Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Physical Activity: The Great Health Facilitator



Physical Activity: The Great Health Facilitator

By Richard Helfant

"Opportunities are usually disguised...so most people don't recognize them." - Ann Landers

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step." - Lao-tzu

Physical activity is the best first step to health. It is the most direct way for you to discover, or rediscover, the wonder of your body. It allows you to experience vitality and provides an immediate sense of control of your body's health and well-being. In addition to having its own inherent benefits, physical activity is a great physical and mental health facilitator, and wonderfully regenerative. Your senses come alive and are attuned more delicately when you engage in regular physical activity.

There is good news about actually doing physical activity. Research has shown that one can obtain its major health benefits with a minimum amount of effort and a minimum amount of time. The old myth of "no pain, no gain" and of long-distance jogging as the only way to achieve meaningful health results have been put into perspective. The evidence is clear: you can enjoy the benefits of physical activity with the equivalent of walking a half an hour a day, four or five days a week.

The Institute for Aerobics Research in Texas evaluated the fitness levels of more than 3,000 people and followed their progress for eight years. While the sedentary did have a mortality substantially higher than the more fit, the principal benefits of physical activity came even after very little physical activity. Those who simply walked an average of 30 minutes a day decreased their risk of heart disease by almost half.

The American Heart Association has stated that a sedentary life-style is a risk factor for heart disease comparable to smoking, cholesterol abnormalities, and high blood pressure. It also pointed out that low-intensity physical activity, performed regularly, can lower the risk of heart disease.

Any physical exercise is better than none! Housework, gardening, shuffleboard--anything that causes us to move--is beneficial. And, the benefits are not limited to heart disease alone. Physical exercise reduces stress, improves eating habits and weight control, increases good (HDL) cholesterol, and decreases triglyceride levels.

When beginning an exercise program, choose an activity that you think will be fun. Try walking, cycling or doing aerobics with a friend, a family member or as part of a class. The company may reinforce your commitment. If exercise is new for you, begin slowly, and keep in mind that there are a host of activities that you can try.

And, for those of you who have been sedentary most of your lives, the good news is that you have the most to gain from even the simplest physical activities. Gradually work them into your daily life. Start with small, comfortable activities, for instance:

(1) Walking to your destination whenever feasible

(2) Taking the stairs rather than relying exclusively on elevators and escalators

(3) Doing more physical tasks around the house or yard.

(4) Strolling around the block, around your neighborhood, in the park, at the mall. Keep your activity comfortable, keep it easy, and above all, keep it a part of your life.

Wednesday, 3 June 2015

Losing Weight by Making Simple Changes



Losing Weight by Making Simple Changes

By Jamie R Cocco-Dunkleberger

Many people believe that, in order to lose weight, you need to eat strictly low fat foods or fat free foods to drop the weight. This is not the case. There is such a thing as good fats and bad fats. Foods that contain good fats are ones you should include into your diet; foods that contain bad fats are the ones you should be cutting from your diet.

In addition to changing your eating habits, it is important to know what lifestyle changes you should make in order to gain a healthier new you. It's not all about food choices; it's also about the daily habits you have chosen to include in how you live your life.

Foods to Avoid

When trying to fight body fat and to lose weight it is important to know which foods you need to avoid. Some of these include: margarine, soda, whole milk, bagels, hot dogs, foods high in fat, foods high in sugar, and foods high in fat AND sugar. Let's take a closer look at these types of foods and the reasons why you should stay away from them.

1. Stick Margarine: This type of butter-like spread is filled with fat. One tablespoon alone contains 100 calories as well as high levels of cholesterol and Trans fat. Trans fat is one major ingredient to stay away from because it reduces good cholesterol and increases bad cholesterol. It can also do significant damage to your blood vessels and increases your chances for clotting leading to a stroke. What's your alternative? Try eating softer margarine products as they tend to have fewer calories and no Trans fat. Whipped butter is also much healthier for you as it is regular butter that has been infused with air. This air reduces how many calories are in one serving and decreases the level of Trans fat you will be consuming.

2. Soda: This is a no-brainer; soda is not healthy for you in any way, shape or form. It has become one of the most significant reasons for obesity in the United States as it is readily available and extremely popular. All soda contains is flavoring, water and tons of sugar. The sugar found in soda comes in the form of high fructose corn syrup. There is no nutritional value to soda and all you will get is a bunch of empty calories and high sugar content. The acids found in soda can weaken your bones and damage your teeth. The alternative? Drink plenty of water or seltzer water that has all natural flavoring.

3. Whole Milk: Yes... it's true. Whole milk is not as good for you as once believed. While it does contain calcium and protein, it also contains high levels of saturated fat and cholesterol. It's also filled with calories that don't promote a healthy lifestyle. If whole milk isn't as good for you as once though, what is the alternative? If you want to continue with a real milk alternative, try drinking one percent or fat-free milk. A much healthier option is soy milk. It has no cholesterol and still supplies the body with a lot of calcium and protein without all the cholesterol and large amounts of calories.

