Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Importance of Vitamin D

Why is vitamin D so important to the health and wellbeing of your family, and what should you know about this essential vitamin?

Why is vitamin D important?

The vitamin helps with the absorption of calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphate, and zinc in the body. A vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a variety of diseases.  Long associated with strong bones, a vitamin D deficiency in children can be responsible for a condition called rickets. While rickets is not as common today, there are other conditions that may be caused by a vitamin D deficiency.

Are there different types of vitamin D?

Yes, there are.

According to this site, D2 and D3 are the most important types of the vitamin for humans.

D2 (ergocalciferol):  the type of vitamin D found in food.
D3 (cholecalciferol):  the type of vitamin D that comes from sunlight.

How much vitamin D do you need?

Children – 400-600 IU
Those under 70 years of age - 600 IU
Individuals 71 years of age and older – 800 IU

What are sources of vitamin D?

1. Sunlight:  Called the “sunshine” vitamin, your body naturally produces vitamin D in response to being exposed to sunlight.
2. Fish: Salmon, swordfish, and mackerel provide a healthy amount of vitamin D in a single serving. Tuna and sardines contain lower amounts of vitamin D.
3. Eggs: Specifically the yolks contain small amount of vitamin D.
4. Beef liver, fortified cereals, and milk: All typically contain small amounts of vitamin D.
5. Orange juice, bread, and some yogurts: Usually contain added vitamin D.
6. Supplements: Multivitamins typically contain 400 IU of vitamin D.

Signs of vitamin D deficiency:

There are often no signs of vitamin D deficiency. The deficiency can cause soft bones, a condition called osteomalacia. Symptoms of osteomalacia include bone pain and muscle weakness.

How can you tell if you have a vitamin D deficiency?

A simple blood test can determine the levels of vitamin D in your body. Based on any deficiency, your doctor or healthcare provider will advise you to either modify your diet or take a supplement.

Who should be especially concerned about vitamin D deficiency?

Vegans (individuals who don’t eat meat, fish, or any food product that’s the byproduct of any animal).
Those who have a milk allergy or are lactose intolerance.
Individuals with dark skin.
People living in a northern state.
Individuals who are overweight, obese, or who have had gastric bypass surgery.
Those who suffer from liver or digestive diseases, such as celiac or Crohn’s disease.

Can too much vitamin D be harmful?

Yes, that’s why it’s important to always consult with your doctor or healthcare provider before adding supplements to your diet.

What’s the latest news regarding vitamin D?

According to this report, boosting vitamin D levels might be helpful in managing asthma attacks. In addition, a vitamin D deficiency has been linked to a risk of death from cardiovascular disease as well as cognitive deficiencies in older adults. Studies support that appropriate levels of the vitamin may help lower the risk of colon cancer. Other conditions with a possible link to vitamin D deficiency include depression, difficulty with weight management, and diabetes.

Interested in learning more? Check out these sites for more information: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2912737/ or www.mayoclinic.org.

Live Healthy. Live Smart
-FamilyWize

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The Latest on Autism Spectrum Disorder

It’s a topic that continues to make headlines. Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD), commonly called autism, affects 1 out of 68 children in the U.S. today. The numbers are growing, although researchers don’t know why. But, there are some new developments in this area that give hope to identifying, managing, and successfully living with autism.

What is autism?

Autism is a spectrum of developmental brain challenges, which can involve and affect:

Social skills
Communication ability
Behavior

Often, children with autism exhibit very narrow interests, such as focusing on wheels or moving parts, and difficulty with change or switching tasks.

Is there a connection between ASD and Asperger’s Syndrome?

Asperger's Syndrome is part of the autism spectrum. In Asperger's Syndrome, individuals exhibit key social, communication, and behavioral symptoms. However, they do not typically show signs of delayed language or intellectual disability.

Autism Facts

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC):

Almost half of children with ASD test average to above average for intellectual abilities.
Boys are 5 times more likely to be affected by ASD than girls.
Caucasian children have a higher rate of ASD than any other group.

New Developments

Genetic factors:

ASD used to be diagnosed based on behavior alone; recent research shows evidence of genetic testing that will prove useful for diagnosis.
Research shows a connection between individuals with ASD and the type of job their parents hold. Individuals with parents in technical jobs are at higher risk for ASD. Children with both parents in technical fields are at higher risk of developing a more severe form of ASD.
Individuals with a mutation in the CHD8 gene show a very strong likelihood to being diagnosed with ASD.

