Metabolism, Part 3 of 3

I have explained how metabolism works, and what foods help boost metabolism.

The final piece of the puzzle is exercise. I know this is supposed to be a nutrition blog, but metabolism is a perfect example of how nutrition cannot reap its full benefits without exercise. They go hand in hand, and both are vital to a healthy life.

Remember when I went over how much ATP energy “pills” are in just one Christmas cookie? Trillions! But if you don’t exercise and release that ATP energy, your body must store it. This is what leads to things like high cholesterol, high blood pressure, high triglycerides, obesity, diabetes, and other very serious health problems.

The other benefit of exercise is the deep breathing. Metabolism absolutely needs oxygen to operate. Look back at Steps 1 and 2: tiny sugar molecules from our food are trying to break down into more basic forms. However, the process halts at Step 1 if there is no oxygen available. Instead, the sugars are temporarily turned into lactic acid. This is why we may feel soreness during and after a workout. But eventually, as our heart rate slows and we can breath more deeply and inhale more oxygen, that lactic acid slowly goes away and those sugar molecules continue to metabolize, powered by oxygen.

Breathing out carbon dioxide is also an important part of metabolism. Deep breathing activities like yoga, pilates (my personal favorite), Tai Chi, and meditation are all very beneficial to proper metabolism.

In my opinion, exercise and healthy eating go hand in hand. Some people say three times a week is enough, but I disagree. I would challenge people to try to do something active once a day. Some days that may include a 6-mile run and a yoga class. Other days, maybe just a 10-minute walk to the post office. But either way, you are getting your heart rate up, working your muscles, and helping your metabolism stay healthy.

Some ideas for getting a workout in on days you are busy:

• Wake up 10 minutes earlier and run for those 10 minutes. That one mile will make a huge difference in your day. Even if you just walk for 10 minutes, that is still so much better than avoiding a workout altogether.

• Park in the farthest corner when you’re at the mall or grocery store.

• Take the stairs instead of the elevator at work.

• Sit on a fit ball at your desk. If your coworkers make fun of you, they are just jealous that you are doing something good for your health! Guys can sit on fit balls too. A certain guy I know uses it in his home office…

• Walk more places. Whether it’s the grocery store, the pharmacy or the bank, if you can walk there, why not? It saves money and gives you a workout. I walk everywhere for these reasons (okay, well, my walking may also have something to do with the fact that my Saturn wagon is barely chugging along and I don’t want to have to buy a new car for at least another year…). Sometimes Ed and I even walk to dinner on date night, whether it’s ½ mile down the street or 4 miles across town! It’s fun, a good chance to talk, and the food and drinks taste much better if you feel like you’ve earned them!

Exercise is so important. Don’t let a day go by without it! Oh, and for those who live in colder climates, remember that you burn extra calories when you run or walk outside in the cold, because your body is working hard to stay warm!

That wraps up metabolism. If any of you want more detailed information about how it works, send me an email and I will share with you the “client handout” I made for my final exam in my class. It is helpful to know what’s going on inside of you. Also, I met a girl last weekend who is reading Jillian Michael’s book on metabolism (Master Your Metabolism). She was totally into nutrition talk (which I loved), and when we talked about metabolism she said it’s exactly what she’s reading in this book. I may be a little biased since I love watching Biggest Loser each Tuesday night (even though I don't always agree with their nutrition approach), but this book may be a good one to pick up.


Metabolism, Part 2 of 3

People often want to know which foods they can eat to give their metabolism a boost and keep it healthy. Yesterday you learned that metabolism requires certain vitamins and minerals in order to properly break down sugar molecules and create energy for your body.

B-vitamins are some of the main vitamins used in metabolism. They act as “carriers” to transport the tiny molecules of food from one step of metabolism to another. So, if you are not getting enough B-vitamins from your diet, you could be slowing down your metabolism. Two important B-vitamins are riboflavin (B-2) and niacin (B-3).

Foods that contain niacin and riboflavin include yogurt, broccoli, almonds, wild and brown rice, brie, roquefort, ricotta and Swiss cheeses, tuna, white meat chicken, swordfish, salmon, halibut, peanuts, beef, cod, sunflower seeds, whole wheat flour, and eggs. Animal organs also contain high levels of these B-vitamins, so those people in your family who volunteer to eat the turkey organs on Thanksgiving each year (that would be you, Ed) are actually doing their health a huge favor!

Certain minerals are also necessary for proper metabolism. These include phosphorous, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc. All of these minerals work with the B-vitamins to transport and break down food. Foods you can eat to obtain each of these minerals include:

Phosphorous: Swiss, American and cheddar cheeses, ham, tofu, beans, milk, raw almonds, oatmeal and lentils.

Magnesium: buckwheat and whole wheat flour, tofu, dried figs, Swiss chard, raw almonds, roasted cashews, halibut, pecans, walnuts, bananas, avocado, watermelon, baked squash, black strap molasses, sweet potatoes (with skins), kiwi and garbanzo beans.

Iron: Blackstrap molasses, amaranth, quinoa, teff (see recipe using these grains here) lentils, beef, beans, leeks, apricots, kale, pumpkin, squash, raw spinach, almonds and figs.

