Vitamin C & Seasonal Allergies

Spring is in the air and so are billions of allergens to make your life just miserable enough to where you start to become afraid of the spring flowers instead of enjoying them. There is not much to do for seasonal allergies other than lessen the symptoms and lessen your exposure to them. Check out my earlier post about some things I do naturally for my seasonal allergies. I still do have a nose spray and during my worst times of year, I do take medication. But is there anything you can change in your diet that can help?

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Seasonal Allergy Foods

One thing to keep in mind is when your body has an allergic reaction it causes inflammation. Whether that is in your sinuses, your ears, your mouth, your throat, your skin, your lungs… it’s inflammation and the reaction of histamine. That inflammation is what starts to cause congestion, makes your allergy reaction worse, and can lead to infections. The best thing I can recommend is eating anti-inflammatory foods and foods that help to build up your immune system. Main thing to know about anti-inflammatory foods is to keep it whole. Things like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds and lean proteins, as well as foods high in Omega 3 fatty acids. Things to avoid would be fried foods, processed foods, dairy, and things that are high in processed sugar like sodas, even some juices. And of course, avoid any food allergies you might have. I usually try to stay away from my food allergies, no matter how small of a reaction I might have to them, during my worst seasons.

However, the main nutrient we are going to be talking about today, is Vitamin C.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant, but did you know it’s also an antihistamine? Not only does this vitamin keep your immune system and cells in shape, it fights off infection, and it also helps with your bodies overreacting histamine reaction. It prevents the secretion of histamine by white blood cells and increases its detoxification.

There have been studies showing how when we are stressed one of the many chemicals and hormones that are released, is histamine. There has been evidence that taking in large doses of vitamin C, they saw an increase of histamine leaving the system and decreasing in the blood. Some people have noticed a decrease in allergy symptoms by taking 1,000 – 2,000 mg a day of Vitamin C on a regular basis.

Vitamin C is a water soluble vitamin so it is in and out of the body within 6 hours. So taking vitamin C in doses throughout the day would be beneficial.

Eating foods high in vitamin C is also beneficial and not just taking supplements. Foods that are high in vitamin C also have other antioxidant bioflavonoids such has quercetin (another antihistamine) that help the body to absorb vitamin C. It is important to note that oxygen and heat can diminish vitamin C, so it’s best to prepare and eat these foods immediately and raw. For instance, buying orange juice will have some vitamin C, but freshly juicing oranges for a glass of OJ would be more beneficial. (If you watch your blood sugar, eating oranges with the fiber of the pith, or the white part, will help to slowly digest the sugar and would keep your blood sugar more balanced.)

Here are a list of foods high in vitamin C. You might be surprised to know that oranges are not even in the top 3!

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Foods High In Vitamin C
  • Guava | 377 mg per 1 cup
  • Bell Peppers | 190 mg per cup
  • Kiwi | 167 mg per cup
  • Strawberries | 98 mg per cup
  • Oranges | 96 mg per cup
  • Papaya | 88 mg per cup
  • Broccoli | 81 mg per cup
  • Tomato | 55 mg per cup
  • Kale | 53 mg per cup
  • Snow Peas | 38 mg per cup

Although it might be hard to get to 2,000 mg of vitamin C a day through the foods you eat, you can incorporate them into your meals and snacks to ensure that any vitamin C supplement you might be taking has a good chance of being absorbed.

Bottom Line
  • If you experience seasonal allergies, try to increase your vitamin C intake during this time, and possibly on a regular basis to help with your reaction and to help decrease the chance of infections.
  • Because vitamin C is a water-soluble vitamin it is in and out of the body relatively quickly, so taking small doses throughout the day is the best.
  • Eating foods high in vitamin C also helps vitamin C to be absorbed and also has other anti-inflammatory and anti-histamine benefits.

Stay well my friends!

 

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Steps to Behavior Change

How are you doing on your goals so far? No doubt there is a change you have been trying to make, whether that’s with your health and nutrition or not. At the beginning of the year there is huge motivation to start fresh and new and begin being a better you. Sometimes that motivation can wear off after a good few weeks and our focus can be blurred. So let’s keep it going!

Picture Cred: Stefan Cosma uploaded from Unsplash

I wanted to share with you the steps of behavior change. It’s important to know what’s normal and where you might be in the process of a change you are wanting to make.

Stages of Change
  1. Precontemplation
    • At this stage a person has no intention of changing in the next 6 months and can resist any efforts to modify the certain behavior.
    • This can be because of lack of awareness, denial, unwillingness to change, or feeling hopeless after attempting to change.
  2. Contemplation
    • Recognize the need for change but are in between, weighing the reasons to change and the reasons not to change.
    • There are “perceived” barriers. For example with a diet change: the food won’t taste good, too expensive, too much time, etc.
    • People can be stuck in this stage for years. I know I was.
  3. Preparation
    • You believe the advantages outweigh any disadvantages or the perceived disadvantages and are committed to take action in the near future (within a month).
    • Start to inquire and plan. For health reasons, they might start too look at diet plans, talk with a nutritionist, try new foods, start a walk program, etc.
  4. Action
    • This is when you have altered your behavior for 1 day – 6 months and plan to continue to work at it.
    • This is the most common time for any relapse to happen, and even more so between the 3 months – 6 months part of the action stage.
  5. Maintenance
    • You have been engaging in the new behavior for over 6 months.
    • At this stage, it might be the hardest. You think you’ve made it, but now is the time to reflect on the benefits of your behavior change, work actively to modify your choices and environment to maintain the new behavior and to prevent relapse.
Can You Be At Different Stages?

