splenda) contains chlorine atoms, and yes that is the same chemical used to kill microorganisms in swimming pools! These chlorine atoms can kill off the gut flora lining your intestines, which is obviously not good for you at all.

So if artificial sweeteners are not a good alternative and sugar isn’t either, what is? My recommendation: zero or low-calorie sweeteners like Truvia, Z-Sweet, and Sun Crystals. These sweeteners are made with natural sources like erythritol and stevia. Erythritol is an all-natural product, with zero calories, no glycemic impact, it’s found in many fruits and vegetables, and most importantly it’s recognized as safe by the FDA. Sun Crystals are a mixture of erythritol and raw cane sugar, so not zero-calorie, but it will still be a lower calorie intake than real sugar. And Truvia is a mix between erythritol and stevia, which is a natural sweetener derived from a leaf. Stevia is also sold in products like PureVia and SweetLeaf.

 

Regardless of whether you are consuming healthy natural sweeteners or sugar, the most important thing to keep in mind is to use them with caution. Train your body and your brain that is doesn’t need too many sweets in order to be satisfied.

 

LOSE Weight with a Cheat Day

Naturally, when we are surrounded by the ones we love we want to eat what they eat. No one wants to worry about their caloric intake or their excess carbohydrates when they are relaxing around a low-key tailgate or barbecue. I mean, just let me eat my bacon-wrapped cheeseburger, right? Who possibly diets as a lifestyle without ever cheating? I’ll tell you. No one; and that’s because cheat days don’t have to be bad for you. They can actually help you to LOSE weight. Really. Here’s how I do it following a day of excess:

Day 1: Take a protein shake day.

During this day I only consume healthy protein powders mixed with almond milk to cleanse my system and reinvigorate my muscle fibers. This actually, and naturally, “shrinks” my stomach so that in the succeeding days I am less hungry overall. My appetite decreases. For the record, I eat four shakes about three hours apart give or take.

Day 2: Eat protein and veggies.

Throughout the course of the day I eat about five very small meals, also three hours apart. The meals are composed of solely low fat, lean protein. Occasionally I’ll add some cottage cheese and eggs but I generally like to keep each of these meals pretty restrictive in terms of size. Although, I will include healthy fats like coconut oil and/or organic butter for a little flavor. There’s no reason food has to taste bad just because you’re dieting!

Day 3: Binge Day

This is the fun one. On the third day after a cheat day I’ll dive into some thicker carbs over the course of my five mini-meals. However, I will also make sure to include an additional half-cup of “high-energy” carbs through slow-absorbing mediums to take care those carbs that are not converted into body fat. Then, I’ll eat one, just one, splurge meal, and obliterate whatever I want. There’s no holds barred. I just make sure to not get overly full. Basically, it’s a mini meal that’s just a little smaller. I also ensure that this binge meal is not my last food of the day.

By following these rules, I not only get back on track to losing whatever extra weight I may have gained from my cheat day, but my metabolism is actually accelerated. This way I lose weight even faster than I was before my cheat day. Sometimes, our metabolisms begin to plateau in the way of speed when it becomes too used to the same diet. So when you switch it up a bit, it has to adapt and thus runs at optimum efficiency.

Anyway, I hope these tips and tricks help you to capitalize if you fall a little off-track. Good luck!

Sodium Linked To Obesity

Sodium is a natural element that the body needs to function. It’ s important for water balance, nerve function, and countless other physiological functions. However you really only need a small amount per day. About 500 mg is plenty. That’s the amount you’d get just snacking on chips, crackers, various cheeses, salted nuts or eating canned food items like soups and canned veggies. The total daily recommended limit of sodium consumption is around 2,300 milligrams.

However, most Americans are eating too much sodium. WAY too much sodium. On average, 4,000 to 6,500 mg a day. It’s not only hurting their health, it’s expanding their waistlines. In fact, the American Medical Association is campaigning for the FDA to withdraw salts designation as a “safe” food additive. They’re pushing for Americans to cut their intake in half.

