How Do Amino Acids Play into your Diet?

How Do Amino Acids Play into your Diet?

The more humanity studies for the sake of understanding our world, the more we discover about how things work. For example. In the 1800s, scientists like John Dalton gathered evidence of the building blocks of what makes all matter, the atom. From there, we learned that atoms were made of protons, neutrons, and electrons. Then we kept researching how they interacted with each other.  If that doesn’t highlight the zenith of human curiosity, nothing else will.

So, it would make sense that the more we learn about what food,  the more we can explore how it works on a molecular level. Lately, there has been a trend in the diet and bodybuilding world regarding the consumption of specific amino acids in the daily diet.  So, where did this diet come from?

Also, how do we apply what we know now about molecular structures into our diets?  The only way to find out is to do research.

 

amino acids What are Amino Acids?

Amino acids are the literal ‘building blocks of the cells’.  To put it in a nutshell, “DNA is first transcribed into RNA, then RNA is translated into protein.” And what is protein in this scenario? Proteins are the literal working molecules for every living thing on the planet.

So if you can imagine long protein chains that multiply, fold, and twist into shapes that create living things, that is what amino acids are. As far as we know, “Only about 20 amino acids are common in humans and animals, with 2 additional ones present in a few animal species. There are over 100 lesser known amino acids found in other living organisms, particularly plants.”

 

Disclaimer: Naturally, this can nosedive quickly into an argument about what people may or may not view as a scientific fact vs a matter of faith. However, that bombshell is only going to get us off track of the current subject matter. So I am just going to state that these chains of amino acids and how they work are just what has been observed over the last two centuries.

 

How do Amino Acids Play in our Diet?

Now that we know what they are, how does this figure into our diet? Well, that is where it gets a little tricky, but still all the more fascinating. As far as we know it, the amino acids that are present in the human body number at 20. That does not sound like a lot. However, if someone were to try to calculate a permutation of these acids with 20 spots the result would be over two quintillion combinations. Two quintillion combinations.

And that is only if there were just 20 spots available per chain. There is no numerical limit to how long an amino acid chain can get. Or how many times a combination can repeat. By that logic, the number of combinations are infinite!

Out of the 20 amino acids that are required to keep the human body functioning, we can produce 12 naturally. They are called non-essential amino acids. The rest of these amino acids are gathered from outside sources of protein. This is the protein found in meat, eggs, nuts, and dairy.

There has been a couple of these essential amino acids that can come from plant life, but with the exception of soybeans, the general consensus is that a balanced diet of meats/nuts/eggs/ etc along with the regular intake of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains would provide the human body with all essential amino acids.

 

Why are these Amino Acids Essential?amino acids

Having all 20 amino acids are important for getting the most basic of bodily functions working properly. These tiny chains of protein are responsible for, “building and repairing tissues, digesting food, for the formation and function of enzymes and to transport molecules, such as oxygen, through your body.”

And without essential amino acids ,especially in a child’s diet, the results can become outright deadly, “Protein deficiency has been shown to affect all of the body’s organs and many of its systems, including the brain and brain function of infants and young children; the immune system, thus elevating risk of infection; gut mucosal function and permeability, which affects absorption and vulnerability to systemic disease; and kidney function.”

Even mammalian animals like dogs, cats, and rats require these amino acids to survive. In one scientific experiment conducted by Nutritionist David Cumming Rose, “Through manipulation of rodent diets, Rose was able to show that ten amino acids are essential for rats: lysinetryptophanhistidinephenylalanineleucineisoleucinemethioninevaline, and arginine, in addition to threonine. Longer-term studies established histidine as also essential for adult humans.”

Conclusion

The impact of the discovery of amino acids has done the entire world a huge favor. It has given us a greater understanding when it comes to the foods we eat, and how it impacts our bodies. This wasn’t a fad diet from out of nowhere. This was the exhaustive work of multiple scientists, nutritionists, and biologists that observed and recorded repeated patterns. So take the time to be sure that you are getting your amino acid intake. Eat some meat, nuts, soy, or dairy.

 

www.beksbites.com

Lifestyle Changes: One Step at a Time

How to Make a Lifestyle Changes Seem Less Overwhelming

It’s no secret. A good chunk of Americans live in a world of convenience, or at the very least, an illusion of it.  Buying and selling goods, entertainment, communication, is faster than ever in the last 3 decades. However, the hefty price of convenience on this scale is complete and utter complacency. We don’t demand quality because we have quantity and it shows itself the most in our obesity crisis.

So, when someone like a doctor or a fitness trainer tells you that it is time to make a “lifestyle change” the idea sounds overwhelming. A lifestyle change. That is literally the definition of uprooting yourself from what you are familiar with and foraying into unknown territory.

But if we don’t do something about it and ignore this problem we will pay for this in our quality of life. Especially in the form of chronic disease and a shorter, more physically painful lifespan. So, what can we do to change our circumstances without feeling like this is too much to bear? Well, doing these things might make the transition much easier, and the results longer lasting.

 

Educate Yourself

The more we stay in denial, the more likely we will just blow off taking any step towards a lifestyle change.

If you know what you are getting into, you are more likely to make better choices, and do better as a result. This is exemplified by a study published in London 2002, ” The study was a postal survey, using 1040 adult participants selected at random from General Practitioners’ lists in England. Nutrition knowledge and food intake followed the expected demographic patterns. Knowledge was significantly associated with healthy eating, and the effect persisted after controlling for demographic variables. Logistic regression showed that respondents in the highest quintile for knowledge were almost 25 times more likely to meet current recommendations for fruit, vegetable and fat intake than those in the lowest quintile.”

