22 Best And Worst Foods For Fall

Pumpkin-Pie-ImageI love the holidays. Fall and winter bring many festivities – from Halloween and Thanksgiving to Christmas and New Years. I enjoy spending time with family and friends and making new memories. And then, of course, there’s the food.

I love to eat, especially when someone else cooks it and puts it on the table in front of me to enjoy. Unfortunately, I enjoy all of the tasty fall and winter treats that are bad for me. I have been known to raid my kids’ Halloween candy after they go to bed. I live for all the fattening Thanksgiving foods like stuffing and pumpkin pie.

So, I have made a resolution to TRY to eat healthier this holiday season. I did some research on the worst and best foods to eat during the fall and winter months.

First, here’s a list of the 7 most fattening foods for fall and winter:

Heart-warming drinks
Fall drinks, such as hot chocolate, eggnog, apple cider, flavored lattes, and hot toddies, are loaded with extra calories. While they are absolutely delicious, they contain anywhere from 200 to almost 400 empty calories. I have found green teas that offer great cold-weather flavors and provide antioxidants without the added calories.

Yummy pies
I am a big fan of pie. In fact, there are very few types of pie that I won’t eat. While pie often starts out with a healthy fruit, nut or vegetable filling, it may then become loaded down with heavy pie crusts, sweeteners and ice cream toppings. Try to skip the crust, cut a small piece, and opt for a light whipped topping.

Creamy, delicious soups
There’s nothing like a bowl of hot soup to ward off the chill of long winter months. Yet, soups or stews that are loaded with cream, cheese or meat may also have too many calories. Add in a bread bowl, rice or noodles and you’ve loaded on even more calories. Broth and vegetable-based soups can fill you up with fewer calories.

Delectable stuffing
Stuffing can be filled with high-fat additions such as sausage and butter. Plus, stuffing is even better with a side of mashed potatoes and gravy. You can make a low-fat stuffing with fruits, vegetables and stock – and go easy on the gravy.

Comforting mac and cheese
Macaroni and cheese is a staple for most kids and a blast from the past for adults. One cup of mac and cheese can contain 300 to 400 calories. To lower the calories, use low-fat cheese and low-fat milk.

Dreamy mashed potatoes
Mashed potatoes are another yummy, comfort food. Many recipes rely on butter, heavy cream and whole milk to bump up the flavor. Substitute low-fat options for healthier mashed potatoes.

Scrumptious pumpkin desserts
Pumpkin on its own is good for you. Make it into a pie, cake or other rich dessert and you negate the health benefits. Pumpkin muffins or custard can be a low-fat alternative.

Now, it’s time to put these wonderful, tasty and fattening foods out of your mind and focus on healthy, nutritious alternatives. With a little Internet research, you can find easy recipes to create good-for-you holiday dishes that everyone can enjoy.

Here are 12 healthy fall foods that are sure to be a hit with friends and family:

Turkey
Turkey is a good winter food. It’s lean and packed with protein. It’s also low in calories. In addition to being a traditional entree for Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner, you can also enjoy turkey in soups or as a hearty sandwich on whole-grain bread with veggies for toppings.

Sweet potatoes
Sweet potatoes offer much more nutritional content than white potatoes. They are filled with fiber and protein and provide vitamins A, C and B6, as well as minerals such as potassium and manganese. Sweet potatoes also work in a variety of dishes from sides to desserts.

Squash
Winter squash has a fine texture and sweeter flavor. Squash is loaded with vitamins and minerals, including vitamin A and omega-3 fatty acids. To maintain the nutritional value, it’s best to bake, grill or fry squash without adding butter or syrup. Try low-fat margarine, brown sugar, applesauce, or cinnamon and ginger as seasonings.

Pumpkin
As we mentioned under the fattening foods, pumpkin is good for you. This vegetable is a good source of fiber and is full of vitamins and nutrients, including iron, magnesium, potassium, niacin, and vitamins A and C. Pumpkin does contain natural sugar so keep recipes simple by not adding extra sugar.

Beets
Beets are high in fiber, potassium, iron and vitamin C. Beets are sweet and can be roasted as a side dish or added to salads for a splash of color.

Carrots
Carrots are rich in vitamin A, C and B6, and contain potassium, thiamin and fiber. Grated, sliced or diced carrots add a great garnish to dishes and provide many health benefits.

