Quick Tips for Better Health

Think twice before taking calcium supplements. When you take calcium supplements, you may easily consume more calcium than your body can handle. The excess can have negative side effects, including increased arterial plaque, kidney stones, disrupted heart rhythm, and constipation. Instead, eat plenty of leafy greens, sesame seeds, and small fish such as sardines, all of which are rich in calcium without the negative side effects of calcium supplements.

Why you crave junk food at the airport. It’s human nature to align with and adapt to our environment. In an airport, surrounded by plastic furniture, artificially amplified announcements, the electronic pinging of people movers, and harsh fluorescent lighting, we tend to crave foods with stronger tastes and artificial flavors, including junk food. It just fits with that environment. However, in natural setting such as a park, patio, or home furnished with natural materials and soft lighting, we gravitate toward simpler fare with subtler flavors and more wholesome ingredients. The lesson? Create a soft and natural environment for your dining area. Use natural materials such as wood, clay, and cotton. Add green plants or fresh flowers. Move the table to a window to provide natural lighting, or illuminate your meal with candlelight. You will appreciate more natural flavors and simple, wholesome fare.

How to Relieve Stress. Multiple studies show that vegetarians suffer less stress and anxiety than meat-eaters. For example, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) researchers reported that meals high in animal protein lowered levels of tryptophan reaching the brain and infused the brain with the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. A separate study reported in 2011 in Nutrition Journal showed that meat eaters assigned to a vegetarian diet scored “significantly” better on measures of anxiety, depression, and stress after two weeks on the new diet, compared to subjects assigned to continue eating meat.
          Why would this be? One reason could be the stress hormones permeating the meat. When the animal is transported to the slaughterhouse, it senses danger. As it approaches death, it struggles, cries out, even voids its bowels. These behaviors are an indication that stress hormones are flooding the animal’s body. We eat the meat or chicken, and those hormones enter our own body. The more meat and poultry we eat, the greater the stress we feel.
          Plant foods, on the other hand, are known to relieve stress. Whole grains, vegetables, beans, are all known to lower blood pressure, soothe the nervous system, and stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system (the relaxation response). So for greater relaxation, peacefulness, and ease, avoid or eliminate animal food and cultivate a whole foods, plant-based diet.

Turn Off Your Bad Genes. An article in this week’s NY Times confirms that diet and lifestyle can lower our risk for heart disease, even if we have up to 50 genes that predispose us to cardiovascular problems. Better yet, we don’t have to do everything perfectly. Research cited in the article looked at the impact of 4 health indicators: diet, exercise, obesity, and smoking. Subjects with 3 out 4 healthy factors could cut their risk of heart disease in half. What foods constitute a healthy diet? Whole grains, vegetables, nuts, fruits, and fish. Future studies will likely show similar positive results for cutting our risk of diabetes, cancer, and Alzheimer’s.

Why seltzer makes you short of breath. Last week we learned how seltzer and soda can weaken our bones. But did you know it also makes you short of breath? Here’s why: To make carbonated beverages fizzy, the manufacturer pumps them full of pressurized carbon dioxide. When we drink the carbonated beverage, the carbon dioxide enters our digestive tract. Some of it gets belched out, but some of it is absorbed into our bloodstream, where it is transported to the lungs to be exhaled. The more carbon dioxide we consume, the more we have to exhale, and the faster we must breathe. So for greater endurance and better lung-power, eliminate carbonated beverages.

Why seltzer weakens our bones. Most of us know that soda undermines our health. But what about seltzer? That little, innocent, no-sugar, no-calorie glass of seltzer is a healthy substitute for soda, right? Unfortunately, all carbonated beverages are bad for us, including seltzer and club soda. The reason is the carbon dioxide (carbonation) used to make the seltzer fizzy. Carbon dioxide is a waste product that acidifies our body. Since our body doesn’t like to be acid, it uses calcium from our bones and teeth to neutralize the excess acid. Carbonated beverages lead to more acidity, which leads to weaker bones and teeth (just ask your dentist). So instead of soda or seltzer, try one of the many healthy teas, which are loaded with anti-oxidants and benefit the body in a variety of other ways.

Natural allergy relief. Are you susceptible to seasonal allergies? A study of mice published in the Journal of Nutritional Biochemistry showed that a daily dose of powdered ginger relieved allergy symptoms such as sneezing and itching. Fresh ginger should work just as well—make ginger tea from sliced fresh ginger root boiled for a few minutes in water. Drink the tea early in the day, since ginger can be stimulating and may keep you awake at night. For more permanent allergy relief, avoid dairy products and alcohol; both are notorious allergy triggers.

Cook your oatmeal without milk. Consuming dairy has been implicated in everything from allergies to breast cancer to prostate cancer. Yet most people cook milk into their oatmeal or pour it on afterward. To avoid that, simply cook your oats with extra water until your porridge becomes the consistency you like. Voilà! Dairy-free oatmeal!

Say a prayer or give thanks before you eat. When you pause for a moment of thanks and reflection before your meal, you accomplish several things. By mentally thanking the deity, forces, or people who brought you your meal, you acknowledge your connection with a greater system. This moment of meditation allows you to slow down and relax. And as you pause, you give your body time to absorb the sights and smells of the meal, triggering the production of saliva and peristaltic action so that you will digest your food better. Giving thanks opens your body, mind and spirit, allowing you to be truly nourished by the meal you are receiving.

More ways to love your liver. Last week we learned that foods with a sour flavor stimulate your liver and help it break down old fats and wastes. Another category of food that supports your liver is leafy greens. Kale, collards, turnip greens, watercress, sprouts, leeks, scallions and chives all energize the liver and help it clean the body. So include leafy greens with your meals two or three times a day. When your liver does a good job of cleaning the body, your cells last longer, and you live longer!

Spring is liver season. According to traditional Chinese medicine, each of our organs has a season when it becomes the most active and energetic. During spring, when we naturally begin to lighten our diet in preparation for the warmer weather, our liver pitches in by cleaning out old fats and wastes. You can help your liver do its job by feeding it the foods that stimulate and support it. In particular, foods with a sour flavor help the liver break down fats and clean out waste. So squeeze some lemon in your tea, splash vinegar on your greens, snack on green Granny Smith apples, add a splash of unsweetened cranberry juice to your water, and complement your meal with a dollop of sauerkraut. Your liver will love you for it.

Supercharge your spring cleanse with sea veggies. Sea vegetables have the ability to remove toxins from our bodies, including radiation and heavy metals such as lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. As a chelating agent, sea vegetables bind with heavy metals and make them water-soluble. This allows your body to expel the toxin through urination. One of the easiest ways to include sea vegetables in your diet is to add a bit of wakame to miso soup 2 or 3 times a week. Other sea veggies to try include kombu, nori, dulse, arame, and hijiki. You can find them in health food stores, but be sure to check the country of origin on the package and buy from areas with unpolluted water.

The best cleanse: Spring is when we traditionally begin to lighten our diet and maybe even try a cleanse. But sometimes people end up choosing a cleanse that can actually damage their body. That’s because, during a cleanse or fast, the body’s cells and liver expel stored toxins. Those toxins enter the bloodstream, and if they aren’t removed quickly, the high serum level of toxins can harm the kidneys or other cells. We can avoid this situation by including fiber during our cleanse—whole grains or vegetables, for example. So if you choose to fast or cleanse, make sure you include some fiber. One of the best cleanses is to eat only brown rice and vegetables for several days. You will still get needed nutrients, you will get the fiber your body needs in order to remove toxins, and you can avoid the kind of hunger pangs that can send you back to the junk food the moment the cleanse is over.

Take charge of your health. To be healthy, it’s essential to take responsibility for our own health. This includes taking care to eat healthy food, get to bed on time, get some exercise several times a week (at a minimum), learn to relax, educate yourself about healthy practices, even learn to cook. I’ve seen so many clients suffering serious and even life-threatening illnesses abdicate their health to someone else—their doctor, therapist, spouse, personal chef—while they devote their main focus to their job, work or career and continue to get sicker and sicker. Don’t let it happen to you! No one else will ever take such good care of you as you can yourself. So take charge of your health today. Make it your main focus. The body is amazingly resilient, but you have to do the work to help it heal.

Healthy Alternatives to Hot Chocolate. You’ve just tramped in from a cold, blustery day. Wouldn’t a nice cup of hot cocoa taste good? Not so fast—that seemingly innocent cup of cocoa is loaded with added sugars, which increase inflammation, destroy essential vitamins, and weaken your bones. And the milk solids in cocoa mix can wreak havoc with your hormones. Instead, try one of these healthier alternatives:

  • Warm apple cider. If you like, mull it with winter spices such as cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger.
  • Hot spiced chai tea.
  • Warm amasake, a fermented rice drink. Amasake is sweet, rich, filling, and delicious. The fermentation populates your intestines with helpful microbes that help regulate your digestion, manufacture serotonin, and more. You can find amasake in the refrigerator section of your health food store.

Address the root cause. Some of my clients take medications for conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, etc. But despite their condition, they often make statements like: “No, I don’t have high blood pressure. My medication is controlling my blood pressure, so my blood pressure is normal.” The client believes that the medication makes the problem disappear. Unfortunately, the medication does not cure the condition; it only alleviates the symptoms. Furthermore, medications come with their own side effects, some of them serious.

Why not address the problem at the root and heal the condition so you don’t need the medication in the first place? Chronic conditions are often the result of many years of eating too much sugar, fat, salt, chemicals, refined foods, etc., combined with lack of exercise, too much stress, and other poor health habits. When we begin to care for ourselves with proper food, sleep, activity and relaxation practices, we have the opportunity to deeply heal ourselves. This type of healing has its own side effects: more energy, greater happiness, and longer life.

For Valentine’s Day: The food of love.
German research shows the number one food for good sex is naturally fermented, raw, unpasteurized sauerkraut. Can you say, “Ich liebe dich.”?

The worst foods? Too much sugar and fat, which clog the blood vessels to the penis and result in erectile dysfunction. Also, watch out for alcohol. While a glass of wine may relax you, too much blunts your senses and puts you to sleep—not a very sexy climax to your evening.

Don’t stick with the recipe. You can add variety to your mealtime by changing one or two factors in your recipe, producing a whole new dish. This allows you to eat a greater variety of foods without having to learn new recipes, it lets you use ingredients you have on hand without going back to the grocery store, and it allows you to have fun with your cooking! For example, I have a basic cauliflower soup that I make (recipe here). Sometimes, instead of using cauliflower, I use winter squash such as kabocha. Voila! An entirely new dish—just by substituting squash for the cauliflower. Of instead of squash, you could use a can of navy beans, and now you have bean soup. You can vary the recipe further by browning the onions in a little olive oil instead of boiling them, or you could add different herbs, or curry powder, etc. Use your imagination. How can you change and adapt your favorite recipes?

Feed your mind with care. Just as the food we eat affects our physical health, the food we feed our brain can affect our mental and emotional health. For example, a mental diet filled with “toxins” such as violent crime shows or polarizing political news can make us start to feel mistrustful, isolated, even endangered. Alternatively, if we feed our mind with spiritual lessons, inspirational reading and stories of people who have overcome obstacles, served others, or made the world better, we expand into a feeling of possibility and hope. Be careful what ideas you feed your mind—it affects your life just as strongly as the food you feed your stomach.

Another way to stay warm in winter. Did you know you can regulate your body temperature by adjusting the food you eat? Most of us do this automatically, but if we pay attention to what we’re doing, we can fine-tune our body’s thermostat even more effectively. For example, light, juicy, raw foods keep us cooler in summer. But in winter’s bitter chill, we need to eat differently. We can stay warmer by cutting back on fruit and salad, and eating more hardy winter vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips, burdock, kale, winter squashes, turnips, cabbages. And we can stoke our internal fire even more by cooking our food in long-simmered stews or baking it. Try it! You’ll be amazed at how much more comfortable you feel when you eat according to the seasons.

Wear a haramaki. Would you like to be as strong as a samurai? One of the samurai’s secrets for staying warm during winter’s chill was to wear a haramaki. This garment, also called a kidney warmer, is a cotton or wool tube worn around your midsection during cold weather. It keeps your torso toasty, helping to ward off icy drafts. When your core is comfy, the rest of your body stays warmer. And according to Asian medicine, cold drafts can weaken the kidneys, and strong kidneys equal long, healthy life. So keep your kidneys and the rest of your body warm with a haramaki. You can find them for sale in Asian neighborhoods or on the internet. (Thanks to Kezia Snyder for this tip. You can learn more about Kezia at https://www.facebook.com/search/top/?q=kezia snyder healthy living or https://www.instagram.com/keziacooks/)

Make friends with your kitchen. One of the healthiest habits you can cultivate is to cook your own meals (at least most of the time). But how can you turn out delicious meals if you can’t stand to be in your kitchen? It pays to make your kitchen as beautiful, functional, and happy as possible. Then you’ll be comfortable hanging out there. Here are some ways to make friends with your kitchen:

  • Keep it clean. Scour the sink, mop the floor, wash the dishes, put them away, take out the garbage.
  • Organize your tools so those you use most often are easy to grab. For example, my knives are in a rack mounted above my chopping block, and my pots are hanging right by the stove, and my cooking utensils are in a crock next to the stove.
  • Keep your knives sharp.
  • Keep basic ingredients on hand: olive oil, sea salt, onions, canned beans, noodles—whatever you use regularly.
  • You may want to put a boombox, speaker dock for your smart phone, or some other music player in the kitchen, so you can listen to your favorite songs as you cook.

