nutrition news

Tovita Talks: Avocados (Up on WeWoreWhat Lifestyle Section!)

Avocados have managed to hold their place at the top of the trendiest foods list for quite some time now. They have finagled their way into every recipe, from the traditional salad, to the over-instagrammed avocado toast (guilty), to even that morning smoothie. There’s a good reason these fruits have remained the talk of the culinary town, and it’s not just because they’re Danielle’s favorite food. Today we’re going to discuss the ins and the outs of the avocado, because if you’re already on the avo-bandwagon, you should know why.

Click here  for the abridged version of this article on  WeWoreWhat  Lifestyle section! 

Click here for the abridged version of this article on WeWoreWhat Lifestyle section! 

You may have heard that these guys are a good source of healthy fats. But what does that really mean? It means they’re made up of predominantly monounsaturated fats, which have heart-healthy properties like the ability to improve LDL-cholesterol levels (the bad kind) and reduce oxidative stress. What’s even more unique is that some of the types of fats that make up the avocado (we won’t bore you with the names) have anti-inflammatory properties. In the past fats have gotten a bad rep because of the common misconception that all fats are pro-inflammatory. While this is true for certain types, like those found in fried or processed foods, it is quite the opposite in the case of the avocado.

Another fun fact is that the healthy fats found in avocados help to increase the absorption of carotenoids - a class of antioxidants often found in orange and yellow colored produce, ie. sweet potatoes, carrots, peppers, etc. So there’s your justification for topping your salads with avocado. You’re welcome.

Just because we’ve belabored the point that avocados are a good source of healthy fats doesn’t give you the green light eat them all day long. The average avocado has about 30 grams of fat, meaning no matter how you slice it, we’re talking lots of calories. Even though it’s tempting to add it on.. literally everything.. be mindful of how much you are eating in a sitting. We recommend keeping it to ¼ of an avocado.

There are still more benefits this fruit has to offer. They’re a good source of most B vitamins,  vitamins K, C, E, fiber, potassium, and copper. Not to mention they provide a ton of phytonutrients, which contribute to their antioxidant properties. Remember, antioxidants act as our bodies “clean up crew” by scavenging dangerous free radicals that can otherwise lead to deleterious health effects. No thanks!

They call the avocado “nature’s butter” for good reason. Whether you’re using it as a spread for the classic avocado toast or you’re eating on the side with your omelet, you can’t go wrong. If you’re looking for a fun new way to incorporate avocados at your next brunch party, we’ve got you covered with the “taco bar method.” On whole grain bread or wheat crackers, serve a platter of plain, blank, avocado toasts. Then, as a taco bar would offer, set up bowls of different toppings and let your guests make their own avo-toasts. Topping ideas include: feta cheese, sliced hard boiled eggs, scrambled eggs, red pepper flakes, hot sauce, tomatoes, mangos, black beans, or any vegetables. Your guests will have fun creating different combinations, and who knows, you may discover the next big avo-hit!

 

Healthy Holiday Gift Guide

This holiday season, we teamed up with Marisa Hochberg, founder of MJH Wellness to bring you the ultimate healthy holiday gift guide. Since we already agree that there is no better gift than the gift of health, we’re here to give you some healthy holiday shopping hints. Whether for you health manifests in a food product, a provocative read, or in a new set of workout gear to help you reach your 2016 fitness goals, we have conjured up a list that both the health nut and the nutrition newbie can work with.

  1. PANATEA ceremonial grade matcha gift set

panatea

PANATEA is one of our favorite matcha brands! They source their high quality matcha from the tea fields of Japan. One of the reasons we’re proponents of the matcha movement is because of the sheer antioxidant capacity of the tea. Remember, antioxidants act as our body’s “clean up crew” by protecting us from free radical damage, which can otherwise lead to tissue damage and even aging. As opposed to conventional steeped green tea, drinking matcha allows you to consume 100% of the nutrients.

Holiday gift sets include their ceremonial grade matcha, custom measuring scoop, glass siping bowl, and bamboo whisk. Use the code “HealthyHoliday10” at checkout for a 10% discount.

2. Tovita Nutrition package

tovitanutrition

How many times have we told ourselves, “I’ll start on Monday?” Whether you’ve been meaning to lose those extra holiday pounds or you need some guidance when it comes to eating clean, there’s no longer a reason to put your health on hold! 

3. Massage at Equinox

equinox spa

While we all need a little “me time” to relax and unwind during the holiday season, too often we push that aside to take care of others. Gifting a massage at Equinox will give your loved ones a perfect excuse to treat themselves guilt-free. The Equinox spa offers something for everyone- from pre-natal to sports massages, your loved ones can personalize their relaxation experience.

4.  Rowley Fitness

cynthia rowley active wear

Fashionable fitness lines are pretty much de rigueur these days, but they're still not the kind of couture that gets people buzzing during Fashion Week. Unless, of course, the line comes from an A-list designer like Cynthia Rowley. She’s not simply hopping on the fashion-meets-fitness bandwagon, though: Rowley, an avid surfer, has been designing wetsuits for years. This season, she decided to go all out.

The line adds a distinctly designer twist to workout gear, like metallic-embellished shorts and tanks, zebra-print wetsuits, slouchy track pants and zipper-accented backpacks. If your friends or family have fitness goals for 2016, give them a jumpstart to the gym with active wear they’ll want to show off.

5. 20 Pounds Younger by  Michele Promaulayko

20 pounds younger

We all know the feeling of wanting to press the restart button come New Years. Keep your loved ones from painful attempts at cleanses and detoxes, and use these books as a guide. Michele Promaulako from Yahoo Health has collected the advice and tips from top experts in nutrition, fitness, and anti-aging to answer all of our pressing questions in her book "20 Pounds Younger".

5. Treehouse retreats

treehouse retreats

Treehouse retreats are the ultimate girls wellness weekend that will give your girlfriends something to look forward to when the winter seems unbearable. Treehouse retreats occur each summer in the Hamptons and offer an intimate, women only weekend with a maximum of 6 guests. You and your best friends can stay in the cozy accommodations with New York’s best fitness instructors and foodies. Retreats are tailored for each group to create the perfect getaway. If a day of nourishing and healthy meals followed by yoga, paddleboarding, surfing and tennis sound right up your alley, the Treehouse retreats are definitely worth looking into.

6. The spiralizer with the Inspiralized Cookbook

spiralizer

We admit it, we are spiralizing addicts. Zucchini noodles, carrot and beet ribbons on salads, or baked sweet potato shoestring fries are all weekly staples thanks to our handy spiralizer. This is perfect for those friends who like to get creative in the kitchen, without spending tons of time or money. Pair the kitchen toy with the Inspiralized Cookbook to offer some recipe inspiration!

7. Swell water bottles

swell water bottles

Help save the world by gifting a Swell water bottle, beautifully crafted out of non-toxic stainless steel.  In the US alone, 50 million plastic bottles are dumped in landfill sites each year, and over 200 billion globally.  Swell water bottles replace those plastic bottles while looking sleek and  keeping drinks cold for 24 hours or hot for 12. Swell also gives back to those in need by donating to UNICEF to help provide clean water to the world’s most vulnerable children. Now there’s a gift you can feel good about.

