#306 Chilling Out

Tell a friend

"Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn't illegal."


Is Fro-Yo a No-No?

By Joe Wilkes

Pinkberry YogurtIf you live in Los Angeles, you can't fail to notice that a new frozen yogurt shop is popping up on almost every corner. The wave has been led by the lightning-fast expansion of the Pinkberry chain. Various competitors like Red Mango, Kiwiberry, and Cefiore have also been multiplying like rabbits across strip malls, shopping centers, office complexes, and even casinos and hotels across the country. If they haven't hit your town yet, don't worry, they likely will. Starbucks founder Howard Schultz recently invested in Pinkberry and plans to make it as omnipresent as the coffee chain. Low in calories, with lots of healthy flora for your intestinal health, this new yogurt trend seems too good to be true—but is it?

The history of frozen yogurt

Dannon made the first frozen yogurt in the 1970s. It was sold in supermarket freezer sections in popsicle form—usually a frozen version of Dannon's tart berry yogurt but coated with chocolate or carob. Later companies like TCBY (The Country's Best Yogurt) began processing yogurt in soft-serve ice cream machines, adding more sugar or artificial sweeteners and artificial flavors to duplicate popular ice cream flavors and adding toppings, like chocolate chips, M&Ms, and crushed candy bars. Supermarket brands like Häagen-Dazs and Ben & Jerry's also began adding frozen yogurt flavors to their ice cream lines in the 1980s.

Eating YogurtIn 2005, Pinkberry opened up its first store in Los Angeles, and the chain quickly grew to over 50 stores and spawned hosts of imitators. Many say Pinkberry is a knockoff of the Korean chain Red Mango; but whoever imitated whom, Red Mango has benefited from Pinkberry opening up the American market to this new/retro style of yogurt. Pinkberry's yogurt is a back-to-basics formulation, similar to what Dannon peddled in the 1970s. Pinkberry's yogurt is more tart than the TCBY-style yogurts and is usually offered in only two or three flavors (the chain offers plain and green tea, and more recently, added coffee). These new gourmet yogurt shops offer mainly fresh fruit toppings along with a couple of less-nutritious offerings, and they all tout the health benefits of the high levels of favorable bacteria in their yogurts, like Lactobacillus and L.acidophilus.

Is it healthy?

TCBY YogurtYogurt is generally healthy. It contains cultures that are helpful to maintain intestinal health, has calcium, and is low in calories and fat. An 8-ounce serving of Pinkberry contains about 200 calories, 8 grams of protein, no fat, and about 32 percent of your daily value of calcium. The fresh fruit toppings are unsweetened and have negligible calories; so generally, Pinkberry yogurt makes for a healthy snack. Old-school TCBY has a few more calories but is similar to Pinkberry in its nutritional makeup. However, keep in mind that most of these calories come from added sugar, so they are more likely to turn into stored fat in your body if you don't burn them off. While its calcium content is also fairly decent, you'll get nearly twice as much calcium from regular non-frozen yogurt than you will get from the frozen kind. Non-frozen yogurt also contains more protein.

Things really go off track when it comes to toppings. Fresh fruit is a great option, but if you're just crumbling one candy bar or two and a dollop of syrup on top of your yogurt, it's pretty hard to claim that you're eating light. Also, if you're getting a pint of Ben & Jerry's with chunks of cookie dough and brownies swirled in, you're not really being as virtuous as you think. You would think that common sense would let you know this, but I think most of us have somehow fooled ourselves into thinking that toppings don't count when, in fact, they add up to more empty calories than the entire dish of yogurt. And when you put your yogurt into an edible cone instead of an inedible cup, you're adding even more empty calories to your dessert or snack—120 calories for a typical waffle cone.

Fresh Fruit

In short, frozen yogurt isn't terrible for your diet, but it isn't a miracle food, either. It's a much better option than ice cream and its high levels of saturated fat, but yogurt doesn't necessarily have less sugar. It's better than cookies, cake, or candy, too, but it can't hold a candle to fresh fruit for something that satisfies your sweet tooth and makes you healthy at the same time. It'll be better for your figure and your pocketbook to simply have a bowl of fruit mixed with your favorite yogurt. Or, if you're after a frosty delight, try one of these chilly treats . . .

5 Healthy Frozen Treats

  1. Frozen FruitFrozen fruit. Even the worst cook can manage this one. Just pop some fresh grapes, strawberries, bananas, etc., into the freezer for a bit and pop them in your mouth. This is a recipe we offer in a lot of articles geared toward parents, as kids who turn up their noses at fruit offered in a bowl will suddenly appreciate this new frozen delight.

  2. Fancy ice cubes. Try pouring your favorite fruit juice into an ice cube tray and inserting toothpicks when the cubes start to get slushy enough to allow the toothpicks to stand up. You've made your own healthy mini-popsicles. For bartenders, this is also a great addition to beverages. Try a glass of seltzer water with some frozen lemon juice cubes on a hot summer day. It'll make you forget about lemonade.

