Eat this Food EVERY Day

Puppy eating dog foodTake a tip from your vet. Dogs are eating this wonder food every day, why not you? Wouldn’t you also like a soft, glossy coat and healthy skin? This superseed is known for its immune system benefits and  anti-inflammatory properties.  What is it? It’s ground flaxseed.

Per a study published in the American Journal of Physiology*, flaxseed is actually considered a ‘functional food’.  That is, it:

  • Has physiological benefits and/or
  • Reduces the risk of chronic disease
  • Has basic nutritional effects

Dietary flaxseed is a rich source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and lignans which may help:

Be sure the flaxseed is ground (not whole) to receive the health benefits.

Be sure the flaxseed is ground (not whole) to receive the health benefits.

1. Decrease inflammation by blocking the release of some pro-inflammatory agents. Studies show atherosclerotic plaque regression can occur when inflammation is inhibited. Once plaque regression occurs, your arterial walls can heal and are better able to open and relax (necessary for healthy heart function). See “Inflammation | Foods that Heal and Harm“.

2. Decrease total cholesterol by 7% and LDL levels or “bad” cholesterol by 10%. (Per a study of menopausal women** that consumed 4 tablespoons of ground flaxseed each day for three months.)

Atherosclerosis disease - plague blocking blood flow3. Reduce atherosclerotic plaque buildup by up to 75%. Arteries harden when plaque is deposited in the arteries (atherosclerosis). Some studies suggest that flaxseed omega-3’s keep white blood cells from sticking to the inner lining of the blood vessels.    Continue reading

How to Lose Weight Without Losing Your Mind

Red apple with calories count label isolated on whiteLosing weight should be simple, but it’s become so darn complicated. You’re constantly COUNTING. You’re counting your ‘points’, carbs, calories, and even how many strawberries you’re allowed to eat.

From the time you wake up to the time you go to sleep, you are on a rigid dietary budget. Eek. What could be more exasperating. If you’re like most people, restriction and restraint bring about stress — a precursor to binging and emotional eating. No wonder dieting is a great way to gain weight. What ever happened to the simple pleasure of eating?

Math Made Easier

If you used to break out into a cold sweat when you walked into your math class, brace yourself… because losing weight now is ALL about the math. But thanks to the hundreds of apps, calculators and products on the market, you no longer have to tally every calorie you buy, burn, chew, and crave… it’s all done for you. Does that make it better? NO. It’s made weight management a technological obsession. It’s now easier than ever to get an up-to-the-minute score on your “perceived” success — or failure.    Continue reading

Inflammation | Fish-Free Omega-3’s

Cat fish and mouse isolated on white background“Eat more fish.” How many times have you heard those three words? Well, what if you don’t like fish? Or you’re a vegetarian? No worries. There is a fish-free omega-3 alternative, so you can leave the fish to those who love it.

A third type of omega-3 is found in plant oils  and is known as alpha-linolenic acid (ALA). The body partially converts ALA to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), that is, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish.

It’s not known if vegetable and fish omega-3’s are equally beneficial, but nevertheless, these fatty acids are essential for good health and most Americans don’t get enough of either type. Aim for at least one rich source of omega-3’s every day.   Continue reading

Inflammation | Sorting Out the Omega-3’s

Plant-based and animal sources of Omega-3 acidsOmega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats and consist of three types: EPA, DHA and ALA. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) are primarily found in certain kinds of fish. Another type of omega-3 fatty acid, alpha-linolenic acid  (ALA), is found in plants.

Certain types of fish are rich in EPA and DHA. These essential polyunsaturated fats reduce C-reactive protein (CRP) and interleukin-6, two inflammatory proteins in your body. But to lower your risk of mercury exposure from eating fish, be sure to choose the right fish*.

Swordfish_dollarphotoclub_75683664*Avoid larger, longer-living fish, such as shark and swordfish, as they tend to accumulate more mercury than the smaller fish like sardines, sole, and trout.

Per Consumer Reports, a 6-oz. serving of:

  • Salmon contains 4 mcg of mercury
  • Canned albacore tuna contains 60 mcg 
  • Swordfish contains 170 mcg 

Oily fish high in omega-3 fatty acids include:

How much: At least 3 to 4 ounces of fish, twice a week

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: If you don’t eat fish, you can actually drink it in the form of orange juice! Tropicana® Orange Juice Pure Premium Healthy Heart Orange Juice is fortified with actual fish (tilapia, sardine and anchovy). Also, grass-fed beef  is often higher in omega-3 fatty acids than conventional beef due to their diet of grass and foraged foods versus grains, such as corn.

 Stay tuned! Up next… “Fish-Free Omega-3’s”

Inflammation | Foods that Heal and Harm

Hello I have High Cholesterol Word CloudChronic, low-level inflammation might be the SILENT culprit behind your aging process. There is growing evidence that there’s a correlation between chronic systemic inflammation and chronic disease, such as:

  • Coronary atherosclerosis (plaque buildup)
  • Stroke
  • Obesity
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • Macular degeneration (a common form of age-related blindness)
  • Asthma
  • Dementia
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Some cancers
  • Depression

The Silent Killer   

Chronic, low-level inflammation is quite different from acute inflammation, the body’s healthy response to injury and infection. When you get a bug bite or sprained ankle and the area becomes swollen, warm, painful, and red, your body is trying to defend itself by sending immune cells and key nutrients to the area — this is an acute inflammatory response.    Continue reading

Motivation… What Makes You Move?

balance strong man
If you have trouble sticking to your exercise program, and it’s not due to a lack of desire to get fit, then it could be because the exercise doesn’t fit your personality. Everyone has their own exercise goals and needs, that is, everyone has their own ‘fitness personality’.

