Extreme Newsletter—Diet and fitness tips, recipes, and motivation

Issue #020 03/17/10 7 DAYS, 7 DESSERTS!

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7 Days, 7 Desserts

By Joe Wilkes

For a lot of you, fighting your sweet tooth is the hardest part of staying healthy. Sugary treats and drinks are so prevalent that it's a real challenge to kick the white stuff, not to mention the high fructose corn syrup stuff. However, that doesn't mean you should totally abandon your sweet tooth. After all, how could something that tastes so good be that bad for you? Your palate is conditioned to enjoy sweets because, in nature, this conditioning can attract you to some of the healthiest foods, like fruits and berries. The trick is in learning to enjoy sweet foods that are closer to their natural state, before all the vitamins and fiber are extracted and you're left with just diabetes and tooth decay. Here are some ideas for desserts that could actually be the healthiest part of a meal.

Apple Crisp

Note: All nutritional information is for one serving.

Sunday: Giant Fruit Salad

Giant Fruit SaladSunday is a great day to make giant bowls of stuff you can eat all week. I like to make big pots of soup or other big entrées for healthy leftovers I can enjoy throughout the week. Fruit salad is super-easy to make; it's just a bit of a hassle to chop everything. However, I find it can be a nice Zen-like activity to do while I'm watching the Sunday news shows or sports. The best fruit salads contain fruits that are in season and have a variety of colors. It's not just that the colors make for a lovely presentation, but the more colors you have, the bigger range of antioxidants you have. By tossing the fruit in lemon juice, you can prevent the fruit from turning brown, so it'll still be appetizing later in the week. You can layer the fruit with yogurt for a delicious parfait or add some granola or nuts for a little crunch.

  1. 1 red apple, unpeeled, cored, and diced
  2. 1 Granny Smith apple, unpeeled, cored, and diced
  3. 1 cup green grapes, seedless
  4. 1 cup red grapes, seedless
  5. 1 cup blueberries
  6. 1 cup raspberries
  7. 2 cups cantaloupe, balled
  8. 2 cups honeydew melon, balled
  9. 2 cups pineapple, cut up
  10. 1 banana, sliced
  11. Lemon juice

Mix all ingredients in a large bowl. Toss with lemon juice until fruit is lightly coated. Serves 6.

Preparation Time: 15 to 20 minutes, but it depends how good a chopper you are!

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
187 < 1 g 48 g 6 g 2 g

Monday: Chocolate Avocado Mousse

Chocolate Avocado MousseChocolate is full of great antioxidants and actually pretty healthy in its unadulterated state. It's when we add cream, butter, and sugar that it starts to get unhealthy. It may not sound intuitive to mix avocado with chocolate, but avocado provides a delicious creamy texture, without all the saturated fat of regular cream. An avocado's flavor is usually mild enough that you won't even taste it when you mix it with chocolate, and you get all those heart-smart unsaturated fats, plus the antioxidants in the chocolate.

  1. 2 oz. dark unsweetened chocolate (70% to 85% cacao solids)
  2. 1 avocado
  3. 1 Tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
  4. 2 Tbsp. agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  5. 1 tsp. vanilla extract

Microwave chocolate in a large mixing bowl until it's melted. Add remaining ingredients and mix until smooth. For best results, use a hand mixer or food processor. Serves 2.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
395 27 g 39 g 11 g 5 g

Tuesday: Apple Crisp

Apple CrispWhat's as American as apple pie? Well, obesity for starters. Apples are certainly healthy, and apple pie flavorings like cinnamon are also healthy. In fact, some studies have shown that cinnamon may help stabilize blood sugar levels and may even lower blood cholesterol levels. However, once you mix it all up in a shortening-laden crust with a cup or two of sugar, most health benefits go right out the window. Try this easy-to-make recipe for apple pie flavor without the fat. For extra fiber, don't peel the apples. You can also experiment with other favorite fruits like peaches or blueberries; use them as substitutes for or in addition to the apples.

