The Benefits of Plant-Based Nutrition

29 May

Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment

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Whole grains are high in protein.

A plant-based diet packs a lot of nutrition, thanks to an emphasis on fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains.

Plant-based diets and plant-based nutrition are both terms that we’re hearing more and more these days.

While the terms may be new to you, the concept of plant-based nutrition is not really a new one. Plant-based diets are, for the most part, vegetarian in nature. But the definition isn’t a strict one. A plant-based diet really describes your approach to eating, rather than applying a label to you as a vegetarian or a vegan.

Simply put, a plant-based diet is just that: a way of eating in which there is an emphasis on plant foods in the diet. Adopting a plant-based diet doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to declare yourself a vegetarian or a vegan. But it does mean that your diet will include plenty of nature’s bounty—in the form of colorful fruits and vegetables, legumes and whole grains.

The benefits of eating more plant foods are well-known and numerous. Plant foods are nutrient-dense, which means that they provide an abundance of nutrients relative to their calorie cost. Fruits, veggies, beans and whole grains are terrific sources of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients, and they’re naturally cholesterol-free. Most contribute a fair amount of fiber, too, so they help to fill you up and keep your digestive tract running smoothly. When you include plenty of these nutritious, filling foods in your diet, it leaves less room in your stomach for less healthy fare.

Plant-Based Proteins, Carbohydrates and Fats

Protein, carbohydrate and fat are the ‘Big Three’ nutrients, which is why they’re called the macronutrients. You need all three in the right balance in order for your body to function properly, and you also need micronutrients in the form of vitamins and minerals. Different plant foods can provide these nutrients to the body, along with phytonutrients, which are naturally existing compounds in plant foods that are believed to contribute to health.

Most foods, from plant or animal, are not strictly proteins or carbs or fats, although we tend to think of them that way. For instance, the bulk of the calories in whole grains are supplied by carbohydrate, which is why you probably think of brown rice as a carb. But whole grains are also a source of protein, and they contain small amounts of fat, too. Some people think of nuts as a protein source (which they are), but they contain a significant amount of fat, as well as dietary fiber.

If you’re thinking about incorporating more plant-based foods into your diet, the following are the main sources of protein, carbohydrate and fat in the plant world. Since some foods provide more than one macronutrient, they are mentioned in more than one category.

    Plant-Based Proteins. The major sources of plant-based protein include beans, peas and lentils, but whole grains also make a contribution. You may think of whole grains as more of a carb than a protein, and that’s true—most grains have more carbohydrate calories than protein calories. But I include them here because whole grains contribute important essential amino acids to the diet. Most vegans know that in order to obtain the full complement of essential amino acids (the building blocks of proteins in the body), it’s important to consume both legumes (beans, peas, lentils) as well as whole grains.

    While most plant-based diets place an emphasis on whole foods, I see no reason not to include other plant-based foods that are derived from these whole foods. So, in addition to legumes and whole grains (brown or wild rice, oats, quinoa, millet and the like), other sources of plant-based protein include soy milk, soy cheese and soy yogurt, tofu, tempeh and protein powders made from plant sources, such as soy, pea, rice, hemp, oats or quinoa.

    Plant-Based Carbohydrates include fruits and vegetables, as well as whole grains. Beans, peas and lentils also contain carbohydrate, but they are primarily a protein source. These whole foods contribute not only carbohydrate—your body’s preferred source of fuel—but they are also great sources of filling fiber. In case you’re wondering, the only natural animal source of carbohydrate is milk. Milk naturally contains the sugar lactose, which is a carbohydrate.

    Plant-Based Fats include nuts and coconut, seeds, avocado and olives. This includes other foods made from these sources, such as nut and seed butters, nut and seed oils, avocado oil and olive oil. With the exception of coconut, plant-based fats are primarily unsaturated fats and are generally considered to be better for your health than highly saturated fats found in animal foods.

