Cranberry Goodness

Let’s be honest; shall we? At this time of year, we all enjoy certain foods. Whether it’s comfort or not, we look forward to eating them. Often times, they highlight a family recipe. They might even remind us of a loved one, or a cherished memory. These foods have become part of our holiday celebrations. Some of us may even be incapable of imagining the holidays without them. And I completely understand. Cranberries, in some form, are definitely part of that culinary echelon. But did you know these little, crimson beauties are actually good for you?

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Cranberries are native to North America. Farms in Canada and the U.S. have thousands of acres devoted to this major crop. And we are abundantly grateful to every grower, for it. Cranberries, aside from being downright tasty, provide us with many nutrients and antioxidants. In fact, only blueberries offer a higher antioxidant capacity per serving. They’re also packed with proanthocynidans or PACs that help us to fight — possibly prevent — many diseases. They’re low in calories. And they also provide fiber to our diet. Need I say more?

All of this goodness guards against Urinary Tract Infections or UTIs. It helps those who live with Cardiovascular Disease and Alzheimer’s. Cranberries help with inflammation. That equates to better mobility and possibly less pain, for Arthritis sufferers. They boost our immune system. Hello? Who doesn’t need that! Cranberries can reduce your blood-pressure, lower cholesterol levels, provide better dental health and aid gastrointestinal diseases. If that isn’t enough encouragement, consider this … the goodness of cranberries can slow tumor progression and positively impact many forms of Cancer, i.e. prostate, liver, breast, ovarian and colon.

Cranberries are even good for man’s best friend! Imagine that! For basically the same reasons that humans benefit from eating these berries, our dogs can too! Offer Fido raw, cooked, or dried cranberries in moderation. Juice and sauce are too high in sugar, for our pets. And before you add large amounts of cranberries to your pet’s diet, please talk to your veterinarian. Too much can cause stomach upset. As a pet-owner, it’s important to know where that line is. We want healthy, happy fur-babies. 

Aside from all these perks, cranberries are so easy to add to your diet. Many people enjoy eating them raw, or dried, as a snack. When you’re cooking or baking, consider using cranberries instead of raisins. You’ll be pleasantly surprised! Sprinkle some on your tossed salad, too. Eating healthy doesn’t have to equate to eating bland. If you’re planning a holiday party, you might want to try the Cranberry-Avocado Salsa recipe found in the reference links below. It’s quite simply WOW! And you can prepare it, a day in advance. So, it’s a great time-saver too. If you’re looking for a festive, light dessert … try this Cranberry-Apple Crisp (https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cranberries-year-round-superfood). It’s an easy and awesome way to end a holiday dinner. You could even add a scoop of vanilla ice cream a la mode! Enjoy!

 

Medical note: If you take a blood-thinner, you should consult your doctor before consuming large amounts of cranberries (due to the Vitamin K content). 

 

References:

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/269142.php

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/cranberries-year-round-superfood

https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20160614005444/en/Landmark-Study-Suggests-Cranberries-Decrease-Antibiotics

https://www.cranberries.org/health-benefits

https://www.cranberries.org/recipe/cranberry-avocado-salsa

https://www.petmd.com/dog/nutrition/healthy-foods-checklist-cranberry-dogs

* Photo by Henk van der Steege on Unsplash

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Navigating The Holidays

As the holidays approach, many of us start planning menus for our holiday dinner or special gathering. Then, there are the additional invites that inevitably come our way, i.e. office parties, dinners, family get-togethers, pot-lucks, etc. Many of us see weight-gain, in our near future. It’s the holidays, we tell ourselves. It happens. But if you have a Chronic illness that requires healthy eating, like Diabetes, you can’t take a cavalier approach. You can’t afford to.

The holidays can be a daunting journey, for diabetics. Temptation is everywhere. Life becomes more hectic, in a myriad of ways — affecting their blood-sugar levels. And before they know it, they’re losing control of their disease. The key to navigating the holidays is balance. And the best way to maintain balance, while celebrating the season, is by planning ahead!

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If you or a loved one is diabetic, consider these simple steps:

  • Avoid making the holidays solely about food and drink. It’s part of the festivities, but it isn’t the heart of them.
  • Focus on the reason for the season. Here lies the real importance of what you are celebrating. Enjoy the company of those around you, decorating, caroling, etc. That’s how memories are made.
  • Don’t overwhelm yourself by scheduling more activities than you can possibly handle. This will help you to maintain your stress levels.
  • Remember to get your rest.
  • Make exercise part of your holiday routine. A quiet walk, a yoga class, a trip to the gym, etc., will help you to keep feeling your best.
  • Think before you eat or drink. Then, make wise choices.

