Tag Archives: healthy-living

11 Foods To Help You Live Longer

senior-with-redwine-943080-mI am obsessed with living longer. I want to live to be over 100 years old. However, I also want to be a healthy centenarian.

I have been reading that more and more research shows what we eat can influence how long we live. What works for weight loss can also help slow the aging process. That’s because what you’re eating affects your waistline, the condition of your heart and even how long you live.

So, take a good look at your pantry and see if you’re eating for longevity. Here are 11 foods that science proves will help you live longer:

Green tea
The world’s second most popular beverage can reduce the risk of death by up to 26% if you consume several cups a day. In addition, it has the added benefits of reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease.

Nuts
A study found that people who snack on a handful of nuts every day live longer than those who didn’t. Nuts are packed with cholesterol-free protein and other nutrients. Almonds have vitamin E, which protects the body from cell damage and boosts the immune system. Pecans have antioxidants and walnuts are good for your cholesterol.

Fish
Fish has been called brain food because it has fatty acids, DHA and EPA – all are important to brain and nervous system development. The Omega-3 fats found in seafood or fatty fish can lower cholesterol and triglycerides.

Berries
Berries are a great source of antioxidants. Blueberries, strawberries and acai berries are a source of polyphenols, a powerful compound that may help combat cancers and degenerative diseases of the brain. Cranberries may also help you live longer.

Fiber
Fiber may help lower blood pressure, improve cholesterol, prevent constipation and help digestion. Fiber also fills you up so that you can eat less. Beans are fiber-rich and can be eaten three or four times a week. Fruits and vegetables can also add fiber to your diet.

Vegetables
Veggies contain phytonutrients and loads of vitamins and minerals that may protect you from diseases. Dark, leafy greens have vitamin K that builds strong bones. Sweet potatoes and carrots contain vitamin A – good for your eyes, healthy skin and protects against infection. Tomatoes or tomato products may help prevent cancer.

Protein
Protein provides essential building blocks for daily repair of your cells. It’s critical to your health and vitality, especially as you get older. You can add protein to your diet with lean meat, fish, seafood, beans, low-fat dairy and eggs.

Healthy fats
You’ve probably heard about the Mediterranean diet. But what you may not know is the heart-healthy diet has been shown to increase the lifespan of elderly people by about 20 percent. The diet encourages eating healthy fats, like olive oil, as well as vegetables and whole grains.

Whole grains
Eating whole grains can reduce your risk of certain cancers, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Choose whole-grain breads and pastas, as well as brown or wild rice, instead of white options. Whole grains are less processed and retain more of the nutritional value. Whole grains also add fiber.

Dairy
Drinking vitamin D-fortified beverages like milk can help increase your calcium absorption. That’s important for bone health. Vitamin D also reduces the risk of colon, breast and prostate cancers. Eating yogurt can also give you the benefits of dairy and aid in digestion.

Red wine
Just a half a glass of wine a day can help you live longer. Research found that light wine drinkers lived up to five years longer than those who did not drink wine at all. Red wine is rich in antioxidants that help protect against heart disease.

Eat these super-foods to help increase your lifespan and improve your quality of life. By incorporating a balanced diet into your daily life, you can fight off some of today’s most life-threatening diseases and live longer!

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10 healthy habits for the new year

new year healthier youI make New Year’s resolutions every year, but rarely keep them. This year, I plan to focus on establishing healthy habits. I am continuing on the path to creating a more balanced life.

Choosing healthier habits for the new year can be easy and rewarding. Here are 10 healthy habits that we can start right now:

Get moving
I have good intentions to exercise every day. Then, I climb in bed at night without fitting in any real exercise, unless you count climbing in and out of the car and up and down the stairs to do laundry. I think my problem is that I feel I should plan and structure my exercise. In reality, I just need to go do it. When I have a few spare minutes, I need to go for a walk, turn on the radio and dance or play tag with my kids.

It’s important to make exercise part of your daily routine. When you make exercising a habit, it simply becomes as vital to you as eating and sleeping. The only way to make it a habit is to get moving and just do it.

