As Valentine’s Day is once again upon us, I thought I would dust off a couple of very popular post from the past. The first appropriately dealing with love and the second dealing with the healthy benefits of chocolate. That’s right chocolate – at least dark, and in moderation is good for you! Who would of thought, right?
Hope you enjoy.
10 Reasons Why Love Is All You Need
Perhaps the Beatles got it right all those years ago. Love is all you need. At least that’s what the continuing flow of research implies—people with good social connections, and plenty of them, enjoy better health. It works both ways. People who suffer loneliness and isolation are two to five times more likely to die prematurely, and those who say they feel loved have less serious health problems, even when they have other high risk factors. Some research results:
- People with close relationships recover faster from injury and illness.
- Heart disease patients who reported that they felt the most loved and supported had less coronary artery blockage than others.
- Women with breast cancer who joined support groups had better long-term survival rates.
- Having a friend with you at a stressful event can lower your blood pressure and heart rate.
- Pet owners with heart disease are less likely to die early than those without pets.
Chocolate: Food of the Gods?
With Valentine’s day just around the corner, I thought it appropriate to write about the “food of the gods” or cacao, better know today as good ol’ chocolate.
Let’s start with a bit of history. Cacao was first cultivated in 250-900 A.D. by the Maya civilization. According to ancient Mayan texts, cocoa is of divine origin and is considered a gift from the gods. Cocoa was said to have nourishing, fortifying, and aphrodisiac qualities. Pre-Columbian societies were known to use chocolate as medicine, too. Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, who first brought cocoa beans back to Spain from the new world in 1528 said, “a cup of this invaluable, refreshing and nourishing drink permitted a man to walk for a whole day without food.” Nutrition researcher, Michael Levine, described chocolate as being the world’s perfect food—at least chemically speaking.
February is American Heart Month—and a good time to reflect on the sobering fact that heart disease remains the number one killer of both women and men in the United States. But there is some good news – you have the power to protect and improve your heart health.
Know Your Risks, Protect Your Heart
Research has found that you can lower your risk for heart disease simply by adopting sensible health habits (see references below). To protect your heart, the first step is to learn your own personal risk factors for heart disease. Risk factors are conditions or habits that make you more likely to develop a disease. Risk factors can also increase the chances that an existing disease will get worse.
Certain risk factors—like getting older or having a family history of heart disease—can’t be changed. But you do have control over some important risk factors such as:
- High blood cholesterol
- High blood pressure
- Excess weight
- Physical inactivity
Unfortunately, many people have more than one risk factor. To ensure a healthy heart, it’s best to lower or eliminate as many as you can because they tend to “gang up” and worsen each other’s effects.
Scientists have found that middle-aged adults with one or more elevated risk factors, such as high blood pressure, were much more likely to have a heart attack or other major heart related event during their remaining lifetime than people with optimal levels of risk factors.
To address your heart risk factors, it helps to know your numbers. Ask your health care provider to measure your blood cholesterol and blood pressure. These tests are usually conducted during an annual checkup or may be available free or at low cost during health fares or even at your local drugstore or pharmacy. Finally, determine if your weight is in the healthy range.
Focus on the Risk Factors:
The higher your cholesterol level, the greater your risk for heart disease or heart attack. High blood cholesterol itself doesn’t cause symptoms, so you can’t know if your cholesterol is too high unless you have it tested. Routine blood tests can show your overall cholesterol level and separate levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol and triglycerides (the main form of fat in the body). All of these blood measurements are linked to your heart health.
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure (hypertension) is another major risk factor for heart disease, as well as for stroke. High blood pressure is often called the “silent killer” because, like high cholesterol, it usually has no symptoms. Blood pressure is always reported as two numbers, and any numbers above 120/80 mmHg raise your risk of heart disease and stroke.
Your weight is another important number to know. To find out if you need to lose weight to reduce your risk of heart disease, you’ll need to calculate your body mass index (BMI, a ratio of weight to height). A BMI between 25 and 29.9 means that you’re overweight, while a BMI of 30 or higher means obesity.
