What is The Flexitarian Diet?

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In today’s world there are so many diets and eating restrictions that it’s hard to come by which one may be the right fit for you. Many diets claim to be cure-all wonders that will be suitable for everyone, but the reality is that every person has individual and unique needs in order to achieve optimum health.

One popular diet that has been named a lot in the health industry is the Flexitarian Diet. The term was created by Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Dawn Jackson Blatner in her book The Flexitarian Diet and it’s focus is on including more plant based foods and proteins into our food choices rather than placing restrictions. More so than a diet, becoming a Flexitarian is part of an overall healthier lifestyle.

The basic principles of the Flexitarian Diet are as follows:

  • Including more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and legumes into our diet
  • Including more plant-based proteins
  • Incorporate animal-derived foods occasionally
  • Focus on whole, natural form of foods
  • Cut or limit processed and refined foods and sugars

As you can see there is room for flexibility in the diet, hence the “flex” in Flexitarian. The diet has different “levels” where animal derived foods are incorporated in different amounts. For example, beginners eat 6-8 meatless meals out of 21 total meals a week. Advanced should eat around 9-14 meatless meals while experts eat 15 or more meatless meals per week.

As mentioned before, the idea is to eat meatless meals that still offer an adequate amount of protein and an abundance of nutrients from plant-derived food sources rather than processed foods. Doing so will ensure Flexitarians enjoy a healthy lifestyle free of nutrient deficiencies and enjoy the benefits the diet has to offer.

The following are some of the benefits of the Flexitarian Diet:

  • Reduced risk of heart disease due to an increased consumption of fiber and healthy fats
  • May experience weight loss due to eating low calorie and nutrient-dense plant based foods rather than high calorie processed foods
  • Eating a predominantly plant based diet may help reduce the risk of diabetes
  • Increasing consumption of antioxidants and nutrients can help prevent some forms of cancer
  • A predominantly plant based diet can help reduce your carbon footprint and decrease greenhouse gas emissions
  • Helps save money by reducing expenses from animal proteins

Overall, the Flexitarian diet is a fairly easy to follow way of eating and lifestyle. Some people may not want to cut their consumption of animal proteins while others may have suffered nutrient deficiencies from doing so, and the Flexitarian diet offers a way of balancing out your diet in order to reap the greatest amount of benefits from the food we consume. Overall, it’s emphasis on eating more whole, plant based foods and animal-derived foods on occasion can have long-term benefits for our health.

Dynamic Stretching vs. Static Stretching

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As young kids we were taught to always stretch at the beginning of P.E. class in order to prepare our bodies for the physical activities that were to come next. Although the idea of stretching was not wrong in principle, the type of stretching we were taught was. That’s because there are different forms of stretching, dynamic and static, and proper times to do them in order to increase physical performance.

Dynamic Stretching

Dynamic stretching is a term used to refer to stretching done with movements. In other words, it is an active warm-up. Experts recommended beginning all workout sessions and physical activity with dynamic stretching whether you’re running, swimming, lifting weights, competitions, or playing a sport.

The purpose of dynamic stretching is to get the body prepared for physical activity by boosting circulation, activating the central nervous system, and warming up the muscles using light motions. This form of stretching not only increases power and range of motion but has also been proven to boost athletic performance while reducing the risk of injuries.

Static Stretching

On the other hand, static stretching is essentially the opposite of dynamic stretching as it requires us to stretch and hold a muscle in place for about 15-30 seconds. So while dynamic stretching emphasizes movement, static stretching does not. Ideally, static stretching is best done after a workout as it helps to wind the body down, relaxes the muscles when they are warm, and improves flexibility.

While static stretching should be done following a workout rather then prior to it, it is still an important part of fitness that should not be overlooked. Static stretching, like dynamic stretching, also helps range of motion and in keeping your body and joints healthy. Some experts recommend incorporating this form of stretching multiple times a week and even as a separate workout, such as yoga, due to its mental and physical benefits.

