Reduce the Risk – National Cancer Prevention Month

National Cancer Prevention MonthI grew up moving around quite a bit, so I never really got to know my extended family. I saw grandparents on holidays, and a couple aunts and uncles once in a great while. But other than my parents and sister, most of my relatives were strangers to me.

 

Years ago, I dragged myself to a family reunion and saw an older cousin, Barbara, who I never knew very well, but always kind of admired. She was cool and a little edgy. I figured her super short haircut was just a new style she was trying out, so I made sure to compliment her on it. After several seconds of awkward silence, she laughed and said “thanks, it’s finally growing back in.” I’d forgotten she had been fighting cancer and lost her hair during chemotherapy treatments. She died a couple years later, but I like to remember her trying to find humor in a desperate situation.

 

Her father, my uncle, had been a heavy smoker and passed away from lung cancer several years earlier. Her doctors believed exposure to his second-hand smoke caused Barbara’s cancer.

 

We know now that both of their battles could have probably been prevented. Researchers have proven time and time again that any use of tobacco is dangerous, not just to the user, but often to those around them. And it’s not just lung cancer. Smokers are also at high risk of developing cancers of the mouth, throat, kidney, stomach, colon, and more.

 

Tobacco use in the US has declined sharply over the past 50 years, from 42% of adults in 1965, to less than 14% today. But that still leaves about 34 million Americans putting themselves, and those around them, in danger.

 

February is National Cancer Prevention Month, a perfect time to highlight avoidable risks.

 

Not all diseases can be prevented, but many of the most common cancers are a result of our own behaviors. Everyone knows that cigarettes and other tobaccos are dangerous. Smoking is an obvious issue. So don’t do it! Here are other ways you can avoid the Big C.

 

Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen! Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and also the most preventable. It’s estimated that as many as one in five Americans will develop skin cancer in their lifetime. Sunscreen with a SPF of at least 30, protective clothing, and shade are the easiest and most effective forms of protection. And everyone should stay out of tanning beds.

 

Maintain a healthy weight. Obesity and lack of physical activity have been linked to several forms of cancer, including breast cancer, colorectal cancer, and possibly even pancreatic, just to name a few. Just 30 minutes of physical activity each day can make a huge difference in your overall health. In addition to reducing your cancer risk, you’ll also have better energy, reduced stress, and a stronger immune system!

 

Eat well. Diets that include lots of fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains have been shown to reduce cancer risks. Limiting red meat and processed foods, as well as alcohol consumption, have also been shown to reduce the risk of liver, colorectal, and other cancers.

 

Get vaccinated. About a third of liver cancers and Non-Hodgkin Lymphoma are linked to Hepatitis B and C. A vaccine for Hepatitis B is widely available and highly recommended. (Hepatitis C is generally curable with treatment.) And the HPV (human papillomavirus) vaccine is known to greatly reduce risks of cervical and several other cancers. Despite well publicized concern over this vaccine in recent years, there is no evidence to suggest a risk of serious side effects.

 

We can’t, yet, prevent all diseases. But 30-50% of all cancers are preventable. Simple steps and avoidable behaviors are the most effective ways to lower your risk.




Resolution Reboot: Recommitting to Your New Year Goals

When February rolls around, some of us fist pump the air. “Yay! A whole month with my resolution.” Others (a larger amount, by the way) think, “Ugh. I have already failed.” Here’s the thing: February is a great time to reboot your resolution. In fact, ANY TIME is a great time. There is nothing magical about January 1.

As author and behavioral scientist Daniel Pink shares in his book When: The Scientific Secrets of Perfect Timing, “imbuing an otherwise ordinary day with personal meaning generates the power to activate new beginnings.”

That means that while January 1 carries a weighty significance as a change catalyst, we really could choose any day as that ideal day for new beginnings. So, why not today?

Here are three common resolution fails, along with reasons why now is the perfect time to start back up.

 

  1. Your gym membership is already gathering dust.

If you were one of the hordes who enthusiastically joined a gym at the beginning of the year, you are far from alone. If you are one who quit going by February 1 (or earlier!), again, far from alone. In fact, one survey found that nearly half of Americans had given up their exercise resolution to hit the gym by the end of January. Some felt judged; others found a gym membership too pricey; and still others couldn’t find the time.

