Archive for October, 2010

Avoiding Sugar Hangover this Halloween: Tips to Make this Year’s Trick or Treat Healthy and Fun

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

Long gone are the days when young trick-or-treaters would go door to door to get fruit and popcorn from their neighbors. Instead, Halloween is now all about how much candy and other sugar-filled, unhealthy items children can collect and consume in the shortest amount of time.

Halloween is a fun holiday and should consist of some candy and treat consumption but it’s important to monitor this. Nutrition experts (and dentists) cringe every time October 31 rolls around, but this year parents can not only do their part in giving out healthier treats, but they can also be sure to monitor what their children are eating, too.

We all know that too much sugar is bad for anyone, but do we know what effects too much sugar can have on our children? Nutrition experts offer the following points:

• Children that consume too much sugar and too many carbs can suffer from hypoglycemia causing fatigue, poor concentration, mood swings and frequent illness.

• Too many “empty calories” can mean that children aren’t getting the nutrients they need on a daily basis.

• A new diabetic is diagnosed every 8 minutes, a threefold increase in the past 5 to 6 years when a new diabetic was diagnosed every 23 minutes.

• Recent research has shown that more than 20% of school-aged children are obese and more than 50% are overweight.

• Too much sugar can cause chronically elevated blood insulin levels triggering inflammatory problems and elevated cholesterol.

Now don’t get us wrong, this Halloween doesn’t have to be all “doom and gloom” when it comes to having a few treats. Parents need to be very careful in monitoring what their child puts into their mouth and how often they are turning to sugary items.

Ration the sugary products over a longer period of time and incorporate them with a protein snack. Having a protein, especially before the sugar snack, will slow and reduce the rate and quantity of insulin secreted by the pancreas, thereby reducing many of the risks stated above.

According to MSNBC.com you can also try some more healthy Halloween treat alternatives that still have great taste without all the sugar and fat. You can make your own healthful Halloween treats and contribute to a healthier Halloween for all of the little goblins in your neighborhood without sacrificing taste or fun.

• Start by replacing up to half of the butter, margarine or shortening with heart healthy oils, such as canola or olive oil. Be careful though, cookies that use oil instead of butter often end up crispier and run the risk of drying out sooner so make sure to store them in airtight containers.

• Try a fruit puree like applesauce, pear butter, prune filling or canned pumpkin. Using fruit puree in place of fat will produce cookies that are cakier and chewier.

• You can also reduce fat in cookies by using nonfat yogurt or buttermilk instead of more traditional ingredients. This helps maintain moisture without the fat content. Try using 1 to 4 tablespoons of any of these ingredients to replace up to 4 tablespoons of butter.

Here is to a Healthy and Happy Halloween!

Not Just for Decorating: The Healing Power of Pumpkins

Thursday, October 21st, 2010

Every year as the month of October rolls around, you will usually see an array of pumpkins used to decorate homes in anticipation of Halloween. Regardless of if they are carved jack-o-lantern style or are used to create a scrumptious pumpkin pie, the pumpkin has so much to offer.

According to Hubpages.com, the pumpkin is a member of the Cucurbita family which also consists of squash and cucumbers. Pumpkins are also considered a fruit due to the fact that it has seeds. In fact its name was even derived from the Greek word “pepon” meaning large melon.

Natives used pumpkins for a variety of functions including healing. Certain tribes used pumpkin seeds to help heal wounds. In addition, pumpkin seed oil was used to treat burns and wounds and was also used as a medicine for kidney support. They were also recommended for removing freckles and curing snake bites. Modern folk healers even believe the pumpkin to be beneficial in ridding the body of intestinal worms and also believe that the ground stem of the pumpkin brewed into a tea may help ease women during their menstrual cycle.

Regardless of if they can truly make freckles disappear or ease cramps, pumpkins do contain a variety of phenomenal nutritional aspects. They are made up of 90 percent water and are antioxidant rich. Here are some of the wonderful antioxidants that pumpkins provide:

Beta Carotene- Indicated by their bright orange color, pumpkins are a great source of the important antioxidant, beta carotene. Research has indicated that diets rich in beta carotene may reduce the risk of developing certain types of cancer and protects against heart disease. It also prevents some degenerative aspects of aging.

