Woman snacking

The Science Behind Your Snack Attacks

When you get a snack attack, most probably the only science you’re thinking about is how you can most efficiently get a bag of chips into your stomach. However, when it comes to cravings, there really is a good amount of science behind them, and it doesn’t just concern the rate of food traveling to your tummy. The fact is, certain foods, especially those high in sugar, salt, and fat, trigger a release of dopamine, which means they are hitting the pleasure center in your brain at the same time they are hitting the hunger center in your belly and the reaction is an unfailing, “Give me more!” Here are some of the most addictive foods and how they work their magic.

Cheese
Besides being high in fat and cholesterol, cheeses also contain a high level of casomorphin, which binds to the feel-good receptors in the brain. According to Neal Barnard, MD, mice aren’t the only ones susceptible to the lure of a good cheddar. “Casmorphins attach to neurotransmitter in our brain and release dopamine, feel-good chemicals that often lead us to wanting more.” Apparently, Americans are getting cheesier as time goes on. The doctor notes that the average American consumes 30 pounds more cheese per year than he or she did 100 years ago.

Woman eating chips

Carbs
It’s the quick glucose release of carbohydrates like potato chips and pretzels which keep our hands going back to the bag to reach for another. Celina Jean, nutritionist, says, ” Simple carbohydrates are seen as an addictive because they cause a quick glucose release, and this quickly increases a person’s energy. The energy will quickly be used up, and the then you’ll be forced to eat more simple carbohydrates to keep your blood sugar raised.”

Sugary Drinks
Not only do sweet sodas, lemonades, and iced tea provide us with empty calories, a 12 ounce can of the stuff can contain up to 35 grams of sugar. Sodas also trigger dopamine release. That, along with the caffeine jolt can provide a quite a hit of energy. Ashvini Mashru, registered dietician warns, “Once you’re hooked on caffeine, you can suffer symptoms of withdrawal if you try to stop, including sluggishness, headaches, and emotional distress.

French fries

French Fries
Crisp, hot, and salty, french fries have all the classic ingredients of addictive food. Mashru tells us that the fat content in the fries sends signals to our gut and brain telling us to eat more. He says, “Those little potato sticks are also a comfort food. Therefore, every time you go through a line in a restaurant and see them on the menu, you may find the urge to order them as a side to your entree irresistible.”

Chocolate
Chocolate gives you kick because it binds to the same pleasure centers in your brain as drugs and alcohol. A study conducted by Drexel University found chocolate often provides a nice “mouth feel” which triggers the production of the feel-good hormone oxytocin. Dan Defigio, author of Beating Sugar Addiction for Dummies, explains, “Over time, our brains start looking for that dopamine hit, and every time we eat chocolate, it reinforces that wiring.”

What foods are you addicted to? Tell us your shocking stories of how your battles with food addictions. We want to know!

Woman reading bedtime story to child in bed

Improve The Bond With Your Children By Reading Them A Bedtime Story

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.” What a lovely thought for a child to contemplate. This is a quote f5om Dr. Suess’s “Horton Hears A Who!” If you’ve ever read to your children, you do not need to be told that it is the right thing to do. Reading to your children is an act as natural as breathing. It becomes obvious with each question they ask and each phrase they memorize. However, if just the act in itself isn’t enough to convince you, here are some more scientific examples of how your relationship with your child is enriched by sharing bedtime stories.

The Research
According to the Reid Lyon, the behavior branch chief of the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, “Neural research shows that when parents and caregivers interact verbally with children–which includes reading to them–kids learn a great deal more than we ever thought possible.” Reading to a child can help the child develop morals and creativity, and children are never too young to start.

The Benefits

Woman reading to child

Develops Communication
Reading a story to your baby helps them to develop their listening, memory, and language recognition skills. It is also a good way to give them the chance to hear words they might not hear otherwise, especially ones which are less likely to come up in everyday speech. Bedtime stories can also improve a child’s memory. You will find that with repetition, children will begin to remember dialogues and story lines, and will often chime in with a spoiler or two.