When you think of a plant-based diet, you might be thinking only of fruits and vegetables, but beans and grains count, too, of course. And don’t forget those herbs and spices that you use to season your foods—they’re plants, too. Add up all the plant foods you eat in a day, and it’s possible you’re already consuming more of a plant-based diet than you thought.

How to Use Food to Improve Mental Energy

25 May

Posted by Susan Bowerman, M.S., RD, CSSD, CSOWM, FAND – Director, Worldwide Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment

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Natural carbs + protein = brain boost.

Want to feel more alert? To keep up your mental energy and focus, you’ve got to eat the right foods at the right time.

A client recently complained that she suffered from ‘brain fog.’ “My mental energy is shot and I can’t focus.” So, she wondered, “Is it something I’m eating?” Possibly. But more likely it’s what she’s not eating that’s leaving her mental energy flagging. As a full-time student and a new mom, her eating patterns have been erratic, and she often grabs something on the run and relies on coffee to keep her going. Without the right foods to give her brain the fuel it needs, she can’t possibly expect to keep her mental energy in high gear.

The next time your mental energy is fading and you feel like you can’t string two sentences together, think back. When did you last eat? What did you have? Have you been drinking enough liquids? Skipped meals, unbalanced meals, and dehydration can all zap your mental energy and focus. And don’t forget that getting adequate sleep and rest is part of the equation, too.

How what you eat affects your mental energy

What is mental energy, anyway? It’s actually got several features, including your overall mood, your motivation, as well as your attention and focus. When your mental engine is revved up, there’s a good chance your diet had something to do with it. So, here’s some “food for thought.”

What to eat to keep your mental energy up all day

Carbs fuel your brain

Mental energy: how to use food to feel more alert | Herbalife nutrition adviceGlucose is the only fuel that normally feeds your brain cells, and it’s derived from the carbohydrates in your diet. After they’re broken down during the digestive process, carbohydrates enter the bloodstream as glucose (your ‘blood sugar’).

Since your brain is active 24/7, it has high energy demands—higher, in fact, than any other cells in your body. And since brain cells, called neurons, can’t store glucose, your brain needs a continuous supply. Stick with the healthy carbs—fruits, vegetables and whole grains—to give your brain the fuel it craves. These high fiber foods take time to digest, which leads to a gradual release of glucose into your system. On the other hand, a meal high in refined carbohydrates, like starchy, sugary foods, can actually backfire on you. Since these foods are digested relatively quickly, you may experience a quick rise in your blood sugar—often followed by a quick drop. And that blood sugar ‘crash’ can make you feel mentally sluggish.

Your brain wants fuel at regular intervals

Since your brain wants a steady source of glucose, it’s important to eat at regular intervals throughout the day to keep your mental energy from taking a nosedive. Aim for small meals and snacks every 3-4 hours.

Your brain wants breakfast

There’s plenty to be said about the importance of breakfast, and giving your brain a boost is just another reason to fuel up first thing. While you were sleeping, your brain was plenty busy. It burned through lots of fuel overnight, and the tank is pretty empty by morning. Do your brain a favor and start your day with a well-balanced breakfast that includes both healthy carbohydrates and a shot of protein.

The best proteins for your brain

Even though your brain doesn’t use protein directly for fuel, it does use amino acids (derived from the proteins that you eat) to manufacture important brain chemicals. Tyrosine, for example, is an amino acid found in poultry, fish, dairy products, nuts and beans that your body uses to make a brain chemical called dopamine, which promotes alertness and brain activity. Another amino acid, called tryptophan (also found in seafood, poultry, dairy products and soybeans), is needed to make another brain chemical called serotonin, which leads to feelings of calmness and contentment.

