Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Guest Blog by Rebecca Koffman, CMT

Have you ever gone to get a massage, felt great after the session, and then the next day hurt so bad you could hardly move?  You know the massage therapist did a good job, but you don’t understand what happened and why you hurt so badly.  Today, I saw a patient who shared this exact experience with me. 

My patient had purchased an hour and a half massage on groupon from a local massage therapist.  She is 8 months pregnant, has a history of lower back pain prior to the pregnancy, and the lower back pain continues to get worse the farther along she gets in her pregnancy.  The massage therapist worked on her lower back for almost 40 minutes per side, spending the majority of the time working on her glutes and her IT bands (buttocks and hips).  She felt great when the massage was over, but the next day she was so sore that it was difficult to move and by the 2nd day, she could barely walk.  What happened??
When a massage therapist is massaging a person’s muscles, they are working the muscles through a series of contraction, stretching, and relaxation states.  This is very similar to what happens when a person exercises.  When you exercise, YOU are working your muscles – contracting them to build strength, stretching them to improve flexibility, and allowing them time to rest in between exercises.  When you get a massage, the massage therapist is working your muscles for you.  Just like exercising, massage needs to be done for an appropriate amount of time.  If you have an injury, are out of shape, or have a medical condition, you need to start out slowly.  You can’t just wake up one day and decide to run a marathon without any training and you certainly cannot go in for a massage and expect that a good hour and a half of work on an area that hurts will make it all better.  In fact, it could make the pain worse for a few days.

So what do you do if this happens?  Well, it is important to give your body the rest it needs in between massages.  It is also very important that you communicate what happened to your massage therapist.  Your massage therapist should understand that he/she went beyond what your body can tolerate in one session.  The good thing is that with regular massage, your body will develop a level of endurance similar to that of a regular exercise routine.  Over time, you should be able to withstand more pressure and longer periods of time spent working on one specific area.  As your body becomes conditioned to the massage, you will learn how often you need to be seen to keep the pain under control.

-by Rebecca Koffman, CMT

Friday, July 27, 2012

Cooking Sprays & Butters

Part of our group topic on lowering cholesterol this week was an overview of the different types of dietary fats: the good, the bad, and the ugly!  Shirley mentioned that she loves to spritz I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray on her popcorn before seasoning it. She wanted to know if that's considered a healthy fat.

I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Margarine Spray (8 oz.)
  • Serving Size: 1.25 sprays 
  •  Servings Per Container: 904
  •  Calories Per Serving 0
  • Ingredients: Water, Liquid Soybean Oil, Salt, Sweet Cream Buttermilk, Xanthan Gum, Soy Lecithin, Polysorbate 60, Lactic Acid, (Potassium Sorbate, Sodium Benzoate, Calcium Disodium EDTA) as Preservatives, Artificial Flavor, Colored with Beta Carotene, Vitamin A (Palmitate).
This buttery spray is primarily a mixture of water and oil held together by an emulsifier called lecithin. Xanthan gum gives it a thicker texture, while buttermilk and salt provide flavor. Color and preservatives are also added. Soybean oil is a polyunsaturated fat, which falls under the healthy fat category. So, not an issue there. 

The problem lies in the serving size which is listed as 1.25 sprays. Seriously? Is a 1/4 second spray even possible? I am sure 100% of this product gets spritz on longer than that! 

Evidently, 25 sprays is 1 teaspoon, 2 grams of fat and 20 calories. That reminds me of one woman I worked with a long time ago who was going through 3 bottles of this spray each week by pouring it on vegetables. For some reason her weight loss had stopped even though she was eating more veggies. Yes. It adds calories.

Cooking spray use needs to be controlled, too. 

Pam Cooking Spray
  • Serving Size: 1/3 second
  • Calories: 6 calories
  • Fat: 0 grams (actually 0.266 grams*)
  • Ingredient list: Canola oil, soya lecithin, natural and artificial butter flavor, annatto and propellants isobutane and propane. 
A one second spray ends up at 7 calories and 0.8 grams of fat. I know several people who have shared with me that they use butter flavored Pam by continually spraying it on air-popped corn as it pops out of the popper. I wonder how many seconds they actually used?
All fats contain 9 calories per gram. A butter or cooking spray that has fat labeled on the ingredient list does have fat and calories in it.  Manufacturers like to play a game by altering serving sizes to make products look "better" on the label. *The labeling laws state that a product with less than 0.5 grams of fat can be labeled 0 grams fat. That means that I Can't Believe It's Not Butter Spray and Pam can be labeled "Fat Free." It's definitely misleading for most consumer serving sizes.

