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This post is not health-related, but it is certainly relevant. Many people who are passionate about food like to share photos of their meals. The better your picture, the more likely people are to get excited about your meal and engage in discussion. As a food blogger and photographer, I’ve been taking pictures of my food for years.

I use a Canon digital SLR. I recently upgraded to the Rebel T3i from my Rebel XS. Regardless of the camera, a digital SLR has a lot of advantages. Here are some things I recommend when choosing equipment.

1. Digital SLR. SLR cameras (Single Lens Reflex) have large lenses that can be removed from the body of the camera. If your budget allows and you aren’t inconvenienced by the larger size, these cameras take superior photos. Removable lenses allow you to switch to different lenses for different shooting needs (macro lens for close-up photos, for example). These cameras also have the most customizable settings to optimize light, movement, and focus.
2. High Image Resolution. If you’re not ready to commit to SLR, there are many point-and-shoot cameras that take high-quality pictures. Look for high image resolutions and shoot at the highest quality your camera allows.

Unfortunately, the camera doesn’t do all the work for you. Here are some photography tips to keep in mind when shooting to optimize your photos.

1. Light. Photography is all about light. You want to avoid using the built-in flash on your camera, so make sure your food is in a well-lit place. Avoid direct sunlight because of the dramatic shadows it creates, unless that’s the look you’re going for.
2. Presentation. Make sure your food is prepared in a way that looks appealing, even if it’s not the way you’d ultimately eat it. You are composing a tiny work of art, so keep in mind colors, shapes, lines, and composition. Also make sure you don’t have anything distracting or unattractive in the background. A blank slate is best—try to find a place where you can have a plain backdrop.
3. Hold steady. If you’re shooting on an automatic setting, your camera will adjust the shutter speed based on how much light there is. If light isn’t plentiful, it will likely leave the shutter open a bit longer, which means your photos can come out blurry. To avoid this, hold very still while you take the picture, or consider using a tripod. Ideally, you will have enough light that your shutter speed will be fast.
3. Edit. Even the greatest photographers edit their photos. Ideally, professional software like Adobe Photoshop is best, but Aperture, iPhoto, and many other photo-editing programs work well. Adjust saturation, contrast, and re-crop for the ideal shot. Many programs offer a way to lighten areas of shadow, which can be very handy for showing all the detail in your food.

Hopefully this inspires photography newbies to snap some shots of their food. Do you have any tips you’d like to add?

Emily Davidson, creator of Healthy Eating, Naturally and Historically Incorrect, is a blogger and copywriter at Lela.com. Lela is a fun, interactive online shopping tool that helps parents find the perfect electronics and baby products using unique and intuitive technology and personalized Product Ratings.

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How (and Why) To Cut Out Sugar

If you’re reading this post, you’re probably already aware of just how toxic sugar is in the human body. But if you’re not yet convinced, let’s review some convincing reasons to eliminate sugar from our diets.


Disease. We know that sugar causes Type 2 Diabetes and drastically affects blood glucose levels. Sugar also causes inflammation in the body, which plays a main role in nearly all chronic conditions. It depletes the immune system and makes you the victim of every cold and flu going around. And because your immune system is down, your allergies are likely to be worse. (I’m not talking about a fatal allergy to peanuts, but more like seasonal allergies.)

Daily Life. The alarm goes off. You’re tired. You have coffee, maybe breakfast if you’re lucky. An hour or so goes by, and you’re tired. You eat lunch. You’re tired, and still hungry. Tiredness and hunger are almost always a result of drops in blood sugar. Provided we got adequate sleep the night before, we should not be tired all day long. This only happens when our bodies are not running on appropriate fuel. Sugar, and foods that act like sugar in the body, constantly send our blood sugar plummeting leaving us starving and exhausted. Imagine a weekday where you’re alert, satiated, and a nap doesn’t even sound that appealing. It is possible! And what about stomach upsets? Bloating and gas are just a few of the stomach symptoms that are affected by sugar. Our digestive system is filled with bacteria, both “good” and “bad” organisms, that keep things running properly. When the “bad” bacteria takes control, it causes digestive distress. It should come as no surprise at this point that bad bacteria feed on sugar. Sugar and refined carbohydrates are a sure way to sustain these harmful organisms and make your digestive system weak and vulnerable.

