Category Archives: lose weight

Health Benefits of Grass Fed Beef and CLA: Part 2

Grass fed cows can make wonderful cheeses and butters, which are a good source of natural CLA

In a post a couple of days ago, I gave you a highlight of the benefits of eating grass fed, organically raised beef and animal products (like organic raw milk or cage free eggs), as the essential fatty acid CLA can only be derived naturally from these sources. This time around, I expect to show you the actual research that supports this, and how you can relate it to your own health.

Again, CLA, or conjugated linoleic acid, is an essential fatty acid which is found primarily in meat and dairy products. So, without further ado’, who are the health benefits of grass fed beef and conjugated linoleic acid:

  • CLA and Weight Loss:
  • Many studies are showing the fantastic link between CLA and weight loss, and how it can alter your body composition in a positive way. A study from The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed weight loss in overweight individuals with CLA supplementation, equal to 1 pound per month. Combined with exercise and stress reductions, that weight loss could in exceed that limit.

    Another study from The Journal of American College of Nutrition presents that studies performed with CLA and animal models show a decrease in adipose tissue, or body fat, whether or not the animal was eating a low-fat or high-fat diet.

  • Cancer: This study demonstrates the anticarcinogenic effects found in animal foods, or CLA. If you are wanting to reduce your cancer risk, or add another natural method for cancer prevention, then adding CLA to your diet may help.Take, for example, this study, which shows that a small additions of CLA in your diet can reduce your risk for cancer by up to 50%. That is significant, especially if you have a healthy lifestyle already, by exercising, reducing environmental toxins and controlling stress.Another study performed at Kuopio University in Finland with 329 women in a French hospital showed a whopping 74% decreased risk of developing cancer in the women who had higher levels of CLA in their bloodstream.(1)
  • Insulin Sensitivity
  • Researchers at Penn State’s College of Agriculture Sciences found that CLA fed to mice prone to adult onset diabetes decreased overall glucose levels in the blood and an improved insulin action.

    The researcher also goes on to say that one should be aware of the trans-fatty acids in the foods that contain CLA, like dairy and meat products. However, these products do not naturally contain trans fatty acids, unless fried or cooked with partially hydrogenated vegetable oils. He then recommends margarine enriched with CLA. However margarine contains trans-fatty acids, as it is a partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. Hmm. Always be sure to do your own research, because even scientists are always very well educated in nutrition.

    CLA supplements have been shown to worsen insulin resistance, rather than their natural counterparts. So, if you are vegan or vegetarian, it is urged that you try to find a source of CLA in its whole, natural form. Perhaps from raw dairy or cage free, organic eggs.

  • High Cholesterol
  • A study on hamsters found that the group fed a diet of CLA had lower amounts of LDL (low density lipoprotein) in the blood, as well as a reduced risk of developing early aortic atherosclerosis. Currently I can only find studies done on animals, such as hamsters, mice and rabbits. But it does give us an idea of how CLA functions in the body.

  • High Blood Pressure
  • One study on Iranian adults with rheumatoid arthritis showed a significant decrease in blood pressure after CLA additions. Another study on rats (because scientist love their rats) showed a positive decrease in hypertension.

Conjugated Linoleic Acid, or CLA, certainly is a good fat to incorporate into your diet, as these studies have clearly shown. Taking them out completely does not promote good health, so utilizing this fat at least 2-3 times a week is a necessary for me. Even if it is only from eggs or raw, grass fed milk, I know I am doing my body good.
CLA and Supplements: A word of caution on supplements – Many studies show an opposite reaction to all the of beneficial side effects associated with conjugated linoleic acid. This is where you will have to do your own research and find that CLA from natural sources, such as grass fed butter, milk, eggs or meat, is your better option. Talk to a trusted nutritionist for more information on this topic.
I hope to provide a series of recipes that can be of good use for both vegetarians and meat eaters alike, who are wanting to incorporate more CLA in their diets. Until then…
This is The Healthy Advocate.

(1) A. Aro et al, Kuopio University, Finland; Bougnoux, P, Lavillonniere F, Riboli E. “Inverse relation between CLA in adipose breast tissue and risk of breast cancer. A case-control study in France.”Inform 10;5:S43, 1999

Healthy Bone Week: Bone Building Exercises

Strength training and muscle building through weight lifting.

