Seattle, San Francisco and Toronto (starting in January) have banned the use of plastic bags by retailers. It’s strictly BYO — a move that cuts down on throwaway plastic (100 billion plastic bags are discarded every year in the U.S.). With four or five reusable totes, you might personally replace 520 plastic bags a year. But you need to be clever to be green and healthy. So let’s tote up the smart moves.
• Green alert: Reuse (over and over) those heavy-duty, made-from-plastic-bottles totes — or you’re adding to pollution, not lessening it. Made in China (mostly), they take longer to decompose in a landfill than the lighter plastic bags you’re boycotting, and their manufacturing may be environmentally damaging.
• Health savvy: Bacteria take up residence in almost every reusable grocery bag — whether made from fabric or recycled plastic; coliform bacteria love them because of the (mostly invisible) food residue that the bags contain. But don’t trash your totes. These bacteria are mostly harmless; you have a lot of them living in your gut right now (only certain strains can make you sick). Washing your bags with regular soap, by hand or in a machine will get rid of 99 percent of those germs. But you know what one study found? Only 3 percent of you wash your bags. So get with the soap, and spruce up the totes.
Help your daughter stay healthy
Research shows that girls with excess weight and insulin resistance have a much greater chance of developing breast cancer. Unfortunately, more than 30 percent of kids are overweight, and that’s a trigger for type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance is part of that), heart disease — and, yes, breast cancer. We know you want to help your daughter stay healthy. Here’s how.
• Eliminate the five food felons. That’s drinks and foods with added sugars; syrups; all grains but 100 percent whole grains; trans fats (in prepared and baked foods); and most saturated fat (from four-legged animals, two-legged animal skin, and palm and coconut oils).
• Serve up three meals and two snacks a day. Kids with a steady supply of healthy food have fewer binges on fast food and stay trimmer. Make sure she gets plenty of omega-3s (in avocados, walnuts and canola oil) and omega-9s (in olive oil).
• Get her up and moving. Kids 6 to 17 need at least 60 minutes a day of mostly aerobics (walking, playing outdoor games), plus bone-strengthening (jumping rope or running) and muscle-building (gymnastics for kids under 14; light weightlifting for older kids).
Healthy eating is not ‘Let’s Make a Deal’
Listening to a Mozart symphony is not the same as swooning over a Justin Bieber love ballad. And eating a 210-calorie order of french fries is not the equivalent of 210 calories’ worth of grilled broccoli.
The notion that “a calorie is a calorie” is a big fat myth. You can’t make that deal to substitute fries for broccoli and expect to stay the same weight or have good health. What you eat affects your metabolism, circulation and brain. And it turns on and off genes that trigger everything from Alzheimer’s disease to cancer.
Make the right trade. A low-glycemic-index diet, with 40 percent of calories from carbs, 40 percent from fats and 20 percent from protein, burns 150 more calories a day than a high-carb, low-fat diet (60 percent of calories from carbs and 20 percent from fats, with 20 percent protein). Though a low-carb, high-saturated-fat diet (10 percent carbs) burns even more calories, it also amps up inflammatory C-reactive protein and cortisol, and that’s bad for the heart, brain and nerves.
So, for a nutritional plan that’s loaded with health-promoting calories, here’s the real deal.
1. You know our mantra: Avoid the five food felons — added sugars and syrups, any grain that’s not 100 percent whole, most saturated fats and all trans fats.
2. Opt for foods with a low glycemic index — it tells you how quickly foods are digested and how they send blood sugar up. High-fiber foods are low and slow; try beans, whole grains, fruits and fibrous veggies like dark, leafy greens and broccoli. Enjoy.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation for tinnitus
Transcranial magnetic stimulation is a potential treatment for tinnitus (it’s approved for treating depression, but not yet for chronic ringing in the ears), and it’s a noninvasive way to ease the chronic ringing and whooshing sounds that can fill one or both ears.
Anything that provides some quiet is a big relief. Tinnitus can range from bothersome to debilitating — just ask the 50 million people in the U.S. who have it. (These days, half of all soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have tinnitus because of blasts from explosive devices.)
Treatments lasting 35 to 40 minutes are delivered via a magnetic coil placed next to the left side of the head. It sends short pulses of magnetic energy to the brain. There are no known negative side effects.
Transcranial magnetic stimulation has been studied for almost three decades. It offers about three months worth of significant improvement for more than a third of people with newly diagnosed, severe tinnitus. Now Loyola University researchers are looking to see if transcranial magnetic stimulation “treatments” offer double relief for the 12 percent of people with tinnitus who also have depression.
For more information about tinnitus and transcranial magnetic stimulation, contact the American Tinnitus Association.
Squeeze your honey with your non-dominant arm
Left brain/right brain theory says the left hemisphere of the brain is where logic, reasoning and numbers are processed; the right side is responsible for intuition, creativity and performance.
We know the left side of your body is controlled by your right brain, where there’s also control of performance (motor skills and coordination). So, German researchers decided to see if right-handed athletes would compete better if the right side of their brain was stimulated before a game.
In three experiments, right-handed athletes (in judo, badminton and soccer) squeezed a ball in their left hand before they started playing in a high-pressure competition. They performed measurably better than other right-handed players who squeezed a ball in their right hand.
The researchers theorize that thinking consciously about what you’re going to do (left brain) makes you mess up. And athletes do best when they rely on automatic, pre-programmed moves (those live in the right brain). Therefore, stimulating the right brain sense of intuitive performance (via left-handed ball squeezing) makes for better play. Could squeezing your honey do the same?
The researchers think that an elderly right-handed person who’s afraid of falling might also benefit from squeezing a cane or walker with the left hand before taking the stairs. And we’ve always said a good squeeze is wonderful for body and soul — so why not try it? Your significant other awaits.