What’s the DASH Diet?

What’s the DASH Diet?

Question:

I am a male, 46 years old, 192 lbs., 5 11″. I exercise regularly and I’m looking for a healthy diet to help keep in good shape and keep my cholesterol, sugar levels, blood pressure, and other levels in check. What would you recommend for me?

– Jorge M.

Answer:

Great job exercising daily and being proactive to keep chronic disease markers in check! A Mediterranean or DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan seems suitable for your goals. Really, a blend of these is ideal.

The Mediterranean style diet emphasizes whole grains, fruits, vegetables, beans, herbs, spices, nuts, and healthy fats as core foods. Fish and seafood are eaten twice weekly while dairy foods, eggs, and poultry are eaten moderate portions. Red meat and sweets are rarely eaten.

The American Heart Association’s DASH diet focuses on fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts, legumes, and low-fat dairy to provide potassium, calcium, and magnesium. It is high in fiber, moderate in sodium, and low in fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and sugar with little red meat. See table below.

LA Fitness, LA Fitness Living Healthy, Living Healthy, Ask Our Dietitian, nutrition, nutritional advice, healthy diets, best diet, diet plans, DASH diet

Your anthropometrics and activity level suggests an estimated daily energy need of 2,700 calories. Combining the two plans, you should base meals on a foundation of vegetables, legumes, whole grains, fruit, and nuts. Fish, seafood, low-fat dairy and healthy plant fats (e.g. olive oil, avocado) should round-out your diet. Also, spread your food intake throughout the day to support energy levels, proper digestion, and metabolism.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

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What to Eat for a 6-Pack

What to Eat for a 6-Pack

Question:

I am in the process of cutting down my body fat, but nothing seems to work. My metabolism is not very good, but I’m doing cardio 3 times a week. I also not eating as many calories to cut down. What and how many times should I eat if I want a six-pack?

– Arib C.

Answer:

First and foremost, I hope you’re incorporating some resistance training into your workout routine! Cardio is great for reducing body fat around the belly, but six-pack abs are made from strength training to develop those abdominal muscles. See a ProResults® trainer for assistance and listen to one’s advice for best ab machines on our Ask a Trainer series.

That said, you should eat three to six times per day, schedule and appetite permitting. If you choose to eat more frequent meals and snacks, pay attention to portions so you’re redistributing the calories you eat, not adding more. Meals and snacks should be based on vegetables – lots of them!, lean protein, and complex carbohydrates with fresh fruit and low-fat dairy to complement. Avoiding alcohol and added sugars is essential if you aren’t getting results.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Work Out Day Meal Recommendations

Work Out Day Meal Recommendations

Question:

I am a 60-year-old male in fairly good shape. I’m lean with 16 to 17% body fat. I am in the gym three times a week, usually after work for about two hours each day. I start with 15 min. of cardio and I do abs every day between sets. I have a GNC protein shake for breakfast every day, oatmeal at 10am, salad for lunch, and on work out days I use a C4 pre-workout and a GNC Performix Shake post-workout. I then have a salad with lots of vegetables for dinner. I try very hard to limit sugar, carbs, and red meat.

I see improvements in my workout strength. I see definition improvements (no bulking) but the last little fat around the tummy remains. I started at 210 lbs. 6 years ago. I have been running around 170 to 175 lbs. for about 4 years now. The body fat number is staying around 17%.

What should I eat for lunch before working out? And what should I eat for dinner after I work out? And what should I eat on non-workout days?

– Larry B.

Answer:

Kudos on your consistent power workouts! I would recommend that on your workout days your lunch salad include a legume, lean protein and healthy fat in addition to the greens since you have several hours to fuel before exercise. For example, choose one* from each column:

Greens

Legume

Lean Protein

Healthy Fat

Other Veggies x2

Spinach

Edamame

Chicken Breast

Avocado

Tomato, Carrot

Kale

Chickpeas

Shrimp

Olives

Artichoke, Broccoli

Mesclun

Black Beans

Tuna

Diced Walnuts

Cucumber, Radish

Leaf Lettuce

Kidney Beans

Turkey Breast

Sliced Almonds

Celery, Red Onion

Cabbage

Cannellini Beans

Salmon

Pepitas

Bell Pepper, Beet

At dinner, I’d suggest including a starchy vegetable such as corn, yam or butternut squash and tofu or low-fat cheese to prop up your evening salad after exercise. You can maintain your normal eating regimen on non-workout days through a solid breakfast to replace the protein shake is advised. Just keep to the same calorie level.

Here are four options:

  1. a nonfat plain Greek yogurt with berries
  2. nonfat cottage cheese with pineapple
  3. egg whites with mushrooms, spinach, and salsa
  4. soy sausage patties with melon.

