The 920 | Healthy Living

Healthy Living – October 2020

An Apple a Day

by Gayle Cottrill

We’ve all heard the age-old adage, “an apple a day keeps the doctor away,” but is there any truth to the saying? This month, while autumn is officially in full swing and apple-picking season is upon us, I thought I would go bobbing for some apple facts and learn about the health benefits of this wonderful fall fruit.

A medium-sized apple, about three inches in diameter, provides 1.5 cups of fruit (a daily serving is 2 cups) and is a good source of vitamins C and K, potassium, fiber, and polyphenols, which are found in plant-based foods and are full of antioxidants. Altogether, this makes for a powerful fruit, as long as you eat the skin; nearly half of the fiber is contained there.

The soluble fiber found in apples helps lower your blood cholesterol content, feeds your good bacteria in your colon aiding gut health, and can aid in weight loss. The fiber, combined with high water content, makes apples a filling snack. Eating an apple before a meal can help you feel fuller faster. Some studies have shown that people who eat an apple before a meal eat as much as 200 calories less during their meal.

The polyphenols, which create antioxidant effects in your body, can lower your blood pressure, help prevent Type 2 diabetes, aid in bone health even as you age, can help fight asthma, and potentially prevent cancer. The micronutrients act in a myriad of ways to help achieve all this.

While every apple variety contains nutrients and is a healthy choice for a snack or addition to a meal, each apple is slightly different in composition, and some are better than others, depending on the health benefits you are looking for. 

The top varieties vary depending on who you ask, but the consensus is that the Granny Smith and Red Delicious are the top two apples that provide the most complete nutrition. Granny Smiths are low in sugar, compared to other types, at only nine grams. They also are great sources of fiber. Red Delicious, and other red-pigmented apples are also rich in fiber and offer higher levels of antioxidant-packed polyphenols, because of their coloring. Honey Crisp apples, well-loved for their flavor, have a higher sugar content at 19 grams, but are known to keep their nutritional value for longer in storage than other varieties.

In addition to choosing the right apple, it’s important to consider where it came from and when it was picked. The longer an apple sits in storage or on a shelf, the more nutrients it loses and the less effective its health benefits will be. Freshly picked apples from a local source, especially if organic, will provide you with the best apple for your health. Furthermore, picking your own adds an element of physical activity. There are several local orchards that allow you to pick your own. Your local farmer’s market may also provide locally sourced apples during the season.

Local Orchards:

  • Apple Blossom Orchard and Market, Black Creek
  • Bauer’s Apple Shed, Hortonville
  • Hofacker’s Hillside Orchard, Appleton
  • Sprangers Orchard, Kaukauna
  • Star Orchard, Kaukauna

Ultimately, an apple a day may not keep the doctor away but making apples a regular addition to your diet may give you a healthy report at your next checkup.

 

 

Healthy Living – September 2020

Staying Positive in a Pandemic

by Gayle Cottrill

Taking care of our mental health is just as important as our physical health, and when trying to cope with the myriad of emotions that arise during a disaster like a pandemic, it is vital to pay attention to all aspects of our mind and body. 

The global pandemic brought on by the novel coronavirus has forced many of us to face isolation, loss of work, financial hardship, sickness, or even the loss of a loved one, which can lead to loneliness, fear, grief, and helplessness. It can be hard to keep up our energy and positivity when there is so much negativity suddenly invading our lives. 

Luckily, there are things you can do for your mental health that can help you find focus and happiness even during a global crisis. Everyone reacts to stress differently and ways to cope vary as well. Hopefully, one of the following things can help you find some positivity during the pandemic and continue to help even when the stressors begin to lessen.

Do Something You Love

One of the simplest ways to find some happiness is to allow yourself to do something you love. This could be gardening, puzzles, running, painting, writing, cooking, wood carving, and more. Granting yourself time to do something you love and becoming engrossed in it can help take your mind away from the things that are bothering you. It is rewarding to do something you enjoy, and in the end, there is often an accomplishment you can be proud of, which can boost self-esteem.

