Friday, December 19, 2014

To Juice or Not to Juice? That is the Question

I was recently asked at a presentation what my thoughts were on juicing. Moreover, new years is quickly approaching and with it come resolutions, which many will be losing weight, especially after indulging during the holidays. Therefore, I decided to write about whether to juice or not to juice. People juice for several reasons; whether it's "detox", weight loss, staying healthy or "rebooting", but is it appropriate?! Many companies talk about raving health benefits, however, hardly any of these claims can be supported by scientific evidence.

The best way to do help you decide if to juice or not is by just dividing it to pros and cons:


  • Good way to get more fruits and vegetables in the diet, especially if you are picky or not a big vegetable and fruit eater
  • High in antioxidants as well as vitamins and minerals
  • Feels "lighter" since you do not chew anything or have "bulky" food in your stomach
  • Could help with weight loss  
  • Very pricey. From the juicer to the amount of vegetables and fruits you need in order to get 1 cup of juice. In addition, if you ever buy the commercial juice cleanses they can be really expensive
  • Lack of fiber which not only helps regulate our bowel movements but also helps with feeling fuller longer
  • Many juicers eliminate the pulp and the peel which are packed with most of the vitamins and minerals 
  • Thankfully, we have kidneys and a liver to help us "detoxify" or get rid of the toxins. Juice is not needed for that purpose
  • Hunger is a constant feeling
  • Contains mainly simple carbohydrates (sugars) which in turn will cause spikes in blood sugar and that could cause: dizziness, headaches, mood swings, agitation and fatigue
  • Lacks important nutrients, such as: protein, fats and multiple minerals
  • Although it could cause weight loss, it will be unwanted weight loss due to loss of muscle mass, which in turn will also slow down the metabolism
  • May not help with weight loss due to the constant hunger feeling which will cause more drinking. Moreover, consumption of more fruits than vegetables can prevent weight loss (fruits are more calorie dense than vegetables)
  • To stick to juicing year round is impossible. Temporary solutions will also bring temporary results
  • May be tedious and time consuming (cleaning and cutting of produce and juicer as well as making it daily) 
  • Food safety may be an issue since the juice is not pasteurized. Paying more attention to washing hands and juicers become very important
There are more cons than pros to juicing. Nonetheless, you can use juicing as a way to kick start your healthy eating new years resolution. Juice by adding or replacing one daily meal. Consider a cold press juicer to help retain the majority of nutrients and some of the pulp if you are planing to try it. The best thing for your health (and your pocket) would just be to try and eat more vegetables and fruits daily (5-9 servings a day) but if you need more help getting there, juicing can be an option.

Friday, December 12, 2014

These Are a Few of My Favorite Greens

Most people eat at least one vegetable that's green. Whether it's spinach, broccoli, green beans, peas or all the above, rarely is there a person that does not eat any.From an early age we have our parents and grandparents tell us to eat our greens and even the media, like Popeye, teaches us to eat our spinach so we get stronger. However, these are greens we all grew up on. There are many more greens out there which you may not even be familiar with but should be a part of any healthy and varied diet. Some of my favorites that are currently available are: arugula, chard and bok choy.

Arugula also called salad rocket, Is a very tasty leafy green (picture above) that has a refreshing peppery taste. It is very high with antioxidants and phytochemicals that help fight multiple cancers as well as vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin K, folate and B vitamins. Arugula is also rich with nitrates that are compounds that help dilate the blood vessels. This in turn helps lower blood pressure and possibly improve aerobic performance. Arugula is mainly used in salads, pasta, pizza, soup or to accompany cold dishes. Here are some great recipes to try out with this lovely, tasty green.
Chard also called Swiss chard, is also a leafy green very similar to kale. The leaf is dark green but the stalk can be in multiple colors mainly: yellow, white and red. The leaf has somewhat of a bitter taste unless cooked. Chard is also rich with antioxidants and phytonutrients that help fight inflammation as well as contains a high amount of vitamin C, vitamin A and vitamin K. It is also a good source of different minerals such as phosphorus, magnesium, manganese, calcium, iron, copper and potassium. Chard can be eaten raw, in soup, stir fry, tomato sauce or even quiche. Here are some healthy recipes to help incorporate more chard into your cooking.
Bok Choy also known as Chinese cabbage, is not a leafy green but a type of cabbage. It has a very subtle somewhat sweet flavor. Similar to the other 2 greens noted above, bok choy also has a good amount of antioxidants and phytochemicals that help fight certain cancers as well as lower the "bad cholesterol", LDL. Bok choy is rich with vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin K and multiple B vitamins. It also has a moderate amount of some minerals such as: potassium, calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and manganese. Bok choy is not eaten raw but only cooked. It is common in Asian cuisine but can go into anything hot including: stir fry, soup, tomato sauce, chicken saute, etc. Here are 13 recipes to help you incorporate this delicious vegetable.

