Juicing/Detoxing: Do This Instead

We previously wrote about the pitfalls of juicing/detoxing.  Although it may not cause any harm (unless you are pregnant, have diabetes, etc.), it won’t exactly “detox” your system or help you lose weight (and keep it off) either. Thankfully, your liver takes care of all the detoxing you need to do. If you are still looking for a way to eat healthier or maybe lose some weight, here’s what do to instead.

Eat more whole foods

A better way to think about eating healthier is to focus on more whole foods, versus other things, like “detoxing” or “eating clean” (all of which imply something extreme). Whole foods are foods that are unprocessed and unrefined, or processed and refined as little as possible. In other words, whole foods are as close to their natural state as possible. 

Processed Food

Whole Food

Apple sauce

Whole apple

Sweet potato fries

Whole sweet potato

Strawberry fruit by the foot

Whole strawberries

Frozen chicken patty

Whole roasted chicken

Chocolate covered almonds

Raw almonds

Coffee creamer

Half and half

Tortilla shell

Brown rice

Flavored oatmeal

Plain oatmeal with fresh fruit


Whole foods are naturally lower in sugar, fat, and sodium and higher in vitamins, minerals, and fiber. A diet consisting primarily of whole foods will help you to feel more energized and less lethargic. The Mediterranean style of eating is a great “diet” to follow. It is primarily whole foods based and is supported by research in reducing risk of heart disease, diabetes, and overweight/obesity. 

Eat less (way less) processed foods

As mentioned above, processed foods are higher in sugar, fat, and sodium than whole foods. Additionally, they are also usually full of additives, preservatives, and unnatural ingredients. Some processed foods are sneakier than you think when it comes to “hidden” ingredients. For example, it is nearly impossible to find a spaghetti sauce without sugar added to it. Instead, try shopping at a health food store such as Trader Joe’s, but always read the nutrition label, as these types of stores also carry high sugar foods as well.  Or, you can make your own homemade sauce using canned or fresh tomatoes and fresh ingredients. Eating a diet high in processed foods is, therefore, more likely to contribute to weight gain and associated diseases such as diabetes and heart disease.

Drink more water and less sugary beverages

Most of us know by now the importance of drinking enough water. The problem is that more and more Americans are substituting water with sugary beverages such as sodas, sport drinks, fruit juices, and coffee drinks. Did you know that a typical 20-ounce soda contains 15 to 18 teaspoons of sugar? That’s almost 240 calories just from sugar. According to the new nutrition guidelines, Americans should aim for less than 12 teaspoons of added sugar per day. It’s easy to see how only 1 soda or juice puts you over the limit for the whole day. The problem with eating too much sugar is that it is linked with overweight/obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, to name a few.

Get moving

Besides eating healthier, exercise is another crucial component of living a healthier lifestyle. Although exercising won’t directly detox your body, it will help the kidneys and colon get rid of waste, which is really the end goal for most people who are interested in “detoxing”. Exercise also helps fight off some of the diseases mentioned above (heart disease, diabetes, overweight/obesity). Additionally, it will help you to feel more energized and sleep better at night. Having more muscle also means having more lean body mass and less fat mass.

In summary, instead of jumping on the next “detox” fad, adopt a healthier diet and incorporate some exercise and your body will naturally take care of itself. Your liver detoxes everything for you, and there’s no magical tea that replace the liver’s function. Stick to more whole food and less processed foods and you will likely experience the benefits you were hoping for while on a “detox” diet.  

Health Benefits and Risks of Alcohol

You may have heard that drinking alcohol has some health benefits to it. In fact, one of the most highly recommended diets for good health is the Mediterranean diet, which includes a daily glass of red wine. But, why aren’t other types of alcohol, such as beer or white wine included in this stipulation? And what exactly is it in the red wine that may benefit your health? Below, we will examine what the research tells us. You might be surprised.

Why Red Wine?

Yes, there are some health benefits to alcohol, red wine in particular. Most experts agree that red wine does have some heart healthy qualities. This type of alcohol contains antioxidants (i.e. flavonoids) and another substance called resveratrol. It is believed that these two properties of red wine are what provides the heart healthy benefits.

