< Parent Traps

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Good Eating Starts with Sam

Yes, I'm back to harping on food -- specifically fast food, which has a death grip on millions of people. Sure, it's cheap and it's easy, but consider the trade offs. Instead of going into all the gory details, watch Morgan Spurlock's "Super Size Me!" (available on DVD) and see how fast food turned a healthy young man into a very sick person in just 30 days!! Seriously! Fast food should come with huge warning labels, and even then plenty of people would still buy it because it's convenient, tastes "good" and doesn't cost much. Then they wonder why they're tired, cranky, overweight and can't focus. Could it be because so few people realize that fast food is not only addictive but damages health even at the cellular level?

What's the alternative? Cooking your own food is a good place to start, but before you break out in a rash at the thought of turning on the stove, tune in to Discovery Channel's new show -- "Just Cook This with Sam the Cooking Guy." Here's Sam's "manifesto":

"If you cooked more, you'd eat out less and you'd eat better—it's that simple. I think a lot of people eat fast food or order out because they're just not comfortable in the kitchen. They think it's like this club and if you don't know the secret terminology and handshake, you can't belong. But that's just a bunch of BS.

"A lot of the problem comes from cooking shows that make things look complicated—too many steps ... too many weird ingredients. Just Cook This! is a show that demystifies what goes on in a kitchen. Why? Because I'm not a chef, I'm just a regular person who cooks like a regular person. The show is shot right in my home with my dogs, kids or whomever around. If I make a mistake—we leave it in. If I drop something—we leave it in. Because that's what goes on in a real home and the goal is not sophisticated culinary excellence that would go on in a restaurant—it's food that's big in taste but small in effort. Food you can make easily and really enjoy. Food that'll keep you from going out.

"It's cooking—it's not rocket science. If I have a goal, it's that you watch the show and say, "Hey, I can make that guy's stuff"—and you start cooking. That's the goal. Well, that and I also want to be King of the World someday ... that's all."

You can learn more about Sam and good food, plus download recipes, at the Discovery Health website (link above) or find out when the show is on locally. Even giving up a few fast food meals every week can make a difference.

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Friday, October 05, 2007

Getting Things Done - Streamlined

From the latest issue of the wonderful Wired magazine, a profile on Getting Things Done author David Allen. It covers not only his "colorful" background but includes a bare bones version of the complex organizing system, very helpful for those who are too bogged down in "stuff" to get through the book right now.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Free Burma!

Free Burma!

Millions of Iraqis are dead, wounded, maimed or displaced. The same is true in Africa, and now Burma. Why? Power, profits, greed. You can find details about what you can do to stop the slaughter of innocent monks at the link. Please act now. Every voice makes a difference. The situation is not getting better, and the U.S. and China are both profiting from it by looking the other way. Don't we have enough blood our hands already?


Getting Things Done: Yes, You Can!

How many times have you heard people say "I can't get anything done!" or "There just aren't enough hours in the day"? Productivity expert David Allen has plenty of ideas on how to wade through the stacks of paper and other seemingly endless time-wasters we all face, and his best-selling book, Getting Things Done (Penguin Putnam, 2001) lays them all out, clearly and succinctly.

His website (linked above) is another good place to start, especially since the book can be a bit daunting on first read. But Allen's method can be distilled into a fairly simple notion: get tasks off your mind by putting them on paper (or on a computer or whatever works for you). Not on dozens of Post-Its, napkins and whatever's handy to write on, but in one place so they cannot "get lost." Once all the ideas swarming in your head are recorded in a safe place, stress levels drop, increasing memory and creativity, and accomplishing goals becomes easier. And if you read yesterday's post, you know that working toward a purpose, having and achieving goals and "getting things done" appears to minimize the risk of developing Alzheimer's, a very worthwhile goal in and of itself.

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Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Organized, Accomplished People Have Lower Risk of Alzheimer's

Having trouble getting things done? Feeling frustrated by that long to-do list? Can't even find the long to-do list? If these situations sound familiar, take heed -- MSNBC/Newsweek reports that researchers at Chicago's Rush University Medical Center have found that people who are task-driven, goal-oriented and conscientiously follow through on their plans have a significantly lower risk of being affected by Alzheimer's disease. So although autopsies showed that many of the study participants had changes in the brain identified as Alzheimer's, they were less likely to show symptoms of the disease.

If photograph above could have been shot in your own house, don't despair! There are loads of great organizing tools available, including software, books and even twelve-step organizations, like Clutters Anonymous.

If you decide to pursue a more organized life, tune in tomorrow, when we look at the work of David Allen, one of the leading gurus in the field, and author of the mega-best-seller, Getting Things Done (Penguin Putnam, 2001).

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Thursday, July 19, 2007

A Spicy Way to Fight Alzheimer’s

Good news for anyone who enjoys curried food, according to a new report at msnbc.com! Turmeric, the spice responsible for the delectable flavor and gorgeous yellow color of curried foods, stimulates the body’s own ability to get rid of amyloid plaques, the sticky clusters of protein fragments that damage brain cells. Now the findings of this test-tube study need to be replicated in trials with Alzheimer’s patients.

