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Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight!

Archive for March, 2009

Lose Weight: Best Way to Lose Weight

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 18, 2009

If you are overweight and dealing with heart health concerns, you know weight loss with significantly improve your heart health. So, you need to find a way to successfully lose the weight and keep it off.

Here are tips for success:

Adequate Calories

Don’t cut your calories too low. Never go below 1200 calories and for some people the minimum is higher. Consuming too few calories drops you right into “starvation” (as far as your body is concerned), your metabolism drops, and weight loss grinds to halt. Also, drastic calorie cuts not only result in fat loss, but you lose muscle as well.

Realistic Goals

Set realistic goals. You may have a dream goal of shedding 40 pounds, but start with a smaller, achievable goal. Many studies show significant health benefits from shedding just 10% of your body weight.

Healthy Rate of Weight Loss

Plan for a healthy rate of weight loss. Aim to lose 1-2 pounds per week. Gradual, steady weight loss ensures you lose fat, not muscle.

Long-term Plan

Think long-term. Going on a diet is not the best way to lose weight. This is because the term diet generally implies a beginning and an end. If you want to successfully lose weight it requires permanent lifestyle and food choice changes. Changes you can and will stick with for life.

Steady Support

Surround yourself with a steady support system. By this I don’t only mean a spouse that supports you spending an hour at the gym after work or planning active family events. I also mean surrounding yourself with friends who are living the healthy life you want. I’m not implying you need to kick friends and family who are a negative influence to the curb, but look for ways you can gain friends that are living a healthy lifestyle. This will dramatically increase your success.

All the best,

Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

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5 Heart Healthy Foods to Add to Your Diet Today

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 17, 2009

Here are five foods to include in your diet to promote heart health.

1. Banana – Good source of potassium to promote a lower blood pressure.
2. Fish – Contains omega 3’s to prevent arterial plaque rupture.
3. Olive oil – Contains heart healthy monounsaturated fat to reduce the risk or coronary heart disease.
4. Garlic – Contains allicin to raise HDL, lower LDL, lower homocysteine, and lower blood pressure.
5. Walnuts – Rich is essential fatty acids, healthy protein, fiber, and phytosterols (compounds to decrease absorption of dietary cholesterol).

All the best,

Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

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Heart Health and Corn

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 16, 2009

I recently listened to an interesting conversation related to corn. It was more a debate on corns’ status as a vegetable, lack of nutritional value, and link to health problems (specifically diabetes and obesity). It was proposed that corn should be banned from production. The debate went on to suggest a comparison between corn and tobacco production and their similar impact on our society. Now, I am hoping some of this was argument just for arguments sake. What did this little yellow kernel ever do? I am stepping up in its’ defense.
 
Vegetable

If you want to delve into botany, you could argue that corn is a grain; but I am not going to go into that explanation. In our society, corn is eaten like a vegetable. Granted it is a starchy vegetable, but a vegetable nonetheless. As far as nutritional value, ½ cup of frozen corn contributes some Vitamin A and potassium, 2 g of dietary fiber, 2.5 g of protein, only 1.5 g of sugar and less than 0.5 g of fat. The nutritional value is not outstanding, but not terrible either. 
 
Resistant Starch

Corn is a whole grain and includes resistant starch. Resistant starches are popping up as a hot topic related to weight loss. A resistant starch is a type of fiber that resists digestion and passes through the small intestine to the large intestine mostly intact. In the large intestine it ferments and produces a fatty acid (bytyrate) that reduces toxins and helps protect against digestive diseases. Resistant starches boost immunity, improve blood sugar control, and increase satiety (a plus for individuals trying to lose weight).
 
Cornmeal, Corn starch, Popcorn, High Fructose Corn Syrup

Corn is used in the production of many products. I am going to briefly cover just a couple – cornmeal, cornstarch, popcorn, and high fructose corn syrup – none of which are vegetables. 
 
Cornmeal versus cornstarch is comparable to whole wheat flour versus white flour. Cornmeal includes the whole corn grain (bran, germ, and endosperm) while cornstarch is refined (bran and germ removed). Whole grain equals a good source of dietary fiber.
 
Popcorn is an excellent snack that is low calorie. Of course, you need to watch the added butter and salt. One cup of light popcorn equals ~15 calories and provides 5 g of dietary fiber!
 