The Addiction. Sugar is addictive. It sends our brains and bodies the same signals as heroin, cocaine, and nicotine. The more we have, the more our body craves it, and the more we feel that we can’t get by without it. Luckily, addictions can be broken. It’s not easy, but a sugar addiction can be beat much quicker than one to nicotine, and the rewards are endless.

A few more thoughts before we start. Don’t cry over over the fact that you’ll never be able to have your mom’s Christmas cookies again. Don’t mourn the loss of your favorite blueberry muffin from that cute bakery. Once you break the addiction, you can treat yourself now and then. That means once a week or every other week, you can have one poisonous item that you love. You’ll probably feel terrible afterwards, and it will be a sweet reminder of how nice it is to live without sugar.

Define “sugar.” Sugar is a carbohydrate, arguably the worst kind. All carbohydrates behave similarly in the body; they’re burned quickly and cause a blood sugar drop. How fast and severe the drop is depends on the kind of carbohydrate. Pure sugar is the worst offender. Refined carbs, like white bread (or any bread with white flour), pasta, and white rice, are the next worst. I would also put fruit in this category. While fruit is healthy, it is still sugar, and it is counterproductive to be consuming any of the addictive substance when you’re trying to break the addiction. Lastly, complex carbohydrates like whole grains and sweet potatoes spike your blood sugar the least. However, these are still carbohydrates and still spike your blood sugar. They should be kept in moderation. I am an advocate for a low carb diet overall for this reason, but I understand that everyone is coming from a different place on the journey to health. If sugar and refined carbs (which behave like sugar in the body) are all you can manage to eliminate, start there.

Week One: Withdrawal.
Your first week will be difficult. If you’re lucky (and not too addicted), the difficulty will end after that. You will experience withdrawal in the form of intense cravings. Don’t worry. It’s normal, and when it passes, the energy and vitality you will feel is priceless. The most important thing is to stick to your guns. Remind yourself that it is only one week until the cravings stop and you can survive one week.

Things to Avoid:
Anything that is obviously sugary. Candy, desserts, soda, pastries. These ones should be no-brainers. Also alcohol, which is pure sugar in the body. This means all beer, wine, and liquor.
Highly Refined carbs. These foods behave like sugar in the body. Pasta, bread that contains any white flour, white rice, bagels, pretzels, crackers, most cereals, etc. It’s easier to just avoid processed foods, but if you’re eating something with an ingredient list, avoid any kind of “wheat flour.” If it doesn’t have the word “whole” in front of it, it’s refined white flour.
“Health” food. Most things we consider “healthy” are laden with sugar. Fruit, while healthy in theory, is best avoided for the first week. You can have 1 serving a day of berries (which are low in sugar) if you’d like. Fruit juices and juice drinks are full of sugar; the fact that the sugar is natural is irrelevant. Granola bars and dried fruit are full of sugar. If you’re eating something with a label, aim for less than 5 grams of sugar. Natural sweeteners are out for now, too—that means honey, agave, brown rice syrup, maple syrup, etc.

It seems like nothing is left, right? Here are some ideas to get you thinking about what to eat without sugar in the picture. Focus on protein and fat to keep you from feeling ravenous and deprived.

Breakfast:
Skip cereal, toast, bagels, and pastries, and avoid sweetened yogurt (which is nearly all yogurt). Instead try: eggs, plain unsweetened greek yogurt with stevia (more on stevia in a bit), a piece of sprouted grain toast (I recommend Ezekiel bread, available in the refrigerated section at health food stores and many grocery stores) with almond butter or peanut butter. Or skip “breakfast” foods altogether and eat lunch foods for breakfast.

Lunch:
Avoid sandwiches on white bread. Look for 100% whole wheat, or even better, try sprouted Ezekiel bread. Salads (avoid sugary dressings), nuts, meat, avocado, fresh veggies, high-quality cheese.

Dinner:
Swap out white pasta for 100% whole wheat pasta or an alternative pasta like soba noodles (made from buckwheat) or brown rice pasta. Instead of white rice have brown rice or try a grain like quinoa. Be sure to include fat and protein (and plenty of veggies while you’re at it).

