Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

29 Mar

Healthy Tastes Great!

Grilled Shrimp with Tomatillo and Avocado Salsa

29 Mar

A Case for Starvation?

That’s an admittedly provocative headline, but there’s a controversial and compelling idea behind this that I believe is really worth exploring.

I’m going to highlight a few interesting points and encourage you to join in a discussion about metabolism, lifespan, and – yes – not consuming sufficient calories.

1. Calorie Restriction = Fewer Free Radicals?

A fascinating study I caught in PLoS (Public Library of Science) a few weeks back finds that insufficient caloric intake – but not malnutrition – appears to regulate mitochondrial production of free radicals. The mitochondria can be thought of as the engines of our body’s cells. It seems counterintuitive that eating a bit less than what is required to feel satiety – “full” – could be healthy. Really healthy. The antioxidant theory is huge in science and health, and I support it. I think the evidence is very compelling that most diseases and health problems – and ultimately aging itself – are, in a fundamental way, related to oxidative damage from free radicals. We know food and supplements can provide us with beneficial levels of antioxidants to mitigate this oxidative damage. But could our eating habits have an impact upon the function of our cells as well? Think of it this way: we have access to thousands and thousands of calories daily. It’s basically an unlimited buffet. Most of us eat roughly the same amount of calories every day (and that tends to be too high a number – in some cases far too high). But in the “caveman” days – I use this term loosely since there really weren’t “cavemen” so to speak – caloric intake varied wildly from day to day and season to season. Might our bodies have adapted to successfully deal with caloric deficits – even thrive on this?

2. And here’s another one:

Animals live 30 to 50 percent longer when they don’t get quite “enough” calories. There are other observational studies of humans (we can’t exactly put humans in a cage in a lab) which seem to indicate this occurs in humans, too. It’s a tough issue to explore, because our society is fraught with eating disorders – of both starvation and dangerous excess. In fact, many people diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver never touch liquor – it’s a growing problem (pardon the pun) resulting from an overtaxed liver that simply can’t handle excessive calories. Our bodies, from a scientific viewpoint, simply weren’t designed for regular, plentiful, cheap calories. I think a clear indicator that this is the case can be seen if you just look around at the major rates of obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease and other health problems.

What are your thoughts?

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28 Mar

Feel Better about Feeling Everything. Also, No More Beef.

Worker Bees’ Daily Bites:

Click it out, Apples!

More Beef, Less Sperm

Well, the title says it all.

Feeling Disgusted? Good.

The capacity to feel disgust (among other strong reactions) is a healthy thing. It’s all the way nature designed it – unfortunately, there are still areas where we need to catch up, and our health is perhaps the biggest one.

A few examples: our bodies are still hard-wired for “fight or flight” (making both stress management and fitness in the Age of the Cubicle serious challenges); we’re really not meant for as many calories as we get; we’re definitely not meant for as much sugar as we get.

The evolutionary door has hit us on the way out, so to speak, and while this causes all kinds of problems with obesity, happiness and fitness, there are other snags, too:

“We often respond to today’s world with yesterday’s adaptations,” Fessler said. “That’s why, for instance, we’re more afraid of snakes than cars, even though we’re much more likely to die today as a result of an encounter with a car than a reptile.” – UCLA Professor Dan Fessler, via Science Blog

In other words, give yourself a little credit. We may be the most sophisticated, feeling animals on the planet, but we’re still animals. It’s natural for us to worry, stress, fear, and get grossed out.

The Secret to a Better Memory

We have to hand it to the NZ Herald. They always have fascinating, useful, interesting health news articles that are decidedly sensible, too. Find out about an easy way to boost your memory, feel happy, and sleep like a baby. Feel the burn, baby!

What’s the Opposite of the Blues?

Feeling down? Trying to figure out the source of a negative issue or emotion? Whatever you do, don’t go about it by means of “problem thinking“. It’s what we all do naturally and unconsciously – after all, no one ever talks about having “the reds”, right?

Prevent that stress! With a little awareness and just a few consistent, consecutive efforts, you can turn problem thinking around permanently! It’s not about repressing feelings (hey, they’ll just bubble up – or explode – eventually). Rather, this is an excellent, handy, and ridiculously simple way to rewire your brain. We love it!

28 Mar

A Word on Those Juicing Infomercials

A reader recently asked me if I recommend juicing as a way to increase your intake of vitamins and antioxidants.

Here’s what I think:

1 – Juicing isn’t a good idea because you lose out on one of the principle benefits of fruit: the fiber. Fiber aids in digestion, of course, but it also helps keep your blood sugar from spiking. Drinking pure juice has an effect that is really no different from chowing a candy bar or slamming a soda.

