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.
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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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Is MY FitBit making me Fat?

July 28, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Written By: Christina Schoerner, MS, RDN

Women Walking“OH GOSH! I HOPE NOT,” I thought as I read a recent article discussed on the Today Show.

If you’ve met me you most likely had THE conversation with me. THE conversation, that is, about my FitBit. I am slightly obsessed.  I have owned my FitBit for almost two years. Just like many owners of tracking devices, my daily goal is 10,000 steps. Have I met this goal every day? Gosh no! But I truly believe that it has spurred me to be more active in my daily living. Whether it is that I only got 3,400 steps one day that boosts me to step up my game or seeing a number like 8,500 steps that sends me out for an evening stroll; My FitBit motivates me. A study from Stanford in 2007 discovered that people who wore a pedometer walked approximately 2,100 more steps a day than those who did not. So the odds seem in my favor.

What can a pedometer offer? All are created differently. In general, activity trackers can track daily steps, distance, and calories burned (based off your provided height and weight). Some trackers sync to your smart phone, calorie-counting apps (like MyFitnessPal) and allow you to set personal goals along the way. And, some even track how well you sleep and allow you to challenge and cheer on your friends.

So is my FitBit making me fat? I don’t think so. However for some this seems to be the case. Owners of different tracking devices have blogged, complained, and reported these simple facts: they have increased their physical activity, eaten the recommended calories calculated by their device, and they have gained weight.

As a dietitian who understands the tediousness of counting calories and increasing exercise to lose weight, it dawned on me how the general public could be taking their FitBit calorie numbers too seriously.  (“Seriously? but I just dropped $100 on this thing,” you say.) Yes I repeat: Many are taking the calories calculated by their device too literally. Although we live in an age of wonderful technology, nothing can be that accurate… well, not yet, anyway.

After years of education and experience in nutrition, I disregard the computer-calculated calories that my FitBit displays. As much as we want to make weight loss a mathematical equation of [Calories in < Calories out = weight loss], it is not that simple. There are many other factors that affect this equation (sleep, stress, genes, metabolism, smoking, medications, and quality of food in diet….just to name a few). These other factors are exactly what is making your very accurate step-tracking device a not so accurate calorie counting device.

What does this mean for me? Keep stepping. Continue reaching or even exceeding your daily step goal. Be active. Encourage your friends and family to choose activities that get you moving. Don’t let counting steps replace your current exercise routine. Many Americans only count on their 30-45 min workout session a day. In reality, the rest of the day their body is sedentary. Research has found that being active in shorter time periods frequently throughout the day can be more beneficial than your  hard-core gym class. Instead let your FitBit be a motivator to take the stairs, walk to work, park in the furthest parking spot on your next errand, and walk around the block at your lunch hour or after dinner.

What about your calories? I recommend meeting with a registered dietitian/nutritionist to discuss how to best meet your weight loss goals. See if a dietitian or MD in your area offers RMR testing (resting metabolic rate) through indirect calorimetry (a technique that provides an accurate estimate of your calorie needs by measuring CO2 production and O2 consumption at a resting state). Until then…. just because you walk a little bit more one day does not mean you need to replace those calories lost! For weight loss you want to create a deficit. A good baseline on how many calories your body needs a day can be calculated by plugging your information into the following RMR equation:

Men: 66 + (6.23 x weight in pounds) + (12.7 x height in inches) – (6.8 x age in years) = RMR
Women: 655 + (4.35 x weight in pounds) + (4.7 x height in inches) – (4.7 x age in years)= RMR

After you insert your personal numbers and calculate your RMR, multiply your total number by an activity factor:

Sedentary: BMR x 1.2 Light active: BMR x 1.375 Moderately active: BMR x 1.55 Very active: BMR x 1.725

To lose weight: Subtract 500 calories from your new number.

This is a rough estimate of what your caloric needs are. I advise using a lower activity level, as many of us believe we are burning a lot more calories than we really are.

Instead of following the calorie level on your FitBit or other devise, set up an account with MyFitness Pal. Set your calorie goals to the number you calculated above. Remember, just because you went on that three mile run doesn’t mean you need to reward yourself. Calories eaten tend to add up a lot faster than calories burned!

Is a FitBit for you? If you are looking for a little help in the motivation department or are ready to shed some excess weight, a fun activity-tracking device can benefit you. So keep track of those steps but leave aside tracking the calories burned.

Remember: Any activity that you do today and in the future that you didn’t do yesterday is going to benefit your whole well-being and health!

