Brain power fueled by exercise

Exercise makes you smart

You've probably read about the correlation between exercise and enhanced brain function. Researchers from The University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand, have contributed further information about oxygenation and brain health.

Their study, published in Psychophysiology, reveals that regular exercise increases oxygen to the frontal lobe of the brain. This portion of the brain controls tasks like problem solving, emotional expression, language, memory, judgment, reasoning, and planning.

It's not surprising, then, that study participants who exercised 5 days a week were more effective in strategic planning. They also demonstrated greater self-control than those who opted out of exercise.

Do you have a big strategy session at work tomorrow? Perhaps you should get out for a run.


Eat your chocolate

Dark chocolate reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

The news about dark chocolate just keeps getting better.

Researchers, whose study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that study participants who indulged in dark chocolate had a reduced risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Specifically, people who ate two or more servings each week experienced a 17% reduction. And, if their BMI was under 25, their risk reduction jumped to an incredible 41%!

I'd say that's a compelling reason to enjoy your dessert, wouldn't you?


DASH wins best diet of 2015

The Dash Diet won best overall diet for 2015

The number of diets out there is dizzying. If you want to follow one, how do you choose? Do you sign up for cleanse challenge at work? Do you join Weight Watchers and follow their diet? Do you decide bread has gone to your waistline and opt for the low carb, high protein diet?

US News & World Report has weighed in on all those options, making it easier to separate the doozies from the plans that will both boost your health and help you lose weight. This year editors assembled 24 diet, nutrition, heart disease, diabetes, obesity, and food psychology experts to evaluate 35 of America's most popular diets.

You know which diet won first place for the best healthy eating diet? The DASH Diet. The DASH diet is a common sense diet that emphasizes eating whole grains, vegetables, lean proteins, and low-fat dairy. It is similar to the Mediterranean and TLC (Therapeutic Lifestyle Changes) diets.

The experts determined the diet was easy to follow, and it's good for heart health, diabetes, and weight loss. Sounds like a winner to me, don't you think?


'Clean' snacks on the cheap: cranberry granola chunks

Crunchy, healthy snacks on the cheap

I have a hobby. I love to go to grocery stores in search of delicious, and often expensive, prepared foods. I buy these luxury food items, take them home, and try to recreate them on the cheap.

This may seem silly, but it makes me feel powerful the next time I visit the store and see others wasting their hard-earned money on something I figured out how to make for pennies. Ha! I think, that leaves me more money for that Lulu outfit I've been pining for.

Last week I found a delicious "clean" snack in the produce area of my favorite grocery store. It was a crunchy and satisfying snack of all natural ingredients that cost $6 for a 6.5 oz container. Really, who wants to spend this kind of money on between meal goodies? I knew I just had to figure out how to replicate this yummy, wholesome snack, and then pass the recipe on to you.

So, here are my granola chunk snacks. Enjoy, and feel free to substitute different nuts, fruits, seeds, to customize it to your taste. Bon appetit!

Crispy, Cranberry Granola Snacks:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup all natural peanut butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup craisins
  • 1 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 Tbsp flax seeds
  • 1/2 cup chopped almonds
  • 1/2 cup chopped peanuts
  • Preheat oven to 350F
    • Spread 2 cups of oats on a cookie sheet and toast in oven for 12 minutes
  • While oats are toasting, place honey, peanut butter, vanilla, and salt in a saucepan. Bring to a boil
  • Remove toasted oats from oven and reduce oven temperature to 300F
  • Pour toasted oats into a large mixing bowl. Add chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, peanuts, and craisins. Add sauce from saucepan and mix all ingredients well
  • Transfer mixture to a greased, 8x11 pan. Pat down with a spatula
  • Bake granola for 30 minutes
  • Remove from oven and let cool for 3 hours. Cut in cubes and store in a sealed container


Coffee accolades

researchers believe coffee consumption may decrease risk of melanoma

Drinking coffee is my favorite morning ritual. When the smell of brewing beans wafts up the staircase from the kitchen it is just a little bit easier to rise, and during the first silent moments of the day, as I sip my cup of joe, life feels calm, beautiful, and full of quiet potential.

And so, I savor these few minutes each day, and I would not trade them in, even if the scientific literature told me it was bad for my health.

Fortunately for me, and perhaps you, coffee continues to get good press for its health-boosting properties. The latest benefit of this morning starter? According to a study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, drinking caffeinated coffee can protect you against cutaneous melanoma, the fifth most common cancer in the US. If you drink more than one cup, no worries. The risk of melanoma decreases with higher consumption. Overall, you can reduce your risk by up to 20%!

Enjoy your cup friends, guilt-free.


The 2-pound wake-up call

stay on top of your weight to keep it in check

I had a rude awakening Saturday. I pulled on my jeans and they felt mighty tight.

Panicked, I hopped on the scale and found I'd gained 2 pounds. This realization prompted an impromptu elliptical session followed by my favorite calorie burning barre sequences.

As I came out of my endorphin high, I began to reflect on the last couple of months. I'd gotten sloppy with my eating and, frankly, I was surprised it had taken so long to catch up with me.

Here's where I erred:

  1. The kids begged me to buy those never-ending snack bags from Costco, and I obliged. The problem? The kids weren't the only ones indulging
  2. When I pulled out the after school snacks I almost always sneaked a taste of my own, even if I wasn't really hungry
  3. I was making school lunches in the evening before dinner. Often ravenous at this time, I'd have a bite here and there, which wasn't helping me control my calorie intake

So, how will I tackle this weight gain?

Here's my plan:

  1. I will not eat packaged snacks when I'm hungry. Only whole foods will do. I'll reach for baby carrots and hummus, apples, grapes, cherry tomatoes, nuts
  2. I won't punish the whole family while working out my issues. Instead, I will avoid buying snacks I can't resist and opt for the ones they like and I find disgusting (like Cheez-its).
  3. I will amp up my exercise routine
  4. I will focus on drinking water, which will help me feel full
  5. I will make lunches as soon as the kids get home, so I'm not ravenous when making them
  6. If necessary, I will chew gum while preparing dinner, so I won't be tempted to taste too much of it
  7. I will make sure I never eat unless I'm truly hungry
  8. I will allow indulgences, like biscotti after dinner, so I don't go absolutely crazy :-)
My husbands find this full-on assault amusing, and perhaps you do, too. But putting the brake on weight gain as soon as possible makes keeping one's weight in check doable. I know I don't want to wake up one day and realize I need to address a 15-pound weight gain. That's just too overwhelming. How about you? How do you control your weight?


2015's power vegetable

kalettes may be the new power vegetable
Source: kalettes.com

It's been introduced as the vegetable match of the century. There's a Facebook page and a website dedicated to this new powerhouse green, and both marketers and growers are hoping you will jump on the bandwagon.

They hope you'll tap into your love for kale and Brussels sprouts to dig into their new hybrid, otherwise known as Kalettes.

But will you like them? The round, purple-hued veggies are a bit sweeter and milder than Brussels sprouts, and they have a great nutty flavor. Another bonus: they are versatile. You can add them to your salad and eat them raw; you can sauté them with olive oil and add citrus fruits or mushrooms; you can take them outside this summer and grill them; you can oven roast them with cheese or fold them into an omelette. Check out the Kalettes website for more cooking and recipe ideas.
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