Lifestyle Solutions for a Happy Healthy You!

Archive for June, 2011

5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood

5 Best Snacks to Boost Your Mood

Change your diet, change your mood? Science says the answer is yes. Food isn’t just fuel for the body; it feeds the mind and changes our moods. Food scientists are still exploring the big picture regarding food and mood, but it’s clear that certain foods have a feel-good factor. Try these five mood-boosting snacks.

Bananas
Bananas offer serious mood-lifting power, with their combination of vitamins B6, A, and C; fiber; tryptophan; potassium; phosphorous; iron; protein; and healthy carbohydrates.

When you eat a banana, you’ll get a quick boost from the fructose as well as sustaining energy from the fiber, which helps prevent a blood sugar spike and ensuing drop in energy and mood. Carbohydrates aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain, and vitamin B6 helps convert the tryptophan into mood-lifting serotonin. Bananas are also a great source of potassium. While potassium isn’t directly related to mood, it’s needed to regulate fluid levels and keep muscles working properly, which is important for feeling energized, a key factor for a sunny outlook. And finally, bananas also offer iron, which is crucial to producing energy and fighting fatigue.

Get even happier: Bananas are among the best when it comes to mixing and matching mood-boosting snacks. For a sunny smoothie, blend a banana with one handful of spinach, a tablespoon of ground flaxseed, and half a cup of apple juice. Spinach is one of the richest food sources of folate (vitamin B9) you can find, and flaxseed is full of omega-3s. When combined, these nutrients help maintain stable levels of brain serotonin and may help reduce your risk of depression.

For a sweet treat, try a frozen dark chocolate-covered banana, which you’ll find in the freezer section of many natural foods stores. Or melt your own dark chocolate at home to dip banana slices in for a satisfying, mood-lifting fondue.

Banana-Mango Soup with Cardamom

Walnuts
Walnuts contain a handful of components that contribute to a good mood, including omega-3s, vitamin B6, tryptophan, protein, and folate.

Higher blood levels of omega-3s have been linked with better mood and lower rates of depression, while lower blood levels of omega-3s have been associated with higher rates of depression and negative feelings. An animal study authored by Harvard Medical School Professor William Carlezon found that omega-3s and uridine (another substance found in walnuts, which plays an important role in helping metabolize carbohydrates) worked in the same way as standard antidepressant medications.

The standard dosage of omega-3 oils recommended by many experts is one gram (1,000 mg) per day. You’ll get about the same amount, as well as a healthy dose of fiber and protein, in just half an ounce of walnuts. About two teaspoons of walnut oil will also do the trick, but you won’t get the all the nutrition you would from the whole nut.

Get even happier: Crumble walnuts on top of a serving of organic yogurt for a crunchy and creamy treat with a double-dose of tryptophan.

Wholesome Maple and Walnut Squares

Sunflower Seeds
Sunflower seeds are a super source of folate and magnesium, two substances that play a significant role in regulating and boosting mood. Just a handful of sunflower seeds delivers half the daily recommended amount for magnesium.

Magnesium, in addition to regulating mood, plays an essential role in hundreds of bodily functions. Magnesium deficiency is often responsible for feelings of fatigue, nervousness, and anxiety (since it triggers an increase in adrenaline), and it’s been linked to various mood disorders. Sufficient, stable magnesium levels, on the other hand, help us achieve a calm and relaxed state, the prefect precursor to a good mood. It’s so effective, in fact, that scientific studies have shown magnesium supplementation to be beneficial in treating major depression, suicidal tendencies, anxiety, irritability, and insomnia.

Folate (also known as vitamin B9 and as folic acid) is a B-complex vitamin that’s intimately linked with nervous system function. Folate deficiency may result in feelings of irritability, depression, and brain fog, as well as insomnia. Being well rested and keeping a clear head are two of the primary factors in fueling a good mood, so snacking on sunflower seeds is a smart move in more ways than one.

Sunflower seeds are a good source of tryptophan and are often recommended by nutritional experts as a natural method of boosting serotonin levels. They’re also rich in fiber, which helps maintain stable hormone levels — one of the keys to keeping even-keeled.

Get even happier: Try this homemade trail mix to blast the blues: Sift sunflower seeds together with almonds, Brazil nuts, raisins, and dark chocolate chunks. Brazil nuts contain selenium, another natural mood booster.

Sunflower Seed Soup!

Dark Chocolate
A number of unscientific studies name chocolate the number-one craved food in America, so it makes sense that indulging in chocolate makes for a happy experience. And as it turns out, there are some real reasons why that’s so. For one, chocolate contains a number of substances that elevate mood, including fat, sugar, caffeine, phenylethylamine, flavonols, theobromine, and tryptophan.

Caffeine and theobromine are two naturally occurring stimulants found in chocolate. Along with sugar and fat, these substances provide a swift burst of energy and mood-lifting power. Chocolate also contains the mood-boosting compounds phenylethylamine, tyramine, tryptophan, and magnesium. While these substances are found in many other foods, even in higher concentrations, chocolate has an advantage because of its appeal on several sensory levels: it has a rich, mouth-pleasing texture; an intense taste; and an appealing aroma. For many of us, just the idea of indulging in chocolate is enough to elicit a positive emotional response.

In addition to these natural pick-me-ups, when you eat chocolate, a number of reactions occur, including the release of serotonin in the brain and mood-elevating endorphins in the body. This heady combination can result in a temporarily lifted mood and even a fleeting feeling of euphoria, which may explain why some people turn to chocolate when they’re feeling blue.

Finally, cocoa is a natural source of antioxidant flavonoids, which increase blood flow (and thus oxygenation) in the brain, and which may contribute to better brain function. Not all chocolate is created equal, though. For the best health and happiness benefits, go for good-quality dark chocolate with a cocoa level of 70 percent or higher. The more cocoa it contains, the higher the levels of healthy compounds, so the darker the chocolate, the better it is for you.