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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Understanding Portion Control Better

Understanding Portion Control Better

Question:

Please help me better understand portion control. How much is too much versus too little? Is there a chart to help explain the differences between men and women? Does age and weight matter? Are there ways to make portion controlling easier?

Answer:

Controlling portions is a way to manage volume of food served and thus consumed. There is no specific way that is the best, just as there is no perfect serving for all people of any one particular food. A standard portion is a means to compare the nutritional content of different foods, e.g. “a half-cup of ice cream versus a half-cup of popcorn…”

The approach I recommend is a combination of a) the American Institute for Cancer Research’s “New American Plate” which has a greater proportion of plant foods than a typical diet and b) serving sizes adjusted for energy needs as suggested by MyPlatePlan. The key is to know your total caloric requirement first! This takes into account gender, age and weight.

Here are some common portion sizes provided in terms of measure with a corresponding way to “eyeball” the relative portion size in order to help you identify what portions look like. You can also practice by using your scale to weight various foods and then attribute a way to gauge that portion size by using objects such as your hands and fingers. See the examples below.

Bread, Cereal, Rice and Pasta (commonly 1-3 per meal)

  • 4” pancake or waffle = serving size 1   pancake = width just covers palm of adult hand
  • Bread = serving size 1 slice (1 oz.) = standard sandwich slice of bread
  • Pasta, rice, cooked cereal = serving size ½ Cup = size of a custard cup or ½ baseball

Vegetables (goal: 2-3 per meal)

  • Chopped vegetables (raw non-leafy) = serving size ½ Cup = size of a custard cup or ½ baseball
  • Raw leafy vegetables = serving size 1 Cup = 1 baseball or fist of an average adult

Meat and Protein (commonly 1-3 per meal)

  • Nuts = serving size 1/3 Cup = level palmful for average adult
  • Lean meat, poultry, seafood = serving size 1 oz. = size of adult thumb
  • Peanut butter = serving size 2 Tablespoons = size of a ping-pong ball
  • Beans, cooked = serving size ¾ Cup = size of a tennis ball

Fats and Oils (limit to 1 per meal)

  • Butter, margarine or oil = serving size 1 teaspoon = 1 pat or size of a half-dollar
  • Cream cheese = serving size 1 oz. = size of two dominoes
  • Mayonnaise or dressing = serving size 1 Tablespoon = top portion of adult thumb
  • Sour cream or reduced = serving size 2 Tablespoons = size of a ping-pong ball
  • calorie salad dressing

Fruit (commonly 2-3 per day)

  • Dried fruit = ¼ Cup = 1 golf ball
  • Canned, chopped or cooked = serving size ½ Cup = size of a custard cup or ½ baseball
  • Fresh fruit = serving size 1 medium or ½ large = 1 tennis ball or ½ softball
  • Berries or grapes = serving size 1 Cup = 1 baseball or fist of an average adult

Milk, Cheese and Dairy products (commonly 1-3 per day)

  • Natural hard cheese = serving size 1½ oz. = 9-volt battery or 1-inch cube
  • Cottage cheese = serving size ½ Cup = size of a custard cup or ½ baseball

– Debbie J., MS, RD

This article should not replace any exercise program or restrictions, any dietary supplements or restrictions, or any other medical recommendations from your primary care physician. Before starting any exercise program or diet, make sure it is approved by your doctor.

Some questions have been edited for length and/or clarity.

Ask our Dietitian

Have a nutrition question? Our registered dietitian is ready to help!

Email nutrition@lafitness.com or submit your question below and it may be featured in an upcoming article!

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These 7 Foods Help Promote Brain Health

These 7 Foods Help Promote Brain Health

It takes more than regular walks and the daily crossword to keep your brain in top cognitive shape! What you eat plays a larger role in mental fitness and preventing age-related decline in brain function. Like the rest of your body, the brain needs to be properly nourished from the start for optimum performance. An overall healthy diet is great, in addition there are certain types of food that promote brain health. Here’s a rundown of these brain preservers: 

1. Fish 

Oily fish like wild salmon, albacore tuna and sardines provide docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), a type of omega-3 essential for brain development and function, helping neurons trigger and cells regenerate. Long-term intake of adequate DHA has been linked to improved memory and learning ability. People who regularly eat fish are less likely than their peers to have depression. In fact, the American Psychiatric Association has endorsed the fatty acids in fish as an effective part of depression treatment.1  

You can’t start too early! The FDA and EPA agree eating fish is especially important for pregnant or nursing women because it helps with the growth and development of children’s brains and even helps boost IQ.  

