Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Attn: Ladies! Coffee Drinking May Perk Up Your Morning And Your Mood

I love the warm, rich aroma of a strong cup of joe.  It alerts my senses in the morning and gives me that lil' boost when I need it. If you feel the same way, we are not alone! About four-fifths of the world population drink coffee daily. While the stimulatory affects of caffeine may be fleeting, the long term affects may be linked to elevated mood levels.  Research shows that caffeine enters the brain and signals the release of neurotransmitters related to mood like dopamine and serotonin. However, the long-term mechanisms on elevated mood levels are not quite fully understood.

A new study released in The Archives of Internal Medicine followed 51,000 women and tracked their caffeine consumption, depression risk factors, health, and lifestyle factors. Overall, the study showed that women who regularly drank coffee had a 20 percent lower risk for depression when compared to those who abstained from coffee. The issue is why? Well, researchers aren't very sure. I'm not saying up the cups of coffee if you want to boost your spirits - not just yet. Hopefully, research to understand and evaluate the relationship between women's mental health and caffeine consumption uncovers the truth to it's long-term affects in the body.  Even if research indicated a strong correlation between coffee consumption and lower risks of depression, I personally wouldn't recommend increasing your intake by 3 or 4 cups a day. Coping with mental health issues goes beyond using caffeine stimulants to self-medicate. Surrounding yourself with positive people to provide love and support along with balancing your mental, physical, and social life deems to be a more healthy route to happiness. Finding a strong, positive sense of self-worth and self-awareness trumps downing copious amounts of coffee to reap temporary benefits.

Moderate caffeine consumption is about 1 to 2 cups (8-16 ounces) of coffee per day - which is equivalent to about 250-300mg of caffeine. So for now, I'll continue to enjoy my morning soy latte or french roast and start my day with a smile :)

(Photo: Google)

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Is Your Running Shoe Overdue?

I stumbled upon an article in the New York Times today titled "You're Only as Old as You Run" that discussed the relationship between age and marathon running performance.  It sparked my interest because I'm currently working on an article for Teachers College Columbia University's newsletter The Grapevine on fitness tips to help you cross that marathon finish line without injuries.   For you runners out there, this could be a great way to check yourself before you wreck yourself! According to Koen Wilssens, who operates a chain of running shops called Runners Service Lab in Belgium, 50 to 60 percent of people are wearing the wrong running shoes.  Wearing the wrong type of shoe or wearing running shoes way past their expiration date can leading to serious injuries of the foot or knee.  For example, Plantar Fasciitis, inflammation of the plantar fascia do to stress to the medial arch of the foot can result in severe heel pain and will definitely put a damper in your training schedule.  This can be due to overuse injury or the common cause - not wearing proper shoes.  An orthotic insert in your shoe could help prevent this problem and further progress the injury and only costs about 20 bucks!

A good running shoe typically lasts about 300-500 miles.  If you are a serious runner and can't remember the last time you laced up a fresh pair of pumped up kicks - I suggest you take a trip down to your local running shop!  Fall marathon season training is well on it's way so make sure you take the necessary steps to prevent injury and run in style :)



(Photo: New York Times)

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Mindful Munching!

If you're like me and love snacking here are some mindful munching tips for everyone looking to boost their metabolism and nosh on some scrumptious snacks.  A healthy and balanced snack has carbohydrates, proteins, and fats to keep you satiated and hold you over till your next meal.  I just moved to Manhattan, New York a few weeks ago and I feel like I'm always on the go!  Sometimes squeezing in a quick snack before I trek the concrete jungle is just what I need...here are a few of my favorite munchies!

Banana & Almond Butter Toast
Spread 1 Tbsp of almond butter on a slice of whole wheat toast and slice 1/2 of a banana on top.  Banana & Almond butter toast is filled with fiber, protein, healthy fats, and potassium!  If you're craving something sweeter, drizzle a little honey and cinnamon on top! Delish :)

Greek Yogurt with Fresh Berries & Granola
Combine 1/2 cup of greek yogurt, a handful of fresh berries of your choice, and 1/4 cup of your favorite granola!  Greek yogurt is a great source of protein and calcium, combined with the antioxidants in berries, and the fiber from the granola this is one healthy triple threat treat!

