The heart healthy Nordic diet

The Nordic diet is has heart healthy and anti-inflammatory properties

You've probably already read and heard about the virtues of the Mediterranean diet, and while this diet is still well regarded in the medical community, it's getting some competition.

The Nordic diet is gaining recognition as a wise way to eat as well. The foods that make up the Nordic diet were recently featured in the Journal of Internal Medicine for their heart healthy and anti-inflammatory properties.

What makes up a typical Nordic dinner plate?

The Nordic diet features fatty fish, berries, canola oil, fruit, vegetables, and whole grains.  To get the full benefit:

  1. Aim for 3 or more servings of fish (2 fatty fish and one lean) per week
  2. Use vegetable based oils when cooking
  3. Eat at least one piece of whole fruit daily
  4. In addition to your whole fruit, consume 1 cup of berries daily
  5. Choose whole grains
  6. Eat 1.5 cups of vegetables each day, and aim to incorporate a variety of root vegetables
Sounds like a delicious way to eat well, don't you think?


The avocado and your diet

Avocado is a powerful appetite suppressant

I love summer, not only because of its relaxed schedule, but because of all the delicious fruits and vegetables that are readily available. Summer produce is so delicious it hardly needs any human intervention. Drizzle a little olive oil, top with fresh herbs and a bit of sea salt and your tomatoes, zucchini, squash, plums, peaches,...you name it, is delicious.

This summer I'm indulging, without guilt, in avocado. You may remember the days of the low-fat diet, when a dip of guacamole was considered a diet sin, but avocado is seen in a friendlier light these days. Researchers, whose study was published in Nutrition Journal say avocado is a powerful appetite suppressant. People who eat an avocado half with their lunches enjoyed a decreased desire to eat over the following 3 hours by 40%.

So how can you enjoy this satisfying, diet friendly fruit?
  • You can do the obvious: 
    • Add it to your salads. 
    • Find a soft avocado, mash it, and use it on sandwiches as a substitute for mayonnaise
  • Experiment: 
    • Make your morning smoothy thick and creamy by adding avocado. 
    • Make a healthy and filling pudding for snack.
  • Make one of my favorite summer sandwiches:
    •  Layer with tomato, onion, and cucumber in a whole wheat pita. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with feta cheese and season with sea salt and pepper. Throw it in the toaster oven until the bread is crisp. Yum! 


How to beat the weight statistics

Surround yourself with others who prioritize health

It's sad but true: the majority of Americans have weight issues.

In 2013 the American Medical Association deemed obesity a disease, but that doesn't mean that maintaining a healthy weight is out of our control.

In fact, there are many social factors that can influence our weight, and it is useful to understand what they are in order to maintain a healthy weight. Consider these statistics:
  • Having 4 obese friends doubles your chance of become obese
  • If you live in the Midwest or the South you are more likely to be overweight than if you live in the Mountain states or the Northeast
  • Children with parents who are obese are 3 times more likely to be obese themselves
  • If your spouse is obese, your chances of becoming obese increase 37%
  • If your sibling is obese, your chances of becoming obese increase 40%
So what does this all mean? Surely you can't cut off ties with your mother or your best friends. But you can be aware of social influences and take steps to make sure you surround yourself with people who live the healthy lifestyle you aspire to.

Ask your neighbor if you can accompany her to the farmer's market for fresh produce this weekend. Ask your co-worker to share her favorite healthy recipes. Join a walking group and get to know others who make exercise a priority. Inch your way into circles of people who strive to live healthy lives. The result?  You'll develop one, too.


Summer health

Summer exercise is too fun to be considered a chore

I can't quite believe it, but it is mid-July, and in a few short weeks I'll be turning my attention to replacing tattered backpacks, acquiring sneakers without holes, and cutting the unruly hair on my children's heads.

The winding down of summer is bitter sweet for me. I'm usually ready for my sweet cherubs to return to school so I can approach my work in a more sane, less disjointed way. But I miss the open schedule and warm weather, and I miss the inviting opportunities to eat well and exercise outdoors.

