What’s the difference between organic and natural? Isn’t “natural food” just as safe and healthy as organic food? Unfortunately, natural does not mean organic and comes with no guarantees. “Natural foods” are often assumed to be foods that are minimally processed and do not contain any hormones, antibiotics or artificial flavors. In the United States, however, neither the FDA nor the USDA has rules or regulations for products labeled “natural.” As a result, food manufacturers often place a “natural” label on foods containing heavily processed ingredients. This is one of those marketing ploys I frequently refer to!

What about organic? Organic is the most heavily regulated food system. Only organic guarantees that no toxic synthetic pesticides, toxic synthetic herbicides, or chemical NPK (nitrogen, phosphorous, potassium) fertilizers are used in production, and no antibiotics or growth hormones are given to animals. Organic producers and processors also are subject to rigorous announced – and unannounced – certification inspections by third-party inspectors to ensure that they are producing and processing organic products in a manner you and your family can trust.

But are organic foods really better for you or worth the price? Your chances of getting pesticide residues are much less with organic food, but even so, the amount of man-made pesticide residues found in conventional foods is still well below the level that the Environmental Protection Agency has deemed unsafe. The real issue is whether these small doses, over time, might add up to an increased health risk down the line. Who knows? We are the guinea pigs. Another concern is the use of manure as a fertilizer. Some say this might increase the risk of contamination of E. coli.

As far as organic foods being more nutritious than natural or conventional foods – no one can say for sure. A few studies have reported higher levels of some minerals, vitamin C and antioxidants, but the differences are so small they have no impact in overall nutrition.

As usual, I suggest you do some research. If a food says that it is natural, read the label and see what it “really” means. If you are concerned about pesticides, definitely select organic products. If you are most concerned about nutrition – read labels.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Fermented foods are foods that have been through a process of lactofermentation in which natural bacteria feed on the sugar and starch in the food creating lactic acid. This process preserves the food, and creates beneficial enzymes, b-vitamins, Omega-3 fatty acids, and various strains of probiotics. Today fermented foods are the new rage for their purported health benefits and because the fermented foods wind up filled with “friendly” bacteria they are advertised in probiotic products.

The bacteria “predigest” carbohydrates, making them easier for our guts to handle and for nutrients to be absorbed. For example, people that are lactose-intolerant can often eat yogurt because the lactose sugar has been partly converted by the bacteria. Some vegetables can benefit from the fermentation such as cabbage to sauerkraut because it increases glucosinolate compounds found in cruciferous vegetables.. Glucosinolate derivatives are known to lower the risk of some cancers.

But, as with other food fads, not all you read is true. Not all traditionally fermented (pickles, sauerkraut, etc.) foods contain probiotic bacteria. And even those that do may contain high amounts of added sugars or sodium. Most fermented foods you purchase at the grocery store in jars and cans have been pasteurized and cooked at high heat which kills all bacteria including friendly bacteria. Therefore, to retain fermented foods’ bacterial benefits, you will have to make your own!

You can make your own yogurt. However, many commercially available fermented dairy products do contain probiotics. Check the label! Make sure the label says “live cultures.”. Yogurt can also be a good source of calcium and vitamin D. But again, check the label because some yogurts are not made with milk fortified with Vitamin D. Another caution with yogurt, is the added sugar and calories with flavored yogurts or sugar substitutes.

One of the downsides of fermented foods such as pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, etc. is the high sodium levels. Look for the low-sodium alternative products when possible or make your own to control the salt.

Remember, if you want to join the fermented food trend, make sure you are getting the friendly “live culture” bacteria and the low sugar and sodium products.

For additional information regarding the benefits of fermented foods, talk to a registered dietician or nutritionist.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Balance has many components. Muscular endurance, postural control, aerobic capacity, joint flexibility, muscular strength, inner ear health, response time, age, sex and eyesight all contribute towards the balance and maintenance of equilibrium at all times in any posture. With every year, as we age, we have an increased tendency to show a decline in physical function that ultimately leads to reduction in balance and a greater incidence in falls.

