Live Total Wellness

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Tips For Buying Seasonal Produce

Summer is such a great time of the year for many reasons. One of my number one reasons ~ fresh fruit and vegetables! There is always such an abundance of fresh, local fruit that is so mouthwatering. You just can't get enough. Once you get all these mouth - erful (can't think of anything that explains that wonderful mouthful feeling!) fruits and veggies home, how do you store them. According to Tom Lively, an Oregon-based peach grower there are a few tips to consider.

Berries: Toms says, refrigerate these immediately. That is unless you prefer to savor them at room temperature. Raspberries are typically the most fragile. Blueberries are the hardiest. So unless you plan on eating your raspberries right away, put them away. "If I was going to buy berries for the week, I would eat my raspberries first, strawberries second and blueberries third."

I'm not sure these would even last an hour at our house!

Stone Fruit: These would include peaches, plums, nectarines and apricots. When you are purchasing these fruits, make sure you test them gently for ripeness. Slightly press at the very top of the fruit, right by the stem. When you feel that little bit of a give in that area, then you will know it's ripe. If you prefer to purchase your fruit a little less ripe, you can ripen them in stages at home. Store half on the counter and the ripened half in the fridge.

If you want to ripen your stone fruits faster, try the paper bag method. Place your fruits (avocados as well) in a paper bag to trap the ethylene gas they naturally emit. Check them often because they can ripen fairly quickly. If you want to hasten the ripening even more, add a banana to the bag.

No matter what fruit you prefer, you will enjoy it more when it's kept safe and beautiful before you take that first sweet bite! Enjoy!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Super Breakfast...Boosters!

Super breakfast boosters

Have you seen some people when they get up in the morning? They are absolutely comatose before their first cup of coffee. Instead of all the caffeine, how about some other morning boosters that give you the energy and focus you need to start the day right?

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It's been, for some, almost 12 hours since your last meal. And, you want to make the most of your breakfast to get you going.

Your body needs fuel to get moving in the morning. Breakfast revs up your metabolism and also gives nutrients. To that end what you choose for breakfast is also crucial.

Here’s a tip: Avoid sugary foods at breakfast. Remember what happens when you eat a candy bar for a boost in the afternoon? You feel good like the Energizer Bunny for about an hour and then you sink into the floor. The bottom drops out and you are more sluggish than you were before.

This is what can happen in the morning. You don’t want to run out of steam midmorning when you are just getting going. Besides, sugary foods set up a vicious cycle. The more sugar you eat, the more your body wants. Examples: donuts, cookies, high-fat muffins, candy bars, Danish pastries, sugary cereals and the like.

Here are better ideas for your morning nutrition. And, they provide the boost you need. In fact, choosing carbohydrates that have a low glycemic index slowly break down throughout the morning to give you a constant source of energy without sugar spikes.

Fruit and grains – Both of these are antioxidant super foods. What does that mean? They help the body fight the signs of aging as well as boost the immune system and help your heart. This is all in addition to providing a great fuel source. Create a fruit parfait with berries, low-fat yogurt, and granola or rolled oats. You get the crunchy, the sweet and the nutritious.

Omelets – There’s a lot of good stuff here. You can add chopped spinach (Florentine), sliced or diced veggies, lean cubed meats and low-fat cheese to your eggs to create a power breakfast that is sure to get you through the morning. If you are short on time, combine the ingredients together the night before so all you have to do is spoon them into the omelet during cooking.

Hot cereal – This is your farina (Cream of Wheat), grits and oatmeal. Use Stevia to add sweetness without empty calories. Also, throw in a few super food berries (blueberries, strawberries) and some raw almonds or walnuts for a more complete meal. It is a hot meal that satisfies.

If you are one of those people who isn’t hungry first thing in the morning, eat something small like a piece of whole grain toast with almond butter or a bowl of fruit.

Mix up a nutritious smoothy especially if you're in a pinch for time. You can take it with you. Throw some almond milk, berries and banana or mango in a blender. Add some spinach or kale and some protein powder and hit the button. Instant nutritious breakfast with only the blender to clean!

So what are your breakfast boosters?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Almonds - What Are They Good For?

