Humans have had pet canines for thousands of years, and there's a reason why this perennial "world's best pet" is human's best friend around the world. In fact, 47 percent of households in the U.S. own at least one dog. Everyone that has a pet dog knows that they're loyal, loving creatures that are always happy to see you when you get home. And recent research furthers the cause of having a pet dog – as it turns out, whether you're a child, adult or senior, there are some major benefits of having a pooch by your side. Aside from an abundance of love and loyalty, here are some of the reasons that dog ownership is good for your health:
- Get more exercise. As a dog-owner, you'll get a great workout every day by taking your little Fido out on his walks.
- Live longer. Research has shown that people with dogs tend to live longer than others, which is likely due to the fact that they get more exercise than others and gain the emotional benefits of having a pet.
- Stave off loneliness. Dogs as companions can help us feel less lonely. This is especially important for people who live alone, such as seniors, according to recent research. Aside from being good company, pets can also help you meet new people. Dogs serve as an easy topic of conversation: when you are out walking your dog, people are more likely to come up and talk to you, and if you go to parks you can meet other dog owners. The reduction of loneliness is a very important benefit because loneliness has been shown to decrease overall health and longevity.
- Keep your heart healthy. Though surprising, research has shown that simply petting and talking to a dog or cat can lower one's blood pressure noticeably. Petting an animal can induce relaxation and calm people, which is why dogs are often used in hospitals as therapy animals.
- Learn empathy. Having a pet dog can teach children empathy. It allows them to learn to care for something and recognize others' needs if they are involved in the feeding, brushing and other care of the animal.
If you're considering adopting a pet, make sure you will have ample time and energy to care for that animal first, but know that, aside from being loved on by a furry friend, you'll benefit in so many other ways.
Dietary fat gets a bad rap, but there are several different types and not all are bad. The key to eating healthfully is knowing which fats are good, and to eat them in moderation while avoiding the unhealthy ones. Saturated fats are unhealthy and should be minimized, while unsaturated fats are very good for the cells. Here's some more information to help you make healthy food choices and keep your cholesterol in check:
These "bad" fats raise both total blood cholesterol levels and low-density lipoprotein – or unhealthy cholesterol – levels. They clog up the arteries by sticking together in the bloodstream and forming plaques, which can cause heart disease and Type 2 diabetes. Saturated fats stay solid at room temperature and are found in animal products like eggs, meat, dairy and seafood. Palm and palm kernel oils are two very common saturated fats used in processed foods, so if you see these on the label, avoid them.
Another type of fats, which are even more unhealthy, are trans fats. Most trans fats are artificially created by partially hydrogenating unsaturated fats. If you see the words "partially hydrogenated" on a package, avoid eating that food ingredient because it contains trans fats. These artificially produced fats can increase levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood and lower the levels of HDL, or "good" cholesterol.
In contrast, unsaturated fats are the "good" fats when, in eaten in moderation, are very important for heart and overall health. They fall into two categories: polyunsaturated fats, which are found in sunflower and fish oils and omega-3 fatty acids, and monounsaturated fats, which are found in almonds, walnuts, avocados and olive oil. Unsaturated fats can actual lower the body's levels of cholesterol and blood pressure. Unsaturated fats are easy to recognize because they are liquid at room temperature.
The questions arise occasionally: How much running is too much? Is running actually bad for your health? Is it stressful on the heart? The questions aren't being asked by serious couch potatoes as an excuse to stay off their feet, but by health scientists, medical experts and long-distance runners who want to make sure they're making the right choices for their bodies.
Among the most curious are the increasing number of health- and fitness-minded individuals and groups attempting to return to our ancestors' roots. These people advocate a lifestyle based on how our hunter-and-gatherer ancestors supposedly lived thousands of years ago: Eating things like grass-fed meats, fish, nuts, seeds and fresh vegetables and fruits, which is the basis of the Paleo or "caveman" diet. In attempting to discern how our early relatives might have lived, people have turned their attention to distance-running and asked the question: Is it really natural? The reasoning is that our ancestors would have had no reason to run long distances – rather, they would need to run in short, intense sprints for the purpose of hunting.
So, is running actually bad for your health? That depends on who you ask. Most people agree that running reasonable distances is excellent exercise provided your body is well-fed and you're in good shape. But what about the endurance runners who seem to take it over the top? After all, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that adults get 30 minutes of moderate exercise every day – a far cry from the 10 miles a day that some people run. But getting exercise is very important – it reduces your risk of high blood pressure, diabetes, Alzheimer's, obesity, heart disease and dementia, among other things.
However, according to Dr. James O'Keefe, the director of Preventative Cardiology at Saint Luke's Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, we must impose healthy limits on our exercise:
"Your body is designed to deal with oxidative stress that comes from exercise for the first hour," O'Keefe said. "But prolonged intense exercise causes excessive oxidative stress, which basically burns through the antioxidants in your system and predisposes you to problems."
Thus, the best answer is to consult with your doctor to determine what amount of running is right for you. If you have knee or back problems, consider trying other high-intensity exercises like swimming or skating, which are easier on the joints.
