Monthly Archives: February 2020

Eating to Strengthen Your Immune System

Boost Your Immune System With These Healthy Foods.

Foods to Strengthen your Immune System

Winter is prime season for colds and flu, and while there are lots of practical things you can do to reduce your risk of getting sick, such as washing your hands and getting enough rest, eating well also plays an important role in keeping your immune system healthy. Eating an overall healthy diet on a regular basis is one of the best things you can do for your overall health, but there are also several foods that have specific qualities that can boost the immune system that you may want to add to your diet, especially during flu season.

Help protect yourself from infections by incorporating these superfoods into your diet.

  • BlueberriesBlueberries contain a type of flavonoid called anthocyanin, which has antioxidant properties that can help boost your immune system, particularly the respiratory tract’s defense system. Research has found that people who ate foods rich in flavonoids were less likely to get colds and other upper respiratory tract infections.
  • Garlic – While garlic has long been used as a home remedy to prevent common colds, some research has suggested that eating foods that contain the herb may help reduce the number of colds a person gets every year.
  • Green tea – Like blueberries, green tea contains flavonoids that may reduce the risk of viral infections. Green tea only contains a very small amount of caffeine so it can be safely consumed or substituted for coffee or black tea.
  • Oranges – Oranges are an excellent source of vitamin C, which is what many people are already familiar with to help prevent or treat a cold. While scientists are still not sure exactly how it helps, vitamin C may reduce the duration of common cold symptoms and improve the function of the immune system. Other citrus fruits, fruit juices, and some vegetables, such as red peppers, that contain vitamin C can also be beneficial to keeping germs away.
  • Nuts, seeds, and nut butters – Certain nuts are high in vitamin E, which is another antioxidant that strengthens your immune system. Nuts such as almonds, hazelnuts, and sunflower seeds, and peanut butter are good sources of vitamin E.
  • TurmericTurmeric is a yellow spice used in cooking and has also been used in alternative medicine. Its main ingredient, curcumin, is believed to lower the risk of many diseases, such as heart disease, cancer, and diabetes. It’s action as an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant strengthens the body’s immune response.
  • Spinach – Spinach is a super food that contains vitamins C and E as well as flavonoids and carotenoids, all of which can boost your immune system.
  • KefirKefir is a fermented drink that contains live cultures of bacteria that are beneficial for health. Several studies have shown it can fight off bacteria, reduce inflammation, and increase antioxidant activity.

Adding these foods to your diet may help strengthen your immune system and reduce your risk for colds and viruses, but eating a balanced, healthy diet along with good lifestyle choices such as exercising, not smoking, and getting enough sleep will go a long way toward keeping you healthy year-round.

 

8 Ways to Avoid Exercise Injuries

Avoiding Exercise Injuries

Whether you’re just starting out with an exercise routine or are a seasoned athlete, injuries can and do happen. But exercise injuries don’t have to be inevitable. There are simple steps you can take to exercise smarter and reduce your risk for some of the most common fitness injuries such as strains, sprains, and muscle tears.

1. Have an annual physical.
There’s a reason it’s recommended that you see your doctor before starting a fitness program. Any new activity can place stress on your body, especially your joints and heart. Your doctor can perform a fitness test using a treadmill as well as other tests to check your cardiovascular system and to determine if you have any limitations.

2. Use a personal trainer.
If your gym offers the services of a personal trainer, take advantage of it, especially if you are new to exercising. A qualified trainer can help you avoid many of the bad habits that affect even seasoned athletes, and teach you how to concentrate on form when performing exercises. Even just a few sessions with a personal trainer will be beneficial to show you how to perform exercises correctly to avoid injury.

3. Know your limitations.
Knowing your body and your personal limitations is one of the best ways to avoid injury. It’s important to avoid activities that push too hard on any weak areas you may have. For example, if you have knee issues, you’ll want to avoid using a stepper or running on a treadmill; if you deal with hip problems, a spinning class could exacerbate your problem.

4. Listen to your body.
In addition to knowing your body’s limitations when working out, it is never normal to feel pain. Pain is a signal from your body that you are placing too much stress on a certain muscle or joint, and continuing to exercise when you feel pain risks injury. If you feel pain at any point during exercise, even a muscle cramp, you should immediately back off and rest that muscle. You can switch activities or work a different muscle group; for example, if you are feeling pain in your ankle, then move to working out your arms.

5. Warm-up.
You should always take the time to stretch and warm-up before exercising. Even if you’re in great shape, your muscles and tendons will be tight before you begin exercising. If you don’t warm up, you risk injuring muscles by straining them or even rupturing a muscle or tendon. Spend several minutes stretching or walking before jumping into your exercise routine. Warm-ups go a long way in preventing injuries.

6. Start slowly and work up gradually.
If you’re just starting out, it’s important to begin an exercise program by gradually building up intensity as your fitness improves. Start with moderate activity for 20 minutes, three times per week, and build from there by slowly adding time to your session and more frequency to workouts.

