Category Archives: Nutrition

watermelon

Watermelon: Five Reasons to Eat the Summer Fruit

Watermelon has become an unofficial mascot of summer. It’s almost impossible to go to a picnic or a barbecue without seeing the juicy red fruit as part of the spread. You might choose watermelon because it tastes refreshing and delicious, but did you know that the melon also provides some remarkable health benefits?

watermelon

1. It’s hydrating.

We know that drinking water prevents dehydration, which is especially important during these summer months; but did you know that eating foods with a high water content can also help keep you hydrated? Not only that, foods with a higher water content help keep you full.

Although there is a slight variation, most sources agree that watermelon is somewhere between 90 and 92 percent water, making it one of the most water-packed foods you can eat.

2. It’s low in calories, but packed with nutrients.

Because of its high water content, watermelon is low in calories, but don’t let that fool you. The summer fruit is a powerhouse of nutrients. A cup of cubed watermelon contains:

  • 17 percent of your daily vitamin A
  • 21 percent of your daily vitamin C
  • 5 percent of your daily potassium
  • 4 percent of your daily magnesium
  • 3 percent of your daily vitamins B1, B5, and B6

and the antioxidants lycopene and cucurbitacin E, which help fight inflammation and chronic disease.

3. Watermelon might combat cancer.

Watermelon is one of the richest source of lycopene, a phytochemical that’s responsible for the fruit’s red color. Studies have shown that lycopene may help prevent and treat prostate cancer, although no official conclusions have been reached. In addition to combating cancer, lycopene can help improve heart health and bone health. One cup of watermelon contains 7 to 10 milligrams of lycopene. Other sources of lycopene include tomato, red grapefruit, and guava.

4. It can improve heart health.

Watermelon contains an amino acid called citrulline, which converts to another amino acid — arginine — in the body. Both of these amino acids can help improve circulation and blood flow, two factors that are important for the health of your heart. A study done in 2012 found that taking watermelon extract supplements may even help reduce high blood pressure.

5. It may reduce muscle soreness.

In addition to helping your heart, the improved circulation and blood flow from the amino acids citrulline and arginine may also help soothe muscle soreness. In a study published in the Journal of Agricultural Food and Chemistry, researchers reported that athletes who drank watermelon juice before a hard workout experienced a lower heart rate and reduced muscle soreness the next day.

And aside from these health benefits, simply put, watermelon tastes great! What is your favorite thing about watermelon? Are you a fan of the summer treat?

Collagen: America’s Next Superfood?

Nutrition is a science; but it’s a dynamic science. Things are constantly changing as experts learn about new foods, or about how old foods affect the body in ways that we may not have previously known about. As a result of this constantly changing nature of nutrition, it may seem like the spotlight is always pointed on a new “superfood”, and really, it is; but that’s a good thing. It gives us the power to choose foods that support our body and our health and that’s the most important thing you can do. Recently, the spotlight has been on collagen and we’ve been getting a lot of questions on it: What is it? What are the health benefits? How can I incorporate it into my diet?

Like always, we’ve got your back. This week, we’ve broken down the science for you to let you know exactly what collagen is and how it can help you. Next week, we’ll share our favorite way for you to incorporate this “superfood” into your diet.

collagen

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant protein in your body, accounting for almost one-third of your body’s protein. It’s one of the major components in your skin, muscles, tendons, ligaments, GI tract, and bones. Collagen is also part of your teeth, blood vessels, and eyes. The simple way to think of collagen is as the glue that holds everything together. It gives everything structure.

As you age, your body starts to produce less (and lower quality) collagen. This is the reason that you can see the skin start to age. In addition to advancing age, collagen can also be damaged by excessive sun exposure, smoking, and a diet that’s high in sugar and refined carbohydrates (like white bread and pasta).

Benefits of Collagen

It’s true that your body makes collagen, but because of the wide range of benefits, you can (and should) also get the protein from your diet and from supplements, if necessary.

Consumption of collagen can:

  • Improve skin elasticity
  • Reduce joint pain and degeneration
  • Improve gut health
  • Boost metabolism
  • Increase muscle mass
  • Strengthen hair, nails, and teeth
  • Protect heart health
  • Improve liver function

Sources of Collagen

Collagen comes from four major places: beef, chicken, fish, and eggs. The catch is that most of the collagen found in beef, chicken, and fish is found in their bones, so you have to get creative to figure out how to extract it and get it into your body. Our favorite way to do this is to make a bone broth that we can sip on at any time of the day.