Get even happier: Chocolate-covered almonds are a decadent snack full of fiber, vitamin E, potassium, manganese, magnesium, copper, tryptophan, and vitamin B2 (riboflavin). Almonds help lower the glycemic index of the chocolate, preventing a spike in blood sugar and its resultant low energy and mood. In fact, fiber, manganese, copper, and B2 are power players when it comes to energy production — and steady energy is a must for a happy mood.

Dark Chocolate Zucchini Cake

Eggs
Eggs might not be the first food that comes to mind when you think of a snack, but a hard-boiled egg is easy to make and easy to transport. It’s also a really good-for-you and good-for-your-mood snack. Full of high-quality protein and omega-3s (from hens eating a diet rich in omega-3s), eggs are also an excellent source of vitamin B12 (riboflavin) and a good source of vitamins B2, B5, and D. And one boiled egg contains more than 20 percent of the daily recommended amount of tryptophan.

While carbs are crucial for converting tryptophan into serotonin, protein is an important part of the process, too. A balanced diet that includes high-quality lean protein, like you find in eggs, and healthy carbs also helps stabilize blood sugar and prevent emotional highs and lows. And the Vitamin B12 in eggs plays a significant role in the production of energy and helps alleviate memory problems and symptoms of depression.

Get even happier: Add your egg to whole-grain toast for a satisfying snack that will give you a boost of long-lasting energy and fuel a feeling of well-being. Complex carbohydrates are an ideal pairing for protein-rich eggs, since they temporarily produce a calming effect by delivering a dose of tryptophan and triggering the production of serotonin. Carbohydrates also aid in the absorption of tryptophan in the brain.

By Nikki Jong, Caring.com

15 Things Your Walk Reveals About Your Health

15 Things Your Walk Reveals About Your Health

 By Paula Spencer Scott, Caring.com senior editor

Walk into an exam room and a trained eye can tell a lot about you in seconds: Your stride, gait, pace, and posture while walking can reveal surprising information about your overall health and well-being.

“Many physicians are keenly aware, when they see someone walking down the street, what their diagnosis might be, whether their underlying health is good or bad, and if not good, a number of tip-offs to what might be wrong,” says Charles Blitzer, an orthopedic surgeon in Somersworth, New Hampshire, and a spokesperson for the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

Find out what the following 15 walking styles may signal about your health.

Walking clue #1: A snail’s pace

May reveal: Shorter life expectancy
Walking speed is a reliable marker for longevity, according to a University of Pittsburgh analysis of nine large studies, reported in a January 2011 issue of The Journal of the American Medical Association. The 36,000 subjects were all over age 65. In fact, predicting survival based on walking speed proved to be as accurate as using age, sex, chronic conditions, smoking, body mass index, hospitalizations, and other common markers. It’s especially accurate for those over age 75.

The average speed was 3 feet per second (about two miles an hour). Those who walked slower than 2 feet per second (1.36 miles per hour) had an increased risk of dying. Those who walked faster than 3.3 feet per second (2.25 miles per hour) or faster survived longer than would be predicted simply by age or gender.

A 2006 report in JAMA found that among adults ages 70 to 79, those who couldn’t walk a quarter mile were less likely to be alive six years later. They were also more likely to suffer illness and disability before death. An earlier study of men ages 71 to 93 found that those who could walk two miles a day had half the risk of heart attack of those who could walk only a quarter mile or less.

Simply walking faster or farther doesn’t make you healthier — in fact, pushing it could make you vulnerable to injury. Rather, each body seems to find a natural walking speed based on its overall condition. If it’s slow, it’s usually because of underlying health issues that are cutting longevity.

Walking clue #2: Not too much arm swing

May reveal: Lower back trouble
“It’s really amazing the way that we’re made,” says physical therapist Steve Bailey, owner of Prompt Physical Therapy in Knoxville, Tennessee. As the left leg comes forward, the spine goes into a right rotation and the right arm moves back. This coordination of the muscles on both sides is what gives support to the lower back, he says.

If someone is walking without much swing to the arm, it’s a red flag that the spine isn’t being supported as well as it could be, because of some kind of limitation in the back’s mobility. Back pain or a vulnerability to damage can follow. “Arm swing is a great indicator of how the back is functioning,” Bailey says.

Walking clue #3: One foot slaps the ground

May reveal: Ruptured disk in back, possible stroke
Sometimes experts don’t have to see you walk — they can hear you coming down the hall. A condition called “foot slap” or “drop foot” is when your foot literally slaps the ground as you walk. “It’s caused by muscle weakness of the anterior tibial muscle or the peroneal muscles,” says podiatrist Jane E. Andersen, who has a practice in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and is a past president of the American Association for Women Podiatrists.

A healthy stride starts with a heel strike, then the foot slowly lowers to the ground, then it lifts from the toe and slings back to your heel. But with drop foot, muscle control is lost and the foot can’t return slowly to the ground. Instead, it “slaps” the ground.

“This could be a sign of a stroke or other neuromuscular event, or of compression of a nerve,” Andersen says. A ruptured disk in the back is a common cause, since it can compress a nerve that travels down the leg. A rare cause of drop foot is simply crossing your legs, Andersen says, if the common peroneal nerve is disrupted from the pressure.

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Walking clue #4: A confident stride (in a woman)

May reveal: Sexual satisfaction
Your stride and gait don’t always indicate bad things. A study conducted in Belgium and Scotland, reported in the September, 2008, Journal of Sexual Medicine, found that a woman’s walk can reveal her orgasmic ability. Women who have a fluid, energetic stride seem to be more likely to easily and often have vaginal orgasms, researchers said. They compared the gaits of women known to be orgasmic (defined as by penile intercourse, not direct clitoral stimulation) with those who were not.