Sleep more
I need to get more sleep. I like to stay up late, but then it takes me a while to get going in the morning. I tend to feel sluggish all day. I plan to go to bed earlier in the new year and strive for at least eight hours of sleep. In addition to improving your concentration and mood, getting enough sleep has many health benefits.

Drink water
We have talked about the health benefits of drinking water in the past. Water allows your body to flush out toxins and deliver vital nutrients to your cells. Women need about 9 cups of water a day and men should get 13 cups a day. Make it a goal to drink a cup of water every hour from breakfast to dinner.

Cut back on sugar and caffeine
It may seem contradictory, but cutting back on sugar can actually increase your energy levels. You are able to minimize the highs and lows that sweet treats can cause. Most of us are already over-stimulated by the stresses of everyday life – adding in caffeine just makes us more jittery and on edge. You will find more balance and maintain a level mood by keeping sugar and caffeine to a minimum.

Set a budget
I have a hard time sticking to a budget. We live in a world of instant gratification. You want it – you go buy it. However, it can be more satisfying to save money and live on a budget. You can reward yourself with larger purchases once you have achieved your goals of paying off credit cards, saving for a vacation, or planning for college educations or retirement. You can reduce your stress levels and feel more balanced when you live within a budget.

Eat your vegetables
I admit it – I do not eat enough fruits and vegetables. I need to change my habit of grabbing packaged foods and choose to eat more healthy options. Veggies give you many of the vitamins and nutrients your body needs to work properly and fight infections. They can help protect against heart disease, stroke, cancer and many more illnesses. Try to work a rainbow of vegetables into your diet.

Reconnect with friends
I get so caught up in work, taking care of my kids and doing chores that I forget to make time for my friends. We need our friends for better health. In fact, our friends may help us live longer. Make it a habit to spend time with your friends and improve your health!

Get organized
Clutter is a part of modern life. We simply tend to collect a lot of stuff. Your clutter can bring you down, though. Make it a goal to declutter your living space in 2014 and get in the habit of keeping it that way. Reorganize your living room for better use and flow. Clean out your kitchen cabinets and get rid of things that aren’t good for you, including processed foods containing white flours, sugar and unhealthy oils.

Volunteer
I tend to think I’m in control of my own happiness. However, I have learned that our happiness also increases when we help others. Being happy is good for your health. Plan to find new ways to give back to others in the new year. We need to broaden our horizons and recognize the need to help others.

Make “you” time
Don’t forget to make time for you. It’s easy to get caught up in the hustle and chaos of life and forget to take time for yourself. I realized recently that there is very little I do just because I want to do it. I work, take care of my family and run a household. I am making it a goal to find something that I find rewarding.

What healthy habits would you like to develop in 2014? What tips do you have for sticking with your healthy goals?

9 foods to help you concentrate

Wild blueberries help you focus and conentrateI just read an article that says cognitive decline – or our ability to reason and remember things – can start to affect our brains as early as age 45. As someone who is rapidly approaching my mid-40s, I have to say this concerns me.

I have been on a journey this past year to live a healthier lifestyle and find more balance in my life. There are always challenges to maintaining a healthy balance. I get stressed out by the demands of work and family. I fall back into unhealthy eating habits or neglect my exercise routine. I sacrifice sleep to get more done.

The last thing I need is to have a sluggish brain and poor concentration while I’m trying to achieve more and live a balanced life. After doing some research, I found that there are several foods that can help me focus and improve my ability to concentrate.

Add these 9 super foods to your diet to help maintain a healthy brain:

Coffee
Caffeine has been shown to slow the aging process and improve short-term memory. While coffee isn’t necessarily going to make you smarter, it can boost your performance and make you more alert. As a huge fan of the benefits of drinking coffee, I am happy to learn that it can also help me concentrate.

Chocolate
Dark chocolate also provides a caffeine boost and contains powerful antioxidants that can help enhance your focus. Plus, chocolate just makes you feel good.

