Staying Motivated towards Health

checklist

By:  Haley Guadagni, Nutrition Peer Counselor

It is very common for anybody that is pursuing a healthier lifestyle to have ups and downs. However, if you’re someone that feels like you’re consistently falling off track, it might be time to rethink your source of motivation! According to an article published by Harvard Medical School, “there are two types of rewards: hedonia and eudaimonia.” In terms of healthy living, hedonia refers to the superficial kinds of things you might receive when doing well with your eating habits and exercise such as weight loss, looking better and feeling like you’re accepted by others more. Eudaimonia refers more to the feeling of overall well-being that you get from healthy living like having more energy, feeling productive and getting stronger.

Connecting your lifestyle goals to these “E-rewards” rather than “H-rewards” will motivate you much more to keep going on your mission to become healthier, and actually makes your brain less depressed! This is because receiving these rewards activates the ventral striatum, which is your brain’s reward region. It may be tough to switch over to this mindset when you’re not used to it, but here are my Top 5 Tips to Gaining a Better Mindset:

  1. Unfollow certain social media accounts. Or even better – limit social media! Constantly seeing pictures of other people’s bodies or even just lifestyles can keep us too focused on what a certain diet will make our bodies look like, or how many days a week we need to be going to the gym in order to look like someone else, which can leave us feeling discouraged and eventually give up on trying at all. If you do choose to use social media, try to follow athletes or people that inspire you with their perseverance or strength, not their abs.
  2. Surround yourself with encouragement. Having a gym or meal prep buddy can be an awesome thing! However, you want to make sure that the people in your life are encouraging you in a positive way and focusing on more holistic reasons for getting healthy, rather than just looks, as well.
  3. Think small, think sustainable. Making a lot of big changes at once may not be the best for sustainability of a healthy lifestyle. For example, many people decide that they’re going to go to the gym 5-6 days a week after being sedentary their whole lives, then wonder why it’s so easy for them to get off track. Of course this is going to be difficult! Setting goals that are realistic for you is key to sticking to them. When you start on a new goal, whether it’s eating differently or exercising more, think to yourself: “Will I be able to keep this up for the rest of my life?” If not, it may be time to rethink your goals.
  4. Make it fun! Eating healthy and exercising doesn’t have to be boring. Try out a new recipe, a new fruit or veggie you’ve never tried, pick up a new sport or active hobby! There are so many more options out there than you think – find what you like! This way you’re more likely to actually look forward to eating better and working out.
  5. Forgive yourself. If you “mess up” on your new healthy eating habits or miss a workout, it’s not the end of the world. Don’t give up! The faster you forgive yourself and accept that you can’t change the past, the faster you’ll get back on track. Plus, taking a little break can help you come back stronger. Remember, you’re only human!

Don’t know where to start in terms of living a healthier lifestyle? Come see a nutrition peer counselor any weekday – hours are listed on the Campus Recreation website!

Source:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/the-missing-rewards-that-motivate-healthy-lifestyle-changes-201603179301

 

My Chocolatey Valentine’s Day!

chocolate-detail-2

By Clara Matsumoto, Healthy Aggies Intern

Valentine’s Day is a day to celebrate loved ones and often includes an iconic romantic gift: chocolate. In fact, more than 36 million heart-shaped boxes of chocolate will be sold for Valentine’s Day. Though chocolate is thought to be unhealthy since it is a “dessert”, some chocolate possesses health supporting qualities. Unfortunately, I’m not talking about candy bars like Kit Kat since the amount of processed, added sugar in those do more harm than good. I’m talking specifically about dark chocolate which should be 72% cacao or more, and is not processed with added fats and loads of sugar. Dark chocolate not only has a much more complex and rich flavor, it has a multitude of health benefits!

Dark chocolate contains beneficial nutrients. These include polyphenols and flavanols, plant pigments that protect the heart by supporting the production of nitric oxide in the vessel endothelium which helps them relax and improves blood flow, lowering blood pressure. Flavanols also boost brain health by increasing the cerebral blood flow to gray matter. Chocolate contains an abundance of antioxidants which help fight against free radicals, highly reactive molecules that can damage our DNA, and make our skin age faster. It is rich in minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, magnesium, and phosphorus. These minerals help aid in the production of red blood cells, boost the immune system and energy levels, aid in calcium absorption, and keep our bones strong.

