Vitamin D is not just for your bones! It’s also important for the health of your nerves, muscles, and immune system. Research suggests it can even help combat depression. Many Iowans have difficulty maintaining adequate vitamin D levels in the winter months, 40–75% of us being deficient.
It is recommended those up to the age of 70 years consume 600 International Units (IU) and those over the age of 70 consume 800 IU of vitamin D. We get vitamin D three ways: through our diet, our skin, and supplements. Yes, vitamin D is so important your body makes it with a little help from the sun!
In order to reach therapeutic levels described by research requires a supplement. You should always speak with your health care provider before taking any supplements. Eating vitamin D-rich foods during the winter months is especially important. Try these vitamin D-rich foods:
Fatty fish (e.g., tuna, wild salmon, sardines canned in oil; canned fish is just as good as fresh or frozen)
What we eat affects the health of our eyes. Dark green leafy vegetables are rich in the antioxidants lutein (pronounced loo-teen) and zeaxanthin (pronounced zee-uh-zan-thin). The Age-Related Eye Disease Study 2 (AREDS2) found that lutein and zeaxanthin, lowered the risk of developing age-related Macular Degeneration (AMD) by about 25%.
AMD is the leading cause of vision loss in older adulthood. It affects nearly 10 million Americans. Both lutein and zeaxanthin are stored in the macula of the human eye. They help filter light and protect and maintain healthy eye cells
Since the body does not naturally make the lutein and zeaxanthin, it’s important that our diets provide it. Lutein and zeaxanthin are carotenoids, the substances that give fruits and vegetables their deep green, yellow, and orange colors. Thus eating a variety of dark green, yellow and orange foods will help. Try to include these lutein-rich foods in your daily meal plans:
It can be hard to stick to an exercise routine. The demands of work and family can ruin your good intentions. Research shows that exercising with another person may help you succeed.
One study found that married couples who exercised together did it more consistently than married people who exercised alone. A family member or friend who shares an activity with you provides support and motivation.
Activities that go better with a buddy include partner yoga, dance classes, martial art classes, hiking, tennis, and many others.
Sometimes two people may not find the same activity enjoyable. For couples or buddies with different preferences, just committing to the same exercise time together may be beneficial. They might try the following:
Go to the same gym together.
Try activities that are new to both of them.
Sign up for a competition or fun fitness event.
Plan a group session with a personal trainer.
Having the support of a partner for both diet and exercise helps us stick to lifestyle changes.
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.