Protein Bars for Weight Loss

Over the last few years, meal replacement products have become all the rage, as it is understood – quite rightly, as it turns out – that eating less calories will, over time, lead to weight loss. There has been a corresponding interest in protein bars for weight loss; since protein make up so much of our body, physically speaking, it stands to reason that supplementing with proteins instead of consuming a full meal would make sense. But is it in fact the case? What governs the science behind proteins, and their importance for weight loss, and will replacing meals with protein bars lead to actual weight loss, or simply lead to a re-shuffle of your caloric sources?

Proteins are, after water, the most common molecule in the human body. They are present in every cell, and are of particular importance in skeletal muscle cells, organs, skin and hair. Having a proper protein intake, either from animal or vegetable sources, is essential to good health. For the general population, i.e., not athletes or bodybuilders, the percentage of calories you get from proteins should be about 15% of your total caloric intake. Replacing a meal with a protein bar will make sense in the following cases:

– Doing so does not push your total daily caloric protein intake over 15% of your total daily caloric intake

– Doing so replaces a meal rich in fat or carbohydrates

Your body can only process a certain amount of protein per day, so over-supplementation beyond a certain amount will not only not help you, but could cause liver or kidney damage, as these organs will strain to break down and eliminate the excess protein.

Generally speaking, protein supplementation is more geared towards individuals with greater protein needs, for example athletes and bodybuilders who would need additional protein to help them grow their muscle mass, and repair muscle cells damaged during exercise. Before supplementing or replacing complete meals with protein bars, always do your research to make sure that you will not accidentally ingest too much protein. It always pays to do research beforehand!

Remember that in this case, you will be supplementing your diet with protein bars, with the goal of losing weight firmly in mind. Do not, ever, start supplementing at the expense of your normal diet. Normal dietary sources provide your body with countless essential nutrients, minerals, vitamins that will not be included in your protein bar, however good. Make sure that you have a rock-solid, healthy and balanced diet, rich in fresh fruits, vegetables and lean cuts of meat before even considering protein bars.

That being said, protein bars can make very worthwhile additions to your weight loss plan; they can help replace other protein sources that would have been too rich in fat or cholesterol, or simply too plentiful to be pleasant eating. Vegetarians and vegans in particular may benefit from supplementation, as it is sometimes more challenging for them to get their full complement of complete proteins from purely dietary sources.

Food, Mood and Stress

We’ve all felt stress at some time or another; that feeling when the pulse races and the stomach’s tied up in knots? That’s stress. Believe it or not this is a normal response to a threatening situation. When the situation passes the body returns to baseline and no harm is done. However, when stress is felt on a regular basis, perhaps because of a heavy work load or taking care of a sick parent, there is little chance to slow down and recharge. With the continued onslaught from the stress hormones our health and immunity may be impacted, leading to a feeling of being ‘burnt out’. It makes sense that this is a time when choosing the most nourishing and health supporting foods would be ideal, however, this is not often the case! When stressed, it is more common to choose the foods that ‘comfort’ us but perhaps don’t support us nutritionally. Foods that are sweet, salty and high in fat are usually the foods of choice; not to mention the hits of caffeine to keep us going when mentally and physically exhausted. These foods might provide a quick fix of comfort and sustenance but more often than not the feeling is short lived, and we’re left feeling tired and wired. So what are we to do? Fortunately, Nature has provided a bounty of foods that support the body during stressful times; providing us with the much needed nutrients that nourish the body while replenishing the ones that have been depleted.

