5 Winter-Inspired Nice Cream Blends

5 Winter-Inspired Nice Cream Blends

Nice Cream has gained popularity in the health food world over the last few years, and for good reason! As a dairy free, added-sugar free, vegan, and all-natural alternative to ice cream, it’s easy to see why. 

Yes, we know it’s December, but is there ever a wrong time to enjoy nice cream? Besides, there are plenty of holiday foods this time of year that are anything but nice to your healthy eating efforts. It’s not a bad idea to have some healthy sweets in your freezer for the days when baked goods and buttery bread rolls are challenging you to a face-off. 

So, what’s in this magical frozen delight? The answer is fruit! Plain, frozen fruit; typically, with banana as the base ingredient for that craveable creaminess.  

How to Make Your Own Nice Cream 

The one thing better than the taste of fresh fruit in nice cream, is how easy it is to craft your own. There are almost no limitations to what you can create when all you have to do is freeze some fruit and blend it together! Any flavor combination in the world is open to you. 

The How-To Breakdown

  1. Cut up some fresh fruit of your choice into pieces that will easily fit into a standard blender or food processor. We recommend freezing over-ripe bananas whenever possible because adding them is what gets you closer to the creamy texture of real ice cream, but you can leave them out if you prefer.

  2. Pop your fruit pieces into the freezer and wait impatiently for them to freeze. Alternatively, freeze them in advance so they’re ready to go whenever the craving hits.

  3. Toss your frozen fruits into a blender or food processor and hit the magic button. If you like, you can add some sugar-free non-dairy milk for an even smoother texture and an easier blending process.

  4. Scoop your masterpiece into a bowl and top it off with nuts, granola, coconut, dark chocolate crumbles, fresh fruit pieces, or even a drizzle of honey. Don’t forget to freeze the rest (if there’s any left to freeze). 

The process itself is really that simple. Now, depending on how creative you want to get, your flavor profiles can add some extra time and effort.

Here are some fun (and in-season) flavor combinations for you to try with your Nice Cream: 

01.

Pumpkin Pie 

Bananas, pumpkin puree, and some pumpkin spice give you this guilt-free treat. Feel free to add ingredients like Medjool dates for sweetness, and vanilla extract, cinnamon, or nutmeg to add some winter-time flare. Toppings like sunflower seeds or crushed almonds will also go nicely with these warm and spicy flavors. 

02.

Zesty Orange 

Clementines, Mandarins, and Tangerines are in season during the winter months. You may have heard them called by all these names but Clementines and Tangerines are really just classifications of Mandarin oranges. Match the tart orange flavors with some sweet pineapple or even strawberries, blueberries, and bananas to create a party of fruity flavors. 

03.

Apple Cinnamon 

This is a frosty take on the festive classic: apple pie. You may need some non-dairy milk to help the ingredients blend smoothly for this one. Feel free to experiment with the flavors of Flax milk, soymilk, walnut milk, almond milk, and others. All you need to add is banana, apple, cinnamon, and perhaps some vanilla extract to close in on that apple pie flavor. You can also substitute the apples for blueberries or cherries to achieve a different fruit pie profile. 

04.

Banana Pecan

If we’re going for an apple pie flavor, we can’t leave out pecan pie! You’ll follow the same procedure of blending pecans into your frozen bananas, and you can add some dates to mimic the sweetness of caramelization. If you don’t want crunchy bits of pecan, blend them into a “butter” first, the same way you’d blend peanuts to make peanut butter. This will help them blend more smoothly with the rest of your nice cream. 

05.

Cranberry Walnut

Cranberries are also very much in season and they can add a lip-smacking tart to your nice cream. Because of their tartness, it would be a good idea to add some sugar substitute to help sweeten this mix. Other fruits that pair well with cranberry include oranges, apples, peaches, and even pears. Again, blend your walnuts into a paste before adding them into your mixture. You can also add cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves to give it the zing of seasonal spices. 

For more happiness-inducing holiday treats, read our registered dietitian’s article on Nutritious, Mood Boosting Holiday Foods. To learn about fruit, its sugars, and the time of day to eat or avoid it, check out the answer to this reader’s question. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Mycotoxins in Food – How to Avoid Exposure

Mycotoxins in Food – How to Avoid Exposure

Question:

I’m hearing a lot about the dangers lurking in certain foods and keep seeing mycotoxins on the list. What are these, where are they, and what’s the risk? I’m going crazy trying to avoid contaminants! It seems nothing is safe.

– Karen H.

Answer:

No foods are truly 100% safe or non-perishable. Although we typically think of spoilage and rotting from visible bacterial growth and pest infestation, contamination of food can also be hiding from the naked eye. It’s said that mycotoxins are present practically everywhere in trace amounts and are unavoidable. 