4. Bagels: Bread and bagels can be somewhat difficult to avoid, especially if you fancy your sandwich or sub for lunch every day or a hearty bagel loaded with cream cheese for breakfast. Bagels are made from refined wheat flour which has been stripped of all nutritional value. It has very little dietary fiber and nutrients. If they were made from yeast you would be able to eat several as they would be lighter and fluffier in texture; but they aren't. Because bagels aren't made from yeast they become very dense meaning you will consume a ton of calories into one small piece of bread. The alternative? Whole-grain muffins, whole wheat bagels and oat bran bagels are excellent alternatives as they are higher in dietary fiber and nutrients and are perfect to get your daily bread fix. Make sure these alternatives are less dense than regular bagels to reduce the number of calories you take in.

5. Hot Dogs: Hot dogs are an all-American classic food enjoyed at backyard picnics and baseball games. They are easy to eat and cost next to nothing not to mention they taste great and appeal to people of all ages. The downfall? There is little nutritional value and add no beneficial "side effects" towards your health. Here are some of the most important reasons to stay away from hot dogs:

• They are full of saturated fat and salt.
• The seasoning in the hot dogs makes it easy to eat two or three of them without a second thought.
• Because of the high calorie, salt and fat content they are linked to heart disease and colon cancer.

Healthy alternatives include:

a. Turkey dogs
b. Chicken dogs
c. Sausage

Each of these contains better proteins than the traditional hot dog. They are also leaner and contain less sodium than regular hot dogs.

6. Foods with high fat content are definitely on the "toss in the trash" foods. It's a pretty obvious statement as well: if you want to lose weight eating foods that are packed with fat aren't going to help you lose the weight. If you want to lose the fat but are eating foods high in fat you are essentially adding more fat to your body. Here is a list of foods to avoid that are high in fat content:

Saturated Fats:

• Butter
• Ice Cream
• Chicken Fat
• Cheese
• Meat Fat
• Palm oil
• Coconut oil from beef
• Lamb
• Pork
• Veal

Trans Fats:

• Some margarines
• Cookies
• Crackers
• Snack foods
• Shortening
• Doughnuts
• Cakes
• Frozen foods
• Candy
• Potato chips

7. Foods high in sugar are definitely tasty and may seem harmless when consumed once in a while. Making it habit is when the real damage to your health is done. Any foods that are high in refined carbs or sugars can make your blood sugar level spike very quickly. When this happens your pancreas will release higher levels of insulin to bring your blood sugar levels back down to a normal level. The bad part about this is your blood sugar will drop to a level that is much lower than what it was before you at these types of foods which will then in turn force you to eat more sugar to bring your blood sugar level back to a more normal range. Some examples of sugary foods to avoid include:

• Soda
• Fruit juice
• White bread
• Cakes and cookies
• Any type of candy
• Any type of baked good that is not considered "no sugar added"

8. Foods that are high in fat AND sugar is like putting your body through a double roller coaster twice. This is a double threat to your health and overall well-being. These are foods you MUST eliminate from your diet. The reason for this is that foods higher in sugar content stimulates the body's natural insulin response which then provides an opening to your body's cells to absorb the sugar as well as the fat. The calories will go straight to your common trouble areas and will continue to build up in those areas until you cut them out of your diet completely. Examples include:

• Potato chips and other similar snacks
• French fries (they may be made from potatoes but once they are cut and filled with all kinds of fillers they are no longer providing any health benefits
• Cakes, tarts and other similar baked goods
• Chocolate
• White bread with butter

Battling body fat starts with changing your diet and the types of food you consume. Here are some tips to help jump start your healthier diet plan:

• Eat only lean protein
• Consume plenty of vegetables
• Eat foods that are LOW in fat, not fat free
• Switch out your white bread products to whole grain bread products for good carbs
• Decrease your portion size

Foods to Eat when Trying to Lose Weight

When it comes to losing weight eating the same foods every day can make dieting monotonous and boring. You can easily get so bored that you may stop the diet all together. Some people have a problem with eating the same foods while others don't. The good thing is that you don't have to eat the same foods to achieve your weight loss goals.

There are three food categories that considered the most important: fats, proteins and carbs. Protein is the building block of any diet. You will want to eat 1 to 2 grams of protein per pound of body weight daily which will the foundation of your diet. This provides you with the nutrients required to build muscle tissue after exercising. Having more muscle means that your body will require more energy and it burns more calories. The following is a list of lean proteins that you should include in your diet.

• Skinless chicken
• Skinless turkey
• Lean cuts of pork
• Lean cuts of beef
• Lean cuts of veal
• Lean cuts of lamb
• Egg whites
• Eggs
• Tuna fish

Each one of these proteins is very lean and excellent choices to help you lose weight.

Carbs is the next food category. They provide energy as your body breaks down sugar. Complex carbs take longer for your body to break down although it stabilizes your insulin. Carbs also allows your body to use carbs for energy instead of all protein. This allows the proteins to rebuild any destroyed muscle tissue. The following is a list of excellent carb choices.

