Can Certain Fruit Kill Cholesterol?

Can Certain Fruit Kill Cholesterol?

If you live in Alexandria, VA, you’re lucky. You can eat local fruit, while lowering your cholesterol. Cholesterol isn’t necessarily bad. Your body needs cholesterol to function properly. If you have too much or the wrong type of cholesterol, it can cling to the artery walls and clog the arteries. That can increase the risk of heart disease. Luckily, a change in diet can make a difference and one of those changes is including cholesterol lowering fruit.

What’s the best fruit to lower cholesterol?

You probably already know that apples are good for you, but did you realize they’re the number one cholesterol lowering fruits? While some foods that lower cholesterol do it via their high omega-3 content and others lower it with high fiber, apples lower cholesterol because of high fiber and the specific type of fiber it contains, the soluble fiber pectin. It reduces the amount of cholesterol that’s absorbed in the bloodstream. Apples contain the best pectin for lowering cholesterol.

Oranges and avocados lower cholesterol.

While oranges don’t grow in Alexandria, VA, you can easily find them at the grocery store. They contain nutrients that can improve your health, particularly heart health. Studies have shown that even drinking orange juice can help lower LDL—bad—cholesterol levels. Consuming the whole orange increases dietary fiber and pectin, which boosts the cholesterol busting ability. Avocados, which most people don’t realize are fruits, contain monounsaturated fat that raises good cholesterol and lowers bad cholesterol. It also contains beta-sitosterol that reduces the amount of cholesterol absorbed.

Watermelon can help you lose weight and lower your cholesterol levels.

Watermelon can fill you up without packing on the pounds. It’s a diuretic and can help lower your cholesterol levels. It contains a carotenoid called lycopene that is an antioxidant. Antioxidants protect the body from free radicals that have the potential to raise cholesterol levels. Whether you keep watermelon cubes in the refrigerator so you can grab a few when you’re hungry or keep watermelon juice ready to drink to lower your cholesterol.

  • Other antioxidant fruits that can help lower cholesterol levels include berries. They’re loaded with antioxidants, no matter what type you choose. Berries help prevent the oxidation of LDL—bad–cholesterol, which can stick to the artery walls.
  • Prunes do more than keep you regular, they’re also good for increasing the good cholesterol that helps your heart stay healthy and can reduce inflammation and act as an antioxidant. You can eat them plain or use them when cooking your favorite dishes.
  • Have a glass of cranberry juice or add cranberries to your favorite salad or smoothie. They’re packed with healthy benefits that extend beyond urinary tract health. They can also help lower bad cholesterol levels.
  • Have some grapes to reduce your triglyceride and cholesterol levels. Grapes contain pterostilbene. Pterostilbene affects the enzyme that controls blood fat levels, much like medications do.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Will I Lose Weight As A Vegetarian?

Will I Lose Weight As A Vegetarian?

People choose to become a vegetarian for a number of reasons. I always tell people at Team Worx Fitness in Alexandria, VA, that the best way to lose weight is to eat healthy and don’t make any specific recommendations on diet. However, when asked if you can lose weight on a vegetarian diet, the answer is simple. Absolutely! That is as long as you aren’t supplementing that diet with vegetarian options of junk food and food with added sugar. It’s a bit harder to balance a vegetarian diet, but if you do, and stick with healthy principals, it might even be easier.

Is a vegetarian diet the same as a vegan diet?

Those words are often mixed, and they don’t mean the same things. Vegans don’t consume ANY animal products, including eggs or dairy. Many don’t even use products containing anything from animals, like wearing leather shoes. A vegetarian diet is a lot easier to stick with and balance, since it has both plant and animal protein. Eggs are a great source of protein. Vegetarians simply refrain from eating the flesh of animals, not all animal products.

It’s all about making healthier choices when you select food.

If you’re eating a vegetarian diet and it includes pastries and candy that’s not healthy. Sure, it doesn’t have animal meat, but it has added sugar, which comes from a plant. Too often, I’ve seen meat substitutes that are far less healthy than the original. Take Impossible Burgers for instance. They’re higher in sodium than the real thing, and they still come on a bun, with condiments galore. Choose wisely and don’t be fooled by imitation products that substitute for meat. They might not be as healthy as you think and far more fattening.