Creates Routine
Children like to know what’s coming next. Reading a story is an assuring way of letting your child know its time for bed. Not only does the routine element keep stress levels down, the activity itself calms them and helps them sleep better at night.

Increase Imagination
Sometimes, it is hard to believe children’s imaginations need any stimulation, but listening to a story and looking at pictures gives them ideas and helps to motivate their creativity. Reading to children encourages them to question behaviors and develop comprehension skills and increase general cognition.

mother daughter

Stronger Bond
If you’re a parent you know that nothing is better than cuddling up with your child after a long day. Adding books to that experience can strengthen the bond between you by engaging in a shared activity.

Good Habits
When you read to your children, you are instilling them with a love of books. You are their greatest inspiration and the behavior you model is the behavior they’ll imitate. Although it may be hard for busy parents to carve out time to read to their children, bedtime can be a great opportunity to pass on an invaluable gift.

What are your children’s favorite bedtime tales? Let us know what you recommend for giving children the sweetest dreams.

Woman drinking green tea

Secrets To Pumping Up Your Metabolism

“Oh, I just have a fast metabolism.” Heard that one before? To many of us, a fast metabolism is some kind of body double that lives inside a select few people exercising and burning calories while their perfect outer shells sit and pig out on the couch. Well, that’s not far from the truth. Metabolism does work on its own to burn calories and shed fat, and the faster it runs the more calories you burn. However, it’s not only a select few that can reap the benefits. The truth is that you have a huge amount of control over the rate of your metabolism. And to prove it, here are some things that you too can sit back and let your fast metabolism do the work.

Green Tea
Tammy Lakatos Shames, RD, calls green tea “the closest thing to a metabolism potion.” Green tea contains a fat burning plant compound called ECGC. One study showed that people who consumed three to five cups a day of the brew for 12 weeks showed a 4.6 decrease in body weight; other studies suggest that consuming two to four cups of the tea can burn an extra fifty calories daily – five pounds a year, if you do the math.

Dairy
Did you spend last night binge watching “Empire” with an open bag of chips on hand? You can redeem yourself with an eight-ounce glass of milk or a six-ounce container of low-fat yogurt. Calcium boosts metabolism by increasing the rate at which your body disposes of waste, says a University of Copenhagen study. Supplements will not do the job, so let’s hope you like milk.

Iron
Women lose iron when they ovulate, a loss which does not bode well for your metabolic speed. Iron carries oxygen to your muscles. When there is a deficiency of oxygen, your energy levels tank and your metabolism hits the brakes. Shames advises stocking up on iron with beans, dark leafy greens, and fortified cereal.

Working Out

Woman working out

Interval training
If you want a quick metabolism boost, and to save some time in the process, increase the intensity of your workout. One Australian study pitted two group of female stationary bicyclists against each other. One group rode for 40 minutes at a moderate pace, and one group rode for 20-minute intervals, alternating 8-second sprints with 12 seconds of low-impact pedaling. After 15 weeks, the interval trainers lost three times as much body weight as the other group. Lead researcher, Ethlyn Gail Trapp, PhD, suggests that whatever method of exercise you choose, your should start with an 8-second sprint followed by 12 seconds of easy exercise. Aim to work up to 10 sprints in 20 minutes.

Fish Oil
According to a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, popping fish oil supplements when you exercise can stimulate your fat burning enzymes. Volunteers who took six grams of fish oil daily and worked out three times per week reported an average loss of 3.4 pounds over 12 weeks, while non-pill poppers saw minimal effects. Take two pills containing 300 mg EPA and 200 mg DHA per capsule two hours before you workout for best results.

Woman and child making salad

Diet
According to the National Institutes of Health, fatty fish like tuna, salmon, and sardines send “I’m full triggers to your brain, eliminating cravings. Another word to the wise, skip the cocktails. Two mixed drinks can slow down the calorie burn by 73 percent. Researchers from the University of Berkeley say that this is because the liver converts alcohol to acetate and uses that as fuel instead of your stores of fat. Another word of advice? Sleep well. It will help you regulate hormones that regulate energy use.

Got it? Now get out there and speed up that metabolism! Let us know how it goes for you. We love to get your stories!

