Just Beet It for Improved Performance

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In the back of the produce section, hidden behind sections of beautiful bright, shiny vegetables, in an array of eye-popping Crayola-crayon colors, there’s an unassuming, misshapen dusty-looking vegetable that can catapult your training and support heart and artery health at the same time. Consider beets nature’s perfect sports and heart-friendly food wrapped up in one sweet, though unusual looking, package.

Beets are special because they contain more nitrates than their neighbors in the produce isle, green leafy vegetables including spinach, kale, celery and Swiss crest. When you eat nitrate-rich foods, thebacteria on your tongue convert about 20% of dietary nitrate cto nitrite, which enters the bloodstream where it is converted to a small signaling molecule called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide controls blood flow and many metabolic processes. Increased nitric oxide production causes blood vessels to expand, increasing blood flow to working muscles. Think of your blood vessels like a garden hose. If you can open that hose even wider, more water will flow through it. In terms of blood vessel expansion, “the increase in blood flow improves the delivery of oxygen and nutrients to active muscles, and the removal of metabolic by-products that can interfere with muscle contraction and have an adverse effect on performance. In addition to improving the delivery of glucose to the muscles through better blood flow, nitric oxide also increases glucose (sugar) uptake by the muscle cell,” states John Ivy, PhD, Professor Emeritus, Department of Kinesiology and Health Education, College of Education. Bloodglucose is a major source of fuel for working muscles.

But, the benefits of nitric oxide don’t stop there. It also expands airways, making breathing easier. In addition, our cells become more efficient at producing ATP, the fastest source of energy for muscle contraction. Greater ATP production translates to improved speed and explosive power. “Nutrients that we take in through our diet such as carbohydrates and fats are broken down and the energy released from the breakdown of these fuels is used to make ATP in the presences of oxygen. As nitric oxide levels increase, less oxygen is required to produce ATP reducing the oxygen cost of exercise,” says Ivy. And therefore, along with greater ATP production less energy is required to sustain the same level of effort while you are working out. And finally, nitric oxide may improve recovery between training sessions and allow you to exercise at a higher intensity before fatigue sets in.

Go Red for Heart Health

Dietary nitrates from beetroot juice and green leafy vegetables haveother, more profound, benefits for your body aside from affecting your training and sports performance. Consistent intake can help lower blood pressure andimprove blood vessel functioning. Research also shows dietary nitrates may improve artery health by decreasing inflammation, platelets clumping together (a step in the formation of blood clots) and artery stiffness (stiff arteries do not easily expand to accommodate increases in blood flow, which may occur when blood pressure increases). With aging we aren’t able to produce as much nitric oxide, which may make regular consumption of nitrate-rich foods even more important to support nitric oxide levels in the body.

Don’t Confuse Beets with Similar Sounding Compounds

Though beets and therefore beetroot juice, are nitric oxide boosters, you won’t want to confuse them with another nitric oxide booster – l-arginine. Beets and other nitrate-rich vegetables work through the nitrate-nitrite-NO pathway – one that functions when oxygen isn’t as readily available and therefore when you are sucking wind during an Orange Theory class or doing intervals while spinning. L-arginine works through a very different nitric oxide boosting pathway, one that requires the presence of enzymes and oxygen and therefore isn’t effective when you are exercising at a very high intensity.

Beets and other vegetables rich in dietary inorganic nitrate are also not the same as nitrite salts (typically sold over the internet), which can be harmful, even deadly in low doses. Also, organic nitrates and nitrites are totally different than the inorganic nitrates found in beets and green leafy vegetables. Organic nitrates and nitrites are potent vasodilators (substances that open blood vessels) found in the drugs nitroglycerine and amyl nitrite and should only be prescribed and used under the care of a medical doctor.

How Much is Enough?

Research studies show 16 oz. of beetroot juice (equivalent to approximately 300 – 500 mg nitrate) consumed daily, 3 hours before exercise, for a period of several days will effectively increase your body’s production of nitric oxide so you notice a benefit while training. According to a few research studies, single doses of beetroot juice won’t make a dent in your training.

If you are loading up on beets, keep in mind that you need the bacteria in your mouth to convert nitrates to nitrites, the very first step in nitric oxide production. If you use anti-bacterial mouthwash or antibiotics, you’ll kill both bad bacteria and good bacteria and therefore make significantly less nitrite. Of course you shouldn’t stop using a prescribed antibiotic without your physician’s consent but anti-bacterial mouthwash might be optional, talk to your dentist.

Keep in mind that the amount of dietary nitrateintake varies in beets (as well as other vegetables) based on growing conditions including the nitrate content of fertilizer used, the level of nitrate in the water supply, soil conditions, time of year and how the vegetables are stored. “There are commercial products on the market that are made from different vegetables that claim to have high nitrate, but they aren’t. Consumers need to do their homework if they are looking for a commercial source of dietary nitrate,” says Ivy.

