tomato-on-plate-2Dieting by consuming fewer calories often does not work. If pounds do come off, they quickly go back on when we the diet stops. Sometimes we end up with more pounds that when we began dieting. What happened? In the long run, eating too few calories will damage our metabolism.. The body goes into starvation mode, metabolism slows down significantly, and the body will store fat rather than burn fat. Weight loss will become impossible. Hormones will be out of balance. Another reason severe calorie restriction can sabotage your metabolism is your BMR. BMR (Basic Metabolic Rate) is the number of calories the body needs to keep functioning at rest. With restrictive calorie intake, the BMR can decrease by up to 50%, taking it to survival mode. (You can calculate your BMR at  www.bmi-calculator.net/bmr-calculator). The ratio of macronutrients (protein, fat, and carbohydrates) we consume while trying to lose weight will regulate hormones that help determine if our body will burn or store calories. Eating 20-40% of your caloric intake from carbohydrates, 15-35% of calories from protein, and 45-60% of calories from fat and will help reset our hormones and metabolism. Protein (tempeh, tofu, miso, plant sources) will restore tissue and build body mass, fats (avocado, seeds, nuts) will help improve insulin sensitivity and hormone levels. Eating refined carbohydrates (white bread, white flour, white rice, pasta, sugar) rather than whole grains (whole wheat bread, whole wheat flour, brown rice, whole wheat pasta, millet, oats, quinoa, rye, spelt to name a few) can result in elevated insulin levels, producing the stress-induced hormone cortisol which will produce fat. Repairing/reseting damaged metabolism can take time. Because the body is holding on to the few calories it is getting, increasing calorie intake as part of the process to repair metabolism can result in temporary weight gain. But don’t be discouraged!!! It is part of the process of getting everything in proper working order again. Eliminate unhealthy refined foods from your diet, follow a sensible exercise program, and get proper rest to allow the body to burn stored fat as energy.


Overcome Overweight

Overweight 1According to Business Week Magazine, dieting in America is a $40 billion a year industry. For a majority of Americans, these diets don’t work and are a waste of money. People are looking for a quick fix, and when it comes to permanent weight loss, a quick fix won’t fix the problem of overweight.

In fact, the quick fix diet can do more harm than good. When too few calories are eaten, muscle mass is reduced and much of the weight loss is water. Once off the diet, the body can go into a starvation response, leading to a weight gain of only fat. The American Psychological Association reviewed 31 diet studies and after two years, found up to a third of the dieters weighed more than when they began the diet.1 Repeated failure at weight loss gives us a sense of failure and little hope of successful weight loss.

Successful Weight Loss

Weight loss is more complex than calories in – calories out. Here are some strategies that work:

1. Remove the Chemicals – Environmental toxins including pesticides, toxic metals, and solvents disrupt hormones that regulate our sex hormones, insulin, thyroid, stress, and appetite. Chemicals also create stress on the body, shifting metabolism to store fat rather than burn fat. Toxins are stored in fat cells. An assessment of toxins in the body can be done through urine testing, hair analysis, or whole blood samples. Eat organic foods whenever possible. Because toxins are stored in fat cells, losing weight will reduce toxins stored in our body. Alkalinizing foods including fruits vegetables, miso, cooked grains, and healthy oils will help the body detoxify. Avoid fried foods and process foods, and eat less acid-forming foods like meat and dairy.

2. Rebuild and Rebalance – Metabolism can be damaged by rapid weight loss, stress, too many refined carbohydrates, stimulants, or not enough sleep – slowing down metabolism. Hormones become imbalanced and causes stress to our body. Eating the proper ratio of protein, carbohydrates, and fats will “reset” damaged metabolism. Also including plenty of water to eliminate toxins and booster foods to increase energy and antioxidants and aid with detoxification should be included in the diet. Without proper nutrition, dieters will “plateau” and not be able to lose additional weight.

