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July Foodie Penpal Reveal Day July 31, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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This is not within my realm of public health posts, alas I have signed up with Foodie Penpals and must reveal the contents of the box I received this month on this, my only blog.

And I’m excited to share it with you!

Foodie Penpals is a fun foodie exchange initiated by Lindsay of The Lean Green Bean blog. Lindsay will pair you up with a sender and a recipient, minimal rules, and tons of fun if you like sending packages to and receiving them from complete strangers.

This month, my Foodie Penpal was Chelsea from Troy, NY. I was surprised with a big box stuffed with goodies tailored to me. Yes, it’s true!

Foodie Penpal, vegan snacks, healthy diet

Chelsea went to her local Farmer’s Market where she finds Flour City Pasta from Rochester, and generously sent me 2 packages of unique pastas: chipotle shells and bon vivant orzo.

Chipotle shells, Bon vivant orzo

Here’s the bon vivant orzo prepared with the included recipe. This uses mushrooms, pine nuts, shallots and snow peas which I harvested from my garden, and a splash of lemon juice. Delish!

Vegan, healthy side dish

She also included 2 organic, vegan snack bars. Recently vegan, believe me, I have tried numerous vegan bars just in the hopes of saving a few hours of chopping and chewing. I haven’t found one that was actually palatable. But when I tasted and then gave my kids a bite of these bars, I heard, “Yumm-o! Let me have the rest of that awesome bar!” I had to reply that no, it was really just for me. That’s how fantastic the chocolate and peanut butter bars are. I will be on the lookout for Good ‘n Natural Fruit, Nut & Seed Bars to keep all of us happy.

vegan snacks, vegan diet

No, they’re really just for me.

It takes some moxie to send coffee to a Seattleite, but it’s like she already knew me inside and out. Chelsea sent Mocha Java from her fave coffee shop and nailed it. Totally my complete order. And it is perfect. She included a coffee-to-go mug and 2 reusable canvas bags for groceries as she knows we like to keep it green here in the Emerald City.

Chelsea was a sweetheart to stick to my dietary preferences and I loved having a bite of Troy right here in my own kitchen all the way across the country. Her lovely letter explained her choice of items on a personal level. Thank you, Chelsea!

Comment to let me know if you decide to sign up to be a Foodie Penpal. It’ll bring a welcome, quaint, yummy box to your door every month.

Assess Your Stress To Help Your Heart June 1, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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If your heart is a volcano, how shall you expect flowers to bloom? ~ Kahlil Gibran

Stress is the way our body reacts to change. This week, we are talking about emotional stress because it is something within our control, whereas physical stressors aren’t always. Our bodies are designed to adapt to stress but sometimes the way we react to that stress creates more of it. We have the power to choose our perceptions of and responses to any occurrence.

How does stress affect the heart?

Inflamed reactions and worry have more than just a passing physiological affect on the body. The instinctive “fight-or-flight” response increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Blood flow is re-directed to the muscular system releasing fats into the bloodstream to be used as energy, speeds breathing or makes it more difficult, and increases cortisol and triglyceride levels. Continued stress can lead to an abnormal heart rhythm, elevate your risk for heart disease, and cause a stroke or heart attack.

Your physical and mental well-being are worth getting control of emotional stress and anger. Stress is a normal part of life and dealing with it effectively decreases the risk of suffering from heart ailments.

5 Calm Coping Actions

An enlightened soul radiates love and light. And I mean radiates. This can be you! Here are five methods you can adopt to control your responses to emotional stress and do a little soul-searching.

1) Starting today, you have a clean slate! Give yourself permission to start anew and let go of what is weighing you down. Create your own moral code of conduct independent of religious virtues, which can occupy another space in your life. This tip is an exercise on living morally in this life so you are able to attain your maximum potential. Too worried to let go? That’s ok, move on to step 2.

2) “Seventy-five percent to ninety percent of all primary care visits are stress-related” (HealthMath). Knowledge is the first step to solving any problem. Identifying your particular stressors will enable you to tune in to methods of coping with them specifically. A good place to start is with this free, simple assessment tool from HealthMath. The tool measures perceived stress and reactions to life situations. Intrinsic and extrinsic variables are measured, and analysis is based on responses. Identification of stressors can help us tune in to our reactions, reign in the drama or the feeling of being overwhelmed, and develop new coping abilities. Helpful tips are based on your score.

3) Take care of business. Like my first car salesman told me, “You’re not gonna do it (make the loan payment every month) unless you have to.” This extends to all areas of life. Staying on top of chores, bills and other duties or commitments leaves you feeling responsible and self-sufficient, and frees up time to pursue other interests, including step 4.