Even in the United States Department of Agriculture, as of 2012, it is generally recognized that when people are educated in matters of nutrition and healthy habits, they are more likely to make better food choices.

“Researchers found that participants that completed take-home activities adopted healthier behaviors and were more engaged in discussions about overcoming the challenges and barriers to purchasing, preparing and consuming fruits and vegetables.”

And it makes sense. If you know better, you are more likely to do better. So, look into credible sources that aren’t trying to sell you immediate results.

 

lifestyle change

Take it One Step at a Time

The thought of a lifestyle change is terrifying. It is a drastic departure of what you are comfortable doing in your daily routine. So, instead of looking at the entire thing like an insurmountable task, why not introduce the changes that you need to make slowly?

Instead of trying to change your entire lifestyle overnight, you just make one good decision at a time. Just make one conscious positive decision at a time. For example, you could start by making a single nutritional or exercise goal for the first week. Then, you can add on a second one, then a third. Before you know it, you will look and feel so much better about yourself. And it didn’t seem all that painful.

Not only is this an easier concept for people to grasp, but it leads to long-lasting habits. According to an article written by Harvard Universtiy, “Often, the biggest hurdle is inertia. It’s true that it isn’t easy to change ingrained habits like driving to nearby locations instead of walking, let’s say, or reaching for a donut instead of an apple. However, gradually working toward change improves your odds of success. ”

However, just because you are not making all these changes at once does not mean you are completely off the hook. You still need to set a goal and keep track of things like calorie intake or exercise routines.

According to an article at NBCNews.com “There is no magic switch that makes you suddenly love running and eating kale. It takes some trial and lots of error to get to a place where healthy choices are second nature, and even then, it takes work every day. I realized that in order to get to where I wanted to be, I had to take a stepwise approach to behavior change. While it’s continually challenging, it’s also proven to be surprisingly manageable.”

It still takes real effort, but to expect immediate results is not only unrealistic, but it will also outright discourage you from making your lifestyle changes last.

 

Forgive Yourself and Move Forward

It does not help that society, in general, is a big fan of calling people out as “fat” and “unhealthy”. Look at any comment section on the internet and you can pick up the pattern immediately.lifestyle change

You would think that this overall tone of harshness towards obese people would make people aware of the situation and change their habits. But studies have shown that the exact opposite happens. People who feel bad about themselves aren’t motivated to explore a lifestyle change. Instead, they are more prone to accept their fate and stop trying altogether out of depression.

You might have tried dieting and exercise at some point in your life, failed, and stopped trying again.  And it makes sense. People are often easily discouraged when they are trying something new, usually because there is a lack of a support system or resources. And that lack of self-confidence can be counterintuitive to your progress.

That’s why you need to overcome one of the biggest obstacles for your lifestyle change. Love yourself. Forgive yourself, and move on. You are where you are, and only you can decide to love yourself enough to change for your benefit. People who fat-shame aren’t concerned about your health. They just see you as an acceptable target.

That is why you should tell yourself it is okay to fail. It is okay to make mistakes, and its okay to try again.

 

 

www.beksbites.com

Several Ways to Get a Solid 8 Hours Sleep

Several Ways to Get a Solid 8 Hours Sleep

Last week, we went over why it was a good idea to be well rested. It’s just all around better for your health. However, I understand that most people work night shifts or have demanding lifestyles. Heck, sometimes you suffer from insomnia or you are just too anxious to even try. Here are a few techniques and tips that will help you get some decent rest.

 

Think About Lighting

Believe it or not, humans are biologically wired to stay awake during the day and sleep at night. This is part of an internal time clock that most plants, insects, fungi, and animals have known as a circadian rhythm. Keeping to that rhythm is part of our very survival. According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, “A lack of synchrony between the organism and the external environment may lead to the individual’s immediate demise.”

A couple of sleep studies have proven that “Exposure to bright light resulted in substantial changes in sleep quality.” So, it might be a good idea to get out in the sun during high noon to keep yourself awake during the day. If you have a night shift, invest in some bright lightbulbs in your house. All you need is about an hour or two of daily exposure to light to see a noticeable improvement. Also, try to avoid looking at bright blue lights in general right before you go to bed. The color tricks part of your brain into thinking that you are looking at the sky on a brightly lit day. So, just avoid any blue lighting from screens.

Naturally, the opposite is just as true.

If you decrease your exposure to light during the night, you will most likely stay well rested. That means decreasing the brightness on your phone at night. Speaking of your phone…

 

Turn Off the Television and the Smart Phone

 

sleep

Even I am guilty of this one. In this day and age, it is just easy for people to get addicted to media. And there is a bit of legitimacy for the need of a soft nightlight or some soft music to help you fall asleep. However, if your environment is too distracting, you will kill any chances of getting proper sleep. Healthline explains the best way to go about it. “To optimize your bedroom environment, try to minimize external noise, light and artificial lights from devices like alarm clocks. Make sure your bedroom is a quiet, relaxing, clean and enjoyable place.”

Don’t use your phone as an alarm clock. If it is all you have to rely on, charge it across the other side of the room. You don’t need immediate access to it if you are planning on going to sleep anyway.

