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Blog posts tagged with 'weight management'

Can Exercise Influence the Balance of Good Bacteria in Your Gut?

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Can Exercise Influence the Balance of Good Bacteria in Your Gut?Today more and more of what goes on in your stomach is being put under a microscope—in some cases quite literally. Gut health has been linked to many aspects of overall health, including your immune system, weight management, nutrition, and even mood. There’s much more going on in your gut than just the breaking down of food to extract the nutrients your body needs. Understanding how you can support your digestive system and your overall well-being with good bacteria can give you an added advantage to achieve a healthier lifestyle.

 

Making Way for the Good Bacteria

For most people, the mention of bacteria conjures pictures of harmful microbes that are associated with germs and sickness. However, there are actually millions of good bacteria, or probiotics, lining your colon that help your body digest nutrients. Probiotics also help battle bad bacteria that can wreak havoc on your immune system, energy levels, and overall health in general. While your diet is a large indicator of what your gut health can look like, a new study shows that even exercise can be beneficial in tipping the scales in the favor of the healthy flora your gut needs.

An Exercise in Better Gut Health

While diets can vary from person to person, researchers wanted to explore the degree to which exercise and diet in combination might be beneficial to the good bacteria count in your gut by observing several test groups. One test group consisted of rugby players due to their adherence to a more extreme diet and intense physical training. Athletes are prone to eating a more varied diet which would help enrich gut flora. The other control groups consisted of two groups of men: One group that had a normal body mass index (BMI) and engaged in periodic light exercise, while the second group were primarily sedentary and were considered overweight or obese. As one would expect, the group of athletes—due to their high level of activity and more varied diet, which included a higher protein intake—had not only more good gut bacteria, but also a variation in particular strains which has been linked to promoting healthy weight management and reduced risk of inflammation.

Food Quality Matters

Researchers and critics were quick to point out, that while these results do show a lot of promise, the link between exercise and healthy gut bacteria cannot be definitively proven from this study. Besides engaging in more physical activity, the athletes ate better-quality foods such as more fruits and vegetables compared to the sedentary test subjects who ate more snacks and processed foods. Diet, as many know, plays a major role in the health of your gut. Processed foods contain sugar, which can stimulate the growth of bad bacteria whereas fermented foods promote good bacteria growth. Health experts also caution against consuming too much protein if you aren’t a professional athlete because the metabolisms of athletes are very different from an average person’s.

Catering to Your Gut for Better Health

The study does make it clear though that sufficient levels of gut bacteria are crucial to overall health. People with more active lifestyles usually have a more varied, nutritious diet that supports healthy levels of gut bacteria, so even if the direct relationship between exercise and gut health hasn’t been established, it’s always a good idea to be physically active. Catering to your gut health with a balance of exercise, healthy eating, and probiotic supplementation is a great way to help the good bacteria in your digestive system gain the upper hand on gut health and lead to more optimal living.

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Revealed: Sabotaging Food Words We Often Fall For

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Revealed: Sabotaging Food Words We Often Fall For

Whether you’re scrolling through a restaurant menu or shopping for groceries, if healthy eating is on your mind you may tend to base your food choices on certain buzzwords you spot on menus or food packages. Some of these buzzwords clue you in to how the dish is prepared whereas at other times they may be used to make a food item seem more nutritious than it actually is. Using these buzzword indicators can help you avoid unhealthy eating options and aid your quest for healthy weight management this summer.

Danger Zone Food Descriptions 101

Sometimes it’s not the food itself but a sauce or dressing that can get you. Potatoes contain vitamin C and more potassium than bananas, spinach, or broccoli. But if they’re made “au gratin” then beware—this means the dish will most likely be covered with cheese, heavy cream, and bread crumbs. Similarly, “battered” and “creamed” are other terms to be wary of when used to describe a dish. Anything battered is made with flour, eggs, and butter, then deep fried. Creamed broccoli, spinach, and corn may sound healthy since they’re made with vegetables. However, the cream sauces are thick with butter and heavy in fats and oils, canceling out most of the nutritional value of the vegetables.

More Obvious Warning Signs

Many BBQ sauces and marinades contains lots of sugar, which can make your glycemic index shoot up. If you’re trying to eat lighter and going the soup and salad route, it’s best not to go the creamy route. When trying to choose a healthy soup, a vegetable-based broth is the best choice. If you’re on a salad kick try to avoid heavy dressing such as bleu cheese, or at least ask for it to be served on the side so you can control how much you want to add.

Checking That Label Twice

Advertisers and food companies might also use healthy-sounding buzzwords to persuade you to purchase their items. “No fat”, “low calorie”, and “whole grain” sound nutritious. However, sometimes a closer look at the label is warranted. Some labels will say “no added fat”, but this could still mean that the product is heavy in fat content; it just means that no fat was added during processing.

