Friday, 20 July 2007

Guilt-free ginger bran muffins

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Muffins are one of my favorite treats, either for breakfast or as a snack. Unfortunately, many of the ones you find at the grocery store or at coffee shops are high in fat and calories, and are made with excessive amounts of sugar and oil. If you're a fellow muffin-fan and want to try to bake a healthier variety on your own, check out this recipe for ginger bran muffins.

They contain ginger (obviously), which is thought to help settle an upset stomach, and bran (also obvious based on the title), a grain that is high in fib re and may help lower the risk of heart disease. At 136 calories per serving and only 6 g of fat (including only a single gram of saturated fat), and boasting 3g of fib re and 4g of protein, these muffins are a healthy, low-fat and delicious treat that you can enjoy any time.

How to get rid of the midnight munchies

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The late-night munchies are common knowledge to many of us. We can't sleep for some reason and we get up and start noshing n all kinds of food in the wee hours of the morning.

Now, small snacks like this are great during the day. The energy boost and small portions are great throughout periods of the day, and help you to not overeat at those main meals of the day. But hey, during the day, you're moving all around and your metabolism is in gear.

At night, this is not the case, and it makes late-night munching one of the worst things you can do for your waistline. Can't sleep? Get on the PC and read some blog entries -- just don't eat anything.

Fitness mistake: Don't overtrain

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Today, I am limping around, aware that I worked my bad knees a little too hard yesterday by adding too much weight when I did my squats. I made one of the cardinal fitness mistakes yesterday -- I overtrained. For some people, getting a fitness routine started is hard enough, but for those who've been at it for a while, this is a problem. We like to challenge ourselves, but there's a fine line between pushing the limits and pushing too hard.

Overtraining is what happens when you push your body too hard without giving it enough time to recover.And if you're over training, you're at risk for injury. So do yourself a favour: The next time your body tells you t slow down, listen to it and take a break. It's not called being lazy if you take a couple of days off from your routine to recover -- it's called being smart.

Yum yum: DIY stovetop popcorn

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One of my favourite indulgences is popcorn. I especially love the stuff you get at the movie theatre but I know how bad it is so I satisfy my salty cravings with some homemade kernels. If I'm feeling lazy, I'll use the air popper but my favourite way to pop corn is on the stove, with a bit of olive oil. It's tasty, fresh and not all that bad for you, if you don't add extra butter of course. Have you made popcorn this way? If you answer's yes, you know how good it is. No? DIY Life has an informative video for you on how to make it. It's so easy!

Next time your craving popcorn with a movie, don't head to the theatre -- make some at home. Of if you just have to go to the theatre, sneak some homemade popcorn into the theatre and enjoy it with some cold water.

Food helpers against diabetes

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Diabetes can turn your food choices into a confusing cavalcade of choices each and every day. That is, until you get used to the process. Wouldn't it be great to have food work for your diabetes instead of against of against it?

You may have heard this: whole fruits, vegetables and whole grains eaten in abundance is a perfect way to lose weight. And, in turn, that blood sugar level will be much easier to control. Hence, no spikes that could cause diabetes complications.

Eating a fiber-rich diet is also good. I take most of mine in the morning with a nice fiber cold cereal (use soy milk or non cow's milk if possible). Organic nutrition bars that are high in fiber are so easily packed and eaten everywhere as well (at work, at play, anywhere).

Why you might not lose weight as fast as the next person

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Here's the scenario: Someone close to you (sister, friend, etc.) who is at about the same level fitness and weight-wise becomes your weight-loss buddy and you embark on the plan of your choice together. But a few weeks pass, and you realize that while the needle on your scale remains firmly in place, she or he seems to be shedding enough pounds for both of you! What's the deal?

First take a look at your plan. Are you following it to a 'T'? Or are you having a few more cheat days than allotted? If that's not the problem, relax. Everyone is different, and some people just lose weight faster than others. Don't let it get you down, and don't focus on the pounds -- focus on how you feel (more energetic?), how your clothes are fitting, how many inches you've lost, and whether or not you feel hungry all the time. One thing to keep in mind is that if you're working out lots, you might not be losing pounds, but you might be making great changes to your body by converting your fat to muscle.

Have you had this problem?

Does venting with friends lead to depression for teen girls?

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I came across this article about a study that concludes teen girls (and adult women as well) who spend too much time talking with friends about their problems may face a higher instance of depression. If it's true, I find this news is some of the most disappointing I've heard in ages. In fact, I find it kind of depressing all on its own.

Apparently both girls and boys (and men and women) vent about their problems with friends, which helps form stronger bonds and also should make them feel better. But study results showed that, often when teen girls their negative feelings, it only in turn leads to more discussion and more negative feelings. For some, the pattern continues and ends in depression.

The piece does say that many of the girls who became depressed were prone to sadness and anxiety anyway. It also makes sure to point out that talking about their feelings doesn't automatically lead to depression for girls, but that it is a possible outcome. Personally, I don't know what I would do if I didn't have my girlfriends to talk to about problems with relationships, friendships, work and even just a bad day. It definitely has never made me feel worse. How about you? have you ever found that venting has made you more unhappy about a certain situation?