We all know that exercise is essential for good health and mental agility. Is it no surprise that exercise is also good for the bones? Putting healthy amounts of exertion or weight upon your bones help build them and protect them from loss. What types of exercises can you do, right now, to help build your bones? Let’s find out.

If you are already suffering from bone loss, or you have osteoporosis, it is best to find out what your body can handle by talking to a trusted physician. The exercises mentioned here are for your research and knowledge, and it is up to you how you apply them to your own healthy lifestyle.


Squats allow your body weight, and any additional weight you apply to yourself, to be placed on your legs and thigh bones. Just a few reps of these and you will start to notice why these are bone strengthening. Your muscles, if you are not used to this type of exercise (and you haven’t properly warmed up by stretching) might feel sore after the first time with this exercise.

Fitness coach Darin Steen demonstrates a basic squat.

If you add a bar bell or some form of weight over your shoulders during this exercise, it will also help work your balance and inner stability and strength. This will also add more weight to the leg muscles and bones, to help strengthen and build them even more, as you go down.

Side Lunges

This form of exercise is also good for your leg muscles. You work each leg at different times, other than working both at the same time during squats. You could add light hand weights to this exercise to build the strength in your arms as well as your legs.

Place your feet side by side, feet wider than the hips, while lunging from right to left. Stay in each lunge for about 5-10 seconds, letting the majority of your body weight move into that lunging leg, with the other leg fairly straight. About 15 repetitions of each leg is ideal and can be accomplished by the majority of people.

Interval Cardio

This form of exercise is my absolute favorite. With interval training and cardio, you do bursts of intense activity, followed by short periods of rests. This maximizes your heart rate, and has been shown to be more effective at burning fat than regular long-endurance cardio sessions. You can achieve an hour’s worth of cardio in only 20-minutes if you use this exercise effectively.

In this video,  fitness coach Darin Steen explains the benefits of interval cardio.

Interval cardio is especially good at building muscles, because of the high intensity you are placing on your body during those short cardio bursts. Perhaps you are jumping up and down for 30 seconds, extremely fast, and then marching or jogging in place for the next 30 seconds for the break. With the jumping, you are providing fast muscle and bone movement and pressure, helping to build and strengthen the bones and muscles.


I love yoga—not only for its relaxation abilities, but the feeling your body gets after stretching and elongating. It is almost like a form of meditation, in that it helps focus the mind, as well as strengthens it. It can also be a great bone building exercise.

Photo Courtesy

With yoga, there are many side lunges, balancing postures and spine movements that all work with your own body weight, helping to strengthen and tone the entire body. Upward facing down can help strengthen and elongate the spine:

Photo Courtesy

Downard facing down can do the same thing, but will also provide weight bearing in your arms and legs, as well as toning the stomach:

Photo Courtesy

Triangle pose also works the leg muscles and bones by providing you with a good lunge. It also brings a twisting posture to your spine, allowing you to help build a flexible spine:

Photo Courtesy

You can find more yoga poses here.

Healthy Bone Drink

This drink you will see again near Halloween. Why? Because it is blood red! This is a preview for the next blog post, one that is CHOCK full of calcium, omega 3’s and vitamins K, C and A, nutrients that will help beautify and detoxify your body, as well as provide necessary ingredients to help your bones.

Healthy Weight Week Day Two: Your Exercise Program

Yikes! Exercise might seem scary for some–heart pounding moves that promote sweat, burning muscles and a tight bod. OK, I couldn’t think of a third promoter of exercise that sounded bad. Actually, all of those sounded quite good to me, and might to your, too, if you exercise regularly and feel the benefits of your daily movement.

Exercise not only promotes a healthier body figure and weight, but it also plays vital roles in various other physical and mental parts of your body. Daily movement and exercise influences cells in your body, preventing them from erosion and death, and also aids in proper mental agility and function. First I will go over what exercise does for your body, before I get into what exercises to do for the health of your body.

