Tag Archives: antioxidants

Hot Cocoa and Winter Health Risks

Long View: Cold Hands, Hot Cocoa

I always remember December from my childhood, when the weather got subzero, and the wind was playfully whipping snowflakes around. School was out for the holidays, and my sister and I always loved to play outdoors, despite the frigid temperatures.

We would come downstairs with our garb, and Mom would get us all bundled up to brave the weather. Snowsuits, scarves, hats, gloves, and boots were standard outerwear those days. My mom would secure the scarf so that it would stay put, and the hat would cover my ears and my forehead. When she was through, I could barely see and hardly move.

I remember stiffly walking out the door, hoping that with more movement, I would loosen up enough to enjoy some of the winter wonderland we called our yard. Hot cocoa would be waiting for us when we came in, and it was like magic what that cup of warmth could do!

Today, I run out of the house without a coat, hat, gloves, or scarf, thinking, I’m just going to the car, then running in to work. My days of bundling up are over. This is what happens when you go from 6 years old to 60. But honestly, what am I thinking?

Winter health risks should be a concern for our aging population. (Hey, that’s me too!) The most obvious risk is the weather itself. Midwestern winters can consist of ice and snow. Driving is a challenge. Walking is even more of a challenge. Slips on ice are a major risk, so it’s important to wear the right shoes or boots with good traction if you have to go out.  

Hypothermia is also a common winter weather health risk. Hypothermia means your body temperature has fallen below 95 degrees, and once it gets to that point for a prolonged period of time, you can’t produce enough energy to stay warm.

Symptoms include shivering, cold pale skin, lack of coordination, slowed reactions and breathing, and mental confusion. It’s good to pay attention to how cold it is where you are, whether it’s indoors or outdoors. Also, make sure you’re eating enough to keep up a healthy weight. Body fat helps you stay warm.

Frostbite is another health risk during the winter months. Frostbite means your skin has been over-exposed to cold temperatures, and it usually affects the nose, ears, cheeks, fingers, and toes. It can be severe and cause permanent damage to the skin, and even progress to the bone.

Frostbite can affect anyone who is exposed to below freezing temperatures, in particular, those who aren’t wearing the right clothing. It’s important to wear layers, preferably 2 to 3 layers of loose-fitting clothing, as well as a coat, hat, gloves, and a scarf. Covering up your nose and mouth will also protect your lungs from the cold air.

As for drinking a cup of hot cocoa, well, that is a winter weather health benefit! According to a study at Cornell University, hot cocoa has almost twice as many antioxidants as red wine, and 2 to 3 times more than green tea! This winter, enjoy the magic of the season by keeping yourself safe and warm.

Mervet Adams is a community liaison with Health Alliance. She loves her grandson, family, nature, and fashion.

Making the Most of Frozen Food

National Frozen Food Month

It’s National Frozen Food Month, and frozen fruits and veggies are wonderful ingredients to keep on hand.

First up is an easy Fried Rice filled with veggies straight from the freezer.

Fried Rice
Image and Recipe via Life Currents

 

Whip up this light Peach-Mango Sorbet for an easy and refreshing treat.

Peach-Mango Sorbet
Image and Recipe via Williams Sonoma

 

This copycat Corn Salsa is perfect on your burritos or tacos at home.

Chipotle Corn Salsa
Image and Recipe via Food Fun Family

 

Whip up an antioxidant-filled Blueberry Green Tea Protein Smoothie.

Blueberry Green Tea Protein Smoothie
Image and Recipe via The Gold Lining Girl

 

Green Pea Hummus is a vibrant way to get your veggies in.

Green Pea Hummus
Image and Recipe via Virtually Homemade

 

You’d never know this Triple Berry Crumble is so easy because of frozen berries.

Triple Berry Crumble
Image and Recipe via Tastes Lovely

 

Corn and Edamame Succotash is a simple, hearty side for any meal.

Corn and Edamame Succotash
Image and Recipe via Eat Simple Food

Take a Break with Tea

National Hot Tea Month

January is National Hot Tea Month. Tea has many health benefits that make it the perfect beverage for chilly winter days.

