Wednesday, October 5, 2011

10 Fit Foods for Fall

Joe Wilkes

We all know the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables. They contain vitamins, minerals, fiber, and other nutrients to help keep our bodies running in peak condition. Study after study shows that people who consume the most fruits and veggies are less at risk for a host of illnesses, including heart disease and cancer. Because of this, farmers' markets have cropped up all over, and supermarkets have expanded their produce sections to accommodate increased demand. In some places, fast-food restaurants have given way to community garden plots. The garden on the White House's South Lawn has proved to be a great success in its third season.

The best fruits and vegetables to eat are ones that are in season and grown locally. Crops are more bountiful during their natural harvest times, and your pocketbook benefits from the surplus. Plus if you buy locally, you won't incur the economic cost of food being transported to your store from far-off places, and the planet won't incur the environmental cost of fossil fuels being burned to ship that food. But even if money were no object and global warming weren't an issue, the best reason to eat locally and seasonally is taste: The sooner you eat a fruit or vegetable after it's picked, the fresher it'll be, and the more pleasing it'll be to your palate.

The following 10 foods are reaching their seasonal peaks, and they're available locally in most regions of the United States.

1.Apples. An apple a day can keep the doctor away in more ways than one. Studies have shown that the nutrients found in apples can help lower cholesterol, manage diabetes, and prevent several diseases, including cancer, Alzheimer's disease, osteoporosis, and asthma. Make sure you don't peel the apple though, because the peel contains quercetin, an antioxidant shown in a Finnish study to help reduce the risk of heart disease and inhibit tumor growth. Additionally, apple skin contains insoluble fiber, and the fruit's flesh contains pectin, a soluble fiber. While apples are great on their own, they're also yummy and crunchy when added to salads, and sweet and tasty when baked in desserts.

2.Corn. Generally, our society eats way too much corn. It's in almost every food we eat, especially in its most nefarious form—high fructose corn syrup. It's easily America's number-one crop. But fall is the time when we get the harvest of the tastiest sweet corn. Besides being delicious, in its unprocessed state it's actually quite healthy. A food study at Cornell University showed that ferulic acid, an antioxidant produced when sweet corn is cooked, can also be helpful in fighting heart disease and cancer. Plus corn is a good source of vitamins B1, B5, and C; folate; and fiber. Besides eating it on the cob, try corn in salads or as a colorful, crunchy addition to salsa.

3.Cucumbers. Some people never see cucumbers until they've been pickled, sliced, and added to two all-beef patties and a sesame seed bun. However, in their fresh, unpickled state, cucumbers are very low in calories (just 4 calories per ounce), are a natural diuretic, and are thought to help in the prevention of pancreatic, liver, and kidney diseases. Cucumbers also contain potassium, which helps regulate blood pressure. Their skin contains silica, which helps strengthen the body's connective tissue. And cucumbers aren't just for eating; the juice makes a great skin lotion. Those spa ladies with cucumber slices on their eyes aren't doing it for nothing. Cucumber juice reduces swelling, and not just for under-eye bags—also for burns and skin disorders.

One tasty way to enjoy cucumbers is my Russian grandmother's simple recipe of thinly sliced cucumbers, thinly sliced onion, low-fat yogurt, and chopped dill. (She actually used sour cream, too, but we won't go there.)

4.Eggplant. Eggplant contains lots of vitamins, minerals, and fiber, and also high levels of antioxidants, including nasunin, which has been shown to help protect cells from free radical damage. Eggplant also contains terpenes, which are believed to help lower cholesterol. Eggplant is a very versatile ingredient in all kinds of cooking, including Italian, Indian, and Chinese dishes. It can be baked, stewed, or sautéed, among other cooking methods. One thing to watch out for is that the flesh of the eggplant is highly absorptive, so if you fry it in oil, it'll soak it all up. One helpful technique is to lightly salt sliced eggplant, let it sit for a half hour, and rinse the salt off before cooking it. This will cause the cell structure of the eggplant to contract, making it a little less spongy. My mom's been dealing with a bumper crop of eggplant from her backyard garden and has been putting eggplant in everything. A recent success was replacing the pasta in her favorite lasagna recipe with thinly sliced eggplant. It absorbed the tomato sauce instead of the oil and made the dish richer and creamier.

5. Grapes. There's been much written about the benefits of wine, but you don't have to get loaded to get the benefits of grapes. In their unfermented state, they're a great source of vitamins A, B6, and C; folate; potassium; calcium; magnesium; zinc; and fiber. Like apples, they contain the antioxidant quercitin. They also contain resveratrol, which has been shown to help prevent blood clots and protect arteries from free radical damage. Generally speaking, the darker the grape, the higher the antioxidant levels. Grapes are great snacks that are low in calories. They're great when added to salads, or you can freeze them for a frosty treat.

6.Okra. This may be the most intimidating ingredient on this list. Many people are put off by okra's bristly outside and somewhat slimy inside, but it has a lot of health benefits that should make you take a second look. It's full of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. And it has great gastrointestinal benefits. Its high mucilage content, which thickens stews and gumbos, also helps absorb cholesterol, toxins, and bile, and has a gentle laxative effect. Its seeds contain amino acids and protein. Plus it's believed to be good for the skin and hair. (It's been said that Cleopatra ate okra as part of her beauty regimen.) Okra is great in soups and stews, or lightly sautéed as a side dish.