Research shows that resveratrol in red wine might be the ingredient that helps prevent damage to blood vessels, reduces low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol (the "bad" cholesterol), and prevents blood clots. Additionally, some research shows that resveratrol could be linked to a reduced risk of inflammation and blood clotting, both of which can lead to heart disease. It is important to note, however, that most of these studies have been done in animals, not humans. And, if you drink too much alcohol, any positive effects received from the resveratrol are easily trumped by the damage that can be done to your body, especially your liver.

Moderation is key

So how much is too much? More than one glass per day for women and two glasses per day for men. Any more than that and you are increasing your risk for chronic diseases such as alcoholism, cirrhosis of the liver, hypertension, stroke, type 2 diabetes, cancer of the upper gastrointestinal tract, and colon and cognitive impairment. It’s easy to see why most health professionals do not recommend drinking alcohol at all.

Confounding factors

In addition to the resveratrol and antioxidants found in red wine, research tells us that it’s also the general dietary habits of people who tend to drink red wine as compared to beer, that actually lend to some of the statistics which show that people who drink red wine generally have less of the diseases mentioned above. In general, people who drink red wine are also more likely to buy heart healthy foods containing healthy fats and antioxidants, such as olives, fruits, vegetables, poultry, and low fat cheese and milk. By comparison, the beer drinkers generally buy more processed, sugary, and heavier fat meats (i.e. sausage and pork).

The take home point here is that drinking a glass of red wine per day is not a magic health bullet. If you are interested in reaping the health benefits of red wine, it is best if you commit to eating a healthy, balanced Mediterranean style eating plan, in general.

Bottom Line

Deciding to include alcohol in your diet is a personal decision. Neither the American Heart Association nor the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute recommend that you start drinking alcohol just to prevent heart disease. Alcohol can be addictive and can cause or worsen other health problems. It’s safe to say that you would be better off if you didn’t drink alcohol at all. But, if you really want those antioxidants in the form of wine, stick to no more than one (for women) or two glasses (for men).

The Mediterranean Diet: Good for Health, Good for Life.

The Mediterranean diet is consistently promoted by health professionals as one of the healthiest and most balanced diets available.  You may have wondered, what makes the Mediterranean diet so great? For starters, it’s a well balanced style of eating that is rich in fresh, whole foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and seafood.  Other foods like dairy, red meats, and sweets are not entirely eliminated, but consumed less often.  The Mediterranean style of eating differs from many other diets because no single food group is deemed the token villainous “bad” food group. Foods from all food groups are included.  As illustrated in the Mediterranean diet pyramid, some foods are encouraged to be eaten more frequently, while others less often.  Most people find this particular style of eating relatively reasonable to follow and adhere to (versus more restrictive, less balanced diets).

Aside from dietary recommendations, the Mediterranean style of eating also encourages physical activity and enjoying meals. Focusing on diet, physical activity, and the mind/body (social) aspect of living, contributes to the well-roundedness of the Mediterranean diet. 

What does the research tell us?

Many large scale clinical and population health studies have tested the efficacy of the Mediterranean style of eating.  The results indicate that a diet similar to that of the Mediterranean region is linked with many physical health benefits including reduced risk of heart disease; reduced risk of death from heart disease, cancer and Parkinson’s; reduced blood pressure and cholesterol; reduced risk of obesity in children andadults; and reduced risk of Type II Diabetes

Research has also demonstrated the positive effects of a Mediterranean diet on mental health, particularly Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.  Adherence to a Mediterranean style diet is linked with reduced risk and progression of Alzheimer’s disease and Dementia.

What makes the Mediterranean Diet so healthy?

There are a few staples of the Mediterranean diet that make it such a health style of eating.  Overall, it is a diet that is high in healthy (unsaturated) fats and low in highly processed, sugary foods-which have been linked with many adverse health outcomes such as heart disease and type II diabetes.  Consisting of many fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, olive oil, and fish, Mediterranean foods are generally lower in calories and higher in vitamins, minerals, fiber, heart healthy fats, and protein, than the typical Western diet.

How can I start eating the Mediterranean way?

