Monthly Archives: October 2013

Almonds versus complex carbohydrates for weight loss

Many people avoid eating nuts because of their high fat content. They are afraid they will gain weight if they eat nuts, and may instead eat low fat, high carb foods. This may sound like nonsense to some of you, but is this fear justified at all? I found a very interesting study which compared eating almonds with eating complex carbohydrates for weight reduction. According to City of Hope National Medical Center, Duarte, CA, in Almonds vs complex carbohydrates in a weight reduction program:


Our findings suggest that an almond-enriched LCD improves a preponderance of the abnormalities associated with the metabolic syndrome. Both dietary interventions were effective in decreasing body weight beyond the weight loss observed during long-term pharmacological interventions; however, the almond-LCD group experienced a sustained and greater weight reduction for the duration of the 24-week intervention. Almond supplementation of a formula-based LCD is a novel alternative to self-selected complex carbohydrates and has a potential role in reducing the public health implications of obesity.

The conclusion was the opposite of what many people believe. This may be due to the fact that on average we only absorb about 70% – 80% of the calories from nuts. This is largely due to their high fiber content. In general, people who eat the most nuts tend to be slimmer and healthier on average. And don’t forget that the fat in most nuts, in particular almonds, is the healthy kind.

Why eating nuts can help you lose weight

Lavender aromatherapy for insomnia and depression

2013-10-29 22.17.28Occasionally, when I feel wired before bedtime, I will sprinkle a little lavender oil on my pillow. I believe its very soothing, pleasing aroma helps me relax and fall asleep faster. But how helpful is it?

According to the study, Effects of lavender aromatherapy on insomnia and depression in women college students, done at the Department of Nursing, Keukdong College, Chungcheongbuk-Do, Korea:


According to the study results, it can be concluded that the lavender fragrance had a beneficial effect on insomnia and depression in women college students. Repeated studies are needed to confirm effective proportions of lavender oil and carrier oil for insomnia and depression.

Interesting findings, though preliminary. Another study on lavender from Chiba University Graduate School of Medicine showed that:


Lavender aromatherapy reduced serum cortisol and improved CFVR in healthy men. These findings suggest that lavender aromatherapy has relaxation effects and may have beneficial acute effects on coronary circulation.

This sounds a little more convincing, since they measured blood cortisol levels and coronary flow velocity reserves, which are more objective measures of stress.  If you have a little trouble sleeping, it certainly can’t hurt to sprinkle a little lavender oil on your pillow or to use lavender aromatherapy to help you relax. But if you have severe insomnia or depression, seek medical help immediately.

Back in business!

If you remember my post from october 19th, “13.1 mile run to Valhalla again“, I was much slower than usual. This was mostly due to donating blood 3 days before the run. It took me 2 hours and 18 minutes to run the 13.1 miles to Valhalla, while I can normally run this distance in a little less than 2 hours. I was slow pretty much all of last week, even on my 22 mile run(or better yet, “slug crawl”) to “Little Iran”.


Shiraz restaurant in “Little Iran”, Elmsford, New York

Now, it appears my blood has mostly recovered. Today, 14 days after the blood donation, and 30 days after the marathon I managed to run 13.6 miles to Hastings and back in 1 hour 58 minutes. During the run, a cyclist acquaintance of mine tried to pretend he was juggling while cycling after he passed me. It was really funny, and I gotta say, he shows a lot of potential to be a good juggler-cyclist! Besides this, I felt like I was in top form during most of the run(even when running up hills), and didn’t feel totally exhausted afterwards. Right now I still feel very energetic, compared to how I often felt last week.

While the main reason I donated blood was to do a good deed, I was also interested in experimenting to see how much slower I would get and how long it would take to recover. Just as I suspected, it isn’t a big deal and I encourage all healthy people, athletes and non-athletes to donate whenever possible.

Now I am almost back to the way I was before, thanks to eating a lot of iron rich foods and supplements, and can work on improving my speed again.

Do we burn more calories when it is cold or hot?

Now that we are well into autumn, many of you are probably wondering how the change in temperature affects your training, and in particular your calorie expenditure.

So do we burn more calories in hot weather or cold weather? It turns out we burn more when its hot, since pumping blood toward the skin so it can turn into sweat to cool the body requires more calories than exercising in cold weather. While we do need to burn calories to keep warm when it is cold outside, vigorous exercise when it is cold burns enough calories to keep us warm at no extra calorie cost.

For some more info: Do I burn more calories when it is hot outside or cold?

No matter how cold and snowy the winter may get, I won’t let it keep me inside. Like last winter, I will be out there just about every day running my miles, even if they are only “junk” miles. Having the right attitude and dressing warmly enough should allow you to engage in vigorous outdoor exercise all winter long.


Last winter

Baked sweet potatoes for dinner

IMG_2252After a wonderful long walk along the river enjoying the fall foliage, I decided to make sweet potatoes for dinner, along with raw almonds, lightly steamed kale, and a glass of homemade vegan blueberry kefir.

Sweet potatoes are packed with beta-carotene, which gives them their bright orange color. They are also a good source of various vitamins, and minerals, as well as fiber and starch. They contain only a little protein, and almost no fat. Almonds, on the other hand, contain a significant amount of protein, along with a lot of fat(mostly the healthy kind) as well as fiber.

Kale is a type of cabbage, and is loaded with powerful carotenoids like lutein and zeaxanthin, which are said to be good for the eyes. Kale is also a good source of fiber.

