Chia Seeds Provide Sports Nutrition Minus the Sugar and Calories

The popularity of sports drinks and performance gels has exploded over the last 10 years but most nutritionists would agree they aren’t that good for you. A simple drink that combines water, chia seeds and a twist of citrus is healthier and will help you keep that competitive edge.

Nutritional Value of Chia Seeds

Chia seeds made a comeback about five years ago. Before that, most of us either hadn’t heard of them or didn’t understand the nutritional benefits that adding them to your diet can bring.

Chia seeds

Chia Seeds Have Superfood Properties

Chia seeds are rich in omega-3 fatty acids and are very high in antioxidants. Unlike other seeds – flax for example – they can be added to water, soups, salads, and homemade bread right out of the package. Flax seeds, while good for you, do not have any real nutritional benefits whole and must be ground before they can be consumed.

Chia seeds are a powerhouse of nutrients. One ounce (about 2 tablespoons) has 139 calories, 4 grams of protein, 9 grams of fat, 12 grams of carbohydrates and 11 grams of fiber. Chia seeds also contain essential nutrients including manganese, phosphorus, calcium, zinc, copper and potassium. As a bonus they contain essential fatty acids alpha-linoleic and linoleic acid, and vitamins A, B, E and D.

Adding chia seeds to your diet for the nutritional value they provide alone is reason enough. But some research shows they can increase your energy level and metabolism which can lead to improved athletic performance. Add them to the water you drink during your workout and you won’t need a sports drink like Gatorade that’s loaded with sugar and other additives or G2 that has questionable artificial sweeteners.

Replace Sugary Beverages with Chia Seeds to Maintain Your Edge and Lose Weight

Most of us look to sports drinks to help us get through athletic endurance trainings and events. If we are doing a 50 mile bike ride or a 13 mile run on a hot day, we need something beyond water to keep us moving. You can safely replace the sugary carb-loaded beverage with a tablespoon of chia seeds in water with a splash of lemon or lime which will save you calories and provide the needed energy.

A study cited in the National Institute for Health created two control groups that consisted of athletic males. They had both groups perform a one hour run on a treadmill at approximately 65% of their VO2max followed by a 10k time trial on a track. One group consumed 100% of their calories from Gatorade. The second group consumed 50% of their calories from Gatorade and 50% from chia seeds. The group that consumed the 50% Gatorade, 50% Chia seed drink performed just as well as the 100% Gatorade group, which shows the athletes could decrease their dietary intake of sugar by using the chia seed replacement drink.

Chia in water

Chia Water = A Healthier Option

While the study doesn’t go so far as to prove that chia seeds alone will lead to athletic performance, the good news is that often times we consume more calories in the form of beverages and other carb aids when we work out or compete in events. Unlike chia seeds, those calories comes from sugar that has no nutritional value and leads to inconsistent ebbs and flows in our energy level. Over time, consuming sugary sports drinks can sabotage our weight loss goals and leave us wondering why we’re working so hard but the stubborn belly fat doesn’t budge.

Plus, the high fiber content of the chia seeds (one ounce has 10 grams) will fill you up so you’re not starving when you’re done!

Colorful Cobb Salad With Avocado Dressing

This nutritious salad is easy to make and the dressing is made from avocados that are loaded with vitamin K, vitamin E, fiber, magnesium and monounsaturated fat.

Plus, it’s a pretty and colorful salad to serve to your family or guests and can be paired with a Mexican entrée of your choice.

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Ingredients:

Salad

Romaine lettuce – 4 cups
Bell pepper – ½ cup, chopped
Cherry tomatoes – ½ cup, chopped
Red onion – ¼ cup, chopped
Black beans – ¼ cup
Corn – ½ cup Boiled eggs – 2

Dressing

Avocado – 1
Lime juice (one lime)
Garlic – 4 cloves, crushed
Olive oil – ¼ cup
Cilantro (fresh chopped 2 Tbls.)
Dash of salt and pepper

Tips – You could use other lettuce varieties, but my choice for this salad is Romaine because it is crispy and flavorful and is one of the more nutritious lettuces available.

Choose any color bell pepper that you have.  Red, orange and yellow will all work.

For the black beans and corn I used a combined frozen mix that I had on hand.  Since I wasn’t making a huge salad I didn’t want to open a can of black beans and corn, knowing that they could potentially go to waste.

Chop and Dress

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Chop and mix the salad ingredients, then run the avocado, lime juice, garlic and olive oil through a food processor or mix by hand if the avocado is soft enough. Dress the salad right before eating.

