10 Surprising Reasons to Eat More Leafy Greens

shelves full of leafy greens

Take a look at smart-eating plans or diets. Leafy greens like spinach, broccoli, kale, and cabbage are usually on the list of foods you should eat.

Mediterranean diet, check. Paleo diet, check. Keto diet, check. DASH diet, check.

Plus, recipes for leafy-green salads, smoothies, and side dishes are everywhere.

Why? Because leafy greens are good for you.

They’re packed with vitamins and nutrients. They’re low in calories. They’re affordable (unlike some diets that require buying expensive products).

You can add leafy greens to your diet with little to no prep time. And studies show leafy greens provide important health benefits such as: (1)

  • Reduce the risk for a heart attack or stroke
  • Lower the risk for type 2 diabetes
  • Control blood pressure
  • Improve bone health
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Reduce inflammation
  • Prevent certain types of cancer
  • Improve bowel health
  • Control hunger and aid in weight management
  • Prevent age-related memory loss

Are you eating enough leafy greens?

Probably not. Most adults don’t eat enough leafy greens and other vegetables. In fact only 10 percent do. (2)

If you want to change your eating habits, improve your health, and feel better, eating more leafy greens can help.

The goal: Eat 2 to 3 cups of vegetables per day, including leafy greens, like: (3)

  • Kale
  • Collard greens
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Beet greens
  • Watercress
  • Romaine Lettuce
  • Swiss chard
  • Arugula
  • Endive
  • Bok choy
  • Turnip greens

9 easy ways to eat more leafy greens

Hungry for ways to eat healthier? Eating more leafy greens doesn’t have to be hard.

Check out these 9 easy ways to add more “green” to your diet.

  • Build a bowl – Add leafy greens to a burrito bowl.
  • Pizza topping – Use spinach as a topping for thin-crust pizza.
  • Breakfast of champions – Cook eggs or egg-whites with arugula
  • Splendid blended – Make a green smoothie with fruits and vegetables, including leafy greens
  • Dress up noodles – Add Bok choy to noodles
  • Soup’s on – Make soup that includes leafy greens
  • Munch n’ crunch – Bake your own kale chips
  • Dip it – Add spinach to homemade hummus
  • The classic – Eat more leafy-green salads

Want to be healthier, feel better, and live longer? Eat more leafy greens.

References

  1. Wang, D., et al. (2021). Fruit and vegetable intake and mortality: Results from 2 prospective cohort studies of U.S. men and women and a meta-analysis of 26 cohort studies. Circulation, 143:00-00. From: https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.120.048996
  2. Lee, S.H., et al. (2022). Adults meeting fruit and vegetable intake recommendations — United States, 2019. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 71(1): 1-9. From: https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/volumes/71/wr/mm7101a1.htm
  3. U.S. Department of Agriculture. (2021). Vegetables. MyPlate. From: https://www.myplate.gov/eat-healthy/vegetables

How to DASH Away High Blood Pressure

healthy assorted foods surrounding the word "dash"

Is your blood pressure naughty or nice? When Santa Claus finally takes a day off to get his blood pressure checked, he’s probably in for a surprise. All those cookies, eggnog, extra pounds, and sitting in the sleigh are bad for the heart.

If your blood pressure (or your belly) looks anything like a jolly, old elf you’ll need to make some changes.

You’re on the Naughty List if…your blood pressure is 120/80 or higher. In case you’re wondering, nearly half of all adults in the U.S. have high blood pressure.1

High blood pressure: 7 reasons to stay off the Naughty List

So what’s the big deal with high blood pressure? It’s called the ‘silent killer,’ because there are often no symptoms, even though high blood pressure can take a toll on your body.

Left unchecked, high blood pressure can increase the risk for:

  • Damage to the circulatory system
  • Stroke
  • Vision loss
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney damage
  • Sexual dysfunction

But you can change that with the DASH diet…Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension.

Research shows that the DASH diet can help lower blood pressure by 5 points or more in just four weeks.2 That could be low enough to put you on the Nice List!

DASH diet food guidelines

Ready to DASH away high blood pressure? Start by improving your diet. Here’s how:

  • Eat vegetables, fruits, and whole grains.
  • Choose fat-free or low-fat dairy products.
  • Include healthy proteins like fish, poultry, beans and nuts
  • Use healthy oils for cooking (like olive oil or avocado oil)
  • Limit foods high in saturated fats like fried food, red or processed meats, or full-fat dairy products
  • Avoid or limit sugary drinks and snacks.