7.Pears. This is my favorite fall food. The biggest, juiciest pears start showing up in farmers' markets right about now. Besides being a great source of stains on my shirts, they have high levels of vitamins C and K, copper, and fiber. They contain even more of the soluble fiber pectin than apples, which can play an important part in digestive health and in lowering cholesterol. Pears have also been shown to reduce kidney inflammation and colitis. Asian pears, which are crunchy, like apples, are also in season now and contain the health benefits of both fruits. Pears are great plain, broiled, or poached. Plus Asian pears can be shredded as a healthy addition to a slaw.

8.Peppers. Whether you like them spicy or sweet, now is prime pepper-picking time. Fiber-rich peppers have high levels of vitamins A, C, and K; red peppers have the most. Red peppers, like tomatoes, are also good sources of lycopene, which studies show may be linked to cancer prevention. Hot peppers contain capsaicin, which has been shown to help prevent ulcers and lower cholesterol. Plus hot peppers can help ramp up your metabolism. I can't think of many dishes that couldn't be improved with a little peppery zip. Soups, stir-frys, salads . . . I even had some chocolate cayenne ice cream that was pretty good.

9.Raspberries. Raspberries are some of the healthiest—but priciest—berries out there. So now, when they're in season, is the most economical time to enjoy them. Raspberries contain several flavonoids called anthocyanins, believed to have antimicrobial properties, which can help prevent fungal and yeast infections and aid with irritable bowel syndrome. A Netherlands study showed that raspberries contain 10 times as many antioxidants as tomatoes. Like apples and pears, they also contain high levels of pectin. While they're great as snacks and desserts, think about trying them in salads too.

10.Tomatoes. The big new star of the tomato nutritional profile is lycopene. This carotenoid has increasingly been shown to be a powerful antioxidant that may play a big role in preventing cancer and heart disease. They're also great sources of vitamin C. And for those of you who don't care for raw tomatoes (as George Carlin said, they look like they're in the larval stage), tomatoes lose very little of their nutritional value when cooked. So they can be enjoyed stewed, in sauce, and even as ketchup (although we recommend a ketchup free of high fructose corn syrup and low in sodium). This is a prime time to seek out tomatoes at the farmers' market. Especially exotic are the heirloom varieties that come in yellows, greens, purples, browns, and reds. They can make a beautiful multicolored and antioxidant-rich salad.

If you can't get to the farmers' market, just can't stand eating fruits and vegetables, or don't have the time to get your recommended number of servings each day, fear not. Try out Shakeology®, the shake from Beachbody® that contains more than 70 healthy ingredients. It takes the guesswork out of nutrition. It's the Healthiest Meal of the Day®.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Quote of the Day:

" Success is not a miracle; it requires one man with one mission, who can challenge destiny."

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Make Mine Melon!

By Denis Faye

There's nothing bad about melons. They're yummy, they're super good for you, and they're one of the most social foods around. No self-respecting summer picnic would be complete without a big ol' watermelon. In fact, Americans purchase 3 billion pounds of the big green yum-balls annually. Everything else on the checkered tablecloth might be a nutritional nightmare, but nestled between the ambrosia and the macaroni salad you'll always find those big slices of sweet pink vitamin C-packed goodness, secretly supplying hungry partygoers with an abundance of vitamins, minerals, and carotenoids.

In truth, I probably don't need to explain why you should be eating everyone's favorite summer fruit, 'cause you're gonna eat it either way, but we're all food nerds here, right? So let's take moment and learn a little more about melons.

Melonology 101

You can buy melons in the grocery store year-round, but they're in season in America in the summer, so save your consumption for that season, and make sure you buy local. There are a couple of reasons to do this. First, once a piece of fruit is picked, it starts to lose nutrients, so not only do melons shipped from Central America tend to be mealier in texture, they're also less nutritious. Second, imported melons are more expensive.

You can store a melon at room temperature for a few days. Refrigerating it will help the nutrients last longer, but you lose flavor, particularly with cantaloupes. Once you've cut it open, all bets are off. Seal that melon and store it in the fridge. It should last about a week.

And even though you're probably not going to eat the rind, give your melon a good washing before cutting it up, so you can avoid any dirt, residues, or pesticides (if it's not organic) that might get into the flesh when you cut it.

While the watermelon is arguably the rock star of the melon world, having recently been rated the second healthiest fruit around by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (behind guava), it's just one of dozens of melon varieties. Let's discuss a few.


Actually, the watermelon is the only melon that's not a member of the Cucumis genus. It's a member of the genus Citrullus—which totally matters, right? Anyway, why did the CSPI go nuts for watermelons? They're loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamins C, A, B6, and B1, as well as potassium and magnesium. More importantly, they're loaded with carotenoids, pigments existing in plants that give them their vibrant colors. Carotenoids also have beneficial effects on those who eat them, including protecting cell walls from free radicals, improving your immune system, and helping to maintain reproductive health.