  1. Exercise promotes better sleep. If you are looking for a natural way to help you sleep at night, without the use of over the counter or prescription drugs (which can lead to dependancy), then exercise is your way to go. Exercise at least 30 minutes a day (45-60 minutes is optimal, depending) will provide an energy expenditure that will promote a tired sensation at the end of the day, thus promoting sleep. This will also last for many hours, preventing you from awakening during the middle of the night.
Besides the obvious effects exercise has on sleep, we also find it affects our circadian rhythms. Our circadian rhythms are the biological rhythms that occur throughout a 24- hour period. The circadian rhythm is mainly focused around our sleep hormone, melatonin. This hormone rises in the evening when darkness sets (making us feel tired and sleepy), and decreases during the day. This hormone is secreted much more strongly when exposed to natural sunlight, as proper sun exposure to the eyes and skin during the day help influence a stronger increase in the hormone at night.
Studies have shown that regular physical activity increases the level of melatonin that issecreted at night. A study performed at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto, Canada, found that exercise increased levels of melatonin secretion, especially if the exercise was performed later in the day. However, I believe that exercise in the morning to be optimal. But, if you are trying to fall asleep naturally, break up your exercise routine during the day, morning and afternoon. Exercising too close to bed time, inversely, will actually inhibit your sleep, according to this study.

2. Healthy exercise promotes a better mood, and helps fight depression.
Exercise is one of the most powerful natural “drugs” available, and it is incredibly effective in combating depression and mood disorders. When we put a healthy exertion on our bodies, as through exercise and movement, we start to release hormones in our brain, namely serotonin and endorphins–“feel good” hormones). The endorphins that are released have similar effects as morphine, but without the risk of dependancy. Neurotransmitters are also released to provide the transport of the hormones throughout your mind and body, elevating your mood. Too much exertion, however, can have an opposite effect.
The Mayo Clinic also states that exercise boosts mood by elevating body temperature (a warmer body temperature has a calming effect) and increasing the immune system, which has been linked to mood, as well. A study reported in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine used exercise as the only treatment for depression, and found that depression symptoms were cut almost in half in the subjects who participated in the 30-minute aerobic exercise sessions.
3. Fights cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Exercise lowers insulin levels and makes your bodies cells more sensitive to insulin. I believe insulin resistance to be one of the culprits behind the rise of degenerative and preventable diseases seen in America today. Lack of exercise and poor diet can lead to these complications, and exercise has been shown numerous times to prevent these illness, and even some controversial evidence suggests it can help reverse them (I am NOT condoning a treatment plan–only an alternative preventative strategy!).
4. Makes you smarter. Exercise has been shown to grow new cells in the brain, and also strengthens the inner cortex within the brain associated with cognition and attention. Using exercise as a tool for ADD or ADHD (learning disabilities that I really don’t believe exist) along with other healthy approaches (diet, sun exposure, proper sleep and hydration, etc.) can be incredibly beneficial. It always amazes me to see that moving your body every day can actually grow brand new, physical parts of your brain. This is very important as we age, and even for us college students (and all students, everywhere)!

5. Helps fight off illness. Exercising activates the immune system, helping your body fight off illness. The #1 issue people have when they get colds or the flu is that there immune system is down or not functioning properly. Exercising and eating right improves the immune system dramatically.
6. Promotes a healthy body weight and appearance. To be healthy, and to weight less (or more, depending on your needs), it is absolutely crucial that you apply exercise to you life. It is a valuable key nutrient that helps speed up your basal metabolism (how many calories you burn at rest), activates your growth hormone secretion (from the pituitary gland in the brain) and leads to greater flexibility and strength by toning the muscles and bones.
Like I said before, exercise is a powerful natural “drug” that most people have available to themselves and that can even replace dangerous, and often expensive, conventional drugs. Many stuides already show that antidepressants don’t work, so why risk the side effects and pay the price (mentally, physically AND monetary)?
Since I am talking about how to move into a healthier weight with exercise, let’s go over the types of exercise that are best. Each type of exercise won’t address weight loss, but will, overall, make you healthy. A proper balance of each type will keep your insulin and weight levels low, your energy high and your muscles and body toned and fit.
  1. Interval Training. This is a really cool type of exercise that I’m extremely fond of. Recent research has shown that interval training is the best way to burn fat. This exercise combines intense cardio bursts with periods of rest in between. In fact, the “rests” are actually smaller, less intense movements of the intense cardio movements. Let’s say you are walking. For 30 seconds you will do intense sprinting across your path. Then you will go back to walking for 60-90 seconds. Then, you will do the same sprints (bursts of cardio) for 30 seconds. Now back to the walking for 90 seoncds, and so on and so forth.
According to Darrin Steen, health and fitness expert, our bodies continue to burn more calories at rest up to 8 hours after an interval training exercise! This is amazing, seeing how after most aerobic cardio, like light jogging, your body’s metabolism slows back down again. However, your metabolism stays elevated much higher after an interval style cardio exercise. You can jump rope, do jumping jacks, or perform sprints for this exercise– anything that will be intense enough to do for 10-30 seconds. 20 minutes of this exercise is usually enough to compare to an hour’s worth of jogging (cardio bursts and rests).
Push yourself HARD during the 10-30 seconds of burst activity to start seeing results and reduction in your weight, to to see a more toned, fit body. Your body produces adequete amounts of growth hormone with this type of exercise which slow down the aging process, increases muscle mass and aids in reducing fat. Doing too much of this good thing will cause an opposite effect and make your body store more fat by producing cortisol, the stress hormone. 20-40 minutes every other day is fine. However remember–this exercise is best performed every other day, so that you can incorporate other forms of exercise into your lifestyle and to prevent injury.
2. Resistance training. This type of exercise involves using weights, or your own body weight, as resitance in sculpting your body and your muscles. Lifting weights is the common way to go, but you can also find something handy and heavy to use instead. To have a lean body, to have a muscular body, to be fit and have a sculpted look, resistance training is a must. Watch the video below to see an example of this type of exercise.

