Thursday, June 26, 2014

Summer Feasts

As the days stretch long and the temperatures sizzle, the temptation of grilling and fresh fruits are impossible to resist. So don’t! This is a great time of year to delve into new recipes, invite a few friends over for a delicious visit, and expand your palette.

Here’s a few recipes that I’ve been creating and enjoying as the weather turns warm! (And as a bonus, they’re vegetarian and gluten free!)


STRAWBERRY FETA SALAD

If you enjoy a little pizzazz for your taste buds, this recipe will hit the spot! It’s fresh, lightly sweet, and plenty tangy. It’s a delicious side, or you can add some protein and make it a meal!

Serves 2
5 minutes to prep

Using a large bowl with a lid, add 2-3 cups of fresh baby greens, ¼ cup crumbled feta, 2 tablespoons chopped almonds, 2-3 sliced strawberries, and drizzle pomegranate vinaigrette over everything. Then place the lid on the bowl and shake until well mixed. Serve immediately.

Alternatives: try using dried cranberries in place of the strawberries, or walnuts instead of almonds. You could also try a soft goat cheese or sharp cheddar.


PORTOBELLO AND EGGPLANT SANDWICH
We are meat eaters in my family, but when a vegetarian friend came to visit, I was up for the challenge. This is an amazing combination of flavors that is just as filling as sitting down to a hamburger!

Serves 2
20 minutes to prep
15 minutes to cook

Clean and remove the stems from 2 large portobello mushrooms. Set them upside-down (with the stem side facing up) in a bowl or baking pan. Combine 2/3 cup olive oil with ¼ cup balsamic vinegar. Add 1 teaspoon fresh garlic. Shake together until blended. Pour over the mushroom caps. Refrigerate for two hours.

Combine 1 cup of fresh basil, 1 teaspoon fresh garlic, a pinch of salt, 2 tablespoons parmesan cheese, and 2 tablespoons pine nuts (best if toasted first in your oven). Blend in a food processor. Drizzle oil into the processor and combine, until the pesto reaches desired consistency.

Once mushrooms are marinated, place them on medium-hot grill for about 10 minutes.

Peel and slice 1 medium eggplant into medallions, about ½” thick per slice. Use butter or oil of your choice to coat each side of the eggplant. Salt, and add to the grill. Cook for 3-5 minutes per side.  

Toast 2-4 slices of gluten free bread.

Mushrooms are done when tender. The eggplant will soften significantly, so be careful not to overcook. Layer one slice of bread with two eggplant medallions, then top with pesto and add a mushroom cap. Serve sandwich open-faced.

Alternatives: Grill halloumi cheese and layer on top of the sandwich. Roasted red peppers make a lovely garnish. Add some mayonnaise to your pesto for a creamier topping.


HOMEMADE SODA
We do not drink soda…and this is why!

Pour 4 oz. of your favorite unsweetened juice – I’m enjoying pomegranate juice right now – into a glass. Add unflavored seltzer, some ice cubes, and slip a slice of lime onto the edge of the glass. Delicious!


GRILLED POTATOES
We have friends who request this every time they visit. It’s a simple side that is a people pleaser, especially if you have some picky eaters in your home!

Serves 2
10 minutes prep
30-40 minutes to cook

Gather two pieces of tin foil, about 24-30” in length. Spray both pieces of foil with nonstick coconut oil spray. Peel 3-4 russet or red potatoes and cut into 1” thick medallions. Place on one sheet of foil – they can touch, but don’t layer them. Roughly chop one medium yellow onion, and lay the pieces over the potatoes. Salt to taste, and add 3-4 tablespoons of butter in a zigzag across the potatoes. Use the second sheet of foil as a cover, and crimp the edges together, creating a sealed packet.
Cook for 30-40 minutes om a high-heat grill. If you have a second grate farther away from the heat, put the potatoes there. If you must place the potato packet right on the flames, flip them halfway through to avoid burning.

Potatoes are finished when they break apart easily with a fork.


Let us know if you enjoy any of these summer favorites – or if you have some new recipes of your own to share!

Contributing Writer

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Why are you experiencing a tough allergy season?

According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, more than 45 million Americans suffer from seasonal allergies. Experts predict the 2014 spring/summer season will be particularly tough on allergy sufferers.  Read on for the reasons behind this difficult allergy season as well as ways to effectively manage allergy symptoms.


Why are experts predicting a bad allergy season?

According to CNN.com and many experts, the record-setting snowfall and lingering below-freezing temperatures caused by the polar vortex during winter 2013-14 is to blame.

