The Sweet Life: Watermelon

Few things, if any, can beat a slice of cold watermelon on a hot, summer day. It’s one of those things that can bring the kid out in you, no matter how old you are. But did you know that watermelon is actually good for you? Let’s talk about that …

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Everyone needs to stay hydrated. That’s a well-known fact. Well, watermelon is 90% water. Aside from satisfying your sweet tooth, it will actually aid in keeping you hydrated. A single cup of watermelon can even provide about 15% of a your daily needs of vitamin C too. It’s also a great source of fiber for digestion. And watermelon contains a variety of antioxidants. Your body can, by natural process, eliminate some molecules known as free radicals. But antioxidants help the body to do this. That’s important, because free radicals can lead to cell damage and various diseases. A study, conducted back in 2012, found that Watermelon reduced blood-pressure. In 2017, another study suggested that watermelon helped the body fight inflammation. Are you paying attention? That means watermelon has the ability to help patients manage numerous Chronic illnesses, i.e. Hypertension, Heart disease, Cancer, Dementia, Obesity, etc. And there’s so many ways to enjoy it!

Sure, you can eat it by the slice … let the juice roll down your chin … and revisit childhood. We’ve all done it and enjoy it, every time. But there are also terrific salads, entrees and desserts to explore. So, kick your shoes off … wiggle those bare toes … and get creative!

In fact, depending upon where you live, it’s still possible to plant some watermelons in your backyard or garden. The plants need 2-3 months above 70 degrees, well-drained soil and a spacing of 3-5 feet apart. That’s not a lot. A raised bed will do. Nobody is suggesting that you till the land. If you’ve got the space, go for it. Have some fun. Grow a few melons, this summer. Given the restrictions that we’ve had on so many things, this year, I’m all in for fun; aren’t you? So, come on … it’s time to explore the sweet life!

 

Reference Links: 

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886#nutrition

4 Ingredient Watermelon Sorbet

https://www.countryliving.com/food-drinks/a6408/watermelon-recipes/

https://www.foodnetwork.com/topics/watermelon

https://www.rd.com/food/recipes-cooking/10-savory-recipes-using-watermelon/

Growing Watermelons

*Photo by Kyle Nieber on Unsplash

 

Spring Into Berries …

Yesterday, I ventured over to Cooley Farms in Chesnee, SC, also known as “Strawberry Hill” to the Upstate locals. Surrounded by an endless acreage of peach trees (their main crop), the shed was bustling — even on a Thursday. There’s nothing like sweet, spring berries to bring folks out of hibernation. And nothing better for you!

 

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Yes, these farms and roadside stands conjure up fond memories from our childhood. Yes, they also make us want to bake, freeze and can. That’s not a bad thing. Our grandmothers did it. Many of our mothers did, too. If suddenly, the idea of homemade jelly on a bagel or warm biscuit sounds divine … embrace it! But if you aren’t feeling that adventurous, that’s okay too. Berries are perfect for eating, on their own. No cooking required. And they are bursting with goodness!

Fresh strawberries are high in water content and low in carbs. They’re also filled with antioxidants. This means that these bright red delights are a safe choice even for diabetics. Strawberries also boast fiber for digestion, vitamins and minerals. And the taste? OMG! Bite into one and let that sweetness roll down your chin!

Blueberries are equally appealing. A serving, or 1 cup, has just 80 calories! These little, blue darlings are an excellent source of vitamin C and manganese. This promotes tissue growth and wound healing. And they are so incredibly versatile. From breakfast to your evening dessert, there’s endless ways to incorporate them into your diet and meal-planning!

Raspberries offer us an abundance of antioxidants that aid in brain-power, heart health, diabetes prevention, digestion, even some forms of cancer prevention. They provide vitamin C, iron, folic acid and potassium. And their sweet-tart flavor appeals to the taste-buds!

Last, but never least, are the Blackberries! I could write a book on the cobblers that my grandmother made with them — so yummy! The homemade jam, too! But blackberries are so much more than sweet indulgences. These dark, luscious berries are downright impressive, health-wise. They offer vitamin C, vitamin K, fiber and manganese. One study even found that blackberry extract has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities! 

