Health & Disease Prevention

Role of Diet and Exercise in Disease Prevention

In our fast-paced world, health has become a precious commodity. Chronic diseases increase as a result of various stressors, sedentary lifestyles, and unhealthy eating habits. However, the good news is that we possess the power to take control of our health and reduce the risk of many diseases through two fundamental pillars: diet and exercise. Let’s delve into the significance of using a balanced diet and regular exercise routine for disease prevention, and explore their transformative impact on overall well-being.

Health & Disease Prevention

Understanding the Role of Diet in Preventing Disease

1. The Power of a Nutrient-Dense Diet

A nutrient-dense diet is the cornerstone of good health. By choosing whole, natural foods over processed ones, we provide our bodies with essential vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. These elements are crucial for supporting our immune system, combating inflammation, and warding off chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Studies have shown that nutrition can be directly linked to diseases such as obesity, hypertension, type 2 diabetes, and more. What we consume either increases our health or decreases it, and we make those choices every single day. 

 

2. Reducing the Risk of Cardiovascular Diseases

The leading cause of death worldwide, cardiovascular diseases, can often be prevented by making healthier dietary choices. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins can lower blood pressure, reduce cholesterol levels, and maintain a healthy weight, all of which significantly contribute to heart health. Unfortunately, we are plagued with advertisements from the food industry, constantly selling us products with little to no nutritional value. In order to lead a heart-healthy life, we have to put down the processed boxes of food and make room for more whole, fresh ingredients. 

Diet & Disease Prevention3. Controlling Diabetes through Diet

Type 2 diabetes, a growing global concern, is closely linked to poor eating habits and obesity. By embracing a diet that includes complex carbohydrates, high lean protein, healthy fats, and limited sugar intake, we can manage blood glucose levels and decrease the risk of developing this metabolic disorder. 

4. Cancer Prevention and Dietary Choices

Research has shown that certain foods, such as cruciferous vegetables, berries, and oily fish, contain compounds that may help protect against cancer. By incorporating these foods into our diet, we can potentially reduce the risk of cancer and enhance our body’s ability to fight off abnormal cell growth.

The Vital Role of Exercise in Disease Prevention

1. Strengthening the Immune System

Regular physical activity has been linked to a strengthened immune system, making us more resilient to infections and illnesses. As we engage in exercise, the body produces more white blood cells, which are critical for combating harmful pathogens and maintaining overall health. Rather than take a pill or supplement to improve the immune system, the answer is as easy as moving your body more. 

2. Improving Cardiovascular Health

Just like diet, exercise plays a central role in preventing cardiovascular diseases. By engaging in a consistent exercise regimen, we increase heart’s efficiency, lower blood pressure, and reduce the risk of heart attacks and strokes. You can start small and build up gradually as your body gets acclimatized. 

Exercise & Disease Prevention3. Weight Management and Exercise

Obesity is a significant risk factor for various diseases. Exercise helps us burn calories and build lean muscle mass, making it an essential tool for weight management. When combined with a healthy diet, regular physical activity becomes even more effective in preventing and managing obesity. Muscle has been shown to increase longevity. If we have a good base of muscle, daily tasks throughout life are much easier to handle. Things like getting on the floor with your kids, carrying a heavy bag of dog food, or putting items overhead to store them in the attic all require muscle. Without muscle, we don’t have healthy movement, and we’re prone to injury and chronic pain.

4. Mental Health and Exercise

Apart from its physical benefits, exercise is a powerful mood booster. Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals, which can alleviate stress, anxiety, and depression. Stress and negative emotions can weaken the immune system and contribute to various diseases, so maintaining good mental health is crucial for disease prevention.

 

The Synergy between Diet and Exercise

1. Achieving Optimal Health through a Holistic Approach

While diet and exercise are potent tools for disease prevention on their own, their synergy is even more powerful. When combined, they create a virtuous cycle, enhancing each other’s benefits and maximizing their impact on overall health. You will feel better, look better, and not constantly have to worry about chronic disease if you implement both of these components into your lifestyle. 

2. Building Healthy Habits for Life

The key to empowering our health through diet and exercise is consistency and sustainability. Rather than embarking on short-lived fad diets or extreme workout routines, adopting long-term, realistic changes is crucial. Creating healthy habits is a journey, and small, incremental steps can lead to significant improvements over time. 

 

Health is our most valuable asset, and we have the power to protect it through simple yet powerful lifestyle choices. By embracing a nutrient-dense diet and incorporating regular exercise into our daily routine, we can significantly reduce the risk of chronic diseases and enhance our overall well-being. Empower yourself today by taking charge of your health through the transformative combination of diet and exercise, and experience the life-changing benefits of disease prevention and longevity.

 

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Food labeling

Understanding Food Labels: What’s Hiding In Your Food?

Making healthy and informed food choices is essential for maintaining overall well-being. It’s important for us to know what’s in our food. It’s typically labeled on the package, but it can be confusing and hard to read. As the saying goes, “You are what you eat.” Understanding food labels is a crucial step in ensuring you’re nourishing your body with the right nutrients and avoiding hidden additives that may negatively impact your health. Let’s delve into the importance of deciphering food labels and using valuable tips on how to make informed choices to truly know what’s hiding in your food.

Food labeling

The Importance of Food Labels

Food labels are like a window into the contents of packaged foods, providing valuable information about their nutritional composition and ingredients. They empower you to make choices aligned with your dietary preferences and health goals if you know how to read it! By reading and understanding food labels, you can:

  • Control Nutrient Intake: Food labels list essential nutrients such as calories, fats, sugars, proteins, vitamins, and minerals. This information helps you maintain a balanced diet and manage calorie intake.
  • Avoid Allergens: If you have food allergies or sensitivities, labels can help you identify potential allergens and make safe choices.
  • Identify Hidden Ingredients: Labels reveal the presence of hidden ingredients like additives, artificial flavors, and colorings that may impact your health over time.
  • Compare Products: Food Labels allow you to compare different products and choose the one that best aligns with your dietary needs.
  • Make Informed Decisions: By understanding food labels, you can make informed decisions that contribute to your overall health and well-being.