Though vegetables rich in nitrates are considered safe for healthy individuals, they may turn your urine and stools red (don’t worry, this is harmless). However, anyone with pre-existing cardiovascular disease should of course tell their cardiologist about any dietary changes they plan to make since certain foods can interact with specific prescription drugs. For instance, while green leafy vegetables are rich in good nutrition and contain nitrates that are important for cardiovascular health, they contain a good amount of vitamin K, a nutrient that can interfere with some blood thinningmedications.

You can’t go wrong by picking up those oddly shaped red, yellow and orange bulb-looking veggies tucked away in back of your produce isle. Beets are a good source of the B vitamin folate and contain more dietary nitrates than any other vegetable. When consumed regularly they may improveyour training and also support cardiovascular health.

References
L-arginine. MedlinePlus.
Sports Medicine 2012;42(2): 99-117.
JISSN 2004;1(2):35-38.
FEBS Letters 1998;427;225-228.
Am J Clin Nutr 2009;1-10.
Nat Rev Drug Discov 2008;7(2):156-67.
Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology. 2005; 25: 915-922
Br J Clin Pharmacol 2013;75(3):677-96.
J Appl Physiol 2011;111(2):616-7.
IJESAB Conference Proceedings 2013;11(1)20.
Int J Sports Physiol Perform 2014;9(5):845-50.

Coffee – a Cup of Cancer?

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Brace yourself. Thanks to a court in California, your cup of coffee may soon come with a cancer warning. The potentially cancer-causing culprit in coffee is acrylamide. Though the court decision is not final yet, the news articles are both confusing and misleading. Acrylamide is far from unique to coffee. Plus, there are no convincing research studies that clearly show acrylamide causes cancer in humans.

Acrylamide and Cancer

The Food and Drug Administration considers acrylamide a health concern. The World Health Organization says acrylamide has the potential to cause cancer to humans. This does not mean it will cause cancer. Cancer is complex. Plus, in research studies, animals were given 1,000 to 10,000 times more acrylamide than the average person consumes each day! No studies to date show a clear increased risk of cancer in humans due to acrylamide. However, these studies have many limits including self-reported food intake (relying on people to remember how often they eat certain foods). According to the American Cancer Society, more studies are needed to evaluate how this compound is formed, how to decrease it and determine potential health risks.

Making matters more confusing, every person metabolizes acrylamide differently. Plus, animals and humans differ as well.

Sources of Acrylamide in Our Diet

Acrylamide forms during high heat cooking including frying, roasting and baking. Boiling and steaming do not typically form acrylamide. Grains and coffee are the foods & beverages that contain higher amounts of this compound. Dairy, meat and fish aren’t a concern. French fries and potato chips are the foods with the highest levels of acrylamide. From chip to chip or French fry to French fry the amount varies depending on how the food is cooked.

Blue Mesa Grill Sweet potato chips contain 16 times the amount of acrylamide as a single cup of Maxwell House original signature blend. Enjoy Rippin’ Good Ginger snap cookies and you’ll consume almost 4 times the amount of acrylamide compared to that cup of coffee from Maxwell House. Though cold brewing sounds like a solution, roasting coffee beans leads to acrylamide, not brewing at home. Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke are also routes to acrylamide intake. People who work in certain industries including construction, oil drilling, textiles, cosmetics food processing, mining, plastics and more may also be exposed to this compound.

For a list of acrylamide levels is in various foods click here.

Decreasing Your Exposure

Though there are a lot of unknowns and no studies to date that clearly indicate acrylamide contributes to or causes cancer, it makes sense to decrease exposure when possible and when it doing so doesn’t interfere with your enjoyment of food. Here’s how:

  • Eat a diet that emphasizes vegetables, fruits, lean meats, poultry, fish, beans, eggs, nuts and dairy.
  • Quit smoking and avoid secondhand smoke.
    Limit fried foods.
  • Boil or steam instead of baking and frying when possible.
  • Soak potato slices in water for 15 to 30 minutes (drain, blot dry with a paper towel) before baking them.
  • Cook your baked goods for a shorter period of time. Don’t burn your bread in the toaster, pull it out when it is light brown. Also, don’t char foods on the grill.

Learn more about other compounds formed during high heat cooking by clicking here.

References:
href=”http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/”>http://monographs.iarc.fr/ENG/Classification/
FDA CFSAN
American Cancer Society
Curr Drug Metab. 2016;17(4):317-26.

