The dreaded cold and flu season rears its ugly head every winter. Doctors recommend regular hand washing, a daily multivitamin, and adequate sleep for fending off a nasty cold or flu. Further amp up your body’s defenses by adding in these 5 common foods and nutrients into your daily routine:
- Chicken Soup: Your mom was right – chicken soup really does help when you’re feeling crumby. In addition to hydrating your body, chicken soup makes your nose run, which helps rid your nasal passages of viruses and bacteria. Slurp away!
- Yogurt: “Good bacteria” found in yogurt actually helps your immune system function better and aids in digestion. For the most powerful probiotics, look for yogurts labeled with a “Live and Active Cultures” seal from the National Yogurt Association.
- Green Tea: Green tea is full of beneficial plant antioxidants known as “polyphenols.” Research suggests that these little wonders may actually kill influenza viruses. For best results, use just-below-boiling water and steep your tea bag for 1-2 minutes. To minimize bitterness, try adding a little lemon or honey, but avoid adding milk as it binds to the polyphenols and renders them ineffective.
- Vitamin D: Vitamin D acts like an assassin in your body by detecting and destroying harmful bacteria and viruses. One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed that children who took daily vitamin D supplements (approximately 1,200 IU) were 40% less likely to acquire the common flu virus when compared to kids who did not supplement with the vitamin. While you can get vitamin D from foods such as fatty fish and fortified milk, most experts recommend a daily supplement for optimal results.
- Soluble Fiber: There are two types of fiber – soluble and insoluble. While both are extremely important for health, soluble fiber seems to be especially beneficial for the immune system. A study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity demonstrated that mice who ate a diet rich in soluble fiber over a six-week period recovered from bacterial infection in half the time it took mice who consumed a diet consisting of mixed fiber. Researchers suggest adults should aim for 25-38 grams of total fiber per day, paying special attention to foods rich in soluble fiber, such as citrus fruits, apples, carrots, beans, and oats.
Nothing warms you up on a cold night like a mug of steaming Hot Chocolate. This recipe for Spiced Hot Chocolate adds in extra heat to warm you up even faster:
Spiced Hot Chocolate
Recipe Yield: 4 servings, 1 cup each
Total Cook Time: 5 minutes
Homemade Hot Chocolate Mix
Makes about 5 ½ cups dry mix
- 2 cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup cocoa powder
- 2 ½ cups powdered milk
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons cornstarch
Make it Spiced:
- 4 cups 1% milk
- ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
- 1 pinch cayenne pepper
- 4 cinnamon sticks
- In a large bowl, combine sugar, cocoa, powdered milk, salt, and cornstarch. Mix until all ingredients are incorporated evenly.
- Fill four mugs halfway with hot chocolate mix. Store leftover mix in an air-tight container for future use.
- Heat a medium-sized pot over medium heat. Add in milk, nutmeg, and cayenne pepper. Stir until heated, being careful not to scald milk.
- Pour approximately 1 cup of milk mixture into each mug. Mix until spiced milk and hot chocolate mix are evenly blended. Add a cinnamon stick into each mug and serve.
Per serving: 175 calories; 4 g fat ( 2 g sat , 1 g mono ); 12 mg cholesterol; 30 g carbohydrates; 8 g protein; 1 g fiber; 161 mg sodium; 487 mg potassium.
We all know that diet and exercise are essential for weight loss, but did you also know that the amount of sleep you get each night also plays an important role? A study in the American Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine recommends that in order to maintain a healthy weight, adults should get between 8 and 9 hours of sleep each night. The rational behind this recommendation is that lack of sleep is thought to interfere with hormones such as leptin and insulin, which play a role in regulating appetite and body weight. Needless to say, lack of sleep may also result in one being too tired to exercise, as well as potentially turning to food to cope with irritation associated with poor sleep habits.
So what’s the big deal? Just go to bed earlier and you’ll be fine, right? Unfortunately, it might not be that easy. It’s reported that 50-70 million Americans suffer from insomnia on a regular basis. While engaging in regular physical activity can certainly promote better sleeping habits, there are also many common food remedies out there that are thought to help. The question is – do they really work? Read on to find out more about the research behind these common sleep remedies and find out if they might work for you the next time you’re experiencing a sleepless night:
Remedy #1: Sip on a mug of warm milk before bedtime.
The thought behind this common sleep remedy is that milk contains tryptophan; an amino acid also found it foods such as turkey. Previous research suggested that tryptophan releases serotonin from the brain, which results in one becoming sleepy. Unfortunately, science now shows that when tryptophan-rich foods like milk are ingested, they have little effect on sleep. The thought is that other amino acids present in the foods might compete to get into the brain, creating less of an effect that pure tryptophan would have. While warm milk at bedtime may help relax you, there is little evidence to suggest that it will help release sleep-inducing serotonin.
Remedy #2: Have a snack before bedtime.
It depends on when and what you eat. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition suggests that eating a meal rich in carbohydrates with a high glycemic index (think breads, rice, pasta, and cereals) at dinner may help you fall asleep faster at bedtime. The key here is to eat these foods a few hours before bedtime, which gives your body plenty of time to break them down and leave you feeling drowsy. Eating these foods right before bedtime will likely spike your energy, and the feeling of sleepiness won’t come around for another few hours.
Remedy #3: Sip on some herbal tea.
Teas containing chamomile, lemon balm, hops, and passionflower are all thought to relax the body and leave one feeling sleepy. In fact, you can find a lot of these ingredients in tea blends that actually suggest that they promote sleep. Unfortunately, these ingredients have yet to be evaluated in clinical trials in the American Journal of Clinical Sleep Medicine, so more research is needed on these herbal teas. The good thing behind these ingredients is that they are unlikely to have an opposite effect on sleep habits, so sip away! Just remember that lots of liquids before bedtime may result in lots of late night trips to the bathroom.
