Sunday, November 24, 2013

Dietary Supplements vs Food: What's the Difference?

Supplements seem to be the new thing nowadays.  You see advertisements of them everywhere, whether it is on TV, the flyer for your local CVS, or in your Food Network magazine.  The supplements advertise containing a whole bunch of vitamins and minerals, and are convenient because you can just pop one in your mouth and you are on your way.

The question you may be thinking is: are supplements really as good as their nutritional food counterparts?

The answer is: Yes, and No.  Supplements are good for you if you are having trouble getting a particular nutrient into your diet.  (Example: Calcium).  But, supplements should not be used as an excuse to eat whatever you want.  Some people have the thinking of "I take supplements to get my vitamins, so I can eat whatever I want for the rest of the day."  

That is a BAD way of thinking.

Supplements do contain Vitamins and Minerals, but not calories which fruits and vegetables have.  Calories are essential because our body burns them for energy.  Fruits and vegetables also contain things like antioxidants and phytochemicals, which help your body defend itself against disease.

Bottom line: Use supplements as a means of helping you get the vitamins and minerals you need, not as a substitute for healthy eating.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Protein Ice Cream: The Newest Supplement

Earlier today, I was reading a magazine and stumbled upon this very interesting article.  The article talked about this new protein ice cream that had come out.  For each 2 scoop serving, the ice cream had 217 calories, 14g of fat, and 21g of protein.

This low-sugar, whey-infused ice cream was created by Jacob Kennedy, a "gym-going chef" who was fed up with the lack of good tasting post-workout options.  According to taste testers, this ice cream tastes better than the normal ice cream, because it is churned slowly. 

For all the ice cream lovers out there, this must feel like a dream come true.  Ice cream that contains 40% of my daily value of protein per serving?  Plus, it's low fat and low sugar, and tastes great!  That means I can eat ice cream all day and still be healthy, right?

Not so fast.  Even though this ice cream is healthy for you, it is still meant to be a post workout supplement.  This means you eat it AFTER working out. 

Unfortunately, this ice cream can only be found in London.  So all we can do is look at the pictures on their website, and drool, hoping that one day, we will get the chance to try this palatable treat.

Source: Men's Health Magazine UK

Monday, September 30, 2013

What is Your Body Type?

I'm sure all of you know at least a skinny person who seems to eat a lot but not gain any weight. I know I do.  You may wonder how is this possible.  Is there a black hole in their stomach?  Does their body not process calories?  Are they human?

Well, I found an article online that can help explain some of this.  The article, which is shown below, talks about the three main body types people have.  They are: ectomorph, mesomorph, and endomorph. 


The skinny person I was talking about in the first paragraph is most likely an ectomorph.  An ectomorph is a person who finds it very hard to gain weight.  Typical traits of an ectomorph include fast metabolism, small shoulders, flat chest, and lean muscle mass.

You can read more about ectomorphs, and the two other body types here: What is Your Body Type?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oasis of the Seas Best Food

As some of you may know, the Oasis of the Seas is the largest cruise ship in the world.  I had the pleasure of cruising on that ship the past week.  I have to say, it has to be seen in person to be appreciated.  Looking at pictures is remarkable, but being on the ship is another level of awe-inspiring.  The ship features things like FlowRider surfing simulator, ice skating rink, rock climbing wall, and the first ever Zip-Line at sea.  

One of the favorite things to do on cruise ships is to eat.  I admit, I stuffed my face every day (and enjoyed it).  Because there are over 20 dining options on the cruise ship, it is impossible to try them all in the span of one week.  Listed below are 5 of my favorite foods that I enjoyed in the past week, along with where you can find them, and a picture I took of them.  Hope it looks as good as it tasted!

Kummelweck Sandwich
Location: Park Cafe
Price: Free
Description: This Roast Beef sandwich is a guest favorite.  Slices of roast beef is piled in between a nice bun with salt and some seeds on top.  The secret Kummelweck sauce is hidden on the insides of the bun.  Perfect for lunch, or a quick snack.

Izumi Sushi Rolls
Location: Izumi Restaurant
Price: $6-$8 per roll
Description: I was very pleasantly surprised with the quality of sushi from Izumi.  I have eaten a lot of sushi in my life, and these are some of the better quality rolls that I have had.  Shown in the picture is the Snow Crab California roll and Dragon Eel roll.  For those who love sushi, you have to give this place a try.  It is worth every cent.

Honeydew Melon Soup
Location: Opus Dining Room
Price: Free
Description: All of the chilled soups offered on board are delicious.  They remind me more of a smoothie, than a soup.  And I love smoothies.  Some of the chilled soups offered are Strawberry, Pineapple and Lychee, and the Honeydew Melon soup shown below.  After being in the hot sun all day, these soups are a perfect way to rehydrate at dinner.