Broccoli
While broccoli gets a bad rap, it is a power vegetable containing vitamins A, C and B6 as well as being high in potassium, manganese and fiber.

Cabbage
Cabbage, a cruciferous vegetable known for their health benefits, is loaded with nutrition. It’s full of vitamins, nutrients and has anti-inflammatory properties. Cabbage can be added to a variety of dishes to give them a healthy boost.

Cauliflower
Cauliflower makes a great side dish or addition to other vegetable dishes. It can be steamed, grilled, roasted or mashed like potatoes. Cauliflower is a great source for vitamin C and may help prevent cancer and lower cholesterol.

Citrus fruits
Many varieties of citrus fruits are available during the winter months, including mandarin oranges, tangerines, blood oranges and clementines. Citrus fruits are loaded with vitamin C and high in fiber.

Apples and pears
Apples and pears are high in fiber and a good source of vitamin C. They are good for you when eaten raw or baked into side dishes.

Cranberries
Fresh cranberries are available during the fall and winter months. Cranberries are low in calories and contain fiber and vitamin C. Add them to salads, muffins or as toppings for side dishes.

Figs and dates
Figs are high in sugar, but they contain fiber and add a great flavor to fall dishes. Dates are also sweet, provide fiber and potassium, and can be added to salads, fruit dishes and desserts.

It’s easy to make traditional holiday dishes and comfort foods during the cold fall and winter months. However, you can break from tradition and switch out those fattening foods with healthier alternatives. Hop on the Internet and search for recipes you can make with the nutritious fruits and vegetables listed above.

Do you have healthy dishes you enjoy fixing during the holidays? Please feel free to pass on your favorite recipes.

6 Health Benefits of a Mediterranean Diet

mediterranean_diet2-300x236If you’re looking for a healthy eating plan, the Mediterranean diet may be a good option for you. While this type of approach has many benefits, there are also several misconceptions about this healthy lifestyle.

First, let’s debunk the myths about the Mediterranean diet:

Myth 1: This diet is expensive.
The fact is the Mediterranean diet is less expensive than eating dishes of meat, cheese and processed foods. You’ll be creating meals of beans or lentils, as a source of protein, and eating more plants and whole grains.

Myth 2: Wine is always healthy.
Wine is good for your heart in moderation. For example, one glass a day for women and two for men. More than two glasses of wine can actually be bad for your heart.

Myth 3: You can eat all the pasta and bread you want.
Mediterraneans don’t eat heaping plates of pasta the way Americans do. Pasta is typically a side dish with only a 1/2 cup or 1 cup serving size. The rest of their plate contains salad, vegetables and a small portion of meat.

Myth 4: You’ll lose weight on this diet.
This diet alone may not lead to weight loss. The people of the Greek islands also include exercise in their daily lives, by walking up and down steep hills, tending gardens and living off what they can grow themselves.

Myth 5: The diet is only about food.
The Mediterranean diet has more to do with how the people live their lives. They sit down for meals, relax and eat leisurely while enjoying the meal with others. This approach to food may be as important to your health as what’s on your plate.

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes:

  • Eating plant-based foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, legumes and nuts
  • Replacing butter with healthy fats, such as olive oil
  • Using herbs and spices instead of salt for flavoring
  • Limiting red meat to no more than a few times a month
  • Eating fish and poultry twice a week or more
  • Drinking red wine in moderation

Here are 6 health benefits of eating in a Mediterranean style:

Prevent heart disease and stroke
One of the main reasons to follow a Mediterranean diet is to promote heart health. Refined breads, processed foods and red meat are discouraged. In addition, red wine is better for your heart than hard liquor.

Protect against type 2 diabetes
Rich in fiber, the Mediterranean diet slows down digestion and prevents huge swings in blood sugar. The diet also includes less sugar than the typical American diet.

Reduce risk of Alzheimer’s
Researchers believe the Mediterranean diet may improve cholesterol, blood sugar levels and overall blood vessel health. All of these factors may reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s or dementia.

Halve the risk of Parkinson’s disease
The risk of Parkinson’s disease can practically be cut in half. That’s because this diet contains high levels of antioxidants that prevent cells from undergoing a damaging process called oxidative stress.

Live longer
With a reduction in developing heart disease as well as cancer, there is a 20 percent reduction in the risk of death at any age.

