If you read Nutrition Facts labels, you may have noticed they now list the potassium content of foods. So why is potassium a mineral we need to pay attention to?
For starters, potassium controls your heartbeat, builds muscle, and helps your body make proteins. Potassium can protect you from heart disease, stroke, muscle wasting, osteoporosis, and kidney stones. If you get enough of it, you can lower your blood pressure and cut your risk of dying from all causes by 20%!
Potassium is in many common foods, such as bananas, citrus fruits, potatoes, broccoli, milk, yogurt, beans, and leafy greens. However, fewer than 2% of adults meet their daily recommended potassium requirement. Adults should aim for 4,700 mg of potassium a day.
For example, this is one potassium-rich meal that would fulfill 40% of that requirement:
1/2 cup Swiss chard
1 baked potato
3 ounces turkey breast
1 cup low-fat milk
1 cup fruit cocktail
Please do not rush out to buy potassium pills. High-dose potassium supplements can disrupt heart rhythm. They are also dangerous for those who have undetected kidney disease. Enjoy your potassium by eating a variety of fruits and vegetables!
To find out more about potassium-rich foods, visit MedlinePlus (medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002413.htm)
The purpose of yoga is to build strength, flexibility, and awareness. The muscle stretching in yoga can lessen arthritis pain, backache, and headaches. Yoga has many benefits for your heart and lungs as well. It lowers your blood pressure and slows your heart rate. Yoga may also help increase muscle strength, lower cholesterol and triglyceride levels, and improve breathing and energy.
Aside from the physical benefits, yoga can help manage stress. Yoga involves paying attention to your breath, which can improve mental well-being. Regular yoga practice creates mental clarity and calmness. It relieves chronic stress patterns, relaxes the mind, and sharpens concentration.
More than 100 different types of yoga exist. There is a form of yoga for everyone! Your size or fitness level does not matter. Every yoga pose can be modified. Beginner classes are available in every style. If you’re new to yoga, practice these 12 basic yoga poses to get started at WebMD (www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/ss/slideshow-yoga-pose-basics).
October 22nd is National Nut Day, so let’s talk nuts. Nuts are an excellent source of protein, minerals, and heart-healthy fats. So healthy that the FDA approved this health claim: “Eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol may reduce the risk of heart disease.”
The heart-healthy fats that make up as much as 80% of the nut are unsaturated fats, which include omega-3 fatty acids. These fats work to protect your heart by lowering LDL (bad) cholesterol levels and increasing HDL (good) cholesterol levels.
Each type of nut has its own unique profile of nutrients. For example, one Brazil nut can meet 100% of your daily need for selenium, which can keep your mind and heart healthy. Eat a wide variety of nuts for the most benefit. Specific nutrition information about each variety can be found in the USDA article, Go Nuts! (www.ars.usda.gov/plains-area/gfnd/gfhnrc/docs/news-2013/go-nuts).
One serving of nuts is 1.5 ounces of whole nuts (a small handful) or 2 tablespoons of nut butter. Try these tips to add more nuts to your diet:
Choose nuts instead of your typical less-healthy crunchy snack.
Add nuts to yogurt, salads, or hot cereals for the perfect crunch.
Mix nuts into your favorite smoothie for a richer, creamier texture.
Put nut butter on your morning toast instead of butter or margarine.
Slivered almonds are a tasty addition to sautéed green beans.
Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/nuts/art-20046635) Harvard Health (www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/nuts-for-the-heart)
Crunched for time? Any workout is better than no workout! It is recommended adults get at least 150 minutes of cardio training (i.e., walking, biking, swimming) a week and at least two days of muscle-strengthening activities (i.e., weight training) to promote living a healthy lifestyle. Working out and getting the blood pumping has many health benefits—including reducing the risk of chronic diseases, improving sleep, enhancing mood, relieving stress—and it can be fun! At-home circuit workouts, biking, walking, gardening, jogging, and bodyweight exercises (strength-training exercises that use your own body weight to provide resistance against gravity) are some easy ways to incorporate extra movement into your busy day. To reach the goal of 150 minutes per week, spread out your workouts into 30 minutes a day and bring a family member or friend along too!
Visit Spend Smart. Eat Smart. (spendsmart.extension.iastate.edu/move-your-way-activity-planner) to find more ideas to increase your daily activity.
Herbs and spices can turn a bland, flavorless dish into a mouthwatering meal full of flavor the whole family will love! Not only do they add flavor, but they add health benefits too. Herbs and spices are full of nutrients and antioxidants that can make your meals more nutritious. For example, the antibacterial, antifungal, and antiviral properties in garlic help reduce inflammation and provide immune system support.
In addition to adding flavor and health benefits, using herbs and spices to season your food can help reduce excessive salt intake. Those following a Heart Healthy diet, DASH (Dietary Approach to Stop Hypertension) diet, or simply monitoring their sodium intake will benefit from the addition of herbs and spices when cooking. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend consuming no more than 2,300 mg of sodium each day. On average, Americans eat more than 3,400 mg of sodium a day! Incorporating herbs and spices to season foods can decrease sodium intake and help you stay within the recommended sodium guidelines.