Kids' lives these days seem almost more busy and scheduled than ours are or ever were. Whether you're chasing a toddler around the living room, playing t-ball with your preschooler or chauffeuring your pre-teens to after-school soccer practice, your life probably couldn't get much busier. Here are some exercises to boost your energy, get you ready for the day and help you keep up with the kids:
Kids are flexible little humans, so if you're going to play backyard soccer or tag with them, you need to keep up. Start your morning off right with these energizing stretches:
- Cat-Cow yoga pose: Lay a mat down on the floor and get on your hands and knees, with your knees in line with your hips and your hands aligned with your shoulders. As you inhale, lift your tailbone and head and push your stomach toward the floor. Exhale and drop your head, tuck your tailbone and arch your back toward the ceiling. Do 10 reps for a good back stretch, and remember to breathe deeply.
- Hamstring stretch: If you often have tight hamstrings, give them a nice stretch so you're ready to rock for the day. Lay on your back with your legs straight and your lower back and hips pressed into the mat. Then, lift your leg with your knee bent and hold it parallel to the floor. Stretch your leg straight up, keeping your hands behind your knee to make sure your leg is now perfectly perpendicular to the floor. Hold the stretch for 30 seconds before switching to the other leg. Do three repetitions.
- Neck and shoulder stretch: Sit on the floor with your back straight and your legs crossed. Keep your shoulders straight and tilt your left ear toward your left shoulder, feeling a pull. Hold for 20 seconds before doing the right side. Then, roll your shoulders back and forward to loosen up tight muscles.
Feel the burn
Some of the best exercises to keep up with the kids are squats. Here are two excellent variations:
- Split Squat: This gets your hips and thigh muscles ready for a long day. With feet shoulder-width apart and hands at your sides, take a step backward and drop into a lunge, moving slowly into it until your front knee is at a 90-degree angle. Hold it for a few seconds, then push yourself back up with your knees slightly bent. Do 20 reps on one side before switching to the next leg.
- Squat thrusts: These are good for your chest, triceps, hamstrings and quads. With your feet hip-width apart, squat and put your hands on the floor in front of your feet. Jump backward so you're in a pushup position, don one pushup and then jump back toward your hands and stand again. Do 10 reps on each side and this will surely get you ready for the day!
Proline-Rich Polypeptides are a mouthful to say, but if you don't know what they are, you probably should – especially with cold and flu season upon us. PRPs come from colostrum, the first milk of newly nursing cows, and PRPs are the component largely responsible for providing a quick dose of immunity to new calves.
PRPs are actually found in all other mammals' colostrum, and humans can benefit from bovine colostrum too. One good source of PRPs is Naturade's Proline-Rich Polypeptides with Colostrum Plus supplement, which is safe and effective for people of all ages. It's used to help balance the immune system and to provide a boost when you feel challenged or stressed. Naturade's PRP enriched colostrum product is antibiotic-, hormone- rBST- and pesticide-free. It comes as a powder that you mix into your morning or post-workout smoothie – 1/3 a scoop, twice per day. You can triple this amount if you're experiencing a time of increased stress.
Consider PRPs and colostrum to give your immune system a kick in the pants before winter rushes in!
It's that time of year again, when the leaves change to vibrant hues and the air turns crisp. It's also time to pick your perfect pumpkin for carving, painting, baking or whatever else you can think of. So head to a local pumpkin patch to find your perfect pumpkin and get a little exercise in the process!
Choose what ever type of pumpkin you like for carving! Some people want one with an even color and a perfectly round shape, while others prefer something with an interesting shape and some bumps and other things that give character. When on the hunt for your perfect pumpkin, just make sure to choose one with a flat bottom – though most of them are bred that way these days – to ensure it doesn't tip over!
Carving pumpkins have been bred to be very large. Thus, their flesh isn't always the best for eating as it's typically a bit watery and bland. For baking, choose a small pumpkin that is specifically called a "baking pumpkin," such as the sugar pie variety. You can make pumpkin pie or roast it for use in pasta with these small, dense baking pumpkins. They're good for your health – provided you don't pair them with too much sugar! You can also roast the seeds of carving or baking pumpkins for a healthy snack or addition to your trail mix.
Football season is in full swing, and if you're a fan, you're probably doing some serious tailgating, either at home or at a game. But tailgating doesn't have to be all about the chicken wings, brats and burgers! In fact, there are plenty of meatless options that are excellent pre-game snacks. So whether you're a vegetarian, just looking to curb your meat addiction or trying to add some variety into the tailgating fare, here are three awesome vegetarian recipes that everyone will love:
Caprese salad skewers
- Grape or cherry tomatoes
- Mini fresh mozzarella balls
- Fresh basil leaves
- Balsamic vinegar
- Toothpicks or plastic party picks
These are so easy and quick to make! First, cut your tomatoes in half width-wise so they will have a flat surface to sit on. Skewer a tomato, flat side down, followed by a basil leaf and a mini mozzarella ball. Set each skewer on a sheet or serving plate with wax paper. When you're done, drizzle balsamic vinegar over the top of them, et voilà!
