Archive for February, 2010

Adjust Your Eating Habits for Winter and Stay Healthy

warming cup of soup
With winter comes the onset of cold and flu season in addition to other events that can wreak havoc on our immune system. In order to boost our immune systems, we need to make some minor adjustments in our diet and lifestyle to help curb the impact the season has on our body. Try these small adjustments to keep yourself healthy this winter.

Adjustment 1: Get your Essential Fatty Acids

Because essential fatty acids are the key to building super hormones, make sure that you get enough of these fatty acids from nuts, seeds, fish, cold pressed oils and supplements.

According to fatty fish including salmon, mackerel, herring and other fatty fish contain omega-3 fatty acids, which increase activity of phagocytes — cells that fight flu by eating up bacteria — according to a study by Britain’s Institute of Human Nutrition and School of Medicine. They also contain selenium, which helps white blood cells produce cytokines, proteins that help clear viruses. Other research shows that omega-3s increase airflow and protect lungs from colds and respiratory infections. In fact, says Somer, DHA and EPA (the two main forms of omega-3s) benefit the immune system at the most basic level, enabling cell membranes to efficiently absorb nutrients and remove toxins.

proteinAdjustment 2: Eat Enough Protein

Protein is important for your optimal health no matter what season it is. Nutritionists also suggest .75 to 1.25 grams of protein per pound of your body weight depending upon your physical activity. But, because our body can only absorb 30 to 35 grams per meal, we need to spread our protein intake throughout the day. Be sure to eat some sort of protein in every meal and in every snack. Getting some of that protein through soy-based products is also recommended by many nutritionists.

Adjustment 3: Choose low GI carbohydrates

GI or glycemic index, is the measure of how fast blood sugar rises after eating. One good example is that white sugar has a glycemic index of 100, where peanuts have a glycemic index of 15. That means that peanuts raise the blood sugar levels at 15% of the rate of white sugar. Fast rising blood sugar means the pancreas produces and sometimes overproduces insulin. These spikes in insulin can weaken the immune system and interferes with the production of super hormones. By choosing low GI carbohydrates, combined with eating the appropriate levels of protein you can better control your insulin.

Adjustment 4: Nutritional supplements are not an option

Instead of boosting their immune system by eating the right foods, exercising and avoiding stress, too many people turn to herbal remedies to prevent colds and the flu. However, these people believe that using herbal remedies, like Echinacea, will stimulate their immune system and often utilize these remedies rather than eating the right foods. Echinacea can and will stimulate the immune system, but if you aren’t feeding the immune system with the proper vitamins and nutrients, the effectiveness of the herbal remedy will not be as long-lasting as you expect.

Overall, the best way to adjust your immune system this winter is to avoid too much supplementation, get enough protein and essential fatty acids, and avoid those sugary carbohydrates to make your way through these next couple months illness-free.

Take Up a New Hobby this Winter- Snowshoeing

Winter can seemingly be the longest season of the four. But if you find interesting ways to pass the time, like taking up snowshoeing, you will soon find that you will be wishing that winter could last a little bit longer.

Experts say that snowshoeing is an excellent way to get out of the gym and cross train. Besides being a great workout, it also helps your body prepare for other physical activities. One hour of snowshoeing can burn from 400 to 1000 calories depending upon your pace, the terrain and your gear.

According to not only is snowshoeing good exercise and a lot cheaper than hitting the slopes, it’s also an activity that the whole family can enjoy together. While snowshoeing with your family it’s easy to involve the kids by listening for different birds, looking for animal tracks or stopping for rest and a snack.

So, what do you need to get started?

First you need the best snowshoes to fit your needs. Snowshoes come in three different varieties: aerobic/running (small, light and not intended for backcountry use), recreational (larger, used for gentle to moderate walks up to five miles), and mountaineering (largest, used for serious hill climbing and back country off-trail use). Another general rule of thumb when choosing snowshoes is you should have one square inch of shoe per pound of body weight.

