Category Archives: Healthy Eating

Everyday Household Health Dangers

Not to be alarmist, but there are dangers that lurk in your household that you aren’t even likely aware of – we weren’t! Consider this: you watch what you eat, you drink filtered water, you are diligent in the use of your seatbelt and you exercise daily.

Here are a few items that you probably have in your house that you may want to rethink:

  1. A pizza box. Because many of these boxes are greaseproof, they may contain PFCs. pizza boxPerfluorinated compounds have been associated with adverse health impacts such as thyroid, obesity, cancer and high cholesterol. PFCs are also found in carpet cleaning compounds, many take-out boxes and furniture. Toss that pizza box into the outside trash.
  2. Scented candles will help you unwind and de-stress, but some of those candles contain unhealthy chemical compounds. If you find your eyes and throat are irritated it could be because of the compounds in the candles. The mere fact of burning a candle can also lead to particle pollution in your home.
  3. Many items from the “dollar stores” come in packaging that has questionable chemicals including phthalates, lead or polyvinyl chloride plastics. If you purchase items from there, remove the packaging, toss it out into an outside garbage container and thoroughly wash your hands. Children are most at risk from illness from these chemicals.
  4. Antibacterial soaps sound like a good idea. The risks associated with using these soaps too frequently means that your body will have a harder time fighting off bacteria because your body may develop an increased antimicrobial resistance. Additionally, if the antibacterial soap contains triclocarban it can lead to unwanted hormonal implications as they can impact your thyroid.

Being aware of what is in your home can help you lead a healthier, happier life! If you care for an elderly person, it may be wise to look through their cupboards and junk drawers to be sure they aren’t saving things that could be causing them health issues!

Did You Know There Are Foods That Make You Hungrier?

Have you had that moment when you feel hunger pangs but look at the clock and realize you’d finished a meal not too long ago? If you’re wondering why you’re hungry not too long after a meal, many times it’s because the food you’re eating can leave you hungrier than you were before! It’s true.Salty Pretzels

Here are some of the foods that will leave you hungrier sooner:

  1. Salty snacks like pretzels and potato chips satisfy a craving for salt, but in truth the salt is an “addictive” additive that can lead to overeating and weight gain. Salted foods also won’t satiate you and will leave you hungrier than you were before you started! If it’s difficult to eat the recommended serving size of a salted snack, it might be best to keep them out of the house. If you’re craving a salty snack pair it with protein – a hard-boiled egg, for example to help satiate you.
  2. Artificial sweeteners have the same impact on your blood sugar and your hunger pangs as salt. It’s been shown that artificial sweeteners can increase your appetite. Consider this: real sugar is registered in the brain as a “reward” while artificial sweeteners don’t register that “reward” leaving you craving for sweets.
  3. White breads, pasta and rice are made from refined flours and that means you need to eat more in order to feel full. These foods can also cause a spike in your blood sugar because the carbohydrates are converted to sugar – this is problematic for diabetics. If you’re craving bread or pasta, eat whole grain bread, brown rice or combine your refined flours with protein to help fill you up and keep you fuller longer.
  4. Alcohol is very calorie dense, but lacks nutrition. Alcohol can also lead to mindless snacking. If you’re drinking, don’t drink on an empty stomach.
  5. Processed foods such as potato chips, cakes and pizza are delicious, but are typically made from refined flour and that raises your blood sugar. Processed foods also activate the “reward centers” of our brains and sends us a message of, “wow, that was great, I want more” and it triggers cravings. Stick with nuts and carrots instead of processed foods.

We know that the job of caregiving can affect your eating habits. If you’re aware of your cravings, when they strike and what you are really hungry for, chances are you can choose a healthier alternative. Stop and think about whether you’re craving salt or sweet or something crunchy or cold or hot or creamy and then find a healthy alternative to potato chips or cake; choose nuts or a bite of dark chocolate.

Improve Your Health

Caregivers may groan when they read this because they are so busy caring for their families, working a full time or a part time job and helping to take care of mom and dad. The idea of thinking about getting healthy might seem a bit daunting. Another way to think about a healthy lifestyle is that the state of being healthy will help you face the day and your tasks with a much lighter step and will help you feel even more effective and happier!

Getting in, and staying in, shape doesn’t happen overnight or by accident. Your health and a healthy lifestyle requires thought, work and making healthier choices. What does a healthy diet look like?

