Saturday, 3 February 2007

Go "bananas" for fitness

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I've always known that bananas were healthy, but hadn't thought of them specifically as a good fitness food. But they are actual quite a handy little package of energy and nutrients packed into a convenient ready-to-go wrapper. The natural sugar in a banana will give you a nice energy boost while the fiber fills you up, all with only adding about 100 calories to your daily total.

Plus bananas are high in important nutrients like B6 and potassium, which help with everything from managing blood glucose levels to preventing muscle fatigue. This short article is full of all kinds of interesting facts about this fruit that I hadn't heard before -- like did you know bananas can help relieve morning sickness for some pregnant women? Or that you can even relieve an irritating bug bite just by rubbing a banana peel on it?

40% of Americans feel regular stress

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Do you feel stressed on a regular basis? Between working, trying to have fun, caring for kids and pets and running daily chose, it seems like stress if just part of the equation. Hoe can it not be?

In a recent Gallup poll then, it was little surprise to find out that 40% of Americans often feel stressed. In fact, stress levels have been in that range for quite a while -- they have not changed much.

It's surprising to me that only one in five Americans reported only rare stress according to the Gallup poll. Has life become to hard to handle that stress is just a normal thing like eating and sleeping? Look at your daily routine and it's most likely filled with stressful things. How about unemployed people, though?

Why are models so darn thin?

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When I see TV and magazine ads these days, it bewilders me. Are all these super-slim models really a picture of being healthy? Heck no -- and in many cases, far from it. The pictures and images brought on by media outlets and other purveyors of unrealism sometimes just make me shake my head.

80% of American consumers even say that models are "too thin" -- and I agree. These portrayals are completely unrealistic but they do influence (badly) popular culture. Role models in this society should be true heroes (like 9/11 rescue workers and overseas soldiers), but not football players, most musicians and supermodels. But, tho se are the folks many of us look to as role models, and in the supermodel biz, that just is not right.

That is, unless you want to look like a piece of spaghetti.

Binge eating more common than other eating disorders

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With all of the recent headlines about ultra-thin models and the pressure the media puts on women to be thin, this headline may come as a surprise: Binge eating is more common in the United States than either anorexia or bulimia. In fact, nearly three times the number of women and over six times the number of men suffer from this eating disorder than from anorexia.

Binge eating is a disorder where people have frequent, uncontrollable eating binges without purging. It's associated with severe obesity and sufferers often have underlying mood disorders such as anxiety or impulse control issues. Sufferers are at risk for conditions like hea rt disease, type II diabetes, high blood pressure, and gall bladder disease.

Researchers found that binge eating, along with anorexia and bulimia, is on the rise. The symptoms of binge eating disorder include eating vast amounts of food, usually alone, and not feeling satisfied, eating in secret, eating to avoid emotional issues, and feeling shame after binging. The disease is treatable, and you can read more about it here.

Daily Fit Tip: Review the basics

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I like to think that although I don't always end up eating the healthiest things, when I want to I know what is and isn't good for me. But (and I've said this before) there is just so much information out there, with new study after new study throwing new pros and cons into the mix practically on a daily basis, I think I ended up with a mild case of information overload. I was in the store the other day thinking "high fiber," but when I fl ipped something over to look at the nutrition label I realized I didn't know how many grams of fiber I was looking for. And I know I've read that before, tons of times!

So back to the basics I go, to review the main principles of healthy eating. Things like how many grams of protein should I aim for in a day? And for a basic diet, what percentage should be healthy fats?

For the record: women should get 21-25 grams of fiber per day, and men need 31-38 grams. Now if I can only commit that to a brain cell...

Do these Italian villagers hold the secret to a disease free life?

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What if you could eat a diet full of rich sauces, creamy cheese, and fatty meats and not suffer the inevitable health consequences? Seem unlikely? Some Italian villagers do just that, and have experts mystified.

The citizens of the small village Stoccareddo -- which sits in the foothills of the Alps -- often live into their 90s and enjoy a life virtually free of heart disease and diabetes, two diseases that plague Americans today. What's their secret?

Experts have two theories. Surprisingly, nearly everyone in the village is r elated. The original family arrived about 800 years ago and the town's remote mountain location made finding a suitable (non-related) mate difficult. So for centuries, distant cousins have been marrying each other, carrying on what researchers believe is a very fortunate gene pool that's resistant to common health problems. Another theory is that spending every day enjoying the pristine air and water of Stoccareddo, as well as the stress-free environment, contribute to the villagers longevity.

Continue reading Do these Italian villagers hold the secret to a disease free life?

