Archive | May, 2015

Eat Your Veggies and Don’t Fear the Fat

17 May

Eat Your Veggies and Don’t Fear the Fat

By Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

Mom Was Right: Eat Your Veggies

It’s no secret that a diet plentiful in vegetables— packed with vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and fiber—confers many health benefits. According the United States Department of Agriculture,1 eating a diet rich in vegetables may:

  • Reduce the risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke;
  • Protect against certain types of cancers;
  • Reduce the risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes;
  • Lower blood pressure; and
  • Help decrease bone loss.

While consuming a diet high in vegetables is associated with lower risks for numerous chronic diseases, the impact of eating vegetables on weight management has not been as widely researched. However, recent studies indicate that higher consumptions of vegetables during weight loss efforts are correlated to more weight and fat lost.2

What’s more, scientists have found that reduced-calorie diets including five servings of vegetables per day can lead to sustained weight loss, with associated reductions in cardiovascular disease risk factors. Further, consuming a higher proportion of calories as vegetables may support greater weight loss.3

According to the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity,4 there are multiple reasons why a diet higher in vegetables may help folks control energy balance and support healthy body weight management:

  • To lose weight, a person must eat fewer calories than what s/he burns (i.e., negative energy balance).
  • People may not limit what they consume based on calories alone. Satiety (i.e., feeling full) is a major reason that people stop eating. Rather than the calorie content of food, short-term studies indicate that the volume of food people eat at a meal is what makes them feel full and stop eating.
  • At the same calorie level, foods with low energy density provide a greater volume of food, which may help people feel full at a meal while consuming fewer calories.
  • Water and fiber increase the volume of foods and reduce energy density. In their natural state, vegetables have high water and fiber content and thus are low in calories and energy density.
  • Vegetables are good substitutes for foods of high energy density.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of Americans don’t consume enough vegetables. In fact, only 1 in 4 adults eats the recommended amount of vegetables each day. Thus, the first take-home point is to listen to what your mother always told you: “Eat your veggies.”

Don’t Fear The Fat

More and more research has demonstrated that in addition to the micronutrients (e.g., vitamins and minerals) packed into vegetables, there are also important phytochemicals (i.e., plant chemicals) that are essential for optimal physiological functioning. For instance, carotenoids, phytochemicals that are responsible for providing the dark colors of various plant foods, are potent antioxidants that combat oxidative stress,5 one of the most important factors mediating the deleterious effects of aging.6,7

Here’s where things get really interesting. Like some of the important micronutrients (e.g., vitamins A, D, E, and K) in vegetables, carotenoids (e.g., alpha- and beta-carotene, lycopeine, lutein, zeaxanthin) are fat-soluble nutrients. In other words, dietary fat is necessary to ensure absorption of these health-promoting nutrients.

In a 2004 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers compared the absorption of carotenoids when participants consumed a salad dressed with a fat-free (i.e., 0 grams of fat), reduced-fat, or full-fat salad dressing rich in monounsaturated fats (e.g., olive oil). After consuming the salad with the fat-free dressing, the appearance of carotenoids in the bloodstream was negligible. That’s right, the participants literally absorbed NONE of the free radical-fighting nutrients.8 While there was a relative increase in absorption of carotenoids when participants ate the salad with a reduced-fat dressing, “a substantially greater absorption of carotenoids was observed when salads were consumed with full-fat dressing.”

In a study published in the Journal of Nutrition, researchers from The Ohio State University found similar results when they added avocado or avocado oil to salsa and salads. When avocado or avocado oil, both rich in monounsaturated fats, was added to salsa, the absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids was up to four times higher than when the salsa was avocado-free. If that’s not enough, when avocado was added to salads, the researchers found that absorption of carotenoids was up to 15 times higher than when the salads were consumed avocado-free (i.e., fat-free).9

By now, you’re starting to see the picture, and recent research from Purdue sheds even more light on the types of fats that may be best for salads and veggies. In a 2012 study published in the journal Molecular Nutrition & Food Research, participants were fed salads topped off with saturated (e.g., butter), monounsaturated (e.g., olive oil), and polyunsaturated (e.g., soybean oil) fat-based dressings, and researchers tested their blood for absorption of fat-soluble carotenoids. The researchers found that monounsaturated (e.g., olive-oil) fat-rich dressings led to the greatest carotenoid absorption.10 In all cases, there was a dose-dependent relationship between the amount of fat consumed and the absorption of carotenoids (i.e., the amount of fat has the strongest effect on bioavailability of carotenoids), and soybean oil salad dressing was most dependent on dose.

To make matters worse, soybean oil is rich in omega-6 fatty acids, which promote inflammation, particularly when they are consumed in excess of omega-3 fats (e.g., fish oil).11 In fact, researchers attribute the ubiquity of soybean oil, which is the most common oil used in store-bought salad dressings, in the modern day food supply to the massive imbalance of the average individual’s consumption of omega-6 fatty acids relative to omega-3 fats.12 This omega imbalance is connected to an increase in nearly all inflammatory diseases, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, metabolic syndrome, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, mood disorders, mental illness, autoimmune disease, and more.13

“If you want to utilize more from your fruits and vegetables, you have to pair them correctly with fat-based dressings,” said Mario Ferruzzi, a Purdue associate professor of food science. “If you have a salad with a fat-free dressing, there may be a reduction in calories, but you lose some of the benefits of the vegetables.”

