Midlife Health: Watermelon

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Cool Off with Watermelon

Cool Off with Watermelon

Do you find yourself feeling more energetic during the summer months? Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) tells us that plants grow faster during summer and people act more energetically. Blood and the body’s qi quicken their pace.

TCM claims that the heart can over-function, causing you to sweat, and this then restricts the functioning of the lung. There are certain foods that are recommended to enhance lung functioning and maintain the body’s normal sweating mechanisms - watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, mung beans, cucumber, bean sprouts, duck and fish.

So there’s good reason if you find yourself gravitating to a juicy slice of watermelon this summer. You may need cooling down, especially if you’ve been sweating a lot and thus losing Vitamin B.  Watermelon, which is a staple of many people’s picnic table, is nature’s gift to help us cool off. It is a great source of Vitamins B6, B1, magnesium and potassium which are excellent for keeping your energy levels up and muscle cramping down.

In TCM watermelon is an important healing food.  High in beta-carotene and antioxidants, it has been used medicinally to treat heart disease, diabetes, liver problems and kidney infection. Eat it regularly to help reduce high blood pressure. It also aids the body in releasing toxins via its ability to increase the  body’s need to urinate.

Additionally, watermelon can be effective for sunburns when used topically. The juice is cooling to the skin and promotes healing.

If you’re going to juice or blend the watermelon, include some of the white and green rind, as well as the seeds - they are a digestive aid. Just make sure your machine can break down the seeds.

Midlife Health: Vitamin C, the Kiwifruit Way

Although I don’t have too much of a “sweet tooth”, one of my favorite desserts is Pavlova. Basically it’s a round merengue “dome” with a soft, marshmallow-type center and topped with whipped cream and fruit.  Although I don’t make them often, I did have one just the other night while out to dinner at a New Zealand-style restaurant.  You will generally only find Pavlovas in Australia and New Zealand.

DownUnder we frequently put kiwifruit on top of the Pavlova, often along with strawberries.  So what’s in a Kiwifruit (Actinidia deliciosa)?   They are delicious and loaded with Vitamin C along with other nutrients. The flesh is either a translucent, bright-green color (the most common one) or golden which is less common but equally delicious.Their skin is furry and although edible, not very tasty. The fruit itself has more Vitamin C than a similarly-sized orange, more vitamins E and K than most other fruits, almost as much potassium as a small banana and as much fiber as one of my favorite breakfasts - a cup of cooked oatmeal.

Kiwifruit was “born” in China and was originally know as Chinese Gooseberry, a name I still remember from growing up in Australia. New Zealanders however named it in honor of their national bird when they began to cultivate it commercially. Italy, Chile, Greece and France are now also commercial producers.

Components of kiwifruit have potential properties of a natural  blood thinner.  From a study performed at the University of Oslo in Norway it was reported that eating two to three kiwifruit daily for 28 days significantly reduced the stickiness of platelets and  blood triglyceride levels (something along the lines of “aspirin therapy”), potentially reducing the risk of blood clots.  The fruit is also a natural source of provitamin A, beta-carotene, lutein and zeaxanthin.

One other benefit that appeals to me is that kiwifruit is low on the pesticide contamination list so if you can’t find organic ones, then conventionally grown fruits will add very little to your body’s pesticide load. Always a important consideration when buying foods today!

And in case all this talk of Pavlova has started you salivating … How to Make a Pavlova

Midlife Health - The Eyes Have It!

Castor Oil Plant

Last weekend I attended an all-day lecture by Dr. Norman Shealy. His discussion of energy medicine and alternative healing remedies was most informative. One of the topics that peaked my interest was using castor oil for cataracts. My mother had cataracts removed many years ago and I have a number of friends who’ve recently had surgery for the same reason.  If this is an issue for you, the following tips might be helpful.

The growth of cataracts is an issue many people face as they age.  Cataracts are a clouding of the natural lens of the eye. The lens is responsible for focusing light and producing clear images. The larger the cataracts become, the more fuzzy the vision.  The process is begun by poor circulation that prevents the eye from ridding itself of “debris.”  Surgery may be the only resolution for a late-stage cataract but castor oil may help you resolve the issue in its early stages.