Below is a list of my top ten stress busting foods. Overall, any fresh, whole foods with minimal processing (the foods found on the perimeter of the grocery store) like fruits, vegetables, whole grains and fish nourish us the best. However, my top 10 stress busting foods include extra components that are particularly supportive when we’re stressed out. In this respect we really are what we eat! The top 10 stress busting foods provide high amounts of the vitamins and minerals that are sometimes depleted during stress and are extra supportive of the group of organs that control our hormones and do double duty when we’re stressed. Foods that support our mood are also vital, and a few of the top 10 foods provide key nutrients that boost our own ‘feel good brain chemicals’ the neurotransmitters. Serotonin and dopamine are the two key neurotransmitters involved with mood. Choosing the right foods may make the difference between mental alertness and grogginess. With a little forethought and planning we can arm ourselves with an array of foods that will relax us and decrease our stress!

o Salmon

Containing Omega 3 essential fatty acids and the amino acid tyrosine, one of the building blocks for dopamine, salmon truly packs a stress busting punch. Not only are omega 3’s excellent for heart health they have also been shown to boost mood and reduce anxiety (1), while dopamine is a key chemical component in improved alertness and concentration. Omega 3’s cannot be made by the body so must come from our diet. Not a fish fan? Walnuts and flax seeds also contain a good amount of omega 3 oils.

o Green Tea

Not exactly a food but worth a mention nevertheless. Green tea contains high levels of the amino acid L-theanine. L-theanine has been shown to help relax the brain and improve mental alertness, thus helping a person stay alert but relaxed (2, 3). Green tea is also packed-full of antioxidants for an added bonus. Try a cup of green tea for a great afternoon pick me up.

o Milk

Were you ever given a glass of warm milk before bedtime? Well, it turns out there was a good reason for this. Not only is milk a good source of bone-building calcium, it is also high in the amino acid tryptophan. Tryptophan is important for producing serotonin, the calming and relaxing neurotransmitter, so a glass of milk will enhance the feeling of relaxation and calm – very good during stressful times. This is also true of thanksgiving turkey!

o Spinach

Popeye knew the many benefits of eating spinach. Spinach is bursting with stress busting goodness in the form of folic acid and magnesium. Research suggests that low levels of folic acid may cause levels of calming serotonin to drop (4), while too little of the mineral magnesium, may lead to fatigue and migraines. 1 cup of cooked spinach provides a good boost of folic acid and magnesium.

o Brown Rice

Brown rice and unprocessed, high fiber carbohydrates in general, are slowly absorbed providing sustained energy for the long haul. This is great during times of stress when there is a tendency to reach for sweet foods which often lead to sugary energy crashes 30 minutes later. Carbohydrates support the brain in producing serotonin, but the more slowly the body absorbs the carbohydrate (as with brown rice, for example) the more steadily serotonin may flow. Brown rice also contains inulin which is a favorite food of the healthy bacteria found in the gut. When the body works overtime during stress, immunity is often depleted. By providing the right foods for a happy and healthy internal environment we can really give our immunity a boost. 70% of our immune cells are in the gut so it’s important to keep it healthy! Artichokes, onions and garlic also contain high levels of inulin.

o Brazil nuts

Brazil nuts are an excellent source of the mineral and antioxidant, selenium. In fact, they contain 100 times more selenium than any other nut! According to scientists from the Department of Psychology at the University of Wales in Swansea, a deficiency in selenium may be associated with increased anxiety, depression and fatigue. 1 oz (6-8 kernels) contains 70% of our daily needs for selenium.

o Berries

Some of the best foods come in small packages and blueberries, blackberries, raspberries are no exception. Rich in antioxidants, manganese and vitamin C, these fruits are truly nutrient dense. Berries are a great food for boosting the immune system during stress. Put them in smoothies, enjoy them with cereal or eat them on their own.

o Asparagus

Many of the elements that build the liver, kidneys, skin, ligaments and bones are found in green asparagus. Asparagus is also high in the antioxidant enzyme glutathione which helps the liver function at optimum levels. Anything that has a positive effect on your liver, the body’s main organ of detoxification, has a positive effect on your mood and your ability to deal with stress.

o Garlic

Garlic contains a detoxifying chemical called allicin, which gives garlic its characteristic taste and smell. When you can get rid of some of the circulating toxins that build up from stress, you naturally feel better and more energized. Allicin is also a powerful antiviral and antifungal which is great for a depleted immune system (5).

o Avocadoes

Avocadoes are packed full of healthy fats, vitamins and minerals and multiple antioxidants. The thick, creamy texture can easily satisfy a frantic food craving. They are a good source of potassium which is an important mineral for lowering blood pressure as well as copper and iron. Copper and iron are necessary for red blood cell regeneration and the prevention of nutritional anemia – one common cause of fatigue and inability to cope effectively with stress.