AlmondsDid you know that almonds are actually nut-like seeds of a tree in the peach family from West Asia?  Amazing!  This little seed is full of healthy benefits as well.  Almonds have a higher protein content than most nuts. In fact a quarter cup of almonds will give you more protein than a single egg. They are also high in calcium, magnesium, potassium, vitamin E and many other antioxidants. While high in fat, the fat is 90% monounsaturated, and the daily consumption of almonds has consistently been found to lower cholesterol levels, blood pressure and the risk of heart disease. They've also been shown to help with diabetes, osteoporosis and many other diseases.

You can find them at your local store in all shapes and sizes.  They are available whole, blanched, flaked, chopped or ground.  They will stay fresh longer when purchased whole (I prefer raw, whole organic) and kept in a sealed container in the refrigerator. Why keep them refrigerated? They can become rancid after being exposed to the air, especially if chopped or ground.

There are so many uses for almonds from snacking to using almond milk instead of dairy milk to using almond butter in your sandwiches. Here are a few recipes to give those healthy little seeds a try.  Your body will thank you for it! 

Go to to find delicious recipes using almonds!

Monday, June 20, 2011

I Want To Ride My Bicycle; I Want To Ride My Bike

Remember the song by the band Queen? I might be showing my age! The song is about riding your bicycle. I have always liked the song and it comes to mind when I'm thinking about taking a little bike ride.

Years ago, I had a stationary bike that I would ride every night for 30 minutes. It was a perfect way to get all the benefits of bicycle riding, no matter the weather. Then we moved and I had to sell that wonderful piece of machinery. What a difference it made with my weight (or make that weight gain) and muscle tone. I haven't been the same since. So with summer on the horizon it's time to dust off the road bike again. It feels so good to be able to ride again.

Now if you're looking for a way to lose weight and get in shape then consider riding your bike. Bicycling is a great way to raise the heart rate and see the world from another level.

Whether you choose an actual bicycle or a stationary one, cycling works the entire body. And, best of all, cycling is fun. You can do it any time of the day all year round (depending on where you live of course). You’ll change your clothing for comfort but bicycles are durable and can withstand being out in both cold and hot weather.

What specifically does cycling do for your body?

Let’s get down to the nitty-gritty. When you choose an exercise to perform, you want to know if it will actually help you. There’s nothing worse than spending your time and sweat with zero results.

1. Riding a bicycle is easy to stick with. When it comes to regular exercise, you want an activity that you can get behind for the long haul. Cycling does that. You can ride your bike around the neighborhood with family or in the park alone. If you work close to where you live, ride your bike to work in good weather. Because bike riding is versatile, riding one increases the amount of exercise you do on a daily or weekly basis.

2. Cycling builds leg muscle. We all have been told that muscle burns more calories than fat. Biking up a hill or choosing a harder gear on flat ground puts most of the work of moving the bike on your quadriceps and hamstring muscles. You will also feel a burn in the calf (gastrocnemius) muscles. That burning will be hard to handle at first but as you get into cycling, your muscles will adjust.

3. Cycling works the abdominal muscles. For exercise, any piece of equipment that has the potential to lead to a flat tummy is a jewel. Riding a bike is about balance. You realized that the first time you hopped on one. Maintaining your balance requires you to hold your stomach muscles tight. Also, bikes are designed with posture and alignment in mind. The longer you ride the stronger you will get.

4. It is a family activity. Obesity has become an epidemic in youth. Kids are notorious for starting and stopping something when they get bored. Bike riding can even stop their boredom. Take a ride after dinner or on the weekends. You can bike and talk at the same time to have a lively conversation while you burn calories.

Like walking, bike riding is another exercise that can be done alone or with a group. It is easy to begin and fun to continue as a long term exercise method. You may be singing the same song before long - "I want to ride my bicycle, I want to ride my bike!"

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Boastful Blueberry - A Super Food With Bragging Rights

The Boastful Blueberry – A Super Food With Bragging Rights

Growing up, we always had fruit in our house. My mom was great about buying fresh fruit in season. To this day, and I believe it was due to my mom, I love fruit! My favorite though, has to be blueberries. My grandmother and I especially loved blueberries. We would buy fresh blueberries, clean them and put them in the freezer for a bit, then sit and eat them ALL! It was a great day when we could go out and pick our own, put them in a bowl and eat them right there fresh from the bush. As much as I love these little berries, little did I know then about the power of the blueberry.

