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Tip to help boost your energy and combat the pandemic and winter blues



The resolve to make a change isn’t restricted to a New Year’s resolution. Seize the opportunity to recharge and take charge of your life today.

Low physical energy may be a result of the colder weather season or staying indoors more if working remotely or social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Two local health and nutrition professionals said they have noticed a change in the way people eat and behave during the pandemic, which affects energy levels, as well.

“People are eating more often and grazing because they’re at home,” said Lauren Furgiuele, a registered dietitian nutritionist and licensed dietitian/nutritionist who is founder of Planting Roots Nutrition. “A lot of people are working from home and they’re so stressed. That emotional eating, stress eating, going to the kitchen just to take a break from work — all of those things are totally increasing a lot more in the past couple of years, and that’s something I find I really need to work on with people. ”

Poor nutrition and fitness practices and higher stress levels may be culprits, too, said Laura Richardson, community health coordinator and lifestyle coach as well as a certified health and wellness coach for the YMCA of Western North Carolina.

Laura Richardson is a community health coordinator and lifestyle coach as well as a certified health and wellness coach for the YMCA of Western North Carolina.

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“Stress is a huge factor for a lot of people, and the pandemic is not helping it,” Richardson said. “We tend to go toward those comfort things or behaviors like binging too much TV or not pouring the chips into a bowl to eat out of but taking the whole bag to the couch because that feels good.”

A better lifestyle doesn’t have to be a daunting task or call for drastic actions, she said. A few gradual changes can set a person on a long-term path to overall wellness.

“Tiny little microscopic changes you make in your life can have a big impact,” Richardson said.

Diet vs lifestyle change

Furgiuele offers one-on-one nutrition counseling to adults, she said. She examines the root cause of people’s symptoms to determine a long-lasting, effective method to live a healthy life.

Lauren Furgiuele, a registered dietitian and founder of Planting Roots Nutrition.

“Many of us have had a poor relationship with food or have had some sort of disordered eating and there’s a lot of negative associations with food that we’ve either learned from our family or learned from society, in general,” Furgiuele said. “I want to help people create more mindfulness and a healthier relationship with food and learn not only what to eat but how to eat in a sustainable and healthy way.”

Clients often struggle with weight loss, gut weight, hormone imbalances or low energy.

Furgiuele steers clients away from the idea of ​​a diet, which she said creates a poor relationship with food. A lifestyle change is healthier and designed for a long-term change and balance of the thing people enjoy and the healthier choices.

“When I think of ‘diet’ I think ‘restriction’ and taking things out and limiting,” Furgiuele said. “Creating a lifestyle that is sustainable is always going to be better because a lifestyle is something that feels good. It’s a habit. It’s easy. It’s important to us and long term whereas a diet is associated with limiting and short term with short results.”

From left, Miguel Hernandez, Tiphereth Hassan and Kyle Patterson sort through donated produce at YMCA in Asheville January 25, 2022.

Richardson also avoids using the word “diet” when it comes to making improvements to eating habits, she said. A change in vocabulary and positive affirmations can give a person the motivation they need to keep to healthier practices.

“What you want to do is create this mindset to create habits and create who you are and want to be,” Richardson said. “‘I’m a person who eats five servings of fruits and vegetables a day.’ That’s such a different mentality than a diet because it’s a mentality of abundance and adding to.”

Energy fueled foods

Lifestyle changes are gradual and build confidence as a person adjusts to small changes over time. It makes it feel easier and achievable for the long term, Furgiuele said. One approach to boosting energy and improving wellness is taking a different approach with what goes on the plate.

People participate in a fitness class at YMCA in Asheville January 25, 2022.

No one food will give a person the energy they crave, Furgiuele said. It’s all about having a balanced plate.

“What I see often with people struggling with energy is they’re not having a good ratio of proteins and fats and vegetables and carbohydrates in their meals,” she said.

Furgiuele recommends half of a person’s plate be non-starchy vegetables that also offer fiber. Examples are dark, leafy greens, cucumbers, tomatoes, bell peppers, onions, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower and cabbage.

Often, a person has more carbohydrates on a plate than other food when it should only take up about a quarter of the plate, she said.

“Carbs impact our blood sugar so if you’re eating a meal that’s primarily carbohydrates, you get a huge blood sugar increase and then they’re going to get that crash,” Furgiuele said. “That’s where the low energy comes from after eating a meal. Or that mid-afternoon crash is mostly from a high carbohydrate meal.”