Woman gardening outdoors

Tips For Growing Your Own Organic Produce

You say you’re not the type for organic gardening. People who grow their own organic vegetables are the kind of people who practice yoga. They throw away their razors and change their names to Persimmon or Rutabega. They listen to new age music and Joni Mitchell. They replace all their tight-fitting clothes with sack-like hemp items. You would never fit the bill. Although it may be tempting to find some plausibility in this scenario, it is actually quite far from reality.

Organic gardening is actually one of the most practical things you can do. It’s the healthiest and cheapest way to produce food for your family; the transcendental meditation and is optional. If you’re thinking of growing your own organic produce, here are some tips for keeping it real.

Gardening

Green Manure
Green manure is a way to grow plant material while improving the quality of the soil. It’s usually planted in the winter and grows a few weeks before planting season. It retains nutrients while it grows, until it’s cut down and turned into the soil. Winter rye is a good source of green manure during the winter because it clamps onto the soil to prevent erosion. Comfrey is another excellent green manure option, which helps to add minerals, such as nitrogen and phosphate to the soil.

Compost
Compost is a nutritious humus made from rotting organic material, like grass clippings, wood chips, vegetable or fruit scraps. In fact, you can add anything organic to the compost pile to provide extra nutrition to your plants. Compost can be added directly to the soil and turned under, or you can leave it on the top of the bed and let the worms come and do the work for you. Using compost prevents water erosion and disease. You can make your own compost pile by setting aside a bin and adding organic material at regular intervals, adding it to your vegetable garden bed when the older material becomes finished.

mother and daughter

Mulching
Mulching is a way to slow down the growth of weeds while keeping the soil from dehydration. Although almost anything that provides cover for the bare ground between your vegetables can be used for mulching, organic materials will degrade slowly and add nutrients to the soil. The best organic materials for mulching include dry grass, wood chips, and hay. Spread a few inches of mulch onto areas of bare soil to keep sunlight from reaching the ground and drying the soil.

Companion Planting
Strength in numbers applies to the gardening world as well. Companion planting is the planting of certain types of herbs, flowers, and vegetables together to fight off disease and pests and provide nutrients to one another. Although herbs are the most regularly used for companion planting, there are certain vegetables that should be planted apart or together. For example, planting tomatoes with carrots will make your carrots turn out smaller than usual. Garlic is a natural fungicide that can fight off a large number of diseases and pests. In fact, garlic can even improve the flavor and production of certain vegetables. Beans are an excellent companion choice for corn and grains because they enrich the soil with the nitrogen necessary for these plants to thrive; melons and squash work well with corn as well, because their broad leaves provide the soil with the shade necessary for keeping the corn moist.

Are you going organic? Let us know what you’re doing to make your garden grow!

Sad woman with cup of tea

Causes of Adult Malnutrition

Malnutrition. It is defined as an excess or deficiency in intake of nutrients It refers to both the overweight and the underweight and, for the first time in centuries, the numbers are getting close. While feeding the hungry has always been always a priority, it is increasingly becoming the case that hunger is merely being traded for obesity, with one form of malnutrition simply being replaced by another, resulting in heart disease, cancer, chronic illness and shorter life expectancies. Ironically, at time when out nation has the most potential to eliminate the epidemic, it has boosted to record levels. Here are some of the most common causes of adult malnutrition.

Poor Diet
One of the leading causes of malnutrition is a poor diet. When an individual does not eat enough food, or if the food they do eat does not provide them with the nutrients required for good health, malnutrition may occur. Improper diet my be cause by several factors, including dysphagia, which is a difficulty swallowing due to an illness.

Sad woman

Mental Health Disorders
Poor mental health is often linked to a malnutrition. Depression may interfere with healthy eating habits and patients with eating disorders, such as bulimia and anorexia, may also suffer from malnutrition.

Limited Mobility
Individuals who have a hard time getting around may become victims of malnutrition because of difficulty getting out to go shopping or simply finding food preparation difficult.