Berries
Berries have been shown to protect the brain from free radicals and help reduce the effects of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease. Blueberries are rich in antioxidants and make a good snack. You can also add them to your cereal or oatmeal for a healthy breakfast.

Whole grains
Whole grains, such as oatmeal, cereal, quinoa and barley, contribute to your daily intake of fiber. Whole grains also contain B-vitamins that are used to break down carbohydrates to give your brain energy.

Fish
Fish are a great protein source and give your brain a boost. They are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids, which are essential for brain function and development. These healthy fats have amazing brain power. Salmon and other fatty fish like tuna and mackerel contain an important fat for brain health called DHA. Salmon is a good source of protein, which can also help you stay focused. To reap the benefits, add fish to your diet two or three times a week.

Leafy greens
Leafy greens, including spinach, kale and arugula, contain nutrient compounds that help the brain stay young. They also provide the antioxidant lutein, which can prevent cognitive decline. Try to eat two servings of leafy greens a day.

Nuts and flaxseeds
Nuts, especially walnuts, give your body magnesium, which helps your body function more efficiently and fights off fatigue. Flax is the best source for alpha-linolenic acid – a healthy fat that improves the workings of your brain.

Ginkgo biloba
Ginkgo biloba has been used for thousands of years for both concentration and memory. It is thought to boost blood flow and oxygen to the brain and improve function and memory. Ginkgo biloba can be added to your diet as a supplement.

Gum
While gum is not a food, it has been shown in studies to help people be more alert while performing tasks. So, if you want to improve your concentration, chew a piece of gum!

Eating a healthy, balanced diet helps you get the essential nutrients you need to focus. If you eat too much or too little, that can also interfere with your ability to concentrate. For the best brain benefits, eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, fiber and protein.

13 fun outdoor exercises

canoeing outdoor exerciseSummer is coming and I can’t wait to get outside. I am looking forward to sunshine and warm weather. I have also developed an intense dislike for my treadmill over the winter months.

So, I’ve been searching for some fun ways to exercise outside. If you’re tired of going to the gym, getting on the treadmill in your basement, or doing exercise DVDs on your TV, then it’s time to step outdoors for some fun and effective workouts.

Here are 13 fun ways to burn calories and enjoy the great outdoors:

Hiking
Hit the trails or go hiking in the woods. If you can add hilly terrain, that’s even better. You can create a more difficult workout by sprinting up inclines.

Stair climbing
Find your local football stadium or another set of stairs in your neighborhood, and walk or run up and down the steps. This can replace the treadmill incline or StairMaster machine. It gives you a grueling workout and strengthens your legs, glutes and abs.

Biking
You can pedal the pounds off on your bicycle. Push yourself to set a strong pace and power up the hills. You can tighten and tone your legs, hips and butt as well as get your heart rate going.

Tennis
Find a friend and hit the tennis court. You can burn calories and work your arms, shoulders and back along with your leg muscles. Or, set up a net in the yard and play badminton with your family. It will give you a workout and probably be good for some laughs, too.

Rowing
Get in a row boat and paddle around the lake. You may have a rowing club in your area that offers lessons. Or, go on a canoeing excursion over the weekend. A rowing machine is a good workout, but there is no substitute for the real thing!

Swimming
You can swim in your backyard pool, at a community center or in a nearby body of water. Swimming is great cardio exercise and will strengthen your back muscles. You can do water aerobics to help you tone up overall. Or, play tag or hit a beach ball around with your kids. You’ll get a workout and have a little fun.

Beach volleyball
Burn fat and soak up some sunshine at the same time. Please remember to wear your sunscreen, though. I play sand volleyball at my local park (there’s no beach near me, unfortunately) in the summer, and I can tell you that it works muscles I didn’t know I had!

Golf
Play a round or two of golf. However skip the golf cart and carry your own clubs. You can tone your arms, shoulders, back and abs. Plus, you can walk briskly between holes and enjoy nature.

Skating
Get out your roller skates, or grab a pair of roller blades and let it roll. You can do laps around the park, or get more serious and put together a game of street hockey. You’ll get an aerobic workout while toning your abs, thighs, glutes and more.