Castor oil was apparently used by the Egyptians for eye irritations, the medical intuitive Edgar Cayce recommended it for cataracts and Dr Shealy also endorses it.

The directions for use are to simply put one drop of the pure oil (make sure the oil is free of any contaminants) in each eye at bedtime. If you’ve ever used castor oil for any reason you’ll know why you want to do it at bedtime.  The oil is very sticky and you’ll certainly have cloudy vision for about half an hour.  Over time the oil gradually dissolves the cataract.

To prevent cataracts, you might want to increase your intake of lutein and zeaxanthin, two of the most abundant carotenoids in our diet. A new study from Finish researchers suggests that increased levels of lutein and zeaxanthin may reduce the risk of cataracts by about 40%. Increasing evidence supports the role of these two carotenoids for eye health, which also includes decreasing your odds of being afflicted with age-related macular degeneration (AMD).

These carotenoids are available as supplements but if you want to go the natural route, here are foods that contain lutein and/or zeaxanthin:

  • kale
  • collard greens
  • spinach
  • swiss chard
  • mustard greens
  • parsley
  • eggs
  • beet greens
  • okra
  • red pepper
  • dill
  • romaine lettuce
  • endive
  • celery
  • scallions
  • leeks
  • broccoli
  • leaf lettuce
  • squash
  • green peas
  • carrots
  • artichoke
  • pumpkin
  • dates
  • grapes
  • oranges

Another recommendation for eye health is Vitamin D3. A recent study from the Institute of Ophthalmology at University College London showed that after taking vitamin D3 for only 6 weeks, older mice showed improved vision as well as reductions in inflammation of the retina and levels of amyloid beta accumulation, a hallmark of aging.  This suggests that vitamin D3 may be helpful in preventing AMD, the most common cause of blindness in elderly people.

So if you are looking to improve the health of your eyes, consider trying a more natural path before undergoing surgery.

Midlife Health: Feeling Anxious? Passionflower can Help You Relax.

No, it doesn’t have anything to do with “passion in the bedroom” or anywhere else! It has to do with calming you down. Passionflower has been used to treat nervous restlessness for over 200 years.  It slows the pulses and sedates. The herb works by increasing levels of the chemical GABA (gamma aminobutyric acid) in the brain. GABA lowers the activity of some brain cells, making you feel more relaxed.

Insomnia.

Passionflower has been shown in numerous studies to be a great sleep aid. It relaxes the nervous system without causing drowsiness the next morning. It actually works with (rather than against) the body’s natural sleep/wake cycle.

Restless Leg Syndrome and Nerve Pain.

Passionflower has also been shown to be effective for RLS, neuralgia and shingles.

High Blood Pressure due to Stress and Anxiety.

Because of its calming effect, passionflower helps reduce high blood pressure.

Anxiety.

A 2001 issue of the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy and Therapeutics published data from a small double-blind study with 32 people suffering from general anxiety disorder. Participants in the study received a daily dose of either a passionflower liquid extract (45 drops) or 30 mg of a common anti-anxiety drug, oxazepam. Both groups displayed a significant decrease in their anxiety symptoms after four weeks but those taking passionflower did NOT report any severely impaired job performance, while 44 percent of the patients taking oxazepam did. 

PMS and Menopause. Passionflower can help to relieve the anxiety, irritability, depression and cramps that are often associated with menopause and PMS.

Use: Passionflower can be taken as a capsule (400-500 milligrams), a tincture (30-40 drops in a small amount of water) or a herbal infusion (pour a cup of boiling water onto 1-2 teaspoonfuls of the dried herb and leave to infuse for 10-15 minutes) two to three times a day. You will often find it in teas where it is mixed with other calming herbs such as chamomile, peppermint and catnip.
It is not recommended for pregnant women or children under two. Nor should it be taken with tranquilizers or sedatives since it may intensify their effect.  Adults over 65 and children between the ages of two and 12 should only take low-strength preparations.