Collagen is also available in supplement form. It’s usually a powder that you can mix into any liquid. Because of the way it’s processed, most collagen supplements are odorless and tasteless and can easily mix into even cold water.

The Whole30 Program: Can It Change Your Life?

In 2009, Melissa and Dallas Hartwig developed a clean eating program designed to “change your life in 30 days”. In its infancy, this program, which was officially named the Whole30, not only attracted hundreds of participants, but it did, indeed, change those participants’ lives. These participants were not just losing weight, they were losing brain fog, food cravings, high blood pressure, and chronic aches and pains that nothing else seemed to help. Energy was increasing, athletic performance was enhancing, and sleep quality was improving.

whole30 sweet potato enchiladas

Since 2009, the program has exploded in popularity, and lately, it’s gaining more traction than ever. Melissa Hartwig, one of the co-creators, recently appeared on Dr. Oz to talk about the Whole30 and what makes the plan so great.

When we first started digging into the testimonials, we thought that it sounded a little too good to be true; but then we investigated a little further. Although the results from the program seem like a miracle, the premise is actually very simple: eat real food. And that makes sense to us.

The Whole30 Basics

The basic underlying principle of the Whole30 program is to eat real food that our ancestors would recognize as food. This includes meat, fish, eggs, and lots of vegetables, but excludes things like grains (which humans only learned to process during the Industrial Revolution) and processed sugar (which wreaks havoc on the body in many ways). The creators of the program believe, and they have a lot of science to back it up, that when you eat the way your body was designed to eat from an ancestral perspective, it allows your body to function optimally. This leaves little room for chronic symptoms and unexplained diseases and illnesses.

The No Foods

  • Added sugar (real or artificial)
  • Alcohol
  • Grains (including but not limited to wheat, barley, rye, oats, corn, rice, millet, bulgur, buckwheat, quinoa)
  • Legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils, and peanuts)
  • Dairy
  • Carageenan, MSG, and sulfites

The Yes Foods

  • Meat
  • Seafood
  • Eggs
  • Vegetables
  • Fruit
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Healthy fats (coconut oil, coconuts, olives, olive oil, avocado, avocado oil)
  • Herbs, spices, and seasonings (check your labels!)

Other Rules

  1. Do not re-create junk food. Technically, there are ways to make whole30 approved pancakes, muffins, and cookies, but this defeats the entire purpose of the program, which is to change your relationship with food. If you have a hard time giving up pancakes, it’s a good idea to use the 30 days to break the habit and eat other foods.
  2. Do not step on the scale or take any measurements for the whole 30 days. Although it’s likely that you’ll lose weight, especially if this food plan is vastly different from the one you’re used to, that’s not the main point of the program. It’s encouraged that you weigh yourself and take measurements before and after the 30 days, but not during.
  3. No cheating. 30 days, no cheats.

Our Take

The Whole30 program focuses on eating lots of real, whole foods and eliminating foods that are processed or inflammatory to the body. Although, it can be difficult to follow for those who are not used to eating this way, we think it’s worth a shot to commit for the 30 days. The point of the program is not to never have the “no” foods again, but to learn how these foods affect your body. If you’re able to pinpoint certain foods that don’t agree with you, you’re better able to make food choices that make you feel good over the long term.

Tried the Whole30 program? Chime in and let us know how/if it changed your life.

Healthy Recipe: Magnesium-Rich Smoothie

Last week we discussed the importance of magnesium and shared the staggering statistic that 68% of Americans don’t get enough of this important nutrient. We know that life gets busy and it can be difficult to always plan well-balanced meals that meet all of your nutritional needs, so we’re here to help. This smoothie takes only minutes to prepare and provides a whopping 156 milligrams of magnesium. That’s more than half of your entire needs for the day if you’re a woman, and 40% of your needs if you’re a man.

magnesium smoothie

What You Need:

  • ¼ cup pumpkin seeds (42)
  • ¼ cup spinach (6)
  • One-fourth of a medium avocado (14.5)
  • 1 tablespoon dark cocoa powder (unsweetened) (26)
  • ½ medium frozen banana (16)
  • 5 frozen strawberries (10)
  • 1 cup almond milk (15.2)
  • 2 pitted Medjool dates (26)

What To Do:

Combine all ingredients in a blender. Blend until smooth. If smoothie is too thick, add more almond milk until you reach your desired consistency.