Food labelsDeciphering Food Labels: What to Look For

  • Serving Size: Begin by checking the serving size, as all nutritional information on the label is based on this. A serving size isn’t meant to tell you only to eat that amount. It is there to tell you the amount of food that applies to the nutrition. Be mindful of portion sizes to accurately assess your nutrient intake.
  • Calories and Macronutrients: Pay attention to the calorie count and the amounts of fats, carbohydrates, and proteins per serving. Choose foods that align with your dietary goals.
  • Nutrient Content: Look for key nutrients such as fiber, vitamins (like Vitamin A, C, and D), and minerals (like calcium and iron) that are beneficial for your health.
  • Ingredients List: The ingredients list provides insight into what’s actually in the food. Ingredients are listed in descending order by weight, so the first few ingredients make up the bulk of the product. Avoid items with lengthy lists of unfamiliar or overly processed ingredients.
  • Additives and Preservatives: Be wary of additives, artificial sweeteners, and preservatives. Some additives may have potential health risks, so opt for products with minimal or no additives.
  • Sodium and Sugar: Excessive sodium and added sugars can contribute to health issues. Choose products with lower sodium and sugar content.
  • Allergens: If you have allergies, carefully read the label for any potential allergens or cross-contamination warnings. Allergens are listed in bold under the ingredient list. 
  • % Daily Value: This percentage helps you understand how a serving of the food contributes to your daily nutrient intake based on a 2,000-calorie diet. Aim for products with higher percentages of essential nutrients.

In general, you want to look for labels that are lower in saturated fat (specifically trans fat), added sugars, and sodium

Food labels

. All of these have been linked to heart disease and chronic obesity when consumed in high amounts. The items that you want more of are fiber, vitamin D, iron, calcium, and potassium. A diet high in fiber helps lower cholesterol, keeps blood glucose level, reduces calorie intake, and promotes a healthy digestive tract.

What’s Hidden? 

There are several common food additives in food today. Research 

has shown that many have detrimental health affects while others can actually be good for you? An example of a good one is Guar gum. It’s added to food to bind or thicken products. Guar gum is high in fiber and can help increase the feeling of fullness, so you intake less calories. An example of a detrimental additive is high fructose corn syrup. It sweetens food, but in high amounts has been linked to obesity and diabetes.

Misleading Food Labels

Marketing can be a powerful tool, especially when it comes to food. However, a good bit of labels that are promoted as “healthy” are just buzz words. Without knowing exactly what they mean, you could be buying a product thinking that it’s organic and healthy, when really it’s the opposite of what you need. Here are some common marketing food labels and what they really mean. 

  • All Natural: there are no artificial ingredients or colors. It does not mean that the animal or product lives/was grown outdoors. 
  • Humanely Raised: common on animal products, but there is no legal definition for it. It can be put on products even in places where animals are raised in confinement systems. 
  • No Hormones or Steroids: It’s actually illegal to use hormones or steroids in all chicken products so whether it has this label or not, you’re getting the same product. 
  • Fresh: this just means that the meant never went below 26 degrees. Which is not always a good thing! 
  • Vegetarian Diet: Marketers can put this on a food label without it being true. There are no legal checks on farms to determine what is fed to the animals. 
  • Cage Free: one of the biggest misleading labels! All chickens raised for meat are cage free. So don’t buy the more expensive package just because it has this label. 

In a world saturated with packaged foods, being a conscious consumer is a powerful way to take control of your health. Learning how to read and interpret food labels empowers you to make informed choices, allowing you to understand exactly what’s hiding in your food. By paying attention to serving sizes, calories, nutrients, ingredients, and certifications, you can make dietary decisions that align with your well-being goals. Remember, the more you know about your food, the better equipped you are to nourish your body and enjoy a healthier, happier life.

 

For guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Foods on a budget

Three Tips for Healthy Eating on a Budget

Healthy eating on a budget can seem complicated, but it is possible. That is often the excuse we give – healthy eating is so expensive! And it sometimes can be. The cost of healthy eating can be astronomical unless you know where to look, what to cook, and how to make it work for you. These three tips will help you make healthy eating on a budget a reality- in any situation. 

Foods on a budget

Healthy Eating on a Budget Tip #1: Focus on The Three Macronutrients. 

Scouring Pinterest for healthy recipes can be fun, but more often than not, those recipes have a large list of ingredients. If you don’t already have a well stocked kitchen, you’re going to spend a fortune buying 10 ingredients all for one recipe. Healthy eating doesn’t have to be complicated or include tons of ingredients. If you plan your meals around the three macronutrients – protein, carbs, and fat – you’re going to save time and money. 

Healthy foods on a budgetSo, make a list of a few protein sources you like, a few carb sources, and a few fat sources. Use these to piece meals together. You can even bulk prep, and save time as well. For example, prepare a large batch of shredded chicken and ground turkey. Don’t season it until you’re ready to eat – that way, you can change the seasonings or sauce for each meal and not have to eat the exact same thing every day. Next, prep a large batch of rice or sweet potatoes, and have some tortillas on hand. For your fat sources, you could use olive oil and avocados. Now that all of these macronutrients are prepped, you can throw dinner or lunch together in a matter of minutes. And you can mix and match so that you’re not getting bored with what you’re eating. One day can be ground turkey tacos with avocado, one day can be shredded chicken tacos, and one day can be ground turkey rice bowls with any veggies that you like. If you stick to bulk prepping the three main macronutrients, you can eat very healthily on a budget. 

Healthy Eating on a Budget Tip #2: Cook at Home More Often

As you know, eating out and trying to eat healthy can be very expensive. Salads or food that isn’t fried can be some of the most expensive items on the menu. It can be very frustrating when a salad is $20, but a burger and fries is $7. That’s a hard choice to make! Cooking at home not only saves you money, but it saves you calories as well. With how food is made in restaurants, it’s often very high in fat and very low in nutrients. You’ll end up with a small amount of food that costs you quite a bit of your calories for the day. 

Healthy eating on a budgetBy buying food in bulk, and cooking it at home, you’ll be able to stick to your budget but still enjoy healthy food. With the plan listed out in tip #1, cooking at home doesn’t have to be time consuming or even hard. You don’t need master cooking skills to bulk prep rice and meat. The key is making food you like, and making it taste good. Keep the base ingredients simple – protein, carbs, and veggies – and then spice up each meal with different low calorie sauces or spices. Making it flavorful will keep you from getting bored with eating at home, which in turn, keeps your budget in check. 

Healthy Eating on a Budget Tip #3: Eat Less Processed Foods 

Unhealthy processed foods can be very tempting and can look like they are less expensive than healthy foods. However, you need to take a closer look at the price per serving. Let’s pick on a box of Cheez-Its. A box of Cheeze-Its at Walmart will cost you around $4, and a regular box has 12 servings. That’s about 0.33 cents per serving. Now, let’s look at bananas. Bananas are typically .19 cents each. Not only is a banana cheaper per serving, but it will also keep you fuller for longer. Cheeze-Its and other highly processed snack food is designed to make you want more and more. When is the last time you had just one serving of chips or crackers? It’s not likely, because it’s made to be addictive. So you end up eating more, which in turn will cost you more money. But no one over eats on bananas. 