To combine all 3 together here is a cool stir fry recipe:
3 cups chopped chard
3 cups chopped bok choy
1 medium yellow onion chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp teriyaki
0.5 tsp red pepper flakes
1 -2 cup arugula

Turn stove on medium. Heat oil in pan. Add onions and stir until slightly translucent (4-5 minutes). Add garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes. Add chard and bok choy stir for about 5 minutes. Add teriyaki and red pepper flakes. Stir until stalks are soft (about 5-7 minutes). Move hot stir fry into serving bowl. Add arugula and stir. Serve hot or cold. Note; you can also add chicken breast or shrimp to make this a complete meal

Greens can be way more interesting than just your usual 4 or 5. Experiment a little and you'll be surprised at what you discover.

Friday, December 5, 2014

Easy Slow Cooking this Winter

Imagine a world where you put 5-6 ingredients in a pot and poof, without you doing anything, a whole meal is ready for you. Sounds to good to be true doesn't it?! However, I am glad to announce that this is the world we live in. It just all depends on the tools at your disposal. I would like to introduce you to the slow cooker. One of the best investments you will ever make. It can be found as cheap as $15.


It is literally as easy as cutting a bunch of ingredients up, adding spices and letting it sit for a couple of hours. You can make anything, whether its an appetizer, side dish, dip, entree, dessert or even a special drink. Slow cookers or as some refer to as Crock Pots (Crock Pot is actually the name of one of the brands that make slow cookers) require just a socket as they are electrical. Most people put something in the slow cooker before they leave home and by the time they get back, dinner is ready!
Here are some great website with multiple easy recipes:


  • Eating Well - The magazine Eating Well has some great healthy recipes. In addition, you can even download a free slow cooker cookbook. If there are several people in the household, these recipes include a great overnight oatmeal breakfast recipe
                                  Overnight Oatmeal
  • Fitness Magazine - 7 healthy recipes that are easy and simple to make. On a cold winter day, there is nothing like a hearty soup. That's why I like this easy beef and vegetable soup recipe
  • My roommate used to make chili that everyone loved yet it took him just 5 minutes to make:
    Approx 0.5 lb of lean ground beef or turkey
    1 can kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
    1 can white beans (rinsed and drained)
    1 medium size can tomato sauce
    1 can Rotel (mild, medium or hot based on preference)
    1 Packet of McCormick chili mix seasoning
    - Mix all ingredients in crock pot and cook on low for 6-8 hours. Serve hot with shredded cheese on top
The slow cooker just makes it so effortlessly easy! If you don't have one and you want one, consider just putting it on your Christmas wish list or just go and buy one for yourself. You're worth it!   

Friday, November 28, 2014

Carbohydrate Intake During Exercise

A recent review was published in Sports Medicine journal about carbohydrate intake during exercise. This review was meant to help bring what we know scientifically to practical implications. Here is a summary of the review article:

Recommendations of carbohydrates are always based on type of sport, duration and intensity as well as the ability consume them.

