Posts Tagged ‘Nutrition for Health and Performance’

Be Smart and Eat Your Vegetables

October 11, 2009

If you need yet another reason to eat your vegetables, research suggests they might make you smarter, particularly as you age. A new study has found that a higher daily consumption of vegetables and fruit is associated not only with higher antioxidant levels, but also higher cognitive scores in healthy middle-aged and older adults. Furthermore, another previous study  found that older adults who consumed the most vegetables had the lowest incidence of Alzheimers, while fruit did not have the same positive association.

So what’s so great about vegetables?  Well, they are loaded with vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phytonutrients that help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, prevent cancer, heart disease and yes, even dementia. Vegetables have the highest nutrient density of all foods. In other words, they have the most nutrients for the fewest calories. Most vegetables are also low on the Glycemic Index so they’re helpful in stabilizing blood sugar levels. Vegetables are the one “all you can eat” food category for optimal nutrition as well as weight loss.  

OK, so now you know vegetables are good for brain and your body, but how do you get more  into your diet? Vegetables can be delicious as well as nutritious, you just have to know how to prepare them. For ideas, here are links to my previous blogs on How to Love Your Veggies, Part I  and Part II.

Be Well,


You Can’t Beat Beets as a Sports Nutrition Superfood

August 24, 2009

It’s probably no news to you that beets are nutritious, but did you know that they may be able to increase your exercise endurance?  Interesting new research on beets as a superfood has shown that they are potentially capable of boosting physical performance. Apparently, beets and other nitrate-rich vegetables increase blood flow and lower blood pressure. In this particular study, beetroot juice significantly increased the exercise endurance performance of cyclists as measure by oxygen uptake. The group of cyclists given the beetroot juice consumed less oxygen when exercising and therefore conserved energy.

While scientists have previously studied  beets for their ability to lower blood pressure, this new research found that the juice increases endurance and stamina in cyclists by converting the nitrates in the juice to beneficial nitric oxide that fuel the body. In addition to presenting lower blood pressure after drinking the juice, the cyclists also performed significantly better than another group of cyclists given a black currant juice “cocktail”.

Says study author Professor Andy Jones of the University of Exeter’s School of Sport and Health Sciences, “Our study is the first to show that nitrate-rich food can increase exercise endurance. I am sure professional and amateur athletes will be interested in the results of this research”. But he adds, “Beet juice could (also) potentially help less physically fit individuals.”

Don’t confuse the natural nitrate compounds in beets  with the chemical nitrites (i.e., sodium nitrite and potassium nitrite) used as food preservatives in such as bacon and hot dogs. While they are believed to be safe in small doses,there is some question of whether or not they can lead to cancer if consumed in large quantities.

Beets aren’t the only source of naturally-occurring nitrates. Other nitrate-rich vegetables include:  celery, radishes, green beans, carrots, lettuce, squash and spinach. And, by the way, beets contain other heart-healthy nutrients. Beets contain betaine, which helps detoxify homocysteine (an amino acid that’s implicated in heart disease).  If the body doesn’t have enough vitamin B-9 (folate) or B-12 to get rid of excess homocysteine, then betaine comes to the rescue as a backup mechanism. Beets are also a great source of Vitamins  A and  C, as well as manganese, potassium and fiber.

Fresh or canned, juiced, cooked or raw, beat it to your beets and you may not only keep your heart beating efficiently, you may also beat your competition!

Be Well,



Slow Down and Savor Your Food

August 8, 2009

I’m always telling my clients (and myself!!) to eat more slowly and savor and enjoy their food. I just returned from vacationing in France where I was struck by the way the French linger over a meal – even breakfast! In fact when dining out, we had to ask our servers for the check – they never hurry you to leave. The French take time to experience their food which is probably one of the reasons they have a far lower rate of obesity than Americans. That and the fact that they eat smaller portions and they walk everywhere.

Now, here is a list of  5 reasons of why slowing down to enjoy our food is so important  for both physical and emotional health. Our fast-food/fast-eating culture mirrors our fast-paced, impatient lifestyle. Perhaps slowing down the former can help us in managing the latter.

More on my gastronomic adventures in France in future posts. 