The antioxidants in green tea can boost your endurance while exercising, and they increase your ability to burn fat as a fuel.

Antioxidants That Help You Move

 

A 2016 study found green tea drinkers lowered their chance of stroke by 35%.

Green Tea's Health Benefits

 

Studies show drinking tea could help reduce the risk of heart attack.

Drinking Hot Tea for Your Heart

 

Tea might help protect your bone health, reducing breaks from falls.

 

Antioxidants in green tea can help protect your skin and reduce inflammation.

Drinking Your Way to Health Benefits

 

Japanese researchers found that tea can decrease tooth loss and doesn’t erode enamel.

Protecting Your Teeth with Hot Tea

 

Herbal teas might help soothe your digestive system, like ginger teas that calm nausea.

Herbal Tea for Your Stomach

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Fresh Marionberries at Farmers Markets

Why You Should Be Shopping at Farmers Markets

You should try shopping at your local farmers markets for these 6 reasons:

1. It can save you money. At a farmers market, you can pick out exactly how much of something you need. Only need one carrot? No need to buy a bunch you won’t use, like you might have to do at the grocery store.

And the produce at a farmer’s market is only what’s fresh and in-season. It’s also local. At the grocery store, you’re paying for your fruit to be shipped across the country from where it is in-season. By buying your fruits and veggies locally based on what is fresh, you stop paying your food’s travel costs.

Illinois also has a Senior Farmers Market Nutrition Program that gives you a free booklet of checks that you can use at local markets. Find details and participating counties and markets on the Illinois Department on Aging’s site.

2. You can support your community. Because the people selling at farmer’s markets live in the area, your money goes back into the local economy.

3. Many accept SNAP and WIC benefits. Many farmers markets accept these to make sure families can afford buying healthy, fresh food. Learn more about which ones take SNAP and WIC, or check out this list of all the farmer’s markets that take Illinois Link Benefits.

Certain markets, like the new Champaign Farmers’ Market downtown, have special deals for SNAP users, so it’s always good to check with the info booth first. At their market, they will double up to $20 of benefits per person while funds last when you bring your Link card to the market booth!

4. It has lots of healthy foods. Fresh fruits and veggies are full of nutrients and antioxidants and are a big part of the MyPlate guidelines from the USDA that help you eat healthier.

5. The farmers often have suggestions. They can tell you what foods are the best right now, help you find new things to try, and tell you the best ways to cook what you buy.

6. It’s a good family activity. It’s a great way to get your kids involved and learning about healthy eating, and it’s so nice to shop outside on a beautiful day.

Find farmers markets near you.

Up Next:

Need tips on shopping at farmers markets? We can help you do it right!

Healthy Eating for Your Heart

Healthy Eating and Exercise for Your Heart

You can reduce your risk of heart disease and lower your blood pressure and cholesterol with 2 easy lifestyle changes: healthy eating and exercise.

Healthy Eating

Healthy eating habits can help you lower 3 of the major risk factors for heart attacks, high blood pressure, high blood cholesterol, and obesity.

Tips to Help with Healthy Eating

  • Eat a variety of fruits, veggies, grains, and dairy, which are all good for you in the right portions, and they keep your diet from getting boring. Use MyPlate to learn more about healthy  eating and portions of these foods.
  • If you keep track of the calories you take in and burn, you can balance them to keep a healthy weight.
  • Avoid foods that are high in calories and low in nutrition, like soda and candy.
  • Limit the foods high in saturated fat and cholesterol that you eat, like full-fat dairy, vegetable oil, and egg yolks.
  • Use smaller plates, which has been shown to help people eat smaller portions.
  • Don’t deny yourself the foods you love, just enjoy them in moderation.
  • Don’t eat more than 2,400 milligrams of salt a day.

Soda and Healthy Eating

The amount of soda Americans drink has risen 135% over the last 30 years.

A study from the American Heart Association found middle aged people who drink as little as one soda a day, diet or regular, are at least 40% more likely to develop risk factors for heart disease.

This could be because people who drink sodas are more likely to have a sweet-tooth and eat other sugary food.

Cutting down on soda both lowers the sugar, empty calories, and salt you’re taking in. Stick to water instead.

