#071 Do You Really Need 8 Glasses of Water Daily?

February 2nd, 2015 by

Do You Really Need 8 Glasses of Water Daily?

Your mother probably told you to drink 8 glasses of water each day. Many health “experts” also recommend getting at least 8 glasses (64 ounces or about 2 liters) of water each day.

Are you wondering if there’s actually any science backing up this advice?  Just how much water should we be drinking to lose weight and maintain optimal brain and heart function?

What the Science Tells Us about 8 Glasses of Water

You might be surprised to learn that there are actually no medical studies backing up the practice of drinking 8 glasses of water each day.  While there have been studies done on this subject, none of these studies to date have shown any significant benefit.

If there are no data supporting the medical need to drink 8 glasses of water each day then the question naturally arises, how much water should you drink?  The simple answer is, it depends.  In this article we will explore possible reasons why you may want to increase your water intake depending on your weight, brain, and heart goals.

How much water should you drink to stay hydrated?

It appears that the amount really depends on the individual person, where they live, and how active they are. Adults who live in an average climate and are moderately active can likely maintain their health drinking less than 8 glasses per day.  This doesn’t mean that you want to skimp on drinking your water however.

In contrast, those people who exercise frequently or live in very hot climates can lose up to 4 liters of fluid in just one hour of intense exercise on a hot day.  For these people, staying hydrated during a work out is critical for their health and to prevent a heat stroke.  These people could easily drink far more than 2 liters of water in a day.

Why is water so healthy?

Did you know that water makes up about 70% of your body?  Water helps to flush toxins from your bloodstream and cells, allowing your body to experience a daily “detox.”

Staying hydrated is also important for maintaining your energy, getting a good night’s sleep, and keeping your mood up.  If you want to appear young, water can also play an important role.  For example, if you are not drinking enough water, you may appear aged and can suffer from rough or cracked skin, bloating, or puffiness.

Can you really tell the difference between hunger and thirst?

Strangely, medical studies have shown us that we often cannot tell the difference between hunger and thirst. Unfortunately, most of us end up eating something when we really may just be thirsty.

Water helps us to feel full because it takes up a lot of volume in our stomachs.  Sometimes we may think we are hungry, and may even experience hunger pains, but in fact it may be that we are just experiencing mild dehydration.

When we don’t stay hydrated, we don’t feel the best that we could.  We tire easily, feel moody, get headaches, and we don’t function well overall. These uncomfortable feelings make us crave food because we are looking to food for more energy when all we really need is more water.

Water can help us to eat less at meal times as well. Try drinking 2 glasses of water right before you eat a meal and you may find you eat less since your stomach will feel partially full and you won’t be confusing thirst for hunger at all.

Why do water drinkers stay thin?

Have you ever noticed that people who carry a water bottle around with them seem to appear healthier and slimmer than most people?  What is the science behind water drinking and maintaining a healthy weight?

Besides not confusing hunger for thirst, the obvious answer is that if you are drinking a lot of water you probably are not drinking soda pop, fruit juice, or other sugary drinks.  This alone could cause significant weight loss.  I commonly see patients lose more than 20 pounds just by giving up all soda, fruit juice, sports drinks, and other sugary drinks.

Even diet soda may cause significant weight gain in many studies!  Studies show that even though you are not getting any “calories” from diet sodas, the aspartame in diet sodas is feeding your bad gut bacteria which, in turn, may cause weight gain.

Water also causes a significant calorie burn through the process of cold thermogenesis.  If you want to learn more about how to boost your metabolism through cold thermogenesis, I recently wrote an article on this subject (blog #68).

Studies have shown that by drinking 8 glasses (2 liters) of cold water, your body can be forced to burn an extra 400 calories!  Researchers report that most of this 400 calorie weight loss was due to the energy required by the body to heat the cold water up to body temperature.  If you do the math, drinking 2 liters per day of cold water, without increasing your food intake, would burn 42 extra pounds per year.

Since there is no risk in drinking more water for most people (see disclaimer at the bottom of this article), and you might even feel more energetic thereby increasing your work out routine, why not start drinking more water today?

Boost Cognition and Memory with Water

Could helping your child score well on the SAT or ACT college entrance tests be as simple as drinking more water?  Studies have consistently shown that children do better on tests when they are hydrated.  Even adults, based on medical studies, do better on cognition tests when they are well hydrated with water.

Other studies have shown that dehydration, or even relative mild dehydration like not drinking enough water during the day, can impair brain function.  Studies have even shown that fighter pilots don’t fly their planes as well if they are not drinking enough water.  Thus, if you want optimal brain and memory function learn to love water.

How much water should you drink to prevent heart disease?

If your goal is to prevent heart disease and never see a cardiologist, like me, then there are actually some data supporting how much water you should drink.

The Seventh Day Adventists are one of the healthiest groups of people in the world.  The Adventists have been extensively studied and have even been featured in the best selling health book, Blue Zones (affiliate link).

In this study, researchers closely followed 20,297 California Adventists for 6 years.  Interestingly, they found that those Adventists drinking 5 or more glasses of water each day were 54% less likely to die from heart disease!

Just how does water protect against a heart attack?  Could the benefit from water be because they drank water rather than soda pop, fruit juice, or other sugary drinks?  Likewise, could a high water intake be a manifestation of someone who is generally more health conscientious or someone who exercises a lot?

There are some studies that suggest that relative dehydration can cause you to have “thicker blood” or a higher blood viscosity.  If you are not drinking enough water then your blood particles are more likely to clump together and form clots.  These clots could lead to a heart attack or a stroke.  Regardless of how you can prevent a heart attack by drinking more water, it seems to me that drinking at least 5 glasses of water each day is a very healthy habit which we should adopt.

Dr. Day’s 6 Water Rules

To help you maintain a healthy weight and allow your brain and heart to function at its best, let my give you my six rules when it comes to drinking water.

1. Drink water instead of soda, fruit juice, or other sugary drinks

If you want to torpedo your health and your waist line, then drinking soda in either the high fructose corn syrup or diet varieties, juice, or other sugary drinks like sports drinks is a great strategy.  On the other hand, if you want to feel energized and maintain a healthy weight learn to love water.  If water isn’t yet your thing, try adding some fresh lemon or lime to your water.

2. If you are hungry between meals drink water first

Learn to notice the difference between your body’s true hunger signals, versus thirst signals. If you feel hungry between meals, try drinking something first. Wait 30 minutes. If you still feel hungry after 30 minutes, you probably are hungry and should eat something.

3. Drink water to boost your metabolism

To keep your body’s metabolism high, stay hydrated.  As discussed in this article, you can burn a significantly high amount of calories each day by drinking 2 liters of water.

4. Stay hydrated for optimal brain performance

Our brains require plenty of water to function optimally.  Stay hydrated to boost your cognition and memory.