7. Wear proper clothing and shoes.
Many sports injuries are the result of improper footwear. Investing in a good pair of sneakers that are designed for the sport or exercise you are doing will protect your feet and ankles, and help prevent injury. Likewise, proper workout clothing is essential for comfort. You don’t have to spend a lot of money to find workout wear that provides protection and is designed to wick away sweat and prevent overheating.

8. Fuel your body.
Working out on an empty stomach will be harder on your body. While you don’t want to work out immediately following a meal, eating the right foods two hours before a workout will give your body the proper fuel it needs to perform. Hydration is just as important.  Drink 16 oz. of water at least two hours before working out, and sip on water during your workout to keep from becoming dehydrated. After working out, replenish with more water. Hydrated muscles are less likely to become injured.

 

Does Exercise Help Fight Off Colds and Flu?

Help Prevent Colds and Flu with Regular Exercise
Regular exercise is good for our bodies and well-being, but research also shows that regular, moderate exercise can also help our bodies fight off germs during cold and flu season. The key, though, is the word moderate—in contrast, more intense exercise and endurance training have been shown to have the opposite effect on the immune system.

Moderate Exercise Boosts Immunity
A research study found that staying active decreased the odds of catching a cold by nearly half, and even for those who exercised regularly and still caught a cold, the infection and symptoms were less severe. Lead researcher Dr. David Nieman, director of the Human Performance Laboratory at Appalachian State University in North Carolina and a former president of the International Society of Exercise Immunology says, “Bouts of exercise spark a temporary rise in immune system cells circulating around the body that can attack foreign invaders.”

Research shows moderate amounts of aerobic exercise such as walking, jogging, or cycling during peak cold and flu months help boost the body’s defenses against viruses and bacteria. Moderate exercise is considered to be 30 minutes, four to five times per week.

But in people who engage in prolonged exercise, such as marathon running, research has shown it can suppress certain parts of the immune system. Those who engage in fitness exercise seem to have better resistance to colds and viruses than those who participate in more intense endurance training. For example, athletes running 60 miles a week have double the odds of sickness, compared to those who run less. Research shows that more than 90 minutes of high-intensity endurance exercise can make athletes susceptible to illness for up to 72 hours after the exercise session.

Should You Exercise When You’re Sick?
If you’re feeling under the weather, you may not feel like exercising at all, but if you are a regular exerciser or are training for a 5K, for example, you may feel like missing your workout will put you behind.

Deciding whether or not to exercise when you are sick depends on certain factors. According to David Pyne, a sports scientist, and researcher with the Research Institute for Sport and Exercise at the University of Canberra, athletes do what’s known as the “neck check” when determining if they should continue with regular training or rest for a few days when sick.

The “neck check” means that if your symptoms are from the neck up and not too severe—such as a runny nose or sore throat, and you don’t have a fever—then moderate exercise won’t make you worse and actually might be beneficial.

However, if your symptoms are more severe and are below the neck, like chest congestion or muscle or joint aches, or you’re running a fever, you should avoid exercise until your symptoms subside. Exercising with more severe cold or flu symptoms can prolong your illness and make you feel worse.

After a bout with the common cold, once symptoms have resolved, you can safely resume your regular exercise routine. But if you’ve had more severe illness or the flu, it’s important that you return to exercising gradually. Ease back into your routine with light exercise on the first day or two after an illness, and gradually work back up to your normal routine.

Keep the Germs Away
In addition to regular moderate exercise, there are other lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent colds and flu:

  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of fruits and vegetables.
  • Get enough sleep.
  • Drink plenty of fluids.
  • Get a flu vaccine annually.
  • Wash your hands with soap and warm water frequently.
  • Wipe down counters and other surfaces (phones, remotes, doorknobs, light switches, etc.) with a strong cleaner.
  • Keep your hands out of your mouth, ears, nose, and eyes.
  • Stay home if you’re sick!

The Sweet Truth: 6 Myths About Diabetes Debunked

Diabetes is one of the most misunderstood chronic diseases. With November being Diabetes Awareness Month, it’s time to debunk some of the many myths that surround diabetes. Not only is it important to understand the difference between Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes, as was discussed in last week’s blog, but there are numerous misconceptions and untruths about this chronic condition that not only affect how people with diabetes are viewed but also how people with diabetes take care of their health.

Myth: Diabetes is caused by eating too much sugar.
Fact: Sugar does not cause diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disease that is caused by a complex variety of factors including genetics, family history, viruses, and environment. While Type 2 diabetes is more common in individuals who are overweight, it is not caused directly by sugar alone;  a poor diet and sedentary lifestyle can make one more susceptible for developing diabetes if they are predisposed through genetics and a family history.

Myth: People with diabetes cannot eat sugar.
Fact:
Every person with diabetes has been asked, “Can you eat that?” And the answer is YES! Dessert and sweet treats are not off limits to people with diabetes. While foods with a high sugar content can raise blood sugar levels, so can any food containing carbohydrates. The key is moderation and a balancing act with medications. The amount of sugar a person with diabetes can eat depends on the individual and the medications he or she takes.

