Berry Smart, Berry Good

health benefits of berries

For some people, summer isn’t the beach or an amusement park. It isn’t about air conditioning or laps in the pool. For some people summer is all about the berries.

Whether it’s the local farmer’s market or the great outdoors or even as simple as the grocery store, berries can be found aplenty this time of year. That’s such a good thing, because they’re so good for you!

Strawberries, blueberries, blackberries…why pick just one?

Enjoy some of the health benefits of berries.

Antioxidants

In addition to giving most berries their rich colors, antioxidants help to repair the damage caused by all the free-radicals that affect our bodies daily. While they won’t stop the clock completely, they can slow down the effects of aging, benefit memory retention, and boost the immune system.

Digestion

They may not look like much, but berries contain a lot of dietary fiber in a small package. This fills you up at a lower calorie count without skimping on vitamins! It also aids in keeping your digestive tract running right, so make sure to have plenty.

Vision

Vitamin C is known for making cells stronger and keeping your immune system in tip-top shape. In conjunction with all the phenols that berries have, this can reduce age-related macular degeneration and the risk of cataracts, while promoting excellent eye health. Visionary!

Now you know that you know what berries can do for you, find out what else you can do with berries! Follow this link for a bushel of ideas: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes_menus/collections/healthy_berry_recipes

6 Simple Weight Loss Tips

Image thanks to Jeff Houck

Whether you are trying to lose a lot of weight, or just those last few pounds, every little bit helps.

Here are 6 simple weight loss tips you can do every day to help get you closer to your goal…

1. Drink up:

I can’t say it enough; hydration is key. It helps to fight hunger pangs, and is good for you in so many other ways. Try drinking a full glass of water before each meal and then more throughout the day. Make it easy by keeping a bottle nearby and refilling it as you go.

2. Make more food:

Sound counterintuitive? It’s not. If you are going to make a healthy meal, try doubling the batch so that you can portion it out for easy leftovers. Having pre-prepared meals handy means that you don’t have to put any thought into trying to put something together at the last minute. This can keep you from grabbing junk food or over indulging by eating out.

3. Swap your coffee, dump your soda:

There are so many better (low calorie) options. Switch out your morning latte for oolong tea at least a few times each week. Walk past the soda machine and grab some sparkling water. Make it feel fancier by adding a slice of lemon or lime. Pat yourself on the back.

4. Hide your scale:

I understand the desire to see progress, but being a slave to your scale can actually hinder you. Weight fluctuates naturally, and very little good comes from checking it every day. Store the scale away for a while and make the conscious decision to be healthy because it’s good for you, not because of a number. You may be surprised at what happens.

5. Eat intuitively:

There is an entire movement dedicated to this, and I think they have the right idea. The primary tenets are listening to your body, learning your triggers, and developing a healthy relationship with food. The easiest way to begin? Just listen to your body and your actual hunger cues. Try to make peace with food, eat when you are hungry, don’t berate yourself, and treat your body with respect.

6. Walk it off:

This is the time to stop making excuses. Get outside and walk. Check out your neighborhood, get to the park, or find a nearby hiking trail. Walking is the perfect way to be physically active and to reduce stress at the same time. You don’t need a gym membership or a yoga mat, just some comfortable shoes.

Weight Loss doesn’t have to be difficult. These 6 Simple Tips for Weight Loss should help you achieve your weight loss goals.

Food Fight: How To Win

food fight

Image thanks to jnyemb

Here’s the thing about dieting…most “diets” out there make food into an enemy.

We’re taught that we can’t trust it. That we should hide it. Shrink it. Fight it.

We have come to believe that it will sneak up on us when we least expect it and so we must remain ever vigilant.

But the truth is that we can’t escape from food, and shouldn’t want to.

It sustains us, it can keep us healthy, and it can be one of life’s simple pleasures.

Here are a few suggestions for giving up the food fight:

Balance is Key:

There must be balance. This is true in all parts of life, and in our eating habits. There are very few people who can quit everything cold turkey and succeed. And honestly, if you switch from your normal routine to some super strict, reductive eating program, chances are you will eventually feel deprived and give up. This is why so many diets fail. Just the mindset of being on a “diet” is restrictive.

Try a different view. Opt for healthy. It is possible to make small changes, to learn, and to try new things. So, learn recipes, read books (not diet books), try new healthy foods, find the exercise that makes you feel good. Try to eat as well as you can without completely depriving yourself and enjoy how much better it makes you feel.