What’s the connection? The theory is that orgasms contribute to muscles that are neither flaccid nor locked. Result: a freer, easier stride, researchers found, as well as greater sexual confidence and better self-esteem.

Walking clue #5: A short stride

May reveal: Knee or hip degeneration
When the heel hits the ground at the beginning of a stride, the knee should be straight. If it’s not, that can indicate a range-of-motion problem in which something is impairing the ability of the knee joint to move appropriately within the kneecap. “Degenerative changes in the knee sometimes need to be addressed by manual therapy to stretch out the tightness and improve that range of motion,” Bailey says.

A similar cause of a short stride is lacking extension, or good range of motion, in the hip. By taking shorter steps, the walker doesn’t have to extend as far. “Unfortunately, that compensation puts more stress on the back,” Bailey says. “In older people, a big issue in the back is having enough space for the joints and nerves as it is. When you don’t have a lot of hip extension, there’s not a lot of room to play with, and it can cause back pain and neural issues, such as drop foot.”

Walking clue #6: Dropping the pelvis or shoulder to one side

May reveal: A back problem
Muscles called the abductors on the outside of the hips work to keep the pelvis level with each step we take. So while we’re lifting one leg and swinging it forward, and standing on the other, the abductors keep the body even — unless those muscles aren’t working properly, Bailey says.

What happens then is that the body compensates. In a common walking pattern known as the Trelendenberg gait, as the heel strikes the ground on the unaffected side, the pelvis drops on that side to try to reduce the amount of force the muscle has to produce on the other side. Sometimes the compensating is so pronounced that the whole shoulder dips as well.  The ultimate cause of the weak abductors is often a back problem, Bailey says.

Walking clue #7: Bowlegged stride

May reveal: Osteoarthritis
“Think of the classic image of the old, slow, bow-legged cowboy,” says orthopedic surgeon Blitzer. “He probably looks that way because of arthritic knees.” Eighty-five percent of people with osteoarthritis (OA), the wear-and-tear form of the disease associated with aging, have a slightly bowlegged walk, he says. Bowlegs (also called genu varum) happen because the body can’t be supported adequately; the knees literally bow out.

Rickets or genes can also produce a bow-legged walking style, but these causes are more commonly associated with kids than grown-ups, and they can be outgrown or corrected with braces.

Walking clue #8: Knock-kneed appearance

May reveal: Rheumatoid arthritis
Rheumatoid arthritis (RA), the kind that’s an inflammatory disease, produces a knock-kneed walk, where the knees bend in toward one another. “About 85 percent of people with rheumatoid arthritis are knock-kneed,” Blitzer says. In knock-knee (genu valgum, or valgus knee), the lower legs aren’t straight but bend outward. This can create a distinctive, awkward-looking walk where the knees are close together and the ankles are farther apart. Sometimes osteoarthritis can also result in knock-knees, depending which joints are affected.

Walking clue #9: A shortened stride on turns and when maneuvering around things

May reveal: Poor physical condition
Balance is a function of coordination between three systems: vision, the inner ear, and what’s called “proprioception,” which is the joints’ ability to tell you their position. The joints can do this because of receptors in the connective tissue around them. But the quality of the receptors is related to how much motion the joint experiences. “It’s the old use-it-or-lose-it,” Bailey says. “When you’re active, you lay down more receptors in the connective tissue, so your proprioception is better.”

That means you have better balance. And it’s why someone with balance problems is often frail or in poor physical condition. “If you have trouble balancing, you have a shorter stride, and it’s especially noticeable on turns or when you’re maneuvering around objects. You also have trouble going up steps, which requires balancing on one foot for a longer amount of time,” Bailey says. “You do much better on straightaways.”

Blitzer encourages frail patients who need canes and walkers but avoid them because they “don’t want to look old” to set aside their pride and use them. “Better to use adaptive devices and continue to be active than to be sedentary, which is a vicious cycle that makes you more sedentary,” he says.

Balance problems can be also be related to peripheral neuropathy, a kind of nerve damage caused by diabetes, Andersen says. Other common causes include alcohol abuse and vitamin deficiencies.

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Walking clue #10: A flat step without much lift

May reveal: Flat feet, bunions, neuromas
Flat feet are obvious at a glance: There’s almost no visible arch (hence one of the condition’s names, “fallen arches”). But other conditions can also cause a flat walk. When the person takes a step, the foot flattens even as the heel is lifting off the ground, when it would normally be going into an arched position. The heel may also shift slightly to the inside when it comes up, and the toes may flex upward.

These kind of movements are attempts to create better stability where there isn’t any because of a painful bunion (an abnormal enlargement of the bone or tissue around the base of the big toe) or a neuroma (a nerve condition) in the foot. The most common neuroma, called Morton’s neuroma, is extremely painful thickening of the nerve between the third and fourth toes. The stepping pattern changes in order to protect what hurts.

Walking clue #11: Shuffling

May reveal: Parkinson’s disease
Shuffling — bending forward and having difficulty lifting feet off the ground — isn’t an inevitable aspect of aging. It’s a distinct gait that may indicate that someone has Parkinson’s disease. The person’s steps may also be short and hesitant.

“Shuffling is one of the most common manifestations of Parkinson’s, a neuromotor dysfunction in a neuromuscular disease,” says Blitzer. Along with tremors, it can be an early sign of the disease.

People with advanced dementia, such as is caused by Alzheimer’s disease, may also shuffle as a result of cognitive trouble — the brain and musculature don’t communicate well. But by the time this happens, memory loss and problems with thinking skills are far more obvious.

