BMI and Body Fat Percentage – Not Created Equal

How to Measure Body Fat Using a Tape Measure

Many of us are familiar with BMI (Body Mass Index) charts which tell us, supposedly, if our body mass is healthy, underweight or overweight.    

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “BMI is a number calculated from a person’s weight and height and is a fairly reliable indicator of body fatness for most people. While BMI does not measure body fat directly, research has shown that BMI correlates to direct measures of body fat, such as underwater weighing and dual energy x-ray absorptiometry (DXA).” BMI is an easy-to-calculate method of screening for weight categories that may lead to health problems. The Internet is rife with BMI calculators. Here is a link to the CDC’s calculator for adults and children/teens: http://www.cdc.gov/healthyweight/assessing/bmi/

The chart, below, lists the standard weight status categories associated with BMI ranges for adults:

 

BMI Weight Status
Below  18.5 Underweight
18.6 – 24.9 Normal
25.0 – 29.0 Overweight
30.0 and Above Obese

 

The problem with relying only on BMI is that it is a very one-dimensional picture of a person’s body composition. For example, there are people who may have a BMI in the Normal range, but are actually fat as determined by body fat testing. Conversely, there are people who are deemed obese or overweight, who, in fact, are very lean with minimal body fat. This is because BMI does not take into account how much body weight is muscle and how much is fat. 

This is why it is important to consider body fat percentage in addition to BMI. Body fat percentage is calculated by dividing fat mass by body weight. This calculation can lead to results that not only don’t match the BMI categories, but in some cases, if not made known to the affected individual, could lead to undiagnosede health problems.  

For example, two women are both 5 feet 4 inches tall with a BMI of 24. But if woman #1 has 42 pounds of body fat and 98 pounds of lean mass, she has 30% body fat. This is what is often refered to as normal weight obesity. If woman #2 has only 28 pounds of body fat and 112 pounds of lean mass, her body fat is only 20%. Same weight + same height does not always equal the same composition of fat to lean mass.   

On the other side of the coin, you have people who are incorrectly labeled as overweight or obese according to a BMI chart, especially athletes. My 16-year old son, who works out regularly as a high school football player, is a prime example. According to a BMI chart, he is Overweight. But after measuring his body fat with calipers (which was not easy to do because the kid has almost no fat on him) he falls into the Athlete range on the Body Fat chart (see below). By the way, is there some reverse genetic engineering process that will allow him to pass this trait to his mother? Just asking.  

Body Fat Categories

Classification Women Men
Essential Fat 10-12% 2-4%
Athletes 14-20% 6-13%
Fitness 21-24% 14-17%
Acceptable 25-31% 18-25%
Obese 32%+ 25%+

While the ultimate way to test body fat is via underwater weighing or x-ray absorption as mentioned above, unless a friend or neighbor has x-ray vision or is an expert with his or her own water tank and highly sensitive equipment, and you don’t mind being stark naked – which is required for the water test, these means of measurement are not practical for the majority of people. However, you can measure your body fat, albeit somewhat less precisely, in the comfort of your own home by simply using a tape measure or body fat calipers (you can purchase basic calipers online for a few dollars – check out amazon.com). Body fat calipers require a bit of practice and unless you are a contortionist, someone to assist you with  measuring certain locations, like your lower back.  

Here’s a link on how to measure body fat using a tape measure: http://www.ehow.com/how_4869405_measure-fat-using-tape-measure.html  

If you want to use body fat calipers, you might want to visit this web site for information on how and where to take measurements: http://linear-software.com/online.html 

For many of us, BMI is a good indicator as to whether or not we are at a healthy weight, underweight or overweight. But, if you are more athletic or simply want a more precise indication of your ratio of lean tissue to fat, I recommend taking a few minutes to take your measurements. The results might prove comforting or might motivate you to make changes to improve your overall health and fitness.