3. Exercise – It is difficult to lose weight without including exercise. Exercise increases metabolism, burns fat and builds muscle where most of our energy is burned. Interval training – switching from high intensity to low intensity then back to high intensity – burns fat. Resistance training increases lean body mass and increases insulin sensitivity. Find an activity you enjoy whether it be brisk walking, biking, tennis, basketball, jogging, or going to the gym, and do it for 45 minutes to one hour three to five times a week. If you have not exercised for a while, get approval first from your doctor. Start slow and build your way up.

4. Manage Stress – When under stress, the hormone cortisol is released. This can lead to muscle loss and insulin resistance. Weight become difficult to lose and often times weight gains occurs around the mid-section of our body. Absorption of nutrients is compromised, as is the making of enzymes. Remove yourself from stressful situations when possible. Get adequate sleep. Exercise releases stress. Eat foods that include B vitamins (crimini mushrooms, cauliflower, broccoli, strawberries), vitamin C (cantaloupe, parsley, lemon juice, kale, Brussels sprouts, papaya), magnesium (Swiss chard, pumpkin seeds, spinach, summer squash), and potassium (Romaine lettuce, celery, Swiss chard, tomatoes, broccoli).


Nutrients Supporting Weight Loss:

❒ Fiber – Fiber is found in all plant foods which are low in calories and fat. Fiber will make you feel full without consuming large quantities of calorically rich foods. Women should get 21-25 grams of fiber a day, men 30-38 grams of fiber a day.

❒ Green Tea – Green tea boosts metabolism and fat burning. Drink 12 oz. or more of green tea per day.

❒ Almonds – Almonds contain healthy monounsaturated fats which are needed for balanced hormones and nerves. Almonds are high in calories, so don’t eat more than one once at a time.

❒ Chromium – A mineral that helps regulate insulin. Insulin is a hormone that regulates the metabolism and storage of protein, fat, and carbohydrates. Sources of chromium are broccoli, whole wheat English muffin, Romaine lettuce, and onions. There is not an Upper Tolerable Level of chromium, as it has few side effects. Those with liver or kidney disease do need to limit their intake of chromium.

❒ Calcium – Calcium helps break down fat rather than store fat. Yogurt, tofu, soybeans, kale, and turnip greens are good sources of calcium. The Recommended Daily Allowance of calcium for men and women over age 25 is 800 mg/day.

❒ CoQ10 – Required in all cells to – converts fat, carbohydrates, and protein into energy. Sources of coQ10 are pistachio nuts, and whole grains. Recommended dosage is 30-100 mg/day.

❒ Tryptophan – An amino acids that makes HTP- 5, which converts to serotonin in the brain. If serotonin levels are low, people will have an increased appetite and sugar cravings. Tryptophan increases serotonin levels. It can be found in crimini mushrooms, spinach, tofu, and soybeans. Suggested dosage is 3.5 mg per kilogram of body weight.

❒ Siberian Ginseng – Is a root adaptogen that helps the body adapt to stress. Recommended dosage of Siberian ginseng dried powdered extract is 250-500 mg one to three times per day. Do not take if on blood thinning, anti-inflammatory, or antidepressant medications.

❒ Zinc – A mineral that helps regulate the rate our body uses up energy. Zinc can be flown in spinach, crimini mushrooms, summer squash, collard greens, and pumpkin seeds. The Recommended Daily Allowance for zinc is 8 mg for women and 11 mg for men.

❒ Lipoic Acid – helps convert carbohydrates and fats into energy. Spinach, oollard greens, and broccoli are sources of lipoic acid. It is difficult to get a toxic level of lipoic acid from foods. 

1. Foxcroft, L. (2011).  Calories and Corsets: A History of Dieting Over Two Thousand Years.  London, England:  Profile Books LTD.


Sugar Wars

sugarsA war going on in the courtroom between competitors you may not be aware of. Both parties are trying to convince you they are right and are fiercely competing for your dollars.

