I Feel the Need…the Need for (Chia) Seed

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As I was reviewing my goals for 2015 the other day, it struck me that there’s one, big gaping hole: Nutrition!

Between all the talk about training, racing, facing fears and choosing new challenges, I neglected to address the fact that fuel is a critical factor in overall health, performance and being able to push yourself.

And nothing against people — I’m looking at you, Chad Johnson — who claim to flourish with fast food, but I have a feeling that a diet chock-full of Big Macs would only land me in Big Trouble.

So as part of my “train smarter” goal, I’ve been reading this book and doing a lot of thinking about food as fuel. Not only trying to weed out a lot of processed junk (you’d be surprised how tough this can be!), but also attempting to consume more nutrient-dense foods — i.e. those that deliver the biggest “biggest bang for the buck,” meaning lots of nutrients for relatively few calories.

That’s where chia comes in. No, I don’t believe it’s a nutritional silver bullet, but it is purported to have twice as much protein as most grains and five times more calcium than milk. Factor in some good amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, soluble fiber, potassium and antioxidants, and I figured it’s a good addition to my healthy-eating regimen.

So what do you do with it? Well, here are four simple ways I’m slipping this little seed into my diet:

1. Chia-Specific Recipes: You may have seen my recent recipe for overnight oats, which has since become a family favorite for the tapioca-pudding-like texture, but there are countless ways in which chia can be used in recipes; check out these over at BuzzFeed.

2. Sneaky Substitutions: Simply swap in chia seeds for eggs or oil in recipes by mixing a tablespoon of chia seeds with one-quarter cup of water; use as a thickener for soups, sauces and puddings; or add chia seeds to an herb, seed or granola mix to bump up the nutrient factor.

3. 10,000-Year-Old Red Bull: In his book, Born to Run, Christopher McDougall studies a tribe of the world’s greatest distance runners and reveals their secrets — one of which is a drink called Chia Fresca (or iskiate), which features chia.

4. On-the-Go Snacks: Nope, it’s not just in the bulk food section of health food stores; chia’s now mainstream and in a number of products — just make sure it’s nothing super-processed or sugar-laden.

My new favorite mid-run snack are these Mamma Chia Squeezes (low in sugar, and all-natural chia + fruit + veggies), and instead of juice, I’ll grab one of their Vitality Beverages, which has added benefits of omega-3s, antioxidants, dietary fibers, as well as complete protein, calcium and magnesium.

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Have you jumped on the chia bandwagon? 

Fave Fix: GoodBelly 12-Day Belly Reboot

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The holidays tend out to bring out the crazy in all of us, right?

Case in point: After months of excess, we toss kale in our grocery carts and halfheartedly call it “eating healthy” (even though we’re buying roughly twice as many calories per serving in food now, as compared to the holidays, says this study) or commit to a crazy cleanse or restrictive diet that’s destined to leave us yoyo-ing throughout 2015.

Why abuse your gut in an effort to lose it?

My suggestion instead: Be nicer to your belly with a 12-Day Belly Reboot.

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The kind folks over at GoodBelly contacted me to check out their new program, which launched just in time for the New Year. During the Reboot, you drink one 8 oz. glass or one shot of GoodBelly a day for 12 days. Along the way, you’ll be able to track exactly what’s happening in your body and get extra motivation in the form of tips and coupons.

“Since probiotics do their work in the belly and beyond, there hasn’t necessarily been a way to see tangible results of their impact on overall health, ” said Alan Murray, CEO of GoodBelly. “Our new Belly Reboot was created to offer consumers a way to really track and understand how probiotics can impact the way they feel in just 12 days.”

Made with the well-researched probiotic strain, Lactobacillus plantarum 299v (LP299V®), GoodBelly supports digestive health. Unlike many other live and active cultures, though, LP299V survives passage beyond the stomach’s acidic environment in order to support the rest of the digestive system, and ultimately overall health.*

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GoodBelly offers multi-serving quarts and single serving shots, available in flavors like Blueberry Acai, Mango, Pomegranate Blackberry and Strawberry. Each serving packs 20-50 billion live and active probiotic cultures to promote healthy digestive and immune systems, as 70 percent of the body’s immune system resides in the digestive tract.*

I kicked off my  12-day test just as things got hectic around the holidays. The juice was delicious, and the shots were convenient (some sweet, some tart, depending on the flavor), but best of all? Between last-minute shopping stress, unusually decadent meals, lots of travel and — to top it off — an especially active cold and flu season, I was not only able to stave off sickness, but also keep my energy up and banish bloat.