You should know, however, that there is a growing body of research showing significant health-promoting properties in compounds derived from turmeric, particularly when it comes to Alzheimer’s. And India, where curry was created, has some of the lowest rates of Alzheimer’s in the world.

It's easy to cook with turmeric and there are plenty of cookbooks. Two favorites: Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking and Indian Home Cooking by Suvir Saran and Stephanie Lyness. In no time, you'll be making flavorful dishes, like the curried soup shown above.

For those who aren’t fond of the spice, supplements are a good option. Look for a product that contains standardized extracts at 90 to 95% curcumin. Typical dosage is 250 to 500 mg three times per day. Turmeric is not recommended during pregnancy, as it may cause contractions. Otherwise, turmeric is considered safe. If you are currently taking prescription medications and are concerned about possible interactions, consult your physician.

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Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Health News Round-Up

Experts say tests can reveal Alzheimer's disease in the early stages, allowing families to plan accordingly. This isn't the news we're all waiting for -- that a cure has been found -- but it's something. On the brighter side, the New York Times reported recently that ongoing research by a number of major drug companies looks promising. In fact, scientists have been able to cure the disease in animals. It may be years before any of the experimental drugs are on the market, though, so keep in mind that "use it or lose it" is still some of the best advice for protecting the brain deterioration that characterizes Alzheimer's. Mental challenges -- puzzles, learning a language or musical instrument, studying something entirely new -- may make a real difference.

Ovarian cancer, one of deadliest diseases women face, is notoriously difficult to diagnose in the early, treatable stages. Now experts have formulated a list of symptoms that should not be ignored. Unfortunately, with the exception of a high-fat diet and use of talcum powder, most of the risk factors for the disease cannot be easily modified. That makes it doubly important to get an annual gynecological exam and be aware of the symptoms.

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Monday, June 11, 2007

The Easy Way to Manage Weight

Still struggling to lose a few extra pounds? Try eating more, instead of less. That’s the advice of prominent Penn State researcher, Barbara Rolls, and her associates. Based on the findings of their latest study, obese women who increased the amount of fruits and vegetables in their diets lost more weight than a similar group that focused on cutting fat intake. Fruits and veggies tend to be low in calories but high in water content, explains Rolls, a combination that helps stave off hunger without adding calories.

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Thursday, May 31, 2007

Thank You, Jitterbug!!

I do not need a cell phone that can check my email.
I do not need a cell phone to txt my frnds.
I do not need a cell phone with GPS.
I do not need a cell phone with a camera.
I do not need a cell phone with 600 minutes of talk time every month.
I do not need a cell phone that stores music.

All I need is this.

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Complementary Medicine for Menopause

Lots of news on alleviating discomforts of menopause with supplements in the latest issue of the journal Menopause. First up, in an extensive review of previously published clinical trials, researchers found that St. John’s wort was effective for treating mild to moderate depression in five out of seven earlier studies. In addition, black cohosh provided relief for depression and anxiety in all studies that were reviewed, and kava reduced anxiety in half of the clinical trials that were examined. Finally, ginkgo and valerian were determined to be ineffective at treating anxiety or depression in middle aged women. There are other good reasons to take ginkgo, however, as I noted in a previous post.

The second study tested the effectiveness of isoflavones, compounds derived from soybeans, on women experiencing hot flashes and night sweats. During the three months of testing, those who were given a daily dose of 60 mg isoflavones reported a reduction of 57% in hot flashes and 43% in night sweats. Pretty decent results, and no side effects were reported.

Finally, both these studies are supported by a survey of nearly 1,300 Australian women between the ages of 45 and 65. More than half had reported using complementary or alternative medicine for menopause symptoms. Among the most popular supplements: soy, evening primrose oil, phytoestrogens (such as isoflavones and other plant compounds) and black cohosh. If you’re interested in adding any of these supplements to your daily regimen, talk to your physician or a knowledgeable alternative health practitioner first, especially if you are currently taking prescription medications or are being treated for a health condition. By and large, nutritional and herbal supplements are benign. But side effects and drug interactions can occur, so do your homework. If you need to locate an alternative health practitioner, check here or here.

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Wednesday, May 16, 2007

It's Never Too Late to Get Healthy

A good nuts-and-bolts article about how boomers can stay -- or get -- healthy. (NOTE: It's not that hard, seriously!)

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Friday, May 11, 2007

Dear FDA: Thanks for Nothing!

Why even bother issuing a statement about fish farms that may have used contaminated pet food, if this is all you're going to say?

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Thursday, May 10, 2007

Prepare to be Shocked...

The FDA is lying. It seems there could be health consequences of eating melamine-tainted food, including the pork, chicken and fish that entered our food supply. How do I know? I looked it up on the Internets (actually, at PubMed, the government's own medical research database).

As far as I can tell, there have been only a handful of animal studies done on the effects of consuming melamine. In every case, the animals developed bladder and/or kidney problems, including bladder stones, enlarged bladders, and tumors.