If you are desperate for sweetness, try stevia, a natural sweetener containing no sugar. It also has no effect on blood sugar and no known side effects. Steer clear of aspartame and sucralose (Splenda) which are poisonous and only increase cravings. Stevia is available at health food stores as a powder or a liquid. It works great in coffee, tea, yogurt, and pretty much anything else.

Need Relief? There are some things that can help you when you’re really desperate for something sweet.
– A cup of herbal, black, or green tea sweetened with stevia
– Dark chocolate, over 80%, a small piece
– Nut butters like almond butter, cashew butter, and sunbutter (made from sunflower seeds)
– A small serving of berries with cinnamon
– Plain, unsweetened greek yogurt with stevia, cinnamon, and berries

Be realistic. I am passionate about healthy eating and nutrition, so it’s hard for me to advocate certain foods. My recommendations may seem drastic depending on what your lifestyle is like. If you don’t consider yourself to be much of a health nut, remember that your main concern is cutting out sugar. If you make eliminating sugar/refined carbs your priority, you will be successful in beating the addiction. I wouldn’t encourage a diet of deli ham and string cheese, but it will theoretically be cutting out the sugar. You decide what you think you can handle.

Give it a week, then assess. I think most addictions can be beat in about a week’s time. You’ll know when you’ve done it because the cravings and lethargy will stop. If you suddenly feel great after about a week’s time, you can choose to slowly reintroduce some carbs depending on how much you’ve cut back. However, you might find that you feel so great with your new diet that you don’t want to add them back… and that’s the goal! If you are still having cravings and feeling awful after a week, unfortunately that means you’ll have to keep at it a bit longer. But it will end, I promise.

Disclaimer: As I mentioned, I am in favor of a low carb diet overall. I don’t like to condone the consumption of wheat (as well as many other grains) as it is highly inflammatory and irritating to most people’s digestive system. However, I suggest the whole wheat products in this post to encourage those who are not ready to give up bread to at least avoid white flour. This post is about giving up sugar and I wanted to keep the focus on that. If you are successful, there are many ways to go deeper and reach superior health, and I’m always here to answer your questions.

Sweetly,
Emily

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Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

I hope you’re having a joyous holiday. The holiday season is a time of enjoyment and celebration, but many of us worry about derailing our health in the process. It is definitely possible to treat yourself and still keep your health in tact. Here are a few pieces of advice I try to follow during this exciting time.

Quick Tips for Staying Healthy in the Holiday Season
1. Choose your indulgences. Not every treat is bound to be your favorite, so select a few that you can’t live without and kindly pass on the others. This will keep your intake of excess sugar and unhealthy ingredients to a minimum.
2. Drink water. Heavy foods and alcohol will dehydrate you, so make sure to be drinking plain water all day. Even mild dehydration can lead to headaches, low energy, and hunger (when you’re not truly hungry).
3. Eat your greens. Green vegetables, especially leafy ones like spinach, kale, or swiss chard, have a powerful cleansing effect on the body. Counteract the extra sugar and processed foods with a generous helping of greens or a large green salad as often as possible.
4. Make time to be active. While it may seem impossible to schedule a trip to the gym during holiday festivities, make time to go for a walk or get your heartrate up with jumping jacks or other simple exercises you can do at home. Just 15 or 20 minutes of activity can help off-set some of the extra calories you’ve consumed and banish the sluggish feeling you get from overeating.
5. Watch your immunity. We’re all susceptible to colds and flu this time of year, and the extra sugar and unhealthy treats make us more vulnerable. Be sure to include a generous serving of vegetables with every meal and consume immunity boosting foods like garlic, onions, and fresh lemon juice in water.
6. Supplement. While I think most of our nutrients should come from food, it’s a bit difficult when you’re consuming holiday cuisine. Be sure to take a good-quality multivitamin daily, and consider vitamin C (500mg to 1000mg), probiotics (for digestive health), and immune supplements (containing garlic, medicinal mushrooms, or herbs like echinacea or astragulus).