4) Spend uninterrupted time on personal reflection. You may have to complete this step many times before you make any notable progress. Try journal-writing, free-association writing, meditation or prayer, or taking long walks by yourself for the sole purpose of soul-searching. If you can’t seem to find the time, schedule it on your calendar. Use this time to shut out external “noise” and self-talk, remain in a calm state, and open your mind to all possibilities. Allow your inner voice/the light within you/your true spirit to guide you in defining your purpose in life. This does not include all the “should do’s,” but ideas that enable your inner light to shine through you and outward to touch other people in a positive way. Where do your talents lie? About what are you passionate? What is unique about you? What feeds your soul and makes your spirit soar? The answers are already within you. When you finally find them, make a written plan addressing how you can incorporate them into action every day.

5) Respond to anxiety, rather than react to it. Choose what you will say or do to keep the situation in perspective. Avoid shouting or swearing as this increases tension and induces stress within the other people around you. Face your stressor(s) head on and do not settle on a compromise unless it leaves you feeling joyful.

Your heart health depends on your ability to manage stress. Managing stress is completely within your control. “If you always do what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got.” For heart’s sake, is it time to make a healthy change?

Related Reading

Infographic: Love Helps: How Relationships and Marriage Effect Health, Happiness and Finance

Journal of the American Medical Association, Chronic Stress and the Heart

The American Institute of Stress

My Picks: Top 10 Superfoods for Disease Prevention February 3, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Scoot over broccoli, almonds and green tea! While we’ve always loved you for being healthy, you just don’t cut it anymore on my Superfood list.

Any search on the internet will include these foods among about 20 others, but my Superfoods qualified for the list by being either 1) rare [I love trying exotic foods]; or more importantly, 2) a whole food high in phytonutrients which not only act as antioxidants but are essential nutrients. Essential nutrients are required for normal body functioning, but cannot be synthesized in adequate amounts, and must be obtained from a dietary source. Processed or cooked foods have lower levels of phytochemicals and contribute to an increase in preventable disease. Your physician may be able to manage or treat disease, but prevent it in the first place by controlling what’s in your power–starting with your diet. So, in an effort to put your health in your own hands, try out my list of Superfoods for disease prevention.

1) Blue-Green Algae or Spirulina: Used since the 9th century, it’s about 60% protein, 7% lipids, and contains all essential amino acids. It’s better than meat or dairy products, and is superior to most plant products such as legumes. Photosynthesis in cyanobacteria produces oxygen. Cancer cells cannot thrive in oxygen-rich blood, or in alkaline conditions. Six species, however, are susceptible to toxic contaminants and may quickly grow into algae blooms, so be careful where you get yours, or use a supplement. Look for cyanobacteria.

alaskan salmon, superfood, weight loss, diet2) Wild Alaskan Salmon: Maximize your benefit by eating this at least twice each week. Not any Atlantic or farm-raised salmon, but fresh Alaskan salmon whenever you can find it. The omega-3 fatty acids are powerful for heart (reduces risk of heart disease by 38% and heart attack by 60%) and brain (decreased risk of Alzheimers, asthma and behavioral conditions present in children, and depression and other psychiatric disorders) function; perfect for pregnant moms for healthy development of fetal brains and retinas. It is always delicious. It is usually expensive. The alternative is paying for disease treatment, which is more costly [in dollars and quality of life] in the short- and long-term.

bee pollen, honey, superfood, allergies, health3) Bee pollen: My regular readers may already be familiar with a previous post on this topic, but the benefits were so extreme and numerous that I could not include them all without multiplying the length of my post by about 3. So, to recap — this is assimilated into the body naturally at the cellular level. It is the only existing compound which scientists have not been able to reproduce in the laboratory. It is 40% protein, is high in B-complex vitamins, as well as A, C, D, E; contains 27 mineral salts and over 5,ooo enzymes necessary for healing and digestion; and contains 96 known nutrients. It aides in so many health issues (strengthens capillaries, improves cholesterol and complexion, reduces risk of prostrate cancer and supports sexual and reproductive function, calms allergies, and even contains natural pheynlalanine which curbs appetite) and much more. This is one amazing Superfood. Get it. Eat it. Up to one tablespoon per day. Ask your doctor if it is safe for you, and try one grain of the pollen first to see if you suffer any anaphylaxic reaction. Where to buy: Bees In The Burbs.

