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Bring Back The “Thanks” in Thanksgiving

Photo: www.carbsmart.com

 

Two more days before the day of the turkey! I wish you all a wonderful holiday. This week my blog focuses on the holiday and next week I’ll wrap up the 3rd part of the “Beat The Battle of The Perfect “Sick” Storm” series concluding with the thymus, bone marrow and gut.

Bring back the “Thanks” in Thanksgiving Day. Just like many holidays, turkey day has evolved into an excuse to STUFF your face. The original celebration was much more meaningful than just sitting down to a dinner.

The first celebrated Thanksgiving Day in 1621 was a shared feast between the Plymouth colonists and the Wampanoag Indians.  The feast was a celebration of the bountiful harvest and what came to be a 50 year friendship between the two cultures. The Indians helped the pilgrims learn how to thrive in a land they were not equipped to survive; avoiding poisonous plants, harvesting corn and taking sap from trees.  Both groups contributed to the feast, the Indians brought deer and spices while the colonists contributed wild fowl,  vegetables (corn, lettuce, cabbage, onions, peas and carrots) and fruits (cranberries, blueberries, gooseberries, plums, grapes and raspberries).  Unlike our Thanksgiving celebrations of today, there was no pie because there was not enough sugar or any oven to bake it.

Who would have thought the original Thanksgiving would have been one that was low in sugar and carbs? Now sugar is certainly readily available and is a staple in most Thanksgiving recipes. If you want to make it more of a traditional Thanksgiving and cut back on the sugar and carbs, you may enjoy these recipes: http://lowcarbdiets.about.com/od/thanksgiving/a/thanksgivingdin.htmhttp://www.holdthetoast.com/taxonomy/term/5 or http://alldayidreamaboutfood.com/2013/11/30-delicious-low-carb-thanksgiving-recipes.html.

Today, there are not too many similarities and not much thought given in regards to the original feast and its roots.

It would be nice to keep this tradition and use Thanksgiving as a day to be thankful for what we have, no matter how much or how little; celebrate the cultural contributions, strengths and vitality from living in a country that is a “salad bowl” or melting pot, http://lajhsslab.com/peopling/people2.htm; and, paying it forward by helping others.

One of the most memorable Thanksgivings I have ever had was volunteering to make Thanksgiving a special event for seniors. A group of moms served the Thanksgiving meal and a school full of children helped out by providing the entertainment. We all (the kids, seniors and servers) had a great time. I blogged about it back in 2011, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2011/11/23/giving-thanks-thanksgiving/.

I got just as much from participating in this event if not more than the attendees. Making someone happy,  seeing the smiles on the faces of the children (being acknowledged for the good job they did)  and the seniors (who were just so appreciative of everyone’s efforts) and knowing how meaningful small acts of kindness can be to another human being or even an animal is second to none. And I mean, no Thanksgiving meal or gift, can compare to the gift of giving, especially if you can give your time and see the impact it has on others.

Let’s not forget what Thanksgiving is all about, get intoxicated off the feeling of giving and receiving thanks. There are no calories, no guilt, no regrets. Let’s bring back the meaning of the Thanksgiving holiday as a day of recognition for helping one another, working together as a society and then paying it forward.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving holiday and make it meaningful!

 
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Posted by on November 24, 2014 in Thanksgiving

 

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Beat The Battle of The Perfect “Sick” Storm (The Spleen Part 2)

http://www.livescience.com/26983-lymphatic-system.html

What do you think of when you hear about the immune system? I visualize the immune system as an army fighting to protect the body from alien invaders. But understanding the intricacies of the system is a little more complex. The truth is the immune system is a whole system of organs that work together to keep you healthy, http://www.nobelprize.org/educational/medicine/immunity/immune-detail.html. So if you are trying to dodge the getting sick “bullet” know that you must keep the whole system of organs in good condition.