As you can see, my dressing was thick. You can add a little water to the dressing (or more lime juice) if you want a smoother dressing.

The Perfect Egg Slicer

Do you have one of these?

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If you don’t, you need to get one. I picked this egg slicer up at Big Lots on Saturday for $4.  How have I lived without this gizmo for this long?  It slices eggs perfectly with one cut.

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Improve Your Health With Lemon Water

It doesn’t get easier than this.

Squeezing a half of a lemon into a glass of water first thing in the morning is a good way to hydrate your system, cleanse the liver, and get a supply of vitamins and anti-oxidants that can give your immune system a boost.

The best reason to add fresh lemon juice to your diet several times a week is because they are super-charged with Vitamin C which is one of the most important antioxidants in nature. Anti-oxidants can protect healthy cells from free-radicals that can damage cell membranes, which ultimately leads to inflammation, pain and chronic disease.

Lemons and water

All Natural Lemon Juice Cleanse

Lemon water is an inexpensive, easy-to-make no-sugar thirst quencher that is more effective than commercial cleanses. The Vitamin C in lemons help the liver produce a compound called glutathione, which cleanses the liver and helps it regenerate. The minerals and vitamins in lemons help to flush unwanted toxins from the digestive tract, also aiding in liver detoxification

Increased Energy

Lemon squeezed in water provides more energy for the body than plain water. Water with lemon is a good pre-workout hydration drink. After a workout, lemon water will replace lost fluids and electrolytes and can improve post-workout recovery.

Weight Loss

There have been plenty of articles written about how lemon water can ‘melt fat’ and help people lose weight. Lemon water is not a magic potion that will cause you to drop pounds quickly unless you’re engaged in some of the other necessary behaviors – like reducing calories, and increasing your physical activity – that promote weight loss.

Lemon water will help you feel fuller and more satisfied than plain water which can cut cravings and reduce the chances that you’ll reach for a sugary soda or sports drink.

Glass of Lemon Water

How Much Do You Need?

People that weigh less than 150 pounds can squeeze a half of a fresh lemon into 8 to 12 ounce glass of water. People over 150 pounds can use the juice of one whole lemon or drink two glasses with a half a lemon each, twice a day.

The one downside to drinking lemon water is that it can be hard on tooth enamel. After drinking your daily glass, rinse the mouth with regular water and spit it out. This will protect the teeth from the acids in the lemon juice.

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The Best Remedy for Holiday Bloat: Natural Detox

The Thanksgiving feast, holiday parties, carry-in lunches at work and the special homemade ‘treats’ that make their way into your life at this time of year may tempt you to look for a way to undo all of the damage overeating and drinking is doing to your system.

After an extended period of eating sugary, high-fat foods loaded with empty calories, and drinking too many special holiday drinks (whether it be a couple of shots of Tequila at the after-party or a 460 calorie Eggnog Latte from Starbucks) your liver could use a break.

Detox Diet

Do You Need A 48-Hour (or 7 Day) Detox or Cleanse?

The desire to get rid of that stuffed, sluggish feeling that comes after a few days of overdoing the food and drinks sends a lot of people to the drug store for a commercial liver detox or cleansing product. But, research shows that the liver doesn’t need you to spend your cash on a product that promises to flush your system of all of the toxins you’ve consumed.

According to Dr. Andrew Weil, “If you are in good health and not overloading your system with toxic substances (such as alcohol), the liver will cleanse itself very well.” Dr. Weil also reminds us that liver toxicity does not cause cancer, heart disease, gastrointestinal problems, auto-immune conditions, or aging.

The best thing you can do for your overall health is to get back to a plan of eating and drinking foods and beverages that promote liver, colon, kidney and heart health. Drinking six to eight glasses of water daily, eating lots of fresh fruits and vegetables, avoiding tobacco smoke and limiting alcohol can get your system back in top-notch condition.

The Good and The Bad

A commercial cleansing product might not be as beneficial to your healing as promoters of the products would have you believe. But, there are some foods that are particularly bad and good for the liver. If you work to avoid those on the bad list, and consume plenty of those on the good, you’ll begin to feel better quicker.

Six substances to avoid (besides the obvious tobacco and alcohol) are sugar, artificial sweeteners, fried foods, monosodium glutamate, acetaminophen (Tylenol) and fuel exhaust.

