Wednesday, 31 January 2007

How much do you know about healthy choices? Take the quiz

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Which offers more health benefits: Ketchup or Tomatoes? Seeing as ketchup is mostly sugar, I would choose tomatoes every time. But apparently it's ketchup (the organic kind), according to this quiz. Oops, I just gave away the first answer, but the rest are up to you. They might surprise you! I know a few threw me -- and I'm someone who is fairly knowledgeable about healthy foods.

What's your score?

Six states get A's for fixing child obesity

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People have been heralding American obesity for years now like it was the coming apocalypse. It seems like news is always buzzing with trans fat and companies who aren't using it anymore. But how often do we hear about the other good news in the war against fat?

Here's some good news: a record-breaking six states have received "A's" for their efforts in passing legislation and public-policy to combat child obesity. The grading comes from the University of Baltimore Obesity Initiative who awarded California, Illinois, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Tennessee top marks. These are the states who are doing what they can politically to change the trend we're seeing in kids.

The legislation includes support for obesity research, nutrition standards for schools, and a requirement for schools to measure every student's body mass index. It'll cost time and money, but they're hoping the new public policy in these Grade A states will reverse the trend of childhood obesity that has been doubling over the past 20 years.

Getting the most out of your running shoes

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If you are an avid runner, you know the importance of having good shoes -- supportive, comfortable, sturdy shoes that can handle the city streets, park paths or changing terrain where you run. You may have those fabu shoes, but do you know how to be good to them back?

What are the best ways to care for your running shoes and just how much mileage can you really get out of the good ones?

This article offers simple, straightforward advice for getting the most out of your running shoes, a great follow-up after you've found the perfect pair. Also, check out the pointers on when to retire your running shoes, including an easy at-home inspection and (my favorite tip) using your running log to keep track of the life of your shoes as well as your own miles.

Chicago bicyclists brave the cold

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More and more Chicagoans seem to be braving harsh winds and subzero temperatures to continue cycling through the city's brutal winter months. Even when their feet get numb, or they have to pedal down the street in overcoats, commuters, messengers, and fitness buffs push on through the snow.

But, while the sport's seasonal enthusiasts like the less-crowded streets this time of year, that's not the only reason for the increased interest. The Windy City has been working hard to promote bike riding as part of a larger environmental effort. The city already had 250 miles of bike lanes, and as part of Mayor Richard M. Daley's quest to make the Chicago "the most bicycle-friendly" city in the U.S., they've added 25 more -- along with thousands of new bike racks.

If you're thinking about biking through the ice, make sure to take the proper precautions. Wear layers of thermal clothing instead of bulky coats to avoid overheating. Also, make sure you're in bright colors, so you're visible motorists on darker winter days. You can also "winterize" your bike by adding fenders -- both to keep salt off the bike, and to keep yourself dry.

Any winter bike riders out there? Why do you do it?

Smokable painkillers?

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These days, almost every painkiller boasts that it can relieve your pain the fastest. But what if instead of waiting 15 or 20 minutes for relief, you could have it in seconds?

A new "smokable" painkiller from Alexza Pharmaceuticals Inc might just make that a possibility. They're developing drugs that can pass through the lungs and into the bloodstream -- much like nicotine in cigarettes.

The plan is to create an inhaler that looks like a small hip flask, which patients would be able to carry around in their pocket book. Inside the inhaler would be a battery-operated package that heats up a small amount of the drug in liquid form, which would subsequently produce a vapor that the patient could suck into his or her lungs.

Results of a mid-stage clinical trial of the company's migraine drug will be available by the end of March. However, consumers most likely won't have access to the product until at least 2010.

New food pyramid offers renewed nutrition suggestions

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After quite a long while with an outdated USDA Food Pyramid guide, the USDA has unveiled a new Food Pyramid that changes things quite a bit. For example, I never understood why dairy and meat had so much emphasis on the old pyramid (way too much) -- and why fresh fruits and vegetables were not at the "foundation".

Anyway, the new Food Pyramid has vertical bands that represent food groups and the serving suggestions per day as well we multiple areas where physical activity is encouraged (that is awesome), Maybe in 2020 we'll g et another version, eh?

If you're not already, start snacking

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Snacks and snacking usually get a pretty bad rap, but it's really just because of the food most people pick to snack on. The truth is that snacking can be really good for you, and for your diet. Snacking between meals can help hold off hunger pains so you don't end up binging, it boosts your metabolism to help you burn more calories, and it gives you more energy so it's easier to get moving and exercising. Just make sure you pick healthy snack foods, and not potato chips and ice cream, or you'll cancel out the positive benefits.