8. Lifeway Kefir holiday flavors

lifeway kefir

We couldn’t be more excited about Lifeway’s Kefir holiday flavors, Cranberry Creme Brulee, Eggnog, and pumpkin spice. Rather than bringing a bottle of wine to your next holiday party, surprise your guests with a bottle (or two!) of your favorite kefir smoothie! Aside from being rich in protein, calcium, and vitamin D, Lifeway’s kefir is a good source of probiotics, which are those beneficial microorganisms found in your digestive tract that help to boost immunity and support digestion. Let’s face it, we could all use a little immunity boost during the cold holiday season!

9. Jax Coco Global

jax coconut oil

Launched in Hong Kong in 2012 by Jane Gottschalk & partners, Jax Coco is known globally for producing the highest-quality coconut products, including the world's first premium glass-bottled coconut water.

Inspired by the crisp coconut water that it champions, Jax Coco offers Pure Coconut Water, Flavoured Coconut Water, Jax Kidz, Extra Virgin Centrifuged Coconut Oil, Jax Coco Toasted Coconut Chips and now, Jax Coco EVCCO Snaps. With the cold weather creeping in this holiday season, the it is extra important to keep skin moisturized and to stay hydrated and we can’t think of a better way to do this than with Jax Coco products! The luxe packaging makes for the perfect gift and decor in homes and bathrooms this holiday season and beyond!

Celebrity fans include Stella McCartney, Sienna Miller, Elton John, Cara Delevigne, Elizabeth Hurley and Matthew Williamson

10. Tata Harper Daily Essentials Kit

tata harper

There is good reason Tata harper has gained popularity among celebrities and beauty experts. Her products are 100% natural and nontoxic. The formulas use the most advanced natural skincare technology to bring the most effective products on the market. If you’re not sold already, Tata’s products are completely environmentally sustainable;  they buy renewable energy from the state of VT to run their facilities and use recycled glass and paper to cut down on their carbon footprint.

11. Subscription to Daily Burn

daily burn

We all know the benefits of exercise, but finding the time and money to spend on a gym membership can be obstacles for many. Daily burn is a no-excuse, accessible way to workout. All you need is an internet connection. For $12.95 per month, your loved ones will have access to all a large variety of workout videos led by expert trainers plus access to an interactive workout community.

12. "It Was Me All Along" by Andie Mitchell

it was me all along

This amazing memoir is perfect for those on your list looking for inspiration to become healthier. The New York Time’s best-selling author, Andie Mitchell recalls an honest account of her struggles with binging, obesity and the traumatic childhood that led her to seek solace in food. A definite must gift for anyone on your list looking for inspiration and a remarkable story during the holiday season. Stay tuned for Andie’s highly anticipated cookbook, "Eating in the Middle" coming out on March 29th.

13. "They All Fall Down" By Anna Kohanski Mason

they all fall down

Anna Kohanski Mason is a former bond trader turned leading force in the health and wellness space. After leaving the corporate world of Wall Street, Anna co-founded BurnThis, one of the leading apps for fitness. Through BurnThis, Anna established herself as a maven in the health and wellness space. Anna’s new book is perfect for the family member or friend who might work in the corporate world but whose passion lies in leading a healthy lifestyle.

CooCoo for Coconut Oil

These days, coconut oil is as much of a household staple as peanut butter (or is that just among us health freaks)? Though there are good reasons why coconut oil is awarded the title "world's friendliest fat," we still understand why some people have been hesitant about jumping on the bandwagon. It is a saturated fat after all, and we have been taught to avoid those at all costs. It's also energy dense, about 117 calories per tablespoon. So why are we singing coconut oil's praises? 

coconut oil

Coconut oil is a saturated fat, indeed. However, it is a plant source meaning it does not have any link to increased risk for heart disease or raising cholesterol. In fact, lauric acid, a medium chain triglyceride (MCT) in coconut oil, has been shown to increase HDL (the good cholesterol), improving overall cholesterol ratios.

These MCT's you may have heard about are miracle fats. They are metabolized differently than long chain fatty acids, which are found in most fat sources. They are sent directly from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are either used immediately for energy or converted into ketone bodies, an energy source for the heart and brain during fasting or low carbohydrate intake. Long-chain fatty acids on the other hand are more likely to be stored. The MCT's have been shown to boost metabolism and help break down stored fats. 

spectrum coconut oil

We also love the fact that coconut oil has several beauty uses. Aside from its culinary purpose, it can also be used as skin lotion, lip balm, eye-makeup remover, to prevent stretch marks during pregnancy, as a frizz-fighter, or hair mask! Our personal recommendation? Saturate (no pun intended) your hair in about a teaspoon of oil and let it sit overnight. Wash it out in the morning with shampoo. We just saved you the cost of your next deep conditioning treatment, you're welcome. We bet a tub of coconut oil could replace a lot of those products you have taking over your bathroom cabinet!

Remember, coconut oil is high in calories and fat, so while there are many health benefits, we do not recommend consuming more than a tablespoon per day. 

Tovita Tips: Navigating Thanksgiving Dinner like a Pro

Did you know that on average, Americans consume 4,500 calories on Thanksgiving day? Yikes. Now here comes the part where we assure you that you don't need to become a statistic. Believe it or not, there is a way to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast without ending up in fetal position spooning a bottle of Tums. Here are a few of our tips for taking the high road this Thanksgiving:

thanksgiving

 

1. Take matters into your own hands. We've said it before and we'll say it again, it is up to you to provide tasty and delicious options that you can indulge in without feeling deprived. The baked Brussels sprouts aren't going to magically appear if you don't plan for them. Whether you are hosting or you're a guest, prepare a light vegetable based dish. Everyone will thank you. If you need some ideas, check out our Autumn Salad recipe and our Sweet Roasted Carrots. 

2. Do NOT go in starving. Have a snack beforehand so you can make conscious decisions without acting like a vulture. Eat your usual breakfast, lunch, and snack instead of "saving up" for the big feast. We recommend a snack that contains both protein and fiber and is under 200 calories. Some ideas include a Greek yogurt with berries, veggies with 2 tablespoons of hummus, an apple with a tablespoon of nut butter, or a handful of almonds.

3. Navigate the options and plate responsibly. Before piling it on, do a quick analysis of the meal. Glance at all of the dishes and ask yourself what you absolutely need to try and what can you live without. Once you've decided, fill half your plate with vegetables (no, vegetables covered in cream or cheese don't count), then move onto your protein. Your turkey portion should resemble a deck of cards. Now you have a quarter of your plate left for the fun stuff - rolls, casseroles, stuffing, etc. 

food coma

4. Socialize, don't scour the buffet table. Remember, Thanksgiving isn't just about the food. During this Holiday you are surrounded by loved ones. Take this opportunity to focus on catching up with people rather than hovering around the food. Once you've made your plate, sit down! Eating while standing reduces your feelings of satiety, as well as your awareness of how much you are consuming. Sit with a glass or wine or cup of tea and relax. 

5. Follow the 3 bite rule. When it comes to dessert, studies have shown that the highest amount of endorphins are released with the first and last bites of dessert. We know it's easier said than done, but try to enjoy 3 bites of your favorite dessert and then throw it away. Then focus on your wine, tea, or seltzer. 

We are not expecting Thanksgiving to be your cleanest day of eating, but there is a way to remain empowered, rather than letting the stuffing take control of you!