Here are five distinct fitness personality types:

  1. Predictable
  2. Methodical
  3. Competitive
  4. Social
  5. Dynamic

#1 – Predictable

  • Thrives on routine
  • Is a reliable, independent and stable exerciser
  • Goes to the gym and develops rigid schedules and regimes

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Due to the lack of variation in your exercise program, you may hit a plateau by doing the same routine and become frustrated. By incorporating resistance, circuit or high intensity interval training and/or adding new activities each week, the positive physical changes may help reboot your enthusiasm.    Continue reading

“Meatless” Foods Made with Meat

Wine, grapes, and grapevine composition

If you steer clear of meat to support your health or a philosophical belief, you might be interested in knowing that eating animal-free may not always be so obvious. There’s no question where a steak came from, but what about beer? Or marshmallows?  Here are twelve processed foods that may seem meatless but are derived from animals (cows, pigs, and/or fish) or may contain some animal by-products.

1. Jell-O® and Candy: such as, gummy candies, Starburst chews, Altoids: Many foods contain gelatin which is a protein derived from the collagen of cow or pig bones, cartilage, tendons, and skin. Gelatins are used as thickening or stabilizing agents in a variety of candies and gelatin-containing desserts.

Orange juice is poured from pitcher into the glass2. Tropicana® Pure Premium Healthy Heart Orange Juice: – This juice is enriched with heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids from a fish source. The ingredient label states it contains fish oil and fish gelatin from tilapia, sardine and anchovy. Ingredients in Tropicana® Pure Premium Healthy Heart Orange Juice

3. Peanuts: Some brands of peanuts, such as Planters® Dry Roasted Peanuts, contain gelatin. The gelatin helps the salt, spices and flavorings adhere to the nuts.

Ingredients in Planters® Dry Roasted Peanuts: PEANUTS, CONTAINS 2% OR LESS OF: SEA SALT, SPICES (CONTAINS CELERY), DRIED ONION, DRIED GARLIC, PAPRIKA, NATURAL FLAVOR, SUGAR, GELATIN, TORULA YEAST, CORNSTARCH, DRIED CORN SYRUP, MALTODEXTRIN. CONTAINS: PEANUT.    Continue reading

When Life is Hard…

grow

“We don’t grow when things are easy; we grow when we face challenges.”

For more inspiration: http://www.pinterest.com/karenowoc/quotes-that-move-me/

Fit Minute | How Much Sleep Do You Need?

puppy and kittens sleeping togetherIs there a magic number of hours we should sleep? According to studies on sleep and mortality, insufficient sleep can shorten your life. Sleeping plays an important role in:

  • Healing and repairing blood vessels
  • Maintaining a healthy balance of hormones that control your appetite
  • Controlling blood glucose (sugar)
  • Repairing cells and tissues, thus boosting bone/muscle mass
  • Defending against foreign or harmful substances

You can experience the following immediate and long-term health effects when you don’t get enough sleep:

  • Diminished cognitive function
  • Increased levels of cortisol (stress hormone) which cause the following:
    1. Increased appetite / See video: Undersleeping and Overeating
    2. Increased body weight
    3. Increased belly fat / See video: Beer Belly Anatomy 101
    4. Increased risk for type 2 diabetes
    5. Increased chronic low-level inflammation which leads to chronic disease (such as, coronary artery disease, dementia, and stroke)
    6. Increased blood pressure

If Seven is Good, Is Eight Better?   

Many people believe that they need at least eight hours of sleep a night for good health. But a study* reveals that sleeping seven (7) hours per night had the best survival rates. In fact, mortality hazard significantly increased when sleeping:

  • ≥8 hrs. (When sleeping >8.5 hrs., risk exceeded 15%.)
  • ≤6 hrs. (When sleeping <4.5 hrs., risk exceeded 15%.)

Causes of death associated with sleep duration include:

  1. Heart disease
  2. ‘Other causes’
  3. Cancer
  4. Stroke (Deaths from stroke were highest in men and women who slept 8, 9, and ≥10 hrs.)
  5. Breast cancer
  6. Colon cancer

Bottom line: Those who reported they slept 6.5 to 7.4 hours had a lower mortality rate than those with shorter or longer sleep.

*Six-year study by American Cancer Society; 1.1 million men/women ages 30-50 to >70 years. Published JAMA Psychiatry article: Mortality Associated With Sleep Duration and Insomnia, 2002.

VIDEO | Undersleeping and Overeating


VIDEO: If you’re running on too little sleep, here’s how it can affect your waistline. Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, hosts this compact segment of men’s health and fitness news in The Men’s Health Minute.

Fit Minute | Is Alcohol Good for YOU?

Pouring red wine_310px_PDThe answer to this question depends on the dose and the person. Because everyone has unique personal and family histories, the risks and benefits of drinking alcohol will be different for each person. But here’s a recent study to consider before sipping that next drink…

  • New study* finds moderate alcohol consumption (defined as drinking 1-3 drinks/day) may increase risk for atrial fibrillation (A-fib or AF).
  • Wine and liquor (but not beer) are correlated with developing AF.
  • Alcohol in small amounts  and not daily may be okay BUT… if you notice AF symptoms when drinking, STOP to potentially stop AF and prevent long-term damage.

AF or A-fib = Most common heart rhythm that increases risk of stroke and heart failure. This rhythm is irregular, chaotic and often rapid which commonly causes poor blood flow to the body. AF may come and go, or it may not go away which may require emergency treatment.