What is important to know from a nutritional standpoint is:

  1. “One of the more damaging food components to our immune system is sugar. In one study, the ingestion of 100 gram (roughly 3-1/2 ounces) portions of carbohydrate as glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, and pasteurized orange juice all significantly reduced the ability of white blood cells (neutrophils) to engulf and destroy bacteria. In contrast, the ingestion of 100 grams of starch had no effect. These effects started within less than 30 minutes after ingestion and lasted for over 5 hours. Typically, there was at least a 50% reduction in neutrophil activity two hours after ingestion. Since neutrophils constitute 60-to-70% of the total circulating white blood cells, impairment of their activity leads to depressed immunity”, http://doctormurray.com/health-conditions/low-immune-function/.
  2. Proteins are an intricate part of the immune system aiding in the creation of antibodies, helping to strengthen cell walls and manufacture interferons (protein produced by the immune system in response to an infection).Eat adequate protein to help support this function.

Last week’s blog, “Beat The Battle of The Perfect “Sick” Storm”, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/11/10/beat-the-battle-of-the-perfect-sick-storm-skin-deep-part-1/, started this series and discussed the role of the skin as part of the immune system. Internally, it is the lymph system (spleen, thymus, lymph nodes containing lymphocytes which are white blood cells, gut and bone marrow) that protects you from getting sick and these organs will be addressed next.

Starting with the spleen (an organ you do not hear much about even though it is very important to the body’s defense system);  it is small, about the size of your fist, located in your stomach under the rib cage and above the kidney. The spleen is part of the lymph system (a network of organs that make up the immune system). It filters germs such as viruses, bacteria abnormal cells from the blood. When an invader is detected your spleen and lymph nodes, jump into action creating lymphocytes. Lymphocytes are white blood cells that produce antibodies in order to fend off infections.

Support Spleen Function:

  1. Eat small frequent meals consisting of warm foods and beverages like tea, soup and stews.
  2. Use herbs, spices and supplements: ginger (contains the enzyme zingibain an enzyme that can help strengthen the immune system), maitake mushrooms (or supplement with maitake D-fraction), black and chili pepper, basil, turmeric, cilantro, parsley, cardamom and cinnamon.
  3. Traditional Chinese Medicine suggests consuming onions, leeks, fennel and garlic to “help increase the body’s digestive fire”.
  4. 4. Select protein that may help to cleanse the spleen like fatty fish (salmon, sardines, halibut), beef, chicken, turkey or lamb.
  5. Beta carotene rich foods can also help give your immune system a boost: tomatoes, carrots, squash, spinach, broccoli, romaine lettuce, cantaloupe, pumpkin and peppers.

Three down: the skin, the spleen and the lymph; next week completes the immune series with the thymus, bone marrow and gut.

 
 

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Which Health Expert Eats The Best Breakfast?

 

Expert Breakfasts

Not all health experts eat what I consider to be a healthy breakfast. They may think they are setting a good example but I post this so you can see how your breakfast compares with the “experts” and determine who best represents “good eating”!

Please share your thoughts.
 
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Posted by on November 11, 2014 in breakfast, eating

 

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Beat The Battle of the Perfect “Sick” Storm (Skin Deep Part 1)

Why do you think most people get sick during the fall and winter months? More germs floating around than other times of the year? The cold temperature? Low immune system? The answer may not be so simple.

Getting sick stems from several factors that stir up the right storm and then wham you get ambushed with the flu, a cold or just plain feel awful as you try to fight off the bugs that invade you. Throughout this season,  lifestyle shifts into hyper mode with all the usual responsibilities and pressure of daily life plus the stress of the holidays.

There is little time to breathe forget about focus on yourself and being healthy. The build-up of holiday expectations, preparation and coordinating plans with family, adds to stress and contributes to less sleep and more nutrient-less eating and drinking. The “sick” storm is in gear.

