- Created on 23 October 2013
(CNN) -- Your mom probably never gave you better advice than when she said, "Eat your fruits and veggies."
But eating healthy may seem harder come fall, when favorite produce options dwindle and less familiar ones appear.
Never fear. Now that warm months are gone -- and with them the berries, corn and other produce we find easier to incorporate into our diets -- a new menu of foods is available to keep you healthy and happy.
Foods in season during fall may appear less appealing -- especially if you aren't sure how to prepare them, or are feeding a family of less adventurous eaters. But in addition to the nutritional benefits of foods such as Brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes, you'll find another positive: the exponential number of tasty ways in which they can be prepared.
Take advantage of the opportunity and think outside the box in your fall food preparation.
Here are five foods that you should eat this season:
1. Pumpkin -- Thanksgiving and pumpkin pie are traditionally associated with this fruit, but there are other ways to incorporate pumpkin into your daily life.
The meat of the pumpkin is worth having more than one day a year thanks to its high percentage of vitamin A, carotenoids and fiber. But pumpkin seeds shouldn't be overlooked either. The seeds, a great snack, are concentrated sources of vitamins, fiber, minerals and antioxidants. They also contain an amino acid proven to boost your mood.
Simply roast up some pumpkin seeds and keep them on hand as your go-to fall snack.
2. Brussels sprouts -- Brussels sprouts have seen a recent rise in popularity, and that's a good thing as their buds are exceptionally rich in protein, dietary fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.
Sprouts offer protection from vitamin A deficiency, bone loss and iron-deficiency anemia. They are also believed to help protect against cardiovascular diseases as well as colon and prostate cancer.
If the taste isn't for you, try roasting instead of steaming: Roasting Brussels sprouts with a bit of olive oil, salt and pepper caramelizes their natural sugars and brings out a sweetness that you won't be able to resist.
3. Pears -- When you're looking for a healthy snack to munch on, turn to a pear.
One of the highest fiber fruits, pears offer about six grams that'll help you meet your daily requirement of 25 to 30 grams. A high-fiber diet helps to keep your blood sugar level stable, cholesterol levels down, and is linked to heart benefits as well as a reduced risk of certain cancers.
Pears also contain vitamins C, K, B2, B3 and B6 in addition to calcium, copper, magnesium, potassium and manganese.
Pears are easy to incorporate into your fall menu as they'll add a sweet kick to any dish. Try them on their own, baked or poached, chopped in a salad or in a soup.
4. Cauliflower -- Bored with side salads but want to up the nutritional value of your side dish? Look no further than cauliflower.
Cauliflower is low in calories with only 26 per 100 grams, and the health benefits are top-notch. A flower head contains several anti-cancer phytochemicals and is an excellent source of vitamin C; 100 grams provides about 80% of the daily recommended value.
It also has a proven antioxidant that helps fight against free radicals while boosting immunity and preventing infections.
Fans of mashed potatoes can mash cauliflower instead for an easy alternative with about a quarter of the calories and an equal amount of deliciousness.
5. Sweet potatoes -- Another Thanksgiving classic, sweet potatoes don't need to be candied to be enjoyed. Full of natural sweetness, nothing tastes better than simply baking them. Top 'em with a dollop of low-fat Greek yogurt and a sprinkle of nutmeg for added enjoyment.
Sweet potatoes are packed with calcium, potassium and vitamins. A medium-size sweet potato contains more than your daily requirement of vitamin A, nearly a third the vitamin C you need, almost 15% of your daily dietary fiber intake and 10% of the necessary potassium.
The plentiful antioxidants found in sweet potatoes have anti-inflammatory properties, beneficial to those suffering from asthma or arthritis. You'll never even miss the candied ones.
- Created on 21 October 2013
Think of your liver like your own personal filtering system: Suck in the bad and spit out the good.
"The liver has many important functions that keeps a person healthy. It removes harmful material from the bloodstream and helps digest food," says holistic nutritionist Hermeet Suri from Mississauga, Ont.
The liver, weighing in at an average of three pounds, is a rubbery and reddish-brown organ that sits on the right side of your stomach, according to WebMD.com.