To get the best bang for your buck, you need to watch out for buzz words when it comes to processed foods. Snack items that are advertised as healthy because they are gluten-free or organic can definitely be more expensive than their regular counterparts. That is why it is important to just stick with less processed foods overall. All fruit and vegetables are naturally gluten-free so you don’t need a fancy, highly processed snack if you are working towards a gluten-free diet. A good rule of thumb when grocery shopping is to keep to the perimeter of the store. Look for fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, meats, and dairy to make balanced meals and snacks. You won’t be buying based on cravings, which keeps you on a tight budget. 

Healthy eating on a budget can be accomplished by sticking to these tips. Make a plan, stick to it, and you’ll save money and feel good about your eating. For more guidance on how to eat healthy on a budget, email Jalpa for personal coaching. 

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Macronutrients

The Macros and How To Eat Them to Get the Most Out of It

Macronutrients

You may have heard of “macros” if you’ve looked into any sort of dieting. Counting macros has become very popular these last few years – and for good reason. But it can also be confusing and overwhelming if you don’t understand what macros really are. 

In this blog, I will detail (in an easy way) exactly what macros are and why they are essential. Let’s make it make sense! 

What are macronutrients? 

There are three macronutrients and any food you can think of (any food in the world!) will be in one of these three categories. The three macros are protein, carbohydrates​​, and fats. You have more than likely heard of these. Each macro has an essential role for the body, and you’ll be happy to find out, you need all of them – even carbs! 

What makes a food a certain macronutrient is what it breaks down to in the body. Protein breaks down into tiny chains of amino acids. Carbohydrates break down into glucose molecules, and fats break down into fatty acid molecules. Each of these tiny molecules has different functions in the body. 

Protein and Its Role in the Body

Protein is mainly known for growing muscle and aiding recovery after exercise. But it has so many other important roles in the body, that you should be getting a good amount every day even if you don’t exercise.  

Macronutrient- ProteinProtein transports nutrients throughout the body, regulates fluid balance, and carries enzymes that are essential for bodily functions such as digestion and blood clotting. Important, right?! A huge role protein has is acting as a messenger for hormone function. Protein amino acids tell the body when to uptake sugar into the cell (insulin), and when to build more tissue, including bone (human growth hormone). 

The sources listed below are mainly animal protein, and that is because that is where you will find all the essential amino acids that you have to get through your diet. If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, you can still get the protein you need through plants, you just have to mix and match in order to get all the amino acids needed. 

Protein Sources: 

  • Beef
  • Chicken
  • Turkey
  • Pork
  • Tofu
  • Seafood and Shellfish
  • Eggs 
  • Egg Whites 

Carbohydrates and Their Role as Macronutrient

A carb’s main purpose in the body is to create energy. Your body takes in carbs, breaks them down into glucose molecules, then sends those glucose molecules through the Krebs cycle to create ATP (which is energy). Ever feel sluggish in the afternoon? Try eating some fruit or whole wheat toast for an energy boost instead of drinking caffeine. You’ll be surprised at the energy it can give you. 

The body can take fat or protein and turn it into energy, but it’s hard for the body to do. Carbs are the preferred source of fuel. In addition to creating energy, carbs also help spare protein so it can perform how it needs to. Fiber – a very healthy part of carbohydrates – is important for digestive health, controlling cholesterol levels, and keeping you full. 

Macronutrient - CarbohydratesCarbohydrates often get a bad rap for making people gain weight. But that is only true if they are overconsumed. If you are an athlete or have a very active job such as a nurse or construction worker, carbs will fuel the energy you need to perform well. Focus on high fiber, unprocessed carbs for the best results. 

Carbohydrate Sources: 

  • Bread
  • Pasta
  • Rice
  • Oats
  • Cereal
  • Popcorn 
  • Fruit 
  • Vegetables 
  • Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes 
  • Juice
  • Sugar
  • Most drinks like tea and soda, unless it’s diet 

Fat and Its Role as Macronutrient

Just like carbs, fat sometimes gets a bad rap for causing weight gain. Fat does not make you fat unless you overeat it. Fat is very calorie dense, but it’s not a bad thing as long as you’re aware. Fat is essential for brain health, cell protection, insulating organs, and storing backup energy. Fats also aid protein in hormone health. It’s what makes food taste good. Deep fry anything and it’s automatically going to be more scrumptious. That’s because fat is satiating and pleasing to the tongue. It’s also why it’s so easy to overeat. Anything packaged, processed, or fried is going to be higher in fat than its unprocessed counterpart. Consider using whole food fat sources rather than packaged or deep-fried food items to reap the health benefits fat can offer. 

Fat Sources: 

  • Oil
  • Butter
  • Nuts
  • Nut Butter
  • Seeds
  • Avocado 

Macronutrient - Fat

One of the biggest misconceptions is that peanut butter is a protein source. Just because the label says it has protein in it, does not mean it’s a good protein source. It breaks down in the body as fat- it is a fat source. This is one reason it’s imperative to know what macronutrients are and what foods to eat to get them. Don’t let front labels do the work for you- turn it to the back and look at what the food item is actually made of. All nutrition labels have a protein, carb, and fat count on the back. 

There are some foods that can fit into several of the categories such as dairy. Milk, yogurt, and cheese can have a good amount of all three – protein, carbs, and fat. All food offers different health benefits through the vitamins and minerals it has, so a varied diet should be considered. 

Any diet that completely eliminates one or more macros – like all carbs or all fats – is not a healthy diet. It may allow you to drop some water weight quickly, but it will not aid in overall health or long-term fat loss. 

Now that you know what macronutrients are, it’s time to learn exactly how much you need in order to fuel your body well. For that guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Fat Loss

Aggressive Fat Loss: The Power of Quality Food and Daily Movements

Fat Loss

If you’re entering a fat loss phase – also known as a diet or a cut – you may be tempted to take some drastic measures. We tend to slash calories to the bare minimum, avoid whole food groups, or even take supplements or medications to speed up the process. Unfortunately, quick fixes are never the answer. They leave you in a place where you never feel satisfied, get easily irritated at the scale, and quickly give into “cheat days”. 

