Category Archives: Heart Healthy Choices

Sleep More, Weigh Less?

I’m a notoriously bad sleeper. I go to bed too late, wake up throughout the night and always bank on catching extra zzz’s on the weekend. Apparently I’m not alone.
 
Twenty eight percent of American adults sleep six or fewer hours per night. What’s more alarming is that partial sleep deprivation has been linked to many chronic conditions, including obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Could years of poor sleeping patterns be affecting my eating habits and health?
 
comfy bedThere is plenty of scientific evidence that associates short sleep duration with weight gain. The more time we spend awake, the more opportunities we have to eat. Add to that a lack of motivation to hit the gym when we’re tired. Partial sleep deprivation may also influence two hormones that affect appetite. The jury’s still out, but many studies have shown that sleep shortage increases ghrelin, which induces hunger, and reduces leptin, thereby lessening satiety.
 
In a study to be published later this year, researchers looked at how eight nights of sleep restriction affected hormone levels and caloric intake in 17 healthy, normal weight adults. Despite no significant changes in leptin and ghrelin, participants limited to sleeping two-thirds their usual duration consumed an average of 566 more calories per day compared with their energy intake under ad lib sleeping conditions.
 
In a separate study of obese adults, participants ate an extra 83 calories per day for every 30-minute reduction in sleep. Therefore, sleeping just one hour less than the recommended 7.5 hours per night could translate into a 17-pound weight gain per year if no compensation occurs!
 
Cutting short a snooze may also negatively affect glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity, although these results are not universally observed. In a 2011 study published in Sleep, 15 healthy, normal weight men had significantly greater peak insulin and glucose responses to breakfast after two nights of sleep restriction (four versus eight hours in bed).
 
More research is needed to clarify how sleep deprivation affects endocrine function, but chronically catching too few winks may create the perfect storm for overconsumption. Of all sedentary activities, sleeping is clearly one with positive health benefits and we should all aim to rest 7 to 8 hours a night!

3 Comments

Filed under Heart Healthy Choices, Medical Conditions, Weight loss

Stress-Busting Snack Ideas

This Thursday, most Americans will kick off the holiday season with their first bite of Thanksgiving turkey. I personally love this time of year, but long shopping lines and mall crowds can be a total buzzkill. To calm down, try fueling up with my stress-relieving snack ideas, published in the December 2012 issue of Oxygen magazine!

1 Comment

Filed under Dairy, Heart Healthy Choices, Meal Tips, Media

Are Potatoes Good For You?

Happy St. Patty’s Day! In honor of my Irish ancestors who subsisted on potatoes, I’m celebrating this holiday by highlighting the spud’s nutritional benefits. Potatoes are a humble vegetable, often judged by starch load and preparation method, instead of their rich potassium, fiber and antioxidant content!

The typical American diet is low in fruits and vegetables and, therefore, most of us consume only half the daily potassium recommendation (4,700 mg/day). Potassium is a mineral that plays a role in nerve function, muscle contraction and fluid and electrolyte balance. When combined with an effort to curb your sodium intake, high potassium consumption is associated with the prevention and reversal of high blood pressure. Bananas are a famous source of potassium, yet they contain only 50% of the whopping 844 mg of potassium that a baked Russet potato has to offer.

Put down the peeler! One of the healthiest parts of a potato is the skin, which is packed with fiber and antioxidants. The skin of a medium Russet potato packs 4 grams of fiber (20-35 gm/day is recommended). Fiber can help lower cholesterol, maintain bowel regularity, slow the absorption of carbs into your bloodstream and may decrease the risk of colon and rectal cancer.

Potatoes come in a variety of colors, from red, white and blue, to the orange flesh of a sweet potato. Phytochemicals are plant compounds responsible for these colored pigments. When they act as antioxidants, phytochemicals are thought to be beneficial in protecting against cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Despite their many health benefits, I’m not encouraging you to chow down on scalloped potatoes, French fries, or a baked tater stuffed with all the fixings! Nix the butter, bacon, cheese and sour cream toppings in exchange for steamed broccoli, sautéed onions, fresh herbs and Greek yogurt. I also suggest you try making oven-baked potato wedges. Slice an Idaho potato into 6-8 segments and toss in a bowl with olive oil and rosemary or thyme. Place wedges flat side down on a cookie sheet and bake at 400°F for approximately 20-30 minutes, flipping them at the half-way point. Alternatively, you can use the same technique to prepare bite-sized, oven-roasted, red potatoes (my personal favorite!)

3 Comments

Filed under Fruits and Vegetables, Heart Healthy Choices, Meal Tips, Vitamins & Minerals