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31 Days of Health. Day 20: Reduce Starches

Reduce your starch intake is the name of the game today!

To understand starch, you must first understand glucose. Glucose is a single unit of sugar or, carbohydrate, and it is the most used source of fuel by your body and brain. When one glucose unit bonds with another…
…and another…
…and another…
a large chain of glucose is formed – this is called starch. Starch is stored energy for both plants and humans. For example, when glucose is unavailable for fuel in your body, such as during a period of fasting, or increased physical activity, starch is obtained from the liver to be broken down into glucose for energy use.

Plants that are known for significant starch content include potatoes, peas, corn, legumes/beans, and grains. A higher starch content = higher carbohydrate content = higher calorie content. But it’s not exactly the calories that are a concern. It is the carbohydrates.

Carbohydrates are the most readily digested macronutrient. Why? Because they all break down to glucose, and your body needs this simple sugar to keep you alive! Once glucose is obtained, it is absorbed into the bloodstream and used by cells to carry out all sorts of processes constantly happening throughout your body and brain. However, there is a cap on how much glucose is needed at one time. Excess glucose is stored in the liver in the form of starch; or in the adipose tissue as fat.

Heavy intake of starches leads to frequently elevated blood sugars, and/or increased storage of fat. Therefore, a higher intake of starchy foods may lead to reduced insulin sensitivity (as a result of having frequently elevated blood sugars), and weight gain. As you may recall from Day 7 (Avoid Sugar), excess fat mass is inflammatory, which can lead to several chronic diseases and other ailments.

Don’t get me wrong, starches are not on the No-No list. Many foods that contain starch also contain a good dose of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and sometimes even protein! Balancing them with other non-starchy foods, including healthy protein and fat sources, is the ideal way to incorporate these foods into your diet. I do, however, recommend choosing starchy vegetables over grains most often as vegetables will offer a greater range of nutrients; and when choosing grain foods, choose whole foods over processed types more often (i.e. bulgur wheat over whole grain bread).

So for today, plan to eat less potatoes, peas, corn, legumes, or grain foods such as rice, pasta, bread, and cereal.

Enjoy!

31 Days of Health. Day 19: Pump up the Potassium

I am very excited to talk about potassium today! Potassium is a mineral that many people are not getting nearly as much as they need. And a very interesting fact about potassium is that most folks typically associate bananas with potassium. But guess what!? Bananas have LESS potassium per ounce than MANY other foods!!!

The daily recommended intake (DRI) for potassium is 4,700 milligrams (mg). Most Americans are consuming about half of that. (Getting to the why you need potassium in just a sec! But first, let’s compare!) One medium banana weighs about 4oz and contains 422 milligrams (mg) of potassium. Now check out the quantities of potassium in the following foods, each weighing 4oz:

Beet Greens: 1,072mg
Fresh Spinach: 658mg
Swiss Chard: 647mg
Potato: 631mg
Yellowfin Tuna: 621mg
Sweet Potato: 560mg (remember Day 5?? 😊)
Lima Beans: 473mg

Other foods that contain about the same amount of potassium, if not more, as bananas per ounce include bok choy, tomatoes, broccoli, beets, and papaya. You’ll find there is quite the trend here for fruits and vegetables being great sources for potassium….Another benefit of a plant-focused diet!

Consuming plenty of potassium daily is associated with normal blood pressure. High blood pressure is linked to high sodium diets, and interestingly, a diet low in fruits and vegetables while high in heavily processed foods contains excessive sodium. Alternately, diets high in fruits and vegetables, hence high in potassium, are linked with regular blood pressure, and therefore a reduced risk for stroke. And let’s think back to Day 13’s healthy challenge to eat a plant-based diet – remember all the benefits that come with limiting animal products!? Are you starting to see the connection to an improved quality of health??

I hope you value your life more than enough to avoid risking a stroke.

Pack in that potassium! Eat more fruits and veggies!
Alyssa

If you need some help getting your potassium intake straightened out, I LOVE talking heart health. I believe in following your heart, so I believe in taking care of that baby. Get in touch with me if you’re ready to get to work. Thanks for being here!

