Sunday, November 25, 2018

Say Goodbye to Sick Days

As the cold weather is hitting most of the states, it is a good idea to start practicing some healthy habits to charge up your immune system and try to keep the colds and flu away.  What are some ideas that are easy to adopt to stay healthier this winter?   

      1.   Wash those hands – out shopping, going to school, going to work, up and down escalators, staying in hotels?  Germs are everywhere so wash them away.  Hand washing is the first step to keeping colds and flu at bay.  In 6 Tips for Avoiding Cold and Flu, Dr. Pocinki recommends, “Wash your hands as much as you can stand, and then some more—especially after wrapping up a visit with someone’s who’s sick.”  If you aren’t near a sink, use hand sanitizer.  Carry some in your purse, or store some in your glove compartment.   

2.  Power Up Your Immune System – having a healthy diet will help build your immune system but some foods are especially powerful in warding off colds and flu.
a.     Choose purple/blue foods – who knew that some foods like purple (or red) grapes or blueberries have some powerful anti-germ properties.  For even more of an immunity boost, enjoy a bowl of mixed berries.   
b.     Mushrooms – add some mushrooms to your salad or pizza.  Mushrooms provide some B vitamins and the mineral, selenium.  Being low in selenium makes your more susceptible to getting a more severe flu. 
c.     Wheat germ – this used to be the “health food” years ago and should be again.  Full of nutrients like zinc, B vitamins and antioxidants plus fiber, protein and a heart healthy fat.  Use some in baking, or sprinkle some on your morning oatmeal for a nutrition boost to your day. 

d.     Yogurt – those probiotics in yogurt have many health benefits, including lowering the severity of the common cold.  Look on the label for “live, active cultures”.
e.     Vitamin D – we all know vitamin D helps make our bones strong, but new research indicates vitamin D actually helps your immune system to develop some proteins to fight off bacteria and viruses.  The National Institutes of Health notes that people deficient in “D” are more susceptible to infection.  To boost your vitamin D intake, drink real milk at meals, pack some yogurt for lunch.  If you don’t like milk, then add some calcium-fortified OJ to your morning.
f.      Tea – drink some hot tea.  Choose whatever kind you like:  green, black or white.  Why tea?  Tea provides some immune boosting and disease-fighting antioxidants called polyphenols and flavonoids.  Doesn’t matter if you choose caffeinated or decaffeinated, you get the benefits of these antioxidants.
g.     Carrots, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie – these orange colored foods are loaded with beta-carotene which our bodies turn into vitamin A.  Beta carotene can boost your immune system and may slow down the aging process.  It is also great for healthy skin.

3. Exercise – walk the dog, walk with some friends at lunch or before/after work.  Dr. David Nieman from Appalachian State University who teaches disease prevention, says, “A brisk daily walk is the single most powerful thing you can do to prevent illness.”  His research has “found that people who exercised five days a week for 20 minutes or more reduced the number of days they were sick by 43 percent.”   
Walking the dog is good exercise
Some easy ways to boost your immune system this week.  Try all of them to help ward off the colds and flu this winter season.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Enjoy Thanksgiving without adding guilt to the menu

Who doesn’t love Thanksgiving?  All those delicious foods to eat.  What are some tips to enjoy the Thanksgiving feast and leftovers without adding those extra pounds?  Not easy since food is so plentiful and so tasty.  Not a day to be on a diet but a day we can enjoy every bite but not gain a lot as a result.

Consumer Reports wrote an article:  “Good to the Last Gobble” in which they outlined how many calories Americans eat at the Thanksgiving feast.  They cite the Calorie Control Council (who knew there was such a Council?) that says we consume 4,500 calories or more at our Thanksgiving feast.  That is a lot of calories for one meal, especially since our daily calorie intake should be between 1600 – 2000 for adult women and 2000 – 2400 for adult men.  (If you are active, you can take in more calories during the day.  Check out the chart at “Estimated Calorie Requirements”).  Consumer Reports suggest a meal with all the sides and dessert racks up about 1700 calories.  How did all these calories add up in their Thanksgiving feast?

Sweet potatoes, candied 4 ounces
Green Bean Casserole ½ cup
Cranberry Sauce ¼ cup
Turkey 3.5 ounces, white meat
Stuffing ½ cup
Mashed potatoes 1 cup
Gravy  ¼ c.
Cornbread 3x3 inch piece
Pumpkin pie 1/8 of 9 inch
Red wine 5 ounces
Total Calories

