Peanut Butter Goodness…

Filed under :Food Hypes, Health promoting

A food paste or spread made by grinding roasted peanuts (as the dictionary defines it). It is know to have a relatively high level of fat and consequently is a high calorie food. It’s important to remember though that it provides protein, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium, potassium, and other micronutrients!

I believe that every person has one food obsession (some may have more than one ;)) Peanut butter is my little secret. When I heard that one of my favorite trainers also has a small affair with this creamy (or chunky) treat, I had to dedicate a post to it.  In our workouts my trainer would tell us her stories and encounters with peanut butter which I find to be very amusing…

Even though it’s high content of saturated fats, peanut butter is considered to be a relatively healthy food.  There has been some research done on peanuts and peanut butter which I found to be very interesting and would like to share some of the information with you.

Numerous clinical trials suggest that nut consumption promotes little or no weight gain.  This has been replicated with peanuts, almonds, pecans, walnuts, and macadamia nuts. This may be due to its strong satiety properties, and evoke strong energy compensation.

One study showed that there is limited bio-accessibility of the peanuts due to inefficient mastication and digestion.  This loss of energy likely contributes to the less than predicted effect of nut consumption on body weight (International Journal of Obesity, 2008).

Peanut butter contains fiber that helps regulate blood sugars levels (It is a low glycemic food), proteins are present in relatively high amounts (about 24% in weight), together with very important micro-nutrients such as Vitamin E – a powerful antioxidant, Vitamin B3 – helps in recovery of cell DNA damage, magnesium, and potassium.  Now about its fat content…Over 80% of the fat in peanut butter is unsaturated, which is heart healthy and, as with all plant foods, peanut butter contains no cholesterol!

The peanut butter that I’m talking about is the natural kind.  When you buy peanut butter at the grocery store look at the ingredients.  If it contains more than 2-3 ingredients you should rule it out. The more natural the peanut butter the more nutrients you will get out of it.  To get the most natural peanut butter I would suggest buying it in whole foods, or even making it at home.  All you need is peanuts and a food processor.

As with every food obsession, it is hard to control its consumption – It takes willpower for me to put away the container.  The recommended serving size for peanut butter is 2 tablespoons.  As with any other food, consuming too much is not “ok” because it’s considered a healthy food.  Moderating will give you a small indulgence with a lot of benefits!

Timing of eating and working out…

Filed under :Exercise, Health promoting

Exercising in the early hours of the day – There are many benefits to exercising in the morning.  In the morning your body and mind are fresh, after a long day at work you are more likely to find excuses or make other plans rather than exercise.  By working out in the morning you will wake up faster, and be more mentally alert for the rest of the day.

The big question here is whether you should eat breakfast before a morning workout or is it better to go on an empty stomach?

It is supported by many research studies that consuming a pre-exercise meal is the right way to go! The goals of a pre-exercise meal are to supply the body with glucose for use during exercise, and to minimize fatigue during exercise. It is recommended to consume the pre-exercise meal 2-4 hours before the exercise; yet it can be safely eaten as late as 1 hour before exercise.

The meal should be small, easy to digest, and familiar to the individual.  The pre-exercise meal should be: high in carbohydrates, moderate in protein, low in fat and fiber, and moderate in size.  People engaging in early morning activities may want to schedule a very early morning snack or carbohydrate beverage (e.g. fruit juice) instead of skipping everything all together.  The timing and amount of food consumed depends on individual preferences and on the type, intensity, and duration of the workout.

Exercising in the afternoon – Research suggests that your maximum body temperature occurs between 2 – 4 pm, therefore the muscle strength is at its peak and you are going to be less likely to injure yourself. It’s also a time when people are most awake and alert.

You should eat a low glycemic meal 2 – 4 hours before the workout.  You can also consume a high glycemic food about an hour before the workout with some water to maximize energy stores and energy during the workout (refer to my previous post “Sugar Rush” for explanation about glycemic foods).

