Monthly Archives: October 2016

Get Balanced!

Stretching every day won’t necessarily make you a better athlete — that’s been a bit of a myth, says sports medicine physician Susan Joy, MD, director of women’s sports health at Cleveland Clinic Sports Health. But stretching each of our big muscle groups is very important for staving off injuries, helping to recover from an injury and for overall mobility, especially for older adults. Stretching also helps correct flexibility imbalances — which we all have, from both a sedentary lifestyle (sitting at a desk) and exercise (like walking, running, biking, golf or other pursuits). When half your muscles are overstretched and the other half are taut as bongo drums, it affects your everyday movement. So, for example, overly tight hamstrings combined with loose quads can wind up changing your gait when you run or walk, eventually compromising the curve of your lower back — which can lead to misalignment, pain and even injury.

Stretch Yourself

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The American College of Sports Medicine advises that you devote time to stretching two to three days a week, holding each stretch for 10 to 30 seconds, with three or four repetitions per stretch. Although we used to think stretching was the way to warm up before exercise, now we know that it’s best to warm up before you stretch. “Get yourself to where you feel like you are heating up inside, because muscles lengthen in the heat and contract in the cold,” Dr. Joy says. The following slides — some adopted from yoga, others from physical therapy — offer stretches for many of our chronically tight places.

Modified Downward Facing Dog

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This is a great way to open up the shoulders and chest, but it’s gentler than traditional down dog (done with hands and feet both on the floor), says yoga teacher and fitness coach Sage Rountree, author of The Athlete’s Guide to Yoga. Stand three to four feet from a wall and reach your hands straight out, so that your palms are flat on the wall. Drop your head through your shoulders as you push against the wall, dropping your chest so it’s parallel to the floor. Keep your elbows slightly bent, but keep your back straight (you may have to adjust your distance from the wall). You should feel a great opening through your shoulders and chest — like one big yawn. You can also do this on a sturdy table, as long as it’s not too low.

Standing Side Stretch

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Rountree loves this for stretching the front and sides of the body. Start in mountain pose (feet hip-width apart and pressed into the earth, back straight, shoulders back and down, arms at sides). Reach arms up to the ceiling and interface fingers into a shotgun position. Inhale deeply, exhale and lean to one side. Hold for a few breaths, return to center and repeat to the other side.

Cat Stretch

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This is a wonderful and easy stretch for your lower back, says exercise physiologist Heather Nettle, MA, coordinator of exercise physiology services for the Cleveland Clinic Sports Health and Orthopaedic Rehabilitation Center. Start on all fours. Inhale, exhale and gently arch your back up like an angry cat. You can also let your spine fall into cow, where you let your belly fall toward the ground into a slight arch and drop your head back. However, be careful when you do this, Nettle says, because it can exacerbate spine issues if you have lumbar stenosis or a herniated lumbar disc (just stay in cat if you have either of these).

Supine Hamstring Stretch

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Hamstrings are notoriously tight for both athletes and non-athletes, Nettle says, and this stretch is effective for all levels of fitness. Lying supine on the floor, slightly bend one knee and place foot flat on the ground. Extend other leg straight and raise straight up until it is as close to a 90-degree angle as possible while still keeping leg straight. If this is a challenge, just breathe and hold it there for 20 seconds. If this isn’t challenging, grab behind your knee and gently pull it toward your chest (trying to keep your leg straight) and hold for 20 seconds. You can also straighten your bottom leg all the way to the floor for an even greater stretch (but try with foot flat first).

Standing Quadriceps Stretch

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It’s not uncommon for quads and hamstrings to be unbalanced (one more flexible than the other), so make sure you stretch both, Nettle says. To stretch quads, stand close to a stable object you can hold on to (like a wall, table or stretching partner). Raise the leg on the side of your free hand, and bend the knee behind you. Grasp the foot and hold gently (breathing all the time!). Hold stretch for at least 20 seconds and repeat three times on each side.

Calf Stretch

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Our calves are a super hardworking muscle group — not just when you exercise, but also if you tend to wear high heels. Make sure you take time to kick off your shoes and stretch these muscles, Nettle says. Start with your front foot about a foot from the wall and your back foot two or more feet from the wall. Lean in, place hands on the wall to balance, and bend your front leg. Keep your back leg fully extended and focus on pressing your back heel down. Hold for 20 seconds and repeat three times on each leg.

Squat

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This yoga pose is a little more challenging (skip this if you have knee issues), but it is a wonderful stretch for opening up your hips, Rountree says. As you squat down, you will need to lean forward, but try not to hunch. Use your elbows to press your knees open. Make sure that your knees and toes are both facing in the same direction, though, with your knees just over your toes. Inhale and exhale several rounds of breath here as you press those knees open.

Backbend

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This yoga pose is a precursor to more difficult yoga poses, such as the camel or full backbend, but it’s wonderful all on its own because it opens up your heart center and lets you stretch your chest and open your shoulders. As you kneel down, your toes can either be tucked under or turned up, Rountree says. Reach for your ankles (or the floor) behind you, either one hand at a time or both hands simultaneously, and feel the great release across your chest. Gently let the weight of your head fall back, and let your neck relax and your jaw unclench.

What are Legumes?

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Legumes are a class of vegetables that includes beans, peas and lentils, and are among the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.

