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WellTips: STEP Up Your Walking to Improve Your Memory!

WellTips, fitness

A sharper memory is just one more reason to step up your walking! A new study found that adults who walked about 45 minutes three times per week for six months performed substantially better on several cognitive tasks than those who did stretching or strengthening exercises.

Want to know the best part? All 124 participants were previously sedentary. ''The nice result of our study is that a person who has not been physically active during his or her younger years still can benefit from walking,'' noted lead researcher Dr. Arthur F. Kramer of the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. Not only did the studied walkers improve their ability to plan, establish schedules and switch between tasks, they also showed significant improvement in oxygen consumption.

More health benefits of walking:

A sharper memory isn't the only reason to increase your walking routine. Other health benefits include weight management, stress management, lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes, increased energy levels, stronger bones, decreased lower back pain, improved sleep, improved mood, and more.

What can you do to increase your walking?

  • Use half of your lunch break to go for a brisk walk outside. Or, walk around your building and take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • Invite a friend to walk with you. There's nothing better than getting a workout in while laughing and sharing stories with a buddy.
  • Sneak in more walking opportunities, especially on days you are too busy for your regular workout. Walk in the morning, during breaks, after meals, and at night to rack up your steps and get your heart rate going. Walking small amounts several times a day is just as beneficial as walking all at once.
  • Most importantly, find what works best for you and have fun with it! Make your walk or any physical exercise enjoyable, so it doesn't feel like a chore, but rather something to look forward to.
Information and resources:

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WellTips: Berries for All!


Now that spring has sprung, it will be easier to pick up your favorite produce, including a variety of berries. Not only are berries simple to eat, sweet, and great in recipes, they also offer a lot health benefits. Keep reading to learn why berries are so good for your health and how to incorporate them into your diet!

WellTips: The Good-Mood Foods

WellTips, nutrition

Ever notice that certain foods and beverages have the ability to affect the way you feel? The two most common mood-effecting substances are sugar and caffeine. Too much sugar causes a spike in energy, followed by an energy drop so intense that all you can think about is a nap. Oftentimes, people rely on caffeine as their wake-up remedy, which can cause improved mental alertness, improved mood and increased productivity. On the darker side, however, caffeine can cause shakiness, irritability, anxiety, nausea, and headaches. Read on to learn about the healthy alternative foods that can improve your mood without leaving you depleted hours later.

Serotonin is a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making us feel good and happy. What is interesting to know about serotonin is that 80-90% is actually produced by the cells in our guts, and not our brain. In fact, serotonin was tied to food long before it was tied to our moods. When sources are depleted, we tend to feel more depressed, and when in full effect, we tend to feel happier. Not only that, but a recent study by the UT Southwestern Medical Center found that drugs that increased serotonin levels in the brain resulted in participants eating less.

Serotonin in food:
Serotonin is very important to our bodies and can be found in a variety of foods. Further studies show that supplementing with serotonin for a year increased mood in women. Instead of looking to feel good temporarily from that afternoon cookie or third cup of coffee, try these naturally available forms of feel-good foods: walnuts, tomatoes, kiwis, pineapples, plums and plantains.

Although consuming these foods will increase serotonin, the neurotransmitter needs some help to cross the blood-brain barrier. This helper is tryptophan, an amino acid key to serotonin production in our brains when serotonin levels are low. Our bodies naturally understand this, and therefore, cause us to crave tryptophan. Foods high in this amino acid include fish, eggs, beans, turkey, nuts, yogurt and milk.

Listen to you body:
As with all healthy diets, it is important to eat a balanced diet and to listen to what your body craves. What we choose to eat will affect our mood, but inversely, our mood will affect what foods we want to eat. The next time you feel stressed, depressed, or just rundown, take a moment and think about what you can have to feel a little happier.


WellTips: Ending The More Stress, Less Sleep Cycle

girl sleeping resized 600

Do you feel like your busy schedule is getting in the way of a good night's sleep? Hectic schedules and high demands can cause people to live in a constant state of stress. Although you may think that pulling an all-nighter will benefit you at work, not getting enough rest can lead to less productivity and an increase in stress hormones.

What does stress feel like?

Common signs of stress include depression, insomnia, tension, anxiety, work mistakes, poor concentration, and apathy. When the body is under stress, it increases levels of the hormone, cortisol, to deal with it. Prolonged levels of increased cortisol can affect the body's immune system and decrease the ability to keep blood sugar levels even. Follow these important tips to avoid the more stress, less sleep cycle.