Magnesium: a Mineral that Could Change Your Life

When you hear the word “magnesium”, what comes to your mind? You may know that it’s a mineral and one that you’re supposed to be eating, but do you know how incredibly important this one nutrient is for good health? If you don’t, don’t feel bad. You’re not alone. A lot of people focus on carbohydrates, protein, fat, and calories for good health, but there are lots of other vital players, like magnesium, in the game.

magnesium rich walnuts

What Does Magnesium Do?

Every single organ in your body, but especially your heart, lungs, and muscles, relies on magnesium to work properly. The mineral is involved in other 300 different biochemical reactions that range from converting the food you eat into energy to creating new proteins to making your nervous system work. Magnesium does so much for you and yet, according to research, more than half (68% to be exact) of Americans don’t get the recommended minimum daily requirement. To add insult to injury, around 19% of Americans don’t even consume half the recommended amount. So why is this such a problem?

Risks of Deficiency

As we mentioned earlier, having enough magnesium in your body is essential for allowing your organs to function properly. According to research, adults who don’t get enough are more likely to have heart attacks, strokes, and high blood pressure. Low levels of magnesium have also been linked to type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, depression, migraines, asthma, and colon cancer.

Signs of a deficiency can be widespread and non-specific, but the most common include:

  • Anxiety
  • Agitation/irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Confusion
  • Insomnia/sleep disorders
  • Hyperventilation
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Muscle weakness
  • Abnormal heart rhythms

I know this all seems like bad news, but here’s the good part: you can get all the magnesium you need by including magnesium-rich foods in your diet every day. The other good news: one of the magnesium-rich foods is dark chocolate.

Magnesium-Rich Foods

The best way to get enough magnesium in your diet is to make sure that you’re eating a variety of different magnesium-rich foods every day. By varying your food choices, you’re not only making sure your magnesium needs are met, you’re also making sure that you’re getting enough of all the another important vitamins and minerals that you need. The current recommendation is 310-320 milligrams for adult females and 400-420 milligrams for adult males per day.

The following foods are especially rich in magnesium:

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Walnuts
  • Spinach, boiled
  • Swiss chard
  • Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa)
  • Black beans
  • Quinoa
  • Halibut
  • Almonds
  • Cashews
  • Mackerel
  • Blackstrap molasses
  • Avocado
  • Salmon

Magnesium Supplementation

Although it’s always best to try to get all the nutrients you need from food, that can be difficult in today’s world. Fortunately, there are many supplements available over the counter. Magnesium supplements come in several different forms, but the forms your body can absorb most effectively are citrate, gluconate, and lactate. Magnesium supplements are generally safe, but always make sure to discuss any new supplements with your doctor before taking them.

Healthy Recipe: Golden Milk (Haldi Ka Doodh)

turmeric

Last week, we talked about turmeric and the potent health benefits associated with this powerful spice. While you could easily add the spice to savory dishes and soups, we wanted to help you think outside the box a little bit by introducing you to Golden Milk.

Golden Milk, traditionally known as Haldi Ka Doodh, dates back thousands of years with roots in the ancient branch of medicine called Ayurveda. According to Ayurvedic medicine, in addition to the benefits we discussed last week, the components of Golden Milk help support a healthy inflammatory response in the body, balance emotions, and support mental clarity. Traditionally, Golden Milk is consumed right before bedtime, but you can enjoy this simple and delicious “tea” at any time of the day.

What You Need:

  • 2 cups coconut milk
  • 1 teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon raw honey

What to Do:

  1. Combine all ingredients in blender until completely smooth.
  2. Transfer into a small saucepan and stir over medium heat until heated, but not boiling.
  3. Pour into a mug, sprinkle with cinnamon, and enjoy!