Digestive disorders
Despite eating properly, certain people have health conditions which prevent their bodies from absorbing the nutrients necessary for good health. Examples include individuals with ulcerative colitis of Crohn’s Disease.
Patients with Celiac disease have genetic disorders that make them gluten intolerant. This results in an increased risk of damage to the lining of their intestines. This condition also results in poor food absorption.

Woman drinking

Alcoholism
Alcoholism is a long-term disease that can result in gastritis or pancreatic damage. These conditions interfere with the body’s digestion and prevent the body from absorbing vitamins and producing hormones necessary for the regulation of metabolism. In addition, the calories supplied by the alcohol may reduce food cravings, and result in the person’s lack of desire for food. Consequently, the person’s meager diet may not supply him or her with essential nutrients.

Food Shortages
Poor and developing nations often suffer food shortages due to lack of agricultural technology, such as fertilizers, pesticides, and advanced methods of irrigation.

Food Prices and Distribution
Shockingly, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization, 80% of malnourished children live in nations that actually produce a surplus of food. In these cases, economist blame high food prices and problems with distribution of food to the needy.

Lack of Breastfeeding
Certain experts believe that much of the world’s malnutrition in children and infants is due to lack of breastfeeding. Some women are of the belief that bottle feeding is better, while other mothers, usually in the developing countries, abandon breastfeeding because their babies do not latch on properly, or the mothers find breastfeeding to be painful and uncomfortable.

Do you have any ideas for combatting malnutrition? Let us know how you believe this worldwide epidemic can be addressed. We’d love to start the conversation.

Flat lay of healthy food

Popular Health Food Myths

Eating pop rocks with soda can make you explode. This is perhaps the most popular and most bizarre food myths of all time. Although some may argue that the two together may be a lethal combination, it is not because of its likelihood to cause human combustion. While the fate of Mikey of Life Cereal fame may be unknown, it is safe to say he did not suffer death by Poprock. With the rate at which information about food changes , it is often hard to determine which facts from fiction. Here are some of the most commonly believed food myths that may seem all too easy to believe.

Low Fat Food is Better for You
Look at food labels to determine what kinds of fats are in foods before reaching for the low fat version. Seattle based dietitian Andy Bellatti says, “A good intake of healthful fats is beneficial for cardiovascular health. Prioritize mono saturated fats and omega-3 fatty acids. Many low fat diets are high in sugar and refined carbohydrates which are increasingly becoming linked to increased heart disease.” Low fat food are often low in good fats, which are necessary to cholesterol management and absorption of nutrients and also contain high levels of sugar and sodium to compensate for the blandness of the taste quality.

Dairy Is Best For Healthy Bones
According to Bellatti, too many people confuse dairy with calcium. “Dairy contains calcium, but so do dark-leafy greens. Milk is fortified with vitamin D, just like all milk alternatives. Additionally, bone health goes beyond calcium and vitamin D.” Vitamin K is important for bone health and leafy green have it while dairy products do not. Magnesium, also absent from dairy, is important for bone health as well.

Assorted dairy

If you’re concerned about the health of your bones, you’re best bet is to make sure you get enough calcium in your diet and, as the Harvard School of Public Health points out, “milk isn’t the only, or even best source of calcium.” Collard greens, kale and bok choy may be considerably better sources of both calcium and vitamin D.

Drink 8 Glasses of Water per Day
Boston based nutritionist Alannah DiBona says there is no given rule for how much water a person needs in a day. “Water’s been touted as the cure for all sins, and in some ways, it’s true – proper hydration is necessary for just about anything body and mind-related. However sixty- four ounces per day isn’t always going to be the right number for you.” Instead, try to determine your water intake by dividing your body weight in half and trying to drink that number in ounces of water daily.

Dibona also urges us to “Remember that water is available to you through all liquids, fruits, vegetables, and that the mark of proper hydration is a very light yellow-colored urine.”

Eating Eggs Raises Cholesterol
According to DiBona, “More often than not, a person diagnosed with high cholesterol will go out of his or her way to avoid eggs, which is really unnecessary. The body’s cholesterol levels are influenced by certain saturated and trans fats; eggs contain very little saturated fat and absolutely no trans fat. Depriving yourself of an egg means foregoing 13 naturally occurring vitamins and minerals and a really delicious breakfast item.”

