February 5, 2008 [Volume 2, Issue 5]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Slowing Down Fast Food
Olive Oil Joins the Fight
A Laughing Matter

Slowing Down Fast Food

The American Psychological Association has recognized that there is more to our obesity problem than just genes or lack of exercise. In a recent article, Dr. Kelly Brownell said that the problem isn't so much a lack of self-control as it is a "toxic food environment." Every street corner has an option for fast food and none of them is healthy. Obviously we know this, but the convenience outweighs a critical concern for our daily dietary needs being met.

Obviously, the growing concern about premature death and rising obesity rates has made trans fats a major target. It has been determined that even a small reduction in the daily consumption of trans fats can significantly cut the risk of heart disease and can help lower the levels of "bad" cholesterol.

This concern has been made known to all major fast-food chains and yet only a few have done something about it. Wendy's quit using cooking oil containing trans fats in the summer of 2006 and in April 2007, all Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurants ceased use of trans fats. McDonald's promised to reduce trans fats in its products more than four years ago and "aims to roll out a new cooking oil" this year.

It's time to consider that the only way fast-food restaurants will start sharing our growing concern for healthier eating choices is if we stop buying their products. It's time to seriously consider the risk to ourselves and our children and weigh those risks against the "convenience" being offered by fast food. As consumers we have other options. Consider the following ideas for healthier eating:

Prepare a menu each week and stick to it.
Sunday should be prep day: chop vegetables and prepare casseroles, then freeze them for future use.
Consider purchasing prepared meats (boneless skinless chicken breast, etc.) that can be defrosted and quickly prepared.
The slow cookers are gaining popularity again and healthy recipes aren't hard to find. Prep the food in the morning and when you get home from work, dinner is ready to serve.
Many grocery stores are catering to our busy lifestyle but if you still want healthier choices, consider purchasing rotisserie chickens, homemade soups by the pint and bags of prepared tossed green salad.
Another great idea is to barter with a friend or encourage a grandparent who loves to cook to prepare meals in advance for your family. Some of the most time-consuming steps in cooking can be done in advance (chopping vegetables, etc.).

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Olive Oil Joins the Fight

Olives have been part of the Mediterranean diet for years. They are concentrated in monounsaturated fats, are a good source of vitamin E and contain multiple phytonutrient compounds including polyphenols and flavonoids, which have beneficial anti-inflammatory properties.

In addition to all of the well-established benefits of olives, olive oils and olive products, recent studies indicate olives may be the future in protecting against superbugs. The spread of two major offenders, MRSA (methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus) and the HIV virus, can be slowed by a compound from olive oil and leaves.

Olive leaves are particularly helpful because they contain a broad range of antimicrobial substances. At least seven compounds, all of which possess "unusual" combined antibacterial and antifungal properties when tested in a lab against several common human pathogens have been found in olive leaves. One of these compounds is called "oleuropein," which is found in concentrated form in many over-the-counter olive-leaf products. However, these products deny the other six compounds (caffeic acid, verbascoside, luteolin 7-O-glucoside, rutin, apigenin 7-O-glucoside and luteolin 4'-O-glucoside) an equal opportunity to do their job. A whole olive-leaf product would be superior to a customized, concentrated form that emphasizes or touts a particular, standardized concentration of a single agent.

The goal is to alleviate the fear that there is nowhere to turn but to drugs when dealing with such bad bugs as MRSA and HIV. Obviously, these germs still kill people - lots of them, unfortunately, and lots of children. Yet many of these deaths are in spite of drug therapy. Perhaps a more balanced approach with broad-spectrum antimicrobials, when used early or in less severe cases, will lead to fewer rampant infections and less spread of the germ to other contacts. Consider turning to olive-leaf extract as a natural alternative. Talk to your doctor for more information.

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A Laughing Matter

Everyone enjoys a good laugh. Why? The human body has a strong physical response to laughter - muscles in the face and body stretch, blood pressure and pulse rise and fall, and we breathe faster which transports more oxygen through the body. Research shows laughter also strengthens the immune system, reduces food cravings and increases one's threshold for pain. While preschool kids laugh up to 400 times a day, adults laugh a dismal 17 times per day. Here are a few reasons to fight for a few extra laughs each day:

Balance Hormones: Laughter boosts the body's good hormones like endorphins and neurotransmitters and reduces stress hormones like cortisol, epinephrine, adrenaline and dopamine. Breath by breath, laughter builds the immune system by boosting the number of antibody-producing cells and enhancing the effectiveness of T-cells.

Burn Calories and Increase Blood Flow: Like exercise, a long bout of heavy laughter can burn calories and provide a physical and emotional release. A laughter workout tightens the abs, diaphragm and shoulders, and can even improve heart health. In a study from the University of Maryland School of Medicine, researchers compared the effects of watching funny versus stressful films. Movies that elicited laughter caused blood vessels to relax and increased blood flow, which can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Keep Perspective: A positive outlook can do wonders for your health. If you can look at tough situations as a challenge rather than a threat and take the focus off your anger, guilt, stress and negativity, even if only for a few moments, you'll have the perspective you need to make the most of hard times.

Make Social Connections: Laughter is contagious. Not only can a good belly laugh improve your health, it can improve the health of those around you. Sharing a laugh builds strong social bonds and a mutual sense of community.

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The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of chiropractic, acupuncture, massage therapy, medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. MPA Media is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.