A meal with everything and the calories are well under the 4500 some people feast on.  At our house, we modify recipes to be a little less in calories but not less in taste.  My husband makes the pumpkin pie from scratch.  He uses Low fat 2% Evaporated milk in place of whole evaporated milk.  He cuts the sugar slightly from the recommended ¾ cup to ½ cup.  No cuts in the spices or other ingredients and the pie is quite tasty.  He also makes the cranberry sauce and cuts the sugar from the 1 cup recommended amount to ¾ cup.  A little tangier but the taste of the cranberries is even better.  I make a sweet potato casserole with a recipe from Southern Living.  I alter the recipe slightly reducing the butter a bit and cutting back some on the sugar.  No cuts though on the marshmallows or crusty Corn Flake topping.  My daughter makes an awesome pecan pie with a recipe from Cooking Light.  Some oatmeal is used for thickening and it cuts back on some of the corn syrup.  The pie is delicious – not low calorie but less calories than it would have.  A good thing since WebMD notes that a slice of pecan pie with whipped cream can top 800 calories. 
Try using 2% milk for your pumpkin pie
Some other suggestions to enjoy your day, eat all the delicious food, but not tip the scales for days afterward: 
  • Taste everything – but watch how much – smaller servings of some entries
  • Save room for seconds – yes, if there is a food you really like, take a small 1st serving, then enjoy a second serving if you like
  • Exercise – Thanksgiving morning go for a walk or enjoy some type of exercise.  Then after you eat – walk again or be sure to add in some exercise Friday morning.
  • Skip foods you don’t really like – no reason to add in a lot of calories for a food you don’t really enjoy
  • Do other things beside eating – some families go for a family walk after the meal, some families put a puzzle together or play a board game
  • Clear the table – put away the food and pack a lot of leftovers for guests to take with them
Try some substitutions and other suggestions:
  • Instead of mashed potatoes served roasted baby potatoes
  • Cranberry sauce – use as a relish not a main dish
  • Eat breakfast – don’t skip meals on Thanksgiving day or you may find yourself snacking all day long
  • Don’t forget the water – stay hydrated
  • Pete Thomas of the Biggest Loser recommends:  “You probably won’t lose weight during the holidays, but with careful planning you can avoid gaining weight.” 
  • Eat those veggies – usually lower in calories and fills you up
The main advice on Thanksgiving – Enjoy Every BITE, enjoy it all and enjoy the day!  Happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, November 11, 2018

Natural Remedies and Cures

Natural sounds good and there are many “natural” remedies and cures advertised every day.  Which ones work and which ones don’t?  Consumer Reports (November 2018) and a number of others have reviewed commonly used natural remedies.  Have you tried some natural remedies and have they worked for you?  What do the experts say?
      1.   Apple Cider Vinegar – my daughter recently asked me about apple cider vinegar and if it helps with weight loss.  I told her that myth is very old and was around a long time ago and then keeps coming back.  The hucksters push apple cider vinegar as a great cure all.  Take in just 1-2 Tablespoons a day and they claim you have better blood sugar levels, you lose weight, reduce your cancer risk and a new claim is it cures some skin problems.  Apple cider vinegar is really good for something – to use it in salad dressing.  Dr. Chey from the University of Michigan is quoted as saying, “there’s little scientific evidence to support these health claims.”  In fact, for some people, those with heartburn, taking doses of apple cider vinegar is not recommended.  Why?  Because it can cause more harm than good.  My dentist recommends against drinking plain apple cider vinegar as it can harm tooth enamel. 
Recommendation:  Don’t take apple cider vinegar straight up.  Forget taking apple cider vinegar as a remedy for health problems, but instead enjoy it on your salad, as it adds a tangy taste to your salad dressings. 

2. Berries – lots of commercials on TV and in ads tout the health benefits of berries.  The latest are pushing the goji berries.  But they have a lot of truth to their claims.  Choosing berries such as blueberries, raspberries, cranberries, strawberries, blackberries, or goji berries does offer a lot of nutritional benefits.  Not only are berries healthy in terms of vitamins, minerals and fiber but also for those important antioxidants.  Many people call berries the super food.  The rich color of berries – the dark red, the dark blue/purple are the reason the berries are so healthy for us.  One study showed that blueberries, blackberries, raspberries and pomegranates have the highest antioxidant levels of all fruits.  Not just berries but all fruit provides antioxidants.  For example, apples are unique as they provide a different antioxidant.  Why are berries so especially good for our health?  One reason is these antioxidants can cut our cancer risk.  The fiber content of fruit is good because it helps you fill fuller longer.   
                  Recommendation - enjoy berries - add them to your cereal, enjoy them as snacks, add 
                  them to a smoothie.  And it is OK to buy frozen berries which work well in smoothies. 
Enjoy berries for good health
3.  Probiotics – what are probiotics?  They are the healthy bacteria in your gut.  Who knew that some bacteria are actually good for us?  A huge amount of research is being done on these gut bacteria, why we need them and what they do for our health.  Where can you get these “good bacteria”?  Consumer Reports recommends getting them from food rather than pills.  Yogurt is a great source.  Look for “live cultures” on the yogurt you buy.  Yogurt is also a good way to add calcium and vitamin D to your day.  And to promote the good bacteria, eat berries and yogurt.  The fiber in berries and in fruit promotes more good bacteria in your gut.
Recommendation:  Enjoy some yogurt every day.  A great way to add probiotics to your day.    
Yogurt parfait with berries
  4.  Tea – whether black tea, green tea or white tea – drinking tea is a healthy thing to do.  Now that the weather is turning colder, grab a cup of hot tea.  I like to drink my coffee every morning but I enjoy a hot cup of tea during the day.  Why is tea a healthy choice?  Because it provides flavonoids, antioxidants which promote good health such as lowering our risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes.  And drinking green tea may help promote weight loss but you would have to drink a lot of it, up to 8 cups a day.  Tea does have caffeine and seems to promote mental alertness.  What about herbal teas?  They are still good for you but have lower amounts of antioxidants than the green, black, white or oolong teas.
Recommendation:  enjoy a cup of hot green, black, white or oolong tea.  Herbal teas are fine but also add some green, black, white or oolong tea to the mix.  Avoid teas advertised as dietersteas that contain senna, aloe, buckthorn or some other type of laxative. 

