Thursday, April 29, 2010
Wednesday, April 21, 2010
The Washington Post writes: One in three U.S. adults has high blood pressure, which in turn is a leading cause of heart attacks, strokes and kidney failure. And while being overweight and inactive raises blood pressure, too much salt is a big culprit as well. The American Medical Association has said 150,000 lives a year could be saved by cutting in half sodium levels in processed and restaurant food.
And a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that added sugars may be playing a role in cholesterol problems.
Hmmm... ok, so maybe salt isn't good... but is salt-free dead food really all that much better? And added sugars aren’t wonderful either. But again – are sugar-free cookies really “healthy”? Let’s not get so focused on losing weight that we forget about health! Your weight is not the problem – it’s the symptom. It's the secondary result of imporoper nutrition, improper activity, and many o ther factors that may be more difficult to control. How about cutting down on processed foods, regardless of salts and sugars?
But on a different angle…
I heard on the radio this morning that the government is being urged to require food manufactures to cut down on the salt in their processed foods.
In theory, that’s a good idea. But in practice, where does that leave your personal freedom of choice? If companies want to volunteer to cut down on dangerous additives, I am all for that! But I also think people need to take responsibility for their own health. If you don’t care about your health, and want to go to town on that jumbotron-sized bag of potato chips, that’s your decision.
And yes, continued efforts need to be made to help people learn where hidden sources of these additives are – so here’s a little run-down for ya!
The American Heart Association shares this list of major food sources of sodium:
-Canned foods (beans, veggies, sauces, etc)
-Prepared mixes (Hamburger helper, flavored rices, etc.)
Pretty much any pre-packaged food is going to have added salt to help preserve it. This includes many microwave dinners. Drinks are another source: pop and sports drinks are riddled with sodium! (Pop makes ya thirsty so ya want more! And sports drinks are for athletes who are sweating buckets due to more than 60 minutes of exercise!)
And sugar? Whoo-buddy! Where to start?
A Rose By Any Other Name Is Just As Sweet…
And sugar is no exception! It’s time to be a sleuth, my friends! Food manufacturers like to try to disguise the sugar! But we’re too smart for that sneakiness! ;-)
Sugar is known by so many names. Ready for this crazy list?
Corn syrup/High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)
Dextrin or dextrose
Fruit Juice Concentrate
Read any food ingredient list, chances are it will contain at least one of those items.
Common culprits often thought of as “healthy”: fruit juice, flavored yogurt, flavored coffees and teas, pop, and even some sweetened cereals! Am I saying avoid all those things? Not if you don’t want to (doesn’t it just ROCK that you have that choice still?!) but at least be aware. Check out those sugars! Am I saying all sugar is bad? Not at all! Natural sugars definitely have their place and purpose – but stick with the natural as much as you can: fruits! Ok, ok, and moderately use other natural sources like dates, honey, and agave. (Lets face it – we love sweet things!)
So make your own personal choice to cut down on that processed stuff! Don’t wait for the government to force you – do it for yourself, your health, your wellbeing.
Go fresh, baby! :)
Tuesday, April 20, 2010
Well, maybe they're not ALL good, but some are edible, healthy, and useful!
When Dave and I took our camping/wilderness class, we learned about so many great plants! Here's a quick run-down of the few we learned:
Dandelion: the leaves, while bitter, are great for liver cleansing! "Back in the day" (love that cliche!) people would go and actually buy medicines called "Bitters." Many green plants that have a sharp, bitter taste are good for you! The yellow heads can also be made into salads and honey! People are starting to recognize the benefit of dandelion now, so you may actually be able to find the greens in the store! But they are huge, full-grown leaves. One of our instructors said the smaller, more immature leaves are less bitter. I haven't had enough experience to be able to experiment the tastes, yet.
Purselane: I'm not sure of the specific nutritional value of these, but I know you can eat them! We chopped them up, heated them, then melted a ton of pepper jack cheese in it (shhhh! I know, not healthy!) and used it as dip for Triscuts at camp! So yummy!
Plantain or Plantago: (The flowery plant, not the banana-like fruit) well, ok, so this one is good for reasons other than nutritional sustenance. Plantain stalks are natural mosquito repellents! Eat three stalks per day for three days, and your body will start to naturally produce a repellent! Will it also repel those around you? I don't think so, but keep an eye out for friends inching away, and let me know ;-)
Jewel Weed: Dave's favorite! The thick stalks contain an aloe-like gel that you rub on itches! Specifically poison ivy, but it can may also help relieve other irritants.
Wood Sorrel: Dave calls this one "God's candy" as it has a slight lemony zing to it, and grows in abundance :) We also found this at one of the parks we have visited. Sadly, I didn't trust the park to be fertilizer-free, so we could not eat them. But they grown like crazy in our back yard, and I've seen a few sprouting this year! So maybe I'll season a salad with some lemon kick!
What a wonderful Provider we have! Such healthy, useful products within our own yards - and darn near impossible to screw up the growing!