It may be easier to lose weight as a vegetarian.

Red meat has lots of calories compared to a boiled egg. Filling up on salad can actually reduce your calorie intake. Be aware that it’s not about the label you choose to call yourself, it’s about the food you eat and the calorie and health benefits or hazards it contains. Sugar comes from plants but is toxic to the system and can cause you to gain weight. Studies show vegetarians and vegans actually tend to be leaner, but it’s a generalization that depends on the food you eat within that category.

  • Nuts are a source of protein often consumed by vegetarians. However, if you opt for nuts with a thick coating of sugar, they cease being healthy and definitely won’t help you lose weight.
  • One way that vegetarianism can help with weight loss is that it increases fiber in your diet, as long as you opt for unprocessed vegetables and fruit. They help you feel full longer, so you eat less.
  • Some vegetarian options, like avocados and nuts that contain healthy fat or protein options like beans, also keep you feeling full longer. They also contain fiber that slows the release of glucose in your blood stream to aid in preventing insulin resistance.
  • No matter what your choice of diet, including vegan and vegetarian, losing weight is all about making the smartest possible choices and eating healthy.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Healthy Sugar Alternatives

Healthy Sugar Alternatives

People want to be healthy, and often cut out foods with added sugar, but instead choose those with honey or maple syrup, which is healthier, but still sugar. There are some alternative sugar alternatives that don’t have the same effect, but may have other complications, like explosive diarrhea and gas. Still, there are times when the desire for something sweet that isn’t fruit can become important and for those times, a healthy replacement for sugar may help.

Tagatose is a new sugar substitute that may actually help diabetics.

Tagatose or D-tagatose is made from lactose, milk sugar, but it normally doesn’t affect those who are lactose intolerant. A very small minority reported gassiness and bloating. It has some health benefits, too. It has a low glycemic index is very low in net carbohydrates. In fact, it has been shown to lower blood sugar levels in people, even if they have type 2 diabetes. One trial study showed after six months of low doses, it helped reduce insulin resistance. It’s also been shown to be a prebiotic and increase short-chain fatty acid production that reduces inflammation in the gut. It may increase uric acid or lower blood sugar too much if you’re on medication for diabetes, so if you have a history of gout, kidney stones or are taking medication, discuss it with your health care professional.

Use fruit to sweeten your food.

Instead of just eating fruit, you can use it in cooking to sweeten other dishes. Figs and date paste are often used as sweeteners. Ripe bananas can add sweetness especially when mixed with yogurt. You add no extra sweetener but get the sweet taste you’d have from added sugar. Applesauce has always been a substitute for sugar and fat, but you still have to use some sugar. It can replace half the sugar or fat in baked goods. If you want a sweet cold treat on a hot summer day, freeze fruit chunks then blend it for a sorbet without any added sugar.

Monk fruit came from Southeast Asia and has been used in Chinese medicine, but now is a sugar substitute.

Monk fruit, like many alternatives to sugar, is far sweeter. In fact, it’s between 100 and 250 times sweeter than sugar, which means a little goes a long way. It’s made from the flesh of the monk fruit and has both fructose and glucose, but that isn’t what makes it sweet. It’s the antioxidant mogrosides V that it contains. It has health benefits, like immune system, digestive tract and respiratory tract support. Manufacturers often combine it with other types of sugar, so beware when you buy it that it doesn’t contain other sugar, like corn syrup or sugar alcohol.