Have a healthy and happy holiday,
Emily

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A vegetarian diet is often thought of as a healthy lifestyle choice. Many people say they are vegetarian for “health reasons,” implying that it is healthier than a meat-eating diet. While a diet that emphasizes vegetables and plant-based foods is often superior, there are many dangerous pitfalls to which many vegetarians succumb.

The Problem with Meat
In America, conventionally-raised meat is a dangerous, unhealthy, and unsanitary product. Animals are kept in disgusting and confining conditions, are often unable to move, and live on carcasses of dead animals. They are force-fed an unnatural diet to grow at enormous rates and often given steroids and hormones to excel their growth further. Many times they’re given antibioitics and other drugs in an attempt to keep them from catching infectious disease from their unhygienic conditions. These animals are sickly, often diseased, and live a tortured life from birth. There is simply no way this can yield healthy meat, eggs, or dairy. Factory farms and slaughterhouses would rather perform their operations as cheap as possible and pay for the occasional recall (due to deaths from E. Coli or a similar outbreak) than pay for the cost of cleaner, well-maintained facilities. It’s a sad a reality.

Conventional meat production takes a huge toll on our planet as well. More than a third of all raw materials and fossil fuels consumed in America are used in animal production. Beef production alone uses more water than growing the nation’s entire fruit and vegetable crop. Animals raised for meat also generate about 2.7 trillion pounds of waste annually (more than the human population) which leads to contamination and disease outbreaks. The effect of meat consumption on America’s health, the environment, and the animals is complex and compelling. I urge you to read more if you’re interested by seeing films like Food Inc. and visiting GoVeg.com. If you’re not convinced, I urge you to watch footage inside real factory farms.

Better Options
If you still choose to eat meat, there are some better options. Certified Organic meat is not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and often has more sanitary farming conditions. “Free-range” is an unregulated term, meaning animals may only get a few minutes outside of their confinement per week. There are no health standards for free-range meat or eggs. Grass-fed is the best choice for any meat. This means the animal was a fed a diet of grass as opposed to corn, soybeans, or animal waste, all of which are unnatural and make the animal sick. Because of the high cost and difficult to find organic and grass-fed meat, many people find it easier to eliminate these foods altogether and take on a vegetarian diet.

The Biggest Vegetarian Pitfall: Becoming a Carbotarian
“Where do you get your protein?” is something I’ve heard a thousand times as a vegetarian. First of all, we do not need nearly as much protein as conventional dietary advice suggests. That being said, there are plenty of adequate vegetarian protein sources (that aren’t meat substitutes; more on that in a bit). Also, nutrients like iron and B12 that are often found in meat can be found either in nutrient-dense plant foods or in a simple multivitamin. I have found it is much more likely that a meat eater is lacking in plant-based nutrients than a vegetarian lacking in meat-based nutrients. Why does no one ask a meat eater, “Where do you get your Vitamin C? Antioxidants? Vitamin A? Vitamin K? B Vitamins? Magnesium? Potassium?” I think those questions are far more valid.

Taking on a vegetarian diet proposes a larger problem that often goes overlooked: excessive carbohydrate intake. Grain products (even whole grains) do not offer much nutritionally. Carbs, especially simple and refined carbs like white bread, white pasta, and white rice, convert into the body as sugar. They spike insulin levels, cause inflammation, make us gain weight, and often leave to chronic digestive issues. You can consume more than enough carbohydrates simply from eating fruits and vegetables. However, in eliminating animal products, many people feel that grains are the only thing they can eat. It can be a challenge, but it is absolutely imperative to focus your diet on vegetables, nuts and seeds, some fruit, and organic eggs (if you choose to include animal products). Grains are addictive. Ever feel yourself coming on with an extreme bread craving? There’s a reason. Your body becomes attached and addicted to these foods that ultimately leave you wanting more. Not until you fully ween yourself off these grain products will you see your overall health improve and your cravings disappear.