For optimal health and longevity, the nutrition bottom line is to eat fresh and unprocessed foods as often as possible. But remember STRESSED spelled backwards is DESSERTS, which reminds us that choosing our foods shouldn’t be stressful either! Enjoy!

References:

1. Yehuda S., Rabinovitz S., Mostofsky D.I. (August 2005). “Mixture of essential fatty acids lowers test anxiety”. Nutritional Neuroscience 8 (4): 265-267. Maney. Doi: 10.1080/10284150500445795.

2. Kimura K, Ozeki M, Juneja L, Ohira H (2007). “L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses”. Biol Psychol 74 (1): 39-45.

3. Lu K, Gray M, Oliver C, Liley D, Harrison B, Bartholomeusz C, Phan K, Nathan P (2004). “The acute effects of L-theanine in comparison with alprazolam on anticipatory anxiety in humans”. Hum Psychopharmacol 19 (7): 457-65.

4. Williams E., Stewart-Knox B., Bradbury I., (April 2005). “Effect of folic acid supplementation on mood and serotonin response in healthy males”. BJN 94, 602-608

Eating Healthy For Busy People

The same question “What’s for dinner?”

This week you have just started a new commitment to yourself that you are going to eat better and start exercising and you’ve just gotten off work after a seemingly endless day. It’s been hectic and you still have a million things to do; pick up the kids, walk the dog, get your work out in, go to some recital or game, or do your laundry. You know, the never ending list of “should do’s” or “gotta get done’s” that make it seem as if there is just not enough time in a day. You have been so good all week and hate to blow it. On this particularly never ending day you are trying to be good but it is hard. The last thing you want to do is try to find some time to go shopping and make a healthy dinner! It is ever so tempting to skip your workout and run through a fast food joint just to make your day just a little be faster and easier. After all you have had a hard day and deserve a break, right? However, you know that you’d feel better sticking to your promise to yourself and your family to eat healthier. So what do you do?

If you are like me you probably end up at a sub sandwich shop ordering some chicken bacon ranch sandwich, justifying to yourself “It is not total junk food, it’s not fried and I got the baked chips.” Then to compensate you add another 15 minutes to your power walk out of the time you saved from not making dinner. Yea, you know who you are. That is ok. We all do it. It is my goal to reduce the amount of times a week I do this. So how does one keep from being in this situation? Prepare.

Preparing for “What’s for Dinner?”

I am not a person who likes to pre-plan every meal for the week. I am not very organized and I never really know what I am going to be in a mood to eat so planning the menu for the entire week is difficult for me. If you are like me here are a few things that I have found helpful in answering the “What’s for diner?” question in a more healthy way.

Find some recipes that you can make for dinner in 30 minutes or less. There are loads of healthy dinner ideas on the web. Keep the basic ingredients for simple, fast recipes stocked in your kitchen. You need to take the time to plan and shop. This doesn’t have to be a huge undertaking but remember you are also trying to create healthier eating habits so some changes have to be made. Make extra portions that can be frozen or refrigerated and reheated or cooked later. For example, if you are making a meatloaf or a casserole on the weekend, double the recipe and freeze half. Make an extra big salad keeping the extra for later in the week. Pre-cook chicken breast that can be chopped and added to the salad or can be used a quick wrap or sandwich. Have quick healthy snacks on hand that you can grab and take with you; fruit, cheese sticks, nuts, veggie sticks, cooked chicken or turkey breast, protein bars, etc. This will allow you to not be as hungry until you return home and get something healthy. These are a few things that have helped me eat healthier and has helped to keep me from the fast food drive thrus and I am the least organized domestic engineer on the planet.

Serious Nutrition Answers

I am no expert, just a working mother and wife with more things to do than time to do them.

How Do Weight Loss Herbs Work?

