One of my personal favorites, the pistachio nut contains more than 10% of your daily value (DV) of fiber. It also includes many essential vitamins and minerals. Pistachios are naturally low-fat and cholesterol free.  A research group headed by Bonny Burns-Whitmore, from California State Polytechnic University tested a group of 48 healthy young women (with an average age of 21) and had them consume a diet which included pistachios for 10-weeks. The pistachios comprised 20% of their total daily calorie intake. The findings? Burns-Whitmore’s group reported: “Inclusion of 20% of Kcals as pistachios in the diet does not contribute to weight gain or body fat changes, and may even potentially improve blood lipids and [blood pressure].

Nutrition Facts Label for Pistachio Nuts, Dry Roasted, w/o Salt
Food label source: quitehealthy.com

Another Excuse Bites the Dust

It’s never too late to add years to your life or life to your years. Even if you’re a late bloomer like me, when it comes to good nutrition and proper exercise, don’t let a “couch ­potato” past stop you.

I didn’t.

I found some research done with sedentary adults 65 and older who turned over a new leaf and got moving. They cut their chances of dying from cancer in half and from heart disease by a third. That’s no small potatoes.

If you haven’t moved a muscle in ages, I’d suggest putting yourself on a walking program. First, aim for 30 minutes a day to start, then make an appointment with your health care provider for an exercise prescription. It should cover:

Type: Efficient and proper movement combines aerobic (for stamina), strength, and flexibility exercise. Often, one type may be especially important for you. That’s why you should seek the advice of a professional. 

Frequency: This is often you should exercise.

Intensity: This is how hard to push yourself. Another reason to seek professional advice. Basically, start at a comfortable level and work up from there. You don’t have to get involved in extreme sports or exercises to get fit. If fact, programs like “Insanity” and “Crossfit” can be detrimental to your overall health. 

Time: Sets a guideline for how long you should work out. There are 1440 minutes in a day, surely you can find 20, 30, or 60 minutes for exercise. BTW–did you know that 1-hour is only 4% of your day? Surely there is some room for your personal health and well-being.

Progression: Think of this as creating a plan to help you continue to improve. Set up some step-by-step goals. I can help you with this. 

Benefits: This covers how specific movements can help you improve your health.

If your health care provider can’t set up a workout program for you, then maybe I can help. As a Nationally Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Specialist, I often work with health care providers to not only help you set up a program that is suited for you, but also work with you to help you get the most benefit from it. Bring your health care provider’s clearance to me and I can work within the guidelines set by your provider to create a custom program that will match your current level of fitness, be efficient, and help you to regain some of that youth your former sedentary lifestyle has stolen from you.

You may not be able to turn back the clock… but you can wind it up again! Check our Bodies@Work today!

Diet Soda Can Affect Your Brain

ImageBased on the size of the diet beverage industry, we can figure that millions of people drink diet sodas daily. Most say they drink these no-calorie drinks to control their weight. A study from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) in 2012, suggested that consumption of artificial sweeteners might actually sabotage those weight-loss plans. It does so by changing how your brain’s reward center responds.

Here’s how the study worked: The UCSD research group took 24 young adults and split them into two groups. Group 1 drank at least one serving of diet soda every day. Group 2 avoided artificially sweetened drinks. Several weeks later, the research subjects had their brains scanned, while they alternately sipped naturally and artificially sweetened water. This allowed the researchers to track how their brains responded to different kinds of sweeteners.

The brains of those who’d been consuming diet soda responded very differently from those of non-drinkers. This was seen in the centers of the brain related to reward and controlling food intake—or your appetite “off switch.” What was significant was the fact that the more they diet sodas they drank, the greater the difference.

Artificial Sweeteners Trick Your Brain

The scans showed decreased activity in the reward center of the brain. For the diet soda drinkers, this suggested that artificial sweeteners were the likely cause of throwing this reward system off. The findings by the UCSD research team was that the sweet taste didn’t always signal incoming calories. The subjects’ brains were trained to ignore a normal response. They concluded that if the brain doesn’t recognize the correct caloric intake, it can get confused, and the diet soda drinkers would then be more likely to consume additional calories—especially later in the day.

How Little Things Can Affect Your Brain

Research is always being done in this area. This particular study provides one interpretation of how our lifestyle choices can influence our brains. Consume artificial sweeteners and your brain responds one way—give your brain positive experiences and it could respond differently.

Other studies have found you can achieve positive brain changes as a result of regular exercise, proper sleep, plus other factors. No surprise there if you’ve been working with me. Today’s take-away lesson is to pick and choose your habits carefully. They could be good or bad not just for your body, but also for your brain!