How is the polar vortex connected to allergies?

1. Extreme cold temperatures, lingering late into the spring, resulted in a delay in the flowering of trees, plants, and flowers.
2. Once temperatures finally warmed up, pollination had to play catch up, causing an abundance of pollen in the air.
3. Pollination of several allergens occurred at the same time this year, causing a mix of allergens for sufferers to battle.
4. Nicknamed the “pollen vortex,” this phenomenon makes for a tough season for allergy sufferers.
5. In addition, the rain that typically falls in the spring combined with already soggy grounds caused by melting snow resulted in excessive dampness and mold. These conditions cause difficulty for allergy and asthma sufferers.

Is there a link between seasonal allergies and certain foods?

Believe it or not, there can be a link between environmental allergies and the foods you consume, according to Dr. Joseph Leija, MD, an allergist who performs the Gottlieb Allergy Count, the official allergy count for the Midwest. When you’re aware of a particular allergy, below is a guide for foods to avoid:

Birch or oak: Avoid carrots, celery, almonds, apples, peaches, and pears
Grass: Avoid melon, tomatoes, and oranges
Ragweed: Avoid bananas, cantaloupe, cucumber, zucchini, and chamomile tea


What are the typical signs of allergies?

Difficulty breathing
Itching
Rashes
Runny nose
Itchy throat

How are allergies treated?

Your healthcare provider might suggest a number of treatment options, depending upon the type and severity of your allergies. These include:

1. Oral medications and/or decongestants
2. Nasal sprays
3. Allergy shots

How can you help prevent or alleviate allergy symptoms?

Take a shower or wash your hair at night to remove trapped pollen that can aggravate allergies overnight.
Always wash your hands thoroughly after working outside.
Remove your shoes before walking indoors on carpeting to avoid spreading pollen and outside debris throughout the house.
Wipe down any pets that go outside with a warm, wet cloth before allowing them to come back indoors.
Use a saline solution daily to rinse your nostrils.
Keep windows closed to prevent allergens from coming indoors.
Use the air conditioner and air purifier to help control pollutants inside.

Additional hints for allergy sufferers:

*Consider an air purifier, especially in bedrooms, to help keep inside air clean.
*Work at managing stress in your life and maintaining overall good health, which can help your immune system handle allergy symptoms more efficiently.
*Stay informed regarding the newest developments in allergy management.
*Work with your healthcare provider to find solutions for managing allergies.

Despite the prediction of a difficult allergy season, you can take measures to help minimize the effect of allergies on your family members and enjoy a fun-filled season.

Be Wize & Be Healthy
-FamilyWize

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Clean Faces Unite!

If you are a woman, you probably – at least at some point during the year – wear makeup. Some of us “put a face on” every day, while others may only do so for holidays or special events. Whatever your preference, one glance at the ingredient list, and you may swear off using cosmetics forever!

Don’t lose hope -- there are plenty of organic, natural options, for even the tightest budget. You may be surprised at how simple they are to find – and some you can even make yourself!

Facial cleansing

A favorite product for cleaning your face is the oil cleansing method, and you can make this at home. Grab some olive oil and some castor oil (you can find it at your local drug or health store) and combine for your skin type.  For dry skin, use 90% olive oil to 10% castor oil. For normal skin, use 80% olive oil to 20% castor oil. For mixed skin types or oily skin, play with 70-75% olive oil to 25-30% castor oil.

If you using oil on your skin freaks you out, don’t worry! This oil won’t clog your pores. Instead, it helps to remove the excess sebum which will cause breakouts, while leaving your skin moisturized and soft. Simply massage the oil mixture all over your face – it removes even waterproof mascara. Then lay a moist, hot towel over your face for half a minute, and finish by wiping the oil off. Allow a week or two for your skin to adjust to this new cleaning method!

Not fond of oil cleansing? There are fabulous facial cleansing formulas that have healthier ingredients. Check out Juice Beauty and Acure: they offers several facial cleansers, using organic ingredients, at different price points. Another fun brand is Lush, which is all natural and very fresh – most of their products come with an expiration date!

Makeup

Makeup can be both an amazing tool, and a pore-clogging nightmare. For the modern woman who likes flawless skin with ease, there is fantastic news: mineral makeup is not just for those with perfect skin. Today’s mineral foundations are light, easy to apply, and some have buildable coverage. So if you have blemishes or discoloration, this is a lifesaver. Popular brands like Bare Minerals and Everyday Minerals offer several different formulas for almost any skin type.