Copper: Cashews, peas, blackstrap molasses, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, almonds, whole wheat flour, prunes, white meat chicken, pecans, halibut.

Zinc: Oysters, beef, turkey, Swiss and cheddar cheeses, lima beans, rolled oats, pumpkin seeds, tuna, ginger, lentils, cashews and peas.

As you can see, it is very important to vary your diet to get all of these vitamins and minerals. Try keeping only whole wheat flour and brown rice in your kitchen, so whenever you bake or cook these are your only options. White rice and white flour are not helping metabolism (or your overall health) one bit, so why buy them? Another tip is to eat many different types of nuts and seeds either as a snack, on a salad, in the form of nut butter, or in things you bake or cook. You can see above that nuts and seeds contain many vitamins and minerals. Finally, try to buy new fruits and vegetables each time you grocery shop. Sometimes people get into the habit of buying the same things each week. This limits your diet and may prevent you from getting all the vitamins and minerals your body needs.

Other quick, easy tips to incorporate the above foods into your diet: Bake with blackstrap molasses as a sweetener (read more about it here); make homemade nut butter not only from almonds but with cashews and walnuts as well (find out how to do it here); whenever you prepare potatoes, always keep skins on for full health benefits; add some of the fruits and veggies above into a smoothie.

It is important to focus on healthy foods to keep your metabolism moving. Low-fat or low-calorie diets may prevent you from getting all the vitamins and minerals your body requires, which ultimately slows metabolism and prevents further weight loss. The best diet, whether you’re trying to lose or maintain weight, is a diet rich in whole foods and one that limits or completely eliminates processed foods and refined sugars. This will ensure your metabolism and other cellular processes are functioning properly, allowing for healthy cells and prevention of sickness and disease.


Metabolism, Part 1 of 3

Ever wonder how metabolism works inside your body? Which foods aid metabolism and which ones inhibit it? Why certain foods metabolize more quickly than others?

All of these questions will be answered between now and Friday at PWN blog. We just finished our metabolism unit at school and I am completely fascinated with everything I have learned. So, I want to share it with you. I am sure that once you understand metabolism a bit better, and how certain diets and lifestyles can actually help or hurt metabolism, you will be motivated to make small changes!

Part 1: Science

I’ve been called a “mathlete” many times in my life (I majored in math at Marquette). But is there a term for the science geek? Because that’s what I’ve felt like this past week. I have been completely captivated by YouTube videos on cellular respiration and spent hours sketching diagrams of glucose molecules. I’ll try to simplify it here so I don’t bore you too much, but I do think it’s important to have an idea of the science behind the nutrition.

Everything we do requires energy, from sleeping to sprinting. This energy is called ATP. Metabolism is the process that changes food energy into body energy, or ATP. A body with no food, or a body with the wrong foods, will have a tough time producing ATP. This is why you may feel run down when you are hungry; eating a diet that restricts calories, fats or carbs; or eating a diet high in things like potato chips, baked goods and white bread.

Food Energy In Body Energy Out

But only with proper metabolism!

Metabolism breaks apart 3 things inside of us: carbohydrates, proteins and fats. When you eat a banana, glucose sugar molecules enter our cells to begin metabolism.

In Step 1, they are broken apart in a 10-part process to a simpler type of sugar, pyruvate sugars. Step 1 produces 2 ATPs, or 2 “energy pills”.

In Step 2, the pyruvate sugars are further broken down into a new type of sugar called Acetyl CoA sugars. This produces no ATP energy.

In Step 3, the sugars finally complete their breakdown. Step 3 is powered by carbohydrates (and sometimes proteins). So if you are eating a low-carbohydrate diet, your metabolism will eventually slow. This explains why some may experience weight loss initially on a low-carb diet, but eventually that will taper off. Step 3 produces 2 more ATP energy pills.

In the final step, tiny atoms from your food are transferred through certain vitamins and minerals, all lined up in a row. As the atoms travel through, they create more and more ATP energy (34 ATP energy pills total for step 4). This step requires certain vitamins and minerals to operate. Those who are consuming foods that are not nutrient-rich, such as processed or packaged foods, may not have the vitamins and minerals they need to complete Step 4 properly. This will explain why some people go on a low-calorie diet and still have trouble jump-starting their metabolism. If your calories are not coming from the right foods, your body is not going to operate effectively.

The entire metabolism process, Steps 1-4, creates about 38 ATP energy pills. We use each energy pill to power our daily lives. However, any excess energy can be turned into stored fat.

A good example we talked about in class: 1 cookie has trillions of glucose molecules. If each glucose molecule produces 38 ATP energy pills, think about how much energy you are producing with just that 1 cookie! Chances are you will not use up all this energy, which can result in fat storage.

Check back tomorrow and Friday for more information on what types of food power metabolism, what types slow it down, and specific lifestyle changes you can make to help your body run more efficiently!

By the way, I'm thinking of ordering myself one of these t-shirts. Anyone else want one?