Now who wouldn’t love spending time in a kitchen like that? For more ideas, see this blog by Margaret Marshall, the Huffington Post‘s Healthy Living Expert, where she interviews me and adds a few tips of her own: Huffington Post: Set Your Kitchen for Success

Feed yourself with love. It’s winter solstice, the Christmas season, and the approach of a new year. It’s also the time of year when we traditionally relax and let loose to enjoy parties and feasting with friends and family. So go ahead and enjoy this beautiful time of year. And while you do, remember that not all food is physical. We can feed ourselves with love, joy, and happiness. And aren’t these the most powerful nutrients of all? Merry Christmas!

No time to make breakfast? Try this. At night before you go to bed, fill a teakettle with water. Put 1/3 cup rolled oats in a wide-mouthed thermos with a pinch of sea salt. If you like, you can add other ingredients such as nuts or dried fruit. Now off to bed for a good night’s sleep… In the morning before your shower, turn on the kettle. It will be boiling by the time you get out of the shower. Pour the boiling water into the thermos with the oats, add a touch of maple syrup if you want, then screw on the lid. Now take your thermos to work. By the time you arrive, the oats will be cooked and ready to eat. It’s better for your heart, your weight, and your brain than a quick muffin or bagel from the deli—and just as fast.

How to nourish yourself deeply. We’ve all experienced hunger pangs when we’re ready to cram anything into our mouth. And you’ve probably had the experience when you cruised by the candy bowl on a co-worker’s desk or the pretzel bowl at a party and mindlessly snatched a handful of whatever was handy, then… down the hatch… without really paying attention to what you’re eating. Instead of eating mindlessly, try this. Whenever you get hungry, ask yourself, “What am I really hungry for?” Then find that food and nourish your body the way it wants to be nourished. Sometimes, what you’re craving may not be food at all, but companionship, relaxation, relief, self-validation, comfort, or some other emotion. If you pay attention to your cravings, they will tell you how to nourish yourself in a way that truly fills you up.

How to grocery shop. You already know you shouldn’t go food shopping while hungry. You may also have other criteria for food shopping. I personally like to choose food that is: whole and fresh (not packaged, refined or chemicalized), seasonal, plant-based and preferably organic. But let me suggest one additional criterion: Ask yourself, “Do I want to become this food?” The minute you eat a food, it begins to become your blood, bones, brain and brawn. Are you choosing food that is worthy of becoming you? Are you choosing the kind of food that will make you the kind of person you want to be: whole, fresh and vibrant?

Give thanks for your body. During this Thanksgiving season, how about pausing a moment to give thanks for your body? Too often, we mentally “beat up” our body. We complain we are too flabby, too gassy, too weak, our genes are flawed, our arteries are clogged, our hair is brittle, our skin is flaky, our eyes are bloodshot, our joints ache, our complexion is blotchy, etc. But instead of thinking about what is wrong with your body, consider what is right.

Every day your heart muscle contracts up to 100,000 times, with never a coffee break or day off. Every day your kidneys filter 47 gallons of blood, removing half a quart of waste-filled fluid from your body. Your liver spends each day busily performing over 400 life-sustaining functions. Even the bacteria living inside your body are at work each moment, manufacturing nutrients, protecting your digestive tract, and keeping harmful microbes in check.

So take a moment this Thanksgiving season to give thanks for your body. Your cells are exquisitely responsive to your thoughts. When you send them love and gratitude, your tissues respond with a surge of hormones that can literally strengthen your health. And that’s one more miracle to give thanks for.

Choose food with life. Occasionally I arrive at a client’s kitchen and discover their ingredients are limp, rubbery, wilted, brown, and sad. These foods have no life force, no flavor, and cannot satisfy us. If you eat a meal made of old, stale ingredients; or prepared entirely out of packages and cans, you will soon be craving more. Be sure you choose foods that are fresh, crisp, and bright. It helps if they are also local and seasonal—a further indication of freshness. When you eat food bursting with vitality, you become fresh, bright, and snappy!

Step away from the screen. Feeling stressed, jittery, or anxious? Do you have a hard time relaxing or falling asleep? You may be spending too much time in front of your screens. When we use our e-readers, smart phones, and computers, we spend a lot of time scrolling, causing our eyes to jerk up and down. The television picture also has a rapid rolling motion that we don’t usually notice (unless you see a television being played on your own television, such as when the characters in a show are watching television). Even though we may not consciously notice this rolling movement, our eyeballs do. This constant jerking and rolling of our eyeballs is like a low-grade twitching of our body that can unsettle us over time. Even reading books causes our eyes to flick rapidly back and forth as we track the words on the page. What to do? Try spending less time on this type of activity (I know, it’s really hard) and more time observing nature, whether by taking a walk in the park, playing with your pet, or doing other “natural” things such as cooking, talking to friends, doing yoga or tai chi, and meditating. Your eyeballs will thank you, and your nerves will settle down.

Three ways to avoid infections during cold season: 1) Cut back on sugar. Sugar and sweets literally paralyze your white blood cells (your immune defense cells) for several hours, allowing viruses to gain a toehold in your body before your defense system has a chance to kick in. 2) Get enough sleep. Sometimes simply getting a good night’s sleep or going to bed for a long nap is enough to stop a cold in its tracks. 3) Take a walk outside. Why? In order for your body to fight infections, your blood and lymph need to circulate. The blood takes your white blood cells to the location of the infection. Then your lymph carries the virus or bacteria away. Walking helps both your blood and lymph to circulate to the site of any invasion, thus strengthening your immune response.

Tune in to your body. If you listen to your body, it will tell you what to eat, drink, when to eat, and how to take care of your health. A great way to tune in to your body is right after a meal. Do you feel light, energized, and satisfied? Or do you feel heavy, bloated, gassy, tired, nauseated? If you experience any of these negative sensations, think about what you just ate. Is there some food you should avoid? Should you be eating less? More slowly? Chewing more? If you experience discomfort in some part of your body, don’t ignore it. Treat it as a valuable message guiding you toward better health. Your own body can give you more valuable medical advice than any doctor, because it can help you stop problems before they develop. What is your body telling you?

Use garnishes in your cooking.

A garnish is a food topping that accents and adds zip to your dish. The best garnish will provide contrast in terms of color (green parsley leaves on orange squash soup), texture (crunchy fried croutons on top of creamy bean soup), or flavor (piquant chopped chives atop a plate of fried rice). Why use garnishes? Lots of great reasons:

  • They add variety.
  • They stimulate your taste buds.
  • Their extra flavor helps satisfy you.
  • Many foods used as garnishes provide special nutrients, including antioxidants. Herbs, nuts and seeds, for example, are rich sources of antioxidants.

Here are some garnishes to consider. You might want to keep a few of these on hand and vary the ones you use:

  • Chopped fresh herbs: parsley, cilantro, basil, rosemary, etc.
  • Toasted seeds and nuts
  • Croutons
  • Sliced scallions or chopped chives
  • A thin slice of lemon

You may discover some new possibilities, such as chopped pickled vegetables, fresh or dried fruits, or chopped red peppers. Be creative!

Get your sweets from veggies. As I discussed in last week’s health tip, when we eat healthfully, we can eventually replace unhealthy cravings with cravings for nourishing food. Unfortunately, our desire for sweets is one of the last to disappear. Therefore, it helps to have a repertoire of recipes for sweet vegetables that can help slake our desire for sweets.
One of my favorite sweet vegetables is cooked onions. The longer you cook them, the sweeter they become. Try adding golden sautéed onions to your beans, grill them in veggie kebabs, or make soup. Here’s the recipe for sweet onion soup, which is one of the most satisfying soups I know. It takes awhile to cook, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

Know your cravings. In my personal experience and that of many friends and clients, when we eliminate unhealthful foods and begin eating healthier foods, our taste buds eventually adjust. …But it takes awhile. While our taste buds adjusts, we tend to go through a series of predictable cravings that occur in a particular order:
1. Peanut butter, tahini, and other nut butters, which provide a heavy dose of protein and fat that you may used to be getting from meat and poultry.
2. Cheese. This craving can take awhile to subside. It’s a craving for fat, protein & salt. You can substitute savory tofu dishes or dressings made with nut butters or tahini seasoned with soy sauce or umeboshi vinegar (found in health foods stores).
3. Sugar. In my experience, this craving takes the longest to disappear, since the desire for sweets is a natural human urge. But if you persevere, you can replace the craving for sugar and strong sweets with a healthier appreciation for the milder sweets of vegetables, grains, and occasional fruits.
If you’re attempting to cut back on meat/dairy/sugar/alcohol/processed foods, it may be helpful to recognize that you may go through this series of cravings. Knowing what to expect may help you recognize what’s normal and plan ahead for workarounds. The longer you eat healthfully, the fainter your unhealthy cravings will become until they finally fade away.
In the meantime, you will begin to develop cravings for healthier foods such as whole grains, fresh vegetables, and beans. For example, if I’ve been traveling or unable to eat healthfully for awhile, I develop an overwhelming urge for leafy greens. And on occasion, when I’ve prepared a bowl of homemade miso soup after a bout of less healthy eating, I can practically feel my body suck in the nutrients. I can literally feel my body strengthen as though I’d just received a blood transfusion!
So stick with your healthy eating plan. Your body will learn what it really wants and needs, and communicate those needs to you so that you can truly trust your cravings.

Eat vegetables for breakfast. One of the healthiest foods you can put into your body is fresh vegetables. They keep us slender, are loaded with antioxidants, alkalize our tissues, fight inflammation, cleanse our body of toxins, protect us against cancer, keep us young, and much, much more. And one of the best ways to make sure you get enough vegetables is to eat them for breakfast. When I recommend this to my clients, they are often surprised. Vegetables for breakfast? Why not? Try it! Do an experiment and eat vegetables for breakfast every morning for 3 days in a row. You will likely find that your whole day goes better and you feel perkier than usual. Go here for a recipe for quick blanched vegetables—one of the best dishes to give you light, bright energy in the morning.

Avoid acid reflux and heartburn. According to doctors, the number one trigger for gastro-esophageal reflux and heartburn is excess fat consumption. So pass up the pizza, skip the sauce, nix the butter, choose fruit for dessert instead of ice cream, and avoid other sources of excess fats. But it’s not just what you eat. How you eat also matters. For better digestion, sit down to a relaxed meal, allow yourself at least 20 minutes to eat, and chew your food well—30 to 50 chews per bite. Finally, avoid eating near bedtime and don’t lie down or recline for several hours after eating. If you follow these guidelines, you’ll be amazed at how quickly the heartburn disappears.

Would you like to look more attractive, radiate magnetism, feel more energetic and enjoy greater stamina? Would you like to sleep better at night? Would you like germs to bounce off you, so you become one of those people who never seem to get sick? How about feeling so great you must be in love, and you are… with life! Now what if I said you could do all that and prevent global warming at the same time, just by making one simple change in your life. Would you consider it? The change I’m talking about is the switch to a plant-based diet. When you avoid animal food, you strengthen your heart, lower your risk of cancer, lower your risk of Alzheimer’s, and eliminate a major cause of global warming, according to a report by The United Nations. Not ready to make the change? Then you may want to consider making one day a week meatless. Or you could buy a vegetarian cookbook and start to cut back on meat while incorporating more plant-based recipes into your daily meals. Your body will thank you, the Earth will breathe easier, and the cows will be delighted.

Here’s another reason to let your digestive tract rest between meals. People often ask me, “Is it better to eat multiple small meals during the day? Or 3 larger meals?”

Earlier I explained how giving your digestive tract a break between meals benefits your liver. But resting between meals doesn’t just aid your liver; it also helps your small intestine.

Here’s why. After you eat, your meal moves through your stomach, into the small intestine, then into the large intestine, and finally, out into the toilet. An hour after your small intestine finishes digesting your meal, it starts a cleanup process. If no new food enters the stomach, your small intestine sweeps away any little scraps or remnants of food until your intestine is squeaky clean. Scientists call this the “migrating motor complex.”