Exercising in the evening – Research suggests that exercising in the evenings will produce better sleep as well as lower daytime sleepiness for the whole day!  Here again, it is recommended to eat a low glycemic meal 2 – 4 hours before the workout.


Whether you exercise in the morning, afternoon, or evening; you must eat after the workout to replenish muscle glycogen and refuel the body.  It is important to consume both carbohydrates as well as proteins post-exercise.  Many believe they should consume only proteins after a workout which is incorrect; protein and carbohydrates are equally important.

Carbohydrates help replenish the muscle glycogen stores, while protein helps rebuild muscle tissue.  Carbohydrates actually help protein absorption.  It is recommended to eat small frequent meals throughout 2 hours post-exercise (rather than one big protein shake, or one big meal.)

So, what is the best time of the day for a workout? It depends on the individual!  Do you need an extra push in the morning to wake up, do you have your energy peak in the afternoon, or do you need a better sleep and need to reduce fatigue during the day – choose the best time for you.  Always remember to eat before and after the workout! This is a very important part of being physically active, which many tend to ignore or just uncertain about.

If you have any additional questions, concerns, or comments – please let me know 😉

“Health Logic”

Filed under :Health promoting

In this post I will reverse from my scientific knowledge and focus on the psychological, as well as sociological aspects of lifestyle (as they are equally important).

For instance, there are many different reasons why people eat. Some reasons may be: you might have smelled something cooking that stimulated your appetite; or saw an advertisement of a food that you like; could be of social reasons; maybe you looked at the clock and decided it’s time to eat; and finally perhaps you are actually hungry?  There are many possibilities… If fact, we have so many different motivations for eating that it is easy to forget that the ultimate reason – obtaining nutrition – is a biological necessity (Food is our sole source of energy and raw materials from which our bodies are made.)

Although, our need for food is driven by biological necessity our eating patterns vary and are influenced by other factors (social, emotional, daily routine, etc).  Other behaviors such as smoking and physical activity may be influenced in the same manner.

Recently I have come across an interesting article, “Health logic and health-related behaviors.” The author of this article emphasizes the concept of the “Health logic”, which he defines as the judgmental way that health-related behaviors in everyday activities are understood.  In his article the four behaviors: smoking, eating, drinking alcohol, and exercise are classified as health-behavior related. It is so because they can enhance or damage health as everyday activities, since they are practiced by people as they go about their day-to-day lives.  In other words, people are responsible for their own health in the way they behave on everyday basis.

This takes into account the psychological aspect of eating as well as the other three factors (smoking, alcohol consumption, and exercise).  Many people may focus on “science based” factors of gaining weight or exercise such as: metabolic rate or the genetic aspect of weight gain. Many do not consider the psychological aspect of this issue, which in my opinion plays a very important role in our daily lives.

It is important to take a step back in our day-to-day lives (that are very much a routine for most of us) look at what we are doing right and wrong and maybe ask ourselves some questions – e.g. why am I eating right now? Am I really hungry? Why do I even smoke? By making small modifications for a healthier lifestyle we can make great impact in the long run, and even as soon as tomorrow!

Lactose Intolerance…

Filed under :Health promoting

Most nutrient molecules in our body must be broken down by enzymes in the digestive system before they can be absorbed.

Lactose, “milk sugar”, must be broken down into glucose and galactose (refer to my previous post “Confusion over sugar”) in order to be absorbed in the small intestine. The enzymes that perform this task are found on the surface of the small intestine, they are called lactase.

In certain individuals with a condition known as lactose intolerance, however, this is not the case.  Lactose intolerance develops when the body stops producing the enzyme lactase.  When this occurs a person begins to have trouble digesting lactose and thus, cannot absorb it.

The problem with this is that lactose remains in the intestine, serving as a nutrient for bacteria that normally live there.  Lactose stimulates bacterial growth and the resultant production of gas and other waste products.  These substances irritate the lining of the intestine and cause bloating, discomfort, and diarrhea.

