A to Z Challenge: Reflections post!

A-to-Z Reflection [2018]

Did I scare you? Did you think I was going to write a bunch of health and fitness posts again 😊!

No, not to worry! The challenge is truly over, but part of this was for me to learn some things, and here is what I found out.

  1. Blogging everyday is hard! This is not really a surprise to me, but I thought it should be said out loud. I am sure I could have made this easier on myself by creating shorter posts, or leaving out some details. But the teacher/researcher in me took over. It is hard to short cut the process when you are talking about a subject you really care about ❤️.
  2. This would have been easier if I had not had house guests and painted several rooms in my home at the same time. Also, suspending some of my training activities, or not going on a three day road trip that month, would have freed up some time 🏋🏻‍♀️🥊🧘🏻‍♀️🧗‍♀️ But I can’t not workout, just not wired that way😅.
  3. I did learn how to schedule posts in advance, which was really helpful!
  4. Researching certain topics brought me up to date with new technologies and scientific findings, which was great!
  5. I realized how wonderful and supportive my fellow bloggers are!! Thank you, so much for your likes and comments. You really kept my spirits up when I was getting tired.😊💕

 

The A to Z Challenge folks are asking that we choose our favorite post to participate in the “Road Show”. I would love your help, one more time, in selecting the post to submit.

Anyone have a favorite “A to Z” topic of mine? I am taking suggestions😃

Aging, a huge thank you, to all my friends and I hope to get caught up on all your posts soon 🙏

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A to Z Challenges: Z is for Zero Calorie Sweeteners

Z

Here we are! Finally at the letter Z😊

I didn’t have a lot of options with this letter, but I think this is a great way to wrap up this A to Z challenge.

Currently, the FDA has approved five artificial sweeteners: saccharin, acesulfame, aspartame, neotame, and sucralose. It has also approved one natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia (my personal favorite😊)

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Check out the last column. Obviously not all sweeteners are the same! The fact that each of these is so much sweeter than natural occurring sugar, without the same calorie cost, may be causing some significant problems.

One theory is that the use of these products has changed the way we percieve sweetness. Since a small amount of each of these can elicit a sweet sensation, hundreds to thousands of times greater than real sugar, 1479516236410the receptors in our brains that register the presence of sugar, are altered over time. Once they are changed the binding of natural sugar cannot meet that threshold, so we take in more sugar. Fruit can no longer taste sweet enough and vegetables may be unpalatable.

We then crave more sweetness, so we tend to choose sweets over whole nutritious foods to meet that new higher threshold.

There are many studies that back up this theory. In one human study participants who drank more than 21 diet drinks per week were twice as likely to become overweight or obese, than those who did not drink any at all.

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Of course there have been numerous animal studies which have linked artificial sweeteners to that same reward pathway in the brain. The result show that artificial sweeteners may be addictive. Rats were exposed to cocaine then given the choice of cocaine or saccharine, most chose saccharine.

Of course, rodent studies don’t always translate to people, it is important to remember that! However, the links to obesity, metabolic syndrome and type II diabetes can not be overlooked. One human study showed a 36% correlation with metabolic syndrome and 67% correlation to type II diabetes, which are quite high percentages! Additionally artificial sweeteners have been shown to interfere with the absorption of certain medicines and may harm the beneficial gut flora needed for overall digestive health.

Can zero calorie sweeteners be part of a healthy weight loss plan?

Yes, but moderation is the key! Study participants did loose weight, in the short term, when using diet drinks sparingly and as part of a healthy eating plan. The goal is to not treat them as “free foods”, there is a cost associated with all consumables.

One of the misperceptions is that diet drinks don’t count. The attitude that if I have a diet drink, I have room in my diet for cake, is not correct! I have been out with friends who have used this rationale many times, and then complain that they have been so good, but can’t loose weight. 😳

“Artificial sweeteners [are] a crutch that don’t force people to deal with deeper issues of regulating calorie intake and making healthier food choices,” says psychologist Ramani Durvasula author of You Are WHY You Eat: Change Your Food Attitude, Change Your Life.