Give up Guilt:

How much weight has guilt helped you lose? How much has it really ever benefitted you at all? Guilt is just a way of punishing ourselves, but it doesn’t actually accomplish anything.

If you make a mistake, overindulge, or if you are too tired to exercise one day – acknowledge it and then move on. Or decide that you will do better tomorrow. Beating yourself up about it can’t undo anything and will only make you feel worse. Try to be positive, and use mistakes to motivate yourself.

Be Self-Aware:

Let’s face it; a big part of our relationship with food is an emotional one. Some of us were rewarded with it; some of us were punished with it. Many of us still equate food with love. These are patterns that are not always easy to break.

It can take time, but the first step is really listening to yourself. Are you really hungry right now? Could it be stress, boredom, or just a need for comfort? If you are hungry, will a bag of chips really make you feel better than a bowl of fresh fruit?

Get to know what your triggers are and you can begin to change them. Listen to what your body tells you and it may just lead you to answers.

Weight Loss By The Numbers

Image thanks to metro thom

Weight loss is never easy, but we can at least keep it simple.

So what are we talking about when we talk about losing weight? Reducing a number. That’s it, that’s all you’re trying to do.  While neither math nor weight loss are counted as typical fun, it’s kind of neat to look at this equation:

(3500 x p) ÷ d = c

p = these are the pounds you want to lose. There are 3500 calories in a pound of fat, so for every pound you’re looking to shed, this is an important number.

d = how many days in which you want to lose it. Keep in mind, the slower that you lose weight, the easier it is to keep off in the long term.

c = caloric deficit you need per day to meet your goal, or in simpler terms, the amount of calories you need to cut.

Let’s put some practical numbers into those variables. For simplicity’s sake, let’s go with one pound a week. That’s a pretty healthy and reasonable goal.

3500 ÷ 7 = 500 calories you need to drop from your daily diet. That makes sense, right?

Now here’s the tricky bit: how many calories do you normally take in during the day? Do you know? Have you counted?

In this day and age, we have access to the nutritional information for just about everything we eat, all right there on the labels.  If it doesn’t have a label, like the stuff from the produce section, then there’s the internet with all the answers. You just need to pay attention, do your research, and for Pete’s sake, write stuff down.

Figure out how many calories you eat a day, and drop 500 of them. In fact, here’s a calorie counter to help you know what you’re getting into: http://caloriecount.about.com/

Those pounds you want to lose don’t have to be daunting. Take this journey little by little, one day at a time. After all, it’s mind over matter, literally!

Aw, Nuts!

health benefits of nuts

Unless your one of those unfortunates with a bad allergy to them, nuts are good for you in a lot of ways.

In addition to being highly portable and found on most commercial flights, nuts are full of protein, which is good news for the vegetarians, and for the rest of us. They are also a good source for fiber, which makes the stomach feel fuller and helps with digestion. And the list goes on.

Here are some of the health benefits of nuts…

Antioxidants:

Oxidation produces free radicals, which causes damage to the body’s cells. They can influence aging, cause diseases, and generally be a bad thing. Unfortunately, you can’t keep your body in mint condition. You have to use it every day.

Nuts are a super good source of antioxidants, which can help prevent your cells from deteriorating, reduce the effects of aging, and improve immunity. They aid in the elimination of those free radicals, as well as repairing the damage they caused. Walnuts are especially high in antioxidants.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids:

These are the good fats and the stuff your brain really needs. Your heart needs it, too. And many nuts are full of it!  Omega-3’s help your brain process all its data, stay focused, and in some cases alleviate the symptoms of depression. These fatty acids have also been shown to be anti-inflammatories that help reduce risk of artery disease, strokes, and certain kinds of cancers.

Vitamins and Minerals:

The nutritional content of nuts include vitamin-E, which is great for skin and arteries, and B-Complex, which promotes overall good health. Nuts are also full of essential minerals, such as zinc, manganese, magnesium, and potassium. All good stuff that you need.

So, when you’re in a pinch for something to snack on, instead of getting a bag of greasy chips, try going nuts!

For more information on various nuts and their benefits, go to:
http://www.nutrition-and-you.com/nuts_nutrition.html

The Diet Myths You've Been Believing

Image thanks to o5com

It’s hard to know fact from fiction. There’s a lot of good advice, and unfortunately, a lot of superstition.

