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The Benefits of Unprocessed Foods

Processes Foods

A recent study from the National Institutes of Health found that people eating ultra-processed foods ate more calories and gained more weight than when they ate a minimally processed diet. The difference in weight gain even occurred when the meals provided to the volunteers in both the ultra-processed and minimally processed diets had the same number of calories and macronutrients.

This study considered foods “ultra-processed” if they had ingredients predominantly found in food manufacturing, such as hydrogenated oils, high-fructose corn syrup, flavoring agents and emulsifiers.

Previous studies had shown diets high in processed foods correlated to health problems. But, because none of the past studies randomly assigned people to eat specific foods and then measured the results, scientists could not say for sure whether the processed foods were a problem on their own, or whether people eating them had health problems for other reasons, such as a lack of access to fresh foods.

This is the first study to demonstrate causality — that ultra-processed foods cause people to eat too many calories and gain weight.

An ultra-processed breakfast might consist of a bagel with cream cheese and turkey bacon, while the unprocessed breakfast was oatmeal with bananas, walnuts, and skim milk. The ultra-processed and unprocessed meals had the same amounts of calories, sugars, fiber, fat, and carbohydrates, and participants could eat as much or as little as they wanted.

On the ultra-processed diet, people ate about 500 calories more per day than they did on the unprocessed diet. They also ate faster on the ultra-processed diet and gained weight, whereas they lost weight on the unprocessed diet. Participants, on average, gained 0.9 kilograms, or 2 pounds, while they were on the ultra-processed diet and lost an equivalent amount on the unprocessed diet.

Added Sugar: What Happens When You Cut it Out?

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Knowing exactly what constitutes a healthy diet has never been more difficult. Vegans believe forgoing animal products is best, while keto enthusiasts will tell you to eat anything that has four legs and can’t get away fast enough. But there's one food nearly every dietician suggest you avoid: sugar.

Giving up the sweet stuff is hard as it's even found in veggie burgers, tomato sauce, and crackers. But if you do nix added sugars from your diet, your body will benefit almost immediately.

Within a week you can expect lower blood pressure as well as healthier levels of fat and insulin levels in the bloodstream. Of course, how your body reacts to the absence of sugar depends on how much of the white stuff you eat in the first place–and whether you're eating carbs.

Your body breaks down complex carbohydrates, like oatmeal and fruit, into simple sugars to use as energy.

But what if you cut out all high-glycemic foods, as keto enthusiasts and no-carb, no sugar dieters attempt?

First, you'll probably day dream about donuts, if you're the type of person who regularly grabs a muffin in the morning and ends dinner with dessert. This occurs because you don't have sugar to help stimulate your brain.

You may feel, well, rough, but there's a lot of good stuff going on inside your body.

You won't go through the cycle of sugar highs and crashes, as initially you'll feel tired and lethargic, but that will pass within a few days. Also, adrenaline will increase and help break down glycogen, or sugar, stored in your body.

Within three to five days, your liver will make ketones from fat since there's no more glucose, your body’s main source of energy. That’s when your body enters ketosis, aka fat burning mode.

As a result, you could experience muscle cramps since you're losing a lot of water when you’re in ketosis after cutting out sugar. Some people experience keto flu, associated with headaches, fatigue and cramps, which lasts about a week.

But once that passes, you'll feel more energetic, focused, and calm. It’s common for people to cut out sugar and high-glycemic foods to lose weight for short periods of time. However, doctors still aren’t sure whether this is healthy long-term.

That’s why many doctors recommend eating healthy complex carbohydrates. Although they are broken down into sugar, this is an entirely normal and healthy process.

In fact, omitting added sugars while eating complex carbs keeps your insulin levels healthy. Try if for a week! You won’t get the headaches, you won’t get the crashes and you will get a consistent level of energy.

Anxiety: Solutions for When Social Media has you Down

Social Media Anxiety

Social media related anxiety is at an all time high and the negative feelings you can sometime feel from swiping through the ‘gram can be overwhelming. The next time you find yourself in a bad mood, pinpoint exactly what is bothering you and describe your feelings. Are you missing out? Frustrated? Exhausted? Feeling inadequate?

Instead of resigning yourself to a generalized negative mood for the next few hours, label your emotions.

People who are able to differentiate their negative emotions are better at regulating and managing them.

Knowing what is wrong can empower you to seek a solution and tailor a response to the situation. For example, recognizing that you felt flustered after a big test might prompt you to speak to a teacher. Feeling “bad” doesn’t provide you with the same kind of useful information. It just hovers over you like a cloud. And because it is so vague, it can easily spill into other aspects of your life and be the reason you feel bad for the entire day.

