Comprehensive Care for Anxiety: The Role of Diet

anxiety

What you eat can influence anxiety symptoms. Credit: Food and Nutrition Magazine

Reaching into the mailbox to find the latest Food and Nutrition magazine at my fingertips is always a special treat. I can’t wait to cuddle up on the couch and dive into the fascinating articles on hot nutrition topics or salivate over delectable recipes. That’s why I am over-the-moon thrilled to share with you my first contribution to the Food and Nutrition blog, Stone Soup, on a topic that affects many people, myself included: anxiety.

Diet is the first line of treatment for many physical health conditions, and with good reason. There exists an extensive body of scientific literature supporting the connection between what we eat and our physical health. But can diet affect mental health?

Mental health disorders or diseases, including anxiety disorders, come in a variety of forms and are thought of mainly as biochemically based or emotionally rooted conditions that can’t be affected by diet. Although this may be true in most cases, these can manifest debilitating physical symptoms — increased heart rate, stomach discomfort, stiff jaw, and muscle tension — exemplifying the undeniable link between mind and body.

Forty million Americans are diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. For many, the care plan is limited to psychotherapy, medication or both. However, advances in nutritional neuroscience suggest that what we eat (and what we don’t eat) can influence the onset, occurrence and severity of anxiety symptoms in meaningfully significant ways.

While a majority of the population suffers from nutritional inadequacies, those with mental health conditions are often exceptionally deficient, bringing into question whether or not specific nutrients may contribute to an effective treatment plan for those with anxiety disorders.

To find out which nutrients you should include in your diet to decrease occurrence of anxiety symptoms, continue reading this article on the Food and Nutrition blog, Stone Soup.

6 Health Food Myths Debunked

Don't fall victim to health food myths. Credit: Stiftelsen Elektronikkbransjen

Don’t fall victim to health food myths. Credit: Stiftelsen Elektronikkbransjen

Do you ever feel confused about what you should eat to be healthy or to drop a few pounds? With so much misinformation on the Internet and passed on by self-professed experts, it can be hard to decipher fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition. In my first published article on Verily, I debunk six of the most trendy health food myths.

 

“Oh, I don’t eat carrots,” she said to me. “They’re starchy carbohydrates, and I heard they will make me gain weight.”

I looked down at the floor and cleared my throat to hide the grin and laughter bubbling up from my stomach. It wasn’t professional to laugh at a client during a nutritional counseling session.

Was she serious? This seemingly intelligent middle-aged woman really thought eating carrots would derail her weight-loss goals?

Unfortunately, she’s not a unique case. Too many people fall victim to diet myths that lack any scientific evidence to back them up. Some of these myths become so pervasive that some enterprising person even turns them into cringe-worthy diet trends.

It’s hard to place blame on the average consumer for believing in diet myths because of the suffocating amount of misinformation on the Internet. A tiny spark of fallacy can transform into a wildfire of lies in a matter of minutes. Before you know it, “low carb” dieters are turning down nutrient-rich carrots because their friend’s blog said they’re “bad.”

In an effort to help people make truly healthy choices, I’ve tackled six of the myths-turned-diet trends that dietitians hate most. 

To find out what they are, click here.

No-Bake Pistachio Date Brownies

Pistachio date brownies

Everyone has experienced a case of an unwavering sweet tooth, and I am no exception. In fact, I usually treat myself to something sweet every day.

Choosing a treat rich in flavor and texture is key to satisfying your craving in just a few bites: the first bite to see if it’s any good, the second bite to confirm that it’s good, and the third bite to say goodbye!

It only takes a small square of a rich No-Bake Pistachio Date Brownie to curb my cravings. Sweet dates create a dense texture while pistachios and shredded coconut add a satisfying crunch. Cocoa powder is the essential ingredient for a chocolate brownie-like taste.

And the best part–they’re so easy to make!

Ingredients (makes 2 dozen bite-sized servings)

  • 2 cups of pistachios (or other favorite nut such as walnuts and pecans)
  • 1 cup of dates, pitted and chopped
  • ¼ cup coconut oil
  • ½ cup unsweetened shredded coconut
  • ½ cup of cacao powder
  • Agave nectar or honey to sweeten
  • Protein powder (optional)

Directions

Pulse dry ingredients in food processor. Add wet ingredients and blend well until “dough” forms. Press into 9X11 or choice of baking pan, and put in fridge for 3-4 hours. Pistachio Date Brownies are best when eaten cold.