If your Chronic illness has encouraged you to try the Paleo Diet, AIP (Autoimmune Paleo) Diet, or the DASH Diet, you’ll find that fresh berries are already there. If you are just trying to eat healthier, minus a conformed diet plan, why wait? There are endless ways to enjoy these gems and recipes to explore. It’s time to spring into berries and reap the healthy rewards!

 

Reference:

https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/foods/strawberries

https://www.blueberrycouncil.org/blueberry-nutrition/health-benefits-blueberries/

https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070908001613.htm

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/283018

https://www.healthline.com/health/benefits-of-blackberries#health-benefits

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/dash-diet/art-20048456

The Autoimmune Paleo Diet

https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/paleo-diet/art-20111182

*Photo by Farsai Chaikulngamdee on Unsplash

 

 

Wants & Needs: There Is A Difference

Nowadays, a lot of people seem to be confused by the meaning of “essentials”. They are assuming that “wants” and “needs” are the same thing. But, in reality, these things are very different. Our needs are necessary, i.e. shelter, food, water, air. Our wants are often materialistic desires, i.e. a designer handbag, a new set of golf clubs, new furniture, etc. As nice as these things are, they aren’t necessary for our survival. When we confuse our needs and wants, we can actually do more harm than good. Let’s talk about that …

 

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If you have been diagnosed with a Chronic illness, you learn the difference between wants and needs pretty quickly. It’s how you effectively manage your illness. You may want that 16-ounce T-bone with a loaded baked potato, for dinner. But, as a diabetic, it’s not the best choice for you. Yes, you need to eat. But you don’t need to send your blood-sugar into outer space. See the difference? It’s important to think and choose, carefully.

If you are an asthma patient, you may want to indulge in a day of hiking. You want to enjoy the mountain scenery, the beauty of nature, etc. But, with asthma, you need to avoid outdoor exercise when pollen counts are high. Yes, you need exercise. So, pick an option that is safer to enjoy. Maybe, a treadmill? 

Now, don’t get me wrong. Some days, I want Reese’s peanut butter cups or Lindt truffles. And, depending upon my mood, it can really feel like a need. Medicinal chocolate? Sort of? The argument can be made that plain dark chocolate, in moderation, is healthy. Unfortunately, no such data exists for pb cups or truffles. Damn. When you have a Chronic illness, you need your medication. You don’t need Broadway tickets. You may want them, but you don’t need them. You need healthcare coverage. That luxury cruise … it’s a want too. And we must place our needs before our wants.

Now, we have COVID-19 to think about. It has forced additional lifestyle changes on all of us. Avoid the urge to emotionally comfort yourself with online splurges, or unnecessary shopping trips. The expenses do add up and the risks are too great. Some can cause financial burden. Others can be life-threatening. Avoid the excess use of alcohol. It can lead to additional problems. If you are already living with alcoholism, the COVID-19 crisis can put your sobriety at risk. You don’t need that — turn to your Support Group instead. 

To those who are bored or lonely, pick up the phone and call a friend or family member. Talk. Laugh. Send texts. Bond. Pull those nearly forgotten board-games out of the closet, dust them off and play. Watch your favorite DVD. Read a good book. Start a hobby, or return to an old one. Instead of stressing over the changes, or creating additional hardships, keep it simple. Focus on your needs. Because if you have these essentials, you have the key to happiness!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://study.com/academy/lesson/wants-vs-needs-in-psychology.html

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/therapy-in-mind/201208/key-happiness-focus-what-you-need-not-what-you-want

https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelkay/2017/03/21/finding-the-balance-between-needs-vs-wants/#5439926b4b11

https://psychcentral.com/blog/needs-vs-wants-american-style/

https://www.simplypsychology.org/maslow.html

https://www.alcohol.org/resources/coronavirus-and-alcoholism/

*Photo by James Besser on Unsplash

 

