Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Eat lots of those fresh berries

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Are you a berry fan? Blueberries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries, etc. -- there are just a ton of different berries for every taste it seems. I use them in smoothies and breakfast cereals as well as eating them raw. There's quite possibly no better nutrition than fresh berries in my opinion.

It seems like there is a study or new research every so often that links berries to the prevention of cancer, and herbalists and nutritionists will be quick to tell you that the most potent form of cancer fighting there is can be found in fresh berries, not radioactive chemotherapy.

The most recent studies (yes, two of them) concluded that eating berries may make gastrointestinal cancers less likely., two new studies show. Although the tests are always conducted on mice (not people), the validity still reigns on in my mind strongly. How about you -- are you a "berry" fan?

Grape seed extract helps against skin cancer

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Grape seed extract is used in many natural skin care items I've seen and it used in many nutritional supplements as well. We can now add another use to that list, as the chemicals found in grape seeds may help ward of skin cancer due to regular exposure to the sun.

This comes from a new study reported at the most recent gathering of the American Chemical Society. In the study, researchers exposed hairless mice to UV light -- some mice were fed a diet with grade seed components while others ate a diet without the grade seed components.

The mice within the first group exhibited up to 65 fewer tumors than mice without the grape seed in their diets. Further, the tumors that did show up in the grade seed-dieting mice were up to 78% smaller than those seen in group of mice without grade seed components in their diets.

Another study says trans fats linked to heart disease

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We've heard this many times before it seems: trans fats are linked directly to an increase in heart disease. Well we have today yet another study that supports this to a large degree.

In the newest study, women with the highest levels of trans fat in their blood had triple the risk of heart disease as those with the lowest levels. That's not a 75% increase, but a 300% increase. Quite alarming, yes?

Trans fats are under assault in restaurants and in processed foods as the public wakes up to realize that trans fats like partially-hydrogenated oils are very bad for health. Yet, they are still found in many brands of cookies, crackers, pastries and fried foods.

While some consumers are against the outlawing of trans fats in foods and from restaurants in entire cities as an invasion of choice, many consumers are still oblivious to trans fats and continue eating products containing this poisonous product. Their hearts are not going to thank them over that decision.

Food labels including allergen information: has it helped?

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It's been well over a year since the "Nutrition Facts" labels on most processed and packaged foods sold in the U.S. began to contain allergen information. This was a great move to assist those with allergies to common tree nuts, milk products, plant products and other things.

In fact, cross-contamination in side manufacturing plants can even be an issue sometimes, as tree nut residue may be left on machines that produce products that don't have allergen-containing tree nuts at all -- and I've seen those warning on packages as well.

Has including this information helped those suffering from allergic reactions to certain foods? Hopefully those with severe allergies are reading the nutritional content of what they eat (when possible) as to avoid products with known allergens that could cause reactions. My question is -- how many consumers actually read what they eat? My hope is quite a few.

For fitness: Stop detailing yourself to death!

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Ugh! I just read Women's Health magazine today, which I happen to love. I was so annoyed though! The magazine reports on the latest research, and I really felt like they crossed the line with relevance this month. There was this clip about how research shows that when you eat a meal high in trans fats, eating some walnuts with it could be beneficial. What?!?!

What the heck is the world supposed to do with that information? Stash a baggie of walnuts in their glove compartment just in case they go out for a really greasy meal? I suppose they're suggest that on top of eating a really greasy meal, ingesting about 200 calories worth of high fat walnuts would somehow improve the situation. With information like this being published, I'm not surprised the average Joe is totally confused on how to go about getting fit and staying healthy.

Folks, it's really not all that confusing. Make the great majority of your meals and snacks nutritious and low in fat. Enjoy lots of fruits, veggies, lean meat, and some starchy carbs. Sweets and fried foods should be a rarity. Avoid using oil, butter, grease, or fattening sauces. Exercise most days of the week. Huff and puff when you do cardio, grunt when you train for strength, and wince just a little when you're working on flexibility. Carrying nuts around just in case you go overboard on the birthday cake would be majorly OCD.