For ideal intestinal health, wait 5 hours between meals. Any snacking will stop the cleanup process and prevent your intestine from completing the digestion/cleanup cycle. If you continually prevent your intestine from cleaning itself, you may eventually end up with an unhealthy gut environment, resulting in inflammation, poor absorption of nutrients, and other digestive problems.

It’s one more reason why it’s better to eat 2 or 3 meals a day rather than many small meals and snacks.

Here’s one way to satisfy your appetite and avoid cravings. When you include each of the 7 flavors, you are more likely to be satisfied by your meal and less likely to experience cravings afterwards. So try to include each of the following basic flavors (I’ve included some examples of each):
1. Sweet: winter squash, corn, parsnips, peas, carrots, fruits, chestnuts
2. Sour: lemons, vinegar, sour cherries, cranberries, granny smith apples
3. Salty: miso, shoyu, pickles
4. Bitter: endive, dandelion greens and other leafy greens
5. Pungent or Spicy: raw onions, ginger, garlic, horseradish, wasabi, jalapenos
6. Umami (savory or protein-rich): miso, shoyu, beans, fish
7. Oleogustus. Never heard of it? Neither have most people. This flavor has just been identified by researchers as one of the basic flavors we need to satisfy our appetite. Oleogustus means fatty and includes oily or fatty foods such as: fatty fish like sardines or salmon, olive oil, tahini, peanut butter, and nuts. For more on this newest addition to the flavor pantheon, click here.

There is at least one other flavor—astringent—but it’s much more rare and difficult to include. Astringent foods make your mouth feel dry and puckered. Examples include tea, quince, unripe persimmons, certain pears, the herb sage, as well as banana skins (which I don’t recommend you eat, but you could try licking one to get the feel for this taste).
Exploring all these flavors will make your meals more exciting, varied and pleasing.

Avoid sweetened tofu. Eating sweetened tofu in dishes such as tofu cheesecake or tofu “ice-cream” can give you a bad case of abdominal bloat and indigestion. That’s because your digestive enzymes rush in to welcome the sweeteners, leaving the complex proteins in the tofu undigested. As the tofu enters the intestines, it begins to ferment, throwing off gasses and possibly even generating a bad case of stomach cramps. Although tofu is a source of healthy, high-quality protein, it’s best eaten as a savory, not a sweet dish. So think of tofu more as a meat substitute, and not an ingredient for sweets or desserts. Your stomach will thank you. (See my recipe for Noodles in Broth for another delicious way to cool off with tofu.)

To stay cool, eat tofu. According to traditional Chinese medicine and macrobiotic thinking, meat, poultry and many types of fish stoke your internal fire, whereas tofu helps to disperse heat and cool the body. That makes it the perfect dish for sweltering summer days. Here’s a quick and easy recipe for a cool tofu dish that will satisfy your protein cravings while keeping you cool as a cucumber.

Enjoy iceberg lettuce. Have you let “the experts” convince you that iceberg lettuce is devoid of nutrients and not worth eating? Balderdash! Here are two great reasons to eat iceberg lettuce. First, it’s juicy, crunchy and refreshing. In hot summer weather, a crisp iceberg lettuce salad will keep you cooler than the more “socially accepted” lettuces. Second, lettuce contains a relaxing substance called lactucarium. According to Wikipedia, “Lactucarium is known as lettuce opium because of its sedative and analgesic properties.” In other words, not only does it relieve stress, but it also eases pain. All types of lettuce contain lactucarium, but guess which lettuce is highest? You guessed it—iceberg lettuce. So toss an iceberg lettuce salad today. It may take the edge off the day’s heat and stress, and keep you pain-free.

Nourish your digestive tract with pickles. Research now hints that healthy gut flora may protect us from obesity and depression, not to mention indigestion. You can fortify your gut flora by making natural pickles and fermented foods a regular part of your diet. A small serving of pickles once a day will gradually build healthful flora in your digestive tract.

Natural pickles are generally found in the refrigerator section of your health food store. Read the label to make sure they contain no preservatives such as alcohol or sodium benzoate. Look for pickles made from sea salt and not vinegar, since vinegar pickles don’t contain the type of enzymes and organisms your digestive tract needs. Traditional pickles include dill pickles and sauerkraut, but you could also choose kim chi or some of the other varieties now being sold. Keep your serving size small—about a tablespoon, to avoid salt overload.

A small bite of pickles with your meals can add, zest, crunch and contrast and will nourish your taste buds as well as your tummy.

Live long and prosper. One of the smartest steps you can take to prolong your life and boost your health is to avoid animal foods. A study published in 2013 in JAMA Internal Medicine found a 12% overall drop in deaths among vegetarians compared to non-vegetarians. Among men, the drop was huge—28%! Another study, a 21-year study by the German Cancer Research Center, found that vegetarian men reduced their risk of early death by 50% and women vegetarians benefit from a 30% reduction in mortality. To get started, try some of the delicious dishes in my “Recipes” section.

Here’s how to be a good cook. Cooking is like any endeavor—the more you practice, the better you get. Here are some tips for speeding your learning curve:

  • Choose high quality ingredients. You know what techies say about computers: “Garbage in, garbage out.” It’s the same with our cooking. High quality ingredients are more likely to produce high quality results. For example, if your recipe calls for adding wine, buy good wine. If it calls for balsamic vinegar, get the best you can afford. Make sure your vegetables are fresh and vibrant. It’s hard to beat local, seasonal produce fresh from the farmer’s market. You get the idea.
  • If a recipe you try isn’t as delicious as you’d like, don’t give up on it. Adjust it! Feel free to write notes in your cookbooks, modify amounts, omit or add ingredients, or make other adjustments. Sometimes I have to try a recipe 2 or 3 times before I get it to taste the way I like.
  • Cook with a friend who is a good cook and ask them for recipes, tips, and cookbook recommendations.
  • Experiment with intuitive cooking. If you feel like eating a certain type of food, see if you can put together a dish on your own, without a recipe. You may just create a masterpiece.

Learn to cook. Research shows people who cook at home tend to be healthier than those who regularly eat out—regardless of what food they cook. Why? Restaurant food tends to be richer (meaning fattier) and saltier than home cooking. And salty food makes you hungrier and more apt to overeat. Now imagine how healthy you’ll be if you cook at home and cook healthy food!

All tea is not created equal. Prevention magazine is just the latest publication to tout the many benefits of tea. Green tea, especially, is one of the healthiest beverages we can enjoy. But when you purchase tea, watch out. Many brands have added unhealthy ingredients, such as artificial sweeteners and artificial flavorings. This is even true of some very expensive brands. Sometimes we’re the ones who add the unhealthy ingredients, like sugar or cream. So read the label before you buy, and look for tea that is pure tea, with no additives. Then when you brew that steaming cup, learn to drink it straight, pure and clear. To your health!

Eat kale. Kale may be the latest craze, but its health benefits have long been recognized. In ancient China, doctors wandered from village to village, looking for patients to treat. According to legend, if the doctor arrived at a village and saw kale growing in the gardens, he didn’t even bother to stop. Why? Because he knew the people in that village would be healthy, and would have no need of a doctor. Here are some of kale’s benefits: It nourishes the liver, it makes the blood vessels more elastic, it provides calcium for the bones, it’s rich in antioxidants, it lowers cholesterol, it contains magnesium which fights stress, and it boosts our immunity. So add kale to your grocery list and enjoy it regularly. Kale may seem like the latest fad, but it’s a food that deserves a lasting place at our dinner table.

Take a Break from Tension: When you hold tension in your muscles, you block circulation of blood, lymph and chi and throw your body out of alignment, which can lead to problems with the tendons and other areas. Here’s a quick and easy way to move toward relaxation. Throughout the day, take a quick mental scan of your body. Is there any area that seems tight or clenched? For example, I tend to hold tension in my shoulders, and whenever I scan my body, I often find myself holding one shoulder clenched higher than the other. What do you discover? Common areas for tension include the jaw, shoulders, lower back, facial muscles, brow area, and stomach, since many of us were taught to “suck in our abs” (which is just another way of creating tension in the body). Wherever you find tension, gently relax, lower or soften that area. Send love and healing energy to that area. Then check in with that area later in the day and see how it’s doing. If you practice this loosening exercise regularly, you may find yourself breaking long-held stiffness patterns and finally freeing yourself from the tyranny of tension.

11 More reasons you may not have thought of to go outside for a walk today:
11. You can take your camera with you and snap striking photos of the scenery.
10. You can get away from the drilling, hammer blows and power sawing of your neighbor’s latest DIY project.
9. You might smell wild blueberries, roses or violets.
8. You’ll stay fit enough to sprint after your runaway (choose one) toddler/grandchild/ dog/hat.
7. In the park, no one yells at you.
6. Mother Earth likes to feel the tickle of your toes on her tummy.
5. You might meet your neighbor in the abaya, find out she’s from Yemen, and discover just how much you have in common.
4. Your hair will get that flattering sun-streaked look, and you won’t have to pay a penny for the beauty treatment.
3. You might see a pet raccoon/cat/ferret out for a walk.
2. You don’t have to rush.
1. You might hear the breeze whisper to you the secret of happiness.

11 Reasons you may not have thought of to go outside for a walk today:
11. You’ll feel better when you return than you did when you set out.
10. You may see a hawk, a hummingbird, or a hedgehog.
9. There is no tempting junk food in the park.
8. While you’re walking, you’ll think of the brilliant comment you should have said instead of the lame remark you did say.
7. You can find a dog to pat, even if you don’t own one yourself.
6. Your problems will start to seem smaller.
5. Inspiration may strike for your next business project, blog post, novel, dinner menu, or whatever else you’re working on.
4. When you pass the playground, you will hear the laughter of children.
3. You may run into an old friend or meet a new one.
2. You’ll save on blush, because the fresh air will put roses in your cheeks.
1. You can’t see a rainbow indoors.

How to have a healthy heart: This past week, Dr. Anupam Jena of Harvard Medical School was interviewed on the radio program Freakonomics. Dr. Jena noted that if you combine all the most common treatments for heart disease—beta blockers, statins, aspirin, and blood thinners like Plavix or Coumadin—you could reduce your mortality by an estimated 2 to 3 percentage points. Just 2 or 3 percent. Not very much, is it?

Wouldn’t it make more sense to avoid heart disease in the first place? The things we do every day can dramatically cut our risk. Here’s how: eat mostly plant foods and avoid animal foods. Avoid saturated and trans fats. Avoid processed and refined foods. Stop smoking. Eat salt only in moderation. Learn relaxation techniques. And get some moderate exercise each day. The great thing about these steps is that they also cut our risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, depression, and a host of other ills. So ask yourself, what can you do today to move in the direction of a healthier heart? Now get out and do it.

Get outside today. Many people head to the gym to exercise, but when you get your activity outdoors, you benefit even more. The outdoor air is charged with chi, or life force, that comes from the movement of the wind, the respiration of the trees, the warmth of the sunshine, the singing of the birds. The environment inside a gym; however, is more artificial and stagnant. Furthermore, when we get outside, especially to a park or woodsy area, we release tension and relax much more than at the gym. So get outside for a walk, some tai chi, tennis or gardening, and feel how alive and connected to nature you are.

To lose weight, avoid cold foods. Your body’s ultradian rhythms (the rhythms that run your metabolism), are dramatically affected by temperature. Colder temperatures slow the rhythm, while warmer temperatures speed it up. The rate of chemical reactions at least doubles for every 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperature. So to be more sluggish, eat lots of ice cream and frozen yogurt, drink plenty of iced beverages, and sit around to let your body temperature drop. Even if your cold foods and beverages contain no calories, they will still slow your metabolism, causing you to retain more fat than you would otherwise. But if you want to speed your metabolism and burn more fat, raise your temperature. How? Go for a brisk walk. Drink a cup of hot green tea. Soak in a hot tub. Have a bowl of hot soup with lunch. And throw that ice cream down the drain.

What should you eat today? Your body performs best on food that is fresh, seasonal and local. But if you’re a city dweller like me, how can you tell what’s in season? Take a trip to the farmer’s market! Just in case you’re too busy, I did it for you. Here in my neighborhood farmer’s market in New York City, most of the farmers are still selling hardy winter produce: squashes, pumpkins, turnips, parsnips, carrots, robust greens like Brussels sprouts, kale, broccoli, and apples. Even though Spring is on the way, the season’s first asparagus and other tender offerings have not yet arrived. Therefore, I put together a recipe to help us say “goodbye” to all those wonderful, sweet and satisfying winter friends. Enjoy!

Friday is the Vernal Equinox and the first official day of Spring. Why not celebrate by lightening your diet? If you eat more lightly now, you’ll be ready for summer when the dog days arrive. What to do? Start eating more lightly cooked dishes (such as quick steaming, stir frying, and quick blanching), add more vegetables (in proportion to grains and beans), and cut back on salty and fatty foods. If you start making these changes now, you’ll feel cool and light by the time the sweltering weather settles in.

