Monday, April 17, 2017

Therapeutic Benefit of Massage


More than just pampering, scientific research has concluded massage is an effective treatment for chronic lower back pain. In the first study of its kind researchers analyzed data from primary care physicians who referred patients with chronic lower back pain for 10 massage sessions with licensed massage therapists in their community.

Over half of study participants had clinically significant improvements in their lower back pain. The best results were seen in patients over 49 years of age.

Lower back pain is the leading cause of disability worldwide. With 31 million Americans experiencing lower back pain on a daily basis, massage could provide therapeutic relief while reducing disability and absenteeism from work.

Some studies have also found massage to be therapeutic for treating fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, GI disorders, insomnia, joint pain, sports injuries, and headaches. Some research has even shown temporary reduction in blood pressure and heart rate after treatment.

Various types of massage provide different benefit, for example Swedish massage uses gentle kneading and long strokes to move muscles and tendons for relaxation, while trigger point massage uses deep pressure to reach tight muscles after injury.

While massage is beneficial and safe for most people, some people should discuss treatment with their doctor first. This includes people with bleeding disorders or taking blood-thinning medication, DVT, fractures, osteoporosis, thrombocytopenia, or injury to skin such as burns or wounds. Look for licensed massage therapists to ensure proper training and safety.

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Are You Hangry?


Have you ever snapped at someone, then realized you are probably just hungry? Hangry describes the feelings of anger or irritability as a result of hunger. While hunger is a natural instinct, some people have stronger reactions than others when it comes time for a meal.

Glucose is the main source of fuel for your brain and central nervous system. After a meal blood glucose levels rise and then start to fall. Hormones such as ghrelin play a role in producing a feeling of satiation after eating. As time passes ghrelin decreases and you start to feel hungry again. If you wait too long between meals your blood glucose will fall too low and you will start to feel changes in your mood and mental function.

Serotonin, the feel good chemical, can also decrease when you are hungry which could contribute to feelings of irritability and anger. Sleeping less than 7 hours each night can impact the hormones that regulate appetite and hunger, making hunger more difficult to manage. Sleep deprivation can also impact someone's mood.

Waiting too long to eat and feeling hangry often leads to picking the wrong foods out of desperation. It might also lead to binge eating. Blood sugar spikes after eating too many refined carbs and junk food causing a rollercoaster of blood glucose throughout the day.

The best way to prevent feeling hangry is to plan 4-5 small well-balanced meals/snacks throughout the day. Carry healthy portable options when you are on the go. Don’t skip meals or crash diet. Pair fiber with protein to keep you satisfied longer.

Some healthy snack ideas are:

  • 100 calorie pack of almonds and 1 piece of fruit
  • KIND bar, Balance bar, Kashi granola bar, Simple Protein bar
  • 1/4 cup hummus with baby carrots
  • 1 low fat string cheese and 1 pear
  • 1 brown rice cake with 1 tbs natural peanut butter

Monday, March 20, 2017

Blood Oranges in Season


Deep red and purple hues fill the flesh of the blood orange, a delicious fruit available through winter and spring. According to the National Gardening Association a cooler climate plays a role in the formation of the deep red color, as does the presence of anthocyanin.

Anthocyanin is an antioxidant found in several fruits but not often seen in citrus. Studies have shown anthocyanin may reduce inflammation, inhibit cancer growth, and reduce free radical damage. Blood oranges contain much higher amounts of anthocyanin than navel oranges, making it a great disease fighting fruit.

Blood oranges are primarily grown in Italy, although their origin is likely from China or southern Mediterranean. The cool temperatures at night during the fall and winter allow the anthocyanin to develop and give the blood orange its distinct color. It tastes less acidic compared to other oranges, and often has a subtle taste of berries.

One blood orange has about 70 calories and is a high source of vitamin C, delivering over 100% of daily recommended allowance. Vitamin C also works as an antioxidant in the body while repairing tissue and building collagen. Blood oranges are rich in folate which is needed for healthy red blood cells. Adequate intake is also associated with lowering cancer and heart disease risk. Vitamin A is also found in high amounts, this fat soluble vitamin is important for vision, the immune system, and healthy skin.

Blood oranges can be enjoyed in many different ways. Try adding segments into a arugula and fennel salad drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil. Or perhaps reduce the juice into a glaze to spread over roasted turkey or scallops. 


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Is Cardio or Weights Better for Weight Loss?


Exercise does a great job lowering bad cholesterol, reducing blood pressure, and improving insulin sensitivity. It can also help you get in shape, but which type is best for weight loss?

Researchers at Duke University followed overweight and sedentary participants for 8 months. Participants exercised with aerobics, strength training, or a combination of the two. At the end of the study the cardio group lost the most weight.

The strength training group gained weight from increased muscle mass but did not lose even 1 pound of fat mass despite exercising 47 minutes more each week.

The group that combined cardio and strength training lost some weight, had the best improvements in body composition by losing the most fat, and increased muscle mass.

Cardio burns more calories per minute compared to strength training so it is beneficial for reducing weight. Strength training is important too though, especially for maintaining lean muscle mass (which impacts metabolic rate), improving bone mineral density, and proper body mechanics for daily activities.

For the best benefit start with a warm-up and then move into strength training followed by cardio. The American Council on Exercise found this can drive heart rate higher during the cardio session which helps burn more calories.