Peanut Butter Whey Protein Bites

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Protein Bites are easy to make and packed with good nutrition – including fiber and protein. Plus you can alter this recipe based on the flavor or texture you are looking for (see below for ideas). Here are two basic recipes:

Protein Bites

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1 cup Old Fashioned Oats (use quick oats for a smoother texture)
  • 1/2 cup whey protein (vanilla, chocolate or plain)

Change the flavor by adding any of the following:

  • Vanilla powder or sugar
  • 100% maple syrup instead of honey
  • Any nut or seed butter instead of peanut butter
  • coconut flakes
  • chocolate chips or cacao nibs
  • orange peel (use honey and walnut butter instead of peanut butter)
  • caramel

Decrease the sugar and calories by using part VitaFiber and part honey.

Directions
Add all ingredients to a KitchenAid mixer or other high powered mixer and blend until smooth. Shape into bars.

Almond Protein Bites

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cup almond butter
  • 3/4 cup whey
  • 3 Tbsp agave syrup

Directions:
Bake at 320°F for 30 minutes.

Here is a recipe I’ve been meaning to try (and add protein powder too) because it looks amazing: Margarita Energy Bites

Should You Try the Whole30 Diet?

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The Whole30 diet is like a weed wacker. Instead of pinpointing foods that could be causing skin issues, allergies, bloating, fatigue or other issues, Whole30 removes almost everything. It’s a classic elimination diet. Get rid of fried wings, potato chips and sweet tea and chances are you will lose weight and probably feel better. This isn’t rocket science. But, Whole30 won’t get rid of your nagging symptoms if they are due to food allergies or food sensitivities.

This blog post will cover:

  • What is the Whole30 diet?
  • Whole30 Nutrition Rules that Make no Sense
  • Who is this diet good for?
  • Who should avoid it?

What is the Whole30 Diet?

On the Whole30 diet you can eat meat, seafood, eggs, vegetables, natural fats, herbs spices and seasonings. They tell you not to eat anything you can’t pronounce (this rule defies nutrition logic). Also, you can’t eat the following for 30 days:

Sugar of any kind. Honey, maple syrup, table sugar etc. 

Artificial sweeteners. If you don’t have an adverse food reaction to these, there’s no reason to avoid them.

Alcohol. Okay, I’ve got nothing here. Alcohol isn’t good for you and it raises risk of hormone dependent cancers (like breast cancer) and stroke. 

Grains. Grains are an important source of fiber and vitamins and minerals.

Legumes. By the way, the healthiest people on earth eat lots of legumes! Legumes are full of fiber, protein, magnesium and other nutrients as well as plant compounds important for good health.

Dairy. There goes most of my protein in addition to calcium, vitamin D, magnesium and other nutrients.

This includes most of your grocery store.

Whole30 Nutrition Rules that Make No Sense

Stupid nutrition rules that have no scientific basis or purpose bother me. They really really bother me. Here are foods you can eat from Whole30 in blue and my feedback in black:

Ghee or clarified butter. Though clarified butter has less saturated fat than butter, it still has saturated fat. Liquid oils are a better option.

Fruit juice. This should say 100% fruit juice. Otherwise it may be flavored sugar water with no helpful plant compounds or vitamins.

Certain legumes. WT*. So they are randomly deciding which legumes are good for you? My eyes are rolling.

Coconut aminos. This is a substitute for soy sauce? I’d rather use GF soy sauce.

Iodized salt because it has sugar. I’m not sure what iodized salt they’re talking about because I’ve never seen one with sugar in it.

Who is this Diet Good for?

Someone who wants a challenge and a diet that is simple but not easy. Your choices are yes or no (mainly no). You won’t have to count points or log your food intake. It’s simple to grasp. However, it isn’t easy. You’ll end up cooking or assembling your own meals and avoiding many restaurants. Plus you might miss some of your favorite foods and dishes.

If you want a challenge and think you can stick to Whole30 for 30 days you may  notice you feel better. In fact, when people go on an elimination diet, or simply cut out certain foods for a while, and then they reintroduce these foods, they discover something that can change behavior moving forward. Fried foods make their bodies feel bad. A diet full of typical fast food makes them tired. Who wants to go back to feeling that way? It isn’t worth it.

If you have any symptoms related to food sensitivities or allergies these probably won’t go away. My top 2 food sensitivities are broccoli and carrots – 2 foods allowed on Whole30. Plus there are a number of ingredients that may be causing issues (some are in the coatings on medications or supplements). You need to get tested if you have potential symptoms related to food allergies or sensitivities and LEAP is the only food sensitivity test I recommend (more on this in an upcoming post).

What do you do after the 30 days? Whole30 is not a sustainable way of eating. They have a website devoted to reintroducing foods and maintaining healthy habits after you finish Whole30. Yet, every single person I know who has gone on this diet resumed their old eating habits as soon as the 30-day period was over. Whole30 doesn’t teach you how to live with donuts, sugar and fried foods. Their post diet guidelines tell you “no guilt, no shame” but their approach to food is full of guilt by labeling foods dirty and clean and talking about food as something one should control. When controlling one’s weight and food becomes obsessive, disordered eating or an eating disorder may result.