Please start off with smaller weights if you are just beginning.
Building muscle mass helps your body burn more calories at rest, helping you lose weight faster. However, like interval training, this should be done every other day. Exercising the same muscle groups day after day can result in injury. It’s always important to alternate your exercise routine for optimal health.
3. Core exercises and flexibility. These exercises (yoga, pilates, stretching techniques) focus on the core abdominal muscles, promotes balance and flexibility. It is always important to round your exercises off with stretching, and even more important to incorporate a flexibility routine, like yoga and/or pilates, into your practice. My favorite form of yoga is Vinyasa yoga, which combines cardio moves with yoga poses.
The Take Home

Like I said before in my descriptions of the exercises above, it is always important to involve every single one into your healthy lifestyle. Only doing cardio for hours on end will result in energy drainage, increased production of free radicals and cortisol (thus increasing the rate of aging, disease and fat storage), and will provide no enjoyment in the long term. Starting off with just cardio is also more likely to deter you away from exercise later on due to the energy burnout.
For optimal fat burning and muscle building (and for a healthier you), alternate interval cardio with strength and resistance training throughout the week. If you are already at a healthy weight, don’t have insulin or cholesterol problems and don’t need or want to gain/lose weight, then 3 times a week of exercise will suffice. I like to strive for physical activity every day, but only push my body to the point it feels where it needs to go. Listen to your body, and your body will thank you.
On Friday I will have Day Two posted, telling you about healthy foods that will boost calorie burning, help sculpt muscles and promote optimal nutrition. It isn’t just about reducing or adding calories–exercise is a critical nutrient that will help sculpt your body in a healthy way.
I wonder how many times I can use the word, “healthy”, in a paragraph? Count them all up in this post and win a prize! 🙂
This is The Healthy Advocate.

Spring Into Your Health!

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Spring is here! The cold and dark winter months are now drawing to a close, bringing longer days and warmer nights. The birds are outside right now chirping away and it feels like Spring. It feels as if life is blossoming all around me, and the joy I feel inside compares to no other feeling that accompanies any other season.

What are your favorite spring memories? Mine would have to be the time around Easter. Coloring eggs, putting “grass” inside my Easter basket and awaiting the Easter bunny (I love that guy!). I would always leave out carrots or nuts for the bunny, knowing that he had a lot of hopping to do that night. It never grew tiresome, waking up in the cool-warm morning, going to the kitchen and seeing my basket filled with an array of colors.

