The Next Book You Have to Read: Sitting Kills, Moving Heals by Joan Vernikos, Ph.D.

Why We Have GOT to Get Moving!

Sitting Kills, Moving Heals
I’m asked the following question a lot, “What’s your favorite book?”  My answer?  “Besides the Bible, cookbooks, and every Agatha Christie mystery I ever met… my favorite book is the one I just read.”

Sounds trite, but there it is – the pure, plain, simple truth.

I love books a great, great deal.  They’re mentally stimulating – whether they’re a great mystery by Christie, an inspirational book by Max Lucado, a “Complete Idiot’s Guide to..” (love those!), or a self help book everyone…  or no one..  is talking about.

I recently finished reading Sitting Kills, Moving Heals. Not only is this the next book I hope YOU read, I hope it’s the next book you recommend to everyone you care about. The information is golden and, quite frankly, a little startling.

From the Back Cover:

Your Chair is slowly killing you.  But exercise alone isn’t the answer.  Easy, everyday, all-day movement will keep you healthy for life.

Medical studies show that too much sitting will shorten your life, even if you exercise.  No matter how much exercise we get, most of us spend hours each day immobile in our chairs, and we’re fatter, sicker, and more tired than ever before. Why isn’t exercise enough? What’s missing?

GRAVITY!

Dr. Joan Vernikos, former Director of NASA’s Life Sciences Division, applies her groundbreaking NASA research on Gravity Deprivation Syndrome to everyday health here on Earth.

Your body needs to move in gravity to stay healthy.  In the near zero gravity of space, astronauts’ muscles and bones atrophy, as if they were rapidly aging.  Sitting all day at a desk, in long commutes, or in front of the TV is just like zero G – if you don’t move in gravity, you’ll suffer the same rapid aging as astronauts.

Astronauts are quickly restored to full health by returning to active life on Earth – and so can you.  Vernikos shows that the key to lifelong health is more than just traditional gym exercise, but a natural lifestyle of constant, natural movement that resists the force of gravity.

Vernikos’ easy-to-follow, commonsense plan shows how simple, everyday, fun activities like walking, gardening, dancing, golf, and more will keep you healthy, strong, and independent your whole life long.

Sitting Kills, Moving Heals is a fascinating read from page one.   Learning about the effects of gravity and “Gravity Deprivation Syndrome” literally made me stand up and pace as I read a great portion of the book!  I love the encouragement to move – for adults and children, alike.  As the author points out, children mimic what they see adults do. If children see active adults, they’ll tend to be more active, themselves. However, if they see inactive adults who rely too heavily on television, computers, and other forms of technology – they’ll probably mimic the inactivity as well.

Exercise is not a substitute for activities that come naturally throughout the day, 365 days a year, for the rest of your life. – Page 52

Among Other Things, the Book Includes:

  • Easy ways to “sneak” more activity into your day.
  • The benefits of stretching.
  • The 8 Fundamentals of G-Effective Activity.
  • How to create healthy habits that’ll keep your body from aging prematurely.
  • Stretches and Exercises to prevent muscle atrophy (remember, we’re dealing with a NASA expert here!).
  • The Health and Fitness Pyramid explained in detail.
  • How to completely relax.
  • Strength Training benefits.
  • The author’s expertise on gravity and exercise machines.
  • Gravity therapy and rehabilitation.
  • Helping the brain heal itself.
  • How to be a kid again and why you should!
  • Benefit of inversion (gets blood to the head).
  • Benefits of certain sports and activities.

Basically, you’ll gain a whole new way of looking at your health and life.  This is honestly a book unlike any other and I’m 100 percent certain it” effect your life and health positively.

See Sitting Kills, Moving Heals: How Everyday Movement Will Prevent Pain, Illness, and Early Death – and Exercise Alone Won’t for more information. This one’s a life changer.

Preventing Prediabetes and Diabetes

Tips from South Beach Diet

Vegetables: A Weapon in the battle against Diabetes!

One of the scariest diseases of all is diabetes.  If, like me, you’ve seen it up close and personal in a family member, you know that diabetes doesn’t play well with others. Can it be lived with? Absolutely. Can you still have a full, beautiful, and wonderful life? Of course!  But it’s no picnic and those of us who don’t have prediabetes or diabetes today would be fools if we didn’t do ALL we can to make sure we don’t have it tomorrow.

According to South Beach Diet, our weight, level of activity, and food are HUGE contributing factors that decide our risk of getting diabetes.  The good news, of course, is that we can obviously control these things.