5. Drink at least 5 glasses of water daily for your your heart

While 8 glasses of water (2 liters) has not been shown to make you “healthier,” there are data that drinking at least 5 glasses of water each day may protect your heart.  This may keep your blood viscosity low and prevent clots from forming.

6. Keep water with you throughout the day

As it is so easy for us to become dehydrated through the day, learn to carry a glass or stainless steel water bottle.  Having the water bottle with you is a great reminder to drink more.

How much water do you drink each day?  Do you carry a water bottle with you?

Disclaimer

Please remember that if you suffer from heart failure, kidney failure, or other medical conditions you should discuss your optimal daily water intake first with your physician.

#068 How to Boost Metabolism: Cold Thermogenesis

January 26th, 2015 by

How to Boost Metabolism: Cold Thermogenesis

The world’s greatest swimmer, Michael Phelps, consumes 12,000 calories each day. Based on my calculations, he only burns 9,602 of these calories leaving him 2,398 extra calories each day that are simply unaccounted for.

Why doesn’t he gain any weight from overeating by the equivalent of more than 4 McDonald’s Big Macs each day (2,398 calories)?  Could these unaccounted for calories be due to cold thermogenesis? Just what is the science behind cold thermogenesis boosting metabolism and will this help me to lose or maintain a healthy weight?

Michael Phelps: The World’s Best Athlete

During the summer of 2008 the entire world was focussed on Michael Phelps at the Olympics in Beijing.  In just 8 short days he went on to win 8 gold medals and set many new world records, a feat never before accomplished at the Olympics.

With the 2012 London Olympics he has earned a total of 22 medals from three Olympics. He is arguably the greatest athlete who has ever lived.  In this inspirational video you can see him win each of these 8 memorable gold medals at the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Michael Phelps: The World’s Biggest Eater?

While much has been written about Michael Phelps’ training schedule, one thing that is rarely mentioned is the 12,000 calories he eats each day.  Yes, he has a grueling daily work out, but no one can burn that many calories in a day long-term.  What is his secret to not gaining any weight?

As you know from my previous articles, I am a cardiologist who believes in science and I also look for the lessons that we can learn from medical outliers.  Here is my assessment of how Michael Phelps has boosted his metabolism to the point that he can eat 12,000 calories a day and yet not gain a single pound.

Michael is 6 feet 4 inches (193 cm) and weighs 194 pounds (88 kg).  According to the many published reports, he works out 6 hours a day from swimming, weight lifting, and running.  According to the Mayo Clinic, he would burn the following calories:

-A 200 pound (91 kg) man swimming vigorous laps burns 892 calories an hour.

-A 200 pound man weight lifting burns 455 calories an hour.

-A 200 pound man running very fast at 8 mph (17 kmh) burns 1,074 calories an hour.

-His basal metabolic rate or the amount of calories he burns at rest, according to the Haris-Benedict Equation, for an extremely active 200 pound man would be 3,602 calories per day.  This is an overestimate of the calories he burns as he only weighs 194 pounds and would actually burn less.

-Assuming he is burning an overly generous average of 1,000 calories an hour for 6 hours of working out plus his metab0lic rate of 3,602 calories daily (total of 9,602 calories) this leaves 2,398 calories that are completely unaccounted for.

Cold Thermogenesis and Michael Phelps

Could these unaccounted for 2,398 calories be due to cold thermogenesis? Lap swimmers usually swim at 75 degrees Fahrenheit (24 degrees Celsius). Body temperature on average is 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius.

From a science perspective, heat loss is 20 times faster in water than air. The reason for this rapid heat loss from water is due to conductive heat loss. This also explains why people can suffer hypothermia in 41 degree Fahrenheit (5 degrees Celsius) water in just 10 minutes whereas you could spend hours outside at 41 degrees if you are dry.

Michael Phelps spends approximately 4 hours in the pool each day. In the cool lap pool he is losing a tremendous amount of body heat. This body heat needs to be replaced by boosting metabolism or burning more calories to stay warm. This term is called “thermogenesis” or the production of heat by the body. Thus, cold thermogenesis refers to the body’s attempt to keep the body warm in a cold environment by revving up metabolism or the burning of calories.

Brown Adipose Tissue or “Brown Fat”

You have probably seen many news articles recently about the role of brown adipose tissue or the so called “brown fat.” Brown fat is opposite the usual fat, or white fat, that we get from gaining weight.

Abundant brown fat can be found in newborns as well as animals that hibernate during the winter. For example, the polar bear has abundant brown fat which helps to keep the bear warm in the harsh arctic climate. As we age, most people lose their brown fat.

Brown fat has extensive blood vessels and burns a lot of calories to keep us warm and regulate our body temperature. Many researchers feel that if we could regain our brown fat that it just might help to reverse the obesity epidemic. Many drugs companies are even looking into creating pills that help people to develop more brown fat in order to boost metabolism and lose weight.

Interestingly, new studies have shown that people who spend a lot of time in cold environments can actually regain their brown fat that was lost as they grew older. Could the key to Michael Phelps’ incredible metabolism be that he has more brown fat than the rest of us?

How to Boost Metabolism with Cold Thermogenesis

Perhaps swimming 4 hours a day in a cold lap pool or a winter lake near your home is not your idea of a good time. The same is true for me. I have tried for years to enjoy swimming and I just can’t seem to make it work for me.

As you know, I live in Salt Lake City and love to exercise outdoors. Summer or winter you can find me on top of one of our local mountains.

I also keep my window open in the exercise room of our house where I keep my treadmill and bicycle desks. The fresh air energizes me, prevents sweating, and results in an increased energy burn. Even as I am writing this, I am in shorts on my bicycle desk with the window open. The outside air temperature right now is 20 degrees Fahrenheit or minus 7 degrees Celsius.

Even if you don’t enjoy exercising in the cold there are still ways you can enjoy the massive calorie burn that comes from cold thermogenesis. Let me give you the answer of how to boost metabolism in three simple steps with cold thermogenesis.

1. Exercise in a cool environment

Of course, exercising in a cool lap pool will boost your metabolism much more than cool air due to the much greater conductive heat loss properties of water. Regardless, even if it is cold in the morning when you get up for your run or walk at least you can tell yourself that the cool air is boosting your metabolism. While this is not an excuse to eat more, at least it can help you to maintain a healthy weight.

2. Turn the heat down in your home

Turning the heat down a few degrees in your home is a great way to save money on your energy bill and boost your metabolism. Indeed, a cooler home will require your body to burn more calories to keep you warm.