But here's the real problem -- in a study from 1985, researchers called the melamine connection to the formation of bladder stones and related problems an example of the threshold effect, and added that "there is strong evidence linking bladder stones with the induction of tumors...." This same study also found that the youngest animals were the most susceptible to developing these problems. Here are the researchers’ conclusions:

"A decision by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency concerning the levels of MA [melamine] allowed to occur in the food chain indicates that data regarding thresholds, even in the case of urolithiasis [stone formation], are not being utilized in the risk assessment process."

I could be wrong, but that seems to say that for the past twenty-plus years, the EPA has chosen to ignore evidence that melamine damages the bladder and kidneys, and, based on the results of the animal study, that children would be particularly at risk. Plus, let's not forget that tens of thousands of companion animals have been sickened and killed by the same food the pigs, chickens and fish ate.

It seems to me we should avoid chicken and pork for at least a few months. But as the FDA's newly appointed "food czar," David Acheson, told a Congressional committee today, the agency would need "proof of human illness" before it would issue a ban on imported fish. Apparently, it's too much of a stretch to believe that food poisoned with industrial waste might make humans sick, too.

As for farmed fish, melamine is just one more reason to stay away, given the chemicals that have been found in tested samples. To get the considerable health benefits of fish without the risks, buy fish oil that has been molecularly distilled to remove the toxins.

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Monday, May 07, 2007

Optimists Live Longer

How long will you live? There's an easy way to find out -- or at least get a ballpark figure. Visit Deathclock, answer a few questions and voila! -- you'll receive an exact count, in seconds, no less, of your remaining time on Earth. The amazing thing is the difference attitude makes. For example, when I listed "normal" in the mode box, Deathclock gave me twenty years to live. But change the mode to "optimistic" and -- whoa! -- I'll be here until 2049, as long as I look on the bright side! (By the way, Deathclock is not just a gruesome reminder that we're all "circling the drain" -- there's a lot of excellent health information there, too.)

Just in case you're not buying the "attitude is everything" line, a new study confirms it. Researchers found that older individuals (between the ages of 70 and 79) with the fewest signs of depression at the beginning of the study were nearly 40 percent less likely to be diagnosed with a health problem during the next five years. The emotionally healthy group was also 76 percent less likely to become depressed and they had a 30 percent lower risk of dementia.

The study, which involved more than 2,600 people, also measured the effects of physical health and mental functions. Not surprisingly, those in good shape were nearly 50 percent less likely to become debilitated during the study and 29 percent less likely to die. As for mental functions, those who were sharpest when the study began were a whopping 77 percent less likely to be diagnosed with dementia.

(Full disclosure: a hat-tip to www.owhata.com for the Death Clock link. Next time you feel you're not wasting enough of your life on the Internets, check out owhata -- loads of great stuff!)

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Sunday, May 06, 2007

Bad Medicine

It looks like contaminated foods -- for both pets and humans -- aren't the only dangerous things China has been exporting, as this feature from the New York Times explains.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Beauty Beat: or How to Have More Money to Spend on Good Food

How many times have I heard people say that they can't afford to eat better? Way, way too many. The truth is, from a nutritional point of view, you can't afford not to eat better. Poor eating habits lead straight to the doctor's office, the pharmacy and eventually to the hospital. And none of those options are cheap, or even reasonable at this point. (The same is true for companion animals, by the way. And sadly, we've seen the catastrophic effects of cheap ingredients during the past few months.)

Instead of spending money on empty-calorie junk food, why not cut corners in the cosmetics department? If you use moisturizers, skin lotions and bath products, you're probably paying a hefty amount for what is basically water and a few other (often toxic) ingredients. Here are some alternatives:

Next time you're tempted to blow the budget on a product that promises to fix your most annoying problem, check out the Beauty Brains. The site is operated by two chemists who can tell you if that $100 bottle of shampoo can turn your hair into spun gold or not. Search their archives, sign up for a daily email or send them a question about a product. This is the site where I learned that good old (inexpensive) coconut oil can strengthen and moisturize dry hair as well as far more costly treatments. Whenever my hair starts to look like Sideshow Bob's, I grab the coconut oil. Plus, it's a great skin moisturizer, and you can cook with it, too!! Seriously, it's a healthy, "good fat," but be sure to get the food grade, virgin coconut oil. Nothing's better!

MakeupAlley is another good place to check out products before you buy. You'll have to register to use the service (it's free), but once you have an account, you can find out what other people have to say about specific products -- and potentially save yourself a bundle. Example: One of the most popular blemish treatments is a super-cheap aspirin "mask," and many users rave about their favorite moisturizer -- none other than good old Vaseline. Another nice feature -- if you bought a product that you wish you hadn't, you can offer it in exchange for something else on the site's "swap" list. Just think -- you might be able to unload that fuschia eye shadow for something you'll actually use.

Finally, you can find loads of information, recipes and ingredient resources for making your own cosmetics at the aptly named MakeYourCosmetics website. Enjoy!

(Photograph of Old English Sheepdog pup from www.bobtail.ru, because few things are more beautiful than a puppy.)