Continue reading For fitness: Stop detailing yourself to death!

Daily Fit Tip: Don't forget to s-t-r-e-t-c-h

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Well, folks, Spring is upon us, and it certainly is glorious. I for one have been taking advantage of the nicer weather by getting up and out in the mornings to get in my daily exercise. In fact, the weather--and the glorious budding trees and flowers as well as the increase in the number of people out in the park--has me so excited I can barely wait to get out there and get going. Then I remember some advice I've been hearing since I was twelve years old which my gym teacher tried to instill in us little ones: don't forget to stretch!

You'd be surprised just how many people decline this golden rule, which is one of the simplest pieces of advice to keep yourself injury free. Even long-time athletic types like myself often forgo this measure, many times because we just want to get the exercise portion of our day over with and an extra ten minutes can seem like an hour.

The experts continue to debate whether it's better to stretch before or after the main form of exercise, whether it be Pilates, yoga, running or something else. Some experts believe that stretching out before exercise can be harmful to muscles that haven't yet been warmed up. Others contend that it's imperative to stretch out to get those muscles activated and alert them that more intense exercise is to follow.

Continue reading Daily Fit Tip: Don't forget to s-t-r-e-t-c-h

Eat blueberries and protect your colon from cancer

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It won't be long until blueberries are in season, just ripe for picking. A recent animal study found good reason to include the juicy, blue fruit (as well as other berries) into your diet -- it may help protect your colon.

An antioxidant called pterostilbene -- which is similar to resveratol found in grapes and red wine -- is especially plentiful in blueberries. When mice who were induced with colon cancer were given balanced diets, the animals who were fed a pterostilbene supplement had fewer precancerous growths and less inflammation in the colon than the mice who didn't.

So if you needed a reason to include more berries -- especially blueberries -- into your diet, here it is! Read all about the wonders of blueberries here.

You Are What You Eat: Broccoli, highlight it or hide it

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broccoliEach week, we'll be offering original recipes and unique ways to use those Super Foods that pack nutritional power. After all, you are what you eat -- make it count!

Broccoli. Love it or hate it, it is a Super Food, Folks, and something we should all be eating regularly. From lowering your cancer risk to simply getting a huge dose of vitamins A and C, there are a multitude of reasons to eat broccoli.

Now, you be the judge: Do you need to hide it so your family will eat it? Or can you highlight the wonderfully strong and distinctive flavor of broccoli and still get oooo's and ahhhh's at the dinner table? Either way, we've got easy and fun ways to incorporate broccoli into your meals. Read on . . .

Continue reading You Are What You Eat: Broccoli, highlight it or hide it

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How to find a good doctor

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Whether it was not seeming very knowledgeable about an illness, or just having a terrible bedside manner, we've all seen some bad doctors in our day. Choosing the right physician to treat not only yourself, but your family too, can be a daunting task -- a doctor is a doctor, is a doctor, right? How are you supposed to tell who's better, and the best, at what they do?

Well the American Academy of Family Physicians hopes to simplify things for patients by focusing the process into these 6 questions that cover everything from insurance compatibility to how easy he or she is to talk to. Happy hunting.

Healthy chocolate cereal: Are you buying it?

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I admit to having a hang-over from my college days: Cereal.

Cereal for breakfast. Cereal for (the occasional) dinner. Cereal for many, many snacks.

I shudder to think of how many bowls of Lucky Charms and (zoinks) soft-serve ice-cream got me through finals week. Today, I don't take my cereal sugared and I do take it from the shelves of the organic aisles. My cereal has grown-up even if my obsession with it as a snack hasn't.

Given my inclination for oat clusters and cold milk, I did a quick turn-around the first time I heard a commercial offering cereal as a cure for late-night cravings. But then came the double-take when I heard that chocolate was the magic ingredient.

Seriously? Chocolate in grown-up cereal?

Kellogg's chocolate-studded cereal is positioned as a healthy snack rather than breakfast of champions, while Quaker's product is positioned to satisfy the early morning chocolate calling while also eating a meal.