3. Drink 8 glasses of cold water daily

Eight glasses of water works out to about 64 ounces or almost 2 liters. While there is no scientific evidence that you must drink 8 glasses of water each day for optimal health, all this cold water does require your body to heat it to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit or 38 degrees Celsius. This is also cold thermogenesis in action as calories must be burned to heat 2 liters of cold water to a much warmer body temperature.

According to this study, drinking 8 glasses or 2 liters of water burns 96 calories each day. If you do the math, drinking 2 liters of cold water each day without increasing your food intake would burn an extra 10 pounds each year.

The Downside of Cold Thermogenesis: Increased Hunger

By this point you may be thinking that cold thermogenesis is the key to boosting your metabolism and maintaining a healthy weight. While that may be the case, it comes at a significant price. The price is that cold thermogenesis dramatically increases hunger for most people.

I have found that if I am not careful, I tend to eat significantly more food after exercising in the cold.  Studies have also confirmed that cold thermogenesis can increase our appetite . What helps me is to realize this ahead of time so as to avoid mindless eating after exercising in the cold.

I realize that I am not burning as many calories per hour from cold thermogenesis as Michael Phelps as it is cold air rather than a cold lap pool for me. However, I love to start my morning work-outs with 1.5 liters of water. I will then go on to drink another liter or so of water over the rest of the day to keep myself hydrated and keep cold thermogenesis going.

If you can’t control the post-exercise hunger from cold thermogenesis then it could backfire on you and you may end up gaining weight in the process. Knowing how hungry you will be after a cold thermogenesis work out could help to prepare you to find ways to prevent mindless eating afterwards.

Sweating or Evaporative Cooling to Boost Metabolism

Perhaps the hunger that follows cold thermogenesis is too much for you. There is an alternative along the same principle and that is sweating or evaporative cooling to boost metabolism.

In this study, exercising in the heat causes much less hunger afterwards than exercising in the cold. Indeed, if the end result is weight loss and you don’t do well battling hunger then heat may be better for you than the cold. Remember, that if you are in a warm environment you will need much more water to stay hydrated. Does this get us back to cold thermogenesis again?

When it comes to how to boost metabolism it appears that either cold or heat could help you to accomplish this goal. The only difference is the level of hunger that you may experience afterwards.

Cold Thermogenesis Disclaimer

Cold thermogenesis or even exercising in the heat is definitely something that you should not try on your own at home. Likewise, drinking 2 liters of water each day could also be dangerous with some medical conditions like heart or kidney failure. If you are interested in exploring cold thermogenesis further, please work under the supervision of your physician.

Do you prefer exercising in the cold or the heat? How do you manage the hunger pains after exercising in the cold?

#060 7 Surprising Reasons Why You Need Capsaicin

January 4th, 2015 by

7 Surprising Reasons Why You Need Capsaicin

Are you gaining weight because your metabolism is too slow?  Perhaps you suffer from chronic pain or just have high cholesterol?

Could one solution to these medical problems be as simple as chili peppers?  Indeed, capsaicin, one of the key natural ingredients in chili peppers, has been shown to have many health benefits.

My Experience with Chili Peppers

Growing up, I steered clear of spicy foods.  As a child I even believed the old wives tales I heard that a spicy food, like chili peppers, could cause stomach ulcers.

As my food tastes became more mature as I grew older I started liking spicy foods.  While living among the Chinese in Taiwan during college I fell in love with spicy Szechuan Chinese food.  Later, I learned to love spicy Indian, Mexican, and Thai food as well.  I now enjoy the intense spice and health benefits that come from capsaicin.

What if you don’t like chili peppers?

While our two older children love spicy chili peppers, our youngest child will not eat anything “spicy.”  Fortunately, capsaicin is not just found in chili peppers, it is even present in sweet peppers.  Fortunately, all of our children love eating sweet peppers.  We often cut up sweet peppers as snacks at home or to eat while driving in the car.

7 Surprising Reasons Why You Need Capsaicin

Let me now share with you seven surprising reasons why you need capsaicin.  Of course, like everything I share on this website, always discuss any general information I share with your doctor or healthcare provider first before considering any changes you might make in your own diet or lifestyle.

1. Capsaicin Boosts Your Metabolism

When we think of “burning calories” we usually think of exercise.  However, a much bigger source of “calorie burning” comes from our basal metabolic rate or the energy required to keep our body warm and the millions of chemical reactions happening every minute in our body working properly.  If this metabolic rate, or our metabolism, could be turned up a notch or two then we could burn a tremendous number of calories.

Fortunately, our metabolism can get a significant boost from capsaicin.  For example, in just a few minutes after eating capsaicin your metabolism is quickly boosted by 20% for as long as 30 minutes according to this study.

Not only does capsaicin boost your metabolism but other studies have shown that it can also enhance fat burning and decrease your appetite.  If you like to eat chili or sweet peppers throughout the day then this could be a great way to help you lose or maintain a healthy weight.

2. Capsaicin is a Potent Pain Reliever

Do you suffer from arthritis or neuropathy pain?  If so, topical capsaicin could be a great natural pain reliever to help avoid the disabling and addictive effects of opiates.

Many studies have shown that capsaicin, through the skin, can offer tremendous relief for people who suffer from arthritis.  Nerve pain, or neuropathic pain, can be one of the most difficult forms of pain to treat.  Fortunately, capsaicin has also shown great benefit in clinical studies for this condition as well.

3.  Capsaicin Protects You from Oxidized Cholesterol

Cholesterol, in and of itself, is not dangerous to our cardiovascular system.  The risk comes from when bad cholesterol, or LDL cholesterol, is oxidized or reacts with free radicals inside our arteries.

Fortunately, capsaicin has been shown in this study to help stabilize our bad cholesterol so that it does not cause damage to our arteries.  If the bad cholesterol is not oxidized then it does not cause atherosclerosis or inflammation within our arteries.

4. Capsaicin May Help to Prevent Cancer

Given the many effects of capsaicin, researchers have long looked at the potential anti-cancer role of capsaicin.  Some early small studies with impure forms of capsaicin suggested that capsaicin could increase the cancer risk.  More recent larger studies, using a more purified form of capsaicin, have shown that it can prevent cancer.  The data for prostate cancer prevention with capsaicin appears to be the strongest.

5. Capsaicin Can Prevent Stomach Ulcers

Contrary to what we may have heard when we were young, capsaicin or chili peppers can actually help to prevent stomach ulcers.  Capsaicin protects the gastric mucosa or the cells lining the stomach.  Indeed, capsaicin can be very effective in treating peptic ulcer disease.

6. Capsaicin Can Prevent Diabetes

Nearly half of all Americans have diabetes or pre-diabetes.  The scary thing is that most people with pre-diabetes are completely unaware that they even have this condition.

To help combat diabetes, capsaicin has shown tremendous benefits.  For example, in this study capsaicin significantly improved blood sugar and insulin release following a meal.