Some things sound too good to be true. Some bits of advice just don’t apply universally, and some are just silly. We get caught up in wishful thinking, hoping that it can be just that easy, but we need to know what’s real and what’s made-up.

Here are a few diet myths people are wrong to believe, and the reality…

“Diet” items are good for your diet:

Many big food companies will slap the word “diet” onto their product, inject it with a saccharine (or something worse), and call it their healthy option. This is just a marketing gimmick. These products aren’t necessarily designed to help you lose weight, and some of them, like diet sodas, have been shown to increase your appetite, which is the last thing anyone watching their weight needs. We also tend to consume more of a diet product, thinking it will do less harm, when really it counters everything we’re working towards. Instead of buying a “diet” option, go with something actually known for being healthy, without needing a label to “prove” it. Fruits and vegetables, whole grains, fish…this stuff is so good it doesn’t need P.R.

Crunches give you Abs:

Lots of people struggle with those abdominal exercises, thinking that a six pack will someday appear to replace that gut. Unfortunately, there’s a lot to deal with before the belly. Sit ups and crunches aren’t the best for slimming down, and the flat stomach shows up after losing weight all over. And typically, the excess around the middle tends to be the last to go, because that’s the area where fat is stored more. The human body isn’t a bunch of separate parts that can be thought of independently; it’s one total and beautiful thing that will work best when viewed as a complete system. Work out the whole body. Once all that weight goes down, those abs will get a chance to shine.

All Carbohydrates are Bad:

Don’t lump every carbohydrate together. There are the simple ones, like those found in sugary snacks and sodas that will give you a rush before making you crash. Those are the ones that people think of as bad, but those good, complex carbohydrates get blamed for fattening results, too. Your brain works needs those complex carbs to function, to keep those neurons firing at full capacity.

Another thing to consider is what you’re putting on those carbs. Bread, pasta, and potatoes tend to be thought of as the vehicle for flavor-rich sauces or butter. Just don’t drown them with great tasting stuff that will weigh you down. As they say, moderation is the key.

For more information on common weight loss fallacies, go to:
http://www.ironmanmagazine.com/index.cfm?page=article&pID=1414

Best Stress Busters

Massage

Let’s face it; it is nearly impossible these days to avoid stress.

It finds you at work, at home, and may even be hanging out with you when you are waiting in line at the grocery store.

It can cause sleepless nights, food binges, and – if left unchecked – can lead to a host of other physical and emotional issues.

So what can you do?

Here are some great stress busters:

Laugh It Off:

If you are feeling bogged down by stress try doing something to actively lighten the mood. Share some jokes with co-workers over lunch, watch a funny movie, or spend some time with your funniest friend. Both smiling and laughter have been proven to be beneficial to mood and lowering stress hormones.

Get Outside:

The benefits of this can be twofold. First, it can be helpful to step away from a stressful project or situation and give your mind a break. Second, taking a brisk 5-10 minute walk outside can get your blood flowing, give you a bit of exercise, and may boost your mood with vitamin D if it is sunny.

Sing Out Loud:

Stuck in traffic? Or just at home and need to blow off steam? Try cranking up your favorite tunes and sing along. Singing is good for your body and can quickly decrease stress. Want to make it even better? Dance!

Work It Out:

Exercise may be the ultimate stress-buster. It boosts endorphins and creates a sense of accomplishment. Ever heard of runner’s high? Well it’s a real thing. 20 -30 minutes of vigorous exercise can help to clear your head and chances are it will leave you feeling better than before.

Find Your Zen:

Whatever it is for you…find it. This can mean yoga, meditation, walking the dog, or simply curling up with a good book. One of the most important things that you can do is stop and find time for yourself. Moments of silence, moments of calm, moments of peace. These moments are essential to relax and recharge you.

Food For Thought

Thinking

Thanks to @boetter for the image.

We spend a lot of time focusing on the outside, on our physiques or how we look. But there’s a plenty to think about on the inside, too. Especially that thing you’re thinking with.

Shouldn’t your brain be at tip-top form? You can feed it knowledge all day long, but it needs to be healthy to retain and process that info. It needs the right fuel to work, just like any organ.

So what can you eat to make your brain work better?

Omega-3 Fatty Acid

Before it ever had the science to back up the claims, fish has been considered a brain food. One theory suggests that this notion came about because human civilizations grew around coastal areas, where aquatic life would be available for eating. Nowadays, we have the research that shows fish is good for the brain.