If you have a 12oz. of Diet Coke a day, or use a packet of Splenda in your morning cup of coffee, you can still have a healthy diet. But, think about cutting back here or there, see if you really notice that reduction, and if not, then more power to you😊

References:

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/artificial-sweeteners-sugar-free-but-at-what-cost-201207165030

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/artificial-sweeteners/art-20046936

https://www.thedailybeast.com/are-artificial-sweeteners-wrecking-your-diet

https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10937404.2013.842523

https://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A354C9-A79D-A168-48E8-8DE562947252

A to Z Challenge: Y is for Yogurt

Y

To be fair, not just yogurt but all fermented foods! Yogurt just happens to be the best known for its probiotic content. All fermented foods contain probiotics, as long as they are unpasteurized!

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Lets talk about your intestinal flora! Is that too personal😉

 

the colon. intestinal flora

 

The bacteria in your system outnumber your cells of your body 10 to 1! That is a lot of bacteria, and they reside in your intestines and colon. There are a variety of strains, some good, some bad and many indifferent! You need these strains as some make vitamins, such as K, and provide for the optimal conditions for absorption of nutrients.

The “bad” ones? Well they provide you with that embarrassing gas and bloating😳

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The trick is learning how to balance these competing strains.

Eating a balanced and healthy diet is a great start. Consuming probiotics is key toward meeting this goal.

 

 

How are fermented foods produced?

Bacteria will ferment milk to produce lactic acid, which gives yogurt the tangy taste. Bacteria that feed on skim milk produce the fat free variety of foods.

Plain yogurt, that does not have any additives, should be white and thick. Commercial brands that add colors and sugars are not good for you. Those additives will actual feed the unhealthy flora that you are trying to replace and may contribute to weight gain over time.

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According to the official definition, probiotics are “live microorganisms that, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.”

Which is a fancy way of saying they are good for you! Probiotics are usually bacteria but some yeast also have this function. But with so many strains to choose from, which should you be looking for in your yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi and tempeh?

All fermented foods, with live active cultures, contain probiotics, such as Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus bulgaricus, Enterococcus faecium, Streptococcus thermophilus. 55DA57DA-1104-313F-4ED9-98BC16EAC422.jpeg-copy-e1474035349386-1024x317Be sure to read the label and look for these specific strains!

Benefits of consuming fermented foods, particularly yogurt

It is high in calcium which is needed for healthy teeth and bones. In fact, 1 8oz cup is 49% of your daily recommended total.

Yogurt is high in B vitamins, and required for heart health. 💕

It is also high in Phosphorus, Magnesium and Potassium, all needed for bone health, regulating blood pressure and metabolism. In fact, that same 1 8oz cup has 38%, 12% and 18% of each of those ions, respectively.

Yogurt is high in protein! Remember P is for Protein? We talked about how important protein is for a variety of reasons. Regular yogurt has 12 grams/7 oz, which is pretty good, but greek yogurt (which has been strained to remove all the water creating a denser product) has 22grams/ 7oz!

Protein will help you feel fuller longer and may aid in weight control. Studies have shown that particpants who consumed greek style yogurt remained fuller longer and ate fewer calories throughout the day, compared to participants who consumed regular yogurt.

In another study, obese individuals, who have different flora than lean people, had a  fecal transplant from a person with a lean weight flora. This caused weight loss in the obese host. This result confirmed that gut microorganisms can help with weight control.

In 2013, a study of 210 patients with central obesity (belly fat) was conducted. The subjects were given Lactobacillus gassers supplements. It was determined that the bacteria was responsible for a weight loss of 8.5% in 12 weeks. When the patients stopped ingesting the bacteria they gained all the weight back in just 4 weeks!

 

probiotics

What else?

Probiotics lower levels of inflammation.

Reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety.