The best beverages for the brain

  • When your body is dehydrated, it can affect your mood and your energy level. Mild dehydration reduces alertness and your ability to concentrate. By the time you feel thirsty, your mental energy has already taken a hit. Water is always a good choice, but coffee and tea in moderation are fine, too. Caffeine-containing beverages may help with focus and concentration—but be smart about it. You don’t want to ignore your diet and simply rely on caffeine to keep you going through the day. You need to hydrate properly and eat right. Be sure to monitor your own response to the caffeine you’re taking in. If it makes you jittery or keeps you up at night, you’d be wise to cut back. Using caffeine for a brain boost during the day won’t do you much good if it interferes with a good night’s sleep.

What You Can Do to Maintain Healthy Skin

14 May

 Posted by Jacquie Carter  0 Comment

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An even tone indicates good skin health.

There are many different tests that we can take to determine heart health, brain health and overall health. But what about skin health? The last time you went in for your annual checkup, did your doctor give you an update on the overall health of your skin? Probably not. Sure, we can get our skin evaluated in search of abnormalities to proactively defend against skin cancer, but what is healthy skin? And what does it look like?

Just about every marketing campaign we see for skincare products focuses on healthy, beautiful, radiant, younger-looking skin. Of course, we all want that. But how do we know exactly what to look for to ensure we’re on the right track? Do you know how your skin stacks up on the healthy meter? Here are some signs of both healthy and not so healthy skin that you can look for.

Identifying and Maintaining Healthy Skin

Your Largest Organ

When your skin is healthy, you don’t even realize that it’s there. Sound crazy? Your skin is your largest organ and when it’s healthy and functioning at its best, you truly don’t even think about it because you just don’t feel it. But when your skin becomes itchy or tight, you notice it. If you’re experiencing a burning or stinging sensation, then you know things have gone awry. But don’t panic just yet. There are several things that could be the culprit.

The weather and extremes in temperature could cause discomfort. Think icy cold wind or sunburn. Perhaps it’s a new skincare product you’re trying for the first time. Sometimes your skin is allergic to certain ingredients, and in some cases those ingredients are just too harsh. There are skin conditions, such as eczema, rosacea or psoriasis that can cause uncomfortable sensations as well as visible redness, rashes or even breakouts. If you find your uncomfortable skin condition not improving or worsening, you should consult your doctor or dermatologist so that they can help you get to the root of the problem.

How Does It Feel?

If your skin is healthy, it’ll feel soft and smooth to the touch. It will have a glow to it that gives it a radiant appearance. It’ll be free from skin conditions like acne, blackheads and clogged pores. It won’t be overly dry, and it won’t be too oily. When you’re trying to achieve a smooth texture, it’s a good idea to always properly cleanse your skin twice a day. And to help with the overall softness and smoothness, exfoliating is a must. Choose a facial exfoliating scrub that contains gentle ingredients like Aloe vera and antioxidant vitamins. A good scrub will help to decongest clogged pores and remove the dead skin cell build-up from the surface. The result? Softer, smoother and healthier looking skin.

How Does It Look?

When you’re examining the color of your skin, it’s important to note that it’s less about the actual color of your skin or your skin tone than the consistency in the color. You want to pay attention to any skin spotting. If you see lighter patches or darker patches, then you know your color consistency is out of whack. If you notice any dark spots on the skin, or dark circles under and around your eyes, then you know your skin needs a bit of help. There are several things that can contribute to your skin coloring, including allergies, unprotected sun exposure, hyperpigmentation and hormonal influences. And remember, your skin does its best regenerating while you’re resting, so get plenty of sleep. Remember, it’s called “beauty sleep” for a reason.

How Do You Feel?

The appearance of your skin can be a direct reflection of what’s happening on the inside of our body. It’s a reflection of your overall health. What you put in your body and what you put on your body are equally important. The healthiest skin always starts on the inside with a nutritious diet. Foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as blueberries and strawberries, aren’t just delicious. They are fantastic for your skin. So are walnuts due to their fat content, which make for a great snack. And, of course, green leafy veggies are high in nutrients and contain antioxidant vitamins as well. It’s important to eat as healthy as you can, and avoid junk food at all costs.