When you are planning a meal, consider implementing healthier recipes. It will help you to stay in control. Sugar is everywhere; isn’t it? Candy. Cookies. Cakes. Pies. But Diabetes management is more than watching your sugar intake. So, watch your carbohydrates. Keep them consistent. Remember that snacking adds up, whether it’s while you are preparing a meal or attending a party. Second helpings just aren’t worth getting off-track. Every diabetic has their limit. You most likely know yours — respect it. If you’re taking a covered-dish to a gathering, think healthy. You won’t be the only one who can benefit from, or enjoy, the option. Remember to check your blood-sugar, often. During the holidays. With so much going on, it’s a smart move. Take your medication, as directed. And if you’re going to drink alcohol, remember that it contains sugar and calories too. It’s best for diabetics to limit their consumption, i.e. one moderately-sized drink per day for women, two for men.

When you plan ahead, make wise choices, etc., you aren’t denying yourself or taking unnecessary health risks. You’re “celebrating smart”! That’s the best way to navigate through the holidays. Think of it this way … a cruise without proper navigation wouldn’t be a pleasurable cruise. And the last thing anyone wants, at the holidays, is misery. So, “celebrate smart”. There’s joy in it — better health, too. And that’s something we can all appreciate!

 

References: 

https://www.diabetesselfmanagement.com/managing-diabetes/general-health-issues/maintaining-your-health-during-the-holidays/

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/features/sweet-holiday-tips-diabetics#1

https://www.cdc.gov/features/diabetesmanagement/index.html

*Photo by Brooke Lark on Unsplash

Red, Red Wine …

Way back in 1968, when Neil Diamond penned the lyrics of Red, Red Wine, I’m pretty sure that he wasn’t thinking of anything beneficial to good health. And I doubt that Bob Marley or UB40 had it in mind, when they recorded their versions of the song. Yet studies have actually revealed that red wine, in moderation, can be good for us!

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Before we go further, let’s establish what the term “moderation” means. One serving or glass, in moderation, is approximately five ounces of wine (125 calories). For women, that equates to one glass per day. For men, under age 65, two glasses. For those over age 65, limit yourself to one glass. After all, most of us are abundantly aware that too much alcohol can be damaging to our health. And underage drinking, aside from being illegal, can lead to long-term issues. No consumption of alcohol is advised, if you are pregnant. We don’t need, or want, additional problems. Now, let’s move on to the benefits …

For centuries, red wine was used to treat a variety of ailments. In recent years, numerous studies have concluded that red wine — consumed in moderation — may help us to live longer, increase our HDL or good cholesterol, lower our risk of heart-related conditions, prevent vision loss, boost lung functioning and fight gum disease. These studies have also concluded that red wine, consumed in moderation, can protect us from some forms of cancer, improve our mental health and even treat some skin conditions, i.e. acne. If that sounds too good to be true, there’s more. A study conducted by the American Journal of Epidemiology, back in 2010, found that its participants who drank 14 glasses of red wine per week were 40% less likely to catch a common cold. Why? Red wine contains antioxidants that help fight infection. One antioxidant, resveratrol, can even help us to lose weight!

So, whether you are enjoying a special dinner at home or attending a holiday party, you might consider sipping a glass of red wine. There is a Latin phrase “in vino veritasthat reminds us “there is truth in wine”. But now, we know there is so much more.

 

References:

https://www.cnbc.com/2018/02/02/rochester-medical-center-low-levels-of-alcohol-may-be-good-for-brain.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3023893/

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/heart-disease/in-depth/red-wine/art-20048281

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/265635.php

https://www.prevention.com/life/g20470490/health-benefits-of-red-wine/

https://www.thesun.co.uk/fabulous/5847766/health-benefits-red-wine-iron-drink-before-bed/

*Photo by Roberta Sorge on Unsplash

 

Experiencing The Advantages Of Tai Chi …

Here we are, deep into the Fall season, with the holidays and winter quickly approaching. For many who live with a Chronic illness, the thought of colder weather is a cruel reminder of the pain … stiffness … even lack of mobility … that winter brings. If you are one of these individuals, it may feel as though your body has placed you on house-arrest. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Low-impact exercise can help you to feel better and significantly reduce the symptoms that are making you miserable. And none are better at doing this than Tai Chi!

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Unlike other low-impact options, Tai Chi requires slower motion. And this slow motion can loosen your body in ways that others cannot. With Tai Chi, you must concentrate on what you are doing. Think of it as a meeting of the body and the mind. You are focused, yet relaxed. Your breathing is easier — calming your senses. Even the movements of the Tai Chi exercises … from the shifting of your weight … to the flowing motions of your arms … articulate every joint. You can actually feel better, after just 8-10 minutes of Tai Chi. As you strengthen your core, you may want to do longer sessions. And you can do Tai Chi in so many places, i.e. inside your home, in your yard, at a park, on vacation, etc. The winter weather cannot keep you from enjoying the benefits, even on the snowiest of days.

