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Sunday
Oct102010

Yoga for Depression

Daily aerobic exercise is a reliable and effective treatment for mild to moderate depression, but new research suggests that yoga may work even better. A study from Boston University School of Medicine showed that practicing yoga increased  levels of GABA (gamma-aminobutyric) in the brain. Low levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter, are associated with depression and anxiety disorders. Investigators followed two randomized groups of healthy volunteers for 12 weeks. One group performed an hour of yoga three times a week, while the other group walked for an hour three times a week. Before and after the last session, the researchers compared the GABA levels of each of the volunteers using magnetic resonance spectroscopic imaging. They found increased GABA levels and decreased anxiety among the participants in the yoga group, who also reported a significantly greater decrease in anxiety and more improved mood over the course of the study than did the volunteers in the walking group. The study was published online by the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.

Try adding poses like Downward-Facing Dog, Extended Side Angle Pose, Tree Pose and Warrior II to your morning routine and see how you feel.

Saturday
Oct092010

Hot and Sour Salmon with Greens

Since salmon is a slightly oily fish, it plays beautifully against the clean flavors of ginger, scallion and bok choy. There's nothing more soothing than tender, cooked cabbage; it is often prescribed in China for relieving stomach pain.

Food as Medicine: Wild Alaskan salmon is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which have been shown to benefit cardiovascular health and may help alleviate mild to moderate depression.

Ingredients:

6 wild salmon steaks, about 6 ounces each
2 1/2 pounds baby bok choy or bok choy, stem ends and leaf tips trimmed
8 to 9 whole scallions, ends trimmed, cut into thin julienne slices on the diagonal
3 heaping tablespoons fresh ginger cut into very thin julienne shreds

Dressing
6 tablespoons soy sauce
3 1/2 tablespoons Chinese black vinegar or Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup sugar, or to taste
2 tablespoons minced garlic

Instructions:

1. Trim the tough outer leaves from the bok choy and discard. Rinse the stalks and leaves and drain. Cut the stalks in half lengthwise. Cut the halves diagonally into 2-inch sections. In a bowl, toss the scallions and ginger with the bok choy sections. Arrange on a heat-proof platter.

2. Mix the ingredients of the Dressing, and pour into a serving bowl.

3. Preheat the oven to 450º F. Place the salmon steaks on top of the greens. Pour into a roasting pan several inches of water and heat until boiling. Carefully place the platter of salmon and vegetables on top of a rack or steamer tray in the roasting pan. Cover the top of the pan tightly with aluminum foil. Bake 7 to 9 minutes, or until the fish is cooked.

4. Serve the salmon from the heatproof platter or arrange the steamed vegetables and salmon on serving plates. Spoon some of the dressing on top and serve with steamed rice.

Vegetarian? Try making Hot and Sour Greens without the salmon; just know that you will not derive the major health benefits of the omega-3 fatty acids that this fish-based recipe boasts.

Friday
Oct082010

Replace Animal Foods with Vegetable Protein

Here's one healthy diet resolution that is both easy and delicious to make! Whole soy contains phytochemicals which have been shown to help prevent heart disease and several forms of cancer. Soybeans are packed with fiber and protein, and tofu - which is made of whole soybeans, not soy isolates - is a terrific source of protein as well as heart-healthy unsaturated oil. Experiment with tofu and tempeh (a fermented soy food), replace ground beef with beans or a whole-soy substitute, and toss chickpeas rather than chicken into salads. You'll still get the protein, but with far less fat and more fiber.

Not sure where to start? I suggest a Southwestern favorite - Mole Pinto Beans.

Thursday
Oct072010

Preventing Bed Bugs

This information should be especially helpful to those of you living in New York, where the infestation seems to be greatest, but anyone who is traveling, staying in hotels or living in university/other public housing may benefit.

After more than 20 years of near extinction, bed bugs (Cimex lectularius) now seem to be everywhere in the U.S. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) now regards bed bugs as a "major problem." The reason for the big uptick seems to be increased international travel - these pests are hitching rides in our luggage. The good news is that bed bugs don't transmit disease - they're certainly unpleasant to have around, but they don't pose an immediate health risk.