AF symptoms:

  • Lack of energy
  • Dizziness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Chest pain

*12-year study; 79,019 men/women between ages 45 and 83; free of AF. Published in American College of Cardiology, July 2014.

New! Fit Minute™

Apple c heart symbol_128x128Do you suffer from infobesity? Does too much information leave you confused or too exasperated to grasp the how-to’s of optimum health and weight loss? Well, suffer no more. Starting today, posts tagged as Fit Minute are ‘microposts‘ — 60-second doses of healthy living bullet points. Stay informed without overloading your brain. Now you (and I) will have more time to work out. :D

When Organic Produce Pays Off

Organic vs. Conventional - How do you choose?

Organic vs. conventional – Is is worth the price?

Fresh fruits and vegetables are excellent sources of antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber and a special treat at any time of year.  However, fruits consistently top the list of produce that are most contaminated by pesticides.

Buying pesticide-free produce is the best choice, but they’re generally more costly or may be unavailable. Knowing when it’s smart to buy organic and when to go conventional, you’ll save yourself some extra money.    Continue reading

Fit Find | Bob’s Red Mill® Muesli

Bob's Red Mill MuesliOat fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and control blood sugar, but my patients often tell me it’s too much trouble for them to cook a pot of oatmeal over the stove (or to clean the mess after it explodes in the microwave). So, they end up eating cold processed cereal for breakfast.

However, cold cereals often contain chemical preservatives and added sugars and salt to make them palatable. Well, here’s a way to eat your healthy oats without cooking them! For more on oatmeal… Daily Dose | Best Fiber Fix for Cardiacs and Diabetics.

Bob’s Red Mill® Old Country Style Muesli is a cold or hot whole grain cereal. Best of all, it contains nuts, seeds and flax, so there’s no need to add any extras. My favorite way to eat it is cold with milk. It’s much healthier than granola which often contains added fats, sugars, honey, or syrup. Bob’s Red Mill Muesli contains no added fat and is sweetened with just wholesome raisins and healthy bits of dates. (Dates are an excellent source of fiber, potassium and other trace minerals.) Continue reading

Got Milk? Which One is Best?

MilksWhole milk, 2% fat, 1% fat, nonfat, soy, almond, rice, coconut, and chocolate. With so many varieties of milk to choose from at the supermarket, it’s no wonder shoppers are so confused. Get the nutritional facts and find out which milks are the best, acceptable and the worst.

The Best Milk

Organic Skim Cow’s Milk (a.k.a. fat-free or nonfat): Skim milk is rich in key nutrients with none of the saturated fat that’s in 1%, 2% and whole milk. Milk is an excellent source of:   Continue reading

Fit Find | Wild Selections® Salmon Fillets

salmon-fillets-in-olive-oilFresh fish is always best, but may not be accessible or affordable. By stocking your pantry with Wild Selections® Salmon Fillets in Olive Oil, you’ll always have a base for a healthy meal.  They’re not your typically dry, fishy salmon chunks in a can, but instead, they’re tender, flaky and full of flavor. These premium fillets (3.8 oz) are a great source of healthy fats and protein (11 g). Perfect on salads, pasta and right out of the can!

Sodium content is 360 mg due to the added sea salt, so take that into consideration if you’re on a heart-healthy, low-sodium eating plan (1500 mg sodium/day). Also, one can is one serving (70 calories), so your portion is already controlled. :)

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Try these salmon fillets over a bowl of Japanese whole grain brown rice with tofu, fresh veggies and a dollop of wasabi. You’ll have a quick healthy meal in minutes!

Do It Today

“A year from now you will wish you had started today.”  ~Karen Lamb

iStock_000020209230_ExtraSmall_CalendarGoalWhen the subject came up the other day, I realized that it’s been almost a year since my skin cancer diagnosis. It’s unbelievable that an entire year has passed. All is well, by the way, and I am grateful everyday for my dermatologist, Dr. Minh Dang, who found the nondescript lesion and performed my surgery.

Then yesterday, I received a reminder note that it’s time for my annual mammogram. How could that be? If you had asked me, I would have said I had my last one about five or six months ago… max.

Do your days zip by in the flurry of day-to-day activities? When you reflect on the past year, do you wonder where the time went? You vowed to lose 15 pounds a year ago, but ended up gaining 10. Sound familiar?

If you have goals you want to achieve, dreams you want to fulfill, and things you want to experience, then start TODAY. It doesn’t have to be anything monumental — just one tiny step closer to getting where you want to be. By doing so, a year from now you won’t wish you had started today.

If you want to lose weight, then add a scoop of whole grains to your plate TODAY. If you want to ‘get in shape’, then start a habit of putting your shoes, socks and sunscreen by the door TODAY. Whatever it is you want to do, start now… and enjoy the journey. =)

♥ Daily Dose | How to Shop for Whole Grains

Is this a whole grain?

Is this a whole grain?

Following an eating plan that centers around whole-grain foods versus refined grains can help you reduce belly fat and other health risks.  See Eat Your Way to a Trimmer Waist. But shopping for whole grains can be confusing with all the varying descriptors. So here’s a guide to help you decipher what’s whole grain and what’s not.

To qualify as a whole grain, 100% of the original kernel – all of the bran, germ, and endosperm – must be present. All grains start out whole, but during the refining process, the bran and germ are removed. As a general rule, look for the key word “whole”, such as “whole grain”, “100% whole grain”, or “whole wheat” when shopping for a whole-grain product and see that it’s listed as the first ingredient on the food label.