  • Fewer processed foods
  • More fruits and vegetables
  • Foods low in saturated fatsHealthy Eating Habits
  • Cutting back on sweets and refined sugars in snacks and beverages
  • Foods that are high in fiber

If you’re a fast food junkie it may take some planning to overcome the urge – and frankly the ease – of going through a drive-through for dinner. Believe us, we know how hard it is at the end of the day to go home and put together a healthy meal that everyone will love.

Pre-planning is essential. Talk with your family and make a weekly menu so that you know in advance what you’re having and you can have other members of your family help with the meal prep. If you’re the primary caregiver for aging loved ones it’s up to you to reach out to other family members – especially those that live in your house – to help share the load. When you’re in the midst of cooking and your belly is growling, make sure you have quick and easy access to cut up chunks of fruits and veggies that you can nibble on while you cook.

In addition to eating healthier you need to be active. You may be thinking, “I’m working. I’m taking care of my family AND I’m taking care of mom and dad… I am active.” You may be active when you’re doing all of this, but chances are you’re not taking time to be active for yourself. This means carving out time during your day to take a walk or to go to the gym or even take an aerobics class. Take time during the day to get up and move every hour – walk in place 500 steps an hour; you will be surprised how much it will add up! Take a dance class with your significant other or go on a bike ride with the family. It may seem as though you simply don’t have the time to add one more task to your day, but taking care of yourself and being active will benefit both you and your family in the long run.

Remember change takes time and you want to implement these lifestyle changes a little at a time in order to make them a part of your everyday living.

 

Is Diet Soda Healthier? Myths Uncovered

Diet Soda & HealthAs a caregiver, you are charged with caring for your aging or ill loved one, but you also need to care for yourself. Self-care, unfortunately, is not something that comes easily to caregivers – there are just too many pressing tasks on their plates, many of them say. One way in which a caregiver can practice self-care is through their food and drink choices.

Before you pick up that diet soda, thinking that you’re saving calories and therefore drinking “healthier” you should be aware of a few myths that are pervasive. Yes you will be saving calories and sugar and you can still receive a sometimes much-needed caffeine boost, but the caloric savings from diet to non-diet sodas may not even the scale.

Studies have shown though that even with the ingestion of fewer calories and sugar, diet sodas may not be better for your overall health. Researchers from Boston University found that both types of sodas – sugar and diet – can “boost the risk of metabolic syndrome- a collection of risk factors that increase the risk of health problems including heart disease diabetes and stroke.”

This metabolic syndrome was shown to be close to 40% higher among individuals who drank one can of soda a day as compared to those who didn’t drink soda. The research didn’t show that an individual who drank soda would suffer this syndrome, but that there was a connection.

It’s also been shown that those who drink sodas with artificial sweeteners may eat more than those who don’t drink diet sodas. The reason could be that the artificial sweetener doesn’t allow your body to properly “assess” the calories you’ve ingested and may make you believe you are still hungry.

Making a change from diet sodas with artificial sweeteners to regular soda is a start in weaning oneself off of carbonated drinks. Giving up soda is also better for your teeth because the carbonation can lead to tooth decay. A healthier option would be to give up soda all together and drink water. Add a slice of lemon or cucumber or even a few squeezes of lime juice to the water to jazz up the flavor a bit.

Ask your family and those in your care to give up the soda as a show of solidarity and help the family all make healthier choices in beverages!

Protect Yourself From Diabetes: Tips For Caregivers And Seniors

One of the most common and most prevalent forms of diabetes is Type 2 (formerly called adult-onset and/or non-insulin dependent diabetes). This form of diabetes impacts close to 95% of the 26 million Americans that have been diagnosed with diabetes.

Adults don’t have to look at a diagnosis if diabetes as an inevitable product of aging. If you want to prevent diabetes, taking care of yourself and living a healthy, active life can go a long way in keeping it at bay. Your doctor will also tell you that monitoring cholesterol and blood pressure levels is also critical to a healthy life and avoiding diabetes.

Here are some other steps you can take to reduce your risk of developing diabetes:

Eat nuts daily. Almonds, walnuts and other tree nuts have been shown to reduce the risk of developing diabetes. Even eating peanuts – a legume, not an actual nut – can be beneficial. Eat only the recommended daily amount.