You can be at different stages with different behaviors. For example, someone could have already cut out sugar in their drinks a long time ago. They would be in the maintenance stage for that behavior. Eating a nutrient dense diet might be something they have been doing for a few months, so they are in the action stage for that. However, exercising is not part of their lifestyle and they might know the benefits, but have no motivation to change because of the “perceived” barrier of it being too much time. For that behavior of having exercise as part of their routine, they would be at the contemplation stage.

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What About Relapses and Going Back A Stage or Two?

Although the stages are in a list, it doesn’t mean that it’s not common to go backward. It’s normal for people to go back one or a few stages, or even relapsing and starting the process over again. You have to have a realistic approach when it comes to your goals. No one is perfect and each person has their own triggers, barriers, and complications when it comes to change. Just because you might have started a healthy diet at the beginning of the year, but now have become less focused on it, doesn’t mean you can’t pick it back up. Or just because you had a good exercise routine, but then got sick and since then haven’t gotten back to it, doesn’t mean you’ve failed.

Plan for lapses and relapses. It’s how we learn and how we can better define our goals.

What The Difference Between A Lapse and A Relapse?
  1. Lapse: | Something that happens momentarily or for a day. For instance, if you were trying to change the behavior of not drinking soda during the week and you found yourself stressed at work and tired. You reached for the soda and now feel like you’ve completely undid everything you’ve been trying to do, so why keep trying?
    • This is a lapse. A one-day, one-moment situation that you might not have been perfect or reached the goal you had for that DAY. You did not fail. You can recover easily from a lapse, and more importantly, take time to see why you lapsed. Was it because it was there? Was it because of the people you were around? Were you stressed? After seeing the reasons why you might have lapsed, you can plan for the situation the next time around.
  2. Relapse | A relapse is when you have completely abandoned the new behavior and went back to stage one, precontemplation. Say you didn’t pick yourself back up from your lapse and felt why continue on your behavior change and started having sodas everyday again. That would be a complete relapse. Going back to the beginning.
    • This can and does happen with a lot of things. But again, just like a lapse, it’s something to learn from. You learn more about yourself and how to be more realistic with your goals and knowing you might need something extra, like support from others, the next time around.

Either one, a lapse or a relapse, does not mean you’ve failed. It does not mean you will never be able to reach your goal. It’s part of the behavior change process and it’s something to learn from.

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Where Are You?

Where are you in your goals for this year? I’d love to hear from you! If there is something you are struggling with, a stage you can’t get past, or needing encouragement to keep going, please email me at amandaarroyonutrition@gmail.com or go to my Contact Page.

What is Sugar Addiction?

Most people are a sugar addict and don’t realize it. And if they do see it, they don’t realize how harmful it can be. Let’s break this down and see how serious of an addiction and harmful to your health sugar can be.

Sugar addiction is something that acts like a drug addiction. The body craves more and more sugar until it gets to a euphoria type state, resulting in high amounts of sugar consumption. True, your brain, nervous system, and all other cells in your body require glucose (one of the most simple forms of sugar) to function. It is your cell’s number one energy source. It’s actually what plants make during photosynthesis for energy. Your body runs off of this simple sugar, but too much of anything can be bad. I read an article from Sugar Defeat about sugar addiction that I found very informative and interesting. I wanted to first share some of the highlights I enjoyed. Also if you or someone you know is addicted to sugar and is looking for a way to reverse the addiction, I wanted to share a few tips to think about.

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Highlights from the Article
  1. Sugar Releases Dopamine
    • Sugar consumption causes a hormone reaction and releases dopamine into your blood system. Dopamine gives you a happy, satisfied and euphoric feeling, which is why sugar can be addictive.
  2. Sugar is Addictive
    • One of the reasons why sugar is addictive is because of the release of dopamine, your brain wants more. Your body gets used to day-to-day consumption of certain things. The more you eat sugar, the more your body will crave sugar and the more it will need to reach the higher level of dopamine, and thus the euphoric reaction, much like illicit drugs.
  3. Sugar Consumption – Hormone Release – Euphoria
    • This euphoria cycle can play a major role in how the brain reacts, and therefore can have an effect on behavior in major ways.

The post also goes on to talk about sugar withdrawal symptoms and the different stages of symptoms. Symptoms like headaches, cravings, low sleep quality, depression, and more, are normal with sugar addiction. Like the above mentioned, sugar affects hormones that the brain uses, and thus can effect mood and many of the other symptoms related to sugar withdrawal. This is useful to know if you or someone you are close to is going to be going through a withdrawal.

Educate Yourself

Part of the “defeat” is educating yourself about what contains sugar, and what contains added sugar. Sugar Defeat also has a list of items and how much sugar they contain to get you started. I had mentioned that every cell in our body runs off of glucose (sugar), but there are many healthy foods that contain sugar like whole fruits, vegetables, and grains. Remember, plants naturally use glucose for energy too. When you eat more processed foods (basically any foods with a label), and drinking your sugar, it can get addictive and wreck havoc on your digestive system. Foods naturally with sugar that your body uses comes with a good amount of fiber which allows the sugar to slowly enter the blood stream and allows your body time to absorb and use it. When you eat processed foods, and especially sugary drinks (even sports drinks), your body gets overloaded with sugar and it can cause adverse affects, and start the “Consumption-Hormone Release-Euphoria” cycle.

