Healthful Tips for the Holidays

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By Victoria Cojan

“It’s the most wonderful time of the year” … and do you know what that means? Lots of home-cooked holiday food! All those family gatherings and all the feasts that come along with them tend to make most people eat more than they want and leave them feeling stuffed, not satisfied. The holidays are meant for spending quality time with our loved ones, not for worrying about gaining weight. It can be extremely hard to eat healthy and not to over-indulge around the holidays, but it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are some tips to keep in mind to avoid over-indulgence during the holidays:

  1. Don’t arrive on an empty stomach: It can be really tempting to skip meals so you can have more room for the feast, but that doesn’t help. Skipping meals or going on an empty stomach can cause you to overeat more than if you came with a slightly satisfied tummy. Coming slightly satisfied can help reduce that urge to eat a lot. Therefore, before arriving at the party have a snack or something light, such as fresh fruits, veggies, or a salad.
  2. Portion Control: There are two main ways to control your portions, the first is using a smaller plate and the second is getting smaller amounts of food on a regular sized plate. Having a small plate can give you the impression that you ate more than you actually did and makes your brain think you had enough. However, this may not be a realistic way to control your portion at a family dinner table. Generally, the hosts set the table in a showy and extravagant way so the plate you get will most likely be pretty big. In this case the better alternative would be to get a smaller portion of food. This allows you to control your intake while still enjoying all the different types of food available at the table. In addition, if you start by filling your plate with vegetables and salad first, it can help you eat fewer calories overall.
  3. Bring your own healthy dish to the gathering: If you know that there won’t be many healthy options that you enjoy, bring something from home. This will provide you with a good menu option, and will also make the host happier for the extra help.
  4. Eat slowly: Take your time and enjoy every bite you take. It takes a few minutes for your brain to realize that you are full so by eating at a slower pace, you will be less likely to eat more than needed. An easy way to naturally slow down your eating is to be involved in the conversation. If you are using your mouth to talk instead of to eat, then you will eat at a slower pace without even realizing.
  5. Leave the table when you are done eating: By staying at the table after you are done eating, you may be tempted to consume more even if you are no longer hungry. Therefore, staying long enough to enjoy the meal, but leaving the table right after can help remove more of the temptations to over-indulge. If you are worried that it would be rude to leave the table, you can try to offer to help clean up the table or do the dishes. This way you can still stick around with your loved ones in the kitchen, and even help remove the temptation from the others at the table to eat more food.

The holidays are a time for celebration and joy, they are about much more than just the big feasts. These tips can help you prevent over-indulgence. However, don’t forget to enjoy the holidays, and not to stop yourself from enjoying your favorite holiday foods. In the long run, it will be worth it. Plus, these special times only come once a year so enjoy them. Happy Holidays!

Health Benefits of Chocolate

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By Anran Shao

You read that title right; it is possible to indulge in your favorite dessert while still reaping health benefits! If you find yourself craving chocolate, reach for a bar that contains the nutrient benefits listed below, as well as high quality ingredients to ensure that your next treat to yourself is nothing but a bite of silky smooth bliss.

Benefits of chocolate

  1.  Research has proven that chocolate can lower cholesterol. Chocolate contains flavonoids which protect against heart disease, allowing chocolate to be used as a short-term intervention to lower low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and total cholesterol levels. LDL is the “bad” cholesterol that collects in the wall of your blood vessels, where it can cause blockages and put you at a greater risk for a heart attack from a sudden blood clot.
  2. Chocolate can reduce stress levels. Homework assignments, exams, lab reports, and all of the above can easily be overwhelming for the average college student. It’s important to know when you need a break to do something for yourself, like treating yourself to an occasional chocolate break! Eating chocolate can both reduce stress and improve your mood by increasing your serotonin and endorphin levels in the brain!
  3. Eating chocolate can potentially control your appetite. Chocolate is high in fat, which makes you feel fuller for a longer period of time, preventing unwanted snacking. Another great benefit of chocolate it its insulin sensitivity; in other words, it can improve your body’s ability to absorb sugars rather than store them as fat. Even just smelling chocolate can decrease ghrelin, the hormone responsible for hunger!

