I recently posted about the benefits of the sunshine vitamin – Vitamin D, which obviously you all read. So, I simply want to remind you of how good it is for you, and bring your attention to a recent study tying higher vitamin D levels with better cognition and mood in Parkinson’s disease patients. Enjoy!
I couldn’t help but laugh at how simple and unsurprising this list is, and yet how difficult it is to do almost each and every one of these. Why? Many reasons. Most are within your control, some are not, and almost all of them are just tough to do. It takes work, ugh. But that is no excuse…nothing good comes easy.
I will dole out a morsel of sympathy, and acknowledge that our environment makes it really hard to do these things, even when you do your best to be mindful and intentional about incorporating healthy habits into your life. Stuff happens, goals change, the environment changes, you change.
I proactively do my best to check-off items on this list (except for #12), but like everything else, I have to prioritize certain things over others depending on the moment, day, week, or month.
Print it, post it, and see if you can check-off at least a few of these each day or month
As I STOOD to read for one of my classes, I felt compelled to share what I came across. I try to keep things short, but get excited and right more than I intend to. Sorry peeps…
New research indicates that excessive sitting throughout most days of the week is a “deadly proposition.” People who spend most of the day sitting are cancelling out the health benefits obtained through physical activity and exercise. Oh shizzz…this means if you are not active, not moving or working, and you are partaking in inactive actions for most of the day, then you are at a deficit, and swiftly decreasing your lifespan. Sorry, I know it’s morbid, but it’s the truth. The more you sit the greater death debt you collect…not good.
Even worse, there is now a disease name for this way of life. It is called hypokinetic disease, and it is becoming an increasingly greater cause of death and illness in the US. Hypokinetic disease refers to physical inactivity and sedentary lifestyle. So now we not only have an obesity epidemic, but also a sedentary epidemic. Wonderful.
So what’s the solution? It’s no secret, and you’ve heard it more times than you care to – you have to be active and exercise. I admit it does require effort and energy, and it is much easier said than done. Many of us can’t find the motivation to exercise, or have almost no time to fit in a workout, or would rather prioritize sleep over working out. Trust me, I get it. I have been exercising my entire life, and do so almost every morning, and still feel as if someone threw a rock at my face when I get up for my workout. I just tell myself to get out of bed, put on my gym clothes, and do what I can for the day, even if it’s no more than a 5 minutes walk or jog. 99% of the time I end up going from 5 to 20+ minutes of cardio. For me, the hardest part is starting.
Overtime, I have come to realize that people put a lot of pressure on themselves when it comes to exercise. We tend to discount the advantages of doing a few minutes of activity throughout the day. Yes, more is better, and research shows how beneficial moderate to intense activity and exercise (i.e., activities that really get your heart pounding) is for the human brain and body, BUT I would argue that doing nothing at all is far worse than doing something, even if it does end up being a 5 minute walk.
What happened? How did we get here? Well, the human body was created for movement and activity, and back in the hunter-gatherer days this wasn’t really an issue. Throughout time we have turned into a sitting society. It’s a result of several things, which I won’t get into, but here we are today. Americans spend half their waking hours sitting. Think about it for a minute – we sit at home; we sit while driving to and from work; we sit at the office and in meetings; we sit at dinner; we sit while watching TV; and then we sit to sleep. Sleep is more of a lay than a sit I suppose, unless you find yourself catching z’s in a plane, train, or car; all of which actually happen to be popular sleep spots for many of us nowadays.
There is some good news to balance out this disappointing information…THINGS ARE SLOWLY CHANGING. As we learn more, and recognize the adverse affects of seemingly harmless day-to-day actions, new ideas and innovations have entered our world from workplace contraptions (e.g., standing desks) to “walk and talk” meetings. However, none of these are replacements for moderate to intense physical activity. You’ve got to get that heart rate up! Maybe take the stairs more often? Or sprint from the parking lot to your desk? I joke, but this is actually a serious issue. It’s so important for humans to be active, exercise, and move. Here are a few facts and figures for those of you who are more data-driven:
- Studies indicate that people who spend most of their day sitting have as much as a 50% greater risk of dying prematurely from all causes and an 80% greater risk of dying from cardiovascular disease.