The Coconut Oil Craze

Food trends come and go. I’ve seen just about everything go around at least once. First it’s good for you, then it isn’t, then it is again, but usually by another name. It’s like grocery store products that become, NEW, then New & Improved, then Advanced, and finally back to Original Formula. That’s when the marketing cycle starts over again. This can take anywhere from 3—5 years to a decade to play out. The latest craze is now coconut oil. I’ve know about the uses of coconut and coconut oil for years. Now it’s all the rage in the popular media. Let’s take a look at this product and I’ll let you decide if you want it to be part of your pantry.

The current media hype claims that coconut oil will protect you from cancer, Alzheimer’s, and kidney stones, while helping you lose excess body fat. Let’s take a closer look.

Advantages of Coconut Oil

I don’t know about you, but I love the flavor of coconut! My favorite candy bar is a PeterPaul Mounds Bar. What could be better than dark chocolate and coconut? Yeah, but are there any benefits of coconut?

I’m going to go all science geek on you for a minute. Stick with me though, it will all make sense quickly.

First of all, coconut oil is made up of medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs). By contrast, the milk fats of cows, sheep, and goats are mostly short-chain triglycerides.

Secondly, some studies have shown that MCTs can help burn excess calories by promoting fat oxidation and reducing appetite. This may be because MCTs are high in Omega-3 fatty acids, which improve cholesterol’s profile. They also lack cholesterol raising Lauric, Myristic, and Palmitic Acids. However, the weight loss benefits have so far been inconclusive.

Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are generally considered easy to metabolize. They are rapidly absorbed by the body. MCTs are bland compared to other fats, meaning they don’t leave a bad taste. That’s why they are widely used as flavoring in foods, in oral medications, and vitamins. Coconut oil melts at 74OF, making it easy to use and incorporate in many foods. It doesn’t spoil quickly thanks to its super-high percentage of saturated fat.

Disadvantages of Coconut Oil

Coconut oil has no cholesterol. Some of its fatty acids are different than the saturated fat found in animal products. Now for some bad news…

  • It contains more saturated fat—which has been known to raise blood cholesterol and clog arteries—than butter.

  • Studies show it can raise LDL (the bad cholesterol)

  • According to university researchers, it can contribute to atherosclerosis (aka heart disease)

If this information breaks your heart, imagine how I feel! Here’s how we make it a little less severe…

According to the American Heart Association, saturated fat intake should be a maximum of 16 grams daily (based on a 2,000-calorie diet). That means you would have to stick to the 1 tablespoon serving (120 calories and 14 grams of saturated fat) per day and take in no other saturated fat. Forty percent of the saturated fat in coconut oil are not the good MCT’s. They are artery-clogging, long-chain triglycerides (LCTs). You’re still better off with olive oil (2 grams of saturated fat per 1 tablespoon serving).

Adding insult to injury, there is not enough research to support claims that coconut oil promotes weight loss. If you’re like me, and really like coconut, what do you do?

I can’t recommend replacing heart-healthy fats like olive oil with coconut oil. Fat is still fat. Coconut oil is high in calories (120 per tablespoon), which can quickly add to your waistline. Fortunately, a little bit goes a long way in adding flavor and creamy texture. Keep it small and consider coconut oil as a condiment instead of your primary oil. Use it very sparingly. You can add 1 tablespoon of coconut oil to a recipe. Diluted over an entire recipe, you can enjoy the great taste, texture, and minimal health benefits without all the harmful side-effects like heart disease and weight gain.  

Fewer Calories For A Longer Life

By slightly reducing your daily calorie intake, you might do more than just help control your weight. There is a good chance that you may also slow the aging process. University scientists are finding that when they feed rats just 8% fewer calories a day, plus moderately increase their activity levels, the lifespan of the rodents is significantly extended, while at the same time the negative effects of cellular aging are reduced. 

In humans, an 8% reduction in calories amounts to a few hundred calories. A “moderate increase in activity levels” translates into the equivalent of taking a short walk. The bottom line is even slight decrease of calories combined with a moderate exercise program can benefit us in the long term. This is accomplished by improving liver function (an organ that shows significant dysfunction as we age).

More Information
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about calories. Google it and check it out.

Anti-Aging Secrets

What do we have in common with ancient Chinese royalty? We want to avoid wrinkles! In her book, Anti-Aging Therapy: How to Clear Away the Wrinkles and Rejuvenate Your Face (©2006) author Ping Zhang, Ph.D., LAc., shares scientifically-based remedies that blend the best of the East and West. The result? Time-tested tricks to rejuvenate your skin—naturally.

