All Posts By Amy Reiter

Amy Reiter is a writer and editor based in New York. Her work has appeared in publications including The Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Daily Beast, Glamour and Marie Claire, as well as Salon, where she was a longtime editor and senior writer. In addition to contributing to FN Dish, she blogs for Food Network’s Healthy Eats.

Start a Garden and Harvest the Health Benefits

by in Healthy Tips, March 17, 2017

As the weather begins to warm (March, you’re still planning to go out like a lamb, right?) and the first signs of spring tentatively peep out of the ground, many of us take our cue to start rooting around for our garden tools.

If you are not yet a gardener, why not make this spring the season you try out your green thumb? Even if you live in a city and have no yard at your disposal, you may be able to give it a whirl by finding a small plot in a community garden or even stashing a box on your windowsill. The rewards may include far more than whatever you manage to grow.

Studies have shown that gardening has all sorts of health benefits, from boosting your mood and improving your diet, to helping you stay fit and trim. So Healthy Eats reached out to Sharon Palmer, RD, a plant-based food and nutrition expert and the author of The Plant-Powered Diet, Plant-Powered for Life and The Plant-Powered Blog, to find out more.

 

How is tending a garden beneficial for your overall health? 

Gardening is good for your overall health in many ways. First of all, it is a form of physical activity that contributes to your overall physical fitness levels. Secondly, it can boost mood-enhancing hormones. Studies show that gardening can increase the release of serotonin, which has an anti-depressant effect, while decreasing the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. Thirdly, it can increase your exposure to health-promoting vitamin D levels we obtain from the sun. And fourthly, studies show that when you garden, you increase your consumption of healthy fruits and vegetables. Read more

It’s Not Just You: Stress and Fat Are Linked

by in Food News, March 14, 2017

In times of stress, many of us turn for consolation to sugary, fatty, high-calorie foods. Macaroni and cheese? Meatloaf and mashed potatoes with extra butter? A massive hunk of buttercream-frosted cake? They don’t call them “comfort foods” for nothing.

“I often see unmanaged stress lead to overeating and binging with my clients,” says Kara Lydon, RD, LDN, RYT, author of Nourish Your Namaste e-book and blogger at The Foodie Dietitian. “When we push away our basic needs for self-care — relaxation, spirituality, fun, sleep — we wind up feeling overexerted, depleted and stressed and turn to food as a way to fulfill an unmet need. Overeating because of stress often leads to more stress and anxiety and it becomes a vicious cycle.”

Given that, the results of a recent British study that found a link between long-term stress and obesity may not come as much of a surprise.

The study, conducted by researchers at University College London and published in the journal Obesity, looked at hair samples representing about two months of growth from more than 2,500 men and women age 54 and over participating in the English Longitudinal Study of Ageing to determine the levels of cortisol, a hormone associated with stress, present in the hair. The researchers found that those with higher levels of cortisol, which plays a role in metabolism and fat storage, were more likely to be overweight or obese – to have a larger waist circumference, weigh more and have a higher body-mass index. Read more

To Boost Your Health, Spice Up Your Life

by in Food and Nutrition Experts, March 5, 2017

When we season our foods with spices, we tend to have flavor in mind. But herbs and spices have myriad health benefits. They can help us to cut down on salt and — since they are plant-based — spices may pack an impressive phytonutrient punch, with antioxidant, anti-inflammatory or even anti-cancer potential.

In fact, registered dietitian nutritionist Carrie Dennett recently compared your spice cabinet to “a natural pharmacy in your kitchen.”

So are some herbs and spices more potent than others? Yes, actually.

“Generally the brighter or darker in color, the higher the antioxidant content,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Serena Ball, MS, RD, who writes about food and nutrition at Teaspoon of Spice, as well as for Healthy Eats. “Think turmeric.”  Read more

Manly Burgers, Feminine Salads: Does Gender Affect Our Diets?

by in Food News, February 16, 2017

We all know the stereotypes: Men like red meat and hefty portions. Women like salads and eat modestly, picking delicately at their meals. Men like it spicy. Women like it sweet.

Fries or fruit on the side? Men, we imagine, may be more likely to choose the former, women the latter. Ditto when choosing between, say, wine or beer.

