CommonHealth Weekly Wellnotes
Recipe of the Month: Creamsicle Ice Cream Soda
These liquid treats are reminiscent of those fabulous frozen pops from childhood. This recipe features just six ingredients:
- Light vanilla ice cream
- Fresh orange juice
- Ice cubes
- Orange zest
The Importance of Physical (Passive) Rest
Many of us are caught in the grind of work, family responsibilities, and ongoing stress. But it’s important to prioritize adequate rest and quality sleep in your everyday life. Rest and sleep are two different things, but both are equally important to your mental, emotional, and physical health. Plus, prioritizing rest can actually improve your quality of sleep. Rest is any behavior aimed at increasing physical or mental well-being. It can be active, such as going for a walk outside, or passive, such as taking 10 minutes to sit down and breathe deeply. Today, we are going to look at passive rest, which includes sleeping and napping.
Unlike rest, sleep is something your body cannot function without. Sleep is a mind-body state in which we experience sensory detachment from our surroundings. It is an essential function of the body and impacts every system from our cognitive function to immune health. Quality sleep can help us reset, recover, and recharge. It’s absolutely vital to brain function, memory, concentration, immune health and metabolism. It’s recommended that adults get seven to eight hours of sleep each night, but quality is just as important as quantity. Rapid eye movement (REM) sleep is the most restorative of the five sleep cycles. At least a quarter of your sleep should be spent in the REM cycle.
How can you ensure that you get enough quality sleep each night? Here are a few tips:
- Avoid caffeine in the afternoon and evening.
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule, even on weekends.
- Set your thermostat between 60 and 70 degrees at night.
- At least one hour before bed, swap screen time for a relaxing activity such as reading, bedtime yoga, or a relaxing bath.
While we may still be busy adjusting to the changes that have arisen over the last couple of years, it's important for our overall wellness to make sure we're taking time to build and maintain connections with others. Here are some things that you can do to kick up connectivity:
1. Attend a meetup. A fun way to build new connections is to join a group that meets regularly. You can search for groups that practice a hobby you enjoy or share an interest. Alternatively, you can break out of your element and try a new activity or learn a skill with others.
2. Schedule time to talk. We often lose connection with our friends even while having every intention to stay in touch. Make notes on your calendar or set reminders for quick check-ins. Even a simple text message or email to an old friend can be all it takes to make their (and your) day.
3. Save the date. Select a recurring day/time to spend with others. These "dates" can be with your significant other, a friend, or a family member. Taking regular breaks to spend quality time with those that you care about is great for your mental and emotional health.
Humans are social creatures. We need social interaction with each other. Social health can be easily overlooked during the day-to-day grind, but it's vital to all aspects of wellbeing. Reach out to others to make and keep those connections that the mind and body require to thrive!
Healthy Snacking 101
Healthy snacking between meals can help to regulate blood sugar levels and prevent that midday slump. Planning out your snacks and having them pre-portioned will help you make healthier choices. While packing your snacks, remember to combine protein, carbohydrates, and healthful fats for the perfect combination to energize your day.
Here are some examples of healthy snacks:
- Banana and nut butter
- Avocado toast
- Multigrain crackers with hummus
- Honey oat energy bites
- Veggies and dip
- Greek yogurt with berries
- A handful of nuts
- Cheese and multigrain crackers
For more snack tips, check out our friends at the Virginia Cooperative Extension.
The Health Benefits of Managing Stress
Chronic stress has several long-term implications on our mental and physical health. These effects can result in destructive behaviors that contribute to chronic disease. By addressing sources of unmanaged stress, you can improve your overall health. Below are a few benefits of effective stress management.
1. Better sleep. Stress and anxiety are the leading cause of insomnia in adults.
2. Well-regulated blood pressure. When we experience stress, our blood pressure is more likely to rise. Managing stress leads to a well-regulated blood pressure.
3. Improved digestion. Mindfulness and relaxation soothe the digestive system and reduce gut inflammation.
4. Reduced muscle tension. Meditation reduces tension in our primary muscle groups.
5. Improved immune health. Chronic stress puts a lot of pressure on our immune systems. Maintaining your mental health with a self-care routine can help your immune system, too!
Daily 'Deskercise' Routine: Stretches for the Office
The habits we build at our desk, especially while sitting, can contribute to discomfort and health issues such as neck and shoulder pain, obesity, musculoskeletal disorders, stress, lower back pain, and carpal tunnel.
Set a timer to remind you to take a quick walk or do the following stretches several times throughout the day for 30 seconds each. For a guided demonstration of each stretch, visit the Mayo Clinic website.
Tips for Getting the Most Nutritional Value for Your Dollar
Making the Most of Fresh Produce
- Take stock of what you already have in the refrigerator, then buy as close as possible to the amount you need. It’s generally better not to pre-wash produce until ready to use, as this removes any protective coating it may have. Any moisture remaining on fruits and vegetables can cause them to mold and spoil prematurely.
- Storage choices have an impact on how long produce stays fresh, as well as taste and texture. Tomatoes can develop an unpleasant texture when refrigerated. Pineapple, bananas, whole melons, and peaches, are best kept on the counter until ripe. Potatoes and onions should be stored in a cool, dry, ventilated place out of direct sunlight. Other produce can be refrigerated in crisper drawers to maintain moisture.
- Buying frozen fruits and vegetables is an excellent way to avoid produce waste while still getting nutritional quality. Frozen berries can be used year-round in smoothies, parfaits, and oatmeal. Most frozen vegetables are pre-cut and ready to heat up as stand-alone sides or ingredients in soups and casseroles. Some canned veggies and fruits, like tomatoes, carrots, mushrooms, peaches, or pineapples are smart choices for stocking the pantry. Choose low-salt and no added sugar varieties. Canned options have a long shelf-life, and can be a timesaver.
Reducing Food Waste
- Freezing or canning fresh fruits and vegetables is a great way to preserve them. Freeze extras for future meals and save overripe produce for use in broths, smoothies, and baked goods.
For more information, check out this article from Tufts University's School for Nutrition Science and Policy.