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

Give Thanks To The Lord …

Thanksgiving. Sometimes, the original meaning of the day gets lost in the activities that we plan. It doesn’t make us bad, or disrespectful. It just makes us human. Between the parades, the family and friends, the food and football games, we can too easily forget the most important thing — thankfulness. And that’s sad.

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Even in the difficult years, we have reasons to be thankful. Someone, rest assured, has had a year worse than ours. We may not know these individuals personally, but they do exist. When we do know them, it often adds perspective to our own lives. We find ourselves appreciating what we have, instead of fretting about the things that elude us.

The spirit of Thanksgiving has a way of reminding us of what is truly important in our lives. It has the ability to humble us, if we let it. Teach us. This spirit opens hearts and eyes. It reminds us of who we are, as individuals as well as a nation. It can make us aspire to do more and give more. And that’s a good thing. 

When the Plymouth colonists and Native Americans celebrated that first Thanksgiving, they weren’t showing-off a new smartphone or playing football. They were thankful to be alive. The voyage and winter had been harsh. Nearly 50% of all of the passengers on the Mayflower had perished. Adults were widowed. Children were orphaned. These individuals had fought disease as well as the elements, daily. They knew fear and grief. They had struggled, desperate to survive. But when the harvest came … it was plentiful. Friendships had been made. Trade had begun. Hope was overflowing. Despite obvious differences, both the colonists and the Native Americans shared a common thread — the belief in giving thanks. And they did.

On this Thanksgiving, no matter where you are or the company that you are in, take a moment to be thankful. Believe it or not, the turkey and dressing can wait. The cranberry sauce will not disappear. For a moment, reflect on 2018. Think of what you have. Be glad for these blessings. Thank the Lord for each and every one of them. Share your thoughts with others. This is what Thanksgiving is all about.

As you greet your loved ones, hug them a little tighter. Pick up the phone and call those who are far away. Fix a plate and take it to an ailing neighbor. Share. Smile. Laugh. Reminisce. We don’t know what tomorrow brings. But we do know, at this moment, what we have — all that we have. And it is a gift. Be thankful. 

 

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.”  —  1 Chronicles 16:34 (NIV)

 

 

References:

https://www.history.com/news/first-thanksgiving-colonists-native-americans-men

*Photo by Priscilla Du Preez 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

 

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

One of The Best Summer Indulgences …

Every season brings activities that seem exclusive to that time of year. Summer is no exception. Many foods are also quintessential to the season. In the summertime, you need to look no farther than a roadside stand or your local Farmer’s Market. The choices seem endless. Many farms also welcome guests. If you have one near you, put the family in the car and enjoy a visit. Walk in the orchards. Pick your own. Or pick one of the baskets that will surely be waiting. The fruits and vegetables of summer are beautiful, fragrant and delicious. It’s a delight to the senses, from farm to table. But the very best part of these summer indulgences is that they are good for us, too!

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There is no plausible way to cover them all, short of writing a novella. But let me share a few examples. The links below can provide additional information. Let’s start with peaches. And, yes, I am partial to SC peaches. In a study from Texas A & M, results showed that peaches (no matter where they’re grown) can fight Chronic illnesses like Diabetes and Heart Disease. These fuzzy beauties can also reduce bad cholesterol (LDL). Peaches provide an excellent source of the antioxidant Vitamin C. And that is beneficial in combating the formation of free radicals known to cause Cancer. Vitamin C can also reduce wrinkles. Are you listening, girls?

Watermelon isn’t just for kids. It is a nutrient-rich food that any age can benefit from eating. And everyone seems to enjoy it, too. Around 92% of watermelon is water. This provides needed electrolytes in the summer’s sweltering heat. Another heads-up for the athletes, out there … Amino acids, like L-citrulline, found in watermelon can reduce muscle soreness. Vitamins A and C are great for healthy skin and hair. Remember that C is a wonderful antioxidant. And the fiber in watermelon aids in healthy digestion.

Okra isn’t just a “Southern thing”. It boasts many healthy benefits like fiber, folate, calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin K, Vitamin B6, protein, thiamin, etc. These things promote good heart health and strong bones. You’ll find antioxidants in okra, too.

Yellow veggies like corn, summer squash, peppers, beans, golden beets, etc., offer many nutritional benefits. The “Yellows” provide us with plenty of antioxidants, vitamins (A, B, C, E & K), etc. Antioxidants fight inflammation, among other things. They boost your immune system. Manganese strengthens bones. These veggies are also heart healthy. Some can clear toxins from the kidneys. Others aid in lowering bad cholesterol and blood-pressure. They can even help with fatigue!

Cherries are another great indulgence, of summer. They offer a load of antioxidants and anti-inflammatory properties. Just 1 cup of  these little gems (approx. 21 cherries) is less than 100 calories and can provide 15% of your daily Vitamin C. That’s healthy snacking! Cherries can slow the aging process, help to combat many Chronic illnesses, lessen joint pain, lower bad cholesterol, etc. Cherries and cherry juice have been shown to lower the risk of Gout attacks. Tart cherries are one of the few foods that provide Melatonin. This is a hormone that aids the sleep-cycle. And we can all appreciate a good night’s rest!