You can find a great BMI calculator at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics website.
Next, take out a tape measure. A waist measurement of more than 35 inches for women and 40 inches for men raises the risk of heart disease and other serious health conditions. Fortunately, even a small weight loss (between 5% and 10% of your current weight) can help lower your risk.
A heart-healthy diet includes a variety of fruits, vegetables and whole grains, as well as lean meats, poultry, fish, beans and fat free or low-fat dairy products. Try to avoid saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, sodium (salt) and added sugar.
Regular physical activity is another powerful way to reduce your risk of heart-related problems and enjoy a host of other health benefits. To make physical activity a pleasure rather than a chore, choose activities you enjoy. Take a brisk walk, play ball, lift light weights, dance or garden. Even taking the stairs instead of an elevator can make a difference.
Protect Your Heart
Here is that list again of the things you can do for a healthier heart and a longer life:
- Don’t smoke.
- Maintain healthy cholesterol levels and blood pressure.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Choose more heart-healthy foods.
- Get and stay active.
- Know your family history.
- Learn the signs that something’s wrong.
Want to get started on a program of diet & exercise for a healthy heart , send us an email or give us a call. The coaches at Lifestyle Wellness Partners would love to help.
American healthy eating habits declined slightly in 2011, after improving in 2010. According to the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the number of Americans reporting eating five or more servings of fruits and vegetable at least four days a week dropped last year effectively erasing gains reported from 2009 to 2010.
Gallup suggested that one reason for the decline may be related to the reported lack of accessible and affordable fresh fruits and vegetables in local communities. This comment is made in spite of the fact that in 2010, 92% of Americans report having access to affordable produce where they live.
Based upon this high degree of access to healthy foods, one has to ask why health problems related to healthy eating–obesity, type-2 diabetes, coronary heart disease–continue to rise in this country. If access to health foods is not the issue, then one must assume lifestyle choices as the culprit.
As a country, we continue to make poor choices regarding the food we eat–fast food rather than slow food. We still do not include sufficient exercise in our daily lives–spending hours each day sitting rather than moving.
A few simple lifestyle changes can go a long way to improving your health and reducing the amount of money you spend on healthcare each year. Healthy eating and exercise can help to reduce the risk of ALL of the leading causes of death.
Try these 5 simple changes or swaportunities.
1. Eat more plants.
Snack on fruits and vegetables rather than donuts and sweets.
2. Get moving.
Sitting for more than an hour or so at a stretch is deadly. Get up, stretch, walk around. Do some deep knee bends or go climb a couple flights of stairs.
3. Drink one less soda.
Replace one soda each day with water. Add a slice of lemon or orange for flavoring if needed.
4. Take the stairs.
Use the stairs rather than an elevator or escalator to change floors.
5. Try a green salad instead of fries.
Eat a salad rather than fries with your fast food lunch one day each week.
Share your thoughts or swaportunity ideas
A new diet plan? No, just a new way of thinking about food, according to consumer psychologist Dr. Brian Wansink, author of Mindless Eating: Why We Eat More Than We Think.
Dieters may not need as much willpower as they think, if you make simple changes in your surroundings that can result in eating healthier without a second thought.
“Our homes are filled with hidden eating traps,” said Dr. Wansink. “Most of us have too much chaos going on in our lives to consciously focus on every bite we eat. The secret is to change your environment so it works for you not against you.”
One of his studies showed that people lost up to 2 pounds a month after making several simple changes in their environment, including these:
- Eat off salad plates instead of large dinner plates (note the difference in size in the above image).
- Keep unhealthy foods out of immediate line of sight and move healthier foods to eye-level in the cupboard and refrigerator.
- Eat in the kitchen or dining room, not in front of the TV.
“These simple strategies are far more likely to succeed than willpower alone. It’s easier to change your environment than to change your mind,” he said.