Most traditional anti-aging products focus on superficial wrinkles—in other words, they treat only the surface of your skin. By contrast, Traditional Chinese Medicine targets the entire body and the factors that cause wrinkles. Age is the most obvious one, but lifestyle, attitude, and what you eat all play a role, too.

Traditional Chinese Medicine strengthens your internal organs, freeing blood to move smoothly to your face and distributing energy and fluid evenly through your body. This nourishes your complexion, resulting in “youthful, supple, wrinkle-free skin—naturally,” says Zhang.

Follow these steps—which include homemade masks, exotic herbs, and delicious meals—to get beautiful, glowing skin.

Choose Your “Roots” Carefully

Zhang draws on centuries of Asian health and beauty secrets in her comprehensive herbal guide to solving skin problems. Her solutions work for anything from a lined forehead to dark, puffy bags under the eyes.

For a one-size-fits-all remedy, try Ren Shen, or Chinese Ginseng Root. “Because Ginseng is beneficial in so many ways, it makes sense for anybody to include it in any anti-wrinkle strategy,” says Zhang. In fact, its genus name Panax means “universal remedy.”

Ginseng, deemed one of the most precious herbs in China, contains triterpenoid saponins, powerful molecules that reduce stress and fatigue. It’s also loaded with antioxidants, which neutralize wrinkle-causing free radicals, and panaxtriol, a natural steroid that aids in tissue formation. 

From a Traditional Chinese Medicine point of view, Ginseng nourishes the entire five-organ system—the heart, lungs, spleen, kidneys, and liver. It also boosts the skin’s metabolism and replenishes nutrients. “All this leads to a slowdown in the aging process and decrease in wrinkle formation,” says Zhang. Purchase the whole root, available at herb stores and Chinese markets. Look for the scientific name of Panax ginseng or Panax schinseng (not to be confused with Siberian Ginseng, which functions differently). Soak two grams in 4 ounces of fresh water for a 1⁄2-hour, then steam in a double boiler for an hour. Drink half the resulting liquid before breakfast, and finish the rest the next day. Repeat daily for 10 days to 1 month, and then reevaluate your skin’s condition.

If you have a medical condition or are taking medication, consult your health care provider before beginning any type of herbal regimen.

Royal Pearls and Jade

Zhang’s book includes a variety of masks you can make at home. (A good reason to have a Spa party!) Try this one for starters:

Legend has it that a Chinese empress renowned for her youthful skin crushed a pearl and used a stick of jade to rub it on her wrinkles—literally smoothing them away. Asian royalty or not, you can benefit from a similarly luxurious routine.

“Pearl powder contains amino acids and trace elements that rejuvenate your skin,” explains Zhang. You can find it at Chinese herb stores. Look for the Chinese name Zhen Zhu Mo, or the pharmaceutical name Margarita.

Next, try one of Zhang’s favorite masks: Mix a teaspoon of pearl powder with an egg white and half a teaspoon of honey. Add water if necessary. Apply to your face and let set for 20 minutes. Rinse withwarm water. “It never fails to brighten your complexion,” Zhang says.

To pamper yourself Chinese-style, massage your face and apply a warm, wet facecloth before and after the treatment. Moist skin absorbs the mask’s nutrients more readily than dry skin, and the warm water is relaxing.

Better Skin Through Food

“Over the centuries, the Chinese identified foods with components that delay aging, improve the elasticity of the skin and reduce wrinkling,” Zhang explains. Her list of delicious anti-aging foods includes dates, honey, and cherries. There are also some unexpected items, including tremella, a type of mushroom. Tremella’s skin-softening properties not only rejuvenate your complexion, but also provide a hefty dose of vitamin B, iron, calcium, and potassium. From a Traditional Chinese Medicine perspective, the mushroom benefits the blood, brain, heart, and lungs, and increases energy. Buy the whole mushroom
at a Chinese market and use it in your next stir-fry.

Zhang also says, “…pH balance—the right combination of acidic and alkaline foods in your diet—is essential for beautiful and healthy skin.” Acidic foods include meat and other animal products, rice, white sugar, wheat flour, and citrus foods. Alkaline foods include green vegetables, beans, lentils, sweet potatoes, yams, plus fruits like peaches, papayas and mangos.

Most people eat too many acidic foods and skimp on the alkaline ones. This leads to “rough, lusterless skin that tends to loosen and wrinkle,” Zhang warns. Get back on track with vegetable-packed soups, (Zhang includes recipes for them in her book). You can also supplement occasionally with vegetable and fruit smoothies. Working on a healthier, more lustrous complexion never tasted so good.