Stay agile
The nutrients gained with a Mediterranean diet may reduce the risk of developing muscle weakness and other signs of frailty as we age by 70 percent.

While the Mediterranean diet may seem like a daunting change, it can be easier to adopt than you think. It follows the common sense approach to incorporating balance into your diet, by including lots of vegetables and fruits, cutting down on meat and eating more fish, chicken and good fats. You should also include physical activity and enjoy your meals with family and friends.

A Day of Thanks and Recognition

labordayLabor Day has been celebrated for over 100 years. It’s a day to pay tribute to the hard work of the men and women who have built this country.

As we reflect on this weekend’s Labor Day celebrations, we encourage you to thank all of the laborers, leaders, and visionaries who make sacrifices and dedicate themselves to working hard all year long to shape our great nation!

Are Your Kids Stressed Out?

KidsHaveStressTooPicIf you’re like most parents, your list of errands and things to do never ends. You run from one activity or event to the next. You’re probably stressed out at times.

Guess what? Your kids may be stressed out, too. The start of school – after a summer of being on vacation – can be a particularly stressful time.

How do you know if your kids are stressed?
A recent survey by the American Psychological Association found that 20% of children have ongoing stress.

Here are 4 questions to ask yourself to determine if your child is stressed:

  1. Does your child have more meltdowns than usual?
  2. Do you notice more fatigue, irritability, headaches or stomachaches?
  3. Is your child sleeping poorly or having more nightmares?
  4. Does your child seem angry?

What can you do to help your child cope with stress? Here are 8 stress relievers you can teach your kids:

Think positive
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut of negative thinking. You may also be teaching your kids to think in the negative instead of the positive. Rather than saying, “I hope I don’t fail the test,” put a positive spin on it and say, “I have studied, and I will pass the test.”

Show by example
Kids are perceptive. They watch you and pay attention to what you’re doing. If you show them that you can manage stress in productive way, they will learn that stress is something they can deal with. Make sure they see you finding effective methods of handling stress in your life.

De-stress early
Most people wait until they’re stressed out to use stress-busting techniques. You can teach your kids to know the signs early or take a preventative approach to dealing with stress. For instance, you can use healthy eating, exercising, meditating or other techniques to help  cope with stress.

Unplug
While we rely on technology in many aspects of our lives, it can also add to our stress levels. Try a self-imposed technology cut-off time. Limit screen time for kids, including TV, movies, mobile phones, tablets and social media. You and your kids may be surprised by the things you can find to do when you’re unplugged.

Eat together
At least once a day, make it a point to eat a meat together. It can be breakfast if everyone is up and about at the same time. Or plan on sitting down to eat dinner in the evening as a family. You can learn quite a bit about what’s going on in your kids’ lives if you sit down regularly for a meal and conversation.

Spend time with friends
As adults we spend time with our friends to unwind, complain about our boss or just goof off. Your kids should also build healthy friendships that allow them to be themselves and blow off steam. They can hang out at the park, have sleep overs or just play in the yard.

Take up a sport
Sports are a great way to relieve stress. Playing a team sport can also help your kids build relationships, exercise and have fun.

Enjoy creative activities
Art, music or other creative tasks can help alleviate stress. Even reading a book can be a stress buster.

Relationships can help kids build resilience. Spending time with parents or grandparents playing board games, cooking or tossing a frisbee can help kids handle stress. And it creates happy memories for everyone!

11 Exercise Benefits You Don’t See

exerciseWhat’s the most common reason why people exercise? To lose weight. Yet, physical activity provides so many more benefits. Do you want to feel better? Need more energy? Want to live longer? Then get out there and get moving!

Here are 11 important benefits to exercising that you don’t see:

Improved mood
If you’re in a bad mood or have had a stressful day, you can blow off some steam by going for a brisk 30-minute walk or working out at the gym. Exercise stimulates brain chemicals that make you feel happier and more relaxed. You may also feel better about yourself because you fit a workout into your day.

Energy boost
When you’re tired, the last thing you want to do is move. Yet, when you use energy to exercise, it gives you an energy boost. By exercising more regularly, you may also be able to eliminate fatigue and find that you have a lot more pep.

More confidence
Working out can make you look better on the outside. It can also make you feel better on the inside. Exercising can make you feel more empowered and boost your self-esteem. You feel ready to conquer anything.

