A lot of Americans don’t get enough, and certain groups are especially at risk – including school age children, teenage girls, those in the 50-70 age group, and the elderly. But calcium is essential for strong bones and reduced risk of osteoporosis.
Almost all your calcium is stored in your bones and teeth – 99% to be exact. The rest of the calcium circulates throughout your blood and soft tissue. When you don’t get enough calcium in your diet, your body has to pull it from your bones to ensure the calcium in your blood is tightly regulated. Over time, this can make your bones very weak.
Milk, yogurt, and cheese are great sources of calcium. But you can also get calcium from other natural sources including dark green vegetables, like spinach, kale and collard greens, canned sardines (with the bones), or tofu. There are also foods that are fortified with calcium, like orange juice or cereals.
And if you have kids, be sure that they’re getting enough too. According to the National Institute of Health, 90% of peak bone mass is acquired by age 18 in girls and by age 20 in boys. You can keep accumulating bone mass up to around age 30, but at that point they’ve pretty much reached their maximum strength and density. This means you want your children to get enough calcium throughout childhood and adolescence to ensure a strong start to their bone health. Make sure your school-age kids are getting at least 3 servings of dairy or a balance of dairy and other calcium rich choices. After age 30, it’s of course important to maintain bone strength by eating enough calcium and Vitamin D and doing weight bearing cardiovascular and resistance exercises.
Strength training is something I've always fallen short on, but the personalized system at Koko Fit Club makes it so easy for me to strength train! It's great, since I know it'll help my running, cycling, and swimming as I train for my half-Ironman (and other races) this year. Not to mention lean muscle mass burns more calories than fat.
Yesterday I did a 3 mile run and then a full body strength training session with squats, upright rows, curl to press, ab crunches, reverse rows, and chest fly. Here's a photo with the results of my session - love scoring a perfect workout! That means I used the correct amount of weight, did the right number of reps, and stayed on pace. Yay!
Coconut water is the new trend in beverages, with companies touting it as the best natural, rehydrating, anti-aging, good-for-athletes beverage out there. Take a look at some of the brand claims, and then we’ll answer the question – is coconut water worth trying?
What is coconut water?
- From Zico’s website: “One ZICO has more potassium than a banana – 15 times more than most sports drinks – to prevent cramping. Drink ZICO before or during a workout for the natural energy you need for optimal performance. After a workout, ZICO replenishes and re-hydrates you to speed recovery.”
- From ONE coconut water’s website: “Throughout history, coconut water has been used to prevent and treat dehydration — and it has been shown to be more effective than plain water for hydrating.”
- From Blue Monkey’s website: “It is beneficial for athletes as it provides the essential salts, sugars and vitamins needed for a rigorous workout….Whether drinking coconut water for daily health or consuming after a night on the town, Blue Monkey may help alleviate fatigue. It naturally assists the body in replenishing lost vitamins and minerals.”
Coconut water is different than coconut milk. Coconut water comes from the liquid found inside a coconut, while coconut milk comes from grinding up coconut milk and pressing out the liquid. Coconut milk is much higher in calories and fat, and is often used in cooking and baking. The facts…
1 cup of coconut water provides about 45 calories and 10 grams of sugar (depending on the brand), so it’s definitely a better option than sodas and fruit drinks (fruit drinks = not 100% juice). If you hate drinking plain water and don’t like seltzer either, coconut water could be something worth trying. If you're watching your weight, though, remember to account for the additional calories you're consuming through these beverages.
It’s also got a whopping 400 to 500 mg of potassium per cup, which is essential for healthy hearts and muscles. Getting enough potassium each day and reducing your sodium intake, along with an overall healthy diet, can help lower your blood pressure too. That being said, potassium is found in fruits and vegetables which provide other nutritional benefits like fiber and phytochemicals. Coconut water is also a bit expensive, running about $2 or $3 per carton or bottle – versus $2 or $3 for a whole bunch of bananas. What about athletes?
If you’re an athlete, coconut water generally shouldn’t be used as a replacement for sports drinks/gels during tough workouts. When you exercise longer than an hour, you need to provide your body with carbohydrates and electrolytes to keep functioning properly. Most brands of coconut water provide less carbohydrate than ideal, and not enough sodium. And some independent consumer lab tests
have shown some brands contained even less sodium than the labels claimed.