Just because drastic measures usually backfire, it doesn’t mean you can’t be aggressive with your fat loss phase. In this blog, we’ll discuss two ways you can be aggressive with your fat loss without setting yourself up for failure. By focusing on these two things, you can take care of your overall health and stay consistent on your weight loss journey. 

The Power of Quality Food Choices to Enhance Body Fat Loss

The food we consume plays a vital role in our overall health and body composition. When it comes to aggressive fat loss, the quality of your diet becomes even more important. In a fat-loss phase, you do need to cut calories so that you’re not taking in more than you burn. However, choosing nutrient-dense foods can help in several ways. Being satisfied with your meals is a game-changer. 

When you cut calories, but still eat processed food or fast food, this is going to do two things. It will leave you hungry and craving more – which in turn can lead to bingeing. It’s also going to leave you feeling tired and sluggish. Focusing on the quality of your food will allow you to get the nutrients your body needs to function well. If you’re still getting in healthy fats, you’re going to be much less tempted by chocolate or other sweets. High protein choices will keep you satiated. And high fiber carbs keep the gut healthy and give you energy. You’ll sleep better and wake up energized. You’ll feel good about your food and your body.

Three Ways to Choose Quality Food for your weight loss journey

1. Prioritize Whole, Nutrient-Dense Foods:

To get aggressive with your fat loss, focus on nutrient-dense foods for your three main meals. Choose lean meats for ⅓ of your plate – this can be anything like tofu, chicken breast, ground turkey, pork loin, or sirloin. A high-fiber carb also needs to be about ⅓ of your plate. Sweet potatoes, potatoes, quinoa, beans, and rice are all very nutrient dense for the amount of calories they provide. You’ll get essential vitamins and minerals through these foods. Fill the rest of your plate with vegetables to help increase the volume without adding a ton of calories. You also need a fat – oil or nut butter – about the size of your thumb to finish off a well-rounded meal. 

2. Mindful Eating and Portion Control:

Portion control is huge when it comes to aggressive fat loss because calories matter. If you’re constantly overeating, even by just a little, your weight isn’t going to drop like you want it. Take time to measure your food and use smaller plates. Definitely avoid mindless snacking by having your meals and snacks planned out for the day. Slow down while eating and start paying attention to hunger cues. 

3. Hydration:

Don’t underestimate the power of staying hydrated. Drinking an adequate amount of water not only helps maintain proper bodily functions but can also aid in fat loss. Water boosts metabolism, reduces appetite, and promotes better digestion. Aim to drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day. Stop drinking liquid calories – they will give you a sugar crash and leave you hungry. Opt for water every time instead and watch the pounds just come right off. 

Exercise for Fat lossThe Power of Exercise Routine

Our bodies were made to move. A sedentary lifestyle does nothing for us except help the body decay faster. Getting in daily movement- not even a full workout each day – can greatly increase your chances of fat loss. It is true that you do need rest days- an intense workout every single day will just burn you out and cause inflammation. But you can still stay active on rest days by going on walks or playing in the yard with your kids. Daily movement is crucial to dropping fat and keeping it off. 

Three Ways to Make Exercise as a Healthy Part of Your Life during your fat loss journey

  1. Combine Cardiovascular and Resistance Training:

To maximize fat loss, it’s crucial to engage in a well-rounded exercise program that combines cardiovascular activities with strength training. Cardio exercises like running, cycling, or swimming elevate your heart rate and burn calories, while resistance training, such as weightlifting helps build lean muscle mass. Muscle is metabolically active, meaning it burns more calories even at rest. By increasing your muscle mass, you won’t have to cut so many calories to lose body fat. And remember, muscle is lean, and fat is bulky. So you don’t have to worry about “bulking up” when strength training. It will do the opposite- make you lean and toned. Incorporate both types of exercises into your routine for optimal results.

2. High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT):

When it comes to fat loss, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) can be highly effective. HIIT involves short bursts of intense exercise followed by brief recovery periods. This type of workout elevates your heart rate, burns a significant number of calories, and stimulates your metabolism even after the workout. These are most fun with a fitness class, so find one you like and work it in two times a week. You’ll find community this way too, and support and accountability can drastically help a fat loss journey. 

  1. Stay Consistent:

Consistency for months is key to achieving aggressive fat loss goals. So you need to make sure you find something you like- otherwise, you won’t be consistent with it. Prioritize it in your schedule. Make it a non-negotiable meeting with yourself. But book yourself for different classes until you find what you really like. Try new activities, and challenge your body in different ways. This not only keeps your workouts enjoyable but also helps prevent burnout. 

 

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Nutritional supplements

Top 5 Essential Nutrients You Might Be Missing in Your Diet

It’s common for us to wonder if we’re getting all the essential nutrients, we need through what we eat. For most of us, we get stuck in ruts and eat the same thing over and over to get all our essential nutrients until we find a new menu item we like. We take a multivitamin and hope that it covers all our needs of essential nutrients. But a supplement doesn’t always cut it. It can be low quality or not the amount we actually need. A healthy diet is vital for maintaining good intake of essential nutrients and thus, maintaining good health and preventing nutritional deficiencies. But even if you think you’re eating a healthy diet, there may be certain nutrients that you’re missing out on. The list below covers the most essential nutrients, and how to get them through food. 

Essential Nutrient: Vitamin D

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining bone health. It helps the body absorb calcium, which is necessary for building and maintaining strong bones. Vitamin D also helps regulate the immune system and has been linked to a reduced risk of certain diseases, such as multiple sclerosis and some types of cancer.

While vitamin D is found naturally in a few foods, such as fatty fish and egg yolks, most people get their vitamin D from sun exposure. However, many people don’t get enough sun exposure to produce sufficient amounts of vitamin D. This is especially true for those who live in northern latitudes or spend most of their time indoors.

If you’re not getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure or your diet, you may be at risk of a vitamin D deficiency. Symptoms of a vitamin D deficiency include fatigue, muscle weakness, and bone pain.

To ensure you’re getting enough vitamin D, you can take a vitamin D supplement or eat more vitamin D-rich foods. 

Food Sources of Essential Nutrient – vitamin D include:

  • Fatty fish, such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel Essential Nutrients
  • Egg yolks
  • Milk and Milk products
  • Fortified cereals
  • Mushrooms

 

Essential Nutrient: Magnesium

Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for many bodily functions, including regulating muscle and nerve function, maintaining healthy bones, and supporting the immune system. Magnesium is also involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body, including energy production and protein synthesis.