Nutrition per treat: 113 calories, 11 grams carb, 3 grams fiber, 3 grams protein, 7 grams fat

Note: I’d like to send a special thank you to my coworker who introduced me to these delectable treats! Thanks, Sara!

 

Benefits of Coffee Addiction

images-3

If coffee is your addiction, it’s a good one to have.

As I sit in the airport sipping my venti-iced-skinny-vanilla-latte, I’m reminded of a conversation I had recently with college girlfriends at Starbucks the week prior.

“Sometimes I have two cups of coffee in one day,” one said with a tone of guilt and embarrassment.

“I’m trying to switch to tea instead of coffee,” added another, going on to say she dislikes feeling “dependent” on the drug-like liquid. “I hate waking up feeling like I need coffee to function. If I don’t have time in the morning, I find a way to sneak out of work to get my fix.”

I chimed in saying proudly that I drink two cups of coffee daily, one on my way into work and the other after lunch. They looked at me—the never-eat-anything-unhealthy nutritionist—in shock. Wasn’t coffee a harmful beverage packed with addictive caffeine?

My theory: If coffee is your addiction, it’s a good one to have.

While excessive intake of caffeine can be harmful (as we’ve seen with teens chugging multiple caffeine-filled energy drinks usually accompanied with alcohol), a cup of coffee has on average 90 milligrams of caffeine. That’s a far cry from the 250 milligrams in some energy beverages.

Beat the brain drain

Caffeine has substantial scientific literature supporting its ability to improve cognitive performance including increased focus and alertness (1). It temporarily blocks the fatigue-inducing neurotansmitter, adenosine, in the brain so you can function optimally. Studies in everyone from athletes to nurses have shown caffeine can improve mental performance.

Caffeine has also been linked to improved memory. A recent study done at Johns Hopkins University found that caffeine enhances certain memories for at least up to 24 hours (2). But its brain health support isn’t just for short-term benefits. Studies also show better cognitive function in older adults who are regular coffee drinkers (3).

Fight free radicals

Coffee beans contain polyphenols—plant compounds that act as antioxidants to neutralize the damaging effects of free radicals, a result of exposure to factors like ultra-violet rays, poor diet, pollution, and cigarette smoke. Polyphenols help protect the body and may play a part in the prevention of chronic diseases such as cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.

While many foods and beverages provide polyphenols (including fruits, vegetables, red wine, and chocolate), coffee stands out as one of the richest sources with almost four times the antioxidant content of its greatest beverage competitor, tea (4).

Before you go running to the coffee shop down the street because a dietitian said coffee is good for you, it’s important to note that coffee loses it’s health benefits when it’s diluted with full-fat milk, doused with sugar-laden sweeteners, and topped with a generous dollop of whipped cream. Some drink concoctions on coffee shop menus can run upwards of 500 calories with 30 grams of sugar. This type of coffee addiction can cause damage in the form of an expanding waistline.

The bottom line: there are far worse concerns than a coffee addiction—such as realizing you subconsciously sipped your coffee drink dry while writing an article. Time to get another “fix” before my flight. Cheers.

References

1. Smith A. Effects of caffeine on human behavior. Food Chem Toxicol, 2002;40(9):1243-55.

2. Borota D, Murray E, Keceli G et al. Post-study caffeine administration enhances memory consolidation in humans. Nature Neuroscience, 2014;17:201-3.

3. Vercambre MN, Berr C, Ritchie K et al. Caffeine and cognitive decline in elderly women at high vascular risk. J Alzheimers Dis, 2013;35(2):413-21.

4. Perez-Jimenez J, Nevey V, Vos F et al. Identification of the 100 richest dietary sources of polyphenols: an application of Phenol-Explorer Database. Eur J Clin Nutr, 2010;64(3):S112-120.

Hold The Gluten

Gluten-free labels don't equate to healthy foods.

Gluten-free labels on foods doesn’t mean they are healthy.

In the 1960s, the link between saturated fats and heart disease resulted in a low-fat diet craze with a corresponding spike in carbohydrate consumption. Although originally introduced in the 1970s, the Atkins diet hit its peak at the end of the century, telling people to put down bread and pick up bacon. Today, the gluten-free diet—which focuses on avoiding foods that contain the grain protein—has taken the diet community by storm.

Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and spelt, making most bread, pasta and tortillas off limits for gluten-free dieters. Because of gluten’s stabilizing characteristic (meaning it helps hold food products together), it’s also found in unexpected foods—soy sauce, salad dressings, and beer, to name a few. Although more and more gluten-free products are a popping up on grocery store shelves, it can be hard to completely avoid gluten in your diet.

Celiac disease and gluten sensitivity

For people with celiac disease, avoiding gluten is not a choice; it’s a necessity. Celiac disease is a serious autoimmune disorder that effects about 1 percent of the population (1). If a person with celiac disease eats gluten, the body sees it as a foreign invader and attacks, resulting in a destroyed intestinal tract and decreased absorption of essential nutrients. A range of symptoms can arise from the disease including digestive problems, migraines, rashes, fatigue, ulcers, and muscle cramps.

This array of symptoms can make diagnosis of celiac disease difficult. Additionally, antibody testing or genetic testing results can suggest the prevalence of celiac disease, but cannot confirm it. If the screening tests come back positive, an invasive biopsy of the small intestine is need to diagnose a patient.

Because symptoms are not black and white, many people with celiac disease undergo years of discomfort and illness before being diagnosed. In fact, the University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center estimates that 97 percent of people with symptoms don’t know they have the disease (2). Additionally, some people may have gluten sensitivity, meaning they have negative reactions when they eat gluten—bloating, constipation, headaches, and joint pain—but don’t test positive for celiac disease or a wheat allergy.

Cut gluten to lose weight

While a gluten-free diet is very effective for those with celiac disease or gluten sensitivities, it has turned into a fad weight-loss diet. A survey found that 30 percent of adults find a gluten-free diet appealing because it’s considered to be “healthy” (3).

Similar to the low-fat diet craze or the Adkin’s diet revolution, the gluten-free diet acts as an elimination diet. If you cut out a large portion of foods that you commonly consume—whether that be carbohydrates, fats, or foods with gluten—you are likely to lose weight.

Think of it this way: You’re at a work potluck and avoiding all things gluten. The pasta dish with Italian sausage and mozzarella cheese is off limits. Don’t even reach for one of Susie’s famous butter-baked rolls. Keep walking past the gluten-filled cake topped with frosting.

By avoiding these foods that you would normally indulge in, you’re cutting back on calories consumed, which supports weight loss.

The ideal situation would be for you to replace foods with gluten (plus excess fat, sodium, and sugar) with healthier options—fresh fruits and vegetables, lean meats, and healthy fats. Unfortunately, that’s usually not the case.

Even special gluten-free foods you find at the grocery store have added fat to make up for flavor and texture and many times are higher in calories than version with gluten. Food companies are cashing in on the gluten-free hype by slapping GF labels on foods like cookies, chips, and candy. A gluten-free label doesn’t always equate to healthy.

Should you go gluten-free?

With so many undiagnosed people with gluten sensitivities or celiac disease, should you go gluten-free? If you experience extreme symptoms like those mentioned above, it may be worth it to do a little trial and error. Commit to cutting out gluten for a week and see how you feel. (Remember celiac disease only affects 1 percent of healthy people or 1 out of 133 people.)

But beware of the placebo effect—assuming that the intervention is effective when it’s really just in your head. Many times taking control of your diet (and possibly experiencing weight loss) can make you feel like the gluten in your diet was holding you back. If your positive improvements are the result of a placebo effect, it’s likely that your commitment to gluten-free will dwindle away because the benefit isn’t worth the difficulty of the lifestyle change.

If you continue with the gluten-free lifestyle, experience drastic improvements in how you feel, and think you may have an intolerance or sensitivity to gluten, visit your doctor and get the appropriate testing.

Just remember, going gluten-free isn’t as easy as it sounds, doesn’t always mean weight loss, and cuts out a lot of options at your work potluck.