And We Wonder Why We Are Getting Fatter

The headlines in recent days paint a very bleak picture:

USA is fattest of 33 countries (USA Today)

Obesity epidemic ranges on (Washington Post)

Unhealthy eating and inactivity are  leading causes of death in the US
(US Department of  Health & Human Services)

Leon's getting larger.

According to health officials with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, U.S. obesity rates have increased in the past 10 years even though the government set a goal of reducing obesity rates to 15% of the population by 2010. Fail.

Obesity rates inched up 1.1% between 2007 and 2009, according to a new report released by the CDC. In just the past two years, 2.4 million people have joined the ranks of the obese. About 72.5 million U.S. adults are now obese, the report found. That’s 26.7% of the population, compared to 25.6% in 2007.

“The prevalence of obesity and abdominal obesity remains disturbingly high among adults in the United States, and our trend analysis shows that both may still be increasing among men,” the CDC researchers said.

To top it all off, Americans now have the dubious distinction of being the fattest nation among 33 advanced nations. Fail.

And some people scratch their heads and wonder why this is happening. There are several possible answers but, in my humble opinion, there is one very simple one: we eat too much (and much of what we eat is junk) and we don’t exercise. Check out this video from ABC News. It’s only 2-1/2 minutes long but says so much about what/how much we eat in this country and demonstrates how easy it is, if you’re not engaged in maintaining your well being, to go completely overboard when it comes to calories and fat. You can actually see and hear the immediate physical results of eating this disastrous “meal”. Seeing the fat content in the reporter’s blood sample is amazing and scary at the same time.

What Exactly Does a 6,190 Calorie Lunch Do to Your Body?

And this is just lunch! What happens when you eat breakfast and dinner? While this story aired in 2009, things haven’t improved much at many chain restaurants. The most recent assault on our health: fried lasagna from the Olive Garden, described as Parmesan-breaded lasagna pieces, fried and served over Alfredo sauce, topped with Parmesan cheese and marinara sauce. This heart-attack-waiting-to-happen includes 1,030 calories and 63 grams of fat (that’s 97% of your recommended daily intake), not to mention 121 grams (105%) of saturated fat and 150 milligrams (67%) of sodium. And this is just an appetizer!

Olive Garden does have a couple of less life-threatening items on the menu, but why are they offering food that should only be found at a state fair? Is this responsible behavior? Who thinks up these concoctions? Is there a group of sadistic chefs out there who are trying to kill us with inhumanely large portion sizes, fried in fat and soaked in salt with almost zero nutritional value? It seems like a very poorly thought out business plan—if you kill your customers, how do you expect to stay in business? Perhaps menus should come with warnings like cigarette packages do: This product is known to cause diabetes, stroke and heart attack. Or maybe there should be a rule: if you create a meal-time monstrosity, you must create a nutritious meal to keep the balance.

Restaurants say they are giving customers what they want. I don’t know about you, but I don’t know anyone who wants to die early from heart disease, diabetes or any other obesity-related disorders. How about caring enough about customers to help them lead healthy lives. You can leave the Alfredo sauce and chocolate chip cookies on the menu, just post the nutritional info and keep the portion sizes reasonable. And for those of us who don’t want to see fat floating in our blood, give us a nice piece of fish, chicken or lean meat prepared with delicious herbs and spices—not fried in fat and drowned in sodium.

It’s time we start taking accountability for what we put in our bodies. It’s so simple. Watch your portion sizes, count your calories, read nutritional labels, and get some exercise. And let your favorite restaurants know that you want healthier food in healthier portions. Your dollars matter—exercise your voice and your wallet, too.

Officials at the CDC are now developing targets for reducing obesity by 2020. Let’s hope we get a passing grade the next time.

“Toning” Shoes: Not Only Are They Ugly – They Don’t Work!

trail walk shoes

Good 'ole athletic shoes do just fine.