All material is provided for informational or educational purposes only. Please consult a physician regarding the applicability of any opinions or recommendations with respect to your symptoms or condition.

Midlife Inspiration: You’re Never Too Old to Live Your Dreams

I recently spent some time visiting assisted-living facilities and nursing homes.  The event that prompted this “adventure” was my mother having a stroke and becoming visually impaired. Unfortunately this necessitated her no longer being able to live on her own and therefore having to make other arrangements.

What struck me as I was investigating these facilities and talking to some of the residents was how disengaged in life many of the folks had become.  The “why” I discovered was that fundamentally they believed they had nothing left to live for.

Some hadn’t even begun to empty out their “bucket lists” -  do those things they had always dreamt about.  When I commented that it was never too late, the majority said, “Oh no, I’m too old.”  What a sad statement.

I don’t believe we’re ever too old to experience the joy of doing something we truly love, even if it’s just a small piece of it.  For example, a client once told me that, at the age of 75, he was far too old to even contemplate becoming an architect, his life’s dream.  Perhaps he wasn’t about to go back to school to do the requisite study but does that mean he couldn’t live out his dream in another way.  He could have opted to volunteer at an architect’s office or do some simple online CAD training.  Anything that was related to architectural work.

If you need some inspiration to follow your dreams, then maybe these examples might spur you on:

  • Benjamin Franklin, at age 78, invented bifocal spectacles.
  • Mary Fasano, age 89, earned her undergraduate degree from Harvard.
  • Architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Guggenheim Museum at 90 years of age.
  • David Ben-Gurion, the first prime minister of Israel, taught himself ancient Greek when he was at an advanced age just so he could master the classics.

Ages 35-55 might be the peak times for creativity in many fields but people in their 60s and 70s, though slower, are as productive as they were in their 20s. So if you’ve given up because you think you’re too old, think again, get rid of that limiting belief and GO FOR IT!

Cellist Pablo Casals was 91 when a student asked, “Master, why do you continue to practice?” His reply, “Because I am making progress.”

Midlife Health: Go For Dark, Rich and Healthy!

‘Tis the season for CHOCOLATE!  If you’re a fan, this is a great time to indulge because there are so many different chocolate treats being sold for the holidays.  No need to feel guilty because in moderate amounts, chocolate actually has numerous health benefits.

One of its benefits is that it contains flavonoids which act as antioxidants and protect the body from aging. Flavonoids may also help reduce the cell damage that can promote tumor growth.

If you have high blood pressure you’ll be delighted to hear that researchers at the University of Cologne in Germany report that eating DARK chocolate can help lower blood pressure.

Chocolate also:

  • Stimulates the production of endorphins which are the “feel-good” chemicals
  • Contains serotonin which acts as an anti-depressant
  • May decrease your risk of a stroke
  • May be good for your heart - increased blood flow, mild anti-clotting effects, reduced plaque formation

To get the most benefit, stick with dark chocolate that contains at least 70% cocoa.  It has many more antioxidants than milk or white chocolate.  I’ve eaten chocolate that is 95% cocoa but that takes a little getting used to!

Don’t wash it down with a glass of milk though.  A report from Italy’s National Institute for Food and Nutrition Research in Rome states that “milk may interfere with the absorption of antioxidants from chocolate … and may therefore negate the potential health benefits that can be derived from eating moderate amounts of dark chocolate.”

How much chocolate should you eat? You’ll be pleased to know that chocolate has a low glycemic index, meaning that it does not cause your blood sugar to spike. However, all things  in moderation!  About an ounce a day is fine.  More than that and you will take in extra calories that you may not want.

If you’re looking for a great recipe, here is one compliments of www.freecoconutrecipes.com  I made this recently and it’s delicious.

Frozen Chocolate Coconut Fudge

Preparation Time: 15 minutes

1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup nut or seed butter  (I used almond butter)
1/4 cup (generous) cocoa powder
1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup (generous) coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup raw honey

Mix together all ingredients. Pour on a piece of unbleached parchment paper on a cookie sheet. Spread out to about 1/4″ thick.
Place fudge in freezer. Let set for about 30 minutes.
Break into pieces and serve or put in container back in freezer until you are ready to serve.

