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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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Get the Low Down on Your Heart and Stress and Celebrate National Heart Health Month!

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Get the Low Down on Your Heart and Stress and Celebrate National Heart Health Month!Valentine’s Day commercials, sales, and promos will often portray the heart as a symbol of love and happiness. But February is also National Heart Month—a time to put the health of your heart into greater focus.

Heart health challenges affect a vast amount of the population and are the leading health concern in the United States according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Additionally, it costs the United States over $300 million a year in health care services, medications, and loss of productivity. Focusing on the heart shouldn’t just happen one month a year, however. Your heart is your companion for life. Ensuring a healthy heart starts at a young age and continues through adulthood into your elderly years.

The Vast Connections of Heart Health

Heart health would be much simpler if there was one single way of supporting it. However, as the engine of your body, the heart is connected to many different important functions in your body. Because of this it can be influenced—in both positive and negative ways—from your body’s other systems. Blood pressure, diet, exercise, blood sugar, weight management, cholesterol, and stress cultivating a health heart is a balance of motivation, prevention and diligence—making sure you are trying to make the right choices for a healthy future.

Why Dealing with Stress Is, Well... Everything

With so many areas to focus on when it comes to your heart we want to focus on one of the most important factors influencing your long term heart health, stress. Like death and taxes, stress is a constant throughout your lifetime. Sometimes, everything doesn’t always go as planned; whether your car breaks down, you lose your job, or you can’t find your favorite pair of socks, there are all types of stressful situations, and everyone handles them differently.

Handling stress in the wrong way can lead to behaviors that negatively affect your heart. How do you handle stress? Under stress, do you answer yes to any of the following?

  • Eat to calm down?
  • Speak and eat very fast?
  • Drink alcohol or smoke?
  • Rush around but do not get much done?
  • Work too much?
  • Procrastinate?
  • Sleep too little, too much, or both?
  • Slow down?
  • Try to do too many things at once?

If you answer yes to a few of these, it could mean that you are not dealing with stress in the right way. Being under stress or dealing with stressful situations can set off a chain reaction within your body. Adrenaline is released as part of your “fight or flight” response, elevating your heart-rate, breathing, and blood pressure.

Stress can also lead to overeating and unhealthy eating, as well as induce bad decisions in attempts at stress management. Managing stress, therefore, is important.

Manage Your Stress and Choose a Healthy Heart

The effects of stress and how it relates to are currently undergoing many studies. But there are already proven ways in which you can manage stress to prevent long-term damage and potential heart disease. Exercise and diet—two staples that every expert agrees are at the core of good heart health—should be at the heart (pun very much intended) of creating good daily habits. Consistent exercise—at least 150 minutes of cardio per week—can be done in a variety of ways that is adaptive to all ages and athletic levels.

Eating habits can change as a result of constant stress, causing undereating, overeating, and poor choices in food. It’s the same with exercise—stress can zap your energy, hurt your sleeping patterns, and slow you down in general. It’s somewhat of conundrum; exercise helps keep stress away, but stress can keep you from having the energy to exercise.

Response Choices for a Healthy Heart

Even with all the modern medicine available in the world, we still can’t find the secret to alleviating stress. The truth lies in your behavioral reactions and response choices from stressful situations. Understanding how you deal with stress, and the decisions you make will affect the behaviors that can dictate a healthy or unhealthy heart. Take the time this month to learn what you can do to give your heart healthy outlook it deserves.

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Is an Avocado a Day a Secret to Better Health?

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Is an Avocado a Day a Secret to Better Health?Almost everyone knows the famous food-related piece of advice: "An apple a day keeps the doctor away." But it may be time to rephrase that saying. Recent studies have shown that replacing bad fats (saturated fatty acids) with good fats (unsaturated fatty acids) can benefit cholesterol and help support both heart health and weight management. These studies point to the benefits of the Mediterranean diet as one pathway to better eating habits. One particular study focuses on the benefits of avocados as a novel way of introducing healthier fats into your diet.

Out with the Bad Fats and in with the Good!