If you’re on the supplement bandwagon, like me, you may already take probiotic pills. In that case, GoodBelly’s a great way to add some variety (not to mention extra vitamins and calcium) to your diet. And if you’re new to the idea, it’s an easy — and delicious — way to augment your healthy eating habits for 2015.

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“We believe that what you eat and drink has a direct impact on your overall health,” said Murray. “Which is why we’re committed to creating functional beverages in exciting flavors that are easy to drink and absolutely delicious.”

Now, that’s really going with your gut.

For more information on the GoodBelly 12-Day Belly Reboot, click here.

*Some studies suggest GoodBelly’s probiotic may help balance the bacteria in your gut when consumed daily as part of a nutritious diet and healthy lifestyle. GoodBelly is a food product and not a treatment or cure for any medical disorder or disease. If you have any concerns about your digestive system, please consult a health care professional.

Vitamins, supplements and superfoods, oh my!

Supplements

To supplement or not to supplement…that is the question.

Americans spend almost $12 billion each year on vitamins and supplements, but the jury’s still out on whether or not that money is well-spent.

One one hand, the U.S. Preventive Services Task Force studied the effects of vitamins, minerals and supplements, and concluded that for most, there is not enough evidence to determine whether the pills can lower risk of heart disease or cancer.

But on the flip side, reliable resources — such as the Harvard School of Public Health, for example — say that taking a multivitamin is an effective nutrition insurance policy because it helps us fill in the gaps of a regular diet, which may not always supply the body with recommended levels of daily nutritional requirements.

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Personally, I’m pro-supplement (this article covers some of my reasoning) — although that doesn’t mean you can live on a diet of Skittles and Cheetos and expect your daily vitamin to work miracles. Rather, I view it as a way to enhance an otherwise-healthy lifestyle and help give your body a little extra “oomph” when it’s under stress or attack.

I’ve gotten some questions about my regimen, so I wanted to share a few of my current favorites, which helped get me through marathon training feeling strong and with minimal sickness (despite a rigorous training, work and personal schedule, which all tend to zap the body’s resources):

– Multivitamin: Not only is New Chapter’s Perfect Immune a whole-food, non-GMO vitamin, but it also aids the body’s natural defenses and is gentle enough to be taken on an empty stomach.

– Vitamin C: Finest Natural’s Vitamin C includes rose hips, a natural source of the vitamin, which protects the body’s cells from potential oxidative damage and supports the immune system.

– Iron: Low dietary intake of iron may be the most common nutritional deficiency for serious endurance athletes, especially women, so I like Nature’s Bounty Gentle Iron for combating chronic fatigue and other symptoms I’ve previously experienced.

– Probiotics: A happy belly makes for a healthy body, and New Chapter’s Probiotic All-Flora is a non-dairy way to ingest nine live probiotic (good bacteria) strains delivered in whole-food media, plus prebiotic fiber to help promote digestive system wellness.

– Turmeric: Referred to as the “Queen of Spices,” turmeric’s not just for cooking; New Chapter’s Turmeric Force has also been billed as a natural way to reduce inflammation, prevent cancer, improve digestion, detoxify the system, and much more.

– Others: Two other supplements (not pictured) that were an integral part of my marathon training were Bluebonnet Liquid Calcium and Energybits to keep my bones strong and ensure I got my daily dose of greens, respectively.

Source: Smartypants

Source: Smartypants

It’s also good to switch things up intermittently, so my guilty pleasure is SmartyPants Gummy Vitamins in place of my usual multivitamin; not only are they like candy, but they’re also an easy option for days when I’m on-the-go and don’t want to swallow a whole set of pills.

Of course, the best way to give your body nutrients is to get them naturally by eating a healthy and balanced diet, which includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins. But if you’re in the midst of a tough training cycle, supplements are a nice way to boost your body’s ability to push hard, recover and reach for the next level.

How do you ensure your body gets all the vitamins and nutrients it needs during training?