 7. Chili Peppers Have Many Key Nutrients

In addition to the myriad of benefits already covered in this article, chili peppers are also a very low calorie food packed with many vitamins including vitamins E, K, A, and the B vitamins.  To see the many vitamins and minerals contained in chili peppers, here is an excellent resource.

Do you like spicy foods?  Do you prefer to get your capsaicin from chili or sweet peppers?

#033 Seven Strategies for Healthy Fast Food

September 8th, 2014 by

After our class this week on adapting the principles of China’s Longevity Village to our lives and the choices we face in eating real healthy food vs. fake unhealthy food (which turns out to be what most of us Americans are eating most of the time), a mom came up to me and asked: “I have just one question. What foods can you actually feed your family?”

We all want to eat healthy, but we often don’t know how, or don’t have time or the will. I have found seven simple strategies that I share here in the hopes that they can help you eat and enjoy more real food.

I love the food I eat. Everyday I throw a few healthy ingredients together and end up with something delicious and different every time.

I rarely follow recipes because I’m usually in a hurry and already hungry. By having real foods all ready to throw in, I can successfully make real food both fast and delicious.

Cooking for others has always been one of my greatest fears. Quite frankly, I’d rather stand up in front of a large audience and give a talk than cook for a handful of people.

Because I have traditionally felt so inadequate in the culinary arena, writing this article takes some courage for me. However, I have found many things that enable me to make real food taste good quickly. I hope that what I share will spark some new ideas and make real food easy for you to prepare and delicious for you eat.

I must say that on the occasions I do prepare food for my friends, they tell me that it tastes superb and they ask for the recipes. Sometimes I wonder: “Are they just trying to make me feel good?” But in reality, I don’t think this is the case because I truly find these foods delicious myself.

Let me apologize up front—I don’t measure. I won’t be able to give you quantities. But I can give you some strategies and ideas to run with on your own.

Who knows? Maybe you’ll find that this approach can work for you even better than providing you with a basic recipe!

Seven Strategies for Making Real Healthy Food Easy to Eat

1. Wash, cut up and store veggies in easy to access containers as soon as you bring them home. This makes the veggies easy to eat as is or throw in a dish. Some may worry that the veggies could go bad more quickly. But think about it–you’ll be eating them more quickly too.

2. Always have a quick healthy protein ready. Soak, cook and store a large batch or two of beans or legumes in the fridge that can be mixed into last minute dishes. Also keep on hand tofu, nuts, seeds, wild low-mercury frozen fish (i.e. salmon), pasture-fed organic eggs, grass-fed organic meats in moderation, if desired.

3. Make a soup or a chili each week. These keep well for many days and can be used as sauces and combined with other dishes.

4. When you make a dish, make it in bulk. Save leftovers in small glass containers which can be packed easily the next day for lunches. This saves so much time and provides healthy meals at or away from home for days.

5. Pack healthy foods with you everywhere you go. As it can be so hard to find healthy foods, and so hard to resist the unhealthy ones when you’re hungry, taking your own food can be a life-saver. Nuts keep well and satisfy as a healthy protein and fat. We also love nut butters on sprouted grain (flourless) toast.Cut up fruits and veggies in a portable container work well on a daily basis.

6. Don’t hesitate to eat your stir-fries and salads for breakfast. A vegetable, healthy protein, and fruit is standard fare with our breakfast each day. On a recent trip, a close family member saw us all eating a spinach salad for breakfast and asked, “What kind of food is that for a breakfast?” It’s one that gets us off to a good start for eating real food first and feeling great! It can really help stave off the desire for the junkier kinds of foods.

7. Reach for your real foods first when hungry. Having healthy foods and healthy dishes readily available makes it just as easy to grab something healthy as it is to grab junk food.

Speaking of junk food, lest I give you the wrong impression, we are still a work in progress. We still have some of the packaged, processed foods in our home, and we still eat them. But I will tell you this: the availability of real foods now dramatically outweighs the processed foods and the real foods get eaten much more frequently than the processed foods. Onward and upward!

Healthy Ingredients I Stock in My Kitchen
(Keep it simple. Just start with your favorites.)

Dry beans and legumes (organic dried in bulk, and bpa-free canned): mung beans, garbonzos, black beans, pintos, cannellini, navy or other white beans, lentils, split peas, etc.

Nuts and seeds: almonds, walnuts, pecans, cashews, brazil nuts (high in selenium), chia seeds, hemp seeds, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, etc.

Nut butters (organic): peanut, almond, cashew, walnut, pecan, macadamia, sunflower seed, etc.

Whole grains (organic in bulk): Oat groats, barley, kamut, millet, amaranth, spelt, rye, buckwheat, wheat, thick rolled oats, etc.

Vegetables (organic—wash, cut and store for quick and easy use): Onions, garlic, kale, spinach, other leafy greens, cucumbers, carrots, cauliflower, bell peppers, celery, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, etc.

Fruits (organic–priority on in season/local fruits): Berries, oranges, apples, pineapple, watermelon, red grapes, kiwi, pomegranates, bananas, tomatoes, avocados, lemons, limes, etc.

Spices: Cinnamon, cumin, cloves, garlic, curry, tumeric, etc., I especially love spices such as Chinese Five Spice, Indian Kitchen King, or Mediterranean Herbs de Provence that have the right combinations all ready to go.

Herbs (dried and fresh when possible): Basil, parsley, rosemary, dill, cilantro, etc.

Vinegars/cooking wines: White vinegar, apple cider vinegar, balsamic vinegar, white balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, tarragon vinegar, white cooking wine, dry sherry cooking wine, etc.

Other sauces: Braggs amino acids, low sodium soy sauce, hot sauce, organic tomato sauce (I like the Whole Foods 365 All natural fat free brand), mustard, homemade hummus, vegetable broth, vegetable boullion, apple sauce, etc.

Bread/Tortillas/Pasta: Organic, sprouted grain (no flour) breads, buns, tortillas and pastas such as Ezekiel or Food for Life brands

Milks and Dairy (organic): Almond, soy, cow, coconut, plain yogurt, pasture-raised eggs, etc.

More Healthy Proteins: Frozen Wild Alaskan Salmon, canned Wild Alaskan Salmon, grass-fed organic meats, tofu, frozen organic beans, etc.

Kitchen Tools that Make It Easier to Eat Real Healthy Foods
(Use what you have and slowly add as you go)

Over the 21 years that John and I have been married, we’ve invested in a few solid, high quality kitchen tools. From my perspective, these tools completely pay for themselves, as they make it easy to create healthy dishes quickly, and avert the desire to reach for the overly-processed, less-healthy alternatives which can lead to higher costs in health in long-run.

