Grind it…Brew it…Drink it

Love it when my senses are aroused first thing in the morning…the sound of the coffee bean grinder, the smell of the coffee brewing and the taste of a cup of rich coffee with some vanilla creamer. Of course it is always best when I get to enjoy it on the back deck on a cool Fall morning like this morning. Many of us probably could not survive a morning (or a day) without that cup or cups of Java. There are many reasons why we drink coffee. Some drink it for the flavor, others for the caffeine. We drink it while we are eating breakfast, reading the morning paper, socializing or studying with friends or while getting ready for the day. What many of you don’t know is that coffee actually contains hundreds of different chemical compounds. Interestingly enough coffee is a plant that is grown in tropical climates throughout the world. Because it is a plant-based product that is naturally grown, it is high in antioxidants, which the body can use in many ways.
We have all been warned about the hazards of drinking too much coffee, but research shows that drinking coffee in moderation can actually have many health benefits. Take heed, though, with some of the research findings and note that a lot of the research associates the health benefits with the caffeine in coffee and most did not extend these findings to other caffeinated beverages such as tea and/or soda.
Here are some interesting facts that have been published from some recent studies:
1. Regular coffee consumption can help decrease depression 2. Regular coffee consumption may reduce a person’s risk of liver disease. 3. Caffeine is an appetite suppressor – so it may help supplement weight loss. 4. It may help lower your risk of cancer – skin (basal cell carcinoma), prostrate, breast and enodometrial. 5. It may help reduce your risk of diabetes, especially type II. 6. It may help decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. 7. It can help improve your mood, attention span, thought processing, and overall intelligence. 8. It may help decrease loss of muscle mass as we age. 9. It is a “legal” performance enhancer – meaning it can help increase your energy with activity (maybe A-Rod should have tried this).
If you are not a coffee drinker already, there is no need to start now, but if you are already a coffee drinker then consuming some coffee everyday along with a healthy, well-rounded diet and regular exercise may help you live a stronger, healthier life.
Now that I have consumed my 2 cups of coffee while writing this blog, it’s time to get on with the rest of my day!

Moderation – this is my belief to most everything we consume. Enjoy your morning cup of Joe knowing that you may be doing something positive for your body! While 3-4 cups seems to be the basis for which most research is done, remember that this is not a case where more is better. In fact overconsumption of coffee, especially caffeinated coffee, can have adverse effects on your body. Also, for those of you like myself, who enjoy adding some cream or maybe some sugar, well you have just taken a good natural thing and made it a little less healthy. Over consumption of sugar and cream will only lead to weight gain and possibly diabetes. Instead opt for skim milk, almond milk, vanilla, cinnamon and/or nutmeg to provide the flavor you are looking for.
And one last thing, you might want to consider buying stock in Starbucks!

Until next time…be strong, be healthy.