Every Time I see a woman wearing a pair of Skechers Shape-Ups or Reebok EasyTone shoes, I ask myself three questions: 1) why would anyone spend good money ($100-$245) on something so hideous (they remind me of Frankenstein shoes)?; 2) how may times have you twisted your ankles?; and, 3) do they really work? I specifically mention women because I have yet to see a man wearing them, even with Joe Montana serving as a spokesman for Skechers.

Thanks to the American Council on Exercise (ACE), I now have an answer to the third question: No, they don’t work.

The ACE researched the claims from Reebok, Skechers and Masai Barefoot Technology and discovered that the claims from all three companies are predicated on each company’s own studies, which are of questionable design and are not peer reviewed. In other words, the fox is watching the hen house. If this comes as a surprise to anyone, that a company would construct a study in such a way as to come out with results biased in its favor, I have a bridge in Brooklyn you might be interested in buying.

In order to get objective results, the ACE commissioned a team of exercise scientists from the Exercise and Health Program at the University of Wisconsin, La Crosse, to study the shoes. The scientists designed two studies, one evaluated exercise response between traditional athletic shoes and toning shoes, and the other evaluated muscle activation between regular athletic shoes and toning shoes. You can read ACE’s summary of the study here: Will Toning Shoes Really Give You a Better Body? and the research findings here: The Physiologic and Electromyographic Responses to Walking in Regular Athletic Shoes Versus “Fitness Shoes”.

The bottom line: there is NO evidence that “toning” shoes will help wearers exercise more intensely, burn more calories or improve muscle strength and tone.

So why do people think the shoes work? According to John Pocari, PhD, one of the aforementioned exercise scientists, it’s “because you’re walking on probably an inch worth of cushioning, they feel different, and that’s why when people first wear them they’re probably going to be sore because you’re using different muscles. But if you wear any sort of abnormal shoes that you’re not used to wearing, your muscles are going to get sore. Is that going to translate into toning your butt, hamstrings, and calves? Nope. Your body is going to get used to it.”

There is an upside, at least the shoes encourage people to exercise. But IMHO, why not save yourself some cash and instead invest in a solid pair of cross trainers or walking shoes, along with what the ACE recommends: a pair of hand weights which, if you pump your arms while you walk, will result in toning muscles and burning extra calories. If you want to take it up a notch, the ACE suggests a weighted vest (up to 10% of your body weight) for a more intense workout. Just remember, like any new workout routine, ease into it and start with light weights and only increase the weight when you are ready.

And speaking of ugly, clunky-looking shoes, since it’s Fun Friday I thought I would leave you with some precious quotes from Tim Gunn on Crocs. I have absolutely nothing in common with this man expect a shared hatred of this particular brand of footwear:  

“I can’t imagine a more aesthetically offensive item of footwear.”

 ”I mean, today, the era of the Croc—it looks like a plastic hoof. How can you take that seriously? I know it’s comfortable; I understand that. But if you want to dress to feel as though you never got out of bed, don’t get out of bed.”

“Ohhhhh… May I respond by merely saying, ‘I hate crocs. May they please go away.’”

You tell ‘em, Tim. Enjoy your weekend everyone.

MyPlate is Full

About a month ago, I decided to research the various calorie counter applications available for smart phones and computers. I experimented with a couple of different applications, but they all seemed very limited when it came to both the food database and functionality. Then I discovered MyPlate on the LIVESTRONG web siteMyPlate is available for free online and you can upgrade to a Gold membership to get some additional functionality. The mobile application, Calorie Tracker, is available for several smart phones for $2.99. I’ve been using both versions for about one month and have been especially pleased with the web site.

The Web Site

The web site has a clean design and is easy to use (unlike other sites which were so crammed with information I didn’t know where to start). You begin by entering your personal information (height, weight, etc.), goals such as weight loss, and activity level. You then log in your food and fitness activities each day. The food and activities databases are excellent! MyPlate boasts the largest food (700,000 foods and beverages) and fitness (1,500 activities) databases online. I would have to agree. It also allows you to enter new products into the database, assemble ingredients into a recipe so you don’t have to log in individual items each time you have a particular dish, and you can manually log in your food and fitness activity in the event you can’t find a match in the database.