Watch for These Words

Beware of the following product ingredient descriptions as they MAY NOT be whole grain:   Continue reading

Karen Owoc Named in Regional Journalism Award

SanFranciscoPeninsulaPressClub_500The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club held its 37th Annual Professional Journalism Awards Competition on May 31 and presented 192 awards of excellence in eight divisions and 41 categories. Judges included media professionals from Press Clubs of Cleveland, Florida, Houston, Milwaukee, New Orleans, Orange County, and San Diego.

Karen Owoc and her colleagues, Kevin Wing, Keith Sanders, Darryl Compton and Patty Zubov, were recognized for their contributions to “Off Camera” which received First Place in the Public Relations/Newsletter category. “Off Camera” is a monthly publication of the Northern California Chapter of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences (host of the Emmy® Awards) and features media profiles, broadcast news, events, technology, and Karen Owoc’s monthly health column, The Health Reporter.

They are joined by other award recipients, such as KQED 9, KCBS Radio,  the Daily News Group, and San Francisco Business Times. http://sfppc.blogspot.com/2014/05/37th-annual-greater-bay-area-journalism.html

The San Francisco Peninsula Press Club is a professional journalism organization that serves the Greater Bay Area in various news and public relations media.

 

♥ Daily Dose | Eat Your Way to a Trimmer Waist

Beer Belly_istock_000015992739xsmall_A large waistline (abdominal obesity or “having an apple shape”) puts you at risk for cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, stroke, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes — all of which can affect your longevity. Belly fat is also one of the risk factors for metabolic syndrome. See Daily Dose | Why Metabolic Syndrome Matters.

A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition (Katcher, H.I. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January 2008; vol 87: pp 79-90), found that a calorie-controlled diet* rich in whole grains decreased extra fat from the waistlines of obese subjects with metabolic syndrome compared to dieters who ate refined-grain foods.

*Daily energy needs minus 500 calories per day were calculated to produce a calorie deficit needed to achieve weight loss.

The Whole-Grain Diet

A grain product is whole grain if a “whole grain” is listed as the first ingredient on the food label. By following the whole-grain eating plan, participants lost more abdominal fat than another group that ate the same diet, but ate refined grains instead.

To replicate the study, eat the following daily for 12 weeks (the participants lost 12-14 pounds):   Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Golf and Sudden Cardiac Arrest

Did You Know…

golf-course-landscape_PDGolf courses are the fifth most common place for people to suffer from sudden cardiac arrest (SCA). SCA is a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops functioning. According to the American Heart Association, a golfer is one of over 380,000 people in the United States each year to suffer from out-of-hospital sudden cardiac arrest… and less than seven percent survive. The other four most common places for SCA are airports, shopping malls, stadiums, and jails.

How to Be Prepared

The worst case scenario is having a cardiac event on a distant hole. On your next golf outing, it’s a good idea to do the following when you schedule your tee-off time:   Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Why Metabolic Syndrome Matters

Metabolic syndrome, also known as syndrome X or obesity syndrome, is the name of a group of risk factors that increases your risk for:

  • Coronary artery disease (CAD) also known as atherosclerotic heart disease – Atherosclerosis is a condition in which plaque (a waxy substance) builds up inside your coronary arteries and hardens and narrows your arteries. The narrowing reduces blood flow to your heart muscle and can result in chest pain, a heart attack, heart damage, or even death.
  • Peripheral arterial disease
  • Stroke
  • Type 2 diabetes

Linked to Overweight, Obesity and Inactivity

Fat Man_istock_000012609799xsmall_800x450Your risk for heart disease, stroke and diabetes increases with each of the following metabolic risk factors. You have metabolic syndrome if you have three or more of these measurements.   Continue reading

Get Heart Smart

February is Heart Awareness Month

February is American Heart Month

February is American Heart Month — an annual reminder to raise your awareness about heart disease and how you can prevent it.

Here at The Health Reporter, you can find a variety of posts related to cardiac health that can help you and that you can share with people important to you.

It’s easy! To find heart-related articles and videos, go to Categories (left column of this blog page) then scroll down to “Heart Health | Cardiac Rehab” and click on it. You’ll be able you to share any post via email, Facebook or other favorite social media sites.

Do Not Give Up

Quotes_Do Not Give Up

“Do not give up. The beginning is always the hardest.”

For more inspiration: http://www.pinterest.com/karenowoc/quotes-that-move-me/

♥ Daily Dose | Why You Need a Strong Core

If you were to ask how you could quickly reverse the aging process, I would suggest you start by developing your “core”. Your core spans muscles, bones, and joints in your abdomen, back, buttocks, sides, and hips/pelvis. Weak, tight or unbalanced core muscles can affect your ability to move, work, function independently and enjoy physical activities.

The major core muscles to strengthen are your:

  1. Abdominals – Stabilize your core, twist your trunk, and allow you to bend forward at the waist and to each side.
  2. Back - Stabilize your core and allow you to straighten up, bend backward, forward, and to each side.
  3. Hip Adductors - Pull your thigh towards the midline of your body.
  4. Hip Flexors – Stabilize/rotate your pelvis, stabilize your body when you stand, and allow you to bend at the waist and hike up each leg.
  5. Gluteals or “glutes” - Extend/rotate your hip, rotate/abduct your thigh. (Abductors push your thigh away from the midline of your body.)

Why You Need a Strong, Stable Core:

  • Heart Running on TreadmillMakes it possible to stand upright and move on two feet which enhances your balance and stability.
  • Is essential to sit and move (e.g., walk, jump, dance, and run).
  • Helps prevent falls.
  • Distributes the stresses of weight bearing which protects your back and reduces back pain.
  • Improves athletic performance. (Powerful, rapid muscle contractions start from the center of your body out.)
  • Improves posture.
  • Enhances arm and leg function which helps build powerful arms and legs.   Continue reading

Fit Find | Low-Carb Pasta Substitute

If you’re a cardiac patient, dieter or diabetic on a low-carb eating plan and you CRAVE pasta, House Foods® Tofu Shirataki is a tasty (and gluten-free) alternative you can get excited about. It has a unique texture, but it’s still very ‘noodle-like’ and satisfying to the pasta-deprived palate.