Despite its importance, many people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. This is because magnesium is often lacking in the modern Western diet, which tends to be high in processed foods and low in whole, nutrient-dense foods. Magnesium is also one of the first minerals we lose when we strength train. As it’s very important for muscle and nerve function, it’s extremely important for athletes or people that strength train consistently to ensure they’re supplementing magnesium. 

Symptoms of a magnesium deficiency include muscle cramps, tremors, and fatigue. The best way to get enough magnesium would of course be through your diet. But supplementation is sometimes required if your diet doesn’t consistent of the items below. 

Some foods that are high in magnesium include:

  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
  • Nuts, such as almonds and cashews
  • Seeds, such as pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds
  • Whole grains, such as wheat, quinoa, barley
  • Legumes, such as black beans and lentils

Essential Nutrient: Iron

Iron is an essential mineral that is necessary for the production of hemoglobin, a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. Iron is also important for the immune system and cognitive function.

 

Iron deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency in the world, affecting over 25% of the global population. Symptoms of an iron deficiency include fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

While iron is found naturally in many foods, it can be difficult to get enough from diet alone, especially for vegetarians and vegans. Iron from plant-based sources is less readily absorbed by the body than iron from animal sources. If you are vegan or vegetarian, consider a supplement to ensure you are getting enough iron. 

Some foods that are high in iron include:

  • Red meat, poultry, and fish
  • Leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and kale
  • Legumes, such as lentils and beans
  • Fortified cereals and breads
  • Dried fruit, such as raisins and apricots

Essential Nutrient: Calcium

Calcium is a mineral that is essential for building and maintaining strong bones and teeth. It also plays a role in nerve function, muscle function, and blood clotting.

Many people don’t get enough calcium in their diet. By incorporating more calcium-rich foods into your diet, you can ensure that you’re getting enough calcium to support your bone health and overall health. But as stated above- you have to be getting enough vitamin D so that your body can absorb calcium. 

Some foods that are high in calcium include:

  • Dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. Choose low-fat or non-fat options to reduce saturated fat intake.
  • Leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and collard greens. 
  • Some foods such as tofu, soy milk, and orange juice are fortified with calcium. 
  • Nuts and seeds: Almonds, sesame seeds, and chia seeds are all good sources of calcium. 
  • Canned fish such as salmon and sardines with bones are also excellent sources of calcium.

Essential NutrientsEssential Nutrient: Omega-3s

Omega-3 fatty acids are important for a number of reasons. Firstly, they play a crucial role in maintaining brain health and cognitive function, particularly during fetal development and infancy. Omega-3s are important structural components of brain cell membranes, and they also help to support communication between brain cells.

 

In addition to their role in brain health, omega-3s have been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce the risk of chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. They also help to support healthy skin, hair, and nails, and may even improve mood and mental health.

Some foods that are high in Omega-3s include:

  • Fatty fish
  • Brussels sprouts, seaweed, algae, spinach, and broccoli
  • Chia seeds, flaxseeds and hemp seeds 
  • An omega-3 supplement is a great option if you know you’re not going to be eating a variety of fish, nuts or seeds. 

To sum it all up, instead of worrying about individual nutrients and if you’re getting enough, you should focus on a varied diet instead. A healthy diet should consist of a variety of fish, vegetables, meat, nuts, seeds, fruit and some dairy at least 80% of the time. You can go out and have fun with friends or family of course- a flexible diet is key to consistency. But for the majority of the time, put an emphasis on whole foods and you will cover the basis of nutrients you need to be healthy. 

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Sleep for health and wellness

Importance of Sleep for Nutrition and Wellness: 3 Tips to Get Better Sleep.

Sleep for wellnessSleep is something that we can all easily set aside for more “important” things. The famous saying, “I can sleep when I’m dead” is a good example of how little we value sleep. Whether you’re a mom of littles or a successful entrepreneur, we stay busy! We run on fumes and caffeine to get things done. It’s almost a badge of honor to push through, stay busy, and work more than sleep. However, we are sacrificing sleep to the detriment of our health and wellness. Let’s learn about the importance of sleep in this blog.

It’s easy to set aside because it seems small in the moment, but our chronic lack of sleep is a health hazard. 1 in 3 adults don’t get enough quality sleep to protect their health. That’s about 84 million people! 

If you’re specifically working on fat loss or muscle gain goals, sleep is a critical component. Let’s look at the importance of sleep for your health goals as well as tips on how to get better sleep. 

The Benefits of Sleep

Nutrition is important for getting vital nutrients into the body for energy and proper bodily functions. Exercise is key in reducing stress, keeping up cardiovascular health, as well as maintaining muscle health. The need for sleep is not replaced by either of those two. Sleep recharges both physical and physiological batteries.

While you rest your immune system actually works just as hard as it does during your waking hours. During this time, Human Growth Hormones (HGH) are most efficiently released. Because of this, the amount of sleep you get also contributes to how often you get sick. The less you sleep, the less time you give your immune system to work at its optimum level, and the greater your risk of contracting an illness. Higher rates of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, cancer, stroke, and Alzheimer’s are all issues associated with sleep deprivation. 

As you’ll read below, the importance of sleep can be tied to not only our physical health, but our mental health as well. Sleep deprivation not only affects our bodies physically- but our will power is down in all areas. It is much harder to resist the urge to eat junk food when we’re tired because the body is looking for ways to recover. Cravings for unhealthy foods are stronger when we’re tired. It’s also much harder for the brain to process emotions and stress when we are sleep deprived. Motivation is down, so you’re less likely to go to the gym or be productive. Sleep is very important for a healthy, productive life. 

Sleep for wellness

Physical Benefits of Sleep

  • Sleep is the time that HGH is most efficiently released throughout the body. 

HGH keeps us young. It’s literally a “youth” hormone. The more your body can release it, the younger you look, and the better your body can recover. You’ll notice major differences in fat loss and muscle gain when HGH is efficient throughout your body. 

  • Our bodies’ learn “muscle memory” during sleep. 

This is important for athletes or for anyone with a performance-based career. When you’re learning a new skill, your brain will “practice” that skill over and over during one of the sleep cycles. But if you’re not getting quality sleep, you will never enter that sleep cycle, therefore making it harder to learn and perform that skill. 

  • People that get quality sleep recover better and faster from workouts. 

If your muscle doesn’t have time to rest and recover, it will never get stronger or leaner. For people that are constantly trying to get leaner or stronger, sleep is an easily controlled variable that needs to be prioritized. 

Mental Benefits of Sleep

  • Sleep is when our memories are physically made. 