How to choose high quality chocolate

Today, dark chocolate is generally accepted as the healthiest. It contains more cocoa than other palatable products and therefore can maximize the benefits mentioned above. Milk chocolate and others varieties of chocolate that contain excess sugar are more likely to prevent gaining the maximal benefits offered by pure chocolate.

Here are some tips to buy high-quality chocolate:

  1. Take a look at the ingredients. Healthier varieties of chocolate have cocoa solids and cocoa butter as top ingredients. Avoid chocolates that have sugar as the top ingredient or include additional fats or Dutch cocoa.
  2. Check the date the chocolate was made. The more recently the chocolate was made, the fresher it will be, resulting in better quality. Dark chocolate is recommended to be eaten within 1 year, and milk chocolate within 6 months, and white chocolate within 8 months.
  3. Observe the texture of the chocolate. High quality chocolate will have a glossy surface and the surface should be consistently the same color; poor quality or aged chocolate will have noticeable blemish and whitish crystals (sure does sound appetizing).

Now that you’ve read up on the health benefits of chocolate and how to choose the chocolate of the highest quality, you don’t have to feel guilty when you satisfy your sweet tooth. Let eating chocolate become a part of change toward your healthier lifestyle, consuming it in moderation while still keeping a healthy diet and exercise routine!

Works Cited:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18356327

http://www.webmd.com/diet/news/20120424/pick-dark-chocolate-health-benefits#1

http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/health-benefits-chocolate-stress-reducer-5506.html

What to Look for When Choosing a High-Quality Dark Chocolate

5 Things You Need to Know About the New Nutrition Label

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By Bree Weeden

As a nutrition major, I spend a lot of time reading food labels. It’s impossible for me to be in a grocery store for less than an hour, and my friends have given up on going shopping with me. So imagine my excitement last May when the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced it will be changing the required nutrition label for the first time since 1993. Food manufacturers will be required to use the new nutrition label by July 26, 2018. Smaller manufacturers that make less than ten million dollars in sales annually have until July 26, 2019.  That’s a long way away, so you have plenty of time to familiarize yourself with the new label.  Here’s a breakdown of what to expect to see on the back of all your food packages:

  1. Easier to read: The new food labels will be easier for the average consumer to interpret. The serving size, number of servings per container, and total calories will be increased in size. In addition, calories and serving size will be bolded. And speaking of calories…
  2. Bye-bye, calories from fat: The new label will no longer include “calories from fat.” The FDA says this is because it wants to encourage consumers to pay attention to the type of fat in their food, and not just how many calories there are from fat. Side note: although the FDA recently announced they will be reducing the amount of partially hydrogenated oils and trans fats in food products, trans fats will continue to appear on the new label as they have not been completely phased out.
  3. Added sugars: This is by far my favorite feature of the new label. Manufacturers are now required to indicate the total amount of sugars as well as the amount of sugar added to the food. This is great news because many consumers are misinformed about sugar and think that any amount of sugar in a food is unhealthy and unnatural. An apple, for example, has about 15-20 grams of sugar, but no one will ever try to convince you that apples are bad for you! The inclusion of “Added Sugars” on the label will help consumers differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and sugars that are added for extra sweetness by the manufacturer.
  4. Vitamins and minerals update: The FDA is no longer requiring vitamins A and C on the food label and is replacing them with Vitamin D and Potassium. When the nutrition label was first introduced in the 90s, many Americans had Vitamin A and C deficiencies. Now, however, most Americans are not deficient in these vitamins and instead are consuming too little Vitamin D and Potassium. Vitamin D is found in few foods naturally (some foods, such as milk, are fortified with Vitamin D), and most Americans don’t realize that they are Vitamin D deficient. Potassium is found in many foods, from bananas to chicken, but needs to be consumed in a way that balances out sodium intake. Unfortunately, American in general consume a lot of processed foods which are high in sodium, and need to be more aware of their potassium intake.
  5. Big changes in serving sizes: Since 1993, the amount of food we eat has increased. Serving sizes on food labels will be increasing to reflect a more realistic serving representative of the American consumer. In addition, in packages which contain between one and two servings, calories and nutrients must be labeled as one serving to reflect the fact that most people will consume the whole thing in one sitting. For certain foods, the label must include two columns: one for each serving, and one for the package as a whole.

