Someone recently asked me an interesting question : “César, which superfood is currently underestimated?” I immediately thought of one specific food in particular, and I will tell you which one in a moment, but first, I think we should clarify what a superfood is in the first place.
For a food to be given the label “super” it must be, as some nutritionists like to say, “nutritionally dense”. In a nutshell (no pun intended), it means that the food should be slammed packed with micronutrients (vitamins and minerals).
Just to clarify, the superfoods don’t have their own food group. It’s quite likely that the word “superfood” arose from marketing circles rather than scientific ones (so beware of deceitful marketing tactics), but nevertheless, the common understanding is that there is little debate as to the health benefits that the real superfoods can bring to us.
Most of these superfoods are mostly plant-based (vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits) but some fish and diary have been given this label as well. Salmon, berries, leafy greens, nuts, olive oil and yogurt are a few examples of foods that have garnered this “super” label.
Now, back to my favourite superfood: Quinoa (seeds from a plant primarily found in the Andes). Why? Quinoa is a rich source of iron, fibre (healthy carb!), protein, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, folate, copper, manganese, phosphorus, zinc, vitamin B1, B2, B3 (niacin), B6 and vitamin E. If you are seriously looking into losing unhealthy weight, gaining muscle mass, lowering your cholesterol level, keeping your sugar levels in check, combating constipation, strengthening your immune system and many other health benefits, include quinoa in your diet.
For a number of years, quinoa has gained well deserved international acclaim and recognition. The year 2013 was declared by the United Nations “The International Year of Quinoa” and NASA, who feeds quinoa to their astronauts in space, have been looking at quinoa as a suitable crop to be grown in outer space based on simplicity of growing and high nutrient content!
1.-Although quinoa is a superfood, eating loads of quinoa every day is perhaps not the best course of action. Eat a variety of nutritious foods in the right quantities every day.
2.-For whole grains to be superfoods, they need to be eaten WHOLE (like in quinoa) and not overly processed (like in unhealthy white bread).
3.-For green tea to deserve the superfood label, make sure it’s not cut with inferior teas and brewed with sugar. Find out how your green tea is made.
4.-If you are trying to lose weight, go easy on fruits. Even fruits without added sugar still contain calories.
5.-The research is clear: the ideal diet is one that is largely plant-based (vegetables, whole grains, nuts, seeds, legumes and fruits) and healthful animal products.
You’ve heard of “blue light” right? That light that keeps you up at night? But do you actually know what it is and its effect on your mind? It is a question that I get asked often, so allow me to shed some light on the topic (no pun intended)! (more…)
“How dare do you suggest we eat cereal!” “Red meat?!, Are you serious?” “Milk?! You’ve got to be joking right?”
These were just a few of the colourful remarks I recently heard from nutritionists, GPs, cardiologists and many other scientists in the medical/nutrition/wellbeing field directed at the representative for Public Health England at a food conference hosted by the College of Medicine. (more…)
10 days before my birthday, on October 2nd 2017, I received a gift. A gift from an unlikely source that seemed to want to help me and many others in my profession convey with scientific rigour a fact of life: All aspects of your being (body, mind & emotions) are synchronised with the rhythms of nature. If you are out of tune, or out of sync with these rhythms, you will experience stress, strain, pain and discomfort.
I’ll tell you what that gift was in just a moment, but first, let me give you a brief explanation of what these rhythms of the Earth are and how they influence our physiology and psychology. (more…)
If your work requires for you to spend a considerable amount of time sitting down, I hope you invest the next three minutes of your time reading this post – it can literally add years and quality to your life.
The statistics that are being published about the perils of sitting for too long are frankly quite scary. You may want to stand up for this…:
– Sitting 6+ hours per day makes you up to 40% likelier to die within 15 years than someone who sits less than 3. Even if you exercise.
– Sitting makes you gain weight. As soon as you sit down, your calorie burning drops to 1 per minute and the enzymes that help break down fat drop by 90%
– The World Health Organisation has identified physical inactivity as the fourth biggest killer on the planet, ahead of obesity.
The human body simply isn’t built to sit for long periods of time. Ever since we evolved from archaic homo sapiens to anatomically evolved modern humans more than 150,000 years ago, we were meant to be active, to spend time outdoors walking and running. Sitting for extended periods of time whether at work and/or during our commute is something mother nature hasn’t prepared us for.
When you remain inactive (or sitting down) for long periods of time, the muscles in your back are affected, particularly the erector spinae muscles which run parallel to your spine. Not maintaining proper posture whilst sitting can seriously damage your spine structure and even cause permanent problems such as back pain.
Evidence of the health benefits of standing up compared to sitting down goes back to the 1950s when a study by one of the world’s oldest and best known peer-reviewed British general medical journal “The Lancet” compared bus conductors (who stand) with bus drivers (who don’t). The study revealed that bus conductors had around half the risk of developing heart disease of the bus drivers.
Standing is like walking: It increases energy, burns extra calories, tones muscles, ramps up your metabolism, increases blood flow and improves your posture along the way.
1.- Sit smarter. When sitting on a chair, make sure you sit back and move your chair close to the desk to maintain proper contact between your back and the seat back to help support and maintain the natural inward curve of your lumbar spine. So remember to always sit up straight without hunching over and use ergonomic chairs or furniture when possible.