This isn’t too surprising. Food manufacturers have known for a long time that salt is an addictive substance. That’s why they pack it into more and more processed foods. People will eat more, and then food companies will make more money. A clinical research has shown that salt shares characteristics with addictive substances (like morphine, cocaine, and heroin) which release dopamine (feel-good brain chemicals) when we eat it. That’s why salt addictions are so common and why people have such a hard time cutting down. Often people who don’t even know they’re addicted to salt will experience withdrawal symptoms when trying to cut back.

A 2006 Finnish study published in Progress in Cardiovascular Diseases found a link between increased salt intake and obesity. From the 1980s to the mid 1990s, the salt intake in the United States increased by more than 50% as Americans started eating more and more processed foods. In the same time frame, obesity has gone up steadily. Also keep in mind that when people eat more salt, they will naturally have the desire to drink more fluids to maintain water balance in their bodies.

Unsurprisingly, between 1977 and 2001 the U.S. caloric intake from sweetened beverages like fruit juice, soft drinks and energy drinks increased by 135%. It’s pretty easy to see that as food companies make foods more salty, people will drink more and more super-sized sugary drinks to wash it down.

High sodium diets also are the leading cause of high blood pressure, which can lead to heart disease and stroke. These diseases also go hand in hand with obesity. To alleviate the high blood pressure caused by salt intake, your body will dump extra water into your blood vessels which causes the overall pressure to increase as blood vessels expand. African Americans, Hispanics, and obese men and women have a higher sensitivity to sodium and are more prone to high blood pressure as a result. If you fall into one of these at-risk categories, you should try to limit your salt intake to less than 1,500 mg a day.

For regular salt use, I recommend using Celtic Sea Salt or pure Himalayan Pink Salt, because these have 84 minerals whereas regular table salt has only 2. They also don’t go through an unhealthy refining process like regular table salt does.

Also try to stay away from fast food, as many items at these restaurants will put you over your daily allowance really quickly. A McDonald’s double cheeseburger with small fries, for example, contains 1,310 mg of sodium. If you’re trying to be healthy at a fast food restaurant, good luck. The mesquite chicken salad at Chili’s has 2,710 mg of sodium. That’s more than most adults should eat in an entire day.

You can limit your salt intake by eating less processed food, getting frozen or fresh veggies instead of canned, buying fresh meats, choosing low-sodium options of canned soups and snacks, and asking for unsalted entrees at restaurants.

Red Meat and Cancer: 6 Tips to Lower Your Risk

As you’ve probably heard, the World Health Organization has declared processed meat as definitively carcinogenic to humans and red meat as “probably” carcinogenic. Vegetarians and vegans had cause for celebration at this news, but the rest of the world reacted with an understandable amount of terror.

Over at Huffington Post, a nutritionist laid out some of the facts of this revelation in an easy to understand way.

First off, the news that processed meat is carcinogenic is not exactly new. The research has been going for decades and if you’ve seen the influx of health documentaries like “Food, Inc” you’ve probably noticed that. Also, it simply shouldn’t be surprising. Even the most lamen of eaters have to know that spam and hot dogs aren’t natural or good for you.

Regardless, the International Agency for Cancer Research (IACR) recently gathered 22 scientists to review 800 studies regarding the consumption of processed meat (anything salted, fermented cured or smoked) and red meat. Their conclusion was that “on the basis of the large amount of data and the consistent associations of colorectal cancer with consumption of processed meat across studies in different populations, which make chance, bias, and confounding unlikely as explanations, a majority of the Working Group concluded that there is sufficient evidence in human beings for the carcinogenicity of the consumption of processed meat.”

Essentially, even when you rule out the other possible contributory factors, such as chance and bias, the correlation data between processed meat and cancer remains. This is bad news if you’re an avid meat eater, but it’s not a death sentence. There are a few things you can do to lower your risk of the worst health effects.

