Archive for June, 2010

You Say Tomato…Unique Facts Regarding this Remarkable Food

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

Until the 1800s, tomatoes were considered toxic, but since then tomatoes have been a staple of many people’s diet, and rightfully so … whether you consider it a vegetable or a fruit, it is very beneficial.

Besides containing 40 percent of your daily value of vitamin C, it also contains 15 percent of your daily value of vitamin A, 8 percent of your daily value of potassium, and 7 percent of your recommended dietary allowance of iron for women and 10 percent for men. In addition as a source of fiber, one medium tomato equals one slice of whole wheat bread with only 35 calories.

According to Homecooking.about.com, Lycopene, a dietary carotenoid found in high concentrations in tomatoes as well as processed tomato products, including ketchup and canned tomato products, is what gives tomatoes their red pigment. It is an antioxidant which purportedly fights the free radicals that can interfere with normal cell growth and activity. These free radicals can potentially lead to cancer, heart disease and premature aging.

A recent study has also shown that men who eat at least 10 servings of tomatoes a week can reduce their risk of developing prostate cancer by a whopping 45 percent.

The tomato is native to western South America and Central America. In 1519, Cortez discovered tomatoes growing in Montezuma’s gardens and brought seeds back to Europe where they were planted as ornamental curiosities, but not eaten. A member of the deadly nightshade family, tomatoes were erroneously thought to be poisonous (although the leaves are poisonous) by Europeans who were suspicious of their bright, shiny fruit.

The French referred to the tomato as pommes d’amour, or love apples, as they thought them to have stimulating aphrodisiacal properties. Centuries later in 1897, soup mogul Joseph Campbell came out with condensed tomato soup, a move that set the company on the road to wealth as well as further endearing the tomato to the general public.

There are thousands of varieties of tomatoes in an array of shapes, colors and sizes. The most common shapes are round (Beefsteak and globe), pear-shaped (Roma) and the tiny cherry-sized (Cherry and Grape). Yellow varieties tend to be less acidic and thus less flavorful than their red counterparts. In the United States today, tomatoes are second in consumption only to potatoes.

When choosing the perfect tomato, use your nose. Smell the blossom (not the stem) end. The most flavorful ones will have a rich tomato aroma. Also be sure to choose one with a brilliant shade of red, as those tomatoes contain more betacarotene and lycopene giving you the most vitamins and minerals. Store fresh ripe tomatoes in a cool dark place, making sure it’s stem-side down and use within a few days.

Foods that Boost Metabolism and Help Lose Weight

Thursday, June 24th, 2010

It may be true that an apple a day keeps the doctor away, but there are plenty of foods out there that are beneficial to you in more ways than one – including speeding up your metabolism.

According to MSNBC, metabolism is the process by which your body converts calories from food into energy. It is the body’s engine that burns calories and regulates your caloric needs. The foods you eat play a major role in the way your body metabolizes fat. Some foods contain certain ingredients that help to burn calories more quickly, while also giving you other vital fuels that you need to increase energy levels, and prevent diseases later in life. There are also certain foods that require more calories to digest than the food actually contains, which can essentially speed up your metabolism.

Below are a few food suggestions provided by Ehow.com that can boost metabolism and encourage weight loss.

• Spicy Foods-
An interesting and effective way to boost your metabolism is to eat spicy foods. Spicy foods and spices, such as chili peppers and jalapeno peppers, contain the chemical capsaicin, which is what gives these foods their heat. Capsaicin increases and quickens adrenaline production in the body, which speeds up your basal metabolic rate, or BMR. Try eating spicy salsa, which gives you a lot of flavor without a lot of calories.

• Carbs & Protein- Eating snacks that contain healthy carbohydrates and proteins will help boost energy and fill you up, so you can avoid overeating during meals. Eating these types of snacks in small portions will keep your metabolism going throughout the day, burning fat and increasing energy. Try snacking on peanut butter with a sliced banana, and apples dipped in peanut butter or paired with a few slices of cheddar cheese.

