Smoothies That are Good for You

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Are smoothies good for you? They can be. With the right ingredients, you can pack a wealth of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and protein into each delicious smoothie – without adding sweeteners or bad fats.

Follow these 5 tips and every smoothie you make will be truly good for you:

1. Balance the Fruit to Veggie Ratio

Sure, fruit has outstanding health benefits, but eating too much can skyrocket your sugar intake. Balance out the fruit in your smoothie with vegetables such as kale, spinach, cucumber, squash, yam, or pulses. Aim for a 2:1 ratio of vegetables to fruit.

2. Use Unsweetened Ingredients

When including dairy or non-dairy alternatives, keep your smoothie’s sugar content down by choosing unsweetened, unflavored varieties. This means using plain yogurt instead of flavored and “unsweetened” soy milk instead of “original.”

3. Add an Extra Source of Fibre

Take the fiber in your smoothie to a level beyond what the fruit and vegetables contribute. Adding a scoop of SlimStyles® PGX® Granules or a tablespoon of chia, hemp, or ground flax seeds will help keep you full and even more satisfied.

4. Include Protein

When you drink a smoothie after your workout it should contain protein to help your body recover. PGX Satisfast™ Whey Protein Drink Mix makes for a delicious smoothie base that provides 10 g of protein per scoop. Greek yogurt, nut butter, and tofu are also sources of protein that create a smooth texture, while cooked quinoa, lentils, and black beans add protein and extra fibre.

5. Control Your Portion

When food is healthy it’s easy to rationalize a large portion; however, you’re better off sticking to a serving size that’s suitable for your caloric needs. As a guide, The U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s reference amount for smoothies is 240 ml (1 cup) per serving.

*Drink additional water (8 fl. oz.) after ingesting PGX®. If you are taking medications, take one hour prior to or two hours after taking PGX®.

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Recipe: Protein Packed Granola

protein packed granola

Granola — you know you want some! And that’s okay. With the right ingredients, you can pack granola with protein — one of the best nutrients for staying full and satisfied. If you struggle with weight, protein is a must-have nutrient in every meal.

As a high-quality source of plant protein, quinoa makes a fantastic addition to granola — not to mention that it’s delicious and crunchy! This pseudo-grain contains 8 g/cup of complete protein [1]. In other words, it provides a full range of essential amino acids. Quinoa pairs well with almonds and chia seeds, which are also good sources of protein and must-have ingredients for granola.

Protein Packed Granola

Boost the protein content in your morning, mid-day, and post-workout bites with this recipe for cocoa quinoa granola.

Ingredients:

  • ¾ cup quinoa, rinsed and drained (rinsing quinoa helps to remove its bitter flavour)
  • ¾ cup rolled oats
  • 2 tbsp. chia seeds
  • 2 tbsp. flax seeds
  • ¼ cup honey
  • 2 tbsp. canola oil
  • ½ tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tbsp. cocoa powder or chocolate protein powder
  • 1/3 cup dried coconut flakes, unsweetened
  • ½ cup dried cherries
  • ½ cup almonds, chopped

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.
  • Combine quinoa, oats, chia, and flax seeds in a medium bowl
  • Using a saucepan over low heat, melt honey into a liquid
  • Stir in oil, vanilla, and cocoa powder until it forms a smooth slurry
  • Pour over quinoa and toss until well coated
  • Transfer to a baking pan and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring half way
  • Allow to cool before transferring to an airtight container
  • Add coconut, cherries, and almonds. Gently toss to mix

protein packed granola

Whether you eat meat or not, including a variety of protein-rich foods, such as *PGX® Satisfast™ Vegan Protein, in every meal is critical to optimizing your health, energy, and power.

*Drink additional water (8 fl. oz.) after ingesting PGX®. If you are taking medications, take one hour prior to or two hours after taking PGX®.

