Top 10 Health Benefits of Herbs and Spices

August 23, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Written by Sonya Luisi, M.S. Dietetics and Nutrition

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Health and wellness professionals recommend using more spices and herbs as a way to improve our health and the overall quality of our diet. 

Herbs come from plant sources and include oregano, cilantro and parsley. Spices come from seeds, berries, bark or roots of plants and include cinnamon, chili pepper and curcumin.

Herbs and spices are commonly known for their anti-inflammatory properties, which are associated with reduced risk of chronic diseases. Studies have shown they contain high antioxidant* and polyphenol, a type of plant compound, levels that aid in the prevention of heart disease and cancer. However, so many health promoting properties exist beyond those that we commonly hear about. For example, basil has been linked to boosting the brain’s ability to produce serotonin and dopamine – the happy hormones –, which may be a treatment for depression and anxiety!

Spices may be used fresh, dried or cooked. Gently heat spices first to release their natural aroma and nutritional benefits. Herbs may be consumed fresh, dried, raw or cooked and our bodies will digest and absorb the nutrients just the same. However, when cooking with fresh herbs, separate the leaves from the stems and use only the leaves. Use a sharp knife and cut gently. Using a dull knife will bruise the herb and may misplace the flavor onto the cutting board surface. You may also try using herbs topically as a therapeutic oil treatment on skin, hair and nails. Oregano oil, for example, has anti-fungal properties and is used to treat nail fungus.

Beyond the extensive medicinal and therapeutic benefits, including spices and herbs in dishes adds flavor without fat, salt or sugar. So, choosing to season our meals daily with fresh herbs and spices may increase our overall health and protect our bodies at a cellular level.

*Antioxidants are substances, such as beta-carotene, lutein, lycopene, selenium and vitamins A, C and E, found in foods like fruits and vegetables that protect our cells against the effects of free radicals. Free radicals are molecules that are found everywhere, in the air, our bodies, and the materials around us. They are produced when our body breaks down food through metabolism or through environmental factors such as pollution, radiation, cigarette smoke and herbicides. Normally the body can handle free radicals, but as we age free radical production increases and if antioxidants are unavailable damage can occur.

TOP 10 HERBS & SPICES FOR HEALTH BENEFIT

Oregano

 

Warm aromatic flavor. Include in tomato sauce, whole grain breads or sweet quick breads, marinades for meats and poultry, salad dressings and on vegetables. Cinnamon Sweet and spicy flavor. Add to oatmeal, simmer with low-fat milk/almond milk for a warming beverage, and add to curry sauces, meats and vegetables for a Middle Eastern inspired meal.
Basil Sweet and earthy taste. Goes well with tomatoes, cheese, whole grain breads, pizza, pasta, and olives. Flavor water with basil and citrus. Chili Peppers Flavor oils for salads or dressings. Add to quick breads.
Rosemary Aromatic herb with a warm essence. Pairs well with Mediterranean foods. Include in tomato sauce, whole grain breads or sweet quick breads and marinades. Flavor white beans, potatoes, mushrooms, polenta and apples. Turmeric Stir into egg, chicken and tuna salad. Include in dry rub to meats and poultry and add to vinaigrettes.
Thyme A fragrant herb with a warm essence. Flavor casseroles, soups, stews and vegetables. Enhance egg, meat, fish and been dishes Ginger Spicy in flavor. Add to smoothies, tea, marinades, and stir-fry. Flavor potatoes, soups, rice, and fruits.
Parsley Subtle in flavor. Pairs well with Mediterranean foods. Use in salads, marinades or sprinkle on top of dishes as a decoration. Cilantro  Pairs well with Latin foods. Add to beans, cheese, eggs, fish, vegetables and dips. Add as a topping for soups and salads.

Simplifying PRE– and POST- Workout Nutrition for Weight Loss

August 20, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Written by Sonya Luisi, M.S. Dietetics and Nutrition

Pre & Post Workout Blog

What you eat before a workout is imperative for fueling your workout and maximizing your performance.

What you eat after a workout is crucial for optimizing the recovery process and gives your body the energy it needs to recover quickly and work more efficiently.

Ensuring that you have the proper PRE- and POST- workout nutrition will certainly play a positive role in your overall results.

What should you eat BEFORE a workout?

The last meal you eat before your workout is meant to give your body all the energy it needs to ensure optimum performance. Your pre- workout meal functions to:

  • Decrease muscle glycogen depletion
  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown
  • Decrease post workout cortisol levels

According to the Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Nutritionist group, your pre-workout meals should be a combination of low-fiber carbohydrates without added sugars and protein.  Aim to make your meal or snack with well-tolerated foods, which means avoiding fast foods, pasta buffets, high fiber products and spicy foods. Aim to eat these about 45 minutes to one hour before your workout though food intake timing may differ for each individual depending on your body’s ability to tolerate specific foods before activity.

Stay hydrated with water and avoid carbonated beverages before physical activity. Sports Dietitians suggest aiming for 16 ounces of water two hours before your workout.