But February is actually a fantastic time to give the gym one more shot—precisely because so many people have abandoned it, thus negating at least one of the reasons mentioned above. Of course a gym can feel intimidating when it’s overly crowded; you can feel as though you’re not getting your money’s worth when every station is in use or you’re turned away from class; and it can be extra hard to fit into your schedule when you have to wait to get a parking spot or time on the machines.

And remember, a gym isn’t the only place to get your sweat on. Temps are starting to climb from the polar freeze of January, and February is a great month to try snow shoeing or ice skating or even a walk outdoors to spot those crocuses pushing through. Or, you could commit to using your Netflix for something other than binge watching and find an exercise video to try.

 

  1. You gave up eating healthfully.

Here’s something that people don’t always realize: Winter fruits and vegetables aren’t always that exciting. In fact, it can be far easier to start a healthy eating plan as you head toward spring and the promise of berries and tomatoes. Alas, we’re not there yet, but you can still make strides in that direction, incorporating frozen fruits into smoothies, or trying a new recipe with a winter veggie, knowing that more choices are around the corner.

And remember that eating well doesn’t have to be all or nothing. Even making small changes—forgoing that afternoon vending machine cookie or after-dinner ice cream—can add up to big results when done consistently, and is often far more palatable than making a drastic change that’s hard to sustain.

 

  1. The clutter has piled up—again.

Did you join the Marie Kondo bandwagon? The pressure to decide if your items “spark joy” can be intense. But what many would-be organizers don’t realize is that it doesn’t have to be all or nothing. A better strategy if you want to keep your house a little more organized is to adopt some daily habits that keep clutter at bay. For example:

  • Handle the mail and recycle liberally every day so it doesn’t pile up. (Bonus: You’ll never get hit with a late fee if you take care of paying bills as soon as they come in.)
  • Create a system to deal with jackets, shoes, mittens, etc. You might be surprised at what the calming effect of a clutter-free entry. This change alone can make your house feel less disorganized.
  • Run your dishwashers every night and empty it every morning so dishes don’t pile up in the sink.

There! With these three small changes you’ll be back on track…and you can tackle those drawers and closets at your leisure.

(And if you want to feel a little better about not getting rid of everything in your house, consider this story of a mom who inadvertently gave away one of her son’s mugs, which unfortunately was crammed with cash. No joy there!)




Chicken Soup Vs. The Common Cold

Feed 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.




Kicking Celiac’s Arse – The Battle for a Normal Blood Test

It took four years to get my son’s blood test to come back “normal.” Four. Long. Years! The little monster was diagnosed with celiac disease at 18 months. He’d started feeling bad and losing weight, so the doctor ordered a blood test. The indicators for celiac came back so high, the doctor thought it might be a false positive and ordered an endoscopy. Sure enough, they found several aggravated ulcers in his small intestines.

 

And so began our battle!

We immediately cleared the pantry of anything with gluten, which resulted in nearly empty shelves. We replaced our cutting boards, pots and pans, and even the toaster. We checked all of our soaps, shampoos, detergents, and lotions, and tossed any that were questionable. We were on the right track. Although it can take months for the body to fully heal from the kind of damage my son had sustained, noticeable improvements came quickly. He got his appetite back, regained the weight he had lost, and was no longer in constant discomfort.

Next, we met with our daycare provider. They were incredibly supportive and agreed to do a deep clean and put systems in place to reduce the risk of exposure. Our little guy ate at his own spot for snacks and lunch, the teachers and kids washed their hands often, we even replaced the facility’s play-dough with a gluten-free homemade version.

Then we began regular check-ins with the gastroenterologist and nutritionist, and the little punk endured blood tests, like a champ, every few months.

 

It’s all about the tTGs

Things improved, but we couldn’t get the tTG level where they needed to be. And even though Anthony wasn’t in constant pain anymore, he did have regular stomach aches and frequent episodes of discomfort and lethargy.

The doctors explained that tTG (Tissue Transglutaminase) antibodies in those with celiac disease become elevated when exposed to gluten, as the immune system mistakes the protein for an invader. This results in damage to the villi in the small intestines, causing pain and making it difficult for the body to absorb nutrients. If not addressed, it can lead to whole host of serious health concerns. When we started, his tTG levels were over 100. Our goal was four or lower.

 

Fast forward a couple of years

We were gluten-free at home and our daycare provider was doing their best. But the blood tests were showing only marginal improvement. We got the tTG levels down to the high 30s, but nowhere near the target number. So we redoubled our efforts. We avoided almost all processed foods and eliminated dairy from his diet. We had discovered some limited research indicated that, in some cases, a celiac’s body could have a similar reaction to the casein protein in dairy as it does to gluten. So we figured it was worth a shot.