Making changes to your diet can help lower blood pressure and improve your health.
But don’t stop there. Regular exercise helps control blood pressure, too. Aim for at least 30 minutes of physical activity per day. And you may be on the Nice List soon.

References

  1. American Heart Association. (2023). The facts about high blood pressure. From: https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure
  2. Juraschek, S., et al. (2017). Effects of sodium reduction and the DASH diet in relation to baseline blood
    pressure. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 70: 23. From: https://www.jacc.org/doi/10.1016/j.jacc.2017.10.011

The Breakfast Club: 4 Reasons a Healthy-Morning Meal Matters

assorted healthy breakfast foods

What’s for breakfast? If your morning meal looks anything like Buddy the Elf’s favorite dish, it’s time to pick some healthier options.

In the movie Elf, Buddy (played by Will Ferrell), piles a plate with spaghetti for breakfast. Then he tops it with marshmallows, sugary candy, maple syrup, chocolate sauce, and pastries.

Not exactly healthy, right? Maybe you should just skip breakfast.

That may not be the best option either, according to the American Heart Association. (1)

The trouble with skipping breakfast

An estimated 25 percent of people in the U.S. skip breakfast regularly. (2)

Many who bypass the morning meal do so because they’re running late. Some forgo breakfast because they think it will help control calories or support weight loss.

But research shows skipping breakfast is associated with:

  • Higher risk for heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure
  • Eating snacks and drinks high in sugar and sodium later in the day
  • Weight gain and obesity
  • Lack of energy, or feeling of fatigue and tiredness
  • Depression
  • Increased levels of stress and irritability
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Lack of exercise

4 reasons to make breakfast healthy

If you regularly skip breakfast, or you start the day with donuts, fast food, sugary coffee drinks or a heaping pile of pancakes with syrup, now is always a good time to make a change.

Hungry for better health? Check out these four reasons to start your day with a healthy breakfast:

1. Prevent weight gain

In the National Weight Control Registry, 78 percent of the 3,000 people who lost 30 pounds or more and kept it off for a year said they ate breakfast every day. (3)

Plus, people who skip breakfast are 55 percent more likely to be overweight or obese.

2. Control blood sugar levels

If you don’t have diabetes, you probably know someone who does. About 34 million people have type 2 diabetes. About 96 million have prediabetes.

Left unchecked, it can lead to poor circulation, heart disease, stroke, obesity, blindness, amputations, and early death.

Research shows eating a healthy breakfast can help prevent or control diabetes and regulate blood sugar levels. (4)

3. Lower cholesterol

Want to avoid a heart attack caused by blocked arteries? Keep your cholesterol under control.

In a recent study, researchers found that eating whole-grain oats daily helped lower LDL (bad) cholesterol and total cholesterol. (5)

4. Improve brain function

Want to start the day out right? Need help staying alert and engaged during that morning meeting? Start with breakfast. Research shows eating a healthy breakfast can have a positive impact on mood, memory, creativity, decision-making, and attention. (6)

10 healthy-breakfast ideas for busy people

If you’re among the millions who rush out the door without breakfast, or you’re inclined to go for pastries and sweets to start your day, you need a better breakfast plan.

Put these 10 fast & healthy breakfast ideas on your menu:

  1. The 3-Way: A banana, a handful of pecans, and low-fat yogurt.
  2. Whole-Grain Sweetness: Whole-grain cereal sprinkled with berries and slivered almonds.
  3. Yogi Surprise: Low-fat yogurt mixed with fruit and whole-grain granola.
  4. Egg + 2: Egg whites or egg substitute served with fresh fruit and whole-grain toast.
  5. Fruit-Blender Fun: A fruit smoothie made with frozen berries, banana, and ice.
  6. The Whole Spread: Whole-grain toast topped with peanut butter, avocado, or low-fat cream cheese.
  7. Smooth Move: A strawberry, melon, and yogurt smoothie with flaxseed.
  8. Healthy Double Trouble: Fruit salad and a whole-grain muffin.
  9. Oat That’s Sweet: Steel-cut oats with berries.
  10. Wrap It Up: Breakfast burrito (fill a whole-wheat tortilla with sautéed onions, peppers, mushrooms, yams, and tomatoes seasoned with garlic and thyme).

Eating a healthy breakfast isn’t hard. But you do need to do a little work to make it happen.

  • Make a shopping list of healthy breakfast foods that you like.
  • Go to the store to stock up on everything you need.

