Holiday Flavors that are Actually Healthy

Dec-holiday-spices-imageWhile the North Pole’s most famous resident may work hard to keep up his jolly weight, with a steady intake of full-fat milk and cookies, many Americans go into the holiday season dreading the inevitable weight gain and planning their return to the gym in January.

And even though research conducted by Cornell University has shown that the weight gain isn’t as dramatic as people may fear – the average American puts on 1.3 pounds from October through New Year’s – they also found that it may take as long as five months to loose that same amount.

Holiday Flavors can be Healthy!

Many of the great tastes that we associate with holiday treats have significant health benefits. Cut back on the breads, butter, cream, and sugar, and focus on these ingredients for a tasty and healthy holiday.

  • Cinnamon. Of the most commonly used herbs and spices, cinnamon ranks first in antioxidant power. It’s also known to be anti-inflammatory, helps protect against diabetes, and even helps ward off certain cancers. So go ahead and drop a cinnamon stick in your hot apple cider, or whip up a batch of low fat cinnamon rolls, and enjoy the immune-system boosting power of this favorite spice.
  • Nutmeg. Since the days of ancient Greece, nutmeg has been used as to improve brain function and relieve fatigue. We now know it promotes healthy neural pathways, and has even been shown to help those suffering from dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. It also works to detoxify your body by boosting liver and kidney health, and even encourages healthy gums. Include it in a healthy pumpkin pie, and enjoy all of its benefits, along with those of our favorite orange gourd.
  • Ginger. Like its nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger is a known anti-inflammatory, and also thought to help promote healthy brain function and fend off age-related brain issues, like Alzheimer’s disease. This superfood relieves nausea, chronic indigestion, and even menstrual pain. Gingerbread cookies are a seasonal favorite, and this healthy recipe means you can enjoy them guilt-free.
  • Chocolate. Long known as an excellent source of anti-oxidants, the cocoa in dark chocolate is also loaded with fiber and minerals, including iron, magnesium, and potassium. And cocoa lowers LDL cholesterol, which means it helps reduce risk factors for heart disease. It may even help improve blood flow to the brain! While all these benefits are found primarily in dark chocolate, even it’s fatty friend, milk chocolate, has some positive power (in moderation).
  • Peppermint. A hybrid of watermint and spearmint, indigenous to Europe and the Middle East, and now cultivated across much of the world, peppermint is widely used to treat indigestion, anxiety and depression, and the common cold. It helps with the pain and bloating of irritable bowl syndrome, and cancer patients have found that peppermint helps calm nausea from chemotherapy. Whether you enjoy it in tea, cookies, or homemade candy canes, peppermint is another holiday treat with healthy benefits.


Nobody wants to put on extra weight during the holidays. But you don’t have to miss out on the flavors of the season. Leave the excess sugar and butter-filled cookies for the big guy in red, and give your health a boost, while still enjoying your favorite treats.

Millennials Got Older, but Their Financial Attitudes are Young

Dec-AgingMillenial-imageIf you still think Millennials are “young,” you may be a little off. They became adults in the year 2000, and today most are over the age of 30. Some are even grandparents. Looking back 17 years ago when Millennials were the “kids” in high school or college, the future looked wide open and bright. And in many ways, it was, as they became the first truly “digital generation.”


An Entrepreneurial Spirit

However, for many of them, economic and employment realities have taken the luster off their bigger dreams. Though Millennials are the most educated generation in history, they also have the highest student loan burdens of any age group. Many are living paycheck to paycheck and barely 25% of then have enough savings to last at three months. And those without income protection are even more vulnerable to financial stress. Not surprisingly, Millennials have shorter-term financial goals and are delaying important financial decisions like saving for retirement.


And though they often feel overeducated and under-employed, strong optimism is still a theme for many Millennials. Rather than following traditional employment paths, a large percentage want to launch their own businesses in the near future. With the right resources, 54% would quit their jobs and start a business next year.


Financing for the Future

For Millennials who are more secure financially, their view of the future sounds, well, very adult. Many are looking at getting their second mortgage, not their first. And having survived for years driving high-mileage beaters, many Millennials are considering buying their second or third car.