References

  1. Rubio-Tapia A, Ludvigsson JF, Brantner TL, et al. The prevalence of celiac disease in the United States. Am J Gastoenterol 2012; 107(10):1158-44.
  2. University of Chicago Celiac Disease Center. Facts and Figures: http://www.uchospitals.edu/pdf/uch_007937.pdf
  3. NPD Group. Percentage of US adults trying to cut down or avoid gluten in their diets reaches new high in 2013, reports NPD. 2013. https://www.npd.com/wps/portal/npd/us/news/press-releases/percentage-of-us-adults-trying-to-cut-down-or-avoid-gluten-in-their-diets-reaches-new-high-in-2013-reports-npd/

Pros and Cons of Paleo

meat

The Paleo diet encourages high meat intake but eliminates grains and dairy. Credit: Flicker

The world was a different place 2.6 million years ago. Nomads roamed the earth in small groups, constantly on the hunt for their next meal. Men used stones, sticks, and bones as hunting tools while women and children gathered nuts and berries. They lived in huts, created cave paintings, and used open fire to cook. Hunger, disease, and injury were among the leading causes of death and most didn’t live long enough to celebrate their 30th birthday.

Not quite the same lifestyle most of us live today, right? So why would eating a diet similar to those who lived in the Paleolithic era be the answer to health?

The founder of the Paleo movement, Loren Cordain, Ph.D., states on his website that the Paleo diet is “based upon the fundamental concept that the optimal diet is the one to which we are genetically adapted”. Others who profess the benefits of eating Paleo take it a step further and claim that the diseases we see today–heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and obesity–are all do to the fact that we have strayed from the diet of our ancesters.

But are human beings genetically identical to the nomads of the Paleo times? In short, no. Our bodies are much different. It’s a simple application of Darwin’s evolution theory: “survival of the fittest”. Certain traits that have benefited survival, such as the ability to easily digest starches or to resist malaria or survive at higher altitudes, contributed to the evolution of human beings.

Still, people are carving through red meat at every meal, eating globs of coconut oil, and swearing off green beans with the hope of getting that caveman body. It’s pretty easy as a dietitian to toss the Paleo Diet into the too-good-to-be-true fad diet pile. But with so many people swearing by its benefits, I thought I would dive into it a bit more and examine the pros and cons of eating Paleo.

Pros

  • Focuses on whole, minimally processed foods. If following the Paleo diet is going to get you off your Hostess Twinkie addiction, then maybe it’s the diet for you. It’s true that most American diets are highly processed and too high in sodium and sugar. According to the CDC, the average American adult consumes over 3,400 milligrams of sodium daily. That’s a lot more than the recommended 1500-2300 milligrams. Additionally, added sugar intake has increased over the last decade and is estimate to make up 10 percent of calorie intake (1). Eating whole, fresh foods as encouraged by the Paleo diet is going to undoubtably improve your health.
  • Encourages eating protein throughout the day. If you want to lose weight, eat more protein. If you want to build muscle, eat more protein. If you want to break a weight loss plateau, eat more protein. If you want to preserve muscle as you age, eat more protein. Getting quality protein throughout the day supports muscle tissue growth which stimulates metabolism and supports fat burn (2). Additionally, it keeps you fuller longer so you aren’t tempted to overindulge at mealtime. Lean proteins such as chicken, trimmed red meats, and fish are the way to go. (Dairy products are also a great way to get quality protein at every meal, but that’s not allowed on the Paleo Diet. More on this below.)
  • Spotlights health and the importance of nutrition. Fad diets can usually do more harm than good. However, I do see benefit in encouraging people to take a look at their diet and lifestyle and make changes for the better. If you think of the Paleo diet merely as a set of guidelines rather than rules, then it could help you lose weight and improve your health.