Though dark chocolate offers benefits, it’s important to keep the portion small because it is calorie dense!  A recommended portion of chocolate is about an ounce. One ounce of dark chocolate with 70-85% cacao contains about 168 calories, mostly contributed by fat since fat contributes 9 kcal per gram. The good news is that the fat in cacao has a good amount of unsaturated fat in it and the saturated fat (stearic acid) has been shown to have a neutral effect on serum cholesterol.  Palmitic acid, the other type of saturated fat in dark chocolate, does effect blood cholesterol levels, further enforcing that it should be eaten in moderation.

So when you are trying to figure out what to eat for dessert on Valentine’s Day, consider eating some dark chocolate. In small amounts it helps boost cardiovascular and brain health, fights free radicals, and contains beneficial micronutrients. After all, you deserve a sweet indulgent treat that not only tastes great and satisfies your sweet tooth, but also packs a punch in optimizing your health!

Sources:

  1. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/263176.php
  2. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/288165.php
  3. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286839.php
  4. 4. https://www.thespruceeats.com/fun-valentine-candy-facts-521446
  5. https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/food-features/dark-chocolate/
  6.  https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/16774-heart-healthy-benefits-of-chocolate

Should you eat breakfast or skip it to make it to your early class?

 

eat-a-healthy-breakfast.jpg

By Laura Lucas Pablo, Healthy Aggies Intern

You have your earliest class in the morning and all you want to do is sleep in as many minutes as you can forgetting that you also need to eat something. However, you tell yourself that you can eat after your class or wait until is lunch time just to get those extra hours of sleep. Starting with the obvious, we typically eat different foods a day at different times right? Breakfast, lunch and dinner,  but why should it be this way? Why is it so important to have our first meal of the day. As most of us know, breakfast is known to be the most important meal of the day but it might be more important than you think.

Why is Breakfast so important?

          Breakfast encourages healthier eating:  It has been shown that people who eat breakfast tend to eat 12.3 percent healthier throughout the day which can lead to losing weight or maintaining weight, if that is something that you are concern about, eating breakfast might help you achieve your goal. Eating breakfast also has been shown to maintain our blood sugar levels and prevent food cravings and issues with will power later in the day meaning that breakfast might help you make better decisions later on in the day. What happens when you skip breakfast is that your blood sugar drops even lower, as a result, you become hungry and have less energy. This sets you up to impulsively snack in the morning, often on high-fat sweets or to eat extra servings or bigger portions at lunch or dinner. A study from 2010 found evidence that people who skip breakfast compensate later in the day with more refined carbohydrates and fats and fewer fruits and vegetables, but when you eat breakfast, your body feels nourished and satisfied, making you less likely to overeat the rest of the day.

          Breakfast boost energy levels: When we wake up in the morning the sugar level that our body needs to our muscle and brain work their best is usually low, and breakfast helps replenish it. If your body doesn’t get anything in the morning, you might feel low in energy and most likely eat a heavy lunch consisting of fats and carbs as stated earlier. Glucose is the body’s energy source, it is broken down and absorbed from the carbohydrates you eat. In the morning, after you’ve gone without food for as long as 12 hours, your glycogen stores are low. Glycogen is the glucose that has been stored in your muscle tissue and liver where it is released slowly overnight to keep your blood sugar levels stable. Once all of the energy from the glycogen stores is used up, your body starts to break down fatty acids to produce the energy it needs. Without carbohydrate, fatty acids are only partially oxidized, which means that they do not have enough oxygen to transfer to the body which can cause reduced energy levels. Eating breakfast restores your glycogen stores and boosts your energy levels, as well as your metabolism for the day.

          Breakfast provides nutrients: Breakfast provides a significant proportion of the day’s total nutrient intake and offers the opportunity to eat foods full with nutrients such as folate, iron, B vitamins and fiber. Essential vitamins, minerals and other nutrients can only be gained from food, so even though your body can usually find enough energy to make it to the next meal, you still need to top up your vitamin and mineral levels to maintain health and vitality. So it might be a good idea to start eating your first meal of the day.

          Breakfast promotes heart health:Eating breakfast does not only increase your energy but also promotes heart health. Studies have show that those who eat breakfast tend to lower their risk of high blood pressure and high cholesterol. In a study conducted among a group of men where they studied those who ate breakfast and those who did not. After the experiment, they found that men who reported they skipped breakfast had a 27 percent higher risk of heart attack or death from coronary heart disease than those who reported they didn’t skip breakfast. Although this study consisted of men, it applies to women and to any races as well. Eating breakfast is a way to reduce heart problems but only when what we are eating is healthy. For example, if you eat a bowl of oatmeal with some eggs and fruits, it is a good way to start the morning since it gives you many health benefits.

