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Five Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

February 25th, 2013 in Uncategorized.

As anyone who lives in the northeast knows, the winter can be an awfully difficult time, especially with decreased daylight, being stuck indoors, and the stress of seasonal illnesses such as the flu going around.  For those who are sensitive, this time of the year may be hard, even depressing; however, here are some tips to help improve your situation:

1)      Take a Vitamin D supplement – Known as the “sunshine” Vitamin, taking a Vitamin D supplement in the winter time is crucial in helping our bodies adapt to decreased sunlight when we are unable to go outside.  Many Americans are deficient and think that even if they spend time outdoors in the winter that this will be enough. Unfortunately, we don’t receive the proper UV light at this time of year to allow our bodies to produce Vitamin D so a supplement is highly advisable!

2)      Participate in some sort of “mindfulness-based” activity each day – stress can really take root during the Winter and participating in activities such as meditation, Yoga, tai chi, and deep breathing may help reduce daily situational stress that can contribute to winter blues.

3)      Exercise – daily exercise, sustained for at least thirty minutes, helps to relieve stress, get your body moving, and release ‘feel-good’ endorphins in the brain.  It is easy to become sedentary in the winter time but winter is also the chance to try new activities, look into exercise groups and classes, or find a new workout buddy.

4)      Eat Well – when Winter or life gets us down, it’s easy to cave into cravings for sugary and salty foods.  Instead, you might want to try cooking a warm meal on a winter’s day.  Eating cooked food and drinking warm liquids helps support our bodies during the cold, dark months.  You may even want to search online for recipes that create a sense of health and satisfaction.  Think soups, stews, and porridges.

5)      Caffeine and Alcohol – The winter can be a time of wonderful celebration, but many people consume more alcohol and caffeine at this time of the year.  Alcohol and caffeine consumption adds stress to your body and can dehydrate you and it’s important to watch your intake of these substances so as to keep your body healthy and relaxed.

By Morgan Mako
Program for Integrative Medicine and Health Care disparities

Sugar-Sweetened Beverages: What are they and why should you avoid them?

January 31st, 2013 in Uncategorized.

Sugary drinks: Why and how you should limit them in your diet

Have you been looking for an easy way to eliminate excess calories from your diet?  Depending on your favorite thirst-quenching choices, cutting down on soft drinks or sugary drinks may be one simple way to do this.  Many of us may have heard stories from parents or grandparents about the good-ole-days when having a soda at the local soda fountain was a special weekend afternoon treat.  However nowadays, many Americans consume soda as part of their daily routine, a habit that is contributing to the ever expanding obesity epidemic and to the related health problems of diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and cancer.

What are sugary drinks?

It’s pretty simple, a sugary drink is one that has a sugar added to it which does not occur naturally in the beverage.  For example, soft drinks, such as Coke or Pepsi are in this category.  Sweetened teas, coffee drinks such as Starbucks Frapuccino, energy drinks like Monster Energy, and sports drinks like Gatorade are also included.  Juices that are 100% juice, such as Tropicana orange juice, even though they also contain calories, are not considered to be in this category.  However, there are certainly juice drinks on the market that have added sugar and therefore count.  They would be indicated by ingredients label such as: sugar, evaporated cane juice, and high fructose corn syrup.
According to the Harvard School of Public Health, the average sugary drink contains about 150 calories, almost all of which comes from sugar sources, usually high fructose corn syrup – the same as 10 tablespoons of sugar with each beverage.  People often don’t realize how many calories they are consuming with these drinks.  The problem with consuming these liquid calories is that the body does not feel full like it does after eating food.  The body registers fullness with eating solid food, and naturally regulates hunger.  Sugary drinks, however, don’t have this same effect, and will cause the calories (and pounds) to keep mounting.
glass of water

Mayor Menino and the Boston Public Health Commission have recently developed an initiative called “Stop. Rethink Your Drink. Go Green“, guidelines on what kind of beverages are healthy to drink.  Green light (drink plenty) drinks are those recommended for healthy consumption and include water, sparkling water, fat-free milk, and unsweetened soy milk.   Yellow light drinks (okay to drink occasionally) include 100% juice, diet sodas or low sugar drinks, and red light (drink rarely if at all) includes regular sodas, energy or sports drinks and fruit drinks.  This initiative is displayed on signs in BMC cafeterias.
For those of you interested in weight loss, the BMC DASH for Health Program has some useful advice:  If you are frequent consumer of soft drinks you may have an easy way to lose weight. By decreasing your caloric intake by 500 calories per day (the amount in two 20-ounce sodas) you will lose 1 pound per week.  Imagine, after 3 months you could lose 12 pounds, just by drinking water instead of soda!

The Centers for Disease Control has a useful tool to see how many calories are in commonly consumed beverages, some of which may be sneaking their ways into your day: CDC rethink_your_drink.

By Jonathan Berz, MD MSc
Section of General Internal Medicine
Adult Primary Care- Shapiro Practice