I have found the chart, below (part of the free web site program), to be very motivational. It really helps with my accountability. When I originally started the program I used a standard 2,000 calories-per-day goal, but just recently changed it to meet my specific goal (maintaining my current weight) so it now reflects a 1,756 calories-per-day requirement.  As you can see, the Calories Over Time function allows you to view your recommended daily calories, actual calories consumed and net calories, which is calculated when you input your fitness activities for the day, for the past 10 days. This visual cue has proven very helpful in reminding me of what and how much I am eating and exercising. I have two names for this chart: Doh! or Yes! About four weeks ago I had a Doh! moment when I saw just how many calories I had eaten in one day – 3,500+! It’s amazing how quickly calories can sneak up on you – even when you are eating what you think is a healthy salad. If I was smart, I would have asked for the nutritional information for the wolf in sheep’s clothing salad before I ordered so I could have made a better choice. Such is the gift of hindsight. We are all entitled to occasional “fun” days when we let ourselves indulge a little, or, on this particular day, a lot. Looking at the chart reminds me when I need to get back on track.

my plate calories

Calories Over Time

While losing weight is not one of my goals, I have lost 2 pounds in the last month by simply being aware of what I am eating.

The online version is a very robust application and the vast majority of functionality is free – but you do need to put up with advertisements. However, the ads are offset by the large amount of information and health and wellness tools available – too many to list in this blog post – on MyPlate as well as the LIVESTRONG web site in general. There’s even a MyPlateD for diabetics.

If you sign up for a Gold Membership ($45/year or $29.95/6 months) you get a few added benefits including the ability to export your information (so you can share it with your doctor or trainer), no ads, priority support and some additional functionality, including:

  • Set Custom Nutrient Goals: maybe you are watching your sodium or cholesterol, or need to load up on carbs for a big race.

  • View your Daily Nutrition Chart: choose calories, carbohydrates, protein, fat, calcium, vitamin A, sodium, cholesterol, sugars, or dietary fiber. The chart below is a personal example of my dietary fiber intake for today.

nutrition by day
Nutrition Breakdown by Day – Fiber

There is also a feature called Week at a Glance where you can see what you ate for the past seven days in a menu-style format. Honestly, I don’t see the value in this feature. If anyone from LIVESTRONG happens upon this post, please contact me and tell me what I am missing.

The Smart Phone Application

I can only speak to running the app on a BlackBerry Tour – it is difficult to navigate and easy to make mistakes (I couldn’t figure out how I was up to 1,170 calories from a banana and yogurt. Apparently, I had input 10 servings of yogurt instead of one). It does sync with your desktop, so that’s good. While $2.99 is certainly not a huge expenditure, I recommend saving your money and using your phone’s notepad to jot down what you ate and then enter the information when you get to your laptop/desktop. The experience is likely quite different on different phones so perhaps it’s worthwhile for others. 

As I mentioned at the beginning of this post – I looked at several other web sites and applications but found nothing as robust and easy to use as MyPlate. Plus, you get so much more, for free, on the LIVESTRONG web site. I can’t imagine using anything else. I hope you will give it a try and that it makes a difference in helping you to achieve your nutrition and fitness goals.

Places to Find Races

cypress runners

City of Cypress 5k/10k Run/Walk

One of KeepWell’s core philosophies is participating in community events where we can talk with our customers, promote health and wellness, and support causes that are close to our heart. To accomplish this we research events in the Southern California area to determine where and when we can participate. We use several online resources to help with this task and I thought you might be interested to learn how you can find events in your community.

There is one site in particular, active.com, that serves as a nationwide database for all sorts of events: from ultra-marathons and 100-mile bike races to fitness expos and 2k dog walks. You can search by city to locate events in your area. In addition to races, active.com also has information on team and individual sports and is an excellent resource for training, nutrition, injury prevention and many other fitness-related topics. Many event promoters use active.com to handle event registration, too.