Sleep better
We need our beauty rest so that our bodies can recover, repair damage, renew energy and clear the mind. Exercise is an all-natural sleep aid. People who exercise regularly have less insomnia and a higher quality of sleep.

Reduce stress
Exercise calms your body and your brain. After you work out, the levels of stress hormones – such as adrenaline and cortisol – drop. Especially after aerobic exercise, stress and anxiety melt away. You may also be able to cope more easily with stress when you feel confident about yourself.

Pump up your heart
If high blood pressure and heart disease run in your family, exercise can help you strengthen your heart. Being active boosts HDL or “good cholesterol” and lowers unhealthy triglycerides. Physical activity keeps your blood flowing and decreases the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Combat disease
In addition to giving you a healthy heart, regular physical activity can help you prevent or manage a wide range of health problems. Do you have a family history of certain types of diseases? Get moving and reduce your risk of stroke, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes depression, certain types of cancer, arthritis and falls.

Relieve arthritis pain
Regular exercise can help ease your pain if you have arthritis. It can make your daily activities easier. Consider non-impact exercises like swimming. These types of exercises can be easier on your joints.

Strengthen bones
It’s important to keep our bones and muscles strong as we get older. Weight-bearing exercise, such as weight-lifting, walking, tennis and dancing, can help you strengthen and build bones. It can also help ward off osteoporosis and improve balance and coordination.

Look younger
People who work out often look younger than their friends. Now research has found that exercisers are truly younger on a cellular level than their peers. Exercise more and feel free to lie about your age!

Live longer
In addition to looking younger, regular exercise can add years to your life. You don’t have to be a hard-core fitness buff. Just get up and get moving. Even a little exercise can help you live longer than not exercising at all.

The bottom line: exercise is a great way to feel better, gain confidence, combat disease and improve chronic health conditions. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity every day. So get moving!

Are You Always Late? Be on Time Now!

clock-running-lateI am often running late. In fact, I was born a week late. I have good intentions. I want to be on time. Yet, it always seems I’m running 5 to 10 minutes behind schedule.

Most people don’t like to be late. Being late may actually be a habit you’ve developed over time. Think about your history and patterns. Are you late to everything or just some things? What causes you to run behind? How do you feel when you’re late?

If you truly want to make a change, you can overcome lateness. Here are 9 steps you can take to be on time:

Make a To-Do List Every Day
Each morning, make a list of things you want to accomplish that day. Try to create a realistic list, so you’re more likely to achieve your goals. Arrange tasks in the order of importance, urgency or time of day. Cross off each item when you complete it. I actually like to write out my to-do list the night before so that I don’t worry about it while I’m trying to go to sleep. Plus, I’m more awake and function better at night than I do first thing in the morning.

Schedule Events on Your Calendar
Keep a desk calendar, day planner or use a smartphone app to keep track of appointments or activities. Getting into the habit of keeping track of events on calendar can help you become more organized and prepared for what you need to do each day.

Check Your Calendar 3 Times a Day
Make it habit to check your calendar at the same times each day. It might make sense for you to review it first thing in the morning, after lunch and towards the end of the day. While writing things down may help you remember, be sure to check our calendar regularly to ensure you’re on track.

Be a Time Pessimist
Assume that everything will take a little longer than you anticipate. This approach will keep you on time, or even make you a little early. People who run early tend to be more calm, organized and ready to handle whatever comes up.

Plan to Be Early
Late people always aim to arrive right on time, but that leaves no room for contingency. You may know that you can drive to work in exactly 15 minutes. Yet if you get stuck in traffic due to an accident or have to run back for important papers you forgot at home, it makes it impossible to be on time. You should plan to be 15 minutes early to everything.

Welcome the Wait
If being early freaks you out, look at it as an opportunity to have some down time. Bring a magazine or book to read, call a friend for a few minutes, or go over your schedule for the week. If you make it an activity you will enjoy, you’ll want to be early.

Prioritize
You may be late simply because you don’t have time to do everything. The only way to change this is to cut back on what you’re doing. Figure out what’s most important and make it a priority to check these items off your list.

Be Honest with Yourself
Why are you letting yourself be late? Why aren’t you controlling your time? Part of being on time is acknowledging why you’re late. You’re letting your schedule run your life. To be on schedule is to plan the life you want to live and then create a plan to make it happen.

Make Organization a Daily Habit
You can make a change that will help you achieve a more balanced life. You can become more organized and create a habit of being on time.

