Dietary fat gets a bad rap, but there are several different types and not all are bad. The key to eating healthfully is knowing which fats are good, and to eat them in moderation while avoiding the unhealthy ones. Saturated fats are unhealthy and should be minimized, while unsaturated fats are very good for the cells. Here's some more information to help you make healthy food choices and keep your cholesterol in check:
These "bad" fats raise both total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein – or unhealthy cholesterol – levels. They clog up the arteries by sticking together in the bloodstream and forming plaques, which can cause heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats stay solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like eggs, meat, dairy and seafood. Palm and palm kernel oils are two very common saturated fats used in processed foods, so if you see these on the label, avoid them.
Another type of fats, which are even more unhealthy, are trans fats. Most trans fats are artificially created by partially hydrogenating unsaturated fats. If you see the words "partially hydrogenated" on a package, avoid eating that food ingredient because it contains trans fats. These artificially produced fats can increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and lower the levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
In contrast, unsaturated fats are the "good" fats when, in eaten in moderation, are very important for heart and overall health. They fall into two categories: polyunsaturated fats, which are found in sunflower and fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats, which are found in almonds, walnuts, avocados and olive oil. Unsaturated fats can actual lower the body's levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. Unsaturated fats are easy to recognize because they are liquid at room temperature.
With our increasingly busy modern lives, it's often difficult to fit everything we'd like in to all of our days. Getting exercise is of course very important, especially if you drive to work and spend most of your days sitting at a desk. But, luckily, consensus from the experts is that short workouts really do work.
Though it's recommended that adults get 30 minutes of cardio exercise a day, this is very difficult when it's necessary to balance work, raising children and taking care of one's home - not to mention getting enough sleep each night so you can start the day refreshed. But it turns out that mixing interval training into one's schedule can help. For example, though a 30-minute, moderately paced walk burns 112 calories, mixing just eight 30-second speed-walking sprints into the 30-minute walk – for a total of four extra minutes – will enable you to burn 165 calories.
In a recent Oprah.com article, Dr. Martin Gibala said that doing short, intense workouts actually helps us get fitter in less time:
"Your body thinks, 'Whoa! That was hard work,' and it responds by increasing your ability to use oxygen and burn fat," Gibala said.
This is because intense, short workouts work fast-twitch muscle fibers – those responsible for speed and power. In contrast, during a brisk walk, we typically use mostly slow-twitch muscle fibers, which are built for endurance.
In a study Gibala led at McMaster University, half of the participants engaged in 20- to 30-minute cycling workouts with six 30-second "sprints," while the others engaged in a 90 to 120 stationary bike workout at lower-intensities. After two weeks, the people who worked out in intense intervals were just as fit as those who worked out up to four times longer.
For a lot of people, our motivation wanes as the cold weather creeps in – exercising outdoors is particularly challenging, and trudging to the gym seems like a chore. But winter doesn't mean the end of working out! In fact, it's still important to catch some rays when you can to get your vitamin D and stave off Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Here are some great calorie-busting, muscle-building, fun outdoor winter activities to get a workout and some fresh air and sun:
- If you have kids and live in an area where it snows, sledding is the perfect exercise! Not only is it incredibly exhilarating to race down a hill at wild speeds, but it's also an excellent workout – once you get to the bottom, you have to hike up to the top to catch your thrills again.
- Even residents of Los Angeles and other warm places can enjoy ice skating at an artificial rink. Ice skating is the quintessential winter activity no matter where you live, and since it's an aerobic exercise, it's also a fabulous workout. Depending on how much you weigh, just one hour of recreational ice skating can burn between 250 and 810 calories. It's a great activity to tone your quadriceps and hamstrings, and ice skating requires the use of your abdominal and lower back muscles to keep your balance – strengthening these muscles will help you in other activities like yoga.
- Go snow boarding. Snow boarding requires supreme balance and core strength to not only stay upright on the board but successfully navigate down a hill. Plus, you're burning up to 500 calories per hour! Even taking beginners' lessons can be a great workout.
- If you live in a flatter area, try cross-country skiing. It's a total body workout – it strengthens the core and tones the arms. You can burn around 570 calories per hour cross-country skiing.
- Of all winter sports, snowshoeing has one of the biggest payoffs! You can burn up to 700 calories per hour during your snowy trek.
- Simply taking a brisk walk in the snow is also a great idea. You'll have to move quickly to keep your body warm, and keeping your balance on the ice and snow is more of a workout than taking a walk in better weather.