1. Blendtec, Vitamix or other high quality grinder
2. Wondermill or other high quality grinder
3. Bosch or other high quality mixer
4. Nesco Dehydrator or other high quality brand
5. Nesco Pressure Cooker or other brand
6. Ceramic dutch oven
7. Lemon/lime Juicer
8. Citrus Zester

The tool we use the most is our industrial quality blender, which allows us to quickly make great soups, sauces, smoothies, batters, nut butters…you name it. It has been well worth the investment for us.

Jane's Southwest Salad

Jane’s Southwest Salad

Healthy Food Recipe: Fresh Organic Southwest Salad
(Without measurements—It’s ok! Try it!)

Here’s a delicious and satisfying organic salad that I threw together last week with the ingredients I had on hand:

Black beans
Corn
Diced celery
Diced red onion
Halved cherry tomatoes
Barley (cooked al dente—this I had cooked in bulk and stored in my fridge to add to many dishes)
Fresh cilantro
Fresh lime juice
Lime zest—lots!
White balsamic vinegar
Kosher salt
Fresh ground pepper

You get the idea. You can throw in anything you have—you can change the vegetables to cucumbers, broccoli, kale, carrots, add avocadoes…you can switch the beans/legumes to garbanzos, lentils, cannellini… you can adapt the dressing to lemon, lemon zest and garlic….you can vary the herbs to basil and parsley…whatever you have in stock.

The key is to keep healthy foods all around you, make them easy to access, prepare them in bulk, and don’t be afraid to experiment. Just grab whatever healthy ingredients you can find and create any combinations you desire.

Please help me and all those reading! Please share your real food recipes and tips with all of us in the comment box below.

Here’s to a week filled with real food, real living and real happiness! Cheers! Jane

#027 Do You Have These 12 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms?

August 11th, 2014 by

Do you have these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

Chances are that you suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.  Indeed, up to 89% of Americans are magnesium deficient.

Most people have no idea they are missing this critical micronutrient.  Read on to find out if you may be suffering from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Jill’s Experience

Early in my career as a cardiologist, I worked with a 48 year old nurse from Wyoming who suffered from palpitations, anxiety, and weight gain.  She was tired during the day and couldn’t sleep at night.  She had seen many doctors and nothing seemed to help.

As part of her work up for palpitations, I put her on a 24-hour heart monitor (Holter monitor).  The heart monitor showed frequent premature ventricular contractions (PVCs).

I also checked her lab work.  Everything was normal, including her serum magnesium level.  Fortunately, her stress echocardiogram was also normal so we didn’t have to worry about any other heart issues.

To help with her palpitations, I prescribed a beta-blocker medication.  Unfortunately, beta-blockers only caused more fatigue and only marginally decreased her palpitations.  What followed were a series of different medications, all with intolerable side effects.

Finally, I encouraged her to eat a high magnesium diet.  I also prescribed magnesium supplements.  Even though her serum magnesium level was “normal”, I was running out of options.

Miraculously, all of her symptoms went away.  Not only were her palpitations gone, but her anxiety resolved, she had more energy and she was now sleeping at night.  She even lost 10 pounds in the process.

Can you test for magnesium deficiency?

Unfortunately, there is no good test for magnesium deficiency.  This is why it is so important to recognize the magnesium deficiency symptoms.

While it is easy to test for magnesium in your blood (serum magnesium levels), less than 1% of the magnesium in your body can be found in your blood.  Thus, serum magnesium levels are a poor indicator of magnesium deficiency.  Most of your magnesium is stored in your bones or your cells.

Who is at highest risk for magnesium deficiency?

If you are under a lot of stress you likely are not absorbing much magnesium from your food.  If you drink filtered or bottled water, you are getting minimal magnesium in your water.  If spinach and other green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes are not on your plate every day, you probably suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

If you are overweight, diabetic, or over age 60, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if you take diuretics, calcium supplements, or stomach acid blocking medications you are also probably deficient in magnesium.

Do you have these 12 magnesium deficiency symptoms?

Below are 12 of the most common magnesium deficiency symptoms.  Chances are that you probably suffer from one of these 12 conditions.

1. Weight Gain or Diabetes

When you don’t get enough magnesium in your food and water, it can cause glucose and insulin levels to rise.  When insulin levels are high, you may suffer from food cravings.  Unfortunately, these food cravings are generally for processed carbohydrates which lead to further weight gain.

2. Fatigue and Muscle Weakness

Magnesium is a critical component of energy production in the body.  In fact, the body’s energy molecule, ATP, is created through magnesium dependent chemical reactions.

If you are tired all the time, you are probably magnesium deficient.  Likewise, if your muscles are weak, you may also not be getting enough magnesium.

3. Anxiety

People under high levels of mental or physical stress, poorly absorb magnesium from the gastrointestinal tract.  To make matters worse, magnesium deficiency is an important cause of anxiety.  Fortunately, studies show that restoring the magnesium may help in the treatment of anxiety.

4. Insomnia

Having enough magnesium balances out your stress hormones.  Magnesium also helps the body maintain sufficient melatonin and other sleep hormones.  Indeed, magnesium supplementation has been shown to help with sleep.

5. Depression

For over 100 years now, magnesium deficiency has been associated with depression.  It is also well known, that people with depression are more likely to eat a diet low in magnesium.

6. Dental Cavities or Osteoporosis

If you’ve had a lot of cavities, or been diagnosed with osteoporosis, you probably have magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium deficiency has long been associated with dental cavities.  Magnesium deficiency may also affect vitamin D metabolism and osteocalcin which play a key role in bone turnover and formation.

Ironically, if you are taking calcium supplements for osteoporosis, you may be making matters worse. Calcium supplementation can throw off your calcium/magnesium balance.

7. Constipation

If you suffer from constipation you probably are magnesium deficient.  Magnesium has long been used as a laxative.

8. Muscle Cramps or Migraine Headaches

Do you suffer from leg cramps, eye twitches, or muscle spasms?  Do you get frequent headaches? These may all be magnesium deficiency symptoms.

9. Inflammation, Arthritis, or Autoimmune Diseases

If you suffer from chronic inflammatory conditions, such as arthritis or autoimmune diseases, you may be magnesium deficient.  Studies have linked magnesium deficiency to arthritis and elevated C-reactive protein (CRP) blood tests.

10. Palpitations, Heart Attacks, Heart Failure, or Cardiac Arrest

Most forms of heart disease have been linked with magnesium deficiency.  This mineral is critical to optimal cardiac function.

11. Thyroid Problems

Thyroid problems are very common in the U.S.  Research suggests that many thyroid issues can be traced back to a magnesium deficiency.

12. Cancer

An often overlooked cause of cancer is magnesium deficiency.  Magnesium is a critical nutrient for many DNA repair mechanisms.   As new cancer cells are created every day in your body, you need your DNA repair mechanism functioning optimally.

