Last Tuesday, at Verdant Community Wellness Center, the Healthy Living Coaching Group took participants through a crash course on metabolism. The Healthy Living Coaching Group meets weekly to discuss specific ways to improve dietary and physical habits to lead healthier lives. In previous classes, individual factors that affect weight management have been explored. In this class, we introduced the science and revisited previous topics, to illustrate the complexity of metabolism. It was also demonstrated that we all have the tools to develop habits to support a healthier metabolism. Here are the main takeaways from the class.
What is Metabolism?
When thinking about metabolism we often think about weight and how fast or slow someone burns calories. We hear phrases like “oh he has a slow metabolism” or “she has a fast metabolism” to account for why someone is of a particular weight. In part this is true. But it’s also so much more.
Metabolism is all of the physical and chemical reactions in the body that maintain life. It’s a balancing act between the reactions that build products up and consume energy (anabolism) and break things down (catabolism) for energy (ATP). The food we eat contains the building blocks for these reactions. Essentially, food is fuel. We use this fuel for immediate energy or store it for later use. Metabolic rates are determined by how fast energy can be produced and used. These rates are affected by various factors. Some are out of our control like age, gender, and genetics, but others we can regulate.
What, when, and how we eat play a large role in supporting our metabolism. Three manageable changes are: eating breakfast, eating small frequent meals, and mindful eating.
Listen to your mom (and dad)! Breakfast is the most important meal of the day because it “wakes” up your metabolism. While sleeping, your metabolism slows way down so it needs a jump start first thing in the AM. It is recommended to eat within 1 hour of waking. Make sure to have a meal that contains a protein, fat, carbohydrate and fiber source to set the stage for the rest of the day.
Eat Small, Frequent Meals
Although metabolism can be greatly improved through dietary changes alone, there are some daily activities that also play a large role.
Exercise & Activity Level
Length and quality of sleep is such an important factor and really could be a discussion all on its own. But I am running out of space, so here is the short version. You want to get enough sleep to avoid fatigue during the day. Fatigue means less activity which will lead to decreased metabolic rate. Fatigue can also impact stress which impacts appetite hormones which then impacts if we eat too much or too little which then affects our metabolism. The domino effect of poor sleep is real. So, try to aim for 7-9 hours a night of undisturbed sleep.
Metabolism is complicated and multifactorial. These are just a few factors from a very long list. However, they are within our reach. Create healthier habits by focusing on one or two factors at a time. Here are some recipe ideas to inspire you along the way!
Shakshuka with Greens
Nutrition per serving (1/4th of pan): 217 Calories; 15g Fat; 10g Protein; 13g Carbohydrates; 3.5g Fiber; 216mg Sodium
Fruit & Yogurt Parfait
Nutrition per 8 ounces: 150 Calories; 4g Fat; 7g Protein; 26g Carbohydrates; 3.5g Fiber; 85mg Sodium
Analyzed using KIND Cinnamon Chia Granola and sliced almonds
~Kelsy, Dietetic intern
The Four F’s--fiber, fluid, flora and physical activity—are most commonly recommended to alleviate constipation. But they also help accomplish other positive things for your body. In this post we’re going to discuss how The Four F’s can improve and maintain the condition of your gut—and with it, your overall health.
With recent studies connecting gut health to overall well being, it makes sense to start with a simple question: What, exactly, is a healthy gut? In simple terms, a healthy gut has an ideal ratio of “good” bacteria to “bad” bacteria. It’s hard to visualize, but the community of bacterial microflora in your GI tract contains more than 100 trillion bacteria, made up of thousands of different species. It’s important to keep this gut microbiome in good condition, and not let factors such as environment, age, antibiotic use, and disease throw it off balance. Fortunately, there’s a lot you can do to influence your gut through eating and physical activity to maintain a healthy ratio of microflora. Let’s take a look.
The first “F” is fiber, and for good reason. With benefits ranging from managing blood glucose to lowering cholesterol levels, fiber is often referred to by dietitians as the “magical nutrient.” But what does it do for your gut?
When it comes to the digestive tract, there are two main types of fiber: soluble and insoluble. Soluble fibers dissolve in water and form a gel within the digestive tract, making bowel movements softer and easier to pass. They also can slow the digestion of foods and aid in unwanted symptoms such as diarrhea. Rich sources of soluble fiber are oats, beans, peas, and lentils.
Insoluble fiber does not form a gel. Rather, it acts as a bulking agent for our stools. Insoluble fiber combined with soluble fibers help keep us regular. Foods rich in insoluble fiber include skins of vegetables and fruits, brown rice, wheat bran, and whole grains. It’s important to remember that all plant-based foods contain fiber of both types. It’s simply the ratio of each that varies.
So what’s the bottom line? Make sure to eat a variety of plant-based foods, and to drink more fluids as you increase your fiber intake to keep your gut happy.
Gut microflora is a hot topic right now, with several studies linking gut microbiota to multiple health conditions, including obesity, allergies, diabetes, cancer—even some mental health conditions. A healthy microflora contains high levels of probiotic bacteria. Probiotics defend our guts from harmful microbes. The main role of the gut flora on the GI tract is to protect the gut epithelium from harmful pathogens. While a healthy gut is able to fight off most of these pathogens without any side effects, an unhealthy gut does not. Thus, one way to support the gut is to eat prebiotics (fiber) to support the existing probiotics in our guts. Also, eating fermented or cultured foods (with live probiotics) increases overall probiotic content and keeps the digestive system healthy. Examples of good probiotic foods include kimchi, sauerkraut, miso, cultured vegetables, yogurt, and tempeh.
And last, but not least...
A proper functioning gut is essential to overall health. Being mindful of The Four F’s gives you an important tool to improve and maintain your overall wellness while partaking in two of my favorite activities: eating and playing!
Here are a few tasty smoothie recipes to help you increase your fiber and fluid intake! Try adding plain Greek yogurt or kefir to any of your smoothies for an extra boost of probiotics, as well as protein. And of course, don’t forget to wash it all down with a brisk walk around the block!
Creamy Zucchini Blueberry Smoothie
Nutrition per 8 ounces: 218 Calories; 10g Fat; 6g Protein; 32g Carbohydrates; 4.7g Fiber; 67mg Sodium
Summer Peach Smoothie
Nutrition per 8 ounces: 227 Calories; 13.5g Fat; 6.7g Protein; 24g Carbohydrates; 6g Fiber; 44mg Sodium
*analyzed recipe using 1% milk and peanut butter
~Kelsy, Dietetic intern
A place for our consultant Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDNs) to share nutrition science, yummy and healthy recipes, tips on seasonal ingredients, and other nutritional musings. Enjoy!