If you are looking for a fun activity, or a way to introduce new foods to your family, plant a garden or visit a Farmer’s Market. I have very fond memories of summers that are long past … their delicious bounty … and the adventures that transpired. Every year, amid the long days and warm weather, they come come back to me and always put a smile on my face …

I remember the Rainier Cherry tree, in my uncle’s backyard. My cousins and I would pick those cherries every morning, right after breakfast … still wearing our pajamas … our bare feet running through the dew-laden grass. I remember my grandma’s garden — lush with goodness and envied by many. And I remember the gardens that we planted, too — though ours were never as outstanding as hers.

What we didn’t grow, we found at the local Farmer’s Market. I always enjoyed taking those shopping trips with my Mom … smelling the fresh fruit, making selections, trying new recipes. Even now, I can remember my mother and grandmother teaching me the fine arts of canning … freezing … even drying. We were an industrious bunch — breaking beans, shucking corn, peeling peaches and laughing. No matter the task at hand, there was always a lot of love and laughter … fruits, vegetables, chutney, chow-chow, jams, jellies. Our freezers and pantries were proudly stocked. Those are some of the lessons that you never forget. And making them were some of the best Summer indulgences.

 

Reference Links:

https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/what-should-you-eat/vegetables-and-fruits/

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/274620.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886.php

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/311977.php

https://www.healthline.com/health/food-nutrition/yellow-vegetables#golden-beets

https://www.health.com/nutrition/health-benefits-cherries

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/19809/seasonal/summer/vegetables/

Photo by Ian Baldwin on Unsplash

 

The Sweet Truth …

Exploring the health benefits of honey …

At a time when some species of bees are being listed as endangered, we are also seeing a growing health trend — honey! Or, to use a cliche, “What is old is new again”. Every gardener, from novice to seasoned pro, has seen their share of bees. We have shooed them away … taken a sting or two … and still managed to appreciate their role in pollination. Some of us have enjoyed their honey in our tea, on a warm biscuit or scone, etc. For decades, this has been a matter of preference. But, now, many are finally embracing what ancient Egyptians knew thousands of years ago. Honey is more than tasty. It’s actually good for us!

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The medicinal uses for honey seem to be endless. Many may surprise you. It has been used to treat wounds; skin problems, i.e. Eczema, Dermatitis and minor burns. A study, done with children, actually found that honey suppressed their coughs better than dextromethorphan (a drug that is considered a cough suppressant). It has also been proven to fight staphylococcus. 

For those living with Chronic illnesses, consider these facts … Honey can inhibit the development of Cancer. A 2008 study found that natural honey lessens cardiovascular risk factors in both healthy and high-risk patients. Those who took part in the study had reduced total cholesterol. It reduced their LDL-C, Triglycerides, Fasting Blood-glucose and CRP. Honey also increased their HDL-C, without increasing body weight (even in overweight patients)! The benefits of the prebiotics in several honeys, i.e. sourwood, alfalfa, honeydew, clover, eucalyptus and others, has been documented. This aids in healthy digestion. In lab tests, honey has even been shown to hamper the growth of some food-borne pathogens, i.e. E.coli and Salmonella. Tualang honey has, in studies, improved the quality of life in COPD patients. And the antioxidants as well as anti-inflammatory properties of honey are beneficial to patients with a myriad of illnesses, i.e. Cancer, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Alzheimer’s, Autoimmune illnesses, etc. Honey is even considered helpful to weight loss.

If many of you are finding this just too good to be true, I welcome you to visit the reference links at the end of this post. The sweet truth is that honey does contain sugar. But, unlike Refined Sugar, honey isn’t “Empty Calories”. It offers the body an abundance of good things. Honey provides the body with beneficial nutrients and minerals, i.e. potassium, iron, fiber, protein, water, fiber, sodium, phosphorous, zinc, calcium, folic acid, niacin, vitamins C and B6, riboflavin, etc. It offers amino acids, enzymes, thiamine. Some honeys may also provide magnesium, iodine and nickel. Nutrients help to dissolve fats and cholesterol. This doesn’t eliminate the need for exercise, but it does help to create a healthier you.

While scientists and doctors continue to explore what honey can do for us, it must be noted that honey should not be given to infants, under 12 months of age. Honey can contain spores. These are not harmful to older children or adults. But young infants have systems that are too delicate to ingest them.

It’s May. Spring is in full-swing and summer is a little more than five weeks away. Farmer’s markets and roadside stands are open. Take a moment. Stop by. Indulge your senses with the sights and smells of the fresh produce. Explore the crafts and other items. Take a healthier approach to your shopping and your eating. Have some fun, in the process. And, by all means, don’t forget the honey! 

 

Reference Links:

https://www.webmd.com/diet/features/medicinal-uses-of-honey#1

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23298140

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406168/

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1658361217300963

https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/03/bumblebees-endangered-extinction-united-states/

https://www.organicfacts.net/health-benefits/animal-product/benefits-of-honey-in-weight-loss.html

http://www.localfarmmarkets.org/

* Photo by Amelia Bartlett on Unsplash