Filed under: Chronic Disease, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: food safety, microwave ovens
Microwave ovens have been in widespread use since the 1980s, and today almost every American home has one. Many of us happily use it daily, whether to warm up leftovers or boil a cup of water, without a second thought. But there are some health-conscious people out there who believe that microwave ovens are a health hazard, and/or that they destroy the nutrients in our food. Should we be concerned?
The short answer is no—with one caveat. According to Harvard Medical School, microwaves cook or heat food using waves of energy that are similar to radio waves. These waves primarily affect water molecules in the food, by causing them to vibrate and quickly build up heat as a result. There is no evidence that these types of waves harm our bodies in any way.
And microwaving our food is actually one of the best ways to preserve nutrients. When it comes to nutrient preservation, the faster the cooking method the better, and as we all know, the microwave tends to win the speed contest.
One thing we do need to be vigilant about is microwaving food in plastic. When many types of plastic are heated, either bisphenol-A (BPA) or phthalates can leach out of the plastic into the food—not a good situation. Both substances can mimic human hormones and are considered endocrine disruptors, which may produce adverse developmental, reproductive, neurological, and immune effects in humans.
So as long as you’re careful about what containers you use to heat up your foods, you’re good to go!
We’re deep into winter, and you may either feel like you’re going stir crazy and can’t wait until those first warm days of spring, or perhaps you’re reveling in the idea of turning inward and “hibernating.” Either way, this is the perfect time of year to soothe your spirits with a hot cup of tea.
Not only can tea help warm you from the inside out, it can also calm stress, improve your mood, and curb your need for a snack or sugar. There are also many long-term health benefits of drinking tea. Based on numerous studies, thanks to substances called polyphenols green and black tea have been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties. This translates into a reduction in the risk of stroke, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and liver disease. Bone health seems to improve with greater tea consumption as well.
As for herbal teas, many have been used for thousands of years to treat illnesses and ailments. Chamomile is good for settling the stomach and the nerves, and can help treat menstrual cramps. Echinacea has been used to boost immunity and to help ward off colds. Peppermint can improve digestion and help calm headaches. Dandelion is good for liver health and detoxification. This is just a sampling of teas and their benefits—there are so many other varieties you might like to explore as well.
So brew up a cup, relax, and sip slowly. The warm breezes and flowers of spring will be here before you know it.
Filed under: Beans, Dairy, Fruits, Grains, Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, nuts, Sweets, Vegetables, Water, weight loss | Tags: calories, weight loss
Counting calories is a pretty reliable way to help you lose weight, no question. But most of us hate doing it. It’s unpleasant and tedious. And because it’s no fun doing math problems every time you put food in your mouth, most of us stop doing it eventually. And then the weight comes back.
So why does the weight inevitably come back once you stop counting, despite your best intentions? The short answer: because you never learned how to eat.
Rather than focusing on meaningful changes to your diet, and moving toward healthier foods and habits, it’s likely that all you paid attention to were the numbers. And hey, if you ate a tiny dinner, there was caloric room in your day for a sleeve of Oreos! That kind of thinking doesn’t bode well for your long-term health or weight goals.
Instead, I’d recommend getting back to basics and focusing on these key principles for eating well and losing weight:
-Avoid or reduce foods that act as appetite stimulants. That would be foods with added sugar and anything made with white flour.
-Eat fiber-rich foods. Vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and beans are deeply nutritious foods that help fill you for very few calories.
-Minimize fried stuff. Deep-fried foods such as French fries, donuts, and fried chicken and fish are among the worst foods you can eat. They just contain a ton of calories from all that oil.
-Choose snacks that are not marketed as “snacks.” Rather than chips, crackers, pretzels, and bars choose fruit, nuts, vegetables with hummus, or any other whole food. Why not even a cup of soup, or a chicken leg?
-Cook. Restaurant food is high-calorie food, and we’re often served overly large portions of it as well. You will lose weight if you start cooking more at home, no matter what you cook (unless you’re frying chicken regularly).
-Watch what you drink. Water should be your default beverage. Unsweetened tea and seltzer work too. Banish sodas, sweetened teas, sports drinks, and other garbage liquids from your diet.
Filed under: Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: holiday eating, weight loss
My sister-in-law has a bear problem. She lives in suburban Connecticut—not a place you’d associate with bear problems—where they see the same black bear wandering out of the woods behind their home and into their backyard every so often, sniffing around for food. A glassed-in sun porch caps the back of her house, and as it’s not insulated, come holiday season she’ll use the room as a second refrigerator of sorts, storing leftovers and Christmas cookies out there. Well that bear got a whiff, and late one night over Thanksgiving weekend when everyone was asleep it knocked out a small glass window in that porch, hoping to squeeze itself through that laughably small space. Luckily the bear gave up and moved on. As my brother-in-law said of the incident the next day, “I got home from a gig at midnight and went in for the last slice of cheese cake. It would have been hand-to-hand combat if he was in there eating it.” So it’s good the two never met.
Anyway, that bear should have been hibernating! Alas, it hasn’t been cold enough yet, so instead it is out making mischief, looking to eat food it shouldn’t be eating.
We humans can benefit from a “hibernation” mindset at this time of year too. After a long year, and a busy buildup to the holidays, sometimes all we really need is rest, relaxation, and the opportunity to do nothing. If we don’t allow ourselves this downtime, we may find ourselves, like the bear, looking for food—as a way to “reward” ourselves, as pleasure, something to help us feel relaxed.
