Archive for July, 2009

How Much Water Do You Really Need?

selected from Organic Spa magazine

Are you constantly walking around with your water bottle struggling to drink eight glasses of water a day? Most of us know that staying hydrated is good for our bodies. However, does it really improve our health, make us lose weight, or improve performance?

Water, including flavored varieties, flushes out waste materials to detoxify the body–definitely an important function. Water also maintains blood volume, allowing the body to consume adequate oxygen to improve physical performance. Contrary to popular belief however, recent studies show that drinking eight glasses of water a day does not contribute to weight control. This can only be accomplished by eating less and moving more.

The recommendation to drink eight glasses per day is a general guideline that does not take individual needs into account such as body fat percentage, caloric needs, kidney function or how much a person sweats. Older adults, young children, athletes, and those who do physical work in hot climates are at the greatest risk for dehydration. As we age or when physical activity is extreme, the thirst mechanism that normally guides us may not work. When in engaging in a high level exercise or when working in hot climates, it is good to drink eight ounces of water every 20 minutes to avoid dehydration.

For the average person, the general recommendation of eight glasses per day is fine. Tap water is fine for fluid replenishment.

However, it is important to remember that alcoholic and caffeinated beverages only count for half sue to increased loss of fluid from them. Save the sugary sport drinks for endurance activities but flavored, low-calorie waters may make it easier to achieve those eight glasses per day. With the long days of summer upon us, it’s a good idea to keep toting you water bottle around to stay hydrated.

via How Much Water Do You Really Need? | Healthy and Green Living.

Documentary: Food Inc.

Where Does Your Food Come From?

posted by Dave Chameides Jul 28, 2009 9:02 am

I had the opportunity to see Food Inc the other night and to say that I was blown away is an understatement. The trailer below says much more than I can ever say here about this important topic but suffice it to say this is a movie that everyone should see.

Few choices in our lifestyles have as much of an impact on the planet as our food choices do. What I like about this movie is that it gives you a fair amount of facts that you probably didn’t know in order to scare you a bit but educate you at the same time, and then leaves you with concrete ideas on how you can make a difference. Also, hearing folks like Michael Pollan (The Omnivore’s Dilemma) and Eric Schlosser (Fast Food Nation) expertly break down these hard truths into digestible pieces makes it easy to understand what is happening out there without being an expert yourself.

Have you ever considered how far your food travels to get to you and what companies must do to keep it “fresh” during that journey?

Are you aware of the amount of corn you eat (it’s in almost everything processed) and what it is doing to you and our ecosystem as a whole?

Do you know the amount of contaminants factory farms put out into our waterways?

We have been trained as a society to buy food at the supermarket, get it as cheap as possible, and not consider where it came from, who it effects, or what it is doing to us. When you think about it, the whole thing seems fairly irresponsible.

Thankfully, we all have the power to change this system. The Food inc website has some great resources to check out after you’ve seen the movie including 10 Simple Tips towards eating better which will help you start now.

Beyond just learning about the problems with industrialized food yourself, there is another reason I want you all to run out and see this movie. Since it’s a documentary, it’s in a smaller group of theaters and will not get as much exposure to the general public as it should. The more these showings sell out, the more theaters they’ll put the film in. The more theaters its in, the more people see it. Simple. So by heading out to see it, you’re not just educating yourselves, your potentially helping to bring this important message to a wider audience.

Presently you can find out where the movie is playing here, and they’ve also supplied an online listing of where they are showing the film here.

So please, if you do nothing else for the environment or your health this week, run out and see Food Inc. I’d love to hear your thoughts after you’ve seen it and a word of advice before you head in–skip the soda and popcorn, you’ll be glad you did.

via Where Does Your Food Come From? | Healthy and Green Living.

How to Avoid Toxins in Your Sunscreen

An Environmental Working Group study tells you exactly what to look for and what to avoid in sunscreens.

By Sara Novak Columbia, SC, USA

Jacob Wackerhausen/iStockphoto

We all know the importance of lathering up in sunscreen when in the sun. I no longer go out with anything less than 30 SPF layered on my skin. The sun is just too powerful. I always wear a hat these days, I mean I am ever so close to thirty and I see no reason to aid in the formation of wrinkles. People are even becoming more aware of which sunscreens they choose for themselves and the planet. But what toxins should we really look out for in sunscreen? Well, thanks to Environmental Working Group, the answer is much simpler than one would expect. Annually the EWG releases a study on safe sunscreens.

Only 14 percent of 1,232 products analyzed met EWG’s criteria for safety and effectiveness, according to the study. Many products lack UVA protection. In fact 8 percent of high SPF sunscreens (SPF of at least 30) protect only from sunburn (UVB radiation), and do not contain ingredient combinations known to protect from UVA, the sun rays linked to skin damage and aging, immune system problems, and potentially skin cancer. Currently the FDA does not require that sunscreens guard against UVA radiation.