New Food Label

I will be having a more in-depth post on the new food label soon. I have already seen the new label on some items already, but it will officially be printed on all major manufactured products by 2020, and those who manufacture lesser amounts, by 2021. Here is a picture of the new food label and the differences. One of the major differences is it showing “Added Sugars“.

From FDA Website: https://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

The recommended “Added Sugar” amount is 5% of your total caloric intake. For a 2,000 calorie diet that would be 25 grams for the whole day. The new label will make it easier for us to be more informative about how much added sugar is in the foods we eat.

Are You Defeating Sugar?

My husband went through many of the symptoms mentioned earlier when he decided to cut out added sugar. He would have soda multiple times a day. When he was stressed in particular, he would have a soda and candy for lunch. Then have another soda (or 4) with dinner. His system was constantly dosed in sugar. He had headaches immediately if he missed a meal without added sugar. He had trouble sleeping. Had bouts of depression that worsened with the withdrawal, and cravings were sometimes unbearable, especially when he knew a small amount of sugar would take away his headaches.

What are some things that can help and to consider if you are trying to cut out unnecessary sugar? Think about and plan for these tips before cutting off sugar or changing the amount of sugar you have every day. This will help get you thinking about what’s to come and to be prepared for moments that might happen.

  1. Lapses Happen!
    • If you are trying to change anything in your behavior, food related or not, lapses happen. They are something that we learn from. For instance, there was a time when James had a very stressful day and he reached for the bag of his favorite candy. He then knew and understood that stress affected his cravings, especially emotional stress. If he woke up already feeling low, he already accounted for increased cravings and knew they would be there. Sometimes he would make sure to pack extra fruit like a banana or clementines in his lunch to eat those instead of going down to the vending machine.
    • There are lapses and relapses. Lapses are a one-time, one-day moment, and relapses are when you completely abandon the new behavior and not wanting to go back to changing. Many times when we have a single lapse, we think we’re never going to come back from it, but it’s part of the process. Learn from the lapse, and continue on your healthy change.
  2. Talk To Your Family
    • You need those closest to you, whether at home, at work, etc. to understand the struggle you are going through. It might seem silly that it’s just because of sugar, but if you are truly addicted, support is a big deal. They can prepare for new foods, or not having certain foods when you are around.
    • Talk to them about possible behavior changes. You might be more irritable, be dealing with headaches, muscle pain, etc. The more understanding your support group is, the better they can support you.
  3. Find Alternatives
    • Many people think of turning to sugar alternatives to add to their food or drink, but your body reacts to those very similarly and some can be hazardous to your health. If you are going to find alternatives, make sure they are whole food alternatives. 
    • Keep fresh fruit around. If you are used to having something sweet with every meal, find your favorite fruit (banana, apple, pear, berries, etc.) and have that as part of your breakfast, lunch, and dinner. The more you are away from added sugar, the more you will enjoy fruit and the sweeter it will become.
      • Banana, Peanut Butter Toast for Breakfast
      • Clementines are easy to throw in your lunch bag and carry with you
      • Apple slices, pear slices, etc. are a great snack after dinner if you are craving something sweet.
    • Unsweetened flavored teas. There are many out there, and it is hard to find unsweetened versions already made. If you make tea at home, buy the fruit flavored tea bags like peach, raspberry, orange, etc. You can even have them cooled so that it’s flavored iced tea. They have a slightly sweet taste without sugar.
    • Flavored coffee. If you are a choco-holic, try making chocolate coffee. You can add some cream. You’ll get a rich chocolate flavor, but without the sugar.
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Bottom Line

Sugar can be addictive. Acknowledge that what you are going through is not easy and will be a challenge. This is something you can get past, something you can conquer and have control of. Any lifestyle change comes with challenges, but changing an addiction is that much harder. Stay positive, keep your support team close, and if you have a lapse – remember it’s not the end and you have not failed. Continue with your goal of being a healthier you!

2019 Healthy Habit 4: Get Moving!

Exercise and nutrition have been hand and hand for a while, but how does exercise help with our overall health? Many people associate exercise with loosing weight. Ironically, exercise only accounts for about 10-15% of weight loss. The rest is your diet and nutrition. There is more benefits to exercise than just aiding in loosing a few pounds. Although there are many benefits to exercising, I’m going to focus on three that affect every person: bone density & muscle mass, flexibility & strength, and finally stress management.

Bone & Muscle Density in Later Years

This is the biggest one for me.

Scary Truth

Are you ready for one of the most scariest things I learned? Picture your bones as a calcium bank. The cut off time to deposit into the bank is around 30 years of age. You hit peak bone mass at age 30. To maintain the bone mass you have, eating a diet with good sources of Vitamin C, Vitamin K, Calcium, and Vitamin D is a must. Age and hormonal changes will also effect your bone density, so the older you are, the more important bone health becomes.

Your muscle mass decreases with age as well. The saying, “You don’t use it, you loose it” proves true with muscle mass. The more sedentary your life is, the less muscle mass you’ll have. The older you are, the harder it is to gain muscle mass. The less muscle mass, the lower metabolic rate and the less calories you need to consume, and eating less calories means it’s harder for your to eat the amount of nutrients you need.

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How Exercise Helps

Exercise you can well imagine helps to strengthen your muscles and increase muscle mass. It is also a huge help in strengthening your bones and maintaining bone density as well as muscle mass. Regular weight-bearing exercises every week can help to slow and possibly prevent bone loss. The stress of the weight on your bones will cause them to strengthen and can become denser. The bones being pulled by muscles working can also strengthen your bones and slow the process of bone loss. Muscles and bones work together. What strengthens one, will help to strengthen the other. Here are some examples of weight-bearing exercise to incorporate a few times in the week.