Items labelled gluten-free could no longer be trusted; they had to be certified. We read every label to make sure we weren’t buying anything from facilities that also handled wheat. We called manufacturers and joined online communities to discuss safe products.

These changes were probably healthier for our whole family, but they certainly made meal times challenging. There was no more eating out and no relying on pre-made packaged foods at home. All meals had to be made from safe, whole ingredients. We couldn’t enjoy a Friday night pizza after a long week, or throw a package of chicken fingers in the oven. No quick yogurt or pop-tarts for breakfast. And no good bread; the homemade, gluten-free stuff just isn’t the same. I would still enjoy a beer (yep, it has gluten) from time to time, but that was just a little treat for daddy.

We thought we had it licked. But even with all these changes, blood test after blood test came back with elevated tTG levels.

 

About the boy

Here’s the deal with my kid: he’s a bit behind most of his peers. We adopted him as a baby, after he had spent his first few months with a homeless birth mother and no stability. It’s not unusual for kids who start life this way to have a few minor delays. And since his birthday is late in the summer, we considered postponing kindergarten by a year. But his daycare was the one aspect of his life that we couldn’t fully control. We trusted they were doing everything reasonable to keep him healthy, but we also knew it’s hard to keep an environment like that free of contamination. So we made the decision.

He’s halfway through kindergarten now. He enjoys his new friends, loves his music class, and still thinks the bus is super cool. But he has his struggles and is working hard to catch up with his classmates. We often wondered if we should have waited the extra year.

 

Finally, we start winning

His doctor called last week to share the results of his latest blood test. Two minutes into the conversation, I had to close my office door so none of my colleagues would see me fighting back tears (I have a tough guy image to maintain, after all). We had gotten so used to bad news, that I just expected more of the same. But for first time ever, his blood work is normal…and his tTG level is 3.2. Halle-freaking-lujah!

He may struggle with academics for a few years. Or maybe he’ll repeat kindergarten. But who cares? He’s healthy and happy, and we now know we made the right choice.




I’m A Diet Skeptic, And This Is How I Lost 20 Pounds

I am not a doctor. I didn’t even like science in school. What I am is a sixty-something guy who works in an office and has been highly skeptical of all diets – I think they’re fads – for my entire adult life. Diets all typically have a gimmick, may work for a while, but then leave you right back where you started. To me (and many medical professionals) that’s worse than never losing weight in the first place.

On the other hand, there’s January 1st. A day when people often make resolutions. And for many of us, that involves a healthier lifestyle in general and losing a few pounds in particular.

January 1, 2019 was one of those days for me. I set a goal to drop my weight from 209 to 189 entirely for my health. 20 pounds. (The CDC says normal weight for someone my height is 184 max, but I wanted to start with something aggressive and challenging – but also reachable.)

If I had to change how I ate, I needed something simple, because if the rules were too complex, I knew I wouldn’t stick with it. I also wanted something that didn’t require deprivation because going hungry is a sure recipe for losing discipline, not weight. And, finally, I wanted a healthy regime I could stick with over a long time, quite possibly a lifetime.

Based on a friend’s recommendation, I settled on a “slow carb” diet.

What is it? And, how did it work?

First, the simple: six days a week, all meals consist of a protein, a vegetable, and a legume (beans or lentils, mostly.) One day – cheat day – you as as much as you want of whatever you want.

That’s the whole thing in a nutshell. No calorie counting. No food measuring. No deprivation. You can even have up to two glasses of red wine every evening without affecting weight loss.

The book I read does lay out a set of five pretty easy rules to help:

  1. Avoid any carbohydrate that is – or can be – white.
  2. Keep it simple and eat the same meals over and over. (You don’t have to. it just makes shopping and cooking easier.)
  3. Don’t drink calories. (Red wine is the one exception here.)
  4. Don’t eat fruit.
  5. Take one day off every week.

The author goes into voluminous detail about the science behind it all, his and others’ experience, and the specifics (like, what exactly is a white carb?). There are even strategies for eating out.

The simple version of the science (remember me and science?) seems to be that what happens in the body when it processes any sugar, including fructose, or processed carbohydrate increases fat retention. Cheat day science is questionable, but if it helps me stick to my diet in general, that’s all that matters.