The Easter basket I–I mean The Easter Bunny–Put Together
I did receive chocolate bunnies, chocolate candy and the oh-so bad stuff that I definitely stay away from these days. However I did always spread out the consumption of these things, when I was young, for months, never eating a whole Easter bunny in one, two or three days–but having it last for weeks, if not months, on end. I guess I got down that whole ‘moderation is key’ thing even back then.
By the way, I made some sugar free, completely natural homemade candies for Easter, just so I wouldn’t feel left out! The whole family enjoyed them as well. I will post the recipes in a following post.
Making my sugar free Easter candy

In Chinese medicine, Spring is associated with the liver, the organ that helps detoxify and cleanse our body of impurities. After the long winter months, our eating may have been focused more on heavier, denser foods to help warm our bodies. During the warmer months, it is time for the body to crave more light foods filled with water and moisture.
Keeping our liver clean will help us detoxify the buildup of toxins that have developed over the past few months, and it will also help us burn fat more efficiently. Since the liver is our main fat burning organ, it is imperative that you do what you can to make it healthy and clean. There are a number of ways to do this, and all of them are quite simple, yet hold a powerful impact on your body.

#1 – Listen to Your Body

This is a fairly simple rule, that I am sure all of you have heard before. However, there is a bit of a twist when it comes to it. During the spring, and the warmer months, our bodies will require and crave more water and moisture. If we don’t supply this through our diet (water and food), we will die within a short time. Listening to your body enables you to know when to need water and when to eat foods that are rich in moisture.
Our diet in the spring should usually be different than in the winter, because in the winter you are wanting warmer, denser foods to provide your body with heat. However, in the spring and summer months, your body needs lighter foods that won’t weigh you down, that won’t produce too much heat or cause you to become dehydrated. Choosing the right vegetables and fruits that are in season should help provide you with the water you need, along with a good does of pure, clean water every day.

#2 Tonify the Liver

Spring, like I mentioned earlier, is associated with our fat burning organ, the liver. Help out this organ this spring so it can help release toxins in the body. Choosing the right foods will do the trick. Lemons and limes are amazingly beneficial for the liver, and will help support bile formation (helps digestion).
Dandelion greens are also amazing for detoxifying our bodies through the liver. I bet you were surprised to find that you could actually consume this plant, just as I was when I discovered it a few years ago! Nevertheless, it is a very good green to throw into your salads, green smoothies or to be dried and made into a tea. The leaves are quite bitter, so be aware of this before you ingest them. They may be available in your local health food store this spring, or at your local farmer’s market.
There are also yoga moves you can do that correspond with a health liver (to see all poses, click here). One is a simple forward fold.
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Another is downward facing dog.
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Try these poses for about five minutes every day, or as long as you can stand it, building up to the five minutes. These poses help stimulate the liver in a healthy, natural way.

#3 – Eat with the Season

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Staying healthy doesn’t always have to be difficult. We don’t always have to look feverishly thorugh the supermarket shelves, trying to find the right item that says it will support our health. Simply going to your farmer’s market, or going to your local produce section will give you the items you need.
Eating local is important, but so is eating vegetables and fruits that are in season. Most of the time, if they are in season in our part of the country, than they’re local. Even if it means the next state over, it’s still better than eating a vegetable or fruit shipped from Australia that has already lost most of its nutritional value.
Eating in season will help your body detoxify more fully, no matter what season, because you will have more available nutrients being taken into your body to assist with a multitude of metabolic functions. The vegetables that will be in season this spring, and more than likely be local as well, will be artichokes, arugula, asparagus, chard, mustard greens, spinach, parsley and watercress.

#4 – Meditate!

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Meditation is a fantastic tool for preparing your mind and body for the outside world, and is an incredible way to relax. But did you know that it offers your body much more?
This fantastic tool has been shown to assist in digestion, which can also assist in detoxifying your body. When our minds and bodies are at ease as the result of deep breathing and/or visualization exercises/techniques, our digestion becomes much easier, helping us release and burn more fat in the long run.
So not only can meditation help calm the mind and ease digestion, it can help keep us slim as well! It’s completely free and only requires 10-30 minutes of your time. Start out with deep breathing exercise and then looking into some visualization exercise, such as imagining yourself in a place that makes you feel completely comfortable and serene–like a forest, a brook or any other favorite setting.
There you go! Four simple steps to now implement into this spring. I bet you were already going to do these anyway; hopefully I was just a “push” in the right direction! Feeling great, cool and confident during these warmer months is what you body wants, and the way to do that is to detoxify. Keep your body clean!
For now, this is The Healthy Advocate.