Potato 101

Potatoes are a staple in many households. While potatoes may have a bad reputation, they’re versatile (baked, mashed, fried, boiled) and nutrient rich. They are an excellent source of vitamin C and potassium.

Potatoes

Keeping an eye on your blood sugar? You can still enjoy potatoes. Compared to many vegetables, potatoes may raise blood sugar quickly. However, the effect on your blood sugar is influenced by the type of potato and cooking method. For example, a white potato can increase blood sugar more quickly than a sweet potato, while a boiled russet potato raises blood sugar more slowly than a baked russet potato.

It’s also important to look at your entire meal versus just one food. When you enjoy potatoes with foods higher in protein and healthy fat, the potato is digested more slowly, which slows the rise of blood sugar.

FUN FACT: Don’t store potatoes with apples. Apples and many other fruits produce ethylene gas, which promotes sprouting.

Sources:
What Potatoes Have the Highest Glycemic Index?, nutritionletter.tufts.edu
7 Health and Nutrition Benefits of Potatoes, healthline.com
Produce Basics – Potatoes, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/cook/produce-basics/

Strength Training for Strong Muscles

Woman lifting small weights

Current physical activity guidelines recommend strength training, which helps to prevent or reverse sarcopenia. Sarcopenia is the decline of skeletal muscle tissue, or muscle mass, as we age. Doing strength exercises at least twice a week keeps your muscles strong, so that you can do everyday activities such as lifting groceries and rising from a chair.

Visit the National Institute on Aging Go4Life exercise videos, bit.ly/3ocqDmy, on YouTube for strength-training exercises, 7 tips for a safe and successful strength-training program, bit.ly/3GNZQ8p, or download the Prevent Sarcopenia handout, store.extension.iastate.edu/product/14826.

Tai Chi for Health

Woman doing Tai Chi

If you’re looking for a way to reduce stress, consider tai chi (tie-chee). Often described as meditation in motion, tai chi promotes serenity through gentle, flowing movements. Practicing tai chi helps to improve balance and stability in older people and in those with Parkinson’s disease. It reduces back pain and improves quality of life in people with heart disease, cancer, and other chronic illnesses.

Although you can rent or buy videos and books about tai chi, consider seeking guidance from a qualified tai chi instructor to gain the full benefits and learn proper techniques. To find a class near you, contact local fitness centers, health clubs, and senior centers.

Sources: Mayo Clinic, mayocl.in/3oqFDiu, and NIH, bit.ly/3uDmhI0.

Physical Activity Primer

Putting on tennis shoes

Feeling tired, slow, and sluggish? People often don’t feel their best when they are not getting enough physical activity. But how much is enough? Experts say, for most of us, at least 150 minutes of physical activity every week promotes health and well-being. For the best results, aim for a combination of aerobic, muscle-strengthening, and flexibility activities each week.

Ideally, we need 150 minutes of aerobic activities weekly. Aerobic activities increase your breathing and heart rate and improve heart and lung fitness. Jogging, brisk walking, biking, and swimming are examples.

Muscle-strengthening activities build and maintain both muscles and bones. Lifting weights, using a resistance band, or doing weight-bearing activities such as push-ups, squats, or yoga are all examples. Aim to do these twice weekly, in addition to your aerobic activity.

Flexibility activities help joints to move through their full range of motion. You should enjoy stretching exercises such as yoga and Tai Chi two to three times weekly.

Source: Iowa State University Extension and Outreach Spend Smart. Eat Smart., spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/physical-activity/.

Craving Comfort Foods

Casserole with meat and potatoes

In the fall, we crave warm, hearty foods like cheesy casseroles and hearty soups. Often, though, these “comfort foods” are high in fat, sodium, and calories.

The next time you make your favorite “comfort foods,” try these tips to make them healthier and even more enjoyable:

  • Add extra vegetables of all types—dark green; red and orange; beans, peas, and lentils; starchy; and other vegetables—without added sauces, fats, or salt. Double the vegetables in a soup or casserole recipe to add extra vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Switch up your grains, making at least half of your grains whole grain. Like rice? Try replacing white rice with brown rice in your recipe. This month’s recipe uses brown rice.
  • Choose reduced-fat dairy foods, including fat-free or low-fat milk, yogurt, and cheese, in casseroles and cream soups. Reduced-fat cheeses, for example, have less fat but just as much favor and melt just like full-fat cheese.
  • Use lean protein foods, including lean meats, poultry, and eggs; seafood; beans, peas, and lentils; and nuts, seeds, and soy products. Cooking on a budget? Canned meats are just as nutritious, cheaper, and easier to use in casseroles.

Source: Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2020-2025, bit.ly/3kf72S4.

