You would think the answer to this question would be simple. But thanks to modern day efforts in food science, chicken breasts might have more ingredients than they have ever had before. Just a few weeks ago, my mother posted a very simple question on Facebook. She simply asked, “What’s in my chicken breast?” Her question, while seemingly innocuous, garnered a host of responses. Why? Well, because it has actually become a totally valid inquiry.
You have no doubt heard or seen recent criticisms of genetically modified organisms, more commonly known as GMOs. These types of organisms occur when scientists “breed” food DNA. In others words, that tomato on your sandwich might not have come from Mother Nature -- it just might have come from a scientist’s lab. One particular seed producer, Monsanto, has become synonymous with this food modification process. They have cornered the market on seed production for booming crops like corn and soy. Their genetically altered seeds have produced stronger, larger fruits and vegetables, which are more resilient and repellent to farm pests.
This issue has been trending in social media ever since President Obama signed a government continuance bill containing a provision that protects companies like Monsanto from Federal scrutiny. Beyond the politics, there are some key questions about GMOs which should be answered before the American people can accurately gauge any associated risks.
Are GMOs Safe?
Some of the more questionable modifications to common foods raise questions not only about the growing process, but also on the effects on the humans consuming them. Is an apple that never browns truly safe to eat? How would the average consumer know when an apple has gone bad? As food science progresses, these questions will become increasingly important.
Currently, there are no legitimate studies which can definitively prove that GMOs are dangerous for human consumption. But no one can confidently say that they’re safe, either. And that’s where the issue of GMO safety stands: at an impasse.
Do We Really Want to Know What’s In Our Food?
The biggest complaint about GMOs in the marketplace right now is about food labeling. According to a poll from Huffington Post/YouGov, 82 percent of Americans would like their food labeled in cases where it has been genetically altered. GMO firms have been lobbying against this. At the state level, food labeling has not seen a great deal of success. Last year’s California mandate, Prop 37, was defeated by a slim margin after big name food producers like Monsanto, Nestle, Pepsico, and Kraft Foods fought against the legislation.
These types of ballot initiatives have been showing up across the country. Later this year, Washington State will face a similar debate. But, it is highly likely that the same big businesses will mobilize there to eradicate any opposition. In essence, while Americans would overwhelmingly choose to have their foods labeled as GMOs, mainstream companies whose main product is processed foods would prefer otherwise. The good news is that we aren’t completely powerless. Recently, a company named Buycott (clever, right?) created an app that lets consumers take matters into their own hands. The app allows users to scan barcodes on products to see if they were made by Monsanto, the Koch brothers, or other notorious pro-GMO companies.
In the end, my mom’s question, while valid, may have quite some time before it receives an accurate answer. For now, she can rest assured knowing that her chicken breast is made up of something that at least originated as good old-fashioned chicken, and no one can prove that it is a danger to her health. If that is good enough for government, it has got to be good enough for the American people. Right?
It may be time to try that group fitness class you’ve been considering. With no workout to plan, you won’t have a chance to talk yourself out of sweating. Plus, the social aspect of group exercise gives you the added accountability of your instructor and peers--again, so you don't skip your workout. And, by incorporating various class formats into your weekly fitness routine, you keep yourself cross-training (the term used for incorporating different modes of exercise in your weekly workout routine).
When you check out the local fitness center’s schedule of group classes, however, it sometimes looks like a Rosetta Stone lesson: Barre, CrossFit, Tabata, Indo-Row, HIIT, Yogilates, Zumba… Sometimes, instructors make up the names of classes using a hybrid of various foreign languages, but I’ll decipher some of the descriptions for you, and throw in a few tips:
Still confused? Here’s some advice to remember when trying out fitness classes that are new to you: 1. Read the class description to make sure it's an appropriate level and activity for you; 2. If my glossary and the class description fail to shed light on what the class is all about, call the facility and see if the group exercise director is available to answer your questions; and, 3. Go to the first class a few minutes early to introduce yourself to the instructor and let her/him know that you're new to class, so she can provide any necessary modifications. This will ensure that your first experience in that class is positive, and you can develop a relationship of accountability with the instructor.
