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4 Reasons to Eat Watermelon

A summertime favorite, watermelon is more than just a refreshing afternoon snack - it has health benefits, too. Watermelon is:

  1. Low in calories
  2. Rich in antioxidants
  3. A good source of vitamins C, A, B6 and B1
  4. A good source of the carotenoid lycopene, which may help reduce the risk of prostate and other cancers

It is also versatile, lending its sweet flavor and crisp texture to everything from tomatoes to cheese. When choosing, look for a hefty, symmetrical, unblemished melon. A creamy yellow spot on the bottom indicates ripeness. Add this colorful fruit to your summer menu for a healthy way to cool off - perfect for any hot day!

Or try watermelon in this refreshing Summer Melon Soup


Running from Heart Disease?

How fast you can run when you're in your 40s or 50s may say more about your risk for heart disease than your cholesterol levels, blood pressure, smoking history, and whether or not you have diabetes. This finding, from two separate studies at UT Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, showed that 55-year-old men who can run an eight-minute mile, regardless of other contributors factors, have only a 10 percent lifetime risk of developing heart disease, while those who need 15 minutes or more to run a mile have a 30 percent lifetime risk. To reach their conclusions, the investigators reviewed data on more than 11,000 men who had treadmill exercise tests before 1990. The study was published in the April 12th, 2011 issue of the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

The second study found that fitness levels were also helpful in identifying the long-term risk of heart disease in women. Here, the research team followed more than 66,000 men and women ages 20 to 90 for up to 36 years (or until they died) and again found that  adding fitness to the traditional risk factors for heart disease significantly improved the ability to classify the participants' lifetime risks. This study was published in the April 5th, 2011 issue of Circulation.

My take? This is welcome news. It reinforces the importance of aerobic exercise for cardiovascular health and shows that keeping fit does more for cardiovascular health than focusing on cholesterol levels or even blood pressure. Aerobic exercise conditions our hearts and arteries and respiratory systems, increases stamina and general fitness and promotes cleansing of the blood by stimulating circulation and perspiration. This type of activity increases the flow of oxygen to all organs, enabling them to work more efficiently. It also burns calories, undoing some of the damage we do by eating too much. In addition, it strengthens the immune system, reduces stress, lowers serum cholesterol and tones the nervous system.

More on Exercise & Fitness


Is Healing Touch Right for You?

Healing Touch (HT) is an "energetic therapy" believed to facilitate health, healing and well-being by restoring balance in the human energy field. Treatment is intended to affect an energetic space - sometimes termed a field or biofield - postulated to surround, inhabit and impact the human body. HT is said to influence these fields by applying hands-on pressure, manipulating the body or placing the hands in or through the field.

Because HT therapy requires only a receptive participant and a practitioner, it can be used for nearly any indication or ailment - it has been used to:

  1. Calm and prepare patients for surgery, chemotherapy and other anxiety-provoking procedures
  2. Help wounds heal and shorten the length of hospital stay
  3. Help prevent or minimize chronic pain, headaches, migraines, generalized anxiety and sleep disturbances
  4. Facilitate a spiritual connection
  5. Help people with emotional distress

It may be especially useful for patients who are in pain but unable to tolerate traditional massage or touch, such as fibromyalgia and burn patients. However, it should be noted that non-contact "energetic" therapies are controversial, as neither the presence of external energy fields nor their effects have been measured scientifically. While manipulation of biofields might produce beneficial effects, it is also possible that the therapeutic value of healing touch and other non-contact therapies may simply be the state of relaxation created by a skilled practitioner, which may decrease blood pressure, make breathing slow and rhythmic, and generally allow the body's natural immune resources to take over and promote healing.

Learn more about Healing Touch, including what to expect in a session and how to find a qualified practitioner.


