Walking to Reduce Stress

Walking
My husband and I have working on so many projects I’m constantly exhausted. When I get this worn-out my head starts swimming and I can’t sleep at night. Obviously this is not good for your health, especially if it goes on for weeks on end. Another side effect I found is the quality of the work is not up to par. Something had to change.

I  put a stop to the intense work and moved out some deadlines. I’m now committed to taking one day a week off to do something fun with my husband, a friend or a family member. What have I been doing on my day off? Walking on the beach, through the park, on mountain trails, the museum, the zoo and the botanical gardens. You’d think this would be tiring but it’s nothing compared to the mental strain of constant work. In fact, I feel less stress, I’m sleeping better and when I jump back into work, I’m not struggling anymore. I may even be getting more done! Who would have thought?!

My recommendation to you is if you are feeling stressed or over worked, take a walk, breath deep and clear your head. It’s great for productivity, your mental state and your health!

Blueberries are the Favorite Superfood!

Blueberry

So you’ve heard that blueberries are a Superfood, but do you know what that means? That means blueberries are one of the healthiest foods for you, and if you ask me, one of the tastiest too!

Here is a list of possible health benefits you’ll find in blueberries:

  • Loaded with vitamins and minerals
  • Good for your brain
  • Good for your skin
  • Helps you lose weight
  • Prevents aging
  • Prevents cancer
  • Prevents heart disease
  • Increases Dopamine which make you feel good
  • Reduces pain
  • Prevents urinary tract infections
  • Prevents eyes from damage from oxygen
  • May reduce allergy symptoms
  • May help maintain blood sugar levels in diabetics

Phytochemicals in blueberries are responsible for most of these benefits. They are loaded with them!

When you buy blueberries you may want to buy organic. Pesticide residue is higher on blueberries than other fruits. Check the blueberries to be sure they are firm and free from mold before you buy them. Store them in the grocery store container and do not wash them until you are ready to eat them. Adding water increases the chances of mold during storage. If you buy a lot of blueberries you may freeze some. Spread them out on a cookie sheet making sure they don’t touch. This will keep them from sticking together when they freeze. Put the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once they are frozen hard, take them off the cookie sheet and put them in freezer bags.

Blueberries are native to North America so if you want fresh blueberries it’s fairly easy to grow them.  Blueberries are grown on a bush which can be planted anywhere in your yard. They make a nice hedge too. The trick to growing good blueberries is soil preparation. Blueberries need plenty of moisture so add compost and peat moss to your planting spot before you plant your bush.  Pinch off flowers the first year to allow the bush to expend its energy into growing thick and healthy roots and branches. In a couple years you will be rolling in blueberries!

There are so many ways to use blueberries.  Put them on your cereal, fruit salad, or green salad. Bake them in bread, muffins, scones or cobbler. Make pancake syrup out of them, juice them, add them to your smoothies or just pop them in the mouth fresh from the bush!

Nail Polish Dangers

Nail Polish

Do you use nail polish? I use it every now and then. For years I’ve heard concerns that the nail polish chemical phthalate was bad for your health. Many people ignored these concerns saying it couldn’t be absorbed in the body because the polish is applied to the nails which are considered dead material. If you still believe this, think again! Regardless, many polish companies changed the formula from phthalates to triphenyl phosphate (TPHP) to reduce risks.

Duke University and the Environmental Working Group just released a new study that shows the chemical TPHP was found absorbed in their test subject’s bodies 10 to 14 hours after using the polish.  A bigger concern is the body creates diphenyl phosphate (DPHP), another chemical, when the TPHP is broken down. That chemical level increases by almost 700%.

These chemicals disrupt the endocrine system responsible for development, metabolism and reproduction. With these changes in levels, young people might not physically develop properly and could have difficulty with pregnancy. With the changes to metabolism, it’s very possible this could also cause weight gain and could lead to obesity.