Say “No” to Trans Fats

Trans fats hide in a lot of prepackaged foods. Like saturated fats, they raise your bad cholesterol  and lower your good cholesterol levels, increasing your chances of heart disease.

Learn to avoid them for healthy eating:

  • Margarine: Choose margarine in a tub, which has the least trans and saturated fats.
  • Baking Mixes: These can have fat in them that you don’t know about. Baking from scratch can help you cut back and control what’s in your treats.
  • Soups: Both dried and canned soups have trans fats and lots of sodium. Try making your own with fresh veggies and meat.
  • Fast Food: Almost everything in the drive-thru has something bad for you in it. Order grilled chicken and skip the fries.
  • Frozen Foods: Even if it says low fat, it can still have trans fat. Choose frozen foods with the fewest grams of total fat.
  • Chips and Crackers: Go for baked chips, low-fat crackers, or fat-free alternatives like pretzels.
  • Breakfast Foods: Choose cereals that have no fat, and breakfast and granola bars that are low in fat.
  • Toppings, Dips, and Condiments: Wherever you can, sub a low-fat alternative, like oil and vinegar instead of a ranch dressing and low-fat milk instead of cream.

Alcohol and Your Heart

Drinking a lot of alcohol on a regular basis can affect your blood pressure and cholesterol. While a little alcohol every day, like a glass of red wine, may have some minor health benefits, heavy drinking can cause a number of health problems.

Heavy drinking can raise your blood pressure and increase your risk of stroke and heart disease. Alcohol keeps the liver from making hormones that help control blood pressure. Heavy drinkers can lower their systolic blood pressure by 2 to 4 points just by cutting back.

Some studies do show that moderate drinking is linked to good cholesterol levels. Stick to no more than 2 drinks daily for men younger than 65, and one for women or anyone over the age of 65.

You don’t have to give up your favorite beverages, just drink them in moderation.

Healthy Eating During the Holidays

The average adult will eat nearly 3,000 calories during a typical holiday meal, and that doesn’t include snacks, appetizers, or dessert. Use these healthy eating tips to cut back:

  • Never go to a party hungry. Before you leave, eat a light snack full of fiber and protein so you don’t binge at the dessert table.
  • Prepare a healthy side. Substitute skim milk or egg whites in  recipes to lower fat, cholesterol, and calories.
  • Survey the spread. Before choosing what to eat, check what’s available. Look for apps with fresh veggies, fruits, and whole grains. Avoid dishes like casseroles where you can’t tell what all’s inside.
  • Eat lean. There are plenty of ways to add flavor without the gravy. Grilled, steamed, skinless, and seasoned are the best heart-smart choices.
  • Don’t stay close by. Take a few items, and walk away from the food. When you’re catching up, it’s easy to lose track of how much you’ve eaten.
  • Stay active. Instead of giving into an after-meal doze, take a walk or go to the mall for some window shopping.

Potassium and Your Heart

Potassium helps lower your blood pressure in two ways:

  • By getting rid of extra salt through urine.
  • By relaxing blood vessel walls, which lets blood flow more easily.

One article in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension found that just changing how much potassium and magnesium you eat could lower your blood pressure 2 to 6 points.

Adding potassium to your diet doesn’t mean you can eat all the salt you want. But getting enough potassium, at least 4,700 milligrams a day, plays an important part in your overall healthy eating plan to control your blood pressure.

Studies also show a link between potassium and lower stroke risk, so getting more of it is good for your family members, too, even if they don’t have high blood pressure.

