Ask Dr. Bob: Eating More Vegetables, Protecting Your Teeth, and Injury-Proofing Your Body

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Eat Your Vegetables
At lunch, should I forgo a side of veggies with my sandwich so I have fewer calories to burn off during a workout later?
Don’t do it. For one thing, vegetables are packed with fiber, which will help you feel full longer and keep your blood glucose levels in check — meaning you will be less likely to have a blood sugar crash late in the afternoon. What’s more, veggies (and fresh fruit) provide this benefit while adding only minimal calories. Consider the results of a 2004 nutritional study of eating patterns of native Hawaiians. Researchers asked subjects to revert to their ancestral high-fiber, fruit, and vegetable diet. The Hawaiians ate more — about 4.1 pounds a day — compared with what they had been consuming (about 3.6 pounds a day). But the subjects lost significant amounts of weight while lowering their blood sugar levels. Bottom line? Say yes to the side salad.

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Tooth Protection
I’ve heard that I shouldn’t brush my teeth right after drinking my morning coffee. Anything to this?
Yes. Brushing immediately after drinking anything acidic — coffee, juices, lemonade — hurts teeth more than it helps. That’s because the acids in drinks cling to your tooth enamel and temporarily soften it. Brushing will grind those acids deeper into teeth, causing enamel to erode and leading to cavities down the road. Wait at least 30 minutes after drinking coffee to brush — and if you want to get rid of coffee breath in the meantime, swish water and chew a stick of sugar-free gum.

Injury-Proof Your Body
After a rotator cuff tear a few years back, I’ve been worried about hurting my shoulder again. Any protective exercises you suggest?
I feel your pain — literally. Last month, I injured my left shoulder while pushing too hard during a standup paddleboarding race. The strengthening exercises I do now will double as preventative care to help you remain injury-free. First, build the big muscles that support and protect the shoulder, starting with the lats. (Regular sets of pull­ups and rows are a great way to do this.) Then target the small rotator cuff muscles from all directions: Do front, lateral, and cross-body raises with a light weight. Finally, stretch the muscles in your shoulder regularly with yoga poses like Downward Dog and Child’s Pose.

WATCH: Dr. Bob’s Chia-Kale Smoothie

Nutrition Myths
Is it healthier to eat spinach or tomato pastas versus the conventional white pasta?
Yes, as long as the pasta is made with whole grains and actual vegetables. Look for the black-and-gold whole grain stamp from the nonprofit Whole Grains Council, and double-check that the ingredient list has vegetables listed near the top. (Many products use only trace amounts of veggies to add color to white-flour pasta.) And when you cook it, follow the al dente instructions on the packaging. Not only does mushy pasta taste lousy, it also has a higher glycemic index, which is more likely to spike blood sugar.

Time-Saving Workouts
What’s the best way to get cardio and strength training if you’re short on time?
In 2013, I was in Africa, preparing to launch a humanitarian mission into South Sudan, and in the hotel gym I developed a speedy superset workout that I still use today. It requires training opposing muscle groups, with little rest between sets to get your heart rate up — a technique that builds strength faster and burns more calories than traditional routines. Start with the bench press, then immediately do bent-over rows. Wait one minute, then do squats and hamstring curls. After another minute, do chin-ups and triceps extensions. Do this sequence three times total. You’ll be done in less than 30 minutes.

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