Modifying Your Plant-Based Diet

I’m not a vegetarian (although my wife and son have dabbled with it). I’m certainly not a vegan. I don’t recommend that anyone eat a totally plant-based diet for health reasons. Animal foods are too good, too central to our evolutionary history, and too important for our physiology to ever give up entirely. On the contrary, I think meat, eggs, seafood, and dairy are some of the healthiest foods on the planet, and most people should be eating more of them than they currently eat.

However, plant-based diets are exploding in popularity and I know people are going to eat them—and I care about people’s health. If they’re going to do it anyway, I’d like to help them do the diet in the healthiest way possible.

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How to Improve Balance, and Why It’s Important

Everything in the world is conspiring to make you fall over. The ground is slippery, slick, and studded with protrusions. The earth moves under your feet. Discarded banana peels are an ever-present threat. Gravity itself exerts a constant downward pull.

You probably only think about balance when you decide to test it—or when you lose it. But you’re relying on it every second that you’re not lying prone. Whenever you work at your standing desk, step out of the shower, hustle across a busy intersection, or ride your kids to school on your bikes, you can thank your balance for allowing you to successfully move through your day without injury.

Stop for a second and think about how much goes into maintaining balance:

Musculoskeletal strength and coordination: Balance requires not just adequately strong bones, muscles, and joints but also proper alignment. Muscles that are too tight or too weak can cause imbalances.
Vision: Visual input provides an overview of the physical surroundings, and external focus (looking at a point in the environment) helps keep us from losing our balance as easily.
Vestibular system: The fluid in our inner ears acts as a kind of level, telling us where our bodies are in space.
Somatosensory system: The nerves in our muscles and connective tissues relay information about our position in the surroundings.
Cognition: The brain has to integrate all the information coming in from the body and make adjustments on the fly to fight gravity.

That we (usually) manage to stay upright at all is impressive!

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Balsamic Cherry Tomato Salad

Cherry tomatoes add vibrant color to any dish. Whether you’re using them to drizzle on top of a grilled chicken salad or letting them simmer of a stove in a chicken skillet recipe to bring out all the flavor, cherry tomatoes are sure to liven up any dish. But what happens when it’s the end of the week and you still haven’t made a dent in that large box of cherry tomatoes you got from the store or local farmer’s market? That’s where this recipe comes in.
What’s the difference between cherry tomatoes and grape tomatoes?
There’s not a lot. One of the main differences comes in size. Grape tomatoes tend to be smaller and are oblong rather than round, just like a grape. Grape tomatoes also aren’t as sweet as cherry tomatoes. Nutritionally though, they’re pretty similar.
How to make a cherry tomato salad
Once you’ve gathered all your ingredient slice your cherry tomatoes and mozzarella in half. Place in a large bowl with the sliced onion.

Then, in a small bowl, combine the Primal Kitchen Balsamic dressing, basil, dijon mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. 

Pour the balsamic mixture over the tomatoes, mozzarella and onions and gently fold it in until combined. Allow to marinate for 15-30 minutes before serving.

Tips:
This salad can be made ahead of time. Just prepare and place in the fridge to marinate for up to a day, or until ready to serve. The oil in the dressing may solidify, but simply let the salad stand at room temperature for a few minutes and it should turn back to liquid.

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New and Noteworthy: What I Read This Week—Edition 188

Research of the Week

The more times you flip the burger, the faster it cooks.

College lowers smoking rates.

Female mice show less variance than male mice.

Young kids who train basketball frequently have improved executive functioning.

Grazing on perennial grasslands can match current meat production while improving the environment.

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Ankle Mobility and Strengthening Exercise

We suffer from an epidemic of stiff ankles. And, because mobility comes before strength—and indeed is necessary for true strength—we have weak ankles. Don’t believe me? Stand up right now. Aim your feet straight ahead. Toes straight. Don’t flare them out. Put your feet close together. Not touching, but almost. Squat down, keeping your heels on the ground.

Can you do it? Can you hold a full squat at the bottom with heels down and a fairly straight back, or do you start toppling over? Do your feet inadvertently flare outward at 45 degree angles to accommodate your stiff ankles? Is your lower back beginning to cramp? Do you have to go onto your toes to hit bottom?

If you’re not close to getting a toes straight, feet together, heels down full squat without your back seizing up, you need to work on your ankle mobility.

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Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits: Fact or Fiction?

A while back, a friend was telling my wife Carrie and I about these apple cider vinegar gummies she started taking to deal with some persistent health issues. She wanted to know what I thought. You probably know that apple cider vinegar is rumored to have myriad health benefits. I’ve written before about how it’s likely to help people with diabetes control their blood sugar and improve insulin sensitivity. But it’s been a while since I poked around the scientific literature on this topic, so I decided to explore that today. Apple cider vinegar has a long history as a traditional remedy for everything from dandruff to cancer. (Spoiler: there’s no evidence it helps with cancer.) Proponents claim that its healing properties come from the high acid content—mostly acetic acid, but also lactic, malic, and citric acids—as well the polyphenols, probiotics, and small amount of nutrients it contains. Depending on your particular issue, you might dab it on your skin, soak in an apple cider vinegar bath, or drink it. Apple cider gummies have also become quite popular in recent years, as my friend can attest, in part because drinking apple cider vinegar can get old. It doesn’t taste great, and it burns on the way down. I’m not going to cover the question of whether gummies are more or less effective than other delivery methods today, but let me know in the comments if that’s something that interests you. For today, I’m going to revisit the evidence for some of the top purported health benefits and see if there is any reason to run out to the market for a bottle of apple cider vinegar. Let’s go. Health Benefits of Apple Cider Vinegar Apple cider vinegar for diabetes and insulin resistance Scientists have known for decades that there is something going on with vinegar and blood sugar. A study back in 1988 showed that when researchers had subjects consume a sucrose solution either with or without vinegar (strawberry vinegar in this case), the resulting rise in blood sugar was significantly blunted in the vinegar condition. In another, individuals with type 2 diabetes or insulin resistance consumed a high-carb meal (white bagel, butter, orange juice) with or without an apple cider vinegar drink. With the addition of vinegar, participants experienced a smaller blood glucose spike, lower insulin response, and better whole-body insulin sensitivity, especially among the insulin resistant folks. A similar study with type 2 diabetics found that vinegar attenuated the insulin and glucose responses to a high-glycemic index meal but not a low-GI meal. Some longer-term studies also suggest that taking apple cider vinegar for 2 to 12 weeks reduces fasting blood glucose and lowers HbA1c. So there is something there, but the phenomenon is still not well understood. The studies in this area are mostly small with inconsistent methodologies. Of note, it’s not clear whether there’s anything special about apple cider vinegar per se. The observed effects are probably due mostly to the acetic acid, which you’ll find … Continue reading “Apple Cider Vinegar Health Benefits: Fact or Fiction?”

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