Personal intervention with the use of computer tablets

The use of computer tablets has shown improvement in the communication abilities among children with ASD. Research, in general, is making steady progress toward understanding the minds of those with ASD.

Other news and findings

Although once thought to be a link to ASD, a recent report shows there is not enough evidence to report a correlation between receiving vaccines and the risk of developing ASD.

How can you get involved?

Check out walks, fundraisers, and other events that help raise money in the fight against ASD through 1Power4Autism.  If a family member is affected by ASD, check out Sensory Friendly Films to enjoy movies in a comfortable environment.

Where can you learn more?

Scientists and researchers continue to report updates on ADS on a regular basis. If ASD affects your family member, someone you know, or you just have an interest in the condition, continue to stay informed regarding the most recent findings.

Aside from your own healthcare provider, there are a variety of sources to keep you updated regarding ASD research and findings. Check out sites such as: www.autism-society.org and www.autismtoday.com.

Sources:
CDC
Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry
ScienceDaily


Live Healthy. Live Smart
-FamilyWize

Thursday, February 19, 2015

How to Get Enough Protein on a Meatless Diet


It’s a common, yet erroneous, assumption that you cannot get adequate protein in your diet without meat. If you’ve been wanting to reduce or eliminate meat from your diet, or if you have a physical need to cut back, here’s good news, and here’s how to get adequate protein without meat.

How much protein do I actually need?


Protein is important to health and survival, important for growth, immunity and your body’s ability to function. But too much protein is not good for you, putting a strain on your liver and kidneys.  According to WebMD.com, many Americans are getting too protein because of the high amounts of meat, poultry, and eggs we generally consume.

There are certain people who will need more protein, such as those who are pregnant or nursing, and athletes. But for the average person, the U.S. recommended daily allowance of protein is .36 grams per pound of bodyweight.

To do the math, multiply your body weight by .36.  If you’re 140 pounds, for example, that comes to about 50 grams of protein daily. 

What does that look like in your diet? A quarter-pound burger has about 28 grams protein. That and couple of eggs and you’re already getting close to the maximum amount of protein your 140-pound frame needs.

But can a bodybuilder or athlete get enough protein from plants?


Yes! Even if you’re a world-class athlete, you can get adequate protein from outside the animal kingdom – adequate for performance excellence, not just survival.  For proof, look no further than:
  • Bodybuilder Alex Dargatz won the 2005 World Bodybuilding title, after five years on a vegan diet. Read about Dargatz and other vegan bodybuilders here.  
  • For more than five years, Michael Arnstein has been not just a vegan but a fruitarian – someone whose diet is almost entirely fruit-based.  Crazy, right? Apparently not. Arnstein is also a frequent top-finisher in long distance races, and has even won several 100-mile trail races, including the HURT 100 in Honolulu, Hawaii, in January, getting the fifth-fastest in the race’s history. Read more about Arnstein here

How does a vegan or vegetarian get protein?

The thing to know is that protein is made up of amino acids. And amino acids are found in many plant based foods, including legumes, fruits, and vegetables.

Our bodies need to break down the complete proteins that we consume into amino acids so that we can get the nutrients we need from them. The body then essentially rebuilds the amino acids back up into protein once again. The theory then is that, by eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables, they will collectively provide us with all the same amino acids we would get from a single meat source, and that consuming it this way is easier on the digestive system by eliminating the need for it to break the protein down into amino acids.

It is important though to remember that while animal protein sources are generally complete, most plant-based proteins are not. Each one will have some of the amino acids you need, so you’ll need to combine a variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet to ensure a complete package of the amino acids your body needs.  You needn’t eat them all at the same time; just vary your diet intelligently (with planning) throughout the day and you’ll end up with the protein you need.

Best sources of protein from plant-based foods


Protein is available from many dietary sources beyond animals. When you get your protein/amino acids from a plant source rather than an animal source, you’ll also benefit from plant phytonutrients, probiotics, vitamins, and antioxidants.

Some of the best sources of vegetable protein are lentils (about 18 grams of protein/cup), Chickpeas (12 grams/cup), Black beans (about 15 grams per cup), and quinoa (9 grams/cup). Quinoa is a complete protein, containing all the essential amino acids.

Also look to tofu, soy beans, nuts or nut butters, and unprocessed grains like oats, rice, amaranth, and spelt.

