November 2013

Snooze Control

AngelDo you toss and turn during the night, rather than sleep like a baby? If so, your battle with insomnia might start at the dining table, not in the bedroom.

Tip #1: Don’t Drink: A cup of coffee or tea, a glass of cola, or a chocolate doughnut are quick pick-me-ups that might undermine your sleep. Even small amounts of caffeine can affect your sleep, especially if you are sensitive to caffeine. Eliminate all caffeine-containing beverages. If you feel and sleep better after two weeks of being caffeine-free, then avoid caffeine permanently. You can try adding back one or two cups after the two-week trial, but cut back if sleep problems reappear.

A nightcap might make you sleepy at first, but you’ll sleep less soundly and wake up more tired as a result. Alcohol and other depressants suppress a phase of sleeping called REM (Rapid Eye Movement) where most of your dreaming occurs. Less REM is associated with more night awakenings and restless sleep. One glass of wine with dinner probably won’t hurt, but avoid drinking any alcohol within two hours of bedtime and never mix alcohol with sleeping pills!

Tip #2: Follow Dinner Rules: What and how much you ate for dinner could be at the root of your insomnia.

    • Big dinners make you temporarily drowsy, but prolong digestive action, which interferes with a good night’s sleep. Instead, eat your biggest meal before mid-afternoon and eat a light evening meal of 500 calories or less. Include some chicken, extra-lean meat or fish at dinner to help curb middle-of-the-night snack attacks.
    • Spicy foods also can contribute to sleep problems. Dishes seasoned with garlic, chilies, cayenne, or other hot spices can cause nagging heartburn or indigestion. Avoid spicy foods at dinner time.
    • Gas-forming foods or eating too fast cause abdominal discomfort, which in turn interferes with sound sleep. Limit your intake of gas-forming foods to the morning hours and thoroughly chew food to avoid gulping air.

Toast with jamTip #3: Choose the Right Bed-Time Snacks: The evening snack might be the best alternative to sleeping pills. A high-carbohydrate snack, such as crackers and fruit or toast and jam, triggers the release of a brain chemical called serotonin that aids sleep. On the other hand, the glass of warm milk, a protein-rich beverage, probably doesn’t affect serotonin levels, but the warm liquid soothes and relaxes and provides a feeling of satiety, which might help facilitate sleep.

Tip #4: Lower Stress, Increase Exercise: Stress is a common cause of insomnia. Often solving tensions and anxieties eliminates sleep problems. One tension reliever is exercise. In a study from Stanford University in Palo Alto, California, healthy adults with mild sleep problems who exercised for at least 40-minutes a day, twice a week fell asleep faster and slept about 45 minutes longer than people who didn’t exercise. Physical activity also helps a person cope with daily stress and tires the body so it is ready to sleep at night.

In short, sleeping pills are a temporary fix, while a few simple dietary and lifestyle changes could do wonders for your long-term snooze control.

Note: Some cases of chronic insomnia might require the help of trained personnel. Check out the American Sleep Association at

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Born Fit

I want to invite you over to my Facebook page, Elizabeth Somer, Nutritionist where I am writing a series of posts titled “Born Fit” where I detail exactly how I work to stay fit and stick to my own nutritional advice in a world rich with junk food temptations. I’ve titled the series “Born Fit” because we were all born to be fit, and it is our job–every day–to make healthy choices to maintain the best fitness our genes allow. I face all the same food temptations you do, and,yes! it’s a challenge for me to resist them too. So I thought it was time to reveal some of my best healthy food strategies. I hope you’ll share your challenges and strategies too. See you there!

Just Do This Today

1. Skip the middle of the night snack. Do you awaken in the middle of the night unable to fall back to sleep unless you eat something? These mid-night snack attacks may be triggered by hunger or they may just be habit. In either case, your best bet is to break the cycle. Try eating more during the day then stop rewarding your stomach by feeding it every time it wakes you up. Instead, read a book, drink a glass of water, or ignore the craving. It takes up to two weeks to break a mid-night snack habit.

2. Add extra veggies to your canned soup, lasagna recipe, or spaghetti sauce to help meet your daily quota of at least 8 colorful fruits & vegetables.

3. Vow to include at least three servings of 100% whole grains in your daily menu.

4. Order or make your sandwich today without mayonnaise. Use mustard, roasted red peppers, pickled ginger or other spicy choices instead.