What’s more, if you are watching or listening to something stressful like the news or rock music, you are far less likely to be relaxed enough to sleep. And while we are on the subject of relaxing…

 

Utilize a Relaxation Routine Before Bed

An hour or two before bed should be dedicated for a relaxation routine. One of the best ways to do that is to take a hot bath or shower, especially if you are an older individual. Another way to relax is the utilization of massage, either through an external device or a TENs unit. If you don’t want to pay for a massager or any sort of bells in whistles, there is autogenic training.

Autogenic training is a relaxation technique in which a person closes their eyes and imagines each part of the body from the toes to the top of the head as completely relaxed dead weight. It is a practice that is most common in yoga classes, which, if you think about it, is another form of relaxation.

 

Exercise Regularly

Not only is exercising regularly a generally good thing to do for your weight, it can help get you better rest. Back in exercise before sleep2012, a sleep study was published in Copenhagen, Denmark at the University of Copenhagen. They found in a study of several overweight men that were put on a regular exercise routine that, ” … a high daily dose of aerobic exercise for 13 weeks increases sleep duration, tends to decrease sleep efficiency, and tends to improve subjective sleep quality.”

Regular exercise has also helped with stress management. Anyone who has ever suffered from chronic anxiety can tell you that stress makes sleep nigh impossible. And it isn’t hard to find a person who suffers from stress and lack of sleep. 7 out of 10 Americans go through this thanks to an increase in work hours and round the clock entertainment.

“If you don’t sleep enough at night, your body boosts its levels of stress hormones. That is because”… brain chemicals connected with deep sleep are the same ones that tell the body to stop the production of stress hormones.” Then it repeats in a frustrating cyclical pattern. 

But, if you exercise, you tend to run those hormones out of your system preemptively before it starts to disrupt the rest of your afternoon.

So, find a way to take a walk for a half hour every day. Do what you need to do to take care of yourself. If we put our foot down and start taking care of ourselves more, people will have to take notice and start making it a routine themselves.

 

www.beksbites.com

How Sleep Affects your Health

Why Poor Sleep Can Do Serious Damage to Your Health

 

I know that this is technically a nutritionist blog, and we have talked a lot about food and its benefits in the past. We have also talked a little bit about the benefits of exercise. But there is one aspect of health that we have surprisingly not covered on this blog. It is something we do every day but seem to not get a good grasp on. I am, of course, talking about sleep.

Statistically speaking a little more than 1/3rd of the American population are getting the recommended amount of sleep. And of course, like our obesity statistic that we really aren’t proud of, “A lower proportion of adults reported getting at least seven hours of rest per day in states clustered in the southeastern region of the United States and the Appalachian Mountains.” So, there is a good chance that most people in the Alabama area are probably not getting enough rest.

“But what does it matter? I can rest when I am dead!”

I hear this addage from a lot of people, usually older than me, who shove aside any major health concerns to keep doing what they are doing.

It turns out, living without proper rest can do a lot of damage to your body, as well as your livelihood.

 

Lack of Sleep Will Make You Fat

While correlation does not always mean causation, there has been a direct link to sleep deprivation and glucose imbalance. According to a US  study published in 1007 by James E Gangwisch “A key reason to consider sleep duration as a putative risk factor is evidence of a plausible biological mechanism linking shorter sleep to higher risk of obesity and diabetes.”

The explanation provided in the study was stated as such, “The increased load on the pancreas from insulin resistance induced by chronically short sleep duration can, over time, compromise β-cell function and lead to type 2 diabetes. ”

And that is only the pancreas. There are hormonal imbalances that come with not being well rested. Including hormones that control your appetite.

If you aren’t well rested you will be hormonally driven to eat sugary foods for a quick burst of energy.

“Leptin tells your brain that you’ve had enough to eat. Without enough sleep, your brain reduces leptin and raises ghrelin, which is an appetite stimulant. The flux of these hormones could explain nighttime snacking or why someone may overeat later in the night. A lack of sleep can also contribute to weight gain by making you feel too tired to exercise.”

sleep deprivationLack of Sleep Hurts your Mood

Have you ever been feeling like you are at the end of your rope? Do you just never want to get out of bed? Is the state of the world too depressing? One of the causes of these feelings could come from a lack of rest There have been a series of scientific studies that link insomnia (a sleep deprivation disorder) with depression.

According to a presentation by Melinda Ratini DO MS,” Over time, lack of rest and sleep disorders can contribute to the symptoms of depression. In a 2005 Sleep in America poll, people who were diagnosed with depression or anxiety were more likely to sleep less than six hours at night.”

And that is not all it can do.

Healthline explains it best, “Sleep deprivation also negatively affects your mental abilities and emotional state. You may feel more impatient or prone to mood swings. It can also compromise decision-making processes and creativity.

If sleep deprivation continues long enough, you could start having hallucinations—seeing or hearing things that aren’t there. A lack of sleep can also trigger mania in people who have manic depression. Other psychological risks include:

  • impulsive behavior
  • depression
  • paranoia
  • suicidal thoughts”

If you are suffering from a lack of sleep you will literally feel like killing yourself. Or at the least doing something outrageously dangerous and illogical, which brings me to my next point.

 

Lack of Sleep Can Make You Stupid

If your central nervous system and hormones are already on the fritz from a lack of energy, then what does it mean for your day to day life?sleep deprivation

For starters, it can make learning new things harder.

“For you to be able to access a memory, that memory first has to be encoded into your brain (and you have to have been paying attention when it happened). Without that time to consolidate your experiences at night, you won’t retain what happened during the day.”

And with less memory to work with you are apt to make the same mistakes multiple times.