Eating right, sleep and exercise all contribute to a healthy immune system. Stress, alcohol, and nutrient-less food takes a toll on an immune system that is being challenged with cold, flu and other respiratory bugs. The cold weather doesn’t help much either. During these health challenging months, beat the odds and keep your immune system strong and in fighting shape. The organs involved in supporting the immune system are: the skin, gut, spleen, thymus, bone marrow and lymph nodes.

Weighing in as the largest body organ (at about 8 pounds) and providing a physical barrier against germs is the skin.  As the body’s first line of protection it signals internal defenses, creates an environment that supports healthy bacteria while secreting anti-bacterial warriors that summon white blood cells to attack germ “invaders”.

During the winter months the skin can become dry and cracked weakening its protective ability. So keep skin moist with healthy lotions and skin “caring” foods, keeping in mind nutrients or toxic chemicals can be absorbed through both the skin and the gut.

Skin Deep Wellness

Use products that contain:

· Hyaluronic acid- found in the skins connective tissue, it is used to treat wrinkles.

· Retinol- a form of vitamin A  has proven to improve the skins hydration level and reduce fine lines and wrinkles.

· Ester C (PH neutral vitamin C)- stimulates collagen production which is important to anyone who is getting older because collagen decreases as you age. Vitamin C also helps to minimize fine lines and wrinkles.

·  Ceramides-  are fat molecules that help keep skin tight. They are found on the surface of the skin within the its’ cells and are active barriers to substances that try to infiltrate the skin while helping maintain skin hydration.

· Copper Peptide- increases the production of elastin and collagen helping to keep skin soft smooth and firm.

· Alpha Lipoic Acid- an antioxidant that helps prevent skin damage lessens wrinkles and boosts vitamin C levels.

Avoid skin and sunscreen products that contain toxic chemicals linked to cancer, hormone disruption, reproductive toxicity and many more health consequences:

·         Parabens

·         Phthalates

·         Triclosan

·         Toluene

·         Sodium lauryl sulfate (SLS)

 

There are more, check out this chart for details, http://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-5971/12-Toxic-Ingredients-to-AVOID-in-Cosmetics-Skin-Care-Products-Infographic.html

 Speak to a skin expert who can help you make the right choices for your particular skin needs.

Keeping skin, especially your hands and face,  hydrated and healthy during flu season will help you stay in a “sick free” zone but there is more. Next week learn how to feed your immune system and keep it strong from the inside out.

 

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30 Tactics To Maneuver Holiday Humps and Bumps (Part 2)

 

The next few months are filled with holiday parties, family gatherings and food galore. “30 Tactics To Maneuver Holiday Humps and Bumps” was created to help you survive the holiday season. The first 15 strategies, http://valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2014/10/20/30-tactics-to-maneuver-holiday-humps-and-bumps-part-1/, and the final 15 tactics should be exercised as needed on a daily basis starting now in order to avoid an avalanche of nutritional disaster during the holidays.

30 Tactics For Holiday Eating (16-30))

16. Stay well hydrated. Drink enough water and tea so your body has fluid on board to help metabolism and side track false hunger signals.

17. Identify and categorize foods into the “must-haves” or “have-nots”.

18. Maintain control, here are a few “how to” quick tips:  valerieberkowitz.wordpress.com/2012/11/19/three-holiday-tips-to-maintain-control-of-your-goal/.

19. Stay away from negative people who sabotage your plan.

20. Do not sabotage yourself, make everyday count. No excuses. Yes, one-day off the nutrition plan does not mean much but too much of that excuse, or any excuse, gets you absolutely no where.

21. Follow your feelings. Do not eat as a result of feeling sad or emotionally drained, there will only be  negative consequences as a result. Allow positive feelings like feelings of happiness, improved energy and controlled eating to guide your food choices.

22. Review previous eating or behavior strategies that worked, or did not work, in the past and analyze why you got that result.  If your strategy last year was to eat before a party to avoid hunger and you did not achieve your goal change the strategy.