According to the World Health Organization, “mycotoxins are toxic compounds that are naturally produced by certain types of molds (fungi).” Health effects from these toxins range from acute poisoning to immune deficiency and death. Mycotoxin-producing molds can grow on numerous foods such as cereals, dried fruits, corn, peanuts, coffee beans, nuts and spices. Fox News reported in 2015 that “in the United States aflatoxin contamination is most common is the Southeast in peanuts and corn products.” Aflatoxins are a type of mycotoxin known to cause liver cancer. Other major mycotoxins include citrinin, deoxylnivalenol, fumonisins, ochratoxin, patulin, trichothecenes and zearatenones. 

The good news: Contaminated foodstuffs (either visibly or tested) are not permitted in developed countries’ marketplace. The FDA has set very strict tolerance levels for certain mycotoxins present in crops. 

The bad news: In the U.S., agricultural products kept within state lines and animal feeds are not subject to FDA limits. Additionally, through the food chain, the consumption of even tiny amounts of mycotoxins can have a cumulative effect. This is evident in livestock, eggs and dairy products. 

How to avoid mycotoxins, then? You can reduce mycotoxin exposure by obtaining your raw food (whether conventional or organic) from trusted sources that adhere to federal and state safety testing and from local farmers’ markets (short storage periods). Of course, it could also be that reducing consumption of animal products, corn and peanuts may reduce your chance of exposure. 

Additional sources: 

  1. Alshannaq A, Yu JH. Occurrence, Toxicity, and Analysis of Major Mycotoxins in Food. Int J Environ Res Public Health. 2017;14(6):632. Published 2017 Jun 13. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5486318/ doi:10.3390/ijerph14060632 
  2. Bennett JW, Klich M. Mycotoxins. Clin Microbiol Rev. 2003;16(3):497–516. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC164220/  doi:10.1128/cmr.16.3.497-516.2003 

– 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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Your Resting Heart Rate and Why It’s Important

Your Resting Heart Rate and Why It’s Important

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute (BPM) while at rest.  

Why is Heart Rate Important?

Considering your heart is the most important muscle in your body, it is important to know that it’s functioning properly. You want your heart to beat in a rhythm; not too fast, not too slow, and not too erratic.  

Typically, an adult’s resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute1. Monitoring your heart rate from time to time is a good idea to know your normal heart rate and to take measures if it becomes abnormal.  

Resting heart rate is an indicator of physical fitness. When you first start a training program, it’s likely that you will want to know your resting heart rate. A lower resting heart rate may indicate a sign of good health and a higher degree of being physically fit.  

Depending on your age, gender, or medications you are taking, your resting heart rate changes. People who are physically fit generally have a lower resting rate than those who do not exercise regularly. Resting heart rate will typically increase as you age and will be much faster in infants. 

The best time to find your resting heart rate is in the morning after a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed1 

  • The best places to find your pulse are the wrists, inside of your elbow, the side of your neck or the top of your foot. 
  • To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds. 

If your range is outside the typical resting heart rate, consult a doctor. Although there is a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low resting heart rate may indicate an underlying problem.  

How to Improve Heart Rate

Make Time for Regular Exercise

  • Make time for exercising every day, even if it’s just walking. Getting regular exercise stimulates your heart and lowers your heart rate. Aim for aerobic activities like; swimming, cycling, or dancing.

Avoid Sitting for Long Periods of Time

  • Studies have found that sitting too long is just as harmful to your body as smoking2. Take more breaks, get up and walk around, stretch your legs, just move your body. Keep yourself active as much as possible to stimulate your heart. 

Avoid Smoking

  • First of all, we know that smoking is bad and can potentially lead to lung cancer and other diseases, but it also increases the resting heart rate. Quitting can lower your blood pressure and heart rate almost immediately3. 

Reduce Stress

  • This is the one that is sometimes out of our control, but if you have a lot on your mind, such as work, family, money, you’re probably stressed. If you are mindful of the stress in your life it’s a good idea to do things for yourself that reduce stress like; meditation, yoga, exercise, massage, and deep breathing. Find ways to calm yourself down to reduce stress and your heart rate.

Take measures to improve your heart rate by exercising or leading an active healthy lifestyle. Keep your heart happy! 