Comparison shopping...for hospital procedures?

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Most people, when told they need a major medical procedure or surgery, simply go to whatever hospital their doctor has it scheduled in -- without a second thought. But in the face of a new trend that may no longer be the case in many situations. Washington, in response to state lawmaker's requests, has created a website that makes hospital pricing for medical procedures, surgery, and other information like customer service more easily accessible to the public. The idea being that if you're told you need knee surgery, for example, you can look it up online and see at a glance which hospitals charge more or less, and which have better patient teaching and end-result track records.

Not to say that your doctor isn't referring you to the best hospital in his opinion, but it's just that -- his opinion. I think it's awesome that patient's can now take a more active part in how and when they are treated, and this has to be having a positive impact on how the hospitals manage things. Plus I can honestly say, from experience, that the last thing on most doctor's minds is making sure you get the best deal financially. That's entirely up to you.

Can't wait until this catches on in my area.

Fit Factor: Tennis to get the heart pumping

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It seems like tennis is all the rage these days. I played tennis eons ago and enjoyed it, but not enough to keep up with it. It's hard when you live in the Frozen north, where outdoor tennis is only an option half the year and indoor courts are few and far between. Plus I have a really weak backhand.

But as I grow older, start eschewing sports where large object can (and will) come flying at my head (as in basketball, volleyball and football ... oh, did I mention Soccer?) and start looking for an alternative to the treadmill, on which my iPod is my only companion and source of interaction, I find myself drawn to tennis. It's fun ... right? It looks that way anyway. You can get sunshine and some much needed social activity. It also appeals to my competitive nature. Plus: There are some good-looking tennis players out there

Continue reading Fit Factor: Tennis to get the heart pumping

Recipe Rehab: Chili with a healthy kick

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Our weekly feature, Recipe Rehab, takes a recipe -- sometimes basic, sometimes decadent and sometimes just plain unhealthy -- and turns it into a scrumptious and healthy dish, pumped up with nutrition. Sometimes all it takes is a few alterations to prepare a dish that would make even your nutritionist proud.

The playoffs are over and it's almost time for Superbowl Sunday, complete with unhealthy snacks like chicken wings and chili. Luckily, this chili recipe delivers all the flavor, but won't break your diet. Add some baked corn chips and low-fat sour cream and you'll never believe it was good for you. It's also vegetarian, so it will feed all your guests, and makes more than enough for a crowd. You can adjust the amount of spice to suit your taste buds.

Vegetarian Chili

fat-free cooking spray
2 cups chopped onion
1 cup chopped green bell pepper
1 square baking chocolate
2 garlic cloves -- crushed
2 pounds vegetarian crumbles or TVP crumbles
4 tablespoons chili powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1 bay leaf
1 28 ounce can diced low sodium tomatoes
3 cans low sodium kidney beans, canned -- 12 ounce
low-sodium vegetable stock or water, to cover
salt & pepper to taste

Optional garnishes:

low-fat sour cream - about 15 calories and 1.grams of fat per tablespoon
shredded low-fat cheddar cheese - about 60 calories and 2.5 grams of fat per ounce
finely chopped red onion and fresh cilantro

Cook onions and peppers until soft. Add remaining ingredients and simmer until the chili thickens and the flavors blend together, about 1/2 hour to 45 minutes.

Vegetarian Textured Vegetable Protein crumbles can usually be found in the frozen foods section by the veggie burgers. You can always substitute lean ground turkey or beef, but the recipe will no longer

Rehab Rundown

  • Substituting vegetarian crumbles for ground beef reduce the fat and cholesterol while keeping the protein and make it a recipe everyone can eat
  • Peppers add more flavor, fiber and antioxidants
  • Low-sodium beans and tomatoes reduce the total amount of sodium
  • Using low-fat and low-calorie toppings even further reduces the total amount of fat and calories per serving

Rehab Reveal




540 (59% from fat)

453 (16% from fat)




Saturated Fat















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Is sleeping on the job the wave of the future?

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If I didn't love the U.S.A. so much I'd totally be moving to France! The fact that they have 35 hour work weeks and much more generous vacation time on average is tempting enough, but now health officials are looking into the benefits of sleep on work performance and, get this, the possibility of paid nap time at work.

Are you serious? A nap break? That's awesome in theory, but I wonder how that would work exactly... Instead of "break rooms" they'll have "nap rooms," with grungy beds all kinds of people are sleeping in at different times? Or maybe everybody gets a comfy reclining chair and the office goes quiet at a certain time each day?

Seems easier to just shorten the work week a little more, and maybe promote a start time of noon across the board. Every day can start like a Saturday, wouldn't that be awesome?