23. Make the changes in strategies (mentioned from #22) into habits you adopt forever.

24. Boast and brag all you want. Make sure you do something positive each day so that you can talk about how well you are doing. It will get you positive feedback and support from your friends. It will also help you reinforce all the hard work and positive results for yourself.

25. Watch the clock and set specific eating times when you will allow yourself to eat. Try taking what you want to eat and holding on to it for a few minutes before eating it or until the end of a specified eating time. Allow the hors d’oeuvres to pass 2-3 times before taking your next.

26. Chat up a storm. It is difficult to talk and eat at the same time.

27. If you think you might go for seconds take 1/2 your portion as firsts.

28. Food appearance is as important as anything else in the food eating decision-making process so pick different and colorful foods to make your plate look so good no one would pass it up.

29. Do not dodge your nutritionist. I get so many cancellations right before the holidays. This is when you need the most support!

30. The party goes on without you. Do not feel like you have to attend every party you are invited to. If the same people are going to the same parties, you won’t miss much if you skip a party or two.

I hope these points are helpful. If you have used full proof strategies to your advantage and think it may help someone else through this difficult season, please share. Happy holidays and my sincerest hopes that you will emerge victorious, no matter what your goal(s) is over the slippery holiday slope ahead.

 
 

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A Halloween Candy Scare!

images

http://www.skinnymom.com/2014/10/10/hauntingly-healthy-halloween-treats/

Spooky, frightful, chilling party events, ghost stories and dress-up costumes are all part of Halloween fun but the party food and drink, trick or treating and left over candy can be the death of all us all!

Halloween is an Irish custom celebrated since the 1900’s.  It is considered the Celtic New Year  marking the end of summer and the beginning of autumn. Customary orange representing a bountiful harvest and the turning color of  leaves, while black   symbolizes the “death” of summer and the changing season.

While the cultural experience of Halloween like carving Jack-o-Lanterns, bobbing for apples  and medieval folklore are rooted in this holiday, if you are not too frightened to learn more about the scare of the holiday then dare to check this out, “13 Halloween Superstitions & Traditions Explained”, http://www.livescience.com/16677-halloween-superstitions-traditions.html.

It seems that these traditions have been tossed into the witches cauldron only giving way to a candy fest. More candy than you may want to believe. Second only  to Halloween costumes, it seems candy was the second-largest revenue generator increasing by almost 3% in 2013 to total $2.25 billion,  http://www.ibisworld.com/media/2013/10/14/halloween-sales-grow-slow-3-0-percent-2013/.

Halloween traditions are dying and it all boils down to dollars and cents, lots of candy and in the end an evening that haunts us forever with health and weight problems.

Don’t get me wrong a little bit of candy won’t kill you. But, if your Halloween events are anything like what I have experienced it includes tables full of cupcakes topped with creepy spiders, candy apples dripping in caramel and sprinkles, oh and yes the actual trick or treating that adds up to hundreds of thousands of sweet treats that look harmless but actually wreak havoc on blood sugar and insulin levels causing cravings,  leading to eating more, gaining weight and life-long health problems.

Whether eating a Reese’s peanut butter cup or fat-free licorice (see chart below) there is not much of a difference.  A nutrient-LESS treat that contains 100% sugar and carbs without any fat or a high in fat and high sugar junk food will both damages blood sugar and insulin balance.  The ingredients they both contain (i.e. corn syrup) still directly causes weight gain, spikes and dips in blood sugar, insulin surges and all the consequences that surround hormonal imbalance including mood swings, hunger, heart disease, diabetes, insulin resistance  and much more. So do NOT be fooled into thinking that fat-free is health consequence free.