Emotional differentiation is a skill that can be learned and deployed on a daily basis. By expanding your emotional vocabulary, you are giving yourself the tools to label and understand an array of emotional states. Not only will your bad moods be less bad, you will be better equipped to handle negativity when it arises.

Best Post Workout Meals: Part 2

Workout Food

In our last post, we learned how important it is to eat post-working out. In this second installment, we learn how the right balance of foods can help you recover after exercise.

After your workout, your body tries to rebuild its glycogen stores and repair and regrow muscle proteins.

Eating the right nutrients soon after you exercise can help your body get this done faster. It is particularly important to eat carbs and protein after your workout.

Doing this helps your body:

• Decrease muscle protein breakdown

• Increase muscle protein synthesis (growth)

• Restore glycogen stores

• Enhance recovery

Protein Helps Repair and Build Muscle

Exercise triggers the breakdown of muscle protein and even the most advanced athletes experience muscle protein breakdown.

Consuming an adequate amount of protein after a workout gives your body the amino acids it needs to repair and rebuild these proteins. It also gives you the building blocks required to build new muscle tissue.

Studies have shown that depending on your body type, ingesting 20–40 grams of protein maximizes the body's ability to recover after exercise.

Carbs Help With Recovery

Your body's glycogen stores are used as fuel during exercise, and consuming carbs after your workout helps replenish them.

The rate at which your glycogen stores are used depends on the activity. For example, endurance sports cause your body to use more glycogen than resistance training.

For this reason, if you participate in endurance sports (e.g. running or swimming), you might need to consume more carbs than a bodybuilder.

Eating plenty of carbs to rebuild glycogen stores is most important for people who exercise often, such as twice in the same day. If you have 1 or 2 days to rest between workouts then this becomes less important.

Fat Is Not That Bad

Many people think that eating fat after a workout slows down digestion and inhibits the absorption of nutrients. While fat might slow down the absorption of your post-workout meal, it will not reduce its benefits.

For example, a study showed that whole milk was more effective at promoting muscle growth after a workout than skim milk.

Moreover, another study showed that even when ingesting a high-fat meal (45% energy from fat) after working out, muscle glycogen synthesis was not affected.

It might be a good idea to limit the amount of fat you eat after exercise, but having some fat in your post-workout meal will not affect your recovery.

6 Reasons to Drink More Water

Drink More Water

1. Perform Better

Hydration is directly linked to athletic performance. So, if you’re looking to improve your time on the track or take your soccer game to the next level, make sure you’re drinking half of your body weight in ounces of water each day. Don’t forget 75% of our muscles are made of water. 

2. Eat Healthier

Often times when we’re in that after-school lull and we’re craving a slice of pizza or a quick burger, we can actually quench that craving with a few glasses of water. Making a conscious effort to drink a glass of water before you raid the pizza stand can help you avoid bad food choices before dinner.

3. Be Less Cranky

Dehydration can affect your entire day, especially because dehydration can cause you to feel sick. Drinking more water will help you think more clearly and even improve your mood!

4. Prevent Headaches

One of the most common symptoms of dehydration is a headache. Next time you have a headache, instead of reaching for the Advil, drink a couple of glasses of water and see how you feel. If you feel better without medicine, this is a good way to know that you can prevent at least some headaches by drinking water before turning to the medicine cabinet.

5. Naturally Cleanse

What if I told you that you don’t need to spend a fortune on a store-bought cleanse? That’s because water has naturally detoxifying benefits. Add a little lemon and you’re good to go! Bacteria and waste can live in our stomach and intestines and this is exactly why the digestive system needs water to function and clear you out.

6. Help Your Skin Glow

Water helps the skin rebuild cells more successfully. Not only does proper hydration make your skin more healthy; hydration can also make your skin glow. Skin is our largest organ, so isn’t it about time we take better care of it?

4 Ways to Improve Your Smoothie

Healthy Smoothie

Smoothies are an everyday part of life for most of us, but they can quickly become sugar bombs loaded with empty calories if you’re not careful. Below are our top 4 ways to make sure your smoothie stays a positive part of your diet!

Choose fruit that has a lower sugar content

Fruit is absolutely good for you, but too much of anything can have a negative impact. If you’re gonna load up on fruit, make sure you’re not also loading up on calories. Most berries, such as blackberries, raspberries, and even strawberries, are low in sugar. So are grapefruit, cantaloupe, and papaya, so stick with these smoothie fruit friends.

