Kale Nutrition: Fact or Fiction?

Kale, anyone?

So what’s the big deal about kale? You’ve probably heard about the numerous diets that incorporate kale as a main contender in the realm of “healthy” vegetables. But what, exactly, makes kale healthy?

Let your immune system indulge.

Let your immune system indulge.

The truth is, kale has too many benefits to list. Kale is probably one of the best vegetables you can eat, despite its indistinct taste.

Firstly, kale has a lot of nutrition benefits for your daily health!

For one thing, one cup of kale contains about 20 percent of the recommended daily value of dietary fiber. In this way, it’s an ideal diet component. So, if you’re trying to shed a few pounds, throw some kale into a smoothie – it takes on almost any flavor!

One cup of kale also provides 1,327 percent of the RDA of vitamin K, making it one of the best options for bone health and nervous-system maintenance. It also provides 192 percent RDA of vitamin A and 88 percent of vitamin C. Vitamin A is vital to reproductive organs, and vitamin C protects against eye disease.

And secondly, kale also has long-term preventative health effects!

Kale is considered to have one of the highest amounts of carotenoid and flavonoid antioxidants amongst vegetables, making it a star defender against cancer. These antioxidants fortify your cells against free radicals that upset the balance in your body.

It’s also known to work with your liver bile to lower cholesterol. So, if cardiovascular disease is in your family history, regularly eating kale can help prevent against heart attacks.

So now that you know kale is, indeed, quite nutritious, you’re probably wondering where you can get kale if you live downtown and how exactly to incorporate it into your diet.

Phoenix Public Market’s featured open-air market is a great option for downtown residents looking to buy kale. They generally have a wide variety of vegetables that come straight from local farms at an affordable price! Other options at a comparable price to the farmer’s market are any of the other main grocery stores around central Phoenix.

But how can you eat kale? Here are some cool recipes:

The Coconut Twist Smoothie – Combine kale with coconut milk, chopped pineapple and a banana. It’s divine.

The Minty Blue Smoothie – Combine kale with blueberries, cashews, pitted dates and mint. Reach new heights.

Kale salad – Slice kale, red pepper, onion and cranberries with a raspberry dressing. If you’re feeling adventurous, toss on some feta cheese! It makes for an interesting addition.

Kale chips – Chop kale into pieces, sprinkle olive oil a touch of sea salt on top and throw this masterpiece into the oven. It does the trick every time.

As you can see, kale is quite the vegetable. Not only does it promote the health of some of the most important body functions, including the cardiovascular, reproductive and vascular systems, it also boosts your metabolism and protects against cancer! It really is the one-stop shop vegetable. While I’m not a big vegetable person myself, I make it a point to drink that kale smoothie or munch on those kale chips. It’s an investment in my health and, ultimately, my future! I urge all downtown Phoenix residents to do the same.

Ramadan Retrospective: A Health Boost in Disguise

For the past seven years, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to partake in one of the five pillars of Islam: Ramadan.

Sunset signals the end of a day of fasting.

Sunset signals the end of a day of fasting.

I started fasting when I was 12 years old, as do many other Muslim kids around the world.

Boy, was I stoked!

Not only did this mean I was practically grown-up, it also meant that I actually got to reap the benefits, both spiritual and physical, of the holiest month of the year.

During the month of Ramadan — the ninth month of the Islamic calendar — from sunrise to sunset, Muslims are required to abstain from eating, drinking, smoking and engaging in any sort of sexual activity.

The thing about Ramadan is that it’s not all about abstaining from activities we consider essential to healthy living. It’s about purifying the body and soul by focusing on others rather than just yourself. It’s about becoming closer to your creator and doing so as if nothing in your daily life has changed.

The whole point of Ramadan is to forget about the worldly objects that consume our everyday existence. It’s about focusing on having less. It’s about empathizing with those who are less fortunate. It’s about sharing the experience of those who really live every day not knowing whether they’ll have food to eat or water to drink.

While this spiritual stuff is nice and all, you might be wondering how fasting benefited my physical health alongside my spiritual health.

What are the pros and cons of fasting? What happens to about 23 percent of the world’s population one month out of the year?

