Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Pile the Veggies High

THE BUZZ: In 2009, only 26.3 percent of American adults ate three or more servings of vegetables a day, and just 32.5 percent ate two or more servings, according to a recent Centers For Disease Control and Prevention report. FYI... the United States Department of Agriculture's latest food guide recommends five vegetable servings if you're on a 2,000-calorie diet. 

BACKGROUND: The September report was meant to determine if Americans were meeting the Healthy People 2010 objectives calling for at least 75 percent of individuals (older than age two) to eat two or more servings of veggies everyday and 50 percent to eat three or more… Clearly coming in a bit sub-par.

MAKING NOISE: A recent New York Times article about Americans’ lack of all things green and nutrient-dense in their diets included these CDC findings and a few other startling numbers… only 23 percent of meals included a vegetable, according to this year’s annual “Eating Patterns in America” report from the market research company, NPD Group. The bottom line (as the article explained) is vegetables are tough for Americans to stomach because (a) they require more planning to keep fresh in the fridge, (b) they’re not as easy to eat on the go, and (c) people don’t know how to cook them.

MY TAKE: Make vegetables easier…
  • Look for long-shelf-life veggies: Spinach keeps longer than most leaf lettuce. And thicker skin on zucchini and squashes extend their fresh window compared to asparagus or broccoli.
  • Use the freezer: If you end up grabbing dinner out instead of cooking that veggie stir-fry, don’t toss the produce. Clean it, chop it, and toss in the freezer. Use in a pot of vegetable soup, or microwave for an easy side.
  • Try no-prep veggies: Pre-washed baby carrots take five seconds to toss in a bag and in a lunchbox, and even NYC grocery stores sell bags for less than $2. Frozen or canned vegetables are ready to use as soon as the package is open.
  • Use with reckless disregard: Bulk up a sandwich with spinach, tomatoes, onions, peppers, cucumbers, artichokes, or avocado. Mix something green into your next pan of mac and cheese (try frozen peas, spinach, or broccoli). Or sauté your favorite combo of onion, peppers, mushrooms, broccoli, or zucchini, and add to scrambled eggs.

And finally, make them taste good. Some of my favorite ways to “veg” out…

Monday, September 20, 2010

To stretch or not to stretch? Just keep it consistent

THE BUZZ: If you reach for your toes every time you don your running shoes, don’t stop. And if you don’t? Don’t start. A recent study—in attempt to end the unanswered debate over whether pre-run stretching actually lowers injury risk—found no significant difference in injuries between runners who consistently stretched before each run versus those who did not stretch.

THE DETAILS: The USA Track and Field study followed more than 2,700 volunteer runners for three months. Half signed up to stretch for three to five minutes before each run, and half agreed not to. The participants kept every other aspect of their running routine the same as usual.

NOTEWORTHY: Both groups reported nearly equal injury rates. But runners used to stretching before their workouts who stopped during the study upped their chance of injury—as did non-stretchers who took up stretching, compared to those who chose to follow their usual pre-run routine.

THE TAKEAWAY: This up-to-date running study (published on the USATF Website in August 2010) from the sport’s national governing body found no reason to stretch or not to stretch before a jog or run. According to the American College of Sports Medicine’s latest exercise guidelines for “healthy adults,” there’s no stretching recommendation—unless you’re over age 65. But, even that recommendation doesn’t specify whether it’s better to stretch pre- or post-workout.

MY TAKE: Start (or finish) your workout with a warm up that makes your muscles feel good. I’m hooked on Pilates- and yoga-inspired stretches post-run and post-abs to let my hip flexors, quads, and back recover. 

Sunday, September 19, 2010

To boost mood and banish anxiety... yoga!

THE BUZZ: Find your zen to ditch your stress. Lots of people claim yoga helps them relaxand a group of scientists at Boston University School of Medicine may have the answer to why it does. A group of healthy adults reported better moods and less anxiety after practicing yoga three times a week for 12 weeks than another group of healthy adults who spent that same amount of time walking, according to the scientists' study recently published in the Journal of Alternative and Contemporary Medicine. The researchers measured increased levels of GABA brain activity in the yogisa shortage of this type of brain activity has been known to be linked to mood and anxiety disorders. Long story short, yoga, more than other types of exercise could send calming, relaxing signals to the brain to help lift spirits and nip anxiety.

MY TAKE: Yes! After an eight-hour workdaydeadlines, unexpected meetings, traversing the unexplored territories of an entry-level assistant, and of course, crowded subwaysnothing relaxes me like an hour in yoga class. I leave feeling 10 times more energized than I do after a good night's sleep. The key? Feel-good music, feel-good stretches, and a yoga teacher who doesn't push too hard. There's always a disclaimer to listen to your body and do what your body feels up to. Yoga mixes stretching, strength-training, and letting your muscles (and mind) recoup. And, I know my muscles are working because I can feel them the next morning.