Emphasize vegetables over fruit. Both fruits and vegetables are rich sources of vitamins, antioxidants, fiber, and fluids. But vegetables have the edge. Why? Vegetables are richer in minerals, which nourish our bones, steady our heart rate, fortify our central nervous system, and alkalize our cells. Fruit, on the other hand, is high in fructose, a form of sugar which, taken in excess, can raise our blood sugar, trigger cravings, weaken our intestines and lead to a fatty liver. Scientists warn us that fructose is more damaging to our bodies than sucrose (white sugar). In a recent study presented at the Endocrine Society annual meeting and reported in MedPage Today, one expert stated: “High fructose consumption is associated with liver fat accumulation, hypertriglyceridemia, and increased conversion of sugar to fat in the liver known as hepatic de novo lipogenesis.” That’s a long way of saying that it’s okay to enjoy a piece of sweet, juicy fruit now and then, but don’t be consuming fruit (or fruit juice) all day long. Instead, remember that vegetables are the real key to health, beauty and longevity.

Trust your instincts. Most people know one, two, or even more things they could be doing to improve their health. Good health is not rocket science. You don’t need an expert to tell you what you already know: Eat fresh, whole foods—mostly vegetarian. Eat moderately. Get 7 to 8 hours sleep at night. Be physically active for at least half an hour every day. Learn some relaxation techniques. Your own intuition is probably already telling you what changes you need to make right now. Listen to your internal wisdom and act on it. The healthier you get, the more accurate that internal voice will become. Shhh! Your body is talking to you.

Get acquainted with umeboshi vinegar. This beautiful pink vinegar is not really vinegar at all, but the brine from pickling umeboshi plums. You can use it in place of salt to flavor beans, grains, salads, or to sprinkle on vegetables to give them extra zip. One of my favorite ways to use umeboshi vinegar is to make quick umeboshi pickles. These ridiculously easy homemade pickles are delicious. …And they’re healthy—they alkalize our cells and provide healthy enzymes and beneficial bacteria to the digestive tract. Here’s the recipe: Quick Ume Pickles. They’re as tasty as they are easy.

Go to bed on an empty stomach. One of the most beneficial things you can do to sleep soundly, stay young, be slender, and detox your body is to go to bed on an empty stomach. Why? During the night, your body’s job is to clean out waste and heal damaged cells. If you go to bed on a full stomach, your body will be too busy digesting food and won’t be able to fully repair cells. Furthermore, you will sleep poorly, setting yourself up for fatigue, stress, low blood sugar, and even depression the next day. If you repeatedly go to bed on a full stomach, you will accumulate more and more damaged cells, which is another way of saying “premature aging.” On the other hand, if you eat your supper early and make it light, you will sleep soundly, detox more completely, wake up energized, and look and feel younger. It’s the closest we can get to the Fountain of Youth!

Take responsibility for your health. Your doctor cannot grant you good health, and you cannot find good health in a pill bottle. The only way to cultivate truly good health is to take responsibility for it yourself. That means taking the trouble to eat wholesome food, avoid sugar and junk food, get plenty of sleep and exercise, and take care of yourself in other ways such as learning relaxation techniques. Sure, it’s more work. And yes, it’s a little scary to have to rely on yourself. But no amount of prescription medications, surgeries, or other medical interventions and advice can imbue you with the type of vibrant health you can create when you take good care of yourself. You’re worth it!

For good digestion, don’t drink beverages with your meals. Drinking water or another beverage with meals dilutes our digestive juices, making it harder for our system to break down and absorb food. Instead, enjoy a cup or bowl of vegetable-quality soup, which contains its own enzymes and will also stimulate the body to produce more enzymes. If you’re thirsty, wait until 15-20 minutes after your meal to enjoy a cup of tea.

Take care of your oils. When cooking oil becomes stale or rancid, the molecular structure of the oil transforms, becoming toxic to your liver. Even worse, this damage can happen before you can smell or taste the difference in the oil. Therefore, to keep your liver healthy and happy, it pays to take good care of your cooking oil. That means avoiding the 4 elements that destroy oil: heat, light, air, and time.

  • Heat: Be sure to buy cold-pressed oil. (This is also called “expeller pressed.”) Otherwise, the oil was extracted using heat. Once you get the oil home, don’t overheat it in the pan. If it starts to smoke, discard it and start again with fresh oil. When summer comes, if your kitchen is very hot, you may want to store your oils in the refrigerator.
  • Light: Many manufacturers store their oil in tinted bottles You can do your part by storing your oil in a dark cabinet, and certainly not lined up on the windowsill for the light to shine through.
  • Air: Keep the cap on the oil when you’re not using it.
  • Time: Buy your oil in bottles small enough that you will use it within a short amount of time—a couple of months or so. If you plan to store your oil longer, keep it in the refrigerator. Throw away any oil that is older than a year, or that smells funky.

Your liver is the organ that digests and stores fat. If you feed it fresh and healthy oil, it will function and feel better and do a better job of keeping the rest of your body detoxed and healthy.

Do your own cooking. Many people these days let others do their cooking for them. If we’re wealthy, we hire a cook. If we’re busy, we order in. If we’re exhausted, we turn to fast food. But having others cook for us causes us to miss out on the subtle benefits of cooking our own food. When you cook for yourself, you can prepare exactly what you want, when you want it, and how you like it. At the same time, you learn the nuances and properties of different foods. For example, I used to use soy mayonnaise to prepare certain dips and salads. But the more I used it, the more I noticed how stubbornly it clung to spoons and bowls, and that it took forever to clean off my dishes. I began to suspect it was doing something similar inside my body—clogging things up with sticky fat. As a result, I stopped using it. When you cook your own food, you will become more intimate with the food you eat and be able to fine-tune your diet so that you get healthier and healthier. Can’t cook? Take some lessons. You might take a class or ask a friend to teach you. It’s fun, it’s relaxing, and your body will thank you.

Have tea for dessert. Are you in the habit of eating something sweet after dinner? Sometimes adding dessert to your meal simply stuffs your stomach, makes it harder to sleep, adds unnecessary calories, and raises your blood sugar just when you’re trying to settle down for the night. Instead, try relaxing with a comforting cup of hot tea. Bancha tea will help you digest your dinner (although it does contain a small amount of caffeine). In addition, there are many herbal teas that don’t contain caffeine and won’t keep you up, including Rooibus, chamomile, Sleepytime by Celestial Seasonings or Nighty Night by Traditional Medicinals. So get in the habit of starting the teakettle after your supper, and you’re likely to experience deeper sleep and a slimmer waistline.

A new year means a new start. One of the best ways to get a new start on healthy habits is to give your kitchen a good cleaning. Home cooked meals are generally the healthiest, so it makes sense to provide a clean, organized, pleasant work environment for meal preparation. See how many of these tasks you can get accomplished over the next few days:
• Clean off your countertops and keep them cleared for action. It’s hard to work when your work surfaces are cluttered.
• Clean out the refrigerator. Toss out stale, expired, moldy or unhealthy foods. Clean out the vegetable bins and scrub them out with soap and water.
• Clear out your cabinets of old or unhealthy foods.
• Sharpen your kitchen knives.
• Scrub your dish drainer, salad spinner, and any other area where mold tends to collect.
• Replace your sponge or dishcloth and wash your dishtowels.
• Give the floor a good scrub.
• Clean the window curtains or blinds.
• As a final touch, add a beautiful green houseplant. If you haven’t room on your countertop, hang it by the window.
Keeping your kitchen clean, beautiful and well organized will make it a joyful place to work.

Have you been naughty or nice this holiday season? If you overindulged in too many “naughty” treats, you may be interested to know that certain foods can reverse a bit of the damage. For example, if you’re queasy from too much sugar, make yourself a warm bowl of miso soup. If you’ve eaten too much fat, give your liver some first aid with plenty of leafy greens dressed with fresh-squeezed lemon. And if your downfall is salt, make yourself a nice hot bath and soak until your skin turns rosy—about 10 minutes. Of course, it’s better to avoid unhealthy “treats” in the first place. The real treat is being nice to your body with healthy food, plenty of sleep, and regular exercise. When our bodies feels strong and healthy, we’re much less tempted to compensate by eating foods that may feel good temporarily, but make us feel lousy in the long run.

Here’s a tip for healthy holiday eating: Whether you’re indulging in holiday treats or sticking to healthy foods, chew your food well. Chewing well (at least 30 chews per mouthful) can keep you healthier in several different ways. First, the more you chew, the more you experience the flavors and character of the food you’re eating. As a result, you are likely to be satisfied with less. If you gulp it down, chances are you’ll eat more. Second, chewing releases the fuel stored in the food, so you will feel full sooner, helping you avoid holiday weight gain. Finally, the enzymes and alkalinity of your saliva will help neutralize some of the harmful effects of sugary foods. Happy holidays, everyone!

Don’t wait for better health. Are you one of those people who can’t stand to wait? All those hours spent on line at the store, or waiting for an elevator or bus—do you grit your teeth at the wasted time? Well, don’t just stand there—do something! For example, you might plan a healthy menu for tonight’s dinner. Or you can give yourself a mini-exercise session by balancing on one foot. This tones your ankle and calf muscles, hones your balance, and decreases your chance of falling. See how many seconds you can stand on one leg, then switch and use the other leg. Once you get really good, you can try standing on one leg while drawing circles and figure eights with the opposite foot. So don’t just stand there on two legs—stand on one! When that elevator finally arrives, you may be sorry to have your workout interrupted.

Give your skin a healthy glow. I’m a big fan of Jan Karon’s Mitford novels, and in the latest episode —Somewhere Safe with Somebody Good—a spray-tan salon comes to town. Residents pop up with instant tans, and one character asks, “Would you rather be pasty or tan?” …implying that tan skin looks healthier.

Conventional tanning booths can damage the skin and spray-on tans can block the pores, but there’s a better way to get a healthy glow—eating vegetables. Yes, really! When we eat orange-colored vegetables like pumpkins, squashes, and carrots, the beta carotene imbues our skin with a warm tone that makes us look healthier and more beautiful. And that’s not just my opinion. According to a 2009 study published in The International Journal of Primatology, both male and female Caucasians preferred faces with the warm, golden skin tones that come from eating lots of sweet vegetables.

What if your skin tone is too dark for the beta carotene to show? Eat those orange vegetables anyway—the pigment may not show up on your skin, but it will protect your eyes, strengthen your immune system, and since it is an antioxidant, it can protect your body from cancer and heart disease. Pass the carrots, please.

Strengthen your lungs during cold and flu season. Recently, I recommended eating lotus root for a more powerful voice. (See below.) In fact, lotus root is helpful not just for the voice, but to strengthen and heal the lungs in general, especially during cold and flu season. Fresh lotus root, dried lotus root, lotus root tea, and lotus seeds all strengthen the lungs. If your health food store doesn’t carry these, you can usually find them in an Asian food market. Here’s how to use them:
• Fresh lotus root: slice thinly and add to stir fries, or try my delicious Lotus Root Sautée (click here for the recipe).
• Dried lotus root: Soak in water until rehydrated, then use as you would use fresh lotus root.
• Lotus seeds: Soak overnight, split open, and remove the sprout inside before cooking. The seeds can be cooked alone, or added to your rice and cooked together as part of the rice dish.
• Lotus root tea: You can find pre-packaged lotus root tea in most health food stores. Or, you can make your own: Grate a half a cup of fresh lotus root using a ceramic ginger grater, squeeze the juice into a pot, add one cup water, and boil for about 8 minutes along with a tiny pinch of sea salt.

Do you wish to cultivate a strong, resonant, and beautiful voice? Actors, public speakers, teachers, and singers all depend on the strength and musicality of their voice. And all of us make a better impression if our voice is relaxed, clear and melodic. The food we eat can help. First, avoid foods that coat the vocal folds or create congestion. Cheese, milk, and other dairy foods are the worst offenders. Even soy milk and other plant based “milks” can clog the throat. Other foods that congest the voice include bread and baked flour foods such as bagels, chips, crackers and cookies. Our vocal cords may also become coated by thick, sticky foods such as nut butters and fatty foods like mayonnaise. What about the foods that clarify and strengthen the voice? These include whole barley (choose hulled or hull-less barley), roasted barley tea, and black soybeans. And to give your voice force, strengthen your lungpower with lotus root. Click here for a delicious recipe for sautéed lotus root.

Here’s one easy way to eat less at Thanksgiving. Studies with mammals show the hormone oxytocin acts as an appetite suppressant. It’s like a homemade diet pill we manufacture inside our own brain. Our pituitary gland makes oxytocin when we touch and cuddle loved ones and pets. So this Thanksgiving, fill up on hugs, and you’ll automatically feel less hungry. Love is a form of nourishment, too!