I just removed my toenail polish yesterday and now decided not to put it back on! The issue is although not all nail polishes have TPHP, not all nail polishes that have TPHP have it on their ingredient list. I’m sure this new study will prompt the FDA to require this information going forward, but it’s going to take a while for the bottles of polish at the stores to turn over so you can be certain you have a new bottle with the latest information. Online you can find a list of the polishes that use the chemical and I’m sure companies who don’t use TPHP will start advertising it. Do your research before putting your polish back on!

Pizza…. The Age Old Question

pizza

Is pizza bad for you? I get this question a lot. The answer is….it depends.

I eat pizza at least once a week. It’s simple to buy (or make) and if you pick the right type of pizza it’s also a healthy, well balanced meal. Here are the items that you should avoid on your pizza:

  • Pepperoni
  • Sausage
  • Bacon
  • Hamburger
  • Extra Cheese
  • Thick Crust and health forbid….Stuffed Crust!

You are probably saying….but what about the meat?! Choose these meat options instead:

  • Chicken
  • Canadian Bacon
  • Ham

Needless to say the best items you can put on your pizza are vegetables. Vegetarian pizzas have come a long way. You can usually find a Mediterranean style pizza, pizzas with roasted vegetables, some with spinach or kale and I’ve even come across a hummus pizza with roasted red peppers.

As far as sauces go, the standard red sauce is actually low in fat and higher in nutrients than white sauces or pesto, although a good olive oil and garlic pesto does have a higher amount of Omega 3 fatty acids and medicinal properties from the garlic. I’ve also seen barbecue and Alfredo sauce but these are not the healthiest options.

When it comes to crust, the thinner the better. The number of calories in your pizza increases dramatically with the thickness of the crust. Healthy flatbread pizzas have become very popular. And for those of you on gluten free diets, many pizza makers now offer gluten free crusts that are amazingly good.

To be sure you have the healthiest pizza possible you can make your own at home. There are premade crusts available in most grocery stores. Minimize the amount of cheese you put on your pizza. That will save you on fat, cholesterol and sodium. Put whatever toppings you want on your pizza and warm it in the oven. Let’s talk portion control. You’ve made this healthy pizza so don’t blow it by eating too many pieces. Two small pieces or one large piece is a good serving size. Save the rest for another meal. Pizza leftovers are the best!

So there you have it….the answer to the age old question. I’ve given you a license to eat pizza!
Simple, tasty and healthy!

Melons Help You Lose Weight

Melons

I didn’t realize the variety of melons out there until I saw this pile of melons at the farmers market.  You are probably familiar with the watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew melon, but have you ever seen a Galia, Canary, Xigua  or Casaba melon?

The good news is all melons are healthy for you. They contain a decent amount of Folate, Vitamin B6, Vitamin C and Potassium. They are low in sodium and virtually no fat.  What’s most exciting is they are only 50 calories per serving and a serving is a whole quarter of a melon! This is one of the greatest weight loss foods because it’s so low in calories and still makes you feel full due all the fiber.

Melons originated in Africa and Asia and eventually made their way to Europe. The vines are fairly easy to grow most anywhere in the United States. It’s necessary to water melons consistently so if you decide to give it a try I recommend using a timer drip irrigation system.

Pick a good melon by looking for any damage on the outside and feeling the skin for firmness. If it’s soft it’s overripe or bruised. Sniff the end of the melon. If it smells good and sweet, it’s ripe. For a watermelon, knock on the outside and it should sound hollow. Also the spot where the melon was touching the ground should be yellowish. If it’s still green, it’s not ripe yet.

I’ve tasted a number of these melons and still find the watermelon and cantaloupe to be my favorite. The others are not as sweet. If you don’t have a sweet tooth, and prefer a more complex flavors, give these other melons a try. You will probably really enjoy it and may even make them a regular part of your diet!