Masala Chai Tea

It’s 6 degrees in Denver, and our heat has been broken since Friday morning. I’ll spare you the details, but let’s just say I’ve learned a lot over the past four days. The wood-burning fireplace in our living room has been our heat source, and it’s wonderful. Even though my clothes and hair smell like campfire, and my butt is sore from doing all my homework on the ground next to the fireplace, and my chest hurt on my 3-mile run today (probably from smoke inhalation), there is no one who can dispute that real fireplaces are the best – especially around Christmastime. I'm really going to miss the constant fire once our heat is up and running again tomorrow!

In addition to non-stop fires, Ed and I have been drinking tea to stay warm. We drink mainly herbal teas, but I found a recipe from the chefs at Nutrition Therapy Institute that I want to share. It’s festive enough without being over the top – perfect for this time of year.


5 tsp Darjeeling Tea

4 cups water

1 cup milk

5 green cardamon pods

1 cinnamon stick

5 whole cloves

Raw honey

Bring water to a boil, then simmer with spices for 5-10 minutes. Turn off heat and add tea. Let steep for 5-10 minutes. Warm milk in separate pot. Mix tea and milk together. Add honey to taste.

Cardamon pods look like this:

Cardamon is a seedpod that is high in antioxidents. It is a good source of potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese and iron. They were traditionally used for medicinal purposes because they contain so many health-promoting nutrients. You can find them at a local health food store. You can also buy ground cardamon seeds as a spice.

Cardamon is a good flavor to add to other things too, such as brown rice, soups or chicken dishes. In school we talk a lot about the importance of a varied diet. So, now I pick up something new to try every time I am at the grocery store. Cardamon pods are something I will definitely be buying again.

So, you can overpay for a sugary chai latte at the coffee shop, or you can make your own nutritious tea at home... what will it be?

Fruits & Veggies: What to Buy, and Why

Many of you probably read Haute Apple Pie, a blog attempting (and wildly succeeding) to redefine what it means to be a homemaker. I can’t get enough of these girls, which is apparent by my new Dash & Albert rugs at every door in my home, my success (finally!) in making edible sweet potato fries, and my newfound awareness of my decorating feng shui (pretty sure I’m wood and metal…).

Who knows, I may even pull off a birthday party as chic as this one for my future kid some day (calm down Ed… I am only kidding… we can stick to backyard BBQs, I promise).

But when they wrote about the Dirty Dozen and the Clean 15, I got really excited. Of course buying 100% fresh, organic, local foods is best. But that is not always affordable and practical. So these tips about which fruits and vegetables should be bought organic and which are okay to buy non-organic are very helpful and relevant.

I had a great question recently: Why has there been a decrease of vitamins and minerals in our fruits and vegetables? Why was an apple grown and picked in 1900 much, much healthier than the apples we find in our grocery stores today?

Non-organic fruits and veggies can be treated with things like pesticides, additives, antibiotics and nitrates. Pesticides are used to protect crops, and have been around for 4,500 years. In the 15th century, toxic chemicals such as mercury and lead were used to protect crops. Pesticides really took off in the 1940s when synthetic forms were introduced, and pesticide use has increased significantly since then.

These synthetic materials can be very harmful to us in large quantities, or even in small quantities over a long period of time. Sure, the EPA, FDA and USDA are all regulating pesticide use among farmers. But these pesticides are very toxic by nature (which is why they must be regulated) and although “safe” and acceptable limits have been defined, there is no consideration as to the dangers of these chemicals once they are ingested and thrown into our delicate cells. Our bodies were not made to tolerate pesticides.

In addition, the soil in which non-organic produce is grown is often treated to increase fertility of plants. These treatments can reduce nutrient density in plants, such as decreasing levels of vitamin C in tomatoes and increasing nitrates (harmful substances) in spinach.

Organic fruits and veggies have significantly higher levels of vitamins A, C and E; B vitamins; zinc; calcium; and other minerals. The organic soil fertility methods improve efficiency of nutrient uptake in plants, creating fruits and veggies packed with nutrients that promote plant health and therefore human health.

And let’s not forget about the importance of buying local. As soon as an apple is picked, it begins to lose nutrients. Most US produce is picked 4-7 days before it reaches the grocery store shelves; produce from other countries is even older by the time we get our hands on it.

The fresher the fruits and veggies are, the bolder the flavors. Not to mention the peace of mind associated with knowing what farm your produce came from, and the specific growing practices they use. Try to buy local whenever possible. Stickers on fruits and vegetables should tell you the country or state of origin, and the closer to your hometown the better. For some, buying local means stepping outside and picking a few things from their own backyard. For others, it’s the neighborhood farmer’s market.

To sum it up, local and organic fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of nutrients, giving our bodies more power and health and reducing the amount of toxins we ingest. They may cost a bit more, but we are also getting more bang for our buck. Since most of us are on a budget, the Dirty Dozen and Clean 15 lists can help when choosing which items to buy organic. Just make sure to get a good produce brush to properly clean fruits and vegetables before you eat them.


Thanks to the lovely ladies at HAP blog for helping to make our homes (and our health!) more haute, one day at a time!