Vegetarian Junk Food
Vegetarians often turn to meat substitutes. Companies like Morningstar Farms and Boca have done very well with the increase in vegetarianism. However, these foods are simply not healthy. They are heavily processed (and you know how I feel about processed foods) and almost always made from soy. Soy has health benefits, however, they are truly present in a pure form like edamame, organic unsweetened soymilk, or tempeh (a fermented version of tofu). Heavily-manufactured soy products are not nutritious, despite the wealth of health claims on the package. Soy is difficult to digest for many, and should never be the focus of any diet. Vegetarians can fall into a trap of eating cereal with soy milk for breakfast, soy mock deli meat at lunch, a soy-based burger for dinner, and soy ice cream for dessert. This is simply too much soy, all of it heavily processed.

I am a big fan of the Raw Vegan diet because it is very heavy in the consumption of vegetables, nuts and seeds, and fruit. Everything you eat must be raw (not heated about 115 degrees), so no grains are included. Raw vegans make meat substitutes out of grinding raw nuts and seeds and adding herbs and spices. I am not 100% raw vegan because I still consume organic eggs, but I follow many of the raw vegan principles on a daily basis.

The wisest way to be vegetarian is to follow the advice for any healthy diet: stick to whole foods, or something that you can recognize as a product of nature. Base your diet around vegetables, not grains and breads. In fact, the more you can limit them, the better. Your health will improve, and you will fill the void with more vegetables, healthy fats, and organic protein sources.

This is merely the tip of the iceberg on how to live a healthy, vegetarian lifestyle. If you have more specific concerns, I’m happy to take your questions and do some follow-up posts if needed.

Eat your vegetables,
Emily

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Everyone knows that “junk food” is bad for us. Many of us know that “processed food” is bad for us. But what really is the difference? Why do many health-conscious consumers shun potato chips but enjoy granola bars in abundance? Why do many health-conscious consumers refuse to buy soda for their child but purchase fortified “juice” beverages regularly?

Cereal

Processed food is food that has been heavily manufactured in order to be shelf-stable. Processed food rarely resembles anything from nature. Processed food fills the inner aisles of the grocery store; things like cereal, crackers, breads, bottled beverages, granola bars, and other snack foods. There is no question that these foods are not part of a healthy diet. When a food undergoes so much manufacturing, it becomes nutritionally devoid. An enormous amount of preservatives and other artificial ingredients are added to these foods to keep them “fresh.” In addition, a great deal of sugar and salt is often added to make these “foods” taste better. The healthiest foods are the ones closest to their natural state. Our bodies are not designed to consume these man-made concoctions that America has come to accept as food. When we eat shrink-wrapped, boxed, bagged creations, we will not reach optimal health and weight. Calories are irrelevant here; the food you eat is a lot more complex than calories. [For more on this, read my post Confessions of an Ex-Calorie Counter.]

There is rarely any dispute over junk food. The general consensus is that foods like twinkies, potato chips, and soda are not good for us. This is true, however, there are many foods just like these that the average family would consider a healthy addition to their pantry. Unfortunately, a great deal of marketing fools most consumers into believing items like granola bars or fortified cereals are a beacon of health, while in reality, they are much like twinkies in disguise. [See my posts The Truth About Granola Bars and The Truth About Vitamin Water for more specific info on this.]

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While these healthy substitutes may be certified organic and may not contain harmful ingredients like high fructose corn syrup or trans fat, they are certainly not the foundation of a healthy diet. Nearly all these foods are very high in sugar and are heavily processed. “Whole wheat” bread is one of the worst offenders; consumers think that a “whole grain” label is a sign of a truly nutritious choice. These breads are full of preservatives and often still contain refined white flour. [For more on this, read my post All About Bread.] While I recommend them over their more unnatural counterparts, I really don’t recommend them at all. A long ingredient list is always worth avoiding.

But perhaps the worst offender is functional or fortified foods. These are standard, processed foods that have certain vitamins or nutrients added to increase their marketability. There is always a new nutrient in the spotlight with incredible health claims and promises. Things like vitamin C, fiber, antioxidants, omega 3s, and probiotics are just some of the current health buzzwords. Food companies know that consumers are becoming increasingly interested in health, so they fortify their processed, cheap, junk food with these substances. These are healthy substances when found occurring naturally in whole foods. However, supplementing a nutrient-devoid, sugar-laden, chemically-ridden cracker with a certain nutrient won’t make it healthy.