Avoid Processed Meat the Vast Majority of the Time

This includes ham, bacon, sausages, and any meat that’s been salted, cured, fermented, smoked or otherwise preserved. If you have to have your bacon, choose an ethical brand such as Applegate or Niman Ranch. However, keep in mind that these companies still make products that fall into the IARC’s definition of “processed.”

Eat Grass-Fed Organic Red Meat Options

Buying more ethically treated meats is not only good for the world, it’s good for your diet. They also taste better, and a little can go a long way. Eat grass fed beef or lamb in small portions.

Eat Your Vegetables!

Mom was right in this case. You should always fill half your plate with non-starchy vegetables or salad. They’re packed with cancer-preventing antioxidants and will help neutralize the damage done by processed meat products.

Be Careful How You Cook Red Meat

Cooking red meat at a high temperature forms polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and nitroso-compounds (NOCs) which are both cancer causing chemicals. Cooking over a lower temperature for a longer time can help prevent this.

Be A Healthy Vegetarian

If you are a vegetarian or vegan, you still have to be health conscious. Oreos and Fritos may be vegan but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. If you eat your (real) vegetables and highquality vegetarian protein instead of processed veggie burgers and sausages.

Manage Your Health Holistically

Nutrition is not the whole picture when it comes to preventing cancer. Managing your stress, exercising and staying well hydrated are all steps you can take to improve your overall health.

 

USDA Awards Grants for Nutrition and Obesity Prevention Research

The United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) awarded $2 million in grants today to support research on nutrition education and obesity prevention for disadvantaged children and families at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville and Utah State University. The funding will help create two new Regional Nutrition Education and Obesity Prevention Centers of Excellence (RNECE), which have been established through the Expanded Food and Nutrition Education Program (EFNEP) andSupplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. (SNAP)

National Institute of Food and Agriculture director Sonny Ramaswamy was quoted as saying “While we are beginning to see promising signs of progress with the epidemic leveling off in children, these grants will help evaluate and strengthen existing nutrition education and obesity prevention efforts to help ensure this progress continues.”

The University of Tennessee at Knoxville will receive $1 million to strengthen their existing Snap and EFNEP education programs for low-income families in particular. They will focus on reducing obesity by working to identify facilitators and barriers as well as training and evaluation needs.

In Utah, the State University in Logan will receive $1 million to look at EFNEP and SNAP-ed program participants and non-participants across many different ethnic and racial backgrounds in five states. The research will improve the USDA’s ability to create and maintine effective nutrition education programs and will, ideally, result in participants’ healthier food choices and increased physical activity. Improved health will reduce the incidents of disease and disability thus reducing the overall costs to individuals and the nation’s healthcare system.

“With one-third of our nation’s children overweight or obese, this issue stands out as one of the greatest health challenges facing our country,” said Audrey Rowe, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service Administrator. “As we invest in our nation’s health it is important we leverage partners and innovative strategies to help children from low-income families grow and develop into healthy adults.”

The RNECE were established in 2014 with one institution in each of NIFA’s administrative regions and one National Coordination Center, the result of a partnership between the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, NIFA and several participating universities. They exist primarily to research and develop best practices that address issues related to obesity among poor and underrepresented groups.

SNAP-ed, initiated in 1992 exists in all 50 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and the Virgin Islands. Nearly 100 agencies deliver the program including public health departments, food banks, non-profit organizations and others.

NIFA invests in agricultural research, education and extension and works every day to make discoveries that solve challenges in society. To learn more about NIFA, visit http://nifa.usda.gov/impacts

 

Snack Away Stress

One of the most common culprits that cost us our waistline is stress eating. Whether cramming doughnuts and coffee to get through the workday or easing into a large pizza and tall beer after the day is over, food is our best friend and worst enemy when it comes to stress eating. However, there are alternatives that help us snack away the stress without stacking extra pounds. These guilt-free snacks are perfect for anyone looking to sneak a little flavor into their diet, and still enjoy the sweeter things in life Here are some of the best snaJosh Bezonicks you can use to battle stress.

