Category: Health

Tricks to Help You Eat Healthier

Posted on Sep 1, 2015 by No Comments

Most of us know how to eat healthy, but we often don’t do it. Why is that? I think there are a number of reasons. Some of it has to do with our mood, cravings and such. Other times our pitfalls are our habits.

For me, one of those habits is that I’ll grab something I can eat while on the run or working at my computer often as a matter of convenience. Another bad habit is eating more of something just because it tastes good — even if I’m not even hungry.

The problem with eating while working or even watching TV is that it is easy to mindlessly eat and before I know it, I’ve eaten more than I need.

There are a couple of tricks that have helped me to curb this habit. First of all, I’ve started eating only at the table. Eating healthy, for me, needs to be purposeful instead of part of multitasking. Sitting at the table, makes it “time to eat” And for me it was harder than I thought it would be.

A second trick I’m trying is to use a smaller plate to help control my portion sizes except for my salads. Then I use a bigger plate. For instance, at dinner, I start with a big plate of salad almost every night. And I’m not talking about a boring lettuce and tomato salad, but one topped with a variety of fresh veggies, legumes, and a healthy dressing.

For the rest of my meal, I go to the small plate, because even when foods are healthy, too much is too much. The size of the plate helps my portions stay reasonable and is especially helpful in reminding me to limit choices like pasta, or white rice.

The last trick to help you eat healthier is to stop buying trigger foods at the grocery store. For me that includes chips. Instead, I buy pretzels, and while I like pretzels, I can eat a few and be done whereas with potato chips I can eat a few, but then they call me and before I know I’m reaching into the bag again! And once I eat more, the guilt takes over. I start thinking now that I’ve eaten this many, what difference does it make if I eat the whole bag! If I don’t buy them, they can’t call to me!

Of these tricks, learning to only eat at the table is probably the trick that helps me the most because I don’t want to get pulled away from my work or a TV show. Separating eating as its own individual activity, made me realize how much I snacked!

Photo credits: Ashley Acevedo

An Apple a Day Can Make One Happier and Healthier

Posted on Aug 28, 2015 by No Comments

If you could find one pill that would help keep you from feeling down, could help control your appetite, lower your cholesterol, help build muscle, improve your memory, and boost your immune system, would you take it?

It turns out we don’t need a pill because nature already offers all those benefits in one fruit – the apple.

We’ve heard the idiom, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” since our childhood, and it turns out that according to several studies there is wisdom in the old saying.

First of all they are rich in fiber and help to normalize bowel movements, but according to the Mayo Clinic this one fruit does much more. It helps lower cholesterol levels, control blood sugar, and helps us to achieve a healthy weight.

In a 2013 study titled “Many apples a day keep the blues away—daily experiences of negative and positive affect and food consumption in young adults” conducted at the University of Otago in New Zealand, participants were asked to evaluate their feelings and record them in a diary every night for 21 days. They were also asked specific questions about what they had eaten each day. On days when more fruits and vegetables were consumed, they reported feeling happier, calmer, and more energetic. Eating that apple can work to enhance your mood.

In a 2012 study conducted at Ohio State University, researchers discovered that eating one apple each day for four weeks, greatly lowered participants’ oxidized LDL levels. Lead researcher Robert DiSilvestro explains the importance of this finding. “When LDL becomes oxidized, it takes on a form that begins atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.”

An animal study conducted in 2012 at Cornell University found quercetin, an antioxidant found in apple skin, helped prevent oxidative stress, which damages brain tissues and is associated with neurodegenerative disorders. According the C.Y. Lee, the study leader, apples “may be among the best food choices for fighting Alzheimer’s.”

The apple really is a powerhouse that packs a nutritious punch to ward off many of the chronic health conditions society struggles with today. I’ve added this tasty fruit back in to my daily diet as I fight high cholesterol.

I’m not planning to get new blood work done for three months, but according to the results of the Ohio State study, it only took four weeks to lower oxidized LDL by 40 percent.

Photo credits: pixabay

Shannen Doherty Fighting Invasive Breast Cancer

Posted on Aug 26, 2015 by No Comments

Actress Shannen Doherty is known by most of us from her days on Beverly Hills 90210 which aired more than 20 years ago, and later as Pru on the popular TV show Charmed.

The 44-year-old actress has enjoyed a successful career. But right now she is facing a health crisis. In an exclusive interview with Today Health and Wellness, she announced that she is fighting an invasive form of breast cancer. She said, “Yes, I have breast cancer, and I am currently undergoing treatment.”

