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How to Keep Your No-Sugar Diet Interesting

Let’s be clear. You like sugar because it tastes good. Who doesn’t like sugar for that reason? When you consume sugar your taste buds go off like fireworks and shoot signals to your brain. Your brains says, “Heck yea! I love this stuff!” And your brain generates a feel-good chemical called dopamine.

You know the feeling. It’s the same one you get any time something good happens to you, you feel generally happy and inspired, or you see something good happen in the world around you. Sugar tastes good, and it feels good.

How do you keep things remotely interesting when your number one compadre is no longer in the picture? You need a new compadre! Or several.

If you’ve been overly dependent on sugar in your diet, then you’ve been sorely lacking in all the other elements that make food great! Consider for a few minutes that, if properly combined, the following elements can keep your no-sugar diet plenty interesting.

Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat

Samin Nosrat, author of the book and star in the same-name Netflix docu-series, “Salt, Fat, Acid, and Heat,” reveals how—if you can master these four elements—you can master cooking. I’d argue that if you can seriously consider these elements when cooking and eating, then you can conquer sugar and keep things interesting.


Salt comes in many different forms, most prominently salt flakes or crystals or soy sauce. There are several other forms of salt in different forms of foods and spices, but these are the most common. You can use salt to enhance the flavor of any dish.

How much you use, what type, and when you use it all play a role in how the salt works with the flavor of a dish. Large versus small salt crystals require more to create the same effect. And if you add salt too soon to vegetables, your food could end up soggy.

These are all things to take into consideration when salting your food. The right addition of salt could have you going back for a second helping, no sugar needed


Fat transports the flavor of any dish from mediocre to va-va-voom! Fat comes in many different forms, and each form adds a unique angle to the flavor of the dish, which also depends on what you’re preparing with the fat.

For instance, olive oil on sweet potato makes the dish delectable. Fat adds texture, like crispiness or flakiness. Fat also makes a dish creamy or even tender and light. Whether it’s olive oil or coconut oil, add fat to pump up the flavor of any dish.


Anything that tastes sour is an acid, like lemon juice, lime juice or apple cider vinegar. Unless you’re on the unique end of the spectrum, not many people will like acid all on its own. Instead, you’ll use acid together with other foods. It adds contrast to the other foods in a dish.

Whether it’s salt, fat, or even bitterness, acid adds an opposing element. Taste of Home has a great primer on how to use acid to take a dish from bland to exciting.


What heat source you use when preparing food makes a difference in the quality of food you prepare.

When you cook something in the crockpot for several hours, you can expect a soft, tender, and juicy meal. Conversely, if you broil something or cook over an open flame, you can expect it to be finished quickly with char on the outside. The char adds flavor and texture. Likewise, a soft, juicy meal can be comforting and nourishing.

In addition, you may consider the amount of heat in your dish with regard to the spice level. Do you like kick to your food or maybe something more subtle? Spicy heat adds a different layer and element to your food that keeps it exciting and vibrant, especially if you’re also taking into consideration all of these other elements.

Food for Thought

When you’re on a no-sugar diet, chances are you’re the one at home preparing your meals. It’s nearly impossible, or at least extremely challenging, to eat out consistently and truly be sugar-free. So if you are doing the cooking at home, then consider these four elements when you prepare your food, and see how much more interesting your meals become. Well-played elements make simple foods exciting and delicious.

Related at Care2

Image via Getty Images

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For NC Poor, High Housing Cost Puts Healthy Lifestyle Out Of Reach

A lack of affordable housing drives down health and keeps North Carolinians in poverty, according to the latest annual County Health Rankings Roadmaps, released today by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the University of Wisconsin Population Health Institute.

Among North Carolina children living in poverty, 49 percent were living in a household that spends more than half of its income on housing, according to the report, which makes other healthy lifestyles out of reach.