Magnesium in Our Water

Our ancestors used to get large amounts of magnesium just from their drinking water.  Mountain spring water is naturally high in magnesium.  Unfortunately, many municipalities remove magnesium as part of their water treatment process.

If you want to see how much magnesium is in your drinking water, click here.  In general, the “harder” your water, the more magnesium you are getting.

Interestingly, drinking hard water may lower your risk of heart disease.  If you happen to live in a city with naturally hard water, you can get up to 30% of the magnesium you need each day from water.

Unfortunately, water softeners, water filters, reverse osmosis devices, and bottled water are generally all depleted of magnesium.  If you drink any of these magnesium depleted water types, you have to get 100% of your magnesium from food.

Magnesium in Our Food

Once upon a time, our soil contained much more magnesium.  Unfortunately, modern agriculture has stripped this essential mineral from the ground.

To make matters worse, the foods most often eaten in the U.S, namely wheat, dairy, meat, sugar, and other processed foods, do not contain much magnesium.

Fortunately, organically grown produce has been shown to have up to 29% more magnesium.  To get enough magnesium in your diet, make sure you eat plenty of green leafy vegetables, especially spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes every day.  To see a breakdown of which foods contain the most magnesium click here.

Can you get too much magnesium?

In general, it is very difficult to get too much magnesium from your food and water unless you have kidney disease.  Certainly, it is possible to get too much magnesium if you are taking supplements.

How much magnesium do you need each day?

In general, adults need about 400 mg of magnesium each day.  Rather than trying to calculate the magnesium content of your food, just eat a heaping green salad each day.  If your heaping salad includes plenty of spinach, seeds, nuts, or beans you are there.  A heaping salad with the right toppings will get you 100% of the magnesium you need for the day.  This is especially true if the seeds on top are pumpkin seeds.

Magnesium in China’s Longevity Village

As you know, we have been studying the residents of China’s Longevity Village for many years.  We have found that these people do not suffer from magnesium deficiency symptoms.

The mountain spring water they drink is extremely hard and packed full of essential minerals.  Researchers suggest that these people get up to 50% of their magnesium just from the water.

Also, modern agriculture has yet to put a stake in the ground in this rural area of China.  Thus, the soil is extremely high in magnesium and other minerals.

Their diet, which is very high in vegetables, nuts, seeds, and beans, only further augments the magnesium they are getting every day.  We suspect that the magnesium in their food and water may be an important reason why heart disease is very uncommon and people live to old ages free of chronic medical conditions.

How can you correct magnesium deficiency?

Let me give you five simple steps to correct magnesium deficiency.

1. Drink hard water.

2. Eat a heaping salad with spinach, nuts, seeds, and legumes daily. 

3. Reduce Stress.

4. Talk with your doctor about magnesium supplements.

5. Talk with your doctor about diuretics, acid reducing medications, or calcium supplements.

Final Thoughts

Up to 89% of Americans suffer from magnesium deficiency.  Chances are that you may already be suffering from one of magnesium deficiency symptoms.

Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is easy to correct.  Talk with your doctor if you suspect that you have any of the above magnesium deficiency symptoms.

If you have any thoughts or experiences with magnesium deficiency, please leave your comments below.  Also, if you have any questions about what you have just read, leave your questions in the comments section below.  I will do my best to answer every question.

#023 The Real Food First Diet

July 28th, 2014 by

Real Food First: A Simple Guide to Losing Weight, Getting Kids to Eat Healthy, and Feeling More Energy

When we returned home from our first visit to China’s Longevity Village, we asked ourselves, “With all the junk food our kids encounter at school, church, playdates, scouts, sports, and practically everywhere in our society, how can we help our kids not only eat healthy, but develop a desire to eat healthy?”

The pay off of good habits developed early was apparent in the village. We were so impressed how a group of people in this village were able to feel so good, have so much energy, and escape the chronic medical conditions that we see everywhere in the U.S. None of them were taking any medications and they were still growing their own naturally organic food well into their 80s, 90s, and 100s.

The traditional diet of China’s Longevity Village is a diet consisting of vegetables, fruit, beans, nuts, seeds, and fish.  They eat vegetables with every meal, including breakfast.  There was no added sugar, limited grains except for unrefined brown rice, and limited animal meat.  Dairy was not part of their diet as they are lactose deficient.

The Junk Food Life

It is so difficult to eat healthy as a kid in our society.  School lunches are horrible.  Little league coaches, scout leaders, and church leaders often enjoy offering “treats” to our kids. But how rewarding are these “treats” when kids in the U.S. are becoming overweight at an alarming rate and developing chronic conditions earlier and earlier in life?

Eating junk food has become the norm.  How do we help our kids break away from the path of least resistance and take initiative to make healthier behaviors? We can’t always be with them.  Somehow, we have to help them develop the desire and the tools to make their own healthy choices.

Like most parents, we are trying to empower our kids with knowledge about what their bodies need and why. We teach them to read labels.  We teach them how food grows. We try to help them practice balance–maximizing the good and minimizing the bad.  All these things are good, but left to their own devices, our kids still tend to prefer the not-so-healthy choices and go for the less healthy ones.

Recently, we’ve been trying a new approach: Eat Real Food First.

Let me explain.  With each meal we offer and encourage our children to eat vegetables, a fruit, a healthy fat, and a healthy protein.  If their bodies tell them that they are still hungry after their fruit, vegetables, healthy fat, and healthy protein, then they can choose to eat additional foods, including not-so-healthy items, if desired. We are finding that by filling up on real food first, our desire for and the amount of junk food we actually eat decreases.

Tips for Getting Kids to Enjoy Vegetables

Getting kids to eat vegetables can be challenging.  Vegetables are something that we know few others will offer to our kids so we make sure to at least offer some form of a vegetable to our kids with each meal.

When given the choice, our kids will always opt for the carrot sticks.  While carrots are extremely healthy, we try to make sure that by the end of the day they have had a rainbow of vegetable colors (orange, green, red, etc.).  Of the rainbow of colors, we try to make at least one of them a cruciferous vegetable (broccoli, kale, cauliflower, etc.)

Most often, they like the vegetables raw with a salad dressing for dipping.  However, more and more, they are enjoying stir-fry dishes with different sauces.  Our 9- and 11-year-old sons now declare that curry is their favorite, our 6-year old daughter likes hoisin sauce.

We invite the kids to cut and cook the vegetables with us.  Somehow, working with the food itself helps them to enjoy eating it more.  They each have developed their favorites to chop–one particularly likes to chop onions, another zucchini, and another carrots. Whatever works!

If there are certain vegetables they traditionally resist, we find that when we cut them up small and mix them with a variety of other colorful vegetables, we have more success.  A vegetable they’ve always “hated,” often gets eaten without comment or fuss.