Public smoking bans spreading in Europe

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After all the bans on smoking in public places here in the U.S., the European Union has urged nations within that bloc to do the same -- and many countries are following along to the better health of their own citizens.

Smoking in public places may seem like a "right" to many, but when that smoke crosses some invisible barrier and affects other patrons, that is where the line must be drawn.

Ireland, Italy and Sweden have already banned smoking in public places -- which European country is next?

Is going to college bad for your memory?

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They need to stop doing studies on college and higher-education, because every time they do I just get more confused.

The latest research finds that people with higher educations suffer faster memory loss as they age. The study looked at people over age 70 and asked them to remember 10 words. The same people were tested up to 4 times between 1993 and 2000, and those with more schooling had a greater loss than those with less. Given, they had more "knowledge" to start with, but a lot of good that did them since they ended up at the same place as their less-educated counterparts in the end.

Okay, so college reduces your risk of stroke as you get older, but now it also increases your risk of memory problems. However will we choose?

Eschewing the kids menu: Children can be food snobs

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I don't have kids, but all the kids I know have pretty much the same diets: Chicken fingers, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (on white, with the crusts cut off no less), spaghetti, etc. I even know one kid who will only chicken fingers -- for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Vegetables are a no-no, while anything sweet and full of empty carbs are a yes please! But, as was reported on Blogging Baby, there are kids out there who prefer the finer foods in life, such as dim sum, sushi, baba ganouj and much more. Apparently, among a certain group of gastronomically-influenced parents, "It's a badge of urban sophisticate honor to have your kid be an adventurous eater".

I think turning kids onto fresher, healthier, less processed foods in a great idea. My well-travelled parents regularly gave me fine things like caviar, fresh seafood and stinky cheeses and to this day, I am an adventurous and healthy eater. But is it feasible to feed stuff like this to kids?

How many calories... in a Caramel Pecanbon from Cinnabon?

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The smell is almost hypnotic... fresh cinnamon buns being pulled from the oven at Cinnabon. And there in the display rack, sitting like cinnamon bun royalty above the rest of their selections, sits the Caramel Pecanbun. Something about the way they make the buns from scratch right in front of you... it almost fools the mind into thinking they might be healthy.

But I'm also not blind. I see the caramel, I see the pecans, and I know there's butter in that dough. So I already know the nutritional details on one of these guys has got to be pretty bad. But I've decided that I need to finally know: how bad is it, exactly?

How many calories and how much fat is in a Cinnabon Caramel Pecanbun?

A) 5 90 calories, 29 grams of fat
B) 700 calories, 33 grams of fat
C) 880 calories, 45 grams of fat
D) 1100 calories, 56 grams of fat


Continue reading How many calories... in a Caramel Pecanbon from Cinnabon?

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Demi Moore quits dieting for daughters

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Three cheers for Demi Moore, who seems to have not let celebrity get in the way being a good role model for her daughters. The actress says that she doesn't want her daughters to obsess about their bodies, which means she had to quit obsessing about her own. She stopped dieting and trying to create that perfect body that she worked so hard for earlier in her career. Her three daughters have different body types, and she wants them to be comfortable in their own skin.

Though I can't think of a mother that doesn't want that, it's awesome to see a celebr ity who still has a successful career make that move for her children. Too often, it's celebrities that are providing the unhealthy images in the first place. So good for you, Demi!

Want to help your daughter develop a positive self-image and plenty of self-confidence? Take a few moments to look over this excellent article on the subject.

Workplace Fitness: Ways to help your career that you might not expect

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When people think of boosting their career, things like working late at the office and getting lots of "face time" with the boss usually come to mind. But in reality being successful, at anything, means taking care of yourself. Stress and a busy schedule can cause you to fall into bad habits and inadvertently sabotage yourself and your career. If you're not getting enough sleep, or you're eating the wrong foods or hitting "happy hour" a little too often, how are you supposed to be your best at work? And if you're not at your best, there's the risk that "coworker Bob" will be, and you just might be overshadowed and outperfo rmed.

Nobody wants to be less than their best, especially in the competitive world of today's workplace. So to get ahead, or stay ahead, it might be worthwhile to take a look at your priorities, and these suggestions for success, that although are common enough may not be your first thoughts regarding benefiting your career:

Continue reading Workplace Fitness: Ways to help your career that you might not expect

Bubblewrap used to make prosthetic limbs!

