Welcome to our all-round guide to good living in the 21st century.
The Dish that Slashes your Diabetes Risk
Make a stir-fry with brown rice and you’ll be serving up some diabetes prevention. Researchers in Rome found that a veggie-packed diet lowered insulin resistance-a precursor to diabetes-by 25 percent.
And a study from the Harvard School of Public Health showed that people who ate a cup or more of brown rice a week had an 11 percent lower chance of developing diabetes than those who ate less. “The antioxidants in whole grains and vegetables prevent cell damage,” says SAPE contributing editor Cynthia Sass, R.D., “which can hinder your body’s ability to process insulin.”
Amy’s tip: Try Amy’s Brown Rice and Veggies bowl or Black eyed Pea bowl for a quick and tasty brown rice and veggie combo.
Strong for Vegetables
Rich Roll is something of a real-life Popeye, a man whose leafy diet fuels shocking feats of strength. At 43, Roll is a "plant-based athlete" whose vegan diet powered him to a top finish at last year's Ultraman World Championships, an event that crams 6.2 miles of swimming, 261.4 miles of cycling and 52.4 miles of running into three days under searing Hawaiian sun.
Roll was not always a veggie evangelist. For years after his tenure on the NCAA Championship Stanford Swim Team, Roll continued to "see that Stanford athlete in the mirror," even though, he says, that athlete had morphed into an overweight, out-of-shape, middle-aged man. Roll's fitness initially was derailed by a struggle with drug and alcohol addiction. And although he's been sober for more than a dozen years, the demands of raising four children, producing films and practicing entertainment law left little time for his once-core passion for fitness. Then he had a birthday.
"You wake up and you're 40," Roll says. "I realized, 'I feel lousy, I'm overweight, I want to be healthy.'" He started exercising and cut out meat, hoping to accelerate his journey to health. After several months, however, Roll decided vegetarianism wasn't working for him. "My version of a vegetarian diet included lots of pizza, which might have been the problem," he admits. He bought some books on veganism, the practice of eating only plant-based food—no meat, eggs, animal fats or dairy products—and gave that a try. Within a week of eating vegan, Roll says, "I had all this energy. I realized, 'Wow, I could do something with this.'"
Roll decided he'd like to train for the 2008 Ultraman World Championships, an elite, invitation-only race he'd read about. "I had to talk the race director into letting me in. I told her, 'I promise I'll be prepared.'" After a scant six months of training, Roll placed 11th overall in the race.
The story of his transformation from addict to vegan to world-class athlete made Roll an immediate media hit. His recap of the journey was a top story on CNN.com for several days following its publication; Men's Fitness named him one of its "25 Fittest Guys in the World" for 2009. "I got as many as 400 emails from people who said they were inspired, people who were sharing their intimate health struggles as a result of hearing my story."
In partnership with his wife, Julie Piatt, a well-known Los Angeles yoga instructor, Roll is writing a vegan cookbook and hosting retreats to help others transform their lives through diet, exercise and yoga. "I'm realizing that God wants me to help others," Roll says. "That's a feeling I don't get being an attorney."
Amy’s Light & Lean on NBC’s Today Show
Diet and Exercise to the Extremes
I went running with Scott Jurek on a clear, chilly morning last month, an easy four-mile loop in Central Park. He ran another few miles with 50 or so adoring fans, then another few by himself, for a total of about 15. After that he showered and came to my house to cook lunch before going for a late-afternoon jog of another 10 miles or so.
Scott Jurek, an accomplished ultramarathoner, displayed knife skills and good culinary judgment while preparing a meal.
That’s an easy day for Jurek, 36, an accomplished ultramarathoner. But one might say he has been in a slump: he has not won a major race since the 2008 Spartathlon. On the other hand, he set a personal record there, it was his third consecutive victory on the 153-mile course between Athens and Sparta, and he holds the fifth-, sixth- and eighth-fastest times in race history.