As far as deprivation goes, I honestly never feel hungry, and I haven’t missed eating or drinking anything enough to leave me wanting. I’ve got a wicked sweet tooth, so I was especially worried about sugar withdrawal, but any urges were easily deflected by the knowledge that Saturday – my cheat day – was coming up soon.

But is it healthy to eat this way long term? All I can say is that I feel great physically, I look younger, my blood work looks good (a real doctor says so), and the weight? I hit 189 by March, got to a low – so far – of 186 in August, and I’ve stayed right around 190 ever since.

Now, I’m gearing up for 2020 with a goal of 180!

A few side notes…

  • Breakfast is the easiest for me. I used to have coffee and a bagel, muffin, or toast with jam. Maybe a banana. Now, every day, I eat a huge bowl of scrambled eggs (2 eggs plus some organic egg whites) with black beans and chopped spinach. Easy to make, delicious, and so satisfying I sometimes don’t even notice when lunchtime rolls around.
  • If I’m really feeling motivated, sometimes I mix in a little IF – Intermittent Fasting. That’s a subject for another post.
  • Some people aren’t crazy about beans, think they’re boring, or just plain don’t like them. Those are people who haven’t experienced real beans. Try some heirloom beans. You really can’t believe how big a difference there is compared to supermarket beans.
  • Canned beans are fine if you don’t like to cook or don’t have time.
  • The slow carb approach has been around for a long time, and there are plenty of resources and testimonials on the internet available if you want support or answers to questions. A quick google search opens the door to a very deep rabbit hole. I’ve found the most helpful and objective advice, recipes and ideas here.
  • Having reached my goal, I still eat a slow carb diet… mostly. I like it, and it’s easy. I do cheat more often than just cheat day. I don’t worry about holidays or social events. I still weigh myself every morning, and if I start pushing toward 195 I go back to being strict.

So, with January 1 coming right up, now’s the time to do a little thinking, a little investigating, and a little committing yourself to a healthier life in the new year.




Healthy Holiday Eating – Go Ahead, Indulge a Little

The holidays are here. The season of giving, spending, celebration, and for many, the season of high calorie overeating. According to a 2016 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine, the average American gains about a pound between Thanksgiving and the beginning of January. Even though the weight gain isn’t as high as many might expect, the problem is most people don’t loose it after the holidays…so over the years, it all starts to add up. It’s great to be jolly for the season, but if we’re not careful, our bellies may be bowls full of jelly long after the holidays have past.

But there is good news. Not all holiday treats are unhealthy!

 

Sweet Potato

It’a an official superfood! They’re loaded with antioxidants, which can help protect your cells against pesky free radicals. They’re anti-inflammatory, helping reduce the impacts of arthritis and other painful conditions. And they have a full day’s worth of vitamin A, as well as significant amounts of several other vitamins, including C, B6, and manganese! So go ahead and dive into the yearly sweet potato casserole!

 

Pumpkin

As we’ve discussed before, pumpkin isn’t just for jack o’ lanterns at Halloween. This winter squash, like it’s sweet potato buddy, is packed with vitamins and antioxidants. This nutrient-dense food is low in calories, while also a good source of fiber, so it helps suppress appetite. A slice of pumpkin pie is nothing to feel too guilty about.

 

Peppermint

Nothing says holidays quite like peppermint. Peppermint cookies, peppermint tea, peppermint bark, and, of course, candy canes. While it’s important to consider how much sugar is mixed in, the peppermint itself may provide several benefits. Many believe it has calming effects and is often used to relieve anxiety. It’s also a popular natural remedy for nausea, muscle pain, and indigestion. Plus, those little individually wrapped candy canes are great for sharing around the office!

 

Ginger

Like peppermint, ginger is also synonymous with the holidays. And also like peppermint, it’s a popular natural remedy for indigestion, muscle pain, and nausea, especially morning sickness. Studies have even shown it may help lower cholesterol!

 

Red Wine

It’d be hard to make an argument for the health benefits of alcohol consumption. But if your holiday celebrations already include red wine, in moderation, you might be giving your heart a healthy little boost. Polyphenols and resveratrol in red wine are believed to help protect blood vessels in the heart, lower cholesterol, and prevent blood clots.

 

Chocolate

Would it even be the holidays without chocolate? Though it contains lots of fat and sugar, it’s also long been associated with countering stress, heart disease, and hypertension. One 2014 study found that a cocoa extract shows promise in slowing cognitive decline in Alzheimer’s patients. Another study found that chocolate could even lower the risk of stroke by as much as 22%.