Walking clue #12: Walking on tiptoes, both feet

May reveal: Cerebral palsy or spinal cord trauma
Another distinctive gait owing to an underlying condition is “toe-walking.” The toe reaches the ground before the heel, instead of the other way around. It’s related to overactive muscle tone, caused by stretch receptors that fire incorrectly in the brain. When the toe-walking happens on both sides, it’s almost always because of damage high in the spinal column or brain, such as cerebral palsy or spinal cord trauma.

Note: Sometimes toddlers walk on tiptoe for a while as they’re getting the hang of it, but this doesn’t mean they have a palsy. If you’re concerned, mention it to the child’s doctor, who will assess for other signs of a problem.

Walking clue #13: Walking on tiptoes, one foot

May reveal: Stroke
Doctors assessing toe-walking look for symmetry: Is it happening on both sides or only one? When a person toe-walks only on one side, it’s an indicator of stroke, which usually damages one side of the body. When polio was still a scourge in the U.S., affected people often had one withered extremity and one-sided toe-walking was more common.

Walking clue #14: A bouncing gait

May reveal: Unusually tight calf muscles
One unusual stride is a gait that causes the walker to literally bounce a bit. Specialists can see the heel-off, the first part of a normal step, happen a bit too quickly, because of tight calf muscles. Women are the most vulnerable, because of chronic high heel use, podiatrist Andersen says.

“I’ve seen women in their 60s who have been told to exercise — sometimes for the first time in her life because a doctor is ordering it for a health issue — and she can’t because she can’t comfortably wear a flat shoe,” she says. “The same thing can happen much earlier in life, too, such as with a 25-year-old who’s been wearing stilettos since she was a teenager.”

Walking clue #15: One higher arch and/or a pelvis that dips slightly

May reveal: One leg is shorter than the other
Limb (or leg) length discrepancy simply means that one leg is shorter than the other. Experts can spot this in several different ways. One is by looking at the foot while you take a step, says podiatrist Andersen; one foot will have a higher arch and the other will look flatter. The flatter foot usually corresponds to the longer leg, she says.

Also, because the shorter leg has to go a bit farther to get to the floor, the pelvis may drop down slightly in the stride, adds Bailey. “If you pull up the shirt you can often see changes to the lumbar spine — a horizontal crease along the spine on the side with the longer leg, because the spine is bending in that direction.”

You can be born with limb discrepancy or get it as the result of knee or hip replacements, if limbs don’t line up perfectly after healing. But unless the discrepancy is three-quarters of an inch or more, Blitzer says, studies indicate it probably won’t cause health problems. Shoe inserts usually can make up for a quarter-inch discrepancy; surgery is sometimes recommended for larger differences.

by Caring.com

5 Foods Every Woman Should Eat More Of

5 Foods Every Woman Should Eat More Of

For busy women of all ages, five foods boast high scores in essential nutrients — iron, calcium, magnesium, vitamin K, folate, vitamin D, and omega-3 fatty acids, in particular. Best of all, these foods are easy to find at practically every grocery store, no matter where you live, and each of them takes less than 15 minutes to prepare.

1. Broccoli
Broccoli is practically unrivaled among all foods when it comes to protecting against cancer. Its powerful phytonutrients not only help neutralize carcinogens, but they also stimulate detoxifying enzymes that help the body rid itself of cancer-causing and other harmful toxins. Indole-3-carbinol, another compound found in broccoli, is particularly healthy for women; it’s been shown to reduce the risk of breast and cervical cancers and helps suppress the spread of existing cancer. This green vegetable also happens to be one of the richest food sources of the flavonoid kaempferol, which has shown protective benefits against ovarian cancer.

What’s more, broccoli is a superior source of folate, a B vitamin that’s needed for making and protecting DNA, producing new blood, forming new cells, and synthesizing protein. Folate has also been tied to a decreased risk of some cancers in adults.

But there are a couple of reasons why this nutrient is crucial for women’s health in particular. First, folate is one of the most essential nutrients for pregnant women. It supports proper development of the fetal nervous system and protects against neural tube (birth) defects. Second, research shows that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression, and numerous studies have linked folate deficiency with depression. The good news: There’s also evidence showing that boosting folate levels can increase serotonin levels and improve symptoms of depression.

An added bonus: As a natural diuretic, broccoli helps reduce bloating and water retention associated with premenstrual syndrome.

Broccoli is an excellent source of dietary fiber and of vitamins C, K, and A, and it’s a good source of manganese, tryptophan, potassium, B vitamins, phosphorus, magnesium, and protein. It’s also high in calcium, iron, zinc, and vitamin E. Many of these nutrients work in partnership: Vitamin C helps the body absorb iron; vitamin K anchors calcium to the bone; dietary fiber promotes better absorption of all nutrients.

Quick and healthy tip: For optimal taste and nutrition, steam broccoli florets for no more than five minutes, or until they turn bright green. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, lemon, and sea salt to taste.

2. Onions
Onions have many healing and health-promoting properties: They’re anti-inflammatory, antibacterial, and a natural blood thinner. Rich in chromium, vitamin C, and dietary fiber, onions are also a good source of manganese, vitamin B6, tryptophan, folate, and potassium.

This bulbous vegetable is used to combat cancer, arthritis, and osteoporosis, and it helps fight infections, colds, fevers, and asthma. Onions also help prevent constipation, increase blood circulation, improve gastrointestinal health, promote heart health, and are thought to help lower blood pressure and triglycerides.