9 Ways to Burn More Calories

burn-300-caloriesLike most Americans, I am always searching for quick and easy ways to boost my metabolism. Is there really anything we can do to increase the number of calories our bodies burn each day?

The simple answer: yes and no. There is no magic trick to burning calories. Your age, gender and genetics play a role in your metabolism. You may inherit a speedy metabolism. Men tend to burn calories more easily than women. And, for most of us, metabolism slows steadily after the age of 40.

So, what can you do? The best way to burn calories is the old fashioned way: by moving more.

However, research suggests that there may be other ways to amp up your metabolism. Here are 9 ways to burn more calories:

Get Active
Energy is burned when you move. From making your bed in the morning to lifting your arm to push the remote control at night, you are burning calories. Simple daily activity can account for 30% of the calories you burn each day. So, get moving! The more active you are each day, the better.

Build Muscle
While you can burn calories when you’re doing nothing, the resting metabolic rate is higher in people with more muscle. For every pound of muscle you put on, your body uses about 50 extra calories a day. Training with weights 3 times a week for just 20 minutes is enough to build muscle.

Add Protein
Your body can burn more calories when digesting protein than it does eating fat or carbohydrates. To create a balanced diet, replace some carbs with lean, protein-rich foods. Good sources of protein include lean meats, such as beef, turkey, fish and white meat chicken. You can also add protein to your diet with nuts, beans, eggs, tofu and low-fat dairy products.

Snack smart
Eating more frequently can help you lose weight. When you eat 3 large meals a day with several hours between them, your metabolism slows down in between. Having smaller meals or snacks every 3 or 4 hours can help keep your metabolism going at a steady pace throughout the day. In addition, small snacks help you eat less at mealtimes.

Hydrate
We know that water is good for our health. Your body also needs water to process calories. If you become even mildly dehydrated, your metabolism may slow down. In studies, adults who drink 8 or more glasses of water burned more calories than those who drank four glasses.

Spice it up
Spicy foods have natural chemicals that can rev up your metabolism. Eat foods spiced up with chopped red or green chili pepper, order Thai food or spice up pasta dishes, chili and stews with red pepper flakes. Spicy foods can spike up your metabolism by 23 percent.

Drink coffee
Caffeine is a stimulant and can help you burn more calories. In moderation, one of coffee’s benefits may be a short-term rise in your metabolic rate. Caffeine can also help you feel less tired and increase your endurance while exercising or give you the motivation to get moving!

Sip tea
Green and black tea may have calorie-burning effects beyond the caffeine they contain. Green tea contains catechins – substances that rev up your metabolism for a couple of hours. Drinking tea at meals may have another fat-fighting benefit. Tea extract may interfere with the body’s absorption of carbohydrates when eaten in the same meal.

Get fidgety
Fidgeting qualifies as movement and can help you burn more calories. What counts as fidgeting? Anything that keeps you moving! You can tap your feet, swing your legs, drum your fingers, pace, wriggle, stand up and stretch, move your head from side to side, or clench and release your muscles.

It’s easy to work these tips for burning calories into your daily routine. And, if you do nothing else, get moving! Make it a point every day to find more ways to be physically active.

9 Simple Ways to Handle Stress

relaxOur lives are filled with stress. It’s impossible to avoid. You’re already late for an appointment and get slowed down by road construction. Your boss dumped a proposal on you that’s due tomorrow. Your schedule is hectic, and you need to be in two places at once.

Research shows that some stress can be good for you. However, if you’re dealing with persistent – long-term stress, such as a sick parent or a demanding boss, it can actually lead to a variety of health issues.

Here are 9 simple and practical ways to copy with stress in your daily life:

Enjoy some fresh air
Make it a point to get outside every day. Research shows that vitamin D from sunlight can elevate your mood by releasing feel-good serotonin. Taking in the sights, sounds and smells around you will take your mind off your worries or frustrations. Even feeling the wind on your face can lift your spirits.

Take a walk
When you’re stressed, it’s easy to turn to bad habits to make you feel better, such as a candy, cigarettes or caffeine. Next time you’re feeling anxious, go for a quick stroll. Studies show that even 10 minutes of exercise can provide a mental boost. Better yet, climb a few flights of stairs. Climbing stairs requires you to pay more attention to what you’re doing and helps vent frustrations.