A few small studies have shown coconut water may be appropriate as a rehydration beverage after exercise, but note that it should contain a higher sodium content to be on par with standard sports drinks. Some athletes may like that it is a more natural option, and some athletes experience less nausea and stomach upset when using coconut water as a rehydration beverage compared to other options.The bottom line:
It's not a miracle beverage, and it's expensive. Plain tap But if you're looking for a natural way to get more fluid and don't like plain water, you may enjoy coconut water. If you're an athlete looking for a natural alternative to sports drinks, keep in mind that coconut water doesn't contain an ideal amount of carbohydrate and sodium.
Have you heard about Triumph Triathlon
? It's a Boston-based triathlon group that I participate in. It's really a fantastic group - free to join, free group training sessions, and free meetings about topics of interest (in the past, we've had sessions about massage, injuries, nutrition, etc). You'll also meet a ton of people who are really knowledgeable about triathlon (think Ironmen/Ironwomen, national qualifiers, and seasoned pros). We're actually having a yearly kick-off meeting
on Monday, 2/6/12 at 7PM - if you are local and interested in triathlon, I'd encourage you to come. And you'll even get to hear me speak a bit! :)
Back in August 2010, I was interviewed by Ruben, the founder of Triumph. This was only about a year into my journey with endurance sports, so it's fun to see where I was and how far I've come. I am excited to be training for my first half Ironman this year, which will be a huge undertaking!
Take a look at the interview below to get to know a little more about me and my journey. Excuse my spastic head movements throughout the interview - I couldn't figure out whether I should be facing Ruben or the camera!
Paula Deen’s type 2 diabetes diagnosis has got the nutrition world (and rest of the world, for that matter) divided into 2 sides: the “that’s what butter and bacon will do to you” side and the “she’s a normal person who doesn’t deserve all this criticism so leave her alone” side. I’ve been sitting on the sidelines the past few days, but decided it’s time to share my opinion.
Paula is no doubt a sweet lady. She’s a family woman who has always exuded Southern hospitality. She cares about her children and making other people happy. She’s never claimed her recipes are healthy, and has mentioned the concept of moderation. Does she deserve to have tons of people shoving a health diagnosis in her face? Of course not. News articles criticizing every recipe and telling her how poor her habits are? That’s a bit harsh.
That being said…Do I think Paula’s history of fat-laden, unhealthy recipes and its subsequent effect on her weight may have played a part in her diabetes diagnosis? Yes, at least to some degree. Type 2 diabetes is multifaceted, being caused by a multitude of factors. Overweight and obesity, poor diet, and lack of exercise are a few of these factors. Genetics and family history are also factors too, though.
Do I think her view of moderation and mine are a little different? Yes, I do. A bacon cheeseburger stuffed between two glazed donuts is not a food that should be enjoyed in “moderation.” That’s a once a year dish right there. But Paula’s not a dietitian and not a doctor, so should we have been looking to her for guidance on how to eat? No. She’s a chef, and hasn’t ever claimed anything more.
Do I think the timing of her public announcement of her diagnosis has anything to do with her being paid as a spokesperson for Noro Novodisk, a prominent diabetes pharmaceutical company? Yes, probably. I understand wanting to wrap your head around a big health diagnosis before sharing it. And honestly, it’s a personal decision whether to even share it with the world. However, it does seem very coincidental that there was already a paid promotional opportunity lined up. But Paula, and all of us, are in a business world. If you were offered money to talk about a health issue you had, would you take it? Maybe or maybe not - but it’s not surprising that some choose to. When the cast of the Jersey Shore is making money getting trashed and sleeping around, I’d say Paula’s decision to accept an offer to be the face of diabetes is less reprehensible.
At the heart of all this talk, I think it brings to light an important issue - at some point, each one of us needs to take an honest look at our personal choices and assess whether it may impact our health. Personal responsibility is an essential component of diet and lifestyle. We can sue McDonald’s all we want for making people obese, claim that restaurant’s oversized portions are causing us to gain weight, or pick brownies over fruit because it tastes better – but we are the ones stepping in the door to those places, ordering those foods, and choosing those snacks. Some of us are in situations where it is more difficult to make healthy choices (lack of money, lack of affordable fresh foods, unsafe neighborhoods, etc) – but all of us have some control and willpower over our health.