I've personally been irked at the mainstream cereal-makers since the same leprauchaun who got me through Trig started claiming his wares to be healthfully whole grain. After putting the latest nutritional craze into kiddie cereal was the next step putting the kiddie cereal into the nutritional stuff?

Relatively recent rebranding of the fare formerly known as candy made up 19% of food and drink launched last year. As yogurty cereals plummeted in popularity, the much-touted anti-oxident value of chocolate made it the next best thing to put in the bowl.

Is chocolate -- at least in the artificial and cluster form -- the way to cure your cravings, avoid diet derail and also get a good breakfast in healthfully? Or is this just a way to market to calorie-consciou, guilt-ridden, hungry women?

And most of all, can a sweet tooth be satisfied -- late at night, early in the a.m. or anytime in between -- with a mixture of Chex and Count Chocula?

Daycare may impact your child more than you thought

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One of the largest studies in child care and development by the National Institutes of Health has come to the conclusion that daycare, particularly poor quality daycare, can have a significantly negative impact on your child's vocabulary and behavior patterns, especially when they're young and just starting school. Experts say that the study results are definitely measurable and therefore concerning, although they also say they aren't so obvious that a person could walk into a classroom of youngsters and pick out who had had quality child care and who hadn't.

Regardless, it definitely makes a strong case for serious examination of your child care situation: quality counts.

Causes of nighttime heartburn from Johns Hopkins

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Do you awaken on some nights with that awful feeling of heartburn? The causes if nighttime heartburn can be traced back to being overweight, drinking quote a few carbonated beverages, snoring, experiencing daytime sleepiness or insomnia, having high blood pressure or asthma, or using anti-anxiety medications can all have an impact on nighttime heartburn, according to Johns Hopkins University.

Additionally, eating a diet high in saturated fat can cause more instances of nighttime heartburn or daytime heartburn. It's often been said that if you put the wrong kinds of things in your body, some of the more unpleasant things will happen. The human body is remarkable about being able to handle unexpected and non-nutritional objects, but eating and drinking a correct diet can --in many cases -- rid you of some of the things that are not worth dealing with in the first place if you can avoid it.

Can Grape Seed Extract Prevent Skin Cancer?

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According to results presented at a recent meeting of the American Chemical Society, it just might. Why? Well, perhaps because of the consistent exposure to the sun.

Apparently some tests on mice exposed to ultraviolet light revealed that those given an extra dose of grape seed proanthocyanidins, known as GSPs, developed up to 65 fewer tumors than those in the control group, and the size of the tumors in the GSP mice was monumentally smaller than the tumors found in those without.

So what does this mean for humans? Ultraviolet light suppresses the immune system. Results of the study indicate GSPs impede such activity, so a diet including GSPs as a supplement might be beneficial.

Continue reading Can Grape Seed Extract Prevent Skin Cancer?

Flying increases your chance of a cold

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I just got back from from Australia, and spent around 30 hours travelling, both on planes and through busy airports. I've also just developed a nasty cold. Coincidence? Maybe not, according to this. With all that recycled air, I'm not surprised that your risk of developing a cold onboard a plane is higher, but apparently it has more to do with what you touch than what you breath. Other causes of the flying cold? Pressure changes and a dry climate don't help, and I imagine the jet lag that comes from crossing multiple time zones doesn't help either.

So if you're flying soon, be sure to wash your hands, drink some water, eat healthfully and get some sleep!

Whole-grain breakfast cereals worth every penny

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Being a fan of whole-grain breakfast cereals is a great way to set up your day for being a healthy and productive one (just my 2 cents). If you can choose a whole-grain cereal that isn't lavished with refined sugar and other sweeteners, you've just come across a great selection for that busy-morning breakfast.

Whole-grain cereals may not have the sweet taste that sugared cereals have, but there are much better ways to get that sweet taste. Try adding fresh blueberries, strawberries, bananas and raspberries to that bowl.

While we're all in a hurry in the morning, pouring a bowl of cereal and adding some fresh fruit does not seem like a stretch of time for most -- and it isn't. Your body will thank you for such a wholesome breakfast.