Once you’ve figured out your foundation needs, the rest is surprisingly easy. Your local health food store may have a makeup display where you can try organic and natural products. Even large maekup stores have great options, like Tarte and Physician’s Formula’s organic line for eye and cheek needs. For the lips, investigate Burt’s Bees for gentle colors, or for lipsticks, brands like Vapour are strictly plant-based without unusual ingredients.

Finding natural products for your beauty needs can be challenging, but once you know what to look for, you’ll be an expert! Investigate the many choices for organic skin care to find what works best for you, and then let us know what you’ve found. We’d love to hear from you in the comments!

Contributing Writer

Friday, June 13, 2014

Stay Safe at Summer Outings


From the beach and ballgames to barbecues and pool parties, the warm summer weather means lots of fun outdoor activities for you and your family. Ensure you and your loved ones stay safe this summer by following a few simple guidelines.



GENERAL SUMMER SAFETY

Based on a study at the University of Alabama at Birmingham,

  • Always wear sunscreen if you’re attending an outdoor event. Bring sunscreen along to reapply during the day.
  • A hat may come in handy, too.
  • Have a well-packed first-aid kit handy. Be sure to include: An assortment of bandages, Tylenol, Benadryl, aspirin, hydrocortisone cream, alcohol wipes, cleaning agents, and any other supplies that might be necessary for your family.
  • Bring water with you to keep you and your family members well hydrated.
  • Pack rain ponchos for pop-up summer storms.

The Environment

  • Bug bites, sunburn, heat stroke, and heat rash are just a few of the concerns that accompany the warmer weather.
  •  Use insect repellent with DEET to ward off nasty bug bites. Follow manufacturer recommendations for use on young children.
  • Wear long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and hats to help protect from the elements.
  • Carry an EpiPen for those allergic to bee stings.
  • Be sure to check for ticks, any sign of bug bites, or rashes such as poison ivy after your outing.


Food

  •  Bring a cooler for food items that need to be kept in colder temps, such as those containing mayonnaise or other perishable ingredients (see this previous blog post).
  •   Consume food from concession stands in moderation. This article cautions that high-calorie foods such as French fries and hotdogs and sugar-sweetened soda are not the best food choices for your family on a regular basis.
  • Pack foods such as fresh fruit, veggie slices, and cheese to snack on throughout the day.
  •   Bring your own food items for family members who suffer from food allergies, intolerances, or sensitivities

Physical Safety

  • Teach your children the “heads up” warning for fly balls at ballgames, on the golf course, or at the park.
  • Water safety should be taught at an early age.  According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), drowning is the fifth leading cause of unintentional injury death in the United States. Children ages 1 to 4 have the highest drowning rates, with most drownings occurring in home swimming pools.
  • Always use life jackets when around water. Experts warn that air-filled or foam toys or devices do not protect from drowning or injury.
  • Institute the “buddy system” around water. No one should ever swim alone, regardless of age.

Greater awareness, proper supplies, and being proactive can alleviate injuries and accidents from putting a damper on your summer outings. Enjoy a safe summer season, and have fun creating great memories that will last a lifetime!


Be Wize & Be Healthy
- FamilyWize

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Acetaminophen vs. Ibuprofen

Depending on your experience and background, when you have a headache, you might reach for Tylenol or Advil. What you may not realize is that they are very different medications, with different applications and side effects.

Ibuprofen is the main ingredient in Advil and is referred to as an NSAID – Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug. It is recommended for headaches, fevers, and reducing inflammation that causes pain and discomfort.

Acetaminophen is the primary medication in Tylenol. It is an analgesic, which means that the drug relieves pain. Acetaminophen does very little for inflammation in the body and is best used for alleviating fevers and pain.

Deciding which medication to use can come down to your symptoms and your allergies. For muscle injuries, headaches, and infections, ibuprofen is the better choice. However, for gentle pain relief of arthritis and mild headaches, acetaminophen can be the answer. Some people are sensitive to ibuprofen, particularly to its antiplatelet effect. If your blood does not clot normally, your doctor may tell you not to take ibuprofen.

The side effects of the two drugs are vastly different. Acetaminophen has very few side effects and is well tolerated by most. Ibuprofen, however, can have more severe results, such as stomach ulcers, GI and bowel upset, and heartburn. So pay close attention to how you feel on both before deciding what will be your go-to medication for pain.

One of the major differences between the drugs is the risk associated with overdosing. Overdosing on over-the-counter drugs can be quite common, particularly for pain relief. While using too much ibuprofen is unlikely to be toxic, it does have significant symptoms.