There is also bikeride.com and runningintheusa.com (I think the names speak for themselves). There is some duplication between each of these sites and active.com, but there are several events that are only listed on one site so it’s good to check more than one list. Another good resource is your local parks and recreation department as they typically list city-sponsored events.

If you’ve never participated in a fitness-related event, don’t be intimidated. While many events are labeled as a “race” you absolutely do not need to compete against anyone other than yourself to reap the benefits. And if a race is very physically demanding, such as 10k trail run for elite runners, the event web site will let you know so you don’t get in over your head. What’s important is that you get out there and exercise. Set a reasonable goal for yourself. For some people, this may be running a half-marathon in under 90 minutes, for others it might be walking a 5k without stopping. We all have to start somewhere. Pick an event that sounds like fun – maybe it’s a bike ride along the coast or a mud run where you get covered in muck. Or support a cause that is meaningful to you. Whatever makes you happy will make it more enjoyable and meeting your goals easier.

KeepWell is very fortunate to be able to take part in community-based events and we hope to see you out there enjoying yourself. Please check our web site, Facebook page and this blog for details on KeepWell’s participation in these upcoming events:

Lap the Lakes 5k Fun Run
Saturday, September 18
Santee, CA

Malibu Canyon Dirt Dash
Saturday, September 25
Calabasas, CA

Rubber Boot Race
Saturday, October 2
Tustin, CA

Promenade on the Peninsula
Sunday, October 10
Rolling Hills Estates

Change Is Good – Until It Gives You a Blister

feet

Protect Your Tootsies

I belong to a gym that offers several different types of group exercise classes. While many of these classes are of interest to me, the schedule never seems to work in my favor so I haven’t had a chance to give any a try. But due to a one-time hiccup in my usual schedule, I was able to attend a turbo kick boxing class this week. I was very excited to try something different from my usual gym workout.

While the class was more of a hyper-speed aerobic workout (with a few punches thrown in for good measure) than a traditional kick boxing workout – it was an effective cardio workout nonetheless. Just when I started getting the hang of when to cross and when to jab, I realized the ball of my right foot was starting to get sore. A few minutes later, I knew I was starting to form a blister. Apparently, all of the bouncing and pivoting on the balls of my feet, which I am not used to, combined with my thicker workout socks, was my body’s way of saying thank you for changing up my workout routine.

While the blister isn’t too bad, nothing like the cringe-inducing, fluid-filled behemoth in the film Run, Fat Boy Run (excellent movie, by the way), it still needs to be dealt with so I did some research on blister prevention and treatment. The Mayo Clinic suggests the following treatment:

Don’t puncture a blister unless it’s painful or prevents you from walking or using one of your hands. If you have diabetes or poor circulation, call your doctor before considering the self-care measures below.

To relieve blister-related pain, drain the fluid while leaving the overlying skin intact. Here’s how:

  • Wash your hands and the blister with soap and warm water.
  • Swab the blister with iodine or rubbing alcohol.
  • Sterilize a clean, sharp needle by wiping it with rubbing alcohol.
  • Use the needle to puncture the blister. Aim for several spots near the blister’s edge. Let the fluid drain, but leave the overlying skin in place.
  • Apply an antibiotic ointment to the blister and cover with a bandage or gauze pad.
  • Cut away all the dead skin after several days, using tweezers and scissors sterilized with rubbing alcohol. Apply more ointment and a bandage.

Call your doctor if you see signs of infection around a blister — pus, redness, increasing pain or warm skin.

Active.com suggests the following preventative measures:

  1. Spread petroleum jelly or talcum powder over areas which develop blisters frequently. This will cut the friction.
  2. Change socks, shoes or road surfaces that cause the problem.
  3. Pad areas of your foot which protrude with foam padding, moleskin, or other products made for this purpose.
  4. For chronic problems, you can relieve pressure points with shoe modifications or orthotics.