High fructose corn syrup is a major ingredient in soda and numerous foods with a low nutritional value. To produce high fructose corn syrup, whole corn is refined to corn starch. This corn starch is then processed with enzymes to yield a glucose and fructose mixture, eventually resulting in the production of high fructose corn syrup. To say that high fructose corn syrup is corn is like saying Sunny Delight is orange juice.
 
Glycemic Index

The glycemic index is an oft times used rationale supporting the argument that corn is bad, based on how quickly corn raises blood sugar levels. It has been well-known for years that the glycemic index is not a reliable tool. If you were to base eating on the glycemic index, that would mean you sit down for your evening meal and dine on a cup of corn only. How likely is that? A typical meal includes a variety of foods, such as some meat and bread, along with corn. The protein, fiber, and other components of these various foods, negate the glycemic index value established for corn alone.
 
Portion Control

I sincerely doubt someone is overweight because they couldn’t put down the corn. Corn does provide ~80 calories per half cup, so as with everything else, you need to practice portion control and watch what you add. A tablespoon of butter added to a half cup of corn increases the calorie count to ~180 calories.
 
Bottom Line:
 
If you like corn, eat it. You do receive a nutritious vegetable, but watch the amount. Definitely NOT the root of all evil!
 
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Heart Disease and Fibromyalgia – Is there a link?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 15, 2009

Here’s another question I asked Dr. Cynthia Shelby-Lane and her answer.

Lisa Nelson RD: Do you feel there is a link between heart disease and fibromyalgia?

Dr. Shelby-Lane: Fibromyalgia symptoms were akin to the symptoms of several “functional” disorders (i.e., medical conditions that affect bodily function via causes that are poorly understood) including recurrent non-heart-related chest pain, heartburn, heart palpitations and irritable bowel syndrome. However, a number of studies since have detected evidence of abnormalities in the internal organs of many fibromyalgia patients, including heart valve problems, malfunction of the muscles that move food to the stomach, and weakened lung function. These studies suggest that the abnormalities likely are symptoms of a larger disease, not illnesses by themselves.

Because of weakened respiratory muscles an individual finds it hard to breathe and the supply of oxygen to heart is decreased resulting in the above symptoms. Similar is the case with neck pain, due to weakened muscles.

Fibromyalgia (FM) is a recently recognized disorder rheumatologists and practitioners see quite often, especially in women 20 to 50 years old. It is characterized by widespread, chronic musculoskeletal pain, tenderness, fatigue and stiffness affecting muscles, tendons, ligaments and connective tissues with loss of sleep, depression, and shortness of breath. It is a poorly understood condition and there appears to be no universal cause and no single treatment that is effective for every person. Diagnosis of fibromyalgia is based on the tenderness of specific anatomical sites (at least 11 of 18 points) and pain in all four quadrants of the body that has lasted for 3-6 months or longer. It mostly affects the neck, shoulders, lower back, chest and/or thighs. Fibromyalgia patients meet many of the diagnostic criteria for chronic fatigue syndrome. Three to six million people are affected by fibromyalgia.

Possible Causes or Contributing Factors of Fatigue & Fibromyalgia

The cause of fibromyalgia is not known. Patients experience pain in response to stimuli that are normally not perceived as painful. Researchers have found elevated levels of a nerve chemical signal, called substance P, and nerve growth factor in the spinal fluid of fibromyalgia patients. The brain nerve chemical serotonin is also relatively low in patients with fibromyalgia. Studies of pain in fibromyalgia have suggested that the central nervous system (brain) may be somehow supersensitive. Scientists note that there seems to be a diffuse disturbance of pain perception in patients with fibromyalgia.

Also, patients with fibromyalgia have impaired non-Rapid-Eye-Movement, or non-REM, sleep phase (which likely explains the common feature of waking up fatigued and unrefreshed in these patients). The onset of fibromyalgia has been associated with psychological distress, trauma, and infection.

Fibromyalgia can occur in the presence of other conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis and hypothyroidism.

Nutritional therapies that help with fibromyalgia are D-ribose, L carnitine, magnesium, coenzyme Q 10, glutamine, fixated nitrogen, SAMe (optimal dosages vary for all supplements) and detoxification, but detection and correction of the underlying problem is the first course of action. This should also include hormone evaluation for adrenal and thyroid problems.

