Friday, March 16, 2018

How to choose the right bread for healthy living

What kind of bread should you be eating?  What kind of bread should you avoid?

It doesn't matter if you're a fitness buff or just concerned about your health in general.  Bread is a big part of most people's diets.  When you're in the grocery store, the bread aisle can seem like a confusing assortment of bagels, flats, buns, multigrain slices and whole-wheat rolls (with an old-school loaf of Wonder Bread thrown in the mix).  Obviously, all bread is not created equal. 

It can be hard to know how to make the healthiest pick with so many options to choose from.

So before you go shopping, it’s a good idea to arm yourself with some information beforehand.  That way, you know what to look for and what different terms actually mean.

Here are some go-to rules next time you’re in aisle five:


When choosing bread, always opt for the whole-grain option. Whole-grain means that products use the entirety of the grain.  This includes the endosperm, germ, and bran - which provide fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals for your body.  Hate the taste of whole wheat?  Don’t panic.  There's more than one variety and they taste different.  Just remember that you basically want to be looking for the word ‘whole'.  Check out ingredients like whole barley, brown rice, whole oats or whole flax for a different flavor, but all the same nutrients.


Breads can label themselves ‘whole grain’ even if only 51 percent of the ingredients qualify.  That’s why it’s important to examine packaging for the “100 percent whole grain” stamp.  If you see that, it means your loaf contains 16 grams of whole grains per serving.  Also, if price is an issue, you can skip organic and choose conventional breads.  That’s not a make-or-break factor when it comes to bread.


What's important as well is the absence of artificial flavors, colors and preservatives.  Try to avoid hard-to-pronounce additives and partially hydrogenated oils.  In fact, try reading the ingredients out loud.  If you can’t pronounce it or understand what it is after a quick Google search, toss it.  Lastly, chuck a brand that’s giving you trans fats or high fructose corn syrup, too.


Fiber is crucial to your diet.  You’ve heard it before, but I’m saying it again.  It helps keep you full, encourages healthy bowel movements, and improves gut health.  If you're looking at sliced bread, see how many grams of fiber there are per slice.  Ideally, you’re going to want anything over three grams.  The fiber comes from the endosperm that’s left intact in whole grains.  According to the U.S. Dietary Guidelines, you should aim for about 30 grams of fiber per day, and half of your daily grain intake should be whole grains.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Better sleep secrets (for both health and success)

Did you ever watch the Jerry Seinfeld show?  Do you watch the re-runs?

There was one episode entitled, “The Friar’s Club.”  In it, Jerry’s neighbor Kramer attempts to copy Leonardo Da Vinci’s unusual sleeping pattern.  According to Kramer, the master inventor and artist slept only twenty minutes every three hours.  As he explained to Jerry, “Now that works out to two and a half extra days that I’m awake per week, every week.”  Of course, it doesn't work out that way.  Near the end of the episode, Kramer’s girlfriend mistakes his deep sleep as death and disposes of his body in the Hudson River.  Fortunately, Kramer wakes up - having learned a hard lesson about the importance of sleep.

Now I don’t expect you to end up in a river because you aren’t getting eight hours of shuteye each night, but there are dire consequences to not getting enough sleep.  According to research from Harvard Medical School, almost 33% of American workers are not sleeping enough.  As a result, they suffer from chronic exhaustion (like Kramer) and are not functioning at peak levels.  Combined across the health care to manufacturing industries, sleep-deprived employees could be costing American businesses billions of dollars in lost production.  That’s why large companies such as Goldman Sachs and Proctor & Gamble are investing in bringing in sleep experts like James Maas, author of Sleep for Success and Nancy Rothstein to deliver sleep education courses.

Aside from lost production, not getting enough sleep can be detrimental to your personal appearance and your health.  A study, titled “Beauty Sleep: experimental study on the perceived health and attractiveness of sleep deprived people”, found that “sleep deprived people appear less healthy, less attractive, and more tired compared with when they are well rested.”  That should be obvious.  I also know it to be true because there are times when I don't get enough sleep.  What I see in the mirror is awful.