Now that you know how to translate fitness class descriptions and pick your classes, try a variety of them. That’s how you’ll keep your mind and body stimulated to prevent hitting a plateau and to continue on your path to optimal fitness.
There’s nothing like a good weekday workout. Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to attend the Jamba Juice Fit Trends Expo at the Annenberg House in Santa Monica. The Fit Trends Expo is part of Jamba’s Team Up For a Healthy America campaign, aimed at combating obesity and encouraging healthy living. Venus Williams, professional tennis player, designer, and Jamba Juice franchise owner, was the keynote athlete at the event. Trainer, Samantha Monus, and nutritionist, Tara Gidus, also provided their insight on taking steps toward a healthier lifestyle. On a local level, the Expo’s goal was to encourage community fitness, health and nutrition, as well as to expose people to workout opportunities in their area.
Our day was jam-packed with great activities. From 9:30am-1:30pm, Jamba Juice held an array of fitness classes and nutritional samplings. Among the local fitness studios present were: Broadway Bodies LA, Piloxing, and LA Blast. Fitness guru Tony Horton of P90X even stopped by the event and took a lucky few through an impromptu exercise outside. I did my best to keep up with the routines, but as a girl who usually runs and lifts weights, I felt super uncoordinated! Despite this, the atmosphere was fun and relaxed. It was quite inspiring to be around a group of people dedicated to getting fit and staying healthy. In between each class, Jamba gave everyone the opportunity to try their array of juices, smoothies, and food products.
Overall, the energy at the event was extremely positive. Jamba Juice did a great service for the community by generating increased awareness of local health and fitness outlets. Venus Williams, Samantha Monus, and Tara Gidus had some extremely helpful information to share. For those of you seeking guidance on how to stay disciplined with your workouts, Williams insists that you keep it fun and not worry about perfection! I think I can abide by that! I hope everyone in attendance was activated to carry the spirit of the day beyond the event and incorporate what they learned into a healthier lifestyle.
If you’re interested in learning more about Jamba Juice’s commitment to healthy living, check out their health campaign website: MyHealthPledge.com. My Health Pledge encourages everyone to make a pledge to change their daily habits. It’s free to participate, and for each pledge, Jamba donates $1 to local schools and organizations to support their athletic and fitness programs.
As the weather changes, we often begin to spend more time outdoors doing many different activities like cycling and swimming. Summer is a great time of year, but as things pick up it’s easy to forget to take care of the details, like dental health. To help you out, here are a few simple precautions to protect your oral health.
1. Wear A Mouthguard - As we move into summer and do more physical activities, our teeth, need more protection. Almost 40% of sports related injuries involve the facial area. With a custom-made mouthguard, your risk of losing teeth due to trauma are almost completely eliminated. Studies have also shown that a custom-made mouthguard can also significantly reduce the risks of a concussion. All of this will make summer activities safer and more fun.
2. Beware Of Sports Drinks - Sports drinks (like Gatorade) have become extremely popular but they can also damage our smiles. They not only contain high sugar content but are also quite acidic. Consuming too many sports drinks will lead to tooth decay and tooth enamel erosion. If you choose to drink sports drinks during activity, keep a limit on them and practice proper oral hygiene to keep the acids and sugars from attacking your teeth. Proper oral hygiene includes proper brushing, flossing, and use of an antibacterial mouthrinse.
3. Keep Hydrated - Choose a water with fluoride to strengthen and remineralize your teeth. Water can also help by keeping your mouth clean, and your body cool and well hydrated. The best part is you can drink as much water as you want with no ill effects.