Be Well, 


No Wonder They Run So Far, So Fast!

July 23, 2009

I’ve always been fascinated by the Tarahumara Indians – the world’s original, natural marathoners. Scientists have long wondered what gives them such great endurance, able to run mile after mile at altitude…  just for fun.

I just came across this book, “Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen“, by Christopher McDougall, who sought to uncover the secrets of the Tarahumara running phenomenon.

Studies on the Tarahumara diet have found that it’s high in protein, complex carbohydrates and fiber, but low in simple sugars, fat and cholesterol. But it’s no wonder the Tarahumara have such great endurance  – one of their staples is chia seeds, a superfood originally cultivated by the Incas that is a great source of Omega 3 fatty acids and insoluble fiber and is a complete vegetarian protein. In his book McDougall describes the diet of the Tarahumara, including their own “sports drink”, chia fresca.

Here are two very different versions of a chia fresca energy drink – the first is probably closer to what the Tarahumara drink, but the second sounds a lot yummier!

Be Well,


Top Ten Tips for Teen Nutrition

July 18, 2009

For those of you who attended my “Nutrition for Teens and Parents Workshop” on Sat, July 18th – thanks for coming! Here is a summary of the key points we covered:

1. Eat mostly whole foods – foods that are unprocessed or unrefined or processed and refined as little as possible before you consume them. When you do eat from a package – the fewer ingredients the better and you should be able to identify those ingredients. Know and understand what you put in your body!

2. Eat more vegetables! The more the better! Vegetables have the highest nutrient density of all foods and they’re delicious if you know what to do with them

3. Beware of misleading marketing when purchasing whole grains – particularly cereals and breads. Branch out and try some new whole grains if you’ve gotten into a rut. Try quinoa for example, which contains the highest protein content of all whole grains and is a complete vegetarian protein.  

4. Teens need lots of bone building nutrients as well as iron. Speaking of bone-building nutrients, drink milk – it’s the original sports drink!

5. Make sure you’re eating adequate lean protein – growing, active teens need plenty of it. A simple gauge is to eat half of your body weight in protein grams.  

6. Don’t be afraid of fat – just choose the healthy kind. The beneficial fats are polyunsaturated fats found primarily in cold water fish, some nuts, seeds and oils and monounsaturated fats, found in nuts, seeds, avocados and olives and vegetable oils. Polyunsaturated fats also help decrease inflammation and can help alleviate mild depression. 

7. A healthful, easy-to-digest, low-fat snack combining complex carbohydrates, lean protein and a little healthy fat will facilitate a high-quality workout. Here are some suggested pre- and post-practice snacks or mini-meals:

 -Whole grain cereal and milk

-Plain Greek yogurt with berries and a few chopped walnuts or slivered almonds

-1/2 of a turkey or peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread

-Small handful of nuts and a piece of fruit

-apple and a hard-boiled egg

-Banana dipped in natural, no-sugar-added peanut butter or almond butter

8. If you want to keep your skin acne-free, avoid eating a lot of sugar and other simple carbohydrates but do eat a lot of vegetables and fruits.

9. Eat “brain foods”, those high in Omega 3 fatty acids,  the night before a big exam. Salmon, tuna, scallops, walnuts, flax oil and chia seeds are all good sources. The morning of your test, eat a good breakfast containing complex carbohydrates, lean protein and a a little healthy  fat.

10. Strive for a healthy weight –one you can maintain by eating nutritiously and exercising regularly, but also one that allows for some indulgences.

These suggestions are geared toward a general audience. For a comprehensive, customized nutrition plan tailored to your family or teen’s needs, please visit my website for more information.

Be Well,


An Excellent Handbook For Knowing What’s in Your Food

July 17, 2009

With so many artificial ingredients being added to processed foods these days, you practically need a chemistry degree to know what’s in the foods and beverages you’re consuming.  I just came across A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives,  an excellent resource to help unravel some of the mystery. This up-to-date handbook includes 12,000 ingredients from a to z and describes what they do whether or not you should avoid them. This is a book worth having on your kitchen shelf. Of course, if you eat a mostly whole-foods diet as I’m always advocating, you really don’t need this book :)!