You also wind up less alert to your surroundings, causing a lack of self-awareness during a work day at best, and a car accident happening to you at worse.

 

Conclusion

Over 1/3rd of Americans are running around sleep-deprived, unaware of their surroundings, unable to retain memories, and are most likely obese, anxious and outright depressed. How many of those people are in important positions of power? How many of these people are we implicitly trusting with that sort of mental state? It’s a  scary thought. But what can you do to make sure you get a proper night’s rest? Find out next week at www.beksbites.com

Why Do People Buy Fad Diets?

What’s the Appeal of the Fad Diets?

For as long as I can recall, I have seen many a fad diet rise into popularity and fall into obscurity. If it wasn’t Keto and Paleo, it was Southbeach and Atkins. Heck, I even traced back previously to fad diets that existed before the invention of the printing press, and even before the existence of Roman civilization. But with all of these fad diets, there is a core issue that is present in all of these instances. People want to lose weight quickly.

They are hoping for a shortcut, a miracle cure, something that they feel can magically solve their problems in an instant.

However, the cynics and skeptics of the world will outright tell people that such things aren’t real.  And deep down we all know that fad diets won’t work in the long term.

But we still spend $66 billion dollars on the weight loss market. What gives? Are we really that delusional? Do we have our head in the clouds? Are we inherently lazy?

There is a lot to sociologically and psychologically unpack to get to the bottom of it. So, that is what is going to happen. Read on if you are interested in the topic.

 

fad diets , air force workoutPeople are Wired to Avoid Discomfort

I will be the first one to admit. I hate exercising. On occasion, I maybe get the urge to walk or run because it just sort of feels right, but I am not one to voluntarily run unless something is chasing me. But the thing is I know that I have evidence of and still am suffering long-term from it.

And I am not alone in this.  According to Dr. Sherry Pagoto P.H.D. of Psychology Today, “Theories of human behavior have long shown that immediate experience often outweighs future rewards. ” No one wants to be uncomfortable. Ever.

And there is nothing wrong with that to an extent. In general, when we are avoiding pain, we are avoiding injury. If you have a hand over an open flame, you want to move it to both stop feeling the pain and burning ourselves to death.

However, it has gotten a little out of hand.

Let’s face it. In both upper and middle-class America, we are ridiculously comfortable more than ever to our predecessors.  We live/work/relax in places in which we can control the very room temperature. We are quick to demand top not service for our money, and we get things more instantaneous than ever in the age of the internet.

It’s probably why we are so quick to hop on the fad diet bandwagon.

So, if that is the case, how do we fix it?

The answer is simple. Do it anyway. Our memories of pain are not the same experience as the act of remembering it anyway.

“…what is uncomfortable today may hardly be noticeable later. after you’ve experienced that discomfort over and over again.”

Speaking of avoiding discomfort;

 

People are Wired to Demand Instant Gratification

No matter how advanced in technology we have become, no matter what sort of society we live in, or how much money they have, we are still animals. Animals with basic instincts and immediate needs, like hunger, thirst, clothing, breeding, and social interaction.

And since we are no different than other mammals in the animal kingdom in that regard, you are going to occasionally notice certain instincts kicking in when certain situations arise, no matter how civilized or rich you are.

People are generally wired to like their routines, some more than others. In fact, things like greed, racism, sexism, and other forms of ugliness in the world are all a byproduct of the discomfort that comes with uncertainty. Human beings don’t like uncertainty. They don’t like being delayed, and they certainly don’t think long-term when they feel uncertain about their futures.

This is particularly true of both people who live in poverty and children. That is because a certain level of cognitive capacity is required to reach that sort of logic. And if your brain is malnourished or not fully grown, you are going to suffer poor impulse control.

And fad diets love to prey on people with poor impulse control.

 

Fad Diets Act Like an Instant Answerfad diets, advertising

Our current society is the perfect breeding ground for fad diets and the con artists who support them.

For starters, a good chunk of the United States has been suffering from a sense of insecurity for a very long time both in both a financial and safety standpoint.

In the last 20 years, we have seen: multiple school shootings, the first direct attack on America, several natural disasters, a few economic recessions, and increasingly dangerous divisive politicking. No one in their right mind would feel secure.

Then you have the current food atmosphere. The grocery gap, the increase of fast food chain growth, and the lack of actual nutritional quality in said fast foods.

If you combine these two things, what do you get?

A society filled with anxious and nutritionally malnourished people looking for a quick way to bring them out of both their mental and physical anguish.

It could only make sense that they would gravitate to fad diets instead of entering a long-term dietary commitment. They can’t see past their own impulses. It isn’t about willpower. It is about people who are scared and are too malnourished to have any decent sense of foresight.

But fad diets only continues to add fuel to the societal dumpster fire of nutritional education.

 

Why Fad Diets Aren’t The Answer

Much like how pharmaceutical companies profit from treatments instead of cures, Fad diets do not profit from permanent solutions to the obesity problem. I mentioned before it is a billion dollar industry.

Why would they want to make a permanent lifestyle solution if it will dry up their profit margin? What gain would they get from educating the populace?

That is why I urge you, think critically before you decided to waste money on something that guarantees weight loss results.

If the program, meal kit, or authors of the weight loss industry can stand to make money from short-term results, supplement sales, or meeting fees then they are scammers. Plain and simple.