During the summer months the fruits and vegetables have more color and more crunch. They are fresh, juicy and full of flavor. This prompts us to eat more healthy produce, perhaps trading nectarines for potato chips and cherry tomatoes for pretzels. And it frees up our time in the kitchen, because we no longer have to concoct a sauce of vinegar, basil, and craisins to mask the fact that the sugar snap peas are tasteless. They taste delicious au natural.

Likewise, summer exercise hardly feels like a chore. If you live in a state where snow and cold weather seep into fall and spring, the joy of being outside may make you forget, entirely, that you are exercising. Evening walks without bulky coats, hikes in the woods, marathon sessions pulling weeds, biking to the park, running with the dog, family games of tennis and golf, a dip in the pool may well feel more like luxuries than required sweat sessions.

Seize the season. You still have 2 months to take advantage of summer's offerings.


Fashion in the studio

It's been a while since I've talked fashion on this site, so I decided it was time to write about the frivolous and fun.

I've been a fan of LuluLemon for years. I was introduced to the brand in 2003 at a small yoga store in Boston, before you could find Lulu squatting in malls and claiming street corners. 2 fashion savvy women ran a store called Exhale, catering to women with money, kids, and a passion for exercise. They facilitated the craze for exercise gear that went beyond the gym and into the grocery store, library, and coffee shop. They recognized and shared the butt enhancing qualities of Lulu's pants and the figure flattery of the jackets and tops.

I immediately dropped Nike and Adidas wear and became a one brand shopper, because I had the right to look fabulous, even though I was spending my days in gyms and studios. Don't we all?

Then the recession hit, and the price tags of the clothing ate just a little too far into my budget. Then the see through pants fiasco erupted, and though I hadn't bought any of the offending pants, it made me question why I'd ever spent $100 for lycra pants. Then the CEO blamed the company's mistake on fat people. Then, I decided I needed a change.

After receiving numerous catalogs from Athleta in the mail, (I guess bombarding people with marketing products really does work) I decided to give the clothing a try.

Athleta is not cheap, but it is certainly more reasonable than Lulu. It also has better sales and more coupons. I'd even venture to say the store is more welcoming and less intimidating. The clothing? I tried on several tops I loved. I only bought one, because money is tight. But I'll definitely go back for more. Maybe next month…

I bought this tank


The skinny on soy

opt for whole foods for a healthier diet
Source: Masaaki Komori, via Creative Commons

Here's what I've learned over the last couple years: the more humans mess around with food products, the less healthy they become.

It seems the same can be said of soy.

The highly processed form of soy is called soy protein isolate. This protein, also referred to as SPI, is created by stripping the soybean of its naturally occurring fiber, calcium and vitamin C. What's left is a dry powder high in protein and low in carbohydrates and fat. SPI is stuffed into your protein bars, shakes, cereals, soups, sauces and meat substitutes. These foods are marketed as health foods, but SPI has been linked to increased risk of breast cancer in some studies.

But not all soy is bad. According to Lourdes Castro, RD, soy found in whole foods like soybeans and tofu has proven to reduce the incidence of breast cancer.

My advice? As always, stick to whole foods as much as possible. When choosing processed foods, make sure you can read the ingredients and try to purchase packaged foods with just 5 ingredients or less.


Coping with stress

exercise is an effective way to relieve stress
A stressful day always sends me to my elliptical,
my go-to stress buster

Do you feel like retreating when you feel stressed? Do you attempt to tune out the world by curling up in bed, watching television, or zoning out on Facebook?

The 2013 Stress in America survey shows that stressed out Americans trade their workouts for these sedentary activities, even though they know those activities do not effectively relieve stress.

Scientific data proves, time and again, that exercise elevates mode levels and reduces feelings of stress.

The next time you're feeling anxious, plan to watch your favorite television show, after a quick, cardio session on the treadmill.
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