Sleep allows our bodies to store memories. According to Harvard sleep professors,  slow wave sleep (SWS) is a deep, restorative sleep cycle that collects information from the day and consolidates this info into memories, and stores it in the brain. 

 

  • Higher GPAs are also associated with better sleep quality.

This comes from the sleep cycle where we learn “muscle memory.” If you’re getting quality sleep and entering REM, your brain can take the information you learn and commit it to memory. 

  • Your REM sleep helps with emotional regulation so it can help with being resilient to extreme life events. 

Quality of sleep has been tied to reducing depression and increasing quality of life. People that have reported a high level of quality sleep have shown to be much happier in all areas of life

How to Get Better Sleep. 

Now that you know the importance of sleep, here are three tips to help you get longer and better quality sleep. 

  • Establish a routine and stick with it. 

Consistency is key with this one – as it is with most things. Set a bedtime (and keep it!) Treat your bedtime like it’s your job. Establishing a routine will help reset your circadian rhythms so that you start getting tired as the sun goes down and can wake up naturally as the sun comes up. Screen time is a huge contributor to sleep problems because the light from the phone or tv tells your body it’s time to wake up. It throws your circadian rhythm off. When you do try and fall asleep, it’s very hard for the body to start moving into the proper sleep cycles. Stop looking at screens (phone included) 20 minutes before bed. Find something that helps you “chill” and mentally slow down, like reading a book or practicing relaxation techniques. Stressful things like doing work, discussing emotional issues, and looking at screens cause the body to release cortisol (the stress hormone!) which increases awakeness because the body thinks it needs to be alert for the risky situation.       

     

  • Make sure you’re in a good sleep environment.

A good sleep environment can make the body feel safe, therefore allowing it to get into those really deep sleep cycles. Light is a powerful tool that tells the body it’s time to wake up, so use those black-out curtains. Keep the room as dark as possible. A cool room also helps with quality sleep. If the room is too warm, you’ll toss and turn all night. 

  • Avoid chemicals that interfere with sleep. 

People that are sensitive to caffeine know they have a cut-off time, or they won’t sleep at all. However, for the people that are “used” to caffeine, or think that it doesn’t bother their sleep- that’s not actually true. You may be able to fall asleep, but high amounts of caffeine can interfere with the quality of your sleep. The same goes for alcohol. Most of the time alcohol can make you sleepy, but it still interferes with sleep. It often acts as a stimulant after a few hours causing you to wake up several times. You won’t enter those deep cycles that are so important for proper recovery.  

                                              

The next time you’re tempted to skip sleep to get something done- don’t! Your long-term health is relying on you getting good quality sleep regularly. Acknowledge the importance of sleep today and do the right things to get enough and quality sleep.

 

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Summer body

Three Food Habits to Implement Now to Get Ready for Summer 2023

Summer 2023 is sneaking up on us – are you ready?! Usually, we get to the end of May, sometimes even June, and quickly Google “How to get a bikini body in 10 days.” Don’t wait until it’s too late. Start now! It takes 6-8 weeks to see a real change in your body. Starting at the end of May is too late to make real, sustainable changes. 

Beach body
But – don’t worry. The changes needed to get you ready for summer 2023 aren’t drastic. Too often, we’re told we need to restrict, restrict, restrict. No more eating out, no more carbs, no more sugar, etc. We try it and then fail within 10 or so days because it’s just not the way we’re meant to live. We either have families with birthday parties or we like to go out with friends. Sometimes it’s just a very busy schedule that makes it hard. 

If you make small, sustainable changes to your eating and lifestyle habits, you can get the summer body you’ve wanted and can be proud of all without sacrificing life events. 

These three tips will help you implement the changes needed to get you ready for summer 2023. 

 

  1. Eat more whole, nutrient-dense foods.

Yes, eat more, not less! More of the right types of food will help heal the inside so the outside looks healthy and happy. 

 

If you focus on eating whole, nutrient-dense foods such as fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains you won’t struggle with the restrict/binge cycle that fad diets often cause. These foods will help you feel fuller for longer, provide your body with essential nutrients, and can even boost your metabolism. 

 

So what are whole, nutrient-dense foods?

  • Whole grains – rice, whole grain pasta, oats, and quinoa are great options. These carbohydrates will give you energy and fiber to keep you fuller for longer. Which is just what you want when it comes to weight loss and health.
  • Lean Protein – chicken, fish, lean cuts or red meat, beans, lentils and tofu are all great options. 
  • Fruit – fresh fruit makes a fantastic snack. Berries are high in vitamins and minerals and are low in sugar. 
  • Vegetables – if you’re unsure if you like vegetables, try different methods of cooking. It can definitely improve the flavor and it’s a quick cooking method. Try to fill at least half of your plate with fruits and vegetables at each meal.
  1. 2. Cut back on processed and sugary foods.

While processed foods definitely have their place – they provide a quick and convenient option when you’re on the go – they should not be a staple in your everyday food intake if you’re aiming to lose weight or just to be healthy. And, outside of weight loss, they can leave you with an energy crash making you feel sluggish and lethargic the rest of the day. Processed and sugary foods are often high in calories and low in nutrients (vitamins and minerals) and can contribute to poor health. Overconsuming these types of foods will not serve your summer body goal. 

Examples of some easy swaps: 

  • Instead of a cinnamon roll for breakfast, make a packet of instant oats and add some fruit and cinnamon. 
  • Instead of a burger and fries for lunch, order a grilled chicken sandwich with a side of a baked potato or fruit cup. 
  • Instead of 3-4 slices of pizza for dinner, have 1 slice of pizza then pair it with a  grilled chicken salad. 
  • For dessert- berries, whipped cream, and a sprinkle of chocolate chips will cover the chocolate craving while giving your body a boost of antioxidants. 
  • And watch out for sugary drinks! Search Pinterest for some lower-calorie options for your favorite coffee drinks. 

Just like anything, having these types of “fun” foods is okay in moderation. But when the goal is to feel good for summer, make sure to lower your intake of these and focus on the foods that are going to keep you energized and feeling great. 

  1. 3. Stay hydrated.

In case you didn’t know, water is essential. Not just for weight loss and health, but for good skin, hair, digestion, and even energy. When you’re dehydrated, the body cannot function well. You will deal with effects such as dizziness, foggy thinking, constipation, and severe fatigue. 

water, hydrationWhen you do drink the water you need, the body can run much more efficiently. Motivation will be up, and you’ll want to put in the work to be healthy. Something as simple as getting your water in can keep you on the right path to a healthy lifestyle. A great goal to start with is half your body weight in ounces. 