This is not just a sweet disagreement between two competitors.  The Western Sugar Cooperative, which represents sugar growers and processors and the Corn Refiners Association, representing high fructose corn syrup manufacturers including Archer-Daniels Midland and Cargill, are in an all -out high stakes battle.  In addition, each have spent millions of dollars on lobbying lawmakers in Washington, each attempting to discredit the other.

It’s a battle between the sugar industry and the corn refiners. And the stakes are high.  We unknowingly eat a lot of sugar -150 pounds of sugar per year per person according to the USDA. (Picture thirty 5# bags of sugar in your cupboard!) Impossible you say? A form of sugar is in present in nearly all packaged foods as well as in foods you may not think have added sugar including ketchup, yogurt, peanut butter, salad dressing, canned vegetables, and frozen foods.

Corn refiners, the manufacturers of high fructose corn syrup, invested $50 million in advertising to promote renaming their high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) as “corn sugar.” The Western Sugar Cooperative (sugar growers) sued. In support of their position, the corn refiners countersued, stating for years the sugar industry has tried to give corn syrup a bad name and have lead consumers to believe sugar is healthier than their high fructose corn syrup. The corn refiners report as a result, their market share has gone down since the sugar association made the allegedly slanderous remarks about them. Prior to the slander lawsuit, the Corn Refiners Association made an appeal in 2008 to the Food and Drug Association to allow them to use the name “corn sugar” rather than “high fructose corn syrup” because of the alleged smear campaigns and slanderous remarks the sugar cooperative have made against the corn refiners’ HFCS.  The request to rename HFCS was denied by the FDA some time after the slander lawsuit was filed.

The corn refiners have spent millions of dollars for research that concluded HFCS is not detrimental to our health. The sugar producers say their research is weak and was not conducted by an independent research group.

Let’s not be fooled here. Hundreds of millions of dollars are at stake, and so is our health.  I would guess litigation like this is not unusual within the food industry.  The marketing of food products, being nothing short of confusing to the consumer, makes me wonder if this is the intent. High fructose corn syrup goes directly to our liver and raises our blood glucose levels quickly – something we all want to avoid. The HFCS that is not used is stored in our liver as fat. Sugar also raises our blood sugar quickly.  Both HFCS and refined white sugar are high in calories, averaging about 50 calories per tablespoon, and have no nutritional value.  Consuming too much sugar can lead to weight gain, type II diabetes, high triglycerides, fatty liver disease, heart disease and other health ailments.  Naturally occurring sugar found in whole foods such as fruits and vegetables is not the problem. These foods are not calorically dense and contain vitamins and minerals. They also have fiber which slows down the body’s absorption rate of the sugar, preventing harmful spikes and sudden drops of sugar levels. The World Health Organization recently released new sugar guidelines recommending only about 5% of our calories come from added sugar.  This would be about 6 teaspoons a day for an average 2000 calorie a day diet.

We don’t know what the outcome of this lawsuit will be.  What we do know is consuming  any form of processed sugar is not in our best interest. Be a smart consumer. Rather than being influenced by multimillion dollar ad campaigns trying to convince us one form of sugar is better than another, remember they don’t have our health at heart.  Look at the facts when you buy. Read nutritional labels and ingredient lists on packaged goods.  Divide the number of grams of sugar listed on the Nutrition Facts label on the package by four to determine how many teaspoons of sugar are in a serving. So if the label shows 12 grams of sugar per serving, it is equivalent to three teaspoons of sugar. Ingredients listed ending in “ose” like sucrose, fructose, maltose, dextrose are all derivatives of sugar. Also the word “syrup” on the label such as brown rice syrup and barley malt syrup are sweeteners, as are evaporated cane juice and fruit juice concentrate. We eat and drink an enormous amount of hidden sugar each year. Don’t be “sugared over” with all the hype. For your health and waistline, read the Nutrition Facts label and ingredient list on packaged foods and avoid sweetened beverages. Keep your sugar intake to a minimum.