4) Cacao: First used in Mexico, Central and South American cultures, the bean of this small evergreen tree is high in antioxidants and phytochemicals, fiber, iron, magnesium, chromium, zinc, vitamin E, and flavinoids. It does not contain vitamin C as previously thought. When the seeds are roasted, they lose some of their nutrients and this processed form is called cocoa. Most developed nations process it even further, reducing the health benefits and contributing to our overall fat intake. The Archives of Internal Medicine reported that cacao is 14 times better at lowering blood pressure than red wine, and 21 times more effective than green tea. It’s a natural muscle relaxer, especially for asthma, and has been used to treat edema or swelling from fluids. It increases oxygen in the blood so it reduces risk of heart disease and cancer, and increases blood flow to the brain. Where to buy: Theo Chocolates.

watermelon, superfood, health, diet

5) Watermelon: Not just a snack! Locally-grown is best. Otherwise, just know that this Superfood is one of THE healthiest fruits. It contains the highest amounts of lycopene. Yes – much higher than tomatoes! Lycopene is an antioxidant which fights against heart disease and cancer, especially prostate cancer, and inflammatory diseases such as asthma, diabetes, and atherosclerosis. It contains vitamins A, B6, and C for improving tooth and gum disease, and macular degeneration. It helps heal wounds and is a natural energy booster. Also high in potassium, watermelon can help control blood pressure and possibly prevent strokes. It relaxes blood vessels which contributes to a “Viagara effect.”

6) Kamut: Allergic to wheat? Kamut is a unique high energy grain reported now as “the wheat you can eat.” Athletes also prefer this type of wheat as it contains 65% more amino acids than common wheat, more lipids and fatty acids, and is 40% higher in protein content. It is a good souce of selenium, zinc and magnesium. Kamut has an interesting back story. “Following WWII, a US airman claimed to have taken a handful of this grain from a stone box in a tomb near Dashare, Egypt. Thirty-six kernels of the grain were given to a friend who mailed them to his father, a Montana wheat farmer. The farmer planted and harvested a small crop and displayed the grain as a novelty at the local fair. Believing the legend that the giant grain kernels were taken from an Egyptian tomb, the grain was dubbed ‘King Tut’s Wheat.’ But soon the novelty wore off and this ancient grain was all but forgotten. In 1977, one remaining jar of ‘King Tut’s Wheat’ was obtained by another Montana wheat farmer, who with his son, an agricultural scientist and plant biochemist, soon perceived the value of this unique grain. They spent the next decade propagating the humped-backed kernels originally selected from the small jar.” They are naturally resistant to insects and disease–if one stalk is effected, the others remain healthy. Kamut is a registered brand which is available as a cereal, in breads, pancakes, waffles, cookies, pasta, bulgar and couscous.

cinnamon, diabetes, obesity, sugar, superfood, health, diet7) Cinnamon: Nearly everything sold in grocery stores today, besides fresh produce and meat, has added sugar. This even includes low-calorie and low-fat foods and health food bars. Bagels. Campbell’s soup. The added sugar takes many forms–fructose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, lactose and maltose. This, imo, has lead not only to an increase in type 2 diabetes and obesity, but to a national sugar addiction. These added sugars instruct the body to hold on to fat instead of burn it, and have a disastrous effect on blood sugar and insulin levels. There is only one natural product to counter this – cinnamon! You may have been unaware of this and that is because it is not man-made and drug companies cannot profit from cinnamon. Studies show that even one gram (less than 1/2 tsp.) of cinnamon per day reduced blood sugar by 20%. The recommended amount is up to 6 grams which can reduce blood sugar by 63%. It mimicks all the positive effects of insulin and encourages uptake of glucose. Take cinnamon before, during, or after a meal when blood sugar levels are highest. Minimize or eliminate processed foods from your diet and use cinnamon regularly. You will see and feel the difference!

8) Maqui Berry: Originating from rainforests of Chile and Argentina, the composition of the purple Maqui berry (or Chilean Wineberry) has twice as many antioxidants as other berries, including the Acai berry. It promotes cardiovascular health, immune system, skin, bone and joint health. It is also a great detoxifier and will help jump start a weight loss regimen. The berry is available in many forms, so if you’re like me (which you’re probably not) and not fond of berries, look for it in supplement form from a knowledgeable practitioner as it is common to find weaker strains of the berry or supplements of less-than-optimum strength.