Are we are being decieved by food manufacturers?

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I get a little peeved when I see food labels that are somehow deceptive -- for example, a food label that has very few calories in a serving but if you look further, you'll find that their definition of a 'serving' is something ridiculously small. But here are some other ways that food manufacturers are deceiving us even further, courtesy of Fitsugar:
  • Sugar is generally regarded as a bad ingredient, and on food labels, ingredients are listed from the most prevalent to least prevalent. So in the ingredients label, manufacturers will distribute sugar among several different ingredients so that it doesn't appear in the top three ingredients. How cheeky.
  • They'll also 'pad' ingredient lists with healthy-sounding things
  • They'll hide dangerous ingredients behind innocent-sounding ones
  • They can name a food item whatever they want, whether it contains the appropriate ingredients or not. Fitsugar uses as an example Kraft's Guacamole Dip. It has hardly any avocado.
  • Another reason for listing impossibly small serving sizes: if there's less than 0.5 trans fats in the serving size, they can list it as 0 trans fats.
  • Keep in mind that currently there are no regulations ordering food manufacturers to list certain chemical contaminants and toxic substances. Yikes!

Continue reading Are we are being decieved by food manufacturers?

Slow down every now and then

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People of the new millennium are masters of multi-tasking, but this stressful, hectic, frantic lifestyle can take a toll on our health. A lack of sleep, a lack of physical activity and lack of proper, sit-down meals leaves us ... well ... lacking in health. So for the sake of your body, slow down every now and then.

The folks at eDiets concur -- it's important to do nothing every now and then. According to a study by Harvard University found that 60 to 90 percent of visits to the doctor are stress-related. Yikes! Relaxation can do wonders for you -- it helps calm your mind, and it helps your body recover from stress too.

So here's a challenge. For just a few hours a week -- an afternoon, an evening, you pick -- make a plan to do nothing ... and stick to it.

Mistakes by doctors cause them stress

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Think that medical patients are the only ones who have stress in the doctor-patient relationship? Not quite, as a new study says that doctors who make mistakes suffer stress just like anyone else would.

Doctors who make mistakes or even come close to making one may need to seek counseling to deal with the stress levels they face in the sometimes high-pressure arena of being a medical practitioner.

Some doctors may even be prone to quitting the medical profession or bouts of depression -- or even making mistakes in the future due to stress.

Teen pot smokers 15 times more likely to use amphetamines in their 20s

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OK, I will admit that I don't think that drinking or smoking in moderation, is a huge deal. As long as you're being considerate of those around you and being responsible (not driving drunk, for example), I figure that you can do with your life what you want. And speaking of smoking, I'm not a marijuana fan but again I think that using it in moderation is probably OK.

Maybe it's because I'm from Canada where the view on cannabis is much more lax than in the US, but I never really believed the suggestion that pot (along with drinking and smoking cigarettes) is a gateway drug that will lead users to try harder, more dangerous drugs. Apparently I'm going to have to revise my position and eat my words though, as a huge Australian study has shown the exact opposite to be true.

The study, which followed 2000 young people from the State of Victoria in southeastern Oz for 10 years, has shown that teens who smoked cannabis at age 15 were 15 times more likely to use amphetamines in their 20s. The study also says that study participants who began drinking and smoking cigarettes at a young age were more likely to try pot in the first place. Considering the size and length of the study, as well as the pretty huge findings, I'm thinking I may have to change my opinion about what sorts of things are OK in moderation.

Illinois sees third West Nile case

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West Nile virus, that nuisance virus that can be carried by the billions of mosquitoes in the air this summer, has been discovered for the third time in Illinois so far this year.

A Madison, Illinois citizen was diagnosed with neuroinvasive disease, the most severe form of the West Nile virus. In this form, the sufferers nervous system is attacked.

Just at 20% of people bitten by a mosquito carrying the West Nile virus will experience symptoms like fever and headaches. Death is very rare, but has happened in the U.S. I know in the Midwest, the severe amount of rain already this year has caused a flooding of mosquitoes just about anywhere outside. Solution? Carry some all-natural repellent with you when spending time outside.

What should you refrigerate?

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Ever wondered what should go in the fridge and what can stay in the fruit bowl on the counter? Here's a list of things items that you might be putting in the wrong place:

  • Apples, apricots, canteloupe, honeydew and figs should be in the fridge.
  • Avocados, bananas, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and tomatoes can go on the counter
Really? I have kept apples on my counter for as long as I can remember. Cateloupe and Honeydew too, as long as they haven't been cut up. And I usually keep tomatoes in the fridge, but I won't anymore. Does this list surprise you are all?

