Sunday, 14 January 2007

The Evo Diet: good for health, bad for reality TV

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What happens when you put 9 people in a zoo and feed them meals fit for an ape? BBC producers were hoping for some moments of grumpiness and maybe a little regret over joining the experiment, but surprisingly, that's not what they got. Instead, the 9 volunteers -- after an initial adjustment to their new diet -- found themselves feeling energetic and happy.

The experiment was created to see what would happen to blood pressure and cholesterol levels if people eliminated processed foods and saturated fat from their diet. Served a diet full of raw fruits a nd vegetables and appropriate servings of oily fish, the diet was meant to mimic that of our closest animal relative, the ape. The fish was served to tweak the diet into more of a hunter-gatherer type menu -- hence the name the "Evo" (for evolution) diet. Each participant was served 2300 calories per day, but often, because there was so much bulk in the fruits and vegetables, they didn't finish their meals.

Everyone lost weight, though that wasn't the point of the experiment. Blood pressure and cholesterol levels plummeted. In fact, cholesterol levels dropped an amazing 23% -- something usually only achieved through medication. The participants left feeling great and with some valuable lessons in what good nutrition could do for them. What they didn't achieve was a riveting reality TV show -- I guess nutritious foods is good for you, but not for ratings!

Know your oils for healthier cooking

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Spend a little time in the cooking oil section of your grocery aisle and you'll quickly realize you need a reference guide. Canola oil, vegetable oil, corn oil, olive oil, sesame oil, and so on for shelf after shelf. I just want to saute my vegetables and maybe stir-fry some chicken -- but what do I use? Then there are the options: virgin, extra virgin, expeller expressed, organic. And at my food co-op, they're all telling me not to use anything but coconut oil. What's a gi rl -- a girl who's trying to make better friends with her kitchen, stove top, and cooking utensils -- to do?

I turned to my friend the Internet, and here is what I found -- a clearly written, printable list of various cooking oils and their specific uses. Not only that, this article tells you whether the oil is an omega-3 or omega-6, important because most of us are getting far too many omega-6 oils in our diets, as well as the health benefits of each one.

So now I'm off to make stir-fry for dinner, and I know I can use coconut oil, canola oil, or even the sesame oil I bought last week. It makes me wish every one of life's little questions could be organized into a neat little printable list, you know?

The top 12 strategies to raise good cholesterol

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This excellent article on the top ten foods to help you fight cholesterol starts out with an amazing fact: there are about 12 million Americans who are on some kind of drug to lower their bad cholesterol! We've covered the food topic before, but with all those drugs being pumped into the body, I bet many people are wondering if there are other natural ways to help.

A startling wake-up call is that not having enough good cholesterol can be almost as damaging as having too much bad cholesterol. That's why this information on the top 12 non-drug strategies to raise HDL levels is so interesting. Like the author suggests, a little bit of the good variety can go a long way, so check out these tactics you can do to help your body naturally.

Trans fats should be a red flag automatically, but understanding why is also crucial. The fats clog arteries and not only raise your bad cholesterol but lower your good kind too. However, consuming more monounsaturated fats can be very beneficial without hurting your overall levels. Are you an onion fan? Apparently having half of a raw onion daily can raise HDL levels by thirty percent. Other strategies include common health practices like exercise and not smoking. Read the rest of the article for more on how to raise good cholesterol.

Succumbing to my comfort foods

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Before I moved to Texas, I was living in the UK, and a vegetarian. The combination of these two things meant that I rarely had access to my favorite foods from growing up. Stuff like hamburgers, hot dogs, or ice cream that didn't taste like sugar-free paste -- essentially, my comfort foods.

These days, however, it's a different story. I've returned to a country that knows how to make decent ice cream, and my vegetarianism has relented to the wonderful smell of good 'ol Texas barbecue. Now, when I'm angry, upset, or just need a little comfort, I eat.

Unfortunately, this emotional eating has had a seriously negative effect on my waistline -- which, ironically, just makes me feel worse! I've started exercising, which helps, but if I'm serious about losing those inches I have to find different way to cope.

Here's four tips that I'm using to get started -- some practical, straightforward alternatives to eating when I'm angry, or feeling down. But what about you? What ways have you found to work through your emotions without turning to food?

The world's best dieting tip: be kind to yourself

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Louis Binstock once said, "Very often we are our own worst enemy...on the path that leads to success and happiness." I'd like to add to that quote by saying we're also usually our own worst critics. When it comes to weight loss, we're usually the ones that set up our own stumbling blocks to trip over and have the meanest words for ourselves when we do.

This article has the answer: put yourself first. Take some time to ac cept yourself for who you are and the reasons behind your unhealthy habits. The idea is counter-intuitive, really -- quit making dieting about punishment, trust yourself to make good decisions, and above all pay attention to and accept yourself for who you are.

The author makes an excellent point in that we think that by being kind to ourselves, we're indulging, and that we'll make ourselves lazy and spoiled. We feel guilty when we're good to ourselves, because it feels selfish. But when attempting to lose weight, especially if it's going to be a long journey, you need to treat yourself gently and realize that there's a big difference between indulgence and being kind to yourself.