Take a look at the two labels side by side! The current label is on the left, and the new label is on the right. Get used to seeing this on the back of your mac and cheese!

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Sources:

http://www.fda.gov/Food/GuidanceRegulation/GuidanceDocumentsRegulatoryInformation/LabelingNutrition/ucm385663.htm

https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/foods/

 

Electrolytes: How do they affect your body?

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By Isabelle Huang

If you’ve ever picked up an energy or sports drink, you may have noticed that most labels carry the phrase, “contains electrolytes”. Most people have heard that electrolytes are good for their bodies, and may be compelled to consume more of these beverages, especially college students and other youth. However, not many people know exactly what they are and what purposes they serve. Have you been informed on the importance of electrolytes?

In plain terms, electrolytes are minerals found in foods and our bodies. They carry an electric charge—hence, “electro”—and help us maintain a balanced internal system on the daily. But what happens when we don’t have enough of them?

Water makes up most of our body mass, and is also the medium in which electrolytes are stored. From our day-to-day activities, cellular processes keep the water moving to different parts of our bodies, and therefore cause a change in our storage of electrolytes. When an electrolyte imbalance occurs, it can cause muscle cramping, sluggish behavior, and even nausea. You may have noticed that after a heavy workout, it becomes harder to breathe, your throat feels dry, and your muscles ache. These symptoms occur due to a loss of water from the body as sweat, and with it, electrolytes.

Electrolytes help to balance our bodies’ fluid activity, brain function, and muscle contraction. Some common electrolytes include: potassium, sodium, calcium, and magnesium. Depending on how much of a certain kind is lost, we experience differing degrees of symptoms associated with their function. For example, sweating decreases the amount of sodium we have, which then causes muscle tightness and dizziness. To counter this, physically active individuals or people more prone to sweating should take extra measures to stay hydrated. This includes drinking beverages higher in electrolyte content.

Gatorade, Powerade, Propel, and Vitamin Water are examples of drink companies that market their beverages as “containing electrolytes”. While this claim is true (despite the ambiguity about which electrolytes they contain), you don’t need to be a fan of these drinks to keep your electrolyte stores up, or keep hydrated–a bottle of water will do just fine.

The amount of electrolytes found in bottled water depends on where the water originally came from. However, regardless of the source, regular water in itself contains many electrolytes such as: calcium, fluoride, magnesium, sodium, and potassium. In addition, water doesn’t contain any added sugars or flavorings, which means it will keep you hydrated for longer compared to other beverages.

Electrolytes can also be found in many foods, such as potassium from bananas and calcium from dairy products. Nourish your body with a variety of foods to help maintain a balance of different electrolytes in your body.

In order to maintain proper electrolyte balance in our bodies, try to keep yourself hydrated with enough fluids to keep your mind and body on top of its game! If symptoms persist, it could be due to causes other than electrolyte imbalance and further consultation with a medical professional is recommended.

Sources of information:

https://www.acefitness.org/certifiednewsarticle/715/electrolytes-understanding-replacement-options/

https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002350.htm

https://mydoctor.kaiserpermanente.org/ncal/mdo/presentation/conditions/condition_viewall_page.jsp?condition=Condition_Electrolyte_Disturbances_-_Nephrology.xml

https://www.unm.edu/~lkravitz/Article%20folder/WaterUNM.html

http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/72/2/564s.full

Staying Healthy When Busy

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BY: Viktoria Cojan

As a college student, you are constantly trying to meet deadlines – class assignments, exams, internships, jobs, etc. You don’t have time for yourself, for your hobbies, or even sleep at times. With so much going on, the last thing on your mind is putting in extra time to worry about staying healthy. However, staying healthy doesn’t have to take extra time; it can be easy to eat right, get some exercise, and to de-stress.

