You Herb It Here First!

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.

Pots of herbs

Herb and Spice Recommendations by Food

  • Poultry: parsley, thyme, marjoram, sage
  • Beef: cloves, hot pepper, marjoram, rosemary, cumin, garlic
  • Fish: fennell, dill, tarragon, thyme, parsley, garlic
  • Vegetables: chives, basil, tarragon, mint, parsley, rosemary, dill
  • Eggs: curry, dry mustard, paprika, parsley, basil

For more information on herbs, check out ISU Extension and Outreach’s Seasoning Savvy publication.

Make Waves for Your Health’s Sake

Swimming sign

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.

Sources:
Centers for Disease Control
Unity Point

Fair Food Safety

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!

Source: Centers for Disease Control

Putting Mindfulness on Your Plate

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.

"Think before you eat" post-it on a plate

Here is an exercise you can do to practice mindful eating:

  1. Take a grape, piece of chocolate, or piece of cheese. Observe the appearance, shape, and texture. Notice the color and indentations.
  2. Smell the food. Notice the aroma.
  3. 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.
  4. After 30 seconds, chew the food and describe the texture and flavor.
  5. 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

Get Your Family Moving!

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:Sports equipment

  • 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.

Both parents and children can treasure the times when the family is physically active together. Visit Choose MyPlate’s Ten Tips to Be an Active Family for additional information.

Sources: ChooseMyPlate.gov, WebMD

Eating Fish Protects Your Heart

salmon and asparagusAccording 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.

Sources:  American Heart Association and Harvard Health

 

Stay Safe in the Summer

Temperature warning signThere are many outdoor summer activities to do in the sun, but it is important for your safety to know the proper precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses. Heat is one of the leading weather-related killers in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control, there are more than 600 heat-related deaths each year. However, there are plenty of things you can do to beat the heat.

 

  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing.
  • Protect yourself against sunburn. Wear sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15 and reapply every two hours.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Don’t wait until you are thirsty to drink water. Monitor the color of your urine; it should remain a pale, not dark, yellow.
  • Never leave individuals or animals in parked vehicles.
  • Avoid strenuous activity during the hottest time of the day (early to mid-afternoon). Schedule your exercise during cooler parts of the day such as early morning or evening.

 

Source: Mayo Clinic (www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heat-exhaustion/symptoms-causes/syc-20373250)

June is Fresh Fruit and Vegetable Month

Asparagus, lettuce, radishes, rhubarb, spinach, and strawberries are just a few of the fresh fruits and vegetables available in June! They provide a range of colors to eat and enjoy. It’s important to get a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables into your diet every day.

Colorful fruits and vegetables provide a wide range of vitamins, minerals, fiber, and phytochemicals. Phytochemicals are compounds in food that your body uses to maintain good health and energy levels, protect against the effects of aging, and reduce the risk of some types of cancer and heart disease.

Phytochemicals may be considered just as important as protein, carbohydrates, fats, minerals, and vitamins. Many of the phytochemicals and other compounds that make fruits and vegetables good for us also give them their color. It’s important to eat the rainbow of colors every day to get the full health-promoting benefits of fruits and vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables

When planning meals, try to use colorful fruits and vegetables. Usually the darker the color, the higher the amounts of phytochemicals. When introducing children to a new fruit or vegetable, consider designating a color for each day or week.

Health Benefits of Walking

Fewer than 50% of Americans meet the minimum guidelines for moderate physical activity. Walking is the easiest and most affordable way to correct this problem. Walking can be done anywhere; all you need is shoes. Walking can be done easily and has huge benefits. Walking can be done by taking short breaks during the day; it doesn’t have to be one long walk. For example, three 10-minute walks during the day will count as 30 minutes of moderate physical activity for the day. Keep your pace brisk (3 miles per hour) to meet the moderate physical activity recommendations. Take your first step today!

Visit the Healthiest State Initiative (iowahealthieststate.com/5210) for more information.

MIND Your Diet

Brain filled with good foodMother always said you are what you eat. What we eat becomes more connected to our bodies every day. Now scientific evidence suggests diet plays a bigger role in brain health than we ever knew. Following a brain healthy diet (MIND diet) can reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia by 35–53%. MIND diet research at Rush University followed 923 individuals aged 58–98 for more than four years. Reduction in dementia risk among those who closely or moderately followed the diet was observed.

The MIND diet combines the Mediterranean diet pattern and the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet with mild calorie restriction. The MIND diet encourages minimally processed plant-based foods and limited consumption of animal foods high in saturated fat. It also encourages food found to be potentially brain protective such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, lean meat, fish, poultry, and berries. Research continues on the effects of the MIND diet on cognitive decline in the brain.

Foods to Eat More:

  • Beans, every other day
  • Berries, at least twice per week
  • Fish, at least once per week
  • Green leafy vegetables, every day
  • Other vegetables, at least once per day
  • Nuts, every day
  • Olive oil
  • Poultry, at least twice per week
  • Whole grains, three times per day

Foods to Eat Less:

  • Fried food or fast food, less than one serving per week
  • Pastries and sweets, no more than five servings per week
  • Red meat, three 3- to 5-ounce servings per week
  • Butter and stick margarine, less than one pat a day
  • Whole fat cheese, one to two ounces per week

 

Source: Diet for the Mind, Dr. Martha Clare Morris, 2017.

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