We also need to live a healthy, active lifestyle. Kick the bad habits once and for all. Don’t smoke or drink too much alcohol, as these habits can be damaging to the skin. Get plenty of exercise, always wear SPF when going outdoors and drink plenty of water to keep your body and your skin well hydrated. If you’re healthy on the inside, you’ll look healthy on the outside.

Everyone wants to have healthy, youthful-looking skin. A healthy diet, an active lifestyle and healthy skincare habits are imperative to the overall look and health of your skin. You’re never too young and it’s never too late to start using antioxidant-enriched skincare products to keep your skin looking and feeling its absolute best. Cleansing, toning and moisturizing your skin every morning and evening before bedtime can positively impact the overall appearance of your skin. So, in the name of healthy-looking skin, get started today. Remember, healthy skin is always the most beautiful skin.

Face Cleansing Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

01 May

 Posted by Jacquie Carter – Director, Worldwide Outer Nutrition Education and Training  0 Comment

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Wash with lukewarm water for best results.

Are you using the right products and methods to wash your face? Here are some ways you can improve your face-cleansing routine.

When washing your skin, you need to make sure you avoid mistakes that can ultimately do more harm than good. Improper face cleansing can lead to dry, oily, irritated skin, or even break outs. Here are some common face-cleansing mistakes you may be making, and some simple ways to make a difference in the appearance of your skin.

Five Face-Cleansing Mistakes

Choosing the Wrong Cleanser

The skin on your face is delicate, so you want to avoid products that are too harsh or loaded with irritating detergents and deodorizers. Keep your bar soap for your body only and look for a facial cleanser that specifically targets your skin type. Oily, dry, sensitive, breakout-prone, you name it, there’s a cleanser available for you. The right cleanser will help remove dirt, oil, makeup and impurities without compromising your skin’s natural barrier. It won’t strip away healthy oils and, as a result, your skin will feel smooth and hydrated post-cleansing.

Using Cleansers with Irritating Ingredients

Read product labels and know what is and isn’t in your cleanser. Avoid products with known skin irritants, including parabens and sulfates. Sulfates can cause dryness, redness and irritation. In fact, many people are allergic to sulfates and don’t even realize it. Look for soothing and hydrating ingredients like Aloe vera, as well as antioxidant vitamins.

Cleansing with Extreme Temperature Water

The best water temperature for your skin is lukewarm. Extremes in temperature can result in unwanted effects on the skin, including capillary damage. Hot water can disrupt your skin’s moisture barrier by stripping away protective oils. When this happens, your skin can become dry or have the reverse effect and kick your sebum production into high gear, resulting in oily skin.

Rinsing Incorrectly

When your cleanser isn’t rinsed away, it can build up on the surface of your skin. This buildup leads to clogged pores and breakouts, and your skin may feel dry, irritated and tight. So, be sure to give yourself extra time to thoroughly rinse off your cleanser.

Not Moisturizing

Serums and moisturizers should be applied immediately after cleansing and toning your skin. Toner helps restore balance to your skin, while serums and moisturizers help restore much-needed moisture. Apply your products while your skin is still damp. If you wait too long and your skin becomes dry, it makes it more difficult for your moisturizing products to sink in. When this happens, you may notice your skin feels oily or even sticky to the touch.

Bonus Tips:
    • When applying cleanser to your skin, massage in a gentle, circular motion. This will help remove debris from the surface and stimulate circulation.
    • When drying your skin with a towel, pat, don’t rub. You don’t want to pull or tug at the skin, as this can cause redness and irritation.
    • Use a clean towel, not the family hand towel. Germs and bacteria on the skin can wreak havoc with your complexion.
    • When showering, save facial cleansing for last. By waiting until the end of your shower, you will be sure to remove all traces of shampoo and conditioner that may have been deposited on your skin.

Here’s to healthy, youthful-looking skin.