Take Me Out to the Ballgame…Take Me Out to the Crowd…But buy me some popcorn

I think this is my favorite time of year. Summer changes overall to Fall and I get to watch baseball and football all week long! When I am lucky enough to make it to the ballpark one of my favorite concession stand purchases is POPCORN! After all popcorn is healthy, right? It is a whole grain and it has fiber. Yes, I know it has salt too, but we need some salt in our diet don’t we?!
Table salt; rock salt, sea salt, kosher salt, halite, whatever you want to call it, the chemical structure of this compound is sodium chloride. In the periodic table of elements, Sodium (Na) is the 11th element and Chlorine (CL) is the 17th. When you put them together you get salt. Salt is essential for life. Most experts would agree that it is as essential to life as water. It is important for hormone production, insulin effectiveness, proper nerve and muscle functioning and the chemical balance of water and sodium in our blood is critical to daily life. If we have excess sodium it can be filtered out by our kidneys. Another way we get rid of sodium is in our sweat. Just as your thirst mechanism comes from your brain, so too does your salt craving. Your brain/body tells you when you need more water and more salt. However, if you consume more salt than your body can get rid of it can lead to high blood pressure, increased swelling and put you at a higher risk for heart attack and stroke.
As stated above salt and sodium are not the same thing so sometimes the daily intake recommendations can be confusing. Salt is made up of sodium and chloride. Table salt is 40% sodium and 60% chloride. Let’s look at the daily recommendations for sodium, since this is what we read on our food labels. Our bodies don’t really need any more than 500 mg of sodium a day. According to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans the average person with no heart/kidney related health issues, should aim to consume less than 2300 mg of sodium/day with 1500 mg being a good target. It is reported that the average American consumes about 3500 mg/day. 2000 mg of sodium is equal to about 1 teaspoon of salt. So, I know what most of you are saying, “I don’t put salt on my food”. Unfortunately, in today’s food industry, even if you don’t put salt on your food, you are probably still consuming more sodium in your every day diet than you think. According to the CDC, around 77 percent of your dietary sodium intake comes from pre-packaged, processed and restaurant prepared foods. Fast food and restaurant food, canned vegetables, and processed deli meat are some of the worst foods for high sodium levels. Look at the amount of sodium in the following examples:
½ cup canned corn = 310 mg; 1 cup tomato juice = 680 mg; 1 cup chicken broth 960 mg;
Sonic small order of French fries = 270 mg; Taco Bell 1 chicken soft taco = 460 mg;
Pizza Hut 1 slice of cheese pan pizza = 530 mg of sodium; 1 oz of Rold Gold Pretzel Sticks = 580 mg; Subway 6” turkey breast on 9-grain wheat bread with vegie topping = 810 mg; McDonalds Big Breakfast with Hot Cakes = 2150 mg. When it comes to sodium (salt) just remember that there is less of it in natural, wholesome foods and more of it in baked, processed and canned foods. Enjoy that stadium popcorn (with all its salt and fat), or whatever else you want to this weekend, but combine it with some physical activity and other nutritional foods throughout the day and over the weekend!
So how much sodium is in that tub of popcorn at the ballpark or stadium? Hard to say, depends on how it was made and how much salt was added. Typically however there may be as much as, if not more than, 1200 mg, which is why I need a big bottle of water to go along with it! Time for the 7th inning stretch…GO CARDINALS!!!

The Power of the She

Originally written – July 2013

This weekend I participated in a triathlon at Smithville Lake, which is north of Kansas City, Missouri. It was the 8th annual WIN KC women’s triathlon. WIN stands for Women’s Intersports Network. This organization has a mission to “empower girls and women through advocating and promoting the lifetime value of sports and fitness while providing opportunities for participation and leadership development.” There were 1200 girls/women participating in this weekend’s Swim, Bike, Run event. There were several that were completing their 1st triathlon and others of us that were veterans. There were girls/women of every age, color, shape and size, but we were all there for one reason…to have fun and celebrate our personal accomplishments in sport and fitness!
According to the Women’s Sports Foundation, “Studies show that girls and women who play sports have a more positive body image and experience higher states of psychological well-being than girls and women who do not play sports.” An article printed in the USA Today News stated that a recent survey commissioned by Ernst & Young, found that 96% of women in the C-suite (which means they are in top executive positions), played sports at some level. In 1972 a federal law known as Title IX was passed. If you aren’t not familiar with Title IX the law that states “No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any educational program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance.” This law opened the door for girls/young women to be allowed equal opportunity to participate in sporting activities in public schools and colleges throughout the country. As a result, we are now seeing the young women whom have benefitted from this law. These are the women that are business owners, working in healthcare and serving in public office. Many are in executive/management positions or serving in high political offices, making critical and influential decisions that will affect the future and prosperity of this country. How and where did they learn the skills of hard work, dedication, determination, leadership, and a sense of team/community? From participating in sport and fitness activities and in learning/watching other women who are their role models.
In February I attended the 19th Annual Women’s Sports Awards Celebration for WIN KC. The guest speaker was Kerri Walsh-Jennings, 3-time Olympic Beach Volleyball Gold Medalist. She is the epitome of women in sport. She is a wife, mother, athlete and role model to hundreds of girls/women around the world. She represents “the power of the she”. Think of the young girls/women who you are in contact with everyday. You probably underestimate the inspiration and influence you have in their lives. They are watching…they are listening…they are eager to be like you. You are setting an example, make sure it is positive and encourages them to live a healthy, active life.