A functioning liver works as our bodies' fat-burning organ: It converts nutrients from the food we eat into essential blood components, storing vitamins and minerals and producing proteins and enzymes to maintain hormone balances in our bodies, Suri says. Our livers also help our immune system fight infections, remove bacteria from the blood and make bile, which is essential for digesting our meals.
Problems with your liver can be inherited or can occur if your body is infected by any viruses or harmful chemicals, according to The Mayo Clinic. Mistreating your liver can raise the risk of obesity, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, headaches, digestive problems, allergies and many other ailments, Suri says.
"Although the immune system protects our body from many dangers, it is the liver that protects the immune system from becoming overloaded," he says.
Suri says avoiding an excessive consumption of tobacco, alcohol, coffee and white sugar and adding in low impact exercises (like daily walks) and drinking lots of water are all ways to ensure good liver health.
Eating also helps: Here are 10 fresh foods that keep your liver healthy:
Garlic helps your liver activate enzymes that can flush out toxins. It also has a high amount of allicin and selenium, two natural compounds that aid in liver cleansing says holistic nutritionist Hermeet Suri.
Eating or drinking grapefruit juice can help your liver flush out carcinogens and toxins. This fruit is also high in both vitamin C and antioxidant properties.
Beets are high in plant-flavonoids, which can improve the overall functions of your liver.
Leafy greens like spinach and lettuce have the ability to neutralize metals, chemicals and pesticides that may be in our foods, and act as a protective mechanism for the liver, Suri says.
Green tea is full of plant antioxidants known as catechins, which have been known to improve the functions of our liver.
Adding more avocados to your diet can help your body produce a type of antioxidant called glutathione, which is needed for our livers to filter out harmful materials, Suri says.
Cruciferous veggies like broccoli and Brussels sprouts also increase the amount of glucosinolate (organic compounds) in our bodies that helps create enzyme production for digestion, Suri says.
We all know citrus fruits like lemons are full of vitamin C, but lemons also help our bodies cleanse out toxic materials and aid the digestion process.
Used as a spice, tumeric has been known to help our bodies digest fats and stimulate the production of bile. It can also act as a natural form of detox for your liver.
Walnuts are also high in glutathione and omega-3 fatty acids, which help support our liver through its cleansing process.
- Created on 21 October 2013
Even the most idiosyncratic soul is born to conform. When others laugh, our mouths upturn into smiles. When the person next to you yawns, chances are you're going to break off a tonsil-rattling exhale, too. And when your stressed-out colleague is demanding a meeting right now, the alarmed face quickly incites yours to mimic it. Now you're stressed, too.
So much for free will. We all have a copycat streak, thanks to social circuitry that makes us yawn and panic when others do. As a social animal, we are built to relate to others, so much so that we physically reflect back their expressions and movements. The urge to echo is triggered by what are known as mirror neurons, brain cells that mimic the actions or emotions of others. While they help the species learn, understand, and bond, they can also be your undoing when the channeled behavior is the emotional contagion of stress.
Mirror neurons were first identified in the 1990s by Italian scientists studying how the brain controls mouth and hand movements in macaques. (1) Researchers found that a distinct batch of cells lit up when the monkees performed or even observed specific movements.
Mirror neurons are thought to operate similarly in humans. Located near motor neurons responsible for movement, speech, and intention to act, they simulate the actions and emotions of others or give us the impulse to do so -- thus, one of life's great mysteries, the contagious yawn. You're not remotely sleepy, but you cut loose with a jaw-popper after the person next to you has done the same.
A study in Switzerland using fMRI scans found a connection between the mirror neuron system and higher cognitive empathic functions. When subjects in the study were shown photos of people yawning, a region in the mirror neuron system was activated.
Even if we're not physically imitating what we see, mirror neurons still fire off a simulated version of the activity in your head as if you actually did it. It's all designed to help us learn, understand, empathize, and connect with what others are doing and feeling. Too often, though, what's mirrored is the stress of coworkers, managers and significant others.
Researchers have long known about the infectious nature of stress. Pass-along strain runs rampant in relationships and work settings. Studies have shown that there is "crossover" stress from one spouse to the other, between coworkers, and "spill over" from the work domain to home. The stress contagion effect, as it's known, spreads anxiety like a virus. Our mirror neurons help suck us into the emotional eruptions of others.