Below are the foods recommended by the South Beach Diet – foods that’ll help you keep diabetes off of your radar.  I’ve thrown in my own two cents (in italics, to separate me from the experts) with tips for preparing, enjoying, and actually eating (!!!) these foods.

  • Eat plenty of whole grains:  brown rice, barley, quinoa, wild rice, bulgur, slow-cooking oatmeal, whole-wheat pasta, and 100% whole-grain breadBrown rice and whole-wheat pasta can be enjoyable. It’s all about adding flavor. With brown rice, I love to throw in slivered almonds. Whole-wheat pasta’s a little bit more challenging. Personally, I don’t love the smell.  That’s easy to take care of, however, with combinations of garlic, basil, thyme, and even red pepper. Barley can be added, effortlessly, to just about any kind of soup imaginable and as for quinoa? Try it! It’s versatile and fun to cook with.  Whole wheat bread takes one simple trick: Buy it instead of white bread. If it’s the only bread you have, it’s the only bread you’ll eat.  I actually like, and prefer, wheat bread with everything now.
  • Eat lots of beans and legumes. Fall in love with beans!  Just be sure you don’t throw in a pound of bacon or bacon grease, please. This all but cancels out the good you’ve done.  Flavor beans with onion, red pepper flakes, bay leaves, and (my favorite) liquid smoke (in the aisle with BBQ sauce). Beans are heavenly with cornbread and green onions. You won’t miss the bacon, I promise.
  • Enjoy a lot of vegetables, prepared using healthy cooking methods such as steaming, sautéing, or grilling.  Don’t drown your veggies in creamy, rich sauces or butter. The same rules that apply to bacon apply to these sauces – you cancel out the good.  My fave way to fix most vegetables is in my bamboo steamer. Delicious.
  • Consume whole, fresh fruits like berries, apples, and/or citrus fruits.  Buy fresh fruit and enjoy it often. Grab an apple on the way out the door instead of a pastry or candy bar. Make fresh fruit salads for dessert and snacks.  My family LOVES smoothies made with fresh fruit as well as fresh fruit served in yogurt. The natural sweetness of fruit, honestly, makes a great after-dinner choice.
  • Include nonfat or low-fat dairy in your diet, such as fat-free or low-fat milk, plain or artificially sweetened low-fat soy milk, and nonfat or low-fat plain yogurtIf you serve fresh fruit in a whole-grain cereal with low-fat milk, you’ll be a diabetes-fighting ninja.
  • Focus on lean proteins, like skinless poultry or turkey breast, and lean cuts of meat, as well as fish and shellfish. Remember, though, that preparation matters. Fall in love with baked and grilled meats as opposed to fried food.
  • Avoid saturated fats and trans fats; instead, choose monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, found in olive oil and canola oil, for example, and foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, such as fatty fish like salmon and sardines, soybeans, flaxseed, and walnuts.  When you put your mind and palate to it, you can find endless ways to use olive oil. I even cook my eggs in olive oil now instead of butter. That’s a giant step for a southerner, trust me. I also love to slice tomatoes and mozzarella and drizzle them with a little olive oil and fresh basil.  Here’s an alternative for traditional garlic bread for pasta night: First of all, buy a loaf of whole wheat Italian bread.  Bake the bread as directed, with no butter.  In a platter, pour out a little olive oil and dust the top of the oil with freshly ground black pepper.  Delicately dip your bread into this flavorful concoction in lieu of butter.  You can even buy flavored olive oil for this purpose. YUM!

See all South Beach Diet Tips.

Adding More Activity to Your Day
One of the best tips I ever heard concerning activity and exercise basically is this: Your body doesn’t know whether you’re in the gym or in your living room. Just move! If you’re cleaning house or raking the yard, your body’s getting exercise and that’s what’s important. It’s as simple as adding more movements and steps into your daily routine. March in place while watching television, walk the long way to everything you need in stores, park further from the door, adopt a dog (or two) from an animal shelter and fall in love with the joy of taking dogs for walks each day.

A Must Have App if You’re Counting Calories

I Love this App!

Fast Food App

My daughter Emily and I were having lunch not long ago at Applebee’s in Owensboro.  We’re both becoming more and more health conscious and try not to consume more than our day’s share or allotted calories.  To that end, not long ago, I downloaded the Fast Food Calorie Counter App and use it religiously. This app has the foods listed for 106 different restaurants (including every fast food chain you can think of). It’s fast and easy to use and can help you make smarter decisions.