Fisherman's Plate
Location: Opus Dining Room
Price: Free
Description: This was offered on our second formal night, and boy was it delicious.  Lobster tail is a staple of cruise ship dining, and the lobster tail here is one of the better ones that I have had.  The meat is succulent, and there is shrimp and some vegetables to help give the meal additional textures.  

Low Fat Mango Pudding
Location: Opus Dining Room
Price: Free
Description: I regret not ordering this dessert for myself.  This picture is of my mom's mango pudding, which was offered on the first night of our cruise.  I only tried a bite of this, but it was a bite I will remember for a long time.  The mango pudding is both soft enough to melt in your mouth, yet rigid enough to retain the ship as you pick it up with a spoon.  The flavor is light, yet distinct.  It is the perfect dessert for people who want a delicious end to a delicious meal.  

Friday, July 26, 2013

Using your Brain to help you Lose Weight

I recently read this article in Bottom Line magazine and found it to be very interesting.  The article talks about how a lot of people are struggling to lose weight.  Often times, they lose weight, but they end up gaining it back.  All of these diets and calorie counting isn't working for them.  This article talks about using your Brain, your most powerful organ, to help you lose weight.

Here is an excerpt from the article:

Strategy one: Look at your feelings
When you wish to eat, ask yourself whether you really are hungry.  Pay attention to your stomach.  Is it full or empty?  Ask yourself, Do I really need food right now?
People often eat for reasons that have nothign to do with hunger.  We eat when we're upset, frustrated, bored, etc.  The act of eating is a disctraction from uncomfortable feelings and a coping mechanism that makes the feelings less intense. 
Studies have shown that mood strongly affects food choices.  One study published in American Demographics found that people gravitate towrad ice cream and cookies when they're sad...potato chips when they're bored... and pizza or steak when they're happy.
My advice: Before you eat anything, seriously ask yourself why you want it.  If you haven't eaten for several hours, you're probably just hungry.  But if you're craving a snack even though you ate recently, you're probably dealing with emotional hunger.  Ask yourself, "How am I feeling aobut the world today?"..."What's my mood?"..."What do I really need at this particular moment?"..."Does my stomach feel empty?"
When you eat only when you're hungry and you don't use food for an emotional fix, you've achieved homeostasis, a type of mind-body balance in which you desire only what you need. 
Imagine a single cell floating in a petri dish.  It doesn't think about food.  It takes in nutrients when it needs them and stops when it has had enough.  It is in a perfect state of homeostais. 
You can achieve the same harmony by being self-aware, or mindful.
What do do: Suppose that you came home from work and already are anticipating the taste of chocolate.  Don't go straight to the pantry.  Instead, run through the mindful list.  If you determine that you are experiencing only emotional hunger, take three very deep breaths and smile.  This simple exercise can make the craving go away.  It also works if you've already started eating and don't want to overeat.

If you wish to read the rest of the article, obtain a copy of Bottom Line Magazine Volume 34 Issue 15, or comment below and I will send you the rest of the article.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Push Up Pro Review

Push Up Pro Review: The Ultimate Upper Body Workout?

You may have seen this commercial on TV.  The Push Up Pro, which has been around for a few years now, claims to be the ultimate upper body workout, at the affordable price of $19.99.  This revolutionary piece of equipment was designed by Jack Zatorski, who in 2003 set the world record for push ups.  Let's take a look at his commercial, which is right below this sentence.

Here are some of the things that were said in this video:

"Strengthen and tone, sculpt and define.  Now, there's a new way to get fit quick."

"It's the new way to sculpt and tone the chest, shoulders, arms, and even abs."

"It's the ultimate upper body workout."

"Guaranteed results within 10 days or your money back."

They all seem like promising statements.  But, you can say that for any of these commercials on TV.

I decided to buy a set of Push Up Pro grips myself and see what all the hype was about.  Was I really going to get guaranteed results within 10 days, or was nothing going to change?  Let's find out.

The Grips: The box contained 2 Push Up Pro grips, one for each hand.  They are light, and simplistic.  Upon placing them on the ground, the handles are very easy to rotate.  The handles have some "rubber-like" material on them so your hands won't slide off.  Since the grips are small, they can be stored in a gym bag or backpack.

The Initial Workout: I wanted to do a practice set and see how many push ups I could do with the Push Up Pro while rotating the handles.  Normally, I can do around 30 regular push ups.  With the Push Up Pro, I could only do 15.  I definitely felt it in my arms and chest.