  3. SugarSpeaking of bartending . . . This tip's for adults only. Here's a professional bartender secret—they usually add extra sugar in frozen drinks. Why? It tastes better and it makes you thirstier! More thirst=more drinks=more sugar. You get the idea. When making your own margaritas or daiquiris on a hot summer day, skip the store-bought mixers and make your own from fresh juice and use as little sugar as you can live with. Also, add extra ice to the blender. You'll be able to make your drink last a lot longer and do a lot less damage to your diet.

  4. Make your own sorbet. This is a little more on the gourmet side. But if you're willing to invest a little money in an ice cream/sorbet maker and a little time in making ice cream/sorbet, you can make delicious ice creams and sorbets out of fresh fruit and keep out a lot of the artificial colors and flavors and obscene amounts of sugar that many store brands contain.

  5. Blending FruitMake your own frozen yogurt. If fruit and non-frozen yogurt is better for you than the soft-serve kind sold in yogurt stands, why not switch it up? Blend frozen fruit—berries, peaches, whatever your favorite is—with some plain yogurt. If you must, you can add a little sugar to make it a treat, but think about reducing the amount a little every time you make this snack—you'll begin weaning yourself off the sweet stuff. Before you know it, fruit and yogurt will be enough of a treat, and you won't even miss the crushed Oreos!

Related Articles
"The Down-Low on Dairy"
"Artificial Sweeteners: How Harmful Are They?"
"6 Survival Tips for Eating in Bars"

Joe WilkesIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Meditate for Your Heart

By Tony Horton, creator of P90X®

A recent study of adolescents with high blood pressure found that those teens who practiced transcendental meditation for 8 months improved the ability of their blood vessels to relax and dilate by 21 percent. That's about the same improvement expected from taking antihypertensive drugs.


Dr. Vernon A. Barnes is a physiologist at the Medical College of Georgia's Georgia Prevention Institute and the lead investigator on the study. Researchers concluded that 15 minutes of transcendental meditation twice a day steadily lowered the blood pressures of 156 inner-city adolescents, with levels tending to stay that way.

Heart"Our blood vessels are not rigid pipes," says Dr. Barnes. "They need to dilate and constrict, according to the needs of the body. If this improvement in the ability to dilate can be replicated in other at-risk groups and cardiovascular disease patients, this could have important implications for [the] inclusion of meditation programs to prevent and treat cardiovascular disease and its clinical consequences."

"Change can't be expected overnight," Dr. Barnes says. "Meditation and other positive lifestyle habits such as exercising and eating right have to become part of your life, like brushing your teeth."

Since heart and cardiovascular disease are such a serious problem in the U.S., the encouraging results of this study and others like it have prompted researchers to begin long-term studies to determine the long-term impact of meditation on heart disease risk.

P90X®The obesity epidemic in the United States is probably the main contributor to increasing blood pressure rates in children. But obesity appears to be part of an unhealthy cycle wherein the stresses of everyday life, such as poverty and feeling unsafe at home, contribute to bad habits like overeating and/or eating high-fat comfort foods and not exercising. Stress can also lead to sleep problems, preventing the body—and blood pressure—from resting and recovering. Meditation is one of the best tools against stress we can use. (In fact, my P90X® program dedicates an entire workout to yoga—Yoga X.)

As with all lifestyle changes, the full benefits of meditating can take a while to really show up. Likewise, along with other healthy choices like a good diet and an exercise program, like Power 90® and 10-Minute Trainer®, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure every time.

Meditation is free, chills out your stress, and has no negative side effects. So get quiet, shut out the world, and give a nice, soothing "Ohmmmmmm." Your heart (and your nerves) will thank you.

Related Articles
"Can You Get Fit in 10 Minutes a Day?"
"Tony's Top 10 Snacks"
"Your Brain on Exercise"

Tony HortonIf you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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Test Your Water-Rich Foods IQ!

By Monica Gomez

Those eight 8-ounce glasses of water that you may or may not be drinking are not the only way to satisfy your body's need for water. In fact, there are several water-rich foods that you're likely already consuming now that can help you meet some of that highly touted eight 8-ounce glass recommendation. And the great news is that satisfying some of your H20 needs will not be the only benefit you gain after consuming these water-rich and nutritious foods. Match the water-rich food with its nutritional benefits.

