Monthly Archives: August 2015

This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about the dangers of overhydration, milk myths, how to stay fast as you age, iron deficiency, omega-3 supplements, preventing athletic injuries, foods that boost athletic performance, how to stay awake (without caffeine), and more.

Water Works . . .

A glass of water on a reflective surfaceThere were plenty of articles about water this week! A couple of articles in the New York Times looked at myths and new research related to water intake. It seems that for regular individuals and competitive athletes, water needs can be exaggerated.  Also published this week was a study suggesting that water can aid weight loss, and an article about water-filled foods being wasteful.

In No, You Do Not Have to Drink 8 Glasses of Water a Day  Aaron E. Carroll looks at the science behind  the common health claim that we all need 8 glasses of water a day. Although no science backs up this claim, and several studies have discounted it, it’s a saying that refuses to die. As Carroll explains, the amount of water you need depends on what you eat, where you live, your size, and how much activity you do. (Aaron E. Carrol, New York Times)

For athletes, the risk of too much water. Gretchen Reynolds looks at the consequences of overhydration in athletes, which can be severe and sometimes fatal. While dehydration during physical activity may increase fatigue, it is rarely if ever dangerous; overhydration (hyponatremia), on the other hand, can cause serious health problems.  Although previously associated with long endurance events (ironmans, marathons), hyponatremia is being reported in all kinds of sporting activities (sprint triathlons, Bikram yoga, and team sports – especially football). The article has good advice for coaches and athletes who train and compete in hot conditions. (Gretchen Reynolds, New York Times)

Water for weight loss. But if you’re trying to lose weight, you might consider drinking a large glass of water before each meal. In a 12-week randomized controlled trial published this week in the journal Obesity, researchers from the University of Birmingham showed that drinking 500 ml of water 1/2 hour before mealtime helped obese adults lose weight, compared to obese adults who did not “preload” with water. (Obesity, September 2015).

iceberg lettuce - an expensive way to drink water? Opt for darker greens, which have more nutrients.
an expensive way to drink water? Opt for darker greens, which have more nutrients.

And can there be too much water in foods? Some people thing so.

In her Washington Post column, Tamar Haspel called salad “overrated”  because it is so high in water, and relatively low in nutrients compared to other vegetables. The article does make several valuable points, but don’t go tossing your salad greens just yet. I tend to agree with nutrition Diva Monica Reinagle’s rebuttal to the article here.

Butter In Your Coffee and Other Cons: Stories From a Fitness Insider. Insight into the marketing behind questionable health and fitness trends. (Dick Talens, Lifehacker.com)

Preventing and managing athletic injuries. This is a great article on a key concept to preventing athletic injuries – balancing training load and your capacity to handle that load. Be patient, and increase mileage/intensity gradually to avoid injuries. (TheRunningPhysio)

milk_MSA milk myth busted. Though milk is not necessary for a healthy diet, there is a fair bit of pseudoscience surrounding claims that dairy is bad for us.  One such claim is that dairy is “pro-inflammatory.” A study just published in the journal Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition investigated evidence for the dairy-inflammation link.  Researchers reviewed 52 clinical trials conducted in humans, and found that consumption of dairy products, particular fermented products, is associated with anti-inflammatory properties, meaning that dairy consumption potentially reduces chronic inflammation and could benefit health.  (Critical Reviews in Food Science, August 2015).

Ice baths, antioxidant supplements not always the best route to recovery.  Alex Hutchinson reports on 2 new studies showing that ice baths and antioxidant supplements blunt positive adaptations to some types of training. (Alex Hutchinson, Globe and Mail).

Cycling legeng Ned Overend
Ned Overend’s competitive longevity is impressive.

Age Is Irrelevant When It Comes to Fitness. Outside Magazine interview experts who tell you how to crush well into your 80s. High intensity workouts and strength training are part of the recipe.  (Outside Magazine).

You’ll find resources for optimal training, nutrition, general reading, and inspiration for master’s athletes here.

Bright screens keep kids awake on school nights. Young teens who take gadgets to bed could hurt their sleep. Light from tablets or phones makes it more difficult for this age group to fall asleep.  (Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism).