 

5 Foods to Beat Bloat

We've all experienced that post-meal potbelly that causes us to unbutton our jeans underneath the table. It's one thing when this happens after our Thanksgiving dinner, but it's even more frustrating when we feel this way after a healthy meal. 

Treating bloat can be tricky as there are no universal triggers. Whether dairy, gluten, or carbonated drinks are the culprit, the aftermath is equally unpleasant. If you are aware of your trigger foods, unfortunately there is no better solution than eliminating or limiting them. For those of you out there still trying to figure out your comfort zone, we are going to discuss a few foods that you can add to your diet that can help relieve that horrible feeling of bloat.

asparagus-parmesan-400x400.jpg

1. Asparagus: Asparagus has gotten a less than sexy rep as the offender for smelly urine. We are here to give asparagus a comeback as a bloat-fighting superfood. By increasing your urine output, asparagus helps to relieve the water retention that is making your pants feel tight. Asparagus also contains prebiotics; the "food" that nourishes probiotics. Maintaining the healthy probiotics in the gut aids in a smooth digestion process, preventing and reducing excess gas. Finally, the insoluble and soluble fiber in asparagus increases overall digestive health. A side of roasted asparagus drizzled with lemon is now looking a bit sexier, right?

ginger

2. Ginger: This amazing anti-inflammatory food relaxes the muscles in the digestive tract to relieve cramping and spasms. It also helps move gas more quickly through the digestive tract to relieve any discomfort. Though we love ginger tea, you should not be intimidated by the actual ginger root. The root (yes, the odd looking ginger-bread man in the produce aisle) is a delicious compliment to hot water with lemon. Lemon is another natural diuretic and gentle laxative that will help your body relieve the excess water and sodium it is retaining.

miso

3. Miso: Fermented foods such as miso are full of probiotics that, as we mentioned, help maintain balance in our gut. Antibiotics, diet, and lifestyle factors can all eliminate healthy bacteria living in our intestines that otherwise help digestion run smoothly. Eliminating healthy bacteria makes more room for the bad guys that are wreaking havoc during digestion. If you want more information on probiotics, we've got you covered in our previous post, "The Power of Probiotics". Miso paste contains healthy bacteria that have a similar content to the bacteria found in our intestines aiding in digestion. Be sure to choose unpasteurized miso, as the pasteurization process kills the healthy bacteria. 

peppermint tea

4 . Peppermint: We are all about a cup of peppermint tea to ease the belly. Peppermint helps prevent spasms or cramping of the intestines for a smoother digestive process. The volatile oils in peppermint stimulate your gallbladder to release bile that your body uses to effectively digest fats. Peppermint also has a detoxifying effect on the liver which helps the liver to do its job effectively.

fennel seeds

5. Fennel: Indian restaurants know what's up. Have you ever noticed a bowl of fennel seeds on your way out of an Indian restaurant? While chewing on the seeds helps freshen breath, they also can help prevent any unwanted aftermath of that spicy curry. The anti-inflammatory and anti-spasmodic properties of fennel relax contracted intestinal muscles so that trapped gas can dissipate. Fennel seeds can be found in bread but we recommend chewing directly on the seeds or sipping a fennel tea after eating. 



Spotlight on: Apple Cider Vinegar

apple cider vinegar

We love foods that have multiple uses and health benefits and apple cider vinegar is certainly one of them. Apple cider vinegar (ACV) is made in a two step fermentation process transitioning from apple cider-->alcohol-->vinegar. Organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar brands (like Bragg's) also have added proteins, enzymes, and probiotics. The murky "blob" (for lack of a better word) in the ACV bottle is known as the "mother", or cloud of all the healthy bacteria and proteins. 

ACV was originally used as an antibacterial agent, cleaning and disinfecting less glamorous problems like nail fungus, lice, warts, and ear infections. It was also used to prevent food spoilage by inhibiting food borne pathogens from growing. Along these same lines, ACV is one of the best natural skin care products. It can be used to prevent acne by killing bacteria on the skin, and also removing dark spots. The vinegar contains powerful alpha hydroxy acids that remove dead skin revealing newer, fresher skin underneath. 

The next benefit of ACV is stabilizing blood sugar levels. This is important for both diabetics and non-diabetics. ACV improves insulin sensitivity and can lower blood glucose. One study showed that 2 tablespoons of ACV before bed can reduce fasting blood sugars by 4%. 

braggs apple cider vinegar

Newer studies have shown that ACV may help with weight loss by improving satiety and curbing cravings. Studies showed that having 1-2 tablespoons of ACV with high-carb meals could increase feelings of fullness. Participants in the study ate 200-275 fewer calories the rest of the day. 

Finally, ACV can help with digestive discomfort. Because it is a fermented food, the probiotics help maintain gut balance and aid in digestion. Vinegar contains malic acid which can help with constipation or acid reflux. Drinking vinegar stimulates the valve at the bottom of your throat to close shut, keeping stomach acid down where it belongs. 

How to use it? For the more hardcore health nuts, you may try taking a "shot" of ACV first thing in the morning. We recommend putting a tablespoon or two in eight ounces of warm water with lemon. Drinking this combo first thing in the morning will wake up your digestive tract and get things moving.   If that doesn't sound so appealing, simply try replacing balsamic vinegar with ACV for salad dressings or cooking. 

Our post for Flywheel Sports: IT’S NATIONAL COFFEE DAY! LET’S GOSSIP ABOUT JOE.

For National Coffee Day, we linked up with Flywheel  to  share our take on coffee- the when, how, and why. Enjoy!

If coffee had an Instagram account, it would likely have more followers than Taylor, Katy, and Beyoncé combined. In other words, it’s off-the-charts popular.

coffee

But like anything with an immense following comes controversy. While some people can’t function without a cup o’ Joe, others shun the liquid wonder for a variety of health reasons. The truth is, few people know that coffee has a laundry list of health benefits. To learn all about them – and celebrate National Coffee Day! — we chatted with dietitians Leah Silberman and Molly Rieger, the brains behind Tovita Nutrition, a virtual nutrition counseling and concierge service. Here, they spill the beans on coffee’s biggest perks and share tips for making it as healthy as possible.

We’re excited to jump right in. Must be the caffeine! What is the Tovita take on coffee?

We don’t just crush on coffee – we’ve got a love affair with it.

First, let’s start by debunking the myth that coffee is bad for you. Coffee is chock-full of antioxidants, which help prevent damage to your body’s cells. Studies have focused on its various health benefits, from boosting brain function to burning fat. Its antioxidants also improve cognition by enhancing the neurotransmitters that regulate memory, mood, energy levels, and reaction times.

Caffeine increases epinephrine (commonly known as adrenaline) levels in the blood, making you more alert. Studies have also revealed that coffee consumption may be related to a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and certain cancers. And did you know that coffee is one of the few natural fat-burning substances? It boosts your metabolic rate by breaking down stored fat to be used as fuel. But remember, these benefits apply to coffee and not all sources of caffeine. That said, don’t go near sodas and energy drinks with a ten-foot pole, as these calorie- and chemical-laden beverages can be detrimental to your health. If you’re looking for a perk and aren’t a coffee drinker, go for unsweetened black or green tea, or try Matcha.