It’s not just your looks that suffer, though.  Your health does too.  According to Dr. David Eifreg, author of Retirement Millionaire, a study from Carnegie Mellon University found that people who sleep less than seven hours a night are three times more likely to develop a cold than people who get eight hours or more a night.  No doubt, it would apply to the flu as well.  Dr. Eifreg adds, “Not sleeping enough can impair your brain functions (like alertness and concentration), and it can increase your risk of heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and other chronic health issues.”
Every day that you miss out on enough sleep only makes things worse.

The New York Times reported on a two-week sleep restriction study that found growing cognitive decline with every cumulative day of sleep deprivation.  In the study, subjects that slept four or six hours per night were unable to pay attention as well as subjects that slept eight hours per night.  After two weeks of sleeping six hours per night, the subjects were said to have the same level of cognitive impairment had they been drunk!  The sleep-deprived subjects in the study insisted that they were fine and that they had adjusted to the new sleeping schedule... but the data proved them wrong.

Your goal, when it comes to sleep, should not be figuring out how to perform better while sleep-deprived - like which energy drink to choose from.  You should be looking for ways to get more sleep.  Fortunately, there are proven methods to help you get to sleep faster.  Like many guidelines for successful living, the rules for getting to sleep quickly and having a good night’s rest are not sexy - but they work.

Here’s what you can do to get started on sleeping better right away:

First, live a healthy lifestyle.  Get regular exercise (walking is fine), avoid alcohol before bedtime and eliminate caffeine eight hours before you plan to hit the hay.

Second, keep your room cool.  According to David Randall’s book, Dreamland: Adventures in the Strange Science of Sleep, the best predictor of quality sleep was maintaining a room temperature in a narrow band between 60 and 66 degrees Fahrenheit (or 16 to 19 degrees Celsius).  That might be too cold for many, but if you've ever tossed and turned all night - sweating - you can appreciate keeping your environment cool enough.

Third, we need to power down our devices and step away from the ubiquitous screens.  Stop watching television, using your iPad or checking your phone 60 minutes before going to bed.  Give it a rest... so you can.  Some sleep experts suggest that the light from our electronic devices can interfere with production of the sleep hormone, melatonin.

Fourth, I recommend that you have a pre-bed ritual.  Whether you do a brain dump, meditate or simply read a book - all of these will help you get in the physiological and psychological state required for a good night’s sleep.

Finally, and this is the tip that has helped me more than anything else (and hurt me the most when I don't do it), go to bed and get up at the same time seven days a week.  When I stick to this, my all-day energy and productivity levels improve quite a bit.

I encourage you to try this stuff out for two weeks.  You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes.  So take this advice and start getting more sleep tonight.  Your health and wealth will thank you for it!

Healthy snacking

Cherry tomatoes are usually for salads, though I've seen them included in other dishes.  Here's one more thing you can do with them that's simple, easy and tasty.

The blueprint:

* Cherry tomatoes
* Fresh goat cheese
* Fresh basil, chopped (feel free to substitute your favorite herb)

Here's what you do:

1) Halve cherry tomatoes
2) Top each half with an equal amount of cheese
3) Sprinkle evenly with herbs That's it!  Cherry tomatoes and goat cheese make a good combination.

A few interesting facts about goat cheese:  it actually has more of the health benefits of dairy, but fewer of the problems that some people have with cow cheese.  It has more vitamins and minerals (like vitamin A, calcium, iron, and magnesium) but fewer calories and lactose - which means even if you have a milk allergy you can probably eat goat cheese.

This tasty little recipe is easily multiplied for use as a party hors d’oeuvre as well.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Food allergies are deadly serious

Food allergies are often mocked and ridiculed (that's true).  They also get on peoples' nerves when everyone in a group can't eat something because just because one person can't.  On the other hand, they really can be deadly.  If not that, then they can definitely lower your quality of life.

What about you?  Do you ever get a headache, indigestion, nausea, stomach ache, red/watery eyes or joint pain after eating a meal?  If you’re like many people, you probably have.  Any one of those might be a symptom of a food allergy. 