 

Conclusion

If you want a permanent weight loss solution, you need to educate yourself. Find philanthropic groups and programs that are dedicated to food education. Talk to trainers who literally went to school for nutrition. Practice skeptical and critical thinking when you hear the words “Guaranteed” “Free” and “In Only”.  These fad diets and the people who make them do not have the right to profit from your hard earned money and exhaustion.

 

www.beksbites.com

Nutrition Myth Busting: Wine Is Good for your Heart

Was the French Paradox Real?

There are plenty of misconceptions and rumors that plague the world of nutrition and health. Sometimes these rumors sound well founded and other times it is simple wish fulfillment. Then you hear the odd ones that make you scratch your head in confusion. The French Paradox is one of those dietary rumors that land squarely in the bizarre category, and today, I am going to be mythbusting the French Paradox

What is the French Paradox?

french paradox, beks bitesThe term was coined by French scientists based on a 1980’s study comparing the levels of heart disease with fat intake data provided by The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development.

In that study, it was stated that France had a high intake of animal fats in their current diet, but seemed to not be suffering from any heart disease or other negative effects related to obesity.

The initial hypothesis for why this might be pointed to regions of France having the highest intake of red wine in the world. It was assumed after that all the red wine intake was responsible for France not suffering from heart disease.

However, this was mere speculation by these initial scientists and the public.

People were glad to hear they could eat all the meat and cheese they wanted as long as they sipped a bit of red wine.

Unfortunately, this is a misconception based on skewed data and has since been debunked by more recent scientific studies.

Missing Variables

Time Lag

France didn’t exactly eat a diet high in animal fats until the 1970’s. Compare that to the standard American diet which had a high level of animal fats 40 years before, and you start to notice a gap in timing.

According to nutritionist Nestle in 1992, ” the French had only recently started eating so unhealthily, and chronic diseases take decades to develop.” If we all started smoking today but found no measurable increase in lung cancer tomorrow, it wouldn’t mean smoking doesn’t cause lung cancer—it just takes a while.”

And there is data to prove it. According to health studies by the EU, cardiovascular diseases make up 23% of deaths in men and 27% of deaths in women. That is a quarter of the recorded French population!

Possible Skewing of Datafrench paradox,

When any scientist is recording data for scientific purposes, they are taking a sample size and deriving their data from that sample. While taking a sample size of a population to observe is wise for testing a specific reaction to something like a food or a drug.

When trying to paint an accurate picture of an entire population, you want to gather as much data as you can to make sure that area is well represented.  This includes both wealthy areas with access to whole foods and not so wealthy areas trapped in food deserts.

It also doesn’t help matters when French physicians under-report ischemic heart disease deaths on the death certificates by as much as 20 percent, either.

 

How its Possible France (and the Rest of the World ) can Still be Better Off

 

A nutritionist was part of an interview with Times magazine back in 1992 to point out how it could be possible for the French to stay healthy.

“They still eat whole foods and eat more vegetables than we do,” Sasson says. “You feel more satiated when you eat this way. And they probably eat less. The French also have no American guilt when it comes to eating; that idea where we are constantly counting calories, fat content, and carbs; and all the while, left feeling unsatisfied.

Their portion sizes are smaller, and unequivocally, the French cook more than Americans. They also drink less sugary beverages than we do. And apart from food culture, the French really do nap and are encouraged to do so. They also consistently take their lunch out of the office, often dining for more than an hour.”

Taking time out to rest, eating more vegetables in your diet, and avoiding large portion sizes are how people to fight heart disease and obesity.

But until then, don’t expect red wine or any other magic cure to save us from ourselves.

www.beksbites.com

Fasting Is it Good or Bad for You? Part 2

Fasting, Is it Good or Bad for You? Part 2

People from various cultures who practice a variety of religions, all have different attitudes when it comes to fasting. Depending on the religion, it is either mandatory, voluntary, or required. The truth of the matter is a lot more complex, and the differing practices could affect your health for the better or for the worse. So, what are some encouraged fasting practices that are common worldwide? Does it help or does it hurt your health?

The best way for me to reach a conclusion is to contrast the most common forms of fasting with the resulting health rate of the population who practice it. And since the most easily recorded populace that involves fasting come from religious groups, that is what I will be focused on for data collecting reasons.

Aside: I will do my best to be objective as possible since religion is a very touchy topic for a lot of people. I am writing about dietary habits, nutrition, and health. There will be no preferential treatment or disparagement of one religious practice over another.

So, let’s get to figuring out if fasting can be helpful or harmful to your health.

 

Christianity: Feast Days and Fasting

Different denominations of Christianity have existed for hundreds over 1000 years and will continue to split into different factions to this day. For the sake of simplicity, I am going to stick with the oldest established form of Christianity, in which I know there is fasting and feasting involved: The Roman Catholic Church.

Traditionally, there are two mandatory days of fasting: Ash Wednesday and Lent.

Ash Wednesday is the Wednesday before Lent, a period of 40 days of fasting and repentance leading up to Easter. The rules for fasting, however, are surprisingly different in comparison to Judaism and Islam.

In this case, fasting means avoiding all forms of meat that come from the land. Fish and broth do not count.

 

  • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on Ash Wednesday, Good Friday, and all the Fridays of Lent.
  • Depending on financial means, or health reasons, a typical day of fasting for Catholics involve one large meal in the middle of the day and two small snacks, one in the morning and one in the evening.
  • Every person 14 years of age or older must abstain from meat (and items made with meat) on all other Fridays of the year unless he or she substitutes some other form of penance for abstinence.