Tips to get a better night's sleep:

  • Discover your stressors: Figuring out what is causing you the most stress and developing a plan can give you peace of mind. If you tend to wake up in the middle of the night remembering things to do the next day, try writing a to do list each afternoon or keep a pen and paper by your bedside. That way, you can can write down your thought right away and get back to sleep quickly.
  • Have a bedtime routine: Train your body to get ready for sleep by creating a three-step routine. These steps can include taking a warm bath, drinking a hot cup of (non-caffeinated) tea, listening to relaxing music, reading a book, or meditating.
  • Avoid watching stressful television shows or reading suspenseful books before bed: These forms of entertainment are exciting, and can raise your cortisol levels making it more difficult to sleep. Opt for a funny or historical television show, or better yet, choose an uplifting book to help you wind down.
  • Limit light exposure: Turning down the lights before bed helps your body realize that it is almost time for sleep. This includes lights from your computer, IPad, phone or other electronic devices that should be used only outside the bedroom.
  • Exercise regularly: Getting regular exercise can help your body manage stress better. Just make sure you finish your workout at least 2 hours before bedtime or it may affect your sleep.
  • Eat a healthy diet: Having regular, balanced meals can keep energy levels high and prevent blood sugar ups and downs that can lead to craving caffeine and sugar.
  • Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed: If you are a regular coffee or tea drinker, make sure that it isn't the culprit for those late nights. Stop drinking caffeine early in the day and consider eliminating it if you still find your sleep affected. Although alcohol might make you sleepy, it does not lead to the most restful sleep since you may need to make extra trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

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WellTips: Supplements: Worth all the Hype?

WellTips, nutrition

Dating as far back as the Middle Ages in the 1300s, Alchemists roamed the earth in search of the fountain of youth, an elixir promising eternal youth and vitality. Today, people are quick to believe that the next new power berry, protein mix, or supplement will give them similar results. Recent studies show that the amount of supplements consumed by Americans each year continues to rise. In fact, according to the Center of Disease Control, over half of the population consumes some type of synthetic supplement, including herbal extracts, multivitamins, and minerals. Yet somehow, the United States ranks 49th on the list of healthiest nations, a far cry from being ranked 5th not too long ago (in the 1950s).

One important point to keep in mind is that these extra boosters will not outweigh, nor erase an unhealthy diet and lifestyle. If you don't exercise and don't eat right, your supplements will not help you get very far. Synthetic alternatives to whole foods are called "isolates." Your body will only absorb and use a small percentage of an isolate form of vitamins and minerals. There are also a number of side effects, depending on the quality of the isolate. A buildup of isolates creates a biofilm in your small intestine, which prevents the absorption of these mega doses of vitamins. Studies show your body treats these synthetic vitamins as foreigners, excreting them however and whenever possible.

Focus on YOU:
Improve your health by investing in high quality organic whole foods whenever possible, instead of grabbing synthetic supplements off the shelf. Focus more on eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, lean proteins, low fat dairy products and legumes. Take time for yourself. This means exercise regularly, eat right, and find time to decompress and focus on you.

What about deficiency?
That being said, it is very possible to be deficient in certain vitamins and minerals that are crucial to health and vitality. Professional athletes, people who eat a strict vegetarian/vegan diet, and the elderly are some examples of populations who can become deficient in certain micronutrients. One example is Vitamin D, a vitamin that we mostly get from the sun, fortified dairy products and some forms of fish. Due to lack of sun exposure, particularly in the winter months, studies have shown that people have trouble getting their daily recommended amount. Even though our body can store the sunshine vitamin and use it throughout the year, it is an important vitamin that helps regulate hormones, maintain bone strength, and metabolize minerals.

Call your Doc!
If you think you may have some sort of deficiency, it would be a good idea to reach out to your doctor about your questions and concerns.

Check out here for more.

WellRecipes: Mashed Cauliflower

Mashed Cauliflower

Try this tasty and healthy "Mashed Cauliflower" recipe today!

WellTips: To Drink or Not to Drink (Coffee That Is)

WellTips, current health news

Any people drink coffee religiously and cannot start their day without a warm (or iced) cup o' Joe. We all know this type (and may even be this type) and now science is even supporting a daily fix of coffee. Although caffeine may not agree with everyone's body, new research confirms that it is OK, and even good for you, to stick with your daily dose of cafe. Here are a few fascinating studies about coffee:

Feeling blue? A new study showed that women who drank four cups of coffee a day experienced 20% less depression, suggesting that women who consume coffee have lower rates of depression overall. These results were only shown for women who drank fully leaded coffee; so decaffeinated coffee, caffeinated tea, and herbal tea didn't do the trick.

Lower your risk of a stroke: In a study that compared coffee consumption and risk of stroke in women, women who drank 1-5 cups of coffee a day cut their risk of stroke by 25%. The compounds in coffee contain antioxidant properties which act as an insulin suppressant that not only help to control blood sugar levels in the body, but also decrease inflammation.

Lower your risk of certain cancers: Drinking 4 or more cups of coffee a day may lower the risk for endometrial cancer by 25% as compared to drinking less than 1 cup a day.

Caffeine and exercise: Drinking coffee keeps you alert, allows you to stay awake in meetings, and even helps you go that extra mile, literally. One reason is because caffeine acts on your brain and central nervous system (CNS). One study noted that athletes using caffeine began to exercise at a higher intensity than they did on placebo, but did not notice a difference in effort. When consumed after a workout, coffee aids in recovery by helping your liver and muscles resynthesize glycogen.

