4 Surprising Sleep Hacks You Haven’t Heard Before

by in Healthy Tips, April 18, 2017

File this under news you probably could’ve guessed: According to a January study in the Journal of Affective Disorders, the quality of your sleep determines whether or not you’re going to be in a positive or negative mood the next day. It’s not exactly surprising news, but it serves as a good reminder that getting a good night’s sleep is very important to your health. (And, according to The New York Times, a good night’s sleep is the new status symbol.) So while you know that avoiding caffeine and electronics before bedtime will help you catch some quality zzz’s, we asked a handful of sleep experts for their favorite — and most unexpected — sleeping tips:

Focus on staying awake
“I know it sounds counterintuitive,” says Dr. Sujay Kansagra, director of Duke University’s Pediatric Neurology Sleep Medicine Program and sleep health consultant for Mattress Firm, “but it actually works.” Dr. Kansagra says this technique known as paradoxical intent. “It lessens anxiety, giving your mind a chance to relax enough to fall asleep,” Kansagra says. Science backs this theory up: According to a 2005 study at the University of Glasgow, participants who focused on staying awake had an easier time falling — and staying — asleep than those who focused their efforts on trying to sleep. Read more

Stay Young with HIIT Workouts

by in Fitness, April 15, 2017

Let’s face it, aging isn’t always glamorous. As we get older, our metabolism begins to slow, our muscles weaken and we’re not as fast or agile as we used to be. Thankfully, research shows that exercise, especially high intensity interval training, or HIIT, can help prevent weight gain, improve muscle strength and reverse the signs of aging.

A new Mayo Clinic study indicates that high-intensity aerobic exercise can reverse some aspects of aging at the cellular level. In this study, researchers compared high-intensity interval training, resistance-only training, and combined exercise training in seventy-two healthy, but sedentary individuals for a twelve-week period. While all training types improved lean body mass and insulin sensitivity, only high-intensity interval training and combined training improved aerobic capacity and mitochondrial function. Read more

Moldy Foods: When to Toss, When to Keep

by in Food Safety, April 13, 2017

How many times have you found cucumbers or cheese in the fridge with mold? Should you just cut off the moldy area or toss? Some molds can be toxic and make you sick. Find out when it’s okay to keep it, and when to throw them away.

What’s the Deal with Mold?

Molds are fungi that are transported by air, water, or insects. Although you can see the green or blue fuzzy dots on bread, cheese, meats, fruit, and vegetables, they have branches and roots that are can be growing very deep into the food. Some molds can cause allergic reactions and respiratory problems. Under the right conditions, a few molds can produce poisonous toxins that can make you sick. Although most molds prefer warm temperatures, they can easily grow in your fridge. They also love salty and sugar foods like jams and cured meats.

So which foods should you keep verses toss? You don’t want to be that person who just tosses everything in the trash, which can lead to lots of unnecessary food waste. Here’s a list of what you should keep verse toss based on the recommendations from USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Jams and Jellies: Discard

Don’t scoop out the mold and use the rest. The mold found in jams and jellies could be one that produces dangerous poisons and can be deeper than you think. Read more

Market Watch: Asparagus

by in Farmers' Market Finds, In Season, April 11, 2017

The arrival of asparagus at farmer’s markets makes it official: spring has finally sprung. Thick or thin, green, white, or even purple, asparagus reins supreme for a few short months — beginning in March or April, and ending sometime in early June. It’s said that this member of the lily family was the favorite vegetable of Thomas Jefferson. King Louis XIV of France was another fan, referring to it as the “king of vegetables.” Today, it retains its hoity-toity reputation, with chefs devising entire tasting menus to showcase its bright, springy flavor. For home chefs, asparagus can lend a sophisticated feel to an ordinary weeknight dinner, not to mention an Easter feast.

 

Asparagus facts

Closely related to garlic, onions, and leeks, asparagus is high in fiber, and a good source of iron, vitamin C and folate.