What Every Trail Runner Should Know About Iron Deficiency. This is a good article that highlights risk factors and symptoms of being low in iron. It also provides tips on getting iron from a healthy diet. (Trail Runner Magazine)

Interested in learning more about the iron needs of athletes?
Check out my resource here.

omega 3 supplements (640x430)No benefit of Omega-3 supplements for cognitive decline.  Although earlier research suggests that Omega-3 supplements can benefit brain health, a large long-term study shows no benefit for cognitive decline in older people. Researchers followed 4000 people over 5 years finds that omega-3 (fish oil) supplements don’t improve cognitive function. (JAMA, Aug 25, 2015).

Does Sound Affect the Way We Taste?  A growing body of research shows that the sounds around you affect how you perceive the flavours in your food.  (Science Friday)

Foods and Athletic Performance

Beetroot juice with spinach4 Foods that might boost athletic performance. While a growing body of evidence is showing that antioxidant supplements can actually harm adaptations to training (e.g., Vitamin E and Vitamin C), there doesn’t seem to be need to worry about antioxidant-rich foods. In fact, some research is suggesting that certain foods could have performance enhancing benefits; the foods include watermelon, beet juice, blackcurrants, and cherry juice.  This week, Anita Bean provides a nice overview of the research on these foods. (Anitabean.co.uk)

Can food make you a better runner?  This is an impressive display of information, with food sports nutrition advice.  (bbc.co.uk/iwonder)

How to stay awake (without caffeine)

ACS reactions provides some chemistry-backed tips — (including cat videos) to boost your productivity and stay awake without drinking coffee.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Closeup SmNew Recipe: Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Wondering what to do with all that zucchini? Here’s a delicious way to incorporate it into a healthy baked good.  This loaf is moist and rich-tasting; sweet, but not too sweet – and equally fitting as a post-workout snack or a tasty dessert. A generous amount of zucchini subs in for some of the fat, making this loaf lower in calories than typical quick breads.

Read more weekly updates about food, health, and fitness here.

 

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Chocolate Zucchini Bread Horizontal Sm

Double Chocolate Zucchini Bread

Wondering what to do with all that zucchini? Here’s a delicious way to incorporate it into a healthy baked good.  This loaf is moist and rich-tasting; sweet, but not too sweet – and equally fitting as a post-workout snack or a tasty dessert. A generous amount of zucchini subs in for some of the fat, making this loaf lower in calories than typical quick breads.  If you have too much zucchini on your hands, grate it and freeze to use later (freeze in 2-cup portions).

Ingredients

  • 1.5 cups whole-wheat flour
  • ½ cup cocoa
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini*
  • 1/3 cup milk (I used 1%)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/2 white sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 tsp. vanilla

* no need to peel – it doesn’t affect flavour, takes time, and you’re getting rid of precious nutrients that are concentrated beneath the skin

Preparation

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with oil or butter, or line with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, combine flour, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and chocolate chips.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, then add the milk, zucchini, sugar, oil, and vanilla. Pour over the flour mixture, and stir until just combined.
  4. Scrape the batter to the prepared pan.
  5. Bake for about 45-55 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Vertical Sm

READ  The Surprising Health Benefits of Hot Chocolate

Nutrition Notes

This recipe maximizes the healthful ingredients (zucchini), and decreases the amount of oil and sugar compared to most zucchini loafs.  Substituting 100% whole wheat flour for white flour also makes this bread more nutritious by adding more fiber, potassium, protein, calcium, iron, and magnesium.

  • Zucchini PixabayZUCCHINI is a summer squash. Because it is mostly water, it is naturally low in calories. Its mild flavour makes it pretty versatile: you can substitute some zucchini for fat in baked goods, and it works well in many other dishes because it takes on the flavours of what you cook it with. Zucchini is terrific grilled simply, or add herbs and lemon.
  • cocoa powder (514x510) (2)COCOA contains compounds called flavonols that have been found to  lower blood pressure and improve endothelial function, neutralize inflammation, increases healthy HDL’s, dilate blood vessels, help prevent atherosclerosis, and increase nitric oxide production (which has heart and potential endurance exercise benefits). You can read more about the benefits of cocoa here.

