Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Seven myths about veggies

By Lori BongiornoMore from The Conscious Consumer blog

Is it healthier to eat raw veggies or to cook them? Is fresh broccoli more nutritious than frozen? Is eating iceberg lettuce a waste of time?
You may be surprised by the answers to these seemingly simple questions. In fact, there are several misconceptions when it comes to vegetables. The one universal truth is that most of us could be eating more of them.
As summer approaches, we have more vegetable choices than at any other time of year. Here's a guide to what's fact and what's fiction when it comes to eating your veggies.
Myth: Fresh vegetables are more nutritious than frozen
Fact: Studies show that sometimes you can get more nutrients from frozen veggies, depending on variety and how old the vegetables at your supermarket are. That's because produce starts losing nutrient quality as soon as it's picked.
Frozen vegetables are flash-frozen right after harvest so they are preserved at their peak of freshness when they are most nutritious. Your best bet in terms of taste, nutrition, and the environment is still local in-season produce. When that's not an option frozen can be a better choice (from a nutrient standpoint) than spinach that takes two weeks to reach your table.
Myth: Cooked veggies are less nutritious than raw
Fact: It depends on the vegetable. "Cooking destroys some nutrients, but it releases others," says Marion Nestle, author of What to Eat. It destroys vitamin C and folic acid, according to Nestle, which is why it's not a great idea to cook oranges.
On the other hand, she says, cooking releases vitamin A and the nutrients in fiber and makes them easier to digest. It's also easier for your body to absorb more lycopene, a cancer-fighting antioxidant, in cooked tomato sauce than from raw tomatoes.
Steam or roast veggies instead of boiling, which leaches out water-soluble vitamins into the cooking water.
Myth: Iceberg lettuce doesn't have any nutrients
Fact: Iceberg lettuce is mostly water so it's hardly loaded with vitamins, but a large head does contain small amounts of protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
You'll get more nutrients from other greens that have less water such as romaine or butterhead lettuce, but contrary to popular belief, iceberg lettuce does have some nutritional value.
Myth: Local vegetables are always cheaper
Fact: It's certainly true that local produce can be good for your budget. This is especially true during the peak of harvest when farmers need to get rid of an abundant crop and there is a lot of competition.
However, there are no guarantees. Local food "is not in any way subsidized so you are paying the real cost of producing the food, and the economies of scale are not there," says Nestle.
Some tips for finding the best deals at your local farmers' market: Shop at the end of the day when farmers are likely to mark down their prices in order to get rid of their inventory. (Go early in the day if selection is more important than price.) Ask your farmer for a volume discount if he or she doesn't already offer one. Take advantage of special deals on bruised or overripe veggies. Prices vary from farmer to farmer so shop around before buying.
Myth: Potatoes make you fat
Fact: Potatoes are virtually fat-free and low in calories. These delicious and inexpensive root vegetables contain a healthy dose of fiber, which can actually make you feel satisfied for longer and help you lose weight.
It's not the potatoes themselves that make you fat. It's how you cook them and what you slather on your spuds that can cause you to pack on the pounds.
Myth: Bagged salads are squeaky clean
Fact: They're not nearly as clean as you may think. Consumer Reports tests found bacteria that are "common indicators of poor sanitation and fecal contamination" in 39 percent of the 208 packages of salad greens it tested. It didn't find E. coli 0157:H7, listeria, or other disease-causing bacteria in its samples.
But it's still a good idea to give greens a good rinse to remove residual soil before eating even if the bag says they're "pre-washed" or "triple-washed."
Myth: Farmer's markets only have organics
Fact: Just because a vegetable (or anything for that matter) is sold at a farmers' market does not mean that it's organic. It still must be certified organic by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for a guarantee that it was grown without synthetic fertilizers and pesticides.
Some farmers will say they are in the process of getting certified, they grow crops without synthetic chemicals but can't afford the certification process, or they only use chemicals when they have no choice and don't use them when it's close to harvest time. It's your call on whether you trust that farmer.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Sleep habits: Pillow and positions matter

By: Brandi Scholssberg RGJ

Sleep habits, including the position you sleep in most often, may affect your quality of life during the waking hours, as well as at night. These habits can be among the most difficult to break, but being aware- and prepared with the proper pillow- can help.

"The way you sleep at night can make a big difference in how you feel during the day," said Gary Standifer, lead physical therapist of Carson Tahoe Therapy at Carson Tahoe Regional Health care. "Depending on the position one rests in, sleeping can contribute to a range of daytime symptoms."

Among these, according to Standifer, who specializes in treating spinal conditions, are neck pain, lower-back pain, headaches, numbness in the arms and hands, and respiratory issues.

"Sleeping in the correct position can not only reduce pain," he said, "but also help you wake up feeling rested and refreshed."

Experts in the field of sleep health report sleeping on one's side is one of the most common positions and, when done properly, can keep the spine in a neutral position and result in a night of quality sleep.

"When sleeping on your side, it is recommended to bend slightly at the knees and hips," Standifer said. "A pillow placed between the knees may reduce discomfort by placing the hips and spine in better alignment."

Sleeping on one's back also can lead to a good night's sleep if the right steps are taken to ensure healthy body placement. This may include a pillow placed under the knees to maintain the normal curve of your lower back. If you suffer from lower-back discomfort, a small rolled towel under your lower back can provide additional support.

"A down side of sleeping on your back can be increased snoring," Standifer said, "which may disrupt not only the sleep of those around you, but also your own sleep."

Experts seem to agree that stomach sleeping is the worst of the three positions when it comes to overall health, due to the increased strain this position can place on a person's neck and lower back.

"Sleeping on the stomach may also make breathing more difficult as the ribs cannot fully expand due to pressure," Standifer said. "If you must sleep on your stomach, a pillow placed under the lower abdomen and pelvis can reduce strain on the lower back."

As for pillows, they support your head and neck throughout the night. These should be selected based on your typical sleep position. For example, experts suggest stomach sleepers use a very thin, almost flat pillow, whereas side sleepers may find they need taller, firmer pillows, and a back sleeper may do well with a thin-to-medium fill pillow.

"Choosing the correct pillow is not enough- it must also be used correctly," Standifer said. "A pillow should support one's head and neck but not be placed under the shoulders.

"To avoid a muscle and joint pain," he added, "a pillow should keep one's head aligned with the spine."