Challenge of the week: Empower yourself by becoming more physically active. If you know any young girls/women, help them become empowered with sport and fitness. Encourage them to be active and engage in some sort of daily physical activity. Be a role model. Inspire someone today. Embrace the power of the she!

Until next time…be strong, be healthy.

Here Comes the Sun

What do Hermit crabs, Veiled chameleons, Mexican red-kneed tarantulas, and Amazon Milk frogs have in common? They all “molt” or shed their skin. Most scientists agree that humans really don’t “molt” however we do lose and regrow hair and we do shed the outer cells of our skin on a regular basis.   The skin is the largest organ of the body. It has many functions and is made up of several layers. The skin helps protect your body by acting as a barrier to viruses, bacteria and various other things. It also helps regulate your body temperature, i.e. shivering when you are cold and sweating when you are hot. It is very important in Vitamin D synthesis. Vitamin D helps your body use calcium, which helps to strengthen your bones. The skin has multiple layers, these layers, named from outside to inside are: epidermis, dermis, hypodermis and below the hypodermis are the muscles/bones.

The epidermis is the outer most layer of skin, this is the part of the skin that you see. The dermis is the thickest layer. This is where you nerves, blood vessels, hair follicles/roots, oil glands and sweat glands, are located. The hypodermis is where the adipose(fat) tissue is located. Below the hypodermis is where you find your muscles and bones.

Because the epidermis is exposed to sunlight, this is typically the layer of skin that gets “sunburned”. After the nice weather we had this weekend, I have seen a lot of “red” faces, arms and legs, indicating that this outer layer of skin was exposed to too much ultraviolet (UV) light that was not properly protected by sunscreen. The color of your skin is determined by melanin, this is the pigment that is found in the skin.  A sunburn occurs when your skin is exposed to too much sunlight. In other words, you did not have enough melanin in your skin to protect it from the UV exposure. Different people have different amounts of melanin. This is why some people can be in the sun longer without developing a sunburn.

Too much exposure to sun can result in different degrees of sunburns, most typically 1st and 2nd degree burns of the skin.

Burn degrees are classified based upon how deep they penetrate through the layers of the skin.

1st degree – epidermis is damaged

2nd degree – epidermis destroyed; dermis damaged

3rd degree – epidermis and dermis destroyed; hypodermis damaged

4th degree – epidermis, dermis and hypodermis destroyed; muscle/bone damaged

So many of you are thinking, ok, big deal, so I got a sunburn and yes it hurts and it is red, but the pain will go away, the redness will disappear and then I will have a nice summer tan.  While all of this is correct, what you may not know is that you have just caused damage to your skin that will lead to premature aging of your skin AND you have just significantly increased your risk for skin cancer. Most skin cancers are actually caused by sun damage that occurs during our childhood and gets worse as we get older. The more sun damage you have, the higher your risk of getting skin cancer. In some cases you increase your risk by 75-80%! So if you did get your first “sunburn of the season”, you can expect that you will be peeling off those burnt skin cells here in the next week. Your friends may even think you look like a Mexican red-kneed tarantula that is molting!

Challenge of the week: Be smart when you are going to be in the sun! Remember these 5 things: 1. Wear sunscreen! Whether your in the sun to sit, work or play you need sunscreen of at least 30 SPF (the higher the better) and apply at least 30 minutes prior to going out in the sun and re-apply every 2 hours or more often (if swimming or excessively sweating). 2. The sun’s rays are strongest between the hours of 10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m. so avoid too much exposure during these hours. 3. Don’t forget to protect your eyes from UV light with good sunglasses or a hat. 4. Everyone/anyone’s skin can be negatively affected by the sun, but infants, children and fair skinned individuals are at the greatest risk for damage. 5. Some medications can make your skin more sensitive to sunlight – ask your doctor or pharmacist is you need to take any extra precautions when in the sun.

 

Skin cancer facts: (according to skincancer.org) Skin cancer is the most prevalent type of cancer in the United States; 1 in 5 people in the U.S. will have skin cancer and your risk for developing melanoma (most common type of skin cancer) doubles if you have had greater than 5 sunburns at any age.

 

Until next time…be strong, be healthy.