Chocolate Zucchini Bread Closeup Sm

Nutrition Per Slice

(based on 12 slices per loaf)

  • 185 calories
  • 4.5 g protein
  • 28 g carbohydrate
  • 8 g fat
  • 31 mg cholesterol
  • 4 g fiber
  • 195 mg sodium
  • 195 mg potassium

More Quick Bread Recipes

More recipes with CHOCOLATE

Recipe Index

 

 

 

 

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This Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

This week, read about oats & appetite control, reasons to eat your greens, trendy nutrition advice that could harm, how to recover like a US soccer star, the sports nutrition needs of women, compression garments, bike intervals to improve running, and more.

Cooked Oats Curb Appetite Better than Cold Oat Cereal

A good rule of thumb when it comes to grains is to opt for the least-processed form.
A good rule of thumb when it comes to grains is to opt for the least-processed form.

A study published this week compared 250 calories worth of instant oats to Honey-Nut Cheerios with the same amount of skim milk.  Participants were more full after eating the instant oats, and ate less at lunch 4 hours later.  (Journal of the American College of Nutrition).

Earlier research has also found that instant oats are more filling than ready-to-eat cereal.  Researchers attribute the increased satiety to how processing affects the soluble fiber (beta-glucan) in the oats, which in turn influences the viscosity (what some describe as the “slimy” feeling of cooked oats).  Other research has shown that higher viscosity increases fullness.

I prefer the texture and taste of large flake rolled oats, but instant oats are popular with many because they are convenient and quick to make (you just need to pour boiling water over them). Plain instant oats have the same nutrition content as larger flakes, but are just a smaller particle size (and this can influence factors like blood sugar, fullness, etc.). If you can find plain instant oats, that’s your best bet.  But they often contain fake-tasting flavours, quite a bit of sugar and salt, and lots of packaging.  It’s not hard to make your own instant oats, and it’s more economical, nutritious, and tasty.

When considering a variety of nutrition factors beyond fullness, a good rule of thumb when it comes to grains, is to opt for the least processed form of the grain.

Eat Your Greens!

CDC_spinach1A growing body of research is highlighting the protective effects of nitrate-rich vegetables. Several studies published this week look at the benefits of dietary nitrates and health.  Nitrates are inorganic compounds found naturally in soil and water.  Dark leafy greens are the richest vegetable sources of nitrates.

Spinach soup improved arterial health
Spinach soup improved arterial health

Lower Blood Pressure. A study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition Research showed that eating nitrate-rich foods can improve vascular health.  Researchers from the University of Toronto compared week-long consumption of a daily bowl of soup: either a high-nitrate soup (made with spinach) or a low-nitrate soup (made with asparagus). They found that the spinach soup decreased arterial stiffness after eating it, and lowered blood pressure after 7 days of eating the soup.  The authors conclude that

the study provides support to the potential use of whole food, un-concentrated dietary nitrate found in natural, commonly consumed vegetables like spinach, as an effective way to aid in maintenance of cardiovascular health.” (Clin Nutr Res. 2015 Jul; 4(3): 160–167)

Another study titled “A ‘green’ diet-based approach to cardiovascular health? Is inorganic nitrate the answer?” looks at the beneficial effects of dietary nitrates on health and reviews the evidence of dietary nitrates for the treatment of cardiovascular disease. (Mol Nutr Food Res. 2015 Aug).

Which Foods Are Good Sources of Nitrates?  Beets are also a good source or nitrates, and have been studied for their athletic performance-enhancing benefits. You can find out more about nitrates and nitrate-containing foods here.

More Headlines of Interest This Week

  • Trendy nutritional advice that’s more likely to make you ill than healthy. Nutrition and health bloggers with poor nutrition advice are popular. Though their is often little or no scientific evidence to back up their claims, many believe that this type of restrictive eating is necessary for good health.  An article this week in the Spectator looks at the worrying trend of these self-proclaimed health “gurus” (often slim, attractive women), advising people that they need to adopt certain habits (e.g., avoid gluten, eliminate all sugars, avoid milk, eat vegan or raw)  to be healthy.  (The Spectator)

The article highlights their 5 main recovery strategies (cool down, foam roll, ice baths, compression garments, and sleep). Notably absent is any nutrition strategy, and strategies that lack evidence include ice baths and compression garments (but these might provide a good placebo effect)!