Female athletes and ACL injuries

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When it comes to sports, injuries are often just part of the package. But when it comes to ACL injuries, girls and women are especially at risk. ACL stands for anterior cruciate ligament, and it's a rubber band type structure that attaches the leg bone to the thigh bone. Girls and women are 4 to 8 times more likely to injure their ACL than men, and that percentage has some experts scratching their heads.

The only treatment for an ACL injury is surgery, and rehabilitation can take 8 to 10 months, keeping athletes off the field for at least one season. Sports medicine experts think it may be that female athletes aren't "firing" their muscles in the same way that boys do. They say that when male athletes land after a jump, they do so with their legs bent, knee straight out in front of them, while female athletes tend to land more stiffly, with knees turned slightly inward. Other theories include hormone changes and structural differences in the anatomy.

The solution seems to be teaching athletes preventative exercises to keep from injuring the knee int he first place, as well as retraining female athletes how to jump and land properly. If you're an athlete (or you have a student athlete), check out these ACL injury prevention exercises.

Are most angioplasties unnecessary?

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Health care is an ever-developing industry, and new research is constantly challenging the wisdom of old research. This is, of course, a good thing. But it can also be a frustrating thing if, as a patient, you get caught in the middle of a "learning curve." One such learning curve seems to be happening now, as new data suggests that millions of people are receiving angioplasty procedures either too soon in the course of treatment, or in some cases, completely unnecessarily.

Today the majority of angioplasties are done in a non-emergent setting to relieve chest pain and clogged arteries, but experts are now saying that in the situations where there is no imminent threat medications should be tried first. They expect many people will recover without needing the invasive procedure at all.

Product review: Emerald Balance superfood powder

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Once in a while I try a new product that is amazing and healthy. when I say "amazing", that word usually comes from taste. I've tasted many items that are incredibly healthy these days, and while they are excellent nutrition-wise, the taste is just not palatable for every day use.

This is particularly true with "Superfood" powders that contain many green foods and fruit powders as well as amino acids and other healthy things. I've tried several varieties and while decent, the taste usually leaves that "green food" taste in my mouth while just not being very tasty at all.

I recently found a product called "Emerald Balance" that is probably the first Superfood product I've tasted that actually tasted very good (like mint). After researching the ingredients that went into this product and seeing how it actually tasted, it's become my favorite Superfood powder with a taste that will bowl you over.

If you're looking for a product like this, request a free sample and see for yourself. I'm sticking with this excellent food myself. As with anything I review, I have no interest in this company or product beyond suggesting the product based on my own experiences.

Video game helps kids fight cancer

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Kids with cancer now have a new tool for understanding and fighting their disease. Re-Mission, a new video game created by HopeLab, is a "3-D shooter" that takes kids through the bodies of young patients with different forms of cancer, and it's having an incredible effect on patients.

The idea is that it's much easier to learn when you're playing and having fun. Through playing the game, the kids learn information about the disease, quality of life, self-effacy (which the company defines as being able to take action in a challenging situation) and how to adhere to their medication.

By winning the game, the kids feel like they can win their medical battle

According to an outcome study conducted by HopeLab, the overall self-effacy score of patients increased dramatically, and Re-Mission players maintained higher blood levels of chemotherapy and showed higher rates of antibiotic utilization -- thus, the method was helpful in 80% of patients.

What an amazing idea!

[via Neatorama]

Firm up those arms

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Tired of having that flab jiggling around under your arms? If you're tired of feeling and watching that annoying flab, have you ever considered exercising that specific area of your body to try and rid your arms of that stuff?

The under-arm area is where many people store excess body fat. With the right combination of directed exercise and determination, that under-arm fat can go away -- permanently.

In most cases, I see more females with this excess under-arm body fat than with males. If you're really wanting to look your best on that date or for your significant other, there are some great ideas over at eDiets on getting rid of that flabby weight for good.