Bottom Line

Dynamic stretching and static stretching are two different forms of activity that have immediate and long term benefits on the muscles and physical performance. Dynamic stretching helps to warm up the muscles using light motions, and in turn, increases athletic performance. Static stretching is a way to relax the muscles and the body following a workout. While dynamic stretching should be done before a workout and static after a workout, they both help keep your muscles and body healthy and injury free. Incorporating both forms of stretching into your routines is highly recommended by experts and beneficial in the long-run whether you are a professional athlete or a beginner in the fitness world.

All About Cranberries

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Cranberries are one of the world’s most nutritious superfoods and also happen to be one of North America’s native crops. Typically grown in Massachusetts, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Oregon, and Washington, cranberry peak season is typically from October to November. Although cranberries are famously known to be a staple for Thanksgiving dinner, they have much more to offer year-round.

Nutritional Benefits

Cranberries are known to contain a number of vitamins that are beneficial to our health. Of all the berries, cranberries contain the least amount of sugar and the highest level of antioxidants per serving. Additionally, the fruit is packed with fiber and vitamins C, A, and K. Overall, the high doses of vitamins and minerals found in cranberries are proven to be heart-healthy as well as cancer and disease-fighting.

Health benefits

As previously mentioned, the nutrients found in cranberries have been proven to be beneficial to our health by helping reduce the risk for certain diseases. The following are a few of the health benefits of cranberries:

  • Help prevent Urinary Tract Infections due to the antioxidant proanthocyanidins, which stops bacteria from sticking around in the urinary tract
  • The nutrients found in cranberries have been proven to slow down tumor growth in cancer patients
  • They are highly anti-inflammatory, easing symptoms for people with inflammatory diseases such as arthritis
  • Polyphenols found in the fruit may help reduce blood pressure and help with other cardiovascular diseases
  • They may also help stop bacteria from binding to our gut and our teeth, benefitting our oral health and helping those who suffer from stomach ulcers
  • They may help improve digestion as they are packed with fiber, which is great for overall gut health
  • They will help keep your immune system strong due to high levels of vitamin C

How to Enjoy

Many people don’t know what to do with cranberries outside of the holiday season. Although the fruit makes for a great sauce, it can end up loaded with added sugars. Additionally, its tart taste may be a difficult one for most people to enjoy in its raw state. A few ways to enjoy cranberries include:

  • Adding them to smoothies
  • Adding them to your homemade oats and baked goods
  • Make homemade popsicles
  • Make homemade compote using a natural, low-sugar sweetener

Experts recommend avoiding cranberry juice as well as dried cranberries due to the high levels of added sugars. The sweeteners added may make the fruit easier to consume, but the negative effects of consuming the sugars will outweigh the wonderful benefits cranberries have to offer.

Lifting Weights? Here’s Why You’re Doing It Wrong

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When it comes to setting fitness goals and reaching them, many experts can agree that balance is key. While a lot of people seek out ways to lose excess body weight, others may want to become stronger, leaner, and improve their overall physique. Many experts recommended mixing a variety of physical exercises including weight training, cardio, yoga, and even adding in the adequate number of recovery days in between.

Today we’re only going to focus on one form — weight training. Weight training is known to help improve body mass and physical performance but it’s not an easy activity at first. There are a number of common mistakes that can lead to adverse effects such as injury or lack of results. When lifting weights, it’s important to seek out professional help if you have any doubts.

Whether you work with a certified personal trainer or refer to credible sources on the internet, the most important part of weight training is form, and referring to a professional will help you perfect it. Improper form can have serious negative impacts on your body that may impair you from advancing in your fitness goals or from working out at all.

A second and extremely common mistake people make when they set out to start weight training? Not warming up. Warming up should be part of every physical activity you do whether it’s lifting, running, swimming, and even yoga. Dynamic stretches can make a huge difference for the workout and your muscles, joints, and ligaments will thank you by performing at their optimum.

Rushing through repetitions is yet another common mistake that people often misjudge. Remember what we said about form? The two are related, as rushing through a set can compromise your form and therefore negatively impact your results. Rather than rushing, allow the muscle to extend to its full range of motion and work against gravity in order to get stronger.