The take-home point: Don’t fear the fat. Pair your vegetables with healthy, whole food fats, particularly those rich in monounsaturated fats like extra virgin olive oil, olives, avocados, avocado oil, almonds, almond oil, macadamia nuts, and macadamia nut oil.



  1. United States Department of Agriculture. Why is it important to eat vegetables?
  2. Whigham LD, Valentine AR, Johnson LK, Zhang Z, Atkinson RL, Tanumihardjo SA. Increased vegetable and fruit consumption during weight loss effort correlates with increased weight and fat loss. Nutr Diabetes. 2012;2:e48. doi:10.1038/nutd.2012.22.
  3. Tapsell LC, Batterham MJ, Thorne RL, O’Shea JE, Grafenauer SJ, Probst YC. Weight loss effects from vegetable intake: a 12-month randomised controlled trial. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2014;68(7):778-785. doi:10.1038/ejcn.2014.39.
  4. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion. Can eating fruits and vegetables help people to manage their weight? Weight Manag Res Pract Ser. 1.
  5. Rao A, Rao L. Carotenoids and human health. Pharmacol Res. 2007;55(3):207-216. doi:10.1016/j.phrs.2007.01.012.
  6. Betteridge DJ. What is oxidative stress? Metabolism. 2000;49(2 Suppl 1):3-8.
  7. Floyd RA. Antioxidants, oxidative stress, and degenerative neurological disorders. Proc Soc Exp Biol Med Soc Exp Biol Med N Y N. 1999;222(3):236-245.
  8. Brown MJ, Ferruzzi MG, Nguyen ML, et al. Carotenoid bioavailability is higher from salads ingested with full-fat than with fat-reduced salad dressings as measured with electrochemical detection. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004;80(2):396-403.
  9. Unlu NZ, Bohn T, Clinton SK, Schwartz SJ. Carotenoid absorption from salad and salsa by humans is enhanced by the addition of avocado or avocado oil. J Nutr. 2005;135(3):431-436.
  10. Goltz SR, Campbell WW, Chitchumroonchokchai C, Failla ML, Ferruzzi MG. Meal triacylglycerol profile modulates postprandial absorption of carotenoids in humans. Mol Nutr Food Res. 2012;56(6):866-877. doi:10.1002/mnfr.201100687.
  11. Bosma-den Boer MM, van Wetten M-L, Pruimboom L. Chronic inflammatory diseases are stimulated by current lifestyle: how diet, stress levels and medication prevent our body from recovering. Nutr Metab. 2012;9(1):32. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-32.
  12. Blasbalg TL, Hibbeln JR, Ramsden CE, Majchrzak SF, Rawlings RR. Changes in consumption of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids in the United States during the 20th century. Am J Clin Nutr. 2011;93(5):950-962. doi:10.3945/ajcn.110.006643.
  13. Hibbeln JR, Nieminen LRG, Blasbalg TL, Riggs JA, Lands WEM. Healthy intakes of n-3 and n-6 fatty acids: estimations considering worldwide diversity. Am J Clin Nutr. 2006;83(6 Suppl):1483S – 1493S.

Soothe Those Achy, Breaky Muscles

1 May

Soothe Those Achy, Breaky Muscles

Tim Skwiat, MEd, CSCS, Pn1

Do you have trouble with sore, achy muscles? Do you struggle with excessive soreness after exercise? Do you have difficulty warming up those “cranky” areas? Even marginal tightness or a minor tweak to your muscles can distract your focus and disrupt the way you move. Once that happens, it’s only a matter of time before your quality of life and performance are negatively impacted—or worse, you sustain a more serious injury. Heck, sore muscles—or the thought of getting sore—may keep you from participating in the activities you love altogether.

According Sage Rountree, a sports coach specializing in athletic recovery, some muscle soreness is a normal side effect of strenuous exercise activity; however, certain types of soreness can be a more serious warning sign1:


With that in mind, if you typically and consistently experience symptoms on the “Warning Side” of the table above, it may be best to visit with a medical professional and/or qualified fitness professional.

When it comes to sore muscles, the great news is that you don’t just have ignore them altogether (i.e., “rub some dirt on it”) or become a slave to them. In fact, there are simple, yet significant proactive steps and recovery techniques that you can implement to help reduce muscle soreness—both before (i.e., preventative) and after the fact.

First, it may be important to point out that acute muscle soreness is caused by microscopic tears between muscles and the surrounding tissues. (Not, as you’ve likely been led to believe, lactic acid build-up.) These microtears, which, in the “right amounts,” are an important part of the strengthening and rebuilding processes, lead to acute inflammation. In other words, to effectively deal with sore muscles, it’s important to properly manage inflammation.