Zhang’s acupuncture sessions, which have been featured on TV, can help with sagging skin. She even has an acupuncture face-lift treatment. For at-home benefits, sans the needles, you can try acupressure. Like acupuncture, acupressure targets specific body points to activate and regulate energy (known as Qi), which is believed to travel through the body along pathways called meridians. As energy and blood flow to the face increases, facial muscles relax and skin becomes more elastic. The next thing you know, your skin is healthier and younger-looking.

Zhang’s book includes diagrams of energy points as well as a description of the energy channel associated with each. For starters, try this 5-minute massage: 
There are 5 points on your eyebrow line—one between your eyebrows (it’s sometimes called the third eye), one at the outer edge of each eyebrow and one at the inner edge of each eyebrow. Using your index and middle fingers of both hands, start at one point and massage in a vertical line, moving upward toward your hairline. Then lift your fingers and begin again at the next point. Give yourself
this mini-massage whenever you have a spare moment or right before bed to relax.

Expand Your Knowledge: Can You Eat Too Much Protein?

Myth: When it comes to your weight, you can’t eat too much protein. Anything beyond what your body needs will get excreted in urine. 

Many people believe that because the body has a little capacity to store protein, it seems logical that excess protein will just get removed through the urine, similar to water-soluble vitamins.

The Science & Reality: It is true that your body has a limited capacity to store excess proteins beyond its immediate needs. It is true that part of those excess proteins get excreted in urine (actually the nitrogen group known as urea in urine). The carbon group of protein is readily converted to glucose or fat, depending on what your body’s current needs are. Bottom line: excess protein is processed in the body the same as excess carbohydrate or excess fatit is converted into stored body fat.

Natural Antibiotic

I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, so I suggest that before you try this recipe, you check with your health care provider. That said, this drink should not harm, unless you are allergic to one or more of the ingredients.

1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbsp organic honey*
2 tbsp ginger, freshly grated
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup lemon juice

Blend these ingredients thoroughly and drink 3-4 times a day. Keep the extra in the fridge.


* Some people think the honey to be more effective should have a MGO of 400+ and a UMF of 10+. I’ve not read anywhere whether or not this really makes a difference, so use your best judgement.

Can New Urban Designs Fight Obesity?

I read an article that shows how our environment, if properly designed, can aid us in better health and help us avoid becoming obese. I think it’ll take more than public service campaigns to solve the nation’s obesity problem. Some fitness experts—including myself—have been talking about how our neighborhoods must be designed so people can get around without their cars. Does that sound scary to you? Hear me out…

According to James Sallis, a UCSD psychology professor, “Virtually everything our society has done for the past 100 years has made it easier for us to be fatter.” He spoke about this at the 2006 American College of Sports Medicine’s (ACSM) annual meeting. He told the members of the ACSM who attended the conference, “We’ve built an unhealthy world in a lot of different ways.” Sallis contends change will come only when the public demands walkable development, more federal money for parks and bike paths, and even a tax on industries that promote sedentary lifestyles (he pointed to video game makers, movie theater chains, and even electric Segway scooters).


James Sallis

Sallis and others say that proof people will accept an active lifestyle and walk to parks and shopping if they can is found in the “new urbanism” style of planned communities. One case in point is Denver’s Stapleton neighborhood, an enclave of new homes built where the city’s old airport used to be.

The neighborhood is a mix of shops, offices, parks, apartments, and houses linked by wide sidewalks and meandering bike paths. Architecture varies from single-family homes to rows of brownstones. A spokesman for developer Forest City, Tom Gleason, said the design has been a hit. “People will walk if you give them that opportunity,” he said.

Jack Berryman, a professor of medical history at the University of Washington, says that active lifestyles date back at least a century. It was President Teddy Roosevelt who famously worried about Americans’ “slothful life.” Before both world wars, military leaders complained about “soft” recruits. President Eisenhower launched the President’s Council on Physical Fitness in 1956.

Given all that, which I am suggesting got the word out, it’s just failure, failure, failure. Fatter, not fitter,” Berryman said.

In 2004, the National Institute of Environmental Health Science (NIEHS) hosted a conference on how society has engineered activity out of American life. NIEHS spokeswoman Christine Bruske said at a similar conference in 2007 focused on how children are affected, that new ideas take time.

Without a coordinated effort among federal, state, and local governments, communities can’t compete,” Professor Sallis said. “Transportation money goes to highways, not bike paths or even sidewalks in newer developments. Everything is engineered against us.”

Let me ask you… What would you do? If given the opportunity, would you rather use a bike, walk, use public transport for long distances, or stick with your car with its associated high fuel prices and pollution, plus pay for gym memberships for your exercise? Loaded question I know, but it is something we all need to think and talk about.