Finally, the last common mistake people often make during a weight training session is using momentum to help them finish a set. Using momentum means you are using less of your actual strength… in other words, you are cheating your workout (and yourself) by doing this. Many people don’t actually realize they are doing this, but if you catch yourself in the act try checking your form and keeping your feet grounded. If you can’t even complete two reps go lighter and work your weight up with time without compromising your results.

No one is born an expert, in order to improve a skill you must practice and be consistent. This applies to your gym routine and weight training goals. The above mentioned are a few of the common mistakes that beginners make and luckily catching them in time will help performance and to avoid injuries. If you think you may be doing something wrong, seek out help from a professional and speak to them about what you can do to keep improving and working toward your goals.

Best (and Worst) Sleeping Positions for the Spine

pathmed5Do you ever feel like your back pain and neck pain are never ending? You’ve tried it all, physical therapy, yoga, even pain relievers and nothing seems to get to the root of the problem. If this sounds like you, perhaps it’s time to analyze some key factors about your sleeping habits that may be negatively impacting your body.

Your sleeping position can have a huge impact on your posture and cause pain in the back and neck. Your pillow, bed, and position can all make or break your quality of sleep and affect how you feel in the morning when it’s time to get up.

Resting right: the best sleeping position

Overall, laying flat on the back is the best sleeping position. This position evenly distributes your weight on your body and keeps everything aligned, keeping in mind that your pillow should not prop your head up too much. Although some people find this position difficult to sleep in and it may cause others to snore, adopting this position can help those who suffer from pain due to bad sleeping posture.

Runner up

If laying flat on your back is not an option, the second best sleeping position is on your side. Note that the best practice is to sleep with the legs stretched, not curled up. Additionally, adding a firm pillow to the mix by placing it in between the knees will help keep the hips, legs, and spine aligned to avoid issues. A pillow to help align your head and neck into a straight line with your spine will also help.

One to avoid

Sleeping on your stomach is probably the least recommended of all positions due to the fact that most people will turn their neck to the side which causes a strain on their cervical spine. If sleeping on your stomach is your preferred position, try using a pillow or rolled towel to sleep with the head facing the mattress while still allowing room to breathe, this will help keep the neck aligned with the spine.

Sleep Hygiene

There are a few important tips to follow in order to get the best quality sleep, implementing these regularly can have a positive impact on sleep and overall health.

  • Change your pillows every 12-18 months and research the best pillow for your preferred sleeping position
  • Change your mattress every 10 years and avoid very soft mattresses
  • Turn off electronics 30 minutes to an hour before bedtime
  • Avoid stimulants such as caffeine and strenuous workouts in the evening
  • Establish a regular sleeping routine, try to wake up and go to bed at the same time every day (including weekends)
  • Wind down before bed by taking a warm shower, reading, or doing a physically and mentally relaxing activity

Vitamins Explained: Vitamin C

pathmed3Vitamin C is an essential vitamin that is beneficial to the human body in a number of ways. Since it’s an essential vitamin, though, it is not produced naturally by the body. The best way to consume vitamin C is through natural sources such as fruits and vegetables, although vitamin C supplements are also available in the market.

Vitamin C, which is a strong antioxidant, is needed for the proper function of different parts of the body and helps to maintain a healthy immune system as it can strengthen the body’s defenses against disease and inflammation. The recommended dose of vitamin C is about 65-90 mg per day with a limit being at about 2g per day. Although over consumption of vitamin C is usually caused by mega doses of supplements, it is typically urinated out. In other cases, it may cause headache, nausea, diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and even kidney stones.

Vitamin C serves many functions such as:

  • Treating the common cold
  • Treating infections
  • Treating skin conditions
  • For depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s
  • Helps memory and protects thinking
  • Increase iron absorption from foods
  • Heart and blood vessel issues including high blood pressure and high cholesterol
  • Treating long-term pain after injury
  • Protecting skin from the sun
  • Anti-aging
  • Healing wounds in the body
  • Maintain and repair bones and cartilage

The following are some foods containing Vitamin C:

  • Citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, lime, and grapefruit
  • Broccoli
  • Spinach
  • Kale
  • Mangoes
  • Kiwi
  • Tomatoes
  • Peppers
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Strawberries
  • Papaya

Tips to Avoid Overeating on Thanksgiving

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We can all agree that overeating tends to be encouraged come the holiday season, and Thanksgiving is notoriously known for this. What is meant to be a holiday to celebrate with loved ones and show our gratitude has quickly evolved into a night of feasting and overindulging on all of our Thanksgiving dinner favorites.