USUALLY (you know how those usuallys go), I consult my app before I even leave the house – so I have a game plan before I even touch the menu. However, this time we didn’t even decide where we were eating until we were practically in the parking lot!  As we sat at the table, we’d both just about made up our minds when I decided to “double check” our choices – choices that seemed innocent enough.  Can you say, “Nearly a day’s entire allottment of calories in one meal?!?!

We wanted no part of that, so we entirely switched gears and made MUCH smarter and healthier choices.  Emily, right then and there, asked me what app I’d just used and downloaded it to her iPhone on the spot.

Most people simply have no idea the number of calories they’re consuming.  We tend to take in a whole lot more calories than we realize, especially when eating out.  If you don’t have a device for using apps, do the next best thing – either buy a book that lists calories in restaurant foods or get into the habit of visiting a restaurant’s website before you even leave the house.  You’ll be absolutely amazed by the number of calories in the food you’ve been eating!  They add up ridiculously and are contributing to the growing problem we face with obesity and diabetes.

Below are a few shockers:

Applebee’s Reuben Sandwich – 1,150 calories

Applebee’s California Turkey Club – 920 calories

Applebee’s side of onion rings – 530 calories

Applebee’s side of French Fries – 400 calories

Applebee’s Oriental Chicken Rollup – 1,140 calories

Applebee’s Chicken Fajita Rollup – 560 calories

Applebee’s Chicken Parmesan – 1400 calories

Applebee’s Crispy Orange Chicken – 1510 calories

Applebee’s Fiesta Lime Chicken – 1140 calories

Applebee’s Provolone-Stuffed Meatballs with Fettuccine – 1530 calories

If you add the side of fries to the sandwich or rollup, you’ll see how an innocent looking lunch becomes a nightmare!

Some better choices at Applebee’s:

Applebee’s Weight Watchers Cajun Lime Tilapia – 350 calories

Applebee’s Spicy Pineapple Glazed Shrimp and Spinach – 310 calories

Applebee’s Black Bean Soup – 190 calories

Steak & Grilled Shrimp Combo – 530 calories

Applebee’s Chicken Caesar Salad – 300 calories

Applebee’s has an OUTSTANDING “Under 550 Calories’ Menu that I use just about every time. Each item on this menu is exceptional – and as filling as any of the other meals boasting much higher calories.  It isn’t applicable at Applebee’s, but if you’re eating at a restaurant that keeps a steady stream of bread coming to your table, be sure to calculate each roll or bread stick into your meal.  As a country, we’re simply eating way too many calories.

Something I’m trying to get better at is avoiding appetizers – we’re talking hundreds (often upon hundreds) of extra, unnecessary calories.  Most appetizers aren’t good for you in any way whatsoever. It’d be much wiser to simply order a side salad if you’re starving and anticipate a wait.  I have no idea why, but appetizers are SUCH a weakness for me – even more so than desserts.

Here’s the link to the wonderful calorie counter app for fast food.  I wouldn’t dream of leaving home without it!

Looking to Get Fit and Fabulous?

Denise Austin Has an App for That!

Denise Austin App

“Never miss an opportunity to move — your muscles don’t know if you’re in a gym or in the kitchen! Turn idle time into toning time by doing squats while you stir batter, leg lifts while you chop veggies, and push-ups on the countertop while you wait for your water to boil. Talk about multitasking!” – Denise Austin

I should go ahead and admit it. After all, my husband, daughters, and cats already know it. You might as well, too. I’m an app freak.  A delirious app happy freak.  A few days ago, I was scrolling through my apps on my ipod touch and my husband asked, “How many apps do you have?!”  Without looking up, I told him, “You don’t want to know.”

Besides, I was too busy app dancing to count.

One of my favorite health and fitness apps is Denise Austin’s Health and Fitness App.   It was actually one of the first apps I grabbed.  I have her books and dvds, I figured I might as well have her app as well. (If it were only that easy to get her abs…)  This is one of the apps that I use on a daily basis.  I recently began taking up yoga again (an injured foot had me sidelined for a while) and I’m loving every minute of it. Fortunately I wasn’t on the DL long enough to lose my flexibility or ability to hold the poses.  I use Denise Austin’s app for my yoga and exercise routines.  Her smiling face leads the way.

And her abs, mustn’t forget those.

The Denise Austin App has the following:

  • Workouts
  • Yoga Poses
  • Information about nutrition, exercise, and eating healthy
  • Advice for raising healthy, fit kids
  • Tips for staying motivated
  • Ways to keep dining out from sealing your fate
  • Tips for de-stressing
  • Recipes!