Onions are a healthy whole food, there’s no doubt. But they’re particularly good for women, who are four times as likely as men to develop osteoporosis — and who are at even higher risk for osteoporosis during and after menopause. Onions help prevent bone loss by destroying osteoclasts, a type of bone cell that’s responsible for the breakdown of bones. In effect, onions work like bisphosphonates, a type of medication that’s commonly prescribed to treat or prevent bone disease. But unlike those potent drugs, onions bust up osteoclasts without dangerous side effects. And, like broccoli, onions are a potent cancer-fighting food; high onion consumption has been linked to a whopping 25 percent reduced risk of breast cancer and a 73 percent reduced risk of ovarian cancer.

Quick and healthy tip: Keep a container of diced raw onion in the fridge to add to meals all week — it’ll spice up a sandwich or salad, and it’s an easy addition to quick stir-fries. Sautee the onion in a tablespoon of oil, then add the rest of the ingredients in roughly the order of how long they take to cook; the onion-infused oil will add a great flavor to the whole dish.

3. Leafy Greens
Leafy greens such as kale, spinach, watercress, cabbage, turnip greens, collard greens, and arugula share similar nutrient profiles, featuring impressive scores of vitamins K, A, and C; calcium; potassium; beta-carotene; manganese; folate; magnesium; iron; and dietary fiber.

Well-known research tracking 66,940 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study found a 40 percent decrease in the incidence of ovarian cancer in women with the highest dietary kaempferol intake as compared to women with the lowest intake. Along with broccoli, kale is one of the best sources of kaempferol — which has been associated with a reduced risk of heart disease. Kaemperfol is also found in tea as well as in Brussels sprouts and other greens.

Spinach is extremely high in iron, which protects the immune system and helps the body produce energy. It’s especially important for menstruating and pregnant women, who require higher levels of this nutrient. However, iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies for all women. Iron deficiency causes anemia and low energy due to decreased oxygen being delivered to the cells. You can find iron in most leafy greens; other good sources include chard, mustard greens, and romaine lettuce.

Dark leafy greens like Swiss chard, spinach, kelp, and turnip greens are also excellent sources of magnesium, which plays a significant role in many key biological processes. This miracle mineral has been credited with a slew of health benefits, including lowering high blood pressure, strengthening the immune system, strengthening bones, aiding in sleep, relaxing muscles, and relieving stress and anxiety.

Here are a few more good reasons to gobble up magnesium-rich foods: According to womenshealth.gov, migraines plague an estimated 29.5 million Americans, and roughly 75 percent of those affected are women. Magnesium has been shown to reduce the severity and recurrence of migraine headaches. And a study of 60 women with urinary urge incontinence found that magnesium supplementation improved the symptoms of overactive bladder in nearly half of participants. Magnesium also aids in calcium absorption, playing a significant role in preventing osteoporosis; several studies on humans have shown that magnesium helps maintain bone mineral density.

Finally, according to Mental Health America, about 12 million women in the U.S. experience clinical depression each year. It’s estimated that women are twice as likely as men to experience depression. Depression has been linked to low levels of calcium and magnesium, so it shouldn’t come as a surprise that a study comparing the bone mass of depressed premenopausal women to their nondepressed peers found that the depressed women had reduced bone mass and the most thinning in their hip bones, putting them at higher risk of fractures.

Many leafy greens boast high levels of Vitamin E, which helps stave off menopausal hot flashes. Excellent sources of Vitamin E include mustard greens, turnip greens, and Swiss chard; you can also find it in spinach, collard greens, and kale. Like broccoli, leafy greens are natural diuretics and are great for combating bloat and water retention.

Swiss chard and spinach are two of the most calcium-dense plant foods on earth. Calcium is a particularly important nutrient for women; it’s needed to build healthy bones and to prevent bone loss after menopause. Women who consume diets rich in calcium and vitamin D are less likely to develop type 2 diabetes and to experience premenstrual symptoms. Not only does calcium help build strong bones and teeth, it also plays a role in blood clotting, muscle contraction, and regulating heartbeat.

Magnesium and calcium aren’t the only nutrients that contribute to bone health, though. Vitamin K is vital for bone health and plays a unique role in helping prevent osteoporosis. Just because you have sufficient calcium in your diet doesn’t necessarily mean it will find its way to your bones — and that’s where vitamin K comes in. It helps calcium adhere to the bone, aiding in its absorption. In fact, without adequate vitamin K, calcium can deposit itself in joint and muscle tissue, creating painful problems and preventing absorption in the bone. Calcium deposits in soft tissue are more prevalent in women than men, so vitamin K is especially important for women. It’s found in abundance in most leafy greens, particularly spinach, kale, and Swiss chard.

Quick and healthy tip: To get the most nutrition out of your leafy greens, you’ll need to add a little healthy fat to help your body absorb the nutrients. Sautee dark leafy greens in coconut oil over medium heat until just wilted. Optional: Add a small handful of golden raisins while saut�ing, or serve with a small handful of raw pine nuts.

4. Beans
No matter what type of bean you choose, each tiny package is bursting with a rich array of nutrients. Beans are an incredibly rich source of folate, fiber, tryptophan, protein, iron, magnesium, and potassium, and they’ve been linked to a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, and breast cancer.

Hands-down one of the best food sources of fiber you can find, one cup of cooked pinto beans contains nearly 15 grams of fiber (along with a score of other essential nutrients) — but you’ll find plentiful fiber in all bean varieties. Fiber is a wonder nutrient that fills you up, regulates digestion, lowers LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, helps control weight, and has a preventive effect on diabetes and heart disease. Women’s risk of heart disease increases significantly with menopause.

Potassium is vital to the health of every type of cell in our bodies, and you can find good amounts of this mineral in lima, pinto, and kidney beans. Potassium plays an essential part in bone strength, muscle function, and nerve function. Numerous studies have shown a positive link between dietary potassium intake and bone mineral density in pre-, peri- and postmenopausal women, suggesting an important role in preventing osteoporosis in all women. In addition, the Nurses’ Health Study, which recorded data from 91,731 female participants over a 12-year period, found that women with the highest dietary potassium intake were only 65 percent as likely to develop symptomatic kidney stones as compared to their peers with the lowest dietary potassium intake.