 

So if you have visions of sugarplums dancing in your head, go head, have a little treat. Not all calories are bad. Besides, New Year’s is right around the corner, and you can always resolve to loose that extra holiday pound.




Benefits of Water (Other than Being the First Ingredient in Beer)

Dictionary.com defines water as a “colorless, transparent, odorless liquid that forms the seas, lakes, rivers, and rain and is the basis of the fluids of living organisms.” Sounds a little boring, huh? Have you ever wondered why we really need it? Let’s dive in!

It’s more than just a thirst quencher. It makes up 60% of your body weight. Your brain and heart are 73% water. Your skin is 64% water. Muscles are 83% water. Even your bones are 31% water. Without it, you’d be a creaky dry, mess. To maintain proper hydration and keep your body from turning to dust, you need a regular intake of water. How much? According to The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, the average woman should aim for 2.7 liters of fluids per day; 3.7 liters for men.

Water is Crucial to Many functions:

  • It helps regulate your body temperature. Sweat helps to cool you off when you’re hot or when you exert yourself, but if you don’t replenish the water you loose, you become dehydrated and your temperature will rise, like a car with a leaky radiator. And extreme dehydration can lead to serious problems, like low blood pressure and hypothermia.
  • It lubricates and cushions. In addition to cooling you when we exercise, it also makes all movements more comfortable, as it helps to lubricate and cushion joints, the spinal cord, and tissues throughout the body.
  • It helps clean out the junk. Your kidneys and intestines need water to flush out waste and keep food moving through the intestinal tract.
  • It protects babies in the womb. Amniotic fluid starts with water and, among other things, provides a protective cushion for those little whippersnappers as they prepare to enter the world.
  • It helps with digestion. Drinking water before, during, and after a meal helps your body break down food and make use of valuable nutrients. It also helps dissolve vitamins and minerals and deliver them to where they’re needed.
  • It helps prevent medical conditions, such as constipation, kidney stones, urinary tract infections, and hypertension.
  • It helps you look fantastic! In addition to hydrating, it also helps to remove toxins, contributing healthy skin, hair, and nails. (Protecting yourself from the sun also helps.)

 

Does Anything Else Hydrate?

There’s water in beer, right? It’s the first ingredient! True. But unfortunately, the alcohol content of most beers has at least a slightly negative impact on hydration. (It can still contribute to your need for water, but not as well as the pure stuff.) But coffee and tea count! While caffeine does have a slight diuretic effect (makes you want to pee), it’s so minimal that the hydrating properties of these beverages are positive. Unfortunately, caffeinated beverages can cause headaches and insomnia. But if you can get past those problems, feel free to count that morning latte or pot of Oolong toward your total daily need.

 

What’s Even Better than Water?

Milk. Studies have found that drinks with a little bit of sugar, fat, or protein actually do a better job of hydrating. Milk, even skim, has all of those, and they help to keep the fluids in the stomach longer so that hydration continues over a longer period of time. Too much sugar, however, can be a problem. Sports drinks are only for times when exercising intensely for more than an hour, as they do more than hydrate. They also replace electrolytes lost through perspiration and sugar to help boost energy. But when you’re not exercising, sugar just contributes to weight gain.

 

Tired of all that drinking, but still want to hydrate? There are lots of foods that can satisfy the need almost as well as a cool glass of agua. Watermelon, tomatoes, celery, zucchini, and lettuce are all more than 90% water! They not only help hydrate, but also contain fiber and several vitamins. The average person gets about 20% of their daily fluid intake from food.

 

In the end, it’s hard to beat water. No calories, no alcohol, no caffeine…and it’s free! So raise a pint of H2O. Cheers to your health!




Bye, Bye Berry Season…Hello Fab Fall Produce

Many of us relish the summer’s bounty of produce—from juicy berries to succulent tomatoes. But as prime produce season winds down you might be wondering what’s next. Don’t worry! Fall has more to offer than just gorgeous leaves. Here are a few seasonal produce faves and the health benefits they offer.

 

Super Fall Produce 1: Pumpkin

We don’t have to tell anyone that pumpkin is all the rage—pumpkin spice at least, that is. But if the extent of your pumpkin experience is drinking it in a latte or enjoying pumpkin-flavored everything, you’re missing out. (And, not to diss everyone’s favorite drink, but it’s important to consider that a PSL has a scary 50 grams of sugar, along with its nearly 400 calories.)