  1. 4 cups apples, peeled and sliced
  2. 2 Tbsp. maple syrup
  3. 1 tsp. cinnamon
  4. 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  5. 2 Tbsp. flour, whole wheat (or soy flour)
  6. 2 Tbsp. butter, organic grass-fed, if available
  7. 1/2 cup rolled oats

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium baking dish, combine apples, maple syrup, and 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon. In a separate mixing bowl, combine remaining ingredients. Top mixture in baking dish with mixture from bowl. Bake for about 30 minutes or until apples are soft. Serves 4.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
200 6 g 31 g 3 g 3 g

Wednesday: Chocolate-Covered Strawberries

Chocolate-Covered StrawberryYou don't have to shell out the big bucks at Godiva® to make it a romantic evening with your sweetie. All you need is a microwave (or a double boiler), some dark chocolate (70% to 85% cacao solids), some strawberries, and some love. And if there's a better way to show your love than with these two great sources of antioxidants, I'd like to hear it. In fact, if you're single, this is a much better way to love yourself than with that pint of Ben & Jerry's® (4 servings . . . ha!).

  1. 1 dark chocolate bar (3 oz.), 70% to 85% cacao solids
  2. 1 pint large strawberries (about a dozen)

Microwave chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl or melt it in a double boiler on the stove. Holding the strawberry by the stem, dip it in the melted chocolate until it's lightly coated. Set the strawberry aside on a plate or wax paper to cool. The strawberries are ready to eat when the chocolate hardens (or if you can't wait, dip and eat and call it chocolate fondue!). Serves 2.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
360 22 g 36 g 9 g 5 g

Thursday: Black Bean Brownies

Black Bean BrowniesWell, if you didn't stop reading this article after the Chocolate Avocado Mousse recipe, you may be adventurous enough to try this recipe. This is super-easy to make and very delicious. For Christmas one year, my mother found a box of brownie mix of indeterminate origin in her pantry, and we decided to experiment with something we saw on one of the morning shows. Basically, instead of adding eggs and oil to the mix as directed on the box, you food-process a can of black beans (unseasoned, of course) and 1/4 cup of water. Add the mix and bake according to the directions on the box, and voilà, delicious chewy brownies with more fiber than fat. In fact, we even served them to my finicky nephews, who declared them edible, until my mom revealed the secret ingredient and ruined Christmas.

  1. 1 15-oz. can unseasoned black beans, drained and rinsed
  2. 1/4 cup water
  3. 1 package brownie mix (12 to 14 oz.—we recommend a healthy one with whole-grain ingredients)

Puree beans and water in food processor or blender. Add beans to brownie mix and bake according to package instructions. Don't add any other ingredients. Serves 16.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes plus baking time

Nutritional Information (per serving; varies depending on brownie mix used):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
80 3 g 8 g 2 g 5 g

Friday: Fruit Kabobs

Fruit KabobsAs fans of Strangers with Candy know, nothing makes a party like hot fruit! Grilling or broiling fruit can make the fruit taste sweeter—without adding sugar. It's easy to prepare and makes for a dramatic presentation. You can experiment with different kinds of fruit, but the best ones are the ones that are a little firm and juicy, like pineapples, apples, and pears, or stone fruits, like peaches, nectarines, plums, and mangoes. You can serve the kabobs with a spiced yogurt dipping sauce or just a sprinkle of cinnamon.

  1. 1/2 pineapple
  2. 2 mangoes
  3. 3 nectarines
  4. 3 peaches
  5. 3 pears
  6. 2 apples

Cut all fruit into chunks and thread onto water-soaked bamboo skewers. On a hot grill or under the broiler, cook kabobs for about 5 to 7 minutes, turning them often and being careful not to burn them.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes (not counting chopping time)

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
226 < 1 g 59 g 9 g 2 g

Saturday: Chocolate Shakeology® Pie

Chocolate Shakeology® PieSo we've seen some pretty healthy desserts, but could dessert be the Healthiest Meal of the Day®? If it's made with Shakeology, it could be. The Team Beachbody® Message Boards are full of great recipe ideas. This one was found by juliefit, a Beachbody® Coach. No one knows where the original recipe came from, but it tastes delicious. And in addition to the more than 70 healthy ingredients in Shakeology, the tofu gives you a protein punch.