When you wake up in the morning, put together a healthy breakfast and be on your way. It’s that easy.

Sources

  1. American Heart Association. (2017). How to make breakfast a healthy habit. From: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/nutrition-basics/how-to-make-breakfast-a-healthy-habit
  2. Pengpid, S., et al. (2020). Skipping breakfast and its association with health risk behavior and mental health among university students in 28 countries. Diabetes, Metabolic Syndrome and Obesity. Targets and Therapy, 13:2889-2897. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7443458/
  3. Dow, C. (2015). Breakfast consumption and weight loss. American Society for Nutrition. From: https://nutrition.org/breakfast-consumption-weight-loss/
  4. Jakubowicz, D., et al. (2015). High-energy breakfast with low-energy dinner decreases overall daily hyperglycemia in type 2 diabetic patients: A randomized clinical trial. Dibetologia, 58(5):912-919. From: https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00125-015-3524-9?sv1
  5. Hollaender, P., et al. (2015). Whole-grain and blood lipid changes in apparently healthy adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled studies. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 102(3):556-278. From: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0002916523126955?via%3Dihub
  6. Tang, Z., et al. (2017). The effects of breakfast on short-term cognitive function among Chinese white-collar workers: protocol for a three-phase crossover study. BMC Public Health. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5241917/

8 Simple Ways to Eat Less Sodium

Imagine filling a teaspoon with salt and eating it. Your tongue and your brain would deliver an instant message: “Yuck! Too salty!”

And you would reach for the nearest glass of water to wash out your mouth.

Sounds gross to eat that much salt at once, right?

The truth…most people eat nearly twice that amount of salt every day.1

  • That’s more than double the amount of sodium than recommended (less than 1,500 mg per day) to keep the heart healthy.
  • A typical fast-food meal like a burger and fries contains 1,400+ mg of sodium.
  • Many microwave meals and canned soups contain more than 1,000 mg in a single serving.
  • Packaged and processed snacks, sauces, dressings, meats, soups and chips are also high in sodium.

The trouble with high-sodium habits

New research by the European Society of Cardiology suggests that a high-sodium diet doubles the risk for heart failure.2

Too much sodium also raises the risk for:

  • High blood pressure
  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Kidney disease
  • Poor bone health
  • Weight gain

8 sodium habits for better health

Fortunately, a few simple changes can help you cut back on the amount of sodium you consume. Here are some things you can do:

1. Eat more fresh fruits and veggies.
2. Buy low-sodium foods and soups.
3. Read food labels and track your sodium intake.
4. Drink water instead of soft drinks.
5. Use low-sodium salad dressings made with extra-virgin olive oil or vinegar.
6. Cut back on eating fast food and packaged meals.
7. Cook at home more often. Use herbs and spices instead of salt to season food.
8. Go easy on the salt shaker.

The American Heart Association recommends:

  • No more than 2,300 mg of sodium per day
  • 1,500 mg of sodium per day for most adults

Want to improve your heart health? Use these tips to shake the salt habit.

References
1. American Heart Association. (2021). How much sodium should I eat per day? From: https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/healthy-eating/eat-smart/sodium/how-much-sodium-should-i-eat-per-day
2. Jousilahti, P., et al. (2017). Salt intake and the risk of heart failure. European Society of Cardiology. From: https://www.escardio.org/The-ESC/Press-Office/Press-releases/high-salt-intake-associated-with-doubled-risk-of-heart-failure

Gut Health: 5 Ways to Improve Digestion

Concept of gastroenterology

Gurgle, gurgle, burp, and a trip to the bathroom. If that’s your normal pattern throughout the day, your stomach is trying to send you a message.

Translation: “Something’s not right. I’m having a hard time digesting the food you just ate.”

About 70 million people suffer from digestive problems in the U.S. And these problems show up in the form of:1

  • Stomach aches
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Heartburn, and other symptoms

In some cases, chronic digestive problems can be a sign of serious health problems, and you should see a doctor. But for a lot of people, digestive discomfort is a result of poor food choices and lifestyle habits.

Ever had one of those I-shouldn’t-have-eaten-that moments?

If it’s bad enough, you might steer clear of that food for a while. But if you really want better digestive health, give your gut some love.

Here are five ways to improve digestion.

1. Eat healthy foods

This includes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These nutrient-dense foods support gut health and digestion.

Fermented foods with probiotics like sauerkraut, miso, tempeh, and kimchi may also improve digestion.