Aside from flexibility and convenience, Tai Chi is an excellent way to improve your balance. That is something anyone, at any age, can use. Tai Chi is also helpful for circulation. As with any exercise program, discuss Tai Chi with your doctor before starting. But given its reputation, he or she will probably encourage you to take the initiative. And, just in case you are wondering about expense, Tai Chi is as affordable as purchasing a DVD. It doesn’t require expensive equipment, or a gym membership. If you would prefer a class, there may be locations in your area that offer them. You can also obtain information from The Arthritis Foundation (call 1-800-283-7800, or visit http://www.arthritis.org). You can even find Tai Chi on YouTube. Perhaps, the best thing about it is that you don’t have to be good at Tai Chi to reap the rewards. You just have to be willing to try!

 

 

References:

https://www.energyarts.com/tai-chi-worlds-best-low-impact-exercise/

https://www.health.harvard.edu/staying-healthy/the-health-benefits-of-tai-chi

https://www.webmd.com/fitness-exercise/a-z/tai-chi-and-chi-gong

*Photo by Mark Hang Fung So on Unsplash

Epilepsy Awareness Month

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. So, for a moment, let’s shed some light on this chronic illness. Anyone can develop Epilepsy. No one is immune. But what exactly is it? Epilepsy is a neurological condition that effects the nervous system. It is also known as a seizure disorder. The diagnosis usually comes after an individual has had two or more seizures. These seizures are caused by electrical disturbances within the brain. Sometimes, they are the result of a brain injury. Other times, they can be caused by other medical conditions, i.e. stroke, brain tumors, meningitis, AIDs, etc. But for many patients, the cause of Epilepsy is unknown. 

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Last year, the Center For Disease Control (CDC) reported that the number of Americans living with Epilepsy had reached an all-time high — approximately 3.4M! Globally, over 60M live with the illness. 

There are many types of seizures, so symptoms and treatment can vary widely. But every patient with Epilepsy can benefit from awareness. There are, unfortunately, many stigmas that have been [and still are] attached to this illness. This misinformation can lead to harassment, bullying, even discrimination. Let’s change that!

An Epilepsy patient’s intelligence should never be underestimated, because of their condition. In fact, many world leaders … high achievers … influential advocates … inspiring athletes … and successful artists … have lived with seizures, i.e. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Socrates, Michelangelo, Presidents James Madison and Theodore Roosevelt, Harriet Tubman, George Gershwin, Charles Dickens, Margaux Hemingway, Florence Griffith Joyner, Danny Glover, Chief Justice John Roberts, etc.

As with any chronic illness, i.e. Diabetes, Hypertension, etc., patients must respect their condition. They should take their medication as directed and maintain regular visits with their doctor. Epilepsy is a diagnosis. It is treatable. But it does not define who the individual is, or their abilities. Most people with Epilepsy lead normal lives. They go to school, college, build careers, raise families, etc. They have hobbies and enjoy sports.

November is Epilepsy Awareness Month. The more you know, the better that you can understand. You can spread the word. And, most importantly, you can change your view as well as the views of others!

 

References:

https://www.epilepsy.com/learn/about-epilepsy-basics

https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p0810-epilepsy-prevalence.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093

https://www.ranker.com/list/famous-people-with-epilepsy/celebrity-lists

http://www.edmontonepilepsy.org/epilepsy/living/famous.html

https://epilepsynewstoday.com/2016/09/09/boy-with-epilepsy-scores-a-grade-advanced-mathematics

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14728909

http://www.mychildwithoutlimits.org/understand/epilepsy/how-does-epilepsy-affect-daily-life/

Be Not Afraid …

Fear. It is our most primal instinct — key to our survival. Nothing motivates us like fear. And nothing makes us more uncomfortable. When you have a Chronic illness, you know fear. Some know it all too well. You live with it, daily. In fact, patients with a Chronic illness are three times more likely to develop symptoms of anxiety. Depending upon their diagnosis, as many as 40% can experience mental and emotional distress. It’s a burden, to say the least. 

Living with a Chronic illness is a lot like living on a roller-coaster. There are highs and lows, curves that toss you around and cork-screw days that leave you nauseous. Coping with the upheaval isn’t easy. Sometimes, you grasp for stability and comfort. Symptoms bring an array of problems. Pain alone can be overwhelming. Then there are the other things … medical bills, insurance issues, side-effects to medication, surgery, complications, various types of therapy, your job, family, etc. All bring you more stress … more worry. And, yes, fear. 