To make those kinds of purchases and to manage their finances, Millennials have turned the way people bank inside out. As the digital-from-birth generation, 74% of them prefer mobile banking instead of desktop banking or banking in person. They access their financial accounts via a mobile app nearly three times more often than any other group. And, according to a Vocalink study, more than half of Millennials prefer mobile banking with an iPhone.


However, banks don’t need to fret. Increasingly, Millennials are beginning to make more branch visits to seek expert advice for mortgages or for business planning. They even use ATMs more frequently than their non-Millennial counterparts.


Embracing New Technologies

As Americans of all ages are increasingly relying on mobile and online banking, Millennials are still setting new paths. While most people are just getting use to voice-activated devices from Amazon, Google and Apple, voice banking is being quickly adapted by Millennials. Nearly 68% of them would check their balances by voice commands and 46% would feel at ease paying bills by voice.


Though they more in debt and working harder to get by, many of today’s Millennials don’t look at work as simply a way to make money. They have disrupted the workplace forever by bringing more focus on creativity, entrepreneurship, working collaboratively and yes, by still trying to make a difference in the world.

Essential Supplements for Immune System Support

Dec-Supplements-imageWith cold and flu season here, many people are understandably searching for ways to keep their immune systems in tip-top shape. As many as 20% of Americans come down with the flu each year, resulting in 10+ billion in hospitalization and outpatient visit costs, not to mention a great deal of missed work. While there’s no surefire way to avoid getting sick this winter, there are a handful of things you can do to help boost your immune system so that you have a fighting chance against what’s out there.


Scared of getting sick and losing work? Here are five supplements that may bolster the effectiveness of your immune system, all of which are common enough to be found at your local specialty foods store.

Vitamins C, B6 and E

When attempting to supplement the immune system, vitamins are a natural area to focus on first. Vitamins C, B6 and E in particular are all capable of benefiting the immune system. Vitamin C deficiencies can actually lead to illness, and B6/E help to support biochemical reactions within the body that offer additional immune system support. While all three of these vitamins can be found in foods such as leafy greens, fruits and nuts, boosting your daily intake in supplement form can be an easy way to ensure you get enough.


The benefits of echinacea when it comes to the immune system are quite powerful and supported by scientific studies that have shown effectiveness against recurrent infections and prevention against the common cold. An herbaceous flowering plant that helps to stimulate the immune system, echinacea is available in supplement form and can also be taken as a tea.


Elderberry often gets mentioned alongside echinacea as being one of nature’s best supports for the immune system, and for good reason. For one, the fruit is packed with flavonoids, which have the potential to fight congestion. One study on elderberry even found that extract from the fruit can assist in reducing flu symptoms by as many as three days—a veritable eternity for anyone who is sick with the virus.


Probiotics are the “good” bacteria that make up the body’s microbiome and can have a major impact on overall gut health. As much as 70% of the immune system actually lives within the gut, and when a microflora imbalance exists, it can lead to poor immune function and chronic illness. Though probiotics can be found in certain fermented foods, they’re most effective when taken in large concentrations as supplements.


Ginseng has long been taken in supplement form to boost vitality and energy levels, but it can also help to strengthen the immune system. The plant’s roots, stems and leaves can all help to maintain immune system homeostasis, which results in a more dynamic defense against unwelcome pathogens. Look for Panax ginseng for best effects.


So don’t hide at home in fear of getting sick during cold and flu season! Focus on protecting your immune system, getting enough sleep and eating a balanced diet to stay healthy this winter.

Tiredness or Fatigue, What’s the Difference?

Dec-fatigue-imageWe all know what it is to feel tired. Maybe it’s from a long day at work, or staying out late to catch up with an old friend, or your three year old who decided 5:00am was a good time to wake you. Whatever the reason, we’ve all suffered through a day or two while sleep deprived.

Fortunately, tiredness can typically be cured with a good night’s sleep; and a little coffee will help you get through the day. Lasting fatigue, however, is a different issue and should not be passed off as simply being tired.


What is Fatigue?

While tiredness is generally short term and easily relieved, true fatigue is long lasting and can ultimately interfere with one’s ability to lead a normal life. People suffering from fatigue often describe feelings of lethargy and exhaustion, often accompanied by depression and sometimes physical ailments.