For more on heart health, listen to our podcast on 5 Simple Ways to Improve Your Heart Health. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

SOURCES 

1. American Heart Association. Getting Active How do I calculate my heart rate? October 2016 

2. The Active Times. Sitting is the New Smoking – 7 Ways a Sedentary Lifestyle is Killing you The research on the sitting epidemic and the results aren’t good. September 2014  

3. Smokefree.gov Benefits of Quitting The health benefits of quitting smoking can help most of the major parts of your body: from you brain to your DNA 

Hair Loss and Nutrients for Regrowth

Hair Loss and Nutrients for Regrowth

Question:

Hello! I would really like to know what I can do to keep my hair from falling out. I seem to have had thinning hair that falls out easily for as long as I can remember. What is the best nutrient for hair regrowth, and how can I prevent it from falling out in the first place? Thank you!

-Melanie K.

Answer:

There are several nutrients necessary for healthy hair, the fastest growing tissue in the body. What action to take for regrowing hair would depend on the cause of the hair loss. Rarely due to a nutritional deficiency, alopecia often results from stress, medications, hormonal changes, and certain medical conditions. Thinning of head hair is associated with genetics and aging. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends seeing a clinician to determine the cause of hair loss and offers tips on preventing loss.1 

If a nutritional balance is to blame, the likely culprits are a deficiency of iron, zinc, or protein. Additionally, niacin deficiency, sudden weight loss, over supplementation, and essential fatty acid deficiency may be suspect.2 The best sources of problem nutrients include beef, pork, lamb, shellfish, fatty fish, poultry, eggs, beans/legumes, oatmeal and avocados. See our previous Healthy Living Blog article on targeting certain foods for hair growth. 

Providing adequate essential nutrients will help stimulate hair follicles but focus on food first.3 Don’t supplement without first knowing that you need to. Toxicity of minerals and fat-soluble vitamins more readily occurs via supplements than from food. You can actually promote hair loss with too much vitamin A! 

References: 

1) “Hair Loss: Tips for Managing” https://www.aad.org/managing-tips 

2) Guo EL, Katta R. Diet and hair loss: effects of nutrient deficiency and supplement use. Dermatology Practical & Conceptual. 2017;7(1):1–10. Published 2017 Jan 31. doi:10.5826/dpc.0701a01 

3) Jessica Levings. Hair Growth Supplements. Today’s Dietitian. Sept, 2017; 19 (9): 40 

– 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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Dancing and Its Health Benefits

Dancing and Its Health Benefits

Evidence Based

Dancing is not just a form of expression, not just reserved for the artistically inclined, and not as difficult to start as you might think. We invite you to challenge your thoughts of “I can’t do it” or “it’s not for me,” so you too can enjoy the benefits of this versatile form of exercise.  

Dancing extends across the boundaries of physical movement. You can dance for your fitness, for physical therapy, for cognitive therapy, to enjoy a social activity, or to take time alone. Today we will focus on the physical and cognitive benefits of dancing.  

If you already have the dance bug and just want to dive in, browse our website to learn about our many dance style Group Fitness Classes. We host a variety of classes like Belly Dancing, Cardio Jam, Hip Hop, Latin Heat, Zumba, and Yogabeat. Be sure to search by zip code to learn which classes are available at the LA Fitness clubs closest to you.  

Without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the physical and cognitive benefits of dancing! 

Physical Health Benefits

Muscle Strength

Every move you make as you dance is deliberate; there’s no laziness here. You need to engage your legs and core to keep your body stable, and your back and shoulders to carry your posture. As your muscles learn to move your weight in new ways as you step, lift, drag, kick, and flick to the beat, they will get stronger. This functional strengthening is what promotes better balance and overall posture.1

Bone Strength

You may still be thinking of dance as just another cardio type exercise, and it can be excellent for your heart, but did you know dancing also benefits your bone strength? Think about it this way: your muscles are attached to your bones; and when you strengthen your muscles, it’s like you’re reinforcing the bones.  

One article on The Health Benefits of Dance states that “the side-to-side movements of most dance steps help to strengthen the weight-bearing bones such as the femur, tibia, and fibula.”2 That sounds a lot like the steps you would see in Latin dances like the Cha-Cha-Cha, Merengue, or Salsa. If you’re looking to add some focus on your lower body, our Latin Heat or Zumba classes might be just what you’re looking for! 

Lower Blood Pressure

When it comes to heart health, “dance can be as beneficial as jogging around a track, biking, swimming, or running on the treadmill.”2 We know that cardio is excellent for exercising your heart, and that when you exercise your heart you benefit your whole body. One study confirmed that Zumba participants who had high blood pressure, effectively and significantly lowered their blood pressure after only 2 months of Zumba!3 

Weight Loss

Not only are you benefiting your heart and improving your blood pressure, you are burning calories with every step. Burning calories can help you shed the pounds, especially if you are also mindful of your nutrition.  

