Posted in Blog, Medical Mondays, Medicine

What Are Superfoods?

Let’s talk superfoods! Superfoods have emerged as a very trendy topic in the past few years as more evidence surfaces supporting their health benefits. The amount of food designated ‘superfood’ status recently has made me skeptical, wondering if the term was merely a marketing tactic (which I’m sure it is, to some extent). As more health foods enter the market, it requires us to be diligent consumers and do our research, begging the question “What exactly is a superfood?”

Superfoods are high in micronutrients like vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, amino acids, and antioxidants, and have been linked to prevent certain chronic diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease. I am most interested in superfoods’ antioxidant capabilities and I will tell you why.

Our body is constantly undergoing cellular reactions, such as respiration to give one example, that create molecules called free radicals. Free radicals are unstable, highly reactive molecules that can cause damage to our cells. Antioxidants have been shown to offset the harmful effects of free radicals. When free radicals outweigh the amount of antioxidants in our bodies, it leads to oxidative stress, making it important for our bodies to maintain a healthy balance of antioxidants to free radicals to combat disease.

Oxidative stress is thought to play a role in many chronic health conditions such as inflammatory diseases, ischemic diseases, certain cancers, and the process of aging. To put it simply, more antioxidants in our diet equals less oxidative stress and therefore a decreased risk for many chronic diseases.

It should be noted that some synthetic sources of antioxidants have been shown to have adverse effects on the human body, thereby making it important to incorporate antioxidants into our diet through food. Although it might seem like incorporating superfoods into your diet would be costly (and yes, it can be expensive but it doesn’t have to be), many fruits and vegetables are great sources of antioxidants. I am personally an advocate of trying to eat mostly plant-based foods because I find them to be less processed, making me feel better physically and mentally, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, anything with no added sugar, etc. I typically will buy whatever fruit and veggies are on sale in a given week to keep my grocery bill reasonable.

Below you can find the sources I used to create this article and do your own research! I would recommend doing your own research and/or consulting a nutritionist or physician before making any major changes to your diet.

  1. Proestos, Charalampos. “Superfoods: Recent Data on their Role in the Prevention of Diseases.” Current Research in Nutrition and Food Science. Vol 6 (3) 2018, pages 576-593.
  2. Park, Jin Hwa; Lee, Yun Lin; Kim, Yeon Ho; Yoon, Ki Sun. “Antioxidant and Antimicrobial Activities of Quinoa (Chenopodium quinoa Willd.) Seeds Cultivated in Korea.” Preventative Nutrition and Food Science. Vol 22 (3) 2017, pages 195-202.
  3. Lobo, V., Patil, A., Phatak, A., Chandra, N. “Free radicals, antioxidants and functional foods: Impact on human health.” Pharmacognosy Review. Vol 4(8) 2010, pages 118-126.
  4. “Superfoods 101: What Are Superfoods?” Your Super. https://yoursuper.com/pages/what-are-superfoods Accessed 24 May 2020.
Posted in Blog, Medical Mondays, Medicine

How Exercise Benefits Your Brain

My interest in lifestyle medicine is my inspiration for starting this segment of my blog called “Medical Mondays,” where I will share the medicine/science behind some sort of healthy habit or lifestyle trend. I love the intent of lifestyle medicine, which strives to look at a patient as a whole person, including what they eat, do for a living, their activity level, etc. In the same vein, it is important to educate people about the benefits of certain lifestyle choices, thereby empowering them to make informed decisions about their health! I plan to share things that I learn in podcasts, books, journal articles, and class. If you have any suggestions or things you’d like to learn about, feel free to let me know 🙂

The first ever Medical Monday is brought to by Dr. Wendy Suzuki’s TedTalk “The brain-changing effects of exercise.” Most people know that exercise is supposed to be good for us, mentally and physically, but Dr. Suzuki does a great job of explaining the physiological effects exercise has on our bodies. How exactly does exercise improve your mood? What other benefits does exercise have on your brain? I will summarize the take-away points of Dr. Suzuki’s message and here is the link to her TedTalk if you want to learn more.

The short-term benefits of exercise include improved mood and ability to focus. When we exercise, our bodies immediately release the transmitters dopamine, serotonin, and nor-adrenaline, all of which make us feel good. Dopamine is known as a reward molecule, so when we achieve a goal, our body produces dopamine and makes us feel good. Serotonin has various functions, but overall, people with higher levels of serotonin are generally happier. This is why when we exercise and our bodies produce dopamine and serotonin, it makes us feel good! Nor-adrenaline, also known as norepinephrine, increases our energy. The increase in noradrenaline when we exercise is what gives us that energy boost and improves our focus.

Now for the long-term benefits of exercise. Over time as we exercise, we produce new brain cells in the hippocampus and prefrontal cortex. The hippocampus is the brain region that is largely responsible for long-term memory storage and retrieval. The prefrontal cortex is responsible for decision making and focus/attention. By increasing the brain volume in these regions through exercise, we improve our memory and ability to focus & be productive.

Another benefit of exercise over time is its neuro-protective effect against certain diseases. The hippocampus and prefrontal cortex are the most susceptible brain areas to neurogenerative diseases and cognitive decline due to aging. These are the two same brain regions that become stronger with regular exercise, thereby protecting the brain from aging as quickly as it would without exercise.