Rely on rituals
You probably already have rituals that help you relax, and you may not even realize it. For example, you may read the newspaper as you eat breakfast, listen to music while you clean or take a bath before going to bed. Our bodies naturally crave routines, so focusing on regular rituals can help you relax physically and mentally. If you’re feeling stressed, make sure you stick to your regular routines.

Put down the junk food
Do you handle stress by eating? In hectic times, you may choose comfort foods, such as refined carbs or sugary snacks. You will most likely experience a sugar crash, leaving you feeling tired and sluggish. Extra calories can also quickly add up to extra pounds. The next time you’re feeling anxious, make sure you have healthy snacks on hand, such as fresh fruits, vegetables or a handful of nuts.

Get out of your head
Stress likes to mess with your mind. Do you ever get stuck in an ongoing loop of negative thoughts or playing back conversations in your head? A great way to get out of your own head is to engage in fun activities that put your focus on your hands or body. For instance, you can cook, knit or crochet, climb a rock wall or play a sport. When you do something creative or an engaging activity, you fall into a rhythmic pattern and your brain helps you relax and feel more grounded.

Visualize calm
Find a quiet area and create a happy place for a few minutes each day. Just sit still, close your eyes and focus on your breathing. Clear you mind and concentrate on thinking about nothing stressful. It’s harder than you think! Find a comforting and calming image that works for you and helps you relax. Read more about relaxation techniques.

Focus on the present
It’s easy to get sucked into worrying over things that have already happened or imagining what could happen in the future. Let go of thoughts about the past and future, and focus on the present moment. Be aware of where you are and what’s happening right now. Think about how the air feels on your skin, the sound of your kids laughing or a friend telling you about their day. Being mindful of the present can help you let go of stressing about the past and future.

Express your gratitude
Take a few moments each day to express gratitude. It can be as simple as going over the good things that happened that day before you go to sleep. You can write your feelings in a journal. Or, you can let friends and family know you are grateful for them. Research has shown that showing more gratitude releases hormones that make you feel good and lowers stress levels.

Connect with your spiritual side
Spirituality can boost happiness in times of stress. Many religious groups and native tribes use prayer beads to guide their spiritual practice. Having something to hold while communicating with a higher spirit can provide comfort and routine. Prayer can also help you pass your worries over to God and give you peace.

Learning how to cope with stress on a daily basis can help you improve your overall health and well-being. Take the time each day to acknowledge stress and find ways – like the tips above – to help you let it go and live a more balanced life.

6 Ways to Improve Your Brain Health

crossword_background_001I worry about my brain. As the prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia increases, I want to do more to protect my memory and cognitive function.

While we wait for a cure for Alzheimer’s or better treatments for dementia, what can you do to help prevent the diseases? You can lead a more brain-healthy lifestyle that can slow down the process of deterioration. No matter what your age, you can take steps now to keep your brain healthy.

Here are 6 ways to start improving your brain health today:

Stay active
Physical activity is a valuable part of living a more balanced life and can also lower the risk of cognitive decline. According to the Alzheimer’s Research & Prevention Foundation, physical exercise reduces your risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease by 50%.

In addition to protecting against Alzheimer’s and dementia, creating a regular exercise routine can also boost your mood, increase energy levels and reduce stress.

Read more about the benefits of exercise.

Eat a healthy diet
Your brain needs a nutritious diet to perform at its best. Make sure you are eating plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, lean protein and healthy fats. Focus on creating good eating habits that reduce inflammation and provide a steady supply of fuel.

Here are more diet tips to keep your brain healthy and protected:

  • Follow a Mediterranean diet – This approach to healthy eating includes a balanced diet rich in fish, whole grains, nuts, olive oil and fresh produce.
  • Avoid trans fats and saturated fats – You should reduce your intake of full-fat dairy products, red meat, fried foods, fast food and processed foods.
  • Eat heart-healthy options – If you’re following a diet plan that’s good for your heart, it’s also going to be good for your brain. When you reduce your risk of heart disease, you’re also helping protect your brain.
  • Add omega-3 fats – Studies show that omega-3 fatty acids may help prevent Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. Eat cold-water fish, such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel and sardines.

Keep mentally active
When you continue to learn new things and challenge your brain throughout life, you are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or dementia. It’s a good idea to follow the “use it or lose it” approach. Activities that involve multiple tasks or include different types of stimulation, such as communicating, interacting and organization, will offer the greatest benefits and protection.

