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Nutrients

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Spice It Up.

What if you were told you could prevent inflammation, burn more fat, stop infections…all simply by spicing up your life? The health benefits associated with adding spices to your foods spices
are immense and have received a lot of traction lately in the health industry. Some spices have been known to benefit your heart, provide anti-bacterial and antiviral properties and are high in vitamins and trace minerals. Not to mention they can help boost the taste of so many meals without adding extra calories.

Some of the most common spices and their benefits include the following:

Cayenne pepper – “hot” due to its capsaicin content, a substance that helps heat up your body and fire up your metabolism to burn extra calories and fat. It has also been known to relieve aches and soreness. Other benefits may include improved circulation, heart health and fighting some cancers and ulcers.

Ginger – commonly known to treat upset stomachs, ginger may also help gas and bloating, sore throats, colds, arthritis and motion sickness.  It has also been known to lessen workout induced soreness and inflammation and may even be attributed to higher memory. It can be ingested in multiple ways and is readily available.

Cinnamon – has one of the highest antioxidant values of any spice and has been shown to reduce inflammation, lower blood sugar and triglyceride levels, help with nausea and help the body in burning fat. It is also a great source of manganese, iron and calcium…and can reduce risk factors for diabetes and heart disease. Oh…and it kills bacteria! I add cinnamon to my coffee every day.

Fennel – high in calcium and rich in niacin, fennel is also high in vitamin C and can help promote a strong immune system and is an excellent source of dietary fiber and iron – helping to boost your metabolism and keep your digestive tract healthy. And, it’s a natural appetite suppressant and can help detoxify and exfoliate the skin.

Turmeric – a common ingredient in mustard, butter and cheese to add to their yellow hue. Turmeric contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory and has been known to provide pain relief and may have benefits to treating Alzheimer’s disease, arthritis and breast, stomach and colon cancer. It also contains anti-bacterial properties and helps digest fat quickly.

Oregano – has been known to have antiviral, antibacterial, anticancer, antioxidant and antibiotic properties. It contains vitamin K, which has bone-building properties, and can help fend off the stomach flu. The oil and leaves of the plant have been used medicinally to body aches and illnesses.

Basil – known for it’s powerful antioxidant properties that can protect the body from premature aging, skin issues and some types of cancer. The plant pigments are said to protect your cell structure from oxygen and radiation damage and can also be applied to wounds to help prevent bacterial infections.

Cumin – super rich in iron, cumin helps keep your energy level high and your immune system strong. It has also been associated to boosting brainpower, especially memory.

It’s especially important to keep your spices fresh and use them before the expiration date. Your best option is to buy the plant source and use it directly to spice up your meals.

Experiment with your recipes and add a little extra spice to your life.

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Sick Of It

athlete-fatigueDo you work out, eat well and take care of yourself yet often find you are sick or tired all the time?

Despite taking such good care of your body, if you are an avid exerciser and fitness enthusiast you can actually break down your immune system with overtraining. Many factors associated with overtraining compromise an athlete’s immune system. In fact, upper respiratory infections are actually very common in athletes.

This was a big topic during the training for my Nutrition Certification I just completed this past week. Let’s break it down.

What Happens?
When you exercise, there is an increase in stress hormones which leads to high inflammatory markers (bi-products of chronic stress). There is also a decrease in innate and acquired immunity.

Interesting Fact: 90 minutes after strenuous activity, your immunity is the lowest and you are more apt to get sick! It’s important to refrain from putting your hands near your mouth or eyes (the most susceptible areas of the body) post exercise & wash your hands immediately.

How Do I Keep The Sickness and Fatigue Away?

Protein
Protein is a key component to building immunity. Make sure you are getting adequate amounts. Your daily protein intake should be between 0.8-1.8 grams per 2.2 lbs. The high or low range depends on your activity level. An average adult needs about 0.8 – 1.2 g/2.2 lbs. where a strength athlete needs between 1.4-1.8 g/2.2 lbs.

Example: For a 150 pound active woman: divide 150 by 2.2lbs and multiply that number by about 1.2 grams of protein. Total = 82 grams of protein per day.

Vitamins and Minerals
There are several vitamins and minerals that work as anti-oxidants and help keep your immunity strong including Vitamin A, E, B6, B12, C and Folic Acid. Zinc and Iron are also important, but they should be ingested in moderation as too much can actually have the opposite effect and lower immunity. Most of these vitamins/minerals can be ingested in the food you eat: green leafy veggies, beans, eggs, dairy, lean meats, fruits and whole grains.

Ingest Carbs
Eating carbs post-exercise is said to help build your immune system and reduce stress hormones. We are not talking about eating a box of crackers or bag of pretzels – try to keep to “real” foods such as fruits, veggies and healthy grains.

Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is critical to helping your body function. Dehydration can be the main reason for fatigue. When you exercise, especially in hotter weather, it’s important to rehydrate 125-150% of fluid loss during exercise. Thirst is regulated in the brain. You are already very dehydrated when you even begin to feel thirsty.  You have to stay ahead of it.

Probiotics
I have professed my belief in probiotics for years – studies suggest probiotic and prebiotic ingestion in athletes reduces sick days.

Polyphenols
Polyphenols are abundant micronutrients in our diet, and evidence for their role in the prevention of degenerative diseases such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases is emerging. They are said to be great stress inhibitors and promote immunity. These can be found in foods like kale, hot peppers, onion, apples, etc. Here is a list of 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols.

