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holiday-headacheIs your December all booked up with parties and travel plans? So often the holiday season can leave us feeling drained—both physically and mentally—which is why it helps to remember that the most important gift we can give ourselves is the gift of good health. Take a moment today to remember these simple tips for a healthier, happier holiday.

  1. Eat Well, Feel Well. Your body and your well-being benefit from certain foods, while others can contribute to a cycle of poor health, digestive imbalance and weight gain. Remember to fill your plate with plenty of protein (at least 12 portions a day will help keep you satisfied and reduce cravings); non-starchy veggies and low-sugar fruits; healthy fats like those founds in fish (Omega-3), olive oil (Omega-9) and walnuts (Omega-3); and living and fermented foods. Do your best to eliminate sugar, refined carbohydrates and grains, and reduce your intake of unhealthy Omega-6 fats (mostly vegetable oil).
  2. Get Plenty of Sleep. It may seem like there aren’t enough hours in the day to get everything done, but cutting into your sleep time is not the answer. Not only has sleep deprivation been linked to depression, irritability and poor concentration, but too little sleep can actually pack on the pounds. According to Harvard professor Dr. Lawrence Epstein, people who sleep less tend to be heavier over time—and even a short-term reduction in sleep can make a big difference, causing the body to release hormones that prompt eating and weight gain.
  3. Wash Your Hands Often. You have enough to worry about this season without adding the sniffles and sneezes. According to experts at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, keeping your hands clean is one of the most important steps you can take to avoid getting sick and spreading germs to others. As often as possible, wash your hands (rubbing them together) with warm soapy water for at least 20 seconds each time. If you feel a cough or a sneeze coming on, cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. If you’re out of tissues, cough or sneeze into your upper sleeve or elbow.
  4. Stay Active Even in Winter. This time of year the darker nights and colder temperatures make it difficult to get motivated, but regular exercise (at least 30 minutes a day, five days a week) plays a key role in disease prevention and vibrant health. A recent study published in the British Medical Journal found that exercise may be as effective, or even more effective, as drug treatment for common health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes. In addition, exercise is critical for a balanced gut—which not only promotes optimal digestion but can help you achieve and maintain a healthy body weight.
  5. Lift Your Mood with a Little Sunlight
    Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects roughly 500,000 Americans every year, and according to the Mayo Clinic three out of every four SAD sufferers are women. Sunlight is our primary source of vitamin D, which has been shown to help ease depressive symptoms and improve mood, so try to spend time outdoors or near a window each day. Better yet, take a walk! A recent study found depressive symptoms were greatly reduced just by walking outdoors.

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gmo-signsNanotechnology sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie—not something that should be on your plate. The same goes for genetic modification, but a new study shows a large number of American consumers are fine with adding them to the menu as long as it makes their food safer or more nutritious. In fact, they would even pay more for such foods.

The study was a collaborative effort between North Carolina State University and the University of Minnesota. Researchers surveyed more than 1,000 randomly selected consumers and asked them to participate in a survey about whether or not they would consider purchasing nanotech or genetically modified (GM) foods if it meant gaining certain benefits.

Participants were divided into four specific groups based on their responses: those concerned mainly with price (23%); those who preferred to avoid such modifications unless there were proven safety benefits (19%); those who would not buy nanotech or GM foods at all (18%); and those who would buy such foods if they were told they were safer or more nutritious. This last group, dubbed the “benefit-oriented” group, had the largest number of respondents at 40%.

In terms of food, nanotechnology means using nanoparticles (microscopic particles) in the production or manufacture of food to alter how it looks, tastes, and even how long it will stay fresh and edible. Genetic modification refers to changing the genetic makeup of a crop in a way that would not occur naturally. But how do we even know if these practices are being used? And are they really as beneficial as manufacturers claim?

In the United States, mandatory labeling of GM foods is not required, though many state and national initiatives have been proposed. Current law only requires food labeling when there is a substantial difference in the nutritional or safety characteristics of a new food.i (Interestingly enough, genetic engineering does NOT fall under that definition, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.) Likewise, nanotech foods are not subject to any special regulation with regard to manufacture and labeling.

As consumers, we can make healthier choices by doing our research and paying attention to the products we buy and the companies we buy them from. Web sites such as the Non-GMO Project and The Project on Emerging Nanotechnologies Consumer Products Inventory can help shoppers determine which companies are making GM and/or nanotech foods.

i P. Byrne, Colorado State University Extension agronomy specialist and professor, soil and crop sciences; D. Pendell, associate professor, agricultural and resource economics; and G. Graff. associate professor, agricultural and resource economics. 10/2014.

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