Hot Off the Diet Press

1.The Probiotic Weight-Loss Diet: Here is an example of how Americans can have their cake and eat it, too. Previous studies show that eating fast food items, such as potato chips, increases the risk of obesity, while adding yogurt to the diet helps prevent age-related weight gain in humans. In this study, researchers at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in Cambridge, tested the effects of adding probiotics, in this case Lactobacillus reuteri, to the diets of mice fed Westernized diets high in fat. Results showed that the probiotics were sufficient to change the pro-inflammatory immune cell profile and prevent abdominal fat accumulation, as well as weight gain, in the mice regardless of their dietary intake.

Poutahidis T, Kleinewietfeld M, Smillie C, et al: Microbial reprogramming inhibits Wester diet-associated obesity. PLoS One 2013;8:e68596.

simply sashimi2. The Arthritis Cure: The omega-3s in fish, EPA and DHA, lower the risk for rheumatoid arthritis in women, according to a study from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm. Researchers followed 32,232 women born between 1914 and 1948 who were questioned about their seafood intake in 1987 and 1997. The women were divided into five groups based on the amount of fish-derived omega-3s they consumed, ranging from 0.21 grams (the equivalent of eating one serving of salmon a week or four servings a week of lean fish such as cod) or less per day up to at least 0.5 grams a day. Results showed that eating at least one serving of fish a week, compared to less than one weekly serving, lowered risk or developing rheumatoid arthritis by 29%. Women who reported consuming more than 0.21 grams of omega-3s a day had a 52% decreased risk. The researchers conclude that, “…this study is the first to attribute the protective effect of fish against rheumatoid arthritis to its content of omega-3 fatty acids.”

Di Giuseppe D, Wallin A, Bottai M, et al: Long-term intake of dietary long-chain n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and risk of rheumatoid arthritis. Annals of Rheumatic Disease 2013;August 12th.

hot chocolate by Rachel3. Chocolate Makes You Smarter! Seniors who drink two cups of cocoa every day show improved memory, according to a study from Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. For one month, 60 people with an average age of 73-years were asked to drink two cups daily of either cocoa rich in flavanols, which is linked to improved blood flow, or cocoa low in flavanol. At the study’s start, 18 of the seniors had impaired blood flow in the brain, almost all of them had high blood pressure, and half had diabetes. Results showed that brain blood flow improved by an average of 8% in those participants whose levels were low at the start. These people also performed better on memory tests, improving the time they needed to complete tasks. Better neurovascular coupling also was associated with greater white matter structural integrity.

Sorond F, Hurwitz S, Salat D, et al: Neurovascular coupling, cerebral white matter integrity, and response to cocoa in older people. Neurology 2013;August 7th.

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Food & Mood Tip – Take Charge!

Eating well works. Choose the right foods in the right proportion and at the right time and I promise you will lose weight, be happier, be healthier, have more energy, even get your mojo back if it got lost. But, making wise food choices doesn’t just happen. Ya’ gotta work it, baby! There are a few ground rules to getting back in touch with your blissfully fit inner self. You must

Believe you deserve it. You must believe you are worthy of being cared for, just as you care for others. You need your own time and space to care for yourself. You deserve that time and that care to be the happiest, healthiest, and leanest person you were meant to be. When you are happy, that happiness will spread to others. So, this isn’t a selfish wish, it’s one goal that will keep on giving.

Decide you want it. You need to really want happiness and health. You must want this for yourself, not because anyone says you need it, or wants you to have it. Not because you are badgered by others, but because you want it, and you want it bad, for your health, self-respect, and your future.

Drop the “why me” mantra. You are absolutely right, it isn’t fair that some people must move more or eat less than others, but that’s the reality. The sooner you accept that and get to the real question of what to do about it, the better. The buck stops right here, baby. It’s time to accept that managing your weight, your mood, and your weight is a life-long process within your power!

Eat Your Way to Sexy This Week: What to Eat and How to Move

Want to know what foods really get you in the mood? Click to view this video where I share some surprising answers.