Sleep
As I preach to my clients all the time, adequate rest is crucial for an athlete’s recovery and keeps stress hormones low and repairs mental and physical function. Consistent sleep patterns and getting enough sleep to repair your body is crucial in keeping your immunity & performance levels high and stress hormones low.

Stress
And of course, keeping regular stress at bay is a big component. The more stressed you are, the lower your immunity levels and higher your fatigue. Your body may even start to hold onto some fat. The unfortunate result is when we are chronically stressed by life crises and work-life demands, we are prone to getting an extra layer of “visceral fat” deep in our bellies.

Nutrition is a big component of your day to day. It dictates everything – how your body responds to stress, your energy level and a strong immune system. Getting enough anti-oxidants, keeping stress levels in control and being able to replenish & repair your body are key to optimizing your health and energy levels.

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Best Oils to Cook With and Which to Avoid

Is olive oil or coconut oil better for you? Which oils are safe to cook with and which ones should you avoid? All of the information out there can be confusing. Even though an oil might be deemed healthy, it may not stay healthy when heated.

When you’re cooking at a high heat, you want to use oils that are stable and don’t oxidize or easily turn rancid. When oils undergo oxidation, they react with oxygen to form free radicals and harmful compounds that shouldn’t be consumed. Saturated fats and monounsaturated fats are rather resistant to heating, but oils that are high in polyunsaturated fats should be avoided when cooking.oil_and_pan

Best Oil Choices for Cooking:

Coconut Oil

This is one of the best choices for high heat cooking. It is made up of over 90% saturated fatty acids, making it very resistant to heat. This oil is semi-solid at room temperature and it can last for months and years without going rancid.

Coconut oil has powerful health benefits: It is particularly rich in a fatty acid called Lauric Acid, which can improve cholesterol and help kill bacteria and other pathogens. Also, the fats in coconut oil can boost metabolism and increase feelings of fullness as compared to other fats.

When buying, look for virgin coconut oil or raw on the label – they offer better flavor and more health benefits. Smoke point is 350°. Refined coconut oil can be used occasionally for recipes, which require heats over 450°, but make sure it isn’t hydrogenated or treated with hexane.

Clarified Butter (Ghee)

Grass-fed ghee is rich in the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, and K2. It is also rich in CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) — the essential fatty acid found almost exclusively in grass-fed animals, which is now believed to protect against cancer, heart disease, and type II diabetes.

Because the milk solids have been removed from ghee, the elements in dairy that many people are sensitive to, have been removed. The removal of the milk solids also allows you to use ghee at a higher temperature -up to 485° F.

Olive Oil

No surprise here, olive oil is a heart-healthy fat that that contains beneficial antioxidants and has also been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties. Make sure to choose high quality extra virgin olive oil. It has many more nutrients and antioxidants than the refined oil olives and it tastes much better.

And contrary to many reports, high quality, extra virgin olive oil can be used for high heat cooking as it has a high smoke point (365°- 400°).

Note – there have been many reports lately about unsavory olive oil dealers who have been combining olive oils with cheap vegetable oils. As a result, you might be unknowingly ingesting unhealthy oils. It is very hard to determine if an olive oil is pure. Artisan or locally produced olive oils tend to be your safest bet. Olea olive oils are 100% pure olive oil. They can be found at oleaestates.com.

Avocodo Oil

Avocado is an excellent choice for frying as it has a very high smoke point (475°- 520°). The composition of avocado oil is similar to olive oil. It is primarily monounsaturated, with some saturated and polyunsaturated mixed in. It can be used for many of the same purposes as olive oil. You can cook with it, or use it cold.

Oils to Avoid When Cooking:

Industrial Seed and Vegetable Oils:

These are highly processed, refined products that are much too rich in Omega-6 fatty acids. The world health organization’s (WHO) recommended ratio for omega-6 to omega-3 fatty acids is about 4:1. However, the average ratio American’s ingest ranges from 10:1 to 25:1! (Look out for a future blog post on Omega 3’s and Omega 6’s).

Based on this overconsumption of Omega 6’s, it is recommended to avoid the following oils altogether, whether cooking with them or simply using them cold.o-5-NEW-USES-FOR-VEGETABLE-OIL-facebook

  • Soybean Oil
  • Corn Oil
  • Rapeseed Oil
  • Sunflower Oil
  • Grapeseed Oil
  • Safflower Oil

Canola Oil

Canola Oil should be avoided as well due to its harsh processing method. To create canola oil, rape seeds (what canola oil is made from) are heated to high temperature so that the oil can be extracted. This oil is then refined, bleached and deodorized Processing the oil under high heat causes it to go rancid, which is why industrial carcinogenic bleaches and deodorizers like hexane are needed. Additionally, about 87% of canola oil is genetically modified.

Fish Oil and Flaxseed Oil:

These are high in omega-3s, but should not be heated because they are sensitive to oxidation.

Nuts and Peanut Oil:

There are many nut oils available and many have amazing flavors, but due to their high level of polyunsaturated fats, it is recommended to avoid them when cooking.

There is one exception. Macadamia nut oil is mostly monounsaturated (like olive oil) and has great properties and is safe for cooking

Happy cooking 🙂

  • Elizabeth Girouard

    Great article Lisa! Thanks for the useful information.

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