Don’t overheat your home in winter. Our bodies need the temperature fluctuations of the seasons. Cold weather strengthens the central nervous system, while hot weather acts like nature’s sauna or steam bath, giving our body a natural cleanse. Our bodies expand with the heat and contract with cold. This seasonal pulsation strengthens our biorhythms, and a strong body clock is associated with more robust health.

Eat sweet vegetables. This time of year, farmers’ markets and food stores are loaded with winter squashes and other yummy sweet vegetables. Butternut, buttercup, kabocha, hubbard, delicata, pumpkins, parsnips, carrots, onions, yams—all of these add satisfying sweetness to our meals. When we satisfy our sweet tooth with these naturally sweet flavors, we don’t crave strong, unhealthy sweets like sugar. Moreover, these vegetables are healing to the pancreas and help stabilize blood sugar levels, further helping to diminish sweet cravings. Some easy ways to prepare sweet vegetables:

• Cut them in chunks, toss with olive oil and sea salt and a few herbs such as tarragon or oregano, and bake at 350˚ until tender.
• Cut 4 cups sweet vegetables in chunks, boil with 4 cups of water and a generous pinch of sea salt, allow to cool, puree in a blender until smooth, then reheat and serve as a delicious soup (a favorite at our house).
• Cut the veggies in chunks, place in a pot with a small piece of kombu seaweed, cover the bottom of the pot with water, bring to a steam, cover, and cook until tender, then season with a few drops shoyu (naturally brewed soy sauce).

If you include sweet vegetables in each of your meals, you’ll find your taste for sugar starting to vanish. Even better, instead of feeling scattered and jumpy as a result of eating too much sugar, you’ll feel calm, centered and satisfied.

Read the label. You may already have a habit of reading the food labels on cans and packages. But for maximum health, it’s also important to read those little PLU stickers on the fruits and veggies we buy. Here is what the numbers mean:

  • If the PLU sticker has 4 digits, then the product was grown conventionally, using pesticides. The last four digits of the code represent the kind of the fruit or vegetable you are buying. For example, Fuji apples are always labeled 4131.
  • If there are five numbers, and the first is “8″, then the product is genetically modified. For example, the label on a genetically modified Fuji apple would say 84131.
  • If the PLU code contains 5 numbers, and the first is “9″, the product is organic. For example, organic Fuji apples are labeled 94131.

For maximum antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, choose organic produce whenever possible. Be sure to avoid genetically modified foods, since these are usually sprayed with a highly toxic herbicide (glyphosate) and frequently contain genes designed to make the plant poisonous to insects (which also makes it harmful to your intestinal microbiota). Pass the apples, please!

For permanent weight loss, don’t diet. The New York Times just reported on a study that seems to demonstrate that quick weight loss diets are just as effective as slower weight loss. (To see the article, click here.) However, if you read the report carefully, you’ll notice a couple of striking facts. First, out of 200 obese people assigned to lose weight either slowly or more quickly, fully one third of the subjects failed to lose the minimum target of 12.5 percent of their starting weight. (That’s only 19 pounds for a 150 pound woman, or 25 pounds for someone weighing 200 pounds—a very moderate goal.) But wait, it gets worse: Of those who did reach this weight-loss milestone, after 3 years on a diet to maintain their new weight, the subjects regained roughly 70% of the lost weight. In other words, neither diet resulted in significant, permanent weight loss. The real lesson here is not that quick weight loss is just as effective as slower weight loss, but that diets in general rarely work. The best way to reach and maintain our ideal weight is to permanently switch to eating fiber-rich plant-based proteins, complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, and plenty of healing, nutrient-rich vegetables, nuts and seeds, and a moderate intake of fruit. Then combine that with regular activity. It’s a way of living that has been keeping mankind lean and healthy right up until the invention of refined sugar, white flour, and Big Macs.

Women can cut their risk of stroke in half by following five healthy behaviors, according to a new report by Swedish researchers: eat healthfully, never smoke cigarettes, stay moderately active for at least 40 minutes per day, drink between 3 to 9 alcoholic drinks per week and maintain a body mass index (BMI) below 25. What’s a healthy diet? According to the data, it’s whole grains, fresh vegetables, nuts, legumes (such as lentils), oily fish (such as sardines and mackerel), and low-fat dairy. (However, you may want to skip the dairy if you want to avoid breast cancer and other adverse consequences of too much estrogen). (Here’s a link to the Reuters article on the report.)

To Relieve Constipation: If you suffer from constipation, you’re not alone. The American Journal of Gastrointerology estimates that between 12% to 19% of all North Americans are constipated. Here’s an easy, natural, free way to relieve constipation. It’s called abdominal massage. Begin on your lower right abdomen. Press firmly but gently in an upward direction, moving upward along the abdomen until you reach the top of your pelvis bone. Then continue to press, moving horizontally to the left side, until you reach the top part of your left pelvis bone. Next, press downward toward your left groin. Now circle back toward the right until you return to spot where you began. Repeat, spiraling inward in smaller circles, then spiraling outward again in larger circles, always going up on the right, across the top from right to left, and down on the left. (The direction is very important, since you are massaging in the direction that your stool wants to move.) Lumps or hard spots may be an indication that the colon is clogged with fecal matter. (You should not feel pain when performing this massage. If you do, try lighter pressure or discontinue the massage.) You can perform abdominal massage on yourself, sitting or lying down. Even better, get a friend or loved one to do it for you.

Do you suffer from allergies? One of the easiest ways to improve (or even eliminate) your susceptibility to allergies is to avoid milk and other dairy products, including yogurt. Another common trigger for allergies is alcohol. If you remove these two foods from your diet, it’s likely you’ll be sneezing less and enjoying life more.

Here’s an easy way to protect your eyes from macular degeneration. According to the Centers for Disease Control, age-related macular degeneration is the leading cause of permanent damage to reading and close-up vision among people aged 65 and older. Normally, the macula (a tiny spot in the center of the retina), is protected by a coating of special pigment. But if the pigment wears thin, the macula may become scarred, resulting in vision loss. According to the journal Investigative Ophthalmology & Visual Science, this protective pigment is entirely of dietary origin. That’s great news, because it means we can keep the pigment robust by eating certain vegetables. The best are the dark leafy greens, such as kale, collards, turnip greens, and broccoli. These are all rich in the antioxidants lutein and zeaxanthin, which provide the pigments that protect the maculae. Goji berries are another good choice. Your body can absorb the antioxidants in these foods more thoroughly if you eat them with a little oil. Eat berries together with nuts or seeds, and sauté your greens in a bit of olive or sesame oil. If you want to add some extra zing, throw in a bit of minced fresh ginger or garlic. Who knew good vision could be so delicious?

To be healthy, make friends with healthy people. Epidemiologists (scientists who study how disease spreads) tell us that we are less likely to be healthy if we are surrounded by unhealthy people, and more likely to be healthy if we have plenty of healthy friends. Why? If everyone around you sits in front of the TV, gobbles junk food, and feels lethargic, you’re going to start to think that’s normal. And peer pressure will encourage you to do the same. But if your friends invite you out for a walk, or drink green tea instead of soda, you’re going to feel motivated to do the same. So look around you, find someone who is fit and healthy, and make friends. Before long, people who want to get healthy will want to make friends with you.

To help your gut flora recover from a course of antibiotics, a diet of preservatives, or too much junk food, enjoy a bowl of homemade, natural miso soup several times a week. Miso is loaded with beneficial probiotics and digestive enzymes that help build a healthy intestinal ecosystem capable of producing abundant serotonin, melatonin, and other helpful hormones. Two good brands easily available in most health food stores are South River and Miso Master. Just boil water, add a bit of wakame seaweed, and maybe some scallions or onion (or any other vegetables you like). Use ½ to one flat teaspoon per one cup serving. Dilute the miso in a little water, add to the soup, turn off the flame, and enjoy. So easy!

If you’re having trouble sleeping, try eliminating foods with preservatives. Here’s why. Your body produces a hormone called melatonin to make you feel drowsy and help you sleep at night. Melatonin is made from serotonin. Two-thirds of your body’s serotonin is produced in your gut, which means that your gut is ultimately the source for most of your melatonin. But if you eat foods containing preservatives, the chemicals intended to kill germs also kill the beneficial bacteria in your intestines. Without these helpful bacteria, your gut has trouble producing enough serotonin and melatonin, eventually resulting in poor sleep. So for better sleep, cut out the foods with preservatives and go natural.

How preservatives make us depressed: We all know chemicals in our foods are bad, but it’s only a few drops, right? Can’t our bodies handle it? The problem is, if the food contains enough preservatives to kill germs, there are also enough preservatives to kill the tiny bacteria that live in our gut. Two-thirds of our serotonin—the happiness hormone—are produced by our gut bacteria. The more preservatives we eat, the more we kill off our beneficial intestinal flora, and the less serotonin we make. Without enough serotonin, we may start to feel depressed. So if the label says a chemical was added “to preserve freshness,” or “to improve shelf life,” just leave that product on the shelf.

Rewire your brain to eliminate cravings. A client observed the other day, “Where there are cravings, there can be no peace.” How right she is! But how do we get rid of our cravings for unhealthy foods? The first step is to avoid the foods that create cravings. Certain foods take control of our brain and subjugate our will. They take away our choice by harnessing our biology to make us desire, crave, or need the foods we want to avoid. Foods that entrap us in this way include:

• Addictive foods, like sugar, alcohol and sweets.
• High fat foods.
• Artificial sweeteners.
• Salt (which makes us crave sugar).
• Coffee (which makes us crave sweets).

Purge these addictive foods from your diet, stick with whole, natural foods, and watch your willpower grow.

If you want to stay cool when the weather heats up, avoid coffee. Even iced coffee heats us up. Here’s why.

The caffeine in the coffee causes the body to release adrenaline. (That’s how coffee gives us that buzz). The adrenaline then triggers the liver to release stored energy. This energy enters our bloodstream in the form of glucose, shooting up our blood sugar, and giving us a surplus of quick energy. Unless we discharge this energy through physical activity, our body disposes of it by raising our body temperature to burn it off. As a result, when we drink coffee—even iced coffee—the weather feels even hotter.

If the coffee is sweetened, so much the worse—the sugar raises our glucose (and body temperature) even more.

A much better alternative would be roasted barley tea. Barley actually disperses heat from our body and cools us from the inside out. Most health food stores carry roasted barley tea. Drink it plain, with a little apple juice, a little lemon juice, or however else you like it. Pretty cool, huh?

Beat the summer heat by avoiding iced drinks. Instead, enjoy a cup of room temperature tea. Green, herbal, rooibos, or roasted barley tea all have fabulous health benefits. What’s wrong with iced drinks? Chilled beverages and foods cause our tissues to contract, trapping the heat inside and making us feel warmer. It’s the same principle followed by the Scandinavians when they bake in a sauna, then run outdoors to dive in the snow—they’re keeping warm by trapping the heat inside. Room temperature beverages allow our bodies to relax, open up, and let the heat escape. The same principle applies to showering—a lukewarm shower is more cooling than a cold one. Try it for yourself and see.

Simple Steps to Improve Your Health:
Small actions you take to improve your health can add up to big results. Here are some ideas for easy things you can do. You can probably think of many others.
• Learn to cook a new vegetable dish.
• Spend 10 minutes cleaning the junk food out of your refrigerator and cabinets. Then take out the garbage.
• Whenever you go grocery shopping, read the labels before you buy.
• Read a book about health.
• Learn to cook a new grain dish.
• Have one more meatless meal per week than you do now.
• Buy (and begin to use) a vegetarian cookbook.
• Make steamed greens or blanched vegetables for breakfast today.
• Think of someone you know who has healthy habits. Invite them to lunch or dinner, and ask them for pointers.
If you have more ideas to add to this list, tweet me @MarciaBerry or post a comment on my Facebook page: Berry Nutritional Coaching.

Avoiding Alzheimer’s.
According to an article in the August 2014 journal, The Lancet Neurology, about 30% of risk factors for Alzheimer’s are under our control. What can we do? Stop smoking, get outdoors and walk, eat a plant-based diet, and remain intellectually active. Hmm, I think I’ll take a walk to the library and check out a new vegetarian cookbook!

Got sweat? During the summer, whenever we perspire, we release water, salt, and waste products—including toxins—through the pores of our skin. (People who have been exposed to highly toxic environments sometimes even perspire in color, and smokers’ sweat often appears brownish from the nicotine oozing from their pores!) Once the waste products come out, they sit on the surface of our skin until we bathe or shower. However, if we don’t wash the perspiration off soon, the toxins get reabsorbed back through the skin. After all, our skin is permeable and whatever comes out through our skin can also go back in. So my tip for this week is to shower (or bathe) often during hot weather. This will allow you to take full advantage of summer’s free steam bath detox treatment.

