Archive for June, 2008

Coconut: Fattening Taboo or Miracle Food?

Coconut: Fattening Taboo or Miracle Food? There is nothing more delicious than fresh coconut. But, we are taught to believe that coconut is high in fat so we should avoid it. While coconuts are high in saturated fat, it is from a vegetable origin. The fat in coconut consists of medium-chain triglycerides that not only help reduce your risk of coronary artery disease and promote healthy circulation, but they also support optimal neurological functioning.

Coconut is also loaded with Omega- 3 fatty acids, which protect against heart disease, cancerous activity, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, PMS, allergies, water retention, rough or dry skin, and dull hair. Omega 3’s are helpful to brain function and have been known to ward off depression and improve ADHD in children.

Throw fresh shaved coconut over your yogurt or favorite cereal in the morning. Or, try one of my favorite bars, Jennies Omega-3 Energy Bars, which are not only delicious but are bursting with coconut and flax seeds and have 1305 mg of Omega 3’s! Jennies Omega-3 Energy Bars are sold per box of 18 for $2/bar and can be ordered through my store. For those who love coconut, Coconut Milk can be purchased by going directly It is heavenly on cereals or in smoothies!

Recipe for Chocolate Coconut Smoothie
Fresh coconut milk or vanilla rice milk
Unsweetened grated coconut
Unsweetened chocolate powder (Ghirardelli or Green & Black are good)
Flax seed oil (optional)
Bananas (optional)

Blend and serve. Delicious!

Metabolism: Just Why Can’t I Lose Any Weight?

Metabolism: Just Why Can’t I Lose Any Weight? When we think of the word metabolism, the usage that most often comes to mind is in the context of “she has a slow metabolism” and gains weight easily or “he has a fast metabolism” and can eat whatever he wants! This concept for why someone is under- or over- weight is one very small part of the bigger picture.Metabolism is actually the total of all chemical reactions in your body. These molecules, hormones, stomach, brain and fat cells all work together to regulate our weight and the rate of energy we expend. The energy we expend is basically the calories we burn. And, the calories that we burn determine whether we gain or lose fat cells and weight. For most people the average metabolic rate is ten times their weight. Therefore, if you weight 130 pounds, your resting metabolic rate would be 1,300 calories.
The bad news for those trying to lose weight is that the human body is designed to gain and keep weight on because our survival used to depend upon it! We lived thousands and thousands of years on the earth foraging for food when food was often scarce. The genes and molecules that control our eating were programmed to help us retain weight and maximize the energy in the food we consume. In translation, our body works to keep the weight on.

You cannot starve yourself and lose weight. In dealing with my clients one of the things I hear most is “I don’t eat that much so why do I weigh as much as I do?” The “accepted” notion has been that we should eat less and exercise more. However, when we starve ourselves and go on calorie-restrictive diets, we actually simulate what we would feel if we could actually not find food. Our body doesn’t know that we want to lose weight- it just thinks “help”, I need to conserve calories. When your body conserves energy and burns calories slowly you end up with what is considered as a “slow metabolism.” Additionally, when you starve yourself, you lose fat and muscle! Muscle burns 70 times more calories than fat. So, if you lose muscle, then your body will actually require fewer calories to maintain its weight and again you will slow down your metabolism making it harder for you to keep off weight. Basically, this means you will need to eat fewer calories to maintain your current body weight. And, this leads to a vicious cycle where we try to eat less and less to weight less but end up packing on the pounds! This leads to my next point.
Try to eat every three hours throughout the day. It is better to eat small meals throughout the day than to eat three big meals if you want to rev up your metabolism and lose weight. Again, this is tied to the concept of insulin levels,which will be discussed at length later, and your body going into starvation mode, which results in weight gain. Does this mean graze throughout the day? No. What this means is have a smaller lunch and dinner and have small, planned out balanced “snacks” or mini-meals in between. Ideally, these snacks will have a protein component, which will also be discussed at length below. Never let yourself get ravenous and have your blood sugar levels drop or, again, your body will go into starvation mode and retain its calories.
Do not count calories! All calories are not created equal. The calories we consume from vegetables, proteins, fats and carbohydrates all absorb at different rates and have different amounts of fiber and nutrients and all have a different effect on our metabolism, therefore, our weight. Five hundred calories of fresh fruits or vegetables is not equivalent to five hundred calories of a Big Mac! My rule of thumb is that you should not count calories because what we focus and give attention to is what we obsess about and does not lead to weight loss or a healthy food outlook. A better approach is to integrate more vegetables and fruits into our diets and eat smaller portions of protein and carbohydrates.
Lay off the white bread and add complex carbohydrates to your diet. When we eat processed foods and simple carbohydrates like white bread or pasta, our blood sugar levels shoot up and excess levels of insulin are secreted to deal with it resulting in fat storage and weight gain. Storing fat requires more insulin production and any excess calories are then turned into fat. The same high levels of insulin that cause you to store fat will also block the release of any stored body fat for energy so it is nearly impossible to lose weight! Complex carbohydrates in their natural form contain essential nutrients and turn up your metabolism but the highly processed carbohydrates slow it down. Good carbs can be fruits, grains such as brown rice or quinoa, nuts, seeds and beans.