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A 15 year old kid in Nashville, TN has invented an artificial skin-like covering for prosthetic limbs using bubble wrap. The kid, Grayson Rosenburger, found his inspiration through a combination of his parents' work with prosthetic patients in Africa and the Sealed Air Corp's inaugural Bubble Wrap competition for young inventors. Many amputees in Africa can't afford anything but the metal rod version of a prosthesis, but later this year Grayson plans to travel with his parents to start putting his invention to use in the real world by offering people his low-cost bubble wrap alternative.

I spend my time popping the bubbles and giggling anytime I get a hold of bubble wrap packaging, so it's good to know there's people out there doing things that are seriously worthwhile!

Critical water shortage by 2080 feared

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Although the debate continues to rage on about global warming, glacier melting, natural resource plundering and the like, one thing is certain -- the civilized and industrialized world as we know it (even the less-civilized world) cannot survive without two things -- the sun and a supply of fresh water.

The future is an unknown, but many experts fear that a lack of fresh water supplies -- more than anything else -- will leave millions *dry* and as critical water shortages in China and Australia occur, along with parts of Europe and the United St ates.

A new global climate report states that by the end of the century, climate change will bring water scarcity to between 1.1 and 3.2 billion people. The problem? There are expected to be almost 9 billion people on the planet by then.

Getting rid of 'eye gunk' using lasers

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Have you ever looked at a bright object or light and saw little "floating things" that seem to live on the top of your eyeball? Many of us have seen these objects that appear almost transparent, but are sometimes madding nonetheless.

How about laser surgery to get rid of these things forever? While the "objects" are hardly a recurring nuisance for most of us, certain ye doctors -- who call them "vitreous opacities" -- can obliterate them using laser technology, although the procedure has drawn regulatory scrutiny lately.

Nearly everybody has 'floaters' or will develop them at some point. They are easily recognizable as they float through a person's field of vision -- looking like specks or even snakes.

Exposure to sun is good for you

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Ever hear the phrase "stay out of the sun!"? I have and I bet at some point you have as well from your parents or guardians. But many of us now know that decent amounts of sun exposure is actually very beneficial to health.

After all, human civilizations were almost always formed under thousands of years under direct sunlight, so it is presumptuous for us to think that we always need to use sunscreen or sunblock to ensure we don't get "any" sun.

Sun exposure, after all, helps the body produce its own Vitamin K -- think of it (no more supplementation...well, sort of). Seriously though, about 10 minutes of exposure to the sun (as much of your lovely bod as possible) is suggested by many health experts -- even for light-skinned folks.

Study finds brain bleeds in 25% of newborns

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When I was pregnant with my first child, my OB wouldn't schedule an ultrasound after 5 weeks gestation. He said that as long as the baby and I appeared healthy, there wasn't any reason for it. With my second child, I had a different doctor who scheduled two or three throughout the pregnancy. The final ultrasound set off a flurry of tests and follow up ultrasounds when they thought there was something wrong with the baby's kidneys. Several ultrasounds later, I finally gave (normal, uncomplicated) birth to a healthy, happy child. None of those tests were necessary and in the end caused me more stress and worry than anything else. As my first d octor said, "Sometimes a little knowledge can be dangerous."

That's a very long story to explain to you how I feel about this story. I can see myself hovering over my firstborn, worrying over the umbilical cord. If I had known about brain bleeds, I probably wouldn't have been able to relax enough to enjoy the little sleep I got those first few weeks. Expectant mothers don't need more to worry over, we do enough of that already. Though I have no medical training and don't want to be glib about this finding, my instincts tell me that this is a normal side effect of birth and that the findings won't change anything in the long run about labor and delivery. Any moms or OBs out there interested in chiming in?


Tuesday, 30 January 2007

Could a few rays a day prevent skin cancer?

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We've heard before that 15-20 minutes of sunlight can be an excellent source of vitamin D, an important nutrient. But researchers recently found that some exposure to sunlight may actually reduce the risk of skin cancer. Very simply put, the sun triggers a process that creates immune T-cells and sends them to stand guard on the surface of the skin, protecting from infection and even cancer.

Experts warn that this is a preliminary finding and that they aren't sure what it means. What they are sure of is that the sun is the number one preventable cause of skin cancer, so hold on to your sunscreen. When asked what a reasonable amount of time in the sun would be, experts from the American Dietetic Association said that the body can produce more than enough vitamin D from just 30 minutes in the sun per day. Until we know what this research means, if you're going to be outside more than a short period of time, slather it on and keep your skin protected!

Women: 10 great foods to add to your diet

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Eating whole grains, plenty of fruits and vegetables, and lots lean protein is a great way to assure good nutrition for everyone, but did you know that women have a few unique nutritional needs? Here's a list of 10 foods the average woman should have in her diet.