While she has now gone public with her condition, the fact that she had cancer actually came to light in Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, August 19, in court documents. Those court papers say that she discovered she had invasive breast cancer last March and that it had spread during a time when she was uninsured.

These documents are related to a lawsuit against the business management firm of Tanner Mainstain. In them, Doherty maintains that it was Tanner Mainstain’s job to ensure timely payment of her medical insurance premiums through the Screen Actors Guild. However when they received the invoice they failed to pay it.

Plus, they failed to let her know that they didn’t pay it. At that time, she was uninsured and didn’t know it. The following February they terminated their relationship with the actress, and she was still unaware that she was not insured.

Her complaint deals with the fact that if she had been insured she’d have been able to visit her doctor and the cancer could have potentially been stopped and  “thus obviating the need for the future treatment (including mastectomy and chemotherapy) that Plaintiff will likely have to suffer through now.”

Doherty re-enrolled with AG insurance for 2015 and began doctor visits this year, and that’s when she received the cancer diagnosis. Her complaints against Tanner Mainstain go deeper than the cancellation of her health insurance, but that one item will affect the rest of her life.

For now, she is eating right, exercising and trying to stay positive about life.

Photo credits: tetsuorocks

Is the Paleo Diet Bad for Your Brain?

Posted on Aug 24, 2015 by No Comments

I haven’t tried the Paleo diet, not because it doesn’t sound good, but because a diet that cuts out food groups is hard for me to sustain. In this case, that may be a good thing as research starts to catch up with the craze.

A paper published in The Quarterly Review of Biology proposes that “plant foods containing high quantities of starch were essential for the evolution of the human phenotype during the Pleistocene [period]” and are still crucial for brain health today.

The researchers responsible for this paper acknowledge that a meat-based diet was crucial to the caveman’s brain development, but they also argue that starchy carbohydrates also played a necessary role in meeting the needs of the growing brain – specifically cooked starches. That’s because cooked starches increased energy reserves through glucose, which in turn advances brain development and red blood cells.

The scientific theory behind this line of thinking is that our bodies start to convert starch to glucose in our mouths where our saliva provides an enzyme called amylase.

Amylase breaks down starches most effectively when they are cooked. And so, with the invention of fire, researchers suggest our bodies needed more amylase. This promoted genetic mutations that created extra amylase which helped our ancestors survive and thrive…and gave them bigger brains.

I’m thinking this research requires a measure of faith – not in science but in theories because when science can’t be proved, it’s not really science in my book. It’s just theory and in this case I feel like it’s a stretch to try and get to a predetermined conclusion.

Even the researchers of this study concluded that “testing this hypothesis will require a convergence of information from archeology, genetics, and human physiology. Despite a number of high-profile studies on the amylase gene cluster, it is becoming clear that the locus remains incompletely characterized, that published estimates of AMY1 CNV are problematic, and that the structural nature of that CNV is more complex than previously thought.”

That’s a pretty fancy way of saying we need to learn more to reach a real conclusion.

In the meantime, studies offer us a lot of good information, but sometimes I feel like the conflicting information just makes things confusing and discouraging.

When that happens, I say go back to basics. Choose to eat a healthy diet like the Mediterranean diet which has proven to improve brain health along with a ton of other benefits.

Photo credits: amenclinicsphotos ac

Where We Stand in the Fight Against Unhealthy Fats

Posted on Aug 21, 2015 by No Comments

To understand where we stand in the fight against unhealthy fats, the first thing that has to be determined is which fats are unhealthy.

The reason I say that is that we’ve been nutritionally backpedaling from low-fat models that labeled fat as a bad thing; especially in foods like eggs, red meat, full-fat dairy, and of course trans fats.

As we’ve moved away from the low-fat-no-fat approach to eating, we’ve learned to increase healthy monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats like those found in avocados, almonds and olive oil, but we’ve still stayed away from saturated fats which were thought to increase our risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.

I often wondered about this because my grandparents farmed and they ate saturated fat all the time and lived an active life into their 80s. In fact, a good amount of the forbidden foods list made it into their daily diet including fresh eggs gathered each day.

Now according to a new study, those saturated fats we’ve avoided aren’t linked to an increase risk in heart disease or type 2 diabetes after all. However, the artificial trans fats found in processed foods are still bad for us. In fact, the FDA has announced a plan to eliminate all trans fats from store shelves by 2018.