Of course, these conditions can appear for totally non-food related reasons as well.  That’s where the trouble lies - possibly very serious trouble.  A food allergy symptom that’s wrongly attributed to other causes can range from annoyingly persistent, to frightening, to... in rare cases... (like I said) fatal.  For some, an offending food item can lead to anaphylactic shock.  It’s a severe allergic reaction that causes the tongue and throat to swell, making breathing dangerously difficult and requiring an immediate trip to the emergency room.  I work in an emergency room, so I can tell you that when your airway is closed, you die real fast.

Is anyone protecting us from allergens?

Well, the FDA requires that foods containing the following common allergens list them on the ingredients label:
  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Shellfish
  • Tree nuts
  • Wheat
  • Peanuts
  • Soybeans
These are the cause of 90 percent of all food allergies, and the FDA is right to require food producers to warn us of their presence.  Mistakes happen, though.  Occasionally a product is accidentally mislabeled.  More commonly, they show up in your meal while dining out or at someone else's home  (when detailed ingredient lists are less common or don't exist).

There really isn't a perfect system

The government can't do everything, nor should it.  It’s also not uncommon for a producer to bring different versions of a product to market.  For example, some high-end chocolate bars have exotic ingredients.  They’re very popular.  That's all well and good, especially as chocolate’s exceptional antioxidant powers have been confirmed.  Think about it, though.  There’s 70 percent dark chocolate with cranberries and salted caramel.  There’s also 70 percent dark chocolate with almonds and sea salt.  There’s 70 percent dark chocolate with lemon creme filling … one ingredient of which is milk.  It’s easy to imagine how ingredient tracking could get quite confusing, with lookalike chocolate bars - or granola mixes and baked goods.

And the milk in the lemon creme filling?  It’s not on the ingredients label.  That's not a 'crime', though.  There could be a legitimate reason.  For example, some guidelines specify if an ingredient is above a certain percent of total ingredients, it must be declared.  Maybe the milk in the filling fell under that number.  What about the wheat in the baked goods or the soy in the granola?  It's the same thing. 

I’d never call these mistakes deliberate.  There’s too much risk, thanks to the FDA’s power to pull products off the shelves - that, and bad publicity in general.  Let the proven data be guide your decisions.  These product types are the most often recalled for “undeclared allergens”:
  • Baked goods
  • Snacks
  • Candy
  • Dairy
  • Salad dressings, sauces, gravies
  • Milk
  • Wheat
  • Soy

The actual reality is that no system can guarantee that all product labels are accurate.  We’ve all seen ingredient labels that require a PhD in chemistry to understand. As a general rule, if a label contains a lot of words that you can't pronounce or understand, you should limit your intake of that item.

For food allergies, you need a basic plan.

Some experts recommend, and I support:
  • Avoiding any food that has more than five or six ingredients that aren't natural
  • Avoiding any food with chemistry-exam ingredients with names of more than three syllables
  • Buying foods that contain only natural ingredients, like fruits and vegetables

Lastly, just take a look at the list of recalled foods...

Saturday, March 3, 2018

American foods to avoid (when you can)

What exactly 'is' American food?  In my opinion, it doesn't really exist.  We simply have 'Americanized' versions of other peoples' dishes.  Other than Soul Food (maybe) or Cheez Whiz, it's really hard to think of anything that wasn't imported here from someplace else and then made 'American'.

However, when I think of typical American foods, what comes to mind are ease of access, low cost and high-calorie.  According to the US government, breads, sugary drinks, pizza, pasta dishes and “dairy desserts” (like ice cream) are among Americans’ top 10 sources of calories.  What do these foods have in common?  They are largely the products of five foundational food ingredients that we load up too much on  - i.e. corn, soybeans, wheat, rice and sugar.  In and of themselves, they're fine.  We just consume too much of them, that's all.

These crops are also subsidized by the federal government, and this funding is what keeps 'junk food' dirt cheap.  Strategically, this allows companies to spend a LOT on tricky marketing.  That’s why we get hooked on bad foods (starting as kids)… and gain weight… and then potentially lose our health.

It’s not really your fault.  In a way, everyone is conspiring against you.

Too much starch and sugar increase…
  • Belly fat
  • Cholesterol
  • Blood sugar
  • And inflammation
Basically, as the years pass, it's turning your body into a ticking time bomb.  So what can you do? 