If you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, this is a fitness app you’ll really love. And, get this, it’s free!

If you don’t have one of these devices, you can still benefit from Denise Austin’s expertise, motivation,  and  inspiration.  Just visit her website, Denise Austin.com.

Calorie Counting? There’s an App For That

And Everyday Health Has It!

This is too cool for school – unless it’s lunch break, that is.

Most of us are trying to eat healthier, exercise more, and really watch what we eat.  We know that better-fitting jeans aren’t the only thing we have to gain by adopting a healthier lifestyle.  Fact is, they aren’t even the most important goal. Not even close.

We can avoid a whole plethora of illnesses, set backs, and problems if we simply wise up about our food intake.  If we maintain a healthy body weight, we’re way ahead of the ballgame.  Of course, getting there’s often a problem.

Everyday Health has a simple, brilliant solution that I know you’ll love: The My Calorie Counter iPhone app is an easy-to-use weight loss and weight management tool that’ll help you count calories in food and fitness activities.

Brilliant.  Sometimes it’s just beautiful to live in these tech-licious times.

Click HERE to learn more.

How to Prevent Diabetes: Making Healthy Life Choices

My husband’s older brother was recently diagnosed with diabetes.  Diabetes is a word that, for me, conjures up an image of an ogre.  An huge, ugly, angry ogre.  My mom battled diabetes for years and I saw, first hand, just how relentless this disease can be.  I honestly admire diabetics because they fight a daily battle that most of us (hopefully.. prayerfully…) will never have to suit up for.

My mom, like many diabetics, got the worse end of the deal:  Being diagnosed later in life.  Personally, I think this makes the whole fight nastier.  She, like my brother-in-law, was quite accustomed to strawberry shortcake, cokes, banana pudding and other lovelies we take for granted.  When you’re diagnosed as an adult, you have to stop right in the middle of the road and completely change directions.  The ogre stands in the way that you want to go – like a roadblock.  And if you try to sneak past him, you’re going to pay.

My poor, hard-headed little mother (with a head-full of sweet teeth) tried to sneak past him often.  The toll it took on her health ultimately led to heart disease, many hospital visits, and even a stint.  In the end, she died far, far, far, far too young.

So, yeah, I’ll always hate diabetes and heart disease with a cruel, unChristian passion. (Hence the many articles on Self Help Daily about heart health, healthy eating, and creating a healthy lifestyleThe fight? It’s on!)

“Exercise: You don’t have time not to.”
– Author unknown

My brother-in-law’s diagnosis has reignited the flames of hatred for this disease and made me realize that we all need to keep this ogre (Diabetes) in mind when we go about our daily lives – making choices that directly affect our health and, thereby, the lives of everyone we love.

A few facts from Shop to Stop Diabetes.org:

  • Diabetes kills more Americans every year than breast cancer and AIDS combined.
  • It’s the #1 cause of blindness in adults.
  • It doubles the risk of heart attack & stroke.
  • 1 in 3 American children born today will develop diabetes if current trends continue.
  • In the next 24 hours, 4,320 new cases of diabetes will be diagnosed.
  • 1 in 4 Americans who have diabetes don’t know it.

Ogre.

Fortunately, there are actually things we can do to keep the ogre from showing up on our doorstep.  As the Crucifix sends Count Dracula on his way, there are things we can do and things we can avoid that’ll send Diabetes crawling back into its corner.

“Did you ever stop to taste a carrot? Not just eat it, but taste it? You can’t taste the beauty and energy of the earth in a Twinkie.”
– Astrid Alauda

The American Diabetes Association and WebMD Provide A Wealth of Information Including:

  1. The larger your waist, the higher your risk of developing diabetes.   People with “Apple” shapes (more fat around your middle than around your hips) are at a higher risk than “Pear” shapes (more fat around your hips and backside).  All experts agree, getting in shape and maintaining a healthy weight is one of the most important steps to take for preventing diabetes.
  2. Watch how much you eat.  We’ve become a society of big eaters – we eat often and we eat a great deal.  Watch your portion sizes and eat to live, not live to eat.
  3. Get plenty of exercise.  Couch potatoes are ripe for trouble!  Be sure you get at least 30 minutes of activity at least 5 times a week.
  4. Address any health problems you have asap. If you’re overweight, lose the extra pounds.  If you have high blood pressure, see a doctor. Use common sense and take control of your health and your life.