Pros:

  • A shrunken appetite. Fasting dramatically shrinks your stomach size. So, when it comes time to break your fast, it’s pretty difficult to binge. This helps you eat smaller portions and still feel satisfied. Personally, this is the greatest health benefit I reap from Ramadan. Fasting really jump-starts my metabolism and sets me up for a healthy fall — until Thanksgiving rolls around. Mmmm… rolls.
  • Nicotine control. Smoking is not permitted while fasting. Instead of stopping cold-turkey or with the help of patches, this is a great opportunity for those who are trying to quit naturally to gradually ween off of cigarettes. While I am not a smoker, I know people who have successfully quit smoking after Ramadan. All you need is a little faith!

Cons:

  • Increased stomach acidity. When you keep your stomach empty for so long, it’s easy for acid to build up and for acid reflux problems to develop. In order to avoid this, I make sure to have some yogurt before sunrise. The yogurt not only keeps me from being thirsty all day, but it also helps the acid levels in my stomach remain normal.
  • Decreased desire to work out. When you have to fast every day for 12 hours, it’s hard to get hydrated enough to hit the gym. While fasting all day is an exhausting practice, there are those who chug their coconut water and work out until sunrise – props to them! The amount of potassium in coconut water makes it one of the best drinks to have when trying to get hydrated.

For me, Ramadan is a rejuvenating experience where both my spiritual and physical health is restored. It’s like it recharges my body to take on another year filled with so many choices.

Every time I go into sajda — the bow Muslims do when they pray — I pray that I’ll get to experience yet another Ramadan. I pray that I’ll get to experience this time full of community get-togethers, where I can give back and feel one with God while feeling physically cleansed as well.

Avoiding the Freshman Fifteen

It’s that time of year again. Students from all over the country are starting one of the most exciting, transformative and memorable times of their lives — college!

To drink? Or not, to drink? With so many delectable options- the decision is a tough one.

To drink? Or not to drink? With so many delectable options, the decision is a tough one.

By the end of their high school senior year, most people are ready for the dramatic change that awaits them in the fall. But are they really, truly prepared for it?

The truth is, most people aren’t. Most people underestimate how much of a lifestyle adjustment they have to make to successfully get used to college life.

So what are these changes that are so vital to consider when starting college? While academic and social changes are important to consider, health needs just as much attention, if not more.

What sort of image is painted in your mind when you hear the dreaded words “freshman fifteen”?

Do you see the prom queen slowly descending from her glory days after each subsequent shot taken at a party, the mixture of tequila, salt and lime slowly contributing to the muffin top she’ll have in December?

Do you see the valedictorian chugging coffee and scarfing down a lemon loaf while feverishly studying for that first chemistry exam, food calories being of the least importance when compared to memorizing how many calories are required to raise the temperature of 25 grams of water from zero degrees Celsius to 100?

The point is, we picture different things when it comes to the freshman fifteen, and we should, because there are an infinite amount of scenarios that can result in the freshman fifteen.

So booze? A major source of the freshman fifteen is alcohol abuse, and rightfully so, because most people are so enamored by the elusive “college party” experience. If you are going to drink, do yourself a favor and drink with moderation! You and your midsection will thank me later.

Free and unlimited food! There is free food everywhere. With the enticing free food at college events and a meal plan that satisfies your every need (unless you’re at Taylor Place … shhh), you’re bound to pack on few pounds if you don’t control yourself.

Sleep? Huh? If one thing is guaranteed to change in college, it’s your sleeping habits. College is literally a year-long slumber party with academics conveniently built in. While this may seem amazing (and it is), it’s a huge detriment to your metabolism. With less sleep, the metabolic breakdown processes in your body are affected and could sharply increase the number you read on the scale.

Shoot, I can’t eat like I used to! There comes a point somewhere in our late adolescence that marks the horrid change in our metabolisms. As we mature, metabolisms slow, even if food intake doesn’t change. So, essentially, if you don’t monitor the changes in your metabolism and adjust eating habits accordingly, the freshman fifteen could be heading your way.

With all the changes you will encounter your freshman year, it’s vital to remember this key piece of information: if you don’t work out and/or eat moderately healthily, you will gain weight. It might not be 15 pounds, but some weight gain will happen.

So, make good choices! But really — work out, control your drinking habits and eat a salad rather than a burger when you use your next meal plan.

