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Stay Healthy This Holiday Season with a Few Crucial Guidelines

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Stay Healthy This Holiday Season with a Few Crucial GuidelinesRight now you are in the eye of the holiday season storm. While this busy time of year can make you feel like you’re falling off your daily diet and nutrition plans, it doesn’t have to be that way. Maintaining good health for the holidays is possible by following a few simple rules and tips. Consequently, these rules can be applied throughout the year.

Refrain from Skipping Meals

The logical thinking that you will eat less by skipping meals will not help you become healthier or support weight management any better. Even if you’re a calorie counter, skipping meals can backfire because it often leads to overeating during other meals, or constant snacking between meals that can result in a higher daily calorie intake than if you had stuck to regular meals. A recent study done at Ohio State University showed that skipping meals can actually lead to abdominal weight gain and increased resistance to insulin within the liver, which can cause fat to accumulate. In short, sticking to a regular meal plan during the holidays can help you avoid the pitfalls of binge eating and unhealthy weight gain.

Splice in Some Nutrition to Each Meal

Temptation for unhealthy eating is everywhere during the holidays. Between work parties, social gatherings, and family get-togethers—all flush with different types of foods—the propensity to lean towards unhealthy dishes is strong. To counterbalance the potential for unhealthy eating this holiday season, create a rule for yourself to include one healthy food in each major meal. Another rule to follow is to try fill half your plate with veggies. Making half your plate a colorful medley of fruits and vegetables is a safe way to infuse your holiday meals with solid nutrition. In addition, whether you are hosting or going to a potluck gathering, be a good eating advocate by bringing a healthy dish.

Just for good measure, here are some more holiday festivity nutrition tips. Never go to a party or gathering on an empty stomach (see the section above on skipping meals) and don’t base your socializing around food. And lastly, mind your drink calories. Some beverages such as sodas can be filled with a large amount of calories that can add up to almost as much as a whole meal! Try to stay hydrated with water, seltzer water, teas, or low-sugar juices to avoid a calorie splurge from beverages.

Don’t Be Afraid of the Numbers

Keeping track of your nutrition can be a great way to understand your needs, along with your dieting strengths and weaknesses. That’s why you shouldn’t be afraid to break your nutrition down into exact numbers. This can further help you make healthy decisions during the holiday season. Many daily total calorie intakes are based off of 1,600 or 2,000 calories. According to the American Heart Association, your recommended daily values can be spread across several food and nutrient groups. For example, your total recommended grain intake for a 2,000-calorie diet is 6–8 servings per day, while the recommended daily vegetable intake for a 2,000-calorie diet is 4–5 servings per day.

Researching your daily nutrition recommendations, reading the labels when you’re doing your holiday shopping or preparing food, and staying on top of your nutrition choices can be a great guide healthy holiday eating.

Don’t let the holidays wreck your nutrition this year by falling into the same pattern of making regretful New Year’s resolutions because of bad choices. Be proactive, stay active, and make the healthy choices this holiday season for a great end to 2015 and a nutritious start to 2016.

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Choosing the Right Fats and Avoiding the "Bad" Proves to be Beneficial for Your Health

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Choosing the Right Fats and Avoiding the Bad Proves to be Beneficial for Your HealthFor a long time, when you heard the word, "fat", in a conversation about nutrition, it was usually used in a negative fashion. But not all fat is bad for you, depending on the variety you consume. There are two types of fats when it comes to food and nutrition: saturated and unsaturated. Certain foods can contain one or both types, which can affect your overall health in vastly different ways. Recently, research illuminated just how important it is to you heart health when it comes to which fats make up the bulk of your diet.

Saturated Fat Basics

Saturated fats possess no double-bonds between carbon molecules because they are saturated with hydrogen molecules, hence their name. Foods containing saturated fats usually remain solid at room temperature. These are the bad fats—the heavy fats that are found in foods known for their negative effects on your health. Some popular foods containing saturated fatty acids include meats, cheeses, butter, fried foods, heavy creams and oils, baked goods, and pastries.

The Healthy Replacements

Unsaturated fats, on the other-hand, can actually be beneficial to your daily diet. Two different types—monounsaturated and polyunsaturated—can be found in foods and some oils. A recent study showed how you can support a healthy heart by swapping out saturated fats for both types of unsaturated fat.

A Nurses' Health Study and Health Professionals Follow-Up Study of 127,000 cohort participants showed that replacing 5% of energy intake coming from saturated fats with an equivalent intake from polyunsaturated fatty acids was associated with a 25% decrease in heart health concerns. Replacing the equivalent intake with monounsaturated fats was associated with a 15% decrease for the same cardiovascular concerns.

"This shows that the replacement really matters. It's not enough to remove something from your plate and think you're doing yourself a favor," said co-lead author, Dr. Adela Hruby, of the Chan School of Public Health at Harvard, Boston.