References:

[1] Food and Agriculture Organizations. “Quinoa.” United Nations. Web. 3 March 2016. http://www.fao.org/quinoa-2013/what-is-quinoa/nutritional-value/en/

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3 Exercises for Toned Arms

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Arm day – one of my favorite days of the week! Think about it, our arms do a lot for us. They lift up heavy things (including carrying your kids), they push the grocery cart, and they pull that rope in an epic tug-of-war battle! As we age, we begin to lose muscle mass – in fact, by the time we turn 80, we have lost about 40% [1]! Strengthening your arm muscles is vital, not only to maintain tone but to assist in the activities of day to day life.

Here are three great exercises for toned arms:

1. The Bicep Curl to Shoulder Press

The biceps are muscles found on the front part of your upper arm. When your bicep contracts, it bends the arm at the elbow. The bicep muscle attaches to the shoulder joint, which is one reason why conjoining a bicep curl with a shoulder press is a fluid exercise and wonderful arm toning exercise. Strengthening your biceps and shoulders help with any pulling and overhead movement.

The Execution

Start with a dumbbell weight you can comfortably lift 15 times. As you progress, you will be able to add more weight and do fewer reps. We are going to start off with 15 reps at a moderate weight.

Start with both arms at your side. Keep your elbows by your sides (don’t let them come forward). The bottoms of your hands (when gripping the weights) will point toward the ceiling as you curl/bend your arm to about 30 degrees. At this time, you can bring your arms into a shoulder press position and press the weights straight up. Once you are done with your shoulder press, bring the weight back towards your starting point to begin the bicep curl again. It should be one fluid motion.

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2. The Push-Up

Push-ups are a great arm toner that also uses other muscle groups, like your core. Being able to perform this exercise in a hotel room, on the top of a mountain, or just hanging out at home, make push-ups a convenient, effective arm exercise you can do anywhere!

When you start to master push-ups you can execute multiple variations, such triceps push-ups and push-ups with a back row. But for now, we’re going to focus on how to do a simple push-up.

The Execution

Start on your hands and knees with your fingers spread. Make sure your wrists are placed straight under your shoulders, with your knees under your hips. Extend one of your legs straight back and rest your weight on your toes, then do the other. Your body should be in a straight line. Keep the muscles in your core and your glutes tight – don’t let your back sag! Keep your neck in line with your spine. Bend your elbows and lower your body towards the ground, then push yourself back up without locking your arms. Once you get back to your starting point, begin the exercise again until exertion.

You can always find a way to modify push-ups if you need to. For example, you can execute this exercise while on your knees instead of your toes.

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3. The Triceps Pushdown

One of my favorite muscles to workout is the triceps! This muscle can be found behind your arm closest to your shoulder, with their main mission being to extend the elbow [2]. Daily movements that use your triceps are shooting a basketball, throwing a ball and lifting bags of groceries out of the cart.

Exercising your triceps can get pretty specific as they aren’t the biggest muscle in your body. Triceps pushdowns are a winner in my book!

The Execution

In a gym setting, find the high pulley cable machine and attach a straight bar or the rope attachment. Adjust the cable to the setting closest to the top of the machine. The weight you set should allow you to do 12-15 triceps pull-downs with proper form. Keeping your elbows right at your sides, hold onto the straight bar or the rope and without moving your elbows, slowly pull it down towards your thighs. Once you’re at extension, slowly go back to your starting position.

Take a look at this demonstration of a triceps pushdown.

These three arm-strengthening exercises are sure to help you tone and strengthen those arm muscles!

References:

[1] Feature, Tom Valeo, WebMD. “Exercises for Biceps and Triceps.” WebMD. WebMD, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

[2] Cespedes, Andrea. “What Do Strong Triceps Help With?” Healthy Living. Azcentral, n.d. Web. 12 Dec. 2015.