Foods that support liver health are beets, broccoli, sweet potatoes, lemons, lentils, minimal amounts of healthy fats (found in avocados, nuts, and chia seeds), apples, onions, and leafy greens. In general, whole foods that are low in calories, sugar and salt, but high in nutrients and vitamins are what you need to get and stay healthy this year.

Natural Detox

Components of a Natural Liver Detox

In particular, large amounts of leafy green vegetables, six to eight glasses of water with slices of lemon, cucumber or other fruits, green tea, and moderate amounts of daily exercise are all you need to naturally ‘detox’ your system.

A while back I posted a recipe for a delicious and super healthy kale and pomegranate salad  that provides a ton of nutrients, and fiber and would be something to add to your natural detox plan.

Your Liver On Sugar

One of the best things you can do for your liver is limit the amount of added sugar that you consume each day. Too much sugar, and more specifically fructose, turns into fat in the liver. Over time, this buildup of sugar leads to a condition known as nonalcoholic fatty liver disease and damages the liver in the same way that too much alcohol does.

The American Heart Association recommends no more than nine teaspoons a day for men and six a day for women.

For more reasons why you should say no to sugar, click here.

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Improve Your Health: Drink Green Tea

Coffee gets credit for being a beverage loaded with anti-oxidants that can help prevent Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s disease, fatty liver disease and even some cancers.

Green tea, also considered one of the world’s healthiest drinks, tends to take a back seat to coffee when it comes to media attention, and that’s probably not fair.

Flickr photo by Leon Brocard

Health Benefits of Green Tea

There are many known health benefits of green tea and most of them are tied to the fact that it is loaded with epigallocatechin-3 gallates (EGCG) and bioactive polyphenol that have been shown to be the most effective compounds in eliminating free radicals.

An article in Medical News Today says that green tea is approximately 20% to 45% polyphenols by weight, of which 60% to 80% are catechins such as EGCG. What that means for you, is that when you consume green tea an army is released into your system that will destroy those pesky free radicals that cause cell damage, oxidative stress and eventually chronic disease.

Free radicals are generated from a variety of sources found in our daily lives including injury, cigarette smoke, environmental pollutants, radiation, certain drugs, pesticides, industrial solvents, and the ozone. Totally avoiding them is impossible so consuming green tea is one way to combat the damage they can do to cells.

Not only is green tea full of strong antioxidants, it is also believed to be effective in increasing metabolism and helps the body burn fat. Green tea also acts as a natural diuretic that removes excess fluid from the body and, a study done in at the Tohoku University Graduate School of Medicine shows that people who drink green tea age better than those who don’t.

Not All Teas Are Equal

Since there are so many options available when you go to buy green tea it’s important to pick one that gives you the highest levels of EGCG. For starters, bottled teas don’t measure up to brewed teas. Not only do they contain fewer antioxidants, many bottled teas have as much added sugar as soda.

Even bagged teas have different amounts of the healthy properties that can make some better than others. For bulk tea, Teavanak at 85 mg. has the most EGCG per teaspoon. If bagged tea is your choice, Lipton Green Tea bags, which contain about 71mg EGCG per serving, provides the most EGCG at the lowest cost (27 cents to obtain 200mg.

Flickr photo by Chris Costas

Green Tea Supplements Are Another Option

If you’re really serious about amping up your consumption of EGCG, green tea capsules might be the way to go. Through a study done at UCLA, researchers determined that green tea supplements produced the highest levels of antioxidants in the blood compared with liquid black or green tea.

If you do choose the supplement over the beverage, be careful not to get too much of a good thing. The average person should not consume more than 4.54 mg per pound of body weight. For all body weights, it is recommended to have no more than 750 mg in one day.

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Healthy and Nutritious Fried Rice Recipe

If you love fried rice but worry about the oils and additives that often accompany the versions that you get from some of the popular restaurant chains, you can make your own at home and control the calories and ingredients.

This fried rice recipe has basic ingredients – vegetables, rice, chicken, shrimp, and eggs. It’s cooked with a tablespoon of olive oil. A splash of soy sauce is added for flavor. That’s it. You can eat it without guilt and without wondering what else has been added to make it taste so good.

Rice With Chopsticks

There are tons of options when you make this recipe. You can add chicken, shrimp, pork or beef. For this meal I added chicken thighs and a small package of medium shrimp.

For the base I used Jasmine rice (my personal favorite).

