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Happiness: a good bank account,
a good cook, and a good digestion.

Jean-Jacques Rousseau

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9 Ways to Eat Healthily (and Cheaply)

By Joe Wilkes

By now, most of us know what we should be eating—fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, and fish, among other foods. But anyone heading off to the supermarket with a shopping list of the best recommendations for a healthy diet is in for a bit of sticker shock. Over a two-year period, a recent University of Washington study tracked the costs of "nutrient-dense" foods (foods high in vitamins and minerals and low in calories) and "energy-dense" foods (foods high in calories and low in vitamins and minerals—a.k.a. junk).* The nutrient-dense foods rose in cost by almost 20 percent while the cost of junk food declined. The study found that getting your average day's worth of 2,000 calories from the junk side cost $3.52 while getting your 2,000-calories' worth from nutrient-dense cuisine would cost $36.32. Since the average American spends about $7.00 a day on food, you can see where the rise in obesity might come from.

Coins in an Apple

Other studies have shown similar findings. While the income percentage that Americans spend on food has decreased dramatically over the last few years, the obesity rate has risen even more dramatically, as has the incidence of type 2 diabetes, an obesity-related disease. And the obesity rate has grown the most in the most impoverished sectors of society, further emphasizing the connection between the rising costs of nutrient-dense foods, declining junk-food costs, and rising obesity rates. If you've priced out what a nice piece of Chilean sea bass with a side of asparagus costs compared to the latest offering from your local fast food joint's dollar menu, it's easy to be tempted to go to the dark side—especially if your budget is shrinking more than your waistline.

It is possible, however, to eat healthily and still have some money left over. Even on the tightest budget, you can do a little legwork and research to make the most nutritious choices for you and your family. And even if you're fortunate enough to have the cash to eat whatever you want, whenever you want, as my grandfather would say, "There's no point putting your paycheck through your stomach." (And he lived to be almost 100 . . . but that was before the advent of dollar menus.) Here are nine tips for getting the most nutritional bang for your buck.