Poached egg

High Sodium Foods Taste Salty
While there is no doubt that management of salt and sodium intake are important, especially for those with diabetes and hypertension, you should know that salty taste is not necessarily characteristic of high sodium foods. Belatti explains, “While surface salt is noticeable, stealth sodium, added during processing, is harder to taste. This is why many people don’t realize that a Dunkin’ Donuts corn muffin contains as much sodium, as 9 McDonald’s Chicken McNuggets.” He stresses the importance of looking up nutrition information to check the sodium content of foods at your favorite restaurants and eateries.

What other food myths do you want to debunk? Let us know!

Healthy salad on wooden table

Tips For Changing Your Diet

It’s time to face facts. You’ve outgrown your diet- in more ways than one. Your waistline has matured and its time for your tastes to do the same. It’s come down to saying goodbye to your Oreos or your skinny jeans, and nothing comes between you and your Calvins. You need to revamp your diet or restock your closet, and you’ve made your choice. The only thing is, you’ve gotten so comfortable eating junk food, you don’t know where to start. Hold on to your cutoffs; here are some tips for changing your diet.

It’s Hard
We’ve all heard the expression, “you can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” but that doesn’t mean there are no exceptions. John Foreyt, PhD, says, “Many people are skeptical about changing their diets because they have grown accustomed to eating or drinking the same foods, and there is fear of the unknown or trying something new.”

He also notes the tendency to lapse into old habits during times of stress. “Everything can be going along just fine until you hit a rough patch.” To combat these feelings, Foreyt advises that you acknowledge the habits you want to fix, figure out why you have these habits, and make a plan to slowly change your bad habits into healthy ones.

Steps to Fixing Bad Eating Habits

Go slowly
Make changes slowly. Experts recommend starting each day with a good breakfast and getting 8 hours of sleep a night to avoid stress eating.

Work on structuring your meal habits. Eat seated at a table without distractions and try to eat more frequently with family. Try to learn to eat only when you are hungry and stop when you are full.

Make dietary changes. Aim to reduce portion sizes by 20% and no second helpings. Use whole grain bread for sandwiches and swap mayo for mustard. Flavor coffee with skim milk instead of cream and eat a healthy meal or snack every few hours.

Mother and daughter making salad

Change your cooking methods. Use cooking spray and nonstick pans instead of oil to reduce fat and experiment with more nutritional ways of cooking, like roasting, baking, grilling, or poaching.

Drink more water and cut down on sugary sodas and juices. Limit alcohol intake to 1-2 drinks per day. Try to eat large portions of foods with high water content, like salads and veggies, instead of calorie dense foods, and flavor foods with herbs, vinegar, lemon, or mustard instead of fattening sauces.

Pay Attention
Become more aware of what you’re eating. Keri Gans, MS, RD, advises, “Read food labels. Become familiar with lists of ingredients and start to take notice of everything you put into your mouth.” Once you begin to assess your diet, you will probably realize the need for improvement.

New Week New Goal
Maybe one week your goal will be to try a new vegetable, or a new exercise. Don’t overwhelm yourself by taking on too much at one time. Take it slow and figure out what works and what doesn’t.

Be a Realist
Don’t expect to see results right away and keep in mind that it usually takes about a month to adapt to new habits.

Diet planning

Have a Plan
Be specific. “To say ‘I am going to work our more,’ won’t help you,” says Gans, “what will help is thinking about when and how you can fit it into your lifestyle.” Plan certain days on which you will go to the gym and stock up on healthy food.

Manage Stress
Change can be stressful. To handle it, Foreyt advises, “Focus on dealing with stress through exercise, meditation, or whatever works for you, so you don’t fall back into those bad habits during periods of stress or use food to help you cope with the situation.”

Are you working on changing your eating habits? Let us know how its going and add your comments and suggestions!