In most cases, fatigue is a symptom of a larger underlying issue. Mild cases often accompany an illness, such as a flu or cold, and generally go away when the illness does.

Stress can also lead to temporary fatigue. A heavy workload, financial difficulties, and other common stresses are often cause fatigue. The fatigue tends to compound the feelings of stress, which leads to more fatigue, and on and on. But, as with illness, alleviating the stress will also alleviate the fatigue.


Other Conditions that Can Cause Fatigue

When eliminating stress factors and catching up on sleep don’t help, it’s time to investigate other possibilities. Fatigue that lasts more than two weeks, particularly when accompanied by other symptoms, such as unexplained changes in weight or shortness of breath, may be a sign of something more serious and should be treated by a doctor. Some of the most common causes of fatigue include:

  • Coronary artery disease. When simple daily activities wear you out, it may be that your heart isn’t performing at its best.
  • Diabetes. This disease impacts your body’s ability to properly process sugars and preventing the conversion of food into energy.
  • Thyroid problems. This is the gland that controls metabolism, and therefore your energy levels. Fatigue is often the result of an under-active thyroid.
  • Anxiety and depression. Depression is a leading cause of missed work, and can even lead to a disability diagnosis. It’s much more than an emotional slump, and often contributes to physical symptoms, including fatigue.
  • Not enough sleep. Consistent sleep deprivation can lead to all sorts of problems, including lack of concentration, weight loss, memory failures, and fatigue.
  • Sleep apnea. Breathing pauses or interruptions while sleeping prevents those who suffer with sleep apnea from getting the deep sleep necessary to feel rested.
  • Poor diet. An imbalanced diet may result in too much or too little blood sugar, either of which can ultimately contribute to feelings of fatigue.



Many underlying causes of fatigue are easily treated with supplements, dietary changes, exercise programs, or sending the three year old to live with grandma for a few weeks. But fatigue caused by more serious underlying medical issues will often need to be managed with prescription medications and physician assistance. These include:


Unlike occasional tiredness, fatigue interferes with a person’s quality of life, their mental health, and their ability to handle manage daily activities. It’s even recognized as a significant reason for early retirement. If feelings of tiredness persist for a couple of weeks, seek medical assistance. The solution may be simpler than you think.

Throwing a Company Party Your Employees Will Actually Want to Attend

Dec-office-party-imageThe office holiday party. It’s often met with dread not only by HR (and whoever winds up on the “party planning committee”), but by employees that would rather skip it, too. More often than not, the problem comes down to a lack of proper planning or simply from getting stuck in a cycle of throwing the same party each and every year. If you’re looking to boost morale, however, you’re going to have to inject some creativity into the planning process.


Ready to throw a company holiday party that your employees will actually want to attend? Start here.

1. Make it Fun

One of the biggest reasons why someone might choose not to show up at a holiday party is that they expect it to be a boring time. Hiring a DJ and having the event catered may seem like a good way to kick off some fun, but it’s nothing that people haven’t seen before. What about having a live band perform, inviting an area chef to cook a meal or even setting up a photobooth? The more you can go against expectations, the more surprised and excited your employees will be once they actually show up.

2. Take it Outside the Office

Some office environments just aren’t fit for a holiday party for one reason or another—this doesn’t mean you can get away with not throwing one. In fact, your employees will be less likely to skip it if they’re 100% sure of what they’re getting into. You might choose to build a holiday party around an activity such as ice skating, which is perfect for injecting some holiday spirit into the event. When planning a party around an activity for a large group of people, the earlier you can line up all the details, the less likely it is that you’ll run into any problems.

3. Be Generous

No one wants to leave a party thinking about how they would’ve improved upon it if the planning had been left up to them. It’s one of the reasons why so many employees dread holiday parties. One way to avoid disappointment is to be as generous as possible. An open bar can go over very well, and you can get some extra mileage with your staff by serving up a curated assortment of holiday-themed cocktails and passing them around the room. Don’t hold back with the hors d’oeuvres, either—you want people to go home with a positive impression of the company they work for.

4. Send People Home with Gifts

Nothing says “we appreciate your work” like sending your employees home with a gift bag. This is a great opportunity to get creative, as you can play to the individual interests of each employee so as to build morale and make them feel appreciated. If Dave in accounting loves basketball, perhaps tickets to an upcoming game could be a good fit. The possibilities are endless, and the more you can get to know what makes each one of your employees tick, the more effective your gift(s) can be.