One of the most prominent carotenoids in watermelon is the cardiovascular-system-enhancing lycopene, which is usually associated with tomatoes, even though watermelon contains a much higher concentration by volume.

Haters sometimes criticize the watermelon for its lack of fiber. While this is true, it's fairly irrelevant. This fruit is incredibly water- and nutrient-dense, meaning you get a lot of vitamins and minerals for very few calories. One cup, which works out to about a pound of fruit, is only 49 calories.

Furthermore, I defy you to show me anyone who's ever gotten fat from eating watermelon.

Picking a good watermelon is easy. As is the case with all melons, once it's been plucked from the vine, it stops ripening, so don't buy it hoping it'll improve. According to The World's Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan, there are two tricks to identifying a ripe watermelon. First, the "ground spot," where it rested in the dirt, should be yellow. If it's green or white, it's probably not ready. Seedless watermelons sometimes don't have ground spots, so this doesn't apply to them. Second, give it a thump. If it responds with a dull thud, that's good. It if sounds hollow, put it back.

On final note, if you're concerned about the genetic modification factor when it comes to seedless watermelon varieties, don't be. They're hybrids, meaning they're a cross between two types of melon. No genes are manipulated in the making of this summer treat.


My grandmother used to say, "Cantaloupe—'cause we're already married!"

Bwahahahahaha! [Wipes tear from eye.]

Okay, now that I've gotten that out of my system, let's talk about the fruit the CSPI ranked as the eighth healthiest fruit. The cantaloupe, as we know it, is actually a muskmelon. Real cantaloupes are grown in France and rarely make it to the states. Whatever you want to call them, they're packed with vitamins C, A, B3, B6, and B9, as well as potassium. Unlike watermelons, they have a little fiber, a little over 1 gram for a 56-calorie, one-cup serving.

They're also a good source of carotenoids, particularly beta-carotene, which you'll also find in carrots. Are you seeing the pattern here? Remember how I said carotenoids are pigments? Cantaloupes and carrots are both orange. Watermelons and tomatoes, with their lycopene, are both red.

Cool, huh?

Cantaloupes stop ripening when picked, but unlike watermelons, the tap test should sound hollow. They should have a subtle, fruity smell. If a cantaloupe smells too strong, it's probably overripe. Also, the side opposite the stem should be slightly soft. Other than that, there should be no bruises or odd spots.

The only real downside to cantaloupe—and it's a weird one—is that people with latex allergies sometimes react poorly to them, so look out for that. Who knew?


Although they're still yummy, honeydew melons fare poorly from a nutritional standpoint when compared to their pink and orange brethren. That one cup of cubes has 61 calories and 1 gram of fiber, but the vitamin C is only about half that of cantaloupe, and there are also much lower amounts of other micronutrients, although there's still a pretty good amount of potassium.

The carotenoid that gives honeydew its green hue is zeaxanthin, which promotes eye health. You'll find even more impressive amounts of zeaxanthin in almost all leafy greens.

You determine whether a honeydew's ripe the same way you find a good cantaloupe. Hollow tap, fruity smell, and no soft spots.


Although it's less well known, I thought I'd mention the casaba, because of the special role it plays in the melon world. While nowhere near as nutritionally dense as the melons we've discussed previously, the casaba still features a nice little hit of vitamins C and B6, plus some potassium. Casabas also tend to have slightly more protein and fiber and less sugar than other melons, which gives them less of a glycemic load. In other words, they might be considered a "low-carb" fruit.

Though not as flavorful as some other melons, casabas have a long shelf life, which is convenient. The ripeness smell test doesn't really apply here, as they have no aroma, so look for color instead. The outer skin on a ripe casaba will be bright yellow.

Which melon is right for you?

The answer? Any of them. Hoewever, if after reading all this, you're stuck as to which melon to pick for your next BBQ, I have an idea: Buy one of each! Chop them up, mix them up, and you have a colorful, nutrient-rich fruit salad that'll kick that picnic into overdrive. With any luck, Cousin Millie and Grandma Bertie will finally get the message that you don't need mayo and refined sugar to make food delicious.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Takeout Tips and Traps

By Joe Wilkes

In a perfect world, we'd all be able to spend each morning browsing the farmers' market for the ideal seasonal produce, then spend the afternoon making a nutritious meal that would bring a tear to Martha Stewart's eye with its flawless presentation. But in reality, sometimes you don't even have time to make do with what's in the fridge. You might even have to resort to what's hanging on your doorknob or stuck in your windshield wiper, the scourge of diets everywhere: the delivery menu.

Ah, the delivery menu. A full meal (or more) brought to your door in 30 minutes or less. No cooking. No cleaning. It's like going to a fine restaurant—in your underpants. A dream come true. But it can be a nightmare for your figure if you succumb to some of the common pitfalls of deliverable cuisine. Here are some things to keep in mind so you can order your dinner in without having to let your pants out.

