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.