There are better ways to get the benefits of this health star.

  • How to eat it: Canned pumpkin has all the nutrients of fresh so it’s a great option to use for healthy soups, stews and chili. If you use fresh pumpkin, don’t forget to save and roast the seeds with a little oil and salt for a satisfying treat that can help reduce LDL or “bad” cholesterol.
  • Health benefit: Pumpkin is packed with vitamin A and beta carotene, which means it can help keep your eyesight sharp and ward off colds, among other benefits.

 

Super Fall Produce 2: Squash

Feeling bored with broccoli or listless with lettuce? Try butternut squash for a change of pace.

  • How to eat it: This is another veggie that’s quick and easy to make as a great side dish: Cut it in half, scoop out the seeds and toss in a little sugar and butter, then roast it in the oven for 30 minutes. You’ll want to make extra to toss in your salad or pasta for the next day.
  • Health benefits: Butternut squash is packed with the A, B Cs (vitamins that is), as well as healthy doses of fiber and potassium.

 

Super Fall Produce 3: Radishes

You might think of these as a summer veggie, but they’re readily available in fall, too, and come in a variety of colors, sizes and flavors so you can experiment to find the one that best suits your taste buds and recipes.

  • How to eat them: Roast radishes with butter for a stand-alone side dish, or add them to salads for a little zing or burgers for some crunch. This versatile veggie can be a nice accompaniment to ramen and also plays nicely with that millennial fave, the avotoast.
  • Health benefits: Radishes are a Vitamin C superstar, and also contain a virtual laundry list of vitamins and minerals – potassium, folate, riboflavin, niacin, Vitamin K, calcium, magnesium, zinc and manganese among them.

 

Super Fall Produce 4: Pears

Apples get most of the love in the fall, but pears are a fantastic fall choice. One of their main benefits is that they’re easy to eat just as they are, making them a healthy, delicious and portable snack.

  • How to eat them: Right out of your hand is one way, but there are also many ways you can use pears in recipes. They add delicious sweetness and crunch to salads and sandwiches, and yes, of course, they make fantastic desserts. But one fun way you might try them is in a pear and cheese ravioli. Salut!
  • Health benefits: The high fiber content in pears can be helpful for controlling appetite, potentially contributing to weight loss, and they can also guard against cancer, hypertension, diabetes and heart disease.

 

Super Fall Produce 5: Brussel Sprouts

We started with a veggie that’s having a moment and we’re going to finish with one too, as Brussel sprouts have attracted widespread attention and now frequently appear on the menus of on-trend restaurants.

  • How to eat them: Usually these days we see them roasted with some olive oil and garlic, and maybe tossed with a little Parmesan cheese. But you can take them up a notch by layering them with cheese in a gratin, a bit like you might do with roasted potatoes.
  • Health benefits: Another fiber standout, Brussel sprouts also have high amounts of antioxidants, which can help protect against cancer. They also contain Vitamin K, which can help protect against osteoporosis and are one of the best plant sources of omega-3 fatty acids, an important nutrient which can be hard to get if you don’t care for seafood.

 

Whatever your choice for fall produce, remember that the more produce of any type you eat, the better. And if you want a fun fall outing, consider going to a farmer’s market to pick up your produce straight from the source. Try this map as a place to start to find a local farmer’s market in your area.




Everything You Need to Know About the Keto Diet

Chances are high that you have heard someone talking about the “keto” diet, short for “ketogenic.” And when they talk about it, more than likely they are also raving about all the pounds they have lost and how good they feel. And, chances are also good that has made you curious about it. Let’s find out more about this hot eating plan and if it’s for you.

What is the Keto Diet?

Simply put, the keto diet is a low-carb, high-fat diet, similar to the Atkins or Paleo diets that many have followed. It differs from those, however, because the goal of the keto diet is to make the body produce “ketones,” which puts your body into “ketosis.” That metabolic state means that your body will start burning stored fat for energy, rather than glucose. That’s because if you don’t put carbs in, your body won’t turn to them for a source of energy first. 

The recommended percentage for a standard keto diet 75% fat, 15 to 20% protein and 5 to 10% carbohydrates. A calculator like this can help you keep track of how your diet is measuring up. 