In case you’re wondering, burgers, fries, soda, and pizza have the opposite effect.2

2. Drink more water

Aim for at least 64 ounces of water a day.
Water helps your body digest food, absorb nutrients, and make bowel movements easier.

3. Reduce stress

There’s a direct link between your gut and your brain. When you’re stressed out, your stomach can be, too.3
Find healthy ways to handle stress like taking a walk, meditation, or deep breathing.

4. Avoid red meat

Better digestion isn’t the only reason to avoid red meat. It’s been linked to diabetes, heart disease, and certain types of cancer.
Research shows red meat can also damage the large intestines.4

5. Be more active

About 80 percent of all adults don’t get enough exercise (at least 30 minutes a day).4

It’s a risk factor for obesity and a long list of health problems, including poor digestion. Being active helps improve gut bacteria used to digest food.

Want to improve your gut health?

Make small changes to your diet and lifestyle habits. You’ll feel better, and your stomach will be happier.

References

1. National Institutes of Health. (2017). Keeping your gut in check. From: https://newsinhealth.nih.gov/2017/05/keeping-your-gut-check
2. Jardine, M. (2022). Gut bacteria. Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. From: https://www.pcrm.org/health-topics/gut-bacteria
3. Madison, A., et al. (2019). From: Stress, depression, diet, and the gut microbiota: human–bacteria interactions at the core of psychoneuroimmunology and nutrition. Current Opinion in Behavioral Sciences, 28: 105-110. From: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7213601/
4. Cao, Y., et al. (2018). Meat intake and risk of diverticulitis among men. Gut, 67(3): 466-472. From: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28069830/
5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Exercise or physical activity. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/exercise.htm

Use the Granny Method to Fight Obesity

fitness concept 3d render

Florida resident Edith Murway-Traina likes to spend time in the gym.

She might not be as agile as she was when she was a dancer. But at 100 years old, she’s still active and strong.

In fact, she holds a Guinness World Record for deadlifting 163 pounds and bench pressing 63 pounds.

Strength training for weight loss

If you need to lose weight, you might think you need to ramp up running, jogging or walking to tip the scale in the right direction.

But what if you have aches and pains or weaknesses that make that type of exercise hard?

You know…things like knee pain, back pain, poor balance, or lack of strength.

No cardio. No problem.

There’s another way…The Granny Method. If Edith can lift weights at 100 years old, so can you.

In one recent study, researchers found that strength training can be an effective way to:

    • Lose weight
    • Build muscle
    • Increase strength
    • Lower body fat percentage
    • Improve balance
    • Improve overall health

“We can use resistance training and achieve meaningful effects with a diet based on caloric reduction,” says lead researcher Pedro Lopez. “We can reduce body fat percentage, whole-body fat mass, body weight and BMI.”

Strength training guidelines for adults

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends adults strength train at least two days a week.

Strength training: Here are some easy ways to get started:

    • Take a strength training class
    • Work with a personal trainer
    • Lift weights at the gym
    • Choose an online workout video and follow along at home, or…
    • Do bodyweight exercises like squats, lunges, push-ups and crunches

Want to lose weight and keep it off, or maintain a healthy weight?

Make time for strength training. You’ll get stronger, feel better, and lower your risk for obesity and other chronic diseases.

No Magic Pill for Weight Loss: 6 Lifestyle Habits for Long-term Success

weight loss program

Can diet supplements help you lose weight?

The simple answer: Probably not. There’s no magic pill, weight loss supplement or potion that can make excess pounds melt away.

If losing weight is on your list of health and fitness goals, you’re not alone. An estimated 73 percent of adults in the United States are overweight or obese.1

The Truth About Weight Loss Supplements

If you’re looking for a quick fix to lose weight, you might think taking a diet pill or supplement is all you need. A lot of people do.

  • In the U.S., an estimated 34 percent of adults have tried some type of weight loss supplement.
  • Americans spend about $2.1 billion a year on weight-loss supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, softgels, and drinks.2

Most are made with ingredients that could improve metabolism or suppress appetite like:

  • Green tea extract
  • Chitosan
  • Guar gum
  • Conjugated linoleic acid
  • Caffeine

However, a recent study found that diet and weight-loss supplements typically fail to help people lose weight.3

Researchers looked at 315 weight-loss studies that put different supplements to the test. They found that most did not result in weight loss. And only a few tipped the scale in the right direction by just a few pounds or less.