Tryptophan is an essential amino acid with several important functions. One of them includes the ability to raise serotonin levels in the brain. For this reason, beans and other foods high in tryptophan can help regulate appetite, improve sleep patterns, and boost your mood.

Like other beans, soybeans are an excellent source of dietary fiber. And just one cup of cooked soybeans also provides a whopping 29 grams of protein. Furthermore, studies have linked the isoflavones found in soybeans with improved bone density in postmenopausal women who previously had low bone mass; researchers believe these compounds may play a significant role in preventing bone fractures. Soy isoflavones have also been credited with easing menopausal hot flashes.

Quick and healthy tip: Although dried beans are the healthiest option since they don’t have added sodium, the canned variety will do just fine as long as you rinse the beans in a colander before using them. For a quick and healthy homemade hummus, combine one can of garbanzo beans; one tablespoon each of extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and tahini; half a teaspoon of cumin; and a sprinkle of cayenne pepper in a food processor. Blend until smooth and serve with crudites. (White beans make an excellent substitute for garbanzos.)

5. Wild Salmon
Wild salmon is rich in omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin D, and iron, and it’s a high-quality source of protein. A word of caution: Independent studies comparing the nutritional content of wild and farmed salmon showed the farmed variety had drastically reduced levels of protein and healthy omega-3 fats. Farmed salmon were also found to have significant levels of carcinogenic substances and other toxins, as well as higher levels of inflammatory omega-6 fats. If you’re eating for health, opt for the wild variety.

Salmon is one of the few food sources naturally rich in vitamin D, which is needed to absorb calcium, maintain proper levels of calcium in the blood, and promote normal bone growth. Due to these qualities, vitamin D is regarded as an important nutrient in helping prevent osteoporosis. Sockeye salmon scores the highest in vitamin D; a four-ounce serving of sockeye provides 739 IU of vitamin D — compared to Chinook salmon, which provides 411 IU for the same size serving.

Vitamin D’s benefits extend beyond good bones, however. Medical and health experts now recognize this nutrient as playing an essential role in overall health. Unfortunately, vitamin D deficiency is a widespread problem that has been linked to depression and multiple sclerosis, two conditions that women are at a higher risk for than men. Researchers have additionally linked low levels of vitamin D with obesity and an increased risk of type 2 diabetes.

Our bodies don’t produce essential fatty acids, so we must get them from our diet. Wild salmon is exceptionally rich in heart-healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, which guard against inflammation, reduce the risk of strokes, lower blood lipids, boost HDL (“good”) cholesterol, decrease blood pressure, and help prevent heart disease. Omega-3s might be fats, but — in moderation — they’re actually pretty figure-friendly: Not only do they slow digestion, which means you feel satiated for longer, but they may also help get rid of belly fat. Several studies link consumption of omega-3s with reduced abdominal fat. Other benefits of omega-3s include a reduced risk of breast cancer and improved brain function. Some research suggests that omega-3s may be helpful in treating depression, although further research is needed in this area.

Quick and healthy tip: Sprinkle salmon fillets with fresh chopped rosemary and black pepper, top with lemon slices, and place under the broiler for ten minutes or until it flakes easily. Leftovers work well the next day crumbled into omelets, sandwiches, or salads.

By Nikki Jong, Caring.com

Come Enjoy a “Day of Wellness” with Bee Well!

 

5 Fruits and Veggies for Fresh Summer Skin

5 Fruits and Veggies for Fresh Summer Skin

With the summer sun shining you might be tempted to tanning in order to give your skin a glow. However, it’s no secret that sun exposure increases your risk for skin cancer. That’s why we want to recommend a safer way to give your complexion a healthy glow this season.

We know that water flushes toxins from the skin cells to give that glowing complexion we all yearn for. In addition to water, there are many fruits and vegetables you can eat to achieve that look, too.

We spoke with Dr. Brooke Jackson, a board certified dermatologist and founder of The Skin Wellness Center of Chicago, who says fresh fruits and vegetables found at farmers markets not only taste delicious, but are ideal for improving your skin’s condition and overall appearance.

Making these five fruits and vegetables part of your daily routine can improve your complexion, but also be a simple way to control your diet, meet daily requirements for fruits and vegetables, and keep a beauty regimen budget under control.

Berries: Blueberries, black currants, blackberries, raspberries, cranberries and strawberries help the body produce collagen, responsible for giving skin that supple and smooth look. “Berries, especially blueberries, are loaded with antioxidant compounds that are very effective in neutralizing damaging free radicals,” said Jackson. “Free radicals are generated in the skin by excessive UV exposure and lead to skin cell damage, premature skin aging.”

Try this: Raw Blueberry Cream Pie

Carrots: It’s no secret that carrots improve vision, but less known is that carrots can prevent dry skin. They contain beta-carotene, which the body uses to produce vitamin A, which moisturizes the skin. Carrots are also a good source of vitamin C, an antioxidant removes free radicals, such as those produced by too much sun exposure, which can lead to premature aging. Vitamin C also aids in skin collagen formation, which declines as we get older.

Try this: Curried Baby Carrots

Sweet Potatoes: A favorite at Thanksgiving dinners, sweet potatoes should be enjoyed throughout the year. Sweet potatoes provide vitamin E, which the body uses to regenerate and maximize the effectiveness of vitamin C, very effective antioxidants for skin protection.

Mangoes: Per the National Mango Board, this tropical fruit contains more than 20 varieties of vitamins and minerals. Mangoes have a fruit acid enzyme profile and contain Beta-C and vitamin A derivatives that activate cell regeneration.