Should you drink kombucha tea? More and more people are hopping on the “fermented foods” bandwagon, and fermentation can be a great way of strengthening digestion and immunity by populating the gut with beneficial bacteria. However, you might want to think twice before choosing kombucha tea as your fermented food of choice. In some rare cases, consuming home-brewed kombucha has led to a build-up of lactic acid and severe acidosis of the blood, with fatal or life-threatening consequences. (Check out these links: http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00039742.htm and http://jic.sagepub.com/content/24/3/205.short) Healthier beverages include bancha twig tea, green tea and rooibus (African red bush) tea. And if it’s fermentation you’re after, try miso soup, naturally brewed shoyu, tempeh or natto. Not only are these foods safe, they help keep your body in a healthy alkaline condition.

A lesson from Butch. Recently, I noticed my doorman Butch slimming down and gaining a sparkle to his eyes. He even began to smile more. One day I stopped to talk. It turned out he had given up soda for Lent. After dropping 20 pounds and getting rid of his arthritis pain, he decided to keep the momentum going, so he eliminated other junk food. Now he’s lost 56 pounds and feels better every day. The lesson? It’s okay to start small, but the important thing is to just start somewhere in making healthy changes. Once you see the results, chances are, you’ll want to do more. Way to go, Butch!

Banish pain by eating right. One out of every 5 Americans suffers from chronic pain. We take 90% more painkillers than we did just 15 years ago, including 80% of the world’s opioids. In fact, chronic pain is so common that most people consider it a normal part of aging. But chronic pain is not normal, and there’s plenty we can do about it besides taking pills. One step is to eat foods with painkilling properties.

Food fights pain in at least 5 ways: food helps the body manufacture neurotransmitters that serve as natural opioids; food supplies salicylic acid, the active ingredient in aspirin; food can soothe inflammation; food can stimulate the relaxation response; and most important, the right food can help heal the underlying condition that’s causing the pain to begin with. The best place to start is by moving toward a whole foods, plant based diet. Plant foods contain natural antioxidants such as anthocyanin and quercetin that relieve pain. (Animal foods contain no antioxidants.) So eat your oatmeal, rice and beans, veggies, nuts, and fruits, and watch the pain start to fade away. To find out more, I highly recommend Dr. Neal Barnard’s excellent book, Foods That Fight Pain.

Avoid canola oil. Many of my clients believe canola oil to be healthy. But nothing could be further from the truth. There are plenty of reasons to avoid canola oil. As you may know, canola oil is made from rape seed. Rape seed has been considered inedible for hundreds of years, perhaps because of its foul smell. Rape seed smells so bad that in the mystery novel, The Calling, by Alison Bruce, the murderer hid the body in a field of rape seed, knowing the stench of the plants (which one character compared to the smell of a men’s toilet) would mask the smell of the decomposing body! Because rape seed smells so foul, it must be deodorized before it can be consumed. During the deodorizing process, the oil’s omega-3 fatty acids are converted into trans fatty acids—the same type of dangerous fat recently banned in New York City. Furthermore, canola oil’s high sulfur content causes it to go rancid quickly, producing substances damaging to our liver. Some studies show canola oil can cause heart damage and vitamin E deficiency. If that weren’t enough, roughly 90% of all the canola oil produced in North America is genetically engineered to be weed resistant, a trait that has led to the growth of the “superweeds” that are taking over many fields in the U.S. and Canada. The use of these herbicides has also contributed to the decline of the honeybee population.

Instead of canola oil, much better choices would be olive oil and sesame oil for everyday use, with occasional use of sunflower oil for high temperature cooking. Be sure to get cold pressed, a method of extraction that protects the oil from degradation.

Which grain is best? You probably know that whole grains are one of nature’s most perfect foods. But did you know that not all whole grains are created equally? Each one has its own benefits and characteristics. For example:

  • Brown Rice is the best all-round grain for daily use. It balances the organs and strengthens the central nervous system.
  • Barley helps the body relax, releasing tension and heat.
  • Buckwheat is strengthening and warming. Unless you live in a cold climate, you may find that too much buckwheat may make you tight, tense, and overly hungry.
  • Oats are relaxing, strengthening, and satisfying.
  • Wheat strengthens the liver.
  • Spelt is an ancient form of wheat that energizes and relaxes us.
  • Corn strengthens the heart.
  • Millet is more warming than most grains. It alkalizes the body. Millet also strengthens the digestive organs and helps heal digestive illnesses.
    Most people benefit from making brown rice their main grain, supplemented by regular use of barley and millet, with the other grains regularly rotated in to provide a wide variety of tastes, nutrients, and energy.

    Is bread a healthy food? One of the healthiest foods we can eat is whole grains, such as brown rice, millet, oats, barley, corn, rye, wheat, etc. Most people think the advice to choose whole grains means to switch from white bread to whole grain bread. But bread is a very different food from whole grain kernels. It’s the whole grain kernels that give you real health benefits, due to their complex carbohydrates, fresh oils, fiber, and overall life force. The minute you mill the grain into flour, the oils start to degrade and the vitamins to deteriorate. Even worse, when you eat flour, even 100% whole grain flour, it raises your blood sugar almost as quickly as sugar. Why? Because once the grain is ground into tiny particles, our body doesn’t have to work as hard to break down and digest the grain. The mill did the work usually done by our digestive organs. As a rule of thumb, the more finely the grain is milled, the more quickly it raises our blood sugar. That means coarse flour is a little better for us than pastry flour, but not much. The lesson here is not to totally give up bread, but just to be aware that our bodies will benefit a lot more from a bowl of oats or serving of brown rice than if that same grain were served as bread.

    To cool off hot flashes: Avoid foods that turn up your body’s thermostat. The biggest culprits are meat, chicken, tuna and sugar. All are high-energy foods that generate plenty of heat in the body. Also, did you realize overeating may generate hot flashes? That’s because it’s another source of excess energy that can stoke your body’s furnace. Instead, eat the foods that cool and regulate your body’s temperature—whole grains, fresh vegetables, and fruits. According to a 2012 study of 17,473 postmenopausal women published in the journal Menopause (Menopause. 2012;19(9):980-988), such a diet was highly effective in reducing both hot flashes and night sweats.

    Would you like to live longer? A new study in the journal Cell Biology demonstrates that too much animal protein, such as chicken, cheese, yogurt, beef, and turkey can cut short our lives, especially when consumed in middle age. Oddly, protein from plant sources such as beans doesn’t have the same effect. For an article on the study that was published in Science Daily, click here. According to the article: “A high-protein diet during middle age makes you nearly twice as likely to die and four times more likely to die of cancer.” So for good health and long life, take a pass on the chicken and please pass the beans.

    Start now to beat the heat this summer. If you start preparing your body now, you can more easily remain cool and comfortable when the hot weather arrives. The secret is in shifting toward the more cooling foods and cooking styles. So lighten up on hardy winter vegetables such as winter squash, carrots, parsnips, and switch your emphasis to summer vegetables: cucumbers, lettuce, radishes, summer squash, and leafy greens. Eat more vegetables (especially leafy greens) and fewer grains. Lighten up on salty foods such as miso and shoyu. Meanwhile, switch your cooking style away from heavy, hot preparations such as baking and stews, and include more quick-cooked dishes in your meals: quick blanching, quick saute, and quick steaming. If you start making these adjustments now, when the hot weather hits, you’ll be ready.

    If laughter is so good for our health, how can we develop a better sense of humor? Comedians tell us to cultivate cognitive flexibility. That’s an off-kilter view of the world where we see things in a slightly wacky way. To do this, it helps to clean out our brain so that our synapses are clear and our thinking is nimble. A whole foods, plant-based diet can help clear waste products from our cerebral blood vessels and brain tissues, especially if we also eliminate meat, dairy, poultry, and processed foods. So load up on fresh vegetables, whole grains—especially oats–beans, and other plant-based foods. Before you know it, you may be laughing your head off (and boosting your immunity in the process).

    Read the label. When you buy packaged foods, be sure to read the label before putting the item in your grocery cart. Here are some guidelines for reading labels to make sure the food you buy is the healthiest possible:
    1. Look for food that is labeled “Organic” or “Non-GMO.”
    2. Ignore the front of the package. This is where marketers try to entice you to buy their product with meaningless claims like “Fresh!” “Original!” “Hearty!” “Real!” (whatever that means), “Great Taste!” “Home Style” “New!” “Gourmet!” “Natural!” and one of my favorites, “Home Grown.” Really? The manufacturer grew the ingredients at home?
    3. Read the list of ingredients. The shorter the list, the more likely the product contains healthier ingredients. If you don’t know what a word means, or if it’s long and complicated sounding, most likely it’s a chemical you don’t want to eat.
    4. Even for products you buy regularly, occasionally re-read the label. Sometimes manufacturers reformulate their products or add new ingredients. Unless you read the label, you won’t realize it when that happens.
    5. Finally, if it doesn’t have a label, it’s probably whole and healthy, like an apple or bulk grains. These are the healthiest foods of all.

    Cataracts. Here’s yet another reason to move toward a plant-based diet: Researchers at Oxford University found that vegetarians are up to 40% less likely to develop cataracts than people who center their diet around meat. And the less meat you eat, the lower your risk of cataracts. Why not try a delicious vegetarian dinner tonight? (See the recipe section of this website for some ideas.)

    Eat three meals a day. I often hear the advice that instead of eating 3 meals a day, people should eat 5 or more small meals throughout the day in order to lose weight, avoid hunger pangs, or help stabilize fluctuating blood sugar. I disagree! Unless you are diabetic and under doctor’s orders to eat frequently, you will be much healthier if you stick to 3 well-balanced meals and limit your between-meal grazing. Why?

    All living things pulse with life. Our heart expands and contracts, our lungs fill and empty, our intestines pulse with peristalsis, our temperature rises and falls in a daily cycle, our blood pressure, pH balance, hormones, and many other physiological processes ebb and flow. It’s all part of nature. When we allow our stomach to empty between meals, we allow it to expand and contract. This benefits many different parts of the body. Among them is the liver. When you don’t eat for awhile, your body sends a signal to the liver to dump stored glycogen (sugar) into your bloodstream for a quick energy pick-me-up. This allows your liver to release some of its excess, providing you with a mini liver cleanse several times a day.

    Furthermore, if you eat before you are really hungry, you will need stronger flavors to tantalize your taste buds–precisely the kind of flavors the food industry offers in processed and refined food. So you may be more inclined to stray from healthy choices.

    If your base your meals around whole grains and fresh vegetables, include some bean or bean products with most meals, and include healthy oils and fats, you should be able to make it comfortably from one meal to the next without extra meals and with only occasional snacks. Your liver will love you, and your body will pulse with life.

    Do small things well. I’m a big believer in flexibility, and one of my mottoes is: “You have to bend so you don’t break.” Flexibility is a key trait of bamboo, which is known for its ability to survive violent storms and high winds. Similarly, flexibility is one of the key ingredients of great health. In yoga, they say, “You are as young as your spine is flexible.” In other words, flexibility equals youth.

    So it’s okay to eat that occasional piece of birthday cake or give yourself an occasional treat, right? Isn’t that an example of being flexible? Isn’t “flexibility” just another way of saying we can’t be too rigid with our eating habits? The trouble is, sometimes those occasional treats slowly transform into regular bad habits, without our even realizing it. So while flexibility is a desirable trait, it’s equally important to be precise and exact in our everyday health practices.

    Social scientists tell us the key personality trait of a successful person is conscientiousness. This is beautifully expressed by Dolvett Quince, one of the trainers on The Biggest Loser: “How you do anything is how you do everything.” So which is more important—flexibility or preciseness? Ah, Grasshopper, that’s a good question. It’s why practicing good health, just like everything else in life, is an art and not a science. We are all artists, painting in the medium of life. Each line we add to our painting counts. If you make your lines beautiful, precise, and focused on the big picture, you will be painting a picture of health and vitality.

    Variety is an essential ingredient of health. My teacher, Denny Waxman, stresses: “Variety is a nutrient.” In other words, don’t get stuck in a rut. Eating the same old things, day after day, means you may be missing out on some important nutrients. In addition, variety keeps you fresh and perky. But if you’re as busy as I am, it can be hard to come up with ideas for new dishes. That’s why I was delighted when my friend, Nancy Wolfson-Moche, sent me a link to her cooking blog: http://vfbnancy.com/ If you’re looking for some new, delicious vegetable dishes to try, I suggest you check out this blog. Nancy’s dishes are loaded with health-giving fresh veggies and variety—key ingredients for vibrant health. Enjoy!