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A protein is recommended for the last quarter of the plate.

“Make sure you’re getting enough protein because that’s going to help slow down that blood sugar increase. Including some healthy fats is also going to be great,” Furgiuele said.

Good complex carbs to add include sweet potatoes, brown rice, wild rice, whole grains and winter squash, she said. These are better choices than refined carbohydrates, such as white rice, pasta, crackers, muffins and other baked goods and desserts made with white flour, processed flour and high amounts of sugar.

“Choosing those carbs and balancing them out with protein and fats and non-starchy vegetables is going to be a great way to support long-term sustainable energy for the day so you can avoid those crashes,” Furgiuele said.

Lifestyle changes vs. real-life conflicts

Modifying eating habits for a whole household can be challenging but is more likely to work if everyone is involved. Bringing a significant other and children into the kitchen can make them feel like they are a part of the experience and open to change, Richardson said.

If the children are old enough, have them help with the process, which can take some of the work and stress of cooking off the parent, Furgiuele said. So, include them in planning the meal.

“How can you get everyone in the household somehow involved in the meal planning or cooking process?” Furgiuele said. “If they’re contributing to that planning process, they might be more likely to eat some of those healthier things you’re putting on the dinner table.”

Modifying eating habits for a whole household can be challenging, but more likely to work if getting everyone involved.  Bringing a significant other and children into the kitchen can make them feel like they are a part of the experience and open to change, Richardson said.

Gradual changes for the resistant healthy eaters can be to add vegetables into a pasta dish, serving a salad with pizza. Have the options available and easier to incorporate into the meals.

“Start slowly making those changes and start introducing your family to those things, and eventually they might catch on and start trying new foods and enjoying them,” Furgiuele said.

Portion control, adding lean fats and other changes is part of it, she said.

Be mindful about not snacking which can cut out hundreds of calories in one decision, Richardson said. Those little decisions add up.

Wellness tips

Overall wellness is more than just about food, Furgiuele said.

“I focus on not only nutrition but sleep and movement and stress management because ultimately all of these things impact our health,” she said.

Amounts of water intake, sleep, relationship wellness and stress levels are factors, Richardson said.

If struggling to make time for healthy choices, meal planning is the way to go, Furgiuele said.

“When people have busy lives, a meal plan is going to help you set yourself up for success,” she said. “Also invest in some of those things that might make cooking and putting things on the table easier, like a slow cooker or a pressure cooker where you can throw things in and forget about it and go on with your day.”

Miguel Hernandez, operations manager for YMCA's mobile market, sorts through donated produce in Asheville January 25, 2022.

Also, consider cooking more than one dish or meal during one session with the plan to have the extra servings on another day.

“If you’re already roasting vegetables, can you roast something else you can eat tomorrow or cook rice at the same time since you’re already in the kitchen?” Furgiuele said.

A couple of ways to keep to a budget is to opt for frozen vegetables, she said. Canned fish and chicken are quick and easy ways to add protein if short on cooking time. Also, buy in bulk when items are on sale.

“It may not be realistic or feasible to have a bunch of fresh fruit or vegetables around,” Furgiuele said. “Frozen vegetables are usually more cost-effective and going to be easier and save you so much time than having to prep fresh veggies and it’s just as healthy.”

Seeking support

Requesting assistance from a health and nutrition professional doesn’t have to spring from an extreme situation. Anyone can benefit from the guidance, Furgiuele said. A professional can help give that push in the right direction.

“If you feel healthy but feel stuck in a rut with food or you are stress eating or struggling with those mindfulness pieces, seek out a dietitian to support you and add variety and have that accountability,” Furgiuele said. “At any point, you feel like you need more energy or you are maybe struggling with weight — even if you are struggling with sleep or need support with movement. … That’s a great time to find a professional who isn’t going to do the work for you but will give you the resources and the tools and support and the motivation and accountability to help you get to where you want to be.”

The YMCA of Western North Carolina offers free and paid programs and services that are open for members and nonmembers, Richardson said.

“It’s not gym and swim, it’s so much more. It’s taking care of the mind, body and soul,” she said.

The nutrition services program has mobile kitchens and food markets that provide free fresh produce to the public at no charge and no questions asked, Richardson said. Recipes are provided, too. The monthly schedules are available online.

On Feb. 2, the YMCA’s 12-week weight loss program will begin that focuses on habit change, food selection, rest, stress reduction, accountability and other areas.