31 Days of Health. Day 18: Read

When was the last time you read something? Aside from this. Anything you wanted – not something you were required to read? I’m telling you, reading will change your life as soon as you begin reading things you enjoy. For years outside of college, I was convinced I hated reading. Number one, I felt so burnt out from a lifetime of school that I felt it was time to stop reading forever. And number two, I blamed it on the idea that I was a slow reader and had bad reading comprehension. The problem was that my inability to read quickly and comprehend was due to my lack of interest.

As soon as I found some literature that truly spoke to me, I couldn’t stop. If you haven’t been reading, I know the same will happen for you as soon as you discover something you enjoy. Here’s why you need to build up the habit of reading:

Reading gives your brain some mental stimulation! It enhances your vocabulary, grammar, memory, and your knowledge. It also provides a feeling of calmness, which radiates through each one of your body’s cells creating the wonderful atmosphere they need to thrive best, meaning YOU thrive at your best!

It is crucial to exercise your brain just as much as it is to exercise your body. Squeeze in just 15 minutes a day to start. If you don’t have anything on hand, search around for something that speaks to your interests. Check out Amazon, Kindle, Barnes & Noble, or your library. No matter where you decide to go, pick something out this weekend and fuel your mind. Let me know what you choose!

And thank you for reading THIS!
Alyssa

PS: did you know you can also follow these 31 Days of Health on Instagram @fabulous_nutrition ??

And if you are ready for a new level of health, contact me directly for your free consultation with no obligations necessary. You’ve got one life to live – live it to your fullest with fabulous health.

31 Days of Health. Day 17: Get Adventurous

You know what I believe is a key component in achieving fabulous health? Having an adventurous spirit! It appears that most people associate adventure with extreme activity like frequent traveling, rock climbing and bungee jumping. While those definitely make the cut, being adventurous is simply trying something new; something outside of your comfort zone. And it totally applies to food, too.

You don’t have to be a trendy “foodie” to consider yourself an adventurous eater. If you’ve never even heard of, or seen an heirloom tomato before, you have an opportunity lying before you! If you are not open to trying new things, you will stay exactly where you are. If you want something you never had, you have to do something you’ve never done. How can you expect to achieve a different (healthier) lifestyle by doing the same things day after day?

Your task for today is to try something you haven’t had – or done­ – before. Is there a food that’s been buzzing in your ear lately? What little messages have you been getting, making you feel like you should do something a little differently? Fear of the unknown keeps us stuck exactly where we are. Think of the last time you did do something that was new for you, and what your experience was like following. Or, think only about what the positive outcomes will be as a result of trying something new.  Feel that satisfaction and excitement of busting down that wall and discovering what’s available to you on the other side! Then it’s on to the next one!

Let’s get it!

31 Days of Health. Day 16: Freeze Leftovers

I’ve got a quick and easy one for ya today: Freeze Your Leftovers!

This may not seem so exciting now, but you will feel that excitement come when you are battling a busy week, are too exhausted to make dinner, are tight on money with very little food in the fridge, or are low on food and you left your wallet with every bit of your money 20 miles from home at your parent’s house… just like I did the other night!!

Life gets stressful, and there is bound to be one night during your week when you need a miracle. Make your own miracles! Get into the habit of covering your weak side’s ass.

Aside from saving you from stress, freezing your leftovers* will also encourage less food waste, which the health of our planet can depend on. Not only do I care for you to focus on your own health, I want you to start (or continue) caring about the state of health of others and for all types of environments. Reducing food waste is one step in the right direction.

Enjoy today!
Alyssa

*Side note: overripe, but-not-quite-garbage-yet fruit can classify as leftovers too, that you can freeze to save for smoothies or other cooking applications.

31 Days of Health. Day 15: Fuel up on Healthy Fats

When I was working toward my BS/MS in dietetics, I was taught that a healthy diet included low-fat or fat free products. While it was understood that some fat is necessary, it was always an accomplishment when a meal or snack (on paper) did not contain much fat. However, in my own life, it didn’t exactly look like that. I added fat whenever it felt necessary for cooking or for flavor. Then I would instruct overweight clients to eliminate fat here and reduce it there. And you know what, that advice never came with much success.