What works for one patient may not help another at all. There are no guarantees, with treatment or life. And the unknowing can be hell. The sheer feeling that you have lost control is both irritating and embarrassing. Feelings of uselessness can haunt you. The lack of mobility is scary. Thoughts of disability may keep you awake at night. Some patients don’t want to burden their families. They fear the thought of it. Yet, they need help. Others are facing end-of-life issues and making very difficult decisions. It’s a sobering moment. A daunting task. And many patients fear death itself.

 

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“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”     — Deuteronomy 31:8

 

If you or a loved one is living with a Chronic illness, be not afraid. You are not alone. Though your days may be a struggle and your nights long, scripture teaches us not to worry … to trust in God. He is always with us. I say this, not as a theologian. I offer it, from experience, as a believer. My faith has sustained me, for decades. Without it, I couldn’t live with multiple Chronic illnesses. I couldn’t cope with the throes of it. But through the grace of God, I do so daily. And when fear envelopes me, I turn to Him. I trust in Him. He remains my light through this constant storm … guiding me … giving me the strength to go on … and always reminding me that there is hope for tomorrow. 

If you are struggling to manage your Chronic illness, take a moment to talk to God. Prayer between you and Him doesn’t have to be a formal prayer. It can be done casually, on the fly. Will it ease your fear? Soothe your pain? Medical research on the power of healing prayer has nearly doubled, in the last decade. If the results weren’t positive, they wouldn’t be interested. The Lord knows your suffering and your problems. He knows your heart — your needs (1 Samuel 16:7). He’s waiting. He’s listening. And His peace does bring comfort to the body as well as the soul.

 

 

References:

https://www.psycom.net/chronic-pain-illness-anxiety

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-main-ingredient/200909/the-most-powerful-motivator

https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1016/j.ejheart.2008.04.011

https://www.webmd.com/balance/features/can-prayer-heal#1

*Photo by Daniel Gregoire on Unsplash

The Great Pumpkin …

When autumn brings cooler days and colder nights, we pull out our sweaters and hoodies. We huddle under blankets, at ballgames. We rake leaves. Then, we rake even more. We decorate our homes, inside and out, with festive decorations. Some of us tediously carve jack-o-lanterns into works of art. Summer has slipped away from us, like a ship leaving port in the night. Yet, we don’t seem to mind. The joys of Fall abound. From apple cider to corn-mazes, we immerse ourselves in the new season. We enjoy the harvest from our own gardens — canning, freezing, cooking, baking. And by October, our minds always focus on pumpkins. The two are synonymous with each other. So much so, that we cannot seem to experience Fall without buying one. But we seldom talk about the actual benefits involved. That, my friends, is about to change.

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Pumpkins are a super-food. In other words, a pumpkin is a nutrient-enriched food that is considered beneficial to our health and well-being. Canned, cooked, or raw, pumpkin is a must-do, for this time of year. And the seeds are actually part of the treasure. Just one ounce of pumpkin seeds provides us with so many essential minerals and nutrients. They’re also incredibly easy to roast and they taste great!

Pumpkins provide us with fiber, for digestion. They’re low-calorie. Pumpkins are also loaded with beta-carotene (that’s where that bright orange color comes from). Our bodies convert beta-carotene into vitamin A. And that’s good for eye health. Two antioxidants (lutein and zeaxanthin), found in pumpkins, also guard against cataracts. They may even help to slow macular degeneration. But the benefits do not stop there. Pumpkins are loaded with vitamin C. That’s great news, for our immune systems. The potassium, found in them, can lower our blood pressure. And the other minerals, i.e. manganese, magnesium, zinc, iron, copper as well as calcium, can do even more. Many patients with Chronic illnesses can reap the rewards of this amazing fruit. Yes, according to botanists, pumpkins are a fruit! 

It’s Fall. Nature is exploding with color and bounty. So, let’s think beyond the lattes and scented candles. Let’s do something that’s really good for us and festive, too. Let’s take a moment to incorporate pumpkin into our meals and snacks. Let’s savor every new-found recipe. Or better still, let’s share them with others. Eating healthy has never been so easy, so inexpensive, or so good. Enjoy!

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/features/6-surprising-health-benefits-of-pumpkin#1

https://www.health.com/family/fall-superfood-spotlight-pumpkin

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/279610.php

https://nutritionstripped.com/food-index/pumpkin-seeds/

https://www.fruitsandveggiesmorematters.org/pumpkins-fruit-vegetable-difference-two

*Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash