Health & Fitness

June 7, 2014

Opt for foods’ true colors

When Cyndi Lauper sings “I see your true colors shining through,” she could be rallying shoppers to reject the artificially dyed foods that line grocery-store shelves. But with her hair dyed pink, green, purple and red, it’s clearly a case of “Do as I sing, not as I hair-do.”

When Cyndi Lauper sings “I see your true colors shining through,” she could be rallying shoppers to reject the artificially dyed foods that line grocery-store shelves. But with her hair dyed pink, green, purple and red, it’s clearly a case of “Do as I sing, not as I hair-do.”

Although artificial food coloring is Food and Drug Administration-approved, until recently, no one ever checked to see how big a dose various products actually contain. When researchers took a look, they discovered that the doses of artificial dyes in many breakfast cereals, candies, bakery items, frozen dinners and side dishes were a lot higher than the amounts studied to validate their safety. And although the FDA has admitted that some approved food dyes (in large quantities) may cause behavioral problems in kids, the dyes remain in your food. We think they may turn out to be just as harmful as now-banned dyes that were found to make kids sick and cause cancer or other health problems in lab animals.

Fortunately, you don’t have to be a chemist to determine which foods and beverages to avoid because of the dyes they contain: If you eliminate the Five Food Felons (anything with added sugar or syrups, trans or saturated fats and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole) plus artificial sweeteners, you’ll dodge most foods containing artificial dyes. And a quick read of the ingredients list on everything you buy is always smart, because that’s where the foods show their true colors, in black and white.

Fighting melanoma

Former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman had a malignant melanoma removed from the back of his left shoulder in 1998, but it was a broken collarbone that benched him that season. His brush with the most deadly of skin cancers turned out well, because athletes get a head-to-toe checkup every year. His doc spotted the signs of melanoma early, when it’s almost always 100 percent curable.

So, treat yourself like a star athlete. A new study reveals that regular visits to your primary-care physician reduce your risk of dying from melanoma by an amazing 90 percent, if the doc spots something suspicious and sends you (or you go on your own) to a dermatologist. If treatment is necessary, it’ll happen quickly.

Before you spend your summer in the sun (with zinc-oxide sunscreen of SPF 30 or more, please!) give yourself an all-over body check (which alone can cut your risk of dying from melanoma by up to 63 percent). For signs of trouble, look for these ABCDE’s: Asymmetry in any mole; Borders that are irregular; more than one Color in a mole; a Diameter of a mole larger than a pencil eraser; and a mole that’s Evolving in size, shape, color or elevation, or that’s itching, bleeding or scaling.

And always get an annual skin checkup from your doctor. The best practice? A dermatologist should use a pair of magnifying goggles to examine your skin all over; between your toes, in your genital area and your scalp. Getting checked is an easy way to save your life.

The hypoglycemic argument

Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) can make you feel, well, not like yourself. And according to recent research from Ohio State University, hypoglycemia not related to diabetes can fuel tensions between married folks, even triggering overt acts of aggression.

You can get blood sugar dips because you miss a meal; eat an extreme diet; drink too much alcohol on an empty stomach; or exercise intensely without proper nourishment. (Hypoglycemia related to Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes can happen if diabetes medication lowers blood sugar too much, you eat too little of the right foods or you exercise without adjusting your medications.)

We might dispute some of the study’s findings – it takes a lot of energy to get really angry, and with low blood sugar you’re much more likely to fall asleep than become aggressive – but that aside, the study does point out that a healthy diet helps create a happy marriage.

Here are some of our favorite foods that will help you get along: Salmon and sea trout are loaded with omega-3s that may lift your mood. Inflammation-soothing kiwi can cool you down. Pumpkin seeds and whole-grain barley help keep blood sugar steady for hours. Red hot chili peppers stimulate release of mood-lifting endorphins.

A cure for “choking”?

In October of 1997, the Cleveland Indians, two outs away from winning the World Series, watched pitcher Jose Mesa blow a 2-1 lead; the Marlins won the title. Greg Norman took a six-stroke lead into the final day of the 1996 Masters, shot 78 and lost by five. Even LeBron James botched both his last playoff games as a Cavalier and his first final series with the Heat. Collapses like these leave faithful fans wondering, “What just happened?”

Whether you’re a pro athlete, playing in an intramural softball game, on a job interview or taking the SAT, research suggests that stress-caused brain confusion can trigger what’s commonly called choking.

For tasks that require working memory (taking a test, delivering a talk), stress can create a biochemical roadblock, making it difficult to retrieve info that’s in your mind, and dulling your enjoyment of the challenge. For tasks that use motor skills, like batting or shooting hoops, nervousness can make you overthink what you need to do.

So, if you’re having trouble putting your best foot forward, the smart solution is to relax and leave your skills on autopilot. In athletics, try whistling or singing before you attempt that putt or hit that ball. If you don’t overthink the situation, you regain coordination and timing. On the field or for mental challenges, psychologists suggest deep breathing to slow your heart rate, steady your hand and clear your mind of worry, and visualization of someone you love (really!).

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