Our next step is to grow some of these foods ourselves.

We’d love to hear your suggestions, questions, and successes helping your family to enjoy vegetables. Please share your comments at the end of this blog.

What fruits do we encourage?

Fruits are not so difficult. We can’t think of a fruit our kids won’t eat.  We always try to have a wide variety of fruits peeled and cut up ready to eat with each meal.  It could be something as simple as a few organic strawberries, half of an orange, or a small bunch of organic red grapes.  One small serving of a fruit with each meal is enough and can address the desire for something sweet.

“Hunger Carbs” vs. “Filling Carbs”

Vegetables, legumes (beans and lentils), and to a lesser extent fruit, are what we call the “filling” or “healthy” carbs.  These carbs, which are slowly digested, do not result in big sugar or insulin spikes, and heal us.  These carbs fill our bellies and allow us to feel full.

These “filling” or “healthy” carbs stand in stark contrast to the “hunger” or “disease” carbs.  The hunger carbs result in rapid sugar and insulin spikes.  They cause us to become hungrier and cause our bodies to break down and become sick.

Have you ever wondered why you can have bowl after bowl of Fruit Loops and never feel full?  The hunger carbs are bread, including whole wheat bread, pasta, sports drinks, soda pop, pastries, crackers, and most processed foods.

If you eat the “hunger carbs” you will just be hungry again in a very short period of time.  The “hunger carbs” are one of the biggest reasons why we are gaining unneeded weight.

What healthy fats do we encourage?

For their healthy fats we encourage things like nuts or nut butter of any kind, seeds or seed butter of any kind, hummus, or even Wild Alaskan Salmon.

For the longest time, none of our kids would eat fish.  But after offering it over and over and over, all three of them have now learned to enjoy Salmon.  They even ask for it when we are planning meals! We like the Wild Alaskan Salmon because it offers the best fish health benefits with minimal mercury, dioxin, or PCBs.

If they are asking for “milk,” healthy fats choices could also include organic unsweetened almond milk, coconut milk, or soymilk.  We realize that soy can be a controversial food item for some people.  This is likely because of how we eat soy in the U.S.  Our soy here is genetically modified (GMO) and processed, not using the whole bean. The organic soymilk we buy does use the whole organic soybean, not merely isolated components or added chemicals. We just make sure we read the labels carefully.

Countless medical studies from Asia have demonstrated the health benefits of soy.  This is likely because they eat the whole bean and the beans they traditionally used were non-GMO.  If you choose to drink soymilk only buy the organic unsweetened whole bean varieties.

If they are asking for a dessert or something sweet, assuming they have not already had candy offered to them from someone else, we may offer dark chocolate.  Our kids have learned to love even 80% cacao dark chocolate.  The darker the healthier.  Dark chocolate includes many healthy fats. We have recently begun mixing nut butters with almond milk, cocoa and stevia. This concoction is a step up in nutritional value from traditional sweets and satisfies our sweet tooth. And, somehow, a smaller amount seems to satisfy, rather than producing an unquenchable desire to eat more and more, as the others sweets usually do.

What healthy proteins do we offer?

For a healthy protein with each meal, we offer our children the same foods listed above that provide the healthy fats–nuts or nut butter of any kind, seeds or a seed butter of any kind, legumes (lentils or beans of any kind), hummus, or Wild Alaskan Salmon.

As most of our suggested healthy fats and proteins are on the same list, depending on what our kids want to eat, one serving of something high in the healthy fats and proteins could suffice for both.

We understand that some of our recommended healthy proteins are not complete proteins with all of the necessary amino acids (i.e. lentils, beans, nuts, and seeds).  This is not a concern to us as our kids will also get other protein sources during the day which will round out their amino acid profile.  For example, at some point during the day, our kids will want a sandwich or a bowl of a healthier cereal.

Ideally, the sandwich or cereal comes after eating the real food first. Otherwise, it’s easy to fill up on the less-nutrient-rich foods and not want the more nutritious foods afterwards.  The protein from the whole grains in these items will make a complete protein when combined with lentils, beans, nuts, or seeds.

We try to offer the healthiest possible versions of the snack foods they ask for at home—i.e. chips, crackers, treats, and we encourage them to be eaten with meals, No foods are forbidden or restricted, as we’ve seen that this can create unintended problems in itself. We know that they will certainly find the junk food at school, a friend’s house, or at church, etc. Our intent is to be relaxed about these realities in our society.

The important thing is that we have at least given them three opportunities each day to provide them with real food first to help keep them healthy.

Day by day, our kids are relaxing into the idea of eating real food first with every meal we have together.  Sometimes they even take their own initiative to get the healthy stuff first.  Sometimes.  We hope this is a work in progress, and will continue to build over time. We’re not there yet, but we are finding that this approach is helping us to guide our children to eat healthy.

Real Food First is the adaptation of China’s Longevity Village Diet to an American lifestyle, which helps us to more successfully navigate the realities of our society and live better.

How to Start Eating Healthy as the Best Way to Lose Weight

As a cardiologist, 80% of the health problems that I see every day could have been avoided with healthy lifestyle choices.  The benefits of eating healthy, reducing stress and moving more are truly life changing.

The question among my patients is always: “how do I start eating healthy and what is the best way to lose weight?” Carrying extra weight is one of the biggest factors causing so many of the health issues I see today.

Unfortunately, less than 5% of diets work long-term.  Eating less does not work because your body’s metabolism just slows down and you are hungry all of the time.  This just makes you tired and irritable.

Exercising alone to lose weight doesn’t work either.  Vigorous exercise can just work up an appetite and, if left unchecked, will cause you to negate any calories you may have burned off with one sports drink, a treat, or a big meal.

By eating real food first, we can give our body all the nutrition it needs for optimal health and eat the foods that will fill us.  Eating real food speeds up your metabolism, so that you burn more calories through the day. Filling up with real food first, in combination with exercise and moving throughout the day, really is the best way to lose weight.

Step 1: Real Food First

Step 1 of the Real Food First Diet is really quite simple.  At each meal, before you eat anything else, have a fruit, two vegetables, a healthy fat, and a healthy protein.  The list of suggested items above for our kids is exactly what you could use as you are starting as well.

You have to be religious about starting every meal, including breakfast, with real food first.  Vegetables are not typically part of a traditional American breakfast.  Let’s change that.

For breakfast, steam up some broccoli as a side with your oatmeal sprinkled with your favorite nuts and almond milk.  Make a delicious salad. If you love your eggs, mix in tomatoes, onions, garlic, broccoli, zucchini—whatever you have.  For eggs, I recommend organic, pasture raised, local eggs.  Never go a meal, especially breakfast, without eating Real Food First.