If last year was a wash, this year he is fit and psyched for the 24-Hour Run world championship in Brive-la-Gaillarde, France, on Thursday and Friday. It is a grueling race to determine how many miles runners can complete on a 1.4-kilometer road loop (about nine-tenths of a mile) in a 24-hour period.
Jurek says he can break the American record, 162 miles, held by Mark Godale. (The world record, 178 miles, and just about every ultramarathoning record from 100 to 1,000 miles, and from 24 hours to 10 days, are, Jurek said, “unassailably” held by Yiannis Kouros of Greece, who no longer competes.)
To win Brive, Jurek said, he must: “Get on it, crank around it, and get it done. It’s all in a day’s work.”
It’s a long day, and one that raises a particular aspect of Jurek’s training that makes him an especially interesting athlete: he is a vegan, consuming no animal products.
There are other professional athletes who do not eat meat: Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder, a vegetarian, may be the best known, and the hockey player Georges Laraque is also a vegan. But it is difficult for some to comprehend how this lifestyle is compatible with training weeks of 140 miles and more, “easy” runs of 40 miles and interval training that includes uphill three-mile repeats, all culminating in races that are often 100 miles or more, sometimes through deserts or frozen wastelands or up and down mountains.
Jurek certainly looks healthy enough. He is tall, dwarfing most competitive marathoners, not rail thin, with a quick smile and boundless energy. A few hours after our morning run, he showed up at my house and began pulling things out of the refrigerator and pantry with abandon: vegetables, greens, herbs, miso, tofu, olives, shallots, lemons, nut butter and more.
He displayed knife skills and good culinary judgment, preparing a meal for me and his girlfriend, Jenny Uehisa, a designer for Patagonia (he is sponsored by Brooks Sports). We ate a Greek salad with cucumbers, tomatoes, loads of olives and seaweed; a stir-fry of vegetables with tofu and a miso and cashew sauce; and a mound of quinoa.
Where did he learn to cook this way? And more to the point, how does he survive? After all, I said to him, none of my running buddies, a group of nonelite but defiantly dedicated marathoners who train in Central Park, maintain as rigorous a schedule as his, and many claim to have trouble consuming enough calories even while being omnivorous.
“The whole issue,” he said, “is exactly that: getting enough calories. The first thing to worry about isn’t so much what you eat, but how much you eat. You have to take the time to sit at the table and make sure your calorie count is high enough. And when you’re a vegan, to increase your calories as you increase training you need more food. This isn’t an elimination diet but an inclusion diet.”
Jurek grew up in Proctor, Minn., eating cookie dough, canned vegetables and his share of fast food. When his mother, Lynn, developed multiple sclerosis (she died this spring), he and his siblings began cooking, but the food was, he said, “very Midwest — meat and potatoes.” In college, his diet began to improve, and as he “saw how much disease is lifestyle related,” he began eating “real food, eating the way people have been eating for thousands of years.”
He made the transition to less meat and more fish, then eventually knocked out dairy and other animal products entirely.
“It’s really a mental barrier,” he said, and he obviously has experience overcoming those. He said he needed 5,000 to 8,000 calories a day, “and I get that all from plant sources. It’s not hard, either. I like to eat, and I don’t have to worry about weight management. All I need is a high-carbohydrate diet with enough protein and fat.”
He said he spent a great deal of time shopping, preparing and cooking food — and chewing. He is among the slowest and most deliberate eaters I know, and there is something about his determination at the table that is reminiscent of his determination on the road: he just doesn’t stop.
Mark Bittman, who is a vegan until 6 p.m. and a runner at various hours, writes The Minimalist column for The Times, and can be found at markbittman.com.
Boost your energy all day long
A 20 minute walk gives you a blast of pep that lasts all day, reveals new research from The University of Vermont. Though exercise provides an immediate lift, scientists were surprised at the long-lasting effect, because mood-boosting endorphins stay elevated for only a couple of hours. Researchers speculate that the jump-start helps buffer the effects of everyday hassles and stress on your outlook throughout the day.