PRE-FLY BENEFITS
Unless you’re a night FLYer, we recommend drinking coffee about a half-hour before class to add a little pep in your step, pedal strokes, and pulses. Around 250 mg of coffee, which is equivalent to a Starbucks tall regular brew, will not only give you a boost of energy, but may also help you burn more fat. While we aren’t recommending you replace your water bottle with the stuff, it’s a myth that coffee is dehydrating. It is, however, a diuretic, meaning it increases frequency of urination (skip a venti before a FLY90, perhaps).

PIMP YOUR CUP
For many people, coffee is a vehicle for cream and heaps of sugar. Next time you’re whipping up a cup or placing your order, keep these tips in mind:

  • Opt for low-fat or skim milk, unsweetened almond or soy milk, or the latest alternatives like coconut, hemp, or cashew milk.
  • Skip the sugar and artificial sweeteners. Since that’s easier said than done, we advise clients to wean themselves off. Slowly reduce the amount until you no longer need it. The day will come!
  • Account for calories. While the occasional latte is ok – the extra milk adds protein and calcium – the calories clock in at around 150 for small cup. And that’s with skim milk!

Tovita Tips: Refueling Post Workout

workout

One of the most common questions we're asked is what to eat after a workout. The key to  refueling after a workout is a balance of protein and complex carbohydrates. Protein helps your muscles recover from wear-and-tear and carbohydrates replenish your energy stores. We recommend having a snack or light meal depending on the time of day, 30-60 minutes after exercising. During this window muscles are most efficient at building protein.  Instead of buying protein powders, which are highly processed and isolate just one nutrient, we suggest you get your protein from natural sources that provide multiple benefits to your body. Great protein sources include lean meat, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs, or other low fat diary. Nuts and dairy are post workout all stars because they provide both protein and carbohydrates. Your carbs should contain fiber to slow digestion. In other words, avoid anything white (white bread, pastas, etc). Fruits, vegetables, and whole grains are where its at in the carb department. 

Another Tovita tip: ditch the high electrolyte sports drinks. Unless you are performing a high intensity workout for over an hour, there is no reason for sugary sports drinks, so stick to water for hydration. To give you some context, one bottle of Gatorade has 56 grams of sugar! If that number doesn't mean much to you, a can of Coke has 44 grams. Scary, huh? To replace electrolytes, bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium, which aid in muscle function and help to prevent cramping and soreness. 

Some ideas?

greek yogurt parfait
  • Banana with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • A protein packed smoothie with ½ cup almond milk (chocolate almond milk is also great for this recipe!), ½ cup Greek yogurt, ½ frozen banana, 1 tsp peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with 1 tbsp almonds or 1/2 cup berries
  • Turkey and cheese roll ups (4 slices of turkey, 2 slices part skim cheese)
  • Salad with grilled chicken or fish
  •  ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with ½ cup berries and 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  •  Can of light tuna mixed with 2 tbsp hummus and 1 serving of whole grain crackers
  • Whole grain toast with 1 tbsp natural almond butter and a dash of cinnamon for added antioxidants
  • 1 egg, 2 egg white Veggie omelet
  • Grilled chicken and 1/2 sweet potato (with the skin for fiber!)
  • Brown rice sushi (keep it simple, avoid the "spicy" and "crunchy" options)

These snack and meal ideas also work  as pre-workout fuel, but try keep it on the lighter side and leave 30-60 minutes after eating to avoid any discomfort mid treadmill action. 

Food For Thought This September

The month of September always seems to signify new beginnings. Now that BBQ season is over and late night beach bonfires no longer tempt you with a s'more (or two), it feels like the right time to settle into your routine. We set goals for ourselves come Fall. Back to work, back to school, back to getting your diet on track, back to eating healthy to increase your productivity. That's why today we're talking nutrition for cognition.

It’s not news that you need food for energy and muscle repair. But what you might not realize is that certain foods can help to boost your memory, improve your mood, and provide protection against age-related cognitive diseases. As any organ in your body requires nutrients for growth and maintenance, your brain is no exception. In fact, at rest your brain uses somewhere between 20 and 30 percent of your energy intake, and even more when you’re problem solving. Now do you understand why it can be difficult to concentrate when you skip a meal? You should, however, be smart about the foods you choose to fuel your brain, because when it comes to cognition, not all calories are created equal.

Dark berries: This means blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, acai berries, etc. These guys get their dark skin from a class of phytochemicals called anthocyanins, which are potent antioxidants. Remember, antioxidants are molecules found in foods that inhibit cell damage. As we age, our cells inevitably become damaged by means of normal metabolic activity. Think about it like this – when you buy a new computer, it works smoothly at high speed. As you download more programs, leave windows open, and perhaps spill the occasional beverage on your keyboard (guilty), it slows down and becomes less efficient. Well, the same goes for your brain. Not to mention, your brain is particularly susceptible to oxidative injury thanks to its demanding metabolic rate. This is why it is important to get those antioxidant foods into your diet, to combat cell damage and protect your neurons.

Nuts: Walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, cashews… You get the picture. We’re going to reiterate the antioxidant concept discussed above for a moment. Nuts are a major source of vitamin E, also a potent antioxidant that, according to research, presents promising outcomes for both prevention and treatment for Alzheimer’s disease. When we’re young, we think we’re invincible and nothing bad can happen to us. We’re telling you to eat smart because worldwide, more than 26 million people suffer from Alzheimer’s disease and if actions aren’t taken to prevent or delay its onset, the number of people affected by it is anticipated to double over the next 40 years. Try making a doggy bag of homemade trail mix to bring to work with you and, if you want to go nuts, throw in some dark chocolate for an added boost of antioxidants.

Hemp, flax & Chia seeds: You’ve probably been wondering why it’s uber trendy to drink Chia-infused beverages, add flaxseeds to your morning oatmeal, or swap cow’s milk for hemp milk in your smoothie. Well here’s a good reason: these seeds are rich in omega-3’s. Why do we need omega-3s? They are an essential fatty acid (EFA), meaning our bodies can’t make them on their own, so we must consume enough from our diets. EFA’s are important for nervous system, vision, immune and inflammatory function. Furthermore, our brains are made up of about 60 percent fat, so it is imperative that we consume EFA’s to provide our brains with adequate reserves. 

Leafy greens: As if you need another reason to include greens in your diet. Aside from the fiber and antioxidant content, green leafy vegetables like spinach and turnip greens are sources of B vitamins. These vitamins are major players when it comes to brain function, and in fact, low levels of B vitamins have been associated with learning and memory dysfunction. Other dietary sources include dried beans, peas, bell peppers, garlic and bananas.

Bulletproof Coffee: Brew it or Screw it?

This trend is one that has everyone talking. BUTTER in your COFFEE? We have to give it to the founder of Bulletproof Coffee, Dave Asprey, for shaking things up in the health world. If Gwyneth Paltrow and Jimmy Fallon do it, we should too, right?? Not so fast.

bulletproof coffee

Asprey first came across the creamy yak butter tea while visiting Tibet, where it has been a traditional beverage for centuries. As there are not many yaks residing in the US, he put his own twist on the beverage by using 2 tablespoons of unsalted , grass fed cow’s butter and adding myotoxin-free coffee and 2 tablespoons of medium chain triglyceride (MCT) oil.

