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Health Briefs ~ Breathe Freely This Holiday and much more . . .

Dec 01, 2007 11:50AM

Breathe Freely This Holiday

When the “to-do list” seems endless, making time to relax is easier said than done. But a recent Mayo Clinic report reminds us that relaxation shouldn’t be at the bottom of the list. Relaxing, after all, cuts daily stressors and has a restorative effect on body and mind.

Researchers suggest that we start by not mulling over issues because that only increases mental and physical stress, which in turn causes frustration and anger. Purposefully turning our thoughts in another direction can help create room in our minds, so that we can deal with an issue more effectively at a later time.

Counselors also emphasize self-control. Quelling feelings of stress with pleasure, such as indulging in sweets, they say, brings only temporary relief, often followed by feelings of guilt. So in the end, such escapes can undermine long-term well-being.

Last but not least, researchers encourage everyone to maintain positive emotions. An optimistic outlook helps us to stay on an even keel emotionally and allows us to recover faster from stress when we finally do have the time to relax.

Sources: Adapted from a Mayo Clinic report, 2007

Flaxseed to Fix Flashes

As more women refuse costly hormone replacement therapy due to an associated increased risk of breast cancer, they are turning to non-hormonal dietary therapies making use of herbs or natural supplements, albeit with varying success. Now a pilot study of postmenopausal women at the Mayo Clinic suggests that ingesting crushed flaxseed can decrease the incidence and intensity of hot flashes.

It appears to work because flaxseed contains phytoestrogens, or plant-based estrogen compounds. These little brown seeds are rich in lignans, an antioxidant with weak estrogen-emulating characteristics that indicate anti-cancer effects. Study participants who ate 40 grams of crushed flaxseeds daily reported a 50 percent decrease in hot flashes. More research is needed.

“Hot flashes are a bothersome issue for women experiencing menopause,” says Dr. Sandhya Pruthi, a Mayo Clinic breast health specialist and the study’s primary investigator. They’re often described as a flush of intense warmth across much of the body, which may be accompanied by sweating, reddening of the skin or, occasionally, cold shivers. If severe, they can lead to sleep deprivation, anxiety and irritability. Eating some natural flaxseed would be a welcome fix. Source: Mayo Clinic, 2007 Pomegranates For Prostates

Brightly colored pomegranate juice makes a festive display in any holiday goblet, but that’s not why health experts recommend serving the exotic juice at this season’s table. Pomegranate juice, they’ve learned, has a set of antioxidants called ellagitannins, which have the ability to target prostate cancer cells in a unique “seek and destroy” fashion. The California researchers who made the discovery further report that ellagitannins break down in the body into a special class of metabolites that can inhibit the growth of cancer cells.

The pomegranate is an ancient fruit, once cultivated extensively in the Mediterranean, Asia and parts of Africa, and only recently found its way into America. Traditionally, pomegranates were enjoyed as juice, jelly, syrup (known as grenadine) and even as wine. Researchers hope that due to its medicinal properties, tart and trendy pomegranate juice may one day play an active role in the prevention and treatment of prostate cancer.

Source: American Chemical Society, 2007

Pomegranates For Prostates

Celebs like Stella McCartney and critics alike are toasting the taste of new organic liquors now on the market. Why not be a trendsetter at seasonal get-togethers? Pesticide-free drinks are better for both people and the planet. suggests a look at these brands: • Square One Vodka, made with 100 percent organic rye at • Reyka Vodka, produced in Iceland using geothermal    energy at • 4 Copas Tequila, the first certified-organic tequila, from Jalisco, Mexico at • Juniper Green Gin, the world’s first organic London dry gin at • Papagayo Organic Spiced Rum made with organic  sugar cane and spices in Paraguay and imported by • Mixers in three certified-organic flavorings—Citrus    Margarita, Pomegranate Cosmopolitan and Lavendar    Lemon Drop—at

Select Natural Sugars

Consumption of refined sugars in the United States—up to 165 pounds per person per year according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture—is a well-documented contributing factor to a rise in serious health problems. These simple processed sugars are often behind the troublesome highs and lows that alternately spike and then drop a person’s blood sugar level and energy. In contrast, our body is able to break down the complex natural sugars found in foods more slowly, moderating their entry into the bloodstream.

Ode magazine reports that honey, maple syrup and cane syrup are common replacements for the refined sugars, which are fast falling out of favor. But better choices exist. One is agave nectar, which is twice as sweet as sugar and derived from the agave cactus. Another, amazake, an easily digestible creamy substance made from fermented sweet rice, is less sweet than sugar. As is brown rice syrup, a traditional Asian sweetener that has a caramel taste. Fig sugar carries rich flavor plus several vitamins and minerals. Stevia is a popular natural nutritional supplement for good reason; primarily sourced from Paraguay, it’s many times sweeter than sugar, has zero calories and doesn’t affect blood sugar.

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