What to watch out for

1. Good things come in small packages. Unfortunately, most delivery food comes in large packages. It's rare that you can get someone to bring you one or two slices of pizza. You usually get the whole pie. And Chinese and Thai food come in those top-heavy tapered white boxes, so while it may seem you've only eaten half a container, you've actually gone through most of it. Before you dig into your freshly arrived repast, get a plate from your kitchen. (Come on, someone else cooked the dinner, you can wash one plate!) Put a serving on your plate and put the rest in the refrigerator for another time. By removing the extra food, you'll significantly reduce the chance that you'll power-eat your way through two or three meals' worth of calories straight out of the container.

2. Don't eat the "minimum." One problem with delivery, especially for single people, is that there's usually a $10.00 or $12.00 minimum. If the entrée you order doesn't meet the minimum delivery cost, don't be lured into loading up your order with fatty appetizers or extra desserts just to ensure free delivery. Instead, order two individual-sized entrées and put one in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch or dinner. You'll save money on the delivery fee, plus that's two nights in a row you don't have to cook. You win!

3. Watch your sides. Your diet's already in trouble since you have to order a banquet's worth of food just to get the delivery guy to show up at your door. Don't get talked into the add-ons like egg rolls, breadsticks, or chicken wings. Don't let a craving, a zealous phone order-taker, or just plain habit talk you into indulging in these unnecessary extras. Your pizza's already going to run you roughly 300 calories a slice (and do you honestly expect to stop at just one?); do you really want to add 300 calories' worth of wings to that?

4. Read the fine print. The best thing about Chinese, Thai, and other ethnic menus is that since the dish is in a foreign tongue, they usually have to add a couple of sentences about what's in the item and how it's prepared. Look for words and phrases like "steamed," "boiled," "all white meat," etc. Stay away from words like "fried," "crispy," "cheese-filled," "creamy," etc. Also, some menus include heart icons next to the healthier items—keep an eye out for those!

5. Spice it up. If you can take the heat, sprinkle some hot peppers on your pizza or order your food extra spicy! While some claims that spicy food will boost your metabolism are overexaggerated, there are some other benefits to eating the hot stuff. First off, peppers and curries add a lot of flavor without adding sodium, so pick dishes that emphasize spice over salt. Secondly, if your mouth is on fire, you might be encouraged to drink more water to cool you off. In addition to its myriad other benefits, water will help keep you feeling full, which helps a lot with portion control. (Avoid drinking high-calorie sodas, beers, or Thai iced tea [200 calories a serving] to put out the fire, though.)

What to order

Most of the restaurants that deliver are local eateries, not national chains, so we can't give you specific nutritional information for all of them, but here are some tips for good things to order and bad things to avoid for three of the most popular categories of restaurant.


•Get steamed. Order steamed rice, not fried, and go with brown rice if they have it—it has extra fiber.

•Veg out. Look for the dishes that are mostly vegetables and are steamed rather than fried. If you order dishes like beef and broccoli, ask them for extra broccoli.

•Soup it up. Egg-drop, wonton, and hot-and-sour soups are good low-cal, low-fat options (although they usually have plenty of sodium, so no extra soy sauce!). Fill up on some soup and put away half your entrée for later.

•Grease: not the word. Stay away from deep-fried dishes like egg rolls, crispy orange chicken, General Tso's chicken, sweet-and-sour pork, etc.

•Lay off the sauce. Watch out for sauces made with corn syrup or oil. Request low sauce or no sauce. An order of kung pao chicken seems healthy but it's sautéed in enough oil that it can have up to 76 grams of fat—more than an entire day's worth. If possible, ask how it's prepared.

•Pass up the salt. Ask for low-salt options. Don't use the full-sodium soy sauce packets that come with your meal. Instead, invest in your own bottle of low-sodium soy sauce. Also, make sure your restaurant is one of the many that no longer use monosodium glutamate (MSG) in their dishes.

•Switch it up. For dinner combos, see if you can substitute healthier options for the normal items. For example, at my Panda Express®, they'll give me an extra serving of steamed vegetables instead of the side of starchy chow mein or fried rice that it typically comes with.

•The future is bright, and light! A fortune cookie has only 30 calories and no fat, and potentially brings good news or a daily affirmation—treat yourself!


•Don't pick up that phone. It's hard to find healthy pizza and it's far better to make your own. If delivery's the only option, however, read on . . .

•More veggies. Load up on veggie toppings like peppers, onions, mushrooms, tomatoes, fresh garlic, jalapeños, etc.

•Less fat and/or less cheese. Ask for low-fat cheese, or ask them to use half the cheese.

•Defeat the meat. Try to stay away from fatty meat toppings like pepperoni, meatballs, and sausage. Instead, try leaner options like Canadian bacon, chicken, or shrimp.

•Bust the crust. Not all pizzas are created equal, and neither are their crusts. Most pizza chains list nutrition info on their Web sites, so make sure you take a look before ordering to ensure the smartest choice.


•Lighten up. Many of the same tips for Chinese food apply to Thai food as well. Try to get steamed brown rice and lots of vegetables and stay away from heavy sauces and high-sodium dishes.

•Don't get saucy. Satay is a good option, but try not to use too much of the peanut dipping sauce, if any; that's where your calories will start to add up.

•Don't go (coco)nuts. Watch the coconut milk. It's delicious, but usually extremely fattening. Try to look for dishes flavored with ginger, citrus, curry, or chilies instead. Or ask if they can prepare your dish with low-fat coconut milk.