6 Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Weight Loss

Weight loss does not come in pill or powder form. It’s a lifelong process.

If you want to lose weight and keep it off, skip the diet supplements, save your money, and adopt these 6 lifestyle habits:

1. Eat healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, and fish. Avoid or limit sugary drinks, snacks, desserts, and candy high in calories.

2. Be active. Aim for 30 to 60 minutes of moderate physical activity on most days.

3. Drink more water instead of soda, juice, energy drinks, or other sugary beverages.

4. Practice portion control by counting calories, keeping a food journal, and being mindful of your food choices.

5. Get your Zzzs. Aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep per night. Why? Lack of sleep alters levels of hormones (ghrelin and leptin) linked to hunger and cravings. And if you stay up late, you’ll have more time for snacking.

6. Don’t give up. If you miss a workout or overeat, it’s not that big of a deal. Don’t use that as an excuse to overeat or skip workouts. Instead, just get back on track and keep going.

If you need extra help to lose weight, talk to your doctor, join a weight-loss group for support, or work with a trainer and dietitian to help you develop a diet and exercise plan to help you get results.

References

1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2021). Obesity and overweight. From: https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm

2. National Institutes of Health. (2021). Dietary supplements for weight loss. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. From: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/WeightLoss-HealthProfessional/

3. Batsis, J., et al. (2021). A systematic review of dietary supplements and alternative therapies for weight loss. Obesity, 29(7): 1102-1113. From: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/oby.23110

3 Surprising Strategies to Lose Weight and Keep It Off

What’s the secret to losing weight and keeping it off?

If you’ve tried fad diets, weight loss supplements, and insane workouts to tip the scale in the right direction without success, you’re not alone.

Half of all adults attempt to lose weight every year.1 But only 1 in 5 people who lose weight keep it off long-term.

When you approach weight loss as a short-term effort, it’s pretty common to lose weight and gain it back. You’ve heard of yo-yo dieting, right?

So how do you lose weight and keep it off?

In a recent study, researchers looked at the habits of 6,000 people who lost more than 50 pounds and kept it off for more than three years.1

If you think the only way to reach your goal weight is obsessing about diet and exercise, think again.

Of course, your food choices, activity level, and lifestyle choices make a difference. But there’s THREE things people in the study pointed to that matter more than calories and daily steps to lose weight and keep it off.

1. Persevere

You eat right, exercise, and make healthy choices for a few days. Then something happens that throws it all off. That ever happen?

Weight loss is never a straight line. If you want to be successful, expect losing weight to be a process with ups and downs, and persevere.

If you make some less-than-healthy food choices or blow off exercise, you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Just get back on track and keep going the next day or even the next meal.

2. Track your progress

How do you get from where you are to where you want to be? It’s simple, one healthy choice at a time.

When you approach weight loss this way, change happens little by little.

In the study, the people who tracked their progress were more successful at losing weight and keeping it off. Why? It serves as a reminder of where you started and provides motivation to keep going.

Here are some easy ways to track the progress of your weight loss journey.

    • Take progress pictures
    • Track daily calories with a food journal or app
    • Record daily steps or minutes of exercise
    • Step on the scale daily or weekly
    • Monitor the way your clothes fit
    • Look in the mirror
    • Keep a journal

Tracking your progress provides you with reference points you can look back on to help you see what you’ve accomplished, and stay motivated.

3. Focus on your health

What’s your ‘why’? You’ve heard that before. What’s the reason you want to lose weight?

In the study, researchers found that the people who identified their reason for losing weight were more successful at developing healthy lifestyle habits that stick.

Your reasons to lose weight may include things like:

    • Reduce back and joint pain
    • Prevent or manage diabetes
    • Lower Body Mass Index and risk for chronic diseases
    • Improve sleep patterns
    • Boost energy levels
    • Feel better physically and mentally

When you approach weight loss with a plan to make better food choices, be more active, and these THREE strategies, you’re more likely to tip the scale in the right direction and keep the weight off.

“I’ve seen firsthand that someone’s mindset and perspective are crucial to help them build healthy habits and drive sustainable weight loss and management,” says co-author of the study researcher Dr. Gary Foster. “We hope that these findings encourage other people going through a similar journey and equip them with the tools that they need to optimize their own success.”

9 Ways to Make Holiday Recipes Healthier

Young Woman Cooking

So you’re hosting the holiday party and want to make the meal a little healthier? That’s great.