Trekking poles are not necessary for most people who would like to get started snowshoeing, but they can be beneficial and helpful to keep your balance.

Boots, specifically waterproof boots, are very important pieces of gear to get started snowshoeing. Hiking boots work in most cases, unless you plan on running in your snowshoes, then you would probably benefit from a more lightweight running or walking shoe.

Lastly, you may need to purchase some new outdoor clothing before you hit the trails. Because snow is constantly being thrust upwards from the shoes, your bottom may get wetter than the rest of your body. Wearing a pair of waterproof pants will keep your legs dry and you comfortable.

Make sure that you dress in layers, too, and dress accordingly to the weather. You can always take off layers if you get too hot.

All Day Energy: Ways to stay energized all day long

Tired woman are sleeping
Let’s face it, in today’s rush-rush world we are always trying to cram as much as possible into our 24-hour day. Sadly, many people are turning to energy drinks and pills to help get them through their long days, when in actuality there are plenty of natural energy boosters that you could rely on to help you stay energized.

Just try these simple strategies to make sure that you wake up feeling refreshed, stay motivated throughout the day and be able to wind down and get a relaxed night of sleep.

Consistent wake-up time- Many people would think that sleeping in would actually give them all-day energy, but it is more harmful than it is helpful. Instead, opt for the same wake-up time everyday and get yourself into some light, whether you get your sunlight by actually going outdoors or just by opening up the blinds.

Reduce your carbs and add in more protein-
While carbohydrates will give you that quick burst of energy, eating too many carbohydrates will actually drain you. Opt for getting a healthy mix of carbs and protein to feel more energetic throughout the day.

Make sure you’re getting your share of iron and magnesium- According to ABC News rather than walking into a health-food store to get a boost, look for food that gives you energy and the vitamins, minerals and chemicals that work together to give you the energy you need. Magnesium and iron will help to re-energize. Iron food sources include Total cereal, lentils, oatmeal, tofu, beef, whole wheat spaghetti and beet greens. Magnesium is another powerhouse mineral used in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium food sources include artichokes, halibut, black beans, almonds and spinach.

Skip your morning cup of joe- Instead of downing your coffee first thing in the morning opt for having an afternoon cup of coffee when tiredness typically sets in. This caffeine burst at an appropriate time will also help to keep your energy flowing throughout your afternoon.

Avoid grazing and eat your meals at consistent times-
Believe it or not, your body runs on the food schedule that YOU set. When you skip meals your body suffers by going into shut down mode, like it does when it is time to sleep. Keep your meals consistent and at consistent times to avoid the daily drain. Grazing should be avoided, too, as it leads to overeating and over hunger.

Relieve stress through meditation- Because it may be hard to carve out set times to simply relax and meditate, try to do it when you have a few free minutes throughout your day. Even simply three minutes of mediation can reduce stress hormones that create body tension and constricted blood vessels. Find a quiet spot, practice your breathing techniques and take a few minutes to rejuvenate through relaxation.

Power walk instead of power nap-
While it may seem like a short little cat nap will help you through that afternoon slump, a short little power walk will be more beneficial. Get out for a brisk walk if you are able to and your body will thank you for it. If you can’t get outdoors, sit by a window and bask in the daylight for some quick light energy.

exercise treadmillExercise to music-
Exercise may be the most obvious way to increase your energy levels throughout the day, yet many people still avoid it. If you are having trouble getting the motivation to work out, try listening to music before exercising. Studies show that people who listen to music prior to and while working out, feel like they have exerted themselves less than those who don’t listen to music while working out.

Wind down before bed- It’s important to take the time to wind down before catching those zzz’s. According to artificial light from computer and television screens tell the brain that it’s not time to wind down. Therefore, it’s a good idea to shut off the TV and to not use phone or computers at least an hour before bed. To help wind down before bed you also may want to dim the lights, take a warm shower, write in a journal or read a book.

Straight from the Headlines: Low Cholesterol can Ward off Prostate Cancer

Low in cholesterol
According to a recent report released by new studies show that men may be able to lower their risk of acquiring the most aggressive form of prostate cancer if they keep their cholesterol levels in a healthy range.