120px-Cup_of_coffee_5084862159Enjoy your coffee! Increasing your coffee consumption by one cup a day over what you typically drink can provide a close to 10 percent decrease in developing diabetes as compared to those individuals who didn’t make any changes to their coffee drinking habits.

Take a walk after you eat. Getting up and moving, especially after a meal, will lower your risk. Also, it’s been shown that people who sit for more than eight hours a day are more likely to develop diabetes than their more active counterparts. Start lifting weights – resistance training can keep blood sugar levels in check in ways that even aerobic exercise cannot.

Cut back on alcohol consumption. Drinking more than four alcoholic beverages within a two hour time frame can increase the risk for developing Type 2 diabetes because alcohol interferes with insulin in the brain. Drinking soda, whether it’s sweetened or unsweetened, can increase your risk of developing diabetes by more than 25 percent.

Cutting back on the consumption of red meats can also decrease your chances of developing diabetes. Processed meats should also be eaten in limited quantities as well. Eating fish, poultry and whole grains and low fat dairy are much healthier for you overall and as a way to prevent diabetes.

Caregivers should be looking at living a healthier lifestyle – which we understand is not always the easiest when you’re helping take care of aging parents – but these tips are ideal for both caregivers and their relatives to consider.

Is Microwaving Your Food Healthy For You?

The Microwave was created in 1947 by Percy Spencer, then known as a radar range. Countertop microwaves were not introduced until 1955 and were fairly large and expensive. It was another 12 years before the microwave became more adaptable for use in the home.

Microwave ovens are found in 90% of American homes but are they healthy for cooking food? While extremely popular for reheating food, making popcorn and defrosting foods, they do not brown or caramelize foods. As the quality of fresh food has diminished over the past 100 years due to soil erosion, unsustainable farming practices and herbicides and pesticides, cooking in a microwave may further deplete the nutrition from our food supply.

Microwaving quickly heats food but it can also change the chemical structure. Microwaving has the tendency to make some nutrients inactive and when cooking in plastic and paper containers, some carcinogenic toxins can leach into your food. In the past, radiation leaking from the microwave was also a concern though newer models emit very small amounts.

People who have been exposed to radiation, whether from the microwave or other sources, can experience a number of symptoms. People who live near cell phone towers or other high frequency antennas can also suffer symptoms including:

  • Insomnia, night sweats and sleep disturbances
  • Headaches and dizziness
  • Weakened immune system
  • Vision and eye problems
  • Depression and irritability

Many people use the microwave regularly to prepare their food. In fact, for some seniors who live alone, it’s easier, and often cheaper, to throw a frozen dinner in the microwave than to shop for fresh foods and make meals from scratch.

If you are a caregiver, a friend or family member of an elderly person who lives alone, consider these ideas:

  • When making a casserole, meat loaf, lasagna etc…., make enough to take to your loved one. They will appreciate a good meal.
  • Make soup, put it in containers and freeze it in one meal portions. Instruct your loved one to heat it on the stove rather than the microwave.
  • Take them to out to dinner once a week or a month.
  • Invite them to your home for dinner.
  • Pack a picnic lunch and take them to the park, a museum or find another activity they enjoy.

Keeping your loved one from eating too many fast-food and microwaved meals will be better for their health and nutrition.

Five Stress-Busting Tips For Caregivers

Caring for an aging parent, ailing spouse or child can take its toll on the caregiver. While care-giving is a task undertaken with love it can cause a strain on the caregiver’s health and in some instances put a strain on the relationship between caregiver and the care recipient.

As a way to help relieve stress, caregivers need to take time for themselves, away from the duties of caring for a loved one. In many cases, it’s not easy to do because you may need to find someone to come and relieve you, or if your loved one it able to be left alone, you still may worry, “What if something happens while I am gone?” The answer to that worry is that you could find another family member or friend to come and stay with your loved one or you could equip the home with a home medical alert device; with this device, at the push of a button he or she can receive assistance in the event of an emergency while you were out. These devices provide peace of mind for all involved in the caregiving relationship.

