The Skinny on Vinegar

October 25, 2012

I am super excited this week! I’m off Thursday through Sunday to the Inner IDEA conference, which is being held right “down the hill” from me, as locals say, in Palm Springs, CA. Among other classes, I’m taking several on floor and mat Pilates, yoga adjustments and breathing, and even one on seasonal eating. I hope to be able to share some of what I learn with you next month, particularly the exercises! My teachers include Rael Isacowitz (along with Darya Bronston), Moira Merrithew (and Heather Lawson), Jill Miller, and Teri Mosey. Since learning that I had won one of IDEA’s scholarships, I’ve been counting down the weeks! Stay tuned for a post-conference gush (as I’m sure they’ll be one).

 

Bragg’s is said to be one of the best organically-certified apple cider vinegars on the market. (Linked to one claim; NOTE: I’m not recommending any brands and/or diets and/or lifestyles)

Onward to today’s topic…vinegar. Does it do what people claim it does? If so, how well? Some claim that vinegar is a heal-all. In fact, what got me looking into it is one of my students. She suffers from arthritis and has been seeking help that does not require taking pills that, while they help the pain, may actually kill her in some more serious way. However, she is very reluctant to get a hip replacement because they are expensive and invasive.

 

There is a part of me that thinks she’s seeking a cure-all, of which vinegar is not. No matter what proponents think, there is no scientific proof that vinegar has a cleansing and overall healing effect upon the body. If it did, everyone would be taking it and it would run the pharmaceutical companies into the ground.

 

That does not mean that vinegar is not beneficial. TLC’s article on vinegar and it’s potential health benefits states that a little vinegar each day may increase calcium absorption, regulate blood sugar levels in diabetics, and is a great substitute for unhealthy fats and sodium, making a healthier diet palatable. My student also informed me, as does the article, that vinegar in water makes a great, safe wash for produce. For me, that’s the best tip I’ve heard in ages; I’m no fan of using some sort of chemical spray on the fruits and veggies I’m supposed to be eating to heal my body from the inside.

 

There are many other uses for vinegar as well, as seen here. The biggest concern health professionals have is that people will think it’s as good of a substitute as medicines and/or other things that do the same jobs. Sometimes, it isn’t and it’s wise to be rational when using it. Remember, moderation is vital to a healthy lifestyle. There are those promoting an apple cider vinegar diet but it has risks.

 

Personally, a part of me feels that this diet takes advantage of the common day wisdom that health and fitness professionals tell their patients and clients if and when asked, and your pocketbook. There are vinegar supplements out there, which the WebMD article above states may not actually contain any sort of apple cider vinegar product whatsoever. Be mindful of supplements, as the Food and Drug Administration does not regulate them.

 

While I’m not sure that taking a couple teaspoons to a tablespoon of vinegar each day is harmful, it is always good to discuss the start of any regimen with your doctor prior to starting one. It is also key to remember that moderation in all things keeps a healthy, balanced body and mind. Be it inactivity or exercise, sweets or oils or another food, too much of anything is not good for us.

Fasting and Juicing

October 18, 2012

I’m tackling both subject today as they often go hand-in-hand. They are hot discussions that everyone seems to know something about; they are also a huge moneymaking opportunity for those selling things. First and foremost, however, I’d like to start by reminding readers that I am not a doctor nor registered nutritionist (I am an American Council on Exercise certified Health Coach); I highly recommend talking with your doctor and/or a registered nutritionist before beginning any fasting, juicing, or combo regimen, particularly if you have health issues. Each can pose serious health risks if not done properly.

 

Let me start by discussing fasting. I’ve discussed it before, at length, here. I’d like to say that, with the exception of short, periodic fasting, I believe that fasting should only be done for religious reasons, and then with moderation. There are those zealots who take it to an extreme, looking to lose weight while they are paying homage to God. That, to me, is not the right reason to partake of a religious fast. Religious fasting is an outward expression of disciplining the spirit and ought not be misconstrued into a weight-loss regimen.

 

Periodic fasting, also known as intermittent fasting, is shown to have some benefits. It is also good to allow the body the time to cleanse itself after taking in toxins over several months. However you go about it, make sure you do plenty of research and start out slowly. Jumping head-first into fasting can amount to drowning and giving up on the task.

 

Keep in mind that fasting might not be right for you. That is okay. I am not a proponent of the fasting dieting fad. I do not think sustained fasting is good for the body. In fact, when the body is subjected to long periods of fasting, it begins to shut down. It stores what energy it can by slowing the metabolism. This causes lethargy, despondency, cloudy thinking, and dissatisfaction with oneself–and when one is dissatisfied with oneself, all positivity goes out the window in favor of self-depreciation, which kills any attempts at bettering health.