Avoid store-bought juice

Often the juice we buy in the store is loaded with added sweeteners. Instead, juice your own fruit, or use another liquid. You can try water or coconut water. The liquid from young coconuts is quite sweet. Unsweetened almond milk, flax milk, soy milk, and hemp milk are great nondairy substitutes. Regular milk can work, too. Just be mindful of the additional calories.

Go Green

Green smoothies are all the rage for a reason. A few handfuls of spinach, kale, or Swiss chard make your smoothie look virtuous without negatively impacting the taste. The blended flavor of these greens is very mild and usually masked well by the taste of the fruits you add. Plus, you’re getting the benefit of less sugar and lots of antioxidants, fiber, and other essential nutrients. If you decide to add more greens, tartness from fresh lemon or lime juice can help mask the bitterness without relying on sugar.

Sweeten Wisely

It doesn’t make any sense to choose low-sugar fruits and then dump in spoonfuls of honey or table sugar. Use a very light hand when adding sweeteners, or try using spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, or a dash of vanilla extract. You can also use a high-quality, flavored protein powder.

5 Easy + Healthy After-School Snacks

5 Easy and Healthy After-School Snacks

The hours between the end of school and dinner can be tough for healthy eating. Pizza, Chipotle and subway are all easy after-school options that are loaded with calories and processed carbohydrates. Below are VarCity’s favorite quick and healthy after-school snacks.

1. Hard-Boiled Eggs

Eggs are one of the healthiest and most weight loss-friendly foods you can eat.

They contain protein, vitamin K2 and B12, to name a few.

Although their high cholesterol content gave them a bad reputation for years, new studies show that eggs don't have any effect on your risk of heart disease.

Two large, hard-boiled eggs contain about 140 calories and 13 grams of protein.

2. Turkey Roll-Ups

Turkey roll-ups are delicious and nutritious.

Turkey contains high-quality protein, which helps you feel satisfied, preserves muscle mass and burns more calories during digestion than fat or carbs.

3. Healthy Beef Jerky or Beef Sticks

Beef jerky or beef sticks make great high-protein, portable snacks. But make sure you choose the right type.

Some jerkies are loaded with sugar and preservatives. Beef sticks generally don't contain sugar, but many aren't made from high-quality meat and may contain other questionable ingredients.

Look for jerky and beef sticks made from grass-fed beef and salt, with as few ingredients as possible. Grass-fed beef contains more healthy omega-3 fatty acids than grain-fed beef.

Most beef jerkies and sticks contain about 7 grams of protein per ounce (28 grams).

4. A Piece of Fruit

Healthy snacks don't need to be complicated. Just a single piece of fruit can be incredibly satisfying.

Examples of fruit that are portable and can be eaten with almost no preparation include bananas, apples, pears, grapes, grapefruit and oranges.

5. Mixed Nuts

Nuts are an ideal nutritious snack.

They've been linked to a reduced risk of heart disease and may help prevent certain cancers, depression and other diseases.

Despite being relatively high in fat, they are very filling. Several studies suggest that eating nuts in moderation can help you lose weight.

Nuts contain the perfect balance of healthy fat, protein and fiber. They contain about 180 calories in a 1 oz (28 grams) serving, on average.

They also taste great and don't require refrigeration, so they're perfect for carrying with you when away from home.

Think Twice Before that Morning Juice

Sugar Juice

Starting your morning with fruit juice is often perceived as a healthy way to start  your day.  That's understandable, given that it is natural and has the word "fruit" in it.

However, what many people fail to realize is that fruit juice is also loaded with sugar.  In fact, fruit juice contains just as much sugar and calories as a sugary soft drink... and sometimes even more.

Even if juice is labelled as "100% pure" and "not from concentrate”,  after being squeezed from the fruit -- the juice is usually stored in massive oxygen-depleted holding tanks for up to a year before it is packaged.

The main problem with this method is that it tends to remove most of the flavor, so the manufacturers need to add so-called "flavor packs" to the juice, to bring back the flavor that was lost during processing.

So even if you're buying the highest quality juices at the supermarket, they're still far from their original state.  Some of the lowest quality ones don't even resemble fresh-squeezed fruit juice at all...they are basically just fruit-flavored sugar water.

BOTTOM LINE:
Fruit juice isn't always what it seems, even the higher quality types have gone through processing methods that remove the flavor, making it necessary to add "flavor packs” (whatever those are!) to bring them back to their original state.