While it’s okay to enjoy foods you don’t typically eat on a regular basis, there is a fine line between enjoying a plate of it and going overboard. Overeating can be damaging to the body, even on a short-term basis. Although many blame the sluggish post-dinner feeling on tryptophan, a hormone found in turkey which happens to be a precursor to melatonin, it may actually be a result of your body working harder to digest a large than average meal.

If you’re one of the many people who want to put an end to the overindulging and want to simply enjoy your Thanksgiving meal without crossing the line, here are a few tips to help:

Don’t skip your daily workout: take advantage of your morning and go for a run, walk, or training session.
Don’t skip meals: saving yourself for later might result in overeating. Instead, have your regular meals and enjoy a regular-portioned dinner rather than a large dinner to “make up” your missed meals.
Hydrate: hydrate throughout the day as this will help curb cravings and keep you feeling full.
Use a smaller plate: research shows that a smaller plate with the same size portion as a bigger plate will trick your brain into thinking your meal is large.
Stay mindful: paying attention to your food, pausing after every bite, and putting your fork down every once in a while can all help you stay aware of your meal and decrease the chances of eating too quickly and going back for more.
Keep food out of sight: the old saying “out of sight out of mind” can be applied on Thanksgiving, if you keep the appetizer and dessert table far from where you’re standing you’ll be less likely to pick at the food and lose track of how much you’re eating.
Wear tight clothes: wearing clothes that are comfortable but still tight enough to keep you aware of how much you’re eating is a helpful reminder to know when you’re reaching your limit.
Leave room for dessert: if you like to eat dessert and drink, keep this in mind when serving yourself dinner. Rather than eating until you’re extremely full, keep the post-dinner treats in mind and reduce your portions.
Wait it out: thinking about seconds? Wait a few minutes before grabbing another bite as your brain doesn’t receive signals immediately but rather a few minutes after you finish your meal.
Go for a walk: get up and get moving after dinner, this will not only burn some calories but ease your digestive process!

What is Arthritis?

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Arthritis is a term used to refer to a group of over 100 diseases relating to the joints in the body. The body parts that make up the joints, where bones meet, include the wrists, shoulders, fingers, hips, and knees. Arthritis is typically more common among older adults and women. With that said, it is not uncommon for young children, teens, and adults to suffer from arthritis. In fact, around 1 in 5 adults suffer from some form of the disease, making it fairly common.

Categorization and Types

There are multiple diseases related to arthritis, and they fall within a range of categories including degenerative arthritis, inflammatory arthritis, infectious arthritis, and metabolic arthritis. The two most common types of arthritis are osteoarthritis and rheumatoid.

Osteoarthritis occurs as cartilage wears away, causing bones to rub against each other resulting in pain, stiffness, and swelling. Rheumatoid, on the other hand, is a chronic inflammatory disease where the immune system attacks its own tissues. It can affect the joints and other parts of the body such as the skin, lungs, and even the heart.

Causes and Common Symptoms

Not much is known about arthritis, therefore with many forms of the disease the cause remains uncertain. A number of factors can raise your chances of suffering from arthritis, though. These include:

  • Age
  • Gender
  • Genetic markers
  • Weight gain or excessive weight
  • Previous injuries on or near a joint
  • Certain types of infections

Common symptoms of arthritis include:

  • Joint pain
  • Stiffness
  • Redness and swelling
  • Decreased range of motion
  • Difficulty completing every day tasks
  • Fatigue, loss of appetite, and anemia in certain cases

Diagnosis

In order to diagnose arthritis you must see your primary care physician who will perform a physical checkup for symptoms and perhaps blood work or imaging scans. For people with severe symptoms, scheduling an appointment with a rheumatologist might be the best option as it can lead to a quicker diagnosis.