  1. CucumbersCucumber – soothes skin irritations and reduces skin swelling and helps lower blood pressure. A cucumber is approximately 95 percent water—making it a naturally hydrating food. This 95-percent water composition is part of the reason that its benefits include soothing skin irritations and reducing skin swelling. Cucumber juice is recommended for its silica content to improve the skin's complexion and health. Not only can you eat cucumbers, but you can also use cucumber slices topically for treating swollen eyes, sunburn, and dermatitis. Participants of the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) Study experienced healthier blood pressure levels when they added foods high in potassium, magnesium, and fiber to their diets—cucumbers are sources of all three. A one-cup serving has approximately 150 milligrams of potassium, 11 milligrams of magnesium, and about 1 gram of dietary fiber. "Slicing cucumbers," or cucumbers that are grown to be eaten fresh, are available year round but are at their best from May through July. Need another great benefit? A one-cup serving of sliced cucumbers, with peel, only contains 13 calories, so you can use it generously in your salads!

  2. WatermelonWatermelon – reduces the risk of heart disease and helps alleviate the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Watermelon is about 92 percent water—a great thirst-quenching food to enjoy in the coming summer months, when watermelon tends to be at its sweetest. Watermelon is a highly concentrated source of the carotenoid antioxidant lycopene. And lycopene has been extensively researched and studied in humans for its antioxidant and cancer-preventing properties. This powerful antioxidant cannot only travel through the body neutralizing free radicals, harmful substances in the body that can do damage; it can oxidize cholesterol that sticks to blood vessel walls, where it can potentially lead to heart attack or stroke. One cup of diced watermelon contains almost 15 milligrams of vitamin C—that's 24.3 percent of the recommended daily allowance (RDA).* That one-cup also contains 11.1 percent of the RDA for vitamin A. And a high intake of vitamin C and beta-carotene has been shown in numerous scientific studies to alleviate some of the symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. A one-cup serving of diced watermelon will also yield you about 176 milligrams of potassium (5 percent of the RDA), almost 17 milligrams of magnesium (4.2 percent of the RDA), and only about 49 calories.

  3. TomatoesTomato – helps prevent prostate cancer and promotes bone health. This option wasn't really meant to trick you—helping prevent prostate cancer could very well have been attributed to the watermelon, too. Tomatoes are approximately 93 percent water—making them another perfect summer season food (at their best from July through September). Like the watermelon, the tomato is also a rich source of lycopene—the powerful antioxidant that has been extensively studied in humans for its cancer-preventing properties. A meta-analysis of 21 studies published in Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention underscored the point that eating tomatoes, especially cooked ones, offers protection against prostate cancer. Men who ate the highest amounts of raw tomatoes were found to have an 11-percent reduced risk for developing prostate cancer. Men who ate the most cooked tomato products experienced a 19-percent reduced risk. Tomatoes are also good sources of vitamin K—a one-cup serving of raw tomato contains 17.8 percent of the RDA. And that vitamin K helps promote bone health. Vitamin K1 activates osteocalcin, which is the major non-collagen protein in bone, and osteocalcin anchors calcium molecules inside the bone.

  4. GrapefruitGrapefruit – boosts liver enzymes and helps repair DNA. At 88 percent water, grapefruits are refreshing (best from winter through early spring). One cup of grapefruit contains 18.6 grams of carbs, including 2.5 grams of dietary fiber and 16.1 grams of sugars; 27.6 milligrams of calcium; and 319.7 milligrams of potassium. You can't beat that potassium content! All those nutrients and only 74 calories per one cup. Grapefruit juice greatly increases the production and activity of liver detoxification enzymes that are responsible for preparing toxic compounds for elimination from the body. A lab study published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry reported that naringenin, a flavonoid concentrated in grapefruit, helps repair damaged DNA in human prostrate cancer cells. Grapefruit also shares its rich lycopene content with watermelons and tomatoes. For the most antioxidants, it is recommended that you choose fully ripened grapefruit.

  5. BroccoliBroccoli – helps prevent cataracts and assists in fighting birth defects. Broccoli is 92 percent water. Broccoli, along with other leafy green vegetables, contains powerful phytonutrient antioxidants, called lutein and zeaxanthin, which belong to the carotenoid family. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are concentrated in high amounts in the lens of the eye. In a study, Health Professionals Follow-Up Study, 36,000 men were monitored. Study participants who ate broccoli more than two times per week experienced a 23-percent reduced risk of developing cataracts compared to participants who ate broccoli less than once a month. One cup of broccoli contains 94 micrograms of folic acid, which is a B-vitamin essential for proper cellular division because it is necessary in DNA synthesis. And without folic acid, a fetus' nervous system cells do not divide properly. Folic acid deficiency during pregnancy has been linked to neural tube defects like spina bifida. Due to its highly perishable nature, broccoli should be stored in an open plastic bag in your refrigerator crisper, where it should keep for a week.

*Percent Daily Values (DV) are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, just email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

Check out our Fitness Advisor's responses to your comments in Steve Edwards' Mailbag on the Message Boards. If you'd like to receive Steve Edwards' Mailbag by email, click here to subscribe to Steve's Health and Fitness Newsletter. And if you'd like to know more about Steve's views on fitness, nutrition, and outdoor sports, read his blog, The Straight Dope.

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