Grassfed butter is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, D, K and beta-carotene. Grass fed is key here, corn or soy fed cows milk does NOT have the same nutrient profile! The MCT oil (coconut oil, typically) is an easily digested fat that is quickly absorbed and converted to energy rather than being stored. Coffee is meant to add that boost of caffeine and focus to your morning. When mixed with the fats, the caffeine enters your body more slowly and steadily.

Bulletproof coffee fans claim more energy and focus, digestive regularity, and weight loss. Sounds pretty great right? This is where we need to look at the other side of the story.

Bulletproofcoffee is 400+ calories, making it a meal replacement rather than addition. Asprey recommends replacing breakfast with the creamy coffee, which is where we find a problem. Why replace a balanced breakfast including protein, fiber, and an array of other nutrients with one that that is so low in essential nutrients?

We are huge coffee lovers, big fans of coconut oil, and have no problem with a dose of grass fed butter here and there. We hate to be conventional, but why not reap the benefits of coconut oil by using a tablespoon when cooking your vegetables? Or spread a teaspoon of grass fed butter on piece of sprouted bread? And why not enjoy your coffee with a splash of almond milk so that it can accompany your breakfast rather than replacing it?

We’re all about trying out different health trends and seeing what hits home. But here at Tovita, we are sticking to green smoothies, hearty bowls of oatmeal, and avocado toast for breakfast. 

Spotlight On: Chia Seeds

Love it or hate it, chia seeds are here to stay. It wasn’t too long ago that the now fully acclaimed super food was an obscure grocery store D-lister. Now you can practically find chia seeds before you can find sliced bread. There are good reasons why the chia love has spread like wildfire, so we're here to share why these little guys are more than just a food fad. 

chia seeds

The history behind Chia seeds amplifies its mass appeal. Chia was a staple for ancient Aztec and Mayan civilizations. The word chia is actually the Mayan word for “strength”. The warriors relied on chia for fuel before their ultra long distance treks through the desert. So while we may not be trekking through any desserts, chia seeds have a multitude of benefits for us in the modern world as well.

These little seeds have an impressive nutrient profile. Just two tablespoons provides 11 grams of fiber, 4 grams of protein, omega 3’s and all ten amino acids making it a complete plant protein. A serving of chia seeds has more antioxidants than blueberries and more protein than flax seeds. The fact that the seeds expand and gelatinize when mixed with a liquid are what makes you feel full and satisfied after consuming a small amount. The gelatinous consistency also makes it a great addition to muffins, yogurt, smoothies and puddings. Remember, two tablespoons is about 100 calories so you may want to stick to 1 tablespoon at a time.

One of our favorite ways to use Chia seeds is in our overnight oats. We all know how hectic mornings can be so we love having breakfast ready to go. This is a nutrient packed breakfast that will keep you full and energized.

5-Minute Overnight Oats

Ingredients: (serves 1)

overnight oats
  • Mason jar (because everything looks better in a mason jar)
  • 1/3 cup rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk
  • 1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon chia seeds
  • 1 teaspoon cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • Optional teaspoon of honey or peanut butter
  • Pinch of cinnamon

Directions:

Mix together all ingredients in the mason jar and refrigerate overnight. In the morning, add fresh berries or sliced banana and enjoy. Easy as that!

Tovita Trick: blend 1 medium banana with soy or almond milk in above recipe. Add all of the ingredients as instructed. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy your banana overnight oats! 

TOVITA X ELITE DAILY: To Eat Or Not To Eat - 2 Major Myths Behind Snacking Debunked

Clients and friends are always asking us about the latest nutrition fads and there is nothing we love more than setting the record straight so that you can focus on what matters without all the riff raff. In our article for Elite Daily, we give a little science lesson in order to debunk two of the latest nutrition myths. 

tovita nutrition

These days, the tremendous amount of nutrition information you can find surfing the web can be overwhelming.From juice cleansing to the raw food diet to the grapefruit diet, understanding how to maintain a healthy diet can be downright confusing.

That’s why we’ve brought over Leah Silberman and Molly Rieger, the dietitians behind Tovita Nutrition to set the record straight.

Today we are going to debunk one of the latest two-part health myths: firstly, that a meal must be fully digested before you can send more food down; secondly, that it is dangerous to eat fruit when you haven’t fully digested a meal because it rots and ferments in your digestive tract.

We’ll begin with some Biology 101, so follow closely.

Digestion begins the moment food enters your mouth and ends the moment it exits your body, past your colon.

So, let’s map it: Your food travels from your mouth, to your stomach, to your small intestine, large intestine and finally, let’s just say, it exits. This entire process generally takes between six and 10 hours. Think of your stomach as an acidic blender.

The cells in your stomach secrete hydrochloric acid in response to the presence of food, which helps to break down anything you’ve swallowed. It churns this mixture until it succumbs to the consistency of a liquid-paste. From there, it slowly moves into the small intestine, where actual absorption begins to take place.

Now you might be starting to put the pieces together. Typically, you probably get hungry every three to four hours. If you had to wait for digestion to complete before you could eat another morsel of food, you could be waiting up to 10 hours until your next meal.

So no, you should not wait until digestion of a previous meal is complete before you send your next meal down.In conjunction with the above myth, you may have heard that eating fruit after a meal causes the fruit to rot and ferment in your stomach. 

Again, the pH of your stomach is very low, meaning it is a strongly acidic environment. One of the reasons your stomach is so acidic is to prevent bacteria from proliferating and making you sick. Fermentation takes place when bacteria are present, and your stomach contains very little bacteria.

Once fruit enters your stomach, it is broken down by enzymes, regardless of any other foods that may be simultaneously present. Generally, the more macronutrients you consume in a given meal (ie. proteins, fats, or carbohydrates), the longer it takes to digest in the stomach, which is totally fine!

In fact, combining nutrients in a given meal will help keep you satisfied for longer. Have you ever noticed that if you eat an apple alone, you’re hungry again after an hour or so?

On the contrary, if you were to eat an apple with a tablespoon of peanut butter, you would stay fuller for much longer. This is simply because the protein, fat and carbohydrates from the apple and peanut butter combined take longer to digest.

The bottom line is, no matter when you eat fruit, it will ultimately be digested, the same way any other food is; there is no “correct” order to eat it in. As for fermentation, the only place fruit or any food can ferment is in the colon, which is a bacterial haven. Just remember, this is not a bad thing! (Hello, probiotics!)

So, yes, you may resume eating fruit with or in-between meals, as you prefer. And no, please don’t wait until you have completely digested your breakfast before you sit down for lunch. But, if you do, be nice and give your coworkers a heads up, so they don’t take your hangry attitude personally.

Eat Your SPF: How To Protect Your Skin Through Your Diet This Summer via Elite Daily

As nutrition experts, we are most frequently asked questions about food as it relates to the waistline. Don't get us wrong, we love talking about slimming foods! But we have to admit we get extra excited when we are asked about food as it relates to health, in terms of preventing disease or combating cell damage. 

Check out our piece on foods that help prevent against sun damage on elitedaily.com. 

That's right, there are certain foods that are particularly high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory agents, which help to negate free radical damage, such as that caused by the sun. Be sure to check out which foods you want to make sure you're eating enough of this summer! 

