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4 Healthy Foods for Dogs

Creating a healthful, well-rounded meal from scratch for your dog requires an understanding of your pet's nutritional needs as well as a significant investment of time. Like humans, dogs are omnivores, meaning that they eat both animal and plant foods. If you want to cook for a dog, I urge you to talk to your vet or consult with a veterinary nutritionist about the individual needs of your companion animal and how those needs change with age. You'll also want to pay close attention to how much home-cooked food your dogs should eat in order for them to maintain a healthy weight. Follow the guidelines in this and tomorrow’s Daily Tips for information on foods that dogs can eat and those they should avoid.

  1. Lean meats. Thoroughly cooked meats with visible fat trimmed off and all bones removed are acceptable for dogs.
  2. Vegetables. Many dogs enjoy carrot sticks, green beans and cucumber slices - all are low-calorie treats that are healthier than many store-bought dog snacks. However some veggies should be avoided - see tomorrow’s tip for more information.
  3. Fresh fruit. Sliced apples, bananas, oranges and watermelon can be a safe and tasty treat, but be sure to remove all seeds, stems and leaves first. Some fruits should be avoided – again, see tomorrow’s tip for more information.
  4. Cooked rice. Cooked white rice can offer relief from stomach upset in some dogs.

Additionally, be careful to avoid these toxic foods for dogs.


MSG Can Pack on Pounds

You may not know you're consuming MSG on a regular basis, but this flavor enhancer is everywhere - not just in Chinese food but in all kinds of processed foods, from chips to canned soup. And this common food additive may be responsible for weight gain. A new study from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, suggests that the more MSG you consume, the more likely you are to be overweight or obese. This holds true even if your intake of calories and exercise habits are the same as those who don't consume MSG. Researchers followed more than 10,000 adults in China for about 5.5 years, measuring their MSG intake and asking them to estimate how much they consumed over three 24-hour periods. Results showed that individuals whose daily MSG intake was highest (about five grams) were about 30 percent more likely to become overweight by the end of the study than those who consumed the least MSG (less than half a gram daily). After excluding study participants who were overweight at the study's start, the risk was 33 percent. The study was published in the June, 2011, issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

More information on the safety of MSG and some natural ways to get that great "umami" taste in foods. 


What Vegetarian Protein Do You Most Enjoy? (Poll)

Here is a recent Q&A from my site on the meat substitute Quorn and whether or not it's a good addition to the diet. Of course, Quorn (and products like it) are not the only options available to those looking to swap out meat in their meals. I'm especially partial to whole soy foods. What's your favorite concentrated source of vegetarian protein?


Walking Away from Prostate Cancer

Here's some good news for men who have been treated for prostate cancer: brisk walking - at a pace of three miles per hour - seems to lower the risk of disease progression and the need for additional treatment. This finding comes from a study of 1,455 men who had localized prostate cancer. The original investigation was conducted from 2004 to 2009, and the men's average age when their cancer was diagnosed was 65. The analysis showed that men who walked three or more hours a week at a brisk pace had a 57 percent lower risk of prostate cancer progression when compared to men who walked less than three hours a week and who walked at a slower pace. The participants reported their physical activity by questionnaire about 27 months after they were diagnosed to researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the University of California, San Francisco. The new analysis was published in the June 1 issue of Cancer Research.

My take? We already knew that regular aerobic exercise is associated with a reduced risk of developing prostate cancer in the first place, so it's good to hear that exercise (in this case, brisk walking) makes a difference for men who have been treated for the disease. This finding makes sense to me: several years ago studies showed that brisk walking improved breast cancer survival rates among women who walked as little as an hour a week at a pace of 2 to 2.9 miles per hour. Better yet, women who had had breast cancer and walked three to five hours a week had a risk of death that was 50 percent lower than breast cancer patients who performed little or no exercise. The message from these studies is clear: get moving!