4. Swim With Care - Swimming is a great way to get some exercise and some sunshine all at once, but there are hidden dangers lurking in your pool for your teeth and overall health. Did you know that poor maintenance of pool chemicals can damage your tooth enamel? Swimming pool water that is over chlorinated (community pools, for example) can cause tooth enamel erosion and permanently stain your teeth. Excessive amounts of chlorine in the swimming pool will lower the pool’s pH level and make the pool water acidic. That acid with continued exposure over time can cause hard, brown tartar deposits and begin to cause tooth enamel erosion, which is the loss of enamel.
5. Chew Gum - Choose a sugar free gum, especially one containing xylitol. Gum increases the amount of saliva in the mouth, which is actually really good for teeth! Xylitol is non-fermentable and cannot be converted to acids by oral bacteria, thus it helps to restore a proper alkaline/acid balance in the mouth. An alkaline oral environment is inhospitable to all the destructive bacteria, especially the worst variety, Streptococcus mutans. Just sounds gross, right? It also inhibits the formation of plaque.
Follow these tips for a bright smile all summer, and be sure to schedule a checkup every six months!
You may think you need gym equipment to help you get in your best shape. Think again... Things that you have around your home can make some unlikely devices that double as fitness equipment. You’re not alone if you have an aversion to gyms. Some people prefer working out alone, outdoors, or (let’s say it…) for free. Some social circles may not accept you if you don’t have the local gym’s membership card attached to your keys, but there are other ways to incorporate exercise into your weekly routine:
Want legs that stay firm and look good without the aid of jeggings? A heavy and solid (read: unbreakable) wooden coffee table or ottoman can help. Put some felt pads under the table legs. Lie on the floor with feet against the top edge of the table and press away. Be sure small pets and children are not within squishing distance.
Don’t want to use the table? That’s OK. This exercise will work those same leg muscles, and some others (abs, lower back, and butt). Stand with your back against a sturdy wall and walk your feet forward about 2-3 feet (depending on your height). Start sitting down as if you had a chair underneath you, and slide your back down the wall. Hold for as long as you can, in the position where you feel challenged—progress to the point where your hips and knees form 90 degree angles. (Tip: make sure your feet are right under your knees at the lowest point of your squat.)
Use a sturdy chair or table (again, one that is unbreakable) that can’t slide away to do this exercise. Lie down on your back with your feet and ankles resting on the table or chair top, with your knees slightly bent. Squeeze your butt cheeks together, flatten your lower back (imagine tucking your tail between your legs and point your tailbone toward the ceiling), and press your hips up toward the ceiling. Slowly lower and repeat. This will firm the back of your legs (including your bum), abs, and lower back.
Want firmer arms? Lots of women are mavens of multi-tasking, so while you are waiting for your soup to simmer, rock some push-ups against that counter. Safety tip: stay a safe distance away from pot handles, hot stove surfaces, and open flames. You can also try some single arm push-ups against the bathroom counter while brushing your hair.
Most of us have running water at home, or gallon containers of liquid in the fridge or cupboard. If you lift them enough times, they’ll feel pretty damn heavy. Grab that heavy container, or fill a bucket with water (don’t waste it; water the plants with it after you’re done), or bags of sugar and/or flour, potatoes, or anything weighty. Then, lift, arm curl, or carry around the weight while you go up stairs or lunge across a room. Doing so will tone your shoulders, core, and your limbs as well.
This exercise will help strengthen all of the muscles in your mid-section. Hold push-up position (butt in the air is not a modification...it’s not the precise way to do it—not even close—just wrong) with your tailbone tucked under, stomach held in tight, and shoulders drawn back. If your shoulders, hips, knees, and toes form a straight line, you are doing it right. To modify this exercise, keep your knees on the floor.
These are just a few exercises that you can do at home, besides the old standbys—jump rope and stairs. Skip the gym and get your workout on at home. Be safe, and be creative. You may notice your clothes will fit better, and you will have some money to spare.
Sometimes when I can’t get to the gym or am feeling too broke to hit up a yoga studio, I like to have a backup plan. After researching some of the best health & fitness apps for the iPhone and asking fit friends for suggestions, I identified five apps that I wanted to try. I went with the free versions to start, just so I could test the waters.