Tofu shiratakiShirataki noodles are Japanese slippery glass noodles made with konnyaku (a member of the Japanese yam family). “Tofu Shirataki” is made by blending tofu and the flour of konnyaku to soften the texture and make it more appealing to traditional pasta fanatics.

So if you’ve missed eating noodles, you can eat them now — guilt free. I have to agree with the products’ marketers on this one in that Tofu Shirataki is a “pasta lover’s dream”. It has little flavor on its own which makes it a versatile element in any dish. They’re packed in water and there are four different shapes to choose from: fettuccine, elbow, angel hair, and spaghetti. (I prefer their larger, flat fettuccine shape over the spaghetti.)

Tofu shirataki has the following nutrients per 4-oz. serving:   Continue reading

Fit Find | Monte Bene® Pasta Sauces

Monte Bene Pasta Sauce_05500b5f49817700b4cf933bb1ece114One of the problems with using a prepared spaghetti sauce is that they contain added sugar and are high in sodium. Here’s a Fit Find you can use on anything that needs sauce, such as your favorite pasta, fish, or chicken.

The Monte Bene® Farm Fresh Tomato Basil, Garlic Marinara, and Spicy Marinara Pasta Sauces are delicious as well as truly “all natural” — just tomatoes, Italian San Marzano tomatoes, fresh onions (not dehydrated), extra virgin olive oil, fresh basil and garlic, and seasonings.

Each sauce contains just 240 mg sodium per 1/2 cup serving, less than 1 g sugar, and 40 calories. Other commercial sauces can contain up to three times the sodium and up to 10 times the sugar.

Monte Bene® sauces are also reasonably priced ($4.99 per 24-oz jar at Whole Foods). To find out more: http://www.montebene.com. Click here for more Fit Finds.

♥ Daily Dose | Stevia and Sugar Substitutes

Question: What’s your take on Stevia as a sugar substitute? I use a flavored coffee creamer (French vanilla or Irish cream) in my coffee and would like to add some kind of sweetener. From John S., San Ramon, CA

Answer: First, the flavored coffee creamers are already sweetened.  The primary ingredients of commercial creamers are oil, sugar and artificial flavor/color. See my post on Creaming Up Your Coffee for healthier alternatives.

SteviaSecond, almost all of my patients with type 2 diabetes are hooked on calorie-free sugar substitutes, struggling with their weight and have cardiovascular disease. Coincidence? Maybe not. Studies on artificial sweeteners show these compounds contribute to weight gain, sugar cravings and obesity. Also, compared to people who avoid diet or regular soft drinks, diet soda drinkers also appear to have elevated risks for:

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Heart disease 
  • Metabolic syndrome (the name of a cluster of risk factors that occur together and increase your risk for coronary artery disease, stroke, and type 2 diabetes)

But It’s “Natural”…

Stevia leaf

For centuries, stevia was used medicinally as a cardiac stimulant.

Stevia is a plant native to South America, also known as sweetleaf or sugarleaf, and is processed to produce a calorie-free sugar substitute. Because it’s derived from a plant, food companies market stevia as a “natural” sweetener to appeal to dieters, diabetics and health-conscious individuals who presume it must be healthier and safer than those originating in a lab. But unless you are eating stevia in its whole-leaf or crude form (which is NOT FDA-approved due to possible health effects), it isn’t all that “natural”.   Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD)

Arterial BlockageWhen you walk or climb stairs, do you have… cramping, pain, aching, or tiredness in the muscles of your calves, thighs, buttocks, or hips? If so, you could have peripheral arterial disease (PAD), a narrowing of arteries (blockages) in your pelvis and legs.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • Cold legs or feet
  • Sores on lower extremities that won’t heal
  • Toenail color change

When PAD worsens, it’s typical to develop ‘exertional leg pain’, a symptom known as claudication. It occurs when you’re exerting yourself and feels like a muscle cramp. These symptoms usually go away after resting, but return when you walk again.

Do NOT try to “walk off the pain” or “tough it out”. Your limbs need to reoxygenate. Claudication does NOT go away if you continue to walk — it is only relieved by rest. 

The pain is no different from ischemia (lack of oxygen) of your heart in that the delivery of oxygen does not meet the metabolic oxygen demand of working muscles. What makes it worse when you’re walking is your blood has to move ‘upstream’ through narrowed arteries in your lower extremities to get back to your heart for more oxygen.   Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Best Fiber Fix for Cardiacs and Diabetics

For good health, aim for getting in 40 gm of fiber every day — but all fibers are not alike. If you’re a diabetic, cardiac patient or at risk for heart disease, it’s a good idea to know the difference.

Dietary fibers are found naturally in plants. They’re the parts that don’t break down in your stomach and pass through your system pretty much intact. Fiber is separated into two main types: soluble and insoluble. They’re both important, but they have different properties (how they react with water) and have a different effect on your body.

NOTE: Since some fibers absorb water, be sure to drink more fluids as you increase your fiber intake.

Oatmeal

Oat fiber helps lower bad cholesterol and control blood sugar.

Soluble Fiber

  • Dissolves in water and forms a viscous gel in the intestines which slows down digestion.
  • Helps lower LDL or “bad” cholesterol.*
  • Slows the emptying of food through the G.I. (gastrointestinal) tract, so it helps control blood sugar and diabetes.
  • Makes you feel full longer which helps control body weight.
  • May reduce blood pressure and inflammation.

