Archive for January, 2014


The worst foods for your heart

The leading cause of death in America is heart disease, which begins when the lining and inner layers of the coronary arteries are damaged, either through genetics or lifestyle choices. According to the National Institutes of Health, there are several contributing factors:

  • Smoking, including secondhand smoke
  • High amounts of certain fats and cholesterol in the blood
  • High blood pressure
  • High amounts of sugar in the blood due to insulin resistance or diabetes
  • Blood vessel inflammation

Things to avoid

Trans-fats raise your LDL (bad) cholesterol AND lowers your HDL (good) cholesterol. The American Heart Association recommends limiting the amount of trans-fat you eat daily to less than 1 percent of your total calories. You can limit, or eliminate trans-fat from your diet by reading labels and skipping foods that contain hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oil, which can include packaged snacks, crackers, bakery goods and some margarines.

Saturated fat is found in such foods as butter, sour cream, mayo and fatty cuts of meat. Like trans-fats, saturated fats elevate LDL cholesterol, which can lead to plaque buildup in arteries. Limit saturated fats to 5% or less of your total calories.

Salt, simply stated, raises your blood pressure. Americans take in a third more than the daily recommended limit of 2,300 mg (about 1 teaspoon salt). Cutting your sodium intake can help lower high blood pressure and also reduce your risk of developing high blood pressure.

Added sugars are those added to food by consumers or manufacturers. The American Heart Association recommends that women limit their added sugars to no more than 100 calories per day, or about 6 teaspoons and men no more than 150 calories (9 teaspoons). These recommendations apply only to added sugars, which supply calories but not to sugars that occur naturally in healthful foods, such as fructose in fruit and lactose in dairy.

Heart disease by the numbers

600,000 – number of fatalities related to heart disease

25 – percentage of deaths in America can be attributed to heart disease

#1 – cause of death for both men and women

700,000 – heart attacks in America every year

$108.9 billion – annual cost of treating coronary heart disease in the U.S.

Information from Center for Disease Control

By eating whole grain breads, fruits and vegetables, and avoiding processed foods as much as possible, you can avoid trans-fats, saturated fats, salt and added sugars associated with heart disease.


Ways to avoid becoming a victim of cold and flu season

Recently the news has been abuzz with stories about the flu that has been attacking in many areas of the country. While you may not be able to avoid coming into contact with the viruses that cause the various strains of flu bugs, there are some strategies that you can employ to help avoid getting the flu this season.

Get your shot

Although the news last year was concerned with the shortage of flu shots, that is not the case this year. If you haven’t gotten a flu shot yet, get one ASAP.

Work out

Working out regularly enhances immune function.

Sweat it out

After you work out, hit the sauna. It offers more benefits than just relaxation; taking a steam on a regular basis can help fend off sickness by helping the body release toxins from deeper tissues.

Dry your hands

Everyone knows to wash your hands more often, but drying them is just as important. Germs cling to damp surfaces more easily. You’ll also want to change hand towels more frequently.

Sleep in

Getting enough rest – seven to eight hours a night – helps your immune system fend off germs.

Make your own sanitizing spray

Avoid the harsh chemicals of sanitizing spray. Mix 30 drops of essential oil with eight ounces of purified water. You can use whatever oil you like – lavender, rosemary, thyme, tea tree or sage. Clean surfaces where viruses are likely to be: doorknobs, phones, computer work stations, etc.

Modify your diet

Even if you eat a balanced diet, to fight cold and flu germs, you can help your chances by making sure you consume more of the following:

  • Garlic – It contains the compound allicin, known to have antiviral properties that may prevent colds and the flu.
  • Protein – Your immune system needs protein. Make sure to get enough lean protein (fish, eggs, low-fat dairy) throughout the day.
  • Soup – Making your own is not only better, it’s better that anything you’ll find in a can. The more vegetables, the better!
  • Herbs and spices – Many spices have properties that can boost your immune system, including oregano, thyme, mustard and turmeric.
  • Yogurt – In addition to being a good source of protein, yogurt contains probiotics, which can help bolster your immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells, which help you fight infection.
  • Fruit – Vitamins and minerals in fruit can help you avoid contracting a cold and the flu. It’s not just vitamin C, either. Most fruit also contains polyphenols, which are known to have antiviral properties.
  • Mushrooms – Many types of mushrooms may help your immune system, but medicinal fungi such as shiitake, reishi and maitake may offer even more benefit as they encourage immune cells to multiply.

Essential foods for great looking, healthy skin

Look around at the supplement and nutrition aisle at your local grocery or health food store and you’ll notice supplements to promote the function and health of nearly every organ. Not much going on for skin health, though, unless you walk an aisle over to lotions and creams.