Who Should Avoid this Diet?

  • Yo-yo dieters
  • Those with a history of disordered eating or an eating disorder (including chronic overeating and bingeing)
  • Anyone interested in finding out the true cause of their migranes, IBS, hives, or inflammatory issues
  • Someone who loves food and often eats out with others

Bottom Line

You’ll probably feel better on this diet if your current diet isn’t full of healthy foods. In addition, if you are overweight, you will likely lose weight if you can follow this program for 30 days. That’s a big if after talking to more people today who “fell off” the diet after 5-10 days. Whole30 is an elimination diet. Elimination diets followed by reintroducing foods one-by-one may help determine foods that are causing certain issues. However, if you suspect you are having an adverse food reaction, quit looking for a needle in a haystack and get tested for allergies or sensitivities.

Whole30 cuts out  a number of healthy, nutrient-packed foods including legumes, grains and dairy. There is no reason to cut these out unless you have an allergy or sensitivity to one of them. Also, it is not a sustainable way to eat over a long period of time and lacks a sound transition plan back to a more normal way of eating.

Ketogenic Diets: Eating Fat Won’t Make You Thin

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Following a ketogenic diet will not guarantee weight loss. Producing a lot of ketones does not mean you are shredding body fat. Gulping down shots of olive oil or putting butter in your coffee won’t make you thin.

You must consume fewer calories than you need, over time, to lose body fat.

This blog post will cover:

  •  What is Ketosis?
  •  Eating fat Makes You Burn More Fat for Energy but…
  •  Who is this Diet Good For?
  •  Who Should Avoid the Ketogenic Diet

What is Ketosis?

Ketosis is a metabolic state that occurs when the body does not have enough carbohydrate or total calories for energy. As a result, more fat is burned to fuel the body’s energy demands. As fat (dietary fat from the food you eat or body fat) is used, ketones are formed. When a person is in ketosis, ketones can be used as a source of energy (1).  Being in ketosis or producing ketones is not the cause of weight loss. Instead it is the decrease in calories that leads to weight loss.

An in depth review of the ketogenic diet can be found here.

Eating Fat Makes You Burn More Fat for Energy but…

You use the macronutrients you eat for energy. Eat a high carbohydrate diet and you’ll use more carbohydrates for energy. Eat more fat and you’ll burn more fat (from your high fat diet) for energy. Using fat, from the coconut oil or butter you put your coffee, for energy is totally different than burning the fat on your body for energy. You must be in a caloric deficit for your body to use stored body fat for energy. Let’s say it’s 4 pm and you have eaten 1,000 calories so far today. But your daily needs, without exercise, are 2,300 calories per day. You are now using stored body fat for energy because you are in a calorie deficit (you haven’t eaten enough calories to cover your energy needs).

Can you lose weight on a ketogenic diet? Yes absolutely (2). However, from a purely scientific perspective, this is not the best diet for losing fat and maintaining or gaining muscle.

Research studies in humans show weight loss from a ketogenic diet is due to water, fat mass and muscle. Additionally, weight loss is likely due, in part, to limited food choices. After all, a stick of butter with drops of flavor and artificial sweeteners mixed in isn’t exactly something most people overeat at dessert time. No bread, rice, pasta, Oreos, Doritos, doughnuts, pizza… the list goes on and on. Another factor contributing to weight loss when on a ketogenic diet, at least for obese people, is a decrease in hunger over the short term. Research also shows on-going professional support is associated with greater weight loss when on a ketogenic diet (or any other diet) (3). Additionally, ramping up the protein in your diet and cutting calories alone (even if you aren’t following a ketogenic diet or you aren’t producing a ton of ketones) can improve body fat loss and help you maintain muscle.

Some studies report the ketogenic diet can have beneficial effects on cardiovascular disease risk factors while others show cholesterol and blood pressure increase. Why?  It depends what you were eating and what you are eating now. If your diet consisted of fried foods, French fries and alcohol and  you changed it to olive oil and salmon, I’m willing to bet your triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure will go down. If you were eating whole grains, legumes and salmon and started eating fatty red meat, butter and coconut oil, expect your cholesterol to shoot through the roof.

Aside from what you’re eating, weight loss has a huge effect on  cardiovascular disease risk factors. If you are over fat and you lose a lot of weight, blood pressure, cholesterol and other cardiovascular disease risk factors will likely improve. Regardless of what you eat. A diet full of Twinkies can be beneficial for heart health risk factors as long as you lose weight.  

Who is this Diet Good For?

The ketogenic diet effectively reduces the incidence and severity of seizures in epileptic patients resistant to medication. Ketogenic diets are being studied as potential therapeutic remedies for those with dementia and mental disorders. However, it s too soon to recommend these diets in patients with dementia or a mental disorder (4, 5).