Love Your Liver

the-human-liver-locationI would guess all of us have read something recently about heart disease, obesity, high cholesterol, exercise, type II diabetes, weight loss programs, or the latest superfoods.  Anyone read anything about the liver lately?  Thought not. Although the liver is a topic not often written about, it is an amazing organ that sadly doesn’t get the publicity it is due.

The Chinese call the liver “the father of all organs” for a very good reason. The responsibilities of the liver are too numerous to mention here – over 500!  Just to name a few, at this moment our liver is cleaning our blood, regulating blood clotting, converting fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy and nutrients, and helping our body to resist infection.  It is regulating many of our body’s functions including that of cholesterol, the supply of essential vitamins and minerals, and the balance of many hormones.  It is producing bile that breaks down fats and is eliminating fat-soluble toxins and excess hormones.

There is no getting around it – we have little control of the thousands of harmful toxins we are continually exposed to that the liver is entrusted to eliminate – pesticides, herbicides, paint, cigarette smoke, bacteria, fungus, exhaust fumes, plastics, heavy metals, cleaning products, mold, and more. In 1994, the EPA estimated more than 2.2 billion pounds of toxic chemical were released into the environment in the United States.  Our ability to detoxify these substances is critical for our well being, and our liver is working nonstop to remove them.  “Toxic load” is a term used to describe the tipping point when the liver becomes so overwhelmed, it is unable to keep up with the demand to rid itself of toxins, resulting in an accumulation of toxins in our body.

The inability to get rid of the toxins in our body contributes to a variety of health problems including allergies and sensitivities, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, weight gain, skin rashes, irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, fatty liver disease, hormone imbalances, jaundice, asthma, weakened immune system, canker sores, water retention, constipation, fatigue, gallstones, difficulty with sleeping, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and joint pain. Whew!

We can help our liver stay healthy and not get overwhelmed. To help the liver relieve its burden, we can do the following:

➣ Identify and avoid exposure to toxins.

➣ Don’t smoke.

➣ Eat organic whenever possible to eliminate ingesting toxins, hormones, and

antibiotics found in food.

➣ Drink half you weight in ounces of water daily to help with elimination.

➣ Exercise – create a sweat to facilitate elimination of toxins through the skin.

➣ Eliminate saturated fats, white, flour, and white sugar from our diet.

Want to tell your liver “we’ve got your back”?  Then include the following in your diet:


➣ Oranges                                                 ➣ Garlic

➣ Lemons                                                 ➣ Parsley

➣ Green cabbage                                       ➣ Carrots

➣ Brussels sprouts                                    ➣ Cilantro

➣ Tomatoes                                             ➣ Apples

➣ Ginger                                                   ➣ Beans

➣ Onions                                                  ➣ Greens like kale, dandelion, spinach,

➣ Garlic                                                        mustard and collard greens

➣ Parsley

Prolonged exposure to toxins can lead to many chronic illnesses.  The ability for the body to detoxify toxins is necessary for our overall good health.  Taking a long term approach of reducing exposure to toxins and eating a healthy diet will help avoid toxic overload and the risk of chronic diseases.

Bring on 2014!

2014 Numbers With Fireworks Representing Year Two Thousand And FThis year drew quickly to an end.  I don’t know about you, but for the last two weeks of 2013, my inbox was inundated with appeals to make last minute tax-deductible donations to charitable organizations that will help among other things preserve the arts, stop cruelty towards animals, improve the environment, save the bees, advance living conditions in third world countries, and support cancer research. Giving to a nonprofit organization at year end is the final opportunity for us to give to meaningful causes and at the same time do what we can to reduce our tax bill.  I have taken the time review my checklist once again – can I add to a deductible IRA account?  Do I have records confirming my business costs so they can be deducted? What else can I do to reduce the amount of taxes I owe? As with all of us, I want to maximize deductions to minimize my tax burden. (Yes, this is a blog on health and wellness – read on!)