The Benefits of Peppermint

Looking for a natural way to soothe some common ailments? Consider peppermint. The dried leaves of the peppermint plant offer more than a pleasing aroma and flavor, they have medicinal applications as well. Peppermint can be used:

  1. As a chest rub to ease breathing with the common cold
  2. For relief of indigestion and nausea
  3. As a treatment for gastrointestinal ailments such as irritable bowel syndrome and diverticular disease

Be aware that peppermint tea can worsen the heartburn experienced with gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) and may also promote flow of bile from the gall bladder and complicate gallstones - consult your doctor if you have these conditions. Also, don’t give peppermint tea to babies or young children: the menthol it contains can cause a choking sensation in youngsters of this age.

When choosing peppermint, look for oil containing at least 44% free menthol or teas with 100% pure peppermint leaves. You can buy pure peppermint leaf tea in most supermarkets. Brew it in a covered container to avoid loss of volatile components, and drink as much of it as you like, hot or iced.

Is Peppermint Safe During Pregnancy?


Vitamin D and Sperm Speed

The higher a man's blood levels of vitamin D, the speedier his sperm swims. This new finding from the University of Copenhagen follows a study conducted in 300 healthy men. The researchers correlated sperm "motility" or movement with vitamin D levels and also found that stimulation of human sperm with activated vitamin D can speed their forward movement. The researchers noted that semen quality in Danish men seems to be following a negative trend and is contributing to a very high incidence of fertility problems among Danish couples. While the new findings suggest that vitamin D has a beneficial effect on sperm movement and function, the investigators said that they don’t yet know if vitamin D supplements will help improve sperm quality in either normal or infertile men. They added that at present there is no known medical treatment proved to improve semen quality in well designed studies. The report was published in the June 2011 issue of Human Reproduction.

Explore the Men's Health Center.


4 Ways to Treat Sinus Congestion

Yesterday's post discussed some dietary and lifestyle changes that can help to prevent or minimize sinus issues; today we discuss four ways to reduce the symptoms. If you are experiencing sinus drainage, congestion or pain, consider the following:

  1. Acupuncture. It can be remarkably effective for relieving acute sinusitis. Acupuncture can ease pain and promote sinus drainage within minutes of the placement of the needles.
  2. Hot compresses. Help promote sinus drainage by placing very warm, wet compresses over the whole sinus area (in your upper face) frequently. Work up to as much heat as you can comfortably stand for 10 minutes at a time, several times a day.
  3. Steam inhalation. Inhaling steam with a little oil of eucalyptus in it may ease sinus clogging.
  4. Saline flushes. Flushing your nasal passages with a warm saline solution can help relieve sinus congestion and prevent sinus infections. Do this two to four times a day if you have an active infection. You can use a neti pot, a traditional, Indian nasal-irrigation device shaped like Aladdin's lamp that lets you pour the water into your nose. Or simply dissolve a ¼ teaspoon of salt in one cup of warm water and pour some of the solution into your cupped hand and inhale it through one nostril while a finger from your opposite hand compresses and blocks the other nostril. Alternatively, you can sniff the solution from a small cup or squirt it into your nostrils with a rubber-bulb syringe. The idea is to inhale enough water to spit it out through your mouth.

Also try making this ginger tea!


5 Ways to Help Sinus Problems

Chronic sinus problems don't necessarily require drugs or surgery - diet and lifestyle play important roles. Besides avoiding polluted, dusty and smoky environments (and secondhand smoke), try the following to help reduce the symptoms of chronic sinus problems:

  1. Eliminate milk and all milk products from your diet (including prepared foods that list dairy and its byproducts as ingredients). This can lead to dramatic improvement after about two months.
  2. Take astragalus (Astragalus membranaceous), the root of a native Chinese plant that boosts immune system function. The usual dose is two capsules twice a day unless otherwise directed on the package label.
  3. If you take an antibiotic for sinus infections, be sure to take a probiotic to restore the friendly bacteria that inhabit the digestive tract and that may be wiped out by antibiotics.
  4. Don't smoke.
  5. If you suffer from allergies, consider equipping your house - or at least your bedroom - with a good air filter. A HEPA (high-efficiency particulate air) filter is a good choice - it removes particles in the air by forcing it through screens containing microscopic pores.

Don’t miss tomorrow's post for four ways to treat sinus congestion symptoms.