Acetaminophen, on the other hand, carries an extreme risk of toxicity in the event you take too much. Overdoses can lead to acute liver failure and death. No matter which drug you ingest in excess, contact poison control immediately.

Both drugs have significant side effects that are worth considering. Suppose you don’t want to deal with those side effects – how do you deal with the pain?

For muscle and joint pain, alternative wellness practitioners suggest curcumin, which helps reduce an inflammatory response in the body. Other suggestions to investigate include capsaicin, fish oil, and even acupuncture.

Both acetaminophen and ibuprofen have their place when pain and discomfort are making life miserable. Being aware of what each is best at – and what to look out for if they don’t work for you – allows you make an educated choice. Perhaps checking out alternatives that allow you to remain pain and drug free is worth the exploration.


What have been your experiences with these drugs? Do you use any alternative options that you find effective? We’d love to hear about them!

Contributing Writer

Thursday, June 5, 2014

More on the Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen

If our first  Medicine Cabinet in Your Kitchen article whetted your appetite to learn more about how common kitchen spices and herbs benefit your health, you’ll want to bookmark this article as well. 

Yes, it’s true; the kitchen spice rack can be a logical extension of your medicine cabinet, in thanks largely to polyphenols, the plant compounds present in many common kitchen spices and herbs. Consequently, common spices offer numerous health benefits. The benefits of the four spices we feature here include anxiety relief, improved digestion, better brain function, anemia relief,  repelling insects, reducing inflammation, and even fighting cancer and reducing tumors.

Four kitchen herbs and spices with health benefits


In this article, we explore the many health benefits of clove, coriander, cumin, and garlic.

The health benefits of cloves


Cloves – a staple in many recipes, such as ginger bread, pumpkin pie, soups, and chili – are jam-packed with bioactive elements, such as tannins, the antioxidant eugenol, and terpenoids, that aid health.

Studies on mice suggest that cloves contain cancer prevention properties that can change cellular detoxification processes for the better. Scientists believe that the cloves’ eugenol serves as an antimutagen (reducing the frequency of cell mutation) and blocks carcinogen-induced actions that damage the genetic information within a cell.  One study suggested that clove extracts can decrease colon carcinogenesis. Other benefits of clove include:
  • Inflammation relief: Clove’s eugenol and flavonoids function as anti-inflammatory substances.
  • Bug repellent: Clove oil, applied to your skin, repels mosquitoes even more effectively than citronella.
Cloves are nutrient dense – an excellent source of manganese, vitamin K, and dietary fiber.  As an added convenience, cloves can be grown year-round.

The health benefits of coriander


Not all parts of the coriander herb plant are edible, but fresh coriander leaves and dried coriander seeds are a wonderful addition to your recipes. As for your health, coriander contains lots of linalool, a compound that has been shown in studies to support the liver.


Other benefits of coriander:
  • Reduce bad cholesterol. Coriander’s good acids – linoleic, palmitic, ascorbic, and oleic – not only attack the LDL cholesterol in your blood but also elevate your good (HDL) cholesterol.
  • Reduce skin inflammation. Coriander’s essential oil cineole and its linoleic acid are known for their ability to reduce swelling caused by rheumatoid arthritis. And because coriander can induce urination, it can also reduce swelling from anemia or kidney malfunction.
  • Relieve diarrhea. Coriander’s essential oils borneol and linalool help digestion in general and bowel health in particular. One coriander study even showed that coriander can heal infectious forms diarrhea due to its antibacterial properties.
  • Clear up skin issues. Dry skin and skin fungal infections can be mollified by coriander’s antiseptic, disinfectant, antioxidant, and antifungal properties.
Also make sure to add fresh coriander leaves to your salads or appetizer dishes – coriander’s digestive properties can improve your entire meal’s assimilation.

The health benefits of cumin


Cumin seeds – a popular addition to spice racks -- are a rich and natural antioxidant source.  Research on cumin also shows that, thanks to its compound thymoquinone, cumin can suppress tumor cell proliferation. It has shown positive benefits on such cancers as colorectal, breast, skin, pancreatic, ovarian, and leukemia.  Other benefits:

  • Relieve flatulence. Cumin can prevent the formation of gas in your gut and facilitate gas expulsion. So, consider adding some cumin to your favorite bean dishes!
  • Boost blood. Studies show that, because cumin is a rich source of iron, cumin increases red blood cell count, including your blood’s hemoglobin, which aids in oxygen transportation throughout your body. Adding cumin to your daily diet can help with anemia and reduce fatigue and anxiety.
  • Enhance mental focus and improve cognition. The same hemoglobin-boosting properties that make cumin good for anemia also boost brain function, and may even aid in preventing cognitive disorders such as dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, according to this cumin research.
As if this isn’t enough, other cumin medical research shows it to be beneficial for removing toxins, preventing diabetes, increasing healthy phlegm production, boosting the immune system, and lactation support.