While thickness is a matter of taste, there’s no arguing about freshness. Choose stalks that are bright in color and firm, with tightly closed tips. Avoid any spears that are bent, or have open flowers. Wrap the ends of a bunch of asparagus in a wet paper towel, place in the crisper drawer and store up to three days. For best results, though, cook asparagus the same day you purchase it. In addition to tasting better, fresher asparagus will also retain more Vitamin C. Read more

Trend Alert: Riced Vegetables

by in Food News & Trends, Healthy Recipes, April 8, 2017

Remember when “rice” was a just a noun? Nowadays it’s become a verb and an adjective to describe one of the hottest veggie trends around. These tiny chopped pieces of vegetables have found their ways into all kinds of recipes, and can offer a hefty dose of nutrients.

 

Riced revolution

What started out as a new-fangled way to use cauliflower has evolved into so much more. Cauliflower “rice” came on the scene as a popular grain free alternative to rice. Riced cauliflower can be used as a standalone side dish or as the star ingredient in traditional recipes like fried rice and baked casseroles. Using a vegetable-based option in place of grains lowers the calories and carbohydrate counts but this swap isn’t completely a nutrition win. If you compare one cup of cooked rice to the same portion of cooked cauliflower, rice contains more fiber, protein and magnesium but less vitamins K and C.

As with many food trends, the “riced” craze has continued to advance. Instead of just cauliflower, ricing other veggies like sweet potatoes, broccoli and carrots has begun to gain momentum. There is also more variety of flavored rice vegetables. Check ingredient lists as some are seasoned with flavorings that can up the sodium content. Read more

5 Apps That Will Help You Master Meditation

by in Fitness, April 6, 2017

Even though it’s been around for thousands of years, meditation seems to be especially trendy these days. It’s part of the mindfulness movement that’s been gaining traction in the health and wellness world. And it makes sense that more and more people are actively seeking ways to manage their stress: A 2015 survey from the American Psychological Association found that overall stress levels have increased in Americans in recent years. These higher stress levels can affect mental and physical health in numerous ways: 39 percent of those surveyed reporting overeating or eating unhealthy foods in the last month due to stress, and 46 percent reported losing sleep over it.

Given what a profound affect stress can have on wellbeing, it’s no wonder that people are looking for innovative ways to get that moment of zen. Meditation studios have recently popped up in some of the country’s big cities (there’s Unplug Meditation in Los Angeles, MNDFL in New York City). But there’s also a variety of helpful meditation smartphone apps on the market. You may already know about Headspace, which is one of the most-downloaded mindfulness apps. But here are five new or under-the-radar meditation apps worth a try. Because, in addition to relieving stress, meditating can also improve concentration and benefits digestion as well as cardiovascular and immune health.

 

Sway 
Cost: $2.99
While most apps in this space feature guided meditations, this brand new option—it launched in late March—focuses on your movement as way to help you achieve mindfulness. The app uses your phone’s gyroscope and accelerometer to measure your moves. In order for the app to work, you need to be moving in a slow, consistent motion (think swaying back and forth or walking slowly). Once you at you’re at the proper pace, the app will soundtrack your moves with soothing music. If you get distracted or your movements are interrupted, the app interprets that as a lack of mindfulness and reminds you to refocus. According to the makers of this app, this interactive meditation is one of the newest ways to approach the practice. Read more

Ask An Expert: Is Couscous Healthy?

by in Food & Nutrition Experts, April 2, 2017

Ever wondered about couscous…what is it? How it’s prepared? And most of all, is it healthy? A registered dietitian weighs in on this commonly misunderstood food.

 

What Is Couscous?

Often mistaken for an ancient grain, couscous is actually tiny pieces of wheat pasta – basically a mixture of semolina flour and water. Popular in cuisines around the globe, couscous is quick cooking and can be used like rice to accompany a wide variety of foods.