So if you start reaching for sugar cookies to help you unwind, think about other ways you can do that without turning to food. How about brewing a pot of chai tea with a splash of warm milk and a dusting of cinnamon? How does curling up under a soft blanket with a good book sound? Or watching your favorite “Harry Potter” movie for the umpteenth time with family or friends?
Give me any of these options—especially in front of a fireplace–and my holiday will be happy. May you too find joy this holiday season in the little things.
Filed under: Chronic Disease, Dairy, Eggs, Healthy Lifestyle | Tags: vegan, vegetarian, Vitamin B12, vitamin deficiencies
I am not a big fan of taking vitamins. I don’t take any myself, and generally don’t recommend that my clients take them. I believe that eating a nutrient-dense diet of whole natural foods will provide you with everything you need.
But there are two important exceptions to this for me. If your doctor recommends you take a vitamin supplement because you’re deficient in some way, then of course you should do so. And if you’re a vegan, or a vegetarian who eats very little dairy and/or eggs, then vitamin B12 supplements are a MUST.
Vitamin B12 is needed for the formation of red blood cells, nerve cells, and DNA, and is an energy metabolizer. It plays a big role in keeping the brain healthy. A lack of B12 in the diet can lead to weakness, fatigue, anemia, numbness or tingling in the limbs, and cognitive difficulties.
The problem for vegans and some vegetarians is that B12 is only found in animal-based foods–meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and dairy. Plants do not make B12. So if you are a vegan or vegetarian who barely eats animal products, a B12 supplement is non-negotiable, or you will become malnourished and develop serious health issues.
Other people who might be at risk for B12 deficiency are those who have had weight-loss surgery, take heartburn drugs such as Nexium or Prevacid or H2 blockers like Pepcid (stomach acid is needed to absorb B12, and these drugs reduce acid), or suffer from such conditions as Celiac or Crohn’s disease. Some people over 50 may have an issue as well, as our bodies naturally produce less stomach acid as we age.
A daily multivitamin usually is sufficient for meeting our B12 needs, or you can take a B-complex pill or drops, or B12 alone. More severe deficiencies could mean a need for weekly B12 shots.
If you have any concerns about your B12 levels, ask your doctor to test you. Chronic low energy is the first warning sign that something might be amiss.
Filed under: Dairy, Healthy Lifestyle, Meat, Restaurants, Sweets, Vegetables, weight loss | Tags: small changes to lose weight, snacks, weight loss
Inevitably, this seems to happen to all of us at one time of life or another. Maybe you haven’t weighed yourself in a while. And then you do. And the number is not what you expect. Wait, really? When and how did that happen?
I myself have remained in the same five-pound weight range for many years. But I am now in my mid-40s, and it’s clear that as I get older I cannot continue to eat the same way I did when I was 25. Looking down at the scale for the first time in months let me know that some changes were in order.
I didn’t feel any big changes were required. I just wanted to be sure to stop a potential upward creep, and maybe get down a few pounds back into my usual range (or at the top end of it, anyway). So here’s what worked:
-No seconds. I realized that I never really needed a second plate of food at dinner. I would often just take another helping because the food tasted good. I stopped this habit.
-A big lunch, then no snacks. I’m very hungry for lunch, and like having a big hearty meal mid-day. If the meal is filling enough, then I don’t need snacks and can comfortably make it until dinner. This is a good thing for me, because once I start snacking I often find it hard to stop.
-One or two fewer drinks. Moderate alcohol consumption is good for heart health. Unfortunately for women, drinking alcohol raises our risk of breast cancer. Once I read that fact, I decided I wanted to cut down my own alcohol consumption—which would have the added benefit of reducing my caloric intake for the week. So now instead of having two to three drinks when I’m out socializing, I’ll have one or two.
-Dark chocolate is dessert. Sugar is addictive, and the more of it you eat, the more of it you want. I feel much better keeping my sugar and calorie consumption lower by sticking with a few squares of dark chocolate as my only dessert. (Except for perhaps a weekly indulgence in something a bit more decadent.)
-More greens, less charcuterie. When out in restaurants, I now tend to order an appetizer that is vegetable based, like a salad of some kind. In the past I would more often pick charcuterie plates, or pate, or something cheesy.
-More fish, less pasta. And I now order pasta in restaurants less frequently, opting instead for fish when I can.
What small changes can you make to reverse the upward creep?
Filed under: Dairy, Drugs, Healthy Lifestyle, Sweets | Tags: acne, diet, skin
Millions of people, both teens and adults, suffer from acne. I myself did for much of my life—I remember at age 9 putting on mud masks to try to dry out my pimples, and by age 15 I was on Accutane, a prescription medication which we now know can cause liver damage and increase one’s risk for depression and suicide.
There can be a strong hormonal component to acne, but the food we eat can also have an effect—something dermatologists generally don’t mention. Inflammation is a big driver of skin eruptions. While many factors can contribute to inflammation, such as nutrient deficiencies, toxicity, and allergens, our processed, sugar-laden diet can be the number-one cause. Added sugars and all the foods that quickly convert to sugar in the body, like white bread, white pasta, and white rice, lead to an increased risk of breakouts.
Dairy can also be a trigger, thanks to the hormones found in such foods as milk, ice cream, and cheese. Dairy raises the levels of male sex hormones in the body, which can drive the development of pimples.
In addition to minimizing sugar and dairy, what will also help your skin is eating an anti-inflammatory diet, consuming more healthy omega-3 fats (fish and nuts/seeds) and fruits and vegetables, actively managing your stress (stress increases inflammation), getting enough sleep (lack of sleep also leads to inflammation), and exercising regularly.
Give these suggestions a try, and you just might be able to toss all the harsh face washes and ointments in the trash!