26 September 2012

Questions about salt answered.

I never really thought much about salt.  I knew too much was bad (for your heart and fluid retention), but how much was good?  What foods supply it?  How much can you add at the table?  What does a craving mean?  Here’s what I found:

The daily recommended allowance for sodium is 2300 mg (only 1500 mg if you are over the age of 50 or have other health concerns).  This amount can naturally be found in whole foods that you eat in a single day, excessively in processed foods including lunchmeat and frozen meals.

How quickly you can get 1914 mg* in one day?  
Breakfast (255 mg): glass of grapefruit juice, 10 mg + 1 cup of multi-grain cheerios, 120 mg + 1 cup of skim milk, 125 mg. 
Snack (244 mg): granola bar, 65 mg + Babybel cheese, 179 mg
Lunch (585 mg): 1 slice of wheat bread, 160 mg (320 mg in a sandwich) + 2 Tbsp peanut butter, 140 mg + jelly, 10 mg + 13 potato chips, 115 mg (apple = 0)
Snack (350 mg): 2 Tbsp humus, 130 mg + 9 pita chip/crackers, 220 mg
Dinner (480 mg): (whole grain spaghetti = 0) + ½ cup spaghetti sauce from a jar, 480 mg (vegetable = 0)

*This assumes you eat the printed manufacturer serving size. 
If you do add salt for flavor, keep in mind 1 tsp = your total daily allowance (2300 mg).

What’s good about salt?  Sodium is one of three primary electrolytes (potassium and chloride being the other two) that move nutrients to cells, and waste from them.  But too much of a good thing can tip things out of balance to the point of being unhealthy.  http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/sodium/NU00284             

What causes cravings?  Many times it’s simply the result of habit.  If you consume lots of sodium (hidden in foods or added with a shake) your taste buds will become accustomed to the flavor.  Other times, you may need to replace levels you’ve sweat out due to hot weather or exercise.  But sometimes, a craving can be a sign of a hormonal insufficiency or adrenal fatigue which should be discussed with your doctor.  http://www.livestrong.com/article/459071-adrenal-glands-fatigue-salt-cravings/    

01 September 2012

Nutrition Facts when you find yourself at McDonald’s

I was out running errands all afternoon, by 2:00p I was hungry and my blood sugar level was crashing.  Begrudgingly, I swung in McDonald’s drive thru on my way home, and ordered their Filet-O-Fish sandwich.   I hoped it was a healthier option than their Cheeseburger.  It was fish after all, right?  Well ... 

The Filet-O-Fish sandwich is 380 calories (25% of those calories from the tartar sauce).  That’s actually higher than their Cheeseburger, Grilled Chicken Sandwich, and Honey Mustard (chicken) Snack Wrap.  It’s higher than all of the above in total grams of fat (only the Cheeseburger was higher in %DV of saturated fat).  

The fish sandwich (made with pollock) was lowest in sodium, although still high (25% DV) which I guess is expected for a processed food.  The protein value was on par with the Cheeseburger and Snack Wrap, but you can get twice that with a Grilled Chicken Sandwich or Grilled Chicken Salad.  Their Salad contained half the calories, twice the protein and delivered loads more Vitamin A and C.

Total fat
Saturated fat
Vitamin A
Vitamin C
19% DV
2% DV
0% DV
15% DV
15% DV
Grilled Chicken Sand
Honey Mustard Snack Wrap (grilled)
Caesar Salad w/ grilled Chicken

"Food for thought" the next time you are in a rush and need to grab a bite on the go.  Click here for McDonald’s full menu nutrition chart.

03 August 2012

Yoga for Tension Headache

While on vacation, just after putting the kids to bed, I could feel a tension headache tightening up.  A line of pain strained up from my right shoulder blade, along the back of my neck to behind my right eye.  These headaches can last 4 hours and sometimes cause “eye spots” in my vision.  

I was sharing a double bed with a child in a one-room lodge in the middle of Yellowstone National Park.  To relieve the pain as quietly as I could, I found some space on the floor and ran through a few repeats of the Sun Salutation asana, which includes a few poses recommended to help release tension headaches:
  • ·         Upward & Downward Dog
  • ·         Forward Bend
  • ·         Mountain Pose
When I got home and had internet access again, I found six more favorite poses that help relieve tension in the neck, upper back and chest:
  1. Child’s Pose (with arms extended)
  2. Bridge (arms clasped underneath)
  3. Seated Twist http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/485 
  4. Upward Plank (opens chest)
  5. Eagle Arms (stretches shoulder blades) http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/785            
  6. Gomukhasana Arms (relaxes shoulders) http://www.yogajournal.com/poses/689         
I finally rested in Savasana (Corpse Pose) and fell asleep ... relief.

11 July 2012

Exercising at Higher Elevation

We are approaching a 2-week trip to the West Coast and Yellowstone National Park, and I'm looking forward to fresh wild Salmon from Pike Place Market in Seattle and trail hikes at YNP in Wyoming.  Fortunately, running and yoga are two activities that are easily portable, although we do need to compensate for higher elevation at Yellowstone.  