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probiotics

Be a smart consumer. When considering your food purchases, don’t be enticed by health claims and packaging. Stick to foods that resemble something that may be found in nature and the nutrition will take care of itself.

Eat your vegetables,
Emily

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Herbs and Spices

Nearly all cultures incorporate herbs and spices into their regional cuisine. Unfortunately, American food culture focuses on heavily processed sugar, salt, and unhealthy fat to enhance the flavor of many of our dishes. Herbs and spices not only make food more palatable, but offer a wealth of nutritional benefits as well.

IMG_2428 (1)Fresh cilantro, basil, and home-dried dill.

During the warmer months, you’ll find a bountiful supply of fresh herbs at your local farmer’s market. Look for basil, mint, cilantro, rosemary, sage, and dill. You can easily grow your own herbs at home either in a garden or indoors in pots. You can also dry your own fresh herbs by hanging a bunch in a sunny spot for one to two weeks.

Don’t compromise quality when it comes to spices. An organic, high-quality spice will taste more potent and consequently last longer since you don’t need as much of it to enhance a dish.

Here’s a list of herbs and spices along with their respective health benefits and ways to incorporate them into your diet. This list doesn’t include everything… I encourage you to try any herb or spice that intrigues you! Many of these herbs and spices have a long list of health properties; I’m only highlighting a few. Remember when it comes to herbs, fresh is always best.

Fresh Herbs
Basil: Antioxidant, decreases inflammation. Use in home-made pasta sauces or pesto.
Cilantro: Antioxidant, digestive aid. Use in home-made guacamole or to add more flavor to any Mexican dish.
Dill: Antioxidant, antimicrobial, diuretic. Combine with greek yogurt to make a creamy dip or make Creamy Cilantro Dill Dressing.
Thyme: Antioxidant, inhibits bone resorption. Add to organic scrambled eggs.
Mint: Antioxidant, antimicrobial, stomach soother. Make your own herbal mint tea by steeping leaves in boiling water.

Spices
Cayenne Pepper: Boosts metabolism, decreases inflammation, improves digestion. Sprinkle on soups, stir-fries, or anything that could use a spicy kick.
Turmeric: Antioxidant, decreases inflammation, antimicrobial, antiviral, antifungal. This Indian spice is being widely recognized for its astonishing health benefits. The taste is similar to mustard. Sprinkle on salads for flavor, or use in curry powder to make Indian dishes.
Cinnamon: Antioxidant, antimicrobial, controls blood sugar, boosts metabolism. Add cinnamon to fresh fruit or any sweet dessert to help manage blood sugar levels.
Garlic: Antioxidant, lowers cholesterol and blood pressure, decreases inflammation, boosts immunity. Add to sautéed vegetables.
Ginger: Antioxidant, decreases inflammation, boosts immunity, digestive aid. Use fresh ginger in stir-fries or home-made vegetable juices.

This only skims the surface of what herbs and spices have to offer. Not only are the health benefits are astounding, but they’ll bring your cooking to life, too! What are your favorite herbs and spices and how do you use them?

Spice things up,
Emily

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My philosophy is that diet is the single most important factor in reaching good health. I believe food has the power to affect all aspects of physical as well as mental and emotional wellness. I am often asked about my take on exercise and fitness and where that fits in a healthy lifestyle. Some people claim that with enough exercise, the proper diet is not necessary. Many athletes consume a wealth of processed, chemically-ridden sports drinks and supplements to “improve performance,” or insist on a high protein, meat-based diet for muscle recovery. I’d like to address a few of these issues and also talk about what I believe is an adequate amount of physical activity to maintain good health.

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How Much Exercise is Enough?
I think it’s very important to emphasize an active lifestyle. This doesn’t necessarily mean setting aside hours to spend at the gym each day. Making time to use your body on daily basis has enormous immediate benefits. It invigorates you, it keeps your metabolism happily spinning, and it undoubtedly improves your mood. If you’re looking to lose weight, you’ll certainly benefit from a setting a clear routine (more on that below). If you’re simply looking to maintain your weight or improve your physical health, start by finding easy ways to be active each day. Opt to walk or bike to any destination that’s close enough. If nice out, enjoy the weather and go for a leisurely jog. Find some simple home exercises that don’t require equipment (push-ups, crunches, lunges, and stretching) and make time to do them each day. Even a shopping trip will get you on your feet for a few hours!