It seems like Americans have only recently caught on to the benefits of soy and the various forms of soy protein, ranging from tempeh to roasted soybeans to soy protein powder. But in Asian countries, soybeans have been a dietary staple for more than 5,000 years, which is where the technique of fermenting the beans for miso, tempeh and tofu was developed. It wasn't until the 1700s that soy was first introduced in Europe, and then in the 1800s it was introduced in the U.S. The first mass cultivation of soybeans in the U.S. began during World War II, and today, the Midwest produces half of the world's soybean crops.
Health benefits of soy protein
Soy has many health benefits. It's high in fiber, which has been shown to be heart healthy because it sticks to cholesterol and keeps it from clogging the arteries. Additionally, soy is unique because unlike animal proteins, it combines the benefits of high fiber and high protein in one small package. Also, soy contains the essential amino acids that are vital for heart and all-around health.
Soy protein shakes
An easy way to incorporate soy into your diet for an on-the-go boost is to make delicious soy protein shakes using Naturade Total Soy Protein in Chocolate or vanilla. Simply mix 2 scoops of the Naturade protein powder with cold water or your favorite beverage, shake or mix it until smooth and you're ready to go, you can also use it as a meal replacement for weight loss. You can also blend Naturade's soy protein into a shake with fruit, oatmeal and other healthy ingredients.
Sometimes, the best kind of exercise happens when you don't even know you're getting a workout. Autumn is an excellent time for some of these "hidden" workouts, because there's typically plenty of yard work and maintenance things to do around your home.
Raking leaves is just one of these hidden exercises. Why? When you rake leaves, aside from filling your lungs with fresh air, you will also work the major muscle groups in your back, shoulders, arms and legs, as well as improving your cardiovascular health by raising your heart rate. In just 30 minutes of raking leaves, you can burn around 150 calories! Just thirty minutes of raking and squatting to scoop the leaves up and transport them fits into the CDC's recommended daily exercise for adults of 30 minutes of moderate exercise per day.
However, you probably don't have enough leaves to rake your yard every day, so here are some other ideas for an outdoor, maintenance workout:
- Fertilize your lawn – using an aerator requires a lot of upper body strength and can help you work up a real sweat!
- If you have a wood-burning fireplace, chop wood and then carry and stack it. This involves aerobic exercise, squatting, bending and it also works your shoulders, back and arms. In 30 minutes of chopping, you can burn more than 200 calories!
- If you live in an area where year-round lawn maintenance is a must (for example, there's no snow on the ground), then you can get some good exercise by mowing your lawn with a push mower rather than the riding variety.
- If your home is in a snowy area, break out the shovel and snow blower. Shoveling can burn a whopping 225 calories in 30 minutes, while pushing a snow blower for 30 minutes uses more than 150 calories.
- Climb a ladder and clean out the leaf-clogged gutters, which will take core energy to stay balanced while you work with your hands.
If you compared our bodies to machines, they would be some of the most complex, with very intricate processes that need careful maintenance and proper fuel. In our well-oiled machine-bodies, trans fats are the substances that will gunk up the system – invading our arteries and affecting our hearts. Here's what you need to know about these unhealthy fatty acids that are terrible for us:
What are trans fats?
Trans fatty acids don't occur naturally, except for very small amounts in meat and dairy products from grazing animals. In fact, trans facts are manufactured through a process called hydrogenation, in which hydrogen is added to vegetable oil to make it less likely to go bad. Manufacturers of processed foods often use trans fats because they are inexpensive, keep oils solid at room temperature and give foods longer shelf lives.
So, what's the problem?
Until the 1990s, little research was done on trans fats. Today, we know that they are bad for the heart because they raise your bad cholesterol (LDL) and lower the good cholesterol (HDL) – something that contributes to heart disease and stroke. Trans fats have also been linked with certain cancers. Researchers still aren't sure why trans fatty acids are so bad for people, but they think it is because hydrogen makes the oil difficult to digest and our bodies recognize it as saturated fat.
Where will you find them?
On the ingredients list of various manufactured food items, trans fats are also likely to be called "partially hydrogenated oils." These are often found in the followingtems:
- Fried foods
- Commercial baked goods (cookies, donuts, crackers, cakes, etc.)
- Fast food
- Canned soup and instant noodles
- Cake mixes
- Frozen foods (pot pies, waffles, pizza, fish sticks, etc.)