  1. 'Tis the season. Eating seasonally is the best way to get the most delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. When harvest time comes around for your favorite fruit or veggie, the market is usually glutted, and following the time-honored supply-and-demand curve, the prices of those fruits and veggies plummet. And not only is it cheap to eat fruits and veggies that are in season, it's the best time to get the most flavor for your money. Most fresh fruits and veggies sold in the off-season are either shipped from faraway lands or produced in greenhouse factories and don't have nearly the richness of flavors produced by Mother Nature. It's a good time to stock up, eat what you can, and freeze or can the rest for a rainy day. If you're fortunate enough to live in a community with a decent farmers' market, it pays to get to know the men and women who are selling the produce. They can let you know when the best time to buy the best stuff is and give you a preview of what's coming up harvest-wise, so you can plan your menu accordingly.
  2. Jarred FoodThe big freeze. Speaking of freezing and canning, these are great ways to save money and still have your nutritional needs met. Not only are frozen and canned foods way cheaper than fresh foods, but in many cases, they're more nutritious. Fruits and vegetables are usually preserved within hours of harvest, when they have their maximum vitamins and minerals. Fresh fruits and vegetables can take days, or even weeks, to make the journey from the field to your table. Add that to any time spent lingering on supermarket shelves and then your fridge's crisper drawer, and suddenly, fresh doesn't seem so fresh anymore. And for many recipes, frozen or canned might even be better than fresh. A pint of fresh off-season blueberries can cost more than $5.00 while a one-pound bag of frozen blueberries can cost less than $3.00. And the frozen berries will be a lot better in your morning smoothie. Any chef will tell you about the virtues of canned tomatoes over fresh ones when making your favorite pasta sauce. The only thing to be wary of is the sodium and sugar content in canned goods or frozen veggies that contain high-calorie sauces or other not-so-healthy ingredients in not-so-healthy amounts.
  3. Shop around. Smokey Robinson was right. It does pay to shop around. Check out those supermarket circulars that are stuffed into your mailbox every week. Each week, your supermarket advertises "loss leaders," including fruits, veggies, lean meats, and fish. Their hope is to lure you into the store with these bargains that they don't make so much money on and tempt you to buy extra high-profit stuff while you're there. But if you stick to your list, you can fill your cart with the loss leaders and save a ton of money. They'll usually be items that are in season as well, since they're cheaper for the store to buy anyway. Also, signing up for their club or rewards cards can help save you money, too. It's better to monitor sales and promotions rather than clipping coupons, as coupons are generally for processed, less healthy foods—although you can sometimes find good coupons for canned and frozen produce.
  4. Get to know your grocer. And your butcher, your produce manager, etc. Find out what day produce is delivered to the store so you get maximum freshness for your dollar. Find out from the butcher when meat goes into the half-off section as its expiration date approaches. The meat isn't spoiled yet, and if you cook or freeze it that day or the next, it's no different from buying full-priced cuts and leaving them in your refrigerator for a couple of days. Only your pocketbook knows the difference. Also, many butchers will custom-grind for you without charge. If a package of factory-ground turkey breast costs $6.00 a pound and a whole turkey breast costs $2.00 a pound, why not buy the whole breast and ask your butcher to grind it for you? You'll save a lot of money, and you'll actually know what went into the turkey burger you're eating.
  5. Think outside the big box. Instead of always going to the big-box supermarket chains, investigate if there are farmers' markets or food co-ops in your area. The food will be fresher, cheaper, and hopefully, not as coated with pesticides, waxes, or other unsavory elements. It's a good way to save money and support your local community at the same time. You can get organic produce for the same price or cheaper than traditionally grown produce this way as well. (It's also worth checking out what your state defines as organic.) Organic food is great, but if you're trying to save money, traditionally grown food isn't essentially less nutritious than organic; it just may require a little more scrubbing.
  6. Tomato SproutStart your own farm. If you have a yard, start your own vegetable and/or herb garden. With a little online research, you can find out what grows well and easily in your neck of the woods. And if you're an apartment dweller like me, you can get a lot out of a container garden. I have big pots on my balcony that keep me in tomatoes, peppers, and fresh herbs all summer long. And if you don't have a balcony, you can grow small pots of herbs in your kitchen—decorative, tasty, and economical!
  7. Plan ahead. Take some time on Sunday to plan out your menu for the week for all your meals and snacks. Find out what's in season and on sale in your area. If you can only make one shopping trip for the week, front-load your menu with fresh ingredients and stock up on canned and frozen items for the latter half of the week. One of the areas where my budget always falls apart is not having the ingredients that I'll need or a plan for dinner; I end up grabbing takeout or having food delivered—both unhealthy and expensive. Just by planning ahead and not wasting money on unplanned restaurant meals, you'll find that you have a lot more money to spend at the grocery store so you won't have to cut as many corners for the meals you prepare.
  8. Tap into tap water. Not your wallet. If you're going to spend money on your beverages, invest in a decent water filter to improve the taste of your tap water. As we've discussed in other articles, tap water is subject to a lot more regulations than bottled water, which is good for you, and it's not shipped in from Fiji or Norway, which is good for the environment. And it's practically free! It's a lot better for your waistline and your wallet than multiple trips to the soda machine.
  9. Take your vitamins. Here's the easiest, most economical way to ensure that you always get a base level of proper nutrition. Taking a good multivitamin and a fish oil supplement will help you get the benefits of a diet that would otherwise cost a whole lot more to get you the same nutrients you'd get from food sources—and fish oil supplements are especially good for those who don't care for fish.

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Joe WilkesQuestions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, July 26th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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The ABCs of IBS

By Omar Shamout

As many as 20 percent of Americans suffer from irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). While this painful condition technically just affects the digestive tract, its impact can reach far beyond simple discomfort, actually forcing people to change the way they live. IBS is a condition that's hard to diagnose, and because the frequency and intensity of IBS symptoms can fluctuate, many sufferers aren't even aware they have it. Fortunately, if you do suffer from IBS, changing the way you live can be easier than you think. It might even lead to a healthier and more active lifestyle overall.