Whether or not there is intrinsic truth in these cultural preconceptions about gender and food, societal reinforcement of them may influence the decisions we make about what we eat, the Washington Post suggests. What’s more, the paper recently posited, given the body of research indicating that eating plant, rather than animal, proteins, is better for your health and longevity, that may not be great news for men.

One key issue may be the way different foods are marketed to men and women, the messages sent out via advertising and packaging, says Kerri-Ann Jennings, a registered dietitian and nutritionist who writes about food and health trends. Read more

Exercise May Not Only Make You Fitter, But Happier Too

by in Fitness, February 9, 2017

Those of us who (try to) exercise regularly often do so with our weight or overall health in mind. Both great reasons, obviously. But there’s another benefit to staying active: It could make you a happier person.

“Exercise on a regular basis can keep your mood elevated,” says Ramona Braganza, a fitness expert and celebrity trainer whose clients have included, among others, Jessica Alba, Halle Berry, Scarlett Johansson, Zac Efron and Ryan Reynolds. “Mood swings don’t occur as much, and overall wellness is achieved when balance takes place in the body.”

Exercise’s mood-boosting benefits were recently underscored by researchers at the University of Cambridge in England, who asked more than 10,000 study participants to track their happiness and physical activity using a specially developed smartphone app. The participants’ self-reported activity data (the researchers asked them what activities they were engaged in the last 15 minutes) was then tracked against information collected directly from built-in activity monitors (accelerometers) on their phones.

At the end of the 17-month-long study, published in the journal PLoS One, the researchers concluded that people who are more physically active are happier than those who are less active. “We found that, regardless of whether we looked at self-reported physical activity or physical activity sensed via the accelerometer on their phones, people who were on average more active were also on average happier,” says study co-author Gillian M. Sandstrom, Ph.D., who contributed to the work as a postdoctoral research assistant at Cambridge and is now a lecturer at the University of Essex. Read more

Which Airlines Have the Healthiest Food?

by in Food News, January 31, 2017

When we book airplane tickets, most of us consider things like timing, cost, and whether or not a given flight includes a layover. We probably don’t factor in the healthfulness of the airline’s food. But maybe we should.

Some airlines serve healthier meals than others, and a new study helps travelers figure out which keep calories and cost to a minimum in the meals and snacks they offer, while maximizing nutrition, taste and sustainability.

“Transparency is critical, and consumers are very interested in know about the foods they eat,” Charles Platkin, PhD, JD, MPH, the director of the NYC Food Policy Center at Hunter College, who conducted the study and edits DietDetective.com, tells Healthy Eats. “Often, travelers don’t have the time to plan out and pack their own meals. Their only choice at 30,000 feet is the food on the plane.”

Platkin’s airline food study found that, overall, the average calories per in-flight food item has risen slowly and steadily in years past — from 360 in 2012 to 388 in 2013 to 297 in 2014 and 400 in 2015 — before decreasing 8 percent last year, to 392.  Read more

6 Tips for Integrating Exercise Into Your Workday

by in Fitness, January 29, 2017

So many of us worker bees spend our weekdays glued to our desk chairs, wondering, perhaps, if tapping at our keyboards counts as exercise. (Sadly, it doesn’t.)

But the prospect of spending a huge chunk of our day working out may seem daunting and frankly, unworkable. A new study published in the International Journal of Behavioral Nutrition and Physical Activity indicates that, in fact, spending just five minutes getting up and engaging in moderately intense exercise (like a walk) every hour may actually be better for us, in many respects, than a solid 30-minute daily workout before we slide into our cubicles in the morning and start our long sit.

The study, conducted by researchers affiliated with the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus and the Johnson & Johnson Human Performance Institute, among others, concluded that introducing short periods of activity spread throughout the day would help not only boost workers’ energy levels, but also elevate their moods and lower their sense of fatigue and appetite, calling it “a promising approach to improve overall well-being at work.” Read more

What You Should Know About Hydroponic Vegetables

by in Food News, Trends, January 27, 2017

Soil seems so essential to our concept of vegetables that those grown hydroponically – that is, in water rather than soil – may seem confusing. Even futuristic. But hydroponic crop farming is in fact here now. In the last five years, the hydroponic crop farming industry has shown an annual growth of 4.5 percent, according to the U.S. market research firm IBISWorld, and new companies are projected to continue to expand over the next five years.