I do like cooking sprays, though. They allow you to lightly coat pans or skillets with a controlled amount of healthier fat instead of pouring too much on. You can get the same effect with oil spritzer bottles. My sister has one filled with olive oil for bit of rich flavor and one for canola oil for a unflavored spray. Great idea! 

Bottom Line: Be mindful when using butter and oil sprays: read the labels and control your trigger finger!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Can Red Yeast Rice Lower Cholesterol?

Recently one of our reader's was visiting a new primary physician. As they reviewed the results of his blood work, the doctor made suggestions for lowering his blood cholesterol level to avoid using prescription medication. The blood lipid levels were similar to his past records and his prior doctor never recommended taking action. Among dietary changes, she suggested the use of red yeast rice.

Red yeast rice (RYR) is actually a product of yeast (monascus purpureus) that is grown on rice. It's been used for centuries in Chinese medicine and other Asian cultures for various ailments, including to help lower cholesterol. RYR is marketed as a "natural" substance under various names including cholestinmonascusZhi Taihong qu, red koji, and red rice. It may reduce LDL (low-density lipoproteins = "bad guys") and triglyceride levels, and increase HDL (high-density lipoproteins = good guys.) But the decision to use it or not, is just not that easy.

RYR is most often sold in the U.S. as an herbal supplement even though it contains ingredients that are considered drugs. The FDA regulates all medications, however it does not oversee the supplement industry which includes both natural and herbal sources; there is no regulation for manufacturing RYR that would assure purity, amount of drug present, and its safety for use. In fact, some brands of RYR supplements have been found to contain toxic metals and citrinic acid. The FDA has worked to encourage manufacturers to list potential side effects. At this time, ideal dosing or long-term safety has not been determined.

The major active ingredient in RYR is monacolin or lovastin, the same active ingredient in the prescription cholesterol lowering medication Mevacor. The amount present in each supplement varies considerably due to the lack of regulation, making studies and use difficult. A couple of short term studies have shown RYR to be beneficial in reducing cholesterol, though many more studies are needed that look at larger groups to even begin to recommend it's use.

Side effects for RYR are the same as for the prescription medication: headache, heartburn and upset stomach along with possible deterioration of skeletal muscle and kidney failure. Alcohol intake increases these risks. People with liver disease, asthma, infections, compromised immune systems, pregnant, nursing, consume over 2 alcoholic drinks each day, and who are on prescription lovastin should not use RYR, unless recommended by their physician. ALWAYS check with your doctor before taking any supplements, including RYR. (It feels like I just zipped off a warning list for a prescription drug ad!)

I talked with one physician (M.D.) about the use of Red Yeast Rice. He definitely prefers the use of prescription medications if lifestyle changes (exercise and diet) are not successful. These meds contain active ingredients have been well researched; concentrations are known, and are made in carefully controlled for safety. That makes sense to me.

If your cholesterol levels are too high, talk with your doctor. All of us should be focusing on good nutrition and increased exercise to help reduce cholesterol and other risks of heart disease. Be sure to include plenty of fatty fish, walnuts, flaxseed, oats, beans, barley and plenty of fruits and vegetables. 

To Your Health!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Can You Get Too Much Protein?

"High Protein" is everywhere. High protein diets for losing weight. High protein diets for body builders. And, you can find high protein bars, shakes and supplements on the shelves almost everywhere you shop.

Jo, one of our Mind-full Motivator group members, asked a great question: is it possible to get too much protein? 

The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for protein is 0.8 gram per kilogram or 0.36 grams for every pound of body weight. That means a person who weighs 170 pounds needs about 61 grams of protein each day. The average American eats 15% of their calories from protein, or 75 grams in every 2000 calories. That's plenty for good health. 