 

Okay, so perhaps fasting isn’t the way to go. What about juicing? Personally, I love the idea behind juicing for a couple of reasons. First, it enables us to take in the necessary nutrients we need every day. Second, for those who, like me, aren’t into eating constantly just to get all those nutrients, juicing allows us to get all those vegetables and fruits in (5+ cups per day) without having to constantly munch down on raw veggies. Third, it helps us consume things we may not really like to eat in its natural and/or cooked state. Green leafies? Yeah, sometimes they don’t taste so good.

 

The downside to juicing is that you miss out on the fiber, which is necessary for stool movement and heart health. Juicing is also expensive. Not only are you paying for quite a bit of produce (although, to be honest, if we ate as many servings of fruits and veggies as we ought to eat, you may be surprised at the bill, particularly with gas prices going up) but also a juicer. There is also an increased risk of food-borne illness, although if your produce is washed correctly and used immediately, it is a smaller risk than if drinking pasteurized products.(A student recently told me that she washes all her produce in white vinegar and water, and rinses with water, which I think is far healthier than a chemical solution or spray.)

 

As for a juice fast, again this may be how you choose to take intermittent fasting. I don’t promote any sort of fasting, as people tend to think that the immediate weight loss associated with fasting is fat loss, which it isn’t. (It’s fluid loss.) Juice fasting, or fasting on liquids, should be done with extreme care and approached in the same manner as intermittent fasting (i.e. a few days at a time every few months).

 

Be that as it may, proponents of these techniques swear by it. When all is said and done, however, it comes down to the individual: what works and what doesn’t. If interested in trying any or all of these, consult with your doctor and do research. Don’t jump in head-first, particularly if people are trying to sell you something. It isn’t worth the grief (and hit to your pocketbook).

 

As I always say, moderation is key. Going too far in any direction isn’t healthy or balanced. Health is about finding balance, striking that balance however it is best for you, and monitoring your body for signs of unbalance. Remember: any diet promising fast results isn’t going to give them to you. It takes longer to shed weight than it did to put it on. Have patience and look for the ways to help yourself that will be beneficial to both your body and self-esteem; and, as usual, get moving!

There is tons of advice out there about these three subjects. Fasting and juicing are big weight loss techniques, and vinegar is supposed to be a heal all. But are they? What are the truths? Can we do these on occasion, with good results, or can we get away with doing them for long periods of time without negative consequences? I plan on exploring these later this month, due to some questions posed to me from students, but I wanted to post a few articles here beforehand. Feel free to leave your own thoughts!

 

Fasting

Eating Or Fasting For Fat Loss (IDEA Fit)

Is Fasting Healthy? (Web MD)

Dr. Andrew Weil on Intermittent Fasting (Huffington Post)

Routine Periodic Fasting Good For Health, and Heart (Science Daily)

A Safe 3-Day Fast (Live Lighter Blog)

 

Juicing

Health Benefits of Juicing (Mercola)

Is Juicing Healthier Than Eating Whole Fruits and Vegetables (Mayo Clinic)

Juicing: Need To Know (PBS)

Done Properly, Juicing Can Play Role in Healthy Diet (USA Today)

Juicing Recipes (Stanford Cancer Center)

 

Vinegar

Apple Cider Vinegar: Claims, Benefits? (Web MD)

The Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (Global Healing Center)

Vinegar For Your Health (and other things) (Vinegar Tips)

Balsamic Vinegar Health Benefits (LIVESTRONG)

8 Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar (Reader’s Digest)

Pumpkin is possibly my favorite fall food. As summer dwindles down, I am constantly thinking about how many cans of pumpkin puree will be in the store come October. It is healthy, loaded with nutrients, and just plain delicious. Also, there are great ways to incorporate it into regular recipes, including:

  • Substitute pumpkin for butter/oil in pancakes/waffles
  • Put pumpkin seeds in homemade granola
  • Turn puree into a simple but tasty soup

I follow quite a few blogs of foodies and/or nutritionists who love to experiment with seasonal foods and who try to make their recipes, gluten-, dairy-, casein-, refined sugar-, and egg-free. As desserts are usually our favorite part of the fall foray, I thought I would include one or two in the recipes give below. Enjoy, and ask the blog experts questions if you have any! Even though I do not know them personally, they seem like great, friendly people.

Pumpkin Donut Holes with Sunbutter Caramel Drizzle

Flourless Pumpkin-Pecan Cookies

Soft Pumpkin Cookies (having been to the bakery she mentions, I know how good these are; I cannot wait to try this recipe for myself)

Spicy Butternut Squash Pie (so it’s not pumpkin, but technically pumpkin is a variety of squash)

Pumpkin Chocolate Oatmeal Tart (pumpkin and chocolate sound like an odd mix, but I absolutely love a pumpkin chocolate chip muffin one company around here makes so…)

Cream of Pumpkin Soup–Dairy-Free (just found this through this blog!)

Pumpkin Smoothie (for more smoothies, see full post here)

There are a million other pumpkin recipes out there. Our favorites tend to be those we grew up with. Great! Try a new spin on them, see how healthy you can make them.