There's nothing on this list that's too surprising -- beans, broccoli, carrots, and salmon, to name a few -- but it's a good reminder about what nutrients are especially important to women: fola te, calcium, and iron. Folate is especially important for women of childbearing age and helps to prevent some birth defects. Calcium protects the bones from osteoporosis. Aim for 800mg a day, though some women may need more. Iron prevents anemia and replenishes iron losses from menstruation.

Depending on your diet, most of the nutrients you need can be found by making the right food choices. If you can't get enough of a nutrient you need through food, supplements can be helpful. but too much of a good thing can be a bad thing, so be sure you aren't taking more than the recommended dose. A basic multi-vitamin should do the trick.

Why driving and cell phones don't mix

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Multi-tasking is one of today's biggest buzzwords and technology has made the art of multi-tasking even easier. Cell phones have revolutionized the way we run our personal lives and do business. Inappropriate cell phone use is a debate I don't see going away anytime soon. But besides church and in a darkened movie theater, is there a time when talking on your cell phone should be a major no-no? According to this new research, yes. We should not be using our cell phones while driving.

This discussion has been going on for some time and there's talk of making in-car ce ll phone use illegal. According to new research, there may be good reason behind that ban. Researchers found that when a person tries to perform two cognitively demanding tasks at the same time, a "bottleneck" occurs and one task has to be put on hold until the first one is complete. This waiting process only lasts a second or so, but when you're traveling at a high rate of speed, a second can be a very long time. Not only that, but by repeatedly trying to dial your phone or engaging in conversation, you ask the task of driving to take the backseat again and again.

Statistics show that cell phone users are four times more likely to be in a crash, now we know why. Driving requires concentration and there are plenty of distractions already in the average car -- radio, backseat drivers, hungry kids, and hot coffee, to name a few. Hands-free headsets don't appear to reduce these statistics, so the best course of action is to turn off your cell when you get into the car. Don't feel comfortable doing that?

Teaching kids nutrition early

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Do you let your kids eat whatever they want, all the time? In many respects, an introduction to lifelong proper nutrition can start as early as four or five, before kids get used to all-things-sweet, candy, pop and other non-nutritious stuff.

How to do that? A firm hand and proper preparation are key, and although it's very hard to get kids to eat things that aren't filled with chemicals and taste enhancers (as well as so much sugar), it'll save them a lifetime of eating bad if habits can get started early.

Instead of Ho-Hos, try packing a different fruit in that lunch bag...

The duck that wouldn't die

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Ever wanted to cheat death? Talk to Perky, a duck that survived in a hunter's refrigerator for two days after being shot and presumed dead.

The story broke last week, when the hunter's wife opened the refrigerator to find the supposedly dead duck, alive, and staring at her. Even though, only days before, her husband had been trying to kill the bird with a gun, she decided to take the animal to a veterinarian, who proceeded to operate.

It was there that Perky had another brush with fate: she was pronounced dead on the operating table. However, after veterinarian David Hale performed CPR for several minutes, the bird miraculously came back to life.

Non-i Beck of the Goose Creek Wildlife Sanctuary, who was watching the surgery, said: "I started crying, 'She's alive!'"

Whatever that duck has, I want it.

Teen driving -- way too many distractions

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Just ten years ago, teens did not have cellphones, iPods and other gizmos to distract them while they learned to drive (that takes a while, right?).

Not to anymore, as a plethora of different items have invaded the cars of many teens in addition to all the friends they may be driving around.

As if most kids didn't need any more distractions while driving (like many of us, actually), some even try to text message while driving, apparently. Holy cow -- that is scary.

Juice fast diets: The real deal or just hype?

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The claims of juice fast diets are hard to resist, and I admit to having tried one or two over the years. But are the claims true? Even when fortified with extra vitamins and nutrients, can having nothing but juice and water for days on end really be a good idea?

According to doctors, not really. If you're perfectly healthy a short-term juice fast won't hurt you, but other than helping you temporarily shed some water it won't really help you either. And if you stay on a juice fast for an extended period of time your body will use muscle, and eventually vital organs like your heart and your brain, to fill in the nutritional gaps.

Wow, that's scary. I don't want to weigh less because my brain got smaller.

Liking that 'salty taste' begins at birth

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Are you a fan of salty foods? Most of us are I would suspect -- as sodium is in so many foods these days (and large amounts of it). But, why do we all crave sodium and salt so much?

A new study suggests that some people that are salt cravers may have been born with that in them. With high salt intake being considered a marker for the risk of obesity, reducing the overconsumption of it is probably a good dietary decision for many.

