Friday, November 6, 2015

Get Extra “D” During Winter’s Darker Days

Last weekend, we finally got to make up for that hour we lost last March when daylight saving time began. And I’ll tell you what — that extra hour of sleep Sunday morning made me feel like a million bucks!

And I’m not the only one. Studies show that there are fewer heart attacks and car accidents during the week after we set our clocks back in the fall, which is a testament to the power of sleep! After getting a little more rest over the weekend, rush hour commuters are far more alert than they are in the spring, when daylight saving time begins.

But for some folks, the benefits of that extra hour are overshadowed by increasingly shorter days with less and less sunlight, and the thought of a long, cold winter ahead. If this sounds familiar, here are a few things you can do to lighten up the winter blues:
  • Use as much indoor light as your budget allows. Try filling your sockets with full-spectrum light bulbs that include all the colors of the rainbow and look much more like natural daylight.
  • Plan special events that will keep you happy. Make firm commitments now, so you’ll have something to look forward to when the blahs set in. And if you can, take your annual vacation this winter, rather than next summer, and head for the sun.
  • Get 30 minutes of regular exercise a day to get your endorphins circulating and you’ll find it much easier to combat the depression of a long, cold, dark winter. 
  • Help your body make up for what it’s missing when it’s not exposed to sunlight: vitamin D — a.k.a. the sunshine vitamin. Milk is loaded with D, so drink at least one glass a day.

If seasonal affective disorder (SAD) is a problem for you, try what’s called a dawn simulator — essentially a bedside lamp that gradually glows from dim to more intense light, mimicking a natural mid-May sunrise. Just program the fake dawn to start one to three hours before you awaken, and your body will detect the changing light through your closed eyelids.

Friday, October 30, 2015

Pumpkin Seeds: Nutrition with Crunch!

Happy Halloween to all you trick-or-treaters out there!

If you’re responsible for handing out goodies to the ghosts, monsters, pirates, and princesses who come to your door, I’ve got the perfect trick for you so you don’t dip into the treats yourself: snack on pumpkin seeds instead!

Halloween is the perfect time to scoop these big, slimy seeds from the heart of a jack-o-lantern. But they’re a tasty snack any time of year. And you can use them to dodge some common health threats, too, like:

Say “BOO” to B.O. Pumpkin seeds provide a good, concentrated supply of the mineral zinc, a deficiency of which can lead to body odor.

Don’t be a zombie. Make pumpkin seeds part of your mid-day snack — their protein will keep you energized.

Cramps haunting you? Pumpkin seeds are loaded with fatty acids that lower levels of body chemicals responsible for muscle aches and menstrual cramps.

Dr. Frankenstein should have known about this…The minerals in pumpkin seeds, especially zinc, will help your body heal when you have a cut or other injury and especially after surgery.

Here’s the easy how-to for tasty pumpkin seeds that’ll make you forget all about that fun-size Snickers bar:

STEP 1. Rinse the seeds and separate them from the stringy flesh.

STEP 2. Add the seeds to a big pot of saltwater (2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of salt for every ½-cup of pumpkin seeds). Boil for 10 minutes.

STEP 3. Remove from heat and drain.

STEP 4. Spread the seeds in one layer on a baking sheet, and brush them with olive oil.

STEP 5. If you want a little extra flavor, season the seeds with your choice of flavors: garlic salt, cayenne pepper, Cajun spices, or whatever you like.

STEP 6. Preheat your oven to 350°F and bake the seeds for 45 minutes or so. Shake the pan every 10 minutes to keep them from burning.