  • Balance your fats. Increasing your consumption of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats (e.g., freshwater fish, fish oil) and subsequently decreasing your intake of industrial vegetable oils (e.g. soybean, corn, safflower, sunflower), which are high in pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats2 and found on the ingredients list of nearly every packaged food, is one of the single-most important things you can do to better manage inflammation.3
  • Consume more anti-inflammatory foods and nutrients. In addition to freshwater fish and fish oil, there are a number of foods that contain anti-inflammatory compounds: avocados, blueberries and other berries containing anthocyanins, coconut oil, cruciferous vegetables (e.g., broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale), tea (e.g., green, white, oolong, rooibos), cocoa, papaya, pineapple, hot peppers, red wine, turmeric (curcumin), basil, thyme, cloves, garlic, ginger, and cinnamon.
  • Remove inflammatory foods. Food intolerances can stimulate an inflammatory response and act like slow-burning systemic inflammation. These are distinct from true food allergies, and the following is a list of “probable suspects”: grains, dairy, soy, shellfish, FODMAP-containing foods, nightshades, histamine-containing foods, food additives and preservatives, processed sugar, artificial sweeteners, tree nuts, and peanuts. This is not to say that everyone will have a problem with all of these foods (or any of them); however, it’s simply meant to point out that these foods (some of them otherwise “healthy”) could contribute, and using a food journal could be helpful to identify any individual triggers.
  • Get your gut in order. The gut is more than a digestion center and what you eat (or don’t) can have a significant impact on overall wellbeing and performance. Probiotics (i.e., friendly gut bacteria) perform a variety of very important functions, and of importance to this conversation, they help regulate the immune system, produce anti-inflammatory chemicals, and down-regulate pro-inflammatory molecules. Foods that are rich in probiotics include fermented foods like plain yogurt (with live cultures), kefir, sauerkraut, kimchi, miso, tempeh, and kombucha.
  • Eat more building blocks. Over time, joints stiffen and muscle goes bye-bye. This, to some degree, is determined by exercise (i.e., physical activity), but nutrition also plays a crucial role as it provides the basic components (e.g., amino acids) of tissue rebuilding. Along these lines, it’s crucial to boost your intake of lean protein, which provides critical amino acids. Furthermore, research shows that specific amino acids (especially leucine, one of the BCAAs) may be especially important for muscle recovery and strength as folks get older.4 Taken together with above recommendations, a vanilla-blueberry protein-chia seed—cinnamon protein smoothie made with kefir sounds like a great post-round option!
  • Recovery exercise and massage. In a 2003 review study, researchers from Auckland University found that, amongst all treatment factors including massage, anti-inflammatory drugs, stretching, homeopathy, ultrasound, and more, “exercise is the most effective means of alleviating pain” when experiencing muscle soreness.5 In a 2013 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, researchers found that 10 minutes of active recovery exercise (performed with resistance bands) was just as effective as massage treatment in relieving muscle soreness.6
  • Epsom salt baths. Magnesium helps relax muscles, and magnesium deficiencies are amongst the most common nutrient deficiencies. Taking a magnesium-based Epsom salt bath can help restore magnesium levels and help sore muscles recover.
  • Sleep. One of the most important recovery techniques that you can begin to emphasize is getting plenty of quality sleep, as sleep debt has been shown to hinder muscle recovery.7 While consistently getting 7 – 8 hours of sleep per night would be ideal, even increasing your sleep time by 30 – 60 minutes can make a difference in promoting muscle recovery (not to mention myriad other health, body composition, and performance benefits).

As you can see, there are many factors well within your control that can aid in preventing and reducing muscle soreness. Even better, by helping your body better manage inflammation (aka the “silent killer”), you’ll also be improving your overall health, feelings of wellbeing, and vitality to boot!



  1. Rountree SH. The Athlete’s Guide to Recovery: Rest, Relax, and Restore for Peak Performance. Boulder, Colo: VeloPress; 2011.
  2. Bosma-den Boer MM, van Wetten M-L, Pruimboom L. Chronic inflammatory diseases are stimulated by current lifestyle: how diet, stress levels and medication prevent our body from recovering. Nutr Metab. 2012;9(1):32. doi:10.1186/1743-7075-9-32.
  3. Simopoulos AP. The importance of the ratio of omega-6/omega-3 essential fatty acids. Biomed Pharmacother Bioméd Pharmacothérapie. 2002;56(8):365-379.
  4. Casperson SL, Sheffield-Moore M, Hewlings SJ, Paddon-Jones D. Leucine supplementation chronically improves muscle protein synthesis in older adults consuming the RDA for protein. Clin Nutr Edinb Scotl. 2012;31(4):512-519. doi:10.1016/j.clnu.2012.01.005.
  5. Cheung K, Hume P, Maxwell L. Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med Auckl NZ. 2003;33(2):145-164.
  6. Andersen LL, Jay K, Andersen CH, et al. Acute effects of massage or active exercise in relieving muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. J Strength Cond Res Natl Strength Cond Assoc. 2013;27(12):3352-3359. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3182908610.
  7. Dattilo M, Antunes HKM, Medeiros A, et al. Sleep and muscle recovery: endocrinological and molecular basis for a new and promising hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2011;77(2):220-222. doi:10.1016/j.mehy.2011.04.017.