•Hold the milk. Thai restaurants offer a lot of delicious low-fat soups that you can fill up on. They also have some soups that are high in fat because of coconut milk. Try and order soups that don't include it. And as with all soups, keep an eye on the sodium.

•Green and lean. Thai cuisine includes many salads that are a meal in themselves, such as Yum Nuah (beef salad) or Pla Goong (grilled shrimp salad). Many of these have simple lime juice dressings that are low in fat. But, as with American salads, caveat emptor, and ask the restaurant what's in the dressing.

•Go fish (or tofu). Check out the fish and tofu options. Even more than their Chinese counterparts, Thai restaurants have lots of dishes that feature seafood and tofu. And if you don't care for either, the Thai spices might just help you overcome your aversion.

So while it's unlikely you'll lose much weight on a takeout diet, there are still a lot of ways you can minimize the damage. But if you're still afraid that takeout temptation will take out your resolve, try filling that "30 minutes or less" with a quick P90X® or P90X+® workout like Ab Ripper X or Abs/Core Plus while you're waiting for your food to arrive. Then you can enjoy that Szechwan chicken with a side of virtuousness.

Connect with me @ my Team Beachbody Site for FREE!

BREAKING NEWS: Shakeology® creator on FOX News

Superfood hunter and Shakeology creator Darin Olien was recently profiled on KTTV FOX 11 in Los Angeles. Take a look at how Darin finds the best superfoods in the world. Click below to watch the video.

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Monday, March 21, 2011

Important Notice!!

To all my followers - I've moved my blog address...please click on the link & continue to follow me there!


Thursday, February 24, 2011

In Good Faith

As Program Coordinator at Grace United Methodist Church in Decatur, Illinois, Penny Butts works on finding new activities and ways to grow the church. "Fit Clubs are really big in our city," says Penny. "So the idea to combine faith and fitness just seemed natural." She adds, "God wants us to worship our bodies. After all, they are our temples."

Penny approached the Board of Directors about having faith-based workouts at church as part of a community outreach program. "Initially, they liked the idea, but had concerns about running a business out of a church," she recalls. "But they set us up as a non-profit organization and got behind it quickly."

It wasn't long before Penny's club, "Grace, Faith, & Fitness" was off and running.

The gospel truth

Participants in Penny's club work out to the inspirational Body Gospel. A typical session begins with a welcome greeting, followed by a short prayer. Then, of course, it turns from salvation to sweat. "Body Gospel is such a unique and uplifting program!" she exclaims. "Everyone is enthusiastic and really enjoys it. People are always smiling as they're working out."

Penny believes that the church environment adds to the comfort level. "People don't have to be intimidated by a gym where everyone is super-fit looking," she reveals. "They can be themselves and not have to worry about being judged."

Penny's group also does a "Biggest Loser" Challenge. "It's basically a 90-day weight loss competition to see who can lose the greatest percentage of body weight," Penny explains. "We find out everyone's weight loss goals and track their progress week by week. Any money won from the competition goes right back into the Fit Club to buy things like exercise equipment or floor mats."

Spreading the word

Penny got the word out on local bulletin boards, doing display ads at the Church, and by utilizing social media. "We're constantly adding friends to our Facebook page," she says. "It's one of the best ways for regulars, as well as prospects to stay connected to us."

Penny also contacted local Television stations and newspapers. "They love to do 'feel good' stories," she explains. "Plus, a church doing a Fit Club to gospel music is completely unique."

And Penny's Fit Club received an added boost from an unlikely source. "The Chicago Tribune found out about our club through a newspaper in Orlando," she says. "They ran a story on the club and the exposure has been awesome!"

Growing by the numbers

Grace, Faith, & Fitness has come a long way since eight people showed up to the first session. "We're averaging about 30 people now, and last night we had 44!" Penny says with enthusiasm. "We're getting repeat customers, as well as new people all the time." She continues, "The church loves it and everyone has been thanking me."

But for Penny, nothing can trump the impact that the club has had on her personally. "So many of the people who are showing up have never even exercised before," she says. "A few obese men came in and just watched for the first 2 sessions. Now they're actively participating and making progress."

Penny goes on, "I'm seeing all different types of people—from those in their late 60's, to people who are 200 pounds overweight. It's incredibly rewarding to be making a difference to so many people!"

Coach's Playbook: Starting a Body Gospel Fit Club.

Present the idea to your church as part of a community outreach program.

Conduct a Biggest Loser contest. It will help people stay accountable to their goals.

Spread the word any way you can. Contact local television and radio stations and put up signs on community bulletin boards.

Utilize social media—friend as many people as you can on Facebook.

Sign up all of your participants for the free membership on WOWY®.

For more information on Team Beachbody click on the link :  HERE

Thursday, February 17, 2011

FRIENDSHIP - you can't live without it

Your most important health decision may be as simple as making a new friend.
Here's why. 
By. Meg Luckens Noonan

Want to be healthier? Ditch the cigarettes and throw a party. Studies show that having an active social life with a circle of good friends is a second only to not smoking in the list of heart-healthy essentials. Not only  that, but close social ties have been shown to help lower blood pressure, protect against dementia, and reduce the risk of depression. Friendship is so powerful, in fact that some researchers have termed it a "behavioral vaccine".