Move It Baby, Move It!
If you want to feel sexy today and down the road, then make sure you are exercising outside the bedroom every day! Physically fit people think more clearly, concentrate better, remember more, and react quicker than sedentary folks. They have less plaque around brain cells that otherwise would increase the risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. They are also leaner, while pudgy couch potatoes are three times more likely to develop dementia as they age.

two-girls-exercising-cayucos-beach2A daily workout also amps up brain chemicals, such as dopamine, serotonin, phenylethylamine (PEA), epinephrine, and norepinephrine, which boost alertness and focus, improve mood, and calm nerves, as well, if not better, than medications, such as anti-depressants or tranquilizers. Who wouldn’t want to feel better naturally, with no side effects, unless you call feeling great and living healthy longer a problem! Besides, only one-third of people on mood-lifting drugs get full relief, and another 30% get no help at all, but everyone benefits from exercise, and in many cases it is the cure. While sedentary people are twice as likely as fit people to be depressed, studies show that for many people, the mood-boosting effects of exercise are more powerful and longer lasting than Prozac or other drugs, or even counseling. The more a person exercises, the lower the risk for depression.

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Mood-Boosting Recipe of the Week

Pumpkin Corn Soup with Creamy Lime Ginger Sauce
(From The Food & Mood Cookbook by Elizabeth Somer and Jeanette Williams)

This rich autumn soup takes only 30 minutes to make, yet is filling and warm on a cool autumn evening. Tastes great with cornbread and a salad. This soup is especially high in beta carotene and iron, and supplies hefty doses of B vitamins, calcium, magnesium, vitamin E, and selenium.


16-ounce bag of frozen corn
3 cups chicken broth
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon “Better Than Bouillon” Chicken Base (optional)
salt and pepper
1 29-ounce can pumpkin
2 tablespoons brown sugar

Ginger Lime Sauce:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and grated
1 /2 cup fat-free sour cream
lime peel, finely grated

1) Steam corn until hot. In batches, place corn in blender with enough chicken broth to puree until smooth. Run through sieve and discard skins.

2) In large non-stick sauce pan, place corn and stock juice, remaining chicken broth, garlic, chicken base, and salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally until mixture comes to a boil. Reduce heat and add pumpkin and sugar. Stir and heat through, about 15 minutes.

3) Sauce: In small sauce pan, heat juice and ginger over medium heat to disperse ginger. In small bowl, pour juice through sieve to remove ginger. Add sour cream and blend thoroughly.

4) To serve, drizzle a tablespoon of lime-ginger sauce over each bowlful of soup, run a fork side-ways though cream. Sprinkle lightly with finely grated lime peel. Makes four 2-cup servings.

Nutritional Analysis per serving: Nutritional Analysis per serving: 248 Calories; 8 percent fat (2.2 grams); <1 gram saturated fat; 17 percent protein; 75 percent carbohydrate; 10 grams fiber.

Answers to “Do You Know?” From Last Issue:

Do no-calorie foods aid with weight loss?
Calorie-free or low-calorie foods aren’t the final solution to a dieter’s dilemma and certainly are no panacea to weight loss. Theoretically, using no-calorie foods should work. Switch from cola to diet cola every day and you’ll save yourself about 160 calories, which should mean a 17+ pound weight drop in a year (160 calories X 365 days divided by 3,500 calories in a pound). Yet, Americans will guzzle well over a billion dollars worth of artificial sweeteners and fat replacers in 2013, and yet get fatter every year. While there is no evidence low-calorie foods promote weight gain, there also is no evidence that people who shift to artificial sugars and fats without doing anything else, lose weight.

The problem is that when people consume low-fat, sugar-reduced, low-calorie, or calorie-free foods, they compensate by eating more later. In one study from Pennsylvania State University, women who were told before lunch that they were snacking on reduced-fat yogurt ate more food at their mid-day meal than woman who were told the yogurt was full-fat, regardless of the actual fat content of the snack. To make no- and low-calorie foods work for you, use them in combination with tried-and-true habits for permanent weight loss, such as reducing portions, focusing on produce, and exercising daily.

While there is no evidence low-calorie foods promote weight gain, there also is no evidence that people who shift to artificial sugars and fats without doing anything else actually lose weight.

Day 010 - 2009-08-13Do calories eaten at night act differently from those eaten during the day?
No. Eat a huge dinner or snack uncontrollably in the evening and there might be a slight fat-storing effect compared to eating a big breakfast followed by a physically active day. But the effect is so insignificant, that it won’t have any noticeable influence on your weight. However, dinner typically is our biggest meal, supplying almost half of a person’s daily calorie intake, and that’s not even counting the ice cream or chips for a late-night snack. Bigger portions and excess calories at any time of the day will pack on the pounds.