Consider the glycemic load. The glycemic load is an important concept to understand. Ideally, for maximum metabolism, we want to eat foods with a low-glycemic index. Basically this index measures the amount of time it takes for our bodies to break down food and have the sugar enter our blood. Foods with the lowest glycemic index break down the slowest, thus, releasing sugars into our blood more slowly. Low-glycemic foods include vegetables, fruits, beans, nuts, seeds, olive oil, whole grains, teas, herbs and spices. High-glycemic foods are flour, refined grains such as white rice and potatoes, sugar, processed food and junk food.

Make sure that you have protein in your diet throughout the day. This does not mean to have eggs, chicken or fish at every meal but be sure that each meal has some protein. This could mean some almond butter on your toast in the morning, a cup of yogurt, a handful of walnuts on your salad at lunch, or some tofu or quinoa at dinner. The hormone Glucagon in protein is called the “mobilization hormone” and has the opposite effect of insulin. Glucagon tells the body to release stored carbohydrates in the liver to replenish blood sugar levels for the brain. When we do not have adequate levels of glucagon, we are hungry and mentally fatigued because our blood sugars have fallen below the acceptable level.

Fat does not make you fat. In fact, eating healthy mono-saturated fats such as avocados, olive oil, nuts such as almonds, macadamias, walnuts and pecans, and Omega 3- fats such as flax seed oil actually help metabolize carbohydrates and control insulin levels therefore aid in weight loss. Have you ever wondered why the Italians serve their bread with olive oil or the French with butter? The hormone Eicosanoid called the “master hormone” helps control insulin levels by slowing down the release of sugar from carbohydrates into the bloodstream thereby decreasing the production of insulin. When you consume good fats they bind to the PPAR receptor (peroxisome proliferator activated receptor) and turn on genes that increase your metabolism, help you burn fat, and lower your sensitivity to insulin.

Eliminate sugar from your diet. When we eat too much sugar or simple or processed carbohydrates whose sugars are quickly absorbed, over time our body will develop insulin resistance. When you constantly have a high level of sugars in your blood, you develop tolerance to it and as a result your body does not respond normally to the hormone. Therefore, more insulin is produced in an attempt to overcome the resistance. Every time you eat the sugar your insulin levels go up, which make you want more and so goes the cycle. All the excess sugar is stored as fat. And, when we have more fat, then we burn calories slower> And, when we burn calories slower, we have a slower metabolism. Use honey or agave nectar instead.

Exercise. In addition to a change of diet, exercise is one of the most important things you can do to increase your metabolism! When we are working out for 20-30 minutes a day and raising our heart rate- whether we are biking, doing the stairmaster, running outside or practicing yoga- we are burning calories while we do this. There is an added benefit- this calorie burning continues long after you stop working out. So, not only do you burn calories while you are exercising, but you burn them after as well! In addition, working out creates muscle. And, as we stated in an earlier paragraph, muscle burns 70 times more calories than fat.

De-stress, slow down and get some sleep! Stress, exhaustion and lack of sleep lead to a slower metabolism whereas rest and taking care of yourself energetically can speed it up! Our nervous system plays a large role in our metabolisms. The sympathetic nervous system (”fight or flight”) inhibits weight loss since originally we would have wanted to save our energy and calories in an emergency situation. The parasympathetic (”rest and digest”) directs blood in our digestive tract, maintains heart rate and blood pressure, keeps the breathing rate normal and speeds up our metabolism.

Consider your body type and go easy on yourself! Some of us are born natural fast burners and have a fast metabolism and can eat whatever we want and not gain weight and others are slow burners and struggle all their lives with dieting and food. The fact that there are different types with different needs and cravings illustrates the point that no diet is right for everyone! There are no bad foods but we all metabolize food differently so we should all put different foods into our bodies.