Here's the kicker though: you can't usually rummage around fields to eat this food because we're trying to kill the weeds with weed killer! Poison on our bountiful health! Sadness!
If you don't treat your lawn with fertilizers or pesticides, and you're not near a roadway where lost of car exhaust will pollute your yard, you just may have a feast awaiting you! On the last day of my camp, we were given some instant rice, and told to add what we wanted to it. I went out and hunted up a bunch of green leafy dandelion leaves, jewel weed leaves, found a few wild carrot roots and onions, and tossed in a handful of wood sorrel for a hint of lemon! I turned that boring rice into a lovely grain salad!
Thursday, April 15, 2010
Cornucopia.org has created this cheat-sheet to show you who owns whom when it comes to organic products. I always find it intersting to know who I'm supporting!
Tuesday, April 13, 2010
Get outside and get some clean air! ...if you can find it ;-)
Friday, April 2, 2010
But sleep is essential! The journal, SLEEP, did a study that found too little sleep (less than 5 hours per night) may increase your risk of abdominal fat, versus those who got at least 6 hours of zzz’s per night.
Not only that, but it is during our visit to lullabye land that some of our most important immune system functions occur, along with some important antioxidant activity.
So how much sleep do you need? Sadly, there’s no “magic number” that’s cookie-cutter perfect for everyone. But the Sleep Foundation says the average adult can use 7-8 hours nightly as a rule of thumb, then adjust from there based on the individual. Note when you feel really well rested versus feeling tired or foggy. The foundation goes on to say that researchers are learning about two factors to a person’s needs: basal sleep needs, and sleep debt. Basal needs are how much your body needs on a regular, average basis. The sleep debt is what it sounds like – any extra rest you may need after skimping on sleep in the past, sickness, disrupted sleeping, etc. The good news is they say over time, you CAN pay off sleep debt and get back to a healthy cycle!
Healthy sleep is a complex issue and takes both mind and body into consideration. So yes, you may have more trouble sleeping if you’re stressed or anxious. You may have trouble waking if you’re depressed or ill. Some things you may have little control over (I wake to garbage trucks clanging and crashing behind my bedroom 2 to 4 times a week between the hours of 1am and 5am... ugg!) but other things you can control! Environment, exercise, nutrition.
*Make sleeping consistent – go to bed and wake around the same time, even on weekends
*Create a wind-down program of reading, bathing, or listening to music
*Make sure you have a comfortable bed
*Keep your room free of “sleep stealers” like tv, computers, or other distractions.
*Daily! Even if it’s only a 20 minute walk: Your body needs to have at least a little bit of physical fatigue to sleep. Just because you’re mentally exhausted at the end of the day does not mean your body will be ready to sit still and rest.
*Exercise will also help you re-regulate your appetite to help balance out a healthy diet
*Do not exercise too closely to bed time (aim for at least 1-2 hours before) or it may stir you up more than help you relax.
(of course, my favorite area!)
*As is so commonly shared: avoid stimulating food or drink such as coffee, tea, cola, chocolate. (Or at least go for caffeine free – NOT “decaffeinated” as it may still have small amounts of caffeine!)
*Also avoid alcohol – while is seems like a relaxing idea, studies show that it does interfere with good, restful and rejuvenating sleep.
*For dinner, avoid sugar-spiking foods (sugar, refined flours and grains, pop) and stick to whole foods. Be sure to include some protein and healthy fats.
*Avoid a large dinner shortly before bed – aim for 4 hours before; only have a light snack if you’re truly hungry, not just because you’ve got a case of the munchies
You may think a heavy meal will be an enjoyable way to give yourself a ticket to food-coma land, but like the alcohol, it’s not actually restorative sleep. You may feel tired after a large meal, but your body actually goes in to over time – your circulatory system is pumping more blood to the digestive tract, your stomach is secreting extra gastric acids while the smooth muscles start roiling and churning for digestion, and your pancreas is spitting out its enzymes. Your body is a’workin’!
Make sure you eat regularly through the day: don’t eat a huge meal because you neglected to eat, and are trying to “make up” for the missed needs! Instead of trying to “treat” damage done during the day, “prevent” it from happening in the first place! Nutrition isn’t really retroactive. It takes time to break down in your body and be utilized. You get nutrition after you eat, not before ;-)
Ok ok, I know – all is easier said than done! So many things that could affect your sleep and your health! So, pick one or two to aim for – if you’re going to have a huge dinner, at least keep it healthy and light; if you’re going to insist on ice cream for dessert, at least try to limit the portion and have it early; if you can’t take that tv out of your room, at least unplug it (I find there’s a slight electrical sound from my tv and I would not be surprised at all if it can subtly affect sleep! When we actually shut the whole thing down, not just turn off the screen, there’s a substantial and noticeable snap followed by real silence!)
Pick your own goal, but make sure you’re taking care of yourself!
Sleep well, on this wonderfully warm weekend!