From fish to fruits to dairy, lots of foods have potassium. It’s easy to fit into every meal:

1,000 mg
  • Avocado (1 cup)
  • Papaya (1)
  • Baked potato (8 ounces with skin)
  • Edamame (1 cup shelled, cooked)
  • Lima beans (1 cup, cooked)
  • Sweet potato (1 cup, cooked)
750 mg
  • Plantains (1 cup, cooked)
  • Salmon (6 ounces)
  • Tomato sauce (1 cup)
  • Winter squash (1 cup, cooked)
500 mg
  • Banana (1)
  • Beets (1 cup, cooked)
  • Cantaloupe (1 cup)
  • Dried apricots (12 halves)
  • Dried figs (4)
  • Orange juice (1 cup)
  • Yogurt (1 cup plain low-fat)
250 mg
  • Broccoli (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Zucchini (1/2 cup, cooked)
  • Kiwi (1)
  • Mango (1)
  • Nectarine (1)
  • Orange (1)
  • Pear (1)
  • Strawberries (1 cup)
  • Raisins (1/4 cup)
  • Dates (5 whole)
  • Milk (low-fat or skim,1 cup)
  • Chicken breast (5 ounces, roasted)
  • Peanut butter (2 tablespoons)
  • Peanuts (1 ounce, about 1/4 cup)

Heart Healthy Nuts

Mother Nature’s near-perfect snack is tree nuts. They’re one of the healthiest and easiest snack foods. From boosting memory and brain power to protecting against cancer, research has shown the power of this snack.

Studies find walnuts have the most antioxidants, about twice that of other nuts, and polyunsaturated fats, that help reduce cholesterol and protect the heart, omega-3s, melatonin, and protein.

If walnuts aren’t your first choice, munching on other kinds still has plenty of benefits. Nuts actually lower levels bad cholesterol in your blood. Try substituting a serving of nuts for a food that’s high in saturated fat, like red meat, eggs, and whole-fat dairy.

Almonds
  • Packed with protein, fiber, calcium, and iron.
  • Very high in monosaturated fat, or the heart healthy fat.
  • One of the best sources of Vitamin E, which protects against cancer and stroke.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Cashews
  • Good source of monosaturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 155 calories, 12 grams of fat.
Pistachios
  • Great source of potassium.
  • High in monosaturated fat (almost as much as almonds).
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 160 calories, 13 grams of fat.
Peanuts
  • Has more protein than tree nuts.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 170 calories, 14 grams of fat.
Pecans
  • Great choice for fighting high cholesterol because they’re low in saturated fat.
  • Per 1 ounce serving: 200 calories, 20 grams of fat.

Get Moving

Being active is one of the most important things you can do to help control your blood pressure and lower your cholesterol, as well as lower your risk of heart disease. It doesn’t have to take much time, in fact, you can easily add the recommended 30 minutes of physical activity a day simply by changing your routine.

For example, try:

  • Taking a 10-15 minute walk during your lunch break.
  • Jumping rope for 15 minutes.
  • Gardening or raking leaves for 30 minutes.
  • Going for a walk in the park with your family.

Make sure you talk to your doctor before you start a new diet or exercise routine.

Controlling Asthma with Diet

Balancing and Controlling Asthma with Your Lifestyle

Controlling Asthma through Lifestyle

There is no way to magically cure your asthma, but eating a smart and healthy diet and keeping a healthy lifestyle can make a huge difference in controlling asthma.

The number of people with asthma has risen in the past 3 decades, and many wonder if it’s because of our changing diet without enough fruits and veggies.

Several studies have explored this connection. One found that teens with poor nutrition were more likely to have asthma.

And while nutrition is likely not the cause of asthma, it can be the cause of obesity. Being overweight makes you more likely to have severe asthma symptoms, take more meds, and miss more work.

Changes for Controlling Asthma

Eat lots of fruits and veggies.

Packed with antioxidants like beta carotene and vitamins C and E, fruits and veggies help with lung problems. Try controlling your asthma by adding more of these to your diet:

  • Apples, which have been tied to lower rates of asthma, possibly because of something in them called flavonoids that have been shown to open airways.
  • Cantaloupe, which is high in Vitamin C.
  • Carrots, which have a lot of beta carotene, can help reduce attacks caused by exercise.
  • Coffee, the caffeine in it can help open airways slightly for a few hours after drinking it.
  • Flax seeds, which are high in omega-3 fatty acids and magnesium which can relax your muscles, which can help open airways.
  • Garlic, which has long been used as a treatment for many things because it’s thought to be anti-inflammatory.
  • Avocados, which is a healthy antioxidant called glutathione.

Add more vitamin D.