 

DIY Coffee Scrub Face Mask

Tired of paying for expensive face masks and skin treatments? We feel you, which is why we're so excited to introduce Emily Van Raay, our beautiful friend and founder of Models for Wellness.  She is showing us how she gets her glowing skin using a few kitchen staples. Trust us, you will love how bright and soft your skin feels afterwards!

Ingredients (to make for 2):

  • 1 cup ground coffee
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 2 tbsp sea salt
  • juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoon apple cider vinegar (to apply after the mask)
facemask

Mister Spoils: You Asked, We Answered

A few weeks ago we teamed up with Mister Spoils and held an "ask us anything" event for 24 hours. We received a nice mix of thoughtful questions and concerns about diet and health. Since many of you had similar questions, we decided to compile a list of the top 5 most frequently asked questions and share the answers with all of you. Don't worry, your questions remain anonymous. We wouldn't do that to you.

1.    Is the Paleo Diet good for me?

The Paleo Diet was developed on the premise that we should be eating the way our cavemen ancestors once ate. In our modern world, there are pros and cons to eating like a caveman.

The diet encourages tons of healthy foods, like vegetables, fruits, lean meats, nuts and seeds, and healthy fats. It also says unhealthy foods like refined sugars and processed foods are a no-go. We’re all for these recommendations. The downside is that it eliminates foods that we think are important for good health.  For instance, whole grains like quinoa, whole wheat, and brown rice are packed with fiber and nutrients. Studies have shown that the optimal source of fuel for our brains is carbohydrates, meaning it’s important to make healthy carb choices to maximize brain function. Legumes like lentils and garbanzo beans are also good sources of vegetarian protein and are packed with fiber, which helps to keep us feeling full and satiated.

Dairy is a bit more controversial. Many people are lactose intolerant to begin with, and other people may have adverse reactions to milk proteins. In these cases, we recommend avoiding dairy. On the contrary, some people tolerate dairy just fine. If this is the case for you, dairy can be a great way to get your protein and calcium fix, and foods like low fat Greek yogurt or cottage cheese make convenient on-the-go snacks.

 2.    What is the best food to eat after a workout?

The key to refueling after a workout is a balance of protein and carbohydrates. Protein helps your muscles recover from wear-and-tear and carbohydrates replenish your energy stores. We recommend having a snack or light meal (depending on time of day) 30-60 minutes after exercising. During this window muscles are most efficient at building protein.  Instead of buying protein powders, which are highly processed and isolate just one nutrient, we suggest getting your protein from natural sources that provide several benefits to your body. Great protein sources include lean meat, Greek yogurt, nuts, eggs, or other low fat diary. Nuts and dairy are post workout all stars because they provide both protein and carboyhydrates. Another Tovita tip: ditch the high electrolyte sports drinks. Unless you are performing a high intensity workout for over an hour, there is no reason for sugary sports drinks, so stick to water for hydration. Bananas are a great source of potassium and magnesium, which aid in muscle function and help to prevent cramping and soreness.

Some ideas?

  • Banana with 1 tbsp natural peanut butter
  • A protein packed smoothie with ½ cup almond milk, ½ cup Greek yogurt, ½ frozen banana, 1 tsp peanut butter
  • Greek yogurt with 1 tbsp almonds
  • Turkey and cheese roll ups (4 slices of turkey, 2 slices part skim cheese)
  • Salad with grilled chicken or fish
  •  ½ cup low fat cottage cheese with ½ cup berries and 1 tbsp hemp seeds
  •  Can of light tuna mixed with 2 tbsp hummus and 1 serving of whole grain crackers

3.    I have a sweet tooth, but I’m not ready to give up sweets completely? What is a healthy substitute for dessert that won’t destroy my entire diet?

The Tovita philosophy is centered on balance and moderation. We don’t believe in completely eliminating foods that you enjoy. When you deprive ourself of the foods you crave, it eventually tends to backfire and can lead to unhealthy binge eating behavior. When it comes to that sweet tooth, there are ways you can make conscious indulgences that won’t “destroy your entire diet.” Firstly, we’re proponents of the 3-bite rule. Studies have shown that the first and last bites of a dessert are the most satisfying. So there you have it. Secondly, we say go for the dessert that confers some health benefits, like dark chocolate! You’ve probably heard this before, but the research is real. Studies have shown that dark chocolate is choc full of nutrients and antioxidants. The higher the percent cacao (aka the darker the chocolate), the less sugar it will have and the higher the nutrient content. If you’re a chocolate lover, we recommend ALOHA dark chocolate. Their chocolate bars are infused with combinations of fruits, greens, and nuts, which provide an additional antioxidant kick. Feel free to use our code “Tovita20” at checkout for a 20% discount on your order. You’re welcome.

4.    Is there any food that cures a hangover?

We wish! Unfortunately, there is no magic fruit or healing beverage that negates the pain of a hangover (if anyone finds one though, email us immediately). You can, however, take some of our tips to help you reduce the chances of being hung over after a night out.

  1. Drink water in between each alcoholic beverage. You’ve probably heard this before, but there is good reason for it. Alcohol dehydrates your body, so do yourself a favor and replenish your cells!  
  2. Notice how we said WATER versus Gatorade, or coconut water, or any other sugary drink. Yes, these beverages are loaded with electrolytes, but they’re also sources of added sugar to your diet. Sugar is inherently dehydrating and can exacerbate a hangover. Ultimately, these drinks just become extra sources of calories.
  3. In conjunction with tip #2, avoid mixing your liquor with caloric mixers – AKA juice, soda, tonic water. Yes guys, tonic water is loaded with sugar and calories so don’t be fooled by its transparent appearance. Go for seltzer water with lemon or lime.  
  4. Sleep. It’s not a food, but it’s worth mentioning. Not only do hangovers make you feel like there is a mini rock band practicing in your brain, but alcohol also disrupts your sleep cycle. This explains why you often wake up early regardless of whatever time you went to bed. Alcohol interferes with your REM sleep, so both quality and length are reduced.

For the time being, lots of water, sleep, and possibly some Advil remain your best remedies. 

 5.    Best ways to lower cholesterol?

Before we dive into cholesterol-lowering methods, we’re going to play doctor for a moment and give you some cholesterol 101.  Cholesterol is a fat-like substance found in cell walls, from your liver to your heart. You need cholesterol to perform bodily functions like producing hormones, vitamin D, and other substances. The good news is that your body is able to make all of the cholesterol that it needs to operate, so you don’t actually need to get it from your diet.

If there is too much cholesterol in your blood, it can build up and become trapped in arterial walls or can lead to the formation of blood clots. Both of these scenarios ultimately reduce blood flow and increase the risk for a heart attack. The important concept to understand is that having high cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease.

You cannot control certain risk factors like age, sex, and family history. However, there are things that you can control. First, let’s understand what these factors are and then we’ll discuss what you can do about them.

Factors that may raise cholesterol:

  1. Saturated fat
  2. Trans fats
  3. Cholesterol
  4. Being overweight
  5. Physical inactivity

How to reduce cholesterol:

1.     Research seems to show that saturated fat raises cholesterol more than any of the other dietary risk factors. Saturated fat is usually solid at room and refrigerator temperatures and is found in foods from fatty cuts of animal meat, such as chicken with the skin, fatty meat, whole milk diary, and some vegetable oils. Focus on reducing the amount of saturated fat in your diet. Note: trans fats, which are found in hydrogenated foods, like margarine or fried foods, should also be avoided. However the Western diet tends to be higher in saturated fat than trans fats.