          Breakfast can help with cognitive function: The human brain is a remarkable organ, it represents 2% of adult body weight, yet is the most metabolically active body organ. In order for our brain to function throughout the day, we need to give it the necessary nutrients from food. A research in cognitive performance in school children, showed that cognitive performance consists of a healthy diet, a diet that includes breakfast. This is because as mentioned before, when we wake up in the morning our blood glucose and insulin concentration is low and these can interfere with brain function. A study was conducted on children where they tested their academic performance, school attendance and mood. After they finished their study, it was shown that those who perform better were children who ate breakfast. Although this study was more focused on children, the authors stated it also applies to adolescents ages from 19 and above because as we develop, our brain is also developing so it needs that energy and all the nutrients necessary to function better.

          Takeaway: As college students, it is very hard to actually eat breakfast everyday either because we don’t have time or we go to sleep late and cannot wake up in the morning to prepare breakfast. But, I challenge you to eat breakfast with the right foods for two weeks and you will perform better during the day, not only physically but mentally.

 

References:

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1878450X17300045

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

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/most-important-meal#1

https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/healthyliving/breakfast

https://www.kelloggsnutrition.com/content/dam/globalnutrition/en_CA/assets/Docs/DCOutsert_Fall2011_FINAL.pdf

What do they use instead of Sugar and is it really any ‘Healthier’?

 

 

thinkthin

By Rini Jablonski, Healthy Aggies Intern

You’re hungry as you walk past the protein bar aisle in the grocery store and think “this could be a healthy alternative to the delicious but sugary granola bars in the next aisle”. We’re all used to hearing that “sugar is bad”, so when you walk over and pick up a protein bar with only one gram of sugar, that’s great right?

One of the ingredients commonly listed on these protein bars is “sugar alcohol”. I have personally always thought that sugar alcohols are healthier than sugars because of this protein bar association. From a “cutting back on calories” standpoint, sugar alcohols accomplish the goal. But there are five main ideas to take away regarding sugar alcohols when trying to decide.

  • What are sugar alcohols: Sugar alcohols are not to be confused with artificial sweeteners. They are natural substances and are extracted from plant products such as fruits and berries. Their chemical structure is different from that of regular sugar, and some of the most common sugar alcohols you’ll see listed in products include mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, and Hydrogenated Starch Hydrolysates.
  • Sugar alcohols provide fewer calories: This is because they are similar to fiber in that their chemical structure is harder for our body to break down. Because of this, they are not as easily absorbed by the small intestine. In addition, they do not result in a high spike in blood sugar. This is why sugar alcohols are becoming increasingly popular with diabetic individuals.
  • Sugar alcohols are better for your teeth: Unlike sugar, sugar alcohols are beneficial for your teeth. Bacteria normally consume sugar on your teeth and secrete acid that wears away at your tooth enamel. These same bacteria will attempt to consume the sugar alcohols as well, but because sugar alcohols are harder to metabolize, their growth is inhibited. That’s why you see Xylitol commonly used in gum. 
  • Overconsumption can result in digestive problems: This is a big negative and the main reason why these ingredients are not used in greater quantity. Because sugar alcohols are harder to metabolize, overconsumption of them can result in digestive problems, sometimes severe, like cramping, gas, and diarrhea. For those with sensitive stomachs, it is probably better to avoid sugar alcohols all together.
  • We don’t know the long-term effects: The use of sugar alcohols has only recently become popular. Further research must be done to determine the long-term effects of sugar alcohol consumption.

The takeaway: From what we know now, sugar alcohols appear to be a decent alternative to high-calorie sweeteners and do not present any immediate major health concerns. As with any food however, it is always best to be mindful of portion control and be conscious of the products you are consuming. Something containing sugar alcohol sweeteners may distract from the fact that the product has a very high fat or carbohydrate content. And as mentioned, we do not currently know the long-term effects of consuming sugar alcohols, so use the information in this article to make an informed decision about your food!

Sources:

https://www.ynhh.org/services/nutrition/sugar-alcohol.aspx

https://dtc.ucsf.edu/living-with-diabetes/diet-and-nutrition/understanding-carbohydrates/counting-carbohydrates/learning-to-read-labels/counting-sugar-alcohols/

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sugar-alcohols-good-or-bad#section6

https://www.webmd.com/diet/what-are-sugar-alcohols#1

Pre and Pro-biotics – What is the difference and how do I get them?

microbiome

By Ruth Vodonos, Healthy Aggies Intern

Most people have heard of have been personally prescribed antibiotics at least once in their life.  Antibiotics are meant as either treatment for, or prevention of, infections and work by either killing or repressing the growth of bacteria. You may have also heard of probiotics, probably through clickbait type news articles throwing out words like microbiome, gut health, and writing about the need to consume fermented foods like kombucha or else face dire consequences.