Families are great; you still need friends.
According to a Birgham Young University analysis of nearly 150 studies that examined social relationships and their effects on health, people with close friends live longer than those who are loners- and longer than those who rely only on a spouse or other family member for support.
Friendship appears to be crucial to recovering from illness, as well. For example, in a Harvard study a women with breast cancer, patients without a strong social network were found to have a 66 percent increased risk of death than those with a network of supportive pals.

What is it about friendship that is healing?
Scientists aren't certain, but there is evidence that feeling close to a friend increase levels of progesterone, a hormone that helps reduce stress, a known contributor to heart disease and a suppressor of the immune system.
What's more, in 2009, University of Michigan researchers discovered that in a group of female subjects, progesterone triggered a bonding response that led them to seek out friends in times of difficulty-as opposed to the classic "fight or flight" response to stress. Experts also think that a strong social network encourages people to take better care of themselves and to seek medical treatment earlier for symptoms that may indicate serious problems. Close friends also lift each other's moods, convey a sense of belonging and help build self-esteem.

So just how close is "close"?
"The definition varies from person to person", says Irene Levine, a professor of psychiatry at the NYU school of Medicine and author of Best Friends Forever: Surviving a Breakup with Your Best Friend.  "In general, with a close friend, there's a sense of loyalty and trust that permits you to be yourself. You don't have to put on airs or pretend to be someone you're not."
Even as online "friending" has exploded, true meaningful friendships appear to be more difficult than ever to cultivate and maintain. A 2006 Duke University study found that Americans have one-third as many close friends as they did 20 years ago. Still, when it comes to providing health benefits, the number of friends you have doesn't seem as crucial as the quality of the friendship. "What's important is to have enough-for-you close friends upon whom you can depend for understanding and support," says Levine says. And, since half of our close friendships turn over every seven years, you have to keep working at making new friends.

Making New Friends in 3 Steps
"Long-term friendships are wonderful and valuable," says Tina B. Tessina, a Southern California psychotherapist and author. "But if you don't make a new connections as you get older, your group of friends may diminish due to death and relocation." Tessina has some tips for cultivating a new friends.
1. Consider what being a friend means to you. Who are your best friends? What qualities do they have? Once you have a clear idea of the kinds of friendships you enjoy,  you can decide to create more of them in your life.
2. Get involved with a group that meets regularly. It can be taking classes, joining a club, volunteering or playing a sport. The people you meet will share your interest, and you'll have something to talk about and enjoy together.
3. When you find someone you think is pleasant, spend a little time talking with him or her during or after your activity. Ask questions about the project you are working on, or share your experiences. If you both enjoy the conversation, offer to meet before or after the session for coffee. From there, you can begin to do more things together, until you've established a pattern of friendship.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

5 Tips for Getting More Whole Fruit in Your Diet

By Joe Wilkes

All right, so no processed sugar. High fructose corn syrup is definitely out of the question. And now science is finally proving that all those artificially sweetened sodas we've been quaffing so virtuously are just as bad for us as sugar is, and probably worse. What's someone with a sweet tooth to do? The answer is the fruit, the whole fruit, and nothing but the fruit. While fruit juice contains some vitamins, you're really missing out on the lion's share of nutrients if you deprive yourself of the whole fruit.

The skin of the fruit contains most of the healthy carotenoids and flavonoids that have numerous benefits—including, studies are finding, providing some protection against cancer. The pulp of the fruit also contains flavonoids and vitamins that can be lost through the juicing process. And where fruit juice really falls short is in its fiber content. An apple contains around 4 grams of fiber. A glass of apple juice contains no fiber. Fiber helps your body digest and metabolize fruit's naturally occurring sugar more slowly, which prevents your body from experiencing a "sugar spike"—the blood sugar elevation you get from drinking fruit juice. Plus we all know fiber is nature's Roto-Rooter®, scrubbing your digestive system clean.

The argument for working a few servings of whole fruit into your diet each day is a strong one. After all, that old saying "An apple a day keeps the doctor away" didn't come out of thin air. When I was younger, I had a friend whose father was a doctor and she religiously ate an apple every day, including the core. Well, I thought that was a bit much, but I bet she was super-regular! A corollary to that old saying might be "An apple a day can make you pretty sick of apples after a couple of weeks." As with incorporating most food into our diets, variety is the spice of life. Here are a few ideas for slipping more fruit into your day.

1. Cut it. A lot of times, a big bowl of fruit can be too daunting. You might not be hungry enough to eat a whole apple and you might opt for a smaller snack. Try slicing up a couple of apples and putting them in an airtight container or bag. By tossing them in lemon juice, you can prevent them from turning that unappetizing brown, at least for a day or so. Keep them in the fridge, or handy on your desk or in front of the TV, for a healthy snack. Any sort of combination of cut-up fruit is a great idea for a TV snack. Instead of absentmindedly eating a day's worth of sodium and fat from the chip bag, you might eat your "apple a day" before you know it.

