31 Days of Health. Day 22: Kick in the Vitamin K

Kick in some vitamin K today!

Vitamin K is a fat-soluble nutrient, meaning, in order for your body to absorb it, it needs to be in the presence of fat. So grab a quick refresher from Day 15 to tie these two together and maximize your nutrition!

Vitamin K was named after what it is known best for: koagulation (German for….. coagulation 😊 Gott ich liebe die deutsche Sprache!). This nutrient plays a big role in the process of blood clotting, an important mechanism in the occurrence of bleeding – in case your first thought went to clots in blood vessels: one cause for strokes. Vitamin K is still present in that process too, however.

An exciting role research is finding out about vitamin K is that it may play a significant role in supporting bone health. Its involvement is believed to be in preventing osetoclasts from pulling minerals out of bones, and in another process that increases bone strength by means of increasing bone density. Consuming enough vitamin K may decrease the risk of fracture, even for women who have gone through menopause and have begun to experience decreased bone density. This certainly can give hope to all who have placed exclusive focus on calcium!

Vitamin K may also reduce the risk for arthritis, and bestow antioxidant effects upon our cells!

Here are some of the best sources for vitamin K – the percent daily recommended intakes (%DRI) are in reference to 1 cup cooked:

  • Kale (1,400% DRI)
  • Baby Spinach (1,200%; 1 cup raw: 360%)
  • Collard Greens (1,000%)
  • Beet Greens (over 900%)
  • Swiss Chard (760%)
  • Turnip Greens (700%)
  • Broccoli and Brussels Sprouts (300%)
  • Asparagus (120%)

Pretty incredible, right!? And the vitamin is present in just about every other green plant; herbs included. Not in as large quantities though. By comparison, 2½ stalks of celery contain 40% the DRI, 1 cup sliced cucumber ­– with the skins ­– contain 20%, and just 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil (my absolute fave) contain 30%! Vitamin K’s presence is so common in green vegetables because it is required in green plants to carry out photosynthesis! Science is so much fun.

Eat up!

31 Days of Health. Day 21: “Reduce” Smoking and Alcohol

Before we dive in today: we are at three weeks in this fabulous 31 Days of Health!! Congratulations!!!

You have heard more than a million times before how harmful smoking is to your health. You’ve seen plenty of informative commercials about it. You may have heard before, that some alcohol is good for you, therefore you allow yourself to indulge, even though deep down you know that it’s not. So it doesn’t make sense for me to charge you to STOP! You are probably so desensitized by “Stop!” that it literally sounds like white noise.

Instead of commanding you to stop, I ask: can you just reduce your intake? Instead of half a pack of cigarettes today, can you take it down by three? Even one less is progress! Instead of losing control and downing as many drinks as you feel like, can you have a plan going in, and decide how many drinks you’ll limit yourself to? Are you the go-big-or-go-home type, like me, and want a harder challenge? Instead of reaching for a drink or a smoke after a long day, get active! Relieve stress through movement! Avoid, avoid, avoid for as long as you can – push your limits!!! Discover just how incredible you are!

Know that YOU choose your emotions. You choose to be stressed, happy, or angry. Sure, outside experiences can influence your emotions, but ultimately you make the choice of how to deal with those experiences. We’re talking about serious habit changes today that can be accomplished by making slight shifts in your thinking patterns and responses.

Let me be absolutely clear: both alcohol and smoking (notice I’m being generic with *smoking*) are toxic to your body. I don’t care what studies have researched the health benefits behind drinking wine, beer, or whiskey. While the results may have some valid points, it is likely the intake of alcohol was limited to one drink. To give you a visual of one drink: one glass of wine is equal to 5 ounces; a beer is 12oz, and liquor is 1oz. More than that is where things go south. So unless you can exercise excellent control, it’s useless to allow yourself to believe that drinking is good for you. Smoke of any kind does not belong in your lungs; and I don’t expect you hold a special place for carcinogens in your heart either.

Truly healthy foods and beverages don’t pose risks to your health.

In your efforts today, focus on progress, not on failure. Failure happens, so what!? Get back up and keep going. You’re not dead yet.

Sometimes, having someone there to tell you to get tough and fight through the struggle is what you need. So…

Get tough!!!
Love, Alyssa

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 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 13: Eat a Plant-Based Diet

Do you think you can go just one day without any animal products in your diet? That is today’s suggested healthy action. Research has continued to show that plant-based diets are associated with a higher quality of life. Plant-based diets can lead to a healthy weight, reduced chronic diseases such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer; reduced frequency of getting sick, and overall longer life!

I am not an advocate for eating vegan, nor do I follow a vegan way of life. But nixing the animal products for a day, or at the very least significantly reducing them in a day, brings a different, delicious dose of wellness into your life. I don’t think it’s necessary you go hardcore to make this happen for one day. It is actually quite simple to do, especially if it is only for a day. Here are the foods that should be ignored to qualify your intake as plant-based:

  • Eggs
  • Beef, poultry, pork, fish, and any other source of meat
  • Dairy milk, cream, yogurt and cheese
  • Butter

Sources of protein can come from legumes, or tofu. If you like cooking with butter, you can try cooking with olive oil; if you like putting butter on bread, try extra-virgin olive oil. Throw some garlic and herbs into the oil to give it a little flavor if that is something new for you. Which, trust me, it’s a stark difference in taste! If you like drinking milk, you can try almond milk, or other nut-milks. Non-dairy yogurt is available if you want to explore some more options. If you like cream in your coffee or tea, try it black or with coconut milk (the canned, actual coconut milk – not coconut beverage sold in the same section as dairy milk).

Do continue to keep this reminder pulsing every day: keep food as close to nature as possible. So instead of bread, you could have brown rice, bulgur, or quinoa. And instead of having olive oil with that bread, you could eat a few olives.

Plant-based diets tend to offer a whole lot more fiber and phytonutrients that you aren’t getting from animal-sourced foods. I suggest trying the plant-based diet – or a mostly plant-based diet – just for one day to assist you in exploring ways to reduce your intake of animal-based foods. It is not wrong to eat these foods, but for some people, they take the place of more veggies, fruit, or whole grains (btw, I am getting sick of these two words because it seems many folks are misunderstanding and abusing them, so please note that when I refer to whole grains, I mean a minimally processed, whole food: not cookies made with whole wheat flour). The low intake of fiber, alone, associated with a typical American diet is one that significantly raises the risk for colon cancer. To me, it is a no-brainer: why play this game of Russian Roulette?

If you’re ready to try this action today and you need some assistance, I am here to help you through! Comments are below, or contact me directly if you’re looking for some healthier oomph in your life!

Thanks for reading, and I will see you here again tomorrow!
Alyssa