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 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 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 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

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31 Days of Health. Day 10: Give Some Thought for Food

Hello there, and welcome to Day 10!

Today is relatively simple. I just want you to do some thinking. Think about the food you eat! Where did it come from? How was it made? What nutrients are present in that food? Read a package’s nutrition facts and ingredients label to get your mind reeling!

Food for Thought #1. I recommend looking at the ingredients first. The nutrition facts give an estimate of how many macronutrients are present, along with a few select micronutrients such as sodium, calcium and iron. But that is only a teeny-tiny snapshot! Reading through the ingredients can be very eye-opening concerning what you are putting into your body, and what the nutrition facts aren’t telling you! For example: the FDA does not require manufacturers to indicate Trans Fat on the nutrition facts label if it is less than 0.5g. Unfortunately, you then think you’re making a healthier choice because Trans Fat says 0g, meanwhile there is actually 0.4g and you choose to eat 3 servings, taking in 1.2g of Trans Fat. How the hell are you supposed to know if there is trans fat?? Here’s your keyword: partially hydrogenated oil.

Similarly, added sugars may be hiding in your food, as they will not be indicated on the nutrition facts label when less than 1g. Again, you will have to look to the ingredients label and look for *sugar* *corn syrup solids* *high fructose corn syrup* *honey* *dextrose* *glucose syrup* just to name “a few.”

Food for Thought #2. I’m going to bring this back to something I noted on Day 7. Stick with food that is closest to nature. The simpler your food, the better it is for your body. Or in other words, the less processing a food must go through, the better. Packaged food needs to be preserved so that it can last a long time. Some preserving ingredients can include salt, sugar, and nitrates or nitrites. You can also find fillers and dyes in highly processed foods. Altogether, the more processed a food, the more sugar, unhealthy fats, sodium, or possibly carcinogenic ingredients you will find.

Give your body some much needed love, and keep your intake of jarred, boxed, bagged, and frozen foods to a minimum! Sure, this might threaten your available time if you typically like the convenience of these foods, but remember that all things are temporary, embrace the adventure, and explore what other benefits are available to you on the other side!!

Let me know in the comments what chain-reaction thoughts you had with today’s health challenge!

Happy Thursday,
Alyssa

Hey – there is so much more to this, and I’d hate for you to feel confused, or lose steam, along your healthy changes journey. Sign up with Healthie today to keep your momentum propelling forward! You have worked hard, and you totally deserve it. First consultation is always free with no commitments necessary! Win-Win 😊