Fiber helps regulate the absorption of fructose into your system. If you’ve heard about the glycemic index, you probably already know about the important role fiber plays in evenly releasing glucose into your bloodstream. (If not, check out the official Glycemic Index.)

2 – When you take out the fiber, you’re left with sugar. My readers know I’m no fan of the sweet stuff, especially from sources like high fructose corn syrup, refined flours and starches, and processed foods. I think for most people anything over 80 grams of carbohydrates a day – roughly three servings – is a terrible idea, yet Americans routinely eat three or four or even five times that. (By the way, I’m talking about carbohydrates from flours and starches, not nuts, fruits and vegetables! Eat those recklessly!)

There’s no reason any child or adult – excluding athletes – needs to ever drink a “sports beverage” or an “energy drink”. These things are basically a pancreatic panic attack waiting to happen. Juice gets a bill of health because we all know fruit is healthy, but juice is not fruit. The truth is that juice is virtually no different from these other sugary drinks.

3 – Juice is dirty. If you caught Wise Bread’s discussion of food manufacturing secrets the other day, you’ll remember the particularly disgusting news that orange juice is typically made from oranges that are coated in all sorts of pesticides and chemicals. And it all goes right into the juice.

When you “juice” at home, this is still a problem. Wash an orange, peel and eat it – you’ve avoided the chemicals because, perhaps even more important than washing, you removed the skin. Wash that orange and throw it into the juicer, however, and you’ve just ingested whatever chemicals were hanging out in the peel that didn’t get washed off. Juicing infomercials typically brag about how wonderfully potent juice is because it offers several servings of fruit in one glass. Think about that now with pesticides. (Also, a glass of juice is not several servings of fruit, anymore than a mug of chicken broth is several servings of chicken breast. You can get around pesticides by going organic, but you’ve still got that pesky sugar problem.)

nutrition, fruit, juice, food, health, juicing

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28 Mar

Top 10 Top 10 Health Lists

Everyone loves a useful, pithy top ten – you MDA frequent flyers know that Mark delivers a piping hot set every Tuesday.

But with so many blogs, and so little time (darn work keeps gettin’ in the way), it’s hard to know which top tens are really…top. Never fear, Apples. I have spent the week scouring the blogosphere for the most helpful, enjoyable top ten lists to get you healthy, lean, fit, rested, and stress-free.

A list of lists: presenting the Top Ten Top Ten

10. Good Foods Gone Bad

I would add that in addition to fried fish sticks, popcorn shrimp and white-meat chicken nuggets are also lean protein sources gone very, very bad. The Doc makes an excellent point that we make these bad foods even worse by masking their bland flavor in unhealthy sauces.

9. Weight Loss Myths

Wow – this is a list you cannot miss! A sample: Fat isn’t bad. Sit-ups won’t give you a six-pack. And endless wailing at the cardio machine is not necessarily healthy.

8. Most Popular Trans Fat Foods

Some of them are sneaky!

7. Why We Have an Obesity Epidemic

An unusual list of reasons you may not have considered. I think too much in = not enough out is the obvious major culprit for obesity, but this list serves to show us that it’s really our entire lifestyle contributing to the obesity epidemic. In fact, if you think about it, it would be weird if we didn’t have an obesity epidemic – and isn’t that sad?

6. If This Doesn’t Make You Stop Smoking…

A refreshing take on why quitting smoking is so important.

5. Wake Up Feeling Great!

Careful on #5: remember to breathe and relax for best balance.

4. Exercise Myths

Absolutely one of the best round-ups of fitness myths I’ve seen. Each one is commonly believed by many of us, and this handy guide expertly debunks them all.

3. Speed Up a Sluggish Metabolism

This isn’t just a problem for overweight people. (In fact, part of the reason overweight people have extra pounds is because they have really good metabolisms! Possibly thanks to gut bugs, their bodies have become a little too efficient – great in prehistoric times, not so great now.)

This list offers some great tips, though I wouldn’t recommend a) high-intensity cardio more than once or twice a week, or b) drinking ice water for caloric burn.

Too much cardio actually stimulates cortisol and adrenaline, because the body thinks it’s in “fight or flight” panic mode. (Now, now, don’t be too sad about cutting back on the cardio machines.) As far as drinking ice water goes, this is one of those “relative nutrition” things Mark always talks about. It might help, it probably won’t hurt, but it’s such a marginal influence either way, don’t expect big results.

2. Hilarious Health Myths

The bread crust myth was new to me. Anyone else heard this one before? Apples?

1. Ten Reasons to Take a Walk

I like this list because it takes one enjoyable habit and shows you how this habit can alleviate all your health, exercise, and stress concerns. Nice, simple concept, easy to do, and really healthy!

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