Many foods contain protein, including
  • Animal protein
    • Beef, pork and chicken
      • 3 oz serving, 25 grams protein (size of a deck of cards)
    • Milk products, 1 cup
      • Milk, 8 grams
      • Plain yogurt, 11 grams
      • Plain Greek yogurt, 22 grams
      • 2 eggs, 12 grams
  • Fish
    • Salmon, tuna, cod
      • 3 oz, 19 grams 
  • Grains & Beans
    • Dried beans, cooked: 1 cup, 15 grams
    • Pasta, 1 cup, 8 grams
    • Whole grain bread, 4 grams
Healthy people can safely consume up to 20 - 25% of their calories from protein, or 100 - 125 grams in a 2000 calorie intake. Processing higher levels of protein is harder on kidney function, so diabetics and people with early stage kidney disease should limit their protein to no more than 0.8 - 1.0 g of protein per kg body weight (a 170 pound person limit is 61 - 77 grams.)

A high protein diet is often used by body builders. Some trainers even encourage use of protein supplements. Building muscle does require protein, but most Americans consume plenty to buff up those muscles! Consuming more protein than is needed does not build more muscle. It's all about the strength training. And, an overall nutritious food intake keeps every cell working at its best.

High protein weight loss diets such as the Atkins' program are still quite popular. Though short term studies have shown some positive results, long term studies do not support their use. Other studies have shown that decreasing refined, processed carbohydrates and replacing them with lean protein sources does significantly improve weight loss.

One concern of high protein consumption is the possible increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Fatty meats and cheeses are high in saturated fats. Higher intakes of saturated fats are known to increase LDL and total blood cholesterol, which increase the risk for heart disease. Instead, reach for very lean, trimmed meats, fish, beans,  and plenty of other vegetable proteins.

A well balanced, nutritious diet each day is critical for health. It's important to never eliminate any one food group; your body needs daily supplies of protein, fats and carbohydrates. For your health, be sure to choose lean protein sources, healthy fats and carbohydrates from whole grains, vegetables, and fruits every day.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Be a Model!

Sis and her amazing feet!
Obesity is now considered epidemic. Two thirds of all Americans are now considered overweight or obese. Along with it, the incidence of type-2 diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome has risen to include 25% of our entire population. We even have an annual obesity ranking of the states. America, we have a problem!

How did this happen? How do we fix it?  Local governments are taking action by eliminating super-sized sugary drinks or adding a tax to their purchase. Some, like Jamie Oliver, are directing the fix at school aged kids by making school lunches healthier and putting gym classes back in the curriculum. Some business are providing lunch and learn wellness seminars, offering discounts for gym membership or providing a exercise room to employees. As researchers dig deeper into the whys and how's of obesity, drug companies are busy developing new weight loss drugs or creating new computer games that require bodies in motion. Just like there are many reasons for the obesity crisis, no one approach is going to fix it. It's going to take many different approaches with kids, families, schools, media, product development, marketing, education, and support. And, it's going to take everyone working together to make these changes happen. 

We need to start with ourselves. Become a model for a healthy lifestyle. Children learn by observing what and how their parents and significant adults in their lives eat and how much time they spend in recliners vs being active. They model lifestyle, healthy or not. It's not enough to tell kids to sit down at the table and eat their broccoli if you don't. And it's not much different for adults.  What others choose to eat or drink can often influence personal choices. How many times have you changed your meal order when you heard a friend ask for fries instead of a salad? It's time for a change.

While I was walking with a friend one morning, we met another woman we know. Sis was out on her daily 2+ mile walk with her cane in one hand and water bottle in the other. I snapped a photo of her strong legs and the new bright blue "barefoot" sneakers. With her vitality and endurance she's my healthy lifestyle model. I want to move like she does when I'm her age...pushing 90!

Strive to be a healthy lifestyle model for those people you meet. As Gandhi said, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.”  

Friday, July 6, 2012

Are Big Box Stores Really a Bargain?

I stopped in at Sam's Club this morning. I don't go very often, but I've had a membership for a few years. And it expires in 3 weeks, as the young man at the checkout later reminded me.

Starting off in my usual mode, I walked down a few extra aisles on my way to the coffee. If I have the time, I try to travel a few extra footsteps in any store I'm in to increase my activity for the day. Every little bit helps, right? While I was walking, I started thinking about that $40 yearly membership fee. That's really quite of hunk of change. Is it really worth it to me? After all, there are only 2 at home these day and all I usually buy there is coffee, yogurt, Cabot light cheddar cheese, dishwashing "pods" and fruits in season. Every once in a while, I see another deal and pick it up.

