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“What Is Nutrient Density
How do you decide which foods you want to eat? Flavor? Texture? Convenience? Comfort? Many people choose the foods they eat based on immediate gratification, without much thought about the long-term effects of their selections. That often results in choosing foods that taste good, but are not good for you.
What about the nutritional value of the foods you eat? When you choose your foods, be sure to consider the nutrient density of the foods. Nutrient density refers to the amount of nutrients for the given volume of food. Nutrient-dense foods have lots of nutrients, generally with fewer calories. All those superfoods you’ve heard about are nutrient dense foods. Energy-dense foods have more calories for the volume of food and generally fewer nutrients.
How Nutrient Density Works
You are hungry and it is a few hours until dinner so you decide you want a snack. You can choose either an apple or a glazed donut. They are roughly the same size and either food works as a quick snack so you can get back to work. Which one do you choose?
Hopefully you chose the apple. Why? The apple has around 80 calories and lots of vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals that will keep you healthy. The fiber and water in the apple will fill your stomach and keep you satisfied until dinner.
The donut has calories. Lots of calories. In fact, the donut has more than 200 calories but it doesn’t have many nutrients. There is only about one gram of fiber so it won’t keep you feeling full either, so eating that glazed donut will frequently lead to eating a second one. The donut also has lots of unhealthy saturated fat and plenty of sugar. Sure it tastes good, but your body might pay quite a price for the immediate gratification.
You can also compare nutrient density using the amount of calories in the food rather than volume or portion size. Let’s compare a cup of carrot slices to four saltine crackers. Both snacks have about 50 calories, but the carrots have many more nutrients for the same number of calories. The carrots are nutrient dense; the crackers are energy dense. This is important for people on weight-loss diets. Foods that are low in calories, but high in fiber and other vitamins, will keep you satisfied and healthy while you lose weight.
You can probably already see from the examples that brightly colored fruits and vegetables are big winners in nutrient density. That’s one reason why so many fruits and vegetables qualify as superfoods, or foods that are rich in nutrients and other compounds that have healthy benefits such as fiber, phytochemicals and essential fatty acids. The superfood fruits and vegetables include carrots, tomatoes, broccoli, kale, spinach, berries, apples, cherries, pomegranate and oranges.
Other nutrient-dense superfoods include salmon, tuna, trout, low-fat dairy products, oatmeal and whole grains, soy, dry beans sand even some fortified foods. On the other hand, energy-dense, nutrient-poor foods include things that are high in sugar and fat such as refined white breads, pasta, pastries, processed lunch meats and cheeses, ice cream, candy, soda, potato chips and corn chips. In other words, junk food.
Choosing nutrient-dense superfoods at the grocery store is pretty easy if you stay along the edges of the store, where the produce, fresh lean meats, low-fat dairy and fresh bakery goods are found. These fresh foods may be more expensive than the energy-dense packaged foods, but you buy more nutrition for that price. Of course, most shoppers choose some packaged foods for convenience, but you can still make smart choices with those products — just read the labels.
You can easily find the Nutrition Facts labels on the backs or sides of the packages. Look at the serving sizes, note the number of calories per serving and look at the amount of fiber, vitamins, calcium and iron. The packaged food that has the better combination of lower calories, higher nutrients and less sodium is the winner.
You can prepare nutrient-dense meals by choosing nutrient-dense superfoods and ingredients for your dishes. A nutrient-dense meal should have one serving of a healthy protein source such as legumes, fish, poultry or low-fat meat. One serving is typically about the size of a pack of playing cards. The rest of the meal should be made up of healthy side dishes. Vegetables are always good, even with a little bit of cheese or sauce. Whole-grain pastas, brown rice and wild rice are good choices as well. A green salad with lots of vegetables can make a nice nutrient-dense superfoods side dish or can be a great meal on its own. Clear soups with lots of vegetables are nutrient-dense compared to cream soups which have more calories and are more energy dense.
Would I Ever Choose Foods That Are Energy-Dense?
People who are underweight need some energy-dense foods to make sure they are getting enough calories to gain weight. Healthy energy dense foods include peanut butter, dried fruits, starchy vegetables and cheese.
Why Should I Think About Nutrient Density?
Eating nutrient-dense food will ensure you are getting all the nutrition you need. A nutrient-dense diet won’t leave you feeling hungry so maintaining your weight is much easier. Choosing nutrient dense foods can become second nature. Once you understand which foods are more nutrient dense, the rest is easy. Just remember that the foods you eat can affect your health in a big way. To be healthy or unhealthy? The choice is yours.”
credit given to: http://nutrition.about.com/od/nutrition101/a/nutrient_dense.htm
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Belly fat in women: How to keep it off
Belly fat hasn’t always been your problem — you’ve worried more about hips and thighs. Now your midsection’s making up for lost time. What’s up?