2. Mix it. Tired of apples? Check out some of the more exotic fruits in your produce section or farmers' market. Have you tried kiwis, pomegranates, mangosteens, or gooseberries? Also, get to know what the seasons bring to your neck of the woods. In California, we're in the middle of Meyer lemon and blood orange season—delicious citrus varieties that aren't as available or as good at other times of the year. And by mixing up the variety of fruits you eat, you'll be getting a greater range of vitamins and antioxidants, thus maximizing your health benefits.

3. Dip it. Especially for kids, a little fun time needs to accompany mealtime. But don't fool yourself into thinking that those apple-and-caramel dipper packages are healthy snacks. I guess they're better than pure caramel, but they're still pretty much two steps back nutritionally from just eating healthy fruit. Instead, why not mix up some nonfat or low-fat plain yogurt with a little cinnamon? You'll get the health benefits of yogurt. And cinnamon has been shown to have additional health benefits, like helping stabilize blood sugar. Dunking your fruit in a little unsweetened peanut butter makes for another great taste combo—the peanut butter gives the fruit some protein, and the fruit gives the peanut butter sweetness.

4. Add it. Forget those cereals with the sugared raisins or other sweetened dried fruit. And I assure you that Cap'n Crunch® Crunch Berries® are not found anywhere in nature. There are a ton of hot and cold cereals that contain dried or artificial fruit, and while dried fruit has some nutritional value, it's nothing—in nutrition or in flavor—compared to adding some berries or cut-up fresh fruit to your bowl of bran or oatmeal.

5. Freeze it/can it. While fresh fruit is often the most flavorful and nutritious option, procuring it can often be geographically or financially prohibitive. If getting fresh fruit is a hassle, consider buying fruit frozen or canned, or freezing or canning in-season fruit yourself. As with all prepared food, check the label to make sure that fruit isn't merely a decorative addition to a can full of corn syrup. Fruit is best if packed in unsweetened natural fruit juice. (Pear juice is a common canning juice.) Bags of frozen berries are also great to have on hand to jazz up your morning smoothie or just to pop in your mouth on a hot summer day for a frosty snack. Making "grapesicles" by throwing a bag of grapes in the fridge creates a great snack for kids and adults alike. And here's another good tip: If you have some bananas that are turning brown, peel them and wrap them in foil and stick them in the freezer for later.

Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition. Consult your physician and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program or using any supplement or meal replacement product. The testimonials featured may have used more than one Beachbody product or extended the program to achieve their results. The information on our Web sites is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty with exercises or diet, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

The views and opinions of authors, trainers, experts and any other contributors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect the attitudes and opinions of Team Beachbody or Beachbody. These views and opinions shall not be attributed to or otherwise endorsed by Team Beachbody or Beachbody, and may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes without the express, written consent of Beachbody.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Cellulite: Hold the Cottage Cheese, Please

By Stephanie S. Saunders
One of the most hated words in the English language must surely be cellulite. For the 90 percent of women who are plagued by the "cottage cheese" dimples that can run across the backs of arms and the entire lower body, it can seem like the ugliest thing in the world. Sure, you can hide it beneath clothing, but once bikini season hits, it's all over. From a self-consciousness point of view, it's as if you're back in middle school. You might as well make it a trifecta of humiliation by slapping on some braces and a lime-green prom dress. While there's no way yet to completely rid your body of cellulite, there are a few ways to help improve its appearance.

The term cellulite refers to the dimpled appearance of skin that can occur at any point on the body where the skin is thinner. Under the upper layer of skin, there's a layer of connective tissue that holds fat into place. In most women (and some men), this connective tissue has gaps in it, which allow the fat to push through, creating a bumpy appearance. The difference between fat and cellulite is simply where the deposit lies in relation to these gaps in the connective tissue. That, and the fact that even with weight loss and muscle gain, so-called "normal" fat may disappear, while cellulite seems to want to continue keeping your thighs company indefinitely.

Cellulite can occur in the thinnest of women and men (sorry, guys) and doesn't seem to discriminate based on nationality, financial standing, age, or weight. There are believed to be hormonal and hereditary issues that can contribute to causing cellulite. Other causes may include poor circulation, lack of exercise, and even too-tightly fitting undergarments. But no one really knows for sure why 10 percent of the female population is gifted with not having to deal with cellulite, while the rest of us have rear ends that look like a giant golf ball.

So when faced with the appearance of orange peel on your thighs, what should you do? Well, there's good and bad news. The bad news is that there is no actual way, surgical or otherwise, to get rid of cellulite completely at present. No amount of vacuuming, injections, creams, or painful massage will eradicate it permanently. But there are many things that can potentially improve the appearance of cellulite. The following is a list of options, ranked from the least to most invasive and/or expensive.

1. Diet. There are several diets out here that claim to remove cellulite from the body. After a bit of research, you'll find that most of them are just healthy eating plans that tell you to reduce caffeine and alcohol consumption, avoid processed foods, and drink plenty of water. This, of course, doesn't really bring anything specific to the table for cellulite. It might help you lose overall body fat, which will reduce the appearance of the lumpy stuff, but no amount of pineapple consumption will completely remove it.

