March 17, 2009 [Volume 3, Issue 8]
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In this issue of To Your Health:
Staying Healthy During Tough Economic Times
Active Year Round
What's in Your Cereal?

Staying Healthy During Tough Economic Times

Many of us are feeling the economic crunch these days. Money is tight and the bills continue to arrive in our mailboxes. Stressful times such as these demand resiliency on our part, particularly in terms of our exercise and diet habits. Interestingly, a mentally stressed state can promote inflammation throughout the body. Avoiding mental stressors is not likely to be easy during these times, so we must consider the importance of avoiding inflammation caused by other factors, such as poor diet and lack of exercise.

When you hear the word inflammation, you probably think first about swelling, redness, pain, etc., that can occur following an acute injury, irritation or infection. In general, this is short-term, localized inflammation (confined to a certain area of the body). But inflammation can also occur without physical injury. This is general, body-wide (systemic) inflammation, and it can cause subtle biochemical injuries to body tissues, increasing the risk of developing a number of serious diseases over time.

Lean meat, fish, chicken, fruits, vegetables and nuts form the foundation of a diet that limits a postprandial inflammatory response. This is referred to as an "anti-inflammatory diet." Not surprisingly, this diet is recommended to help prevent the above-mentioned pro-inflammatory diseases, the treatment of which represents a massive drain on financial resources, both personally and for businesses. A common argument is, "I can't afford to eat lots of fruits and vegetables," or "Healthy foods are expensive." Let's do a quick comparison. A cup of coffee and a doughnut can cost up to $5. A 20 oz. bottle of soda costs more than $1. In contrast, a 5-pound bag of frozen carrots, broccoli and cauliflower costs $5 at Sam's Club, and a 1-pound container of pre-washed organic salad greens costs about $4. Both of those items can be consumed over several days by several people.

A large sweet potato that can be split between two meals costs about 75 cents. While certain nuts are very expensive (macadamias, for example), many are very reasonable. Lean meats, fish and chicken are reasonably priced and can be added to the vegetables and sweet potatoes. Fresh fruit remains very reasonable and should be one of the snacks of choice. Dark chocolate is inexpensive and can be mixed with raw nuts and raisins for a great snack or dessert.

It is not more expensive to eat healthy, anti-inflammatory foods, if one shops wisely. Certainly, preventing the expression of chronic disease will save countless dollars and heartaches associated with the accelerated morbidity and mortality associated with pro-inflammatory living. In short, we cannot afford to eat any other way but anti-inflammatory. Paying for expensive medical care will put most of us into debt even when economic times are good. So it makes no sense to pursue disease and expensive medical care with a pro-inflammatory lifestyle when economic times are not so good. Talk to your doctor for more information.

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Active Year Round

How do we stick to an exercise program? Not by adopting the latest exercise craze or program promising to magically give you the results you want. And not by beginning a Spartan workout schedule that keeps you in the gym for hours on end every day. It's only by learning fundamental tools that you can start down the path of consistent exercise. Once you do that, you will be well-prepared to begin a lifelong journey toward better health. But in order to get there, we first need to figure out why we don't always stay consistent.

"I don't have the time," "I'm in too much pain," and "It's not working." These are the three most common excuses people use to avoid exercise. None of these excuses is good enough, not if you understand how important exercise is to improving your health and avoiding chronic disease and other conditions attributable to a sedentary lifestyle. Here are a few easy ways to stick with an exercise team for the long term:

Break up your workout. You don't need to exercise in a single block of time to see results. Simply take the stairs at work, park farther away from wherever you happen to be going (work, school, the grocery store, etc.), or walk over to a colleague's desk rather than phoning them, etc. Did you know you can potentially burn just as many calories throughout the day doing this as you would from huffing and puffing at the gym for hours?
Start small. Most people tend to overdo it when they first start an exercise program. We get so motivated that we start going to the gym every day. We try to do more than we can. Guess what happens? We get so sore or so burned out that we actually start hating it. Start off slow and pace yourself. This will always keep you going over the long haul.
Try new activities. The best way to prevent exercise boredom is to always seek new activities you can do during the year. Some activities that can give you a great workout just as well as conventional exercise include salsa or ballroom dancing, golf, swimming, or even an activity such as sightseeing around town.
Write down your goals. Did you know one of the best predictors of success is writing things down? It's as simple as spending a minute at the start of each day writing down what you are going to do that day. This type of activity provides reinforcement that you have goals to achieve. Always follow the SMART rules of goal setting. This means each goal should be Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Timely.

No matter what your fitness level, time availability or motivation, taking simple steps to staying active is within your reach. Not only will you be able to do more, but you'll also have better overall health and a better ability to combat the stresses of everyday life. All it requires is a bit of your time in outlining your goals and what you will do to achieve them. Once you do, write down what you're going to do every day – and then do it! Only by committing to exercise on a consistent basis can you hope to follow through on a consistent basis.

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What's in Your Cereal?

Do you know what's in the cereal you're feeding your children? That "Delicious and Nutritious!" message on the box may just be hype, according to a recent report that exposes what's really inside the carton (more often than not): serious spoonfuls of sugar and salt in each serving.

Consumer Reports' nutrition ratings report (November 2008 issue) found that some popular cereals marketed to children are 40-50 percent sugar, comparable to a glazed doughnut. Considering that most children eat more than the standard serving size (1 cup), your child may be consuming much more than you've bargained for.

The report compares the nutrition information of 27 leading cereals, giving each cereal a rating of "very good," "good" or "fair." Only four of the 27 cereals were rated "very good" – General Mills' Cheerios (at the top of the list), Kix and Honey Nut Cheerios, and Quaker Oats' Life. With regard to sugar content, Post's Golden Crisp and Kellogg's Honey Smacks were rated "fair," with more than 50 percent sugar by weight per serving, and nine other cereals were determined to have at least 40 percent sugar. Kellogg's Rice Krispies, long considered a relatively healthy cereal with little sugar, rated only "fair" due to high sodium content and zero grams of dietary fiber. The report suggests parents look for cereals high in fiber (5 grams or more), low in sodium (140 milligrams or less) and low in sugar (1 teaspoon or less per serving).

What's the lesson to be learned here? The next time you're strolling the cereal aisle deciding what's best for your family, spend some time reading those nutrition labels on the back of the box before tossing it into your shopping cart. The ingredients list will tell you a lot more about what's inside the box than the colorful characters and happy messages on the outside ever will. Your doctor can give you more information on the essentials of proper nutrition.

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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.

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