 

The more strict observation of fasting that is not necessarily required but certainly not frowned upon would be fasting 40 days in a row.  However, the only required fasting by the church lasts for two days, Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.  Does it help with weight regulation? Maybe.

 

fasting, bmiLower Obesity Rate in Predominantly Catholic Countries

While the evidence may be circumstantial at best, three of the countries with the major religion being Catholicism, Italy, Brazil, and the Philippines boast a lower rate of obesity in comparison to the United States of America.

With the exception of Mexico, (which still boasted a lower obesity rate in comparison to the United States at its highest rate), Countries with a predominately Catholic population had a lower obesity rate.

This could probably be due to the fact that they are mostly cutting back animal fats and red meat from their diet, giving them a heart-healthy advantage in comparison to others fasts.

 

Hinduism: Fasting Depending on Diety

While there are strict rules and regulations regarding fasts on monotheistic religions, the practice of polytheistic religions means that there is less standardization in regard to religious rules and regulations.

fasting

Fasting is not specifically a requirement across the board in Hindu religion. The only reason it would be considered mandatory is that either someone is performing a specific Vedic ritual, or someone is paying penance.

Even then the types of fasting vary depending on what the diety requires.  It ranges from something as mild as abstaining from meat to something as extreme as forgoing food and water for days on end.

According to someone who is a practitioner of Hindu, “Fasting is a very common and ancient way for followers to resolve and express their gratitude. The gods in your body are not pleased if you starve yourself for too long. Therefore, when you fast, you have to keep your body’s wellbeing in mind.”

So, with there being so many extremes and requirements that differ from one another, there is no conclusive data about how it works for or against someone’s health.

 

Conclusion

At the end of the day, to each his/her own. Everyone has their own spiritual beliefs and practices. If they feel a strong need to do what is spiritually right for them then far be it from me to stop anyone.

Physically speaking, if you are wanting to fast for your health you might want to talk to a doctor first.  And maybe cut some red meat and fats from your diet.

Fasting, Is it Good or Bad for You?

Fasting, Is it Good or Bad for You?

People from various cultures who practice a variety of religions, all have different attitudes when it comes to fasting. Either it is something that is mandatory, encouraged from time to time, or just something that is old-fashioned nonsense. The truth of the matter is a lot more complex, and the differing practices could affect your health for the better or for the worse. So, what are some encouraged fasting practices that are common worldwide? Does it help or does it hurt your health?

The best way for me to reach a conclusion is to contrast the most common forms of fasting with the resulting health rate of the population who practice it. And since the most easily recorded populace that involves fasting come from religious groups, that is what I will be focused on for data collecting reasons.

Aside: I will do my best to be objective as possible since religion is a very touchy topic for a lot of people. I am writing about dietary habits, nutrition, and health. There will be no preferential treatment or disparagement of a religious practice over another.

So, let’s get to figuring out if fasting can be helpful or harmful to your health.

Judaism: Fasting on Holidays and Kosher Dietary Restrictions

The best explanation behind fasting for Judaism came from becomingeden.com, who stated that ” Judaism has several holidays that involve fasting, some of which are more observed than others. Traditional Judaism involves six fasting days during the year, and this means no eating or drinking from sunset to the following sunset (24 hours). On Yom Kippur and Tisha B’Av, one may also not wash oneself, wear leather uses, use perfume, or have sex – the other four days do not have these restrictions. Beyond that, the decision to fast is largely personal.”

kosher, fastingDietary restrictions for Judaism include:

  • Animals that do not have a cloven hoof or does not chew its own cud is forbidden. Fish with fins and scales are permitted, but no shellfish or crawfish or scallops.
  • Locusts are forbidden.
  • The animals must not suffer when killed for food.
  • All blood must be drained from meat and poultry or broiled out of it before it is eaten.
  • Fat surrounding organs like the liver and the sciatic nerve are not permitted.
  • Fruits and vegetables are permitted but must be inspected for bugs (which cannot be eaten)
  • Meat (the flesh of birds and mammals) cannot be eaten with dairy. Fish, eggs, fruits, vegetables, and grains can be eaten with either meat or dairy. (According to some views, fish may not be eaten with meat).
  • Utensils (including pots and pans and other cooking surfaces) that have come into contact with meat may not be used with dairy, and vice versa.
  • Utensils that have come into contact with non-kosher food may not be used with kosher food.
  • Grape products made by non-Jews may not be eaten.

So, do all of these dietary restrictions and the occasional fast work out in the favor of someone trying to live a healthy lifestyle?

The Isreali Paradox

The area with the highest concentration of people who practice Judaism is Isreal. Isreal currently has a pretty low obesity rate in comparison to the United States, and a higher exercise rate in comparison to America or Saudi Arabia. So, it would stand to reason they would suffer less from things like heart disease.

Unfortunately, that is not the case.

While Israelis have a lower body weight, from a lower access to trans fats, they have a high diet in plant based omega 6’s. This leads to some serious complications, as Susan Allport explained in her book ,”The Queen Of Fats: Why Omega-3s Were Removed From The Western Diet And What We Can Do To Replace Them”, “Israelis eat less animal fat and cholesterol and fewer calories than Americans, but they have comparable rates of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and many cancers. They have an ideal diet, as far as the American food pyramid is concerned, but far from ideal health.”

So, if that was a bust, what about another Middle Eastern Religion that has dietary restrictions and fasting?