On a final note - I am always one for empowering people. I’m a supporter of healthy choices, positive body images, and increasing self-efficacy for making healthy choices. Let’s pause from knocking Paula, and acknowledge that she brings the issue of personal responsibility to light. Let’s take a look at our own behaviors and choices. No one is perfect, myself included. Let’s encourage Paula to change her lifestyle while we work to do the same.
Healthy Weight Week
is in full swing, running from 1/15/12 to 1/21/12. It’s a week dedicated to promoting healthy methods of obtaining a proper body weight. Healthy Weight Week also supports avoiding fad diets – they even named today “Rid the world of Fad Diets & Gimmicks Day!” Fad diets are those crazy diet plans that promise you unattainable results in short periods of time. If any of the statements below sound familiar, keep reading for tips on avoiding these fad diet crazes!
Drink only cayenne pepper and lemon juice!
Our bodies need a proper balance of all nutrients and food groups – that’s what makes it run properly. If a diet is asking you to cut out entire groups of foods or nutrients, it’s not a healthy choice. Not to mention many diets which cut out excessive numbers of foods are likely to be too low in calories, which can slow down your metabolism and sabotage your long term weight loss efforts.
You’ll lose 15 pounds in 5 days!
Or a program that makes other promises other excessive amounts of weight loss in a short period of time. A healthy rate of weight loss is only about ½ pound to 2 pounds per week for most people. It takes a deficit of 3,500 calories to lose a pound. Cutting out 250 calories per day from food and burning 250 extra from exercise (creating a 500 calorie deficit each day) will result in a weight loss of about a pound a week.
Try our magical supplement blend!
I’m upfront about my view on supplements – I think we should try to get most of our nutrients through food (though there are certain supplements that can be beneficial depending on your medical issues). That being said, any diet regimen that promotes some mysterious combination of supplements to help you lose weight is not a healthy option. Supplements don’t create weight loss – eating properly and exercising do.
It’s a weight loss breakthrough!
When you’re reading about the diet, does it say it’s a breakthrough? An ancient discovery? A secret to the celebrities? Miraculous cure-all? Any of these are big indicators that it’s a diet based on junk science.
Developed by our own nutritionist!
This one could be a legitimate program, but you’ll need to do some detective work. Pretty much anyone can call themselves a “nutritionist” without any actual training or credentials. Double check to make sure that the program is developed by a Registered Dietitian. RDs go through a nutrition degree program, many hours of training in an accredited internship, and passed a national exam to demonstrate competency in nutrition knowledge.
The take home message: Don’t fall for these silly ploys. Eating healthy and exercising are the lifelong tools for maintaining a healthy weight!
One of the best ways that I find to keep myself motivated to workout is signing up for a race. It doesn’t matter if it’s a 5k road race, a sprint triathlon, or a marathon – signing up for an event gives your exercise routine a sense of purpose and something to work towards.
If you’ve never considered yourself a runner or a cyclist, don’t let that stop you! When I started training for races, I went from being able to only run about a half mile straight to being able to run a marathon - in only 9 months. You can do anything that you put your mind to, as long as you put in the effort to train!
I wanted to share my race schedule with you all for the upcoming year. It’s a year I’m really exited about because I'm seriously challenging myself, participating the longest event I've ever done in September. I like to share my goals because I find it helps hold me accountable and motivates me!
April 7th – Great Bay Half Marathon
May 20th – North Shore Tour de Cure
100 mile Century Ride to support the American Diabetes Association
July 14th – Mass State Triathlon
, Olympic Distance
September 9th – Firm Man Half IronMan
(That's a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and 13.1 mile run!!)
November 4th – If I get picked for the lottery drawing, I’ll be doing the NYC Marathon
(keep your fingers crossed!)
I’d encourage all of you to consider participating in any of these events with me! If you’re not sure of how to put together a race schedule, we offer customized plans that can help you. Contact us for more information and rates!
In our country, there is unfortunately a sad ideal for girls and women that we should have bodies or beauty in comparison to models and celebrities. This is not what nutrition, fitness, and beauty is about. We should focus eating healthy foods to fuel our bodies and keep us at a healthy weight to prevent disease and keeps us living longer. Wanting to feel great and confident in our looks is of course fine, but when we focus only on outward appearance, we are much more likely to give up on our goals or get frustrated when results don’t come as quickly as we’d hope.