You don’t have to give up those favorite family dishes. But you can make simple-ingredient swaps (without compromising taste), to serve healthier food during the holidays.1,2,3

And you don’t need to be a food scientist, nutrition expert, or culinary genius.

Here are some simple substitutes you can make:

1. Dairy Products

  • Replace whole milk or cream with fat-free milk or soymilk.
  • Substitute plain, fat-free or low-fat yogurt for sour cream.

2. Spices & Seasonings

  • Use a variety of herbs and spices in place of salt.
  • Use low-sodium bouillon and broths, instead of regular bouillons and broths.Large spice and herb collection

3. Oils & Butter

  • Instead of cooking with lard, butter, shortening, or other fats that are hard at room temperature, use a small amount of vegetable oil.
  • Replace hard-stick margarine with regular-soft margarine made with vegetable oil. Healthier margarine includes no trans fats and lists liquid-vegetable oil as the first ingredient on the food label.

4. Eggs

In baking or cooking, use egg whites or an egg substitute.

5. Meats & Poultry

  • If you eat meat, choose a lean cut of meat and remove any visible fat.
  • Remove skin from chicken and other poultry where fat is stored before cooking.

6. Sandwiches & Salads

  • Use fat-free or low-fat mayonnaise, instead of regular versions.
    Make your own low-calorie vinaigrette salad dressing with equal parts water and vinegar or lemon juice, and half as much oil.
  • Garnish salads with fruits and vegetables instead of cheese and meats.

7. Soups and Stews

  • Use cooking spray, water, or stock to sauté onion for flavoring stews, soups, and sauces.
  • Remove fat from homemade broths, soups, and stews by chilling after cooking. Before reheating the dish, lift off the hardened fat that formed at the surface.
  • If you don’t have time to chill the dish, then float a few ice cubes on the surface of the warm liquid to harden the fat. Then, remove and discard the fat.

8. Breads

  • When making muffins or quick breads, use 3 ripe, well-mashed bananas for each 1/2 C of butter or oil called for in the recipe.
  • Applesauce also works as a good substitute for butter, margarine, oil, or shortening in muffins, quick breads, and cookies.

9. Desserts

  • Make your own pie crust without the trans fat used in pre-made pie crust. Use vegetable oil in place of butter or shortening.
  • For chocolate desserts, use 3 T of cocoa instead of 1 ounce of baking chocolate. If fat is needed to replace the fat found in chocolate, add 1 T or less of vegetable oil.
  • To make cakes and soft-drop cookies, use no more than 2 T of fat for each cup of flour.

Before you start cooking, review this list of substitute ingredients and make sure you have everything you need to make your holiday meal a little healthier.

Strength Training: 4 Steps to Build Strong Bones and Muscles

Strong fit young Asian man

Ever think about getting stronger to improve your health?

Oregon resident Trey Mickleson did. When he joined the U.S. Army, he knew he had to pass a string of fitness tests in boot camp. And he was worried about it.

He wasn’t super athletic. He never really worked out. He didn’t have any real experience with strength training. And his first attempt at trying to pass the fitness tests he would face in boot camp were humbling.

Did You Know?…The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends strength training at least two days a week for most adults, along with regular aerobic exercise.1 Yet, only 23 percent of adults do both.2

Trey wanted to get stronger, and he decided to do something about it. A couple of months before reporting to boot camp, he hired a personal trainer and started working out.

He followed a plan that included push-ups, pull-ups, lifting weights, and other exercises to build strength and endurance.

And you know what happened?

  • Within eight weeks he went from zero to cranking out five pull-ups at a time. He planked for three minutes straight.
  • He hammered out 30-plus push-ups in under two minutes.
  • And in a practice run, he passed every fitness test he would face in boot camp.

You’re probably not headed off to boot camp. And you probably don’t want to train like a bodybuilder.

But if you want to improve your health, feel better, and reduce your risk for injuries, strength training can make a difference. Here’s what you need to know…

What is Strength Training?

Strength training is any form of physical activity that requires your muscles to work against resistance. Some examples include:

Body weight exercises (e.g. squats, push-ups, pullups, curl-ups, planks)
Weight lifting or resistance band exercises
Carrying a load like groceries, a backpack, or briefcase
Chores that require lifting, pushing, or pulling
Even going from sitting to standing is a form of strength training

Discover the Health Benefits of Strength Training

Aerobic activities like walking, jogging and cycling strengthen your heart and lungs. So what does strengthening do? Strength training can help:3

Build strength and muscle

After age 30, adults lose about 3 to 5 percent of strength and muscle mass per year. That might not seem like a lot, but it adds up over time. The good news: Strength training and a healthy diet can help slow the loss of muscle mass and strength as you age.