Cons

  • Meat overload. My friends that have tried the Paleo diet enjoy the freedom to eat a plump chicken breast, savory sausage link, or monstrous steak at every meal. But the fact is that meals like this may have only occurred once or twice a month for a Paleo person. Most days, meat commonly consisted of eating bugs, lizards, small fish, or snails. (There would probably be a lot less people following the diet if that was on the menu!) While recent evidence shows that saturated fat found in meats is not as bad as we once thought for cardiovascular health (3), it’s still calorie dense. Additionally, study after study supports a mostly plant-based diet as the key to longevity (4).
  • Dairy is a big no-no. This one kills me. There are so many health benefits to including dairy in your diet, everything from heart health to weight management. However, because the Paleo peoples didn’t eat dairy, it’s on the banned list. An important argument to address here is that humans have evolved to tolerate dairy (5). While some many have lactose intolerance or milk allergies (although rare), many people can not only tolerate dairy but can truly benefit from it’s protein and calcium content.
  • Grains, beans, and legumes are not allowed. While I do see benefit in limiting the amount of processed grains, eliminating qunioa, buckwheat, amaranth and other hearty gain sources may take it too far. Whole grains provide health amounts of fiber and provide the body with a low-glycemic source of energy. Additionally, legumes such as beans, peas and lentils supply the body with much-needed nutrients such as potassium, folate, iron, and magnesium.
  • It’s difficult to adhere to. It’s impossible to eat exactly as our ancestors ate. Just as the human body had evolved, so has food. The meat from the butcher is not the same as the meat on wild animals millions of years ago (6). It was likely much leaner with the fat content providing around 10 percent of calories or lower. Additionally, fruits and vegetables are not the same. They have been harvested over centuries and selected based on those that had desirable traits such as the ability to grow under harsh climates.

While I disagree with the elimination of dairy and grains, the foundation of the Paleo diet–eating fruits and vegetables, emphasizing the importance of protein, and reducing the amount of processed foods–is sound nutritional advice. By following these principles and exercising daily, you’ll have the body of a caveman in no time.

References

  1. Yang Q, Zhang Z, Gregg EW, et al. Added sugar intake and cardiovascular diseases mortality among US adults. JAMA 2014. doi: 10.1001/jamainteranmed.2013.13563
  2. Mamerow MM, Mettler JA, English KL, et al. Dietary protein distribution positively influences 24-h muscle protein synthesis in healthy adults. J Nutr 2014. doi: 10.3945/jn.113.185280
  3. Chowdhury R, Warnakula S, Kunutsor S, et al. Association of dietary, circulating, and supplement fatty acids with coronary risk: A systemic review and meta-analysis. Ann Intern Med 2014;160(6):398-406. doi: 10.7326/M13-1788.
  4. Orlich MJ, Singh PN, Sabate J, et al. Vegetarian dietary patterns and mortality in adventist health study 2. JAMA 2013;173(13):1230-1238. doi: 10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.6473
  5. Hollox, E. Evolutionary genetics: Genetics of lactase persistence – fresh lessons in the history of milk drinking. European Journal of Human Genetics 20o5;13:267-269. doi: 10.1038/sj/ejhg.5201297.
  6. Eaton SB, Eaton SB 3rd, Konner MJ. Paleolithic nutrition revisited: a twelve-year retrospect on its nature and implications. Eur J Clin Nutr 1997;52(4):207-8.

You may also like…

How much protein should I be eating?

A Nutritionist’s Workout Routine

To be Vegetarian, or not to be?

Morning Habit to Drop Pounds

5992

It’s hard to beat this easy, delicious breakfast recipe.

We all know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but let’s be real–most of us would rather sleep in for an extra ten minutes rather than scramble up eggs before heading out the door. In fact, a survey conducted by the NDP group found that one out of ten adults or 31 million Americans are “breakfast skippers.” Young adults are more likely to skip breakfast with 40% of people aged 18 to 34 years reporting they don’t eat in the morning. That number drops down to 20% for adults over age 55. The surprising fact was that the majority of people reported they would like to be breakfast eaters. So why don’t they do it?

One of the biggest obstacles is time. With busy lives and demanding careers, it can seem impossible to carve out a few minutes in the morning to eat. The best way to get over this hurdle is to have meals that are quick and easy or that you can grab on-the-go. (See below for a delicious and easy overnight oatmeal recipe!)

Not only will eating breakfast give you a healthy dose of energy in the mooring, but it has been shown to support long-term weight loss and weight management goals. There are a couple reasons why eating breakfast can help with weight loss:

  • Breakfast can reduce cravings later in the day (1). Eating within the first hour of waking up, especially foods with protein, has been shown to increase levels of satiety and decrease cravings later in the day.
  • Breakfast can jump-start your metabolism (2). When you wake up, your body is running on empty. Providing it with the right kind of fuel can stimulate your metabolism.

Ready to make breakfast a priority? Try this overnight, no-cook refrigerator oatmeal recipe from The Yummy Life.