Not to mention that the media images of so many celebs are unrealistic! For your viewing entertainment, take a look at this great commercial parody of the best “beauty secret” in the industry…
Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate, a B-vitamin, and is found in supplement form or fortified foods. Folate, on the other hand, is the naturally occurring form of the vitamin and is found in vegetables, fruits, and some other foods. In light of National Folic Acid Awareness Week (yes, January 8th through the 14th is actually a week devoted to this vitamin), I wanted to shed some insight onto the importance (and potential dangers) of folic acid. The Good:
Folate/folic acid helps prevent major birth defects in a baby’s brain and spine. In fact, it can reduce the risk of certain birth defects by 50 to 70%!
Many women already are aware of those facts, but did you know that it’s important to have adequate folic acid intake even before you become pregnant? Getting enough folic acid before pregnancy and during early pregnancy provides the greatest risk reduction in those birth defects. Many women don’t start watching their folic acid intake or taking a prenatal vitamin until they realize they’re pregnant, but that time before they realize is actually an extremely important time for the start of development. For these reasons, all women of child-bearing age should meet the current recommendations for folic acid – 400 micrograms - whether or not they are currently pregnant.
Getting enough folic acid can also reduce levels of homocysteine in blood, a cardiovascular risk factor. This may be associated with better cardiovascular health. The Bad:
All this being said, I do want to show the other side of the story – there is actually some controversial research out there about potentially detrimental effects of folic acid. A recent meta-analysis in Cancer Epidemiology
looked at cancer risk in folic acid supplementation trials and found that supplementation was associated with a higher risk of cancer incidence. This evidence is mainly related to supplementation and fortification – it has not been shown with naturally occurring folate in foods. In fact, in another study
the authors looked at esophageal cancer and folate. High intake of folate from fruits and vegetables was associated with a decreased risk of cancer, while high intake from supplements was thought to possibly raise cancer risk. The Take Home Message:
Folate is a very important vitamin, especially for pregnant women. Talk to your doctor about the best way to meet your needs, whether that is through natural folate sources, fortified foods, or a multivitamin. There may be more benefit to taking a folic acid supplement in pregnancy than avoiding one because of controversial research. If you’re trying to meet your folate needs through natural food sources, here are some foods that can help you meet your recommendations:
Black eyed peas, ½ cup – 105 mcg
Spinach, ½ cup of cooked – 100 mcg
Asparagus, 4 spears – 85 mcg
Spinach, 1 cup raw – 60 mcg
Green peas, ½ cup cooked – 50 mcg
Broccoli, ½ cup cooked – 50 mcg
Avocado, ½ cup sliced – 45 mcg
Peanuts, 1 ounce – 40 mcg
Orange, 1 medium – 30 mcg
This weekend, I realized around lunch time that I was pretty low on groceries (don't you hate when that happens?!). Looking around the fridge and cabinets, I found these ingredients and decided to throw them together. Turned out to be a super delicious and nutritious option!
Black Bean and Pineapple Quesadillas
Makes 6 servings
15 ounce can of black beans, drained and rinsed
15 ounce can of corn, drained and rinsed (preferably no added salt)
2 tomatoes, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 jalepeno, chopped
¾ cup of fresh pineapple, chopped (or chopped pineapple canned in juice, drained)
¾ cup shredded cheddar cheese (12 tbsp – 2 tbsp per quesadilla)
6 tortillas (preferably whole wheat - unfortunately we only had white left this weekend, as you can tell from the photo above!), approx. 7-8 inches diameter
Nutrition Analysis per serving
- Mix first 6 ingredients in a large bowl.
- Heat a skillet on low-medium heat. Spray skillet with a little cooking spray. Place tortilla on skillet, and fill one half with 1/6th of the black bean mixture. Sprinkle shredded cheddar cheese on top. Fold over empty half of tortilla.
- Cook for 2 minutes, then flip (ingredients may fall out a bit in the flip - just push them back in the tortilla) and cook for an additional 2 minutes, until cheese is melted and ingredients are warm.
(will vary slightly depending on the type/brand of tortillas):
372 calories, 9 grams of fat, 59 grams of carbohydrate, 10 grams of fiber, 16 grams of protein
Also provides the following vitamins and minerals, shown as a % of their daily values: 18% Vitamin A, 69% Vitamin C, 51% folate, 16% calcium, and 22% iron