Have fun experimenting with different herb and spice blends and discover your family’s favorites! Try using different blends for different food items, and even make your own blends by drying fresh herbs from the garden.
Herb and Spice Recommendations by Food
Poultry: parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage
Beef: cloves, hot pepper, marjoram, rosemary, cumin, garlic
As adults, we need two and a half hours (150 minutes) of aerobic physical activity per week. Swimming is the fourth most popular sports activity in the United States. While you’re trying to cool off this summer, try to incorporate some water exercises.
When you hop in the water—whether a lake, river, or pool—try one of these “cool” exercises:
Walk forward, backward, and sideways in the water. Start slowly for 1–2 minutes in each direction and work up to 3–5 minutes. A water belt may be helpful to maintain buoyancy.
Water squats are a great strength exercise. Be sure your feet are on the bottom of the pool, lake, or river and you can wiggle your toes. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.
Grab a water noodle and use it as an oar. Begin to row as if you were in a boat, using the noodle as your oar in the water. Do two sets of 10 repetitions.
There is nothing more fun than attending a summer fair or celebration with your family. There are so many things to see, do, and enjoy—especially the food. To make safe food choices and reduce the chances of you or a family member getting food poisoning, here are some food safety tips:
Before choosing a food vendor, look at their workstations and note if they are clean and tidy. Does the vendor wear/use disposable gloves when preparing food?
Are there handwashing sinks/stations for the vendor/employees?
Are gloves or tongs used to serve food to customers?
If the vendor provides single service utensils, are they individually wrapped? (Unwrapped eating utensils have the potential for contamination from dirt, air, flies, and even customers.)
Be sure your hot food is hot and cold food is cold. If not, tell the vendor.
Choose a clean place to sit and eat your meal.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Bring hand sanitizers or hand wipes in case it is difficult to wash your hands.
Following these tips will keep you on your way to a safe and happy summertime event!
Have you ever looked at your plate and been surprised to find your meal gone? If so, you may benefit from eating more mindfully.
What is mindful eating? It is a purposeful awareness of the food we eat and being present during the meal experience. When we employ mindful eating, our busy lives slow down when we eat and we are aware of the flavors, tastes, and textures of the food. Our meal becomes more relaxed and enjoyable.
Here is an exercise you can do to practice mindful eating:
Take a grape, piece of chocolate, or piece of cheese. Observe the appearance, shape, and texture. Notice the color and indentations.
Smell the food. Notice the aroma.
Take a bite or place a small amount of the food in your mouth, but do not chew it. Describe the texture and flavor before you chew the food.
After 30 seconds, chew the food and describe the texture and flavor.
Do you notice any difference?
Your newfound awareness can put more mindfulness on your plate.
Sources: Today’s Dietitian; January 2019; The Merits of Mindfulness—How Mindfulness Practice Can Enhance Health and Well-Being Today’s Dietitian; March 2013; Mindful Eating—Studies Show This Concept Can Help Clients Lose Weight and Better Manage Chronic Disease
You probably know that regular physical activity helps both parents and children stay well. It strengthens the heart, muscles, and bones. But did you know that physical activity could strengthen families, too? Families that take walks, play sports, or do physically active chores together often notice these benefits: better communication and bonding, less stress and conflict, and more family fun!
Getting family members of all ages involved in the same physical activity at one time can be a challenge. Here are tips that may help:
Set regular, specific activity times. Determine times when the whole family is available.
Plan and track progress. Write plans on a family calendar.
Build new skills. Enroll yourself and the kids in exercise classes you will both enjoy.
Treat physical activity as a gift. Give presents that encourage physical activity, such as bikes, balls, jump ropes, and badminton sets.
According to the American Heart Association, eating fish twice a week will lower your risk of heart failure, heart attack, and stroke. The best fish for heart health are oily fish such as salmon, mackerel, herring, lake trout, sardines, or albacore tuna. These fish are all high in omega-3 fatty acids.
So many people have heard about the benefits of omega-3s that fish oil is the most popular nutrition supplement in the United States. However, the latest research shows fish oil isn’t as beneficial as actually eating fish. Whole fish offers a wealth of nutrients besides omega-3 oil, such as protein and selenium. For reasons scientists do not yet fully understand, nutrients often provide the most benefit when they are combined with other nutrients—in the form of food!
Eating fish is both healthy and delicious! Here are a few tips for including fish in your meal plan:
Keep seafood on hand. Seafood doesn’t need to be fresh to give you health benefits. Canned and frozen seafood varieties are just as healthy.
Be creative. Try different ways to enjoy seafood like seafood salads, tacos, stir-fry, or with pasta.
Cook it safely. Make sure you follow safe food handling practices and cook seafood to an internal temperature of 145oF.
ChooseMyPlate.gov offers tips on how to get more heart-healthy seafood on your plate.