If you don’t have time to read the entire study here are some highlights:

Avoid spray or powder suntan lotions with nano-scale zinc oxide.

Micronized and nano-scale zinc oxide and titanium dioxide in sunscreen provide strong UVA protection, and while these ingredients have not been found to penetrate healthy skin, powder and spray products are inhaled. You can actually inhale these small particles and they can potentially damage your lungs. The EWG is unclear as to the extent of damage nano-scale oxide causes but much of Europe is currently phasing out its use according to EWG.

Avoid oxybenzone.

Oxybenzone, on the other hand, is a widely utilized ingredient that rates poorly due to high absorption through skin, high rates of allergic reactions, and growing concerns about hormone disruption. Some animal studies indicate we should be concerned about oxybenzone because it is found to have weak estrogenic effects in fish. What some experts suspect happens is that the body interprets the presence of the chemical as some sort of hormone according to EWG. Numerous other studies have linked oxybenzone to health concerns including endocrine disruption, cell damage, and cancer.

Make sure the sunscreen has at least 7 percent zinc oxide to replace oxybenzone.

Zinc oxide is a physical sun blocker meaning that the product reflects and blocks UV rays but it’s not absorbed into the system like other active ingredients, it remains on the surface. This means that zinc protects the skin very effectively without seeping into your system. Zinc isn’t a toxin itself but replaces oxybenzone as the main sun blocking ingredient.

Avoid fragrance.

As with other cosmetic products it’s best to avoid fragrance unless the fragrance is plant based. A loophole in federal law doesn’t require companies to declare any of the dozens of toxic chemicals that a single product’s fragrance mixture could contain. Artificial fragrances, which frequently contain phthalates, can also trigger allergic reactions and other health problems. Be mindful of the hidden dangers that “fragrance” or “parfum” listed on ingredients labels can pose, and always choose fragrance-free products.

TreeHugger’s sunscreen picks.

via How to Avoid Toxins in Your Sunscreen : Planet Green.

6 Tips For Raising Healthy Eaters

Use these simple tips to help your kids understand how to make wholesome food choices on their own and to create an environment that will nurture healthy food habits as they grow.

1. Work with your kids’ natural preferences

Kids require frequent refueling–and they’d love to do it with fudge cookies and lollipops. “Children are born with a natural taste and desire for sweet foods and carbohydrates,” says Joel Fuhrman, MD, board certified family physician and author of Disease Proof Your Child (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006). Instead of fighting a sweet tooth, offer healthier treats, such as a colorful array of fresh fruit. “Preparation is key,” says Jay Holt, a nutritionist in St. Petersburg, Florida, and author of The Adventures of Tommy the Tomato (JR Holt Publishing, 2007). “Always have a fruit salad ready to go, or frozen banana, or apples to spread with almond butter. That way, kids will have a fast, nutritious alternative to a cookie.”

2. Involve the whole family

Cooking with your children helps you get them invested in making healthy choices and explain the nutritional value of various foods. At the grocery store, let them choose the fruits and vegetables that appeal to them, or make a game of it: Ask them to find their favorite green, orange, and red vegetables, or to choose which nuts or beans they’d like to add to a salad.

3. Encourage children to think about food

Raising healthy eaters also means helping them understand what their bodies are asking for, when they’re thirsty or hungry, and the difference between eating until they’re satisfied versus stuffed. Don’t get heavy or intense about it; just make the occasional observation, then let it go. And forget the clean-plate club–it’s the fastest way to encourage kids to ignore their bodies’ messages.

4. Don’t reward or punish with food

This sends the subtle message that food equals love and approval–a dangerous message, and one that’s hard to escape later in life. Instead of using food as a reward, offer treats that have more to do with connecting–a trip to their favorite park, hugs, an extra book at bedtime. And don’t fall into the “If you eat your peas, you’ll get your pie” trap. It makes dessert more valuable than vegetables–not a lesson you want to teach.

5. Take charge

Sometimes we’re so fearful of creating negative food relationships for our children that we shy away from insisting on good eating habits. Insist your children eat at least a portion of fruits or vegetables at every meal, and that they minimize sweets, refined carbs, and unhealthy fats. Tell them why that’s your rule–because you love them and want them to be healthy. “There’s no reason to be fearful of that message,” says Fuhrman, “or to believe that it will set up unhealthy emotional eating patterns later in life.”

6. Realize that it takes time

This will take time and repetition. Your kids may put up a fight, especially at first, and there will be setbacks. Stay calm and be matter-of-fact. Also avoid power struggles, and continue to set a good example with your own food choices. “They’ll notice what you and the rest of the family are eating,” says Pavka. “At some point, they’ll just come along for the ride.”

via 6 Tips For Raising Healthy Eaters | Healthy and Green Living.

Lasting marriage linked to better health

Lasting marriage linked to better health

Mon Jul 27, 2009 3:26pm EDT

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – People who get married and stay married may enjoy better health than the perpetually single, but losing a spouse could take a significant health toll, a new study suggests.