Diabetes prevention and health coaching and other programs offer personalized guidance and support.

To make the YMCA more accessible, the organization offers membership scholarships – inquire with the front desk receptionist for more information on eligibility.

Tiana Kennell is the food and dining reporter for the Asheville Citizen Times, part of the USA Today Network. Email her at or follow her on Twitter/Instagram @PrincessOfPage.

Whole Grains Health

Protein Variety and Heart Health Are Linked, Study Finds



We’ve all found ourselves in the habit of eating the same three things over and over (…and over) again. When life gets busy, falling back on simple dishes that satisfy your tastebuds is the natural thing to do. But if you’re cooking up the same couple proteins on the regular, a new study published in the the journal Hypertension suggests that it may be time to introduce a few new varieties into your breakfasts, lunches, and dinners.

The study pulled existing data from over 12,000 participants who took part in a minimum of two rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey. Researchers sought to explore the relationship between hypertension—or high blood pressure—and the variety and quantity of proteins from eight major dietary sources consumed by participants. (Study participants were an average age of 41 years old.)

Researchers measured protein intake by looking at three consecutive days of eating, scoring each round based on the number of protein varieties consumed (including legumes, fish, eggs, whole grains, refined grains, processed and unprocessed red meat, and poultry).

The results? “Among ‘just the right amount’ consumers of protein, those eating the greatest variety of protein had a the lowest blood pressure,” explains John Higgins, MD, a sports cardiologist with McGovern Medical School at the UT Health Science Center at Houston. Notably, those who ate the least and the most amount of protein were at the greatest risk for developing high blood pressure, while those who ate the greatest variety of protein were 66 percent less likely to end up developing hypertension between the rounds of the survey .

“The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure.” — Xianhui Qin, MD, study author

Although the survey results sound complicated—and, hey, they were—the takeaway is simple: “The heart health message is that consuming a balanced diet with proteins from various different sources, rather than focusing on a single source of dietary protein, may help to prevent the development of high blood pressure,” Xianhui Qin, MD, the study author, said in a press release. In other words: Mix it up! Spin the protein wheel of fortune and try something new.

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If you’re not quite sure where to start with upping your protein game, Dr. Higgins recommends looking at your consumption on a daily basis. “The American Heart Association recommends eating no more than about 5.5 ounces of protein daily, about one to two servings, from healthy sources such as plants, seafood, low-fat or fat-free dairy products and some lean meats and poultry,” he says. “The best proteins are lean proteins including beans, soy or tofu, fish, skinless chicken, very lean meat, and low-fat dairy products. Avoid proteins that say ‘hydrogenated’ on label or contain high levels of trans fats or saturated fats. “

Of course, there’s always room in your eating plan for less nutritional proteins, too—just try to incorporate these lean sources when you can, and ask your doctor if you have questions about what dietary habits are right for your particular health status and family history .

A delicious way to eat more varied proteins? This delicious quiche recipe:

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Whole Grains Health

The 10 Best Diet Books in 2022



Staff, Courtesy of Shalane Flanagan & Elyse Kopecky

The word “diet” has earned itself an undeniably negative reputation, often leading people to think of unsustainable restriction and unhealthy fads. However, if you’re looking to adjust your way of eating, whether you want to feel better, lose weight, or hit a new personal record, there are tons of great diet books out there that can help educate you on ways to improve your nutrition and get you feeling better than ever.

While the diets of the past have focused on restriction, newer ways of eating encouragement consuming more good-for-you foods to crowd out less healthy choices, leaving you feeling satisfied, not deprived. These diet books are also super educational, teaching you why you should eat certain foods, what they can do for your health, and the best ways to make them delicious. To help you on your nutrition journey, we’ve gathered the best diet books and healthy cookbooks available today.

Best Diet Books

    How to Choose a Diet Book

    If you’re looking to switch up your diet, the first thing you should ask yourself is why. What exactly do you want out of a diet?

    Second, consider your lifestyle. Do you need meals that are quick and easy? Do you like to take an hour or two to cook for yourself every night? How often can you grocery shop for fresh ingredients?

    Finally, consider whether you’re looking specifically for a cookbook or one that will provide you education on a particular way of eating without necessarily giving you recipes. While many cookbooks will have some content that discusses the origins of food and their nutritional benefits, these books are unlikely to go as in-depth regarding nutrition as less recipe-focused ones.