Try this: Mango Banana Soup with Cardamom

Mushrooms: Mushrooms are one of the only food sources for vitamin D, contain antioxidants, and have anti-inflammatory properties. All of this helps the skin remain strong and youthful, as inflammation plays a role in aging and may increase risk for some skin cancers.

Try this: Spring Greens-Stuffed Mushrooms

By Maris Callahan for DietsInReview.com

(Leesa recommends buying local and organic food whenever possible! )

5 Foods to Fight Insomnia

5 Foods to Fight Insomnia

If you’re having trouble catching some Zzzs, the solution could be as close as your kitchen.  Sleep restores us. And not getting enough of it can put us at greater risk of heart disease and cancer. Sleep even makes us smarter. Yet researchers are finding that more than 10 percent of the population is chronically sleep deprived. If you’re having trouble slipping into and remaining in Dreamland, don’t dart straight to prescription sleep drugs, which can be habit-forming, harmful if you live with certain conditions, and even downright bizarre! (Some people develop sleep-eating and sleep-driving habits when using prescription sleeping pills.) The good news is, science has found that many foods, drinks, herbs, and other natural sleep aids can help put you to sleep…naturally. In fact, just this summer, researchers made the connection between tart cherry juice and getting adequate shut-eye. Here are some natural food- and drink-based sleep aids.

Cherries

In the small study, participants drank eight ounces of the tart cherry (also known as sour cherry) juice in the morning, and another eight ounces in the evening, for two weeks and reported better sleeping habits. Since all cherries are naturally high in melatonin, a compound that makes us sleepy, you can try eating a cup as a snack before it’s time for shut-eye if you’d rather not drink the juice.

Fish

Certain fish and sea creatures contain sleep-inducing tryptophan, including shrimp, cod, tuna, and halibut. But since not all seafood choices are healthy for us (some are high in contaminants) or for the planet (many are overfished, or methods for catching them kill other species), stick to catches like Pacific cod from Alaska or pole-caught Albacore tuna from the U.S. or British Columbia.

Carb/Protein Combo

If keeping track of the latest safe seafood guidelines is too complicated, you can get your tryptophan fix from other things. You’ve probably heard that warm milk can help you sleep, since milk contains tryptophan. But the key is to combine carbs with a protein containing tryptophan to help your body better utilize the sleep inducer. Try pairing a cup of whole grain cereal with organic milk before bedtime.

Lemon Balm

This lemon-scented member of the mint family has been a sleep-inducing superstar for ages. Other benefits include better digestion and decreased agitation. Try making lemon balm tea by steeping 1 to 2 teaspoons of the dried herb in 1 cup of hot water for 5 to 10 minutes. (If you take thyroid meds, talk to you doctor…drinking the tea could mean you’ll have to adjust your dosage.)

Other Herbs

If lemon balm’s not your thing, another herb, sage, also works as a natural sleep aid. Just steep 4 tablespoons in a cup of hot water, steep for four hours, strain, and reheat to drink. Chamomile tea and valerian teas, other sleep inducers, are also more widely available pre-bagged in natural food stores, if you don’t want to fuss with the aforementioned straining herbs.

By Leah Zerbe


Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”

12 Inexpensive Ways to Relieve Stress

12 Inexpensive Ways to Relieve Stress

“Stress:  1. a force that strains or deforms  2. mental or physical tension“  Websters New World Dictionary

Despite our best intentions for creating a lifestyle free of stress, we have only succeeded in creating more stress than our mind and bodies can really handle. The good news is there are practical ways to reduce stress in your life without having to spend a whole lot of money. It is important to note that there are both environmental and emotional factors that create stress in your home, workplace and outdoors in a city. You might feel the stress of a difficult job, or the emotional strain of a negative relationship, but toxic chemicals in your cleaning supplies or exposure to electro-magnetic frequency’s from your computer and T.V. may not be so easy to detect. They can, however, cause stress to your immune system and eventually will need to be removed or reduced.

For now let’s take a look at some ideas for dealing with stress on a daily basis. By taking one-step-at-a-time you can at least begin to manage the stress that comes from living in a time that demands our complete attention and much of our precious energy. The goal here is to open up space in your day to recharge and reinvigorate your body-mind for the next go-round of activity.

1. Medical research has shown that lack of sleep can stress the body more than anything else you do. Make sure to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night for best effect.

2. To make sure your body can sleep at night, reduce the amount of stimulating foods, such as sugar, caffeine and alcohol, that you ingest each day. For some people even one cup of java can cause insomnia. Stay away from your computer or smart phone before bedtime as it can interfere with your ability to sleep.

3. Take time each day to stop and do nothing. You can do this at your desk with a few stretches and then sitting, lean your head back on the chair and close your eyes for 2-3 minutes. Or, lay down on the sofa or bed and take a 5-10 minute nap. This is a very easy and effective way to refresh and revive the whole body system.


4. Step away from what you are doing and make a cup of herbal tea, then sit and sip it slowly.

5. Take a 15-30 minute walk outside in nature and focus on your breathing. Stand and take deep breaths of fresh air and long exhales to expel the stale indoor air from your lungs.

6. Take 10 minutes each day to sit in meditation. This can be done anywhere you find yourself. Sit with your back upright, hands resting on your thighs, close your eyes and let your mind quiet and empty. Bring your attention to your breath and let the thoughts pass like clouds moving across a blue sky. This can be a powerful moment for your body-mind to relax and rejuvenate.

7. Plan 1-2 days a week when you will not turn on the computer or watch television. Use the time to hike in nature, read a good book, volunteer to help a friend, clean out your kitchen cabinets and cook yourself a healthy meal.