Here are some unique but valuable plant-based sources of amino acids that you may not have considered:
  • Hempseed – Hemp is known as a terrific source of omega oils and antioxidants, but it also contains 20 amino acids – one of the few plant-based foods that are a complete protein source.
  • Spirulina and chlorella – The superfood spirulina is extraordinarily dense in protein, giving you 7 grams of it in a single tablespoon. Chlorella, another superfood, also gives you a great deal of protein, providing all the essential amino acids that your body can't manufacture. And both contain a broad variety of other nutrients.
  • Chia seeds – Chia is a primo source of calcium, potassium, antioxidants, omega-3 oils, fiber, and – you guessed it – protein. It’s consider a complete protein too, comprised of as much as 21% protein.
  • Bee pollen – the nutrient-rich pellet made by honeybees – possesses the nearly all the nutritional substances we need for survival and health, including B-complex, amino acids, and more accessible protein per ounce than that of any animal source.
Even plain ol’ squash contains a generous 9 grams of protein per ounce. The key then to getting all the protein you need from non-animal sources is to consume wide variety of whole plant-based foods. And the good news: most of these vegan sources of protein are inherently healthy for you, full of body-healing and body-protecting goodness.

For more information from the USDA on protein sources, check out choosemyplate.gov.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Right on! vs. Write on! vs. Type on!

It’s time to give a popular expression from the ‘60s – Right on, baby! – a new spelling – Write on! – because of new research, showing that there’s some mental magic in the process of writing by hand, rather than typing, when you need to recall the information later.  The research suggests that the way our brains work when handwriting is different than when we type, specifically showing that our ability to recall what we noted goes up when we go “old school” – writing notes by hand.
This could be significant news especially to the laptop note taking student of today.  The way students often take notes in class now, especially at the college level, has  been heavily influenced by digital options.  No need to sharpen a pencil or click a Bic to take live class notes when you have the convenience of a lightweight notebook PC or an iPad with a portable Bluetooth keyboard attached.

But the research now shows that you’ll not remember as much of what you learned from class if your hand was not involved in the physical act of shaping each letter, such as when hand-writing your class notes.



What the handwriting research showed


Two things we’ve known already:
  • Employing a laptop PC rather than writing by hand, is an increasingly popular way of taking notes.
  • Learning experts have long conjectured that computer-typed note-taking may be a less effective way to learn compared to longhand note taking.
Older research looked at laptop usage and how it affected a person’s ability to multitask or handle distractions. In this newest research, the study’s authors found that learning may be relatively impaired when solely relying on a laptop for note-taking because the mental processes in typing compared to hand-writing of notes uses shallower brain processing. This appeared to be the case largely because those who typed their notes – much faster than handwriting – were more likely to capture the lecturer’s words verbatim.  By comparison, longhand note-takers tend to mentally process the incoming spoken words and then capture the concepts or essence of the speaker’s words in their own words – a more mentally engaging process than merely transcribing exactly what they heard.

How the handwriting vs. typing research was performed


Research authors Pam Mueller and Daniel Oppenheimer instructed study participants to take notes in a classroom setting, half of the participants by writing out longhand and half by typing by notebook PC.
The researchers then tested what the participants had learned by quizzing them on three factors:
  • Conceptual understanding of what they had heard
  • Factual detail from the lecture
  • How well they had processed and generalized what they had heard 
Just as in previous studies, this study's researchers found that those who typed out their notes captured more of the lecturer's content than those who wrote by hand. However, those who typed scored lower in their conceptual understanding of the material and in their ability to apply what they had learned compared to those who wrote their notes out by hand.

In summary, going old school when taking notes is better than using a laptop when measured by retention, understanding, and application. 

While there is no question that being able to take more notes can be beneficial, as a laptop note taker can do, the tendency to transcribe lectures word for word when typing appears to make learning/retention sketchier.  So, when learning and retaining are more important than volume of note-taking, consider writing out your notes, which results in a more engages your brain with the incoming information (in order to reframe the spoken words into your own words) and you’ll find that what you heard sticks with you better.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Eggs–Good for You or Bad for You? Get the Facts!

Some recent research contradicts long held assumptions that eggs are not good for you. Are eggs the new health food or the shortcut to elevated cholesterol and heart disease?

Why we were told for years that eggs are bad for you


In the latter part of the 20th century, scientists and health experts told us that eggs were bad for us because their yolks contain lots of dietary cholesterol and, therefore, will elevate our cholesterol level if we eat them.
The assumption held firm for decades, convincing generations that eating eggs could elevate our cholesterol levels to dangerous levels, and specifically elevate the LDLs — low-density lipoproteins. If true, then eggs could  definitely put our arteries at risk and increase the likelihood of ending up with heart disease.
But was that a correct assumption?