Now, get to steppin’! I am right behind you.

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MOO-ve over Milk – Camel’s Milk is the New Dairy Superfood

July 21, 2014 By: office Comments Off

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

GrazingScientists are claiming camel’s milk as an amazing superfood and the American dairy industry is responding favorably.  Farmers and entrepreneurs are preparing to meet the demand, so moo-ve over cows because the camel population is about to increase!

Camel’s milk has been a staple commodity in the Arab countries for centuries. The Amish communities have also touted camel’s milk to have healing powers, including its ability to help improve symptoms of child attention deficit disorder and autism.

The nutritional benefits over cow’s milk are impressive. Research has shown Camel’s milk

  • Has higher levels of minerals than cow’s milk, including potassium, magnesium, iron, copper, manganese, sodium and zinc
  • Has lower cholesterol than both cow and goat milk
  • Contains three times the amount of vitamin C and 10 times the amount of iron than cow’s milk
  • Is high in unsaturated fatty acids and B vitamins but lower in vitamin A and B2 than cow’s milk
  • Contains more fat and protein than cow’s milk

In addition to its impressive nutritive benefits, camel’s milk has additional health benefits beyond its basic nutrition. Scientists have found the following health facts about camel’s milk:

  • Protects against colon, liver and breast cancer cell proliferation and mortality – the substance lactoferrin found in camel’s milk has antibacterial, antiviral and antitumor properties.
  • Treatment for type 2 diabetes – the high levels of insulin (52 units per liter) passes through the stomach without being destroyed.
  • Protects against Alzheimer’s disease
  • Treatment for Lyme disease – it enhances good gut bacteria, supports and controls the immune system.
  • Protects against Hepatitis – the antiviral properties dispel the inflammation of the liver

Proposed pricing is currently $18 a pint, which will be unaffordable for most people. However, long-term health benefits may outweigh the anticipated high cost.

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Nutrition Spotlight – KALE

July 18, 2014 By: office Comments Off

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

One of my personal favorite foods – kale – made an appearance at lunch in a refreshing, seasonal salad with strawberries. Although apprehensive at first, our guests gained a better appreciation for the cruciferous super food during our “nutrition fact of the day”.  Kale can be found in either curly, ornamental or dinosaur varieties. It is a rich source of immune boosting antioxidants vitamins A, C and K and minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese and phosphorus. It is also a rich source of phytochemicals such as carotenoids and flavonoids, which research has shown may have cancer-fighting properties1. If this isn’t enough to get us eating more kale then surely the following nutrition facts will:

One cup of raw kale provides approximately 36 kilocalories and 5 grams of fiber. Kale contains more iron per calorie than beef and more calcium per calorie than milk!! It is anti-inflammatory, a source of omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, and is a sustainable crop.

Curious on how to chose and store this powerhouse leafy greens?

Choose firm, deeply colored leaves with hard stems. Store kale, unwashed, in an airtight zipped plastic bag for up to five days in the refrigerator.

Source:

  1. http://www.livestrong.com/article/375090-kale-and-its-nutritional-content/ Updated Feb 6, 2011.
  2. http://www.naturalnews.com/035986_kale_beef_plants.html Updated May 27, 2012
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Greek Yogurt – Just Another Food Fad?

July 14, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Written By: Christina Schoerner, MS, RDN

Greek yogurt with almonds, honey and blueberriesAs a dietitian at Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts, our guests often ask me “what is the difference between regular yogurt and Greek yogurt.” Is Greek yogurt just the newest fad? Or it is worth making room for in your diet?

Greek yogurt has taken the yogurt aisles by storm the past few years, and it also has grabbed the attention of many dieters and weight conscious individuals. The main reason is this; Greek yogurt is naturally high in protein. Greek yogurts can contain up to 2x the protein that regular yogurt contains. The protein found in dairy (milk, yogurt, & cheese products) contains the 9 essential amino acids that the human body can’t produce, making it a ‘complete’ protein (this is a good thing).

How is it made?

-The production of Greek yogurt uses 3-4x the amount of milk used to make regular yogurt. Both regular and Greek Yogurt start out the same: milk and live cultures (probiotics). Next the yogurt is strained to concentrate the solids and remove some of the whey. This process also removes some of the lactose sugars, salt and water. What’s left is what everyone is raving about- a thicker, creamier yogurt that is higher in protein but lower in sugars and carbohydrates than regular yogurt.