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The Health Benefits of Eggplant

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The peculiarly shaped eggplant may have been associated with madness in Renaissance England, but fortunately for us, modern science has revealed that this rather strange looking vegetable is highly nutritious. Eggplants contain plenty of fiber and are packed with phytonutrients, including some rare antioxidants. Let’s take a closer look at all the benefits eggplant has to offer:

Antioxidants

Nasunin is concentrated in the skin of purple eggplants, where it protects the vegetable from the sun’s rays and from environmental damage (Azuma et al., 2008). So far, Nasunin has only been found in eggplant, purple radish, red turnip and red cabbage. 

Research suggests that nasunin can help improve antioxidant activity in human cells, giving it a role to play in guarding against oxidative damage and associated health conditions. In one study, nasunin was found to protect colon cells from DNA damage in a dose-dependent manner (Jing et al., 2015). In another study, nasunin and petunidin 3RGc5G, another anthocyanin in eggplants, demonstrated excellent free radical scavenging abilities (Azuma et al., 2008).

Nasunin has also shown antiangiogenic activity, meaning that it may help to prevent the growth of blood vessels required to feed tumour growth (Matsubara et al., 2005). Antioxidants like nasunin have also been seen to help protect heart muscle cells (Das et al., 2011), while glycoalkoloids, namely a-solamargine and a-solasonine (found in eggplant and other Solanaceous vegetables), have been found to inhibit the growth of cancer cells in the laboratory and in animals (Friedman, 2015).

In addition to their anthocyanin content, eggplants contain chlorogenic acid, another antioxidant compound that may help to maintain healthy cholesterol levels already within the normal range (Hao et al., 2016). Chlorogenic acid comprises between 70% and 90% of the total polyphenol content of eggplants (Gramazio et al., 2014), and some research suggests that this nutrient supports healthy cellular DNA replication and immune health in humans (NCBI, 2016).

Nutrients and Fiber

Eggplants also contain vitamin C, folate and other B vitamins, beta-carotene, calcium, magnesium, potassium and phosphorus. These nutrients support immune function, bone health, muscle function, heart health and overall health.

Like most vegetables, eggplants are also high in fiber, meaning they can help you to feel full while maintaining a healthy body weight. Dietary fiber also helps to keep the digestive tract healthy for proper elimination of toxins.

Cooking with Eggplant

There’s no doubt that eggplants can be a little intimidating, given the range of shapes, sizes and colours available. It’s easy to get the hang of cooking with eggplants, though, and they are often found in Italian and Lebanese cuisine, where they work well with rich tomato sauces, basil, oregano and tahini.

Two of the simplest ways to cook eggplant are to slice it and fry it or, cut it in half and bake it with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Eggplant is also a great addition to salads as the flesh of the vegetable soaks up dressings and oils to become rich and succulent.

Some people swear by halving or slicing eggplants, salting the flesh to draw out some of the bitterness and excess liquid and then rinsing after half an hour to an hour before cooking as desired. For younger, firmer and smaller eggplants this may not be necessary as these are less likely to contain large, bitter seeds.

Eggplants should be stored at about 50° F (10° C), so it is usually best to keep them refrigerated. Intact, unbruised eggplants will typically store well for up to a week. Use sliced, cut or bruised eggplant faster. To reduce food waste, consider baking, pureeing and freezing excess eggplant for later use in soups or stews.

One of my favourite ways to eat eggplant is to make roasted vegetable couscous. This dish is packed with flavour and nutrients and can be prepared in advance and eaten cold, making it ideal for picnics, potlucks and for a healthy midweek lunch.