The new research on eggs and health


Here’s one of the facts that threw the risk theory into a tailspin; eggs are a big part of the Japanese diet, with some estimates showing that they eat on average nearly one a day per person. And yet, why then do the Japanese have lower cholesterol and lower heart disease rates than we have here in the U.S.? The leading theory today is that the standard Japanese diet is lower in saturated fat that the standard American diet. 
In other words, the eggs are not to blame for our relatively higher cholesterol and heart disease problems.
More on what the research on eggs and health shows:
  • One study showed that, if there is health risk in egg consumption, it's for those who are already at risk for heart disease.
  • This study and this one showed that a diet with up to an egg a day does not increase your risk of heart disease.
  • As this report highlights, the risk with egg consumption has more to do with how we generally eat eggs.  For example, do you eat scrambled eggs all by themselves, or with cheese and sausages and a side of home fries and buttered white toast? Most of the foods we pair our eggs with are high in saturated fat and calories.  Thus, the meal as a whole raises bad cholesterol levels far more than the eggs themselves could ever do.
What about research that doesn’t line up with the rest of the data? In some cases, the quality of the data is in question. Such is the case in a 2012 Canadian study that described the heart health risk of eggs as being almost as bad as smoking; experts looking at the study were quick to point out the study’s myriad flaws.

The health benefits of eggs


Most modern research shows that the health benefits of eggs far outweigh the risks for most people:
  • The egg is a top-notch dietary source for Vitamin D – one of the few in fact. Vitamin D benefits your bones and teeth, improves calcium absorption.
  • Eggs are a low-calorie food, averaging less than 80 calories each, while its protein content makes it satisfying.
  • The eggs is a whole food, containing complete nutrients that you’d be hard pressed to get from any other food source.
  • Eggs are an excellent and natural source of protein, with a good combination of amino acids, which makes the eggs’ protein easy to absorb and assimilate into the body.
  • Have you heard of choline? Choline is essential for fetal brain development and is also believed to be valuable in adult brain health too.  The egg yolk provides you with lots of choline!
  • Eggs also contain two important phytochemicals – lutein and zeaxanthin – that are excellent for eye health, preventing diseases such as macular degeneration and cataracts.
  • Looking for a natural source of the vitamin B12? The egg’s got it! Or what about riboflavin, also known as B2, which helps produce energy in cells? you’ll find that in both egg whites and egg yolks.

Risks of eggs in your diet


While the best science suggests that eggs have a lot more benefits than risks for most of, heed these cautions:
  • The research mostly confirms that an egg a day is safe, but do not assume that a 3-egg omelet daily would be safe.  Egg yolks still contain cholesterol and will make minute influences in your cholesterol level, so three could be problematic.
  • If you have a history of problems with your total and LDL cholesterol levels, health experts advise restraint in consuming egg yolks.
  • If you have diabetes, egg yolks are also best used minimally, as this study confirmed.
  • Safe handling and storage is important. check out the CDC’s article on how to reduce your risk of salmonella from eggs.
And a final thought on eggs and your health: Pay a little extra for free-range eggs if you want a much healthier egg, according to a Mother Earth News egg testing project. It showed that free-range eggs are far more nutritious than commercially raised eggs, containing less cholesterol and saturated fat while delivering more vitamin A, omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, beta carotene.


Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Treating and Managing Migraine Headaches


Either you’ve had one or you know someone who has.  Whether they occur on occasion or chronically, migraine headaches can have a huge impact on your life. But, there are a variety of methods to manage migraines and get you back to your day-to-day activities as quickly as possible.

What is a migraine headache?

According to the Mayo Clinic, “migraines,” as they’re often called, are a specific type of headache that may include:

Nausea.
Vomiting.
Sensitivity to light, sound, or smells.
Throbbing pain on one side of the head.
In some instances, an aura, a flashing bright light, appears prior to the other symptoms.

Causes of migraine headaches:

1. Genetics:  Do you have a family history of migraines? You have an increased risk of suffering from this type of headache, too.
2. Environment: Changes in the weather may affect migraines.
3. Food: For some individuals, there might be a link between certain foods and migraine headaches. Foods on that list?  Aged cheeses; salty foods; chocolate; wine; caffeine; processed meats, such as hotdogs and cold cuts; soy sauce and MSG; and extremely cold foods. Check out this link, which explains a possible link between bananas and migraine headaches.
4. Lifestyle:  Stress and changes in your sleep patterns can be connected to migraine headaches.
5. Hormonal Factors: Fluctuations in hormones due to menstrual cycles, pregnancy, and menopause may impact migraines.