  • Brisk Walk
  • Weight Training
  • Stair Climbing
  • Jump Rope
  • Dancing
  • Hiking
  • Tennis
Flexibility and Strength

Flexibility and strength are greatly needed the older we get. It determines how long we are able to be independent. Think about simple tasks of sitting and standing up. Reaching for something that has dropped on the floor. Climbing up steps. Catching ourselves when we are off balance. All simple tasks, but require our muscles and ligaments to be relatively strong and flexible. The more we do strength exercises and regularly stretch the more it will be there the older we get.

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We loose muscle mass as we age. The body will breakdown more muscle at a higher rate the older we are than when we are younger. Keeping our muscles moving and building them, even in small ways, helps to keep your muscle mass and tone. Staying active no matter what age, for how long, or the intensity will help. Just keep moving!

Stress Management

We all deal with stress. It can come in many forms. It can be good stress, bad stress, or just plain ol’ life stress that comes with day-to-day activities. How our bodies are able to handle it can be a huge health concern, especially for your heart and mental well-being.

Let’s talk about the heart for a moment. Exercise will regularly help you heart to become stronger and help to reduce bad cholesterol and raise good cholesterol. Stress in general can cause unwanted and unhealthy stress on the heart, and if you do not have a regular exercise routine and have (or have a chance) of having high cholesterol, the higher risk there is for damaging your heart, if not causing a heart attack. Regular healthy stress on the heart that comes from moderate exercise will help when anxiety type stress comes up in our lives. You will have a stronger heart, and less of a chance of high cholesterol so that your body can more readily deal with the emotional stress without it causing too much physical stress on your body.

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Your mental well-being is just as important as your physical. Regular exercise helps to balance out the chemicals in our brains. It increases dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins. All help to deal with stress, elevate your mood, and helps to keep you positive. When dealing with stressful situations either at work, in the family, moving, etc. it can trigger depression and anxiety in many people. If you are able to keep with a regular exercise routine, the better you will be at handling those situations without or with less of the affects of depression and anxiety.

Another thing stress can affect is your digestive system. Stress and anxiety simulates the nervous system which controls your digestive system. It can either make it slower or faster. Slower digestion can make it uncomfortable or can make it to where you do not eat, which then you are not able to take in the nutrients your body needs. Or your body may not be able to extract nutrients because it’s going through your tract too fast. Either way, it’s not healthy.

In Conclusion

Many people associate exercise with weight loss, and although it helps, it’s actually your diet and diet habits that truly does the trick. Exercise however, does more than just help you loose weight.

  • It keep your bone and muscle mass at healthy levels as you age.
  • Exercise helps to keep your body strong and flexible throughout life.
  • When dealing with stress, emotional or otherwise, exercise helps to keep a balance of chemicals to help you deal and cope with the stresses in your life in a healthy and less damaging way physically and mentally.

So although it might be hard to pick yourself up early in the morning or after a long day, your older self will thank you for it.

2019 Healthy Habit 3: Adding More Whole Foods In Your Diet

I don’t know about you, but for me during the winter it’s easier for me to eat more processed, pick up and go type foods. I want more baked goods, more foods with refined flours and sugar and less of fruits and vegetables. There is a balance with everything, but at the beginning of the new year I like to try to get this part of my diet back in order. The reason?

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More Nutrient Value

As many of you may know, processing foods strips the food of vital nutrients and can lessen the nutritional value. This can be any type of food preparation. Exposing it to oxygen, light, heat or water during cooking will lessen the nutrient value. There is always some nutrient loss when preparing food in general.

However, HIGHLY processed foods are foods that contain:

  • Preservatives (to prevent rotting)
  • Colors
  • Added Flavors
  • Usually is high in added sugars (like high fructose corn syrup)
  • Usually high in refined grains (which is stripped of fiber and nutrients)

These foods add calories with little to no nutritional value. Because of the artificial ingredients, high in sugar, and using highly processed and refined ingredients, it’s lower in nutritional value. They are more calorie dense than nutrient dense.

Eating whole foods like raw fruits, vegetables, and whole grains like whole wheat, brown rice, quinoa, barley, oats, etc. starts getting your diet and nutrition level back to a healthier level. More nutritional value, the better your body will work with you. Then later on when you want to make a big change, your diet is already on the right path.

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Fiber

I talk about fiber a lot in my recipe and nutrition posts but it truly is an important part of your overall health. We already talked about how much water is an important part of health, nutrition, and your digestive process. Fiber is almost just as simple and covers a wide range of benefits as well. There are two types of fiber. Below is what they both help with and then later is where to find those types of fibers in foods.

Soluble Fiber

  • Increases the feeling of being full and satisfied
  • Lowers blood cholesterol by helping to bind with bile
  • Slows glucose absorption
  • Helps with weight management
  • Lowers risk of heart disease
  • Improves blood glucose tolerance and lowers risk of diabetes
  • Lowers risk of colon and rectal cancer

Food Sources of Soluble Fiber

Barley, rye, oats, oat bran, apples, citrus fruit, legumes, seaweed, broccoli, carrots, corn, potatoes, seeds and more.