As we review how we can minimize our tax obligations, let’s not forget to take to the time to review how we can maximize our health. Although doing both can be a painful process, both need to be done.

While we presently plan for financial wellness in the future, presently planning for our physical wellness in the future is even more critical.  After all, a comfortable retirement is not very comfortable when it is plagued with health problems.  Do you know our health habits of today have an overwhelming impact on the state of our future well being? Chronic diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, overweight, type 2 diabetes, and high cholesterol don’t happen overnight – they have a tendency to creep up on us.  These conditions are most often are a result of a lifetime of our habits.

So ask yourself these questions.  What did I do in 2013 to maximize good health?  What more can I do in 2014?  What are my strengths?  What do I need to do for improvement, and how do I get there? Just as with our taxes, we need to create our road map for 2014 now. Take an inventory of what you are (or are not) doing on a daily basis. Below are some thoughts to get started in 2014 for better health today and in the future.

How many times a week do you eat fast food? Do these meals include fried foods and soft drinks? There are many restaurants that offer tasty, healthier meals at a reasonable price. Take a pass on the fried foods and soft drinks. Instead try a burrito without the calorie-laden toppings like sour cream and cheese. Adding salsa will give the burrito great flavor and you will be making a healthier choice without making a big sacrifice.

Loading up on the greens, beans, and veggies at a salad bar is very satisfying. These foods have lots of fiber and will fill you up without filling you out.

Are you drinking enough water?  Sometimes being hungry is confused with being thirsty.  Be sure to drink plenty of water.

Are you getting enough exercise?  Finding the time can be difficult.  So grab a co-worker and go for a brisk walk during your lunch hour or break.  Studies have found taking two 10 minute walks a day provide the same health benefits as one 20 minute walk.

When was the last time you ate broccoli, sweet potatoes, pineapple or had an avocado?  Be adventurous! Make it a point to bring these vegetables and fruits back into your diet. Build the courage to venture into “unknown territory,” and try new vegetables and fruits in 2014.

Don’t cheat yourself out of investing in your health.  You will be doing your arteries, waistline, and your family a favor.  It is the best investment you can make for yourself now and for your future!

transfatLast week the FDA took initial steps that will eliminate trans fats from all foods.  Food scientists and others can respond to this mandate to the FDA over the next 60 days.  This will help the FDA determine when to phase out all trans fats since manufacturers may need to reformulate some of their products. After that, food manufacturers will need to petition the FDA to allow trans fats in a particular product.

By forcing hydrogen atoms into vegetable oil and changing its molecular structure, trans fats are created. This saturates the oils and makes them solid. Trans fats improve the texture and extend the shelf life of manufactured food products. (Have you ever seen a moldy Twinkie?) Among the foods trans fats are commonly found in are frozen pizzas, frostings, popcorn, snack foods, crackers, pizza and cookie dough, stick margarine, cake mixes, fried foods, muffins, pies, cookies, and other baked goods. Most experts consider trans fats as the most damaging fat to our health. Clinical trials have shown trans fats to increase the risk of a heart attack and premature cardiovascular death. Our body metabolizes trans fats differently than other fats and is linked to liver dysfunction.

Looking for trans fats on the nutrition label of packaged goods can be tricky.  If there is less than .05 grams of trans fat per serving size, it does not have to be listed under “Total Fat” on the nutritional label.  Have you ever seen a ridiculous serving size – like 1/4 cup of macaroni and cheese is one serving?  It may be because by reducing the serving size, the manufacturer will not have to list trans fats on the label since a smaller serving size may have less than .05 grams of trans fats. Here’s what to do. Look at the list of individual ingredients on the nutrition label.  If it lists the words “partly hydrogenated,” the product contains trans fats.  With all of the navigation needed to read a label to see if a food contains trans fats, one wonders if the food industry is trying to hide trans fats from us.

