Are your friends making you fat?

We are influenced by what people around us eat
Source: Pinterest via Alley Fraley

Researchers, whose study was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found our eating habits are highly influenced by those we surround ourselves with. In other words, if your bestie likes to nosh on butter laden popcorn and Jujubes while watching movies, there's a good chance you'll find yourself doing the same thing.

What's a gal to do if she is striving to make healthy changes in her diet? You don't have to avoid your friends altogether, but think about challenging situations that may arise when you are with your friends, and plan how you will deal with them ahead of time. When you go to the movies, for example, bring an alternate snack, like apple slices and a bottle of water. Or, pop some gum in your mouth before the popcorn is passed your way.

And, as much as possible, surround yourself with people who have similar, healthy living goals.These people will cheer you on and support your goals effortlessly, as they will be more likely to invite you on hikes and bike rides, followed by healthy snacks at that hip vegan restaurant in your area.


Freekeh isn't so freaky

Freekey is a healthy grain high in fiber and protein

Just when you figured out how to cook (and pronounce) quinoa, another ancient grain with a cooky name comes along: freekeh.

I was introduced to freekeh when shopping at Costco a couple months ago. I was walking through the grain aisle when I fell upon a large bag of it, advertising itself as high in fiber and protein. Always in search of healthy foods, I threw it in my cart.

Freekeh is young wheat that's been cracked and toasted. It has an earthy flavor that pairs well with meats and vegetables, but I also like to eat it for breakfast topped with bananas, chopped walnuts, and a drizzle of maple syrup.

I just love all these ancient grains popping up in our grocery store aisles. Any other finds you've come across? Let me know in the comment section below!


Exercise compliance secret #5: don't push too hard

Don't exercise until you hate it

Don't kill yourself. Don't push yourself until you are wheezing, fatigued, and ready to vomit. Don't exercise until you hate it. Why?

Exercise doesn't have to hurt to be effective.

Researchers, whose findings were published in the Scandinavian Journal of Public Health, say exercising at a moderate pace is just as effective as exercising at a more intense level. And, there's a bonus: those who work out at a moderate pace feel better about exercise, so they are more likely to be consistent.

It's quite simple: find something you like. Work out for the joy of feeling your body move, for the joy of feeling it become leaner and stronger.

These are the secrets of those who exercise for life.


Avocado and date pudding, really

avocados and dates create a healthy pudding

Avocados? Dates? In your pudding? They are unlikely combinations, but they work to please both the tastebuds and the body.

Avocados recently made Huffington Post's top 50 healthiest foods list, thanks to their heart healthy fats and high levels of potassium, lutein, and Vitamins C and E.  Dates, though high in sugar, are also packed with fiber and phytonutrients.

This pudding, then, is a healthy, rich, smooth tasting treat that is high in fiber and other antioxidants. Believe me, it will delight the sweet tooths in your family. (Just don't reveal the ingredients until after they've indulged).

Avocado and date pudding:

In a food processor or high powered blender puree:

2 ripe avocados, peeled and pitted
1 cup almond milk
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
14 dates
2 tbsp. maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Spoon pudding into cups or small bowls and top with berries and whipped cream.

Note: I played around with the sweetener quite a bit, and you can too! Dates are a natural sweetener. For some people, the sweetness they added to the pudding was sufficient. Most of my taste testers preferred something a bit sweeter, though. 2 tbsp of maple syrup did the trick. 


The most researched & understood benefits of Pilates

Pilates has grown in popularity. The method, which once appealed to a small, niche group of highly conditioned dancers has evolved, now appealing to the general public as well.

This evolution has been good for research, as Pilates' popularity has prompted numerous studies designed to more fully understand its benefits. Here are some of the most well understood and researched claims.

  1. Relieves low back pain
  2. Improves flexibility, particularly in the hamstrings and the low back
  3. Enhances sense of balance
  4. Improves muscle endurance
Not bad for a 2-3 hour commitment each week, don't you agree?


Low back pain? Try Pilates

Do you suffer from low back pain?

Pilates may bring you the relief that you need.

Researchers, whose study was published in the European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine followed a group of people suffering from low back pain. Half chose to practice Pilates and half chose not to exercise.

The result? The group that practiced Pilates experienced decreased back pain and decreased disability.
Those who did not practice Pilates worsened: they experienced an increase in both back pain and disability.

Participants who mitigated their pain worked. They exercised 5 days a week, showing great consistency and devotion to their program. While I'm sure it proved difficult to exercise at times, I bet they do not regret the time they spent strengthening their bodies. I bet they don't wish they'd spent a little more time watching television or surfing the internet.

Treat your body well and you will be rewarded with health, vitality, agility. Everyone wants that, right?


Go nuts!

Nuts have many health benefits

Move over kale, because nuts have revealed themselves as a Super Food, too.

Researchers, whose report was published in the New England Journal of Medicine, reveal such great news about the healthy attributes of nuts that you'll be reaching for a handful today.

When nut eaters are compared to non-nut eaters, here's how they fare. Nut eaters:

  • Are thinner than those who don't indulge
  • Have a 29% less risk of dying from heart disease
  • Have 11% less risk of dying from cancer
That's not all. Remarkably, nut eaters:
  • Are 20% less likely to die from any disease over a 20-year period
What type of magical nuts must one eat to increase the number of days on this earth? You don't need to discriminate. Study participants experienced similar health benefits, whether noshing on peanuts, cashews, almonds, walnuts, macademia nuts, pecans, pistachios, pine nuts, Brazil nuts, or hazelnuts. 

It's time to go nuts, ladies.
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