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Tampa Bay Holistic Wellness is a preventative health care practice offering corrective exercise, sports performance, massage therapy and nutrition services.


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Filtering by Tag: Awareness

Food Labels: Understand What You're Reading

Dawn Molina

As lots of people make new year’s resolutions to improve their diet, some may start to pay closer attention to the nutrition labels on the foods they buy. You may have recently caught my brief interview on WTSP Tampa Bay News 10. In this blog I will specifically expound on what to look for on your food labels as a concerned consumer. If you would like to schedule a grocery store visit with me, feel free to reach out and we can visit the store together. I totally understand how confusing and frustrating reading food labels can be!

Here are some guidelines to get you started:

1. Look at Serving Size

Start by looking at the nutrition facts and the serving size. Packages frequently contain more than a single serving, which means that you may have to multiply all of the amounts listed to get an accurate picture of how many calories or how much sugar is in a single container.

2. Check Calorie Count

Although calories are only part of the picture when it comes to reading labels, they’re vital to help you determine appropriate portion size. The standard daily caloric intake guidelines are 1,800-2,200 calories for adult women and 2,200-2,500 for adult men. (These calculations vary according to physical activity.) So, if you choose a food with 700 calories per serving, keep in mind that is approximately one-third of your daily calorie intake.

3. Avoid Enemy Fats

Trans fats raise LDL (“bad” cholesterol), lower HDL (“good” cholesterol), and slow your metabolism. Look for foods with zero trans fats, but be aware of this disturbing little factoid: If a product contains less than 1 gram of trans fat per serving, it can be listed as containing zero trans fats. Those trace amounts can really add up if you’re eating multiple servings per day.

So, how can you avoid eating trans fats? The best thing to do is stay away from foods that contain any partially or fully hydrogenated oils, which contain large quantities of trans fats and other altered fat substances.  Hydrogenated oils, which are often found in commercial baked goods, are designed to be impervious to bacteria so that they can sit on grocery store shelves for long periods of time. Is it any surprise that our own bodies would have trouble breaking down and processing these synthetic compounds?

4. Minimize Sodium

The recommended maximum daily intake of sodium is 2,300 mg per day (about one teaspoon), or 1500 mg per day if you’re over 40 or have hypertension. Consuming excess sodium is correlated with hypertension because it draws in water, which increases blood volume, which in turn increases blood pressure. The increased pressure strains the heart and increases the risk of atherosclerosis. If you have hypertension or heart disease, talk to your health care provider to determine your recommended daily limit of sodium.

5. Choose Carbs Wisely and Avoid Added Sugars

Carbohydrates (“carbs”) are often demonized in the media, but in truth, they’re abundant in whole foods and are a very important source of energy. The key thing to keep in mind is that complex carbohydrates (i.e., the carbohydrates in natural, fibrous foods like fruits & vegetables) are infinitely better for you than simple carbohydrates like refined sugar. The presence of fiber in complex carbs causes your body to break down the food more slowly, thus preventing sudden spikes in blood sugar. This is why you’ve likely heard that eating a piece of fruit is a healthier option than simply drinking fruit juice–the whole piece of fruit contains fiber, while the juice has been processed and stripped of fiber.

When you look at a food label, you’ll notice that there’s no recommended daily amount for sugar; the amount of sugar in the food is simply listed in grams. But most of us can’t really visualize a gram of sugar. To get a better picture, try converting grams to teaspoons by dividing by 4. For example, 20 grams of sugar is the equivalent of 5 teaspoons of sugar. As you read labels, you may realize that your daily sugar intake includes a lot more than what you add to your coffee!

Keep things simple by choosing complex carbohydrates, and by keeping added sugars to a minimum. For further advice, consult a nutritionist – we love talking about this stuff!

6. Get Your Fiber On

The American Dietetic Association recommends 25 g of dietary fiber for adult women and 38 g for adult men per day. Fiber is a crucial component of any food because it helps prevent big swings in blood sugar, keep your colon healthy, and best of all, it makes you feel full – so you eat less!

7. Stick with Short Ingredients Lists

Ingredients are listed in order by weight, so the first items on the list make up the bulk of the food. Look for foods containing unprocessed, recognizable ingredients.  If you can’t pronounce or don’t recognize some of the ingredients, put the product back on the shelf!

Another common rule of thumb is to look for foods with no more than five ingredients. Lengthy lists are usually a sign that a product has unnecessary extras such as artificial preservatives.

8. Look for Sugars with Nutritional Benefits

White sugar is highly processed and has been stripped of other nutrients. Instead of white sugar, look for less-processed sugars such as: Brown rice sweeteners (which usually include fiber), Honey (which contains beneficial antioxidants) or Molasses (which contains trace minerals such as calcium, potassium, iron and magnesium)

Please remember even though these types of sugars have more nutritional value than other processed sugars, they’re still sugars, and should be kept to a minimum.

9. Be Aware of “Hidden” Sugars

Sugar can masquerade under many different names. Be on the lookout for dextrose, fructose, galactose, glucose, lactose, levulose, maltose, sucrose, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, beet sugar, corn sugar, corn sweetener, high fructose corn syrup, invert sugar, isomalt, maltodextrins, maple sugar, sorghum or turbinado sugar. You might even find more than one listed. These are all just variations on high-calorie, low-nutrient, added sugar.