Here is a breakdown of each app I tried and the verdict on each.
Yikes. This app is really elementary and I would not recommend it. The sound and picture quality resemble an old home video, and the free version only offers one 20-minute workout. I also found that you can’t resume your workout if you want to go back to the home menu – it just starts it over every time and there is no way to scroll through. I honestly couldn’t even get a whole yoga session in using this app.
Verdict: Don’t bother
I liked this yoga app better, but it still wasn’t great. I do like that it provides whole sequences instead of requiring you to scroll through and keep selecting different poses. For each series (Yoga for Back, Yoga for Abs, Yoga for Butt, etc.) you can select a 10, 15 or 20 minute session to customize the length and style of your workout. The app also includes pretty background music.
The main issue with this one is that you have to download each workout individually after downloading the app itself. I have very little patience, so this bugged me.
Verdict: Try it if you have no other option for an at-home yoga workout
I really like this little fitness buddy. MapMyRun acts like a GPS and also gives you verbal cues along your route to help you reach your desired mileage. It saves routes, counts calories and tracks your pace. I am not an expert runner, so it was fun to have the guidance.
There is also a great Nutrition section of this app that logs the food you eat and the calories you consume, which is really helpful to track eating habits and setting health goals.
Verdict: I recommend this app. The upgraded version for $2.99 provides a ton of cool features, including music, training plans and ad-free access.
Fitness Buddy is a strength training app. It is nicely organized by muscle group and type of exercise, and offers extensive exercise suggestions. Unfortunately the demos are like pictures in a flip book and you have to spend a lot of time scrolling on your phone instead of just working out.
Verdict: Pay the extra $0.99 for the Pro option, which will offer a good strength training workout without the constant menu surfing and bad demo quality.
I thought it would be fun to try an app that manages healthy living habits. Lift is an app that connects you with your social media channels and allows you to follow “habits” in several categories such as fitness, productivity, health & wellness and many more. It shows other users’ activities for group support.
I decided to get myself in check by signing up for a few habits:
• Wake up by 6:30
• Eat more Fruit
• Drink more water
Truthfully, there is just no point to an app like this. If I need to drink more water, I’ll carry a full bottle around with me. If I need to wake up at 6:30, I’ll just set my alarm.
Verdict: If you really can’t remember your own wellness habits and need to see other people’s check-ins to help motivate you, this might be a useful app. Otherwise, forget it.
My fitness app experience wasn’t the greatest, but I am also a newbie at the app thing. What are some of the apps you recommend? Do you go for free versions or do you pay the small price to upgrade for a better user experience? Tell us in the comments below.
So, you’ve heard that you can’t exercise anymore once you’re pregnant? Well, that’s a big, fat myth. In fact, if you have a healthy pregnancy (one without complications such as a “compromised” cervix, or previous difficulty carrying to full term, etc.), you are encouraged to stay active. Of course before you start running laps or going for bike rides, you must consult with your OB regarding how active you can be since the doc is one of the few people who can determine the state of your pregnancy.
If your pregnancy is without issue, you are encouraged to exercise whether or not you did so prior to the positive-resulting test. You may have heard differently -- that if you didn’t exercise before, you shouldn’t start. That, too, is old news. The new news is that exercise will benefit your baby post-partum, with a stronger heart, lean body mass, and lower body fat (meaning a lowered likelihood of childhood obesity). What does an active pregnancy mean for you? Read: shorter labor time, fewer fat pounds gained, faster return to your pre-pregnancy size, and sound mental health. Exercise benefits both you and your miniature human.
Now, if you didn’t exercise prior to your pregnancy, I’m not sayin’ you ought to start training for a marathon. Walks (let your body tell you at what pace and how much you feel like you ought to push yourself, if at all), modified yoga (no twists or inversions and be sure to find an instructor with experience working with pregnant clientele), swimming and/or aqua aerobics (you’re virtually weightless, for crying out loud!), recumbent bike or elliptical machines at the gym, and light strength training are all great get-fit options for the mommy-to-be.