Reap what you sow

“How Full is Your Bucket?” This is the title of one of my favorite books written by Tom Rath and Donald O. Clifton. The book talks about how even the briefest of interactions you have in your daily life can affect your health, relationships and longevity.

When I first introduced the Me+3 column, I said I would talk about things that dealt with nutrition, exercise and wellness. Nutrition is about what we eat and drink. Exercise is about the physical activity we do everyday. Wellness is the state of being in good physical, emotional and spiritual health. Most of what I have written about has been focused on nutrition and exercise, and we all know that eating right and exercising will help us be “well” physically.   The other part of the definition deals with our emotional and spiritual wellness both of which are very important in living a strong and healthy life.

A kind of “you reap what you sow” thinking “How Full is Your Bucket” is centered around the theory of a bucket and a dipper. The following is quoted directly from the book…”Each of us has an invisible bucket. It is constantly emptied or filled, depending on what others say or do to us. When our bucket is full, we feel great. When it’s empty, we feel awful. Each of us also has an invisible dipper. When we use that dipper to fill other people’s buckets-by saying or doing things to increase their positive emotions-we also fill our own bucket. But when we use that dipper to dip from other’s buckets-by saying or doing things that decrease their positive emotions-we diminish ourselves. Like the cup that runneth over, a full bucket gives us a positive outlook and renewed energy. Every drop in that bucket makes us stronger and more optimistic. But an empty bucket poisons our outlook, saps our energy, and undermines our will. That’s why every time someone dips from our bucket, it hurts us. So we face a choice every moment of every day: We can fill one another’s buckets, or we can dip from them. It’s an important choice-one that profoundly influences our relationships, productivity, health, and happiness.”

Even in our busy and hectic lives we can do a lot to enhance our own spiritual and emotional wellness. As we sit down to share a meal with our family, visit with a friend over a cup of coffee, or even when we are interacting with complete strangers during our our daily activities we are given chance to fill or empty a bucket.

Remember every interaction you have gives you the moment and the opportunity to change not only your life, but the life of someone else. The question is, will you change it in a positive way or a negative way? Will you fill their bucket or dip from it?

 

Until next time…Be strong…Be healthy

Destiny…by the Sea

This was written from the white sands of Mirmar Beach in Destin, Florida August 2013.

Yes, summer vacation has finally arrived. I work hard, but I play even harder! Vacation is all about rejuvenating your-self. Leaving the stress of everyday life behind and just enjoying some laid-back time. A beach vacation has everything one needs to get re-“N.E.W. ed”. N – nutrition: fresh fruits, veggies and seafood abound (I will not be going hungry this week). E – exercise: early morning beach runs/walks; kayaking, snorkeling, boogie boarding, golfing and swimming just to name a few. W – wellness: peaceful, relaxing sound of the ocean waves crashing on the shore and sunsets that will take your breath away.

I love the beach; the sun, the sand, the sea and memories made with family and friends. I am sitting here ocean side under the beach umbrella, enjoying my morning cup of coffee while the rest of my family is snorkeling. They have found several shells and 2 jellyfish. Yesterday we were greeted by a Hammerhead shark and a sea turtle (yes at the beach). We were quickly reminded we are but visitors in their playground!

Which brings me to my next point. The ocean. To those of us that live in the Midwest we are unaware of the importance the oceans play in our everyday health because we are about 11 hours from the closet seashore line. However, the oceans play an important role in our ecosystem. Oceans cover about 70% of our planet. The Harvard School of Public Health states it best, “The Ocean heals us…providing important information that leads to medical breakthroughs…The Ocean nourishes us by providing protein rich in essential fatty acids (seafood)…The Ocean sustains us by providing the driving force of our climate, which in turn provides most of the freshwater and oxygen essential to our lives, which feeds our crops and quenches our thirst.” So you see, while they may be many miles away from our everyday life, their effects are far reaching.