Which Types of Exercise are the Most Beneficial?
I cannot stress enough the importance of variety. Our bodies are programmed to be as efficient as possible. When we work out the same way every day, like plugging along on the elliptical trainer for half an hour, our body learns to burn less calories in the process. By changing your work out every day, your body stays challenged. You also ensure that you’re working different muscle groups in different ways. If you always work out the same way, you are inevitably neglecting certain muscles or motions. If you have a gym membership, alternate between the elliptical trainer, stairmaster, treadmill, and stationary bike. Try interval training, an extremely effective way to burn more calories and improve your cardiovascular health. Simply alternate between going at an easy pace, a challenging pace, and your maximum pace. By switching between these “intervals,” your heart works much harder and your body stays challenged. Outdoor jogging is significantly different from running on a machine and is worth incorporating into your exercise routine for variety. Just be sure you have good, stable footwear and start slowly. Also, don’t neglect strength training. Strengthening your muscles improves your overall fitness level and speeds up your metabolism. Many muscles can be trained at home without any equipment. A quick google search can give you easy, at home exercises for your abs, arms, chest, glutes, and legs. Remember to always use proper form when doing strength training exercises. Without good form you drastically decrease the effectiveness of the exercise and risk injury.

How Does Diet Affect Exercise?
We all know someone who is very diligent about working out, yet they remain overweight and seemingly unhealthy. As I mentioned, I believe strongly that diet has a much greater affect on weight loss and health than exercise. That being said, the benefits of exercise should not be overlooked, and a healthy diet can make exercise yield better results and be executed with greater ease. Food is our fuel; without quality fuel in our bodies, they cannot perform. If your diet is rich in processed foods, sugar, and conventionally-raised meat, your body will not be nearly as energized as someone with a diet abundant in vegetables and natural, whole foods. If you keep processed foods and simple carbohydrates out of your diet, you will naturally have more energy, making your workouts more effective and less torturous. There is a misconception that we must load up on carbohydrates before exercise. If you’re choosing simple, refined carbohydrates like white bread, you are choosing a nutrient-deficient food. Even if simple carbs offer a quick burst of energy, they are not improving your overall health. The most important “food” to consume before and after a workout is not a food at all; it’s water. Keeping your body hydrated is of the utmost importance. Another misconception is the necessity of protein. Muscles are built from healthy blood. Healthy blood is made from alkalizing foods, namely green vegetables. Why do you think Popeye ate spinach?

Don’t I Need Protein and Sports Drinks and Supplements?
Let go of the conventional ideas about nutrition, even in regard to fitness. In order for your body to repair and rebuild your muscles after exercise, it needs a consistent supply of nutrients. If you’re eating a diet based around vegetables, you are meeting nearly all your nutritional requirements. You can make sure you’re taking in adequate healthy fat by including raw nuts, seeds, oils, and avocado in your diet regularly. Adequate protein can be obtained by incorporating organic eggs, organic grass-fed or raw/unpasteurized dairy, and organic grass-fed meat. With all of these as the foundation for your diet, there is no need for fitness supplements or sugar-laden sports drinks. These are just products covered in marketing and false claims. No chemical concoction can fuel your body like real, pure food. In the past year, I’ve taken to fitness as somewhat of a hobby. I work out, on average, one hour a day, six days a week. I incorporate both cardiovascular workouts and strength training. I eat a diet of mostly raw vegetables, nuts, and seeds. I don’t consume what most people would consider “enough” protein, and I certainly don’t look malnourished (that’s me in the picture at the top of this post).

I hope this gives you some things to remember when considering an exercise routine. If you are looking to add more fitness to your life, or you’re already an avid exerciser, I’d like to point you over to Stay Well, a health and fitness blog that gives great unconventional workout advice with a strong emphasis on natural health and well-being.

As always, thanks for reading. I’m always happy to take your questions and hear your comments.

-Emily

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