Here's three simple, but powerful, ideas:

#1 – Use a food diary to lose weight faster
Research shows that if you write down what you eat, that you eat LESS, but you stay full.

#2 – Use sneaky swaps to cut calories
If you cut out a morning bagel and replace it with eggs, you’ll lose weight.
If you cut out crackers and eat walnuts or almonds instead, you’ll lose weight.
If you swap real fruit for fruit juice, you’ll lose fat and feel better.

#3 – Plan, shop and prepare
This should probably be #1.  Think about your goals, create the diet that you know you should be eating and then shop accordingly.  That way, you won't be distracted and make impulse purchases.  Additionally, bring your lunch to work, based on the same concepts.

PS – There’s more to life than dieting…

Success is not just a number on a scale or clothing label.  Success is the achievement of living with maximum energy and having built the habits that make good, healthy choices seem natural to you.  When you choose to eat healthy and you choose to exercise instead of watching TV (or while watching TV), that is achievement.  This will help you love life and the people around you more.
The process is often just as important as the physical progress.  A body transformation cannot happen without a mental transformation as well.

You have to want this.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Cucumbers and their amazing health benefits

One of the first things that the Israelites did upon leaving Egypt was to grumble about not having cucumbers anymore.  Also, a lot of people don't know that a pickle used to be a cucumber.  Anyway, the cucumber is an amazing thing and should be included in your diet.

With all the talk about superfoods, special diets, and miracle eats, (sometimes) the benefits of “ordinary” food goes unnoticed.  That’s a true pity - because some of the staples we ate first became staples for a very good reason.  Often, they're some of the very best foods for you - filled with the nutrients that power your body each and every day.  But, since they are so common, no one extols their virtues, no one writes books about them and certainly they never get a spotlight all to themselves.

Today, I want to play a small part in correcting that. And so I present to you - the humble cucumber!

Cucumbers - Nature’s unheralded health food

Rarely on anyone’s list of healthiest foods, the cucumber is often ignored and overlooked.  It may make up the crunch in countless salads and sandwiches.  It may get pickled and served with every dish in the deli, but no one every talks about the cucumber.  They should.  Let’s take a look at the five biggest benefits of adding more cucumber to your diet.

1. Nature’s cancer drug

Cucumbers are rich in two types of phytonutrients that fight cancer: lignans and cucurbitacins.
Cucurbitacins fight cancer by blocking the signaling pathways that cancer cells use to multiply and survive.  As we speak, multiple drug companies are trying to isolate the power of cucurbitacins and turn it into cancer medicine.

Lignans, meanwhile, interact with bacteria in our guts to produce estrogen-blocking compounds.  That’s been shown to lower the risk of various estrogen-related cancers, like ovarian, prostate, breast and endometrial cancers.  That’s an awful lot of power in one small vegetable.  Technically, they’re fruits - but since most consider them vegetables, let’s leave them there.

2. Protecting your brain

Cucumbers are full of flavonols, but one in particular stands out when it comes to your brain: fisetin. Not only is fisetin an anti-inflammatory - which benefits your brain, along with every other organ in your body - but fisetin has also been found to prevent memory loss in mice with Alzheimer’s.  While there haven’t been enough human studies to call any of these findings conclusive, when it comes to Alzheimer’s and other degenerative brain diseases, good news is scarce.  Wherever I find any, I jump at it.

In the meantime…eating more cucumber couldn’t hurt, now could it?

3. The spa treatment in your mouth

Ever wonder why so many day spas offer cucumber treatments?  Wonder no more.  Cucumber is great for your skin.  Cucumber is rich in magnesium, potassium, and silicon - all key ingredients for healthy, vibrant skin.  Potassium offers the added bonus of being good for your heart as well.

4. Like a crunchy glass of water

You’ve probably noticed that cucumbers are full of water.  Therefore, it shouldn’t come as surprise that cucumbers are wonderful for hydration.  In fact, getting some of your hydration through foods like cucumbers beats using straight water alone.  That’s because - unlike the over-treated H2O that comes through your tap - cucumbers come with a healthy dose of vitamins K, C and B.