Sugar alcohols deserve special mention – there are many different types, a few of the most common include: sorbitol, mannitol, and maltitol.  A food sweetened with “sugar alcohols” can  say “0 grams sugar” on the nutritional label, but if the product is labeled ‘sugar-free’ or ‘no added sugar,’ the manufacturer must list the sugar alcohol count separately.

In general sugar alcohols are not completely absorbed by the body, which means they can have less of an impact on your blood sugar. That’s arguably a good thing, but the side effects are often intestinal discomfort, bloating and gas, so our advice is generally to steer clear!

10. Look for Whole Grain Breads

If you don’t see the word “whole” before the name of a grain, it’s not a whole grain. “Enriched flour” is not a whole grain product, nor is “unbleached white flour.” They are the same as white flour and have been stripped of fiber. To maximize your fiber intake, look for whole grains in the ingredient lists.

11. Know that Ingredients May Change

Even if you’ve been buying a particular product for years, it’s still a good idea to glance at the ingredients list every once in awhile. Things change! A recent example is Green & Black’s chocolate – their dark chocolate was always deliciously dairy free, but since they were acquired by Kraft Foods in January of 2010, their chocolate now contains whole milk powder.  This may seem inconsequential, but if you’re sensitive to dairy it is important to know.

When you begin reading food labels, it can feel almost feel like a second job. But once you get into the swing of it, it becomes more natural. Most importantly, it puts you back in control of what you’re eating. Start with a close examination of one or two packaged foods on a weekly basis–take a moment or two to understand what you’re really putting into your body…and let us know how it goes!

Evaulation of Short-term Effects of Self-massage Combined With Home Exercise on Pain, Daily Activity, and Autonomic Function in Patients with Myofascial Pain Dysfunction Syndrome.

Dawn Molina

Strength & Conditioning Research Evaluation - by Dawn Molina

Short-term effects of self-massage combined with home exercise on pain, daily activity, and autonomic function in patients with myofascial pain dysfunction syndrome.                                                                   by Chan, Wang, Chang, Chen, Chu, Lin, and Chang, in Journal of Physical Therapy Science (2015).

Study Objective
To explore retrospectively the effects of a 2-week program of self-massage and home exercise for patients with myofascial pain syndrome.

What did the researchers do?
The 63 patients had been previously diagnosed as having myofascial pain syndrome for 6 – 18 months. The intervention group received a self-massage and home exercise program, 3 sessions per week over a 2-week period. The self-massage involved rolling a baseball on the specific neck and upper back muscles that had trigger points. The home exercise program involved stretching of the neck and upper back muscles.

What happened?
Pain and pressure pain threshold. The researchers found that only the self-massage group reduced pain significantly.

Disability and function
The researchers found that only the intervention group significantly improved the neck disability index.

What did the researchers conclude?
The researchers concluded that self-massage and home exercise is more effective than solely using other conventional physical modalities for pain and pressure pain threshold.

Taking Control of Your Health

Dawn Molina

Blog 3 Taking Control of Your Health.jpg

We all have the ability to take control of our lives. Be that as it may, there’s a time limit. In our younger years we are saved a countless number of times by our resilience. Yet as we get older the better, safer, healthier choices become life changing ones. I hear daily either from friends, family, or business associates that making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle is “too difficult”. For many making the choice to live a healthier lifestyle would be life changing, but because it’s too difficult they won’t make the choice. This sadly reminds me of my Uncle Jeff who passed away a few years back. We have all had a loved one that suffered from obesity or chronic illness, but because they were unwilling to live a healthier life eventually passed on.

Uncle Jeff was a loveable man. Amicable, yet set in his ways, one knew what to expect of him. Jeff had lived in Tampa, FL since he left Michigan in the early 1980’s. He liked steak and potatoes on his dinner plate, tailgating before Tampa Bay Buccaneers games, and enjoyed a few beers after work each night.

When Jeff was diagnosed with cancer he had time. The illness, in my opinion, was not  progressive in the beginning. Nevertheless, Jeff believed that medicine alone might save him. He and I had numerous conversations about life changes: less beer, a more colorful palette of food, less meat & potatoes, less work, more happiness, and more love. He was open to more happiness and more love. A matter of fact he was convinced that his happiness relied heavily on his ability to choose freely what he ate; regardless of whether the food got him to where he was health wise or not. Almost a year after Jeff was diagnosed with caner he passed on.

During the final year of his life he worked just as hard as the previous year, if not harder. He believed that the more “useful” he was, the less “ill” he appeared. This was absolutely tragic for many of us to watch, because he unquestionably became weaker day-after-day. He never ate a green vegetable before he was diagnosed with cancer and he never did after. He wouldn’t put anything green in his mouth; regardless of whether it was blended, juiced, or in a vegetarian pill form. We occasionally talked about the changes my ex-husband made to his nutrition that undoubtedly changed his life. But it didn’t matter. The immediate gratification and the pure convenience of being unhealthy appealed to him and nothing else did. It appealed to his family as well. At the time they were unwilling to make the necessary changes to assist in the savior of their loved one’s life. It was a tragedy that I witnessed first hand.

I speak with people daily about their food choices. People trying to loose weight for different reasons. Most people say the same thing, “I can’t eat that, because I don’t like it”. It’s startling to me that someone could want so desperately to change their life, but would still be unwilling to make food choices to benefit their health. I can educated a person about the countless health benefits of eating healthy, yet due to the difficulty to make the right food choices day-in-and-day-out, many simply abandon the effort in a short period of time.

The choice must begin with you.

- Dawn Molina

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