Some foods that are recommended, according to Healthline include:

  • Seafood
  • Low-carb vegetables, like kale, broccoli, zucchini spinach, etc. 
  • Cheese
  • Avocados
  • Meat and poultry (grass-fed encouraged)
  • Eggs
  • Coconut oil
  • Plain Greek yogurt and cottage cheese
  • Olive oil
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Berries
  • Butter and cream (best in moderation)
  • Shirataki noodles
  • Olives
  • Coffee and tea (unsweetened)
  • Dark chocolate and cocoa power

Foods to avoid include:

  • Grains and starches in all forms
  • Fruit (other than berries) 
  • Root vegetables (potatoes, carrots, beets, etc.)
  • Sugar
  • Legumes
  • Sweetened drinks
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Alcohol

What Are Some Pros Of The Keto Diet? 

As described above, if followed comprehensively, the keto diet should help you burn stored fat because there is no longer glucose, or quick energy, to burn off. That means that you should be dropping pounds relatively quickly, while still feeling full given the high protein nature of the plan.

But that’s not the only benefit. Ongoing studies have pointed to a variety of potential health benefits, from lowered blood pressure to improved memory and life span (although this study was only done on mice). As the diet has only gained widespread use relatively recently, more studies are sure to be forthcoming, but early returns look promising. And of course, weight loss of any kind leads to less risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. 

It also has been shown to reduce seizures in children, which means that it may have potential for helping with Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and multiple sclerosis—although no studies yet prove that. But its potential to help with disabilities is exciting.

What Are Some Cons Of The Keto Diet?

First of all, it is very hard to stay on it for any length of time; that’s because the food is relatively limited, which means you need to plan ahead for virtually every meal. And as with most restrictive plans, when you go off the keto diet and resume natural eating patterns, you might quickly regain weight as you add carbs back in.

Also, some people who start the keto diet complain of the “keto flu,” a general feeling of fatigue, potentially accompanied by gastrointestinal symptoms, as their body transitions. That can often be warded off with plenty of water and sleep as your body adjusts. 

In addition it can be dangerous for some people—for example, people with insulin-dependent diabetes should never follow a keto diet. It’s best to always check with a medical professional before beginning a highly specialized diet as you might have additional health issues that would make you a poor candidate. In addition, it is smart to talk with a nutritionist to get sample diets to start you off on the right foot.

The Keto Diet Might Be Right For You If:

  • You are able to follow the meal planning advice carefully, preparing meals in advance and packing food when you go to work and out for meals. 
  • You don’t use it as an excuse to fill up on butter and bacon. If you routinely choose unhealthy fats and protein sources, you actually could raise your risk of diabetes and heart issues. 
  • You have been deemed a good candidate by a trusted health professional.

There are many ways to eat to lose weight, gain more energy and combat disease. The good news is that there is an eating plan for everyone—and the keto diet might be right for you. 




Earth Day | What Does It Mean to Go Green?

tips for how to go green this Earth Day

‘Going Green’ means to live life, as an individual as well as a community, in a way that is friendly to the natural environment and is sustainable for the earth, and Earth Day is the annual day of awareness that celebrates the green lifestyle.  

It is an opportunity for individuals and communities to come together to adopt new behaviors and share knowledge and practices that can lead to more environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible decisions and lifestyles.  As a result, Earth Day reminds us that small changes in how we live our daily lives today can help protect the environment and sustain its natural resources for future generations.

In our every deliberation, we must consider the impact of our decisions on the next seven generations. – Great Law of the Iroquois Confederacy

To meet today’s environmental challenges, it’s important for everyone to consider the effects of their actions at home and in the workplace. Here are a few tips and resources for environmental stewardship provided by experts at the World Watch Institute:

Recycle

Recycling programs exist in cities and towns across the United States, and as a result, helps save energy and protect the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, for each pound of aluminum recovered, Americans save the energy resources necessary to generate roughly 7.5 kilowatt-hours of electricity. This is enough to power a city the size of Pittsburgh for six years!

What you can do:

  • Put a separate container next to your trash can or printer, making it easier to recycle your bottles, cans, and paper.

Turn Off the Lights

On the last Saturday in March hundreds of people, businesses, and governments around the world turn off their lights for an hour as part of Earth Hour, a movement to address climate change.

What you can do:

  • Although Earth Hour happens once a year, you can make an impact every day by turning off lights during bright daylight, or whenever you will be away for an extended period of time.

Make the Switch

Compared to traditional incandescents, energy-efficient lightbulbs such as halogen incandescents, compact fluorescent lamps (CFLs), and light emitting diodes (LEDs) have the following advantages:

  • Typically use about 25%-80% less energy than traditional incandescents, saving you money
  • Can last 3-25 times longer.