Roasted Vegetable Couscous

Serves four as a side dish or two as a main

  • 3 cups of whole wheat couscous (cooked)
  • 1 cup of chickpeas (cooked)
  • 2 small to medium eggplants (dark purple)
  • 2 medium sized red peppers
  • 2 medium or 1 large tomato (beefsteak is ideal)
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 1 medium red onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup fresh chopped Italian parsley
  • 2 cloves of fresh garlic, minced
  • Fresh lemon juice
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Place the eggplant on a baking tray and prick several times with a fork or sharp knife. Roast for 45 minutes to an hour, rotating two to three times. In a baking pan, roast the peppers for 45 minutes and the tomatoes for 30 minutes.
  2. Remove the peppers from the oven and seal in a brown paper bag. Let them cool for twenty minutes; this will make it easier to remove the charred skins. Use this time to cook the couscous if you haven’t already.
  3. Halve the eggplant and scoop out the flesh. Chop into pieces around an inch in size. De-seed the tomatoes and chop these into similarly sized pieces. Add the chopped vegetables to the couscous.
  4. Peel the skins off the peppers and chop these into inch-sized pieces, removing the seeds and stems. Add these to the couscous mixture.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients and mix, seasoning to taste. Eat right away with flatbread, or let cool and then refrigerate for use within 24 hours.

References

Azuma, K., Ohyama, A., Ippoushi, K., et al. (2008). Structures and antioxidant activity of anthocyanins in many accessions of eggplant and its related species. J Agric Food Chem, Nov 12;5621):10154-9.

Das, S., Raychaudhuri, U., Falchi, M., et al. (2011). Cardioprotective properties of raw and cooked eggplant (Solanum melongena L). Food Funct, Jul;2(7):395-9.

Friedman, M. (2015). Chemistry and anticarcinogenic mechanisms of glycoalkaloids produced by eggplants, potatoes, and tomatoes. J Agric Food Chem, Apr 8;63(13):3323-37.

Gramazio, P., Prohens, J., Plazas, M., et al. (2014). Location of chlorogenic acid biosynthesis pathway and polyphenol oxidase genes in a new interspecific anchored linkage map of eggplant. BMC Plant Biol, Dec 10;14:350.

Hao, S., Xiao, Y., Lin, Y., et al. (2016). Chlorogenic acid-enriched extract from Eucommia ulmoides leaves inhibits hepatic lipid accumulation through regulation of cholesterol metabolism in HepG2 cells. Pharm Biol, Feb;54(2):251-9.

Jing, P., Qian, B., Zhao, S., et al. (2015). Effect of glycosylation patterns of Chinese eggplant anthocyanins and other derivatives on antioxidant effectiveness in human colon cell lines. Food Chem, Apr 1;172:183-9.

Matsubara, K., Kaneyuki, T., Miyake, T., & Mori, M. (2005). Antiangiogenic activity of nasunin, an antioxidant anthocyanin, in eggplant peels. J Agric Food Chem, Aug 10;53(16):6272-5.

National Center for Biotechnology Information. PubChem Compound Database; CID=1794427, https://pubchem.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/compound/1794427 (accessed Jan. 26, 2016).

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3 Great Low-Impact Exercises

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Your body is a total machine. Think about it; every day it moves in many different ways. It can run, sprint, jump, bend and more. And just like a machine, your body can break down with overuse. Low-impact exercises are a great way of fitting exercise into your daily routine without putting too much strain on your body.  And don’t let the word “low” mislead you – while low-impact exercises tend to be easier on your joints, they’re not easier on the amount of energy they require!

Here are my top three low-impact exercises:

1. Swimming

Just wait until you get into a pool and freestyle a few laps! Your heart will be pounding, yet your body will glide through the water with seemingly little effort. To seasoned swimmers, this exercise a no-brainer, but to the rest of the world, swimming isn’t given enough praise.

Benefits:
Not only can it help with cardio endurance, but swimming also strengthens your core and helps your heart. I love swimming because it’s not a stagnant movement (like running on a treadmill), and I can go as fast or as slow as I want. After 45 minutes of swimming, you’ll be tired and will feel like you’ve put in a great workout – without having jarred your body in any way!

For those in tropical or warmer climates, open water swimming is even harder due to the current and being out in the elements. Open water swimming can be a fun, adventurous workout!

Swimming in the pool

2. Walking

If you’re just getting into working out, or you feel like your body just needs a rest from that crazy hardcore crossfit you’ve been trying (whose doesn’t?), walking could be your answer.

There are many ways of making walking more challenging – trekking uphill, adding some weight, going for a day hike, adding on distance, or even just gradually increasing your pace. Every healthy human being with two working legs approved by their doctor to exercise can walk, which is why it’s one of the most widely used methods of exercise.