Friday, October 23, 2015

Baking Soda Halts Housekeeping Horrors

Like antibiotics and other potent medicines, most of our modern “miracle” cleaning products began arriving on the scene shortly after World War II. They took the country by storm, and for good reason: For the most part, they work every bit as well as the TV commercials claim they do. Unfortunately, the vast majority of them contain ingredients that can hand you a whole lot more trouble than the dirt and germs you’re aiming to banish. The good news is that you can team up ordinary baking soda with other non-toxic heavy hitters, and turn the combos loose on your most challenging cleaning jobs. Here’s the roster:

Heavy-duty cleanser. Combine equal parts of baking soda, salt, and borax, and store the mixture in a closed container. It’ll get grease and grime off pots and pans, appliances, tile floors, bathroom fixtures, and just about every other surface.

Scouring powder. Mix equal parts of baking soda and salt in a container with a tight-fitting lid, and keep it close at hand. Use it as you would any other scouring powder. It’s strong but gentle enough for kitchen counters, and other easily scratched surfaces.

Silver polish. Find a pan that’s big enough to hold the silver, and fill it with water. Add your treasures, along with 1 tablespoon each of baking soda and table salt and three 12-inch sheets of aluminum foil. Let the mixture sit for an hour or so. Like magic, the tarnish will be pulled from the metal onto the aluminum, creating a rotten-egg smell in the process (so don’t be concerned!). Your silver will come out as bright and shiny as a full moon!

Soft-scrubbing cleanser. Mix ⅛ cup of baking soda with enough natural dish liquid to get a creamy consistency. Apply the mixture with a sponge or soft brush, and rinse with clear water.

Toilet bowl cleaner. Sprinkle ¼ cup of baking soda into the bowl and drizzle ¼ cup of vinegar over the soda. Add a few drops of your favorite essential oil if you like (any aroma that suits your fancy is fine). Then grab a long-handled brush and scrub-a-dub-dub!

Friday, October 16, 2015

The Hair-Raising Truth about Hand Sanitizers

True or false? The best way to keep from picking up flu and cold viruses is to clean your “paws” frequently with hand sanitizer.
Absolutely false! According to the CDC, washing your hands thoroughly with soap and water beats sanitizing ’em hands down. Having said that, a hand sanitizer is a must for those times when you’re out and about with no access to soap and water, or when you’re traveling by plane, train, car, or bus and need to use (sometimes questionable) public restrooms. But keep these two facts in mind:

·        A hand sanitizer will kill flu and cold viruses only if the formula consists of at least 65 percent alcohol that has a strength of at least 91 percent. So forget any so-called “gentle” or “natural” brands that actually boast about being alcohol-free.
·        Most commercial hand sanitizers contain chemicals that not only offer zero protection against germs, but may also do more long-term harm than the maladies you’re trying to prevent. In particular, steer clear of products whose labels sport any form of the terms paraben and fragrance (a.k.a. parfum). These substances trigger allergic reactions in many folks and are also being implicated in major health woes, including hormone disruption, diabetes, and cancer.

This highly portable hand cleaner will demolish flu and cold viruses on contact — with none of the potentially dangerous chemicals found in most commercial brands:

Pour ¾ cup of rubbing alcohol (at least 91% strength), ⅜ cup of pure aloe vera gel, 5 drops of cinnamon oil, and 5 drops of sweet orange oil into a blender or food processor, and run it on high for a minute or two. (Don’t worry: A thorough washing will remove all traces of alcohol and aloe.) Transfer the mixture to small spray or pump-top bottles, and carry them with you to use as you would any other hand sanitizer. The blend will keep at room temperature for at least six months. 

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Untarnished Truth about Strep

A sore throat can be caused by anything from a cold or flu virus to cheering too long and too loud for your favorite team. As painful as your throat may be, the problem will generally run its course in a few days. If your throat pain is severe, and it’s accompanied by white spots in your mouth or throat and difficulty swallowing, you have a fever and chills, and you ache all over, see your doctor immediately. There’s a good chance that you’ve been clobbered by the strep bacteria, and the longer you wait to get help, the more likely it is that your discomfort will morph into something a whole lot worse.

On the plus side, while you’re under a doctor’s care, there are plenty of natural remedies that will help relieve your discomfort and speed up your recovery.