Lactose intolerant individuals experience these symptoms after drinking milk or eating other daily products and therefore eventually learn to avoid them.

Lactose intolerance has a genetic basis and is more prevalent among certain people.  It has been estimated that this condition affects over 50% of adults worldwide.

Although there is no cure, new commercial products that allow affected individuals to indulge their taste for dairy products include pills containing enzymes that can break down lactose, as well as lactose-free milk.

Night Munchies…

Filed under :Health promoting

The simple lifestyle phenomenon of night eating defined as ‘getting up at night to eat’ is a habit that many may possess.

In a recent study, researchers examined the association between the habit of eating at night, and the 5-6 year preceding subsequent weight changes in a middle-aged population.

This research found that women with night eating habits experienced an average 6 year weight gain of 5.2 kg (11.5 lb), whereas only 0.9 kg (2 lb) average weight gain was seen among women who did not get up at night to eat.

Night eating and weight change were not associated among men (very surprising to me).

Eating at night is generally not recommended, and I personally consider it to be a bad habit.  The night eating behavior often results in “morning anorexia” (minimal or no calorie intake at breakfast), evening hyperphagia (at least 50% of daily calorie intake after the evening meal) and insomnia.

As any bad habit, night eating is possible to change with small effort and lots of will-power.  This small lifestyle change is beneficial in the long run. Preventing wait gain (especially in women), “promoting” breakfast, as well as eliminating random night time awakening, giving you a better sleep!

The chronically dieting women…

Filed under :Exercise, Health promoting

For most healthy women, “going on a diet” for a designated time should present few, if any, nutritional or long-term health problems.  However, serious health problems may arise for active females who chronically diet or restrict energy intake while expending high amounts of energy in exercise.

If an active female constantly restricts energy intake, it is almost impossible to get adequate nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fats, vitamins, and minerals).  For example, If not eating enough protein, the body will not be able to maintain and repair muscle tissue and to cover the cost of any protein used for energy during exercise.

Many active females avoid fat either for weight loss or because they think fat is bad for their health.  If fat intake is too low (<10-15% of energy intake), the intake and absorption or the fat-soluble vitamins and essential fatty acids may also be low.

With poor energy intake, many complain of fatigue, frequent injuries, irritability, etc. In this situation, you should either increase total daily energy intake and/or decrease total energy expenditure (less exercise).

Chronic energy restriction can result in decreased bone density, impaired immune response, menstrual dysfunction, anemia, poor exercise performance, and increased recovery time from injury.

Another effect of constant dieting is that it lowers the metabolism rate (more accurately, resting metabolic rate).  This means that the total daily energy expenditure is reduced in people who chronically restrict energy intake.  This decrease is compounded when heavy physical activity is combined with low energy intakes.

It is important to keep healthy energy statues.  An adequate intake of macronutrients is important as well as micronutrients for optimal health and fitness.

Dietary supplements-Vitamins and minerals…

Filed under :Food Hypes, Health promoting

Dietary supplements – a very confusing and mysterious subject for many.  People might use supplements for a number of different reasons.  Some top reasons may be to: improve overall health, prevent/cure a disease, or because they heard about it from family/friend/media, etc. Majority of people believes that even if they are not using dietary supplements now they should start using them. The reason behind this is that people think that supplements are a part of a healthy lifestyle, or are necessary to maintain good health. However, this kind of philosophy is not very accurate.

The following are some reasons why you should be using dietary supplements: if you are trying to conceive, are pregnant, have a food restriction (e.g. vegetarian, don’t eat milk products, restricting calorie intake, etc), or are an elderly person. For healthy adults who eat a healthy diet with a variety of foods there should be no need to be consuming dietary supplements. I personally see it as a pure waste of money.

As an example, let’s look at vitamin C.  Did you know you can get your daily recommended dosage of vitamin C from eating just one orange (as well as many other fruits or veggies)?  Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin; therefore any extra that your body doesn’t need it will dispose of through urine (the same applies to the B-complex vitamins). Too much vitamin C (over 10,000mg in one serving) can actually be toxic to the body and have a free radical-like effect.

