While D's in school might show lack of brain function, D's in pills boost your brain.
Vitamin D-3 has become the "it" vitamin, thanks to a tsunami of studies showing that D is involved in more activities than a "Gossip Girl" socialite. From building bone to squelching inflammation, D-3 does something good for just about everything that keeps you strong, healthy and, according to new research, smart.
About the smart part: An international team reports that older adults with D deficiencies are at serious risk of losing their memory and thinking skills. The lower their D levels, the greater the decline.
That's bad news if you're already a little low, as it likely will drop more as you age: When sun hits your skin at 20, it churns out four times as much D-3 as it does when you're 70. (Skin is your body's D-3 factory; sun fuels it.) The good news? It's easy to increase your vitamin D-3.
Since up to 75 percent of us are short on D-3, taking 1,000 mg a day (1,200 mg if you're over 60) is a no-brainer. Take it with a meal or a little fat (we take ours with our 900 mg of DHA omega-3 fatty acids).
We don't yet know if boosting D-3 with pills will mean less heart disease, cancer and diabetes — and a better memory. But we know for sure that walking outdoors, eating good-for-you foods, getting enough DHA, maintaining a healthy weight — and probably taking D-3 — will make your brain's RealAge younger.
Five reasons to jump in a pool
No stinky sneakers, no sweat-drenched T-shirts. If that isn't enough to get you to a pool long after summer's past — doing laps, water aerobics or pool walking — we've got five more reasons to make a splash:
1. Pushing water out of the way tunes every muscle you move. Water's 12 times more resistant than air. Translation: You get some strength training with every move you make. We like weight lifting more, but moving water is a good start for those who haven't lifted anything heavier than a loaded fork lately.
2. Your joints like it. Water's buoyancy reduces your body weight by up to 90 percent. If you've got a creaky hip or shoulder, a water workout gets it moving. It has proved great for arthritis or fibromyalgia.
3. You'll live longer. Compared with walkers and runners, swimmers who were in the pool a few times a week were 50 percent less likely to die during a recent 32-year study involving 40,000 guys. Why? Regularly clocking laps boosted cardiovascular fitness better.
4. You can keep it up forever. Because water workouts are so easy on your body, you won't have to retire the way many runners do.
5. No, it won't make you fat. That rumor went viral when somebody discovered that splashing around in really cold water increases appetite. No worries. Most indoor pools are kept at 80 degrees.
If you're going to eat raw, eat these
We get asked about raw food diets a lot. Now, we like raw foods as much as the next rabbit. But there's no magic — or "active enzyme" advantages — in living solely on raw foods.
True, all those fresh veggies, nuts, berries and grains (and little or no red meat) will lower your lousy LDL cholesterol and triglycerides. But there are tradeoffs: Your good HDL cholesterol will fall, too, not just your bad LDL. So will your vitamin B-12 levels, according to research on longtime raw foodies. And your artery-damaging homocysteine will increase, which ups your risk of clogged blood vessels.
That said, some foods really are better for you when they're raw. Five crunchy examples:
1. Carrots. Raw ones have more heart-healthy, cancer-preventing chemicals and vitamin C than cooked ones.
2. Zucchini. The sight-saving plant pigment called lutein is lost in cooking; so is vitamin C.
3. Broccoli. Eat it raw, and you'll get a hefty helping of potent plant nutrients that lower your risk of blood clots, plus vitamin C, and an enzyme that may demolish precancerous cells.
4. Pistachios. Roasting them destroys inflammation-cooling compounds that relax and dilate your blood vessels.
5. Almonds. Folate is a star in this nut. Raw ones have about 35 percent more than roasted. Walnuts have great nutrients, raw, roasted or soaked.
Health benefits of red chile peppers
Love the sizzle and heat of a hot pepper? Good for you. Because there's new evidence that capsaicin — the ingredient that makes jalapenos, habaneros and red pepper flakes blisteringly hot — boosts fat burning and lowers blood pressure. The details:
* Plenty of studies show that the fiery ingredient in smokin' hot peppers turns up your body's fat-torching furnace. Now we know why: Capsaicin activates about 20 different fat-burning proteins. Don't expect a few shakes of cayenne to cancel out a bowl of cheesy, greasy nachos. It took dieters who ate 9 milligrams of capsaicin a day (equivalent to several bites of a really hot habanero pepper) a month to burn enough fat to lose an extra pound. Still, every bite helps.
* Capsaicin also turns out to be a spicy treat for your blood pressure. The hot stuff triggers the release of nitric oxide, which acts like a soothing massage for blood vessel linings: They relax, say "ahhh, thank you," and your blood pressure goes down. How well does it work? Researchers point to lower rates of high blood pressure in regions of China where hot peppers are part of the daily cuisine.
Want to turn up the heat at your next meal? All hot peppers contain capsaicin, but the hottest of the hotties (think habaneros and the deceptively named Scotch bonnets) pack the most. They're followed by jalapenos, Spanish pimentos and Hungarian cherry peppers. Don't overlook hot sauce and powdered or flaked chili peppers too. All are potent sources of healthy sizzle.
Get nuttier, not wider
Turns out that acting a little nutty helps your heart. We're talking about our No. 1 snack: a daily fistful of walnuts, almonds or peanuts, which are packed with fiber, protein, cell-protecting flavonoids and heart-healthy fats. (Yup, we know peanuts are legumes.)
But here's the news: If one fistful is heart-smart, researchers now say two are even better, knocking back heart-menacing LDL cholesterol by 10 points and high triglycerides by 20 points.
Just one snag: One fistful (about 1 ounce) has 160 to 200 calories. Double that and you're into some serious calories. How to enjoy more nuts without ending up in elastic-waist jeans? Try these:
1. Swap. Instead of two pieces of whole-wheat morning toast with 1 tablespoon of butter (300 calories), try one slice with 2 tablespoons of peanut butter (280 calories). Instead of a grilled chicken breast in your lunch salad (260 calories), save half the breast and toss in a handful of almonds instead (162 calories).
2. Pair with low-cal crunchies. Don't count on a fistful of nuts to fill a snack-hungry tummy. Add chunky fruit or veggies for volume (apples, plums, mini carrots, sliced red pepper).
3. Make the most of 'em. Enhance their flavor by toasting nuts for 9 to 12 minutes at 275 to 350 degrees. Then chew thoroughly: 40 chews satisfy better than 10 or 20 crunches. Eat the skins, too. Almond skins are packed with flavonoids; peanut skins are full of polyphenols. You lose them when you eat 'em naked. (The nuts, not you.)