    How We Selected

    To find the best diet books among the many options on the market, we researched the most popular books available and considered their content, credibility, design, digestibility, and organization. We then looked at both expert reviews and more than 105,000 customer ratings, written by people who’ve bought these books on Amazon, to settle on the diet books you’ll find below.

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    Best vegetarian

    How to Cook Everything Vegetarian

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    This is a great all-around cookbook, but it’s an especially great buy if you’re trying to lay off meat. This book contains everything from specific meal recipes to instructions for steaming veggies, truly teaching you how to cook from start to finish. There are recipes for every meal, as well as snacks and desserts, and it includes instructions for so many different dishes you could easily cook from only this book for an entire year and not get bored.


    Best for Longevity

    The Blue Zones Kitchen: 100 Recipes to Live to 100

    This cookbook highlights recipes from specific areas across the globe—called blue zones—where people live the longest. While some of their longevity surely comes from other lifestyle factors, there’s no discounting the role diet plays in their long-lasting health and wellbeing. These recipes not only focus on ingredients, but the ways in which foods are prepared and how that relates to their overall nutritional value.

    The goal of the book is to increase longevity and quality of life while creating delicious recipes that you’ll want to eat time and time again.


    Best Mediterranean

    The Complete Mediterranean Cookbook

    The Mediterranean diet is consistently ranked as one of the healthiest diets in the world. It’s full of lean proteins, healthy fats, and tons of vegetables, providing a well-rounded, nutritious way of eating.

    This cookbook not only has 500 great Mediterranean recipes, but it also helps you learn which ingredients you should make staples in your grocery list. It also uses only ingredients that you can easily find at standard grocery stores, which makes the Mediterranean diet more accessible.


    Best for Runners

    run fast eat slow

    You’ve probably heard the phrase “abs are made in the kitchen”—and to some degree, the same holds true for personal records. While nutritious food won’t necessarily knock 30 seconds off your mile time, it can help you fuel your workouts so you get the most out of your training.

    This book was designed by Olympian Shalane Flanagan and is packed with recipes designed to help runners fuel their toughest workouts and recover after. As a bonus, the recipes included in this book just so happen to be delicious, too.


    Best Vegan

    The Complete Plant-Based Cookbook

    When first going vegan, it can be difficult to figure out how to make food that is both delicious and nutritious. This book has 500 recipes ranging from meals to snacks to desserts that use entirely plant-based ingredients. These recipes also offer alternate ingredient options, like eggs and dairy, which is great if you want to add more plant-based recipes into your diet, but aren’t ready to dive headfirst into veganism.


    Best for a full reset

    The Whole30: The 30-Day Guide to Total Health and Food Freedom

    Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

    If you’ve been diet-hopping in hopes of finding a meal plan that can help you commit to a healthier lifestyle and enjoy some weight loss, Whole 30 is a great choice. It has you cut out sugar, grains, dairy, legumes, and some other specific foods for 30 days. The idea behind the diet is that it helps jumpstart weight loss while simultaneously getting you to reassess how you think about what you are eating to reach a place of freedom with your food.


    Best for weight loss

    The Obesity Code – Unlocking the Secrets of Weight Loss

    If weight loss is your goal, and you have struggled to find lasting success, this book could be a game-changer. It dives into the science of weight loss, helping you understand hormones, insulin resistance, and other reasons for weight gain. The book recommends intermittent fasting and a low-carb diet, and guides you on how to do them correctly, efficiently, and in the long term.


    Best for Learning about Food

    How Not to Die: Discover the Foods Scientifically Proven to Prevent and Reverse Disease

    A lot of eating plans focus on what you should eliminate from your diet, but this book places more importance on what you should be adding to your diet and why.

    It discusses foods that are scientifically proven to help you live a longer, healthier life, and the many ways in which food can help prevent disease. It focuses on whole body health—including both mental and physical health—and teaches you to focus on more than just weight and physical appearance when it comes to your food.


    Best for Anti-Dieters

    Not a Diet Book: Take Control. Gain Confidence. ChangeYourLife.

    The rise of anti-diet culture gave inspiration to this book, which helps you improve your relationship with food, tackle weight loss, and debunk fad diets to find a simple and easy way to lose weight and create habits that will keep the pounds from coming back. This book will help you build skills that enable you to live a happier, healthier life without focusing too closely on calories or numbers on a scale.