Depending on the level of intensity, your range of motion, your physical condition, and more, “the continuous motion of dance… [will allow you to] burn anywhere from 200 to 500 calories during a 1-hr session.”2 

All-Over Toning

Because dancing is a total body exercise, you can expect some total body toning. “Some dance forms,” like Belly Dancing and Hip Hop, “have repetitive movements such as hip drips, figure eights, circles, and shimmies, which can put the lower back and hip joints and ligaments through full range of motion that increases muscle tone and improves posture.”2 Strengthening these particular parts of your body can aid in the prevention of lower back problems.2 

Now that you know about the physical benefits, let’s get into how great dancing is for your brain.  

Cognitive Health Benefits

Neuroplasticity

Neuroplasticity is your brain’s ability to form and optimize synaptic connections. This basically means that it is capable of growing, adapting, and changing. This is a very good thing because it means your brain can adapt to new situations and recover from old ones. 

Consider that most dancing requires you to learn a specific series of movements in a specific order for a specific amount of time. This prompts your brain to develop new neural pathways to allow this complex learning to take place.  

In fact, research has found that expert dancers have structural differences in their sensorimotor networks and in physical parts of the brain like the hippocampus (the part of brain responsible for emotion, memory, and your autonomic nervous system).1 

Aging and Memory

In general, physical exercise, especially aerobic exercise, has been shown to decrease the risk for neurological disorders, especially for cognitive decline, dementia and Alzheimer’s.1 To a lesser extent, there is also evidence to support that physical exercise can reduce your risk for Parkinson’s Disease and Strokes.1,4,5  

Dancing, however, has more benefits for the brain than repetitive physical exercise.6 A study on neuroplasticity in older adults found that, because dance requires constant cognitive and motor learning, it can counteract age-related cognitive decline.4 When it comes to brain health and function, the complexity of dance beats plain physical exercise. 

Coordination

Never get called a clutz again. Dancing can improve your coordination because it, itself, requires a great deal of coordination. Have you ever tried to rub your belly with one hand and tap the top of your head with the other hand? It takes a certain amount of concentration, doesn’t it? 

With dancing, not only do you need to coordinate between the different limbs of your body, but you must do the same between other dancers on the floor, and hone-in on your timing and spatial awareness.7 

Coordination exercises have actually been shown to improve attention and concentration, even more so than simple aerobic exercises.1

Final Thoughts

We know there’s a lot of research here so let us leave you with some simple takeaways: 

  1. Dance is a sustainable form of exercise partly because it’s enjoyable 
  2. It can benefit your body by strengthening your bones and muscles, improve your blood pressure, and help you lose weight 
  3. Learning steps/choreography, and then randomizing those steps, can help your mental acuity 
  4. Dance can decrease your risk for neurological disorders like dementia, Alzheimer’s, and to a lesser extent reduce your risk for Parkinson’s Disease and stroke 
  5. Dancing can help improve your ability to learn, memorize, concentrate, and multitask 

For more on brain health, read our registered dietitian’s article on These 7 Foods That Promote Brain Health. Or, check out her article on The 8 Best Foods for Your Heart. To access our monthly blog post highlights, subscribe to our newsletter today! 

Sources

  1. Dhami, Prabhjot, et al. “New Framework for Rehabilitation – Fusion of Cognitive and Physical Rehabilitation: the Hope for Dancing.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 1 Dec. 2014, www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2014.01478/full. 
  2. Alpert, Patricia T. “The Health Benefits of Dance – Patricia T. Alpert, 2011.” SAGE Journals, 2 Dec. 2010, journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/1084822310384689. 
  3. Jitesh, S., and Devi Gayatri. “Effect of Zumba Dance on Blood Pressure.” ProQuest, Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences and Research, 2016, search.proquest.com/openview/9cf7f1ff907efe2b63e8cf458735228d/1?pq-origsite=gscholar&cbl=54977. 
  4. Lossing, Anna, et al. “Dance as a Treatment for Neurological Disorders.” Taylor & Francis, Taylor & Francis Online, 2016, www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/17432979.2016.1260055?scroll=top&needAccess=true. 
  5. Earhart, G M. “Dance as Therapy for Individuals with Parkinson Disease.” European Journal of Physical and Rehabilitation Medicine, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2009, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2780534/. 
  6. Muller, Patrick, et al. “Evolution of Neuroplasticity in Response to Physical Activity in Old Age: The Case for Dancing.” Frontiers, Frontiers, 27 Feb. 2017, doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00056. 
  7. Cross, Emily S., and Luca F. Ticini. “Neuroaesthetics and beyond: New Horizons in Applying the Science of the Brain to the Art of Dance.” SpringerLink, Springer Netherlands, 5 Jan. 2011, link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11097-010-9190-y. 

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