Starbucks response to "Decaf" questions

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I wrote to the PR folks at Starbucks over the weekend to have a few questions answered on how that company decaffeinates its various coffees.


The reason? Well, there are many ways to get the caffeine out of coffee beans and I was interested in the way Starbuck's does this with all the various 'flavors' of decaf it offers.


Here is the response I received -- enjoy!


Starbucks uses two methods of decaffeination: the direct contact method and the Swiss water process. With direct contact, a solvent (methylene chloride) is introduced to the green coffee beans as they soak. The solvent bonds with the caffeine in the beans and removes it. The solvent is then taken away from the beans and the coffee is roasted at over 400*F. Since the solvent has a much lower boiling point (114*F) the coffee bean that come from this process produce a cup of coffee that has no detectable trace of methylene chloride.


The Swiss water process involves using hot water and steam to remove caffeine from the coffee. Then the solution is run through charcoal filters (similar to a giant water filter) to remove the caffeine. Currently our retail stores offer one coffee that is processed using the Swiss water method. It is called the Decaffeinated Komodo Dragon Blend.

Top 10 foods for sleeping better at night

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Some people (like myself) have found out over the years that getting exercise is one of the best ways to get a good night's sleep. That's one way to go about inducing rest, but another is getting the right foods in your belly before bedtime. A common staple found in almost every kitchen is a banana. As this article so aptly puts it, bananas are like sleeping pills in a peel. The fruit contains serotonin and they also relaxe your muscles, so what better way to end the day?

Foods like this are abundant and can really help bring on the sleepiness at night. Another curious item on the list belongs in a morning meal, but oatmeal can also top off your evenings too! It contains melatonin and a host of other benefits making it worth a nibble twice a day.

So what else was on the list? How about a recipe for Lullaby Muffins, among other foods as well. You can find the other foods on the list right here including how they will help you get a better night's rest.

Defy the fads and use your common sense when making food choices

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These days, it's hard to keep up with the health and nutrition news, specifically what causes what, what prevents what, what treats what, and so on. How do you sift through all these seemingly contradictory findings to choose the healthiest path you can? This article has a few suggestions. It's a long one, chalk full of useful information, but if you scroll to the bottom, you'll find a few suggestions. Like? Avoiding anything with ingredients that you're not familiar with. And not eating things that your grandmother wouldn't recognize as food. Fads are bad, even the seemingly healthy ones, like low fat, low cholesterol, etc. Because the truth is, when they take the fat out of those products, it's replacing it with chemicals that perhaps haven't been proven safe for human consumption in the long run. Even healthy foods can be heavily processed.

In short: Avoid the hype and listen to your common sense. Cook and prepare food yourself, with vegetables you've grown yourself if possible. Don't be guided by the best food deal. Those cheap foods are cheap for a reason -- they're not good for you.

What do you think? Easier said than done?

Fit Links: Healthy home-cooking recipes

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As fabulous as we here at That's Fit think this blog is, the truth is there are hundreds of wonderful blogs on healthy living to be seen all over the blogosphere. So in this feature, Fit Links, we'll introduce you to some that have caught our eye.

Back in November, we shared some links for healthy holiday cooking. But once that holiday baking season is over, it's easy to give up on home-cooking and turn instead to fast, easy, convenience foods. Unfortunately, convenient often means unhealthy.

So, to try to keep 2007 going in a healthy direction, here's some of my favorite healthy recipe blogs to help keep fresh, healthy meal ideas flowing in your kitchen.

Healthy Recipe of the Week is like a club for people who want to try healthy new recipes. The website features a new recipe each week, so you're not overwhelmed having hundreds of recipes to choose from and not knowing when to start.

So, you say that those recipes aren't healthy enough? When you want a healthy recipe, you mean you want a really, really healthy recipe? Well then head over to the Healthy Food Recipe blog. It's full of recipes that are suitable for diabetics and also low calorie, and vegetarian.

Finally, would you feel better taking recipe suggestions from someone if you got to know them a little bit first? Check out the Better Recipes recipe blog. Written from a personal point of view, the blog shares not only favorite heal thy recipes but also cooking and food preparation tips and stories.
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Daily Fit Tip: Sore throat? Try gargling hot salt water

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I rarely get sick, but when I do it seems I get a double dose of whatever cold is making the rounds. This year it was the sore throat phenomenon. Everyone around me seemed to come down with one form or another of sore throat. You know how it is--you wake up one morning, throat feels a little scratchy, the channel between your throat and ear feels inflamed, and you just know it's not going to go away unless you do something about it. This very scenario befell me last week.