Insoluble Fiber

  • Softens stools and aids in intestinal motility
  • Increases feelings of fullness
  • Reduce risk of constipation, hemorrhoids, appendicitis, diverticulitis, etc.
  • Lowers rick of colon and rectal cancer
  • Helps with weight management

Food Sources of Insoluble Fiber

Wheat bran, whole grains, brown rice, fruits, legumes, cabbage, brussels sprouts, carrots, nuts, seeds, and more.

Bottom Line

Whole foods adds nutrients and fiber to your diet. Although processed foods are starting to add fiber more and more to their products, remember they will still have less nutritional value and usually more added sugars than eating whole foods. Not to mention process foods have food additives and that there is more of a chance it will contain allergens or be processed in a factory that also processes food allergens.

If you are wanting to start to change your diet for the healthier, start with introducing or getting back to eating mainly whole foods.

Easy Way to Start: 
  • Have a piece of fruit, not canned, with breakfast
  • Have at least 1/2, if not 1/3, of your plate consisting of vegetables and whole grains or natural starches with your protein of choice
    • Salad and a baked potato
    • Roasted carrots and brown rice
    • Broccoli and a baked sweet potato
  • Have 1 of your servings of protein a day be a plant based source for added fiber
    • Lentils
    • Beans
    • Nuts and Seeds
  • Keep in mind to have some sort of raw fruit or vegetable at every meal

Whatever might work for you, remember that having nutrient and fiber dense foods will help with your nutrition, digestive health and can help lower the risk of some major diseases like heart disease and diabetes. Getting your diet habits back on track with adding and increasing your whole foods will help when you are ready to make a full diet change later if you are not fully ready to do so. What are you waiting for?

2019 Healthy Habit 2: Drinking Water First Thing in the Morning

We like to complicate things when it comes to our overall health, but it’s usually the simplest things we overlook that are the most important. Water is definitely one of them. The hardest part of drinking a glass or two of water first thing, was remembering to do it right after waking up. I do get out of the habit in the winter because I want something warm in the morning, and the fact that I’m usually more groggy than usual in the winter time and can’t wait for my cup of joe. Anytime I get off of this habit, it doesn’t take long before I want to get back to it.

Why Is It Important?

When you are sleeping your metabolism slows, your body detoxes from the day and repairs. Those processes need water. Since you are sleeping and not drinking water, when you wake up your body is looking for water, whether you are thirsty or not. It hasn’t had anything to drink in 8-ish hours. Knowing that we are on average 60% water and all body functions need water to work properly, it makes sense that we need to hydrate ourselves first things in the morning if we expect our bodies to work properly.

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How Does it Help Your Digestive System and Health?
  • Water helps to jump start your metabolism. While you sleep your metabolism slows because you are not using as much energy. When you wake up, hydrating yourself with water helps to kick start it. Not only that, but water helps deliver nutrients to the rest of your body and helps get rid of toxins and free radicals that we are exposed to each day.
  • It also allows you body time and the water needed to make enough digestive juices for the day so breaking down and digesting is easier.
  • For your liver and kidneys to do their job in detoxing, it needs adequate amounts of water to flush out your system. While you sleep your liver and other organs work on detoxing your body from the day. First thing when you wake up, you want to make sure to have a glass of water before anything else reaches your digestive system to ensure that the toxins your body was trying to get rid of during the night are being flushed out and taken care of.
  • Along with helping your metabolism start, and help your body with flushing out toxins another part of this would include stimulating the colon for regularity. Your colon HAS to have water to pass waste along. Drinking water after being dehydrated helps to stimulate the bowels to get things moving again.
Hot or Cold Water?

I’ve heard both that hot or cold is better. “Use hot lemon water to detox.” “Use cold water to rev up your metabolism.” “Best digestion is with room temperature water.” And it continues to go back and forth. If you want it to do one thing more than the others then it determines on if you drink it hot, cold, or room temperature. Not saying that there is not something behind those statements, but what’s important is making sure you are hydrated. If you don’t like warm water, drink cold. If you can’t drink something cold in the morning, have room temperature or warm water. Whatever will make you drink water to hydrate yourself from the “drought” sleep causes, do it.

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Don’t Like Drinking Water?
  • Reward yourself with tea or coffee after you are done drinking your 16-24 ounces of water.
  • Can’t start with that much? Build up to it.
  • Add lemon slices or a squeeze of lemon juice

I was a person who started the coffee pot the second I woke up and sipped on it while getting ready. Now when I wake up, 9 times out of 10, I’m thirsty and can’t wait to get to my glass of water. When your body gets into a routine, especially taking in something so highly used like water, it will start to expect it. The longer you keep with the routine, the easier it will be and you won’t see it as something you’re doing, you’ll just start doing it.

Changes I Noticed
  • I woke up better. I didn’t feel so groggy by the time I left the house. Not that that doesn’t still happen.
  • I was hungry for breakfast. I normally ate breakfast but at some point it was more out of habit than hunger. After having my glass of water, about an hour later my stomach was actually growling.
  • I went to the bathroom in the morning before leaving. It’s different for everyone, but when I started this, about a few days into it, I HAD to go to the bathroom before I even left the house.
Bottom Line

Your digestive system will thank you. It wakes up your whole body and digestive system and gets things going for the day. It’s like an internal shower for your digestive system. Your metabolism is awake and ready to start burning fuel, your digestive juices are there and can be made, the leftover toxins from the night are getting a second chance of flushing out of your system, and your bowels are back to moving. What better way to start the day?