Avocado & Tomato Toast
Slice 2 oz. of avocado on a slice of whole wheat toast, add some sliced heirloom tomatoes on top, and season with some lemon pepper! Avocado provides us with healthy monounsaturated fats which lower LDL cholesterol and helps to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.  Tomatoes provide us with Vitamin C to help immunity and lycopene, a phytochemical that acts as a natural SPF from the sun!

Mango-Berry Smoothie
Toss 3/4 cup frozen strawberries, 1/2 cup frozen mango chunks, 1/2 cup of unsweetened vanilla almond milk, 1/2 cup of orange juice, and 1 tsp. flax seed.  Mangos are an excellent source of Vitamin A and beta carotene which can be used in the body as an antioxidant.  They are also a good source of Vitamin C, Potassium, and Fiber!

Happy Snacking!

Yours in health,


(Photos: Pintrest.com)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

GLUTEN SHMUTEN...what's with all the hype!?

Nowadays it feels like you can't even step foot into a Trader Joe's without overhearing someone rave about gluten-free this and gluten-free that.  From breads, to snacks, to cookies, muffins, and bagels seems like everything at your local health foods store has a gluten-free option.  What markets fail to explain is why?  Gluten-free diets now have been marketed as "healthier" or "weight-loss" foods.  However, this is simply not true.  In fact, living a gluten-free lifestyle can have nutritional setbacks.  I encourage you all to have a critical eye on the nutrition media, because it may or may not be marketing hype! Here is some myth-busting info to think about: 

Gluten-free doesn't just mean that you give up bread and starches.  Gluten is in everything from bread and pasta, but also hides in many other foods, such as cold cuts, salad dressings, beer, and even licorice.  Basically, it is a very strict diet that is for the purpose of people with Celiac Disease and gluten intolerances.  Celiac Disease is an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine.  Gluten, a wheat protein, attacks the villi on the lining of the intestine and disturbs absorption.  The lining becomes inflamed and damaged which can cause gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort for Celiac patients.  If they can't absorb nutrients, then their body becomes malnourished.  Therefore, by adhering to a gluten-free diet, their villi can repair itself in a process that can take up to a year for normal absorption begin.  Ultimately, gluten is not "unhealthy", it is solely harmful to people with gluten intolerances like Celiac disease.

If you like the way a gluten-free product tastes, great! I personally love Nature's Path Gluten-Free Panda Puffs and Leapin' Lemurs cereals because they are chocolatey & peanut buttery goodness in a bowl!  Just remember that there is no research indicating that gluten-free diets have any magical powers.  Eat well, eat balanced, and eat colorful :)   
Yours in health,

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

I like to MOV IT MOV IT...I like to MOVE IT!

Hey Ladies & Gents!

So summer is beginning to come to a close. With more demanding work schedules and school schedules on the way, chances are so may your exercise routines!  I know it's NFL #gluedtothecouchsundays Season...GO CHARGERS...and y'all are busy ruminating about your Fantasy league drafts...GO CHARGERS...that doesn't give you a reason to disregard your physical and mental health! This post is going to be a number on staying MOTIVATED.  The key is to understand and appreciate WHY we exercise.  So go ahead and ask yourself..."Why do I exercise?"

If your answer resembled something along the lines of "to look good in the mirror or naked...duhhhh!" I strongly encourage you to dig a little deeper.  You might surprise yourself and learn that exercise affects much more than the way you look.  What about the way you feel? The way you behave? Your mood? Your social interactions? Your relationships? Exercise affects all of these things.  Here is the HOW:

The benefits of exercise for your MENTAL health is just as powerful if not more than for your physical health.  When you exercise, your body releases chemicals called endorphins.  Endorphins react with receptors in your brain to reduce your perception of pain.  Endorphins trigger your body with a positive feeling and energy similar to "euphoria".  For example, regular runners refer to this effect as "runner's high".  Neurotransmitters cause the release of endorphins in the brain and spinal cord which bind to the same neuron receptors that bind some pain medicines.  Regular exercisers experience elevated mood and self-esteem due to these chemical signals in the brain.