Make Time for Turmeric: A Super Spice with Enormous Health Benefits

Turmeric is nothing new. In fact, the ancient spice dates back nearly 4,000 years to the Vedic culture in India. Indians have been using turmeric from everything to flavoring food to relieving gas to improving energy for thousands of years, but it’s not until recently that modern medicine has caught on. It’s clear that researchers are becoming aware of the health benefits that turmeric provides based just on the number of scientific studies available on its effects. If you do a Google search for the health benefits of turmeric, you’ll be hit with hundreds of different articles and studies telling you why turmeric should be a regular part of your diet. As you know, we’re big fans of making your life a little easier, so we’ve compiled a summarized list of those health benefits.

turmeric

Benefits of Turmeric

  • The main ingredient in turmeric, called curcumin, has powerful anti-inflammatory properties and is an extremely strong antioxidant. Combining turmeric with black pepper, which contains a compound called piperine, enhances the absorption of the curcumin by 2000%.
  • Curcumin has been shown to increase levels of a hormone called Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor in the brain. Because of this, it may help delay or even reverse brain-related diseases like Alzheimer’s disease and depression.
  • The curcumin in turmeric may help improve the health of the lining of the blood vessels, called the endothelium, which can reduce the risk of heart disease. Some studies show that regular consumption of curcumin may be as good for the heart as regular exercise.
  • Several studies have shown that curcumin may help reduce the growth of cancer cells and the growth of new blood vessels in cancerous tumors.
  • Because of its anti-inflammatory properties, curcumin has been shown to greatly improve symptoms in those with arthritis. Some studies comparing curcumin to anti-inflammatory drugs show that it’s just as, if not more, effective.
  • The curcumin in turmeric also aids in the proper metabolism of fat and may help with weight maintenance and/or loss.

How to Enjoy Turmeric

Now that you know the benefits of turmeric, the next step is to make it a regular part of your diet; but the task can seem daunting, especially if you’re not familiar with the spice. The good news is that there are several ways to consume the super spice that go beyond food.

  1. On Your Food.

Turmeric has a very distinct flavor, so this is a wonderful opportunity to try some new, authentic Indian-inspired recipes. You can also keep things simple by sprinkling turmeric on top of eggs or adding it to the water when boiling rice.

  1. In a Smoothie

One of our favorite ways to enjoy turmeric is in a morning smoothie. We add a turmeric mix that contains black pepper, along with our Skip-a-Meal, a handful of berries, a handful of spinach, and just enough coconut milk to allow it to blend.

  1. As a Supplement

If you’re not a fan of the taste of turmeric, you can take it in supplement form. There are many different options available – from capsules to tinctures. Just make sure the supplement you choose contains black pepper, or piperine, in addition to turmeric.

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Nothing mentioned here is intended to cure, diagnose, treat, or heal any disease.

hCG Program: What It’s All About

hcg

Our hCG program is one of the most popular programs we offer at Valley Medical Weight Loss. The comprehensive protocol consists of an 800 calorie per day toxin-free diet, as well as daily injections of hCG and bi-weekly lipotropic injections. Because of its rising popularity, the hCG diet has become a buzzword of sorts, but many people still aren’t clear on what hCG is and what the program entails.

What is hCG?

hCG, which stands for Human Chorionic Gonadotropin, is a hormone naturally-produced by the placenta in pregnant women. hCG almost entirely controls metabolic function of an area of the brain called the hypothalamus throughout the entire pregnancy. Although it is not approved for weight loss by the FDA, the average dieter on the hCG program experiences a weight loss of 0.5 to 3 pounds per day, the elimination of unhealthy toxins and unwanted fat, and a positive change in his/her relationship to food and eating. Many veterans of the hCG program report that they were able to maintain their weight loss and easily follow healthy lifestyle changes once their program was over.

What the Program Entails

While on the hCG diet, you’ll follow a strict 800-calorie diet that’s free of any toxins, like preservatives, sugar, and pesticides. We take the guesswork out of the diet by providing you with a diet plan that you can follow during the entire length of your program. In addition to the clean, calorie-restricted diet, you’ll receive daily hCG injections and Lipo B injections twice per week. You can visit our office for these injections or we can provide you with these injections to take home and administer yourself.

In addition to following the diet plan and getting the injections, it’s important to detoxify the body while following the hCG program. We advise doing a colon cleanse before starting the program and taking a liver cleanse supplement, like Liver-G.I. Detox by Pure Encapsulations, daily during all three phases of the program.