Published in the Journal of the American Heart Association, the study sought to test the effect avocados had on traditional cardiovascular risk-factors by substituting the saturated fatty acids in the average American diet with unsaturated fatty acids found in avocados. Risk factors included: total cholesterol, triglycerides, small dense LDL, and non-HDL cholesterol.

Forty-five healthy, overweight, or obese patients ranging in age from 21 to 70 were selected. Placed on three different cholesterol-lowering diets, participants consumed an average American diet—consisting of 34% calories from fat, 51% carbohydrates, and 16% protein—for two weeks prior to starting one of the following cholesterol-lowering diets: a lower-fat diet without the consumption of avocado, a moderate-fat diet without avocado, and a moderate-fat diet that included eating one avocado per day.

An Avocado a Day...

When compared to the average American diet, LDL, commonly known as "bad choelsterol, was lower after consuming the moderate-fat diet that included an avocado. LDL was also lower for the moderate-fat diet without the avocado, but not as much; it was 8.3 mg/dL lower when compared to the avocado-a-day diet, which was 13.5 mg/dL lower.

"In the United States, avocados are not a mainstream food yet, and they can be expensive, especially at certain times of the year," said Penny M. Kris-Etherton, Ph.D, R.D., senior study author, Chair of the American Heart Association's Nutrition Committee, and Distinguished Professor of Nutrition at Pennsylvania State University. "Also, most people do not really know how to incorporate them in their diet except for making guacamole. But guacamole is typically eaten with corn chips, which are high in calories and sodium. Avacados, however, can also be eaten with salads, vegetables, sandwiches, lean protein foods (like chicken or fish) or even whole," she said.

Taking the First Steps to Better Heart Health

The focus behind many heart-healthy diets has been to change the types of fats consumed rather than eliminate them. The Mediterranean diet seeks to do this by going heavy on the vegetables, whole grains, fatty fish, and foods rich in unsaturated fatty acids. Research on avocados now puts them in the same group and presents an easy way to start replacing bad fats with good ones. Although it can be tough always sticking to a particular way of eating, integrating an avocado into your daily eating habits can be a great starting point to support good heart-health and weight management. Start your avocado-a-day routine today!

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Your Body Is the Battleground and a Cold Nose May Be a New Enemy

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Your Body Is the Battleground and a Cold Nose May Be a New EnemyTalking in a nasal-like tone and feeling congested for weeks at time is no fun. Then again, neither is sneezing, coughing, or constantly burying your face in a tissue. The common cold is an inescapable part of being human, it seems, and while many advances have been made in modern medicine over the last two centuries, the elusive instant cure-all for it remains as mysterious as a supermassive black hole. While many remedies, exist, there is no one path to feeling better. However, a new study reveals an interesting fact about temperature and nose colds.

Cold Temps Can Influence... the Nose Cold?

One of the most common forms of the cold—the rhinovirus—has been the subject of previous studies conducted in various temperatures. However, earlier research only focused on how the virus reacted to colder body temperatures. This new study headed by author and Yale professor of immunobiology, Akiko Iwasaki, sought to further investigate the relationship between higher temperatures and the immune-response rate.

To investigate this relationship, Iwasaki extracted cells from subjects' airways. She then compared the immune-response of the cells exposed to the rhinovirus when the cells were incubated at 37oC (98.6oF) or the body's normal temperature. The same comparison was made with a lower body temperature of 33oC (91.4oF). Findings suggested that the innate immune-response to the rhinovirus was impaired at the lower body temperature when compared to the normal body temperature.

"In general, the lower the temperature, it seems the lower the innate immune response to viruses," noted Iwasaki. This gives weight to remedies like hot drinks and hot soup when you have a cold. Keeping your body temp warm is actually scientifically helpful to your immune system when fighting off a cold.

The Importance of the Immune Response

While you may not be able to avoid the common cold and other mildly annoying illnesses, you can do your part to strengthen your body's immune response. Raising your body temperature by staying warm, as shown in the study above, and even covering your extremities (especially the nose) can help your body respond better in fighting off the cold as explained by the body temperature studies above. Supplementing with certain vitamins and minerals like zinc, vitamin C, and Echinacea can also support the body's immune system. While everyone will experience the common cold at some point, it doesn't need to be a losing battle.

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