This study isn’t giving us the green light to eat full fat dairy or fried food, yet. According to the study’s author, Russell de Souza, Scd, an assistant professor of Clinical Epidemiology & Biostatistics at McMaster University in Hamilton, ON, Canada, more research on fats is required.

He points to the fact that we have a large amount of evidence which shows negative effects associated with excess saturated fat in the diet. With conflicting results from the research world, he says, that no one nutrient or food is responsible for all heart disease, diabetes, or death but that “the whole diet matters.”

This is the crux of it in my opinion. In our Western culture, most of us eat in excess…whatever we’re eating. Souza says, that good health is as much about what we eat as what we don’t.

When I heard this I thought “seconds”. How many of us eat seconds when we aren’t really hungry? The key is to opt for reasonable portions of a varied diet that includes whole grains, legumes, fruits, vegetables and nuts, and very little refined starches, sugars, and processed trans fats.

Photo credits: pixabay

Keep Your Brain Younger with the MIND Diet

Posted on Aug 17, 2015 by No Comments

While many of us eat to keep our bodies in shape we may actually be helping to keep our minds healthy, too.

Researchers are saying that a diet rich in leafy green vegetables, beans, berries, whole grain and wine can help slow normal brain aging as well as cognitive decline. For this reason this diet has been dubbed the “mind diet” and is a blend of the Mediterranean and DASH Diets.

It stands for “Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay” and was developed by nutritional epidemiologists at Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center.

The specifics of the diet recommend at least three servings of whole grains, a salad or other vegetable, a serving of nuts, and a glass of wine daily. Beans and poultry are to be eaten at least twice a week and fish is recommended at least once a week. Berries are the only fruit allowed.

According to a study published in Alzheimer’s & Dementia: The Journal of the Alzheimer’s Association, this MIND diet may have the potential to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s risk by 35 percent, even if a person just follows the eating plan modestly.

This really sounds promising. I’m not sure if it will help those who are already suffering from cognitive decline but those of us who want to avoid going there can nosh our way to a healthier brain.

How much of a difference did the scientists see in participants?

Those who strictly followed the diet tested at 7.5 years younger cognitively over five years compared to those who stuck to the diet the least. Those who did follow the MIND diet limited red meat, butter, stick margarine, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried or fast foods.

If you step back and look at the recommendations, it’s healthy eating. Researchers admit more research is needed, but I’d say they are on the right track.  I applaud them for looking for answers outside of pharmaceuticals.

Photo credits: Plat

Common Oversight When Deciding to Eat Healthy

Posted on Aug 14, 2015 by No Comments

Eating healthy – what does that mean? The reason I ask is that I recently redefined my health goals because I wasn’t eating healthy. One of my problems was that “eating healthy” wasn’t specific enough and as a result, I wasn’t doing it.

The reason I set this goal in the first place is because I didn’t want to diet, because diets end, I gain my weight back, and get caught in the vicious cycle of yo-yo weight loss.

And I’m not alone. Research shows that most of us who lose weight end up gaining back some or all of it within a few years.

Exercise scientist Philip Stanforth, executive director of the Fitness Institute of Texas and a professor of exercise science at the University of Texas explains why this happens and what can be done to stop the cycle.

The problem is usually with the concept of dieting. No matter which diet you decide to follow, the problem is that it eventually ends. According to Stanforth, one crucial principle that should guide changes in eating is that it should be “something you can maintain for the rest of your life.” That is not the case for most diets.

That’s where I am now. I don’t want to diet. I just want to eat, to not be hungry, and to get to a healthy weight and stay there. Instead of just saying I’m going to eat healthy, I am trying to make half of my plate veggies or fruits because I wasn’t eating enough of them.

For instance, this morning I chopped cauliflower, parboiled it, and cooked it in a patty mold to hold its shape. I topped it with one slice of ham and an egg. It was delicious, filling, and satisfying. Yesterday, I had a half a plate of cooked spinach with my scrambled eggs.

While what I’m doing is not a “diet,” I do have guidelines which tell me if I’m accomplishing my goal of healthy eating. I can look at my plate and see whether or not it is composed of half plant food.

Along with this, I’m walking 2 miles a day. Yes, I’d like to do more, but when I set the bar too high I don’t do anything, so 2 miles is better than no miles.

Stanforth calls this the “this is how I’m going to eat for the rest of my life” mindset. It doesn’t have a beginning or end. It’s just healthy eating. And I don’t have to count anything!