Flat lay of heart-healthy foods

Foods That Boost Your Cardiovascular Health

When we use the term “hungry heart,” we are usually not speaking in the literal, scientific sense. The Hebrew bible associated all feelings with the heart, hunger and thirst included and quoted Abraham as saying we shall eat to “sustain our hearts.” However, today we tend to more often associate these signals with the mind and brain. However, is the whole body concept so far-fetched? After all, if our heart does fuel our body, and our stomach does fuel our heart, then maybe the heart can be hungry. And if the heart is hungry, what should we feed it?

The Food-Heart Connection
According to Julie Zumpano, RD, LD, and dietitian for the Preventive Cardiology and Nutrition Program at Cleveland Clinic says, “You can definitely reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease by eating certain foods every day. Try to eat foods that are in their natural form, as they come from the ground.” Here are some suggestions for a heart-healthy diet.

Fish
Fish are packed with omega-3’s to support your heart. Eating fish with a high omega-3 content, such as salmon and mackerel can help prevent the formation of blood clots, and help maintain healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels.

Salmon

Almonds
A handful of almonds contains a huge load of nutrients! Not only do these nuts have protein, magnesium, and fiber, but they are also high in vitamin E, biotin, monosaturated fats and antioxidants to protect against oxidative stress. They have also been shown to help reduce risk of heart disease and lower bad cholesterol levels.

Beans
Beans, beans, good for your heart! Beans are rich in soluble fiber and help decrease blood pressure and reduce inflammation. They are also full of phytochemicals that reduce oxidative stress, a known contributor to heart disease.

Pomegranates
These lovely seeded fruits have incredible anti-inflammatory properties to decrease the risk of type 2 diabetes, obesity, and blood disease. They also contain punicic acid, a fatty acid proven to combat risk factors associated with heart disease.

Pomegranates

Whole Grains
If you want to improve heart health, swap out that white bread for whole wheat. Web MD cites research showing that the consumption of just 25 grams of whole grains per day can reduce heart disease by 15%.” A diet rich in whole grains has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and some forms of cancer,” says the website.

Red Wine
Don’t get too excited. Moderation is the key. Scientist suggest that one glass of red per day can raise HDL, or good cholesterol, which prevents blood clots and inflammation that can contribute to a stroke or heart attack. However, they also warn against too much of the good stuff, which may have a detrimental effect on mental and physical health.

Dark Chocolate
Bring on the dark chocolate to help protect your cardiovascular system. This wonderful treat contains flavanols. an antioxidant which has been shown to lower blood pressure, increase blood flow to the heart, and decrease the likelihood of blood clot formation.

Dark chocolate

Tomatoes
Tomatoes are rich in antioxidants, folic acid. and beta carotene, but it’s lycopene that really gives these veggies their heart healthy kick. Lycopene reduces risk for heart disease and reduces blood pressure, inflammation, and stroke which make these veggies a great pick for a snack or salad topper.

What do you feed your heart to keep it healthy? Let us know! We love to hear it!

Woman eating burger

Taming Your Fast Food Craving

Are you a fast food junkie? Do you religiously monitor news reports and commercial advertisements to hear the latest concoction your favorite fast food restaurant has on offer? Were you the first to try the Taco Bell Naked Fried Chicken Chalupa? Do you regularly challenge your new friends to Doritos Loaded eating contest? Are you willing to travel several miles out of your way to the nearest Weinerschnitzel to eat “Pastrami with your Mommy?” If so, have you read the nutritional information on that stuff?

Fast food can be hard to resist. After all, how can you compete with companies willing to spend millions of dollars on discovering the right level of crunch in a potato chip? But there are ways to fight back. Read on to find out how you can tame your fast food craving.

Why We Crave

Vanishing Food Density
Cheetos are a classic example of a food with vanishing caloric density. It melts in for mouth quickly, before your brain realizes there are calories in it. The result? Your brain thinks you’re not eating as much as you are and you overeat.

Sensory Response
The brain craves variety. The more familiar the brain becomes with a food, the less pleasure it will derive from it. Fast foods are designed to provide enough taste to remain interesting without dulling the sensory response. This is why many fast foods are covered with sauces and glazes.

