The Pulse: March/April 2004

The Pulse 03 04

Put Some Spice in Your Diet

A pepper a day may keep the doctor away. Capsaicin, which is the active ingredient in hot red chili peppers, is thought to lower triglycerides, trigger the release of endorphins, and improve digestion by stimulating stomach secretions. It also dilates and relaxes blood vessel walls, which means more oxygen to all parts of the body. And by increasing circulation, it signals the brain to release neuropeptides in the body, which inhibit pain and inflammation. So eat your chilis, and you'll walk away warmer, leaner, and with less pain.

Brazil in a Bottle?
Move over, Red Bull. Get out of the way, latté. A tiny purple berry from the rainforests of Brazil could soon replace you both. Açai (pronounced ah-sigh-ee) contains up to 30 times more anthocyanins, the purple-colored antioxidant, than red wine; a blend of amino acids and healthy omega fatty acids to boost immunity; and almost as much calcium as milk. Though it's usually blended into smoothies, hundreds of pounds of açai were served up hot, with soy milk, at the X Games this February. Sambazon, which has been importing açai for two years, even adds a touch of coffee-buzz-without-the-jitters guarana that's become a key ingredient in energy drinks. All in all, this just might be the healthiest fruit out there. And did we mention it tastes like chocolate-covered strawberries? (; also available in Wild Oats and Whole Foods)

Sayonara, Starches
All over skidom, people are eating burgers sans bun and taking their chili without the bread bowl, thank you very much. Turns out that even pasta-, bagel-, and pancake-loving skiers are turning to low-carb diets like Atkins and the Zone. And ski resorts are listening: Deer Valley's bakers are busy concocting low-carb cookies. Breckenridge is slapping low carb stickers on certain to-go lunches. In Aspen, you can order a Caesar salad with a hamburger patty on the side. And Telluride's food venues are offering up more wraps—which have fewer carbs than regular sandwiches—and even selling a "breadless sandwich (basically, sandwich fixin's on a plate). No word on whether there's a movement to give up beer, which has as many carbs per serving as an evil slice of whole-wheat.

Go Hard - or Get Old
You remember doing sprints for high school sports. They hurt—and that's why most of us would do anything to avoid heading to the track. New research from health and fitness expert Phil Cambell, however, shows that anaerobic activities like interval workouts cut more body fat than long aerobic activities like jogging—while increasing lean muscle mass. On top of those benefits, "anaerobic exercise—hard and fast, sprinting types of exercise—is shown to make the body produce significant amounts of anti-aging growth hormone, says Campbell. Now, where's that box jump?