I've never been one to rely on over-the-counter (OTC) medicines to ease my symptoms. Now that I'm pregnant I probably couldn't take anything even if I wanted to and wouldn't--it's just not in my nature. Thus I attempted to resolve my throat woes with an age-old remedy prescribed by my mother that seems to actually work: gargling with hot salt water.

This method of sore throat curing seems to work best when certain criteria are met:

1. You catch the sore throat in its early stages.

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Sore throat? Try gargling hot salt water

McDonalds finally selects trans-fat-free cooking oil

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After years of testing, the world's largest foodservice company -- McDonald's -- has said that it has finally selected a new trans-fat-free oil for cooking its famous french fries.

I've been waiting for this -- after all, McDonald's dragged its feet recently after many competing fast-food chains said they would switch to cooking oils devoid of trans fats. It really took McDonald's *years* to do this?

While McDonald's already trails the competition in switching to zero-trans fat oils, it is still not saying when the new french fry oil will be used in all 13,700 U.S. restaura nts.

Public breastfeeding: does it make you nervous?

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As the number of breastfeeding mothers continues to rise, so do the number of babies nursing in public. As a mother who nursed, I've seen the evidence that breastfeeding in certain situations makes some people nervous. Many times it's easy to take that anxiousness as disapproval, but more frequently, I think the reason people act so weird is simply because they don't know how to act. We can talk all day about how nursing is natural and about how we're only feeding our children, but the truth is this: breasts make some people jumpy.

This funny but informative article gi ves men advice on how to behave when a woman nearby starts nursing. Depending on the mother and child involved, breastfeeding can be barely noticeable or a skin-baring wrestling session. So what's a person to do? There's a lot of good advice here, but one piece in particular stood out -- treat the mother as you would if she was bottle feeding. If you're in a situation where ignoring the mother would be rude, then ask a polite question or two (How old is the baby? What is her name?) and then let her be. If not, carry on with what you were doing. Make a point not to react and please, please, please don't stare. All good advice you can take with you, I think.

I hesitated to link to this article because some of the opening comments seem meant to polarize mothers, but I think that the advice the writer ends up dishing is pretty good. With knowledge, comes respect, I think, and with respect comes an atmosphere where women can feed their babies without publi c disapproval and where bystanders can carry on their business without distraction.

Do you have healthy toes?

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Personally, I hate feet. They're ugly, they usually smell bad, and they're highly prone to fungal infections. And unfortunately, since (in my opinion) feet and toenails are already ugly it can be difficult to recognize the signs of a fungal infection.

Here are the major things to look for, according to the American College of Foot and Ankle Orthopedics and Medicine: yellow or discolored toenails, extra thick toenails that are hard to cut, crumbling toenails, or (I would hope this problem is obvious!) nails that have separated from the nail bed.

Happy examining!

Taking a step back -- to eating like we're in the 1970s

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With obesity running rampant in many western societies, what are we to do? Our lifestyles have become more sedentary, our food has become more filled with things our body doesn't know how to handle and we are not even walking but a few thousands steps a day (many of us).

How about pretending like it is the 1970s? The lack of exercise and the calorie-laden foods kids (and adults) eat these days are apparently enough to offset worse nutritional habits from 30 years ago according to this article. Do you agree?

Jogging for Normal People: Now My Pride is at Stake

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I have recently agreed to run 13 miles. That's 11 miles further than I've run in the last 3 months, and 8 miles further than I've ever run in my life. This may be a problem.

I'm a novice -- barely more than an interested third party when it comes to jogging, but I have an uncle who, over the course of many years, has become a masochist marathon enthusiast. He has running buddies, he trains, he's into it. So, when he asked me if I'd be up for one of these events in '08, I honestly thought he might be joking.

Me, committed to running? For miles? All at once?

Sure, there's all sorts of events -- a 10K, a 10 miler, even a 50 yard non-competitive race for children 10 years and older. But here's the rub: I'm about 20 years younger than my uncle. I'm certain that he's capable of running the entire marathon -- every last one of those 26 grueling miles -- and surely, if he can do it, so can I -- right? Right?

Riding on this wave of immature motivation, I boasted: "I bet I could do the half marathon," which was and is a total lie. I don't think I can do the half marathon at all. Nevertheless, backing out now would be worse than if I had chickened out in the first place. Because now, it is a competition. It is an issue of pride. My manhood is at stake.

