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5 Ways to a Healthy Immune System

The immune system is your body's natural defense network - when it is weakened or compromised, you are more susceptible to disease and infection. You can encourage your natural healing response by eating plenty of fruits and vegetables, managing your stress levels, and with the prudent use of supplements, including:

  1. A daily antioxidant. A quality antioxidant supplement can fill nutritional gaps (even in a healthy diet) and help support overall immune function.
  2. Astragalus. This root of a plant in the pea family has antiviral and immune-enhancing properties and a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine to ward off colds and flu.
  3. Echinacea. The dried root and leaves of the purple coneflower can help stimulate immune activity and boost resistance against bacteria and virus.
  4. Immune-enhancing mushrooms. Maitake, reishi, agaricus, and enoki all provide immune-strengthening benefits. Combination products are often more effective than individual species.
  5. Arctic root or rhodiola. Also known as "golden root" or "roseroot," this is traditionally used in Eastern Europe as a general tonic and can help reduce the harmful effects of stress on the immune system.

Weight Loss Tips: Setting a Good Example

As a parent or grandparent, setting a good example is important. This is especially true around the dinner table, since children tend to pick up eating habits from the family routine.

Try the following - your family may not even know they are eating more healthful meals:

  1. Incorporate a vegetable into every meal. Peas, broccoli, asparagus, red, yellow or green bell peppers, spinach - you name it, vegetables provide nutrients and fiber.
  2. Use more beans and legumes, and less meat. Chickpeas, lentils and beans of all types are good sources of fiber and protein. Use my Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid to learn more about healthy varieties of these pantry staples.
  3. Serve up whole grains. Brown rice and bulgur wheat provide a delicious, grainy taste and texture - and have more fiber and protein than their white counterparts. Choose true, relatively intact whole grains like these over grains that have been ground into flour.
  4. Switch sweets. Instead of soda, stock the pantry with sparkling waters. Pour fruit juice into a pitcher and dilute it to lessen the sugar content. Stock your kitchen with fresh, whole fruits, and leave the cookies in the store.

Responsible Garbage

Reconsider what you throw away: An old bulky computer monitor, dead batteries, unused paint … we have all had something environmentally unfriendly to toss. Unfortunately, landfills aren't usually equipped to handle this type of toxic trash. Thoughtless dumping can lead to mercury, lead and other substances leaching into the ground - and into groundwater.

Next time you have something to toss that may be toxic, whether it's unused prescription medications or printer cartridges, call your city or town department of waste management or check online - most municipal governments have websites. These sources can provide you with local contact information detailing how and where to safely dispose of just about anything.


Good Soil, Healthy Garden!

Good soil is the basis of any healthy garden, and can easily be achieved by making compost. Follow these guidelines for starting a simple compost, and let your garden reap the benefits:

  1. In a sheltered spot in your backyard, simply layer kitchen vegetable waste in a pile with garden clippings. Or, create the compost in a metal or plastic garbage can - remove the bottom of the can and puncture holes in the sides, and raise the can off the ground (for ventilation).
  2. Keep your compost moist, and turn the pile occasionally. In six to eight months, (or as little as a month in warmer climates) you'll have beautiful, black, organic compost to add to the garden.
  3. Use only vegetable scraps and garden clippings (no meat scraps) to keep the compost odor-free and pest-free.
  4. Make sure you're composting regularly so you'll always have plenty of material to nourish the soil in your garden and promote moisture retention.

Learn about brewing a compost tea for healthy gardening.


Supplements for Healthy Joints

As we grow older, both men and women experience normal wear and tear on the joints. Following an anti-inflammatory diet can help keep joint inflammation in check, as can these dietary supplements:

Glucosamine and chondroitin. These two compounds help provide the building blocks for substances naturally found in healthy cartilage and appear to relieve pain, improve joint mobility, and slow osteoarthritis-related damage to the joints.

SAM-e. This naturally occurring molecule (S-adenosylmethioine) delivers sulfur to the cartilage, which helps build and maintain strong joints.

Evening primrose oil. A source of gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) which may help maintain healthy joints by modifying inflammation.

Anti-inflammatory herbs. Ginger, holy basil, green tea, rosemary, turmeric, scutellaria and hu zhang all have naturally occurring anti-inflammatory compounds that act as COX-2 inhibitors. (Zyflamend from New Chapter, which contains these herbs, is highly recommended.)

Omega-3 fatty acids. Use varieties that are molecularly distilled from the oil of fish or krill and contain both EPA and DHA, essential fatty acids which have been shown in studies to help maintain bone health and joint flexibility.


Craving Crunch? Try Soy Nuts Instead of Chips

One of the healthiest changes you can make in your diet is to incorporate whole soy foods on a regular basis. Soy is rich in protein, iron and compounds called isoflavones, which may have protective effects against hormone-driven cancers such as prostate cancer in men and breast cancer in women. Soy also helps protect your heart. Roasted soybeans, known as "soy nuts," are a great way to get the health benefits of soy while satisfying almost any snack craving. A one-ounce serving (about one-quarter of a cup) amounts to about 120 calories, 10 grams of protein, six grams of fiber, and only four grams of fat - three of them unsaturated. Roasted soy nuts come in sweet and spicy flavors, as well as regular salted and unsalted varieties. Be aware that some of the flavored varieties may have more calories or fat - so read the labels carefully.


Corn: A Summer Treat

Corn on the cob is a traditional summertime treat that can add some positive nutritional value to typically less-than-healthful BBQ fare. Corn has been cultivated for hundreds of years and was (and still is) a staple in many parts of the world. A good source of vitamins B1, B5 and C, corn also provides many other valuable nutrients, including:

  1. Fiber for gastrointestinal function and weight control.
  2. Folate, which can help reduce the risk of birth defects and promote heart health.  
  3. Vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid), vital to healthy adrenal function.
  4. Lutein for healthy vision.

Try corn on the cob grilled, boiled or steamed, on its own or brushed with a little olive oil for a healthy summertime side. Or try this flavorful summer-bounty recipe: Tomato, Corn and Basil Soup.



Tasting 30 Year Old Balsamic Vinegar

Here are a few images from my trip to Italy last year. The balsamic was 30 years old and superb!