What Foods and Supplements to Look For

Along with knowing the benefits that certain fats can provide, it is vital to know where to find these fats. Most unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature. Flax oil, palm oil, coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil, and canola oil can all be used for cooking instead of butter, shortening, and stick margarine.

When it comes to getting an extra heart health boost, there is also fish oil containing omega-3 fatty acids. Omega-3 fatty acids have been shown in studies to also lower the risk of heart concerns, as well as support healthy cholesterol and blood pressure levels. Coldwater fish such as salmon, tuna, trout, mackerel, sardines, and herring contain high amounts of nutritious omega-3 fatty acids.

The Role of Fats and Healthy Food Choices

There was a time where we thought any kind of fat was bad. Now with an increased understanding of the different fats and the roles they play in your health and nutrition, we know that some fats can actually be beneficial. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then to learn that the recipe to avoiding saturated fats includes choosing healthier foods such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, and poultry. If you choose to eat meat, limit your red meat consumption, choosing fish and nuts instead to help increase your unsaturated fat intake.

In the end, not all fats should be thought of negatively. Making the healthy choice sometimes means choosing the right fats and making them work for you when it comes to achieving a healthier overall lifestyle.

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Coconut Oil: The New "Do-It-All" Health Product!

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Coconut Oil: The New Do-It-All Health Product!Coconut oil was originally heavily ostracized by the health community due to its relatively high saturated fat content. However, closer inspection has shown that the saturated fat in coconut oil differs from the saturated fat often found in animal products, which is primarily comprised of long-chain fatty acids. Coconut oil contains a high amount of medium-chain fatty acids, which are harder for the body to convert into stored fat and easier to burn off than long-chain fatty acids or triglycerides. Recently, there has been a boon in popularity of coconut oil and it has been lauded for its many uses. So what are these benefits and how can you add them to your daily health regimen?

Good for Cooking and for Skin

Among its many applications, coconut oil can be used for cooking. In fact, research has shown coconut oil to be a better choice over soybean oil and corn oil. Studies conducted by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) revealed that 94% of soy produced in the United States is genetically modified and may be nutritionally deficient. Virgin coconut oil, on the other hand, is extracted from fresh, ripe coconuts. According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, virgin coconut oil has no sugar, carbohydrates, or cholesterol; and it contains phenolic compounds that may provide antioxidant support.

Besides being used for cooking, coconut oil has also gained a reputation for supporting healthy skin. A 2013 study in the Journal of International Dermatology found that virgin coconut oil improved skin barrier function in people dealing with certain skin concerns. It helps create smooth, soft skin by retaining moisture content because its fat content is able to eliminate moisture loss through the pores. If skin support wasn’t enough, coconut oil can be used in hair care. Its texture and antioxidant properties can promote healthy, smooth hair that possesses a natural shine.

A New Way to Boost Heart Health and Weight Management

The same properties that make coconut oil good for cooking apply to its ability to support weight management and heart health. Hydrogenated saturated fats are known to raise bad cholesterol levels (LDL). However, virgin coconut oil can help increase levels of good cholesterol (HDL). Coconut oil is also said to help decrease appetite and increase fat burning. Evidence points to its effectiveness at targeting abdominal fat. A recent clinical study involving women with excess abdominal fat who took coconut oil every day found that coconut oil consumption led to a significant reduction in both body mass index and waist circumference within a 12-week period. Another study on overweight males also showed a similar reduction in waist circumference after four weeks of daily coconut oil use.

The Evidence Is In

Research continues to grow about the multiple health benefits of coconut oil. From beauty care to weight management to cholesterol health, coconut oil is a multifaceted product to turn to for many of your daily wellness needs.

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How Reading Nutrition Labels May Get Easier Due to Potential FDA Changes

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How Reading Nutrition Labels May Get Easier Due to Potential FDA ChangesWhen it comes to nutrition and knowing what to put into your body each day, knowledge is everything. Misconceptions about what is good and bad for your daily health have been popping up for decades. Just as recently as the 1960s there were advertisements that hyped sugar as being a natural, fat-free energy booster. While our understanding of certain ingredients has changed over time, many people still struggle over eating healthily and know the true consequences of what they eat.

Nutrition labels are thought of as the great equalizer that can illuminate and educate consumers on food products. However, they have also been a hot-button issue between food companies, consumers, health experts, and the FDA for years; the main argument being that some labels may mislead people about the true nutritional value of an item. To rectify this, the FDA is proposing some new changes to help further clarify the real nutritional content of foods and beverages.

Adding Up the Sugar

Among the most important potential changes have to do with the tricky way some companies quantify sugar content. Under the new proposed rules, labels would have to include the daily percentage value of total sugar as they have done for other ingredients like fats, carbohydrates, and fiber. The amounts would have to be listed from highest percentage content to lowest.

With some products, the types of sugar—such as high fructose corn syrup, sucrose, etc.—would need to be listed individually. The new label guidelines also require that the sugar content, regardless of what ingredients it’s from, be totaled to give you a better idea of how much sugar can actually dominate a particular product.