Continue reading The world's best dieting tip: be kind to yourself

Illegal to smoke in your own car?

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Bangor, a city in Maine, has now made it illegal to smoke in your car when there are children present. It's not the first to do it either, following in the footsteps of the states of Louisiana and Arkansas -- and many other states are considering similar measures.

Bangor's City Counselor, who is a smoker herself, commented that people smoking in vehicles with children around are as good as trying to kill them intentionally. That's a really harsh way to put it, but I have to say I agree.

Smoking in the car with anyone who's under 18 present will be a primary offense (meaning you can get pulled over for that reason alone) when the law goes into effect next week, and will cost you up to $50 in fines.

Diets die on Tuesdays

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Chances are, the last time you started a diet, it was on a Monday. And, chances are, that diet had officially ended by Tuesday night.

So why does this happen? For most of us, it's because diets based on deprivation just don't work. Whether we're trying to halt our daily intake of carbs, red meat, snacks, pizza, or whatever, our will-power simply isn't up to the task -- and, frankly, living a life deprived of our favorite things just plain sucks. Besides, no matter how much you diet, your perfect new body isn't going to appear overnight.

But this doesn't mean there aren't healthier, more gradual ways to lose weight, minus all that nasty withdrawal. Try thinking long-term. We gain and lose weight over long periods of time, often as result of minor, practically unnoticed changes. Cutting soda from your diet is a nice, manageable change that won't affect your lifestyle. But keep it up for a year, and you've lost yourself 12lbs. Even cutting out just 25 calories a day will result in a 2lb weight-loss over the course of a year.

Try it. Chances are, you won't even notice!

Trying to lose weight? Stop drinking soda

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Did you know there are 450 different types of soda sold in the United States today? If you're like many Americans, chances are you've had one already today. In fact, the average American drinks 18 ounces -- 2 full glasses -- of soda a day.

Two glasses, that's not so bad, right? Wrong. Recently, a That's Fit blogger wrote about what happens when you drink a coke, and another wrote about how quickly liquid calories add up. In fact, according to this article at AOL's 30-day Jumpstart, two glasses a day could help you pack on a whopping 24 pounds a year.

Not only do they pack on calories, sugary liquids in general add on pounds in a hurry. Because they pass through the stomach more quickly, they don't seem to register fullness like food does. The sweet in soda is high fructose corn syrup. Studies have found that, unlike other carbs, corn syrup doesn't trigger the hormones that tell us we're full. You could drink a day's worth of calories in soda and still feel hungry. And what is all the high fructose corn syrup doing to your internal organs? Your pancreas has to dump out increasingly larger loads of insulin to help the body process all that sugar. In the long run, this can put you at risk for Type II diabetes. As if that wasn't reason enough, soda also erodes the enamel on your teeth and may contribute to bone loss.

Continue reading Trying to lose weight? Stop drinking soda

Which celebrity has a body-type like yours? Quick quiz to find out!

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There are a lot of beautiful celebrities out there, with beautiful bodies. Now of course no two people look exactly the same, but there are definitely only a limited number of body types out there. So what if you wanted to know which of those beautiful celebrities deal with similar obstacles, problem areas, and generally have the same body type as you? All ya gotta do is take this quiz!

I don't know how accurate this thing is -- it told me I'm a Jessica Simpson type. Is that good, or bad? I definitely don't look like Jessica Simpson...does that mean that I could if I only applied myself? Geez. Now I'm more confused than ever, ha!

Move it slacker: procrastination makes you poor, fat and unhappy

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"You're a slacker, McFly!" And, apparently, so is everyone else you know. A recent study by University of Calgary professor Piers Steel indicates that not only is procrastination is on the rise, it's making us poorer, fatter, and unhappier.

How has it come to this? According to Steel, it's because we have too many distractions. E-mail, games, iPods, cell phones -- it's so easy to do something else (read: something more fun), that we're far less likely to do actual work than our 1970s counterparts. "It's easier to procrastinate now than ever before. We have so many more temptations," says Steel. "It's never been harder to be self-disciplined in all of history than it is now."

And it's difficult to stop. Steel said he had more difficulty getting chronic procrastinators to quit delaying than he had getting alcoholics to quit drinking.

So what can we do about it? Um. Hold on. I've gotta check my emails -- I'll get back to you on that later.

Favorite Pilates exercises anyone?

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If you're into muscle toning and regular resistance training, are you into Pilates? The renowned stretching and toning exercise method (which is good beyond that of course) is great for millions of people.

The problem is the cost of nicer Pilates equipment. Do you use bargain Pilates equipment or have you made your own? I know a few people who have made their own tables and the quality was outstanding.

It's interesting to me to see some people make their own equipment, which I think gives them more of an incentive to actually engage in the exercise, due to pride in having made the equipment they are working on.

What Pilates equipment do you use, a nd how does it work overall?