Salmon, halibut, tuna, and various other fish contain an abundance of omega-3 fatty acids, which are very important to brain function. There are even popular theories that increased fish consumption can aid in relieving depression, bipolar disorder, and other mental problems.

H2O

What’s fish without water? Your brain contains a lot of water, and needs plenty to function correctly. For most people, the longest part of their 24 hour day spent without hydration is the 6 to 8 hours spent sleeping, and that lack of fluids contributes to the grogginess felt in the morning hours.   One helpful hint to lose that sluggish feeling: water. You’re brain craves it, your body needs it, and its right there, ready to use.

Complex Carbohydrates

The brain is a busy place. It makes enzymes and neurotransmitters that need energy to do what they do. Brain cells get energy from glucose, and glucose comes from carbohydrates. Simple or refined carbs, like from a sweet snack or a soda, can give a quick but short lived boost. Plenty of people get caught in a cycle of sugar highs and crashes. In fact, the body tries it’s best to get rid of those refined sugars as quickly as possible, which will do a number on the kidneys and liver, just like alcohol. What isn’t flushed out naturally gets turned into the bad kind of fat.

For the long haul, we need some complex carbohydrates, like those found in natural foods, like oat bran, barley, potatoes, and beans. Be sure to include these in your daily diet and you won’t have room for the bad stuff. Now that’s smart!

For a list of foods that promote brain function follow this link: http://4mind4life.com/blog/2008/07/18/brain-foods-list-of-50-good-brain-foods/

Weight Loss: Just the Facts

picture thanks to kevan

The most basic principal of weight loss is to make sure you use more calories in a day than you consume.

Limit the amount you take in, and burn up as many as you can. It’s as simple as that, but executing that may not be so easy for everyone.

Now, of course, you can’t just stop eating. That wouldn’t be healthy. But you can take measures to control your caloric intake. Roughly 2,000 calories are needed for the average person to get through their day, but that varies according to age, gender, weight, etc…  Do a little research and find out what is right for you.

Once you have figured that out, go from there…

Read your labels. It will tell you right on the package how many calories are in a serving. Also, stick to the serving size. You may be surprised to know that one can or box doesn’t always equal one serving.

Adding thirty minutes of exercise can make a huge difference. It really doesn’t take much to have an impact. It can be a walk around the neighborhood, getting your grove on with your iPod, or if you’re really ambitious, a trip to the gym.

There are ways to estimate how many calories you burn in a day. You can find a calculator online at  http://caloriecount.about.com/cc/calories-burned.php.

There are so many different approaches out there, some so extreme that they are hard to fathom, or others so simple they can’t be true. But now that you’re armed with the basics, you have a fighting chance.

Slim Down Pick-Me-Ups

Image thanks to stevendepolo

So you have decided to make some big changes which involve…

not being so big.

Even those who go eagerly into a weight loss program may get a little grumpy about it. But there are ways to avoid getting glum.

After all, trying to accomplish something good shouldn’t be tainted by a bad mood.

Here are some weight loss motivation tips…

Do Not Skip

Cutting calories is hard enough without skipping meals. You may already be feeling deprived, so why skip a meal?  You won’t be doing yourself any favors if your attitude is already down.

The best way to get through the day is by savoring every meal.

And make those meals count!

Foods with Omega 3 fatty acids like fish, nuts, and even broccoli, will boost serotonin levels in your brain, which help us all feel happier and at least a little smarter.

Meditate

If you’re focusing too much on reinventing your body, you may forget about the mind that lives in it. Meditation has been shown to help with depression, high blood pressure, fatigue and many other issues that can be causing a sour mood.

Snacks Aren’t Bad

Is it ironic that we tend to think snacks are found in the snack food aisle of the grocery store?

Most of what we find there is processed, salty, and mostly empty calories. Your hunt for snacks can start and end at the produce section, where quick pick-me-ups are just waiting for you.

You can even get away with some carbs, here and there.

Some air popped popcorn or half a bagel with some honey may make a giant difference in how you see the world.

Carbohydrates do affect mood, but remember not to overdo it: just enough to take the edge off of an extra stressful day.

Exorcise With Exercise

Those reluctant to do some exercise may be surprised to discover how important it is to improving their mental health.

Physical activity affects the mind by releasing endorphins. 30 minutes or more of exercise three to five days a week can make a vast difference in state of mind, but really, every little bit helps.

For some more ideas about dealing with your mood while dealing with your weight check out:
http://www.livestrong.com/article/245089-mood-swings-diet/

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*These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. Results may vary.