So don’t just assume that your holiday party has to be boring or humdrum. Put in the work, and the event will likely be a success.

Can a Vegetarian Diet Make You a Better Athlete?

Dec-Veg-Athlete-imageToday it’s hard to miss stories about winning athletes in nearly all sports who are dedicated vegetarians. But is a vegetarian diet just a feel-good eco-fad or does it offer any advantages over a meat-based diet?

A recent Arizona State study shows that a veggie diet can offer you as much physical strength that a meat-based diet offers, and may give you an advantage in aerobic capacity. Even better, vegetarian diets have been linked to healthier hearts, fewer cancers, and longer lifespans.

Unexpected Protein Potential

One of the surprise findings in the Arizona State study was that you could get enough protein from a vegetarian diet to be as big and strong as someone on a meat diet.

“I expected cardiorespiratory fitness to be about the same since lots of endurance athletes say their performance has improved since going vegetarian,” says lead study author Heidi Lynch. “Now this study backs that. I was more surprised about strength, because people often think they need meat to get big and strong.”

For women in the study, a vegetarian diet actually provided 13 percent greater VO2 max scores than their omnivore counterparts. Part of the explanation for that difference is that vegetarians tend to consume more carbohydrates and may provide better fuel efficiency especially for endurance sports such as running, cycling, and distance swimming.

The big nutrient for building muscle of course is protein. Done right, vegetarianism can provide all the protein you need without the saturated fat and cholesterol found in meat or cheese. Green peas, quinoa, nuts, beans, and tofu are great protein sources and there are nearly limitless recipes on how to enjoy them.

Advantages off the Field, Too

If you’re not already a vegetarian, the benefits beyond athletic capacity are worth considering. Most vegetarian diets are low in or devoid of animal products. They’re also usually lower than non-vegetarian diets in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol. Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and some forms of cancer.

Getting Started

Starting a vegetarian diet doesn’t have to equate with giving up delicious food or enduring boring, brown meals. However, a vegetarian lifestyle does take some planning and understanding. For some people, a semi-vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian diet is an easy way to start. When starting out, be sure to have enough information to ensure that you are not missing any essential nutrients. You may also want to consult with a dietician or your physician if you have any concerns.


Eliminating meat from your diet won’t automatically make you a better athlete. However, when you make healthy, balanced choices, a veggie diet can give you all of the nutritional needs for performing well in any sport or lifestyle.

Chicken Soup Vs. The Common Cold

Dec-ChickenSoup-imageFeed a cold and starve a fever? Or is it feed a fever and starve a cold? The old adage dates back to the 1500s when it was believed that feeding helped warm a body up, and therefore beat a cold; and starving deprived the body of energy, therefore helping it cool and stop a fever. It’s bunk. The truth is you need to feed them both. Whether it’s a cold or a fever, your body needs strength to fight. So eat.

Simply taking in calories is important, but choosing your food carefully can help you mitigate the symptoms and reduce the duration of the common cold.

Poultry Power

Research out of the University of Nebraska Medical Center conducted way back in 1993, before vitamin packed powdered drink mixes and echinacea pills hit the grocery store shelves, suggested that the mixture of chicken, vegetables, and hot fluids work together to provide measurable relief.

Chicken, along with other white meats, is an excellent source of protein. Lower in fat than its red meat rivals, it provides quality calories and helps you feel full, without unnecessarily contributing to your waistline. It also contains tryptophan and vitamin B5, both known to help to relieve stress and promote positive feelings. Heck, it even helps maintain healthy hair, so you can still look great even when you’re feeling lousy.

Vegetarians can swap in textured vegetable protein to get many of the same benefits.

The Secret is Reduced Inflammation

That University of Nebraska research showed that chicken soup works to limit the production of neutrophils, the white blood cells that eat bacteria and ultimately cause inflammation and mucus production. It’s this anti-inflammation power that seems to be the most important. Sure, we need white blood cells to fight off infection. But it’s too much inflammation, rather than the actual virus, that causes the sniffling, sneezing, and congestion that makes us feel so miserable.