“Our homes are inextricably tied to our health,” said Dr. Richard Besser, RWJF president and CEO. “It’s unacceptable that so many individuals and families face barriers to health because of what they have to spend on housing. This leaves them with fewer dollars to keep their families healthy. Imagine the stress and pain that come with unplanned moves. We are all healthier and stronger together when everyone has access to safe and affordable housing, regardless of the color of their skin or how much money they make.”

Taken as a whole, residents in Wake County have the best health outcomes in North Carolina. Those in Robeson County have the worst outcomes. Urban areas tend to place higher in the rankings, but cities also struggle with affordable housing and have pockets where health outcomes are lower.

In total, 14 percent of North Carolina households spend more than half of their income on housing costs. But a deeper dive into the numbers show wide racial disparities. Households headed by black residents are most burdened by severe housing costs at 21 percent, compared to white households at 11 percent.

“All communities have the potential to be places where everyone enjoys full and equal opportunity. But the data show that’s not happening in most communities yet. Children of color face a greater likelihood of growing up in poverty, and low-income families struggle to pay rent and get enough to eat,” said Sheri Johnson, acting director of County Health Rankings Roadmaps. “It is time to do the difficult work of coming together to undo policies and practices that create barriers to opportunity. The rankings can help communities ground these important conversations in data, evidence, guidance and stories about challenges and success.”

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The Amazing Superpowers That Dogs Possess

With their superior senses and athletic abilities, sometimes it can seem like dogs are superheroes. And even though they might not always behave, they still have several talents that can help save the world (or at least impress their humans). Here are some of the amazing superpowers that dogs possess.

A marvelous nose

Dogs’ noses play a major role in their superhero abilities. “People spend more time interpreting visual data than olfactory information,” VCA Animal Hospitals says. “Dogs are just the opposite.” In fact, the part of a dog’s brain that analyzes smells is about 40 times larger than the same spot in a human’s brain. And thanks to them having millions more scent receptors (and other anatomical differences), “it’s been estimated that dogs can smell anywhere from 1,000 to 10,000 times better than people,” according to VCA Hospitals.

In everyday life, dogs use their marvelous noses to communicate and navigate situations. “By simply smelling, a dog can determine if a new friend is male or female, happy or aggressive, healthy or ill,” VCA Hospitals says. They have strong scent memories and will recognize people and other animals by their smell, even if they haven’t seen them for years. Their noses also can act like a compass and point their way home — or warn them when they’re on another dog’s turf. This ability is especially useful for search-and-rescue, as dogs can pick up on the scent trail of a missing person that a human would have missed.

Incredible hearing

a black shepherd mixCredit: JoopS/Getty Images

Dogs’ noses might be their most impressive superpower. But their ears are pretty extraordinary, as well. For some sounds, the sensitivity of dog and human ears is relatively the same. It’s hearing the high-pitched noises that really sets dogs apart. “The average adult human cannot hear sounds above 20,000 Hertz (Hz), although young children can hear higher,” according to the American Kennel Club. “… Dogs, on the other hand, can hear sounds as high as 47,000 to 65,000 Hz.” Plus, dog ears are much more sensitive to softer sounds than human ears, picking up some noises that our ears never would hear.

Canine ears are wired to perceive these high-pitched and soft noises because of their predator ancestors. “Wolves, dogs’ ancestors, prey on small rodents such as mice, so the ability to hear the tiny animals’ squeaks is important for survival,” the AKC says. Nowadays, this ability might help them detect someone coming to your house, even when the car is halfway down the block. And it might explain why many dogs seem to find vacuum cleaners unbearable — as they might be emitting an unpleasant sound that our human ears just can’t hear.

Super speed

Dogs may not be the fastest animal on land. That spot is reserved for the cheetah, which can reach speeds of more than 60 mph. But canines are no slowpokes either. Sleek, long-legged greyhounds are typically the dog breed associated with super speed, clocking in at roughly 45 mph, according to VetStreet. (For reference, the top human speed recorded is about 28 mph.) But plenty of other breeds — including the saluki, whippet, border collie, vizsla and husky — are known for their speed, agility and endurance.