Choosing foods based on popular buzzwords alone can also be counterproductive to your healthy eating plan. Temple Northup, an assistant professor at the Jack J. Valenti School of Communication at the University of Houston, recently published a study in Food Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal. By putting 318 people through sample tests, given the choice between big-name products or products containing words such as “organic whole grain”, “heart healthy”, and “all-natural” on the packaging, he showed that the items containing the healthy buzzwords seemed immediately more appealing. But that didn’t necessarily mean the products were any healthier than items that didn’t have those key words on their packaging.

“Everything in our memory is connected, so everything associated with that word—like organic and thoughts of health—becomes more accessible and influences your decision,” Northrup said. For example, a can of soda may claim to be high in antioxidants because it contains one antioxidant. But upon closer inspection, there may be just a minimal amount of it in the ingredients.

Interpreting Descriptions for Health

Choosing healthier eating options becomes easier when you know what you’re looking for and what to avoid. You don’t have to spend hours scouring labels. Understanding how food is prepared and what a claim on a package really means can help you to avoid the bad and continually choose the good, allowing you to support a healthy figure throughout summer and beyond.

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Did You Know: Three Surprising Tips for Weight Loss

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Did You Know: Three Surprising Tips for Weight LossAs we reach the midpoint of summer, you may feel your motivation to maintain a healthy weight begin to slip, or maybe you're now feeling inspired to start taking your diet more seriously. Whatever your state of mind, there are plenty of ways to help you reach your objectives. Here are some unique tips to keep you sailing towards your summer weight goals.

Sometimes your body needs a little influence from the mind. If you often find yourself trying to juggle many tasks at once, take the time to put everything aside during mealtimes so you can focus on your food. A recent study done by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that if you're eating while doing another task, chances are you won't be satiated. In the study, one group of people ate a meal while playing solitaire while another group ate their meal without any distractions. Results showed that more people who played the game while eating couldn't remember what they ate—and they were still hungry afterwards. It also helps to plan your meals ahead. If your goal is to eat more servings of fruit and vegetables per week, for example, write it down and check it off your list the moment you do it. In one healthy eating experiment, participants who had a concrete plan to eat more fruit per week ended up eating twice as much fruit as those who simply tried harder without having a solid game plan. While a majority of people watch what they eat while dieting, it's also important to remember to watch for liquid calories. No matter how vigilant you are in monitoring your food intake, all that food-watching and calorie-counting can be undone with a few sugary drinks throughout your day. The American Heart Association recommends that adult men and women should consume no more than 37.5 grams and 25 grams of sugar, respectively, per day. A typical 20-oz. bottle of soda has around 65 grams of sugar and 240 calories—just one soda can almost double the recommended daily intake! Many store-brand fruit juices also contain as much sugar as sodas, so just because something has fruit in it, don't automatically assume that it will be low in sugar and calories. If you're feeling thirsty in the warm, summer sun, stick to water to stay hydrated or press your own fruit juices as a healthier option. Coffee can also help speed up your metabolism, but watch out for those sweetened coffee beverages because they can pack a lot of sugar and calories. The desire to enjoy the mid-summer season can be a great motivator to help you stay on your weight management course. However, the health tips here aren't just exclusive to summer; you can apply them all year long to maintain a healthy body weight. Find your motivation and enjoy the rest of the summer—and the entire year—in good health!

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Why This Popular Beverage May Also Support Good Health

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Why This Popular Beverage May Also Support Good HealthFor many people a cup of coffee is part of the morning routine with its warming aroma, taste and also, for a quick burst of energy to start the day. But many studies have shown that there's more to coffee than just caffeine. Unroasted green coffee beans contain plant compounds called chlorogenic acid that have been found to possess antioxidant health properties. Although the process of roasting tends to decrease chlorogenic acid levels, recent research has shown that the amount of chlorogenic acid present in coffee can still provide several health advantages.

The Eye Test of Antioxidants

In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists discovered that the chlorogenic acid found in coffee may help promote a stronger resistance to oxidative stress in the retina, preserving eye sight and protecting it from macular degeneration. The retina is said to be one of the most metabolically active tissues; it needs high levels of oxygen to function, which can make it more prone to oxidative stress. To test the protective effects of chlorogenic acid, a group of mice were treated with a substance which can generate oxidative stress and damaging free radicals. In the group of mice that were given chlorogenic acid pre-treatment, no retinal damage was found. "The study is important in understanding functional foods, that is, natural foods that provide beneficial health effects," said Chang Y. Lee, professor of food science and the study's senior author. "Coffee is the most popular drink in the world, and we are attempting to understand what benefit we can get from that," Lee said.