- Data further indicate that death rates are still high for people who spend most of their day sitting, even though they meet the current minimum moderate-physical activity recommendation (30 minutes, at least 5 times per week).
- Excessive sitting leads to weak muscles, a sluggish central nervous system, increased fatigue, decreased insulin sensitivity, higher blood pressure, decreased activity of lipoprotein lipase (an enzyme that breaks down fats in the blood), and increased cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides.
- A major contributor to back pain is excessive sitting, which causes back muscles to shorten, stiffen, and become weaker.
I am notoriously known for my incessant standing. I actually started standing because my legs cramped one day at work, and I just couldn’t handle sitting any longer. Now, I know the health benefits too, which is even greater incentive for me to stand. I never intended on becoming a professional stander, but it happened, and I quickly noticed that I felt better and more alert when I stood or paced around. It also improved my concentration and work productivity. I can’t sit still for long as it is, and standing not only calms me, but also helps me stay focused.
Last tid bit…Want to know something neat? There is actually a term for daily activities that expend energy not related to exercise and the acronym is called NEAT (stands for non-exercise activity thermogenesis). There are many good, easily doable recommendations, from standing while working and talking on the phone, to taking a 10-minute break every hour to stretch and walk around, to parking further away. Find whatever works for you, but do something that gets you up more during the day.
This month, definitely go dark when it comes to your chocolate. Dark chocolate is made from plants, which means that it contains many of the health benefits of dark vegetables. Who would have thought?! These benefits include flavonoids, which act as antioxidants and help protect the body from free radicals that prevent aging and heart disease. So when it comes to choosing the best box of chocolates for colleagues, friends, family or that special someone, go with the darkest option.
Did you know dark chocolate has nearly 8X the number of antioxidants compared to this fruit? Hard to believe something so good, could also be so good for you…in proper quantities at least
Upon returning to the east coast, I knew an inevitable problem was awaiting my welcome. While the rest of the world was freezing and worried about travel to and from work, frozen crops, impacts on the economy, and so forth, I sat contemplating about what I was going to do without my precious sunshine. I’m not that obsessed with the sun, but there is a very particular reason why I happened to care now more than I ever. Recently, there’s been a lot in the news / media regarding people’s deficiency of a certain vitamin. Can you guess which one? Obviously, it’s linked to the sun. Okay, fine I will tell you. It’s called Vitamin D. It’s pretty much the only vitamin I know of that you can get for free. How? By simply exposing your skin to the sun!!! Before you get too excited, getting the necessary sun time isn’t as easy as it sounds, hence my concern.
Yes, you heard correctly, the basis of my worries was my intake of Vitamin D. Some of you don’t even know whether you get the proper amount of Vitamin C let alone Vitamin D, and that’s okay. But now it is time to pay attention because Vitamin D can be just as detrimental to your immune system and health as Vitamin C.
Sunlight is the cheapest form of this crucial vitamin, and it’s the best, most natural source of it too (as opposed to taking it through a pill for example). That said, sunlight in moderation people…this is not a good excuse to layout for hours. You only need about 10-15 minutes of direct sunlight exposure about 3 times a week (unless you are darker skinned, in which case you need 2-3x more…sorry). By direct exposure, I mean there can be nothing coming in between your skin and the sun – no windows, no sunscreen, no clothes, no people, etc. So pick a body spot (e.g., legs) and let the exposure begin!
Why my sudden attention to Vitamin D? I didn’t care much until moving to the east coast, and became particularly intrigued after a conversation with one of my close friends here. I was feeling a bit un-Ida-like (i.e., not quite myself) for some reason, and she asked me about my Vitamin D intake. I looked at her and said, “Whatchyu talkin bout girl?” I’m usually the nutrition freak of the two of us, so I was a bit surprised when she asked me this. Long story short, apparently there is a link to sunlight, vitamin D, and mood. So when your Vitamin D levels are down, you may be too, or you may be up and down. For those of you thinking…wait, is that really true?!? Well, the verdict’s still out on this one, but a ton of research is being done, and studies are showing some pretty convincing evidence. Here’s a recent article I read regarding VD and mood linkage.