Have You Lost Your Reason for Being Born?

As the little children were leaving school one day the teacher asked them to bring in their birth certificates the next day.  As he was about to head off to school with it the next morning, one little boy was cautioned by his mother to be particularly careful with it since it was a very important document.  But unfortunately, by the time he got to class he had lost it anyway.  He began to cry.

“What’s the matter, Billie?” his teacher asked

Billie answered tearfully, “I lost my reason for being born!”

Have you ever thought that you shouldn’t have been born? Have you made apologies for who you are because you believed that others were better than you? Have you felt like you had nothing to contribute to life?

Nobody on this earth is more or less valuable than you.  We all have gifts to share, no matter how small or how insignificant we might think those are. Perhaps it’s just a smile that brightens someone else’s day.  Sometimes we need to be reminded how significant we are especially during those times when we’re feeling “down and out”.

I recently ended a presentation on the power of our thoughts to shape our life with the following words.  If you’re currently feeling less joyful than you know you can be, perhaps they will lift your spirits.

What will you do with the rest of your life?

You really only have two choices - you can choose to survive or you can choose to thrive

If you choose to thrive, choose to be happy, choose to commit to following your vision …

… Anything is possible … because …

YOU were born with all the potential to succeed
YOUR visions are still attainable
YOU radiate a unique brilliance
YOU have the ability to choose a new future
YOU have the power to unlock the potential within you
YOUR destiny has yet to be written
BELIEVE in yourself - you are a unique and special individual

… so CHOOSE now …

BECOME CLEAR about who you are
PLANT the seeds of success
CHANGE your thoughts, behaviors and habits
DEVELOP self confidence
BUILD courage
ALIGN yourself with the positive
MOVE forward one step at a time

ENGAGE your heart, not just your mind
REMEMBER that you reap what you sow
STEP outside of your comfort zone
RELEASE the past
MAKE it the life you want NOW

And remember …

NEVER, EVER give up!

Midlife Wellness: Honey for Healing

Bees make honey when the enzymes in their stomachs react with the nectar of flowers.   It is  made up primarily of glucose together with fructose and is twice as sweet as sugar.   You can substitute 1/2 - 3/4 cup honey for 1 cup of sugar in recipes.

In its raw, unfiltered/minimally filtered state, honey is a concentrated source of essential nutrients such as some minerals, B-complex vitamins and vitamins C, D and E.

Aside from being used for sweetening foods and beverages, honey is also used to promote energy and healing. Germs don’t grow well in honey which makes it a natural antiseptic and a good salve for burns and wounds.

Researchers at the University of Sydney found that when diluted honey is applied to a moist wound, it produces hydrogen peroxide, a known anti-bacterial agent. Further research revealed that honey may be a natural remedy for some of the hospital “superbugs” that are resistant to antibiotics.

Honey has been used for many centuries. The ancient Greeks, the Romans and the Egyptians were great proponents of using the golden gooey stuff. My favorite way to use it is for a sore throat or cough.  I put a teaspoon or so in a cup of hot tea along with some lemon juice.  According to my husband, the brew works much better if you add rum!

Pure, uncontaminated honey is greatly underutilized these days as a healing remedy.  However, there are marked differences in the antibacterial activity of different types of honey. Manuka honey, made by bees in New Zealand, has been found to have the most healing properties of any honey on the market.

A word of warning: NEVER give honey of any type to an infant under one year of age.  In its natural form it can contain spores of the bacteria that cause botulism. This poses no problem for healthy adults and older children unless it happens to be tainted honey smuggled in from China. I was mortified when I read a recent article about “honey smuggling.”  It seems that this honey can contain illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. Not only that, but some products marked as honey have almost no honey in them. They are a mix of sugar water, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery (coarse unrefined sugar from the sap of certain palm trees), barley malt sweetener or other additives with just a small amount of actual honey.