Cause the lowering of total cholesterol levels, and particularly, LDL.

Lowering blood pressure.

Skin health benefits, such as controlling acne, rosacea and eczema. 😊

Any Side Effects?

You could experience gas and mild discomfort for a couple days as the new bacteria settle in, after that your digestion should be better than it was before the probiotics.

Some antibiotics will be less effective due to the high calcium content in yogurt (and any dairy products). Your doctor or pharmacists will tell you to curtail your dairy intake while on the medications.

Many commercial yogurts contain additives that you do not want in your system, such as added sugars or dyes. I like to buy plain yogurt and add in fresh fruit to control the carbs and minimize calories. Making your own is actually quite easy!

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I hope you are interested in probiotics, if you weren’t before. There are quite a few benefits to be had!😋

References:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/7-benefits-of-yogurt

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/probiotics-101#modal-close

https://www.escoffieronline.com/healthy-vs-unhealthy-yogurt/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-829/yogurt

 

X is for Xanthum Gum

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Have you heard of Xanthum Gum? If you are gluten free, have Celiac disease or are a strict vegan, then you probably have! The rest of us may have heard it on a popular ice cream commercial. It’s the one where the cute kids are trying to read the list of ingredients and have to pronounce all the strange chemical names.

Xanthum gum is not a strange name, but is a food additive that is found in almost anything that needs a preservative or stabilizer, think of the interior of your local grocery store!images

It was discovered in 1960, and by 1968 the FDA had approved it for human consumption.

It is a polysaccharide made from either glucose, sucrose or lactose.

Xanthomonas campestris is the naturally occurring bacteria that is used to make Xanthum gum. If you are a gardener then you have seen this bacteria many times (I know I have!) See the black rot on this cauliflower leaf? That’s Xanthomonas campestris

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How Xanthum gum  is made

Xanthomonas campestris is a bacteria that will use glucose, sucrose or lactose as a food source. Xanthum gum is produced when one of these sugars is fermented by the bacteria, and then precipitated with isopropyl alcohol. The precipitate is then dried and ground into a powder which can be added to a liquid to form a “gum”.

 

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The result is the white powder that you can buy at the store. It is often used in vegan and gluten free baking.

What is it used for specifically?

The applications for this gel like substance are almost endless. It is inert, meaning is has no flavor of its own and does not interact, chemically, to its surroundings. It is therefore useful in lowering the friction point of metals. In an industrial setting it can act as a lubricant for pistons and cylinders. It is used as a cheap and effective substance in drilling operations, particularly in fresh and salt water operations.

It is also found in cosmetics, lotions and medicines. Even your toothpaste has xanthum gum!

Sounds tasty huh? But, remember is has no taste!

Why is it in our food supply?

People often site the fact that xanthum gum is used for large scale industrial purposes as a reason for it to be unhealthy for human consumption. It bother folks that this product can be used for other applications. The truth is that this is a natural product, produced by a bacterium, and has unique properties that make is useful in food preparation.

Like chia seeds, the xanthum gum will swell when added to liquids.

l_11350_chefsteps.coffeeIts consistency acts as a thickening agent when added to soups or stews. Most of us use butter and flour as a thickening agent, but if you are gluten or dairy free, that is not an option for you.

Xanthum can be used as a gluten subsitute in baking by acting as a binding agent, taking the place of eggs and/or flour.

It is also found in commercially prepared salad dressings, where it is utilized as an emulsifier, to keep oil and water mixed. As well as commercially prepared pastry fillings to keep water from soaking into the pastry dough.

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It is found in ice cream to prevent ice crystals from forming and helps to maintain the smoothness of the final product.

 

 

 

Since xanthum gum swells when it contacts liquids, it will do that in your intestines as well. Therefore it acts like a laxative in the intestines and stimulates the digetstive tract to push stool through the colon. The more xanthum gum one ingests the more laxative effect! Many popular bulk laxatives use xanthum gum to help people deal with constipation.