*LDL cholesterol is needed to produce hormones and provide structure to cell membranes, but because excesses can accumulate in the blood vessels and promote atherosclerosis, it’s been branded as the “bad” cholesterol.  

Did You Know…

Soluble fiber acts like a “cholesterol sponge“. It soaks up cholesterol-laden bile salts in your intestine and eliminates them with other waste. To produce more bile acids (compounds needed to transport and absorb fat and fat-soluble vitamins), your liver must use the LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. That means there’s less to collect and harden on the walls of your arteries!   Continue reading

Fit Find | Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour

Bob's Red Mill Almond Meal/FlourHere’s a nutty alternative to using white or wheat flour… almond meal/flour. It’s lower in carbohydrates and high in fiber which makes it better for diabetics (won’t spike your blood sugar).

Almonds contain nut phytonutrients and are a good source of fiber, protein, calcium, magnesium, and vitamin E. Nut phytonutrients (plant nutrients) have been shown to help fight free-radical damage,  prevent inflammation, and lower blood cholesterol. That is, nuts can reduce your risk of death from major chronic diseases like cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. See ♥ Daily Dose | What’s Your Nut I.Q.?

Bob’s Red Mill Almond Meal/Flour is nothing more than super finely ground whole, blanched sweet almonds. That’s it…. no other additives! But besides being super healthy, nuts are also calorie dense, so almond flour is higher in calories than regular flours. If you want the benefits of the nuts with fewer calories, you can substitute a 1/3 of the flour in your favorite healthy muffin or cookie recipe with almond meal/flour.

Compare the nutritional information from a 1/4 cup serving of these different flours:   Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | What Makes a Good Breakfast?

Empty gas tank_PDAre you running on an empty tank? People who start their day without an a.m. meal often feel depleted, overeat later in the day, and make some not-so-smart decisions as they go along. Eating a good breakfast sets the stage for making healthy choices that will power up your body as well as your brain.

Why Eat Breakfast?

As you sleep, your body works hard to digest last night’s dinner. By the time you wake up, your body and brain demand fuel.

Three Breakfast Components

Morning menus are filled with options — from breakfast wraps to smoothies in every color — and need not be complicated. Breakfast can be simple, quick and satisfying. Be sure it includes a heart-healthy mix of whole grains, protein, and healthy fat to satisfy you as well as sustain you.   Continue reading

Mended Hearts® – Guest Speaking Dates

Mended Hearts logoMended Hearts, Inc. is a national non-profit cardiac support group that is dedicated to inspiring hope, offering encouragement, and improving the quality of life for heart patients, their families and caregivers. The organization was started by Dr. Dwight E. Harken, a heart surgeon, with three of his open heart surgery patients in January 1951.

Over 60 years later, there are 300 Mended Hearts chapters in the U.S. and Canada where heart patients meet monthly for ongoing social, emotional and practical support. They are partners with over 460 hospitals and rehabilitation clinics. Mended Hearts offers services to heart patients through visiting programs, support group meetings and educational forums.

A few months ago I had the honor of speaking to an engaging group of heart patients at their Oakland chapter (#188) that meets one Saturday a month at the Kaiser Hospital in Oakland, California. I talked about the “Keys to Cardiac Health” and covered the top eight strategies to living a longer and stronger life.

Since then, I have been invited to speak at the following Mended Hearts chapter meetings. Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Clams: A Cardiac Superfood

Canned clamsDID YOU KNOW….  clams top the list as a source of vitamin B12? In fact, just one serving of clams (three ounces) has 14 times more vitamin B12 than a fortified breakfast cereal with 100% DV!

100% DV (Daily Value) of a nutrient is based on a 2,000-calorie diet and means a serving of the food contains 100% of your daily needs. This water-soluble vitamin plays a key role in cell metabolism, the formation of blood, and the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system. (See ♥ Daily Dose | Vit. B12 Deficiency)

Clams are also an excellent source of heme iron. Believe it or not, they’re right up there with beef liver. Heme iron is found in animal foods and derived from hemoglobin (a protein in red blood cells that carries oxygen). The body absorbs the most iron from heme sources of iron. Iron is essential due to its oxygen-carrying capacity.

An iron deficiency can impair muscle function, normal function of the nervous and immune systems, and can limit your work capacity during exercise. So, if you have a cardiac condition, it’s important to get enough iron each day. Patients with congestive heart failure (CHF) are prone to develop iron deficiency and iron supplementation improves functional status and quality of life.    Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | Do You Need a B-12 Booster?

VitaminsDid you ever think being deficient in one small vitamin could do so much damage? Unfortunately, B12 deficiency and borderline deficiency are relatively common — especially among older adults. Cardiac patients need to be especially aware.

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin and plays a key role in cell metabolism, the formation of red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and the normal functioning of your brain and nervous system. A severe B12 deficiency can lead to:

  • Nerve damage
  • Memory loss
  • Incontinence
  • Loss of taste and smell
  • Deep depression
  • Paranoia and delusions
  • Severe neurologic problems
  • Blood diseases

Who’s at Risk?    Continue reading

♥ Daily Dose | What’s Your Nut I.Q.?

Nuts_pbAccording to a large 30-year study, eating a handful of nuts every day could lower your risk of dying by 20 percent. Researchers report a decreased risk for most major causes of death like heart disease and cancer. Nuts are rich in healthful unsaturated fats, fiber, vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients*. Here’s how you can benefit and enjoy them.