• Green Tea- Green tea contains large amounts of the powerful antioxidant, epigallocatechin gallate, or EGCG. The oxidation process that occurs in green tea helps break down fat more quickly, while also helping to prevent cancer and heart disease. EGCG also promotes faster workings in the brain and nervous system, so the body burns more calories. If you don’t like to drink green tea, they also sell caplets in health food stores.

• B Vitamins-
B vitamins have major benefits for many parts of the body: the central nervous system, metabolism and the production of energy. A vitamin B deficiency will cause your metabolism to slow down, your mood to become depressed and your body to feel tired and sluggish. B6, B12, thiamine, folate and niacin play major roles in the healthy function of your body. Snack on foods such as spinach, broccoli and asparagus; navy, soy and black beans; and melon, fish, poultry and eggs. In order to work these into your day, snack on cut-up honeydew or cantaloupe, a hard-boiled egg, a few pieces of sushi, or tortilla chips and a mixed bean dip.

• Magnesium-
Magnesium is a mineral that plays a key role in more than 300 chemical reactions in your body and contributes greatly to the synthesis of protein and metabolism. It also assists in proper nerve, heart and muscle function. To increase your levels of metabolism, eat green vegetables, such as spinach and broccoli; soybeans such as edamame; nuts, such as almonds, cashews and peanuts; and whole grain cereals, including oatmeal.

Treatment and Deterring the Outbreak of Cold Sores

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Cold sores on the lips can be one of the most aggravating infections that a person can get. Caused by the Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV-1), the virus can remain dormant in a person’s body for years and then resurface … normally at the most inopportune time.

Some causes of cold sores include: stress, insomnia, menstruation, too much exposure to UV rays, digestive disorders, stress, the common cold, influenza, and dry, cracked lips. While we can’t do anything to cure our bodies of this virus for good, we can treat cold sores and deter the outbreak of cold sores if we follow these pieces of advice:

• Recognize the symptoms:
oftentimes you will get a stinging and burning sensation on your lips prior to a cold sore outbreak. By recognizing this major symptom, you can purchase an over-the-counter medicine and apply it before the cold sore actually has a chance to appear.

• Practice good hygiene when using OTC medicines for treatment: always wash your hands prior to and after applying an over-the-counter cold sore treatment medicine. Apply the treatment at least 5 times a day and use a cotton swab if possible to avoid actually touching the sore.

• Keep your lips moisturized:
dry and cracked lips are both causes of cold sores, so by keeping the lips and skin well moisturized, you can help deter the outbreak of cold sores.

• Use sun block on your lips and use lip-balm with SPF:
too much exposure to the sun’s UV rays can cause the outbreak of cold sores. By remembering to apply and reapply sun block or a lip balm containing sun block to your lips when you are outdoors will also decrease the amount of cold sores that arise.

• Eat lysine-rich foods:
foods that are high in lysine also help to deter cold sores. This includes: beef, fish, chicken, eggs, milk, cheese and yogurt.

• Stress-reducing activities: according to Newsweek, it may help if you try a few stress-reducing activities such as meditation, physical activity or getting a neck massage as cold sores can flair up as a result of stress.

• Kissing and sharing:
avoid kissing anyone with a cold sore or sharing items like toothbrushes, lip-balm or towels. And always remember to wash your hands if you suspect you’ve had contact with a cold sore.

Sun Safety 101: Protect Your Skin from the Sun’s Damaging Rays

Wednesday, June 16th, 2010

Everyone needs a little sun in their lives. Sun exposure gives our bodies much needed Vitamin D that helps to absorb calcium for healthy, strong bones. Still, people need to be aware of the sun’s damaging rays and be safe when going outdoors this summer.

According to MSN, it doesn’t take much time in the sun for unprotected exposure to the sun’s ultraviolet rays can cause skin damage, eye damage, immune system suppression, and even cancer.

Sunlight contains three ultraviolet rays: UVA, UVB and UVC rays. UVA rays make up the majority of our sun exposure, but UVB rays also make it to the Earth’s surface. UVC rays never make it though the ozone layer to reach the Earth’s surface, so we are not affected by UVC rays.