Going Raw

While being on the search for the next healthier option I came across something I’ve heard of before but wasn’t really ready to try: going raw, meaning changing my diet to consist of at least 80 percent raw foods — meaning fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, sprouts, roots and anything that is cooked at temperatures below 115 degrees.

This concept is definitely nothing new but it has been on a steady incline, being more and more “mainstream.” There is a plethora of resources, blogs and websites designed to provide recipes, resources and information about a raw diet.

Image via www.rawmazing.com

Image via www.rawmazing.com

Raw vs. Cooked 

Medical literature on a raw-food diet is scarce. However, the few studies that have been done have shown that a raw diet helps reduce the risk of multiple types of cancer. Research has also made people aware that cooking foods lowers their nutritional value, stripping them of many of the vitamins and minerals they possess. Heating food above 118 degrees causes the chemical changes that create acidic toxins, including the carcinogens, mutagens and free radicals associated with diseases like diabetes, arthritis, heart disease and cancer.

It has been found that raw diets are full of nutrients, rich in fiber and low in fats and sugars. But medical professionals warn that raw foodists need to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin B12, calcium, iron and omega-3 fatty acids, most of which are found naturally in animal products. Studies done on people who followed a raw diet showed they had a vitamin B12 deficiency, which can be harmful.

The Benefits 

The studies that have been done about a raw diet have shown there are health benefits associated with eating more raw foods such as fruits and vegetables. Some of these were reducing the risk of oral, pharyngeal, laryngeal, esophageal and gastric cancers, s well as improving or reducing the risk of diabetes and obesity-related health issues.

Since the studies on the benefits of a raw diet are still scarce in the medical world, I took it to the blogs. Searching through the web you find a multitude of blogs describing the benefits and changes, the before and after of people going raw. Many bloggers going raw have described benefits such as:

  • Increased energy
  • Better sleep
  • Clearer and healthier skin
  • Reduces health risks
  • Weight loss 

Should You Go Raw?

Many people deem the raw diet as extreme or unhealthy. There are concerns about vitamin and nutrient deficiencies and detoxification side effects. However, if one is truly interested in going raw, there are websites that outline a healthy way to ease into this diet. Studies show great health improvements by going raw for just 30 days.

While searching for the next healthy option and improving my overall health, I’ve found that doing things in moderation is what has yielded amazing results. Going completely raw is, I admit, quite difficult. But there is something that just made sense to me about eating higher quantities of raw foods.

Image via www.keepitmovingfitness.com

Image via www.keepitmovingfitness.com

So just by consuming raw foods, meaning fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds in higher quantities than normal, it’s already shown amazing health benefits for me, including clearer skin, more energy and better sleep! Eating a bigger portion of veggies a day sounds a lot better than it used to when I was a kid.

Don’t be scared to push yourself and try new things.

Stay healthy, Devils!

Resources: Educate Yourself About Going Raw

Raw Food Diet
30 Day Trial – Going Raw
Zen Habits – 10 Reasons Why
Rawmazing – Why Raw?
WebMD – Raw Food Diet

Spring Break Slump

Spring Break is the Wednesday of the second semester. Our tans (and sunburns) from Cabo and Vegas are still shining brightly and we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel. For some it’s the beacon of graduation; for others it’s the end of the first year of being thrust into the new college life. For everyone though, there are still a lot of classes to attend, homework to be accomplished and hopefully workouts before we get there.

Photo via collegelifestyles.org

Don’t fall into the Spring Break Slump. Remember what you’re working toward: the start of summer and a body you’re proud to show off. Now is the time to try something new: Take a new class at the Y, try out a new gym and see how far you can push your body to achieve something great. Set three main goals and focus on your exercise and eating habits. To see any kind of result in weight loss or toning, both must be a part of your plan.

Here are my top three goals to accomplish for the remainder of the semester:

1. Try out a new form of exercise — I have decided to try cross fit at Core Crossfit. I’m a sucker for attempting anything that has a little hype around it, and I love to put myself out of my comfort zone to see what happens. Also, I miss the aspect of having a coach like I did in my high school sports, so it’ll be interesting to see how that will go over. I’m hoping to gain strength, power and speed that will translate into my running.