Surprisingly, rotating the handles added a lot of difficulty to a normal push up.  This is because when you rotate the handles, it forces your body to use more muscles in order to support the weight of your body.  This adds difficulty and variety to a normal push up workout.

10 Days Later: Throughout the 10 days, I tried different things with the Push Up Pro.  I did normal push ups, rotating grip push ups, push ups with my feet on a chair, close grip push ups, and more.  In the beginning, I couldn't do many repetitions, and had to take a few minutes break after every set.

However, toward the end, I was gaining more endurance and was able to do more repetitions.  My max amount of push ups in one set at the end of the 10 days was 20, which was a 25% increase!

Verdict:  I do think Push Up Pro is worth the $20 investment, but only if you plan on using it and not having it sit there collecting dust.  I think the Push Up Pro is most beneficial for people who are just starting to get into an exercise routine.  Here's my reasoning: In my opinion, the best upper body workout are pull ups.  They work all the muscles in the upper body, with the most strain on the triceps, shoulders, and back.

However, not everyone can do pull ups.  For these people, I recommend the Push Up Pro.  Even if you can't do normal push ups, you can start by doing wall push ups, like stated in the video.  As you progress and get stronger, you can move to doing push ups with your knees on the floor, and eventually, regular push ups.

Final thoughts: I feel like if you buy the Push Up Pro, make an exercise goal, and stick to that goal, you will see results.  It may take more than 10 days, but eventually you will see results.  My friend suggested that I write a review on this because he was pondering whether or not to "invest on this", so I obliged.  This was my first official review on my blog, and hopefully it provided you with some new information and insight.  Anyways, I hope you enjoyed this review, and as always, if you have any questions or feedback, comment below.

-Eric Char-

Saturday, May 25, 2013

The Best Food To Treat Insomnia

Have you been having trouble sleeping lately?  Try eating some tart cherries or drinking some tart cherry juice.

Tart Cherries are among the richest food sources of melatonin, which is a hormone that helps promote sleep.  The body's production of melatonin declines with age, which is part of the reason why older adults often have trouble sleeping.

A study in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism found that small doses of melatonin (0.3 mg) helped insomniacs sleep better.  One cup of tart-cherry juice of 1/8 cup dried tart cherries contains roughly 0.3 mg of melatonin.  

The recommendation is to eat tart cherries or drink one cup of juice about an hour before bedtime.  This is so that the melatonin from the tart cherries can be absorbed by the body.

Note: Sweet cherries also contain melatonin, but not as much as tart cherries.

Source: Bottom Line Magazine, Volume 34 Number 11

Monday, May 6, 2013

Which is Healthier, Fresh Salsa or Jarred Salsa? (Plus other comparisons!)

Cinco De Mayo may have just passed, but people eat things like salsa, tortillas, and tortilla chips every day.  Here is a quick crash course in some Cinco de Mayo nutrition and which is healthier for you.  Some of the answers may surprise you.

Fresh Salsa vs Jarred Salsa

Fresher isn't always better: Tomatoes are one of the best sources of the antioxidant lycopene, but your body absorbs more of it when the tomatoes have been heated.  Jarred salsa is typically cooked before it's packaged, so it offers more of the nutrient than the fresh version.

Winner: Jarred Salsa

Corn Tortillas vs Flour Tortillas

Flour tortillas have 3X the calories and 5X the fat of corn tortillas.  Switching to whole-wheat flour tortillas boosts your fiber intake, but the calories and fat are still there.

Winner: Corn Tortillas

Yellow Corn Tortilla Chips vs Blue Corn Tortilla Chips

Blue corn chips are often labeled as all natural, so people assume they're the better choice.  But the FDA doesn't regulate the use of that term.  In fact, the two varieties have the same number of calories and grams of fat.  And because most of the sodium is added, the health factor depends more on the brand than on the color.

Winner: It's a Draw

Red Sangria vs White Sangria

Red wine is loaded with resveratrol, a compound in the skin of grapes that is thought to be good for t heart.  White wine has none of this, plus many white sangria recipes call for fruit juice and sweet liquors, so they typically end up with higher sugar counts.

Winner: Red sangria

Source: Food Network Magazine May 2013 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Three Healthy Chocolate Cereals

Who doesn't love chocolate?  If I could, I would eat it every day.  For those of us that eat breakfast, cereal is a popular option.  One of the more popular cereals, especially among kids, is chocolate cereals.  Chocolate cereals have been synonymous with being sugary and unhealthy.  But, that is not always the case.  Here are 3 healthy chocolate cereals that you can eat or feed to your children without feeling guilty:

1. Kellogg's Special K Chocolaty Strawberry Cereal ($4.99/box): This Kellogg's cereal delivers crispy flakes, dried strawberries, and rich cocoa pieces, packing in more iron and vitamin C per serving than most kids' cereals. 