8. Go on a spending diet and stay away from shopping malls and other crowded venues. Instead, take time to be silent and alone with yourself. This is a wonderful time to think about your life, to set goals, to plan and notice what is and what is not working. This awareness allows you to make changes before situations can get out of hand.

9. Put aside 10-15 dollars a week and indulge your senses with a monthly body massage. This can go a long way towards releasing stress, worry and anxiety in a short period of time.

10. Take a restorative yoga class at your local yoga studio. This special form of yoga utilizes nurturing physical postures to relax, rejuvenate and alleviate the effects of chronic stress in your daily life. Once you know the routine you can practice at home in your personal space.

11. Light some candles in your bathroom, put on some soft music and take a warm bath. Add some muscle relaxing bath salts and a few drops of Lavender oil to calm and relax your mind.

12. As all your worries and fears rise up to engulf you, just remember what is happening in the given moment. Anxiety comes from creating a negative future in your mind, one that has not happened and will probably not happen. It is all a product of your imagination and if you can stay focused on what is happening in the present you can reduce the stress this way of thinking can cause.

posted by Delia Quigley
 
Delia Quigley is the Director of StillPoint Schoolhouse, where she teaches a holistic lifestyle based on her 28 years of study, experience and practice. She is the creator of the Body Rejuvenation Cleanse, Cooking the Basics, and Broken Bodies Yoga. Delia’s credentials include author, holistic health counselor, natural foods chef, yoga instructor, energy therapist and public speaker. Follow Delia’s blogs: brcleanse.blogspot.com and brokenbodiesyoga.wordpress.com. To view her website go to www.deliaquigley.com

5 Ways to Prevent Body Odor

5 Ways to Prevent Body Odor 5 Ways to Prevent Body Odor

 

 

It’s a fact of life: Sometimes you smell less than sweet. Whether it’s from food, excess sweat, or clothes that aren’t quite clean, here are some surprising solutions that can beat back body odor for good.

1.    Choose Natural Fabrics
Natural fabrics such as cotton absorb perspiration better than synthetic materials because they allow the absorbed sweat to evaporate from the fabric.

2.    Skip the garlic and onions
You know they make your breath smell, but what about the rest of you? “If you’ve been surrounded by cooking foods such as garlic, onions, and strong spices, these odors can cling to your clothes and hair,” says Lenise Banse, MD. “Until your clothing and hair are washed, these odors will be carried with you.”

3.    Apply some apple cider vinegar
“Apple cider vinegar is a great natural underarm deodorant,” says Georgianna Donadio, PhD. She suggests applying it directly to your armpits to kill body odor.

4.    Cut back on meat
Extracts of proteins and oils from certain foods and spices remain in your body’s excretions and secretions long after eating, and they can impart an odor, explains Ellen Kamhi, PhD, RN.

5.    Benefit from good bacteria
For a natural deodorant that fights odor from the inside out, Dr. Kamhi recommends taking a daily acidophilus supplement. Acidophilus is a probiotic bacteria that helps aid digestion.

By The Editors, Prevention


Rodale.com is a new original source for daily news, information, and advice on personal and environmental health. Rodale.com focuses on “Where Health Meets Green” topics, providing daily news stories and breaking news along with easy-to-follow, high-impact tips and advice. Rodale.com features a Daily Newsletter, and provides simple, powerful tools including Recipe Finder and Home Remedy Finder to help audiences improve their health and their environment. Rodale.com also includes “Maria’s Farm Country Kitchen,” a personal blog where Editor-in-Chief and Rodale, Inc. CEO and Chairman Maria Rodale is “Cooking Up Trouble, Dishing Out Advice.”

Anti-Inflammatory Diet 101

Anti-Inflammatory Diet 101

One year it’s this diet trend, the next year it’s that diet trend. The funny thing is that, aside from the all-celery and 8-grapefruits family of diets, all the smart diets end up saying pretty much the same thing: Eat bushels of fruit and vegetables, whole grains, less animal fat, and cut out refined foods. Genius!

Lately there’s been a flood of diet books based on the anti-inflammatory concept. The gist is that constant or out-of-control inflammation in the body leads to illness, and that eating to avoid constant inflammation inspires better health and can fend off disease. We generally think of inflammation as the painful part of arthritis, but inflammation is also a component of chronic diseases such as heart disease and strokes. Which is why proponents of the diet say it can reduce heart disease risk, keep existing cardiac problems in check, reduce blood triglycerides and blood pressure, and soothe sore and stiff arthritic joints.

Specifics vary from one anti-inflammatory diet to another, but in general, anti-inflammatory diets recommend:

  • Eat plenty and a variety of fruits and vegetables.
  • Eat little saturated and trans fats.
  • Eat omega-3 fatty acids, such as fish or fish oil supplements and walnuts.
  • Limit your intake of refined carbohydrates such as white pasta and white rice.
  • Increase your consumption of whole grains such as brown rice and bulgur wheat.
  • Limit (or quit) your consumption of red meat and full-fat dairy foods, increase lean protein and plant-protein source.
  • Avoid refined foods and processed foods.
  • Generously use anti-inflammatory spices.

By incorporating these herbs and spices into your diet, you get great flavors with healing properties. Researchers from the University of Michigan have found, for example, that basil has anti-inflammatory activity compared to ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin!

Top anti-inflammatory herbs and spices:

Ginger
Turmeric
Black Pepper
Cinnamon
Rosemary
Basil
Cardamon
Chives
Cilantro
Cloves
Garlic
Parsley

Ready to tame the inflammation? Try these:
Parsley, garlic, and superfood walnuts: Parsley & Walnut Pesto
Double yummy whammy!: Ginger & Turmeric Tea
The all-star anti-inflammatory round-up: Vegetarian Curry

by Melissa Breyer

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