You need to nourish your body in order to get energy and all of the nutrients your body needs to function properly. It can be tempting to skip a meal when a deadline is right around the corner, but skipping meals will only slow you down and make it harder for you to go about your day. Therefore, it is important to eat all three meals: breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Here are some simple ways to make that happen:

  1. Plan ahead with Meal Prep

Meal prep can be easy and fast. You can prepare ahead for everything from smoothies, snacks, salads, and full meals. By preparing your meals ahead of time, you don’t have to worry about actually cooking throughout your busiest days. Find some time when you are more available, such as the weekend, and spend 2 to 3 hours preparing your meals for the entire week. Separate the meals in containers for each day of the week. This way, you can easily grab one container before you leave the house in the mornings and have all the food you need for the day. This saves much time and money, which is always a plus! You can make meal prep even faster by incorporating a crockpot into the process. Just toss the ingredients for the meal in the crockpot, turn it on, and let it cook.

  1. Carry snacks

Always having snacks on hand can help you eat the proper amount of food at each meal. Most people go long periods of time between each meal, which makes you feel hungrier and can cause you to overeat when you finally get the chance to have a meal. By snacking throughout the day, you will feel slightly less hungry so you’re more likely to eat only what you need at your next meal.

Exercise: When most people think of exercise, they think it requires getting a gym membership, waking up when it’s still dark out, or setting aside a few hours in the day to go exercise. But it doesn’t have to be that way.

  1. Incorporate it into your everyday schedule.

You can get your daily dose of exercise by taking the stairs instead of going on the elevator. The elevators usually take a while to come, so taking the stairs can even save you some time. Another method is to park farther away. Many times people want to park as close as possible to the store or any destinations, but end up spending more time trying to find an open parking spot or for someone else to leave. By parking farther, you get in that extra exercise, and can skip the hassle of finding parking. You can easily incorporate exercise into anything else you are doing. While cooking, turn up some jams, and dance, or turn TV time into fitness time. The possibilities are endless.

  1. Don’t forget that even though you need to get your body moving, you also need to let it breathe a little. Make sure to keep your body hydrated and give it some rest with a good night’s sleep.

Health doesn’t have to mean dedication and sacrifice. Doing little things can go a long way and can make you healthier, more productive, and happier as a whole. So don’t fret at the thought of working on being healthy, and start to make these small changes to make your life and body better overall!

Hidden Energy Drainers

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Do you find yourself feeling tired all the time? Do you feel as if you always need to turn to caffeine to energize yourself throughout the day? You are not alone. 60% of students report feeling fatigued throughout the day at least 3 times a week and considering that 70.6% of students sleep less than 8 hours a day, this may not be a surprise.

Sleep deprivation is certainly a main cause of feeling tired, however there are other reasons why you may be feeling tired. Many of your habits may be contributing to your constant fatigue.

Lack of Exercise

Naturally, when you feel tired, you do not want to exercise. However, exercise can actually boost your energy. Regular exercise helps your cardiovascular system run better, meaning oxygen and nutrients get delivered to your tissues more efficiently. This leads to improved strength and endurance. On top of that, when you exercise, your body creates more energy to meet the challenge that you are putting out body through. Take a study break every now and then and head over to the ARC to get your body moving!

Dehydration

Dehydration causes a reduction in blood volume, which makes the blood thicker. This makes it so that your heart must work harder to pump blood throughout your body and reduces the efficiency in which oxygen and nutrients reach your muscles and organs. Instead of reaching for a another cup of coffee— which further dehydrates your body— have a glass of water.

Depression

Depression is often a chemical imbalance. It takes chemicals from your brain that prevents you from functioning at your best. One of those is serotonin, which helps regulate your sleeping patterns. This imbalance ultimately makes you feel tired during the day and make it difficult to fall asleep at night. If you suspect that you may have depression, reach out to someone for help; check out Student Health and Counseling Services. https://shcs.ucdavis.edu/counseling-services

Alcohol

Many college students are regular alcohol users. In fact, approximately 4 out of 5 students report drinking alcohol with 11.6% reporting that they use alcohol to aid in sleeping. Though alcohol tends to help you fall asleep quicker, it also promotes fragmented sleep later in the night. Overall, you are actually getting less sleep. Be mindful this weekend and limit your alcohol consumption!