2. Fiber One 80 Calories Chocolate Cereal ($4.29/box): This cereal contains fewer calories per serving than many popular cereals and packs 3X more fiber and 8X more calcium.  The crunchy chocolate nuggets make a sweet snack on their own, too. 

3. Cascadian Farm Organic Chocolate O's ($4.99/box): This organic cereal contains 8 grams of whole grain per serving, 7 vitamins and minerals, and 3 grams of fiber per serving (3/4 cup).  Did I mention, each serving is a modest 100 calories?  I have personally tried these Chocolate O's and have found them to be a great and tasty cereal snack.

Friday, March 29, 2013

Caffeine: Facts and Myths

Caffeine exists everywhere, whether it be soda, coffee, or that new 5-Hour Energy drink that people are talking about.  In fact, more than 80% of Americans consume caffeine regularly.  Caffeinated energy drinks have become so mainstream that companies such as V8 and Ocean Spray are making their own versions in order to stay competitive.  

Here's a rundown on what scientists know about the world's most popular drug.

Fact: Caffeine may help sleep deprivation

In a national survey, about 30% of participants reported averaging 6 hours of sleep or less a night.  In a Roehrs' study of 259 working adults, 15% of them fell asleep within 6 minutes of entering a sleep lab.  Why does caffeine help people who are sleep deprived?  The answer to this has to deal with adenosine.

Adenosine is a natural sedative produced by the brain.  Adenosine levels build up while we are awake, and drop as we sleep.  The direct binding of adenosine to the adenosine receptors is what makes us sleepy.  Caffeine works by temporarily binding to adenosine receptors in the brain.  This prevents adenosine from binding itself to the adenosine receptors (because caffeine is already bound to it, it cannot bind to anything else).

Myth: Caffeine is bad for the heart

This fall, the parents of a 14 year old Maryland girl sued the company who makes Monster Energy drinks because their daughter suffered cardiac arrest after drinking 2 24 oz cans of Monster.  The autopsy of the girl stated "cardiac arrhythmia due to caffeine toxicity", which means the caffeine made worse a heart condition that the girl had.

However, in a study that followed more than 130,000 people for 30 years,they found that drinking coffee didn't increase the risk of cardiac arrhythmia, even among those with existing heart conditions.

Fact: Caffeine can improve physical performance

"Caffeine can improve physical performance in endurance exercise like running, but the effect is less for short bursts of movement such as lifting weights or springing," says Matthew Ganio, who is a professor of kinesiology at the University of Arkansas.

Caffeine helps people last longer during exercise because it prompts the body to burn more of its fat stores instead of the carbohydrates in our muscles.  When the muscles run out of carbohydrate, we get tired.

Matthew Ganio also says "Caffeine also reduces the perception of muscle pain and the perception of how hard we are working, which makes us feel better when exercising and may help us exercise longer."

Myth: Caffeine helps people lose weight

Many companies add caffeine to their weight-loss supplements because it speeds up the metabolic rate, as least for a short period of time.  However, there is little evidence that consuming caffeine leads to significant weight loss or helps people keep weight off.

Fact: Pregnant woman should limit their caffeine intake

The March of Dimes recommends that women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant consume no more than 200 mg of caffeine a day because the harmful effects of more than that on the fertility, miscarriage, and fetal growth "cannot be ruled out".

The FDA advises women to avoid caffeine-containing foods and drugs if possible, or consume them only sparingly.

Myth: Caffeine increases your blood pressure

While caffeine users may experience a a slight increase in blood pressure, Rob van Dam of the National University of Singapore says "researchers have detected no substantial ink with the development of hypertension in long-term studies of caffeinated coffee intake"

Source: Nutrition Action Magazine December 2012

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Bell & Evans: The Best Chicken Patty?

Who doesn't like chicken patties?  Vegetarians.  Ok, but other then those people, I think it's safe to say that most people who eat meat like chicken patties.  I know I do.  They are crispy, delicious, and great with ketchup.  However, they have a lot of sodium.  There can be easily over 500 milligrams in each chicken patty, and that's before you add any condiments.  How can you enjoy chicken patties while keeping your sodium levels down?

Take a look at Bell & Evan's Breaded Chicken Patties.  Each patty has just 300 mg of sodium.  (The rest of the nutrition facts can be found below).  As a bonus, Bell & Evans uses chickens that have NOT been raised by antibiotics.  They believe in letting their chicken "roam free".  What are you waiting for?  Go pick up a pack today!