2019 Healthy Habit 1: Getting Enough Rest

From my previous post I talked about how my motivation is not at it’s peak in January and February. It comes with spring, so although a new month and year is a great idea to start new goals, I usually fizzle out in a few weeks and then go back to my old routine I had at the end of the year before. You have to be honest with yourself when it comes to goals and this is one of my honest moments. So instead what I do, and encourage those who have the same problem, is I think of things you can start doing now that are healthier habits, or the habits you can start now that will help with your motivation when it comes time for the more challenging habits later.

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Sleep In The Winter

The days get darker, the stress gets higher, and depression for a lot of people can be the worst in January and February. We are all just trying to make it to sunnier days. Some sleep more. Others are not able to sleep well. The less sunlight the more melatonin our bodies create and thus makes us more tired and sleepy. And the added emotional stress darker days can bring, it can have the opposite effect and keeping us up. So just because you might feel drowsy doesn’t mean you should keep hitting the snooze. Or just because “you don’t feel tired” doesn’t mean you can play another episode of your favorite show. No matter the time of year, our bodies still require the same amount of sleep. Of course the heavier meals, darker days, and warm cozy blankets make it hard to not to just want to nap and sleep longer. This is something I have to constantly have self control in.

Is there a danger in sleeping too much?

Sleeping Over 8 Hours On Average

Studies have shown that people who sleep more than 8 hours or up towards 10 hours have poorer health. Here are some of the results.

  • Increases heart disease
  • Harder to maintain a healthy weight
  • Can raise blood sugar levels
  • Brain fuzziness
  • They wake up more frequently & not getting enough deep sleep
  • Effect moods

Sleep is good and sleep is one of the most important things you can do for your health, but too much of a good thing can be bad. If you are sick or recovering from surgery – then sleep as long as you need. But on a regular basis, oversleeping can be just as bad for you in different ways than not sleeping enough.

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Not Enough Sleep And Nutrition

For one thing we know sleep is important for the brain although it stays highly functional throughout sleep. It helps with moods, anxiety, we can think clearer, make better decisions, and are more motivated. We know it also effects our energy levels. When we are tired, we sleep, and (usually) we wake up and have energy to last the day. Sleep gives your digestive system time to rest. When you sleep the need for fuel is reduced and your metabolism and digestive system slows down. It also gives your digestive system added energy the next day to do it’s job.

What about specifically nutrition?

Sleep Deprivation:

  • Makes you more vulnerable to inflammation. Those with inflammatory digestive disorders like IBD or IBS, sleep deprivation can make this worse, and then lead to a lack of nutrient absorption.
  • Makes you crave sugar. Since you didn’t get a good night’s sleep your body wasn’t able to recharge like it needs to, so it’s crying out for energy! Your cell’s #1 source of energy is glucose (sugar). You start craving sugar in the morning and usually will reach for the less nutritious kinds of it. Move over apples, hello doughnuts!
  • Makes you more hungry. Your hunger hormone, ghrelin, is elevated after a poor night’s sleep to be able to get more energy through food that it lacked through sleep.
  • Serotonin is an important neurotransmitter and regulator when it comes to sleep. It is primarily found in your gut and is also essential for your digestive functions. If your levels of stress and sleep hormones, including serotonin, are not balanced, that means your digestive functions will be unbalanced as well. Your digestive tract won’t be able to absorb nutrients like it usually does or move the way a healthy gut would.
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Bottom Line

Whether you are sleeping over 8 hours or sleeping 6 or less hours a night, get your sleep schedule back on track for your mental and physical health. People vary when it comes to their sleep needs, but normal hours are anywhere from 6.5 – 8 hours. Here are some basic things that can help.

Sleeping Too Much (More than 8 hours):

  • Sit up when you turn off your alarm.
  • Turn your light on. I have a lamp on my night stand that isn’t too high voltage so it doesn’t blind me, but has light. Light helps to wake your body up naturally.
  • Wake up and go to bed relatively at the same time (within 30 minutes) every day.
  • Have a wake up routine. Once I sit up I do something to stimulate my brain. Even just texting my husband good morning, since he’s usually gone by the time I wake up, will help. Then onto morning stretches and going out of the room to get my morning glass of water.

Sleeping Too Little (6 or less hours):

  • Set a time to be in bed 30 minutes or an hour before when you are suppose to be asleep.
  • No screens while in bed.
  • No alcohol an hour or two before bed. Although it’s a depressant and can make you feel sleepy, it doesn’t help your body naturally slow down, and puts excess stress on your liver when it already will be detoxing while you sleep. Alcohol also doesn’t help you stay asleep once you are asleep. A lot of times when I had a glass of wine too close to bed, I’ll wake up a good 3-4 times a night because I can’t stay asleep.
  • Have a night time routine. Some nights that might be hard for me to go to bed, I make an herbal tea – sometimes meant for sleep, sometimes not. I do something that is relaxing and doesn’t involve a screen. Reading a book or magazine, coloring, drawing, etc. Some additional things might be lighting a candle and listening to calm music while in bed.

Sweet dreams y’all!

Mistake #4: Going All In At The Beginning Of The Year (Not Knowing When To Start My Goals)

I figured the beginning of the new year would be a good time to talk about this. It’s a new month, a new year, and warmer temperatures are just a little bit away, or so we tell ourselves. You start to see magazines and commercials about detoxing, weight loss, how to shed the pumpkin pie and be a healthier you. It’s a new start, a new beginning, and new goals. For some that can work! They just need that motivation of a new beginning, like a new year, to get them motivated. That’s great! Do what works for you.