Remedy #4: Pop a “sleep supplement.”
Have you ever gone to the drug store looking for a supplement that helps promote better sleep? The shelves are full of them! The National Institutes of Health reports that these products are so popular, that 1.6 million people consider them to be tried and true remedies for insomnia. Unfortunately, there is little to no scientific evidence that suggests that these supplements have any effect on inducing sleep. The one exception is valerian root, however, there is still little research that suggests what exact formulation of valerian root is best. The ultimate recommendation: save your money on sleep supplements and wait until standardized formulations of valerian root become available.
Remedy #5: Indulge in a night cap.
While a glass of wine before bedtime may help you drift off to sleep faster, a bottle of wine before bedtime will likely make you wake up several times during the night. Excessive alcohol consumption is thought to suppress the REM (rapid eye movement) cycle of sleep, which is critical to feeling rested and rejuvenated in the morning. The bottom line: drink moderately (if at all), and avoid drinking right before bedtime.
Remedy #6: Avoid caffeine at all costs.
We all respond differently to caffeine – some of us can sip on coffee all day and fall asleep just fine, while others have cup in the afternoon and are up for the rest of the night. If you are sensitive to caffeine, you may want to limit your intake of all sources (not just coffee!). While the majority of us get our caffeine from coffee, we also get quite a bit from soft drinks, tea, and chocolate. The recommendation: if you are becoming less tolerant to caffeine, limit your major sources to the morning hours, or try cutting it out altogether.
It’s true what they say: Breakfast IS the most important meal of the day! The next time you find yourself in a morning frenzy, try this quick and easy recipe for a delicious and nutritious breakfast sandwich. The best part? It only takes about 15 minutes to make!
Egg & Salmon Sandwich
Recipe Yield: 1 sandwich
Total Cook Time: 15 minutes
- 1/2 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped red onion
- 2 large egg whites, beaten
- Pinch of salt
- 1/2 teaspoon capers, rinsed and chopped (optional)
- 1 ounce smoked salmon
- 1 slice tomato
- 1 whole-wheat English muffin, split and toasted
- Heat oil in a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring, until it begins to soften, about 1 minute. Add egg whites, salt and capers (if using) and cook, stirring constantly, until whites are set, about 30 seconds.
- To make the sandwich, layer the egg whites, smoked salmon and tomato on English muffin.
Per serving: 214 calories; 5 g fat ( 1 g sat , 2 g mono ); 7 mg cholesterol; 25 g carbohydrates; 19 g protein; 3 g fiber; 670 mg sodium; 221 mg potassium.
Recipe Source: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/egg_salmon_sandwich.html
Do you love the taste of a homemade lasagna, but hate all of the prep work that goes into making it? Try this easy and delicious recipe for a fun twist on a family favorite!
Recipe Yield: 4 servings, 1 1/2 cups each
Estimated Cook Time: 25 minutes
- 8 ounces whole-wheat pasta, such as rotini or fusilli
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 3 cloves cloves garlic, sliced
- 8 ounces sliced white mushrooms (about 3 1/2 cups)
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian herbs
- 8 cups baby spinach
- 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
- 3/4 cup part-skim ricotta cheese
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add pasta; cook until just tender, 8 to 10 minutes or according to package directions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
- Meanwhile, heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring, until soft and beginning to brown, about 3 minutes. Add mushrooms, salt and pepper and cook, stirring, until the mushrooms release their liquid, 4 to 6 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, spinach and crushed red pepper (if using). Increase heat to medium-high; cook, stirring once halfway through, until the spinach is wilted, about 4 minutes.
- Toss the sauce with the pasta and divide among 4 bowls. Dollop each serving with 3 tablespoons of ricotta.
Per serving: 364 calories; 9 g fat ( 3 g sat , 4 g mono ); 14 mg cholesterol; 55 g carbohydrates; 0 g added sugars; 16 g protein; 7 g fiber; 588 mg sodium; 786 mg potassium.
Recipe Source: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/inside_out_lasagna.html
What is the importance of sipping Branch Chain Amino Acids during your daily workouts?
Branch Chain Amino Acids (BCAA’s) are a great source of energy for muscles that are undergoing metabolic stress (Working Out). As you’re experiencing metabolic stress, the BCAA’s help support the process of protein synthesis (Building Muscle) which will lead to more lean body mass and less fat tissue. BCAA’s are also important because they are the second most abundant group of amino acids in the body, besides glutamine, which means they are essential to your overall health. One of the most notorious things BCAA’s are associated with is their ability to reduce soreness after an intense workout session.
Side Note: Your Body does not naturally produce BCAA’s so the only way to get them is by either supplementing or obtaining them through your diet.
Hint: Never buy BCAA’s that don’t have a 2:1:1 ratio of L-Leucine, L- Isoleucine, and L-Valine.
Here is a link to the BEST tasting BCAA’s product out there!: http://www.muscleandstrength.com/store/scivation-xtend.html
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Drop Sets: Add a final set to your already brutalizing workout.
During the last set, after completion, drop the weight about 50% and bang out as many reps as possible. This will help tear more fibers and bring the muscle to near exhaustion.
Pyramid Sets: Don’t feel like using Resistance Training and Free Weights today?
Try pyramid sets, an easy way to switch up your workout while keeping your heart rate high. Test yourself once every couple of months by pyramiding up and down, to and from a goal number with your 3 favorite exercises.
Take the number 5 for example:
Pull-ups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Dips 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1
Sit-Ups 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1