The dietary supplements are not evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – therefore, there is basically no regulation of the manufacturing and the claims that are made on the supplements.  If you decide to use a dietary supplement after all, always choose one that has been at least tested by a “Third Party Evaluation” (independent testing to evaluate quality control issues such as: labeling accuracy, purity, strength, and ability to dissolve). Here are some reliable links to “Third Party Evaluation” (much of the information found online is misleading and incorrect, however these are authoritative sources).

If your body is deficient in a certain vitamin or mineral it will have a tendency to absorb it even better (from the food you eat).  If you are already getting all the necessary vitamins and minerals that your body needs (from food) it will usually decrease absorption of these substances.  Therefore, by taking extra vitamins and minerals in the form of dietary supplements there is a great chance that your body will not absorb all those exaggerated quantities. As a side note, when these supplements are made in factories the manufacturers try to compress as much as possible into one pill to make it as small as possible in order to make it easier for a consumer to swallow. This compression decreases the likelihood that the pill will dissolve in the stomach and get absorbed in the intestine. Alternatively, consuming vitamins and minerals from natural sources will result in better absorption by your body.

In conclusion, you should really focus on eating a healthy diet, including all the “food groups” and trying to get at least 5 servings of fruits and veggies per day (different colors will give you diverse nutrients).  You should only start supplementing your diet if your health care provider or dietitian suggested you to do so. If you still choose to use supplements, use ones that have been evaluated by a third party and never think that you can substitute a good, healthy diet with supplements. Good diet, sufficient sleep, and regular exercise – are still your best sources for optimal health!

This was just a very general supplement discussion, if you have a question about a specific vitamin, mineral, ergogenic aid, or supplement – please let me know and I will be happy to discuss it.

My sister’s honey diet…

Filed under :Health promoting

This post I dedicate to my sister…

Honey! An energy source, a health remedy, a long history in almost all cultures and religions around the world – all make honey a true wonder food.

Honey is made by bees from nectar and enzymes in a unique way in the hive.  The prepared honey is then used by the bees as a food source in the winter months.  Honey provides great energy for the bees due to its high caloric value.  Also the physical properties of honey help protect the bees from bacterial infections.

Honey consists of mostly water and two types of sugar; glucose and fructose.  These sugars are absorbed by the body without additional digestion requirement.  Honey also contains some minerals such as: sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, copper, and phosphorus in smaller amounts, as well as trace amounts of vitamins.

Another great benefit of honey is that it is resistant to the growth of bacteria.  Honey is slightly acidic (pH of 4) and it has a high osmotic pressure, which prevents the manifestation of bacteria.  These properties make honey great for preservation for long periods of time.

Honey home remedies have been successfully implemented for many years.  Honey, being a natural substance, may be more effective with fewer side effects than commercial products (e.g. medicine, supplements).  It is very common today to use honey to treat different conditions, such as sore throat, or cough.

Recently, I noticed that all my sister seems to be eating is honey.  Even though, I recognize all the great benefits of honey, there is no reason to consume only honey in the diet.  It does contain a lot of sugar and should be consumed in moderation. A healthy diet should consist of a variety of foods throughout the day.

Salt, Sodium, and Electrolytes?

Filed under :Exercise, Food Hypes, Health promoting

This post is a follow up to my previous post about the adequate consumption of water.  It was brought up that salt is also necessary for fluid balance.  In this post I would like to clear the confusion over the salt, sodium, and electrolytes – and fluid balance.

Salt, sodium, and electrolytes – all basically mean the same thing.  Salt consists of sodium and chloride ions connected in a bond (sodium chloride), when dissolved in water they separate into sodium and chloride ions.  Electrolytes are basically ions in a liquid.  Sodium is a type of an electrolyte. Potassium, chloride, and calcium ions are other examples of electrolytes.  Salt/sodium/electrolytes are necessary to maintain a variety of critical functions in the body.  Overconsumption of salt (sodium or electrolytes) can increase the risk of health problems, such as high blood pressure.