Whether it’s because of heredity, hormonal changes or aging-related weight gain, many women notice an increase in belly fat as they grow older — and especially after menopause. Gaining fat in your abdomen is particularly unhealthy when compared with other locations in your body. Excess belly fat increases your risk of cardiovascular disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers. The good news is that a few lifestyle changes and some targeted abdominal exercises can help you battle your belly bulge.
When fat gathers in your abdomen
As you age and your metabolism slows down, the amount of fat in your body slowly increases. Women experience an even greater fat percentage increase than men do. Then after menopause, your body fat distribution tends to shift — less in your arms, legs and hips, and more in your abdomen.
You may think belly fat is limited to the stuff out front that you can grab with your hand — but it’s the fat you can’t see that’s really a cause for concern. Visceral fat lies deeper inside the abdomen, surrounding the abdominal organs. Gaining this type of fat has been linked to cardiovascular disease, diabetes and other health problems. Subcutaneous fat, located between the skin and the abdominal wall, is more visible but also less likely to be a health risk.
While a slowing metabolism and decreased physical activity contribute to overall weight gain as you age, those factors don’t influence visceral fat accumulation directly. Heredity may be the culprit — you may simply have inherited a tendency to gain weight in your midsection. Hormones also play a role. Hormonal changes after menopause may change the way that your body breaks down and stores fat, leading to more fat accumulating in your belly.
Some women even experience a widening waist without gaining any weight. Although you may not be gaining extra fat, your abdominal fat is increasing as limb and hip fat decreases. Even in women of a normal weight, too much fat concentrated in the midsection is unhealthy.
The midsection matters
Gaining weight in your abdomen does more harm than simply making your waistband too tight. While putting on weight in general can have negative effects on your health, abdominal weight gain is particularly unhealthy. Too much belly fat increases your risk of:
- Heart disease
- Breast cancer
- Metabolic syndrome
- Gallbladder problems
- High blood pressure
- Colorectal cancer
Researchers also have found that abdominal fat cells aren’t just dormant energy waiting to be burned up. The cells are active, producing hormones and other substances that can affect your health. For example, some fat-cell-produced hormones can promote insulin resistance, a precursor to type 2 diabetes; others can produce estrogen after menopause, which may increase your breast cancer risk. Researchers are still sorting out how the excess hormones affect overall health, but they do know that too much visceral fat can disrupt the body’s normal hormonal balance.
Measuring your middle
You know you’ve gained some inches around your torso, but how can you know whether it’s an unhealthy amount? You can calculate your body mass index (BMI) or waist-hip ratio, but researchers have found that simply measuring your waist can tell you whether you have an unhealthy amount of belly fat. In fact, BMI may not be an accurate measure of body fat percentage or fat distribution, particularly after menopause.
To measure your waist, run a tape measure around your midsection at about the level of your navel. Breathe normally, don’t hold your tummy in, and don’t pull the tape so tight that it presses your skin down. In a woman of healthy weight, a waist measurement of 35 inches or more indicates an unhealthy concentration of abdominal fat. Some research has shown that a measurement of 33 inches or more, no matter what your weight, increases your health risks.
Fight back the bulge
Since visceral fat is buried deep in your abdomen, it may seem like a difficult target for spot reduction. As it turns out, visceral fat responds well to a regular exercise routine and a healthy diet. Targeted tummy exercises can help to firm the abdominal muscles and flatten the belly.
Exercise. Daily, moderate-intensity exercise is the best way to lose belly fat — when you lose weight and tone your muscles, your belly fat begins shrinking, too. In fact, you may notice that your tummy bulge is the first area to shrink when you start exercising. The amount and type of exercise you should get varies depending on your current activity level and your health goals. Talk to your doctor about the right exercise program to promote good health and specifically combat abdominal fat.
Strength training. Some research has shown that exercising with weights is effective in trimming tummy fat. Talk to your doctor about how to incorporate strength training in your exercise routine.
Healthy diet. Changing unhealthy eating habits can help fight belly fat. Read nutrition labels, and replace saturated fats with polyunsaturated fats. Increase portions of complex carbohydrates such as fruits and vegetables, and reduce simple carbohydrates like white bread and refined pasta. If you need to lose weight, reduce your portion sizes and daily calorie intake.