Who is affected by migraines?

Approximately 36 million Americans, or 12 percent of the population, suffer from migraines, according to the American Migraine Foundation.

In adolescence, boys outnumber girls with regards to migraines. However, by adulthood women take the lead over men in terms of suffering from this type of headache. Check out this site for more statistics on migraines.

How are migraines treated?

Medication.  Both preventive and pain-relieving medications, in over-the-counter and prescription form, are available for treating migraines. Remember to use your FamilyWize discount prescription drug card when filling a prescription from your physician to maximize your savings.
Exercise.  Research shows individuals who engage in regular aerobic activity are less likely to suffer from migraines.
Stress relief.  Meditation, biofeedback, and yoga are a few stress relief options to try in managing migraines.
Other alternatives.  Natural options such as acupuncture, massage, and chiropractic care are often successful in the management of migraines. In addition, supplements and herbs, specifically riboflavin, feverfew, and magnesium, have been suggested for managing migraines.

When should you seek help for your migraines?

Any migraine headache, whether occasional or chronic, should be taken seriously. Left untreated, migraines can result in absence from work or school and have an impact on your life in general.

Why is it important to manage migraines?

Although migraines technically can’t be cured, managing both the severity and frequency of these headaches can greatly improve the quality of life for the sufferer.


Always consult your physician or healthcare provider about options before starting treatment for migraine headaches. Working together with qualified healthcare professionals, you can successfully manage migraine headaches.

Live Healthy. Live Smart
-FamilyWize

Thursday, February 5, 2015

The Importance of Family Meals

Known as breaking bread, having a meal together has long been touted as a way to bond, build your relationship, and connect. For those reasons and more, it’s especially important for families to have meals together on a regular basis. Not convinced of the importance of this ritual? Read on for research, facts, and fun ways to make mealtime significant and memorable.



Why is eating together important?

Research has found a correlation between having meals as a family and:

Healthier kids.  Studies show those who sit down for meals together eat “more fruits, vegetables, and fibers; less fried foods; and often few calories.”  According to a Cornell University report, kids who have regular family meals are less likely to be overweight and have lower rates of substance abuse and teen pregnancy.
Relationship building time. Talking, listening, offering support, and giving advice to each other are important relationship-building skills family members are developing. Studies show that kids who have family meals together regularly are more likely to have higher self-esteem compared to those who don’t.
Making memories as a family. Years after they’ve moved out on their own, your children will still speak of the times they made meals together as well as many antidotes that were shared around the table.

What does meal preparation teach kids?

By assisting with meal planning and preparation, kids learn valuable skills, including:

1. How to follow instructions.  Whether following a recipe or taking direction from another person, learning to pull together ingredients and prepare a meal provides an important lesson for children of all ages.
2. Self-sufficiency.  Even putting together the simplest of meals teaches kids how to fend for themselves.
3. Working with food can be fun!  Kids who enjoy working with food can turn that interest into a career in the culinary arts. At the very least, those who actually make meals should develop a healthy attitude toward planning and preparing meals.

How can you enjoy your mealtime together?

Be consistent. It’s important to stick to that schedule. If your weeks are too hectic with outside activities, weekend nights are a great option for dining together.
Make it fun! Choose an option such as Mexican food for a fresh approach to family mealtime. Italian, Chinese, and create-your-own pizza are other options.
Enlist the help of everyone in the family. Some family members may help prepare food, and others might set the table. Regardless of how they participate, make sure everyone is involved.
Encourage conversation. Institute a no-phone, no-texting rule, and get the conversation going by asking questions and sharing stories, according to a report from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Ideas for family mealtime:

Quick meals:  Those meals you can make in less than 15 minutes are easy to pull together with store-bought ingredients added to a few items from home. Examples:  pizza and tacos.
One-pot dishes: Casseroles, soups, chili, and slow-cooker meals are all great ideas for dishes that can be prepared in one dish. Add salad and a dessert, and you have a complete meal.
Stir fries or soup and salad: Easy, delicious meal options that can be pulled together quickly.
Check out more meal ideas and recipes at this site.

Instituting family mealtime can have a great impact on your family members, both individually and collectively. Make family mealtime a priority, and watch the positive effect it has on everyone.

 Live Healthy. Live Smart
-FamilyWize