Be Well,


Teen/Parent Nutrition Workshop this Saturday

July 15, 2009

Just a reminder that I’m offering a Parent & Teen Nutrition Workshop this Sat, July 18th from 10:30 to 11:45 am at Ladera Oaks Swim and Tennis Club in Portola Valley, CA. This workshop will cover a variety of nutrition topics related to teens, including: eating for athletic performance, pre-and post-practice snacks, nutrition for optimal test taking, acne prevention through diet, and “food and mood”.

The charge is $20 for members, $25 for guests and $30 for parent/teen duos. Though not required, reservations can be made by calling Elizabeth at 650-854-3101, ext 163 or emailing For more information, please visit my website at If you can’t make it, I will be posting a summary on my blog next weekend.

Be Well, 


How to Love Your Vegetables: Part II

July 11, 2009

Recently I wrote about the importance of eating vegetables – how they have the highest nutrient density of all foods, but they are the category most people fall short nutritionally. Vegetables can be delicious – it’s just a matter of knowing what to do them. Here are more ideas for getting more into your daily diet:

If you’re not a vegetable fan or your kids aren’t, try adding vegetables to other dishes. Vegetable purees are a  great way to go. Try mashed cauliflower in place of mashed potatoes – it has a nice, sweet flavor to it. Add pureed carrots or zucchini to meatloaf, casseroles, pancake batter, muffins and quick breads, and chopped broccoli, mushrooms, or green beans to spaghetti sauce. Vegetable purees can even be snuck into desserts  thereby enhancing their nutrition as well as their flavor. There’s a great book called “Deceptively Delicious” by Jessica Seinfeld with great recipes for kid-tested desserts and snacks using butternut squash, cauliflower, spinach, carrot and banana purees. I also recommend keeping a can of pumpkin on your shelf year-round, not just during the holidays. It’s loaded with betacarotene and potassium – great for blending into smoothies, home-made soups, pancakes or puddings.

Dip into vegetables. For snacking, instead of chips and salsa, dip raw or lightly steamed veggies in salsa, hummus, mashed avocado or home-made guacamole, marinara sauce or a lowfat yogurt cucumber dip. This is another way of getting kids to eat more vegetables – just find a topping they like (ketchup and mustard work, too!).

Add vegetables to egg dishes. If you’re scrambling eggs or making an omelet, toss in some mushrooms, chopped onions, bell pepper and cooked asparagus.

Serve chicken or fish warm over a bed of wilted greens instead of rice or pasta.

Pile vegetables into your sandwiches.  And don’t stop at lettuce and tomato –add cucumbers, shredded carrots, onions or peppers to name a few. Or, make a lettuce wrap instead of a regular sandwich (substitute romaine lettuce leaves for the bread).  

Top your pizza! This another great way to sneak more veggies into your kid’s diets. Whether you make your own pizza, buy it frozen, or get it as takeout, load it up with extra veggies, including broccoli, tomatoes, green and red bell peppers, red onions, and mushrooms.  If you’re making your own, go easy on the cheese to reduce saturated fat, but load on the tomato sauce for extra lycopene.

Make vegetables the main dish. Plan your meal around an entree salad, vegetable soup, or stir fry. Add small servings of other foods — lean meat or poultry or low-fat dairy products — as side dishes. Entrée salads are great for summer – toss some fish, chicken or lean beef on the grill and then add it to a big salad

Legumes are a class of vegetables that include lentils, beans (including soybeans) and peas. Low in fat with zero cholesterol, legumes are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium and are an important vegetarian source of protein.  Legumes are also very versatile and inexpensive. Keep cans of beans and lentils on your shelf  and you can add accent to a salad, create a healthful soup, stew or casserole, puree them for dips and spreads or soups or combine them with rice for a main vegetarian entrée.

If you already eat plenty of veggies, good for you, but branch out and try some new ones, such as artichokes, eggplant, asparagus, Swiss chard, bok choy, beets, parsnips turnip or mustard greens and jicama. The greater the variety the better insurance that you are getting all of the phytonutrients vegetables contain. So mix it up!