Traditional or Moroccan couscous are very small grains that can be prepared by simply adding hot water or broth and allowing to steep for 5 minutes to allow the liquid to be absorbed. Larger round pieces of couscous known as Israeli or pearled can be cooked in boiling liquid. This version takes slightly larger to cook and has a more robust and pleasantly chewy texture. Read more

5 Spring Vegetables You May Not Know

by in Farmers' Market Finds, In Season, March 31, 2017

Seeing the first glimpse of spring vegetables make their appearance at the farmer’s market this month is a welcome change from winter’s hearty abundance. While the usual suspects — bright pink radishes, tender asparagus spears, and bright green snap peas — are there, you’ll also find more unexpected options like fiddleheads, ramps, morels and more. While these vegetables aren’t as common, don’t be intimidated! Familiarize yourself with each of these unique spring market finds and ways you can use each in a fresh and flavorful spring recipe.

 

Fiddlehead ferns

Fiddlehead ferns are the coiled tips of a young fern; deriving their name from the resemblance to the decorative end of a fiddle. This unique vegetable has a grassy, slight nutty flavor that’s similar to asparagus. Try them lightly steamed or boiled, then finished with olive oil and lemon for a quick side dish. They can also be swapped into almost any cooked recipe that features asparagus or haricot verts.

Let fiddleheads take center stage by replacing them for the asparagus in this Healthy Roast Asparagus with Creamy Almond Vinaigrette. Read more

Untangling the Facts About Instant Ramen Noodles

by in Healthy Tips, March 29, 2017

We know that instant ramen noodles — that cheap college-student staple — probably don’t qualify as a health food, but exactly how bad for us are they?

A 2014 study by researchers at Harvard School of Public Health found that women who ate instant ramen noodles at least twice a week were at a 68 percent higher risk for metabolic syndrome – a group of conditions including elevated blood pressure, cholesterol and blood sugar; obesity and other factors that increase the risk of heart disease, stroke and diabetes. So, you know, not good.

“Instant ramen is notoriously high in sodium,” explains Michelle Dudash, RDN, Cordon Bleu-certified chef and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families, noting that some brands contain 72 percent of the daily-recommended sodium limit per package.

The packaged noodles are also made with refined grain flour, fried in palm oil, and are hardly redeemed by the teensy bit of dehydrated vegetables they contain. Consequently, Dudash puts them squarely in the “unhealthy food” category. But, she adds, “one of the leading brands of instant ramen noodles offers a 35-percent-less sodium option, so that is a move in the right direction.” Read more

Can The Mediterranean Diet Help Treat Depression?

by in Diets, Food & Nutrition Experts, March 26, 2017

Feeling a bit down? New research suggests that a Mediterranean diet can help treat depression. Now that’s cause for celebration! The study suggests that a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, legumes, whole grains and lean proteins may be able to treat major depressive episodes.

 

The study

The researchers followed 67 Australian individuals with a history of depression and poor dietary habits. Study participants were randomly sorted into two groups. One group received dietary intervention, consisting of 60-minutes of Dietitian-lead nutrition one time per week. The second group received social support, otherwise known as ‘befriending’ or spending time with another individual discussing neutral topics, like sports, news or music. In addition to the interventions, both groups were being treated with a mixture of anti-depressive medication or therapy.

The dietary intervention group learned about the importance of eating a Mediterranean diet, including 5-8 servings of whole grains per day, 6 servings of vegetables per day, 3 servings of fruit per day, 3-4 servings of legumes per day, 2-3 servings of low-fat and unsweetened dairy foods per week, 1 serving of raw and unsalted nuts per day, 2 servings of fish per week, 3-4 servings of lean red meats per week, 2-3 servings of  chicken per week, 6 eggs per week and 3 tablespoons of olive oil per day. They were also encouraged to reduce their intake of sweets, refined cereals, fried food, fast-food, processed meats and sugary drinks to no more than 3 per week. Read more