If you want to add more beans and other legumes to your diet, but you aren’t clear about what’s available and how to prepare them, this guide can help.
Many supermarkets and food stores stock a wide variety of legumes — both dried and canned.

Below are several of the more common types and their typical uses:

Adzuki beans, also known as field peas or red beans: Soups, sweet bean paste, and Japanese and Chinese dishes
Anasazi beans: Soups and Southwestern dishes; can be used in recipes that call for pinto beans
Black beans, also known as turtle beans: Soups, stews, rice dishes and Latin American cuisines
Black-eyed peas, also known as cowpeas: Salads, casseroles, fritters and Southern dishes
Chickpeas, also known as garbanzo or ceci beans: Casseroles, hummus, minestrone soup, and Spanish and Indian dishes
Edamame, also known as green soybeans: Snacks, salads, casseroles and rice dishes
Fava beans, also known as broad beans: Stews and side dishes
Lentils: Soups, stews, salads, side dishes and Indian dishes
Lima beans, also known as butter or Madagascar beans: Succotash, casseroles, soups and salads
Red kidney beans: Stews, salads, chili and rice dishes
Soy nuts, also known as roasted soybeans or soya beans: Snack or garnish for salads

Dried beans and legumes, with the exceptions of black-eyed peas and lentils, require soaking in room-temperature water, a step that rehydrates them for more even cooking. Before soaking, pick through the beans, discarding any discolored or shriveled ones or any foreign matter. Depending on how much time you have, choose one of the following soaking methods:

Slow soak: In a stockpot, cover 1 pound dried beans with 10 cups water. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours or overnight.
Quick soak: In a stockpot, bring 1 pound of dried beans and 10 cups of water to a boil. Cover and set aside and let beans soak for 1 to 4 hours at room temperature.

After soaking, rinse beans and add to a stockpot. Cover the beans with three times their volume of water. Add herbs or spices as desired. Bring to a boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until tender. The cooking time depends on the type of bean, but start checking after 45 minutes. Add more water if the beans become uncovered.

Other tips:

  • Add salt or acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, tomatoes or juice, near the end of the cooking time, when the beans are just tender. If these ingredients are added too early, they can make the beans tough and slow the cooking process.
  • Beans are done when they can be easily mashed between two fingers or with a fork.
  • One pound of dried beans yields about 5 or 6 cups cooked beans. A 15.5-ounce can of beans equals about 1 2/3 cups beans, drained and cooked.
  • Lentils, split peas and black-eyed peas don’t need to be soaked. In addition, some legumes are “quick-cooking” — meaning they have already been pre-soaked and re-dried and don’t need extra soaking. Finally, canned legumes make quick additions to dishes that don’t require long simmering. Just be sure to rinse prepared and canned legumes to remove some of the sodium added during processing.

Consider these ways to incorporate more legumes into your meals and snacks:

  • Prepare soups, stews and casseroles that feature legumes.
  • Use pureed beans as the basis for dips and spreads.
  • Add chickpeas or black beans to salads. If you typically buy a salad at work and no beans are available, bring your own from home in a small container.
  • Snack on a handful of soy nuts rather than on chips or crackers.

As you add more beans and legumes to your diet, be sure to drink enough water and exercise regularly to help your gastrointestinal system handle the increase in dietary fiber.

Sugar

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According to the American Heart Association, the recommended amounts of daily sugar intake are:

Women: 6 teaspoons
Men: 9 teaspoons
Children: 3 teaspoons

Here are some foods that contain sugar. You may be surprised! Read labels carefully.

- Condiments, such as ketchup and relish
- Pasta Sauce
- Soda and other sweetened drinks
- Peanut Butter
- Soups
- Salad Dressing
- Cereals
- Bread
- Granola Bars
- Yogurt

How do you know how much sugar is in a product? You can figure it out by doing some quick and easy math:

4 grams of sugar = 1 teaspoon
1 teaspoon = 1 sugar cube
12 teaspoons = 1/4 cup sugar

Divide the number of grams of sugar by 4 to find the number of teaspoons.
Then multiply the teaspoons of sugar by the servings per container.
Voila! You have the amount of sugar in the product.

Example:
A 20 ounce bottle of Coke has 27 grams of sugar. Divide the 27 grams by 4. That’s 6.75 teaspoons of sugar.
There are 2.5 servings per container. Multiply the 6.75 teaspoons of sugar by 2.5 servings. That’s 16.875 teaspoons of sugar, or rounded up, 17 teaspoons.
That means there are 17 teaspoons or cubes of sugar in one 20 ounce bottle of Coke, almost three times the recommended amount of daily sugar intake for women and almost six times the recommended amount for children.

Dark Chocolate Frozen Banana Bites

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We all deserve a treat once in a while! Try this delicious, not too sinful confection!

Ingredients:

• 1 banana
• 3 ounces dark chocolate, 70% cocoa or greater
• ½ teaspoon instant espresso (optional)

Directions:

1. Slice banana into 16 quarter-inch slices.

2. Skewer each slice with two prong skewers and place on wax paper; freeze for one hour.

3. Create double boiler by placing metal bowl over saucepan with one inch of simmering water; add chocolate, espresso (if using) and stir continually until 3/4 melted.

4. Remove bowl from heat and continue stirring until completely melted.

5. Take banana slices from freezer and dip in chocolate until completely coated, allowing excess chocolate to drip off.

6. Place on wax paper and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Enjoy!