Blueberries are one of the super foods we hear a lot about, and with good reason. These delicious, deep blue summer berries are well-known for their antioxidants, containing the highest amount of any other berries. However, blueberries have some other specific health benefits that are worth talking about. Let's take a look.

Big Benefits In A Sweet Little Berry

The list of health benefits from eating blueberries is stacking up, and there aren't many parts of your body that couldn't benefit from a little extra blueberry goodness.

If you're looking for a low-calorie, high-fiber fruit with lots to offer your health, blueberries may be just what you need. One cup of blueberries has less than 100 calories, and offers one-quarter of your daily requirement for Vitamin C.

Loaded with vitamins and minerals, blueberries can boast about nutrients that are significant in keeping your brain healthy. Specifically, scientists claim that blueberries maintain and restore a healthy nervous system, prevent the death of brain cells that lead to health concerns like Alzheimer's disease, and keep your memory sharp for a long time. That's a lot of brain power.

Better vision is another benefit associated with consumption of blueberries, due to the fact that they contain compounds called anthocyanosides and flavonoids, which can slow down visual loss, as well as help prevent macular degeneration, myopia, and cataracts. Blueberries also have some heavy molecules which can help prevent urinary tract infections by washing away harmful bacteria.

Another important antioxidant is anthocyanins, known to benefit the prevention of heart disease and good cardiovascular health. Blueberries have been found to contain even more anthocyanins than red wine, long thought to be one of the better sources of this defender against free radicals. Even hemorrhoids, varicose veins, and peptic ulcers can benefit from the antioxidants found in these super berries.

A couple interesting cautions regarding blueberries are coming to light. Apparently, the protein in milk depletes the antioxidant power of the acids contained in blueberries. One study suggests eating blueberries either one hour before or two hours after drinking milk. So, blueberries on your morning cereal may not be, nutritiously speaking, the wise thing to do. Instead, choose blueberries as a high-energy late morning snack or to top off a green salad.

Another interesting aspect of blueberries is that they contain oxalates, which can become concentrated and crystallize, creating some concern for those with a tendency for gallstones or kidney stones.  As with other life choices, do all things in moderation and pay attention to allergies and other health concerns before indulging. But, for the vast majority, blueberries offer a wealth of nutrients that will benefit our health and well-being.

How to Select and Enjoy Blueberries

With so many health benefits, the question is not whether to eat blueberries, but how to eat them. First, you need to pick good specimens. Choose blueberries that are firm and uniform in color, not dull-looking or watery.

In fact, water will cause the berries to spoil more quickly, so they should be kept in dry containers in the refrigerator. For this reason, you'll also want to dry blueberries thoroughly after you wash them.

If you can't buy fresh, buy frozen. Blueberries freeze nicely and can be purchased whole or smashed. When you want to eat them, just thaw and enjoy. If frozen blueberries are used in cooking, you can thaw them or throw them into the recipe frozen and just adjust your cooking time slightly.

You'll find blueberry recipes in every section of a cookbook. From breakfast to breads, salads to sauces, and desserts to drinks, blueberries can be enjoyed from morning to night. Even without a cookbook handy, you can eat blueberries very simply as a 'one ingredient' super-food snack.

If you're looking for an easy to eat super-food that is loaded with not only nutrition, but flavor and versatility, get to know this beautiful berry. Perfect as a snack, a dessert, or any number of dishes, blueberries definitely earn their place in your kitchen, and your healthy diet.

Now that I know all this about that little blueberry, I love them even more!

Here's a recipe you may enjoy.

Blueberry Crisp

This blueberry crisp recipe is awesome! Wonderful blueberries and a crunchy top with oats and pecans. Mouth watering!

1) 6 cups blueberries
2) 1 tbsp cornstarch
3) 1/4 cup sugar
4) Pinch salt
5) 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
6) 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
7) 1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sugar
9) 1/4 tsp cinnamon
10) 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
11) 3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
12) 4 tbsp room temperature unsalted butter, cubed
13) Whipped cream and/or ice cream for topping


Preheat oven to 375 F.

In a bowl, combine the first group of ingredients (1-4). Place in a 2 quart baking dish.

Set aside.

In another bowl mix and sift together the second group of ingredients (5-11).

Then with your hands add butter pinching it into the other ingredients together, making a crumbly consistency.