As mentioned above, you can lose weight on this diet. If you love dietary fat, don’t like carbohydrate-rich foods and you are determined to try this diet, work with a MD and registered dietitian who are experts on ketogenic diets and have experience implementing these diets with their patients. There are many potential immediate and longer-term health consequences that may result following a ketogenic diet. These can be decreased or avoided when you follow the expert advice of a MD and RD.

Who Should Avoid the Ketogenic Diet?

This is not an easy diet to stick with. Anyone who is not going to take the time to plan it according to the directions of a RD (again, one who has worked with this diet; likely an outpatient RD who works with epileptic patients) should avoid trying a ketogenic diet. Also, anyone with a disease state or on medication should avoid it unless they talk to their MD first. Those with eating disorders or disordered eating, strength and power athletes as well as athletes engaged in high intensity sports should skip over ketogenic diets. There are better ways to lose fat and fuel your activity.

 

References

1 Wheless JW. History of the ketogenic diet. Epilepsia 2008;49 Suppl 8:3-5.

2 Bueno NB, de Melo IS, de Oliveira SL, da Rocha Ataide T. Very-low-carbohydrate ketogenic diet v. low-fat diet for long-term weight loss: a meta-analysis of randomised controlled trials. Br J Nutr 2013;110(7):1178-87.

3 Kosinski C, Jornayvaz FR. Effects of Ketogenic Diets on Cardiovascular Risk Factors: Evidence from Animal and Human Studies. Nutrients 2017; 9(5): 517.

4 Bostock ECS, Kirkby KC, Taylor BVM. The Current Status of the Ketogenic Diet in Psychiatry. Front Psychiatry 2017; 8: 43.

5 Gasior M, Rogawski MA, Hartmana AL. Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet. Behav Pharmacol 2006; 17(5-6): 431–439.

 

All Weight Loss Diets Work

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Every single weight loss diet works, if you follow it. All diets help you eat fewer calories so you lose weight. So how do you choose one that is right for you? Ignore the hype from your friend who lost 20 pounds. There is no one “best” diet. Pick one you can stay on.

Research shows the #1 factor that determines weight loss success and keeping the weight off: sticking to the plan

Weight Loss Diets

While cutting calories is the key, some diets aren’t nutritionally sound or socially convenient. Over the next few days I will explore the pluses and minuses of popular diets and help you examine if you really need to be on a diet. In the meantime, here’s a brief lowdown on each:

  • They are a one-size-fits-all cookie cutter approach. Getting your clothes tailored ensures the best fit. Likewise, tailoring a diet to suit your needs ensures it will better suit you. After all, cookie cutters are good for one thing only, cutting cookies.
  • Elimination diets take decision making out of the equation.  Making decisions is emotionally draining. The ketogenic diet, Whole 30, raw food diet, and low carbohydrate diet are “eat this, not that” approaches. The decision is either yes or no. There’s no measuring, counting or weighing. There’s no split second indecision wondering if you can have just a small piece of cake and walk away.
  • Counting keeps you accountable.  Weight Watchers, myfitnesspal (and other apps), meal plans and IIFYM (if it fits your macros) all involve counting. Though calorie counting is not 100% precise (more on this later this week), counting keeps a person accountable. After all, you can’t claim your metabolism is slow when your food log shows 2 hotdogs, bags of chips and beer.

All diets require some effort. After all, you can’t keep doing what you are doing now and expect different results. The key is finding the one that is easiest for you. Stay tuned….

The Chocolate Taste You Love with Added Health Benefits

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#AD: Dark chocolate has been sold as a health food for years. Even I wanted to believe this. Unfortunately, not all chocolate is created equally. In this video I share the lowdown on the health benefits of cocoa, including the beneficial plant-based nutrients known as cocoa flavanols, which can be found in @CocoaVia cocoa extract supplement. I’ll show you what to look for and how you can get that deep dark chocolate taste and health benefits with CocoaVia-inspired recipes. For more recipe inspiration, visit CocoaVia.

10 Superfoods for Better Health and More Energy

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Superfoods are full of good nutrition. They are important for health and well-being. Everyone knows about salmon for heart and muscle health and blueberries for your brain. So I skipped over these and included 10 other foods you should include in your diet:

Kefir

Kefir is a tangy cultured milk product made by fermenting milk with several bacteria and yeasts. Kefir tops the list of superfoods because it is rich in beneficial bacteria called probiotics. Probiotics are good for gut and immune health. Kefir is an excellence source of calcium and vitamin D for bone health and several B vitamins (your energy vitamins). Opt for plain kefir or mix a little flavored kefir (generally high in added sugars) with plain kefir for great taste but less sugar. If you are lactose intolerant kefir is easier on the stomach because enzymes in the bacteria help break down lactose.