The gift of hind sight is 20/20. The next time,  if there is a next time, I will try a little petroleum jelly and wear my running socks which are thinner and form fitting . I’m off to sterilize my needle now. Wish me luck!

You Can’t Judge a Food by Its Color – or Can You?

cheese puffs

This color should raise a red flag, or at least an orange one.

I remember the first time I heard about artificial food coloring. I was about 8 years old, and my friends and I had been told that Bubble Yum bubble gum (only THE best bubble gum on the planet) was going to be pulled from the shelves because it contained Red Dye No. 2, a suspected carcinogen. It was a chance we were willing to take, especially since we really didn’t understand the chance we were taking. We just wanted to blow bubbles the size of our heads. The FDA banned Red Dye No 2. in 1976 but, thankfully, Bubble Yum lived on.

So what is artificial color? According to the FDA, artificial colors, or color additives, are synthetically produced (or human made) and used widely because they impart an intense, uniform color, are less expensive, and blend more easily to create a variety of hues. Well, if you put it that way, I’m just fine with food manufacturers using artificial, petroleum-based (yum) colors instead of natural colors like paprika, beets, carmel or blueberries <insert sarcasm here>.

There are currently 9 synthetic dyes that the FDA has approved for use in food. The list includes: Blue 1, Blue 2, Citrus Red 2, Green 3, Orange B, Red 3, Red 40, Yellow 5 and Yellow 6. There have been several other dyes that were once on the approved list, but with additional testing, they were delisted as they were found to be hazardous in some way. For example, at one time specific red and orange dyes were used to make oranges more orange. But these specific artificial colors were taken off the market.

So why would someone want to color and orange more orange? Well, to sell more oranges, of course. Would you rather buy a perfectly orange orange, or one that was slightly yellow? The more appealing and attention getting, the more likely you are to purchase. This is often why you see so many brightly colored candies and drinks in products targeted at children. But ask yourself, when is the last time blue raspberry was a color found in nature? And if you’ve ever made macaroni and cheese from scratch and compared it to the bright orange powder that comes out of the box, I think you get my point.

It’s important to remember that just because a label says “natural” doesn’t mean ALL natural. There may be only one natural ingredient in the product. Several of the ingredient flavors and colors may, in fact, be artificial. Artificial colors are prevalent in so many foods, even foods you might associate with being healthy. I was shocked to find artificial colors used in my super model-endorsed yogurt. I’ve decided to look for another brand. All you have to do to check for artificial food colors is read the label.

There has been a lot of discussion regarding the possible ties between ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) in children and artificial colors. There have been two large scale studies conducted in Britain to study the effects of artificial colors on children. While there is not conclusive evidence to prove a connection, there was enough concern that a European Union regulation was passed requiring a warning statement (“may have an adverse effect on activity and attention in children“) on foods that contain at least one of six dyes. According to John E. Huxsahl, M.D. with the Mayo Clinic, “There’s no evidence that food additives cause attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), but an increasing number of studies show that certain food colorings and preservatives may cause or worsen hyperactive behavior in some children.”

With regard to the current 9 artificial colors that are allowed by the FDA, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) believes there could be serious flaws with some of the testing. While all food colors (natural and artificial) must be approved by the FDA, artificial colors must pass tests to show that they are safe and don’t contain cancer-causing substances. But the FDA tests don’t always work as intended. According to CSPI, “Fifteen years ago, FDA and Canadian government scientists discovered that most of the carcinogen benzidine that can contaminate Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 is bound to molecules in the dyes. So routine FDA tests, which look only for “free” benzidine, fail to detect it. And the dyes are sometimes contaminated with 100 to 1,000 times more bound than free benzidine.” Yikes!

Fortunately, the world of natural colors is starting to grow. As more consumers raise their voices and demand healthier products, manufacturers are starting to utilize new, natural flavor sources like purple sweet potatoes, cochineal insects (yep, ground up bugs), and blue gardenias (which are not yet approved for use in foods in the U.S.).