    How to avoid overeating: Many people overeat because their food doesn’t satisfy their biological needs. They eat too much food that is refined, processed, chemicalized, denatured and artificial. You can still be hungry even if you eat a truckload of processed “food.” If you eat a natural, whole foods diet, with plenty of whole grains, fresh vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, and beans, you will be more satisfied and less inclined to overeat. Make sure to include plenty of variety, different cooking styles, lots of different colors and textures, and all 6 flavors: sweet, sour, salty, bitter, pungent, and umami (savory).

    More on losing weight: Awhile back, I was leading a workshop on weight loss. We were discussing the importance of conscious eating, or being fully present when we eat: sitting down to eat, putting aside the television or computer or book, taking time for our meals, chewing well, and really noticing our food. One of the participants piped up and said, “Oh, that’s just like Geneen Roth says in her book, When You Eat at the Refrigerator, Pull Up a Chair. I jotted down the title but didn’t get around to reading the book until this week. What a pleasure and a revelation! So my recommendation for you this week: if you struggle with your weight or your body image, especially if you are a woman, grab a copy of this book and read it. You just may find it more nourishing than whatever’s on your plate. (Here’s a link to the listing on Amazon.)

    To lose weight: Include sour-tasting foods in your meals. Research shows sour foods inhibit the appetite. So stock your kitchen with some of these foods: sour green Granny Smith apples, lemons, brown rice vinegar, natural dill pickles, sauerkraut, cranberries, sour cherries and rhubarb. These natural appetite suppressants will support your liver while helping you eat less.

    To sleep well: Taoist masters, who have spent centuries unlocking the secrets of longevity, tell us if we want to sleep well at night, we shouldn’t read right before bedtime. Why? Reading stimulates our brain at a time when our mind should be quieting down. A better choice would be to soak our feet in a basin of hot saltwater for 10 minutes. This draws our circulation downward, settles our energy, and sets the stage for a good night’s sleep.

    Alzheimer’s Disease. Many studies point to a link between meat consumption and Alzheimer’s Disease. According to one study, there is three times the risk of developing Alzheimer’s in meat eaters as opposed to vegetarians, and consuming dairy products raises the risk even further. The name of the study: Losing Your Mind for the Sake of a Shake or Burger. So if you want to keep a strong, healthy brain for the rest of your life, make the transition away from animal foods and toward plant-based foods. It’s the smart thing to do.

    Do mammograms save lives? A recently published 25-year study of 90,000 women concluded that not only were mammograms not helpful, they actually cause harm. The study was published in the February 11 British Medical Journal. Women who depend on their regular mammogram for reassurance that they are cancer-free may be dismayed by these findings. If mammograms don’t protect us, what can we do to avoid this devastating disease?

    I’d like to offer a couple of suggestions for how we can protect ourselves from breast cancer through the food we eat.

    Probably the most harmful foods to breast health are dairy foods. In fact, the most popular dairy food among health-conscious women—yogurt—may be the single worst dietary cause of breast cancer, along with ice cream. Not only are these foods a major source of excess estrogens, but from a macrobiotic or energetic perspective, they contribute to problems in the upper front part of the body—in other words, in the breast area. Sweeteners worsen this effect.

    On the other hand, one of the most beneficial foods we can eat is miso soup, prepared with natural, unchemicalized miso from the refrigerator section of your health food store. Miso (and other soy foods such as tofu and shoyu) contain phyto-estrogens, healthy estrogens that dock in the estrogen receptors of the cells, preventing the more harmful estrogens from entering and thus protecting the cells. Regular consumption of miso soup (3 or 4 times a week) has been associated with reduced cancer risk.

    In general, a whole foods, plant-based diet will not only lower your risk of breast cancer, but protect you from just about every other chronic disease out there. A whole foods, plant-based diet can help you avoid sickness, while at the same time increasing your lifespan, heightening your mood, raising your energy level, and enabling you to live the kind of life you want.

    (Go here to read The New York Times report on the mammogram study.)

    Happy people sleep more soundly. There have been quite a few articles published lately about how sleep therapy may benefit people with depression. But it’s likely that happy people sleep better to begin with. Why? Because in order to make melatonin, the drowsiness hormone, our body needs serotonin, the happiness hormone. If your body is low in serotonin, you are less likely to be happy or to sleep well.

    You can help your body make more serotonin—and melatonin—by eating plenty of foods that contain the chemicals your body needs to make these important hormones. Most plant-based, whole foods are helpful. Some of the best? Whole grains such as brown rice and oats, lentils, broccoli, brussels sprouts, peanuts, sesame seeds, and onions. These foods act as precursors that help your body make more serotonin, so that not only do you sleep better, but you feel happier as well!

    Did you know that clogged, pasty skin can be a sign of depression? That’s because our skin produces many of the same neurotransmitters as our brain, including serotonin, the happiness hormone. If our skin becomes too clogged to function well, it may be unable to produce plentiful serotonin.

    Therefore, it pays to keep the skin in peak condition. One of the best ways to do that is to give yourself a daily body rub. Here’s how: Fill your sink with hot water, stand naked, and moisten a plain white cotton washcloth with the hot water. Then gently rub each part of your skin until it tingles. Be sure to rub lightly and gently, like you’re polishing a delicate art object. (If you scrub too hard, it will close the pores and chafe the skin.) This gentle stimulation increases blood flow, opens the pores, draws out fats and toxins that may be clogging the skin, stimulates the movement of lymph, and wakes up your chi. The whole process takes only 10 minutes.

    After a few days, you will notice your face is glowing, any aches and pains start to disappear, and your mood lifts. The longer you continue the practice, the more effective it becomes. After awhile, your skin will radiate health and boost your serotonin supply, helping you feel happier, stay calmer, and sleep better.

    A cure for diabetes: Every week or two I see yet another grim report about the climbing incidence of diabetes and the serious toll it takes on its victims. Rarely do these reports mention that Type 2 Diabetes is one of the easiest serious illnesses to prevent and even reverse. In fact, avoiding or reversing diabetes is so straightforward, it can be summarized with three short pointers: switch to a whole foods, plant-based diet; exercise every day (such as a brisk half-hour walk outdoors), and lose any excess weight you may be carrying. Yes, it takes some effort to eat healthfully, exercise, and lose weight, but isn’t it a lot easier than a lifetime of doctor’s visits, insulin, and misery? For specific steps to prevent and reverse diabetes, I recommend Dr. Neal Barnard’s excellent book: Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes.

    Don’t let the enemy inside: Are you addicted to cookies, candy, ice cream, chips, cheese, or some other unhealthy food you know you should avoid? One of your first steps to free yourself of these fattening foods should be to purge the offending item from your home (as well as your purse, briefcase, car, and desk at work). After all, if we had a deadly enemy, we wouldn’t invite him inside our home. The less available you make the problem food, the more easily you can avoid it.

    Probably the most important thing we can do to stay healthy is to have a purpose in life. Ask yourself: “Why was I put here on Earth?” After all, having a healthy body, feeling good, and living long are nice, but why? A strong purpose can often help people overcome even life-threatening illness. What’s your purpose? Is it raising a family with wisdom and love, saving disappearing species, producing beautiful art, transporting others through music? Once you know your purpose, do something each day—no matter how small—to bring yourself closer to your dream.

    A New Year’s Resolution You Can Keep. A new year means a fresh start. Many of us set our intentions for the year with a list of New Year’s resolutions. If you like to make resolutions, here’s a tip for actually achieving your resolutions—focus on only one resolution this new year. Yes, you heard me right—only one resolution. Why? Numerous studies show that the fewer the goals we set, the more likely we are to attain them. Having too many goals disperses our energy, scatters our focus, and eats up our time. When a crisis hits, we’re not sure where to focus, and the whole list of resolutions comes crashing down. It’s okay to list as many goals as you would like to achieve. The trick is to choose the most important one, and focus only on that single goal. If you encounter a crisis or crunch, let the others go, but cling to that one goal firmly. If you resolve to achieve only one thing this New Year’s, you can focus on your goal with a laser-like intensity, marshal your resources and energies, and before you know it, that goal will no longer be a wish, but a reality.

    The dark side of spices: Do you like to use spices to spice up your holidays? Many of us do. But a paper posted on the website of the National Center for Biotechnology Information tells us that nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and anise all act as precursors for endo-amphetamines. In other words, these spices seem to pep us up. But wait a minute. Aren’t amphetamines bad for us? Well, yes, and it turns out that spices can be dangerous in high doses. After all, the aromatic quality of the spice comes from the plant’s attempt to ward off insects, bacteria, fungi and other threats. The plant packages little toxins in its seeds, bark, flowers, and other parts in order to kill invaders. That means that in high doses, spices can harm us too. In fact, just 2 to 3 teaspoons of nutmeg may prove fatal, and regular use over time may cause liver damage. So if you enjoy mulled cider, gingerbread, and other holiday treats, go easy on the spices.

    Should you eat cheese? More and more, I am seeing clients with illnesses in which cheese is a major culprit. For example, cheese can be a significant factor in the formation of heart disease, our nation’s #1 killer. Cheese is also the primary dietary cause of lung cancer, the most common form of cancer in the USA. Cheese clogs the blood vessels, contributes excess sodium, and is highly fattening. And high fat foods like cheese contribute to a slew of other physical problems, including diabetes, stroke, peripheral artery disease, edema and other cancers. Yes, I know it’s delicious, but at what price? If you’d like to be truly healthy, vibrant and bright, you may want to consider getting cheese out of your diet.

    To avoid overeating during the holidays, remember the HALT acronym used so effectively in 12-step programs: Hungry, Angry, Lonely, Tired. And to this list, I’d also like to add Bored. When we experience any of these five mental states, we’re much more likely to overindulge. The trick is to become aware of how we’re feeling, and to address any of these negative emotions early on. By doing so, we’re much less likely to gobble down too many holiday cookies, and more likely to feel satisfied with a cup of warm tea or a healthy snack instead.

    One way to avoid overeating during the holidays: Many times we overeat not because we’re hungry, but because we feel unhappy, bored, dissatisfied, or frustrated. This holiday, fill yourself not with food, but with gratitude. Take stock of what’s good in your life. Even if your life really stinks, you may find something to be grateful for if you think of others less fortunate—in the Philippines, or Haiti, or Syria, for example. We live in a land of plenty, peace and freedom. Fill your heart with thanksgiving, and your stomach may feel a little more satisfied as a result. I wish you inner peace, a Happy Thanksgiving, and Happy Chanukah!

    Getting Enough Sleep. Many people have difficulty falling asleep at night. One of the best ways to ensure sound sleep is to get adequate exercise during the day. That means moving around enough to raise your heart rate, stimulate your blood flow, breathe more deeply, and perspire. You don’t need a vigorous gym workout to meet these criteria. One of the best all-around exercises is a 30-minute brisk walk outdoors. It’s free, you don’t need any special equipment, there’s little risk of injury, and you get the added benefit of fresh air and sunshine. If you take your walk in the park or a place with trees, you get an extra infusion of oxygen and positive energy.

    Stay Happy. More darkness needn’t mean more depression. With the time shift away from Daylight Savings Time and towards winter, we have less and less sunlight in our lives. Lack of sunlight may lead to depression, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). One way to stay upbeat is to get plenty of sleep. Why? During the day we use up neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, two brain chemicals that keep us happy. Our body resupplies these chemicals at night, during sleep. Too little sleep can mean too little serotonin and dopamine to keep our brain happy. Also, insufficient sleep causes low blood sugar the next day, and low blood sugar has been associated with greater incidence of mental illness. One thing’s for sure—even if a lack of sleep isn’t the actual cause of someone’s depression, we simply can’t feel alert, peppy and cheerful without enough sleep. So to stay happy, make sure you get your nightly 7 – 8 hours of zzz’s. Nighty night!

    The bitter side of agave: Many people have switched to agave as their preferred sweetener, believing it to be the healthiest choice. And it’s true that agave doesn’t spike our blood sugar like cane sugar. Nor does it stimulate the pancreas to release insulin. However, there are good reasons to avoid agave. Let’s begin with the label. Most agave is labeled “agave nectar,” leading the consumer to believe they are buying the sap or nectar of the agave plant. But that’s just clever marketing. It’s like calling high fructose corn syrup “corn nectar.” Agave is produced the same way as high fructose corn syrup, using the tropical agave cactus in place of corn. The agave is highly refined, using plenty of chemicals, high temperatures and a concentration process. The resulting product contains even more fructose than HFCS: 70% in agave as opposed to “only” 55% fructose in HFCS. That’s a lot of fructose! The human body is unable to readily convert such purified fructose into energy, so it transforms the fructose into triglycerides (fat in the blood). Regular consumption of agave may eventually lead to weak bones, weak kidneys, low energy, an inflamed liver, clogged arteries, clogged neurotransmitters in the brain (leading to memory loss), insulin resistance (leading to diabetes), high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and obesity. If you want to sweeten your tea or porridge, pass on the agave and try a splash of organic apple juice or a little maple syrup instead.