2.- Try sitting on a stability ball. Also known as Pilates balls, the use of a stability ball (a big, round piece of exercise equipment used for strength training) to replace regular chairs is becoming increasingly popular. The key here is to alternate between the ball and an ergonomically designed chair since you need every so often to reduce disc pressure in your back.
3.- Get a sit-stand desktop. There are now plenty of products in the market which allows you to easily convert a tabletop into a height-adjustable standing desk. This option allows you to sit or stand to work at any time.
4.-Don’t eat at your desk.– Having lunch at your desk will unnecessarily prolong the time you remain sitting down. Your brain needs this time of the day to physically recharge anyway and eating at your desk means this much-needed rest will not happen given that your mind will most likely be actively engaged doing work, reading the news, etc. Your performance, memory, concentration and most of your brain’s executive functions will be affected if you don’t disconnect from work for a little while, so do your lower back and brain a favour and have a mindful lunch somewhere else.
5.- Give walking or standing meetings a try. Since alternating between sitting, standing and walking is the best you can do for your body-mind, then use meetings as an opportunity to get up to either stand or walk. The benefits of walking meetings are numerous: Your attention span will expand, your energy levels will go up, your creative juices will flow freely and you’ll even get the extra benefit of burning more calories. I take most of my calls standing up and my conversations benefit from this without a shadow of a doubt.
And perhaps the most compelling argument of this post to get you to stand more: Data published by BuzzFeed showed that selfies are taken while standing get more “Likes” than those taken while sitting!
If you drink coffee and are wondering whether it’s good for you or not, science has an answer for you.
Your psychophysiological profile is unique. How your body and your mind will respond to stimuli whether in the form of a beverage (like coffee) or an experience (like a rollercoaster ride) depends on the uniqueness of your psychology and biology in combination.
I am not a coffee drinker, but many years ago, my boss used to start our morning meetings with a trip to the cafeteria to get a cup of coffee. After many weeks of declining her offer to buy me a cup, there was this one instance in which, to avoid the awkwardness, I accepted a cup of decaffeinated coffee (which still contains caffeine by the way).
I remember becoming so wired that for a few hours, I kept involuntarily tapping my desk with my fingers as if I was sending a message in morse code. I found that reaction so foreign to me.
During that episode, my Cuban friends in Miami came to mind. Some of them are able to drink later in the evening a Café Cubano or Cafecito, a small but potent dose of Cuban coffee served in a thimble-sized cup which you down like a shot. After drinking this Cafecito, which in terms of caffeine content it makes a double espresso look like Evian water, they sleep like logs. How is that even possible?!
It all comes down to how your unique genetic configuration metabolises caffeine. So this is what you need to know about coffee:
The positives of drinking coffee
There are now plenty of studies that show how coffee can boost metabolism, improve memory and mood, decrease our chances of type 2 diabetes and certain types of cancer and can also improve our sports performance.
Some people even use it for weight loss or to treat asthma, attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and low blood pressure.
The negatives of drinking coffee
On the other hand, caffeine has been known to exacerbate anxiety disorders, heart conditions, high blood pressure, insomnia, stress, irritable bowel syndrome and weak bones (caffeine can increase the amount of calcium that is flushed out in the urine).
If you are suffering from adrenal fatigue, a condition common in people who are under mental, emotional, or physical stress, coffee is definitely not advised as it will accentuate the symptoms which include trouble getting out of bed, chronic tiredness and trouble thinking clearly or finishing tasks.
Coffee can also become highly addictive and, for most people, it serves as a substance to suppress appetite or as an “energy” source to either feel motivated or even function.
Should I drink coffee or not?
If you drink coffee in moderate amounts (one or two cups a day) for the simple pleasure of it and don’t use coffee as a stimulant to get you going, most studies agree that there are no major health risks.
If you have been dependent on coffee to fuel your day for years, rest assured that you can enjoy even greater levels of energy without caffeine. You will have access to cleaner and more powerful energy sources once you drop the caffeine addiction, a topic which I will cover in a future post.
Don’t use a coffee as an energy source. Be completely frank and honest with yourself. Are you drinking coffee to enjoy the unique aroma of those Peruvian dark beans or just to get you through your next meeting?
Limit your consumption to 1 or 2 cups a day. Most studies show that having 4 cups of coffee a day is not considered hazardous to your health, but in my experience, people that drink more than 2 cups a day fall in the category of “drinking coffee for fuel”.
Believe that there is “energy” at the end of the tunnel. Some people that rely on caffeine for energy have the irrational belief that they if they bring their caffeine intake to a halt, they will not have enough energy to cope with the day. On the contrary, the clean and natural energy that you will derive from healthier sources (wholefoods and natural beverages) and exercise, will take your energy levels far beyond what caffeine can do for you and without any side effects or unpleasant symptoms to bear .
Don’t quit caffeine overnight. If you make the wise choice of eliminating caffeine once and for all, don’t go cold turkey. Switch from multiple cups to just one cup and then eventually switch to herbal teas. I will write another post on how to quite coffee in the healthiest way possible shortly 🙂