Toss the toxic toothbrush. The minute you start feeling sick, throw out your toothbrush (or the head, if you use a battery-powered brush). Dip the new one in boiling water between uses, and just to play it safe, pitch it once you’re back in the pink of health.

Give your pain a blue pop. Blueberry juice is one of the most effective sore-throat relievers you can find. And its pain-relieving power is even more potent in frozen form. Simply pour 100 percent blueberry juice into ice-pop molds, and tuck ’em into the freezer. When the treats are solid, simply bite off small pieces, and let them melt in your mouth. But don’t suck on the ’sicle. The sucking action may irritate your throat even more.

Mustard cuts the mustard. This remedy won’t win any awards for good flavor, but it’ll put your throat back in the swing of things fast: In a mug, combine 1 tablespoon each of prepared mustard, salt, and honey with the juice of half a lemon. Then pour in ½ cup of boiling water, and mix thoroughly. When it’s cooled to lukewarm, gargle with it two or three times. (But don’t swallow it!)

Friday, October 2, 2015

3 Ways Fiber Helps You Win at Losing

It’s ironic that many trendy diets severely restrict one of the most powerful weight-loss aids of all: fiber. If you’re fighting a never-ending battle of the bulge, consider this amazing fact: Simply by eating more whole grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables, (including root veggies with their skins), you could lose a couple of pounds a month without cutting a single calorie. That’s because fiber pulls off a trio of fabulous fat-fighting feats:

It tricks your tummy. Many calories in fiber-rich foods can’t be digested, but they do fill you up. So you feel full with fewer calories than you would normally eat.

It puts an end to hunger pangs. Water-soluble fiber absorbs water in your stomach and swells up to form a thick gel. This, in turn, alerts your brain that you’re full. It also slows down the flow of food out of your stomach, which keeps you satisfied longer and releases a steady, prolonged supply of energy. So you can go about your business without the constant need to nibble.

It empowers your slimming hormones. The fiber in fruits and vegetables raises the levels of GLP-1, a hormone in your gastrointestinal tract that — like the tummy gel — slows down digestion, makes you feel full longer, and helps you lose weight.

Note: Increase your fiber intake gradually. Although a sudden surge of it won’t hurt you, it can trigger uncomfortable gas and bloating. 

Friday, September 25, 2015

6 Typical Headache Triggers

The vast majority of headaches are brought on by stress or nervous tension. So before you start popping pain relievers or searching for crazy remedies, try to pinpoint the reason your head hurts. That should help you find the most effective solution. Ponder the past 24 hours and ask yourself these questions:

1. Did I get a good night’s sleep?
2. Have I eaten well?
3. Have I had a bowel movement?
4. Am I facing a pressing work deadline?
5. Have there been chances or unusual events at home?
6. Is there something I’m dreading (like dental work or a job interview)?

An overload of caffeine can cause a headache — but so can abruptly swearing off the stuff. For those of you who routinely drink four to six cups of coffee a day, and then suddenly stop, it’s all but guaranteed that your head will hurt like the dickens. So if you want to break the coffee habit, reduce your intake gradually over a month or so.

And it should come as no surprise that another common cause of headaches is staring at a computer for hours on end. The easy good-riddance routine: Leave your desk every half hour or so, or at least shift your eyes away from the screen and focus them on a point as far away as possible That should nix your noggin pain for good!

If you routinely take either OTC or prescription medications of any kind to treat chronic headaches, don’t be surprised if your pain returns with a vengeance. Scientists don’t know exactly why these so-called rebound headaches occur, but most likely it’s because repeated use of the drugs changes the way certain pain pathways and receptors work in your brain. Anything from simple aspirin, Tylenol®, and Excedrin® to potent narcotics can cause problems, Taken in the prescribed amounts every now and then, the meds are generally safe and effective, but if you reach for them too often, or exceed the normal dosage, you could find yourself with a low-grade headache that just won’t say uncle.