Photo credit: wikimedia

Conflicting Views on Breakfast — What Should You Do?

Posted on Aug 13, 2015 by No Comments

Do you eat breakfast? Or are you a breakfast skipper? I’ve lived in both camps. The only reason I was ever a breakfast skipper on purpose was to avoid the calories.

Those who say we should eat breakfast argue that it is not a good idea to skip because our bodies fast all night and in the morning we need fuel to rev up our metabolism. Research weighs in on both sides of this issue making it one of those things you’ll need to choose for yourself.

For example, while it seems like you’d lose weight by skipping breakfast, according to the findings of many studies, those who eat breakfast actually enjoy reduced risk of obesity and hypertension.

In fact, the National Weight Control Registry has also discovered that of people who have lost weight and maintain that weight loss, 78 percent of them eat breakfast daily.

On the other side of the issue, recent research indicates that the concept that ties eating breakfast to weight loss stems mainly from misconstrued research when, in fact, only a handful of carefully controlled trials have tested the claim.

A recent report published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that missing breakfast has little to no effect on weight gain, or that people who eat breakfast end up consuming more daily calories than those who skip it.

If that doesn’t seem contradictory enough, a seminal 12-week study at Vanderbilt University delivered mixed results with two groups of moderately obese participants.

The first group was comprised of breakfast skippers who lost an average of about 17 pounds when they were put on a plan that included eating breakfast every day. The other group was breakfast eaters who were told to stop eating breakfast. They lost an average of almost 20 pounds.

You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to see there isn’t a clear answer regarding the eating breakfast/skipping breakfast issue. Like I said, I’ve done both.

These days I eat a later breakfast after I exercise which in my mind helps me snack less in the afternoon. For now, that’s what works for me. I think it’s more an individual thing – what works for you?

Photo credits: wikipedia

Five Steps that Help Lower Cholesterol

Posted on Aug 11, 2015 by 1 Comment

I’ve always tended to lean toward natural health solutions. Rather than take a prescription, if there is an alternative way, I want to give it an honest try.

Now, for the first time, I’m faced with high cholesterol. I’ve let the SAD diet (standard American diet) seep back into life to become the norm instead of the exception and it’s time to make some changes.

When I told my doctor I wasn’t going to take cholesterol-lowering medication but planned to control it with diet she said, “Good luck with that.”

At first her tone irked me, because it sounded like she didn’t believe me. But when I look around at others whom I know that have said the very same thing, most are lucky to follow their plan for 2 – 4 weeks.

So to help me stick with it, I’ve made myself a cholesterol lowering checklist of five proven ways to lower cholesterol without medication.

Exercise: First, I’m back to regular cardio exercise for at least 30 min a day, but usually walk a couple of miles which takes about 40 minutes. The rest of the changes are diet related.

Drink 2-5 cups black tea: Black tea contains flavonoids (major antioxidants) which prevent the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. In one study participants drank five servings of black tea each day and saw a reduction of 6 to 11 percent in cholesterol levels in as few as three months. So I’m making the change from coffee to tea.

Eat foods that contain healthy fats and avoid trans fats: The Heart Foundation recommends these healthy fat sources: olives, nuts, seeds, oils made from olives, nuts, and seeds, fish, lean meats and poultry, and eggs. And while healthy fats are good, I’ve also learned that too much of a good thing leads to weight gain, so I need to find the right balance.

Eat more vegetables and fruits: It’s no secret that eating fruits and veggies is good for us. One benefit is that they help bring our cholesterol under control. In fact, a study conducted by Stanford University showed a significant drop in total and LDL cholesterol in just four weeks – even more than eating a standard low-fat diet.

Eat whole grains instead of refined grains: I don’t eat a lot of grains, but when I do I’m making the switch from refined to whole grains. I like whole grain breads and whole oats, but many other whole grain products are just not to my liking. However, I’m going to aim at making whole-grain choices because whole grains have been shown to lower total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and insulin levels.

I’m a little more motivated than usual in my battle to lower cholesterol, because a 42-year-old friend of mine experienced a stroke a few months ago and is currently in physical therapy.

It’s easy to ignore high cholesterol because it doesn’t necessarily affect how you feel, but high cholesterol left unchecked leads to blockages which can hamper blood flow to the heart and brain.

I plan to return to the doctor in three months to see what kind of progress I’ve made.

Photo credits: freestockphotos