Fall prevention is crucial for continued independence as we age. “One out of every three adults age 65 or older falls each year” (CDC, 2010). Falls are the leading cause of death due to an injury; and falls are one of the most common causes of non fatal injuries and hospitalizations among individuals 65 and older. Fear of falling can result in a chronic cycle of inactivity, muscle atrophy and weakness, which results in an even great incidence of falling. See the cycle below:

Fear of falling ? reduced activity levels or inactivity ? reduced range of motion ? reduced muscle strength and cardiovascular fitness ? more errors in movements ? unstable posture ? decrease in balance ? higher fear of falling ? more inactivity ?……..

According to current statistics, falling is a serious problem; and balance training can play an important role in fall prevention. Exercises that overload the postural system are needed to correctly challenge and improve balance. Multi-directional and multi-planar movements typical of activities for daily living are also needed in a good program.

A personal trainer can develop a great workout that includes specific exercises for balance and activities for daily living. For those whose fear of falling is already preventing them from participating in an exercise program, the water can provide a lower risk setting. A personal trainer familiar with water programs can provide an excellent water workout to increase muscle endurance, postural control, aerobic capacity, joint flexibility, muscular strength and reaction time – all those contributors to balance maintenance.

The maintenance of balance is important in preserving an independent lifestyle. Some people think that increased risk of falling is part of getting older, but exercise will decrease almost all the risk factors attributed to fall risk.
“If you don’t use it, you lose it” is true for functional balance.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is the force of blood pushing against blood vessel walls. High blood pressure (HBP) means the pressure in your arteries is higher than it should be. (Also known as hypertension.)

Blood pressure is written as two numbers (120/70 mm Hg). Top or systolic number is the pressure when the heart beats. The bottom or diastolic number is the pressure when the heart rests between beats. Normal blood pressure is below 120/80 mm Hg. For adults with systolic pressure 120 to 139 or diastolic pressure 80 to 89, you have prehypertension. High blood pressure is a pressure of 140 systolic or higher and/or 90 diastolic or higher that stays high over time.

High blood pressure cannot be cured, but it can be managed. HBP usually has no signs or symptoms and that is why it is so dangerous.

1 in 3 adults have HBP; and many are not aware of it. Not treating HBP is dangerous because it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke. You can live a healthier life if you treat and manage HBP.

Who is at risk?

  • People with family histories of HBP
  • African Americans
  • People over 35yrs old
  • Overweight people
  • People who eat too much salt
  • People who drink too much alcohol
  • People with diabetes, gout, or kidney disease
  • Pregnant women
  • Women who take birth control pills, who are overweight, had HBP during a pregnancy, have family history with HBP or have mild kidney disease.

What can HBP lead to?

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack, angina, heart failure
  • Kidney failure
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD)

What can I do about it?

  • Lose weight if you are overweight. Talk to a health coach about lifestyle changes.
  • Eat a heart-healthy diet low in saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, salt and added sugars. Eat a variety of deeply-colored fruits and vegetables, fiber-rich whole grains, low fat or fat-free dairy products; lean meats and skinless poultry; fish with healthy omega-3 fatty acids; and nuts, seeds and legumes. Talk to a dietician about a healthy eating plan.
  • Be more physically active. (Aim for 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise each week or 75 minutes of vigorous intensity.) Make an appointment with a Certified Personal Trainer for a safe workout recommendation.
  • Limit alcohol intake.
  • Take medicine as prescribed. Never stop treatment on your own. If you have problems or side effects with your medicine, talk to your physician.

By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Health & Fitness – Fiber

Eating healthy may improve your health and lower your need for prescription drugs. Dietary fiber is a component in plant based foods that is linked to a wide range of improved health outcomes, including lower cholesterol, better blood sugar regulation, improved intestinal health, greater satiety (feeling of fullness), and lower rates of certain types of cancer. Fiber is found naturally in plant foods that should comprise the greater part of a healthy diet.