Once you determine you’re in need of some “stress-busting” here are five steps you can take that will go a long way toward self care – something that far too many caregivers do without:

  1. Take time to meditate. For some the word “meditate” may conjure up images of having to sit crossed legged on the floor chanting and for others, it may be a more spiritual. You can fit in short bursts of meditation by going to a quiet, preferably darkened room, perhaps putting on soothing background music and simply relaxing. Concentrating on your breathing and relaxing your muscles is a great way to relieve some stress when you simply can’t get out of the house or away from the caregiving tasks you’re faced with.
  2. Spend one day a week making a week’s worth of meals. Make your freezer, casseroles and your oven your best friend. Setting aside one day a week to cook for the upcoming week is a great time saver, especially if you work outside of the home. When you batch cook you are already in cooking mode so things move along quickly. Look for all-in-one meals that freeze well and offer healthy proteins; supplement the meals with fruits or vegetables as a side dish. You’ll find that creating meals during busy weeknights to be far easier.
  3. Speaking of eating… caregivers often forget to eat or take care of themselves and may be more likely to grab a quick, sugary or high carbohydrate snack; this will give you a quick  burst of energy but it will quickly wane. Keep cut veggies and fruits in the fridge. Portion out healthy, high fiber snacks and keep them handy for a quick pick me up. Try to avoid sugary snacks and drive-through restaurants as your go to foods.Fruits and vegetables
  4. Volunteer. This may sound counter-intuitive to a caregiver, but find an organization that you love and volunteer your time – it could be a local animal shelter or teaching knitting at a senior center or offering guided tours at the local museum. When you volunteer in this capacity you are giving back to a charity or organization that you truly love and it will help you to interact with others and, frankly, get out of the house for a while. Volunteering is something that you are truly doing for you.
  5. Take time to just slow down. As a caregiver, especially if you work outside of the house, it’s almost natural to rush through everything. Rushing means you’re going to be distracted and honestly that could lead to either you or your loved one getting accidentally injured. Another way to slow down is to make certain you’re getting a good night’s sleep. How can you do that? Sleep in a cool, darkened room, don’t use your computer or smart phone in the bedroom, turn off the television (if you need noise to fall asleep, invest in a sleep machine), go to bed and get up at roughly the same time during the week and even on the weekend.

Remember, a well-cared-for caregiver is better able to care for his or her loved one.

 

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Steps To Wake Up Energized

Everyone has had those days when you get up and truly feel more tired than when you went to bed the night before. Did you know there are steps you can take to prevent that from happening so that you wake up with energy and vigor and are ready to face the day?

As we age, it’s not as easy to fall and stay asleep but a good night’s sleep goes such a long way in shaping both our mental and our physical health that it’s crucial that you sleep as well as you can. Here are our tips for getting the best night’s sleep you can and facing the day with enthusiasm and energy:

 

  1. Refrain from drinking coffee, wine or other alcohol a few hours before bedtime. Caffeine will make it difficult to fall asleep; alcohol makes it difficult to stay asleep.
  2. Sleep in a room that is cool and dark. If your bedroom is cool your body goes into sleep mode. Having a dark room without distractions such as a television or radio can make falling asleep easier.
  3. Don’t exercise close to bedtime. Exercise in the morning, around lunch or right after dinner. Exercise raises the heart rate and that will make it hard to fall asleep.
  4. Staying away from the computer, or even the television, for an hour prior to bedtime will make it easier to fall asleep. Your brain equates the flickering screens with daytime and will keep you awake.
  5. Resist the urge to sleep in. Getting up at the same time, even on the weekends, gets your body into a sleep/wake routine and the consistency will help you fall asleep.
  6. If you hit the snooze button, you will condition yourself to fall into a fitful sleeping pattern in which it is on alert, waiting for the next time the alarm goes off. If you do need an alarm, put the clock across the room so you have to get out of bed to turn it off.
  7. Drinking water, rather than your usual cup of coffee, as soon as you wake up with help rehydrate you; because dehydration can make you feel tired, getting fluids back into your system will wake you up.
  8. Light will help you wake up and stay awake. If you live in an area of the country that sees minimal light during the winter months you may want to consider purchasing an alarm that has a light on it that turns on slowly to ease you into wakefulness. Opening the curtains and letting in natural light will also help revive you. If you feel sluggish and tired during the winter talk to your doctor and ask about getting an artificial sunlight lamp that simulates natural light.
  9. Eating a high protein breakfast is the best way to start the day. Because the protein contained in eggs or meat will be converted in your body into dopamine you will feel energized. Ingesting carb-heavy meals or sugar and processed foods will make you feel tired.