You are probably wondering how much exercise is necessary to confer these benefits. Dr. Suzuki recommends exercising 3-4 times per week for at least 30 minutes to get these long term benefits! This can be anything that gets your heart rate up- for some this might simply be a brisk walk, for others it could be a spin class or a strengthening workout! Let me know if you learned anything new or if you have any topic suggestions for future Medical Mondays. 🙂

Posted in Blog, Fitness, Workouts

Leg & Glute Workout for Runners

Up until the start of the pandemic, I was training for the Boston Marathon! Well, kind of. Only a few days into the new year, I suffered a partial tear of my inner quad that put me out of commission for nearly two months. After attending weekly physical therapy sessions to strengthen my inner quad, I came out of my injury with greater insight into strength training. Believe it or not, running is not all about running! In order to be an efficient runner and prevent injury, it is important to strengthen, stretch, and rest your muscles.

While building leg strength may seem obvious for runners, it is completely underrated but equally important to have strong glutes in order to prevent running injuries. Our glutes work to stabilize our pelvis, as well as propel us forward to maintain a powerful stride. I have compiled several different exercises that will challenge your legs and glutes while also engaging your core, as many of them are one-legged. This workout leaves me sore for days, time and time again, so proceed at your own pace!

First superset, repeat 3x:
-Split squat with stool (10x each leg)
-Stool glute bridges (20x)
-Stool step up to reverse lunge (10x each leg)
-Single leg deadlift (10x each leg)
You can complete these exercises with bodyweight, or add whatever weight you feel comfortable with. For all of these exercises, I filled a backpack with textbooks- I wore it on my back for split squats & lunges and used it as a pseudo-dumbbell for the other two exercises.

Second superset, repeat 3x:
-Sumo squat with opposite knee to elbow (20x)
-Reverse high plank single leg glute bridge (20x)
-Curtsy lunge into reverse lunge (8x each leg)
-Lateral lunge (10x each leg)

If you are having trouble figuring out what any of these exercises are, I made a video of this workout on the @running.inscrubs Instagram page. Let me know if you give this workout a try!

Posted in Blog, Fitness, Recipes

Chickpea & Tofu Curry

Chickpea & Tofu Curry

Anyone else a sucker for Trader Joe’s frozen Indian meals? Yeah, me too, especially when I find myself in a busy week leaving little time to cook. After finding myself in the frozen food section more often than I’d like to admit, I figured it was worth looking into quick and easy Indian recipes I can whip together myself. I stumbled upon a Chicken and Tofu Curry recipe on Cocoon Cooks blog and was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to make! I pretty much always modify recipes I find online to make as simple as possible, making them ideal to make in a time crunch or while meal prepping for a busy week.

Ingredients

1 tablespoon Coconut oil

½ yellow onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced (or if you are lazy like me, ½ teaspoon of pre-bought minced garlic)

1 tablespoon fresh ginger (or ginger paste if you are like me and always shopping on a budget)

2 tablespoons of curry powder (if you don’t have curry powder, combine cumin, coriander, and turmeric in a bowl in a 2:2:1 ratio and add a shake of cinnamon)

1 can (13.5oz) Coconut milk

1 can (15.5 oz) chickpeas

1 lb of tofu, pressed dry and cut into cubes

1 cup of basmati rice

3 cups of baby spinach

A few shakes of salt

Directions

  1. About 30 minutes before you want to begin cooking, slice your tofu into 3 blocks and press them to dry. I place a stack of paper towels on either side of the tofu and put a cutting board on top to help squeeze the water out. You don’t have to do this but it will make your tofu less soggy and more flavorful!
  2. Once you are ready to begin, heat the coconut oil in a medium/large pan on medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, and ginger. Saute until the onion is soft and translucent.
  3. Mix in the curry powder and allow to toast with the rest of the ingredients for a few minutes. Be sure not to let it stick to the pan!
  4. Add the coconut milk and mix well.
  5. In a separate saucepan, add 1 cup of basmati rice and 2 cups of water on high heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and cover the pan, stirring occasionally.
  6. Once the coconut milk is mixed in, add the remaining ingredients (except for the spinach), including a few shakes of salt. Bring it to a boil then reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes.
  7. Add the spinach 1 cup at a time and mix in right before turning off the heat. Serve with rice and enjoy!
Posted in Blog

Welcome to Running in Scrubs

Hey everyone, Hannah here! I decided to create this blog to talk about my medical school experience- the good, the bad, how I got here, and how to stay fit and healthy on a budget. Whether or not you are a medical student, you can probably relate to being tight on time. Sometimes it feels impossible to juggle long days at work (or the library), keep up with friends, and have time to hit the gym and cook a healthy dinner before the Bachelor airs at 8pm. I’m using this platform to share how I stay fit and healthy ~on a budget~ despite a busy schedule. I’ll post workouts that can be done without an expensive gym membership, meal-prep recipes, and share my life as a medical student. Hopefully you find some of my tips useful in your own life!

I’m starting off by sharing what I like to call “non-negotiables.” These are activities that I will not sacrifice under any circumstances! When I was working full time and studying for the MCAT, I felt like there was never enough time in the day to get where I needed to be. Even though my instinct was to study every chance I got, I signed up for OrangeTheory as a way to treat myself, and that became one of my non-negotiable activities, even when I felt like I was behind in my studying. If I have learned anything from my journey to medical school, it’s that physical health will manifest into mental health, and the more I take care of myself, the better I will be able to perform academically.

Whether it’s happy hour every Friday, watching the Bachelor (do you see a trend here?), Wednesday night trivia, or a Handle Bar membership, make sure you are doing something just for you! Do something that makes you happy and keeps you sane. It is easy to forget, but self care is part of the equation to productivity!