June 21, 2011 [Volume 5, Issue 12]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
The Sensible Route to Slim
Stretching Your Limits
Nuts About Almond Butter

The Sensible Route to Slim

In the long run, repeated episodes of unhealthy weight-loss attempts are more likely to cause damage to our body and outweigh the health benefits of short-term weight loss. That doesn't mean it's better to stay at an unhealthy weight. We just have to make sure that we are losing weight in a healthy way and are able to maintain that weight loss.

It takes about a 500-calorie deficit per day to lose about 1 pound per week. If you incorporate exercise that burns an additional 500 calories per day, then you can lose 2 pounds per week. My recommendation would be to aim to lose no more than 2 pounds per week on average. "On average" takes into consideration that the initial weeks may result in greater weight loss because of the loss of retained fluids from exchanging fatty, salty foods for a healthier, more balanced diet. But overall, you should average out to about 2 pounds per week. If you are losing more than that, then you are more likely resorting to less-healthy methods of weight loss, which can hurt your metabolism and health in the long-term.

Believe it or not, people who lose weight at a slow, steady rate tend to keep the weight off longer because they are incorporating new, healthier habits instead of taking drastic measures to get the weight off. When we shift our focus from '"dieting" to "creating a healthier lifestyle," we are more likely to succeed in keeping the weight off for good. Here are a few ways to do just that:

Water: Make it a daily priority to stay hydrated with water and to incorporate vegetables and water into every meal. Portions do not need to be large, but by keeping these two ideas in mind, you will be less likely to become deficient in essential nutrients your body needs to function.

Fiber: Remember to increase fiber in your diet, but at a rate that is slow and gradual. If you increase your fiber intake too quickly, you may bloat and become gaseous. Therefore, start to increase your dietary fiber (soluble and insoluble) gradually to about 20-30 grams per day.

Consider drinking green tea. Green tea flavoring ranges from jasmine to genmaicha (green tea combined with roasted brown rice) to dragon well (hint of sweetness), just to name a few. Green tea has been shown in some clinical studies to have a beneficial impact on many aspects of health, including improvements in cholesterol, weight loss and weight maintenance. The healthy ingredients found in green tea include, but are not limited to, flavonoids, polyphenols and amino acids.

Ultimately, it's more important that you cross the finish line and achieve a healthy, fit lifestyle you can maintain, rather than losing a lot of weight quickly, but being unable to maintain the healthy weight because you took extreme measures to lose it. We all know that extreme measures cannot be maintained long-term.

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Stretching Your Limits

Stretching is important for several reasons. It improves flexibility, which can come in handy whether you're reaching down to pick up a pencil from the floor, climbing a ladder to the roof or trying to grab your overeager child before they run into the street. From a sports perspective, flexibility allows you to move more easily and with a greater range of motion while reducing the odds that you'll pull, strain or overstretch something in the heat of battle. It also can protect against long-term injury, in the sense that flexibility and range-of-motion deficits can cause overcompensation patterns to develop.

Because stretching makes your body more flexible, it also has mental health benefits. First, picture yourself on the couch after a long day's work or a morning at the racquetball court, sore, stiff and in pain. Now picture yourself on the same couch after the same activities, but well-stretched, blood and oxygen circulating properly, able to achieve a superior range of motion despite your draining day. Now that's a reason to stretch, isn't it?

Traditionally, stretching routines have followed the principle of static holding; that means holding a stretch in a single position for 20-30 seconds or more. These types of stretches, known as static stretches, were the only stretches in town for years. Of late, experts in the fitness world increasingly question whether static stretching, particularly before running or performing a sport, has value. In fact, they theorize that static stretching may actually increase injury risk if performed before participating in an activity.

The reason for this concern is because when your muscles are cold, they're at their most stiff. That makes perfect sense, right? Again, picture yourself heading out for a run – without warming up your body – after spending a sedentary day at your desk at work and another hour in your car coming home. Static stretching could actually overstretch the muscle, straining or tearing it.

The solution, according to more and more experts, is to warm up first, complete your physical activity (say, a run) and then perform static stretches, when your body can handle it. The bottom line is that cold muscles are much easier to injure than warm muscles; applying a prolonged, static stretch before you're adequately warmed up could do more damage than good.

So, does that mean you shouldn't stretch before an activity? Of course not. But you might not want to do static stretches. Instead, try dynamic active stretches – things like knee lifts, arm circles, walking lunges, leg swings, torso twists, etc. Think of dynamic stretches as a way to warm up your body in a gentle fashion that prepares you for your activity. Talk to your doctor to learn more.

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Nuts About Almond Butter

More than 3 million people in the U.S. have peanut allergies, among them millions of children. (Allergies among children have doubled in the past two decades, according to the American Academy of Allergy Asthma and Immunology.) Fortunately, adults and children can snack on almond butter as a sandwich spread or use it as a dip for veggies and know it's good for them. Here's why:

  1. It contains less calories and saturated fat and more fiber, calcium, iron, vitamin E and magnesium (based on a 2,000 calorie diet) than peanut butter.
  2. It can protect your heart. It's high in monounsaturated fats, which are associated with a reduction in heart disease risk.
  3. Almond butter is packed with essential minerals. Some of the highly concentrated minerals found in almond butter include manganese and copper. It's also rich in calcium, iron and magnesium.
  4. Almond butter is an excellent protein source. Almonds are packed with protein. One quarter-cup of almonds alone contains 7.62 grams of protein – more protein than an egg provides (only 5.54 grams).
  5. It tastes great! With a smooth, grainy texture and creamy, nutty taste, this alternative to peanut butter complements everything from toast to vegetables.

So why not try almond butter today? Your doctor can tell you more about the nutritional value of nuts and how to incorporate them into a balanced, nutritious diet.

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