Other Health Problems

Often times, fatigue is a symptom of health issues.

For instance, people with thyroids problems often report feeling sluggish. The thyroid is a gland that secretes hormones that regulate body function. When there is a problem with the thyroid gland, you can experience a hormonal imbalance, ultimately leading to tiredness.

Another possible contributor to fatigue could be sleep apnea; a disorder that prevents proper oxygen absorption from when you sleep. This leads to poor quality sleep because it makes your brain constantly wake you up because it thinks that you are not breathing, and you are unable to reach REM sleep—the most restful sleep.

Check with your doctor if you suspect you have a condition that may be causing you to feel constantly fatigued.

 

Sources:

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4075951/

http://www.webmd.com/women/guide/why-so-tired-10-causes-fatigue#2

http://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/features/exercise-for-energy-workouts-that-work#1

http://today.uconn.edu/2012/02/even-mild-dehydration-can-alter-mood/

Why Breakfast is Always Important

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By Wilson Ho

As college students, we are always on the go and sometimes we forget to allow time for breakfast; however, it is actually a really important part of your day.  Sometimes it may be easier to hit the snooze button and get some extra sleep, but stay on a healthy track by making it a priority to include this meal as a part of your day!

  1. Weight Loss Benefits

Did you know eating breakfast can actually help you maintain a healthy weight? When you skip breakfast in the morning, you get hungry before lunch, causing you to eat bigger portions which can lead to possible weight gain.  A 2003 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology showed that “skipping breakfast was associated with a significantly higher risk of obesity”. Always keep in mind that those who skip breakfast tend to overeat and snack excessively throughout the day.

  1. Energy

Another benefit of eating a healthy breakfast is the energy it provides you with for the rest of the day. According to a 1999 study in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, upon waking up in the morning, blood glucose levels can be relatively low so it is important to eat a high-fiber, low-carb breakfast to increase energy levels. Choosing the right breakfast is also important for keeping energy levels high throughout the day.  High-fiber, whole-grain cereals, yogurt, and oatmeal are good examples of foods that can give you energy for the rest of the day.

  1. Cognitive Function

Students who eat breakfast every morning experience many benefits related to proper cognitive functions.  A simple meal in the morning can enhance your memory, attention, reasoning, creativity, and learning.  By getting up as little as ten minutes earlier and eating a healthy breakfast, you can help yourself stay concentrated for all your classes.

  1. Good Habits

As a result of preparing breakfast every morning, you will also develop a routine to wake up at the same time.  With a regular routine, you are less likely to hit the snooze button, be late for class or miss the bus.  Getting into good habits like eating breakfast every morning will make you a more productive person overall; while eating breakfast in the morning, you can also catch up on the news and stay updated with what’s going on around the world!

  1. Nutrients

Breakfast is a great opportunity for you to replenish your body with nutrients that it needs.  For example, eating a healthy breakfast with vegetables and fruit can give your body nutrients like folate, iron, and fibers.  Increasing your calcium intake can help you maintain bone and dental health, so you can try to choose foods that are high in calcium for breakfast.  So remember, choosing what to eat is extremely important for feeding your body with the right nutrients.

On a busy weekday you might not have the time to prepare breakfast in the morning, so there are alternatives by making it on a Sunday night and heating it up before you leave the house!  Some options for a healthy breakfast include: fresh fruit, boiled eggs, and wholegrain toast.

http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/breakfast

http://www.colorado.edu/intphys/Class/IPHY3700_Greene/pdfs/atkins/Holt.pdf

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2014/10/why-eating-the-right-breakfast-is-so-important/index.htm

http://www.healthyeating.org/Healthy-Eating/Healthy-Living/Weight-Management/Article-Viewer/Article/347/eating-breakfast-helps-weight-loss.aspx

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/minerals/calcium.html