To maintain fluid balance, the body needs more than just water.  Electrolytes such as sodium, chloride, potassium, calcium, and magnesium ions (as well as other small molecules) all play an important role in fluid balance.  We must consume electrolytes in food and beverages in order to maintain fluid balance on a daily basis.

Exercise increases the loss of water and electrolytes from the body, especially sodium (the loss of the other electrolytes is very low).  The goal of drinking fluids during exercise is to: maintain plasma and electrolyte volume, prevent abnormal elevation in heart rate and core body temperature, as well as to provide “fuel” to the working muscles.

During an endurance exercise, fluid intake should match or exceed sweat loss (especially in hot environments). During an exercise lasting longer than one hour fluids containing both carbohydrates and electrolytes should be consumed.  The carbohydrates provide energy during exercise, while the sodium replaces lost electrolytes.

After an exercise, the goal of rehydration is to replace the water and electrolytes lost that occurred during the exercise.  In general, athletes can replace water and electrolytes by consuming adequate water and food throughout the recovery period.

Sodium improves fluid retention in the body, while carbohydrates enhance intestinal uptake of sodium and water and help replace muscle glycogen (the storage form of carbohydrates in the body).

One way to increase sodium and fluid intakes is to use a carbohydrate-electrolyte sports drink before, during, and after exercise.  These beverages provide low amounts of sodium, increase total fluid intake, and provide additional energy in the form of carbohydrates.

I hope I was able to make the “salt/sodium/electrolyte” functionality more clear, as well as explain how it relates to fluid balance.  If you have any further comments or questions, please let me know! 🙂

Confusion Over Sugar…

Filed under :Health promoting

Carbohydrate is the major source of fuel for metabolism.  Carbohydrates are converted to glycogen in the body. Glycogen is stored in the liver, muscles, and other organs, and is used for energy by the body as necessary.

We can classify carbohydrates into two main categories: the complex carbohydrates and the simple carbohydrates.

Complex carbohydrates – are in foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains (breads, cereals, pasta), and legumes (beans, peas, lentils). They are a good source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.

Simple carbohydrates – come from processed foods (sweetened cereals and breakfast bars) or foods high in sugar (candy, sodas, and desserts).  These foods primarily contain: glucose, sucrose, fructose, and high-fructose corn syrup.  These foods are generally low in vitamins, minerals, and fiber (unless they are fortified).

Here is the list of the primary sugars in our diets:

Glucose – The main carbohydrate in the blood and the main carbohydrate energy source in the cell.

Fructose – The simple sugar found primarily in fruit and honey.  It is sweeter than the common table sugar (sucrose).

Galactose and Lactose – The sugars that are found in milk and milk products (many adults cannot digest lactose and are termed lactose intolerant).

Sucrose – Common table sugar. It is extracted from sugar cane and beet sugar.  Sucrose is the most common sugar in our diet.

High-fructose corn syrup – An especially sweet corn syrup in which 45-55% of the corn syrup’s carbohydrate is hydrolyzed (broken down) to the simple sugars: glucose and fructose.  Currently this is the predominant sweetener found in commercially sweetened foods because it is relatively cheap and easy to use due to its liquid form (this topic is very controversial in our society today).

Starch – Found in plants, seeds, and roots.  When digested it yields glucose and fiber.

Dietary fiber – A part of the plant that cannot be digested by human gut enzymes.  Fiber passes through the intestines and the colon.  There are many benefits for eating a high fiber diet such as: reducing the risk of heart disease, alleviating constipation, reducing onset risk for diabetes, etc.

It is always best to consume fresh foods, or foods that undergone the least processing. This way you will consume more complex carbohydrates and less simple carbohydrates (which are linked to obesity and type 2 diabetes).  It is not necessary to eliminate all simple carbohydrates from the diet, moderation is always the key!