This week I’d like to chat about bone health. We’ve all heard a lot about foods that can help strengthen our bones. However, did you know that there are plenty of foods that can actually weaken our bones? We need to take this very seriously. Women, especially, struggle with bone density loss as we age. So, it is very important to pay attention to those foods that can either strengthen or weaken our bones.

Foods that can weaken our bones include:

– Soda and other types of caffeine. Sorry, coffee and soda lovers! The caffeine and phosphoric acid in soda can interfere with the ability of your bones to absorb calcium.

– Beer, wine, and liquor. Alcohol can reduce Vitamin D’s ability to help your bones absorb calcium.

– Excessive sodium. Too much sodium can increase the amount of calcium that is excreted in your urine.

Some studies also suggest that a diet high in animal protein may be linked to calcium loss.

Every day our bodies create new bone and lose old bone. However, after the age of 50, the bone loss is greater than the rate of bone growth. So we need to eat bone-building foods to help promote further growth. Focus on eating leafy greens such as collards, kale, and spinach, along with legumes, beans, and nuts. Of course, weight-bearing exercise is essential. A day of hiking and weight training followed by a salad and a bowl of veggie chili is just what the bone doctor ordered!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

This week I’d like to chat about exercise. I’ve seen several articles published lately that refer to the fact that exercise will not help you lose weight. Personally, I think this is an oversimplification of the connection between exercise and weight loss.

It is true that you’d need to work out for a very lengthy period of time every day to burn off more calories than you consume. For example, someone might hop on the treadmill and burn 250 calories. These calories are added right back into our bodies through one or two glasses of wine or a piece of bread. My issue is that the goal of exercise isn’t to burn off more calories than we consume. Rather, exercise should be viewed as absolutely essential to living a healthy lifestyle! When a person decides to embrace healthy living, regular exercise must be included as part of the plan.

The benefits of exercise are endless. Just a few include:

– Increased focus and creativity at work
– Better sleep
– Anxiety reduction
– Increased happiness and general mental well being

Exercise also helps your body fight disease. Honestly, the benefits of exercise are too many for me to summarize in this column. Regarding weight loss – when we exercise, we are inspired to eat more healthfully. It is rare to see someone embrace a new exercise routine while simultaneously devoting themselves to a fast-food diet!

Exercise regularly. Eat healthfully. Your body will respond. I promise!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

This week I’d like to chat about plants. In short, they are IN! Every day I read more and more articles about chefs putting vegetables at the center of their dishes, not just as sides. More and more people are embracing plant-based eating habits. One question I see a lot of people asking is, what’s the difference between a vegan and vegetarian diet? So, I decided today to break down the definition for everyone:

Vegetarian: This typically refers to a lacto-ovo diet. People who call themselves vegetarian usually exclude all animal flesh, but will eat dairy and eggs. It requires a lot of attention to hidden ingredients (i.e. gelatin, etc.) but is less restrictive than a full vegan diet. Some vegetarians also eat fish. They are sometimes called pescatarians.

Vegan: This diet excludes all animal derived food – including animal flesh, dairy, and eggs. Many vegans also avoid eating honey. Being vegan requires paying special attention to the ingredient lists of everything from vitamin supplements to baked goods. Many times dairy, eggs, or fish derivatives are hidden deep in the ingredient list – sometimes under deceiving names. Many vegans also adhere to their “diet” outside the food world. They don’t wear animal derived clothing (leather, wool, silk), and don’t use cosmetics or lotions that come from animals or use animal testing in their research.

No matter how you identify, the benefits of putting an emphasis on vegetables in your diet become more clear every day. In fact, the latest official Dietary Guidelines suggest eating a vegetarian diet as one of three diet patterns for optimal health. Other recent, large studies have shown that the more plant-based your diet, the better equipped you are to fight obesity, high cholesterol, diabetes, high blood pressure, inflammation, and other diseases. And it is becoming increasingly clear that choosing plants over meat can immensely help the planet.

You don’t need to identify yourself as anything! Go vegetarian a few days a week! Try being vegan certain hours of the day. Simply incorporate more plant-based foods into your diet. The more you do, the more you, and the planet, win!

Hello Loyal Soup People! You know what is great this time of year? Watermelon!! I know that my daughter eats copious amounts from July through early September. And I think that’s great, because, as it turns out, watermelon is incredibly good for you!

Watermelon is over 90% water which means it is very hydrating. This is so important during hot summer months. It’s also a great source of vitamins A and C, lycopene, potassium, and essential amino-acids.