Nutrition Facts for Bell & Evans Chicken Patty.  

Source: Nutrition Action Magazine March 2013

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Salad: should you wash it or not?

There are two types of bagged salad: washed, and unwashed.  The bags that say "washed" means that the companies have already washed the salad greens.  The bags without the "washed" tag means that they are unwashed.  Simple enough, right?

U.S. companies recalled bagged salad greens over 8 times in 2012 due to contamination with Listeria bacteria.  Listeria can multiply at refrigerator temperatures, and cause deadly blood poisoning or meningitis in older adults and people with weak immune systems.

Should you wash bagged greens that say "washed" on the label?  No.  Washing bagged greens that were already prewashed does no benefit, according to FDA produce-safety expert Michelle Smith.  "Once disease-causing bacteria become attached to leafy greens, it's difficult to remove them by rinsing with water."

She goes on to say "The greater likelihood is that you'll make a safe product unsafe because of cross-contamination with bacteria from your fingers, cutting boards, countertops, or the sink."

Listen to Michelle Smith.  Do not wash salad that has already been prewashed.  However, with unwashed salad, you should do as you normally would and wash them.  

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Dried vs Fresh Herbs

Most herbs come in two forms: Dried and Fresh.  What's the difference between them?  

(Picture of Fresh Basil)

(Picture of dried basil)

Generally, fresh herbs are more expensive and potent than dried herbs.  The ratio of using fresh to dried herbs is 3-to-1.  This means that dried herbs are more concentrated because they are ground together.

Example: If a recipe calls for one tablespoon of fresh basil, but you only have dried basil, then you use one teaspoon of dried basil (three teaspoons = one tablespoon.  One teaspoon is 1/3 the amount of one tablespoon).

Dried herbs have a different flavor and aroma that fresh.  For example, dried basil has more of a smoky, deep flavor, while fresh basil is more minty and lemony.  Fresh oregano has a softer, herbaceous flavor, while dried is strong and intense.

Experiment with different herbs to see which ones you like.

Source: The Starter Cook by Linda Johnson Larsen

Thursday, January 10, 2013

How the Flu Works

The flu is one of the more dangerous infectious diseases, capable of causing over 45,000 deaths per year in the United States alone.  This year's strain of the influenza virus, H3N2, is one of the deadlier strains.  So far, 41 states have declared a public health emergency due to this virus.  The reason why this year's flu is deadlier is because the flu season started earlier.

Unlike previous years where the flu season started in January, this year's flu season started around the holidays.  The holidays is when a lot of people travel to spend time with their family.  Because of all this traveling, the flu spread more quickly than usual and infected more people.

How does the flu work? 

 The flu, scientifically known as haemophilus influenzae, is a virus.  Viruses work by infecting host cells. (A host cell is one of your cells)  First, the virus gains entry into the host cell.  Next, the virus establishes itself inside the host cell, and compromises (destroys) the cell defenses.  

Once, the defenses are destroyed, the virus assembles virion particles. (Virion particles are virus parts.  Basically what the virus is doing is making new viruses.) After the virus has assembled a lot of friends, it destroys the host cell.  Now, the virus and all it's buddies are free to roam around and infect new host cells.  This cycle repeats itself until your immune system is able to successfully fight off the virus.

If you do happen to get the flu this year, I recommend staying home, and drinking a lot of liquid to make sure you are hydrated properly.  Also, eat foods high in Vitamin C to help your body fight off the virus.  But the best thing to do if you are getting worse is to consult your doctor.  Your doctor is a trained professional whose job is to help you recover from illnesses like this.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

How to cut a Pomegranate (Plus other useful information!)

Happy New Year everyone!  Hope everyone is doing well.  The last few weeks have been crazy for me.  I just got out of the hospital yesterday, and am looking forward to recovering and living life again!

Anyways, this post will be about Pomegranates.  Pomegranates are packed with antioxidants Vitamin C and Potassium.  What's even better about them is that their peak ripeness is in December and January, which means that now is the PERFECT time to go shopping for them.  I saw them at the supermarket the other day for $1.99 each.  Pomegranates have a tart taste, and are good as an addition to other foods (ex: Salad).  Or if you want, you can eat it by themselves.

*A simple way to get the seeds from the pomegranate to the bowl is to whack the pomegranate all over a wooden spoon.  Next, cut the fruit in half using a knife, and holding the cut side down, whack it again with the wooden spoon.  The seeds should start falling out.*

When shopping for pomegranates, search for ones that have a dark pink to deep red skin, shiny, and free of cracks.  Those indicate pomegranates that are freshest and best tasting.

Source: Foot Network Magazine December 2012