Vegan potato salad
Ingredients (for 10 to 12 servings)
- 12 medium potatoes
- 1 cup eggless mayonnaise
- 1/3 cup yellow mustard
- 3 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1/2 cup celery, chopped
- Salt and pepper to taste
Every American party needs a good potato salad, and this one happens to be both vegan and delicious! Cut the potatoes in cubes before boiling them – the smaller the cubes, the quicker they will be done. Drain them and let them cool before mixing them with all of the other ingredients in a bowl. Season with paprika, salt and pepper, and refrigerate until tailgating time!
Easy celebration chili
Ingredients (for eight servings):
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1 green pepper, chopped
- 1-2 jalapeños, chopped
- 16-ounce can of black beans
- 16-ounce can of pinto beans
- 16-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds (for thickening)
- Chili powder to taste
- Salt to taste
If you're in the mood for something heartier, you can whip up this quick and easy vegan chili in no time. Saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil in a large pot until the onions become soft – about five minutes. Add the peppers to the mix and saute for a few more minutes. Then mix in the tomatoes, black beans, chia seeds and chili powder, simmering it for 30 minutes. Salt to taste and serve with vegan sour cream and cheese.
Appetite suppression isn't something people should do frequently, but when you're taking the leap and making drastic changes to your diet, those cravings for potato chips and chocolate cake can be strong.
One thing that people swear by to make them fuller is drinking more water. In fact, many people don't take in as much water as their bodies need everyday, so this can be a good way to drink more. And H20 for appetite suppression isn't just an old wives' tale! In a 2010 clinical trial by the American Chemical Society, which was funded by the Institute for Public Health and Water Research, all participants were on low-calorie diets, but one group drank 2 cups of water before eating. After 12 weeks, the group who drank water before meals lost an average of 15.5 pounds, while the other group lost only an average of 11 pounds. Researchers think that the water made them feel more full, causing them to consume less calories.
Appetite suppression foods to try
Some good options are those low in fiber and/or high in fiber, including:
What are compression pants? If you love running, hate treadmills and plan to exercise outside even in the frigid winter temps, compression pants are your best friend.
Compression pants or tights fit very close to the body and are made of spandex-like materials that remove moisture – including sweat and wetness from rain or snow – away from the skin. This is very important for cold-weather running because it keeps you dry, and thus warm. Pants made of cotton will soak up moisture, making your body cold and trapping moisture against your skin, which can cause chafing. Choose pants that have minimal seams and aren't baggy.
Here are some other quick tips for cold weather running:
- Layer up so you can remove clothing if necessary.
- Buy layers with zippers at the neck and armpit areas so you can vent those spots and keep yourself dry.
- If it's raining, sleeting or snowing, wear an outer shell that keeps moisture out. Some people even recommend putting plastic baggies on your feet before putting running shoes on to keep your toes dry.
- Keep as much exposed skin covered as possible - wear a hat or headband and gloves.
- After your run, change immediately so your body can warm up. It's not good to sit around in damp clothing!
Maybe you started out as one of those people who never looked at food labels – you worked out frequently, had a stellar metabolism and ate what you liked. But now, your metabolism is catching up to you and you're pretty sure you eat too much sugar, so it's time to start checking out food labels.
Food labels can be a bit daunting, and they can be a lot of work to read every time you buy something new. But if you know the basics and focus on the ingredients you're most concerned about – which will be different for each person – you'll get a better idea about what processed products contain. Here are the basics for reading and interpreting a food label:
First, not the serving size. The calories, fat, cholesterol, sugars, protein, fiber and everything else are all based on one serving size as detailed by the Food and Drug Administration. So, for example, you might grab a bag of chips and skim down the fat and sodium levels and think "Hey, that's not bad!" But when you look at the serving size, you notice that the bag contains 2.5 servings … and you were planning to eat the entire bag of chips in one sitting.
The rest of the numbers can be deceiving if you don't first read the the serving size and notice how many servings are in each container of food.
Percent of daily value
Each aspect of the food measured on the label is expressed in grams and also percent daily value. The food labels are based on a 2,000 calorie diet, but some people need as many as 2,500 calories per day while others can eat less – or plan to eat less to lose weight.
Other measurements to note
Many things are measured on a food label, but here are other important ones to pay attention to:
- Calories and calories from fat
- Total fat, which also shows saturated and trans fats
- Various vitamins
At the bottom of the food label, the ingredients are also listed. Generally, the more ingredients a food item has, the less healthy it is for you. If you have food allergies, it's especially important to read this list carefully. Although the FDA requires that below the ingredient list, products state if they contain – or are produced in an environment with other products that contain – the most common food allergens, like wheat, soy, dairy, milk, eggs and nuts. Ingredients that many people believe should be avoided are high fructose corn syrup, partially hydrogenated oils, sodium nitrate and nitrite, BHA, sodium benzoate, food colorings and various others.