  • Activities that are at relative high intensities for a duration of 30-75 minutes have shown improved exercise performance when drinking or even rinsing mouth with a sports drink. It does not matter whether it is a single carbohydrate (glucose or fructose) or several combined. Some may be able to tolerate rinsing the mouth better than drinking the fluids.
  • ACSM (American College of Sports Medicine) guidelines recommend consuming 30-60 grams of carbohydrates per hour during endurance activity that lasts more than an hour. 
  • The ability to use carbohydrates as fuel is dependent on how well the intestine can absorb the carbohydrates
  • Multiple carbohydrates combined (fructose+glucose, maltodextrin+fructose, etc.) can help better utilize more carbohydrates as fuel. 
  • Research shows that being able to utilize more carbohydrates as fuel delays fatigue and increases performance.
  • Sport drinks can be combined with gels and/or bars (low fiber, low fat, low protein bars) to help absorb and tolerate the higher carbohydrate levels
  • Never try something new on race day. Training nutrition is important
  • People that train/race at lower intensities (example: a marathon time of 5 hours) will use less carbohydrates and therefore, will need to be supplemented slightly less.
  • Although not noted in figure below, a good hydration plan needs to accompany the nutrition plan.

Here is the figure that illustrates the recommended guidelines:


  • The gut can also be trained. A high carbohydrate diet may assist tolerating and utilizing the higher carbohydrate load during exercise (90 gr/hour).
  • In real-life ironman and long cycling races, greater carbohydrate consumption correlated with better finish times.
  • Carbohydrate intake, even during sports that require skills such as jumping, sprinting, agility etc. may improve the skills as well as delay time to fatigue. However, the game structure and given breaks may make it difficult to implement (example: soccer game). 
Next time you are training for an endurance event, a high intensity aerobic or anaerobic activity, use this figure as a guide of how to utilize carbohydrates. For more personal recommendations, talk to me or a sports registered dietitian.

Jeunkendrup A. A step towards personalized sports nutrition: Carbohydrate intake during exercise. Sports Med (2014) 44 (Suppl 1):S25-S33. 

Monday, November 24, 2014

How to Have Healthy Holidays and Not Gain Weight

The holidays are upon us and with that comes family time, vacation and plenty of eating. The average American gains about a pound a year, which does not seem much. However, that is the average, meaning some don't gain at all and others may gain 5 lbs or more. Moreover, if every year there is a gain of a pound but it is not lost after the holidays, that's a gain of 10 lbs in 10 years, 20 lbs in 20 years and so on. More gain than we would ever want.


Here are some ways to avoid the holiday gains:

  • Don't forget to exercise. Whether its before or after your family get together feast, don't forget to work-out. You can even try and take some family members with you for a walk/jog.
  • Make sure you eat regularly throughout the day. Don't go a whole day without eating and then come to the main meal. You will be more likely to over eat.
  • Fill half of your plate with vegetables.
  • Make sure you bring a healthy dish with you. You would be surprised how well received a fruit salad would be as well as vegetables and dip.
  • Decide that you will fill your plate only once. If you are still hungry, take only from the vegetables.
  • A green salad as well as vegetable/chicken & vegetable soup can be a great appetizer. If your family typically does not have these items, that's what you can bring.
  • Desserts can fit at the end of the meal. Just apply moderation by going only once and taking small portions of things you want. 
  • Do not drink your calories. Skip the soda, egg nog or milk-shake. Prefer water, tea or calorie free beverages.
  • The fact that we stuff are turkey does not mean we also have to stuff ourselves. Eat slowly and when you feel full stop. Feeling uncomfortably full is of course uncomfortable. Try avoiding "food coma".
  • As soon as you are done eating, excuse yourself from the table. The closer we are to food, the more odds we have of continuing to nibble on it. 
  • Enjoy the company! Catching up and being thankful is more important than your "plate-full"
I hope you enjoy this holiday season without the weight to prove it. 

Happy Holidays!

Friday, November 14, 2014

Turnip for What?!

The weather is getting colder and with cooler temps also come a variety of foods that we tend to lean towards. We choose dishes that warm us up and are filling like soup, stew and chili are prepared more often. With this great variety of foods also come winter vegetables. One of my new favorites is the turnip.
Turnip is a root vegetable that can be found late fall and winter. It belongs to the cruciferous family (cabbage, kale, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts) and is rich with antioxidant properties.  The leaves of the root, turnip greens, can also be eaten and are high in vitamin C, vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, copper and folate. Turnips are fat free, cholesterol free and an excellent source of vitamin C. There are 34 calories in 1 cup of raw turnip. They are versatile and can be eaten raw, baked, mashed, roasted, stir fried and grilled. It is recommended to shop for the small/medium sized heavy turnips as they will have a mild taste. In general, turnips have a slight sweet, spicy, refreshing taste.
Here are some ideas of what to do with this great vegetable:

  • Add it to chili or stew instead of potatoes
  • Turnip fries - just cut in fries shape and bake in the oven
  • Shred and add to your salad
  • Add to any soup
  • Turnip mash
  • Stir fry with the rest of your vegetables
  • Turnip greens can be used in stew, soup, stir fry or even just sauteed by itself
Here are some recipes:
Sauteed turnip greens

4 cups turnip greens
1 small purple union diced
1 garlic clove minced
1 Tbsp canola oil

Heat pan to medium. Heat oil and add onion. Saute for 5 minutes until slightly brown. Add garlic and stir for 2 minutes. Add turnip greens and stir for 5 minutes or until wilted. Serve while hot

Mashed turnips

3 cups turnips peeled and diced
4 cups water
0.25 cup coconut milk or 0.25 1% milk
Dash salt 
Dash pepper

Simmer turnips in lightly salted water until soft and tender. Drain water. Add coconut milk, salt and pepper to turnips and mash. Serve as a side with chopped scallions or chives

Turnip spicy baked fries

2 lbs turnip peeled and cut in rectangular fry shape or round thin circles
Olive oil spray
1 Tbsp garlic powder
1 Tbsp paprika
0.5 tsp sea salt

Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spread turnip shaped fries in oven tray. Spray with oil and then spread seasoning over fries. Bake in the oven until golden brown (about 30 minutes). Enjoy!

Here is a great turnip soup recipe and a good beef stew and turnip recipe
Don't shy away from this great root vegetable and next time you are at the store, pick it up and try it.

Have a great weekend!

Friday, November 7, 2014

To Take or Not to Take? That is The Question

In this abundant world of supplements we ask ourselves all the time; to take or not to take? However, not the question nor the answer are that simple. The supplement industry is a billion dollar making industry. Every week there are new supplements on the shelf that give big promises. Do they work? Do they contain what they're supposed to? Are they safe? These are all questions we need to ask ourselves before we go and spend our salary on them. Let me help by pointing some pros and cons:


  • It's convenient, especially for the busy student athlete
  • It could potentially help gain muscle
  • It could potentially help recover or decrease muscle soreness
  • It could potentially help perform better
  • Help provide nutrients lacking in the diet
  • Help fight inflammation
  • Supplements are unregulated. Due to that, some shady supplements out there contain stimulants, steroids and other illegal substances. Moreover, some contain dangerous components that could cause liver failure, stroke and even death. Here is a great piece by USA Today talking about the risks. There are many more articles like that
  • Illegal substances without you knowing, can show positive on a drug test and prevent athletes from finishing school, competing in the college setting (NCAA rules) or even becoming a pro
  • Many supplements don't really work (if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is)
  • Food is cheaper and can be convenient 
  • You can't out supplement a bad diet
  • Most foods can provide the pros that supplements do
How to decide if yes or no?!
  • Make sure your diet is balanced and healthy first and foremost! If the diet is lacking, fix that. For example: if you skip breakfast, don't take a supplement to compensate, just eat breakfast. If you feel you eat enough vegetables and fruits, whole grains, healthy fats and lean protein then you can consider a supplement, depending on your goals and sport. 
  • There are a little more than a handful of supplements that work (based on research) for performance (however, not in all people): whey and protein, creatine, beta-alanine, omega 3, tart cherry juice, beet juice, caffeine, sports drinks, iron (if deficient) and calcium/vitamin D (in certain cases).  
  • No matter what, consult with a sport dietitian or a medical professional that understands supplements for performance. Always make sure your doctor knows as well. 
  • Use NSF certified safe for sport website or app to make sure its safe and free of contaminants. Use also to make sure they are not on this list (contains what banned substances were found). 
  • Read and research if a supplement works from reliable sources (no, is not a reliable source). If you do not know where to find reliable sources, ask me or any sports dietitian as well as coach, physician or athletic trainer. 
Remember, you can't out supplement a bad diet! Focus on fueling for performance instead.

Let food be thy medicine