  • Stevia, from the leaf of the Stevia rebaudiana plant, not only is an alternative sweetener that’s beneficial for diabetics, it may lower blood pressure, but only if it’s high. However, it can upset your digestive system.
  • Chicory root can also be turned into a sugar substitute that also has vitamins and minerals. It isn’t no or low calorie. Just like monk fruit, you have to be careful, since it’s sometimes mixed with other sweeteners.
  • Many companies use sugar alcohols as substitutes for sweeteners. Xylitol is one and it may actually help improve bone density and prevent cavities. One drawback are digestive issues and gassiness it causes.
  • The diet potato or yacon plant tastes like a pear but got its nickname because it looks like a potato. It is a sugar substitute that may aid in weight loss and help prevent constipation. Tea made from the leaves have anti-diabetic properties.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Foods That Make You Feel Good

Foods That Make You Feel Good

When someone mentions foods that make you feel good, you might automatically think of those comfort foods, like a pint of ice cream, mashed potatoes and gravy or double chocolate, chocolate chip cookies. That’s not the type of food that really changes your body to help lift your spirits, but the type of food associated mentally with feeling better. There are actual foods that can help improve your mood in the long run. In fact, if your comfort food is a sweet, it’s probably prolonging your misery, since sugary processed food causes fluctuations in your blood sugar level, with lows leaving you sad and miserable.

Look for foods high in vitamin B6, tryptophan and Omega-3 fatty acids.

Nuts are a great food for lifting your spirits, particularly cashews, Brazil nuts and peanuts. Flaxseed also joins that group. The vitamin tryptophan in cashews converts to serotonin, which helps stabilize your mood and makes you feel happier and more relaxed, and the vitamin B6 helps with that conversion. Walnuts are high in omega-3 fatty acids, which helps make you less angry and happier. A study focused on changing the diet at a prison with a higher amount of violence and found it reduced the incidences dramatically.

Boost your brain power, fight cancer and improve your mood with berries.

Berries, particularly blueberries, have loads of phytochemicals that fight free radicals that come from our environment. Anthocyanin that makes blueberries blue, is one of the flavonoids that provide brain protection and also helps you feel good. One study compared the effects of drinking a placebo, to drinking a drink made of wild blueberries. The wild blueberry drink improved the mood for people, no matter what their age. Other fresh berries, particularly those that are deep red or purple, also have a similar effect. The same is true for vegetables that are deep red or purple.

Eating your greens helps you body and your mood.

If you have a bowl of leafy greens, you’ve got a bowl of fiber, magnesium, vitamin B6 and folate. As noted previously the B6 helps convert tryptophan to serotonin, increasing the amount the body gets. Serotonin is similar to antidepressants, so the more you have in your body, the lower the risk for depression. You’ll also find B6 in carrots, green peas, sweet potatoes and legumes. The folate (not folic acid, which people often confuse it with) in leafy greens also helps regulate the serotonin and magnesium has been used to treat depression for years.

  • If chocolate was on your feel good list, you may be on the right track, but it has to be dark chocolate with a high amount of cacao, very little if any milk or sugar. It’s the polyphenols in cacao that make it good for your mood.
  • You need foods high in vitamin C to produce neurotransmitters that are necessary to make hormones like dopamine, noradrenaline and serotonin, which make you feel good. Red bell peppers and citrus fruits and good sources.
  • Many Americans have a deficiency of magnesium, which can cause depression. Eating a handful of pumpkin seeds each day can help replenish the magnesium.
  • Increasing blood circulation can occur when blood vessels dilate. That can improve your mood. A cup and a half cups of coffee each day can help do that. The caffeine also increases the production of dopamine.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Is Cheese Sabotaging My Weight Loss?

Is Cheese Sabotaging My Weight Loss?

Many clients at Team Worx Fitness in Alexandria, VA, have come to me confused. They’ve eaten dairy all their life, including cheese, thinking it was a healthy option and one good for weight loss, only to find they might be mistaken. One reason for the confusion is the variety of cheese you use and the amount. Too often people don’t consider serving size, but instead, slice the cheese thick and eat several servings at once.

There are healthier cheeses and unhealthy ones.

Read the label. If it says cheese food, prepared cheese or processed cheese, it’s not real cheese. For instance, in 2016, manufacturers of Parmesan cheese had to remove their cheese from the grocery shelves because the FDA noted that many of them were nothing more than grated cheddar and cellulose—which is made from wood pulp and used as an anti-clumping agent. Highly processed cheese food, disguised as cheese, can destroy your diet and health, particularly cheese food like nacho cheese. Unless the label reads pasteurized processed cheese, it’s not 100% cheese. If instead reads pasteurized processed cheese product or cheese food, it’s only 51% cheese.