Is it safe to eat?

Yes! The World Health Organization (WHO) determined that it is safe to consume 15 grams/day. As  a reference point, most protein powders use less than half a gram per serving, mainly for texture, so 15 grams in a single day would be considered a huge amount.

Are you afraid to drinking beer of wine, consider it is dangerous? Both liquids are a products of bacterial or fungal fermentation. As is yogurt and cheese! One of my favs 😊

Studies have been conducted on the effects of  xanthum gum and found that it can lower both overall sugars and cholesterol in diabetics. Additionally, it can act as a saliva substitute in people who suffer from dry mouth.

Of course, people can be sensitive to this, like they can be sensitivite to any food additive.  If you suspect that you have a sensitivity to xanthum gum, it is not easily avoided due to its prevalence in so many products, food or otherwise. However, when you make salad dressings, or ice cream at home, you do not add xanthum gum specifically.

Home cooked is still always best 😉

Hopefully this demystifies xanthum gum for you, at least a little bit. 🙏😊

References;

https://draxe.com/what-is-xanthan-gum/

https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-340/xanthan-gum

https://www.fooducate.com/app#!page=post&id=57A3313A-D446-9E0C-44E2-8CDDCC498C35

 

 

A to Z Challenge: W is for Wine

W

Do you remember when a study came out, about 20 years ago, stating that red wine was good for you? There were no real details, like why it was good for you, or in what way you would benefit. There certainly was no information about how much, or how little, you should drink to get these amazing benefits. A lot of people just heard “red wine” and “good”, and were satisfied with that!

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I get it! I like a drink every now and then too, so it would make sense that if you tell people something they want to hear, they won’t ask a lot of questions. 🧐

In the two decades that have passed since that day, there have been numerous studies conducted on both white and red wine, as well as other spirits, largely negating those small, positive correlations of the original studies.  But, if you ask the average person if consuming alcohol is healthy, they most likely will tell you that red wine is good for you, and leave it at that.

So, let’s take a look at that statement.

All forms of alcohol, not just wine, contain heart healthy factors.

Alcohol will raise the HDL form of cholesterol, and lower the LDL form. This means that cholesterol will be flushed out of the arteries before it has a chance to build up and form a blockage, known as plaque.

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Alcohol also reduces the formation of blood clots by interfering with platelet adhesion, thereby acting as a blood thinner.

Alcohol may also improve the function of the cells lining the arteries themselves.

Alcohols also has anti-inflammatory properties, anti- cancer activators and has been shown to increase longevity in lower life forms.

It sounds amazing doesn’t it! 🍸 🍷 🍹

Why did red wine get singled out?

Red wine contains over 500 natural occurring chemical substances. One of those is resveratrol.

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This is the compound found in the skin of red grapes. 🍇 It is one of the polyphenol class of antioxidants. Red grape skins are used in the fermentation of both red and white wine varieties, so white wine also contains resveratrol, but the red varieties have 13 times the amount. Food scientists have long credited red wine, and resveratrol, as the factor that explains the “French Paradox”. This is the notion that the French, who have lower levels of heart disease, obesity and Type II diabetes, in spite of consuming a diet high in fat and cholesterol, are drinking red wine with their meals and avoiding the harmful effects of their cuisine. Studies began by isolating resveratrol and looking at its effects on cells, and in small mammals. Small, positive correlations were observed and quickly the population grabbed onto the new idea that red wine was good for you.

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It didn’t take long for the herbal supplement machine to grab onto this information. This single antioxidant was concentrated and plugged into a capsule and sold. Annual sales reached an all time high of 30 million dollars in the Untied States, and the list of aliments supposedly cured by this one substances went far and above any of the actual testing that occurred.

The marketing teams touted that you can get all the benefits without the nasty hangovers or detrimental affects brought on by alcoholic beverages.

Not surprising!