Photo via crossfitrecoil.blogspot.com

2. Make Sunday a meal-prep day — As a senior, I don’t even want to think about the amount of macaroni and cheese packages I have gone through during my entire college career. Truth be told, I have tried almost every brand and type out there and I’m well aware of the lack of nutrients each cheesy, delicious box contains. I need to break my lazy habit of popping a little cup into the microwave and actually create a well balanced meal I can take on the go. Now that I’ve gathered enough inspiration on Pinterest, I just need to get my eating habits back into shape.

Photo via Pinterest.com

3. Cut back on Happy Hour — Now I’m sure that not everyone is of age to drink, but for those who are, this is a key health goal to focus on. My dear friend Jillian Michaels has a strict “Two drinks per week rule” and I’m going to adhere to it. Alcohol is packed with sugar and unnecessary calories, and neither is something I need more of. I think everyone can use a little cut back from time to time, especially after a full week of Spring Break. Therefore, I’m substituting happy hour drinks with a happy hour workout.

Photo via theluxuryspot.com

Now it’s time for you to come up with three ways to break out of the Spring Break Slump. What are your top health goals, Devils?

Healthy Dorm Recipe: Banana Overnight Oats

I’m a true believer that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. That being said, I tend to overdo it when it comes to the morning meal. Breakfast has always been one of the hardest meals for me to keep healthy. Why? Because a bagel and cream cheese is the only thing I’ll never, ever get tired of. It’s the perfect breakfast, snack, lunch or dinner, in my opinion. But before you know it, spring break will be right around the corner and I’ll be glad I opted out of my typical grab-and-go morning routine.

Banana Overnight Oats

Banana Overnight Oats

For breakfast lovers who are short on time in the morning but are still looking for a healthy, filling meal, overnight oats are your answer. I discovered this culinary gem about a year ago when I was reading a friend’s blog, and I was instantly hooked. Prepping foods the night before can make or break your diet habits for the next day. Stay on track and try this out to kick-start your metabolism for the day.

Ingredients

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 1/4 cup low-fat milk
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1/2 fresh banana
  • honey to drizzle (if preferred)

Directions:

  1. Scoop out the Greek yogurt and place in a small bowl.
  2. Greek Yogurt

  3. Add the rolled oats and combine with the low-fat milk. Mix well. Transfer to a container for easy to-go travel.
  4. Step 2

  5. Cut up the banana and add to the mixture.
  6. Bananas

  7. Add honey on top (if desired) and mix well. Cover it up, place in the fridge, leave overnight and voilà! You have a healthy breakfast to take with you to class or work!

Banana Overnight Oats

Enjoy your breakfast, Devils!

The Paleo Diet: a healthier lifestyle

After a plentiful holiday season with family and friends, many of us are feeling the aftermath of those delicious holiday meals. With the new year well under way, some people are looking to make a healthy lifestyle change, while others may just be looking to shed those extra pounds.

Whatever the motivation behind this lifestyle switch, there is an option out there that is not only healthy but that has also been around since the Paleolithic Era: the Paleo Diet, or, as some call it, the Caveman Diet.

This diet mimics the eating habits of our hunter-gatherer ancestors who ate meat, fish, shellfish, fruits, vegetables, nuts, eggs and berries. The premise is that evolution has genetically molded us to eat like our predecessors 10,000 years ago.

Image via ultimatepaleoguide.com

Image via ultimatepaleoguide.com

No one likes counting calories or carbs. No one likes being told what they can’t eat. By making an immediate or progressive switch to this diet, not only will you lose those extra worrisome pounds, you’ll also see a number of other benefits.

According to Dr. Loren Cordain, author of “The Paleo Diet,” some benefits of the Paleo Diet are higher levels of energy and higher levels of alkaline (thanks to all those fruits and veggies) that result in better resistance against diseases like osteoporosis, asthma or hypertension. The Caveman Diet also improves your blood sugar and insulin levels, which improve your chances against diabetes and all those “itis” diseases.

Image via robbwolf.com

Image via robbwolf.com

Still interested? Here is what the Paleo Diet entails.

The goal is to consume as much meat, fish, eggs, fruit and vegetables as possible while avoiding an excess of starches, grains, dairy, processed foods and salt. Although eliminating potatoes, rice, cheese or milk might be hard for most, some doctors recommend keeping these foods to about 20 percent of your intake. This way you’ll still ease those cheese or potato cravings while still fueling your body efficiently.