Cholesterol reduction the natural way

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After continuing to see Dr. Jarvik pitch Lipitor on television recently, I started thinking about natural ways to reduce cholesterol without high-priced (and side effect-laden) prescription drugs. Are there ways -- natural ways -- to reduce cholesterol? Sure.

It comes as no surprise that a healthy diet and the regular intake of vitamins and minerals inside all that healthy nutrition are ways to stabilize good cholesterol and bad cholesterol to levels that they need to be at.

Have you read on the details of how to stabilize cholesterol in a natural way? It's quite an eye-opener, but of course, talking to your doctor (who hopefully has an open mind) about ways to lower bad cholesterol levels should be the first step.

Zocor may cut risk for Alzheimer's and Parkinson's Disease

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Zocor, a drug known for reducing bad cholesterol levels, may be able to assist in preventing both Alzheimer's and Parkinson's disease. However, other cholesterol-lowering drugs like Lipitor don't help.

A new study finds that Zocor, known as a 'statin' drug, may indeed help prevent the onset of Alzheimer's Disease and even now, Parkinson's Disease.

Will Zocor be slightly changed and re-marketed as a drug for both of these mental deterioration conditions in the near future? Most likely so, but don't look for it to stop the diseases in progress, but as something taken in a preventative state before any disease onset happens.

Don't forget the snack factor

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If there's one trend I am very aware of lately, it's the prevelance of snacks in eating plans designed for weight-loss. Snacking used to be frowned upon, a way to over-indulge without knowing it. But it's now thought that snacks are the way to long-term weight-loss, because they can ease that mid-day hunger and keep you from over-eating at dinner. That's the premise behind yet another diet, the Snack Factor Diet, which to me sounds like a combination of the 5-factor Diet (because of the snacking involved) and the South Beach Diet (because fruit and alcohol are banned in the first phase.)

I don't think you need to buy into this diet to understand that snacking is important,as long as it's healthy snacking. Think some fruits and veggies, cottage cheese, low-fat yogurt or a handful of nuts. Deprivation doesn't work, especially if you're ravished by dinner time.

Are organic beauty products worth the extra money?

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Since organic foods are all the rage, it's only natural that organic cosmetics would follow suit. But is it really worth spending the extra money on something you don't actually ingest? According to Bethany's earlier post, up to 5 lbs a year of cosmetics can be absorbed in to the skin, so maybe organic cosmetics would have a positive influence on health.

But there's a problem: Unlike food, which must follow strict guidelines to wear the label 'organic', cosmetics are under no such guidelines. Organic cosmetics follow basically the same rules that natural cosmetics do, whether it is made from organic materials or not. As far as food goes, to be labelled organic, it must be made from 95% organic material and 5% non-agricultural material that is approved by the National Organic Program. So basically, it's up to the cosmetics manufacturer whether they want to follow these guidelines or not.

What do you think? Are you going organic, or is regular make-up just fine for you?

Study says that implantable contraceptives do work

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A new review of the various birth control methods available to couples shows that implantable contraceptives are very effective and even highly tolerated by the women who use them.

Nine studies were looked at that included the use of two different implantable contraceptives, with about 80% of the women studied having used the implantable contraceptive of choice for more than two years.

That right there says that women are very loyal to their chosen birth control methods, and as long as they work as intended, things continue as normal for everyday contraceptive choices. One side effect was noted with implantable devices: irregular menstrual bleeding.

Taste this: Vegetarian shepherd's pie

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There are times when I'll sit at the table during a family dinner and wish I could eat whatever tasty, meaty meal is being served. Alas, I don't eat any meat other than fish, so I usually end up making something for myself. Naturally, I don't expect anyone to cater to me and I don't mind making my own meals, but at times I do wish I could try a veggie version of what's on offer.

That's why I was pretty excited to see this recipe for Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie while searching google. The tasty creation is a fun twist on the original. A curry-lentil filling is substituted for the usual ground beef, and the recipe calls for sweet potatoes rather than the regular white ones. Other healthy ingredients include zucchini, garlic, broccoli, red pepper and mushrooms. It's a vegetarian's (or veggie-lover's) dream!

One serving weighs in at a fairly high 503 calories, but served for dinner with a basic salad covered with low-cal dressing, and the pie really isn't bad for an evening meal. Plus it contains all those super-healthy vegetables, as well as a whopping 23g of protein and 22g of fiber. Basically, this is one pie you don't have to feel guilty about.

Low-salt marinades make for great grilling

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Do you like marinading that chicken breast or fish fillet before you bake or grill it? Those two items are generally low in bad fat and are healthy in protein, so they make great entrees or even snacks.

Just don't wash them in a high-sodium marinade filled with high-fructose corn syrup and hundreds of milligrams of sodium. There are other solutions and the end result is just as tasty.

Ever use fresh lemon or dill? How about salt-free seasoning that combines a plethora of spices but zero salt? How about squeezing oranges and limes on that chicken? Forget processed (but albeit, tasty) marinades and go for natural alternatives that won't turn that healthy meal into a high-sodium situation (along with MSG and other components found in some marinades).