The need to consume kombucha (especially if, like me, you don’t exactly enjoy the taste) is far from necessary. Your microbiome, the micro-ecosystem created by microbes lining your gut, contains an impressive number of bacteria, nearly 1,000 different species in the gut alone. Healthy gut microbiota may not be something most people think about every day, but maintaining a healthy balance of intestinal bacteria through diet is essential to maintaining overall health.

So, what’s the difference between prebiotics and probiotics? Prebiotics are essentially a natural part of many plant foods that we can’t digest (non-digestible fibers), but the bacteria in our gut can digest it; prebiotics serve as “food” for the probiotic bacteria, helping them grow. This is beneficial to maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. Probiotics on the other hand actually contain strains of living bacteria, possibly augmenting those that are naturally already found in your microbiome.

Sure, these are available as pills and other forms of dietary supplements, but be careful of dietary supplements. Supplements are completely unregulated and there is no guarantee that what the label says is actually in the bottle.  What are some dietary sources of prebiotics? Well, foods that are high in prebiotics include garlic, leeks, onion, asparagus, and Jerusalem artichokes as well as most fruits and vegetables. When searching for probiotics there are plenty of fermented dairy foods to consider, such as yogurt, kefir, and aged cheeses. There are also useful strains of bacteria found in non-dairy foods such as kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, tempeh and cultured non-dairy yogurts. So there’s no need to force yourself to eat something you do not enjoy, when there are so many options out there for both prebiotics and probiotics!

It is also important to note that there may be a benefit to consuming prebiotics and probiotics together, referred to as synbiotics, because they can work together synergistically. In the case of fermented vegetables, that happens naturally!

Eating half of each meal as fruits and veggies, also including a whole grain or starchy vegetable along with a serving of a protein rich food, will likely give you everything you need each day.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/prebiotics-probiotics-and-your-health/art-20390058

https://www.nutritioned.org/microbiome.html

https://www.eatright.org/food/vitamins-and-supplements/nutrient-rich-foods/prebiotics-and-probiotics-creating-a-healthier-you

https://www.todaysdietitian.com/newarchives/120914p12.shtml

 

 

5 ways to remember to drink water.

water drop

By Joel Paniagua Soto, Nutrition Peer Counselor

 Being hydrated is very important as water plays a huge role in metabolism. Water is the most abundant and essential component of the human body. In fact, about 60% of total body weight is comprised of water.  During winter we may not think we need as much, but we can still get dehydrated! Not getting enough water will affect your energy level, may cause headaches, chapped lips, slowed metabolism, and dry skin. Staying hydrated throughout the day will benefit your body and you might even notice a slight increase in energy.

How much water should I drink? Many of you have heard that we need 8 glasses of water, right? Well everyone is different and depending on your activity level, climate, and digestion, the amount of water can vary.  According to the Food and Nutrition Board, for adults, it is recommended 1 ml of water per kilocalorie or 30 ml per kilogram body weight; drink a minimum of six glasses of water per day to be safe. If you need help or have questions with water recommendation, consult your physician and or dietician.

How can I drink more water? Here are five easy ways to remember to drink water. It is also important to keep in mind that foods can contain water and eating those water containing foods will certainly contribute to fluid intake.

1. Use a colorful reusable bottle. Invest some money on a reusable bottle so you always have it with you everywhere you go. You can always refill it when you are empty and this way you are saving money and the environment. Choose a bottle that you will enjoy carrying around and so it is easy to see. Many people tend to lose their bottles but if it is colorful, it will be easier to spot and remind you to take a sip of water.infused

2. Infuse your waterWho says you have to drink plain ol’ water? Spice it up and add sliced lemons, limes, mint, oranges, strawberries, and so on. This will make drinking water tastier and more exciting.

3. Set alarms. This one might sound weird, but it can be helpful when you are busy studying. Putting alarms or a reminder to drink water every 30-60 minutes will provide helpful encouragement to drink water.

4. Make a tea. tea bagsDuring winter it might not seem appealing to drink cold water, so instead make a tea! Hot tea does sound good when you are at home avoiding the cold rainy weather. Buy some tea bags and find your favorite mug because it is about to be tea-rrific!

5. Consume water containing foods. Eating foods with high water content will add to your total water intake. By eating fruits and vegetables (water constitutes about 90% for most fruits and vegetables) you will more easily achieve your water intake goals not to mention fruits and vegetables are health promoting for many reasons!

