Intermittent fasting: What is it and will it help me lose weight?

In a nutshell, intermittent fasting is just that: fasting intermittently.

It’s limiting calorie intake during certain hours/day or days/week. It’s more of an eating pattern than a diet. It limits when to eat, and not so much what to eat. And that’s part of its appeal to people who don’t want to count calories or use their food log to track everything.

Some would say that it’s a more natural way to eat because humans evolved without refrigerators, drive-throughs, or 24-hour convenience stores. We now have access to food (including junk food) all day long, so eating several meals per day plus snacks may be less natural than fasting from time to time.

There are lots of variations on this theme. They include:

  • 16/8 which is 16 hours of fasting and eating only within the other 8 hours (often 1:00 pm. – 9:00 p.m.)
  • 5:2 days of fasting, where you eat regularly for five days of the week, then take in just 500-600 calories/day for the other two (non-consecutive) days.

Is intermittent fasting effective for weight loss?

Intermittent fasting can help to lose weight because it can help you to eat fewer calories and burn more calories too.

Lots of people say they have success with it. But what do the studies say? (more…)

Low Carb Diet 101

Low carb diets have been popular on and off since the dawn of the Atkins fame, maybe even longer.

But what exactly defines low carb? Does eating this way actually help with weight loss? Are there any other health benefits (or risks) to eating fewer carbs?

Let’s see.

What is a carb?

A carb, or carbohydrate, is one of our three main macronutrients. Carbs, along with protein and fat that are needed for optimal health in quantities larger than vitamins and minerals which are micronutrients.

Carbohydrates come in three main types:

  • Sugars
  • Starches
  • Fiber

Sugars are the smallest (molecule) carb. There are many different kinds of sugars, beyond the well-known table sugar (sucrose) or fruit sugar (fructose).

Starches are longer chains of many sugars bound together. Starches are broken down by our digestive enzymes into sugars. These sugars are then absorbed and metabolized in much the same way as if we ate sugar itself.

Fiber, on the other hand, is also a long chain of sugars, but these are not broken down by our digestive enzymes. Fiber passes through our system, feeds our friendly gut bacteria, and then takes food waste out the other end.

Because fiber isn’t digested like sugars and starches, it’s often excluded from the carb calculation.

How we metabolize carbs

When we eat carbs, our body absorbs the broken-down sugar into our blood, thus raising our blood sugar. Depending on how high and fast our blood sugar rises, our body may release insulin to tell our cells to absorb that sugar out of our blood and use it as energy now or store it for later.

This is part of the theory as to why eating low carb diets may help with weight loss – by preventing the release of insulin, thus preventing the storage of excess calories.

But our bodies are a bit more complicated than that! (more…)

Can’t Meditate? Here are 9 Other Ways to Break Free From Stress

Meditation it’s the secret sauce to take your wellness to the next level. You know, the status of the elite gurus. It’s the “end all, be all” for the health of your entire mind-body-spirit. It’s the absolute must do that’s the only path to beating the infamous health buster called “stress.”

Hold up! Don’t get me wrong; practicing meditation is an outstanding method to optimizing your health and overall well-being. Meditation is great for relieving and dealing with stress, and all of the issues, including weight gain, that come along with it. But it’s not the only way to get there.

The whole purpose of meditating is to calm the mind and emotions and relax our physical body too. And there is always more than one way to get there.

So, let’s talk about some of the other things you can try if meditation is not exactly your thing.

Journaling

Spending some time every day writing out your thoughts can help to relieve stress. You can use journaling to list the things you’re grateful for, this is known as gratitude journaling. You can use it as a brain dump to get all of your thoughts and ideas out of your head to soothe your mind. You can use bullet journaling if you like to make lists. The ways to journal is endless, you can pick one that suits you.

Reading

It’s one thing to read to learn something that you have to learn, or to advance your knowledge. You know you can also read for pure pleasure. Getting caught up in a story so it takes us away for even a small amount of time can be so relaxing. (more…)

Prebiotics 101

“Pre”biotics?

Yes! They’re the food that we feed our probiotics, the friendly gut microbes that are oh so important for good health.

Our gut microbes are alive and they need to eat too. Their favorite foods are called “prebiotics” and include dietary fiber and resistant starch. The same fiber that keeps us feeling full slows down digestion and provides roughage that keeps us regular. Resistant starch helps promote healthy blood lipids. Both of types of prebiotics (fiber and resistant starch) are linked with many health benefits.

Technically-speaking, a prebiotic has three qualities:

  • It needs to be undigested and reach the colon intact;
  • It needs to be digested by our gut microbes; and,
  • It needs to stimulate our health-promoting good gut microbes.

Now that we know what prebiotics are let’s dive into their health benefits.

Health benefits of prebiotics

Listen, I know no one likes talking about poop but here we go anyway. Prebiotic fiber helps keep us regular by bulking up our poop. It gives it substance and form, so it’s not too runny or liquid. In fact, more fiber is often recommended to help with symptoms of diarrhea. Prebiotic fiber used to be thought of like a broom that sweeps food through our guts, but we’re learning more about its health benefits beyond this role. For example, prebiotics can also help to maintain normal bowel structure and function, and even enhance blood flow to the cells of the colon.

Those are some of the health benefits of prebiotics themselves. But we get even more health benefits when our friendly gut microbes eat and digest them. (more…)

What to Eat for Healthy Skin

There are so many things that can go wrong with the skin: dryness, redness, blemishes, etc.

There are many creams and cosmetics to put on top of your skin. But there are also lots of things you can do to nurture and nourish your skin to better health from the inside. Healthy skin is a reflection of internal health.

How better to do this than with food?

Your skin needs many nutrients: water, essential fats, vitamins, and amino acids. Here are five foods (and drinks and lifestyle tips) I highly recommend if your goal is healthier-looking skin. As a bonus, I have included a short list of some key foods to consider avoiding.

Ready? Let’s dive in.

Skin Food #1 – Water

No doubt hydration is key for healthy-looking skin! Water and other hydrating fluids are great to help your skin stay moist and supple. And for a bit of an extra anti-inflammatory hydrating boost, try boosting your water with anti-inflammatory green tea (sugar-free if possible). (more…)