Familiarize yourself with the Mediterranean diet pyramid and try to stick to the core principles of this style of eating.  Base every meal off fruits, vegetables, beans, nuts, and/or legumes. Consume poultry, eggs, cheese, and yogurt once or twice per week. Try to eat meats and sweets once per week or once every other week at most.

Here are a few tips that highlight the difference between the Mediterranean vs. Western style diet:

·         Stick with whole, fresh foods rather than prepackaged or precooked meals.

·         Grill, broil, and bake instead of frying.  

·         Use fresh herbs and spices instead of salt or sugar to flavor food. 

·         Use olive oil instead of butter.

·         Drink red wine in moderation (optional).

·         Be physically active.

·         Enjoy sit-down meals with others instead of eating alone or on the go.

Remember, the Mediterranean style is ideally fresh, flavorful, and abundant in variety; it’s far from boring, tasteless, and rigid (like many other “diets”). Note the word “style” versus “diet”. Diet implies restriction and something that cannot be maintained long-term. The Mediterranean “style” of eating is healthy and flavorful and can most definitely be maintained long-term for well beyond weight management benefits – as aforementioned.

So- experiment in the kitchen, be active, and share meals with others. These are the foundations of the Mediterranean way! 

Superfood Series: Part 5

6 Reason why Walnuts are Superfood All-stars:

  1.  Heart Health.  Walnuts are rich in Omega-3 fatty acids which help fight inflammation and preserve endothelial cell function that is associated with heart disease.  These heart healthy fats have a unique chemical structure that aides in unclogging arteries the same way drain cleaner unclogs your kitchen sink pipes.  Walnuts also contain a unique combination of fiber and unsaturated fats which can also help lower cholesterol (and reduce insulin resistance which often leads to diabetes). 
  2. Weight controlResearch indicates that diets containing walnuts are more supportive of weight loss and healthy weight maintenance.  Even though walnuts are relatively high in fat and calories for size, when eaten in moderation they can help suppress appetite in between meals and provide high amounts of satiety (the feeling of being satisfied or full).  This is because walnuts have a good amount of protein and fiber (1-.25 cup serving contains 5g protein and 3 g fiber), both of which contribute to the feeling of fullness.  There are many ways to include walnuts into your diet.  Try eating a handful or throw them into your cereal, oatmeal, or salad. 
  3. Brain Health.  Back to the Omega -3s, there is a link between Omega-3 consumption and the ability to fight depression and cognitive degeneration.  Research shows that people who ate walnuts as part of a Mediterranean style diet were associated with better memory and brain function.  A review of the literature postulates that antioxidants and polyunsaturated fatty acids in walnuts may help counteract age-related cognitive decline. 
  4. Slows Cancer Tumor Growth.  Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory nutrients found in walnuts are arguably the two most important factors that can have an effect on the development of cancer.  Antioxidants help prevent cancer by repairing damaged cells.  Research has revealed that walnuts have the ability to help prevent, fight, and slow growth of certain cancerous tumors (i.e. prostate, gastrointestinal, and breast cancer). 
  5. Sleep.  Walnuts have the ability to raise melatonin levels by a whopping three times.  Melatonin is a hormone produced by the pineal gland in the brain.  It plays a role in sleep regulation by controlling the sleep wake cycle, helping you to feel sleepy at night.  Bonus?  Melatonin in walnuts is in bio-available form, which means it is easier to absorb than other supplemental sources of melatonin. 
  6. Metabolism booster.  Thecombination of protein and essential fatty acids found in walnuts can help boost metabolism.Walnuts also contain16% of the daily recommend amount of magnesium-which is needed for protein synthesis.  Magnesium functions as an electrolyte, which means that it is used to communicate between nerves and muscles. When muscles have adequate magnesium, they are able to function properly and continue to support a healthy metabolism. To sum it up, walnuts can help your body to function and continue to grow stronger and build muscle as you exercise.

*For full health benefits, make sure to eat the raw version of walnuts and stay away from anything that is coated in sugar or salt like candied walnuts.