Other Options: Though most yogurts don’t contain the wide variety and number of probiotics as kefir, they are a great option as well. Other probiotic-rich foods include: unpasteurized sauerkraut, miso soup, naturally fermented pickles, and good quality sourdough bread.

Beets

Beets come in brilliant shades of dark red, yellow and orange and have a nice sweet earthy flavor. They are a good source of potassium for nerve and muscle functioning as well as healthy blood pressure. Beets are also a good source of vitamin C and fiber. Beets have more nitrates than most other foods. Nitrates help the body make nitric oxide, a gas that expands blood vessels to make room for greater blood flow. Regular intake of high nitrate foods can help lower blood pressure and improve blood vessel functioning. If you drink 16 oz. of beetroot juice (containing 300-500 mg of nitrates) 2.5 – 3 hours before you hit the gym, you may notice a bump in energy thanks to greater blood flow to working muscles. There’s one caveat: antibacterial mouthwash kills the good bacteria in your mouth. This bacteria is needed for the first step in nitric oxide production. Some research suggests antibacterial mouthwash may increase blood pressure and raise heart disease risk.

Other Options: Celery, argula, spinach are good sources of nitrates.

Ginger

Ginger soothes an upset stomach and helps ease symptoms of motion sickness. Make ginger a regular part of your diet and you’ll also benefit from its ability to decrease muscle soreness after tough bouts of exercise.

Other options: Combat excess muscle soreness with tart cherry juice.

Sunflower seeds

One serving of sunflower seeds will help you meet one-half of your daily vitamin E needs – a nutrient that most Americans aren’t consuming in recommended amounts. Vitamin E protects your cell membranes (including muscle cells) from damage, supports immune functioning and helps expand blood vessels to accommodate greater blood flow. Vitamin E deprived muscle cell membranes do not heal properly yet a healthy balance is important. Get enough, but not too much, of this vitamin as both deficiency and excess may impair your training gains. Plus, more than recommended amounts will not improve athletic performance.

Other Options: Snack on almonds, pine nuts, and peanuts to help you meet your vitamin E needs.

Pumpkin seeds

Pumpkin seeds are one of the best sources of magnesium, a mineral that is so widely under-consumed. Magnesium keeps muscles and nerves functioning properly and is also necessary for your body to produce energy. Pumpkin seeds are also an excellent source of zinc, a mineral important for immune health and wound healing.

Other options: Sesame seeds and Brazil nuts are also excellent sources of magnesium. For a magnesium-packed meal, brush firm tofu (also a source of magnesium) with sesame oil and coat with sesame seeds before stir-frying.

Olive Oil

Olive oil is a staple in Italy and Spain where the Mediterranean Diet is associated with reduced risk of cardiovascular disease, cancer and improved brain health. Replacing dietary saturated fats, such as butter or shortening, with olive oil may help reduce risk of coronary heart disease. Replacing other cooking oils with olive oil may help lower blood pressure and improve blood cholesterol. Use olive oil in moderation, because it is high in calories. There are some sketchy companies out there who mix cheaper quality oils with olive oil to lower their costs. Make sure you’re getting good quality olive oil by looking for a seal of approval from the USDA Quality Monitoring Program or the North American Olive Oil Association (NOOA).

Other Options: For baking, cooking, stirfrying and other high heat cooking, consider almond, hazelnut, peanut, or pecan oil.

Garlic

Garlic adds favor without calories. When used in a marinade or added to beef, fish, chicken or turkey patties, garlic helps limit the formation of nasty compounds that cause cancer in animals, heterocyclic amines (HCAs). HCAs are formed when your protein-rich food is cooked. High dry heat leads to more HCAs formed so make sure you add garlic to any meat, poultry or fish you throw on the grill or in the smoker.

Other Options: Rosemary and Caribbean spices also decrease HCA formation.

Dark Chocolate, one of the Ultimate Superfoods?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could bite into a rich, smooth, dark piece of chocolate with complete confidence that you were doing something good for your body? Dark chocolate is made from cocoa powder – the defatted powder from cacao beans. Cocoa powder contains flavanols, a group of antioxidants responsible for the association between dark chocolate and lower blood pressure. Unfortunately you can’t rely on the percentage of cocoa or cacao in a bar as an indicator of total flavanol content. Here’s your best option for  getting that dark chocolate taste you are craving and health benefits as well.

Tempeh

In your local grocery store, tucked in a remote refrigerator between tofu and non-dairy “cheese,” you’ll find long, thin light brown colored sheets of tempeh. Tempeh is fermented soybeans. Unlike tofu, tempeh includes the whole soybean so it is higher in protein, fiber, and vitamins. Tempeh is also an excellent source of iron (for oxygen delivery throughout your body), magnesium and vitamin B-6 (an energy vitamin) and good source of calcium.

Tempeh has a firm, chewy texture and slightly earthy, bean-like taste. Replace deli meat with tempeh, try it sautéed in sesame oil and garlic, grilled or served on top of salad.