When selecting a watermelon, choose one that is heavier than it looks, sounds hollow when you tap the outside, and hopefully, grown locally! We recommend the watermelons from our friends at Garners Produce. We use theirs in our delicious Watermelon Gazpacho!

Fun fact – the watermelon rind is also incredibly healthy. Be sure to wash the watermelon thoroughly with vinegar and water because it probably sat in a dirty field. Once clean, chop the rind up in a slaw or pickle it! And those seeds we always spit out? They are loaded with iron, zinc, magnesium, and protein! Drizzle them with olive oil and roast them as a snack!

However you eat watermelon – plain, in gazpacho, in a salad, or in a smoothie, you are making an incredibly healthy food choice. Thank you, mother nature!!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! As many of you know, in this column I often highlight steps we can take to get healthy and minimize the risk of disease. This week I’d like to talk about something that most people overlook – alcohol. Unfortunately, the news really isn’t great. While many like to point to the anecdotal study that links *very limited* wine consumption to heart health, the risks and unhealthy factors far outweigh any benefits.

Did you know that alcohol is a carcinogen? Lots of people paid attention when deli meats were identified this way. But no one really speaks of the fact that alcohol is a carcinogen and has been linked to cancer – specifically mouth, pharynx, larynx, colorectral, and liver. When alcohol and tobacco are mixed, the risks of mouth and throat cancers dramatically increase.

These risks are not only linked to heavy drinkers. When compared with non-drinkers, those who consume over 4 alcoholic beverages per day are anywhere from 50 to 500 times more at risk of various diseases. However, those who have a few drinks per week are also at an elevated risk for disease.

I also haven’t even addressed the extra empty calories associated with alcohol! Avoiding soda and other sugary beverages is great – but if you load up on wine every night, you are adding hundreds of liquid calories to your diet!

I do find alcohol consumption somewhat fascinating. Those who are otherwise extremely health focused – devoted exercisers and healthy eaters – seem to overlook the unhealthy side effects of alcohol. However, if we are truly to face the facts, the healthiest choice you can make is to really limit your alcohol intake.

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! This week I’d like to talk about a healthy habit I’m noticing around town, that comes with some inherent dangers – biking! I’m so happy to see people choosing bikes over cars to commute to work. The bike share programs that are popping up all over the country are great for people’s health, as well as the planet’s! However, I do not like seeing so many people biking around without helmets. To put it bluntly, riding without a helmet is irresponsible and dangerous. Seventy-five percent of bike fatalities are due to head trauma. So many of these fatalities could have been prevented with a proper helmet. I use the word “proper” because in order for a helmet to provide adequate protection, it must be correctly fitted. Otherwise, the helmet is not likely to help you in an accident. Keep these tips in mind when choosing a helmet:

– Choose one that has the stamp of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC). These helmets will be more expensive. Do you really want to look for a bargain when it comes to protecting your head? If it doesn’t have the CPSC stamp, do not buy the helmet.

– Choose a bright color. Make a fashion statement. A black helmet might look cool, but you can’t see it after dark, making it difficult for drivers to spot you.

– Make sure your helmet fits. Ensure that it is comfortable, sits mid-forehead, and comes within one to two fingers’ width of your eyebrows. Don’t let it tilt back on your head (something I see too often). The helmet shouldn’t move much if you try to rotate it or shake your head. Adjust the straps to make sure it is properly attached to your head. A helmet that is not snugly fitted to your head will do little to help you in an accident. Double check the fit every time you put it on.

– Don’t leave your helmet out in the heat. This can cause damage to the helmet.

– Replace your helmet every few years or after an accident. You might not see visible damage, but a helmet is usually good for one big impact.

A few years ago Soupergirl was in a bad accident. She was thrown off her bike and landed on her head. Thanks to her helmet, she was absolutely fine, and in fact, continued with her bike ride.

Happy and safe riding, everyone!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! The last several of my health tips have been a little “serious.” So this week, let’s talk about chocolate!! Who doesn’t love all the health news we’ve been learning about chocolate??

In short, dark chocolate contains high levels of flavanols – compounds that act as powerful antioxidants. Consumption (in moderation!) of dark chocolate has been tied to improved blood flow, lower blood pressure, and lower risk of heart disease.

Remember that the more actual chocolate contained in a bar, the more flavanols. This means that milk chocolate, which is primarily fat and sugar, contains very few. However, a dark chocolate bar with a very high cocoa percentage contains very high levels of these important compounds. Another important note – chocolate bars with 70% cocoa contain, on average, three teaspoons of sugar. A bar with 85% cocoa contains a single teaspoon of sugar.

