Category: Lifestyle

What You Need to Know About Superfoods

As the health craze continues among Americans, you’ve probably seen the term “superfood” more and more over the last few years.

So what exactly are superfoods and what benefits do they provide?

While there is no real definition or inclusion criteria for “superfoods,” they are often described as nutrient powerhouses that pack large doses of antioxidants, polyphenols, vitamins, and minerals.

Some of the more popular “superfoods” include:

  • Blueberries: rich in vitamins, fiber and phytochemicals, high intake of this superfood has been found to reduce the risk of certain heart conditions in young women.
  • Kale: packed with antioxidants, kale helps to fight cardiovascular disease, prevent several types of cancer, prevent pre-mature aging of the skin, and promote urinary health.
  • Sweet Potatoes: full of antioxidants and fiber, just one of these gives your body more than the recommended daily dose of Vitamin A.

However, like most other good-for-you foods, while superfoods can provide a lot of benefits, they aren’t a magic bullet. Because the term is most often used as a marketing tool, consumers often wrongly believe that eating these foods on top of a poor diet can provide the same benefits. Instead, superfoods should be incorporated into a heart-healthy diet full of other fruits, vegetables, and healthy grains.

Tips for a Healthy Fourth of July Weekend

Fourth of July weekend is officially here, which means sunshine, fireworks, barbecues, and time spent with family and friends. However, with lots of food, drinks and sun, the Fourth of July and “healthy” aren’t exactly synonymous.

But before you just throw all your healthy habits out the door this weekend- here’s a few tips on how to have a healthy {and happy} Fourth of July weekend:

  • Wear sunscreen, even if you’re not laying out at the pool or beach. Even if you’re not laying out in your bathing suit, if you’re sitting outside all day at your neighbor’s barbecue it’s important to remember to apply (and reapply) sunscreen to any parts of your body that are exposed to the sun for a long period of time.
  • Get moving. Just because it’s a holiday weekend doesn’t mean you can’t be active. Sign up for your local 5K or take an early morning run on the beach. Stay active throughout the day by playing games like frisbee or volleyball with family and friends.
  • Eat healthy. While indulging in that piece of cake or a cheeseburger is fine, be careful not to go overboard. Making small changes like using whole wheat buns, or putting an extra scoop of grilled veggies on your plate can make all the difference. If it’s a potluck- make sure there’s a healthy option by bringing something like this red, white, and blue fruit salad.

Most importantly, have fun and be safe!

Protein 101

Over the last ten years, high-protein diets have become a prominent trend in the health and fitness world. People are eating less carbs and more protein to aid with both weight loss and body building. But before you throw the bread out the door, it’s important to understand what protein is and how much you actually need.

What is protein?

Proteins are nutrients made up of small building blocks called amino acids. These amino acids are broken down and then made into new proteins your body needs to grow, repair, and function.

Our bodies are able to produce some of these amino acids, but there are nine, called essential amino acids, that we must obtain from the food we eat.

While protein comes from a variety of sources, it’s important to understand that not all proteins are the same. In general, there are two kinds:

  • Compete proteins- Found in animal sources like meat, fish, dairy, and eggs, these proteins provide your body with all the essential amino acids
  • Incomplete proteins- Found in plant sources like nuts, seeds, legumes, and grains, these proteins lack one or more essential amino acids.

If you’re a vegetarian, or eat a more plant-based diet, don’t fret! Combining complementary plant-based proteins, like rice and beans, can provide your body with the same benefits as a complete protein.

How much protein do I need?

Because our body does not store protein for future use like it does with carbohydrates and fat, constant protein intake is important. But how much is enough?

In the United States, the recommended daily allowance of protein is .36 grams per pound of body weight. On average, this is:

  • 46 grams per day on average for women
  • 56 grams per day on average for men

However, while this is a recommendation for an average adult, exactly how much protein you need depends on a variety of factors, including age, sex, health and physical activity. To calculate a more precise amount, use this calculator from the USDA.

Overall, it’s important to remember that while consuming protein is important to keep your body functioning, too much protein can be detrimental to your health. For a healthy diet and lifestyle, make sure to eat a balanced combination of proteins, carbs, and fats.

 

 

The Dangerous Myths Behind Indoor Tanning [Infographic]

GUEST BLOGGER: Sophia Bernazzani

While everyone wants a beach-ready body by the start of summer, you may want to reconsider that next indoor tanning session. Although the risks associated with excessive exposure to ultraviolet (UV) rays are well documented and include everything from sunburns to skin cancer, according to the World Health Organization, myths still abound about the supposed safety of indoor tanning. Indoor tanning is thought to be safer than traditional sun tanning, to help prevent sunburns and to be completely unrelated to melanoma, the most dangerous form of skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation. Besides, only women and old people are at risk for skin cancer, right?