Historically, studies have found that married people as a group tend to be in better health than singles — though recent research suggests the health advantage of marriage may be fading.

In the new study, researchers found that middle-aged and older Americans who were currently married tended to give higher ratings to their health than their never-married counterparts. They also reported fewer depression symptoms and limits on their mobility.

On the other hand, divorced or widowed adults fared worse than the never married on certain health measures — including the number of chronic health conditions reported. “Previously married people experience, on average, 20 percent more conditions and 23 percent more limitations,” the researchers write in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.

Remarriage seemed to lessen some of the health effects of divorce or widowhood. However, remarried men and women were still in generally poorer health than those in a lasting marriage.

“We argue that losing a marriage through divorce or widowhood is extremely stressful and that a high-stress period takes a toll on health,” researcher Linda J. Waite, a professor of sociology at the University of Chicago, said in a written statement.

“Think of health as money in the bank,” she added. “Think of a marriage as a mechanism for ‘saving’ or adding to health. Think of divorce as a period of very high expenditures.”

The findings are based on data from more than 9,100 Americans age 50 and older who took part in a national health survey in 1992.

Overall, 55 percent had been continuously married, 4 percent had never married, and the rest had been divorced or widowed at least once.

Marital history was linked to overall health even when Waite and colleague Mary Elizabeth Hughes factored in participants’ age, race, sex and education.

The findings do not necessarily mean that simply staying married is a health boon, however.

A shortcoming of the study, the researchers note, is that it lacked information on marital quality. Past studies have found that people who remain in an unhappy marriage may have increased risks of health problems like high blood pressure, depression and heart disease.

SOURCE: Journal of Health and Social Behavior, June 2009.

via Lasting marriage linked to better health | Health | Reuters.

The Power of Junk Food

The Power of Junk Food

By Marcy Franklin, Natural Solutions

Last week, I went to dinner with my dad at our favorite Mexican restaurant. We sat down, and almost immediately I felt my mouth fill with saliva as I stared at my favorite item on the menu: chicken chimichanga smothered in green chili. Did I just drool? I could hardly wait for the fiery deliciousness of their famous green chili. Before I knew it, I’d wolfed down two baskets of chips and my smothered chicken chimichanga. Poor Dad didn’t even see what was coming.

Now, I like to think I can control myself when it comes to food. But with certain things, like greasy, deep-fried Mexican food, I can barely stop myself from eating the entire plate–even long after I’m full. But a new book that came across my desk might explain why I can’t bring myself to put down the chimichanga.

David A. Kessler, PhD, former Food and Drug Administration commissioner and author of The End of Overeating: Taking Control of the Insatiable American Appetite Rodale, 2009 describes some of the ways that the American food industry and scientists have tricked us into overeating. They create what he calls “hyper-palatable” foods, loaded with high fat, sugar, and sodium. It’s the foods we love–chicken wings, milk shakes, even a Snickers bar–with ingredients designed to hit “the bliss point,” where we obtain the greatest amount of pleasure from the food. The combination of sugars and fats in the food stimulate the endorphins in our bodies, which make us feel good while eating the food, and dopamine, so that we continue to crave it long after we’ve licked the plate clean. Our brains get so over-stimulated and aroused by the food that it’s much like a drug, with the same addictive powers. In short, these foods are like the bad boyfriend you can’t seem to let go. You know he’s bad news for you, but you just can’t stop taking him back and wanting more.

Now that I know green chili is a hyper-palatable food with its high fat and sodium content, I’m ready to fight back. What really hit home for me is that Kessler isn’t blaming my chimichanga binges on lack of will power, but on a society that has conditioned us to “hyper-eat.” Kessler doesn’t say we have to cut back completely on the foods we crave and love, but learn to manage our cravings. One tip he gives is to change how we look at a meal. Instead of looking at my huge plate of chimichangas and feeling excited, I’m learning to cut my portion in half still a lot of food, realizing that glutting myself will only make me feel terrible tomorrow.

via The Power of Junk Food | Healthy and Green Living.

Happy couple starts their life together with a boogie down the isle

By Michael Inbar

TODAYShow.com contributor

updated 10:31 a.m. ET July 25, 2009

Most couples wait until the reception before breaking out into the Funky Chicken on their wedding day, but Kevin Heinz and Jill Peterson figured, why wait to unleash their unbridled joy?

The 28-year-olds floored their wedding guests by having their whole bridal party — including seven bridesmaids, five groomsmen and four ushers — boogie down the aisle in a choreographed dance more at home in a Broadway musical than in a somber church.

Groomsmen split into sides as Heinz did a somersault in front of the wowed crowd — and the gown-clad Peterson quickly followed, shaking her hips to Chris Brown’s “Forever” while pumping her bridal bouquet into the air during the June 20 ceremony in St. Paul, Minn.

via Secrets behind wacky YouTube wedding dance – TODAY Weddings.