For those of you workout queens, continuing your training routine will likely be fine, if you have a healthy pregnancy. Your growing baby will get the oxygen he or she needs. But be mindful and listen to your body. If you start to feel nauseous, reduce your intensity (stop if it persists, and contact your physician). With any pregnancy, you will experience a loosening of the joints due to an increase in a hormone called relaxin, which is most prevalent in the third trimester and is responsible for making ligaments more flexible. That said, you are more prone to injury during this time, so be particularly mindful of the activities that you choose to participate in, as you don’t want to get hurt before labor (that will hurt enough…).
Now you’ve got the low-down on the exercise part of a fit pregnancy. And, if you are more active during your pregnancy, you will need a few extra good quality calories (calm down, hungry tigress, that means an extra 100-500 calories, which equates to a large apple--100 calories--or a chicken and cheese on whole wheat toast--500 calories), depending on the level of your activity. Read up on the diet part of a fit pregnancy if you haven’t done so already. Lastly, work that Made Mommy glow!
It may be fun to get those bottles popping right before a party – but have your friends been telling you that you might be overdoing it?
Alcohol addiction is a very serious and common condition that affects more people than one would imagine. Some people drink to ease themselves into social situations, but oftentimes they may not recognize that this consistent trend can make them alcohol-dependent, causing them to drink whenever they go through problems, big or small. What is even scarier is that many people do not realize they have a problem until it is too late. So, here are seven telltale signs that will help you recognize if you or your friend is falling into alcoholism:
1. You drink when you first wake up. When the first thought is on alcohol that means it has already consumed your body and mind, which leads into the next sign…
2. Your body has developed a physical dependency on the alcohol so much that your body cannot function without it. You have consumed so much liquor that now it is functioning as a part of your body.
3. You feel guilty after you drink. If you are always regretting something you have done while you’re drinking (fighting, cursing, yelling, etc.)
4. You feel so uncomfortable in social situations you feel you need to drink in order to “loosen up.” Your personality has adapted and you feel drinking makes you better.
5. You drink alone. You can feel comfortable by yourself thinking and drinking away your problems.
6. Your drinking is messing up relationships with friends and/or family. You have displayed so much destructive behavior that now it is starting to affect the people closest to you.
7. You are reading this trying to figure out if you have a drinking problem. If you have to question being an alcoholic or even think that you have a problem, you probably do. Remember, the first step is admitting you have a problem.
If you do have a drinking problem, it is not the end of the world. There are so many ways to get help overcoming your problem and with the help of friends and family, the journey could be a lot less rocky. You should talk it over with your family or someone you trust so that it will be an open issue and they can help you and hold you accountable too. You are going to need the support.
If things are really serious, consider attending your local Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. Another option would be to go to a rehabilitation center. Many of them help you alter your emotional habits and relationship towards drinking, which can help you rebuild your life. You may think that drinking is okay, but it can lead to worse problems like substance abuse, which often triggers a mental health issue. Don’t be afraid to identify your struggles or to reach out to a friend. With the right help and support, you can overcome it.
A couple of weeks ago during California’s cold snap, I was looking for a lunch recipe for the week. The winter temperatures had me craving something warm and filling. I like to make a large batch of something healthy yet tasty and bring it to work with me – it makes it easier to have a week’s worth of lunch ready instead of throwing it together every morning when I am inevitably running 15 minutes late. I love chili, but I didn’t think meat would store well for more than a couple of days, so I decided to make a vegetarian version of my own chili recipe. Enjoy!