Here’s another technique from Wansink that may be worth trying—it’s called the mindless margin. If you try to reduce you calorie intake by too much at any one time—500 or more calories per day—your body and mind will notice making you feel hungry and ornery.
However, if you reduce your calorie consumption by 200-300 per day, your body and mind may not even become aware. Over the course of a month this can amount to a loss of 2 1/2 pounds. While that may not seem like much, over a year that 2 1/2 pounds could result in a 30 pound weight loss. Not bad for just having one less Blueberry muffin or replacing one Starbuck’s Grande White Chocolate Mocha per day with a cup of black coffee.
I’m sure you can think of many more ways to mindlessly drop 200-300 calories per day from your diet. So, what are you going to do today to mindlessly reduce your calories? Share your thoughts and ideas below.
- Lifestyle Change – It Only Takes Small Steps (well-beingblog.com)
- Super-size me? The psych end of ordering food (ctv.ca)
- Portion control may be all in the mind, studies suggest (cbsnews.com)
- Time to Eat (my.psychologytoday.com)
Image curtesy of Wendt Pottery Dinnerware
Article partially based on material from Health-e headlines™
If you are a regular reader of the Well-Being Blog, you’re aware that exercise is a vital part of a successful plan to stay fit. But are you aware that the foods you eat and the liquids you drink can help you reach your fitness goals faster? The snacks eaten before your workout can ensure your body is getting the right raw materials it needs to provide the needed energy during your workout and to repair muscle afterward.
So, it’s important to pick the right foods that give the most energy regardless of your activity level. Carbohydrates are the first responders to the body’s need for energy during exercise. Protein and fat are not nearly as efficient.
Hit the trail or the gym with the following healthy food ideas before and after your workout, suggests Anita M. Kobuszewski, MS, RD, author of Food: Field to Fork, How to Grow Sustainably, Shop Wisely, Cook Nutritiously, and Eat Deliciously:
- Whole-grain bagel with peanut butter and yogurt
- Thin-crust pizza with green peppers
- Granola with low-fat milk and banana
- Trail mix with nuts and dried fruit (see Walk the Trail Mix recipe)
- Instant oatmeal made with low-fat milk
- Bran or corn muffin with egg whites and salsa
- Fig bars with peanut butter and 100% juice
Don’t forget hydration
Hydration during and after exercise is also vital. But should it be water or a sports drink? According to the American Dietetic Association’s Sports, Cardiovascular and Wellness Dietetic Practice Group, unless you work out an hour or more—or are an extremely heavy sweater—water, yes plain water is the perfect hydration drink for the average person.
Walk the Trail Mix
Here’s a recipe for a great quick energy boost included in Kobuszewski’s book, Food: Field to Fork, How to Grow Sustainably, Shop Wisely, Cook Nutritiously, and Eat Deliciously, ideal for eating on the go.
1/2 cup cherries, dried, not packed
1/2 cup apples, dried, pieces
1/4 cup apricots, dried
1/2 cup English walnuts, pieces
1/4 cup sunflower seeds, raw
1/2 cup raisins, not packed
1/4 cup banana chips
1/4 cup almonds, whole, raw
Mix all ingredients in a bowl and divide into small storage bags for portion control and portability. Makes 3 cups. One quarter cup is 180 calories, 3 g fiber, 24 carbs, 3 g protein, 10 grams fat.
- My Favorite Snacks to Help You Get the Most From Your Workout (self.com)
- 10 Best Foods and Drinks for Exercising (cookinglight.com)
Article partially based on material from Health-e headlines™
Let’s face it, healthy eating can be difficult at times. If you’re like most Americans, you find it hard to consume the recommended amount of fruits and vegetables in your daily diet. In fact, our lives are so busy (from getting ready for work, commuting to work, working, and coming home to work the “second shift”) that it’s hard enough just finding time to eat—let alone finding time to eat the recommended 5-9 servings of fruits and vegetables.
But have no fear—there’s no reason to get down about your diet. Here you’ll find three strategies that will help you eat great throughout the day, no matter where you are, what your budget is like, or how much time you have.