No Excuses to Moving More

Many people say they don’t have the time, energy, or resources needed to be active. Here are ways to overcome these barriers:

Workout equipment
  • Lack of time. Find two or three time slots of 10–15 minutes each day to schedule short bursts of activity, such as going for a walk. You can even find time to get active while you are at your desk. Try Desk Fit, 20 Essential Desk
  • Exercises, nasa.gov.
  • Motivation. Make activity a social event. Ask friends or family to join an activity. Encourage each other! This will benefit everyone, both physically and emotionally.
  • Low energy. Many people feel tired after work or doing household chores. Consider being active at the start of your day. This will keep other things from crowding out the opportunity later in the day. Moving your body first will improve your ability to manage whatever daily tasks you have ahead of you.
  • Fear of injury. Visit your health care provider to make sure activity is safe. Look for activities with low risk, such as walking or riding a stationary bicycle. SpendSmart. EatSmart has a chair workout, strength training, and stretching videos to use at home. See Physical Activity Videos, spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu.
  • Cost. Look for outdoor fitness equipment and recreation trails in your community. Libraries may offer exercise DVDs. Senior centers sometimes have free programs or equipment.

Source: Overcoming Barriers to Physical Activity, cdc.gov.

September Is Breakfast Month!

Bowl of yogurt, granola, and blueberries

Breakfast is often considered the most important meal of the day. Yet many skip it. If you’re someone who skips breakfast, try to change that as you get into your fall routine.

Breakfast provides the following:

  • mental alertness
  • important nutrients
  • reduction of chronic disease risk

Remember, a meal is simply a combination of foods from at least three food groups. Thus, breakfast doesn’t have to be huge. Here are some simple, nutrient-rich ideas:

  • Yogurt parfait with berries and low fat granola.
  • Whole wheat tortilla spread with peanut butter rolled around a banana.
  • Coffee Cup Scramble with eggs, milk, and cheese (Recipe, iowaegg.org, from Iowa Egg Council). Enjoy with a slice of toast and a cup of juice.
  • Whole grain cereal, topped with fruit and low-fat milk.

Check out more ideas from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, 6 Tips for Better Breakfasts, eatright.org.

Source: Breakfast in Human Nutrition: The International Breakfast Research Initiative, mdpi.com.

Creek Walking

Creek with water and rocks

Looking for a way to keep cool this summer? Try creek walking! It’s a great way to enjoy nature with family and friends, get a little exercise, and experience the outdoors. You don’t need much equipment to creek walk, just a pair of dirty tennis shoes or water socks to protect your feet.

Walking in the creek allows you to explore wildlife and native plants; find a fossil, bone, or antler; and leave the video games at home. Any stream can be unpredictable at times, so walk in the water when you can see the stream floor. Pack drinking water and snacks if you plan to walk a longer stretch. Towels and a change of clothes will provide a dry ride home. If walking alone, let someone know where and when you are going.

Find walking trails at Iowa Walking Trails and Maps, www.traillink.com.

Source: Iowa Department of Natural Resources, www.iowadnr.gov.

Keep an Eye on These Nutrients

dark, leafy greens

August is National Eye Exam Month—a good reminder for us to get an eye exam! A simple checkup can reduce your risk of glaucoma, age-related macular degeneration, and cataracts. Researchers have linked these nutrients to improved vision and overall eye health: lutein, zeaxanthin, beta-carotene, vitamin C, and omega-3 oils.

Dark, leafy green vegetables, such as kale, spinach, and broccoli, are good sources of lutein and zeaxanthin. These nutrients protect eyes from sun damage. Eating them with olive oil helps our body absorb these nutrients.

Beta-carotene is found in deep orange and dark green vegetables, such as carrots, butternut squash, spinach, and collard greens. It helps prevent dry eyes and night blindness.

Vitamin C may help lower your risk of cataracts. Vitamin C is found in citrus foods, but also in sweet bell peppers, broccoli, strawberries, and cantaloupe.

Healthy fats such as omega-3s may be beneficial for eye health. Salmon and trout are good sources of omega-3s. Include fish in your meal plan two to three times each week.

Sources: Eat Right, eatright.org. American Optometric Association, www.aoa.org.

Take a Walk in the Park

Did you know Iowa has more than 70 state parks? Iowa State Parks celebrated their centennial in 2020. Didn’t make it to the celebration? That’s okay! The Iowa Department of Natural Resources still has “20 Walks in 2020” mapped routes, www.iowadnr.gov, to help you explore 20 of Iowa’s state parks. These routes are ideal for one or a small group or family.

Iowa By Trail is an app providing interactive maps for 2,000+ miles of Iowa trails. Users can fnd the closest trail to their current position. The app also provides other points of interest along the route, including museums, natural resources, and local restaurants.

What are you waiting for? Get out and walk or bike the trails this summer! You can also enjoy these other activities in Iowa parks:

  • Horseback riding
  • Canoeing and kayaking
  • Swimming
  • Fishing

Sources: 20 Walks in 2020, iowadnr.gov; Iowa by Trail, inhf.org

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