Buyer BEWARE

-Just because it says Greek on the label does not mean it is always the healthiest choice. Check the ingredient list to ensure there are no unwanted ‘added’ ingredients. Check for added sugars and added thickeners and proteins (corn starch, whey concentrates, – “gums”). The more natural the better.

Additional benefits of Greek yogurt:

- Contains less lactose than regular yogurt and therefore is beneficial for those who are lactose intolerant.

- Provides 15% of your daily calcium needs (% based on a 2,000 calorie diet)

-Contains live and active cultures: Probiotics! I personally like to picture little tiny creatures in my belly working hard to keep my intestines in shape while helping my digestion and immune system.

Striking Differences in taste:

- Upon the first taste of Greek yogurt you will notice the tart flavor and creamy texture.

If going Greek is something in your future, I encourage you to try several different brands of Greek yogurt. Each has an individual taste! I just love the yogurt aisle – you can just choose one individual serving size to taste.  No commitment to a 6-pack.

 

While trying to lose weight, always go for the non-fat yogurt choice. You are saving calories from fat but still receiving the most important benefits of yogurt: calcium + protein.


How do you “dress” Greek yogurt?

Save calories by picking the plain yogurt flavor and adding your own healthy toppings. The options are endless and I encourage you to get creative! Here are some quick and easy go-to toppings.

½ cup fresh berries or 2 tbsp dried fruit
1 oz nuts
1 tsp brown sugar or honey or sweetener
1 tsp cinnamon + 1
½ cup dry cereal (fiber-rich)
1 tbsp dark mini chocolate pieces (makes a sweet dessert)

 

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Potassium and Exercise

July 6, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Written by: Christina Schoerner, MS RD

BananaI can remember the days when I played tennis for hours in the hot Georgia sun preparing for my high school regional and state tennis tournaments. Pushing my body in the intense heat led to dehydration and cramping. My coach would toss a banana across the fence. “Eat it, it has potassium,” she called. So exactly why did she toss me a banana? What role does potassium play in exercise?

In the body, potassium is the major intracellular cation. It works along with sodium to maintain the body’s water balance. Having potassium levels that are below the recommended level may be a contributing factor to muscle cramps 1. Consuming foods rich in potassium can replace what is lost from muscle during exercise and the smaller amounts lost in sweat 2.

On those hot spring days, I was most likely experiencing heat cramps. Heat cramps are muscle spasms that occur during or after vigorous activity in a hot environment. Hydration, sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium all play a contributing role in heat cramps. The body can lose as much as 6 g per day engaging in activity that causes profuse sweating 1.

Recommendations from the National Research Council suggest intake of 4,700 mg of potassium a day for adults. However, most Americans do not meet this recommended intake because of the lack of fruits and vegetables consumed in their diet.

Was my tennis coach right when she tossed me a banana in order to increase my potassium intake? YES. Bananas are an excellent source of potassium along with other fruits and vegetables. Foods that contain greater than 300 mg of potassium per serving are considered exceptionally rich. See the list below to see what potassium rich sources to include in your diet.

Potassium also plays an important role in health, particularly blood pressure health. It is known that a diet low in potassium and high in sodium is a leading link to high blood pressure. So consuming a diet rich in potassium will not only replenish your body during and after exercise, but it can benefit those who have hypertension 2.

Potassium Rich FoodsMore than 300 mg per serving
Winter squash Banana, Oranges
Avocado Prune and Carrot Juice
Brussels Sprouts Cantaloupe, Honeydew Melon
Potatoes, Yams Papaya, Peaches
Green Leafy Vegetables Raisins
Pork Artichoke
Beans Beet Greens
Zucchini, Broccoli Yogurt, Milk
Mango, Apricots Halibut, Tuna, Cod, Trout

 

References

  1. Gaby, Alan. Nutritional Interventions for Muscle Cramps. Integrative Medicine. 2008. 6:20-23.
  2. Anderson, J., Young, L., Long, E. Potassium and Health. Colorado State University. http://www.ext.colostate.edu/pubs/foodnut/09355.html
  3. Gropper, S., Smith, J., Groff, J. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 5 ed. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. 2009.
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Why We Should be Consuming More Legumes and Other Plant-Based Proteins

July 2, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Garbanzo beans

Beans and legumes rocked our menu this week at Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts in New York, providing our busy bodies with quality plant-based protein. We’ve all heard the adage  “magical beans” which is most appropriate due to beans’ incredible health benefits.  Researchers have shown that butyrate, a fatty acid by–product of the digestion of dietary fiber by gut microbes and found in legumes, reduces proliferation of cancer cells and blood vessels that feed tumors1.  Other studies have associated legume consumption with reduced heart disease and improved blood sugar levels2.

