Category Archives for "Healthy Living"
While coconut oil is popular for cooking many dishes, is it really healthy for you? According to research from the American Heart Association last year, absolutely not.
Why is that? Well, the reasons that make it such a great oil for cooking (functionally), are the primary reasons why it is not good for you. Coconut oil is made up of more than 80% saturated fat, which far exceeds the amount that you’ll find in other cooking options like butter (63%), beef fat (53%) or pork lard (39%), as told by the AHA.
Beyond just being so full of fat, it doesn’t really have any favorable attributes (besides taste) that offset these negative health attributes.
The funny thing about this research from the AHA is because it comes in stark contrast to how this oil has been perceived in recent years. It has widely been publicized as a health food and has become popular in many weight loss circles. While you shouldn’t avoid it altogether, don’t make it your primary cooking oil and you don’t need to go adding it to everything you consume like smoothies or coffee. While it may make it taste a little better, you’re adding so much saturated fat to your diet.
This oil is so concentrated in saturated fat that just one tablespoon of it is equal to your recommended daily maximum you should have in one day. Yeah, that doesn’t really leave any wiggle room to have any saturated fat anywhere else in your diet.
So what should you be reaching for instead? There are so many alternative oils that are so much better for your health.
Yes, I know that they may not have the flavoring that you are craving, but your health will thank you for it. Instead of coconut oil and its high saturated fat content, go with options that contain monounsaturated fats like avocado oil or olive oil, or those with polyunsaturated fats like canola oil.
Research has been conducted on the effects of saturated fats, particularly in coconut oil, in connection with many health issues.
While further research is recommended, evidence points to a link between coconut oil and weight gain, cardiovascular disease, bone loss, and blood sugar levels. Additionally, there are indications that it can also lead to eczema, cavities, and even hair loss.
To put it simply, one Harvard professor, when giving a talk on nutrition, referred to coconut oil as “pure poison.” I think that just about puts an end to it for me, and I’ll be going another route in my coking going forward.
In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of sleep, particularly as it pertains to gaining or losing weight. Simply put, it is crucially important to make sure that you are getting enough rest each night. It gives the body a chance to recharge and repair and reset all of its processes back to normal.
There are a number of habits that you can adopt to get better sleep. Creating a better sleep environment is one big aspect of it. Make sure the room is dark, as the light from our screens just keeps us more alert. Make sure you have comfortable bedding and pillows. Stuff like that goes a long way to better rest.
You can also take natural supplements to help you sleep better. I used to use melatonin a lot, but have lately been sleeping like a baby through the use of CBD.
Despite all these measures for better sleep, one area is often overlooked – your diet.
If you’re eating nothing but junk food, you are going to have a terrible night of sleep. These kinds of foods just make you more bloated and gassy and uncomfortable. The same goes for caffeine – stay away from it later in the day if you want to fall asleep at a decent hour. As a good rule of thumb, if a particular food is a threat to your waistline, it is probably not good for helping you get a good night of sleep either.
Along with avoiding certain foods, your meal timing plays a role as well. Avoid eating too close to bedtime as well, as it can keep you awake. Try to keep your last food consumption at least 2-3 hours away from when you are planning to fall asleep.
So those are good things to stay away from, but what you should you be getting more of? There are a lot of foods that are natural sleep enhancers that help you get a better night of rest.
For one, make sure you are getting enough healthy foods – that means fruits and vegetables, grains, lean proteins, and dairy.
A lot of these have vitamins and minerals that promote overall health as well as better rest. For instance, foods that contain tryptophan (like your Thanksgiving turkey) stimulate the production of melatonin, a natural sleep-inducer.
Besides tryptophan, other minerals can help you sleep better. Magnesium and potassium are natural relaxants that can put you in a more restful state. These minerals are commonly found in fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains like brown rice, lentils, and beans. Calcium is another mineral that induces sleep by relaxing the muscles and promoting the production of melatonin. Dairy products are your best source for this essential mineral.
On top of all that, be sure to stay hydrated. Not drinking enough water leads to dehydration which drains your energy levels. It will make you feel tired and sluggish, which can then disrupt your sleep patterns. Drink water through the day to keep your energy level up, so you can peacefully crash later once you get to bed.
Considering that an estimated 40% of Americans can be deemed as “overweight”, there is no surprise that the diet industry is big business these days. However, despite all of the inundation we get from all different kinds of diets that are marketed to make you lose weight, how much of it is true and how much of it is B.S.?