A chemical called melanin is our body’s first defense against the sun. It absorbs the dangerous UV rays and as the melanin increases in response to sun exposure, the skin tans. Melanin is found in different concentrations and colors, which results in different skin colors. The lighter somebody’s skin color, the less melanin it has to absorb UV and protect itself. Therefore, the darker somebody’s skin is, the more melanin it has to protect itself. As the melanin increases in response to sun exposure, the skin tans. But even a “healthy” tan may be a sign of sun damage. Sunburn typically occurs once the UV amount is greater than the capacity of our skin’s melanin.

Unprotected sun exposure is even more dangerous for people with:
• moles on their skin (or whose parents have a tendency to develop moles)
• very fair skin and hair
• a family history of skin cancer, including melanoma

Infants, according to MSN, have thinner skin and underdeveloped melanin, therefore their skin burns more easily than that of older kids. But sunscreen should not be applied to babies under 6 months of age, so they absolutely must be kept out of the sun whenever possible. If your infant must be in the sun, dress him or her in clothing that covers the body, including hats with wide brims to shadow the face or use an umbrella to create shade.

To combat the sun’s harmful rays, experts suggest that we should avoid getting too much sun exposure when the UV rays are the strongest – typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. in the Northern Hemisphere.

In addition, sunscreen should be used every time you or your family will be out in the sun for extended periods of time, even if it is overcast, as the UV rays can still make it through on an overcast day. Remember to apply sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before going outdoors and try to reapply sunscreen every two- to three hours. When applying sunscreen don’t forget about your lips, ears, hands, feet and behind the neck, as these are all areas that will be susceptible to burn but often overlooked by many when applying sunscreen.

The American Association of Dermatology suggests that you use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15 or higher before any prolonged sun exposure. You should also apply a waterproof sunscreen if you’re planning to be around water or swimming. Water reflects and intensifies the sun’s rays, so it’s important to put on protection that lasts. Waterproof sunscreen may last up to 80 minutes in the water, and many are also sweat and rub proof. Regardless, make sure to reapply once you get out of the pool. And don’t try to stretch out a bottle of sunscreen; apply it as generously as possible!

It’s also important to protect your eyes against the sun. Sun exposure to the eyes can result in burned cornea and cumulative exposure can lead to cataracts and macular degeneration. The best way to protect your eyes is to wear sunglasses equipped with UV filters. Purchase sunglasses with labels ensuring that they provide 100% UV protection.

While these are only a few safety tips that you should keep in mind before you head outdoors to the beach, the pool or just outside doing some yard work or playing with your children. This advice will only help save your skin from skin cancer and other sun exposure damage and help you to enjoy your time outdoors.

Choosing the Perfect Gym for Your Fitness Needs

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

We all know that exercise is good for us and that one of the best places that we can utilize in order to get in shape is the gym. So how do you know what gym is right for you? How do you choose between one gym and another?

According to MSNBC, with the wide variety of equipment and services offered at health clubs these days, choosing the right gym can take a lot of time and research. Some of the best tips can be gleaned from friends and associates; however, you need to personally inspect gyms in your area to find the one that will work best for you.

Fitness experts suggest the following pieces of advice that may help you when it comes time to choose the right gym for your needs:

• Location, location, location- Location is one key aspect in deciding what gym may work best for you. Chances are that if your gym isn’t close to your home or workplace, then it will became a hardship to you to try and get to the gym on a regular basis. Plus, there is always the benefit of saving gas money if you choose a gym that is relatively close to your home or office.

• Research the gym- Find out important details about each gym that you are considering starting your membership with. How much does it cost? What services do they offer that are included in your membership fees? Are lockers an additional cost? Is there a discount for seniors or students? Is there a cancellation or dropped membership fee? By asking the right questions you will find out everything you need to know about the gym before you hand over any money.

• Hours- Knowing the hours that the gym is open is a very important aspect of choosing a gym. If you would prefer to do your workout before work, then the gym you choose needs to be open prior to your work hours. If you would like to work out after work, the gym needs to be open later at night. Choosing the right time to go to the gym is important, as is whether or not the gym is extremely busy at this time. If you are constantly waiting around to use equipment because the gym is overcrowded at certain times, you may want to choose a different gym that is more accommodating or has more equipment.