Like you’ve read so many times before on this blog - it is VERY important to read labels. While you’re reading the label for nutritional information, be sure to read the list of ingredients and look for artificial flavors and colors. If you can’t pronounce it, you probably don’t want to eat it. Remember, the natural color of mint ice cream is not kermit-the-frog green and there is nothing natural about neon orange cheese puffs.

The Whole Grain with the Funny Name

Consumers are starting to understand the benefits of whole grains and are moving away from products containing refined/processed grains.

What makes whole grain better? Whole grains haven’t had their bran and germ removed, which makes them an excellent source of fiber. Refined grains, such as white flour and white rice, have the brand and germ removed. While vitamins and minerals are often added back in (this is usually where you see the word “enriched” or “fortified” on an ingredient label), they still don’t have as many nutrients or as much naturally occurring fiber as whole grains.  

It’s important to remember that whole wheat ≠ whole grain. Look for the words whole grain and stay away from enriched on ingredient labels. And, to be sure you are getting the maximum benefit, whole grain should appear at or near the top of the ingredient list.

According to the American Heart Association, there are numerous health and nutritional benefits associated with eating whole grains, including:     

  • Whole grains are generally good sources of dietary fiber; most refined (processed) grains contain little fiber.
  • Dietary fiber from whole grains, as part of an overall healthy diet, helps reduce blood cholesterol levels and may lower risk of heart disease.
  • Fiber-containing foods such as whole grains help provide a feeling of fullness with fewer calories and so may help with weight management.

For more information on whole grains, you can visit the American Heart Association’s web site at: http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=4574 

For some people there is the need or desire to stay away from gluten – which is found in wheat, barley and rye. But eliminating gluten should not keep you from enjoying the benefits of other whole grains as there are many to choose from that provide an excellent source of fiber, minerals and protein.    

Quinoa with Garlic, Pine Nuts and Raisins (photo courtesy of Food Network)

One of these options is quinoa (pronounced keen-wa). Quinoa originates from the Andean region of South American and has been around for 6,000 years. Quinoa, while technically not a grain (it’s a seed from a dark green leafy plant and is related to beets and spinach), is called a grain because of its texture. Because quinoa contains all of the essential amino acids it is considered a complete protein. Quinoa is very versatile and is prepared the same way as rice but cooks faster. Nutritionally, it is an excellent source of magnesium and fiber and a good source of iron and several B vitamins. You can see a complete nutritional profile by checking out the Nutrition Data web site.

Quinoa can be used in many dishes from salads to side dishes to stuffing. For quinoa recipes, check out these web sites: 

In addition to quinoa, there are several other nutritious whole grains you might want to try. For instance: 

  • Barley
  • Brown Rice
  • Buckwheat
  • Bulgar
  • Kamut
  • Millet
  • Oatmeal
  • Popcorn
  • Spelt
  • Wild Rice

As each whole grain has a different nutritional profile it’s a good idea to vary the types of grains you eat. And remember, when reading ingredient labels, be sure to look for these whole grains at the top of the ingredient list so you can get the most benefit from this essential part of a healthy diet.

Hey, Ice Cream Man!

ice cream cone truck

Making Better Ice Cream Choices

While much of the country has been toiling under extreme heat this summer, Southern California has been experiencing one of the mildest summers on record. But this week, summer finally made an appearance. And with the hot weather comes the yearning for frozen confections. Fortunately, there are now plenty of low calorie/low fat ice cream treats and frozen yogurts that can satisfy your sweet tooth without packing on the pounds. WebMD has created a list of the best light ice creams/yogurts, bars and sandwiches. Here are the recommendations:

Best Ice Creams/Frozen Yogurts

  • Dreyer’s/Edy’s Slow Churned Yogurt Blends with Live and Active Cultures
    Vanilla
    Cappuccino Chip
  • Dreyer’s/Edy’s Slow Churned
    Raspberry Chip Royale
    Cookie Dough
  • Breyers Light
    Vanilla, Chocolate, Strawberry
    Vanilla Bean
    Rocky Road
  • Ben & Jerry’s Lowfat Frozen Yogurt
    Strawberries & Cream
    Half Baked
  • Haagen-Dazs Lowfat Frozen Yogurt
    Vanilla
    Vanilla Raspberry Swirl
  • Starbucks Lowfat Ice Cream
    Latte