 

Islam: Muslim Dietary Restrictions and The Ramadan Fast

ramadan, fastingIslam, along with Judaism has a combination list of dietary restrictions and time period dedicated to fasting. The dietary restrictions for those who practice the Muslim faith include:

  • Intoxicants and alcoholic beverages
  • Carcasses of animals that died on their own
  • Lizards, insects, rats, and birds with talons
  • Animals domesticated for another purpose, like (dogs or horses)
  • Blood
  • Pork
  • Any food dedicated to another God
  • An animal that has been strangled, beaten (to death), killed by a fall, gored (to death), or savaged by a beast of prey 

These dietary practices are certainly reasonable and are most likely for the purposes of just plain disease prevention and health preservation.

The fast of Ramadan happens on the 9th month of the Islamic calendar. It is a period in which those who practice the faith do not eat, drink, have sex, smoke tobacco, or ingest caffeine during the daylight hours of the entire month. Children before puberty are excused from this practice, though they are encouraged to go through mini-fasts to prepare. The elderly, pregnant women, and the sick are also allowed to opt out, for health reasons.

So, does it work? Does it help people lose weight or at least maintain a healthier body? The short-term answer is yes,  the long-term answer, is no.

 

Starvation leads to Binging and Lack of Exercise Leads to Obesity

“The appeal is that [fasting] is quick, but it is quick fluid loss, not substantial weight loss,” says Madelyn Fernstrom, Ph.D., CNS, founder, and director of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s Weight Loss Management Center.

“If it’s easy off, it will come back quickly” — as soon as you start eating normally again, she says.

And it makes sense. People who go through any period of starvation, short or long term are much more likely to binge on fatty foods when that time of fasting is up compared to than the people who eat healthy foods on a regular basis with no starvation period. And there is data to back it up.

The country of Saudi Arabia, an entire population of Muslim people, have a 70% obesity rate for the entire country. That is about as bad as the US.

They are in no better shape than we are when it comes to skipping food and binging on fatty substances later.

 

Next Week

Next Week, there will be more comparisons to religious dietary restrictions, against their initial results. If you want to read more about diets around the world, check this one out. If you want to set up an appointment with Bekah, click on the pop up at the home page.

How Exercise and a Healthy Diet can Combat Arthritis

How Exercise and a Healthy Diet can Combat Arthritis

There is a chronic condition more powerful than obesity that exists in our current society. This condition has been around since the time of the dinosaurs, and it has been the constant pain and misery among 20% of the American population. The condition that I am talking about is arthritis. Arthritis, for those who are unaware, refers to a disease in which it affects the conditions of the joints, and the tissues that surround the joints. So far, there are over 100 different types of arthritis, which range from rheumatoid to gout. It most frequently affects the aging population but it can happen to people of all ages. Once it is there, there is no way to reverse it or make it go away completely.

There are, however, a few ways that you can learn to manage it, and decrease the rate of inflammation. So, we are going to go over, common types of arthritis and how they can be managed.

arthritisOsteoarthritis

This is the most common diagnosis of the listed arthritic conditions in the United States. It is most likely caused through long-term wear and tear of joint tissues from daily life, specifically, the load bearing tissues such as back knee and hip. According to Wikipedia, “Osteoarthritis begins in the cartilage and eventually causes the two opposing bones to erode into each other. The condition starts with minor pain during physical activity, but soon the pain can be continuous and even occur while in a state of rest.”

This version of the disease is one that mostly affects the elderly population. Its biggest risk factors are previous joint trauma, obesity, and an increasingly sedentary lifestyle.

Mitigating this form of arthritis can be done through a combination of joint replacements,  and weight management. And this totally makes sense. If you have less weight on your load bearing joints, your joints will have less strain and physical pressure to deal with.

 

Rheumatoid Arthritis

This form of arthritis comes when your immune system starts attacking your own body’s tissue. When the tissue starts to decrease, the bones that the tissues connect to start to rub up against one another and erode upon friction. This form of arthritis can happen to people of all ages and has a slightly higher chance of happening to women. Its causes are largely unknown, but there is possible evidence that points to genetics, smoking and hormonal imbalances.

When left untreated, RA can distort your joints, causing pain, stiffness and limited movement. Patients who suffer from the disease would require treatment that would encourage the growth of antibodies and t-cells for the patient’s immune system. Unfortunately, it only treats the symptoms of the disease, making it a temporary solution to the problem. It does not cure the condition.

Some symptoms can be mitigated with regular exercise and a healthy diet. This is, again mostly for weight management purposes. The less weight your joints carry, and the more you move them around, the easier it will be for your body to prevent your joints from locking up too badly.

 

Lupus

Lupus is another form of arthritis that stems from the immune system attacking itself. However, there are a few key difference between Lupus and arthritisRheumatoid Arthritis. The first is that Lupus is caused by external factors, such as excessive exposure to sunlight, a recent infection or certain types of blood pressure medications. The second is that Lupus typically affects women from ages 14-45.  Also, symptoms of lupus can come and go in “flare-ups” which include:

  • Fatigue
  • Fever
  • Joint pain, stiffness, and swelling
  • A butterfly-shaped rash on the face that covers the cheeks and bridge of the nose or rashes elsewhere on the body
  • Skin lesions that appear or worsen with sun exposure (photosensitivity)
  • Fingers and toes that turn white or blue when exposed to cold or during stressful periods (Raynaud’s phenomenon)
  • Shortness of breath
  • Chest pain
  • Dry eyes
  • Headaches, confusion and memory loss

Just like Rheumatoid Arthritis, there is no cure for the condition. However, it can be managed through a combination of medication, a healthy diet, and regular exercise.