Wrong. Just like sun tanning, indoor tanning involves UV rays, which are the primary culprit Georgetown Tanning Graphicbehind melanoma, according to the American Cancer Society. Research from the journal Photodermatology, Photoimmunology & Photomedicine indicates that indoor tanning slightly increases your risk of subsequent sunburns. Not only does research from the American Journal of Public Health find indoor tanning partially to blame for an increase in melanoma among young adult women over the last decade, but it’s men, not women, who have the highest risk for skin cancer, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

“The Truth About Indoor Tanning,” an interactive graphic from Georgetown University’s online family nurse practitioner program, explodes these myths about indoor tanning and UV rays just in time for summer. Share it with the misinformed, young tanners in your life today

Quench Your Thirst in a Healthier Way This Summer

Summer is officially here! While that may mean more hours at the pool or beach, more family picnics, and more time outside in general, it’s important to remember that excessive heat exposure can lead to dehydration, which can lead to more serious health complications like heat exhaustion, heat cramps, and heat stroke.

In order to stay healthy all summer long, it’s important to not only stay hydrated, but to know how to hydrate yourself the right way. While it may be tempting to crack open that soda at your friend’s barbecue or enjoy that iced cold cocktail by the pool, these beverages will only dehydrate you more.

Here are some sugary beverage alternatives that will keep you healthy and hydrated this summer:

  1. Water. Water is the best way to give your body back the fluids lost from sweating in the heat. While experts recommend drinking 6-8 cups of water a day, this number should increase if you’re spending more time outside.
  2. Infused Water. If drinking plain water is hard for you, try infusing your water with fresh fruit to give it that extra flavor. Try this Blueberry Orange Water, this Strawberry Lime Cucumber Mint Water or create your own!
  3. Watermelon. This popular summer snack is 92% water, and its salt, calcium, and magnesium content make it ideal for rehydration.
  4. Smoothies. Smoothies can offer rehydration benefits IF you include the right ingredients. Try to fill yours will water filled fruits like strawberries, watermelon, or cucumbers, and fill with liquids like coconut water instead of milk. Try this Refreshing Strawberry Watermelon Smoothie.

Stay hydrated!

FDA Makes Big Changes to Nutrition Facts Label

Two weeks ago, the FDA finalized the new Nutrition Facts label for packaged food products. While the iconic look of the twenty-year old label will stay the same, several changes were made to the information provided in order to help consumers make more informed decisions about the foods they eat.

Some of the major changes include:

  • Increasing the type size for “Calories,” “servings per container,” and the “Serving size” declaration. This change along with bolding the number of calories and the “Serving size” declaration will serve to better highlight this important information.
  • “Added sugars,” in grams and as percent Daily Value, will now be included on the label. Because excessive sugar intake typically occurs from the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and processed foods that contain an abundance of added sugar (as opposed to natural sugar), this information will now be included on nutrition facts labels.
  • Serving sizes must be based on amounts of foods and beverages that people are actually eating, not what they should be eating. Because how much people eat has changed, and because package sizes affect how much people eat, serving sizes will be updated to be more realistic. For example, the serving size for ice-cream will change from 1/2 cup to 2/3 cup, and both 12 and 20 oz soda bottles will equal one serving, since most people drink a whole bottle in one sitting.

ucm501515

Old label vs. New label

Manufacturers will need to use the new label by July 26, 2018. However, manufacturers with less than $10 million in annual food sales will have an additional year to comply. For more information about all the changes made, visit the FDA website.

How to have healthy feet this summer!

Summer is almost here and many people are getting ready to expose their toes. Whether you’re shopping for flip flops, going for a pedicure, painting your nails at home, or planning a vacation, there are some things you need to consider to keep your feet healthy. In honor of National Foot Health Month, here are some health and safety tips from the American Podiatric Medical Association to get your feet ready for summer!

 

To get your feet looking their best:

  • Cut nails straight across, not curved, to reduce the chance of ingrown nails.
  • Use a pumice stone, foot file, or exfoliating scrub to remove dead skin and calluses, not a razor or other sharp implement (these increase the risk of infection by removing too much skin).
  • Dry between your toes thoroughly to avoid fungal infections.
  • Don’t paint nails if you have a fungal infection (discoloration is a warning sign) as this blocks air flow to the nail. Wait until the problem is resolved.

 

  • Don’t shave your legs the day of a pedicure. This creates small breaks in the skin that increase your risk of infection.
  • If possible, go to the nail salon in the morning when everything is likely to be cleanest, and make sure the salon sterilizes their foot bath and tools between clients.

 

When shopping for summer footwear:

  • Look for sandals made of leather which is less likely to create blisters and other irritation.
  • Make sure your feet don’t hang over the edge or off the end of the sandal.
  • Don’t wear flip-flops or sandals when walking long distances. They lack sufficient shock absorption and arch support.

 

While on vacation:

  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to your feet and ankles if they’ll be exposed to the sun to prevent burns.
  • Stay hydrated to prevent your feet from swelling on a hot day.
  • Try not to walk barefoot in public places, like around a pool or in locker rooms and showers to prevent bacterial and fungal infections.

 

Do you have any other tips for keeping your feet in top condition?

