Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book “Where the Wild Things Are” is a tale about a boy who is sent to his room for acting up and then imagines himself going to an island inhabited by beasts, the Wild Things. He becomes king and has a great time romping around with his beasty subjects, until he has to go home for dinner.
If you want to have a great time romping around with wild things that are super-good for you, we have a tip: Eat wild blueberries. They’re found mainly in eastern Canada and the northeastern United States, and unless you live near a blueberry bush (in season), you can pick them from your grocery’s frozen-food section.
You’ll be amazed at their flavor and nutritional power. The Wild Blueberry Association of North America says: “Plants in the wild are ... the most exposed to environmental stresses. Stress is the trigger that switches on phytochemical production in a plant (so they) re-allocate their limited resources towards accumulation of internal phytochemicals.” And according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture analysis from 2010, gram for gram, raw, wild blueberries contain more than twice the antioxidants as their farm-grown cousins. A Cornell University study rated wild blueberries No. 1 in antioxidant activity using their cellular antioxidant activity test.
So toss them in a smoothie, a salad or a hot bowl of oatmeal. You’ll become a true-blue believer.
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How can you lose weight and keep it off in this overcaloric, fat-and-sugar-laden food culture? Practice, practice, practice. What do you practice? You practice throwing that brownie in the trash and having an apple instead.
Recently, researchers reported that it’s one of the first steps in what’s called acceptance-based behavioral therapy. Their study, published in Obesity, found that “weight loss with ABT is among the largest ever reported in the behavioral treatment literature without use of an aggressive diet or medication.” After a year of twice-monthly counseling, participants who received ABT lost 13.3 percent of their initial weight compared to 9.8 percent weight loss for participants who received standard behavioral therapy only.
ABT teaches you to have increased mindfulness about what you’re eating and to accept that learning new eating behaviors is tough but worth it. Also, ABT associates motivation with personal values, keeping you focused on what matters to you.
You can integrate one of the powerful principals of ABT into your life starting today: Take a moment to look at what you’re eating before you put it in your mouth. Acknowledge that you want it; then ask yourself, “Does this food measure up to the quality I deserve?” You’ll be surprised at how this helps you make healthier choices and attain a healthier weight.
Smoking: bad to the bone
The series “Mad Men” was all too accurate on one count: In 1955, almost 57 percent of men and 30 percent of women smoked cigarettes. Fortunately, those numbers are down to around 18 percent of the population these days; fewer and fewer kids and teens are even trying cigars or cigarettes, according to the National Youth Tobacco Survey.
Not only does smoking trigger COPD and lung cancer, lead to heart attack, stroke and increase chronic back pain, it also doubles the risk of osteoporosis-related bone fractures. And older smokers tumble more often than nonsmokers (poorer neuromuscular control), which causes breaks, too. For women, there’s a fivefold and for men an eightfold increase in the risk of death from any cause during the three months post-break.
And according to a new study in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Genetics, smoking alters your DNA – some of it for up to 30 years after you stop smoking. Those changes also continue your increased risk for heart disease and cancer.
But even though some risks persist, quitting smoking will make you healthier immediately. Some smoking-altered DNA returns to “never smoked” levels in five years. So, for help in quitting, visit www.smokefree.gov or call the American Cancer Society’s Quitline at 800-227-2345.
Get a grip
A study in The Lancet recently looked at the relationship between grip strength, overall health and your risk of death from all causes and heart woes. The researchers found that the chance of premature death increases 16 percent for every 11 pounds weaker your measured grip is.
Grip strength can be measured using a dynamometer; most physical therapists have one. But you probably know whether your grip and arm strength are weaker than they used to be or never were very good, and chances are that’s a sign your overall muscle tone is lacking, something that increases your risk of chronic disease and frailty.
So to get a grip on good health with this four-step, strength-building routine:
▪ Walk a minimum of 30 minutes a day – all at once or in 10-minute increments.
▪ Do seven to 10 minutes of strength training of foundation muscles (abs, back, buttocks, quadriceps, hamstring and rotators) every other day.
▪ Do eight to 10 minutes of strength training of nonfoundation muscles (chest, shoulder, biceps, triceps and forearms) every other day.
▪ Do 21 minutes of aerobic exercise three days a week.
Mehmet Oz, M.D., is host of “The Dr. Oz Show,” and Mike Roizen, M.D., is chief wellness officer and chairman of the Wellness Institute at Cleveland Clinic.