Studies find that people with severe asthma have low levels of vitamin D. Work on controlling your asthma by adding more foods with plenty of vitamin D to your meals, like milk, eggs, and salmon.

Avoid trans fats.

Trans fats, found in many processed foods like margarine, can make your asthma worse and have been linked to other serious health conditions, like heart disease.

Look for sulfites.

Sulfites are a preservative that keeps foods like wine, dried fruits, pickles, and fresh and frozen shrimp good for longer. They give off sulfur dioxide which can irritate your lungs, and research has tied it to asthma flare-ups in some people.

This doesn’t mean you have to cut these from your diet. Just watch for a reaction for about an hour after you eat them.

Stay away from allergy-triggering foods.

Asthma puts you at a bigger risk for food allergies, and you can develop them late in life.

After you eat common allergy-triggering foods like nuts, soy, eggs, and dairy, keep an eye out for common allergy reactions:

  • Burning, teary, itchy, red, or swollen eyes
  • Coughing, wheezing, or a tight chest
  • Headache
  • Hives or skin rashes
  • Itchy nose, throat, or mouth
  • Runny nose
  • Sneezing

Avoid foods that trigger Gastroesophageal Reflux Disorder (GERD).

Up to 70% of people who have asthma, also have GERD, which is stomach acid reflux. GERD can make asthma symptoms worse.

While it can cause normal heartburn symptoms, it doesn’t always. You may need to take medicine or lose weight to manage GERD. But sometimes just eating smaller meals, cutting back on alcohol and caffeine, and avoiding eating before bed can help. You can also avoid foods that you know cause these problems for you.

Lose weight.

While losing weight isn’t easy, it can help your asthma. Eat a healthy and balanced diet and stay active. Make sure you talk to your doctor about how best to manage your asthma or use your meds so that you can exercise without causing attacks.

Using Your Brainpower

Boost Your Brainpower

Challenging yourself mentally raises your brainpower and function, which is shown to reduce the risk of mental decline and dementia in old age. What can you do to keep your brain in amazing shape?

Never Stop Learning

Learning new things in school or classes, at work, and in your spare time all help you challenge your mind, no matter what your age.

As we get older, we get comfortable doing the things we’ve always done. But your brain will benefit from tackling something new. Learning keeps life stimulating, especially during retirement.

Community colleges and park districts offer a variety of courses that allow you to interact with others while challenging your mind. You can try a new sport, learn a new language, take up painting, or learn a skill you’ve always been interested in picking up.

Activities that use your hands, like woodworking, sign language, or knitting, are also great because focusing on your hand-eye coordination works multiple parts of your brain.

Not only will it help you stay sharp, you’ll also feel accomplished. Never stop challenging yourself to learn new things!

Memorize

Learn a new word a day, take up local theater where you learn a small part, learn your favorite poem by heart, or learn all the words to your latest favorite song. Writing things down as you go can also help. This careful listening and learning can help you sharpen your thinking.

Get Involved

Volunteering with a local organization offers you the chance to interact with others, which also stimulates your brain. You can meet new people who are both working and being helped in the community.

Help your church, local library, animal shelter, or even a branch of a larger organization like the Alzheimer’s Association to meet people, work events, and even get active with 5ks.

Eat Antioxidants

Foods like blueberries and dark chocolate are full of antioxidants, which help fight age-related diseases. They can also help delay or prevent cancer, neurodegenerative diseases, like Alzheimer’s, and lower cholesterol and blood pressure.

And they’re delicious! Win-win!

Get Moving

Dancing with a partner or in a group may be one of the best physical activities you can do that is also good for your mind. When you dance the salsa, a waltz, or even the electric slide, your brain whirls to keep up with the steps, all while you interact with others around you. Dancing is also shown to help slow the progress of dementia.

Try Something New

Break out of your routine and see something new, like an art show. Taking pictures for social media, writing about it, and making scrapbooks to show your family and friends are all great ways to train your brain to remember the details about your new experience too.

There are many brain games on the market you can try to stay sharp. Lumosity is one online tool you can try, for a fee. You can also try more traditional methods, like chess, sudoku, or puzzles. While they’re not proven to fight dementia, they can help you maintain critical thinking skills.