1 to 2 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 yellow squash, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. garlic salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
1 can kidney or pinto beans (your choice), drained and rinsed
1 14.5 oz. can tomato sauce
1 14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
¾ cup vegetable broth (you can use chicken broth if you don’t have the veggie on hand)
1 tsp. cider vinegar
4 dashes Worcestershire sauce
In a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-low heat. Add onions and sauté for about 5 minutes or until soft and translucent. Be sure to lower the heat if the onions are browning – they should just soften. Add garlic, stir for one minute. Add bell pepper and squash to the onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes or until the veggies begin to soften.
Once veggies are cooked, add chili powder, cumin, oregano, garlic salt and pinch of cayenne pepper. Mix thoroughly,then add both cans of beans, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, vegetable broth, cider vinegar and Worcestershire. Stir well. Turn heat to medium high and bring to a low boil. Lower heat and simmer for at least 20 minutes (I let mine simmer for about 40 to bring out the flavor). Adjust seasonings to taste.
This is a pretty quick way to make a healthy chili, and it will last in the fridge for 4 to 5 days. Feel free to play with the recipe – add mushrooms or carrots or another favorite veggie, add or substitute the spices according to what you like, and swap your favorite can of beans.
Bring along a whole wheat roll or some corn tortilla chips to help fill you up. If you like chili you are sure to enjoy this recipe – coworkers were telling me all week how good it looked and smelled!
The stick you just peed on confirms that you are pregnant. Congratulations!!! Now, you can eat just as much as you want because you are eating for two, right? Ummm…guess again…
The + on that stick does not give you a hall pass in the kitchen, at the takeout window, or at the froyo-by-weight counter. Now, more than ever, you have to think about what you are eating. You are actually eating for 1.1, not 2. Your growing baby is highly unlikely to exceed 10% of your body weight. I’ll bet that the little person will weigh much less than that at the due date.
So, doubling your daily calories does not make sense. Did you know that during your first trimester, you actually don’t need to eat any more than what you do non-preggers? In your third trimester, which is when you will need to eat more, you won’t need much more than 300-500 extra calories per day.
The quality of the food you eat is far more important than the quantity of food that you eat. This is true all the time but especially now that you are pregnant. The body growing inside of you will extract all the nutrients that it needs from your body if you are not getting enough. For example, if you don’t have enough calcium in your diet, your body will “donate” calcium from your bones (where it is stored) to help develop the skeletal system of the baby you are growing inside of you. And, nobody wants to be at a greater risk for osteoporosis after a pregnancy.
Having just gone through a pregnancy and relatively uneventful labor, I am sharing with you my “power meal go-to menu” that kept my baby and me healthy, lean, strong, and happy (yes, I enjoyed my pregnancy!). Often I was still on-the-go, so these meals were pretty quick to prepare:
1. Quick-cook oats and frozen berries cooked and drizzled with ½ cup plain almond milk, fortified with calcium and vitamin D
2. Low-fat Greek yogurt (or dairy-free yogurt made with coconut milk) with a tablespoon of raw honey and slivered almonds
3. Scrambled eggs (scrambled with fortified milk or milk substitute) topped with sliced tomatoes and/or avocado and whole grain toast with a smear of organic unsalted butter
4. Sliced apple or banana with organic peanut butter or almond butter with sea salt
5. Fresh veggies with yogurt dip or white bean hummus
1. Grilled salmon (fish once per week), chicken, or 4 ounces of lean steak over bed of fresh and colorful salad
2. Chicken teriyaki bowl with lots of steamed veggies over brown rice
3. Stir-fried firm tofu (or other lean protein) with tri-color bell peppers and snap peas over egg noodles or brown rice
4. Spicy minestrone soup with a side salad
5. Roasted turkey with sides of sweet potato hash and steamed veggies
!. Berries and/or banana slices with dark chocolate drizzle
2. ½ cup of frozen yogurt with fresh fruit and honey drizzle
3. Baked green apple with caramelized brown sugar (a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream is optional)
Sounds good, right? Well, you don’t have to be pregnant to enjoy these easy go-to meals. They are healthy and energy-boosting for you regardless of whether or not you are growing a “mini-me” inside of you.