  1. 1-1/2 scoops Chocolate Shakeology
  2. 1/2 cup unsweetened peanut butter
  3. 1 container silken tofu (12 oz.)
  4. 2 Tbsp. soy milk
  5. 2 Tbsp. agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  6. 1 whole-grain graham cracker pie crust

Blend or food-process peanut butter, tofu, Shakeology, soy milk, and agave nectar until smooth and creamy, adding more soy milk if necessary. Pour into pie crust and refrigerate until firm (about 1 hour). Serves 6.

Preparation Time: 10 minutes, plus 60 minutes refrigeration time

Nutritional Information (per serving):

Calories Fat Total Carbs Fiber Protein
307 17 g 19 g 3 g 13 g

Of course, you should feel free to eat any of these desserts any day of the week. And repeat your favorites. Most of these can be integrated into your favorite Beachbody meal plan. If you missed parts one through four of the series, see the Related Articles section below. Bon appétit!

Click here to get more healthy recipes, personalized meal plans, and diet advice when you sign up for Team Beachbody®.

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Related Articles
"7 Days, 7 Snacks"
"7 Days, 7 Dinners"
"7 Days, 7 Lunches"
"7 Days, 7 Breakfasts"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 22nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in 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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What a Fitness Expert Says about Shakeology®

By Carl Daikeler

I read this post the other day. It was written by a professional who teaches for one the most respected kettlebell training communities in the country. Dr. Mark Cheng wrote in response to some of his students and peers who were questioning his vocal support of Shakeology. Click here to read the post.

Vegetables with Two Shakeology Drinks

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Can Hard Exercise Hurt Your Immune System?

By Steve Edwards

Could doing INSANITY® or P90X increase your risk of getting sick? Two recent studies have led several publications to state that intense exercise should come with a warning that it increases the risk of illness. Today we'll take a deeper look at these claims, analyze what they mean for you, and look at a few ways to keep your immune system strong.

Man Tired After a Workout

To someone who's been involved in athletic training their entire life, the studies look like a bunch of hoo-hah from the "duh" files. But for the general public, they've created quite a stir, leading many authors to pen articles warning about the dangers of hard exercise. Great, I'm thinking, just what our swelling society needs—another excuse not to exercise. Some of these articles were so craftily written, I even got a note from Tony Horton asking for my take. So obviously, the media fright club did its homework on this one.

Here's the rub. Two independent studies found that while moderate exercise boosted your immune system, intense exercise broke it down. The media spun this to challenge the notion that hard exercise is good for you, stating we should consider only recommending moderate exercise. The problem with that assessment is that to improve your fitness, you must continually stress your system, a process known as progressive overload in training circles. Over time, progressive overload leads to improvements in your immune system. Without it, your fitness will stagnate and your immune system will regress.

This doesn't mean these studies were without merit. As your training load increases, so does the demand on your immune system, because exercise creates stress on the body. It's the classic what-doesn't-kill-you-makes-you-stronger scenario. Intense exercise increases the amount of hormones your body releases. These hormones are essential for all bodily functions. During the acute phase of intense exercise, however, these hormones are busy trying to repair all the physiological breakdown your workout incurs on your body, and there isn't enough left to boost your immune system. Therefore, during times of high stress, your immune system is compromised.

The upside is that your body gets used to this process. As your body grows accustomed, less physiological breakdown occurs during the same high-intensity movements, but the hormonal releases are still active. These hormonal releases increase the body's natural defenses—your immune system. So intense exercise leads to an improved immune system provided you survive the initial stages of your program.

And despite all the hoo-hah, it isn't hard to improve your immune system. It should seem obvious that the harder you exercise, the healthier the rest of your lifestyle should become; but that doesn't create the controversy the media covets. With this in mind, let's look at ways to boost your immune system during times of stress.