Will NYC be the next to ban ultra-skinny models?

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First New York bans trans fats, now bone thin runway models? Maybe. This week NYC council member Gail Brewer proposed creating a minimum BMI of 18.5 for runway models. The World Health Organization says a normal BMI ranges from 18.5 to 24.9. Included in the proposal is a ban on models under the age of 16.

If New York City approves the proposal, they'll be following the European trend of requiring healthier practices in fashion in modeling. Spain recently ba nned ultra-thin models from the runway and are working closely with the fashion designers there to makeover the industry's image. Italy has created similar guidelines as well.

I think this is a huge step forward, and I was honestly surprised to see it happen in the United States this quickly. I'm relieved for the young models starving themselves for their careers. I'm also hopeful -- with growing children of my own -- that the next generation can enjoy the beauty and glamour of the fashion world without comparing themselves to unrealistic images. We have a long way to go, but I if this proposal passes, I'll applaud New York City for putting principles ahead of profits. What do you think?

There is good in some video games

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It's great to see that some video games actually encourage physical exertion and activity, unlike most games which are mentally active but physically passive. Games like "Dance Dance Revolution" and many of the sports-themed games available for the Nintendo Wii are fine and dandy insofar as encouraging physical activity.

Dance Dance Revolution is not a home console game -- it's a full-figured game meant for public use and West Virginia officials are thinking of having one in every state school. West Virginia leads the nation in underage obesity, so that makes sense.

I'm not a gamer, but I am an admirer of the Nintendo Wii gaming console that encourages active feedback and participation. What a novel concept.

Individual health insurance -- how good is it?

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For those of you who have ever provided health insurance for yourself -- as opposed to having it provided by (in part, at least) an employer, I am anxious to hear from you.

Have the prices you paid, the coverage you receive, the benefits you get and the dependent benefits you receive been worth it over comparable coverage from a present or former employer?

I've heard from many people -- those who have done extensive research and who have willfully searched for their own health insurance -- that individual health coverage is indeed very competitive with company-sponsored plans, in general.

What is your take?

Groundhog Day: researchers intrigued by hibernating animals

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Could Punxsutawney Phil hold the cure to obesity? Well, maybe not Phil specifically. After all, he already has the huge responsibility of predicting spring and all. But researchers are looking to his fellow groundhogs and other hibernating animals to help them solve the riddle of several different diseases.

When comparing other mammals to humans, scientists know that the underlying biological process between different species isn't really all that different. But for some reason, animals who hibernate during the winter season are able to trigger their metabolisms to do some pretty amazing tricks to help them survive, and do so without harming their health. I n fact, the Arctic squirrel's body temperature actually falls below freezing during it's long winter sleep, but it recovers without apparent organ damage when the time is right.

Researchers believe that by studying how these animals hibernate, they may be able apply their findings to organ transplants, heart attacks, and even obesity, Alzheimer's, and diabetes. Pretty cool, and way more exciting than telling me what I already know: winter isn't going away anytime soon and spring will come when its good and ready.

Bush says childhood obesity is costly

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Is childhood obesity truly becoming an epidemic in western ociety? Perhaps, perhaps not -- but U.S. President George Bush said yesterday that it's a pretty costly problem for the country.

In addition to that, Bush said that childhood obesity also puts stress on American families, as he met with business leaders who are in the process of working to encourage exercise and healthy food choices through advertising.

My question is this -- which business leaders? All we generally see on TV and in ads are fattening, overpriced processed foods -- none of which will lower childhood obesity.

Zumba your way to better fitness

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Looking for a fun way to get in a good cardio workout? Then Zumba might just be for you. Translated to English, Zumba means "fast," and that's a good way to describe this Colombian-born dance-style workout.

Participants in the class bump, grind, shake and spin to Latin music and work up a sweat in this 60-minute fun-filled work out. Enthusiasts say that they lose themselves in the workout and forget they're even exercising because they're too busy having fun. It's been said before that the best kind of exercise is the kind you love and will do on a consistent basis, and that may partially explain Zumba's popularity.

Up until now, Zumba's only been taught in gyms and dance centers, but the first Zumba Fitness center opened near Dayton, Ohio just last month. DVDs are available too, for those who want to shimmy in their living rooms. It seems even reality TV producer Mark Burnett (of Survivor fame) has gotten the Zumba bug, and is involved in undisclosed projects with the company. We're sure to hear a lot more about this international workout that's sweeping the country!

Hand sanitizer being abused for the alcohol

If you have one of those gallon jugs of hand sanitizer nearby (perhaps in a schoolroom, for example), better make sure that it's not *eaten* by someone craving alcohol.