Get rid of sugared soft drinks if you can

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Bethany wrote this morning about trying to reduce or eliminate soft drinks from your diet in order to lose weight. Well, that couldn't help but remind me of a friend who had a new year's resolution do do just that.

One of my arguments in trying to convince her to stop drinking soft drinks was the weight loss factor due to calories and sugar content. Yes, there are "zero calorie" soft drinks, but they are laced with what I consider to be dangerous chemicals -- not a good alternative at all.

O ther factors were based on trying to have her drink more pure water, and even drink a powdered vitamin and mineral complex that she had heard of from a friend. Those are both great alternatives to drinking soft drinks, which I fear tens of millions of Americans are"addicted" to for more reasons than one.

Have you dropped soft drinks from your diet recently, and what was the effect?

New cold medicine warning for toddlers

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Whenever I take my kids to the pediatrician for a cough, I already know what she's going to say: "The best expectorant is water." She preaches plenty of fluids, humidifying their bedrooms, and lots of rest (she obviously is kidding about the rest, right? Do small children ever rest?) She always claims that cold medicines don't do much for kids, and there was always the risk that it would make them feel edgy.

After reading this article, I'm grateful for her advice. Cold medicines are being blamed for b ad reactions in 1500 babies and toddlers over a two year period, requiring visits to emergency rooms. Some of the children had up to 14 times the appropriate amount of pseudoephedrine, the active ingredient in decongestants. Citing this, federal officials Thursday warned parents to think twice before administering cold medicines to young children. The problem seems to revolve around the fact that there aren't approved dosage amounts for young toddlers and babies. Because of this, it's easy to overdose. In addition, many cold medications contain more than one type of medication and parents may be double dosing.

According to the article, the medication carries far more risks than the infection itself, especially for children under 5. If you make sure your child has plenty of access to clear fluids, put a cool-mist humidifier in their bedroom, and give them lots of TLC, they'll be through their cold and cough in no time. Is your child sneezing? Click here for a few more ideas on how to soothe common cold symptoms in children.

Top health and fitness predictions for 2007

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Are you a trendsetter or a trend-follower? Or maybe you're the type that goes opposite of the trend, just on principle. Either way, it's good to know what the trends are, or might be. has compiled a list, in their handy "in pictures" format (well I think it's fun, anyway) with expert's opinions on what the biggest health and fitness trends will be in 2007.

Most of them are things I might have guessed, like organic products continuing to be popular and restaurants offering more low-fat items on their menus. But some others were interesting, like a growing number of employers offering health coaches as a benefit to employees. Really? I've never heard of that kind of benefit before, but I know I need it!

Cold medicine risky for kids?

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If your kids regularly get colds from any source (mainly school, from what I have seen), you are probably well-versed in the types of over-the-counter cold medications that can help your kids fight the cold nastiness.

However, federal health officials reported this past week that more than 1,500 toddlers and babies wound up in emergency rooms -- due to bad reactions from cold medication -- over a two-year period. These kids obviously are not in school yet, but infants still get colds, of course.
In what I consider to be semi-landmark advice from the CDC, the agency then warned parents not to give common over-the-counter cold remedies to children under 2 years old without consulting a doctor. This makes sense, although it's hard to see an infant with a cold -- but apparently solving the issue without the use of pseudoephedrine would be better here.

Trans fat said to increase infertility

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If you're a snacker or eater of trans fat-containing foods (partially hydrogenated oils, for one), you may becoming more infertile as a results, according to a new stipend of research.

The new research stated that cutting or eliminating trans fats from the diet may be especially important for women of childbearing age who want to have kids.

It's well-known that eating foods containing trans fats is very damaging to one's health -- a fact that is undisputed . Many food companies and even cities and restaurant chains are getting rids of the dangerous fats as the public finds out just how bad that kind. Add possible infertility to that list now.

Medicine ball moves to get you sculpted

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I've been meaning to get a medicine ball for awhile now, but somehow hadn't gotten around to it. I admit I haven't looked into how to use one specifically yet, but I read something today that surprised me: a medicine ball can be more effective for sculpting than dumbbells or weight machines. Because of their round shape, standard exercises become more challenging for your muscles, and they can be used in so many more ways than other equipment.

Medicine balls are available in a range of colors and sizes, usually ranging from 2 to 25 pounds. And once you've got yours, or if you're thinking about it, read for 4 easy moves you can do at home to get sculpted in no time. I'm going shopping asap for mine.

How to eat healthy, on a budget

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This one hits home for me because I've always had a horrible time eating right on a tight grocery budget, but apparently it can be done:

Tip #1: Substitute frozen vegetables for fresh because they're cheaper and will keep longer. Okay...this might work sometimes, but not all frozen vegetables taste the same as fresh ones! The article's answer to this is to buy fresh produce when it's in season.

Tip#2: (I think this is a good one) Canned tuna and salmon make great add-ins for whole grain brown rice and pasta, and they're almost always inexpensive.

Tip#3: Substitute ground turkey for ground beef in your favorite meals.

Like anything, not all tips will work for all people. There's more in the article on, including some yummy and quick chicken and pasta recipes.