The fat in cheese can fill you up, but too much of it can fill you out, too.

If you’re shopping for the best cheese for a diet, don’t immediately head for the low fat, no fat option. In fact, that might even make you gain weight. Like yogurt that’s had the fat removed, when they remove the fat from cheese, they add other things to improve the flavor. Your body also needs fat to burn fat, so it’s important to have healthy fat in your diet. Cheese also is high in protein, which is also filling. One study in Australia found that people who increased the amount of dairy eaten, which included cheese, also lost more weight than the control group who didn’t increase it.

Not all cheese is the same.

Some types of cheese are healthier and better for weight loss. You might not immediately think of cottage cheese when you think of cheese, but it’s a good source of protein and good for dieting. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese is a healthy cheese that’s also good for diets. Feta cheese is another good option and naturally low in fat, but high in protein. Goat cheese, gouda, blue cheese and cheddar are also good.

  • No matter what type of cheese you choose, be aware of portion size. One ounce of hard cheese is the size of a pair of dice. A half cup of cottage cheese or ¼ C feta contains almost the same calories but is more filling.
  • One of the biggest problems with cheese is often how it served, like on top of a pizza or burger. It’s more the burger and pizza that are blocking your weight loss efforts.
  • Cheese offers many health benefits. It’s a good source of amino acids, Vitamins B2, B12, D and A, and omega-3 fatty acids. It’s even better if it’s from grass-fed cows, since that cheese contains nutrients that boost your metabolism.
  • You can actually use cheese to lose weight by using it as a replacement for higher calorie options. For instance, replacing mayo with cream cheese or substituting cottage cheese for whipped cream with fruit.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

What You Don't Know About OTC Vitamins

What You Don’t Know About OTC Vitamins

I encourage people to eat healthy and live a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise. Some clients at Team Worx Fitness in Alexandria, VA, have asked me if OTC vitamins—over the counter vitamins—offer benefits. It’s easy to understand how you might think they help, since Americans purchase over millions of dollars worth each year, and even more if you include other types of supplements. Is it really healthy or is it just good advertising that drives those sales?

Supplements may not offer the benefits you hoped.

There are three studies recently completed at John Hopkins that looked into whether supplements were beneficial or not. They were all large, with the biggest study following 450,000 people. That large study showed OTC multivitamins didn’t reduce the risk for cancer or heart disease. The same was true of one of the smaller, yet significant studies. The last smaller study, which had only 5947 subjects, looked at multivitamins use and the potential for reducing mental decline. The study followed these people for 12 years and found they didn’t have any effect.

OTC products may not be bioavailable.

No matter how dedicated you are to taking your vitamins, your body may not get the benefits. That’s because it can’t absorb the nutrients it offers. Even if it’s a pure form of the vitamin, your body may not be able to use it because it’s not bioavailable. Lots of things determine bioavailability. How quickly the vitamin breaks down is one. If it breaks down too easily, it doesn’t have a long shelf life, but if it has a longer shelf life, you may find it in your toilet amidst the corn and peanuts that also don’t digest. Some drugs taken with vitamins limit their availability and some forms of the vitamin do too.

Taking too much of anything is not necessarily a good thing.

If you’re taking high doses of a vitamin, it can be toxic. While it may not kill you, if you take more vitamin C than you need, you’ll end up with diarrhea and urine rich in vitamin C. The real dangers come with fat soluble vitamins, like vitamin E, D or A. High amounts of vitamin E increase the risk of stroke. People who smoke and take high amounts of vitamin A or beta-carotene may increase the risk of lung cancer.