The typical American diet includes only about half of the daily recommended amount of fiber, primarily due to the amount of processed foods we eat. A good rule of thumb is to aim for 30 grams of fiber per day in your diet; and here are five great fiber sources.

Legumes are a class of vegetables that include beans, peas, and lentils. They are some of the most versatile and nutritious foods available. Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain soluble and insoluble fiber. Because they are a good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.

Canned beans are affordable and a convenient way to get your legumes. Try subbing pinto beans for meat in your next batch of chili (or add less meat and more beans), add black beans to your burritos or canned beans to your salads, or whip up a batch of lentil soup. If you’re concerned about sodium, rinse the beans under running water first. This will eliminate about 30 percent of the sodium. The fiber in legumes ranges from 5 to 8 grams per half-cup serving.

While fruits and vegetables both contain fiber, fruit generally has more fiber per serving than do vegetables. One cup of berries, for example, contains 4 to 10 grams of fiber (about twice that of an apple). Blackberries and raspberries have 8 grams fiber per cup, while elderberries top the chart with 10 grams per 1-cup serving.

There are many different types of grains that contain bran. Oat bran, for example, contains soluble fiber, which helps lower bad cholesterol levels. The bran found in corn, wheat and rice is largely insoluble fiber, which can help fight constipation. High-fiber cereals often include bran in their ingredients. Or if you don’t eat cereal, sprinkle bran on fruit and yogurt or add into casseroles or baked goods. One ounce of wheat bran and oat bran yields 12 grams of fiber, whereas raw corn bran packs 22 grams of fiber per ounce.

Many fruits contain 2 to 3 grams of fiber per serving, but pears contain two to three times that much. A large pear has 7 grams of fiber, while a large Asian pear contains 10 grams. Stick with fresh pears because canned pears usually have added sugars and less fiber (because fiber degrades over time and is generally lost during the canning process).

Peas are one of the few members of the legume family that are commonly sold and cooked as fresh vegetables. Black-eyed peas pack 6 grams of fiber per half-cup, and even green-pea powder is popping up with 4 grams fiber and 4 grams protein per 1 ½-tablespoon serving.

To check out the fiber content of some of your favorite foods, visit the USDA Nutrient Database website at http://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search. For more help with a healthy nutritious diet, talk to a registered dietician or a certified Health Coach.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Do you think personal trainers are just for the rich and famous? Think again. While we don’t come at bargain basement rates, we can fit into many fitness budgets. And there is good reason to consider consulting one of us if you find yourself in a workout rut, are struggling to meet your health and fitness goals while working out on your own, need help with sports-specific challenges or injuries, or need the motivation and accountability. A personal trainer can make your workout more productive and challenge you in new ways. In addition, personal trainers can identify issues in your workouts that you may not see — problems such as posture and incorrect form, things you can improve to provide a more effective workout.

If you think personal fitness training is something you could benefit from, but wonder how to fit it into your budget, below are some suggestions.

Find several friends who will share workout sessions. Small group training sessions can be a fraction of what one-on-one training can cost. These groups can be as small as two or three, or as large as fifteen or twenty. (For example, I have trained groups of church members in their gym.) For more personalized attention, partner with someone who is at a similar fitness level to cut training cost in half.

Share a session with your son, daughter or other family member to save money and set a great example that fitness can be a family activity.

With some trainers, the more you buy the lower the individual session.

I enjoy working with clients who have specific results in mind as long as they are realistic. Then after your goal is reached, use your trainer for just an occasional maintenance session.


Short or occasional training sessions can be extremely valuable if you already have a consistent fitness routine. This can renew your motivation.

I frequently work with clients on a limited basis, even once every few months, to tweak an existing routine. I will even provide a written routine to follow until the next tune-up.

I have my own studio or I will work with you at your home. As a trainer, I prefer to use free weights, elastic tubing, fitness balls, and other equipment that you may have at your home rather than use the weight machines at a gym.