2.     Increase the soluble fiber in your diet. Soluble fiber reduces LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) because it dissolves into a gel-like substance in your intestines and blocks cholesterol from being reabsorbed into your blood stream. Food sources of soluble fiber include whole grains like oatmeal, oat bran or barley, the inside of fruits like bananas, peaches, apples, or berries, and beans or legumes, like kidneys beans, pinto beans, or lentils.

3.     Being overweight increases your LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and lowers your HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol). It is also a risk factor for developing other cardiovascular complications and even some cancers. 

4.     Stay physically active. This doesn’t mean you need to run a marathon or take up bodybuilding. It really means that you should try to be moderately active for at least 30 minutes most days. You can even take a brisk walk – that counts too! 

Power of Probiotics

What are Probiotics?

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that live in your intestines. There are over 500 types of probiotics, but their general function is to aid in digestion, boost your immune system, and prevent toxins and harmful bacteria from proliferating. Increased species diversity increases the efficiency and productivity of your digestive system, making you less susceptible to external stressors. Think about it simply, when probiotics are abundant in your colon, there is less room for harmful bacteria.  

probiotic foods

Increasing your gut biodiversity results in easier digestion, reducing those less glamorous symptoms like gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation. Probiotics are also essential for making some B vitamins, vitamin K, folate, and short-chain fatty acids. Short chain fatty acids  are a source of energy and may help prevent health complications including gastrointestinal disorders, cardiovascular disease by reducing synthesis of cholesterol in the liver, and colon cancer by preventing abnormal cells from growing. There is new research surrounding the gut-brain connection that suggests a healthy gut could possibly alleviate mood swings and anxiety. Have we won you over yet?

In the nutrition world, the relationship between probiotics and obesity is a hot topic. There are two categories of probiotics. The firmicute category is very efficient at extracting energy from food, while the bacteroidetes are not. Researchers are focused on figuring out if an imbalance of the two categories is a cause or consequence of obesity. One study found that after just 10 days on a "Western diet" of processed, high sugar, high fat foods, participants had significantly decreased their intestinal probiotic diversity.

Aside from consuming a diet with highly processed foods, frequently taking antibiotics kills off your good bacteria along with the bad. It can take up to two years to replace the beneficial bacteria killed from just one round of antibiotics. You might want to think more carefully before you take your next Z-pack… or at least be sure to take a probiotic supplement with it. 

Probiotics are "fed" by prebiotics, a special form of dietary fiber found in many fruits and vegetables. Your body is unable to digest these fibers so they instead act as a “fertilizer” for probiotics in the gut. Sources of prebiotics include the skin of apples, bananas, onions and garlic, bananas, Jerusalem artichokes, chicory root and beans. 

probiotics.jpg

Where to find probiotics?

Yogurt and Kefir: the probiotics in yogurt or kefir are easier to digest for those of you who are lactose intolerant, versus probiotics found in cheese or milk. Yes, these are all sources of dairy, however, yogurt and kefir naturally contain bacteria that help you digest lactose. Make sure to look for yogurts that have "live and active cultures" on the label because many yogurts are pasteurized and have lost much of their probiotic count. Non-dairy yogurts made of coconuts, rice, almonds, or soy may have added probiotics for those who have trouble digesting dairy.

Fermented foods: kimchi, miso, tempeh, tamari, fermented cabbage (sauerkraut) and cucumbers (pickles) are an amazing source of probiotics. The fermentation process transforms sugar and carbohydrates into probiotics.

Kombucha: this fizzy fermented tea combines over 50 kinds of microorganisms, digestive enzymes, amino acids and vitamins which, ease digestion and help the liver detox

If the foods listed above seem a little funky for you, you may want to try a supplement. Many probiotic supplements are killed by stomach acids before they reach the intestines, so look for one that has "controlled-release technology" or "beadlet technology" which can survive stomach acid and do not need to be refrigerated. Many doctors recommend a VSL#3 probiotic supplement, which is a cocktail of several strands of probiotics. If you have a specific GI issue, talk to your gastroenterologist before investing in supplements. 

Take daily for at least 2 weeks and let us know if you feel a difference!

Tovita Travels: Cartagena, Colombia

The palette of colors that pepper Cartagena are equally exciting as the fresh flavors of this city. Ceviche, grilled fish and exotic fruits are offered everyday along the shorelines and at every street corner. This of course means that staying healthy here is simple. 

playa blanca.jpg

In 4 days, we covered the old city by foot, spent a day at the famous Playa Blanca, and took a day trip to the Rosario Islands. Playa Blanca, the public beach of Cartagena, is certainly a sight to see. Picture white sand, clear blue water and persistent locals selling fruit, beads, and massages. Playa blanca definitely makes for an action-packed afternoon. However, if you are looking for a relaxing, private beach, this is not for you. We recommend that you check it out, but head over on a weekday to avoid the chaotic weekend crowds. 

The 45-minute boat ride to the Rosario Islands was well worth it. We had a quiet relaxing day on a small private beach. There are small bungalow hotels located on each island and the staff prepared a traditional Colombian lunch for us of fish soup, grilled fish and fried plantains. We stayed hydrated with fresh coconut water straight from the source.  

Now to the juicy stuff, where to eat:

La Vitrola:  The favorite by far. An old school restaurant that also serves as a jazz club. The fish was fresh and cleanly grilled, however the side dishes were rich and decadent. We ordered one grilled snapper with coconut risotto (still dreaming about it) and a grilled salmon with sautéed vegetables. *Note: Make a reservation in advance

ceviche

Best ceviche in town? Il Biloche Cebicheria or La cevicheria. Il biloche is more upscale and not to be missed, la cevicheria serves as your casual ceviche fix. You can't go wrong at either establishment. 

Maria:  This is a trendy restaurant with an island-meets-New York feel. The food was good, but unless you are there with a group and looking for a more rowdy scene, we felt it wasn’t worth writing home about. We ordered the seared tuna salad, mixed ceviche, and shared the bass fillet. 

La paleteria: best popsicles in town. Guilty of two-a-day. The guanabana flavor is the local favorite, but we couldn't resist also trying the banana split.

On every corner you’ll find fruit stands with fresh mango. The perfect refreshing snack to make it through the scorching afternoons. Planning a trip? Feel free to reach out for more recommendations on how to stay healthy in this magical city.

popsicles

 

 

 

 

 

 

This Week We're Sweating: Overthrow NY

Overthrow NY has got us hooked. We took Ronica’s underground boxing & burn class and we can tell you firsthand there is a good reason they call it a “burn” class.

Vibe: The Overthrow space is a former meeting spot for radical activists, and the grungy meets rebel-punk vibe most definitely lives on. Dim lights, neon signs, and high-energy music get you revved up to throw power punches. With just a single ring upstairs and a studio downstairs, the space itself is small which creates an intimate setting.  

Class: The boxing & burn class is a mix of boxing and cardio. When we weren’t throwing punches, Ronica had us shuffling, lunging, jumping and squatting. Though it’s a high intensity workout, you don’t have to be a pro to take this class.  Our class was filled with newbies (plus an SLT instructor!).

overthrow.jpg

Instructors: The instructors are pro fighters and top-level amateurs, but don’t let their muscles intimidate you! They are there to teach good form and they understand that you may not be the next Floyd Mayweather.