So, I started observing what other people had in their carts. Many were piled high with huge packages of paper goods. I'm sure those were good deals, but I certainly don't have room to store 36+ rolls of bathroom tissue. Either they did or maybe they have large families at home.

I noticed that most every cart I passed was piled high with huge multi-packs and extra-extra large bags of chips, cookies, frozen prepared meals, desserts, baked goods, hot dogs, sausages, and big flats of beer and regular soda. Some had milk and eggs in a corner. One store worker was setting up samples of cheesy somethings. Even though the store was relatively empty at that time of day,  people were lined up with their carts waiting for "freebies." Store samples don't have calories, right?  And the thing is, most of the people waiting there and those pushing the loaded snack carts were overweight or obese. And, it made me sad.

Who doesn't like a great deal? But are some of these "buys" truly bargains? Big Box stores like Sam's, Costco and BJ's are clearly doing well in their quest to push people into buying more than they may need. Shoppers are subjected to free samples and giant packages of everything imaginable towering toward the sky. See more, buy more, eat more. Do shoppers even have a change to make healthy choices?

I'm flashing back to research that showed when bigger servings are offered, people simply eat more. Bigger bowls of chips out at a gathering silently nudges people to overeat.  Even dietitians who are schooled in the fine art of portion control, actually doled out bigger servings when provided with bigger bowls.  So my question is, when people purchase large volumes of snack foods and sugary drinks to bring home are they creating environments that end up producing obesity? Are they eating more of them than they would have if they didn't have the big bags? Or, do overweight people tend to choose to buy bigger packages of unhealthy foods? Maybe it's a little of both. Or maybe there is no true correlation at all...

I thought about my past. Many years ago, I had a doctor write as my diagnosis: "OBESE." And now, I'm in that healthy category. I succeed the weight lose challenge, but maybe it was a good thing I wasn't a Sam's member in those peanut M&M's days.  I placed today's bargains into the car: two pounds of fresh blueberries, strawberries, plain non-fat Greek yogurt and coffee into the car.

The way I look at it, one thing is certain. Big box stores are not helping encourage healthy food choices to help fight the current epidemic of obesity in our nation.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Strawberry-Citrus Smoothie

It's smoothie time around here! An icy-cold fruity drink is just perfect on these hot summer days  You can use smoothies as a quick breakfast, snack, dessert or even use them as part of a healthy meal.

  • If you use milk, yogurt or fortified soy milk as a base, you get a great source of complete protein and a rich source of calcium.
  • If you'd like a more filling drink, try using a small amount of protein powder is an easy way to bump up any smoothie to use as a more sustaining meal. Whey protein will offer little to no flavor while soy-based protein supplements can add a bit of a disagreeable flavor.
  • It's easy to add a teaspoon of flaxseed oil or a tablespoon of ground flaxseed to add omega-3 fatty acids to the mix. 
  • Using fresh or frozen fruits bring in the fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. And, they taste so good! 
My favorite go-to smoothie recipe is a variation on one from my daughter's American Girl magazine from many years ago. I can't remember what it was originally called, but it quickly became our favorite smoothie around here. Feel free to vary the fruit, flavor of yogurt or type of 100% fruit juice for an easy way to create different flavors! 

Easy Strawberry-Citrus Smoothie 
Makes 1 serving

In a blender, combine:
  • 6 oz container of light lemon yogurt*
  • 1/2 cup calcium fortified orange juice
  • 1 cup frozen strawberries
Puree until smooth and enjoy!
  • Nutritional value:
  • 201 calories, 1 g fat, 81 g sodium, 440 mg calcium, 43 g carbohydrate, 3 g fiber, 7 g protein
  • Counts as 4 units
  • Adding 1 Tbsp ground flaxseed or 1 tsp flaxseed oil adds healthy fats (omega-3) and 40 calories = 1 unit healthy fat
*You may substitute any flavor yogurt. Use plain, non-fat yogurt, 2 tsp lemon juice plus 1 tsp sugar or honey if you wish to avoid artificial sweeteners.


I'd love to hear about some of your favorite smoothie recipes!