Ask your trainer for his/her credentials. Avoid trainers with weekend-seminar or correspondence course certifications. Some of the best certifications come from the American Council on Exercise (ACE), the National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM), American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), and the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA). Meet with the trainer before your first session to see if you are a good match.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

Typical diets do not work. They are frustrating, overwhelming, sometimes expensive and usually long-term weight loss fails. A study published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine suggests a Food Diary or Food Journal may be the key to weight loss success.

A Food Diary can be as simple or as complicated as you want. The simplest involves accurately recording your food intake and the calories at the time you are eating or before you eat. (If you wait until later, you will forget). Something more complicated would include recording grams of fat, carbohydrates, and protein, the time of day and your feelings.

A Food Journal makes you accountable for everything you eat. You may think you are eating only three healthy meals a day, but you forget all the little extras in between that can start to add up. Maybe you are sneaking a piece of candy or two from the office candy dish, or finishing your kid’s last few french fries. Just an extra 200 calories a day can add up to a weight gain of 20 lbs. in a year.

Recording what and when you eat food can help you determine when you are eating too many calories. Life can be full of social events that take you to places that don’t fit in your diet guidelines. Determining these problems will make you more aware of these events, and allows you to create a plan to avoid or overcome the problems.

Another major component of weight management is portion. A study done by Cornell University found that the bigger your meals are the more you will underestimate how much you ate. Therefore, if you write down what you eat and the amount, you will get a more accurate idea of your calorie intake. Also, many food packages are actually multiple servings, but you may think they are one serving. The Food Diary will educate and train you to read food labels.

The most important result of a Food Diary is that it actually helps you change your eating habits to become healthy habits that you can live with forever. “Diets” are always temporary because they often require you to eat foods you don’t like or don’t fit in your or your family’s lifestyle.
A Food Journal will help you account for calories, preventing you from overeating. It can also show you when you can afford to treat yourself. After a while of utilizing this tool, you will learn to control portions and identify trouble areas, thus creating better eating habits and self-control. All your hard work will pay off when you realize you can afford to indulge in a favorite food and not feel guilty about it.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

12-2-2016-9-31-17-amExercise may help! Research has shown that certain levels of physical activity can positively affect mental health – stress, depression, anxiety.

People with higher levels of fitness are capable of handling stress more effectively than those who are less fit. Cardiovascular exercise is the activity that benefits stress reduction the most. Cardiovascular exercise (often referred to as cardio) is any exercise that raises your heart rate. This usually involves using the large muscles in your body – walking, running, biking, skating, etc.


The antidepressant action is one of the most commonly accepted psychological benefits of exercise. Studies have shown that exercise can reduce stress more effectively than antidepressant drugs. Both cardiovascular and resistance exercise seem to be equally effective. Both a one-time exercise session and long term programs have positive results. However, greater improvement is seen after several weeks of regular exercise. Both men and women show the positive effect of exercise on depression.

12-2-2016-9-31-33-amResearch also shows a reduction of anxiety with exercise. Even short bursts (5 minutes) of cardiovascular exercise stimulate anti-anxiety effects. Again, regular training offers the greatest benefits. .

So to reduce your Holiday Stress, reduce your Holiday Blues, and burn the extra holiday calories – exercise! If you need a little help getting started, join some activity programs that are available or consult with a personal trainer.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.

12-2-2016-9-32-16-am 12-2-2016-9-32-08-am 12-2-2016-9-31-58-am 12-2-2016-9-31-40-am

11-18-2016-3-02-00-pmFrequently, students and clients ask my opinion of sugar substitutes. So having recently read an article from ACE (American Council on Exercise) on this subject and the upcoming holidays with all the desserts, I think this is a good topic to write about.