Chronically Ill In An Outbreak

Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, is here. If it hasn’t reached your state, province, territory, or nation, odds are that it will arrive soon. If you or a loved one has a Chronic illness, i.e. Cancer, Diabetes, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Asthma, COPD, Heart disease, Lupus, etc., you probably already know that you have a weakened immune system. You’ve probably been told to get a flu shot, take a good vitamin, etc. There’s a reason for that. Because you are chronically ill, you are at a greater risk for colds, flu, viruses, etc., than the general population. That means you are more vulnerable, in this current outbreak. I won’t insult your intelligence by telling you to ignore the news, cross your fingers, or hope for the best. I will encourage you to be proactive. So, let’s focus on that …

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According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Coronavirus is spread from person to person. It is also believed that people are most contagious, when they are sickest (showing the most symptoms). It may also be possible to contract the virus from infected surfaces or objects.  When you go out, maintain social distances (3 feet or 1 meter) between yourself and anyone who is sneezing or coughing. Wash your hands (for at least 20 seconds). If soap and water aren’t available, use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer with at least 60% alcohol. Our hands touch many things. So, please, keep yours clean. If possible, use tissues to sneeze or cough into. Then, promptly dispose of the tissue. Wear a mask. Good respiratory hygiene is not only helpful to you, but to others who are around you. Stay home if you don’t feel well. That’s a no-brainer. If you think or know that you have been exposed to COVID-19, don’t wait for symptoms to appear … contact your doctor immediately. And if you have a fever, persistent cough, or difficulty breathing … contact your doctor immediately!

Many have rushed to buy face-masks. Initially, the CDC did not recommend that people who are well wear a face-mask to protect themselves from respiratory diseases. But masks should be worn by all individuals. Healthcare providers and caregivers who are in close-contact with Coronavirus patients should also wear them. We now know that, routine face mask use (in every scenario) by 50% or more of the population reduced COVID-19 spread. In other words, it allows us to flatten future disease waves and that means less stringent lock-downs.

As easy as this sounds, buy some Disinfecting Wipes for use at home and at work. Use them. It only takes a few minutes to wipe down surfaces, doorknobs, etc. Buy some facial tissues for home and work. Use them. Make healthy dietary choices and thoroughly cook meat and eggs. Rest. Wash your hands. Wear a mask. Practice social distancing. Exercise some commonsense and good judgement. Last but note least, manage your Chronic disease.

There are no guarantees with the Coronavirus. We cannot ignore it. Nor can we allow ourselves to be consumed by the fear of something that may never happen. But we can take precautionary steps to help prevent it. And that’s more than a wish — that’s action!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.who.int/health-topics/coronavirus

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/symptoms.html

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/transmission.html

https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019/advice-for-public

https://www.eurekalert.org/pub_releases/2020-01/tl-pss_1012920.php

https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/about/prevention-treatment.html

https://www.bbc.com/news/health-51674743

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-health-coronavirus-masks-study/widespread-mask-wearing-could-prevent-covid-19-second-waves-study-shows-idUSKBN23G37V?utm_source=share&utm_medium

*Photo by Free To Use Sounds on Unsplash

February Is For The Heart

Yes, Valentine’s is approaching … paper hearts, roses, cards, candy, nice dinners, flashy bling and all. But it’s also American Heart Month. So, this month, we are going to focus on heart health. Why? Because, fun and games aside, Cupid can’t do anything for your physical well-being. Awareness, on the other hand, can literally save lives!

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Heart disease can happen to anyone — even children. According to data from the CDC, approximately 1% (40,000) of babies born each year have a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD). And 25% of these are critical. Others surface, during childhood or teen years. Some of the most common heart conditions in children are listed as either “congenital” (present from birth) or “acquired” (developed after birth). Some of these conditions are hereditary. And they require special healthcare needs.