Tips for getting in more water: 

  • Get a new water bottle. It’s fun and can keep you motivated. 
  • Set reminders on your phone. 
  • Add mint leaves, cucumbers, or freshly squeezed lemon  to keep it refreshing. 
  • Drink a glass of water before every meal. 

By implementing these three food habits now, you can set yourself up for success and feel your best when summer rolls around. Remember that small changes can make a big difference, so start small and build from there. Start by adding veggies to all lunches and dinners. Then swap out some of your desserts and mid-day snacks from packaged sweets to fruit and nuts. Grab a water bottle you love and keep it with you wherever you go. Small changes like this are easy to keep up with and can make a big difference over a few weeks’ time. 

 

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Is Social Drinking Ruining My Health? 3 Tips to Practice Moderation

what does alcohol do to your body

A​lcohol consumption is a heavily debated topic among health experts. Some people can lead very healthy lifestyles while still consuming alcohol. And others demand that there is no healthy way to incorporate it. Social drinking is a popular pastime enjoyed by people around the world. It’s a part of almost every culture. It’s often seen as a way to unwind or celebrate big occasions. Wondering if social drinking is ruining your health? 

Due to the addictive properties of alcohol, social drinking can quickly take a turn into a habit that negatively impacts your health.

S​ome of the biggest concerns are:

  • H​ow much alcohol is “safe” to drink per day?
  • H​ow does alcohol affect the brain long term?
  • I​s alcohol preventing me from reaching my fat loss goals?
  • D​oes alcohol actually prevent fat loss or muscle gain?

Social Drinking vs Heavy Drinking

Before diving into health risks, we need to determine social drinking versus heavy drinking. How much is okay and how much is a deadly habit? Social drinking is consuming alcohol during social situations, such as a party or a dinner with friends. It is usually done in moderation – a small amount over a long period of time. Heavy drinking involves consumption of large amounts of alcohol in a short period of time- usually resulting in drunkenness or loss of control.

W​hen compared with heavy drinking, social drinking seems harmless. Most people know the risks of heavy drinking – liver damage, addiction, etc. Because social drinking is much “lighter” it can be hard to see or even care about the small risks. Alcohol – in any amount – is a toxin to the body. But there are some levels that have been deemed “safe”. The U.S. Dietary Guidelines say a moderate limit is 1 drink a day for women and 2 drinks a day for men. However, while binge drinking or heavy drinking is mostly thought of as a college behavior, studies have shown that people carry this behavior into their lifestyle post-college. The National Institutes of Health says that regular heavy drinking can damage the brain (specifically the frontal cortex), which will inhibit decision-making.

B​ut what if you genuinely stick to the “social drinking” guidelines and are truly a moderate to light drinker? Does alcohol still pose a risk to your health?

Social drinking vs alcoholic

Social drinking and your health

U​nfortunately, because alcohol is a toxin, there are still health risks even if you drink moderately. It may not seem harmful, because these effects are small and add up over time. If you have health goals whether it’s fat loss or muscle gain, these adverse effects need to be taken into consideration.

1​. Weight Gain – Alcohol contains a high number of calories and regular consumption of alcohol can lead to weight gain. We all love a snack post-drinking as well, which makes it much more likely that you’re going to eat more calories than you would if you weren’t drinking.

2​. Poor Sleep – A​lcohol always disrupts sleep. Even if you go to sleep more easily or it makes you tired, the quality of sleep you’re getting is not real. Alcohol prevents your body from going through all the important phases of sleep that it needs in order to recover well.

3​. Mental Health Issues – Regular alcohol consumption can increase your risk of developing mental health issues, including depression and anxiety.

Three of the most important things needed for weight loss – a calorie deficit, quality sleep, and mental energy (willpower!) – are affected by alcohol. While it may be fun in the moment, social drinking may be what continues to derail your diet and your results.

B​ut don’t worry – there are ways to be flexible with it so that you can still enjoy social outings and continue to push for the results you want.

3​ Tips to Practice Moderation while Drinking

how much alcohol is safe to drink daily

1​. Set limits.

B​e honest with yourself and put parameters around your social outings if you’re serious about your health goals. If you know you’ll be going out for drinks with a friend on Saturday night, skip the drinks throughout the week so that the amount of alcohol you’re consuming isn’t adding up throughout the week. It’s also smart to know that you’re going to want or need food after a few drinks.

T​here are two food adjustments you can make that will help you stick with your weight loss or muscle gain goals while drinking. Because alcohol does contribute a lot of calories, make sure dinner is focused on protein and high-fiber carbohydrates such as vegetables. This will keep dinner on the lower calorie side, but will still be satisfying. If you lean more towards high fats and high carbs (like a basket of french fries!) it’s very easy to mindlessly eat them while drinking. By staying focused on protein and high-fiber carbs, you’ll be nourishing your body without the chance of overeating. 

You can also make sure to have a snack prepared for post-drinking. But have it already portioned. You’re likely to snack your way through a full bag of chips when you get home if you’ve had a few drinks. If you have individually portioned bags, you’ll keep calories under control. This snack can also be a high-fiber carb – like Skinny Pop!

2​. Keep it low in sugar

W​hile most people love sugary cocktails- these are full of empty calories. And they’re easy to gulp down. If you stick with a drink mixed with club soda vs sugary mixes, you’re going to sip it slowly. And the calorie count can stay low. 

3​. Take a break.

Studies have shown that your health and body can “reset” with a break from alcohol. It’s okay to go through a “season of no” to pursue your health goals. While taking care of your health isn’t always as celebrated like drinking is – it can absolutely be worth it. Just one month without alcohol can have effects such as:

  • Healthier skin
  • ​Better sleep
  • Lower blood pressure
  • Improved B​ody composition (less fat!)
  • G​I system improves (the lining of your gut that acts as a barrier to keep harmful pathogens out is repaired after just 3 weeks without alcohol)
  • Less brain fog

N​ot sure you could stick to a break while being peer pressured to drink? Just test the waters. Order a club soda with lime while at dinner with friends- so that you do still have a drink in hand – and see how it goes. You may be surprised at the support you receive when choosing to take a break.

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

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Stress is Causing Your Bad Eating Habits! 7 Tips for Managing Both

 

Y​ou get home from a long day of work. You’re tired. You’re stressed about the never ending To Do list, the laundry, and the work projects you haven’t gotten done yet. And that’s when the stress eating begins!