All the best,
Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

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Weight Loss: What Causes Weight Cycling?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 15, 2009

Do you find you find your weight frequently yo-yoing up and down? Do you tend to go through repeat periods of experiencing exciting weight loss followed by discouraging weight regain?

According to the Federal Weight Control Information Network, the cycle may be small, say 5-10 pounds up and down, or large, more than 50 pounds lost and regained repeatedly.

Weight Cycling Causes

The reasons for the weight cycle are often linked to the following four causes:

  • Selecting a diet that is too extreme or unrealistic for the long term. This would include “fad” or “crash” diets. They tend to be hard to stick with because you start to feel deprived.
  • Using poor techniques that cause you to overeat, such as skipping meals or doing well with your diet during the week but “taking a break” on weekends.
  • Unrealistic goals – Yes it’d be great to say you can fit into your old high school jeans, but is that really realistic?
  • Not surrounding yourself with a support system. Are the people around you health conscious and supportive of your new healthy actions or do they tempt you to stray?

Difficulty Stopping the Cycle

Oftentimes, your body finds a weight it likes and doesn’t want to change. So, you have biology working against you.

Your body uses hormones, such as leptin, to monitor your calorie needs and body fat. When you start to lose weight hormone levels change and your body reacts. Usually your body thinks “I’m starving” and switches to conservation mode by decreasing your metabolism (the rate your burn calories) to conserve energy and protect fat stores. In other words, you body is preparing for a famine. When this occurs you’ll typically begin to feel the urge to eat more.

So, let’s say your calorie intake gradually goes back up to your pre-diet level. At this level you should maintain your previous weight, but since your body has dropped your metabolism, your caloric needs are lower. That means your typical calorie intake which in the past maintained your weight, now leads to weight gain.

A cycle that is very difficult to overcome, but I don’t know many who say losing weight is easy.

All the best,

Lisa Nelson RD
Be Heart Healthy and Lose Weight

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Heart Health – Are you on the right path?

Posted by Lisa Nelson, RD, LN on March 14, 2009

Did you know that every March since the 1970’s we have been celebrating National Nutrition Month? For those in a healthcare profession this is a time extra emphasize is placed on nutrition education and getting the message out to you. How can you get the most out of this time focused on nutrition? Every March provides you an opportunity to take an annual inventory of your nutrition habits. Are you “fueling” your body the way you want to ensure weight loss and heart health?

If this is the first time you have taken “inventory” focus on just a few areas. I will help you narrow it down by starting with beverages, snacks, and dining out. Do you select the healthiest choices in these areas? 

Beverages

What is sitting on the corner of your desk or in the cup holder in your car? Soda, coffee, water? If you are a soda drinker, consider what you can do to cut back. A 12 oz. can of regular soda contains about 150 calories. If you drink one can everyday you consume 4200 soda calories each month and 50,400 calories each year. This is equal to an extra 14 ½ pounds of body weight. What are you adding to your coffee? Frequent Starbucks consumption, or adding cream and sugar to your coffee means extra calories expanding your waistline. Positive steps towards being healthier – Switch to diet soda to drastically decrease sugar and calorie intake. Try nonfat dairy creamers, less sugar and cream, or adding sugar substitutes to your coffee. Save dollars and calories by brewing coffee at home and have Starbucks for the occasional treat. If you are toting around a bottle of water you are doing great. Everyone should be consuming six to eight 8-oz. glasses of water daily. Water is the beverage our bodies need and crave to keep us replenished and feeling our best.
 
Snacks
 
Are you heading for the vending machine for your afternoon snack? Most vending machines contain high fat and high sodium products. Forgo the Swiss cakes by bringing snacks to work with you. You know you are going to have an afternoon craving, so plan ahead.  Some good snack choices include fruit, yogurt, crackers and cheese, or a handful of nuts.
 
Dining Out
 
Is the drive in lane your destination several evenings after a long day of work? Most fast food is deep fat fried and includes significant fat, calories, and sodium. If you are tired and do not want to deal with cooking a meal at home you can select healthier options at the drive through. Opt for products that are not breaded, such as a grilled chicken sandwich. Forgo the fries and get a yogurt, side salad, or fruit to go with your sandwich. Your heart will thank you.
 
Just remember when March rolls around next year to take another inventory. Expand to other areas, such as fruit and veggie intake, omega 3’s, whole grains, etc. If you evaluate how you are doing every year and make modifications you are taking positive steps towards a healthy long life.
 
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