Softball
Join a summer softball league, set up a regular game with friends, or get out and play ball with your kids. You’ll work your whole body and have a great time.

Frisbee
If your dog will fetch (mine won’t), then play frisbee. Or, grab a few friends and head for the park. You can even play in your yard. Tossing a frisbee back and forth will work your arms, chest, shoulders and abs. And if your partner doesn’t have great aim, you’ll work your legs, too.

Gardening
Bending, squatting and twisting to plant flowers and pull weeds will tighten your core and tone your thighs and butt.

Walking
Just get out and walk. Walk with friends. Walk the dog. Take in the scenery and smell a few flowers.

So, get outside, get moving and get your blood pumping! What types of outdoor workouts do you enjoy? Do you have fun ways to exercise in the summer?

7 tips for healthier eating habits

healthier eating habitsAny time I hear someone say, “I’m on a diet,” I want to cringe. To me, “dieting” is almost a dirty word.

Dieting generally has a negative connotation because it conjures up ideas of fad diets and unhealthy weight loss. Going on a diet means you are temporarily depriving yourself of some type of food. A diet is not something you sustain over time.

When you go on fad diets, you are typically leaving out necessary nutrients. Dieting can make your body think it’s starving, and it actually starts to store fat. You can also become food obsessed – worrying about counting calories, carbs, proteins or fat. When taken to the extreme, dieting may be doing harm to your body and putting you at risk for illness.

The best diet is not a “diet” at all but a way of life that lets you eat the nutritious foods your body needs to thrive. By creating healthy eating habits, you can lose weight, tone up, feel better and have more energy. It may mean changing your mindset from dieting to eating a healthier, more balanced variety of foods.

Here are some tips to help you develop healthier eating habits and stick to it:

Tip 1: Start slowly
It can be overwhelming to think about overhauling all your eating habits at once. Trying to change everything at once can be hard and often leads to cheating or simply giving up. Start by adding a salad once a day. Or, make it a point to cut down on fried foods.

Tip 2: Think smaller
A key foundation for eating healthier is portion control. Over the past few decades, serving sizes have grown to huge amounts. One way to reduce your portions is to switch out your dinner plates for smaller plates. Think about moderation as you fill your plate. It can be especially hard to eat a normal-sized portion in a restaurant. Choose a starter or an appetizer instead of an entrée. Or, split a large main dish with a friend.

Tip 3: Eat your fiber
You can eat plenty of high-fiber foods – this means fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains. These are “good” carbs and are nutritious, as well as help fill you up. They are also relatively low in calories. These foods can provide important vitamins and minerals.

Tip 4: Everything in moderation
Well, mostly limit the bad things. We all know what they are – unfortunately most of them taste really good! Limit your intake of sugary foods, refined grains like white bread and salty snacks. In addition, cut down on trans fat, which comes from hydrogenated vegetable oils and many fast foods. It’s also important to cut down on animal fat. It is high in saturated fat. Cutting down on fats may even help you lower your cholesterol. Also, if you drink alcohol, it should be done in moderation.

That doesn’t mean you can’t have a cookie, slice of cake or some potato chips. It just means to eat these things in moderation.

Tip 5: Add more fruits and vegetables
Most Americans are not eating enough fruits and vegetables on a daily basis. You should be eating 5 servings or more a day. Try to add more color in your fruits and vegetables – include greens, oranges and yellows, as well as purples, blues and reds.

Tip 6: Take your time
Slow down and think of food as nourishment, rather than something you eat between meetings or grab on the go. Sit down and eat at the table. If you eat in front of the TV or computer, you aren’t thinking about how much food you are actually consuming. Eating with others leads to conversation and helps you take breaks as you eat. Also, if you eat more slowly, your body will tell you when you’re full.

Tip 7: Keep it all in balance
The best tip for healthy eating is to keep it all in balance. Eat a wide variety of foods and think about smaller portion sizes. Try to add more fruits and vegetables to your plate.