 

 

Are there no other sources of resveratrol in the world!?😳

Of course there are! This is an antioxidant, which means you can eat healthy, colorful foods that will give you all the resveratrol your cells can use. The added bonus is that these foods are also full of other cancer fighting, and heart healthy boosting nutrients.

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You could just eat the grapes! The skin is where the antioxidants are contained so look for red, black and purple fruits. Blueberries, cranberries, dark chocolate and even peanuts have resveratrol, as well as many other fine nutrients.

The key is moderation🍇🍆🍫🍷

The last 20 years of data have demonstrated that red wine is not responsible for The French Paradox. There really is no mystery there at all. The French practice portion control, walking is part of their daily lifestyle and they consume more whole foods and less processed products.

Bottom line: if you love your red wine, have a glass (ladies) or two (fellas). Not a bottle! The standard serving size varies from different regulatory governing bodies, but this chart is a close representation from all guidelines.

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And don’t drink to the point of lowering your inhibitions and eating the foods you know will not help you meet your overall health goals. 😉

And don’t kid yourself! That is not a 5 oz. vitamin drink! You need a balanced diet to get the benefits of resveratrol and its antioxidant buddies. 😊

Cheers 🥂 !

References:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281

https://www.everydayhealth.com/longevity/is-red-wine-good-for-you.aspx

https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/1868537

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/drinking-red-wine-is-good-for-you–or-maybe-not/2017/12/01/49f55e7a-cbd3-11e7-aa96-54417592cf72_story.html?utm_term=.61891f50c52e

 

A to Z Challenge: V is for VO2

Have you heard of VO2? This is one of those fitness terms that seems to be popping up all the time. So, I thought we should define it and I needed a “V” topic!😊

This is the volume of oxygen consumed when you exercise.

It is often expressed as VO2 max. This is a measurement of the maximum oxygen an athlete can use during intense exercise. It is basically a measurement of aerobic endurance, and the athletes’ overall cardiovascular fitness.❤️

This is not just for elite athletes. If you have had a stress test at the doctors office, you may have had this assessment.

How it is measured

The athlete, or patient, performs an exercise, usually riding a stationary bike, or running on a treadmill. The oxygen content is measured in the volume of air that is inhaled and exhaled. Remember, CO2 is exhaled and therefore contains oxygen molecules.

1449223426084-1wr8ssbdskbs1-630-80The test is 10 to 15 minutes and the athlete is required to raise the speed and intensity of the exercise until the point of muscle fatigue. The test must be performed in a lab with the measurement taken with the correct equipment, your Garmin reading is not accurate. Garmin, and other heart monitors can only track your heart rate, and then use your weight, gender, age and height to calculate your VO2, which is off by a large factor!

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The VO2 max is the point where aerobic metabolism stops and anaerobic metabolism begins, muscle fatigue follows quickly. Have you ever had a cramp when swimming or running? It hurts!😩 that is the point we are talking about.

 

Can it be altered?

While there is a strong genetic component, your VO2 max can be increased through proper training. Age, gender and altititude can also affect your VO2 consumption.

To give you an idea of what we are talking about, the averge sedentary person has a VO2 max of 35 ml/kg/min and elite endurance athletes are around 70 ml/kg/min.

Remember Lance Armstrong? At his peak, his VO2 Max was 85 ml/kg/min. He was able to manipulate his VO2 by increasing the number of red blood cells (which bind and carry oxygen). He took EPO, erythropoietin, which stimulates the formation of red blood cells. This was especially helpful when cycling in the mountains were there is less oxygen at high altitudes.

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Of course, he also tested positive for other substances as well, and won the Tour de France seven times before having his titles and medals stripped. Cycling is notorious for blood doping with EPO, and most riders complain that they cannot compete with the athletes who use performance enhancing drugs.