The specialized diet mostly consists of fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains. The purpose of this diet is to increase your antioxidant intake and decrease your saturated fat intake. Saturated fats oftentimes contribute to flare-ups, so avoiding those would be best.

 

Gout

Gout is a condition that can affect anybody from the ages of 30-50 and it mainly involves the inflammation of the joints on your feet. This is because it is caused by an excess amount of uric acid in the bloodstream. Normally, your kidney filters out the excess uric acid in your bloodstream. However, when your kidneys do not filter enough of it, or if there is too much uric acid to filter out, urate crystals will accumulate in your joint, causing the inflammation and intense pain of a gout attack.

Your body produces uric acid when it breaks down purines.

Purines found in certain foods, such as steak, organ meats, and seafood. Other foods also promote higher levels of uric acid, such as alcoholic beverages, especially beer, and drinks sweetened with fruit sugar (fructose).

So, a healthy diet, combined with a lower body weight to prevent stress on your big toe is the answer to preventing Gout flare-ups.

 

If you want to know more about certain diets, click here to learn more! If you want to set up an appointment with Bekah, click on the pop up of the home page!

Why Moving Around is Important When you Work a Desk Job

Why Moving Around is Important When you work a Desk Job

It seems that there is a constant drawback that comes as a price for progress. For instance, we have better health and cleanliness standards but you still have to take time out of your day, possibly every day to take a bath, brush your teeth and comb your hair when you could be doing other things. Kids can use computers even faster and more competently than their parents. This can be good for their future careers, but bad for the parents who have a harder time controlling what their kid gets access to. But, the biggest example of a drawback that comes as a price of progress is that we have more jobs that give us a chance to do tasks faster and more efficiently in an office, only to have it cost us our health.

Being an office worker is a deadly career move. Just as deadly as being a stuntman or an acrobat. However, instead of running the risk of an accidental fall or decapitation, the sort of risks involved are slow building, chronic, and lifelong.  Office work, for the most part, is sedentary work. It requires little motion compared to other jobs and what motion it does involve is enough to kill your fine motor skills and hand motion for the rest of your life.

So, what can you do to counteract or delay the inevitable effects of working a desk job? Exercise, and good nutrition.

We covered the nutrition part of things, so now we are going to point out just why it is important to move around when you work a desk job.

 

Exercise Evens out your Moods

moving around desk jobLet’s be honest with ourselves. If you have any job working with the public for extended periods of time, whether that involves customer service in front of a register, answering phone calls at a desk, or working at an I.T. department, you know you are on the verge of losing your mind. People, whether you like them or not, can be demanding. Pushy superiors, overzealous coworkers, and impolite customers can be enough to stress you out for a single shift, let alone repeated years of it until you either die or retire. (But who are we kidding, in this economy NO ONE RETIRES). However, while you may be on the verge of setting your office on fire, and telling Linda what you really think of her tasteless brownies, I suggest an alternative route to complete catharsis. Exercise.

Not many people are attracted to the notion of putting yourself through the potential embarrassment and physical pain that exercise can do to you, especially when someone suggests you join a gym.

 

Exercise and Depression

However, there are some benefits to exercise that can outweigh those setbacks. There are articles that go as far back as 1987 that point out that regular exercise can decrease the severity of things like mental illness and depression. There are a few explanations that are more likely based on observable data about why that is.

  • Regular exercise increases the production of serotonin, a brain chemical that is partly responsible for the regulation of mood, sleep, and appetite.
  • It also increases the production of endorphins, another brain chemical that is responsible for the feeling of happiness.
  • When enough serotonin and endorphins are produced, your immune system works better, and your sleep cycle becomes more regulated.

 

Outdoor Exercise is Best

Another thing that was observed, was that regular exercise outside seemed to have better benefits than indoor exercise. Which could be a subliminal reason behind the aversion to the gym.

  •  Some recent studies have found people report a higher level of vitality, enthusiasm, pleasure, and self-esteem, and a lower level of tension, depression, and fatigue, after they have walked outside.
  • People who exercise outside also say they are more likely to exercise again than those who stay indoors.
  • Research shows that vitamin D can help us to fight disease. This is something that we can naturally be able to get by being out in the sunshine.
  • While we are still learning about what vitamin D can do for our bodies, studies do suggest it can protect us from a range of conditions, from osteoporosis and cancer to heart attacks and depression.

 

So, not only is outdoor exercise good for your body, but it is also good for your brain chemistry by putting you in a better mood.

 

Why Moving Around is Better for your Boss and your Clients

So, you know how much regular exercise can benefit you, but maybe you are not able to find the time at work. How would you convince your boss to extend your lunch time or allow you to work a few days remotely for your health?

Simple. When you explain to your boss that you need this time for your health, you need to stress the point that they benefit from it.

  • According to the CDC, when workers are happy and healthy, they are likely to be more productive.
  •  People going to work when they’re sick (presenteeism)accounts for nearly 2/3rds of the cost when it comes to worker illness.
  • Full-time workers in the United States who are overweight or obese and have other chronic health problems miss about 450 million more days of work than healthy workers, costing more than 153 billion a year.

This is the sort of long-term loss that can be rectified if both office workers and their bosses took the time to implement a strategy that would allow some time for workers to move around for at least a half hour a day.

So, why is it important to move around when you are in an office job? The short answer is that it elevates the mood of workers, decreases stress and long-term depression, and it can save companies billions of dollars.  Nobody loses their minds and everybody wins.