And remember to take small step and make changes to your eating habits over time. The next thing you know you’ll be eating healthier and feeling better!

Best exercises to lower your cholesterol

Control cholesterol with exerciseHigh cholesterol increases your risk of developing heart disease. Heart disease, including heart attacks and strokes, is the leading cause of death in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 33.5% of Americans have high LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

The good news is that a healthy diet, exercise and weight loss are the key components of reducing LDL cholesterol levels. While cholesterol-lowering drugs may also help, most health professionals would recommend lifestyle changes as the first defense (except in those with very high lipid levels, or pre-existing diabetes or coronary disease).*

So, you’ve been told you need to lower your LDL cholesterol. Exercise is one of the best ways to help control your cholesterol. But what kind of exercise should you do? How long and how often?

Here are answers to the questions you may have about the best exercise routine to lower your “bad” LDL cholesterol and even raise your “good” HDL cholesterol:

What type of exercise is best?

Aerobic exercises seem to benefit cholesterol the most – lowering LDL by 5 to 10% and raising HDL cholesterol by 3 to 6%. Aerobic exercise includes jogging, running and walking.

In addition, newer exercise crazes such as zumba and kickboxing are aerobic. You can even swim, cycle or do yoga. Everyday activities like walking the dog, raking leaves and dancing can also count.

The reason aerobic exercise is the best for reducing cholesterol is that it makes your heart pump harder and faster. You then raise your metabolism and cause your body to burn more calories. Your body burns calories it gained from fat, and reducing this fat impacts your LDL cholesterol levels. Exercise also helps keep LDL cholesterol from building up on the walls of your arteries, which is good for your heart health.

strength trainingStudies have shown that strength training can also help improve your LDL and HDL levels. In addition, strength or resistance training will help you build muscle. Adding in stretching exercises will help keep you more limber and flexible, and you’ll be less likely to experience an injury. Endurance, strength and flexibility all add up to increase your overall level of fitness.

How much exercise do I need?

Most research has shown that to lower cholesterol levels, you should exercise for at least 30 minutes most days of the week. The good news is that you don’t have to fit it in all at lower cholesterol levelsone time. You can divide the time up into 10 or 15-minute sessions – as long as you get in the 30 minutes total.

You can also mix up the types of exercise you do in a day. For instance, you could take a 10-minute walk, rake leaves for 10 minutes and do 10 minutes of strength training.

And, if you’re not up to vigorous exercise every day, then any type of physical activity is better than none. Just get up and get moving!

What else can I do to achieve lower cholesterol?

Lose weight
A side benefit of increasing your activity levels and exercising more vigorously is that you may also lose weight. People who are overweight tend to have elevated LDL cholesterol. Therefore, losing even 5 to 10% of your body weight will also help improve your cholesterol levels. Keep in mind that you can be at the recommended weight and still have high cholesterol, so exercising is important for everyone.

lower cholesterol heart healthy foodsEating heart-healthy foods
Choose healthier fats such as those found in leaner cuts of meat and low-fat dairy. In addition, monounsaturated fats found in olive, peanut and canola oils are healthier options.

Avoid trans fats which can be found in fried foods and many commercially baked products like cookies and snack cakes.

Choose whole-grain breads, whole-wheat pastas and flour, and brown rice. Eat fruits and vegetables because are rich in fiber and help lower cholesterol.

Quit smoking
If you stop smoking, it can improve your HDL cholesterol level. You also reduce your risk of a heart attack and your blood pressure decreases.

Drink in moderation
Moderate alcohol levels may increase your levels of HDL or good cholesterol. However, the benefits aren’t strong enough to start drinking if you don’t currently. And, drinking too much leads to serious health problems, so keep it to one drink a day for women and one or two drinks a day for men.

Exercise has so many benefits beyond lowering cholesterol. It can help keep your bones strong, reduce the risk of cancer, diabetes, and stroke, improve your mood, and help you sleep.

Now, step away from the computer or mobile device and get moving!

*It is important that you consult your physician and other practitioners/counselors/consultants before initiating any changes in your diet or exercise program.