Here is a typical Paleo day:

Breakfast: A healthy omelet filled with mushrooms, onions, peppers and broccoli. You can even add some turkey or slices of chicken.

Lunch: A salad with any kind of vegetable you like! Top with either lean meats or seafood. For example, try mixing spinach, bell peppers, cucumbers, avocados, carrots and almonds with some turkey or chicken.

Dinner: Switch the regular spaghetti for squash spaghetti. Then top with meatballs and marinara.

Pretty simple, right? Whether you decide to make the switch or not, aiming towards a healthier lifestyle is always a great choice. Exercising regularly, never eating anything in excess and keeping a positive attitude is already a healthy lifestyle.

Stay healthy, Devils!

For more information on the Paleo Diet and recipes, visit the Paleo Diet site.

Don’t diet during the holidays

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving! While we were trapped in food-induced comas, our sneaky diet plans went out the window and thought we wouldn’t notice. This happens every year. Personally, I only get homemade pumpkin pie once a year, so I tend to take advantage of the rare opportunities to enjoy it.

And you know what? That’s okay! Trying to diet during the holidays only adds stress to an already stressful time of year, and I didn’t even mention finals yet. If you love the homemade spread of comfort foods and treats during the holidays, don’t punish yourself.

Photo via memescopados.com

Eating healthy is great, but you deserve a treat every once in a while. And if Mom’s making her famous (insert favorite food here), don’t deny yourself a taste of it. The key to maintaining your weight during the holidays is focusing on portion control and keeping up with your exercise routine. Follow these tips to survive the holidays and fit into all the new clothes you’re going to get:

  • Have a snack before a holiday party. When you arrive starving and have to wait another hour before the feast begins, make sure you have a healthy snack beforehand. You’ll eat less of the unhealthy stuff if you’re not already famished.
  • Don’t drink your calories. It’s easy to have a few extra cocktails or glasses of eggnog and not realize how those calories are adding up. Avoid the problem altogether and set a limit of one so you can still enjoy without overdoing it.
  • Don’t just eat because food is there. Eat when you’re hungry, not when a cheese platter is staring at you and protecting you from making small talk.
  • Bring a healthy dish you love to share. If you bring something you love, you can enjoy that without the guilt. Avoid plates of calorie-packed, sugary surprises and stick to what you know.

Stay healthy, Devils! We’re in the home stretch, so work hard and be well!

Eating healthy: Black bean salad

The term “starving student” isn’t very far off when describing most college students. The cost of a meal plan is outrageous and paying rent takes precedence over just about anything else. When you’re a little short on cash and need something quick and healthy, remember that we’ve all bean there. Try out this no-bake, easy recipe great for vegetarians and perfect for any student who doesn’t want to spend a fortune to feed themselves for a few days.

Black Bean Salad

Photo by Kate Kunkel

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of low-sodium black beans (fat free)
  • 1 can of sweet corn
  • Fresh cilantro
  • 4 fresh tomatoes (or sub for one can of diced tomatoes)
  • 1 lime

Preparation:

  • Open the can of black beans and drain the excess liquid. Dump the beans into a large bowl.
  • Open the can of corn and drain the excess liquid. Add the corn to the beans.
  • Use a cutting board to chop the tomatoes into small cubes. Mix in with the corn and beans.
  • Remove the leafs of cilantro and chop into small pieces. Add those in with everything else.
  • Cut the lime in half and squeeze the juice all over the salad.
  • Mix well and enjoy!

Photo by Kate Kunkel

Health Benefits

In addition to being cheap and easy to make, this black bean salad is good and good for you. Black beans are stocked with protein, fiber, antioxidants and other vitamins and minerals. They are considered a low-fat super food and are essential to any vegetarian diet. Corn is high in fiber as well and is a good source of vitamin C. Tomatoes are an excellent anti-oxidant and are a great source of vitamin C, potassium, and are scientifically proven to reduce the risk of strokes and certain cancers.

Because of the fiber, you’ll be surprised with how quickly this meal will fill you up. You can use this as a main dish, side to grilled chicken or as a hearty salsa with multi-grain tortilla chips.

Get cookin’, Devils!