Other Key Labeling Changes

Another important change that could immediately help a consumer identify unhealthy ingredients has to do with how the label is designed. If a product contains more than 20% of the daily recommended value of saturated fats or sugar, they would be listed in red and have the word “high” next to the percent value, so you will be able to clearly spot them when looking at the label.

The list of ingredients themselves would be separated by a bolded dot instead of a comma, making it easier to read. Major ingredients will be listed by their weighted percent of the product, while minor ingredients—defined as anything which makes up less than 2% of your daily value—would be listed separately, along with potential allergens at the bottom of the label. With the recent banning of trans-fats, they will no longer need to be included or listed at 0%. Lastly, if a product contains any caffeine, it will also need to be disclosed.

Moving Forward and Getting Support

In 2013, Congress passed the Food Labeling Modernization Act that instructed the FDA to update food labels with several changes, such as requiring food companies to use realistic serving sizes and prominently label the total calories per serving.

Adding the percent daily value for sugar was another requirement of the FDA in that law. Now, the FDA is issuing the formal proposal for these changes. In the next 75 days, they will continue to seek public comments. After that a final ruling will be made on all potential changes. The FDA already has the support of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, which released a comment stating, “Modernization of nutrition and health information on food labels is an essential weapon in the fight against obesity” and diet-related conditions.

Knowledge can empower everyone to make better choices, providing that full disclosure is given so that people can make well-informed decisions. The proposed FDA label changes are taking the right step towards creating a trickle-down effect of better living, one label at a time.

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Knowing the Different Remedies for Colds vs Sinus Infections

Knowing the Different Remedies for Colds vs Sinus InfectionsWhen you get those familiar symptoms of a runny or stuffy nose, watery eyes, and sneezing, you may quickly conclude that you must have a cold. But how can you be so sure? The fact remains that colds and sinus infections might appear similar, but they are two different things and their treatments can diverge.

The Common Cold Virus

A famous saying in health is that there is no cure for the common cold. While this may be true, it's important to understand the symptoms you're dealing with in order to aid the recovery process. Because the common cold is, in fact, a virus, antibiotics won't help. Essentially, you have to let a cold run its course, but therein lies the problem.

While there are plenty of remedies to help ease the symptoms of a cold, one of the biggest things you can do is get proper rest. It is common for people to work through colds or try to resume their normal daily activities, but this can make a cold stick around longer. While colds typically only last for a week, not getting proper rest can allow them to linger longer.

Common cold symptoms can include: Sore throat, cough, headache, stuffy nose, mucus buildup, sneezing, fatigue, swollen sinuses, and in some cases a low-grade fever in adults. The remedies you choose to combat your cold symptoms should be specific to that symptom. Taking a cold or sinus pill and expecting it to work on everything can be a mistake. Target a headache, runny nose, mucus buildup, and fever differently. Acitamenophine tablets can help ease headaches and other discomfort, but make sure not to exceed the recommended dosage. Drink plenty of hot fluids such as chicken soup to stay hydrated. If you have one, a neti pot can help drain thin mucus and flush out your sinuses with a mix of distilled water and salt.

A Sinus Infection and Its Symptoms

A sinus infection starts in the nasal passages. When the sinuses become inflamed it can be harder to get rid of than a common cold. While colds don't usually directly cause sinus infections, they can present an apt breeding ground for them. Camelia Davtyan, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), explains how this can happen.

"You touch your nose a lot when you're sick, and each time you bring more bacteria to the sinuses," she says. "Because your sinuses can't drain, the bacteria stay there and grow."

Symptoms of sinus infections, while similar to the common cold, can be slightly different, including: Sinus pressure behind the eyes and the cheeks, a runny or stuffy nose lasting more than a week, a persistent headache, dizziness when shifting position, fever, cough, mucus draining from your nose or down the back of your throat (postnasal drip), fatigue, and a decreased sense of smell.

If you think you have a sinus infection rather than a cold, see your doctor right away. Most sinus infections will go away after a course of antibiotics. While you wait for the antibiotics to do their job, you can also ease your symptoms through nasal irrigation and with over-the-counter nasal decongestants.

Protecting Your Immune System

Even before you feel any symptoms it's always important to boost your immune system. Supplements like vitamin C, zinc, and even a daily multivitamin can help aid daily nutrition, which in turn can give your immune system the consistent boost it needs to keep you feeling healthy each day.

Knowing the Difference and Attacking with the Right Remedy

It is commonplace for the symptoms of a runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and headache to be chalked up to the common cold or allergies. The truth is, while some symptoms are similar, their origins and, consequently, methods of treatment can differ. Everyone deals with colds, sinus infections, and allergies at some point in time. Recognizing the differences and following the right treatments can help you feel better faster, allowing you to get back to operating at your best sooner.

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