When choosing a chocolate bar, keep a few things in mind:

– Portion control – Try to limit yourself to 1.5 ounces per day. Take small bites and let the chocolate melt in your mouth. Don’t rush the experience!

– Keep your chocolate pure and simple. Avoid extra flavors such as caramel, toffee, and other additives. Choose a high cocoa percentage to get the most healthy benefits and the least amount of sugar.

– Choose Fair Trade. Unfortunately, the cocoa industry has been linked to a lot of unsavory farming and labor practices. If you can afford it, try to purchase Fair Trade bars that support small and sustainable farmers.

What’s for dessert tonight? Chocolate anyone??

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! It’s getting hot out there, so it’s time I remind people to hydrate! But NOT with diet soda. I keep seeing health conscious people drinking this beverage and thinking they are making a good choice. To be blunt, diet soda is an extremely unhealthy beverage. It is very, very bad for you! Just a few reasons:

– It confuses the body. Diet soda may have no calories, but it is so sweet that it trains your brain to crave sweets.

– It confuses the mind. People often think that they are “saving” calories by drinking a diet beverage, so over-indulge in other parts of their meals. They end up consuming more calories overall.

– It is directly linked to Type 2 Diabetes. Several studies have shown that people who drink at least one diet soda a day are much more likely to develop Type 2 Diabetes.

– It has zero nutritional benefit. Other delicious beverages such as green tea (and even coffee) have been shown to have real health benefits. There is literally nothing positive about diet soda. Having seltzer water or water with fruit is a much healthier choice.

These are just a few reasons why you should avoid this chemical-laden liquid. Other studies have shown diet beverages to be linked to higher likelihood of depression, weak bones, bad teeth, wrinkled skin, and more.

Do you know what hasn’t been linked to any of these things? Water!!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! I recently read a headline that caught my eye. It said: What if We Know the Magic Pill to Living a Long, Healthy Life?” Of course, I was intrigued. Two lines into the article, the author revealed the answer: exercise. Exercise is the magic pill. Not always easy to swallow, but the key to so many things, including more energy.

So many of us spend our days in a state of chronic fatigue. While sometimes fatigue is linked to a serious health problem, one in four people suffer from general fatigue that is not linked to any illness. We’re just… tired!

While exercise is usually not the first thing we want to do when exhausted, short bouts of regular exercise has been linked to higher energy levels. Researchers at the University of Georgia studied fatigued volunteers who did not exercise regularly. Over the six week study, those that regularly exercised, even low-intensity leisurely walks, showed a 50% increase in energy by the end of the study! That’s quite a significant increase.

We’re often tempted to look for quick and easy fixes – often in the form of unhealthy energy drinks. Or, we can’t seem to muster the energy to exercise. However, study after study shows that regular exercise will make our lives so much better – and more full of energy… to exercise more!!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!

Hello Loyal Soup People! With the new season comes the annual ritual of spring cleaning. Many people take full weekends to open the windows and deep clean their homes. Unfortunately, many of the commercially available cleaners contain very harsh chemicals that can be harmful to our skin, eyes, and lungs. This week I’d like to offer a few suggestions for natural cleaning solutions that are better for our bodies and the environment. They are also quite inexpensive!

– Glass cleaner. Steep eight bags of black tea in 1.5 cups of boiling water for approximately five minutes. Once the water has cooled, transfer it to a spray bottle. Black tea contains tannins which act as a great cleaning agent and don’t streak or stain.

– Bathroom solution. Bathroom cleaners may often contain the most harmful chemicals. Try combining one cup of baking soda with 1/4 cup of castile soap and 1 tablespoon of hydrogen peroxide. Use this solution to scrub your sinks, tubs, and tile. Make a big batch and store this cleaner in a mason jar.

– Toilet bowl cleaner. Combine one cup of distilled white vinegar with 1/2 teaspoon of tea tree oil in a spray bottle. Spray this solution generously into your toilet and let it sit for two to three minutes. Then, add 1/2 cup of baking soda and start scrubbing.

You can find many other green and healthy cleaning tips online. Discover the power of white vinegar! This magical (and extremely cheap) liquid can clean everything from apples to stoves! Say goodbye to expensive and unhealthy harsh chemicals!

*NOTE – Soupermom is not a licensed dietitian, doctor, personal trainer, or anything like that. She’s just extremely knowledgeable about healthy living!! But if you slip and fall while taking her advice, it is not her fault!