For a quick carb fuel-up to your next workout, chose an apple and with all-natural peanut butter. For a PRE- workout meal option, mix salad greens with assorted veggies and a hardboiled egg, with a drizzle of olive oil and vinegar, or your favorite low-fat dressing.

What should you eat AFTER a workout?

Immediately after a workout the body needs to repair, replenish, recover and adapt.  Your post- workout meal is a first defense for maintaining and building lean body mass, which increases our metabolism and helps us burn more calories throughout the day. In addition, a post workout meal will:

  • Decrease muscle soreness and fatigue
  • Decrease muscle protein breakdown caused by exercise
  • Decrease cortisol levels
  • Replenish depleted glycogen levels from exercise
  • Increase overall muscle protein synthesis

A post- workout meal should be a combination of protein and carbohydrates. Aim to consume these within twenty minutes post- workout when our body is primed and ready to accept protein and carbohydrates so it can immediately begin processing the nutrients to accomplish all the above functions.

Put one medium banana, one cup unsweetened vanilla almond milk and ice in a blender for a quick post-workout snack. For a post workout meal, have “breakfast for dinner”: scramble one whole egg and two egg whites with a handful of chopped spinach, bell peppers and ½ sweet potato, diced and add one ounce of low-fat cheese or avocado.

How do you incorporate PRE and POST workout meals into a weight loss plan?

Menu planning will be the most important tool to incorporate into your daily activity to ensure your pre and post workout meals are not “extra” calories but are part of your total daily energy needs. For example, if your estimated energy needs are 1500 to 1700 calories per day, then the calories from the meals and snacks before and after your workout need to be part of those 1500 to 1700 calories – not in addition to them!

Sources:

http://scandpg.blogspot.de/2012/03/eating-for-exercise.html Accessed July 19, 2014.

http://www.acaloriecounter.com/diet/pre-and-post-workout-meal/ Accessed July 20, 2014.

http://www.muscleandfitness.com/nutrition/gain-mass/sponsored-post-pre-and-post-workout-nutrition-simplified Accessed July 20, 2014.

Fun and Tasty Watermelon Recipe!

August 18, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Written by: Kori Mann, Nutrition Intern

watermelon recipeWhen the summer heat hits and everyone is looking for a way to stay cool, not much can beat an ice cold slice of watermelon. Originating from southern Africa, watermelon proves more nutritionally dense than most would think. 92% of the fruit is water and it contains antioxidants including vitamin c and lycopene; the latter is involved in cancer prevention research, particularly in regards to prostate health. Two cups of diced watermelon is about 80 calories, 21 grams of carbohydrates, 270 milligrams of potassium, 30 per cent of the Daily Value for Vitamin A, and 25 per cent for Vitamin C.

The water and potassium content make watermelon a great post-workout snack. Though the fruit alone is delicious, try adding pieces to a salad with some balsamic vinegar, blending some into a fruit smoothie, or making a surprising salsa to go with your meal. Even adding watermelon to a stir fry is a fun way to bring in color and natural sweetness to a dish! Save money and buy your melon whole instead of pre-cut; look for a fruit that is heavier than it seems with a cream-colored patch on the side. Info gathered from watermelon.org Try serving this with your next meal:

Watermelon Gazpacho

Recipe adapted from “A Couple Cooks” website

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • About 8 cups watermelon, cubed
  • 1 medium cucumber, diced
  • 1 medium tomato, quartered
  • 2 medium shallots, peeled and quartered
  • 1⁄4 cup loosely packed basil leaves
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • A few dashes hot sauce (optional)

Directions

Place the watermelon into a blender or food processor and blend. Pour into a bowl or container, and set aside. Place the cucumber, tomato, shallots, and basil leaves into the food processor. Blend until smooth. Pour the mixture into the container with the watermelon and mix them until fully combined. Stir in the red wine vinegar, the salt, and add the hot sauce. Chill for 2-3 hours before serving.

Drinking Poolside: The Importance of Hydrating While in the Water

August 5, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Erin Richardson, WSI, GFI

PoolWhen we talk about drinking poolside, most of us imagine small umbrellas and fruity drinks. However, we are not talking about those kinds of drinks today. We are here to discuss the importance of your water intake while swimming. The benefits of staying hydrated include maintaining the balance of our body fluids, helping kidney function, and helping with metabolism. Staying hydrated will help keep you both physically and mentally sharp, as well as help you to avoid cramping. Many of us, however, may not think about how it is important to keep up our water intake in the pool, especially when exercising.

It is difficult for most people to know if the droplets of water on their skin are from sweat or pool water. When swimming, you will lose fluid through sweat, so it is important to take in water to replace what you are losing. It can take as little as 30 minutes to become dehydrated in the pool. When you take into consideration the combination of warm water, hot air, and humidity, it’s easy to see that exercise in the water can zap your moisture quickly.

A good rule of thumb is to drink at least one cup of water every 15 minutes, or so. The key is to also come into your workout properly hydrated and make sure you keep up your water intake throughout the day.

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