This running prowess has benefited dogs in many ways. Hunting dogs use their sprinting ability to catch speedy prey — including hares, who can reach speeds of about 40 mph themselves. And herding dogs, such as border collies, are “designed to move quickly and make hairpin turns in order to direct large flocks over what are sometimes long distances,” VetStreet says. Or maybe these dogs simply flex their running muscles chasing down a tennis ball in a vigorous game of fetch. Regardless, it’s an ability that leaves many creatures in the dust.

A stormy sense

Dog and storm cloudsCredit: K_Thalhofer/Getty Images

Does approaching weather get your dog’s stormy senses tingling, even when the sky is still perfectly blue? There’s a good chance their superpowers are at work. Experts aren’t quite sure what it is about dogs that allows them to forecast weather. According to PetMD, it’s possible dogs can feel changes in barometric pressure and humidity. They also might be able to detect static electricity in the air, which can indicate an oncoming thunderstorm.

One study even seems to support the notion that dogs can predict seismic events, such as earthquakes and avalanches, potentially due to their incredible hearing. The study saw a significant increase in activity and anxiety in dogs the day before an earthquake hit. Interestingly, all but one of the dogs in the study who had hearing impairments did not show any changes (and the one hearing-impaired dog whose behavior did change was living with a dog who could hear). Plus, the dogs with upright ears showed more changes than those with floppy ears. And the dogs with the smallest heads — which structurally improves their high-frequency hearing — were more active and anxious than dogs with the largest heads. Still, this study was just a single event, necessitating further research on the topic.

A radar for villains

There are many cases of dogs alerting humans to serious health issues — both when they’ve been trained to do so and sometimes completely out of the blue. And it’s often a dog’s nose that can act as a radar for these medical villains. In one study, dogs were highly successful in identifying ovarian cancer patients by smelling a specific marker in the blood. And in other research, dogs learned to accurately identify breath samples of lung and breast cancer patients based on their scent.

Dogs also are known to use their superpowers to detect seizures, which can be especially helpful for those with diabetes. “In the case of hypoglycemic seizures, which are triggered by a drop in blood glucose levels in people with Type 1 diabetes, dogs may be able to smell the different chemicals a human emits during a hypoglycemic episode,” according to PetMD. But with epileptic seizures, experts don’t yet know whether there is an associated scent. Instead, they hypothesize that dogs can pick up on elevated stress and behavioral changes that even the person might not realize prior to a seizure. Nevertheless, these villains can’t fool our canine superheroes.

The character of a hero

a dog standing in a cape like a superheroCredit: PeopleImages/Getty Images

Yes, sometimes their antics might drive us crazy. But overall, dogs really do have a bit of a hero complex. Many feel an instinctive urge to protect their families and property from harm (though often that behavior requires some training and management). And they work tirelessly as service and rescue animals — with law enforcement, as therapy dogs, for people with medical conditions, etc.

But perhaps what makes dogs so super in our hearts is their ability to connect with us. “Dogs have evolved to read our feelings because they rely on a close emotional bond with humans to survive,” according to PetMD. They know how to look at our body language and facial expressions to determine our mood — and research has even shown that dogs really do care when we’re distressed and will try to comfort us. It’s all part of their superhero persona.

Main image credit: PhotoTalk/Getty Images

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Healthy Living: Edible Chemotherapy?

We all know someone who’s had chemotherapy.

Many people who have gone through it can tell you getting those IV drips in the hospital is one of the worst parts.

But what if you could take those powerful chemotherapy drugs right in your own home? 

In Healthy Living, Courtney Hunter explains how that’s just one of the benefits of an innovative therapy coming from an unlikely source.

Scientists say getting treated at home is a big plus for patients undergoing chemotherapy.

But researchers are even more excited about what this technique could mean for future treatments.

Very powerful drugs that cannot be used in humans right now could soon be a real option just by attaching them to milk particles.




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Healthy Living with Diabetes workshop to be offered in Hillsboro

The Aging and Disability Resource Center of Vernon County is offering a Healthy Living with Diabetes workshop. Participants will receive information and resources to understand diabetes, along with support to manage diabetes as part of their daily life and activities. New topic each week related to mental, physical and emotional well-being.

