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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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