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Spring forward into health with these simple tips

Below is my blog post for Huffington Post “Spring forward with these 10 simple tips.”

You can also read it here.

With a new season often come new rituals and habits. With more daylight in the springtime, it is often easier to adopt certain habits, such as fitting in an early evening bike ride. It is also a great time to try new foods and develop new habits, in an effort to get healthier.

As a nutritionist, I am a big believer in working to improve our bodies–as well as our minds–for optimal health.

Below are 10 easy tips to incorporate into your life this spring. I hope you can give some of them a try, if you are not already practicing them.

1. Start your day with a grateful heart.

Giving thanks and having an attitude of gratitude lead to stronger relationships, better sleep, and improved mood. Research reveals that cultivating gratitude not only leads to better psychological health, but also to improved physical health. While we can always find something to complain about, if we look hard enough, we can always find a multitude of things to be grateful for.

2. Get moving outdoors.

Exercising regularly offers many health benefits, ranging from managing weight to improved cardiovascular health and strength. Exercising outdoors, however, seems to provide added benefits. Research shows that you exert more energy when exercising outdoors and you also enjoy it more. People exercising outdoors report less depression and fatigue. Whether going for a morning run, a bike ride, or taking a brisk walk in the park after work, the spring season is a great time to enjoy the outdoors and be one with nature.

3. Try a new food.

As the old adage goes, “variety is the spice of life.” It turns out, variety may also be good for you, at least when it comes to making food choices. Choosing different foods of varying colors from the various food groups provides a more nutrient-dense and balanced diet. So next time you visit your favorite market, select a fruit or vegetable you have not tried before. You just might like it.

4. Write it down.

Keeping a food diary provides many benefits, from helping you shed unwanted pounds to identifying foods that may not agree with you.

Research conducted by Kaiser Permanente found that dieters who kept a food diary for six months lost twice as much weight as those who did not keep records. Perhaps because keeping a diary makes you more aware of certain habits such as nibbling and munching mindlessly. Keeping track of your mood may also prove useful.

5. Toss avocado into your favorite salad.

Avocados are a delicious, nutrient-dense fruit loaded with healthy fat and fiber. For an added nutrition boost, avocados seem to enhance the absorption of certain nutrients.

Research conducted by Ohio State University and supported by the Hass Avocado Board found that eating avocado with either raw carrots or tomato sauce (both rich in carotenoides, including beta carotene) significantly enhanced the body’s ability to absorb the vitamin as well as convert these carotenoides into an active form of the vitamin.

This is a great example of how eating certain foods together can impart added health benefits. So next time you are making a salad with carrots or a pasta dish with tomato sauce, toss in some avocado for an added health boost.

6. Snack on an apple

Apples are tasty, loaded with fiber, and low in calories. They are also easily portable, which is great if you are often on the go. While we are not sure if an apple a day will really keep the doctor away, new research reports that people eating an apple a day take fewer prescription medications than non-apple eaters. Certainly a good thing.

7. Add a handful of peanuts.

Adding a handful of peanuts to your diet can give you a great nutrition boost; they contain heart-healthy unsaturated fats, antioxidants including vitamin, protein, fiber, and plant stanols. They are also easy to pack and do not need to be refrigerated. Just be sure to stick to one handful.

8. Practice yoga

Practicing yoga has seen shown to increase flexibility and strength, boost mood, relieve stress, and more. While you can practice yoga at a studio, your local gym, or at home you can even do certain poses wherever you are and reap some benefits.

9. Include a cruciferous vegetable with dinner.

Cruciferous vegetables are packed with vitamin C, fiber, and folate, and are low in calories. Perfect for watching weight and promoting health. Members of the Brassica family are rich in phytochemicals, known to have antioxidant properties which may help prevent chronic diseases such as heart disease and certain cancers. Turns out, these veggies also taste great. Choose from cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, Swiss chard, and bok choy. Sautee your favorite veggie with a drizzle of olive oil and your favorite spices and you are good to go.

10. Spend time with people who make you laugh.

Laughter seems to provide some health benefits and research finds that it may even compare to eating well and exercising to keep you healthy and free of disease. Laughter may calm the mind, relieve anxiety, and reduce stress.

And when you laugh and think positive thoughts, you are more likely to end your day on a happy note.

Follow Dr. Lisa Young on Twitter: www.twitter.com/drlisayoung

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Health benefits of legumes

Below is my latest post for Huffington Post on the benefits of legumes.

You can also read it here.

Legumes — a class of vegetables including beans, peas, and lentils — are terrific to include in the diet. They are rich in and fiber and chock full of vitamins and minerals, including folate, manganese, iron, potassium, magnesium, and copper. They are also economical and easy to store, and can be used in many dishes.

A terrific substitute for meat, legumes offer a nutrient-dense plant protein that is much lower in saturated fat and a good source of fiber and phytochemicals. No wonder they have been linked to lower rates of heart disease, diabetes, certain cancers, and lower body weights.

Even if you are a meat lover, I would still suggest incorporating legumes into your diet.

(Note: Legumes are not fattening when consumed in place of high fat-meat! I stress this because as a clinician, I have had many clients afraid to eat legumes for fear of gaining weight.)

Here are six winners that I love and recommend. They can be incorporated into a salad dish or in a soup.

  • Lentils offer the added benefit of being a significant source of iron, in addition to the benefits from the soluble fiber, protein, and complex carbohydrates that all legumes offer. Lentils are also high in the B-vitamin biotin, which aids in the body’s metabolism and growth.
  • Kidney Beans are a chock full of fiber, protein, vitamins and minerals, including potassium and the B-vitamins folate and thiamin.
  • Green Peas offer a significant source of fiber and protein. They also contain lutein and zeaxanthin, compounds that are essential for good eye health and have been suggested to lower rates of cataracts. Peas also pack vitamin K, which helps with bone health and blood clotting.
  • Chickpeas are a great option for plant protein and their fiber, they also contain magnesium, manganese, iron, and folate. Hummus, which is made from chickpeas, is delicious with crackers or veggies as an afternoon snack.
  • Black beans, like other legumes, are high in fiber and protein and offer a great alternative to the saturated fat found in meat. What set black beans apart, however, are their at least eight different flavonoids, called anthocyanins, which serve as cancer-combating antioxidants in the body.
  • Peanuts are rich in heart-healthy unsaturated fat and contain protein, fiber, vitamins and minerals, as well as antioxidants. It is no surprise that regular consumption of peanuts has been associated with lower risk for coronary heart disease in people who eat them in place of other high-fat foods.
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