Why do we love legumes so much at Shane? As if the scientific research on the chronic health benefits of the “magic bean” alone is not reason enough, then we love legumes for their excellent source of quality plant-based protein! Not all protein sources are equal, and therefore, cause us to question which source (animal or plant) provides our bodies with proper energy.

Nutritional research have shown that all – yes, ALL – plants contain protein. Legumes provide approximately nine or more grams of protein per cup and are highly digestible. Broccoli contains more protein per calorie than steak and spinach contains equal amounts of protein as its animal-based counterpart, chicken and fish. Not all plants supply the 20 essential amino acids needed to make a complete protein, so, chose a wide variety of sources to meet your nutritional needs. Quinoa, however, is a complete protein (contains all 20 amino acids) and consuming one cup of this ancient grain provides 9 grams of protein, which is one gram more than a medium chicken egg.

Beans and legumes are easy to prepare in meals and can be purchased fresh, frozen or canned. In our menu this week we added legumes to our chili, fish tacos and even our evening snack of black bean brownies!

The Week’s Menu Favorites, voted by our guests:

Favorite Meal: Turkey Bean Chili and Corn Bread

Runner up: Mango and Blueberry Quinoa

Favorite Snack: Black Bean Brownie

Runner up: Greek Yogurt and Raspberry Jam

 

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

June 2014

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Hydration Through Foods: What to pick?

June 21, 2014 By: office Comments Off

Who knew the crisp, juicy, sweet and refreshing taste of watermelon on a hot summer day was helping keep you hydrated. This bright pink fruit weighs in at 91 percent water and provides Vitamin A and C, lycopene, fiber and potassium.

For some people, staying hydrated is a daily struggle. It is reported that 75% of Americans are ‘chronically’ dehydrated. Checking daily the color and quantity of urine is the simplest way to tell if you are dehydrated.  Check out this chart below to see how you compare.

The Institute of Medicine’s Dietary Reference Intake (DRI) for water differs with age and gender. DRI’s state Males 19 years and older need 3.7 liters (125 oz) of water a day, and females 19 year and older need 2.7 liters (91 oz) of water a day.

As a general rule of thumb, health care providers will recommend drinking 8 cups of water a day (1 cup = 8oz.) However once you do the math, the recommendations really come to 11.4-15.6 cups a day.

Now a question for you all…. be truthful:  Are you meeting your water needs?

Now nothing tops a nice tall glass of ice cold water, but luckily, for most people, 20%- 30% of our hydration needs are met through foods with high water content.  Summer is a great time of year to find these foods fresh and affordable. What perfect timing; the time of year when we are increasing our outside activity and our sweat rate.

Pictured below are high water content foods that can keep you hydrated, provide nutrients that your body craves, AND are low in calories.

Find your favorites and “drink” up!

Written by: Christina Schoerner, MS, RD

Hydrating Foods

 

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Cooking Classes at SDR

June 13, 2014 By: office Comments Off

photo 4

Written by Sonya Luisi, MS Dietetics and Nutrition

This week at Shane Diet & Fitness Resorts (SDR) NY, the Nutrition Team led a cooking demo on how to incorporate whole foods in your diet with a peach and tomato salsa recipe and baked whole-wheat pita chips.  Fresh salsa uses an array of whole foods, or foods in their natural state with all of its nutrients in tact. Tomatoes, peaches, garlic, jalapeno, lime, and cilantro pack this salsa with a potassium, vitamin A and vitamin C.

Including peaches in salsa makes a luscious, flavorful and affordable summertime treat since peaches are in season from June to September.  Serve as an appetizer while entertaining guests, or save in Mason jars for a daily nutrient packed and low-calorie snack!

 

Peach and Mango SalsaPeach and Tomato Salsa

Makes 10 servings

Serving Size: ½ Cup

Directions:

Combine all ingredients, cover and allow flavors to marry for at least 1 hour. Season to taste before serving.

 

Ingredients:

2 ½ cups peaches, peeled and pitted, small diced

2 ½ cups tomatoes, seeded, small diced

4 Tbsp. cilantro, chopped

½ jalapeno, diced (remove all seeds and white ribs)

½ tsp. garlic, crushed

2 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1 lime juiced

¼ tsp. salt

Calories: 30

Total Fat: 0.3 g

Total Carbohydrates: 7.3 g

Dietary Fiber: 1.4 g

Protein: 0.7 g

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