Do we need another government mandate?  You decide. Not only do trans fats raise the level of LDL (bad cholesterol) in our blood, it lowers HDL (good cholesterol).  The American Heart Association welcomes the move stating it will “improve cardiovascular health in the United States.”  Studies show trans fats increase the risk of Alzheimer’s, some cancers, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. The FDA has categorized trans fats as “not generally recognized as safe for use in food” and said the restrictions could prevent 20,000 heart attacks and 7,000 deaths a year. If your life is one that is saved by eliminating trans fats, this is a good mandate.

Food manufacturers and restaurants saw the writing on the wall several years ago and have already made significant strides to eliminate trans fats.  Many restaurants don’t use trans fats when frying foods. Food manufactures have reformulated some of their recipes to reduce or eliminate trans fats.

Denmark was the first country to eliminate trans fats in 2003.  In the United States, the FDA required trans fats be listed on the Nutrition Facts label on packaged foods in 2006. New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg banned the use of trans fats in bakeries and restaurants in 2006. California did the same in 2008. In 2011 Walmart ordered their suppliers to quit using trans fats by 2015. With these heavy hitters taking these bold steps, manufactures have already made significant progress in eliminating trans fats from their products. It can be done.

In preparation for the new law, food manufactures have reduced or eliminated trans fats in many of their products.  But the trans fats are still out there. In the meantime, read nutrition labels.  For the sake of your health and that of your loved ones, if the nutrition label has the words “partially hydrogenated” on it, put it back on the shelf.

Why Wait?

October is National Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Pink is everywhere from the NFL field to Walk for a Cure events. The idea is to raise awareness of breast cancer, remind women to get their mammograms, and to raise money to find a cure.  Breast cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death in the United States (lung cancer is #1).

Cancer kills more people worldwide than Aids, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.  According to the American Cancer Society, men in the United States have a one in two probability of developing cancer in their lifetime and women have a one in three probability of developing cancer. More than 1.6 million Americans will receive a cancer diagnosis in 2013. According to the Rockford Health Council’s 2010 Healthy Community Study, Winnebago and Boone counties, like the national statistics, reports cancer is the #2 cause of death in the region and is responsible for 24% of all deaths (2007). Nearly all of us have lost a friend or family member from this pervasive disease.

There is hope.  More and more lives are being saved.  Survivorship is increasing in part to more advanced treatments and new imaging technology. Millions of dollars continue to be spent on research to find a cure.

We, as individuals need to do more.  Our health system is designed to be reactive – we get sick, we go to the doctor.  What if we took a proactive approach to this disease and do our part to reduce the risks of getting many forms of cancer?  According to the American Institute for Cancer Research, 38% of all breast cancers are preventable. Three out of every five new cases of endometrial cancer could be prevented, 45% of colon cancers are preventable, and 47% of stomach cancers.  How? By improving our lifestyle. The American Institute for Cancer Research reports one third of all cancers are preventible if we do three things (I would add don’t smoke) –

1.  Maintain a Healthy Weight – Our fat cells are not dormant. They produce estrogen which promotes cancer cell growth.

2.  Eat a Healthy Diet – Focus on eating more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and beans and legumes.  Limit the consumption of red meat, avoid processed meats (bacon, hot dogs, sandwich meat, sausage), and sugar.  Cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, kale, cabbage), apples, berries, green tea, whole grains, beans and legumes, dark leafy vegetables, ground flaxseed, and walnuts are foods that fight cancer. Focus on whole foods and stay away from processed foods which are full of sugar, fat, salt, and additives. They do more to promote disease than prevent disease.

3.  Keep Moving – Get 30 minutes of exercise a day. Not only is exercise good for overall health, daily activity keeps our hormones in check and helps keep a healthy immune system and weight.

Your health is not completely dependent on your doctor.   Let’s not wait to get the diagnosis.  Be proactive. We need to fight cancer on all fronts – through research, treatment, and prevention.