The workshop will be held on Wednesday mornings from 9:30 a.m. until noon beginning April 24 and ending June 5. Workshops will be held at Gundersen St. Joseph Hospital, 400 Water St., Hillsboro. There is no cost for the workshop but participants will have the option to purchase a $15 book. Transportation may be provided.

To register, request transportation, or ask questions, contact the Aging and Disability Resource Center of Vernon County at 608-637-5201 or 1-888-637-1323.

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Healthy Living: March 12, 2019

BANGOR, Maine (WABI) - Most people think of having a strong core as having six pack abs, when it is so much more than that and a very important piece to being healthy. Your core is the powerhouse of the body. It’s where your explosiveness, power, balance, stability, and strength all originate from, and having a weak core can be detrimental not only to an athlete’s performance, but to your performance in everyday life.


Your core muscles incorporate all of the muscles from your chest to the top of your legs, front and back and facilitate healthy movement in all three planes of motion. The primary core muscles include your abdominals, obliques, and glutes. Your core also comprises deeper muscles such as your multifidus, pelvic floor, and diaphragm. These important muscles help to keep your core engaged and stabilized during squatting, bending, twisting, and lifting. When weak and tight, you may find that you have increased back pain, bad posture, a higher tendency to get injured, and difficulty completing simple everyday tasks.

As an athletic trainer, helping patients with several types of injuries get back to normal performance levels, our evaluation typically leads us to assessing the core. Most injuries, we find, can be traced back to having weak or tight core musculature. This is true for people who work desk jobs and students as well. When we don’t sit properly and carry heavy backpacks around, our biomechanics can be very poor which will lead to compensatory movements and increased pain. Those who are starting out with a weightlifting program may find that starting out with squats, deadlifts, and bench press may be too difficult. This person should first focus on core training and correct technique for a month and then come back and attempt weightlifting. An athlete with a weak core may find that they struggle to throw a ball effectively, can’t jump and land efficiently, or they have an extensive injury history.
What exercises are we talking about when we are discussing core training?

Most times, the exercises people think of when they hear the word “core” is crunches and sit-ups. The reality is, those exercises are fairly useless because they recruit more of the hip flexors to work and can lead to increased back pain. Core strength should be about stability and deep strengthening. Here are some great core strength foundational exercises:
• Front planks, side planks, and their variations
• Bridges
• Bird Dogs
• Dead Bugs
• Clam Shells
• Band anti-rotations
• Mountain Climbers
• Supermans

How often should the core be strengthened?
By rule of thumb, your core should be specifically strengthened at least three times per week with a goal of holding the static positions for 60 seconds for 3-4 sets and performing the moving exercises for 3-4 sets of 15 reps. At first, start small and work up to these tougher goals. Exercises should vary each time.

For someone with a history of low back pain or bad posture, or if you’re an athlete with a history of injury and muscular imbalances, the problem could be a weak and tight core. Give these exercises time to work as pain won’t disappear overnight. However over a period of several weeks and months you should notice a distinct difference in your pain and activity levels. High school athletes who have access to an athletic trainer, should visit them for an evaluation and proper oversight of a rehabilitation program.

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6 Surprising Myths About Antioxidants

Many people believe that antioxidants are some kind of panacea. They’re said to cure cancer, supercharge the immune system, prevent aging, and much more. How much of this is true?

The global market for antioxidants is projected to reach 3.11 billion dollars by 2020. With such a huge market, many people will peddle lies about antioxidants to make a quick buck.

Antioxidants have become popular, because they’re said to neutralize free radicals, which damage our cells and increase the risk of aging, cancer and chronic diseases. While this is true, this simple explanation has birthed many myths that could harm your health.

These are the most common antioxidant myths you shouldn’t fall for.

6 Surprising Myths About Antioxidants

Myth #1: Antioxidants in test tubes work the same way in the human body.

