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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Avoid cutting off your arm with a snowblower--eat these foods


Winter is not necessarily conducive to good health; the season conjures up images of calorie-loaded comfort foods, fireside naps, and runny noses. Read on for six everyday foods that will keep you healthy and strong from December to March and beyond.

#1: Oatmeal:

What it does: Helps you avoid the winter blues

Why it works: Sunlight signals your body to produce the feel-good hormone serotonin, so winter’s short, dark days may leave you in a less-than-cheery mood. If the doldrums persist, you may even find yourself suffering a serious form of depression known as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). But don’t let Jack Frost get you down: Whole grain carbs like oatmeal can give your winter mood a much-needed boost. In a MIT study, researchers found that eating plenty of carbohydrates keeps serotonin levels up and can even prevent cravings for sweets. Refined carbs like doughnuts and white bread can be tempting winter comforts, but these foods will cause your blood sugar to quickly spike then plummet, leaving you in worse spirits than you were before. To stay happy and healthy, opt for whole grains instead.

Other mood-improving foods: Whole wheat bread, brown rice, whole grain cereals, fruit

#2: Walnuts:

What it does: Keeps your skin from drying out

Why it works: The winter months bring drier air (blame frigid winds and indoor heating), which can suck the moisture out of your skin, leaving it dull, tight, and itchy. Applying moisturizer can help, but the omega-3 fatty acids found in foods like walnuts will combat your dry-skin problem from the inside. Omega-3s help maintain healthy cell membranes, including those found in your skin. When your skin cells are strong they are better able to retain moisture, helping your skin avoid a reptilian fate.

Other skin-saving foods: Salmon, flaxseed, olive oil, tuna

#3: Garlic:

What it does: Wards off cold and flu viruses (and vampires)

Why it works: British researchers recently discovered that garlic may prevent you from getting sick. In the 12-week study of 164 healthy adults, the group of participants that received a garlic supplement reported only 24 colds, while the group that received a placebo reported 64 colds. One explanation is a chemical in garlic called allicin, which may stimulate the production of infection-fighting white blood cells. Whatever the reason, adding garlic to your meals may help you stay above the weather. Just don’t eat too much—you want to keep disease at bay, not your friends and family.

Other virus-blasting foods: Carrots, yogurt, oysters.

#4: Winter squash:

What it does: Prevents weight gain

Why it works: A 2006 Bastyr University study found that participants who routinely ate more fiber than the national average of about 14 grams per day were less likely to be overweight than those who consumed less than 14 grams. Fiber-rich foods, like squash, contain relatively low calories, and they’re digested more slowly, keeping you full long after you eat them—an important defense against the season of overindulgence otherwise known as winter. With about 9 grams of fiber per one-cup serving, eating winter squash (like acorn and butternut varieties) is a great way to load up on fiber and prevent post-holiday eaters remorse. Winter squash is also loaded with carotenes, which have been shown to reduce the risk of a variety of diseases from cancer to heart disease. Most winter squash is available year-round, but its peak season is early fall through late winter.

Other weight-loss foods: Artichokes, raspberries, whole grains, legumes

#5: Chicken Sandwich:

What it does: Keeps your energy up

Why it works: Darkness signals your body to produce melatonin, the hormone responsible for making you sleepy, so the shorter days that come along with winter can cause you to feel like hitting the sack instead of the gym. But eating complex carbohydrates—most abundant in whole grains, starchy vegetables, and legumes—along with some protein can help you stay awake and energized. This combination, found in foods like a chicken sandwich on wheat bread, boosts energy in two ways: Your body digests the complex carbs slowly, keeping your blood sugar stable, and the protein helps you stay fuller, longer.

Other energy-boosting foods: Peanut butter sandwich on whole grain bread, Greek yogurt with fruit, whole grain crackers with low-fat cheese.

#6: Chicken Soup:

What it does: Helps you breathe easy

Why it works: Chicken soup has long been touted at the best home remedy for cold and flu season, and it really can help. Hot liquids temporarily clear your sinuses, and a University of Nebraska study found that chicken soup may even reduce inflammation in your nose and throat. Plus, most chicken soups are low in calories and saturated fat, and high in fiber. For the healthiest version, try making the soup yourself with plenty of veggies and whole wheat noodles. If homemade isn’t an option, try Campbell’s Healthy request Condensed Chicken Noodle soup, which has only 60 calories per cup.

Other sinus-clearing foods: Tea, coffee, any broth-based soup.

I found this on Women's Health Magazine online.

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