What you can do:

  • Plan to switch out your traditional incandescents with energy saving bulbs the next time your old bulbs die out.

Turn ON the Tap

It is known that plastic water bottles create huge environmental problems, and therefore the energy required to transport these bottles could fuel an estimated 1.5 million cars for a year. The kicker here? About 75 percent of water bottles are not recycled, rather, they end up in landfills, litter roadsides, and pollute waterways and oceans. 

What you can do:

  • Fill up your glasses and reusable water bottles with water from the sink. The United States has more than 160,000 public water systems, and by eliminating bottled water you can help to keep nearly 1 million tons of bottles out of the landfill, as well as save money on water costs.

Turn DOWN the Heat

The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that consumers can save up to 15 percent on heating and cooling bills just by adjusting their thermostats. Turning down the heat by 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit for eight hours can result in savings of 5–15 percent on your home heating bill.

What you can do:

  • Turn down your thermostat when you leave for work, or use a programmable thermostat to control your heating settings.

Support Food Recovery Programs

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO),  roughly a third of all food produced for human consumption—approximately 1.3 billion tons—gets lost or wasted, including 34 million tons in the United States annually.

What you can do:

  • Encourage your local restaurants and grocery stores to partner with food rescue organizations.
  • Go through your cabinets and shelves and donate any non-perishable canned and dried foods that you won’t be using to your nearest food bank or shelter.

Buy Local

Local and small businesses are more sustainable because they are often more accountable for their actions, have smaller environmental footprints, and innovate to meet local conditions—providing models for others to learn from.

What you can do:

  • Instead of relying exclusively on large supermarkets, consider farmers markets and local farms for your produce, eggs, dairy, and meat. Food from these sources is usually fresher and more flavorful, and your money will be going directly to these food producers.

Get Out and Ride

Carpooling and using public transportation helps cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, as well as gas bills. Cities across the country are investing in new mobility options like bike sharing programs, and people are renting for short-term use. As a result, there’s been a significant reduction in emissions.

What you can do:

  • If available, use your city’s bike share program to run short errands or commute to work. Memberships are generally inexpensive (only $75 for the year in Washington, D.C.), and by eliminating transportation costs, as well as a gym membership, you can save quite a bit of money!
  • Even if without bike share programs, many cities and towns are incorporating bike lanes and trails, making it easier and safer to use your bike for transportation and recreation.

Share a Car

Car sharing programs spread from Europe to the United States nearly 13 years ago and are increasingly popular, with U.S. membership jumping 117 percent between 2007 and 2009.  Consequently, in 2009 car-sharing was credited with reducing U.S. carbon emissions by more than 482,000 tons. 

What you can do:

  • Join a car share program! As of July 2011, there were 26 such programs in the U.S., with more than 560,000 people sharing over 10,000 vehicles.
  • Of course, if you don’t want to get rid of your own car, using a shared car when traveling in a city can greatly reduce the challenges of finding parking (car share programs have their own designated spots), as well as your environmental impact as you run errands or commute to work.

Plant a Garden

Whether you live in a studio loft or a house in the suburbs, growing your own vegetables is a simple way to bring fresh and nutritious food literally to your doorstep with minimal impact. 

What you can do:

  • Plant some lettuce in a window box. Lettuce seeds are cheap and easy to find, and when planted in full sun, one window box can provide enough to make several salads worth throughout a season.

Compost

What better way to fertilize a personal garden than using your own composted organic waste. Likely, you will not only reduce costs by buying less fertilizer, but you will also help to cut down on food and other organic waste.

What you can do:

Reduce Your Meat Consumption

Livestock production accounts for about 18 percent of all human-caused greenhouse gas emissions and accounts for about 23 percent of all global water used in agriculture. You don’t have to become a vegetarian or vegan, but by simply cutting down on the amount of meat you consume can go a long way.

What you can do:

  • Consider substituting one meal day with a vegetarian option. And if you are unable to think of how to substitute your meat-heavy diet, websites such as Meatless Monday and Eating Well offer numerous vegetarian recipes that are healthy for you and the environment.

Making small changes and adopting sustainable practices, for instance, ride sharing, buying local,  turning off the lights, or recycling can make an enormous impact on the environment over the long term. 

Click here for more on Earth Day 2019 and ideas for change.