Ingredients:

  • 1 mason jar or container with a lid
  • 1/2 cup of oats
  • 1/2 cup milk (Any kind of milk works, but I enjoyed it with almond milk.)
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1 tablespoon of chia seeds
  • Sweeten to taste with vanilla extract, honey, agave hector, stevia, etc. (optional)
  • 1/3 cup of fruit (Examples: blueberries, strawberries, banana, mango, pineapple)

Directions:

In a mason jar, combine oats, milk, Greek yogurt, chia seeds, and sweetener. Shake jar. Then add in fruit and stir with spoon. Place lid on jar and put in the fridge overnight. Enjoy within 2 to 3 days.

References

  1. Leidy HJ, Ortinau LC, Douglas SM, Hoertel HA. Beneficial effects of a higher-protein breakfast on the appetitive, hormonal, and neural signals controlling energy intake regulation in overweight/obese, “breakfast-skipping,” late-adolescent girls. Am J Clin Nutr 2013;97:677-88.
  2. Astbury et al. Breakfast consumption affects appetite, energy intake, and the metabolic and endocrine responses to foods consumed later in the day in male habitual breakfast eaters. Journal of Nutrition, 2011 Oct;5(5):455-63.

You May Also Like:

Navigating the Grocery Store: The Cereal Aisle

To be vegetarian, or not to be?

Kitchen Gadgets Galore

When Exercise Makes You Fat

1342142904896_9575355

Just because you hit up the gym doesn’t mean you can hit up the cookie jar.

In just a few weeks I will be able to check off a bucket list item: complete a half marathon. I was encouraged to sign up by a coworker and have been hitting the pavement for long runs on the weekends. On days when I really push it, I feel like I deserve to reward myself with a delicious meal. I burned calories running so I can enjoy a burger and fries, right? Wrong.

While serious athletes such as marathon runners require additional calories to refuel and rebuild throughout the day and especially after a workout, it can be easy to fall into the “now I can eat whatever I want” mode and overdo it. This, of course, leads to stalled or decreased performance and could even result in increase fat mass.

There are a few things you can do to make sure you are supplying your body with the additional nutrition is needs without taking it too far:

1. Choose the right kinds of foods to add to your daily routine as training increases.

Because endurance athletes engage in low to moderate intensity exercise over a long duration, they rely largely on the glycogen (or stored glucose) within muscles to produce energy. That’s often why higher carbohydrate diets are touted for endurance athletes–it helps replace glycogen in the muscles. By including fruit, vegetables, and grains, you can provide your body with the carbohydrates it needs. Optimal amounts of high-quality protein (such as whey protein) are also important to repair muscle that becomes damaged from the prolonged bouts of training. Shoot for about 30 grams of protein per meal.

2. Be realistic about the amount of additional calories you need.

Just because you ran for 30 minutes doesn’t mean you can scarf down two pieces of pizza and a soda guilt-free. If you are casually jogging on a flat surface without much of an increase in heart rate, you aren’t going to be burning the hundreds of calories you think you are.

3. Listen to your body, not your mind.

Are you really hungry or does that maple-frosted donut just sound good? Our bodies are amazing creatures and have all the mechanisms in place to let us know when it needs sustenance. Unfortunately, many times we let our brains can take over and we eat to satisfy a craving rather than our hunger. Listen to your body and grab food when your body is really asking for it.

Serious endurance athletes need to provide their bodies with adequate nutrition, but remember that it doesn’t give you a get-out-of-jail-free card. You still need to eat healthy, balanced meals and plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables. Don’t let exercise make you fat.

Resource

Hulmi JJ et al. Effect of protein/essential amino acids and resistance training on skeletal muscle hypertrophy: A case for whey protein. Nutr Metab (Lond). 2010 Jun 17;7:51.

You may also like:

How much protein should I be eating?

A Nutritionist’s Workout Routine

Easy Workout For Busy People

Healthy Dinner Ideas

A Tasty Night at the Queen Creek Olive Mill

IMG_2907

Olive oil tasting at the Queen Creek Olive Mill

The science behind producing quality olive oil is more than you may think. Everything from the type of olive tree to the time the olives are harvested can influence the taste and quality of oil that is produced.