How to get your kids to eat healthy

help kids eat healthyEvery parent struggles with getting their kids to eat healthy foods. You may have heard, “Eww, broccoli is gross.” Or, “I don’t like it – it tastes mushy.” And my favorite, “I’m not eating that!”

I have three kids with very different eating habits. My oldest daughter has always been a great eater. She loves fruits, vegetables and almost anything. My son eats nothing. Seriously. He survives on bologna, bacon and macaroni and cheese. My youngest daughter is somewhere in the middle. She eats most types of foods, but is picky about some things.

I think most parents worry about whether their kids are eating a balanced diet. With my son, I wonder sometimes how he eats enough to stay alive. I have battled with my kids about what they eat for 15 years.

Here are some tips to getting your kids to eat healthy foods. Most likely, they won’t all work, but maybe you can add a few into your routine and improve your kids’ eating habits.

take your kids grocery shoppingTake your kids shopping
I have found that if I let my kids pick the healthy foods, they are more likely to eat those foods. Yes, they still try to sneak donuts and honey buns into the shopping cart, but with some guidance they will select healthy foods.

Also, we can plan the meals we will make from the foods they selected and that helps get them more excited about their choices. They learn how to create a more balanced meal with lean meat, a fruit and vegetable, and whole-grain bread, rice or pasta.

Cook with your kids
Another way to get kids more excited about the foods they eat is to let them help you in the kitchen. If my kids help fix it, they are more likely to eat it because they have pride and ownership of the healthy meal they created.

In addition, you have the opportunity to educate your kids about the health benefits of different foods. My son plays sports and lifts weights. I talk to him about the importance of protein to build muscles and eating a well-balanced diet to grow and get stronger. He has started eating more and a greater variety of foods because he understands how it can benefit him in the long run.

make healthy foods funMake it fun
If every meal is a struggle and a fight to get your kids to eat, it isn’t fun for anyone. Make trying something new fun. You can create a chart with your kids and add stars every time your child tries a food they don’t think they’ll like. It may take several times of trying a new food before your child acquires a taste for it. So, try not to get discouraged or make a big deal if he or she doesn’t like it the first time.

You won’t be able to change your children’s eating habits overnight. It is an ongoing process. Try not to nag about unhealthy choices. You can let your kids know you are pleased when they make healthy choices. Never use food as a reward. This could lead to weight problems later in life if they associate food with emotions. Avoid placing restrictions on food. Your kids will still eat junk food, but they will learn to limit it in favor of more nutritional options.

Give choices
With my kids, it seems like everything is a power struggle. If I can give them choices, it makes all of our lives easier. When we have tacos, they can choose the toppings they want to add. I also give them a choice of snacks: apple slices, a banana, or crackers and peanut butter.

Keep healthy food handy
I try to keep good snacks in a cabinet that my kids can all reach. I have granola bars, crackers and fruit cups on the lower shelves. In the refrigerator, I keep fresh fruits and veggies in the bottom crisper and yogurt cups on the lower shelf. If healthy foods are easy to grab, my kids will typically choose these foods.

visit local grower farmers marketVisit the source
If you can actually take your kids to a local grower or farm, it can be a great way to learn more about where foods come from. You can also visit a farmer’s market so that your kids can help you pick out healthy foods. Even better, if you have the outdoor space to plant a small garden, it gets kids even more involved when they grow their own food.

Be a role model
We all know that nothing gets past a kid. If you want them to eat healthier, then you have to set a good example. Kids want to imitate their parents. Your good eating habits will encourage them to do the same. You can also help shape your kids’ relationships with food. If you call yourself fat or constantly count calories and beat yourself up over food choices, your kids may pick up these habits.

Don’t give up
For whatever reason, the stuff that’s bad for us tastes really good! And there are so many unhealthy options available today. Teaching your children to make good food choices is an ongoing process. For that matter, it can be a life-long journey for us grown ups, too. So, keep offering those nutritious foods and your kids will develop good eating habits!

Are your kids picky eaters? Do you have tips for getting kids to make healthy food choices?