Here are more ways to exercise your brain.

Have a social life
We are social creatures. Relationships are important to our health. If you are isolated, you’re not thriving and neither is your brain. Studies show that the more connected we are and the more relationships we have, we test better for memory and cognition.

Do you have trouble making friends? Here are a few ways to build a strong support system and develop new relationships.

  • Volunteer – There are so many great causes you can support and giving back is good for your health!
  • Make weekly plans with friends – Take the initiative and get together with friends. You can go to the movies, visit the park, creating a walking group, or check out local museums.
  • Take a class – Join a gym or sign up for classes at a local college. It’s a great way to meet new people and stimulate your brain.
  • Get to know your neighbors – You may have people nearby who have similar interests to you. Make it a point to know your neighbors.

Manage your stress
Chronic stress takes a toll on the body as well as on your brain. Stress can lead to shrinkage in key memory areas of the brain, hamper nerve cell growth and increase the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia.

There are many things you can do to prevent stress and keep your stress levels in check. Even the foods you eat can help you control stress.

Get plenty of sleep
Your brain needs to rest. A good night’s sleep helps your brain function at maximum capacity. When you don’t get enough sleep, you are cranky and tired. Lack of sleep also impairs your ability to think, solve problems and store or recall information. Deep, REM state sleep is important for memory formation and retention. Most adults need at least 8 hours of sleep per night. If you’re getting less sleep than that, your health, productivity and creativity can suffer.

To protect your brain health, embrace a balanced lifestyle that will improve your overall health. A balanced life includes exercising, eating a nutritious diet, establishing good relationships, reducing stress, and getting plenty of sleep.

Are You a Good Listener?

80946-71556Did you ever have a teacher tell you to “put your listening ears on?” The fact of the matter is that most of us aren’t good listeners. Studies have shown that the average person listens at only about 25% efficiency. We let a lot of information go in one ear and out the other.

The good news is we can improve our listening skills. You may currently be focused on the mechanics of listening – nodding your head, making eye contact, and mumbling uh-huh or okay as a person talks.

You may be missing out on the art of being a good listener. Listening is a crucial part of creating solid and meaningful relationships. You have multiple conversations every day. You may talk with your spouse, partner, children, friends, co-workers, acquaintances and even strangers. Are you taking the time to truly listen?

Here are 8 good listening habits that you can practice every time you take part in a conversation or discussion:

Be present
When you’re fully present and aware in the moment, you’re more likely to retain what you’re hearing and respond intelligently. This means put down the cell phone, stop running through your to-do list in your head, and really pay attention when someone is speaking.

Concentrate
Good listening is hard work. It’s not simply nodding along. Your senses are being bombarded by sights, sounds and smells all the time. You must ignore these stimuli and concentrate on the verbal sounds and any visual cues you are receiving from the speaker.

Show empathy
Part of effective listening is making the effort to empathize with the person who is speaking. Put yourself in the other person’s position. Think about what it must be like for them. You can connect and truly understand another person’s point of view if you can put yourself in their shoes.

Have an open mind
Everyone has their own thoughts and feelings. Our diverse backgrounds and histories make our thought patterns unique. Good listeners keep an open mind about the opinions and belief systems of others. Even if you don’t agree, you need to take the time to listen and understand another person’s thoughts.

Ask questions
While an important part of listening is just letting the other person vent or get something off of their chest, providing relevant feedback is one of the best ways to let someone know that they’ve been heard. Good listeners validate the feelings of others by asking questions and finding out more details.

Paraphrase
Another great way to show that you’re listening is to restate what you’re hearing. You don’t need to repeat everything a person says, but by paraphrasing the speaker’s main thoughts, they know that you’re getting the message.

Avoid defensiveness
You need to be able to get comfortable during a conversation even if it makes you feel uncomfortable. If you’re thinking about how to respond or defend yourself, you’re not giving the conversation your full attention. You may have to mentally step back and take a moment before responding rashly.

Listen without advising
You may be in the habit of thinking that everyone wants your advice. You’re listening only to solve their problems. However, the speaker may just want to fill you in, give you their opinion, or vent on a topic. If you’re not sure, wait for the person to ask for your thoughts or opinions.

Good listeners focus intently and hear what others are saying – and what they aren’t saying. It’s easy to get distracted or let your mind wander. Make it a point to be a better listener. Try it today!