Popular hand sanitizers are nothing more than a little gelled-up alcohol (with possible triclosan) that just begs for abuse like cough syrup dies with teenagers. Is alcohol legal to sell to the under-18 crowd? In this form, it sure is.

In prisons, at least these products are starting to be considered contraband.

Thank a teacher sometime -- they deserve it

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Many of our readers here at That's Fit may have seen this before -- but it is so true in the age of salary judgments in our culture that the below be told here. Ever see a Teacher? Shake their hand -- you might not be where you are now if it weren't for one.

The dinner guests were sitting around the table discussing life.

One man, a CEO, decided to explain the problem with education. He argued, "What's a kid going to learn from someone who decided his best option in life was to become a teacher?"

He reminded the other dinner guests what they say about teachers: "Those who can, do. Those who can 't, teach." To stress his point he said to another guest; "You're a teacher, Bonnie. Be honest. What do you make?"

Bonnie, who had a reputation for honesty and frankness, replied, "You want to know what I make?

(She paused for a second, then began...)

"Well, I make kids work harder than they ever thought they could.

I make a C+ feel like the Congressional Medal of Honor.

I make kids sit through 40 minutes of class time when their parents can't make them sit for 5 without an iPod, Game Cube or movie rental...

You want to know what I make?" (She paused again and looked at each and every person at the table.)

I make kids wonder.

I make them question.

I make them criticize.

I make them apologize and mean it.

I make them have respect and take responsibility for their actions.

I teach them to write and then I make them write.

I make them re ad, read, read.

I make them show all their work in math.

I make my students from other countries learn everything they need to know in English while preserving their unique cultural identity.

I make my classroom a place where all my students feel safe.

I make my students stand to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the Flag, because we live in the United States of America.

Finally, I make them understand that if they use the gifts they were given, work hard, and follow their hearts, they can succeed in life.

(Bonnie paused one last time and then continued.)

"Then, when people try to judge me by what I make, I can hold my head up high and pay no attention because they are ignorant...

You want to know what I make? I MAKE A DIFFERENCE. What do you make?"

[Thanks, Marci]
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Can some stem cells be good for you -- but in disguise?

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We all know that the stem cell medical research community is always on the trail that these types of human cells -- which can develop into all kinds of cells when harvested from an embryo -- have the capability to help fight a wide range of diseases and ailments.

But how about stem cells that can promote tumors?There is now a small population of stem cells in pancreatic cancer that appear to drive tumor growth according to new research.

But, all is not lost -- this discovery may be opening the door for a potential new approach for treating this particularly deadly disease. Pancreatic cancer has the lowest survival rate of any form of cancer.

Save your diet while still enjoying the Superbowl

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When it comes to indulging, I think that we all should be able to enjoy a party with our friends now and then without that guilt-inducing little voice scolding us about all the calories we're packing on. But if you're trying to watch your weight or lose a few pounds, then limiting your snacks at tomorrow's Super Bowl party just might be a good idea.

Want a little perspective before diving headfirst into the snack bowl? What if I told you that to burn off just a handful of Doritos you'd have to do 43 touchdown dances? Or that two pieces of fried chicken would mean doing "the wave" over 3,000 times? And those beers putting back with your friends? Lace up your running shoes, because it'll take over an hour of stadium stair climbing to burn them off. These fun statistics come from a new book called The Diet Detective's Countdown, which is designed to help people stop and think about food before they eat it.

Here are some more tips on how to stay true to your health and fitness goals while still enjoying time off with friends. There's a big difference between indulging yourself a few treats and binging your way to a few extra pounds. Eat a nutritious meal or snack before you go, drink plenty of water, and have a plan to prevent yourself from overdoing it. M ost of all, have fun! And tell me who wins, because I love parties but football's just not my game.

Air pollution is more dangerous than we thought

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Obviously, air pollution is bad for everyone's health. That's the very definition of pollution. But a recent, very large, study of over 65,000 people shows that air pollution is much, much more dangerous than previously believed. This study, which is bigger and more detailed than previous research, looked primarily at women's health and found the risk of pulmonary and heart related problems to be almost directly proportionate to the pollution levels in different neighborhoods. Armed with this latest information, experts are pus hing the Environmental Protection Agency to lower it's annual standard for the "fine particulates" that are used to measure air pollution levels.

Maybe I'm just really ignorant about pollution, but I've always thought it was made up of mostly microscopic particles. This article says that it would take only 30 of these particulates to equal the thickness of a human hair...that is scary big!