It is recommended to do cardio exercise at least 30 minutes 5 days per week, although 60 minutes is best for weight management. Strength training should be at least two or more times per week with all major muscle groups being worked to volitional fatigue. Brisk walking counts as cardio, but greater benefit is seen with more vigorous activity.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Which Health Fads Are Not Worth the Hype



Juicing promises to deliver concentrated vitamins, minerals, and anti-oxidants which might be “locked away” in the fiber of whole fruits and vegetables. While a tall glass of juice might taste great, this fad is busted. Juice is concentrated in sugar and calories. It does not fill you up because the fiber is left behind. People who drink juice regularly have a 21% increased risk of type 2 diabetes compared to people eating whole fruits. Instead drink a protein smoothie with a small amount of whole fruit blended in. This retains the fiber and the protein slows down digestion.

Gluten-free diets truly help people allergic to gluten, and while  gluten sensitivities are pretty rare they do exist. A gluten-free diet is restrictive which helps people cut out lots of calories and junk food, but packaged gluten-free foods are not all they are cracked up to be. Most are refined grains, stripped of their nutrients. Gluten-free products are often higher in calories, sodium, fat, and sugar to make up for flavor differences compared to conventional products. Increased exposure to arsenic from rice-based products is also a concern. There is nothing wrong with eating fruits, vegetables, lean protein, nuts, seeds, and dairy which are all naturally gluten-free; use caution with processed foods though.

Coconut oil claims to increase metabolism, boost weight loss, and improve cholesterol. Coconut oil is high in saturated fat, but due to its medium-chain triglyceride structure it does not appear to have a significant effect on cholesterol like other high saturated fat foods such as butter and red meat. Instead coconut oil is rapidly delivered to the liver. Over-consumption can lead to stress on your liver and may contribute to fatty liver disease. Stick with olive oil which has well documented heart health benefits.

Paleo diet also known as the caveman diet bases nutrition on the foods available during the Paleolithic Era. You get to eat meat, fish, eggs, vegetables, fruit, olive oil, nuts, and seeds. You must avoid grains, sugar, dairy, beans, alcohol, salt, and all processed foods. While eating clean and giving up junk food is a great way to live a healthy lifestyle, Paleo ranked one of the worst diets by U.S. News and World Report. Experts found the diet was too high in saturated fat, which triggers inflammation as well as increases cardiovascular risk, insufficient in essential nutrients such as calcium, and long term adherence is low due to it being very restrictive.

Fads come and go but solid research can help guide us in the right direction. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is. Enjoy the benefits of minimally processed foods and remember to enjoy all things in moderation.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Cheers to Good Health


Aging is a state of mind, and protecting our mind starts with the food and drinks we consume every day. One of the most powerful ways we can enhance memory, mental alertness, and slow brain aging is by drinking green tea regularly.

With over 4,000 years of use, tea is the most widely consumed beverage in the world, second only to water. There are three main types of tea: green, black, and oolong. The difference is in how the teas are processed. Green tea is made from unfermented leaves helping to retain the highest amount of
antioxidants to protect against chronic disease such as heart disease, stroke, and cancer.

Tea also contains catechins which makes blood less sticky helping to further reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. Catechins can also reduce free radical damage and some studies show it may help prevent breast, prostate, and GI tract related cancers.

Green tea has the highest catechin content, about 375 mg per cup, followed by black tea with about 210 mg per cup. Decaffeinated green and black teas appear to have the same benefits as regular.

Studies have also shown people who drink at least one cup of tea daily have higher bone mineral density helping to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. There are many properties in tea which could contribute to strong bones; fluoride being the best known can also help prevent cavities as well. Too much fluoride can be a problem, so it is best to limit tea to 4 cups or less daily.

Adding milk to tea blocks the absorption of catechins so this should be avoided. Sugar and alternative sweeteners do not appear to effect catechin absorption, although consuming these in moderation is best.

Studies show tea is a powerful antioxidant that helps protect against many diseases and enhance mental function. Enjoy green tea regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

How to Raise Good Cholesterol


A new study published last week highlights the benefits of the Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil for improving good “HDL” cholesterol especially in people at high risk for cardiovascular disease.

The study followed 296 participants with high risk of cardiovascular disease. One group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in olive oil, the second group followed a Mediterranean diet rich in nuts, and the third group followed a control diet which reduced red meat, processed foods, high fat dairy products, and sweets.

All participants following the Mediterranean diet ate vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and moderate amounts of fish and poultry.

The control diet reduced total and bad “LDL” cholesterol levels, and while both Mediterranean diets improved HDL function, the olive oil group saw the biggest improvement.

HDL works like a sponge, patrolling arteries and collecting cholesterol to bring back to the liver for recycling or disposal. HDL provides antioxidant protection which can help lower plaque from forming in arteries. It also improves vasodilation which keeps blood vessels open and blood flowing more freely.

While the control diet did show benefit for lowering total and LDL cholesterol it had a negative impact on HDL’s anti-inflammatory capabilities. This could be less beneficial for people with high cardiovascular risk.

Research continues to show strong health benefits with the Mediterranean diet, especially when olive oil is used regularly.

Mediterranean Diet Tips

  • Eat mostly plant-based foods such as vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, and nuts
  • Replace butter with olive oil and canola oil
  • Use herbs and spices instead of salt to flavor food
  • Limit red meat to a few times per month
  • Eat fish at least twice per week
  • Limit sweets to a few times per month
  • Get plenty of exercise