Improve bone health

About 54 million adults in the U.S. have weak bones. It’s a major risk factor for falls and fractures. But you can do something about it. Strength training makes your bones stronger by increasing bone density.4

Avoid injuries

If you neglect to keep your bones strong and healthy, your risk for injuries goes up…a lot. Weak bones and muscles make you 2.3 times more likely to break a bone when you fall. Just two days of strength training a week can improve balance and flexibility to help prevent injuries.

Support brain function

Feel stressed, anxious, depressed? These and other brain-related problems can make it hard for you to work, make good choices, and get things done. Medicine and counseling can help. But research shows resistance training can also improve brain function and mental health.5

Strength training can also help control blood sugar, lower the risk for certain types of cancer, reduce the risk for a heart attack or stroke, and more.

4 Steps to Build Strong Bones and Muscles

Want to build strong bones and muscles, improve your mood, and live longer? Follow these four steps.

1. Choose exercises that work all the major muscle groups (chest, back, shoulders, arms, legs, core).

  • At home: Push-ups, planks, squats, lunges, curl-ups.
  • At the gym: Use the machines or free weights for exercises such as bench press, squat, deadlift, shoulder press, arm curls.

2. Perform 2-3 sets of 8 to 12 reps per exercise.

  • Rest up to 1 minute between sets.
  • For weights: Choose a weight you can handle for 8 to 12 reps.
  • Duration: A good strength-training workout can be completed in 20-45 minutes.

3. Use good form for each exercise you do.
This helps train your brain and muscles, and it helps prevent injuries. If you’re not sure how to perform an exercise, ask a trainer or watch a workout video.

4. Make time for strength training at least two days a week.
You should also make time for 150 minutes of aerobic activity per week.

Strength training isn’t just for bodybuilders, athletes, or people in the military. It’s something everyone should do.

The Longevity Code: 9 Tips for Healthy Aging

Sporty woman eating apple

When 90-year-old William Shatner blasted off into space aboard Blue Origin, he became the oldest astronaut in history.

Ever thought about what you might be doing when you’re 90 years old?

In the cult-classic TV show Star Trek, Shatner piloted the U.S.S. Enterprise starship through space as Captain James Kirk. Maybe for just a few minutes during his recent flight, he thought about Dr. Spock’s famous words, “Live long and prosper.”

DID YOU KNOW…the average life expectancy in the United States is currently 77.8?1

That’s about 1.5 years lower than it’s been in nearly 20 years. And it’s the biggest decline in life expectancy in the U.S. since World War II.

Why? COVID-19 gets most of the credit for that, but chronic and preventable diseases play a part, too. For example:

  • Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., claiming the lives of an estimated 659,041 people a year. But it’s largely preventable.
  • Obesity. An estimated 74 percent of all adults in the U.S. are overweight or obese. It’s a major risk factor for chronic diseases and early death.
  • Lack of exercise. Only 53 percent of adults are active more than 30 minutes a day. Only 23 percent do activities to strengthen bones and muscles.
  • Diabetes. An estimated 34 million people have type 2 diabetes. Left unchecked, it can cause nerve damage, poor circulation, vision loss, kidney disease, heart disease, and death.

Want to live longer, prevent disease, and enjoy a better quality of life as you age?

There’s no secret longevity code, Star-Trek-inspired phaser device or Fountain of Youth to help you live forever. But you can make healthy lifestyle habits to protect your health and live longer.

9 Lifestyle Habits for Healthy Aging

Research shows these nine healthy habits are the biggest factors for good health and longevity, and can help you live up to 10 years longer.2

If you’re already doing these things, keep up the good work. If you need to make some changes, now is always the best time to start…

1. Eat a healthy diet. Most of your food and snacks should come from fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds. Eat fresh food, and drink plenty of water.

2. Exercise regularly. Aim for 30 minutes of moderate exercise a day. It’s as simple as going for a walk. Exercises to strengthen your bones and muscles will help, too.

3. Maintain a healthy weight, or lose weight if you need to. Worried about the number on the scale? Keep it simple. You can lose 1 to 2 pounds a week by making small changes to your diet and exercise habits.

4. Avoid or limit alcohol. No more than 2 drinks per day for men. No more than 1 drink per day for women, zero if pregnant. Or don’t drink at all.