5. Strong crunch equals strong bones

Speaking of vitamin K, one cup of cucumber contains 19% of your recommended daily intake.  That’s important because vitamin K is a crucial ingredient for building and maintaining healthy, strong bones.  Moreover, they’re chock full of fiber to help fill you up and keep your appetite at bay, despite only being 16 calories per cup.

Cucumbers make an excellent snack food, and often add a bit of pizzazz to larger dishes, without the calories often associated with pizzazz.  If you don’t have cucumbers in your pantry, go get some today.  Sliced or diced, cooked or (especially) raw, cucumbers are a food chock full of benefits, with no drawbacks.

The fact that they feel so satisfying to crunch, and have a lovely subtle flavor, just adds to the charm.  You can put them in anything - including water, for an urbane-flavored feel.  The long and the short of it is, the more cucumber you have in your life, the better.

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Superfoods that you should be eating

Do you like kale?  Personally, I've never even tried it because I've heard it's terrible.  Still it's a very trendy vegetable for salads and other dishes.  I think the main reason for this is the snow-balling/bandwagon effect of media hype.

Basically, I say no to buying kale, and yes to superfood shakes.  By just drinking one of these a day, you can swap out a lot of stuff.  The kind of shake I drink isn't 'cheap', but it's a lot less expensive than stocking on the trendy things that you're 'supposed' to be consuming.  I’m not saying that kale is unhealthy, but according to new research from The Telegraph newspaper in London, England, kale is overpriced and over-hyped - so is quinoa and coconut water, for example.

Too many of these superfoods are simply priced out of your budget.

The truth is you never have to buy quinoa, coconut water, kale, chia seeds or cacao nibs ever again.  In fact, nutritionists say that you can even save money with a simple swap so that you can cut back on buying expensive blueberries.  If (for whatever reason) you choose not to drink Shakeology, here are some superfood swaps to help you save money and get healthy today:

#1 – Swap Out Kale…
…for broccoli, cabbage and Brussels Sprouts (roast them, topped with olive oil and garlic).
#2 – Swap Out Blueberries…
…for red apples or kiwi fruit for half the price.
#3 – Swap Out Coconut Water…
…for regular water, and save the sugar calories.

However,  do NOT swap out the following superfoods…

a) Avocados

According to nutritionist and author, Jennifer Sygo, avocados are the “real deal” when it comes to superfoods.  That's why I have an avocado tree in my back yard!  Avocados contain large amounts of fiber, vitamin C and monounsaturated good fats that help in controlling cholesterol and diabetes.

You can also get healthy fats from salmon, mackerel, sardines, nuts, olives and olive oil.

b) Sweet potatoes

Sweet potatoes contain more beta-carotene than kale, and are cheaper too.
When I’m working at the ER, I often eat “The Rusty Salad” that I bring from home:
  • Spinach
  • Sweet potato
  • Cauliflower
  • Portabella mushrooms
  • Olives
  • Salmon
  • Olive oil
I often finish lunch with a combination of apple and peanut butter to satisfy my sweet tooth.  Oh, and I enjoy a refreshing peppermint tea to go with it to aid digestion – and fight off the salmon breath!

But wait.  Aren’t potatoes bad if you want to lose weight?  Nope!

In fact, even white potatoes are fine for weight loss.

A new study from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found no risk of gaining weight from eating potatoes (although French Fries were bad for belly fat – sorry!).  Good old baked ‘spuds’ are a great source of vitamin C, potassium and fiber (with the skin on, or as they say in England, ‘the jacket’).

So I hope this clears up some superfood and nutrition myths today.  These tips will save you money, ease some stress, and still help you lose weight, feel great, and have all day energy thanks to the right nutrition choices.

Your friend and regular old Texas guy,
Rusty L Shelton (Houston, TX) -

PS – Here’s another good thing to do this week…

If you've joined me in the Home Business that WORKS, the best thing you can do is to make everyone else around you better.  Grow them and you’ll grow too.  Get out of your comfort zone and connect with one new person every day.  Take action, attract good people into your life and put more effort into making the people in your life better.