Good news for the future King George (that’s Kate and William’s little prince) and all the other princes and princesses out there. More of your moms are breast-feeding you during your first hours of arrival and for months to come. That has health benefits for you and your mom, as well as family finances and society in general.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 77 percent of U.S. moms are breast-feeding for the first six months – up from 71 percent in 2000. The CDC credits mothers’ growing awareness of the benefits, as well as programs that bring a newborn into contact with mom within the first five minutes after birth (it seems this encourages the child to express the natural impulse to breast-feed). The rate of breast-feeding after six months also is up, from 35 percent in 2000 to 49 percent in 2010; and after 12 months, from 16 percent to 27 percent.
The benefits to baby? A stronger immune system. Breast-fed babies are better able to ward off ear and gastrointestinal infections and some types of dermatitis. They also grow up with a lower risk for Type 2 diabetes, asthma and obesity.
Mommy benefits? You’ll lower your weight and your risk for Type 2 diabetes, as well as postpartum depression, hypertension, heart attack, and breast and ovarian cancers.
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Then there’s the health-care benefits! In the U.S., breast-feeding saves around $860 million annually because of reduced medical problems for babies and moms, and that doesn’t include what’s saved at home by not having to buy formula.
In an episode of “Friends,” Joey is passing a gallstone while Phoebe is giving birth to triplets. Their yowls of pain are pretty similar (Joey’s might be a bit louder). That’s how painful passing a large gallstone can be.
Gallstones develop (80 percent of the time) because cholesterol in the bile, which is produced in your liver and stored in your gallbladder, causes the formation of pellets that range in size from a speck to a golf ball. When they block a gallbladder’s bile duct, they trigger excruciating pain on the right side of the abdomen. Left untreated, obstructive stones can cause jaundice, fever, even death.
More than 25 million North Americans contend with gallstones – twice as many women as men. There are 1 million new cases every year. In fact, there’s a good possibility that everyone has gallstones, but only a small percentage cause problems.
The go-to diagnostic tool is ultrasound, and to put an end to an attack, the stones can be extracted via laparoscope. If you have two or more attacks, you may need to have your gallbladder removed. Fortunately, your digestive system can work pretty well without it, if you follow the doctor’s dietary advice.
Good news? You can avoid problem gallstones by keeping your cholesterol in check, maintaining a healthy weight (lose weight slowly if you’re on a diet; rapid weight loss can trigger stone formation), walking 10,000 steps a day and avoiding the Five Food Felons, especially fried food. If you can eat fried food without pain, you probably don’t have gallstones.
Decoding nutrition labels
When the Rosetta Stone was discovered in 1799, archaeologists finally could decipher Egyptian hieroglyphics because all its inscriptions also were written in ancient Greek – which they understood. Unfortunately, when it comes to decoding nutrition labels, there’s no easy way to know what they mean. So here’s our rundown of the top three things nutrition labels can tell you, and what they don’t.
Calorie count? How food is prepared, how you chew it, and how your gut bacteria behave alters the total calories food delivers to your body. So use the count as a general guide, then establish a healthy diet every day with nine servings of fruits and veggies; four servings (3 ounces each) of animal protein; two or more for grains (only 100 percent whole) and other carbs. Also, if the label says 100 calories, but there are 2.5 servings (250 calories) in the package, beware you don’t take in more than you planned.
Trans fats? When the label says 0 trans fats, the food is allowed to contain 0.5 gram per serving. Frequent ingestion may deliver heart-damaging amounts. If the ingredients list includes “hydrogenated oil,” that’s probably a trans fat (partially hydrogenated oil ALWAYS is). To either, just say no.
Carb counting? Carbohydrate counts include processed carbs and sugars (check the ingredients list for felonious sugar syrups or added sugars). Don’t rely on printed carb counts; look for separate info on sugars and fiber, and realize the phrase “whole wheat” or “whole grain” in the ingredients list does not mean 100 percent (the only good-for-you form).
Boosting your happiness ranking
Maria Shriver went searching for the keys to happiness and spent six years interviewing residents of 14 countries to create a documentary called “Happy.” In it, she reports on the astounding ability of people to find happiness in the oddest places and celebrates its remarkable emotional and physical benefits.
Additionally, the United Nations World Happiness Report reveals that nations, like people, thrive when they’re happy. (The U.S. ranks 17th out of more than 150 countries; Canada is sixth.) What influences a country’s happiness? Its citizens have a healthy life expectancy, others to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, a spirit of generosity, freedom from corruption and sufficient earnings. Much like what’s needed for you to find joy in your everyday life.
So if you haven’t yet, start your happiness project by getting a workout partner; that’s a double reward: friendship (essential for happiness) plus better health (a great mood booster).
Then go for actual happy meals: None of the Five Food Felons (added sugars and sugar syrups, trans and saturated fats, and any grain that isn’t 100 percent whole); and eat plenty of healthy fats from salmon and ocean trout, olive and canola oils, and nuts (especially walnuts) and mood-boosting fresh produce. It keeps gut bacteria balanced, which affects dopamine production.
And last, but far from least, spend more time with those you love: Intimacy is the glue that holds happiness together. You’ll have less stress, fewer health problems and live longer. Not a bad payoff for having a good time.
Try it – you’ll like it
Kids in Thailand eat dried shrimp and lemongrass flavored rice without pooh-poohing the flavors. Japanese children enjoy grilled fish, raw egg, miso soup and fermented soybeans – for breakfast. But you’re desperate to get your 6-year-old to taste anything healthier or more flavorful than a french fry or spaghetti with butter and cheese. So you puree veggies in fruit smoothies and opt for supplements just to get some nutrients into your youngster. Not bad moves, but we’re betting you can expand your child’s food favorites if you’ll expand yours.
Parental behavior is crucial in shaping a child’s food preferences. For most kids, flavor choices are a result of nurture more often than nature, maybe even starting in the womb. Research suggests that moms who eat junk food when pregnant tend to have kids who eat junk food and are overweight. And even kids who do have an actual physiological aversion to certain flavors (many react strongly to bitter tastes) eventually can learn to expand their list of acceptable foods. Repeated exposure alters flavor perception. So dish up broccoli in clever ways: grilled, in a creamy soup, cold with a yogurt dip.
If you are enthusiastic about eating healthfully, take time to cook good food in tasty ways, and stop feeding your child processed, salty and sugary foods (they ruin the palate, making it very difficult to appreciate other flavors). That kid of yours will naturally ask for another serving of edamame (soybeans), asparagus and oven-roasted kale. Try it. You’ll all like it.