Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Super Food and Fitness Tip of the Week

Super Food of the Week: Whole Wheat

This week’s focus is on whole wheat. In its natural unrefined state, wheat features a host of important nutrients for your overall health and hair. So to receive benefit from the wholesomeness of wheat its important to choose wheat products made from whole wheat flour rather than those that are refined and stripped of their much-needed natural goodness.

The health benefits of wheat depend on the from in which you eat it. These benefits are reduced if you select wheat that has been processed into 60% extraction (bleached white flour), which is the standard for most wheat products in the U.S. This means that 40% of the original wheat grain was removed and only 60% is left. Unfortunately, in that 40% over half of the vitamins B1, B2, B3, E, folic acid, calcium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, iron, and fiber are lost. Since 1941, laws in the United States have required the “enrichment” of processed wheat flour with vitamins B1, B2, B3, and iron in response to problems created by the 60% extraction. However, if you select 100% whole-wheat or whole-grain products, all of the would be lost nutrients will remain in its natural full force in your meals and the health benefits will be impressive.

In a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition researchers underscored the importance of choosing whole rather than refined wheat to maintain a healthy body weight. In this particular Harvard Medical School/ Brigham and Women’s Hospital study the collected data showed that weight gain was inversely associated with the intake of high-fiber, whole-grain foods, such as whole wheat, but was positively related to the intake of refined-grain foods. Not only did the women who consumed more whole grains consistently weigh less than those who ate less of the fiber rich foods they were also less likely to gain weight.

Eating whole grains, such as whole wheat, can substantially lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. Whole grains are a rich source of magnesium, a mineral that acts as a co-factor for more than 300 enzymes, including the enzymes involved in the body’s use of glucose and insulin secretion. The FDA permits foods that contain at least 51% whole grains by weight (and are also low in fat, saturated fat, and cholesterol) to display a health claim stating that consumption is liked to lower risk of heart disease and certain types of cancer. Research now suggests that regular consumption of whole grains also reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, as published in Diabetes Care.

In an 8-year trial, involving 41,186 participates of the Black Women’s Health Study; research data confirmed the inverse association between magnesium, calcium and major food sources in relation to type 2 diabetes that had already been reported in predominately white populations. The results were that the risk of type to diabetes was 31% lower in black women who frequently ate whole grains compared to those eating non-whole grain foods. Daily consumption of low-fat dairy foods was also helpful, lowering the risk of type 2 diabetes by 13%.

Some of the other many wonderful benefits of whole wheat include reduction of chronic inflammation, prevention of gallstones, promotion of gastrointestinal regularity and health, protection against breast cancer, protection against heart disease, and the promotion of over all health as well as an energy boost. So try kicking the refined or “enriched” grains and add whole grains for a healthy dose of zinc, iron, B vitamins and a host of other nutrients your hair will thank and reward you for. Try using whole wheat, or whole grain, bread for sandwiches or make individual pizzas using whole wheat pita breads as the crust. If you’re a big fan of pasta, then try using whole-wheat pasta for some of your favorite pasta dishes. If you’re a big fan of breakfast cereal, then reach for cereal that contains whole grain or whole wheat.

Fitness Tip of the Week: Exercise and Pregnancy

Congratulations! You just found out the fabulous news that you’re preggers. You’re filled with excitement, anticipation, anxiety, and the commitment to do everything right for baby and you. You’ve committed yourself to bringing a healthy and beautiful baby into the world, which means mommy, must be healthy as well. So now comes the question of exercise. Should you continue with your exercise routine or should you begin one to optimize health for both yourself and baby? Well, the first step to help answer the question is a visit and chat with your doctor. Usually exercise during pregnancy is encouraged, however under some circumstances exercise may be detrimental to both mom and baby. Only after a through clinical evaluation can a physician determine your exercise risks, should there be any.

Exercising during pregnancy offers many physical and emotional benefits. A good exercise program may help to relieve common problems associated with pregnancy, such as excessive weight gain, swelling of the hands and feet, leg craps, varicose veins, insomnia, fatigue, and constipation. Moms-to-be can also look forward to improved posture and circulation, reduced backaches, and increased mood and energy. Plus, you’ll feel so great in the knowledge that you’re doing something for good for your baby and yourself.

If you and your doctor decide that exercise is appropriate and safe for you and baby remember to listen to your body. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists recommends that pregnant women, who have been cleared by their physician, engage in at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on all or most days of the week. Some highly effective and generally safe physical activities during pregnancy include walking, swimming, cycling, and moderate intensity aerobics. Running, racquet sports, and strength training (when done in moderation) are safe for pregnant women who have been participating in these activities prior to becoming pregnant. Strenuous activity should only be done under careful guidance of a physician, as strenuous activity may be associated with intrauterine growth restriction.

When you are ready to design your program it is important to take into account the changes you are experiencing. Your body alignment and posture will be different and you may have reduced strength and endurance as well as extra weight, which places stress on your joints and muscles and makes the heart work harder. Let your body be your guide. You know you’re at a good intensity when you can talk normally and not become exhausted or winded too quickly.

As you progress in your pregnancy it is important to note certain precautions. After the first trimester, pregnant women should avoid exercises that require them to lie on their backs in a supine position. This can cause dizziness upon standing and it also decreases blood flow to you and baby. Also avoid sports activities with increased risk of trauma or falling, for example ice hockey, soccer, basketball, gymnastics, horseback riding, downhill skiing.

Now that you’re exercising for two, its important to pay very close attention to anything that isn’t right for you or baby. Stop exercising and call your physician if you experience ANY of the following:

1. Vaginal bleeding

2. Shortness of breath before exercising

3. Headache

4. Chest pain

5. Muscle weakness

6. Calf pain or swelling

7. Preterm labor

8. Decreased fetal movement

9. Amniotic fluid leakage

If you are interested in starting a prenatal exercise program but not sure where or how to start, first check with your physician. If your physician gives you the green light for exercise then check with the fitness centers in your area, the YMCA and community hospitals. If you’re still not sure where to start, speak with a trainer that holds a certification from an accredited organization and has specialized training in prenatal fitness to help build a safe and effective program for you and baby. Also if you’re taking fitness classes make sure your class instructor specializes in prenatal fitness in addition to holding certification from an accredited organization. Some of the most prized and respected accredited organizations include the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), the American Council on Exercise (ACE) and the Aerobics and Fitness Association of America (AFAA).

Until next week, stay happy and healthy!