Maybe you've been off your workout routine after an indulgent vacation of relaxation, eating and soaking up the sun; maybe you're trying to amp up your fitness routine to get in shape for an event or just to feel good about yourself; or maybe you don't want to trudge to the gym in extremely hot or cold temperatures. Whatever your reason for beginning a new workout or getting into the swing of things again, being motivated can be difficult, especially with today's busy lifestyles. It takes a lot of motivation to drag yourself out of bed and go to the gym at 5 a.m. before heading off to a long day at the office, or to come home from work ready to hop on the treadmill. If you're struggling with motivation, here are some tips to get you back on track and to help you make fitness a habit:
- Do something you enjoy. If you absolutely, positively hate running because it's boring and hurts your knees, don't do it. There's nothing less motivating than dreading your workout. Make sure your fitness routine is something that you enjoy or, at the very least, exercise that doesn't cause you unnecessary pain.
- Get a trainer. It's typically pretty pricey to get a personal trainer, but it's a great way for some people to get and stay motivated. First, you won't want to miss training sessions because you're paying good money for them. Second, you'll want to impress your trainer so he or she thinks you're the hardest working person around. Third, it's pretty fun – and even a bit flattering, even if you're paying them – to have another person invested in your fitness and designing personal workout plans for you!
- Avoid the out-of-sight, out-of-mind conundrum. Keep your workout clothes visible – place your shoes near your bedroom door and hang your workout clothes on the door handle or a railing in the bathroom – in a spot where you'll immediately notice them in the morning.
- Speaking of workout clothes, invest in some gear that makes you feel cute, attractive or comfortable. The point is to buy workout clothes that you'll actually want to wear.
- Grab a friend or two. Friends can hold you accountable. It's an especially good idea to pick a competitive friend because you won't want to look lame to the other person.
- Ease into it. If you've been off of your fitness routine for awhile or are just starting a new, more intense workout, don't go full blast right away. Besides possibly injuring yourself, it won't be any fun. There's no shame in going slowly as long as you're moving.
- Turn your commute into a workout. If you simply can't bear to go to the gym before or after you work, consider turning your commute into your exercise. You have to go to work anyway, so change the method of how you arrive there. If you're close enough, consider biking or jogging!
- Keep track of your progress. There are abundant sites to help you log your mileage or other important details about your exercise routine. Monitoring your progress is also a great way to set visual short- and long-term goals.
- Stay close. Choose a gym near your home or place of employment. That way, it isn't inconvenient to get a workout in and you can even give yourself a bit of a guilt trip if you pass the spot frequently enough.
- Incentives: treat yourself! Set goals and, when you accomplish them, treat yourself to something you've been wanting – even if that something is a hot fudge sundae or another delicious treat.
If you love your furry friend or are considering adopting a pooch, you should know that despite being human's best friend, the benefits of having a dog are abundant. Research has shown that dog ownership – and even interacting with and petting someone else's pup – has positive social, emotional and physical benefits. Here are the health benefits of having a loyal dog:
People with pet canines are more likely to be physically active because dogs need walking. This is especially true of people with large pooches – weighing over 45 pounds – because they need more exercise than smaller breeds. Other studies have even found a link between petting a dog and lowering blood pressure, and that pet owners may have lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, suggesting that dog ownership or regular visits with one might contribute to improved heart health. One study even indicated that dog ownership significantly increased the survival rate of people who had a heart attack.
Additionally, other studies have shown that growing up with a dog or other pets is good for a child's immune system. According to one study of 397 1 year olds, those with dogs at home had fewer respiratory and ear infections than those without a furry friend in the home. Additionally, babies with a canine friend in their homes were rated as healthy 81 percent of the time, while babies without dogs in the house were healthy only 64 percent of the time. Researchers believe that exposure to dogs' germs is actually what helps to improve immune health in children.
Dogs can also improve emotional health. Pets have been shown to reduce depression, stress, loneliness and anxiety. Owning a pet helps to give structure to a person's day, as animals need to be taken care of regularly. Studies show that touch is very important for emotional well-being, and for those living alone, pups can provide this important physical contact. Additionally, children and adults alike often find comfort from a dog during times of grief. Dogs are often used as therapy animals in hospitals to bring comfort and happiness to children and adults with serious illnesses.
Aside from the myriad emotional and physical benefits of dog ownership, these loyal pals can also provide vital social benefits. When people go outside to walk them, they're more likely to have conversations with people around them like other pet owners – animals provide an easy topic of conversation. In one study at a veterans' hospital, people were more likely to talk with each other when a dog was in the room. This is very important for people who live alone, such as elderly adults who are more likely to be isolated.
Also, children with autism who have difficulty connecting with people are able to interact more comfortably with their pets, which may help to build a sense of empathy and promote better interactions with other people over time.