5. Don’t smoke, or quit if you do. Health benefits of quitting begin as soon as you stop. More Healthy Lifestyle Habits for Longevity While these five habits appear to have the biggest impact on health and longevity, there’s more you can do to age well.

6. Manage stress in healthy ways. Try yoga, meditation, or deep breathing. Keep a journal. Talk to a counselor or therapist. Make time for a hobby. Stress less.3

7. Get your Zzz’s. The optimal amount… 7-9 hours per night. Too little sleep, and even too much sleep, raises the risk for early death.4

8. Be positive. You might roll your eyes at the eternal optimist. But research shows people who see the “glass half full” manage stress better, have a lower risk for chronic disease, and live longer.5

9. Develop healthy relationships. Spend time with family and friends. Make a phone call, text, or plan a video chat. Write a letter. Be part of a social group. Research shows that people with healthy relationships and a strong social network are healthier, feel happier and live longer.6

Eat Fiber to Lower Risk for Diabetes

Fruits, vegetables & whole grains can help

What if making just ONE simple change to your diet could cut your risk for type 2 diabetes? Would you do it?

High Fiber Foods High Fiber Foods[/caption]

About 34 million people in the United States have type 2 diabetes?

Left unchecked, type 2 diabetes can cause nerve damage, poor circulation, kidney failure, and vision loss.

It can increase the risk for a heart attack or stroke. It’s the primary cause of all limb amputations. And it’s among the top 10 leading causes of death.

Sounds pretty bad, right?

Wait…there’s more. About 88 million people have pre-diabetes, but most don’t even know it, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.1

But here’s the most interesting thing about this. Diabetes is largely preventable with smart lifestyle habits such as:

  • Maintain a healthy weight or lose weight if you need to
  • Exercise 30 to 60 minutes a day
  • Don’t smoke, or quit if you do
  • Avoid foods and drinks high in sugar and refined carbohydrates
  • Drink more water

And there’s at least ONE more thing you can do to prevent diabetes.

Eat. More. Fiber.

In two recent studies, researchers found that eating fiber-rich foods (fruits, vegetables, and whole grains) significantly lowers the risk for developing type 2 diabetes.2,3

Research shows that eating fiber-rich foods…

  • Help you feel full sooner and longer
  • Keep your blood sugar levels lower
  • Slow down digestion, which gives your intestines more time to make the hormones that help you feel full.
  • Help you naturally maintain your weight.
  • Lower the risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, and certain types of cancer

How much fiber do you need?

The American Heart Association recommends adults eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber per day. On average, most adults only eat about 15 grams of fiber per day. Which means…you can probably do better.

Feast on fiber: 15 food tips to help prevent diabetes

It’s easy to say you’re going to eat more fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and fiber-rich foods. But if you’re not eating enough fiber right now, what can you do to change your eating habits? Here are some easy ways to eat more fiber:

1. Choose whole-grains…breads, cereals, and pasta instead of white bread and sugary cereals.

2. Leave the skin on potatoes, apples, and carrots. The outer layer is highest in fiber.

3. Go nuts. Snack on a handful of nuts, seeds, or raw vegetables instead of cookies or chips.

4. Add cooked beans and peas to pasta, soups, stews, casseroles, and salads.

5. Choose an orange or grapefruit instead of juice for breakfast. (Juice doesn’t have a lot of fiber.)

6. Eat fresh or dried fruit for desserts or snacks.

7. Make a smoothie with fresh fruit and toss in high-fiber foods like flaxseed, avocado, and leafy greens.

8. Choose high-fiber grains like brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, and couscous instead of white rice and white flour.

9. Puree vegetables and add to sauces and stews.

10. Replace white rice with chopped cauliflower (cooked).

11. Make pancakes with buckwheat flour instead of white flour or a packaged mix.

12. Add raw sprouts to sandwiches and salads.

13. Sneak in flaxseed meal with oats, smoothies, yogurt, and baked goods.

14. Drink plenty of water. The more fiber you eat, the more water your digestive system needs to break down food. If you don’t, you could end up with constipation.

15. Keep a food log and read food labels to track how much fiber you’re eating per day. Aim to eat 25 to 30 grams of fiber. Keeping track will remind you to choose food high in fiber.

Get used to eating more fiber to prevent diabetes

If you’re not getting enough fiber in your diet now, start by eating more fiber than you did yesterday. Then gradually eat a little more fiber each day. And keep track of how you feel.