One of the biggest strengths of using herbs is the weight loss that can occur, not so much due to the properties of herbs, but due to the loss of appetite for fattening substances. Often the trick is not when one consumes herbs that they “magically” lose weight, but once the palette is adjusted and favors the delicate nuances of herb seasonings then the traditional fats, sugars will no longer taste good. It’ s this change, and it’s generally permanent, that helps lose weight and keep it off.

One immediate change is to drop the use of soft drinks and substitute in herbal teas. An example is the simple use of mint as the tea base. All one does is place about a gallon of water on the stove, heat till bubbles break, drop in a handful of mint leaves (for the measurers that’s about one cup, lightly packed) into the hot water and let stand for about 1 hour. Not only is there no caffeine now but it’s easy to use this mint water as your tea base and add to it couple small stalks of lemon grass for additional flavor, or a handful of crushed basil leaves. I actually prefer to add both to my tea and it’s a very refreshing drink for my family throughout the week. Being a wine love the herbal tea is my beverage choice at night as I rest after dinner, wanting another glass of vino, but change that desire by having my glass or two of iced herbal tea.

Also a benefit of herbal teas is the ability to diminish the desire for eating more, or consumption of other fatty items. Suppression of the desire to eat is another benefit of altering the diet to herbs. Licorce, cinnamon and ginseng are herbs with those properties. Simply add a dash as seasoning, rather than sugar, salt and those smaller portions become more desirable as one consumes yet “fills” the hunger pangs quicker and with less food. Again this is an ongoing lifestyle change that not only helps lose weight but eliminates the behaviors which add to weight gain.

Any herbs that speed up your metabolism can also help in losing weight.

One of these herbs is ginger and the active component of the flavor is gingerol which also gives ginger its flavor.

Herbs that are diuretics simply aid in eliminating unnecessary water retention. Remember that one gallon of water is equivalent to 8 pounds of weight. If one is looking for “immediate weight loss” then the best method for this is the elimination of water. Use diuretic herbs such as parsley – Italian or Curly, rosemary, celery and dong quai. Fennel is very good here also and make a simple fennel tea. Hawthorn berries, dandelion are two more herbs that are diuretics. Of course exercise more to sweat the fluids as one changes diet to herbs.

Healthy Food List

The idea of embracing a healthy lifestyle has become in demand today more than ever. What with the presence of more and more dreaded diseases. To start your quest of wellness, take a sneak peek in this healthy food list and oh, start munching, huh!

* Avocado – this wonder fruit has the ability to lower your body’s cholesterol and increase the level of HDL through Oleic acid. It also has lots of fiber that is good for the body. Indeed, a few slices of avocado to dress up your burger make for the healthiest alternative. Drop the mayonnaise, avocado is yummy, too!

* Raspberry – this fruit from the berry family has too many good benefits to the body to ignore. For one, it has Ellagic acid, a known component that can interfere with cancer cells. It is also equipped with vitamin C and fiber, which can help in your battle against high cholesterol, hypertension, and heart disease.

* Raisin – who would have thought that such small beings can bring in great advantage to your health? Raisins can help you enjoy sufficient supply of iron, which is an important component in transporting oxygen in the blood. It also has some fiber that is useful all the way.

* Garlic – anyone who says this does not deserve a spot on our healthy food list must be enlightened. More than the flavor it brings to the food, garlic also comes with it very important nutrients that our body needs to keep it healthy. There is its ability to lower LDL cholesterol, battle high blood pressure, and reduce your risks for certain cancers.

* Peanut – we all know that peanut can make us smart. More than that and its ability to supply our daily protein requirement, it is also infused with unsaturated fats that can reduce your risk for heart disorders by 20%.

* Yoghurt – yes, it has active bacteria and interestingly, that’s where the health benefits come from. Yoghurt’s bacteria can help protect you against yeast infections. Plus, it has calcium, which makes the bones strong. What’s more, yoghurt is good even for those who are lactose intolerant. It does not upset the stomach so you can load up on it for a healthier you.

* Crabs – more than being very delectable, crabs also contain nutrients that our body needs. It has vitamin B12 and zinc. It strengthens the immune system while you are having your fill of the delicious meat! What’s more, crab meat is low in fat. You do not need to worry about any risk!