Benefits:

Beyond the obvious benefit of burning calories and keeping your body moving, I’ll put it out there that walking can help support your memory*. In a 2011 study, elderly subjects who walked 40 min, 3 times a week for a year, experienced a 2% growth in their hippocampus, which is the part of the brain that controls memory [1].

Walking outside and getting some fresh air and sun in your face (or rain/snow), can lift your spirits and bring you joy.

3. Pilates

Ready to get a fabulous workout while creating long, lean and strong muscles? Pilates is a terrific low-impact exercise that focuses on total body strength. Pilates can be offered in group classes, semi-private group classes and private training sessions. There’s also tons of Pilates DVDs you can purchase and some awesome workouts on YouTube.

Benefits:

With pilates, the focus is on being able to control your movement through correct breathing and body alignment. You become closer to your body and mind at the same time. Pilates also focuses on a lot of different muscle groups, meaning you won’t over train a particular one, lessening the chance of muscle imbalances and injury. Pilates is a gentle exercise but it’s also incredibly challenging on your body.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.

References:

[1] “The Benefits of Walking.” The Benefits of Walking. Real Simple, n.d. Web. 23 Jan. 2016.

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Muscle Gain and Weight Loss

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Have you been faithfully sticking to an exercise regimen fuelled by your weight loss goals, only to find that you’re actually gaining weight? While your instinct may be to feel disheartened, there may be a very good reason behind it – muscle gain!

Weight vs Fat

The important thing to note is that weight and fat are not the same. By toning up and getting stronger you may end up weighing a little more while looking and feeling much healthier. Of course, it’s all too easy to hop on the scale and mark your ‘progress’ by watching your weight drop, but if you’re losing muscle and water weight, this isn’t a cause for celebration.

The weight of our bodies is made up of muscle, ligaments, bones, organs, fat and water. To be healthy, you really don’t want to be losing bone mass, muscle mass or too much water. Instead, focusing on losing a little fat may help support overall good health.*

The Weight of Muscle

It takes consistent exercise and good dietary habits to start burning off excess fat stores. In contrast, we lose water weight rapidly and muscle mass more easily than fat. Sudden drops in weight after beginning an exercise regimen are usually, therefore, an indication of lost muscle and water, while more linear, steady weight loss suggests healthy, sustainable fat loss.

The trouble is, any losses in fat may be counteracted (weight-wise) by enhanced muscle growth, meaning that many people experience an initial drop in weight followed by little, if any, change on the scale, or even a steady increase. This is because the main storage form of fuel in the muscles is glycogen, and each gram of glucose (which is converted to glycogen) requires about three grams of water for storage. With the average person storing more than 1000 grams of glycogen, strong, healthy muscles can make up a significant amount of body weight.

Low Carb Diets

People who go on an intensely low carbohydrate diet do initially lose a lot of weight as this depletes glycogen stores and leads to associated water loss. The problem here, however, is that we need that muscle to stay healthy and to continue exercising. Once the initial euphoria of weight loss wears off, it is actually harder to maintain that trajectory because less muscle mass means we burn energy more slowly and are more likely to gain unhealthy weight. A low carb diet may also adversely affect mood and energy, further complicating healthy habits.

Healthy and Sustainable Fat Loss

To achieve healthy and sustainable fat loss it is essential to properly fuel muscles and to encourage the body to burn off fat stores for energy. This may not, however, translate to weight loss, at least in the short-term. Focus instead on listening to your body and enjoying the feeling of improved muscle strength, mobility and performance.

Mix up some aerobic and non-aerobic exercise that you enjoy – lift light weights, swim, cycle, join a local hiking group, or just play soccer with the kids at the weekend. When you start seeing food as good fuel and develop confidence in your ability to cycle to work, run a mile, clamber up a mountain or even just climb a few sets of stairs, this will feel so much better than checking the scale every morning.

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease*

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