The skin is the largest (and outwardly visible) organ on your body. Healthy skin makes you look younger and feel good about yourself. People go to great lengths to keep it healthy using everything from fad peels and to tried-and-true skin regimens.

The secret to great skin may not be in what you put on it, but in what you put in your mouth. As always, a balanced diet is recommended, but there are certain foods – high in antioxidants, anti-inflammatories, essential oils and healthy fatty acids – that can make your skin look and feel great.


Labeled a “superfood,” avocados contain a lot of antioxidants, as well as oleic acid, which is also the primary fatty acid found in olive oil.


What goes great with yogurt? Fresh fruit! Mix in blueberries, blackberries and strawberries, which are an outstanding source of antioxidants, which help fight damage caused by sun exposure. They also have anti-inflammatory properties, which fights wrinkles.


With Vitamin C, beta-carotene and vitamin A (all of which prevent sun damage and to improve skin quality) cantaloupe also helps the skin to stay hydrated.

Dark chocolate

By weight, cocoa has more antioxidants than blueberries, green tea, and red wine. Stay away from milk chocolate and go for extra dark chocolate containing at least 70 to 85% cocoa content.


Wild salmon and other cold water fish (sardines, herring, trout, etc.) are not only great sources of protein, they also contain high concentrations of anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids, which keeps skin radiant, supple and wrinkle free.

Healthy oils

Oils in the skin help to give skin a glow and keep it wrinkle-free and feeling healthy. Look for extra virgin, cold pressed or expeller pressed on the labels. Or you could just eat whole olives.

Low fat dairy

Vitamin A is very important to overall skin health; and one of the best places to get it is in low-fat dairy products. Yogurt and kefir, along with skim milk are good sources.


Anti-inflammatories are important to keep skin clear, firm and radiant. Turmeric has outstanding antioxidant properties.


High in potassium content, watercress is considered useful in treating acidity and cleansing the blood, which helps treat eczema, acne, rashes and other skin eruptions.


Keeping your skin hydrated is absolutely essential to its overall health.

Remember the old saying: “You are what you eat.” This is particularly true for your skin. For more information about what to eat for healthy skin, read more on WebMD.


Breaking yourself of the snooze button habit

If you’re like many people, your first reaction when the alarm goes off is that full-armed SLAP of the snooze button.

According to many sleep experts, hitting the snooze for an extra 6-10 minutes a time or two doesn’t really accomplish anything. In fact, it may be detrimental.

Sending mixed signals

The exact amount of sleep varies from person to person, but the average adult needs 7-9 hours. When you go to sleep, your body pumps serotonin into your bloodstream. When you’ve had enough sleep, your body knows and starts to pump dopamine into your system.

As you hit the snooze and go back to sleep, the serotonin kicks in again, but the dopamine is still there. This may leave you disoriented, groggy and unable to get your day started.

Interrupting the cycle

While there are many cycles that occur during a night’s sleep, but there are two that are vital:

Deep sleep – provides the pure rest your body needs

REM – occurs later in the night. This is when you dream and process the previous day’s events. If that is natural process is interrupted, which can have a detrimental effect on mental functions for the rest of the day, including memory, reaction time, comprehension and attention.

How to break the habit

In order to start getting the rest you need and stop the dependence on the snooze alarm, there are several things you should do.

Go to bed earlier each night until you wake up naturally, with no alarm necessary. This will tell you how much sleep you need on average.

If setting an alarm is absolutely necessary, place it across the room so you have to get up to turn it off. (Pro Tip: Put a milk crate upside down over the alarm clock so you have to move it.)

Getting the rest you need is absolutely essential to running at peak efficiency. Breaking yourself of the snooze button habit will help you get the rest you need to get you through the day.


Exercising in the cold

The new year is upon us and that means two things: cold weather and making good on a new year’s resolution. If you’re like a lot of Americans, you made at least one new year’s resolution that involves living a healthier lifestyle by eating right and exercising regularly.

One of the myths associated with winter is that you shouldn’t exercise in the cold, but don’t let that stop you. It’s just a myth! Don’t avoid going for a run just because the temperature plunges a bit.

According to research published in Medicine & Science in Sports and Exercise, times improve in colder temperatures and that quicker pace burns more calories in less time. Also a harder, faster workout can spike your endorphin levels, which can help you shake off the winter blahs. According to WebMD endorphins released during exercise can help people fight depression.

Many people mistakenly believe that cold air can make you sick – another winter myth that needs to go away. In fact, colder temperatures stimulate the cells that fight infection. If you get a “cold,” common or otherwise, it wasn’t from going outside.

So don’t avoid going out for a run, but use some common sense. Protect yourself, especially your extremities, including ears, feet and hands, which are more susceptible to frostbite. Stay warm by dressing in layers; if it warms up, you can always peel a layer. For more tips, read this Mayo Clinic article about exercising in the cold weather.