I thought that was me. I thought that’s all I needed. Then a few weeks into the year, I start sleeping in the extra 30 minutes – 1 hour instead of working out. Yogurt and fruit is great in the morning, but that warm banana bread with a latte seems more appropriate that time of year. Not that it’s right, but for me, it’s definitely harder to be focused about my goals. Here in Dallas, January and February are cold and rainy, and some of the most ugliest gray days we have all year. It’s hard for me to be motivated to go full-on changing my whole routine, with absolutely eating healthier, and exercising.

So I decided this month to share a few things I’ve done to get my body and routine prepared to change in March when the sun is back out, you can start to smell spring in the air, and my motivation is naturally there. That way, I can “go all in” in March without it being a drastic change in my routine and life. I’m better equipped to maintain a healthier routine when I can prepare myself in the winter months with small routine changes to get me to the point where a huge shift of my routine can happen and I can really go after my goals when I’m the most motivated.

I’ll be posting more about these healthier habits throughout the month in more detail, but these are the things I want to have already in motion if they are not already there.

Photo by Tracey Hocking on Unsplash

 

Get A Good Sleep Routine

I start making sure my sleep routine is normal. Doesn’t matter if it’s the weekend or not, I try to wake up and go to bed at the same times. Not over sleeping which is easy for me to do with dark mornings. Getting your sleep routine under control will help with your metabolism, your mental state, and also making working out in the morning that much easier.

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Drink Water First Thing In The Morning

I usually get off track with this healthy habit too. I start to wake up later because it’s dark outside and then rush around and start drinking coffee or going ahead and eating my breakfast before drinking water – plain water, lemon water, or water with apple cider vinegar. Your body detoxes through the night and bodily functions, although slower, still are working throughout the night. It’s been 8 or more hours that your body has had water and that’s needed for every function in the body. You wake up better, your digestion and metabolism starts waking up as well, and you’re hydrating your body first thing.

I wake up, brush my teeth (including scraping my tongue – very important), and then grab a glass of water before doing anything else and I don’t drink my coffee or eat my breakfast until I have done so. After a while if I’ve gotten off track it can be a hassle to remember, but once you start your body will automatically be thirsty in the morning.

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Healthier Food Habits

We know those buttery processed pastries in the morning can’t last forever. That almond croissant at Starbucks in the fall… oh man! If I know my eating habits have gotten away from whole foods, I make sure to bring it back in line. Even if some of my foods contain whole foods, a lot of time it will become more processed and further away from what it really should be. Goodbye pumpkin bread and hello oatmeal! I also try to make sure my foods are not as fattening, and sugar I try to cut it out completely other than fruits. After a few months of having pies, mashed potatoes, and cream in everything, it’s time to get back in line. So although I might not be watching my food as closely, and somethings might not be the “healthiest” option, it’s a step in the right direction and something I can continue to build on. Which brings me to my next thing to keep in mind.

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Move Everyday

Whether it’s a walk around the block, running for a few miles, or doing strength exercises get into the routine of actively and consciously doing something for your body’s physical health everyday. Since working out and an exercise routine is the hardest for me to keep up with, it’s easier when I have in mind that I have to do something that day that requires me to move. Mix it up. And since it’s not a strict schedule, do something with the time you have on hand and the time you know you can commit to. 10 minutes? 20 minutes? Whatever it is, just get back into a simple routine of physical exercise. The other thing to keep in mind is that on average they encourage 20 minutes a day, which doesn’t mean it has to be 20 minutes at once. Doing a few minutes of stretching in the morning, talking a walk around the block at lunch, doing a 7 minute ab routine before dinner, and then stretching at night will easily add up to 20 minutes a day. Do what you can with what you have and the time you have to give it.

As a Recap
  • You don’t HAVE to go “all in” at the beginning of the year
  • Know what motivates you
  • If you are not motivated, start taking healthier steps now to improve your health
  • Any step in the right direction is a good place to start

Stay tuned for the next few weeks as I go into more detail about these 4 healthy habits.

Know Your Ingredients: The Many Names Soy

The next on my “Know Your Ingredients” posts is soy. It’s one of my worst and it’s partly because of how wide spread it’s used, like corn. It’s easy to get an overload of soy without even trying, especially when you have processed foods. It is required in the US and is a federal “Food Allergen Labeling and Consumer Protection Act” that labels clearly list soy in the ingredients or it could be listed after the ingredients as “Contains: Soy”. Advisory statements like, “may contain soy” or “made in a facility with soy” are optional. Better to know what you’re reading just in case some of these words pop up on the list of ingredients. Let’s break down where soy can be found and what it’s used in.

Soy (or Soya) Products
  • Bean curd
  • Edamame (soy beans in pods)
  • Miso (fermented soy)
    • I use a chickpea miso that I’ve found.
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy based flours, nuts, or sprouts
  • Soy protein
  • Soy Lecithin
  • Tamari
  • Tempeh
  • Tofu
Foods That Most Likely Contain Soy, and Will Need to Check the Label
  • Plant based dairy products: plant based milk, yogurt, butter, cheese, etc.
  • Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP)
  • Canned Broths and Soups
  • Canned Tuna and other Meats
  • Processed Meats / Frozen Burgers
  • Cereals
  • High Protein Energy Bars and Snacks
  • Plant-Based Protein Powders
  • Infant Formula
  • Vegetable Oils
  • Worcestershire Sauce
  • Soy Lecitin: often used in chocolate bars/candy, peanut butter, and margarine.
Other Names that May Use Soy Ingredients
  • Glycine max
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Mono-diglyceride
  • Monosodium Glytamate (MSG)
  • Artificial Flavoring
  • Natural Flavoring
  • Vegetable Broth
  • Vegetable Gum
  • Vegetable Starch

Something to always remember as well, although you might find a brand of, let’s say bread, that doesn’t have soy in the ingredients, it doesn’t mean that it won’t change. They don’t have to tell you when they change their ingredients. It can be a safe bet for a little while, but I always check from time to time to make sure the ingredients are the same as before.