Other options: Pick up plan or flavored tofu.

Green peas

Green peas are so ordinary. Why did I add them to the list of superfoods? Green peas are an excellent source of fiber and vitamin C, good source of vitamin A (important for your eyes and a “nutrient of concern”) and also contain decent amount of magnesium, vitamin B6, folate (a “nutrient of concern,” folate helps build healthy new cells and prevents some birth defects) and iron. Look for pea protein in bars and protein powders. It boosts a leucine (the key amino acid that turns on muscle building and repair) content equivalent to whey protein and will give you the same muscle-building results as whey protein.

Try peas in multiple forms including pea protein powder, split pea soup and peas mixed into burritos, wraps, in other dishes. Add peas to your rice pilaf, pasta dish, casserole, or stew.

Other Options: Consider yellow whole or split peas. They have a similar nutrition profile to green peas.

Superfoods add vitamins, minerals, fiber and plant compounds important for good health. They support your daily energy needs while improving your overall health.

References

Balk E, Chung M, Lichtenstein A, et al. Effects of Omega-3 Fatty Acids on Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Intermediate Markers of Cardiovascular Disease. Summary, Evidence Report/Technology Assessment: Number 93. AHRQ Publication Number 04-E010-1, March 2004. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, Rockville, MD.

Kromhout D, Bosschieter EB, de Lezenne Coulander C. The inverse relation between fish consumption and 20-year mortality from coronary heart disease. N Engl J Med 1985;312:1205–1209.

Kromhout D, Feskens EJ, Bowles CH. The protective effect of a small amount of fish on coronary heart disease mortality in an elderly population. Int J Epidemiol 1995;24:340–345.

Mozaffarian D, Rimm EB. Fish intake, contaminants, and human health: evaluating the risks and the benefits. JAMA 2006;296(15):1885-99.

Ahmet I, Spangler E, Shukitt-Hale B, et al. Blueberry-enriched diet protects rat heart from ischemic damage. PLoS One. 2009; 4: e5954. PloS ONE 2009, 4:e5954.

Malin DH, Lee DR, Goyarzu P, Chang Y, Ennis LJ, Beckett E, Shukitt-Hale B, Joseph JA. Short-term blueberry-enriched diet prevents and reverses object recognition memory loss in aging rats. Nutr 2011;27:338-342.

Krikorian R, Shidler MD, Nash TA, et al. Blueberry supplementation improves memory in older adults. J Agric Food Chem 2010, 58:3996-4000.

Davis C, Bryan J, Hodgson J, Murphy K. Definition of the Mediterranean Diet; a Literature Review. Nutrients 2015;7(11):9139-53.

Food Labeling, Summary of Qualified Health Claims Subject to Enforcement Discretion. Food and Drug Administration.

Fernandez-Janne E et al. Risk of first non-fatal myocardial infarction negatively associated with olive oil consumption: a case-control study in Spain. Int J Epidemiol. 2002 Apr;31(2):474-80.

Rozati M, Barnett J, Wu D et al. Cardio-metabolic and immunological impacts of extra virgin olive oil consumption in overweight and obese older adults: a randomized controlled trial. Nutr Metab 2015,12:28.

Grassi D, Necozione S, Lippi C, et al. Cocoa reduces blood pressure and insulin resistance and improves endothelium-dependent vasodilation in hypertensives. Hypertension 2005, 46(2):398-405.

Hooper L, Kroon PA, Rimm EB, et al. Flavonoids, flavonoid-rich foods, and cardiovascular risk: a meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Am J Clin Nutr 2008;88(1):38-50.

Mastroiacovo D, Kwik-Uribe C, Grassi D et al. Cocoa flavanol consumption improves cognitive function, blood pressure control, and metabolic profile in elderly subjects: the Cocoa, Cognition, and Aging (CoCoA) Study—a randomized controlled trial.. Am J Clin Nutr 2014.

Miller KB, Hurst WJ, Payne MJ et al. Impact of alkalization on the antioxidant and flavanol content of commercial cocoa powders. J Agric Food Chem 2008, 56(18):8527-33.

Product Review: Cocoa powders, dark chocolate, extracts, nibs and supplements – sources of flavanols. ConsumerLab.com

U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service. 2012. Total Nutrient Intakes: Percent Reporting and Mean Amounts of Selected Vitamins and Minerals from Food and Dietary Supplements, by Family Income (as ! of Federal Poverty Threshold) and Age, What We Eat in America, NHANES 2009-2010. Available: www.ars.usda.gov/ba/bhnrc/fsrg.

Powers SK, Jackson MJ. Exercise-induced oxidative stress: cellular mechanisms and impact on muscle force production. Physiol Rev 2008, 88(4):1243-76.