Step 2: Nothing is Forbidden After Eating Real Food First

After you have finished eating Real Food First, if your body tells you that you are still hungry, decide what you need.  Remember it takes at least 20-30 minutes before your brain gets the message you are full so eat slowly and wait a while after eating real food first. No foods are forbidden or restricted with the Real Food First Diet. There is no counting the calories.

Of course, this is not license to binge or disregard the signals your body is sending you! Listen to your body. If you decipher that you are physically full, but still “hungry” for something else, stop eating, figure out what you really need, move on to another activity, and reassure yourself that you can eat again when you are hungry.

Ideally, you will fill up on the real food first so that you body’s natural weight regulation system will kick in and regulate your weight to the ideal weight.  The problem comes when we eat the “hunger carbs.”  These are the carbs that our body immediately turns into sugar like bread (even whole wheat), pizza, pasta, crackers, processed foods, desserts, etc.

The more “hunger carbs” we eat, the hungrier we will be.  This results in high insulin levels that completely override all of our body’s natural weight regulation system.

If you love bread, like me, try switching to Ezekiel bread, which has no flour and is very high in protein and fiber.  As this bread is not rapidly converted to sugar, like traditional whole wheat or multi grain breads, it is considered a “filling carb.” Even our kids like Ezekiel bread.  It makes great French toast and sandwiches (especially when toasted).  We also enjoy Ezekiel buns, cereals, and pastas.

Step 3: Real Food First with Snacks

If you are hungry between meals then the Real Food First Diet allows you to snack as long as you snack on real food first. We find that if you are eating real foods first, most people do not get hungry between meals.  If you do, have a vegetable, healthy fat, or healthy protein first.

Like with mealtime, if your body tells you that you are still hungry after a vegetable, healthy fat, or healthy protein, then you can eat what you need.  Once again, give your brain 20-30 minutes to get the message you are full.  No foods are restricted or forbidden once you have had real food first.

Immediate Weight Loss

Depending on your previous diet and how overweight you are, you could lose anywhere from 5-20 pounds in your first 10 days by eating real food first.  While this is primarily water weight from the simple carbs or “hunger carbs” (bread, pasta, sports drinks, sodas, pastries, crackers, processed foods, etc.), it is still exciting to see the weight drop so fast at first.

After this initial weight loss, most of my patients see a gradual one to two pound weight loss each week when they eat real food first in conjunction with regular daily exercise (30 minutes if moderate intensity/15 minutes if high intensity) and 10,000 steps daily.

With most diets, people quickly gain back all of the weight, and then some, with eating real food first this is not the case.  This is a lifestyle change.  There is no specific “diet” or meal plan.  Just eat real food first and if your body tells you that you are still hungry after the real food then you can eat what you need.  There is no hunger.  There is no deprivation.

Reclaim Your Energy

In addition to the rapid weight loss in week number one, the biggest thing my patients notice is how much better they feel.  Suddenly, it was as if some one gave them all of their energy back.

Rather than just sitting and feeling tired they suddenly wanted to get up and start doing something.  Many of my patients have told me that they have not felt this good and energetic in years.

Yes, real foods give us energy.  If we can get rid of the energy draining “hunger carbs” or the “disease carbs” and replace them with the “filling” or “healthy” carbs, we can have as much energy as we had when we were kids.

Make Real Food First a Habit!

We have found that with every new habit, tracking our progress is one of the most important things for success.  To help you put Real Food First and reclaim your health and energy now, please sign up for Dr. Day’s free Healthy Habit Tracker App on the resource page of our website.

By signing up for this program, you will get a daily email reminding you to record your progress for the day.  You can even earn “medals” for the number of days you consistently fill out the form.  It is never too late to change!

How about you?  How do you put real foods first?  Have you found success in reaching and maintaining your ideal weight with real foods? Please help others by sharing your questions and experiences here. You can leave a comment by clicking here.

#002 Does it Matter What Time of the Day We Eat?

May 18th, 2014 by

Does it really matter what time of the day we eat? At the end of the day it is all about the total number of calories taken in, right?

My philosophy in the past was a calorie is a calorie. I remember as a teenager or even in college sometimes eating a whole pizza right before bed. I was hungry so I ate right before bed. A calorie is a calorie, right?

Wrong! The timing of when we eat really does matter. Even if we eat the same number of calories, depending on what time of the day they are consumed can help to determine whether we are able to maintain a normal weight or become obese.

Eating Time of the Day Study

In a recent issue of the prestigious heart medical journal, Circulation researchers from Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital report their findings on nearly 27,000 American men from the Heath Professionals Follow-Up Study. At the beginning of this study, none of these men had coronary heart disease, however, after 16 years of follow-up, 1,527 of them developed coronary heart disease. Coronary heart disease is where the arteries feeding blood to the heart become plugged up with plaque and put people at risk of a heart attack or even a cardiac arrest.

In this study, the researchers asked the question as to whether or not these men skipped breakfast or ate late at night had any impact on their development of coronary heart disease or not. Interestingly, 13% of the men routinely “skipped” breakfast and 1% reported eating late at night. When they looked at the risk of coronary heart disease, those men that skipped breakfast were 27% more likely to develop coronary heart disease and 55% of those who ate late at night were more likely to develop coronary heart disease.

How do we explain these findings?

Paradoxically, many studies have shown that those people who skip breakfast are much more likely to become obese. In addition to carrying extra weight, skipping breakfast has also been shown to affect insulin and lipid metabolism which likely also leads to increased plaque build up in the arteries of the heart. Likewise, eating late at night also had a deleterious effect on the heart. Our body’s metabolism is highest in the morning and lowest just before bed. Thus, consuming calories earlier in the day with steady meals seems, in harmony with natural body rhythms, seems to optimize the way our bodies burn fuel.

The common saying, “eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper” really is true. This study, along with many others, have all shown the same thing. Breakfast is important and should not be skipped. Earlier dinners are best and we should not eat after finishing dinner. Taking these simple steps not only lowers our risk of heart disease but also helps us to maintain a normal weight and avoid obesity.

My Simple Two Suggestions:

1. Never Skip Breakfast

This is the most important meal of the day. Get your body’s metabolism working properly from the start. Get your calories in while your metabolism is at its highest.

2. Don’t Eat or Drink After 7 pm

Your body does not know what to do with calories right before bed other than just store them as fat. You will sleep much better without a full stomach. Also, if you are not drinking right before bed you are more likely to make it through the night without having to get up to use the bathroom. A proper night’s sleep is also critical in optimizing your body’s metabolism.

A calorie consumed at 7 am is much more likely to be burned than a calorie at 9 pm. A calorie is not a calorie with regards to your body’s metabolism.

What about you? Do you ever skip breakfast or eat late at night? You can leave a comment by clicking here.