Eating healthy meals and exercising will help keep you healthier longer and allow you to better age in place.

 

 

 

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Stay Healthy Naturally

Nobody enjoys catching a cold or coming down with the flu. The symptoms are miserable and an illness usually means that the patient has to miss work or school as a result. But there are steps that you can take to protect yourself naturally from cold and flu germs throughout the year so you can stay healthy and on top of your game.

Eat a healthy diet all year long and if you really want to boost your immune system and stave off those nasty germs, increase your intake of green tea. Green tea contains an antioxidant which reduces the risk of illnesses. Add some fresh garlic to your diet as the sulfur compounds will kill virus germs. Ginger contains antiviral compounds so steep it in tea to help keep flu and cold germs away.

Wash your hands frequently, especially if you are around people who are sniffling and sneezing. Your hands are usually your first point of contact with viruses so make sure you wash them with soap and water foregoing antibacterial washes. They do little to kill virus germs on your hands.

Try to keep your hands away from your face especially your eyes, nose and mouth. If you have germs on your hands and touch these parts of your face, the germs will have a quick entry point. If you are sharing a phone with others, wipe it down frequently. Do not share cups or utensils.

Use a humidifier in your home to keep your nasal passages from drying out. Change the water daily.

Get plenty of exercise throughout the year to boost your immune system which will fight germs naturally. If you feel a cold or flu symptoms creeping up on you, pop some zinc lozenges or use some zinc nasal gel as both have been known to reduce the length of cold and flu.

Doing these things doesn’t guarantee you will miss cold and flu season but they are certain steps to help fight off germs.

 

Related articles:

http://www.thestar.com.my/Lifestyle/Family/Features/2013/07/19/Go-organic-one-step-at-a-time.aspx

 

More Med Diet News: Could Olive Oil Help Slow Aging and Improve Health?

The health benefits of consuming a Mediterranean Diet have long been touted and olive oil is an ingredient that makes its way into this style of cooking. Now, researchers in Spain have discovered that adding extra virgin olive oil to recipes and food preparation can reduce overall total cholesterol in the elderly and can also increase the HDL (aka good cholesterol) levels.

A study, published in the Archives of Gerontology and Geriatrics included participants 65 to 96-years-old. There were 62 people in the group and they were divided into a control group that maintained their usual diet and an olive oil group that used extra virgin olive oil as the only added fat in their daily diet and also consumed three additional tablespoons of the oil per day.

At the six week mark, the individuals in the olive oil group were found to have had a significant reduction in

Olive Oil

Olive Oil (Photo credit: desegura89)

their total cholesterol and an increase in their “good” cholesterol. The olive oil group also had a “higher plasma total antioxidant capacity” which led researchers to believe that the inclusion of the oil also improved the antioxidant health of the elderly people in the group.

These findings show that a Mediterranean diet could be ideal for the elderly. Additionally, another study conducted by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago found that elderly men who consumed this diet regularly had a close to 100% lower chance of developing depressive symptoms than those who didn’t consume a diet based on the Mediterranean philosophy. Memory loss was the focus of a study published in Neurology and it found that of the 17,000 individuals over 45-years-old that ate a Mediterranean style diet, there was a lower risk of developing memory loss as they aged. A separate study performed by Spanish researchers found that the use of olive oil and adherence to a Mediterranean diet could improve vascular dysfunction and could protect against many of the chronic diseases that are associated with aging.

What is a Mediterranean Diet?

At its most basic, a Mediterranean diet is one rich in plant based foods and low in fats. The Mediterranean Diet Food Pyramid recommends seven to 10 servings of fruits and vegetables daily. Whole grains and legumes, which account for a large part of the diet should be high-fiber whole grains. Choose legumes such as beans, lentils and peas as they are high in fiber and are a good source of protein. While this diet is not a “no-fat” diet, it is a “low fat” option. Olive oil is a primary cooking oil and you should avoid saturated fats such as those found in dairy products and meat. Although the Mediterranean diet focused on plant based foods, dairy and meat can also be part of the plan, as long as they are eaten in moderation. Shellfish and other fish should be part of your diet at least two meals a week. Skinless poultry is also on the diet one or two times a week while lean cuts of red meat should be eaten no more than twice a month.

This diet has many healthful benefits but before beginning any type of diet you should check with your doctor first to see whether it is right for you.