Why should you care about Vitamin D? For those of you who prefer weak bones, a poor immune system, frequent colds, higher risk of cancer, and getting older faster, then perhaps you shouldn’t care, and you may want to stop reading here. For everyone else, below are just a few of the wonderful health benefits, and nice video to really scare you into taking Vitamin D
Vitamin D Health Benefits:
- Builds strong bones and prevents osteoporosis
- Boosts immune function and fights off colds
- Reduces inflammation
- Promotes healthy neuro-muscular function
- Protects against colon, prostate, breast, and endometrial cancers
- Slows the aging process
Where does one acquire Vitamin D? There are 3 primary sources: sun, food, and pill. For more information on sources, I am going to point you to my friend’s blog, but before doing so, I’d like you to read on.
How much do you need? For those of you who like to see exact numbers click here. Notice calcium intake requirements are listed too. I will talk more about why this is important at the end. Basically, you need about 1,000 IU a day, but as always it depends on other factors too. It’s confusing, I know, but I would just aim for 1,000 IU or more per day to be safe. That said, I’m not a doctor, so consult with yours to determine the right amount for you.
Did you say IOU or IU? I said IU. How are you to understand and calculate IU’s? It’s a bit annoying, agreed, but put in a little effort, and in no time it will be easy peasy. Here are some helpful options to make the process as painless as possible. I usually rely on the % listed on the ingredients label and try to hit 100% for the day. I found the chart below, and it provides a great guide and example for those of you looking for specific food examples. With supplements, you can usually follow the recommended intake on the back of the bottle (e.g., 1 capsule with food 1-2 times daily), or match your required IU intake with the IU amount per capsule on the bottle. Finally, when it comes to Vitamin D from the sun, I already told you (so scroll up and read again).
What’s my go-to-source? Well, sun is obviously number 1 on my list, but that’s clearly not always an option. At the moment my sources are:
- Fortified Tofu – gotta read the label to be sure it is fortified with Vitamin D though, because not all tofu are created equal
- Mushrooms bathed in the sun – again, you have to check to see if the mushrooms have been exposed to the sun, otherwise they may have no or very little Vitamin D
- Vitamin D3 supplements – the pill is pretty much my primary right now, as it’s easy to carry around and swallow when I’m on the go. I am not a fan of supplements, but in this case, it’s better than no Vitamin D at all.
Alright, at this point you are likely thoroughly overwhelmed, but I must leave you with two last things…
First, you need be sure to balance Vitamin D with Calcium – both of these suckers are critical to strong bones. They are one another’s yin and yang. Vitamin D helps absorb calcium in order to build and maintain our bones.
Second, the salmon you are eating may not be a good source of Vitamin D. There is some debate, and a lot of research out there regarding this question. Ultimately, the answer relies on how the fish is caught, fed, and raised. Wild caught salmon is the best (that goes for any fish really), but other kinds may have very little Vitamin D. That all said, I would totally eat salmon, regardless of its Vitamin D levels, because it has a whole host of other mind-boggling health benefits, but I’ll save that discussion for another time.
Should you desire more depth and detail, please visit my friend’s blog. He’s got the science behind a lot of this, as well as more information on Vitamin D sources and how Vitamin D can improve athletic performance.
For the first time I think I may understand why they decided to call SunnyD, SunnyD.
As I have mentioned before, I am a nut fiend, so when the topic of nuts came up during a recent ladies brunch, intrigue and joy tingled through my veins. No I am not kidding, I was really that excited about it, and it sparked my curiosity to learn more about this nut. Almonds, walnuts and cashews get a lot of attention. They are clearly the more prestigious of the nuts, but maybe the little peanut should get more recognition.
Three interesting “I heard” topics were brought to the table. First was, “I heard peanuts somehow increase lifespan.” Second was, “I heard that recently they discovered eating peanuts during pregnancy can prevent nut allergies in children.” And third was, “I heard that peanut butter (and probably peanuts) help relieve IBS (irritable bowel syndrome) symptoms.”