Have you seen your social media contacts post about how that extreme Piloxing workout just kicked their butts or that they're heading off to their Zumbarobics class in 10 and wondered "What am I missing?" There are some interesting new fitness fads that have everyone on their toes – literally. The question is, will they last? Here's the scoop on the latest workout trends:
Ballerinas are graceful, slim and strong, but it takes a lot of work to get that way. Pure Barre is fitness routine that was developed by a choreographer and dancer Carrie Rezabek Dorr in 2001. It's based on small isometric movements, done at a ballet barre, that tone and burn fat from the entire body. Each one-hour routine is set to motivating music. Pure Barre does not involve jumping or bouncing, so it's easy on the joints while still being an intense workout that requires meditative focus. The benefit of Pure Barre over other routines is that it creates long, lean muscle by alternating strength-training with stretching.
The intense lifestyle known as crossfit seems to have exploded on the workout scene lately, but it was actually developed in 2000 as a training for general fitness and preparedness. Workouts are typically less than 30 minutes but are high intensity and extremely varied. Some examples include climbing rope, flipping tires, jumping rope, weightlifting, pull-ups, bodyweight exercises like gymnastics and sprinting – exercises that build a lot of muscle. People who do Crossfit often also eat a Paleo diet and consider it a lifestyle.
This dance-based workout has its roots in Latin American dance. The developers of this routine call it a "calorie-burning, dance-fitness party" because it's so fun that you won't even realize you're getting a workout. Its basis is aerobic activities, which are important for heart health, including interval training, resistance training, and fast and slow rhythms to the beat of lively music.
High intensity interval training (HIIT)
This workout style has been around since the 1970s, but it's coming back with a vengeance as people seek to find ways to pack more and more into their busy days. High intensity interval training relies on alternating between periods of intense activity, followed by periods of rest or lower-intensity movements. HIIT exercises are highly efficient and can be done anywhere, and they provide heart healthy and fat-burning exercises. For example, one basic workout is to run as fast as you can for one minute and then walk for two minutes, repeating this four more times for a 15-minute workout.
Drawing some inspiration from the military, boot camp workouts have become increasingly popular lately. They're fun because exercises have a lot of variability – based on the principles of strength, agility and cardio, and they're convenient – you need little more than your own body weight and an instructor. These bare essential exercises include things like jumping jacks, squats, sprints and pushups with little rest in between.
You may think that you have your fitness routine down to a science, but gym-goers of all experience levels and body types can probably do more to make the most out of every minute spent at the gym. If you're thinking about updating your workout, try one – or all – of these seven tips!
1. Start your routine with something you like
If you find that your workouts are getting a little stale, try beginning your fitness routine with the exercise you enjoy the most. This will help you get your heart rate pumping while also getting you psyched up for the workout ahead.
2. Eat before you go
While you don't want to wolf down a steak before hitting the treadmill, eating a small meal or light snack before the gym can help boost your metabolism and keep you from fading during your routine. Try an antioxidant-rich snack like blueberries, a yogurt packed with probiotics or a shake made with a total soy meal replacement.
3. Use your upper body during cardio
Using a treadmill or stationary bike to improve heart and lung endurance is a great way to stay fit, but chances are you're ignoring your upper body during these workouts. Using a full-body elliptical machine that works on arms as well as legs can help you burn more calories while improving your overall stamina.
4. Get a little competitive
Notice someone on the treadmill near you who's really giving it their all? Use their motivation to work a little harder! Friendly competition can give you the boost you need to spend a few extra minutes on the machine or convince you to push yourself to run just a little faster. However, be sure that you don't do anything that's outside of your limits.
5. Try eccentric exercises
It's tempting to focus solely on improving muscles like your abs, but many abdominal workouts shorten and "crunch" those muscles. Mixing in movements that lengthen your spine and strengthen back muscles can help you achieve all-over body fitness.
6. Take advantage of unilateral training
Most of the time, when you're using a leg press or extension machine you're using both of your legs at the same time. While there's nothing wrong with that, most of us tend to favor one leg over the other, even when using both at once. Try doing a full set with your weaker leg – for most people, this is their left – and then doing a full set with your stronger leg. You'll immediately notice that one side completes the exercise with greater ease. Doing this can also help improve balance!
7. Invest in a personal trainer
Maybe you haven't achieved the arm tone you wanted, or maybe your runs are still leaving you feeling exhausted after five minutes. If it seems like your workout isn't having the effects you were hoping for, you may want to consider hiring a personal trainer who can help you reach your fitness goals. Sound too expensive? Try splitting a session with a friend or looking into group fitness programs.