This week add some berries, yogurt and hot tea to your day.  Enjoy a smoothie with berries, try a new flavor of yogurt, bring some yogurt with you to work to have at lunch or a snack.  Try some different tea flavors.   We like green tea but also enjoy a number of herbal teas.  Enjoy that apple cider vinegar in your salad dressing but don’t bother taking any straight from the bottle.  Your teeth will be the better for it.

Sunday, November 4, 2018

Sugar Myths

Who doesn’t enjoy some sweets in their diet?  We all like our desserts and treating ourselves.  There are a lot of myths about sugar in our diets.  Food for Health has a great article this month on Sugar:  The Not-So-Sweet Truth.  Do you believe some of these myths about sugar?  Below are some common myths many people have about sugar.

Myth 1:  Some sugars such as honey or agave are healthier for you than white table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.

A little bit true, as honey and agave do provide some traces of vitamins and minerals such as potassium and vitamin C.  But the amounts are so small, that honey and agave are not really healthier than white table sugar or high fructose corn syrup.  Some people use honey as a cough suppressant.  Others like the taste of honey in baked foods like muffins.  Nothing wrong with choosing honey or agave, they just aren’t much healthier.   

Myth 2:  There are sugars that are low in calories.
Sugar is sugar and sugar provides 4 calories a gram.  People may be thinking about artificial sugars.  But brown sugar and white table sugar provide the same calories about 35 calories in 2 teaspoons.   Doesn’t sound like many calories but added sugar calories can up fast.   Drink a 12-ounce soda sweetened with high fructose corn syrup and you added about 39 grams of sugar or over 9 teaspoons of sugar to your day.  All the calories, about 140, in a 12-ounce soda are empty calories meaning there is no nutritional value.  Have 2 or 3 sodas and you’ve added 26 to 39 teaspoons of sugar to your day.  A good way to lose weight is to cut back or cut out these empty calorie sodas from your day.  

Myth 3:  Sugar-free foods are the healthiest
We need carbs in our diet, but good carbs like whole grains and fruits and vegetables.  About half the calories we eat each day should come from carbs.  Some people choose sugar-free foods thinking they are healthier.  Some of these foods do have less “added sugar” but then the manufacturers replace the sugar with more fat.  But choosing foods with artificial sweeteners may help someone cut back on all the added sugars in their diet.  Diabetics need to cut back on added sugars and many recipes for diabetics use the artificial sweeteners as these sweeteners have no calories and don’t raise blood glucose levels.  Some people ban artificial sweeteners from their diet thinking they are unhealthy but then overindulge in foods high in added sugar which also isn’t healthy.  I enjoy an occasional Diet Coke and don’t worry about the small amount of artificial sweetener I take in.

Myth 4:  All sugars are bad for you.
It is the added sugar that we need to watch for and cut back on in our day.  The sugar in plain milk is not “added sugar” but the natural sugar in milk called lactose.  The sugar in a banana is not added sugar, but the natural sugar called fructose.  I have heard people look at a carton of milk and say it has a lot of “sugar “when there is no added sugar.  And some foods may have “added sugar” but also provide a lot of nutrients.  For example, chocolate milk has some added sugar but also provides calcium, vitamin D, protein and a lot of important nutrients.  Serving kids some pudding as a dessert is a good choice as pudding provides calcium, vitamin D and many nutrients even though there is some added sugar.  
Bananas have no "added" sugar
Don’t be fooled by the sugar myths.  I enjoy my desserts and sweets every day.  But I do try to keep all the added sugar foods out of my meals.  Parents that are feeding their kids Sunny D and Pop-Tarts are starting the kid’s day with a lot of added sugar.  Pop-Tarts have not only one type of added sugar but 5:  corn syrup, sugar, high fructose corn syrup, dextrose and molasses.  So, read the food labels to see how much added sugar is in the food you are eating or serving to your kids.  The new food labels will make it much easier to determine if a food has natural sugar in it, like 100% orange juice, or added sugar, like Sunny D.  Start to look at the labels on packages and you will begin to see the “added sugars” on the new food labels manufacturers are using.    
Look for "Added Sugars" on the new food labels