So is what we “heard” true? Turns out there is some truth to all three statements. But, before I speak to this, the first thing I learned is that the peanut is actually not a nut! Whaaaatttt???? Yes, I was just as taken aback as you probably are. Unlike other nuts, peanuts come from the ground, so they are actually in the legume or bean family. In short, it’s a ground nut versus a tree nut. Now that we have that squared away, let’s move on to the first of the “I heard” topics.
1) Will you live longer if you eat peanuts? Maybe. I am less clear about this one, but I think the longevity connection is a result of the phytochemical resveratrol. Resveratrol was first discovered in wine and touted as the “fountain of youth.” I remember watching a 60 minutes segment about this years ago. This little bugger has been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease and cancer (sort of a big deal), AND in concentrated amounts resveratrol can slow down the aging process — by almost a decade! It can be found in peanuts, as well as other foods. So, if you aren’t a fan of wine or peanuts/peanut butter, then you can also get it from red grapes (with the skin), dark chocolate, and blueberries. Actually, the combination of some of these sounds delicious. I may just treat myself to some melted dark chocolate, combined with peanut butter, topped with blueberries, and accompanied with a glass of wine on the side (I prefer my grapes in fermented, liquid form).
2) Now, on to peanuts and pregnancy. To eat or not to eat? Current research says you should eat them. Recently, American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reversed their position regarding nut intake while pregnant from avoiding to consuming them. Turns out, when women ate MORE NUTS during their pregnancies, their child was LESS LIKELY to be allergic. What does this mean? Ladies, you are free to eat nuts while bearing! It’s no liquor, but still exciting news…well until new research comes out that is.
3) Finally, do peanuts help prevent IBS symptoms? Yes and No. This one could go both ways because IBS symptoms are individual-based. Peanuts may be an IBS trigger food for some, but not for others. Also, in reading, I found that peanut butter (as well as other nut butters) is recommended versus consuming the nut in whole form. Not sure what that’s about, but my advice would be to try peanuts or peanut butter and see how your body reacts. All that said, I believe there is something in the peanut that helps with IBS. I’ll explain my logic…the number one way to help IBS through food is through diet, especially fiber because fiber improves the way the intestines work. This site provides more detail, but the following sentence, particularly the bolded words, stuck out to me: “Soluble fiber found in foods such as dried beans and other legumes, oats, barley, and berries may help diarrhea by slowing down the passage of food from the stomach to the intestines and by giving stool form.” Based on what we know about the peanut (i.e., it’s actually a legume/bean), this would lead me to believe it can be beneficial for IBS. Make sense? It does to me, but I am willing to admit I may be wrong, although I’m probably not.
There are many more health benefits with respect to the peanut and other nuts (which I will definitely write about in the near future), but that’s all I got for now. I love peanuts and am fortunately not allergic, so I’m off to crack myself some…
Are certain fruits better for the morning, afternoon, evening? Probably. What fruit should you eat in the morning? I’m sure there are several options, and the impact or benefit you desire from eating a particular fruit in the morning will provide the answer.
This morning, after finding out my flight was cancelled I did what any normal person would do, and thought about what fruit I should have for breakfast. I encountered two choices…the apple (what I normally go for), and the orange. Did I want something crunchy, juicy, and slightly sour (green apple), or did I want something soft, extremely juicy, and tangy (naval orange)? I went for the orange.
But, let’s say I was choosing based on nutritional information or health benefits. What do I get from each fruit? And which one is better for my health?
Let me provide an example to illustrate one way to go about making this taxing decision… Paul prefers apples and Martha oranges, at least in the morning. Furthermore, Paul is at high risk of heart and blood problems, and Martha has inflammation and respiratory problems. Guess which fruit is best for each of their respective ailments? Basically, Paul and Martha should switch their fruit in the morning. After reading a few studies and researching the WWW (aka the Web), the chart below (click to enlarge) is a summarized version of what I discovered.
So which one should I choose? I could probably go for either, as I currently do not have any serious illnesses that would induce me to choose one over the other. But, if I had to choose, I would go for the apple. Why? I love the taste and crunch, and the ease of finding, storing, and eating them apples (especially when I am running around all day), AND they fill me up and keep my metabolism high, AND I found a really cool study that ties an antioxidant called quercetin to improved nuerological health and dementia prevention – I could always use a bit of help with enhancing my brain