It took about 5 seconds of bumming around the Internet to realize that, in light of my ill-advised, arrogant assertion, I'll need to start training now, if I don't want to look like an ass on race day next February. For those of you who'd like to take the challenge with me, here's a few helpful articles I stumbled upon.

Preparing For Your First Marathon
Half-Marathon Workouts
Hal Higdon's Marathon Training Guide (for novices)

Experienced or not, will any of you be running in Austin for '08? I'd love to hear about it.

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Military creates mental health-care hotline

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With war being not only a life-changing event for almost all involved, it's not easy to see the internal damage (mentally) that engaging in warfare can cause soldiers and military personnel.

In something that is probably decades late, the U.S. Military has established an automated telephone and Internet presence for those with developing mental issues (potentially) in order to offer assistance from an anonymous perspective.

Is your purse making you sick?

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Apparently, this story has been around for a while, but it's just finally made its way to me, and let me tell you, I was horrified. It's so simple, it's so obvious, but yet I never thought about it.

Purses (and briefcases, backpacks, laptop cases, etc.) go with us everywhere we go and often get set down when our hands are busy. That means places like the floors of restaurants, bus stops, stores, and public restrooms...yuck! Basically, these catch-alls go nearly everywhere our shoes go, but yet we come home and set them on our counter tops and kitchen tables. I would n't think of setting my shoes there, but my purse? I do it all the time.

The article suggests we all start decontaminating our handbags. Frankly, I just can't see myself doing that on a weekly basis, but I am going to start thinking twice about where I set my purse. I nearly always hang it from an available hook or chair, but now I'll be sure to keep it off any questionable surface. Not only that, my purse will now have a home on my coat rack by my front door and never sit on my kitchen counter top again.

Better bed = Better sleep

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Trouble sleeping? It's a huge problem affecting a lot of people every night. If you are someone who has problems with getting good shut-eye you've probably tried all kinds of things like adjusting your schedule and even medications. But have you ever tried a new mattress? Or even just taken a close look at how you're positioning yourself in bed?

One expert was quoted in this article saying "Most people don't know how poor their sleep is until they get a good mattress." So what is a good mattress? It's all about comfort and support, with firmer being better. The acronym SLEEP is a good way to remember how to shop: Select a mattress, Lie down on it, Evaluate how comfy and supportive it is, Educate yourself on it and what else is out there, and make sure you involve your Partner so they're comfy too.

There are all kinds of approaches to getting better sleep, and I think it's a combination of things for most people. But a new mattress is probably overdue for most of us, and it certainly wouldn't hurt to replace it.

Monday, 29 January 2007

Are you being fooled by greenwashing?

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My very favorite spot of our local grocery store is tucked way in the back, between pet food and the dairy aisle. It's the clearance rack. Really just a gigantic cart, I can find some unbelievable finds, especially when the store discontinues a product. When I passed it the other day, it was loaded top to bottom box after box of organic Rice Krispies. Apparently, the world isn't ready for pesticide-free snap, crackle, and pop.

After the explosion of the organic and natural foods market in the late 1990s, we've seen more and more organic and natural foods on the grocery store shelves. Mainstream corporations wanting their slice of the organic pie have tweaked conventional products (like Rice Krispies) a nd their packaging to make them more appealing to the "green" consumer. But does better packaging mean better food? Not always.

It's called "greenwashing" and it's the art of changing a product's design to draw in consumers who want to buy into the "earth-friendly" brand. And according to this article, when a company tweaks its package in just the right way, what looks like organic may simply be "organic-like." Not only that, simply marketing a food as earth-friendly doesn't make it so. Organic foods may make up the ingredients, but that doesn't mean the food was made in an environmentally friendly way or with fair labor practices.


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You might be fat by choice

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This may come as a surprise to you, but you might be choosing to be overweight. Not consciously, but on a deeper level. According to this article, there is an underlying force in the subconscious that rules our eating habits, and you may have to confront these issues to begin your weight-loss journey. This isn't the first time I've heard of this -- being overweight offers some sort of comfort deep down, though you might not know it. I've even read about this on a personal blog recently.

So does this mean that you need to sp end thousands of dollars on expensive therapy? Not necessarily. The article lists simple steps you can take to uncovering your subconscious eating motivation. Read through it and let me know what you find out.

Concern over fewer women getting mammograms

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Despite the fact that the number of women who should be getting mammograms (over age 40) has increased over recent years, surveys show that the number of women who actually had mammograms dropped slightly in 2005. This has health officials both concerned and a little confused, wondering why exactly this is. The most likely reason is the very fact that so many women are getting older and needing mammograms the resources and clinics are getting stretched to the max, or possibly that finances and personnel issues are causing complications.