Best Bars/Sandwiches

  • Breyers 100 Calorie Cups
    Vanilla Fudge Swirl
  • Starbucks Bars
    Frappuccino Mocha
  • Skinny Cow
    Lowfat Fudge bar
    Ice Cream Sandwiches (Assorted Flavors)
    Cone: Vanilla with Carmel
    Cone: Mint with Fudge
  • Weight Watchers
    Giant Cookies & Cream Bar

You can find complete nutritional information for the treats listed, above, as well as honorable mentions and low sugar options by visiting the Health & Cooking section at WebMD.

Believe it or not, Men’s Health Magazine has created an “Eat This, Not That” guide for making healthier choices at the ice cream truck. Check out this video from The Early Show with Matt Bean, brand editor at Men’s Health, discussing healthier frozen treat options: Ice Cream Truck: Eat This, Not That.

So raise a cone to summer and enjoy. 

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

woman plank pushup weights

Push ups with weights

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is that achy feeling you get in your muscles, usually accompanied by grunting and groaning, when you try to get out of your chair the day after a strenuous workout, or working in the yard all day, or helping a friend move.

According to David O. Draper, professor and director of the graduate program in sports medicine/athletic training at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah, “DOMS is a common result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it is accustomed to.”

While many of us were taught that muscle soreness that appeared 24-48 hours after a workout was caused by lactic acid (which is now known to dissipate within 30 to 60 minutes of ending exercise), the real culprit is microscopic tears in muscle fibers. No wonder it hurts.

Scientists believe that the damage, along with the resulting inflammation, causes the pain. According to Carol Torgan, an exercise physiologist and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, “The muscle discomfort is simply a symptom of using your muscles and placing stresses on them that are leading to adaptations to make them stronger and better able to perform the task the next time.”

Any movement you aren’t used to can results in DOMS. The pain is usually greater with increased duration or intensity of exercise. Eccentric muscle contractions seem to cause the most damage. In this case, eccentric refers to a lengthening muscle contraction, not your uncle who collects velvet Elvis paintings. Examples of eccentric muscle contractions include running downhill, lowering weights and the downward motion of squats or push ups.

While muscle soreness is actually a sign that you are using your muscles in a way that will make them stronger (assuming the soreness is minor and not the result of an injury or overuse), people new to working out may think that something is wrong. Rest assured, it’s perfectly normal and happens to everyone, from exercise newbies to elite athletes. It’s the body’s way of letting you know that your workout is working.

It’s important to note that minor muscle pain is not a requirement for a good workout. Working out without experiencing DOMS can be just as effective. The old adage “no pain, no gain” doesn’t always apply.

What you do after a workout can help minimize DOMS and speed recovery. Here are a few post-workout suggestions from about.com’s sports medicine section:

  • Rest
  • Gentle stretching
  • Cool down: slow down but don’t stop completely
  • Eat properly
  • Replace fluids
  • Try Active Recovery: perform low intensity exercises after workouts
  • Get a massage: you might want to try a foam roller or my personal favorite, The Stick, to avoid the price tag of a sports massage
  • Take an ice bath or try contrast water therapy (alternating between hot and cold water)
  • Get lots of sleep
  • Avoid overtraining

And remember to listen to your body. There will be days when you simply may be too tired and/or too sore to workout. Give yourself a well-deserved break but don’t give yourself excuses. You might want to try cross-training and alternating upper body and lower body workouts so you don’t have to worry about overworking the same muscle groups day after day.

I leave you with a quote from Plato “Lack of activity destroys the good condition of every human being, while movement and methodical physical exercise save it and preserve it.”

September 2014
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