The report states that men whose cholesterol was under 200 had less than half the risk of developing high-grade prostate tumors compared to men with high cholesterol. While having high cholesterol is typically a consequence of aging, young people are not in the clear either. Luckily there are preventive measures that anyone can do to help lower their cholesterol levels.

Here are four basic ways to maintain a healthy cholesterol level:

• Eat a healthy diet- According to a healthy diet for lowering cholesterol should include cutting down on saturated fat and high-cholesterol foods. Make sure to include plenty of fruits, vegetables and whole grains including soluble fiber. Avoid full-fat dairy products so stick to skim milk, lower fat cheese and trans-fat free spreads. And eat lean proteins such as fish, skinless chicken and lean meats and avoid marbled meats and bacon.

• Exercise- Losing weight can help lower cholesterol by increasing HDL (healthy cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol). Thirty minutes a day can have healthy benefits.

• Lose weight- Research has shown that losing just 20 pounds can reduce LDL cholesterol by 5 to 8 percent. By becoming more physically active you can help improve cholesterol as well as triglycerides, and blood pressure.

Some people will need to implement only one of these, while others will require a combination of these tips to help regulate their cholesterol.

Eating Better in 2010: Four Foods to Add to Your Grocery List

New Year’s resolution time has come and gone and if your resolution was to maintain your health and eat better in 2010, then the following foods and drinks should be high on your grocery list.

Grains- Dieticians suggest that you increase your intake of oats, barley and rye in 2010. For years, doctors have been telling patients that eating oats can bring down your cholesterol and recent studies show that rye can, too. The American Diabetes Association has also noted that eating a diet high in fiber and grains, like rye, can help prevent the development of type 2 diabetes. Adding barley to your diet, whether it is as a side dish or inside a soup or casserole, can also lower your cholesterol and reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease.

Salmon and other oily fish- If the diagnosis is to get more vitamin D this year, then get your fill with salmon and other oily fish – such as, mackerel, sardines, herring, fresh tuna, trout and anchovies. Oily fish are some of the only food sources of vitamin D. These fish are also good for curbing cardiovascular disease. The American Heart Association recommends eating two servings of oily fish per week, but warns against eating too much more than that because some oily fish contain mercury, which can affect your brain and nervous system.

Soy- If 2010 is your year to help reduce your risk of cancer, then soy may be your answer. Research has shown that soy can ward off certain cancers as well as have an impact on your heart. According to ABC News soy can also help breast cancer survivors.

A new study published in December of 2009 suggests that breast cancer survivors may benefit from eating moderate amounts of soy products. Soy foods are rich in compounds called isoflavones, a major group of plant-derived phytoestrogens possessing both estrogen-like and anti-estrogen actions. Researchers found that a higher intake of soy food, up to 11 grams daily, was associated with a lower risk of death or recurrence of breast cancer during follow up.

The Food and Drug Administration also states that 25 grams of soy protein a day can reduce heart problems by helping to lower cholesterol levels. To add soy to your diet, you can find it in soy burgers, tofu and soy milk.

red wineRed Wine- While you will rarely hear any doctor advising that you drink any alcohol, red wine may just be the exception. Research shows that antioxidants in red wine, polyphenols, aid in protecting the lining of blood vessels in the heart. These antioxidants come in the form of flavonoids and nonflavonoids, which red wine has more than any other food or drink.

As found on thanks to its alcohol content and non-alcoholic phytochemicals, wine has been shown to reduce the risk of heart disease, certain cancers and slow the progression of neurological degenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s Disease.

However, the amount of wine you drink matters tremendously. If you drink more than what’s recommended, your health benefits are lost and health risks actually go up. Men should consume no more than two drinks per day and women no more than one drink per day, with a drink defined as a 5-ounce glass of red or white wine, 12 ounces or 1 bottle of regular beer or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof distilled spirits.