Often times we don’t examine our food closely enough and just fall into a trap with all the marketing we see. As a matter of fact, a good number of foods that are marketed as low-fat, fat-free, or calorie-free are anything but.
So which foods that you commonly find in diets these days are actually causing you to gain weight instead of doing their intended purpose? Continue reading as I’ll get into that below so you know what to stay away from.
These have become ubiquitous and so convenient these days. You see so many Smoothie King or Jamba Juice stores and figure “hey, it’s just fruit blended together, it must be healthy!”, but it is anything but. While smoothies and protein shakes are hawked in the wellness community, they are loaded with calories and sugar.
The sugar part is particularly true for smoothies, with over 50 grams of sugar on average, while protein shakes can contain over 400 calories.
This isn’t to say all drinks in this category are bad for you. You just need to be knowledgeable of the ingredients and the source so you know what you’re drinking isn’t loaded with sugar or over the top with calories.
I’m as guilty as anyone in snacking on dried fruits. Those little plastic containers you find near the bakery section in my grocery store just pull me in. I love the dried mangoes, in particular. However, just because they are fruit, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily healthy for you. For one, because they are smaller due to being dried, and come in bite-sized bits, it makes it very easy to overeat these. On top of that, they are loaded with sugar and surprisingly high in calories. If you want fruit, stick with fresh fruit instead.
While it may say 0 calories on the side of the package, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily good for you. One study actually showed that individuals who drink a lot of diet soda had a bigger waistline than those who don’t. It’s causing weight gain, not weight loss! It also can contribute to higher blood pressure, as well as increase the risk of metabolic diseases and diabetes (as indicated in this study).
While you are drawn in by the label saying it is low in fat, you are making up for it (in an unhealthy way) with the inclusion of so much sugar to make it taste so good. There are nearly 30 grams in your typical serving of low-fat flavored yogurt. Surprisingly, it may be even better for you to go with a full-dairy yogurt option, as this study found evidence that women who eat full-dairy options gained less weight than those who ate “low-fat.”
If you have a family history of heart disease or other cardiovascular issues, it is so terribly important to be watching what you eat. What you put in your body is the biggest determinant of your health. As they say, you are what you eat.
I had written a previous post about the Meditteranean Diet and how it is great for combating heart disease, which you can read here. However, that post didn’t fully go into what kinds of foods make the best list of choices for heart health. I figured now would be a better time than any to address that.
While putting together this list, it came as no surprise that a lot of them are foods that you would find in a Meditteranean Diet. Of all the fads that have come and gone, that diet, in particular, is one that has true staying power as it has so many health benefits. Not to mention, it can be a great way to lose weight and get into better shape.
One of the many components of the Med Diet is eating a lot of fish. This meat is chock full of omega-3 fatty acids and other nutrients that are typically lacking in a normal American diet. Make sure you are getting fish at least a couple times per week. My favorite, and one that is most recommended, is salmon. This protein can lower your triglyceride and lipid levels, which in turn lower your risk factors for developing heart disease.
That’s not to say you should be eating fish every night. I’m not sure even the biggest seafood lover could stomach that night after night.
However, be sure to work it into your schedule at least twice per week, if not more. Conversely, stay away from red meat, as it contributes to high blood pressure and heart disease (as I wrote about here).
Outside of seafood, another way to keep your heart healthy is by eating a lot of plant-based foods. That means fruits and vegetables, as well as nuts and legumes. I wrote previously about healthy nuts to snack on. All of them listed there can lower your cholesterol levels, lipid levels, and contain omega-3 and other nutrients that are hugely beneficial for heart health.
Aside from those options, it is never a bad idea to be eating enough salad. Leafy greens are healthy no matter what your goals are, but they are particularly healthy for your heart. Try to make a salad with kale or spinach, as opposed to regular iceberg or romaine lettuce, to get even more nutrients from your greens.
Lastly, another great thing about the Med Diet is the encouragement of drinking some red wine! When consumed in moderation, it can reduce the risk of heart disease. However, the words in moderation are key. Going overboard can have an adverse effect and lead to a multitude of issues. Try to stick to a glass of wine per day.
If you’re looking for some healthy options for snacks, look no further than nuts! I am a big fan of snacking on nuts, with pistachios being my favorite. However, when it comes to going out to a ballgame of any sort, I have to get a bag of peanuts along with a beer. It’s simply part of the game experience for me. I even have a wooden bowl of peanuts here on my coffee table to snack on while watching games at home.