• Brown rice
• 100% whole wheat bagels, bread and pita bread
• Whole grain pasta
• Yams and sweet potatoes
• Oatmeal
• Apples
• Plums
• Oranges
• Bananas
• Strawberries
• Grapes
• Pears
• Peaches
• Cantaloupe

Each of these carb sources are great choices to promote healthy weight loss. If you are craving sugary carbs it is best to eat those after exercising so your body can use the spike of insulin to help with muscle recovery.

The third category is fats. There are good fats and bad fats. Good fats include monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. Limit the amount of fats you eat daily as it equals 9 calories per 1 gram which is more than double that for carbs and protein. Here is a list of the best fats to consume while trying to lose weight:

• Peanuts, almonds and cashews
• All-natural peanut butter
• Omega 3 fatty acids supplements (Fish Oil)
• Extra-virgin olive oil
• Flax seed oil
• Flax seeds

The best choice for providing your body with fats is Omega 3. It is considered an essential fatty acid as it optimizes many different bodily functions. With all the choices mentioned above you will never have to eat the same foods twice making dieting interesting and far from boring.

Aside from the above list, there are other foods that will help you with your weight loss journey. High-fiber foods are great to help suppress hunger allowing you to eat less frequently during the day. Snacking throughout the day is a natural habit we have and foods rich in fiber will help stop the unnecessary snacking. Oatmeal is a great fiber rich food to start your day with. Try eating oatmeal with some grapes or apple slices to cut the blandness that oatmeal tends to have.

One of the most important things to "eat" is water. Hunger and thirst can be interchangeable. Many people think they are hungry when they are actually thirsty. Water has many benefits for your body. It helps flush out harmful pathogens and toxins from your body and curbs your appetite. Drinking a tall glass of water with meals will help fill you up quickly leaving little room for eating in excess.

Eating plenty of fruits and vegetables are another important food to include in your diet. They are good for you and are rich in fiber. Some of the best vegetables are broccoli and cabbage. Broccoli provides many beneficial assets to your health. Some important facts about broccoli and your health include:

• 1 cup of broccoli only has 40 calories and no fat
• It is high in fiber
• It contains high amounts of calcium and vitamin C
• The greener the broccoli, the better it is for you
• The firmer the stems of the broccoli, the better it is for you

You can prepare broccoli in many different ways that will make it very appetizing to eat. Since broccoli tends to be bland or has a "leafy" taste to it, most people choose to prepare it using seasoning, in soups or even blended with fruit to make smoothies. Some ways you can prepare broccoli to make it more appealing are:

1. Add some salt and pepper to fresh, boiled broccoli.
2. Boil fresh broccoli and include it in a nice, light soup.
3. Blend fresh broccoli with apples, grapes, oranges, bananas, and/or strawberries along with some ice to make a tasty, silky smoothie.
4. Sautee some fresh broccoli lightly in butter, salt and pepper.

There's always a way to make bland food taste great without losing those valuable nutrients that makes it so healthy for you.

Cabbage is another great choice of vegetable that provides many benefits to your health. Some of the benefits include:

• One cup of cabbage has only 30 calories when cooked; when eating it raw one cup has only 19 calories.
• Cabbage has been proven to help prevent colon cancer and helps people longer lives.
• It is packed full of essential vitamins including vitamins A, C, E, and B.
• Eating cabbage has been proven to fight infection and ulcers.
• It is a natural diuretic which reduces water retention.

There are many ways to prepare cabbage. One of the most popular ways is to sautée strips of cabbage in sea salt, pepper and just a little bit of olive oil. Cook it until its tender and voila! You have a yummy, tasty, low-calorie addend to any type of meal.

Organic fruits and vegetables have become more and more popular over the years. They are more expensive although, if you are serious about losing weight and getting rid of unwanted fat, they are worth every penny. The benefits of eating organic fruits and vegetables include:

• They are rich in antioxidants, vitamins and minerals.
• No harmful chemicals or pesticides were used to grow these fruits and veggies.
• Organic fruits and veggies are rich in fiber.
• There are no added sugars that you would typically find in fruit juices.

While cabbage and broccoli have virtually no calories, beans has quite a bit of calories but are considered to be one of the best foods to eat while trying to lose weight. Even though one cup of cooked beans contains 220 calories, they are very high in protein and extremely low in fat. They are very versatile in their preparation and can be easily prepared with bread, noodles or rice. Aside from being easy to prepare, they can lower cholesterol.

Believe it or not, green tea is great for losing weight. Green tea can be found in many foods and supplements as well to improve overall health. Some of the benefits of green tea include:

• Packed with antioxidants which has be proven to battle coronary illness and cancer, lowers cholesterol, can prevent stroke and diabetes, helps consume calories, and can help fight the onset of dementia.
• Helps lower blood pressure.
• Helps reduce fat and lowers the level of bad cholesterol.

Nuts and seeds have always been one of the most recommended foods to eat for various purposes. They are the healthiest food available. Almonds are at the top of the list to help lower weight, fight fat buildup, are rich in fiber and protein, help stabilize blood sugar, and are excellent antioxidants.