• Potassium- Studies show people who have a potassium rich diet lower the risk for hypertension. Other potassium rich foods include bananas, broccoli, avocados, pomegranate and many others.

• Zinc- Not only is zinc a major boost for your immune system, it also aids in bone density support for people at risk for osteoporosis.

• Fiber- Diets rich in fiber may prevent cancer, heart disease and other serious ailments.

Pumpkin seeds have also been linked to a healthy prostate. The protective compounds present within the seed of the pumpkin, called phytosterols, may be responsible for shrinking the prostate. They also contain chemicals that may prevent some transformation of testosterone into dihydrotestosterone (DHT). High levels of DHT are associated with enlarged prostate.

There are also plenty of yummy and healthy options available to you when cooking pumpkins. According to Bellaonline.com, pumpkins have a rich flavor, are highly nutritious and have a long storage capability. If you plan to cook with your pumpkin and not just carve it up for the front porch, choose a “pie pumpkin” or a “sweet pumpkin.” These pumpkins are generally smaller than jack o-lantern pumpkins, their flesh is sweeter and they contain less water. Also choose pumpkins without blemishes or soft spots for the best and healthiest pumpkins.

In addition to pumpkin pie, this versatile fruit can be used in a myriad of other delectable recipes including bread, muffins, soups, stew and side dishes. Pumpkins and most other varieties of winter squash can be used interchangeably in recipes. Use pumpkins in recipes calling for squash or even sweet potatoes.

All Day Energy: Ways to Stay Energized All Day Long!

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

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 all day energy strategies provided by MSNBC to make sure that you wake up feeling refreshed, stay motivated throughout the day and are 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. Keep your daily intake of healthy carbs below 150 g. for example: five servings of veggies, two servings of fruit, three servings of whole grain carbs.

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. Try having a half to one cup of coffee or its caffeine equivalent during the late afternoon when the pressure to sleep is high. Be careful not to do this too late as it may interfere with you being able to fall asleep at night.

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 where you won’t be interrupted (even a bathroom if that’s your only option), sit down and close your eyes, listen to your breath as you slowly inhale and exhale, and when thoughts intrude imagine that they are like clouds floating in the sky. Practice these 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. Because of the way the homeostatic and circadian systems interact, most people feel a lull 17 to 18 hours after they went to bed the previous night. 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 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:
Studies show that very bright light will increase brain activity and the light emitted by a computer monitor late at night can do just that. Watching television is better as most people sit far enough away from a TV to be unaffected by its brightness. Whether you choose to watch a little TV or read a good book, take the time to wind down before catching those zzz’s.

Straight From the Headlines …Getting More Sleep Can Help You Lose Weight

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

According to an article on CNN Health a recent study suggests that lack of sleep could throw off a diet.

Research from the University of Chicago showed that dieters who slept for 8.5 hours lost 55 percent more body fat than dieters who slept 5.5 hours. How is this possible? According to the study not having enough sleep could affect a hormone called ghrelin, known to affect appetite and weight. An increase in this hormone level has been shown to make people hungrier and cause higher fat retention.

The study included 10 sedentary nonsmokers, between the ages of 35 to 49 years with a body mass index considered overweight to obese (BMI 25-32), who stayed in what’s considered a closed study environment for two weeks. They ate the same diet, consumed multivitamins and performed the same type of work or leisure activities. Six of them were assigned to 8.5 hours of sleep, and four slept 5.5 hours. Those who slept more lost more fat and maintained fat-free body mass.

The dieters who slept less also reported feeling hungrier throughout the course of the study.

Study authors wrote, “Together, these results suggest that the loss of sleep at times of limited food intake amplifies the pattern of ghrelin-associated changes in human hunger, glucose and fat utilization, and energy metabolism.”

Furthermore, according to About.com inadequate sleep amounts can affect you in a myriad of unhealthy ways:

• Lack of sleep interferes with the body’s ability to metabolize carbohydrates and causes high blood levels of glucose, which leads to higher insulin levels and greater body-fat storage.

• Drives down leptin levels, which causes the body to crave carbohydrates.

• Reduces levels of growth hormone–a protein that helps regulate the body’s proportions of fat and muscle.

• Can lead to insulin resistance and contribute to increased risk of diabetes.

• Can increase blood pressure.

• Can increase the risk of heart disease.

It may be worth your while health-wise to try to pack in as many zzz’s as possible.