Cleveland has an average elevation of 700ft, Seattle ~ 500ft (unless you’re at the shore, sea level) and Yellowstone averages 5,000ft.  At higher altitudes, Oxygen is thinner and someone coming from lower altitudes will experience faster breathing and a faster heart rate when exercising to pump sufficient oxygen through the body.   

It takes a few days for blood volume to decrease and a body to acclimate, but even longer before performance levels will be regained.  After several weeks, heart rate and exertion level will be near normal but speed won’t have caught up yet.  That just takes time.

To avoid altitude illness, which can occur above 2500 ft. and is exasperated with exertion, a diet high in carbohydrates, low in salt and high in non-alcoholic fluids will aid in adapting.  It’s recommended to:
  • wait a couple of days upon arrival to let the body adjust before exercising (especially outdoors), 
  • take it slow when you start, 
  • know the signs of altitude illness (headaches, nausea, dizziness, fatigue) and 
  • bring a buddy in case you do have issues.

18 June 2012

What is Your Exercise Personality?

Do you know people who love to run, but haven’t taken an exercise class since Jazzercise first made the scene?  Know someone who tried kick boxing, hot yoga, kettle ball, TRX suspension training and every new exercise program introduced?  Turns out, there is a correlation between personality and the type of exercise a person is likely to enjoy.  

Type A people gravitate toward competitive exercise like running.  Type B personalities like team sports like baseball.  A person’s internal drive, discipline, and personal intensity can factor into which activity sticks.   Even the 16 personality types of Myers-Briggs have been applied to exercise personalities in the book The 8 Colors of Fitness by Suzanne Brue http://the8colorsoffitness.com/book/

Out of curiosity, and nerdiness, I compiled the responses to a question posted on RunnersWorld’s Community Forum which asked runners to submit their MBTI.   In that sample, more runners were Introverts than Extroverts by 2:1.  More were Intuitive (dreamers) than Sensing (realists) by 3:1.  There were equal numbers of Thinkers (logical) as Feelers (tenderhearted).  And Judging (structured) personalities heavily outweighed Perceivers (go-with-the-flow) by 5:1. 

Does it matter?  Not to determine athletic performance, but research shows if you enjoy an exercise/activity then you are more likely to make it part of your lifestyle.  And for long term health, an active lifestyle is more important to establish than pushing for a 30-minute workout every day for a year.  You don’t have to run 5 miles a day or take an aerobics class, like a Physical Fitness (gym rat) personality would.  Michael Bracko, Exercise Physiologist, identifies three other fitness types:  1- Functional (the gardener) 2- Health related (heart patient) and 3 - Recreational Athlete (tennis player)  http://www.rodale.com/exercise-personality?page=0,0                

For kicks, find your exercise personality and live a fit life:

07 June 2012

A Summary on Organic

With recent talk about pink slime (processed meat by-product) and The Dirty Dozen, we wanted to dig into the subject of Organic food.  What is it?  What are the benefits of eating organic, and the risks of not?  Which foods are worst?

Definition. Organic food is that which is grown without the use of synthetic pesticides or chemical fertilizers, nor chemically altered in process.  With respect to meat, that includes animals free of antibiotics or growth hormones.  For an organic stamp, food in the US must be 95+% organic in composition.  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Organic_food''

There has been no proof that organic food is superior in taste or nutrition, and there’s question as to the harmful effect of eating trace amounts of pesticides, which are deemed allowable by the USDA. In fact, several of the published reasons to go organic are to protect the environment.  And even that is now debated as organic goes mass market.  http://www.organic.org/articles/showarticle/article-206
Still many people searching for organic foods want to reduce their cumulative exposure with concern of cancer, and in particular pregnant women and parents of young children where allowable amounts are a concern for developing bodies.  http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/JustOneThing/organic-nonorganic-buy/story?id=13310727#.T9AAMcUrqSo
In summary, go organic when you can.  Shop local farms, or look for certified labels in supermarket, but don’t knock yourself out if you can’t be 100% organic.  We take the same stance as we do with whole food, educate yourself and make reasonable changes in your diet to move the dial in the right direction.  Note: In the off-season when more fresh produce is imported, be diligent looking at where the food is coming from, different countries have different standards.  (The Wikipedia link above touches on specific country practices.)

To help you decide what foods to focus on, here are two lists:

“The Dirty Dozen” is a quick list, produced by Environmental Working Group, of foods ranked with the highest pesticide content as reported by the Dept of Agriculture.  The dirty dozen generally includes fruit and vegetables (tree fruits, berries, leafy greens).  More recently the list includes meat and dairy due to chemical additives/hormones and fat content.  For the full list, click here http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/dirty-dozen-foods#fbIndex1

“The Clean 15”, deemed by The Daily Green as "so clean of pesticides you don’t have to buy organic”, include fruit and vegetables many with a thick skin which isn’t eaten such as cantaloupe, watermelon, pineapple, corn, etc.  For the full list, click here http://www.thedailygreen.com/healthy-eating/eat-safe/clean-15-foods-2011#fbIndex20

More Sources:
"Understand Organic Food Labels, Benefits, and Claims" http://www.helpguide.org/life/organic_foods_pesticides_gmo.htm