Memories
When you eat something you like, the pleasurable response is registered in your brain, creating a trigger. Every time you see or even think about that food, memories and responses can cause cravings, and even physical responses, like salivation.

How To Fight Back

Woman with healthy groceries

Rules and Strategies
Research has shown that the less junk food you eat, the less you will crave it. Your first step in fighting your fast food craving is by cutting down on processed and packaged food.

Try using the “outer ring” strategy at the grocery store. If you aim to purchase foods on the outer ring of the store, you will generally be selecting from whole foods like meats, eggs and produce.

Also, try and follow the “five ingredient rule” and avoid buying foods with more than five ingredients, which are more likely to contain empty calories.

Choose From a Wide Variety of Foods
The brain needs novelty to remain stimulated. If your craving the crunch of a Nacho, you may not be able to replicate the taste, but you may be able to get a similar sensation by dipping a celery stick in hummus. Try and get creative with food textures and flavors to keep things interesting.

Learn To Cope with Stress
Stress causes the brain to release chemicals, like opiates and neuropeptide, Y that trigger mechanisms similar to those you get from sugar and fat. Learn to handle stressful situations without reaching for junk food. Try a simple breathing exercise or quick meditation. Exercise and activity are also great stress relievers and can provide distractions from food cravings.

If you have a mild fast food obsession, how do you control your cravings? Let us know how you managed to avoid the lure of the Bacon Cheese.

Woman exercising on elliptical

Kickstart Your Heart With These Cardio Staples

There is such a variety of exercise tapes available today, it is sometimes difficult to determine which ones are meant to be taken seriously. Since Joanna Rohrback created a sensation with her much spoofed “Prancercise” video, the health conscious public has been confused by an assortment of bizarre aerobic tapes ranging from the “Dixie Carter Country Hiphop Workout” to the “Japanese Poodle Workout” to the “Exorcise” video. With all this insanity, it is sometimes hard to define what is meant by cardiovascular exercise.

Cardiovascular exercises are so called because they improve the function of the heart, build muscle mass, and enhance consumption and transportation of oxygen. They also strengthen bones, increase joint support and improve cholesterol. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends a weekly exercise routine consisting of 2 and a half hours of moderate cardiovascular activity or 75 minutes of more vigorous cardio per week. Here are some tried and true examples of cardiovascular staples to help kickstart your health.

In the Gym
The elliptical trainer, which features footpads that require a pedaling motion to operate. is one of the most comprehensive pieces of gym equipment for cardiovascular activity. This, along with the stairclimber and the treadmill, provide their users with opportunities to build endurance and lung capacity while toning the lower body and burning fat.
If instructed gym classes are more your speed, spinning, exercise dancing, and water aerobics are all challenging options. Looking for something more traditional? Step aerobics are an age old way to work the lower body, while jumping rope provides for full body workout, sharpening coordination and boosting lateral movement.

Couple running

Walking and Running
You can burn 180 calories by speed walking at moderate intensity for 30 minutes, while running can double that number. Although body weight can affect the number of calories burned while running, speed has little to do with cardiovascular benefits. Therefore, you can enjoy perks of lower blood pressure, decreased risk of heart attack, and increased lung capacity while still working at a relatively low intensity. However, more vigorous activity has the added benefits of greater calorie melts and metabolism boosts which can last for days after working out.

Sports
If you enjoy competitive sports, racquetball is considered the most heart healthy sport and can burn more than 400 calories in the course of a vigorous 30 minute game. Rowing, skiing and climbing follow hot on its heels, turning in similar figures. Swimming weighs in at a whopping 500 calorie burn in thirty minutes and is known to stimulate circulation, increase endurance and flexibility, and provide stress relief, while strengthening the heart.

Indoor and Outdoor Activities
Biking can be done outdoors or from the comfort of your home and can burn up to 500 calories in a period of 30 minutes. A hilly terrain can increase resistance outdoors for an even greater calorie burn and an increased test of stamina, while stationary bikes include manual intensity adjustments. Equipment free cardio options include unweighted squad, jumping jacks, lunges and squat jumps.

How do you like to kickstart your workout? Let us know how you get your 2 1/2 hours in. We love to hear it!