If you use honey and buy it from a supermarket, I suggest you read the article at http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/08/honey-laundering/

Four Ways to Change

“There are only four ways that you can change anything about yourself, your life, your work, or your relationships with others.” - Brian Tracy, self development author and coach

Brian Tracy says that to change you need to:

Do more of something
Do less of something
Start something
Stop something

We all have things that we would like to do more of but never seem to have the time.  The flip side of that coin is that we find the time to do things that perhaps don’t bring us all that much joy or aren’t of any great value in our achieving goals.  You might want to exercise more, do more yoga, spend more time with family, read more books but can’t fit it into your busy schedule.  On the other hand,  do you watch mindless TV, play hours of video games, spend too much time chatting on the phone?  So why can’t you do less of those things and therefore spend more time on the things you DO want to do.

The same holds true for starting something.  Perhaps you have to stop something in order to start something else.

If you find you are stuck and not moving forward, ask yourself “If I do X, what will that get me?”  For example, if you stop playing video games and read more books about investing, what will that get you? Perhaps that house on the beach when you retire, or a new car because your current one has 250,000 miles on the speedometer and may not last much longer. If the house or the car are important enough, you will stop playing the games and start reading.

If your answer is something that you deeply want or care about, then you WILL find a way to make the change. If you have a passion for something, it will drive you to do whatever is necessary.  If not, then it probably wasn’t all that important in the first place.

Action Steps

What do you need to do more of?
What will that get you?

What do you need to do less of?
What will that get you?

What do you need to begin?
What will that get you?

What do you need to stop?
What will that get you?

Include behaviors and attitudes in your list.
Ask those around you what they think you should stop, start, do more/less of.
Start small. Pick one thing and work on that.
Start today and change your life!

Learn To Dance In The Rain

This was written by Steve Rizzo, a colleague at the National Speakers Association.  Having lived in Hawaii myself for a number of years, I connected to the sentiment...

A few weeks ago I spent four wonderful days at the Four Seasons Hotel in Kona Hawaii, where I had the pleasure of speaking to a wonderful group of Top Sales Performers and spouses of Ameritus Financial.

My job was to give them the tools they need to embrace the changes and intense growth they were currently experiencing and will inevitably continue to experience in the coming years.  I knew the tension was high, but I was prepared.

One morning, two hours before my speech, I was having breakfast at a restaurant with a captivating view of the ocean.  As the waitress was pouring my coffee, I asked, “Why is it that no matter where they are, or what they are doing, Hawaiian people always seem to be happy and at peace with themselves?  Is there some kind of secret that I should know about?   And if there is, can you please tell me?”

She laughed and looked around as if to make sure that no one was listening and in a low voice she replied, “Mr. Rizzo today is your lucky day.  For today I will tell you the secret that most Hawaiian people live by”.  She sat down in the chair next to me, motioned me to get closer and whispered in my ear.  “We learn to dance in the rain”.

Before I had a chance to respond, she reached into her pocket and pulled out a laminated card and handed it to me and said “This is for you.  It really is a secret that should be shared with everyone.”   ”Don’t wait for the storms of your life to pass.  Learn to dance in the rain”.

Read that again my friend.  That statement is a touchstone for living a successful, happier life, especially when you are experiencing intense change and growth of any kind.  That in part is the message I shared with the wonderful people of Ameritus Financial.

“Dancing in the rain” is an attitude that truly happy and successful people live by and few dancers come by it naturally.  Can you learn to dance in the rain when the storms of change and misfortune are pouring down on you?   I believe the answer is yes.  It’s a matter of shifting your focus and way of thinking when times are tough that makes the difference.

That is to say, when the storms of life are pouring down on you, you can muster up enough courage to dance and bless the things that life has given you, or, you can drown as you curse your challenges and unfortunate circumstances.   I don’t know about you, but I’ll take dancing over drowning any day!

website: www.SteveRizzo.com

email: steve@steverizzo.com

blog: http://motivational-humor-speaker.blogspot.com

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