Tone your tummy. While you can’t “spot-burn” belly fat, you can firm up your abdominal muscles and get a flatter belly. Traditional sit-ups aren’t the most effective way to firm your tummy, however. Instead, use these exercises to target both deeper and lower abdominal muscles:
- Deeper abdominal muscles. Target deeper abdominal muscles by doing “abdominal hollowing” or “drawing in the bellybutton.” First, get down on all fours. Let your tummy hang down as you take a deep breath. Let your breath out, and at the end of your exhalation, gently draw your bellybutton inward and upward toward your spine. You should feel a slight tightening around your waist — think of it as trying to squeeze through a partially closed door. Hold for 10 seconds, then rest for 10 seconds. Work up to 10 repetitions. During each effort, your spine position shouldn’t change and you should breathe freely. Eventually, you’ll be able to do this exercise standing up. It’s so subtle, no one should be able to tell you’re doing it.
- Lower abdominal muscles. Tone your lower abdomen by doing pelvic tilts and pelvic lifts. To do a pelvic tilt, lie on your back on the floor with your knees bent. Flatten your back against the floor by tightening your abdominal muscles and bending your pelvis up slightly. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.For pelvic lifts, lie on your back with your knees bent up toward your chest and your arms relaxed by your sides. Tighten your lower abdomen and lift your buttocks up off the floor, with your knees aimed toward the ceiling. Hold for five to 10 seconds. Repeat five times and work up to 10 to 20 repetitions.
Hormone therapy. Although there are good reasons for some women to try hormone replacement therapy (HRT) after menopause, fending off belly fat isn’t one of them. It’s true that some studies have demonstrated that postmenopausal women who take HRT are less likely to accumulate abdominal fat than are postmenopausal women who forgo HRT. Other studies, however, found no difference. Meanwhile, questions about the risks and benefits of HRT persist. Talk to your doctor in detail about the risks and potential benefits of hormone therapy before trying it.
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You’ve diligently worked to improve your diet and exercise habits, and you’ve been rewarded by seeing the number on the scale continue to drop. But then for no reason you can see, the scale doesn’t budge — even though you’re still eating a healthy, low-calorie diet and exercising regularly. You’ve hit a weight-loss plateau.
Before you get too discouraged, you should know that it’s normal for weight loss to slow and even stall. By understanding what causes a weight-loss plateau, you can decide how to respond and avoid backsliding on your healthy-eating and exercise habits.
What is a weight-loss plateau?
A weight-loss plateau occurs when you no longer lose weight despite continuing with your exercise and healthy-eating habits. Being stuck at a weight-loss plateau eventually happens to everyone who is trying to lose weight. At that point, losing additional weight becomes more difficult. Although hitting a plateau is common, most people are surprised when it happens to them, believing that if they just maintain a reduced-calorie diet, they should continue to lose weight. The frustrating reality is that even well-planned weight-loss efforts can become stalled.
What causes a weight-loss plateau?
The progression from initial weight loss to a weight-loss plateau follows a typical pattern. During the first few weeks of losing weight, a rapid drop in pounds is normal. When calories from food are reduced, the body gets needed energy by releasing its stores of glycogen, a type of carbohydrate found in the muscles and liver. Glycogen holds onto water, so when glycogen is burned for energy, it also releases the water — about 4 grams of water for every gram of glycogen — resulting in substantial weight loss that’s mostly water.
A plateau occurs because your metabolism — the process of burning calories for energy — slows as you lose lean tissue (muscle). When you lose weight, you lose both fat and lean tissue. (The notion that overweight people have a slower metabolism is a myth. In general, the higher a person’s weight, the higher the body’s metabolic rate.) Your weight-loss efforts result in a new equilibrium with your now slower metabolism. This means that in order to lose more weight, you need to increase activity or decrease the calories you eat. Using the same approach that worked initially will maintain your weight loss, but it won’t lead to more weight loss.
How can you overcome a weight-loss plateau?
If you’re at a plateau, you may have lost all of the weight you will given the number of calories you’re eating each day and the time you spend exercising. At this point, you need to ask yourself if you’re satisfied with your current weight or if you want to lose more, in which case you’ll need to adjust your weight-loss program. If you’re committed to losing more weight, try these tips for getting past the plateau:
- Reassess your habits. Look back at your food and activity records. Make sure you haven’t loosened the rules, letting yourself get by with larger portions or less exercise.
- Cut more cs. Reduce your daily calorie intake by 200 calories — provided this doesn’t put you below 1,200 calories. Fewer than 1,200 calories a day may not be enough to keep you from feeling hungry all of the time, which increases your risk of overeating.