VarCity Lifehacks: Breathe Away Your Anxiety

Tips for Dealing with Anxiety

Anxiety.  We all feel it and when we do it can paralyze us in the most important of times.  Aside from working out, there are a few techniques that can significantly improve anxiousness.  One technique that is used by a lot of professionals in high pressure situations is “box breathing”.

Benefits of box breathing

According to the Mayo Clinic, there is sufficient evidence that intentional deep breathing can actually calm and regulate the autonomic nervous system. This system regulates involuntary body functions like temperature. It can lower blood pressure and provide an almost-immediate sense of calm.

Box breathing can reduce stress and improve your mood.  It can also help treat insomnia by allowing you to calm your nervous system at night before bed.

What is box breathing?

Box breathing is a technique used in taking slow, deep breaths. This can heighten performance and concentration while also being a powerful stress reliever.

Also called four-square breathing, this technique can be beneficial to anyone, especially those who want to meditate or reduce stress. It’s used by everyone from athletes to police officers, nurses, and yoga practitioners.

The steps of box breathing

Before you get started, make sure that you’re seated upright in a comfortable chair with your feet flat on the floor. Try to be an a stress-free, quiet environment where you can focus on your breathing. Keeping your hands relaxed in your lap with your palms facing up, focus on your posture. You should be sitting up straight. This will help you take deep breaths.

Step 1
Sitting upright, slowly exhale, getting all the oxygen out of your lungs. Focus on this intention and be conscious of what you’re doing.

Step 2
Inhale slowly and deeply through your nose to the count of four. In this step, count to four very slowly in your head. Feel the air fill your lungs, one section at a time, until your lungs are completely full and the air moves into your abdomen.

Step 3
Hold your breath for another slow count of four.

Step 4
Exhale through your mouth for the same slow count of four, expelling the air from your lungs and abdomen. Be conscious of the feeling of the air leaving your lungs.

Step 5
Hold your breath for the same slow count of four before repeating this process.

Tips for beginners
If you’re new to box breathing, it may be difficult to get the hang of it. You may get dizzy after a few rounds. This is normal, and as you practice it more often, you’ll be able to go longer without the dizziness. If you get dizzy, stay sitting for a minute and resume normal breathing.

To help you focus on your breathing, find a quiet, dimly lit environment to practice box breathing. This isn’t at all necessary to perform the technique, but it can help you focus on the practice if you’re new to it.

What Time Is the Royal Wedding!?

Meghan and her mom leaving yoga.

Meghan and her mom leaving yoga.

With just one day left until Meghan Markle and Prince Harry’s wedding, the big question isn’t “when is the royal wedding?” but what workouts is the bride-to-be doing to prepare for her royal internationally-televised wedding.  #nopressure

While Meghan was last seen leaving a gym in London last month, the 36-year-old has likely been sticking to one of her favorite workouts:  a pilates workout, which utilizes the Megaformer machine.

“Pilates Platinum is hands down the best thing you could do for your body,” Meghan told Women’s Health U.K. in 2017, referencing the fitness studio in Santa Monica where she used to take classes. “The results are incredible.  Your body changes immediately.  Give it two classes and you will see a difference.”

Pilates is a high-intensity, low impact class, which prioritizes constant, but slow movement, to really help you feel the burn.  During the classes, which can include 30 straight minutes of sliding split squats, participants typically burn 800 to 1,000 calories — and the calorie burn continues for several more hours.

The reason why — it’s so slow, and you’re using every single muscle.  While your slow-twitch muscle fibers repair, your body is using energy, calories and stored sugar so you honestly become a fat-burning machine.

One of the Pilates studios where the former Suits star has been sighted going for her Megaformer fix is Studio Lagree, which has locations in her old and new hometowns of Toronto and London.

Meghan is also friends with Pilates Platinum instructor Heather Dorak, who has documented her friend’s flexibility on social media.

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“Happy Happy Birthday to @meghanmarkle 💞. Thank you @pilatesplatinum for bringing this beautiful soul in to my life 10yrs ago. Can’t wait to celebrate with you 👙🌴,” the fitness expert wrote alongside a photo of the pair working their cores by the pool.

The former Suits star has also frequently been photographed out and about with her yoga mat.

Additionally, her mother Doria Ragland (pictured above), who arrived in London ahead of her daughter’s nuptials on Wednesday, works as a yoga therapist.  

Oh and if you’re still wondering “what time is the royal wedding?” — the big event starts at 7am NYT.