Monday, January 30, 2012

Healthy New Year Tip #4: Get more sleep!

The National Sleep Foundation recommends that adults, in general, should get 7-9 hours of sleep per day, but a 2009 poll by the same group found the average hours of sleep per night for adults in America is 6.7. And more than one-quarter of the U.S. population report occasionally not getting enough sleep, while nearly 10% experience chronic insomnia. Result? We are one sleepy bunch of people!
So what’s the big deal with sleep – why is it so important?
· Rest and recovery between days
· Mood & Stress – see more irritability, mood swings, and increased stress.
· Concentration - not enough sleep can result in “brain fog,” less ability to focus and concentrate.
· Important for immunity – lack of sleep may put you at risk for getting sick.
· Recovery from illness - how many people still go to work sick? Rest helps you get over the illness faster.
· Just recently, a lack of sleep has been linked to a greater risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes.

While many people turn to over-the-counter or prescription medication for sleep, these can have bad side effects like grogginess upon waking and dependence on the medicine. But there are numerous natural approaches that can help your body with rest overnight:
· Valerian has been found in studies to help improve the quality of sleep, reduce the amount of time required to go to sleep, and reduce the number of awakenings throughout the night. Passionflower and skullcap are other calming herbs that can help with sleep, and are often found in combination with valerian.
· Melatonin is hormone naturally produced in the body that regulates sleep and wake cycles in the brain. Melatonin levels drop significantly after the age of 40, which scientists believe may be responsible for sleep problems that increase with age. If you are over 40 and have difficulty falling asleep, you may want to try Melatonin.
· Calcium & Magnesium can be taken in the evening as an aid to relax the muscles and calm the nerves. I personally use a Cal-Mag supplement at night because it does help me sleep, and I know I need the calcium.
· Hot herbal tea is good in the evening. Choose a caffeine free tea like chamomile, or look for a nighttime tea blend such as Pukka Night Time Tea with oatflower, lavender and valerian.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Healthy New Year Tip #3: Add more GREEN to your diet.

We’ve all heard that foods like spinach and broccoli are loaded with antioxidants and phytochemicals that can protect our bodies and improve our health. So, are you eating more of these foods? If not, what’s holding you back? Here’s a list of several healthy green foods to include in your diet, and simple ways to use them:

Spinach: use raw in salads or stirfry, add chopped frozen spinach to lasagne or soups, or include spinach to make pesto.

Brussel sprouts: Serve roasted for yummy flavor.

Broccoli: Eat raw with dip, or steam, chop and add to soups or spaghetti sauce.

Green Bell Peppers: Delicous raw in salads, or use in stir fry.

Asparagus: Delicious roasted or steamed as a side dish, or chilled in a salad.

Avocado: Make guacamole, or slice and use as a sandwich topping.

Kiwi Fruit: Sweet and tasty as a snack or in fruit salad.

If you know you don’t eat enough of these foods, keep trying to use them more. One thing I’ve started using when I know I haven’t eaten enough greens is a greenfoods powder. These nutrient-dense powders have vegetables, cereal grasses (like wheat grass) and algae (like spirulina), which provide a host of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. I personally use the Michael’s Super Defense Food, but there are numerous good ones available. I just mix a scoop in a small glass of pomegranate juice, but you can mix in a morning shake if you drink one. It’s a great way to fill in the gap.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Healthy New Year Tip #2: Take 3 Core Supplements

In my opinion, there are 3 basic supplements I think everyone should be taking on a daily basis based on current research.

1. Multivitamin. Nutrition Experts agree that people should be taking a multivitamin every day as sort of an “insurance policy” – to make sure we get enough essential nutrients. Studies have found the multivitamin use resulted in better mood and alertness and men, better memory in women. In 2010, a study found that multivitamin use is associated with about a 30% reduced risk of breast cancer. So, how do you choose a good multivitamin? Just as with food, you have to be a good label reader when it comes to supplements. Look for multivitamins with only natural vitamin E (d-alpha on the label) and with chelated or easily assimilated minerals. Avoid multivitamins with artificial colors, flavors and preservatives.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids. Omega-3 continues to receive a lot of attention and more research shows the importance of these “good fats.” While Omega-3s are probably best known for their heart health benefits, research also suggests they may play a role in promoting positive mood, sparing lean muscle, reducing risk for certain types of cancer, and even reducing risk for hearing loss and age-related macular degeneration. Need another reason? Omega-3 may improve cognition, helping us think better as we get older.
3. Vitamin D. Vitamin D also continues to be in the spotlight as research demonstrates the benefit of this essential vitamin. Vitamin D plays several roles in the body, including supporting immunity, promoting calcium absorption and supporting bone strength. Recent research has also shown links between low vitamin D levels and increased risk for diabetes, depression and heart disease. When it comes to Vitamin D, I suggest having your levels checked to determine the appropriate dosage level, then taking the Vitamin D3 form of Vitamin D. My last checkup revealed my vitamin D levels were low-normal, so my Dr. told me to take 1000 IU Vitamin D3 daily to help maintain adequate levels.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Healthy New Year Tip #1: NEVER Skip Breakfast

You’ve heard it before – breakfast is the most important meal of the day! For the millions of Americans who resolved to lose weight in 2012, it’s even more important. Skipping breakfast causes your body to be starving (since overnight is the longest period of time we go without food – and breakfast actually means just that, to break the fast). Studies have consistently shown that not eating breakfast causes people to eat MORE at lunch. On top of that we often choose higher fat or higher sugar foods because we are so hungry and not thinking clearly. Eating breakfast helps keep your blood sugar stable, helping you have more control and helping you make better choices throughout the day. In addition, eating breakfast helps us think clearer. Research over the years has consistently shown that children who eat breakfast perform better in school (both academically and behaviorally) than those who skip breakfast.
For the best breakfast, foods rich in fiber and protein help you stay full longer and keep blood sugar stable. A balanced breakfast might include a scrambled egg, whole wheat toast and a glass of 100% pure fruit juice. In a hurry?? Try a satisfying meal replacement shake like Akin’s Ultra-Tein Shake with nourishing spirulina, soy protein and fiber - just mix in a shaker cup with milk or water and take it to go. If you want to beef up your shake, blend a protein shake with plain yogurt and fruit in a blender. There are also a variety of nutrition bars that would fill in if there is no time to make breakfast – just be sure to watch out for excess sugar, opting for a bar with sufficient protein and fiber.