The Green Side of Healthy Weight Management

While chlorogenic acid's retinal protection properties may be news, it is not the most well-known benefit that can come from coffee, or more specifically unroasted coffee beans. For some time, researchers have studied chlorogenic acid's positive effects in managing weight, metabolism, and blood sugar levels. At the 245th National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS) Joe Vinson, Ph.D., presented findings from his numerous studies highlighting the benefits of chlorogenic acid. In a weight management study, for example, Vinson gave green coffee bean extract to a group of overweight volunteers over a 22-week period. After 22 weeks the subjects lost 10% of their body weight. In a more recent study Vinson sought to further investigate the effects that different doses of chlorogenic acid had on 56 adults with normal blood sugar levels. All volunteers were subjected to blood glucose tolerance tests to see how their bodies normally reacted to the sugar. Following the blood sugar tests they were administered various doses (100, 200, 300, or 400 mg) of green coffee bean extract containing chlorogenic acid. Yet again, Vinson found that green coffee bean extract supplementation produced effective results. "There was a significant dose-response effect of the green coffee extract and no apparent gastrointestinal side effects," Vinson said. "All doses of green coffee bean extract produced a significant reduction in blood sugar relative to the original blank glucose challenge."

Perk Up Your Health with Green Coffee Beans

The antioxidant properties of CLA found in green coffee beans have been shown to help protect eye health, but the benefits don't stop there. It's also been clinically shown to promote weight management and balanced blood sugar. As more research and studies are conducted, other potential health benefits of green coffee beans may also be uncovered, so keep your eyes open for future developments.

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National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – Learning the Important Factors

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National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month – Learning the Important FactorsIt's May which means it's the start of National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. Blood pressure is something you should endeavor to support every day—not just when you think something might be amiss—because your heart works hard for you daily. That's why you should work to stomp out bad habits and take on healthy tips to take care of your heart function and other connected areas of health.

Blood pressure is the force of your blood as your heart pumps it through your arteries and throughout your body. The two readings that indicate the pressure of your blood flow are systolic (the top number), which measures your blood pressure when your heart beats, and diastolic (the bottom number), which measures your blood pressure when the heart is at rest. The target range for healthy blood pressure is anything at, or lower than, 120/80.

Family History

There are many factors, both controllable and uncontrollable, that you need to be aware of when focusing on maintaining healthy blood pressure levels, and in turn, a healthy heart. Some factors that are beyond your control can include race, family history, and age. For example, studies have shown that African Americans tend to be more susceptible to blood pressure concerns when compared to other races due to genetic factors. However, even if you have a family history of blood pressure concerns, there are still a number of ways you can positively influence healthy levels.

Knowing the Basic Do's and Don'ts

Some factors that are within your control include cutting back on certain foods. For example, a number of studies have proven that cutting back on sodium can have a profound positive influence on blood pressure and can help lower the risk of cardiovascular challenges by 25%–30%. The American Heart Association (AHA) currently recommends consuming less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day. This can easily be accomplished by eating less processed foods, canned foods, and lunch meats, which are the main culprits behind high dietary sodium. Additionally, alcohol consumption can affect blood pressure. But it's also something within your power to control. The AHA says to limit your drink intake to no more than two drinks a day for men or one drink per day for women (1 drink serving is defined as one 12-ounce beer or 4-ounce glass of wine). Besides watching what you eat and drink, you can cut back on stress and maintain a healthy weight. Although there is no evidence to suggest that stress directly causes high blood pressure, blood pressure levels can still spike during periods of tension. Try reducing stress by going for walk, doing an activity that relaxes you, or sharing a laugh with friends. Additionally, added body mass puts extra strain on your heart, forcing it to work harder. Even losing an excess 10 lbs can make a significant difference to your blood pressure health.

Nutritional Factors of Note

When dialing back on things such as sodium and alcohol, you should also remember to increase your intake of nutritious foods. To positively influence your blood pressure it is recommended that you eat at least 8 servings of fruit and vegetables per day. In particular, foods high in potassium have been shown in studies to support healthy blood pressure. Leafy green vegetables—such as kale, collards, swiss chard, and spinach—and whole grains are also rich in B vitamins that support cardio health. Choose healthier cooking options such as baking, roasting, and steaming as opposed to frying; and cut out foods containing trans fats and saturated fat. Throughout the centuries, practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have catalogued hundreds of beneficial herbs and their various uses. Several of these herbs can be used to support healthy blood pressure. Chrysanthemum, for example, helps expand blood vessels to ease circulation. Senna also contains compounds that help reduce arterial plaque buildup, while Apocynum venetum has alkaloids that help promote healthy blood flow. Since you wouldn't normally find these herbs on your supermarket shelf, nutritional supplements may be the best source. Your heart works hard for you everyday, so it makes sense to kick those bad habits and positively influence your blood pressure levels. Simple tasks, such as cutting back on sodium and alcohol; reducing stress; and increasing your intake of nutritious foods and herbal supplements; are things everyone can do — starting in National High Blood Pressure Awareness Month. Find your healthy motivation today!


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