Treatment

Lifestyle changes like maintaining a healthy weight, eating an anti-inflammatory diet, and low-impact physical activities such as swimming can help people with arthritis. Additionally, your doctor might prescribe medication such as disease-modifying anti-rheumatic drugs (DMARDs), painkillers, or steroids. Physical therapy, hot/cold therapy, massages, and in some cases surgery can also help ease symptoms and difficulties from the condition.

Vitamins Explained: B Vitamins

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Our Vitamin series continues with the next group in line, B Vitamins. This family is made up of 8 different vitamins all serving a different function but ultimately working together to produce energy from the food we eat and aid in forming red blood cells. The 8 vitamins that make up this group are referred to as the B-Complex and it is made up of the following:

  • vitamin B1 (thiamin): helps convert nutrients into energy.
  • vitamin B2 (riboflavin): is an antioxidant and also helps convert food into energy.
  • vitamin B3 (niacin): help support cellular energy production, metabolism, and DNA functions.
  • vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid): this is another vitamin which helps convert food into energy and also helps with the production of hormones and cholesterol.
  • vitamin B6 (pyridoxine): aids in metabolizing amino acids and glycogen, creates neurotransmitters, and formation of red blood cells.
  • vitamin B7 (biotin): essential for the support of fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism and may also help support healthy skin, hair, and nails.
  • vitamin B9 (folic acid): is needed for proper cell growth and division as well as amino acid metabolism, this vitamin is particularly important for women during childbearing years as it plays a major role in developing a baby’s nervous system.
  • vitamin B12 (cobalamin): is responsible for neurological function as well as red blood cell and DNA production, this vitamin is found in animal sources and people who follow a vegan diet must take a supplement in order to receive adequate intake.

A Vitamin B deficiency is a common scenario worldwide, even in developed countries. Following specific diets can cause a lack of vitamin B intake and therefore cause side effects. For example, a lack of vitamin B12, common among vegans, can cause anemia, fatigue, and cognitive impairment. Biotin deficiency can cause hair loss, dry skin, and even brittle nails.

In order to avoid a Vitamin B deficiency, eating proper foods will provide the adequate amount. B vitamins can be found in the following foods:

  • Poultry
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Liver
  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Whole grains
  • Potatoes

Remember, our bodies need vitamins and nutrients to thrive and feel healthy. By eating a balanced diet full or fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and protein, you should be getting the right amount of vitamins your body needs without needing to resort to vitamin tablets or supplements!

Benefits of a Regular Bedtime

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As young kids, most of us were taught to go to sleep at a regular bedtime every night. Come the weekends, our bodies would naturally wake up at the same time that it did on any given weekday. A regular sleep schedule is vital for young children as the growth hormone is released during sleep. This is only one of the number of benefits that comes with having a regular sleep schedule.

Most adults report having bad or poor sleeping quality, but with so much backed up research to prove the benefits of a regular sleep schedule, it comes as a surprise that they aren’t implementing the practice already.

 

Benefits of a regular sleep schedule:

  • Higher alertness and focus
  • Increased levels of energy
  • Make healthier choices and exercise at higher intensities
  • Less sick days
  • Less depression and anxiety
  • Better overall health and wellness

Irregular bedtimes are typically linked to:

  • Heart Disease
  • Higher Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Increased levels of High Blood Pressure and High Blood Sugar
  • Increased symptoms of anxiety, depression, and stress

With all of this in mind, research and scientific studies should not be viewed as all or nothing scenarios. Social obligations, work, and life all happen and can sometimes cause interruptions in our routines. Although your body might feel the effects of one night of sleep deprivation once a routine is established, it won’t cause any long-term harm. Research shows that people with constant sleep irregularity are at higher risk of developing physical or mental diseases and experiencing a lack of proper body function.

A few things to keep in mind when establishing a sleeping routine are to set an alarm to wake you up at the same time every day and also to go to bed at the same time (including weekends). Experts also recommend avoiding eating right before bed, using electronics, or consuming caffeine. On the other hand, reading before bed has been proven to help you wind down and help you fall asleep.

If you’ve tried to establish a sleep schedule but find that you experience insomnia or lack of energy during the day, it is best to refer to a doctor or a sleep specialist as it might be the result of an underlying condition.