“When it comes to eating right and exercising, there is no ‘I’ll start tomorrow.’  Tomorrow is disease.” – Terri Guillemets

From WebMD.com: “A study done by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in The New England Journal of Medicine found that being overweight and obese was the single most important risk factor that predicted who would develop type 2 diabetes. During a 16 year follow-up period, study results showed that regular exercise — at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week — and an improved diet that’s low in fat and high in fiber significantly helped with type 2 diabetes prevention. The bottom line: type 2 diabetes prevention could be as easy as adopting healthy lifestyle habits.”  – Preventing Type 2 Diabetes, WebMD.com (Click the link to learn more!)

Also…

  • According to Medical News Today, broccoli may helpful in diabetes prevention. Broccoli contains phytonutrients — compounds that may help prevent diabetes, heart disease and some cancers.

The best six doctors anywhere
And no one can deny it
Are sunshine, water, rest, and air
Exercise and diet.
These six will gladly you attend
If only you are willing
Your mind they’ll ease
Your will they’ll mend
And charge you not a shilling.
– Nursery rhyme quoted by Wayne Fields, What the River Knows, 1990

Learn more about the causes and symptoms of diabetes at EverydayHealth.com

Prevention’s 2010 Picture of Health Has Contestants You’ll Never Forget

I’m a firm believer that you can learn something from every single person you meet – and often even those you don’t meet.  I’m the sort of person who wants to learn something new and/or be inspired and motivated as many times as possible during the day.  Whether I’m reading a favorite magazine, blog posts, Twitter updates, or watching something on television. My “live to learn” antenna is up at all times!

Case in point:  This morning, I was reading a story on one of my favorite websites – Prevention.com.   The story profiled 5 finalists in the 2010 Picture of Health competition. 5 finalists – 5 motivating and inspiring hits to the antenna. I’ll hit the highs with these finalists below, so you can be inspired by them as much as I have been.

Paula Bruchhaus (43 – on the far right in the picture above), from Florida, is an elementary school teacher who lost 80 pounds and inspired her students to fall in love with running. “We’re not all going to be super fast or strong, but our goal is simply to improve,” Bruchhaus tells her students. “It is possible to change simply by eating healthy and exercising.” Her kids have run in marathons and over the years have raised $25,000 for charity.

I love that she’s reaching out to kids and to her community. She improved her own life and now has her mind set on improving other’s lives as well.

Dawn Forgione (51 – on the far left in the picture above), also from Florida, has had her fair share of scrapes and bruises, literally. She endured serious injuries, including 40 stitches to her face and knocked-out teeth, after a bad bike spill while training for a 150-mile charity ride. That was apparently one of her better days.

She has also faced bouts of cervical dysplasia, endometriosis (which led to multiple surgeries and ultimately a radical hysterectomy), knee surgery, two hip replacements, and breast and skin cancer.

Instead of sitting around feeling sorry for herself, she has been a busy girl! She has helped many organizations through the years, such as the American Cancer Society, the Children’s Cancer Caring Center in Miami, and the March of Dimes. “I love to be a positive role model and show others that a diagnosis is not a death sentence.” Those words just jumped off the screen at me – A diagnosis is not a death sentence. I’d say that she made diagnosis a life sentence! You. Go. Girl.

Linda Goff (42 – second from right in the picture above), from Missouri, once weighed over 300 pounds. She realized that her eating habits were setting a bad example for her kids and her weight wasn’t doing her marriage any favors. She prayed for the courage to take the first step —and it worked. A switch flipped, and by exercising and eating right, she went from a size 26 to 6.

Today, Goff says she feels better than she did at 25. She helps counsel weight loss support groups at the hospital, gym, and church. “I want to let people know that good choices are just like bad ones—they can become lifelong habits too.

There were several things that stood out to me in Linda Goff’s story:

  1. She knew that it would all begin with a first step – the same place everything begins…. step number 1.
  2. Her quote about good choices becoming lifelong habits just like bad ones is a complete and total lesson in itself.  What’s more, it’s as much a self improvement lesson as it is a physical fitness lesson.  Anything we want to change in our lives can be cone by making good choices – then doing it again and again and again until these good choices become good habits.

Kristi Marsh (39 – the young lady in the middle in the picture above), from Massachusetts, found a lump in her breast when she was 35 years old. She was diagnosed with an aggressive kind of breast cancer, but didn’t cave under the pressure.  What’s more, she used the horrifying experience to learn things about her body and to inspire her to make a difference.  “Our bodies try so hard to survive, but we often compromise that with unhealthy choices that increase our exposure to pesticides and pollutants.”