Be prepared: To sweat your butt off... and to have sore arms if you’re a newbie (the good kind of sore). There are no showers, so it may not be the best idea to take a class during your lunch break at work. Don’t expect a coat check either, but there is a small locker area downstairs where you can store your belongings. Wear sneakers. Overthrow provides wraps and boxing gloves.

Overall: Awesome mix of cardio and strength conditioning. You will leave feeling like a bada$$. As Ronica says, “fight through the burn!” 

Gluten: Friend or Foe? Get in the Know

Health trends always come and go, but the gluten-free craze has stuck around for quite some time now. Experts predict that gluten-free food sales will exceed 16 billion dollars by 2016. Talk about a lot of dough! In spirit of our Fox News interview last week where we discussed the controversial gluten-free fad (and shared one of our own client's journey) we think you deserve a little fact versus fiction from your trusted dietitians when it comes to the breadbasket.

Let’s first define gluten so we’re all on the same page. If we've learned anything from Jimmy Kimmel’s “what is gluten”  video last year, it’s that square one is the best place to start. Gluten is a protein commonly found in foods containing wheat, rye, and barley. It provides many starch products with shape, texture, and elasticity. So, there you have it. Gluten is not some people-eating-cancer-causing bacterium that’s destroying humanity one bagel at a time. It’s just a protein, and it’s been the foundation of the Western diet since the start of civilization.

So why now does gluten have such a bad rep?

Celiac disease (CD), widely known as a gluten allergy, is an autoimmune condition that occurs in response to gluten consumption and can ultimately destroy the small intestine if not properly handled. This is a very real condition that should not be taken lightly. A blood test is used to screen for and an intestinal biopsy can further diagnose CD. The only treatment is strict, lifelong adherence to a gluten-free diet. For some people, the allergy is so severe that using a utensil that had previously come in contact with gluten can leave them with painful GI symptoms for days.

In the early 1990’s CD was under-diagnosed. Now, the National Institutes of Health estimates that 1% of the population suffer from CD. This is largely why gluten has made headline news so often in the last decade.

Non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) seems to be the condition that has people most confused. People with NCGS test negative for CD; however, they experience painful GI symptoms when they eat gluten-containing foods, similar to those of people who have CD. Furthermore, many people find that their symptoms subside when gluten is removed from their diets. Hmmm.

While scientists are working to configure an explanation for these people, research has provided some interesting theories. Some recent studies have shown that these GI symptoms may be due to other components found in carbohydrates. These other components referred to by their acronym “FODMAPS”  (which we will discuss in a future blog post) draw water into the intestine and can cause aggravating GI symptoms. In many instances gluten may not be the culprit after all.

Are there health risks to going gluten-free?

There are no major health risks to going gluten-free. However a common misconception about gluten-free food is that it is healthier than gluten-containing foods. This is completely false and in fact, processed gluten-free foods are more likely to lack certain vitamins and fiber than gluten-containing foods. We are all in favor of a balanced diet full of fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and gluten-free grains like quinoa and brown rice. Gluten free cupcakes and pizza? Not so much.

Gluten-free food tends to be expensive. If you’re not certain that gluten is the reason for your GI discomfort, you may want to think outside the box.

What should I do now?

If you have CD, you already know that you are GF4L (gluten-free for life). If you think you have NCGS and you feel better on a gluten-free diet, then keep it up! If going gluten-free hasn't helped your GI symptoms, then perhaps it’s time to take a closer look into your diet. We suggest using a food journal to help you recognize triggers. The triggers may be,  but are certainly not limited to, portion size, stress, or specific foods. 

A nutrition plan is not "one-size-fits-all." We're simply here to educate you. Now that you're in on the gluten gossip, the choice is yours! 

What's Up With Supplements?

These days both the amount and variety of vitamins and nutritional supplements on the market are enough to make you dizzy. While some claim to cure depression and others promise to reduce blood pressure, endless options make you wonder if you’re getting enough nutrients. We’re here to help you separate fact from fiction so you can make informed decisions about what you’re putting into your body.

Food Vs. Pills

Let’s dive right into the million-dollar question: Do you need to be taking a daily multivitamin?

The short answer is that most of us don’t need dietary supplements at all. Not even a multivitamin. If you are able to maintain a healthy diet that includes a variety of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein sources, chances are you are getting adequate nutrients. Making the most of your diet should be your number one goal, because taking a synthetic vitamin is not the same as nurturing your body with nutritious foods. Whole foods optimize your health by providing your body with a synergy of nutrients. A single fruit or vegetable contains a variety of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants, which an over-the-counter supplement does not identically mimic. Take a vitamin C pill and a serving of blueberries, for example. The blueberries will deliver antioxidants, fiber, vitamin C and a host of other nutrients. If you opt for the pill, you're missing out on the other benefits that the whole fruit naturally offers. 

Of course, the pill offers a concentrated dose of a given vitamin or mineral which a single food usually doesn’t provide. The catch is that your body probably doesn’t need the mega dose.

So who does need to take a supplement?

As with most rules there are some exceptions. Those of you who are at risk of becoming deficient in a particular vitamin or mineral would likely benefit from a supplement. You may fall into in the “at risk” group if you are on a restrictive diet, you are a vegan or a vegetarian, you are an older adult (50+), you are pregnant, or if you have a medical condition that limits your food choices or increases your need for a specific vitamin. For instance, a majority of vitamin B12 sources come from animal protein so vegans and vegetarians tend to be at higher risk for B12 deficiency. Alternatively, pregnant women have higher needs for folic acid so they often benefit from folic acid supplements. We want to let you know that probiotics are a different ballgame. We will discuss pre and probiotics in another post, so stay tuned! 

But taking more of something can’t hurt, right?

Nope. False. Untrue. Taking too much of anything can have detrimental consequences and supplements are no different. This is especially true if you are taking medications that may have nutrient interactions that alter the effectiveness of the meds. For example, calcium supplements can interfere with thyroid med absorption, so it may be dangerous for thyroid meds to be taken with calcium.  

You also have to be sure that you are taking supplements for the right reasons. Many people believe that vitamin C will cure the common cold. Though we wish this were the case, scientists seem to agree that there is no valid evidence to verify this claim. Plus, taking more than 2,000 mg of vitamin C per day can lead to kidney problems. On the other hand, vitamin C does boost iron absorption and can be helpful if you are anemic.

We feel it is our job to give you the 411 on supplement regulation – or lack thereof. There are not as many regulatory requirements imposed on nutritional supplements as there are on pharmaceutical drugs. Companies therefore are at liberty to make claims that may not be 100% true, as there are fewer legal ramifications. In other words, supplements may not contain all of what they promise to. This doesn’t mean that all supplement labels are false; however, they can most definitely be misleading. 

What should you do next?

You probably know the saying “if it ain’t broke – don’t fix it.” Well, the same applies here. It is important to understand that it is not beneficial to take a supplement without an indication. If you are at risk for a nutrient deficiency, talk to your physician and dietitian (aka us!) about developing a nutrition regimen that is both safe and effective for you. In the meantime, put those pills away and EAT your nutrients.