Selenium for Graves' Disease

Taking a dose of selenium twice daily seems to improve quality of life and relieve eye symptoms among people with Graves' Disease, an autoimmune condition that can affect the thyroid and eyes. These findings, from the University of Pisa in Italy, showed that the selenium proved effective when tested against both the drug pentoxifylline and a placebo. The Italian researchers recruited 159 people with mild Graves' ophthalmopathy, a condition that can cause the eyes to protrude and lead to dry eyes, puffy eyelids, double vision, sensitivity to light, pressure or pain in the eye and trouble moving the eyes. There are no known effective treatments. Participants were randomly assigned to take two daily doses of 100 micrograms of selenium, 600 mg of pentoxifylline or a placebo. After six months, only the selenium was associated with improved quality of life, a slower progression of Graves'-associated eye disease and reduced symptoms. These positive effects persisted for at least six months after the conclusion of the study. Because the area where the study was conducted tends to be selenium deficient, the researchers noted the results may not hold true in places where people get enough selenium. Results were published in the May 19, 2011 issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.


How Much Alcohol Do You Drink? (Poll)

Here's a recent Q&A on my site about mixing alcohol and antibiotics. In general, drinking moderate amounts of alcohol when you're taking antibiotics doesn't lessen their effectiveness, but you should still proceed with caution.

Whether or not you're currently on antiotics, however, everyone should be conscious of their alcohol intake. How much do you drink?


Protein-Rich Breakfast May Cut Cravings

Teens are notorious for skipping breakfast and then snacking on high calorie, high fat and high sugar junk foods. They also tend to overeat, especially at night. A small study from the University of Missouri suggests that a protein breakfast of cereal and milk or of high-protein waffles, syrup and yogurt is filling and reduces hunger throughout the morning. The higher protein waffle breakfast also changed the appetites of the teenage girls participating for the better so that they were less hungry. The researchers divided 10 girls into three groups that: 

  • continued skipping breakfast
  • ate portions of cereal and milk containing normal quantities of protein
  • ate a high-protein waffle breakfast

At the end of each of three weeks, the teens filled out appetite and satiety questionnaires and had brain scans using functional MRIs to look at brain activation in regions controlling food motivation and reward. The researchers concluded that a high-protein breakfast is a simple strategy for satisfying the appetite and quelling the urge to snack. However, because the study was so small, they described their findings as preliminary. The study was published online May 5th by the journal Obesity.

More healthy breakfast ideas, many of which are protein-rich, from my Facebook followers!


What Is Watsu?

Watsu is a unique form of bodywork that combines immersing the body in warm water with traditional Shiatsu massage. The premise of Watsu is that water takes weight off the vertebrae so they can be manipulated more easily. Watsu is said to:

  1. Decrease muscle tension
  2. Promote a deep state of relaxation
  3. Increase mobility and flexibility
  4. Decrease stress
  5. Reduce pain
  6. Promote better sleep

A typical Watsu session is performed in water that is 92 to 94 degrees Fahrenheit, and involves a series of movements that the practitioner performs with one hand as he or she balances the recipient with the other. Expect to be gently rocked, stretched, turned, bent and arched. Watsu is offered at spas nationwide and in treatment centers as a form of physical therapy.

Learn more about Watsu, including how to find a practitioner.


Go to Bed Earlier to Stay Slim

If you're trying to lose weight or want to avoid gaining extra pounds, one trick may be to go to bed early. A new study from Northwestern University indicates that people who stay up late tend to consume an average of 248 more calories per day - and more fast food - than those who go to bed earlier. The study was a small one, involving only 51 people with an average age of 30. The participants who stayed up late - typically hitting the sack at about 3:45 a.m. and getting up about 10:45 a.m. - not only consumed more calories, fast food and non-diet sodas than the study participants (who went to bed by 12:30 a.m. and got up by 8 a.m.) they also ate only half as many fruits and vegetables. The extra calories were generally consumed at dinner and later in the evening. An extra 248 calories a day can add up to two pounds of weight gain a month if you don't work them off with increased exercise. The study was published online on April 28, 2011 by the journal Obesity.