She researched nontoxic products, joined a CSA (community supported agriculture) farm, and even started raising hens in her backyard for organic eggs!  I love that.  Seriously, I want some hens in my yard.  Stat.  My husband never knows exactly what kick I’m going to get on next or what will come out of my head or mouth next.. I hope he braces himself for this one.  I want hens.

Krisit even started an educational organization called Choose Wiser, sharing her tips and advice with local groups. “I hope to educate people about what best fits into their lives so they can make healthy changes.”

Chris Word (52 – Let’s see… I believe he’s second from the left :) ), from California, used his battle with colon cancer as a springboard for a life of service on the behalf of children.My cancer struggle inspired me to help sick children. Motivated by all the child cancer patients he met during his recovery, he decided to start the Lifedriven Foundation, a nonprofit foundation that supports research and treats children battling the disease with trips to Disneyland. How cool is that?!

There is so much about cancer that people have no control over, but we can give a family a moment in time to experience some joy,” Word says.

If I were asked to design Heaven’s lay out (oddly enough, I have not been consulted), there’d be a special place… a very, very, very special place for people who help children.

I love the spirit, the fight, the drive, and the compassion in these individuals.  If you ask me, they have plenty to teach all of us about life and about bouncing back.

When these people were knocked down, they not only got back up, they got back up fighting!   This is the sort of spirit that makes the world a better place.  Think about it.  If everyone took their knocks and used them as inspiration to make the world around them a better place, can you imagine what a world we would live in?  Unfortunately, many people are far too busy whining, moaning, sighing, and feeling sorry for themselves to take the time to reach out to others.

I hope you’ll read the full stories on each of these individuals by vising Prevention’s 2010 Picture of Health Story and Slideshow.  Whether you’re looking to lose 10 pounds, improve the way your family eats, or simply want a inspirational fodder  for your own antenna, these stories will touch your heart… flip a switch in your brain…. and light a fire under your feet.  If that sounds like something that’d be all kinds of cool beans – have at it!

Photo Credit: Prevention.com

How to Follow a Mediterranean Diet

I just wrote an article on my Mental Fitness blog about the Mediterranean Diet and it’s wonderful effects on brain health. New findings show that eating the   When you finish here, check this post out – the findings are pretty remarkable.

What is the Mediterranean Diet?

The Mediterranean Diet sounds like it would be a fad diet used by the rich and famous, doesn’t it?  The terms are actually used to describe the foods eaten by people living in countries surrounding the Mediterranean Sea (Greece, Morroco, Italy, Spain). The foods that form this diet are associated with a slew of positive health effects:

  • a lower risk of cancer
  • a lower risk of hear heart disease
  • fewer heart attacks
  • less hypertension
  • lower risk of diabetes
  • prevention of brain disease
  • trimmer body

Just glance at that list again!  Just think, you can protect your body and mind and improve your fitness and health simply by choosing to eat the right foods and refusing to eat the wrong ones.

If it’s so simple…. and it pretty much is… why aren’t we all doing it? I think one of the reasons is habit.  We’re accustomed to eating a certain way and find the thought of drastic change overwhelming.  (Wonder how overwhelming we’d find heart disease or diabetes to be?)  Some people may think that incorporating new foods into their diet will be expensive or inconvenient (Again, how expensive or inconvenient would serious health problems be?)

No more excuses.  Today’s the day!

What Foods Are In a Mediterranean Diet?

When incorporating the Mediterranean diet into your daily meals, think fresh and wholesome.  Think unprocessed and natural.  You’ll want to become as familiar to the produce department as a head of lettuce.  The staples of the Mediterranean diet include fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, legumes, seafood, yogurt, and olive oil.

Try new foods and try fresh new things with old favorites.  I’d wholeheartedly recommend buying a bamboo steamer and getting all kinds of fancy pants with steaming vegetables.  Steamed asparagus, carrots, broccoli, cauliflower, peppers, snap peas, nappa cabbage, artichokes…. Heavenly. If, at first, you have trouble falling in love with fresh vegetables, experiment with different Mrs. Dash seasonings, fresh herbs, and squeezed lemon and/or lime juice.

Adding steamed vegetables (or grilled on a George Foreman Grill – another one of my favorite kitchen toys!) to pasta dishes is a wonderful way to make them into a meal.  I’ll give you extra points if you use wheat pasta.  I promise you, if you season everything right, you’ll never even know it’s wheat – but your body will.