Regardless, women are encouraged to continue to treat breast cancer as a serious risk and put mammograms at the top of their priority list, as often and their doctor recommends. And hopefully, now that this problem is out in the open, the health industry can make some moves to fix it.

What's so tough about those last 5 lbs?

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After gaining some weight in my first few years out of college, I started exercising, and changed my eating habits. Finally, three months later, I'm nearly back to where I was when I left school -- but those last 5 pounds are seemingly impossible to get rid of.

I'm not the only one facing this frustration. In fact, many dieters have trouble losing the final 5. So what gives? What makes this weight so much harder to lose?

It's largely to do with calories. The more weight you lose, the fewer calories your body needs -- so as you get smaller, your calorie intake needs to get smaller with you. Also, as people get closer to their fitness goals, they back off -- allowing themselves the comfort foods they'd sworn off at the beginning of their diet. While it's no fun to feel like you're depriving yourself, keep in mind that only 100 extra calories a day can still hold up otherwise steady weight loss.

If you're stuck, try a new tactic. Many successful dieters keep track of what they eat by writing it down. You could also add more veggies, as these are good low-calorie food substitutes.

At the end of the day, relax, stick with it, and be proud that you've come this far. If you're at a healthy weight, there's no need to get so obsessed over 5 pesky pounds that you become unhappy.

Daily Fit Tip: Slow down ... when eating, that is

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With the lack of physical activity that most people's lifestyles are lacking, it's a good idea to pick up the pace and run, or at least speed-walk, to burn extra calories or just get moving. But there's one area where we should all learn to slow down -- eating.

I'm guilty of shoveling food down my gullet at record speeds -- with a busy lifestyle, I'm always thinking of where I need to be next. But it's a good idea to savor what you're eating. Also, by eating more slowly, you'll get full faster, and this will enable you to eat less overall.

But old habits are ha bits are hard to break. I'm going to make a conscious effort to chew each bite of food for at least 5 seconds before swallowing -- hopefully this will slow me down a bit. What about you?

Jumpstart Your Fitness: Enlist yourself in boot camp

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Fitness boot camps are popping up everywhere, one even started recently over the lunch hour where I work. But before you let visions of impossible obstacle courses, camouflage uniforms, and a screaming sergeant turn you off to the idea, you might want to find out what they're really about.

A boot camp is really just a fitness class that takes place outside and is programmed to last a period of weeks. A sort of jumpstart to healthy living and a good workout plan. There are all kinds of variations, but most boot camps are geared towards women, last for 1 hour/5 days a week for around 8 weeks, and take place outdoors during warmer weather. And although you should consult with your doctor before enrolling, you don't have to worry about being in awesome shape when you first get started (hopefully that's the end result!). Plus, since the boot camp will have a qualified instructor you're actually getting the benefits of a personal trainer for a much cheaper price, usually only $15 to $18 per class.

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America's habits: how do you compare?

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Making a change toward a healthier lifestyle is one of the best decisions you can make. Creating that change takes knowledge, however, knowledge about nutrition facts and fitness. CNN recently conducted a poll of over 1000 Americans to find out what the average citizen knows about healthy living.

The good news is that when it comes to nutrition, we're n ot in too bad of shape. We know the difference between good and bad cholesterol and that fat can be good for us in moderation when it comes from proper sources like avocado or fatty fish. The bad news is this astonishing fact: Even though the USDA recommends 30 minutes of exercise per day, only 6% of us are getting that much and only 22% exercise three to four times per week. We need to get moving! We redeemed ourselves, however, when 67% of respondents recognized that small steps they took today would add up to larger health benefits in the future.

There's plenty more interesting statistics, so go read the article and let me know what you think. Then take a minute to test your own Healthy Living IQ.

What hypnotherapy can, and can't, do for you

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Hypnotherapy has a range of different reputations, from the old fashioned idea of some guy asking you to keep your eyes on the swinging pocket watch to the more modern stories of people using hypnosis through their doctor to quit smoking. Hypnotherapy has come a long way, and today it's officially recognized as a viable way of treating certain problems like pain, weight loss, gastrointestinal issues, smoking, and other addicti ons.

However, hypnotherapy is not a guaranteed cure, and it's almost always used in combination with other treatments. But if you think you'd like to try it, it's recommended you go through one of the two recognized hypnotherapy associations: the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis or the Society for Clinical and Experimental Hypnosis. Both of these groups require their hypnotherapists to be clinically licensed, which means they'll be better able to recognize and deal with medical issues, as opposed to just your average hypnotist on the street.