"Get rid of your big butt" with Internet radio

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Need to get rid of that big butt, or big gut, but just can't get past the suffering involved with dieting and exercise? Never fear -- Andy Savage and Big Butt Radio are here to help.

It's a weekly Internet radio show that features both celebrities and fitness experts who give you the inside scoop on their fitness success stories, plus a little gossip thrown in for good measure. The March 20th show featured Jack Nicholson, along with the fitness guru John Berardi and Erin Hobday, the absurdly attractive editor of Men's Health magazine. Next week, Rob Tobek -- former All-Pro center for the Seattle Seahawks -- gives his take on steroids and Super Bowl refs, while the former TV Biggest Loser, Suzy Preston-Hoover on her dramatic 95lbs weight loss.

For an example of the tone of the show, host Andy Savage opens the first episode with "I was a fat ass. ... Then I started training, and 6 months later -- I hadn't lost a hundred pounds or anything -- but I'd lost 30. On the other hand my muscle mass is way up ..." And then he goes on to talk some real fitness.

Finally, a fun program for all of us who are interested in fitness, but still need a little help getting out big butts off the couch from time to time.

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MeetUp to get moving and keep motivated

Need a partner in kayaking crime? Looking for a golf group to keep your game going? Want to get into backpacking and find some new buddies along the way?

If you want to work out with others or you're ready to find friends with similar sports interests, getting into a group might be easier than you think. After I read about Jonathon's quest for a running crew to keep him on task while training for a half-marathon, I checked out MeetUp.com to see how fitness-minded folks are getting connected online.

MeetUp.com is a uncomplicated online resource where you can create or find groups of people you'd like to connect with by computer and in person. In a few clicks, you can find dozens of groups in your city or by interest. Within the category of Sports alone, there are nearly 200 subtopics and over a thousand meetup groups. From biking to waterskiing, there are loads of options for finding fitness and friends in your area.

How about a Friday night ride with the Dallas Bike Group? Or maybe join 846 other New Yorkers for a street level walk and architectural appreciation tour of the Big Apple? Is salsa dancing in the Windy City with other health-minded city-dwellers for you or is all-women's ice hockey more your speed? Even if you're bad at sports, you can practice activity and sports appreciation with a new team.

I love that there's a simple way to find your people and that one website that can open the door to all kinds of new activities and people like you who are up for the same kinds of adventures. Just browsing through the list of groups in my area made me ready to dig my cross-trainers out of the closet and hit the message boards.

If you've found a fitness or sports group at MeetUp.com, we'd love to hear how it worked for you! And if you have suggestions for other ways to get connected in the name of getting fit, share your tips, too.

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Four hidden (dangerous) ingredients in processed foods

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Did you know that the average American spends 90% of their food budget on processed foods? That's an incredible statistic, and one that many blame on the obesity epidemic we're facing today. Here's another fact: The average person will eat 63 pounds of high fructose corn syrup in the next year. Yikes.

Processed foods are convenient, inexpensive, and easy -- but eating them without considering what goes into them may be contributing to your risk of developing heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Reader's Digest outlines the "big four" -- or the most dangerous culprits hidden in processed foods to make them faster, cheaper, and often softer and sweeter:
  1. trans fats
  2. refined grains
  3. salt
  4. high fructose corn syrup
Luckily, all four of these show up in one way or another on food labels. Better yet, spend your time in the grocery store circling the perimeter where fresh produce, lean meats and fish, and dairy are kept. When you do go into the center aisles, try to find products than contain the fewest ingredients and that leave these "big four" out. Your heart, and your health, will thank you.

USDA nutritional improvement bill looms

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It looks like more strict nutritional guidelines may be coming to the USDA based on the administrations 2007 Farm Bill under proposal right now.

Under the current USDA proposal, nutrition would receive more than $467 million in spending past current USDA nutritional programs, and an added $2.75 billion would be spent on the purchase of fruits and vegetables to improve nutrition in USDA food and nutrition programs.

This quote says it all -- and for one, I was quite happy to see it: "We recommend increasing program access for the working poor and elderly, moving America toward healthier eating habits, and making more effective use of taxpayer dollars."