Remember, when adding or making substitutions to your diet moderation is essential. Anything that is good for you can easily become bad for you if consumed excessively. But by following these guidelines and including these healthy food and drink choices into your diet you could be well on your way to a healthier and slimmer lifestyle.

More Reason to Pamper Yourself: Health Benefits of Massage Therapy

massage therapy
For more than 120 years, experts have been researching the benefits of massage therapy. And besides the obvious stress-free feeling that people experience following a massage, there are plenty of other benefits to this ancient healing procedure.

Below are several different ways that massage therapy can make you feel better physically and mentally.

Physical Benefits- There are a number of physical benefits associated with massage. A benefit of massage therapy that researchers have found is a decrease in blood pressure. Massages also help to alleviate the pain of those who suffer from migraine headaches. It can also: reduce your heart rate, increase blood circulation and lymph flow, relax your muscles, improve your range of motion, and increase endorphins.

Research has also shown that while massage therapy does not increase your muscle strength, it can stimulate your weak and inactive muscles and can thereby aid muscles that you may not have worked out in quite some time. Massage therapy can also speed up your recovery process if you do have an injury.

Some other physical benefits of massage therapy include: relieving muscle tension and stiffness, alleviating discomfort during pregnancy, reducing muscle spasms, promoting deeper and easier breathing, enhancing the health and nourishment of your skin, and improving your posture.

According to MSNBC almost 30 percent of those who had a massage in the past five years said that they did so for medical or health reasons other than stress relief. Their reasons included recovery from an injury, pain reduction, headache control and overall health and wellness.

Mental Benefits- Massage therapy, while a physical act, is not all about physical benefits. There is also an array of mental benefits. Some mental benefits include: promoting mental alertness, relieving mental stress, reducing levels of anxiety, improving motor skills, creating body awareness, and fostering a feeling of well being.

Stress Management- Massage can also help with stress management. According to CBS News massage can relieve tension in your muscles. It can also boost your immune system and cause a release of endorphins, which is the body’s natural painkiller. In addition, it may also increase joint flexibility, improve circulation, reduce spasms and cramping, and help athletes prepare for or recover from a strenuous workout.

While this article only touches on a few benefits of massage therapy, both physical and mental, there are plenty more out there that researchers are learning about each and every day. So, whatever your reason may be, pamper yourself today and reap all of the benefits of a great massage.

Exercise Your Brain: Three Ways to Improve Brain Vitality

brain power 2
Despite what many people think, our brain can remain sharp, active, vital and creative no matter what our age. Our brain will continue to create new brain cells and new connections over the years, but our brain vitality is completely up to us. Maintaining that vitality is truly a “use it or lose it” situation.

Studies done by a number of schools of medicine suggest that the more stimulating and intellectually challenging that we make our lives, the better our odds are to keep our brain sharp as we get older.

Some additional ways to keep our brains sharp include:

Exercise regularly: Exercising delivers more oxygen-rich blood to the brain which is vital for producing new brain cells and preventing atrophy. According to exercise also helps provide your brain with more blood flow. More blood means more nutrients and oxygen to help your brain function better. Exercise also helps reduce stress, which can produce memory-damaging hormones.

Eat low-fat and healthy: Glucose spikes and fatty plaque deposits due to overeating can damage the brain, so a lower-calorie diet promotes better circulation and helps to control weight. It’s also important to avoid trans fats found in junk food, because this type of fat narrows the blood vessels and reduced the flow of blood, nutrients and oxygen to the brain. Complex carbohydrates on the other hand can give the brain a lift by increasing sugar levels in the bloodstream.

crossword puzzleChallenge your brain: Challenging your brain by learning and doing something new every week helps to create new neural pathways, helping to make your brain more versatile and able to multi-task. As found on the more intellectual stimulation your brain gets, the better it functions. One theory is that intellectual stimulation prevents deterioration by strengthening the neural connections in the brain. The more stimulating the experience, the stronger the connections grow.

By keeping your blood moving, paying attention to what you eat and keeping your mind stimulated you can actively strengthen your brain.