Not only do they taste great, but they are a much healthier snack option that most anything else you like to munch on. Which ones are the best for your health? Continue reading for my list below.
Yes, the comedian in me is really trying hard to refrain to make some puns with this topic. Let’s keep it clean here. Anyway, if you’re looking to snack, here are the nuts you should be reaching for to get the most health benefits.
These tree nuts have a ton of health benefits and are rich in vitamins and minerals.
Each serving will get you about 160 calories, 14 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 3.5 grams of fiber, nearly 40% of your daily amount of Vitamin E, and 20% of your daily value of magnesium.
Almonds are also highly beneficial for your cholesterol level. They can reduce the amount of bad cholesterol (LDL) and total cholesterol, reducing the risk of heart disease and other cardiovascular issues. They can also help regulate your blood sugar, making them particularly useful for those with diabetes.
My favorite! Just like almonds, they are super high in fiber.
A typical serving of pistachios comes with around 150 calories, 12 grams of fat, 6 grams of protein, 8 grams of carbs, and 3 grams of fiber.
Just like with almonds, these nuts are helpful for managing your cholesterol level by increasing the amount of good cholesterol (HDL). These nuts can reduce the risk factors of heart disease, and have been shown to lower your blood pressure to fight against hypertension.
This popular nut is very rich in nutrients including omega-3 fatty acids.
While a little higher in calories (around 180) and fat (18 grams), they are great sources of protein and healthy carbs as well as fiber.
With a high amount of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and other nutrients, this nut similarly can reduce your cholesterol and lower the risk factors of heart disease and other cardiovascular ailments. They also help to fight against inflammation, which is a contributor to many other diseases. They have additionally been shown to increase mental cognition. That’s one smart nut!
Another nut that is low in calories (155), high in protein (5 grams) and healthy carbs (9 grams), this nut is very beneficial to those with metabolic syndrome. They can also improve your blood pressure, an ailment common to those with heart problems. They are also strong with regards to your blood sugar levels, as well as raising the level of good cholesterol (HDL) and improving blood lipid levels.
Have you heard of the term “hidden hunger”? It refers to a case where you are getting enough food to eat – not hunger like starvation – but you aren’t getting enough nutrition. What it comes down to is not eating the right kinds of foods, or enough food variety, so that you are deficient in essential micronutrients like vitamins and minerals.
While you may not notice the symptoms right away, they can be quite severe. Issues that derive from malnutrition from hidden hunger can range from a weaker immune system, impairment to the mental faculties, and even death in extreme cases.
Although cases like this are most often seen in developing, third-world countries, there is a rising trend of this happening in more wealthy countries lately as the result of fad diets. In particular, in this post I will be going into detail on the dangers of malnutrition as it pertains to a vegan diet.
The rise in popularity of the vegan diet is a major culprit in the spread of malnutrition in the Western world.
It is said that the number of people who follow this diet has grown by a multiple of 4 in the last decade alone. Nearly 5% of the population of the US is vegetarian, with half of that total being vegan.
There is no doubt that there are some benefits to this kind of eating, regardless of what your reasoning may be, but there are hidden dangers to it as well.
While you may be lowering your risk of chronic disease, losing weight, and doing good for the environment and not partaking in cruelty to animals, many who abide by a vegan diet do not know that they are lacking many key nutrients that are obtained in other food sources outside of what they are eating.
One particular area of concern is bone health. In a vegan diet, with no consumption of dairy products, there is a deficiency in calcium and Vitamin D. These two nutrients play a key role in bone mineral density and strength. This issue is so severe that the bone fracture rates is more than 30% higher in vegans than compared with the normal diet population, according to doi.org.
Another essential nutrient that is deficient in a vegan diet is Vitamin B12, which is most prevalent in animal foods. Symptoms of a deficiency in this vitamin include fatigue and extreme tiredness, digestive issues, and can also lead to delays in development in young children. If left untreated, a lack of B12 can cause nerve damage that is irreversible.
There are many other examples of malnutrition beyond just the vitamins and minerals listed above, but you get the point. If you are following a vegan diet, be aware of what nutrients you are missing out on from all the food you exclude from your consumption. For those that you have a deficiency from your food, be sure to supplement so that you are getting your recommended daily value. For my supplements, I typically shop at Amazon or HGH.com.