Red Beans and Rice Recipe – simple, cheap and healthy

Red Beans Rice

If you are looking for a cheap and healthy meal, here is the recipe for you! This is one of my favorites and so simple to make. I usually use a full pound of beans and rice combined and freeze the leftovers. Yes it’s possible to freeze this meal if you don’t overcook the beans. The picture is proof that it can keep its texture if it’s defrosted before warming up in the microwave. It’s only about $0.10 per serving if you cook the beans rather than use canned. What a bargain considering all the B vitamins, protein and fiber you get! Who knew healthy could be so tasty?!

  • 1lb Dry Beans (you can use any kind)
  • 1 cup Dry Long Grain Rice
  • 1/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 1 small Onion diced
  • 1 Green Pepper diced
  • 1 clove minced Garlic
  • 1 tsp ground Thyme
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder
  • 1 tsp your favorite Cajun Spice (more if you like it hot)
  • 1 tsp sea salt (or to taste)

Cook beans and rice separately according to directions on the package (remember to soak the beans the night before). Combine all ingredients in a large pot over medium heat, adding a little water so it isn’t dry, or until the consistency is the way you like it (firm if you will be freezing leftovers). Cook until warm and serve.

Winter Preparation this Fall

Fall Colors

Fall is one of the most beautiful times of the year. If you’re like most people you are probably rushing around enjoying the last of the sunshine before the winter hits. Watch out though…..snow can strike at any time and leave you unprepared.

Early preparation will simplify your transition to winter. Everyone has different requirements but here are a few things you can add to your list to do now to reduce your stress level in the coming months.

Fall House Cleaning: While it’s still warm enough to open your windows, do a thoroughly cleaning of your house including moving and cleaning behind furniture, getting fresh air throughout the house.

Yard Work: If you’ve been putting off your fall clean up, do it now or you may be overwhelmed in the spring.

Swap your Clothes: Move your winter clothes into your most accessible closet and drawers. Waking up to surprise snow on a work day can result in not only delays in driving, but also the time you spend digging for something warm to wear.

Car preparation: Make sure any major maintenance services are done now. If you need snow tires buy then now or if you own some, have them put on your car. Between the holiday’s and potentially longer drives in bad weather, finding time to take care of these will become more difficult. A dependable car is so important in the winter.

Stocking Up: Stock up on canned goods and bottled water in case of an emergency like a power outage.

Emergency Kit: Keep a first aid kit in both your home and your car. In case you get stuck in your vehicle you may also want a blanket, flashlight, water, snack bars and a folding shovel.

Emergency Plan: Talk to your family about what to do in case of an emergency. Come up with a mutual meeting spot in case of a disaster that causes you to lose communication with them. Always plan for a worst case scenario.

Taking these steps now will keep you from stressing when the weather hits. It may even save your life!

Mood from Your Food

Donut

Have you ever gone through a period of time where you were in a great mood and then a day or two you were depressed, but there seemed to be no reason for it?  Did you know your mood is affected by what you eat? You may be surprised to find that your digestive system is closely linked to your mental health. Your gastrointestinal system has its own nervous system so there is a link to the brain. Most of your immune system is also in your gut so you really need to take care with what you eat.

What can put you in a bad mood? Sugar, simple carbohydrates, alcohol, high amounts of fat, caffeine and processed foods.  The good news is there are actually more foods that put you in a good mood than in a bad one, so if you focus, you should be able to succeed in keeping your mind fresh and happy.

Considering much of your immune system is in your GI tract, you will want to feed yourself lots of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory foods to improve your brain activity and your mood. Here is a list of good mood foods:

  • Fresh fruits and vegetables (of course!)
  • Fatty fish oil (salmon and sardines)
  • Vitamin B foods (legumes, avocados, eggs, nuts, meat, dairy, spinach and other greens)
  • Vitamin D (seafood, mushrooms and nuts)
  • Probiotics (yogurt, kefir and sauerkraut)
  • Inulin (onion and garlic)