Incorporate Fruits And Vegetables Into Every Meal.
If you think about it, fruits and veggies are actually some of the fastest and simplest foods to eat and cook with. Below you’ll find some ideas on how to fit fruits and vegetables into your daily eating routine.
Try a half cup of blueberries or slice a banana or some strawberries on top of your usual bowl of cereal. You may also want to drink some fruit juice. As long as it’s 100% juice, just six ounces counts as one serving toward your Five A Day. Remember, the real thing is best, but 100% juice will do if that’s all that is available
Pack some carrot sticks or broccoli for dipping instead of those greasy potato chips. Not only will you get one of your five a day servings out of the way, but you’ll cut fat and calories at the same time. For added taste you might consider dipping your veggies in a small amount of hummus.
There’s nothing like a baked potato as part of a healthy dinner—as long as you don’t load it up with toppings that increase calories and fat. Also, cooking up a can of corn or green beans in the microwave is about as simple as it gets.
Make Your Fruits And Veggies Work For You
Depending on what you buy and when, fresh fruits and veggies can be expensive. But they don’t have to be. Check out these tips for saving big when it comes to getting your Five A Day.
Be A Bargain Hunter
When learning how to shop smart for fruits and vegetables, you will need to learn your prices. Once you have a good idea of what constitutes a good deal, you’ll be able to load up on your favorite items. Don’t forget, it helps tremendously if you can buy produce that’s in season and local. You won’t pay extra to have it shipped. Better still, buy your fruits and vegetables at a farmers market. You will likely get the freshest most flavor items that are currently in season.
Once you learn to recognize a bargain when you see one, chances are you’ll have too much produce to eat before it spoils. The solution? Just freeze it. There’s nothing wrong with freezing fruit. It keeps very well and in some cases, can make fruit even easier to work with. Consider refrigerating bananas—the skins may darken, but they’ll last a few days longer.
Let It Grow
Looking for the ultimate money saving technique when it comes to getting your five a day? Grow a garden! Sure, there will be some expense wrapped up in seed, water, and fertilizer, but the cost will be quite low. Plus, there’s nothing quite like the feeling of eating homegrown food. Eat healthy and start a new hobby all at once! Consider creating or joining a community garden if you don’t have the space for your own garden.
Get Your Five On The Go
There’s no doubt that Americans are working harder, and spending more time at work than at any other point in history. But that’s no excuse to eat poorly—in fact, quite the opposite is true. If we’re going to maintain our work pace, we have to make sure we’re getting the nutrition and energy we need. The fact is, you can get your five a day no matter where you are.
Eating Away From Home
The key to getting your Five A Day— even when you’re away from the house— is substituting. Just because your favorite restaurant has certain menu items, doesn’t mean you have to stick to them. Try substituting fresh fruit for fries, or vegetables in place of potato chips.
Eating In The Car
Americans are spending more and more time in their cars—either commuting to and from work, or racing around running errands. To eat healthier when you’re out and about, try keeping some dried fruit in your glove compartment (but pay attention to the increased sugar load of most commercially available dried fruit), or bring something easy like cauliflower or grapes to snack on in between stops.
Most foods people consume at work come straight from the vending machine. And these foods, rather than being loaded with healthy vitamins and minerals, are packed with extra calories and loads of fat. The following tips can help you eat healthier when you’re at the office:
- Bring your lunch. Lunch is a good opportunity to eat healthy. Bring a salad with chicken, nuts, beans and veggies. Keep it in the refrigerator.
- Avoid takeout lunches, which tend to be expensive, oversized, heavy in fat and calories, and lacking in nutrients.
- Bring healthy snacks like carrot sticks, broccoli, nuts, and dried fruit, stash some yogurt in the refrigerator.
- Avoid the vending machine with its high calorie, high sugar content food-like substances.
Article partially based on material from WELCOA
- ScienceDaily: An apple a day isn’t enough: Many people not eating enough fruits and vegetables (sciencedaily.com)