Vegans can get their omega-3s from flaxseed, walnuts, chia seeds, algae-like seaweed or supplements.

2. Leafy greens  

Green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale, and collard greens provide vitamin K, folate, beta carotene, and lutein – nutrients that may support brain function and cognitive health.2 Eat at least one-half cup serving of leafy greens daily to get enough of these neuroprotective compounds. 

3. High antioxidant foods  

Powerful oxidation fighters that protect the brain3 are found in vegetables (broccoli, leafy greens), fruits (berries), nuts and the spice curcumin. Antioxidants’ positive effects on neural function are the reason why such foods are encouraged for younger people to slow age-related memory decline and prevent Alzheimer’s disease.  

4. Heart-healthy diet 

A cardiovascular protective diet is an important factor in battling age-related declines in brain function. Cerebrovascular disease, Alzheimer’s disease, and dementia are linked by the circulatory system; vascular cognitive impairment and vascular dementia stem from damage to the vessels leading to the brain. 

Good nutrition in younger people is associated with better blood flow and increased brain size, thus protecting the brain from age-related volume decrease. Also, maintaining a healthy weight may preserve gray matter from dementia-related decline.4  

5. Potassium-rich foods 

Because they counteract the effects of sodium on fluid balance, potassium-rich foods are important to combat hypertension, a well-documented risk factor for dementia. Potassium-rich foods include potatoes, tomatoes, bananas, coconut water, avocado and winter squash. 

The National Academy of Sciences even assigned “managing blood pressure for people with hypertension” as one of the three classes of interventions to prevent cognitive decline.5 And the MIND diet (a combination of DASH “Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension” with a Mediterranean diet) is associated with preservation of stroke survivors’ brain function. 

6. Mediterranean diet 

Following a Mediterranean diet might improve cognitive function in seniors and delay the onset of Alzheimer’s disease by a few years.6,7,8 A Mediterranean diet is characterized by high intake of vegetables, legumes, fruits, cereals, fish and unsaturated fatty acids (mostly as olive oil), low intake of saturated fatty acids, meat and poultry, low/moderate intake of dairy products and a regular but moderate amount of alcohol (mostly wine drank at meals). 

7. Coffee 

Coffee consumption is correlated with a reduced risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease.9 This neuroprotective benefit is independent of caffeine but may be related to the roasting process due to one of coffee’s polyphenolic compounds.10  

The Takeaway 

Whether you choose fish, potassium-rich fruits and vegetables, coffee or an array of heart-healthy powerhouse foods it’s possible to boost brain power, function, and mental wellness while forestalling degenerative brain disease through diet. Nutrition is often the best medicine – now that’s food for thought! 

References: 

  1. Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Major Depressive Disorder: The American Psychiatric Association Task Force Assessment of the Evidence, Challenges, and Recommendations. American Psychiatric Association, June 2009. file:///C:/Users/Lilde/Downloads/rd2009_CAM.pdf  Accessed 3/18/2019 
  2. Leafy Greens are Good for the Brain. Gina Shaw. American Academy of Neurology. Brain & Life, Oct/Nov 2018. https://www.brainandlife.org/the-magazine/article/app/14/5/14/leafy-greens-are-good-for-the-brain Accessed 3/18/19 
  3. Brain Foods: The Effects of Nutrients on Brain Function. F Gomez-Pinilla. Nature Reviews Neuroscience. 2008 Jul; 9(7): 568-578. 
  4. Obesity Linked to Dementia Risk– Gray matter atrophy tied to BMI and other obesity metrics. Judy George. 1/9/2019.  https://www.medpagetoday.com/neurology/dementia/77340  Accessed 3/1/2019 
  5. Preventing Cognitive Decline and Dementia: A Way Forward. National Academies of Sciences Engineering Medicine. 2017. ISBN 978-0-309-45959-4 
  6. Mediterranean diet and 3-year Alzheimer brain biomarker changes in middle-aged adults. V Berti, et al. Neurology. May 15, 2018; 90 (20). 
  7. Adherence to a Mediterranean diet and Alzheimer’s disease risk in an Australian population. S Gardener, et al. Translational Psychiatry. 2012 Oct; 2(10): e164. 
  8. Mediterranean diet nutrients tied with healthy brain aging. Catharine Paddock. 12/21/2018. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/324064 Accessed 3/1/2019 
  9. Coffee and its consumption: benefits and risks. MS Butt, MT Sultan. Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition. 2011 Apr; 51(4): 363–373. 
  10. Phenylindanes in Brewed Coffee Inhibit Amyloid-Beta and Tau Aggregation. RS Mancini, Y Wang, DF Weaver. Frontiers in Neuroscience. 2018 Oct 12; 12:735. 

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