Getting Ready for 2015

If you are like me, you may have eaten a little too much sugar and not gotten quite enough rest and exercise over the last few weeks. The good news is that January is the perfect time for a reset. I am not talking about the usual vague New Year’s resolutions that are forgotten in a few weeks. Instead let’s create specific new patterns that will create lifelong habits. The best way to do this is to be as specific as possible. We need something to put on the calendar. Put yourself on the list by putting yourself on the calendar. Here are two examples from my list:

  1. I will talk a walk on Monday and Friday at 9:15am
  2. I will do yoga/stretches on Tuesday, Thursday and Fridays at 1pm

I can schedule these events. After 21 days of adhering to this schedule, scientists say I will have created a new habit.

Next one the list are specific plans to change behaviors that you are done with. What behavior do you want to change? How will you change it? Here is one of mine:

  • I will not eat anything after 7pm. If I get a sugar craving, I will have a cup of hot tea and then brush my teeth.

I will not claim that making these changes are easy, but they will be easier if there is a plan in place. While we are working on these new habits lets support one another. Post your plans in the comments and encourage one another. Let’s make this our best year yet.

The Problems with Blue Light at Night

image courtesy of imcreator.com

I have written about the importance of sleep before and will continue to do so periodically as it is such an important issues. Not getting enough rest each night (less than 8 or 9 hours on a consistent basis) leads to immune system decline, brain fog, depression, obesity and diabetes, just to name a few. One common cause of sleep problems can be found in those screens we all spend so much time looking at. All screens (TV, computer, cell phone, etc) emit blue light, which inhibits our ability to fall asleep.

Blue light is also found naturally and is an indicator to the body that it is daytime. When we are outside we are exposed to blue light as well as vitamin D. This light suppresses melatonin and promotes alertness. Our bodies have the same response to the blue light emitted artificially indoors. This can be beneficial in an office, but is often detrimental to our health at home.

When the sun goes down, the pineal gland begins to produce melatonin in preparation for sleep (2-3 hours later). However, when we are watching TV or working on the computer this production is suppressed. This is especially true of teenagers who are extraordinarily sensitive to blue light. Light researcher, Mariana Figueiro, noted that teens suppressed more melatonin than adults with only one-tenth the exposure to blue light. In addition to regulating sleep, melatonin is a powerful antioxidant, and the Journal of American Medicine published an article linking low melatonin secretion and the onset of Type 2 Diabetes.

So what can we do?

The first answer, of course, is to go to bed earlier. Here are some other ideas:

  • Get at least 20 minutes of natural light a day to help regulate the circadian rhythm
  • Remove electronics from the bedroom
  • Turn off all screens at least 2 hours before bedtime. This will tell your body to begin producing melatonin.
  • Install flux, a free program that will automatically adjust the screen brightness based on the time of day.
  • Try wearing amber glasses, which block blue light, after dark. You can read more about this idea here.
  • Sleep in a very dark room. Many physicians recommend covering or removing clocks and other light sources as well as phones and computers from the bedroom.

Book Review – "Eating on the Wild Side"

“Our early ancestors, about 400 generations ago, were hunter-gatherers. Their food came from the plants and animals they hunted and foraged rather than from animals they raised or plants they farmed. When they began to domesticate animals and grow food in the first primitive gardens, they made choices about how to feed their livestock and what to plant. Those decisions produced tastier food, but as we now know, they also began, unwittingly, to strip vitamins, minerals, protein, fiber, healthy fats, and antioxidants from their diets.”
Eating on the Wild Side: The Missing Link to Optimum Health by Jo Robinson describes the changes humanity has made to wild foods through countless generations of selective breeding and genetic modification of the fruits, vegetables and legumes that make up our food supply. She also tells us how to reclaim some of the lost nutrients through selection storage and cooking methods. This is a fascinating read for foodies and a terrific reference guide for anyone who wants to get the most health benefits and taste from their produce. Isn’t that all of us?
Robinson features a food of family of foods (legumes, crucifers, root vegetables, etc) in each chapter and begins with a brief history of their changes since the beginning of the agricultural age. I was fascinated to learn that the first tomatoes were the size of small berries. It was through spontaneous mutations and human selection that beefsteak tomatoes were created. These are, however, much less nutritious than its wild predecessors. Smaller tomatoes, such as the cherry or grape varieties, are still the best choice for nutrient value. Specific recommendations at the grocery store, farmers market, and seed store can be found at the end of each chapter.

An invaluable tool in this book is the information on how to properly store and prepare the produce and legumes for maximum nutrient value. We have all see recipes that call for eating raw garlic to aid in cold and flu recovery but how many of us actually want to eat raw garlic? Robinson tells us that we can have the same nutritional benefit in cooked garlic if we let it rest for 10 minutes between mincing and cooking. For more amazing tips Eating on the Wild Side is a must read.

We also have an opportunity to meet Jo Robinson on Wednesday, October 22 at 6:30 at the Olympia Library. I hope you will join me in welcoming her.