  • Taking calcium supplements, particularly if you’re a senior, may actually be dangerous. It can cause calcium to build up in artery walls. You’re better off doing weight bearing exercises to help prevent osteoporosis.
  • Taking multivitamins and thinking you’ve got your basis covered is just as dangerous. You need many of the phytonutrients to work in synergy for more effective benefits or even any benefits at all.
  • Not all forms of the vitamin are bioavailability, meaning it doesn’t allow your system to use it. Many of the vitamin forms used in multivitamins are less expensive, but also less effective and harder to break down.
  • Some vitamins may be important. For instance, vitamin D is extremely important, but many people have a deficiency, since they get little sun and it’s hard to get in food. Always ask your health care professional before you start taking any supplements.
  • For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Will Working Out Help My Depression?

Will Working Out Help My Depression?

Whether you’ve lost a job, a loved one or had any other rough spot in the road, depression is natural. In most cases, it’s short-lived or relatively mild. For those cases of depression, working out can help. However, for severe depression that keeps you in bed, not willing to continue, you need professional help. Even if you’re getting professional help, exercising may provide an adjunct therapy and is often used instead of medication by counselors.

Stress hormones can create stress and stress can create depression.

When you’re under stress, the fight or flight response is triggered. However, it was meant to handle the stress that occurs when a wild animal or warring tribe is the threat. It wasn’t meant for the stress that comes from a job loss. Fight or flight prepares your body to run or fight, neither of which are suitable in most cases. When you don’t burn off the hormones of stress that prepare the body, it can lead to anxiety and depression. Exercise helps you do that and even triggers the production of hormones that make you feel good. It increases the potential for neurogenesis, which is part of the process for creating new brain cells. That can help prevent mental decline.

Strength training can help build the body and also help relieve the brain.

Several studies show that using strength training can provide benefits to reduce depression. One study was of stroke survivors, who often suffer from depression. When the group studied did strength training for ten weeks, they had a significant improvement in the signs of depression. Scientists hypothesized that some of it was attributed to the feeling of control gained through strength training. The also added that getting more control improved their mood, while minimizing anxiety.

You’ll improve your circulation.

Aerobic exercise, especially when it’s vigorous, gets your blood circulating. Studies show that vigorous aerobic workouts are probably the best for fighting depression. It may not even have to be that vigorous, but requires constant movement, like a long walk. The more intense the aerobic exercise, the more endorphins and other happy hormones are released. Those hormones act like natural morphine to deal with pain, but they also give you a sense of well-being that can lift your spirits and minimize depression.

  • Less strenuous movements, like the slow movements of tai chi or yoga, not only improve your flexibility, they also can reduce depression according to many studies.
  • If you find yourself depressed, but aren’t ready for a formal workout, take a walk or turn on happy music and dance. If the song is happy and motivational, the combination of movement and lyrics can provide relief.
  • One of the biggest problems that occur with depression, is that you don’t feel like doing anything, especially exercise. If that’s the case, force yourself to go for a walk and increase your walking speed and distance bit by bit.
  • Severe depression is a serious problem. Don’t delay getting the help of a professional. You can add exercise to your program even if you’re working with a professional. If you have a bad day, you can always exercise a little extra or get out your walking, dancing or running shoes and start moving.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx

Start Now To Get Ready For Summer

Start Now To Get Ready For Summer

Don’t throw away your opportunity to have the summer fun you deserve. Don’t let being out of shape, tired or feeling frumpy stop you from getting that tan, enjoying the sun and enjoying every minute of summer. How can you do that? You can get ready for summer, starting today. In just a couple of short months, you can make a huge difference in how you look and feel and by the end of summer, look forward to even more enjoyment over the fall and winter holidays.

In just two months, you can lose 20-pounds or more safely.

Not only will you lose weight by eating healthy, you’ll even look thinner by adding exercise to your daily routine. Exercise builds muscles and muscles burn more calories than fat tissue does, so the more you have, the higher your metabolism, burning more calories 24/7. When you exercise, it makes you look trimmer. One pound of muscle tissue takes up less space than a pound of fat. It’s similar to comparing the size of container for exactly a pound of feathers and a pound of steel. The one with the feathers will be a lot bigger. Even though you might lose 20-pounds, you’ll look like you lost a lot more.

Boost your energy while you build your strength and endurance.