The health benefits of garlic


Garlic is one of the most popular kitchen spices, and it’s also one of the most medicinal.  We’ve previously featured a full article on garlic health benefits and history. Compelling garlic research shows that its components may lower the incidence of breast, colon, skin, uterine, esophagus, and lung cancers.
As well, garlic’s hydrogen sulfide is an effective antioxidant. Another study on garlic’s health benefits suggests that it can prevent the common cold and reduce the longevity of the cold.

Spread the word – share your recipe!


Though the free FamilyWize drug discount card can cut your pharmaceutical costs by as much as 75 percent, why not take also advantage of your spice rack to let nature do its part in preserving your health and supporting your health recovery?

If you’ve got a good recipe that uses any of the healthy spices we featured in this article – garlic, cumin, coriander, or cloves – please use the comments feature below to share with our readers.

Ric Moxley
Contributing Writer

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

What Do You Need to Know About Your Thyroid Gland?

The thyroid is a small gland that’s part of the endocrine system. Yet, it plays an important role in growth and development in children and the regulation of different systems of the body in adults. Read on for more information about this important gland.

What is the thyroid gland?

Found at the base of the neck, the thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland that produces the hormones T3, T4, and calcitonin. The function of the thyroid gland includes:



Regulating body temperature.
Aiding with metabolism.
Helps control heartbeat and pulse.
Growth and brain maturation (in children).




What are the common disorders of the thyroid?

Hypothyroidism: This condition indicates an under active thyroid, not producing enough hormones.
Hyperthyroidism: In this case, the gland is too active.
Hashimoto’s disease: An autoimmune condition, which is caused by the body attacking the thyroid gland, resulting in hypothyroidism.
Graves’ disease: An autoimmune disease causing hyperthyroidism.
Thyroid storm: A life-threatening condition that develops as a result of untreated hyperthyroidism. It may be brought on by stress, trauma, or infection.
Thyroid cancer: Four main types exist: papillary, follicular, medullary, and anaplastic.

What symptoms indicate the thyroid gland is not functioning properly?

Because of the variety of conditions, symptoms may vary greatly. However, be sure to tell your doctor if you experience any of the following:

Change in weight.
Sluggishness or fatigue.
Rapid heart beat.
Sensitivity to hot or cold temperatures.
Nervousness or irritability.
Insomnia or restlessness.
Hair loss.

How are thyroid conditions determined?

Common thyroid function tests include:

Blood tests: Simple tests, including TSH, T3, T4, and Free T4 can help determine if your thyroid gland is functioning properly.
Thyroid scan: The first type uses a radioactive tracer (taken orally or injected) and a special camera to determine the condition of the thyroid as well as areas of under/over activity. A whole-body scan may be used for individuals who have had thyroid cancer to determine if the cancer has spread.
Ultrasound: A painless method that uses sound waves to take an image of the thyroid. This is usually utilized when a growth is detected on the gland.
Fine needle biopsy: Typically used to rule out cancer, this test collects cells from the thyroid for closer inspection.

What factors may contribute to developing a thyroid condition?

1. Environmental.
2. Diet.
3. Genetics. According to experts, approximately 70% of the risk of developing a thyroid condition is attributed to genetics.

What are treatment options?

Medication. Remember: Use your FamilyWize Discount Prescription Drug Card to receive discounts on prescriptions filled at your pharmacy.
Radioiodine.
Surgery.

Has there been a recent increase in thyroid disorders?

While it may seem you’re hearing of more individuals suffering from thyroid conditions of all types, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association, the apparent increase in thyroid disorders can be attributed to “increased diagnostic scrutiny.” In other words, better testing and diagnosis of these conditions is bringing them to the public’s attention.

Do thyroid conditions affect one gender more than another?

While women are more likely to have difficulty with functioning of the thyroid, men do suffer from thyroid conditions. In fact, even pets can be affected and treated.

Where can you learn more?

Visit www.thyroid.org, www.cancer.gov or www.ncbi.nim.nih.gov for additional information on this important gland.

Be Wize & Be Healthy
- FamilyWize