  • Eat nuts seven or more times per week. Eating nuts just once a week lowered the risk of dying by 11 percent.
  • Eat one ounce of nuts per day — approximately 1/4 cup or one “handful”.
  • Beware of canned and packaged nuts (e.g., in Trail Mixes) that have been processed with oil and salt. It’s healthier to buy them raw and roast them at home without the additives.
  • Limit your intake of Brazil nuts to one per day or only occasionally due to their unusually high levels of selenium (an essential mineral). One Brazil nut contains 200 mcg of this mineral and the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for adults is 80-200 mcg.   Continue reading

Do This and You’ll Be Happier

Skiing_catching air_istock_000002966698xsmallWhen was the last time you were totally immersed in the moment and not worrying, reminiscing or planning what you’re going to do next?

Live in the moment. Don’t multitask. In today’s high tech world where you can follow multiple browser tabs at once while tweeting and listening to your favorite playlist, you’ve been trained to fragment your brain into various compartments, scatter your attention, and demand instant gratification. Multitasking has become a way of life, addiction and/or survival. But that practice can lead you down a road to unhappiness.

Pets are great teachers of living in the moment

Pets are great teachers of living in the moment

Be Engaged

Immerse yourself in an activity and you’ll find greater happiness. Studies report people are happiest when they’re so focused on an activity that virtually nothing else exists. That is, they aren’t interrupted by extraneous thoughts and hours pass like minutes.   Continue reading

How to Bounce Back from a Binge

Fat Man_istock_000012609799xsmall_800x450The holiday feasting is finally behind us. Since Thanksgiving seemed to roll right into Christmas this year, perhaps it was especially challenging for you to control your eating and manage your weight. If you consumed more calories than you expended, you may be starting the new year with a wider waistline and a guilty conscience. Well, don’t fret because here are 10 humane ways to get back on track.

1. DON’T beat yourself up for “being bad”. Avoid dwelling on having gone back for seconds (or thirds) and/or indulging in Aunt Clara’s irresistible tray of homemade cookies. Beating yourself up because you “went off your diet” will only bring on feelings of failure.

2. DON’T starve yourself or overly restrict your calories to “make up for being bad”.

3. DON’T vow to “go on a diet” and here’s why…   Continue reading

Tips to Buying and Wearing a Medical ID

Medical ID_BraceletinsertWhen shopping for medical identification jewelry or tags, consider the following features:

1. Appearance. You must like it enough to wear every day and all day. Medical IDs now come in stretchy silicone wristbands, stylish beaded bracelets, and tattoos, but keep it simple. If it looks too much like jewelry or an adornment, emergency responders may not recognize your tag as a medical ID.   Continue reading

Why Medical IDs Protect Heart Patients

emergency_SOURCEIf you’re suddenly unaware of your surroundings or unable to help yourself due to symptoms like chest pain, shortness of breath, or disorientation from high or low blood glucose, a medical ID can tell your story when you can’t speak for yourself. The purpose of a medical ID is to alert paramedics, EMTs and medical professionals to your condition when they only have precious seconds to begin lifesaving care.

Wearing a medical ID 24/7 can save your life. When you have a potentially life-threatening health condition and/or have a cardiac device, emergency responders need to know for various reasons. Many cardiac patients also have other chronic medical conditions, such as diabetes or dementia that can affect treatment.

Medical Condition(s) Alert

Consider wearing a medical ID if you have any of the following:

  • Chronic or history of coronary heart disease, including:
    • Angina
    • Arrhythmias
    • Heart transplant
    • Coronary artery bypass graft
    • Previous MI (myocardial infarction/heart attack)
    • Previous SCA (sudden cardiac arrest)
    • Stroke risk: hypertension, diabetes, high cholesterol, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), tobacco smoking, metabolic syndrome
  • Chronic disease, such as diabetes or dementia
  • Cardiovascular device, such as:
    • Coronary artery stent
    • Artificial heart valve
    • Pacemaker or ICD (implantable cardioverter defibrillator)
  • Food, drug or insect allergy that can cause an anaphylactic reaction
  • Sensitivity to medications
  • Rare blood type

Implanted Medical Device Alert

Alert emergency personnel to metal implants

Certain metals used in implantable devices, such as a stent, artificial valve, pacemaker, and ICD, may be “ferromagnetic” which means they are attracted to magnets. This may mean you cannot have an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) if you are injured. MRIs are becoming more widely used as a diagnostic tool since they use large magnets and radio-frequency waves (not radiation) to produce pictures of your body’s internal structures.   Continue reading

Try Something New for 30 Days

30 Day Challenge by Matt Cutts30-Day Challenge

Is there something you’ve always meant to do, wanted to do, but just … haven’t? Matt Cutts, an engineer at Google, suggests: Try it for 30 days. This short, lighthearted talk offers a neat way to think about setting and achieving goals.

To get inspired, click on the image above to watch Matt Cutts on TED Talks. “The next 30 days are going to pass whether you like it or not, so why not think about something you have always wanted to try and give it a shot for the next 30 days?”

Apple c heart symbol_40x54Fit Tip: Try something new that’ll benefit your health and heart.

Quick Quinoa with Wasabi Arugula and Shrimp

Quick QuinoaNeed some healthy fast food? Here’s a high-protein, high fiber dish that you can enjoy as a side, salad or to-go lunch. Why quinoa? It’s protein dense, rich in B vitamins and omega-3 fats which means it’s not only healthy for your heart, but nourishing for your bones and skin. It’s also gluten-free if you’re sensitive to wheat. The frozen red quinoa and brown rice combo is already cooked which makes preparing this power salad simple and quick!   Continue reading

Test Finds 3X More Breast Tumors & Why It’s Not Available to You

Working with a team of physicists, Dr. Deborah Rhodes developed a new nuclear medicine technique for tumor detection called MBI (Molecular Breast Imaging). It’s three times as effective as traditional mammograms for women with dense breast tissue and uses a third the compression force.

mammogram vs mbi3The life-saving implications are stunning. So why haven’t we heard of it? Rhodes shares the story behind the tool’s creation, and the web of politics and economics that keep it from mainstream use.