Set Aside “Worry Time”

We all worry, and often thoughts about the things that worry us come at all times to interrupt us while we work, cook, read, play with our kids, drive, or when we just want to relax. Some researchers have begun to suggest it is beneficial to regularly set aside time to worry and address what concerns us. If you dedicate time each day to worry, you are giving yourself permission to think deeply about and process the things you need to and your mind will eventually learn to keep the worrisome thoughts at bay until your designated worry time.

Meditate

Meditation is an ancient practice that helps us stay grounded and keeps our minds clear, alert, and focused. It is also known to help reduce anxiety. There are six different types of meditation, so it might take some research to find the best method to fit your needs. There are also plenty of guided meditation videos and audio tracks online or meditation apps to assist you.

Find Help When Needed

Sometimes talking with friends who are dealing with the same struggles you are can help you deal with difficult emotions. However, if you feel like you need professional help, contact your health provider so they can advise you properly about what mental health services are available to you. If you do not have a healthcare provider, there are free resources online and organizations committed to promoting mental health for everyone.

 

Healthy Living – August 2020

The Benefits of H2O

by Gayle Cottrill

Most people have probably heard you should drink at least eight cups of water every day. While that is the average recommended for adults, the amount of water each person needs is different per person, depending on age, gender, and activity level. 

Adult bodies are about 60% water and children have a slightly higher level. Children also deplete their body’s water source quicker and are more prone to dehydration than adults. So, the younger you are, the more important it is to stay hydrated. 

For adults, calculate how much water you should drink each day by dividing your weight in half and drinking that many ounces. So, for an adult who weighs 200 pounds, they should drink 100 ounces (or 12.5 cups) of water every day. However, to know the most accurate amount of water you should drink daily, consult your healthcare provider. If you exercise or do a lot of physical labor, especially in hot environments, you may need to drink more. 

Why is it important to drink so much water every day? The simple answer is if our bodies are 60% water, we need to keep that water level stable. The more complete answer is that our bodies need water to perform many functions to keep us healthy. Here are several ways water helps our body function, and each works best when we are fully hydrated.

  • Aids in digestion
  • Helps flush our gastrointestinal tract
  • Transports nutrients 
  • Keeps joints lubricated
  • Prevents muscle fatigue
  • Helps keep kidneys healthy
  • Can lower heart rate and body temperature while exercising

Water can also aid in lowering calorie intake and can play a role in weight loss and weight management. Drinking water alone won’t necessarily do it but choosing to drink water instead of sugary drinks like soda, juice, and wine or high caloric beverages like beer, can make a huge difference. If you also choose foods that are high in water content, like many fruits and vegetables, you can both add water to your diet and provide your body with healthier sources of sugars and calories. Drinking water and eating water-rich foods can also leave you feeling fuller, which helps cut snacking. I’ve personally found if I reach for my water bottle when I think I want to eat but am not super hungry, water takes the edge off. And choosing water over a soda repeatedly will help wear down the craving for that fizzy soft drink. 

If you are not someone who enjoys drinking plain water, there are ways to spruce up the drink. Carbonated water or tea, iced or hot, can be great alternatives. And finally, one of my favorite things to do, especially on hot summer days, is to infuse water with fruit and herbs. You don’t need a fancy infuser to do it; any pitcher or large glass can work. Simply add the fresh ingredients and let it sit for a few hours in the fridge. Here are some combinations to get you started:

  • Strawberry + jalapeno, basil, mint, or lime
  • Lemon + basil or raspberry
  • Lime + mint or raspberry

 

Healthy Living July 2020

5 Ways to Enjoy a Summer of Social Distancing

by Gayle Cottrill

 For most of us, this summer is going to feel different than most, and while many businesses and parks have opened back up, many people are still taking precautions with where they go and who they see. So, what does a summer of social distancing look like, and what sort of things can you do to enjoy it? The short answer is many things! But for starters, here are five simple ways you can stay safe and healthy.

Go for a bike ride.