9) Quinoa: Often served at our table in place of rice, Quinoa is an ancient Incan grain which is a complete protein (contains all 9 essential amino acids) packed with phytonutrients. It is an extremely rich source of manganese and magnesium, folate and phosphorous, it assists the body to fight migraine headaches, diabetes and athlerosclerosis. It protects mitochondria from oxidative damage and is therefore recommended for reducing several types of cancer. When eaten in conjunction with fish, preferably wild Alaskan salmon, it can reduce by 66% wheezing and incidence of asthma, especially in children.

alliums, onions, garlic, shallots, leeks, superfood, diet, health10) Alliums: This is the onion group which includes shallots, leeks, scallions, garlic and chives. We often incorporate their pungent flavor in cooking, but how are they beneficial for health? They are high in antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral activity which reduces blood platelet aggregation and hyperlipidemia, and helps heal colds and coughs. The phytochemicals are released upon chopping or crushing. They enhance thiamin absorption and lower blood pressure. This group is occasionally contraindicated for people taking certain diabetic therapies, so check with your physician before regular use.

Some of my Superfoods are best locally purchased and not from major supplement stores. Ask a holistic health practitoner, or click on the links to some fantastic small business retailers, select wisely and eat purposefully. Bon appetit!

The Healing Waters: Mineral Hot Springs January 24, 2012

Posted by ToYourHealth in Public Health.
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Hot mineral springs, mineral spa, thermal water, travel

Heat and minerals combine for natural healing

More accessible than thalasso spas or hammams, mineral hot springs are natural geothermal waters heated through contact with volcanic magma or the earth’s crust. Temperatures range from 15° above ambient ground temperature to 176° F. Hot springs have been used for healing purposes by indigenous peoples since prehistoric times all over the earth.

Mineral Therapy

Interaction with several layers of earth and clay contributes essential minerals to the waters. Even trace amounts of minerals can have a significant therapeutic effect when absorbed through the skin. Mineral content and chemical compositions most often found include:

Arsenic: while toxic in large quantities, trace amounts encourage plasma production and tissue growth; beneficial for fungal infections on the skin; arthritis.

Bicarbonate gas: increases circulation and opens peripheral blood vessels. Use in tepid to warm waters can alleviate symptoms associated with cardiovascular disease, hypertension and mild atherosclerosis; relieves stress.

Boron: increases brain activity, strengthens bone and builds muscle.

Chlorides: beneficial for rheumatic conditions, arthritis, stress, arthritis.

Iron: increases blood production and strengthens the immune system.

Lithium: alleviates depression; helps with digestion.

Magnesium: converts blood sugar to energy; promotes healthy skin.

Potassium: regulates heart rhythms and decreases blood pressure; eliminates toxins.

Sulfates: treat respiratory ailments and skin infections. Also beneficial for liver  and gastrointestinal conditions.

Help Yourself

Balneology is the scientific study of naturally occurring mineral waters, and is incorporated into routine medical care in Europe and Asia. It is not practiced in the United States where preventive health has been pushed aside in favor of morbidity treatment. Given the number of mineral hot springs in the US, this is unfortunate. Two-time Nobel Laureat (for chemistry and peace), Dr. Linus Pauling noted, “Every sickness, every disease, every ailment can be traced to a mineral deficiency.” Being in charge of our own health destinies, however, we may avail ourselves to the many therapies of mineral springs.

In the late 1880’s, Doc Holliday, gunslinger of OK Corral legend, ended up living in Glenwood Springs, CO where he used the hot springs to treat his tuberculosis. In the early 1900’s, Teddy Roosevelt occasionally hunted in Colorado, and found the hot springs and vapor caves there beneficial for his health conditions.

Carson Hot Springs in Nevada, was enjoyed by settlers on their way to the Gold Rush, and a resort there even began bottling a healing “new Mineral Water” as early as 1895.

Three thousand years ago, American Natives occupied what is now known as Hot Springs National Park in Arkansas. The Quapaw and Caddo tribes there still consider the hot baths a sacred and integral part of their culture.

Check for mineral hot springs in your area or when traveling. Many websites offer mineral content of their springs, and you will be surprised at how many more elements are common than the few listed above. Also be aware of rules and regulations–some spa settings will be pricey, and more natural settings are likely to attract nudists. But there are so many mineral hot springs, you can be sure to locate the perfect one. A handful of US hot springs:

Glenwood Hot Springs, CO.

Faywood Hot Springs, NM.

Crystal Hot Springs, UT.

Virginia Hot Springs, Allegheny Mountains, VA.

Goldmeyer Hot Springs, WA.

Sol Duc Hot Springs, Olympic National Park, WA.


Some springs are extremely hot and can be fatal. Check with your doctor to know your body’s tolerance with your health conditions. Surrounding ground is also hot and has often melted soles off of shoes.  

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