Roasted garlic is also a healthy way to add flavor to meals – and garlic is very much a part of the Mediterranean diet.

A few other things you’ll want to know about the Mediterranean Diet:

  • The  people who live around the Mediterranean Sea use olive oil as often as I drink coffee.  They use it in almost everything they eat.  Whether it’s pasta, bread, vegetables, salads, fish, cakes, pastries… whatever.  Olive oil is the principal fat in the Mediterranean diet.  It replaces other fats and oils such as butter and margarine. Why should you fall in similar love with olive oil? Researchers at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia found that oleocanthal, a compound in olive oil, reduces inflammation.   This alone could help prevent  heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, Alzheimer’s, and certain cancers.  The next time you have French or Italian bread, try this.  Instead of butter or margarine – pour a little Extra Virgin Olive Oil into a pretty dish then grind fresh pepper on top.  Dunk your bread into the peppery olive oil in lieu of unhealthy butter.  My favorite approach is with different colored peppercorns – they look gorgeous and taste outstanding.  A little crushed basil, thyme, or oregano is also a nice touch.
  • Use local produce – not only is it healthier for it to be handled as little as possible, it’s cool to keep your money in your community.  I’m all about that.
  • Try to eat beans in your diet each day.  Throw some in your salad, chili, soup, and even pasta.  Bean soup is always delicious and you can’t beat a great bean salad.  Combine your favorite beans with a little olive oil, garlic, and red onion.  Season and dive in.  Also, hummus is another wonderful way to utilize beans, olive oil, AND garlic in one delicious sitting.  Use fresh vegetables to scoop up the hummus and you’ve leveled up to a whole new level of greatness.
  • Leave bowls or baskets of nuts around the house to nosh on instead of candy and potato chips. Throw pine nuts and sunflower seeds into your salad for crunch and flavor.
  • Omega 3 fatty acids run free and wild in the Mediterranean diet. Why’s this such a great thing? As WebMD tells us, Fatty acids have been shown to reduce the incidence of heart attacks, blood clots, hypertension, and strokes; and may prevent certain forms of cancer and lower the risk of neurological disorders like Alzheimer’s disease.
  • Try to eat less meat, opting for fish, vegetables, legumes instead.  Just remember to fill up on protein from healthier sources.
  • Mediterranean people devour lots of tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, capers, spinach, eggplant, mushrooms, white beans, lentils, and chick peas.  Throw capers into orzo, pasta, rice, salads, and even egg dishes.  Chick peas, of course, are the foundation of hummus and are excellent in bean salads as well as tossed salads and taco salads.
  • Try to eat fish and seafood at least twice a week. Again, remember that freshness is your body’s friend.  Check your bakery for beautiful seafood that you can take home and wax brilliant with.
  • Fall in love with fruit and never stray.  Keep a fruit bowl in a prominent place in your kitchen and/or dining room and keep it filled with a variety of beautiful, healthy fruits.  They look and smell as good as they taste.  Keep dried fruit and fruit juice on hand as well.  Send them in your kid’s (and spouse’s!) lunch for a healthy alternative to chips.
  • The Mediterranean diet includes lots of whole grain foods as well.  Foods such as rice, couscous, bread, pasta, potatoes, and polenta are popular with Mediterranean people. In their natural state, grains are full of cancer and heart disease-fighting fiber, vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.  But white bread, pasta, and rice defeats the healthy purpose. Stripping the grain’s outer layers to make white flour and white rice eliminates the health benefits.  The whole process leaves you with little more than the dreaded EC – empty calories.

A final word about portion control:  The Mediterranean Diet emphasizes healthy foods eaten in healthy portions.  Because of the fiber content, less food is needed to make you feel full.  Less empty calories, less unhealthy fat, less junk, and less bloat will lead to a much healthier and happier you.

On my recipe blog (Get Cooking) I intend to start posting as many Mediterranean Diet- friendly foods and recipes as humanly possible.  I’m creating a whole new category for the Mediterranean Diet and will add my favorite ways to fix, cook, and serve healthier foods.   I love to cook more than almost anything else in the world.  I have a very large family with lovely people from all age groups – so I know the challenges of feeding a family on a budget while providing them with foods that are healthy for them.  What’s more, our family is filled with young people, so I know the importance of feeding them healthy foods that they’ll actually eat!  I’m still working on the challenge that is eggplant, but I’ll let you know when victory is mine!