Through practice beyond these misunderstandings and failures, I found that when I threw the numbers away and focused on how our taste buds and body respond to the foods we eat, we achieve health more efficiently.

Fat is one nutrient you do not want to restrict! Dietary fat has a “high satiety value” meaning it keeps you feeling full as a result of slowing down the rate at which the contents of the stomach are emptied. This is a very interesting point to recognize in the case of weight management: if fat intake is significantly reduced there is greater potential for feeling hungry. No wonder why weight loss tends to be associated with hunger!

Here are a few additional benefits fat provides:

  • Plays a role in transporting other fat molecules throughout the body
  • Helps with the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins
  • Lowers lipids in the blood – therefore improving cardiovascular health
  • Is a component of some cell membranes and nervous tissue
  • Is involved in the creation of hormones
  • In cooking – provides flavor!

Obtain your healthiest fats from

  • Avocado
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Olive oil, including extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish – i.e. salmon

There has been plenty of controversy over coconut oil. Some research I have recently studied surprisingly spoke against the claimed health benefits coconut oil provides. The point made was that the saturated fats in coconut oil are still in the same shape as the saturated fats in any other food, and the body will manage all saturated fats in the same manner. This may or may not be true. The additional “argument” attached to this was one that sits better with me, and it is that isolation of any food is a lesser-quality option. What is, in fact healthiest, is to eat a whole food. Therefore, eating coconut is the healthier choice over coconut oil.

So rather than counting how many teaspoons and tablespoons of fat you are adding to the pan, or to your salad, let your taste buds and body be your guide. You can taste if there is too much oil, and you can feel good or bad after a meal. Working on your daily meditative practice from Day 12 will supplement your focus on these tells. Now, there is such a thing as excess as well, so I don’t want you to think you should have as much as you want. But don’t stress it – all of these skills will come with practice.

I hope you’re doing great with the first half-ish of this healthy challenge! Let’s go another 15 days, plus one extra for good measure 😉

Alyssa

Ready to take your health to the next level? Contact me for more info or register for a free consultation now!

31 Days of Health. Day 14: Make Your Bed

Make your bed. And keep the rest of your home neat and clean. You’ll thank me later, sooo, you’re welcome! And call me when you’re home! Love, Mom.

Your home should be a safe and supportive environment. You need a place to go where you can kick your feet up and rest your head after a long day. Plain and simple, it is a vital component to your overall health. Here’s why…

#1. Making your bed in the morning sets the course for your day. The task is simple and easy to do, giving you a feeling of accomplishment once complete. This feeling of accomplishment leads to confidence in accomplishing more throughout your day. Who doesn’t love feeling #likeaboss at the end of the day!? (Side thought: revisit Lonely Island’s Like a Boss for some added hilarity into your day and – BOOM! You’re on fire!)

#2. Keeping the house neat and clean promotes strong physical health. Simply think of these associations: dust and your lungs; bacteria on toilets, tubs or dining surfaces and your mouth; and xenoestrogens brought inside from the soles of shoes and hormones. When your home is clean, you breathe more easily, reduce frequency of getting sick, and encourage balanced hormones.

#3. The act of cleaning the house can improve your concentration and may even double as a form of active meditation –taking it back just two days to Day 12! Making your bed, cleaning counters and floors, washing dishes and everything in between gives your mind something to focus on, keeping you present in that moment…

#4. And when you’re present in the moment, stress levels go down. Remember back to Day 12’s Meditation recommendation: stress is at the heart of many preventable diseases. As much as the thought of cleaning stresses you out, the act of cleaning relieves it. So the sooner you stop thinking about cleaning and just go do it, the sooner your stress goes away, and so does the high risk of preventable diseases…Wow! Magic!

#5. …Also with reduced stress levels, contentment and happiness ensue! An aesthetically-pleasing home is inviting and comforting, and where there is comfort, there is peace.

Now zen out and enjoy today…like a boss!