Most of the antioxidant benefits we know are based on test tube studies. Unfortunately, antioxidants don’t seem to have the same effect on our bodies as they do in test tubes, research shows.

Most antioxidants have poor bioavailability, which means our bodies only absorb small amounts. For this reason, you may not enjoy many of the benefits we see in test tube studies.

Myth #2: The more antioxidants you take the better.

It is possible to overdo it with antioxidants. This mostly applies to people who take antioxidant supplements. Research shows that high doses of antioxidant supplements, such as beta-carotene and vitamin E, may increase the risk of lung cancer.

Supplements offer concentrated vitamin doses that lack the other beneficial components found in unprocessed foods.

Myth #3: All free radicals must be destroyed.

Many of us assume that all free radicals are bad because they increase the risk of cancer, dementia and heart disease. But our bodies actually need free radicals.

For instance, our immune cells use free radicals to kill invading bacteria in our bodies. Too many free radicals, however, harm our cells and increase the risk of diseases.

Myth #4: Food products with antioxidants are healthier.

Do you usually go through food labels at the grocery store looking for antioxidants? These foods may not be healthier than those that lack antioxidants.

Manufacturers usually make these claims based on a food’s ability to neutralize free radicals in test tubes. But as we saw earlier, antioxidants behave differently in the human body.

It’s for this reason that the USDA shut down its public database for Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC), explaining that “evidence that the values indicating antioxidant capacity have no relevance to the effects of specific bioactive compounds…on human health.”

Myth #5: You have to take antioxidant supplements.

Many people spend their hard-earned cash on antioxidant supplements that have little to no effect on their health. What’s worse is that some antioxidants can have side effects when you take them in supplement form.

You’re better off getting your antioxidants from fruits, veggies, teas, beans, nuts and seeds. But feel free to continue taking a supplement if it’s improving your health and doesn’t have side effects.

Myth #6: Antioxidants treat cancer.

Antioxidants may help lower your risk of cancer but they may not do much for people who already have cancer. In fact, one study found that antioxidant supplements may actually cause cancer to spread more quickly.

Have you fallen for any of these antioxidant myths?

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Healthy lifestyle programs

Most know the Area Agency on Aging District 7 (AAA7) for the assistance we can provide with long-term care home and community-based services, programs and resources that are available in our ten-county district. Did you know that we also provide “Healthy Lifestyle Programs?” These evidence-based programs help individuals learn to take control of their lives and manage health conditions.

“A Matter of Balance” is an educational program for individuals age 60 and over that teaches practical strategies to reduce the fear of falling and increase activity levels. Participants learn to view falls as controllable, set realistic goals, change their environment to reduce risk factors, and increase strength and balance through exercise.

The “Chronic Disease Self‐Management Program” and “Diabetes Self‐Management Program” helps adults age 60 and over gain confidence in their ability to manage symptoms and understand how their health problems affect their lives. Individuals who could benefit from the program are those with long‐term health challenges such as asthma, arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, or other life‐long conditions. The program emphasizes the persons’ role in managing their illness and building their self‐confidence so that they can be successful in adopting healthy behaviors. Participants in the class learn to deal with pain, fatigue and depression; discover ways to be more physically active; learn how to eat healthier; learn better ways to talk about their health with physicians and family; set personal goals; and find ways to relax and deal with stress. Participants can represent an individual with a chronic disease, a caregiver of someone with a chronic disease, or someone who wants to learn more about healthy living.

The “Chronic Pain Self-Management” workshop is an educational series presented by the AAA7 that is designed to help individuals age 60 and over with learning proven strategies to manage chronic pain and feel better. The program was developed with Stanford University and has been evaluated in clinical trials. People who participate in the program generally report more energy, less pain, and improved mental health. They are also less dependent on others, more involved in everyday activities, and are more satisfied with their lives. The class is not a substitute for medical treatment, but can give you tools and ideas to improve or complement treatments and other efforts to manage your pain. Participants will learn about treatment options and be better able to make informed decisions about the treatments that are right for them.