The vegan blueberry kefir has a lot of anthocyanins, which may be helpful for exercise recovery and may help prevent some diseases, and since it was fermented also has probiotic benefits. It was wonderfully effervescent, and a bit sour, a nice compliment to the sweet potatoes and almonds. It has a tincture of alcohol in it, making it sort of like the “red wine” of the meal.

It took about 45 minutes in the oven to bake the sweet potatoes. I added a dash of cinnamon to spice things up. They were very delicious, and all in all, a terrific vegan autumn meal. And very colorful too!

Pendant that I am, it must be noted that sweet potatoes are not related to potatoes. They are in completely different plant families. Sweet potatoes are related to morning glories, and potatoes are in the nightshade family, which means they are closely related to nightshades like tomatoes, eggplant, bell peppers and tobacco, yes, tobacco!

Besides this, sweet potatoes are often called yams, though they are not related to true yams. While they are both tubers, real yams are much bigger and starchier, and only taste a little like sweet potatoes. True yams only grow in the tropics or sub-tropics, and are originally from Africa. They tend to be sold in Caribbean or African markets.

For more information: Sweet Potato and Yam Differences

Other terrific vegan meal ideas:

Screenshot from 2013-10-27 20:46:27

Make it shtick!

Screenshot from 2013-10-25 22:21:56A few days ago while joggling around the neighborhood on a brilliantly sunny though breezy day, this man who was driving down the street told me “I really love your shtick!”. I took it as a compliment, but he drove off so fast I couldn’t respond or at least say “thanks”. This compliment got me thinking: Wouldn’t it be great if everyone had their own shtick when it came to fitness?

What is a “shtick” anyway? “Shtick” is one of those unmistakable Yiddish words that has made its way into mainstream English, largely due to the influence of American Jewish comedians. It originally meant “piece”, but nowadays it has multiple meanings, usually meaning something like “gimmick”, or “talent”, or “eccentricity”, or “comedic theme”. A “shtick” is often an important part of a famous person’s persona or an essential part of their act. Jeff Foxworthy’s shtick are his “you might be a redneck…” jokes.

It isn’t always meant to be comedic, but is usually is. People who aren’t comedians can have “shticks” – my shtick is juggling while running(though there are some others who do this, there aren’t any others in the town I live in). Some people may think calling joggling a “shtick” is a mild insult, as if it implies it is silly or ridiculous. Thing is, last time I checked, there’s nothing about fitness and ridiculousness that makes them incompatible. I am both fit and ridiculous; indeed, I think I am as fit as I am because of my ridiculousness. It feels great making people laugh while I train.

I think everyone should adopt a shtick to help them stick to their fitness routine. Put your own personal stamp on it. Make people laugh or try to be unforgettable. It doesn’t have to be joggling, it can be yodeling while cycling or wearing ridiculous outfits. Don’t be afraid of being ridiculous, embrace your ridiculous side. Ridiculousness in the service of fitness is no vice.

What is the toughest life form?

So who or what is the toughest of them all?

A really good contender for the title of the toughest life form on earth is not a human at all, but a bacterium. It is Deinococcus radiodurans, a bacterium that can survive extreme cold, acid, vacuum, and dehydration. As if this wasn’t enough, it can also survive a huge amount of radiation. According to Wikipedia:

D. radiodurans is capable of withstanding an acute dose of 5,000 Gy (500,000 rad) of ionizing radiation with almost no loss of viability, and an acute dose of 15,000 Gy with 37% viability.[9][10][11] A dose of 5,000 Gy is estimated to introduce several hundred double-strand breaks (DSBs) into the organism’s DNA (~0.005 DSB/Gy/Mbp (haploid genome)). For comparison, a chest X-ray or Apollo mission involves about 1 mGy, 5 Gy can kill a human, 200-800 Gy will kill E. coli, and over 4,000 Gy will kill the radiation-resistant tardigrade.

That is pretty freaking amazing. No wonder deinococcus radiodurans is called a “polyextremophile”. All humans could go extinct due to a nuclear holocaust, and this little bacterium would survive. Its ability to survive extreme radiation is due to a very robust DNA self-repair mechanism. This ability makes it useful in bioremediation:

Deinococcus has been genetically engineered for use in bioremediation to consume and digest solvents and heavy metals, even in a highly radioactive site. For example, the bacterial mercuric reductasegene has been cloned from Escherichia coli into Deinococcus to detoxify the ionicmercury residue frequently found in radioactive waste generated from nuclear weapons manufacture.[22] Those researchers developed a strain of Deinococcus that could detoxify both mercury and toluene in mixed radioactive wastes.

It’s great to know that it is possible to decontaminate even some of the most dangerously polluted sites in the world, thanks to this powerful bacteria.

To strengthen the muscles of your heart…

To strengthen the muscles of your heart, the best exercise is lifting someone else’s spirit whenever you can.” – Unknown

Chris Pert interviewed on Outside Health and Fitness Podcast!

If you can’t get enough of joggling, and can tolerate some awful jokes, check out the Chris Pert aka the “Wild Juggler” interview on the Outside Health and Fitness Podcast, hosted by Steve Stearns: Wild Juggling with Chris Pert

I’ve never done something like this before, and it was kind of fun. The interview is largely about the Yonkers marathon which I’ve been told I ran(while juggling) a few weeks ago, and the basics of joggling and its possible benefits. As I’m sure many of you know, I’m all about outdoor fitness, so be sure to visit Outside Health and Fitness before going on your next outdoor adventure. Not only does it have everything you need to know to get the most out of your outdoor fitness routine, it also contains a lot of helpful health advice.

I hope you all enjoy the interview and the site!