  • Ads say you must earn your Gatorade with exercise. Some clever marketing by the folks at Gatorade. . . although the gist of the ad makes sense “You can’t drink that unless you work up a sweat first,” many would argue that sports drinks are best reserved (but not entirely necessary) for athletic activities lasting more than 1 hour. (Runner’s World).
  • Candy Corn (800x613)Candy Brain. A new study shows that even mild stress, which raises cortisol levels, can negatively influence our food choices and reduce our self-control. (Gretchen Reynolds, reporting on Neuron, Aug 2015).

Although reducing stress and figuring out coping strategies is generally a good idea, you can prepare for times of low self-control. Check out my tips (Food Psychology: What is Controlling your Eating?), and have a look at the article below (healthy eating made easier).

  • Healthy eating made easier.  Unhealthy foods are widely promoted, and relying on self-control to eat well isn’t always the best strategy. This article sums up research showing how simple changes in your surroundings can help you eat more healthfully without extra effort. (Consumer Reports)
  • Do Compression Garments Work? Sports scientist Mike Hamlin has conducted several studies on compression garments. He says that overall, there’s little evidence that compression garments improve performance or speed recovery. (Time)

New Recipe: Watermelon Salsa with Mint

Watermelon Salsa On White SquareThis salsa tastes like summer. Watermelon, mint, and lime combine for a colourful and refreshing dish that is perfect for summer BBQ’s. Serve with pita crisps, tortilla chips, or as a topping for grilled chicken or fish. Watermelon’s vivid pink hue signals the presence of lycopene, a carotenoid with potential disease-fighting properties. Other compounds in watermelon may benefit health: glutathione, an antioxidant, helps keep your immune system in top form and has been studied for its cancer-prevention potential, and L-citrulline is associated with improved exercise performance.

Last Week in Food, Health, and Fitness

Twfhf Aug 15

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Watermelon Salsa Title

Watermelon Salsa with Mint

This salsa tastes like summer. Watermelon, mint, and lime combine for a colourful and refreshing dish that is perfect for summer BBQ’s. Serve with pita crisps, tortilla chips, or as a topping for grilled chicken or fish.

Watermelon Salsa On White Square

Ingredients

  • 3 cups watermelon, cut into small pieces
  • 1 cucumber, cut into small pieces (about 1.5 cups, no need to peel if the skin is thin)
  • ½ cup chopped green onion
  • ¼ cup chopped mint
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced (optional, or to taste)
  • Zest and juice of 2 limes (about 1/4 cup lime juice)
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup or honey
  • ¼ tsp. ground pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. salt or to taste

Preparation

  1. Combine the watermelon, cucumber, green onion, mint, and jalapeño pepper.
  2. In a small cup or jar, combine the lime juice and zest, honey, pepper, and salt.
  3. Before serving, combine the dressing with the chopped vegetables and fruit. (The salsa is best served fresh, so don’t make it too far in advance. As it sits, the liquid is drawn from the watermelon and cucumber).

Makes about 4.5 cups.

Nutrition Notes

Watermelon 815072 1280 SmallWatermelon’s vivid pink hue signals the presence of lycopene, a carotenoid with potential disease-fighting properties. Other compounds in watermelon may benefit health: glutathione, an antioxidant, helps keep your immune system in top form and has been studied for its cancer-prevention potential.

More recent research suggests that a compound in watermelons might improve your athletic prowess.  Watermelon contains the compound L-citrulline: a recent study suggests that L-citrulline can improve oxygen uptake and high intensity exercise performance in recreational athletes, in a manner similar to the nitrates in beet juice. The research is very preliminary, but there are many good reasons to consume watermelon! Beyond the refreshing taste, it is rich in vitamins A and C and potassium, and other studies have found health benefits. For example, recent research has shown that L-citrulline or watermelon might help relieve sore muscles, and help lower blood pressure.

Nutrition Per ½-cup Serving

  • 28 calories
  • .6 g protein
  • 6.5 g carbohydrate
  • .3 g fat
  • .9 g fiber
  • 68 mg sodium
  • 110 mg potassium

You’ll find more healthy recipes here.

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