Sharman IM, Down MG, Norgan NG. The effects of vitamin E on physiological function and athletic performance of trained swimmers. J Sports Med Phys Fitness 1976;16:215–225.

Institute of Medicine (IOM). Food and Nutrition Board. Dietary Reference Intakes: Calcium, Phosphorus, Magnesium, Vitamin D and Fluoride. Washington, DC: National Academy Press, 1997.

Smith JS, Ameri F, Gadgil P. Effect of marinades on the formation of heterocyclic amines in grilled beef steaks. J Food Sci 2008, 73(6):T100-5.

Notice of GRAS Exemption – Pea Protein as a Food Ingredient http://www.fda.gov/downloads/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/NoticeInventory/ucm464894.pdf

Babault N, Paizis C, Deley G et al. Pea proteins oral supplementation promotes muscle thickness gains during resistance training: a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial vs. whey protein. JISSN 2015, 12:3.

Peas Commodity Fact Sheet. https://www.usaid.gov/what-we-do/agriculture-and-food-security/food-assistance/resources/peas-commodity-fact-sheet

 

 

 

 

 

CocoaVia® Chocolate Orange Protein Shake

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If you love the combination of chocolate and orange, you’ll want to dive into this shake! It satisfies chocolate cravings while supporting healthy blood flow, thanks to the cocoa flavanols in CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement. Cocoa flavanols are the beneficial plant-based nutrients found naturally in cocoa. Cocoa flavanols work with your body to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps maintain the healthy flow of oxygen and nutrients to vital organs, muscles and tissues throughout your body, helping you perform your best. Promoting a healthy cardiovascular system is essential to helping you maintain who you are for years to come.

Enjoy!

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CocoaVia® Chocolate Orange Shake
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Prep Time 5 minutes
Servings
Instructions
  1. Directions Add soymilk followed by remaining ingredients. Blend well.
Recipe Notes

chocolate shake

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For more information on CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement and other recipes, visit www.CocoaVia.com.

Is Dark Chocolate Healthy? No, but Cocoa Flavanols Are!

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This post is sponsored by CocoaVia® Brand. chocolate and cocoa flavanols

A dark rich chocolate brownie or smooth, creamy chocolate bar tastes even sweeter when you know it is good for you. After all, chocolate is full of healthy compounds right? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. In its native state, the cocoa bean contains a mixture of compounds that may be beneficial to your health. Processing cocoa beans into cocoa powder or your favorite sweet treat destroys most of these helpful compounds.

Percent Cacao Means Nothing

You can forget choosing dark chocolate based on how bitter or dark it is. The benefits of chocolate come from cocoa flavanols, not from the percent cacao or the darkness of the chocolate. Cocoa flavanols are the beneficial plant-based nutrients (phytonutrients) naturally found in cocoa. No other food on Earth can match cocoa’s unique blend of flavanols. Cocoa flavanols work with your body to maintain healthy levels of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps maintain the healthy flow of oxygen and nutrients to all parts of your body. Supporting healthy blood flow is essential to helping you maintain who you are for years to come. In fact, our entire bodies, including our heart, brain, and muscles, depend on healthy blood flow, which helps us feel and perform our best.

How can I Choose Dark Chocolate Rich in Beneficial Compounds?

Don’t look for health benefits from dark chocolate . Most chocolate isn’t nearly as healthy as you may believe. It takes approximately four average dark chocolate bars (more than 700 calories) to get the same amount of cocoa flavanols as you get in a single serving of CocoaVia® cocoa extract supplement. So enjoy chocolate – in moderation, as your sweet treat, but not as your daily source of cocoa flavanols!

CocoaVia Cocoa Flavanols

So if chocolate isn’t a reliable source of flavanols, how about cocoa powder? Unfortunately, most cocoa powders aren’t much better. With no added sugars, less fat, and more fiber than typical chocolate, cocoa powder can be a better option for getting a chocolatey experience. However, cocoa powder might not be a reliable way to get your flavanols. Cocoa flavanols are typically destroyed when cocoa is processed. Any cocoa powder that is Dutched or alkalized contains significantly fewer cocoa flavanols.

Taste Plus Health Benefits

To take the guess work out, you can try CocoaVia®. CocoaVia® cocoa extra supplement delivers the highest concentration of cocoa flavanols in a cocoa extract supplement today – 375mg per serving – . and numerous scientific studies have demonstrated these flavanols promote healthy blood flow from head to toe.

It’s easy to start your day with CocoaVia® supplement. Add one delicious powdered stick pack to the beverage or food of your choice. For more information on CocoaVia® supplement, which is supported by more than two decades of scientific research, visit www.CocoaVia.com. I often start my day with a peanut butter chocolate shake. I mix one stick pack of CocoaVia® Unsweetened Dark Chocolate supplement into my morning smoothie with peanut powder, ice and milk.

 

†The Food and Drug Administration has not evaluated this statement. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.