Many years ago, people with diabetes were told not to eat any sugar at all, but with new research and better diabetes treatments, people with diabetes can now consume sugar safely. This has remained the biggest myth about diabetes that many people still believe today.

Myth: Insulin cures diabetes.
Fact:
Insulin is a treatment and a life-saving medication, but it is not a cure. There currently is no cure for diabetes. People with Type 1 diabetes must take insulin for their entire lives.

Myth: Being overweight causes Type 2 diabetes.
Fact:
Another common misconception, but this assertion is also untrue. While being overweight or obese is a risk factor for developing Type 2 diabetes, there’s a lot more to diabetes than weight alone. To develop diabetes, you must be genetically predisposed. If you have this genetic component, maintaining a healthy weight and eating healthfully can delay, but will not entirely prevent diabetes.

Myth: Women with diabetes should not get pregnant.
Fact:
While movies like “Steel Magnolias” would lead one to believe that this is true, women with diabetes can have healthy pregnancies and healthy babies. While a woman with diabetes, especially Type 1, is considered a high-risk pregnancy, as long as her diabetes is under good control and she works closely with a team of medical experts, she can safely deliver a healthy baby.

Myth: Diabetes is not that serious.
Fact:
Diabetes causes more deaths than breast cancer and HIV/AIDS combined. When not managed properly, diabetes can cause long-term complications that can lead to heart disease, stroke, and kidney failure. In the short-term, chronically high blood sugar can lead to Diabetic Ketoacidosis (DKA), which can be fatal, and people who take insulin can suffer from low blood sugar, which if left untreated, can lead to unconsciousness and sometimes even death.

How to Eat for Heart Health

February is American Heart Month, a designated time led by the American Heart Association to help raise awareness of heart disease, and to encourage people to live a healthy lifestyle by making small changes that can lead to better heart health.

One of these small changes is eating a healthy diet, and it’s one of the best things you can do for your heart. There are certain foods that can help lower blood pressure and reduce cholesterol to help lower your risk for heart disease. Working these foods into your diet on a regular basis is a simple lifestyle change that can have big benefits for your heart health.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) caution that eating foods high in fat, cholesterol, or sodium can be bad for your heart. Avoiding these types of foods or limiting their portions and incorporating more heart-healthy foods into your diet is a great way to reduce your overall heart disease risk.

A diet that is rich in whole foods, limits processed foods, and includes whole grains, nuts, fish, olive oil, and lots of fruits and vegetables is the best way to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease. Making a few small swaps can make a huge difference.

These 15 foods are good for your heart, and you should include some of them in your daily diet.

1. Fish – Choose seafood that is high in Omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, tuna, mackerel, herring, and trout.
2. Nuts – Snack on almonds or walnuts; just be sure to watch your portion sizes since nuts are high in calories.
3. Berries – Colorful berries like strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are full of fiber and phytonutrients that are great for heart health. Add a serving to your yogurt or cereal, or eat them as a healthy snack.
4. Seeds – Flaxseeds and chia seeds contain Omega-3s, fiber, and phytoestrogens that can boost heart health.
5. Oats – There’s a reason oatmeal is the preferred breakfast cereal, as it can help reduce cholesterol and provide lots of other nutrients and fiber.
6. Legumes – Beans and lentils such as garbanzo, pinto, kidney, or black beans are high in fiber, B-vitamins, minerals, and more. Cook them in a chili or soup or serve them as a side dish at meals.
7. Red wine – If you crave that glass of wine after work, just make sure it’s red and keep it at a 4-ounce serving to help improve your good cholesterol levels (HDL).
8. Soy – Edamame, tofu, and other soy-based foods are great to work into meals for a heart boost.
9. Vegetables – Choose red, yellow, and orange veggies that contain carotenoids for the best health punch. Eat veggies like carrots, sweet potatoes, red peppers, and tomatoes regularly to get the most benefit.
10. Leafy green vegetables – Eat your greens! Substitute spinach, kale, collard greens, or bok choy for lettuce in salads and sandwiches. Add broccoli and asparagus as sides for meals.
11. Fruits – Select fruits rich in beta-carotene like oranges, cantaloupe, and papaya.
12. Whole grains – An easy swap is to switch to whole grain breads, pastas, and rice instead of white-flour versions. The more whole grains you eat, including oats, rye, barely, and quinoa, the more heart benefits you get.
13. Avocados – Avocados are a great source of “good” fat and potassium that can reduce cholesterol and decrease heart disease risk.
14. Olive oil – Use it for cooking in place of vegetable oil, and add it to sauces and vinaigrettes to improve overall heart health.
15. Dark chocolate – You can still enjoy dessert, just replace milk chocolate with dark chocolate, and choose those with the highest percentage of cocoa to counteract the sugar content.