Human Intestines

What is IBS and how is it diagnosed?

IBS is a disorder of the intestines that's diagnosed more by what it isn't than by what it is. Although IBS shares symptoms with a variety of other conditions, including pain, bloating, cramping, diarrhea, and/or constipation, the good news is that IBS doesn't worsen over time, nor does it contribute to more serious diseases of the digestive tract, like cancer or inflammatory bowel disease.

As with so many types of diseases and disorders that result in chronic pain, for sufferers of IBS just getting a proper diagnosis can be a huge hurdle. Many patients have described having had their symptoms dismissed as nothing to worry about. This is due in part to IBS's being a condition that's functional, rather than structural, biochemical, or infectious. What this means is that it's difficult for doctors to identify IBS via a test, X-ray, or surgery in the same way they can identify an injury, inflammation, or infection. While this is problematic for diagnoses, it's good news in the sense that IBS is less serious than conditions such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis, or inflammatory bowel disease, which cause physical damage to the body's organs. The only real way to diagnose IBS properly is by describing the symptoms to your doctor. According to the Mayo Clinic, the most common symptoms of IBS are:

  1. Woman Touching Her StomachAbdominal pain or cramping
  2. Bloating
  3. Gas (flatulence)
  4. Diarrhea or constipation—sometimes alternating bouts of constipation and diarrhea
  5. Mucus in the stool

These symptoms have to be present for 12 weeks or more in order for a medical professional to make an accurate diagnosis of IBS. And if they don't, it's up to you to be an advocate for your own health care, and speak up if you feel something is wrong.

Trigger foods

IBS is a very personal problem. No two people have identical trigger foods that cause symptoms to start. While specific foods vary, the most common offenders are high-fat foods and insoluble (or high-residue) fiber. This means meat (especially red meat), dairy products, leafy green vegetables, fruit skins, whole wheat, and anything fried. Caffeine and carbonated drinks are also dangerous. Nicotine and alcohol wreak havoc on the digestive tract, so IBS sufferers should be wary of these, particularly in social situations. Unfortunately, insoluble fiber is a key component of a heart-healthy diet, so the trick is learning how to manage your intake. Luckily, many of the same techniques that aid digestion for IBS sufferers are also highly recommended methods to regulating your metabolism and keeping your blood sugar in check.

Digestion tips

  1. Eat small portions often throughout the day. This way, your digestive tract won't be overwhelmed. The emptier your stomach is, the less likely it is to get irritated.
  2. Start meals off with soluble fiber. This includes foods like rice, pasta, oatmeal, quinoa, potatoes, carrots, yams, beets, and barley. Soluble-fiber foods dissolve in water and are naturally easier to digest, because they pass through the system more quickly. This is especially important if you know you'll be eating a trigger food with your meal.
  3. Take your time while eating. Chew your food thoroughly and enjoy your meal. The faster you eat, the more air you swallow, which can cause bloating and make symptoms worse.
  4. Drink plenty of water. Drinking lots of water is important for a variety of reasons, in addition to aiding digestion.
  5. ActiVit® MultivitaminsTry veggie-based products to replace meat and dairy in your diet. If you've discovered that a certain type of meat triggers your IBS more than others, try switching to a vegetarian version of it. If your store doesn't carry a large enough variety of veggie-based products, you can seek out a specialty store to find some great-tasting veggie versions of your favorite foods. There's also a plentiful variety of veggie dairy products available, which should aid your digestion considerably.
  6. Supplements. Calcium is essential for strong bones, but it's also useful in preventing muscle contractions like those caused by IBS. Magnesium is also important because it can help to relax the colon. You can find both in Beachbody® Core Cal-Mag™ supplements. Multivitamins like Beachbody's ActiVit® can help maintain digestive regularity.

If you're looking for more information about what and how to eat when you have IBS, there are a variety of manuals and cookbooks available to provide you with tips and instructions at your local library, your neighborhood bookstore, or online.