Bonus: By simply walking 15% faster, you could loose some extra weight and increase your fitness levels. Just by increasing your walking speed from 3.5mph to 4.0 mph, the body burns an extra 80 calories an hour. It also increases lung capacity and improves blood pressure twice as much as strolling does.
7 Simple Stress Busters
Peace of Mind is Just a Few Minutes Away
Stress happens. No matter how organized you are, how good your systems are, or how friendly your work and living environments are, stress can find a way to poke its ugly head in from time to time. What can you do? Turn to a convenient Stress Buster – a small, simple activity that clears your head and calms you down. When you feel a stress attack coming on, it’s the perfect time to turn to one of these busters and kick that stress out the door.
Here are 7 of our favorite Stress Busters, but feel free to develop your own:
1. Take a walk
Want a break from the office? Does your house feel like an insane asylum? Slip out the door and let your feet take you somewhere. Not only will walking give you the opportunity to clear your head and take a break from that hectic situation, but it’s great aerobic exercise, too.
2. Call a friend
We all have someone whose voice alone perks us up. Give them a buzz, even for a few minutes. Whether with a joke or a funny story, or just by listening, they will likely put a smile on your face and calm you down. Besides, what are friends for?
3. Write in a journal
Expressing our feelings could be the best way to deal with stress. Keeping a journal is a way to capture those feelings at any moment. You don’t have to worry about what others think or say, just let your pen do the work. By the time you’re done, those feelings will be on their way out of your system.
4. Play a board game
Remember these? Maybe there are a dozen stashed in your closet, waiting to be dusted off. Monopoly probably should be saved until you have a few hours to spare, but quick kids’ games like Candy Land, Chutes & Ladders, Connect Four, or even Twister are always good for a smile.
5. Work up a sweat
Have some pent up frustrations? There’s no better way to get rid of them than by exercising. Pop in a workout tape, hop on your bike or grab your jump rope. You’ll be too busy working up a sweat to worry about what’s stressing you out. Picture the stress leaving your body through your pores.
Boost your Brain with Walnuts
USDA researches have cracked the secret to a younger brain. Simply adding about 7-9 whole nuts to your daily diet may improve balance, coordination and memory, finds the new research in the British Journal of Nutrition. Scientists believe that polyphenols and other antioxidants in walnuts help strengthen neural connections and improve cognitive skills.
What a great reason to grill up Amy's California Burgers!
Why Healthy Snacking Is Good for You
Between school, homework, sports, babysitting, and dating, it may feel like there's no time for healthy eating. And when you do stop to eat, it's probably tempting to go the quick and easy route by grabbing a burger and fries, potato chips, or candy. But it is possible to treat yourself to a healthy snack. In fact, if you have a hectic schedule, it's even more important to eat healthy foods that give you the fuel you need to keep going.
Even if you take time to eat three meals a day, you may still feel hungry at times. What's the answer? Healthy snacks. Snacking on small amounts of nutritious food throughout the day can keep your energy level high and your mind alert without taking up a lot of your time.
Here are a few healthy snacking ideas:
- Ants on a log — Spread peanut butter on celery sticks and top with raisins.
- Banana ice — Peel several very ripe bananas, break them into 1-inch pieces, and freeze the pieces in a sealed plastic bag. Just before serving, whirl the pieces in the blender with a small amount of water or juice. Serve right away. Add berries for a different flavor or top with fruit or nuts.
- Healthy ice pops — Freeze fresh, unsweetened 100% juice in ice pop molds or ice cube trays.
- Whole-grain pita and hummus — Warm a pita in the oven on low, then cut it into small triangles. Dip it in a tasty, low-fat hummus. Hummus is available in yummy flavors like garlic and spicy red pepper. Hummus also makes a tasty dip for cut–up veggies.
- Happy trails mix — Combine 1 cup whole-grain toasted oat cereal with 1/4 cup chopped walnuts and 1/4 cup dried cranberries for a healthy trail mix.