Be Well,


Upcoming Parent and Teen Nutrition Workshop

July 5, 2009

Are you “between a rock and a donut” in getting your teen to eat healthfully? Is poor nutrition affecting your teen’s weight, study habits, athletic performance and/or moods?Do you know what  nutrients your teen needs more of? Proper nutrition is critical not only for physical and cognitive development during adolescence, it can also affect everything from your teen’s grades to his or her complexion.

I will be conducting a Parent & Teen Nutrition Workshop on Sat, July 18th from 10:30 to 11:45 am at Ladera Oaks Swim and Tennis Club in Portola Valley, CA. This workshop will cover a variety of nutrition topics related to teens, including: eating for athletic performance, pre-and post-practice snacks, nutrition for optimal test taking, acne prevention through diet, and “food and mood”.

The charge is $20 for members, $25 for guests and $30 for parent/teen duos. Though not required, reservations can be made by calling Elizabeth at 650-854-3101, ext 163 or emailing For more information, please visit my website at

Be Well, 


How to Love Your Veggies: Part I

July 1, 2009

Vegetables are to nutrition the way that stretching is to exercise:  most people know they’re good for them, but they don’t really like ‘em so it’s easier to skip ’em. But skip them you shouldn’t since vegetables have the highest nutrient density of all foods. In other words, per calorie they offer the most nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and other phytonutrients that help reduce blood pressure, cholesterol, prevent cancer, heart disease and boost your immune system in general

OK, now that you know why you should be loving your vegetables, here are some delicious ways to get more into your diet:

1. Frozen vegetables are one of your best, most convenient nutrition bargains. They are as nutritious if not more nutritious than fresh vegetables because they are flash-frozen when they’re harvested and they’re usually the pick of the crop. Trader Joe’s and Safeway each have a wonderful variety of frozen veggies, many of which are organic. Frozen vegetables also offer a convenient way in obtaining a variety of different colored vegetables in one meal. Variety is important as each color provides different phytonutrients. Economically, frozen veggies are a year-round bargain. Whereas fresh vegetable prices fluctuate depending on availability, frozen vegetables are affordable and available year-round.

2. If you don’t have much time to prepare meals, buy a combo microwave steamer/rice cooker and buy pre-washed, pre-cut fresh vegetables and steam them – no prep necessary.

3. Broil or grill skewered, sliced vegetables (zucchini, bell peppers, eggplant – even tomatoes) serve warm with lemon juice and olive oil. Or, combine with lean meat, fish or chicken for kebabs.

4. Add sea vegetables ( a great source of natural iodine and other trace minerals) to your salads or steamed veggies. They’re great for a sluggish metabolism as the iodine they contains helps keep the thyroid healthy.  Dried kelp, dulse and wakame – dry flakes can be sprinkled on veggies or warmed in soups. Try Gomasio, a Japanese seasoning combining sesame seeds and dried sea vegetables. It’s delicious sprinkled on salads or steamed vegetables. 

5Make a big batch of salad at one time to keep in your fridge so you can take single servings all week long. Add in slices of avocado and some sprigs of parsley or some sprouts when you serve it up. But the point is you already have the basic salad pre-made. Speaking of parsley, when you’re eating out, don’t toss the parsley garnish that may be one of the most nutritious foods on your plate. It’s loaded with vitamin K – an essential nutrient for bone health as well as vitamins C and A, folate and iron. It also aids in digestion – which is probably the original reason it was used as a garnish.

6. If you’re someone who likes a lot of flavor in your food, mix up some of your favorite herbs and spices to season your veggies such as basil, tarragon and oregano; sprinkle them with Parmesan cheese, drizzle them with olive oil, or cook them in garlic and onions (both of which are extremely healthful in themselves). Turmeric makes a great vegetable topping and it’s also a very healthful spice. Curcumin, the component in Turmeric that gives it its yellow color has been shown to kill cancer cells in lab tests. It’s also a great anti-inflammatory  – in fact studies have compared it favorably with NSAIDs such as Advil. Sprinkle it on steamed veggies or in your salads or soups.

I will offer more delicious ways of incorporating vegetables into your diet in a future post.

Be Well,