Rice

Cook a cup and a half of rice according to the directions on the package then set aside. While the rice is cooking, sautee two stalks of celery, a half of a white or yellow onion, and a half a pound of mushrooms in 2 teaspoons of canola or olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat.Celery Onions Mushrooms

Cook the vegetables until they are tender-crisp. Then add your meat. For this dish I put in three pieces of pre-cooked chicken and a pound of thawed medium shrimp. To cook the chicken I boiled it for about 7 minutes on the medium heat. Also, I added a half a cup of frozen peas. Sometimes I add chopped carrots or water chestnuts.

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Once all of the ingredients are cooked, stir in rice and mix.

Rice Before Eggs

You could stop here. With a little soy sauce and a dash of pepper this is already a delicious meal, but it’s not truly fried rice. For delicious fried rice,  turn the heat down to low and beat two eggs in a small bowl. Spread the rice mixture out to the edges of the pan and pour the eggs into the center.

Rich with Eggs

Turn the heat back up to medium and allow the eggs to begin cooking. As they cook, stir them into the rice mixture. Once the eggs are cooked and thoroughly mixed into the rice it’s ready to eat.

I like to serve fried rice on romaine lettuce with a splash (or two) of soy sauce. You have the option to roll or not to roll the fried rice up in the lettuce. Whatever you choose, there is something about the flavor of the fried rice and the romaine lettuce that is delicious!

Rice W Romaine

Be sure you make enough so that you have leftovers. This dish is a perfect low-maintenance lunch.

Ingredients:

  •  A cup and a half of cooked rice
  • One large celery stalk, chopped
  • A half of a medium white or yellow onion, chopped
  • A half a pound of mushrooms, chopped
  • Meat of choice – chicken, pork, shrimp, beef, chopped into bite sized pieces
    • Raw chicken, pork or beef should be partially cooked before adding it to the skillet. Shrimp cooks so quickly so there’s no need to pre-cook.
  • Two eggs
  • Peas, carrots, water chestnuts, chopped (your choice)
  • One tablespoon of canola or olive oil
  • Romaine lettuce (optional)

Directions:

  • Cook rice according to directions on package.
  • Saute celery, onion and mushrooms in a half a tablespoon of olive or canola oil on medium heat.
  • Add the rest of the oil and meat and continue to cook.
  • Add rice and mix together.  All ingredients should now be cooked through.
  • Push the rice and meat mixture to the outer rim of the skillet and pour the eggs in the center.
  • Let the eggs begin to cook them stir them into the rest of the ingredients in the pan
  • Once the eggs are cooked through, turn the heat down to low.

Serve the fried rice on romaine lettuce leaves or in bowls. Add soy sauce to taste.

Enjoy!

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Is Sugar Really That Bad For You?

If you roll your eyes at studies that tell you what to eat and what not to eat so that you can live a long, healthy, happy, prosperous life, get ready to roll.

Researchers have completed a study that was designed to determine if sugar is really the demon substance that we’ve been told that it is. Driving this research is the undeniable trend showing that in the United States more and more children are being diagnosed with type 2 diabetes, fatty liver disease, and cardiovascular disease at a younger age. In September, the youngest person ever to be diagnosed with type 2 diabetes was a three year old girl.

The occurrence of these maladies are much more common in American children than they are in other countries such as Pakistan, India, and China which leads scientists to believe there is more to it than caloric intake.

Lollipops

Sugar Study On Children Proves What We Think We Already Know

A study conducted by researchers at UC San Francisco and Touro University California involved 43 children between the ages of 9 and 18. All of the children were obese and had at least one other co-morbidity such as high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, and impaired fasting glucose.

During the 10-day study the children were provided specific foods to eat but it was not food that you would consider healthy fare. They ate kid-friendly foods like hot dogs, pasta, cereal, bagels and potato chips. But, the catch was their overall dietary sugar was reduced to 10 percent of their calories.

The children had to weigh themselves each day and if they lost weight they were instructed to eat more so they would maintain their original weight. This was done to prevent confusion as to whether the reduction in sugar or weight loss was having an effect on their health.

Despite intensive efforts to maintain the participant’s baseline body weights, at the end of the 10-day study, all participants experienced about a 1% loss. And all other makers were down including diastolic blood pressure, fasting glucose, fasting insulin, fasting triglycerides, and LDL.

Researchers have concluded that the health detriments of sugar, and fructose specifically, are independent of their caloric value or effects on weight.

Dr. Robert Lustig at the University of California, San Francisco, who has led studies on glucose and fructose says there is a direct link between sugar and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions including increased blood pressure, high blood sugar levels, excess belly fat and abnormal cholesterol. Lin says, “When you metabolize fructose in excess, your liver has no choice but to turn that energy into liver fat, and that liver fat causes all of the downstream metabolic diseases.”