2. Exercise. Magazines are full of articles on exercises to ban dimpled thighs. Again, these exercises are designed to promote muscle growth and fat loss. Unfortunately, a lot of them are exercises that only target very specific areas, which will not benefit your overall fitness level and are fairly pointless, considering that you can't spot-reduce fat. Hard cardio and a toned physique will go just as far, if not farther, for reducing the appearance of cellulite. Overall, continuing with your P90X or INSANITY® workout plans will do more for you than will any number of leg lifts alone.

3. Tanning. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has again come out with studies on how horrible the effects of tanning beds and baking in the sun can be. Tanning has now been compared to cigarettes and arsenic. Which is unfortunate, because a little color on your skin can do more to mask extra bumpy tissue than just about anything else. Luckily, there are an abundance of tanning creams and spray-on tans out there that can give you a similar effect without the risk of skin cancer. Just be careful with application, and if you go the professional route, make sure the folks you choose know what they're doing. I once attended a black tie event with hands the color of a pumpkin. Not pretty.

4. Creams. There are thousands of topical treatments available that can cost anywhere from 10 dollars to several hundred. Most of them have the common "active" ingredients aminophylline, caffeine, and theophyilline. Sad to say, none of these creams can deliver the needed concentration to the necessary depth to make much of a difference in the connective tissue. They're promoted as increasing circulation, but ultimately, you're just using a very expensive moisturizer.

5. Massage. Massage is another attempt at breaking down connective tissue and increasing circulation in the area. Unfortunately, cellulite is a tougher problem than can be fixed by a single day at the spa. However, there have been studies that consistent, rather aggressive massage techniques can really assist in the cottage cheese reduction process. Before scheduling a daily visit from your massage therapist, though, try intensely rubbing the affected areas on your own with a moisturizer for a few weeks and see if there's any change in appearance. Thankfully, most cellulite appears on areas of the body you can actually reach.

6. Wraps. Wraps have been around forever and still have devoted followers all over the world. The idea of the body wrap is to dehydrate the area, removing all excess water, supposedly creating a leaner appearance. Wrestlers and ballet dancers alike are infamous for wrapping themselves in plastic and sitting in a sauna for ridiculous amounts of time to try and drop "weight." These results are temporary and will usually return to normal with any intake of water. Wraps may in fact moisturize the skin, but so will a bit of inexpensive aloe vera cream.

7. Supplements. Supplements can be extremely effective in helping you achieve fitness goals, but like all things I've mentioned thus far, no combination of herbal remedies has been proven effective in the fight against cellulite. Most contain some sort of ginkgo biloba, sweet clover, grapeseed bioflavinoids, oil of evening primrose, fish oil, and soy lecithin. All might assist your metabolism, and possibly your immunity and brain function, but none will make the dimples disappear.

8. Injections. Here's a cellulite remedy that can cause actual discomfort. Mesotherapy is a series of injections to the cellulite-affected area. Very similar to Botox® for your back end, it's highly controversial and can require up to 10 visits to see any results. The medication injected has been approved by the FDA for other cosmetic issues, but wasn't designed for use on cellulite, and is so new that all potential side effects haven't been discovered yet. Before you choose to go this route, make sure to discuss it thoroughly with your medical practitioner.

9. Suction massage. Endermology was created in France about 15 years ago for the temporary reduction of cellulite. The machine creates suction, pulling and squeezing affected areas, which eventually seems to redistribute the fat somewhat, but in truth, it doesn't change the fat's makeup. Sessions last about 45 minutes, require 10 to 12 visits, and are rather expensive. Without regular maintenance visits, the appearance of cellulite will simply return.

10. Lasers. The FDA has approved two different laser options, both used with either a suction device or massage therapy. A low-level laser is radiated on the skin as some type of massage is administered. Both TriActive and VelaSmooth® require as many sessions as Endermology, in addition to continued follow-up maintenance, and can cost thousands of dollars. The effectiveness of laser treatments on cellulite is still unclear, but for individuals with enough cash to spare, this presently seems to be one of the best possible options for cellulite reduction.

Remember, while many of these approaches can improve the appearance of cellulite, none seem to remove cellulite completely or permanently. Until a method is found that will accomplish the total eradication of cellulite, it might be better to spend less money on expensive creams and injections and more on nutritious foods and activities that support a healthy lifestyle. Not only will this help to improve your skin tone, but it'll make you feel better about your whole body, inside and out. And isn't that more important than a few extra dimples?

*Results may vary. Exercise and proper diet are necessary to achieve and maintain weight loss and muscle definition. Consult your physician and follow all safety instructions before beginning any exercise program or using any supplement or meal replacement product. The testimonials featured may have used more than one Beachbody product or extended the program to achieve their results. The information on our Web sites is not intended to diagnose any medical condition or to replace the advice of a healthcare professional. If you experience any pain or difficulty with exercises or diet, stop and consult your healthcare provider.

*The views and opinions of authors, trainers, experts and any other contributors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect the attitudes and opinions of Team Beachbody or Beachbody. These views and opinions shall not be attributed to or otherwise endorsed by Team Beachbody or Beachbody, and may not be used for advertising or product endorsement purposes without the express, written consent of Beachbody.