Cactus Section of Institute of Food Technologists (a club that I am a member of) teamed up with Master Taster, Sommelier, and owner of the Queen Creek Olive Mill, Perry Rea, for an event to learn about the olive oil production process. For more than a decade, Perry and his team has been experimenting with different varieties of olive trees in order to find which ones grow best in Arizona. Currently, the Queen Creek grove is home to 16 different olive trees.

Olive trees grow buds in March and blossom in mid-April. If just four percent of the tiny flowers become olives, it’s a big crop. By May, olives have formed on the trees and they are harvested in the Fall.

The exact time that the olives are harvested significantly effects their taste profile. If they are picked when they are in their green, ripe stage, they will have a grassy, bitter, and peppery taste. Olives that are picked when they are purple in color have a buttery, fruity to flat taste that does not keep well. According to Perry, deciding when to harvest is a key factor in deciding the style of oil they want to produce.

Once the olives are harvested, they are pressed within 24 hours using mechanical machines to extract the oil without the use of heat or solvents, hence the term “cold pressed”. For some of the flavored oils, additional ingredients (such as oranges or lemons) are included in the mixing process to infuse the oil. After the olives have been pressed into a paste and the oil extracted, the oil enters a scientifically designed centrifugal decanter that spins at a high rate which removes any remaining water or debris.  Finally, the oil is transferred to oxygen-free, stainless steel tanks where it is kept fresh and bottled as needed.

After the educational presentation by Perry at the Olive Mill, he guided us through an olive oil taste test. Our taste buds confirmed that Queen Creek Olive Mill truly produces some of the best oils in the world. From bacon to blood orange, every olive oil is sure to make your mouth water.

You may also like:

Healthy Holiday Hors d’Oeuvre: Olive Tempenade

Easy Workout For Busy People

Savory Stuffed Peppers

Staple Items in a Nutritionist’s Fridge

A Nutritionist’s Workout Routine

HIIT

When it comes to staying fit and healthy, I’m all about quick, high-intensity workouts. You will never find me at the gym casually strolling on an elliptical for 60 minutes. Not only is that boring, it’s neither efficient nor effective for burning fat or stimulating muscle growth.

Instead, I am a huge fan of high-intensity interval training (HIIT), which involves quick bursts of energy expenditure (30 seconds to 2 minutes) followed by a rest period (30 seconds to 1 minute). The high intensity intervals get you sweating and your heart pumping in a short amount of time. That’s the best part–there’s no need for a 60 minute workout. For example, instead of going on a 4 mile run, I’d rather jog over to the park and do 10 sprints up the hill followed by a cool down. In just 30 minutes of HIIT, I feel accomplished and satisfied.

There’s a lot of research supporting HIIT for weight loss. In a recent study with over 4,000 subjects, researchers found that intensity of a workout mattered more than how long they exercised. Those who worked out at a higher intensity had a lower risk of obesity whether it was performed in sessions shorter or longer than 10 minutes.

Many of the latest workout videos are based on HIIT (think P90X or Insanity). While I enjoy going to the gym, there are hectic days when I can’t even afford the 10 minute drive and, instead, a quick video workout gets the job done. I personally like the Insanity DVDs. In fact, when I traveled for a work conference last month, I took the DVDs along with me and did the workouts in my hotel room.

Another great resource for workout routines can be found in health and wellness magazines (Women’s Health, Shape, etc). I actually keep a folder of tear-outs from magazines and randomly choose one to do at the gym–or for a morning workout, in my living room. These routines usually offer exercises that I have never tried before so I end up working new muscles and always feel it the next day.

For me, working out is more than just about staying in shape–it’s a stress reliever. For that reason, I also enjoy walking my dog or doing yoga, activities where you can let your mind relax. For a fantastic resource, try doyogawithme.com where you can watch free yoga and pilates videos. (I really enjoy the teacher Kim Wilson because most of her classes are around 20 minutes.)

Overall, I don’t stress about how long I workout. I focus more on how it makes me feel. My goal is 3, 3, 1–three days of cardio (running/spin class), three days of resistance training (weights at the gym), and one day of balance (yoga/pilates) per week. Many times those workouts mix together, say if I take my dog for a run and then do 15 minutes of yoga.

So, what’s the best workout? Whatever makes you feel refreshed, confident, and accomplished.

You may also like:

Navigating the Grocery Store: The Cereal Aisle

5 Tips for Ordering a Healthy Pizza

To-Die-For Vegetable Marinade