Sprinkle crumb mixture over the blueberries evenly and bake for 40 minutes.

Cool slightly and serve with whipped cream and/or ice cream for topping.


Friday, June 03, 2011

Participate In Your Own Heart Health

Participate In Your Own Heart Health

Having a healthy heart is everyone’s responsibility, but mostly our own. Your doctor can help but you have to help too. Here are some ways that you can work together to keep your body healthy.

What is it about doctors? They are health professionals who seek to keep us healthy. But, they are only as good as the information that is available to them. And, who knows more about your body and your life than you?

Many of us simply listen to the doctor and do whatever they say. This is not necessarily the way to go for your health. One doctor may recommend medication, another surgery and yet another may subscribe to the “wait and see” policy. But, any one of these may not work for you.

Test your Doctor

Once you get to a certain age, your physician should talk to you about heart health. If you are younger but have noticeable risk factors for heart disease, they need to approach the subject then. When you have concerns about your heart and your health, bring them up. Let’s see how your doctor responds. Do they:

• Ask you about your diet?
• Offer ways to reduce your risk factors?
• Perform blood work to determine various levels like cholesterol, insulin and C-reactive protein?
• Do a thorough examination?
• Ask about family history?

If your doctor is on top of things, any one of the above points can get the conversation started on heart health. But, don’t be shy, join in on the conversation. If you are afraid you might forget your questions, write them down ahead of time.

Ask your doctor about the results of your tests. What do the cholesterol numbers mean? What is my blood pressure? Are there alternatives to medication? What if I experience side effects?

You can begin online. All the information you ever wanted to know is there. You can employ your doctor to explain what you don’t understand. Use it as a guide to getting the answers you want from your doctor not to replace your doctor.

Get Additional Resources

Your doctor can help you by recommending nutritionists, internists and other professionals to help you protect your heart. Some people don’t know enough about nutrition to choose better foods. Or, they don’t know how to get started with exercise. Your doctor has resources to lead you in the right direction. After a complete physical, they can also tell you what type of exercise is right for you.

Your doctor works with you to protect your heart. If you have questions, ask. The important thing is to go and see a doctor to get the ball rolling. Participate in your own heart health.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Can Potassium Help Your Heart?

Can Potassium Help Your Heart?

One of the minerals you hear most about is sodium. Sodium is not good for you in large doses. It affects your blood pressure and, by extension, your heart. But, what about potassium? Can it help your heart?

Sodium and Potassium

This is not a biochemistry lecture but we do need to understand the relationship between sodium and potassium in the body. They work together to form a pump in cell membranes. The inside of the cell loves potassium but there is often too much sodium inside. In order for the potassium ions to get in and the sodium to be moved out, energy (ATP, adenosine triphosphate) is used to fuel the pump. This pump maintains the balance between sodium and potassium in the body.

This pump keeps muscles working properly. One of those muscles is your heart. We often eat too much sodium in the form of salt which causes water retention in the body. You need more potassium to counteract the effects of sodium.

Increase Your Potassium

One way to keep the heart muscle healthy is to increase your intake of potassium so that there is more available for the cells. At the same time, you are decreasing your sodium intake.

According to experts, the human body needs no more than one teaspoon (2,300 milligrams) of salt a day. If you look at the labels on some of those pre-packaged frozen foods, there is more than that in some of them. Let’s not even talk about fast food. Burgers have thousands of milligrams of sodium.

One way to fuel the pump that keeps the big pump (your heart) working is to find other sources of potassium. We all know about bananas. Some runners eat bananas after exercise to avoid muscle cramps by increasing potassium stores.

But, that’s not the only way to find potassium. Potassium is also found in:

• Fruits: Berries, mango, oranges, cantaloupe, dates, and et cetera
• Vegetables: Sweet potatoes, baked potatoes, beets, lima beans, edamame
• Poultry: Chicken
• Peanuts
• Fish: Salmon

Fish contain potassium but are also high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fatty acids dilate vessels to lower blood pressure, reduce inflammation in the body and slow clotting. It is an added bonus that further helps to reduce the incidence of heart disease.

Potassium in the body works with sodium to maintain the cellular potential across all cell membranes especially in muscles and nerves. Increasing your potassium levels while lowering the amount of sodium you eat can lower blood pressure and keep the heart beating smoothly.

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