W​hat’s the last thing you want to do? Cook a healthy meal. Or eat a healthy meal even if it’s already cooked. You want junk food. You start mindlessly snacking on a bag of chips- almost as if you have no control. Your mind is tired and you don’t want to think about it. You know it’s sabotaging your weight loss goal, but you do it anyways.

W​hy? Why do we feel the uncontrollable need to binge eat junk food when we’re stressed? 

T​he good news: it’s “technically” not your fault. It’s not always just a matter of discipline. C​hronic stress creates chemical and hormonal changes in the body, making it extremely hard to “say no” to bad eating habits.

W​hat is stress?

Stress is the state of mental or emotional strain resulting from very demanding circumstances. There are three different types of stress: acute stress, episodic acute stress, and chronic stress.

A​cute stress happens day to day. It’s the stress of sitting in a traffic jam or hurrying through the lunch rush. It can be good stress as well- like riding a roller coaster or skiing down a steep hill. E​pisodic acute stress is acute stress happening too often, such as the busy hours of a holiday season. It typically comes to an end after a few weeks.

C​hronic stress is the acute stress that lingers. For example, a difficult conversation with your boss is a version of acute stress, but if it doesn’t come to a resolution and, instead, stays with you for days or weeks, it is constantly wearing on you.

T​he physical responses to acute stress – higher heart rate, rise in blood pressure, or breathing changes – are all very normal. It’s part of the “fight or flight” response the body has in order to deal with the stress instantly.

Chronic stress leads to bad eating habits.  C​hronic stress, however, is the detrimental one. It’s hard to feel. It’s hard to admit that you’re under stress, because it’s “normal” to just be busy and live with it. Your body is in a very mild “fight or flight” response mode over time, and with no real chance to recover and settle down, the adverse effects start adding up.

When stress isn’t dealt with it causes mental, emotional, and physical effects such as:

  • Skin and hair problems (acne, psoriasis, hair loss)
  • Gastrointestinal problems (GERD, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, and irritable colon)
  • Cardiovascular disease (heart disease, high blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, heart attacks, and stroke)
  • Depression, anxiety, personality disorders, eating disorders, and sexual dysfunction

How is stress causing bad eating habits?

​Unhealthy eating habits[1] such as eating too quickly, endless snacking, skipping meals, and mindless or emotional eating are often coping mechanisms for an overworked and stressed mind.

C​ortisol, the stress hormone, is released by your adrenal glands in order to deal with whatever is stressing you at the moment. Cortisol’s job is to alert the body to get into “fight or flight” mode. It sends glucose to the bloodstream so that your body has the energy to “fight.” This increase of glucose in the bloodstream leaves you feeling hungry and craving high-fat and sugary foods in order to replenish the glucose stores.

And when you are stressed, your body will store more fat than when it is at rest. So the combination of overeating sugary foods while the body actively works to store fat derails your weight loss goals. As​ the body gains more fat, it makes it harder and harder to want to work on health, therefore putting you into this endless cycle of stressing, eating, and stressing more.

Stress eating

T​hirty-eight[2] percent of adults admit to dealing with overeating unhealthy foods when they are stressed- and most of it is weekly if not daily! It’s happening often enough that it feels impossible to ever reach health goals.

Our stress eating problem is: we’re fighting an emotional issue with a food solution, rather than an emotional solution.

“When you have an emotional problem, it needs an emotional solution, not a food solution. That is really the only way to overcome emotional eating long-term”[3]

S​o how do we break this cycle? We work on habits that will not only de-stress us, but promote healthy eating at the same time.

H​ere are 7 tips for managing both stress and healthy eating habits.

1. Take a 10-20 minute walk daily.  

It can be around your home, workplace, parking lot, or up and down stairs (where ever you can!). Exercise has been proven to buffer the effects of stress.[4] It’s also a great distraction. It can get your mind off of tough situations. But, do it without your phone or headphones. Constantly taking in information whether it’s a podcast or music is not a stress reliever. Give yourself some time to think/breathe/enjoy some quiet. 

2. Put the phone away 20 minutes before bed.

Screentime before bed resets your circadian rhythm. Your brain is being told it’s still daytime causing restless sleep. Feeding your brain more info right before it’s time to relax makes you toss and turn, thinking about all the things from the day or things that still need to be done. It increases your stress. That coupled with a bad night’s sleep causes willpower with food to go out the window. 

3. Drink water!!

It sounds simple, but staying hydrated keeps inflammation in the body down. Stress also wreaks havoc on our skin (hello frown lines and wrinkles!) and water is one of the best things you can give your skin and body. It will help with energy levels, metabolism function, and overall health.

4. Meditate/Breathe 

Find 5 minutes (3-4x a week) where you go into a dark spot, turn your notifications off, and set a timer. Just sit and breathe for those 5 minutes. Let your body completely relax and take a full break from everything going on. Even moms with littles can do this for 5 minutes. No excuses!

5. Have healthy food accessible.

This is a big one. Results are not accidental. If you fail to plan, you will not succeed. Take the time to buy healthy (pre-cooked if needed) options to keep in the fridge and pantry so that when you’re short on time, or are too tired to cook, you have the options you need available. You’ll be less likely to choose fast food!

6. Put the phone down while eating.

You’re not mindful of what and how much you’re eating if you’re lost in scrolling or watching a show. That constant intake of information can also increase your stress levels, which leads to eating out of emotion rather than the need to simply refuel what was depleted.

7. Find healthy swaps for those comfort foods you desire when stress is high.

There’s often nothing wrong with the food we like to snack on, as long as we can control the amount we eat. For example: instead of a whole bottle of wine at night, have one glass + one cup of berries. Or, instead of a pint of ice cream, make a high-protein smoothie. It’s easy to stop yourself when full if you’re eating the things that give you the nutrients you need (protein, fruit, whole grains, etc). It’s very hard to stop yourself from overeating on things that are not nutrient-dense (ice cream, wine). So swap in nutrient-dense food items to help give yourself some control when you feel emotions might take over.

When it comes to de-stressing, something is better than nothing. Start with one habit, and build on it weekly until you are a de-stressed, healthy, happy individual! 

 

If you want more guidance on nutrition and what you need to do to manage your health despite stress, email Jalpa to set up a consultation!  

 

Jalpa is a registered dietitian and nutritionist with a Master’s degree in Health & Nutrition from Brooklyn College, CUNY in New York. She also holds a Certificate of Training in Adult Weight Management through the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, CDR.

 

Resources: 

  • American Psychological Association. (2013, January 1). Stress and eating. https://www.apa.org/news/press/releases/stress/2013/eating