Thursday, December 08, 2011

Question of the day: Should I try a detox?

Ever hear of the Lemonade Diet or seen the rows of boxes in the drugstore claiming to rid your body of toxins? I’m sure they make you wonder if they really are the magic trick to losing those few extra pounds or for cleaning your digestive system after all the food you ate last weekend. The answer is no. Our bodies are designed to do this naturally on a daily basis.

With the rare exception, we are all born with two kidneys that serve this purpose amongst many other functions. Each day they filter roughly 1600 liters of blood a day to create waste that is excreted as urine. These well-trained organs maintain the proper blood volume while ridding the body of electrolytes and other components that are no longer needed. This technique, along with many other internal systems, is involved in the body’s natural detoxification process.

Most of the detox diets available require restriction of foods for long periods of time. The Master Cleanse is based on the consumption of no solid foods and only a lemonade concoction for the entirety of the detox, which can be up to 2 weeks. During this time, several important nutrients are excluded from the diet and you consume inadequate calories and macronutrients (carbohydrate, protein and fat). Others suggest the use of laxatives, which can easily cause dehydration.

Instead of a detox diet, focus on eating a varied healthy eating plan. Start by cutting back on the amount of fast food and pre-packaged goods. Enjoy naturally detoxing foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, legumes, nuts and seeds.  Use the USDA "Choose My Plate" tool to determine the number of servings you need from each food group. The next time you think about testing out the latest detox diet, try eating a balanced diet that is full in fruits and vegetables and let your body do the work by itself.

Saturday, December 03, 2011

Question of the day: What is coconut water?

When you think of coconut water, probably the first thing that comes to mind is sitting on the beach under a palm tree with a hairy coconut in hand and a straw popping out a tiny hole. That is actually coconut milk and provides a different set of nutrients than coconut water, which is the liquid that comes from young or green coconuts.

Coconut water is just that, water from coconuts, and is packed with potassium, calcium, magnesium, sodium and carbohydrates. With this blend of nutrients, it can be the perfect post-workout fluid replacement drink or be used for those that are dehydrated due to an illness or disease. It is important to replenish lost fluids after exercising as well as replace the sodium and potassium that is sweat out. A study conducted in Malaysia showed that coconut water can provide the same benefits as a carbohydrate-electrolyte beverage for rehydration and induces less stomach unrest for most individuals.

The water from green coconuts is high in cytokinins, which have been shown to function as antioxidants and possibly help fight the growth of cancer. B-complex vitamins are concealed within the water as well and help decrease inflammation and associated diseases.

Although coconut water is great after exercising, it does lack the necessary amount of carbohydrates required for energy during endurance exercise and for glycogen replenishment afterwards. It has a distinct flavor and some brands even contain coconut chunks to add a little extra kick to the drink. However, if you are looking for a new fluid and electrolyte replacement drink, give coconut water a try.

Thursday, December 01, 2011

Chia for health

Remember those clay animals that grew grass. All you needed to do was soak the pottery, spread the seeds, keep it watered and soon your bear, dog or cat would be full of “fur.” The same seeds are becoming popular again, but this time due to their nutritional value and their mention in the book Born to Run.

Chia seeds are whole grains that have a high content of fiber amongst other nutrients. Even though the seeds are small and don’t appear to be nutrient dense, they are packed with protein, potassium, dietary fiber and omega-3 fatty acids. They contain roughly 8 times the omega-3 found in salmon, 5 times the calcium in milk and double the fiber of bran flakes.

A recent study conducted by St. Michael’s Hospital in Canada showed evidence that adding 37 grams a day of chia seeds to a patient’s diet that was previously diagnosed with diabetes and undergoing medical treatment could reduce their risk factors for cardiovascular disease. These findings are hope that this could hold true with those that are not diagnosed with diabetes and could be used in combination with a heart-healthy diet to lower the risk of the number one killer in the US, heart disease.

Not only are the seeds good for you, they are easy to incorporate into your diet. They can be added to a salad, yogurt, smoothies or cereal. They can even replace an egg when baking (see recipe below). They can also be eaten by themselves as a snack. A powerful energy drink that the Aztecs and Mayans drank is Chia Fresca and can be quite refreshing. These seeds are special because they absorb water and form a gel so make sure to keep that in mind when cooking or baking as to not change the desired consistency.

Try them out for yourself and start getting eating more whole grains without even noticing it!

To replace an egg in a recipe:
• 1 tablespoon chia seeds
• 3 tablespoons water
 Combine the water and seeds and let sit for 5-10 minutes until the gel is formed and then add to the recipe of choice.

To make Chia Fresca:
• 10 oz of water
• 1 tablespoon chia seeds
• 2 teaspoons lemon or lime juice
• Honey, agave nectar or sugar (to taste)
 Combine ingredients and add the sweetener of choice to taste. Let sit for 5-10 minutes until the seeds have absorbed the water.