Oranges: It’s a little-known fact that Vitamin C helps to reduce the levels of Cortisol, the hormone responsible for fat retention. Sweet and full of juice, an orange makes an excellent substitute for candy or other sweet treats.

Blueberries: Being low on the glycemic index and chock-full of Vitamin C isn’t the only benefit to these little snacks. Each berry is teeming with antioxidants, perfect for relieving stress and calming down with a little something sweet.

Turkey: High in protein and packed with natural flavor, turkey makes a great snack, especially around midnight. When reaching for something to slake your late-night hunger, the L-tryptophan in each bite of turkey will surely help you get a restful sleep.

Salmon: Rich in nutrients and omega-3 fatty acids, fish is an excellent dish to fight stress. A study conducted at the Ohio State University showed that omega-3 fatty acids have the ability to reduce stress by 20%.

Almonds: Nothing says, “stress relief,” better than a good crunch. Almonds are excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, including but not limited to magnesium, zing, and Vitamins B and E. Almonds can also help you sleep according to a recent study. Zinc and magnesium were shown to shorten the time it took subject to fall asleep, leading to fuller, longer rests.

Snack Better

It’s amazing what eating the right foods will allow you to do on a diet. After organizing a healthy diet and workout routine, you absolutely can enjoy the sweeter things in life without fear of recourse or rebounding. The world won’t come crashing down because of one candy bar or cookie, but it takes determination to keep that one snack from becoming a binge. Below are some tips to keep you snacking better.

Moderation: As with most things in life, too much of something can turn and bite you. That goes double for allowing yourself to snack during a diet. The temptation to reach for one more chip or cookie when you’ve passed your allowance is easy, and products are designed to keep you reaching for just one more. A creative way to combat this trend is to reach for a single, larger snack. Instead of a sleeve of Oreos, try a gourmet cookie. Usually larger than a softball and in a variety of flavors, you can enjoy an oatmeal raisin cookie that fills you up without sending you into a sugar spiral.

Understanding: A reason that some people diet incorrectly is that they don’t uJosh Bezoninderstand the foods they are putting into their body. Though small and oftentimes difficult to read, food labels will become a big part of your life when embarking on a diet. Read each label, and put down the foods with overly complicated chemicals and corn syrups. Those products are designed to keep you hungry, and make for particularly hard snacks to set aside mid-diet.

Meal Maintenance: Though snacking is great, what allows these little trysts away from your diet is having a well planned and healthy meal schedule. Three square meals a day, each packed with the necessary vitamins and nutrients are a must when dieting, and to forgo such a necessary step will only spell trouble on your road to progress.

Save the Avocado!

The secret is out, and it’s that avocados are a miracle food. Used in dozens of healthy recipes for its burst of flavor and host of healthy factors, the avocado is equal parts delicious and nutritious. But how can we keep one from spoiling? It’s rare that someone finishes an entire avocado in one sitting, and following these tips will allow you to revisit your favorite food without it having spoiled or gone brown after the first cut.

A Cut Above: Instead of using a traditional pressed-steel blade to cut, try using a ceramic or plastic knife. Metal accelerates the oxidation process, leading your favorite food to brown quicker than you’d think.

The Citric Approach: Citric acid is well-known as both a powerful antioxidant and the worst thing to get in a paper cut. When you’ve cut into your avacado and are preparing to return it to the fridge, rubbing some lemon juice along the exposed flesh will significantly reduce the speed that it browns.

Seal It Up: Oxidation is what brings the brown to your fresh avocado, so a sure-fire way to fight this is by removing all the air from the bag where you’re keeping it. Whether you have a vacuum sealer or just a determined set of hands, the more air you can keep away from your now exposed avocado the better.

Josh BezoniGuard your Guac: One of the lovely byproducts of a good avocado is guacamole. Delicious and good on almost anything, this delectable green paste can go bad just as quickly as your freshly sliced avocado. When sealing it to ensure its freshness, add a half-inch of water on top of the guacamole after you’ve been sure to remove any air pockets. This bag and water seal helps to keep that guac fresh for up to an entire day by ensuring that no air reaches your food.