Final note: Use these facts as ammo against friends and coworkers skeptical about the benefits of coffee, but also recognize that caffeine does not work like a wonder drug for everyone. Enjoy your coffee, but monitor your overall caffeine intake to avoid unwanted side effects such as nervousness, anxiety and difficulty sleeping.

Information and resources:

WellRecipes: Wiki (fast) Rice

wiki (fast) riceWiki means “fast” in Hawaiian, and this dish fits the bill—it’s quick and easy to make.


1 Tbsp  canola oil
1 Tbsp  fresh garlic, minced (about 3 cloves) (or 1 tsp dried)
1 tsp  fresh ginger, minced (or ¼ tsp dried)
1 Tbsp  scallions (green onions), rinsed and minced
½ C  canned sliced water chestnuts, drained
2 C  cooked mixed vegetables (or ½ bag frozen stir-fry vegetable mix) (Leftover Friendly)
2 C  cooked brown rice (Leftover Friendly)
1 Tbsp  lite soy sauce
1 tsp  sesame oil

1. Heat canola oil in a large wok or sauté pan over medium heat. Add garlic, ginger, and scallions, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
2. Add water chestnuts, and continue to cook until they begin to soften, another 1–2 minutes.
3. Add vegetables, and toss until heated through, about 2–3 minutes (or up to 5 minutes for frozen vegetables).
4. Add rice, and continue to cook until hot, about 3–5 minutes.
5. Add soy sauce and sesame oil. Toss well, and serve.
Prep Time: 10 minutes   Cook time: 15 minutes   Yield: 4 servings   Serving Size: about 1 C rice and vegetables

Each Serving Provides:

calories  179
total fat  6 g
saturated fat  1 g
cholesterol  0 mg
sodium  113 mg
total fiber  2 g
protein  4 g
carbohydrates  29 g
potassium  88 mg
vitamin A  4%
vitamin C  15%
calcium  2%
iron  4%
Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet.
Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services National Institutes of Health, National Heart Lung and Blood Institute

WellTips: The Power of Positive Thinking

WellTips, stress

If you are health conscious, you may be very aware of the foods you eat and the amount of physical activity you get. Even though you may put a lot of thought into your health, how much thought are you putting in to your actual thoughts?

Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy
It is important to be picky with your thoughts, just as you are with the food you eat (or don't eat). The way you think transfers directly to how you feel and act, and remember, YOU have the ability to control your thoughts. Studies show that Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy, also called CBT, is a therapy that is often used to help people think in a healthy way. It focuses on thought (cognitive) and action (behavioral). Studies have shown that CBT can help people sleep better, lose weight, treat depression, and keep it from returning.

Stop Those Negative Thoughts!
Through CBT, you begin to notice negative thoughts, and more importantly, learn to stop them by replacing them with positive thoughts. These positive thoughts relax your mind and body, which helps lowers stress. You also learn to manage your time better, which helps lowers stress as well.

How to get started?
Simply watch your thoughts and pay attention to them. Notice when they are negative or simply not helpful and start to rephrase them. Here is an example that may sound familiar: If you follow your diet and exercise plan, it's a "good" day; if you don't, you're a "failure". You interpret any lapse to mean you can't do anything right and that you will not succeed.

Example: "I ate so many cookies at the party last night that I blew my whole diet. I can't do this." Transformed: "OK, so I ate cookies last night. So what? Today is a new day and I will recommit to my health and move on." "Should of" statements can be very powerful - and emotionally damaging.

Kiss the Guilt Goodbye
A good first step is to stop victimizing yourself through guilt and empower yourself by taking personal responsibility. Here is another example: "I shouldn't have had that second helping. I should do better than that. I must have more willpower." To transform this to something more constructive, try: "I could have had only one helping, but I chose not to. I'm not going to beat myself up over that. I'll make a different choice today."

When you disqualify the positive steps you take in your weight loss journey, you are saying that your successes "don't count". This is essentially the same as saying that you don't count. Be your own best ally. Support yourself in the same way you would support a good friend. Acknowledge yourself in this way and you will notice the positive results!

Information and resources:

WellRecipes: Potato Salad

Potato Salad

This potato salad recipe is easy to make and full of nutrients. Try it today!


Makes 20 servings (5 cups), Serving size: 1/4 cup
3 lb. red potatoes
2 medium sweet potatoes
7 eggs
10 oz. dill pickle relish
1 cup medium onions, chopped
1/4 cup red and 1/2 green bell pepper, chopped
1/2 cup healthy mayonnaise, such as Smart Balance Omega


1. Boil potatoes until fork penetrates easily. Cool.
2. Cover eggs with cold water and bring to a boil. Turn heat down and simmer for 20 minutes. Cool.
3. Separate cooked egg yolks and whites. Mash yolks with a fork, and add mayonnaise and relish.
4. Cut egg whites into medium-sized pieces.
5. Cut potatoes into bite-sized pieces.
6. Mix all together and cool.

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