If your child was born healthy, you want that good health to continue into adulthood. The best way to achieve that is by teaching healthy habits, now. Here are some great tips for starting:

  • Introduce your child to healthy eating, i.e. set mealtimes, limit snacking, keep junk food out of the house, eat family dinners, and shop/cook with your kids.
  • Encourage fun physical activity.
  • Teach the dangers of smoking & vaping, early.
  • Teach them how to manage their stress.
  • Schedule regular medical exams for your child with his/her pediatrician.

Last but not least, remember that lifestyle risk factors can have a negative impact on the health of your child/teen and you, i.e. obesity, physical inactivity, unhealthy diet, smoking, vaping, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol. There is a direct relationship between these risks and developing heart disease. Medical research has the statistics to prove it. And there is no better role-model than you. So, teach them well!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/data.html

http://www.secondscount.org/pediatric-center/conditions-children#.XjHvMo7YrnE

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/features/children-heart-conditions-special-care.html

https://www.stanfordchildrens.org/en/topic/default?id=prevention-of-heart-disease-starts-in-childhood-1-2073

https://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/140/5/e20172607

https://www.ottawaheart.ca/heart-condition/inherited-cardiac-conditions-genetic-disorders

https://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2019/03/07/10/03/ecigarettes-linked-to-heart-attacks-coronary-artery-disease-and-depression

https://blog.connectionsacademy.com/teach_kids_heart_healthy_habits/

*Photo by Anna Kolosyuk on Unsplash

 

 

On A Cold, Winter’s Night …

If you look on the calendar, winter is almost here. But for many, one glance at the thermometer says winter has already arrived. They can literally feel it. Cold weather equates to aches, pains and other issues. Exactly how or why this happens is still somewhat of a mystery. But scientists know enough to have key pieces of the puzzle in place. The main theory is that Barometric pressure ( the pressure of the air) can and does affect the joints. Arthritis patients know this all too well. But seasonal weather can affect more than muscles and joints. Many Chronic illnesses are vulnerable. Your blood pressure is higher in the winter. Why? Cold temperatures narrow your blood vessels. Migraines can also be triggered by extreme temperatures (hot or cold). And the list goes on …

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Back in 2007, a Tufts University study found that a 10-degree drop in temperature corresponded with increased Arthritis pain. Imagine, for a moment, what a 20-30 degree drop feels like. Ouch! 

If you or a loved one suffer from weather changes, there are some things that you can do to manage your condition. Thankfully, these tips aren’t difficult:

  • Talk to your doctor about seasonal changes in your disease.
  • Avoid becoming a couch-potato. Exercise actually boosts your body’s production of synovial fluid. That keeps your joints lubricated & feeling good.
  • Stay warm. Remember your coat, gloves, hat, etc., whenever you go outside. And consider treating yourself indoors, too.  Flannel sheets & a heating-pad are always comfy!
  • Eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
  • Make sure to get enough Vitamin D, daily.
  • Consider dropping some weight. Just one pound lost eliminates 4 pounds of pressure from your knees!
  • Treat yourself to a massage. It alleviates pain and stress. 

Last, but not least, don’t let the cold of a winter day or night get you down. Address your symptoms and maintain your optimism. The weather can be frightful (yes, a certain holiday song is rolling around in my head), but there are tried and true ways to get through the season with minimal hardship. I believe it starts now, before the pain is overwhelming and your mobility is hampered. So, please, don’t ignore what your body is saying to you. Don’t assume that it won’t happen “this year”. Take a proactive approach to your health and well-being. You’ll be glad that you did!

 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/pain-management/weather-and-joint-pain#1

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/326884.php#3

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/tools-resources/weather/

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/health-matters/201410/does-rain-cause-pain-and-what-do-about-it

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/blood-pressure/faq-20058250

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/migraine-headache/expert-answers/migraine-headache/faq-20058505

https://connect.mayoclinic.org/discussion/pain-and-changes-in-weather-am-i-alone/

https://www.arthritis.org/living-with-arthritis/treatments/natural/other-therapies/massage/massage-benefits.php

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/foods-that-fight-inflammation

https://www.fishertitus.org/health/winter-joint-pain-relief-tips

*Photo by Nicholas Selman on Unsplash