Add the nutritional value of carrots, parsley, and celery, along with the superfood power of sweet potato, and you get an impressive immune system boost and a feel good meal all in one. As an added bonus, the steam helps relieve congestion, and the broth coats a sore throat. And the sodium (salt) works to help remove bacteria.

Great for the Whole Family

Parents of young children hate to see them suffering with cold symptoms. But many medications, even over-the-counter options, can be risky for little ones. A warm bowl of soup, with a side of crackers and water or diluted juice, may give them desired relief, without the dangers associated with some medications. It’ll make them much more pleasant to be around, especially important if you’ve taken a day off work to stay home and watch cartoons with them bundled up on the couch.

So Does Chicken Soup Cure the Cold?

No research to date has been able to conclusively prove that chicken soup cures anything. But whether the ingredients have medicinal value or just a placebo effect, studies continue to report people feeling better after a big ol’ bowl of grandma’s homemade miracle meal. And if you lost grandma’s recipe, don’t worry, the store-bought versions have shown the same results (although they often come with more sodium than you need).

Here’s the recipe from that 1993 research study. We won’t tell if you decide to pass it off as your own.


Depression and Your Office Environment: What You Need to Know

Dec-depression-imageDepression, while often hiding in plain sight, ranks among the top three workplace problems for employee assistance professionals, resulting in 3% of total short-term disability days. For context, that’s more disability than what’s caused by heart disease, hypertension and diabetes—all in the form of an illness that isn’t nearly as visible as a broken bone. While factors inciting depressive disorders are often outside of the control of business leaders and HR managers, the workplace can influence mental health.


Fortunately, you can take steps to make changes within the workplace that promote good mental health—here’s how to get started.

Implement Height-Adjustable Desks

If there’s one thing that leads to aches and pains for employees throughout the workweek, it’s sitting down all day—especially true if your office chairs aren’t ergonomically designed. Height-adjustable desks are growing in popularity, thanks in large part to the fact that they allow for increased movement throughout the day. In a perfect world, an outside consultant should be brought in to customize standing desk ergonomics for each individual employee. Otherwise, be sure to keep monitors at eye level and arm bends at 90 degrees to keep neck and arm pain from occurring.

Knock Down the Cubicles

In 1984, an eye-opening study showed that patients recovering from surgery required fewer painkillers when assigned a room overlooking trees. It’s commonly assumed that views of nature help to reduce stress and anxiety, which may in large part have to do with why working in cubicles so often leads to actual instances of depression. If your office environment is characterized by separation, knocking down the cubicles and embracing a more open office plan can be the first step toward promoting a positive work environment. After all, your employees don’t need walls around them in order to focus and get work done—they simply need their own space to thrive.

Improve Lighting

Lighting has such a strong influence on mental health that those who suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD) are often urged to purchase light therapy boxes for treatment. In offices where not every employee has the luxury of working alongside a big picture window, overhead and other types of lighting should always be considered to ensure an environment that isn’t mentally taxing. Swap out fluorescents for lighting that is soft and calming, and consider adding warm supplemental lighting to help boost mood and energy levels. If possible, position desks so that they receive as much natural light as the day can provide—your employees will thank you for the added Vitamin D in the winter months.


HR directors will never be able to fully curtail anxiety and depression in the workplace, but with a little bit of effort, you can help reduce the chances that mental health issues get in the way of productivity and employee wellness.

The Power of Magnesium

Nov-magnesium-imageWhen it comes to supplements, making the right decisions about what to take can be easier said than done. Many make claims and promises that are dubious at best, often without the backing of science or peer-reviewed literature to support such statements. One supplement that has been studied time and time again, however, is magnesium—an essential mineral with far more potential than many people realize.


Studies have shown that 55% of Americans are deficient in magnesium. Here’s why you should be supplementing with it for a healthier lifestyle.

Magnesium Can Help Reduce Insomnia

For those who have trouble falling asleep at night, finding a solution that actually works can be an exercise in frustration. If getting enough exercise and avoiding caffeine throughout the day aren’t enough to help you fall asleep, you may want to consider supplementing with magnesium. Magnesium plays a key role in interacting with GABA receptors in the brain, which are responsible for promoting both physical and mental calm. If you’re deficient in the mineral, this may be to blame for any sleep issues you may be experiencing.