    Did you eat too much Halloween candy? Unfortunately, there’s no real way to undo the damage. But you can mitigate the harm somewhat with a nice hot bowl of miso soup. The digestive enzymes and probiotics in the miso will soothe your tummy. The soup will alkalize your tissues, counteracting the acidifying and inflammatory effects of the sugar. And if you float a little wakame seaweed in the soup, you will be replacing some of the minerals the sugar leached out. Most people make their miso soup too salty. Be sure to use no more than ½ to 1 flat teaspoon of miso per cup of water. Happy Halloween!

    Strengthen Your Immunity: Here are 3 ways to reduce your risk of infections (and avoid antibiotics) this flu season: get 7-8 hours of sleep each night, avoid sugar (and other concentrated sweeteners such as agave and high fructose corn syrup), and get outdoors for a half-hour walk each day, preferably among trees, since plants emit chemicals that help strengthen our immune system.

    Is your thyroid underactive? You can perk it up by adding a little kombu seaweed (kelp) to your diet. Add a postage-stamp size piece of kelp several times a week to your soups, stews, or beans. Cook it in well, and enjoy the infusion of natural iodine and other minerals it provides to your glands and bones.

    Is your thyroid overactive? You can calm it down by including raw cruciferous vegetables in your diet. Raw cruciferous vegetables contain a substance that lessens thyroid activity. Try a salad of shredded cabbage, carrots, and scallions dressed with a little toasted sesame oil and vinegar. Your taste buds and thyroid will both benefit.

    More on antibiotics and weight gain: Last week I wrote that the use of antibiotics can contribute to weight gain. One reason antibiotics may make us fatter is because they change the environment in our gut. Researchers are starting to discover a link between being overweight and having an altered gut microbiota. But what if we need to take antibiotics due to a serious infection? In that case, it’s important to help our digestive tract return to normal quickly. You could take probiotics, but a more natural way would be to include naturally pickled and fermented foods in your diet: sauerkraut, umeboshi plums, naturally fermented shoyu (soy sauce), and especially miso soup. Make sure your pickles don’t contain preservatives such as sodium benzoate and that they aren’t pasteurized (both of which would kill the beneficial organisms).

    Here’s a weight-loss tip: Avoid unnecessary antibiotics. Farmers have long fed antibiotics to cattle to fatten them up, and researchers speculate that antibiotics can fatten us up, too! So never ask your doctor for antibiotics to fight a cold or virus, never take antibiotics prophylactically, and avoid antibiotic-laced meat, poultry, dairy products and farm-raised fish. For more on antibiotics and weight gain, check out this Scientific American article.

    Real men don’t watch much TV. At least, not if they want to be fertile. According to the British Journal of Sports Medicine, a study of healthy young men showed that those who watched over 20 hours of TV each week had 44% lower sperm counts than non-TV watchers. And men who exercised more had 73 percent higher sperm counts. (Bicycling was an exception.) So if you’re trying to conceive, turn off the TV and get outdoors for some exercise.

    For good health, it helps to plan ahead. Look at your calendar, see what’s coming up, and decide whether you need to take some action to stay on track with your health goals. For example, I recently took my kids to Mountain Creek Water Park. We planned to spend the entire day there, and I knew the park would not allow us to bring our own food. (They search your bags to make sure you aren’t smuggling in something healthy!) Instead, they offer vendors selling deep fried Oreos, candy, ice cream, hot dogs and burgers. I refused to buy that junk, so I packed a bag with black bean stew (left over from dinner the night before), cornbread, sliced cucumbers, carrots, red peppers, oranges, and lemonade, with an ice pack to keep the lunch cool. Sure, at lunchtime I had to hike down the mountain and out of the park to the parking lot, lug a heavy lunch bag back up the mountain to an isolated picnic table outside of the park, and lug the leftovers back to the car afterwards. But we all enjoyed our lunch, we felt great afterward, and I even got a bit of extra exercise. All it took was a little foresight and planning ahead.

    To improve digestion, eat less. Your stomach can increase up to 20 times its original size when you fill it with food. But eating until you are full is not a good idea. Why? Your stomach has two main functions: to break down food through the secretion and gastric juices, and to churn your food until it becomes liquid. If you eat until you are full, how will your stomach be able to add the gastric juices necessary to break down your food? How can the extra liquid fit in? Furthermore, the more you eat, the more gastric juices will be needed to digest all that food.
    Your stomach’s second job is to churn the food to mix it and break it down. But if you eat until you are full, your stomach becomes like a balloon that has been inflated to maximum capacity. It can no longer flex and bend. If your stomach is too full, it cannot churn well. It becomes paralyzed with food. Your digestion then suffers. So eat slowly, chew well, and stop eating before you feel full.

    If you’re constipated, the most likely cause is a diet too high in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy foods, and refined foods such as bread, snack foods, and other processed foods. These foods lack fiber, and it’s easy for them to get stuck in your intestines. Start to incorporate more whole, unprocessed foods into your diet: whole grains such as oats, barley, brown rice, beans, nuts, plenty of fresh vegetables, and a moderate amount of fresh fruits. When you eat these foods regularly, you will be regular!

    Want to improve your digestion? Avoid tap water. The chlorine is put there to kill microbes, but it also kills the beneficial flora in your digestive tract. It’s like taking a low-dose antibiotic every time you take a drink. The solution? Get a filter that removes the chlorine. Alternatively, let your water sit a few hours so the chlorine can evaporate before you drink it.

    Do you feel sleepy and sluggish during the day? You may be eating too much oil and fat. A new study presented at the June 4 annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies found that daytime sleepiness is associated with increased fat consumption. How to wake up? Eat more complex carbohydrates such as whole grains, beans, and vegetables. The same study showed that eating carbohydrates is associated with daytime alertness.

    Another reason to avoid artificial sweeteners: If you drink diet soda or stir artificial sweeteners into your coffee, it’s time to make the switch to a healthier beverage. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has long warned against aspartame and acesulfame, two common artificial sweeteners. Now they’re adding a caution on sucralose (Splenda), citing an Italian study in which sucralose raised the risk of leukemia in mice. Some better beverage choices: green tea, kukicha tea, bancha tea and rooibus tea, all of which contain anti-oxidants that can reduce your risk of cancer.

    Ozone overload? On hot days, air pollution can climb along with the heat index. You can tell the air is affecting you when your eyes start to sting. To keep your lungs clean during the dog days of summer, here are a few tips:
    • Take a half-hour walk in the park, especially during the early morning. The air is clearest in the morning, after the nighttime lull in traffic and industry. Walking among the trees will give you a cleansing infusion of oxygen.
    • Place green houseplants in the rooms where you spend the most time, especially the bedroom, kitchen, and bathroom. They will clean the air in your home.
    • Strengthen your hemoglobin. Strong hemoglobin absorbs less air pollution, because it bonds more strongly to oxygen; whereas weaker hemoglobin is more attracted to the pollutants in the air. To strengthen your hemoglobin, make sure you get enough minerals, especially iron. If your doctor tells you that you’re iron deficient, you can add iron to your diet with sea vegetables, particularly dulse. Try to eat a little dulse once or twice a week: You can put it in your breakfast oats, in soups or stews, or even in sandwiches and salads. Look for dulse in your local health food store.

    Hot? Don’t adjust the air-conditioning. Adjust your thinking. Summer is our biggest opportunity of the year to deep-clean our bodies. When we sweat, we clean out waste products we’ve accumulated the rest of the year. So enjoy nature’s spa treatment! (But be sure to drink plenty of water and other healthy beverages to remain well hydrated.)

    Want to stay cool in the heat? Avoid foods that stoke your inner furnace: meat, poultry, eggs, tuna, swordfish, sugar (and sweets), and coffee. Instead, focus on foods that release the heat from our bodies: tofu, cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, snappy radishes, fresh melons and berries, and other juicy seasonal vegetables and fruits. Nature has designed summer’s bounty to help us stay cool and fresh. Your cooking style matters, too. Eat more raw and lightly cooked foods, and you’ll feel comfortable while your friends are wilting.

    To avoid mosquito bites this summer, avoid sugar. The more sugar and sweets you consume, the more your body will attract mosquitoes. This is one tip I know from personal experience! Eliminate sugar, and watch the mosquitoes disappear.

    Another way to support your liver and detox your body: Even organic, healthy food becomes a waste product and body burden if you overeat. One way to avoid overeating is to imagine how much food would fill your 2 cupped hands. Then eat a little less than that volume at each meal.

    Do you take Ginkgo Biloba for your memory? Forget about it! This herbal supplement has long been touted as a memory aid. But new studies by the National Institutes of Health show clear evidence that ginkgo biloba extract caused liver cancer in mice—and some of those cancers were especially aggressive. (Click here for a New York Times report on the study.) Instead, eat a diet rich in whole grains, beans, and fresh vegetables. This type of diet will aid blood circulation to the brain, allow the brain to clear out wastes, and speed mental agility.

    Another Detox Tip: Your lymph is designed to filter all types of nasty substances from your body—even cancer cells and lethal viruses. But for your lymph to do its job, it has to circulate. Your lymph system doesn’t have a pump (like your heart, which pumps your blood). So to “pump” your lymph, you have to move your body. One of the best ways is to take a daily walk outdoors. Just half an hour each day will really keep your lymph moving.

    Here’s a way to turn off tension, flood your body with endorphins, and neutralize excess acid all in three seconds. Laugh! Don’t have anything to laugh about? Smile anyway, even if you don’t feel like it. Researchers tell us the muscle and nerve changes involved in smiling affect our bodies the exact same way as experiencing true pleasure. But since laughing is a lot more fun than fake smiling, why not find a reason to really laugh? As it turns out, this is Comedy Week on YouTube. Most of the videos are only 2 – 5 minutes. My personal favorites are the classic “Kids Say the Darnedest Things” videos. Or just Google your favorite comedian. It’s faster and cheaper than therapy, a trip to the doctor, or medication.

    Spring Into Summer: Start now preparing your body for the hot weather ahead. If you begin to lighten up your diet now, you won’t feel so hot when summer weather sets in. Eat more lightly cooked dishes, use more vegetables in proportion to grains, cut back on salt and salty seasonings, and eat produce that’s in season. Then notice how much cooler you feel when the hot weather arrives.

    It’s time for Spring cleaning! Take a look around your house and ask yourself: What bothers you? Is it a painting you never really liked? A cluttered hallway? A broken fixture? Now take the time to fix it. You may just find other things in your life starting to shift in a positive way. Scientific research shows our surroundings affect our psychology and emotions in concrete ways we might never expect. Click here for a great article on the subject: http://www.economist.com/node/21558553

    Getting enough sleep is essential to healing, staying young, feeling happy, and staying mentally sharp. But what if bedtime comes, and you’re too keyed up to sleep? Many people sabotage their sleep cycle by relaxing in front of the TV or surfing the internet. Unfortunately, the blue light from the television or computer inhibits your body’s production of melatonin—the hormone that relaxes us and helps us feel drowsy. Instead of watching TV or using the computer, try other ways of unwinding: soak in a warm bath of epsom salts, meditate for 10 to 15 minutes, practice a Tai Chi form, do some light yoga, or practice breathing exercises.

    Spring is the time to lighten your diet and strengthen your liver. A strong liver can better detox your body. One of the best ways to increase your body’s natural detox process is to avoid overeating. Overeating burdens your liver and limits your body’s ability to expel wastes. The trick is to slow down and eat slowly. Each meal should take at least 20 minutes. Chew each bite thoroughly and take your time. This will give your stomach time to signal your brain that you are full, so you can stop eating just as soon as you are satisfied and well before you are stuffed. You will feel light and energized. Try it!

    Spring clean your body by giving your liver a mini-cleanse: Eat 3 main meals a day and don’t snack between meals. This allows your liver to rest several times each day. When you don’t snack, you’re more likely to become hungry for your next meal. When you become hungry, your liver will release stored glucose and some stored fat to tide you over until you do eat. This little discharge several times a day helps clear out your liver, allowing the liver to do a better job of removing toxins from your body.

    Practice for Success: Are you trying to kick an unhealthy habit (sugar, cigarettes, coffee, overeating, etc.) only to discover that after a brief spurt of success, you slide back into your old bad habit? This is a common pattern with many of us, but it doesn’t mean we’ve failed. Researchers tell us that the more often we attempt to form a new habit, the more likely we are to succeed the next time. So if you lapse, don’t beat yourself up—congratulate yourself for trying. Every attempt to form a new, healthy habit brings you one step closer to permanent success!

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