    Best for fasting

    Complete Guide to Fasting

    Fasting has gained popularity over the last decade and can be a great way to boost your metabolism, clear your mind, and promote weight loss. There are, however, rules you should follow while fasting so that you improve your health rather than endangering it. This book will guide you through intermittent, alternate-day, and extended fasting to ensure you choose the style that will work best for you and do it correctly.

    Before joining Runner’s World as an Editor in 2019, Gabrielle Hondorp spent 6 years in running retail (she has tested top gear from shoes, to watches, to rain jackets which has expanded her expertise—and her closets); she specializes in health and wellness, and is an expert on running gear from head-to-toe.

    This content is created and maintained by a third party, and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may be able to find more information about this and similar content at

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Whole Grains Health

Eating different kinds of protein protects against hypertension: New study



Despite all this talk that more Australians are toying with vegetarianism, and despite the endless drum-beating about red meat giving you cancer and a dodgy heart, we continue to have one of the world’s highest levels of meat consumption.

Analysis published in December found Australians eat about 95 kilograms of meat per capita every year. The global average is 35 kilograms.

The article, ‘The Evolution of Urban Australian Meat-Eating Practices’, argues our meat-eating habits are driven by a blocky culture, an association with social status, a perception that plant-based diets are inadequate and lame, and ignorance about cooking legumes and tofu.

On the other hand, the authors point to a survey that found almost 20 per cent of those sampled “identified as meat-reducers”.

Furthermore, the authors say, 87 percent “of the meat reducer segment reported consuming a meat-free dish as their main meal at least once a week”.

They point to another survey that found almost 20 per cent described themselves as “flexitarian”, which is cool.

But it may not translate to more lentils, nuts, whole grains, fish and dairy hitting the dinner table as new favorite sources of protein.

A new study found why we need variety

Chinese researchers found that “eating protein from a greater variety of sources is associated with a lower risk of developing high blood pressure”.

Good to know because blood pressure is literally out of control in Australia.

One in three adults – more than six million Australians – has high blood pressure.

Of those afflicted, only 32 per cent have their hypertension under control. That leaves about four million Australians as ticking time bombs.

In December, in the Medical Journal of Australia, Professor Alta Schutte, Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine at UNSW Sydney, called for a national taskforce to tackle the issue.

By improving the control of hypertension, the risks of coronary heart disease, dementia and cerebrovascular disease will be substantially reduced.

The Chinese study suggests changing your diet will go some way to solving the problem.

the study

“Nutrition may be an easily accessible and effective measure to fight against hypertension. Along with fat and carbohydrates, protein is one of the three basic macronutrients,” said study author Dr Xianhui Qin, of the National Clinical Research Center for Kidney Disease at Nanfang Hospital, Southern Medical University in Guangzhou, China.

The study authors analyzed health information for nearly 12,200 adults (average age 41), who had taken part in multiple rounds of the China Health and Nutrition Survey from 1997 to 2015.

Over three days in the same week, participants shared what they had eaten.

They were given a protein “variety score” based on the different sources of protein they’d eaten: whole grains, refined grains, processed red meat, unprocessed red meat, poultry, fish, egg and legumes.

One point was given for each source of protein, with a maximum variety score of 8. The researchers then evaluated the association for new onset hypertension in relation to the protein variety score.

New-onset hypertension was defined as blood pressure greater than or equal to 140 mm Hg/90 mm Hg, the use of blood pressure-lowering medicine, or self-reporting that a physician had diagnosed high blood pressure.

The average follow-up time was six years.

The results

More than 35 per cent of the participants developed new-onset high hypertension during the follow-up.

Compared to participants with the lowest variety score for protein intake (1), those with the highest variety score (4 or higher) had a 66 per cent lower risk of developing high blood pressure.

The amount of protein eaten was also a factor. Consumption was divided into five categories, from least to most intake.

The researchers found that “people who ate the least amount of total protein and those who ate most protein had the highest risk for new onset of hypertension”.

The researchers didn’t ask why a variety of proteins was more healthy. But nutritionists, doctors and health writers have banged on about it for years.

Lean red meat is high in quality protein but provides no fiber or healthy fats. Processed meats are high in saturated fats and salt and are the worst.

Fish is high in long-chain fatty acids, which are good for the brain. Lentils and whole grains are high in fibre.

Hand on heart, a bit of each during the week might stop you from carking it in the street. Which is just undignified and unmanly.

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