Regular exercise is proven to help:

  • reduce stress
  • improve sleep 
  • improve sex drive
  • reduce anxiety and depression
  • boost self-esteem
  • increase metabolism
  • increase cardiovascular fitness (strengthens your heart)
  • lowers blood pressure
  • strengthens bones
  • improves muscle tone and strength
These benefits are invaluable and are so important for maintaining a sound body and mind.  Personally, I love going for a long run on the beach, not because of the calories I burn, but because of the way it makes me feel.  I feel energized, accomplished, happy and rejuvenated after my runs! No matter what your form of exercise is...running, dancing, swimming, pogo-sticking?...do it because you love it and do it for your overall health and happiness! I'm not saying you have to sign up for a gym membership or go online and drop mass bills on Jillian Michael's DVDs...all I'm saying is to MOVE and motivate yourself to accomplish your health and fitness goals :)  

Your body is beautiful for the amazing things it can do, not what it looks like!  Love and celebrate yourself and your body because you are AWESOMEEEE.   

Yours in health,



Sunday, July 10, 2011

Cowles Mountain Hike!

Happy Sunday beautiful guys & dolls! This past Friday I had the pleasure of hiking Cowles Mountain with my friend Christine.  Cowles Mountain is the dominant feature of Mission Trails Regional Park and the highest point in the classy City of San Diego.  Cowles Mountain's elevation is 1,591 feet above sea level.
Me at the peak of Cowles!
Photography: Christine Ford

Hike length: 3 miles
Estimated Duration: 1.5 hours
Difficulty: Medium

Trail Head (from North):
Take 5 South to 805 South to 52 East and take exit 15 for California 125 S and exit 20A for Navajo Rd.  Turn right onto Cowles Mountain Blvd. and turn left onto Tommy Dr.  You will see the park on your right hand side and there is street parking or a parking lot. 

Trail Head (from Downtown SD): 
Take 163 S to 8 E and take slight right onto Fletcher Pkwy. Take first left onto Baltimore Dr., take 2nd right onto Aztec Dr., continue onto Cowles Mountain Rd. and turn left onto Tommy Dr., keep right at fork.  

View from half way up!
Photography: Lena Rakijian
This hike is extremely popular and you will see a lot of smiling San Diegans...and it's dog friendly too!  I would suggest starting in the morning because it gets pretty hot out there - so pack your SPF, your Klean Kanteen, and get ready to feel it in your gluts & hammies the next morning!  Cowles Mountain makes for a great morning work out - the incline will have your heart rate up and have you breakin' a sweat in no time! When you get to the top you can enjoy sunny skies and beautiful views of La Mesa and Lake Murray.  Happy hiking erryybodyy!!!

Yours in health,


Christine and I at the top of the mountain!
Photography: Friendly hiker :)

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Feeling HUNGOVER after the 4th? Here's why!

If all of the 4th of July festivities have you feeling a little "under the weather", here is a little physiological insight into what's going on in that body of yours! Unfortunately, consuming too much alcohol results in the unpleasant feeling of THE HANGOVER.  You don't have to go to a bachelor party in Vegas to feel hung over after a wild and crazy night.  Hangovers can occur the day after a binge drinking "episode", lets call it, and can last up to 24 hours.  Symptoms include headache, fatigue, dizziness, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and extreme thirst.  In more severe cases, people experience depression, anxiety, irritablity, and other mood alterations.

So what's the deal? Well, alcohol inhibits anti-diuretic hormone in your body which increases urine output.  Increased urine output causes elevated loss of fluid and electrolytes which is probably why you get the spins and feel lightheaded after you get up out of bed, or off your friend's couch for that matter.  Abdominal pain, nausea, and vomiting may be a hangover effect because alcohol irritates your stomach lining and gastric acid production.  Alcohol also disrupts your metabolism leading to lower blood glucose and higher lactic acid levels.  Hence, fatigue, weakness, and mood changes are seen after excessive alcohol intake.  Lastly, alcohol disrupts your sleep patterns and makes you feel tired kinda like jet lag. 

So how do you kill a hangover? Well, there are tons of so-called "remedies" out there but nothing really helps other than some good old fashion hydration.  Drinking water will minimize the risk of dehydration.  Consumption of food will help blood glucose levels to rise to normal. Taking a nap will help you with the fatigue. Antacids may help reduce nausea or abdominal discomfort, and an Advil may help your headache - BUT overall time heals all.

So next time you are planning on partying hard, remember to stay HYDRATED! Take water breaks, make sure that if you are going to drink, you don't drink on an empty stomach, and try to moderate your drinking.  Moderate drinking is considered 1 drink per day for women and 2 drinks per day for men.  Most importantly, drink responsibly, always have a sober driver, and don't fall asleep with your shoes on. Hope everyone enjoyed the 3 day weekend - I sure did :)

Yours in health,