I hope this helps you the next time you see this in your health and fitness reading, which I am sure you are doing regularly!😇

References:

https://www.verywellfit.com/what-is-vo2-max-3120097

https://runnersconnect.net/is-vo2-max-worth-spending-for/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fn3Yr-LS_l0

https://www.sport-fitness-advisor.com/vo2max.html

https://www.washingtonpost.com/national/health-science/lance-armstrong-case-prompts-question-why-is-there-so-much-doping-in-cycling/2013/01/18/32cd089a-5e61-11e2-a389-ee565c81c565_story.html?noredirect=on&utm_term=.913c54117162

 

A to Z Challenge: U is for UV Exposure

U

This is a topic that has impacted my life in a couple ways. First, I am a natural redhead, meaning I have the freckles and white skin that often accompany that trait. As a kid I would burn instantly, but growing up in the Pacific Northwest it wasn’t too much of an issue. The sun was only strong enough in the summer, and that is really only 2 months out of the year.

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This is the UV index for Redmond, Washington today. ☁️

 

It wasn’t until much later in life, while studying comparative vertebrate anatomy, that I learned that my cells produce phaeomelanin, the least effective of the two forms of melanin. My melanocytes, (the cells in our skin that produce melanin) do not make the brown pigment that allows others to tan more easily. If you are a burner like me, then you also produce phaeomelanin, which are the yellow and red pigments. We are the freckled population!

I apply sunscreen everyday, yes everyday! My skin type is extremely sensitive to UV and we are constantly exposed, even on overcast days. I am concerned about all the effects of aging, not just melanoma.

Fast forward 40 years of so, and I now have a second home in Tucson, Arizona. This is a climate where the sun shines constantly! I have to be careful, but not as much as I thought I would have to be. Interestingly, as many of you know, things change as we age. I still have lots of freckles, but I don’t burn as quickly as once did. uv10

The UV index for the same date, in Tucson, Arizona. My environment has definetly changed ☀️

 

I thought it might be a good idea, with summer approaching, to take a look at our skin health. It is the largest organ of the body, after all!

Why do we tan in the first place, biologically?

UV light damages DNA. Melanin pigment is produced in an effort of the cell to aborsorb the UV wavelength, thereby protecting the DNA. The more UV exposure the darker the melanin pigment becomes in the outer layer of our skin. The lower layers will begin melanogenesis, a process to produces the melanocyte cells, which are full of melanin. Those cells move upward toward the surface of the skin, as you slough cells continuously. Once the UV stimulus is removed, melanogenesis slows and the dark cells are sloughed off. 600b0f283f4abfb1396fe84b6de96c05

If I get a “base tan” will I be better protected?

No. And that is going to bother some people. Regardless of what the tanning bed industry tells you, all UV light is damaging. The proof is the color of your skin!

All tans are signs of skin damage, regardless if the UV source is natural, or from a tanning bed! There are literally dozens of thorough, scientific studies to back up that claim. And still, people go to tanning salons, just as they continue to consume tobacco products in the face of overwhelming proof that cigarette are linked to cancer.😔

Melanomas are not the only damage: wrinkles, brown spots (age spots) and crepey skin are all long term effects from exposure to UV light sources.

If I don’t have a tan, am I getting enough Vitamin D?

Yes. Your body is incredible efficient at making Vitamin D and needs very little exposure to UV light to activate that pathway. In fact, the tan would be blocking the UV light from making the vitamin! There are far too many good sources of vitamin D that you can consume in your diet to justify the need to tan. At worst, you can take a supplement which would not harm your DNA!

Did you know?

National “Don’t Fry Day!” is May 25 this year! So, get out that sunscreen and apply generously and often!

References:

https://www.almanac.com/content/uv-index-chart-time-burn

https://www.epa.gov/sunsafety

https://oaspub.epa.gov/enviro/uv_search_v2?minx=-122.17978329999995&miny=47.62053510000008&maxx=-122.06778329999996&maxy=47.73253510000008

https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/fact-or-fiction-a-base-tan-can-protect-against-sunburn/

http://mentalfloss.com/article/50507/why-do-we-tan

https://www.skincancer.org/prevention/tanning