Emotions are highly contagious, as film directors and fear-mongering propagandists know, especially negative emotions. And that can be highly dangerous when the emotional storms of others reflexively trigger the stress response in us. Stress is a factor in five out of the six leading causes of death, according to the CDC. (2)
Stress suppresses the immune system, lowers the good cholesterol, increases the bad, and leaves decision making up to a hysterical corner of your ancient brain that can't compute the social stressors of the modern world. It can lead to any number of illnesses and conditions, from insomnia to cardiovascular disease to heart attacks. It's a national health emergency that kills more people than traffic accidents or nicotine and could be alleviated with proactive stress screening, advice doctors seldom prescribe. (You can sign a petition here to get stress screening added to the Affordable Care Act's preventive services.)
But you don't have to buy anyone else's stress -- or the alarms of your own overwrought stress response, which are equally false (unless you are in a true life-or-death moment). The key to resisting the emotional contagion of stress is overriding the double-team autopilot of the stress response -- reacting before you think -- and your mirror neurons. When someone dumps emotional toxins on you, you can choose not to accept the incoming by catching yourself when the bogus, catastrophic story of stress goes off and activates a wave of stupefying emotion. Instead of latching on to the fear or panic because it's in your head, contest it by reframing the irrational story to what's actually the reality. You are not about to die, as the clueless ancient brain thinks.
Stress is the result of the story we tell ourselves. That requires that we dispute the stress of the addled colleague who expects an instant response to her email. She will hear from you -- when you're able. Refuse the frenzy of someone else's deadline by stepping back and identifying the real story -- it's not an emergency, it's not your stress, it's not a crisis--and by using proven stress management processes, from progressive relaxation to meditation, to turn off the false danger signal. Instead of mirror neurons reflecting stress, you can use them as a tool to better understand why a person is going off, and, as a result, why you don't have to.
We can let others know that we would prefer to be dealt with in a way that doesn't treat every event as Apocalypse Now or threaten our health. Others don't know they're as much of a conduit for stress as a fiber optic cable is for data. Let them know. Reduce the interactions you can with the stress conductors in your life. And put a selection of photos on your computer or smartphone of people in the act of yawning to use your mirror neurons to treat the false alarms of others with the response they deserve.
1. "The Mind's Mirror," Lea Winerman, Monitor Staff, American Psychological Association, October 2005, Vol 36, No. 9.
2. Stress as a factor in five out of six leading causes of death:
-- Heart disease
-- Lower pulmonary disease
Joe Robinson is a stress management and work-life balance trainer, speaker, and author of Work to Live, Don't Miss Your Life, and the Email Overload Survival Kit. He is founder of the Smash Stress Campaign. You can find his work at www.worktolive.info and www.worktolive.info/stress-campaign
- Created on 18 October 2013
Blood clots can be dangerous when they break off and travel to the lungs or brain, where they can cause a pulmonary embolism or stroke. But before this occurs, they are often hard to detect, especially considering symptoms vary depending on where the clot is located. But now, researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology have developed a urine test that could help detect clots before they become an issue.
"Some patients are at more risk for clotting, but existing blood tests are not consistently able to detect the formation of new clots," study researcher Sangeeta Bhatia, a biochemistry professor at MIT, said in a statement.
The newly developed test, details of which are described in the journal ACS Nano, involves detection of the presence of thrombin, an enzyme that controls the formation of a protein called fibrin that patches up the wounds. The researchers injected mice with iron oxide nanoparticles, which interact with thrombin and leave behind fragments that can then be detected in the urine of the mice.
While the test has only been conducted in mice, researchers noted it could have applications for humans in the future, particularly people at high risk for blood clot, such as patients who are bedridden after surgery or those who visit an emergency department complaining of blood clot symptoms. A stick that you urinate on -- similar to a pregnancy test -- could be a way of administering the test.
"If a patient is at risk for thrombosis, you could send them home with a 10-pack of these sticks and say, 'Pee on this every other day and call me if it turns blue,'" Bhatia said in the statement.