Biking is a low-impact exercise which goes easy on your joints and can also turn into a cardio workout. Unless you bike on a congested trail, this activity makes it easy to keep a safe distance from other people. You can bike alone or with your family. There are several fun bike trails in the Fox Cities such as Loop the Little Lake Trail in Neenah and Menasha. If you fall in love with biking, consider joining the National Bike Challenge 2020.

Take regular walks.

The American Heart Association recommends adults spend at least 150 minutes a week doing moderate-intensity aerobic activity, which is about 20 minutes a day. You can find a time and route that are best for you right in your own neighborhood to fit your schedule and your personal social distancing practices. Walking every day is a simple way to keep your heart healthy and spend some time soaking up the sun.

Explore the countryside.

If you are looking to escape the bustle of city life and want to find a place to walk or bike in a more serene environment, head out to the countryside. It won’t take long to get there. Explore Rustic Road 53, part of the state’s Rustic Road system. The lightly traveled roads are some of the most scenic in the state and are perfect for hikers, bikers, or even drivers.

Go on a scavenger hunt.

For a family-fun option, scavenger hunts are perfect for all ages. Plan a walk through your neighborhood or a part of town you’ve never been in. Watch for animals, different colored flowers, count flags, or collect objects in nature to study or use in art. The options are endless, and an activity like this is a great way to burn energy, spend time together outdoors, and add exercise to your day.

Relax and rejuvenate.

And finally, let’s not forget the importance of relaxation. Life in general is always busy and filled with stress, and summer is no exception as we try to pack in get-togethers, vacations, and countless other activities. As important as it is to be active, it is just as important to slow down and rejuvenate. After a busy day, sit outside, take in deep breaths of fresh air, and watch the sun set, the sky darken, and the stars brighten.

If you’re still looking for ideas, check out your local parks and recreation website. Many are offering virtual programming and regular updates about the status of their pools and summer programs.

Healthy Living – April 2020

Five Reasons to Add Meditation to Your Daily Routine

by Gayle Cottrill

Meditation is believed to have originated in India thousands of years ago, although that is only where we have found the first documentation of the practice in writing and images. It could have started even earlier, its instruction passed on by word of mouth.

It wasn’t until the 20th century that meditation became popular in the west. Since the 1960s, studies have been done in the United States to understand the health benefits of meditation, and today it is widely accepted that the practice can help us physically as well as psychologically. Here are five ways that meditation can help your mind and your body.

Meditation helps your brain.

Research has found that meditation helps your brain stay healthy. Meditation increases blood flow to the brain and frequent meditation helps keep your mind sharp and aids in memory retention, even as you age. There are different types of meditation practices you can follow, and depending on the benefits you would like to focus on, you can choose the type that will help you the most.

Meditation helps fight stress and stress-related symptoms.

Probably one of the most well-known reasons people turn to meditation is to help reduce stress and anxiety. The most basic way to meditate keeps you focused on your breathing and clearing your mind. Continued meditative practices lower levels of cortisol, more commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.” Reducing this hormone in your system in turn decreases stress, which can also prevent conditions that are byproducts of that stress. 

Meditation helps your heart and body.

As you allow your body to relax through meditation and lower stress levels, your body naturally focuses on taking care of other important matters. Your immune system can receive a boost with added attention being given to it. Tensed muscles are allowed to relax, potentially preventing injuries from muscle strain. Meditation also reduces your heart rate and blood pressure. 

Meditation helps emotional stability.

Meditation is a way to practice mindfulness and a way to become more self-aware. As you reflect upon your life, you may find your self confidence building. Feeling less stressed and understanding how you handle stressors can pave the way for more optimism and better decision-making. Meditating consistently also can boost levels of serotonin, a hormone that, when lacking, can cause low energy and negative feelings.

Meditation is easy and affordable.

There are many free apps and online videos that you can access for guided meditation sessions. Depending on your experience or ability, you can choose the type and length of meditation that is the best fit for you and your lifestyle. Even a 10-minute meditation break can help you feel recharged and ready to tackle the next part of your day. For an exercise with so many health benefits that is painless, free, and doesn’t take up a lot of your day, meditation can be a great addition to your daily routine.