On the other hand, people who take five minutes to fix a nutritious, low-calorie breakfast, such as a bowl of whole grain cereal topped with fruit and nonfat milk, have an easier time managing their weights, not because of any difference in how the calories are burned, but because you are less likely to overeat later in the day if you start the day off with a healthy breakfast.

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Do You Know?

1. Do certain food combinations help you lose weight, while combining the wrong foods at the same meal can lead to weight gain?

2. Does dividing your food intake into frequent meals and snacks aid in weight loss compared to eating the same calories, but in two to three large meals?

Check next week for the answers….

Label Lingo

Salt shakerAmericans eat ten times or more their maximum daily allotment for sodium, which increases the risk for hypertension, heart disease, and stroke. Even foods labeled as low-sodium or that have the American Heart Check Mark on them can pack a sodium wallop. Many packaged foods are sodium land mines, supplying half – or perhaps all – of your entire day’s maximum limit for sodium of 2,400 milligrams. A rule of thumb is: Look for items that contain no more than 200 milligrams of sodium for every 100 calories. Less is even better.

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Food Finds/Food Fails

Food Finds:
1. Baobab Fruit Cubes: They are sweet without added sugar, rich in antioxidants, and packed with fiber. What is not to like?! My favorite is the mango, strawberry, raspberry option. What’s up with the name? Baobab is an antioxidant-rich fruit from southern Africa. It has more than twice the antioxidants of acai, Goji, or blueberries. The fiber is soluble fiber, which helps lower the risk for heart disease and diabetes. OK, so it has some concentrated apple juice, which I’m not a big fan of, but that is low on the ingredient list. Great addition to salads, cereals, sandwiches, or trail mix!

2. Ancient Harvest Quinoa: This is an entire line of quinoa products, from pasta to Inca Red Heirloom Variety. Quinoa is rich in protein (1 cup has the protein equivalent of a cup of milk), iron, zinc, fiber, potassium, and magnesium (a mineral that 3 our of 4 Americans don’t get enough of). My favorite is the Harmony Tri-Color Blend. Use it instead of rice in any recipe. And, while rice is too high in the neurotoxin/carcinogen, arsenic, quinoa is free from this metal. A delicious and nutritious alternative!

Food Fails:
1. Turkey: Some ground turkey can have a higher percentage of fat than extra-lean ground beef. In addition, many brands of raw turkey breasts are injected with “flavor enhancers,” which loads them with sugar and salt. Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner, make sure to read labels on any turkey product and always ask your butcher about the fat content of any ground meats before you buy them.

2. Pepperidege Farm Milano Cookie Cake: You probably already suspect that anything from Pepperidge Farm that has the words “cookie” and “cake” in the title is probably not a health food. But, this sweetened grease bomb goes far beyond normal. While most companies are removing trans fat-laden hydrogenated oils from their products, Pepperidge Farm is adding it in. One-sixth of this cake (less than 3 ounces) packs 310 calories, 5 1 /2 teaspoons of refined sugar,
6 1/2 teaspoons of artery-clogging saturated fat (1/3 of the day’s allotment) and more than a day’s upper limit for trans fats..

The Daily Menu

Put know how into practice with this simple, nutritious meal plan. Eliminate the snacks if you want to cut additional calories. And, with all the menus in my newsletter, feel free to tweak to your food preferences and choices.

1 toaster whole wheat waffle, topped with: 2 tablespoons fat-free sour cream and ½ cup peaches, canned in own juices
1 cup Vanilla-flavored soymilk

1 6-ounce tub of strawberry-kiwi yogurt mixed with: 1 kiwi, peeled and chopped
Sparkling water with a twist of lemon

1 serving Pumpkin Corn Soup with Creamy Lime Ginger Sauce
1 cornbread muffin
1 orange, peeled and sectioned
1 cup 1% low-fat milk

1 slice of nut bread, toasted and topped with: 1 tablespoon nonfat cream cheese
½ cup pineapple chunks
10 baby carrots
Sparkling water

4 ounce grilled salmon fillet
2 cups romaine lettuce with 1 /2 cup canned mandarin oranges, 1 tablespoon dried tart cherries, and 2 tablespoon low-fat salad dressing
1 slice French bread

1 cup frozen blueberries
1 cup decaf Earl Grey tea

Nutritional Analysis: 1,935 Calories, 25% fat (13.6 grams saturated fat), 57% carbohydrate, 18% protein, 28 grams fiber, 1,355 milligrams calcium, 12.6 milligrams iron.