- Rev up your workout. Increase the amount of time you exercise by an additional 15 to 30 minutes. You might also try increasing the intensity of your if you feel that’s possible. Additional exercise will cause you to burn more calories.
- Pack more activity into your day. Think outside the gym. Increase your general physical activity throughout the day by walking more and using your car less, or try doing more yardwork or vigorous spring cleaning.
Don’t let a weight-loss plateau lead to an avalanche
If your efforts to get past a weight-loss plateau aren’t working, talk with your doctor or a dietitian about other tactics you can try. You may also want to revisit your weight-loss goal. Maybe the weight you’re striving for is unrealistic for you. If you’ve improved your diet and increased your exercise, you’ve already improved your health even without further weight loss. For those who are overweight or obese, even modest weight loss improves chronic health conditions related to being overweight.
Whatever you do, don’t revert back to your old eating and exercise habits. That may cause you to regain the weight that you’ve already lost.
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Exercise: 7 benefits of regular physical activity
You know exercise is good for you — but do you know how good? From boosting your mood to improving your sex life, find out how exercise can improve your life.
Want to feel better, have more energy and perhaps even live longer? Look no further than old-fashioned exercise.
The merits of regular physical activity — from preventing chronic health conditions to promoting weight loss and better sleep — are hard to ignore. And the benefits are yours for the taking, regardless of age, sex or physical ability. Need more convincing? Check out seven specific ways exercise can improve your life.
1. Exercise improves your mood.
Need to blow off some steam after a stressful day? A workout at the gym or a brisk 30-minute walk can help you calm down.
Physical activity stimulates various brain chemicals that may leave you feeling happier and more relaxed than you were before you worked out. You’ll also look better and feel better when you exercise regularly, which can boost your confidence and improve your self-esteem. Regular physical activity can even help prevent depression.
2. Exercise combats chronic diseases.
Worried about heart disease? Hoping to prevent osteoporosis? Physical activity might be the ticket.
Regular physical activity can help you prevent — or manage — high blood pressure. Your cholesterol will benefit, too. Regular physical activity boosts high-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good,” cholesterol while decreasing triglycerides. This one-two punch keeps your blood flowing smoothly by lowering the buildup of plaques in your arteries.
And there’s more. Regular physical activity can help you prevent type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis and certain types of cancer.
3. Exercise helps you manage your weight.
Want to drop those excess pounds? Trade some couch time for walking or other physical activities.
This one’s a no-brainer. When you engage in physical activity, you burn calories. The more intense the activity, the more calories you burn — and the easier it is to keep your weight under control. You don’t even need to set aside major chunks of time for working out. Take the stairs instead of the elevator. Walk during your lunch break. Do jumping jacks during commercials. Better yet, turn off the TV and take a brisk walk. Dedicated workouts are great, but physical activity you accumulate throughout the day helps you burn calories, too.
4. Exercise boosts your energy level.
Winded by grocery shopping or household chores? Don’t throw in the towel. Regular physical activity can leave you breathing easier.
Physical activity delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues. In fact, regular physical activity helps your entire cardiovascular system — the circulation of blood through your heart and blood vessels — work more efficiently. Big deal? You bet! When your heart and lungs work more efficiently, you’ll have more energy to do the things you enjoy.
5. Exercise promotes better sleep.
Struggling to fall asleep? Or stay asleep? It might help to boost your physical activity during the day.
A good night’s sleep can improve your concentration, productivity and mood. And you guessed it — physical activity is sometimes the key to better sleep. Regular physical activity can help you fall asleep faster and deepen your sleep. There’s a caveat, however. If you exercise too close to bedtime, you may be too energized to fall asleep. If you’re having trouble sleeping, you might want to exercise earlier in the day.
6. Exercise can put the spark back into your sex life.
Are you too tired to have sex? Or feeling too out of shape to enjoy physical intimacy? Physical activity to the rescue.
Regular physical activity can leave you feeling energized and looking better, which may have a positive effect on your sex life. But there’s more to it than that. Regular physical activity can lead to enhanced arousal for women, and men who exercise regularly are less likely to have problems with erectile dysfunction than are men who don’t exercise — especially as they get older.
7. Exercise can be — gasp — fun!
Wondering what to do on a Saturday afternoon? Looking for an activity that suits the entire family? Get physical!
Physical activity doesn’t have to be drudgery. Take a ballroom dancing class. Check out a local climbing wall or hiking trail. Push your kids on the swings or climb with them on the jungle gym. Plan a neighborhood kickball or touch football game. Find a physical activity you enjoy, and go for it. If you get bored, try something new. If you’re moving, it counts!
Are you convinced? Good. Start reaping the benefits of regular physical activity today!
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