Practice These Morning Habits For A Better Day Ahead

Most of us fail to consistently get a good night’s sleep, BUT there are things you can do the next morning so you won’t feel exhausted throughout the day. The good news is that you can begin feeling better before you even leave the house. While some of these may be obvious, we bet there are some that may shock you.

  • Don’t look at your phone after you awake. Studies reveal the longer you stay in bed, the longer your brain waits to prepare for the day ahead. Electronic devices have contributed to this problem, as people are inclined to check the weather, send emails, read news headlines, or review social media immediately after awakening. The rule of thumb here is, “when you wake up, get up.” The phone can wait.
  • Don’t be discouraged by your fitness tracker. While Fitbits and the like are great for giving us detailed information regarding the quality of our sleep, sources say beginning the day by looking at negative sleep reports can induce stress and get us off on the wrong foot. Folks tend to begin their day with the mindset they should be tired, even when they aren’t.
  • Drink plenty of water. We all know drinking water is good for many reasons, but replenishing our bodies after a long night of sleep gives us the energy we need to begin our day. Water not only helps relieve “morning breath” but it also helps keep from feeling tired and irritable. So while you perk that initial pot of coffee, go ahead and grab a glass of water and get to hydrating yourself ASAP.
  • Shower in the morning. We all love a hot shower just before bed, but studies show this can have a negative effect on our sleep since our core body temperature drops to about 60 degrees before we fall into a deep sleep. Showering before bed can result in a delay in hitting REM or can cause restless sleep since it takes longer for our bodies to cool down. Actually, a warm morning shower can help energize us by raising our body temperatures and helping us to awake quicker than taking cooler showers or not showering at all.
  • Exercising at night keeps us up. It may be difficult to get in an hour workout before work at 8 a.m., but studies reveal the more activity you do during the later hours in the day, the more likely you’ll have a harder time falling asleep at night. In fact, working out in the morning makes us awake quicker and leaves us energized throughout the day, regardless of the amount of sleep we actually got.
  • Get outside! This should be no-brainer, but Vitamin D gives us energy, and reduces the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin. As soon as you arise, you should open the curtains and let the sunlight in. Go for a morning walk or run if you really want an extra energy boost.
  • Turn on the tunes. If you exercise regularly, chances are that your iPod often helps get you in the mood to get you through your work out. Well, the same theory can be applied to getting out of bed. Turn on something upbeat to help you power through your morning routine – think: Pharrell’s “Happy”, “Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves, or “September” by Earth, Wind & Fire.

 

Photo source: Flickr.com

 

A Smoothie a Day Keeps the Doctor Away

The weather is warming up, which for me means many more smoothies to start my day. Smoothies are known to have a variety of health benefits, providing a variety of vitamins and oils essential for good nutrition. However, before you run to the nearest smoothie bar, it’s important to be weary when buying pre-made smoothies, as they can reach up to 75 grams of sugar! The best way to make sure your smoothie is full of nutrients and low on sugar is to make them yourself. Here are a few of my favorite at-home healthy smoothie recipes:

Banana Green SmoothieThis is one of my favorite breakfast smoothies, especially after a long weekend of eating not-so-healthy food. With only 13.8 grams of sugar and only 255 calories, this smoothie is full of nutrients to boost your energy and make you feel good.

Strawberry Almond Smoothie: Another breakfast favorite (also good for a mid-day snack!), this simple and easy smoothie is made with just four ingredients.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Banana Shake: This smoothie is great when you’re craving something sweet and chocolatey. Filled with protein and only 21 grams of sugar, this is a great substitute for that piece of chocolate cake or pint of ice-cream.

So while it can be tempting to grab a smoothie from a local store, remember that making them at home can be just as quick and easy, and will even save you money! Happy blending!

What does it mean to be healthy?

Today is National World Health Day!

At first, it seems obvious what this day is all about- promoting health. But health is not a simple concept when you examine it more closely. So, what is health?

Most of us automatically think of a healthy person as someone who is free of disease. However, this is a narrow definition that does not take into consideration other mental, social, or environmental factors that can impact the quality of a person’s life. According to the World Health Organization, “Health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.”

Because health is a subjective state of well-being and not an objectively classifiable disease-free state, health can actually differ radically from person to person. Perhaps even stranger to consider is the fact that what is considered “healthy” or “diseased” is not consistent across cultures, in fact, both of these terms represent socially constructed concepts.

For example, in Anne Fadiman’s novel The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, she follows the true story of Lia Lee, the young daughter of Hmong immigrants who suffers from what Western society calls epilepsy. However, to her family and others in their culture, Lia’s condition is not a disease but is a mark of spiritual distinction. The struggles that subsequently ensue between Lia’s Western doctors and her family is a lesson in the importance of communication and cultural understanding when different definitions of health and illness clash.

So, since there is no set definition for what it means to be healthy, celebrate National World Health Day this year by defining what being healthy means to you, then try talking to your friends or family about their definitions of health and see how they compare!

Feel free to share your thoughts about health in the comments below.