White sugar is a processed “food” that is high in calories and contains no nutrients. It is associated with high insulin levels, diabetes (all the side effects resulting from diabetes), obesity, tooth decay, cancer and more. Sugar causes your body to react a certain way chemically and if you have insulin resistance, diabetes, or pre-diabetes your body does not use the sugar as expected. Sugar substitutes are chemically different and do not contain a form of sugar, therefore they it does not produce the insulin response that sugar does. The problem is that most sugar substitutes are chemicals and not foods.


Sugar substitutes can be divided into four categories:, natural sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, sugar alcohols, and novel sweeteners. Let’s look at each group in a little detail.
Natural Sweeteners:. Natural sweeteners are often advertised as better options for sugar because they come from real food and may contain small amounts of nutrients. Some examples of natural sweeteners are honey, agave nectar, molasses,and fruit juices, etc. All these contain about the same amount of calories as white sugar, will increase blood sugar levels, and can lead to tooth decay just like white sugar.

Artificial Sweeteners:. Artificial sweeteners are often called synthetic sugar substitutes. Most of these are chemical substances made in a lab. They are much sweeter than white sugar and require smaller amounts for a sweet flavor. Some examples of artificial sweeteners are sucralose, aspartame, and saccharin, etc. These substitutes are most often used in “sugar- free” foods. Numerous side effects have been reported with the use of artificial sweeteners including the possible increased risk of some cancer.

Sugar Alcohols:. Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates found in fruits and vegetables or may be synthetic. These types of sweeteners are less sweet than white sugar and contain calories but less calories than sugar. Because of their chemical makeup, they do no not cause as much of a blood sugar rise as sugar. Some examples offor sugar alcohols are xylitol, erythritol and sorbitol. The side effects of sugar alcohols are gas, bloating and diarrhea.

Novel Sweeteners:. Stevia is in this category. Stevia comes from the leaves of the stevia plant. The FDA has not approved stevia leaves or their extracts for use as food additives. There is some concern aboutthat the effect this form of stevia has on blood sugar control, cardiovascular and renal systems, and fertility. The FDA has approved an isolated chemical from stevia. This form of stevia contains no calories.

As a fitness professional, I always recommend reducing sugar intake. Sugar is known to increase inflammation, encourage weight gain, promote tooth decay, and cause problems with controlling blood sugar and all the problems associated with that. Sugar substitutes may seem to be a logical alternative, but that does not address the root of the problem. I recommend making healthy food choices that are unprocessed as well as low in calories.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.


11-4-2016-10-39-24-amType 1 and Type 2 diabetes are two different diseases. Both are very serious diseases that need to be monitored and managed. In general, people with type 1 diabetes have a total lack of insulin and those that have type 2 diabetes have too little insulin or cannot use insulin effectively.

Type 1 diabetes often called juvenile-onset or insulin-dependent diabetes accounts for about 5-10% of the people who have diabetes. With type 1 diabetes, the body’s immune system destroys the cells that release insulin, eventually eliminating insulin production from the body. Without insulin, our cells cannot absorb sugar (glucose), which they need to produce energy.


Type 2 diabetes sometimes called adult-onset or non-insulin-dependent diabetes can develop at any age. It most often is diagnosed in adults; and until recently with the obesity epidemic, it was fairly rare in children. Now the diagnosis in children is rising. The majority of people who have diabetes have type 2 (90-95%). In type 2 diabetes, your body is not able to use insulin correctly resulting in insulin resistance. As type 2 diabetes gets worse, the pancreas makes less and less in insulin. This is called insulin deficiency.


Both types of diabetes greatly increase the risk for many serious complications. Even though monitoring and managing either type 1 or 2 can prevent complications, diabetes is still the leading cause of blindness and kidney failure. It isalso a serious risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and foot or leg amputations.

For more information regarding diabetes, lowering your risk for developing type 2 diabetes, managing your diabetes, and more, contact your health care provider or talk to a personal trainer that has worked with diabetic clients.
By: Janet Hunt
Janet Hunt is a Certified Personal Trainer and can be reached at 256-614-3530 to schedule an appointment.