• Comfort in the gym- When you enter the gym, do you feel comfortable with the way it is set up, the cleanliness of the gym and the way the other members act towards one another? If you are going to be spending your hard-earned money, then you need to feel comfortable in the gym. Cleanliness is also important and will let you know how the owners take care of the gym. How the other members of the gym interact is also important because you will be working out amongst these people and if you feel uncomfortable just being around the gym’s members, then you certainly won’t feel comfortable working out with these people.

• Trainers, machines, and classes-
When choosing a gym finding out the experience of the trainers, testing out the equipment ahead of time and learning about the classes that the gym has to offer is also very important. The trainers will be there for you to help you with problems or with your workout, the equipment needs to be in the best condition possible and having a wide variety of classes in addition to great equipment will only motivate you to keep your exercises fresh and try different things.

• Look for a variety of equipment- If there’s a variety of cardio equipment available, you’re less likely to get bored and you’ll have the benefits of cross training. It’s also important to make sure that there are enough machines to guarantee you’ll have one when you want to work out, even during peak hours.

• Decide what is important to you- Think about what kind of facility that you want and what, if any, extras are important to you. For example on MSNBC they suggest that you consider if you would like a club that has a pool, sauna, Jacuzzi and steam room. Will a simple set of weight machines and cardiovascular equipment do? Will you need child care? Do you want a juice bar? Etc.

• Take a trial run- The best way to find out whether a club is right for you is to try it out for a few days. Most clubs offer special passes for prospective members. It’s also a good idea to try the club out during the hours that you will be using it. If it’s too crowded when you would normally prefer to work out and you don’t like crowds then you may want to keep looking.

While this is only a starting point when you are choosing the gym that will best fit your needs, you need to consider a number of issues before you sign any contracts or pay any fees.

Healthy Eyes: Getting the nutrition you need for optimum eye health

Thursday, June 10th, 2010

We’ve heard that there are certain foods you can eat to get healthier looking hair, stronger bones and to prevent diseases. But there are also foods and nutrients that many doctors recommend to help keep our eyes healthy for many, many years.

The eye is a highly complex organ made up of lipids, or fatty tissue. As light enters our eyes and breaks down into free radicals, these free radicals cause major damage to our eye’s lipids. These free radicals cause the degenerative effects of aging and eventually the loss of vision over time. Two of the major effects that these free radicals cause are macular degeneration and cataracts.

According to MSNBC more than 13 million people in the U.S. suffer from macular degeneration, and about half of all Americans over the age of 80 have cataracts.

Luckily, free radicals can be neutralized by antioxidants because they help to slow down the damage done and wash the free radicals out of the body completely. More specifically, a research project conducted by the National Eye Institute has shown that the most important foods for preventing macular degeneration and cataracts are ones that are rich in the antioxidants beta carotene, vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zeaxanthin, zinc and omega-3 fats.

To get your share of antioxidants, doctors suggest eating your vegetables. Fresh fruits and green, leafy vegetables are chock full of antioxidants. Here is a list of specific foods from MSNBC that you can eat to ensure that you’re keeping your eyes healthy for years to come:

• Carrots- Carrots are loaded with beta carotene, an antioxidant that helps reduce the risk of macular degeneration and cataracts.

• Bell peppers, broccoli and Brussels sprouts- Three B’s that provide a blast of vitamin C. Vitamin C is another key antioxidant shown specifically to protect the eyes.

• Turkey- Turkey is also rich in zinc (plus the B-vitamin niacin, which specifically protects against cataracts). What’s more, turkey is incredibly versatile and a terrific lean substitute for high-fat beef.

• Sweet potatoes-
Beta carotene is found in sweet potatoes thanks to the bright-orange flesh in these sweet spuds.

• Spinach- Spinach provides four eye-protecting ingredients! It comes packaged with vitamin C, beta carotene and large amounts of lutein and zeaxanthin … a matched pair of antioxidants found in high concentrations in the tissue of the macula. Because they absorb 40 to 90 percent of blue light intensity, these nutrients act like sunscreen for your eyes. Studies have shown that eating foods rich in lutein and zeaxanthin can increase the pigment density in the macula — and greater pigment density means better retina protection, and a lower risk of macular degeneration.