The rest of my week will include some more Stand Up Paddleboarding (SUP – a new sport I have fallen in love with), sunset whiffle ball games, beach volleyball, moonlight crabbing and key lime pie! The week will go fast and we will once again return home. I will have plenty of new freckles (or as my dad used to call them, “kisses from the sun”) and I will go back to work so I can save for retirement. I think it is my destiny to retire by the sea…

 

Challenge of the Week: Wherever your vacation takes you, find the 3 ways to re-NEW yourself! If you don’t get a chance to go anywhere on vacation, create your own “mini-vacation” wherever you are. Pick a week and plan it with activities that will improve your health in many ways. Prepare nutritious meals/snacks; plan time for exercise; and don’t forget to plan some quite time with a good book, bible study or maybe even a massage.

 

Until next time…be strong, be healthy.

“You will never do anything in this world without courage. It is the greatest quality of the mind next to honor. “ Aristotle

This was originally written September 2013… posted today in honor and memory of D Day.  Yesterday was the 70th anniversary of D Day. On June 6, 1944 the US along with other Allied Forces stormed the beaches of Normandy, France.  This is one of the most well known days in WW II history because it gave the Allied Forces the foothold they needed to make its way to Germany.  Even though WW II and the Normandy Beach invasion took place 70 years ago, we are still reminded that the courageous acts of others secured the freedom we live today!

One of the most well-known mathematicians and scientists in history is Aristotle. If you ever do any reading or research on Aristotle you would find that not only he is known as one of the greatest mathematicians of all time, but he is also known for being a great philosopher. Anyone can be a philosopher, because a philosopher is a person who uses his/her mind, life experiences and/or spiritual being to bring greater insight to everyday questions and thoughts. Needless to say, Aristotle is thought to have one of the greatest minds ever. In his quote above he mentions courage and that is what this week’s column is about. What does courage mean to you? Are there people you know that you would say are courageous or have shown great amounts of courage in something they have done? According to the dictionary, courage is the “quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear; someone who is brave”.

Last week we celebrated Patriot Day. This is a day that we take time to remember those who were injured or died on September 11, 2001 when the United States was attacked by terrorists. In the days following the aftermath of that tragedy and still today we are reminded of the countless stories of brave, courageous individuals who put themselves in danger to help rescue those who were in harms way. Even the passengers on those planes were courageous, especially those on the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania. We tend to think about brave and courageous people serving in the fire department, police force and armed services such as the Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines and the National Guard and these are great examples of those that show courage everyday. I am so appreciative for these individuals, but I want to remind you of the definition of courage…“quality of mind or spirit that enables a person to face difficulty, danger, pain, etc. without fear; someone who is brave”. This definition does not exclude YOU from being brave and courageous! Courage comes from your mind and your spirit! You could be the one who stands up for someone who is being harmed or hurt, someone who is unable to defend themselves.  You can decide to take a chance on something you have always wanted to do, or a fear you want to overcome. Yes, you have the opportunity to be brave and courageous!

This weekend I discovered that I am braver and more courageous than I thought! I completed the Tough Mudder with some friends. The Tough Mudder is a 10-12 mile running/hardcore obstacle course that is designed to test your mental toughness, strength, stamina, teamwork and courage. And yes, it is very, very muddy! While I demonstrated some courage in just signing up and completing the course – challenging myself to do something I had never done, there was a reason I wanted to complete this event. I have a fear of heights, so there were a couple of obstacles that challenged me to be brave and show no fear. I admit there was one obstacle in which I could not overcome my fear. It was called “Walk the Plank”. Most of you would laugh at me, because it is just jumping off a platform into a muddy watering hole. No big deal, right? My only problem was that the platform was about 20 feet in the air!!! I climbed to the top but just didn’t have the courage to jump! I have promised myself that one of these days I will overcome that! The most courageous thing I saw on the course though was a man in a wheelchair. He had lost both of his legs to an injury/accident. His team members were pushing and pulling him along the running route (which was just through the fields of a farm). When they came to an obstacle, he would get out of his chair and swim through the mud, climb up and over the slippery mounds of mud or tall walls/half pipes and crawl through underground tunnels. He demonstrated more courage and bravery in that one day than I will probably show in a lifetime.

However you chose to show your courage, whether it is in helping others or using it to face a fear that you have, remember that courage will help you have a strong and healthy mind and spirit.  If you are thinking about showing some courage today, my advice to you would be…don’t be afraid, just jump!