Know your labels. Although it’s good that most packaged food will list if there is soy and clearly state, “Contains: Soy”, it doesn’t mean it won’t sneak in with the vegetable broth or plain “starch”. As with any allergy, especially if it’s severe, be aware and educate yourself. Knowing is half the battle. If you are just learning about this or another allergy, know that it’s okay to feel overwhelmed at first, because it is. But know that the more you learn and the more you adapt to the changes, the easier it becomes and reading labels won’t feel overwhelming and you’ll find your new products and recipes to make in no time!

Can Comfort Foods Be Beneficial?

We all know we have our favorites. Mom’s creamy Tuna Casserole. Grandma’s Cheese Sauce. Mashed Potatoes with Cream Gravy. Cookies. Ranch.On.Everything. Pie. Any Fried Foods. Donuts. Chocolate. PIZZA. CHEESECAKE. Anything rich and delicious. They have been viewed as something unhealthy, and from a nutrition standpoint, that is still true for most average comfort foods.

I know when I’m sick, if I haven’t completely lost my appetite, I just want mashed potatoes or something sweet. Or when I’ve had a really stressful week, I’ll go to our favorite pizza place (an hour a way) and eat a veggie pizza – yes with cheese – and I don’t even feel bad afterward. Just because we crave something, doesn’t mean our bodies “need” something from it. There is nothing on that a huge plate of cheese fries that my body “needs”. Or does it?

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“Benefits” Of Comfort Foods and Why We Crave Them

First is the obvious, it makes us feel good. Foods high in fat, sugar, and salt activates the brain’s reward system which increases pleasant feelings and can reduce the tension our stressful lives bring on.

Food association is a thing. We associate certain foods with memories, people, family and so on. We might need comfort and security if we are feeling lonely or isolated. For example, if you move away from home that is far enough away that you can’t see your family on a regular basis, you might start craving family foods or cultural foods that are hard to find so you have a sense of comfort.

Aside from making us feel good with our reward system and help with feeling less lonely, comfort food can increase the levels of good-feeling hormones in the brain like dopamine, endorphins, etc. They can make us have a more positive state of mind, increase our motivation, reduce stress and anxiety, and makes us have a sense of euphoria. These foods our brain knows will help it produce what we need to balance out somethings in our life. And there is always a need for that.

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I’ll use myself as an example. If I don’t have some sort of comfort food periodically, I won’t stay on my healthy routine. I save those foods for when I do feel like I need a “reward” after a long and busy stressful week – out of the ordinary. Or I save it for girls night, or vacation. If I completely voided myself of those foods like mashed potatoes, I could last a good few months, but then I’d break and there I’d be eating comfort foods all the time. Your brain can’t be all work and no play. Comfort foods are it’s vacation foods.

Keep in mind you still need to be in control and keep your balance.

 

Balance

Food addiction is something to realize and admit. You still need to keep your habits in check. For me every few weeks, going to get some pizza isn’t going to throw me off. Others might be different. Like with my husband James. He’s always had sodas in his diet. Processed sugar was an addiction for him. Getting off of it took weeks and months. Trial and error. But once he did get away from it, he knows he can’t go back to it. If he had a coke, he’d have 4 glasses without blinking an eye, but an small piece of homemade chocolate cake wouldn’t turn him to the other side and he would be able to get back to his routine. Everyone is different with what they can handle. Some foods for some people they just can’t go back to.

If you are an emotional eater/stress eater, realize where it’s coming from. Yes after a hard day you might be wanting a huge slice of cheesecake (oh man!) but know where and why you are eating those things and realize that although it might bring you momentary relief, it’s not going to solve anything. Keep your balance. Know that although you might be having this food right now, it doesn’t mean it’s okay to have it everyday.

Allow yourself a break. Like I said before, your brain can’t constantly be in work mode all the time. “Vacation” foods, as I like to call them, are a good break and rest here and there throughout your life. Just stay mindful and know when and how much of a “vacation” you actually need.

 

Healthier Alternatives

With that being said, I usually try to have healthier alternatives before going straight for rich and sugary foods. But sometimes that still just doesn’t cut it. A lot of times it does. Find a healthier recipe to what you are craving and your brain won’t let you forget so that your reward system will be triggered, but not in excess or in an overdose. Here’s some ideas.

  • French Fries
    • Baked Potato and still have a small amount of butter, chives, even a small amount of cheese
  • Macaroni and Cheese
  • Chocolate Cake
    •  Few squares of Dark Chocolate
  • Ranch On Everything You’re Eating
    • Make a Low Fat Yogurt Ranch

 

Bottom Line
  • We use comfort foods for comfort. There are times for that.
  • We use them to feel closer to ones that we love and comfort foods can help us to feel less lonely.
  • Comfort Foods trigger our reward system which can help in stressful situations.
  • Be mindful of food addictions and what you can handle yourself. Some foods you might not be able to go back to.
  • Be mindful of emotional and stress eating and when it’s happening.
  • Try having healthier alternatives before diving into the unhealthy.
  • Your brain needs a “vacation” sometimes too. But same with vacation, it only happens sparingly.