Watch Dr. Rhodes’ compelling TED Conference talk on evox Television.

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Look at What Can Be

Quote_Every day is a new beginning

“Every day is a new beginning, so treat it that way. Stay away from what might have been and look at what can be.”

For more inspiration: http://www.pinterest.com/karenowoc/quotes-that-move-me/

Healthy Veins for a Healthy Heart

Nearly sixty percent of men suffer from varicose veins, so it’s not just a problem for women. These ballooned veins develop a gnarled bluish/brown appearance, but they’re not just a cosmetic concern.

Varicose veins afflict young men as well as grandmas

Varicose veins afflict young men as well as grandmas

These weak bulging vessels can rupture and bleed as well as cause swelling and throbbing which can cut into your daily activities.

To avoid varicose veins, exercise. It’ll keep your vessels strong which will promote healthy venous return and cardiac output. Poor cardiac output results in an inadequate delivery of oxygen to your muscles and vital organs.

Be sure your exercise routine involves working out the often neglected, but very important, calf muscles. Gravity causes blood to pool in your legs which expands the vein walls. Sitting or standing for long periods exaggerates this problem and over time, the veins don’t return to their taut condition.

When your calf muscles contract, they actually act as a ‘pump’ and are essential for maintaining blood flow from your legs back up to your heart. Keep the blood vessels in your lower extremities in optimal condition with the following six exercises:   Continue reading

Believe In Yourself

 

Quote_A bird sitting on a tree“A bird sitting on a tree is never afraid of the branch breaking because the trust is not on the branch but on its own wings. Always believe in yourself!”

For more inspiration, visit http://pinterest.com/karenowoc.

Why I’m Now a Statistic… Protect Yourself Against Skin Cancer

Two weeks ago I had a biopsy and yesterday I found out I have cancer. Not pre-cancer… the real deal. Basal cell carcinoma. I’ve learned it’s one of the most common types of skin cancer, but knowing that I now join 2.2 million other Americans diagnosed each year doesn’t make my diagnosis any less daunting or serious.

I’m still dazed in disbelief. It’s not because I’m not a likely candidate. I admit it, I am. I grew up in the sun. As an active athletic kid, staying indoors was not an option. I can still hear my mom’s repeated warnings at the sight of my golden tan or raging sunburn, “You better stay out of the sun. You’ll get freckles. Worse yet, you’ll get skin cancer.” Well, once again, Mom was right.

As a youngster and young adult in my 20’s, I spent my summers on the tennis courts, by the pool, or on a boat or bike. Winters didn’t keep me from being a UV target either. I lived on the mountain and skied competitively, so in reality, I clocked in thousands of hours under the sun on the glorious slopes of Lake Tahoe.

What actually shocks me about the cancer diagnosis is the benign nature of the tumor. I’ve read the rules for skin cancer and examined the well publicized graphic photos, but my lesion doesn’t resemble any of the textbook examples. There is NO discoloration. It’s not brown, black or red. In fact, my doctor described it as “translucent”.

It’s one of those things I noticed while putting on my makeup some time ago. I casually thought about getting this small ‘bump’ removed someday, but considered such action as purely cosmetic and neither a big deal or urgent. However, during a routine head-to-toe skin cancer exam, my dermatologist regarded the bump as suspicious.    Continue reading

The Health Reporter Now on Evōx Television Network

Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, can now be seen on the Evōx Television Network. Karen’s article and appearance on the Jen and Barb Mom Life Show discussing “How Active Do Your Kids Need to Be?” can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/1cS0T5C

Evōx is a new kind of television — the next evolution in entertainment — that puts caring about the planet and the people at the center of what they do. They are an online entertainment television network and a conscious marketplace with original television programming on health, wellness, global and social issues, food, wine, travel, community projects, and conscious consumerism. Evōx Television inspires positive changes in the way people live and work.

Gluten-Free for Getting Fit

291961-New_certified_gluten_free_label_has_stringent_audit_and_review_processMore and more gluten-free products are taking up valuable real estate on grocery and health food store shelves. This is great news for people who suffer from celiac disease and cannot eat foods that contain gluten. But many people who do not have the disease perceive a gluten-free diet as healthier and for that reason, gluten-free diets have become a growing lifestyle trend.

Why Go Gluten Free

This diet excludes all foods that contain gluten, a protein found in wheat, barley, rye, malts, and triticale. The G-free up side is that this diet is essential for people with celiac disease or a gluten allergy or sensitivity. By eliminating gluten from the diet, many popular processed snack foods, cookies and cakes that are high in calories and void of nutrients are off limits. Note that opting to drop junk food from your diet alone can make your feel better, but it’s not necessarily because you’ve eliminated gluten.   Continue reading

Fit TV | Skin Nutrition (Part 2: Minerals & Fats)

VIDEO: Healthy skin needs essential minerals and fats to do its job and to look its best. Find out which ones you need and where to get them.  Karen Owoc, The Health Reporter, provides an overview of the key minerals and essential fatty acids necessary for healthy, youthful and radiant skin. Producer/Editor: Karen Owoc. Director of Photography: Michael DavichTheHealthReporter.tv

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