What This Means For You

It is true that studies come and go and, in some cases, what was proved last year has since been debunked. However, I can’t imagine that a year from now scientist will be saying, “Nope. We were wrong. Sugar is good for you. Eat all you want.”

Whether your goal is to lose weight or improve your metabolic markers, when it comes to sugar, eating less of it is the way to go. The American Heart Association recommends no more than six teaspoons of added sugar a day for women and no more than nine a day for men. If your sugar intake is out of control, tracking your sugar to make sure you stay within the AHA guidelines is a good place to start.

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Creamy Cauliflower Salad with Kale

You can add kale to almost anything to give it a nutritional boost. I added kale to this creamy cauliflower salad and it adds crunch and color. I do use a little real mayo for the dressing, but cut down the calories and fat with a dab of Greek yogurt (or sour cream) and a tablespoon of olive oil.

Cucumber Salad

This creamy cauliflower salad is delicious. It’s a good side dish and is always a hit as a carry-in at a bar-b-que or picnic.

Baby Kale

Ingredients:

1 medium head of cauliflower, chopped
1/2 red onion, sliced into bite size pieces
1 small can of black olives, sliced
2 cups of baby kale, chopped
2/3 cup real mayonnaise
2 tablespoons of Greek yogurt or sour cream
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of vinegar
1 teaspoon of sugar
Garlic salt
Fresh black pepper

Directions:

Mix cauliflower, red onion, olives, and kale in a large bowl.
In a small bowl mix mayo, Greek yogurt, olive oil, garlic salt and pepper.
Stir dressing mayo mixture into cauliflower.
Chill until ready to eat.

A one cup serving has about 80 calories.

Cucmber Salad 2

You can reduce calories in recipes by replacing some of the mayonnaise with Greek yogurt of sour cream. Add a dash of olive oil for texture and flavor.

Kale can be added to soups, salad, sandwiches and casseroles for a nutritional boost. Adding kale to main and side dishes is a good way to increase your daily intake of vegetables.

You might also like this Superfood Salad with Kale and Cherry Tomato recipe: Superfood Salad.

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Healthier Taco Recipe

Healthified Baked Tacos

Baked tacos has become one of my favorite dinners to make when I need something nutritious in a hurry. I’ve served them for parties and taken them to carry-in dinners and everyone loves them. The best thing about them is they are easy to make and by substituting ground turkey for ground beef and mixing in a can of fat-free refried beans you can add protein without adding a lot of calories.

Baked Tacos

Ingredients:

1 pound of ground turkey
1 can of vegetarian refried beans
1 package or taco seasoning mix (optional)
3/4 cup salsa
1 cup cheddar cheese
12 hard taco shells
Chopped lettuce, onion, and plain Greek yogurt for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
Brown ground turkey. Add refried beans. Stir until hot.

Taco Meat
Add salsa.
Fill taco shells with mixture and place them in an oven proof baking dish.
Sprinkle cheese on top.

Tacos in Dish
Bake for about 20 minutes (or until cheese is melted).
Serve with lettuce, onion, and plain Greek yogurt.

Each taco is about 300 calories.

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Lemon Basil Chicken

This summer I planted basil in a pot on my deck and have had fresh basil with all of its fragrance and flavor to use in dishes. This Lemon Basil Chicken recipe is quick and easy and is a good way to use fresh basil.  I served the chicken on a bed of Quinoa for a low-calorie, nutritious meal.

Fresh Basil

Ingredients:

6 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs

Juice of two fresh lemons

3 or 4 fresh garlic cloves, minced

Olive oil (about 1 tablespoon)

1 large bunch of fresh basic, chopped

Lemon Basil Chicken Raw

Directions:

Place the fresh chicken in a baking pan. Spread the minced garlic evenly over the chicken.
Squeeze the juice of the lemon evenly over the chicken. Drizzle with olive oil then place the chopped basil on top.

Cover and bake in an oven preheated to 350 degrees for 45 minutes.

Serve on a bed of brown rice or quinoa.

I made enough to have lunch the next day. The best way for me eat healthy at work is to make extra servings of the healthy meals I make for dinner and then take them for lunch. I bought the microwave container that is perfect portion for lunch at TJ Maxx.

Lemon Basil Chicken

Using cucumbers from the garden I made Hungarian Cucumber Salad which was the perfect side dish.

Cucumber Salad w Paprkia

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