You may have a bed bug infestation if:

  • You see the bugs themselves - they are oval, flattened, brown, wingless insects that are about 1/4 inch long.
  • When you get up in the morning you have red welts on your skin.
  • You see blood and orangish-brown spots of bug feces on pillows and sheets.
  • There is an unpleasant, pungent odor in or near the bed.

To prevent an infestation, try these measures:

  • When traveling, check behind hotel bed frames and under mattress covers for orangish-brown fecal spots.
  • When you get home, wash all your clothes in hot water and store suitcases in a plastic bag in a hot car trunk or attic.
  • Use a mattress cover designed to suppress bed bugs.

Getting rid of bed bugs isn't easy, as they seem to be developing resistance to most natural pesticides.  If you have bed bugs, get professionals to handle the extermination, and ask them to first try pumping hot air into your bedroom - bed bugs can't survive extreme heat.

Wednesday
Oct062010

Healthy Eating May Save Your Sight

The right diet can help protect against diseases that affect sight, including age-related macular degeneration (AMD), the leading cause of blindness in those over the age of 55. Researchers at the Agricultural Research Service (ARS)-funded Laboratory for Nutrition and Vision Research have found that the combination of a low-glycemic diet combined with vitamins C and E, zinc, lutein, zeaxanthin, and omega-3 fatty acids can help maintain quality of life and reduce health care costs due to sight-robbing eye diseases. The study examined dietary intake and other data from more than 4,000 men and women age 55 to 80, who had taken part in the long-term Age-Related Eye Disease Study (AREDS). The researchers ranked intake of several nutrients and then calculated a score designed to assess their combined effect on the risk of AMD.

My take? I’ve long advocated eating low on the glycemic index and have recommended increasing consumption of vitamin C, vitamin E, lutein and zinc to support vision health. I recommend these nutrients and lifestyle changes to address AMD.

View the larger, expanded version of my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid; alternatively, read more about the specific components of the anti-inflammatory diet.

Tuesday
Oct052010

Video: Setting Limits on Personal Technology

If you read this blog, odds are that you're fairly technologically savvy; but with that savviness comes the potential for overuse. I believe it's vital for mental and physical health to set limits. Here is how I do, and don't, use these devices:

Why don't you use your extra free time to dig around in the garden or whip up some tasty anti-inflammatory fare?

Monday
Oct042010

What Is OCD?

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is one of the anxiety disorders, and is a potentially crippling and chronic condition. Those who suffer from OCD are caught in a cycle of repetitive thoughts and behaviors that interfere with even simple, everyday tasks. Although they often realize the behaviors are senseless, the compulsion to perform them remains extremely difficult to defeat. Although OCD symptoms typically begin during the teenage years or early adulthood, some children develop the illness at earlier ages, including the preschool years. In addition to seeking appropriate psychological and psychiatric counseling, I recommend that people diagnosed with OCD consider taking fish oil supplements, which contain omega-3 fatty acids. These essential fatty acids have been shown to be effective in a wide range of psychological conditions.

Learn more about the symptoms and causes of obsessive-compulsive disorder and other anxiety disorders.

Sunday
Oct032010

Berry Good Brain

Here's another reason to include blueberries, strawberries and walnuts in your diet: the polyphenols these foods contain appear to be good for the brain. In fact, these micronutrients seem to reverse an age-related decline in the process by which brain cells remove and recycle biochemical debris that could interfere with brain function. Investigators with the U.S. Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging in Boston found that the polyphenols in these berries seem to help maintain the process by which specialized brain cells do their "housekeeping." Researcher Shibu Poulose, Ph.D., noted the study provides further evidence of the benefits of eating foods rich in polyphenols. In addition to berries and nuts, fruits and vegetables with deep red, orange or blue colors also pack an antioxidant punch. Dr. Poulose emphasized the importance of consuming the whole fruit and noted that frozen berries, available year round, are also good sources of polyphenols.

Did you know that blueberries and strawberries are two of the 10 most antioxidant-rich fruits?