  Reese’s peanut butter cup licorice
Calories 200 210
Carbohydrates (g) 24 46
Sugars (g) 21 29
Fat (g) 13 0

 

Use these tricks of the nutrition trade for your healthy Halloween:

  1. Be generous. Share your candy and even a toothbrush with the men and women who serve and protect our country. Operation gratitude helps spread the Halloween spirit by sending candy, tooth brushes and toothpaste to troops overseas. https://www.operationgratitude.com/wp-content/gallery/photos/album36/halloweencandygiveback_2011.jpg.
  2. Eat a large amount of healthy food and be full before the big party or before going trick or treating.
  3. If you are hosting, serve real food. Leave no room for lots of junk food.
  4. Plan to use non-food items and fill time with fun-filled activities as part of the Halloween festivities.
  • Hand out tattoos, spooky plastic rings, false teeth, stickers, bouncy balls and use them in a “funniest” costume contest.
  • Use small plastic spiders, mini-ghosts, or skeletons in a scavenger hunt. Don’t forget the Halloween-themed pencils and erasers for the check off list.
  1. Cut the sugar carbs and fat from junk and commercially prepared foods from your daily eating and drinking regimen for 1-2 weeks in preparation for October 31st.
  2. Revisit Halloween with a little tradition on fright night try: ghost stories or movies, bobbing for apples, carving pumpkins, pin the spider on the web.
  3. Instead of eating chocolate, use it for a facial!

Celebrate a healthy Halloween, take gluttonous candy eating out and put the tradition of spook back into fright night.

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2014 in holiday

 

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30 Tactics To Maneuver Holiday Humps and Bumps (Part 1)

 

Whether you are trying to lose weight or train for an athletic event, holidays, birthdays and “special” events can interfere with even the most dedicated dieters.  ‘Tis the 6-month season, (October-February) for parties, family and social events galore. Utilize this month to plan and get over holiday humps and bumps.

30 Tactics For Holiday Eating

  1. Honesty is the best policy. Plan a “stick to strategy” and be honest with yourself about your ability to stick with it despite temptation.
  2. Prioritize your “stick to strategy” plan. It must be up front and center in your mind all the time. Never let your goal out of sight or mind.
  3. Create a practical plan. It is up to you. Will you stay the course? Will you strategize “cheats” that you can manage and maintain your weight? Will opt for weight maintenance until the spring?
  4. Enlist support. If you have supporters, you will feel more comfortable and less stress when eating with family or friends during meals.
  5. Stick to your guns. You must physically be able to control your actions. This is where numbers 1, 2, 3 and 4 come together because unless you decide to control your actions, none of the above will work.
  6. Be Active. Never get too busy or lazy to stay active, especially during the next 6 months.
  7. Rest and de-stress.
  8. Pay attention to every little thing you put into your mouth.
  9. Convenience. Make healthy eating convenient. If it means eating salads from McDonald’s instead of French fries or keeping cut veggies in the fridge. Just do it. Make unhealthy eating as inconvenient as possible. Do not buy any food that is not on your plan, walk away from a cafeteria filled with junk and vending machines.
  10. Avoid hunger. Being hungry is the perfect excuse to eat what you shouldn’t.
  11. Daily motivation. What motivates you? A dress, a person. Identify what motivates you and get your daily dose no matter what.
  12. Just say, “No, thank you”. Practice avoiding foods or situations that you know are goal deterrents. Rehearse the scene in your mind. Practice saying, “No” out loud and in uncomfortable situations. You will prove to yourself it can be done.
  13. Enjoy the smell of flowers or any scent that may distract you from eating. Smells may be more satisfying than eating the actual food sometimes.
  14. It’s all about attitude. Positive attitude weighs heavily on success. You are not depriving yourself of anything but feeding yourself delicious foods you choose that will help you get what you really want.
  15. Choices, your choice to be honest with yourself, to maintain a positive attitude, to stick with the plan etc… will make or break this deal. Stick with choices that will help you attain your goals.

Start practicing these fifteen strategies now. There is no time to waste, the holidays are here. The next six months are filled with humps and bumps that will test your diet commitment and will power. Next week I will post a blog explaining what Halloween “boils” down to and how to make it little healthier. Then, I deliver the last 15 tactics on November 3rd.

 

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