If you’re truly interested in a healthier diet and lifestyle, head over to Get Cooking and subscribe by e-mail or rss and watch for the healthy recipes to pour in.

A Wonderful Book For Fans of Yoga

I don’t know what the numbers are, but I’d imagine that a great number of people will have “fitness” at the top of their New Year’s Resolutions. Nothing beats a treadmill or a glorious walk in the great outdoors, but I also happen to love yoga. I know it helped me in my recovery from a great deal of damage that was done to my back in a car wreck. Yoga keeps you flexible and fluid and it isn’t nearly as hard to practice as you might think.

Ashtanga Yoga – The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy, and Practice (Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series) is the most recent book about yoga that I’ve read. I’ll be perfectly honest, I don’t approach yoga as a religious experience (the Bible and prayer are the only things that I approach in that manner). I approach yoga this way: It makes me feel good, keeps me flexible, and gives me a healthy glow.  Yoga also improves one’s posture.  Yoga is wonderful exercise and a beautiful way to relax and unwind.

All great things!

Product Description:
In this much-anticipated follow-up to his first book, Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy, Gregor Maehle offers a detailed and multifaceted guide to Ashtanga Yoga’s Intermediate Series. An expert yogi and teacher, Maehle will guide you to your next level with an unprecedented depth of anatomical explanation and unparalleled attention to the practice’s philosophical and mythological heritage. You will learn:

  • The background and applications of each of the three forms of yoga: Karma, Bhakti, and Jnana
  • How to use Indian myth and cosmology to deepen your practice
  • The importance of the Sanskrit language to the yogic tradition
  • The mythology behind the names of the Intermediate Series postures
  • The functions and limitations of body parts integral to the Intermediate Series, including the spine, the sacroiliac joint, the shoulder joint, and the hip joint
  • How to reap the full benefits of practicing the Intermediate Series

Maehle meticulously explores all twenty-seven postures of the Intermediate Series through photos, anatomical line drawings, and practical, informative sidebars. He also discusses the philosophical and spiritual background of Ashtanga Yoga and places the practice within the context of Indian cultural history.

The ideal thing for anyone interested in yoga to do would be to buy Gregor Maehle’s first book, Ashtanga Yoga: Practice and Philosophy. THEN, grab a copy of Ashtanga Yoga – The Intermediate Series: Mythology, Anatomy, and Practice (Ashtanga Yoga Intermediate Series).

If you are familiar with yoga – The Intermediate Series is for you.

How to Get Vitamin D When The Sun Goes Down

Wild Alaska Salmon

We all know the benefits of sunlight and, more specifically, the benefits of vitamin D. Vitamin D is essential for the absorption of calcium and phosphorus. Low vitamin D levels have recently been linked to a greater chance of developing diseases including diabetes, heart disease, several cancers, and the common cold.

None of which you or I want anything to do with.

With the shortest day of the year is approaching, Winter Solstice (December 21, 2009), sunlight’s not exactly pouring down on us. That certainly doesn’t mean we have to go without vitamin D. Au contraire!  This vital vitamin is available in a much tastier place: Wild Alaska Salmon. Wild Alaska Salmon, a delicious and healthy source of vitamin D is one of America’s top favorite seafoods, and for good reason.  It’s incredibly healthy, versatile, and very delicious.  Salmon is one of the highest natural food sources of vitamin D with 360 IU* (International Units) per 3.5 oz. Salmon often tops the list of “super foods,” and nutritionists tout its heart healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, recognized to thwart heart disease, inflammation, and certain types of cancer.

What’s more, I recently read an article on aging well on RealAge.com.  When it comes  to preventing wrinkles and retaining a youthful face, the doctors recommend salmon several times a week.  The experts say that you’ll be able to see a difference in your skin’s appearance in a matter of weeks.

Salmon from Alaska: Why A Salmon’s Birthplace is Important!
When it comes to salmon not all are created equal. Alaska is home to the most abundant and healthy supply of wild Pacific salmon in North America. Never
farmed, wild Alaska salmon offers unmatched flavor and texture. And as the only U.S. State whose Constitution mandates that all fisheries must be managed for sustainability, Alaska will have an abundance of wild salmon for years to come.

Wild Alaska salmon comes in a variety of forms for consumers including whole, fillets, steaks, canned, pouched and frozen. For a couple of incredible salmon recipes (guaranteed to rock your culinary world), check out the most recent post on my recipe blog.

Source: The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute (www.alaskaseafood.org)