“Powerful Tools for Caregivers” is an educational series that is designed to provide family caregivers with the tools to take care of yourself while caring for a relative or friend. It is available to help family caregivers reduce stress, improve self-confidence, communicate feelings better, balance their lives, increase their ability to make tough decisions, and locate helpful resources.

The AAA7 is excited to offer these wonderful programs to our communities. If you would like to learn more about these classes, or are interested in attending an upcoming class in your county, please call 1‐800‐582‐7277 and we can share the schedule with you and add you to the list for an upcoming class. You can also locate a class schedule on our website under “About AAA7” and Upcoming Events” or follow us on Facebook to find out about upcoming programs. To be added to our quarterly wellness newsletter, “Living Well”, call us at our toll-free number or e-mail

Column submitted by AAA7.

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4 Easy Ways to Stop Overeating

Eating healthy is a great start, but if you’re still eating too much, it can sabotage your health goals. Here’s how to stop overeating without feeling deprived.

March is the perfect time to improve your diet. Along with being the start of spring, it’s also National Nutrition Month. There are plenty of easy ways to eat more healthy. All it takes is a few simple changes and you’ll soon be on the road to glowing good health.

Healthy food might have healthier calories, but they’re still calories. If you overeat, you’ll gain weight. And before you ask, exercising more won’t help. Unless you’re thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, burning off excess calories is extremely hard to do.

(If you’re determined to try, these cardio workouts offer the most bang for your buck.)

How to Stop Overeating

When we think of losing weight we immediately assume we’ll have to endure a horrible, calorie-restricted diet that consists of kale smoothies and rice cakes. These approaches allow you to eat normally and still slim down. Give them a try and see for yourself.

weight loss tips

1. Eat a Big Breakfast

When you start your day with a healthy, calorie-dense breakfast, you’re less likely to overeat later on. This is why it’s a good idea to “Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince and dinner like a pauper“.

Science also has shown that eating right before bed can cause weight gain. Because you’re not doing anything to burn them off, those late night snacks are more likely to be stored as fat. Annoying, I know.

2. Practice Hara Hachi Bu

Most Westerners learn to overeat from a young age. Our parents tell us to ”Clean your plat,” or “Eat all our vegetables,” and so on. While well-intended, this approach to nutrition has resulted in us ignoring our body’s full signals and eating more than we need to.

Hara Hachi Bu is a Confucian-inspired adage intoned by Japanese elders before a meal. It serves as a reminder for them to stop eating when their stomachs are 80 percent full. This simple phrase allows them to enjoy food while maintaining a healthy weight.

3. Invest in Smaller Plates

According to Blue Zones researcher Dan Buettner, living longer and feeling better is the sum of a few small, easy choices you can incorporate into everyday life. One thing he suggests is to invest in smaller plates.

His research showed that by switching from a 12-inch plate to a 10-inch plate, you end up eating 23 percent less without even trying. You’re letting your plate control your portion, which means you don’t have to employ willpower to eat less.

4. Don’t Eat in Front of a Screen

Nothing encourages mindless snacking or overindulging quite like eating in front of a screen. Whether that’s your TV, laptop, tablet or smartphone, it doesn’t matter. All devices have the same power when it comes to distracting you from real life.

A report published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition looked at how attention and memory affect food intake. What they found is that people tend to eat more when they’re not paying attention.

How you eat is just as important as what you eat. Cooking and eating together as a family (no screens allowed at the table), dishing up food in the kitchen and bringing your plate to the table, being mindful—all of these things combine to make eating healthy a holistic experience.

Images via Getty

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Read for Life Program promoting healthy living

LAREDO, TX (KGNS) - An initiative that encourages kids to read is promoting healthy living in the community.

Prairie View is promoting its Read for Life Program, a campaign that helps students learn how to use literature and apply it to their everyday lives.

This month the program is focusing on how to live a healthy lifestyle.

Representatives with Prairie View are promoting books that involve how to eat properly, how to exercise and live a positive life.

For more information about the program you can call Ashley Gastineau at 956-523-5290.

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