Sources: http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=foodspice&dbid=99; http://www.naturalnews.com/040837_walnuts_healthy_nuts_brain_food.html; http://www.prevention.com/health/health-concerns/nuts-and-health-how-walnuts-can-improve-your-memory; http://www.today.com/id/23547010/ns/today-today_health/t/ways-boost-your-metabolism/#.U_SzxMVdW0I; http://news.psu.edu/story/276393/2013/05/08/research/whole-walnuts-and-their-extracted-oil-can-reduce-cardiovascularhttps://www.sciencenews.org/blog/science-public/walnuts-slow-prostate-cancer-growth; http://jn.nutrition.org/content/138/9/1757S.full; http://theearthdiet.blogspot.com/2011/05/eating-for-blood-type-o.html  

Superfood Series: Part 4

Chia Seeds:  Small, but Mighty

What’s not to love about chia seeds? They are unprocessed, whole grain, and chock-full of nutrients.  Chia seeds are jam-packed with protein, fiber, and minerals. Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a look at their overall nutritional content. 




Healthy Weight.  Chia seeds are not the magic solution for weight loss that some companies would like you to believe, but their high fiber and protein content make them a viable addition to any healthy weight loss or maintenance plan. Thanks to their high fiber content, chia seeds can absorb 10-12 times their weight.  Their gel like presence in your stomach will help you feel fuller, longer and reduce the chance of over-eating. Additionally, chia seeds contain high quality protein that consists of all 9 essential amino acids (amino acids that cannot be synthesized on their own and must be obtained through food) that will keep hunger at bay and energy levels consistent. 

Healthy Heart.  Chia seeds are a great source of heart healthy polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs).  They are a particularly good source of Omega-3 fatty acids, which play an important role in sustaining health, specifically in blood clotting and inflammation. PUFAs can also help reduce bad cholesterol levels which can lower your risk of heart disease and stroke and possibly type II diabetes. 

Digestion.  Fiber aids in digestion and chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber.  At 10 grams per ounce (about 2 tablespoons), they are 40% fiber by weight.  Fiber is not fully digested by the body, so it cleans out the digestive tract as it passes through.  Fiber also helps increase satiety (the feeling of being satisfied), which can aid in weight loss and healthy weight maintenance plans. 

Strong bones.  Chia seeds are high in many critical bone nutrients and minerals including calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. These three minerals account for 98% of the body’s mineral content by weight.  Although, deficiencies in phosphorus and magnesium are rare in the typical American diet, calcium deficiency is more common.  As we age, calcium absorption and retention decreases in our bones.  Including chia seeds in your diet may help offset this natural loss in calcium. 

Antioxidants have been shown to help fight off everything from heart disease to cancer.  Some of the most abundant antioxidants in chia seeds (quercetin, kaempferol,  myricetin, chlorogenic acid, and caffeic acid) are associated with health benefits such as boosted energy, endurance, and fitness of the brain and muscles; protection against chronic disease such as lung cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes;  and inflammation prevention.      

Athletic performance.  Folklore says that Aztecs and Mayans carb-loaded with chia seeds before an athletic event, much in the same way we do with sport drinks before a sporting event. We’re thinking they were on to something.  In one study, researchers compared athletic performance of athletes who drank Gatorade to athletes who drank a mixture of half-Gatorade and half-chia seeds.  The results indicated no difference in performance between the two groups, suggesting that chia seeds may serve as a possible healthy alternative to highly processed, sugar-laden sport drinks. Furthermore, the high calcium and magnesium content in chia seeds makes them a good source of electrolytes which helps prevent hydration and restore electrolyte balance lost during heavy exercise.

Diabetes.  The unique combination of soluble and insoluble fiber (10 out of 12 carbohydrates are from fiber) in chia seeds causes a slow and steady rise in blood sugar which is favorable for people with diabetes.  A few clinical studies have demonstrated this favorable effect.  The results of one study indicated that including 37 grams (about 2.5 tablespoons) of chia seeds per day for 12 weeks reduced blood sugar levels.  Hint* Substituting chia seeds for bread crumbs and other high glycemic load foods can be a helpful place to start.    

Versatility.  There are many ways to eat chia seeds. In addition to their long shelf life (thanks to antioxidants), chia seeds are so versatile that you can add them to almost anything.  Eat them alone if you’re in a hurry or add them to water or milk to create a thick, gelatinous pudding.  Other people like to add them to salads, sandwiches, and soups.  Check out these other ideas if you’re curious