• Wild salmon and sardines- There are a lot of Omega-3 fats in fish that help your eyes by protecting tiny blood vessels buried within the eyes. Aim for two to three 4-ouce portions a week.

• Keep an eye on sugar intake- Monitoring your sugar intake is also important in maintaining healthy eyes, as refined carbohydrates can spike your glucose levels, increasing your chances of acquiring macular degeneration.

Just by keeping these tips in mind and being cautious about what you eat, your eyes will be healthy well into your older years and your vision will only improve over time.

Learn CPR to Save Someone in Cardiac Arrest

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation or CPR is an emergency procedure that is usually performed on people in cardiac arrest and involves creating artificial circulation by pressing on the chest to pump blood through the heart and exhaling into the patient to ventilate the lungs. It’s one of the most basic emergency medical procedures, yet millions of Americans don’t know how to perform it.

So why does it matter? According to CNN only 1 in 10 people who suffer cardiac arrest outside of a hospital setting will survive. This means that 9 of 10 will die. The only way to improve this statistic is for Americans to learn CPR.

Getting CPR within minutes is crucial for someone who’s suffered from cardiac arrest, as brain death and permanent death start to occur just four to six minutes after the heart stops.

A number of these deaths could be avoided if more people took the initiative to take a CPR class. However, many people just don’t want to take the time or expense, but medical experts say that learning how to do it is much easier than it used to be.

In fact, the American Heart Association has introduced a new CPR training kit called CPR Anytime and it was created to help more people learn this life-saving skill. In a one-hour session, you can learn how to perform CPR using this kit. It’s then suggested that you take the kit home and share the information with five people. Each of your friends can then borrow your kit or buy one of their own and share the information with five more friends hopefully increasing the number of trained life savers exponentially.

The American Heart Association says that the kit does not replace an actual CPR course or certification but it could indeed save a life.

Anyone interested in learning where they can take a CPR class or those interested in purchasing a CPR Anytime Kit, can visit either the American Red Cross or the American Heart Association’s websites to find a class in your area or learn more about it.

Summer Salads: Keep your Lettuce Fresher for Longer!

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

Now that summer is in full bloom, families will be turning to salads as their meal of choice when the temperature gets too hot to cook. But oftentimes, as soon as you go to reach for your favorite green leafy vegetable you realize that it has gone bad too soon.

Use these helpful tips to keep your lettuce fresher for a longer period of time and you’ll be enjoying your salads all summer long:

• First of all, it’s important to purchase the freshest lettuce that you can to ensure that it lasts as long possible. Look for crisp leaves that are free of browning edges and rust spots. Check out your local farmer’s market to browse the freshest fruits and vegetables around.

• According to Stellaskitchen.com if you buy iceberg lettuce wrap it in a moist paper towel as soon as you get home and place it in a plastic bag before storing it in the refrigerator.

• In regards to leafy lettuce greens like romaine, red leaf or green leaf lettuce, you can follow the same process. However, it is better to remove leafy greens from their plastic bag and pat the leaves dry with a paper towel before storing them if they are wet from the produce sprayer at the store. Squeeze the water out from the paper towel and wrap the lettuce up. Place the wrapped head of lettuce back in the bag and in the produce drawer.

• Utilize containers that have special holes for specific vegetables (Tupperware’s Fridgesmart is a great one for lettuce!)

• Utilize air-tight plastic bags to store your lettuce in instead of the plastic bags you purchase the head in at the store.

• Try to avoid bagged lettuce as it has already been preserved and is well on its way to spoiling.

• Avoid metal pans to store your lettuce; this also speeds up the spoiling process.

• Utilize your refrigerator’s crisper as it truly does help to keep vegetables, like lettuce, crisper and therefore fresher.

• Make sure to store your lettuce in your produce drawer with plenty of breathing room. Leaves can be easily bruised if you have lots of other veggies crammed in with the lettuce.

• Here’s another tip from Stellaskitchen.com regarding storing leftover salad- lay a damp paper towel over the top of the salad and cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a tight fitting lid.

By following these simple tips you’ll be able to enjoy fresh, light summer salads all season long without having to worry about your leafy greens being soggy or brown.