Stress and IBS

Stress and anxiety play a huge role in the onset of IBS symptoms for a great many people. Dr. Rodger H. Murphree, author of Treating and Beating Anxiety and Depression, writes:

"Research suggests that IBS patients have extra-sensitive pain receptors in the gastrointestinal tract, which may be related to low levels of serotonin. Decreased levels of serotonin may help explain why people with IBS are likely to be anxious or depressed. Studies show that 54 to 94 percent of IBS patients meet the diagnostic criteria for depression, anxiety, or panic disorder."

The type of stress that contributes to IBS can increase with major life changes like starting college or starting a new job, so it's important for IBS sufferers to seek treatment from a counselor or other medical professional who can help identify and treat psychological factors that trigger your symptoms.

Stay active

Apart from the obvious benefit to heart health and general well-being, exercise is a great way to increase serotonin levels, and help prevent IBS attacks from occurring. Try to fit in 30 minutes of aerobic exercise each day. Yoga and meditation classes are also proven ways to relieve stress, thus helping alleviate IBS symptoms.

Other options

If you follow these guidelines and still experience symptoms of IBS, you may want to discuss medications with your physician. A variety of medications are prescribed for IBS; your doctor will be able to decide which, if any, is best for you.

There's no denying that IBS can be a real game-changer in anyone's life, but if you follow a few simple tips and guidelines, you can help keep your symptoms in check. Just ask questions, eat healthily, and take care of your physical and mental well-being, and you'll be able to deal with your condition without letting it control your life.

References and Further Reading

  1. http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/irritable-bowel-syndrome/DS00106
  2. "Irritable Bowel Syndrome." Dr. Robert Murphree. http://www.treatingandbeating.com/ibs.html

I was diagnosed 8 years ago with severe IBS. No medications would work. Shakeology has been a good balance for my IBS. I feel healthier now than I ever have in my life.—Julie M.

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Questions about your workout program, diet, the latest newsletter, or anything wellness related? Chat with the overseer of Beachbody's fitness and diet development, who also serves as your Fitness Advisor on the Message Boards, Steve Edwards, on Monday, July 26th, at 3:00 PM ET, 12:00 PM PT. Go to the Beachbody Chat Room.

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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It's hard enough finding time to work out when you're married with kids and have a full-time job. I can't imagine how single moms make time for working out, beauty, or doing anything for themselves. I'd like to offer all of you single moms out there a free gift to make you feel appreciated and more beautiful! Click here to find out more.

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Test Your Shark Attack IQ!

By DeLane McDuffie

Toy SharkBased on your interest in a company named Beachbody, one could assume that having a beach-ready body is important to you. After all, it's summertime. And one of the most unpleasant things that could happen to your chiseled frame at the beach is—you guessed it—if a shark decided that it wanted you as a lean protein, afternoon snack. Although fairly rare (you're 100 times more likely to be bitten by another human than a shark), shark attacks do happen. So if you're visiting any of the world's beautiful beaches anytime soon, it's good to be aware of the local shark party scene.

Between 1999 and 2009, there were 700 shark attacks worldwide. The stats wizards at the International Shark Attack File rate the world's top locations for shark attack activity. Match the location with its number of attacks in the last decade.

Florida 294 attacks (3 fatalities)
Australia 99 (13 fatalities)
Hawaii 42 (1 fatality)
South Africa 41 (8 fatalities)
California 30 (3 fatalities)

More shark attacks occur in Florida, by far, than any other place on the planet. Whether it's the lack of a state income tax, hanging out with anthropomorphic characters in Orlando, or the new Miami Heat lineup, sharks love the Sunshine State. Rounding out the top nine are Brazil with 23 attacks (3 fatalities), Mexico with 9 attacks (2 fatalities), France's Reunion Island near Madagascar with 6 attacks (2 fatalities), and New Zealand with 6 attacks (no fatalities).

If you'd like to ask a question or comment on this newsletter article, click here to add a comment in the newsletter review section or you can email us at mailbag@beachbody.com.

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