Sources:

Cruel, J., & Tamarkin, S. (n.d.). 22 Easy Ways to Drink More Water Every Day. Retrieved from https://www.self.com/story/how-to-drink-more-water

12 Ways To Remember To Drink Water. (2019, January 03). Retrieved from https://nutritionstripped.com/12-ways-to-remember-to-drink-water/

https://www.cnpp.usda.gov/sites/default/files/nutrition_insights_uploads/Insight27.pdf

What’s the deal with fiber?

fiber blog

By Rheanna Smith, Peer Nutrition Counselor

Dietary fiber is one of the most underrated nutrients. Other nutrients like Vitamin C and Iron tend to get a lot more attention in the media but no one seems to talk about fiber! Dietary fiber consists of all indigestible plant materials consumed in the diet, classified as either soluble or insoluble fiber. While it may not be digested by us fiber is still an essential nutrient that you need to consume every single day!

Let’s break down the top three reasons that dietary fiber is essential for overall health:

  • Fiber helps regulate cholesterol levels in the body.

Have you ever wondered why Cheerios says “heart healthy, lowers cholesterol” on every cereal box? That claim is made because Cheerios are a good source of dietary fiber! Here’s how it works: bile is produced by the liver to assist in breaking down food within the digestive tract, specifically emulsifying fats, and interestingly enough, bile happens to be very close to cholesterol in molecular structure. In fact the liver uses cholesterol as a building block for bile production! So where does fiber come in? Dietary fiber effectively decreases overall cholesterol levels because it binds to bile which is then excreted with your next bowel movement. This requires the liver to manufacture more bile and it does so by pulling cholesterol from the bloodstream in order to convert it into bile. Therefore the more dietary fiber you eat the more regulated your cholesterol levels will be!

  • Fiber plays an important role in digestive health.

This reason may be a little more obvious to some, but nonetheless is still a very valuable reason to include dietary fiber in your daily diet. Fiber adds bulk to stools and keeps digestive motility up. The intestines use what is referred to as peristalsis, wavelike muscular contractions, in order to move food throughout the digestive tract. Without proper force applied to the intestinal wall these muscular contractions can be much harder on the body. Fiber adds bulkiness to stools which allows for smooth and effective peristaltic movement. Lack of fiber in the diet can also lead to digestive diseases such as Diverticulosis, in which inflamed bulging pouches referred to as diverticula form around the intestinal wall due to build up of waste on sensitive parts of the intestinal wall or due to pressure caused with constipation – both of which can be avoided with adequate fiber intake!

  • Fiber feeds beneficial microbes within the gut.

While fiber may be undigestible to us, that doesn’t mean it isn’t being broken down at all. Within our digestive tracts there are a plethora of microorganisms, many of which are beneficial to our health and recent research has found correlations between high fiber diets and higher levels of beneficial bacteria in the gut. So what’s the benefit to that? Fiber feeds bacteria in my gut? Not too sure how to feel about that, well here’s where it gets interesting! When these microbes break down the fiber they convert it into short chain fatty acids (SCFA) such as acetate and butyrate. These SCFA have shown to help nourish our colon cells and provide anti-inflammatory effects that protects the colon from disease onset. Some studies have even shown that SCFA help reduce glucose and cholesterol levels in the blood which can help protect against metabolic diseases such as obesity!

Now that you know the three main reasons why dietary fiber is important for your health here are some tips on how to increase your daily fiber intake!

  • Switch out white bread for whole grain bread
  • Have a bowl of oatmeal instead of cereal in the morning
  • Eat a whole piece of fruit instead of drinking juice
  • Snack on nuts and seeds
  • Add vegetables to canned soup or ramen noodles
  • Opt for brown rice instead of white rice
  • Don’t peel potatoes
  • Eat the skins of fruits
  • Incorporate more lentils and beans into meals
  • Add berries to yogurt

Sources:

Brown, et al. “Cholesterol-Lowering Effects of Dietary Fiber: a Meta-Analysis.” OUP Academic, Oxford University Press, 1 Jan. 1999, academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/69/1/30/4694117.

Campbell, Kristina, et al. “Breaking It down: Short-Chain Fatty Acids and Your Health.” Gut Microbiota for Health, 3 Apr. 2017, http://www.gutmicrobiotaforhealth.com/en/breaking-short-chain-fatty-acids-health/.

“Diverticulitis Diet: A List of Foods to Avoid.” Healthline, Healthline Media, http://www.healthline.com/health/diverticulitis-diet-list-of-foods-to-avoid.