Not only does strength training build muscles, when you combine it with endurance training it burns off the pounds quickly and builds your energy level. If the beach isn’t your destination, but a trip to the zoo with the kids is, having more energy may be just what you’re hoping to get. The more energy you have, the more active you’ll be and that increases the amount of energy you’ll have tomorrow. It snowballs.

Healthy eating should be a key priority.

Healthy eating isn’t dieting. Instead, it’s about making smarter choices when you eat. Most trainers agree that a great body starts in the kitchen. Your diet also affects your energy level and mood, so getting the most out of life also starts with diet. You’ll be amazed at how delicious healthy foods can taste. Don’t worry, you still can have a favorite treat occasionally, just keep portion control in mind and don’t make it too often.

  • You don’t have to want to lose weight to benefit when you workout. You might want to tone all parts of your body. A toned derriere looks far better than a droopy one, and toned arms are better than batwings.
  • Working out helps hide cellulite, just as a healthy diet does. Losing weight and building muscle tissue takes a lot of the pucker out of cottage cheese lumpy thighs.
  • Don’t forget flexibility training. Your walk will be improved and so will your agility, but most of all, flexibility training can protect you from injury that can ruin a summer of fun.
  • Make a bucket list of things you’d like to do this summer that are outside, active or show off your new energy or body. Make it a goal to check off at least five things this summer.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness

Best Treats You Can Have In Moderation

We help you be your best with a nutrition program and a program that will get you fit quickly. At TeamWorX Fitness in Alexandria, VA, we don’t give you a diet but provide a map to help you learn how to eat healthier. Eating healthy doesn’t mean you have to give up all the foods you love. There are treats you can have in moderation. You still have to pay attention to portion size and not consume a family box of sugary treats in one setting, so it requires control, but limiting your treat to one daily treat that has between 100 and 200 calories might slow the weight loss down a bit, but not by much.

Break down snacks to 100-200 calorie portions.

If you have the discipline, which only you can say, buy a family size bag of chips, nuts or taco chips and a box of plastic baggies. Break down the bag into individual 100 or 200 calorie portions. If there’s cake, cookies or other treats available, know what size portion fits your calorie requirement of 100-200 calories. Be prepared with the information ahead of time if you’re going to a party or family dinner.

Eat fresh fruit or veggies as your treat.

A medium sliced apple with two tablespoons of peanut butter is 283 calories, but it’s more than just a treat, it’s good for you. If you want to save calories, eat half the apple with a meal and eat the other half apple with peanut butter as a snack for a little over 140 calories. Grapes, pears, black cherries and other fruit make a sweet treat that’s healthy.

One slice of angel food cake is only 72 calories.

Now top that angel food cake with 8 large, sliced strawberries for about 66 calories and 2 TBSP of non-fat topping for another 25 calories. That’s 163 calories and it’s a dessert that’s made for a queen or king. Mix a ½ cup of plain Greek yogurt—72 calories—with ½ cup frozen sliced black cherries—50 calories, a half banana—50 calories and 1 tablespoon chopped walnuts, which is another 53 calories. Mix it and divide it in half. It one half immediately and freeze the other to eat like you would ice cream. It’s about 113 calories a serving.

  • What could be better than dipping strawberries into rich dark chocolate. This sweet treat will fill you up, but you have to make sure you use dark chocolate chips or a square of dark chocolate with the highest percentage of cacao.
  • Make your own microwave popcorn for a treat. Just put 1 ½ TBSP of popcorn in a brown paper lunch bag, fold the edge over and microwave it for a minute or two. It’s about 72 calories for 3-cups. Top it with a tsp of unsalted butter and a tsp of ranch dressing mix for another 50 calories.
  • Make your own trail mix. Mix your favorite nuts, dried fruit and bits of chocolate, then bag the mix into individual serving sizes. As you mix the big batch calculate the calories and then divide it up into 100 to 200 calorie bags.
  • Try grilling your favorite fruits for a sweet treat. Grilled pineapple, with a maraschino cherry or two topping the finished product or a grilled banana, papaya or peach is delicious and super low in calories.

For more information, contact us today at Team Worx Fitness