Hydroponic farms produce high yields in a small area. Often grown indoors – in warehouses or greenhouses and in artificial light instead of sunlight – they are protected from extreme weather. Hydroponically grown vegetables, which are fed by nutrient solutions in the water, may be just as nutritious as field-grown vegetables and, depending on the solutions they’re fertilized with, can help meet the rising demand for organic produce.

Curious to learn more about hydroponic vegetables, we asked Rebecca Elbaum, MPH, RD, CDN, a clinical dietician in New York City who has worked with hydroponic farms, particularly small, rooftop gardens, to fill us in on some of the basics:

 

What, exactly, are hydroponic vegetables?

Hydroponic literally means “water-grow or survive,” so basically hydroponic vegetables are those that survive, and likely thrive, in water. Hydroponic vegetables are grown in a closed system in which their roots are submerged in water. This water is fortified or “spiked” with nutrients, such as potassium, magnesium and phosphorus. In conventional farming, natural soil contains vitamins, minerals and trace elements that water does not, so hydroponic farmers need to add those nutrients into the water. Conventional farming also uses the natural light of the sun, which helps vegetables develop their nutrients.  Hydroponic farming mimics sunlight through greenhouses.  Read more

Are You An Exercise “Non-Responder?” Don’t Give Up Hope!

by in Fitness, January 21, 2017

Exercise is supposed to be the answer for myriad health concerns – from cardio-respiratory fitness and blood pressure maintenance to weight control – but there are those of us who may feel that, no matter how much we exercise, we don’t see much in the way of results. Turns out, it may not be in our heads.

Fitness experts estimate that anywhere from 20 to 45 percent of those who undertake a form of regular exercise experience no measurable physiological change as a result – and they even have a name for us: non-responders.

“Although it would appear to be intuitive that all previously untrained and sedentary individuals undertaking exercise can expect positive changes to their physiological function and overall health, the scientific literature is quite clear that for a segment of the population this is indeed not the case,” says Lance Dalleck, associate professor of exercise and sport science and director of the Center for Wellness and Human Performance at Western State Colorado University, who has done research on non-responders.

One unfortunate effect of the phenomenon is that non-responders can become frustrated with their lack of progress and decide it’s not worth it to stick with their exercise program – or, really, any exercise program.

But recent research has indicated non-responders to one form of exercise may yet respond to another, and so it may be just a matter of finding the right exercise program for you. That study, which was conducted Queen’s University in Kingston, Ontario, and the University of Ottawa, determined that non-responders could benefit by swapping out one form of exercise for another. Read more

Why Exercise Doesn’t Always Lead to Weight Loss

by in Fitness, January 8, 2017

Exercise more and lose weight: So many of us resolve to do both those things in the new year. Every year. But do they actually go hand in hand? And why does it sometimes feel like we actually gain weight when we increase the amount of exercise we get, and lose weight when we moon around the house like a lump? (I know, it’s cold outside, but still…).

That question was recently put to the Well bloggers at the New York Times, who confirmed that studies show that our hunch is correct: We don’t always lose – and sometimes gain – weight when we exercise more. That’s mostly because exercise makes us hungrier and so we eat more – off-setting the calories we’ve burned.

What’s a health-minded person to do? We asked nutrition coach, consultant and yoga teacher Alexandra Caspero MA, RD, CLT, RYT of Delish Knowledge, and the author of the book Fresh Italian Cooking for the New Generation, for her perspective. She works to help clients find their “happy weight.” Here’s what she had to say:

Why do we sometimes gain weight when we start exercising? Shouldn’t it be the opposite? And does that mean we should not exercise if we want to lose weight?

Weight loss is just one of the many benefits to exercise, so I still encourage movement, even if weight gain is a side effect. It’s beneficial for cardiovascular, mental and skeletal health, among other things. And, this isn’t true across the board. The more important thing to focus on is that exercise alone doesn’t equal weight loss; the diet still counts. I break it down to 80/20: Exercise is 20 percent of the equation; diet is 80 percent. Spending 30 minutes on the treadmill likely burns 300-400 calories for the average person, which can easily be negated by an extra serving of pasta. Additionally, exercise may increase appetite and many of my clients think exercising gives them a reason to “eat more,” which isn’t always the case. Read more

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