Behavioral Changes

  1. Woman SleepingGet plenty of sleep. Sleep is vital for everything you do and especially for you to recover from exercise. When you don't get enough, the first thing to fail is your ability to fight off illness. Pathogens exist in all walks of life, and fighting them off is an essential part of your well-being. A rested body is a recovered body, and when your body is strong, it's more efficient.
  2. Avoid outside stress. During times of intense training, it's wise to do your best to avoid as much outside distraction as possible. I try to schedule my hardest training phases during when I don't have a lot of commitments. When I have a big travel schedule or a massive workload on the horizon, I try scaling back my exercise accordingly.
  3. Wash your hands. A very simple act that's highly effective when it comes to keeping you healthy. You don't need fancy antibacterial soap. Any simple soap will do. Just wash your hands often because most of the things you touch, especially in public, are covered in germs. To make this easier, you can buy waterless hand sanitizers, which were popularized by travelers in countries where the water was unsafe.
  4. Avoid enclosed spaces for long periods of time. This one's tough, since most of us work or go to school in enclosed spaces. But just because you're forced into a space doesn't mean there's nothing you can do about it. We could all benefit from taking more breaks. Our bodies and our minds will perform better if we give them a break every hour or so. This is why classes tend to be about an hour long. Moving outside of your enclosed space helps you recharge with clean air, sunshine, and vitamin D.
  5. Don't skip your recovery periods. There's a reason INSANITY and P90X have recovery weeks built into their schedules. Intense training should only be done in short cycles. One of the most common ways people get sick or injured is by trying to prolong the amount of time during which they Bring It. As good as it feels to keep pushing yourself to your limit, you have a breaking point.

Diet Changes

Taking SupplementsFollowing a healthy diet enhances each behavioral change mentioned and everything else you do in life. Staying hydrated, in particular, is also very important for your immune system. Supplementing during times of high stress, and when you're forced to stay in an enclosed place for long periods of time (like in an airplane), has been shown to reduce your chances of getting sick. But these are all obvious things, right?

What's less obvious is that many natural foods and herbs have been shown to improve the immune system. None of these are "proven" medical remedies, but they all have a long history of anecdotal lore that probably has some relevant meaning, even if the American Medical Association hasn't blessed them in the same way it has pseudoephedrine. Whether they work or not, all these foods have healthy benefits to supplement your diet, so file them under the "why not" category. With that disclaimer, here are 10 foods that may boost your immune system.

  1. Garlic. From staving off vampires to having antiviral and antibacterial properties, garlic has been a wonder food of holistic medicine for as long as we've been writing about it. Just eat it in its natural form—there's a reason you've never seen anyone defend themselves against Dracula with garlic salt.
  2. Citrus fruits. They're not just for scurvy anymore. Citrus fruits are all high in vitamin C—the vitamin most commonly associated with a strong immune system.
  3. Echinacea. Another one long on lore but short on science, its anecdotal history in antiviral medicine shouldn't be discounted. However, this herb is best used only in times of severe stress.
  4. Berries. These fruits contain exceedingly high amounts of antioxidants, which are directly responsible for fighting off would-be illnesses.
  5. Zinc. Not a real food, but with the popularity of zinc lozenges, who would know? There's good science behind zinc supplementation, but again, it's a high-stress supplement only. Don't make sucking on these a part of your daily diet.
  6. Oysters. For those who want to take their zinc naturally, nothing beats oysters. And to think that all this time we've only thought of them as aphrodisiacs.
  7. Shiitake mushrooms. Long used in Japan for their antibacterial and antiviral qualities, we're lucky they're now common ingredients in haute cuisine.
  8. Yogurt. One of the few foods that's been a cornerstone of an entire region's diet, as it was for most everyone living between Eastern Europe and Central Asia for about 4,000 years. The bacteria in yogurt helps us digest other foods better, as well as helping us fight off many dangerous bacteria.
  9. Carrots. High glycemic index be damned. There's no negative research—and plenty of positive research—associated with eating carrots. They're exceptionally high in beta-carotene, and in a study on children's school attendance, beta-carotene was found to improve cognitive function and attendance in the participants.
  10. Astragalus root. Another popular herb used in traditional Chinese medicine that's picking up steam under the scrutiny of Western science. Unfortunately, the only downside is that it's not yet found its place in haute cuisine—although it can be found in Beachbody's Herbal Immune Boost.

Related Articles
"INSANITY® and the X"
"8 Misleading Fitness 'Facts'"
"Losing Weight with P90X"

Got something to say? Chat with the writers and other readers this coming Monday, March 22nd, at 8:00 PM ET, 5:00 PM PT, in 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.

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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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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