A Look at a Sample hCG Diet Plan

Breakfast  Tea or coffee in any quantity without sugar.  You may have as much as you desire.  Only one tablespoon of milk is allowed in 24 hours.  Stevia may be used in place of sugar.*
Lunch 150 grams of the following meat grilled (no oil or fat) weighed raw:

  • Organic grass fed beef or veal
  • Organic chicken breast (Skinless)
  • Wild Chilean sea bass
  • Flounder
  • Halibut
  • Cod
  • Lobster
  • Crab
  • Shrimp

1 large handful of vegetables (only to be chosen from the following) can be eaten raw, steamed, or grilled (without oil) or gently boiled:

  • Spinach or Chard or Beet Greens
  • Lettuces of any kind (including cabbage)
  • Tomatoes
  • Celery
  • Fennel
  • Onions
  • Red radishes
  • Cucumbers
  • Asparagus

1 bread stick (Grissino) or 1 Melba toast
1 medium apple, small handful of strawberries, or 1 grapefruit**

Dinner  The same four choices as lunch (Above)DO NOT make lunch and dinner exactly the same in the same day.
   *Fresh herbs, sea salt, apple cider vinegar, and Bragg’s Liquid Amino Acids may be used to taste.  Patients must drink 64 ounces of water (not tap) daily.  Drinking green or oolong tea is also recommended.**Organic only.  The juice of one lemon is allowed each day.

Pricing Breakdown

  • $100/week
  • $300/month
  • $400/6 weeks

Possible Side Effects

Like any medications and injections, hCG does carry some risk for side effects. Possible side effects include nausea, fatigue, hair loss, dry hair, acne and sudden mood swings. Some people may also notice a rash show up shortly after starting their HCG treatment. Some females have experienced changes in their menstrual cycle while taking HCG. These irregularities are resolved with the completion of the program. The most common side effect for males could be enlarged prostate and enlarged outlining of the breasts which likely occurs due to the estrogen levels which occur from HCG being in the body. You should not do the hCG program if you’re pregnant or nursing.

Disclaimer: HCG is a drug which has not been approved by the food and drug administration as safe and effective in the treatment of obesity or weight control. There is no substantial evidence that HCG increases weight loss beyond that resulting from caloric restriction, that it causes a more attractive or “normal” distribution of fat, or that it decreases the hunger and discomfort associated with calorie-restrictive diets.

Healthy Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats

The time has come! It is officially the first day of fall; a day that we’ve been anxiously waiting for. Although it may not feel like it quite yet, it’s time to start loading your arsenal with pumpkin recipes that are both delicious and healthy (and easy, of course).

This first one tastes so sinful that you’ll think you’re doing something wrong, when you’re actually doing everything right.

overnight oats

Pumpkin Pie Overnight Oats (Serves 1)

What You Need:

  • ½ cup old-fashioned oats
  • ½ cup coconut milk (you can use almond milk or any other non-dairy milk of your choice!)
  • ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (if you don’t have pumpkin pie spice, use ¼ tsp. cinnamon, 1/8 tsp. nutmeg, and 1/8 tsp. ground ginger)
  • ¼ cup pureed pumpkin (you can use the canned variety, just make sure it’s not pumpkin pie filling!)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons chia seeds
  • ¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • Optional add-ins: raisins, pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, coconut flakes,  sunflower seeds, almond butter. (make it your own!)

What To Do:

  1. Mix all ingredients (except optional add-ins) in a bowl or glass jar until combined. Cover and refrigerate overnight (or at least five hours).
  2. In the morning, remove mixture from refrigerator and add more liquid if necessary until you reach the desired consistency.
  3. Add optional toppings and enjoy!

Healthy Recipe: Pumpkin Pie Smoothie

As we write this article, we know we’re going to have two different responses. The first will be “don’t you DARE start talking about pumpkin yet, it’s still summer!” The second will be “YES! BRING ON ALL THE PUMPKIN STUFF!” Whether you decide to enjoy this recipe right away, or you refuse to go near it until the official start of fall (which is September 22nd, by the way), we can guarantee this: you’re really going to enjoy this smoothie.

smoothie

Not only is this smoothie super simple to throw together, it’s extremely filling due to the high protein content of the Greek yogurt (you can even add in a scoop of your favorite protein powder, if you’d like). It also offers all of the benefits of pumpkin: it’s rich in fiber and high in antioxidants. Just make sure you’re using pureed pumpkin, and not pumpkin pie filling, which is full of sugar and other unwanted additives.

What You Need:

  • 1 frozen banana
  • ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt (plain)
  • ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ½ cup almond or coconut milk
  • 2/3 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1 Medjool date (soaked)
  • 1 cup ice (optional)

What to Do:

  1. Throw all ingredients in a blender. Enjoy!