It’s Good for Your Heart

Everyone knows that it’s important to focus on maintaining good cardiovascular health, but how many people actually go the extra mile? Magnesium not only helps to reduce the risks of suffering from coronary heart diseases—it may also lower one’s chances of having a stroke. Since deficiencies in magnesium can increase the prevalence of abnormal heart rhythms, it stands to reason why supplementing can be beneficial as a general prophylactic against cardiovascular distress.

It Helps Build Strong Bones

Most people think of calcium when it comes to bone health. And while it certainly plays a significant role in maintaining bone structure, magnesium is just as important. In fact, they work in tandem, influencing bone formation and helping to prevent osteoporosis from occurring. Since a lack of magnesium can actually inhibit calcium’s ability to metabolize properly, supplementing is a commonly recommended course of action.

It May Even Prevent Diabetes

Incidents of Type-2 diabetes are on the rise in America, and for those with family histories, steering clear of the disease can be a true challenge. Studies have shown, however, that supplementing with magnesium may actually reduce the chance of developing diabetes, thanks to how it helps regulate blood glucose levels. Since magnesium also helps metabolize carbohydrates, it can be very effective at assisting insulin in working more efficiently.


So don’t assume that all supplements are the same. Find a well-reputed magnesium supplement, and enjoy its relaxing, holistic health benefits.

Winter Sports Safety Checklist

Nov-winter-sports-imageWhile the chill of winter can often be enough to cause many people to shutter themselves indoors for months on end, winter sports lovers often find themselves counting down the days until the first snowfall of the year. With the thrill and adrenaline rush of skiing, snowboarding and other winter sports, however, comes a real danger that resulted in 246,000 people being treated at hospitals, doctor’s offices and emergency rooms for injuries in 2015. Winter sports can be enjoyed safely, but only with the right amount of preparation before hitting the slopes.


Here’s a checklist to help you stay safe and have fun this winter, no matter what your favorite outdoor activity happens to be.

▢ Dress Appropriately

One of the easiest ways to ruin a day of skiing or snowboarding is to wear the wrong clothing. Regardless of how cold it is outside, your body will start sweating once you get moving, and any materials that don’t properly wick moisture will result in you feeling cold, wet and uncomfortable. It’s an annoyance to say the least, but wearing the wrong clothing can even lead to hypothermia under extreme circumstances. Stick to moisture-wicking thermal underwear (never cotton), an insulating layer and water/windproof outer layers to stay comfortable without being too warm.

▢ Take a Lesson

If it’s your first time hitting the slopes, you owe it to yourself and your own safety to take a lesson before heading out on your own. Why? It’s essential to have an understanding of basic techniques (such as how to fall properly) and safety precautions, as going in unprepared can spell disaster not just for yourself, but for your neighbors on the hill. The more educated you are about slope safety, the less likely it is that someone will end up getting hurt.

▢ Use Proper Gear

Even the best skiers and snowboarders are at risk of hurting themselves if they don’t have the right gear on their side. Boots, goggles, helmets and other equipment can be expensive, but heading out in the wrong or damaged gear is a surefire way to get hurt. Be sure to upgrade any equipment that has passed its prime—old skiing and snowboarding equipment is fine so long as it has been maintained properly and is outfitted with modern safety features.

▢ Watch for Frostbite

No one ever goes out expecting to get frostbite, but it helps to know what to look for symptom-wise, as it can occur without warning. If while outside in the cold for a prolonged period of time you experience pain, burning, tingling, numbness or paleness of skin (particularly in the extremities), stop what you’re doing and seek medical attention immediately. Though “frostnip”—the first stage of frostbite—can be mitigated if caught on time, advanced frostbite can lead to joints or muscles that may no longer work.

▢ Bring a Buddy

There’s no better way to stay safe and have a great time when enjoying winter sports than to bring a buddy along. The “buddy system” can help to prevent against people getting lost in the cold, as well as ensure someone is around in case an injury of some sort occurs. Be sure that everyone in your party has a mobile phone on their person in case of emergency, and document where you’ll be heading for the day before setting off.


Don’t compromise your safety this winter. Follow the checklist outlined above, and—most importantly—have fun!